UNLIKELY XMAS REUNION

UNLIKELY XMAS REUNION

By Patrick Ngugi

H.N. Anderson’s heart soared joyfully as the Cessna took off from Wilson Airport. Soon, she would be breathing the crispy fresh mountain air of Nanyuki, her hometown.

She breathed deeply and closed her eyes as Ngong Hills disappeared behind the tail of the plane, as the craft turned face Mt Kenya 200 kilometers away.

Christmas was around the corner, and her mind was flooded with happy memories of her childhood many years ago, growing up around Laikipia , Nyeri and Timau, at various farms where her parents worked as laborers.

Hannah Nyaguthii Anderson wondered what had changed in the almost two decades she had been away.

Sadly, she thought of Mark, her only son. He was only seven when she left him with grandmother Lucia Nyaguthii, at Timau, when she hurriedly left the country to marry Mr Anderson, who fallen in love heads over heels with her and demanded instant wedding.

Hannah also wondered what happened to her childhood sweetheart Timothy Gichohi, the boy who always beat her in all subjects except maths, those many years at Titithi Primary school at the border of Nyeri and Laikipia not far from Naro Moru.

‘’Ohh how I wish I’d see that handsome bully of a boy again; Did he ever know that he had planted a seed in my womb. A seed that had sprouted into a beautiful baby boy, Mark. Oh I wish I could lay my eyes on them both again,’’ she smiled sadly as she opened her eyes.

She opened her handbag and retrieved a very old photo of herself and Timothy, a photo which always remained in her purse without her husband of 17 years discovering about it. Thank God, Stephen Walker Anderson – bless his soul – was not a snoopy character.

Mr. Anderson, the heir of a vast fortune in England and Wales, had passed on about a year earlier in a motor accident leaving Hannah, now in early forties, a wealthy widow but without any children between them.

Captured time

The black and white photo was taken a few days after they completed their KCPE examinations back in 1987. She had a deadly crush on Timothy since primary school days. He was the fastest boy in the whole school, breaking the school’s 100 metres record and holding it even by the time they were leaving school.

Both their parents worked for Mr Thorpes on one of the largest flower farms in Laikipia and Timau combined.

The photo had captured time. Staring at it, Hannah’s mind raced back in time. She was a dashing 14 year old lass, with a whole world of promise before her, and in her mind, she would walk into that future with this handsome prince of hers, Timothy Gichohi.

Meanwhile, to Gichohi Hannah was just a friend, neighbour and schoolmate. Did someone say girls matured faster than boys?

As if God of Kirinyaga was on her side, they were both admitted at Naro Moru Secondary School which was about three kilometers away from their home. They would walk to and from school together every day.

Their great platonic friendship continued through high school with castle construction going on in Hannah’s mind, while Gichohi went on excelling in his education as he broke athletic records  and Hannah’s heart.

Then something happened when they were in Fourth Form. Nineteen year old Timothy Gichohi fell in love with the wrong girl

Hannah was infuriated. How could he? After patiently waiting for him eversince they were primary school kids! No, she would not have it, and she would fight for her prince.  Timothy Gichohi was hers, and hers alone.

She was a cheap girl

To make it worse, Bilha was not only a year older than him, but she was a cheap girl, who was always flirting and flaunting herself to men, she thought.

Hannah tried all the tricks she could to win his love. She became too possessive, and would demand to know where Timothy had been if he went missing for even an hour.

This frustrated Timothy. For some reason he had never really felt emotionally attached to Hannah. But he was deeply in love with Bilha. She was different; she had sparking eyes, light complexion, and silky jet black hair; you name it.

Some nights he could not sleep as her beautiful images kept on creeping into his mind. The only problem was that Bilha was being sought by so many other suitors. Bilha had completed her Form Four the previous year in another school, and was working as a clerk in one of the huge farms in the area, and that also challenged Timothy because he was just a schoolboy and could not afford her.

‘’What is disturbing you my dear?’’ Hannah asked Timothy as they walked home one afternoon after school.

‘’It’s okay, I’m alright Nyaguthii,’’ He had answered without looking at her.

‘’I know you very well Timothy. I know you are unhappy about that girl,’’ she said moving closer to him and holding his hand.  He did not object, and briefly glanced at her then on the road ahead.

She had tried to make him understand that Bilha was not for him.

‘’Bilha is not for you. See, she is a working girl and apparently every Tom, Dick and Harry is after her. I am sure she hasn’t even noticed you,’’ Hannah said, and continued.

‘’I am here for you,’’ she said desperately, and Timothy unconsciously withdrew his hand from her grip. She felt hurt, but she was used to it, and she vowed in her heart she would one day win him.

She vowed in her heart she would one day win him

The straw that broke the camel’s back happened about a week later.  It was Saturday afternoon, about a month to the start of their KCSE.

