Hani and I, were running helter skelter, it was a bet that whoever got to the shebelle river first will have to make the other his slave; and his Gabadhii will rest for a whole week. How will I let that happen to me? That too by the mischievous Hani? She can be cruel for the whole Indian ocean. I can’t risk that happening.
Sagal and Sahra were running after us, with the baskets in their hands trembling from the vegetables and fruits we just bought from the Bakaara market. They were a few miles from Bakaara to shebelle, but we were running as if our blood was drained out of us.
Once I came to the veiw of the rocks by the shore of the river, I knew I had won the race this time, and I knew it’s worth Hooyo’s rambles when we get back home. I knew Aabbahay is in the maadaxtooyada_having to answer the unending complains of the people of Heliwa district. Being the Madaxa degmada of Heliwa was sometimes not easy on us, but what would one do? When all Hooyo do is show us that we’re royals, and we should act like them.
But I don’t see the difference between me and Sahra-her being my maid, and I; the princess.
“Nala, you run like a cheetah. I was out of breath that I had to stop_and Sagal went back to Bakaara and brought me water,” Hani whined and smacked my shoulder before slumping beside me on the rocks, which were soiling our clothes_but then that’s the least of our problems. I can imagine Hooyo’s scowl when she sees us.
“Amiirad Nala, I think you’ll need some water,” I heard Sahra’s voice beside me, and that’s when I realized they’ve run fast here too. Poor them, we had them involved in our childish race.
“Thank you, Sahra, so thoughtful of you,” I thanked her and collected the bottle of water from her hand_with a warm smiling playing on my cheeks.
I gulped down half the bottle and tossed it back at her, and that’s when I realized she was squatting on the hard rocks that were scorching even our feets that have kabahas on. I sometimes really feel how it’ll feel to be born as a slave, but with a one look on Sahra; I know she’s contented, that makes me thank Allah numerously.
“Sagal, don’t you see how Sahra was very kind to Nala? Give me an apple from that basket please,” Hani sneered, glaring at Sagla’s fuming figure. They never get on each other’s good side; them being age mates doesn’t help with the difference of status betwen them.
I wonder sometimes how they get to change like chameleons, one minute they’re nice to each other, and the other they’re fighting. Sahra and Sagal are sisters also, their mother is Hooyo’s favourite gabadhii, and that’s why she paired us with Sahra and Sagal as our maids, saying they would have to spend time together also_yes! We’re always together with the annoying Hani.
You pity me right? I too wonder how I’m able to breathe properly with Hani all by my side.
“Sagal, don’t you hear what she said? Pass her the apple!” Sahra ordered, glaring at her sister with intense eyes. It has always being like this, Hani causing problem betwen them.
Sagal rolled her eyes and looked away, from the look on her face_I knew she wouldn’t give Hani the apple even if the whole people of Heliwa would gather on her. We were like those four bestfriends, though they know their status sometimes.
“Hani, you should apologize first, and ask for an apple in a polite way.” I used the soft voice, for I knew Hani can be hot headed than I could ever imagine. So in this kind of situations, I knew when not to hype her more.
She rolled her eyes and yawed her gaze to the other side of the river, looking at how it was splashing on the steady rocks_leaving a sheen on them that makes them sparkly with the heating sun casting on them.
I almost give up that Hani prefer not to have the apple than apologize, when I heard her thin voice_as if it was forced out of her throat. “I’m sorry, Sagal_now, would you please give me an apple?”
I watched as Sagal’s face break into a smile, she patted Hani’s shoulder before giving her the apple, “Now, this is my Amiirad! I’m sorry also, Hani.”
I hi-fived with Sahra, that’s always how it goes. Hani would start a fight between them, and she’ll end up apologizing first. I knew deep down, Sagal is her second bestfriend after, I.
Sahra stood up and dusted off her jilbaab and fixed back her shash. We aren’t married women, and normally, wearing a shash or veil makes people weirdly look at us-but we have to respect our religion despite that.
“Amiirad Nala, Boqorad said we shouldn’t pass Asr prayer time, and it’s already getting to sunset,” she informed cautiously, as if she was afraid that she would hurt me with her words.
Sahra is so humble, we’re of the same age, but that didn’t stop her from respecting me. I’ve numerously told her to stop calling me Amiirad, which means princess, but Sahra would never get a word of it. We’re all 19 by the way.
Our 16 years old sisters also got up and we made our way back to the madaxtooyada_where Sagal and Sahra also lives with us in the worker’s chalet. I can’t get myself to call them slaves. Yeah, be proud of me! That’s how humble I am. But beware of the lioness I can become when angry! So horrifying.
“Sagal, would you pleat my hair in crownrows as you did last time? It really looked pretty on me!” Hani jabbered, she was rocking back and then would gamble forward_still nibbling on the apple.
“Hani princess, you know they’ll slip out of the locks, what’s the use then?” Okay now it’s Sagal looking for a fight. She clearly knew Hani won’t get a word of it.
“Sagal...,” Hani started whining but let her words trailed off.
