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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Call of Ciri (In Series)


(1973. Somewhere in Southern Nigeria)
She was hysterical. None could calm her down. She threw fists with unexpected strength for a girl in her condition and escaped the firm grip of the guard, placed in front of the hut. Like a squirrel, she ran and almost left the wind behind. The guard couldn’t catch up with her but he kept the motion, hoping she wouldn’t emerge out of the bushes, as her figure gradually disappeared from his sight.
But she wasn’t heading for the path that linked to the main road. She knew the shorter way; they took it on that day and she hasn’t forgotten the path. She stopped to catch her breath and her eyes darted behind to confirm she had lost the guard. All of a sudden she collapsed.

At twenty, the attendant couldn’t be that much older than her subject, but in position, she was highly revered in her community by the old and young alike. She was known simply as The Voice and her words were taken as the voice of the oracle and that was the truth. Unfortunately, she had to abandon her duties to the people of Ciri at the demand of higher authority, in order to bring a lost daughter home; to her rightful place.

She went about her work, trying to revive her subject. She had to be awake for what needed to be done. It was the only way out. She placed the wet towel over her subject’s head and heard her moan but she was far from coming to. The attendant remembered Mohammed Adamu and almost giggled.
The man wanted his will done, believed he contracted her to do it but once again, she was only performing the duties she was born to perform.

Mohammed Adamu, she thought, was a very dangerous man to mess with. She looked down at her subject again and wondered why she followed this path of destruction. She knew her destiny, yet she tried to create another one for herself. It wasn’t entirely the young girl’s fault, though. She never would have set her eyes on the Adamus. Her father was the one who set the ball rolling when he sneaked his family out of Ciri to avoid what needed to be done. And in a foreign land, things fell apart. Had it not been for the circumstances, the attendant never could have dreamed of being anywhere near her subject, who was extremely loved, despite the fall.

Sighing, she got up from the bed and picked up the shovel. It was time to finish her work and return to Ciri. With one last look at her subject, she left the hut.

Her eyes fluttered open. It took her a few seconds to gather herself up from the bed and walk silently to the door. The guard was not there, neither was the lady who had promised her safety some months ago when her father had thrown her out. But she had lied. Her attendant had a different mission and waited patiently for the right time; when she would be weakest, to strike.

She followed a sound to the back of the hut and saw the guard and the lady digging a hole big enough to bury someone. She stood there out of their sights, wondering what they were up to when it suddenly dawned on her. It was her grave. Did they think she was dead? Fear gripped her as a tightening in her chest spread up around her lungs and she struggled to breathe. Help me. Help me, I need help. I am alive. I want to be alive. I want to live. For several seconds that seemed like hours, she thought she would collapse to the floor, but as quickly as it happened, it stopped and she gulped in air through her mouth and nostrils. She checked again. They were still digging. Without thinking twice, Omah Shuwa made her move and with each step she took, she walked away from her most recent memories. Some things were very clear to her though; Ciri and the love of her life.

PART ONE (2005)

Ada and Leila


Though the harmattan had reduced considerably, Ada felt she didn’t oil her skin enough before leaving home because of its dryness. She couldn’t even run her hand through her arm as she disliked the dry feeling. She looked out of the window as she drummed on the steering, admiring the dresses on display at a boutique window that was right in her view. Christmas was in the air and the traffic was heavy. She wondered not for the first time, why she drove through Yaba Market, coming from Ikeja, when she could have taken a completely different route to get to her office at Ogunlana Drive, Surulere.

Ada has always been captivated by the market and the shoppers and any opportunity she got to drive through, she never forfeits it. Now, she was stuck just before Ojuelegba, and she needed to be at the office to finish her work before closing for the day.

Christmas! No doubt, many of the shoppers were out shopping against the coming celebration. They had reasons to be happy and to celebrate. Good for them. Ada made a mental note to include a new chapter into the proposal she was developing for a new project her NGO, Bridge, will implement in the next year.

Through Bridge, she has been reaching out to the less privileged in the areas of education and health, and in three years, they have been able to make a difference in quite a number of lives; thanks to the corporate organisations that bought into her projects.

Chuks Igwe, her father, didn’t take her seriously three years ago, when she said she was quitting the law firm to work full time at the NGO, which she had set up five years earlier. By the time he knew how serious she was, there was no talking her out of it, as she had resigned and gotten an office to operate from.

