My name is Filagot, and I do not need to be rescued.
As I hold Tamrat’s crying face in my skirts, as I shush away his bleeding, he reaches up for me. His voice is small, it is smaller than it should be. Tamrat is a coward after all. Tamrat cannot stand even a little pain.
“I will protect you, Filagot,” he says. “I will protect you from men like him.”
Behind us, Gabra screams as his face is forced to the dirt. As his hands are tied with wire. As he is then beaten with his own two sticks. He is a coward, also. In my experience, most Rora are.
I hold Tamrat’s fingers to my cheek and place my own finger over his chapped lips.
“Shh,” I tell him. “Quiet now. Sleep.”
And he does.
The rainmaker’s boys pull Tamrat away, but he leaves his blood behind. Blood the rainmaker sees, and shakes his incense with trembling hands. His clear voice gains an anxious vibrato as he sings songs of healing. He knows he will need more than songs and maggots and binding to see Tamrat through this. He knows he will need some of my mother’s remedy. Of mine.
I am Filagot, daughter of Ife.
Boys have always marveled at our thin arms, at our unscarred palms, at our long strides. But we do not keep these things for them. We keep them for the knives in our skirt. We keep them for the second on our thigh. We keep them for the blood that runs through our veins.
We are buda. We are wild.
Tamrat and Gabra are both ambitious Rora. They see my raindrop scars and they think of the stars above. They think of wishes and milkweed and pretty things. They do not know why I wear them. The twenty on my right arm; the thirty on my left. These two Rora only slaver like hyenas at the edge of the firesmoke as I tell stories to the children. Stories of how they will grow up one day fierce as lions, strong as the rhino, clever as the elephant. Like these two Rora wish they had become, like they hope to someday become.
But they are not listening to the stories. They are not hungering for the meat left on the spit, no. They are hungering for me. For my hyena spirt. They can smell my wildness. They can smell the danger lurking underneath my skin. They can feel it, even from twenty paces away.
Most Rora can. Most Rora regret it when they taste it.
Tamrat could surely taste it as I pressed my finger to his lip. As I put him to sleep. When he wakes, he will be disappointed to find what kind of wife he has gained. And the scars on my right arm will number twenty-one.
© Jordan Kurella, 2018