“Welcome home, we can now get married too. We had to wait for the first born to lead the way.” Moses said and the whole family burst into laughter.
“Why don’t you tell her the truth Moses, that you are still searching!” Max said in jest as the youngest brother, Martin winced in feigned pain.
“Ouch!Did that hurt Moses?” He said as the rest giggled again.
Gwen watched her new family. The matriach was busy preparing the dining table. Gwen had offered to help her but her mother in law had been sweetly adamant to take up the offer.
“Today you are the chief guest, and guests don’t work, so sit back and relax my daughter.”
Gwen did so, she took a seat at the lounge room next to her father in law whose eyes were stuck on the international news channel. He did not say much but kept glancing at his sons and chuckling at their banters.
“So Gwen, Max tells me you have been chosen to tailor the Governor’s shirts ?”
The three sons went quiet at the sound of his voice.
“Yes, I must say it’s a privilege. A friend cum customer recommended me to him and the rest is history as they say.” She replied.
“Ts ts ts…Max, you have raised the bar too high. A fashion designer, designing Governor’s clothes? Now I will have to dump my barmaid girlfriend.” Martin said.
“You better not bring a barmaid to this house, young man, or I will chase her away myself like I did to that girl you had hidden in your bedroom when you were sixteen years old. Now, shall we all come and have our supper?” The strong voice of their mother boomed.
The three woke up quickly as they laughed at the last born who was smiling sheepishly at their mother’s rebuke at him. Max extended his hand to Gwen and led her to the table, then pulled a chair next to him. The head seats were taken by the father and mother.
Gwen watched her husband’s jolly family. They seemed happy that the first born had found himself a wife. A wife who was expected to fit in the tight circle without question. Gwen knew that her life would involve a lot around this family. She thought to herself that she wouldn’t mind, the family members seemed to like her anyway.
She was not wrong. She accompanied Max every weekend to their home. His mother warmly welcomed her to her kingdom, the kitchen. She was caring and amiable. Gwen counted herself lucky to have such a nice mother in law.
“What’s eating you my daughter?” Her mother in law asked one Saturday. Gwen and Max had been at loggerheads. She looked at the concern on her mother in law’s face. However, she would not complain of Max to his own mother.
“Nothing, I just have a headache.” She told the bald-faced lie.
Gwen’s m-i-l stared at her for a moment. She knew Gwen had pulled some wool over her eyes. She shrugged and continued to perform her task.
“I hope you have taken some medication..” Then she added, “You should know however that you are my daughter, you can always share with me any of your troubles.” Gwen was stunned that she believed her husband’s mother. She was genuinely worried.
Yet this was not something to tell her. Max and her wanted to build a home. At least they both agreed that they were paying too much rent. The disagreement was about where to build it at. Max wanted to shift to the next town. Gwen wanted him to build his house next to his parents. She was tired of all the travelling every weekend when she wanted to rest and do her personal laundry. She figured that staying near them would not require her to be there. He could go to his parents’ whenever he wanted without having to involve her.
“My daughter, I will not hide the truth from you. Max already told me you had a heated row about your next residence. I am on your side and I opined to him so. I hope he has a change of heart and listens to you. My daughter, these men can sometimes be stagnant in their thinking.” She said.
Gwen was astounded that her husband had opened up about his marriage dissension, to his mother but then again she was happy his mother was a considerate woman.
Max had no choice. The pressure form his wife and mother propelled him to agree to their ideas. Gwen and Max financially contributed fifty fifty to the building of their house. Within five months, it was done. A simple but elegant three bedroom house, fitted with high-end, bespoke furniture.
Yet, life took another turn. Max’s father who had long suffered from Diabetes finally succumbed. The family were despondent. He had been a good husband and father. But they felt more sad for their mother who was very morose since the demise of her husband. Their children agreed that Max would visit her often since he was just next door.
However, when it rains it pours. On a rainy evening from work, Max’s car skid and hit a tree causing him to die on the spot. Gwen had not gone to work that day. She was eight months pregnant and she preferred to work at home on cold days like that fateful day.
The shock of the bad news rose her Blood Pressure. Her best friend, a doctor who had dashed to be by her side knew at first glance, that her case was critical. She rushed her to hospital where she was admitted.
