The Mourner by Kelvin J. Shachile

 

How ugly the day was for Robai when her mother died and she sat in the living room welcoming visitors who walked in to sign the condolence book before sitting down to listen on what had happened. Outside, the evening was promising and the sky towards the west was orange, there was a soft breeze that blew against her tender flesh every time she walked outside to pick the visitors and so when Philip arrived, the procedure seemed not to change except that for him, he pulled his hands from the black designer jacket and threw it on her shoulders before he hugged her and held her in his embrace. Robai wept as if she had not done that earlier and Philip mourned too. And he told her that he was there to mourn her mother with her.

 

Unlike the first day of Temesi’s funeral which had been full of confusion and plans on how the funeral was going to be handled, the second day was dedicated to mourning. Philip sat in the backyard and sobbed heavily unlike anyone else and even when the night had come and all that the people were doing was to unpack, eat and sit in groups murmuring and gossiping, Philip had ate nothing until when Robai brought him food and fed him like a small child. His eyes were red and bitter.

Since Tamara had died in her matrimonial home and her husband Jesse had not yet paid dowry, rumors said they would take her body and bury in her father’s soil. But her old mother said she didn’t want to be called the mother of a daughter who had been married but came to be buried in her soil even after giving her husband three children and Robai was the youngest daughter.

 

Unlike her siblings, Robai spoke less and had been her mother’s favorite. She threw sharp glimpses at the funeral planners and the mourners, being an experienced bullshit detector, she saw the genuineness in those who were genuine and pretense in those who had it but above all  she saw the grace and the tenderness in one man, Philip, He was a man of knowledge and had spent years out of the country studying for his master’s degree in a university in south Africa, he wasn’t a frequent visitor but since her father’s death when still in Secondary school, he had seen him home during the December holidays when he came with books to stock their small library in the living room and some sacks of rice and sugar, boxes of salt and containers of oil with him for her mother.

 

She would call them in the living room, lock them in the embrace of his warmth and Robai and her siblings would lean to touch his then less bearded faces, being the youngest, Robai’s turn to hug him was always longer and the embrace tighter and her mother would laugh and breathe.

 

“God has been so good to us through you. May he bless you very much.” Tamara would say to him and usher him inside. Philip was a family friend who people had gossiped that he had inherited Tamara before her death and so when Robai saw the grace in his actions and the efforts to make her mother’s funeral a success, she leaned unto him as a father figure more beyond what would later come to become a month after the burial.

Philip held her hand and walked aside with her,

 

“What is your plan now that the funeral is done?”

 

“Nothing, I am just here, I have finished college and now will just stay and keep my parents’ graves some company as I wait on what might come next.” Robai said.

“No, your siblings are leaving and the whole place is going to be a wilderness. Could you mind coming with me back to South Africa? You don’t need to stay here alone. You can find something there as you calmly mourn the last bits of the tears inside you.”

“What about your family?”

“You don’t have to worry, all is well.”

On the third day after the memorial rituals were done, Robai landed in South Africa with Philip who held her hand and always smiled when he met those he knew.

“I have to lie that you’re my wife to avoid so many issues here.” Philip said when the taxi had dropped them outside a beautiful house that had a low-trimmed fence and a small gate. A mail box was just near the road and the whole estate looked like a replication of a single model of a home into many homes.

There was a woman at the doorstep who awaited for them, she had a face of a baby and looked well established. This was without doubting Philip’s wife as Robai thought walking towards the house. She dropped the bags and with a lot of humility greeted her.

“Good evening ma’am?” she said.

“C’mon, you should be Philip’s new bride. Congratulations. When he told us he was going to get a wife back in Kenya we all thought he lied. Our colleagues even send me to welcome you and get the proof that he meant it.” The woman said hugging Robai.

Robai’s tongue couldn’t say a thing at that moment until when Philip had checked his car that he had left parking in the yard.

