It was my first time out of Areke. The town of my birth, home of my parents. In all my years in Areke my siblings and friends had dreams of one day going to the big city, especially my sister, Agada. Agada believed she did not belong there. Our village was a very small one, one of the few towns which had not felt the exciting touch of modern development.
Unlike Agada, all I ever wanted was to finish my secondary education and receive the sewing machine papa had promised me for being the best student in my class. In our village, academic excellence was rewarded and therefore every year, the village came together and contributed and sent the best student from that year to the polytechnic in a nearby town, (in hope that years later that student would come back and contribute to the community in their own way). Unfortunately, Agada, who had big dreams, was not intelligent enough to be considered for this scholarship. I would have been chosen from my class but that was not what i had planned for myself. I was going to become a tailor and use the money to help with the upkeep of my four younger brothers. But more importantly, I was going to marry the love of my life, Buguma. As I thought of him a big knot formed in my throat. Buguma, my best friend, my brother, my lover. Buguma who caused me to blush first thing in the morning, even before my eyes were open, Buguma, who I shared all my dreams with. Buguma,
who made me a woman.
I am the first of six children. Our mother died just after she had her last child and since then papa has tried his best to raise six of us. Papa was a fisher man and raised us on the proceeds of his fish. Raising six children alone was not easy for papa or the average man in Areke, and in all these years I watched as papa deprived himself just so that we would have the things we needed. I sometimes pitied papa. Olana's mother died the same year as mama and their father had since married and had two more children. Papa could not afford to do this and although he claimed otherwise, I knew he was lonely.
One afternoon when I came back from school, I heard voices coming from inside the house. It was then I noticed the big yellow car parked close to our house. Cars were very few in Areke so when we saw one, we took note of it. I immediately rushed into the family room to know what was happening, we seldom had visitors, at least not those who came in cars. Inside the family room papa sat with our neighbour, papa Oma and two strangers, one male, one female. As I walked in the conversation ceased and everyone turned to look at me, I noticed the strange woman look at papa Oma and I noticed him give her a slight nod. I wondered what was going on. "Good day papa, good day papa Oma" I greeted the familiar ones "did you not see our visitors? Can you not greet?" Asked papa gruffly. "Welcome" I greeted them with my head bowed down. "Hello my dear, how are you?" The woman asked me, I gave no response but only nodded my head and used the opportunity to get a better look at them. She was short and round, her face was just as round as her body. The man, who's eyes seemed glued to my chest was the opposite, tall and lanky. "Leave us" papa ordered and I obeyed. I went to the backyard to light the firewood. It was Agada's turn to cook but as usual she pretended to forget and stayed back at school to play and gossip. As I put the cocoyam on the fire I could not stop thinking about the people in the family room, why did that strange woman look at papa Oma? Why did papa Oma nod? I did not have to wonder for long. "Erenga! Erenga!!" I heard papa shout my name. I immediately dropped the knife I was holding and ran into the the house. Papa was alone. I stretched my neck and looked outside, the big yellow car was gone. "Sit down my daughter" said papa in a gentle tone, the one I was used to. Papa cleared his throat and as he was about to speak my brothers all rushed into the family room, dirty clothes and dusty feet, as usual. They greeted us and papa immediately asked them to leave us. "Ehen papa" I said, so that he could talk. "Erenga my daughter, you saw those people that came here this afternoon?" He asked. I quickly nodded my head. He then cleared his throat and stared straight ahead like there was something in the air that mesmerized him. I waited for him to continue but he just kept on staring. " yes papa, I saw them" I said to bring him out of his dream like state. He cleared his throat again. "What do you have on the fire?" He asked. This man seemed bent on frustrating me. " Cocoyam papa. Papa those people. Who are they. What did they want" I decided to be direct as I was very eager to know. "Erenga. Those people came all the way from the big city" said papa. Hmmm. The big city? It was not very often people came to Areke from the big city. "That man is the wealthy son of papa Oma's cousin, the woman is his wife. They live in the big city. His wife has a little baby and a small child and they need , they need somebody to help them, they need a house girl. That is why papa Oma brought them here" I waited for papa to continue but he didn't. "If they need a house girl why can't they take Oma ?" I asked. "Oma is an only child" said papa as if that sentence explained everything. I was suddenly bored with the conversation. I stood up to go to the backyard to check on my cocoyam. "Erenga, come early morning tomorrow, you will go to the big city with them" said papa as my foot was almost out of the door, I was immediately motionless, I stood, frozen. "Come and sit down" said papa, but I could not move, I could not talk. Papa stood up and came to me, "my daughter. Can't you see, the gods have finally heard our prayers, help has finally come" he said. "My cocoyam is burning" was all I could say and I left him. I went to the backyard and sat on the ground. Surely papa couldn't be serious, leave for the big city? tomorrow? Impossible. Who would look after papa? Who would take care of my brothers? Who would guide Agada? What would happen to my education, my plans, my sewing machine? I had less than a year of school, by then my hands would be strong in sewing and I could start making money. As I asked all these questions I was truly scared to ask the most important one, the one that threatened to make me tear at my clothes. I did not know I was crying till I saw the hard ground stain with water from my eyes. What would become of me and Buguma? How could father do this? Was he so unfeeling and indifferent to my feelings. I sat on the ground and cried till I perceived a peculiar smell in the air. My cocoyam! I quickly jumped up to save my family's meal for the day. No matter what I was going through, I would be foolish to let good food go to waste, knowing how hard it was to come by in the first place.
