Sunday, February 5, 2017

NRS Has Moved To A New Domain!!!

Hello dear readers!

It's been a pleasure serving you through Nigerian Romance Stories.Com

However, we have now moved to a new domain. Please visit/ join us at to continue reading! We'll be waiting for you at Tales Like Africa!


Ufuoma Otebele, author at

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who Has Come for Me?

“You should be glad,” she says to me while still holding my hands. We’re sitting on my old bed. My books and clothes have all been packaged away inside a box. The room is empty as if the owner no longer exists.

I hear her voice again, “Be glad, happy that they’re coming for you. With a family like theirs, all our worries are of the past.” She continues, smoothing the palms of my hands with hers. “Don’t you see what this means to your father and I, and even to you? We’ve been the talk of the town since this arrangement was made public. Every woman at the market wants to sell me their pepper and wants me to buy from their rice. You my daughter, it’s you have pulled the covers of shame from the face of this family. I know your father doesn’t say this regularly but he is very proud of you. You are our good luck, Lima.”

“But why are you not speaking my daughter? Talk to me, does this upset you to this extent?” she asks but I have been doing just that; talking, but they’ve been the ones not listening and now I have grown dumb. She looks at the table in front us and sighs, “You didn’t even touch the food? Everyone is already eating. You have to put something in your stomach because today will be very hectic. You will need your strength.” 

When she sees that Im not responding, she starts to cry. She weeps as if she has lost a husband. But I remain quiet; I’ve done much worse than the act shes displaying in front of me. I’ve cried myself to numbness as if I’ve lost a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a lover, and most of all, myself.

“This saddens me too,” she says, wiping her face with the hem of the expensive wrapper she tied around her round figure. “I will miss you my baby girl. I don’t want to see you go but this is something honorable that must happen in every girls life. I remember when my mother brought me to your father; I was much younger than you are right now. I was sad too, I didn’t want to leave home but once I left, I never thought of coming back.”

She’s lying to me but she doesn’t know that I know this. I’ve heard her in the middle of the night facing the moon and cursing my father, the man who stole her youth, and then the next morning she makes him pap before he leaves for work. She doesn’t know this too but I have also caught her with one of my books, struggling to read words she does’t understand under this same moon.

“How can I make you feel better?” she asks wearily, “Do you want me to come stay with you for a week after you leave?” Did her own mother follow her to my father’s house too? My mother who is only thirty-one keeps secrets from me. She lies about her age. She lies about my father’s age too but his gray hair doesn’t lie. He has them all over his head and face. But his heavily muscled body has helped my mother disguise his age. She lies too much and I hate it!

She nudges my shoulder with hers playfully like a friend would. I look at her for the first time since she came in this afternoon and in her eyes, there is clarity. She doesn’t want this for me as much as I don’t want it for myself. She doesn’t have control over this and neither do I. Her eyes become watery again with tears and I see she has been crying with me all through and now I am pressed to make her happy. So I ask, “Which of them is coming, the father or the son?”

“The father and the all his sons.” she replies.

          “But for me, who is coming?” I ask just in time for my father to land two solid knocks on my door.

“They’re here, please come quick!” He is excited as he marches into the room. He is wearing his finest outfit today, paid for by his new in-laws. He turns around and asks me to examine his look and I give him a nod and he picks me up and says, “My daughter, I am the proudest father today and you have made it so.” He then leaves with my mother to welcome our guests.

I rush to the window after they shut the door behind. I am neither excited nor nervous, I am only curious to see what I am worth. Then I see them: two jeeps, three Range Rovers, one Hummer, and a Benz. All present to buy this little girl from her home. I am delighted to see my mother’s face appear to greet our guests who wasted no time in showing their faces. The men are all dressed in white Brocade Agbada attire. Their shoes that touch my father’s sandy compound could buy my whole family and that terrifies me. I hear the sound of music and other family members rushing out with songs in their mouth to greet our guests. My father goes to shake the hands of the father and then hugs the sons. But who has come for me?