“Robai, please meet Rehema. She is in our club. We work together and play golf together.” He said faking a smile to her. “Rehema, as you might have expected, meet Robai, my wife.”

Pleasant hugs were exchanged and off cause a lot of faking before Rehema left with Philip after having a drink in the house and Robai left to unpack. The house was big and looked newly painted. The walls were well furnished and it seemed feet for a person with a family. The master bedroom upstairs that Robai first entered had a large bed with expensive duvets, a wide closet and a bathroom with a tub and a shower. The windows were large and clear and she would stand to enjoy the view of the city.

The other two bedrooms were smaller and had no bathrooms in them. Only one at the end of the corridor seemed to serve the two rooms. The kitchen was expansive and well fitted with modern facilities, the dining table and the chairs, the beautiful glass vases with water but lacked flowers. Robai for once thought of a life she was about to start and sighed.

When Philip returned, she had not unpacked the things and still stood in the kitchen staring at the backyard where beautiful butterflies were merrily flying and jumping above the unhealthy rose bushes. She heard him walk in and so she turned to him.

“Rehema is a Kenyan name?”

“Yes, it is. She is from the Kenyan coast-Mombasa.”

“So why did you lie to her that I am your wife when she is a person from home?”

“Listen, we cannot trust anybody here. It is only you and I that we can trust.” Philip said and seductively moved to her. He passed his hand on her shoulders and let it drop to her waist before she brushed it off.

“Listen to me. You have already stretched beyond the limits we set. Where is your wife?”

“Robai, I am not married.”

“So you lied to me? How I am going to trust you living with me under one roof, two of us in one house?”

“That is what I was coming to. Listen, I had to do that to bring you here. And the aim of bringing you here was to tell you how much I love you and I think you are the kind of a person I would love to live the rest of my life with.”

Robai didn’t say anything.

“Trust me, I have been patient enough.”

“But you are my step-father.” the words escaped her mouth to the surprise of Philip who didn’t expect.

“I am not, all the connections I had with your late mother was about you. She had promised me to have you once you finish your college…”

“I cannot trust you Philip. I need to get back home. I cannot stay here not even for the night.” she said in his face, Philip gripped her by the waist, pulled her closer and caught her in his embrace, the strong muscles couldn’t let her go and he kissed her on the forehead, breathed his warm air in her face and held her for some minutes before he let her go. He walked out to his bedroom and from that moment, the events repeated until when Robai got herself in his bedroom two days after the first day, and life began.

The next time Rehema came to pick Philip to go to their club, Robai was watering the lawn and Philip had not returned home.

“Good afternoon Mrs. Philip. How has been your Sunday?”

“Good afternoon Rehema, My Sunday has been so nice.”

“Ooh! I will prefer you call me Ms. Thomas. Having a man’s name on your name gives you some power than just a plain female name.”

“I don’t agree with you. And I was even about to tell you that the name you just called me isn’t mine. I am not Mrs. Philip. I am Robai, may be add my father’s name, Jonah.” Robai said dropping the water pipe on the ground. “And by the way I needed a favor from you. I want you to make me believe you can be the right person I can share my problem with.”

“Feel free to share. You know we women are always there for ourselves. So believe me, I can help where possible.” Rehema responded to the thoughtful Robai. “Tell me, Robai.”

“Philip is not my husband, he was just a friend to my mother who died a month ago. Coming here, I thought he had a family whose company would help me cool from the pain of losing my mother in my heart. I have just fell into a ditch of reality to know that even my other siblings knew what I am in, My mother sold me to this man who has already made me his wife without my wish. I am helpless.”
“Did he rape you or something?”

“No, he didn’t. I said I am like a slave sold to a man without my first consent.”

“How do you suggest I help you now my dear?”

“I need just a word from you. I am confused, even before my mother’s death elders had turned to ask me about my marriage plans, I am away from home and with a man who through life since I knew him until this very moment has been supporting and loving me. But I just feel giving away to him that way might make him think I am such cheap.”

