Ella stepped foot on her native land more exhilarated than when she left four years ago to pursue further studies. She came back with not only the education certificate but also a man,Kyle.
She watched him as he threw their bags to the waiting taxi. He saw her stare and smiled. The smile on his red lips made Ella weak on her knees.
“What honey? C’mon, let’s go to wherever you are taking me, family get together,did you say?” He said adoringly, with a strong American accent. She saw the taxi driver crane his neck to the side mirror to have a better look at him. Kyle had this effect, even on men, Ella thought, amused.
She looked at him.She was a Michelle, he was her Obama. He had so much that resembled the former president. She thought that her Kyle was even more handsome than Obama. Not with the springy soft hair that Kyle loved to keep slightly long but cut on the sides. His skin, very fair while his lips always seemed to have been coloured with lipstick. He had some freckles on his face that made him prettier in Ella’s eyes.
“Today you get to meet all my family members in one sitting.” She said.
“Well,” he said, trying to kiss her, “I guess I have to, to please my African queen!”
“Stop!” She hissed. “We are now in Africa where we don’t do PDAs like it happens in America.”
“Well, really? I gotta keep it locked in my pants then!” He said and they both burst into laughter. The taxi driver drove in moderate speed, and as typical as many Africans, he displayed a look of mesmerisation at the mzungu (white man) on Ella’s side.
Kyle was not entirely white. He was of mixed race. In fact, he claimed to have roots in Kenya. Although he was brought up by a single mother, his mother had revealed to him that his father was Kenyan, albeit deadbeat. However, he had not come to uncover his roots. He had visited Kenya to ask for Ella’s hand in marriage from her relatives. She had been adamant about it. It was their tradition. She would only go back to America when her kith gave her their blessings.
They arrived at the neatly tented homestead. Her mother was the first to see her. Thrilled, she ululated excitedly and ran to them, hugging them. Her father waited at the house door and shook their hands with a firm grip. Then after a few niceties, led them to the rest of the extended family members.
The Kyle effect caught them as expected. They stopped to chat and stared at him. Ella was holding on his arm proudly as she scanned their faces to see if she saw anyone familiar. She saw several and waved at them . The two were offered the front seats.
“Ameamua kuleta mzungu sasa, nadhani alisahau mambo ya walimu wazee.” She heard a person behind their seats whisper loudly.
Ella was perplexed that after all these years people still remembered her affair with a high school teacher when she was just seventeen. She had thought that he would leave his wife to marry her but found out later that he just wanted to take advantage of her. She remembered that the affair stopped when one of her aunties reported the affair to her parents. Her parents had thrown ardent flames of rebuke at her and strictly banned her from speaking to the teacher who went on with his life as if nothing had happened while Ella was breaking piece by piece , grounded at home.
“My daughter ,how are you after all these years. You could not send an email to me and tell me how you are doing?” It was the aunty she had been thinking about minutes ago. Ella remembered how much she had loathed her for telling on her to her parents. Now all that was gone,she had forgiven her aunt.
“Aunty, how are you? I wish I knew you know so much about emails, I would have communicated to you frequently.” Ella said but noticed that her aunt was gazing at her boyfriend. She laughed that even an old woman would get smitten by Kyle’s captivating looks.
“Aunty?” Ella disrupted her when she noticed that Kyle felt uncomfortable at her aunty’s transfixed gaze. Her aunty straightened up hastily, apologised and then left in haste to her chair.
“Don’t worry about her. You will get a lot of this kind of behaviour from many, so brace yourself. See what I am talking about?” Ella said as she pointed at the hordes of children flocking around them.
The Master of Ceremony stopped the awkward scene when he asked all to settle ,the meeting was about to start.He also added that Chairman was on his way too, to join them. The crowd clapped.
“Chairman is that woman’s husband. The one who was just here. He is my uncle. I honestly adore him. He is a Professor.” Ella explained to Kyle in hushed tones as he nodded. “He has four degrees, some of which he pursued in America. I just cant wait to see him!” She said excitedly.
Suddenly a white new Land Rover snaked through the compound. It was Chairman, Ella’s first uncle. He shook a few hands and met Kyle who rose respectfully like others had done. Kyle was tall but Chairman was taller. Kyle felt an unusual urge to please this man. He was happy when he put his hand on his shoulder as if to approve of him. Ella was elated he had taken a few minutes to talk to her boyfriend.
As they sat down, Kyle whispered to his girlfriend. “I don’t know why his wife keeps staring. Don’t look at her now.” It was too late, Ella had already looked past him and met eye to eye with her aunty who turned her eyes away swiftly.
“Just ignore her. She likes meddling in people’s affairs. I wonder what Chairman saw in her to marry her.” Even as the meeting continued, Ella’s aunty could not keep her eyes off him. Then she beckoned Kyle to go and sit next to her.
“I have to go honey. It will be rude not to, I will be back shortly.” He said at Ella’s pleas for him not to. She watched as he nodded his head to her seemingly many questions, then him listening keenly to her aunty and a change of facial expressions. The last expression was that of shock, disappointment and awe. Ella wondered what her aunty would have said to incite such emotions from Kyle. She was distracted by the Master of Ceremony’s joke. When she turned back, Kyle was nowhere to be seen.
She walked out to search for him. She searched the latrines, in the fields and in the house. She found him in the car, all windows closed, the taxi driver absent and his eyes swollen and red. She knew he had been told about the teacher affair. She wondered why that woman always ruined her life.
She saw her , peeping through the tinted windows asking if both of them were ok. She had followed them to stir more trouble, Ella thought in annoyance. She opened the car door anger written all over her face.
