Photo Courtesy : Salem_Beliegraphy
“You are still poor. Why did you come back now? Today precisely?! Just when I was leaving to UK?! Do you know what it meant to me? That scholarship?!” He snapped.
“Please forgive me my son. I came back so that I can see you, see how you’ve grown and…apologize to both you and your mum. I have countable days remaining…”
Rashid staggered out of the hut. His mum was standing there, her forehead formed lines and her eyes were squinted. She was nervously playing with her hands as if it was her judgement day. Rashid looked at her for a while before pulling a stool from the side of the hut and made his mum sit down. There was a moment of dead silence. Then he started;
“How…” he looked at her in the eyes, “how did you survive after he left?”
She sighed loudly.
“Mwanangu (my son)…You know what they say? That when you truly love someone you let them go. You let them be happy…but it’s a lie. It means making a tough choice; a selfish one. It’s either they remain happy and you don’t, or you stay happy and they don’t. It’s a sacrifice no one wants to make especially when another woman is involved…and letting him go cost us our happiness. ..” Darkness had filled the compound and all that could be heard were random voices here and there from the neighbours. Rashid could see the tears forming in his mother’s eyes. He held her hand tightly and nodded at her to go on.
“For many years after your father left, I neglected my entire life. I neglected myself. I neglected you…I neglected you Rashid. I gave up on life. I was like a dead woman walking. Like a miserable zombie. I never worked and we survived on the money that your father left behind but also that came to an end. We had rent arrears and debts from shops. We had to shift here. We were too poor, too messed up. You grew up like an orphan child yet you had your mother with you,” she rised her hand and touched his face.
Rashid swallowed a bitter lump of bile that was now on his lips. How could he forget all those days he would beg his mum to take him to school and those nights he would cry out of fear yet she would turn on her bed like she was suddenly deaf. He would push her body back and forth vigorously calling out ‘mama’…all in vain.
“Perhaps you don’t remember everything…but came the day when I carelessly left hot ashes outside the house without warning you and you stepped on them. I still remember your shriek. It was like a wake up call for me. It was a reminder that I had a son. That I had a gift from God. That I had something worth living my life for….”
“Everything changed after that incident,” she gave him a weak smile. “Your feet were horribly burnt and you couldn’t walk for almost one month. I decided to re-start again. It was not too late. It never is. I got a job in the market to help a friend sell her vegetables while she went on with her other businesses. I took you to school and we had a new life altogether. It wasn’t the best kind of life but it was the best I could offer. I worked as a tailor after that, then a house maid, then sold viazi karai (fried potatoes), mahamri and mbaazi. After that I worked as a mchoraji wa piko na henna (henna tattoing) and finally was able to get my own kibanda (small stall)….You know it all from there…”
Rashid leaned forward and hugged her quickly, picked up his bag before disappearing out of the compound without a word. He stopped by a palm tree and leaned on it to support his weak knees. His eyes were wet when he heard some footsteps coming towards him. He quickly rubbed his eyes with his arms and disappeared once again. He didn’t come back until the next day.
Rashid walked into their home compound just to see his mother in the arms of their neighbour mama Fatuma. They were vividly in tears. He fastened his steps as his breathe got heavy. They both turned around, their eyes red and tired.
“Rashid!!” Mama Fatuma said loudly, her eyes suddenly popped out like she had just seen a ghost.
“Mama…what happened?!” He said as his heart beat furiously…”did something happen to…dad?”
Rashid’s mother rushed into his arms and cried on his broad chest.
“We thought…I thought…you are gone…You have never slept outside before and you took your bag with you.”
“Rashid! I am so relieved you are back! We thought you had gone after the bus to go to UK…the bus crashed last night,” mama Fatuma said.
Rashid swallowed a rather huge lump of saliva.
“The bus crashed?!”
“Yes…we heard it on the radio this morning. 16 passengers passed away and the rest are all injured.”
“Whoa! That was a close shave!” He exclaimed as he stood still in his place; pertubed.
