For some days I was more around the house because of my father, I have to massage his aching leg constantly with ori and hot balm, boil water and mix some roots for him to take.
I went to farm, because it the season of weeding, I spent time weeding the grasses occupying our plot of land and suffocating our crops.
Mma and her mother also goes to their own farm which was not farm from mine, they worked for sometime and left but I continued until I was done with the job
I needed to sell some farm product to raise money for our upkeep, I told my father first that I planed to harvest some cassavas, make garri with it and sell it in ahia Eke (Eke market) which was one of the biggest market in our village and my father asked my step mother Ego, to tell Mma to join me so that the work load will be easy on me and at the end the whole family will have something to eat.
But Ego refused and said her daughter will get sick if she stress herself with too much chores, she said that Mma can not do much because of her kind of skin and nature.
I told father not to worry that I will do it all.
I harvested the cassava down the first day, I covered it up in the bush because of bush animals and on the the second day i went to the farm so early and start peeling it.
I was doing so all alone when I hard a foot sound coming towards my direction.
I pause and shouted who was that, I was thinking Mma changed her mind and decided to come and join since I she knows the farm I was in.
So I called out to Mma, so that she will follow the sound of my voice and start coming, but if it was Mma she would have being screaming my name in the whole bush even before she gets close.
I called out anyway hoping it will be Mma but I did not get any response as the foot sound gets closer and closer.
I held the small knife I was using to peel cassava as I wonder who the person might be.
It can't be Nduka, he has calm down from his public disturbance ever since the wrestling fight.
I was standing and still wondering who it could be that never said anything despite my shout until Ukadike showed up.
It was Ukadike, on seeing him my heart skipped as I try to look comfortable with his presence but I was battling with myself.
I greeted him and he nodded and without saying another word he removed a small knife from his bag, cleared somewhere, placed a log of a tree there and sat down as he began to peel the cassava.
I looked confused but I continued with the peeling too as we both remained silent.
Sometimes I will stylishly raise my eyes to look at him as he continue to peel the cassava, his face was straight, he hands was working so fast on the cassava as he seem to concentrate with his present task.
I was looking at him or let me say admiring him until he looks up at me and I quickly looked away as I pretend to be concentrating on the work at hand.
I plan to harvest more cassava next week to be able to fry enough garri, i will sell some, share some and keep the remaining for our use.
Everywhere was quiet except for the sound of our knives on the cassava, so I try to engage him in a conversation.
“imela Ukadike, obu maka gini ka e ji biri na ime ohia…I gara abuta ebe mmadu bi bia rou olu (thank you Ukadike, why are you living in the bush, you could have come out to where people live and build a house for yourself)
He didn't say anything, but I wasn't discourage because I already knows that he hardly say much. I kept talking
“…living among the villagers will help you get things done fast, like going to the market, associating with people and having a normal life, living all by yourself in an excluded place makes you feel abnormal…as if you hate humans but I know you don't, if you hate your follow humans you wouldn't have saved me from Nduka that day and you wouldn't be sitting here helping me with this cassava…you are a nice man but you want people to see you difference, is okay to be abnormal sometimes…do you know that people sometime perceive me be abnormal too…because I picked up from where my father stops and start setting traps and doing something that are only allowed by the men…they think I'm crazy in the beginning, but I did not care…everyday I wake up I go about my business without paying attention to whatever anybody has to say…. I check my traps before proceeding to other things, now most of them are tired of gossiping and talking behind my back because nothing they do will ever stop me from being who I am, if I get carried away by their gossips and act the way they want me to act, my father and even my step mother and daughter will starve to death…my suppose step sister was to assist me but her mother said she has a sensitive skin and can't do much…well, I don't blame them, they see me as tiger who can do everything, work and provide for the entire family. but is not really fair when Mma can not assist me…my father is still responsible for them so he cares about them and makes sure I don't deny them anything…but sometimes i just do things because of my father not because of them because they don't worth it. Is probably because Mma is beautiful and she is also part of the village dancer maybe that is why her mother will not allow her to do much…unlike me, I don't want to live my father under their care, but my father is getting better now…Is just his leg that is holding him back from doing his normal activities…I don't want to go far from my father…because he is all that I have…even if I get married someday I will always visit my father to know how he is doi….
Ukadike suddenly pause from peeling the cassava as he looked up at me, I almost thought I said something wrong as I also looked at him wondering what happened, I can't even remember everything I said, I was just talking to keep the environment warm, and since I don't get to share my worries with anyone because I don't have anybody to share them with, talking about it all now, makes me feel free but I don't know why Ukadike suddenly pause and was looking at me with a frown, I kept quiet wondering what exactly I said that he doesn't like so that I can explain myself better. I don't want to offend him, I don't want him to leave either, I like his quiet presence here in the bush with me.
“biko, o bu gini mere…onwere ihe ngwuru ngbasuru gi iwe (please, what happened, is there anything I said that got you angry?)
He breathed down before saying
“I choro ilu di…onwere nwoke Ibo na obi choro ilu (do you want to marry?…is there any man that you have in mind to marry)
I don't even understand his question, did I mention anything marry, or maybe I did but why is he asking me if I have any man that showed interest in getting married to me, I'm not even thinking of marrying now because I still have a lot of things to do with my life. Of all the things I said why did he picked interest in the marriage thing, something I wasn't even serious about.
As I open my mouth to reply him he cautioned me to stop
“Don't bother answering the question, just forget it…
I don't even understand this Ukadike, but I dare not say that out before he will angrily leave or throw me over a tree with his bare hand just as he did to Nduka.
I watch him as he went back to peeling cassava, I decided not to say anything again as we work quietly until everything was done.
