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UZUMMA: AFTER THE CEREMONY

Facing the wall, Uzumma woke up and stretched luxuriously. When her back made contact with Agunwa's chest, she stilled. Slowly, she turned on her side, to look at him and smiled gently.
She still wasn't used to sharing a bed with a man, but she found that she didn't mind.
How can I mind that? I love it!
She giggled now and Agunwa stirred. Remembering that he slept very lightly, she tried to stop the giggling, but it was already too late.
His eyes snapped open to look at her. She still got shy when he looked at her the way he did now, so she averted her eyes and adjusted the top of her wrapper, which had come undone while she slept.
"Good morning, Agu m." She had called him that since the morning she had become his wife twenty market days ago. He loved it, not just because it was a play on his name, but also because it meant 'my lion'. He loved knowing that his wife was growing to care deeply for him, because he truly loved and cherished her.
"Good morning, Asa m. I hope you slept well." His wife was a great beauty, so he addressed her as such. He had admired her in the past and still couldn't believe she was his now.
Now that she was his wife and he knew her better, he realized that she was even more beautiful on the inside than she was on the outside.
She had endeared herself to members of his family with her cheerfulness and hands that were always willing to help. Agunwa knew that his mother was difficult to please; but, Nwanyimma had accepted Uzumma into the family with open arms and treated her like a daughter already. He considered himself highly favoured by his chi to have been blessed with a good woman as his wife.
"Yes, I did," she answered softly, still not able to meet his eyes. Mischievously, she added, “Your snores kept me awake for a while, though.”
“I don’t snore,” he said, laughing.
She looked at him now and raised an eyebrow. “How would you know, when you can’t hear yourself while you sleep?"
He looked even more amused and with her eyes twinkling mischievously, she said, "They start out sounding like this…” She gave little snorts. “Then they become like this…” She gave deep rumbles and started laughing. “One of these days, you just might wake yourself up.”
Laughing very hard, Agunwa gently threw his left arm over her and drew her closer to him. Her head against his chest, she snuggled in his arms and slowly, he stroked her back with his left hand. When his hand moved lower, she raised hers between their bodies and gently pushed against his shoulders, before whispering, "Agu m, I have to go to the stream now."
He gave a small laugh, before speaking in a low, deep voice, "The stream can wait, omalicha m. Your husband does not want to."
Slowly, he raised his upper body, supporting it with his right elbow. She turned her head slowly, till they were staring at each other. Still gazing into her eyes, his left hand left her waist and his fingers gently searched for the knot on the top of her wrapper.

A long time later, she climbed over him and got up from the bed. Shyly, she turned her back to him and picked up her wrapper from the floor, beside the bed. Straightening, she tied it across her chest and thought about how her mode of dressing had changed, now that she was a married woman.
No longer were those narrow strips of fabric allowed across her chest and her belly could no longer be exposed too. She had to tie a long wrapper from her chest to a point halfway the length of her legs or to her ankles.
She turned and saw him watching her, a smile playing on his lips. One of his arms was under his head, while the other lay across his belly. She bent and picked his wrapper from the floor and draped it over his body. When she was done, he held her left hand and she smiled back, still leaning over his body.
"I'll see you when I come back from the stream, Agu m."
He frowned. "You know that you don't have to go to the stream, Uzumma."
She trailed her free hand along the left side of his face to his jaw. "But, I do, my husband. What would your mother think of me, if I were to sleep in every morning instead of waking, like every other woman, and going to the stream? It's not right for me to be lazy, you know."
She shook her head. "If any reports of laziness were ever made about me, my mother would be heartbroken; because everyone would think she did not train me properly."
He tugged on her hand insistently. "Forget about what people think and what they would say. People would always have something to say, so learn not to listen to them. Omalicha m, I can afford servants who would do all the fetching and carrying you need."
She sat on the bed, their hands still joined and on his belly. Placing her right hand on his chest, she cajoled him, "Nnaa, listen to me. Among our people, there are definite roles for every individual. Our custom dictates that women act a certain way. I am still very young and healthy, so I really have no excuse not to go to the stream. I beg you to let me do this because it's not a huge task to me, really. Bikoi nugo."
This was not the first time Agunwa had expressed his displeasure about Uzumma going to the stream for water, but he grudgingly gave in like he had done the previous times.
"You will go only once," he grumbled. "That's final." His tone was at odds with the hand that had left his head, to gently rub the hand she had placed on his chest. He was finding out quickly that he couldn't refuse his wife anything.
She smiled. "Okay. I will do as you have asked, Agu m.”
"Really? Then, don't go at all.” He winked.
Laughing, Uzumma moved her hand across his chest before gently pulling out her left hand from his. Quietly, they stared at each other for a few seconds, before she stood and left the hut.


