Its is 10 o clock in the morning, Iya is sitting at the backyard of their house surrounded by short guava trees, she can feel the caress of the leaves on her skin as the wind makes them bend to it’s will. She is also surrounded by her friends and family. She is all smiles, a beautiful dimple forming on each cheek, the narrow gap in her upper dentition gives a wonderful sight to her smile.
One of her hands is stretched out straight, Naraya is drawing intricate henna designs on her hand. Though Iya’s hand hurt from holding it out for too long she doesn’t flinch because it’s her wedding. Naraya has come all the way from Kodan city to put henna on her hands.
A new guest has arrived, Iya knows this despite being in the backyard because the children are shouting.’
‘Welcome, what did you bring for us?’
Iya stretches her neck to see if she can see the new guest, she desperately hopes its Shettu her best friend. She has been delayed because she has to use a longer route due to the recent floods that hit them.
The situation is terrible, most of their crops have been destroyed, the fishes may have migrated. Iya’s father is still holding the wedding, he had vowed to do so against all odds. He has ordered foodstuffs from his friend Barama who said that he could get it across the water.
The guest is Iya’s sister Maryama, she has come with her three kids, Dogo, Gadanga and Ayi. Iya is happy and disappointed at the same time, it is not Shettu.
‘Keep still.’ Naraya orders and she stops wriggling. Maryama enters smiling all the way.
‘It is finally your turn.’ She says and slaps Iya playfully on the cheeks, Iya looks away shyly.
Naraya has finished one hand and wants to start the second, Iya cannot rest the hand to avoid destroying the design.
‘I’m thirsty.’ Iya says.
‘Rekiya bring her water.’ Maryama orders their youngest sibling.
Rekiya scampers and gets a stainless cup filled with water and proceeds to feed Iya.
‘Stop.’ Yakamu shouts from afar.
‘Mami I’m very thirsty.’ Iya says squeezing her face.
‘Today is the dauren aure please abstain from food and water till after sunset.’ Yakamu pleads.
‘Why ? when did that start, I was allowed to eat on my wedding day.’ Maryama says.
‘It will start and end Today.’ Yakamu answers.
‘Ohhh, me and my children are very hungry, we came through Gbete.’
‘Ahhh what this flood has caused us, all we have is beans and Kaka is preparing it with palm oil.’
‘Beans!!, its a wedding.’
‘You know food is scarce, the visiting waters hit hard this time, this beans is from lambata.’
Yet another guest arrives and its not Shettu, Iya’s soaring spirit is now dropping, she has so many things to share with Shettu, they’ve come a long way from where they began and she has things to tell her when sees her, the things she can’t share with her family, only Shettu can understand.
She remembers when they were younger and they would giggle and gossip about everyone.
Today she wants to tell Shettu about Shettima her fiancé That they have similar names, Shettu and Shettima.
Food is ready and everyone is served except Iya, she is hungry, she can even hear the rumbling sound in her stomach. Naraya can hear it too, she teases Iya.
Naraya pauses when Rekiya brings her food. It is a simple meal of beans, palm oil, salt and pepper yet it is looking very delicious.
They have to do with it because food is scarce as a result of the flood, visiting waters they call it. Barama has brought this all the way from lambata across the visiting waters.
He tells Iya’s father in the palour in a loud voice that the guests can hear how hard it was to get him the bag of beans, also how the farmer used white man’s medicine to preserve it. He is praised, he eats the beans with pride.
Iya looks longingly at the food, her mother’s stern gaze meets her’s and she averts her gaze from the food.
‘Keep Shettu’s portion please.’ Iya says.
‘It has already been served, it is on the table in the .’ Her mother says.
They finish their meal and Naraya starts with the feet, Iya can now relax her hands but not her mind because she is desperate to see Shettu.
‘Ohhhhh when will Shettu arrive.’ She murmurs to herself.
The men depart after the meal for the formal marriage ceremony, women won’t go there, her Father and a representative her brother will go on her behalf and testify what Iya has already told them in the confines of their room.
She has sworn to them that she is not pregnant and that she has accepted Shettima and has demanded a dowry of 9900.
More women troop in and are served the beans and palm oil, they do not complain because they are aware of the scarcity of resources food especially.
They all enjoy their meal licking their fingers as the salted palm oil runs down their elbow.
The men return and announce that the marriage has taken place her brother Magani hands over the bride price to her, it is hers to do as she wishes.
Everyone congratulates Iya, she is now a married woman. Iya smiles shyly and turns her face she is still expecting Shettu.
Soon when Naraya finishes she will start dressing to go to Shettima’s and she wants Shettu to be present.
Naraya is almost done and Shettu has not arrived, Iya is getting worried, she prays Shettu is safe and is delayed by a good reason.
Naraya feels a little discomfort and pauses, she throws spit from her mouth, Maryama feels the same too and Rekiya, they say nothing, others feel it too. Then Rekiya falls foaming from her mouth.
Naraya is next, it happens to many people at once, panic arises in the gathering. Just then Dogo Maryama’s son runs to them panting.
‘Ayi has fallen down, she is not opening her eyes, I have been calling her.’ He says his face is wet with tears.
‘What are you saying?’ Maryama shouts.
She stands up but a sharp pain cuts across her abdomen and she falls to the ground foaming from the mouth.
Chaos is in the air, they don’t know who would fall next, fear grips all and they start scampering around. One by one everyone falls down faoming from the mouth, All except Iya.
Iya shakes them, she is scared she runs inside to where the men were, she sees most of them on the floor some across the chair, all with foam on their mouth.
Iya begins to scream, no one answers her. Silence and unmoving bodies surround her. She sees her mother lying on the floor, a gold chain not far from where she is lying, she sees her wedding dress displayed carefully on the bed. She runs back to the backyard, she is very scared, her fear weighing on her every step.
She looks around at the bodies lying disorderly on the floor, they all had palm oil stains.
She has not eaten, she was not even served. She sees Shettu’s food sitting neatly on the table.
She opens it, she knows that everyone on the floor had the meal, the sun was still yet to set, she scoops a handful to her mouth and swallows without chewing she takes again and again until the plate is empty.
She waits patiently to join those on the floor, she hears footsteps and rushes to the door.
Shettu has finally arrived clutching a black nylon bag probably containing her clothes.
‘I’m so sorry, I got delayed.’ She tells Iya, she hasn’t notice that Iya’s mouth is stained with palm oil or that the house is too quite.
Iya smiles, she has felt the sharp pain and has fallen to her knees, with her palm oil hands she holds Shettu’s wrapper and says.
‘Its been a long day without you my friend and I’ll tell you all about if I see you again.
She foams from the mouth.
The entire family and the guest at the wedding were killed because they consumed beans which was treated with (organophosphate, lidane etc) toxic pesticides used in preserving beans which is lethal to humans when wrongly used.