“So you will be a married man in the next five days?” Obembe said jovially, slapping Oyeleke’s back.
“You must have really offended your father!” Akinniyi teased, gulping down the bowl of palm wine a slave girl had just poured out for him.
Oyeleke was not amused, he sat down between his friends staring forlornly at the ground.
Akinniyi stopped drinking his wine. “Ah ah Oyeleke, why are you looking so dull? Are you so afraid of marriage?”
Obembe looked at him trying to contain his laughter. “Aren’t you the one who said that what one needs is a good woman who can satisfy all the time?”
“It is true, he said so! You’re marrying the king’s daughter, what else is left?”
“I wonder!” Obembe burst into laughter.
“What is amusing you people is making me very sad.”
Akinniyi was the first one to stop laughing. “But you haven’t said exactly what you are afraid of.”
“I’m not ready.”
“What exactly did you do to your father? You must have done something serious for him to have hastened your marriage. Did you impregnate one of the…”
“Look, let’s talk about something else.”
Obembe started to laugh again. “I knew it! This has to do with a woman.”
Oyeleke could hear the dead girl’s voice in his head. I cannot go… Help me! Help me!
“I trust you my friend, your staff of authority cannot be wasted on one woman!”
“Never, it cannot!” Akinniyi concurred joining Obembe in raucous laughter.
The defiance in her eyes had shocked him and still did, she had not been afraid to die. He was certain that if she could, she would have spit in his face before taking her final breath. There was a perpetual image in his mind, her eyes, wide in defiance and his blood slowly pooling around her head.
Help me! Help me!
He jumped up and stared at Akinniyi who had slapped his arm.
“What is wrong with you? You look like you just saw a ghost…”
Obembe clasped his wine in his hands. “What is wrong with you? You looked like you wanted to cry…”
“Give me that wine!”
He grabbed the bowl in Obembe’s hand and finished the wine in one gulp. He felt slightly exhilarated, but he needed something more thrilling to distract his mind from his depressing memories.
“Let’s go hunting.”
Oyinade and her friends were seated in front of her hut, eating roasted groundnuts. Olabisi and Romoke had come to the palace as soon as they heard about the wedding that was to take place in a few days.
“You’re so lucky! You’re getting married to the most handsome man in this town.” Olabisi tossed a few nuts into her mouth.
“You should see the way my father is planning! He keeps reminding everyone that this is a royal wedding.”
Oyinade managed a smile, her mind was somewhere else.
Romoke observed the sullen look on her friend’s face “Are you not happy?”
“So why do you look sad?”
“I’m not sad.”
“It is true, you don’t look happy.” Olabisi concurred.
“Don’t you want to marry my brother?”
“You are not happy Oyinade, say what the problem is.”
Oyinade gathered some nuts in her hand. “There is no problem.”
“Are you afraid of the wedding night?” Olabisi teased.
Oyinade glanced at her, looked away and blushed.
“Is that it?” Romoke asked, placing her hands on her waist.
“No, I’m not worried about…”
“You don’t have to worry about that. My brother will do right by you, don’t worry, he will be gentle.”
Olabisi laughed while Oyinade shook her head. Her friends were far from the truth. The truth was that she had not even considered the wedding night, or anything about the wedding. What was paramount on her mind was meeting with Iya Adigun, knowing what was coming and how she could be saved. This wedding was an unnecessary hindrance to her plans.
“What are you thinking about?” Romoke asked suspiciously.
“Nothing, I think I‘m just tired.”
“Something is wrong but you don’t want to tell us.”
“Romoke she’s just getting cold feet, nothing is wrong with her. Let’s leave her.”
“All right, if you say so.”
A slave girl came to them just then and faced Olabisi.
“Good day, the queen has asked me to call you.”
“Me? Hope there’s no problem?”
“I don’t think so, I think she wants to discuss something about the wedding with you.”
“Is that so? All right,” Olabisi replied, rising from the mat.
As soon as Olabisi was gone, Romoke continued her questioning.
“Something is going on, I know you Oyinade and you look like something is bothering you.”
Oyinade thought quickly. “I’m fine Romoke, I’m just worried about how married life will be.”
“There is nothing to be worried about? Or do you think that my brother is not good enough for you?”
