Storymoja

Celebrating East African Writing!

Almost Family

Written by Jennie Marima

Lovely aunt Bee had brought us to the big carnival in town. She couldn’t stay on with us because of an urgent matter. My twin cousins, Lily and Pam, and I roamed around the cool stands. We looked like triplets—all of us 8 years old. There were lots of books to buy, lots of colourful stands to see. We had 1000 shillings each to buy a snack and a book and even a toy if it remained.

It was meant to be a wonderful day and it was in some ways. But I couldn’t help fighting back tears.

“ Kijo are you okay?” asked Lily at one point. She could probably tell my eyes were redder than usual. My face puffier.

“Yeah,” I shrugged.

“Is it true about your Mom?”  Pam was ever so curious. Lily shot her a sharp look, as if she had said something she shouldn’t have.

I felt anger rise up in my throat. The mention of my mom opened up the flood of tears. New energy shot through my body and I found myself running, and running and running.

I could hear as if in a dream Lily and Pam yelling as they raced after me, “Kijo!!! Pleassseee stoooop!!”

Usually the twins could out run me any day. I wasn’t the quickest in sports or the strongest. But as I raced through the tens of stands, taking sharp corners bumping into people buying books, mothers pushing their babies in prams, young boys linking arms with their girlfriends, the gap between the twins and I had widened considerably.

I found myself ploughing right through a big burgundy tent and flew into a big Mickey-Mouse like mascot’s arms!

“It’s okay little girl,” the shocked Mascot said as he rocked me in his fluffy teddy-arms. “It’s going to be okay.”

There and then I let out a loud shriek and cried like I hadn’t ever before.

The events of last night came flooding back.

It was a very strange evening. I came from school and I didn’t find Mom as I often did when I got home at 4.00pm ready with my milk and slices of brown bread with margarine.  Instead Aunt Bee came flying in our flat. When she saw me, she picked me up like a child! Nobody does that anymore. Especially now that Mom said I was going to have a little brother or sister. Mom sometimes let me feel her protruding tummy and she would say things like, “your little sister is playful today?” or “your little brother is asleep now, we can all take a nap.”

Aunt Bee kept saying, “There there child, it’s gonna be fine child!” which I thought was strange, but looking back I think it’s something all grownups say when they don’t know what to say…just like the grown up Mascot.

Our ground floor flat suddenly looked empty. The usually bright yellow drapes in the living room now looked a dulling brown and old. Then I remember Aunt Bee’s husband, whom I simply knew as Uncle, also came in.

“Let’s go…we need to get her out of here now.” He seemed quite fazed.

“Should we pack a few things for her?” Aunt Bee was asking.

“No need. She’ll wear the twins’ clothes.”

And just like that, Uncle carried me into the car, placed me in Aunt Bee’s arms who now cradled me as a child.    Aunt Bee’s phone kept ringing: “Yes its Beatrice, yes, I know…no it’s not true.”

And sometimes when the caller was loud enough I could hear them say things like, “Have you watched the news?” I think I even heard one say; “Please tell me Ann is innocent! Oh what with a child on the way!”

That was Mom’s name. Ann. Ann is innocent? What did Mum do? Only just a week ago, Dad phoned us from the town where he lived. They had finally approved his transfer at his job. We were going to be a family again. Together at last. Before, we would travel back on fourth to his town to visit him, but when Mom grew bigger the visits got lesser.

I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Tears welled in my eyes. “I want Mom! I want my Moooooooom!” I was now wailing.

“Sweetie don’t cry, it’s gonna be fine. Your Mom had to go somewhere for a bit, she’s fine I promise.”

Uncle joined in the soothing. “We have tickets for you and the twins to go for a carnival tomorrow!” he said cheerfully. But I could tell that wasn’t his normal voice. “You’ll have ice-cream, soda and chips! Anything you want.”

“Even a doll?” I said momentarily forgetting that Mom was missing and there was no proper explanation.

“Anything sweetie,” Aunt Bee said, desperately.

That night at Aunt Bee’s house, everyone was extra friendly. Even the twins were nicer than usual. There was no teasing about my buck teeth or pulling and pinching.

But late in the night, when everyone was asleep, I heard Aunt Bee talk on the phone. She was talking on the corridor, maybe so that Uncle doesn’t hear.

“She was arrested this afternoon. They will arraign her in court on Monday. No bail no. We can’t have been accomplices. We barely knew about her activities.”

***

The Mascot removed his big teddy-head leaving a tinier real one; he looked a lot like uncle.

“Did you come with your Mom, or Dad?” he was asking. “Do you know their phone number?”

I shut my eyes very tight and tried to picture us together again: me, Dad, Mom and the little baby. In my mind we almost family.

©Jennie Marima 2013

 

This Photograph was taken by photographer and author Aernout Zevenbergen at the 2012 Storymoja Hay Festival  at the National Museums of Kenya during a performance of Shungwaya by The Theatre Company.

This Photograph was taken by photographer and author Aernout Zevenbergen at the 2012 Storymoja Hay Festival at the National Museums of Kenya during a performance of Shungwaya by The Theatre Company.

Word: Family. Trigger: The picture had a number of what looked like families. But on the far right of the picture, three little girls sat alone. I wanted to tell a compelling story that offered an explanation why they weren’t with their parents. 

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