By Kur Wel Kur, Adelaide, Australia
January 22, 2017 (SSB) — Martha Bil Deng paced into Nhials Kech’s compound in one of the evenings in 1988. Her auntie, Akuol Manguak was relaxing in an arm chair and resting her feet on a bambeer (a traditional four legged stool) under sanusia mango tree.
And Elizabeth Aliet was sweeping the western site of the compound. Sweeping the compound was one of her numerous jobs: laundering, cooking, water-fetching, boiling of bath-water, and any God knows domestic work that Akuol Manguak could think of. In fact, her uncle’s wife overworked her like a maid, a domestic worker instead of treating her a relative, or like her own child.
“Aliet, leave whatever you’re doing and grab a chair for the visitor,” Akuol Manguak yelled at her.
She flinched as the sound of her aunt-in law’s voice roared through her eardrums. She immediately dropped the traditional broom and raced towards Martha Bil. Bil was a year older than Elizabeth Aliet. As early as twelve years old, Elizabeth Aliet was as sensible as any other fully-grown-up woman.
So instead of obeying her aunt-in law’s command, she relieved Martha Bil of the load she was carrying on her head. Then she availed a chair for Martha Bil next to Akuol Manguak; she went back to the house for Martha Bil’s drinking water.
As Akuol Manguak and her sister’s daughter immersed in a conversation that edged around their relatives’ lives, Elizabeth Aliet settled in the kitchen, cooking tea for Akuol Manguak and Martha Bil. As young as she was, she could cook a ten-people ratio. Akuol forced her to cook for the households especially when the Military Operations Tactician (M.O.T), Nhials Kech slept in the barrack.
He was required to spend five days a week in the barrack. Those were Elizabeth’s worse days because of donkeywork and all the yelling she endured. However, for Nhials’ free days, Akuol Manguak would be cooking every family’s meal and addressing Aliet by her Christian name.
“Elizabeth, Aaron’s daughter … Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife… Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist …, can you grab me this or that, please?” she would cajole Elizabeth.
Martha Bil came on the fourth day of Nhials Kech’s work days, the days he spent in the barrack. On those days and nights, Nhials overworked his mind by thinking about his mother’s words alongside his military tactics. His mother’s words demanded him to marry a second wife. So in that evening Martha Bil arrived in Ngalangala, the pressure to have offspring took toll on him.
His mum, Nyankoot Bolak, 56 years old was worried to death because the civil war was taking millions upon millions of lives. “The worse part in dying is dying without a child”. She had complained to her son to consider marrying a second wife.
But Nhials put off the idea because of his business in military and his love for Akuol Manguak. Her hard work, her craft in cooking made her an artist and her organisational skills were unmatched. Marrying a second wife would be a declaration of war in which some those rights and privileges would be lost, he thought.
However, after five years of their marriage and its inviable state of having no children, Nhials’ mind wrapped around the consideration of marrying a second wife. His thoughts were also propelled by the bad treatments his niece had received from Akuol Manguak. He wanted to end his worries about his niece. All the rumours and gossips that were confirmed beyond reasonable doubt by the scars his niece bore.
And those tugs in his mother’s heart, signs of the silent killer, signs of a heart attack. “A life with tugs is a life without hugs,” his mother would say. So it was a matter of time and M.O.T Nhials Kech would be a husband of two beautiful wives. “Because an idea thought about is a seed planted.” That was another mantra of her mother.
Surely, Elizabeth’s freedom was just months away. She had dreamt of it thousand times. But attaining it was mountains upon mountains of work. What she did know was that her uncle and grandmother loved her with all the imaginable love and care any child should receive from her biological parents.
She knew her uncle would one day come to her rescue to unyoke the yoke of bondage Akuol Manguak had forced her to wear for so long. As she lived each day by hour after hour, each hour by minute after minute, and each minute by seconds after seconds, she kept praying to God for her dream to come true.
Two days later, M.O.T (Nhials Kech)’s two bodyguards spilled into Nhials’ compound,…
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