By Rehema Malemba
I haven’t talked of my grandmother’s previous life, or have I? We were living with her in the city and she was enjoying herself and I’m sure she wished not to part ways with the world of the living even though her age was demanding her to do so. She wished to continue bathing in the luxury. She was not living, she was celebrating life. Talk of the outs, talk of the gifts, talk of new hairstyles and designer’s clothes. That was the kind of joyous life she embraced. And, in any case, why wouldn’t she enjoy her only son’s wealth? The only son, but not the only child.
Grandmother had two daughters besides my father but my father was the only child who was “successful” as grandmother put it. I don’t know which scale she used to measure success. Although Aunt Mona and Aunt Grace back in the village, didn’t have permanent jobs, they never complained of hunger, neither were they seen on the roads begging for bread. Wait, how could they become successful having been denied the chance to better their lives. The tool of empowerment that they needed was not given to them.
While dad was taken from one prestigious school to another, they were only exchanging places around the fire and balancing pots of water on their heads. They were married at a very young age again reason being the only money available was for my dad’s tuition fee. That being the case I find it so immature blaming them, for having many pale skinned and cracked feet children squeezed to fit in the small grass thatched bofulo huts. Though she had the chance of living with Aunty Mona in the nearby village who had forsaken her marriage and come back home, grandma had opted to abandon the home of the hustlers and spend time her last days with her ‘lovely’ son.
Life was such a rosy and a cozy thing to have and enjoy in the city but now I’m sitting in this position with my face buried in my two little red palms, my shaggy hair, with my body hardly covered in old pants that I had abandoned like twenty years ago when we were moving to the city.
I’m in a place, I left without a good bye, the place that I abandoned with no care of turning back and seeing what was left behind. I never thought that I would ever come back in this state. It was long since I entered this house. Not one of our family members has been in it for decades. And were it not for the kind neighbor who asked for permission to occupy it, it would have long collapsed. Aunty asked for the permission to live in the house, but the elders considered it an abomination for she had left her matrimonial home not in a good way.
I was young then but I understood everything
Auntie Mona’s husband passed away and as the custom demanded, the younger brother wanted to inherit her. Auntie Mona refused the ‘cleansing’ as the clan called it and that led to her escape. Back at our place, none of the elders welcomed her, as they termed her an outcast, a carrier of bad luck and after much wandering she landed in the next village that was full of people of the same fate as hers.
It is a big house that dad had constructed immediately he got his first job but we never got a chance to live long in it. It was barely a month had passed after its construction, when dad came and picked us to go live in the city. I was young then but I understood everything. But now I’m back, not in a happy united family, but alone and lonely and feeling suicidal. Where are the rest of the family members? Continue holding on I’ll inform you.
Allow me to go deeper into the events that lined up to orchestrate my unhappiness. I remember that one fine morning. I had just slipped out of the heavy duvet ready to prepare for the day, when the news about the tragedy that had befallen the school cut through my ear. Among the homes of the students who resided outside the school, a fight had broken out between two students; a male and a female who, it was presumed, had eloped. The fight had resulted in the death of the girl, while the boy was nursing critical injuries.
The news from the national radio station reported the incident though they didn’t give much details as it had just happened. I felt a bit shaken but I didn’t give much care as fights and deaths among students had become common. Furthermore, I had my end of year examinations to study for. The second semester of the third academic year was drawing to a close and, as much as the excitement hung in the air, I had to sit down and go through the notes.
I tuned the radio, which was more than a home theatre to some cool music as I proceeded to make breakfast. I made a bread toast and took it with fresh blended mixed fruit juice, that was my favourite.
She is Quinter, one of the renowned school dancers
The following day was when shock took a grip firm of me. I was busy picking out dirty clothes, taking the bed sheets, the sofa covers, the curtains and the carpets to take them to the laundry when my friends knocked on my door. Their faces were gloomy and not as happy as they always were. They were downcast. Their eyes too were red and, without much thinking, I knew something was wrong. I welcomed them and served them cold drinks with some bits of pizza that had bought for Jimwel who was on the way to my place but for a reason I didn’t know, had delayed. They refused to take the snack and instead showed me a photo.
