Publish a Story

Papa’s Death

IMG_20210422_161147_929.jpg

Tired and dusty from a day spent walking the roads of Oshodiand navigating traffic to sell bread, chips and popcorn to the commuters, Chioma made her way back to her family's ramshackled house in the slums of Ajegunle.

It is rumored that Waheed is a serial rapist and child molester, but Papa wouldn't listen as getting married to Waheed Mékoguarantees a steady three-square meal for the rest of the family. A tempting offer, she acquiesced. She shouldn't care about Mama and Papa, but she does.

‘I don't want to get married now,’ she mumbled on her way back home. ‘’I'm only just sixteen and still a minor. I want to go to school, too, like other children,’ she lamented dejectedly. Who would she talk to? Who would she call? In a society where the rights of womenfolk are continuously trampled upon, and life gets harder day after day; who would listen to her?

Who would hear her story of how Papa came to her room that night on her 11th birthday. He just wanted to ‘play around it,’ he said, but he had ended up penetrating and causing her so much pain than she'd ever known. Who would believe her when she say that just yesterday, she had the second abortion for Papa. ‘I'm just sixteen,’ she continued, lamenting. ‘I don't want to believe a sixteen year old anywhere in the world has to go through so much pain.’

Maybe getting married to Waheed Méko would be better as it would free her from Papa's lewd gazes and groping hands. But when Papa came to her yesterday night, after doing the deed, with her pretending to be fast asleep as always, he had whispered into her ear. “I'll never leave you alone, Nwanem. You're so sweet, and even in your husband's house, I'll continually visit you to get my right.”

She wants to go to school like other children, She wants to be happy, too. She's a girl, just like any other girl who doesn't want to be forced to have sex even on her period days. She wants to be free. ‘What have I done to deserve this? The more I try to keep my sanity and break free, the more Papa and Mama breaks my resolve.’

“Chi Chi, you're back so early?” Mama Ayo called out to her as she made her way from across the street to their part of the ghetto, jolting her out of her reverie.

“Yes, ma. Good evening, ma,” she replied, faking a smile and managing to keep her voice steady. Mama Ayo busied with what she was doing and didn't answer her anymore.

“There goes nothing,” she said. Getting to their portion of the ghetto area, she met Papa outside, smoking and sniffing tobacco.

“Papa, ndo o.” She said, dropping her tray.

“You don close? You see everything sell?” Papa asked. He's always oblivious to the pain he put her through. All he and Mama wants is money and more money.

“Yes. Bizness move well today. Wey Mama?”

“E be like she dey inside. Abi she fit don go that Lappameeting.”

Sighing, Chioma made her way inside to begin dinner. It's always women meeting where you buy expensive wrappers and lace for Mama. While for Papa, it's drinking, smoking and tobacco.

Rolling her eyes dramatically to heaven. “Baba God, help your pikin.”

Myth has it that a prayer said in a foreign language asides English gets a quicker answer. Because of that, she finds herself always muttering her short prayers in either Igbo, or Pidgin. “Chukwu za ekpere'm. Gozie'm, biko.”

The stove, smoking as usual, permeates the stuffed air in their one room apartment. For today, she decides to boil the only piece of yam left from two nights ago. It's not much but it's something. And that's the only food stuff left in the house. There's also little palm oil left in that plastic bottle she saw in the dustbin last night.

‘Why people would throw good food away still baffles me,’ she muttered to herself. Talking to her self has been the gig from the beginning. Being the only child of the family and always working with no time to socialize, she has learnt the art of being alone without being alone.

She still feels lonely sometimes, though. And when she sees boys and girls on their way to school in the morning, laughing and looking happy, the feeling intensifies. Maybe, just maybe I'm not meant for a life like this, she would conclude.

When she was younger, Papa used to beat Mama everyday. But as she grew older, the beatings and quarrels stopped. It stopped finally on her 11th birthday. Perhaps, there was a silent agreement between Papa and Mama that “you do what you want to with your daughter, and let me be.”

Mornings after the nightly visits, Mama makes sure she avoids making eye contact with her. Chioma—sure that Mama is aware of all that goes on in the house—has accepted what fate has in store for her. ‘But why will Mama still maltreat me after everything?’

As early as 4am everyday, she has to be up fetching water from Baba Olómì from two streets away. Then after that comes the daily routine of washing the few clothes they had in the house so as to maintain a clean appearance, always.

