She had just turned eighteen, the third born of four. She was the only daughter.
The boys were in the lawn, playing their own version of football. She would have joined them, she normally did but today she looked nervous, clicking her knuckles now and then. She sat a few metres away with her friend Nikki on her side. They seemed to be conversing something serious. Then they would throw quick glances at me.
That evening we had a happy dinner. It was a rare reunion. I barely saw my children all together with the first and second born being in campus , and the last born in high school. Felicity was at home, waiting to join university .
A feeling of poignancy swept me, how I wished their father was still alive to witness his family in this bouyant mood.
I glanced at my daughter. Her sense of fashion never ceased to amuse me. She kept her hair permed but short, she was not a fan of make up and her love for leather jackets and tights was exceptional. She wore flat shoes but boots were her favorite.
I wondered how she found friends who were totally antonymous to her. Like this Nikki was characteristic of a stereotypical girl, long hair and perfectly done make up. She wore a sassy short dress that matched her white gladiators. But the traditional me did not think twice about it until it was spelt out to me literally.
When we all had dinner that evening, she cleared her throat and announced she had something to tell all of us.
“Oh Oh, Show time.” My last born , Shane said in low tones. I threw glimpses at the rest of them and their reactions did not sit well with me. The merry mood had suddenly changed to edgy. Nikki held Felicity’s hand as if she needed courage to give her announcement.
“What’s wrong Felicity?” I asked.
“Mum, I am eighteen now. I want to come out of the closet.” The other brothers shuffled or fidgeted or fumbled with the phones in their hands. Nikki closed her eyes as her friend said the words. Truth is, I did not know what coming out of a closet meant.
“What do you mean mummy’s girl?” I asked affectionately as if pleading that she not hurt me with the interpretation of her statement but she was loud and clear in her next reply.
“Mum, I am saying that I am a lesbian and this is my girlfriend.”
It was like I had been hit by a comet from the skies. I shook my head, wishing I was having a bad dream. Then it dawned on me; similar rainbow bracelets, contrast between the two like that of male and female and an unusual closeness of the two.
I thought that an announcement of death would have been easier to fathom than this.
“What is a lesbian? Are the Western movies that you watch with your brothers starting to brainwash you? Do you know how grateful to God I was when I got you, my only daughter? Are you sick in your head FELICITY!”
The other four stared on the ground. It was a battle between mother and daughter.
“Mum, I tried, really tried to love the opposite sex but I am always turned on by gir…”
“Shut up young girl, do you even know anything about relationships? Now you just reached 18 and you think your small mind is wise enough to change your sexual orientation. ” I was screaming at her, dripping sweat from my forehead like I had ran a marathon.
“You, get out!” I addressed Nikki. She woke up quickly, ready to leave.
“Sweetheart, stay. You are not going anywhere.” Felicity declared leaving Nikki to awkwardly stay with a bent ass unsure who to obey.
“I said,leave!” Nikki did not need any other cue for her to leave. She ran out the door as my last born,unable to hold his laughter, chuckled in amusement.
I had never been this shocked and irked. For a moment I felt as if I would have a heart attack. I breathed in and out and tried to calm down. I had to approach the issue from another dimension,the calmer way.
“Felicity my daughter, I have raised you all as Christians. Lesbianism is ungodly.”
“Mum, it’s that same God who created me, why did he give me homosexual feelings? Why can’t I feel any affection for boys?”
“It’s all in your mind Felicity probably because you grew amongst boys only.” I implored remembering how she hated to wear dresses when she was young. She liked to look like her brothers from the dressing to her mannerisms. She also never let her hair grow, when the boys visited the barber, she would too.
I always thought that the influence her brothers had on her would one day change but it always seemed to grow stronger. But she was still young, I told myself.
“Mum, if you do love me, accept me the way I am.”
I banged my fist on the table, feeling hot again.
“It’s not about love Felicity. It’s about this foolishness that you want to embarrass me with. This is a conservative society Felicity where girls grow up, go to school and get married to MEN and have children. This path you want to chose will cost not only you but me too. I will also be castigated for bringing you up the wrong way!”
“Mum, but I can’t change the way I am.”
“You must Felicity. You are a girl. Lesbianism is ungodly and even illegal in our land. Weren’t we watching the news the other day when two gay men got lynched by a mob for engaging in homosexual activities? Is that how you want to end your life too? Huh?”
“Well, at least I will die staying true to myself.” She replied. That statement blew my fuse.
“Aargh! What madness is this? My daughter will kill me today. I will die from all this madness. Take me Lord, just take me now!”
“Mum, you need to calm down.” It was my eldest son, Steve.
“No! Tell her Steve. Maybe she will listen to you. All of you should stop sitting there like zombies. Talk her out of that lesbianism crap!”
“Mum, please, have a seat, please!” Steve’s brother, Silas said as the rest stood up and watched helplessly. He helped me sit down and offered a glass of water.
As I took short sips of it, I thought of my friends in church, what they would think of all these. Relatives would have a field day celebrating my wrong upbringing of Felicity. It was too much.
“Felicity.” I said, as calmly as I would be. “I want you to know how dead serious I am.” She came closer to me and sat in a sofa where we could face each other.
