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  • Milton Davis

Black Rose: Part Seven


Danuja woke alone in darkness. The dhow creaked as always, rising and falling with the ocean’s pulse. She sat up at the edge of her bunk, her hands feeling for Kesi.

“Kesi? Where are you?”

She stood and a yawn caught her, forcing her to stretch it away before leaving the cabin and stepping into the narrow passageway.

“Kesi?” she called out.

There was no answer. Danuja made her way to the deck. Panic made her chest tighten; there was no one to be seen. She was about to scream when she saw movement at the bow. Danuja ran as fast as her short legs would carry her, bare feet slapping the deck. As she reached the bow, she saw everyone gathered in a semicircle around Kesi. Kesi stood on the prow, gazing into the night sky.

Danuja saw Tukufu and hurried to his side. She touched his shirt and he looked down at her with a smile. He brough his finger to his lips.

Danuja began to ask why she needed to be quiet, but realized Tukufu did not speak her language, and her Swahili was still poor. So she sat beside him and watched Kesi like the others.

After an hour, Kesi spoke. The crew jumped to their feet and ran to their duties, adjusting the sails as the nahoda steered. Kesi climbed down from the prow and almost walked by Danuja without seeing her. She stopped suddenly, greeting Danuja with a smile.

“What are doing here, dada mdogo?”

“Dada mdogo,” Danuja repeated. “What does that mean?”

“Little sister,” Kesi answered.

Danuja smiled. “I like that. What are the words for big sister?”

Dada mkubwa,” Kesi said.

“What were you doing out there, dada mkubwa?” she asked.

“Searching for a star,” Kesi replied.

“Which star?” Danuja asked.

“A special star,” Kesi said.

“Why?”

Kesi laughed “I not going to tell you.”

Kesi walked by her. Danuja grinned as she grabbed Kesi’s pants.

“Tell me!”

“No.”

She wrapped her arms around Kesi’s legs, forcing her to stop walking.

“Tell me or I’ll trip you!”

Kesi moved so fast Danuja didn’t see how she ended up in the air, Kesi holding her high.

“You’ll do what?”

Kesi tickled her and she laughed. The crew laughed with her.

“Put me down!”

“Put me down, please,” Kesi said.

“Put me down, please!”

Kesi tickled her again.

“Say it like this, ‘Tafadhali niweke chini.’

‘Tafadhali niweke chini!’

“Very good!”

Kesi sat Danuja down.

“So why were you searching for a star?”

“There is one star that leads you to Kawa,” Kesi said. “It’s call Nyota Hafifu, Faint Star. You can only see in on the darkest of nights. I looked for it tonight, and I found it.”

“So we are going to Kawa?”

“Yes. No one will be able to find us there.”

“No one?”

“We’ll almost no one,” Kesi confessed. “My baba knows the way, but he has a hard time finding the faint star these days. His eyes aren’t as young as they used to be.”

Kesi put her palm on Danuja’s back then pushed her ahead.

“You get some sleep,” she said.

“What about you?” Danuja asked.

“I’ll be there when I’m done here. Go now.”

Danuja hugged Kesi before going back below. She climbed onto her bunk, then fell immediately to sleep.


* * *


Kesi watched Danuja disappear below deck. Moments later Tukufu appeared beside her.

“Dada mdogo?”

Kesi smiled. “It’s a good nickname for her.”

“You’ve become attached to her.”

Kesi looked at Tukufu.

“How could I not? She is a sweet girl and she’s been through more anyone that young should have.”

“Just like someone else I know,” Tukufu said.

“Our circumstances are different,” Kesi said.

“Not as much as you pretend,” Tukufu replied. “Both of you have lost your families.”

“My family is not dead,” Kesi snapped.

“In a way, they are,” Tukufu replied. “As long as the sultan is alive, you cannot return.”

Kesi felt an emptiness inside, a feeling she had been hiding since they fled Pemba.

“I miss them despite what they did to me,” she finally said. “But it’s a wasted emotion. Like you said. I can’t go back as long as the sultan lives.”

“Kawa is only temporary,” Tukufu said. “What will we do afterwards?”

Kesi shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Tukufu laid a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“You’ll figure it out,” he said. “Whatever you decide, we are with you. You are our dada mdogo.”

“I thought I was your nahoda,” Kesi said.

“That, too,” Tukufu said.

Tukufu sauntered away to help with the sails. Kesi watched him, her throat tightening. She has acted rash and as a result put everyone’s life in danger. But there was no turning back now. She was responsible for them all now.

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