Some days, on her way to fetch water, she encounters some boys who wouldn't let her pass until they've ‘pressed’ her to their satisfaction. And what could such a poor lad do? The sexual harassment from an outsider pales in comparison to the one done by her own blood.

“Which ear dem fit take hear am? Which eye don see son tin like dat? Dem go ask say ‘no be juju be dat?’’’ she lamented on and on while peeling the yam. She was so engrossed in her sorrows that she didn't realize when Papa entered the room, made his way to her and rubbed his groin on her pointed ass.

“Jesus! Papa!”

“Wetin? Tell me say you no like am,” Papa smirked still smooching her ass. “Be like your yansh don dey big o. You don dey allow another boy press am?”

When life gives you lemons, you are asked to make lemonades out of it. But when life gives you a pedophile as a father, a demon as a mother and sexual harassers as neighbours; what do you do?

“I'm sixteen,” Chioma narrated to the reporter that came to help her. When she couldn't take it anymore, she had gone to the NGO in Oshodi to tell them about what she's going through. It took a lot of courage on her part, but she knew that if she didn't do it, she'll eventually take her life and Papa's life, thereby cutting short her plans and dreams.

“I'm sixteen,” she continued, “but I stopped living life immediately I came into this world. On my 11th birthday, things turned around for the worse, and ever since then, life has been hard. Really hard. Imagine not getting the necessary menstrual hygiene prep you should from your mother and having to get by stolen pieces of clothes from Iya Sikira's shop.

“Every month, I have to steal her pieces and use them as makeshift pads because Mama never asked about my bodily functions, and Papa never cared. Even before I was old enough to be a woman, I've been performing the duties of a wife. Cooking, cleaning, washing, sexually satisfying my own Papa!

“This is the 21st century, for crying out loud,” she was sobbing profusely now, “and this is Lagos! Things like this shouldn't have to happen here. At least not in this part of the world. A daughter having abortion for her own Papa? Where's that done?

“What about the vaginal discharge I had to suffer through after my first time. I was bleeding. Bleeding profusely, yet Mama never stretched forth her arm to help. I had tears in my vagina from the aggressiveness Papa used in entering me, but no one did so little as boil water for my bath.” She cracked a dry laughing, “who I'm kidding? No one even looked in my direction.

“All through the pain, shame and feelings of guilt, Mama still made me work. I fetched water, cooked and hawked. Everyday. No sympathy from anyone! Chukwu gozie'm because, I don't know how the discharge stopped. If it hadn't, who would have believed my story?” She concluded.

Facing the imaginary audience, she said; “I don't care how hard it gets, learn to speak up. Speak up to the right people so you'll get the help that you deserve. Don't ever accept lesser than you deserve because, eziokwu, no one ever has to go through so much pain and self hate.

“You're a queen, make sure you get treated like a queen that you are. You are a King, never accept lesser than you deserve. I'll heal, I know I would, but the scars will always remain. Some days I ask myself, ‘what if I'm not able to give birth again?’

Chioma hates Papa and Mama for all the pains they've caused to her, but she knows Papa couldn't help it. “They need help,” she says, pitifully.

Subscribe to Rachael Aiyke to access their premium contents

Return to list of stories

Featured Stories


Toto Series: Nobody Is Off Limits (PT 3)

by Shitoto.com, published 3 weeks, 6 days ago

No body is off limit part 3

"My rules are simple. I don't do feelings. I don't share. And Never keep me waiting."

Fuck!

What the hell have I got myself into?

I woke up to a splitting headache on the 21st in the most uncomfortable bed I have ever slept in and had no recollection of the night before. All I could recall was being bent over Tega's desk.

Before that, I was at my cubicle putting the finishing touches on FLINT - my dream elite dating site idea. Thankfully the curtains were drawn and the lights off. My eyes stung and they felt like someone poured gravel inside.

What happened last night?

Persistent knocking on the door forced me out of the covers. I was naked and sore all over.

What the fuck happened last night?

I used the covers to wrap myself and answered the door. It was room service. The lady said she brought in breakfast as instructed. It was a complete English breakfast with coffee. I was grateful for the coffee and gulped it down. The burning liquid cleared some of the gravel in my eyes but not the growing fear in my heart.

