Samantha was lying face down in my bedroom. She was sniffing and whimpering. She was crying. Her long and full auburn hair was tossed all over the pillow.
“Gawd! Oh Gawd!” she vituperated, hitting her fists on the pillow which unsuccessfully smothered her wailings.
“Samantha dear, what is it?” I asked, hurrying over to her side, taking her in my arms and stroking her luxuriant hair.
“It is Bob,” she said, heaving in tortuous agony.
“Bob again!” I lamented.
“Yes,” she said, shaking her head sadly.
“What about him this time?” I asked, frowning.
“I can’t seem to get him out of my mind,” she said, bursting into fresh tears and yanking at her hair.
“Hm!” I burst into laughter.
“You are laughing, Ada. You think it is funny?” She was angry.
“I am sorry. It’s just that we African ladies don’t often get heartbroken,” I said, handing her a shot of ogogoro. “Drink, it will do you good,” I coaxed her.
“What is this?” she asked, wide-eyed, momentarily forgetting her misery.
“Local gin,” I answered.
“Is it like your palm wine?” she asked, enthusiastically.
“Yes,” I said. “Drink and forget your worries.”
She took two strong swallows. She coughed dryly. “Oh, this is too strong!” she exclaimed, thumping at her chest.
“How do you feel now?” I asked.
“Much better,” she said, nodding her head, her blue eyes twinkling.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get over it,” I said, smiling.
“Get over Bob! Hell no! I love him!” she screamed, springing up like a demented animal.
“I know what you could do,” I said, after a brief moment of serious thought.
“What!” she exclaimed. “I’d do anything. Just about anything, if it would earn me Bob’s love. What can I do? Please tell me, Ada.”
“The answer is Belu so m,” I said, grinning.
“Bel-so…m,” she repeated. “What’s it?” she asked, perplexed.
“Can you cook?” I asked again, this time excited.
“Hell! I can’t,” she answered, mystified. “Well I can put the kettle to the boil for tea and make omelets,” she added, so proud of herself.
“Ha, ha, ha,” I burst into fresh laughter, tears streaming out of my eyes as if had been dicing onions.
“Have you ever heard of the way to a man’s heart?” I asked.
“Through serious lovemaking that would blow his heart,” she said, grinning.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed. “Through his stomach.”
“What’s that?” she enquired, interested.
“Through good food….”
“Good food! Have you gone nuts?”
“Calm down,” I said, smiling.
* * *
Mama-Nwantiti seemed to be brewing one of her potent love potions when we stepped into her hut. She was grinding some roots and herbs in a mortar shaped like a human skull, all the time muttering incantations:
Love nwantiti, love nwantiti.
Ije m na love, o foduru nwantiti.
Ije m na love, o foduru nwantiti.
“Onye ocha!” she exclaimed, as soon as she saw Samantha.
“Mama nno,” I greeted, curtsying. Samantha curtsied too, imitating me.
“Mami no,” she said, speaking through her nose.
This made Mama-Nwantiti convulse into laughter more potent than all the potions of love combined.
“You are welcome my daughters,” Mama-Nwantiti said, in her motherly manner.
We told her our problems.
“You have come to the right place. This is a small matter for Mama-Nwantiti,” she added, grinning, her yellow teeth conspicuous.
She handed Samantha a small leaf wrap, with a powder that looked like finely grinded pepper in it.
“Ada, tell her how to use it,” she said. I dropped some naira notes on the floor.
“Nno my daughters.”
“Thank you mama,” we said, and we were off.
* * *
The next morning I saw Samantha off to the Port-Harcourt International Airport. She was going back to America. She could not wait to try out the Belu so m recipe.
“I shall miss you, Samantha,” I said, wet-eyed, using my sleeves to clean my tear-streaked eyes.
“Me too, Ada. I shall miss you exceedingly much,” she said.
“I wish you weren’t going,” I said, sulking like a baby deprived of breast milk.
“How about joining me in America someday?” she asked.
“Really? That would be wonderful!” I exclaimed, with glee.
Samantha and I had met over the Internet. We had quickly struck an intimate friendship, not minding that she was white and I was black. She had told me of this guy, a family friend she loved, but who did not reciprocate her love. She was eating out her heart for the love of this guy. I had invited her to Nigeria and she had taken it up, in the hope that her heartache would be cured.
* * *
I had just had my bath. I was toweling my body. My mobile rang.
“Yes, who is this?”
“Oh! Samantha,” I screamed. “Nice to hear from you.”
“What!” I gasped.
