“Up until then, I had never put much consideration into my tribe’s greeting.
The women were always greeted, “wacha?”, to which we would respond, “aaa.”
Wacha, in the real sense of the word was ‘let go’, and when asked in question form meant, ‘are you ready to let go?’. In response, ‘aaa’ meant yes. So what everyone was asking me was if one day I would be ready to let go, to leave my family and start my own. And unknowingly I said yes every time as it was expected of me.
All these greetings had been amounting up to this moment, I realized. I knew it was coming, this day, but I did not think it would be this soon. Mule was the sixth suitor who had come home for my hand. Like the rest, he visited with the local brew for father, who always took it, grunted a few words and asked the men to leave. He always had a poker face around them, and as always, when it was time for the fifth visit, he would politely decline saying that his first born daughter deserved so much better.
So when I saw the sixth group come to visit, I payed no attention. As always, the first three visits were of seven men of the same age group. The suitors identity was kept secret to the fourth visit, where their number would have reduced to two, and elderly men from his clan would accompany.
I had seen how Mule looked at me, how his eyes were fixed on me while the other maidens and I fetched water by the stream. He never said a word, nor smiled at me. He just looked.
He was tall, very dark with an athletic body. His family was known for good tradesman ship and a few of his brothers were village warriors.
He would pay a good bride price and up hold my honor.
He would have good genes meaning my children would be big, strong and envied.
He had no wife meaning the first wife honor would be bestowed upon me. I would have a good life, and my peers would envy me.
Tonight would have festivities, there was a full moon after all. The excitement had already filled the village and most of us were in a rush to finish our chores early to prepare for the night, so when mother sent me to the river alone, I did not think much of it.
In my usual cheery mood, I strolled to the river singing tunes that would be heard at night. I was an excellent dancer, and I knew today, I would dance the night away. Excited and deeply engrossed in thought, I never noticed the group of boys until it was too late.
They put me in a sack and carried me high as I screamed, shouted and fought for freedom but to no avail.
As I passed through the village I could hear the women shouting at me, telling me to shut up and embrace womanhood, that my time had come.
That was when it hit me. The numerous gifts at home, mother talking in whispers, the day she clang on to me and the cows!seven grand bulls mysteriously gathered with our flock. Father had sold me off without saying a word!
Tonight, with the full moon festivities, I would be someone’s wife, and I did not know who my husband would be. No one would tell me, I had to wait for the ceremony.
I was placed in a hut, dark and damp. All windows were closed and there were no cracks for me to peer through. Those were the worst three hours of my life.
Then the women flocked in with cow fat, perfume and flowers. They had a new hide for me, they said I must be the most beautiful woman of all tonight, that today was the climax of my induction to society. That today was the last day any man was allowed to admire me knowingly, for as of morning, I would belong to one man only.
They said my tears were a good sign of well up bringing, that I was mourning my family, and it was expected. Any well brought up girl would mourn, but only before the ceremony.
They were done and again, I was left in the room by myself, awaiting the full moon to show so that I may brought out and meet my fate.
It was night and the dance and festivities out my door told me it was time. I was scared. Was I to be wed to an old man as a fourth or fifth wife, having his children for age mates? Would I be his favorite and hated by the rest of his wives? What was to become of me, I kept asking myself.
I tried to run, but the women surrounded me with their dance, leading me to my death.
Tears trickled down my face as I realized I could not escape this.
We were in the middle of the gathering, next to the huge fire, where I was to meet my husband.
Tonight was my last night as a girl, I would be a woman, I would learn to adjust, I would learn to live to serve my husband. To be dutiful, loyal and a home maker.
As his figure approached, I closed my eyes and prayed to the Moon god. Please oh Moon god please, do not make me a fourth wife, I prayed.
Opening my eyes, I found Mule staring at me, the way he always did. Only this time, he had a smile on his face.
So you see child, it’s not all that bad. I adjusted and so will you. Tonight is your night, embrace it.”
With those words, Munyiva picked up the old hide the young girl was wearing and walked out the hut, closing the hut on her way out.