He helped me to carry it to the stream, instead of going twice to carry the cassava to the stream where I will wash it, Ukadike helped me and carry it once to the stream. He sat at a distance and watch me wash the cassava.
When I was done he assisted me by lifting it up to my head as I carry some back to the place where it will be grinded, I returned back and he was still there as I thanked him and carry the remaining one back home.
After the whole processing, I took a whole day and fry the whole cassava, Mma went for a marriage ceremony happening within the village with her mother, she could not assist me.
The next day the garri was ready, I shared it, despite Ego and her daughter refused to help out, I gave them some of the garri as my father have asked of me, i packaged the remaining to the market on the eke market day and sold it off.
I kept thinking of Ukadike, he occupies my thoughts to the extent I end up telling Mma about him.
I was so excited that i told Mma how he came to assist me in the farm to peel the cassava and even helped me to carry it to the stream and stayed behind until I was done before he left.
Mma was surprised and acted excited with me as I feed her with more stories.
The following week as I prepare to go to the farm again to harvest more cassava Mma was so willing to follow me, she volunteered to go with me.
I was surprised as she came to call me early the next morning that she was ready for the farm.
So I went with Mma and all through the time, we harvested and started peeling the cassava Ukadike did not show up.
Mma was force to ask me
“When will he come…we are almost rounding up with the cassava and he hasn't showed up yet.
“Was it because of him you followed me to the farm, stop being restless, he will probably come later, Ukadike is unpredictable. I can't fully predict him, if he doesn't come now we will meet him probably in the stream.
Mma did not do much, if not that I know Mma very well I could have mistaken her for a princess with the attitude she always pull up, avoiding ants and flies and not wanting to get her hands dirty.
But even after we went to the stream Ukadike did not show up.
Mma wanted to know exactly where he lives but I refuse to tell her, I was even getting pissed over her constant question on the stranger.
I fried the garri and took some to the old woman, she was not around so, I guess she has gone to look for goat food as usual.
I took enough garri to Ukadike and I made sure nobody was following me, especially Mma who has picked great interest in the strange man and can't seem to stop asking questions about him.
When I was sure nobody was following me, I ran up to his hut and shout his name, he came out and asked me to come in and for the first time, I was surprise that he was asking me to come into his compound.
I thanked him as I went into the compound.
I stood as he came to me and I handed the garri over to him, he thanked me.
although I did not feel like leaving immediately but I don't know what to say or do within the period I will be there. So I told him that it was getting dark that I will come tomorrow and check up on him.
He quietly walked up to me again and brushed his finger slowly from my shoulder down to my arm, I felt sensation all over me, he touched my face and lift my face to look at him, and my mouth was just open as I stare right into his handsome eyes.
He suddenly pull back his eyes and walked away.
Within a second he was back to twisting a rope together.
I started leaving, he looked up at me and looked away.
I left, I wasn't running this time, I just gently walked away,
Why won't he say something, maybe tell me what he want or how he feels, why won't he even smile or talk more.
He makes me burn all over for him, just his mare touch weakens me and I wish he can allow me to go into his arms and stay there.
Why do I even feel this way for a total stranger that I know nothing about except his name and that he is nice.
But the little I know is enough for me, I just wish for more than him looking at me and just touching my arms.
All through that night Ukadike consumed my thought and I kept smiling sheepishly to myself.
Towards the evening the next day, I decided to go and see him again, I try to avoid Mma so that she will not ask me questions, towards the evening as I was leaving I did not see Mma which was a good thing, she will not get to ask me where I was going or wanting to follow me.
As I got close to Ukadike's hut I began to hear voice, I was eager to know who he was talking with because I have never seen him with anybody.
It was a female voice, I did not bother calling his name I just went straight and open his gate and Mma was sitting down on a wooden log, talking to Ukadike who was busy filing his cutlass.
I was shock to see Mma there, Ukadike looked up at me and continued with what he was doing
Mma was stupidly smiling at me.
I was so angry as I looked at Mma, wondering how she got to know where Ukadike lives.
I tried not to show my anger as I greeted him, he responded absent minded as he continued his work.
I don't know what else to say or do I quietly turned and left them.
I was sitting outside waiting for Mma until she returned
I meet her half way to the house as I saw her coming and asked her what she was doing in the stranger's house.
“How do you know where he lives…and what are you doing there…?
“Oby, what kind of question is that, and why are you swelling up like garri soaked inside water…I like Ukadike as much as you do, you are not the only one who likes him, I asked you to show me his place but you refused and I quietly followed you yesterday to his place without you knowing. So, today I pay him a visit and to thank him for the fine fight he pulled out with Nduka, well I praised his ego and told him some beautiful things and he was silently listening which means he likes it and he likes me too…he did not say much, but he did not show indifference, I am a beautiful girl Oby, I can get any man I want but I think I want Ukadike…he is so handsome and very strong, see those fine muscles, if he likes you he would have reacted to your presence or stop you from leaving but he was still busy when you came in and he did not even looked at you very well like he did for me…I think he even smile at me, when I was telling him how powerful he was, he curved his mouth as if he wanted to smile…it can't just be my imagination…well, since I know his house…I will visit more often…so deal with it and stop being jealous of me…
I tightened my fist as Mma walked pass me.
I will never be in any competition with Mma over Ukadike, if Ukadike want her then is fine although I feel so bad right now.
Nobody is certain if he a human or even spirit but I really do not care whatever he maybe all that matters is that I really like him, is hard to admit but I do like him.
Mma said Ukadike smile at her which means he likes her, is not just her imagination, she said he actually smiled at her but he has never smile at me before.
I feel angry right now and I will try to forget him but I'm finding it difficult because I'm consume with his thought already. What I'm I suppose to do now?.