“You are right. You are eighteen, an adult who can fend for herself now. I give you two choices. Pick only one. You will only stay in my house if you do not insist on those foolish ideas but if you wish to pursue them, then I never want to see you again in my life.”
“Mum?” The four children chorused in unison.
“I have said it all.” I said and rose from my chair to my bedroom. I took my sleeping pills because I knew I would need assistance to fall asleep after what I had just experienced.
I dreamt that night that Felicity was getting married. She was in a white wedding gown smiling prettily at the people who had come to witness her big day. The audience watched as she walked down the aisle. All eyes were stuck on her until they saw the person waiting for her at the end of the aisle. It was a woman. The church made a loud gasp. The priest collapsed. The church building was on fire. People were running helter skelter. I couldn’t run away. My feet were stuck.
I woke up panting and sweating profusely. It was eight o’clock. I couldn’t sleep anymore. I went to see my children. The were sprawled on their beds but there was an empty bedroom. The bed was unusually neatly made. I got in and met a rude shock. There was no sign of Felicity. Her clothes, shoes, ornaments were all gone.
I sat on her bed and wept. It felt like death all over again. I mourned for my daughter’s departure. She even did not leave a note. She had chosen to pursue her identity over her home.
“Mum, don’t cry.” My sons consoled me. My crying had woken them up.
“Why did you let her do this to herself?” I asked them.
“Mum, it was right there in front of your face and you did not see it. Felicity has always been who she is from a tender age. There is nothing one can do about it.” My second born Silas said. Steve nodded in agreement. Shane was angry. He stood a distancè from us. I called him.
“Mum, who knows where she is now? Why did you chase her away? In fact why chase her away then cry when she leaves? I don’t undertand, mum!” He retorted and left the room.
I needed to be firm in my decision. Maybe then, Felicity would come back with a change of heart.
“My sons, let’s go make breakfast and go to church.”
Days passed, but Felicity did not come back. Months also went by. I ached to ask how she was doing because I was pretty sure they were communicating, but I had declared a rule that Felicity’s name should not be mentioned in my house.
Then tragedy hit. Shane was involved in a car accident. It was a matatu – lorry collision. My son was the only survivor.
I saw him on his bed, all bandaged up, fighting for his life. I begged the doctors not to let him die.
As I went for my usual visits one day, I met my two sons had arrived before me. The doctor was in the room with them. Felicity was also there, holding Shane’s hand. I watched from the window as Shane’s hand twitched from her hold. It was the first time he made any kind of movement.
They talked to Shane even though he was still in a coma. Felicity said something and they laughed. Then another new improvement happened. Shane smiled. The doctor was also surprised at the quick progress.
“Are you going to get in or just watch your son from the window?” A nurse asked from behind me. “Come in, lets join them.” She said as she entered the room.
My presence changed the mood of the room. It was all quiet. I walked to my daughter and embraced her strongly. We wept on each other’s shoulders. How I missed my daughter.
“Sorry to interrupt but the nurse and I need to administer some drugs on Shane. We need privacy.” The doctor said and we left the room.
Days later, Shane’s doctor summoned us to his office. Our hearts pounded in fright.
“I have called you here to give you some news.”
“What is it doctor, is Shane alright?” Steve asked.
“Is my son going to die? Oh No!” I lamented.
“No,No..Quite the contrary. Shane has made a miraculous recovery. From his injuries, we speculated a coma that would last even six months. But his organs are recovering rather fast.” He said as we sighed in relief.
“Now, I called you here,” The doctor continued, “To ask that he continue recovering at the comfort of his home. He seems to get better when he is around his family members.”
We all agreed enthusiastically.
“To caution you, please don’t expect too much despite the promising progress. It might take him months to say his first word. A full recovery might take even a year.”
Shane then came home. We took turns to stay with him.
One evening, we gathered around his bed. It was only two weeks after Shane came home. Shock on us when he called out to me.
“Mum…does…this mean…that…you..forgive Felicity?” It was said weakly but quite clearly. My tears dropped. I got close to him and held his hand then offered the other to his sister.
“I may not agree with her choice of life but she is my daughter. I love her so much. I love you all. I realise now that the paths we choose should not affect the bond we have as a family.” I said.
Felicity smiled and shrugged her shoulders, “Well, better half a loaf than none, I guess.” The two other boys laughed. Shane gave a wide grin.
Shane continued to recover faster than the doctor’s expectations. After seven months, the doctor gave him a clean bill of his health.
Seated at the porch watching Steve, Silas and Felicity and some of their cousins playing football, Shane joined me offering a cup of tea. Then he cleared his throat and then spoke, trying to contròl his emotions.
“Mum, thank you. I don’t expect you to be a campaigner of LGBQT rights one day. You will always stand by your conservative values and what you believe in. But I love the way you cope with Felicity.
Your ability to tolerate her contrasting way of life and still maintain peace and happiness regardless, is what makes you a great mother. You even offer a shoulder for her to cry on when the homosexual stigma overwhelms her. Mum, your immense love is what gave me a second chance in life. Thank you mum.”
It was a candid speech I still remember it to this day. He was right. Although I am of a different creed, I cast my stone to the ground. Sometimes as a parent, when there is nothing much you can do to change a situation, you choose harmony.