(I first wrote this story as a short story in June 2018. I am rewriting it and expanding it into a novella)
Grandpa Aaron is dead. The old man Aaron was a black Mafioso, a tough old brute who had a glacier for a heart and hailstones for emotions. He was in his 50s when Sebastian was born, still strong enough to rough up Isabella, Sebastian’s grandmother, as well as continue populating the earth with his growing clan of fatherless children. He had established his reputation as the sower of wild oats.
Sebastian adored his grandmother Isabella. She was as sweet as any grandmother can be, and for many reasons he considered her to be his mother. The fact that Aaron cheated on her was bad enough; but beating her, in her old age, made Sebastian loathe the old man. Isabella took her mistreatment stoically, never complaining, and taking care of her husband in the best way she could until she died of angina six years ago. Whether she loved him is another question altogether, because romantic love was a totally different concept in her generation from what it is today. But she took care of Aaron for sixty years until her heart conked out and sputtered to a stop six years ago.
Sebastian is not mourning his grandfather. In fact, he is happy that Aaron is gone. He would actually have been happier if it was Aaron who died six years ago instead of Isabella. But by dying, the brute has also pulled a fast one on him. Now he will be forced to go to the village for the funeral, a trip that Sebastian would do anything to avoid. He has thought about skipping the ceremony, but that will disappoint Joel, his father, and he hates disappointing the man. Joel is Isabella and Aaron’s first born. Sebastian is Joel’s only child, and Aaron’s first grandchild.
At 33, the only topic of discussion when Sebastian gets home is his marital status. Most of his cousins, all younger than him, are married. His mother demands that he gets married and give her grandchildren. She has even suggested the girls that she thinks are fit for him. Sebastian’s mother, Philomena, is a domineering wife and mother. She doesn’t just nag, she makes demands. In fact, she is the reason Sebastian rarely goes to the village. Putting up with her for even a day requires emotional stamina of divine proportions.
Sebastian grew up seeing his father emotionally abused. His mother’s sharp tongue knifed his father’s ego until it was mashed up like baby food. But like his mother Isabella, Joel takes the abuse stoically. Isabella did it because culture required it of her. Similar reasons applied to her son. Who can Joel tell that he is being abused by his wife? He will become the laughing stock of the village; a disgrace to the family. In fact, Aaron would disinherit him and banish him from the family property.
Sebastian has never had a girlfriend. In his church, where he is considered one of the most eligible bachelors, he is always surrounded by girls who hope to get his attention. He is only five foot seven, but he has an athletic body and a very handsome face. He is also the worship leader at the church. His melodious voice takes worshippers to the heavens every Sunday and during the midweek services on Wednesdays.
As if that is not enough, he is a sharp dresser and has a very warm personality. Throw in the fact that he has a well-paying job as the IT manager at a manufacturing company, and you have a magnet for girls. But Sebastian is just not interested in settling down in marriage. And being a devoted Christian, he doesn’t want to toy with girls’ emotions and bodies either. So he remains single.
Philomena is the reason Sebastian is afraid of marriage. He swore to himself long ago that a woman would never terrorize him the way his mother terrorized his father. The only way he can achieve that, he has reasoned with himself over and over again, is if he doesn’t get married in the first place. Besides, even if he were to get a good woman to marry, his mother would most likely ruin that relationship. No one can stand Philomena, much less a daughter-in-law.
Sebastian himself escaped from home as soon as he could. His relationship to his mother is courteous. Not warm or affectionate or anything like that. Just respectful politeness that a son can muster for a mother he dislikes. It is therefore ironical that the same woman is the one pestering him to get married.
Sebastian packs a change of clothes and slowly throws his travel bag onto the back seat of his car. He hops in and drives out of his compound, reluctantly beginning his journey from Nairobi to his native Kenekene village in Shava County.
On the road, he listens to hymns on the car radio and lets his mind wander. There is only one woman he probably could have married, and he finds himself thinking about her. Her name was Fridah, and she was his best friend when they were growing up. They had once even joked about eloping because she also hated her father. But they lost touch when they went to separate high schools.
