(Continued from Betraying the Sister Code III)
Mother and son glare at each other for almost a minute. Matthew’s eyes are bloodshot, and he smells of bhang. He must have been smoking when he heard his father come in singing drunkenly.
“What have you injected him with?” he demands.
“Who do you think you are, questioning me like that? Get out of my house,”
In line with Meru customs, Kyle and Matthew have a separate house. Circumcised boys do not stay in the same house as their mother, so parents build a separate house after their sons get circumcised, usually after Std. 8. Some parents, especially the wealthier ones, have abandoned the tradition but it is still widely practiced.
“Get out,” Christy says, pushing Matthew out. The boy slaps her repeatedly. At fourteen, he is taller and stronger than his mother. Christy screams.
Kyle bursts through the door and grabs his younger brother, slaps him and pulls him away from their mother.
“What do you think you are doing? How dare you hit Ma?”
He takes his mother and guides her to a chair. He does not see his brother grab a knife.
“Let me get you a glass of water Ma,” Kyle says. As he turns, Matthew stabs him twice in the stomach, and runs out. Christy starts screaming. Neighbors are used to a screams as Alexander beats her, so no one comes. These days only Kyle responds to her screams, and he usually pulls his drunk father away from her. Kyle is now a well-built young man who is almost eighteen, and Alexander doesn’t fight him. But Alexander is now snoring on the couch, and Kyle is bleeding heavily. So she is forced to go and knock doors and seek help in taking her son to hospital.
“Before I preach, I want to invite Brother Richard. He has something to say,” Reverend Micheni says. This has been one of the most perplexing cases he has seen. He has been a pastor for 21 years, in five different parishes, but never before has he seen an elder step down because of sin. In fact, rarely do congregants confess their sins. He has come to accept it, and thinks it is okay provided they repent to God when they fall into temptation. He is not one to play God and judge people.
Richard steps forward and stands just below the raised pulpit. He has come from the congregation, not from the front seats reserved for elders. Church elders in Presbyterian churches sit at the front, facing the congregation. He is dressed in a black suit, a pink shirt and a purple tie. A member of the youth gives him a microphone.
“Thank you Reverend for this opportunity,” he says then pauses as he surveys the congregation. These are people who hold him in high regard. He has been in their midst for close to eighteen years. He may not be a native, but they have embraced him and made him their own. He speaks Kimeru better than he speaks Kikamba. He has employed many of the young people at the hospital, some of whom he educated because their parents were too poor to afford school fees. He is a role model to many young people. He can feel tears stinging his eyes, but he fights them.
“I am grateful that you all took me in as one of your own when I married your daughter. I have become part of your community and you even gave me the honor of being a church elder in this congregation. That is a role I do not take lightly, and that is why I have decided to step down,”
There is sudden murmuring and he pauses to allow the congregation to quieten.
“Eighteen years ago, I stood on this altar and took your daughter as my wife. I promised to be faithful to her till death do us part. I have failed on that score. I have cheated on her with another woman. It was a mistake I deeply regret, and I told her so. She challenged me to come and confess before all of you if I was serious. I accepted because she is the most important part of my life. Once she saw I was serious about doing it, she immediately told me that I do not have to do it. That she only wanted to see if I was serious enough in my repentance to accept such a challenge. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is the right thing to do.”
He pauses again and surveys the congregation. They are all in stunned silence. He can see tears flowing down Dot’s face.
“I have repented before God and I believe he has forgiven me. My wife has also assured me that she has forgiven me. But as a leader in this church, I believe I owe all of you an apology. You had confidence in me, and I failed you. I am sorry. I have a teenage son, and he knows what I did. I am also a father figure to many of our young people here. I do not want any of them to think that cheating is what men do. No. Cheating is wrong and should be avoided at all costs. But if we fail, then we must take responsibility. I stand before you to ask for your forgiveness and to take responsibility by stepping down as an elder of this church.”
He hands over the microphone to the same youth who gave it to him and goes back to sit beside his wife. Dot stands and hugs him tightly, then they both sit down.
“What Brother Richard has done is very commendable,” Reverend Micheni begins.
