Her walk back down the path was harder than when she had been heading the other way a few hours before. It was odd that they had spent hours in each other’s company and it felt like mere minutes. Not much had been said but Anaborhi felt Apunanwu’s sadness without the need for words. Soon she was back at the clearing and standing over the white cloth that she and Akuada had sat earlier.
Akuada was nowhere around. Anaborhi looked around and sighed. She didn’t have the will to start looking for any one.
“Akuada, I am back. You can come out now” she called out and waited. The only answer she got was from the birds in the trees and sky above. She looked around and sighed deeply again. Then something caught her eye. She walked back to the sheet and bent down to pick up the white dress she had not observed before. It was the same one that Akuada had been wearing. Her absence and the presence of the dress made things clear to her.
The curse was broken. Akuada was free. She was gone. Finally free of her curse. Anaborhi sat down and smiled. Despite her anger towards her ancestor, she was glad she was free. Looking up, she shut her eves and let out a long breath. Then she heard it, on the wind around her. First it was a warm, Akuada’s presence which made her look around. Then it was her voice carried on the same wind.
Thank you, Anaborhi.
Her eyes brimmed with tears, filling her with joy and sadness at the same time. Getting to her feet, she thought of what to do with the dress and then, having decided, wrapped it up in the white cloth. She turned and started walking down the path back up to the main entrance. There she met the old man who, seeing her with the cloth, nodded slowly.
“It is all done now.” He said as he got to his feet and started walking away slowly with the aid of his cane.
“Are you some ancestor as well?” Anaborhi asked. “An uncle, Akuada’s son? One of Apunanwu’s other children?”
The man laughed but did not stop walking. “I am nothing of the sort child. I am however happy that all this is over and my watch is done”
Anaborhi did not understand his words but had no strength to ask any further questions. She continued up the slope, getting further and further away from the gates she had just passed and as she turned a corner Aruegodore came into her line of sight. He sat in the car and was busy fiddling with his phone. Anaborhi smiled, happy that at least she was certain that her uncle would finally be able to live a good life. She stopped and thought of her brother as well and of her aunts before finally thinking of her parents.
“Anaborhi, are you ok?” Aruegodore asked. He had looked up from his phone to see his niece standing there as though in shock. “Did something happen?” He got down from the car and walked towards her concerned.
“A lot happened” Anaborhi said as she finally started walking towards him. Meeting him half way she fell into his embrace. After a few seconds, he pulled her away from him and held her there, staring into her eyes.
“What happened? Are you ok? Were you hurt?” he asked in quick succession “Who did you see?”
“I will tell you everything before we get back to the house. But in summary uncle, the curse is gone, free” she said. Her voice seemed to betray the joy she was trying to portray because Aruegodore did not seem to believe her in entirety.
“At what price?” he asked. She shook her head and freed herself from his grip. The question caused a shiver down her spine and when she got to the car she looked down at the bundle she was holding and started to shake her head.
“I don’t know” she said.
Aruegodore shook his head. He leaned on the car and sighed deeply
“So how do you know for sure that the curse is broken?” he asked in anticipation.
“I met our ancestor, uncle. Akuada, the source of all of this trouble”
“No way. Are you serious?!”
“Yes uncle and I also met Apunanwu, she who laid the curse in the first place”
“Well, you do have a lot to share.”Aruegodore said smiling “Get in, let’s get back to Barwi before it gets too dark”
The drive back was a quiet one. Aruegodore glanced repeatedly at his niece either smiling or frowning. He had more than a dozen questions for her but he did his best to not say anything. In 45 minutes they were back at Barwi and driving into the compound.
“Maybe I should just head to my room and sleep.” Anaborhi said. A few seconds passed and neither of them moved from the car.
“I do not know what the price you will have to pay is but I am grateful. Your singular action has saved us all.” Aruegodore said and when Anaborhi turned to look at him she found him crying. Anaborhi nodded and at the same time both of them stepped out of the car and into the house.
Upstairs they met Akunna and Adankwo having dinner in the old woman’s room. Adankwo had requested that a part of the room be cleared so both of them could sit and wait for Anaborhi together. Adankwo did not want Akunna to wait alone and so they had eaten together till Aruegodore and Anaborhi walked through the door.
“Welcome back” Adankwo said. She had seen them first because Akunna’s back was turned to the door and as she greeted, Akunna turned quickly, almost toppling off the chair where she sat. Rushing to her feet, she embraced her daughter tightly allowing the fear she had been holding in to seep away, grateful for her safe return.
“I was so worried about you” Akunna said when they finally drew apart and stood staring at each other. She had a smile on her face as she looked Anaborhi over and by the time her eyes drifted over to Aruegodore the fear returned. His bloodshot eyes brought the worry right back.
“What happened?” Akunna asked “Are you ok?” she said turning to her daughter and then back to her brother “Aruegodore why are your eyes red?” She was starting to shake now and Anaborhi held on to her mother.
“Nothing is wrong mum. Everything is fine I promise” she started to say in a bid to calm her down.
“Then why is he crying?”
“Because the curse has been broken” Aruegodore said where he stood still in shock at the reality of what he was saying. He turned from his sister to Adankwo. He ran up to her and knelt beside her chair. Taking her hands in his, he repeated the words louder “She did it; she lifted the curse Tsohuwa Dada. We are free”
Akunna shook her head and turned back to face her daughter “Is this true?” she asked as tears threatened to fall. Anaborhi nodded and guided her mother over to a couch where they sat.
“I first met Akuada and she told me most of what Tsohuwa Dada said and more. She mentioned her own curse. She had been alive since that time, cursed to watch the fate of her descendants play out back to back.”
“By the gods! She has been alive for so long. How awful that must have been” Akunna said.
“She gave me three items to present to Apunanwu by the river where she had her baby.” Anaborhi continued.
“Wait” Adankwo said “Are you saying that you met Apunanwu as well?”
“Yes. I took the items,” Anaborhi said, and started counting off her fingers “A gourd of palm wine, white beads signifying marriage and a white baby shawl” she looked up at Adankwo, “I placed them in a clearing by the river, said a prayer and waited. She came to me”
Aruegodore, now seated on the ground beside the woman and still holding her hand, looked up at her “What was she like?”
“Beautiful and sad. She listened to me and then said it was ok but only for me and those that would come after. Nothing for anyone that the curse already took effect on”
“And you could not let it be? You asked for more didn’t you?” her mother asked grasping her hands tighter. Anaborhi nodded.
“You, my father, aunty Akpobome and Ahunna, uncle Aruegodore” Anaborhi said pointing at him where he sat “I couldn’t let you all just continue like this. If it was a clean slate that it should be out rightly clean”
“Child, curses lifted for generations unborn is the easiest. For those past affected, it will come at a cost. A sacrifice to be taken and not given” Adankwo said leaning forward “Did you accept this?”
“Yes I did. If it must be lifted then it should be lifted for all” Anaborhi said. “Everyone should have the chance to pick up the pieces of their lives from where the curse left off”
“So I am free to marry and have children?” Aruegodore asked. More tears streamed down his cheeks when he saw Anaborhi nod.
“Everyone is free to live now” Anaborhi said.
“But at what expense Anaborhi?” Akunna asked “What price have you paid for the freedom of everyone else?”
To be continued….