They had all seen her grow, witnessing the different phases she went through. They had rebuked her for playing in the rain every single time the clouds above decided to weep into their plots of lands. Some even thought she wasn’t ladylike enough when she decided to play hide and seek with the boys at the brink of night time. She was brisk in the things she did, always too fast, too swift, almost as though she had a thousand other things to do even when there was nothing.
All through childhood, she had embraced playing in the front yard of her grandfather’s hut. This ultimately gave her a chance to mock him whenever he would close his eyes to nap abit while listening to the radio. More often than not, they would then debate about whether or not he was sleeping or simply meditating on the words of the broadcaster. Her grandfather had watched her learn to crawl, to walk and to pronounce her first syllable. He was present when she finally learned how to knit, cook, clean, dress properly and blossom into an incredibly beautiful woman.
Somehow, she had outgrown her playful nature and grown into a lady full of grace. She had the prettiest big brown round eyes. Somehow her teeth were perfectly white and her lips were darker than her areole. Ever single time she smiled; all heads turned to stare at her for a while. She walked swiftly with grace and spoke gently with a touch of sophistication. She had grown from being the kid her villagers talked about as stubborn to being the villagers’ gem.
Had it been a different season in time then perhaps we would have crowned her as the next Marilyn Monroe. She was nothing but an epitome of beauty.
As soon as she blossomed and was ready for marriage, word spread of the dark lipped lady with an hour glass figure whose smile was a sight to behold. Her grandfather had received suitors from all over ranging from celebrated hunters to blacksmiths. Well known farmers and elderly chiefs seeking either a fourth, fifth or sixth wife had tried their luck at it with each and every one of them offering way more than the previous one did for bride price. She had grown to be admired, respected and loved by many. Indeed, if beauty had a face, then it would definitely be hers.
But all this was before her world turned upside down. Her grandfather had gotten her betrothed to a wealthy blacksmith from the neighboring village. The wedding date had been decided and set as three full moons after the day of the betrothal. Every girl saw her as lucky. Some thought if they befriended her just enough for them to be noticed by the many suitors flocking her household, then maybe they would cross path with their own luck along the way.
Musicians and bands had written songs about Naliaka their village beauty gem with each and every single one of them hoping to get a chance to sing at her wedding. Everyone was excited and enthusiastic about the wedding. Many had made predictions of what is to be expected and how it would be the event of the season. All expect one person. Naliaka was not as thrilled.
Unknown to many, she had previously found comfort and peace in the arms of a soldier before the war. She had never been happier than when she was with him. She had perfected the skill of sneaking out into the moonlight after her grandfather dozed off to his favorite radio show. She had spent hours on end with him talking about the weather and other relevant topics to the most irrelevant.
They had talked about their plans for the future and how beautiful their life would be. They had planned out how they wanted to have a simple life by the farm with three little children running around and making a mess of the already stacked hay. She had always dreamed of having horses and a heard of cattle in the shed. She always imagined that she would grow to become a successful farmer with the largest maize plantation to ever grow in the village. She had a little perfect picture of what she hoped mother earth would deliver to her and the art of blacksmithing wasn’t a part of it.
But all this was before the war broke out and her jewel, the one man closest to her heart was shortlisted in the army. This was about four seasons ago. She had waited patiently, day and night, for his return but nothing. All she had were the letters she had received from him telling the tales surrounding the brutality of the war, but even those had ceased coming two seasons ago. His whereabouts were unknown. Soldiers had long returned but he hadn’t. No one from the army knew his whereabouts and whether or not he survived the brutal war.
For days without number, she had wept for him, prayed for his safe return and hoped to receive a letter confirming his whereabouts and his good health. Unfortunately, that never happened.
With only two moons left to the wedding, she debated with her inner self on what was deemed right by society and what was right by her. Having grown up at an age where a woman’s value was determined by the kind of man she married and how many children she bore, she wasn’t sure if it would be proper for her to call off the wedding and keep on waiting for a lover whose future was undetermined. She was scared of doing right by her and ending up a spinster for the rest of her life. However, there was a part of her that sought happiness and belonging.
After days of thinking and weighing the possibilities, she decided to take a leap of faith.
Three nights to the wedding, her betrothed paid her a visit as tradition would have it. He came bearing all sorts of pre-marital gifts for both her and her grandfather. Naliaka couldn’t bring herself to accept any of it and decided to speak her heart out.
“To promise you a forever of happiness would be a lie, we both know I respect and admire you, but my heart belongs to another and for that I cannot proceed with this,”
The news of the called off wedding spread like wild fire with most people calling her naïve and stupid. Many thought she was throwing her life away and letting go of an opportunity of a life time. She was the only one that truly understood what it meant to be in love and be hopeful of it.
Her now ex-fiancé on the other hand had vowed to not let it go that easily. He was bitter about how things had ended. He felt used and manipulated. He felt as though he had spent his wealth on a lost course. Countless times, he thought about different ways to make her suffer. He thought about killing her and had imagined her death in a million ways. Eventually, he decided to do her one better.
He had gone ahead to spread rumors and create a narrative, telling anyone who was willing to listen that Naliaka’s grandfather was a witch and had bewitched his granddaughter into rejecting him.
His agenda was bearing fruits bit by bit. The villagers began turning on Naliaka’s grandfather saying that indeed he was a witchdoctor. Many accredited Naliakas’s beauty to sorcery and her grandfather’s grey hair to his source of black magic. In a span of two market days, her family’s image had been shuttered completely. Eventually, the old man was forced to face the ultimate punishment of practicing black magic. He was burned alive while sleeping in his house.
A cloud of doom had descended upon their household. A wave of gloominess had dawned upon her and in a short spun of time she had moved from being the village jewel to a laughing stock. She spent days and nights alone, cursing the decisions she made in the past. Most of those she called friends had now deserted her claiming her luck was short lived. She had learned to fend for herself without making a trip to the market since no one would sell to her. Many moons passed and she finally received a letter.
“My Dearest Naliaka, tales of your called off engagement have traveled far and wide. A man who came looking for work at the mines told a story of the black-lipped village jewel who called off a wedding three nights to the ceremony all because she was hopeful her beloved soldier would return. I write to not only apologize for my absence but to also let you know that I am well. I was wounded in war and sought refuge in my maternal home. I was scared to come back to you a looser with nothing to offer your people. Out here, I have built a name for myself and set up a farm just like we talked about. The only missing piece of the puzzle is you. If it’s not too late beloved, I would love for you to join me here so that we can build a life together.
Your departed soldier”
It’s been a minute since I wrote. Let’s just say writers block has not been so kind towards me. I finally put something down and as usual my favourite part of the process is getting your feedback. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. Thank you in advance.