John’s ex wife must have been some special kind of bastard, Janet mused as she looked at the three children foisted upon her. She was young and beautiful and this was not part of the Janet Life Plan. Of course she loved John but she hadn’t really believed him when he said she had to love his kids too. Children belong with their mothers, that was just the way of the world and John was just going to have to make a plan because she didn’t plan on being an instant mother at 21. Janet debated what to make for dinner while the children continued to play outside. It had to be a healthy meal but also decadent enough to make John putty in her hands because she intended for their talk to go her way tonight. Finally deciding on sadza and pork bones she got busy.
“Eh blaz, hanzi neboys handei timbonoita one one ka tisati tabaya kuden, “ John’s friend and coworker Dennis said. They had just finished another long shift at the canning plant. All John wanted was a cold shower and an icy beer in the company of his woman and children. She would be in the middle of cooking now, he thought, with the children watching tv. That picture drew him and he decided to pass, “Nah boss, I have a woman waiting for me at home, handidi kuzonyimwa waiziya?” They laughed and said their goodbyes at the gate and John got into his car and beelined home.
The scent of food hit John right in the gut when he opened the door and as he walked further into the house the lemony smell of a clean home and his woman’s lavender settled his spirit. He’d been feeling off all day, just a little unsettled but now he was home and all was well. He walked into the kitchen where the kids where happy to see him and the sweets he always brought. The commotion drew Janet from the kitchen and when he looked up he felt a sharp bolt of electricity work its way up his spine. Shrugging it off, John walked towards Janet and kissed her lightly “Hesi mudiwa Janet,” he whispered.
Dinner was a loud and boisterous affair with everyone gushing their compliments to the chef. Janet felt a little glow of satisfaction and had to remind herself to keep an eye on the prize. After delegating Saru , the eldest at nine, to handle clean up Janet asked John to take her for a walk down the street. “What’s bothering you mudiwa? You’ve been quiet all evening” John said as they walked out the gate. Janet walked a few paces in the gathering dusk before responding ‘ Joe, you know I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you right? The thing is I’m just not ready to be a mother “John stopped walking and just looked at Janet in shock. She said rushed on to say “I know we spoke about it but I didn’t know that I would feel this way. Try to understand mudiwa, I’m only 21” John abruptly turned around while Janet was still talking and stalked home
It had been several hours since the man sitting in the last pew of the hospital chapel had moved. Father Amos had been in and out of the chapel most of the day but every time he came back in this man would just be sitting there with his head bowed. He had a break coming up and decided to go and see if he could help. Instead of going up there and asking questions or offering platitudes he sat next to the man and crossed his hands. He had the feeling that nothing could be done to console him but he hoped sitting with him would be some comfort.
“Forgive me father for I have sinned” Kumbira said and startled the priest who had zoned out into an almost meditative state. “It’s been 15 years since my last confessional.” Father Amos looked up. “On this day and many days in this past month I have cursed God and I’m not sorry for it. The two closest women in my life did not get along from the day they met. I tried as best I could to build a bridge and bring about some common ground but I grew weary. As long as they were not using me to score points against each other I ignored the tension. My mother grew advanced in age and she needed care. She wanted to come live with her son but my wife was against it. We had a stranger come in to take the role of carer.
Then my mother took ill not 3 weeks ago and nearly died. Maybe if she had been living with us it may have been different. My sister came back from her self imposed exile and told me she is queer, whatever that means. She also told me of a side to my mother that I can’t comprehend. But I can’t ask her because she’s sick you know? My wife, ah Christ, my beautiful Stella. Jesus, jeez! Bloody buggering hell I’m going to kill that sonofbitch!” Kumbirai exploded as he surged to his feet. Father Amos stood with him and put his arms around Kumbi for comfort, still he said nothing. “Fuck me fuck me fuck me,” Kumbirai chanted. “ I want God to come here and fight me. He clearly has something against me because this is not ok Father. It’s not fair. Your god must come and face me so we can settle whatever the issue is. My child is dead before he even got a chance to live. My wife is barely hanging on and I don’t know how my mother is cause I haven’t had five minutes to check in on her. I can’t do this, how am I supposed to live? This is too much, how can all this misfortune fall on one man. What have I done to deserve this? Tell me! I am good and kind and help the poor. I’m a fair boss, why is this happening to me? How can I even ask Stella to live, she wanted a baby so much but that bastard, that bastard I’m going to kill him. I swear on my mother I will kill him.” He fell to his knees like the words he’d just uttered had been holding him up and now with the rant done he had no strength to hold himself up. He was sitting on the floor with his head on Father Amos’ lap, sobbing when Maria rushed in.
