Chipo hands her water pot to Matty and turns to the side of the small path quietly. She raises her dress in order to pee behind a small bush, but something draws her attention. Chipo drops her dress and walks to a small rock nearby.Tom lies on the ground unconscious; the rising sun hits his face. Chipo blows a soft whistle.
“What is it?” Matty shouts from the path.
“Come and see,” answers Chipo. “I have found a small boy” continues Chipo.
Matty puts down the water pots and walks to where Chipo stands looking at Tom. The two look at Tom for some time without taking any action. Chipo walks a step to the rock where Tom lies, but Matty pulls her back.
“Leave that stranger alone, Chipo, do you know him?” asks Matty.
“He is lovely. Maybe he got lost in this forest and needs help” said
“Maybe he is with those bandits and he is lying there as a bait,” scorned Matty. “Let’s go to the river and leave him alone,” continues Matty.
“He may want help, let me see” says Chipo getting closer to Tom. “He looks hungry and tired let’s take him home so he can get some food.
“Which home? You know very well our father would never allow that. You know we are not allowed to bring boys at his homestead, it is a taboo, what are you going to say?” says Matty as she turns to leave.
“I will make a plan,” answers Chipo carelessly.
Tom raises his head and gives out a hoarse cough. He is startled to see a girl standing close to him. He opens his mouth to say something but nothing comes out. Chipo kneels besides him and holds his shoulder.
“Calm down” says Chipo patting Tom at the back. “Everything is going to be fine.”
“My name is Chipo. What’s your name? asks Chipo
“To..” Tom struggles to say out his name.
“Can I bring you some water to drink?” enquires Chipo
Tom simply nods his head.
Chipo walks along a very narrow path with long grass that almost cover her up. The path comes to an end at a river. At the bank of the river is a well built out of stones. Several clay pots are scattered around the well, a group of 5 girls, all Chipo’s age sits on the rock adjacent to the well. Matty sits at the centre talking with gestures like someone who is lecturing. Matty raises her head only to see Chipo at the well. The conversation comes to a sudden death. Chipo gets down into the well using stone steps and comes out with her water pot full of water. She quietly leaves the well.
Tom and Chipo sit on the river bank watching the spectacular colors the setting sun brings on the river. The red horizon and the flocks of birds flying to their nests bring a spectacular view the love birds enjoy. The sounds of frogs saying good bye to day and welcome night creates a creepy atmosphere but not to the two. They take turns to throw stones in to the water and enjoy the circle forming in the water.
“Tom, you didn’t finish your story of how you come here” insists Chipo.
“I don’t think it’s really important now that I have you, I’m enjoying the adventure” answers Tom jokingly. “I just couldn’t find my way home and I ended in the hands of a beautiful lady, that’s all I can say for now” continues Tom.
“So promise me, you are not going to leave me” Chipo whispers in Tom’s ear.
“How can I?” asks Tom. “After all I don’t know my way out of this forest”
“I can show you the way out but stay with me for now” says Chipo.
The two stand up to leave, it is now that we see that Tom is actually wearing a dress.
Tom and Chipo walk past Chief Gutu who is sitting facing a small fire, working on a small stick. The two tip toes behind his back into one of the huts at the homestead. The Gutu homestead has 4 huts that have same design that you cannot tell which is which. Tom sits down on an animal skin in the dimly lit hut. A small stick stands at the centre of the room giving the room some pathetic light. Matty enters the hut in a hurry like she is running away from something. She is startled when she sees Tom, she opens her mouth but before she says anything Chipo puts her finger on the lip to signal to be quiet.
“This is between us, father mustn’t know we have Tom in here,” Chipo warns Matty.
“You mean-“ answers Matty
“I know what I am doing Matty, so just leave everything to me,” interrupts Chipo.
“But he is just a stranger, you know we mustn’t allow strangers in our compound,” Matty complains
“He is not a stranger, he is Tom. My Tom, you hear me! Do as I say!” said Chipo defending herself.
