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 Episode  7

“We want the best for you princess, a man who can give you all you need and will be able to take care of you and your children when the gods bless your womb; a man with a strong arm who will be able to protect you, a good man who has no stain to his name. Adolfo likes to read, he also teaches history at the temple school in his spare time, he only has one child, a son, who will not trouble you at all... He is a fine young man who manages his father's business. He travels to the museum close to the market place with his friends, according to his father. He is also brilliant like Adolfo, so you won’t have a problem being a step mother to him. Adolfo is very intelligent and smart, he's only forty three..."

Zity, who was in tears told her parents boldly

“I said I will never marry him, I won’t father. no matter what you and mother say, I won’t marry a man old enough to be my father, a man I don’t even have any feeling for. What kind of parents are both of you, sending your daughter to an old man to be his wife? Allow me to make my own choice… I've tried not to disobey you, I sit when I’m asked to sit, I go out when I’m permitted to go out, I do everything I’m asked to do... Even when Tamar was brought to me, I did not want her at first but I ended up with her because you both insisted, lots of other things have happened, but I have no choice than to accept and now this one… No way!. I won’t marry him, I swear by the gods I won’t, I’m old enough to make my own choice, I want someone as young as Vim, somebody filled with youthful pleasure, Adolfo or whatever his name is will not even be romantic, stop making choices for me… I love another person not Adolfo, the choices you make for me are usually bad, the gods bear me witness this day, I won’t marry him, to hell with him and everyone who wants me to be sad..."

She cleared her throat and continued, "..

Father, you are just being self centered, because he's one of your wealthiest friends and you've decided to push your only daughter to him… What kind of father are you? And mother, you always agree to everything father says or does… This is pure wickedness…"

I watched as Lord Reese stood up angrily and slapped his daughter across the face and everyone was shocked.

 Zity was shocked to the bones as she left her mouth wide open and her hand stuck on her right cheek. 

Lady Phin begged her husband to calm down, Vim looked at his father unbelievably and shook his head, while Zity, who was standing all this while, slumped into a chair and burst into fresh tears. 

I just guessed she had not been beaten before, that’s why everyone seemed surprised at Lord Reese's reaction.

 Vim spoke angrily: 

“Father, that wasn’t necessary, you don’t have to strike her to pass your message! What has got into everyone in this house? Zity deserves to make her choice, she says she doesn’t want Adolfo and you have other young, wealthy friends of about thirty years old, who are not married, and have not been married. You can choose for her from among them since you don’t want her to make her choice or be with the person she says she's in love with. Can’t she be allowed to make her choice? She's no more fifteen, father. she can differentiate good from bad, Zity is no longer a child, and from what I heard, nobody picked wife for you... You chose mother at a young age, she fell in love with you and you both got married. You have been together ever since, growing old together... The love you share has not faded... I watch both of you and smile... That’s how marriage is supposed to be. Also give Zity that chance, father please... Mother, please talk to father because I know he only listens to you. Mother, when you brought Tamar and handed her over to Zity, she had no choice than to accept her, we all deserve some chances in our lives to make our own choices. Hitting her was not necessary father, there’s a better way to correct her and make her see reasons why you have chosen Adolfo for her, it shouldn’t be forced down her throat... We live in a land that allows us to worship different gods, and also gives us freedom to do whatever we want without restrictions..."

His father quickly interjected,

“Not to live a carefree life and make mistakes right under my nose! I'm your father and when I speak, I expect it to stand! The citizens of this land take my words seriously, they obey every word I say, yet my own children play and toy with it, and question me at every given opportunity. I'm the kind of father that wants the best for his children and will not watch any of you make a bad choice that you'll regret later. Vim, I may not have control over what you do because you're a grown man and you're supposed to know the right thing. I feel proud of the fine young man you've become, but I sometimes feel disappointed at the way you live your life. These few weeks, you have been home and seem calm and collected, having few friends who visit, unlike before. Although I don’t know what you're up to with this recent behavior of yours, which is so much unlike you; I know my two children like the back of my palms. Abel behaves more like a son to me, because I have watched him grow into the man he is today, and he has never disappointed me. I can trust him with everything and feel at peace... Why can’t two of you learn from what is happening around you? Don’t feel too big to learn even from a common slave! Zity was taught how to read and write at home, and you, Vim, we sent you to one of the best learning institutes with great and most sought after teachers, to tutor you. Everything I have laboured for is for you and your sister. You can choose to do away with them when the gods call me to rest, and I won’t be there to see what you are doing. I'll be resting from all the toils and labor of life... Your mother and I won't see the mess you'll become if you continue with your reckless lifestyle. I have done my own part as a father and your mother has sacrificed too much for this household. The little we ask is to be obeyed, respected and loved as we both deserve... Stop being selfish, it's not always about you, it's about everyone, because the mistake you make today will affect those close to you tomorrow..."

