Chapter 1: (v.2) First Phase.2 (Continuation)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 73

Emeravwe’s eyes widened at the girl’s offered hand. She gripped the man’s robes, tears flooding her eyes as she shrank into the folds.

He stepped aside so he could see her, reassuring, “It is all right. This is to be your new home.”

Emeravwe looked at him through tear-blurred eyes. She did not want to go with the girl; she did not want a new home. The man also unnerved her, but she felt if she did not stay with him, she may never find her way back to her own home. No, she thought as she looked tearfully up at him, I want to go home. I… Her chest tightened, the headache at her temples throbbing; she could not even remember where her home was.

The man lowered to a squat, lightly resting a hand on her shoulder, his hazel eyes soft. “Do not fear. Go with this Maiden and she will see you taken care of.”

Loosening her grip from his robes, he gave an assuring nod as Emeravwe looked into his steady hazel eyes.

Agaenaye Addana took Emeravwe’s hand and led her from the room. She guided her through the double doors of the building, across the patio, and again onto the wide flagstone walkways. They made their way toward the pavilion at the rear of the compound. It was raised on a green mound planted with palm trees, its high stone ceiling supported by tall pillars. As they neared the pavilion’s steps they turned onto a narrower walkway, skirting the front of the structure to its side, where they passed through an archway covered with twining vines of brilliant blue dawn, and stepped into a garden.

Emeravwe walked silently hiccupping beside the older girl, too heartsick to notice the garden planted with vibrant flowering royal poinciana, orchid, and golden shower trees. It was filled with such gleeful chirping of birds and impregnated with the fragrance of the blooms, but Emeravwe saw only the tears blurring her eyes; the pounding in her head drowned out the bird songs.

At the end of the garden, they passed beneath another arch teeming with vines of blue dawn, and the walkway opened onto the opposite face of the pavilion. Here, before the pavilion, was a cobbled courtyard surrounded on three sides by neat rows of apartments, each with a raised patio overhung by a painted awning. Agaenaye Addana took Emeravwe across the courtyard to a row of buildings to the left of the pavilion. Little girls dressed in identical light green garments rushed in and out of the buildings, carrying sheets, blankets, curtains, and all other draperies and filling large bins on the patios with them. On each patio, too, were several girls in pink who directed the younger girls in green.

“Agaenaye Rukevwe,” Agaenaye Addana called to a freckled, pink-clad girl on a patio as she and Emeravwe climbed the steps.

Agaenaye Rukevwe turned to see Agaenaye Addana approach her. “Oh, Agaenaye Addana, good morning.”

Agaenaye Addana freed her hand from Emeravwe’s and the two girls greeted one another, curtsying briefly as they placed cupped hands before their chests.

Straightening from the greeting, Agaenaye Addana looked around the patio bustling with girls. “Where is Aye Omojewe? Have the Agaenaye been left in charge of the Omote again?”

Agaenaye Rukevwe nodded, sighing, “It is true everyone is busy because of the Orodje’s coronation, but it is really because of that horrid affair four months ago that the palace is still so—”

“Agaenaye Rukevwe!” Agaenaye Addana interjected reproachfully, “You know the Queen Dowager has forbidden anyone from speaking of that incident! You will find yourself in the Bureau of Corrections if anyone overhears!”

Agaenaye Rukevwe’s hand flew to her mouth, her eyes darting quickly up and down the patio. She hastened to say, “I mean, the ministries and offices of the palace are still not running properly, so the Aye have left us in charge of the Omote. What is the matter?”

Agaenaye Addana pushed Emeravwe forward, as if eager to stir the conversation in a different direction. “The Rode Aye have sent this girl to be trained as a palace Maiden. She is to be an Omote.”

Agaenaye Rukevwe’s eyes widened, finally noticing Emeravwe. “A valued child!”

At her exclamation the girls on the patio looked up, some rushing over to get a better look at Emeravwe and the ruby in her forehead. Seeing the impressive jewel, they too turned to one another with gasps of “A valued child!”

“What is a valued child?” a small girl in green asked.

“A precious child bestowed with a jewel in its forehead when it is born,” an older girl in pink explained tartly. “Valued children are actually loved by their parents and do not have to enter the palace to suffer like we do!”

“What is a valued child doing here?” another girl in pink asked, her voice filled with scorn. “Is she here to taunt us with that gem in her forehead?”

Others joined her, voicing their displeasure at Emeravwe’s presence among them. Emeravwe shrunk from the angry girls, her eyes brimming anew with terrified tears.

