It was a very bright afternoon, the sun so harsh almost violent in its burns. Everything else is relatively normal. The green recurrent trees move lightly in the direction of the mild breeze. The sky was blue with specks of white cloud; scattered around it and some clumps of cloud spread around in almost comical shapes. The air was brisk carrying with it a form of grace. Everything pointed to it being a good day to take a long trip. So they did, they were all hurdled in the car, dressed in elegant attires that can only be attributable to one of a certain pedigree, having reached a great height of attainment.
The arena was filled with tranquility, except for the sound of bickering coming from inside the white car.
The seats were cream-coloured and very sleek. Around the gearbox held certain poise and the dashboard was littered with an embarrassment of great aesthetics; radio and cd player, air conditioner and heat systems as well as an amazing sound system. There were docks and hooks and plugs and slots for every imaginable item.
Its occupants were so busy having an extremely intense screaming match about a very silly argument. This was punctuated by a very stubborn and extremely quick winged creature that had managed to sneak its tiny form into the car.
The car itself was messy with shoes and makeup and books and hair and all sorts of things lying around. There had already been several talks about the permanent state of unkempt, everyone had different forms of the same point; no one wanted to clean it up. The general consensus is that people were to move things away just enough to have a space to sit and place their limbs. If it was to become too much, the things are to be moved to the boot.
At this moment, the windows were up with the air conditioner turned on. Jane was alternating between hands; which one would be on the steering wheel as she was driving and which one would swat away the fly when it got near her, it apparently didn’t like the loud noise coming from the passenger seat and the back seat.
People on the outside were going about their business; walking quickly, hawking their goods, waiting for the bus or hailing taxis, etc. having no clue whatsoever about what was going on in the car.
It was a very heated conversation – if that’s what it can be called. Words like you are an irrational person, you are becoming an embarrassment and why do have to be so dramatic, were tossed around. Hurtful jabs were pin ponged between the participants of the argument. It is said that it is those closest to you, who knows the most about you that can do the most emotional damage. These people certainly did, the vibe of the quarrel was one of frustration characterised by nit-picking flaws and saying things that were sworn not to be said.
The car was occupied by a family of three, a mother and her two daughters.
Mrs. Peters was a very stern middle aged woman – stern being the operative word. She has had to be one as her husband died untimely after a brief illness, at a time when they were just beginning to settle into the groove of an almost perfect matrimony.
They had been married for just ten years when tragedy struck. It had been the most devastating thing to happen to her as they were each other’s soul mates, she thought they were going to be happy and grow old together. They even had plans of how they would spoil their grandchildren even though they only had but children.
She had two daughters to take care of all on her own so she put aside her pain and incredible heartache, worked really hard, trying hard not to dwell in her grief, despite there being some external interference of the obnoxious sort.
For their entire lives, she had worked hard to impart in her daughters the power of hard work and good morals. That had worked out so far, with the girls’ astounding educational prowess and general good and respectful behaviour to everyone around them, regardless of age, financial status or standing in the societal hierarchy.
Except for now when she was more than frustrated with her older daughter for coming back in the wee hours of the night, drunk, after yet another partying spree. She didn’t understand when this became a regular occurrence. She never had to worry about this type of behavior before from any of her girls.
The younger one, Jane, was at times quite rebellious but never anything this extreme. It had been her one saving grace that her daughters were very well mannered. Some people didn’t think she could do a good job raising them all by herself.
Shortly after her husband died, his family had a lot of opinions about how things should go in their lives.
During the burial she had been quiet and malleable, conforming to all their rules and regulations no matter how appalled she was at some of the rites that had to take place and how she was referred to by some of the people. Since she was mourning her husband and her daughters were mourning their father, she decided to let peace reign so as not to sully the event. It was also the different traditions and customs that had to be carried out, fortunately there was nothing too extreme.
When he had been alive, her husband did not buy into these things, they were never around all the time and when they were, it was always a quick visit, for all the times they had gone there, the place was still strange to the girls. In spite of that, she didn’t want anything interrupting their grief.
The mandatory dress code didn’t have to be forced on her as she was not even seeing colour in those days, talk less of wanting to wear bright and bubbly outfits. Her outward appearance reflected her inner feelings.
After a few weeks, they were back in their home when they received some visitors. Relatives came around, apparently the mourning period was over and it was time to discuss business. There was no physical business to discuss as her husband was a regular man with a regular government job. They were offended when she communicated this to them, they had only come to discuss the children’s well-being not to feast on the dead man’s carcass, ironically they were busy with a big feast.
Mrs. Peters didn’t understand why they were interested in how she was going about with her children; it was not like she asked anybody for help. It was their duty to make sure that the children were taken care of properly, they had argued. She appreciated their concern and offered them some more food and drinks, which they happily accepted.
Suggestions started getting thrown around about the kids; how they dressed, how they went to school, what they said, how they were to attend several extended family functions but were not really invited in the inner circle because their father was gone. How they carried themselves as respectable members of the Peters’ clan. It is the way things had to be done since their family now lacked a leader. They were basically figure heads running things like a board of directors of a company without a chairman, and as companies went, this was a fortune 500.