Turning to Zity, Lord Reese continued, "...i slapped you Zity, because you needed to be cautioned... There are things a child doesn’t say in the presence of her parents and if I need to do it again, I will, if that will make you to listen and heed advice. Nobody hates you... We love you Zity, you're our princess and all we want is only the best for you, if I say you should marry Adolfo, it's just because I know he's a good man and he can take good care of you. He's a young friend to me, he got married in time and lost his wife during childbirth. Adolfo has never remarried, he single handedly brought up his only son, who is all grown now. Adolfo has maintained a good name, and has remained committed to his book. Reading makes him feel alive. He saw you one day coming out of his estate with your maid, Tamar. I asked you what you went to do in Adolfo’s estate and you said you rode on a chariot to visit one of your sick friends there. I believed you because you've never lied to me and your mother. Adolfo saw you there twice and asked about you and he was told whom you were, and he came to see me... Adolfo is the third district ruler which practically makes you the queen of that district if you get married to him. I’m not going to allow you make a wrong decision by choosing one ordinary boys of this kingdom, who still want to live carelessly, like your brother Vim. I don’t want you to have too much regrets, I love you my princess, I want you to be happy and I know with time, you'll learn to love Adolfo when you see how good a man he is. Just give him a chance and we'll try to reduce our involvement in your personal life. Your mother and I want the best for you, princess. At least, you have come to realize that the young maiden we've got for you is actually not ugly and you seem to be happy with her now. I have overheard her singing and telling you stories, she's humble and cares deeply for you like she will do to her sister. Tamar was a bad choice to you at first because you saw only the outward part of her but we looked beyond that and felt at peace with her. We always have the best at heart for you, give Adolfo a chance and be loyal and respectful to him. Develop love in your heart for him, he deserves it, and allow him to be the husband of your dreams. Everything depends on you, but I know lucrus, the goddess of fertility will see you through and bless your womb with both male and female…"

The wedding preparation began, but nobody knew of Zity and Adolfo’s son, Chakan. She was not allowed to go out again, she stayed indoors to undergo some cleansing before her wedding day.

The day Adolfo visited, he was not old like Zity’s father, who was almost sixty. Adolfo was forty-three years old and he looked even younger than his age, and was also handsome. He dressed like a wealthy, learned man and was very fluent in speech.

Lord Reese and some other men sat in the big sitting chamber, while Adolfo told them about historical events and with the way he made his points intelligeni everyone listened with rapt attention.

I was among the people that served food and drinks on the first marriage gathering. Zity was quiet, she seemed to have her own plan as she pretended to be happy and calm, but I knew even her laughter wasn’t real, her heart was with Chakan, who sat beside his excited father. Chakan and Zity exchanged looks shyly, they were cautious so as not to attract attention to themselves.

On their wedding day, I saw different kinds of dressing, different dishes were prepared; different classes of guests were present. We were given fine clothes to wear.

 Zity was beautifully dressed, she looked stunning as they covered her face with a veil and when Adolfo pulled it off, she smiled. The officiating priest, an old man, bound their hands with a colorful rope, which signified that their home would be exciting and colorful. The marriage vows were exchanged, they drank the blessed water which was offered to them and I watched Zity smile adorably as Adolfo kissed her. 

I observed Chakan’s face as he watched his father and Zity. His face was expressionless, I couldn’t tell if he was happy or sad, his eyes were fixed on Zity, the binding rope was later loosened and Adolfo danced with his wife.

After the ceremony, Zity followed her husband back to his estate. I was asked to stay behind for sometime until Zity settled in and send for me, so I stayed, working with other household maids.

