By Nimo Kuria, Tacoma, Washington U.S.A
Triza Mpwe composed herself and sat up, facing Erick.
“How are you feeling now?’” Erick enquired of her as he pulled his seat closer.
“My head hurts; I haven’t cried that much in a long time”. Triza responded as she rubbed knuckles on her forehead. “I am sorry Erick, this shouldn’t have happened in your presence.”
“In whose presence then, should it have occurred? “ Erick asked. “And by the way, if I still recall my way around this house, your parents always kept pain killers somewhere in a cabinet, right?” He wound his way to the kitchen and returned with a couple of aspirins and a glass of cold water. He handed both to Triza.
“You have a good memory I see” Triza stated as she swallowed the medication but instantly regretted her choice of words. Back in her mind, she was still hoping Erick would find a reason to leave without them having to revisit the past. The immediate memory of coming emotionally undone in his arms unnerved her. Bringing the past to life meant bleeding old wounds;for which she had no strength.
“How could I forget anything about you Triza?” He asked confirming her fears.
“Look Erick, I am supposed to travel back to the city today; I would have left already had you not suddenly appeared. And …”
“And what Triza? What did my sudden appearance change? Are you going to run and hide like you have done the past 17 years? Don’t you think you owe me some answers?” He blurted out. “Or are you going to pretend the break down you just experienced has absolutely nothing to do with you and me?”
“Erick, I am so sorry, but is there anything in this world that I can do to change the past? Tell me, Erick! Tell me what it is and I will do it.” Triza answered, and immediately loathed the fact that her voice was threatening to invite another tearful emotional crush.
“You are right, you can’t change the past and neither can I.” He said.” I wish you would know how much it hurts me to see you cry. Yet my heart’s wounds are still raw. They have bled from the day your father broke the news to me. The devastating knowledge of your sudden marriage to Mpwe. Your father asked me to leave his house and that he had no answers for me. I died that day. I turned into a zombie waiting for your return to bring me back to life. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. The hope stayed alive even when it didn’t make sense to hope at all. A decade later, the mention of your name would have me searching for you in the crowds for months on end. I did not come for Mpwe’s burial; I couldn’t even if I tried. You managed to avoid me when your mother passed away and your dad too did a good job at keeping me at bay. But I am here now.I will not leave without answers.”
Triza took a deep breathe and composed herself yet again.
“I heard you got married, how is your family?” She asked.
“Maria is fine. She is out of town for the next two weeks”.
“And how about your children, how are they?” Triza asked.
“Didn’t you ever ask around? What made me think you’d have cared to know if I had children or not? How my life was getting on?” He shot back.
“You didn’t answer my question Erick but I will answer yours,” She responded. “I did not ask about you for the same reasons you had for asking about me. Knowing for me meant pain. I did not want to know. It was Mpwe who told me about your wedding and that’s the last time you were mentioned between him and I. My parents steered off discussing you and your life happenings in my presence. They understood my pain.”
“Mpwe didn’t understand your pain?” asked Erick.
“I was a trophy wife to Mpwe. If he ever loved me at all I would never know, but he treated me well, gave me everything I needed to his last breath.” Triza answered. “He said that he loved me too many times but my heart was shut and I had no key to let him in. after I left you, the only love I have known is that of my sons.”
“They are wonderful boys; I saw them at the burial.” Erick carried on,” Maria and I have not been blessed with children and we have tried… we are not expecting to have any”
“I am sorry Erick’’ Triza expressed her sincere concern.“Is it….”
“It’s her not me,” Erick quickly cut her short. “She is not medically capable of conceiving. We have learnt to live with it. Didn’t you and Mpwe want more children?”
“As a matter of fact I did. Mpwe didn’t. Remember he was 60 when we got married? My first-born stepson is a year older than me. I gave birth thru C-section; I woke up from the theatre only to learn that he had instructed the doctors to cut my tubes without my consent.” Triza sighed in anger “The old geezer always had to have his way.”
“You sound like you hate him Triza, then why did you marry him? Was it for the wealth that I didn’t have compared to his?” Erick asked.“That’s the question you must answer me, why did you do it..?”
