“Titi, come, let us go to the stream” Jumoke called to me as she balanced her water pot on her head
“Why? We do not need water for the next three days, so I do not understand why you want us to go there?” I said without looking up from the sweater I was knitting.
Jumoke drew closer to me and whispered into my ears “Let us just use that as an excuse to leave the house; today is a week before the village’s festival and people are arriving from the towns and cities. I hear the stream is already crowded. Boys will be there too. Let us go! She said as she dragged me off the wooden stool. I reluctantly left the knitting, carried the nearest empty pot and balanced it on my head as we walked out of the hut.
Myself and Jumoke chatted away as we walked down the road to the stream intermittently exchanging greetings with other villagers on the way. Jumoke was the youngest daughter of the second wife and was just three years older than Titi. It was after the second wife – mama Asake- gave birth to her third girl that chief Ojo decided to visit the oracle who suggested he married another wife. He however treated his wives as fairly as he could and managed his family very well.
“Now, gist me, how were the last three years in the city of Lagos?” Jumoke slightly gave me a nudge at my ribs
I winced as I held onto my sides with my hands “The entire gist I have been giving you for the past three weeks are not enough?” I gave a playful glare.
“No, they are not enough, it is about three years now since you left and I want to listen to as much as possible before you go for another two years”. Jumoke replied, tickling me while I stifled some laughter before giving up.
“Okay, okay! Have I told you about one boy that I really like?”
“I knew it, there must still be some gist hidden somewhere!” Jumoke replied excitedly
“What is his name? Is he in your school? What class is he? Is he a fine boy?”
“Take it easy ma! Too many questions! Let me breathe!” I said as I raised one hand to stop her. I playfully slowly inhaled and exhaled!
“Titi, talk, what is all this drama?” Jumoke sounded irritated already.
“Well, he is not in my school; I told you my school is an all-girls school, right?”
“Oh sorry, I forgot, really? All girls? So, where did you meet him?”
“I met him when we went for a young scientists’ competition, he was from another school – Prestige college – an all-boys school too. He is one year my senior in class but two years older in age”
“Oh, so what is his name?”
“Uchenna!” I blurted.
For a few seconds, my sister was speechless.
“What? You are joking right?” Jumoke responded puzzled
“No, why?” I looked at her with pretend surprise
“Do you not know there has been civil war in the country and every tribe sees the other as an enemy?” Jumoke looked at her half-sister with much bewilderment.
“So, how does that affect me?” I responded with some flatness in my tone
“The civil war just ended and people are still speculating that it would start soon if the terms of truce are not met so Father has warned us to steer clear of marrying anyone from another tribe” Jumoke replied, still in shock
“That is a pessimist view, the war has ended and it would not reoccur, I do not see how that should affect me, moreover, I am in love with this boy” I replied with some amount of passion.
Jumoke laughed and clapped both hands “Now, you, this small girl is talking about love suddenly, Baba even stopped Aunty Adeola from marrying the Igbo man that wanted to marry her, it was a big issue then but he prevailed. Eventually, she had to marry another person”
“Well, that is her own problem and moreover, I would not marry anytime soon and by the time I am ready, things would have settled in the country, nobody can stop me” I spoke with a tinge of stubbornness
“Okay then, let see what happens, I trust Baba to disagree, he would not want to give his daughter to a stranger, a daughter he spent a lot of money on for that matter,”
“Stop disturbing yourself, I have said my mind and that is what I will follow, I cannot allow my own case to be like my mother that was made to marry someone she did not love”
“Says who? love eventually grows, did I love Akanbi initially? No”
“Well, let us not argue too much, time will tell. And how is boda Akanbi?
“He is fine” Jumoke responded slightly blushing
“You have not been talking about him of late, I hope all is well?”
“All is well, we just decided to withdraw from too much public display, we will get married in two-years’ time when I clock twenty years old.”
“Okay, but that means I would not be around. Just ensure to send letters to me and I will see if the time would coincide with one of our vacation periods.”
“No problem but I would really want you to be around, so what class is that your Uchenna boyfriend and how did you meet?” she said steering the discussion back to my story.
“I thought you suddenly lost interest since he is a ‘stranger’” I replied with a cynical look at my sister
“Oh no!, I was just concerned about your welfare and I do not want your heart broken after staying long in the relationship when Baba suddenly refuses to allow you marry the guy” Jumoke replied with a concern laden voice”
“There is nothing Baba can do to stop me, Uchenna is in class four”
“How old is he and how did you meet?” Jumoke replied with interest
“Like I said earlier, we met at a competition, he was one of the representatives for his school and after the competition, he just walked up to me and struck a conversation, we finally exchanged addresses and mail details of our schools before we left. Since then he has been sending letters to me and I always replied to him. We have grown to love one another”
“I can see that from the look in those eyes! Anyways, I wish you the best” Jumoke said flatly
“Thank you! Everyone does not have to approve of my choice” I responded sternly
“I know, but not like your parents and definitely not in a marriage relationship issue” Jumoke glared at me
“What makes it different, anyway, please do not let us disagree, we are almost at the stream and I want to enjoy the refreshing water” Titi said
“Okay, and be smart enough to look out for boys here and do not continue to deceive yourself” Jumoke said as she ran to another end of the stream before I could attack her with my reply.
I had fun at the stream. The water gently caressing my skin, the people trying to socialise and just enjoying the goodness of nature, it was surreal. Exhausted, I sat on a stone at a shallow end of the stream and dipped my feet into the water. I watched people wash, swim, bath, and engage in conversations. I saw young males confidently talk to teenage girls giggling in groups. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I startled a bit. It was Tade, one of my classmates in Primary school. He also went to a secondary school outside the village. We sat down sharing various memories till nightfall. I looked around for my sister and I saw her leaving without notifying me. I got up immediately and ran after her, Tade followed me.
“Sister, why did you not call me” I yelled at her
She said she did not want to disturb our conversation and she winked at me. I ignored her and hissed.
Tade and I walked back home together while my sister walked ahead of us with intermittent brisk backward glances at us in a bid to chaperone us. At the entrance to my father’s compound, I bade Tade farewell.
“Who knows what can come out of that discussion?” My sister said as soon we were alone.
“Nothing!” I said as I turned to my mother’s hut to sleep.
“We will see” she yelled after me with a smirk on her face.
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