TEARS, SHADOW OF MY PAST………
Erica watched as Anthony was led by a reed mat held by several warriors approaching the chief who saw them off. She had been led to her hut where the same girl who was put in charge of her services brought her some food bowls and a water in a small clay pot. She also had plucked some fresh fruit and set it before her but the prisoner ever kept staring in the direction of the men carrying Anthony, eyes glistening. The girl noticed the woman’s silence and followed her gaze.
“He shall come back to you,” she said kneeling and looking radiant, “Eat.”
“I’m not hungry.” Denied Erica whose eyes were still staring through the crack of the thatched grass door.
“But you must. I insist,” the girl said gingerly.
Erica uttered nothing as the view of Anthony grew fainter and fainter he being led out of the village the chief returning to his royal duties. Sighing away she dropped her gaze and hugged her knees in sadness.
“Don’t worry,” spoke the girl looking at Erica, “He shall be back before you know it, trust me.”
“I didn’t even get to say good bye to him to wish him off,” Erica said sadly.
“You still got to see him, did you not? Wasn’t that good enough?” the girl asked tilting her neck to look into Erica’s eyes as she rested her head on her knees. When she didn’t say anything in response the girl asked, “You really must love him? What love is there besides loyalty?”
“What’s your name?” Erica asked as if changing the topic.
“Omala,” the girl responded.
“I think you are too young to discuss this with me. What’s to know about love, for you?”
She grinned, “Which is why I wish to know why this An—tony you speak of has you under his charm. Is he that loving?”
“I’m not under his charm,” laughed Erica raising her head a little to look into the round eyes of Omala, “Maybe a little and yes very. He’s the man I’m due to marry when all is in place.”
“Like what? Aren’t you already in love? What’s the hold up in marrying him?”
“It’s not that easy. We have to put everything in place to plan for that,” the girl’s eyes sparkled as she listened, “We have to await the time when we are ready to be together and eventually raise a family.”
“I see,” the Omala replied as she looked at the food, “Won’t you eat still?”
Erica eyed the food and looked blank, “Um….” she didn’t know what to make of the food, “Is that…”
“Nshima as you call it? Yes, but I cooked it the way we love it with some Cassava as well….”
“Oh….” Went Erica taking a bolus of the maize and cassava meal upon washing up and tried some mashed leaves of vegetables, her face clear not much to make out of whether she liked the food or not.
“You don’t like it?” Omala questioned with concern.
“Oh, no, I do. We cook it like that too it just seems a little different but it’s fine,” she smiled.
Omala grinned, “Do have some of those too, I picked them myself.”
Erica looked at the bowl of oddly looking fleshy fruits of brown colour and frowned, “Oh….”
Omala stifled a laugh, “Where exactly do you come from? You don’t look like you’ve ever been to a village of any kind.”
Erica giggled, “I do? I have just trying to adjust to yours.”
“Well you better because you will be here for a while and you will be seeing more of him.”
“Yeah…I know….” Erica replied lowly as thoughts of how everything from their simple trip to Livingstone had resorted into all that.
A couple days past and it was soon turning to a week of no word of Anthony’s well-being. Ever kept inside of the hut only stepping out some time to stretch her legs accompanied by guards Erica was slowly adapting to the captivity. She’d already hoped and pleaded to be freed in bid to go see Anthony but to no avail. She’d long come to believe that she might as well adjust to the Monde way of living seeing no sign of she leaving their village any time soon. On dark and gloomy days when Erica missed Anthony she had Omala as company who made her feel less miserable as she often felt that she was. Growing fond of the young girl was none of the unusual being that besides, the chief, the helps and guards, there was clearly no one who visited and interacted with Erica than the servant girl did. As such Erica had found a friend to talk to when need be other than being by herself as most of the others seemed to have wanted her to be, the typical prison way.
Upon emerging from the door one fine afternoon, the Omala had had her hands full of the bowls of empty food and a clay pot of water looking so radiant and bubbly as the teenager she was. The royal guards noticed her and suddenly stood in her way as she was to depart from Erica’s hut. With a bow, Omala greeted the chief’s men.
“The chief wishes to have a word with you,” one of them spoke.
Nodding the girl agreed and followed them to the chief’s royal quarters where they found him seated on his chiefly chair and with a beckon he called the girl to his side who went down on her knees looking down.
“What do I owe thy highness?” she asked.
He looked firm at her and spoke, “I’m told that you’ve befriended our prisoner,” he paused to study her reaction but she was calm, “Is it true?”
“Yes, your highness, it is true,” Omala replied.
“I have something against befriending the enemy, was it not told you?”
“I’m aware but I’ve gotten to know her a little.”
“What have you known?” one of the chief council men spoke, “That she’s harmless?”
“She looks harmless,” spoke another man, “Is she not?” he asked Omala.
Omala was quiet awaiting to hear some disciplinary action to be passed for her but the chief had other things in mind.
“Not that I’ve got less harshness for our prisoner being a woman for I would’ve ordered that she gets tortured but maybe your act of befriending her might get her to talk. We’ve already kept her here for nearly a week and she has tried nothing to attempt escape….”
“She’s ever surrounded by your men, your humbleness,” spoke a member of the royal advisors.
“Still many a time, others, even women, have tried conniving with my men to plan a master attack before falling under capture,” Chief Mutabile spoke stroking his chin.
Maybe indeed she’s harmless,” spoke a woman of the royal throne, his wife.
“Perhaps,” the chief said, “But we are still uncertain if truly she’s innocent. I’ve been nearly fooled by quite cunning and treacherous prisoners before.”
“She could be planning her move carefully. She mustn’t be trusted yet,” spoke another royal advisor.
“You could be wasting your time if truly she means us no harm but as you wish your humbleness,” spoke his wife.
The chief diverted his attention to the servant girl, “I ordered you to attend to that woman so see to it that you don’t forget your duties. Prisoners are not to be trusted.”
“I will not forget, your highness,” Omala replied and he released her.
“On second thought….” The chief called to her as she was escorted outside the palace, “If being friendly will get her talking then that will be well and good. Do as wise but don’t forget where your allegiance lies.”
The girl bowed and nodded, “As you wish your highness and I won’t,” she said as she was eventually escorted out by two royal guards.
Erica had been fast asleep, a week and day later in the Monde village, that Thursday night when she abruptly awoke to a pandemonium going about the village. There were dreadful shouts and screaming coming from outside and feeling the chills crawl on her skin she hugged herself tight in fear trying to figure out what possible could be going on out there. Men and women had been shouting and screaming and the guards who been at the door of the prisoner hut were no longer there. Erica wondered whatever had befallen the village for the dreadful cries and screams were painful to the ears. She dared to find out and cautiously crawled to the door and tried to look out through the cracks in between loose grass and wood. In the view, she could see men with spears dashing and fighting men of combat with guns and clearly offering resistance to the native attacks. The infiltrators were fully armed and with their coming only one thing would make her guess what was to follow next….
Dozens of Monde warriors came to her door backing away slowly she crawled back to her reed mat before a grating sound came along with the door being made wide open. Fear crept in as the men marched into the hut. Erica’s heart began to throb as one of those huge men walked closely to her eying her much like had been the day of her capture. His eyes looked wild with fury and if at all she thought that he wouldn’t hit a woman, in that very moment, she knew that she would be so wrong.
Without hesitation the warrior pulled Erica by the hair and she was dragged to the chief’s quarters where the chief, his wife, royal advisory and other warriors had gathered discussing something serious. She was tossed like a bag to the ground and she found herself yet again the centre of attention.
The chief’s gaze was a dread and as he walked to her he was wild with rage to almost hit her.
“I knew you meant trouble!” he boomed, “Just look at the results of your coming?” he pointed to the gunfire outside, “Some of my men are wounded and dead because of you!” The translator did his job and told Erica the chief’s words.
“But, I didn’t bring them here. Neither do I know them,” replied a sobbing Erica.
“Will you still deny your actions?” spoke one of the advisors, “You were a spy and for that you’ve brought such a calamity upon us.”
“I should’ve known better than be kind to you. You brought skilled me with weapons we’ve dealt with but not with much skill of these men attacking us,” spoke the chief, “You will be charged severely for this!”
Erica wept heavily, “But I didn’t do anything, I don’t know who those men are.”
“Playing innocent won’t help you now. You have to suffer the consequences which result in torture if not death!” spoke another royal advisor through the translator.
“Your majesty….” Erica tried to plea but was cut off.
“You shall be dealt with for this,” he said in fury.
The chief and his men had still been talking when suddenly the gunfire subsided and in came some men who were armed with short guns and pistols, alarming and stupefying the royal family and the rest of the other advisors and warriors.
“What is it you want?!!” boomed Chief Mutabile, “What have we done to be ambushed like this?” the translator assuming that they too spoke Nyanja translated the chief’s words to them.
“You’ve been harbouring a man we’ve been after!” one of them spoke.
“You sent him to spy on us!” Chief Mutabile exploded.
“We did no such thing. He’s a cunning fugitive! We were after him the whole time but he had escaped our grasp whilst still in our country.”
“You’ve wounded some of my men and most are dead!”
“That’s because of your resistance to let us come into your village. You brought it upon yourselves.”
“You infiltrated my quarters, what was I to do?”
“We would’ve been gentle had you done the same,” the same leader who looked quite sinister and cunning.
Chief Mutabile lowered his gaze as he then looked at terified Erica, “What of her? Is she a fugitive as well?”
Looking at Erica, who was trying to digest everything, the big man replied, “No, she’s innocent but we shall not leave without her. She’s of our own people after all. We shall take her with us,” he said strongly giving orders to those with him to take her away as he remained discussing with the chief himself.