Triza stood up and started pacing up and down in her parent’s living room. Slowly she let it all out…
How she had left her father at the general hospital by her mother’s side, not knowing if she was going to make it alive much longer. And even worse, Triza was certain that her father too would give up living should his wife succumb. She had called her boss Mr.Mpwe, asking for an extra day off. A day she had no idea how to utilize. She and her father had both ran out of ideas and cash. Since her mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer, it had cost them what they had and didn’t have. They had sold all their valuables and in the end her father had put up her small piece of land as collateral. They had nothing more to sell. The surgery had gone well but within a span of two months, one of her mother’s kidneys failed. And while undergoing treatment, the next one failed as well. They had sought for a suitable kidney donor, including from Triza but she was not a suitable match. Her mother was on life a support machine and they had no funds to keep her going . When Triza called Mpwe,he had enquired on her mother’s well-being, she had in turn narrated the whole ordeal in tears. Deep down she wanted to ask Mpwe to assist the family conduct a harambee. After all, was he not a man of great influence? Mpwe had asked Triza to go directly to his office citing that he believed he had a solution. Triza had done exactly that.
“Triza your mother’s only chance of survival is airlifting her to overseas, preferably India. I know a doctor that I can talk to.This situation can be sorted in a matter of days. All you need is money.”Mpwe had stated.
“And that is our greatest challenge right now Mr.Mpwe. My father took a loan with our piece of land. He sold his car as well, we have nothing left but the salary you pay me. Unless we do a harambee…”
“That won’t be necessary Triza.By the time you organize a harambee, it might be too late for your mother”
Triza had bowed down her head for lack of words.
“Triza, marry me “
“Mr.Mpwe what did you just say, marry you? ”She jumped to her feet in utter surprise.
“Marry me Triza. I will not only pay for all your mother’s medical needs, I will also assist your father to reclaim his piece of land from the bank.I settle them down financially,now and for the future. Marry me and neither you nor your parents will ever know want.”
“Mr. Mpwe!You are aware that I am engaged to be married to the love of my life, right?. And, besides you being my boss, I look up to you as a father figure. You are also a married man. How on earth would you ask such of me?”
“How you ask? Well so let it be, forgive me for asking and wanting to save your mother’s life. Go get your fiancée to pay your mother’s hospital bills. As for being of your father’s age or of me being married, I do respect your moral perspective Triza, I do. But the last time I checked morals neither bought bread nor paid hospital bills”
“You are despicable!” Triza uttered in disgust as she stood up to leave, “I am sorry that I even worked for you Mr.Mpwe, this is such a shame!”
As she stormed out he called after her…
“If you change your mind, you know where to find me, I love you!”
Triza had run out of that office with every intention of finding Erick and narrating her ordeal. Once outside the building she saw her father from a distance and rushed towards him, worried. Why had he left the hospital? Had Triza’s mum succumbed to her illness? She wondered. On inquiry, her father informed her that he was in fact looking for Mr. Mpwe. He dejectedly let her know that unless certain medication was administered to her mom in a fortnight, she was not likely to make it through. He explained how he intended to ask Mpwe for a loan to keep his wife alive until he figured a way forward. Triza felt her heart sink. Did her father know the kind of man Mr.Mpwe was?
She stared at him as her thoughts raced from fear, sorrow to courage.
“My father doesn’t have to know what kind of a despicable man Mpwe is, ” She thought quickly. “I will take the fall for you mum, I will not watch you die if I can help it.”
“Dad please, do go on home.” Triza immediately reassured her father,“I know where to find Mr.Mpwe. I will talk to him. We will solve this and find you at home.”
“Child, are you sure about this?” Her tired concerned father queried. “Isn’t it best if I personally talked to Mpwe? This involves money Triza. ”
“You don’t have to worry dad, I work for him remember? I will see you at home dad. Everything is going to be alright and that’s a promise.”
Convinced, her father left. Triza turned back and walked to Mpwe’s office. With every step she took, she felt like she was performing her own burial ceremony. Every step was as dull, heavy and lifeless as the “thud” made by the soil hitting a casket in the grave.”My casket.” She thought out loud.
She got there and flung Mpwe’s office door wide open. Stood there with her hands clasped together at the front of her skirt, shoulders low and head bowed. She felt a heavyweight take over her soul as she uttered the words… “I will marry you”
Triza started shaking as she completed her painful narration of the past to Erick. She was heading for another uncontrollable emotional fall apart.
Erick walked across the room and took both her hands.
“I am so sorry Triza,” His voice too, was breaking, “I did not know, I had no idea the price you had to pay”
Triza tried to speak but Erick pulled her closer. They hugged and sobbed together.