Mother does not know where I am going, and she never will.
All she ever does is make me work. Before sunrise, I mop the house and polish the floor. I dust the seats and sweep the carpet. When the sun rises, I fetch water from the village well and wash clothes. I clean and clean and clean. By the time the sun is overhead, I go with Mother to the market, and then I get dinner ready, as Mother sits on the verandah, waving to the neighbours and beaming with pride when they tell her what a good daughter she has. Let her think I am still her good girl.
The afternoon heat makes her sleepy, so I watch and wait until she falls asleep.
I re-read the note that Abdi slipped me at the market, just to be sure.
“Meet me at 2 pm, at the Western Point behind Lover’s Rock,” I imagine his silky voice whispering the message in my ear. My skin grows warm.
Abdi is nice to me. When I go with Mother to buy rice and dry beans from his father’s stall, he always slips something into my basket: a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom, a packet of boiled sweets, roasted cashew or macadamia nuts, chocolate, and then yesterday, the note.
I hike my skirt all the way to my thighs and bound through the woods. Mother often says, “Good girls don’t run, they walk with grace.” Her good lessons completely flee my head, and I run and run and run!
When I get to Lover’s Rock, I am out of breath. I bend to scoop water from the stream with my cupped hands and splash my flushed face.
“Abdi, are you there?” I call out breathlessly and wait.
A twig snaps. I turn and face Abdi. He smiles. My heart takes flight. He holds out his hand, and I go to him. Abdi touches me in ways no one ever has. My lips tingle, I feel all hot and shaky inside. Is it possible to melt and disappear from your body, and then return to it? Because that’s how I feel.
When the evening shadows are upon us, I skip homeward, twirling my long pleated skirt. I must get home and get dinner ready before Mother wakes. At the door, I pause and mend my shaggy hair. I wipe the sweat off my face and take a deep breath before going in.
“Where have you been?”
The voice from a corner of the living room hits me like a physical force. I back up to the door in surprise. I can feel the warm fuzziness in my heart getting replaced by panic.
“Out?” I reply uncertainly.
Then I see an object flying towards me. I duck and it crashes against the door. A sharp pain courses through me when a small splinter pricks the back of my neck and I lose it!
I scream with rage as I launch myself in Mother’s direction.