When they got back to Lagos, the tension was still evident. Anaborhi barely said a word on the trip back and Akunna kept glancing over at her daughter. As they turned into their street Anaborhi sat up and turned to her mother.
“Do we have to tell aunty everything?” she asked. Akunna nodded.
“It is only fair that we tell her and Ahunna as well. This is not something that should be hidden away, it’s a serious matter”
“What about Akin?” she asked. The look on her face tugged at Akunna’s heartstrings.
“You will have to tell him to dear. Consider the fact that the price that you have to pay is still unknown. If we are indeed free of the curse, it means that you and Akin can marry and it also means that whatever the price, it could affect your lives together”
Anaborhi nodded and sighed as they drove up to the gate. As the gatekeeper opened up, Akpobome came running out of the house. She stood aside waiting for the car to come to a stop but the look on her face was one that got Akunna and Anaborhi worried. They quickly got down and, half expecting some awful news, rushed up to her.
“What is it? Are you ok? Has something happened?” Akunna asked her sister back to back. Akpobome broke into a smile quickly followed by tears streaming down her cheeks
“They are all coming home,” she said. “I got a call from the hospital Akunna, they said your husband woke up this morning and was fine, that he could be discharged very soon. Then I got a call from Ahunna who said some cousins also called her to say their husbands recovered. I called a few of our other cousins to ask about some of our male cousins, they are all fine Akunna. Whatever you did worked, the curse is gone”
She hugged Akunna and then hugged Anaborhi “We have a lot to tell you sis” Akunna said.
She led her sister inside and as they settled in the living room, Akunna started recounting their experiences. Anaborhi caught her aunty’s glances and looks of shock and dismay.
“OH MY GOD!” Akpobome finally said. She turned to Anaborhi and reached out for her hands. “No, no, no, nau. You would have just agreed with going forward. Your children and everyone unborn would have been ok. We could have lived with that. You didn’t have to do all this” she started crying and Anaborhi glanced over her shoulder to see if her mother too had started the waterworks.
Placing a hand over Akpobome’s as they held her other hand, Anaborhi shook her head.
“No” she said “We have suffered enough. What good would it have done for use for us to wait for a generation before we start to see if the curse is truly lifted or to see them live a curse-free life?”
Anaborhi paused and looked at her mother and aunty “I did not want either of you to continue like this, alone and unhappy”
“We would have been happy knowing that any child born from now one would be free. It was all the news we needed. You did not have to” Akunna said.
“Were you not happy when Aunty gave us the news that daddy was fine?” Anaborhi asked. The smile that filled her face warmed her heart. She had been looking forward to seeing the joy return to her mother’s face for years. The price was surely worth seeing it again. She turned to her aunt who was still holding her hands.
“Aunty, tell me when aunty Ahunna called you did not think if only it had come before her husband died. Tell me that it did not cross your mind that you could maybe now go back to Azubuike”
“How did you know?” Akpobome said in shock. Anaborhi smiled.
“I have come to know a lot now that what I knew before pales in comparison” She got to her feet and walked towards the stairs “I have to rest and find a way to break this to Akin”
“Do you need us to be there?” Akunna asked. She did not want to be far from her when she shared this information.
“Maybe not there but not too far either,” she said and started up the stairs. When she was out of sight Akpobome turned to her sister smiling broadly.
“Akunna, if she really did it, if the curse is actually and truly broken, then it means I can go back to Azubuike”
Akunna smiled and rolled her eyes. Her sister’s lasting infatuation for her university love had refused to die and had remained a running joke between them.
“Ehn, do you think he would be interested in that?” She asked.
“I can tell him now, about everything. I can tell him about his daughter and well he is still single so there is a chance. A chance I can now finally take” Akpobome said still grinning ear to ear “And you? When are you going to pick your husband up?”
“First, I will have to call the hospital and then,” she paused and smiled “Then I will go see him in the afternoon”
Both sisters hugged each other and then sat back in silence before Akunna grabbed her phone and put a call through to the hospital. Calls were made back and forth between family and before long family members started to flock in and out of the house. The news of Anaborhi’s actions and potentially life-changing sacrifice spread like wildfire. It got to a stage where both Akunna and Akpobome started to turn back visitors.
When Akin got to the house during the visit of one of the extended family members, Akpobome took him straight to her room. They sat downstairs, after discharging the cousin that had come calling, waiting to either rush to her aid if they heard any ruckus, or barge in if it got too quiet.
“Why would be barge in if it is too quiet?” Akpobome asked. She had laughed when her sister suggested that and Akunna had a hard time explaining. She was unable to answer though when Akin and Anaborhi descended the stairs and joined them in the living room area.
The look of shock on Akin’s face was evident but they were still uncertain of his calmness.
“Are you ok Akin?” Akunna asked. She watched as Akin looked at her and smiled. He nodded and then turned to Anaborhi, still smiling
“So,” he started to say “I am in love with a real-life wonder woman”
He could sense the relief that filled the room and everyone smiled broadly. Akin drew Anaborhi close and as her mother watched, tears filled her eyes.
“So what happens now?” he asked, “Is there a way to find out what the price to be paid is?”
“No. We have to wait till whenever she feels it is time to collect” Anaborhi said and Akin nodded. He then took his arm off Anaborhi’s shoulder, moved to the edge of his seat and leaned forward.
“So can I now have her hand in marriage?”
