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SHORT STORY: THE EAGLE

Brief Note: I got the inspiration to write this story after watching an interview about a young girl who was to be married off at age 14; she wanted to be a doctor. It looked like there was really no way out for her, so I decided to create a character that will take her life in her hands and escape.

I would really like to know what you think and hear the many options that Abiba has. Let us try to provide answers to questions that affect the girl-child, in our little ways!

Enjoy it!

SHORT STORY.

Abiba sniffs deep into the end of the hijab as she walks against the wind: winds of the North, winds of her life. She opens the back door stealthily, with the ease of the village thief, and she walks out of the house that she was born into. She sneaks past all the memories, questions that she knows will never get answered—she walks away from all she has known to face a vast world of the unknown. The dryness of the early morning harmattan wind is blowing against her face; it screams in her ears: EVERYONE CAN SEE YOU. She holds her breath as she dashes past the house with tears in her eyes. Today, she is fourteen. In four weeks, she will be married.

Life was never the same for her since she found out all that she had unknowingly dreaded all her life. She had thought about it; when she saw the other girls change their drab, one-colour hijabs* for the flowery ones, with those laali* marks on their bodies. Nothing really changed but as she looked through their eyes, she saw the smile of the defeated. The smile betrayed their innocence; they knew that their ambitions would soon be wrapped into one ball and packed into a nylon bag and handed over to the highest bidder. That was their fate.

That is my fate. But she wanted to change that fate – it does not always have to be the same. The winds always break when a mightier force stands in its way; she was ready to walk against its overpowering gusts, running as fast as she could to find herself.

She saw them, heard them and knew all that they planned. She was to be married off to her father’s fifty-year-old, age-long friend. The man who sold suya* and always paid for her kunu* drink whenever she passed through the market on the way home from school. The one who would look her deep in the eyes as she played with the boys and scream suddenly like a wounded dog, stop talking to them and hold your hijab tight over your head, can’t you see they are beholding your virtue? And on certain nights, when her mother sent her to the night market he would grin at her and whisper into her ears, Yarinya*, I will marry you someday. She would frown and tap her fingers making a semi-circle with them over her head, the way she has seen her best friend in school do while screaming in disgust when someone said something abominable to her. Tufiakwa*. Nneka was one of the people that her parents called Kaferi*, untouchable, supposed to be unheard but who could never go unnoticed. They owned the biggest shops in the city and the townspeople only endured the high prices of their products because they were the only sellers. Nneka told me proudly that she would go to the university and become the first Nigerian woman to fly an airplane—she would demonstrate with her hands raised high in the sky like an eagle. She was really an eagle: daunting, bold and fearless. I found in her the daring freedom I would never be allowed to know. I had to find my voice somewhere else, away from here, even in the West—the Wild Wild West of my dreams.

When she left she would no longer hear the buzzing voices in Papa’s room haggling over her bride price; even as his friend brought with him gifts she never received. She would be free from the piercing look of secret knowledge that peeled her clothes off her body every time he saw her at the market. No longer would she be held down by the stench that hung on his breath, the browning teeth that stank of gooro* stalked between the teeth for days, those black fingers that had held countless cigarettes, grasping her tender hands. For once she would be free.

Free to pursue my dreams like the hawk that I always see in my dream swooping down to pick anything it desires for food—unaware of the stares of man—I will soar till I find myself. I don’t know what lies ahead of me, but I can decide what it will be, she said under her breath as she sprinted past the front of her betrothed’s stall under the heavy eyes of the dark night.

NATIVE WORDS

*Hijab: cover for the head usually used by Muslim women, some cover the whole body
*Laali: Make-up like eye pencil
*Suya: Grilled roasted meat spiced
*Kunu: A local drink made from wheat
*Yarinya: Young Lady
*Tufiakwa: God forbid
*Kaferi: Heathen, unbeliever
*Gooro: A variety of cola that makes the teeth brown

Comments

Clare Muireann's picture

what happens to Abiba?

Abiba ran for most of the night, till her legs burned and her mind shook with exhaustion and fear. Every moment throughout the long dark night she imagined hands grabbing her and angry shouts under the starless sky; she would be found, she would be returned, she would be punished. But no hands grabbed, no voices shouted, and after many hours she found herself standing beside an old woman who was waiting for a bus. This bus would take Abiba far from her city, to the very borders of her country.