She rushed to his side and hugged him fiercely and tried to tug him up at the same time. “Kumbi we have to go, the doctors, they have news!”
Isaiah moved back and fell into the couch. He was shaking and he didn’t know if it was rage or fear. “What have I done?”, he said under his breath. Joyce was at the phone stand trying to speak but her sobs were making he words inaudible. Tears started streaming down Isaiah’s face and he quickly wiped them away. Joyce came back into the room and knelt besides her daughter. It was only then that Isaiah dared to look. He shuddered as he saw the limp body of Stella and he couldn’t stop the tears this time. Joyce held Stella in her arms weeping uncontrollably. Minutes later, the ambulance arrived and the paramedics attended to Stella. “What happened to her”, one of the paramedics asked although the scene narrated the events itself. The question was met with silence as was the norm for such questions in this particular house.
Stella tried to open her eyes but she couldn’t. She couldn’t sort her thoughts out either. Everything was a blur and she couldn’t quite figure out where she was. She could make out voices but they weren’t close enough for her to hear what exactly they were saying. There was an annoying beeping sound and Stella hoped someone would switch it off. The fog in her mind refused clear out and she drifted away back to sleep.
Kumbirai had spent every one of the past three days in the hospital. He had been hooked to an IV earlier because he was dehydrated and exhausted. Even then, he had refused to leave Stella’s side so the IV and an extra bed had been brought into the room. The doctors said her brain activity as good but they had no way of knowing when she would come around. A part of Kumbirai didn’t want her to wake up because he didn’t know how he would tell her the news that had shattered him. “I shouldn’t have let you leave the house”, he whispered whilst holding Stella’s hand. “I’m sorry”. Stella would be shattered and Kumbirai knew he had no idea how they’d deal with it. He remembered exactly how he had felt when the doctor broke the news to him. “We tried everything we could but we couldn’t save the baby”.
It’s not every day that a man is confronted by his past mistakes and failures. He’d never forgive his wife for giving him only one daughter because a man needed sons to carry his name. In his position as pastor of the very successful Life Covenant Ministry he was a most respected man until that Elder Micheal started parading his sons and that got his goat every time. Here he was, surrounded by women who would not heed him, daring to speak before he did. Where had all the respect gone?
While he warred with himself over the news just delivered, Stella continued talking. The words ‘only you mama ‘ broke through his reverie and he said ‘what? What did you just say?” Stella squared her shoulders and said ‘ We both know that there can never be peace between you and me Baba, there is no bridge big enough to sweep everything that’s happened under. However, at this time in my life and especially when I finally go into confinement I need my mother so I came here today to see how we can go about this.” While Stella was talking, Joyce sat there mute with shock but she could see where this conversation was headed. They’d all been there too many times to count and while she was proud of the way her daughter stood up to her father she knew the fear of a mother who’d once seen her child leave and never look back.
“Who do you think you are Stella?” Isaiah began, “ the good book says you should honor your father. But you come into my house, the very same house you swore you’d never come into after I confronted you about your sins as tried to discipline you. Then you go ahead and disrespect me in my own home.’ Stella was about to respond when her mother’s hand clutched her sleeve. Isaiah looked at their clutched hands and the rage in him increased hundred fold. He walked over to the table to pour a drink and try to get himself under control. He took a sip of his whiskey then turned around and said quietly ‘get out.’ Both women looked up in shock unsure who he was addressing. “Baba ” Joyce began before she was cut off with a hand in the air. Isaiah turned fully to his daughter and said “I said get out of my house you Jezebel! You come into my house throwing demands around in the name of your unborn bastard. Go back to the snake pit you crawled from!”
With each word Isaiah was advancing to where Stella now stood defiantly, chin angled up as if daring him to strike her. Joyce was crying softly beside Stella with her head bowed like someone who knew their place. “ I’m not leaving without my mother today Baba, but go ahead, strike me. Strike me then you will know my name. “
It was as if time froze. Joyce couldn’t believe her eyes. She felt her legs buckle under her and she had to use the frame of the door to stay on her feet. Joyce tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth. So many thoughts were rushing through her head and she didn’t know what to do. She hadn’t thought much of the unfamiliar car in their driveway when she had made her way in. They always had unexpected visitors from the church. Joyce involuntary looked at Isaiah and the fury on his face made her shudder. “Sit down”, Isaiah said with vehemence. Joyce slowly walked to the empty couch that was furthest from her husband and sat. She lifted her head and stole a look at their visitor, or rather, intruder. Stella looked at her mother reassuringly for a moment and returned her focus to her father.
