Alternative Love (1)

CHAPTER ONE

THE BEGINNING

Alone

Footsteps approached my door, stopped for a few seconds, then faded away. I heard them again then…. a sound, a knock, maybe? It did not matter, nothing mattered at the time. I wanted to be alone. It was my life, to do what I pleased with it. I heard the steps again. A knock, then….

Silence….

I was curled up in a corner. My heart was a bag of cement. The floor was ice, causing a cold chill to creep up my spine every few seconds. I shuddered. My feet and sitting muscles were numb. My teeth chattered. My heart was a drumbeat. The floor swayed under me. I felt so alone, no one wanted me….

“Helah! Helah!” Baba whispered, “we cannot keep doing this….”

I was mute; I was motionless. I buried my head deeper between my knees, I held them tighter. I knew why he had come. The door slid open. I did not look up…. Baba’s footsteps approached slowly and stopped a foot away from me. He placed his hand beneath my chin and tried to force my head up, but I held it down with all my strength… He took my hands in an attempt to pull me off the floor, my wrists hurt, but I stayed put.

“Time is running out for you Helah,” I heard the disappointment in his voice. I did not care. He walked out.

Two months earlier, a man so much older than me, had asked Baba if he could marry me as his fourth wife. When I saw his huge belly and long beard, I prayed for my future like never before. Those were signs of an old tree that could not be bent anymore. I refused to go with him. I had heard a man loved to spend a lot of time in his last wife’s house. I could not imagine this man in my hut everyday….

“This man has a lot of money” Baba tried to convince me to go. “He will give you everything you want.” Now what was Baba talking about? I had everything I wanted. The whole idea of marrying for money was distasteful to me. A woman must marry to love and be loved.

“No” I shook my head. “Is that it Baba? Riches only? If that is why I should get married to this man, then I don’t want to.”

I rushed towards my room, stopped at the door and turned, gave the man a harsh look, entered, shut the door and stood behind it. I was irritated. “Thank you for your time.” I overheard. “and for hearing what I had to say. She seems to be quiet and polite, but she is not. A woman who shouts in the presence of her elders is a headache. I can’t marry that.” The voice faded away.

Good riddance old man. I was happy he left. He looked like the kind of man who would throw himself on my bed, rub his big belly, look at me like some roasted chicken on a plate and say,

“I want sex now or bring those things here,” without a care if I was in the mood or not.

If I said I did not feel like it, he would walk out and go to his other wife, without discussion. I knew how they talked, without respect sometimes, looking me up and down and asking if I was taking good care of their goods. As if my private parts were nothing more than property for trade.

A family of many wives was a pleasure for the man, but there was no unity among the family members. I had never heard of any polygamous man who tried to bring his family members together. I would never let my children suffer. I also knew he would never take me out on a date. He would never drive around town, or along lonely roads for wild excitement. My life would be, cooking, cleaning and having children.

I overheard Baba telling Mama that he had tried to pay the bride price two days before, but Baba advised him to do it after marriage. I thought Baba would force me into this marriage for the money, but he didn’t. I felt a little weight off my heart. 

I looked around the room. My clothes were strewn on the bedside table, on the chair, on the floor and the bed. Plates I had eaten from for several days were still piled up on the table. Some with mould. I threw myself on the bed and stared at the ceiling. It was quiet for me here, it was peaceful.

My dreams are the single unpredictable factor…… 
In my zoned days and nights….
Nobody allots them or censors them….
Dreams are all I have ever truly owned…

~ Cloud Atlas ~

“All your age mates are married,” Baba kept reminding me, “Time was ripe,” he said.

I knew society thought that women who were over thirty and still single, were unmarried because they could not get anyone to marry them, that is why all sorts of people came, thinking I was desperate and would not hesitate. I would take anybody, anything…. but I did not want to jump into marriage with Men I hardly knew. Marriage was not for convenience; it was for love. One day I would need a mature man for company, a man to confide in, they told me and I knew that… but did good men exist anymore? Were they not all taken?

