Akuada watched Anaborhi for a while as she sat still staring at her. She tried to maintain a smile as much as she could even though her heart was thumping hard and fast. She had waited so long for this and was terrified that the girl’s hatred would cloud her mind and hinder her from doing what was needed to break the curse and set them all free.
“How did you come to be here?” Anaborhi finally asked. It was obvious she was holding herself back from what she really wanted to say.
“In the years after the initial incident things were not clear. We were at a loss as to what exactly was happening and not one dibia seemed to know what to tell us” Akuada said.
“Tsohuwa Dada told us that your husband traveled in order to get to the root of the problem.”
“Yes, he was the one that found out what was happening but even he was unaware of mine. It was not until much after, in my old age that I came to fully understand. You see I died one night, while it was raining heavily and by morning I was in flesh again, but I awoke in the forest. When I returned to the village I found out that my grandchildren had dumped me there, unworthy of a proper burial”
“I am guessing that they did not take your rebirth lightly?” Anaborhi said
“No one knew and I did not tell them. I acted as a newcomer, a traveler, and blended into the village eventually marrying but unable to bear children. I was to just watch then as our paths would always cross and I thought I was never going to live it down, till now”
“I am here to break the curse on my family and not the one on you. You can continue to live in it for all I care” Anaborhi said
“I do not doubt your words or intentions and yes I want that. I, however, do not doubt that you would also not be helping me with my predicament when you meet with her”
“Do you know how to summon her?”Anaborhi said eager to divert attention from the woman in front of her at that moment “Is there a rite or sacrifice or something I am to chant?”
Akuada turned to her side and lifted the edge of the cloth that they were sitting on. She retrieved what was there and placed it in the space between them.
“After years of being alone and watching my children’s children run mad and die, I withdrew here.” She said gesturing at the surrounding forest. “I sought her face and cried many nights for her mercy. She did not respond. I met her father one night though, by the river down the way and he laughed at me.” Anaborhi watched her wipe a stray tear that had escaped down her cheek.
“What was he like?” she asked as she looked down and wondered what was wrapped in the bag in front of her.
“For a minor god, he was only of average height. Eyes some sort of grey, very even teeth and bald. His black skin glistened in the moonlight as though something was rubbed on. And he laughed at me while he drank from a container.”
She unwrapped the bag and revealed its contents as she continued to speak
“He said she was angry and her anger was just like his, fiery and vengeful. He said she was even merciful because he would have done worse to me” she paused to lay out the contents of the bag. “He said he would tell me one thing, that she must be appeased by what she liked” she placed a gourd down “What she lost” she placed a white baby shawl beside the gourd, “and what she longed for” she placed white beads down beside the other items.
“What’s in the gourd? Anaborhi asked.
“Palm wine” Akuada smiled when the expected expression of surprise filled Anaborhi’s face. “Her father was the minor god of alcohol and his particular drink was palm wine. She took after him in that regard.”
Anaborhi nodded and pointed at the lace “What are the beads for?” she asked. Akuada’s face fell.
“In our tradition, a married woman is recognized in the community by her white beads. Recognized and respected. These are her beads, ripped off her by my brother when she was carried away into banishment.” She paused, picking up the beads and shaking her head.
“I gathered up the beads because I wanted to keep them as my victory trophies but after I met him that night I realized that they were of more significance”
“Is the shawl from her child? The one that died?” Anaborhi frowned “The one you killed?”
“I did not kill any child. I swapped the baby with one from the slaves. She had come to tell me that her baby had died from a fever and that was when the idea came to me. So I had her take Apunanwu’s baby and drop her dead baby in its place.” She said, closing her eyes as regret flooded her body once again. The same regret she had been living with for centuries.
“So what happened to the baby?” Anaborhi asked.
“I wish I knew. After the whole thing, I had asked my brother to send the slaves away as they were her slaves and did not want my friend, his new wife, to be stuck with anyone loyal to Apunanwu” she stopped and returned the beads, placing them on the shawl. She ran her hand over the shawl slowly.
“The slaves were let go. I don’t know if sold off or freed but I searched for him with my brother, and he died a sorrowful man. I continued to search after he was dead. I searched to no avail although I did not and have not stopped”
Anaborhi shook her head “So what do I do now?”
Akuada pointed down the path behind her. One that Anaborhi WAS sure was not there a few minutes before
“The path will take you straight to the groove, beside the river. There you are to lay them out where your heart says you should. Then you call on her. You must appeal to her with a genuine heart”
“And then, Anaborhi, you wait. You must wait”
To be continued….