Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi Read Online (FREE)
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I TRY NOT to think of him.
But when I do, I hear the tides.
Baba was with me the first time I heard them.
The first time I felt them.
They called out to me like a lullaby, leading us away from the forest path and toward the sea. The ocean breeze ruffled the loose coils in my hair. Rays of sun spilled through the thinning leaves.
I didn’t know what we would find. What strange wonder that lullaby would hold. I just knew I had to get to it. It was like the tides held a missing piece of my soul.
When we finally saw it, my small hand slipped out of Baba’s. My mouth fell open with awe. There was magic in that water.
The first magic I’d felt since the king’s men killed Mama.
“Zélie rọra o,” Baba called as I drifted toward the tides. I flinched when the seafoam washed over my toes. The lakes in Ibadan were always so cold. But that water was warm like the smell of Mama’s rice. As warm as the glow of her smile. Baba followed me in and lifted his head to the sky.
It was like he could taste the sun.
In that moment he grabbed my hand; laced his bandaged fingers between mine and stared into my eyes. It was then that I knew, even if Mama was gone, we still had each other.
We could survive.
But now …
I open my eyes to the cold, gray sky; to the howling ocean crashing against Jimeta’s rocky bluffs. I can’t stay in the past.
I can’t keep my father alive.
The ritual that cost Baba his life haunts me as I prepare to lay him to rest. My heart hangs with all the pain he endured; every sacrifice he made so that I could bring magic back.
“It’s okay.” My older brother Tzain stands by my side and offers me his hand. A shadow of a beard wraps around his dark brown skin; the new hair almost masks how tight his clenched jaw truly is.
He squeezes his palm against mine as the gentle mist transforms to a pelting rain. The downpour chills us to the bone. It’s like even the gods can’t help but mourn.
I’m sorry, I think to Baba’s spirit, wishing I could say it to his face. As we pull on the rope keeping his casket tethered to Jimeta’s rocky coast, I wonder why I thought burying one parent would prepare me to bury the next. My hands still shake with all the things left unsaid. My throat burns from the screams I force into silent tears. I try to keep it all inside as I reach for the jar filled with the last of our burial oil.
“Be careful,” Tzain warns as the tremor in my hand makes drops of oil spill over the jar’s rim. After three weeks of bartering to get enough to soak Baba’s casket, the rippling liquid feels more precious than gold. Its sharp smell burns my nostrils as I pour the last of it onto our burial torch. Tears stream down Tzain’s face when he strikes the flint. With no time to waste, I prepare the words of the ìbùkún—a special blessing a Reaper must pass to the dead.