*** Warning: Sexual theme involved. Reader discretion is advised ***
Edited by: Darlene Jones
Ekwutosilim had arrived at Ngwo village at the height of the rainy season and was working as one of the servants at the house of Ichie Azuuzu in return for refuge. At least, that was her best chance of survival after her village was hit by a plague which left scores of inhabitants dead. Although subservience was required in her new home, accepting more duties and errands for Ichie Azuuzu himself soon became an excuse to avoid his wife. With what she earned from an illicit service to Ichie Azuuzu, she thought she should be able to leave before the next planting season and begin a new life in some other village.
More than anything, she wanted to be far away from home—from the place with haunting memories of the dead. If anyone had told her eight full moons ago that she would have gone from being a teenage girl who just liked to have fun, to a kept woman in Ngwo, she wouldn’t have believed it. But when, at her second period, she had secretly been offered ten cowries to stroke her master’s erection, she hadn’t been able to refuse such precious shells. Sweet-talked into coming close to his side, she had knelt quietly, shy and abashed at the sight his sex—throbbing and veined—until he placed her hand on it. The unfamiliar contact made her pull away instantly, the effect, nonetheless, lingered, bringing her almost to the point of vomit. Yet Ichie Azuuzu didn’t seem to take interest in her reaction; he once more took her hand, wrapping it around him, his lascivious need clearly reflecting in his eyes. She remembered the feeling—how his penis alternated from hardness to softness at the head and back—as she moved up and down on it, the pleasure pouring out from his face as he urged her to go faster. She had not stimulated him for long when his body convulsed and spurts of semen spilled over her hand. Unable to hold back anymore, she shot to her feet and at the corner of his hut, vomited on the floor.
If Ichie Azuuzu’s wife knew the number of times she’d serviced him ever since, she would be surprised. By the gods, she’d be shocked. Ichie Azuuzu, a prominent figure in the village council and a man old enough to be her father, was nothing like his cruel and fault-finding wife. Actually, if she wasn’t terrified of being publicly disgraced and killed, she’d have taunted her master’s wife with the revelation of his illicit association with her.
No, better not go that road, she told herself. Even though Ichie Azuuzu, who had only occasional need for her as of late, now gave her fewer cowries than what she used to receive from him, she knew she couldn’t complain. As a matter of fact, she’d been saving steadily for her big escape, and very soon she’d have a sizable nest egg, enough to live on until fate linked her with right man from the village where she’d resettle. Who knew, could be she’d be accepted by the family of a well-known farmer and she’d bear him many good-looking sons to the shame of her master’s wife, who had two: a dull midget of a first son and the second, about her age or older, whose actions, sometimes, made her wonder if he was born deranged.
“Ekwutosilim, hurry up! You’ve been standing there as if you had just encountered the river goddess,” Funaya, the eldest of Ichie Azuuzu’s four servants, called out to her.
“Oh … right away.”
Ankle deep in the flowing river, Ekwutosilim gently submerged her clay pot in the clear water, waited, then with practiced precision, lifted the water-filled pot; first, onto her bent knee, before placing it atop her head. She hoped Ichie Azuuzu’s wife wouldn’t send her back to the river for the third time today to draw water; otherwise, she would have very little energy left to meet other duties. She suspected that Ichie Azuuzu hardly talked or spent time with his wife because of her incessant nagging. The woman was like a waspish rain that wouldn’t let up.
As she ascended the slope abounding in rocks, she asked her fellow servants who had been waiting for her, “Was I really looking lost?”
The three looked at each other, amused, then flashed her knowing smiles. Turning around, they advanced slowly, their clay pots perched on their heads.
As water dripped down the sides of her pot, Ekwutosilim wiped the drops rolling down onto her face with the back of her hand. When she was almost at the head of the slope, her foot slipped and she fell. The pot shot forward and shattered into bits.
The other servants paused. Turned. They stood rooted, gaping at her, close to panic.
“Are you all right?” Funaya finally asked, glancing down at her, at the bits of clay, and back.
Rising up and dusting her sides, Ekwutosilim nodded. Anger and disappointment crept into her voice. “Now, that woman is going to take a strip off my hide.”
Time slipped by in silence. The river continued to make it lapping call, mingling with the human voices behind them.
“No worries—we’ll figure a way out.”
People, going to and fro, passed them by; some caring to make sympathetic remarks. But none of these words made much sense to Ekwutosilim. For her, life, all of a sudden, looked like a wasteful journey—like the spilled water which she couldn’t retrieve.
The three servants beckoned to her. Together, they agreed that since there were still some empty pots left, Ekwutosolim would present one of them—already filled with water—as her latest contribution to making water available in their home. This would save her from the wrath of Ichie Azuuzu’s wife.
Smiling, Ekwutosilim nodded her thanks to what she believed was an excellent plan.
Side by side, they resumed walking while they gossiped about a variety of issues including the upcoming Mputa Ezi ceremony. Funaya and the other two seized the opportunity to direct their next question to Ekwutosilim: “Our master must be keen on getting pretty maidens for his sons after the ceremony, right?”
“How am I supposed to know that?” Ekwutosilim tried to sidestep the question.
“Ah-ah! You mean he hasn’t discussed the matter with you? Or do you think that we aren’t aware that he now enjoys talking to you?”
Ekwutosilim halted, her mind rapidly clutched by the frightening possibility that her affair also was no longer a secret. She looked desperately at the other servants, contemplating telling them the reason for her ongoing relationship with their master. After that, she’d then hold on to the hope that they wouldn’t turn their backs on her. On second thought, rather than talk too soon without being certain that her affair was already out in the open, she decided to keep quiet about it. But she couldn’t ignore the warning emanating from their comment. For her own safety, she now had no choice but to escape earlier than planned.
With a false sense of innocence, she continued, “We … I mean, he never discussed the issue with me.”
Her fellow servants looked a bit surprised. They seemed to believe her, though.
Funaya lowered her voice, “You see that second son of Ichie Azuuzu … that rascal…”
Ekwutosolim and the others leaned in, keen to hear the rest of what she had to say.
“Only the gods know what misery that young man will bring upon his future wife or wives as the case may be. He’s like a tsetse fly perching on the scrotum: smite it and you kill your manhood, leave it there and it kills your manhood.”
They all convulsed with laughter.
While they proceeded toward home, Ekwutosilim remembered her master’s words about finding a beautiful maiden for his second son after the Mputa Ezi ceremony.
Ichie Azuuzu had mentioned a few names. Out of the few, he spoke highly about one.
He said she was like the pungent beauty of twilight.
But he was also sceptical of the match proceeding.
For some unexplainable reason, he couldn’t vouch for his second son.
PART 17 || PART 18