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The Damned: Chapter 2
By
Vuto_MSK

The Damned: Chapter 2

I hated how beautiful she was.

I hated her sleek, slender figure, her caramel skin, her and her long dark hair. Traditionally men couldn’t stand the idea of a slender wife. However, for a farmer like my husband, a slender wife was ideal.

            I was a tiny little twig when I got married. When I married Nsansa, I ate as farmers’ wives did. There was always something to sink my teeth into, cassava, groundnuts, oranges, sweet potatoes and sometimes even grasshoppers. When I gained weight, the villagers were never short of accolades for my dearest Nsansa.

            “Look at how well he feeds his wife!”

            “He’s obviously got some good crops!”

            “That’s how you tell a farmer works hard!”

            I wondered if these praises were what had led me to this point. My husband of three years was now being forced to marry a new woman. Perhaps someone in this young woman’s family had heard of how well I was fed and had come to envy my gluttony.

I sat next to this young woman, in what was once my compound. But now it was as much hers as it was mine. I was sure Nsana would build her a hut of her own in the compound, but it brought me no comfort. Nothing could comfort a woman whose husband had just married a younger and more beautiful woman.   

She was sixteen years old, and her name was Uliya. She was a subtle creature, her eyes had great sorrow, but no man would ever notice, men never look to see if there’s sorrow in a beautiful woman’s eyes.

Nsansa never wanted to take Uliya as his second wife. Perhaps she was opposed to the marriage as well. Dissuading her from the marriage seemed to be my only hope were I to sabotaging the marriage. It was never easy sabotaging an arranged marriage, but it was known to happen. If I could remind her of the troubles of Nsansa’s bloodline, I could scare her into scaring her siblings out of the marriage.  

We sat on opposite sides of a small fire exchanging awkward glances. Whenever she’d catch me staring at her, she’d pretend she wasn’t staring at me and turn her head towards the fire.

“Hello dear,” I said to her.

“Hello madam,” Uliya replied.

            “I know you’re uncomfortable; marriage can be like that,” I said, hoping to sound as empathetic as possible. “I know a lot of young women who were forced into wedlock at a similar age.”

                “Forced?” she asked.

                “Weren’t you forced into wedlock?”

                “No,” she said. “I was not forced into this. I chose to be married, and I chose to marry Nsansa.”

                “But what about his bloodline, are you not aware of their troubles?”

                “Everyone’s bloodline has troubles; I don’t care about bloodlines.” She said. “I’ve wanted to marry Nsansa for a while. I’m looking forward to being a part of his family, I already respect him, and soon I’m sure he will love me.”

I hoped to the gods that her response to my question was her merely masking her emotion, that she had seen through my false empathy and chose to answer defensively rather than a genuinely.

“You say you chose Nsansa,” I asked. “How does a young woman chose her own husband?”          

                “I didn’t say that.” She exclaimed.

                 “I just heard you say so yourself, no more than a minute ago,” I said.

                “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she whispered as she walked away quietly.

                “Come back here!” Nsansa commanded.

                I was rattled by my husband’s presence as he crept up behind me. Uliya however, must have heard him coming from a mile away. 

                “You’re the one preparing my meal today. I’m going to cut some Seswaa for you, make sure you cook it well. And you,” he said, turning his attention to me. “Don’t make any attempts to overrule or guide her. She’s a woman and a woman must know how to cook her own way.”  

 

                                                                                                                    *

 

When sunset came, Uliya prepared an attractive plate with a large serving of Sadza and side plates of Seswaa, gravy and cassava leaves. He picked off a piece of his Sadza in one hand and used his hand to give it the shape of a tiny bowl. After placing the food on his table, Uliya and I watched attentively as he dipped the piece into the gravy and ate it.

He chewed quietly and lowered his head as his eyes hovered over each plate. I tiny part of me trembled in fear that he might enjoy her cooking more than he did mine. I knew my Nsansa, and when he was enjoying his food, he avoided eye contact.

‘The moments shared by a man and good Sadza are sacred,’ he’d tell me.

With the second piece of Sadza, he dipped it in the gravy and then picked up some cuts of the Seswaa with the same hand. After only one taste he looked up at Uliya in fury. His cold and stern expression left Uliya motionless. Her fingers struggled to twitch as her eyes began to water.

Nsansa placed his backhand on one side of the plate and gradually forced it off of the table. Nsansa returned to his meal as if nothing had happened. Uliya stood up gracefully and walked into her hut; teardrops were falling from her eyes.

I sat next to my husband as he ate the rest of his meal. The moment was not as joyous for me as a first wife as many would imagine. I used to enjoy sitting next to my husband as he enjoyed his meal. But now my joy was tainted, the intimacy I was sharing with was at the expense of the young woman.

“Why did she put ginger in my Seswaa?” he said to me.

“I didn’t know she wou...,”

“You should have told her.”

                I left Nsansa to his meal and went off to Uliya’s hut. I found her lying on a mat, almost lifeless with her eyes flooded. Contrary to our previous conversation, she made no attempt to pretend she wasn’t looking at me. She looked me right in the eye.

                “I did choose him, I chose Nsansa,” she said.

                “Why,” I asked, “why did you choose him?”

                “You,” she said. “The entire village looks poorly upon you for being barren, and yet he seems undisturbed. He walks around the village like he has the favour of all the gods. Even when I look at you Anami, I can see you feel like less of a woman. But Nsansa has never treated you like you are less. In fact, his eyes and words speak of you as if you are more, much more. ”

                The sorrow I had seen in her eyes now escaped through her lips. Something ailed her. Something made her feel as though she would never be a woman. Something convinced her that only a man who would love a barren woman would love.

But what could it be? It couldn’t be fertility. There was no way a girl her age would ever know. So what was it? What made a beautiful young woman with such great eyes for the happenings of the world feel she might never be a woman.

As I was lost in thought staring at the roof, a fidgeting sound caught my attention. I looked at Uliya as her feet shook. Her entire body wiggled desperately as a fish would out of water. Her eyes were frozen and wide open as drool seeped down her chin.

“Nsansa,” I shouted.

He rushed into the room and knelt by her side. He was as much of a stranger to the symptom as I was. He held her in his arms and shouted.

“Go and get the healer.”

It took me a few minutes, but I got to the healer’s compound. I knocked at his hut but to no avail. I continued knocking for close to five minutes of knocking until a passer-by came to my rescue.

“The healer is not in; he’s helping Mbumi’s boy.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said while running.

I ran down a narrow road towards Mbumi’s compound. Before I could turn into the compound, Nsansa stood at the other end of the road right next to our compound. The distance allowed only for me to see a silhouette of him. I tried desperately to point towards the Mbumi compound, but he paid no attention to my signals. His face was unclear but his signal was, he was waving at me to go back to our compound.               

When I returned to the Uliya’s hut, Nsansa stood over her now fully motionless body. Nsansa had covered her up to her neck with a dark brown rug.

I looked into my husband’s eyes and told him, “Considering your bloodline, they’ll blame her death on you.”

“That would be the case with most tragedies, my dear,” he said to me as he caressed my cheeks. “But you are the second and barren wife of a man who has just lost his new and younger wife. I’m sorry my love, but they will blame this on you.”        

 

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