The Untold Story
by Mercy Adhiambo
The people around were talking and their voices were rapidly
rising. Although Sinjile knew that they were talking about her, she had not the
slightest desire to listen to what they were saying. Her mind was occupied by
her own thoughts…thoughts of what was ahead.
The tent under which they were seated was getting heated up and she felt sweat
trickling down her back. She lifted the hem of her skirt and used it to wipe her
perspiring face. She quickly put it down before anyone could notice.
"Sinjile, the day is finally here," her childhood friend Pwagua whispered,
breaking the silence.
"It is," she replied.
"I wish you well," Pwagua said, squeezing her friend’s hand.
Sinjile feigned a smile and one could easily notice the distant look in her
The drumbeats that had been sounding in the not so far distance were drawing
nearer. Sinjile’s heart leapt. She knew that in no time they would arrive and
take her with them.
Her mother beckoned her. Uncertainty gripped her and she felt the urge to rise
and run surge through her, but she knew that it was impossible. She could not
run—not today. If she had wanted to run, she could have run then.
She dragged herself towards her mother. The nausea that she had been having
since morning was building up.
"Mama," she called out when she reached the doorstep of the hut that her mother
"Come in," came a voice from inside the hut. The voice was not familiar to her
and she was sure it was not her mother’s.
She entered the house and strained her eyes to adjust in the darkness of the
An old woman was sitting on a mat that was spread in the otherwise vacant room.
"Are you ready Child?" she asked, looking into Sinjile’s eyes.
"I am ready," she replied weakly.
Her mother appeared from the other room. She looked tired and her eyes were red
and swollen. Sinjile knew that she had been crying. She had cried ever since the
day the unspoken curse befell her daughter.
"I made you this beaded necklace," her mother said, giving Sinjile a necklace
made of beautiful beads.
Sinjile murmured a low thank you and absent-mindedly caressed the beads. There
was a moment of silence as they became lost in their own worlds.
"Mama, I am not well," Sinjile finally managed to say, her gaze fixed on the
"Aii! You cannot be sick today. The village’s hand is in your hands. You cannot
go against your people, you have to do it!" the old woman blurted.
Sinjile’s mother remained quiet.
"I do not want to do it," Sinjile said under her breath.
Another spell of silence began. The old woman stared hard at Sinjile
till she blushed.
"Do you know what that would mean…? The ancestors would not forgive us. You
cannot sacrifice the whole village for your own sake. You should have known
better and not gone to the granary at night!" screamed the old woman.
Her words stung Sinjile. She felt as if her stomach was on fire. She fought so
hard to stop the tears that were stinging her eyes.
"It was not my fault, I swear," she interjected, trying to find words to express
The drum beat increased in volume and tempo until it reached a deafening
crescendo. They had arrived and there was singing and vigorous dancing outside.
"They are here, you have to take this fast," the old woman said, giving Sinjile
a bottle of medicinal herbs.
Her hands shook as she took the medicine. She had taken so many of its type ever
since the night that the nightmare began.
She gulped it down her throat and she felt the sharp bitterness of the medicine
sting her tongue. A wave of nausea swept over her and she almost threw up.
The old woman’s eyes searched her face, as if trying to find fault in her.
"That is to ensure that you are cleansed," she said when Sinjile gave her the
Her mother held her hand and led her outside. It was her that the people were
waiting for. Ululations rent the air when she appeared-the time had come.
"May the gods of good luck go before you," her mother said, patting her back
Sinjile’s eyes misted. This was the last time she would see her mother. She gave
her a tight hug and her tears stained her mother’s dress.
She had promised herself that she would not cry. After all, she had borne all
the shame and discminiation. This day was going to mark the end of her
tribulations. She was moving out of the village forever.
Pwagua came and held her hand. She too was crying, and together they let their
tears flow freely. Pwagua had been the only one who had talked to Sinjile ever
since it happened.
The whole village had talked about it—of course in hushed tones. Such a thing
was not to be said loudly.
Sinjile had been attacked and raped by her paternal uncle when she had gone to
get millet from the granary. Her mother, having waited for her to return, and,
realizing that she was taking too long to come back, had decided to go and look
It was then that she found her twelve-year-old daughter weeping and bleeding.
She had screamed and alerted the neighbours, thinking that her child had been
attacked by a wild animal. Later when they realized that she had been raped,
they declared her unclean.
Her childhood joy was gone. She could no longer share the water point with
villagers because she was unclean. Her days became long and dull, and it was
only Pwagua, whose father was a pastor in the big city, who visited her.
Since then, so many rituals were performed on her, and today was the day of the
final cleansing. She was going to share a reconciliatory meal with her uncle,
and then she would be sent from the village forever.
Her uncle was slowly advancing towards her and the singing was getting faster
and louder. Her breathing became laboured and her nausea returned.
As he moved closer, the whole terrible drama of how her uncle had attacked her
from behind and ripped off her clothes and stole her innocence replayed in her
memory. It was intolerable.
She felt hatred—for her uncle and the whole village. They were thieves who had
stolen her happiness. They were murderers who had murdered her childhood.
Suddenly, with all her might, she kicked her uncle in the stomach. He fell down
with a loud thud and traces of blood oozed from his mouth.
"Ai! Get him some water," a woman screamed. The village momentarily held its
breath. There was deathly silence.
Sinjile did not wait to see what happened next. She ran. She did not know where
to go, but she ran on. She heard her mother’s voice calling for her to stop, but
she did not look back—it was over!
Mercy Adhiambo lives with her parents in Kenya where she was born 20
years ago. She started writing at a tender age of 9 years, and most of her
writings focus on women and the girl child. Having been raised in a Community
whose culture disregards women, her stories highlight the challenges that women
and girls go through.
She is currently working as a volunteer for a Community Based Organization that
advocates for Education of the Girls in her Community.