By NIMO KURIA
Triza Mpwe, a widow, milled behind the casket bearers with her head bowed low. Beside her on the left and the right were her twin sons. Though she walked with her head bowed, her heart cursed her height. She was towering above almost everyone around her. There were taller men and she knew it, but at 5’8, for a lady, life used each gathering to remind her how tall she was.
Her twin sons were 5’5, her late husband’s exact height. Though she always felt “too tall” and that her height always attracted attention, everyone who knew Triza was of a different opinion. Triza Mpwe was a stunning natural beauty. Her husband had often reminded her that the only thing those who stared at her were attracted to was her beauty. Her chocolate flawless skin, her facial features that her husband often likened described as those of an African goddess. Her smile was warm and welcoming. Her character was easy and non-confrontational. The man who married her adored her to his last breath.
On this day, none of those thoughts were criss-crossing her mind. She was burying her father barely a month after burying her mother. Both had died after a short illness. Her heart was broken and there was more. Since she got married and left her hometown, her visits to her parents were few, planned out and private. Triza had a history with her village that haunted her throughout her marriage. The history was wrapped in a secret that both her parents had taken to the grave. Her husband Mr. Mpwe was the core of it all, the man she was forced to learn to love.
Love? Did she really love the man she had stayed faithful to for 17yrs? The man whom she bore the twin boys she loved so dearly? She had learnt to push that question off her mind. She had learnt to rather think that the sacrifice was worth it. The sacrifice she paid by turning her back on her childhood love. The pain that she knows she put him through. The explanations she never gave as to why she had cancelled their engagement and ended up as a second wife to a man older than her father. Yes, all that was worth her mother’s life. She brought pain and shame to the man she loved and wished to spend her life with. And the only people who knew why were now dead; her father, mother and her husband.
The hardest part for Triza was reading the eulogy
As Triza finally found her place under the tent right behind her father’s casket, she looked up. The compound was full of mourners who had come to pay their last respect to her father. But she still felt judged, she felt judged and condemned by her hometown. She dared looked around and her face locked with the one person she had totally evaded for the last 17 yrs. Henry Kobo. Her first reaction was to look away but she kept the eye contact going. Henry looked great for his age. She had expected to see all form of negative emotions vibrating from him but it wasn’t the case. She was looking into the eyes she had avoided for all her married life, and even in the distance between them, Triza swore she felt him care. Was he feeling sorry for her? After all she was a widow and now an orphan. Was that the message those eyes were sending? Triza wondered. She broke the gaze and focused on the burial ceremony.
The hardest part for Triza was reading the eulogy. Both her sons stood by her side and twice her voice gave in. Twice her emotions threatened to break free and come pouring out. Triza stopped reading the eulogy each time she felt she was breaking. She had learnt the art of showing no emotions, not her real emotions anyway. She had perfected the art in the course of her marriage. Tears were not her friend, she evaded them. A part of her always warned her that if she were to break down, she would cry for the whole universe. The universe that was what her life would have been.
Her love. Her dreams. Her entire being. Everything she traded with for money that was needed to care for her mom’s health. That night that stood like a sore thumb in her past. The night she agreed to marry Mpwe. The night that Mpwe made it clear that he would pay all the hospital bills for her mother and reclaim their piece of land from the auctioneers. He swore to do all that only if Triza agreed to marry him. The fateful night that Mpwe placed the suitcase on her father’s coffee table. A suitcase containing more cash than her family needed. Cash that sold Triza, broke her heart and sacrificed the inner her to a life she would take years to learn to appreciate. She felt robbed. Like the thief Triza felt Mpwe was, he took her away the same night. And from that night on, she vowed to stay away from her hometown and bear the weight of her choices alone in her soul.
Mark and Jeff helped her back to her seat
Finally done with the eulogy, Triza’s sons Mark and Jeff helped her back to her seat. The rest of the burial ceremony proceeded without much ado. She asked her sons to escort her back to her father’s house as soon as it was over.
Triza woke up on the third day determined to return to her matrimonial home. Most of her parents neighbors’ had stopped by as expected within the last two days. Her sons had stood by her side and made the receiving of condolences easier. On the second day, both had driven to the city leaving her all alone. Her father’s domestic workers were still keeping on and on schedule. Triza had not felt any immediate need to change anything yet. She had her home back at the city; she had wealth inherited from her late husband. She still had affinity to her childhood home despite the fact that her adulthood dreams had been crushed and diverted in that very home.
She was walking around the compound to make sure all was left in good hands and condition when a car pulled up. She watched the gateman rush and let in an old blue Volvo. Triza felt her heart skip. It was Henry.
He drove and pulled over next to her then stepped out of the car.
“I didn’t expect to see you“ Triza mumbled “but please come in.”
Instead of following her motioning hands towards the house, Henry took her by the hand and pulled her gently to himself.
“What are you doing?” Triza asked with barely enough strength to pull away.
I don’t think you even know what you are talking about
“Come here,’’ Henry spoke for the first time. “Stop holding it all in. I know you too well. Stop doing this to yourself. It’s ok not to be so careful with what you feel.”
“Look Henry, I don’t think you even know what you are talking about “Triza attempted to step back. “I have no Idea what you are…”
Before she could say another word, Henry took her in his arms and held her close. Triza felt her breath catch and a sob escape her windpipe…the torrents she had strongly held together for the past 17 years became undone. She felt the walls of pain crumble from within and the floods gave way… She could feel herself shaking uncontrollably as the tears rolled down her eyes. She was crying for everything she never once complained about. The love she lost. Marrying a man she didn’t love. That man’s death. Her parents’ death. She cried because she finally could. The only she had ever loved and trusted was by her side. She cried for the pain she caused him. She cried for the life she never had.
Triza had no idea how long she had been crying or how Henry got her to the house. When her soul finally released the piled up weight of many years, she was having a cup of hot chocolate. Henry was by her side on the couch holding the cup for her.
“Try some of this; it will make you feel better,’’ he had said, offering her one of those smiles she had last seen almost two decades ago…
Watch out for Part Two of THE LOVE BABY coming soon