Chapter 1

Muse woke up very early this morning as usual. She is the first to get out of bed. She has been living in this house for two years to the day, far from the city where she was born and grew up. She often thinks about time spent with her siblings. How cheerful and happy she was then. These memories go back to a long time already, it seems like it has been more than a century ago. This is normal, because living here one day is like an eternity in her eyes. Muse goes back into her memories and remembers events of that day as if they had occurred just yesterday. Indeed, on the eve of this gloomy morning, she remembers chatting with her father. He was sitting there in the yard, his children and his wife around him. He told them anecdotes from his early youth and the whole little family laughed out loud. Muse's father was a funny man, who loved being surrounded by his family whom he cherished more than anything in the world. It was no secret that Muse was his favorite. He loved talking about her to his colleagues and friends. She was his pride and he said loud and clear that she would "lift his head in this country". He was not wrong, because Muse was endowed with an unparalleled intelligence. She excelled brilliantly in her studies and in all matters that seemed difficult for children of her age. Everything predicted that she would be a great woman in the society when she grows up. Sadly, Muse's father died before she even succeeded in her first secondary school certificate. That lugubrious morning, Muse woke up as she used to. She had taken her container to go and fetch some water to bath before going to school. However, no sooner had she crossed the threshold of their gate, than she heard the sound of a shrill cry coming from inside. Her heart began pounding immediately. She rushed into the concession, throwing her container to the ground. "Why this cry? What's going on there ?" She asked herself while running into the house. She knew something very bad had happened. Their house is reputed to be the quietest in the neighborhood. What then can justify this cry? She walked all trembling towards the room where the tears came from. The more she walked, the more she could distinguish her mother's voice. As soon as she opened the door to her father's room, she found him lying on the bed unconscious. Her mother was sitting at his bedside shaking him vigorously, while he was not reacting at all. This gloomy scene had nailed her to the spot. She froze at the sight of her inert father, as neighbors and her brothers came running to see what had happened. It was a shock that will mark Muse forever. She attended the burial ceremony like a stranger, until the funeral. She just couldn't believe that it was her father who was buried and that they would never see each other again. She looked like she was in a daze. And as if it were nothing, her uncle, father's little brother took her to his house. Muse, who had never traveled more than 100 km from her hometown, had been lugged overnight more than 1000 km from her home. Worse yet, she would have to separate from her mother, brothers and sisters. It was on a Sunday afternoon that Muse arrived in the biggest city of her country, a noisy city unlike the one where she grew up. From day one, her uncle's wife did not hesitate to let her know that she was not welcome in this house. Her gaze was cold, not to mention her words that had frozen Muse at the same time. She had then clearly warned her: "If you stay in quiet, you and I will not have an issue during your entire stay. Be careful not to encroach on my territory in which case you will have me on your back!" Muse had said to herself in what direction could she encroach on her territory. What did this expression even mean? Without having had the time to understand what her uncle's wife was really talking about, she was going to experience what the latter meant by "having her on her back". From the first week, Muse experienced the mistreatments of that wicked woman. She was so fond of going back to her mother. Even though it was poverty there, she could still sleep peacefully and feel loved. Standing in front of the sink doing the dishes, she forgot herself thinking about her sad life and let herself cry bitterly. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she hadn't even realized that time was passing with great legs and that her stepmother had already woken up. It wasn't long before she arrived in the kitchen. Like hello, she gave her a resounding slap. "Where do you think you are? Maybe in a novela? You're supposed to do the dishes and you're there crying like a madeleine. Just as a reminder, you have to wash all the plates and pots, not forgetting to polish the floor as it should!" She thundered without worrying about her pain. "Sorry mom!" Said Muse, lowering her head. "I'm sorry mom... Am I your mom? Is your mom as beautiful as me? Instead of hurrying you are there saying nonsense!" The stepmother replied leaving the kitchen. Muse did not retort anything, except to cry inside and implore the grace of God so that this torment comes to an end. If at least her uncle were there, all of this wouldn't happen. But he is more absent than he is at home. He is the only one who stands up for himself against his nasty wife and naughty daughters. However, he was a thousand miles from imagining the mistreatment that they made her endure. Indeed, when her uncle is at home, his wife and children behaved nicely towards Muse. Her cousins ​​woke up at the same time as she and they shared the chores of the house. But as soon as he had his back turned, everything was allowed. They would wake up late, just eat breakfast and go to school. Muse knew that injustice, but she could say nothing except to obey. Even today, Muse will be late for school. If at least she had enough money to take the cab. But her nasty stepmother always takes three-quarters of the sob money. If she makes the mistake of paying for a cab, she will have to go all day without a bite to eat. She is therefore obliged to make the long journey for school on foot. As soon as she crossed the threshold of her college gate, the supervisor assigned her a heavy task to perform as punishment. It had already become a habit for her because the whole school knows that she is always late. She has become accustomed to washing latrines before taking her first class. Having finished her task, she entered her classroom. Her morning teacher is already at the end of his today class. Muse went to sit down in her place. Her teacher interrupted class, looked at her puzzled then asked her. "Miss Muse, why do you always miss my class?" Like