I steered my thoughts back to the present. I did not have the desire to get married, I loved my life. I had everything, food and clothes. Everything was done for me. We had wonderful house helps. I did what I wanted and when I wanted. I slept a lot…. when I was not asleep, I was glued to the screen, when I was not glued to the screen, I was out at a club. I did not want to leave. My married friends had told me….  in marriage, my princess life would be over…

Force

“My God! Detention and slavery…. here I come!” My sitting muscles were numb. I shifted them a little, and raised my head. I was very hungry, but did not dare come out of my room. Baba talked about marriage every time he saw me. I yawned not caring to cover my mouth. An engine revved outside. Minutes passed before a hand touched the handle of my door, then a knock….

Silence….

The door slid open. A gentle wind drifted in from the corridor into the room freshening the air. Baba walked in, I raised my head. Behind Baba was a gentleman, taller and darker than him. He seemed anxious, a little nervous. Did I see sadness in his eyes?

Baba held out his hand, I looked away. He moved to my left and the gentleman on my right. Each placed a hand under my arm pit and the other under my knee. They carried me towards the door, I had one last look at my room and away I was taken. I wanted to punch and kick, but could not, this was Baba, I never opposed him, never rude to him and I wore a skirt, it would have been mannerless.

It was drizzling and cold outside. The droplets fell on my face and arms. I thought they would turn and take me back to the house, but the bad weather did not bother them. The grass was wet. I was afraid. What if one of them slipped and fell backwards with me, killing me on impact? I did not want to die. I almost said that aloud. They decreased their pace. I sighed in relief.

 On the path leading to our house was a beautiful shiny black car, with big powerful tires. A crowd was gathering. I did not know if they were staring at the car, or confirming if the rumour of my being forcefully married off on that day, was true. Mama opened the back door of the car and I was carefully placed in the back seat. Shivering, I stared straight ahead. We drove off. Normally I would have loved looking out the window during the drive, but on this day, it did not matter.

PART II

We arrived at what was going to be my new home…, which I was going to make sure would not be….

There was a wide path, leading to the house, on each side were huge trees. I smelt the fresh air through a small opening in the window. My dream was to live in a place like this, but not as a wife…. or slave. I shivered. The gentleman spoke.

“Are you coming out or do I call the guard to help me carry you?” he asked in our mother tongue, as he opened the door and stepped out…. “I am sorry we do not have a wheelchair.”

‘He does not speak English?’ I was disappointed…

Silence…….

Just because someone does not love you the way you want them to…. 
Does not mean they don’t love you with all they have……

~ Love quotes very romantic ~

He got back into the car, knelt on the front seat and faced me. He raised his hand and moved it from side to side, in front of my face, to see if my brain was functioning well…. The edges of my mouth trembled. I wanted to laugh, but sadness overwhelmed the humor.

“Your lips are dry,” he said, did I see concern in his eyes? “You are not eating well, are you?” I looked away… He left the door open and walked along the path. ‘Good riddance,’ The drizzle stopped. I yawned and stepped out of the car. I shivered. My nose was running. I sniffed. The wet soft velvet grass was cold, but freshly manicured. The blades felt good between my toes.

I yawned again and stretched. I wriggled my toes. Did this kind of grass habour crawling insects? I flinched and scratched. I almost rushed back into the car. I took a deep breath…. The green around me was lovely. The cool air was filled with the earthy scent after rain. The trees were still, except for the particles of drizzle that were dripping from the leaves. It was calm.

The gentleman appeared, with a calabash in his hand… Whatever it was, was steaming hot… He handed it over to me, the aroma of stew wafted towards my nose. My appetite returned. I took it from his hands, sat on the back seat of the car and sipped slowly…. It was goat soup, with pieces of meat. The spices were well selected and measured. It was delicious. I loved it from the bottom of my heart, but made sure, none of that showed on my face… I finished and lifted my legs into the car and closed the door. That was the last time, that day, that I saw the gentleman ….

Kindness

Daylight was fading. The trees were turning into shadows that seemed to move in the dark. I was tired, cold, and dozing. I lifted the hem of my dress and wiped my nose. I was afraid, imagined something suddenly appearing from the trees to harm me. The car door opened, I was startled and almost screamed, but noticed the stranger’s kind face. He picked the calabash and placed a blanket on my lap, a hallo to my face, and left. I unfolded the blanket and covered myself well.

