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It was time for school again. Most of my classmates would be dreading this time, I was excited.  I packed my bags and stood at the bus stop waiting. Counting the hours when that one bus in the village would pass by. My friend Mary was busy moaning about how she hated this time of the year. I paid no attention to her. She would get over it soon.

We got to school and it felt like everything was back to normal. The last three months had never happened. Chattering with our friends about what we got up to. Most of it made up so we could outdo each other and show we had the best holiday. You might wonder why I wanted to be here, it was because she was here.

As the conversation flowed around me, I thought of why I was there, of how I came to be there. It had been three years ago since I had been married off to the village chief. To pay a debt my father owed. My father had been dead for five years; my mother never questioned why the debt took so long to collect. I was sent off to a man three times my age, to be his wife. He was nothing like what I knew husbands to be. From day one, I was his slave. Forced to scrub his clothes, trek for miles to get water. If I did it beyond the time limit, I was whipped. My mother tried her best to get me back, sold all her belongings to pay him, but the deal was sealed. I was his for life.

I did the only thing I could think of; I snuck off in the dead of the night first chance I got. With no food or water, I walked 50 kilometers in the dark to get away. Our village was located deep in the forest, wild animals roamed freely, hungry and ready to pounce at all times. I didn’t care, I needed to get away before he found me, before he touched me and ruined me like the many girls I had seen him wed before.

I can’t recall how I got to my new home. All I know is I woke up and was staring into her face. She fed me, treated my wounds and dressed me. She cried as I told her my story, explained why I had all the scars on my back.

She found me a new family. People to take care of me and love me. I had programmed myself to fear adults. They could not be trusted. I ran away several times, but she always found me, took me back. I never knew how, but she was always there when  I took off.

I had lived a life of pain and torture. I trusted no one but her. I had a family, a place to live but I was only at home where she was. I came to this school because she was there. . She had made me find happiness. She had passed on years ago, but her spirit was in this school she had built. It was here that I found strength and hope. As long as I was here, my guardian angel was also with me. No one knew she had been my mother that she had found me and given me the life she never could years ago. No one knew that this school was built for me, for girls to escape early marriage and finally have a safe place to go to. Even in death, she was looking out for me