My name is Nancy, but friends just call me Nan. I’m 22 years old, but all my life, it looks like I have lived well beyond 50! I do not know whether it is because of being a girl or that fate has a way of doing things.
I come from a family of six – four boys and two girls. Being the first born child, there are a lot of expectations from my parents, siblings and the general society. One mistake, especially from me, could mess a great relationship with everybody. I had to live an extra cautious life by wearing a mask that does not befit my face.
My journey has been full of guilt, pain, hatred, betrayal, disillusionment, mistrust, hope and faith all which have built me, given me a new dimension in life and given me a new insight towards what is expected of me.
All these, are what have made the story of my life sail through… and this is not the end, but just beginning.
* * * * * * *
My story … so far
Antoinette stood at the doorway. She clasped her left hand and bit her lower lip. All her life, actually in 20 years that she has lived in this world, she never enjoyed love, at least from her family. Her life was full of omen – a bad luck that either she was born with or it existed in her family – so she thought. She could not understand how her once serene family turned into a Tower of Babel.
* * * * *
When Antoinette started knowing who she was, her father and mother – Paulos and Penina – were readily available to attending to the family needs. They always were available when needed, and offered counsel to the family. Their presence, as the heads of the house, meant love flowed.
As the rest of her siblings came to the world, the family bond grew stronger.
* * * * *
In the whole of Kiamutu village, the family of Paulos was the most respected. The moral decay in most families was missing; maybe because Paulos was a pastor and an elder in the local church and a strict father. He brought his family in the most upright manner that was guided by the Biblical principles. Anyone who deviated from these teachings was lectured until sense got in their head. Unless it was necessarily unavoidable, a sjambok was used every night for weeks, ‘to straighten things out on a hardened young sinner’s head and soul to turn to Christ.’ That is how his children grew up knowing God. Their daily routine involved school on Mondays to Fridays and Church every Sunday sometimes on Saturdays for vigil. Penina was a much respected woman because she ‘brought up her children in the right manner’ that was lacking in almost all families in the neighbourhood.
During women conventions, she was always consulted on what the rest of the group should do. Her decisions were taken as the ultimate because they came from the role model in the village. Most women encouraged their children to play with Annette and her siblings because they ‘were the only children who had something in between their heads.’
When someone praises you much, don’t be too proud, it might be a sign of your downfall.
* * * * *
Antoinette was a charming girl, full of life always looking happy and accommodative. She was a resplendent of her mother – the forehead, blown cheeks, round face and even her walking style. At the age of 17, her once bright life turned darker. She has kept this secret for over four years. Although she tried to erase that dark blanket, it does seem to have permanently grown in her. Her memory wishes the day never happened but fate has other plans.
It was on 12th January when she was turning 18 that all she had aspired come to a halting end. She was looking forward to a beaming future, with hope.
She was a student at Mtini Secondary School a girls’ only boarding school situated about 20 kilometres away from Kiamutu Village. Mostly she would be taken by her father half way then she progresses with the rest of her journey by herself.
It was during one of these days after her father left her at the bus station and he left for his preaching mission. Since he was getting late and he needed to catch a bus for his mission, he did not bother accompany his daughter to the bus stop. As Antoinette was heading to board the bus to the school, she bumped to her teacher, Mr. Kariuki who was doing some purchases before heading to the school.
“How are you sir?” she started.
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“Where are you coming from?”
“…heading to school?”
“Okay,” he continued, “We can go together in my car.”
She just kept quiet and followed him, and they headed to the restaurant for lunch. After all, she was to report at five and it was still early in the day.
After lunch, they headed to his car ready to begin the journey to school. At first, both were quiet until they were far from people.
“Antoinette, how are your studies?”
“Quiet tough, sir, but I’ll manage.”
“That’s good. Keep up the spirit.”
“What subjects are you finding difficult?”
“Mathematics and Chemistry”
“Well, I can help you with those subjects.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t call me sir,” he said, “I’m just helping.”
“Thank you si…”
“I said don’t call me sir.”
Then awkward silence.
When they arrived at school, it was well an hour before the deadline. There were few students here and there. Some were carrying heavy luggage as others had simple bags. The girls headed to the teachers on duty who checked on their bags allowing others to pass as some were detained. Antoinette alighted from her teacher’s car without her heavy luggage and headed to the queue. As soon as she was cleared, Mr. Kariuki called her.
“After evening preps, come and get your luggage.”
On the first day, there was not much going on. As usual, most of the students and teachers had not reported. The present students could choose to either stay in class finishing their holiday homework or stay in their dormitory, provided they did not make noise.
