Chapter Six: Belinda

Iman and Hakeem jumped into her embrace as soon as they got off the bus. Once in the house, she helped them change into their play clothes and watched as they started chatting up their grandmother. She served them juice as their clothes were soaking in the bathroom.

Half an hour into the cleaning and dusting of the room, their bedroom door was flung open and Jeff said, “You’ll not work there anymore. If it is money you want, I’ll give it to you, but you are not going back there.”

She sat on the bed and looked up at him, “why?”

“Why? Did you just ask me that? You work in a kibanda! It is a small thing pretending to be a restaurant and do you know how it makes me look to have you working there? It’s just so wrong.”

“So, it is about how you look and not that I work.”

“If you want to work, send your CV to some places, apply for jobs and get called into an interview, just not there and it is not fair that you leave Mother here the whole day just so you can make loose change. Besh, you are a graduate for crying out loud! How can you sit on all that potential and instead waste it working for peanuts at some kibanda?”

“Are you asking me to babysit your mother?”

“Whatever! For as long as you live with me, you will not work there.”

“Thank you, Jeff. You should have said that in the very beginning. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Belinda, wait, Belinda…be serious, and where would you go? Look, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Stop talking to me Jeff, I am tired and I need to start preparing supper.”

“Is having that job more important than me and the kids?”

“Jeff, since we got married, I have done everything just for you and the kids. Now, sometimes I sit down and ask what have you done for me? I am not talking about taking responsibility for the kids or ensuring that there is food and supplies in the house and bills are paid. What have you ever done for me? I am tired Jeff, I am sick and tired of everything and now, I want to simply do what you always expect from me which is prepare your food and serve it to you and the kids. I’ll be sure to leave very early in the morning so you can go with the house keys.”

“Belinda…this is not the way we sort out this issue.”

“It is because you said so and frankly speaking I am glad that I finally get to see the real you Jeff, besides your mother is around and things will be okay, won’t they?”

“Leave my mother out of this!”

“You should take your own advice because she has more understanding and love than you and it hurts me that no matter how hard she tries to tell you to support me, you constantly put me down. I am done, Jeff.”

She walked into the kitchen and switched on the burner then placed the sufuria on it with some water for making the ugali. She was reaching out for the maize flour when someone reached for her hand. Her Mother-in-law was smiling and she took out the floor and switched off the burner.

“Mama, how are you? Can I make you some tea?”

“No, sit down.”

“What’s the matter, Mama?”

“Sit down and listen to me Belinda. Your Mother would be very proud of you if she could see the woman you are today. I could not help but listen to what you told my son and if there is one thing that I have always known is that, a woman never leaves her home. You just told your husband that you’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, is that true?”

“I have to.”

“Well, if you really needed to leave, you would have left two years ago my daughter. I know what it means to be fed up. Do not say something you cannot do.”

“Mama, are you saying that I cannot leave this house tomorrow?”

“Yes, however, I know you need time to think things through and that’s why I’ll stay. You can do as you feel you ought to but make time for your children. You have to see them when you can and reassure them that you’ll always care for them because they are not the reason for your misunderstanding with your husband, and even if they are, they do not deserve the same punishment as him.”

“Thank you, Mama.”

“Now, go and check on your children and let me help you out today. I will call you when supper is ready.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I just asked you to let me do my part Belinda, are we going to argue over that too?”

“No, Mama.” She walked into her mother-in-law’s embrace and for a few minutes it felt as though the world was finally smiling down on her, but that was before she heard the engine. Jeff was doing what he knew best and for once his outburst did not bother her. It was this final admission that enveloped Belinda into a sadness she could never share with the woman who was holding her at that moment.

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