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Silk Dress

Civilization is like a thief
It comes and takes something from you
If it isn’t your name then it’s your culture
If it isn’t your culture then it’s your language
If it isn’t your language then it’s your religion
It forces you to change
To forsake all you once were
Then it dresses you in silk
And paints you a paradise with lots of food
For your never before hungry belly
It takes your fruitful land
And makes promises of one with milk and honey
It’ll teach you a new song
It’ll tell you a joke
And you’ll laugh and laugh
And dance and dance
And when it leaves
It can do two things
If when it leaves it chooses to take you with it
It will strip you of your title
Take you across the sea you’ll never see
Brand you its property
And there goes your freedom

Then it will bind you with rusty chains
One around your neck
Suffocating your cry for freedom
And another around your legs
To keep you from running towards what you’ve lost
But it will leave you with two brown eyes
So you can watch it beat your wife and sons and daughters to submission
And as for your beautiful and fruitful daughters,
They will bear its Master’s son’s daughters and sons
To be sold across the Atlantic Ocean

But dry your tears for there is hope
For your brothers and sisters it forgets behind
It will leave them empty and with a new name
A new language, a new God, a new faith,
Yet an old face.

Friday, January 13, 2017

I Sit Here and Stare - Part C

I know what you’re thinking and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. I haven’t gone completely over to the dark side. I am still standing on the gray line and so they won’t have me yet. My mother’s voice hasn’t stopped echoing in my ears although it’s fading faster with every day spent harboring this new form of an already familiar-felt feeling. This time, it was more than a duty; it was the leaping of a heart beat whenever the spark was ignited. This time, it was strange.

And so it continued; the priest hovering above my head like the dove present at Christ’s baptism. I found myself leaning closer and staring deeper with every meeting and soon it happened.

As he walked slowly and gracefully like a man with steps ordered by the Messiah towards the waiting family, other members of the church stopped him more than once to say their hello but I felt it, his eyes that were like a pool of sea on me as if he had one in every part of the body I now knew too well.

I stood, hands folded in front and waited for him to reach me in time. I was wearing the yellow dress again, looking like the day he’d saved me and hoped he would continue to do so now as the request that had brought me to him was one even I knew God would frown upon.

But I didn’t mind. I could feel my legs become like the weight of a feather, helping my body sway from left to right as nervousness dealt with me. It ate away at my confidence and brought consciousness back to life; consciousness of how the next 72 hours of my life was going to turn in or out.

Finally, he arrived, standing still with a masked smile on his face. He looked at me and bowed and I did the same. Could he see the sadness in my eyes? Would that help him make the decision faster? But no, I wasn’t going to be weak, not today.

“We thought…”

“I know Mrs. Rizzo. It will be well.” He said, reaching for the hands of Mrs. Rizzo as if he could read the regret and sadness written on her palms. He was giving them hope by holding on so dearly and I in that moment held on to this promise.

“Follow me…” he said once he let go of Mrs. Rizzo’s hands. I was to follow him to the confession booth to speak what could be my last piece of parting words to God. The Rizzo’s had thought it was a good idea, to be with God one last time as I embark on my journey but I had other plans in mind. I watched him disappear into his hiding booth where I could only see his face as though in pieces.

 He coughed a moment later and began with the sign of the cross. “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And then he urged me to confess my sins one last time saying, “May the Lord be in your heart and help you to confess your sins with true sorrow.”

All this time, I was watching him perform this duty and I knew his heart even more than the God who called him into this. And when I saw him open the bible to read from the very book he didn’t believe in, I began my confession.

I said, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have fallen in love with your servant. A priest. But what is love if I cannot love a man who has chosen to give all of him to you who is love?”

“Nomi,” he said quietly and this time it felt different. There was no fire in the way he spoke my name like before. I could feel rejection coming in the way my name fell cold to the floor.

“NaNomi,” he called and I didn’t need him to remind me of my name so I caught him off.

          “I know you don’t want to be here.” And that was the truth. “You hate it here. You’ve been stuck in this room since you were 24. Repeating the same prayers when there is no sincerity in your heart, you should be the one confessing but you call my name as if I am some strange thing!”

