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Popularity. The feeling of being accepted as you are. The feeling of being beyond ordinary, admired, envied, loved. Popularity spelled Claire.

Claire was 29, happily married with two lovely daughters and a bakery business that had opened seven branches in the country. She was the official sweet tooth supplier for the white house, lived in the leafy suburbs of Karen and was the founder of the largest book club in the elite circle.

She had worked hard to get where she was, and her charm always opened doors for her when new prospects showed. Her husband, Mathew, was tall dark and no so bad on the eye. He was a doctor, a neurosurgeon to be precise and owned a very busy practice. He loved his work, and his family.

Her daughters, Olivia and Mia, were six and four respectively. They were both in ballet classes and seemed to have a bright future ahead of them. Olivia was more like her mum; proper, polite and sweet. She wanted to be an architect when she grew up. She enjoyed Lego bricks and had no time for dolls. Mia, on the other hand, reminded Claire of her brother. She was clumsy, loud and spoke her mind. Ballet was a bore for her, and she did not understand why she had to wear dresses for family functions. She would be the child climbing trees. chasing goats and being a mess wherever she went. But she was loved as she was, she was truly a beautiful mess.

Claire was on Facebook now. She had finally settled on the family photo to share with the world. They had recently taken a trip to Zanzibar as a family, and had used a private jet. There was a portrait of them all in front of the jet. The wind was so strong she had to hold her hat in place. But the surprised look on her face looked good on her. Mathew had a half-smile going on, which was good enough, and the girls were so excited they were caught jumping mid-air. This was the perfect little family. It would definitely have the girls talking, and quite jealous.

She eagerly typed a quote from Princess Diana, “Only do what your heart tells you” #familyrules #whenhedecidestospoilthefamily #myhusbandiscoolerthanyours #familyvacays

She smiled as she clicked on the post buttons and leaned back to wait for the likes. She had two hours to bum before she made her rounds at the bakeries.

She remembered when Mathew used to accompany her on her rounds. That was before daddy opened up a practice for him. Now, work took charge of his life. He came home around eleven, tired, hungry and sleepy. At times, he also came home drunk. He’d find Olivia and Mia asleep most of the time. The time they cherished for catching up was gone as they never had dinner together any more. They mainly had business like conversations. There’s an investment that needs his signature, they have an appearance at a party, there’s a fundraiser at home, bills that need be paid. She didn’t remember the last time he really looked at her, the last time he told her she looked beautiful without anyone around to hear his words.

She looked at her photo, which already had thirty likes and a few comments about how happy and blessed she was to have such a man in her life. She smiled, remembering the drama that ensued before he agreed to the trip. She had to talk to his PA to cancel his appointments. He yelled at her, saying she had cost him millions. She transferred some money to his account for the time he lost during the trip. She booked the plane, the hotel, planned the itinerary and paid for it all.

She was angry at him, for not stepping up. She was angry at herself, that she had allowed their dreams, ambitions and desire to be famous separate them. That they were okay acting out a role, rather than living their lives.

She remembered her dear friend, Aida, who had opened up about how miserable she was in her marriage. She spoke about his affair with her friends, the wastage of money, the emotional abuse and they all turned their backs on her. She got divorced, and got the family house. She got a hefty amount and was still getting maintenance fees each month. She was free but still had her life. But being a single mother, a divorcee did not sit well with the circle. Members agreed it best to have her off the book club. She was not invited to events any more, and what’s worst, her kids were not readmitted to school as the school culture did not believe in single parenting. She was shut off, while her husband moved on and got a new wife who was celebrated and embraced into the circle.

She sighed. That would never be her. She would not be rejected, ridiculed or laughed at. She had invested too much in this life to let go of it. It was who she was, it was what she knew to do. Mathew may not love her any more, but they were cordial enough with each other. He respected her, and she did him. Maybe somewhere along the line, they would fall in love again.

Maybe one day, the beautiful portrait she showed the world would become true.

Night out of Paradise

It was dusk. The compound was more quiet compared to her neighbors. You could see the sun setting against the baobab tree, and she sat on a three legged stool next to her three stone fire cooking a meal for her family of three.

