Continued from Siblings I
The whole room falls silent. There is hardly anyone who could have anticipated this turn of events. How is someone expected to move on from here? Formalities aside, Bruce and Damaris are for all intents and purposes a married couple. They have lived together for four years; and they have been sleeping together for seven. They have three children. And they love each other. How are they expected to move on from here?
“Mother,” Damaris says with a shaking voice. “Why did you lie to me? I thought you told me that my father died when I was a child?”
“I am sorry child, but the truth is that all these years I have been harboring bitterness against Harold. That man ruined my life. He got me pregnant, denied the pregnancy, got me expelled from school and even indirectly got me kicked out of my own home. Even though I don’t regret having you, the truth is that I have suffered as I brought you up child. Most of that suffering was emotional because I couldn’t afford all the things I wished I could provide for you. I couldn’t give you the life you deserved…”
“So even your parents did not die when you were a child?”
“No, they are still alive. Or at least they were still alive when I was pregnant with you, which is the last time I saw or heard from any of them. When they heard that I had been sneaking out of school and that I was pregnant, they kicked me out of their home…”
“Were you sneaking out of school?”
“Yes. Harold is the one who cut a deal with one of the watchmen in the school, and the watchman would just let me pass. The watchman also had a girlfriend in the school and Harold knew about it. So I would go to Harold’s house after preps, cook for him, wash the dishes and then we would go to bed. I would return to school early in the morning.”
“Your classmates didn’t notice that you were never in your bed at night?”
“I was a prefect so I had my own cubicle.”
“If you had a watchman who would let you pass, then how did you get caught?”
“I missed my periods and I told Harold. Strangely that night he actually said he would support me and that he would marry me when schools closed. He said he would pay my school fees after I gave birth so that I would return to school. So I slept easy that night. We even made love.
The following evening, as I sneaked out again, the same watchman who used to help me cross the fence “caught” me and took me to the deputy head teacher. I was shocked. I pleaded with the watchman not to report me but he pretended not to even know me. It was at night and the Deputy Principal had left for the day so she told me to go to her office the following morning. She didn’t want to deal with disciplinary cases at night. When I went to her office the following morning, she took me to the principal. It was the second time I had been caught sneaking out so I was expelled.”
“You had been caught another time?”
“Yes, but that time the watchman had been sick and he hadn’t alerted Harold. So I was caught by his colleagues. I didn’t mention Harold that time, and I wish I did. I mentioned him the second time but the principal did not believe me. Harold was the good Christian man, and the Christian Union Patron. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was also dating the principals’ daughter, who is now Bruce’s mother. So she was actually very fond of him. I stood no chance.”
“Why did you your parents kick you out?”
“They were strict Pentecostal Christians and they were ashamed of me. I guess they wanted to prove to the community that they had done their part and that my behavior was not a reflection of a failure on their part. They wanted to prove that they were willing to mete out the ultimate punishment for my waywardness.
My mother actually looked at me in the eye and called me a prostitute who will burn in hell forever. I have never forgiven her for that. I have never forgiven all of them. That is why even when life became difficult in Mathare North, because there were many times when it bordered on impossible, I reminded myself that I was now an orphan. By the time you were born, I had convinced myself that I was now an orphan with no known relatives.”
Tears are now flowing freely down Anne’s cheeks. Damaris had been angry at her mother’s deception, but her heart has now melted. She has moved closer to her mother and wrapped her hands around her.
“I was a bright girl. It is true that I was quite naughty, which is how I got involved with a teacher in the first place…”
“You were a child, mother,” Bruce says, breaking his silence for the first time. “My father was the adult. He should have known better.”
Damaris and Anne are surprised at the conviction in his voice. He has been quiet all along, and he had been actually forgotten, just as Anne’s friends got forgotten until they quietly sneaked out and went to their homes after sensing that the family would need some privacy. The children seem to have sensed that all is not well, and they are seated quietly next to their father. The toddler is asleep in his father’s arms.
“I had dreams of becoming a secondary school teacher,” Anne continues. “And it was a realistic dream, because I worked hard in school and always remained in the top five of my class. Even when I started fooling around with Harold, my grades did not drop. But then all those dreams came tumbling down when I was expelled from school and kicked out by my parents.
