Red is the Colour of this Love

I was 15 when he took my virginity. I had asked him to, as a birthday gift to both of us. He was 17 and didn’t quite know what to do because it was his first time, and so I had ended up being sore for days. But I had felt accomplished somehow, because I loved him so much…or at least to the standard of what I understood “love” meant then.

He was the woodcutter’s son in the village we lived in, and I was the coffin maker’s daughter, so we had no choice but to know each other. Our fathers, of course, were business partners kind of, and we, Bode and I, got to know each other first by bearing their messages to one another. The love had started from those times, and we did childish things to make it grow.

The day after the day we did our little “exchange of gifts” on the mat of leafs in the bush, he had dragged me from my windowless class during recess and taken me to the back of our old, overcrowded community school. I was still feeling uncomfortable down there and hoped he didn’t want to ask that we meet again soon.


 

But, I saw the needle in his hand before I had time to turn my thoughts into words.

“We’ll take an oath,” he said simply, “to never leave each other no matter what.”

I understood the reason for the needle then.

“You mean…a…a blood covenant?”

“Yes.”

I had nodded. I didn’t need to think twice. Together with him was all I wanted anyway. I closed my eyes as he pricked my thumb, and thought about the fact that this was the second time my blood was being shed for the one I loved. It didn’t matter. When he had pricked his own finger and I had tasted his blood, and he mine, I knew I would love him till I died. I was only 15, but I knew.

Secondary school finished a year later, and we all found somewhere to put our heads. Some prepared for higher education; others, especially the girls, got married; and others still, like Bode and I were put into skill acquisition programs because there was no money to further the education. You see, Bode and I both had 5 siblings each, and so the much that had been done for one, was the much that “one”, had to appreciate and manage with.

Bode settled in the village to study the eccentrics of woodcutting under his father, and carpentry under my father. I, on the other hand, was sent to the city to study the dress making business, with my mother’s younger sister who lived and worked there. The day before I had to leave, Bode and I found ourselves in the bush again, and had one round for the road. It was a lot better this time, and it felt almost like paradise, but I had to keep reminding him every second not to forget to “come out”. He had to come out so I wouldn’t take in and disrupt both our futures. I still remember his final thrust and how he had used his last effort, to pull out, jerking and groaning. When he was calmer, he had smiled at me and said I was the only one for him.

“I know,” was all I replied.

For over a year, I was away, learning, working and definitely waiting for the day I would appear again in the village, a more equipped woman for life and for Bode.

I was hearing news about Bode too; of the way he willed wood to any shape or object he wanted. He was greater than my father and his put together. He was wealthy too, not too wealthy, but he had customers everyday…to me, that meant being wealthy. I kept seeing him in my dreams and hearing from him every 2 weeks.

Two weeks to Christmas day of my second year in the city, my father sent me a letter saying that Bode was seriously ill. I couldn’t think straight anymore. In fact, I didn’t see anyone until I had arrived in the village. What I saw when I rushed to his house, was all skeleton. My Bode had no flesh anymore.

I began nursing him to health. I hardly slept at my house during his illness, so I was unaware of what was really happening anywhere and with whomever. All I saw and could think about was Bode. We were hearing rumours that our fathers were in conflict over a coffin they had done, but I could care less.

 

Gradually, Bode started getting better, and then my ears opened. I heard the full stories. Bode’s father and my father were no longer friends. The controversy over splitting the profit for doing the casket of one of the richest men in the village was so strong, that they were no longer business partners.

The story was disheartening to everyone, but it was part of life anyway. People became friends and separated too. It happened.

Bode asked me to marry him 5 weeks before I was to go back to the city. I was overjoyed and didn’t even think to think about it.

“Yes,” I had said, and we had ended up making love in his room this time, since everyone knew I was taking care of him. This time, he forgot to pull out, and I was not anxious about it because we were getting married anyway. I couldn’t keep the news to myself. I had to tell my parents that same day, and that’s when I had known life wasn’t a fairytale.

“You can’t marry him!” That was all my dad said and went to sleep.

Bode told me the next day that his father had told him something similar too. We were in a fix now.

We kept asking, “why?”

Neither of the fathers answered. Our mothers kept speculating that it was the fight. It had destroyed everything between them. I didn’t understand it. They had been working for years, partnering to raise money through lack and the demands of a large family, why was it now that they had landed a huge amount of money that a rift was coming between them?

I couldn’t get it; neither could Bode. Soon, we were even forbidden from seeing each other. Next thing I knew, his father had found a wife for him. The news was all over the village. I felt humiliated and confused enough to die.

Bode, on one of our secret getaways, suggested we elope, never to come back, and start a new life. The thought was tempting, and I almost gave in. But I knew we couldn’t do it. Both our parents could die from the reality of what we had done. Besides, I wouldn’t want Bode to leave his family because of me.

He reminded me of the oath we had taken and how we had to be together. I had smiled even though I was dying inside, and said: “Some things have to be forgone for the sake of blood.”

His family needed him and wanted him in a certain kind of way and with a certain kind of person, and I would be a witch to alter that for them.

So…that final night before I left for the city l had been away from for months, I stood in front of the mirror naked and watched my body and how much it had changed. I liked the change for what it meant, but hated it for what it reminded me I had lost. I wasn’t going to tell Bode. I couldn’t do that to him. No, I would elope myself, with the part of him that was in me now. That’s all of him he could give at the moment, and I would cherish it till I died. I was fulfilling the covenant somehow.

“We are blood,” I said rubbing my tummy, hot tears blinding my eyes. “No matter where I go, we will be together till death do us part, because that is what blood is for.”

I remembered that day I had shed the blood that opened my body when I was 15, and then I cried myself to a wistful sleep…

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