Continued from Siblings II
Bruce does remember to do a little shopping for his mother at Magunas supermarket at Mukuyu in Murang’a, before hopping onto a motorcycle to take him to his parents’ home in Maragi. He is a well brought up young man, and he knows that he cannot visit his parents empty handed. The shopping is not as extensive as what they did for Anne, because it was not planned for, but as they say, it is the gesture that counts.
Harold and his wife Linet live in a beautiful one story house in Maragi, on a piece of land that was gifted to them by Linet’s mother on their wedding day. June’s house is across the fence, and when Bruce gets home, he finds her taking tea with his mother on the porch. Linet’s mother, June, adores her grandchildren, and she greets Bruce with a lot of warmth.
Whenever Harold or Linet beat up Bruce and his siblings, they would always run across the fence to seek refuge in their grandmother’s house. They knew that their parents would not come for them there. Bruce and Damaris had planned to come to Maragi next month, and one of the highlights of the visit would have been the encounter between June and her greatgrandchildren. There is a reason June clings to her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren like that: they represent the growth of a family that she nearly lost.
June got married young, and she got four children in quick succession. Linet was her first born, and she was followed by two boys and another girl. June was married to a military man, an Airforce colonel, who bought this land and built their home. But tragedy struck one day. The colonel was home on leave and he decided to take the children out. June couldn’t go because she had a school function she could not miss. The school was holding a prize giving ceremony, in which the Minister for Education was the Chief Guest, and she was the master of ceremonies. She was the Deputy Principal then.
She received the call almost immediately after she had invited the school principal to take the microphone and invite the minister to speak. That call that nearly paralyzed her: she was informed by a cop that her husband and children had been involved in a grisly road accident on their way to Sagana. The cop refused to give her further details, but urged her to run to the police station. That made her heart beat even faster. Why were they asking her to go to the police station and not to the hospital where her husband and her children had been taken?
She did not even wait for the principal to finish speaking so that she could ask for his permission to leave. She just told one of the teachers to let him know that she was gone. She raced all the way to Murang’a Police Station, where she was met by a lady officer who broke the news to her. Her husband’s car had been hit by a lorry carrying sand. The lorry had lost control on the descent, while colonel had been on the ascent. There is nothing the Colonel could have done to prevent the accident. He and his three children died on the spot. Linet is the only child who survived because she was not in the car. She was a boarder at Bishop Gatimu Ng’andu Girls then, and so she was in school when the accident happened.
June screamed all over the police station, and it took four lady officers to calm her down. She was so devastated that she was not in the correct mental state to go and identify the bodies. It is her sister and the late colonel’s brother who went. The cops rushed her to hospital where she was given a sedative and blood pressure medicine.
The colonel left behind considerable wealth, but there was no drama during succession. The colonel’s father said that June would be the one to subdivide the property, and that everyone would have to appreciate what they got. The colonel had been educating his younger siblings as well as shouldering other responsibilities at their home. To avoid being drawn into a family conflict, June decided she would not give the colonel’s brothers anything. She took half of the wealth, including the Colonel’s share of the ancestral land and gave it to the Colonel’s father, on the understanding that he would now be responsible for his own family. June remains in good terms with her in-laws to date, even though her parents-in-law and a couple of brothers-in-law are long dead. June never remarried.
When Linet introduced Harold as the man she intended to marry, June was excited. She was getting another family member, and the prospects of her daughter getting married meant she would get grandchildren. Her family, which had been wiped out, was being rebuilt through Linet. June had another reason to be pleased. Harold was a mature and very stable young man: a kind, polite and well-mannered Christian. She could not have chosen a better person for a son-in-law.
When she came to know that Harold came from a poor background, she decided to embrace him as her own son. That is why she donated this land to him and his wife and even helped them build their house. June never regretted the decision. Over the years, Harold has proven himself to be a fine man, father, husband and son-in-law.
“Where is father?” Bruce asks as he approaches his mother and grandmother.
“What is the matter son?” Linet asks. “You come unexpectedly and you start demanding to see your father without even greeting us?”
“I am sorry mother. Where are my manners? Hello mother, hello grandmother,” Bruce says, pecking both of them on the cheeks. He is very fond of both women, and even though he had fleeting thoughts about his grandmother’s involvement in the Anne/Damaris saga, he has dismissed those thoughts. It is his father who should answer for his own actions.
“Why do you need your father so urgently? Maybe we can help you,” Linet says.
“Where is he though?” Bruce asks, heaving himself onto one of the remaining chairs on the porch. Linet calls the house assistant and asks her to serve Bruce a cup of tea and to take away the shopping that he has come with.