          “Get a hold of yourself.” He said with the same passion and urgency as was present the first time he held me near. This man had succeeded in fooling himself for the past decade but I wasn’t his fool.

          “You, the very thought of you is sin to me. A stain in this cloth I wear. What was your true purpose of coming here tonight? If it isn’t to say your goodbyes I want no more of it. I want you gone. I just want you gone! I can’t think straight when you’re around, I can’t do a thing and this, us, it’s a sin. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

          “But what am I to do?” I asked and he didn’t answer. “I have given up everything, my God, my language, my home, myself, everything just to be here. They’ve come to take me away, I don’t know how they found me so soon but you know I can’t go back to my country. I can’t stay with the Rizzo’s any longer and you know why so what am I to do? You said your government was not like mine so why have they come for me who just wants peace of mind?”

          “Why have you truly come here?”

          “To ask you to come away with me to a place where we wouldn’t have to hide our love before the government comes to take me to a place where there’s no love but war and blood.”

          How could he not understand now that I needed him the most? How could he look at me as if he knew nothing of us? How could he forget the many nights he spent dressed in the normality he wanted with life and with his hands wrapped around my waist seeking to be loved? Or was it all in my head? The testament of the freedom he so wanted away from the church and in my arms? And there I was seeking liberation from a man who himself hasn’t been liberated and I sunk.

          He said, “It was all in your head dear child. Carry on. And may the peace of the lord be with you.” and then he who was like a dream without a sound walked away.

          The End.

Friday, January 6, 2017


Love. 17 year old Shola Agu grew up surrounded on the outer layers of this very word that runs the world. It extended from his 87 year old neighbor who has been married to Mrs. Lolade for 67 years, to the woman who usually brought akara to the house; she said that was only way she could make a living to take care of her two daughters since her husband died and his family stole everything because their brother left no children behind but mere girls.

This love also stretched down to the man everyone called Baba, who threatens every day to send his grandson out of his home if he came home riding on the back of trouble again. The old man was tired of confronting families of the child Ekong usually left bloody after a fight. Since losing his only child, Ekong’s father, ten years ago he’d been left to care for what remained of him.

Even down to the sermon from the pastor last week, love prevailed. He’d said that Christ, the greatest lover, so loved the world that he sacrificed himself on the cross to wash away our sins.  Shola had heard it all, had listened with his ears wide open and his clueless eyes on his mother. But on the inside, in his home, love hasn’t come around since the night he was made. It regularly only came along with the greasy smell of mama ChiChi’s akara, halting right outside their front door, too terrified to enter, too scared to be noticed, too frightened of the possibility of being abused, and of being neglected. So it follows mama ChiChi back home to a place where it would be fed.

Shola closed the curtain and joined his mother and three younger siblings in their sitting room which he hated called a living room. Because it seemed like all what the head of their home enjoyed doing is sit in front of them and fade away. Breakfast was ready now that mama Chi-Chi had come. They all gathered around him on the floor with their long throat hanging and watched as Shola divided the two hundred Naira bread into five pieces and distributed them with two pieces of akara on top. The youngest, Ifeoma, thanked him. Shola tried to hand his mother her share of the breakfast but she shook her head and said, “Give it to her, this one that she said thank you, she must really be hungry.” Their mother teased and the family laughed.

  Shola chewed cautiously, habitually looking over at his mother who usually looked as if she was far away in a place that had once been good to her.

“Mama, are you sure you don’t want, there’s still some akara remaining…” he asked chewing on a piece of bread. Mrs. Agu was proud of him. He was the most caring son she could ask for. Sometimes she wondered why a child like him was sent to a mother like her. But, “I’m fine.” She lied.

Later that day, Mrs. Agu arrived home from the market where she sold dried and fresh pepper. Today’s sale at the market had been great considering the way things were going in the latest Nigerian economy. Prices were spiking up as if on steroids. But this evening she’d wanted to surprise the kids so she bought chicken on her way home to prepare fried stew with. Laying the other items she’d bought from the market down, she asked Timothy, her second born for his older brother.