‘I will never get married to this man,’ I closed my eyes. ‘Never’… I slept. I was at home. I heard a sound! I opened my eyes! I had dozed off while watching TV… Someone was in the house! I gasped! A burglar! I could not see. The burglar had switched off the lights. I tried to hold my bowl of crisps close to me to prevent it from falling, but it was not there, he had taken it. He flashed a light on my face. I tried to cover my face. I opened my mouth to scream, I woke up…

There was a face on the window and a torchlight in the car. I recognized him. The blanket man. He walked away when I opened the door. My bladder was full. I stepped out of the car. I was afraid of crawling insects, I did not squat, so I urinated standing ‘Ah. No tissue.’ I shook myself dry and went back to sleep. I woke up to a beautiful morning. The gentleman was standing a few feet away, watching the sunrise whose beauty was breathtaking, from this side of the town.

Is it breakfast that he had brought? No. His hands were empty.

Your name makes no matter to me…….  
As long as I call you my own….

~ A Knights Tale ~

I hoped he had given up and was planning to take me back home. A car drew up the drive, it was Baba’s. I hurriedly got out of the car and walked towards him. The gentleman was close behind.… I turned and frowned at him. Baba got out of the car…. ‘He has come to get me’ I thought excitedly….

“Hallo, Helah,” he smiled…  

“Hallo Baba,” I replied with the widest grin…

“Good morning my friend, Bartholomew,” Baba stretched his hand….

Oh no! My mother tongue again. I wanted to cry.

“Good morning Sir!” Bartholomew replied, shaking Baba’s hand. 

My goodness! What kind of name was that? Mrs. Bartholomew! Over my dead body! Never!

Men from my tribe were ill-tempered and believed that a woman’s place was in the kitchen. A woman should never speak when other men were around.  A woman was a slave. A woman who got pregnant before marriage did not deserve to get married. A woman who did not give birth to a boy was not wife enough. I heard that the continuity of an ethnic group was through the same tribe marriages, but I would never sacrifice my happiness for a tribe.

Friendship

Baba walked to the back of the car, opened the boot, got my suitcase, and handed it over to Bartholomew. Bartholomew took it and stood aside. Baba waved goodbye to both of us, smiled and left.

I froze until the reflection of the sun in the rare windshield of Baba’s car disappeared. My heart sank painfully when it became apparent to me that I was alone in this fight. The dejection I felt was sharp and heavy as lead. I wished to turn into a tree, and grow my roots deep into the ground, beside the road, then, nobody would have me.… I could feel Bartholomew’s intense gaze fixed on me… I lowered my eyes and stared at the muddy path….

“Come with me,” Bartholomew’s voice was gentle.… He tried to grab my arm, I pulled it away, shaking my head.

My eyes full of tears I couldn’t remove….
And my heart beating hard as if it is about to blow….
I am dead physically but fighting emotionally….
I wonder if you are a living creature or a horror explanation….
You planted a continuous pain in me….
A pain which seems longer than time….
My life turns out to be a comma on a journey….

~ Quinton L-Qreezy ~

I walked towards the direction of Baba’s car. I had walked for many minutes… then…. I stepped on a rusty nail. It stuck out of a piece of wood. A sharp pain short through my leg to my hipbone. I cried out. The pain on my foot was unbearable. I hopped on my right leg to the right side of the path and sat on the rough grass. It pricked my sitting muscles, but that, did not matter at that moment.

Hurt

I looked at my foot for a few seconds. I expected to see blood gushing out from it. It was not bleeding. I bent it, and got hold of the piece of wood and tried to pull the nail out. AaaarchI That was a mistake. It stung. I let go. I was going to die a slow death, I thought. I knew the bacteria that causes tetanus was commonly found in the soil and dust. In panic, I looked around for water, some liquid, anything. I had to clean the wound.

PART III

The leaves in the small bush behind me rustled. Before I could turn, a hand covered my mouth and pulled me into the bushes. For a moment, I forgot about the pain on my foot. My heart beat fast; it would have shot right out of my chest. I fought to get free. I wanted to give Bartholomew a piece of my mind. There was a better way of taking me home than this. How cruel could he be? I tried to bite his hand.