Oyinade was surprised at Romoke’s sarcasm. “Did I say that?”
“You didn’t have to, why else would you be worried about being married to my brother if you don’t think that he is not good enough for you?”
Oyinade was angry and puzzled at her friend’s assumption. “You are not in my shoes, you cannot understand how I feel.”
“I know I am not in your shoes, but one day I will also be engaged to a wealthy man so don’t think so little of me.”
Oyinade was not in the mood to be diplomatic. “Why is it that you are always quick to start a fight?”
“Yes! It is as if you are constantly waiting for me to talk so that you can find something to accuse me of.”
“I am not in the mood for this this afternoon.”
Olabisi returned just then with a bundle of clothes. “What is happening, why are the two of you fighting?”
“Oyinade said I am not in her shoes so I cannot understand why my brother is not good enough for her.”
Olabisi was stunned. “Oyinade…?”
“And she said that I am always watching her words so that I can accuse her.”
“Wait, what started this in the first place?” Olabisi adjusted the clothes in her arms and stared at them puzzled.
“I was only asking her what was wrong with her and why she didn’t seem excited about her wedding.”
“And she said all that to you?”
“Oyinade?” Olabisi said, sitting by her. “What happened?”
“I don’t know what Romoke wants from me. Everytime I say something, she finds a way to accuse me of doing one thing or another. It is as if I cannot speak freely anymore. She asked me what was wrong and I said I was worried about how married life would be. Instead of her to sympathize with me, she said I thought her brother was not good enough. Can you imagine that…?”
“Is that so Romoke? Did you say that?”
Romoke didn’t respond.
“And I said that she couldn’t understand, only for her to say that she would also get married to a worthy man and that I shouldn’t think so little of her.”
“Romoke, is that so?”
“I am really tired of this. She is always twisting my words, it is as if she hears a different thing from what I am saying.”
“Are you done with the queen?” Romoke replied defiantly.
“Yes I am but let’s settle….”
“Let us go, I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Let us settle this issue…”
“Olabisi, are you coming or should I leave you behind?”
“Let’s settle this…”
Oyinade and Olabisi watched Romoke stomp off, retying her wrapper around her waist as she walked. Suddenly, she turned around and headed towards them, Oyinade and Romoke looked at one another. She stopped right in front of them and held her hands on her slim waist.
“Right from when we were babies, I have watched you act as if you are better than all of us but know this, you are not. I came here to rejoice with you and make you feel happy about the wedding preparations, but you have humiliated me with your words because you are the princess. Look at me very well, I am not threatening you, but know that one day I will be in a position to help you but I will not and you will wish that you had tamed your mouth today.”
With that, she stomped off. Olabisi’s mouth was agape, what had come over their friend?
“Do you now see what I am saying?”
“This is not good at all, you need to go and see a priest, make sure that what she’s saying does not come to pass.”
“Don’t worry about it Olabisi. I am Oyinade, the daughter of King Adegbite, nothing bad can happen to me.”
Later that night, on the Ire hill, Ajadi stood looking down at Oyemakin’s compound. There was no party tonight but he could see the preparations of the women in anticipation of what looked to him to be another wedding. Did these people know nothing but to eat and be married? He brought out his snuff and inhaled it, warmth spread through his brain.
There was a rustle behind him, his visitor had come, and he could smell him.
“I came as soon as I could, I didn’t know that you would have come here.”
Ajadi laughed, fear was always a good thing. It instilled respect.
“What is going on down there?” he asked scratching the scar on his cheek, the cold, dry wind tickled it and made it itchy.
“There is to be a wedding in two days.”
“Which of his daughters is getting married?”
“It is princess Oyinade…”
Ajadi whirled to face him.
“Oyinade? The beautiful princess, she is getting married?”
Ajadi laughed. “She is getting married to Oyeleke, the son of Oyemakin, isn’t it?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“The wedding was decided only a few days ago.”
“It is the king, he decided to hasten the marriage.”
Ajadi’s lips curved into a crooked smile. “Do you have what I want?”
“Yes, it is crayfish.”
“Crayfish?” Ajadi said incredulously.
“Yes, they bend over like dry crayfish.”
Ajadi laughed and stroked his chin. “Crayfish. All right.”
And then he was gone, down the hill and into the forest.