The Ancient City of Me (Chapter One Continues)

The Festival

As the time for the ceremony drew closer, Ladeal’s household worked even harder. Soon, the villagers began to arrive in their numbers. Aleta Ladeal, dark complexioned with plenty of long, well treated natural hair, five foot tall, slim and heavily pregnant, wife of Lucas Ladeal and mother of Naliria, walked up to Philra Ladeal, wife of Victor Ladeal, who was over-seeing the whole arrangement for food and drinks. The room they were in was small. It had only a chair and a table, as well as only one window. The sun rays poured in through the open window and illuminated the room. Philra sat on the chair, counting the number of fried meat in a big basin when Aleta walked in.

“Phil, I can’t find extra skin bags for the drinks, is there anything else I can use?” She asked.

“Well I don’t think there is,” Philra replied, “Maybe they should be served from the water drums. What do you think?”

“That’s an idea!” said Aleta, “Why didn’t I think about it before? I’ll go get some of the drums empty for the drinks.” As she turned to go, Philra quickly stood up and stopped her by holding her hand.

“You have been of great help Aleta," She said, "But now, you have to rest. We can’t have you going into premature labor.”

“I won’t, even if I do go into labor, it wouldn’t be premature cos I’m due anytime from now.” Aleta argued. “Hosting this festival is something we do once in ten or twenty years, depending on when it gets to our turn, and whenever it is our turn, I love to be a part of its success. This year is no different.”

Philra smiled lovingly at her, “Well,“ She said “At least rest a bit. You will need all your strength for the main festival. I will tell Cletus and Gabriel to get the drums ready."

Aleta reluctantly agreed to Philra’s suggestion. She took a seat while Philra went off to get her boys for the work on ground. Though she was pregnant, Aleta didn’t need to be stopped from working, but no one seemed to understand that, not even her dear husband who had been trying to get her to rest and let the others do the work.

“I’m sure Lucas will be so happy to see me sitting here like this.” She thought, then smiled to herself.
“Lucas.” she whispered. Her husband is the best man in the world as long as she was concerned. He was very hard working, jovial, understanding, caring, thoughtful, loving… ha! Talking about loving, he was a great lover, she looked forward to jumping in bed naked with him after her baby was born. Her smile broadened as she remembered their bedroom activities, how he always made her yearn for more. But at the moment, she was pregnant. They had considered having another child almost twenty years after Naliria was born. Aleta loved her daughter so much. Both of them were like sisters, they talked about anything and everything but, it was obvious that Naliria never talked much about John. She always changed the topic when his name was mentioned and Aleta usually wondered why. Then one day while washing some linings, she saw Naliria staring at someone, when she looked closer, she recognized the person as John.

“He is a great man, isn’t he?” she asked. Naliria, realizing she had been caught staring answered with a casual “Yes,” before walking away.

Aleta liked John and so did Lucas. They wouldn't mind Naliria being with him as long as he was serious about her, but so far, the youngsters had said nothing. The way John had come into their lives was indeed pitiful, but presently, he was a man of his own. She felt for him when his dad and mum disappeared; So many years had past but still, no one knew if they were alive. As for Rio, he was a lovely boy who seemed to be taking after his elder brother. She loved both boys and had come to see them as her own children; only, she didn’t know what was between her Naliria and her John. She smiled at the thought, but it was short lived, as Naliria walked in through the open door and came to her side.

“Mama, are you day dreaming?” She asked, “I thought only young girls like us do that?”

“Indeed!” Aleta replied, “Can’t your mama have a little fun by day dreaming?”

“Of course!” Naliria said, jokingly “By all means do have fun, but first, you are needed outside”

“Really?” Aleta asked, “I thought everyone wanted me to rest?”

“We do mama, but we must have the family prayer first before the general one so, let’s get going.” They both walked out of the room with Naliria holding her mother’s hand and teasingly asking what she was day dreaming about.

“You and John of course!” she replied.
Surprise took over, as Naliria let go of her mother's hand. "That is not true!" She argued. “By the way, you’re supposed to day dream about you and dad, not me and someone, that isn't what day dreaming is about.”

“I know,” Aleta said, casually, “But since you were busy, I thought I should help you dream of John. You like him, don't you?”

Naliria gave a sigh of resignation “Oh ma ma… I can’t believe you.”

About an hour later, after the family prayer, the open field, about Three acres, just behind the Ladeal’s family house was filled up with men, women and children of Orugwe village. They were all properly dressed in beautiful outfits of gold and green. The main part of the ceremony was the worship at the altar, erected very close to the house. The altar was decorated with green leaves and gold linings which symbolized the vegetation and the sun. There was a small fire burning from a spot on the altar and food crops of different kinds were placed around the fire. The people gathered around the altar. Lucas stood beside his brother, Victor. They both took a prayer cup each, raised it up and said a prayer of thanks to their gods. The people repeated the words after them and when the prayer was done, each person dipped a finger into either of the prayer cups held by the brothers, rubbed the content on their forehead and said a word of thanks to their gods for a rich harvest. With prayers done, the feasting began.