“Nyamaza kulia sasa mama Rashid (Stop crying now mama Rashid)…haven’t you already seen your son? He is fine Alhamdulilah,” mama Fatuma said as she dabbed her eyes with her leso and blew her nose loudly.
” I was at a friend’s place mum. I just needed…”
“It’s okay…I’m just grateful to have you back. Oh Rashid how would I live without you?!”
Rashid patted her back and led her inside the hut. She needed some rest.
Four days after, Rashid’s father passed on. Rashid sat next to his silently weeping mother throughout the funeral. He didn’t cry. Not a single tear. At least not for someone whom he considered a stranger. But there was that irresistible heart ache that was banging on his chest. Whatever the case, the deceased was still his father. Whether he liked the fact or not, he had to deal with it.
Right after burying him, an old limping man came towards him. He was leaning on his bakora as he took small but rather quick steps. His head was entirely grey which immediately gave Rashid the instinct that he could be one of his father’s associates.
“Assalam aleikum. You must be Rashid right?”
Rashid looked at him in puzzlement before replying the greeting and saying yes.
“You have really grown my son mashallah…” he said as he gave him a broad smile.
“Pardon, I haven’t recognized you.”
“You can’t remember me. You were too young. Come, come my son. I have a message from your late father.” He led him into a more silent corner and they sat on large rocks. They were quiet for a moment, staring at the scattered bushes and green grass around.
“I couldn’t risk waiting any longer to talk to you. I am very old and my grave is calling me.” The old man smiled weakly. Rashid never said a word.
“My son, once upon a time I was your father’s lawyer. I was in charge of all his dealings and his wealth. Those days your father had started building his own empire and your mother had his back always…well, that was until when Salma, his second wife appeared in his life. I believe you know about her by now?”
“I’ll just try to cut this story short. After Salma left with all his wealth, what she didn’t know is that he had an offshore secret bank account. There was no much money in it but it was enough to make him live comfortably for a few more months or perhaps a year. But he decided that that money should be kept for you as a gift from him.”
“Strange…Why didn’t he mention that to me when we talked?”
“Because he didn’t want you to think he is buying you back. He just needed you and your mother to forgive him.”
Rashid was silent.
“Here,” the old man handed him the parcel. “This is exactly 500,000 shillings and God knows I didn’t deduct or add a single penny on it.”
Rashid’s mouth was agape. He had never touched even a quarter of that amount.
“But why? He died so poor…he sold all his property to survive. Why didn’t he use this?”
“Because he regretted what he did to the only woman who sacrificed her entire life for his sake and to you…his only son. He cleared all his debts before he died and doesn’t have much left remaining, just a few clothes, shoes and such…but I will surely come to your home and deliver what is rightfully for you and your mother.”
Rashid was speechless. He stared once again at the horizon then at the skies. Perhaps trying to understand what was happening to his life.
“Son, I have done what was upon me…goodbye” he patted Rashid’s shoulder and started walking away.
“Excuse me…what is your name uncle?”
“Ibrahim…” he smiled again then continued, “I was not just your father’s lawyer, he was my childhood friend and a brother to me. Perhaps you doubt this but your father…he was a kind man; a good man. He may have made his mistakes in his youth but he really loved you, and worried about you throughout.”
“Why didn’t he ever search for me then?”
“Because he was ashamed…I hope you find it in you to forgive him. Take care of yourself son. Meet you soon in shaa Allah. ”
Rashid watched the old man limp away. He looked at the parcel in his hand and sighed loudly.
“Oh God!” He thought to himself.
He recounted all the recent events in his life; mum’s phone call, his father, the lost scholarship, the bus crash, his father’s death and then this…He could have died in the bus crash. He wouldn’t have met his father. He wouldn’t have known the truth. He would have left his mother alone. He wouldn’t have gotten this fortune. He sighed again. His mother would be shocked about the money…but this would help them greatly. Perhaps start his own business, work while he pays his own college fees. It is better to stay around with his mother. He needed her more than anything. For once, he remembered to thank God for the cancelled trip to UK. For sure better things were yet to come.
“Truly fate is full of surprises. ..” Rashid said to himself as he walked back home. He had a lot to tell her.