(Continued from Deadly Machismo II)
The week has gone by in a blur. Wambui is just watching the days go by, the sun rising and setting in an everlasting rhythm. But her life seems to have ground to a halt. Everything that could have gone wrong seems to have gone wrong. Somehow, the M’Nairobi family is blaming her for the death of Gatune. But that is not the worst of it; the worst of it is that Murithi seems to agree with them. Since the day he walked away from her after learning that his mother had died, Murithi has uttered only one sentence to her, and that was a day later. On that day, she was pleading with him to allow a postmortem to be conducted on his mother to ascertain her true cause of death.
“There is no need for that,” he said calmly. “Because we already know what killed her: injuries inflicted by her son, and the negligence of her doctor, who also happened to be her daughter-in-law.”
That had stung Wambui like a hot knife. She has replayed the events of that night in her mind over and over again, and she is more than sure that Gatune was long dead before she arrived. There was truly nothing that she could have done to save the old lady’s life.
The postmortem was conducted anyway. Since Mutegi was being charged with murder, the investigating officers insisted that a postmortem was necessary to prove that Gatune actually died from injuries inflicted by Mutegi and not from any other underlying conditions. The pathologist concluded that Gatune had cracked her skull and raptured several blood vessels in her head after hitting a flat surface such as a wall or a floor, and had “most likely died on impact or soon thereafter.”
That report has not changed Murithi’s attitude towards his wife. During the first two days, she tried to reason with him and plead her innocence, but all her pleas fell on deaf ears. He looked at her as though he was listening, but after she made her plea, he would go on staring at her like a statue. That frustrated her so much that she stopped trying.
He is talking to everyone except her. At home, he is talking to the gardener, the house assistant, as well as their two sons, who have come home from boarding school to attend their grandmother’s burial; but he is not talking to her. At work, if he needs something from her, he has developed a pattern: he sends his secretary who talks to her secretary and the message is put across. The first time he did that, she picked the phone and called him. But he hung up when he realised that it was she who wanted to speak to him.
She has adapted to his new way of working, although with a lot of difficulty. Before Gatune’s death, whenever their schedules allowed they would drop by each other’s offices just to chat. Now they are hardly seeing each other. Murithi is spending the bulk of his time on his sister-in-law’s bedside. Kawira has recovered greatly, and now, according to the nurses, she is even eating and speaking. Murithi leaves the hospital and goes straight to the meetings of the funeral committee, and then goes back to the hospital before going home to sleep.
Wambui visited Kawira yesterday and she (Kawira) refused to talk to her. She just stared at Wambui blankly and said nothing. Shortly afterwards, Murithi arrived. He walked to Kawira’s bedside and pecked her cheek. The two of them started chatting as if Wambui was not there. Wambui got the message and left.
All this is now infuriating her, but she had decided to play along. Burial plans are ongoing, but she has been excluded. She did attend on the first day, but all the people who spoke on that day threw jabs at her.
“These days things have really changed. Murderers have no shame. They even attend the funeral arrangements of their victims,” her father-in-law said at one point. His brothers, Murithi’s uncles, followed suit and threw veiled insults at her. She sat there calmly, even though she wanted to walk away. Of course she did not attend the next meeting; or the next. She has missed all the meetings after that, and she knows that her absence is somehow being used to spread the narrative of her guilt.
Ironically, Zebedee has been using the same forums to try and convince everyone who cares to listen that his son Mutegi is innocent. He claims that Mutegi cannot really be blamed because he was drunk and therefore did not know what he was doing. Mutegi, according to his father, deeply loved his mother and wife and therefore could not have wished them harm. His only problem is the alcohol.
Zebedee hired a well-known criminal lawyer from Meru town for his son. But Murithi retained an equally good lawyer to watch brief for Kawira. Kawira’s lawyer vigorously opposed Mutegi’s bail application. The magistrate ultimately ruled that Mutegi should remain in custody until all the prosecution witnesses have testified, at which point the bail application will be revisited.
