I trailed them to the village square wearing black all through and covering myself with a black cloak.
I stood under a big tree a little distance from the village square. I saw aunt Chime sit together with some women and they were discussing. Papa went to some men and while papa tried to put up a hardened look, their faces were filled with sympathy. What was going on?
A trumpet was heard as our great igwe, Igwe Okala alighted from the big elephant he rode on. A black sleek hummer jeep drove into the village square and Henna’s father, Ifeanyi, Kainene and Henna’s mother, madam Grace, the sauciest woman in the village…her mouth was like a razor and everyone who had an encounter with her actually had an experience to share about how they spent most of the night weeping and thinking of their lives.
Henna’s father – Chief Ekwueme sat beside the igwe as the onowu – next in command while madam Grace sat beside the lolo (Igwe’s wife) who sat under another canopy where the other women sat, including aunt Chime.
Not too long after, some men dressed in black with leaves between their lips trooped into the square.
Then i sighted mama….oh mama..being dragged like a thief..she was naked from head to toe with her hair scraped.
My hands flew to my mouth as my heart pounded furiously against my chest…no! No! Mama hadnt committed adultery…she would never do that. This was all a setup…
I remembered Mama telling us that women who were caught committing adultery were usually stripped naked and dragged to the village square after some days when the council finally decides on the matter.
She lowered her face in shame as women started shouting…throwing insults on her. I saw aunt Chime stand up from her chair and spat on her face.
Mama just lowered her head so i couldnt tell her facial expression….i looked at Henna’s mother and her face was frowned in disgust as she stood up clapping her hands, i heard her screaming ‘akuna kuna ten naira…ashawo hundred kobo…money for hand back for ground…ikpu kobo!’ She clapped in mockery.
Tears ran down my cheeks…mama had really disappointed me…how and why would she commit adultery? My own mama…the woman whom i looked up to in every aspect of my life…my role model…
No wonder papa took me away from her, i should have thought…in Umueke, whenever a woman is caught committing adultery, her children are immediately taken faraway from her as it is believed that the women possessed their children -especially their daughters with the spirit of adultery and they become prostitutes before and after they get married.
I wondered who the man she committed adultery with was…but my question was soon ordered when uncle Ejike was dragged to the market square.
My hands flew to my mouth…uncle Ejike was papa’s best friend, infact he was the only friend papa ever had. They usually spent ours at the backyard of our house, smoking pipe, drinking palmwine and talking about politics both in the village and in the country as a whole.
Yes…i always noticed the lustful look uncle Ejike always gave mama whenever he was around and mama would always smile at him. How long had their relationship been going on? I wondered.
By this time, the Igwe had ordered for silence and everywhere was silence, the onowu, Henna’s father called papa out and was saying something to papa…i did not hear so i went closer to the market square and mixed with the crowd.
ONOWU – Elder George Maduemezie, look at your wife…
Papa looked at mama as ordered.
ONOWU – Do you think you can ever forgive her for the crime she has committed?
Papa shook his head ‘never!’
The crowd roared and the Onowu had to call for silence again.
ONOWU – You can never forget the evil she has committed and take her back as your wife and mother of your kids? This is your last chance to save her.
PAPA – I will not and can never forgive an adulterous woman like her.
GBAM – The crowd chorused.
It was like everyone was against my mother…no one was trying to support and understand her predicament at all.
ONOWU – You have one last thing to say to her before we carry on with the ritual?
PAPA – Yes (he faced mama) Woman, you are a disgrace and you’ve brought shame into my household…marrying is something i will live to regret for as long as we live. I married you a nonvirgin…but yet i protected you…
The crowd roared in surprise again…even i was surprised.
PAPA – After the nite of our wedding, when i discovered you were not a fresh blood, i killed a coat and sprinkled it on the white cloth given to me by adas of our land…just so you will be saved the shame and humiliation……Chimezie warned me not to marry you but because i truly loved you with all my heart…i didnt listen to her…now see the shame and disgrace you’ve brought upon yourself…despite having covered up your uncleaness and shame…you exposed yourself again by sleeping with my best friend on our matrimonial bed..and i wonder how
And i wonder how long this has been going on…on my matrimonial bed! With my own friend…you’re a disgrace to womanhood and you’re very lucky your children arent here to see the kind of woman they have for a mother.
The crowd roared again.
