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by Anne Goodwin

The other children threw rocks at me, but that was all right when Mama was there to wipe away my tears. They called me Ghost Girl but she called me Pure. She said they were ignorant, I was special. People like me brought good luck.

Each evening, when the sun was done with blinding and burning, Mama and I sat outside our hut. With a stick, she scraped shapes in the dirt, and I copied her. Little by little I learned my letters. One day I’d know enough to read a book.

When I grew tired, I lay with my head in Mama’s lap staring at the stars while she told me stories. The warthog triumphed over the lion in Mama’s stories. The warthog might have been small and ugly but it had the better brain.

Mama warned me never to venture alone into the forest. The medicine man would get me, she said. But, with Mama gone and the neighbours wrapped in superstition, how else would I fetch the firewood to cook my food?

Now the doctor says I’m special, so special people walk miles for a lock of my hair. The doctor says my body can cure anything from malaria to leprosy. But I’d rather be back with the village children throwing rocks.

The doctor gets a goat for the clippings from my fingernails, an ox for a single toe. One day, if the offer’s good enough, he’ll sacrifice my beating heart.

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 70 published short stories. Catch up on her website, annethology, or on Twitter @Annecdotist.