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THE TUSSLE OF LOVE: Written by Ifechukwudeni Odigwe

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“Adaeze! I have made my opinion crystal clear and my word is final! You must get married to Ikenna! I do not care about what you feel or who you love. You must do my bidding as long as you are under my roof!” With those brutal words, King Okey stormed out of his palace in royal fury.

His daughter, Adaeze, the Princess crumbled like a pack of cards in the arms of her Mother the Queen as she wailed uncontrollably. “Mama, why is my Father the King being so inconsiderate? He clearly does not have my interest at heart. Sometimes I feel he even hates me”, she said in between sobs. “Don’t say that my daughter. Your Father loves you more than you can ever comprehend and he always wants what is best for you. Remember our people say that what an old man sees while sitting down, a baby cannot see it even if it stands on an iroko tree. In the end, it will be for your good my child”. Adaeze’s sobs reduced on the surface, but her heart wailed uncontrollably and longed for her heartbeat, Onyebuchi.

Before the cock crowed to signal the dawn of a new day, Prince Ikenna was ready with his entourage for his journey to Amasam village to visit his betrothed. He smiled generously as he thought of what his home would look like with Adaeze as his wife and queen; at a stage he started giggling like a child and had to bring himself back to reality when he saw the puzzled looks on the faces of his attendants.

At dawn, the prince and his attendants set out for his love-struck journey. It was a long one but he did not mind as his heart was filled with thoughts of her charming smile. He reminisced on the day he caught her smiling- she was all alone in her father’s palace the first day he paid him an unexpected visit. He entered majestically without making the slightest sound and was suddenly transfixed by the smile of the heavenly creature sitting right before him; her resplendent beauty enamored him. Her eyes were closed but the width of her parting lips only increased as he stared at her. If only he knew the reason for her smile, he wouldn’t have deviated from his original purpose of visiting Amasam village that fateful day. It ushered in a flood of emotions in Prince Ikenna as he chose to wait for the King and made his intention known as soon as he came in. The rest became history.

His lips parted like the River Jordan as his mind feasted on the pleasures he derived from remembering the events of the past five months. The more he ruminated on them, the more orgasmic he felt- craving for her smile to touch the very fabric of his being again.He loved her, and everyone around him knew it… but how on earth was he going to deal with the trauma of an unrequited love?

It was past mid-day when his entourage crossed the border separating Amasam village and his (Okunta village). His heartbeat seemed to increase in leaps and bounds as they drew nearer to the King’s palace. From a distance, he thought he saw something. Taking a second glance, his curiosity was aroused and he commanded his guards to change direction. He had to be sure this wasn’t what he thought it was. As they drew nearer, his heart sank; it was Princess Adaeze! And she was making out with a stranger along the bush path. She didn’t even know anyone was there as she was engrossed in the heat of the moment- her lover was smothering her with kisses, and she returned them with equal vigor and passion.

“Enough of this rubbish! What is this nonsense my Princess? Please tell me I’m in a trance or something. This cannot be real”, the Prince was beginning to get hysterical, as his brain could not comprehend what his eyes had just seen. Adaeze and her lover, Onyebuchi had both tried to make a way for an escape, thinking calamity had caught up with them, but they both decided to stand their grounds, largely due to the Princess’s doggedness in refusing to be bullied into cowardice this time. “Ikenna, you are not in a trance or something”, she started by mimicking him. “This is real, and yes, you saw me kissing the one who makes my heart beat staccato. For the umpteenth time, I do not love you. What else must I say or do to make you get this into your thick skull?” The handsome Prince stood, rooted to the ground like a statue. His whole world was crumbling right before his very eyes. With an air of royal indignation, he ordered his guards to seize Onyebuchi, and this they did with rough intensity so much so that they practically knocked him out with blows and violent shoves. The Princess screamed at them as the Prince kept a blank expression on his face; his heart must have savored the momentary pleasure the whole scenario offered, as he made no attempt to stop his guards.

Now seething with rage, he ordered them to bundle the now unconscious Onyebuchi into one of the carts that was being pulled by his guard’s horse. Then his entourage changed direction- they were going back to Okunta village! Princess Adaeze chased after them on foot till she had no more strength left in her. At this point, her maids who witnessed everything from a distance ran to her and helped her up. They persuaded her to go back to the palace; though she didn’t want to, she had to and thus, obliged them.

Three market days had passed and still there was no news of the whereabouts of her lost lover, not even a glimpse of his shadow had anyone in the village seen. The beautiful princess was gradually metamorphosing into a damsel in distress as the days passed by. To make matters worse, the King’s listless attitude towards the whole issue left her in emotional tatters. At this point, her only source of consolation was her Mother who constantly reassured her that Onyebuchi would be found (she had secretly engaged the services of the village search party to comb all the nooks and crannies of Amasam village and her neighbors) to the chagrin of the King.

On the fourth market day (Afor), as Adaeze lay in her royal chamber, she was roused from her not-so-peaceful sleep by a loud cry from one of her maids. In the twinkle of an eye, all four of her maids had rushed into her room without knocking. She was about to scold them when she noticed that they had tears in their eyes; now she was panting, as she did not know what to expect. “Why are you all crying? Did someone die?” At this, her maids’ wailings increased.

In confusion, she ran out only to find the lifeless body of her lover, Onyebuchi in the arms of her Mother the Queen. “We found him dead, hanging from a tree at the border between our village and Okunta village”, the leader of the search party, Okeke, announced to the Princess. Like a bag of grounded cassava, she slumped and was only prevented from hitting the hard ground by the strong arms of another member of the search party. Chaos descended on the royal household as they all tried to resuscitate Adaeze. After about seven minutes, she was revived; but when she recalled the news she had just heard, she broke down and wept uncontrollably in the arms of her Mother.

For the next three days, the Princess refused to come out of her chamber, neither did she allow anyone in. She declined every overture made by her parents and maids to get her to open the door and eat something. All they could hear were her sobbing and love songs. By the fourth day, the King had had enough. He ordered his guards to break down the door; it didn’t take them long to finish the task, but by the time they were done, their eyes were greeted with a very horrific sight- the Princess had committed suicide! She hanged herself just the same way her lover was killed.

The royal household was boiling in turmoil now. Everyone wailed uncontrollably, especially the Queen. The King, in agony, picked up a slate from his daughter’s bed. On it, written with chalk, was Adaeze’s suicide note. It read thus: “Father, I thought you loved me, but the events of the past few days have proved otherwise. Since you chose to treat my emotions with levity, and Ikenna chose to murder the one I loved with all my heart, I have also chosen to go in the same way he went. Since I cannot have Onyebuchi, Ikenna will never have me. Mother, I am sorry”.

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