It was a hot afternoon. I sat on the cool red bricks moulded around the village spring, the crystal clear water flowing down from a high rock like a fountain. It was the belief in Latunka Lambo that those who threw coins in the water would have their wishes come true. I threw my last coin in it and made a wish for a better life then left for Kasuwa (market) square.
Life had always been smooth, rosy sort of, when my baba and maman were still alive till it took my sister and me through some twists and turns after their demise.
We lost our parents in a robbery attack on our way home from our farm one evening. Baba screamed at me to run and I ran with my little sister who was strapped to my back. I hid in the bush till the robbers ran away. When I came out, it was already dark, baba and maman were gone.
I ached all over my body but I couldn't say this out loud because no one in Latunka Lambo cared. Everyone for himself. The only one who does, my little sister Rashida, was sleeping in our tent that I made with my own bare hands. She was very ill and I needed to get her some food and medicine from the local clinic. I needed some money for these.
I hid in a corner behind a stall in the busy, boisterous Kasuwa square to find a way to feed Rashida. How I intend to do it, I did not know yet.
As the afternoon sun rose higher in the sky, traders and buyers alike were busy in the art of buying and selling, everyone looking for a good bargain. It was our market day. The following day, the market square would be deserted again like a graveyard. I had to make good use of the rowdiness if I wanted Rashida to get better.
I glance around and my eyes locked on a well dressed, lovely woman, peeking into her raffia handbag to pay for a bag of assorted fruits she just bought from Mallam Mai Lemu. Only the rich could afford fruits here and her raffia bag looked expensive. She must be rich to purchase all those fruits.
I planned to sneak close to her, bump into her a bit as though I missed a step and pick her bag for some change. Good idea! I have never done this before but I must succeed at all costs.
I moved close and almost bumped into her when she lifted her head and looked at me with raised eyebrows as though she had anticipated my move! She held me roughly by my collar before I could escape. My heart skipped a beat and I became afraid! For me and Rashida. I had failed my little sister.
"Kai, you little urchin! You think you are smart?!" She asked.
At her raised voice, Mallam Mai Lemu looked at me and shook his head. I knew I was done for. He left his stall and walked towards us.
"Hajiya, please ignore him. Walahi, he's just a hungry orphan going around to pilfer from people's purses." Mallam Mai Lemu said.
"No, I am not!" I stared daggers at him.
"Then what were you caught doing?" He asked angrily as though it was his money I came to steal but I knew it was all an act so he could stay in Hajiya's good graces. I was speechless and close to tears. I looked at her with pitiful eyes and hoped she would not hand me over to the local security men. That would be worse than starving.
She sighed and released my shirt. Thank goodness. I rolled my shoulders a bit to right my wrinkled dirty shirt. She stared at me and said,
"Yaro, help me load these bags onto my camel. You can earn money through hard work instead of stealing it, ko?"
What a relief. I nodded vigorously. Yes, a way out of my dilemma! I carried her bags on my shoulders and took them to her camel. Getting there, I was tired already and my body ached some more but Rashida was all that mattered.
"Kana jin yunwa? You look hungry. How about you come home with me? I am Aminatu, Alhaji Tankani's wife. I stay close to the Emir's palace and you can eat at my house. I'm sure I can find something for you to do for me around the house. How is that?" She offered.
I stared at her with my mouth opened. Was this really happening? Could the story about the fountain be true? I nodded once again. I went home with Hajiya Aminatu Tankani. It turned out she was the second wife of Alhaji Dahiru Tankani, the Security Council leader to Emir Ahmed Lambo.
I told her about our predicament, that Rashida and I are orphans and barely survived if not for her timely help. She sent one of her ladies to fetch Rashida. She took us in and I work in her home now as a boy-servant. Rashida was herbally treated and she became well.
Fate brought Hajiya Aminatu Tankani into our lives and we are better for it.