Outside the widow the chimes are clattering. A storm is coming. Akara does not like the storm; they are unpredictable. A violent gust tosses the chimes against the window pane. She slips out of bed and creeps across the floor.Big fat raindrops start to fall, loud on thatched roof. Rain pours over the eaves, runs down the small half broken windows in rivulets spill from the sagging gutters. Akara closes her eyes and tries to sleep but could not She starts to count the sheep, tells herself fairy tales. But the night threatens to stretch on endlessly.
Next morning Akara opens her eyes to see the sunlight through the small gap between the wall. She lays there and watch the pieces of dust hovering. She could reach out and catch them on her fingertips, but she doesn’t. Instead she allows her gaze to follow the beam, turning her head towards the other side of the room. Her mom sits on a rickety stool besides the stove. Her small mug of tea has long grown cold. She has set it on the cement ledge after her last sip and has forgotten it is there. Akara wraps her small fingers around the mug. “ Mom your tea is getting cold! What are you thinking? Do not you have to make me ready for school? And what about dad?” Akara bends down and gently touches her mom’s pale face.
Her mother looks at the innocent face of her nine years old daughter, then looks down to the ground. Her voice comes out without rise or fall. “ Do you remember Chantrea one of dad’s distant cousin. She wants to take you with her to a big city where she lives. You can go to a good school there and earn your living. Here the school is not good and we can not afford to send you. So your father has decided that it is best that you go with Chantrea.”
Akara stands there dumbfounded. There is a long pause. She is too young to understand the reality of life and does not know to distinguish clearly between truth and a lie. Her mouth opens and closes like a mudskipper, “Mom are you serious? I do not want to leave and go with a stranger to study. I can help you more in work and go to school. I do not want to leave you alone. I know how dad treats you when he comes home drunk.”
Her mother’s eyelids flicker slightly. She takes a long ,slow breath. Her cold fingers lifts Akara’s chin. ‘Sorry, we have to listen to your father.”
The front door opens. A slightly tall, thin lady enters with Akara’s father. Akara’s face twists grotesquely into the grimace of extreme grief.Her tears do not mean anything to the father who is determined to sell her daughter.He gets enough money to repay his loans and to spend on liquor. Her mother is silent whose words have no value at all in front of a the stubborn, heartless and abusive husband.
Time afterwards is a haze of grief , horror and nightmares. Nine years old Akara leaves her house. She does not go to school.
Akara’s day starts from 5 in the morning to 11 in the night. During the day she sells flowers and candies on the roadside stall in the big market square and in the night she mops the whole house, cleans the utensils, prepares food for the next day. She gets a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast in every morning and a plate of dinner either rice or a baked potato. In between there is tap water to drink. All the money from the sale goes to her boss lady. If sale is low then there is no dinner and as a punishment Chantrea pulls her hair and beats her with a stick. Her small, frail body is full of the marks from the beatings. Esacape! She has tried but each times they catch her and the punishment gets severe. About her ambition of continuing her education is now just a dream. In the night she lays wide awake on the tiny bed in the small cramped room. The door stays locked from outside so that Akara can not run away. She is always under secret watch.It is almost two years now. She has not taken a day off from the work. She wishes if she can escape from this prison and go back to her dear mother. Tears roll down on her cheek.
One bright morning in May. Akara gets ready to go to the market. The walk is almost forty five minutes from the house. The low, dry whiskery but exciting voice of Chantrea stops her from opening the front door. Immediately Akara turns sharply from the front door and walks back towards the living room.“ Mr. Henry, she is very young, only 11 years old.Give me the cash and she will be all yours. Let me know within two days otherwise there are others in line who are willing to pay more. Bye.”
“What in the world! Is she trying to sell me?” Akara raises her concern eyebrows. A little whisper escapes her slightly parted lips.The look of terror stays bright on her eyes. Her pulse beats fast. She brushes the tears from her cheek and stands straight. Her mind is full of confusion.
“People are so heartless! I am just a small kid. What Have I done to deserve these? Just because I am a girl! It can not be true. We are all equal in the eyes of God. Is not this a sin? A crime? Stop this human trafficking and child labor. Are you listening to me? I need justice.”