Tom brings out his cell phone and tries to switch on, the battery is flat. He connects it to a power bank. Chipo notices the phone and moves close to Tom. She sits besides Tom so she can have a close look at the new device.
“What is that?” she inquires
“It is a cell phone for making calls” answers Tom. “I want to try calling my mom she must be worried about me this time, there is no network here unfortunately”
“Shame mummy’s baby, don’t worry about home you now have me,” Chipo assures Tom.
Tom sits on a small rock with his back to the Gutu homestead, he is drawing on his drawing board. Chief Gutu passes by and walks towards the river. A tree branch falls by itself from a nearby tree, Chief Gutu turns back and looks at the tree. Tom buries his face in his legs, fortunately Chief Gutu doesn’t see him so he proceeds down to the river. On Tom’s drawing board we can see a lady carrying a water pot approaching a homestead. Chipo tip toes from behind and taps Tom on the shoulder, he frickes out.
“Tom, why did you do this to me I was looking for you all over the place?” asks Chipo.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to disappoint you, I just thought it will be good that I get out before your father notices I was there” says Tom.
“It didn’t matter you were supposed to stay in our hut he never gets in so he wasn’t going to find out” assures Chipo.
“I wanted to draw and it’s dark in your room I could hardly see” answers Tom.
Chipo looks closely at the drawing, it is Matty on the drawing. Chipo frawns at the drawing. Tom notices her facial expression and pretends it doesn’t bother him.
“How can you draw my sister instead of me?” asks Chipo.
“But she is your sister, I thought there is nothing wrong with that” Tom defends himself.
“Yes but I saw you first and I brought you here, she didn’t want you here remember!” pounds Chipo.
“Sorry Chipo I never thought this would disappoint you” answers Tom.
Chief Gutu appears from the bushes behind the Tom and Chipo. The two cannot see him approaches them. He coughs and the two freeze at the sight of the Chief. He slowly approaches the two.
“Chipo, who is this boy? Where did he come from?” asks Chief Gutu pointing Tom with his walking stick.
Chipo kneels down facing down.
“My Lord this boy got lost in the forest and I have just met him, he is asking for his way out” answers Chipo digging on the ground with a small stick. She looks away from her father all the time.
“You think I was born yesterday? I saw you from afar. The way you were you were talking to each other tells me you know each other” retorts Chief Gutu.
Chief Gutu looks at Tom like he wants to say something to him, but before he says anything something draws his attention, the drawing. With a broad smile on his face he stretches his hand to Tom, for a second Tom doesn’t understand the gesture. Slowly Tom stretches his hand to greet Chief Gutu. Chief Gutu signal Tom to pass him the drawing in his hands. Tom hands over the drawing with shaking hands. He is not sure what the Chief want to do with his drawing.
“You made this?” He asks with a smile on his face.
“Yesss yess” answers Tom.
“You are an artisan I love this. This is Matty my daughter. Do you have a crush on her?” asks Chief Gutu
For some time Tom doesn’t answer he looks at Chipo, who is uncomfortable with the conversation.
“Come” says Chief Gutu beckoning Tom to follow him.
“Matty is going to be happy to see this. I’m happy to. You are a good guy I can see” he says leading the way home.
Tom and Chipo walk quietly following Chief Gutu to the homestead.
Chief Gutu leads Tom to a giant tree close to the homestead. There are animal skins hanging from the tree, he points to a small stone and Tom sits on the small stone. Chief Gutu pulls his stool close to Tom and sits down facing Tom, for sometime he doesn’t say anything, he then coughs to clear his throat.
“My son where do you come from?” inquires Chief
“From Harare” answers Tom.
“Harare! How did you get here?” asks Chief.
“I got lost in the forest and I walked to the river, it was late and I slept close to the river. Chipo found me at the river when she was going to fetch water with the other girls. I asked her to show me my way out, she said she was going to ask for permission from you first. When you find me at the river I was just drawing to while up time while I wait for her to get permission to walk me out” Tom lies.