“Oh yes, I know her, she is Quinter, one of the renowned school dancers plus she is my friend too. What about her?”
“Immaculate, are you serious? You don’t know what happened to her?”
“I don’t know unless you tell me,” I took a seat beside them and shock upon shock to realise that the two friends that I was with two days ago, were the victims in the incident that I had heard the previous day.
I was torn between shock and sorrow. I ran short of breath, I gasped for air as I moved about in the room. I wished to hear the two ladies tell me that it was a prank but that was just a wishful thinking. I took my phone and called Quinter, but her phone was off.
I called Samuel, her boyfriend, his was also off. After more pacing up and down the truth slowly sank in. Quinter was gone and Samuel was in a critical state. I asked Sophie to show me the pictures taken at the scene, to reaffirm that it was my two friends and, after studying them a second time, the truth remained, it was them. I wept, and wailed all the while denying the truth.
Both were fine and happy as a couple could be, the last time we were together. We had gone out, Samuel and Quinter, and Jimwel and I. We had had a lot of fun together in one of the beautiful school gardens, it was a double-date and we even called the day ‘couples’ day. If I recall, Samuel was the happiest of us all. I was the one holding the camera that day. I took pics of different kinds; this kissing that, this one posing that way, the other one a different pose, this one carrying the other.
We went over to the hospital to see Samuel
There was so much happiness. Who would have thought? With these fresh memories, memories that are far from relating with the incidence, I was bound to be held down with questions. What caused the fight between them? What big thing might have happened that led to Samuel stabbing Quinter? What was that that could only be solved with a knife and not dialogue? Or maybe there is a third party who made it look like the two were fighting? We went over to the hospital to see Samuel and, in the state he was in, but we couldn’t stay for long since he was under police guard. The investigations were under way trying to figure out the cause of the fight.
Everything went silent as we all waited for the outcome of the investigations. News reporters whom I only used to see from a far, were now always around me interrogating me as I was the last person with the victims. Peace and I parted ways. As much as I wanted to read for my examinations, the reading mood was not just there. My friends decided to take me into hiding, so I may gather my thoughts and regain my peace.
After around three days since the incident, the reasons for the fight and the sudden demise of my friend came to light and there was strong evidence to support the claims. Quinter was cheating on Samuel with another man. It was that simple. She had done it for a year or so. What? That is impossible, I reasoned as I tried to defend her because she didn’t look like the cheating type. It was unlike her. I could never suspect her to do such a thing! But then again, I had never thought of the possibility of unthinkable things as I was to find out soon enough. The evidence was provided in the form of conversations that the two had held through telephone chats cleared it all. So the most important question that remained was; who was she hide-dating.?
Blows of shock continued piling on me as days passed. No stone was left unturned and, finally, the man was revealed. It was one of the senior officials of the institution, a man old enough to be the girl’s father, the newspapers said. The entire story was eventually revealed and narrated in the local dailies. It was the man who had organised the death of both Quinter and Samuel. How? Everyone asked.
The man was a “sponsor” to the lady, all the wealth, everything, we saw Quinter with, was provided by the big man. She was living in riches, in fact, most of what she had was way better that what we, her friends had. We couldn’t understand the source of her money for she was not from a well off background, and of course, we all knew that, the boyfriend was not capable of providing it. We neither questioned nor criticised we chose to go along with it.
Dr. John Ambunya as the sender
That is what friends do. Right? Ignore the wrong and focus on the good? But now the source was laid bare, it was the DVC of the school. I felt dead when the news finally got to me, the trauma I went through even as I tried to comprehend the news that my father was the sole source of the wealth of Quinter, was such that no one can fathom. The killer of Quinter and the reason why Samuel at that very moment was and still is fighting for his life. What? It was hard to comprehend. Really hard. I couldn’t just imagine that it was my own father who drew water from the same well with Jimwel’s twin brother. Samuel and Jimwel were twin brothers and I think that’s what brought Quinter and I close. How could these have happened?