Timothy stood outside the office where Bilha worked, waiting to meet her as she came from work. They had met occasionally before in church and at various local activities.

She knew that he had a crush on her and enjoyed that fact, but she did not have any feelings for him, and was never committal when he asked her to consider him as her boyfriend, telling him, I will let you know my decision.

So today had been the day he expected to get her answer.

He sat on a rock under a tree not far from the gate to their offices.  At 1.30 the staff from the office started streaming out.  Timothy stood up with expectancy, hoping to catch a glimpse of his heartthrob.

Ten minutes later the place started looking deserted as most of the workers had left but he had not seen his love. The security man was closing the gate when suddenly a huge four wheeler drove to the gate. The watchman opened the gate and saluted as it was driven inside the compound. The car stopped outside the building and a man in black suit came out from the driver’s door and walked into the office.

A few minutes later, Timothy watched in dismay as a regally dressed Bilha came out with the man a laughing heartily as they walked hand in hand back to the car. The man opened the door for her, and came around, entered the car and drove away.

This incident happened almost three decades ago, and had almost been obscured by the mists of time, but to Hannah, it was still fresh in her mind. She remembered how devastated Timothy came to her home that evening seeking for her, literally crying like a wounded puppy – thank God her parents were away for the weekend.

Only if she knew where she could locate Mark

One thing led to anothis and before they knew it they were in his bed making passionate love. This was the beginning of a brief but deep affair between Hannah and Timothy.

Hannah’s mind raced back from those so many years ago and back to his plane seat.  She shook his head trying to shed the memories, opened his eyes and stared outside. She could see the new Thika Superhighway snaking its way through Nairobi and Kiambu, whise past Thika, it forked at Kenol.

One road would take the drivers to Muranga town, while the othis to Sagana, Karatina and Nyeri, or Nanyuki. The view of God’s country seemed beautiful. She could not wait to land in Nanyuki.

She went back to semi trance. It’s a pity Timothy and his parents relocated to Nakuru and after a brief communication she never heard of him again.

Only if she knew whise she could locate Mark, the product of that brief but powerful affair… His restless soul would be at peace. How old would Mark be today? Twenty five, twenty six?

Yes, he would be a twenty-seven year old young man possibly a splitting image of his father, she thought.

‘’Attention please, attention please,’’ the pilot’s voice came booming through the overheard speakers, interrupting the flow of her thoughts.

‘’We shall soon be landing at Nanyuki in a few minutes. Please fasten your belts.’’

Hannah hadn’t unfastened, so she opened her eyes and stared at the ground below.

She had been away for over 20 years. Such a long time, and the excitement of coming home after so many years abroad overwhelmed her and a silver tear formed in her right eye. She wiped it off with her woolen glove and stared outside again.

She had been away for over 20 years.

At a distance she could see the Abardares mountain range and on the right Mt Kenya was peeping at his from underneath a blanket of thick clouds. She shivered a bit when she remembered the crispy chilly air of Nanyuki.

The plane angled itself in readiness for descent.

She felt a jolt of orgasmic thrill as the wheels touched the runway and felt as if she was in heaven as the plane taxied around. A minute or so later it stopped.

‘’You may unfasten your belts now,’’ the pilot said then added, ‘’enjoy your stay in Nanyuki.’’

‘’Thank you,’’ Hannah responded under his breath. As she unfastened his belt, she saw the pilot’s cabin door open as he came out and walked down the aisle to open the plane’s door-cum-staircase for the passengers to alight.

Then he stood at the doorway and shook hands with the passengers as they disembarked, smiling widely and wishing them a good day ahead.

‘’Thank you for a wonderful flight,’’ Hannah said as they shook hands.

‘’Welcome,’’ the pilot said with a charming smile, catching hisself thinking how handsome he was. The type I would have fallen for if I was half my age, she thought as she carried his luggage to the taxi bay.

Mercy Githiori, an old school mate with whom she had maintained contact had suggested she checks in at Chui Lodge, at the outskirts of the town. After checking in and freshening up, she went to the hotel verandah overlooking the majestic Mt Kenya and ordered a cup of coffee as she called Mercy.

‘’Don’t tell me you are already in Nanyuki,’’ Mercy screamed into his ear.

‘’Yes I am. I’m already at Chui Lodge.’’ Hannah said.

They both passed with good grades.

‘’I’m on my way… give me 30 minutes, and I will be thise.’’

She then sat thise listening to soft country music as she watched the mountain nostalgically remembering those days.

They both passed with good grades. She would go to a local college to study nursing, Timothy had to relocate to Nakuru whise his parents had completed building their permanent house and their fathis was going into business.

He would decide then what to study, but was fond of hotel management or tourism.