“You are a lovely young gentlemen. I stay here with my two daughters, their mother passed on some years ago. I was banished from our kingdom because I didn’t have a boy child. In our culture if you don’t have a boy child you are not considered a real man. My two other daughters are married I’m left with Matty, Chipo , I have given her to the Siagukes where her aunt is married. I’m supposed to find a husband for her before I lay to rest with my fathers. I’m glad you love her and I don’t have a problem in having you as my son-in-law” explains Chief.
Chief Gutu cannot resist looking at the drawing and smile to himself. Chipo watches from their hut, she doesn’t want their father to notice her. Tom is uncomfortable in front of Chief. Tom coughs to draw attention.
“What is it my son?” questions Chief.
“I was wondering if Matty can show me my way home, my mother must be worried to death by now” answers Tom.
“Wait I want to have dinner with you tonight then tomorrow early morning my girls can take you out. This place you have entered is sacred I also need to do some rituals for you so you don’t get lost again. I will ask our ancestors to go with you. Don’t go for good remember my daughter when you are in Harare, and bring me whisky next time you come” laughs the Chief.
The sun shines bright on the Gutu homestead. Birds sing sweet melodies from the nearby trees to welcome the new day. Tom kneels down in front of Chief Gutu who waves the tail on his face. Tom constantly moves his face to the side to avoid the tail from getting in his eyes. Chief Gutu lifts a clay pot and brings it to Tom’s mouth, Tom is hesitant to take the liquid in the pot, Chief Gutu nods his head to assure him it is fine. Chief Gutu lifts Tom by the hand and hugs him tightly to himself.
“You are a man, my boy!” says Chief Gutu. “You can now go” he continues.
Tom walks away from the Chief, Matty follows closely with Tom’s backpack on her back. The two walk quietly facing the direction of the river. Some sound comes out of the bushes, Tom and Matty are surprised to see Chipo facing them, her face is red from anger. She looks at matty directly in the eyes.
“You are a traitor!” bursts Chipo.
“I didn’t anything to you Chipo what’s wrong?” answers Matty.
“I was the first one to see Tom and take him home and look now, he is yours. What did you say to father?” fumes Chipo.
Matty looks at Chipo confused.
“I’m not getting what you are saying, father just asked me to take Tom across the river, what’s wrong with that?” asks Matty.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know anything I heard father talking to Tom that he wants Tom to marry you. I was the first to see him,” says Chipo defensively.
“Sorry, but you didn’t tell me you have a crash for him, you said you wanted to help him because he was lost. I didn’t say I’m taking him for myself, I don’t see where your problem is my sister,” retorts Matty
Matty hands Tom’s bag over to Chipo.
“There you go you can go with him and I’m going back home!” says Matty
Tom who has been watching the drama all this time stands between the two sisters to intervene.
“Sorry, Chipo your father told me you are already taken” says Tom.
“Liar! I saw it earlier when you were drawing a portrait of her instead of me! She is no good for you, she is my sister I know her!” fumes Chipo.
“Our father has just acted like a child this time, or its’ because of old age. I wonder how he accepted a stranger into our family” says Chipo.
“He is not a stranger, he is Tom,” Matty responds sarcastically.
“Ladies, I have to go I can’t spend the whole day watching this silly drama,”says Tom snatching his backpack from Matty.
“Wait Tom, I will take across the river” says Matty leading the way.
Matty watch Tom walk away, she waves a sad good bye. Tom doesn’t look back, he keeps on going. Matty opens the portrait Tom has left for her. It’s Chipo on the portrait instead of her. A tear rolls down her cheek to the ground.
“No one will understand this Tom boy, is he for me or for my sister?” Matty says to herself.
“I was so silly to believe he loved me, and my father, what is he going to say? Poor old man! I will not tell him otherwise he will stroke” Matty is talking to herself. “I have to tell him otherwise next time I get someone who wants to marry he will refuse. Should I go with the picture of my sister to him or throw it away? I have to keep it for now I might need it in future. Maybe I should show it to Chipo so she can forgive me, so she knows Tom loved her not me”.
Matty folds the portrait and puts it under her armpit and turns to walk back home.