“Nneoma, Nneoma.” He tenderly called as the jilted maiden walked out on him. “Please, come back.”
She remained focused, kept walking forcefully, ignoring the pathetically-looking man who could be referred to by her person as an ‘idiot and ingrate’. Although she still felt something strong for him, culturally, and naturally too, she was not meant to disclose that at the moment, thus ought to be concealed till further notice.
Obioha followed her. As he walked behind, he kept pleading for her little attention but all the pleas fell on deaf ears. He relentlessly doubled his steps with a view to arriving at the point where she had attained but she as well tripled hers, thereby making her walk faster and beyond his expectation. Eventually, he got to her, and attempted to hold her left arm.
“If you dare lay your filthy hand on me,” Nneoma roared. “You will regret ever knowing me.”
He ignored her warning, insisting in getting hold of her.
“If you dare touch me, I will scream on top of my voice.” She notified. “I am sure you know what that means?”
It was late in the evening, about some minutes to eight O’clock, thus the pathway was at this time lonelier than ever since they commenced the melodrama. So a scream from her could mean that a stranger was about to indulge in a rape, and that implied that Obioha could suffer from lynching in the process because the few who knew him in Umundega might not be able to recognise his face at that time of the day.
“Please…..” he pleaded, kneeling down and instantly gushed out tears.
She never saw it coming, thus was so embarrassed over the unannounced gesture.
“You are a bastard!” she managed to exclaim, turned and finally walked away, leaving him behind on his knees.
She was headed for her parental home.
Prior to the unscheduled meeting, it appeared the lad had been spying on her, thus was aware she would be making use of the pathway by that time. So, he thought it wise to stand aloof at a point while awaiting her arrival.
As he knelt on the wet soil, watching her depart, he felt so mesmerised and rejected not unlike a lady suffering from dysmenorrhoea. He didn’t know what next to do. He was engulfed in the painful thoughts till her image faded into thin air. He managed to be on his feet, looked around while standing on the same position but couldn’t sight anyone within or beyond. It was at this moment that the reality dawned on him, hence, he became damn ready to return to Odoihe, his ancestral home, which was about 12km away.
“I have really ruined my life.” he thought, looking at his shattered posture. “Who did this to me?” He soliloquised as he attempted to take a walk.
That was no doubt the nature of question that invariably comes up each time one feels he is being witch-hunted or manipulated by one of his kinsmen in the village or a colleague in the office, as the case might be; hence, that of Obioha wasn’t exceptional. Such an inquiry becomes laughable when the person in question is actually the monster responsible for his misfortune.
Obioha was arguably a dumb who deserved no pity from any human because he dumped Nneoma for Ego, five years back, simply owing to the fact that the former vowed to remain a virgin until she had successfully tied the anticipated nuptial knot with him whenever God decided. His myopic and worldly attributes made him to see the latter who was living a wayward life as the ‘woman of the moment’, thereby making him detest the sight of the former; he came across the latter, who he succeeded in sleeping with on a first date, having spent about seven good years with the former who could best be described as an ‘angel’. In view of this frivolous reason, he woke up one morning only to announce to the hearing of the apparently God-sent lady that the seven-year-old friendship was over and therein belonged to the history book. All the warnings from his parents regarding the proposed plan were never heeded.
Each time the 34-year-old Nneoma recalled how they met twelve years back when she was barely 22, she kept referring all men to as nothing but ‘same’. After the heartbreak, she opined that the best thing that could happen to any man in a relationship was sex and nothing more. Until the abrupt estrangement, ab initio the friendship was moving smoothly to the delight of their parents who had assented to the togetherness, and to the envy of every dick and harry near and beyond. The journey was all-through enticing, to assert the least, just like the very moment she came across the 31-year-old dude for the first time in a very busy market patronized by their communities, when he was 29.
“Hello pretty!” the young Obioha greeted as he sighted Nneoma in the ancient market.
“Hi handsome!” she reciprocated cheerily.
“I am Obioha.” He introduced. “You?”
“It is a pleasure meeting you here.” He teased.
“Yea.” quoth Obioha. “Who wouldn’t be?”
“I mean,” he said. “Who would not be pleased coming across a pretty damsel like you?”
She smiled. “Stop that flattery joor.”
“Nooo…” quoth the 29-year-old chap. “This is a fact, not flattery.”
“Okay, okay, okay.” the 22-year-old Nneoma surrendered, paused. “So what brought you to the market?” She added.
She was conspicuously pleased to meet a young man of his age graciously purchasing some commodities in a very busy market. To her, that was an indication of a responsible man as well as one who could make a good husband, thus she was therein inadvertently attracted to his person.
“Oh,” said Obioha. “I came to buy some stuff for my mum.”
“For your mum?” she verified.
“Yea.” He answered, nodding.
“I see..” quoth Nneoma. “So, you are the mummy’s personal assistant?”
“Not really.” He said, smiling. “Just that I usually feel like helping the old woman.”
He was the last among his seven siblings, so he seemed to be the closest, or the ‘PA’ as opined by Nneoma, to his 76-year-old mother.
“You are the last born, I guess?” she enquired.
He nodded. “Why did you ask?”
“Nothing.” She replied. “I know the last child is always the closest to the mum.”
He smiled. “And you?”
“I am the last too.” She informed in a jiffy.
“Oh,” said the lover-boy elatedly. “That makes us equal.”
The discussion lasted for several minutes till they departed for their respective homes.
Remembrance of every bit of the conversation that ensued at the starting point as well as how the odyssey proceeded afterwards kept making Nneoma feel that she was meant to be with Obioha for eternity. When she got home on that fateful day having walked out on him in the lonely road, she remained in sober mood and never bothered embracing her dinner.
After the whole hullabaloo, Obioha was reunited with her having successfully divorced the troublesome Ego. Initially, Nneoma’s parents strongly disagreed with the agitation not until they understood that both persons were truly meant to be together.
Thereafter, the marriage was blessed with healthy children, and they were happily married, all to the glory of God.
Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri
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