She held the mirror away from her so she could see as much of her body as the tiny thing would allow. Her face was flawless and her skin was radiant and she smiled at the image that stared back at her; the picture of an innocent 17 year old. Her mother’s call brought her back to earth: “Awero! Answer me and let’s go jo!” Awero took one final look in the mirror and made her way to the front of the house.
“I’m sorry, Maami” she said, but her mother was not done: “I don’t even know what you keep staring at in the mirror sef, is it more than this?”O ga o!” Awero picked up the large pot containing soup ingredients, balanced it on her head and trudged behind her mother.
All the way to their little canteen, her mother raved about how men had been milling about her and how if she wasn’t careful, she would get pregnant and they would have to secretly pack her things to the man’s house with polythene bags in the middle of the night, but Awero was only half listening; she had other things on her mind.
Later in the day, a skinny man made his way towards the canteen; Awero couldn’t make the figure out in the distance, but as he drew closer, she saw that it was Dauda. There was a competition between him and Sogo to see who would get there first, not just because the food was super delicious, but because they hoped to have some time alone with Awero before the crowd came. The girl was a looker, with curves in all the right places.
They never succeeded in spending time alone with her though, because of her ever present and all seeing mother. But that morning, as Dauda approached, Awero sized him up; he wasn’t really that bad, except maybe for the blackened teeth, but that didn’t matter, she didn’t have time. Dauda grinned from ear to ear; partly because he was happy he got there first, but mostly because Awero was smiling so pleasantly at him. He secretly thanked the gods for whatever soap he bathed with that morning.
“Awero, ‘Wero! Bawo ni?”
“Good Morning Broda Dauda”
“Good Morning Awero, where is your mother?
“She’s at the back”
“Get me two wraps of Fufu. I eat Fufu a lot, that is why I’m strong like this,” he said, flexing one scrawny forearm. Awero smiled shyly and left to bring his meal. When she placed his food on the table, he grabbed her forearm and pulled her back to sit on his lap.
“Awero, you know you’re pretty abi?”. Awero smiled and nodded with her eyes averted. “I like you o. In fact, I love you. I want us to know each other more”.
“Really?” she said, her face contorted in mock surprise.
“Yes o. Ahh, in fact I can swear by Ogun, you don’t know how much I love you o” then he touched his index finger to the ground and then put it on his tongue.
“Ok, if you say so, I have to go now, because Maami will soon call, but meet me by the Odan tree at 5 o’clock.”
“Which Odan tree? The one in the forest?”
He nodded, smiled and let her go.
The morning and the afternoon couldn’t disappear soon enough for Dauda, but for Awero, it was a pretty busy day. Chief visited the canteen to eat. He rarely did, but when he did, two things happened; everyone hailed as soon as he entered: “Sheef, sheef!”, and then he would shamelessly flirt with Awero and propose to marry her. Awero’s mother of course always screamed from the backyard that her daughter would not be wife number four.
Sogo was also there, although everyone wondered why he came late that day. The usual banter about who worked hardest took place; he even took off his shirt to show off his muscles. He was a good farmer, a hard worker and everyone knew.
Soon it was 5’o clock, Mama Awero had left for the market women’s meeting, the crowd at the canteen had thinned out, the new girl her mother employed was eager to please, so Awero strode away as though she wasn’t going far away. As she walked the path to the forest, she looked over her shoulder several times to make sure no one saw her or followed her.
Some meters into the forest, a strong hand encircled her mid-section and another swiftly covered her mouth.
“I’ve been waiting for you” He said, and shoved her roughly to a side, and then he showed her the newly sharpened cutlass that was lying on the grass.
“If you make noise, I’ll slice you into pieces with that thing, understand?” Awero didn’t nod or make a sound; she just watched with an unfathomable expression as he roughly had his way with her. When he was done, he helped her up, and tightened the rope that held his trouser. “Good girl, it’s good that you didn’t…” Awero turned, and went on her way, still without saying a word.
Later that night, as she lay on her mat, Awero heard her window move slightly as the breeze blew, but she felt the presence even before the breeze. She didn’t turn, didn’t move; she didn’t need to.
“How many more?” Awero asked the cloaked figure.
“Three, my child. Hurry!” And without another word, she was gone as noiselessly as she came.