“Shhhhhh…. Do not move and do not make a sound!” It was not Bartholomew…. My heart leaped. I did not resist anymore; the pain on my foot was excruciating…. He tied my hands behind my back and was about to tie my legs….

“No need,” he paused. “You will not escape anyway,” he frowned as he looked at my leg. He untied my hands, blindfolded me and carried me to the back seat of a car. With the pain on my leg the drive was the longest I ever had. I was angry at Bartholomew. He got me into this. I hated him more and swore to give him the worst time ever.

I managed to untie my hands along the way. Finally, the car stopped. I quickly removed the blindfold, opened the door and got out. I looked around, there was a large building and a forest. I hopped very fast towards the trees…. I had no idea where I was hoping to; I just wanted to get away. The kidnapper followed me, walking. I lost balance and fell.

“Oh my Lord! Where are you when I need you?”

The kidnapper helped me up, “Silly woman,” he was amused. “You, running with that thing in your leg?” He pulled me up and put his hand around my waist. “Why are you running, no… hopping, should I add, crawling?” He turned to look at me. “Have I done any harm to you?”  He blindfolded me again, carried me through a corridor into a room and placed me on a stretcher. I was weak. I trembled with fear….

“Did you notice that she is wounded?” A man’s deep voice asked.

“The piece of wood is bigger than her foot,” My kidnapper answered, “Yes I noticed, but she was the only one I could get today.” I felt like a deer.

“Her blood is tainted,” the voice complained.

“The wound is only a few hours old,” my kidnapper tied my hands to the side of the stretcher. “The organs and blood could still be clean.” they left the room…

My foot was hot, in fact, my whole body was hot. I wished they would remove my clothes. Someone entered the room cleaned a section on my thigh, the smell of the methylated spirit filled the room. There was a pause, then he injected me. The second injection was in a vein in my arm. I was drowsy. I slept.

I was woken up by someone who took my blood pressure and temperature, drew some blood from my hand, then injected me on my sitting muscles. I slept…. I do not know for how long I woke up and slept, but I remember someone wiping my body and cleaning my wound, someone saying my drip was over and my clothes should be changed. Trolleys being wheeled in and others out. For what seemed a long time, I alternated between sleep and half wakefulness.…

No matter what life’s ventures….
No matter where I’ll be….
I know I’ll always remember….
How luck did shine on me….

~ Barbara Snook ~

After what seemed like eternity, I was woken up by someone rushing through the door, shouting at the top of his voice. ‘Finally! The police had come to rescue me….’

“No! No!” I heard footsteps rushing towards me. Someone knocked the stretcher jolting it to the wall. The impact shook every muscle of my being. Pain radiated from the wound on my foot and every injection spot, to the rest of my body. I heard a syringe drop to the ground.

“This one leaves here alive,” he said panting. “Someone has noticed she is missing, a man…. a man is looking for her!” His deep voice trembled with fear…. “It might get us into trouble” ‘Oh Zagorody missed me after all,’ I was relieved. I had a reason to live. “How is the wound?”, he sounded concerned.

“Getting better,” the other replied. That…. was a lie, because the foot was emitting a vile stench and a tingling sensation. “Did you find out how the man is related to her?”

“No…. remove the blindfold” With all the drugs, she is good as dead. I tried to open my eyes, but the fluorescent light hurt. I dozed off. I slept…. I do not know for how long.

“Did you get his cell phone number?” the stranger asked, I woke up and tried to open my eyes.…

“He does not own a cellphone.” My kidnapper replied. “One of our men contacted his younger brother who stays outside the town”

“I hope he was careful not to reveal anything,” the stranger was worried.

“All our men are smart,” my kidnapper assured him. 

“Release her hands,” the voice ordered. “We will not keep her here any longer, it is risky. Sad, all the tests failed,” he sounded disappointed. “We lose nothing though; the organs would not have been useful…. with that wound,” it was a resigned voice.

I was carried to a wheelchair. My neck was weak, my head hang low, my eyelids were heavy, I could only open them for a second at a time. I was wheeled through a corridor. My head shook with every bump. I was out the door and onto the grass. The fresh air caressed my face, how I had missed it; the sun was gentle; I could tell it was mid-morning.… I wanted to stand and stretch, but the drugs had taken a toll on me. I was undressed. The warm rays of the sun soaked through my skin. My body came alive. I did not give much thought to my nudity. How I wanted to stretch.

