The girls walked faster, as they encouraged Fatima on, don't look back, just keep walking. Keep walking, one leg after another, keep walking....Fatima suddenly stopped.
"I can't do it" she said
"I told you, she is too weak!" Mayo looked at Fatima with disdain. Her eyes took in the cheap shirt she had lent her, the torn wrapper and stained scarf on her head.
"Too weak" she said again. As if this point was not the one that had brought them to the edge of a strange town at night.
"Well, I am not going back and if you go back, you are no longer welcome to stay at our place"
"I understand" replied Fatima, her head bent and her eyes concentrated on a spot in the ground where a frog had just leapt from and left a trace of a slimy substance behind.
"I understand and I thank both of you for all you have done. I don't know what I would have done without you guys"
The girls looked at each other; they all knew this moment was the one that would bind them together. At this spot. At the edge of a town that wasn't theirs, in an unknown bush. It was ironical that six years in boarding school together had never been able to achieve this but here they were, a year after school, and this was going to be the moment. Each of them carrying with them, this memory for the rest of their lives.
"I really wish you could stay on but we can't do it anymore. You know we would help if we can but we are just students, we can't do more....at the moment" Funke was now looking Mayo with pleading eyes. Perhaps they could allow her to stay but...the burden...
"The burden is too much" Mayo said what she could see Funke was unable to say. She was not weak; she could do and say what others could not.
"We have helped all we can. We were not even that close in secondary school yet, we took you in. Your own parents threw you out, even your grandmother. We are also struggling. The burden is too much on us"
Fatima hugged Mayo, then Funke, who would not look into her eyes
"What are you going to do now?" asked Funke
"Don't worry about me, guys. Thank you for everything. I'll be fine"
The girls walked on, living Fatima behind in a forest that wasn't hers and a town that wasn't hers. The burden alone was hers. She quickened her pace...faster and faster until she broke into a run. She could hear the child crying, she could feel the milk in her breasts leak into her blouse and she ran until she could see her burden in the basket.
"Mummy is here now, don't worry"
The child sucked at her breast hungrily, unaware of moments, and strange towns and forests. The warmth of the milk spread through out his little body and he was soon off to sleep, in the arms of his mother.
Fatima smiled at her son...this burden so heavy.