RITA: (upset) It’s all right for you. You’re a boy. You get to lie around listening to stories. I have to scrub the floor, wash clothes, sweep the courtyard, and . . . and . . . air out the babies’ bedding. It’s so horrible! Can’t you ask for the holophone so we can call Father? Nobody listens to me. NARRATOR 1: Rita was hiding in a tiny clearing surrounded by thick bushes. She had a heap of disgustingly dirty mats that Tendai assumed was the babies’ bedding. TENDAI: (in a low voice) They won’t listen to me either. I’ve been trying for days. NARRATOR 2: By the rules of Resthaven, Tendai wasn’t supposed to be with Rita. Boys his age didn’t keep company with girls before getting ready for marriage. RITA: They will so. I hear them talking. “Oh, the new boy’s so clever. Oh, he’s a wonderful story teller.” They think you’re the greatest thing since fried mice.(shudders) Did you see those poor little creatures that first night? TENDAI: Our ancestors ate them, and we’re not vegetarians. RITA: Our ancestors ate them, but our ancestors’ wives had to kill them. You should have heard their little squeaks. TENDAI: (squeamishly) Don’t tell me.
NARRATOR 1: The reek of the babies’ bedding was overpowering. Tendai wanted to help her with it, but that certainly would not be allowed. RITA: And speaking of wives, what about the second wife of Garikayi, the chief? Do you know how old Chipo is? Fourteen! And she’s eight months’ pregnant! TENDAI: Keep your voice down.
RITA: I’ll keep my voice down if you keep your ears open. Garikayi’s first wife hasn’t had any children. The Spirit Medium said she might be a secret witch. He said witches eat their babies on the sly. Have you ever heard anything so stupid? TENDAI: Shhh!
RITA: (lowering her voice) Garikayi married Chipo when she was only twelve, but she didn’t get pregnant till now. You can bet he’s anxious about it. He doesn’t have any children. It’s considered a disgrace. So you wouldn’t believe the fuss they’re making over her. She’s loaded down with charms and rubbed with ointments. If she so much as opens her mouth, someone puts food in it. TENDAI: So what’s the problem?
RITA: Who do you think they’ll blame if something goes wrong with the birth? NARRATOR 2: Tendai stared at her. He could tell that something worried her deeply. RITA: (urgently) This is a village. No antibiotics. No doctors. TENDAI: Women survived for thousands of years without them. RITA: Some of the women, you stupid boy. Oh, why do I even bother to explain? Chipo’s too young! You may be in love with traditional life, but women and babies used to die in those wonderful old-fashioned villages. And think about this: I’m loaded with all kinds of work except one. They don’t let me help with the food. Andyou have to eat out of special bowls that no one else will touch. Do you understand? TENDAI: (shocked) They think we might be witches?
RITA: You got it. Witches put things in people’s food. None of them will really trust us till the Spirit Medium says we don’t have witch blood in us. And he won’t do that until Chipo has her baby. NARRATOR 1: Tendai stood up....