Anosike’s head throbbed from the beating that his wife had given to him the previous night. He was still in shock that a quiet woman like Oriaku could behave like that. He fastened his lower lip between his teeth, while thinking of the next action to take. He was going to teach her lesson. He couldn’t let her get away with this.
“No, that useless woman must go back to her father’s house. I will not submit to a woman’s authority, not in my own house!” He groaned and writhed on the floor. She had it all planned along. Now he was sure that Oriaku wanted him dead, so that she could inherit all his properties and farmlands for the next man that would come along.
“Barren witch, I have tolerated you all along, but I will do so no more…”
He continued to wince while listening to the strange footsteps that approached the door to his chamber. When he heard the rap on the door, Anosike’s eyes snapped open. His eyes roamed the entire room for his cutlass. He was certain that Oriaku had come back to finish what she had started. That woman was full of evil.
“Is anybody in?” The stranger’s voice called out.
Anosike sighed with relief. He recognized the voice at once. It was the voice of his friend, Okeke; the one that had threatened to expose his affair with Obiajulu. Angrily, Anosike yelled at him to go away. He was certain that Oriaku had been in oblivion about his liaison with Obiajulu. It was Okeke who had caught them making love in the bush. And it was he that had told Oriaku about it, even after many pleas and offerings.
“Open the door my friend. You sound unwell. I know that you are still mad at me for what I did but I am still your best friend, Anosike.”
Okeke could feel the pain in Anosike’s voice. He knew that getting back into Anosike’s heart would be difficult. But he was willing to try. Everything that he had said and done was to preserve their friendship. Okeke had never liked Obiajulu right from the time that Chinedum had married her. The woman was trouble. She was greedy and materialistic and he had warned Chinedum about her, but his friends rarely listened to him because he was mostly drunk.

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“Go away Okeke. The fires of our friendship were long gone. I want nothing to do with a spineless man, one who cannot keep his mouth shut,” Anosike replied.
But Okeke was adamant. He was not one to be pushed away so easily.
“I have something to tell you. It is about the slave that you had wanted to give to me. I want her back.”
Anosike rolled his eyes, “Wherever you go, trouble follows you. You are like a dangerous wind that carries sand in her dance.”
When Okeke heard this, he felt relaxed. Without any more exchange, he pushed the door to his friend’s room and stepped in. Okeke almost screamed at the sight of a big wound on Anosike’s shoulder.
“Did you sustain an injury at the farm?” Okeke’s mouth flew open.
Anosike scoffed, “It would have been better, the pain wouldn’t have been this strong compared to being brutalized by the woman I call wife.”
Okeke shook his shoulders, “I don’t believe you. Oriaku cannot harm a fly. A good woman can only…” Okeke bit his lip as he spotted an angry look in Anosike’s eyes. He felt slightly guilty for telling Oriaku about his friend’s affair.
“Did she hit you because of Obiajulu?” Okeke knelt beside his friend’s bed.
“Of course! You told her everything and she uses it against me. What did I do to deserve such great betrayal from you? I thought you were my friend,” Anosike groaned.
Okeke sighed, “I am sorry for telling Oriaku about your affair. Let us be honest with each other, you weren’t just cheating on Obiajulu. Most men take in concubines and sleep with women who aren’t their wives. But they still treat their wives with respect and love. You showed Oriaku none of these. You always hit her at the slightest provocation. A good woman can only take that much. So my friend, do not put all the blame on me. You call me a betrayer, but you are also betraying Chinedum by lusting after his wife.”
A wave of guilt washed over Anosike as he weighed Anosike’s words. They had a powerful effect on him as he considered him. Perhaps it was time for him to stop the affair, but he loved Obiajulu to death. She was his destiny and he had made a mistake my marrying another.
“Why do you come?” Anosike changed the topic.
“I should search the bush for some herbs. We will talk later.” Okeke couldn’t bear to see his friend in such a state.
Anosike grabbed Okeke’s wrist with his good hand.
“It is okay; just tell me what it is that brought you here. I don’t want to be alone, because I don’t know what Oriaku has planned next for me.”
If Anosike wasn’t in so much pain, Okeke would’ve guffawed at his last statement pertaining to his wife. The whole land knew about Oriaku’s goodness. She was a virtuous woman both in words and in deeds.
“I was coming back from tapping fresh palm wine when I bumped into some Chiefs. They were talking about the slave that you bought. I want her back.”
Anosike laughed, “You were eavesdropping again…why do you suddenly have interest in the slave girl? I remember that I had given the slave girl to Chinedum as payment for the debt you couldn’t pay. You have no right to ask for her.”
Okeke nodded in agreement, “But I never asked you to clear my debt. I was saving up enough cowries to do that. You only took the debt on your shoulder because you were afraid that I will expose you. It was a bribe. Give me the slave and I will pay you for it. I will clear the debt that I owe Chinedum as well.”
Anosike found Okeke’s suggestion very ridiculous. He knew that Adaora was extremely beautiful, but he wasn’t attracted to her. He also knew that Okeke wasn’t easily drawn to very beautiful women. What was this about?
“Have you heard of her great beauty? Is that why you want to buy her?”
Okeke chuckled, “You know the kind of man that I am. I heard Ichie Okwute talking about a new wife for the King. They were teasing Ikemba because he thought he could keep secrets from them. Unknown to the king, the Oracle had secretly met with the Kingmakers and had told them about a Slave of the house of Chinedum Aguchi. She was named as the next Queen.”
Anosike couldn’t believe his ears. He had a feeling that Okeke was drunk.
“So you want her to be your slave so that you will become the King’s In-law?”
“Exactly! Even in the sickbed you are still mentally sound,” Okeke nodded.
Anosike laughed, “Well, I cannot believe that a grown man would leave his manly duties and carry gossip. I do not believe you. From the beginning, slave and free-born weren’t allowed to mix. How dare you insult Ikemba by naming a slave as the new Queen?”
Okeke was infuriated that his friend didn’t believe him.
“I must take my leave now. It seems you think I am lying.”

To be continued…

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