“Mum, mummy….where are you?” her daughter called excitedly from the front yard. She had a notebook, pen and bracelet in hand. It was from the mission. There was a white woman there who had taken fond of her daughter.

She gave her daughter a look as if to scold her. She had told her not to accept too many things from the lady, what would she think of their family?

“Mummy, I was with the other children. The missionaries gave us all. I tried to refuse but it looked bad…and when Rukia got a pink book and the beads on the pen, I wanted one. You know she’ll come with it to school, and so will the others and I’d be the only one without one….”

Aisha smiled at her daughter. She had a way with words, plus she was adorable. “Go put them in the house child, it’s okay,”she said smiling at her daughter. “And Rehema, there are two blankets under your bed, please bring them and put them behind the Baobab tree.”

A few meters from her, she saw her friend with shopping in hand walking casually.

“Aisha, how are you today,”she shouted. “Is that chicken you’re cooking?”

“If it were, you’d be the last to know!”she shouted back and they all started laughing.

“I left your husband at the Mnazi Place, he seems to be at a good place,”she said winking. “He’ll be home soon.”

“Thank you dear,” she said smiling back, “in that case, I’ll quicken my pace. See you tomorrow at the factory?”

“Ah, yes. See you then, I almost forgot Cashews are in season. Say a big hello to Rehema for me.”

Aisha’s mind was on her husband now. He would be home in about half an hour. She only had half an hour to prepare the home for her husband.

Hurriedly, she helped Rehema bath and change into warm clothes. She used to object due to the hot coastal weather, but of late, she understood it was for her own good.

The candles inside the house were lit. The bed was made, and dinner plates laid out with the rice and stew she had made.

She served Rehema some food and asked her to eat. Her father might be late, and she is a growing girl. She had school the next day and needed be ready for bed soon. She asked Rehema clean her plate once done. A girl is never too young to learn what is expected of her as a woman in society and in the home.

After the cleaning, Aisha took out her bible. They were reading the book of Daniel today. It was Rehema’s favorite. She loved how Daniel survived in the lion’s den. She always said that if God did that for Daniel, He would help them all get a better life. Aisha loved instilling hope in her daughter. It was important for her to know that God did not intend for them to suffer, nor live in poverty. She needed faith and confidence to have a better life than what they had now.

As they read on, they heard someone kick a bucket outside the compound and the goat bleat. He was here.

As if on impulse, she methodically stood up ad walked to the door. She opened the door with a smile on her face. “Welcome home my husband.”

“Someone left that bucket out and intentionally put it in my way, did they want me to fall, eh?”he slurred out. He smelt of urine and alcohol, and it had just been one day!

“I’m sure no one meant harm my love,”she answered politely. “Please come in, I’ve prepared dinner for you.”

He staggered into the house and slumped himself on the sofa. He then looked at his daughter and smiled.

“How is school treating you? You’re in class one now, aren’t you?”

“I’m in class four Papa,” she answered politely.

“Oh,”he said smiling as he picked the plate his wife had served him.”You kids grow up so fast these days…just the other day your mother would carry you on her back as she went to the factory….”

He took a handful of rice and soup and put it in his mouth. He’d always insist on eating with his hands as per their tradition. He then picked a piece of chicken and bit into it. He sighed in appreciation.

“Sweet Aisha! If there is one thing you know how to do, it’s took cook chicken,”he said biting onto another piece.

“Thank you Baba Rehema,”she said smiling and winking at her daughter. He then invited them to share the meal with them.

Aisha picked up two plates and served a meal for herself and Rehema. They ate quickly and in silence.

Papa asked for water. Aisha stood up and walked to the outside kitchen to fetch a jug.

As she walked back into the main house, she could hear the conversation between father and daughter, and she knew that the niceties were about to be over.

“Aisha, our daughter was busy telling me how you’ve single-handedly managed to pay her school fees for the past three years. You even managed to get her new uniforms for each year.”

“Rehema has made friends with the missionaries Baba,”she said calmly pouring some water in his glass, “they volunteered to sponsor her education. We visit the mission every three months before the reopening of school.”