Samuel was not a student from the same institution with us. He was in the town branch a short distance though from our place and so he was around on weekends and probably once during the week days. I think that’s why it was easy for Quinter to entertain her deep of wealth. Investigations revealed that, while he was away, Samuel received a note from someone that his girlfriend who he believed to be his alone was sharing with someone.
Who delivered the information was one of the members of the dance group that Quinter was a member. Samuel didn’t take the matter lightly and he started investigating on the same. Samuel learnt of the truth and that day going to Quinter’s place without notifying her, he found Quinter opening a gift with a name; Dr. John Ambunya as the sender. He had questioned Quinter on the issue over the phone and as usual Quinter claimed to be just a scandal. With evidence right in his hands, Samuel lost all tempers and it’s when the block came along.
At first I thought maybe they were tarnishing the name of my father, but evidence availed nullified all the defence I had against the claims. It was confirmed. When he was not at home, my father was not in the office as he claimed to be but somewhere screwing with another person’s daughter. It was not about sex. No, it was more than that.
I could not look at him in the eyes without revulsion
It was not a mere desire for sexual satisfaction, it had deeper roots. It couldn’t be that all this happened simply because my mother was “unavailable”. She was beautiful enough for her age, a submissive wife as the society demanded, she had in her all that a man could desire in a wife. I argued all these and more within my paining soul, she gave him the respect that he deserved. Yet the shameless fool needed but the shameless being didn’t see it all, he stooped too low, my father. The image of him panting on top of Quinter was too painful.
I could not look at him in the eyes without revulsion. My stomach contorted whenever he walked into the same room I was in. I feel the insult that my mother was served. It was an abuse. For thirty good years of building their respect, the name of the family, setting up the business together, all the moral support she gave him, the randy goat had gone ahead and took a long piss at it! Mum could not comprehend from what point she would move on with her life. Could she forgive and move along or start all over again? Mum ran mad. As I’m telling you this, she is in one of the mental hospital in the city. I haven’t visited to see her.
I do not have the desire or the will to see her ranting and nodding at the air like one possessed. Grandmother is in another world. At the news break, she somehow defended her son but on further explanations and more evidence shown to her, the truth sank and so unfortunate was she that her heart was too weak to beat again, the shock sent her into that grave that she believed she was not ready for. My brother felt as much shame as I did. His peers mocked him and said bad things that he couldn’t accept.
No elder was around to help gather our family. I tried to snatch myself from my own sorrow and try help Amos but I’m sorry I failed to contain him. How was he going to face his friends whom he always trampled down by talking so highly of his dad? If there is someone in our family, who felt so proud of dad, it was him. Amos was found dead in a pool of blood of his own blood in bed. My father helplessly watched our family as it disintegrated away.
I drown in my own pool of blood
The wealth he gathered for us couldn’t hold any of us. He was fired from the office as a punishment for his indiscipline. He was held down by the police and is moves restricted as more investigations continued. I couldn’t continue sharing the same oxygen with a murderer. He was not literally involved in the death of the young Quinter but he was the sole reason behind it. He didn’t hold our family as he was cultured to but he dismantled everything. Really father? I collected myself and went back to the village I long left.
Sitting in this dark corner the whole equation whose answer is the breakup of our family starts showing up. Who contributed to the whole misfortune? Quinter saw wealth in my father, my father saw the juicy young and fresh vagina and, to fulfil his lust, he simply stretched forth his wealth and he got what he wanted. Probably Quinter had the chance to refuse, but power relations… when you were raising us up, did you place among your structures at least a structure that could help uphold the social value of the woman? Did you really mean wealth to be the definition of our value?
That our pride, our worth could be likened to mere pieces of silver and gold. Whether you accept it or not, society you have failed the woman. I drown in my own pool of blood, going away to be with my brother. One thing I hope and pray for, is the girl child right from the start to be considered of value and rightly brought up with the boy.