During the festival, there was a lot of singing, dancing, eating, drinking and story telling. The ladies moved around serving food, drinks and other edible goodies. It was their job to make sure that everyone was satisfied. At one table, a fat man having fun with his friends, tapped a passing waitress on her backside
“You know you won’t have hands if you do that again, Stanley.” She playfully threatened him.
"But I don’t need hands to do it again darling, I’ve got my eyes."He replied, laughing. His friends laughed with him too. Knowing that the man was either drunk or just being naughty, the waitress ignored his remark and went about her duty.
Victor and Lucas walked around, making sure everything and everyone was okay. Victor was the elder brother of Lucas and became head of the Ladeal family after their parents died. The brothers loved each other and always worked together. They understood the meaning of brotherly love and team work.
While the feasting continued, John, Rio and Naliria sat together eating, drinking and chatting away at one table, close to the altar.
"I truly love this arrangement," Naliria said, “We do all the hard work in preparation for the festival, but, we rest while it’s on.”
“Yes!” Rio agreed, “This is the best time I’ve had in almost two weeks. I'm sitting here and not listening to someone's rants."
John scoffed. ”Tell me about it."
“Naaa!” Rio said, laughing. “You already know about it.”
John chuckled at his brother’s response. “Indeed I do.”
Naliria, suspecting that the brother’s were talking in codes, quickly spoke up, “What are you boys trying to hide from me? Better speak up, you know I will definitely find out.”
“Nothing,” replied John. “It’s just the hard work we’re talking about.”
"Oh John," Said Naliria, "You know that I know that you are lying. You’re not a good liar, have you forgotten?”
Rio, seeing that it was useless telling Naliria a lie, tried to change the topic “You see sister,” he said, with food in his mouth, ”That’s why I love you so. You’re too smart, even the great John cannot out smart you.”
"Stop it Rio!” Naliria said, with a frown. "It's disgusting.”
Rio looked confused and stopped chewing for a while. “What?" he asked with mouth wide open.
"Stop talking while eating." John said. “And close your mouth! It’s not funny seeing those chewed stuff inside your mouth you know”
"Okay people," Rio said, throwing his hands up in resignation. "I'll close my mouth.” The trick worked, Naliria didn’t bother them again about what they were hiding. He wondered what will happen if Naliria actually found out that his dear brother had strong feelings for her. For two good weeks, John would come home and start ranting about how he wished the day would continue, so that he could spend more time running errands with Naliria. He also talked about how he was going to make sure he sat next to her during the festival. Rio got tired of hearing his brother’s wishes and told him to go talk to Naliria. “But if you break her heart,” he warned, "I'm going to be the first to jump on you.” Rio loved Naliria and her parents dearly. To him, they were family and always would be. But then, he wondered if Naliria felt the same way about his brother. Anyway, that was their own business, not his.
The trio went on to gist about their everyday activities and how wonderful the festival was going. When it was time for the group dance, Naliria and Rio joined in. They invited John to join them but he politely declined and continued with his food and drink. As he watched the dance and cheered from his seat, a hand suddenly but firmly gripped his wrist from over his shoulder. John turned back only to see his father looking at him. His cup dropped on the table and it’s content spilled over, as surprise and overwhelming excitement took over. “Papa!… this can’t be, you’re.. you’re gone.” Gradually, the father’s image began to grow faint, until it finally disappeared. John, who had stood up in excitement dropped back on his seat and sighed in disbelieve at what had happened.
“He is not dead." John heard a familiar voice from over his shoulders. He turned around and his eyes fell on Sarah Omude, a woman in her late forties, standing close to the spot where his father's image stood less than a minute ago. She was dressed in a green and gold gown that reached her ankle. Her braided hair was packed backwards into a pony tail and her feet were covered in beautiful gold sandals with thin straps. She looked splendidly elegant but John was not fooled. He eyed her closely and in disgust
"What stupid game are you playing this time Sarah?" He asked.
“I’m playing no game John.” Replied the woman. “Your parents are alive, whether you want to believe it or not.”
