After breakfast and a bath, I went to Elder Zidana's sitting room to wait for my guards. The previous night I had asked Shamiso if she thought any of the people in Songani would know I was Khataza's daughter.
"If they do, the two mlenje accompanying you will ensure you return safely." She retorted.
I nodded my head and exited her work room. I had no contact with them and neither did Khataza. Hopefully they didn't know who I was.
In the sitting room was an Akafula woman and another woman seated on stools opposite from the stool that Elder Zidana sat on.
"This is Demba," Elder Zidana said pointing at the Akafula. "And this is Khanimambo."
I shook hands with both women. Elder Zidana and his wife escorted us to the cart waiting for us outside their compound. I got into the cart. The man seated on the cart holding the reins of the cattle was introduced as Orama. It took us a whole day to get to Songani.
"We both have blood immune to Ebola," Demba said. "So we will enter the village with you. But Orama will return here."
We got out of the cart. The two women took their bags and wanted to take mine too. I refused. They insisted. Again I refused. We waved at our driver. He waved back and left. We slowly entered the Village's fence. I was not looking forward to being here again. The smell of death filled my nostrils. At the village square, I saw a multitude of people gathered around their chief. She stood over fifteen corpses covered that were blue cloth. I closed my eyes.
"There is the woman who brought the cure that will save us all from this curse." Her hand was held out to me. If only the ground could open up and let me in.
The mourners turned to face me, their eyes filled with gratitude. I turned to my two guards.
I stood. "I am no hero, just someone who has come to help."
After the funeral, the chief led me to their patient's hut. This large hut with a cone shaped roof made from grass had women my age and some older than I.
"They have all been given Mwaluve. Most heal, but some are too far gone." She said. A woman who I later found was called Lilato greeted us both. "You will be working under her."
"Thank you for bringing the Mwaluve here. Without it we would be dead." The chief said.
I feigned a smile. It was me who brought this on you. Or at least helped bring this suffering on you. Me, and the two mlenje were given a room with three kama.
"You live alone?" Khanimambo asked.
"I live with my daughter. I lived here with my son and husband but the illness took them. This was my son's room." Lilato replied.
I sank into the kama. This poor woman. Me and Khataza robbed her of her family.
"Get settled in, the evening meal will be ready soon." Lilato said leaving our room. I lay my head down on the kama. I should just run away. NO you need to fix this that you created Zima.
"Your houses here are so lovely? So well painted." Demba remarked dipping her food crusted hands in a bowl of water.
"Thank you." Lilato said with a smile. Her house was rectangular shape with bright coloured paintings on the outside.
I struggled to finish the food that was in my plate. For most the meal, I would stare blankly at the walls of the room we were in. I kept thinking about this poor woman who had lost her family. Who else had lost their spouses and children in this plague? This was a massacre. After the meal, we all retired to our rooms.
"You won't sleep?" I said.
Khani nodded her head. "You were last attacked in the night. I will keep watch."
"But you also need your sleep." I pointed out.
"Us mlenje are trained to go weeks without sleep," Demba said. "I am kidding, just days but Khani will sleep in the morning. The next day I will keep watch at night while she rests."
I nodded, laying back down in the kama.
"I know you," The woman on the kama said grabbing my hand. I lay back down on her kama. I had been pressing a wet cloth to her forehead to calm her fever.
I dodged her eyes. "I doubt it." I was afraid she saw me with Khataza and would announce that I was his daughter.
"Zimatha! Over here. I need you." Lilato called.
"I know you," the middle aged woman said again this time with more conviction. I gently pulled her hand off me and rushed out to Lilato. "I will come back."
OH no. I have been discovered. Relax, everyone will assume she is in a daze because of the illness. I joined Lilato beside the kama of a patient.
