I looked back to see if I could catch a glimpse of Michael from a distance waving at us to stop, but there was nothing. All I could hear were hushed tones as passengers on the bus discussed amongst themselves the events of the day. Somebody shot a glance at my direction from time to time. They all pitied this woman who had been jilted by her fiancée with a three month old baby.
Tears flowed freely from time to time as Michael came into my thoughts. What I did not understand was why; a man so perfect could do such a thing. This was the kind of behavior I expected from Ronald, but not my Michael. We had been so happy in the past six months. Never in my life had I thought that I would go as far as eloping with another man. But the kind of love I felt for him, was enough for me to take a trip to the moon and back. He had been my pillar and the person I ran to when the heat at home became too hot to bear. He had now vanished just like that, without a word and without a goodbye.
What had caused him to take such a drastic step was all I could think of. Had I done something to upset him?
I was so consumed in my own thoughts that I did not realize the bus pulling into the bus station. We had already arrived and I had no idea where I was headed. The radiant face of my fiancée was nowhere to be seen. It was then that I began to accept the fact that Michael had ditched me – in the cruelest way a human being could be ditched.
“Do you have relatives here love?” Eddy’s mum asked as soon as I stepped out of the bus with my baby carefully wrapped up in my arms and my suitcase on my right hand. Eddy was pulling on his mother’s skirt urging her to go.
“My name is Elizabeth by the way. I realized we haven’t been introduced yet. Where are you going?”
“I am Judith,” I said as a tear rolled down my cheek from the realization that I was all alone in a big city with a baby and no relatives to stay with but I couldn’t tell her that. The last thing I wanted was those pity looks they had been throwing me to turn into charity work. I was not a charity case and I would find my way no matter what.
“I have a friend who stays around here. I will be staying with her in the meantime before I find work,” I lied.
She squinted her eyes as if through instincts, she could tell that that was a lie, a big fat lie. Expecting her to scold me for lying to her, she did the opposite. She hugged me and assured me that things would be alright.
“It’s not the end of the world love. Try to find your bearing, at least for the sake of your child.” I felt a deep sense of belonging in her arms and for a moment there I forgot my troubles.
“I will be going now. But if you ever need help don’t hesitate to contact me. I don’t live far from here,” she said handing me a piece of paper with a telephone number scribbled on it.
I stood there, watching her and Eddy disappear around the corner and I knew that that was it. I was all alone now. Daniel had woken up and was looking at me, as if inquiring what my ingenious plan was. I did not have a plan. Michael had officially managed to break me.
I held on to the suitcase and walked to the booking station. A woman was scolding a man on the other side of the counter over a delay in her travel plans and they therefore paid no attention to me as I made myself comfortable on the wooden benches. I sat there for a while nursing the baby and watching life drift slowly before me. The city was buzzing with all kinds of people and the noise kept waking Daniel from time to time.
A security guard who had been watching me for a while came and leaned over so close that we almost bumped heads.
“Is everything okay Miss. You seem lost or are you waiting for someone?” He inquired.
“I am just waiting for a relative who was to pick us up here but as it would seem they are running a little bit late,” I lied again. I then picked up my suitcase from the floor and made to leave. Ronald’s sister was the only person I knew and as much as it made my blood boil, I would have to go to her place. It would not be a pleasant visit and I knew that Ronald would end up finding me there but it was a risk I was going to take.
The evening sun was already setting and with it came a familiar breeze. Soon it would be dark and the street children were already hovering around the bus station. I did what any other mother who could not bear to see her child starve would do. My pride was too little a price to pay for my child’s life. I had made up my mind to go to Josephine’s house. I would stay there for a few days, look for work and soon I would be out of there.
“Sir, could you help me carry the bag to the bus station so that in can head to my relative’s house?” I asked the security guard.
I knew where Josephine stayed. Ronald had shown me around town and I knew exactly where to tell the conductor to alight me. Without saying anything, the security guard picked my suitcase and followed me. He escorted me to the bust station and then went back to his business without saying a word. He did not want to meddle any further as I had made it clear that I was okay.
The estate had not changed much except for a few residential flats cropping up here and there. It was a familiar sight. Josephine’s mansion lay as it had done for many years between a mini supermarket and residential five storied building. Darkness had already snuffed out the light and the gate was locked. I knocked slowly and waited to hear the sounds of footsteps but nothing came. Heads popped from the mini supermarket trying to catch a glimpse of the late night visitor to Josephine’s house. I knocked harder and this time I could hear the door opening and footsteps coming towards me.
A head popped on the space between the bars and a familiar shriek followed by the clapping of hands shot through the still air.
“Ms. Judith. I can’t believe this,” Mildred said hugging me tightly and taking Daniel into her arms. Mildred was Josephine’s house help. She had been working for the family for years and had helped raise her kids some of whom were now in college. When we came there with Ronald, she had been the friend I so needed at that time except Josephine’s husband who seemed to have a soft spot for me – but unfortunately was too tied up in his businesses to realize that his wife loathed me.
The curious onlookers were now staring at us imminently. Mildred said a few hellos and then we went inside. The house still looked the same as it had done years back. It stood on a neatly kept compound that contrasted the untidy and garbage littered surroundings outside the gate.
“Come inside Ma’am, its chilly out there and the little one needs the warmth,” she said ushering me into the massive living room. Josephine had been married young to a successful business man at that time. Some people even said that she did not love her husband and was just there for the money and lavish lifestyle he bestowed upon her. Her husband, Benson, was the owner of a chain of dry cleaning businesses in town among other business endeavors. He had started his first business while he was still in college and from then on luck smiled upon him as his business continued to flourish. The only thing that an accomplished man like himself didn’t have was the company of a good woman and he was lucky to find Josephine. He loved her but the other side of the coin was not so clear.
