BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Copyright © Ufuomaee
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Erhuvwun rarely sang these days, but when she did, they were songs of immense sadness and loss. In the blink of an eye, without any warning at all, her whole world came crashing down on her.
It was last month when it happened. She was in her second trimester and had been feeling some odd pains in her abdomen. However, because she’d never been pregnant before, she’d thought it was a normal stage of pregnancy. Then a few days after the pains started, she began to bleed heavily. At the time, she’d been washing clothes at the stream, and she’d moved as fast as she could to get to Amadi, but it was already too late.
Amadi had been devastated. He’d looked at her in horror, as though she was a cursed thing, as though it was her fault that they’d lost their baby. He didn’t comfort her in the way she’d hoped and needed. Rather, he condemned her.
Erhuvwun bore the pain of her loss and his rejection alone. She couldn’t understand why or how it had happened. But most of all, she couldn’t understand Amadi’s reaction and change. What happened to the man who loved her?
Erhuvwun could hear the sound of the chickens clucking as they ran around, trying to avoid being chosen for dinner, indicating that Amadi was in the chicken farm. But what could the occasion be? They were not in the habit of cooking chicken every day, or even every week. They’d only eaten chicken thrice since they got married.
She decided to go to the vegetable garden to see if there were any ripe tomatoes she could make a stew with. As she was going, she saw Amadi returning from the chicken farm with three chickens in his hand. That was much! What was he going to do with them?
“Are we expecting company tonight?” she asked, nervously. These days, she feared to ask him questions. He mostly ignored her or shouted at her for disturbing him and accused her of asking stupid questions. They didn’t talk like they used to, and she was even wondering if she was supposed to be addressing him as “Sir” again. His mood swings were something else.
When he didn’t respond to her, she followed his movement, and saw that he’d already gathered some vegetables, and two whole tubers of yam, which he had stashed under a tree. “Can I help?” She tried a different angle of questioning.
“Go and gather firewood and bring them here,” he replied, as he bound the chickens together with a rope.
Erhuvwun did as she was told. She had a strange feeling about what Amadi was doing. It seemed like he was preparing an offering to the gods. She laid her hand on her now flat stomach and hastened to her task.
When she returned with the firewood, Amadi had slit the throats of the chickens, and their blood now dripped into a wooden bowl. Amadi went to her and collected the firewood from her and proceeded to start a fire. Erhuvwun just looked up at the chickens hanging on a rope, wondering what sort of offering this was.
After getting the fire going, Amadi brought down the chickens, and ran three sticks through them, before placing them over the fire. He picked up the bowl and handed it to her. “Go and wash,” he said.
“What?!” Erhuvwun asked, aghast, but trying to sound simply unsure. “You mean I should throw out the blood and wash the bowl?”
Amadi looked at her as though she was a fool. “Go and wash yourself with this blood. It will remove the curse!”
Erhuvwun stepped back from him instantly. “What curse? I’m not cursed!”
“Miscarriage is a curse. If we want to have a baby – a boy – we have to appease the gods. So, do what I say!”
Erhuvwun shook her head, feeling sick to her stomach. This was some strange practice. Why did Amadi feel they had to do this? “No, Amadi. I cannot bath with chicken’s blood! I don’t know what’s gotten into you!”
“If you do not obey, then you leave me no choice but to take a second wife…” Amadi replied, coldly, even as tears ran down Erhuvwun’s face. She ran to do as she had been commanded.
They repeated the ritual for three days, and after the last day, Amadi went in on his wife again. It was a passionless consummation to conceive a child. And the days that followed, as they waited in expectation, were nerve-racking for both Amadi and Erhuvwun.
It had been three months since they performed the sacrifices, and there was no sign of a pregnancy yet. Amadi was starting to get impatient. Erhuvwun was miserable.
Amadi was conflicted. He still couldn’t understand why their fortunes had changed. He didn’t want to believe it was a curse, but what else could it be? And he really didn’t like the idea of getting another wife. Truth was that he loved Erhuvwun…he missed her, but he couldn’t get over their infertility – her infertility.
His father’s words to his mother and three step-mothers often plagued him. Even in his grave, his father’s spirit tormented him, mocked him for marrying a barren woman…for loving a cursed woman.
“Why are you wasting time enduring that wretched woman? Send her back to her father and marry again! You must have an heir!”
“You have always been weak! I blame your mother! Stupid woman turned you into a sissy! And those useless witches who could only bare girls…”
“What’s wrong with you?! Time is not on your side, Amadi!”
“A woman that cannot bear a son is useless! I repeat, a woman that cannot bear an heir is good for nothing! What are girls for if not for sexual enjoyment and bearing children for their husbands…? You better cast away that witch that has cast a spell on you!”
“She’s NOT a witch!” Amadi shouted into the air suddenly. And as if to silence any more words, he repeated, “She’s not a witch!” before he broke down in tears.
To be continued...
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