Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Chapter 4 - Shebeh


‘Al right,’ Shebeh said, as soon as Kima finished explaining. ‘You can take a small corner in the room. But let’s be clear about two things. I am not your mother, and I don’t need to feed you. What food you bring to the table, you can eat. And don’t start taking more room than your corner. My children belong here and they always come first. Now don’t look so sullen, girl, make the most of it. It’s not my fault that your da decided to die on that ship.’

She had made it sound as if her father had chosen to die, as if it had been his fault. The fact of the matter was that he had been ill even before they were chained on the ship’s lower deck. The journey in the closed space, with all that coughing and so little to eat, that had killed him.

‘Konu, take this girl to the river. What's your name, girl? Take Kima to the river. Help her wash her clothes, and then hurry back so you can both have some rice and go to sleep.’ And then, to Kima, ‘But from tomorrow you'll get your own food.’

The boy was probably one or two years younger than her, maybe around ten years old. He proudly led her by candlelight out of the building, around the path and into a trail that led down a small hill and into the river. Tall trees grew on both sides of it, Kapok trees, Konu said they were called. The river itself was not too deep, but it was wide. She put her hand in the water and it was fresh. Her hand swam like fish amongst the reflected stars, making them shine and flicker as the dark water stirred between her fingers.

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