“Aunty, what did you tell him? What did I ever do to you to deserve this hate? You ruin everything good in my life!” She was now crying bitterly.
“My daughter I would never mess your life. I want to see you happy just like your parents do. Please, you two accompany me to my house, I need to show you something.”
Ella was about to protest when Kyle spoke, “Let us do as she says Ella.” So they followed her all lost in their own thoughts. Her house was not so far. She welcomed them to the bungalow and offered them a sit as she disappeared in one of the rooms.
“Honey, what’s going on? What has this woman done to you?” Ella asked her boyfriend who was now pacing up and down, his rosary on his hand. She stopped him. He looked at her and held her shoulders.
“All I want is evidence because I’m losing my mind right now. I just don’t want to lose you Ella!” He said, his lower lip shaking. This was the second time he had called her by her name instead of ‘honey.’
“Kyle!” She called out to him. “Love is…” She stopped when her aunty came . She was carrying a big brown envelope. Kyle stood on his tracks staring at the envelope. She beseeched them to sit and first listen to what she had to say.
“My children. I don’t know why I have always kept this envelope. I have had the urge to burn it up several times but I now see why my instincts warned me not to. Ella,your uncle does not know that this exists. I have kept it hidden from him all his life for selfish reasons.”
“Aunty, what is in there?” Ella asked in anticipation.
“These are letters and pictures that were sent to him months after he left the States after pursuing his studies. It was me that he trusted to fetch the letters from the post office but I would cunningly go through all his mails and hand him only the official ones. Letters from his former lovers did not reach him. There was especially one indefatigable former lover, a white woman.”
“Aunty? Kyle?” Ella’s heart was now beating so hard that she held her chest to calm it down.
“Please have a look!” She said as she extended the envelope to them. They both grabbed it forcefully that it tore apart. The bigger portion of the contents fell on Ella’s lap. She picked the first picture. It was a white woman, holding a small boy.
“Kyle!” Ella said,her voice weak and desperate. Kyle took the picture and held it close to him. He hugged it and started to sob.
“When I saw Kyle today, I instantly thought of that woman in the picture. The two are strikingly similar. The bright eyes, the freckles around the nose and the very red lips.” Ella’s aunt continued. “The letters and pictures stopped after ten years,the last one was a plea to my husband to come and see his son. I think she eventually got tired when she got no reply. She must have assumed he was uninterested.”
Ella was anxiously going through the pictures in disbelief. This was Kyle’s mother and the little boy was Kyle. She had seen similar pictures on the wall of Kyle’s home. This was a very bad and sad coincidence. Suddenly, she yelled and threw the documents on the floor leaving them all scattered. Both of them bent their heads and weeped uncontrollably. No amount of consoling from Ella’s aunt helped.
Finally, Kyle pulled himself together. He rose from the chair and held Ella’s hand, pulling her up. He thanked the lady and said his goodbye and they walked silently to the taxi. The cheerful faces of children and their happy greetings were just empty voices to them. The taxi driver was at his seat, ready.
“Take us away from here!” Kyle commanded. The driver, sensing the apprehension, started the engine and drove away from the village. He stopped when he almost entered the main town. He parked at the side and left the car running, then went to stand at the front of the car. He had been a driver for so long that he had learnt what to do most of the time unasked. As for this couple, he knew they wanted to talk. All through the journey from the village, they had been dead silent.
Ella waited for the driver to leave.
“What do we do now?” She asked Kyle. He remained mum as if he had not heard the question When she decided to ask again, he spoke.
“Ella honey, I always thought that knowing my dad would give me joy and satisfaction but…” he paused to gather some courage, “I am so disappointed in knowing who he is because it makes me your cousin.”
“Kyle.” She called, tears flowing from her reddened eyes. ” It’s taboo!”
“I know, Americans call it incest.” He paused and bit his lower lip. “It’s clear that we cannot have what is between us anymore.” He stopped and looked away, biting his lower lip harder. “Ella, I cannot stay here any longer, everytime I see your face, I want to kiss you and pretend that there is no blood between us!” Ella sniffed loudly and clenched her hands. She felt the same too.
Kyle, unable to control himself any longer, held her cheeks with both his hands. He kissed her, deep. Ella closed her eyes and took it all in. Then she stopped and pushed him away. “Kyle, we can’t.” She opened the door and called out to the taxi driver. She was holding Kyle’s hand. “Get my stuff out.” She ordered the driver who hurried to the boot of the car.
“Kyle, let’s just say goodbye.” She put her left foot out but her hand was still in his. He held on firmly as she exited the car slowly, in tears. She pulled her hand away gently and left his palm open as if hoping she would change her mind and hold him again. She gave him a small wave and closed the door.The driver was now ready to go.
“Take me to the airport,” Kyle said as let his tears flow again.
Ella was left by the side of the road with her two suitcases. She hailed an oncoming car and a kind woman stopped. She got out and helped Ella to the car with her baggage.
“Child, you seem shaken and lost. I will take you to my house first. Is it ok?” Ella nodded as tears spilled out of her eyes at her lost love. She did not think she would ever recover from losing Kyle.
Three years later, she was in her white wedding dress. Ella eyed the groom, Julius, stunning in his white tuxedo. She was happy. She glanced at her future mother in law and smiled at her. It was her that helped her stitch back her broken pieces of life. She remembered her picking her up in her car when she thought she had lost everything. Little did she know, that she was the key to her second chance to happiness.
“I now pronounce Julius and Ella as husband and wife!” The priest announced as the couple’s kith and kin gave them a standing ovation, happy and excited for them, among them Kyle and his stunning wife. He had flown all the way from the US to attend his cousin’s wedding. The past had been buried deep.