Valmay Bartlett

Gosnells Writers Centre, Western Australia



She sits memorising the chosen verse. She knows she won't falter. The writing is large print, suitable for a seven year old. She could have read it fluently ten years ago.
'This is the examination you must pass' he instructs. 'All other knowledge is unnecessary, no other examination is of importance.'
It is not the bars at her back that constrain her, rather the facts of her existence and the existence of the child.
A child should be wanted, her child was not, but she is a child loved nonetheless.
Should they be rescued she fears her child will be hated. A child of the enemy. A child conceived on the other side.

It was from the beginning, an acceptance, an accommodation. One of the youngest schoolgirls taken from Chibok, at just turned sixteen she had been a girl of ambition.
Now she is a woman, careful to be seen as subservient. Veiled, with downcast eyes, when accompanying her husband. These are the tokens not of her respect, but of her will to survive.

She seldom weeps, just a little when she wonders if anyone remembers her.