A Northern Affair Chapter 12 Part 1

Chapter Twelve

The new school in the town of Mapungi was nearing completion and it had become the hottest topic of gossip in the town. There had been speculations about the building right from the moment that the first foundation was dug. As the structure took shape, the townspeople talked among themselves. Some said it was going to be a church, but the land it was being built on was a Farouki land so the thought was quickly killed. Others thought it was going to be a boarding house. Recently, Mapungi had become a busy town with the influx of tourists passing through the town. A boarding house was simply a logical way of making extra money from all the attention that the town was receiving. Still, those who dreamed bigger argued that it was going to be a hotel. It was no secret that Sadiq Farouki liked to go big when he set out on a project and surely, the man would want a hotel on his land instead of a boarding house.

No one thought that it could be a school for the children. Had they not all accepted that it might be another five or six years before the town could boast of its own educational facilities?

Kimberly sat at the far back of the auditorium and watched her mother working with the kids from the church. It was a scene she could have never imagined and one that would stay with her forever. As she watched, she felt something akin to jealousy at the children. It was so obvious from Mabel’s ease with the children that she had finally found her calling in the church –and apparently, a way to shed all the locked-up love in her.

A week after the midnight conversation with her mother, she had finally taken the step of joining her mother for morning devotion in the large hall. It was just the two of them but she always felt a certain peace when they discussed the bible and prayed together. And she always felt as if someone was watching over her and smiling at her. It was as if someone was saying to her, welcome home. Maybe it was just her imagination but she liked to think that that someone was God. And she was beginning to believe that maybe all was not lost. That there was still hope for the future.

The older man beside her mother was a little over fifty but as energetic as the kids who surrounded him. While Kimberly watched, her mother and the man expertly manoeuvred the kids into positions and they all began to recite the poems they had been memorising for days. It was all part of the preparations for the program that the church was going to hold for the upcoming Easter celebrations. Mabel had been talking about it for days non-stop.

After the rehearsal was over, the kids were treated to ice cream while they waited for their parents to come and pick them up. When the last kid had said goodbye, Mabel walked up to Kimberly, the elderly man at her side.

“You should have joined us, honey,” Mabel said.

“No, but I enjoyed watching from here. You were wonderful with the kids.”

“Thank you,” Mabel gleamed. “This is Eric Cordonu. I was telling you about him earlier. Eric, this is my daughter, Kimberly.”

“Pleased to finally meet you in person, Mr. Cordonu.”

“The pleasure is completely mine,” Eric replied with a full and wide smile as he took her outstretched hand with both of his. “And please call me Eric.”

“My mum has told me a lot about you.”

“Good things, I hope.”

“Yes. She sings your praises.”

“My heart rejoices,” he flashed that wide smile again.

Mabel laughed before she playfully slapped his shoulder. “Behave yourself, Rick,” she said. And then she smiled and looked into his eyes. His smile widened.

Eric Cordonu was a charmer, Kimberly thought, and right now, her mother was totally charmed. She almost smiled. “Shall I wait for you in the car, mum?” She asked.

“No,” Mabel replied. “See you tomorrow, Rick.”

“Let me walk you two beautiful ladies to your car.”

Kimberly took the lead as her mother and Eric fell back to tease each other. She had never seen her mother smile so much in a day.

“See you soon, Rick,” Mabel waved from the driver’s seat.

“See you soon, May. You too, Kimberly.”

“Goodbye, Eric,” she managed a small smile.

“He seems like a nice man,” Kimberly observed after Mabel pulled out of the driveway.

“He is, isn’t he?” Mabel replied. “The church was very grateful when he offered his auditorium for the children’s rehearsals. And he even offered to help.”

“You like him.”

Mabel was momentarily speechless, then she cleared her throat and said, “Rick is a nice man. He is very friendly and good looking.”

Kimberly laughed in spite of herself. “You don’t need to outline his attributes for me, mum. Besides, it’s obvious that he likes you too.”

“Well,” Mabel started, “maybe I like him a little.”

“I just met him and I like him a lot.”

“You do?” Mabel released a sigh. “Thank you so much. I thought you wouldn’t approve.”

“Approve? Mum, even if I didn’t like him, which I do, you don’t need my approval to date whomever you want to date.”

“I was afraid you’d think I wanted to replace your dad so quickly after we found out he was no more.”

“Twelve years is not so quickly, and I’m no longer a child. I understand. You deserve to be happy and I am happy for you.”

“Thank you,” Mabel said, “I wish happiness for you too.”

