I looked at Ronald one more time as the bus wound its way from the bus station. There was hatred or remorse in his eyes – it was hard to tell. He looked so helpless like a wounded baby rhino and for a moment there my heart went out to him. But then again, all those years of kicking and treating me like rubbish came flooding into my head.
I tightened my grip on Michael’s hand and gave him a smile. He was the man I wanted to spend my life with. We were about to begin a new life and I knew that he would take care of me and my baby as good as he had treated us those six months we had been sneaking around.
In a few hours we would be in Nairobi. Michael had already made everything ready. Seeing how Ronald was treating me was enough motivation for him to seek a job in the city so that I could move in with him and the baby. He had succeeded in getting a job with the Ministry of Roads as a government contractor.
“Am so glad I took this leap of faith with you,” I said as soon as my eyes met his. He did not say anything. He just smiled and held me tighter.
The baby was still asleep oblivious to fact that he was about to begin a whole new life. I thought of my father. I knew by now he had already caught wind that I had eloped with another man, a much younger man that me for that matter. He was known for his tempter and the news that he was about to lose a rich son in law like Ronald was enough for him to turn the world upside down just to find me.
“Miss what’s your baby’s name?” I was brought back to reality. It was the boy who had been licking an ice-cream earlier. He was looking at the baby and seemed impressed with the way he was at peace despite all the drama in his life.
“His name is Daniel,” I said giving him a smile.
“My name is Edwin. My friends call me Eddy though. I am travelling with my mummy to the city because my daddy lives there and we will be living there also.”
“That’s really sweet Eddy. Where is your mummy?”
“She is over there.” He said pointing to a woman probably in her mid-thirties seated at the back seat of the bus. Her hair was tied tightly in a bun and her outfit portrayed a woman who enjoyed the finer things in life. Her husband was probably a government worker somewhere with a good salary and living in a posh estate in the city. She smiled and waved at us as soon as she spotted me and beckoned to Eddy who went and sat on her lap.
Most of the other people on the bus were either asleep or lost in their own world of imagination. My mind was occupied with the kind of life I was about to begin. I had never known love and everybody knew that I didn’t love Ronald. To me he was just the man my father out of selfishness, had given me to like I was an object to be traded freely for a comfortable life. That is why when I met Michael, he was able to easily charm his way into my life. Born and raised outside the country, he was a gentleman in every way. He had fallen in love with me easily even when he knew that our future was oblique. It hurt him to see me suffer every day in the hands of Ronald. He had promised that he would do everything to get me out of that place and that’s exactly what he did. I could not thank the heavens enough for bringing him into my life. I would have probably ended up losing my life in the cruel hands of my now ex-husband.
I was awoken from my stupor by the driver announcing that we would rest for 30 minutes and then be on our way. Michael had already fallen asleep and I woke him up as soon as the bus stopped. The place was fast food joint with seats scattered here and there. When we alighted I found us seats next to Eddy and his mother.
“The journey is proving a long one, huh?” she asked as soon as I sat down. Michel gave me a hug and then proceeded to get me something to eat.
“Yes, yes. A couple of hours and we are still not there.”
“But soon we will be there. Husband?” she asked pointing at Michael.
I did not know what to say. He was neither my husband nor the father of my child – at least not yet. Society had a way of labeling women like me all manner of atrocities and so I needed to choose my words carefully.
“He is my fiancée “I said smiling wanting to end the conversation there.
“Oh. I’m happy for you. It takes a real man to want to settle down with a woman nowadays. I have been married for twelve years now. My husband works and lives in the city but soon we will join him.”
“Eddy had mentioned earlier.”
“He is excited to see his father again.”
“So is your fiancée also the baby’s father?”
For the first time I felt a twinge of anger at her meddling. Who did she think she was? The moral police? She was getting on my nerves. Michael came back just as I was thinking of a response.
“I am so glad you are back.” I said holding pulling on his hand to sit down.
As soon as he found his seat, I gave him the baby and sat comfortably to enjoy my mashed potatoes. I was looking forward to finishing my meal and getting the hell out of there. I had never liked anyone who felt the need to meddle in other people’s business that wasn’t a concern of theirs.
“Hey honey, let me go pick something and I’ll be back,” Michael said handing me the baby.
“Okay but don’t be too long. They will be calling us soon and you don’t want the bus to leave you.” I said winking at him and he responded with a smile.
As long as I was far away from Ronald, I had nothing to worry about. My life was about to change and I was going to enjoy every bit of it. As long as Michael was on my side, I could face life with all the challenges it brought.
