(Continued from The Mirage II)
On Tuesday, Andrew goes to visit Nina to bid her farewell and to request her to watch over the motorcycle, roasters, the coffee urn, cleaning bucket, trashcan and charcoal. If Nina allows, Andrew intends to leave his stuff in the room that she gave him. He finds Nina taking her midmorning snack. She serves him a cup of tea and pancakes. Andrew explains to her that he is leaving and informs her about the job Florence got him.
“I knew something was cooking between you and that girl,” Nina teases. “Now see, she has made you abandon your business so that she can marry you.”
“Shut up Nina,” Andrew replied laughing. “I have told you once and again that there is nothing going on between me and Florence. She just found work for me in the city.”
“So where will you stay before you get your first salary?”
“Florence has offered to host me for that first month until I get my first salary. She will also buy me suits to go to work in. She promised to give me some money to sustain myself but I don’t need it. I have some savings I can use to keep myself going.”
“What if she is lying to you about the job? You know some of these girls are desperate for husbands, so maybe she just wants to trap you.”
Andrew laughs hysterically, and Nina looks at him quizzically.
“You may laugh, but I am old enough to be your mother. I have seen things in this life. Don’t come crying to me when you find yourself trapped in a marriage you did not sign up for. By that time you will probably be jobless and broke, with two children to bottle feed and change diapers for. Your wife will be treating you like trash and you will do nothing because she will have the money and therefore the power.”
“I am sorry Nina. I am not laughing at you. It is just that when I came to put my stand here some people told me the same thing: that you want to trap me so that I become your sugar boy. In fact there are people in this town who still believe that you and I have a thing going on.”
Nina smiles; she knows what he is talking about. She worked for many years in the city, and when she came back to this rural town, she found it difficult to accept the patriarchal and conservative life she had left behind many years ago. She had found liberation in the city, and she wasn’t about to abandon it to please the townsfolk. At 61, she still wears shorts, pedal pushers, jeans, miniskirts and six inch heels, all of which are deemed inappropriate by the townsfolk for twenty-year old girls and outrageous for women her age. To make matters worse, she takes the occasional glass of wine, wears make up and has a boyfriend whose car is seen every now and then driving into her compound. The assumption then is that she is a “loose” woman out to “steal” people’s husbands and to sexually corrupt young men. But Nina usually doesn’t care what people say; she just lives her life.
“The people in this town are so judgmental, and I think it is rubbing off on me.”
“No, I know what your problem is.”
“What is it?”
“You are just being a typical mother-in-law. You are jealous of Flo because she is taking me away from you. But your boy needs to go out and conquer the world, Nina. I will come back to this village when I am old, just like you did. I promise I will not let you down. I will come back as a scandalous old man with dyed hair and wearing tight jeans, goggles, tight T-shirts and huge, multiple rings and chains so that the townsfolk can judge me and say I want to impregnate their wives and daughters and infect them with HIV.”
Nina laughs heartily.
“Did you just indirectly call me a scandalous old woman?” she asks, still laughing.
“But that is not a secret!”
Nina laughs even louder.
“I will curse you, you mannerless boy! Do you know what the curse of a scandalous mother can do to you? But seriously Drew, I will miss you son. You are right though. Go out and conquer the world, now that the opportunity has presented itself. But if you find yourself in a bind, do not hesitate to call me. I will help you in any way I can.”
“Thank you Nina. I will remember that. And even if I don’t find myself in trouble, I will certainly get in touch.”
“On a more serious note though, I still think it is a bad idea for you to stay with that girl.”
“Deny it all you want, but I can tell that you like that girl, and she likes you too. If the two of you stay together, I can guarantee you that sex will happen, and when sex happens while you are under her roof, you will not leave. You will have entered into a relationship through the backdoor, but it will not be a relationship of equals. She will have the upper hand.”
“And here I thought you are the most liberal person on earth; a girl power advocate.”
“I am, but marriage is a different ball game altogether son. I told my daughters the exact same thing I am telling you. I told them that they should not walk into a marriage when they are financially vulnerable. Doing that gives the other person too much power over you. True, we have good people. There are many stories of responsible men who take care of their wives and children while at the same time treating them with love and respect. There are also many women who took up men from the ashes and groomed them into success without disrespecting them. But there are also many cruel men and women out there who treat their dependent spouses like trash. So why take the risk if you can avoid it? I am not saying Flo is a bad person. I am just saying that you don’t know her that well so you should be careful. I just want you to be happy son.”
“I hear you, but what should I do?”
Nina takes her phone from the table and starts punching buttons.
“What is your bank account number? You bank at Equity right?”
“Yes, I bank at Equity,” Andrew replies as he takes out his wallet. He extracts his ATM card from the wallet and reads out the number to her.
“I have sent you a hundred thousand shillings. When you get to the city, insist on letting out your own place. Get the basic things you will need that first month such as a bed, a mattress, a cooker, curtains etc. Luxuries like a TV, sofa set and so forth can come later when you start getting paid. But do not rent a place until you sign the employment contract. Florence said she will take you to her boss on Thursday, right?”
“Ask the boss to allow you to start working on Monday. That same Thursday start hunting for a house. Take time over the weekend to settle. If Florence is lying to you and there is no job, just come back. You can use the money I have sent you to expand your business. Actually I have a few business ideas that I wanted to share with you, but go first and see what is there to be conquered.”
“Thank you so much Nina. I don’t know how to show my appreciation to you.”
“It is okay, son. And by the way, don’t get me wrong; I didn’t say you shouldn’t date Florence. I can see you like her and she likes you. Pursue that love if there is something there. I just don’t like the idea of you being dependent on her. You are my boy, and I protect what is mine,” Nina says with a smile.
Andrew can feel tears welling in his eyes. This woman has been so good to him. When he was kicked out of the second spot in the town centre, he approached many of the Christian shopkeepers in town and asked whether he could use the front of their shops to sell his merchandise. They all refused. He hadn’t even thought about asking Nina because he didn’t know her well then. He knew her simply as a regular customer, and someone everyone said is destined for hellfire. Besides, he knew that she lives on the edge of town, away from the town traffic. But she met him one day and asked him why he no longer sold his stuff, and he explained his woes to her. She offered him the spot in front of her shop and a vacant room to store his things free of charge. Andrew was not convinced it would work, but he accepted because he had nothing to lose.
His business blossomed and he formed one of the best friendships in his life. To his surprise, he realised that Nina is one of the most decent human beings you could find, if only you cared to overlook her liberal dressing and the other things frowned upon by the church. She actually has a better heart than some of the staunch church folk. Nina has never tried to seduce him sexually; to the contrary, she has always treated him as her own son.
There was a time when Andrew’s mother was sick and needed an operation, and the family was desperate for money. It was Nina who stepped in and footed the entire bill. Since then, Andrew’s family started seeing her in a different light, and Nina even forged a friendship with Andrew’s mom. Andrew’s mother calls her “my son’s other mother.” Church folk were not impressed, and Andrew’s mother was stripped of her position as the secretary of the Ladies Fellowship. Andrew’s mother didn’t care one way or the other, and her friendship with Nina has flourished.
“I have to go before I start crying like a fool,” Andrew tells Nina as he rises to leave.
“You can cry as much as you want. I am your mother, so I will not judge you,” she replies. She rises and escorts him to the door. “Take care of yourself my boy, okay?”
When Andrew turns to reply, he sees tears welling in her eyes. He hugs her lightly and then leaves quickly. Her emotional reaction is similar to the one he expects from his mother as he leaves tomorrow.
Image by Kranich17 from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/cloud-heart-love-romance-romantic-5055011/
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