“That would be literally impossible,” she said quietly.

“Why not?” Mabel asked.

Kimberly kept quiet. She did not want to talk about it. She could not keep her mind from thinking about it every day but she could choose not to talk about it.

Mabel parked the car by the roadside and switched off the engine.

“Why have we stopped?” Kimberly asked.

“Tell me what happened in Mapungi,” Mabel demanded, “otherwise we are not moving from here.” And to prove her point, she locked all the doors and killed the engine.

“There is nothing to talk about. Let’s just go home.”

“I am tired of watching you mope around the house like the world left you behind, Kimberly. And I’m tired of waiting for you to open up by yourself. As your mother, I say that something definitely happened and I demand that you tell me now.”

“Stop! Stop it, okay. You can’t demand anything from me after playing mother for less than a month. Let’s just go home, okay.”

Inside the car was eerily silent after her outburst as Kimberly realised what she had just said. “I’m sorry,” she said as her eyes filled with tears that blurred her vision. She wiped the tears away. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. Her mother was silent. Kimberly did not dare look at her.

“You are right,” Mabel finally said. “I am in no position to demand anything from you, but I hope you realise sooner than later that a problem shared is a problem halved.” She unlocked the doors and started the engines.

“I’m sorry, mum,” Kimberly wept as she threw herself into her mother’s arms. “I didn’t mean to say that. I’m so sorry.”

“You had to get it out,” Mabel said. “I understand.”

“I cried, mum.” She let go of her mother and took her hands. She realised for the first time that the ring finger was void of its ring. “The last time, you said you never saw me cry or complain but I did. Every day after dad left, I cried in my room. I did not understand why he left us.” She sniffed loudly. “I thought it was something that I did. I thought it was because I insisted that I wanted the ice-cream from the store instead of the one in the fridge. And then later, I thought he must have left because he did not love us anymore. Because his love had run out and he wanted out as well.

“And I figured if I did not fall in love, then I would not have to go through that twice. I was scared of being left behind again. So, when I realised that I was in love with Hussein, I panicked. And when he asked me to be his wife, I baulked and ran. For a moment, I was happy that he loved me back, then I panicked.”

She remembered that fateful night very well, as if it was just yesterday. She had driven into the dark Mapungi night without knowing where she was headed. It was only after the headlights of the truck had illuminated the house in front of her that she realised that she was at Hussein’s house. And then, she had wept till she could weep no more. Till she wanted to die from the pain in her chest. And when she finally got the strength to drive back, her mind was made up and her heart was broken.

“I ran because dad ran, and I did not want Hussein to run from me. I couldn’t bear it if he did.”

“Your dad did not run from us.”

“I know that now,” Kimberly said with a pained smile. “He did not run from love. Instead, I was the one who did. I fell so deeply in love, mum. It frightened me.” The sobs racked through her body. Knowing that she was the one who had run from love made it all worse.

“You are not the only one who ran,” Mabel said. “I ran too. Before your dad and I got married, we had been dating for close to eight months. It was the longest relationship I had ever been in.” Kimberly smiled in spite of herself. “My initial plan was to break up with him after three weeks, four weeks maximum. That was my rule. No guy ever made it into the fifth week. But I could not break up with him. He was so good looking and funny and wise and interesting and I was gone before I knew it. Then one night, he proposed. I was so shocked that my first instinct was to slap him and I did.”

Kimberly laughed. “You did not.”

“I did and I was so mortified by my reaction that I ran all the way home. About a mile and half. In that moment, I must have forgotten that a taxi could have sent me home faster.”

Kimberly laughed again, louder. Her mother laughed too. “What happened after that?”

“Well, after two days he came by my house and I asked the house help to tell him that I was not around. He waited outside for six hours while I waited inside for him to leave. Finally, when he was about to drive away I realised I did not want to live without him. So I run out and shouted yes! Yes! I want to be your wife.”

“Seriously mum, I can’t imagine you doing that.”

“It did not end there.” Mabel smiled at the memory. “James made me chase him in his car two blocks down shouting that I wanted to be his wife. The neighbours thought I was crazy.”

“I can’t imagine you chasing a car and shouting like that.”

“Well I did, and he finally stopped the car and came out to kiss me in the middle of the street. I was never happier. Our wedding was held at the city gardens where I slapped him.”

“A befitting end.”

“It was only the beginning for us,” Mabel said, “but my point is that there is nothing wrong with running. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see clearly what is in front of you. It’s never too late to have what you truly want.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top