My mind raced back to the time we met. I had not meant to fall in love with him, but I knew that something changed in me the moment he said hi. It was the most magical moment in my life and the fact that I had a baby in my arms did not stop him from talking to me and wanting to know me more. I knew what I was about to do was a crime, being a married woman, but my marriage had been one big disaster. I had been married off to a man I never loved and everyday Ronald never failed to remind me that I was there to stay through his punches. I had grown so accustomed to loneliness and violence that I had never imagined that another man would have that much effect on me.
To say that Michael was my dream come true would be an understatement. From the moment I talked to him, I knew that he was for real and that what I was feeling was special. For once in my life I would be a true version of myself, a version that had been hidden behind all the tears and qualms of an abusive marriage. Within a few days, he already knew my entire life’s tale.
And from that moment onwards, our affair was born. There was no guilt in me even when we met almost every single day. If Ronald had not been such an animal, I probably would have thought twice about going against our marriage vows. But as fate would have it, he never changed and the more he abused me, the more I fell in love with Michael. Which is why when he suggested that we run away from the place, I didn’t think twice, He was the man I loved and I was prepared to face any consequences just to be with him.
“Miss, they are calling us to the bus.” I was brought back to reality by Eddy’s mum who was nudging me to get up.
I was preparing to stand but them stopped as if pushed back by an unknown force. Where was Michael? It had not hit me until then that he had not returned yet.
“You go ahead Ma’am. I’ll wait here for my fiancée.”
“He is probably on the bus already. Maybe you might want to check there.”
“Yes, yes, he probably is. Let’s go then.”
The bus was almost full and it seemed we were the ones keeping them waiting. My heart almost stopped when I looked into our seats and Michael was not there. The woman noticed my discomfort and rubbed my back in an assuring way.
“Let’s wait for him. I am sure he is on his way.” I wanted to believe her but something told me that things were not alright. Had Michael abandoned me when I needed him most? Was this karma, for leaving Ronald for another man?
Question after question fought an unseen battle in my mind. I looked around desperately as if looking for someone to assure me that everything would be alright. The woman managed to convince the driver to wait a little bit longer but when thirty minutes passed with no sight of Michael, his patience had worn out. The other passengers had already started complaining that they were getting late.
“He is coming. Let’s wait for a while,” was all I could mutter, with a well of tears forming in my eyes. The baby was already awake by that time.
“Miss we can’t wait any longer. As a policy we are only supposed to stop for thirty minutes and as it is at the moment we have been here for closer than an hour,” the driver said trying to sound as assuring as he could.
The other passenger could only manage sympathetic glances here and there trying their best to hide the fact that they were annoyed to the core.
Eddy’s mum took Michael’s seat and hugged me tightly.
“Miss, not to be insensitive but it seems your fiancée is not coming back.” Her words made my heart ache and I could not hold the heartbreak any longer. My grief poured out in a flood of uncontrollable tears.
The baby looked up to me as if better than anyone else, he understood what I was going through.
“Miss should we go ahead or you prefer to stay behind and wait for him?” the driver asked.
I didn’t know what to tell him. Should I stay behind and wait for an absolution that would never come. He had been so good and I didn’t want to accept the fact that he had bolted just when we were about to start a new life together. I wanted to believe that probably something had happened that caused him not to come back.
I didn’t not have a phone because for all those years Ronald had not bought me one for the mere reason that he didn’t want me communicating with other people – lest they gave me funny ideas to leave him. Michael had promised to buy me one as soon as we landed in the city. I requested the woman to allow me use hers and she did not object.
How could she anyway? Luckily, Michael’s number was carefully crammed in my mind. I dialed his number but the phone was switched off. Again and again and the response was the same “The number you are trying to dial had been switched off…”
I looked at her as if seeking her wise counsel on what to do. She must have understood me and urged the driver to proceed with the journey.
I would go to the city because I could not imagine going back to Ronald. Where would I even begin? I pictured him landing blow after blow enough to send me to the ICU the moment I stepped inside the house. I hoped against hope that Michael would be waiting for me at the bus station when I arrived. He probably got into the wrong vehicle and went ahead, was all I could assure myself.
The only other person I knew in the city was Ronald’s sister who we had visited several years ago and who within the one week we were there, didn’t fail to remind me of how much she disliked me. By now she must have heard that I bolted with another man leaving her brother to face the shame and critics of the folks back home and must have been wishing a cruel death upon me – which is why I could only hold on to the hope that I would see Michael again.
Enjoy This Too: Absalom
Written by Lillyanne Gathoni