The Journey

Nona reached out for her son’s hand and sighed plaintively. She gazed at the bus tout who spoke animatedly to a passenger, probably demanding bus fare. Squeezing that tiny hand brought a myriad of memories; good and bad. How she wished the bad would be buried and forgotten. Sadly,  her mind seized every opportunity possible to replay the horrid event  she earlier experienced as though she were watching a horror movie yet, an actor at the same time.

Lisu had the privilege of sitting in his own chair. It never happened. That was a luxury they couldn’t afford despite him being six years old now. Today, she didn’t have a choice.

“I hope we’re never going back, please, let’s go away forever”

It wasn’t the first time they were taking this journey. And every time her son pleaded the same way. 

The bus stopped. The commotion outside and at the door distracted Lisu. A woman alighted, on her back, a toddler hollered like crazy. A caller shouted to other potential passengers to board the bus. He shouted even louder.This was good for her as she had to carefully craft her response. After calm resumed, she squeezed Lisu’s hand once more and sighed.

“You’re safe now, Lisu, we both are.”

“Promise mummy, promise that we’ll never go back.”

‘This is grown-up staff, we’ll sort it out,’ was always her way of explaining away the matter. She was wrong, or maybe just hopeful.

Nona bit her lips. 

The chameleon would have moved  faster than this bus. Every now and then it stopped to either pick up or drop passengers, to allow the overheated engine to cool off, to bribe the police officers for overloading or for breaking other traffic rules. Lisu laid his head gently on his mother’s lap. She responded by brushing his hair lightly with her bandaged hand. She winced severally as his head swayed back and forth. Her whole body was in anguish. But wasn’t that the only heaven her boy knew at that moment? Her pain became inconsequential. Finally, he rested. A lump threatened to choke her. She coughed twice. Lisu was still in his school uniform: a pair of black patched-up shorts, a shirt that had faded to a light blue from its normal dark blue, and a maroon home sweater that barely resembled the school one. The school one would cost a week’s pay. Covering him with her shoal, the only item she possessed on this journey, she stroked him gently on his back with her other hand and granted his wish.

” Never, my son, we’ll never go back.”

She had decided. Whatever hurdles she would face, like a lioness, she would protect Lisu with her life.

He has done it again.

” Get behind me Satan!”  She covered her mouth swiftly before anyone looked her way. The voice in her mind needed a  loud rebuke. God hadn’t failed her. No, Mailu had. It was his choice. An elderly lady,about seventy or so years old, shook her head. These millennials are crazier than I thought, she must have concluded.

Within minutes, Lisu dozed off. Having covered three hours, they had two more to go before reaching their destination. Involuntarily, she fidgeted. Big mistake, she winced, her whole body was in a turmoil. The exhaustion and the trauma drifted Lisu off.

 Would her folks welcome her? Allow her to stay until she gets back on her feet? This wasn’t a day’s visit. And she literally had nothing.

” It’s a shame to run away from your matrimonial home,” her father once remarked during a similar run-away endeavor, ” in our days, such things were unheard of.”

Such a matter would be addressed by a council of elders with each party presenting their side of the story. They would try to be as  impartial as possible, though, the males more often than not got acquitted.

But things had changed. 

People minded their own business now and only gossip and propaganda judged individuals, especially women. Cases were taken to court and that meant money, sadly, the one with more money, in most cases, won.

“Out! Get out, useless woman. I don’t want you here. I never want to see you or your so-called child.” 

” I don’t mind you drinking, baba Lisu, Father to Lisu, only don’t spend all the money. We need money for food, Lisu’s uniform, the roof is leaking and…Kindly baba Lisu, please consider.”

She regretted ever pricking that nerve. He left without a word. He went to drink for her. It had happened many times before, but he would come back later, and so topsy that he was as helpless as a newborn baby. 

This time he came back earlier and fairly in control. 

No sooner had poor Lisu arrived from school, than he staggered back.

