The woman’s dress brushed past the tall grasses as she made her way back home. She pulled off her niqab angrily; she hadn’t made any sales at the local market today. Her name was Amina Tukur, and she was the most beautiful Shuwa woman in Dafa.
Dafa was a little town to the West. Amina Tukur had lived all her live there. Nostalgia washed over her as she walked across the field of wild grasses, leading to her home. When she was a kid, her mother would grab her by the waist and together, they would both run through the tall grasses. But those memories were only in the past, Amina Tukur, her mother, had passed away when she had been only six. She was left alone in this cruel world, and her father’s ambition and greed were making things worse for her.
“What took you so long?”, Mallam Tukur a thin and scrawny looking man barked at his daughter. He wore dirty brown socks and worn out clothes which were threadbare from frequent use. He had won the same boots for many years now.
Tukur was a small scale farmer, who grew wheat and barley but wasn’t satisfied. He desired to own a ranch soon. He had always dreamt of breaking free from poverty; and he knew the key that would open the door to his breakthrough.
Amina had gone to the local market to sell some of the farm produce; not many people had patronized her goods, but she was able to sell much wheat. She gently dropped the basket which contained the remaining goods on the rocky floor, next to where her father was standing.
“There weren’t many people in the market father, and most had come to buy themselves new horses.” Amina replied calmly. Apart from being overly ambitious, her father was a grumpy man. Tukur was foul tempered and impatient. Since the death of her mother, something had changed in him and Amina feared he would never be the same again.
He scowled, “this is the reason I have always wanted a ranch. Ranch owners never lack what to eat. They make a lot of money from those animals. I just wished that fool never ruined my chances of partnering with Mallam Idris. I regret that day all the time.”
Amina drew in a breath and steadied her gaze on the old man. Mallam Idris was the richest ranch owner in Dafa and the other towns of the Great Plain. He was a man in his middle age, and had a lot of fame for his womanizing ways. Amina had seen the man once, and he had tried to flirt with her. She didn’t like him.
She knew about the range war that had taken place in the Dafa Valley many years before she was born. Her father always spoke about a man, Abdul. This Abdul once lived in Dafa and he was a successful ranch owner too. One day, Abdul had stepped on Mallam Idris’ grazing area, and a war had broken out. Idris had called on her father to help fight Abdul’s men off with a promise of helping him start a ranch. Tukur had agreed, but on getting to the valley, Abdul’s men had already prepared themselves.
That day, Abdul lost five of his men, while Idris lost ten horses. Tukur had failed to keep the deal of protecting Idris’ property. And Abdul had become his greatest enemy.
“Father, you should let go of the past. Mallam Idris is a selfish man. If he had really wanted to help you, he shouldn’t have given you any conditions. The farm business isn’t working for us in Dafa. Maybe we should move to another town and settle there. There’s nothing left for us here.” Amina saw how unhappy her father was; she hoped he would consider her suggestion.
Tukur scoffed, ‘you are still a child Amina, though you have grown into a beautiful woman. It isn’t easy to start a new life in a new place for a person of my age. We have lived all our lives here in Dafa, and we shall stay here and start that ranch business I have always dreamt off.”
Amina wondered why her father sounded so confident about ranching.
“We will need a lot of money for that Papa. Horses are very expensive. We will need to build more rooms. You will need men to tend after the animals. How do we even begin?” Amina searched his eyes carefully, after spotting a smug on his lips.
The old man knew something or was plotting something. She didn’t like the look in his eyes, because he looked devious.
“I tell you what…”Tukur drew close to his daughter and cupped her tiny face between his palms.
“What?” Amina’s lips trembled.
“You and me would go together to see Idris. I hear he has a thing for dark haired women.” The man laughed and released his daughter’s face at once.
Blood crept to Amina’s cheeks as she glared at her father in shock.
“That man is a dog! I can never go close to him.” Amina spat on the floor as she remembered Idris’ advances towards her.
The laughter died from her father’s eyes immediately, “don’t you ever say that Amina. You will do whatever it takes to get us a new ranch. You are a gift from heaven and you will marry Mallam Idris. I will collect a bride price of twenty horses.”
Amina could see that her father wasn’t joking. He was a man of his word and she couldn’t stand up against him. Her hands trembled as she imagined being married to a man like Mallam Idris. The thought of it made her nauseous. She was determined not to be used a pawn in her father’s game of greed.
“I’d rather die.” Amina whispered silently.
“We ride early towards his ranch in the morning. Get yourself prepared.”
She found it difficult to sleep at night. Amina tossed on her bed a million times, wondering why her father would take such a decision without considering her opinion. She had lived with the man for twenty five years, she when he was joking, and when he was serious.
Amina felt her heart leap as she thought of the visit to Mallam Idris’ ranch. What if her father had already made arrangements for her to be given to him? What if he was taking her there to become his wife?
“No,” she rose from the bed and began to pace her room. She moved towards the window and stared at the beauty of the night. A soft wind rushed towards her, and ruffled her black curls. Her emerald eyes twinkled like the stars in the sky. The Gibbous moon was in sight, and she couldn’t help but stare at the majesty of the heavenly body. Adoring nature distracted her mind for a few minutes.
To be continued…