Rejected

“Can someone bring her gown?” my kidnapper shouted.

“Here!” a new voice said, after a few minutes. “Phhhheeeewuuuuueeee!” he whistled, I opened my eyes, “that’s a beautiful body…. The bre….” He was about to touch them.

“Do not even think about it,” my kidnapper interrupted. My eyelids were heavy, I closed my eyes. “She is not troublesome; like many girls we bring here.”

“How do you know?” whistle man stepped back. “She was sedated most of the time.”

“What you are doing is against the rules.” my kidnapper dressed me. “We are not supposed to live any prints on these girls.”

“We burn the bodies well.” whistle man was disappointed. “Ashes don’t leave prints.”

“Does it look like I am preparing her for roasting?” 

“Okay, okay, I hear you Mummy,” whistle man mocked.

“If we had met under different circumstances,” my kidnapper whispered into my ear, “I would date you.” Was that supposed to make me feel better? The symptoms of Lima syndrome that he exhibited scared me. I did not want to spend another day here.

“I heard that,” there was concern in whistle man’s voice. “I saw how you treated her in the lab…. special. You know you can’t have her, now that she knows what you do. You would be putting everyone here at risk and you know you can’t leave, right?”

My kidnapper mumbled something, as he fastened the buttons on my gown.

I opened my eyes again, for a few seconds. A few metres from where I was, were bodies on stretchers covered in white cloths waiting to be loaded onto a black, pickup truck. I would have been there, if the stranger had not come on time. I was too tired to be afraid, or even think much, I was thirsty too. I wanted to get out of here. I did not know to where, but not here. The man bent forward and adjusted my feet on the wheelchair footrest. I gathered some strength and managed to whisper “Water…. Water…. Water….” He stepped back and left.

The wheelchair moved. It moved again. I knew no one was pushing it. I wanted to scream. The speed increased. It ran into one of the stretchers, knocking me and one of the bodies on the stretcher, down. I was face to face with the body, foreheads touching. If I was a mortuary attendant, I would have smiled and said, “well, haaaalllooo!” …. but I was not. I was weak, with a painful wound….

“Goodness!” I heard someone say under his breath, “What happened?”, he asked picking up the wheelchair. “If you wanted to say hallo to these poor girls, you should just have asked. We are not bad people.”

He placed a bottle of water he was holding on the ground and pulled an injection out from his pocket. I felt a prick in my right sitting muscle. “That will take care of your pain for a few hours.” He lifted me up to the wheelchair, then put the bottle of water on my lips. I sipped the water slowly… maybe five, six, nine times, I don’t know. The water was sweet.

I looked at my wound, my leg was cleaner than when I was brought in, but terrible to look at. It was not enough though; the tetanus bacteria were resistant to antiseptic.

“Tetanus,” I whispered.

“What?” the gentleman bent.

“Tetanus,” I tried to raise my head.

He placed his hands under my chin, pushed my face up, gazed at me for a few seconds. “You got the shot,” then looked away. “Gangrene is what you should worry about.”

Did this man not know how to deliver bad news? I tried to wriggle my toes…. no feelings, nothing. Blood rushed to my head. ‘I am going to lose my leg,’ I thought…. A sharp pain shot from my foot to my inner thigh. Yes, there was blood supply to my leg and my nerves were functioning. I had a serious bacterial infection, judging from the stench, but the tissues were not dead. I was calm.

My eyes closed. He wheeled me to the car and placed me on the back seat. Something flashed through my memory, the time before last, that I was carried to the back seat of a car, I was married!

My parents threw me out of the house, Zagorody deserted me, now kidnappers rejected me. Nobody wanted me.

“Hey!” my kidnapper walked towards the bodies, “Let’s go.” I was able to keep my eyes open a little longer.

The whistle man appeared and followed my kidnapper. They placed the corpse that I met unofficially, on the stretcher….

“Phew!” Nothing spilled out of the stomach, my kidnapper was relieved. “Seems they stitch them up well, that,” he pointed to the corpse, “would have been a mess.

