By Kemboi Victor
Trevor Mukami exited the restaurant and stood facing a fleet of cars at the parking lot. He admired his new Mercedes Benz and smiled, longing to meet Paulina his wife to witness the joy.
It was a quarter to 9pm when Paulina came out of work that day and in order to save her the long walk from the Eldoret Town Hospital, her work place to the CBD tonight, Trevor decided to have her experience his new machine. He quickly parted with his friend Johnie who had been in his company for nearly a week now as they traversed Mombasa car bazaars in search of his dream car. Now he thought happily how Paulina and he would use their family car going home and not the uncomfortable public service vehicles they had relied on since they came to Eldoret.
While getting into the car he noticed a basket sitting just at the door. He thought someone had forgotten it there and would return to find it. He picked it slowly, intending to put it aside to avoid stepping on it but as he lifted it he noticed an unusual weight and fragility.
That tempted him to check what was inside. Peeping into it he saw some movements which sent panic into him. And not so long afterwards, he saw something like a baby’s hand protrude. What a surprise!
Perhaps the mother was near, he thought now holding the basket. Then he walked around the few cars glancing at every area, and daring to give the mother a real spanking immediately he caught her. But unfortunately, there was no mother in his search.
The baby continued to sleep undisturbed. Shortly Mukami guessed his efforts had reached a dead end. Definitely, he thought, this was a thrown away baby. This dot-com generation, he cursed wondering what to do.
As he waited something struck up his mind
He placed the basket again on the ground and decided to wait for a few more minutes. But eventually, after no one showed up, he decided to leave the child there. He didn’t want to be that child thief that would appear in the headlines soon in case someone reported to police about the lost baby. He got into his car, put the ignition on and feeling the comfort of his car, resolved to drive directly to Eldoret Town Hospital to pick Paulina. It was getting late.
He had just reversed out of the parking lot when a call from Paulina came. She told him she was on her way to New Jambo Restaurant and there was no need of him moving.
As he waited something struck up his mind. He felt it would be inhuman if he abandoned the child; it would even be a curse on him. He returned and picked the baby who had continued to enjoy a heavenly slumber. He placed it at the front seat and wondered why someone would abandon an innocent child in the cold with lurking danger.
Sitting at the steering wheel, his eyes gazed on the baby silently. He was stressed. He now had a baby he didn’t know the owner or what he could do to reach her. However, he quickly resolved that the first place to take the baby when Paulina arrives would be the police station. He phoned her the second time, without telling her about the new visitor, and was relieved when he learned that she was few minutes away.
When Paulina arrived she was so happy about their new car. But soon after she saw the baby she wondered who the other visitor they had that night was.
“Whose baby is this?” she asked before she took her seat, a seat she had started warming up for, for she would be sitting on it every morning and evening as she came to work and back.
“It is just a long story,” Trevor said. “I found it placed near my car like a misplaced package.”
“Where?” Paulina asked, alarmed.
But Paulina suggested they carry the baby home first
“Just here. I parked the car here and with Johnie we entered the restaurant to have tea. But upon returning I met the basket near my car. I thought someone had forgotten it but I found out that it had a baby inside in my efforts to find the owner.”
“What!” Paulina exclaimed. This was not possible. “Why would someone abandon a beautiful baby like this?” And she took a hold of the baby.
“That’s what I am asking myself also.”
“And these cases are common in this town lately. There was one that was saved from the pit latrine just the day you left with Johnie to Mombasa. And I heard another one was found at the garbage bin along these streets yesterday. Now this one here…”
“I waited for you to suggest ways of dispatching it. What do you suggest we do now? Go to police or what? I am both tired and confused.”
But Paulina suggested they carry the baby home first. The police wouldn’t take good care of the baby, or so she suggested. The baby too was too beautiful that even Paulina suggested having it as her child in case the owner went missing. She had no child of her own, except Sylvia, her adopted child at the university. It seemed barrenness had made her a lover of children and she wished and prayed that one day God will give her, her own.
It was getting late and Paulina, now a bit excited advised to go home and finish the discussion there.
