Fiction

Eight Years and Forty Days: A Short Story by Sandra A. Mushi

            “Hee!” she clapped her hands dramatically in shock as she walked into the lounge unannounced, “you are still here?  I thought we gave you three days to pack and leave!  We’ve now buried him and we have given you time to moan, what else do you want now?”

Time to moan – it was only three days after her husband’s arobaini and her mother-in-law was kicking her out of the house we had lived in for eight years of their marriage.  She shifted nervously on the couch where she was breast-feeding her two-year old daughter, Manka.  Manka sensing the distress in her, started wailing.

            “Hush baby,” she tried to comfort her as she turned to her mother-in-law.  “But mama, where will I go?  This is my home.”

            “Your home?  Kiruu!  Shameless!”  She held her head in both her hands dramatically, “you have the nerve!  Since when is this your home?  This is my son’s home!”

            “Mama, have mercy!  Where will his children go to?”

            “Who said his children are going to go anywhere?  When you came here did you come with any children?  Hembu get out!  Tena this instantly!”

She didn’t see the pot holes or the rough road full of weeds and broken bottles in front her, with the hot scotching sun burning her.  She had believed the road she was going to be full of red roses and a rainbow.  She never had any reason to doubt them at all, otherwise she wouldn’t have taken this road.  It was too late to turn back now.

In the forty plus days since the passing on of her husband, though she had accepted his death, she became more sluggish by the day.  Her eyelids drooped; her face grew bonier with her black mourning clothes hanging on her and her skin became dull and grey.

She felt to have lived forever – her nights slowly turned into days and days painfully slow turned into nights.  She had absolutely no account of the days or time.  She had nobody to go to, nobody to cry with.  She felt all alone.

The next few days dragged on.  When she slept, she didn’t want to wake up.  She just wanted to die and join her husband.  But for the sake of her children she had to stay alive.  Every morning painfully she forced herself to open her eyes and wake up.  As she forced her eyes open, all the other senses immediately woke up – the pain, the coldness, the loneliness.  She was overwhelmed by what she felt.

            “Some mother’s children are just shameless!” Her mother-in-law spat on the floor in disgust as she watched me take out the few belongings she had packed, “yaani mpaka  we had to kick you out of the house?”

Sadly she looked at their house, what was once her home – the garden of flowers she had grown fondly, the farm that had started as a small garden of vegetables now a small but flourishing business, they even took that from her; the dairy cows; the pigs; the chickens; the tractor; the small shop; the pick-up truck – they took them all, saying they all belonged to their son, that she never came there with anything.

Miserably she looked at the group of excited onlookers that had gathered outside her garden, trumping sloppily on her once beautiful garden.  She wanted to scream at them – to tell them to keep off the grass and the flowers.  She watched as two ladies carelessly stepped on a young rose bush.

Feeling her dress being pulled, she looked down and found Manka looking up at her sadly with her big round eyes.  Slowly kneeling down, she brought her three young children close to her and looked at them – hard and deep – trying to read their young souls.  Their dark brown eyes looked back at her – afraid.  She knew they could see the pain and confusion in her eyes, that they could feel the sadness.  All three pairs of eyes started watering and held them to her bosom tightly.

            “Mama, why are you leaving us?” asked the oldest five years old, Mausa.

            “Who are you going to leave us with, mama?  Will you some back for us?” Three year old Aichi whimpered.

            “Look after your sisters, Mausa.  You are now the man of the house,” she told her son as she sadly looked at the group of leering people now clouded with her tears.

With their leering voices escorting her, she lifted the one suitcase with the few of her belongings she had when they got married and lifted it onto her head.  Though the suitcase was not heavy, but with two-year old Manka clinging to her, the suitcase became strenuous on her heavily expecting body.  With one hand to holding the suitcase on her head and the other hand holding her sore back, she walked slowly to the bus station, their voices muffling with each step.  Holding back tears, she walked on – she didn’t want them to see her cry.

            “And bring that little one back after you have given birth to it,” she heard her mother-in-law call out.

With her children’s wailing and whimpering, she started her long, lonely trip back to her late parents’ village.

As the old bus rattled on the dusty, pot-holed road to the unknown, she remembered how mistreated she was the first three years of her marriage when she couldn’t conceive.  For three years she was an outcast, her in-laws treating her like a leper.

            “She just eats my son’s food and fills his toilet,” her mother-in-law used to say.

            “They can’t just send her back alone!” Mjomba Joseph complained when she finally got to her parents’ village.  “When they took her, they had sent a mshenga.”

            “Indeed, a mshenga should have brought her back!”

            “What are we going to do with her?”

            “She still belongs to them, unless she was divorced!”

            “She has to go back!  After all she has children!”

            “There is nothing for her here!”

 

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