Stories on a Map


Rukiyat Paul Barker largeEbele Nweje


Rukiyat had been crying since last night. The December harmattan was blowing through the trees as she hastened with Hauwa, her younger sister, to fetch water from the well at the Imam’s compound. She could feel the cold through her clothes. Her hijab, which kept slipping off her plaited hair, provided little succour from the cold. She wished for a good cardigan or thicker jab but her Baba, whose cobbler income could not feed his family of thirteen, could not afford that. Rukiyat wondered for the hundredth time why her father had married two wives when obviously he could not feed one. Anger at her parents, the coming visitors and life in general filled her thoughts as it often did these days.

“Ruky, that’s enough, you have to go prepare yourself because our visitors will soon start arriving,” her mother said as Rukiyat passed her and the other women in the backyard, where they were preparing the tuwo and other dishes.

Without uttering a word, she went to bathe and put on the new clothes ‘he’ had bought her for the occasion. Hauwa at eight only understood that her sister was going away to live with a rich baba whom they hardly knew. But maybe there, she can start school like other children their age and, hopefully, Hauwa and the Baba will send for her too. As she assisted Ruky in getting ready, tears ran down her cheeks. The two of them were the best of friends and confidants. Now they were taking Ruky away.

“Hauwa, please stop crying, wipe your tears. I can hear noises, go and see if they have arrived.”

Hauwa strolled off to check and rushed back as her sister was putting away a small dark bottle under their parents’ bed. It was them alright, reported Hauwa. Soon, her mother came to call her to come and greet the visitors.

In no time, the ceremony was concluded and the guests made to leave with their amaria.

That was when all hell was let loose. The guests, including the groom, began complaining of stomach ache, one after the other. Within minutes, corpses began littering Baba Rukiyat’s compound like flies.

It was when Rukiyat was caught fleeing the compound amidst the melée that she confessed. She had poisoned the guests’ food with rat poison. At twelve, she did not want to be the Baba’s third wife.


© 2014 Ebele Nweje
Image: Paul Barker

Image of Ebele Nweje, Nigerian writerEbele Nweje is from Anambra State, Nigeria, and graduated in Communication Arts at the University of Uyo. She is an avid reader who expresses her passions and interests via writing. Ebele’s philosophy is that “what lies ahead is greater than what I left behind and what is within is incomparable to what is without”.