Wambui doesn’t care anymore. She has cried until her wells of tears have run dry. Tomorrow is Gatune’s burial. She has decided that she will attend the funeral service in church but skip the burial ceremony which has been declared an exclusively family affair. She knows that she has never been considered a member of the M’Nairobi family. But it has never mattered to her because she always had her husband’s unwavering support. Now she doesn’t have her husband’s support either, so what will she be doing there?
The biggest headache for her relates to her marriage. One part of her tells her that Murithi is mourning and that he will be back to his reasonable self after the grieving is over. But for how long is she supposed to wait for that to happen? What is worrying her more is the apparent closeness between her husband and Kawira, his sister-in-law. They are spending too much time together, and she is worried that they might get involved in an emotional entanglement that might develop into a fully blown sexual affair.
Wambui wakes up early on the day of Gatune’s funeral service. She prepares breakfast takes a shower and then relaxes on the couch to read. Her bed has become cold. Sharing a bed with someone who is not speaking to you is a tall order. It is even worse when that person is your best friend of many years who has suddenly become a stranger.
The boys and their father take breakfast silently. The boys are jolly characters, having taken their mother’s sanguine character. But they have been subdued these few days. At first Wambui thought that it was because they were mourning their grandmother, whom they adored; but she was shocked when they confronted her yesterday.
“Mum, is everything okay between you and dad?” the older one, Munene, asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Why then is dad not speaking to you?” the younger one, Kinyua, pressed.
She was tempted to tell the boys to go ask their father that question, but she crushed that thought. She would not stoop so low as to fight her marital battles through the children.
“Your father has just lost his mother, darling. He needs some time to process the grief, and then everything will be fine.”
“Then why is he speaking to everyone else except you?”
“I don’t know. But grief affects everyone differently. I am sure this will all pass.”
“Grandpa told us that you killed gramdma. Is that true?”
“Of course it is not true. Why would I want to harm her? She was a sweet woman.”
“Promise us mum, that you and dad will work this out and that you will not divorce.”
That was a tough one for her. She did not want to give the boys promises she could not keep, but at the same time she did not want to alarm them.
“Your father will be fine, sweethearts. With our support, he will process his grief and our family will go back to what it has always been.”
As she watches the boys and their father taking breakfast silently, she wonders whether what she had said was true. Would they ever go back to being a happy family or is this the end of it? She knows that Zebedee and his brothers are poisoning Murithi’s mind. Kathomi has also come home for the funeral, and without a doubt she is taking advantage of Murithi’s emotional vulnerability to advance her war against Wambui.
Murithi and his sons file out of the house silently after brushing their teeth. They are headed to the mortuary. Wambui has already decided that she is not going there either. She moves to the window to watch them leave. As the car disappears from sight, tears start rolling down her cheeks.
Wambui is driving out of the compound on her way to the church for the funeral service when she is stopped by a young man in a suit.
“Good morning madam.”
“Good morning. What can I do for you?”
“Are you Mrs. Wambui Murithi?”
“Yes I am.”
“I am Wesley from Mutuma & Gikamba Advocates. I need to serve you with these documents.”
“What are they?”
“It is a law suit.”
“What kind of suit is it? Who has sued me?”
“I don’t know madam. I am not a lawyer; I am just a process server. I need you to sign here and here,” the young man says, showing her where to sign. Wambui quickly signs where she is shown then quickly scans the document. Her heart nearly stops. It is a medical malpractice suit filed by her father-in-law Zebedee on behalf of his deceased wife Gatune.
Her husband Murithi is listed in the list of witnesses as the second witness. The first witness is the plaintiff, her father-in-law Zebedee. Tellingly, Mutuma & Gikamba Advocates is the same firm that Murithi retained for Kawira. Both Lawrence Mutuma and Bernard Gikamba were Murithi’s schoolmates at Kangaru School. What that means is that this suit has the full blessings of her husband.
Wambui decides to attend the funeral service anyway, and then go hunting for a lawyer later.
Image by Jasmin Chew from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-model-pose-sky-dress-casual-5440728/
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