No one loved a woman the way Juma loved Zaweria. It was a love that he fought for, against relatives that thought she wasn’t good enough for him. His mother did not like the slender 5’5 lady with a big bust and wide hips.
“She is here to stay, final.” Juma stated, with finality prompting his mother to stop her protest.
His two sisters tried their luck to convince their brother against marrying Zaweria but he shut them up, with remarks that their opinions had not been solicited for.
“Why are you so against her, what has she done to you, you haven’t even stayed with her for some time to know her?” He asked agitatedly.
The three women were silent. They had heard things about Zaweria, how she ensnared men. She wasn’t a keeper. A freeloader was what could define her.
Juma had always been headstrong but never impudent. It was hard to persuade him into or out of a decision but his love for his family was always there. Recently, his huge defense for Zaweria made them doubt if he had stopped loving them.
Zaweria was far much older than him, probably just a few years younger than his mother. But even at her age, she was very pretty and even though she was expectant, one could tell that she had an hour glass figure. Had this blinded Juma?
That, and her attitude repulsed Juma’s family.
Being the only son of their late father, Juma had been tasked to take care of his mother and sisters. He had taken up the role of the man of the house after their father had passed on two years ago and he provided for the family sufficiently.
The three acres their father had left them was utilized to provide the basic needs of all of them. Nonetheless, lately, he had changed. He would refuse to milk the cows, or supervise hired labourers in the shamba.
One morning, Mama Juma woke up to tthe shock of a disappearance of one of her five cows. A rare happening. She had a hunch, it was her son, she confided to her daughters but they found it hard to believe.
Then days later, Zaweria appeared, one child on her left, a toddler, and another on her right, possibly in his early teens then carrying another in her belly. She did not smile politely at her new family. She stared at them contemptously with an almost visible sneer.
The children quickly settled, the toddler running around like it had been born there. He called Juma “daddy” causing a wide grin on him. He would lift him up, high to elicit excited screams from the the child and Juma would roar in a more excited laughter.
The two sisters watching from their window one day, saw a secret act of a teenager who unaware that two women were watching , puffed a smoke discreetly. He opened his window to let out the white smoke and his eyes almost met the curious girls but they hid from their window fast, before he realised he was being watched.
They peeped through again but his sight was nowhere to be seen.
“That one is a bhang smoker, God! Who are these Juma brought to this home?”
“Do you think Juma is the father?” Lucy, the elder sister whispered.
“Of course not, the boys are too fair, see our brother Juma, as dark as coal. He couldn’t have…. Juma was most likely in primary school when the elder one was being born!” Tandie replied.
“Tandie, I seriously don’t like this. It doesn’t look right!” Lucy said, trepidation in her voice. Tandie nodded , agreeing to every word her sister spoke.
They sighed as they watched their brother bring out a plastic chair, followed closely by Zaweria who was clutching her stomach. Juma helped her sit on the chair, then ran back in his house and rushed out with a pillow that he carefully placed behind Zaweria’s back.
Lucy and Tandie watched as their brother struggled to make his new wife as comfortable as she could, placing a stool under her legs and offering a cup of milk to her.
“Tandie, do you think the pregnancy is his?” Lucy asked.
“I don’t know Lucy. There are so many questions that need answers. Like, why this woman? She has too much baggage. Where is she from?” Tandie said.
Tandie was eighteen, just finished her national exam, hopeful that she would join her sister in college to study fashion and design like her. They had the same dreams.
“And that rumour that she snatched a married man who later vanished into the blue….But Juma couldn’t listen when we tried to warn him.” A melancholic Tandie said.
“I am more concerned about mum. For the first time he shouted at her, because mum had said her name wrong.”
“Me too Lucy. Mum couldn’t believe the outburst. Juma, her apple of the eye!”
They did not see her standing behind them. She listened with tears in her eyes. She had come from a prayer session with fellow women. Mama Juma had believed that upon reaching home, there would be good news. Juma would have broken up with that woman. It had been an intense prayer with her friends, the prayer warriors.
