The stench of desperation hang all around me. My baby was gone and I literally had nothing left. My fiance who I had trusted more than my own family, had betrayed me in the worst way a person can be betrayed. How do you just up and leave the woman you pledged to honor and respect and love with all your heart in a bus station knowing that she had nowhere else to go? Shame crept in me and I couldn’t look myself in the mirror.
All my life I had thought that I was strong. That I was not a pushover. Yet here I stood in a stranger’s home with nothing but a small suitcase and the clothes on my back. If my mother were alive, she would surely have disowned me. How do you just give up that easily? How do you allow another woman to humiliate you like that? How could I have allowed Josephine, to trample over me like that, like I was some piece of garbage that would be thrown anywhere anyone pleased? How did Josephine, a woman I had thought not so bright all my life, take away my baby – the only source of joy I had?
“How did things get so complicated?” I wondered but I knew the exact answer to that question. I was stupid and it was my fault that my baby was alone, God knew where.
Why did I so stupidly fall for a man I knew I could not have? I was a married woman and yet I had tempted fate and this was karma’s way of getting back at me. Had I just remained with Ronald, my life would not have turned out to be so complicated.
Right there I felt no different from Ronald – the man I despised so much. In so many ways we were the same but at least he had the decency to fight for his son, something that I didn’t do.
He had run after me to stop me from my madness and to prevent me from making the biggest mistake of my life. He wanted to have his baby back. Maybe if I had just stopped and thought about my actions, the kind of shame and humiliation Michael had put me through would not have come to be.
Ronald was so many things. He was a tough man but one who had a soft spot for his son. I remembered him stroking Daniel to sleep. No matter how many women warmed his bed when I was not around, no matter how many days he spent out of home with his mistresses, Daniel had struck a chord in his heart. Many times I caught him stroking his hair and Daniel would give him a dreamy smile and continue sleeping peacefully. He would look away and pretend that he was doing something else more important. It was a relief catching him in those moments, and during those times I remembered falling in love with him even if it was just for a few minutes.
He was terrible at being a husband but I never had much to complain about him when it came to how he treated our son. Sometimes I couldn’t help but feel proud to have him in my life. I knew of husbands who never had a care in the world about how their children were fairing on – husbands who only came home late at night and the only time they got to spend any time with their children was on a weekend before they spend off to meet with friends and discuss how the country was fairing on. But my Ronald was different. He loved his son and would do anything to make his life comfortable.
I had thought that he would soften up and the beatings would stop after I gave him a son but that was just my wishful thinking that would not amount to anything.
He had married previously but the marriage had ended up in an ugly divorce. With a wife who could only sire girls, holding Daniel for the first time in his arms must have been like a dream come true. That time I saw him cry for the first time ever. He provided for his son. He bought expensive clothes for him and scolded me every time he caught him crying urging me to feed him.
“My son will grow up to be as strong as his father, “he would always say.
In some ways I admired him. I remembered how life had been at first. He was not always a bad man. When we were newly married, he had been loving, something that surprised everyone being that ours was an arranged marriage. Most women who were married off that way, never got to enjoy the joys that came with having a loving partner. Most of them were just there to fulfill their duties as a wife and to sire children for their husband.
My joy would turn to ashes in my mouth when infidelity kicked in and he changed. At that time I became his personal punching bag, something to relieve his stress on when his mistresses could not massage his bulging ego.
At some point, I think I got used to the beating. The only person I could look up to save me from the misery was my father but he too like everyone else turned a blind eye. Not even the constant bruises on my neck or the black eye could soften his heart.
“Your husband paid bride price over your head and he can do with you as he pleases,” he had said not wanting to continue with my ‘stupid’ discussion as he called it.
His words had pierced my heart. I realized that I was a child with no one to help me wade through life. He was a typical African man who believed that it was a man’s God given right to discipline his wife the way he saw fit. My mother had had to endure her own share of the abuses especially when she could only give birth to a girl and his family never made it easier. It was whispered that it was him that sent her to an early grave. He was my father, and I had to love him and with my mother gone, he was the only family I had left.
I had then gathered the little pride I had left and returned to my husband, to the beatings and the abuses and all the unfaithfulness.
Sometimes, amidst the beatings, all I could pray for was that Ronald would go back to the man he used to be – the man I had been betrothed to who had treated me with the respect a husband accorded his wife. The man who had been so gentle with me when I knew nothing about being someone’s wife.
Tears rolled down my eyes and I did nothing to stop them. My life was playing right in front of my eyes and there was nothing I could do. Maybe this was my destiny. To suffer in the hands of men. While others abused me, others toyed with my heart. Maybe happiness was never my potion in life.
I cried my eyes out when I realized that just like that time my father had left me to endure the qualms of an abusive marriage, I was still alone. Michael was gone, the only man I had thought would save me from everything and give my life a new meaning.
And how long would Elizabeth put up with me? She had a family of her own and her own problems to worry about, not the chronicles of Judith – the woman who had acted stupidly like a school girl and allowed to be deceived. I was just a stranger who had knocked on her door that late afternoon. Soon she would grow tired of me and I would be back on the streets.
Maybe Josephine had been right about where I belonged. Nobody wanted me. I was a child of a lesser god.
My only salvation lay in getting a job and getting my Daniel back. I had to find my own way and just like that time when I had watched my mother’s casket being lowered to the ground to rest forever with the angels, I would make it on my own.
I didn’t know how long Elizabeth had stood there, looking at me staring at my own reflection in the mirror. I was startled, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“How are you doing, love?” she asked, the same motherly instinct showing in her eyes.
