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Origin of Butterflies

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A long time ago in a certain part of Kenya, only boys could go to school. I t was a taboo for girls to be educated. It was thought that girls should be married off to raise children. In fact, they were not allowed to go out of the house, and if they did go out they should be accompanied by a male who is a relative or a trusted servant to the family.

Sarah Atieno was the daughter of a wealthy King in a rural town of Kisumu. Kisumu is located 500 Km west of the capital city of Kenya Nairobi. Atieno was possessed of boundless thirst for knowledge. She was always questioning her father, her mother, her siblings, servants and everyone else she came close to. She was envious of her brothers when they started school, and she was determined that she herself should go to school as well and get an education. She pestered her parents, but her parents could hear none. They tried to keep her mind off school, but she would not give up.

Since she was her parents most loved child, they gave in and accepted Atieno’s request but now the problem was how she will attend school. They thought a way out to satisfy Atieno’s lust for learning. The only thing they could do was that Atieno should pretend to be a boy. She could go to school if she’s dressed up in boy’s clothing and adopt a new name Stanley Otieno. Otieno is a male name and Atieno is a female name. That is how Atieno finally entered school. She did not find it too difficult to live like a boy. She was only interested in learning and hardly ever got involved with any of her schoolmates after lessons. In any case they thought this new boy was a bit strange and were quite happy to leave him alone. There was only one boy she became friendly with.

His name was Laban Owino, and he was a studious man with very gentle manners. They often studied together, and gradually they became good friends. Years passed and Atieno did very well. By the time Atieno had become aware that her feelings towards Laban had grown strong, beyond the way the two fellow students would normally feel, even if they were the best friends. Laban too felt something similar, he could not quite understand why he felt so strongly attracted to this other boy. Fortunately, Laban and Atieno ended up in the same high school and same class both taking same majors and their friendship grew even much stronger. And by this time no one had discovered Atieno was not a boy but a girl. Laban too was in the dark, but he felt so strange that he was attracted to a fellow boy.

Then one day Atieno’s parents send one of their trusted servants with a message that she is to return home immediately. The servant doesn’t tell her very much, other than to insist that it is her father’s wish that they return without delay. Atieno fears the worst, maybe her mother is on her deathbed! So, she travels home with the servant, and she is mightily relieved to find both her parents in good health. But she is shocked when her father tells her the reason why she has been summoned home. One of her father’s best friend a king in another Kingdom has a son, just a little older that Atieno, and they have arranged for the two to get married.

Atieno is in despair; now she realizes that she is in love with Laban. And it is him she wants to marry not another king son as expected by the parents. Atieno arranges for the servant to go back to school and ask Laban to come to the hotel nearby to take a room and she will join him. The next day the servant returns and informs Atieno that her friend is lodging in the hotel. She dresses up as a boy once more and goes to see Laban. She tells Laban that because of a family problem, she won’t be able to come to school, but that she has a cousin who is staying at their house. Laban should make her acquaintance, Atieno says she feels sure that when the two of them meet, they will fall in love and Laban should then ask her parents for the cousin’s hand in marriage.

Atieno tells Laban to present himself at the house later that afternoon. She goes back home to change back into her girls’ clothes. she is going to play the part of her cousin, she feels sure that when Laban sees her as she really is, he too will realize that what he has been feeling for his friend all this time is nothing but love! Eventually her servant comes to announce that Laban has arrived, and she goes to meet her friend. She introduces herself as Atieno’s cousin, but Laban is struck by the likeness between these this cousin and his friend. Now that Atieno finally stands before him in without disguised she cannot control herself and she bursts out crying and tells Laban the whole story of who she really is, and how much in love she is with him. At first Laban is very angry that he has been deceived, but then he is relieved, because he too realizes that he is deeply in love with Atieno. Atieno then tells Laban about the arranged marriage her parents have planned for her and they agree that he must ask Atieno’s father for her hand in marriage.

That same afternoon, Laban asks to see the father. Of course, he does not have any idea who this young man is. When he hears that Laban wants to marry his daughter, he just laughs. He questions Laban’s education by living a very frugal life. Atieno’s father dismisses him, tells him to go back to school and to find a girl in his own social class. He forbids Atieno to have any more contact with Laban and told his servants to make sure she does not leave the house unsupervised.

Laban stayed in the hotel, he could not face going back to school alone. And he feels her must stay close to Atieno. But he has lost his appetite and he can’t eat anything. He sits at his window every day, all long, and looks out to see if he can catch a glimpse of Atieno. He gets sick and stressed. Atieno can’t get out of the house, the servants are not prepared to disobey their master. She spends her day crying for her love. One of the servants has offered to take messages to the hotel and back. That is how one sad day she learned that Laban had died. Atieno cries more and more, but her parents carried on with the preparations for the weeding regardless. Her father is certain that eventually she will forget this poor student and will accept her duties as a good daughter and wife. The day of the wedding arrives. Atieno will be carried on a stretcher to her new husband’s house. She instructs her bearers to take the route to the crosses the cemetery where Laban was buried. Whey they got there, she orders them to stop and she gets out to say a prayer over his grave. As she kneels by the grave, a butterfly appears, it seems as if it came out of Laban’s grave.

The butterfly circled around her head, and she watches it. She is sure this butterfly just like her dead lover, Laban. She stretches her arms out towards the butterfly, which flew up a bit over her head. She lifts her head and arms towards it and as the butterfly flies higher up , she realizes that her arms have turned into wings and she can join him now at last and together they flew away from this place full of dead people.

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