(Continued from Unwanted I)
Mark opens his eyes slowly. The effort sends jolts of pain all over his body. He tries to smile when he sees his mother and his grandmother Pamela, but the pain is too much.
“Where am I?” he asks softly. Talking is causing him pain too.
“You are in hospital, son.”
“You have to leave that man, mum. I can’t protect you and Joy if I am here. Tell her grandma. Money is not everything. We can be happy without that monster’s money.”
Pamela’s eyes become moist. It breaks her heart to see her grandson in this condition.
“It is okay, my boy. Everything is alright now. You all will be staying with grandma.”
Pamela is a tough woman, and even Donald seems to be afraid of her. She is a retired primary school teacher, and she lives alone since her husband Bernard died. She would have intervened if her daughter had said anything about her domestic woes, but Agnes has always been very protective of her husband. She even forbid her children from saying anything negative about their father to their grandmother.
“Thank you, grandma. I want to tell the police the truth about what happened. Mama always says that she fell in the house whenever dad beats her badly enough for her to need medical attention. I don’t want to lie. I want that monster arrested.”
“I already got him arrested last night,” Agnes tells her son. “Last night I took Joy to your grandmother’s house and I went to the police. From today you won’t be fighting for me; I will be the one fighting for you and Joy. That is how it should be. I am your mother and it is my duty to protect both of you. I just want you to be happy and to focus on your school work.”
“Thanks mum. But I had rather you don’t fight at all. Why can’t we stay at grandma’s house forever? I don’t want to ever go back to that man’s house.”
“We will be staying with grandma, son. We are not going back to that man. But I will make sure your father pays your school fees so that you don’t have to change schools. I don’t care whether he does it from prison.”
“Just don’t let your fights with dad take away your happiness mom, because whenever you are stressed you yell at us. Joy and I want to have a simple, happy life and we can’t have that if you are always stressed.”
“I hear you son,” Agnes says and squeezes his hand. “I want you to rest now. Doctor said you shouldn’t talk too much.”
Mark nods and closes his eyes.
“I am sorry mum,” Agnes says as they step out of the room.
“I kept Donald’s behavior from you. I didn’t want you think that I had failed as a wife.”
Agnes knows that Pamela is seething on the inside, and she is surprised that she has not exploded yet. Her husband, Agnes’ dad Bernard, was a good man, and they had a good, healthy marriage. But he was not the first man Pamela married. When she was in her late teens, right after completing her secondary education, she had been married off by her parents to an older man who turned out to be an abuser. He used to beat her senseless. After she miscarried twice, the beatings increased, until she had to run away. Her parents refused to take her, but she was determined not to go back to her abusive husband.
She ran away to Nairobi, where she did not know anyone, but fortunately was able to find employment at an Indian couple’s shop. It was while she was working there that she met Bernard, a young lawyer. He somehow convinced her to take a second stab at marriage. Bernard turned out to be an angel, compared to her first husband. He loved her deeply, and treated her with respect. He even took her to a teacher’s training college when she expressed a desire to be professional.
He also supported her when she slowly started evolving into an activist against domestic and gender based violence. Pamela had told Bernard the truth about her previous marriage, and he was empathetic. Pamela never left teaching, but she has always been very vocal, especially about domestic violence. Her husband organized for her to attend seminars and conferences organized by NGOs dealing with domestic and gender based violence, and it was not long before she was recognized as a crusader in her community. Two NGOs, both of which have rescue centers, appointed her to be their contact in her community.
After Bernard married Pamela, he relocated from Nairobi to the village, and became a rural town lawyer. His practice was relatively successful, and while he did not become a millionaire, he was able to give his family a decent life. He educated all his five daughters up to undergraduate level. He was also actively involved in his wife’s work with the NGOs. Until his death, he represented women who were abused by their husbands pro bono.
Agnes knows that her mother is hurt and embarrassed that her own daughter has been going through such an experience and she did not know about it. On her own, Agnes would probably never have gone to report Donald to the police. But Pamela insisted that if she, Agnes, wanted shelter in her house, Donald would have to be reported to the police. Pamela was prepared to take in her granddaughter Joy (and Mark when he recovered) and lock out her daughter, but Agnes agreed to report Donald so she took them all in.