The sun had not come up but it was definitely day break. Uzumma loved this part of the day a lot. She took a deep breath and smelled the very fresh air. The smell of smoke was absent too.
No one is cooking yet.
She could hear the rhythmic sound of someone breaking wood into smaller pieces for firewood. She shook her head. That is one chore I always hated in my father's house. She smiled. I’m glad I don’t have to do that here.
She looked around the large compound. Besides the big hut she and her husband shared, there were six others. Agunwa's father, Mazi Emenike had two wives and each had her own hut, while he had his. Her father-in-law's only brother, Mazi Udemba had a hut to himself, while his wife, Uchechi, shared a larger one with her four children. There was another hut which stood at the main entrance of the compound. This served as the family obi.
As Uzumma surveyed the compound, she heard a rustle on her left and turned to see her sister-in-law, Obiageli, coming out of the bushes. She had, most likely, gone to ease herself there.
Uzumma smiled at her now. "Good morning, Oby. I hope you slept well."
Unsmiling, she nodded. "Yes, I did, Uzumma. Good morning. Is my brother awake?"
"He was awake when I left him. I don't know about now." She might as well have been talking to herself. Obiageli was already on her way to their hut to see Agunwa.
Uzumma couldn't fathom what the reason for that could be but, she sensed that Obiageli didn't really like her. She had started having that feeling when she came for the traditional four-day visit to Agunwa's family home. There had never been anything overtly done by Obiageli to confirm her suspicions, though. When other members of the family were there, she was all smiles and charm to Uzumma, calling her nwunye anyi, our wife. So, Uzumma could not understand the cold looks she sometimes got from her sister-in-law or the way she sometimes coldly ignored her when they were alone.
She was Agunwa’s only sibling from his mother and Uzumma hoped that they would become close friends and sisters. They had always known each other since they were children, even though they hadn’t been friends. She was a year older than Uzumma, but they were in the same age-grade so they had always taken part in the same events.
Uzumma shrugged. Time has a way of making things better.

She had to pass Ugboaku’s house on the way to the stream, so her best friend usually waited for her every morning, so that they could go to the stream together. She had a clay pot tucked underneath her right arm. Around her waist, she tied the piece of cloth she would use to carry it on her head, when it was filled with water.
When she met Ugboaku already waiting for her in front of her father’s compound, they gave each other a quick hug and started the journey to the stream.
It had rained very heavily the previous night. So, the smell of wet earth and green foliage was very heavy along the path they walked. It was a narrow path surrounded by bushes on both sides. They chatted lightly, but that had to end as they got to a very rocky slope. There were trees and huge roots of trees all the way down the slope, so neither of them liked this part of the stream business.
With Ugboaku leading the way, they picked their way gingerly, as they made the descent. Luckily, there were strong branches they could hold onto, as they climbed down and soon, they were at the bottom of the slope. Each of them let out a breath and a sigh of relief and Ugboaku said, “No matter how many times I’ve come to this stream, this slope is still such a challenge.”
Uzumma smiled. “You can say that again.”

They walked in silence for a while and then she asked, “How are your marriage rites coming along?”
Ugboaku smiled. “My sister, everything is going as planned. You know I’ll be off in three days to spend the customary four market days with Uzondu’s family. I’m not sure I relish the thought of that.”
“Why not?” Uzumma asked, stopping to stare at her friend.
Ugbaoku stopped too and slowly shook her head. “My sister, I can’t bear to be under so much scrutiny. Everyone’s going to be looking out for flaws and I would be forced to be on my best behaviour at all times."
Her eyes widened. "What if members of Uzondu’s family don’t like me after that period or if they decide that he shouldn’t marry me? What happens then? Do I go back home in shame and start the search for a husband all over again?” She sighed deeply, her brow knitted in a frown.
"Nne, you worry too much!" Uzumma touched her lightly on the arm. "You are such a great person and you have one of the most giving hearts I know. They would have no choice but to love you. You’ll see."
She smiled mischievously and nudged Ugboaku’s shoulder with her left hand. "You make it seem like all you are worried about, if a marriage with Uzondu is no longer in the cards, is the stress of searching for another man. You can tell that to someone who doesn’t know you. You would be devastated if that were to happen, only because you care about him.”
Ugboaku laughed for a while, before saying, “You do know me too well, my good friend. I do care about him very deeply. I didn’t think I would when he came along. He was after all, not my first choice. But, look how it turned out."
She shook her head twice. "I can’t even imagine marrying anyone else but Uzondu now and really, I can’t wait for us to be married.” She continued walking and Uzumma joined her, smiling.

