Nneka heard the drumming before she reached her hut.Ogbunike was home, her heart melted as it always did when she thought of him. Ogbunike, her only son, her only love, her life. After her husband had died, she thought she would never find peace in her heart again, but Ogbunike had filled her heart, with his rhythms.She knew he was sad before she saw him, he was like her husband, their moods could be felt just by listening to their drums. Today, he was beating the obanfe rhythm, she had not heard it in a long time, her son was sad.
"My son, I met Ogechi today, Ikemefuna's mother at the market. She told me of your kindness, allowing Ikemefuna to join the rehearsals"
Ogbunike looked up at his mother, he had not heard her come in. She looked tired and old, he still remembered when she used to take him to the stream, to wash clothes and swim. That was before he became a man and had to wash himself at the other end of the stream with other men. How he missed those days! She used to sing a lot then and how he loved to play in the water while she washed the clothes and sang. His father told him that when she was younger, he and the other men used to sit at the other end of the stream listening to her voice. He quickly put his drum away to help his mother with the basket of yams she had on her head.
"yes, Onyinye thinks he will be better for the Nkombi dance"
"Nobody is better than you, my son"
She looked at her son, he was a man, a man in love. She knew he was in love with Onyinye, daughter of Chioma and Okafor. She had been waiting for the day when he would finally tell this to her, but days were becoming years and still Ogbunike had not said anything. She was worried, Onyinye was now a woman, her friends were getting spoken for, and Nneka was afraid Ogbunike might lose his chance if he waited any longer. This Nkombi dance was probably his last chance.
"I was surprised my son. You have always played the drums for the Nkombi dance....why Ikemefuna?"
"I told you. The girls think he will be better for them. Mama, I do not want to be the reason why Ifeoma and Ugonna are not spoken for again this year."
"Does the blackness of the night blame its colour on the sound of the crickets?"
"Mama, I do not understand"
"These days, you young ones have forgotton the tongues of the wise ones, I told your father, that it will be so with you. Proverbs are rich my son, try to understand them"
"But I do not understand mama, the colour of blackness....the sound of crickets.... what has that got to do with Ugonna and Ifeoma and the Nkombi dance?"
" Ifeoma and Ugonna have not been spoken for because they are ugly. Everybody in the village knows that. The rhythm of your hands, the Nkombi dance, the new yam festival, nothing can save them....except maybe Ogidikpo!"
Ogbunike laughed. His mother had a way of making everything seem so light and easy. Ogidikpo..... the humped bank palm wine tapper with the missing front tooth. He looked at his mother affectionately, he dreaded the day he would have to tell her had had fallen in love, he did not want to leave her yet.
"Come mama, let me help you with dinner, I already cooked the yams, let me pound it, and warm the left over soup from breakfast"
" A man does not pound yam, do not let your mates hear you"
" Don't worry mama, there is nobody here, here is water, it is cold, rest, the food will soon be ready"
Nneka looked at her son as he brought out the mortar and pestle. She was worried, she had to prepare him for the role of a husband. It was times like this that she missed her husband.