(Illustration by Chevelin Pierre/ Chevelin Illustration)
(Story by Chim Uguru, Nigeria)
Awena’s excitement tapered off as they approached the cabin that was to be her new home. Her new mistress seemed anything but pleased to have her and as her late father’s friend, Mr. Duda left, the little girl was uncertain of what lay ahead for her.
After a tour of the compound, Awena was shown to her sleeping area– a neglected outbuilding that housed old property and was so dark and musty-smelling that the thought of spending the night there terrified her. Worse still, she could make out the sounds and movements of rats on the floor.
Awena had not one but two mistresses. Chikana was the older sister who received her and the younger was Kinika, who proved with time to be a sworn thorn on Awena’s flesh. When she had friends over, one of her ways of entertaining them was to make a mess of Awena’s work and have her repeat it.
Kinika knew there was no one to oppose her, so she seized every opportunity to frustrate the girl.
The work to be done was enormous, evidence that none of the sisters had a domestic bone in her. Not when Chikana got on a nauseated look at the sight of dirty dishes and Kinika was more interested in beautifying herself and enjoying the attention of the opposite sex.
At the end of her first day, which was already a few hours into the next day, Awena was so exhausted that she didn’t mind the condition of her sleeping area provided she could lay her head down and get some sleep…
…but barely two hours later, the kick of Kinika’s foot jolted her out of sleep and she listened drowsily as a sparingly clad Kinika dished out orders on the day’s chores.
As Awena made the round trips of fetching water from a tap a few streets away, she thought of how different city life was from what she had imagined. Mr. Duda had said it would be just like a holiday; what a laugh. By daybreak when she began to pass kids her age going to school, she wept painfully. She probably wouldn’t go to school again. Life in the village hadn’t been luxurious–far from it even, as her poor mother could barely feed her and her seven siblings–but she had attended school, had her friends and had been happy. She missed it dearly.
Overtime, things didn’t change for the better so Awena got used to the unpleasantness of her new life. At least, she had found a loyal friend in a little stray black cat.
However, the way Jumenu–their next door neighbor who Awena had learnt was Ms Chikana’s fiancé — usually snuck in to meet Ms Kinika was something Awena thought her older mistress should know but Chikana, in her usual indifferent manner, would not give her audience as she left the house one morning.
Later that afternoon, Awena mistakenly barged in on Kinika and Jumenu in their unholy act…
…and Kinika gave her a thorough beating, in the process spilling the water the girl had fetched all over the floor, while Jumenu took out his frustration on the cat that was Awena’s companion.
Chikana returned in the evening and, inflamed by the sight of the messy house as well as the lies Kinika and Jumenu had fabricated against Awena, stormed to the outbuilding where Awena was nursing her pain, to beat the girl some more. As their angry footsteps neared, Awena remembered her mother’s words, “You’re special Awena.” She had never understood but she could really do with some special miracle right about now.
Instantly, a blinding light exploded in their faces…
…and out of it stepped a radiant and beautiful woman, whose identity they quickly realized–the goddess of fortune.
It was too late when they made sense of it all, that they had all along lived with the goddess of fortune hidden in a poor little girl; that by mistreating Awena, they had missed out on their blessings and that by implication of the goddess’ unhappy departure, they would soon be plunged into abject penury.
The next day, Mr. Duda and Awena were at another home, in another country. This family seemed nice and the goddess of fortune watched to see if it would be they to receive her parcel. But who knew? Time would tell. There’s a benefit (parcel) attached to every act of kindness shown to even those who may not be in the position to repay.
Excerpt from #1 Youth Shades, September 2016