Entitlement I-By Edward Maroncha
This story is a sequel to the story My Flesh and Blood which is available at the e-bookstore.
Flora is seated on the sofa in her house, sipping a concoction made from lemons, ginger, garlic and honey. This is her way of combating the aggressive flu that has plagued her and her son Julian. Julian is under medication. Flora took him to hospital and he was given a cough syrup, antibiotics and paracetamol for the fevers. The boy is asleep now. It breaks Flora’s heart to see her son feeling unwell, because Julian is ordinarily a very lively boy. He is three years old and in play group. Her first born child, Wendy, is five years old and in PP2.
Wendy was born to Nelson and Flora when Flora was thirty-seven years of age, and Julian when she was thirty-nine. Now she is forty-two, and she doesn’t intend to get other babies. She is approaching menopause anyway. Flora walked out of her marriage to that philanderer Jerome at the age of thirty-five. She had sworn that she was done with men, and her plan was to adopt a child or two and then bring them up as a single parent. So even when she met Nelson at a church conference, dating and marriage was the last thing on her mind. After walking out of her matrimonial home, Flora suffered a crisis of faith. The man who had betrayed her was a pastor. Her parents and parents-in-law, who had also turned their backs on her, were also staunch Christians. Flora was feeling abandoned by the God she had served ever since she was a child.
Still, she had gone to church every Sunday since childhood, and she wasn’t about to stop. But she didn’t want to go to Beatitude Ministries, even though the Thika one was where she and Jerome had been fellowshipping before establishing their own congregation in Kenol. She opted to be attending a KAG church that is close to her home. She became a Sunday Christian, attending Sunday services and going straight home afterwards. She did not attend midweek services or lunch hour services or participate in any of the church programs.
The Restoration Conference was the first church program outside the Sunday Service that she attended, and she often says it is as though God wanted her to be there so that she could meet Nelson. She had actually registered on a whim an hour before the registration deadline.
But she was not looking for a boyfriend, and as she came to learn, Nelson was also not looking for a date either. He was still mourning his family, which had been wiped out in a road accident. Nelson had been married to Bernice for ten years, and they had three sons. One day, while Nelson was in Malawi attending a work conference, Bernice decided to take the boys for a football tournament organized by their church as part of Vacation Bible School (VBS). On their way, however, an out-of-control lorry rammed into their vehicle killing all of them instantly.
At the time of their death, Bernice was only thirty-six years old. Their first born, Glad, was eleven years old; Michael was nine and Daniel was seven. Glad had been born before Nelson and Bernice got married. They had been campus sweethearts, and Bernice had gotten pregnant in their final year. They had planned to get married shortly after their graduation, but they delayed their plans because of Bernice’s pregnancy. They started living together, and Nelson initiated the traditional wedding ceremonies when Glad was four months old. They officially got married in a church ceremony a week after the boy turned one. The other two boys followed quickly. Michael a year after the wedding and Daniel two years after that. Nelson was just preparing to give a presentation when he was told about the tragedy that had struck his family. He was called by his sister and after hanging up, he pulled the organizer of the event aside and told him what he had been told. Then he called his boss in Nairobi and repeated the same message. He raced to the airport, tears flowing down his cheeks. His boss pulled strings from Nairobi and got him a Kenya Airways flight within two hours.
Nelson had a beautiful family. The photos are still on the walls. Nelson wanted to remove them after his wedding to Flora but she told him that she had no problem with them remaining on the walls.
“Bernice and the boys are part of your story. I would be very selfish to mess with that.”
Nelson and Flora met two years after the accident, and six months after Flora had walked out of her marriage. Nelson was one of the speakers at the Restoration Conference, and spoke about “the Job Experience”. He was basically sharing his story, and how he healed after losing his entire family and related it to the experience of the Biblical Job.
During tea break, Flora found herself standing behind him on the queue, and they got talking. Flora thanked him for the presentation and told him that it was enlightening.
“My story is not nearly as heartbreaking as yours, but I have been hurting. Hearing your story was refreshing, and I believe it will help me on my journey of healing.”
“What happened to you?”
Flora explained to him what had happened between her husband and her sister. She also told him about her barrenness and her betrayal by her parents and in-laws.
“You know, in some way your situation is worse than mine,” Nelson told her.
“What? No way. It is not even close. You lost your entire family. You will never see them again.”
“That is true. But look at it this way, after the shock of their death wore of, and the pain of their departure subsided, what I am left with are fond memories of Bernice and the boys. You, on the other hand, will always be stung by the betrayal that was shown to you. Whenever I remember Bernice and the boys, what I feel is sadness and nostalgia. You, on the other hand, are more likely to feel anger and bitterness. That is a deep wound that will take time to heal.”