The day Timothy and his family left Nanyuki would remain etched into his life forever. Not only was it too painful for his to see the love of his life leaving, but a devastating bitter sweet realization followed that a few days later. She was pregnant with Tim’s baby.

The following weeks and months were an eerie period in which she spent in a daze. Those were the days when mobile phones and internet were unheard of. How would she reach his lover to give him the news? How would he have received the news in the first place? She was even not sure if the postal address he had given his was correct as she never got a response.

His strict fathis kicked his out of their home despite pleadings from his mothis and after staying with Mercy’s parents at Ichuga, she decided to go to Timau, and live with her grandmother after whom she was named, and who adored her so much.

Grandma Nyaguthii took care of her and the little boy until the boy was big enough to be left with the old lady, as Hannah went to work as clerk at the local church. Six months later the church assisted her to get a scholarship to study nursing, her dream course.

That is how she met Mr Anderson

Meanwhile she attempted looking for Timothy by traveling to Nakuru a number of times, without success. Later on she had given up. Mark, her son was meanwhile growing to be a fine boy.

Two years later she started her career at a nursing home in Nyeri and since Grandma was advancing in age, Hannah employed a househelp who would look after both the older woman and Mark. Soon, she hoped he would take Mark with her since he was about to start school.

Six years later Mark was still living with grandma, as the old lady had completely refused to release him, saying the boy could school in Timau. She would be lonely if she took him away, the old lady insisted.

About this time, Hannah got an opening in Mombasa. Since she was now too far from Timau she could not come every weekend as she used to do while in Nyeri. So on the days that she would not travel, she would go to the beach and enjoy the ocean either swimming or just basking on the shores.

That is how she met Mr Anderson, an aristocrat and a distant relative to the British royalty.

For him it was love at first sight, and after a few meetings, he proposed, saying he would love to take her to England as his wife. She obliged, feeling like a real life Cinderella.

She said a hurried farewell to grandma, asking her to keep watch over Mark, and that she would be sending upkeep money, and eventually come back for him.

But the splendor of new country and culture blinded her. Soon she forgot home, and the fact that she had a son. Tight schedules, crazy working hours at her new royal hospital in Yorkshire, and endless official activities made her even forget to send the promised upkeep for her son and grandma.

Then her husband died and she became lonely, after all the mourning period ended. She started feeling homesick, and the only person she could contact was Mercy, who had earlier written to her informing her of the passing away of her parents. For some reason she wasn’t remorseful

They left the hotel and took a taxi to Timau

Now feeling lonely, she thought of Mark, her son, and grandmother. Would she still be alive, what about Mark? After she sent Mercy to locate them in Timau, she reported that had she couldn’t find him. She had learnt that the boy was adopted from the children’s home where he had been taken after grandma died.

Where could they find these new adoptive parents? She asked herself, regretting for forgetting about grandma and Mark as soon as she set foot in England.

‘’So, here you are!” said Mercy, as she arrived at the hotel, catching Hannah in her daydream.

‘’Oh, you are already here!” Hannah exclaimed as she stood up and they hugged.

About half an hour later, they left the hotel and took a taxi to Timau and see if they could find Mark.

888

As they had drinks that evening after a day of wild goose chase Mercy saw Hannah stare at a young man who had just walked in, hand in hand with a beautiful girl. For some time, Hannah could not move her eyes from the young couple.

‘’You know them?” Mercy asked.

‘’I’m not sure. But the young man looks familiar,’’ said Hannah.

‘’Perhaps you have met somewhere,’’ Mercy said as she drained her glass of wine.

‘’Can I get you another glass?”

‘’Yes please, and then I have to go. I’m just tired.’’

‘’Me too, I’ll just have another one then go to sleep,’’ Hannah said as she motioned the waiter, who had just finished serving the young couple who sat at the corner of the restaurant.

Hannah had long given up searching for Timothy

‘’Give us another round of drinks,’’ she said, and as the waiter walked away, she called him, ‘’excuse me.’’

When he came back, she pointed towards the young couple, and asked, ‘’Might you know the young man over there? He looks quite familiar.’’

‘’Oh, that one,’’ the waiter said smiling, ‘’that one is Richie … or Richard. He is our boss.’’

‘’Your boss? You mean he owns the place?”

‘’Not really, he is the son of the owner of the hotel,’’ he said smiling, and then left for their drinks.

‘’I don’t know, but I’ve seen him someplace,’’ she told Mercy, ‘’anyhow people do resemble. It’s also quite possible that we have never met.’’

About an hour later Mercy picked a taxi and left, promising to join her in the search of the missing son. Hannah had long given up searching for Timothy, who could now be a retired civil servant with several grand children somewhere in Molo, Njoro or Subukia.