“Pastor, I have something to say,” a young man shouts from the back. The congregation starts murmuring again. The boy is the son of the church chairman, Elijah Kabii, but he is a rebel. He is a drunkard who rarely steps in church. He is constantly fighting with his father, mostly over money he has stolen, a girl he has impregnated or the alcohol he takes.
“Yes Chris. What do you have to say?” Reverend Micheni is very tolerant, an aspect that endears him to many in his congregation.
“Pastor, to be honest I wasn’t coming to church because of God. There is a girl I am chasing and I wanted her to think I am serious with God so that she can accept me. But I think God used her to bring me to church today. Many of you think I am a bad boy. Maybe I am. But I just thought all of you are hypocrites, because of the things I saw in my house. My father has many children out of wedlock. One of the women who gave birth to his child was my girlfriend. My own father snatched my girlfriend and impregnated her because he has more money than I do. She now has two more children by him. He beats my mother almost daily but she protects him, for the sake of “the family image”. Then on Sunday they come to church holding hands like a happy couple. They even do marriage counselling in this church. So I thought you are all a bunch of hypocrites and I couldn’t take it anymore. But listening to Ba Rick today I figured, maybe there are honest people in church. Maybe church is not the problem, maybe it is my father who has gotten it all twisted. I have always wanted to be a better man, but a better man always meant being a hypocrite like my father, and I didn’t want that. But now I know I can be a better man without being a hypocrite. I want to be like Ba Rick. I think you shouldn’t allow him to step down. It is hypocrites like my father who should be fired,”
There is silence, then murmuring after Chris sits down. Suddenly the youth members start clapping and cheering, until the Reverend calms them down.
“I want to apologize to all of you,” Christy begins. She is sitting with Dot, Richard and Rick at their living room.
“I don’t know what came over me. I am sorry for almost ruining your family,” she says as she fights tears. “I am sorry Dot. You have been like a sister to me. Forgive me. And Rick, you are like a son to me. I am ashamed at what you saw. Please forgive me,”
“It’s okay,” Rick and Dot say simultaneously. Dot reaches out and takes Christy’s hand strokes it gently.
“Forgive me too Christy. I took advantage of you. I am really sorry,” Richard says.
Christy nods as tears finally start rolling down her cheeks.
Alexander strokes Kyle’s hand as the boy stirs. The boy is now out of danger, according to the doctors at Beeline Hospital. Richard and Dot have admitted him in a private ward, free of charge. Doctors said that no vital organs were touched by the knife. Alexander has not touched alcohol since his second born son stabbed his elder brother a week ago. For a man who drank daily, that is more than remarkable. He has already promised Christy that he will never touch alcohol again, and that he will be a more responsible father and husband. He intends to live by those words.
He has no idea that Christy almost killed him, or that he is only alive because she took the wrong bottle because it was dark and she was in a hurry, carrying harmless saline solution instead of anesthesia. By the time he woke up from his drunken stupor, his eldest son was in the ICU and his younger brother was on the run. Matthew has since been arrested.
The cops at Chogoria Police Station know him well, and they have been constantly reminding him for the past week that he is his son’s role model.
“This boy just wants to be tough like you. And tough to you means alcohol, women and violence. See what he is becoming,” they have been taunting him whenever he goes to see Matthew. This is what has made him promise himself and his family that he will change. He doesn’t want his children to kill each other or kill other people.
“I will even be coming to church with you,” he told Christy recently. She has been glowing with pride for the past week. She has even bought him new clothes.
Matthew is shaken. He did not intend to kill his brother. He hid in the bush for a day, crying, before the cops caught him. A week in the cell has also shaken him even further, even though the cops gave him a cell to himself because he is a minor. Going to court and being threatened with prison was even scarier.
“I will never touch any of that bad stuff again,” he promised his mother yesterday. “And I will never disrespect you again.” They managed to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges against him.
“I am so sorry son. I promise I will be a better man from now on,” Alexander says, once his son opens his eyes. Just then, the door opens and Christy, Dot, Richard, Rick, Matthew and Kyle’s other siblings walk in. Matthew is holding a large cake.
“I am so sorry bro. I did not intend to hurt you,”
“It is okay bro.”
“And today is your 18th birthday. Happy birthday!”
Kyle smiles as everyone breaks into a birthday song.
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