This would be the start of her in laws revealing of their true colours.
In her two week stay in hospital, none of her in-laws came to see Gwen. She thought they would wait for her to be discharged in order to plan a funeral day for her husband. Her friend announced to her that Max had been buried at their grandma’s home upcountry. Gwen was stunned.
Her condition called for an emergency Caesarean section where she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. No one from Max’s family bothered to see them even with such good news.
Upon discharge from hospital, her friend drove her and her baby home. Gwen kept convincing herself there was a misunderstanding somewhere. The good family would not be that impolite. But she was wrong.
Gwen’s mother in law was waiting outside their gate. Her two sons stood on each side behind her like two bodyguards protecting an important national figure. Gwen jumped out quickly and ran to the woman who had always insisted she call her mum.
“Mum?” She called out concerned and confused at the annoyed faces that looked back at her.
“How dare you call me mum after killing my son?” She spoke breathing pure venom.
Gwen tried to speak but was interrupted.
“Don’t you think we know what you did to his car and then you conveniently become unwell that day?”
“Mum ,I was really unw…!” Tears were quickly streaming from her eyes as she heard accusations that could not be further from the truth.
“Shut up you murderer!” Martin roared at her menacingly. Then Gwen had an idea. If only she showed them the little baby, their flesh and blood maybe they would come around. She ran to the car and grabbed the sleeping baby from the car seat.
“See, see Max’s cute son!” She was saying but Moses stopped her on her trucks, exhaling deep ire.
“Don’t show that bastard to us. We are not fools. We know how you got to tailor the Governor’s clothes. Go show him his baby! Slut!” He said and spat on the baby’s shawl.
Gwen was perplexed at the wrong accusations. The two brothers always expressed their envy at Max for getting himself a loyal wife. Here they were now accusing her of despicable actions.
Her friend pulled her back to the car and drove away. The next day she sent someone to pick her belongings. He came back with nothing but more shocking news, the house was empty.
Her friends urged her to go to court but she had no money to sue. They had taken everything that was hers. She did not want too, to be reminded of the pain her in-laws had inflicted on her. She was amazed at how traitorous they had become after her husband’s death. She kept asking herself why they had suddenly transitioned from being her family to becoming her enemies.
The answer to that question came as a surprise ten years later. Her doctor friend called her at the hospital, “quick!”
“What’s wrong Nadia? ” Gwen asked her friend anxiously.
“I want you to meet one of my patients.” Dr Nadia said pulling her friend to the ward. In the right corner of the hospital room was a frail woman who kept murmuring Gwen’s name. At a closer look at her, Gwen’s heart almost skipped a beat.
“Mum?” Gwen called. Her mother in law was surprised at first, then she started to cry.
“My daughter, see what is left of me now? All because of you.” Gwen could not fathom any more false accusations, she turned to leave but the sick woman feebly stopped her.
” If only I saw what was ahead of me.I would not have listened to my sons. We envied what Max left for you and we wanted it all to ourselves. We enjoyed reaping where we had not sowed. Then Moses got HIV, Martin is an alcohol addict and barely knows even himself and here I am, suffering stage 3 brain cancer. Everytime I see a new day, your image forms in my head. I…” She started to convulse then she lost consciousness. Nadia called for back up, asked Gwen to leave as the doctors tried to resuscitate her.
“We tried our best but there is nothing we could do.” Dr Nadia announced.
Gwen attended the burial. She was dejected at seeing Moses’ thin figure. He avoided her like a plague even as she approached him with an olive branch. Martin barely noticed her. He spent the whole funeral time in the hearse drinking from a bottle he carefully hid in his breastpocket.
A week later, a lawyer called her. Her husband’s mother had left a will. In it, she recognized Gwen’s son as her grandson and left to him eighty percent of her property, with her as the trustee. The rest would be divided between the Martin and Moses.
Gwen went home to her son feeling contented.
“Maxwell, come closer, I need to tell you something. I want to promise you early that I will be the best mother in law to the wife you will bring to me. I promise you!” She said to a bemused ten year old boy.
“Eish mum, I am not marrying Joyce now, maybe until I finish university!” He said.
What? He already has a girlfriend?
Story of another day.