“We haven’t seen him since he followed us to school.” The eleven year old said.

Mrs. Agu stopped and asked, “Do you mean to tell me that he didn’t come to pick you, your brother, or sister up from school? He didn’t follow you people home?”

Timothy nodded.

“This boy will not kill me. What says the time? A quarter pass seven and he is not home yet? Hide me ooo, this children, hide me! Who will I now complain to? Who?”

Then she paused to catch her breath. “Have any of you seen Baba’s grandson since you came back from school?”

The three kids all replied in unison, “No.”

“Chinke! If by mistake Shola is with that good for nothing boy, I will so teach him a lesson he will never forget. I’m waiting for him.” She was angry, not at her son but at the boy Shola could possibly be with. She knew her son was not like Ekong, he will never be like him and she was going to make sure of it whenever he gets back. She was no longer in the mood to prepare the feast she’d planned. She told the kids to warm up the soup they had left in the house and use that for dinner.

An hour later, Shola wiped his bloodshot eyes before knocking on the door. His little brother opened. “Welcome.” Timothy greeted, “mommy had been looking for you.”

“Ehn, and so? Did somebody loss that she’s looking for me?” Shola hissed, barging into the living room to meet his mother.

“Why did you even bother coming back? You should have just slept there… are you saying that this house is no longer big enough for you and I to live in?” she asked, gradually rising up. “Which responsible 17 year old boy do you know that’s still out by this time? Answer me!” she shouted, picking up the broom by her side.

“Why don’t you ask the irresponsible man that impregnated you that question.” He said to his mother whose face had turned blank after her son’s response. Her head immediately felt too heavy for her neck.

“What did you say? Repeat yourself!” she screamed, steadily drawing close to him. Shola remained silent, not moving from where he stood. “Did someone say something to you at school today?” his mother asked, this time more worried than angry.

“Which school?” Shola hissed, releasing the button on his school uniform. “I’m not going back there again. It’s not for people like me.” He said and then tried to move.

“Come back here, people like you? Where did you hear that? Who are people like you? So you think you’re now a big boy abi, you want to be like Ekong?”

“At least Ekong knows who his father his.” Shola said, dropping yet another bomb.

“Don’t you know who your father is?” she asked with a taste of guilt on her tongue.

“I know what you told me. He died before I was born but mama if that was true how is it that I have three other siblings? Did you remarry, who’s their father? They might be too young to understand but I’ve caught you. You’re a liar!” he shouted at his mother who was quick to hit him in the mouth those foul words had spilled.

“You can only beat me but I won’t let you lie to me any longer. I’m no longer a child. We all use the same surname but that name is your father’s not any of ours! Ifeoma is fair, Timothy and I are not, you too. Evans, I don’t even know who or what that one looks like.”

“Me!” she yelled with tears already rolling down her cheeks. “You are all my children, you all look like me.” She added, beating on her chest.

“Mama, I’ve said my own. I’m not going back to that school until you tell me who my father is.” He declared before walking out on his mother.

Mrs. Agu’s feet were terribly shaking that she had to hold on to one of the old chairs in the room for support. The room was spinning and so was her head. Shola’s words, his questions, his facts, they were all replaying in her head. She was restraining herself from holding her head and screaming like a mad woman. It was all happening, the moment she’d been dreading since Shola became the man of the house. She knew he was too smart for his age and that was one of the reasons why she sometimes questioned God for sending him to her. To expose me, she whispered to herself in tears. But she was going to tell him, she was going to tell them all when she had everything pieced together but Shola! She called his name two more times. How would she begin to tell him that she had no exact answer to his question? How? She cleaned her tears with the hem of her wrapper tied to her chest and went into her bedroom in search of the notebook she used as a diary. With a pen in her left hand, she sat on her bed and began to do the math again…

Around the month of May 1999, Mr. Festus.
June 1999, Solomon.
August 1999, Mr. Contractor, but there were two more in between, Mr. Lucky with the big jeep, and Mr. Gideon with gap teeth.

