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"Can you keep a secret?" Kambili's eyes widened.

"Was that why you brought me out here?" 

"O come on Kambili, I am serious."

"What did you do now Zante?" 

"Will you hear me out or let me go?" Zante snapped, Kambili shrugged.

"Well," she stopped to check if there was anyone near. 

"I am leaving Mantulu tomorrow - to the other side."

"You want to go to the other side!" Kambili shouted, Zante rushed to cover his mouth with her palm.

"Your voice - you foolish boy, someone might hear you," he pulled her hands off his mouth. 

"Don't touch me - you are the fool here."

"You know it is forbidden, it is the dwelling of the demons." 

Zante hands were in akimbo, "Says who." Kambili frowned.

"Everyone in Mantulu knows that." 

Kambili continued, "Uncle Mombaso was stubborn and decided he wanted to sojourn into the other side, just like you are saying now, and what happened?, Kambili pushed his oval caramel face closer to hers, "He never returned, till today - Aunt Mukuli said she heard the men say it was only his hunting bag and cowry purse that was found at the shore of the sea," Zante made to give a response, he didn't let her. 

"How can a man leave his cowries behind?"

Zante turned away, she looked out the light forest that led to Opomuso stream.

"I don't know Kambili, but something in me - and I feel it strongly - tells me there is more to Mantulu and - " 

"Yes," he cut her short - "But it is in the dwelling of the demons."

Kambili walked forward to meet her, he held her hands, "Zante bury your curiosity - the elders say, Curiosity is the demons' treat to doom." She pulled free from his hands. 

Zante pouted, it made her round face seem rounder. She was obstinate.

"I don't care Kambili, if it takes me going to the dwellings of the demons to quench my curiosity - " she turned to face him - "then I will."

Kambili sighed, the gods had cursed his friend with a keen mind. She was not like the other girls or women in Mantulu that believed what they were told immediately and remained quiet even when in doubt.

"Don't tell anyone Kambili," she pleaded.

"I didn't want to leave without telling you."

"What of your Mother - you know she loves you very much?"

"She will be fine - she's a strong woman, Papa will be with her."

Kambili sighed again, this time heavily. 

"I will keep your secret only on one condition." I really am a fool.

"What is It?"

"I am coming with you." Zante was startled, she didn't expect it even though they were best friends.

Her full lips gradually gave way to a smile, she hugged him, his head almost resting fully on her higher shoulders.

"I can't breathe."

"Sorry, thank you Kambili - is there anything I can do without you."

"Well a lot," she punched his left shoulder softly.

"You really are crazy Zante."

"I know Kambili - I know."

"Let's meet tomorrow before dawn at Opomuso stream, we will follow it path to Mikma Hill, I hear there is a trail uphill that leads to the sea valley." Kambili bit his finger, he looked unconvinced. 

"But how do we get across the sea?"

"Have you forgotten, there are fishermen who fish close to the shoreline."

"So?" Zante rolled her eyes.

"They will have a raft or boat" Kambili mouthed an 'o'

"See you soon, Mother will be looking for me now."

Kambili watched Zante's long vibrant legs as she hurried back home. She had always gotten him into trouble since childhood - so much that many called him 'woman wrapper.'

He knocked his head three times, slapping his tender face too, 

"stupid, stupid, stupid."

Zante watched her tall slender mother as she elegantly pounded some aloos for dinner. She was not only beautiful, but had the gift of healing - she was called the Mantulu Healer and was respected amongst women. 

Mother stopped to look at her.

"Why are you staring at me like that?" 

"Me? nothing Mother." 

"You sure?"

"U-hu," She nodded. 

"Let me get the dishes." 

After pounding, Mother fetched the crushed aloos, moulding it into small balls, they would eat it with spicy vegetable soup later.

"You think too much Zante," Mother said as she molded an aloo ball. 

"If you continue this way, you may not enjoy life - and life my dear is simple than you think.

Zante smiled ruefully, "Yes Mother."

Even though she needed good sleep for the long journey ahead of her - falling asleep was not on her checklist just yet.

After her talk with Kambili, she had visited all her six Aunties, fifteen cousins and Nana - her grandmother. 

Of course they didn't suspect anything because she was a walkaholic naturally. To them it was just Zante being Zante.  

She usually had issues with them but they loved her still - and she loved them too. Now she was going to deliver the biggest blow yet to them tomorrow. 

It was indeed hard to be a dreamer and please people, even those close to you.

Sheba turned continuously on her soft palm bed. She could not sleep, something disturbed her, she didn't know why. It was probably because of Zante. 

Since her birth, she had always caused her worries. Zante possessed the great power of the sea which made her unordinary but she wasn't ripe to be told yet. She was reckless, impulsive and always wanted her way - this traits had to be curbed for someone with great power. Zante always asked of the other side, it was probably the sea calling unto her. Why had her daughter receive a gift embedded in the dwelling of the demons.

"O Shabali be with my daughter."

Mother finally fell asleep.

"I am sorry Mother."

It was cold that morning, there was no moonlight so it was dark, thick fog covered Mantulu. Strangely, the town was super quiet. It was the light from his oil lamp that provided him comfort from the dark and the cold. 

Zante wasn't there yet. He sat on a fallen branch of an oak tree.

He wondered if his Father would miss him. Probably not. 

He always regarded him as useless or good-for-nothing. It was Aunt Mukuli who would be hurt, how she loved him. 

A tall lean figure hastily approached him, it was Zante. 

"What took you so long?"

"It was Mother - she was restless throughout the night."

"Are you sure, about this?" Kambili asked.

"Yes - we have to hurry, I doubt it would take long before they find out we are missing."

"Thank you Kambili." 

"Come on let's go." 

With rushing excitement, they ran off in the dark to begin their journey to the unknown.

Mikma Hill was about seven hundred feet, it had a rugged terrain with thorny vegetation, after several falls, especially by Kambili, they made it to the summit. 

"Goodness gracious!" 

They gasped for breath, the sun had risen already.

The sight of the sea was frightening and thrilling at the same time. The dark blue sea was vast, stretching to where the eye could reach. It was majestic.  

"I have never seen a sight so wonderful Zante." Zante said nothing. He turned to see her, she was sobbing silently. 

"Are you okay?" 

"Am I a bad child Kambili?" I feel Mother and Papa's disappointment. 

Kambili held her slender right hand. She squeezed his palm.

They remain still, it was the moment they decided which way to go.

"We go forward, Kambili."

"Yes - Yes Zante."

August 22, 2020 00:12

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2 comments

Lynn Penny
15:05 Aug 24, 2020

I love the dialogue, it was well crafted. This was a wonderful piece, I hope to see more from you in the future.

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Esther Salami
18:03 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm really encouraged.

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