On the other hand, Zim, her husband, had been very supportive and really encouraged her to do whatever made her happy.
Fifteen minutes later, she was walking into her office.
“Remember your appointment with Current Newspaper?” her secretary, Kemi, informed her. “She is here and in the rest room. I’ll send her in immediately she comes in.”
“Thanks,” Ada returned.
“Your husband called,” Kemi said. “Said he couldn’t reach you on your mobile phone. He will be here by 2.30pm. That’s twenty minutes from now.”

Ada walked into her office and shut the door. Immediately reaching for the desk phone, she called Zim’s mobile but couldn’t reach him so she called his office.
“Oh Ada, it’s you… No sorry. I think he’s on his way over,” the receptionist, Kate, told her.
After she hung up, her eyes were closed as she tried to massage a headache away.
“Are you that tired?”

Ada’s eyes flew open as she spun her chair to face the door she didn’t hear open. It was the same face that was standing before her. The same face she looks at every morning in her mirror. And she was smiling at her. Ada didn’t know if she should be happy about this sudden appearance. “Leila?” she asked in a whisper as she got out of her seat.

Her visitor nodded. “Who else will it be silly?” Leila said and opened her arms wide. “Come here and give me a hug. I missed you a lot, my friend and sister.”
All the years of separation and anxiety on her part faded away as they hugged. Ada pulled back and looked at her in silence, wanting to confirm again that this indeed wasn’t a dream. “You were very unfair to me,” she told her friend.
“And my excuses wouldn’t interest you so I wouldn’t bother, but my dear, I am truly sorry. I couldn’t help it. “
“Twelve years!” Ada exclaimed as they took the only sofa in the office.
Leila squeezed Ada’s hands. “Forgive me. Time has a way of just zapping through,” she said taking in every emotion that was playing across Ada’s face. She missed Ada a lot, but they couldn’t have the kind of relationship Ada wished for. And now, it was all about to come to an end.



Their story began when by a stroke of fate they were both enrolled in the same secondary school at Badagry, Lagos state. On the first day of Year One, eleven year old Ada was arranging her bags in her corner at the hostel when another student came and asked if she saw the books.

Ada asked what books and received a strange look from the girl, before she walked away. In three hours after her father left her at the school, there were four other cases of mistaken identity and each time, Ada saw the strange looks and wondered why people were thinking she was somebody else.
She got her answer later that evening when she went to the dining hall for dinner.

“These new students,” the senior who was serving at Ada’s assigned table began. “The food is never enough; you just have to manage what you have been given. Don’t be Oliver by asking for more.”
“I’m sorry,” Ada said. “But I haven’t had any dinner.”

“Did I serve your ghost?” the senior asked and received a nudge from a fellow senior who was standing by her. The other one pointed down the table at someone and Ada’s eyes followed. “Oh, lucky us to have twins at our table.”

The girl in question wasn’t looking their way but talking to someone else. Ada got her food and sat down, but couldn’t take her eyes away. She wanted to see the girl’s face. The girl beside Ada asked how come she and her sister came to school on different days and Ada shook her head not knowing what to say.

“You better start eating because once the bell rings, you cannot take the food to the hostel, as you have to get your books for evening prep,” the girl beside Ada said.
So Ada ate and continued to steal glances, but her supposed twin never for once turned her head for Ada to get a good glance.

On the way out of the dining hall, Ada walked slowly so that the other girl could get closer, but it was in vain because all of a sudden, her supposed twin, who still hadn’t looked Ada’s way, turned and walked in the opposite direction to meet a student, so Ada sighed and left to get her books, thinking the girl probably had noticed her and was avoiding contact.

The other girl had indeed noticed Ada long before all the episodes of the mistaken identity. She had been at the administrative block when Ada arrived with her father. While the man came to the block to finish the registration for his daughter, Ada stayed behind, sitting on the car bonnet waiting for him.
Leila had adjusted her beret to avoid unnecessary questions and she listened to some of the man’s conversation and picked out the girl’s name. She finished her business but didn’t return to her class. Instead she hung around out of the sight of the intruders and watched father and daughter. Another student helped them carry some of Ada’s bags and soon enough father and daughter waved goodbye.

Leila watched her as she stood there, watching her father drive away, leaving her behind. Leila wished she could match up there, seize Ada by the arm and tell her to follow her father and get as far away as possible from the school, and from her. But she couldn’t do anything about it. Whether she liked it or not, their paths were bound to cross and the time had been picked.

So, after class, she didn’t go to the hostel because at the administrative block and from what she heard that man say, Ada was in her hostel. She hid herself in the library so as not to be discovered when she was supposed to be in the hostel for her siesta.