She was the first one to enter the house as Trevor remained behind to park his car well. Paulina switched the lights on and placed the baby in the couch. For the first time the baby popped her eyes up and started crying. Paulina took her and started singing her a lullaby. Trevor arrived then.
I don’t see the need, we might lose the chance
“She must be hungry,” Trevor suggested. “What more is in the basket?”
Paulina rummaged through the contents. There lay some clothes and a bottle of milk, which she took and started feeding the baby. However, Paulina thought, breast milk would have done the baby better.
Paulina seemed to be getting acquainted to baby as it kept quiet after drinking the milk. She seemed to enjoy the new environment and Paulina laid her on the couch where she could see her as she talked with Trevor.
“We have adopted one child in the past, we can still do it,” Paulina suggested. “And see the beauty, she even needs new clothes,” she said.
“But we have to report the matter first to the relevant authorities to be safe. Perhaps the mother is busy looking for her,” Trevor said.
“I don’t see the need, we might lose the chance.”
“But I demand we have to. Then we can adopt.’’
“Don’t you want another child?”
“Yes I want. But please let us not break the law while acquiring one. We have to follow the proper channels like we did when adopting Sylvia.”
“You don’t need to worry; I will take care of everything if that is your worry. But we can just save the child all the trouble and assume it’s ours. Just like we have brought up Sylvia from her young age we can still bring up this beautiful one like her. I even suggest we name her Angel Mukami,” Paulina suggested.
We are ready to do that Bwana Chief
Mukami laughed. It was not only surprising but also funny that his wife had named the baby after him even when they had not found a solution. And they argued and argued until midnight when they remembered they had to make supper.
Paulina maintained her wish and even hummed some tunes thanking God about the gift as she cooked. As for Trevor, he now contemplated alone on whether to report the matter to police the next morning or remain silent on it. The child was extremely beautiful and would dart her eyes round without even noticing that the parents had changed.
When they were taking their late night supper they came to an agreement. Paulina accepted to involve the local authorities to avoid future trouble. From there they would know what to do next.
The next day was a flurry of activities for Trevor and Paulina. After phoning his work place, Trevor was given an additional two days off to sort the issue out. The same case was with Paulina. They then visited the chief’s office and reported the matter.
“You have done a good thing. However, we have to report to the police about a lost child and perhaps trace the parent,” the chief told them.
“We are ready to do that Bwana Chief,” Trevor said. But Paulina interjected.
“Good news is that the mother through her actions has indicated that she is not willing to bring the child up and we are ready to do that work,” she said showing all the willingness to have the baby belong to them.
But the chief advised that it was necessary to apply for adoption through a proper channel; first the police and then the Children Adoption Society later.
They named her Angel Shanice Mukami
They reported the matter at the Eldoret Central Police Station instantly. By that afternoon there was no news of a missing child. However, the police advised them to visit the Children Adoption Society offices to get help. As for them they would announce the lost child and wait the owner to come.
It saddened Paulina that they had to enter one office after another to trace the child’s mother, someone that had not even bothered to inform the authorities.
Fortunately, after reporting the matter at the Children Adoption Society they were allowed to go with the baby as they waited to hear any news about her. They were told to leave and return after twenty one days, when they would be allowed to possess the child in case of no complaint.
And they waited and waited that call from the Society. A month later they returned there and processed all that was needed for adoption. Happiness reigned in them. They named her Angel Shanice Mukami.
Sylvia arrived home two months later after completing her end of semester exams, only to meet an additional member in their family. Lucky Shanice Mukami was doing well that one might have thought she was Trevor and Paulina’s biological daughter. But amidst that joy, it confused Trevor Mukami and Paulina Mukami that their now first born daughter Sylvia had changed wholesomely and had never been happy after her return. They could not tell what was disturbing her. Unlike in the past, Sylvia would be in her room, mostly sad. Her health seemed deteriorated and she stopped eating normally.
It worried Mukami so much that Sylvia was no longer free to her. She had remained so secretive and avoided speaking to him at all cost. After trying so many times to have her talk, he gave up and resolved to use Paulina to dig out the strangeness from her.
Paulina too, after reaching her dead end decided to seek advice from her friend and neighbor Mellissa. And a fortnight later, they approached Sylvia in a closed door meeting.