“Okayyy, I’ll make the crownrows on my beautiful princess!” They both laughed at the same time, and stride off. We exchanged glances with Sahra and shook our heads.
On arriving at the palace, there was choas. Maids, workers and guards were passing by. They nodded at us when passing beside us, all I had to do is smile. Being the biggest daughter of a Boqor doesn’t help things sometimes. I’m the sneaking type of girl, who loves climbing on trees and running on empty streets. But my status? It wouldn’t let me have my own life.
I collected the basket from Sahra and shooed her to their chalet, to which she reluctantly left. Hani also did same, but not after making Sagal promised that she would come after she have her dinner to pleat her hair.
With baskets in our hands, we walked towards the Boqorah’s chalet, to which she never let us called her the queen, but Hooyo; which means Mom. I glanced over my shoulder and saw how Hani was struggling with the basket in her hands. Such a clumsy girl Hani can be.
“Take mine, I’ll take yours, you’re too clumsy for a princess. Who would fight back when our village is attacked? Better woman up lady.” And I sent her a teasing glare, knowing surely she wouldn’t let this slide. But her response? It left me breathless, thinking wether it’s my Hani or she was exchanged with the forever humble Sahra.
“You know? Nala; I really pity Sahra and Sagal_they’re our age mates but they have to work for us. I’ve given Sagal my used shoes numerous times, but she always says that slaves aren’t allowed to wear shoes in this kingdom, that their veils too were because of Hooyo.”
“Hani, that’s what I’ve been feeling too, like how would living as a slave feel? Without a freedom to do anything on your own will? Always being at the reciving end? I know the feeling must be horrifying and soul ensnaring. If it was me, I’ll never get to smile; like how Sahra would laugh genuinely. They’re contented. And that get me say Alhamdulillah whenever I remember Sahra, she has nothing, but was always happy.”
And we arrived at Hooyo’s living room, without Hani getting the chance to utter the words I could see were bubbling in her throat. She was a strong and sturdy lady.
“Taban! Let me take it to the kitchen please,” I shouted, when I realized Sahar’s mother was trying to collect the basket from my hands.
“Amiirad Nala, please let me have it. Boqorad had been waiting for you since.” After calling on Hooyo’s name, she knew I couldn’t bulge. I silently handed her the basket and Hani did same to the other maid before we made our way to Hooyo’s living room_where we met her saying her Magrib prayer.
We exchanged knowing looks with Hani before we darted to our bedroom_performed ablution and prayed on the same carpet. That was our routine, no matter how hard it would be and how busy we might be_we always pray together and eat together.
“Let’s go to Hooyo’s room, flames of anger might be flaring out of her ears by now,” Hani said with a chortle, I knew how Hooyo could be; so we silently rushed to her room.
“Assalamu Alaikum, Hooyo,” we said in unison, and walked towards her. The most funny thing is that, we already knew our punishment, which is to kneel down and raise our hands_and so we did; without having the queen to lose a bit of her precious energy. Hey! Note the sarcasm please.
We fixed our puppy eyes on her forever dazzling face. Sometimes, I wonder why Hooyo’s dead parents didn’t named her Calaso; which means fair skinned, instead of Caaliya. Yeah, I know the name ‘Exalted’ surely suit her well, but didn’t they knew that even with a scorching sun; her complexion would never be tanned?
“Why did you stay long? Nala; I knew it was your fault.” I heard her voice, and for a minute, I wished she was name Haweeyo; which means melodic, lyrical and overlooked.
“Yes Hooyo, she made us bet a race from Bakaara to shebelle,” Hani stuttered, looking at me with pleading eyes, so I shouldn’t tell Hoyoo she was the one that invented the idea.
“Bakaara to shebelle? That’s quite some miles, Nala!” Hoyoo screamed, looking fully terrified. She lounged out Hani’s feet and started inspecting them, as if checking for any damage done. Yes Hoyoo, I know you love me more. Don’t mind, I wouldn’t take it to heart.
“Do your feets hurt? Get down, Nala, let me inspect!” She was really screaming. And in my mind, I shrugged it off, why would Hoyoo think we would be hurt over such distance? Just because we’re princesses doesn’t mean we can’t catch some fun like others.
“Hoyoo, stop getting yourself tensed please, let’s just hug you for once today_you were sleeping when we went to the market.” And before she could protest, we were already on her, giggling as she pinched our cheeks.
Why wouldn’t we love our Hoyoo? She was practically all we have. Aabbahay spends most of his days in the madaxtooyada, we only see him in the night; and that’s for the goodnight wish.
Taban brought Hoyoo’s dinner, and we ate from the same plate. Hoyoo asked her to go and eat dinner with Sahar and Sagal; telling her how good and overwhelming it is. She just smiled amd thanked her; walking out of the room with a nodding head_probably thinking how a Boqorad could be as humble as my Hoyoo.
But Hoyoo didn’t let it slide. She inspected our legs and ended up gisting us about her dead parents. Who were the rulers of Heliwa before their demise, and her husband; Khalif_had to take up the throne.
Madaxa degmada-district head
Shash-veil for covering head