They got into the car and drove. The road back was different, it had a million bumps and potholes that were jarring to my bones amplifying the pain in my body. The vehicle came to a halt, the back door opened. The whistle man lifted me off the car and placed me on my foot, on the dusty road. I was dizzy. I was weak.

PART IV

I slammed onto the road…. and hurt my left shoulder. The ground was hot. This did not bother the whistle man, he took out his phone and dialed as he strode to the passenger side of the car. My kidnapper got out and walked towards me, but the whistle man rushed after him and pulled him back into the car. The car spun round spraying dust into the air and drove off. The dust choked me, I tried to draw in a deep breath. I gasped for fresh air and coughed, my throat was dry. I opened my teary eyes. I looked around. The surroundings were unfamiliar.  

Whatever struggles and triumphs….
However, we may suffer them….
All too soon they bleed into a wash….
Just like watery ink on paper….

~ Memoirs of a Geisha ~      

A porcupine crossed the road slowly. I wanted to close my eyes and sleep, but fought to keep awake. Then…. I heard the sound of heavy engine. Through my half open eyelids, a heavy load truck approached. I did not know what to pray for at the time. Prayers did not seem to work lately…. but I knew I did not want to die. The truck was a few metres away. I tried very hard to roll off the road, but in vain. The truck drove over me, some of its parts brushing my arm. I thought it would never end.

It stopped a few feet ahead. Two men got out and walked towards me. I closed my eyes. One of the men placed two fingers on the side of my throat.  

“There is a pulse. Can you smell methylated spirit?” The other nodded. “Should we call the police?” he asked.

“No”, the other answered. “You know the story. We will be the first suspects, go to court for a case that has no end and rot in jail. That will be the end of our precious lives. You know how cases like these end.”

They carried me to a grass patch on the side of the road.  Like a thousand pins, a sharp pain shot through my back to the centre of my brain. Suddenly my bladder was full. That is when I realized I had a diaper. I urinated, then passed out….

I was in the kitchen, at the fridge, checking if there was any cold water. I picked the last bottle and placed it on my upper arm, it was cool against my skin. The ice was melting, the water got warmer, the moisture on the bottle dripped down my upper arm…. Then the bottle cracked and the liquid spilled. My arm was wet… I came to…. I opened my eyes. A dog was licking my bruises. I tried to get up, nothing moved.

 A vulture was resting on top of a nearby tree, for a moment, I thought I was dead. I blinked several times. If the scavenger was waiting to gnaw on my flesh, there was disappointment ahead. The drugs were wearing off, but the hot sun, dizziness and fatigue rendered me motionless.

“Sssssss…. ssssss….” I managed to hiss. “Kwenda (go)” I whispered moving my hand lightly. The dog moved back a few feet…. In a fraction of a second a speeding vehicle hit it hard. The impact lifted it high up in the air. It came down and landed on me. Blood oozed out of its mouth onto my cheek. I pressed my lips tight. Dying here alone, was one thing that maybe, I would have been comfortable with, but going to hell because I drunk a dog’s blood, did not settle down well with me….

I tried to push the dog off of me, but it was too heavy.

I was woken up by a familiar voice.  I needed more drugs for the pain. I had the worst pain ever. My foot, my shoulders, my arms, my eyes, my throat and the strange needles on my back…. I was baked by the sun; the dust did not spare me… I was thirsty.

Compassion

“Helah…. Helah….” Someone shook me. “Look at me,” He whispered, shaking me again. He slapped me lightly on the cheek.

I opened my eyes…. Bartholomew’s eyes were puffy and bloodshot; like he had not slept for a long time. “There are needles on my back…” I whispered…

“We will look at your back when we get home,” Bartholomew said taking off his shirt. He squatted and used it to wipe the dust off my face and blood from my arm. He looked at my leg, frowned and lifted me off the ground. The sweat from my body and methylated spirit produced an unpleasant pungent odour. He pushed the dog aside with his leg and placed me in the car. I was beginning to get tired of cars. They came with a bad story. The pain on my back was getting worse and unbearable. The car stopped after a long agonizing time. I saw the familiar beautiful path, and knew we had arrived.

Art by Berina Ogega

My Art Teacher and Editor behance.net/KenOmollo