For long Sylvia refused to speak but after nearly two hours of affection she decided to open up. She sat at the edge of her bed and cried. She narrated the whole story, beginning with her pregnancy that never showed even during the recent times when she had come home four months ago to how she abandoned the child that night when Mukami found Angel Shanice. It is a surprise that her tummy had always remained flat like that of a hungry urchin.
She had actually never forgiven herself for abandoning her baby along the streets two months ago, the same girl she had come to the hands of her parents. Although she had done it to avoid her parent’s wrath, it still pained her that she was now a wicked mother, all because she feared Mukami disowning her for becoming pregnant, worse in her first year of university studies. She had always feared to hurt him bearing in mind that she was not a biological daughter of Trevor and Paulina Mukami, the same parents that had cared and loved her since they adopted her from St. Mary’s Children’s home at a tender age.
I have to leave the baby here
Actually after her delivery her boyfriend had deserted her. At first he had supported her until after her safe delivery when he disappeared. That really distressed her. She felt she was now in her end of the world.
After debating with herself for days, she made up her mind. Revealing herself to her parents was not in her options. So one night, a month after, she decided, though with pain, to abandon the child along the streets. It is surprising that in her mind, she didn’t want to leave the child suffering.
That night was busy as usual and she walked along the street, desperate, withdrawn, and crying, her baby in a woven basket held like purchases in her hand, trying to identify the likely place she would leave her. Not knowing where to stop, she came to a stop along New Jambo Restaurant. Here, her mind reflected that this was a restaurant the rich loved and leaving the child there would never miss the eye of a rich man or woman.
In front of her she saw a stationary Mercedes Benz with no occupant inside beside a few other cars. It seemed new. Even the plate was ‘number less’, which was often associated with new cars.
I have to leave the baby here, she decided. Lucky for her, she noticed that no one would see her from the few cars that covered her. She braced herself and placed the basket there, carefully wrapping the baby with a shawl, stood there for seconds to check if one or two pedestrians hurrying in the streets saw her. No one seemed interested with her. Slowly, she placed the basket near the door of the car; the place she was sure the driver would not fail to notice, ensured that the baby was comfortable and walked away. It was evil and stupid, but she thought she had no option. She was fortunate that the child didn’t cry later although she felt anyone could just walk carelessly and step on her.
Paulina was not only shocked but she nearly fainted
From then she didn’t come home. She wanted to finish the post pregnancy and return her body to her old self. Thoughts of her abandoned child had continued to pain her so much. It was a surprise that two months later when she came home she learnt that the new car she had abandoned her baby next to it was her father’s car. And here she was today with her mother Paulina and neighbor Mellissa.
“Angel Shanice is my child mom. I hid her from you and my pregnancy didn’t get visible. If you’re going to kill me or send me to prison I am as guilty as charged,” she said and fell on Paulina’s shoulder crying. Paulina was not only shocked but she nearly fainted. The story had so well coincided with what had happened that night when Trevor had found the baby. Of course Paulina was so petrified but she feared to hurt Sylvia more, seeing that she was already punished and was ready to face every danger.
That night she told her husband the whole story. Trevor was very disturbed. However, after resolving not to punish their daughter, resolved to find a counselor to talk to her as they also recovered from the shock. That took days, but eventually accepted that they were Sylvia’s shoulder to cry on. They also noticed the mistakes they had done while bringing her up. They had always been tough on her. During the few incidences when they had caught her with a boyfriend they had punished her harshly, which although reprimanded her, left her too timid with extreme fear on Trevor.
Few weeks later, after the whole counseling session Sylvia slowly returned to normal. One day she approached her father and sought to be forgiven.
“I forgave you my daughter,” Trevor told her. “Now ensure that my granddaughter grows up well to become a beautiful girl. From today onwards don’t live in oblivion and fear.”
She was so grateful.
“Would you like an outing?” Trevor asked. Sylvia didn’t refuse.
That day, Trevor, Sylvia and her daughter Angel Shanice had a great day. They all lived happily thereafter.
Inside the Strange Basket © Kemboi Victor