Attempting to avert any oncoming storm, she whispered that their boy was in. Another wrong move. With a few, long, calculated strides he grabbed her and violently shoved her against the wall of the hut. She fell with a thud. With his army- like boots, he followed her to the floor and kicked her mercilessly. His devilish look screamed it all. He was on a mission: a diabolical one.

“Don’t kill me, baba Lisu!  Please. I’ll leave.” 

Although to Mailu, Lisu was once his little man, he was no match for him. He had two choices to make: risk running past his father to go seek help, or cry his lungs out and watch his mother be   tortured to death. He chose to run. Baba Lisu ignored the boy; he already had his target.

“I’ll teach you a lifetime lesson, you worthless woman, acha wewe,who do you think you are?”

More kicks.

She resigned. Every instance she screamed, a kick followed .Nona writhed in pain, blood soiling her blouse and skirt, before being rescued by a few neighbors. 

He accused her of being disrespectful, a crime that, despite many frowning at his way of ‘correction’, their culture never condoned.

They all found her guilty as charged. No trial. Her side of the story didn’t matter. With the bruises on her face, hands and legs, she and her son had passed by a dispensary before embarking on this journey. A kind-hearted lady gave her some little cash. God was still watching over her.

It wasn’t always like this. Mailu had been a fine gentleman;loving, respectful,and most of all, a dreamer. Nona had been blown away by his charm. They would make the perfect pair, have adorable children which  they’d bring up and shelter under their  protective wings, he said. She recalled with nostalgia, on a cozy afternoon,

” I’ll still be this good- looking even when I am seventy, you know, ”  He sashayed a little and smiled, ” your Prince Charming ”

“Really… I’m not sure about that but… I’ll still be attracted to you.”  Holding hands, they laughed heartily. He was her Romeo.

She would never look back. She was in for the long haul.

Now, only a dreadful shadow remained as a constant reminder of his former self. Their moving back to the village had fueled the chasm created between them, translating her into a foe. They needed to be like everyone else to fit, he had insisted.

He would find himself, she kept hoping. Four years down the line, he hadn’t.

Acha! Stop beating mummy, stop!”

A few passengers gave them a puzzled look. 

“Shhh… My boy…Lisu, I’m here, I’m safe, mummy is okay. “

” I don’t like baba. I never want to be like him.”

Yes, she would break her promise, for her Lisu and herself. Neither her sweet mother nor her staunch, traditional father would make her budge.

”Love your wives,” boomed the preacher, “as Christ loved the church and died for her.” Love not kill. Mailu attempted to kill her not once,but twice. 

She prayed for strength for her cup of  woes felt full and too bitter.

Lisu’s grandfather opened the gate almost immediately. Odd. He always took his sweet time, meanwhile interrogating the person on the outside before opening it. 

” Welcome, dear child… and you too my grandson.”

Again, unexpected. She had not called or anything. 

At a closer look, his eyes widened. His new demeanor formed more wrinkles on his face, making him look older.  He strenuously cleared his throat. 

” Oh my, what has he done to you, my child?” Nona looked away. She was both shocked and relieved. Tears formed in her swollen eyes. It really hurt.

” He beat me like an animal, father, he doesn’t want Lisu and I to ever go back to him.” Lisu firmly held the hem of his mother’s skirt.

” And you shouldn’t go back, no matter how remorseful he’ll be.” He pulled Lisu towards himself and tucked him in his oversized coat, assuring him of safety. 

His change of heart must have come about a week earlier after Pelo, their neighbor, allegedly murdered his wife in cold blood after a heated argument. She had accused him of infidelity. It left many in such shock that they only spoke of it in whispers.

 They would press charges and all but for now, Nona and their grandchild were safe, and that’s all that mattered.

Categorized as Story

By Phyllis Kennedy

Phyllis Kennedy creates Inspirational stories and poems that impact lives. She also has a great passion in teaching English and Literature. She can be reached on for personal coaching and professional engagements.

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