As the bus pulled up the night sky was skulking away like a thief, and a lovely pink dawn was beginning to emerge. Abiba hesitated for a moment feeling the last tie to her home snag at her heels. The old woman was slowly making her way up onto the bus to speak with the driver. This was her moment, Abiba's point of no return. She took a deep breath and felt it fill her body. I am a bird, I am a powerful bird, I am an eagle, the world is my home. The words came unbidden from deep inside her soul, and Abiba found her strength and her conviction.

Abiba's foot landed softly onto the step of the bus. The old woman was turning towards the seats. Following close enough behind her, Abiba seemed like a distracted granddaughter. She sat beside the old woman and did not say a word, afraid her voice would betray her. She let her eyes roam out the window, over the dusty landscape. Was this freedom? Her eyes welled up but she swallowed back the tears.

The bus meandered for hours over the pale ground until finally it stopped. It would move on again in a few moments when the engine had cooled some. Abiba did not want to move from her seat. Afraid that if she lost contact with the bus she would lose her only means out and away, her only means to fly. Suddenly she felt a hand upon her arm, and she looked up into the eyes of the old woman. The eyes twinkled with mischief.

Come and join me for a cool drink my child, her voice was reassuring and her eyes were smiling. Her hand patted Abiba's arm with a gentle knowledge. The fear left her throat and Abiba found her voice again.
Thank you grandmother, she said, suddenly sure that her plan had worked, she had escaped and she would remain free. She followed the old woman off the bus and into the first day of her new life....

Good morning Ebuntemi! Your words inspired me this morning, and this is the solution that I came up with for Abiba. In all the great journey stories we must overcome some great obstacle (for Abiba I think it was choosing to leave the arranged life and choose for herself) and often we come to a point where an outside force steps in to help us. For me it had to be a grandmother, a wise woman to guide this new young woman on her way. Perhaps you wanted more tenable solutions and mine was more literary...but I enjoyed walking with Abiba if only for a short while.
beannacht (blessings)
Clare

Clare Muireann Murphy

Ebuntemi's picture

Thank you...

I like this, it really says so much.

Thank you for giving Alima life and the right to choose.

What language is ''beannacht''

Would love to read more from you!

Clare Muireann's picture

beannacht

Beannacht is Irish for blessings. Although english is the language that is spoken here in Ireland, Irish is the language of my people for hundreds and hundreds of years. As with all languages there are things hidden in the nuances of Irish that say a lot about the ways of the people here. Hopefully we will recover our language over time. It is not widely spoken, but slowly undergoing a renaissance.

go n'eiri on bothar leat (may the road rise up to meet you)
Clare

Clare Muireann Murphy

olakitike's picture

I like your prose. i love

I like your prose. i love that you injected hope into the story. your work is beautiful.

Ebuntemi's picture

Thank you

Hey Olakitike, thank you so much, I am happy that you liked it. Really it's good to give the girl-child hope, it is however pathetic that in most cases, it happens otherwise and she almost has to bow out, sadly. Will love to hear stories, if you have any to tell. We actually all have our stories and there are stories milling around us everyday. Sometimes I feel that if it is only telling the story, I have done something. Though I have to put action to words more...

And you reside in Ile-Ife, i finished from OAU...

Thank you

olakitike's picture

i finished from Ife too

It's nice to meet someone from great ife here. i just finished from great Ife last year. I am waiting for service.

joyomosh's picture

Inspirational

I like your style of writing; It helps people to see things will be like if they chose to stand their ground. I am sure this will be an inspirational piece for my young friends in the slums. Kudos!

Ebuntemi's picture

Beannacht

Thank you for this small lesson in Irish. I think the language is like other native languages in most countries in the world; they are gradually being swamped out of existence by English, French, etc. The reasons are diverse, however it lies with the speakers of the language to revive it.

I visited your website: Storytellers and I was indeed motivated to use the power that lies in stories for positive change...and I have questions(not questions in that sense any way)

True, that's my first real short story, I lost the first when my system crashed, been trying to do it again but it's impossible.

Thank you...

Ebuntemi's picture

Beannacht

Thank you for this small lesson in Irish. I think the language is like other native languages in most countries in the world; they are gradually being swamped out of existence by English, French, etc. The reasons are diverse, however it lies with the speakers of the language to revive it.

