“It is a great person we have lost, a heroine who is irreplaceable, a rock larger than any,” the priest intoned oblivious of the drizzle.
At the centre of the gathering was Fiona, resplendent in a black satin dress. Even in grief, her charm was electrifying and her charisma was oozing from her every movement.
“Teresa, who changed most of our lives, is gone, but more importantly, she went in peace having forgiven even those who misused her and, as she died, I can confess, she was one with her creator. It is an honour for me to say this,” Pastor Abraham Makabi continued. His face was dripping wet but a wide brim hat shielded Fiona’s wadding off even the wayward drops. At last it was that final moment of farewell and lumps of soil fell into the grave forming the inevitable ominous looking hump-like mould. Tears welled in her eyes, creating a watery sheen on her already shiny face. She knew a bridge was being crossed at exactly that moment.
With the strong woman that was her mother gone, things had to change and the thought of this sent icy shivers through her cold body. She didn’t want her mind to rove far into the realm of the undone. The mourners slowly streamed out of the graveside each hugging the graceful Fiona, wetting her expensive fur coat with their cheap tears. In faltering steps, she walked towards her Toyota Lexus but the pastor was close at her heels.
“Fiona,” he sadly said, it is a big loss for all of us. I really liked her but I know she has atoned for any wrongs she might have made. I think God is proud to have her.”
With her final handshake, he left her beside her gleaming Lexus. “Proud indeed,” she thought. Her body was shaking, knowing that a new life was to begin, but more because she didn’t know how. The comfortable leather seats of the dream car were no longer inviting but she had to leave. Decisions had to be made and more importantly implemented.In snippets, the words of a long forgotten poem inundated her taxed mind; it was the road less taken by Robert Frost. She instantly knew the road was to be tried, at least this one time. A last glance at the grave brought droppings of ice on her burning mind; it seemed to mock her…but the road had to be taken. The road to righting a wrong, the road to freeing her soul and spirit, the road to freedom.
“You betrayed me!” bellowed the giant. “I gave you everything, my wealth, my respect, and this is how you reciprocate? I wish I had listened to my mother. In fact, you killed her!” his anger rushed on and on and the spacious room was flooded with tears of wrath and betrayal.
In one corner were tears of a little girl. Tears of fear, tears of incomprehension. Tears of petit Fiona, a beauty beyond her age. Her mother Teresa could not face her husband of four years. The air smelt of shame and despondence beyond repair. As the bulky man breathed fire, Fiona and her mother seemed to sink lower into the expensive Persian carpet.
“But Mark, I could never betray you, I had to wait…”
“Don’t Mark me! You are all going out. You and that filth you call a daughter,” he barked.
“Mark, please, I didn’t want to disparage you, just imagine how it would have been…”she pleaded.
“Imagine you dare talk of imaginations, woman? Just look at me, ostracized, expelled from the golf club, the bishop can’t visit me anymore, what is there to imagine? You brought me into all this shame!”
“Please Mark I love you and I didn’t want my little girl to come in between us then…”
On and on went the welcoming speech for Fiona Mbuthia to her “home”. It was a breathtaking house beyond her wildest dreams. The vulgar deliberations going on were just a small impediment. She had seen worse between her last father and her mother; kitchen knives drawing blood, high-heeled shoes poking into faces and teeth buried in human flesh. It was all too familiar like the palm of the hand. Nothing could compare to what she had undergone in her twelve years under the sun. Tempers flared but at last all went cool and quiet. A palpable tension descended into the princely house in Kitisuru. The new father had few words for Fiona. Already too mature for her age, she kept her distance and thus his arrogance bounced on her conscience. With time the title “father” was dropped for Mark as the distance between them grew but mother and daughter grew closer.
Whatever Fiona had gained from the social climb was negated by the resulting loss of happiness. The abrupt change of class would mould her life forever. Her friends changed as her lifestyle did. Meanwhile, Mark grew more and more repulsed by the idea of a bastard in his house. A staunch Christian, he had thought that Teresa was all he needed to consummate his position in the list of who was who in the country. Time was to disapprove this when a sickly daughter appeared escorted by a stinking old woman. After the girl appeared, things changed as more and more friends avoided him. Mark’s word in the cathedral was no longer respected and suddenly, formal invitations to garden parties and soirees in his club stopped. He had to revenge, he thought. His hard-earned wealth could not jus go away with a sickling she didn’t even know. The mother and daughter conspiracy had to be fought.
The courtroom was buzzing as more and more people poured in. The orderlies had a hectic time trying to stop more from forcing their way in to witness the climax of the long-drawn drama. Dirty linen had been washed in the open and a whole nation wanted more. All closets were open but people still wanted to pry beneath the beds. Mark’s face was gleaming with sweat. He could not lift his head to face, the crowd that had flocked in to see “this great monster” as Fiona Mbuthia vs. Mark Mutola entered its final moments after four days of high drama. More evidence was given drawing Mark more and more towards jail. National debate on the issue had been heated one with some calling for the hanging of the tycoon. However, a few read a gold digger’s mischief and greed in the suit.At last; it was left to the learned judges, strongly influenced by public opinion to decide the fate of Dr. Mark Mutola E.B.S.
The country seemed to sigh when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison and hard work for violating the under-age Fiona both sexually and physically. The court also gave Teresa the right to administer Mark’s estate, thus guaranteeing Fiona a life of wealth beyond dreams of many. But, as the gavel fell, sharp eyes noticed the dryness in Mark’s eyes. No tears dropped and a steely resolve was painted on his face.
After a lot of beseeching, Fiona was at last inside the fortified walls ready to pour out her soul to a wronged man. As she was led to the visitor’s room her knees weakened and the warden had to support her into the room. The room was moving in circles as she sat opposite Dr. Mark, her foster father who was in jail for a crime he never committed. Five minutes went by as she sobbed but the shrunken man just watched. Words failed her. She even tried to stutter to no avail.
“I know,” Mark at last said.
“What?” she asked startled.
“She is dead and you want to set yourself free”
“Please, “she interrupted,” can I call you dad?”
“You had the right and I really think I deserved it. I didn’t treat you honorably. You were just a victim of circumstances but I ignored it,” he said softly.
“Dad, I didn’t come to… I really came to seek forgiveness. If you wish we can change positions. You should be free and I should be behind those bars,” she cried.
“No, you were forced by her. You had no will of your own. About changing positions no, I only have six years, which I intend to serve fully. I forgave you a long time ago,” he concluded.
“Don’t make it easy for me, I should be in jail. Every dying minute of her life she cursed me calling me a coward daring me to come to you and see what I had done,” she sobbed.
“You have done the right thing. I don’t want you to suffer any more. In fact I can now look forward to my release, I have a daughter I never had”, Mark sobbed.
“Thank you, dad,” Fiona said reaching for his hand.
“I should thank you. I know I have someone to live for. It is a good thing you have done, we are both free now,” he added.
She could take no more. She was finally free as she turned to walk out.
“Fiona, “Mark called, “I really love you,”
“Thanks Dad,” she said as she sashayed out. The prison guards could not believe that it was the same woman. A smile adorned her radiant face and she even shook their hands. Little did they know the road less taken had been taken.
© Chrispus Kimaru 2009
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