Updated: Nov 19
Fearing for his life, Matthew's escape results in the loss of his memory and his face. He is adopted by a Priest. The Priest is haunted by his past and decides to go to where his problem began. Meanwhile, Matthew's mother is a widow who had just lost her only child, is taunted by her friend's husband. As part of her road to self-discovery, she decides to find out what happened when she was a little child. William Bernard knows nothing of his past, but he is determined to live life to the fullest. He falls in love with Annette who unwittingly breaks his heart. This heartbreak guides his decision to join the priesthood. Annette returns home for a wedding a few weeks to William Bernard's ordination. He now questions his decision. He leans on his friends for help, but will they come through when he needs them the most? Or do they have other intentions?
Teenage lovers littered the little bank of Kono waterside. It was probably the hottest day in the history of that small village in the middle of the southern part of Nigeria. The older people - parents and grandparents - took refuge under all the orange and mango trees, even the guava trees; Very few people had verandas or sheds. The children didn’t have a place to hide their heads from the penetrating sun rays; those that did were not permitted to share with their parents lest they got wind of the latest gossip or ‘adult entertainment’. Even the place Livinus discovered was taken over by Mfon and Tonye who in turn chased them away, but not before Ambrose tied the mangoes and oranges in his shirt; He did this to prevent Matthew from spoiling his only shirt while Livinus packed his efuru: weevil larva.
Ambrose discovered a new place, a mile off, on the opposite side of Livinus’ dethroned spot. To ensure that no one seized it Ambrose made them walk along tall elephant grasses and covered their footprints with leaves and twigs. The rust-coloured leaves were ankle high in the new place. Matthew made a broom with long thin twigs. He had just about finished sweeping when he hit the heel of his left foot on something hard. He made the sign of the cross: hitting your left foot on something was believed to be a bad omen. Livinus, being the least cautious one, pulled Matthew back and tried to dig the round mould out unsuccessfully then Ambrose knocked on it as you would knock on a door. Frustrated, they let it be.
The water was three feet high in a red brick runway, with one end shaped like a spoon and the middle of it like a decorative bowl made from concrete. Livinus went to the bowl to remove the leaves, but when he saw the way the leaves kept rising and falling like breathing, he backed away quietly. Meanwhile, Ambrose pulled weeds from around the stream and along its walls, and Matthew removed the leaves from the water with the broom.
Matthew went to the decorative bowl to remove the leaves. The water squirted on his face. Unable to stop the water’s tirade, he stepped aside to stare at it. It was the first time he had seen anything like that. It was a fountain.
Their desire to discover the source of the water flow was drenched by the cool breeze and their tired limbs. The sunlight did not penetrate the thick canopy of leaves, so they lay down supporting their head with their arms.
“We can do more cleaning tomorrow, what do you think?” Matthew asked.
Ambrose dipped his index finger into the water and tasted it, then bolted upright and cried, “It’s clean water o!”
After lapping some water, one after the other they jumped in and started splashing it on each other. Livinus was the first to step out after about an hour. Ambrose’s eyes fell on something as he climbed out but didn’t want to alert Livinus just in case he would lead them to another default palpitation from the scourge of a cane; it was unlikely for Livinus to stay out of trouble of which he was never a victim.
“I’m going to be a rich man I promise you!” Livinus said sitting on a slab beside the stump of the cashew tree scratching his leg.
“We all want to be rich!” Ambrose responded as he washed the mangoes and set three aside.
“No! You’re not listening. I mean I must be rich. To God, I’ll do anything!”
“Be careful what you wish for!” Ambrose said as he joined them under the tree.
“What will you do if you are rich?” Ambrose asked Matthew and passed a mango to him.
“I’ll take my mother to a new and large house and buy her anything she wants. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it before… maybe I should travel to a place where I would not see Papa, the drunkard.”
“Let nobody hear you call him that o!”
Ambrose twisted his mouth then whispered. “What do you think Livinus will do when he gets rich?”
“Buy new clothes?”
“I think he will pay people to look for trouble.” Ambrose retorted nodding.
Matthew shook his head, smiling, still not understanding Livinus’ and Ambrose’s attitude towards each other.
Livinus paced from one place to another, breaking off branches as he walked along the tall elephant grasses. Ambrose and Matthew delved into their mangoes.
