Ubunta ran, her eyes unseeing, in her mind the memory of the long grassy plains of the veldt, where it seemed she could run forever, and never find an end to the land.
She stumbled, tripped, fell hard, sand in her eyes and her mouth.Panting, she rose to hands and knees, then knelt, sandy hands cradling her middle, staring around her, her mind groping for reason. She looked upon an endless stretch, not of grasses, but of water. The sun shone down upon it, as it rose and fell, as though breathing with its own life, and it glittered like false promises in Ubunta’s eyes, searing her mind, making it impossible to think.
Ubunta knelt there, not understanding, and held to the hardened swelling of her belly. She wanted this child -she wanted it not to be taken from her, as the others had been. She hadn’t run for herself as much as for this baby, who deserved a chance to live.
“But what kind of life can I give a child, on this Island of Death?” she asked the water, in Swahili. And was it enough, to carry and bear a child, only because the others had been taken, and there had been nothing she could do to stop it?
Ubunta sat cross-legged, staring at the water, and the question was in her breath, in the sound of the waves as they slapped upon the rocks and slurred up over the sand.
She had nothing to offer, nothing but love – but how could it be love, to bring a child into such a life as this? She couldn’t go home; she had shamed them all when she ran away, and more with the things she had done to survive. It didn’t matter that she had seen no choice, in any of it. The shame was hers, and she owned it.
But it was not this child’s shame.
She would not go back to Aneesa’s. No, nothing, never, would make her do that!
So what was left?
The sun was too bright, as it settled slowly above the rising waters, painting them with colors so beautiful and bright they pained Ubunta’s head, and crashed into her soul. It was a beautiful place, this Island of Death. No place to live, perhaps, for a mother and child unhomed and unhoped.
“But maybe, a place to die…a place of beauty. Would that not make a pleasing death?”
The words had whispered through her lips before Ubunta knew she was thinking them; but, once out, they swallowed her, as the sky was swallowing up the sun…
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