Just as Mgborie had predicted, suitors had come asking for Ugboaku’s hand in marriage after the Egwu umu agbogho dance. There had been three of them initially but the one she had preferred was Ogbuagu who was from Umuezedum.
He was the most handsome of them all and had a reputation of being a fearless hunter. But, upon investigation, Ugboaku’s family had received reports that he was very brash and had a very vile temper. They also found out that his late father, Ukata, had been caught stealing on several occasions.
One night, he had been caught stealing yam from someone’s barn. As a deterrent to other would-be thieves, his right ear had been cut off. The villagers had then thrown him into a deep pit, where he was till he died.
In the light of the discoveries, her family didn’t think that Ogbuagu was the right man for her. They didn’t want to be associated with a family such as his, so they had refused his proposal on her behalf.
Ugboaku had not been too bothered about that because she had other options. She then settled on Uzondu, who had been her second choice and now, she was glad that she had.
He was from Umuchi and his family house was quite close to hers, so she considered that a major advantage. When she had got to know him well, she had discovered that he was a humble and kind man, with a reputation of being cheerful and easy-going. He wasn’t wealthy, but he earned a modest living from farming.
Ugboaku had found herself beginning to like him and now, almost five months after that dance, she couldn’t wait to be his wife.

Fetching water at the stream wasn’t difficult, as there was no crowd there that early. They had to wade in the water till they got to the mouth of the stream where water came out from black rocks. Bending down, both of them filled their pots from the rocks. Uzumma untied the piece of cloth she had around her waist and made a circular pad with it, which she placed on her head. Ugboaku did the same and soon, they were on their way home with their pots balanced beautifully on their heads. Carrying water-filled pots on their head, without any support by their hands, was an art both of them had mastered.
The climb up the slope was harder than it had been coming down it. Both of them had to hold their water-filled pots with one hand and the branches along the sides of the slope with the other. By the time they got to the top of the slope, they were panting, so they stopped for a while to catch their breaths, before continuing on their way home. Chatting as they went on their way, they paused occasionally to exchange pleasantries with the few people they passed.
At Ugboaku’s father’s compound, she asked, “Should I wait for you again?”
Uzumma smiled and shook her head. “No, don’t wait for me, dear. My husband forbade me from going to the stream a second time this morning.”
“Hmmm, I love the way ‘my husband’ rolled off your tongue. I can’t wait to start talking like that o…. Chei, Uzondu, my husband.” She started laughing.
Uzumma joined in the laughter, as they parted ways.