“Oh, I see…and do the missionaries also pay for the chicken we are able to afford?”

“No Baba,that came from the money I make at the factory.”

“So you’re telling me the factory pays you enough money to buy chicken?”he asked a bit stern.

“No Baba, I just save up,”she said shakily. “I knew the chicken would make you happy therefore I thought-”

“Liar!”he shouted as he threw the glass against the wall.”You’ve become someone’s whore! You whore around for money thinking it will make you happier! You’ve been seen with that missionary man for long, you thought I wouldn’t know? You whore!”

With that, he took the jug and threw water at her. He walked towards her, and with the jug repeatedly hit her on the back and kicked her on the stomach.

“Get out of my house,”he shouted. “No whore sleeps in my home.”

“But Baba…”she cried while on the floor,”I have done nothing wrong. I work hard to make money to make us both happy…Baba, please listen to me. I would never betray you. Please don’t kick us out tonight…”

“Out. Toka!”he shouted. “You and your daughter sleep outside like the dogs you are!”

He was dragging her out as he said this. Aisha cried. She begged. She called onto God which infuriated her husband. He hit her and finally threw her out of the house. He called their daughter and asked her to follow her mother or face his wrath.

He then banged the door and locked it.

Aisha and her daughter were out in the cold, dark night-again. She hugged her daughter who was crying silently. She held her for two minutes and reminded her of how strong Daniel from the Bible was. She told her she needed to be strong, and that not all man were like her father. She asked her to pray for her father, that he may change his ways and be a good dad like Rukia’s or any of her friends. She asked her daughter to promise she would pray. Wiping off her tears, she promised she would pray for him.

She then sent her daughter to pick the blankets behind the Baobab tree as they moved to kitchen. They would have an early morning just to ensure nobody saw them.

 

 

 

 

Sue.

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A woman sat in the waiting hall of the hospital. It was a quiet room, not too crowded, with a soft music playing in the background. The receptionist was in a jovial mood as she moved her head to the beat.

Priscilla, on the other hand was worried. She did not know what the doctors would say. Sue, her daughter, was in the bathroom producing a sample. She had refused for her mother to join her when she saw the doctor and she could only guess how bad it was.

The doctor had come to her, tried to explain what was wrong with her daughter, but she did not want to know, not until the results were out.

She had raised a rebel, a stubborn child. The environment she had been raised in, was not what most people considered normal. Priscilla had married a mad man, mad in the sense that, he did not want to be a husband. He was always in bars, with prostitutes and other people’s wives, downing his entire pay. Then he would come home, drunk and hungry, demanding food that he had not provided. When the children did not go to school on time due to fees, he would complain, yet he never removed a penny. So the day she confronted him, he hit her once. Then he did it again, and again, and again, in front of the children. And they grew hard, distant and stubborn. She finally got the courage to leave him, but by that time, her daughter saw her differently. She did not listen to her mother, and fights were normal things in their home.

Her son, Jacob, got a job and moved out immediately. This only worsened her relationship with Sue. She felt like her mother was controlling her, and Priscilla felt disrespected.

So Sue did what she knows best. She ran away from home, and went to live with a boy in a shanty place. She switched off her phone therefore her mother could not find her.

Relatives kept telling Priscilla that they had seen Sue in town, she had grown thin and weak, but was still too stubborn to come back home. Life had been cruel to her. Rumor had it that her so called boyfriend beat her from time to time.

So when Priscilla got a call from her daughter saying that she did not feel well, and had no money to go to the hospital, she ran to her aide. When she saw her daughter, how thin, unhappy and weak she looked, she almost broke down to tears. She wanted to embrace her, drag her home and bring back her senses, but she just stood there, and they walked on in silence.

Sue emerged from the washrooms, gave out her samples and sat next to her mother. They had to wait for half an hour.

“Are you hungry?” Priscilla said casually.

“Not at all,” she replied back picking up a magazine.

“Well I am,” she said getting up.”Let’s go to the cafe down stairs.”

They sat down in the busy cafe and both placed and order.

“So, how have you been?” she asked her daughter. “It’s been close to seven months since I heard from you.”
“Been okay,”she replied looking uncomfortable.

