An excerpt from Heart of Diamonds.
“Where are you from?” Jaime asked.
“Then you are Chokwe?”
“What happened when you were taken from your village?”
The boy didn’t answer. He looked at the ground between his feet.
“It’s okay,” Jaime said soothingly. “Was anyone hurt?”
Christophe sucked in a sharp breath and stiffened his small body against his memories. “Everyone was hurt,” he said. He glanced quickly at Jaime to see if he had said too much, then looked back down at the ground. He still hurt inside from the things that had been done to him, as well as the things he had seen.
“What happened?” Jaime asked gently. He wasn’t curious about the tale; he had heard more than enough of them already. But telling it might incise the wound festering in the boy’s heart.
Once he started, Christophe talked softly but rapidly, as if he wanted to get the story over with.
“The Lunda Libre came in the morning. It was so early no one had gone to the fields. We tried to run to the forest to hide, but there were too many of them and they shot us and chopped us and beat us with clubs. The noise and the smoke, it was horrible.
“I ran with ma mere and the baby, but she fell. Her feet tangled in her pagne and I couldn’t pull her up. The soldiers grabbed me and held my arms. I tried to fight them but they made me look at her anyway. I could not stop them.
“One soldier yanked the baby from ma mere and threw him on the ground. When the baby cried, the big soldier kicked him like a football and he flew threw the air and bounced on the ground on the other side of the road and then he lay still.” His voice became more agitated. “The other soldiers laughed. It was a big joke.” He lifted his head, staring at something in the distance Jaime couldn’t see.
“One man pulled ma mere’s pagne over her head. Another big soldier stomped on her until she stopped struggling. Then they all violated her, taking turns. One soldier kicked her between her legs before he stuck his thing into her. I tried to fight the soldiers holding me and yelled at them to stop hurting ma mere but they would not and one hit me in the stomach with his gun and I got sick on the ground. Ma mere screamed. Then the big solider cut off her sein with his machete and then he violated her with the blade and then she died in the dirt. I could not help her because they held me too hard.” His head drooped. He took a deep, shuddering breath before he looked up.
“C’est très triste,” Jaime said solemnly. Christophe went on as if he had not heard him, as if he could not stop telling the story now, his voice falling lower and lower until it became little more than a husky whisper. Jaime could barely hear him.
“Then they dragged me to the other end of the village. There were two of us. Eduard and me. They took us to a man from my village tied up in the road. It was Maurice Lumbanga. He was on his knees and they told us to kill him. Eduard would not do it, so they smashed his head with a club. The big soldier gave me a machete so heavy I had to hold it with both hands. He made me cut Maurice Lumbanga with it.
“They shouted and pointed to Eduard and waved their weapons at me until I raised the blade and swung it at Maurice Lumbanga’s head. His skin split and I saw his white bone. He fell over but he did not die. He cried out to me but my ears would not hear him.
“I chopped again and again. The machete was too heavy. I hit his shoulder and a piece of his flesh flew off. I hit his head again but he would not die. The soldiers kept yelling louder and louder. When I swung the blade, they laughed and cheered. Then the big soldier took the machete away from me. He put his pistol in my hand and held my wrist to aim it. ‘Be a warrior’ he shouted at me. So I shot Maurice Lumbanga in the face and his head blew up and his blood ran into the ground. Maurice Lumbanga gave me a whistle one time, but they made me kill him.”
Christophe stopped talking and sat motionless on the bench, his head bent so low Jaime couldn’t see his eyes. The breezeway was hot; the late afternoon sun baked the tin roof and no air moved through to cool it. In the stillness, Jaime could hear the distant grind of the machinery at the mine and the soft panting of the boy.