Her mother-in-law, Nwanyimma, was the first person she saw when she got home. She had sprained her left ankle the previous day, on their way to the market and had been unable to continue, so Uzumma had done the shopping alone.
Walking up to Nwanyimma, with the pot still on her head, she smiled and greeted her warmly. “Good morning, Mama, I hope you slept well. How is your foot now?”
She smiled back, coming closer to rub Uzumma's back. “Good morning, my daughter. Yes, I slept very well. Thank you for the massage you gave me last night. My foot feels so much better already."
She gently tapped it on the floor. "I’m sure if anyone were to play music for me now, I would dance it very well.”
Uzumma laughed, raising her right hand to hold her pot in place. “Mama, I’m happy to hear that.”
Omalicha, I didn’t know you were up and about already. You’re such a hardworking daughter.” She nodded briskly. “Your mother did a great job with you.”
She smiled. “Thank you, Mama.”
“Will you be going to the stream again or will you help me with the cooking?”
She shook her head slightly. “Mama, my husband insists that I not go to the stream again. So, I’ll help with the cooking. You could just tell me what you want me to cook and I’ll handle the cooking, all by myself. You really shouldn’t be on your feet yet.”
Nwanyimma beamed. “Chai, ezigbo nwa, thank you. I was thinking that a meal of boiled yam and our special ugu leaves and palm oil sauce would do well this morning."
She raised both eyebrows. "What do you think about that?”
Uzumma smiled, and then nodded. “That would be great. As soon as I drop this pot, I’ll go to the vegetable garden and pluck lots of tiny green peppers. Agu m prefers that meal with green peppers.”
Nwanyimma started laughing. “You’re being partial o! So the rest of us get to eat with green peppers because your husband prefers them?”
When Uzumma giggled, she rubbed her arm. “I don’t mind, though. Green peppers are a great choice. My husband happens to love their flavor too.”
She smiled. “That’s alright, then. I’ll soon get started with breakfast, Mama.”
“Hmmm, it’s very interesting that you would go to the stream only once this morning, when the day has only begun,” Obiageli said, as she slowly walked towards them. She had apparently overhead the last part of their conversation. When they turned to her, she raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Since that means that we don’t have any need for more water, Mama, I can go back to bed, right?”
“Obiageli, your brother ordered her not to go a second time.” She shook her head gently. “That has nothing to do with you. So, you still have to go to the stream.”
Hian! Ordered? I nu kwa!” Obiageli mocked, clapping her hands together twice. “Why would Agunwa order a grown woman not to go to the stream, just because he’s her husband? What reasons could he have for doing that, anyway?"
She put her hands on her waist. "Did Uzumma complain to him that she does not want to go to the stream for water?" She rolled her eyes. "Or does he think she’s an egg that would break if she goes to fetch some water from the stream?”
Pausing now to eye Uzumma speculatively, she removed her hands from her waist and added, “Or could it be that she is pregnant?”
Nwanyimma, whose lips had been pursed while Obiageli was speaking, stayed silent for a few seconds, before speaking, “Oby nwa m, I’ve told you to drop this defiant attitude of yours. I had to learn the hard way when your father married a second wife years after I was already his wife."
She shook her head. "He told anyone that asked why he was taking a new wife, after eleven years of marriage, that I was always in a hurry to challenge his decisions. So, his marriage to Ojiugo was a punishment of sorts, which was supposed to teach me the lifelong lesson of humility.” She pulled her right ear. “Don’t let that be your fate too."
She dropped her hand and shrugged. "Her husband, your elder brother, has told her not to go to the stream again this morning and that is final. It is the way things are done."
Shaking her head, she added. "You should not question that decision.”
When Obiageli rolled her eyes, her mother pursed her lips again. Then, turning to Uzumma, who was staring at her sister-in-law, she asked with a smile, “She may not be wrong about one thing, though. My daughter, are you pregnant?”
Uzumma was embarrassed, as she stammered, “I... I... don’t know, Mama. It’s too early to tell."
She added hurriedly, "I have to go drop this pot of water now so I can start with the cooking.”
As she quickly moved away, they stared at her speculatively.

Three months later, it certainly wasn’t too early to tell that Uzumma was yet to get pregnant. Her mother-in-law asked her all the time now if she had started ‘feeling ill’.
One morning, she complained to Nwanyimma that her tummy was churning. While Uzumma thought it had been caused by something she had eaten the previous night, her mother-in-law thought differently. She reminded her that women felt nauseous when they were pregnant and ordered her to get some rest. “Omalicha, you have to get as much rest as you can so that your body will be able to take care of the life that it now carries.”
She smiled gently. “Mama, I hope you’re right. I can’t wait to be a mother.”
Throwing an arm around her shoulder, Nwanyimma nodded her head once and replied, “I’m certain that I am, nne. Why else would you be feeling the way you are? I ate the same thing you did, after all. We all did and no one else feels sick."
She removed her arm from Uzumma's shoulder and looking upwards, threw both of them up. "Our chi, I praise you o! Finally, I will be a grandmother.”
It had turned out to be a false alarm as only two days later, her monthly flow had started. Uzumma was sorely disappointed because she had allowed herself to hope. Nwanyimma was very upset when she told her.
Brow knitted, she asked, “Are you sure about that, my daughter?”
She nodded slightly and responded with a small voice, “Yes, I am sure, Mama. I woke to pains in my tummy this morning. That was why I couldn’t go the stream.”
Nwanyimma rested her elbow on her lap and placed her right palm on her jaw. She stared, unseeing, at a point in front of her, before sighing sadly.
“My daughter, I want you to confide in me. You know that I’m your mother too. So, feel free to tell me the truth. Does my son even touch you? Is he able to…?”
When she broke off, Uzumma cast her eyes downwards and answered shyly, “Yes, mama. Agu m touches me.”
Her mother-in-law clapped her hands once and swung her head in a sharp movement. “Ehen! I knew that my son is a man. Nwa m, what is the reason for your barrenness, then?”
Uzumma’s eyebrows rose as she stared at Agunwa’s mother. “Barrenness, Mama? We’ve been married for such a short time, so it cannot yet be said that I am barren.”
Nwanyimma put her hand on her jaw again and rolled her eyes. “Short time, kwa?”
She turned her head away from Uzumma and continued, “Nne, three months is enough time for a woman, who has a young and virile husband, to become pregnant.”
In a swift change of mood, she started sobbing. “My enemies want to deny me the pleasure of grandchildren.”
Uzumma quickly put aside her hurt and disappointment, to console the woman who had become a second mother to her.
“Mama, it will surely happen,” she told her, holding Nwanyimma in a hug. “When our chi decides that it is time, we would have babies.”
She sobbed harder. “That decision should be made quickly o! I want to still be alive, by the time my grandchildren are born. My only daughter, Obiageli, doesn’t want to get married.”
She spread her arms and then brought them down immediately. “I don’t know if she has decided to live in her father’s compound forever. I thought that Agunwa, who had the good sense to get married, would give me some grandchildren. It has turned out that he doesn’t want to.”
“Mama, don’t be like this,” Uzumma pleaded. “Our inability to have children yet has nothing to do with not wanting to give you grandchildren. Your son and I are doing all we can to get pregnant. It just hasn’t worked so far. I don’t know why our chi has decided to test us so, but I believe that soon, we’ll be blessed with a child.”
Her mother-in-law’s mood was starting to rub off on her and her tummy was still cramping mildly too. So, she excused herself, after a while, to go and lie down. When she got to their hut, she broke down and cried.