 She retraced the time line she had jotted down in her diary. What of Timothy, she asked herself. There was Mrs. Kumi’s husband, she didn’t remember his name. Twelve years had passed since Mrs. Kimi came to her home when timothy was only three months old. The angry wife had boiled hot water from home and threatened to pour it on Mrs. Agu’s three month old son because of the rumor of an affair between her husband of fifteen years and Mrs. Agu, popularly known back then as “busy body.”

  Mrs. Agu sighed, she didn’t want to think about Julius, Ifeoma’s possibly father. His fair skin had attracted her to him. He’d been from the Igbo tribe like herself. He’d promised to take her in and her other three kids when he found out she was pregnant with Ifeoma. But one day he came over to the house after hearing stories that she was unfaithful to him to confront her. Mrs. Agu had thought she’d succeeded in putting those rumors to rest before Julius left that evening but that was the last time she saw him. He never showed up at her door step again and she’d been left with unfulfilled promises and her hope of a better marriage this time crumbled.

In between the many men who’d spoiled her with suya, the one who’d used as a punching bag and therefore abusing her whole essence, the ones who’d lied about wives they had, the ones who never gave love but took pleasure from her, down to the ones who’d made promises and failed; Mrs. Agu had been left with four children who had no clue whose eyes they had except their mother’s which they’ve only seen. But she was going to tell them just when her calculations were finally correct. Then again, it’s been 17 years with no luck. So she covered the notebook once again, placed it under her pillow and rested her head on it…


Friday, December 23, 2016

I Sit Here and Stare - Part B

And so it began. An introduction was made by Mrs. Rizzo, “This is…”

“NaNomi.” I’d finished, recognizing the word name again.

“Yes, NaNomi, she’s staying with us now.”

“Oh... I see.” He said hands still by his side; he scrutinized me. I felt his eyes on my heated face as if in search of something. What is it? What am I not?

“Well, I’ll leave you and your husband plus NaNomi to your work. I’ll be inside if you need me.”

“Yes, yes.” Mr. Rizzo spoke up this time. “As a matter of fact we had something to discuss with you concerning our new friend.” He said and his gaze shifted my way.

“Alright then, you can come by now if you want to.” And they did.

 Alone in this unfamiliar place, I’d focused my energy on cleaning the wooden chairs in the room from my left to my right. I’d counted 22 of these long wooden chairs and knew that the room could contain only a few and wondered where the rest went to pray to their God. High up on the wall of the alter rested a statue of a man in grave pain. The pain stricken man was nailed on a cross; bare with only a robe covering the lower part of his body. I stared, wondered, and finally wandered away.

Soon, the Rizzo’s and the priest appeared. This time when he looked at me it was with familiarity, as if we’d known each other in another life. All I could do was stare naively as I neither understood nor spoke the language in which they carried their conversation. A pat on the shoulder of Mr. Rizzo and he was gone but not without a sharp bow to me. I reciprocated by bowing lower than he’d done. The family joined me after the priest left. From the look on their faces they were happy at the job I’d done without them.

A few minutes later, we were home. That night, Mrs. Rizzo made chicken soup again and we ate it with bread left from the morning sales. We ate and slept. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’d wept throughout the night after my prayers. I’d failed my mother, I knew it. I knew it and so I wept myself to sleep.

The next morning was Saturday. I was awake before the Rizzo’s, waiting for our usual day to commence but they stopped me at the door before we left.

“Church…” She said and although I didn’t want to go back there and see the man on the cross, or the strange priest, I quickly reminded myself of the danger I’d gone through to get to Italy. I was here to survive by all means. I must.

That morning, Mr. Rizzo dropped his wife at their tiny shop with his old and rusty pickup truck and I remained in the car as the couple talked for a few minutes. When Mr. Rizzo came back, he drove me straight to the church.

