By Sheillah Maonga
To read part four, click here
“Why did you disapprove of me, in the first place? Ten years, I was in your son’s life as his girlfriend. You never welcomed me. You always made me feel like I was intruding between you and Jared. You have always disliked me. Yet, I cannot think of anything I did to you that made you dislike me so.”
“You took away my son from me.” She hissed at me. “I knew you were bad news when I first saw you with him. I knew nothing good would come out of it. Now look, you have killed him.” She spat at me, each of the words cutting into my soul like a sharp razorblade.
“I killed him?” I repeated. I wanted to say more, but the tremor in my voice stopped the free flow of words from pouring out.
“He proposed to you, then went to kill himself. Don’t you see that it was the thought of living with you for a lifetime that made him kill himself?”
“Get out of my house, you witch of a woman.” I bellowed at her.
She did not make an effort to stand up and leave. Instead, she glared at me menacingly, while sprawled on my chair. I could see the intense dislike of me in her eyes. I had underestimated how much she loathed me. Her eyes were shining with pure, unadulterated hatred.
“I see you are not leaving.” I said resignedly. I now was at a fix. Should I leave my house or stay, I debated within my head. I was still thinking of this when she spoke, breaking my thoughts.
“You killed my son. My only child. I will never forgive you for this.”
I felt rage bubble inside me, rising like a volcano and I knew that I was not able to stop it. I was about to explode. All that I had held inside me about this woman was about to come out. The floodgates were about to burst open. I stilled myself for it.
“Esther Achieng Nyota.” I said, calling her by all her names. Something that a Kenyan girl would never do- address her mother in law by her name, as if we were agemates. It was a very high level of disrespect. But I was past caring. I had come undone.
“Esther Achieng Nyota.” I repeated. I looked at her and could see that hearing her name had produced the desired effect. She looked gobsmacked. The entitled woman had thought that she was the only one with monopoly over rudeness.
“How dare you accuse me of his death? He took a cocktail of pills. He was a pharmacist, thus knew what ones could kill. I was not there when he did it. How could you say over and over again that I killed the love of my life, Esther? I blamed myself for his death for many months. And, it took a therapist to tell me that should not be blamed at all. I was innocent. I still am innocent. I did not make him kill himself. The therapist said that it was all his decision, nothing to do with me. The only person responsible for his suicide, is Jared himself. I had believed her all along, until a few minutes ago when you were talking to me. I now think the therapist is wrong. I don’t blame Jared for his death anymore. I blame you, his mother.”
She flinched, as if she had been hit. That tiny reaction gave me the ammunition to continue. I wanted to hurt her as much as she had hurt me.
“Jared was a tortured soul. A conflicted soul. Because what he was, and what you raised him as, were on a collision course. Jared loved life, but he had to hide this love away from you, because you would disapprove. You disapproved everything he did. He loved me. He chose me out of all women. You disapproved his choice. For ten years he loved me. But, he would neve make that step to take our relationship further because he feared your disapproval. He proposed marriage to me that day. I said yes. Then he killed himself a few hours later. I have always wondered why. I refused to believe that it was because of the prospect of marriage to me. I have been looking for the reason why he did it, with no success. But I found my answer today. It was because of you, that he killed himself. He could not face you and tell you of our impending marriage. He knew that you would veto it. And, he couldn’t go against you because you are too fierce. And, he couldn’t disappoint me by calling off the engagement. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. He thus decided to kill himself than face you with the news that he was getting married. It was because of you that he killed himself.”
She got up with the speed of lightning and I knew she was coming for me. I knew I had to run for cover, but my feet remained stuck stubbornly on the ground. They refused to move, even though my brain had willed them.
She slapped me four times in a row. One heavy slap after another. It stung so much that I broke into giggles. Yes, the pain and shock of her hitting me made me laugh hysterically. I was laughing, yet tears were streaming down my face.
“Rose Nkatha, I may have disapproved your relationship. I had my reasons. I did not think you made my son happy. I do not think you were the woman for him. I do not think he was happy all those ten years he was with you. He was my only baby, and I knew it when he was happy. I raised him myself, so I know him in a way no one could, not even you. He was not happy with you. He chose to keep you waiting for ten years. That was not my making. It was his choice. A lot of mothers disapprove the women their sons choose, but still, the men go against their mothers and choose the woman. A man that does not go against his mother for his woman is a man that is not utterly in love with his woman. I am not sure why he proposed to you in the end. But, it certainly was not a decision he was happy with. If he was, he would have been here today planning his marriage with you, not so? Where is he now, Rose? Dead and buried. Because of a proposal. The thought of being married to you is what made him do it. You should have released my Jared, Rose. You should have set him free. You should have never said yes to his proposal, daughter of the Merus.” She hissed at me, her face too close to me, that I could smell alcohol in her breath. Which was a surprise, since she prided herself in being teetotal. She disapproved of Jared drinking alcohol, and we always had to hide all his alcohol at my house when she visited him. Yet, she had alcohol breath. I was not mistaken, I was sure of it.
She walked out of the door and into the dusk, leaving the door wide open.
I collapsed to the ground and started sobbing uncontrollably. Her words had finished me. I felt that there was so much truth in them.
I woke up to the sound of someone calling my name. I opened my eyes to see Juma crouching besides me. I realized I was on the floor. I must have fallen asleep.
“What is the time?” I asked
“9pm.” Juma answered.
“What are you doing here at this time?” I asked him. Juma lived in the neighbourhood, and he had been a great source of support during my grief. He got it. Because he was grieving as well. He was Jared’s closest friend, after all.
“I was on my way home when I saw your door wide open. I was calling your phone, but it went straight to voicemail. So, I decided to come in and see if everything is okay.” He explained.
The memory then hit me. I remembered Jared’s mother, and it was as if I had been punched on the face. I bowed my head and started rocking back and forth.
“What is it, Rose?” Juma asked, his voice full of concern.
“Jared’s mother was here.” I said, sighing.
“Say no more.” Juma said.
“She visited you as well?” I asked him.
“No. A few weeks after the funeral, I visited her to take Jared’s stuff to her. Remember I was the one tasked with clearing his house. She accused me of being responsible for his death. She told me that as his best friend, I should have seen it coming and prevented it. She was so vehement in her accusations that I believed them. I left her place thinking that I was the one to blame. The guilt consumed me. It took me months on a therapist’s chair and visits to his grave to change my mind.” He said.
“And now you are completely guilt free?” I asked, hopefully.
“I am. I know that I didn’t cause his death. His mum was wrong.”
“I want to get that space where I am guilt free. I am not there yet.”
“You will get there. You need to get help though. It is hard to do it on your own.”
“I finally signed up for therapy. I am getting help.” I said.
“You also need to think of Jared. A lot of answers lie in your memories. That is why I visited his grave a lot. It was all part of healing.” He added.
“You know that I have never visited his grave. Something stops me.”
“It is fear and guilt that stop you. I was like you. I feared going to his grave. I felt that way because I believed that I had let him down. But I forced myself to go. And, I would speak to him. I would allow my mind to wander. And, in the process, I remembered my friendship with Jared. And that remembrance freed me. I realized that I had no guilt to cleanse. I did not in any way contribute to his death.”