My phone was on the bedside drawer. It was 7:00 am. There was a note telling me to check the wardrobe for a change of clothes and see you at work.

FUCK!

I was lodged at Shard, which was a stone throw from the office. The place was hidden but really beautiful. If you did not know about the place, you did not know about it. I clocked in and went to Wuse 11 market to meet Hajara.

If I was going to get through tonight with Pastor Mike, I needed help. I sat in the backroom in her smoke chair and forced myself to focus on Pastor Mike. My body felt like I had been forced into a gravel mixer. Everywhere hurt. Inside and out. I drank Hajara's special Kayan Mata mixture, got some pills and headed back to the office.

Back in the office, there was a note waiting for me on my desk.

"My rules are simple. I don't do feelings. I don't share. And never keep me waiting." It was from my boss- it was the same handwriting as the one on the bedside drawer. I tried to focus on my work but I could not. Two phrases kept chasing themselves in my head.

"You belong to me." "I don't share." 

What was I to do? Pastor Mike had given me 3 million naira which was going a very long way in helping my family out of its woes. Tega on the other hand had my life in his hands. This was a dream job. It provided me with the level of security I needed. Plus he was not the kind of man to mess with at all. Would Pastor Mike be able to help me if I quit my job? What if I told Tega I was not interested in being with him? Did he not give me his word that he will not fire me if I fucked him the way he wanted?

I tried to push all except pastor Mike from my mind but try as I did I kept wondering what happened last night? How did we move from his office to Shard? Where there other stops before then? Where did I get the bruising on my body? How did he get the clothes for me and in my size? A beautiful flower print top with a black pencil skirt and red bottoms.

Moreover what is with the cryptic cold handwritten messages? Did he not know we live in the 21st century? But try as I might, I kept drawing blanks.

I called Pastor Mike and he busied my call. I texted him to call me when he got a chance. After work, I went to see a few houses that my "agent" had scouted for me.

My budget was 800k. I could move to 1 million if the place was worth it. So far; none of the places I had visited met Pastor Mike's liking. It was either the location or the lack of light, security or a combination of all. These new houses were in Gudu.

The first house was a boy's quarters that looked like the former landlord was a herbalist or something. The walls all over the house were blackened with spots I hoped was not dried blood. The second house had one toilet in the master bedroom and none in the other room or for guests and the ceiling was so low. I literally had to bend to enter.

The third house located just a street before a lovely looking cafe called out to me. The street was a quiet picturesque place with trees lining up the nicely tendered lawn. The buildings here looked new and well-tended. The rooms were sizeable with three toilets. One in each room and another for visitors. It was located on the second floor and boasted a 24-hour water supply and the sitting room area had a lovely view of a lake.

The only problem was the house was going for 1,700,000.00 and if I wanted the place I had to pay two years upfront.

Sigh.

It was 6:22 pm and Pastor Mike had not replied to my message or called me. I called again and this time it rang out, no answer. Did he know about last night? Was he alright? I did not like the silence one bit.

'I will be coming by in an hour. Be ready."

FUCK!

It was a message from Tega. I was grateful the house was empty. The girls had gone to church and will not be back till around nine. Hopefully, I would have handled this particular problem of mine.

I did not bother to dress up or get ready - whatever that meant. I go run am street today. Abụ m ada nne m. Amughi m ewu. 

He arrived 5 minutes to 7pm. I watched him drive up to the house. Who told this man where I live? He still had his grey suit from work. The tie was gone and the first two buttons were unbuttoned. I came out before he knocked. As soon as he saw me his countenance changed. His upper lip curled into a snarl and his eyes became hooded. In the dark, he looked like he was merging with the darkness. Growing bigger. My heart went cold. Who is this man bayi?

"I said to get ready."

He said the words slowly, biting the words making it sound like a slow hiss. There was no going back. I tried to stand straight - all six feet two inches to show I was unafraid but I knew every fibre of my being was screaming RUN!

"I did not feel the need to."

I ignored the tremor in my voice and stared into his face. He was staring back with disbelief. I guess nobody ever questioned his command before. Well... here was always me.

The snarl slowly disappeared and the darkness surrounding him receded. He gave a wryly smile and nodded his head. Without a word he turned and went back to his car. I stood and watched him drive off. I began to tremble as he turned the corner. Jesus Christ!. What was that?

I jumped at the sound of my ringtone. It was Pastor Mike. He was in church but he was not leading the service. He wanted to know how I was. I assured him I was fine but he did not believe me.

"Text me your address, after church I would come and see you."

He cut the call before I could object. What is it with this Abuja men na? I did not text him and I switched off my phone before another godforsaken message would enter my phone.

What am I to do?

By 9:30pm Jegede and Stephen busted into the apartment in excitement. I was not in the mood and stared blankly at them. I was watching Home Alone part 2. Childhood movies were my go-to source of balance. It took me back to when things were good. To when My father would take us all out whenever he got back from the sea and when we got home in the evenings, he would allow us to stay late and watch all the American films he always brought with him. I always looked forward to his coming home. Mama did not flog us and we ate ice cream and chocolates till our stomachs hurt.

"Yes?!"

They kept staring and I just wanted to get back to my happy place.

"Guess!"

Jegede enthused. I rolled my eyes and played back my movie. I was not in the mood for guessing games. If they had fainted under anointing or even spoken to Jesus personally that was their business.

"Wetin dey worry you? dem dey ask you make you guess you dey behave like wet fowl." Stephen chided.

"If una no go talk abeg go find wetin to cop leave me alone. I no get time to guess anything today."

"Mtcheeeeewwwwwwww. Biko comot go meet ‘YOUR OGA’ pastor. Him dey outside."

Stephen shot at me as she walked to her room. I did not miss the stress on “your oga pastor.” I looked at Jegede who was all smiles. Pastor Mike was here? Wetin dey work these men na? First na Tega now Mike? In one day?

I walked out to see him standing by his car. He was wearing a grey suit on a white shirt. His tie was missing and the two top bottoms were undone. Just like Tega. I forced my mind to focus on the present. His smile was small. Almost unsure and I was in his arms before my mind knew what my legs were doing.

He tactfully dodged my kiss and set me back on the ground. He held my shoulders to still me and he looked me over. "Are you doing okay?"

I melted at the concern thick in his voice. Now I was okay. I did not realize how much the past months had taken a toll on me. My eyes stung with relief. There was no yesterday, no tomorrow. Just me and this man that had come to mean so much to me in so little time.

"Your roommates are watching."

"Let them. You coming here has already nailed our coffin."

His laughter was sunshine to my very bleak day. His shoulders heaved as he laughed. I watched him and something deep in my woman uncurled. My pussy walls clenched and unclenched along.

"I am no stranger to rumours. Did you get a place?"

"I did but the rent is 1.7 million oooo. Including service charge and all, but that I have to pay for two years".

"Do you like the place?"

"Yes. And you will love it too! It is quiet and peaceful. Away from the noise and hustle of the city and It is very secure. There is private security for the estate."

I could not contain my joy. The house is beautiful. Mama would love it. And Peace can finally come and stay with me. I want here to write WAEC and if she passes she will sit for JAMB. It was exactly what I wanted. Plus it was about 30 minutes into town so I could still go to work and do all the city things I needed. He silently watched me gush about the place. That is something about him that I love, the way he listens and provides. He somehow makes me feel secure.

"Let us go there."

"What!! by 10:00pm? No now.

"Call your agent and tell her you want to see the place this night. How did you find her?"

"From Facebook ooh. She puts the houses on Facebook. That is how I met her."

"Call her."

And I did. 30 minutes later we were standing inside the apartment looking out to the lake. He looked so handsome in the faint light coming from outside casting an ethereal feel to him. I studied him as we moved from room to room. He looked preoccupied as if fighting some unknown battle and I just wanted him to take me right here in the cold empty room. To bury whatever was bothering him deep inside me and forget it.

He asked Peace- the agent to leave the keys and to expect an alert by morning. I allowed them to talk and went back to the room where the pallor would be. This would be my home. I did not know how to react. How did I get so lucky? I looked back at him and wondered how he would react if he knew that this whole thing began because I wanted to fuck him.

Maybe Jegede and Stephen were right and I am heading straight to hell complete with bodyguard and AC. I was back at the window overlooking the lake and I could not hold back the tears. I felt his hands hold me and I lost all control. I cried at my betrayal. I cried for seducing a man of God. I cried and he held me firmly.

"Do you want to tell me what is going on?"

We drove back to my place in silence. He had comforted me but did not ask any questions. When the crying stopped he took me back to the car and drove away.

"I do not know. The money, now the house. Nobody has ever done anything for me like this. It is just overwhelming." There was no need to mention Tega or the gnawing guilt I was feeling. He studied me for a minute before speaking.

"I care deeply about you Joy. There is something about you that gets me. I feel like I can be myself. Truly be me around you."

We sat in his car and spoke about random things until it was 2am. I watched him drive out and waved till he turned the corner.

"My office. Now."

I ignored the message and continued what I was doing at my cubicle. If he wanted to talk to me he would have to come down from his high horse and speak like a normal human being. I no dey do.

I half expected to be turned back from the gate. I got Janet the office gossip a box of assorted cookies and milked her of all the information I could get. So far there was nothing about anybody getting fired and nothing about the tryst in his office either. He was going on a trip she said with his long time on-again-off-again girlfriend to the UK. I prayed he would get stuck in some sinkhole and leave me be.

Joan; his lanky assistant came to summon me. I told her I would be right behind her but she said I was to follow her immediately.

The inside of the office was empty and cold just like the owner. There was no carpet, just cold black tiles sprinkled with white tiny stars. The AC was on full blast. I shivered. Apart from the large imposing desk, there was a settee, a side drawer with a lamp and some documents on it then a fridge.

He was standing by the open fridge when he commanded us in. He dismissed Joan and told her to hold his calls.

"Miss Macauley" He began without looking at me. His voice very cold and professional. That put me off guard. I was expecting a showdown and I had come prepared. "Following our earlier agreement, you would be placed on a 20% salary increase which would move you up to the position of junior creative director. This does not usually come with any other incentives but having gone through your file I have decided to give you an official car.”

"Thank you, sir. But I respectfully decline the offer as I have no recollection of said agreement."

He was back behind his desk and he studied me closely trying to gauge if I was lying. Then he whistled and came to stand in front of me.

"How much of that night can you remember?"

"Not so much sir. And I would rather never to remember."

"Now I feel like an arse, Miss Macaulay. And that rarely happens." He looked so young up close.

"Would you like something to drink?"

"I shook my head but did not speak. I could feel the build-up of tears and I did not want to turn into a hot mess in front of this man. How did he go from threatening me last night to offering me a 20% salary increase including an official car? What exactly was his game?

Well, whatever it was, I do not want a part of it.

"Listen, I am very good at reading people and giving them what they want. All this time, I felt we were on the same page now I know better. The salary and official car have nothing to do with what happened the other night even though you did drive a pretty hard bargain. So, if you would not see it as some insult as with everything else that I have done, it is yours."

"And if I refuse?"

"Then you refuse." He shrugged and turned to his computer screen. After a moment he turned back to me. "Miss Macaulay, I do not know what you know about me but I assure you that I am not a vindictive person. I very well know how to draw the line between business and everything else".

Now, I felt like the arse. Of course, I want the pay rise, and the new position means I can put some of my creative ideas on actual display. I have worked hard. Never taken sick days or come late or not given my hundred per cent.

"I do not remember the events of the other night yet I feel it hanging over my head. I am not this girl. I was high and drunk and I don't know what happened, But I promise you that is not normal behaviour for me." I took a deep breath to steady myself. I was not going to cry or grovel or beg. "I deserve this promotion and I want to get it the right way."

"Okay, and how would be the right way?"

"definitely not because I fucked you right."

I struck a nerve. The snarl was back. I saw a flash of that look close to my face. I felt the hot breath of whiskey on my face and I felt him deep between my spread legs. The images hit me and I stumbled backwards.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes sir."

"How about this. There is a review coming up in the next three months. External reviewers would be in charge so you don't have to worry if fucking me right would affect the review one way or the other. Would that make you feel better?"

"Yes sir."

"Then it is settled."

"Thank you, sir."

Nothing felt settled as I went back to my cubicle. We fucked alright but that was not the problem. It was how the images made me feel. Why was my body covered in goosebumps? Why was my pussy wall clenching from the memory flash? Plus after the conversation in his office, I was not so sure what I felt about his guts.

Janet was at my desk when I returned.

"What is going on? This is the third time you have been up there to see Oga."

"My dear e taya me oooo." She had given me gist and was here to collect. Whatever I said or did not say would circulate in a matter of minutes.

"You know that is how Sade got fired. She started going into his office frequently and before you know it, she was fired. Some people said he got tired of her if you know what I mean."

Everybody knew about Sade. She had tried to seduce him and got fired for it. Her father was rich and well connected and she thought that would work in her favour. She thought wrong. He had called an emergency meeting and dragged her by her pubic hairs.

He had used her as an example to all those who may want to seduce him to gain any advantage. The next week, she was gone. Did Janet know more than she was telling or was she trying to get me to say something?

"Ehen? I thought she left because she got admission in the UK na."

"Lai lai. Na Oga finish am throw for side like old rag. She just lucky say her papa get money ni."

"E good to get money for this life ooo!"

I punched my keyboard and prayed she would take a cue and leave my cubicle. If she got the hint, she did not act on it.

"You know say review dey come up soon ba. Make you sha play your cards well my dear."

"Mama, which cards I get to play? Oga was only following up on the campaign rollout we worked on. Nothing else."

"I hear you."

Of course, she knows about the review and the way she brought Sade's gist? I might as well go up and fuck him to my heart's content. Because whether I get the promotion or not, it will be because I did or did not play my cards right.

Fuck me!!!

Subscribe to Shitoto.com to access their premium contents


Simi.

by SoniaDash, published 1 month, 1 week ago

Simi.

Disclaimer

All characters portrayed here are a work of fiction and bear no resemblance to any person living or dead. Any coincidences are just that. Regretful coincidences.

Certain times are described as pivotal moments to one knowing who they are or their purpose in life. Some say they knew they would be preachers because they got a summons from God, others to be doctors because they killed little animals growing up. For Simi, it had nothing to do with any of that.

Simi was raised to be seen and not heard, to follow the rules with her head to the ground lest her eyes meet that of a man. She was born to follow the rules. And the rules said she learnt to cook clean and cater for the household. The rules said she got an education, enough to increase her brideprice but not too much so that she became a burden to her family, and that is exactly what she did.

Simi was an enigma. She was meek but full of courage, beautiful and regal yet humble and straightforward. She was fiercely intelligent yet pride was far from her heart. After she graduated from standard six her parents decided she was ripe for marriage. She was 15.

In her time it was quite normal to be shipped off to a man trice her age. It was an honour to get suitors to flock a Dara's compound once his daughters crossed the age of 10.

And so the process began for her journey to her second home.

A woman has only two homes. Her father's compound, her husband's compound and if she was a dutiful daughter, wife and mother, she earned a resting place with her ancestors.

That was the way it was.

Out of the many suitors that came for her hand, her parents chose Badung. Badung was the first and only son of the 5th wife of the newly crowned Da Manjei of Vwai. His mother, a beautiful fair woman, a thank you the Da Manjei had brought back as a child after the great Vandebong war from the neighbouring Afizere stronghold.  

He was a man to be feared the Da Manjei. He was large and black with arms the sizes of large Quanpaan yams complete with spiky hair. Before he became Da Manjei, he was called Chwei! The man whose roar was frightening and whose bite was deadly. Badung grew up under his tutelage and soon enough began making a name for himself. He wasn't as large or as frightening as his father, but he was nonetheless formidable.

He was a farmer only because of peace. Some say he had more thirst for blood than any other warrior his age, even more than his father but his kind won wars and that was alright.

That was the way it was.

At 33 he was a force to reckon with.  

For Simi, she had come to terms with her lot. Nobody asked her of her desires, and she never mentioned them.

That was the way it was.

She was to be married off to Badung even though the innocent stirrings of love had been awakened by Izam the 17-year-old from Jwahr, the neighbouring Afizere stronghold. He was a gentle spoken boy who wanted to become a painter but since that was unheard of he was becoming a doctor. That was the way it was. See, back then, you were what your parents decided. It was non-negotiable. If they said you become a doctor, a farmer or a palm-wine tapper, you became a doctor, a farmer and a palm-wine tapper.

That was the way it was.

Izam who was in standard seven had written the yearly scholarship examination and was going to London at the end of harvest.  When he heard the news, he cornered her at the marketplace and poured out his heart to her. He begged and cajoled and promised and yet nothing. She stood unmoved to his pleas. She was going to marry Badung and that was it.

Simi had accepted her lot and so would he, or so she thought. But that was not his fate and he knew it. He knew he couldn't live without her. His nights were plagued with her smile, the heat emanating from her skin whenever they walked together. His waking moments were filled with charting their lives together.

He was going to become a doctor by day and a painter by night while she was going to become a teacher and a mother to his children. He knew nothing else.

It happened so fast. She had lifted the earthen pot filled with water on her head and was headed home when she heard footsteps. Before she turned to search the owner of the feet, she was floating. A hand clamped hard over her mouth preventing her from screaming, and even the pot somehow didn't smash. One moment she was there, and just like in ghost stories, she disappeared.

At dinner time,  her mother had gone beyond fretful. Simi was nowhere to be found. She had watched the road leading to the stream as if by sheer will she could conjure her daughter. Knowing she couldn't keep it away from her husband any longer, she placed one foot now replaced with concrete in front of the other.

As she approached where he was resting under the Dinya tree, she heard the voice of Badung. Her heart did a triple somersault.  Surely she couldn't tell her husband that their daughter was missing in front of her betrothed. His fiery anger was not one to trifle with. Moreover, she told herself Simi could at this very moment be finding her way back armed with a logical explanation for her whereabouts.

But what if something had indeed befallen her daughter? Her mind poked at her. Wouldn't she want Badung to lead the search for her? But instead, she approached them and inquired if they were ready to be served. It would be well by sunrise she mused. Everything has a way of setting aright by morning.  

When he woke covered in sweat from a dream he had no recollection of, he knew the sunrise had come pregnant. He quickly prepared himself and went to his farms to check what was amiss. There was nothing out of place, nothing wrong at his new structures or even at his barn that was easy prey to rodents and the village's riff-raff. The nagging feeling of impending doom had persisted into late morning. Even as he sat to enjoy the food presented to him, he couldn't stop his mind from wondering. As he devoured the tuwo'n dawa and miya'n gyeda his wife set before him, his visitors arrived.

It was not uncommon in Berom land for lovers to run away when faced with adversity. It was also not uncommon for a young man to plan together with his friends to *steal* his beloved and place her under arrest. Once the sun rose to meet a young maiden under the roof of a man, she was considered defiled. It was a common practice people got accustomed to and is still practised today. So much so that it was jokingly referred to as jut tele literally translated to steal her.  That was the way it was.

So as Dara Simi worked up an apatite with each mouthful he swallowed, in walked Izam in the company of his father, two elder brothers and best friend. They had come to inform their new in-law that their daughter was safe and that they were ready and willing to proceed with the customary rights to make Simi an official wife.

He went to Badung's place after he dismissed them as quickly as his legs could carry him. Badung was uncharacteristically calm as Dara Simi recounted the events of the day. His jaw was clenched as he listened intently to the events that transpired. When Dara Simi finished his tale, Badung called on Ladi his slave to bring palm wine for his father-in-law. When the wine was brought and libation observed he excused himself and went to the inner chamber.

Simi woke to a shrill voice and as the mist from her induced sleep ebbed, she recognized the voice as hers. Strange, it seemed the scream she had been denied had finally found a way out. Even though she was still heavily sedated she struggled to find a way out of her captivity.

Her mind even though too weak from the poison in her body, the urge to survive propelled her forward. She found an opening through the darkness and in one desperate last move busted into brightness.

The bright sun perched in the middle of the sky, the noise of children playing, goats bleating, metals scraping, all sounded 20 decimals louder than usual., Humanity assaulted her. She pressed on her ears, hoping to block out the torture as her voice, shrill and ragged joined the cacophony.

Izam, his father Atsi, two elder brothers and best friend arrived to find a growing crowd in their compound. Navigating through the maze of sweaty, chattering onlookers and feverish talkers, they saw Simi sprawled on the ground like a discarded rag doll, with her hands clasped to her ears as if to shut the world out. Atsi, a renowned medicine man dispersed the crowd and ordered his sons to bring her to his chamber. Izam's best friend Azi was sent off to the forest to gather much-needed herbs. The potion used during the jut tele was so strong that it had drained the strength from her small frame. The battle for her life was now in the hands of the gods.

Izam could feel his father's anger towards him even as he worked to bring Simi back from the clutch of death. His father was a man of few words and today his words were fewer still. He had never seen his father this apprehensive or angry before.

Even in the face of what would normally send a man to the deepest trenches of madness, his father passed over with little irritation. today was different. As they sat silent under the night in the courtyard, his heart began to grow cold. He should have known better than to steal from his father but fear is as potent a drug as love.

He was afraid his father would advise him against his plan to steal Simi using the medicine. He was scared his father upon hearing she belonged to another would order his steps in a different direction. And so he snuck into his father's inner chamber and stole a sleeping potion.

Administered properly, it was used to calm a being troubled by dark spirits so his father could perform the necessary exorcism. For if the person was to be awake when it happened, the chances of survival become minimal. What he didn't know was administered on a person who wasn't troubled by dark spirits, was an open invitation for possession. And so, in his quest to steal a love he felt had been wrongly taken from him, he had handed her over to spirits yet unnamed, yet unknown.

In the night, the sound of drumming filled Vwai! The horns followed shortly and the night was awake.

War had come!

Atsi had seen the beckoning of war. For Bubrukah the eye; had warned him of impending doom but because he was still clouded by grief, didn't sense the whole picture. His vision had never been what it used to be since the death of his wife 5 years ago. But when Izam told him on the morning of Simi's capture what he had done, he grew anxious. The people of Vwai and Jwahr had brokered a peace deal after years and years of intense turmoil. The deal signed a long time ago however had deteriorated over the years. Border disputes were commonplace now and even though they shared many similarities there was also a deep enmity buried just underneath the surface.

Atsi had quickly rushed to the house of Dara Simi to perform the rites as expected to prevent an escalation of events but discovered a new dimension to the tale, one his son had forgotten to mention. Badung. He knew Chwei's lust for bloodshed first hand during the great Vendabong war. He also knew he had had his eyes on Jwahr for a long time but because of the peace accord, was held in check.

Now his son had provided the best opportunity for invasion. He set foot with his sons and Azi in tow for the Da Manjai's house, hoping that age and domestication would make him more approachable to reason. He was wrong. Very very wrong. Even his sister's cries, who merely a child was given as a thank you after the Vendabong war fell on deaf ears.

Back in Jwahr, he went straight to the Agwom with the news. To prevent the coming doom he had been warned about,  Simi had to be returned untouched by the Agwom himself to the Da Manjei. He pleaded with the Agwom to send emissaries to Vwai immediately with the news of her coming, together with a King's apology. However,  even before the emissaries set foot, that night, a neighbouring settlement was burnt down. No survivors.

Young love is bold yet impatient, adventurous yet unwise. Young love has led many a man to his doom, but most often though, it has led many a man to his purpose. Young love needs guidance to grow, to escape the many loopholes that have bedevilled it.

And so the drums of war were struck in the middle of the night. Young men and boys alike quickly said their goodbyes to their wives and mothers. The old and grey rounded up the children and marched to the ancestral cave of covering. The warriors came to Atsi for fortification and to each, he gave a mark in accordance to his spirit, all the warriors including his three sons.

Simi saw the arrow aglow and black as it coursed through the night and found its resting place, deep in Azi's heart. She heard the dying wail of Arum, the first son of Atsi. She searched through the scene of the massacre but couldn't find Izam. He wasn't standing on the field of battle. Her body began to tremble with foam forming in her mouth. Then she saw him. Frail and afraid beneath the heel of Badung, the man she was to call husband.

She screamed and ran as quickly as her two legs could carry her but she knew she would never reach him in time. She could not save the one who had stirred up feelings in her tender heart. Her body began to convulse and Atsi knew the time of possession was inevitable. During a battle, too many evil spirits run amok. And so he stood at ready, sword in hand, divine words heavy on his tongue. For if she became possessed, he would have no choice but to kill her.  

Certain times are described as pivotal moments to one knowing who they are or what their purpose in life is but for Simi, duty, love and war brought her to her purpose. She died that night, a thousand deaths she had and each one, a warrior faced death with calm. Nobody knows her because only the dying truly sees her, but she is there. To those who know her, she is known as She traverses the worlds of the living and the dead with a single purpose as true as her name. Love. So with love, she follows an aged mother home, with love she renews and replenishes the land. And with love, she brought a people who for long even though one, had sought to exploit their differences instead of celebrating them. Nothing indeed is greater than love.