any answer, she lowered her head looking sorry and said nothing. Muse's teacher said to himself Muse must be hiding something. He couldn't understand why she always looked miserable. She hardly had any friends. Her classmates found her so mysterious. Though he asked Muse with a reassuring voice about what caused her to be always late, she kept replying nothing to him. This morning therefore, he required her to meet him in his office during the break. He is the principal teacher of Muse's class and he really worried about her behavior. So during the break, Muse did go to her teacher's bureau. He was sitting behind his desk manipulating his computer. At the sight of Muse, he stopped what he was doing and said to her smiling "Muse! You are already there ? Please take a seat!" "Thank you sir!" Muse replied by doing so. "So how are you ?" "I'm fine sir." Muse answered in a timid voice. "Are you sure everything is well with you ? It doesn't look like reading your face." At these words, Muse looked down and did everything possible to refrain her tears from shedding. Her teacher is not wrong. Muse hasn't been able to sleep normally for over a month. Since her uncle's long absence from home, she is the last to sleep and the last to wake up. As long a she closed her eyes and opened them again, it was already morning. Having managed to fight back the tears that were threatening to bead her delicate cheeks, Muse looked up and forced a smile. She then told her teacher "Everything is fine sir ..." "And why are your grades so bad? It's not in my little one only, but most of your teachers complain about your grades dropping and you sleeping in class." "I'm sorry!" Muse whispered not knowing what to say to her teacher. "Listen Muse, I'm your homeroom teacher. I would like you to tell me what's wrong. This year you will take the baccalaureate. You are not allowed to make mistakes. Is there something bothering you at home?" Her teacher's voice was so reassuring and sweet. But Muse couldn't tell him anything. She was afraid of attracting the thunderbolt of her aunt. Like brown on iron, the witch's voice echoed in her head "The day you open your mouth to talk and tell your uncle what you're going through here or anyone out there, know that if it falls back into my ears, I'll make you go through hell. Your uncle is never home. You'd better be intelligent and know I can make a king whatever I want." Muse had told herself that if the raw deals her uncle's wife was making her endure wasn't hell, then she would be ready to slit her throat when she found out that she had been able to talk about her misery. Just imagining that day made her wince with fear. She hastened to tell her teacher as she stood up "No no!" She turned on her heel and left the office. She just couldn't tell him anything concerning her miserable life. It would be like putting her head at a price of money. She prefered to handle the situation on her own. However, Mr. Tela would have wanted to help her so much. If only she could tell him what's wrong! Maybe then he would help her. But he had understood that she was afraid. In the evening, right out of school, she rushed home because she was aware that her stepmother would be waiting for her, counting minutes. Nevertheless, when she arrived home, she was not at home. She hissed in relief. At least she won't be greeted by mean words from the latter. As soon as she took off her uniform, Muse hurried to the kitchen to do whatever chores she could find. As she got down to it, she heard voices coming from the living room. She came out of the kitchen to see who was there. She fell on her stepmother with a young man. As soon as she appeared in the room, the man stopped talking and stared at Muse with a strange gaze. Although She did not appreciate his look at all, she came timidly to take the luggage that was there on the ground. "Good evening mother ! Good evening sir!" She said to them respectfully. "Good evening Muse!" Take this luggage to the guest room and make sure it's neat and tidy. This is my little brother Pen. From today, you will have to take care of him and consider him like a member of this family!" Her stepmother ordered. "OK!" Muse replied, carrying without complaining the baggage that weighed for her little arms. She bustled about tidying up the guest room as she had been ordered. While she was on the task, the future guest of the room made his entrance even before she had completely finished. He opened the door and stared at her like a dog in front of a bone. Muse was so focused on her duty that she didn't realize that someone had got in. Having changed the sheet on the bed, she looked up to put the towels on the toilet. She ran into Pen who had already been there for a long time, watching her. She felt the urge to tear his eyes out of his head, but there was nothing she could do. Besides, she was no one in this house. The only thing she could do was keep a low profile and avoid, as far as it is within her power, trouble. But what she ignored, trouble doesn't need to be avoided. They come on their own when we least expect them. She came out dodging Pen. She headed for the kitchen to finish the chores she had started to do. But on her way there, she heard loud voices coming from the living room. She walked quietly into the kitchen and tried to see more about it. Listening carefully, she realized that it is the voice of her uncle and that of his wife. "Do I need to ask your permission before my family members come to my house?" She heared her stepmother say. "I didn't say that you have to ask my permission for visits or short stays. We are talking about a stay of more than a year here!" Muse's uncle replied in a calmer tone. "Are you serious? And your bastard niece, when you brought her here, did you ask my permission anyway ?!" "Don't confuse things. Muse is a child unlike Pen who is already an adult and moreover he works. Besides, don't pretend I haven't told you about my intention to bring her to our house." "Are you saying that you just told me about your intention to bring her in ?! Did you wait for me to give my consent beforehand?" Asked the stepmother. "You know what, there's no point in arguing with you. You're just bitching like usual." Said Muse's uncle, taking the exit door again. "Yes, that's it, go away! Run away like you're used to!" She said it while going to the kitchen. Before realizing that her stepmother was approaching her, Muse didn't have time to go back to her chores. As soon as her stepmother saw her with her head glued to the door, she said with a scowl "What are you doing here ?"
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