The morning was bright and fresh, happy and cheery. Everyone or rather, almost everyone was up and about. Women were getting into their domestic duties; men, their family obligations; and young people, their chores.
The women could be seen sweeping all around their little compounds while their husbands prepared to set out for the day's work of checking traps, collecting latex from rubber trees, lumbering or even early morning hunting or fishing. This was not a sleepy community. Many of the men may be late risers, but most of the women had woken up long before daylight to prepare breakfast.
Yes, the sun was smiling affably and it seemed like every other normal day, but not everyone was feeling in sync with the weather. Newly-wed fourteen year old Caro was feeling apprehensive at the very least.
Today was the day appointed for her to officially assume the position of a wife in her middle aged husband's house. Right now, she was still in her father's house, pacing from wall to wall, experiencing the greatest moment of anxiety in her young life. She had a very important plan in mind and that plan must be executed before the next day. Why the rush, you ask? The key ingredient needed for the success of the plan had been promised her by a close friend and she wanted to receive it before she would leave for her new husband's house. Without that ingredient, her plan... in fact, there would be no plan at all. Her friend, Tina, had sworn on her life that she would deliver the item at the first sign of daybreak, but it was an hour past that time and still, Tina was missing in action.
Caro bit down hard on her finger as she regretted putting all her hopes on Tina's punctuality. She was one who never failed to have suitable alternatives, but this time, she could shamelessly say that there was no alternative to be found. She had to rely on Tina or nothing. But being disappointed like this? Haba!
As time went on, the speed of her pacing increased and she could hear herself praying. Very soon, she would be shipped off to the despicable creature she had been forced to marry and this chance would forever be lost. But wait... what was that? She came to a halt, her heart pounding like a jackhammer as she listened to what she thought was Tina greeting her mother outside. Speak of the devil... Tina walked in with a smiling face.
"So you are even smiling after keeping me waiting here for hours," Caro fumed.
"Eh eh eh, don't talk to me like that o," Tina shot back, trying hard not to break into a grin. "You should be thanking me for coming. If I didn't come now, you'll end up as one old cow with..."
"Come on, bring the thing here," her friend hissed.
Tina came forward and produced from the folds of her wrapper a little plastic bottle. Looking furtively around to ensure that they were alone, she carefully opened the bottle as Caro waited impatiently.
"Use small o, only small," she admonished as her friend took pinch after pinch of the powdery substance inside the bottle, stashing it into a little nylon.
"Tina, are you sure this thing will work very well?"
"Taste it na, you'll see what will happen. Ah ah, do you want to take everything? It's my mother's own o."
"I know na," Caro nodded as she tied the half-filled nylon and secured it in the pocket of her frock. "I just hope it will work."
"Don't worry, it must work. My mother used to use it for my father when she wants to go out and it used to work everytime."
"Hmm. Then in that case, this my new husband will enjoy," Caro chuckled, clapping her hands merrily.
"So how much will you pay me?", Tina asked as she tucked the bottle back into her wrapper.
"Abeg, come and be going," Caro said, hurrying her towards the door. "I have to get ready. You and money eh... I'm sure it's money your enemies will use to kill you."
"God forbid! So I will do this big thing for you and you will not give me anything abi? Okay na, we shall see."
"Sisi eko. Oya, oya, come and be going back to your father's house. Thank you, eh. I will reward you in my next life."
After she had seen Tina out by way of her hands, Caro came back into the room and offered a short prayer of thanks to God. She checked the substance she had received, ensured its security and began preparations to leave for her new home.
Caro had been here for over ten hours now. She wasn't feeling fear or apprehension of any kind now that she was finally in her husband's house. But she was anxious, very anxious
the eager, desirous kind
. When such anxiety came, restlessness usually tagged along. Caro couldn't sit still, she moved like a wandering spirit all around the compound, ignoring the unfriendly stares from her stepchildren and trying her best to keep out of the way of the older wives or 'mates' as they were called. She was biding her time and waiting for a perfect opportunity.
Most of the men in the community had their wives in different places, but not Caro's brand new husband. Nicknamed 'Iron Fire', he was notorious and scary enough to have all his wives under the same roof with him and he was heartless enough not to care whenever they fought or quarreled. Right now, his focus was on his new wife. Tonight, he would break her in, into the world of matrimony as he understood it, little knowing that Caro herself had plans of her own.
Cooking had begun. It was evident from the smoke emanating from the outdoor kitchen and the children running on quick errands to buy ingredients that were not available in the kitchen. Caro kept her distance, but maintained a keen watch on the proceedings. Everything depended on timing. One second off track and the whole plan would go to ruin. Wife number three was the one cooking; she was still yet to find out what name each wife was generally called, but being fellow villagers, she knew enough to be sure that Wife three was a very rude and unfriendly personality. That was why she was scouting the kitchen from afar.
Half an hour... an hour... an hour and half, and it seemed the food was getting ready to be served. There was increased activity around the kitchen and Wife Three was cursing and ordering the children about, not forgetting to throw a wicked glance at Caro followed by an angry spit to drive home her hatred for the new wife. But Caro was far from bothered; all she needed was space and time.
Jumping to her feet, she hurried over to her husband's room. The door was closed and no living soul with anything short of two heads could go into that room without prior permission from the lord of the house, but Caro was ready to use to her advantage her position as new wife. Without knocking, she slowly opened the door and immediately heard a roar that could make anyone melt into thin air. After she had identified herself, the roaring voice changed to a welcoming laughter. He invited her to come in and take a seat beside him. Evidently, he was still intoxicated by the acquisition of a young wife, but that intoxication would die after she would have become like the other wives and he would then need to add to the harem.