How was Ayamba? Did he miss me the way I missed him. I should not be thinking of him. I should not. He belonged to another. In a few months' time, he would be married to someone else. I held a woman's back as Lilato fed her boiled mwaluve water. What of Nyasha's suggestion. Would me getting pregnant work? I knew he liked me from the night Mazaza and Nyasha talked with him while they thought I was asleep. Was he really my pair? He had to be. But even if I did get pregnant the council would probably throw me out because I was Khataza's daughter. Even adoptive daughter. It was much later that evening that I walked back to the woman who claimed to know me. I needed to find out how much she knew. If she had seen me with Khataza. I would leave the village immediately. Khani stood not far from me.
"Zimatha," She said with a smile when I sat beside her kama. "Zimatha daughter of Thokozani and Nthambi."
She stroked my cheek with feeble movements. "Yes you, you look so much like Thoko. I heard that you survived but I did not know if it was true. The first few years after their death, I saved up iron from me and my husband's iron shade. When it was enough, I hired a mpenza to find you. He looked and looked for many moons through many Vukutu encampments even at Mchengautuwa through the children rescued from the Vukutu but he did find you so I thought you were with Thoko and Nthambi."
"Who are you?"
"Don't be alarmed," her hand was resting on my arm caressing it. "Thokozani was elder sister. I thought you were dead." She leaned towards me, wrapping her arms around my back. "I thought it was witchcraft that brought me and my husband through this trade route. Now I know it was Chauta." She pulled me close. "Where have you been?"
She released me from her hug, her eyes surveyed me. "You look just like her."
My eyes looked at the patient in the kama next to her, then up at her. "A ngoni soldier took me in as his own."
"Where is he?"
"He died a few months ago."
"Well now you have me." Her hands clasped my own. "Earlier this year, I lost my mother, your grandmother. I felt very alone. Chauta knew, he knew I was not alone and that is why he has reunited us."
"I am so glad to have met you." I wiped a tear falling out of my eyes. "I thought I was alone too."
"You will never be alone."
"You must rest. Tomorrow I will return and we can talk."
"Okay." She smiled. She lay back down on the kama. My shift was over, I was about to exit the hut when a woman summoned me with her hand. I told Khani to go ahead to the hut. She was reluctant to leave but I assured her, I would join her soon. She left. I walked up to the patient, sat down on her kama.
She was talking in raspy whispers I could not make out. She beaconed me to lean forward. I did. She shoved a sharp object into my mid-section. It landed on my arm below my elbow. I whelped from the pain. I took out a blade attached to my arm and thrust it into her mid-section. I got up from the kama. I had just exited the hut running, when a rope attached itself to my neck, pulling me back. The force of the rope pulling me back etched my skin. I screamed. The rope tightened around my neck. I felt my assailant standing behind me. I reached for a blade with my left hand and hurled it behind me. My assailant screamed and let me go.
"Move and I kill you." Khani who was holding an arrow said. She was standing in front of me, her eyes locked onto the assailant.
The assailant did not move.
"There is another inside. I stabbed her but she should be alive." I said. I took out another blade held it to the assailant's neck. "Get the other one."
We took both assailants into Lilato's hut.
"Who are they? Why are you both bleeding?" Lilato asked. I looked down at my arm which was oozing blood. In our room, we found Demba lying down.
"These two tied to kill me." I told her. Lilato worked on the first assailant's wounds. She got her daughter to treat my arm. The wound was so deep, it required stitches.
Lilato let the wounded assailant rest in our room. Khani asked Lilato not to tell the village's soldiers like she wanted to. She agreed. As soon as she left the room, I administered a sedative to the assailant forcing her to sleep because it would be easier to question one person. Khani asked her partner who they were.
The woman just starred at Khani.
"I know from your wrists you are both Amanda," I said. "What I can not understand is that you risked your safety to come kill me."
Again the woman said nothing.
"They were already here. They must have been commissioned when they were already here." Demba said. She hit the silent woman with her elbow, the woman fell on my kama. "She was not going to talk."
"True," Khani nodded. "I apologise for leaving you alone."
"But I asked you to."
