Mama only nodded when I told her I had to leave the market briefly. She didn't notice the catch in my voice or that my hands were trembling. She faced her customers and wouldn't spare me a glance.
I stood, waiting for an acknowledgment, anything.
“We have to go.” Kadoon tapped my shoulder.
“Sure.” I swallowed. “Mama...” I started again. She had to understand.
“She's already given you her assent.” Kadoon pressed beside me. “The sun shouldn't set on us while we're still on the way.”
I sighed. “Fine.” With one last glance at Mama I turned and walked with Kadoon out of the market.
We took brisk steps, watching the sun as we walked. Kadoon led the way. Her steady feet took us through a maze lowbrow homes with rusted zinc sheets and walls covered in mud grey plaster.
“Are you sure this is the way?”
“Mm-hm,” she said and skipped over a gully in the road.
I stepped in it. “But, it seems so far.”
She turned to me, a smile twitching her lips. “We haven't even started yet.”
“Oh, gods,” I bent forward, hands on knees. “I'm already so tired.”
“There will come a time when we will have to run. Baba Dega is not just any medicine man, he's the most sought after. Getting to him is hard.” She came to stand just before me. “How is your leg?”
“I've even forgotten it's there sef.” I stood, face to face with her brown eyes. My heart skipped into my throat. But something else occurred to me. “You know more than you let on, don't you?”
“I don't know what you mean.” She turned immediately and kept skipping down the road.
I followed after, worry furrowing my brow. She was definitely hiding something. “Did your father know something too? Because you both were very fast to ask that we go to Baba Dega.”
“Hemen,” she sighed. “If you talk while walking, you'll get tired fast. Plus, we need that energy for this.”
I looked up to see a large, dark forest, looming before us. “That wasn't there a moment ago.”
“It's always there. You just don't see it when you're not looking for it.”
This day was getting stranger and stranger. The path grew muddier the closer we got to the forest. When we were just at the edge of it where the grasses stuck out their glossy green leaves as if reaching for the sun, Kadoon came to a halt.
She turned to me. “Now, we run.”
“As fast as our feet can go. Just run in a straight line until you come to a hut. You may not see me, but I'm with you.”
“Kadoon, wait,” I chuckled nervously. “This sounds scary.”
She spared me a whisper of a smile. “It is. But I've done it so many times with my baba it's now like a climb up a mango tree for me.”
“What if we hold hands?”
She raised a brow.
“For your sake,” I bit my lip. “So you won't, you know, worry about me.”
Now she laughed. “I'm not worried about you, I know you'll make it. Don't be afraid. Just do as I've told you.”
I shut my eyes and counted down to one. Took two deep breaths. That calmed me a bit. “Kadoon, this better go as you've—” But she wasn't there anymore. I was speaking to the howling wind and the scent of old wood and wet grasses. “Kadoon!” I whisper-screamed. “Kadoon!”
With a sigh and droop of my shoulders, I plunged myself into the forest and started running.
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