What Happened to Jane

The road to bliss.

Six hours had passed, still no sign of the village. The rented mini-van chugged lazily along the unpaved road. The sun was high, and Jane could feel its burning rays painfully penetrating her delicate pale skin through the window. She was getting more and more anxious, and could feel her throat going dry. She emptied her water bottle two hours into the trip. What she would have given for a single drop of water to quench her thirst.
“How much longer until we reach Panyak, Yar?”
The six-foot-two Sudanese lady sitting next to her smiled with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
“It won’t be long, madam.”
This was a mistake from the beginning, Jane thought, and she wanted to back out. But the Prophet said she would find the man she would marry in the village along the Nile. She felt stupid for allowing him to talk her into it, but her curiosity got the best of her. What if the Prophet was right? Being forty and still unmarried used not to bother her a lot until she came to Sudan where girls are married off at the young age of fifteen, and where you can’t find unmarried women older than twenty-five. It was not easy being a forty-year-old spinster in this place. She had seen and experienced it herself—the endless taunting, the advances from old men, the indecent proposals to be someone else’s fourth wife. It’s like a punishment, in a way.
“It will be okay, madam. He will be there. He is waiting for you with twenty-five cows, as promised.” Yar gave her a reassuring tap on her shoulder.
Jane couldn’t help smiling. At last, after six years of living in Sudan, somebody—someone single and young—finally agreed to marry her, though she hasn’t seen him yet. She would never do this kind of thing back in the US. Her friends and family would go ballistic! But when in Sudan, do as the Sudanese do. So here she was, travelling almost the whole day to get her prince and claim her cattle, her bride price.
“Normally, they should give you at least 100 cows, madam, but because you are older than him and finished university—”
“I understand, my sister. Don’t worry too much.”
Jane thought she wasn’t even worth anything, for in the Dinka culture, a woman’s worth is based on her age, height, and education. The younger, taller, and less educated, the more valuable they are, as they are able to bear more children, do more work, and obey their husbands without question. So Jane had to settle for twenty-five cows. She didn’t even mind not getting one, but when in Sudan . . .
Her back was almost breaking, her bladder on the verge of bursting, when the rickety mini-van screeched to a halt, creating a dust cloud that obliterated her view of the village.
A typical homestead in Sudan.
“We are here, madam. Come with me.”
Yar led Jane to a tukul  (mud hut) where her fiancé was waiting. It was pitch black inside, and she couldn’t see anything. She thought she was alone until a rough, strong hand gently tapped her left shoulder three times—a sign of respect.
“You are welcome, my bride. Thank you for accepting my invitation,” came a low, rapsy voice.
When Jane’s eyes adapted to the darkness, she saw a profile of a handsome ebony man towering over her, clad only with goatskin loin cloth and colorful beads around his neck and wrists. As she looked up and saw the smile on his face, she felt something stir inside her.  He was smiling at her, and for the first time in years, she was happy. But suddenly the smile faded, replaced by a curious and almost hostile frown.
“Why, what’s wrong?”
He held her by the elbow and dragged her outside. Then he looked at her face and screamed in his local language, causing a big commotion, especially among the women.  He was enraged, a sudden, unexplainable anger overwhelming him.
“What is wrong? Did I do something wrong?”
“Your face,” Yar whispered, with a look of genuine concern.
“What about it?”
“It’s too  . . . plain. He cannot marry you like that. His friends will laugh at him. If you come with me and do as I say, I will assure you he will marry you.”
Before Jane could protest, a group of women led her to another tukul where an old man was waiting. He motioned for Jane to lie down on a straw mat on the dirt floor, and without a word started his job, while the other women gathered around to watch.
Dinka women.
Jane could only shed silent tears during the entire ordeal, as wincing and crying would make her unworthy of joining the community. She could not afford to lose face in front of all the women who looked up to her. After forty excruciating minutes, the old man stopped, sighed loudly, and limped his way out of the hut.
Yar hugged Jane and handed her a broken mirror, so she could see the sorcerer’s  masterpiece. There they were, 27 cuts artfully carved by a red, hot knife on her porcelain skin—Jane’s beauty marks. She’s now ready for the marriage.
This was written for GBE2. A fictional tale based on stories I’ve gathered from my travels around South Sudan.
This week’s theme is about what really happened to Jane, one of our blogging friends, who unfortunately had to have 27 stitches sewn on her face after a freak accident at home (read about the real story here). We are helping Jane come up with a more interesting (and believable) explanation to tell people when they ask about the scar. Hope you enjoyed my version. 
Fast Facts:  Facial scarring is an ancient Sudanese custom that is still practiced today, though it’s becoming less common. It is a sign of bravery among men, and beauty in women. In certain tribes, women sometimes have their entire bodies scarred in patterns that reveal their marital status and the number of children they have had.

Photo credits: Global Point Productions
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15 Comment

  1. Kathy says: Reply

    WOW, I hope Jane got a little pain killer while that guy was carving up her face. I don't believe I could have just laid there and let him do it! I would have been out the door, down the road, and on a plane to somewhere, anywhere else!! This was a great story, and very exotic!!


  2. This is absolutely lovely! I am thrilled to see how you've woven a different cultural meaning of beauty into my story!

    Thank you. I'm a little weepy over this one…in a good way.

  3. neat take on the prompt. i felt like i was traveling with jane down that dusty road… let's hope everything turned out as she hoped it would….

  4. Jenn says: Reply

    Wow Reiza–you did an excellent job with this… quite an eye opener into another culture. I loved the piece. Excellent–and very gripping!! Cheers, Jenn

  5. Cherie says: Reply

    WOW! What a great read! Welcome to GBE!

  6. KAT says: Reply

    Great story. Sounds like you have had some interesting travels.

  7. great read indeed!

  8. wow this was incredible

  9. Agree with everyone here. This was a brilliant story. You had me mesmerized til the very end! Definitely didn't expect the ending 🙂

  10. This is, without a doubt, my favorite of the stories I've read so far! Excellent job!

  11. I love this idea. Absolutely original, and totally unexpected. I love the idea of the scars being a sign of beauty.

  12. you are an excellent story telling. You wove in some Discovery channel elements with your Lifetime story.

  13. Nice plot, how exciting to be in such a far away place.

  14. Suzy says: Reply

    Loved your story. Great to learn of facts through fiction. wonderful.

  15. AJ says: Reply

    Fascinating, riveting tale! I would believe this story if Jane had told it to explain the scar away. You're a gifted storyteller Reiza! Every word, every cadence of every sentence propelled the story as a movie would. Glad to be back to the blogosphere and be welcomed with this. 🙂

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