A TALE OF AMARA II
A chilly January wind swept across the hills and valleys of Udi, Enugu state that Saturday morning as Chief Tobias Utaba was laid to rest. Local fireworks exploded in the air, deafening and destructive.
The townsfolk of Umu-Okwe (this place is supposed to be fictional) were saddened by the loss of one of the few wealthy sons of their hometown who had the interest of his people at heart. Family and friends cried or laughed depending on how they were affected by his death, while they processed, bearing gifts to present to the family of the deceased. Their grim faces where a reflection of the loss in their hearts and if that didn’t work, their bald heads and black garbs did.
Sitting in a quiet corner of the tarp tent erected for the funeral service, Amara looked as disinterested in the entire affair as cat presented with a bowl of salad.
The pomp and pageantry entailed in the funeral of an Igbo chieftain was unduly long, and in Amara’s opinion, pointless. Five cows and fifteen goats were slain just to entertain their guests most of whom brought their own refreshment along.
What a wasteful culture!!!
As the youngest female child and the closest to her father of all her siblings, Amara was required to cater to her father’s friends and ensure their needs were well met. A chore Amara hastily passed on to her younger cousins whose lives were touched greatly and positively by the departed chieftain. Now she was bored and content sit quietly and do next to nothing while her siblings ran from post to pillar to meet the demands of the guests. Her mother was seated somewhere in the premises, she didn’t really bother herself with the details of her whereabouts or her well-being. She had been a terrible mother and so Amara tried as much as she could to be as good a daughter to her.
Amara perused her phone catching up on her emails and messages, her job as an information analyst for the multi-nationals, ROOM‘8’PUBLISHINGS, was not going to take a break just because her father died. They did not pay her as much as they did to keep their clients waiting.
She could feel her sisters glaring at her, putting her phone aside, she saw her Kene’s wife, Sandra, giving her the evil eye as well. She learned to give way too little concern to her sisters and the machinations of their little minds.
She looked across the massive compound that held the very many guests that came to honor the passing of a great man to see her mother where she sat timidly amidst her family members. She looked small and defeated.
Amara found herself wishing like she had continually for the past five years that her mother had died shortly after her birth; or that she had remarried and left the country with her sisters. She wished her sisters would just leave her in peace and that her brother had still married the incredibly cool Kosi. Most of all, she wished she had remained in the dark, that her sisters and mother had not opened her eyes to the evil of men.
“Ignorance is bliss”, they said, and this is how Amara came to believe those words.
Five years ago…
A 22 year old Amara was staring at her sisters in disbelief. Her eyes heated up as molten tears burned through her ducts and percolated on her lids.
“You heard me!”, her sister Kamsi replied in a deceptively even voice that belied the venom in her words.
“How could you do such a thing? I’m your sister for God’s sake!!!” She screamed her frustration at Kamsi who looked oddly satisfied at her sister’s heartache.
“And you are in support of this?” Amara said to her eldest sister Ndidi who looked as smug as Kamsi. “You knew what she was up to and you were ok with it?”
Ndidi’s response was something of a cross between a disdain filled snort and a hateful snarl.
“My own sisters…”
Kamsi had, somehow, convinced Amara’s fiancé to break up with her, claiming that Amara was a slut of some renown in their neighbourhood. Chuks, with whom she had been in a relationship since she was in 2nd year, was one of the two guys she had ever been with and he knew that.
She thought he did.
It pained her greatly that he ended their relationship of four years on merely hearsay, it hurt even more that her sisters were the perpetrators of her heartache.
“Oh please spare us the drama”, said an uncaring Ndidi. She didn’t even seem the least bit remorseful. If anything, they looked somewhat happy to see her sad and distraught.
“Why?” she asked as her tears poured down her face. “What did i ever do to deserve this from you guys?”
“See this foolish girl forming not knowing sha!”
Kamsi was in rare form, foaming at the mouth as she stared at Amara like she had tennis-sized tumour over her eye.
Amara was confounded.
“What do you mean?”
“So you want to claim that you did not seduce Koko into buying you that wristwatch?”, said Kamsi, pointing at the Swatch Ndidi’s boyfriend had gotten her on her birthday two months ago.
“What?!” Amara asked through dropping jaws.
“Or do you want to tell me that necklace you are wearing is not a result of your indecent flirting with Ojo?” said a scowling Ndidi who was looking at the gold chain around Amara’s neck. A birthday gift from Kamsi’s boyfriend who had been challenged by Koko to get something for her even though it was belated.
“What are you talking about?” Amara’s face was marred with confusion.
“Are you still talking this rubbish?” asked Kamsi, clapping/dusting her hands in the classic Yoruba woman move. “Abegi shift!”
“At least now she knows how Kosi felt when she destroyed her relationship”, Ndidi said to Kamsi, her look of disgust still aimed at Amara who’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!!!”
Somehow, her sisters had convinced Kosi that she and Kene had a forbidden romance going on. Somehow, they’d convinced themselves and Kosi that she was going to ruin any relationship or marriage so long as she stayed around Kene. Given the choice, Kene chose his sister.
The tale was the personification of incredulity. Never, not once, had she done anything untoward with her sisters’ lovers. She never fancied them or wanted them in any way. Her brother, while she would never admit her crush on him to anyone, was not an object of her fantasies. Her sisters were way out of line with that accusation.
