The skies rumbled with thunder. The clouds hung heavy. Rahila was in the small shed outside her husband’s L structure house. It was three rooms arranged in L structure and perched on rocks in front of the flowing river Zaure, a tributary of river Kaduna. She was cooking tuwo.
The black pot hissed and overflowed. It was placed on three large stones. Three big firewood were sparkling under it. She was stirring the white mixture of grounded corn and water.
She felt a fisted hand connect to her jaw. She got up fast and almost threw the pot over. She caught it quickly and her fingers burnt. The mixture poured and quenched the fire.
‘’You are so stupid you can’t even cook properly’’. Saidu – her husband said. She stared at the firewood covered in white. She might have retorted. Seven years ago she might have fought. She had lost her fire in seven years of marriage. Her shoulders hunched as if she wanted to be invisible. She tried to adjust the green Nigerian wax wrapped around her disappearing waist. She couldn’t go anywhere.
The first time her husband slapped her; Rahila had run home. It was a month after their marriage. Her parents cautioned her not to offend her husband without even listening to a word she said. They escorted her back. Can’t you hear what I am saying, you foolish woman?”
She said nothing. She was in her thoughts.
A slap connected to her right cheek bringing her to the present.
She thought she was used to it. She kept her face down. Her head hung on her five feet five thin body like a big lamp. The green flair blouse and wrapper blew around her body like an unfurled flag.
The rain came pouring at that second without further warning. Saidu ran towards the sitting room stiffened herself awaiting more beatings, as usual. The room was at the middle of the L structure. The two ends were their rooms.
She heard the sounds of the rain steadily increasing tat a tat ta ta ta. She was grateful for the rains. They always consoled her and spoke gentle words to her. They had always spoken to her. She heard it whisper now: tat a ta tat a trun trun trun run away. She ran out from the Kitchen shed. The small narrow yard hard turned in to a brown swimming pool.
She started running through the river of mud. Ten months ago; her baby must have struggled to swim in her womb; struggled to survive. Saidu hard pummelled her with blows. She miscarried. Home found her. Still her parents brought her back.
She entered her room. Packed a few of her clothes and took the money she hid it in a small crack in the wall of the small cubicle. It was only twenty thousand naira. She changed her clothes.
The rain was increasing. She crept out. She ran to the back and threw the green wrapper and blouse in the river behind the house. She hurried to the kitchen shed.
The skies opened its mouth wider and poured forth in more torrents. The waters grew on the ground. The winds hands began to tear things away. It tore away the roofs of the house. Rahila wondered what had brought her here. Nature’s terror scratched her being as she held on the stick by the shed. She held on for dear life even as the waters drew closer, drew higher.
* * * *
The morning brought calm to the Skies. The waters were up and everywhere. Roofs had been thrown. A few houses were left open. The owners could see the open Sky. They were using buckets to pour the water out. Saidu moved from place to place like a madman searching for Rahila.
“My wife is missing! My wife is missing!”
A neighbour coming from side of the house mentioned that he had seen a flowing wrapper on the surface of the calm river.
‘’That is the wrapper she wore yesterday!’’ Saidu shouted. ‘By the Almighty, it is!’
Let’s check the river. A group of men joined him in the search. They searched the riverside for hours and hours.
They found her blouse.
Her body might be somewhere in river Kaduna, they concluded.
Twenty more years were added to Said’s face in the grief that contorted his looks. He walked back home dejected.
* * * *
A lone woman stood in a long Burqa touching the floor. She stood straight her head up. Her face was decorated in a big smile under the veil. She walked on.
Edited by Sueddie Agema.