“School? Your former classmates have been asking about you. They thought all of you would graduate from High school together…”

“That dream sailed a long time ago mother,”she responded with some irritation in her voice.

“And Gerald? How is he doing?”

“Jeez mum, is this an interview? Can’t we just sit down for once without you being on my back all the time!”

“Well, I’m sorry for wanting to know how my daughter has been. I haven’t seen nor heard from you for the past seven months. Is it not only fair that I-”

“Please, that victim thing you use won’t work on me. Your life has been better without me in it and so has mine. I did not call you so that I may come back home with you, trust me, you were the last option on my book. And I’m sorry if I bothered you. So let’s keep this as light as it can be till we are done.”

Priscilla sighed. She still could not get through to her. So she just sat there, asked nothing and ate her food, waiting for Sue to at least say something.

They cleared their bill and walked towards the hospital. The results were ready and soon, she would know what was wrong.

“Well, your results are back,”started the doctor as her opened her file. “It shows that you contracted an STI, and that is why you have been bleeding. Not to worry, it happens often to women in your condition and is curable with no effect at this stage.”

“Excuse me, what condition are we talking about?” asked Priscilla perplexed.

“Her pregnancy,” replied the doctor casually. “She’s four months in, I thought as her guardian you knew…”

Priscilla turned to face her daughter angrily. “God!! Seventeen and pregnant! Well Sue, if you wanted to spite me, you’ve done it now!”

“I’m keeping it,”she responded in a low even tone.

“The hell you are! Doctor,” Priscilla said turning to face the doctor,”how soon can we erase the stupidity of my daughter’s way?”
“Madam, abortion is illegal in this country,”he replied curtly.

“But she is just a child!” she shouted angrily.

The doctor took out a pen and prescribed some pills for the infection then directed them to the chemist.

They walked, in angry silence, bought the pills and walked towards the parking lot.

Priscilla was furious. “Honestly Sue, you cannot think of keeping this child, you are a child yourself!”

“I don’t care what you think mother, it’s my child and I am keeping it.”

She laughed. “It’s for Gerald, right? You think if you give him a child he’ll stick by you. Honey, he’s only twenty one, with no stable job-”

“He sells movies!”

“Making very little cash to sustain you both, let alone a child. Sue…you are making a mistake. That boy is not ready for commitment, and if he is beating you already, he clearly does not love you. Haven’t you learnt anything from my experience with your father?

Sue, you need to come home now, this has gone on far long enough. We need to work on our relationship, and get you back to school, shape your future, make sure you get the life you deserve. And we’ll start by getting rid of that…that thing inside of you. Do I make myself clear Sue?”

Priscilla got no response. She turned around, but she was too late. She could see her daughter from a distance, in a matatu, disappearing once more.

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And she forgot her drugs.

Market Day.

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The market was busy, bustling with customers buying their weekly grocery, it was after all, market day, the busiest day of the week for Maria.

She handed out a paper bag full of vegetables to her customer, with a smile on her face and thanked her. Her mother and her mother before hers were all market vendors, and they had realized on the easiest ways of keeping customers is to be alert, fast and very friendly.

She sighed and sat on her old chair, under the shade of her small umbrella. It was only mid day and she was tired. She wiped sweat from her forehead and adjusted her scarf.

Her neighbor, Munyiva, looked at her and smiled. “Aah Maria, on these days your child will graduate from University, and your hard work will finally pay off. Imagine that, a market vendor’s lineage bringing forth a teacher!”

“Yes,” joined in Mundia chuckling, “then she’ll become snotty, walking with her head high and speaking English only.”

“Now now Mundia, I’ve raised her better than that,” answered Maria sipping on her water. “She’ll do good, you wait and see.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Kamene, who had just arrived with her vegetables. She looked excited.

“Kamene, you are so late today,” asked Munyiva. “What happened today? You overslept?”

“No, not at all,” she said unpacking her vegetables. “As you can see from my vegetables, I got to Mariakani before all of you. I just made a detour on my way here. You see, a scandal has erupted.”