She knelt down to greet him, but he was all impatience for her to sit close to him. She sat lightly beside him and acted as shy as she could while he beamed at her like a man surveying a much coveted prize. Before she could say Jack, he lifted her up and sat her on his knee. She blushed further and he smiled wider.
"Caro, Caro," he cooed, patting her affectionately, especially her lower back.
"Hmm?", she responded, smiling shyly and pulling off the innocent girl act satisfactorily.
"Porkor porkor. Chai!", he tickled her, reveling in the freshness and yet, virgin hardness of her body.
From the corner of her eye, she could see him lick his lips as he stared hungrily at her and she felt it was the right time to state her reason for coming in order to prevent an undesirable occurrence.
"Ehh... Sir, I think your food is almost ready, should I go and bring it?", she asked in her best innocent voice.
"Chai!", he exclaimed in joy. "You don't need to learn too much, you are a naturally good wife. Oya, go and bring the food, let us eat it together."
She got down from his knee and hurried out, receiving a pat on her backside as she
Like the proverb goes, 'a child that is sent by his father uses his foot to kick the door open'. It was with that same authority and audacity that Caro marched into the kitchen to the shock and annoyance of Wife three, but before she could open her mouth to say anything, Caro delivered her shot.
"Chief wants his food. He said I should bring it now."
Though she wasn't literate, Wife three got the message loud and clear. Abandoning her earlier intention to attack the new wife, she immediately intensified efforts to get the food ready while grumbling inaudibly. Night had fallen and Chief was not one to be patient concerning food or sex. If he had sent a messenger, then trouble was not very far away. Hurrying to serve up the food, she cursed and kicked at the children assisting her since she was unable to direct her annoyance at who it was really meant for: the new wife.
It was with a severe frown that Wife Three handed Caro the tray containing the food meant for Chief. Caro snatched it out of her hands and hurried away, followed closely by curses from the older woman. That was the most she could do: curse at her back. It would be physical and marital suicide if she were to do it to her face because Caro, who was Wife Six, might just report her to Chief
which, by the way, was not a formal title but a self-given one
. But it wouldn't take long, just a few years and she would have her revenge, when the girl would come to join the ranks of worn-out wives.
Treading lightly on tiptoes, Caro hurried down the passageway, careful not to attract undue attention to her presence. After checking to see that she was alone, she lowered the tray to the ground and reached for her frock pocket. This was the moment she had been planning for! Now it was here and her heart was pounding heavily.
She searched around in her frock pocket for the little nylon, but she could not find it. She was now beginning to have a sinking feeling in the left part of her chest. The miserable future awaiting her as a result of failure flashed before her eyes as she intensified her search for... oh there it was! It had been hiding in the far corner of her pocket. With trembling hands, she untied it and sprinkled more than necessary amount on the food. She was all for getting the maximum result. By the way, if Tina's lanky father required very little, then her bulky, muscular and pot-bellied husband would require much more. It was dark so there was no need for careful mixing to hide the alien particles and by the way, she would be there to distract him.
"Caro Caro," he praised as she set the tray down before him. "Come and sit down with me let us eat together."
She obeyed and sat down beside him, dutifully caressing his arms and back as he opened the plates to see the mountainous food that had been made for him.
"Ogbolor, my favourite," he said, smiling toothily at her, and she responded in kind.
Without praying and barely washing his hands, to the infinite disgust of Caro, he took a large lump of eba, dabbled it in the soup, attached a piece of meat to it and sent it into his mouth.
"Hmmm," he murmured as he chewed. "Who cook this food?", he asked with his mouth full.
"Wife th... errr... that tall black emm... woman," Caro stuttered.
"The one with big head and wide nose?", he asked as he prepared the next lump for dabbling.
"No. This one is very black, with small nose and big ears a..."
"That one is Mama Michael... abi is it she that born Aaron? Anyway, forget that expired cargo. Aaah, open your mouth."
Having no choice, Caro opened her mouth as wide as possible and he deposited a small lump which he had properly dabbled in the soup.
"Hmmmm," he eyed her with a smile which she quickly returned as they... he reveled in the love play.
But little did he know that when he wasn't looking, the lump of eba in her mouth was spat into a ready cloth contrived for that purpose.
As he hauled lump after lump into his own mouth, she watched him with hate-filled eyes. So, such an ugly, crude beast was the kind of man her father wanted her to spend her life with? And her mother knowing this, could not for once since she had known her, raise an objection to her father's decision. Well, they would all see.
"Hmm... this... food... gr... grooo..." Chief was falling into a trance-like state. Yes, the substance Caro had added to his food was beginning take effect. His eyes were half closed, his hands hanging limp by his sides, his mouth slightly open and his body rocking slowly back and forth like a reed. In fact, he was gradually but surely falling into a deep sleep.
Holding him by the shoulders, she gently lowered him to the bed and gave him a sound slap as a parting gift. He moaned, but did not stir. His eyes were fully closed and he was beginning to snore. He would wake up the next day, perhaps late in the afternoon, if those who were after his property did not take him for dead and bury him as quickly as possible.
Mission Completed! Caro sighed in relief. Now, there would be no one to stop her or come after her. Opening the large window in his room, she climbed up onto the ledge with little difficulty and jumped out of the building. Gathering the hem of her frock at her knees, she fled into the night.