Somehow, over the course of the three-day conference, Nelson and Flora became close friends. He started calling her regularly just to find out how she was. She found that she was really enjoying his company. Within six months, they were dating. They got married traditionally within a year, about a month after Flora’s divorce became absolute. The white wedding was held two months later. There was some murmuring, with some of Flora’s relatives claiming that she “had moved on too fast.” Some even claimed that she had been cheating on Jerome with Nelson. But, with the support of Nelson, she chose to ignore all naysayers and focus on her happiness.
The dowry negotiations became the first challenge the couple faced. After parting ways with Jerome, and having been betrayed by her family, Flora had cut off all the support she had been giving to her family. The monthly support she had been giving to her parents stopped. She had been educating some of her siblings’ children, and that stopped too. She told them to go and get financial support from Ruth. After all, they had supported Ruth when she took over her home.
But Ruth had turned against them. After inserting herself in Jerome’s life, and even before she became officially married, Ruth had become ungovernable. She was rude to everyone, including their parents and siblings, Jerome’s parents, church staff and even the congregation. People were leaving the church in droves partly because of her attitude. Jerome’s mother died of hypertension and his father followed soon after, and people suggested that it was because of the stress occasioned by their new daughter-in-law. Many people begged Jerome to drop her and try to woo Flora back, but Jerome refused. Ruth was carrying his baby, and that is all that mattered to him. Flora wouldn’t have gone back to him anyway.
Flora’s parents saw the dowry negotiations as a way to revenge for the lack of financial support. They set exorbitant prices. The good thing was that Flora had had a candid conversation with Nelson and his parents and had warned them that was likely to happen. As Flora’s parents dug in with their irrational demands, Nelson’s uncle brought them back to the earth with a singular reality.
He told them that his son wasn’t obliged to pay dowry to them, because they had already received dowry from Jerome, and that they were only doing it out of courtesy and to build a relationship.
“If you don’t stop this greed we will go to Jerome’s parents to refund them what they paid to you so that our son can marry Flora.”
That threat worked wonders because the unreasonable demands ceased immediately, and Flora’s people even became friendly. The dowry negotiations went on smoothly after that.
Flora’s parents may have allowed their wedding to go on, but the sense of entitlement did not end. Flora has always been the junior parent to her siblings, and her parents wanted her to resume that role. After their wedding, Nelson and Flora built rental houses for Flora’s parents on their piece of land in the village, so that they would be able to sustain themselves. All the houses are occupied. They also started a poultry project for Flora’s siblings who dropped out of school. It was actually Nelson’s idea. He told Flora that instead of giving handouts, they should help the folks back in the village sustain themselves.
But that has hardly been enough for Flora’s relatives. Her parents still expect her to continue sending a monthly stipend to them. And they have been insisting that Flora should “finish the good work she started” by continuing to educate her siblings’ children. Never mind that the poultry project is flourishing. Comically, even her brother William, who Flora educated until he became a TSC teacher in one of the local primary schools, wants Flora to take his two sons to boarding school.
The most ridiculous of the demands is that the family now wants Flora to help Ruth “get back to her feet.” When Jerome’s financial situation deteriorated, Ruth dumped her son Malcolm at her ex-lover Fred’s work place and disappeared. Having known that Jerome was infertile, Ruth had gotten pregnant with Fred and duped Jerome that the pregnancy was his. But she told him the truth when he became broke. Fred’s wife Jessica embraced the boy as her own. Ruth reappeared two months ago looking malnourished and with twin girls in tow. Flora’s parents want Flora to adopt the two girls and secure their future and to give Ruth money to start a business.
“You cannot turn away children, Flora,” her mother said. “Even God will not be happy. Do you remember there was a time you were praying for years for God to give you children? And as for Ruth, she is still your sister. Forgiveness is a virtue. Help her to get back to her feet.”
Flora being the first born in her family, educated her youngest sister from high school through to the university. Ruth repayed her by sleeping with Flora’s ex-husband Jerome, and she was the reason Jerome and Flora divorced.
Flora has put her foot down and refused to continue playing junior parent to her siblings. She has told her parents that by educating Ruth and William, she played her part in helping them secure their future. She also did the same for her other siblings by starting the poultry project for them. She made it clear that she wouldn’t be giving any more handouts.
Her parents warned her that God’s wrath would be upon her if she doesn’t continue helping her family.
Flora’s phone rings. It is her father calling. She doesn’t have the energy to talk to the man. Three days ago Nelson got into a road accident and is now in hospital. When they learnt about it, Flora’s parents promptly called to remind her about God’s curse. That is why she doesn’t feel like picking up this call. But she picks up anyway.
“Hello Pa,” she says, and then she gets into a fit of coughing.
“Are you also sick?” the old man asks.
“It is just a cold Father. Julian picked up a flu at the kindergarten and brought it home.”
“No child, it is not a just a cold. It is God punishing you for your pride. Even your daughter Wendy will fall sick unless you turn away from your arrogant ways. Don’t mess with God, child. He might even wipe away your entire family…”
Flora doesn’t wait for him to complete the sentence. She hangs up and flings the phone across the room.
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See you all on Saturday. –Edward.