Ugwomma sat on the floor dazed with disbelief. She was expecting her fourth child in a couple of days. Yes, her husband was dead but she had nothing to do with it. This was what her mother-in-law found hard to believe. Ugwomma was jarred to be sitting on the floor in the presence of the whole village. Her mother in-law was bent on proving that her son was killed by Ugwomma. Ugwomma looked at the sky and tears flowed down her cheeks. It seemed her chi had forsaken her.
Ugwomma was so beautiful that even the ground rejoiced anytime she sat on it. Before Afam had married her, she had been the only lady in the village that every young man desired. Even after three childbirths, she was still good looking with an attractive physique.
Sadly, her marriage to Afam had turned her life into a nightmare. She was considered a failed woman. In their clan, the only real women were those with male children! Ugwomma had failed her mother in-law by giving birth to three daughters. If there was anything called a humiliating insult, Ugwomma had received it from her mother in-law who was always urging her son to take a second wife. But Afam had refused vehemently and this caused a rift in their relationship with the elder woman. Afam too had suddenly taken ill and before Ugwomma could find leaves to prepare medicine for him, Afam was gone. And forever! Ugwomma thought about many things as she sat quietly on the hard floor. Even her bulging stomach was not enough reason for Nkeiruka – her mother in-law to show her mercy.
As the youth leader brought the water used in washing her husband’s corpse in a calabash, Ugwomma looked away.
“Iam innocent and pregnant, biko.” she pleaded collecting the calabash.
“Prove it!” Nkeiruka shouted. “Prove that you did not kill my son.”
“I did not kill Afam. He was my love whom I had three children with. Why will I kill him?” Ugwomma asked almost amidst tears.
“Nwa ekwensu! Is there a limit to your witchcraft?” Nkeiruka asked flashing her eyes. “Children? Are those girls children? Nyem nwoke!”
Chijioke waved the two women to keep quiet. He was the oldest in the village and commanded great respect. The two women obeyed. Chijioke adjusted his cap before speaking.
“Our wife, if you can confess,we will not force you to drink that water. You are carrying our child.” He sounded so concerned.
“Confess what?” Ugwomma asked indicating with her hands.
“That you killed Afam, my son,” Nkeiruka answered quickly.
“I swear upon my late father’s grave. I don’t know anything about my husband’s death.” Ugwomma defended herself boldly.
Nkeiruka laughed cynically. “Late father’s gini? Omereme! Lekwa nwa nkita. Your father was a wizard and you took after him. Witch! Didn’t he give you the charms he hid in that lump on his arm? No wonder you fainted at his grave side.”
Ugwomma remembered the event. She had slumped as her father’s corpse was being lowered into the grave. Her father had been a caring man and his demise, Ugwomma knew, would create a vacuum in her life. She would have no one to discuss her problems with. She had awoken in the hospital in the evening. Till the present moment, that incident was a mystery to her.
Raising the cup to her lips, Ugwomma drank the water and dropped the calabash. She was ready for anything and nothing mattered again. Not even her unborn child. One hour. Two hours. Three hours and nothing happened. The villagers were leaving unannounced. At last Nkeiruka stood up and headed to her hut. Chijioke held Ugwomma’s hand.
“Guzoro utù nwam nwanyi, chukwu bu eze. I believed you and I knew nothing will happen to you.” Chijioke said.
“Chineke is all-seeing and He will always be with you,my daughter,” Chijioke added as Ugwomma stood beside him supporting her waist with her left hand.
Ugwomma felt a sharp pain in her stomach. She knew it was her baby. The pain surged and elder Chijioke called other women. The women hurried her indoors and within minutes, a cry of a baby was heard. Ugwomma lay breathless on the mat looking at the roof.
“Its your first boy,” the eldest woman said smiling. “The gods have favoured you.”
Ugwomma feigned a smile. Afam was not there to hold his first son. Something they had prayed to their various chis for a long time. She wished he was around to assure her that she had not failed. She turned her face to the wall.
The eldest woman giggled before speaking. “He is handsome with a little lump on his arm.”
Ugwomma whirled round. He looked at the lump and could not hold herself. Her father had returned to her as her own son. She had heard the voice on the day of her father’s burial. It wa clear now. She now understood what that incident meant. ‘I will come back to you,’ the voice had said in a distance and he was here. Slowly, Ugwomma sat up and the woman handed her the boy.
“Nnam I lutala,” she muttered joyfully. “You have wiped away my tears and shame.”
As the realization dawned on the other women,they smiled at her with warmth in their eyes. Some envied her because it was an honour to have one’s father as a son. They wished they had her chi – a consoling chi.