The Husband Is Mine

Mize was looking stunningly beautiful after the colorful traditional wedding between her and Chelule. Seated with her mother-in-law and two of her husband’s aunts, Mama Ngoma and Kanze, she watched the traditional bean soup boiling in the pot. It was the beginning of jando as it is known in the Konde customs. She was going to stay indoors for one month, receiving counsel from different elderly women from Chelule’s clan. “Mind your husband’s stomach and you have won his heart,” said Mama Ngoma as she slowly stirred the bean soup. She was being taught how to cook special traditional delights and how to be a wife in every aspect.

Mize’s parents could not stop thanking the gods, as their daughter had landed into the hands of a man with great fortune. She was the oldest daughter in a polygamous family. When Chelule first met her, his heart went on fire and it did not take long before he proposed. Chelule was stinking rich by the time he married Mize. He was running chains of businesses in the town of Sawai having branches in other towns as well. Many parents lined up their daughters for him but Mize trounced all of them.

Chiku, the sister who follows Mize, never ceased to be tormented by envy for her sister. She had married Kazungu, a kindergarten teacher whom she perpetually compared with Chelule. Kazungu was an ardent traditionalist and a staunch Catholic who never believed in family planning methods. One time he battered Chiku seriously, after learning she had attended a seminar on family planning. In a span of six years, Kazungu and Chiku had seven children. It was a life of struggle as his migre salary was not sufficient. Their lifestyle entailed living on handouts from friends and relatives. Mize contributed substantially to their upkeep.

Mishi, the other Mize’s sister, the third born in the family, has no room for envy. Being a staunch supporter of spinsterhood, she always said, she has no time for the conventions and restrictions of marriage. “I love the liberty that single life brings,” she said. When her sisters talked about their marriages, she would boast of her latest conquests in the male circles.

Six years later, Chelule and Mize had two children, a son and a daughter. A perfect number according to them. When his relatives pressurized him to have more children, he stood his ground. “It is better to have few children whom you can give adequate attention and good education,” he said.

One morning Mize woke up with a headache. Initially it was not serious, but it persisted until noon time. She sent her househelp to the nearest pharmacy to get her some panadol. Although the panadol did not help to keep the pain away, she still left for Keiyo market to check on her businesses. It was in the cause of supervising, that suddenly she fell down and became unconscious. In utmost panic, her workers cried for help from their neighbours, who rushed to call for ambulance. The ambulance arrived halting at Mize’s stall admist shock striken on lookers.

On arrival at Mikocheni Missionary Hospital, she was admitted to the emergency ward. After the doctor examined her, he recommended her to be moved to the Intensive Care Unit. It was later to be discovered that Mize suffered severe stroke that raptured a blood vessel on the left side of her head, resulting in internal bleeding.

The doctors frantic efforts to save her life became futile when she succumbed two days after admission to the hospital. News of Mize’s death spread in Sawai like bush fire. There was crying, wailing, dancing and singing mourning songs. Chelule took it bravely, but could not hold himself on the day of burial.

After forty days of mourning the clan had a dawning task of appointing the one who would inherit Mize, according to the Konde customs. It was a norm that when a married woman died, her younger sister who follows, would be the next to inherit her. Despite the widespread Christianity among the Konde people, this custom was still cherished. Mishi the self-acclaimed spinster was the rightful sister to inherit Mize. But Mishi is not about to budge to the pressure put on her by the clan elders. “My respected elders, let me not deceive you. I cannot step into the shoes of my late sister. I am not marriage material that is all,” she said adamantly.

When the elders had given up on Mishi, they called for an internal meeting among themselves, to determine the next course of action. It was decided that Kadogo the youngest daughter in the family be approached. Kadogo at twenty, has just finished high school, waiting to join the Polytechnic for Accounting course. She is charming, her semi-dark completion could give her away as an Ethiopian girl. At the domestic front she is an impeccable housekeeper. Eventually, when the elders ask for her consent to marry Chelule, she gives a timid not.

The time for the “porridge party” was on the offing. The women elders of the clan had called on Chiku to join them for the occasion. This is the time these women would prepare millet porridge, mixed with sour milk, pour it on a big calabash and let each person serve themselves. Kadogo would be made to sit in the middle, while the women made a circle around her. She would then receive nuggets of advise from each. The occasion was rife, and while each was enjoying the portion of the their porridge, Chiku stormed in, in a defiant mood. “You all do not understand. Kadogo is a mere youngster, too naive to recognize the needs of a man who has just lost his wife,” she said with an authority that puzzled the women. While the women were trying to come to terms with her words, she walked out of the small hut in protest.

One night, before sleep took her over, she gazed at the four walls of their miserable bedroom. Her husband was deep asleep snoring off. If only I could leave this misery and have a taste of Chelule’s wealth. I have always envied my late sister. I should not let this opportunity pass me by,” she contemplated seriously.

Charo was whistling and singing as he ironed Chelule’s clothes. He has been a labourer in Chelule’s homestead for fifteen years. His music got sweeter and sweeter, when suddenly there is a knock at the door. He continues to sing his traditional song until he opens the door. Without much a do, Mize pushes him aside and enteres the house with her luggage. Charo stopped his music and gave her a mermirized gaze. “Madam, may I know your mission?” he enquired while the smell of a cheap perfume she was wearing, gave him some nausea. “My mission is one, to stay and take care of my late sister’s children,” she said with a bold tone as she lifted her luggage and headed to Chelule’s master bedroom. She searched through her luggage and brought out a cheap “see through” nightdress she had just bought from the market. She lay on Chelule’s vast bed putting on a seductive front.

The long wait for the consignment from Kabana city had left Chelule completely drained. “I am too tired even to put food in my mouth,” he told Charo when he arrived home. Charo grew confused, not knowing how he would break the news of his “visitor” in his room. Chelule was quick to note some discomfort and embarrassment that blanketed his countenance. “Charo is there anything you are hiding from me?” Charo treambled but gathered some courage to speak. “Sir, aunt Chiku came this evening and insisted to stay in your bedroom until you come,” he said in a low nerveous voice. Dumbfounded for words, Chelule headed to his bedroom. At the click of the door, Chiku jumped out of bed and quickly knelt before Chelule but he stayed her. “If you could only let me step in my late sister’s shoes,” she begged. Without saying a word he went to take a quick shower. The cold shower brought back strength in him and as he watched Chiku lie on his bed, he could not resist her sumptuous body. The pulse of his heart rose and he found himself lying besides her. They spent the night together.

In the morning Chelule gazed at Chiku as she lay besides him, and saw a ray of beauty he had not noticed all these years. And when the elders appointed emissaries to call on Chelule house that morning to fix the date of his wedding to Kadogo, they found him not in any mood to talk to them. After putting a lot of pressure on Charo to call him, he eventually relented. He walked casually into the sitting room to find emissaries whose patience had been overstretched. They shook hands while Chelule gave them a contemptuous look. “We have come so that we can agree on the wedding date,” one of them said. ” My dear elders, with due respect I would like to go back to our customs which dictates that, once a woman enters a man’s house and has “carnal” knowledge of her, she automatically becomes his wife,” he said while the emissaries remained calm but shocked. In a spur of the moment, Chiku in her usual defiance walked into the sitting room wearing a long gown. “Yes, I am that woman. The husband is mine. Go and tell the elders the deal is done,” she said and walked back to the bedroom. The emissaries bowed and left the house.

Source by Sophie R Kiwelu

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