"Oh I want to believe they are,” Said John, “It’s you I have a problem believing. For how long do you intend to play this game with me? You’ve told me lots of things that don’t even exist or work. why should this be any different?” Sarah took a step forward but she quickly stopped as he yelled, “Stand back, witch!” He then pointed a knife at her from where he sat.
“I am not a witch John, only an oracle.”
“Well, it makes no difference to me”.
"John!” Sarah cried.
"Don’t call my name!" John yelled at her again. He then got to his feet and started to walk away. Sarah followed him behind, she wasn't about to give up.
“Your father and mother saved my life once, even you too, but you were too young that’s why you don’t remember. I will do anything for your parents John, but please hear me out. I know exactly where to find them.”
John stopped in his tracks and turned to face her. “Okay, I'm all ears.”
“Well, long after the search ended, I did some incantations that showed me were your parents are." Sarah started. "I didn’t want to rush out with what I knew so, I kept trying other means and all of them told me the same thing, that your parents are alive. I was shown their location but one thing was missing, how to get to them. I met with another oracle just yesterday, and with joint forces, I lived the vision. I saw myself traveling along a path that led to a strange place. There I found a door but I couldn’t open it the normal way. There was a button, I pressed it and the door opened. When I walked through, the place I entered was strange but I saw your mother. She was holding a little girl in her arms." Sarah sighed, “That's all John, I woke up from the vision. But, I believe now, more than ever, that they are alive, and I know where and how to find them.”
“And you want me to come with you?” John asked.
"Yes John, by all means. I don’t want to make this journey on my own." She pleaded.
John eyed her closely, but the disgust was gone. “I still find it hard to believe you. What if you just want to sell me out to some slave traders? These are hard times, everyone wants to make good money."
“Think whatever you want John, but at least help me get back the man who once risked his life to save mine, and do it for Rio, if not for yourself. Tomorrow at dawn, meet me at the cross junction leading up north. I’l be waiting, but if I don’t see you, I’ll make the journey, with or without you.” That said, she turned and walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
Naliria who had been quietly watching them from the dance floor, came up to John. “What was that all about?” she asked.
“Nothing. Just some old woman talk.” he replied.
Naliria eyed him. “It looked too serious to be just an old woman talk John. Besides, Sarah is no ordinary woman.”
John smiled and looked at her. "She is always so beautiful and always so curious." He thought. "It’s nothing Naliria, let it go." He said and then turned and walked away. Naliria was not having it. She knew what she heard and she wanted to get to the buttom of it. However, as she tried to follow John, someone pulled her from behind. She turned to see a young girl of about twelve years old, holding on to her garment. “Are you Nali? The girl asked.
“Yes I am." She replied. "What is it?"
"Mrs. Philra says you should get your dad and come upstairs, your mother is about to have her baby."
Naliria forgot about John. She quickly found her father, Lucas, and together, they rushed into the house and towards the room where Aleta’s cries was coming from. Lucas knocked on the door several times but there was no immediate response. From outside, they could hear her screaming in pains. After a while, Philra opened the door but allowed only Naliria in.
“I’m sorry Lucas, I can’t let you in yet. When we are done, you’ll be let in.”
"Can’t I just talk to her briefly?” He begged, “I want her to know that I’m here.”
“I will let her know you are here, but you have to wait outside” replied the middle aged woman. She closed the door and resumed her position beside Aleta who was now laid back and still screaming in pain. “It’s okay dear.” Said Philra, as she wiped the sweat off Aleta’s face. “Your husband is outside praying for you and the baby.”
“But I want him inside." She cried.
"Just take a deep breath and push.” Said phil, “This will be over soon.“
Naliria stood by the bed and took her mother’s hand in hers, while the other women who were midwives, went straight to work. A clean cloth, razor blade, a clean towel and a clean bowl of water was set down by the bed. Once that was ready, they spread her legs apart.
“Okay dear, let’s do this.” Said Philra, “Now push!” Aleta started to push with all her strength. She gripped the sheets with her free hand and dug her feet into the soft foam as she screamed. The women did everything to encourage her. All the same, her screams got louder.