At dinner, Leila discovered they were at the same table also. She saw Ada walking towards the table and immediately started a conversation with the girl next to her. Thankfully, no one said anything. She heard the senior refer to them as twins and realised that was what everyone would conclude. She wished Ada to look away from her, but the girl wouldn’t. Leila felt uncomfortable and when the bell rang signaling end of dinner, she was the first to jump up, but instead of walking past Ada or in the same direction towards the door, she fled the girl.

On the second day, Ada cornered the girl, who was evidently avoiding her. Even in the hostel the night before, after prep, Leila hurriedly got ready for bed and climbed unto her top bunk space long before it was lights out, so she wouldn’t have to face Ada.

While Ada was in Class 1a, Leila was in Class 1b, so Ada watched out for her and after classes, saw her approaching the library and went with her. At the sound of the lunch bell, the library emptied, but Leila remained at the far corner out of sight, so Ada crawled up on her.

“Hi,” Ada said, finally getting a good look at the girl and understanding why people think they look alike, because, Ada felt as though she was staring at her own reflection.
Leila looked up from her book and sighed. “What?” she asked rather sadly.
“Aren’t you going for lunch?”
Leila smiled. “You have been trying to get my attention since you discovered my existence, and now that you do it is to ask me about lunch?”
Ada hesitated. “You’ve been avoiding me.”
Leila shrugged.
Ada put out her hand. “I am Ada.”
“I know who you are, Ada Igwe.”
“Hmmm.” Leila got up and packed her books. “We might just as well go for lunch because now you have made me hungry.”
“You speak with a British accent,” Ada noticed as they walked side by side. She still couldn’t believe what was happening.
“I am British and from hearing you, I guess you are new in Nigeria. Yes?”
Ada nodded. “My mum died in New York, so dad decided we should relocate.”

Leila was silent and seemed lost in thoughts as they got to the library doors. “You should have stayed there, Ada,” Leila said as she pulled the door open. They both stopped and looked at each other. While Ada still wore an unbelieving look on her face as she examined Leila’s features in the open, Leila seemed to be seeing beyond their present, as she stared deep into Ada’s eyes. She saw herself falling into a deep darkness, and a hand snatched her out and into the light, and she looked up to see the owner of the hand that saved her was Ada.  Leila swallowed hard and tore her eyes away from Ada’s. Something had changed. Ada wasn’t the enemy. Ada could help her. Ada could save her. Ada brought peace; the type she hasn’t experienced since her mother passed.

“I cannot believe how alike we look,” Ada said.
Leila smiled sadly. “If we are late to the dining hall, we will be punished,” she said walking away fast, Ada hurrying after her. “And should anyone ask, just say we are cousins so we can have peace because they will want to know why we have different names and all that.”
“But we are not cousins,” Ada said.
“Neither are we twins, but look at us, if you didn’t know, will you believe it? So, please, let them think whatever they want. And my name is Leila Usman.”
“You are Hausa?” Ada was expecting an Igbo name.
“My mum and yours were identical twins from the South. Yours married your father, mine married my father, thus our names,” Leila said.
They were already at the dining hall entrance. “What?”  Ada asked unbelievably.
“That is how we explain it to them, so we can have peace, Ada. Please.”
Ada nodded and Leila walked on ahead of her, while she stared at her.

The eleven year old girls became very close friends in school and on visitation day, when Ada introduced Leila to her father, she could see the shock in Chuks’ eyes.
“This is unbelievable,” he said and when Ada told him what the whole school believes them to be, he wasn’t happy. “I don’t think that is wise and besides that is lying.”

At the end of the term, they were sad to wave their goodbyes. Leila was going to the North while Ada would be in Lagos. They promised to write each other every week.

Chapter 3 and 4 to be posted tomorrow.

The Call of Ciri is Available on Okadabooks here and Smashwords here.

About the book
The Call of Ciri could only be ignored for as long as 'It' permitted. There was a set time for everything.

One woman’s mistake will cost three others their happiness.

Omah’s future was already written in stone until her father dared fate. Death hovered always around her loved ones.

Ada’s life was simple and beautiful until destiny threw her into the path of

Leila, who was tormented by her dreams and visions. Both bear an uncanny resemblance that was difficult to ignore and stirred deep secrets. While Ada wanted answers which her father couldn’t provide, Leila wanted the past to remain asleep but her actions were beyond her control and bound to hurt the people she loved.

Funmi; meant to be the new beginning, was the link that brought all these women together, thereby setting the dice rolling towards the end of their happiness.