(Read Part One here)
I have forever stood in the shadow of my father. His pain became my pain. His failures became my failures. He made that certain. He made that sure. He wanted his scars to become mine, so he tattooed them on me. But they were not like his. My scars, because of him, were haphazard, accidental, inconvenient.
His scars were like art: precise, convenient, perfect.
My mother taught me to count, not my father. It was her teaching that lead me to steal Gabra’s cows, it was her stories that taught me that Filagot could be mine. Such as in the aardvark and the ant, where it was the ant, hardworking and industrious, who rose up—all great and black and shining—to overtake her oppressor.
My mother’s scars were once beautiful, like Filagot’s. They were once great and black and shining. But my father obscured them. He made them haphazard, accidental, and inconvenient over time. Over time, my mother hardened to protect herself as her skin had learned to do.
Once, my father was praised for his wealth. Once, he was praised for his confidence. Gabra was now praised for the same. My father paid sixty cows to wed my mother, and he built up new wealth as she was beaten down. Gabra mirrored my father so well. I watched their lives twist and form together: my father’s and Gabra’s; my mother’s and Filagot’s. As I watched, my fury grew. It began small, like an ember on the savannah. Small, but dangerous.
I would become dangerous.
When Gabra and I came of marrying age, he chose Filagot. Filagot who cost sixty cows. Filagot who had the raindrop scars. Filagot who had been trained by her mother to count and tell stories and was respected among us.
But Filagot’s voice was too meek. Her arms too thin. Gabra would break her fragile face, he would shatter her reedlike arms. With him, her body would be beaten until it became bent, haphazard, an accidental death, too inconvenient for burial.
Gabra would not have Filagot.
I would not allow it.
She would have to be mine.
In the aardvark and the ant, the ant’s attacks are subtle, small. It is the aardvark who stomps and destroys with weight and might. I would need subtlety to break Gabra, so subtlety was how I began.
He prided himself on being the fiercest among us Rora. He boasted during our initiations, he cheated during our stick fights. He swore he was unmatched, unbeatable.
So like a magpie, I imitated him. First with meals. I ate what he ate; I ate when he ate. I drank what he drank; I drank when he drank. At initiations, should Gabra get ten lashes, I demanded ten lashes. When Gabra cried out at five lashes, I cried only at home.
Gabra soon hated me as I hated him, but his display was brutish, obvious. He took food from my plate. He knocked the cup from my hand. He was soon disciplined at initiation. He took twenty lashes for this; so I asked for the same. He screamed.
Filagot comforted him. She ran water down his bleeding back. She soothed him with song. But Gabra’s eyes were on me. His stare was a burning cold, his eyes shallow black.
At night, I imagined Filagot’s touch on my bleeding back. Sweet and gentle as a butterfly’s, her kisses tasting of salt and of sweet. I imagined all this sweeter because I had stolen her—sweeter because she was not spoken for me, but hard won.
She did not know that it was her who would experience the sweetness of victory. Not me. Not me.
© Jordan Kurella, 2017