“Bobby and I are getting wedded next month, and baby, you are flying over soon. You are Maid of Honour.
“Hurrah!” I screamed. “How did you do it?”
“Simple,” she said. “I had mum arrange a family dinner and he was invited. I sprinkled some of the Belu so m and coaxed him into eating. You won’t believe it. From then on he never left my side. You know what?”
“What?” I asked.
“My friends are interested.”
I convulsed into a mirthful laughter.
“Hell! What’s funny?” she asked, her bemusement entertaining me.
“You know what?”
“We would get Mama-Nwantiti to make many wraps of Belu so m. in fact she would pack them in many baskets. You would be sole distributor - America.”
“Yeah! Import the very potent African love potions to America,” she said.
“Why not? – a veritable source of foreign exchange. After all do we not import your ridiculous so-called sexy negligees?” I sneered.
“Yes, you’ve got it! Hurrah for Belu so m! Now let me show you its efficacy.” She raised her voice: “Bob, honey, come say hi to my African friend.”
“Hullo, girl!” a sonorous bass filtered in from my phone.
“Hi,” I replied. “How are you doing?”
“Fine. Your friend sure blows my mind. I am all right, only I cannot wait to have her all to myself,” he said.
I heard the smack of kissing lips. I grinned. Belu so m, I have never doubted its potency. Samantha was back on the phone.
“Know what?” I told her.
“What?” she asked.
“You never asked what Belu so m means?”
“What does it mean?”
“Belu so m means: only me.”
“What does it imply?” she asked, breathing fast.
“Bob would only have eyes for you alone. You would never have any rival.”
“Huh!” she exclaimed. “Am I glad? Up Belu so m!”
“Samantha, I want to let you in on a secret,” I said.
“Fire on. What is it? You know your secret’s always safe with me.”
“Do you imagine there is anything mysterious about Belu so m?”
“Of course, yes. You need to see how the magic worked on Bob. Woah!”
“Samantha, the truth is that there never was any magic.”
“What then is it?” she enquired, bewildered.
“The African woman has always known that the easiest way to a man’s heart is his stomach. That has always been her strongest asset,” I said.
“In Ibo land it is said that when a proverb is posed and one requires an interpretation the bride price paid on one’s mother is wasted. Samantha, Belu so m is a proverb.”
“You have only to fit the puzzle yourself. Remember, when I gave you the parcel of Belu so m I told you what to do to enhance its efficacy.”
“Yes, yes! You said I was to cook and serve the food myself; serve it with manifest love; say only nice and flattering things to Bob. In particular, I was never to stop doing all these; otherwise the love potion would be neutralized. The funniest was that I was to keep calling him ‘my lord,’ ‘owner of my life,’ ‘pillar of my strength,’ and such and such.”
“Samantha,” I called her, smiling. “Remember the story Mama-Nwantiti told us, of the woman who had consulted adibia to cast a spell on her husband so that he would never leave her. What did the dibia tell her?”
“She was asked to go and get a strand of hair from a live lion’s mane for the dibia to concoct the spell.” Samantha answered, displaying an intact memory.
“Now, remember it took her great pains to befriend a lion, waiting patiently till she gained the lion’s trust, before she could get near the lion to collect a strand of its mane.”
“Yes, yes!” Samantha exclaimed and added: “when she joyously and victoriously brought the strand of the lion’s mane the dibia asked her to conscientiously apply the same attitude to her husband and he would love her. He would never leave her.”
“Now Samantha, think…think hard. Unravel the mystery, bearing in mind that all that was in that parcel Mama-Nwantiti gave you was only but a local appetizing ingredient, uziza and uda, refined by Mama-Nwantiti,” I said to her, seriously.
Samantha was going to ask more questions but I cut off the phone after promising to call her later. I was not going to marry a wife for her, and also provide the mat for their cohabitation.
Since the publication of his first novel, Memoirs of Jezebel in 2004, Nigerian born Wingate Emmanuel Onyedi has been joint-winner,2005 ANA / Imo Children’s Literature Prize, forThe Reunion, published by major Nigerian educational publisher, Africana First Publishers, Onitsha; andfirst runner-up, 2006 ANA / Imo Prose Prize, receiving honourable mention for Captive Of Love,which has beenserializedin the Saturday Vanguard. His Onukwughaa, a novel written in his native Ibo language and short listed for the 2007 ANA \ Nnamani Ibo Literature Prize (in honour of Nnamdi Azikiwe) is forthcoming. He is currently of the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria.