BY DOROTHY BUDU-ARTHUR
“What are you doing?” Kuuku sternly asked Sama just when she was about eating the left-over food that morning before leaving for the farm.
“I just… I just want to eat something before going to the farm! I didn’t eat any food yesterday. ”
But to her surprise, Kuuku took the bowl of food out of her hand. And as Sama watched sadly, he threw the food away. She bowed her head in anguish.
“Leave for the farm right now before I lose my temper! And you better do a good job over there! You better return on time too! If not, I will do the usual. And nobody will help you! I will take you to the marketplace and prostitute you again! ”Kuuku said with a smirk.
“And I’m sure that shepherd who has been winning the bid with sheep and goats for about 5 consecutive times now, or any of the men who can win would offer me some goodies in exchange of having you for one night! You know what I can do to you!” He threatened.
It was 2 hours past noon. The sun was high up in the sky. And there was Sama working tirelessly under the scorching sun which seemed to slash her mercilessly by its rays. She had become swarthy, with her skin unappealingly tanned. Her skin was cracked, and the hair on her head was sparse and scanty.
With her knees on the earth, she removed the weeds between the cowpea plants with her two hands.
She had gotten used to that. She had gotten used to being abused by Kuuku in the night, and being tortured by the rays of the sun which seemed to be always up against her. There were no clouds in the sky. No sign of rain to cool her off. No cool breeze.
She sighed. Her hair and her skin were drenched by sweat. She was exhausted. But there was nothing she could do as Kuuku treated her as a slave.
She had no courage to run away! Kuuku always made her feel like she was worthless and no one in her family would accept her should she run back to their town.
He had managed to make her think that the royal family probably would be searching for her to prosecute her since she humiliated them and the Crown Prince on her wedding day. Kuuku intimidated her.
He paralyzed her with fear. And fear was one of the means through which he held her captive. And Sama only wished to be out of this world.
Straightening her back, she sighed again and wiped off the sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand. Forgetting that her hand was covered with soil, it felt gritty.
The heat patched her throat. She felt drained, hungry with her head aching badly. As such, Sama went for the bottle containing water she had gone to fetch from the stream which was miles away.
But just as she was about having a drink, a baby squirrel from nowhere passed over her foot startling her.
She jumped in fear only for her to drop the only water bottle she had taken along to the farm. All the water poured out as the bottle rolled in the weeds.
“Ah!” she exclaimed.”Ah! ” She felt completely broken and hopeless. That was the only water she had.
The stream was far away and she definitely might pass out should she try walking up to the stream. Going back to the hut to get water to drink was totally out of the question because of Kuuku.
But as she fell on her knees and began to sob, she heard someone say to her,
“I have water!” It was a reassuring voice. A pleasant voice. It was a familiar voice. And as though by reflex as she turned to look at he who had spoken to her, their eyes met. And for the first time, she saw his face. She beheld the face of her perfect stranger: that shepherd who was always coming to her rescue!
©Dorothy Budu-Arthur, 2017