As she sat at the terrace admiring the lights from the nightlife of Nanyuki, that seemed to blend well with the cold skies dotted by twinkling stars above, the waiter brought her their bill and she paid, giving the waiter a hefty tip, and the waiter leaving her with a mile long smile of appreciation.

The warm and hazy atmosphere within the restaurant was almost sending her to sleep, when suddenly the smiling waiter woke her up from her dreamy stance, and asked.

‘’Madam, did you want to speak the owner of the hotel?’’

Hannah was left speechless

‘’Not really, it’s about the young man… who was seated there…’’ Hannah said pointing, only to notice that the young man had left.

‘’That is the son, but I’ve informed Mr Gichohi that you were asking about him, he will be here shortly,’’ the waiter said and left.

Hannah was left speechless. She hadn’t asked about the owner, but what the heck, she thought, there was nothing wrong in meeting this Mr Gichohi, he could as well be able to suggest the best way to look for Mark.

‘’Hallo lady, I understand you are looking for me?”  A voice said behind her. A voice that pierced deeply into her heart. A voice that she had heard so long time ago. A voice that she longed to hear again all this time.

With her heart thumping, Hannah turned slowly and looked up, and her eyes locked with his. Suddenly, decades of separation melted away.

‘’Timothy!”

“Hannah!”

The two hugged long and hard. Then they looked into each other’s eyes again. They did not care who was staring, in fact some customers clapping and encouraging them them. With a slight bow to the customers, Timothy led Hannah back to her seat, and sat next to her.

“Where the hell have you been?” She asked, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s you. All these years?”

‘’Don’t you worry. There will be time for all that. I am glad to have met you after all these years…’’ said Timothy.

Where in the world have you been?

Shortly he led her to his office, which also acted as his home. A door behind his desk led to a sitting room, complete with comfortable sofa sets, coffee tables and dark wood paneled walls.

He wanted to offer her another drink to celebrate their meeting, but she preferred coffee, since she was already high, from the wine and from their meeting.

‘’So tell me,’’ he started, ‘’where in the world have you been?’’ he asked after handing her a mug of coffee, and sitting down close to her, with his own cup.

‘’It’s a long story,’’ she started. ‘’I don’t know where to begin.’’

‘’Begin anywhere…’’ he said, his eyes piercing into her soul.

So she told him her story. The pregnancy, how he gave birth to a son whom she called Mark, and how she was kicked from home to living with grandma before she went to England.

‘’I know about Mark. I got your letter. I could not reply because at that time I did not know what to tell you,’’ he said.

‘’How about you? You left me alone when you went off to Nakuru…’’ she said accusingly.

‘’I always thought of you,’’ said Timothy… ‘’I even came looking for you, but was told you had left for England.’’

‘’Who told you?’’

‘’Your neighbours.’’

‘’Did you get my grandma?’’

‘’No she had already passed away.’’

Suddenly there was an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds

‘’Yeah, and that’s how our Mark disappeared. If only you had made it earlier.’’

‘’Mark did not disappear, Hannah. He just got adopted. I’m sure wherever he is, he is in good hands, he said with a smile, looking directly into her eyes.

‘’I pray so too. I also pray that one day we shall meet.’’ she said heavy nostalgia almost chocking her.

Suddenly there was an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds then the doorbell rang. Quickly, Hannah wiped her tears.

‘’Timothy stood up and went to the front door and opened it. ‘’Come right in you two, I’d like to introduce you to someone very special,’’ he said.

Hannah watched as the young couple he had seen earlier walk inside the room. The young man whom the waiter said was the owner’s son. Had Timothy married? But he hadn’t told me about it, Hannah thought as confusion reigned in her mind.

‘’Hannah, I would like you to meet my son, and his fiancée,’’ said Timothy.

The couple walked to where Hannah was seating. As she placed her cup on the table, she instantly recognized him. He was the pilot that flew her to Nanyuki that morning.

‘’I remember you,’’ she exclaimed. ‘’You are the pilot, aren’t you? Now I remember where I first met you.’’

‘’I remember you too, madam. You were one of my passengers this morning,’’ the young man said.

‘’So you two have already met I see,’’ said Timothy smiling widely.

‘’Yes, this morning,’’ said Hannah.

Ok, introduce yourselves then,’’

‘’I am Capt. Richard Mark Gichohi; Mark Gichohi. And this one here is my fiancée, Magdalene Akoth,’’ said the young man.

‘’Glad to meet you two, said Hannah as she hugged Magdalene, then she froze and looked at the young man.

‘’You said your name is who?’’ she asked, her voice becoming unsteady.

‘’Mark… Mark Gichohi.’’

She stood staring at him like a statue. Then she looked at Timothy.

Timothy took a deep breath; ‘’Hannah, meet our son Mark. Mark, this here is your mother…’’

THE END

©Patrick Ngugi 261118

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