“Chukwuokike Abia ama eh! (God the creator)” Mrs Ojukwu bent to examine her big toe which she hit against a stone. It was the third time she had the accident that morning, “Kedu kwa nu nke bu nke a nututu mmuo na mmadu biko nu? (What is this since this morning” she bent to pull off the scaled skin.
In the village, it was believed that when one hit any of his toe or stumbles against a stone in the morning, there was bound to be a misfortune or sad news “Tufiakwa!” she circled her head with her fingers and snap “Nothing will happen to me or anyone around me” she said
She greeted the neighbors, washed her face with a cup of water and went back inside
“Mama, I have told you that you don’t have to be going outside to wash your face, you can do that in the kitchen sink or the bathroom”
Elizabeth said, she just got back from the farm where made her early morning sales to the retailers
“How can you wake up in the morning without smiling to the dawn” Ebube’s mother replied, she had taken that ritual from her husband before he died “the dawn has so much positive energy, it holds the key to brighter day ahead ” her husband would say
“So how was sales?” Ebube’s Mother asked
“Fine o, there were many costumers but that is what I want na” she has not seen or heard from Chike for some time, in fact; she was beginning to think that maybe He was gone for good.
“Auntie, I want to eat indomie” came Omalicha’s Tiny voice from the kitchen door. She rubbed her sleepy eyes and yawned
“Say good morning darling” Elizabeth whisked some eggs in a bowl
“Goomoring Gwanma (Good morning Grandma) Goomoring Auntie” the child greeted
“Good morning baby and you are not having any Indomie” her grandma replied
“Why?” the child had her eyes on Elizabeth
“Because, you finished the last sachet of Indomie last night, so you will take tea and bread with everyone”
“But I don’t like tea, I want Indomie” the child made to cry
“Omalicha! Ozugo! (It’s enough)” Grandma shushed the little girl. The child whimpered and ran back to the room
The two women worked in the kitchen silence; deep in their different thoughts, then;
“I had a dream last night Mama” Elizabeth broke the silence “It is getting me worried” she brought down the tea cups and told her dream
“I was in a beautiful garden, filled with flowers and charming birds, the grasses were green, the flowers were colorful, I was happy, very happy, then…” she dropped the spatula on the frying pan and turned towards the older woman “then, the sky got dark like it was going to rain, but what came down wasn’t rain…they were ashes, immediately those ashes touched the earth, everything turned gray; the flowers shrunk and died, the grasses died as if someone set fire on them. I saw the ground on which I stood shook, I was so scared and I ran, but I couldn’t run very far as the ground opened and was about to swallow me before I woke up”
The dream has scared her, when she woke up she was covered with perspiration, it was three thirty-five and she couldn’t sleep again.
“that was not a good dream my child” Mrs Ojukwu said. Her mind went to the many times she had hit a particular toe on a stone “Azigba kwa ihe ojoor (God forbid bad thing) you will not die, nothing will happen to any of us”
Mrs Ojukwu came closer to Elizabeth and held her by the hand “we will all be alive to welcome my son back” the woman smiled on Elizabeth’s face
“Auntie…Auntie” the little girl said breathlessly “Someone is yooking for you! he said he is your fwend”
Elizabeth wiped her wet hands on her apron and left the kid with her grandmother to see her visitor.
“General want you to have breakfast with him sir”
Ebube has done nothing since he was brought to the militia’s territory except to sleep, eat and listen to the General boast of his achievements and talk about the woes of the Somali Government, Days has turned to weeks, he has seen the young boys, hardened by years of fight and the hue of blood, he has seen then go to war.
He watched them from his window as they make combat moves and sang war songs in Arabic, they were armatures, some didn’t even know how to wield a weapon;
“They will learn fast my friend” Captain Adsame had slapped his shoulder one of the days, as if he read his mind.
Ebube threw his Kaftan over his head and slid his feet on a slipper before he left his room
“Ah ha…here is the man I want to see!” Genera Adsame exclaimed. He dismissed the nude ladies that hovered around him off
“Cover up ladies…” he said to them “Except if my good friend here want some little fun” he gave Ebube a knowing look “I am not stingy my friend, I can share my women…”
Eubube held his gaze and walk closer “They said you want to see me?”
