As Okeke rose to his feet, Oriaku pushed the door open and stepped in with two calabashes-one was filled with herbs and the other with hot water.
“My husband, how do you feel this morning?” She flashed her teeth.
“Murderer, have you come to finish what you started?” Anosike shifted uncomfortably in his bed.
Oriaku ignored him, “You are welcome Okeke. I haven’t seen your face for a very long time,” she smiled.
Okeke returned her smile. He knew that it was time to leave. His next point of visit would be Chinedum’s house. He knew what he had heard the Chiefs discussing and he was determined to buy Adaora as his slave.
“Nwanyioma, good woman, may the gods continue to bestow their blessings upon you.” Okeke bowed his head in greeting and then turned to his friend who lay on the bamboo bed.
“Nwokem, I must take my leave. I will return in the evening with some fresh palm wine and gin that will help you recover. I would stop by Chinedum’s house.”
Anosike was happy to get rid of his irritating friend.
“Be on your way Okeke, take your trouble along with you.”
Okeke laughed and waved Anosike and Oriaku goodbye. Once he stepped outside, he closed the door gently behind.
Both man and wife stared at each other without uttering any word. Oriaku didn’t regret her actions. She was only defending herself from Anosike’s wildness. She had to teach him a lesson else he would continue treating her like an animal. Even animals deserved to be treated with kindness.
“Have you come to crack my skull this time around?” He ran his eyes steadily over her face.
Okeke was right about his wife. Oriaku was the best wife anyone could ever ask for and he had provoked her greatly. He had pushed her to the wall. This didn’t mean that he was ready to end things with Obiajulu. In fact, thoughts of their last lovemaking session plagued him. He was jealous of his best friend. How could Chinedum have all that to himself? He wasn’t even deserving of a woman like Obiajulu.
“You are my husband, I will never kill you except you try to kill me. I was only defending myself,” she replied.
Oriaku knelt beside the wounded man and gently dropped the calabashes upon the ground. She fetched a rag from her underarm and dipped it into the hot water.
“I know that you are sleeping with Chinedum’s wife. I am no longer jealous or angry. You do not love me, neither will I beg for your love. But if you ever lay a finger on me and on her account, I will do worse things to you,” she placed the hot rag on the surface of the wound. Anosike gave a loud scream.
He didn’t know Oriaku had it in her to be this wicked.
“Why do you torment me so much? Maybe you deserve being treated like an animal!”
Her lips itched for a smile, “You better be careful the way you talk to me. I only want the best for you. Obiajulu is not a good woman and she would lead to your destruction. If you must take another wife, tell me. I know young women who are humble and kind. They will bear you sons and daughters.”
Anosike was moved. He had never seen Oriaku this content and happy. It seemed she had resolved in her heart to forget him and move on. This would have made him happier on a good day, but it made him afraid. What was she planning next?
“I am not going to kill you,” Oriaku murmured as she worked on the wound. She had felt Anosike’s eyes boring into her face even though she couldn’t see him.
Anosike kissed his teeth as the pain increased, “I blame Okeke for everything. Now he has the nerves to ask for Adaora. Once I get back on my feet I will put Okeke in his rightful place.”
Oriaku’s hands froze when she heard the slave girl’s name.
“I don’t understand. What does Okeke want with Adaora?”
“He claims that the she would be the next Queen of Ezeudo.”
Oriaku’s heart almost jumped out of her mouth when she had heard this.
“Um, where did he hear that from?”
“He overheard the Chiefs talking about it.”
Oriaku threw the rag into the calabash and jumped to her feet. If this news was true, then the King had made up his mind to marry Adaora.
“What are you giggling about? How does this news concern you? We both know Okeke, he was probably drunk when he met the Chiefs.”
Oriaku flashed a grin, “No, Okeke isn’t drunk. I was the one that told Ikemba all about Adaora. She is destined to be his new wife.”
Anosike’s brows contorted together. What business had Oriaku with the King?
“What took you to the King’s palace?” He reached forward and dragged her roughly towards him with his good hand.
Oriaku’s face paled, “I went to give him some yam seedlings.”
Anosike laughed, he could see through her lies.
“You went to report I and Obiajulu right? You are such a foolish woman. You think you can ruin my reputation before Ikemba and be the favored one? You are nothing like Obiajulu and you will never be anything like her! Now get out!”
He barked at her like an angry dog. Oriaku had not prepared herself for this altercation. She couldn’t believe that the man she married could compare her to another man’s wife.
“You are a fool Anosike. Soon, you two will be exposed but not by my lips.” She hissed angrily and stepped out of the hut.
Oriaku spotted a tall and hefty man in the middle of the compound. From the way he was dressed, he was from the King’s palace. His eyes were roaming, but only settled when he spotted the woman that he was looking.
He marched towards her and bellowed, “The King demands your presence.”
Just in time, Obiajulu arrived at the compound with a basket of bush mangoes. She had missed Anosike and pretending to be on an errand for her husband was the only way she could see him.
“What are you doing here, you shameless woman?” Oriaku gritted her teeth angrily.
Obiajulu ignored her, “And good morning to you. My husband sent me to deliver these fruits to your husband. You can go and ask him yourself.”
Oriaku bit her lip in annoyance.
“I don’t have time for you. One day, the gods will expose you two.”
Once she left with the guard, Obiajulu carefully observed the compound. When she made certain that no one else was there, she dropped the basket of fruits and rushed towards Anosike’s room.
When he heard the sound of her voice, he knew that his healing was near, but first he had to tell her about Oriaku and how she almost reported them to the King. They had to do something before it was too late.
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Adaora’s mind was clouded with confusion. She pondered on the words of the moon goddess. Everything now made perfect sense. The man she always saw in her dream and the mysterious dreams as well. Although she was still bitter about her mother’s death and the refusal of the goddess to save Anyanwa from the slave traders, Adaora decided to hearken to the words of the deity. If truly she came from a cursed bloodline, she needed to find this man before it was too late for her.
“But how do I find him? Where do I begin? I am but a stranger in Ezeudo,” she whispered as her hands plucked the leaves she held.
Adaora’s thoughts were far and deep. She had travelled to the deepest part of her mind. She didn’t notice that Chinedum and the children were behind. He had taken them on a morning hunt and they had just returned.
It was Ikenna’s soft touch that brought her back to the real world. Adaora screamed and hopped to her feet. The basket of oha leaves tumbled to the ground.
“You scared me!” She sighed when she realized the kids were the ones.
Immediately her eyes jammed with Chinedum’s, she averted them and bowed her head. It was an abomination for a slave to lock eyes with her master or her mistress.
Adaora quickly bowed her head, “Good morning master.”
Chinedum scoffed, “You can look at me, I won’t bite you.” Though Adaora didn’t speak much to him, he enjoyed her company and he loved to watch her play with the kids. He wasn’t attracted to her at all.
“Where is Obiajulu?” He noticed that his wife’s hut was tightly shut.
“She told me that she was leaving for the farm,” Adaora replied.
To be continued…