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She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore Read Online (FREE)

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Read She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore full novel online for free here.



When I was a child, my mother cautioned that I should always be kind to cats. She told me a story that took place in the West African village where my family and I hid during Liberia’s civil war in 1990. She said: “In Lai, there was once an old woman who beat her cat to death. The cat resurrected and his ghost sat on her roof until her house fell down, killing her.” Several years ago I attempted to write a short story about this woman and her notorious death. I did, and from that death, rather surprisingly, and thankfully, Gbessa was born.

{Gbessa is pronounced “Bessah”}







IF SHE WANTED TO CONTINUE, Gbessa first had to rid the road of a slow-moving snake. Greenish brown with golden eyes as difficult to gaze into as the sun, the snake’s body was no different in color from the woods it had crawled from, and it seemed to Gbessa that the surrounding bushes were jealous of her departure, so they extended their toes to block her path. Orange dust stained the belly of the snake, which writhed as it hissed, and Gbessa pointed a five-foot stick in its direction. The snake was not afraid of her, or of the stick, and it raised its head and advanced.

The confrontation occurred several moonfalls after that searing hot day when she was banished from Lai for good. She had championed that path for weeks, stumbling over iron pebbles and timber branches departed from their roots, squeezed between sugarcane stalks, and still, refusing to look back. Strands of her hair left her for the veils of clay grains that also traveled the long and pitiless road. Gbessa could not return. Safua was in the other direction, hand in hand with her rejection, and also those deaths. Gbessa lightly poked the belly of the excitable creature, and at once it lunged at her. She took a step back, only barely avoiding a bite on her shin.

I was there that day, drawn to her, just as I was drawn to those gifted others who were present the day the ships came.

“Take care, my darling,” I whispered in Gbessa’s ear. “Take care, my friend.”

She glanced over her shoulder, as if she had heard me, or as if she hoped the movement was Safua, and the snake lunged again, this time biting her ankle before fleeing into the stalks at the other end of the road. Gbessa fell to the ground, yelling. She cried, and it was clear that her leg was in pain, but also her heart, because she held the tears captive, clenching her jaw closed through the sobs. She rubbed her ankle as if digging for bones, then squeezed the reddened skin where the snake had bitten, squeezed hard to relieve herself of the poison. Perhaps nothing would happen beyond the sting. Perhaps she would faint from the pain. But eventually, she would wake up. Gbessa rubbed her wound, but she knew then, as she knew always, that this poison would remain with her forever. She knew then, as she knew always, that she, like her love for Safua, would not, could not, die.