Mama birthed her under the cover of darkness at the outskirts of our village. Mama was considered one of the sullied because she had been carried off, stolen by The Militia.
Family can be a loyal beast until it is not. One moment they miss you, grieve for you, and the next, you are little more than shards and slivers of memory.
But then, Mama found her way home.
They welcomed her with open arms, but only just. ‘You did not fight back. You did not die rather than be dishonored’, they reasoned. The promises of help from the government for Mama’s sort faded when the world turned the channel. But the whispers? The whispers grew. The silence and the distance did too.
I get ahead of myself. My name is Idrissa. My family name is as unimportant as the pushpin marking the cursed earth I came from. I am not here to defend myself.
The strings on my guitar are stained with the choices I made.
The tale I share is of the babe Mama bore… my sister…. My Elizabetha. I called her Bimbi because she was the word, glorious! Mama carried her back to our home lit only by the stub of a candle. I could hold Bimbi in the palms of my hands. Her cry was so weak and yet, I saw strength there.
By morning Mama was dead. I thought sure Bimbi was too. When her tiny hand closed around my finger, the choice was there before me. Some would have called it a mercy. I gave her to a woman in a neighboring village instead.
Years passed, but I checked on my sister and the woman who raised her. Gave them what little money I could make. And just as I thought. Bimbi grew strong and wiry. At 4, she could run faster than the other girls and her smile rivaled the sun.
Sabina the woman that raised her made a red jumper for her and a little yellow shirt with flowers all over it. I complimented her on her skill. Sabina smiled and said. ‘ Every girl needed a pretty frock for her wedding day‘.
Bimbi was betrothed to a man in his forties in exchange for fresh water and several bags of corn.
I stole into the village that night and gathered Bimbi from her sleeping pallet and faded into the jungle. We walked for days, singing and playing in the tall grass; eating the good plants, and berries and what little meat I could hunt. I showed her how to drink the nectar from honeysuckles and good water from the succulents. But then Bimbi got sick and the choice was before me again.
That is when I remembered Music.
That is my name for Olivia. Watched her for days wading into a sea of outstretched hands… giving medicine, stitching wounds, and handing out food from the green and white tents. Rarely spoke, but day and night, she’d sit among us playing her guitar. And I thought, “If I could get Bimbi to her… if only…”
The last thing I remembered was pushing Bimbi into her arms before the world went black.
When I came around three days later, my arms were oddly empty. And just as I filled my lungs to call for my sister, one of Olivia’s nurses covered my mouth and pointed with her head.
“Dr. Calderon hasn’t slept since you came here. Between surgeries and caring for you and your sister? Let her and that baby sleep. You should too.” she said as she pinched my lips together.
There, sitting in a chair pulled close to my bed was Olivia with my sister in her arms. Bimbi’s red jumper and yellow shirt had been replaced with a pair of clean pink pajamas. Again, the choice was before me.
Watched from afar as another year passed and Bimbi blossomed under Olivia’s care. I delighted at Bimbi following Olivia around with her thumb screwed tightly in her mouth and her tiny fingers curled around Olivia’s braid.
Where Olivia placed a guitar in my hands, The Militia replaced it with a rifle. I try to remember Olivia playing guitar and Bimbi perched on her lap. In the shimmering heat of a burning home, I try to remember Bimbi putting her ear to Olivia’s heart or the guitar as she hummed along, but the screams…. The screams rival the buck of gunfire and the roar of flames.
We materialized out of the thicket. My directive was clear: ‘harvest the crop’.
Olivia and Bimbi are sleeping. My rifle is a reluctant reaper’s scythe.
And again, the choice is before me.
Excerpt from Season of the Blood: necessary Evil Part III
Copyright© 2020 by Stephanie Freeman
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portion thereof in any form whatsoever.