“Thank you for these items son,” Linet says with a smile. “About your father, he went for a PCMF meeting in church. But he should be getting back round this time. Is there a problem?”
“Maybe, or maybe not. Only dad can answer that question. But just to ask, when you got married to dad, were you pregnant with me?”
Linet suddenly looks uncomfortable, and it is obvious that this is a discussion she does not want to have. She glances at her mother, who nods subtly.
“Yes son, your father and I fell into sexual sin and I became pregnant. But we were young and in love…”
“I, am not judging you mother. I am in no position to judge anyone. I have three children with a woman I am not officially married to, so I know how the emotions work.”
“Thank you son. Your father and I did not even have enough money for the wedding, but your grandmother here sponsored it to cover our shame. When we got married my pregnancy wasn’t showing, because I was only four months pregnant at the time. Of course there were a few murmurs in church when my pregnancy started showing soon thereafter, and when I gave birth five months after the wedding, but no one said a thing to me, Harold or mother here. The fact was that we were now married.”
As they are talking, Harold drives into the compound and parks in his car port.
“Hello my boy,” he says with a smile when he gets to the porch. “How is Kisumu?”
“Kisumu is fine dad.”
“And your people? Weren’t you supposed to bring them to us so that we can see them?”
“That was the plan father, but it was to happen next month, not today. Today we went visiting Damaris’ mother. I left them there and came here because there has been a development.”
“What development? What are you talking about?”
“Father, tell me the truth, have you ever slept with any other woman, other than mother, in your life?”
“Wow,” June says. “What kind of question is that?”
“It is a question to father, let him answer.”
“I am not going to sit here and be insulted by you Bruce,” Harold says angrily, rising to his feet.
“It is a simple question darling. Just answer it. I am sure Bruce will tell us why he asked such a question, won’t you son?”
“Of course I will mother. But dad needs to answer the question.”
“The answer to that question is no, son. I have never slept with any other woman other than your mother. She was my first and only girlfriend.”
“So you don’t know a woman called Anne Wangari?”
Bruce sees a brief moment of shock on his father’s face, but the older man quickly masks it. Bruce wonders whether his mother has seen it.
“No, son,” Harold replies calmly. “I do not know who that is.”
Bruce knows that his father is lying, but he decides not to push the issue. There are many ways to kill a rat.
“Okay. Grandma, do you know who Anne Wangari is? She was your student at Mumbi Girls back in the day, before you expelled her because she was playing truant and wound up pregnant.”
“Yes, I do remember her,” June says. “She was a very naughty girl. I remember when I expelled her she was pleading with me saying that she was just an innocent kid and that….wait, how do you know about Anne?”
“She was saying what grandma? Please complete the statement. I will tell you how I found her later.”
“She was saying that she was misled by one of the teachers. According to her, it was Harold put her in the family way. Of course I didn’t believe her because it was obvious she was looking for a scapegoat. There was no way any of my teachers, least of all Harold, would have been messing around with my girls without my knowledge. You have to remember Anne, Harold. She was a short, plump and very light skinned girl.”
“I think I do remember her vaguely. Did you meet her somewhere son?”
“I didn’t just meet her dad. The woman who has given birth to my three children, the same woman I have been living with for years, is Anne’s daughter. Today I visited Anne for the first time and we were all excited to see each other. Until we did introductions and she realised that I am Harold’s son. She was so shocked, because as she explained it, my wife Damaris is also your daughter.”
“Oh my God,” Linet gasps.
“That woman was lying” Harold says hotly. “What is this now? Over twenty years later and that woman won’t leave me alone?”
“I don’t think she was lying dad.”
“So you decide to believe a stranger over your own father?”
“You think I like being in this situation?” Bruce shoots back. “Trust me I desperately want all this to be a lie because I desperately love Damaris. Do you know what will happen to my family if Damaris turns out to be my blood sister?”
“That woman is manipulating you, son,” Harold replies calmly. “She tried to drag me into her mess twenty years ago but your grandmother saw right through her. Maybe she wants to get back at your grandmother for expelling her from school.”
“Maybe. And I desperately hope you are right dad. But there is only one way of finding out. You and Damaris will do a DNA test to establish whether or not you are her father. That is the surest way to put all this story to rest.”
“I will do no such thing” Harold snaps, banging the table. “I will not allow myself to be reduced to such indignity. If you don’t believe me…”
“You are going to do it Harold,” June says, her eyes narrowing. In her hey days, whenever she narrowed her eyes like that, students and teachers alike would tremble. Now, even though she is eighty five years old, the narrowed eyes cause Harold to shut up.
“On Monday morning I will take you and that girl Damaris to a clinic to do the test. Bruce needs closure on this subject.”
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