by Blessing Akinsehinwa Esq.
She swayed as she walked out of their hut. Her left hand was clutched firmly to his side as he supported her heavy steps and slow movements, while her right hand held his cutlass tuck neatly in its scabbard.
Outside of the hut, his best friend, Alamu, was seated on a stool waiting for Koleoso to join him for the day’s hunting in the forest. Koleoso emerged from inside with his heavily pregnant wife grinning. ‘Alamu, mabinu ore mi. S’alafia nile wa’, Koleoso said to his seated friend. Alamu responded cheerfully and greeted Oyinkansola, Koleoso’s pregnant wife. Koleoso knelt before his wife, his face directly facing her exposed protruded mid section. He rubbed her stomach as he placed one of his ears on it. ‘Hey big man, don’t kick your mother too much before I return with big meats for the both of you like I always do’-he said to the unborn baby.
‘Olowo ori mi, e ma foju mi sono’, she whined as she rubbed his head whilst he knelt. He collected his scabbard from her as he stood up; then kissed her slowly but deeply. Alamu sat still, grinned, smiled and turned his face away when Koleoso kissed his wife. ‘Eyi o wa poju? Did you both not just emerge from the same house?’ he said matter-of-factly as Koleoso broke his kiss and turned to face his friend. ‘See my friend, if I had a choice I will stay with my wife all day, every day until she is delivered of this baby’.
‘Olowo ori mi, there is no need to stay all day with me. I can take care of myself while you are away.’ Facing Alamu, ‘bring him home back early and safe please’. Alamu nodded, smiled and assured her he would bring her husband back to her as he had always done since they started hunting together as young boys ten years ago.
Koleoso departed with Alamu through the very familiar bush path leading to the forest for the day’s hunting expecting to return with a bag full of meats for his wife and sell the remaining.
‘How are things going with you and Romoke? Have you settled your fight?’ Koleoso asked his friend. ‘We have not settled o’ Alamu responded. As the two friends went on, Koleoso advised Alamu to apologise to Romoke just to let peace reign. After all, it was Alamu who was caught cheating on his fiancée with her best friend. ‘You’re not getting any younger Alamu’ Koleoso stated. ‘We will both be twenty five years by the next moonlight. You’re the only one amongst our playmates who is not yet married. Look at Olawale, he has two children already. Even I your best friend is expecting a baby from my wife. But you keep sleeping with these village girls. As your best friend, I want a stable life for you. A happy family just like mine is what I desire for you too’ Alamu nodded intermittently as Koleoso advised him on the need to reconcile with Romoke and start a family of his own.
As they went farther, Alamu told Koleoso about the news going round the village about white men who were reported to be stealing the village men from their farms.
The first of such incident happened when Ajayi, the only son of his widowed mother who lives on the extreme end of the village never returned from the farm where he had gone to harvest yams for his aged mother two days ago. The search party sent to look for him found his blood stained clothe lying on a heap of harvested yams in the farm. The people then assumed that he might have been killed and dragged away by a mysterious beast. His hapless mother passed on from shock when the news was broken to her.
Just yesterday, some girls that went to Oya stream to wash clothes and fetch water abandoned their clothes and water pots and ran back home to report to the baale that on their way to the stream, they saw two white men, both wearing white shirts and black trousers tucked inside their knee high boots. The men were also wearing a hat on their heads; had long guns hanged on their sides and held horse whips. The girls said the guns they saw with the men were longer and looked way better than these ones we use in hunting. ‘Accompanying the white men were naked young men of our age, bound on the hands and legs. They looked like slaves. One of the girls even said she saw someone who looked very much like Ajayi’ Aremu added. Koleoso nodded as he listened.
He asked his friend why he was just hearing the news about the girls’ discovery for the first time. Alamu then told him that it was the Baale’s instruction to the girls to not mention of their experience to anyone, not even to their parents so as not to create a panic in the village until he conducts his own investigation into their claims. Alamu continued by saying that he was however told by one of the girls last night in his hut after he had finished sleeping with her.
Koleoso stopped, turned and looked at his friend with prying eyes as the last sentence dropped from his mouth. ‘Hey, don’t look at me like that. Look at it this way; if I had not been sleeping with her, there was no way we would have gotten this information. Would we?’ Koleoso smiled. ‘See? Fornication is not bad after all’ Alamu quipped.
The two friends kept walking. Alamu then told his friend that with the new development, it has become dangerous for any of them to be alone in the forest. He suggested that henceforth, they both should hunt together unlike their previous style where they split and then converge under the Odan tree with their separate kills at the cool of the evening. Koleoso agreed to the new arrangement. Now that he has a pregnant wife waiting for him to return home, he would agree to any idea that would guarantee his safety and that of his family. In fact since, he took a wife, Koleoso who had been the bravest amongst his mates had become less daring like he once was.
They soon got to the foot of the Odan tree – their separation and convergence spot, but with their new arrangement, they would now hunt as a unit and split their kills equally.
From the Odan tree, they proceeded deep into the forest. Alamu stopped to ease himself and urged his friend to proceed. A little while later, Koleoso became agitated when Alamu didn’t join him like he said he would. ‘Alamu! Alamu oo!’ he called to no answer. He became scared. Anything could have happened to Alamu. He thought of the many possibilities. Could a wild animal have attacked his best friend? Could it be the white men Alamu was talking about? He panicked. As He turned to go back to look for his friend, there was a loud sound.
It was a gunshot. Koleoso had been shot in the leg. He writhed in pain as the white man who had released the shot walked over to where he was. ‘Tani e, kini mo se fun e’ he managed to say in between excruciating pains from the bullet that had wounded his leg which bled profusely. Alamu joined the white man. ‘Ore mi owon. All through our friendship, you have always taken what was mine. Everything! You even snatched the wife I wanted to marry. Now watch me snatch your life from you’, he said as he smiled and collected fifty cowries from the white man. ‘And don’t worry about your wife, she is mine now. I will tell her you were killed by a wild animal in the forest. She will be devastated of course, but I will be there to comfort her’. He laughed wickedly.
Koleoso was stripped of his clothes, bounded on both wrists and ankles with the other captured slaves. He limped as he was led off.
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