“But must I be the sacrificial lamb?” Nnedi cried. She woke up startled realizing that it was just a dream, what is it they say about dreams being carryovers from our subconscious. She immediately chided herself, if marrying Ogbuefi Ihenacho would save her brother’s life, then she would gladly do it. But it hurt very much. She could hear her brother’s belaboured breathing from the next room. Trying to accustom her eyes to the darkness, she searched for her slippers but her mother’s shrill scream sent her rushing out of the room barefooted, all thoughts of the slippers forgotten.
Chidi, his thin, frail body sprawled on the bed was gasping for breath. Her mother was already crying while her father frantically mixed a pot of herbs over the fire. She took in the scene and knelt by her brother’s bed and touched his forehead. His skin was cold and clammy and his face contorted in pain. Her father came with the herbs and placed some on Chidi’s forehead, his chest and the bridge of his nose. He sneezed thrice and his breathing slowed down. Her mother who had hitherto been weeping on the floor moved close to the bed and held Chidi’s hand. Her father sighed in relief.
With the worst part of the ordeal over, Nnedi did not feel like going back to sleep. It was already 4am. She went to her room to retrieve her slippers and commence her chores.
The calm that came with dawn belied the storm that the Okeke’s had weatherd the previous night. Countryside dawns were always very beautiful and spectacular. White cotton-like clouds floated in the clear blue sky. The sun, which was gradually proceeding from the east filtered through the sky reflecting an array of colours with such perfection, thought Nnedi. If only her life was that perfect, she rued.
Just as the sun completed its journey to the west and the sounds of pestles against mortars from the numerous kitchens pervaded the usually sleepy village of Umuaku, the Okeke’s played host to Ogbuefi Ihenacho. Ogbuefi Ihenacho sat his portly frame on one of the cane chairs in the Okeke’s living room and helped himself to a keg of palm wine.
“Ogbuefi Okeke”, he hailed, as he took his first sip.
“I hope you bring good news”, Okeke replied. “Mama Nnedi, please bring us some Kolanuts”
With the breaking of Kolanuts and the pouring of libations over, Ogbuefi Ihenacho settled down to the reason why he had come calling.
“Ehen, my in-law, you know why I am here. I do not want to wait any longer to take my wife, Nnedi home. I have come to set a formal date
“Thank you for your patience, Ihenacho” replied Okeke. “But as you know, my brothers must be involved. I cannot give her away by myself”
“Moreover, we have to give her time to get accustomed to the idea of being your wife”
“You know she is still but a teenager. If not for my son’s illness, I would have loved to send her to the University in Nsukka when she passed her Senior School Certificate Examinations last year in flying colours”
“Nonsense”, bellowed Ogbuefi Ihneacho. “She is not too young to bear children, my friend. Let her come. You’ll be surprised to see her middle round with child in a year’s time.
Okeke looked away, embarrassed.
“When am I meeting with you and your brothers”, Ihenacho urged. “Remember delay is dangerous. The sooner you collect her bride price and commence Chidi’s treatment at the teaching hospital in Enugu, the better for you”
Okeke nodded in silent assent.
“In the meantime, let us drink to good health and children Nnedi shall have by me” replied Ihenacho.
After what seemed like an eternity to Nnedi was hiding beneath one of the windows facing the verandah, Ihenacho stood up to take his leave.
“Say me well to Mama Nnedi and my wife”, he smiled revealing uneven, tobacco stained teeth. Nnedi slunk away from the verandah and made a dash for the kitchen which was located at the back of the building.
“Mama, Ogbuefi Ihenacho is coming for my hand in marriage tomorrow”, she panted as she burst into the kitchen.
PS: Hope you enjoyed reading. I started writing this story while I was in secondary school. I never got around to finishing it. I hope I can finish it this time. I will be unfolding this story in weekly installments every Friday. Keep a date with me!
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