The Stepmother

By Arsene Mbangula
Arsene Mbangula's stories

I now understand that life without a real mother is painful. My friends lived through a very stressful situation with their family. There were nine children: four boys and five girls. Their mother passed away some twelve years ago. My friends were young at the time, not old enough to take care of themselves, so their father found them a stepmother. They were initially very happy, but the stepmother treated the children very badly, and sometimes even insulted them.

One day, Jimmy, the firstborn, woke up early and boiled some peeled cassava for breakfast. He asked his stepmother to find some plastic paper to cover the pot. “Let me find it for you,” she replied, and after two minutes she returned with a plastic paper. As the cassava was boiling, Jimmy took a bath, got dressed, and packed his school bag. When he was finished, the cassava was ready, so he turned the fire off and removed the paper from the pot. When he looked inside, he saw a plastic bag floating in the boiling water. When he squeezed the bag, black fluid oozed out of it. He called his brothers Abraham and George, and his sister Ruth to see what he found.

When Jimmy was at school, there was a big quarrel at home. Abraham and George accused the stepmother of planning to kill Jimmy. “It happened accidentally and unknowingly,” said the stepmother, “I didn’t know the plastic paper I gave Jimmy contained that bag of herbs!” Abraham and George didn’t believe her, so to prove her innocence she ate the cassava.

Although she was fine after, Abraham, George and Jimmy refused to eat the cassava, and found it hard to believe her innocence.

Jimmy spent ten hours at school, and when he came back home, Ruth told him the plastic paper containing the herbs had been taken away by their stepmother. Soon, the whole community believed that the stepmother wanted to kill Jimmy. Jimmy was very frustrated and stressed. He had many questions but no answers.

After they ate supper as a family in the evening, their father wanted to discuss what had happened. He said that he didn’t know what the herbs were used for, but that they had come from their bedroom. When the stepmother said that the herbs were harmless, Jimmy asked “What is the use of these herbs in the house of Christians?” She didn’t answer clearly. The parents and Jimmy then ate some of the cassava and went to bed right after.

Jimmy woke up early in the morning the other day feeling fine, and realized the herbs were indeed safe to eat. He followed his usual ritual of preparing to go to school, and his stepmother headed to the farm. From that day, Jimmy had problems eating anything cooked in his absence, but he had no other option than to eat what was served. Moreover, whenever he would ask his stepmother for anything, she’d tell him go to the cemetery and ask his mom.

Whenever the father was around, the stepmother pretended to be kind hearted. The father was somewhat naive. He was a Christian and he believed nothing and nobody would ever hurt his children. Trying to mean that wasn’t easier to trust their stepmother based on her behaviors because whatever their stepmother said was quite true, but there was a problem for them to believe what their stepmother was saying because of her character. The good thing was that they discussed the issue.

Abraham and George saw the neighbors using the same type of herbs that Jimmy found in the pot. They asked them about it, and they explained it adds nice smells to cooked food. They felt bad, and after supper that night, they apologized to their father and stepmother, and said they always worried about their stepmother’s behavior. The father was surprised and mad, the stepmother apologized. She said in other societies, it is assumed that good stepmothers don’t exist, and that she’ll never be their mother, but that she did everything for their good, and had no intention to torture or kill them, but she wanted to raise them in a polite and decent way. The next day, the children began to clear up their stepmother’s name in society.

20 April, 2023