By Mugabe Victor
It was an image she could not get out of her head. The torn fingernails, dried lips and scaled skin on his back only told half of the story. Gipiir had grown quieter since he had returned from the forest in the West. His eyes seemed narrow and his glance distant as the horizon; and yet, he kept a blunt smile wrapped around his face. “What happened to you?” Achola finally squeaked, her voice reaping Gipiir out of his thoughts.
“What?” he muttered; his voice lower than usual
“What happened to you in the forest?” Achola spoke up, “You are not the same as you were when you left,”
Gipiir smiled. His eyelids were heavy as they always were. “You worry too much” Gipiir finally replied, “I thought you hated me,”
The heart wrenching memory of her glare the day of the elephant attack replayed over his eyes. Hate that he believed was rightly based. “No one should show affection to a coward,” he thought.
“Gipiir,” Achola whispered, turning his face towards her, “I do not hate you, never have,”
His eyes stayed static as those of a corpse, an expression that sent shivers down her spine. The wind felt colder and the air stiff. What was running through his head?” she wondered only to be distracted by the sudden jolt from a tiny energetic hunter. The little child she had managed to rescue from the elephant. Roaring like a kitten, he pounced all over the two, distracting her from what felt like a breakthrough.
The silent tension between the two stayed like a virus. Only the child dared to rattle it through his naïve ignorance.
“What is his name?” Gipiir finally spoke up, his eyes finally shining with a hint of life.
By Aine Susan
Time heals all wounds, they say. It definitely applied to the wounds from Gipiir’s renowned journey. The flesh had closed up and all that remained were dark streaks; a warrior’s scars. But the wounds in his heart had stayed clear as day despite the years. He was all, but sore from spite. Now, he lay in waiting; for just one chance to pounce on his own brother. The children were totally oblivious of the atmosphere at hand. He watched a little boy and Labongo’s daughter laugh away, as they dragged little sticks through the compound, claiming to assemble an army.
“Stupid girl, women don’t fight, they cook,” little Okech yelled, towering over Laker.
“Well, boy, Stand up and fight me if you’re such a man,” she retorted.
“Enough with the beakering, Laker. Hold your sister before she wanders off again,” Achola called out, hardly looking away from the groundnuts she was sorting.
“Oh, sorry; I meant cooking and looking after the babies,” Okech sneered.
“I swear, if you make me call you again, little girl…” Achola cut Laker’s reaction short.
Laker trudged off, mouthing insults at Okech.
“So much like their fathers,” Gipiir thought.
The compound was a safe space for the children. Each time one of them crossed over to the neighboring homestead chaos broke out. Even the termites in the ground seemed to understand the impending trouble every time their line strayed between premises. Despite the tension, the two homes had that safe haven – the space between, where Labongo couldn’t remind Achola of Gipiir’s insolence and Gipiir couldn’t point out Labongo’s disdain to Adeke. In that space, the children played like a family, Achola and Adeke summoned back stories and songs from their youth, and settled disputes between their children exactly as they were; squabbles.
The old widow by the river often said, “Dyel ma lapele tur ibad dero” – A naughty goat breaks its legs on the arm of a granary. Hidden from their parents’ site, the children often wondered into the neighboring homestead; unmoved by the stern warnings that their mothers often gave them and yet critically evading their fathers.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEDNESDAY