There is sadness in her eyes. She knows what sadness is.
She remembers it from when her father passed away and she had watched her mother cry for hours or sit in her room, brooding endlessly.
The look in her mother’s eyes had been one of great despair. And she could never forget that look. She loved to read, and had learned what happened to people who lost someone close.
Despite the fate that had befallen her late father, his wife and only child, her mother didn’t relent in making sure to provide the necessary education for her daughter. Through the rest of primary school and into her Junior Secondary. She didn’t have everything, but she was content with what her mother could give to her. She loved her mother so much, and hoped to one day make her smile genuinely like she used to do before.
Until the sadness which used to be in her mother’s eyes had come to reside in hers.
In the middle of a parched forest she lay, still in her school uniform. It had been 21 days since she began to count. For 21 days she had cried in the middle of night and stiffened her face during the day. She didn’t want the men to see how broken she had become. She had wept for her friends; some who had been taken away and never returned. Some ran away and she wondered if their escape had been successful. She had wept for her mother. She wondered if she’ll ever see her mother again. Look into those eyes. She imagined what went through her mother’s mind and the thought brought tears to her eyes. She almost let herself cry. She wanted to. It didn’t seem like there would be any hope for them.
Just then there was a rising noise in the bush-camp. The girls were being shouted at. The men who had gone out had returned. They sounded furious. Her heart began to beat faster. Whenever they were furious something bad always happened to the girls. She got up quickly from the dirt ground as one marched furiously towards her direction. Three other girls were with her. He shouted at them through the mask on his face. They were so scared they couldn’t move. The girls could understand him, but they feared what might happen if they obeyed his words. Then he cocked the rifle in his hand and pointed it at them, shouting louder. The girls whimpered and one of them burst into tears. Then he walked directly to where she stood and grabbed the back of her neck, pushing her with great force that she fell, grazing her knees on the dry earth. The masked man kept shouting at them and urging them to move on ahead.
She wondered where they were taking them to. She wondered if she would survive. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to see her mother again. She wasn’t going to let them take her so far away from her mother’s land. She wouldn’t let herself be traded into such form of slavery. And right there, right then… she made up her mind.
She made a run for it. Her bare feet were swift on the earth. She didn’t know where she was running to. She only cared about what she was running from. The men screamed at her. She could hear them behind her, threatening to shoot her if she didn’t stop. But she continued to run. Faster than she had ever done before. Dodging a branch here, jumping over a tree root there. If they were going to shoot, she didn’t care. But she wasn’t going to let them take her.
The sound of gunfire cracked behind her.
And she saw her mother’s face once more.