Antoinette’s desk mate had not reported yet. She arranged her desk and went out of the class to get her luggage from Mr. Kariuki’s apartment.
“Welcome,” he said after she knocked the door.
“Thank you sir,” said Antoinette fearfully.
“Why are you tense?”
“It’s just that…”
She entered the house though fearfully. In there were her desk mate, Alice and the head girl Sheila. On the table were soft drinks, and the room was dark lit with a smooth music playing in the background. As she made herself comfortable, Mr. Kariuki’s colleagues, Mr. Rono and Mr. Agoya appeared from the bedroom. They looked at Antoinette, suspiciously.
“I’m sure you know who these are?” asked Mr. Kariuki.
“Ye-e-e…”stammered Antoinette as she stared at her colleagues.
“It’s alright,” assured Alice.
Antoinette was unsure of what she was seeing. She wanted to scream or run away, but something kept on urging her to stay on.
After a few moments, Alice and Sheila went to separate bedrooms together with Mr. Kariuki’s colleagues. Antoinette was left with Mr. Kariuki.
“I hope you’re not scared.”
“I told you not to call me sir,” joked Mr. Kariuki.
“I’m sorry,” apologized Antoinette.
The teacher started moving closer to her, rubbing his hands against her thighs. Antoinette did not do anything. She just kept quiet. As this was happening, she heard an eerie laughter coming from the bedrooms. She become tense.
“Why do you look scared?” he asked.
She remained silent.
The teacher started undressing her starting with her sweater, blouse and slowly to the skirt. At that moment, she shrieked.
“What is the problem?” he whispered.
She still kept quiet.
“Are you afraid?”
“No, I’m worried.”
“My mother tells me no one should remove my clothes, especially a man.”
“No… This will be between you and me.”
“But teacher…” she called in weak voice.
“Don’t worry, Antoinette.”
In a moment of time, they both were half naked. The teacher led her to his bedroom. At first, she felt a lot of pain, cutting down through her body. She tried to cry out without any luck. It was an experience she was not ready to undergo, but it had already taken place. That was the first time, in her life that she had been in close contact with a man.
Early in the morning, the three girls left for their class, before the rest of the students reported. In her mind, Antoinette was confused and full of thoughts. He did not know what happened; neither could she say what was happening in her. Everything was not making sense at all. The day was gloomy.
In contrast, Alice and Sheila seemed to look happy, maybe they were already used…..
* * * * *
The family love in Penina and Paulos house started fading away. Paulos was always attending to church meetings, while Penina was in never unending women conventions. The children were left on their own. Soon the trust in the house, disintegrated into fights, between Paulos and Penina. Each accused the other of being the problem in the house. Paulos could not tolerate being subordinated by a woman. From verbal abuse, it turned to physical abuse. Penina’s charm was no more. She became a withdrawn isolated woman, never attending to the women conventions as she did.
Paulos on the other hand, found a new company – at Wakonyo’s where his missionary work began, now ended.
* * * * *
The previous evening started up as usual – quarrels which had become the trademark in the family, went on as usual. This seemed just like the norm, but it was more than meets the eye. Paulos had passed near Wakonyo’s carousal den and headed home drunk. He had been doing so for the last couple of years, that whenever he was sober, he looked abnormal; he would be quiet but once he became inebriated, then all hell broke loose.
“Open the door woman,” he started as he continuously banged on the door. You’ve no right to close (hic) this door.”
Although the children have been used to such, this one looked gloomy. Penina noticed the unease of her children and assured them all will be alright.
She stood up and headed for the door. No sooner had she turned the knob than Paulos flung open the door slapping her five month pregnant wife.
“I told you this is my house… and you’ve no business closing the door on me,” said a charged Paulos. “Or who are you hiding here, eh?”
Antoinette’s mother picked herself up and apologized amidst sobs.
“I’m sorry… we feared for our safety…”
“Listen, if you don’t want to stay here, you can as well pack and leave me you woman…” he added, “I don’t want to hear of your apologies…” a charged Paulos said.
* * * * *
For 24 years that she had been married, Penina was used to such a nasty life; she withdrew herself as a punching bag. At first, she thought it was going to pass on easily. Little did she know that that would be the beginning of the longest battle in her entire life.
Did she really have a choice? Or maybe fate had already decided how her life would be like.
* * * * *
Annette knew too well the torture and pain her mother had undergone. As the first born child of Paulos and Penina, there was not even a single moment her mother ever smiled, even when it was obvious. Her mother’s face registered sadness, pity and regret. At times she would think of her mother and cry yet there was nothing she could do to change situation……
Although she was almost completing her secondary education, she could not tell her mother she had aborted twice, and was already pregnant, because no one would listen to her…..