"My orders are to guard your life and I almost failed. In fact I would have failed if you had not been so well trained in combat."
"I don't blame you."
"You know what this means though," Demba said. "We need to leave this place."
"I agree. It is much more dangerous than we anticipated." Khani said.
"No. They still need me here."
"Zima, if we stay we will be required to search all the patients you take care of." Demba said. My eyes fell on the two unconscious women lying on my bed. If my hand was not around my stomach, she would have killed me tonight.
I exhaled. "You are right."
"You have done enough." Demba clasped my arm. I nodded. The next morning before I left I spoke to my younger motherwho was now walking. She was waiting for her husband to be discharged so they could return home. I asked her where her village was. She told me, then asked me to return with her.
"I need to go say goodbye to someone in Mchengautuwa then I will come to you." I said. This was not what I hoped. My future would not have Ayamba but at least it would have my small mother.
She squeezed my hand. "I will be waiting for you. I have been waiting for you for the last seventeen years."
After I told Shamiso and Elder Zidana my exploits in Songani. Shamiso drew her stool closer to me.
She placed her hand on my shoulder. "You have come at the right time. Zidana was just about to send a letter to you, asking for you to return."
"Why?" My eyes darted from her to her husband.
"Your father was apprehended by law enforcers in Zamania. He was given to us. His execution is in two suns time." Elder Zidana said.
If Shamiso had not grabbed me from behind, I would have fallen off the stool. Executed in two days. I clasped my mouth. My chest was tight, I exhaled to gain relief.
"Can...I...see...him?" I managed to say after sometime.
Elder Zidana nodded.
The next day after breakfast Elder Zidana took me a prison similar to there one I was held in.
"I need to search her." The guard outside his cell said.
"She has nothing trust me." Elder Zidana said. I was led into a room similar to the room I was in. This one had marble poles separating an open space and Khataza's little room. He got up from his kama as soon as he saw me. Zidana and the guard exited the room.
"Yell if you need help." The guard said before he left. "Me and my men will be behind the door."
I stood near the door.
"Khuze," Khataza said his lips drawn out into a smile. "I am so glad to see you are alive and well. What happened to your arm?"
I glanced down at the cloth Lilato's daughter had wrapped around my wound. "You left me."
"I did not...you were supposed to meet me."
My lips were quivering. Please don't cry Zima. Please don't let him see how much he hurt you. "I tried to get across the gate it would not let me."
His face fell. "That I did, my dear and I am sorry."
"I went to Chilema. I know you killed..." My voice broke off into tears. "You killed my parents."
Khataza knelt, his hands gripping the poles.
"Don't you have anything to say?"
"I wish you did not know."
"Why did you attack Gomero?"
"It harboured a spy for the council. I was not sure who it was."
"You are a monster."
Khataza's face contorted at my words.
"I met my mother's sister. She sent a mpenza to find me and he didn't. We all know mpenzas can find anyone, did you pay him off?"
"Why? Why wouldn't you let me get reunited with my family?"
"A moon before I...found you...my son died in battle. Me and his mother we were swallowed up by our own grief. It was as if we had died with him.. Then you came, you with your laughter, smiles and playfulness. You brought light into our life. That's why I named you Khuze. Meaning cheer. I could not let you go. I needed you."
"You are selfish."
"I love you Khuze."
"My name is Zimatha."
"You will always be my Khuze."
"If I mean so much to you then why abandon me?"
"I panicked my dear. Forgive me."
I clasped my mouth with both hands holding my tears as they flowed out.
"I will be put to death tomorrow." He said. "Will you come?"
I shook my head.
"You still love me. Come hold my hand Khuze once more."
Reluctantly, I walked up to him. I held his hand. He stroked my palms with his thumbs.
"Tell my other children I love them. I wish we had more time together."
I nodded my head. "I will Father."
Do you think Zimatha should i have met Khataza?
should she go to his execution?
What do you think of Khataza?
does he love Zimatha?