I visited your website: Storytellers and I was indeed motivated to use the power that lies in stories for positive change...and I have questions(not questions in that sense any way)

True, that's my first real short story, I lost the first when my system crashed, been trying to do it again but it's impossible.

Thank you...

Clare Muireann's picture

Dear Ebuntemi Your story

Dear Ebuntemi

Your story seems to have awoken everyone's hearts here, it's wonderful to see. Thank you so much for checking out my website, there are many stories you can watch for free on that, (when your computer behaves itself!!) I also started a group here on Pulse Wire called The Storytelling House where I will post stories that I often tell, so that is another way to find stories. If you ever want to chat about storytelling or anything, give me a shout.

The world awaits your pen!

do chara (your friend)
Clare

Clare Muireann Murphy

Tina's picture

The Eagle

Ebuntemi,
You are a beautiful and wonderful writer. I enjoyed reading this very much. It was fascinating to see this girls' life through your eyes for a while.
Thank You
Tina

Ebuntemi's picture

Thank you...

Thank you for the kind words...motivates me to write more> Fiction can also be used to speak for women and children. Thank you again...

shiku steve's picture

waoh! great narrative! sad

waoh! great narrative! sad story.You've really juiced it up truly well. keep entertaining us.kuddos !

with
Love Shiku

Ebuntemi's picture

Thank you...

Thanks, thanks and thanks...also let us give Abiba a life and the right to choose...there are many Abibas around us crying for help. Thank you

ENIE NDOH CECILE's picture

The Eagle

That was a wondeful piece Ebuntemi. I pray parents should stop giving out their daughters to old men for marriage.
Your story reminds me of a girl who use to live with us. She got to our house when she was nine years and we put her in elementary school. Five years later when she was about to complete, her father came in from their village and said he wanted his daughter back and that she was nolonger a child. There was nothing we could do, she was his daughter afterall. He had about five wives and about forty children. We knew he most have betroth her to an old man.

Warm Regards,
Cecile

Ebuntemi's picture

Dear Enie, Thank you. Also,

Dear Enie,

Thank you. Also, thanks for bringing the message home with that personal example. We have these situations happening everyday around us and under our nostrils. However, there are many factors to consider when answering the question: why do parents do this? There is ignorance, culture, poverty (which i think contributes a lot to child marriage and trafficking), etc.

There is a story reported here: http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/News/National/5070014-146/A_haven_... about child trafficking, you will enjoy reading it as a journalist and woman.

Let me know what you think!

Have a nice day.

Ebuntemi's picture

Dear Enie, Thank you. Also,

Dear Enie,

Thank you. Also, thanks for bringing the message home with that personal example. We have these situations happening everyday around us and under our nostrils. However, there are many factors to consider when answering the question: why do parents do this? There is ignorance, culture, poverty (which i think contributes a lot to child marriage and trafficking), etc.

There is a story reported here: http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/News/National/5070014-146/A_haven_... about child trafficking, you will enjoy reading it as a journalist and woman.

Let me know what you think!

Have a nice day.

The Afrika way's picture

beautiful

I love the way you have told your story. I think it is a beautiful piece. It reminds me of a story I read recently in the newspaper, in my home country. A teacher tricked a fourteen-year-old girl to be his second wife, with a promise of paying her school fees. The girl was an orphan, and did not have money to proceed with her education, yet she was a brilliant student. The teacher took advantage of her situation. Luckily authorities got wind of his plans, and the local chief came to her rescue. The girl is now under the care of a local NGO. I was moved by the fact that the girl broke down, when she was rescued. I could only imagine the relief she experienced, and the pain she had already experienced. It is sad that such stories are still being told, not as a thing of the past.

Warm regards,

Waichigo

Ebuntemi's picture

Good example

Thank you Waichigo, its great that the girl got an escape out of that 'mirage'on time, that's exploitatio n at its heights; but at that point that was seemingly her only choice. Its great to hear theses stories... Thank you for sharing.

Regards,
Temitayo

cad_communication's picture

SHort of words

I loved the article. It was sad yet interesting. I read it to the last word. Your style of writing is unique and readers can see the lives of characters from your view.

Gertrude

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