From a distance, a cock crowed. Lariba lay awake .This wasn’t the first time she lay awake; it had happened several times right from the first night she had slept in here. A wall gecko was perched close to the only window in the mud house and a spider intricately wove its web at a corner somewhere. On certain nights, when the moon shone in its full glory, Lariba peeped through the window and stared at it for several hours; it gave her so much hope.
She turned to look at the man who had become her husband against her wishes. She was 14 years when Andani “took” her as wife. From the strokes she secretly marked, it had been 4 years already. The harmattan up north had been quiet severe that dawn and her nose and throat were suffering. She thought of Mama Fati, her mother who lived with her younger siblings a few compounds away. Times like this saw her wrech in soo much pain as her rheumatism bouts set in. Her back itched and as she turned to her side and gently scratched, she felt the scars that had been left after the wounds of the slits had healed.
Lariba had tried to run away twice a while back. Andani and his brothers had not spared her when she was caught. They had beaten her almost to the pulp and left her those scars. Andani had warned Mama Fati and Papa Hamid to “talk some sense” to their daughter never to try those stunts because he had paid a very high price for her and he didn’t want to be mocked by his peers and the entire village. He threatened to make their lives miserable if she run away. Mama Fati constantly pleaded with Lariba . There was no means they were going to be able to refund all his money. Her father had constantly warned her to accept Andani and avoid bringing shame to the family because he saved them. Could she blame him when it was a norm in their village and surrounding towns for young girls to be married off for several reasons?
She was ready to make her final attempt. This time she knew if she was caught, her life might not be spared but she was ready to risk it for dreams she knew she could achieve. She had to leave while it was still dark… Andani tossed and turned for a while before she was able to get off the raffia mat. She crept out of the room unto the compound which housed 6 other families. Lariba hurriedly strapped the bag with a few personal belongings she had hidden in the kitchen 2 days before and made her way to the entrance.
Nearing the first house on the compound, she heard footsteps. She paused for a moment and tried to hide behind a tree which had shed so much foliage she could even be spotted from afar. The steps were drawing near; rhythmic yet a bit slow. Could it be Andani? Had he woken up to find her side of the bed empty? Grappled with fear, she touched the necklace her godmother Auntie Fauzia had given her a few years ago to ward off bad luck. If she was caught, she will be summoned before the chief by break of dawn. Maybe the time wasn’t right yet. Contemplating what to do, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see Fusena.
Come this way. It is safer to use the other route. Hurry up!!
Fusena led her towards the eastern square of the house and towards the backyard unto a path where thickets from a bush had outgrown unto the path.
Lariba, this is how far I can take you. You don’t have a lot of time. This path will lead you straight to the river. Mention my name when Sumaila tries to prevent you from getting on the canoe. Tell him I have sent you on an errand to the market.
Thank you Fusena. But how did you find out?
You know this younger brother of yours in my belly now is stubborn. They burst out laughing silently .
He kicks a lot every night and doesn’t lie still and he’s always asking for water now so my bladder is always full. I had gone to urinate when I saw you in the kitchen. I knew the time had come. Go in peace my child. Be careful. Take this with you. May the gods of our land protect you….
Nana Akua Frimpomaa Amofa (c) 2017