Livinus with eager eyes that looked like they were about to be separated from their sockets said. “Let’s agree that whoever gets rich first will sponsor the others to get to where he is.”
Ambrose and Mathew looked at each other, shrugged and chorused. “Okay!”
After locking pinkies, they went back to their mangoes, except Livinus who returned to pacing. A few minutes later they looked back, wondering why they hadn’t heard Livinus murmuring for a while. When they didn’t see him, they shared his mango among themselves and kept the ones they were taking back close to their makeshift stools.
“Wait o! Do you know the way out of here?” Matthew suddenly looked back at the trees.
“Yes, I marked the path we took. Where is that boy now? Let him not get us into another trouble o! Livinus has gone to look for trouble I’m sure!”
Trouble hmn! Matthew thought and remembered what his mother said on his birthday ‘Son, they will always come and confront me because we are poor. Please stay away from Livinus for your own sake eh! He is a bad influence.’
“Matthew, I saw something earlier. Come, I’ll show you!”
They went and cleared the slab. It was an old well. The inscription on it read:
This is where we met.
This is where our hearts became one.
They may never let us be together, but we’ll always live together here.
This is where we’ll be, and this is where we’ll rest.
Carlton Benedict Bernwick & Idongesit Ekpeyong
“Who do you think they are?” Ambrose asked.
“That is a stupid question I don’t even think my mother was born back then.”
“Be ready, because Livinus will get us into trouble again. I still feel the pain from the last time.” Ambrose winced as he rubbed his upper arms.
“Don’t think like that nawh!” Matthew pleaded.
“Why shouldn’t I eh? You see, you believe anything he tells you, he is only interested in himself, and the only reason he comes back to us is that you will tag along, and I’ll have to follow you and also because -” Ambrose looked ahead and shook his head.
“But he can do it and get away with it after all his father makes sure that anyone who touches him will leave this village before nightfall. No oh! Instead he will come and drag us into it.”
“Why?” Matthew asked, as he threw pebbles into the water and counted the ripples.
“Because he enjoys watching us suffer.”
Ambrose joined him after tying the remaining fruits in his t-shirt. They were still counting ripples when they heard the rustling of leaves. It stopped, and they returned to ripple-counting. They scrambled to their feet when they heard stumping of footsteps and Livinus shouting, “Run!”
“Told you!” Ambrose said.
“Not again!” Matthew cried, sounding scared.
Ambrose was afraid that they might not get out in time, so soon after he tied the t-shirt around his waist, he dragged his friend with one hand and the free hand he used to cover the slab they sat on with sand, leaves, and twigs, and whispered, “We have to hide!”
While they lay in the grass hiding, Livinus ran to the spot they had just covered. When he didn’t see them, he remained standing to wait for his chasers to catch up with him. His chasers all looked at him and eventually started walking away, except for a very fair woman who was as round as the kettle drum in the church; she slapped him and pulled him by the ear. She wouldn’t let go until those with mixed feelings insisted that she made him go. Soon after that, they left the same way they came.
“Let’s go now before the night catches up with us,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose and Matthew laughed all the way home as they recounted the event. Then they branched off to their houses.
In the excitement, Matthew told his mother, Eka-Matty everything and she laughed, shaking her head simultaneously.
“You’re lucky that you had Ambrose with you.” Eka-Matty sighed shaking her head. When will my son learn? “School tomorrow; bed now.”
“Yes mummy…” he rose from the cane chair that was once his father’s, reluctantly, “…good night!”
“Hmn goodnight!” she replied and watched her son exit the sitting room but got distracted by the knock on her door. There was a tear-stricken dishevelled young lady at the door.
“Udeme? Come in! Come in!” Eka-Matty stepped aside to let Udeme in. “What happened?”
They barely sat down before Udeme burst into tears. Eka-Matty crossed the centre-table, sat beside Udeme and rocked her until she was sober.
“It’s him o! And as always, she has taken his side. She even went as far as saying that I can divorce him if I don’t like him... I want to get married and stay married that is why I must marry someone I can manage with you know,” Udeme spoke between sniffles. “Why can’t she understand that? Eh?”
Udeme got up abruptly startling Eka-Matty. “Aunty good night!”
“You just got here,” Eka-Matty said, reluctantly getting up.
“Yes, but I’m going. I just got this marvellous idea. I’ll tell you of the outcome when I’m done.”
“Just make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”
“I won’t Aunty. I promise I won’t.”