Abel came back and I couldn’t hold back my excitement. I embraced him tightly and warmly, and refused to let him go, even after seeing that Vim passed by and saw me. 

Abel was laughing at my cheerfulness.

 when I disentangled myself from his embrace, I kissed the back of his palm joyfully, which showed sign of respect. 

He gently squeezed my shoulder with a smile before going to greet Vim who was standing at his chamber’s balcony watching us.

 Vim shook him warmly with a smile, and responded very well to Abel’s greeting. Vim asked him how his journey went, Abel replied affirmatively.

 After the pleasantries, Abel went inside to greet Lord Reese and his wife, Lady Phin. 

I waited for him outside by the door as he sat down with them and discussed his journey and business trip , which were successful at the end after encountering few problems that made him stay longer than necessary. 

Everyone seemed so happy to see him back, especially me.

 I missed him so much. I was outside, waiting for Abel so that I could tell him everything that happened while he was away. 

Vim came and saw me there and I bowed my head in respect. He stopped and looked at me. He wanted to say something but decided against that. Instead, he walked into his father’s chamber where Abel was.

Abel stayed long talking and laughing with them. 

 I decided to go to the water fall, where he usually sut and prayed. I sat there, hoping he would come out soon and join me.

Since Zity left with Adolfo, her husband, to his estate, I had less work to do around here. I just joined other slaves to do few things sometimes, waiting till the time Zity would send for me.

I waited there for a very long time. It was already evening before Abel showed up. He had refreshed and changed his cloth before coming down to the fountain which we also called the water fall. He looked so handsome in his new cloths, and had shed some weight compared with the last time I saw him.

 I ran straight to him again and hugged him and he held my hand as we walked back to the fountain and sat down on a chair.

I thank God for making his journey a success, everyday without him in the house was so lonely. 

Vim may be right about Abel: I have never seen him pick interest in any woman. I was the only girl mostly seen around him and yet he treated me like his sister. 

I liked Abel because he built my faith and he had a good heart. 

I liked it whenever he smiled at me, it melts my heart.

If he ever wanted to have a family tomorrow, I knew his wife would also be a believer just like him and she would be one of the luckiest women because Abel would make a good husband and a great father too.

Talking about marriage, I hope Zity makes a good wife to Adolfo.


Episode 8

I sat quietly beside Abel at the fountain as he shut his eyes and began to pray silently, only to my hearing. 

I wanted to shut my own eyes but I needed to know when someone was coming, so, I waited for him to finish so that I could tell him all that was on my mind.

“If I have a thousand tongues, it's never enough to thank you. I’m always grateful to you alone Lord, for all your mercies towards me and this household, and also to Tamar, the girl you led me to find and save. She lost everything but never lose You because You are ever present father. You are our sustainer in time of need, our rescuer in time of trouble. Out of no way, you have made a way, I thank you for my successful journey. You made it possible, You led me out and brought me back because you said in your word that our going out and coming in shall always be blessed. I came back in peace not in pieces and met everyone I left behind in perfect condition. I’m grateful for this, oh Lord, only You deserve the glory, only you Lord, not the empty gods of this land, for your words say that those who makes them are like them. In wisdom I ask that you'll always guide us, and may we always find favour before men and women, take away our fears and give us boldness to stand out for you. The people of this land are lost in darkness, they hate anything that comes from You... Please father, help them to see the light that they may come to know you and the power in your name. Thank you Lord for our answered prayers, in Jesus name…"

We both chorused "Amen" together in a low voice. 

He bowed his head for sometime without opening his eyes, and when he later did and turned to look at me, our eyes met. He smiled and returned his gaze to the water fall.

 I was looking at him, smiling and wishing I had his kind of faith.

 We were both silent as we concentrated on the water fall and it’s pleasurable noise. 

I just admired God’s wonderful work. No human had been able to comprehend the ways God worked.

“I was told that Zity had been married off, and that she would send for you later. Do you ever wish to be married some day?"

The question took me off guard, though I had this beautiful feeling, like butterflies in my stomach when Abel looked at me intently and asked the question. 

My palms started sweating, I began to blush. 

I had laid on my bed on so many occasions, and wished for many good things like getting married to a God-fearing man like Abel.

 I imagined having beautiful kids and having a family that loved God. 