Mundia, who loved gossip, sat upright and leaned closer to Kamene. She did not want any detail to escape her ear.

As Kamene begun her tale, Maria got a customer who she attended to as she listened.

“The church I tell you…Pastor Oghene, of the Deliverance Church, that Nigerian has come here to use our church going women,” she said, pausing the gasps to die down. “Yes, he claimed to be a man of God, performing miracles. The blind could see, the lame could walk and for the women, the barren could conceive.”

Maria’s customer was in no rush now…she wanted to hear the gossip. She did, after all, go the man’s church. And so did Maria.

“A bitter woman called this radio show yesterday, the one that exposes cheats and adulterers. Apparently she had been with the pastor for a year, giving her tithe and praying dutifully each day for a child. Her husband wanted to leave her and marry a fertile woman. So when the pastor said that the first born should be dedicated to God, and by dedicated, I mean from the man of God, she did not refuse him. No one ever questions pastors, right?”

“Eh heh…go on,”said Mundia excitedly.

“After a year of being with him and no child, she got tired and wanted to know if it was the truth of if he was just using her. And the radio presenter found him out, he was lying to sleep with her!”

The women around could not believe it. Many gasped, others said no over and over again, while others sat dazed, staring at Kamene.

“That is not the scandal,” she went on, proud to be the bearer of news. “Today morning, while leaving Mariakani, I found a large group of women outside the church demanding to see the pastor.”

“Oh…no!” shrieked Munyiva. “How many?”

“I would say about fifty, if not more. They had all slept with him, without protection. Many were their to get a refund on their tithes for their miracles had not come through. Others had been kicked out of their homes by their husbands who had now found out the truth.”

“And the pastor? Did they get to see him?”

Kamene laughed. “You think these Nigerian men are not clever? Eh? After the radio show the man packed his things and left the town. Only his god knows where he is; the next town ¬† ¬†planning the next con or he’s back in Abuja. Rumor has it he has a wife there…”

Maria was no longer listening as the women chatted away…she was remembering her own story, about a year ago when the man they spoke of had healed her Tuberculosis, how he had prayed for her prosperity, for fees for her daughter, he had even blessed her home!

He had never asked anything of her; money, food nor her body. This could not be the same man they spoke of.

“Rubbish,” she uttered under her breathe as she carried on to serve her customer.

Little did she know, in a town far away from her, her daughter held a pregnancy test strip in her hand that came out positive.

Home.

The sitting room was exactly as he had left it. A huge cupboard to his left, hiding the utensils mother had bought from her chama, with the TV, of course, covered with a clothing covering it. He sighed. He had spent most of his childhood seated in front of that screen, watching Sonic and Rainbow stars; those were his favorite cartoons.

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In front of him was a table, with breakfast. A huge thermos, full of tea, Blue Band margarine and bread. It looked dim in the room, the windows had heavy curtains and blinds that made the room somewhat stuffy. He sipped on to his tea greedily, ignoring how hot it was, it had been two days since his last meal.

The maid sat on the dinning table, feeding the child. She was ten years now, he last saw her when she was four. He could tell she was nervous to see him, she was curious who he was and what he was doing in their home so early. He tried to smile and ease her, but it made it worse. She heard the girl asking the maid, asking who he was. And she, ordered the girl to quit being so nosy, to finish her breakfast quick if she wanted to go out and play.

Soon the neighbors started flowing in. Borrowing sugar, a religious book they had borrowed or they were just in the neighborhood. But he knew, they all knew that they wanted to see him. His mother, who was from taking a bath, accommodated the first five, but after that, chased them all away.

This was no market, she said. There was nothing to see, and if they expected a show, she would give them one, she barked. She went on about privacy and God knows what, when all the while he sat there, listening.

He had missed her. Three years had passed since her last visit. Maybe she thought he had died, or maybe he had forgotten her. Maybe, maybe she did not love him any more…

She locked the door as the sat on the couch beside him. It was nine in the morning and she was already tired.

She looked at her son. He had grown thin, weak. He was no longer the vibrant boy she knew. But yet, when he smiled at her, the gleam his eyes was the same, reminding her that a piece of him still existed, somewhere, in there…

“Have you eaten?” he nodded. “Are you full?” He shook his head.

