The young men of the land had to work for the upcoming marriage ceremony. Cleaning the village, fetching firewood, hunting for animals with rare exotic meats these were things Adekunle would have done with joy for his best friend, but he did it with pain. His best friend was marrying a girl he snatched from him.
‘Adekunle, you must be very happy, knowing that Olaniyan will make you his right-hand man, seeing that you are his best friend.’ Akinsola said in way of discussion, as they worked together, clearing the space for the party.
Adekunle smiled wryly, and said nothing. Not many people knew that he and Olaniyan had a falling out. He was not going to announce it to anyone, he didn’t need their pitying looks. He just kept working. He hoped he wouldn’t run into Olaniyan who was supposed to go around welcoming and thanking the men. That was the tradition.
‘Adekunle, Adekunle. I’m happy to see you here my friend’
Adekunle stiffened as he recognized Olaniyan’s voice. He didn’t have to look up. ‘I hope you are not still angry with me and Abosede? She just chose the better man; you can’t blame her for that, she is a woman after all.’ Olaniyan said this loud enough for everyone to hear and laughed louder at his joke. ‘I hope the palm trees are treating you fine? Don’t be ashamed to come to me for permission to tap from my trees.’ He said and moved on.
Everyman present understood the hidden insult, and none of them could look at Adekunle after Olaniyan walked away after ‘greeting’ them. Adekunle didn’t stop working, he kept going until he was done with the part given to him to clear.
When he was done, he walked to his palm trees with his head bowed.
This was the tenth day since the announcement of the upcoming marriage ceremony. He couldn’t wait for it to be over, so he wouldn’t have to run into Olaniyan except he goes to the Palace, and he knew there was nothing to take him to the Palace.
Getting to where his trees were, he sat at the foot of one of his trees and bowed his head, the words of Olaniyan running through his mind. “What Olaniyan always this wicked?” he wondered as he drew unrecognizable objects in the soil absentmindedly.
‘I have been waiting for you, and was hoping to see you before I have to leave.’ It was a familiar voice, but he wasn’t sure he heard correctly. He looked up to be sure. He saw Titilayo smiling at him, and looking more beautiful than he remembered. He smiled back reluctantly as he stood up.
‘Titilayo, what brought you here?’
‘You don’t look happy to see me. I’m sorry, I won’t take your time. I only returned the clothes you lent me, and came to thank you again. My father also sent you some palm wine even when I told him you were a tapper. He said there is no palm wine like ours.’
‘I’m sorry. I am happy to see you, just that you came at a time when my heart is heavy. Thank you so much for the palm wine. Your father was right, your wine is very sweet, but I attributed it to your trees.’
‘It’s not the trees. It’s the technique of the tappers. Why is your heart heavy?’
‘Titilayo, please it is not something I am proud of. Besides it is getting late, and you should be on your way back to your village. I don’t want you to be kidnapped again.’ He joked, hoping she would laugh and start her journey back home.
‘You hurt me Adekunle. Goodbye’ she turned and started walking away.
That was the first time she mentioned his name. He liked the way she mentioned it, like it was precious.
‘Please wait’ he called out to her as he ran towards her. He was about to start apologizing when she turned.
‘You think you should hide your shame? Well you saw me naked, stark naked! Not only that, you saw me with my head shaven. I can only imagine how I looked then, yet I handled my shame because I had to thank you properly, and return these clothes.’ She realized she was still holding the clothes, and put them in his hands.
‘I didn’t let the shame hold me back. I did what I had to do because it was important to me that I thanked you. Well thank you Adekunle for your kindness, and goodbye.’ She turned to leave again.
‘You looked beautiful, very beautiful’ Adekunle said, stopping her.
‘What did you say?’
‘I said you looked very beautiful even with your head shaven. I’m sorry.’
He saw a smile playing on her lips, and saw the beginnings of a dimple. ‘You are very beautiful.’ He repeated. He forgot that he promised himself not to have anything to do with any other woman.
‘Thank you’ she replied shyly. ‘So are you going to tell me why your heart is heavy?’
‘On two conditions. Firstly, I’ll follow you home, and tell you on the way. Secondly, you will tell me the secret of your palm wine.’
‘Okay.’ She agreed without a pause.
Adekunle told her the story, to the last detail. She was silent and he knew there were times she was angry at Olaniyan and Abosede even though she was yet to meet them. Strangely, her annoyance towards them appeased him, and eased the hurt a little.
Immediate she knew he was done with the story, she told him how they tapped their wine, and the secret behind it being the best wine around. She said it so simply that Adekunle doubted her, and his gaze showed it. She laughed at him. ‘Why not try it and see?’
‘Okay.’ He agreed. They were close to her house, and he had no reason to stick with her, yet he didn’t want to leave her presence.
‘About Olaniyan and Abosede, I am sorry about that. I can’t do anything, but I can accompany you to their marriage, so you won’t look alone and defeated.’ Titilayo offered.
‘No, you don’t have to. It won’t kill me. It’s kind of you to offer though.’
Titilayo shook her head ‘You don’t understand, I want to. You saved my life, and said I looked very beautiful with my head shaven, I want to go with you so you won’t be looked upon with pity. I want them to look at you with surprise, and hopefully, admiration.’
Adekunle truly didn’t want to be pitied ‘Okay. Thanks’
‘I will see you the day after tomorrow then. I will leave early, and wait for you at your trees.’
‘What about your fiancé? What explanation will you give to him?’ Adekunle had to know.
‘There’s no one I answer to, except my father, who will be happy I can be of help to you. So don’t worry about any other man. Just go back to your palm trees. They look abandoned.’
‘Okay. Bye. I have to see you walk into your compound’ She had just told him she was available. He would dwell on that later.
He waited until she went into her house, then he turned to go back to his village. He hurried back to his trees and took the steps Titilayo told him about their method of tapping, and hoped it would work. When he served his father the palm wine she brought, he wanted to know where he got it from, he refused to divulge the information.
He waited for some minutes, then he served him the newly tapped wine from his own tree.
‘If you won’t tell me whose tree this is from, stop serving it to me.’
‘This is from my tree. Spread the news that I have very good palm wine.’
The news spread like wildfire, that even the organizers of Olaniyan’s wedding bought wine from Adekunle, but begged him not to reveal.
On the day of the marriage ceremony, Adekunle arrived with Titilayo. People wondered who the beautiful lady was. Some people who came, expecting some sort of drama between Adekunle and Olaniyan were disappointed, as Adekunle was smiling at the beautiful lady by his side. He even looked happy. Truly happy.
Olaniyan kept looking around for Adekunle, so he could make a request of him, and taunt him. But he halted his plans when he saw that Adekunle looked very happy with the lady by his side. He kept staring at them until Abosede noticed and grew jealous. She also began watching them, noticing that Adekunle looked truly happy and proud.
Then she noticed something.
Adekunle and Titilayo felt the gazes on them, but they acted ignorant and kept chatting. Adekunle was grateful for Titilayo’s presence, and he told her so.
‘I think you would have done the same for me.’ Titilayo guessed correctly.
They were laughing at a private joke when a strange announcement was made that shocked them.
The Olori requested that all the young ladies present remove their headgear and come and bow to the new king.
Titilayo looked at Adekunle with fear in her eyes. Adekunle knew what Abosede was doing. He turned to look at her and saw that she was smiling with triumph.
‘You won’t win this time’ Adekunle promised still looking at her.
CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE 3 >>> PALM WINE TAPPER (3)
By JOY Nwankwo
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