In the Shadows

By Cristabell

“Mai Noku!,” a lady calls her to stop as she walks down to the car park after attending the Sunday service at the Presbyterian church in Borrowdale. Not again! Why don’t people have better things to do other than disturb my peace? Mai Noku says in her mind before realizing that it was the nice choir lady who called her. “I’m sorry I could not attend your husband’s funeral, I just came back from Cameroon where I was attending a business meeting. I want to express my sincere condolences.” The lady gives Mai Noku a hug, and Mai Noku lets out one or two drops of crocodile tears. The lady says a few words of comfort and walks her to her car.

Mai Noku gets into her car and starts playing Handipere power, a song that evokes emotions totally different from the act she just performed to her church mate. A recollection that pains her the most floods her mind.

Mai Noku comes from a family of three siblings. One is a teacher who works in the Chimanimani rural area, where he can barely manage to feed his family, let alone build himself a proper place to stay. Another, her younger sister, had fallen pregnant when she was in high school to a married man who denied responsibility and left her dating various men just to make ends meet. Brian was her youngest brother who didn’t live beyond high school. She has been the only one lucky enough to marry a well up man who could afford her the luxuries that people in church believed she had.

Whilst fastening her seatbelt, she has a flashback. Two years prior, Brian developed a heart condition that required immediate surgery to save his life. It had been a chilly morning and Mai Noku had woken up to do her laundry. Shortly before, she heard the owls of the night hooting, something she had always associated with impending bad luck. A call came through from her elder sister bearing the devastating news that brought a dark shadow of worry on her face. Mai Noku left the yellow floral dress she had been washing and went to wake her husband. Her sister had said that a large sum of money was required to save Brian. Though Mai Noku knew her husband wouldn’t be forthcoming for matters relating to her family, she decided to try her luck .

“Baba Noku, Abbie has just called to tell me that Brian has been diagnosed with a heart condition which only renders him a few weeks to live if he doesn’t get surgery. Apparently the surgery costs seven thousand dollars, could you please assist?” asked Mai Noku.

“Mmmmh I`m sorry to hear that however finances are tight these days,” her husband said as he turned his head away to get a better sleeping position. Her fears were confirmed. This was a very difficult pill to swallow for Mai Noku. She knew that he was able to pay three times for Brian’s surgery to take place.

She also knew that his reluctance to assist emanated from the marital fights that they had been having for the past two years. She had managed to maintain a lovely picture at church pretending that everything in their marriage was going on well. They held hands when getting out of church and constantly gave testimonies about how they had been blessed to have each other. But in the shadows, they were fighting day and night. Three weeks before Brian`s incident, Mai Noku was beaten by her husband for confronting him about the text messages to his female workmate that she had seen whilst he was bathing. She had suspected Baba Noku for cheating since he had been coming home late and giving excuses. He had left his phone charging, and she decided to open it and investigate for herself. Heartbroken and angry about seeing the screensaver of another woman, she stormed at her husband, who pushed her to the wall and slapped her before yelling at her to never invade his privacy.

Days after Mai Noku asked for money to save her brother’s life, her husband’s younger sister, a spoiled disobedient child who had refused to finish school, came asking for money to start a nails fitting business. Without thinking much, Baba Noku took five thousand dollars, an amount that could have easily been channeled towards Brian’s surgery, and gave it to his sister for her business. This happened before Mai Noku’s eyes. Mai Noku was in pain but felt helpless.

However, she was not going to let go of the issue without a fight. He always chose his relatives over hers. That night, she refused to cook for her husband. She continued to refuse cooking for the next three days until he reminded her that he had picked her from the gutters. Brian died two weeks later, which brought a dark cloud over her as she got the news, again from her sister. She could not eat or drink and did not talk to her husband for the longest time.

Mai Noku starts the car and begins to reverse whilst still subconsciously thinking. One day, eight months after Brian’s death, as she sat on a tiny chair in the backyard lost in her mind, she received a call that her husband had been involved in a fatal accident with one of his “girlfriends” that she knew well. It was good riddance. She had loved her husband but for the longest time had been put through difficult times that had killed her affection towards him. In public she has always struggled to showcase a fake happiness yet in the shadows tears had never stopped flowing down her cheeks.

She steps on the accelerator and goes back to the mansion that she used to live in with her husband. With him gone, the atmosphere felt peaceful. She looks forward to lying on the bed and getting the best undisturbed nap of her life.

27 March, 2023