The next day when Nwanyimma saw Uzumma about going to the stream, she called her.
“Good morning, Mama.”
“Good morning, my daughter.” She smiled and put her right arm across Uzumma’s shoulder. As they stood side by side, she angled her head to look at her daughter-in-law. “Omalicha anyi, there is no need for you to keep going to the stream. There are other people who can fetch water.”
“Mama, that’s alright. I don’t mind doing it,” Uzumma responded with a smile.
Nwanyimma sighed deeply and removed her arm. She then stayed silent for a while before turning her body to face Uzumma. “Uzumma, you have to stop going to the stream entirely. That slope, on the way, is too steep and rocky. Going up and down it may be the reason you have not been able to conceive.”
Uzumma was surprised at that. “Mama, I see other women go to the stream, even when they are heavily pregnant. I really don’t think that’s a problem.”
She shook her head slowly and looked away from Uzumma’s face. “My daughter, we’re all different from each other. You may have the zeal and energy to do hard work but your body may not be able to handle the stress of such, very well.”
She looked at her again. “I will discuss this with your husband before he heads to the farm this morning. However, till then, please do as I have asked.”
Uzumma nodded and quietly went to keep her pot, before heading to the kitchen, to get breakfast ready.

Agunwa did not share his wife’s worry about their inability to conceive because he felt their chi didn’t think it was the right time yet. They were both young and healthy, after all. So, he thought their chi must have a good reason for why his wife had not been able to get pregnant.
However, he was quick to agree to his mother’s suggestion. That was what he had wanted all along, so it didn’t matter how he got it.
Till a baby came, he planned to enjoy the exclusive attention he got from his wife.

TO BE CONTINUED

To read the other parts of this story, please go to
Part 1: UZUMMA
Part 3: UZUMMA: WAITING
Part 4: UZUMMA: THE HARVEST

Comments

  1. Aijay6:52 pm

    Such pure, unadultrated love! African romance ROCKS

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  2. chilaura7:16 pm

    very nice...enjoyed it.

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  3. Uzumma oooooooo! Biko turu kwa ime o! Nice one babes! Totally enjoyed it.

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  4. This kain suspense. Next please

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  5. nwunye arinze8:30 pm

    Ola eee....u're slowly turning us to nkita pavlov...finish this story now....or else....

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lol! Ola le! Nice nice nice

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  7. Colettoo10:42 pm

    Bia Ola u berrs finish this story next time. Lol! Am wairring!

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  8. please when are you concluding the story cos am hooked? lovely piece girl.

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  9. Aijay; We do know how to love, jare.

    Chilaura; Thanks a lot :)

    Ng; Thanks, dear :) I laughed so hard when I read your comment.

    Toin; ;) ;)

    Nwunye Arinze; Nkita Pavlov? Lol!!

    Noma; Thanks, dear :)

    Coco; Be patient, joo.

    Marjorie; Thanks a lot. About concluding the story.. working on it :)

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  10. Ola very nice..love the story line

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  11. I love this story! Ola, you sabi describe o! Chai, the love, o the love!

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  12. Samuel; Thanks, jare, my broda. You love love, eh! Lol!

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