If you asked Stella how she had ended up at her parents’ house, she wouldn’t be able to explain properly. How she had gone from an argument with Kumbirai, to a conversation with Maria, to being in her parents’ house would also baffle her. Her conversation with Maria had sparked an immediate need to confront her father. She had to be careful to not let on that she had seen Joyce recently. Joyce didn’t have to deal with the wrath of Isaiah. The woman had been through enough of that. Stella broke the silence and she felt her mother flinch. Isaiah didn’t like it when people spoke before him, Stella especially.
Joyce already knew the news but faking shock was equally as hard as receiving such news for the first time. Isaiah was still seething but one could get the sense that he wanted to be warm towards Stella. Everyone in the room knew his pride wouldn’t allow him to express any form of warmth towards his daughter. Years on conflict had led to this. Stella had made it clear that she wasn’t going to discuss matters of the past. She had a single agenda and it had stunned her father beyond all his anger. Stella was pregnant and the shock of it had hit Isaiah really hard.
While Stella sat in her car gathering her courage, in another part of the world Isaiah was sitting in the lounge of the beautiful home the Lord had blessed him with. A man worked hard to his mind and the Lord helped those who helped themselves. So he sat there, king of his own castle and wondered why women were so foolish. How is it that after 25 years Joyce thought she could pull one over him? He’d left work especially early today so he could get to the bottom of this and the wife didn’t even have the decency to be home with some tea waiting for him. Nothing to it, he thought as he poured a whiskey, they’d see what they’d see before the night was done.
At the ladies fellowship across town Joyce was gathering her things together, just about ready to leave when she heard someone call her name. She considered ignoring it and dashing to her car but they’d just discussed stewardship and she couldn’t bring herself to do it. A storm was brewing but she turned calmly to see a young woman who’s name she couldn’t remember. She’d gotten married not too long ago so was new to the ladies fellowship. “How are you mama?” She asked breathlessly. “ I’m so sorry to hold you back but I just wanted to ask if you’d like to have a coffee with me? I’m still so new here and I thought maybe we could get to know each other better?” Joyce smiled indulgently for she knew nervous babbling when she saw it. She had an hour to kill before going home to start on supper so she suggested they head over to the cafe across the street.
By the time they’d settled down and ordered Joyce remembered the name that had been eluding her and said “so Chengeto, how is it all going. Are you enjoying being a Mrs?” The young woman had said let’s get to know one another but Joyce knew that she needed something. She’d been mai mufundisi for a more than a decade and she could see when one of the flock needed help but she decided not to press with this first meeting. They chatted about any and everything that popped up easily and before she knew it the hour was up. She gave Chengeto her cell and agreed to do it again soon then left.
Joyce felt it the moment she opened the door. That oppressive silence that seemed to suck in even the light. ‘Ah God’ she thought, she’d walked into the eye of the storm.
Stella walked into the house through the kitchen door and found Kumbirai seated by the kitchen table. He had a glass of whiskey in his hand and Stella knew something was bothering him. Kumbirai didn’t drink this early in the week unless something had disturbed him deeply. For a moment, Stella thought he had found out about her little secret but she reassured herself that there was no way he could find out. It had to be something else. “Are you ok baby?”, Stella asked tentatively. Kumbirai took a sip of his drink and motioned for her to take the seat across from him.
As Stella took the seat to which she had been directed, she hoped that her mother in law was ok. Her concern came from her care for Kumbirai and not from affection for Mai Mudota. Kumbirai started relaying the details of his lunch with Maria. As Kumbirai concluded his story, Stella looked confused. “So why are you stressed Kumbirai?”, she asked. Kumbirai looked up with obvious rage in his eyes. “My sister can’t be gay!”, he shouted. “That is taboo!” Stella stood up and began walking out of the kitchen. “I can’t believe you still think like that”, she said in her stride. “It’s 2018 Kumbi. Grow up.”
Stella hadn’t given much thought to what she was doing when she drive out. Now that she was on the road, her endeavor started to look illinformed. She was going to see Maria, a woman she had only met a few days ago. They didn’t know each other at all. Kumbirai would have said some hurtful things to his sister and Stella had instinctively made the decision to go and be with Maria. The second member of her family she had come out to had rejected her and Stella knew enough about rejection by family. She had no idea how Maria was going to react. Stella thought about turning back but she felt she had to go to Maria.
‘She has gone through enough alone’, Stella thought. ‘I will be there for her’. Another call from Kumbirai came through and Stella ignored the phone as it rang. Kumbirai following her to their room to argue had infuriated her. How could he be so ignorant? Stella pulled up to Mai Mudota’s house and sat in the car for a few minutes as she gathered her thoughts and arranged her words.