But here she was, watching as her daughters watched the two lovebirds. What would work, if not her fervent prayers? The fibres in her nerves repelled against the woman Juma called his wife.
It was not only because she was much older, with children, or because people out there had funny things to say about her. This woman was trouble.
“I wonder if he would have done this if your father was still alive.” She said, finally announcing her arrival.
Her two daughters turned quickly to her direction. She looked tired and her eyes revealed a severe lack of sleep. Instinctively, they went to her and embraced her, then led her to take a seat on of the chairs in the living room.
“Mum, the flask is full of porridge, let me give you some.” Tandie offered. Their mother nodded, she had left early before they woke up without taking breakfast. By noon, her stomach was rumbling with hunger.
“Mum,I am sure if dad were alive, Juma would not behave this way.” Lucy stated.
“So I have failed, as a parent.” Mama Juma whispered, her head bent as if in shame.
“Mum, Lucy did not mean that.” Tandie, in a bid to save the situation, quickly intervened.
“Mum, Juma is an adult right now. You can’t take responsibility of any of his actions.” Lucy added.
“Am I the only topic you find interesting to gossip about all the time?” Juma’s voice echoed in the room. The three women turned with wide eyes at him. He wore a cold look, clicked his mouth at them then walked to the television.
“Where are you taking the television Juma?” His mother asked.
“Where do you think? To my house of course. My children want to watch cartoon.” He answered back as he balanced it cautiously on his hands.
“Leave it alone, Juma, now!” Mama Juma ordered.
Juma shot a dangerous look at his mother. He put it back carelessly on the TV table.
“You just want to frustrate me…eeeh? You don’t want my wife and kids to come here and watch TV with you yet you don’t want me to go with it…eeh?” He was yelling, slapping the TV table in rage.
“You are a man now, with a family of your own, children whose fathers are unknown but you generously take their place. Buy your own TV, leave mine alone.” Mama Juma said, unshaken by her son’s antics. She shot back a daring look at her son.
The two girls watched, fearing their brother’s fit of temper but hopeful that their mother’s firmness would take the cup. He clicked his mouth again and marched outside. The two girls took a deep breath of relief. Their mother sighed too, secretly. She did not want to reveal the fear that lay within her.
“Mum, thank God you are so tough. I am sure it’s Zaweria doing, convincing him to take the TV from us. ” Lucy said.
“She did not win on this. She thinks she can come here and take from us anything she wants. Let them buy their own TV!” Mama Juma said, aggressively.
Little did she know that they had taken her advice. A bigger screen, with a flat back and very clear images, sparkling new from the shop. But another cow was missing.
Mama Juma wanted compensation but Juma and his wife denied stealing any cow. Zaweria claimed she had bought the TV from her savings from her former workplace. There was no evidence that it was them that stole it.
“Maybe it’s your girls stealing your cows so that they please their boyfriends. Your enemy could be just right under your nose!” Zaweria claimed.
Lucy acted as if to attack Zaweria, Tandie held her and Juma moved in front of his wife, ready to defend her.
“Tandie, let her be. Let’s see who gets hurt.” Juma said fuming, “She thinks she can attack my wife as I cheer her on.”
Their mother seeing the ruckus caused, asked her girls to get in the house.
“Juma, just remember that one will reap what they sow.” She said and entered her house as Zaweria mimicked her mother in law then shrilled in forced laughter.
And this was the order of most days. There were always accusations thrown at each other. Sometimes it would be that the toddler had been pinched by Juma’s sisters and they would vehemently repudiate such accusations.
Other times Tandie or Lucy would report that someone was peeping through the bathroom or the latrine as they went on their private business and Zaweria would furiously defend her son and rebuke them for trying to imply that her adolescent son was a pervert.
However, the mother of all battles had not landed yet. It did on an unsuspecting Saturday. The laundry day. The girls were preparing to wash their mother’s and their clothes. They would wash the sheets too and the curtains. Their mother was to meet some friends. She was in the bathroom when Juma and his wife stomped into the house.
“Where are you Mama Juma?” Zaweria screamt.
The girls stopped throwing clothes at the laundry basket and listened.
“Eeeh!” Juma rudely called.