Today I was wearing a pretty yellow floral dress that stopped a little bit below my knees. The gown fitted my tiny figure as if it’d originally been mine. Mrs. Rizzo had added a brown sandal to match and they fitted perfectly too. I stepped out of the car and smoothed the material of the gown to my body. This felt foreign to me as it was the first time I’d wore clothes that left my arms and legs exposed. Mrs. Rizzo had also used a yellow ribbon to hold my wild curls up, exposing my long neck. I felt naked all of a sudden as a stubborn wind blew the hem of my gown, sending it flying up. I quickly rushed alongside Mr. Rizzo inside the church.

“Wow… NaNomi,” He whispered in shock when he saw me. “As-salam alaykom.” He added and I, without thinking flew straight into his opened arms. I slowly dropped on my knees, holding on dearly to the hem of his white garment and cried, chanting in my language, “Thank God! Thank God!”

“I’ll take it from here, Mr. Rizzo” he said and the man left.

I still wouldn’t let go of him, he’d been to me that day like a savior. He’d given me hope where they hadn’t been any. I was sure my mother had sent him to me to help me.

“Please rise,” Hed said in Arabic as he assisted me in rising up. “I know this is a lot to take in but I am here to help you. God has sent me to you. Now let’s go to my office and we can talk, is that okay?” I nodded and he led the way.

Upon reaching his office, he asked in my language, “How did you come to Italy? Do you have family here?” I answered, “No, no one. I have nobody. I am nobody.”

“But what about your parents?”

“They’re in Sudan. I came here on a boat,” I said. “A big one. We were escaping from the war that has killed many of our people.”

“Wait, we?”

“Yes, many of us. Girls, boys, little girls, and boys…”

“Where are the rest now?”

“I…I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to go back; I don’t want to go back.” I repeated in tears.

“It’s okay, the Rizzo’s has promised to keep you until you’re able to live on your own. However, the government is what we will be most worried about.”

“The government? I don’t want to meet them, please don’t bring them, they kill people. They’re killing my people.”

“Oh no, no, not the Sudanese government, I meant the Italian government here.”  He’d said, but was there any difference?

He’d continued, “We will have problems with immigration but for now if you’re going to stay in Italy you’ll either have to learn English, Italian or both. I have promised the Rizzo’s that I will take full responsibility of your English language education while you remain with us. We can start as soon as possible so you can feel a bit more comfort with the Rizzo family. Would you like that?” He asked and I grabbed the hands on the desk and said, “Yes, please teach me.”

I hadn’t thought about it however spontaneous it might have seemed, but as quickly as it’d happened, I’d realized that I’d yet again failed my mother and all what she’d thought me for the past twenty years blew past my mind. But one look at the hands I was holding on to and I saw much more than the differences my mother had said laid between a man and a woman: My dark hands on his pale, rough, and creamy ones, my dark eyes and his green ones, my God and his God, my language and his language; but how could he speak mine?

“While in school I’d learned Arabic in order to translate parts of the Bible. I also did some mission work in many Arabic speaking countries.” He answered and then I thought maybe he was the one who’d promised my cousins salvation. Maybe he was the messiah they spoke of.

From then on I saw this man three times a week. I’d begun to learn the English language through the help of video tutorials and with his assistant as a teacher. I, however, wasn’t his only student. They’d been others like me but none was quite like me. One evening after the rest students had gone home and while I waited on Mr. Rizzo for a ride home, he’d asked if my faith was fragile enough to be broken. I’d answered yes because the solid foundation of the home I’d shared with my family had been broken once and there I’d known all the love a person should ever know.

Then he called me “Nomi,” like my mother did when she is about to tell me a terrible thing, or a deep secret she couldn’t share with my father. I wasn’t sure which was coming this time as the priest was a peculiar man but whatever it was, I’d braced myself for it.

“What do you know about love?” He’d asked.

...And this was the seventh month since I first saw him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Sit Here and Stare - Part A

Usually, the path to self-destruction is unclear, I’d read in the first English novel I found in the house. It’d said we make plans and never think of being caught in our own set traps. Not even once. This, however, wasn’t ultimately correct for I’d from the first day thought of how all this would end before it’d even started.

