Inem’s mother had always warned her about her strong head and greed. As a matter of fact, she’d warned her that morning just before they left the house.
She’d bent down, looked her square in the eyes, and told her, “Let them not say I didn’t warn you as a mother, stop behaving like a goat. Stop acting like I don’t feed you at home.”
Inem should have listened.
Inem walked through the market, hand in hand with her mother. They’d gone through this one time too many. She knew the routine by heart: she’d get dragged past the stalls she liked, stop at the ones her mother actually liked, spend hours at the market, ignore the unseen eyes she felt following her every move, and head home just before it got dark.
It didn’t matter if they got here at the break of dawn or just before the heat of the sun made itself known to all. Her mother never changed the routine, and she never stopped feeling like someone was watching her.
Today, however, was different.
Inem didn’t feel like she was being watched, and her mother had let her wander off once they got to the first stall, “Remember what I told you this morning oo. Don’t go too far, and meet me at Enobong’s shop!”
Inem didn’t wait to hear what else she had to say. She‘d been waiting for this chance forever, and she knew where this wind of freedom would take her.
She stood in front of the stall, looking at the hot, oily puff puff in different colors, shapes, and sizes.
For the first time since she started coming to the market, Inem looked past the round balls of dough to the person selling it.
Inem had never seen anyone so beautiful in her life. She was tall and the color of the sun. Her braids were so long Inem couldn’t see they ended. She smiled at her and stretched out her oily hands, offering her a ball of red puff puff.
“For you”, she said.
Inem took it and rushed off to find her mother. She remembered what she’d been told, she remembered the promise she’d made, and she was determined to keep it.
Inem got to Enobong’s shop with oil-stained lips and a puff-puff filled belly. She’d tried to hold off for as long as she could, but Enobong’s shop was too far, and the puff-puff was too tempting. Surely her mother would understand, right?
Inem’s mother didn’t share her sentiments. She dragged Inem home the second she saw her oil-stained lips, bathed her in holy water, and poured anointing oil down her throat.
Inem didn’t get what the fuss was, but her mother kept muttering about initiations and forbidding her from becoming a witch.
Maybe her father was right. Maybe the woman’s constant worrying had driven her to insanity.
Inem’s mother finally left her to sleep. After rubbing her down with anointing oil and rubbing crosses into every corner of her room. She shut the door gently and sat in front of it, the half-empty bottle of oil pressed against her chest.
Then Inem heard the first whisper…
… then the laughter followed.
It sounded like a group of girls had found a spot right outside her window.
So she looked out the window. She just wanted to see if anyone was actually out there, but one minute she was looking out, and the next, she was actually outside, following the voices.
That was when she saw her.
Inem ran as fast as her legs could take her, but it felt like the girl had tied a rope to her legs and wouldn’t let her go. She turned around, hoping to find her way back home, but she saw the puff-puff seller, hands stretched out withthe tray of puff-puff in her hands, and a little girl crawling out from behind her.
“Welcome to the coven.”