“That is enough!” Agaenaye Rukevwe admonished the girls. “If you but step outside the palace walls you will find the city is filled with valued children. You, yourselves, have siblings who are valued. It is us, palace Maidens, who are depreciated.” She turned a disdainful eye on Emeravwe. “Now, why has such a valued child been lowered to our ranks?”

Agaenaye Addana shrugged. “It is the Rode Aye’s decision. You must honor it.”

Agaenaye Rukevwe glared. “Wicked girl. You say that so easily because you will not have to suffer her.”

With a sweet smile, Agaenaye Addana bent her knees, cupping her hands before her. “I shall take my leave of you now.”

Agaenaye Rukevwe returned the greeting, answering begrudgingly, “May you go in peace.”

Agaenaye Addana left Emeravwe beset by the glares and whispers of the girls on the patio, the sting of their scowls making her quake. She backed herself to the railing, wanting to make herself smaller, invisible. She avoided their eyes to abate her fear but could not keep the frightened tears from falling. She was alone and afraid, and the throbbing in her head intensified, the way the girls looked at her scaring her even more.

“All right, get back to work, all of you!” Agaenaye Rukevwe ordered the girls. “The Aye want the inner rooms thoroughly cleaned and rearranged by this evening.” Slowly, the girls returned to their chores and Agaenaye Rukevwe turned her attention to Emeravwe. “I know not what family you come from, but here in the palace you will receive no special treatment because of that jewel in your head. Omote Anuoluwa,” she called to a little girl in green who was stuffing a large sheet into a nearby bin with the help of other girls.

The girl rushed over and executed a clumsy greeting. “Yes, Agaenaye.”

“Take this girl to the Weavers’ Department and let them know she is a new Omote-in-training,” Agaenaye Rukevwe instructed. “Have her dressed in the proper attire and hurry back.”

“Yes, Agaenaye.” The little girl turned to Emeravwe, saying abruptly, “Follow me.”

Emeravwe remained sobbing on the patio. The girl grabbed her by the arm and pulled her roughly, taking her through a maze of buildings and out a different set of gates from those through which she had entered the Maidens’ Compound. The girl led her down a long, cobbled passageway, then through yet another set of gates into a smaller compound where the Weavers’ Department was located. Here, as Emeravwe continued to weep, she was dressed in the cap-sleeve blouse, skirts, and matching diaphanous robes and headscarf that were the standard of all palace Maidens. The attire was light green in color like that of the Omote, and the wide band of the headscarf was arranged so it covered her forehead and the ruby embedded in it.

Thus clothed, Emeravwe and the girl returned to the Maidens’ Compound and reported to Agaenaye Rukevwe, who instructed her to join the other Omote in cleaning the rooms of the buildings. Emeravwe tried to do as the Agaenaye asked and follow the other Omote’s lead, but she was confused and frightened by all that had happened, and her head felt ready to burst from pain.

“Move!” some Omote commanded, ramming a bin they were pushing against the back of her legs as she stood nursing her headache in one of the halls. She was slammed to her knees and the girls maneuvered the bin around her, laughing.

“If you are sent to work in the palace though you have a gem in your forehead, are you still a valued child?” one of the Omote wanted to know as they walked away.

“No, you would be a worthless child!” another proclaimed, and they burst in laughter.

Emeravwe sat weeping in the hall, but soon other girls came to roughly shove her aside. Even the older Agaenaye berated her for crying instead of working.

“You valued children are good for nothing but sitting at home and arranging flowers!” an Agaenaye bit bitterly, brushing Emeravwe aside.

She found a corner to make herself invisible and cried herself to sleep despite her headache. Later that evening, she was roughly woken by an Omote and told to assemble on the patio to greet the Aye as they returned. The girls assembled on the patios of the buildings—a triplet of younger girls lined beside each of the older girls—and greeted the Aye in charge of that building as they walked up the steps, each escorted by a triplet of girls in pink. The senior Aye in charge of Emeravwe’s building was called Aye Omojewe, a woman with a round face and kind brown eyes who immediately noticed her, since she was the only child not lined beside an older girl. Agaenaye Rukevwe informed Aye Omojewe of the Rode Aye’s decision regarding Emeravwe, and Aye Omojewe assigned her under the care of an older girl called Agaenaye Uche. Emeravwe shared a room with Agaenaye Uche and the two other Omote assigned to her. When they retired to their chamber that night, the other Omote teased her and made her sleep in a corner with a cloth in her mouth because she cried ceaselessly.

Submitted: July 03, 2019

© Copyright 2020 OE. All rights reserved.


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