That night, After papa and my siblings ate, (I didn't eat, i couldn't eat) he told them that I was leaving in the morning for the big city. My brothers were excited but Agada immediately began to weep. To be honest I was not sure if she was weeping because she would miss me, or because she wished she was the one going instead. I asked papa why. Why I had to go. I did not want to leave. I did not want to become a servant. We were poor but I had my pride, I was intelligent and hardworking and I deserved better than being somebody's servant. Papa then told me that since I had planned to be a tailor to help the family, I would be doing the same thing by being a house help. "Listen Erenga, you are my first child and I do not want you to leave, I know Agada would be happier to go, but you know how your sister is, we cannot be sure of how she will behave. I don't know how we will survive when you go but it is for the best. This people are going to pay you big money every month, the money they are paying is more than what you will see as a tailor in Areke. They will send this money to me every month and I will use it to train your younger ones. Maybe Agada can even go to university, later", her face immediately lit up and my heart softened. Papa went on to say that I was not to pack anything as the people from the big city said they would buy me new clothes. I instinctively looked at Agada and as expected, she had a glint of envy in her eyes. "Papa please let Agada go instead. Please papa" I pleaded. My flighty sister had switched dreams of going to the university to being a maid in a matter of seconds. Provided she got to leave Areke. The old man just shook his head.
As I picked up my father's plates I could see a figure coming towards our house. I did not have to crane my neck or squint my eyes to know who it was. He walked tall and proud, with his head high and his back, straight. His muscular arms and chest always made my legs weak, and his legs, long and strong like those of the Areke warriors of old made my heart beat faster. His eyes, black as Areke coal shone even as the sun was setting, he walked, as he always did, with purpose. Buguma, the one the gods ordained for me. I left papa's plates and walked out to meet my love. We did not need to speak. We looked into each other's eyes and a thousand words were said. We walked towards the stream, to our secret place. There he held me by the waist and I stood on my toes and stretched still to reach his face. As our lips touched there was fire in my loins. He kissed me hungrily and removed my blouse and my breasts, full and proud sprang forth. With a grunt he lifted me up and bent his head to my chest and sucked as though It was the very essence of his life. He squeezed and sucked and I tried not to scream in excitement. I struggled to free myself so that I could remove my skirt. My womanhood was hot and throbbing, it was wet and ready to receive that which made her first aware of herself. Buguma gently, but firmly lifted me up and laid me on a patch of grass on the ground, I immediately spread my legs wide open and I groaned as he entered me. He was long and thick and as always I felt a sweet pain as he tore into me. When we were both sated he finally released and we clung to each other. "My heart, what is wrong?", he asked. I was not surprised that he could sense my worries. I then narrated all that happened. Buguma looked like his heart would break. " my heart, I want you to do what is best for you and your family. I will be here when you come back, I promise. I will wait for you" he said, drawing me closer to him. His first sentence resounded in my head. ''What was best for me....and my family'. Immediately the image of the lanky man who drove that big car, (I soon learnt is called a jeep, if you must know, it later became mine. ) staring lasciviously at my beautiful bountiful bouncing breasts (his nickname for my breasts) flashed before me. I then pictured myself beside his wife. Me, young, beautiful, full breasted, curvaceous, tall, and her.... I had to stop myself from laughing. Suddenly my mind was made up. I burrowed closer to Buguma and held him tight. "Yes my heart beat. I will do what is best for me, and my family. I will go." I said, knowing without a doubt that I will never come back.