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This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, and events as well as all places, incidents, organizations, and dialog in this novel are either the products of the writer’s imagination or are used fictitiously – not portrayed with geographical and historical accuracy.

THE PLACE BEYOND HER DREAMS. Copyright © 2021 Oby Aligwekwe.

Published in 2021 by Éclat Books Ca. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-7751064-4-9 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-7751064-5-6 (E-book)

ISBN: 978-1-7751064-6-3 (Hardcover)

Cover design by Stefanie Saw

Author photo by Mina Dacosta

Visit: www.obyaligwekwe.com

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

-Mark Twain-


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three


About The Author

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Chapter One

I HAD JUST turned ten the day Okem came to live with us. Everything was positioned as it had been every Saturday since I moved in with my grandparents. My grandmother was in the study tinkering with her sewing machine, I was at her feet hemming a sleeve, and my grandfather was entertaining visitors in the sitting room.

Startled by a burst of laughter from my grandfather, I dashed to the sitting room, which was separated by a narrow hallway from the study. His body vibrated. He slapped his knees with such intensity he’d failed to see me standing next to him. Turning to look in my direction after he noticed his visitors—a man and a woman—staring at me, he hurriedly beckoned to me.

That gesture—my grandfather ushering me into his magnificent presence and allowing me to sit on the softly cushioned chair next to his—used to be the highlight of my days. I moved forward to settle beside him, and right before my back hit the chair, I discovered the source of his amusement. The boy. A mere boy, standing in the corner, holding a straw fan.

“Repeat,” my grandfather said, pointing and waving his index finger at the boy.

The scraggly boy performed a contorted dance, twisting his body and strumming his fingers against the fan, pretending it was a guitar.

“Wasn’t that funny?” my grandfather asked, chuckling and looking down at me.

“It’s funny, Papa,” I agreed, trying to suppress a giggle.

“Have you greeted our guests?” my grandfather’s voice boomed in my ears—a reminder to comport myself accordingly.

“Good evening, Sir. Good evening, Ma’am,” I said, bowing my head slightly.

“Good evening, little one,” the woman responded.

I placed both hands on the chair, crossed my legs, and scrutinized the couple. The woman, with her oval face and full pouty lips, seemed well-mannered, though she spoke strangely. I recalled where I’d heard the dialect and cringed. She was from Ide, a town embroiled in boundary clashes with Ntebe, my picturesque hillside town. It was then I realized my grandfather had not been settling a domestic dispute, which made the strangers a little more interesting to me. He also couldn’t have been addressing a boundary issue with Ide, as I was never allowed near him when the chiefs met to discuss boundaries. He always said it was strictly for adults.

The man sitting next to the woman—Ozumba, they called him—appeared jittery, constantly scratching his balding head. He avoided looking at me, but I couldn’t fathom why. Perhaps he wanted me to leave. He tugged at the sleeves of his matching embroidered brocade outfit, which seemed a little too tight on him.

* * *

As my mind went around in circles pondering the purpose of their visit, as I’d become accustomed to, I caught a glimpse of the future—a small flash of Okem’s face staring intently at me. Before I could make any sense of what I’d seen, and figure out if it was good, bad, or completely inconsequential, my grandfather called me back to earth. Okem had taken the seat next to the couple and proceeded to watch me. I followed his gaze and noticed he’d been admiring the sparkly red shoes my grandfather got me the last time he visited London. “Dorothy’s shoes,” Papa had called them. They reminded him of the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

“Hello,” I said, grinning and waving my hand slowly when Okem looked up and gave me a faint smile.

“Hi,” he responded, leaning uncomfortably into his seat and locking his ankles.

One look at his clothes told me he was of a lower status. His intonation didn’t help matters. Before I got the chance to complete my assessment, my grandfather announced, “It’s concluded. Okem will stay with us. We’ll take care of him like our own. There’s no need to worry. He’ll go to school with all the other kids in the town, and in the future, he may even become a doctor and make you proud.”

Hearing my grandfather tell total strangers that their son would come to our house and distort the dynamics I’d only just become accustomed to, created the tightest feeling in the pit of my stomach. I remember wondering why my grandfather had not forewarned me.

Right then, I heard my grandmother calling.


I excused myself and left the room. After a few steps, the image I’d seen earlier came back to me.

“Grandma,” I called, taking a second to stare at her delicately aging face. I admired the way the wrinkles formed a crescent around her mouth.

“Yes?” she answered, raising her brows.

“Do you approve of that little boy coming to live with us?”

“Of course I do,” she responded with a slight chuckle. “Your grandfather and I discussed this some days ago. I didn’t think you’d mind. We thought you’d be happy to have someone to play with after school. Consider him a gift from us, and you’ll feel better about the whole situation. And he’s not a little boy. Okem is at least two years older than you.”

“What?” I shrieked, mostly because she considered him a

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