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image of small child

I was born in filthy weather. Sheets of rain fell on the dry, cracked earth creating a red mess. It was as if the earth had spewed up its internal core – all over our small town. Dark eyes could be seen at every window, watching the stinging rain with interest, as if the rain never came. But it was the wind that interested them. They’d never seen such howling gales, or trees bent backwards with so much force they might snap and Mrs Omar’s cat lifted in the air and flung across the road. Mr Minks survived.

Mother said the earth was angry that day and I figured it must have been angry because I was born. My birth day was something she feared.

‘Highly superstitious your mother,’ my Father told me as I sat on his knee and looked into his dark eyes hovering high above me. ‘She thinks there is something to fear in you, but I see only light.’ He winked at me and I snuggled my face into his itchy shirt.

She didn’t like the bond between Father and I. She’d frown on these occasions. Her dark hair would frame her frustration and make her look like the witches I saw in my fairytale books. Dark, brooding and self-obsessed.

‘You have the devil in you child,’ she’d say as she pulled me off my Father’s kneed and shoved my yellow-white hair back away from my face to reveal a bright star-shaped birth mark on my forehead.

‘Or an angel. It’s a star Loretta,’ my Father winked at me as he spoke to my mother. I was white in a dark man’s world my father said. Albino, I often heard them say touching my hair as if it was magical and powerful. My Mother didn’t like the attention I drew.

Still, we got a long carefully until I was five. She would look at me with suspicion and I would smile back. She’d shake her head and tut as she wiggled her hips through the housework.

Our uneasy relationship ended when she met The Prophet.

The church stood alone on the dirt track and she’d sway her hips up to it every Sunday. Father and I would tag along behind her while she sang. That Sunday the new Prophet came to the church. He stopped in the middle of his sermon when he saw me.

‘This child,’ he said pointing at my hair. ‘This child is marked. This child is a witch and we must do what we can to cast out the witch from our town.’

My Mother turned and nodded with the others. ‘Praise the Lord,’ she said.

I looked up to my Father who looked graver than I’d ever seen him. He put his arm around me and drew me close. ‘Come, let’s go now child,’ he said quietly and pushed me out the door.

To be continued.

© running with the beagle 2010

http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/

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