I had wished for many good things, yet I was just a common slave who couldn't have anything until I was set free by my owner.

"Will Zity ever agree to set me free?" I thought deeply to myself.

 It could only be when a free born of the land or somebody like Abel showed interest in getting married to me; only then would I be free but I was stuck with Zity for now, and I would serve her because that’s what I had been called to do.

I can't get married or do anything of choice until Zity, whom I'm bound to serve for life decided to free me from the chain of slave.

Until then, I do not have right to do as I please.

Abel took my sweating palm firmly into his and asked again when I didn't reply to his first question

“...Why do you feel uncomfortable with the question, don’t you want to have a family of your own someday? Oh... Sorry, If I’m making you uneasy, but you're growing into one of the most beautiful maidens in this household. It's been almost four years that I was led to you. Tamar, time flies so fast. You're no more the scared, worn out, naive little girl I bought from the merchant for just fifteen shillings. I told you on that first day that you were special and you truly are. I know you have worries but first, in everything, love the Lord, put Him first. In all your ways, acknowledge him and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Don’t be defined by where you've found yourself, instead, stand out and be a vessel of honor to everyone who comes in contact with you…"

I kept quiet as Abel spoke. I had few questions that I wanted to ask, so I enquired:

“The people of this land do different abominable things, and most of the food we eat here are offered to their gods first, before preparing it for the consumption of the house. Sometimes, I get scared while eating, praying quietly that nothing happens to me. If I have a choice I'll never eat any of those cursed food of theirs…"

Abel interrupted and said

“Rejoice, because you have something to eat daily, who are you to call the food bad, when the Lord has not said so? For whatever the Lord has made is pure and good, for many are looking for such opportunity, to live in a house filled with plenty like this place. What they do before or after the food is cooked shouldn’t bother you, all that matters is that you give thanks to God, who has made provision for every food and drink., You're not offering thanks to a carved image made by mortal men but to God who made it possible. Tamar, don’t be scared of eating any food in this house, for what you eat does not defile you but the word that comes out of your mouth does..." 

“You seem to have answers to many questions, Abel. I overheard someone saying that you've been celibate, meaning that you don’t have interest in women… Is that true? Don’t you want to have a family of your own someday too?"

I asked him

“I embraced celibacy for now because I've been lost to the world and gained from the Lord. I know you won't understand, but the truth is that I have not yet seen whom to start a family with. Tamar, I walk according to the Lord’s direction, he leads and I follow. If it pleases Him that I'll remain this way till he calls me to glory, I'll gladly stay pure for Him. I don’t live for myself anymore, I live for God alone. I don’t want to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Tamar, our bodies are the temple of the Lord and should be kept holy at all time, so that He can live in us and direct our ways. We shouldn’t defile ourselves with the things of this world, we should be holy because the Holy Spirit, who is our comforter and advocate does not dwell in a dirty environment or in a confused body. If you follow the ways of this world, they will lead you astray, but I urge you to follow the Lord’s way and find your footing."

“I've really missed you Abel," I said to him. "..Your word is always an encouragement to me. I always feel so close to God when you're around, filling me in with the word of God. I thank God for bringing you my path everyday. I could have lost it, I would have probably ended up like the people of this land, if not you. Though it will never be enough, I want to say: thank you, thank you again and again for everything…"

The day went on as usual.

 during my spare time, I sat with Abel and allowed him to tell me about the Lord.

Lady Phin sent for me one day and told me that her husband, Lord Reese wanted to see me.

 I went straight to his chamber. Lady Phin sat beside him, Vim was there too and also Obia, one of the maids was also standing there. 

Lord Reese cleared his throat and said,

“Obia, repeat exactly what you told us about Tamar…" 

“My lord and lady, I caught her again. Tamar was giving money to somebody, sometimes to different men. Some are also women. She's is a thief, she usually steals our master’s money and goes out to buy something and give to some people on her way to the market, and also on the road that leads to the temple. I followed her without her knowledge and found out where those people stayed. I’m not lying, I've seen her severally. Sometimes it's either money or she buys things… If I lie against her, let twail the god of thunderstorm strike me dead. I've seen her many times before coming to report her to you my lord, I could have gone to Abel but Abel was on a journey then, and he may have chosen to favour her, that’s why I came here," Obia narrated.

