It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.
It was a cold Saturday morning. The sun was nowhere to be seen. The clouds threatened a downpour. Mary shivered. She was seated at the church of the funeral home. The wooden pews were uncomfortable. Couldn’t they consider comfortability for those in mourning? She thought angrily as she adjusted her seating position on the pew.
She stared at the cross at the front of the church. ‘Lord forgive us sinners that…,’ she began her silent prayer.
‘Sorry for your loss,’ someone bent over her shoulder from behind. She stared up. It was Christine one of Mike’s best friends. She was now rubbing Mary’s back softly.
‘Thank you,’ Mary did her best not to break down to tears. The church was slowly filling up. The mourners all came in a solemn state.
The pallbearers slowly walked in. Everyone stood up. Eyes fixed on the casket. It was brown in colour and the polish finish gave it a metallic feel. It looked majestic.
The man of God signalled for everyone to take their seats. ‘Today we are gathered here to celebrate the life of our dear brother Mike…,’ he began, ‘let us begin with a prayer…’
* * *
The heart shape on top of his coffee was now distorted. Mike fidgeted with his phone trying to figure out the shape formed. What could it be? He watched as a line on the coffee drifted from one end to the other of the cup. Abstract art. He thought to himself. The coffee was probably cold now.
He checked his wristwatch for the umpteenth time. Only twenty minutes had gone by. The honking and blaring music from a matatu reminded him he would be late getting home. He was seated at Paleo. He had chosen a table nearest but facing away from the door. The chatter and footsteps passing outside the coffee house was like a recreation of the great wild beast migration at the Maasai Mara. It was rush hour.
Should I leave? Maybe today is not the day? He debated silently in his head. What about the untouched coffee? That thought brought him back to the untouched coffee cup on the table. I could gulp it down in one go and be gone from this place in no time. He reached out for the cup. Lifted it slowly towards his lips as if it weighed a tonne.
Just as the rim of the cup touched his lips, she walked in. She walked graciously and sat a few tables from where he was. The cup was already back on the table, the coffee still untouched. She made her order. He couldn’t bring himself to stop staring. She turned to look in his direction. He pretended to be staring at the lighting. Foolish move.
She was now reading a novel. He half stood up from his seat then fell back. He tapped his foot trying to come up with a plan of attack. It felt like the moment a general has to make the choice of whether to attack or fall back. The weight of the world on his shoulders. Here goes nothing. He muttered to himself breathing into his hand to check whether his breath was okay.
‘I am Mike…,’ the light tap on the table stopped her from her reading. Who drinks tea in a coffee shop? He could not help his thoughts staring at her cup.
‘Can I help you,’ she said staring up from the book in her hand.
‘I don’t think you have noticed but they must be putting something in the coffee…’ he said taking the empty seat ‘..as I was coming over here I swear I had it all planned out how it was going to go. I am not so sure anymore.’
He held his breath.
‘I didn’t get your name,’ he said as lightly as he could manage.
It was like experiencing how long an aeon is in just a matter of seconds.
‘I am Mary,’ she said in passing, closing her book all the while staring at something that seemed to be beyond him.
That was two years ago.
* * *
The light breeze was like a light touch by a lover. Mary was engrossed in Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. She stopped for a moment to enjoy the breeze. The shadows formed by the trees in the sunset were anything but marvellous.
She looked up from her book and took a look around her. Some distance away from her was this group of girls, all happy and jumping around doing their best to give their best pose for the selfies they were taking. Instagram promises to be a buzz today. She smiled at that thought.
On one corner the smokers were huddled together. They seemed like outcasts. One could not help but admire the unspoken bond among them. They were united in their cause. What cause? To smoke their lives away. These negative feelings creeping up inside her caused her to turn to another part of the Jevanjee garden.
A large group of men was gathered. No one was preaching to them. They seemed to be holding a discussion on a certain matter. Everyone was attentive when it was not their turn to speak. She caught a comment from a member in the group. ‘The corruption in this country has become too rampant.’ ‘Those guilty should hang just to say the least. They are killing our economy bit by bit.’ Another one reiterated in support. Politics. Why aren’t women involved in such discussions? Do they think we do not have our own opinions in such matters? The feminist in her coming out in her thoughts.
She went back to her reading. The flash of a light interrupted her. She thought of looking up but dismissed it to be the reflection from the windows of a passing car. It came again. The lady seated to her right was smiling. She looked up.
He stood a few steps in front of her. He took another shot with his camera. The flash of light blinded her for a moment. She was not sure whether to be pleased or mad. He was stretching out his hand. She thought of ignoring him.
‘Sorry for the inconvenience but not everyday I get a perfect shot,’ he said returning a firm handshake.
‘You can call me Andrew…’
That was six months ago.
* * *
‘How could you do this to me,’ Mike said clenching his fingers into a fist. He was clearly enraged.
‘It was nothing. You were away so much that…,’ Mary said amid sobs. She sat in a corner curled up. She had never seen him this mad.
He paced the room. He almost knocked down her dresser. ‘How many times has it happened?’ he asked.
‘I am sorry my love…please forgive..,’ she tried her best to calm the situation.
‘I don’t need your apology. First it was the pink socks that I found a few months ago. Now this…,’ he said kicking her shoe under the bed. ‘How many times?’ He turned to look at her with this devilish eyes.
She inched nearer to the wall. She was not sure whether he could hurt her. ‘A couple of times,’ she said covering her head with her hand.
The recording in the background of their lovemaking session with Andrew seemed to have hit a switch. He turned around and grabbed the phone. He stared at the screen for a moment. The phone hit the wall so hard if there was to be a burial it would have to be a closed casket. He was like a man possessed.
‘I will kill that guy…,’ he said amid a shout of pain mixed with anger.
That was a month ago.
* * *
The last lady in black placed flowers on top of the grave. The wailing and crying was now almost over. The end to the celebration of such a young life snuffed out fast approaching.
Mary stood at the back of the crowd. She was in black. The black glasses shielded her from all the stares. She had given up on crying. She looked straight as the cross was put in place. Someone gently touched her shoulder and said some words she didn’t get.
The sun had finally come out. It was now a few degrees above normal. The pendant on her neck was still ice cold. She reached under her scarf. The casing of the bullet felt soft under her touch. She stroked it.
The coroner’s report indicated that the single shot to his temple as the cause of death. The police investigations concluded that it was a robbery gone wrong. There were clear indications of the house having been ransacked. Mike’s watch was also missing with a street value of over fifty thousand shillings.
He shouldn’t have threatened to kill Andrew. Mary tried to reassure herself of her actions in her silent thoughts. She had thought of poisoning him. That would have pointed more to a crime of passion and the main suspect would have been her. The idea of hiring a hitman also crossed her mind. But she had no intentions to leave a trail behind let alone a paper trail.
She had stood there unscrewing the silencer watching his life drift away like a smoke. It was hard toppling over the furniture to make it look like a robbery. Some things a lady should never have to do. The watch was stashed away at her parent’s home. Funny a man with such an expensive watch could not just let some dime-store pink socks go unnoticed. She frowned at her thoughts.
‘One day in the future I might consider including it in my memoirs,’ she murmured to herself. Or I could pass down the watch as a family heirloom. Their great grandfather will be a war hero who died for a cause. What cause? Love of course. I will be in control of the story. I will spin that yarn to my liking. The evil thoughts almost made her burst out in laughter.
She lightly pressed the pendant in her hand closing her eyes relieving the moment she pulled the trigger.
This is the present.