The White Robe

by Oluwaseun Ogunbiyi

Sholedolu withdrew himself with disgust and utmost disappointment. He never imagined that Moyosore, his newly wedded bride of seemingly such substance and integrity; from a decent family background could be treacherous and bitter as gall. He was lost in tormenting thoughts as he gazed incessantly at the radiant reflection of the moonlit that subtly pierced its way through the claustrophobic room.

He thought about the reproach that she had brought upon herself and both families; the cruel capabilities of the tap-mouthed villagers and most significantly, the incredibly large sum of gifts and bride price paid to unworthy in-laws. He stared harder. But now, more focused on the white robe spread on the well weaved mat. It was merely rumpled. It ought to be soiled as well. Variegated with the pure color of red and innocence. This is filth, he thought. Fury began to replace his once deepened affection. He looked her straight in the eye and asked

"Where is your dripping red stream?"

She quivered with fear and shame. Her throat turned dry. Her mouth remained sticky as she stuttered. She could not utter a clear word.

Sholedolu felt rage ruffling within him. He rushed out and slammed the feeble thatched door that made her gasp in shock. Tears began to encompass her parched cheeks. Her memories searched her past. She remembered the first time she lost her innocence to a man. It was with Akinlaja, the great hunter; who was devoured by tree gods for trespassing sacred boundaries. He was handsome and brisk. His boldness was impeccable even till the point of his death.

She remembered vividly when they met at their clandestine place. It was beneath the Iroko tree at fair dusk. He would come and recite her ravishing poems with scintillating flattery.

She remembered those luring words that calmed her weariness to clod.

"That this deed between us would be kept secret and serve as an oath that would fortify our love, now and forever."

Perchance, Akinlaja's distinct qualities and luring words had made her fall intensely in love with him; and lust had made them go all the way. It was no substantial excuse. For it had always been the responsibility of a well tutored lady to restrain herself from every lustful persuasion of a curious young man. But she failed. She portrayed her weakness, just as a boiling egg in its crack. Now, she had to confront the consequences and repercussions of her own susceptibilities.

Sholedolu gushed in as with the rage of freed mighty waters. In his hands were a sharp razor and a handful of ashes. He scraped her graceful tresses and then painted queerly her scalp with the ashes. He gathered her clothes and other belongings and shoved her off saying

"Tell your parents that your door was wide open when I paid you a visit with the courtesy of knocking."

Moyosore's parents contained the significance of their daughter's bizarre look. They were not perplexed by their in-laws early visit. They knew what they had come for; only that Conde, Sholedolu's father, had ill-humored them with a daze of scorching sarcasm.

"He who teaches the child how to cook vegetables must first learn how to eat sand and stones."

He had said mockingly in one of his statements.

They rebuked every form of hospitality including the red-lined bulky kola nuts and the freshly tapped palm-wine. Their faces only hardened, revealing that they had planned their every twitch. Conde had decisively stated their purpose for coming.

"We have come to retrieve the gifts and bride price rendered. Your daughter no longer holds an appeal to our son."

"She failed the purity test." Stressed Sholedolu's mother.

They left with the 42 tubers of yam, the 12 baskets of fruits, the 8 lace and Ankara materials, the 2 kegs of palm-oil, the she-goat, the 2 bags of salt, the bottles of honey and the bride price. They intentionally forfeited the good book.

The polluting news had spread rapidly throughout the entire village. Some had rightfully claimed that she was raped by horny bush-babies on her way to the silent river; but the truth still remained that not even her mother had succeeded in breaching her stiffened reticence.

Moyosore despised the sight of the white robe hung amidst her bedroom wall. It shattered her daily. Her father had placed it there to remind her of her shame and to provoke her over the reproach and damage she had brought to his name.

One fair dusk, she decided to visit the 7th Iroko tree. Her heart was heavily burdened and filled with remorse. Tears drenched her eyes as her fingers traced the tree's bark. She remembered her favorite poem from his collection and recited it.

The heart is where it lives;

Sticky, stagnant and adamant

As unyielding lines on frail green leaves,

Our ardent love.

The tears dripped swifter. Hotter and more revealing. Even the tree's faith stretched with the wind. She took a deep sigh and searched the accurate branch as she knotted the thick rope.

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