Angered and embittered she turned away from the women who would accuse her for man’s fall from Eden if given the chance and marched straight to their mother.
Evelyn Utaba was livid. Her well aged face, with nary a wrinkle, was hidden beneath a mask of distaste at the topic of her daughters’ conversations.
“What kind of rubbish discussion is that? How could you girls be talking about something so wrong and evil?” her graceful shoulders shook in anger. They had been raised better than that. She gave them a stern talking to and sent the elder two on their way while Amara stayed behind to share private words with her mother.
“Mommy, what do I do about Chux?” she asked, hoping to reap from the bounty of knowledge Evelyn’s advanced years could offer her.
“Have you tried calling him?”
“Yes, he’s not picking my calls, neither is he returning them”.
“Have you been to his apartment?”
“If I go without being invited, with the way things are, he might embarrass me and i don’t want anything of the sort to happen”
“Clever girl”, said Evelyn. She stroked Amara’s hair as her youngest offspring shuddered and cried in her arms.
“Nwa m o!” she cooed soothingly, “Ebezina o!”.
Amara held on tightly to her mother, drawing strength and solace from the woman who single-handedly raised three head strong children and somehow managed to make them into responsible members of the community. If there was anyone who could see her through her pains, it was her mother.
“It’s ok, I know it’s not your fault”, Evelyn said as she wiped her daughter’s face. “My beautiful daughter”, she kissed Amara on the forehead as she said, “Who can blame you? It’s not your fault that they all love you”.
“What?!” Amara jerked out of her mother’s embrace. Whatever did she mean by that?
“It’s alright baby. I understand. I used to resent you for what you did to me but I understand now that it was never your intention”.
Amara backed away from Evelyn.
“What do you mean?”
“They all love you child. Your Chux, Your sisters’ boyfriends, your brother, even your father. They all love you, they all want you”. Evelyn spoke to her daughter like an adult would to a child about the circle of life and death.
“What are you talking about?” Amara was officially clueless and her face told as much.
“Oh! My sweet, naive child. Why do you think they all wanted to make you happy? Why do you think they all gave you those trinkets and clothes and shoes? Why do you think they called you so much?”
Evelyn stood from her perch on the couch and walked to the bedside fridge to pour herself a glass of Cranberry and Vodka. A stunned Amara sat speechless, staring at the woman she had called mother all her life. Somehow she seemed alien now, what with the strange words pouring out of her mouth.
“They all want you. They want something from you. They want to own you. I’m just thankful you are wise enough to control yourself, otherwise this would’ve been a very different conversation”.
Evelyn went on to tell the quiet Amara that her father had been sneaking off to her room at night, all those years ago, to admire her blossoming beauty. How she (Amara) had stolen her husband from her, not intentionally, but still it was an insult she could not live with.
An insult that was compounded by Amara’s refusal to leave the house along with her siblings. Evelyn spilled her guts that night. The more she drank, the more she spoke, and she spoke frankly. She admitted that she still resented Amara, but she had learned to live with it. She confessed that she relished all those tales Amara had shared with her sisters about her suffering at the hands of their father. How she had encouraged her sisters to antagonize and torment her. She praised her ex-husband’s control for not having had his way with his daughter.
She went on for hours. Amara stayed quiet, all she did was listen. As she walked backed to her father’s house that night, Amara felt hollow and empty. Something was broken in her, and she knew it. Her mother and sisters had accused of being something akin to a succubus. They were wrong, she’d been the best possible daughter or sister to them as she could be, and they made her life horrible for all her worries. She decided, as she prepared dinner for her father that night, that if she was going to get crucified for atrocities she did not commit, she might as well go ahead and commit those crimes.
In the weeks that followed, Amara sweet-talked and flirted almost unabashedly with the men in her life. Her father and recently married brother were the easiest to conquer. While she did not sleep with them, she made them wish they could. As a result, all she ever wanted was hers to get so long as she stayed within the confines of reason. Her sisters’ lovers on the other hand were reduced to shivering molasses in her hands. She pulled their strings this way and that until they had little interest in her sisters. Only then did she let them taste of the fruit of her loins.
* * *
Amara made her way to MMII in her brother’s car. He still looked good looking and was every bit as charming as ever. She loved him to bits and if he wasn’t her sibling, she’d drag him to the nearest hotel and prove said love.
He stood and fought valiantly when her sisters and mother tried to protest the will that was read to them. That any of them was surprised that she was the chief beneficiary of his will and custodian of his estate which was to be passed on to her 1st son upon his 25th birthday, was a surprise to her.
Apparently, her brother had received his bit long before their father passed and his only stipulation was that Kene protect Amara from the wrath of the rest of the family. That he did valiantly.
He sat by her at departure, making small talk and laughing like kids until her flight was called.
“You will come back as soon as you can, won’t you?” he asked teary eyed and sad.
“I promise that you will be the first person to know once I decide to come back”
“I’ll miss you, you little shit”, he said, enveloping her in his arms.
“I know, I’ll miss you too big brother”.
On a whim, Amara ended the hug and pulled Kene into a kiss that no sister had any right to give her brother. Kene did not fight the kiss, if anything, he gave as much as he got.
Kene was still breathless when he got to his car. He wondered what he did that earned him that kiss, he need to know so that he may keep doing it.