As I looked up at the podium where the priest stood finishing his lesson for that morning, I smiled. I’d learnt how to blush two years ago when I’d first visited the church with the family I was staying with. After running from home, thousands of miles away, I’d found shelter in a remote city in Italy were everyone knew everyone. There was war in Sudan and although the world remained silent while more and more of my people died each day, I’d embarked on this journey on the 21st of March to escape from it all. Running away wasn’t something I was ashamed of, however; the thoughts of the family I left behind were the only pain I carried on her heart every night whenever I sat down to dine with my new family.

I removed my eyes from his when he looked my way. I looked to my right at the youngest member of the Rizzo family and smiled down at the child, hiding away in the disguise of my dark skin.

I examined the three-year-old who was sleeping, mouth wide open but peacefully in her mother’s arm. Mrs. Rizzo caught my eyes while I watched the sleeping child. She took one pitiful look at me and sighed. I understood what she was saying without vocal communication. I understood that she too was afflicted by my new and yet expected life dilemma. I wanted to tell her that I neither blamed her or her husband for what was about to happen. In fact, I was indebted to them. Her husband who’d found me freezing to death near an antique shop had brought me home to his wife who bath me in hot water and clothe me in her oversized shirt. She’d served me a warm meal of chicken soup and biscuit with questions directed only to her husband. Afterwards, she gave me blankets and showed me to the room they used for storing flour. I’d been unable to sleep that night, afraid that this would all end by morning. But when morning came, Mrs. Rizzo asked for my name in English and all I’d recognized in her short sentence was “name?”

My mother had told me they would ask what my name was and to not be afraid to tell them whose daughter I belonged to.

 “NaNomi.” I’d immediately answered. She’d asked other questions and I’d watched her lips move in wonder of this language I neither understood nor spoke. I’d responded in Arabic and she’d been so startled she drew back in fear. I’d immediately told her that I wasn’t going to hurt her, I’d told her my story but she couldn’t understand any word I was saying either. My frustration gave way to tears and when I began to cry, I couldn’t stop.  Anger, fear, frustration, my tears streamed of those words I couldn’t say and she understood only then and drew me into her arms like the mother I was sure I would never see again.

 She’d said me they were poor. Husband and wife were both forty-five years old. They owned a small bakery where they made bread from morning up until whenever customers became scarce. Afterwards, they worked as cleaners at the church they attended. This had been their way of saying they couldn’t keep me who was nothing but something of certain strangeness to them.

“But three sets of hands will make the job faster, what do you think?” She’d asked her husband who couldn’t stop staring at me. I was to stay with them and while I stayed with them, I was to help them in their cleaning business. The job was all too familiar to me as it was the only job I’d been able to secure while in Sudan. I agreed to the arrangement and the next day while they got dressed for work, I followed along in Mrs. Rizzo’s clothes.

Our last stop for that day was at a church. It’d resembled the one my older cousin’s packed to, positive that this would save their souls. I was afraid to step inside because I on the other hand was a Muslim. This place and its firm walls was not me but this had been the first thing they’d changed—my religion. But it was for work, just for survival so I convinced myself to enter. I’d persuaded myself that I wasn’t betraying my faith after all I’d been the one abandoned by God and my country. 

An hour later, Mrs. Rizzo was amazed by my strength as she’d been amazed by the color of my skin the first night she saw me. Even with the help of a faint light it’d still felt as if darkness had come to pay them a visit. I’d accepted the compliment spoken yet not understood.

It’d been the sound of his voice that’d made the three of us turn around. He was standing in front of the door, tall and shining like gold. This strange man covering his pale skin in a clergy rope was the priest. He’d greeted Mr. Rizzo and his wife first with familiarity as he approached us with his hands folded at his back. This odd man terrified me. His steady walk towards me made me want to run for shelter in my mother’s bosom. What creature was this? I’d thought of him as light and I darkness, even darker than the deepest tunnel. If he’d been surprised to see me he’d disguised it well enough in the modest smile he shot my way. Unnoticeably, I’d curved my head and blushed for the first time and that, was my first sin.