She was an older woman and in another life she could have been my mother. But apparently that was not how the world worked. My fate it seemed was already sealed. I wiped the tears with the corner of my dress and gave her a fake smile.
“I am doing okay, I guess,”
“I know this is difficult for you love and it’s okay to be weak. We mothers have to be for the sake of our children. It okay to cry. Just let it all out.”
She had a point but I had had enough of the weeping. I had shed so many tears already, with Ronald and when Michael left me and now fate had tempted me one more time by taking away my baby. There were no more tears left in me, I thought.
“I am okay really.”
She took my hands into hers and looked straight into my eyes. Of course she knew I was lying. Who would be okay after everything that had happened to me? After their child was snatched away in such a cruel manner? After being jilted in the most pathetic way by a coward who couldn’t just be open about how he felt? Who could be okay in their right senses, really?
I broke down and fell into her arms. She hugged me and sighed softly, her hand rubbing my back in an assuring manner.
That day I told her about my life. I told her about how I had lost my mother when I was just a little girl. I told her about how I had lived with a father who looked for every opportunity to sell me off for liquor. I told her about how I was sold off like some piece of property to the highest bidder. I told her about Ronald – the Ronald who had been so kind and the monster he had turned into. I talked to her about the women who traversed our bedroom and soiled my matrimonial bed. I told her about the beatings I had endured when I had demanded to be treated right. In the end, I just needed someone to talk to.
I thought I would be find relief but all I felt was despair and my desperation grow. I was weak and that was why people did with me as they pleased. That is why my own father, who was supposed to protect me had sold me off and never looked back. That was why I had broken my arms not once but six times in Ronald’s hands. That was the reason why Josephine had hated me so much. I was weak. I was an abomination in everyone’s eyes. Maybe I should have been the one buried that day and not my mother.
“I have talked to my husband about your case and we are looking for ways to help you get your baby back. He will talk to some people here and there and come up with the best plan.”
How? Josephine was as cruel as they came. I knew by now that my baby was probably with Ronald. At that moment I made peace with the fact that I would never see my baby again. If Ronald took him, there was no way I was getting him back. Not after making him a laughing stock among his peers. There was no court that would ever even hear my case.
“But Josephine is…..”
I couldn’t bring myself to say the world ‘heartless’. I felt that if I said it then I had resigned my fate in her hands. That I had declared her lord over me.
“Don’t worry love. Everything in this world has a beginning and an end. And every bad deed comes back a hundred fold.”
I wanted to believe in her but I couldn’t. She didn’t know the people she was dealing with like I did. And I couldn’t allow their family to be entangled in the webs of the problems I had created for myself.
I looked at her and gave her small smile. I wished that Michael was there with me. His embrace was all I had ever needed to make it another day in that house. I wondered where he was at that time. Was he even thinking about me? Maybe he regretted what he did and was looking for me.
Stop being stupid, Judith. Michael is gone, I thought to myself.
“Just take a rest and I will see you later, okay?”
I nodded and watched her leave the room with her head low and with careful steps.
I knew what I was going to do. I had to fight my battles alone. I was the daughter of my mother and I would see to it that my baby came back to me. I would have the last laugh in the end. Nobody, not even Josephine could make a fool of me.
I felt something powerful take over me and I looked out of the window into the horizon. I still had enough bus fare. I was going to get my baby back! Poor Daniel, my sweet baby.
It was Mildred’s long look that met me on the small opening on the gate.
“Ms. Judith, what are you doing here?” she asked almost in a whisper opening the gate just a little enough to pop her head through.
“I have to see my son Mildred, where is he?” I said pushing her past the gate almost knocking her down again but this time she was strong and held on tight.
“I can’t let you come in Ms. Judith. I got into enough trouble yesterday and I don’t want to give Mrs. Josephine enough reason to send me back home. Please go. The madam is not at home now and God knows what she will do to me if she found me here with you.”
She was a different Mildred from the one who had been kind to me, when everyone had treated me like dirt. In her eyes there was a little rage as if our paths had never crossed.
“Mildred, if you were a mother you would understand me.”
“I’m not a mother Ms. Josephine but I understand you. But there comes a time when I have to look out for myself too. I can’t get into trouble again.”
It was at that time that I noticed the bruises on her arms. Had Josephine abused her after I left?
“Mildred, what happened to your arms? Did the madam abuse you in any way?”
“No madam, nobody abused me. I am fine miss. Please get away from here. She will be here any time and I don’t even want to imagine….”she said pulling the sleeves of her sweater to hide the bruises.
“Mildred if she is hurting you, you have to tell me. There are laws nowadays….”
“Laws? And what have those laws done for you? She took your baby and you are still talking about laws. Please Ms. Judith, I don’t want to lose the respect I have for you. Please go,” she said almost pleading.
“Mildred, it’s me. It’s okay if you don’t want my help but please I need to see my son.”
“I am sorry but I can’t help you. Please go.”
We stood there looking at each other in silence as if measuring up to each other. When she realized that I was not going anywhere, she locked the gate in a hurry and walked away.
I was crushed but as long as I was there, I might as well see my son. I wasn’t going anywhere. I sat there waiting for the inevitable to happen. I was there to get my baby and I was not leaving without him. Josephine could unleash the cruelest of demons from her hell hole but Daniel deserved to have a mother who would fight for him to the end.
If you are not yet caught up, read A Time To Love (Chapter 5)
Written by Lillyanne Gathoni