The laughter that filled the room was warm and long overdue. There were lots of hugs and drinks being shared as everyone talked and chatted freely for the first time in years.
In no time marriage plans were made and in all the excitement that ensued, especially with Anaborhi’s father returning home, Apunanwu’s price was put on the back burner. As the date of the ceremony arrived, family members from far and wide flew in to celebrate with the family.
As D-day arrived Anaborhi felt an extra presence that was familiar and slightly unsettling. She could not dwell on what it meant or whatever the implication was as she was whisked away and vows were shared but like the proverbial Sword of Damocles the day of reckoning was not far, only delayed.
Months after their wedding, Anaborhi went into labor on a rainy Wednesday morning just after dawn. She delivered a healthy boy whom she named Akpofure as life was now peaceful. Everyone’s joy knew no bounds and once again family from all over came to celebrate with the new parents. His naming ceremony was with all the pomp and pageantry that they could muster. Life was indeed peaceful and Apunanwu’s price was furthest from everyone’s mind so when, on the fortieth day, Apunanwu came into the house at the last strike of midnight, it was unexpected.
Anaborhi had been startled awake by what she would later describe as an unsettling feeling. She woke Akin up before both of them rushed into Akunna’s room and then all 3 and gone into the baby’s room. There, seated beside the cot was a woman in white humming a tune and cradling her baby in her arms.
“Oh” Anaborhi said as she dropped to her knees and tears welled up. Akin, not understanding the situation started to approach the seemingly strange woman in his son’s bedroom.
“I would advise that you tell your husband to calm down,” Apunanwu said softly. That stopped Akin in his tracks and he turned to look at his wife.
“Who is this woman?” He asked. Anaborhi sat on her haunches and sighed deeply. Wiping away a tear, she finally spoke up.
“She is Apunanwu and I believe she is here to collect”
As realization dawned on Akin, he took two steps back and came to stand beside his wife.
“And the price is our firstborn son?” he asked in dismay. Apunanwu smiled and got to her feet with the still sleeping baby in her arms.
“He is the reincarnate of my son. The one who was taken from me, the one who became lost to me”
“The one who you gave birth to in the forest?” Anaborhi asked amid freely flowing tears. Apunanwu shook her head.
“He was found by a hunter and lived to be a fulfilled old man with many children and other descendants one of whom stood guard at the gate when you came to find me,” Apunanwu said. Watching Anaborhi nod, she felt whatever was left of her humanity feel for the child before her.
“I am not lost to how you are feeling right now but a promise was made and a price must be paid. I have come for my price” she continued.
“Are you going to kill him?” Akin asked as he too sank to his knees and drew his wife near. Akunna watched in silence at the events unfolding in her presence and the gravity of the situation.
“No. Why would I take an innocent life,” Apunanwu said “What will happen to the child is left to me to know but I will assure you that no harm will come to him”
Apunanwu walked to the window and there she stood for a few seconds. Suddenly, before their very eyes, she and the baby started to fade. Anaborhi and Akin started to weep aloud. In time, they were gone and when the disembodied voice of Apunanwu filled the room, Akin almost jumped out of his skin
Your sacrifice is respected and you are a woman of honour Anaborhi. Your child will be cared for and he will grow up to know of you. Live long and prosper Anaborhi. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
The silence that followed was heart-wrenching and Akunna had to leave the weeping couple. She retreated to her room to cry her own tears at what had just happened in their home. She knew the price would be a heavy one but this was far from what they had expected.
When the news broke, the standard story was that the child had died one night. They had gotten a doctor to give a cause of death and a death certificate before an empty coffin was lowered into the ground. But time, as they say, heals all wounds, or at least most.
Akin and Anaborhi, never to forget their first born child, went on to have many more. For known reasons they subconsciously waited for the other shoe to drop as years passed but as they celebrated their 10th year wedding anniversary, it became clear that there was no need for any more fear. At the passing of Tsohuwa Dada, Anaborhi became vested with the responsibility of that position, one that she would however not fill for years to come. Despite this, and for good reason, she remained highly respected in the family.
In time, the truth of her sacrifice would be made known to every family member as it was important that the story and the reason for such a hefty sacrifice were never to be forgotten. Never knowing her child’s fate, Anaborhi would never live down that longing to see his face again. But as if as a consolation when a young man called her mother in a crowded park where her other children were playing and seeing white beads around his wrist, she was relieved that he was indeed alive.
Whenever she remembered the night he was taken and whenever she doubted her role or regretted her actions, she would remember that day and remember that he hugged her. She would remember him walking away to meet a woman on the other side of the road who was Apunanwu but not really her. She would smile when she remembered the woman who was not really Apunanwu looking over at her and nodding before both of them got lost in the crowd. Even though she could never tell anyone of that encounter, it brought her joy and lightened the burden in her heart.
Anaborhi outlived her husband and most of her children. In time she relocated to Barwi and having taken over her position of Tsohuwa Dada guided generation after generation of the family. She became the historian of family lore and tradition, never to be forgotten when it became her time to join her ancestors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Temitope Omamegbe is a banker, blogger, and author of Twice A Bride: The Journey. Also a screenwriter, she is a lover of everything fantasy, horror, lore, pasta, and seafood. More of her stories can be found on her blog https://www.tajmaosworld.wordpress.com while her novel, which is an e-book, can be found on https://www.Bambooks.io; https://www.Okadabooks.com; https://www.kobo.com and https://www.amazon.com.