“In your attempt to look successful as a wife, you failed as a mother,” she tells her daughter. “And that failure nearly cost the life of your son.”
She is still calm, and Agnes is surprised.
“I know mother. And I feel so guilty. If I had left that monster earlier, Mark would not be in hospital.”
“Forget about guilt, honey. What you need to do is to rebuild your life. If we were penniless, I would have advised you to fight for child support. But we are not. Your father and I educated you so that you wouldn’t need to depend on any man. You have a job, and I have more than enough resources to help you take care of my grandchildren. Forget about Donald, because Mark is right. Fighting Donald will only fill your life with toxicity and bitterness. Your children need you to shine happiness into their lives.”
Mother and daughter look at each other, and then embrace right there in the lobby of the hospital.
The meeting is awkward. Agnes did not tell her mother that she is meeting her husband, because she knows that Pamela would have gone ballistic. She did not want to come either, because the few days she has been living in her mother’s house have been days of freedom and happiness. Agnes has just been reminded of how happy her childhood was. Her father was a jovial man, and he had a way of making all of them squeal in delight.
She realises now that she has been denying her children that kind of joy.
The reason she agreed to meet Donald is because their pastor requested it, and she respects the Man of God. They are actually meeting in the pastor’s house. Donald was charged with assault causing grievous harm but he was released on bail as he awaits trial.
“Agnes,” the pastor is now saying. “Forgiveness is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. I know your husband probably hurt you…”
“Probably? My son is fighting for his life in hospital. This man is a monster.”
To her surprise, Donald starts crying. It is the last thing she expected. She has never seen her husband crying-not even when they were dating.
“Please babe, forgive me. I need help babe, and I can’t do this on my own. At the altar we said for better for worse. I have been attacked by Satan. But I am sure with your support and prayers we can overcome. Please babe, we should not allow Satan to steal our family.”
“Imagine the kind of stigma that your children will face if your husband goes to jail, Agnes,” the pastor says.
“So this is all about him being afraid of going to jail; is that it?”
“No, of course not,” the pastor says quickly. “Donald has not even mentioned anything like that to me. All he told me when he called me is that he recognizes that he made a mistake and wants to make amends. I am the one who is trying to be practical here. If you don’t forgive him and he goes to jail, your children will be ridiculed in school.”
Agnes nods slowly. She has been moved by the broken state of her husband. Whatever anger she had built in the days since he attacked Mark has dissipated and what she feels now is pity and a weird sense of affection.
“Please forgive me baby,” Donald presses. “I don’t care whether I go to jail or not. What I want to know is that you and the kids have forgiven me. If you forgive me, I will be at peace even in jail. Please babe, the guilt inside me is killing me.”
Agnes’ eyes start welling with tears.
“Please sit up Don.”
“Have you forgiven me?”
Agnes nods slowly.
He rises and gives her a big hug. Then he kisses her deeply on the lips as the pastor looks on.
“Thank you babe. Will you come back home? Please?”
“It is not over yet, Don. Mark is very bitter. He doesn’t to live with you ever again. In fact he wants you in jail. And I cannot live apart from my children.”
“He is a kid, Agnes,” the pastor cuts in. “Children, especially boys, do listen to their mothers. Talk to him and tell him how sorry his father is. He will listen to you.”
“Okay. I will do my best. But then there is my mother. She is not going to let this go easily.”
“Listen to me Agnes,” the pastor says gently. “The Bible in the book of Genesis says this, and I quote: ‘For this reason, the man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ End of quote. That is where the concept of leaving and cleaving came from. It was authored by God himself. You are an adult, Agnes. If you want to follow God’s instruction and mend your broken family, then you should not allow your mother to stand in the way. Be firm with her and tell her that your family comes first. God designed marriage to be between two people, a man and a woman. Other people, including parents, are intruders.”
Agnes nods in agreement.
(To be continued on Tuesday)
Image by Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/people-affection-closeness-connect-4857502/
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