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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Story: Africa cinderella

Episode 1
After my mother left, my father was too ashamed to bear the ridicule and looks from the people of Aloka-uto. A man who could not make a woman stay with him till death is seen as a failure. It was a taboo and it was even more painful than some grievous sins, for nobody ever speaks of the situation. It was the side talks and awkward looks that really killed. Aloka-uto people had perfected that skill. We moved out of the village centre to the outskirts where people farmed. This was where my father met and married my step mum, Agbana.
Agbana had two daughters from a previous marriage; naughty Etewe and the timid but very silly Eketuwana. Together, they made life too difficult for me. I was older than Agbana’s daughters, but I looked smaller, a feature I inherited from my mother. It made some of my peers including my step sisters to treat me like a toddler. I must confess it was terrible and my father was always ready to assert my seniority anytime he felt it was being trampled upon by my step sisters. It only happened when he was available, but other times when business kept him away from home, Agbana and her daughters were steadily on torment sprees. I had learnt how to endure and hide these things from my father. The last time he heard of what Agbana did to me, he went on rampage and disfigured her mouth. He went away for almost a year and every single day was hell for me.
One morning, Agbana returned from the village centre where she had gone to trade. She had news for the family. My father sat on his favourite chair at a corner in the parlor while I sat by his feet. Etewe and Eketuwana sat on a mat a little distance from the two of us as we listened to the story our father told.
“Orji and his daughters! I have great news” Agbana shouted from outside before she entered the parlour. There was something about her voice that irritated me. It was not sonorous, in fact it was very disturbing and in the morning whenever she woke us up, I woke up with a frown. How can a woman sound so much like a man? I often wondered
“Speak up Agbana” my father replied, obviously annoyed that she had interrupted the favourite part of his story. It was the part where the tortoise told the bird to tell his wife to gather soft objects so that he could jump after the feast in the sky. Instead, the bird told his wife to gather hard objects, tortoise jumped and his shell smashed to pieces. I loved that story
“It is all over Aloka-uto. It is the news that makes all maidens and their mothers leap with joy. The royal dance has been announced. Prince Ume is set to choose a maiden to be his wife!”
From the look on Agbana’s face, she was more excited than the maidens who were to contest to win the prince’s heart. My father smiled, while Etewe and Eketuwana stood up and danced around like mad women who had escaped confinement. Agbana started singing. It was awful and my eardrums ached. My father in the midst of all the chaos turned to see my reaction, but it was not as loud as Agbana and her daughters’.
“Ama?” he started “Are you not excited?” Agbana and her daughters suddenly stopped their jubilation and focused on me. The moment this happened, I felt like being swallowed up by the ground. Agbana’s stare was scary. Those bushy eyebrows!
I stuttered “yes… I am papa”
“Good!” my father replied “I will give my dear wife Agbana some money to get you all beautiful costumes for the royal dance. My daughters must stand out”
Etewe and Eketuwana shouted for joy and clapped. Agbana began her choruses, her daughters joined in the noisemaking. My father, a man of action, immediately brought out a wad of naira notes from his wrapper and gave it to Agbana. “Take this…use it. Get the best for my girls” he said, stood and left for his room. I still sat on the floor and watched as they made fools of themselves. Few times, my eyes met Agbana’s eyes; she hissed and shook her buttocks rigorously.
“Let’s go my daughters before someone ruins our happiness” Agbana said and exited dramatically with her daughters.
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