Miss Gaju. How exactly can I explain Gaju?
Miss Gaju was like a force of nature. When she wanted something, she wanted it, and God help whoever was unlucky enough to be in her way.
I had just finished harvesting the second crop of apples from my apple trees, and I was putting them into baskets when my brother came in. I do this task alone. It’s a lot of apples, but my brother and the worker I hired are both useless at this task. No eye for the perfect apple. None at all! But I learnt from the best- Master. Only two harvests and people were already talking about my fantastic produce. I could already command a high price for my goods. The apples that didn’t pass my test of perfection, I sold to the pig farmers at a lower rate, but I still made a profit. I also brew top shelf apple cider. Very delicious. I know, people tell me all the time.
I was already considering hiring two or three more workers to help me in planting and harvesting. Also I thought of growing oranges and pineapples too. The world was my oyster, and everything was perfect.
“What is it?” Pick apple, weigh it carefully, test for defects. Perfect? Throw it in the big wicker basket.
“Brother, stop work for a minute. Gaju is here.”
That froze me quicker than a plunge into a cold stream on a winter night.
“What does she want?
“Why don’t you find out?”
It was just half a basket left to be sorted out. So I left it, adjusted my trousers and tied the rope I held it with firmly, and went to receive my visitor.
Perhaps I should explain why Gaju came. You see, she was a worker until last year. And like me, she produced apples. Her apples were really good too, and she obviously put some effort into it. But faced with mine, they were second rate.
Then people began to gossip, I don’t know why they love to stir up trouble but some idealistic fool with a big mouth started passing his opinion around that Gaju and I would make a great couple. Hardworking and good at what we do, we’d raise the perfect family. Idiot.
And God help me, Gaju heard and bought it. So once every week she came to see if I was open to a “union.”
Had it been a young man who troubled me for some foolish reason, I would have gotten my dog and rifle and taught him some sense when next he came, but Gaju was a lady and Momma trained me to be nice to ladies.
“Never fight a woman boy,” she’d say as she sorted corn and potatoes for the evening meal “only weak men do that, and you’re not weak.”
“I know why you’ve refused my advances, Tunde, I know about Miss Jessica. But you don’t have a future with that woman, she’s bigger than you. Honest.”
“I like her just fine Miss Gaju. I’m okay with my lot.”
“It’s just Gaju, for you. And think of how wonderful it would be if we joined. I could sell my farm and move in with you. We could expand your farm and own it together. We’d work really hard and we’d be rich! Richer than Jessica’s folks. As rich as- as Croesus!”
“No Miss, see here, I’m okay the way I am. If you have nothing better but to come here and try to change my mind on this topic, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Oh it isn’t the main reason I’m here. My house is being fumigated to rid it of mice and vermin. I don’t have no where to go. I thought I’d come meet you for a night. Since we’re partners.”
Now there’s my problem. Big words like fumigated. Who under God’s green earth needs such long heavy words to name stuff?
Apples. Cider. Delicious. Those words are okay. Then some stuck up ninny comes up with a word like “fumigated” and I wonder why he needs to make words so heavy. Why can’t it be simple and stuff?
Not important. But it was then that I noticed she had a small bag with her. It was crammed with clothes. God help me, I just cannot turn down a woman in need so I said okay, you can come in, but don’t make no trouble.
She nodded and curtsied all prim and proper like I was some benevolent master and followed me in. My brother said nothing and neither did my worker. Wish they did. Wish they slapped me out of that madness.
Gaju brought with her a cup of that strong apple cider she makes and so I had to drink to her health. I was offered another cup and you see, it’s rude to say no to such niceness and deliciousness so I took it and downed it.
When you’ve had two, what’s having a third? Nothing. So I took a third cup.
Now them three cups were feeling so lonely down there I sent a fourth cup to keep them company. And soon I was well and fully drunk.
Someone helped me into my bed later that evening, and it was cold so I moved closer. She was nice and warm and smelled like apples so I squirm to get even closer. There’s a girlish giggle and she straddles me, and I liked what was being offered. Well who turns down such a sweetness? I took that woman.
I took her harder than a horse taking a mare in heat. That was quite a night, I tell you.
Afterwards I was knocked out. I went to where the bad naughty boys go to when they sleep.
T’was Jessica’s scream the next morning that woke me up.
I rubbed my eyes awake to see Gaju on my bed. And there was blood on my sheets. Maidenhead blood. And she was wearing a shirt. My shirt, and nothing else.
“Tunde? How could you do this to me?”
“I- I don’t know, I was-”
Miss Jessica turned and ran out like a demon with a one time free ticket out of hell. I stood up to run after her but I fell and discovered I wasn’t wearing a thing at all. No sense chasing a woman naked so I turned to take some clothes and then I actually saw her. She was sitting on a corner of the bed, all nervous and shaky.
“I’m your wife now. In the eyes of God and men I’m your wife. You took my maidenhead. I’m your wife.” She kept saying it over and over and it was true. I didn’t want Gaju anyway, I wanted Miss Jessica. But I couldn’t well turn her out, I had deflowered the lady and I had a duty to marry her.
But I wasn’t. I would take my child if she took in, I would nuture him and raise him proper but there was no way I was going to let her stay.
“Leave my house. Go.”
Every week, I went to plead with Jessica. I begged her. I tried to get her to accept me. I used all the flowery words I learnt from my education. Women like those words. Honest. I promised not to marry Gaju. I once even offered my farm and all I had. I’d willingly become her personal worker if she’d let me. I wrote her lovesick poetry every day I could. Such madness, I tell you. I was desperate.
But she never took me back. In time, the truth of the issue got out, for Gaju could not bear me suffering so, so she told someone and someone told someone and soon everyone knew I was tricked into it. But still Jessica was firm and kept saying “No.”
Eventually, Gaju did bear me a son. A strong, healthy child, I heard. I went to see my seed and he looked just like me! Gaju was scared, she was afraid I’d take him and leave her with nothing. I can remember her eyes that day. Desire so strong it pulled you in. Fear so thick it made you want to hold her and tell her everything was going to be okay. An hope. A little spark of hope, yet it was there. And it hit me.
“Get your things.”
“What? Did you say-”
“Miss Gaju, do you expect the mother of my child would have to raise him alone like some abandoned gutter girl? He is MY SON! Get your things, you’re coming with me.”
That was so many years ago, my friends. I got me a proper preacher and made a honest woman out of her, I did. It was very important.
She worked that year like a woman possessed. I think she was trying to pay me for tricking me. But it soon became clear that a woman nursing could only do so much so I stopped her. We sold her farm and bought more farmland. We hired more workers and planted oranges and pineapples. Corn and potatoes and plantains naturally followed and soon I had me a vast farm with more money than I knew what to do with. I finished my education and got used to big fat words like “fumigated” and “annunciation” and whatnot.
My brother has his own farm now, I bought him the land he started with and he worked till he grew big enough to rival me, and he comes to visit twice every week. We hold a feast whenever he does.
Miss Jessica later married a man from her “upper” class society. She blocked me at a fair last year and told me she didn’t mind if we saw each other in private once or twice. Get to know each other the way we should have. But I said no. I’m married you see. And I must do good by my woman.
It was years before I took that vixen Gaju to bed again, and she was grateful for it. We are finally a real couple and she bore me the prettiest girl you ever saw. My son and daughter are the pride of my life. I watch them grow everyday and count myself blessed to have them. They’re strong, hard workers and already know what is what.
My life is good.
I still miss Jessica sometimes. But less and less each year that passes.