She poured him another mug of tea and poured herself one. She then passed the bread towards his direction and beckoned him to eat. She assured him that he was safe, and that he could eat all he wanted.

She watched him as he ate. Her boy. She remembered how stubborn he was as a child, choosing his own path and preferring his own company to his siblings. He always had a vivid imagination, that grew wilder each passing day. Whenever they would go to the country side and sit by the fire at night, he would be the one entertaining everyone with his stories. They would become so vivid, so real and ghastly, his father had to make him stop.

He always spoke of ghosts, spirits, the other side, talking animals and signs…his grandmother thought he was special. That the ancestors had chosen him, to speak through him…that was until his father died.

When Richard passed on, her little boy became deluded. He would awake in the middle of the night, sweating, screaming. Screaming that his father wanted to take him to the other side and he did not want to go. Then grandma came to visit, and an owl perched itself outside his window. Grandma said the boy was a bad omen, that the spirits wanted him. She had a ritual performed to cleanse him, but the owl came each night. After a fortnight she left, and vowed never to visit so long as the boy lived there.

She remembered how she tried to save her little boy. She took him to the preacher, to cast out demons, but he stood there, confused. She tried therapy but nothing worked. His siblings no longer wanted to play with him, he got kicked out of school and was leading a lonely life.

Then the Missionary came. She suggested that the boy go to Mathare. It was a hospital, for the mentally ill. There was a doctor there who could help her boy. And so, in each bid to help her son, she packed a few belongings and told him they were going on a short trip into the city. He was happy to leave, to see a new world.

When they got to the hospital, sister Ann (as they called the nurses) was very warm and welcoming. All the patients looked happy, clean and healthy. And the doctor, he said her boy was undergoing trauma, he had after all, lost his father. He needed to stay with them for a few months. And since the fee was reasonable, and her boy would be healed, she saw no reason to refuse.

So she felt her son in the city, in the hands of strangers and hoped for a miracle. She visited him each month and he cried. Cried to go home with her, begged to leave. And each time she would say, “Not yet baby, the doctors are here to fix you.”

Two years passed and she quit visiting. He was not getting better, they said. He stuck to his own company, talking to himself, talking to his father. He said he saw things, they called it paranoia. She did not know who to believe, so she ignored them both. She forgot about her baby.

And now, here he was, a grown sickly man, but a boy in his mother’s eyes.

The news said that forty of them had escaped, that seventy of them attacked the guards and only forty escaped. And her boy was one of them. There was a search for them, and they knew, they knew he would come home. They had called her in advance to warn her.

“How is Sister Ann?” she asked trying to make conversation.

“She is okay mother, though Oti stabbed her in the eye with a fork. She only has one eye now.”

“Oh,” she said somewhat confused by the calmness in his voice. “And…do you still see them, son? Do you still see your father?”

“Every day, he keeps me company,” he said smiling. “We are friends now.”

A silence hovered between them He thought his mother thought he was mad. She let the guilt of abandoning her son sink in, thinking he hated her.

“Can we watch Sonic ma? I’ve missed watching cartoons. They don’t let us watch any there.”

“Honey, Sonic hasn’t been aired for a long time. But there’s cartoon network, your sister enjoys it a lot.”

She picked the remote and turned on the television. He sat there, dazed for an hour. He did not even notice her leave the room. For once, he felt young again. Normal. Like he was when a child. He did not want to leave home, ever again.

There was a knock on the door, a knock his mother rushed to, too fast. He knew something was wrong. Then he saw them. He saw Sister Ann and the ward attendants. They had come for him, and nobody would help him.

He screamed out for help, as they forced him to wear a straitjacket. Sister Ann laughed at him, telling him he could not escape any more, he was going home, where he belonged.

As they pushed him to the car, he called out for his mother, he wanted her to save him. But she stood there, looking at him, holding herself. Then he heard her say it, say the words that drove him mad; “Not yet baby, not until the doctors fix you.”

Those were the last words he ever heard her say.

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Right of Passage.

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“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.

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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.