I always watched her dance in the moonlight when it was night time. Her name was Arewà. She was the best dancer in the whole Alágbède town, she practiced hard and retained her crown. I remember cursing the clouds whenever they didn’t open up for the moon’s rays to shoot upon the dark. It was always harder to decipher her slim, rubber-like figure, in the cold grin of the darkness. I had been watching her for years, I could recite her dance steps in my head. She always carried her old cassette player, to play her special songs. Only if I was a great dancer, I would have matched her ability and been closer to her.
Here I was, the only child of the shoe shiner, and the son of the village’s ‘Mama Put’ (local canteen) owner. My only free time was the time I went to watch her dance. I was always praying that if maybe, someday, she’ll connect with me somehow. I knew the truth, we were of a different social class; hers was surely higher than mine. I still never dressed haggard or like a shoemakers son. What people never knew, was that my mother made a lot of money than the farmers. Mum loved humility and acting like she has nothing so that she can gain more from people.
Something happened one day that changed my story drastically. News had gone round town that Arewà’s heart had been broken by her boyfriend; Dòtun. That he had eyes for the Chief’s daughter, after 5 years of a solid relationship with Arewà. I got this first-hand news from my mums canteen, where I was the manager. Different people from different walks of life always had some new story daily. A few people laughed at the news, but I was saddened in my heart. What sort of man would leave such a beautiful woman like Arewà? I couldn’t fathom.
I had been sneaking behind the trees for every single night for three weeks. Arewà had not showed up, she never came around to dance at her spot. It was really strange. I had almost given up when I checked one night when I heard slow footsteps arrive towards the empty space. In the dim light, I could see a seemingly dejected figure, with the head downwards in sadness and her cassette player in her hands. It was Arewà! I surely didn’t like seeing her like that. I heard her mutter to herself “Where do I start? Are there any good guys I can still trust?” She was then silent for about a minute while she shook her head and wiped a few tears.
She gathered herself together, played the music and began dancing. It was slow, and lacked the right energy, she even missed the rhythm, but she started. From a look of sadness on my face, I began to smile, she was finding her feet, and the dance was getting into her, the energy was coming in! I know she had it in her; beautiful!! I knew she was stronger than she thought. What dirty, heartless guy would leave someone this good and loyal? I closed my eyes to feel the effect of evening breeze better, it brought a calming feeling. As I opened my eyes, I saw only darkness! The clouds had covered the moon again. These clouds have no chill at all!
I heard a loud thud on the ground. My face changed. What just happened? Was she being kidnapped? I took a couple of steps out of the trees to where she should be. I saw her curled figure on the ground, with the cassette player crushed underneath her. She was hurt. I immediately ran to her and said: “Arewà, are you okay?” There was a muffled response. That very minute, the clouds gave way and I suddenly found our eyes locked in a gaze. Her skin glowed in the dark, her caramel colour shone brightly. “Alao? Is that you?” I swallowed a huge ball of saliva before I replied her. “Yes, it is I, Alao, son of Morenkeji the cook. I can see that you have hurt your legs. Let me carry you home”
I carried her in my strong arms before she gave a reply. All my muscles were prepared for this occasion. Pounding yam every day isn’t easy at all, my arms were weak, but my adrenaline came into play. As I carried her majestically to her father’s house, she whispered “I always knew someone was watching me, I just never knew who. Now I know it’s you. It’s good to have a strong and hard working man like you around……”
That was the last thing I remember her saying that night because I have lived on cloud nine since that day. I and Arewà are still deeply in love today.
One day she visited me at home and watched me prepare àmàlà. She helped with the sieving of the èlùbó (white powdered form of àmàlà ), and with the preparation of ewedu stew. We were discussing how our lives changed in such a short time and how our love had brought us so much peace and comfort.
As I poured the èlùbó into the hot boiling water, it immediately turned brown as it always does. She then laughed and said: “That’s how our lives changed immediately fate brought us together that night”. She splashed some white èlùbó on my face and joked “You like brown àmàlà right? Why not try some èlùbó ”
I laughed and replied as I used my hand to block my face, “Our story is an Àmàlà love story, we have moved from the èlùbó phase to the official àmàlà phase.” We both laughed hard as I tried to get the lumps already formed in the àmàlà due to our many jokes. It ended up as a lump-full àmàlà , but we ate it in joy.
I realized that sometimes in life, when we choose to stay diligent, following after what we love the most, and not give up on it, it’ll one day become ours. Such is my àmàlà love story… Don’t give up on yours.
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