Gabriel and Toreka (Chapter One)

The morning was quiet and the sun was just starting to rise at Omugwe Village. The morning breeze was cold but not enough to call for thick clothing.

It was around mid November, the year was getting to an end and the harmattan was yet to start. For this reason alone, there was more heat than cold during the late mornings and afternoons. Only the early mornings were cold enough.

Toreka, a young girl of sixteen years old, dark in complexion and a little plump with full eye brows and a very long natural hair which was packed into a ball and her friend, Grace, also a young teenage girl but was a year older than Toreka, also dark complexioned but slim, with scanty eye brows and a low haircut, walked through a bushy paths in Omugwe Village with water pots in their hands. They were dressed in plain shirts and fled skirts as they headed towards the village river and chatted as they went along.

"Mure's baby is really beautiful" Grace said as the discussion continued. "I pray that when I get married and put to bed, mine will also be beautiful."

"Amen for you," Said Toreka teasingly. Grace was always talking about marriage and having babies. Sometimes, Toreka wondered if finishing school ever crossed Grace's mind. Times without number, they had argued about this and since it was too early to start another argument, Toreka decided to play along. "But Grace, is it only beautiful you want? What about handsome?" She asked.

"Well, well!" Said Grace thoughtfully and then lightened up. "Handsome isn't a bad idea" she said smiling "I definitely want handsome too."

"Naughty you" Said Toreka as they both laughed. "Is there anything you do not want?

"Yes o!" Grace replied. "I know I do not want a bad husband or a bad father of my children"

"I agree with this" Toreka said in support.

"Okay Toks, your turn." Said Grace. "Don't you want to get married some day?"

"Grace! I'm only 16 years old. Marriage and boyfriends are not the upper most thought in my mind right now, neither is child bearing. I have things to settle or worry about. For example my father, and my schooling."

"Don't worry dear," Said Grace in reply, "Your father will get well soon, it's just a matter of time."

"I hope so. Toreka said, her spirit a little down and her expression thoughtful. "I can't lose him Grace, He is all I have. Mure's baby will never know how lucky he is. He is alive and so is his mother. There is nothing as bad as being mother less."

Grace was silent for some time. She knew she could never understand the pain Toreka felt. In this world, it wasn't easy surviving with both parents alive talk less of losing one of them, and at birth too. She looked at Toreka and the expression she saw made her heart sink even deeper. She used her free hand to pat Toreka's shoulder.

"Please don't think about it Toks, You have lived all these years a happy person. God our creator will always put a smile on your face. You know that don't you?"

Toreka smiled and looked at her friend before speaking again. "I know Grace, I know."

Grace smiled back at her and they continued their journey to the river. After about another 10 minutes walk, they finally came in view of the river.

Grace saw it first and shouted "We're here already. Hurray!"

She ran forward and Toreka followed behind. When they got to the rocky shore, they climb down into the river.

Omugwe was a village located on a bushy riverine area and so there were bushes almost everywhere except the few rocky lands near the lake and river.

As the girls waded in the water, Toreka looked up at her friend.

"Grace, do you remember the big fish we caught here last month?" She asked "Or have you forgotten?

"What?" Grace asked with a query tone as her head shot up. "Forget? I remember every detail, even the pepper soup that followed it still tastes in my mouth."

Toreka laughed uncontrollably at her exaggeration. "That's a lie, you liar." She said at last after she had regained herself. "You mean to tell me that the fish soup of almost four weeks ago still tastes in your mouth?"

"That's right," Grace replied with a sheepish grin. "But you know I'm joking don't you?" She asked as she looked into the water again, looking out for a fish to catch. "How I wish we could catch another one." She said a last.

"Yes," Said Toreka in agreement, "I wish so too but we have no hooks and no worms. We did not bring any along."

"I guess we will have to wait till another day" Grace sighed in defeat as Toreka nodded in agreement.

They walked into the deep parts of the river to play a little before fetching the water. That was their usual routine. They always made sure they had a little fun first, even if it was just for five minutes.

Still in the river, Grace used her free hand to rub her cheeks and then blew out air.

"Cold" She said shivering.

"You're used to it Grace." Said Toreka "And you love the water too so stop whining."

"Hey!" Grace replied with all the innocence she could muster, "Whining? Yes I do love the water, but that doesn't make it any less cold."

Toreka smiled at her innocence and then went about filling the pots with water. After filling their pots, they carried it on their heads and started to wade back to the rocky shore. As they climbed out of the water, Toreka's slippers pulled from her leg and went back into the river. She quickly dropped her pot down and went back to get her slippers.

Grace noticed Toreka's plight but she didn't really bother to look back. She quickly got to the top, put down her pot and went back to get Toreka's own.

After putting down Toreka's pot, Grace turned around to look at her friend for the first time since she went back into the water and she noticed that something was wrong. The other end of the river was beginning to form waves and it was heading towards Toreka who was completely unaware of the coming danger and continued to swim after her slippers.

Grace did not understand how the waves came about because there was actually no wind, just the cool morning breeze. While she tried to understand what was going on, the waves continued to gather and then suddenly, a heavy wind broke out.

The wind gave the water waves more strength to rise. The sudden change in the weather and water sent chills down Grace's spine but it seemed Toreka didn't take note of the change. Out of fear and in a bid to get Toreka's attention, she ran half way down the rocky shore and curving her hand over her mouth like a horn, she called out to Toreka,

"Toreka! Get out of the water now, there are waves coming your way. Come out quickly."

She continued to call her friend but to no avail. Toreka did not hear her. Apart from the wind that made Grace's voice distant, Toreka was totally focused on getting her slippers which was still floating away. Grace continued to call and when Toreka finally heard her, she knew something was wrong. Toreka stopped following the slippers. She turned and looked up at Grace who was now pointing at the waves. Toreka used her eyes to follow the direction Grace was pointing at. On seeing the heavy waves that were heading her way, she quickly turned and starts to swim back, ignoring he slippers that was once her object of focus. The only problem now was that she was far from shore and the waves moved faster towards her direction. Grace ran the rest of the way down the rocky shore and continued to urge Toreka to swim faster.

At this point, the waves had started to rise high and then fall back hard into the water. It happened three times but the fourth time, the waves picked up very high, forming a wall right behind Toreka.

On seeing this, Grace could not contain herself anymore, she couldn't even understand how a small river could gather up such mighty waves. She jumped into the water in an attempt to save her friend, but, there was nothing she could do as the water waves which formed very high walls over Toreka , fell, hitting her hard into the water.

The effect of the wave hit rippled the water seriously and sent Grace flying backwards. She hit her side against the rock and began to bleed. Tearing her mind away from the pain, she turned to face the spot Toreka was a few minutes ago but, to her dismay; Toreka was nowhere in sight.

Out of fear and grief, she cried in a loud voice " Toreka! Toreka!! Toreka!!!

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