She suddenly realized how much she had changed over the course of a day and a half. Before she left yesterday morning, she was a simple Tuareg girl in a simplistic world of fetching water to survive. She was going to get married in the long-established universe of a desert nomad.
Today, nothing seemed so simple. She had seen a boy die, and grown men who might kill others. She had discovered that some people, not that far from where she lived, not only drank clean water but had it in abundance — while she and her family more often than not drank mud. She had benefitted from the great kindness of strangers, and yet she was not permitted to think of marrying the kindest of them all. And she had felt her first heartbreak, as she watched Fada depart into the desert.
As she stood there, laughing at her sister, she made a decision; she would learn lessons from all these things. Her worldview had shifted; how could she now accept everything she had been taught after everything she had experienced? She didn’t know the answer, but she decided on one thing. As her first order of business, she would lead water-gathering expeditions to Fada’s borehole, so her family could drink more healthily. Of course, she also realized that it would be a good pretext to visit her newfound friend.
That was as far as her thinking got that day because her family decided to start Tabaski festivities early. Alhassan slaughtered one of the sheep to welcome the three girls home, and to celebrate the joyous gift of the crystalline water. Mouheini, Raichatou, and Takat were offered the most prized pieces of meat – the entrails. Mouheini, holding tight to Tahir, distributed her share among her six brothers and sisters. The smaller children were also given the brain, as tradition would have it. Mouheini made sure that Tahir had plenty of water to drink.
While she sat eating her meat, she did not commit senti. Yet her mind did wander to a paradise where liquid silver flowed, and to a trail lost in the desert, where a captivating, luminous soul was heading on his trek homeward. She prayed to Allah for his safety.