“Yes…come, have a seat, eat with me!” The General patted an empty seat beside him. Ebube wasn’t sure what the Militia General wanted from him, but he walked towards the empty chair and sat down
“Sagal! Bring our guest the best of the foods we have”
The girl came with two boys and they set the food before them
“The bread is a little stale…” Adsame broke some pieces of bread and threw them in his mouth “Fresh breads are heard to come by when at war, we are grateful for what we are able to get” he ate some more
“What do you want from me Sir…”
“Call me General, in this place…I am the General so you must address me with my title”
“Good” He bit off a large chunk of meat from a roasted chicken “What I want from you?” he drank some expired wine “This is still good” he muttered before he looked at Ebube “You are not eating? You don’t like our food, UN Soldier?”
“You would have allowed me to die out there but you didn’t, you have kept me here under your watch, what do you want?” Ebube asked calmly
Adsame stopped eating and looked at the soldier with surprised then he gave out a loud laugh “You questioned me! Nobody questions the general” he drank some more and became serious “Maybe I do need you for something”
Both men said nothing to each other for a while, they watched the scenarios that played out around them with little interest
“I want the UN out of this war, they are beginning to send a different message to us” Adsame said “we would not normally attack a UN convoy or kill UN soldiers, but you people have decided to take side and General Adsame doesn’t like that”
“Why did you declare this war General? You would have stopped it when you could without the world power getting involved” Ebube said
“Is that what they told you soldier? That I declared war?” he chuckled “I didn’t start this war! General Mohammad Barkhad declared the war when he promised to step down three years ago but didn’t, he arrested and killed all the top military officers who were against him, all these men were from my region” he looked straight “What did your UN do? Nothing…when they came to Somalia, we thought they had come to help us, but…”
“So what do you want General” Ebube asked again
“I want them off our land, get the UN off this soil, let them allow us settle our problems by ourselves. We will keep killing UN soldiers until they get our message clearly”
As Ebube stood to leave, he noticed the man that stood motionless by the door and the way he looked at him. The man followed immediately on his trail and held him before Ebube could enter his room again
“Don’t make yourself comfortable enough here, the General doesn’t like you as much as you think” the man said to him in disgust
“What are you saying?” Ebube asked
“I don’t like you either and I have my eyes on you…white Man’s Puppy” the Man spat out and left
Elizabeth looked at the man who sat on her couch, she couldn’t make sense of anything the man said
“Where is Ebube?” She asked for the third time
“I wasn’t conscious when we left, but I was told…” Aminu broke off his words. He didn’t know how to break the news; he had battled within him whether to find the Lady or not. But he knew that his Boss would have wanted him to find Elizabeth
“You have not said anything sir” Elizabeth was uncomfortably calm
“I was told that…he couldn’t make it out of the war zone” Aminu couldn’t look the lady on the face
“I don’t understand…” Elizabeth felt like she was floating, she needed support “Mama! Mama!! Please come and hear what this man is saying!”
Seeing Ebube’s Mother made the news even more hard for Aminu “They said he was…he was shot and…”He didn’t finish the story when Elizabeth screamed as if she was stung by a snake
“Elizabeth chelu godu ka anyi ghota ihe nwoke a na ako (Elizabeth wait let us understand what this man is saying?” Mrs Ojukwu shouted at Elizabeth
“Bia Nwam, isi na obu gini mere? What are you talking about? What happened to my son?” the Old woman asked in confusion
“Mama, he was shot, he didn’t make it back”
“Hei!” the woman shouted, she slapped her two palms on her breasts three times, shook her head in agony and wept
Elizabeth lay on the floor by the time Aminu left, with her hands stretched and her eyes opened, she muttered incoherent words to herself.
“Hold her o, she is losing her mind” A neighbor said to another. The other sat beside the mourning lady
“He said he will be back…he promised me, we are even going to have a child…” she removed her top, exposing her black bra and her baby bump
“You see?” she laughed Hysterically
The House was crowded, many didn’t even know what happened nor who died,
“The man has already paid her bride price o he just died like that” an on-looker said to another
“Ehe! I heard he died yesterday in an accident on his way back from Onitsha”
“Hei! This thing na enemies o, people from their village way no wan make this girl marry, them don summon the man for shrine chai”
The agony was unbearable for the two women; one wept for her only child, the other wept for the only man whom had loved her just the way she was. And the child also cried, she didn’t understand why the two women were crying, but she knew something was wrong; so she cried.
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