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When the bell rang, the pupils in class seven were excited. The bell marked the end of a mathematics class whose teacher inspired more fear than diligence. It was the way mathematics was taught in that and every other school in the country. The bell also meant it was time for tea and play. The pupils quickly packed their books inside their wooden desks and scampered for the door. One girl however did not rise with the rest. She sat still. Unable to think. Unable to act.

In a split of a second, she was all alone in the class of forty-five pupils. She heard the shrill laughter as children filled the school’s football pitch. When she was sure nobody was watching, she stood up and turned her head to inspect her bum. She imagined it was not there and hoped it was not as ugly as she felt it. But there, in agonizing reddish pink, was a large patch on her dress. She had even left a smear on the seat. It was the second time it was happening. The first time, she was surprised and happy. She had finally become a woman. The gladness was quickly replaced by shame when the boys in her class taunted and jeered at her. Her girlfriends had helped her. A female teacher gave her a pack of sanitary towels, a hug and some advice. Now it was happening again, she could not bother her friends or her teacher again. The towels she had received could have lasted for another cycle but her mother had adviced her to share them with her elder sister in form three and promised to buy more to replace them. A month had passed. She had forgotten. But not really, the previous couple of days she experienced lower abdominal pains, something the teacher had called cramps during their short session. She, the girl, reminded her mother of the promise but that did not end well. There was no money. Sanitary towels were a luxury.

“Ukiona nakukosea kaa nyumbani hadi mvua iishe,” her mother scolded.

As she stood there in shame, she wished she had listened to her mother’s words. She also regretted showing off the pack of towels when she got home a month earlier. In an instant, the girl hated her mother and sister. As the hatred rose like bile, she began hating herself too.

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