Now she is probably married. Besides, they were friends when they were kids. There is no telling the kind of woman she turned out to be. But it would be nice to see her once again. She is also from his village, but he has not seen her in years. He heard that she went to Moi University and now works in Nairobi, the same Nairobi where he works and lives. He doesn’t have any close friends in the village, so he has nobody to ask where she works in Nairobi.
He arrives in Shava town at around 1pm. Kenekene village is about five kilometers from the town. He is not in a hurry to meet his mother, so he decides to hang around Shava and eat lunch before going home. He parks outside Hearto Supermarket, intending to eat at the Supermarket’s cafeteria.
He steps out of the car and takes a deep breath. Hometown.
“Sebastian?” someone calls him out of his day dreaming.
He turns around and sees a stunningly beautiful woman smiling at him. She is dark skinned with a dimple on the left cheek, large soft eyes and long natural hair. She looks familiar but Sebastian cannot immediately tell who she is. She is holding a small boy with one hand, and a shopping bag with the other.
“Fridah?Look at you!”
He moves forward and hugs her. Then, embarrassed, he steps away with an apologetic look on his face. It is the same Fridah he has been thinking about on the road. They started drifting apart when he went to Mang’u High School and she to Moi Girls Eldoret. They would still exchange letters but only for the first two years. They lost contact completely when Sebastian joined the University of Nairobi. She and her brother Joses went to Moi University.
Ordinarily, Fridah would have been mad at the way Sebastian hugged her. She hates men who impose hugs. In fact, she loathes masculine contact that is more than a handshake. But she is strangely not mad at Sebastian, a primary school classmate and best friend she has not seen in years.
Sebastian invites her and the boy for lunch so that they can catch up, and Fridah accepts. The three of them go to the Supermarket’s cafeteria for a meal.
“So what are you doing here?” Sebastian asks when they settle down to eat.
“I am on leave. You?”
“Coming to bury my grandfather,”
“Oh, yeah. My mother told me yesterday that the old man Aaron is dead. I am so sorry Sebastian,” she says earnestly.
“Don’t be sorry. I wish he died way earlier.”
“I remember now that you didn’t like him. But don’t be disrespectful of the dead,” Fridah says laughing. Sebastian is still the same old brutally honest boy.
“I struggle with my feelings towards my mother and grandfather every day. I wish I could love them the way the Bible says, but I find it difficult. I hope God will liberate my heart before I die or before He returns so that I don’t miss out on heaven.”
Fridah nods in understanding, and then decides to change the subject.
“This is my son Tom,” Fridah introduces the boy. Sebastian bends sideways and greets the boy.
“So you got married?” he asks Fridah.
“No I did not. I got this one through vegetative reproduction,” Fridah says and they burst out laughing. “Seriously though, it is a long story, which I can only tell you later. But to answer your question; no, I am not married.”
“I missed you Fridah,” Sebastian says and instantly regrets it. What is he doing? Is he flirting? No, this is just Fridah. But what if it spirals out of control and he finds himself emotionally entangled?
Fifteen minutes later, they are so engrossed in conversation that they do not see Sebastian’s mother approach.
“What are you doing with this prostitute?” Philomena asks Sebastian. “And you, you think I don’t know you want to trap my son?”
“Mother I…” Fridah begins, but Philomena cuts her short.
“I am not your mother! You want to steal my son’s money. I will not allow it. Get up!”
She pulls Fridah by the hair. When Fridah tries to free herself, Philomena takes it as a challenge and begins beating her up. In terms of physical size, Philomena is a large woman, while Fridah is a small bodied woman. She is no match for Sebastian’s mother.
Sebastian tries to separate them but his mother slaps him and pushes him aside. People have now gathered, but instead of helping, they are taking photos and videos.
Sebastian knows that he has two choices: to either use violence against his mother in order to rescue Fridah, or to stand back and watch as an innocent girl is disfigured by Philomena.
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/book-old-close-up-books-read-861750/
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