“To avoid more drama my lady, then stay, that’s all I can say. Is he home already?”

“No, he went out.” Robai responded and hugged Rehema goodbye before she went to sit in the porch her mind fully immersed in thoughts.

And now years have gone, Robai still serves Phillip Mango juice during dinner and stays in the house when he goes to work. Her papers have taken so long to me made as he had promised and the best is to run her boutique in the town. She still stands on the balcony and looks at the clean city and admire the beauty of the place, the view of the Table Mountain and the setting of the sun in the evening. She cries and laughs every day for each time Philip walks into the house, she remembers her mother and sees Philip not a source of hope anymore but an emotional and physical blackmailer.

On this very day, in the morning when she was with her son waiting for the school bus to come, she met Rehema and they talked in Swahili this time.

She felt much better to feel at home speaking it.

“How far?” Rehema said hugging her.

Robai laughed and faked a faint smile.

“Nothing yet. Everything is as it is every day.”

“Why didn’t you let him drop Boy at school instead of waiting for the bus? It might come late today.”

“I said to him to stop stressing himself. Boy is my son and so it doesn’t matter of what is between us two. All I want is the best for my son.”

“But you didn’t have to allow him give you this child if you were not interested in him.”

“What am I supposed to do? Kill him or swallow him? I never want for once my son to think he is a product of the drama that transpired between us.”

“Why didn’t you take the step to report him to the police?”

“Then you would accommodate me and help me get home?”

“That would have happened much later.”

“Remember I am here as his wife. And even as I might wish to leave, I have much to do.”

“So you prefer to stay?”

“I don’t, I have just decided to be here. I am like in a dilemma. Life is good, life is calm but then I feel cheap.”

“Does he treat you well?”
“Yes, he does and I cannot lie that he does all his best to make me happy.”

“Then why not just give him a chance to have you in his life.”

“That is not what he brought me here for. He said I was coming to calm down the fires of grief after my mother’s death and so he was a compassionate mourner. I took him for that.”

“My dear stop killing bits and bits of yourself. Lean on one side. Live or leave.”

Robai had not responded when the school bus arrived and waved to Boy as he joined his friends in the bus. It sped off and left them conversing.

In the afternoon, she stood at the usual spot at the window, outside the drizzles continuity and life would seem to be more confusing for her to stay she had not gone to work today. She turned towards the fringe and made a small sandwich for her son and went to the door to wait for the school bus.  There Philip still stood talking on phone and he seemed so much excited. When he saw her he walked to her and hugged her, Robai didn’t love it but faked a smile, this time she didn’t allow him to kiss her, so much fortunate that though she lacked the excuse for that, when Philip turned to look around to what would have caused her resistance, he understood. The school bus had arrived and Boy was home.

“Welcome Home Boy.” He muttered leaning to hug the little boy. “Mama should have prepared some nice after school snack for you.” He added and smiled. He didn’t look across at her anymore, he walked into the house and left Robai and her son at the porch.

Later Robai would sing of freedom as she prepared the dinner and once after setting the table, the normal mango juice would miss and instead the fresh uncut mangoes would be set on a wide fruit basket beside the bowls.

“Where is the juice my sweetheart?”

“It nauseates me, I think I will love some change, some fresh fruits in its natural form instead.” She would say and sigh. Her hunger would escape and Robai would not eat any more food, instead take a glass of water and go into the bathroom to wash her face and stare in the mirror for some time. She would think and wait for him to join her in the bedroom for the night.

 

 

Author’s Bio

Kelvin J. Shachile is a Kenyan born 21 years old literary enthusiast, writer, actor and speaker.  He has been published in several literary journals and magazines including The Whispers; an international poetry journal-published in Netherlands, New Ink Review; A Zambian based online journal and Writers Space Africa– A publication of the African Writers Development Trust.

He is a part time tutor of computer literacy, literature and environmental studies. He is currently a student at Maasai Mara university-Narok-Kenya where he divides his time reading geography, literature, history and philosophy.

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