the ones left behind

THE ONES LEFT BEHIND II

Stories from the Diaspora

BY SHEILLAH MAONGA

To read part one, click here

I looked away as I thought of that marriage proposal. We were both on the ground after our fall. I was livid. I was telling him off for running with his eyes closed. He was looking at me bemused not seeing my point at all.

“I am sorry.” He had said.

“That is a fake apology. I refuse it.” I had retorted. Jared always apologised hastily when I was angry. He apologized even when he was not in the wrong for the sake of peace. I loathed that. Because it meant that he never saw the error of his ways but expected us to draw a line under it because he had apologized. I always felt that such apologies were a cop out.

“What do you want, Nkatha? I have apologised. What else do you want?” Jared had asked exasperatedly.

“I want us to be happy as we were a few minutes ago in the woods. I want that.” I had replied.

“We are happy.” He had replied.

I had shaken my head. We were not always this happy. For the last two years, we had not been happy. We were at a stalemate. I wanted marriage. Or at the bare minimum, I wanted us to live together. Jared didn’t want that. He wanted us to continue as we were. Just as a boyfriend and girlfriend. I wanted more because this was our tenth year of courtship and I was ready to settle down and start a family.

Jared’s refusal to marry me or live with me had knocked my confidence badly. He was keen to reassure me that the problem was not me. That it was all him. That it was not a rejection at all. But I couldn’t see past his refusal. All I saw was a man that I loved so deeply- a love that had been steadily growing for a decade – was pulling away from me. This had created an atmosphere between us. It had introduced a sadness in my heart that accompanied me whenever I was with him.

“Nkatha?” He had called me gently. He was the only person that called me by my Kenyan name. Everyone else called me by my English name Rose. Which I didn’t like very much.

“Yes.” I had whispered in response for I was very close to tears.

“What would make you happy?” He had asked.

“Marriage.” I had replied simply.

He was lying on the floor. He had rolled up, then went on bended knee and reached out for my hand. I had thought he was joking and I was ready to tell him off for the cruel joke when I had looked in his eyes and seen that he was serious.

He had taken my hand as my heart started beating wildly in my chest. I couldn’t breathe. This long awaited day was finally here.

“Nkatha, will you be my wife?” He had asked, and no sweeter words had ever been heard by my ears.

I had started crying. I couldn’t speak. He had held me in an embrace. I had sobbed hysterically making his shirt have a big wet patch covering the whole chest area.

When I had stopped sobbing, he had tied a grass ring on my wedding finger. I had started sobbing afresh. We had had our intimate moment there and then in broad daylight, none of us thinking that we could have been caught. We were too lost in our own private world to care. Afterwards, he had lifted me and carried me all the way to the car park where his car was. We had driven to my home. While there, he had settled me in, made me a cup of hot chocolate, then had left for the night.

That was not unusual since he hardly slept at mine. For our sleepovers, they mainly happened at his flat. Though, I had pulled back considerably from going there for these sleepovers when he had refused my offer to live together or get married. Because it hurt me every time I was with him. Those visits just reminded me of what I couldn’t have. That soured my time at his place; so, I limited them. He seemed to take these reduced visits with a sigh of relief. He had never begged me to visit him and spend the night. He seemed to take my self-imposed strike in very good stride. He didn’t seem to mind coming to my place at all.

I had sipped my hot chocolate in a daze. I was lost in fantasy land planning our wedding and subsequently, our married life together. I fell asleep to the sound of pitter patter of tiny feet in my mind. I had never been that happy in my life. I was going to be Jared’s wife. Finally.

“When did he propose?” His mother’s voice steered me from that memory trip in my mind back to the real world.

“He proposed on the day he…..he…..he…. On the day he had his accident.” I said faintly. I still couldn’t utter those words. I couldn’t say out loud that he had died.
“He proposed to you, then soon after went and killed himself?” The mother asked, and I could verify unequivocally that her tone sounded very accusatory towards me. I was not overthinking it.

I started walking away. My tears were about to fall, and I was not going to let this cold woman see them.

“Where are you going?” She asked me.

I didn’t bother answering. I broke into a run and raced all the way to the car park. I was bawling all the 2 kilometres of it.

At the car park, I realized that I didn’t drive there. We had come in her car. She had insisted on taking her car, even when I had offered we use mine instead. So, here I was with no transport back home.

I contemplated waiting for her, for home was 10 kilometres away. But then I thought of what she had said to me. She had as much accused me of his suicide. Something that had bugged me so much ever since he died; that a few weeks ago, I had started seeing a counsellor. The first thing the counsellor had told me was that I was not responsible for Jared’s death and therefore should not feel guilty about it. I had needed to hear that, because the guilt was killing me.

I remembered too clearly that night when I received the news. I was deeply asleep when my phone rang. The shrill ringtone woke me up. It was an anonymous number. I picked it because it could have been my mother calling from Kenya. She didn’t pay heed to the 7 hours’ time difference and always called me at unethical hours. She called using calling cards, so the numbers were always withheld.

“Hallo, mum. I am sleeping, mum. Don’t wake me up. I’ll call you later.” I had answered as I picked the call. She was interfering with my dream. I was just about to exchange my vows, in that dream. I knew that if I rushed the call, I would be able to go back to that dream and pick up from where I had left it. All night, I had been dreaming of my wedding.

“Hallo.” A male deep voice had answered. An American accent. This was certainly not my mother. My mother had a high shrilled voice with a heavy Meru accent.

“This is not my mum. Who is this?” I had replied, trying hard not to fully wake up. If I woke up fully, I would lose my dream for sure.

“I am calling from Mitre police station. My name is Sergeant Tim Wolves.”

“Police station?”

“Yes. We are looking for a Miss Rose Nkatha.”

“That’s me. Why are the police looking for me?” I had asked, panic in my voice.

“Do you know a Mr Jared Niota?” He had asked.

“It is Nyota. Not Niota.” I had said. I disliked it when white people mispronounced our African names. Often it was because they could not be bothered to make the effort to learn. I thus made them bother when the opportunity presented itself.

“Sorry. Mr Jared Nyota.” He had repeated. This time with the correct pronunciation.

“Yes, I know him. He’s my fiance.” I had said; feeling very smug to say it out loud. I realized that this policeman was the first person I had told about our engagement.

“I have alarming news. I wanted to let you know as soon as possible hence my calling you.”

“What alarming news? And how did you get my number?”

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