“I need to find a suitor,” she told the old witch. “One who can take care of me for the rest of my life. I never want to live a life of lack.”
“Very well my child,” the witch replied. Over the years, she had encountered so many girls like this. Lazy girls, who wanted to marry wealthy men who would provide for them, and even employ helpers to do all the work for their women. She hated these girls, but it was part of the job. She had to help them in order to make a living. But this one wasn’t just lazy, she was too proud and thought the world owed her. “I have to teach her a lesson,” the witch thought. She was cunning, you can say, but it was for a good cause.
“Take my hands and dip them into this bowl of water,” the witch instructed and the girl, Shasha, did as she was told. “Now, take a bottle and store the water. You have to take a clean towel, pour the water onto it and wipe yourself after showering in the morning. Then go to the river, you will find your man on the way.” With this, Shasha stood up, paid what was due and left the witch’s hut. Her heart was beating fast with excitement. This had worked for her friends, so it had to work for her. She walked fast towards her home, imagining her husband and all the things he would do for her. He would have many cows, sheep, goats and chicken. They would slaughter a chicken any time they wanted and she would have plenty of meat to eat. She was tired of the vegetables they ate every supper at home. This visit to the witch would ensure a better life for her. After all the suffering she endured growing up, the heavens owed her.
She got home and pretended to be sick so that she would not do any house chores. This was her last day at her parents’ home and she wanted to remember it without the house chores included. One would have thought that she should have spent the last night with her family, but she was just a different character.
“Yes!” she screamed and smiled to herself as she woke up the next morning. “Time to fetch water.” She was in a happy mood. “There’s really no need to shower,” she thought. “I just need to wipe myself using this water and that will also cater for the showering part.” She stood up and grabbed a clean towel. Carefully and generously, she wiped her whole body with the witch’s water. She felt something move throughout her body, like chill waves. “It must be working,” she smiled.
She went to the kitchen and took a few water containers which she put in a wheelbarrow, then headed to the river. She was so excited, and was even singing. “Today is my day, today is my day,” she sang out loudly. She kept on looking to the sides of the road hoping to hear sounds from the bushes. The man was supposed to grab her and run off with her to his house. This was their culture.
A few meters away from the river, she heard a sound in the bushes. And then suddenly, someone grabbed her and carried her off on his shoulders. She had to pretend to scream and cry as was expected. She could not identify who it was, but she could tell that he was a strong man. “I found myself a good one,” she thought as she fake cried and tried to free herself. The man ran and ran. He did not stop and she noticed that they were running in the direction of the king’s palace. At this point she could no longer continue to fake cry. She cried, but these were now tears of joy. “It must be one of the princes,” she thought. “Yes, yes, this witch is the best.” As expected, they went to the palace, into one of the bedrooms.
He put her down and she looked up to see who it was. The palace gateman!
“Send me back!” she cried. “I cannot be your wife, no!”
Ishe, the palace gateman, just looked at her calmly. It was expected for the girl to cry and want to be sent back home. He had always admired Shasha from a distance and he wasn’t going to let her go. He had a pure heart and although it hurt him to hear her crying, it was their culture. It was the only way to marry her.
“Stop crying, I won’t hurt you,” he started comforting her hoping she would calm down.
“Stop crying? How can I stop crying? If someone from this household was to marry me it was supposed to be one of the princes, not you lowlife!” she shouted. “Don’t even come close with your sweaty body,” she screamed as he tried to calm her down. “What was wrong with that witch?” she cried.
Ishe was hurt by these words. He had only seen her from afar and had not taken time to get to know the kind of person she was. How can a beautiful, innocent looking girl say such words to him. He had made a mistake. This was not the kind of woman he wanted to have a family with and he was going to send her back the following morning. He left her in his room, still crying.
Being disguised as the palace gateman had been very useful to Prince Ishe. He could find out people’s true intentions in his life and this had been one of the cases. Had Shasha known he was a prince, she would have never reacted that way. Part of his heart wanted to send her away, but the other part said he could teach her to become a good person.
“How can this be happening to me?” Shasha continued crying. Then she got an idea. She wiped her face and went outside the guard’s room. Security was not that tight at this part of the palace, so she could easily run away. It was still early in the morning so she could still find her man if she walked in the direction of the river.
She looked around, careful not to make herself seen. And she escaped! “Oh,” she sighed, “what a relief. I can never be a gateman’s wife.” She was happy that she had managed to escape. She ran back to the path that led to the river and found her water containers and the wheelbarrow where she had left them. Acting completely like nothing had happened, she pushed the wheelbarrow in the direction of the river.
“Today is my day, today is my day,” she sang. It had to be her day, because she had used up all of the witch’s water and she did not have money to pay for a new potion. Going back to her family was also not an option, she never wanted to go back.
Then suddenly, someone grabbed her from behind and carried her on his back. “Yes! This must be the one.” She was overwhelmed with joy. “The witch wasn’t useless after all.” Again, she fake cried and tried to fight off the man. He was strong and well built, she could tell. But she could not tell who it was. Then, the man got annoyed with her screaming and fighting and put her down. “Stop fighting Shasha.” Looking up, she realised it was her worst nightmare. Her boyfriend! If she wanted to get married to him, she would not have gone through all the trouble of finding the witch. This was definitely not the man she wanted to be married to.
“Take me back!” she screamed. “But Shasha, if I don’t take you now, when do you want to get married? You keep stalling as if you don’t want to be with me.” He was sincere in his love for Shasha, but he was poor and this is what Shasha disliked about him. “You can’t just take me like this. Let me go home, I will see you later.” Then she walked off, furious. This must be a really bad dream, she began convincing herself. But, why am I not waking up?
As she walked, another man grabbed her from behind and carried her on his shoulders. “Oh no, when is this going to stop?” She was now crying real tears and did not even take time to check who was carrying her. She cried continuously as she fought the man. He put her down, and without looking at him, she ran towards the witch’s hut. “She has to undo what she did to me.”
But before she could get there, she ran into a group of palace guards. Ishe had organized a search party. Shasha had said bad things to him, but he could tame her, he believed. So he had asked the guards to look for her. And they found her. “Wait!” she screamed. “My mother is very sick and I have to get her medicine from the old traditional healer. Let’s go there and then you will take me to Ishe.” They did as she asked. She led the way and they followed.
The old, cunning witch was standing at the entrance of her hut, smiling. She knew she would be back. Girls like this did not follow instructions. She obviously did not do exactly what I told her to do. “Come in my child, I have been expecting you,” she welcomed Shasha. The girl was too angry to respond. She stormed into the little hut and sat down. The witch followed her and sat down, facing her. “Please help me,” Shasha pleaded, “I am neck deep in this.” The old witch smiled. “You’re up to your neck in it, you say?” “Yes,” Shasha replied, “I need this to stop,” she continued, tears rolling down her cheeks, “I feel like I can’t breathe.” “Very well my child,” the witch replied, “so what should we do?”
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