THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Naliria woke up with a start, like something was urgently pulling her awake. She wanted some more sleep after all the work and stress from the day and week before, but the day was not for that. Any delay on her part, would be the end of her mission. She got up from the bed, walked to the window and pulled back the curtains. The golden rays of the sun flooded the room, revealing one bed in the middle, a wardrobe by the right side of the bed, a dressing table and chair at the left side of the window. Apart from the baby pink color used in painting the room, there was nothing to indicate that the room belonged to a lady. It was small, neat and not at all feminine, but it was simple.
Still in her night gown, Naliria stared out the window of their one story, duplex, farm house. The field was spread out below and shared into 3 halves; one half was used as a corn field, the other for vegetables and fruits, and the third for grazing. The grasses were fresh and green on the grazing part but, the cattles, goats and sheeps had already eaten so much of it and very little was left. Her father’s workmen had to take turns in walking the beasts to a wider, greener pasture, some distance away. That was the new grazing field for the animals.
That morning, her father had joined in milking the animals before his men walked them to the field for grazing. Her father was a very hardworking man who worked all day and had very little rest, but he never complained. When she was much younger, she used to always want to join her father in the fields but, he wouldn't hear of it.
“A lady does not work in the field.” he told her.
“But I don’t want to be a lady." She argued, “I want to be a great farmer and herdsman, like you.”
“No princess,” said her father, "You are the next lady of the house, after your mother. I won’t let you roughen yourself.”
After trying for sometime and her father didn't still agree, she gave up. The only times she went out with him was when he gave her lessons on how to ride a horse and how to milk the cows. He never let her do the hard work. Her father was a nice man, but also, he was very strict. What kind of excuse was she going to give to make him grant her permission to leave? As she wondered about it, her eyes suddenly rested on Rio, who had just emerged from the stable.
“Rio," she thought. “Whats he doing here?” She watched from the window as he walked up to her father, Lucas, and handed him something. Lucas took it and walked into the house, while Rio walked towards a horse tied just outside the stable. He loosened the horse, mounted and rode off in a hurry. Naliria wondered why he was in such hurry. Well, if the boy was in such a hurry because of what she heard the day before, then there was no more time to waste. Naliria walked into her bathroom and took a quick bath, after which, she started to get dressed and at the same time wondered why she hadn’t heard her mother’s voice that morning. The women had made it a point of duty to always check on each other, but just then, she remembered.
"Oh!” she sighed. How could she have forgotten? She had a baby sister now. The day before, during the annual harvest festival held at her Uncle Victor’s house, her mum had given birth to a beautiful baby girl, now she had a sibling to look after. Her thoughts had been so much on John and his conversation with Sarah that she totally forgot about her new sister.
"What name will my sister be given?” She thought out loud, then she scoffed. “My sister! It sounds alien to me.” She quickly got dressed, stepped into the passage and ran to her mother’s room. “Good morning mama.” She greeted as she stepped in.
Aleta looked up at her daughter and smiled. “Good morning my angel.” Aleta was in bed, breast feeding the new born. The little baby was almost pink in colour as she sucked her mother's milk.
Naliria joined them on the bed. “Now that’s my baby sister.” She said, before pecking the baby’s cheek. “What will you call her?” she asked.
“Your dad and I have agreed that Alura will be a nice name for her,” Said her mother. “So, what do you think?”
“I think it’s a beautiful name.” Naliria smiled. “Alura!”
Alura sucked more milk as her mother and elder sister watched. Naliria couldn’t help loving the little being in front of her. “She’s so beautiful and gentle” she said, more to herself than her mother.
Aleta chuckled and looked up at her. “This is exactly how you were Naliria. Small, beautiful and ever hungry.”
Now it was Nali’s turn to chuckle. “I guess I was, but, you didn’t refuse me milk.”
“Naughty you!” said her mother, smiling. “I wanted you to grow up quickly. I didn’t want to slow down the process.” Both women laughed. After they recovered from their laughter, their eyes went back to little Alura who was still sucking away.
After a while, Aleta suddenly noticed, for the first time, that her grown up daughter was fully dressed. "Going somewhere this morning?” She asked.
Naliria who had completely forgotten about her mission, wondered at the question briefly. Then suddenly, she remembered. "I’m really going to be late.” she thought as she jumped up from the bed. “Oh yes mama! I need to follow the Greyos to the ancient city. They are going in a large group so there’s nothing to fear.”
“And what exactly will you be doing in the ancient city?” Asked her mother, who was a bit taken back.
“Freda sent for me yesterday mama and I have to go. I didn’t mention it cos I forgot. In the mist of all that excitement, how could I remember?”
“Does this have anything to do with the trade you want to learn?” Her mother asked.
“Yes mama, I have to go. Now I'm going to be late if I don’t catch up with them.”
Aleta looked worried. “I thought you will be here to help me out with Alura and some other chores; you know I'm not strong enough yet.”
"But mama, the house keepers can do that. It's what they are paid for. Please, I have to go now. Please.” She begged.
"Why don’t you help me out first.” her mother requested. "When I'm strong enough, then you can go." Naliria remained silent and Aleta knew that nothing she said would make her daughter stay. She sighed. She had thought that Naliria would be around to help out with the chores and Alura, as well as keep her company. “Anyway,” She said at last, “I don’t have the final say in this house Naliria. As long as your father is still well and alive, he has it, so go talk to him.” Naliria's eyebrows shot up as she realized that her mother was trying to set her up with her dad. In situations like this, her father would take hours to decide and she may be very late.
“Mama” she begged. "Please help me tell him when he gets back, I need to run now.”
“Your father is in the kitchen. He is preparing a special soup for me, with the ingredient Rio brought in this morning. So just go to the kitchen. You will see him there, then you can talk to him.”
Feeling trapped, Naliria reluctantly agreed. “Okay Mama, I’ll go to him.” She pecked her Mother and Alura each, on their cheeks, before turning to leave.
“When will you be back?” Aleta asked.
“About a month's time I guess.” Naliria replied.
“Don’t guess my dear, just tell me.”
Nali curved her lips to the side. "Two months plus.”
“Okay” Her mother said. “See you then, but go talk to your father first.”
Copyright © 2015 Karo Oforofuo. All rights reserved.