“Let’s see what this is about now,” Tandie whispered. They walked through the corridor and saw their mother, stunned too at the rude interruption. She had a towel wrapped above her breasts.
“What is it this time?” She asked.
“I want my title deed.” Juma declared his mouth twisted to the side.
There was silence.
“Hey old woman, you heard your son. He wants his title deed now. For how long will you keep it from him? Is he uncircumcised? Give the man what his father left for him.” They were Zaweria’s utterances.
The girls flinched at the disrespect hurled at their mother.
“No. Your father was clear that those title deeds would be given to you and your sisters upon my death. For now, I keep them.” Mama Juma said and turned as if to leave to her bedroom but within a blink of an eye she was down, a heavy blow had landed on her. Her towel had fallen off causing her nakedness to be exposed.
“Juma!” The girls cried in unison. Tandie ran to cover her mother.
“Did you just hit mother?” Lucy shrilled. She pounced on him but she was such a feather to him, he threw her to the wall and she slid down groaning. Tandie ran to her sister then back to the mother, wailing in distress.
“Strike them all, who do they think they are?” Zaweria cheered on as her toddler clutched on her skirt.
Zaweria’s adolescent son heard the fuss. He ran to the main house. He had just puffed a good amount of marijuana. The voices in his head were loud. Tandie my wife, is she safe?
By now Juma was ransacking through the drawers in his mother’s room. His mother woke from her unconscious state and looked around. She saw Zaweria grinning triumphantly at the outcome of events. She listened as Juma broke every breakable item in the house.
“You will not find it in this house. It is safely hidden somewhere.” She said faintly.
Juma banged the door as he took quick footsteps to his mother who was trying to hide her nude body with her towel as Tandie helped her up. Juma threw Tandie off . Zaweria’s son clenched his fists but did not move.
Juma was choking his mother, “I will ask you only one time, where is my title deed?” He seethed.
“A fr…frie…friend has kept it safe for me!” His mother struggled to reply.
She was in such agony she had to spill who the friend was. He recklessly let her go and strided out of the room, his wife behind, her hips swinging in an exaggerated manner. The adolescent boy followed. Only he knew the anger he felt at seeing his crush cry.
The three women embraced as they shed silent tears.
“Juma? Juma? The boy who breastfed on these two,” Their mother sobbed, as she slapped her naked breasts , “Now thinks he can beat me around. Let him have the title deed. Let’s see how far he can go with the manipulations of that woman.”
The laundry was not done that day. Their mother did not leave the house. They sat in the living room discussing Juma’s shocking behaviour.
“Let’s report to the police, mum.” Lucy suggested.
“No need. It will only exacerbate issues. Let’s leave him to the school of life. That Zaura has turned him against us. He can’t see what she is doing to him!” His mother opined, her tears couldn’t stop flowing. “Lucky for you, your portions of land are safe.”
The joy of having the title deed to themselves (Juma and Zaweria) caused some quiet in the homestead for a few days.
While Juma’s mother and sisters were mourning Juma’s change of character, he and Zaweria were celebrating finding a buyer of the land. They planned to leave the forsaken village and move to the city once they sold the inheritance.
But if only they could peep at the future, they would not proceed with their plans because someone in that homestead had other plans for them.
“Such a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” Juma surprised Tandie as she cleaned her mother’s house. Tandie glared at her brother. Ever since he physically abused them, they hadn’t said a word to each other. Not that any of them made any effort but this day was different.
“What do you want Juma?” Tandie asked suspiciously.
“Can’t a brother check up on his sister?” He asked.
“Since when? Haven’t you clearly shown that we don’t matter to you anymore?”
He chuckled. “Sister, I came to say goodbye. Soon you will have new neighbours. We are heading to the city of riches. We will live like tycoons. Zaweria is packing right now. Any time now a lorry will drive in and pick our belongings and off…we go! ” He announced.
Tandie did not know what to make of it. His mother had been eavesdropping on the conversation. The announcement shook her. Zaura or Zawaria or whatever her name was had managed to beguile him to sell his inheritance. It would end in tears.