The venom with which papa spoke exposed so many emotions and feelings he would have tried to hide. He loved mama, yes, it was evident in his voice…but he never showed it to her. He never treated her with love and he seized every opportunity he could to remind her of the favour he did for her by marrying her to save her dying mother and ended up giving her series of beatings sometimes, locking her up in a room.
He never treated mama with love and respect so i actually dont blame her…she was a woman and she had feelings and desires to be loved and cherished for and maybe uncle Ejike was the only one who provided her that love
Mama surprised everyone when she raised up her head…her face soaked in tears as she faced papa. She spat on his face.
‘yes i cheated on you! I slept with your best friend on your matrimonial bed! But i didnt start it…you started it! I knew about your escapades with Grace, the onowu’s wife…i saw you so many times going to Omego Inn and not too long after, she goes in too..i’ve overgeard the both of you speaking so many times over the phone and the money you used in running the home was given to u by Grace. I have ample evidence to prove to everyone here that you and Grace were having an affair. And moreover you never showered me with love and care like a husband should…how many times did you bruise my body? How many times did you rape me telling me that you owned my? How many times did….did you call i and my mother a witch? How many times did you embarass me in front of people….yes, i didnt marry you a virgin…thats because i was constantly raped my maternal uncle and i told you this..and i’m very grateful to you that you chose to marry me despite everything but dont you stand there and told me that you loved me! Because you never did…you treated me with disrespect like i was the cause of all my misfortunes in life…whenever you lost a gambling bet, you always took it our on me and called me badluck..how many times George..how many times? I slept with Ejike not because i wanted to..but i wanted to spite you…show you how it hurts for someone to cheat on you…the reason i remained married to you was for my children….for Ivyy because i knew divorce had greater effects on females more than in males….i constantly took all your beatings and insults waiting patiently till d day you die…yes, i hoped and prayed everyday for your death because you were nothing but a heartless man! You and your wicked sister who constantly did everything she could to make my marriage a living hell….and even as she tried everything she could to destroy my marriage, God punished her by not giving her a husband and a family and i’m eternally grateful for that….yes, i should never have committed adultery…but i dont regret it…the only thing i regret today is leaving my wonderful children behind to the mercies of you two! My Ivyy…my Danke…i’m going to miss them….’ she broke down in tears.
The crowd was silent…i looked up and saw Grace boiling in her seat…almost everyone was emotional…perhaps they understood mama now.
Then the Lolo stood up all of a sudden and faced Grace ‘so even you…’ she looked at Grace in disdain ‘could stoop so low to sleep with a man like George…i knew it! Igwe, didnt i tell you that this woman here could be having affair with other men of lower status in this village? What did you tell me? Ngozi, mind you business…and i did…now look! Shame! Disgrace! Guards!’
The royal guards stood in front of her.
‘drag this woman here to join her partner in crime…strip her naked for her case deserves no judgement…as an onowu’s wife, she deserves to serve as an example to others, not treading the wrong path!’
The guards advanced towards her immediately.
‘leave me alone, you smelly dirty chipmunks….!’ Grace struggled ‘Onowu, Igwe…please do something, tell thsi golddigging fools to leave me alone!’
The onowu and Igwe didnt say anything. I didnt see anything like disgrace and suprise on the Onowu’s face…it was like he knew about everything all this while.
Grace was immediately stripped naked and so was papa…i saw aunt Chime weeping where she was.
Grace was weeping too ‘i didnt do it, i swear i didnt do it ooo’
‘shut up!’ a woman screamed from the crowd ‘finally you’ve been caught! You nearly ruined my marriage by constantly seducing my husband…thank God he didnt fall for your tricks! You had to bribe us so we dont expose you but now you’ve finally been caught…no matter how bright the sun is…it would surely leave the sky and give the moon a chance to reign, you deserve to die, shameless woman!!!!’
The onowu cleared his throat ‘let the ritual begin’
And then everyone picked up stones and threw it towards them.
I suddenly screamed and everyone stopped and turned to my direction.
I threw the cloak away and ran to mama.
She was surprised to see me.
I hugged her and we cried together.
‘Ivyy…i’m so sorry…i’m so sorry my child…’
I couldnt talk…the pains in my heart weighed me down. I was allowed to remain like that with my mother before guards dragged me away from her.
I cried and screamed, laying curses on papa…i tried running back to mama but i was held by them.
And so i watched in tears and pains as they were all stoned to death…
Including my mother.