I sat down on the recently dusted leather seats as Mildred went upstairs to inform her master that I had arrived. The baby was asleep and I settled him carefully on the seat. Josephine had the habit of taking her time when summoned downstairs so I knew I had about thirty minutes or so to compose myself.
I was still thinking of what to say to her when I had footsteps rushing downstairs. It was evident that Mildred had told her that the late night visitor was none other than the run- away wife of her brother. I prepared for the worst.
“So you had the audacity to come running here after what you did to my brother, huh Judith?” she screamed into my ears loud enough that I could almost hear my eardrums vibrating.
I stood up. She was a foot taller than me as usual and it appeared as through I was standing in the presence of a giant who was about to terrorise an entire village. Her arms were akimbo and her face contorted in anger as a slap landed on the left side of my face. I felt strength leave me, like a super hero in a fairy tale as I collapsed on the seat.
I understood her. If my brother’s wife eloped with another man, I would probably do the same thing. I had managed to humiliate Ronald with a man who I was now thinking was not worth it. But then again I wasn’t prepared to go back to him.
“Josephine, Am sorry,” was all I could manage to utter in the midst of the tears welling up in my eyes. I had never seen her that angry. She was about to land another slap, when Benson rushed into the room and stopped her. She looked at him as if he had committed the most outrageous atrocity in the world before hurrying upstairs.
“I apologize for that truly,” he said as soon as he heard the door bang.
“No, no, it’s my entire fault. I understand her.”
“Whatever happened doesn’t warrant her to treat you like that.” He was always a good man who tried as much as possible to avoid violence. Most of the time it was him who would be on the other side of the scolding when he did something that did not please her highness. His love for her never ceased though despite her shouting in his ears most of the time.
“Mildred, prepare her something to eat and show her where she will sleep,” he said patting my back before heading upstairs.
As much as the room was cozy, I could not sleep. My mind kept replaying scenes from our happy days with Michael. He had left me alone to face the world on my own. With a baby and no work, it was clear the road ahead would be a crappy one. I imagined that Josephine had already informed my estranged ex-husband where I was and the fool was in the next bus to Nairobi. At that moment I felt helpless. What would I do if Ronald showed up the next day? I was not ready to go back to him. If only Michael was still around.
I could not tell when I fell asleep but I was woken up by noise from downstairs. On listening intently, it was Benson and Josephine right at it. The subject of discussion? Me. I hated what my presence was doing to them. I had not meant to come in between them. At that moment Mildred came into the room carrying a pot of hot tea and placed it at the center table.
“What is happening?”
“It’s just the boss and the wife having a little argument. Nothing to worry about. This happens a lot when they disagree on something.”
After a while the arguing died down and I heard the front door bang then footsteps coming upstairs. The door to my room flew open and the angry figure of Josephine emerged. My heart literally skipped a bit.
She held me by my hair and led me downstairs. Mildred followed in quick steps pleading with Josephine to leave me alone. The Mrs. could hear none of that. Her anger boiled within her and I’m sure had it been in her power she would have killed me there and then and fed me to her dogs.
Every step I took seemed like a fall to an infinite grave not to mention the raging pain on my head from all the pulling. I could hear my baby crying as if he knew what was happening.
“You are going to leave this house and never come back.” She barked as soon as the door opened.
She pushed me and I fell in a heap at the entrance. I knew there was no way I was going to reason with her at that moment. Mildred kept begging her but was hushed down with threats about leaving with me and she understood and stood there watching helplessly as the whole drama unfolded.
“Josephine, my baby” I begged in between sobs.
“You are free to go wherever you want Judith. Daniel stays here, where he belongs with his family. My brother will come and pick him up tomorrow.” Not a bit mercy was in her as she said that. Daniel was just a baby and in need of his mother. I could not understand how a mother like me would be that cruel to a little baby.
“Josephine Daniel is just a few months old. I can’t leave him. He needs me now more than ever.”
She burst out laughing, as if I had just cracked the funniest joke in the world but deep down I knew she was just mocking me. It was true what everyone said – the woman was capable of committing the most evil of crimes that would make Lucifer look like a saint. She had never liked me and I knew that this cruel treatment was her way of reinforcing her hatred towards me. It had never registered with her that her brother chose me as a wife and she never failed to remind me time and time again that I was not worth being in the family.
“You should have thought of that before you decided to embarrass my own blood like that. We have given you everything Judith, treated you like family, yet you thought it best to smear our family’s name in the dirt. What kind of a human being are you?”
By now, small crowds of people formed here and there with everyone wanting to catch a glimpse of the morning fiasco. I would be their subject of discussion for a few weeks to come. Not wanting to attract too much attention to herself Josephine ordered Mildred to lock up the gate which she did hesitantly.
It was hard to digest that I had been kicked out without my baby. I could still hear him crying from upstairs. My poor baby. What was I to do? I sat there for a while, hoping that Josephine would change her mind but nothing.
A woman emerged from the crowd and helped me up, wiping dust from my dress before retreating back to the comfort of the group. I stood there not knowing what to do. I knew that I would not have it easy but this was hell on earth that I was experiencing. I did not deserve to be treated like that. My baby did not deserve to pay for my crimes. And to think that all this was happening because I had decided to pursue happiness for the first time in my life.
I cursed Ronald. I cursed my father and Michael. They were all to blame for the mess my life was. Without money or my baby I was as good as dead.
Check Out: A Time To Love (Chapter 2)
Written by Lillyanne Gathoni