As Juma boasted of his asinine plans, Zaweria was chuckling diabolically. She had packed her children’s bags, her bags and was now packing Juma’s bags. She had asked Juma to say goodbye to his family. He had obliged, not knowing that she meant his last goodbye.
She kept glancing at the entrance of the window, wondering when the lorry would come in. The driver Nimrod was her crime partner.
Having listened to her plan, Nimrod had bought the idea. He would come in, help them pack into the lorry then as they drove miles to the city, they would kill him, dispose off his body (there were many places to dispose a body) and he would get his cut until she nabbed another idiot. This would be easy, they had done it before,to that married man.
She laughed at how easy it was to control a man. She realised the young ones were easier than the married. They were like puppets . Lucky for her, her charm and beauty worked like magic.
She peeped into the bag full of notes again and got excited. She had convinced Juma not to take the money to the bank claiming it was easier and safer if they had it all to themselves. She chuckled again.
Jimmy the fourteen year old was watching her from the gap through the door. The voices in his head were telling him things.
He opened the door to her bedroom and walked in to her.
“Aren’t you prepared already?” She yelled.
“I am not going. I will stay here.” He said. The voices in his head argued him on. She wants to take you away from Tandie. Tandie is your wife. Don’t let anybody come between you two.
“Stop the crap, prepare quickly, we are leaving. Change out of those clothes.” She ordered. He saw the bag with the bundles of notes.
If you kill her, the money will all be yours and you can marry Tandie. Tandie will be your wife, forever. Kill your mother. She is the only one standing between you and your Tandie.
His mother’s yelling was too loud. The voices in his head were louder. She did not see it coming. He always carried with him a penknife. He flashed it out from his pocket, and jumped on his mother. She fell down with a thud and he stabbed ,again and again.
Zaweria’s air-rending shriek reached Juma and Tandie. Juma sprang from where was seated and ran to his house. Tandie followed, their mother too.
It was a horrific scene. The boy kept stabbing even when it was clear his mother had pegged out. Juma took him by the collar but he stumbled and fell giving the hallucinating boy a chance to attack. He stabbed, the women screamt.
Tandie, this is for the day he hurt you. Tandie see this. This and this is for you.
He looked at her as he penetrated every stab. Her cry seemed like a cheer. It was as if she was urging him to continue. Then the voices disappeared.
“Stop Jimmy, stop!” He heard Tandie cry and he dropped the knife. He saw her tears and his heart broke. He was strongly infatuated with Tandie. He looked around at the mess and felt shuttered but the scared and disgusted look on Tandie’s face was more than he could bear. The voices came back.
She will never forgive you Jimmy. Look at her. She looks at you like you are a rotten rat. You disgust her. You scare her. She can never agree to marry you.
He sprang to his knife and directed it to his heart, deep.
Three bodies lay on the ground. Tandie and his mother were dumbfounded. They heard Lucy calling out from the main house. She had been sent to the market. She made an ear splitting scream when she came and saw the bloody scene.
Neighbours and passers-by poured in to witness the mess. The lorry driver had come in too, he had been shocked at the sudden turn of events. He was grateful no one knew of his plan. The police were called. Money was safely transported to the bank. It’s destiny would be known later.
Funerals were done days later. Tears, tears , tears. Land was sold back to its owners. In it, four graves lay.
“Lucy, what are you thinking about?” Tandie asked, a week later as they drank a cup of porridge on a rainy Sunday morning. Their mum had rosen early to go to church.
“I have been thinking about life. Mum said words that look clichè, so frequently used yet so heavy words. You reap what you sow.”
Tandie let her sister’s words sink in, “You are right sis. You know, it’s kind of ironic that Zaweria was killed by her own son, after succeeding to turn another son against his own mother.” She said, her mind far away.
“Lucy, every night that image of the dark eyes of that boy staring at me as he stabbed Juma over and over haunts me. It was like he was communicating a message to me. I shudder when I am reminded of that day.”
“Waah, Tandie, bangi ni mbaya, I tell you!” (Marijuana has bad effects) Lucy said as she filled her second cup of porridge.