Her face was awash with tears by the time she found Miss Janet, her heart heavy from the previous nights’ burdens

Miss Janet clasped the little one in her arms and held her till her tears began to dry up, until her throat began to ease up, until the words could flow without her mind seizing up

Another moment passes when she gathers her thoughts, when she tries to find the right words and her mind is transported to the past.. the layers unfold and time stands still as the scene from four days ago is slowly unwrapped under her fragile emotions and her eyes find the voice that tells the story

Anna had come from fetching water, her back tired and feet worn, when she saw some older boys near the back of their house

They stood with her step-brother Mike, but next to them he looked more like an ill-fed chicken among turkeys

Even as she turned her back, she felt an uncomfortable stare linger on her person, the kind of stare a young girl was not accustomed to.. the kind she was not ready to comprehend, the kind she should not have to

But she had other work to do, so she kept herself busy inside the house

Night fell faster than usual and the wind seemed to carry more trouble than rosy blues

Mike kept his head down the entire time they had their supper

Her father returned from “work” earlier than usual but was not as jovial as when he stayed out late

Mike went to sleep early, but as he passed by Anna, she felt a cold shudder, an uneasiness she could not explain away

The next two days were much the same, except that she did not see the big boys

Her father was to travel and would not be home the following night

Anna always liked it when he was around.. they had never talked much since her mother had gone away, a phrase Anna assumed meant she never wanted anything to do with them, but she knew he loved her.. sometimes they would sit together under the light of the moon and he would sing to her.. he said it was her mother that taught him to sing.. he always said this with a glisten in his eyes

So on the night that her father was not home, Anna felt uneasy and like the moon’s light was hiding itself from her.. like it did not want to witness the happenings of the night

Her step-mother, who was seven months pregnant, was having trouble that night.. the baby refused to be comfortable and made her sick.. maybe even baby knew that father was away and that the moon’s light had hid from them  behind the mighty trees

She did not fall asleep quickly that night.. her thoughts pondering on the mother she had barely known

So when she heard movement behind the house, her mind was alert and all sleep had left her

She heard the hushed voices of what sounded like a small group of confused teen boys

Her door was opened and a face she did not recognise stood at the door

Two more faces appeared, one of which she recognised as Mike

They approached her and one of them took off his shirt, while hurling at the other one to cover her mouth

Mike still stood at the doorway trembling, unable to move.. unable to speak

Anna did not know what overcame her but she kicked one of them in his side and felt a stinging pain across her cheeks.. she kicked harder and began to scream

By then her step-mother had picked up the machete her father kept for protection and was charging to her room like a wild horse

She recognised the boys and threatened to kill them unless they left.. the chief would hear about this and they would be punished

Mike was still semi-paralysed but his mother’s tongue and ferocious slaps jarred his consciousness

She made sure the boys were gone before she locked the door behind her

Anna was in her bed, unable to move.. unable to get the words “I’ll be back” out of her memory

He had managed to tear off the part of her night gown that covered her shoulder in the commotion

She was looking at that shoulder.. looking at it like it no longer belonged to her, looking at it like it had some sort of disease.. when her step-mother came back to the room

She would sleep with her that night, but Anna was unable to keep her eyes shut for long without remembering

And when the sun began to come up, she knew she had to get out.. she knew she had to get away

And though she wanted to, she could not bring herself to trust this woman whose son had violated all the laws a brother should keep

Miss Janet could not hold back her own tears, and for a moment she could do nothing except hold the girl whom she loved like her own.. whose mother had been a dear friend.. who the girl resembled in more ways than she could count

But she found her voice and said what needed to be said.. “We’re going to see the headmaster, and then we will go to the chief!”

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