That is why when you got pregnant I was begging you to come home. I did not want you and my grandchild to suffer out there the way I suffered. I do not have much, but at least here you would have been assured of the basic needs. And I wanted you to be free to look for a proper job. But I am glad Bruce has been taking care of you, although now the situation has become complicated.”
“I have been a good brother, taking care of my sister,” Bruce jokes and they all manage to laugh.
“The only problem is that you put your sister the family way, not once, not twice but thrice. You are a hero bro,” Damaris quips amidst more laughter. “But seriously mother, what are we going to do now? Don’t tell me that Bruce and I have to break up because I don’t want that. And even if we break up, it will not change the fact that he is the father of my children.”
“I really don’t know what to say, child. I am just as stunned as you are. I think we will pray and God will give us directions on what we should do. But before that I have to sincerely apologize to both of you for my role in all this. If I had told Damaris the truth about her heritage, maybe she would have been more careful.”
“I really doubt it mother,” Bruce says. “I don’t think we looked into each other’s family tree before we started messing around, so I don’t think anything would have changed even if she had known that her father was still alive. I certainly wouldn’t have believed that my father has a child out of wedlock, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I come from what people would call a “proper” family. My father is a church elder, my mother is the chairlady of the woman’s guild. I was a youth leader as a teen. Which is actually why I have taken this long to come out and meet the family. I was embarrassed because everyone thought I was this holy young man who would never get involved in premarital sex. I am also surprised at myself. But I met Damaris, I fell in love and stuff just happened.”
“You have done by far much better than your father, son,” Anne says kindly. “At least you did not abandon Damaris even though you were also a student when she became pregnant.”
“You know the worst part of what my father did is that I think he was playing both you and my mother. Damaris and I are roughly the same age so I guess he was sleeping with both you and my mother. And since I don’t think there was a premarital sex scandal involving my parents, their wedding must have been quickly arranged when they discovered that my mother was pregnant. Anyway, my point is, we also brought this upon ourselves. I should have come to see you before I started doing unholy things with your daughter. That is what a good Christian would have done. But I got carried away by the passions of the world and here were are, thick in a mess.”
“I am sure God will show us the path to take, my boy,” Anne says kindly.
“Thank you mother. I think I will go home right away and have this conversation with my father. We intended to stay at a hotel overnight and return to Kisumu tomorrow. You can help Damaris and the kids find a place to spend the night because I have to go to Murang’a alone…”
“It is okay my son. This is their home as well. They can spend the night with me if that is okay with you.”
“That is fine mother. We just didn’t want to bother you.”
“It’s not a bother at all. I am more than happy to spend some time with them.”
“Thank you mother. I guess I have to leave now. I will see you all tomorrow, God willing.”
“Have a safe journey, and may God give you wisdom and insights as you talk to your parents.”
Bruce leaves the house, and it is only when he gets down to the street that he realizes that he doesn’t have a car. His car is still parked at his house in Kisumu. He considers getting a taxi, but using a taxi to get to Murang’a might be too expensive. On the other hand, if he decides to use public means, he will probably get to Murang’a tomorrow. Using public transport means getting into a matatu here and waiting for it to fill up, going to the CBD and getting into another matatu, which he also has to wait to fill up before the journey to Murang’a begins. He is just about to go back to Anne to ask her where he can rent a car when another idea occurs to him. He sees a pickup truck with “ask for transport” sign parked near a petrol station. He negotiates with the driver and the man agrees to take him to Ruiru. In fact, the man is happy that there are no goods to be loaded and offloaded at the destination. He assures Bruce, who has never lived in the city, that they will get to Ruiru without passing through the CBD. Bruce realizes that this is actually a better idea than a rental car; he would have seriously gotten lost in the streets of Nairobi if he had decided to drive himself. Bruce intends to get a Murang’a bound matatu at Ruiru.
Once the pickup starts moving, Bruce leans back on the seat and closes his eyes. He is happy that the driver is not one of the talkative types, because right now he needs to think. His conversation with his father will not be pleasant, that is a fact. Bruce has always idolized his father; in Bruce’s eyes, Harold has always seen as the paragon of virtue. How then could such a man have done such a vile thing?
To be continued on Wednesday
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