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By Nadine C. Keels

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“We have won! We have won!”

Ahnna’s ears prickled as soon as the faint sound of vibrant shouts outside reached her hearing. Her head flew up from its bent position over a steaming washtub full of clothing, wisps of wavy hair that had loosened from her chignon sticking to her damp neck. Her mother, Delmi, looked up the second that she did, the two women staring wide-eyed at each other before Ahnna dropped the soaking garment she had been scrubbing and bolted out of the laundering room, the resulting hot splash of water missing the skirt of her thin, dark purple day robe and splattering onto the wooden floor. Delmi left her tub as well, following her daughter through their large village farmhouse and out of the front door, Delmi stopping on the porch while Ahnna lifted her skirts to run down the stone walk, through the gate, and into the street.

Sure enough, others from nearby houses were being drawn to the street as the shouts became more pronounced. Ahnna looked toward the late afternoon sunlight pouring over the crest of a hill to the west as a band of hollering boys in blue uniforms came streaming down the hill, some of them waving sticks madly through the air. “We have won!”

As the messenger boys approached, most of them being adolescent pupils of Ahnna’s, she fleetingly thought that she hadn’t seen them so animated since the announcement earlier in the year that community classes had been postponed in anticipation of a colonial crisis. Ahnna dashed down the road to take one of the boys by the shoulders, not even thinking to dodge his wagging stick, unknowingly escaping a potential blow. She had no chance to ask the boy anything before he exulted in her face, “Magistra! The battle at Mtihani is over! The enemy will have to surrender. We have won our independence!”

The boy jumped up to stamp an impulsive kiss on his schoolmistress’s cheek before he carried on and away with his young, triumphant compatriots. The street was teeming with neighbors by this time, the usual tasks of the day put on pause as an astounded clamor arose that did not immediately strike Ahnna’s hearing as celebratory. In truth, the clamor and commotion barely struck her at all as she stood in the middle of the road, unseeingly looking after the departing band of boys. “Our independence,” she whispered to no one.

Over the past three years, she’d been eating the revolution. She’d been drinking the revolution. She’d been sleeping and dreaming the revolution. And she knew she was by no means the only one in the country who’d been doing so. Could this merciless, bloody ordeal finally be finished?

Ahnna walked slowly back toward her house, stopping at the gate in a daze. It wasn’t until she looked over to again meet the now shining eyes of her mother, who hadn’t left the porch, that she realized the noise of their surrounding neighbors was that of rejoicing.


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