Kingsley had been told many times that it is better to find someone who loves you than to find someone whom you love. But that was not how he felt. He wondered if so many people could get something as fundamental as finding love and happiness so wrong. The day Kingsley met Khandie, it was love at first sight. He was not looking for someone, and neither was she. Neither of them had been in any romantic relationship before that day. It was a traditional wedding ceremony between Kingsley's aunt and Khandie's uncle. Kingsley did not like weddings much because he found them boring, but this was one wedding that he could not avoid. However, everything looked more interesting after Khandie walked in. He could not tell what it was about her that piqued his interest but from the moment she walked in, he could not take his eyes off her except when Jimmy rode in with his rickety bicycle.
Jimmy was an old man from the village of Umuduru. He stepped down from his bicycle and leaned it on a nearby tree. He was notorious for his heavy drinking and dancing. He did not concern himself with the traditional rites. As soon as he walked in, he demanded his favourite beer and sat down. Kingsley thought that he staggered a little as he found a seat and took a swig of his beer. By the time he had drunk two bottles of beer, he stood up and started dancing with the third bottle in his hand. The more he drank, the more he danced. It did not take long before he took over the occasion. All the while, Kingsley took his eyes off Khandie to watch him, wondering how he was going to ride home after the party.
Kingsley knew that he should walk over to Khandie and talk to her, but he did not have the courage. What if she is in a bad mood, he thought. What if she does not like me? A thousand things that could go wrong ran through his mind. Kingsley was not a shy person but then he had never had to talk to a girl that he felt this way about. In his estimation, his chance of future happiness was hanging on his success in making her smile that first time. He was terrified of failure, so he kept mute and watched her from a distance. Gradually, he walked through the crowd to where she sat close to the tree on which Jimmy leaned his bicycle. She did not seem to take any notice of him as she talked with a couple of girls seated with her. Towards the end of the ceremony, Jimmy staggered to the tree and hit his bare right palm on the bicycle seat, making a loud noise that startled Kingsley, so he turned around to watch him. The man muttered something, turned and staggered away without his bicycle.
Kingsley found himself laughing uncontrollably at the man's behaviour when he turned around and saw the chatty girls watching him like hungry hawks watch chicks. He knew something was wrong. He looked at the Khandie and realised what was wrong: Khandie had spilt the soup she was drinking. Kingsley felt an urgent need to explain what just happened as he rushed to offer his handkerchief to her.
"I am so sorry, I did not realise what's happened here," he said breathlessly as he handed her his handkerchief. She accepted it and thanked him, but he noticed that the other girls still expected him to explain himself. He thought how best to do but decided he should just tell it how it happened.
"You see, the man that parked this bike, staggered to the tree where he had kept it and dramatically hit the bike seat with feeling and said, 'I'm ready to go. You can come home later,' then he staggered away. That's why I was laughing."
The girls seemed to find it funny too, including Khandie, so mission accomplished, and he did not even have to do anything extraordinary. From that moment on, Kingsley and Khandie were inseparable. They had no shame for what they felt, though they were so young. Kingsley was still undergoing an apprenticeship in his uncle's car dealership, and Khandie was a budding seamstress. Perhaps the reason for their unabashed show of affection all day every day was their innocence. They spent all the time they could spare together. Whenever Khandie needed to go to the market to purchase food stuffs, Kingsley would find a way to accompany her. They held each other's hands everywhere they went. One day they were walking in the crowded town market, where the human traffic made it impossible for any person to walk in a straight line as people meandered through the crowd. As usual, Khandie held Kingsley's hand when a market woman selling fresh fish saw them and lamented.
"Oh, look at this poor handsome boy. He seems to be blind," she said, with genuine sadness.
"Did you hear what that woman said?" Kingsley asked Khandie. She did not. When he told her, it took a moment for her to realise what she meant and she pulled her hand away. They both had a laugh, but then it did not take long before their hands were joined again. They spent all the time they could spend together and spent the rest of the time thinking of one another until Kingsley invited Khandie to his family home. Kingsley was so excited to introduce Khandie to his mother, but he suspected something was wrong after he introduced her. He was very close to his mother, and they talked about many things. He was sure that his mother was going to love Khandie, so the reaction he got was completely unexpected. She was silent for a few moments before she left the sitting room and went to her room.
Kingsley followed her into the room to find out what the problem was.
A Long Distance Relationship
"Have you two done anything?" she asked.
Kingsley was confused, so he stared at her blankly until he realised what she meant. No, they had not been physically intimate, he assured her.
"Good, because she is your cousin," she said coolly.
Kingsley's world came crashing down on his head. He knew that according to the custom of his people, if two people's lineage could be traced to be the same, then they could not marry and as such, romantic relationships are also prohibited. But Kingsley knew that Khandie's kindred was far removed from his, and he could not just fathom how they could both be related. He asked his mother for some explanation.
"If we are related, how come my Aunt Nma could marry her uncle?"
Kingsley's mother thought for a moment and tried to explain, "Khandie's maternal grandmother is from our family," she said simply.
Kingsley was perplexed. "Is that all? Mother, I am going to need more than that."
"It is a complicated relationship," she said weakly. He stared at her with a blank look that suggested he was expecting more.
She took a deep breath and began, "Your great-grandfather had two sisters. One was married in the neighbouring village of Dunuko, but after she had three daughters and one son, her husband died, and your great-grandfather brought her and her children back home where he could put a roof over and take care of them as his own. Khandie's maternal grandmother was one of those daughters, but she was married in the town of Akaeze where she had Khandie's mother among other children. Khandie's mother was then married by her father back to our own town, so you see, you're cousins," she concluded.
As she spoke, Kingsley had another thought that was bothering him.
"Excuse me," he said and walked into the sitting room. He sat beside Khandie and kissed her deeply until she pushed him away in fear that his mother may step in. He stood up without a word and went back to his mother.
"Mama, I just kissed her for the first time..."
"Kingsley Ikemefula Duru!"
"Yes, mama. I swear, it didn't taste like she is my cousin," he said.
She studied his face for a moment and realised to her dismay that he was not joking. She knew that he was one of her more stubborn children and she needed to put her foot down.
"I forbid you from seeing that girl again. It is an abomination, a sacrilege!" she screamed.
Kingsley knew that his mother was serious, but that did nothing to help him with what he felt deep within his heart. With a fast-beating heart, he went to the sitting room to deliver the bad news to Khandie. He felt relief to see the confusion and sadness in her eyes. He knew from that moment that it was going to take more than a pronouncement of abomination and a trace of lineage to keep them apart, but he was not accustomed to disobeying his mother, so he resolved to try staying away from her.
The harder that Kingsley tried to stay away from Khandie, the stronger his feelings for her and hers for him. They tried everything including taking different routes to work and going to different markets. After one year of torture and deprivation, Kingsley could not bear it anymore, and he wondered how Khandie who seemed frail could take the sheer pain. He knew what he had to do. He went to Khandie's shop. Customarily, the people of his town were not used to displaying affection openly, but when Khandie saw him, she threw everything she had she jumped on him with so much momentum that he would have fallen if he did not brace himself for the impact. The very next day, Kingsley and Khandie left the village, and they were not seen in Umuduru for a very long time. They lived in the city where their love continued to grow. They got married four years later and had a twin set of girls and a boy. Each time he looked at his family, he knew how lucky he was to have found Khandie. They did not look like an abomination.
Authored by: @churchboy
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