She still didn’t say anything and she didn’t collect anything from anybody. Always turning down whatever gift be it monetary or clothing or food items, lest they have more of a hold on her than was necessary. She wanted to rid herself of the unwanted investors, she had her own means of survival and was fairly financially secure.
When the suggestions started becoming demands over various outrageous things was when she decided to cut ties with them, she didn’t need their sullen remarks and their derision masked as advice.
Mrs Peters had a very good friend, Ify, who helped her out from time to time, always ready with a listening ear and a word of prayer and reasonable advice. She also helped out with the girls once in a while, taking care of them in her house when Mrs Peters was working.
Raising the girls by herself had been quite the challenge. Making money to train them in school, feed them, cloth them and put a roof over their heads was tough. It was also her number one priority, as a result she didn’t really have time to always get involved in the nitty gritty of what was going on with them. She always knew where they were at all times, but not necessarily what was going on in their heads.
As a result of these, she wanted them to at least have each other, so she ensured that they were in the same school at all times and that they shared a room. The third room in their three-bedroom flat, was a storage room which housed all their excesses as well as the goods she sold from her makeshift store front in the house.
Basically she pushed them to be the best of friends and it worked. Some might say it worked out too well; they had their secret conversations spoken in hushed tones, they also had their own language, their shared inside jokes, they covered for each other in their faults and celebrated each other in their successes.
They kept a lot of things to themselves away from the prying eyes of the world which most of the time included her, their mother. It bothered her some times that she was always the second call as well as the second person to know certain things. Her consolation was that they still told her, even though they had to rehearse first what they were going to say to her.
After a while it stopped bothering her, especially after Ify told her that she was the parent and not the friend. Her friend also had her own issues with her children withholding information, apparently it was something that every child did and not just the ones without fathers like she had assumed previously. They were right to be guarded before telling her things, that would help them make informed and responsible decisions as they go through life, she hoped.
The camaraderie they had with themselves and Ify’s children was equal parts awe-inspiring and awful. Her disappointment as their mother was something they hated with a blinding passion and what they appreciated as well, it was basically their guiding light as they treaded the dark unknown paths of life.
Before making any crucial decisions, they always stopped to wonder if she would approve or disapprove, when they had told her that she was so happy she began to cry.
Over the years, people have snickered and scorned and made comments about her inability to provide several luxuries for the girls. She didn’t care, as long as they valued more than just luxury and they always followed every instruction she laid out for them. Some people even offered assistance but she turned them all down, the last thing she needed was to be indebted to people, especially if it was not from a well-meaning place.
No matter what happened, she always referred to them as proof that she was doing something right, their excellent attitude was like an armour protecting her from the comments of people she tried to otherwise ignore.
Lately, some actions have left cause for alarm and she had raised quite the alarm, but nothing seemed to be working. Did she go wrong somewhere? Had she failed as a mother? Was their father’s absence beginning to take its toll? She asked herself these hard questions on many a sleepless night.
Mandy was the one that was causing these alarms to be raised which was ironic because this was a recent development, she always thought Jane was the child she had to worry about. Jane had always had many friends and a very active social life and she even has a boyfriend who seems to be serious about her but alas she has refused to marry the boy.
Also there was that time when she had the problem in the secondary school, she had been harsh on her but that was mostly because she was scared something would have happened to her.
She is also extremely scared for Mandy now.
She wondered what was wrong with her and she even asked her on numerous occasions, a snicker, a huff and an eye roll was all the response she got. She started analysing certain things even going as far as giving her surprise visits at work, hoping she was still there, she always was. In fact it seemed her work was not lacking or was that just the excuse she gave to get away with things.
What friends had she started to keep? She obviously had to be going out with the wrong set of people who had begun corrupting her. Mrs Peters had always taught them the dangers of keeping bad friends and going to bad places.
The snickering and scorn that plagued their little family for a long time and which seemed to end when her girls both graduated from the university had started again but this time around it was different, because it was actually true. So much so that she had a very big catering job fall through because the client had heard some unsavory things about her daughter.
The client was a stickler for good morals and was a staunch and devout Christian which was why she had hired Mrs. Peters in the first place, someone who truly shared her values. She had been overjoyed at what was supposed to be a very easy job; cooking for 2,000 people, she would get a driver to take her wherever she wanted to go, she would get to keep the perks and the client would not have stressed her when it came to payment, until just like that it had fallen through, no explanations except that she did not approve of some of her beliefs and paid her for the work she had already done as well as the goods she had already bought.
It was practically useless because, there were a lot of perishables as she was planning to make three different soups. There was no way she could store all of it in her small kitchen, it was either she leaves it to waste or she gives it out to people. The latter won.
It was when she was talking with Ify the other day that she realized what had truly happened. This woman that had been jealous of her had told the client about Mandy’s behavior and coincidentally, she had gotten the job. Mrs. Peters had been incredibly upset about that, especially because she didn’t have anything to say to curtail the wagging tongues. The thing that had been a source of great pride and joy had become her downfall.
Pride really does go before a fall.
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