Her name was Taira. She was the old man's little girl. She was his pride and joy and she was as bright as they would get. She was a happy jolly little girl that lived each day without worry and fuss. She loved the little hut she lived with the old man, or so it seemed. The little hut was a haven to her. She made sure there was water in the big clay pot and enough wood to make fire when it gets cold at night. She had learnt how to keep livestock. The man had bought a few hens and two goats for her to look after. She made sure they were well-fed and happy.
The hens cawed and the goats bleated as the girl feed them with maize and dried grass. She looked happy and felt free. She looked like she had nothing to worry about. The old man wished he had her kind of spirit and see life like she saw it. The old man watched as she bent down to pick up the smallest goat at that instant she looked over at him and waved. He called her over and she came immediately.
The old man sighed for the third time since she stood in front of him. All he could think of was whether he would be able to do what was expected of him. He pulled the girl to himself and asked her what she wanted to do with her life. He asked if she saw herself away from the little hut they shared. The girl looked up at the old tired eyes and smiled deeply and fondly.
"I want to see the world. I want to fly high and know what makes this world as beautiful as it is at every corner and every place."
The old man smiled too. What the girl had told him had made a lot of sense and had not surprised him at all. He knew the kind of person she was and knew that she would actually do what she had said she would do.
"I am sure you have a lot of adventures in front of you. I know you want to see the world and I know you can do it but..."
The girl placed her little hands on the old man's cheeks and shook her head.
"I have been faced by a lot of buts since I was born but this time, I will not let any buts tie me down from achieving this. Let me do this even if it's the last thing I will do," she said.
The old man sighed heavily. Such a pure heart, he thought. The girl was eighteen but looked like a five year old. She was born to be a small girl all her life. The little village where she was born had casted her out with her mother and labeled them as outcasts. The old man had found the old mother with an infant that looked a day old even when she was four months old. She was weeping and bleeding form a cut on her head. She had told the old man her story and he had promised to help. He took them home and bathed their wounds. They had grown healthier and healthier every day till the woman died from an unusual sickness and left him to look after the girl. The woman was over forty when she had her child and had been married to her husband for fifteen years. The people of their village had started gossiping about her and childlessness and some even labeled her as being cursed. How he wished he could have done more. How he wished he had saved the woman but he was also an old man. There was little or nothing he could do.
"I know what you are thinking," the girl interrupted the man's train of thought. She had tears in her eyes. She never cried. She always had happy thoughts to chase away the sad ones. The old man shook his head this time.
"Don't do that. You know you are my happiness," the old man said and held tightly unto little girl's hands. The girl smiled and swallowed. He eyes came alive again and the old man rewarded her with a tired smile of his own.
"I want to always make you happy. I don't ever want you to be sad. I will take care of you and you will be so proud of me," the little girl said and nodded with assurance.
The old man was pleased. Maybe he didn't have to do it after all, he thought. He would just find a way to help make her dream come true but he was not sure where to start. The village head had threatened to burn down their hut if he comes back and found the girl there. Someone had told him about how the girl had come to be there with him and they had all agreed that she was bad luck. Some even said she was the cause of the draught that left the land barren for four years.
"I know you will make me happy. There is something I want you to do for me," the old man said to the girl who was now sitting on the ground in front of him.
"Yes Baba. What is it?"
"By the crack of dawn tomorrow, we have to leave this place."
The girl looked alarmed. The words had shocked her. She stood up hurriedly and asked why they had to leave.
"There is nothing to be scared about. It is for your good. I want you to see the things outside of this place. You are a very intelligent girl and you can't stay here forever." And the village head is after you, the old man said in his heart.
"I don't understand. I have always known the place as my home. I know I want to see the world but not now when you are so tired and ill," the girl said with compassion.
"You have to. I will be okay. Have I ever fallen ill since you've known me?"
"So, why should you worry now? You don't have to worry about me. I am as strong as a Kaka horse," the old man replied. The girl laughed.
"That is what I want to always see on your face, a big bright smile," the old man said again.
The little girl leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. She assured him that everything was going to be okay. She went inside the hut and started to pack the few belongings they had. She was full of thoughts. She wasn't sure what it was but something told her that there was more to what the old man had told her with regards to leaving. She had been given steely glances and had heard ugly and painful remarks from people for a while now since the annual village festival two weeks ago. There was something wrong but the little girl didn't want to ask. She never let anything bother her but she was scared of what the truth might be and knew it might be something she wouldn't be able to laugh herself out of that easy. She could hear the old man humming and knew that sound was only done when he had something to worry about. She had grown to know each expression and attitude of the old man. She knew when he was truly happy and she also knew when he tries to hide something worrisome just for her sake. The little girl knew that she had to do something to help the old man. She knew she had no cogent destination as to where they were going to. She knew his mind would be filled with worry right now and she also knew that she didn't want to burden him with her problems any longer. She made a decision. She would leave and find a way out by herself and for herself. He had done his best bit. She might seem happy here but she wanted more than just being happy, she wanted to live. She had always lived in this little hut all her life and it was time to leave and let them old man be free. She didn't know where or how but she knew when; it was that same night when the bats are out to feed.
"Can I help with anything?" the old man asked as he walked in leaning heavily on his cane.
"No, I can handle it. We don't really have much to pack, do we?" the little girl replied.
The man said okay and sat on the bamboo bed. He was worried that they might meet with an unfortunate incident that he wouldn't be able to handle on his own but it was the only option. He was old and weak but he had a strong heart. He wished his strong heart would be enough to take them through the journey through the unknown.
"What would you like for dinner, Baba?" the little girl asked as she picked up an earthen pot.
"I will eat anything you give me."
The girl smiled and said, "I will make you okra soup and amala."
"That is a good choice. I love that a lot. Thank you my child. God bless you. I want to take a short nap now. Let me know when you are done," the old man said and lay down.
"Rest well. I will get to it now. I promise you, everything will be okay." The man closed his eyes and slept off.
The girl watched as the man snored. He looked so peaceful. His face sagged with old age and in-depth experience but looked like the face of a determined warrior bent on winning a fight with giants. She had to do it; she would beg her friend from across the stream to check up on him once in a while. He would need all the help he could get. She would come back very soon when she had conquered the outside world. She put the last of her clothes into the sack and placed it at the entrance to the hut. She then started dinner for the old for the last time for years to come.
Her friend was surprised by what Taira told her.
"What do you mean by that? Where are you going?" she asked.
Taira shook her head. She had no time to explain. She begged her friend to help look after the old man and her livestock. She promised to come back as soon as she had found what she was looking for. Her friend promised to do her best and promised not to tell anyone what had happened. Taira left with less guilt. She knew her friend would keep to her promise. The waddle across the river was very short but it was heavy in the heart. Taira looked back when she got across. There were a few lights in the distance. The village was sleeping peacefully. It didn't feel good but it was the right thing to do. Taira picked up her sack and went on her way into the darkness.
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