Vim looked at me expressionless and bowed his head. 

Lord Reese and Lady Phin were both staring at me, obviously astonished. 

I bowed my head not in shame or because Obia told lies against me, but because that was a normal thing to do. I was afraid, yes I was, but something within me wanted me to be bold like a lion.

 Nevertheless, I feared for what they would do or say to me. The room was silent after Obia's narration. 

Lord Reese spoke again,

“Tamar, you know what we do to people that steal. You know what we do to slaves who steal from their masters or mistresses. We tie their faces and bodies to a tree and strip them. We give them painful strokes of an intertwined whip until their skin peels off and bleed. We leave scars on them which will always remind them never to steal again. Why will you steal from us? You have everything at your disposal, we treat everyone in this house equally; much better than how most households treat their slaves. I thought you were a good girl, that was why I wanted you for my daughter. Taking things that doesn't belong to you is bad and that is stealing! You stole and then took the money to some people! Why, Tamar?"

I breathed in deeply, I tried to speak but words failed to come out of my mouth. Vim looked at me before saying,

“Father, I don’t believe Tamar stole the money Obia saw her with. Probably, Zity gave it to her. We all know that Tamar doesn’t steal, why will she start now? I don’t believe Obia, it's obviously not Tamar that she saw because she cannot do such a thing, she…"

He suddenly stopped as his parents stared at him surprisingly with the way he defended me. 

I saw Obia boiling in anger as Vim spoke in my defense.

 I was also shocked to my marrow to hear him defend me the way he did. In all honesty, I never expected it. I thought he would support Obia, and with what happened between both of us at the fountain, I thought he hated me so much.

They returned their gaze back at me, urging me to open up about where I got all the money Obia said she saw me with. I summoned courage and spoke, still bowing my head.

“The master gives us one shilling everyday to do as we please with it and I have been saving mine. After sometime, I found out I had no need for the money in my disposal. I everything I wanted was in the house. I have been blessed with so much here, I have good food, good cloths and good shelter, while there are so many beggars on the streets who barely have anything to eat, so…so I shared it to them... Sometimes, I buy food and wears with my shillings and give to them… I have never stolen before, my Lord… I’m sorry if what I did was against the law of the land or this household. I was touched by the plight of so many beggars anytime I passed through the market and temple roads… I apologize my Lord and my Lady..."

Everywhere became silent again. Lord Reese asked Obia to leave his chamber after warning her not to bring any report that she wasn’t sure of to him ever again. 

She bowed and left immediately. 

I could see anger written all over her as she walked out. 

Vim was staring at me, Lord Reese seemed to be in deep thoughts. He looked at me and smiled, while Lady Phin, who had been silent all this while spoke:

“My husband, I have told you that I will sell Obia, she's filled with envy and jealousy, she's so bitter and has seductive spirit. I will sell that girl, she's getting out of hand."

Turning to me, she asked, "..Tamar, why would you give out the only possession you've got? Your one shilling which the master gives to all the household slaves everyday, is just a shilling which is not much. You gave them all to beggars, I…I’m touched by your kind heart, you didn't have much yet, you gave up the little you had to street beggars who were not in any way related to you. You don’t need to apologize my child, the one shilling is yours; you can do whatever you please with it. You're a good child and have proven it in different ways, I’m always glad that I chose you for Zity.

Please get your things ready, Zity has sent for you, it's been five months since she got married, and she sent a message across to us sometime last month for you to come but we were already used to you and didn’t feel like parting with you. She has sent another message this month that she'll come and get you herself if you don’t come back to her, so we are ready to let you go back to her, we'll really miss you Tamar..."

I smiled and bowed my head without uttering a word. Vim, who seemed uncomfortable with the news of me going back to Zity spoke,

“Father, mother… Zity has many servants and maids in her husband’s estate. The last time I went there, she had many slaves attending to her. Why does she still want Tamar? I don’t like that Adolfo's son, Chakan, he may want to take advantage of Tamar… I don’t like the idea of sending Tamar to Zity. I care for her wellbeing like every other person, that’s all... Slaves are also human too. If you still want her to return to Zity, no problem…"

“Tamar belongs to your sister, not to us. Vim what is going on with you? Why the sudden care for Tamar? Tamar is a special child, she's not like your April or Obia. Hope all this care is pure? Stay away from her if your thoughts towards her are not pure! You baffle me, I don’t even understand you again Vim. What is this sudden change all about my son? I wonder when you started caring so much about a slave. Anyway, if the gods permit, Tamar will return to your sister in a week's time. She belongs to Zity not to us. Adolfo will not allow harm to befall anybody under his care, and Zity won't allow Adolfo's son to come close to Tamar. With what I've heard, Chakan is a well-behaved young man, so, bury your worries my son, we all care about Tamar’s well-being too."

