(Continued from The Sorcerer’s Daughter II)
Gabriella, Boniface’s mother, is restless. She cannot tell the source of her unease. She is at home with her husband Alexander, taking tea as they watch the sunset. This is a routine they formed many years ago, and one they credit for the strong bond they have formed in their marriage. Gabriella retired as the manager of the local post office, while Alexander retired as a head teacher in day secondary school. They are both staunch Christians, and active members of the Kenya Assemblies of God church. The consider themselves to be blessed beyond measure. After serving the government for over thirty years, they were able to put up a profitable enterprise with the help of Sacco loans.
One of their earliest purchases was a half an acre of land in their local market. Chung’wa market in Murang’a County was tiny then, and they bought the land cheaply. For many years they let the land lie idle, even as they acquired other pieces of land and even as they constructed rental houses in those other plots. Like many other people in their generation, especially in rural areas, they believe that rental houses are the holy grail of investments. Ten years ago, after years of investing in residential houses, they felt confident enough to build a commercial complex at their urban piece of land. Other than capital considerations, the other reason why they felt ready to start building was because Chung’wa market had grown into a large urban centre and businesses were scrambling for space.
Just before they started constructing, someone advised them that they would reap more benefits if they included a petrol station in the development. That was because the road passing through the market was set to be upgraded, meaning more traffic would be passing through the market. The capital required was huge, but their Sacco was willing to finance the development, but there was a catch: in addition to the usual requirements for guarantors, they would need to put up additional security. Alexander and Gabriella decided to take time to pray about it. Prayer has always been a central theme in their lives. After taking a couple of weeks to pray, they decided to go ahead with the project. That is how their company, Gabralex Investments Limited, was born. They transferred the land to the company and started constructing. Between the two of them, they hold the majority of the shares in the company and are the directors. Their children hold the minority shares equally. The complex that they constructed has five floors, including a ground floor. In addition to the fuelling station, they also run a mini-supermarket and an eatery on the premises. All the other spaces are rented out.
Other than their obvious financial stability, Gabriella and Alexander also consider themselves blessed because they and their children have all enjoyed relatively good health. They have had no major health scares, other than a cold here and a headache there. Talking about children, their three children are perhaps the one thing they thank God for. All the three children, two daughters and a son, are all married with families of their own. They also have good careers: Grace is an aircraft pilot and she works for Air France. Glory is a journalist; last year she left her position as an editor at the Standard Group and took up a position with the New York Times. Boniface is an auditor and works for Deloitte.
All the three children are well grounded in the ways of the Lord and that is something that the two parents do not take for granted. They always take time to pray for them and their families. The only one who had almost become a concern was Boniface. He and his wife Gertrude took time before getting a child. Boniface remained steadfast in his faith, but Gertrude’s faith was shaken. Their marriage became strained, and it was obvious that it was taking a toll on them. Gabriella and Alexander have always taken care not to interfere with their children’s lives, so while they were aware of the situation, they decided that the one thing that they could do was to pray. Thankfully, God intervened and Gertrude conceived. Now she and Boniface have two children.
“Something is happening Alex,” Gabriella tells her husband. “I am feeling a restlessness in my spirit.”
“Maybe you are just tired darling,” Alexander replies. “Today has been a busy day.”
“This is not just about tiredness honey. Something is happening and I think we need to pray.”
“Okay, let’s pray then.”
“Maybe I should call the children first and find out if there is anything specific they would want us to pray for.”
Gertrude is with the children in the room. The children are watching cartoons on the TV. Boniface decided to go for an evening swim in the ocean, but Gertrude decided that it was too cold for the children. Whenever she looks at these children, she always wonders who she should thank. Is it God, who for six years had denied her children, but who seemingly is protecting the boys from the Sorcerer, or is it the Sorcerer, who helped her to conceive, but who now wants to take the first born as a sacrifice? She is secretly happy that the Sorcerer is unable to extract his due, although that happiness is usually coupled with the anxiety that he might succeed.
Luke is her first born, and she wouldn’t want to lose him. She has been with him for four years, and the maternal bond has only grown stronger. If he dies she will have the normal grief that every parent has or would have if they lost a child, but for her it would be accompanied by guilt knowing that she was responsible for his death. Logic would dictate that if she hadn’t gone to the Sorcerer, Luke wouldn’t exist in the first place, and therefore since it is the Sorcerer who wants to take him, she shouldn’t feel guilty. She cannot help it though. That logic worked before she conceived; when the children were abstract concepts in her mind. But now she has a real-life human being who she has developed deep feelings for, and the situation is no longer the same.
“Mom, I have a stomach ache,” Luke says. Gertrude looks up suddenly. Because of the precarious situation she is in with the Sorcerer, she is very sensitive to Luke’s illnesses. Most of it happens to be just the usual infections that afflict young children, not any different from what afflicts her younger son Tom, but Luke’s infections always leave her with panic attacks that often leave her husband puzzled. She often blames it on maternal instincts, but even the paediatrician doesn’t buy it. He has seen far too many mothers with sick children in the twenty eight years of his practice to know that her reaction is far from normal. Besides, her reaction is not usually so severe when Tom is unwell. But neither the doctor nor Boniface pushes the subject, although the doctor always recommends that she should see a professional counsellor.
“Come here, son, let me feel your stomach. Have you been eating dirt?”
Luke rolls his eyes. The boy may be only four years old, but he is very sharp.
“I have been with you the whole day mom. Besides, I am not Tom. Tom is the one who eats dirt.”
Gertrude would have smiled, except that at that very moment, Tom starts screaming, clutching his stomach. Gertrude lets go of Luke and picks up the younger boy. There is a fleeting feeling of relief: if they are both unwell, it is probably something that they have eaten that does not agree with their stomachs. But then Luke also begins to cry and he is clutching his stomach. Both children are wailing now and she realises that she has to do something. But she doesn’t know what to do. She can’t run out to call Boniface because she doesn’t want to leave the children alone. Then she sees a phone on the side of the bed and realises that she can call the reception. She quickly dials and hysterically asks for help. She dials Boniface’s phone but it rings right there in the room. Of course he left it in the room; he couldn’t have carried it to the ocean. Almost immediately after she terminates the call, Boniface’s phone rings again. Gertrude doesn’t feel like talking to her mother-in-law, so she terminates the call.
By now the children are vomiting, and they have very high fever. Gertrude has not tested the fever, but she can feel the heat with her hands: their tiny faces are roasting. She removes their clothes, which have puke all over them and starts pacing all over the room. Then it occurs to her: it is obvious that the Sorcerer has finally succeeded, but why is he taking Tom? That was not the agreement. Why hadn’t she thought about that before? It should have been the first thing to cross her mind so that she can try to save her second born.
She quickly dials his number and he answers on the first ring, as though he was expecting her call.
“Why are you doing this?” she screams at the phone. “That was not the agreement.”
“This is your husband’s fault, which means it is your fault as well. I am taking the second boy to compensate for the trouble I have gone through in the last two years. All you had to do was to willingly give me the first boy, but you and your husband decided to put stumbling blocks on my path.”
“My husband doesn’t know what I did…”
“I really don’t care, Gertrude. The two of you get to brag about God giving you children, which I wouldn’t have a problem with if you had paid my dues. But you haven’t, so there is a penalty to pay. By the way do you know where your husband is?”
“He is in the ocean having sex with some young woman. Maybe she will give him other children after I take mine.”
The Sorcerer hangs up before she can say anything else.
(As usual, I intend to complete this story on Friday. So come prepared to grab your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100)
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