The story so far:Hellena is young and ambitious, hoping to join university, when she discovers that she is pregnant. This threatens to shatter her life, until a cousin offers to host her in the city as she waits for her admission letter. Her life is on the cusp of a major change.
If Hellena’s mothers eyes could speak, they would have revealed her torn heart in a single glance. She made no attempt to hide how disappointed she was with her daughter. She was neither ready nor proud about the unexpected baby now growing inside Hellena, unlike other elders in the village who boasted about their married children, and their offspring. The people of her church made it clear when was the right time to have children, and for her daughter, that time had not come.
Her heart wanted to embrace her daughter but she could not ignore the sense of shame when she thought of their faces and what they would think of her when the news spilled, as it would in time. Her sense of powerlessness boiled over into anger.
In the blink of an eye, she picked a stick lying peacefully at her side and accelerated towards her only daughter. Her love was drowned by the flood of emotions she felt.
Tonny’s arrival in the middle of her storming rage deflected the attention from Hellena.
“What brings you here?” she demanded.
Before he could respond, Hellena's mother unleashed the stick on him. Seeing the cause of her problems in front of her caused the red rage of her predicament to flood her heart. Her first blow – harder than ever she had struck before – fell at his waist and carried her frustrations, nurtured over many years since her husband had so abruptly left.
Tonny saw that this was not the time to reason. He took off in a split second, followed by Hellena. The jerrycan dropped from her hands. Heavy with its burden it capsized, flooding the floor with precious water.
FLEE TO SAFETY
Breathless and not knowing where to run to, Tonny and Hellena sought rest under a tree, distant from the village. They were hidden from the scrutinising eyes and chattering tongues.
“What are we going to do?” inquired Hellena, looking up at her tall Tonny, with real expectation. Ending the pregnancy had crossed her mind but was unspeakable with her beloved, even at this point.
“I do not know,” answered Tonny unceremoniously.
His look of utter defeat and those words froze her heart, leaving her feeling cold and numb. If he did not know, what was she supposed to do? Those words left her feeling that she had no one to turn to.
Her father would have taken her into his arms and held her tight. He had been dependable, once. But he was gone, forever it seemed – for reasons that her mother had never shared. She felt on the edge of a cliff, struggling to cling on.
Hellena recognised her mother’s reaction. In her rage she saw her mothers’ friends watching over their angry scene. Hellena thought that sometimes her mother’s church community had more in common with what they muttered as that “backward religion” than they were prepared to admit.
For her she liked the spirit of their gatherings, the uplifting songs and sense of oneness it gave her but some of the expectations and stories left her reeling. She did not want to be even more of a burden on her mother.
All this left her more confused and angry. She picked herself up, forgetting Tonny who had once filled her heart and phone’s inbox with his endless messages. She started to walk, but Tonny’s hand on her shoulder paused her.
“Where are you going?” was his plaintive question.
Hellena was confused. She was unsure whether Tonny understood her predicament. Here they were, heading to parenthood. She knew she was not prepared for it, and she was sure, neither was he. The difference was that the clock was ticking and she had to be prepared.
“Anywhere, not here. I don’t know.” She felt at the end of her tether.
Hellena was in as much anguish as her own mother. Like everyone else of her age in the village she kept up with the Nairobi celebrities and their gossip on Facebook, when she had the bundles. These glossy women seemed to float through a colourful, bubbly life of drama and wealthy men. They almost thrived on the notoriety.
Hellena had never bought those fantasies, unlike others in her class. Yet they made her doubt her mother’s standards. When she had once tried speaking to what her mother called “those people” in Nairobi her mother could only tut-tut and change the conversation.
“I shall be putting up with you until we sober up and find a solution to this,” Tonny told her. As usual, he did not make a firm commitment, and his words made little sense to Hellena.
“What do your parents say?” she asked, hoping for some options. His silent response gave the story away: He had not told them.
Tonny had always been a spoilt child. He had refused to put up his house even though materials from his father’s hardware shop were readily offered. He preferred the easy-living of home and mother’s cooking. When Hellena had shared her predicament the first time, he only looked confused. He appeared neither happy nor shocked. He struggled to speak out his mind and only managed to fumble with incoherent words.
“Did you not anticipate the consequence of our actions?” she snapped.
Her anger hung in the air and silence enveloped the pair. The tree’s shade shifted imperceptibly. Neither wanted to be the first to stand. But Tonny was getting nervous. He had not had his dose for the day and was on the verge of suffering from withdrawal.
“What are you talking about?” Tonny pretended not to have gotten her question.
She realised then, in that instant, that Tonny would not, could not be at her side for the next chapter of her life. She was alone. Alone, against a world that once had seemed sunny with possibilities. Now it looked dark, menacing and full of unknowns.
“You knew the consequences of our actions so stop taking me in circles. You need to take responsibility! I’m off!”
She was getting mad at him. He, on the other hand, felt time running out for his fix. He needed a jab to calm his nerves a bit. He had not faced up to telling his parents such news, knowing that his father’s lashes would be particularly harsh in the evening. He could not cope.
To be continued.