I was later dismissed, and I got ready to return to Zity. A day before I left, I saw Obia, at the back house, burning incense and crying out to her stone god. 

I stood very close and watched her, she turned and rolled her eyes at me and continued doing her enchantment. 

I waited there until she was done before I approached her: “Obia, I’m not angry with you for reporting me to our master and mistress. I understand you didn’t know that the money you saw me spend was all mine, I don’t steal, I have no reason to do so. It will only make me ungrateful if I ever do such…"

“Why are you telling me this, what do you want? You almost interrupted my conjuration, and my evening enchantment! Don’t ever come close to me if you see me in the mood of worship to my god who blesses my sorcery powers…"

“Why does your enchantment sound as if you were crying out of agony? Was your god oppressing you? Do you think your so called god cares about you? I know we have freedom to worship anything and anyone, but if this is what you have chosen, then, I'll leave you alone. But just tell me what your god has ever done for you ever since you have been in service to it…"

“You better mind what you say, because Venus, the goddess of both love and kindness does not take likeness to insults, Obia retorted and continued.

"..If you want to know what Venus has done for me, I will tell you. I prayed to her to make lord Vim to fall for me, and she granted my desires, and Lord Vim started desiring me. Suddenly after few years of you being here, Vim no longer looks at me or wants me any more. I took note of the way he defended you inside the master’s chamber,. It seemed you came and used your charm to turn his eyes away from me, and also made Lord Reese and Lady Phin to take likeness to you. Vim, now wants you instead of me and I've seen the way he looks at you most times, do not even mistake it for love because Lord Vim is not capable of loving anyone, he'll use you and dump you like a vulture does to a carcass. I just burnt incense to Venus the goddess of kindness to favor me and bring him back, and also to make me find favor before the master and mistress. I've asked Venus to destroy every power you're using to find favour from our master. I've tried different acts of seduction for Vim but, it didn't work out. I'll pray everyday, sacrifice animals, roll on the floor, pour dust on my body and cut myself with a blade until I bleed... I'll let Venus drink my blood, and burn candles and incense to Venus if that’s what it will take to get Vim back, because when he's on my side I can get away with anything I do. Someday, I dreamt of being his wife and owning this entire palace and estate, it will be a day of joy, a dream come true. Venus has already started working for me, goddess of kindness has begun to favour me, Venus has taken obstacles like you off my way... I heard that Zity sent for you and that you'll soon return to her, so, Venus has started working for my good, and very soon it will be perfected, just watch and see…" She ranted endlessly.

I shake my head in pity for Obia, and walked away from her.

 She acted like one of those temple prostitutes. So fetish and possessed.

 she could do anything to get Vim to her side, and I was never in any competition with her. 

She is beautiful with fine body shape like one of those their goddess, she can still get Vim with her appearance that's if he's not already tired of her.

 Vim didn't even like me, he probably defended me that day because God wanted somebody to stand up for me after the accusation from Obia. 

All I’m concerned about was returning to Zity, she needed me.

Adolfo’s slave, a young lad came for me the following day and I hugged and waved Abel good bye.

 I will miss him so much.

 He said a quiet prayer for me as I went to meet him before leaving, but I felt comfortable he's not too far away. 

I also had beautiful memories that we shared in my heart: those times we prayed at the fountain and the undiluted word of God he shared with me. I cherished every moment I spent with him, it was always fulfilling.

I waved everyone goodbye and left with Adolfo's slave who came to get me and he also helped me with some of my luggage. 

I saw Vim watching from his chamber where he stood with a sad countenance.

 As I crossed the streets still within his father’s estate, I looked back and noticed that Vim was still up there watching me. 

I silently prayed that Obia’s sorcery powers will not work on him.

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