Tears Of Agony
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Young and beautiful Becky marries the love of her life; an army officer. She soon settles in her matrimonial home and all is rosy. A modern girl, that she is leads a sophisticated lifestyle and her code of dress sharply contrast that of the women like her in the village. This life style thrust her into a conflict with her husband's conservative uncle who does not approve of her dress code and ends distasting everything about her. He immediately begins pestering her with lecture after lecture demanding the she rid herself of most of her clothes and conform to the ways of the clan. Becky finds his concern an unnecessary bother and tells him off to mind his own business. The uncle, who doubles up as a clan elder used to being revered by all and sundry is infuriated by this open display of arrogance. He swears to teach her a lesson and make a hell of her life. Will he succeed?
Becky strode gracefully along a narrow path. A twenty-litre barrel of water lay on her back held steadily in place by a robe wound around it and looped about her head. Her upper body slightly leaned forward and her eyes were glued to the path on which she trod.Becky strode gracefully along a narrow path. A twenty-litre barrel of water lay on her back held steadily in place by a robe wound around it and looped about her head. Her upper body slightly leaned forward and her eyes were glued to the path on which she trod.
She raised her head a little to have a good view of the way ahead and her eyes caught a glimpse of Pabonya her husband’s venerable paternal uncle who was leaning against the fence his arms folded across his chest and his keen eyes gazing at her. She noticed a weird smirk in his austere façade and her heart sunk in a sickening plunge.
There was a marked difference in the way the uncle had been treating her. And it sucked. Her every meeting with him lately had brought some burning like that which a hand that had come into contact with pepper would bring to an eye.
“Why don’t you listen?” He started coldly and so suddenly that Becky gasped despite having anticipated this, “Hmm! How many times do I have to remind you that at no time should you be dressed in such atrocious clothes?” his voice was loud and harsh.
Anger flowed to her and a poignant emotion twisted in her gut. This was the hundredth time he was talking to her like this and about the same subject: the indecency of the clothes she wore.
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, walking around half naked? Look at you; wicked girl,” he condemned.
Becky examined herself as though she had been unaware how she was dressed. It was just her tight, black miniskirt. And indeed, it was short; partly covering the upper parts of her legs above the knees and was slit at the back. Anyone looking at her from behind would get a clear view of her thighs. On top was her red, sleeveless, tight-fitting blouse that allowed an observer's eyes access to her cleavage.
She transferred her gaze to his face after the brief self-inspection. Fury flared in her eyes. “It is not your business to tell me how to dress; my dress my choice!” the words came tumbling down before she had properly considered them.
It was apparent that her reaction had shocked the elder and set his annoyance simmering. Encouraged, she continued to torment him. She stepped close to him and looked up at his face. “Isn’t my husband comfortable with me?” she added unflappably.
“I have no interest troubling myself to mollify your delicate sensibilities when you would hardly be pleased with anything I do.” Her tone was laced with vexations.
Pabonya’s face wrinkled in distaste, mortified that what he just heard were Becky's actual utterances. They felt like a slap on his face.
How dare she spoke to an elder like that? How insensitive of her? What a blatant display of pride and arrogance?
Yet it was quite unusual and untypical of her. She had always taken his lectures without a word. How and when this peppery attitude crept into her, he could not tell.
Becky had found his remark very irritating. Had she not been patient with him for so long? Now it was about the time she stood firm and assert her authority defending her lifestyle.
She looked at him one more time and saw the look of defeat on his face. He was getting hurt and she nearly grinned fascinated by the success of her jab. It felt good to hurt him in return for the countless times she had been hurt by him.
She defiantly walked past him, allowing him another moment to digest the realities of the rude reaction she had just unleashed.
Pabonya followed her with his eyes until she was gone and out of sight.
Utterly defeated and rankled, he turned around and took the path that led to his house and paced away feeling his blood boil.
He swore to himself that he will institute a package of sanctions that will ensure that Becky pay an enormous price for handling an elder so demeaningly.
She is brave, he thought, just brave and ignorant. He would put a major hit on this false confidence and make her life miserable, full of sorrow and shame.
He wriggled in his bed. For the whole night, he had stayed awake. He had not managed even a minute’s sleep. Over and over, his mind had played the episode of his latest encounter with Becky. He cringed as the memory of her words came flooding in his mind brewing headache underneath the skull of his head.
No one had ever been so rude to him in his life. Had he stooped so low to be so ridiculed?
A feeling began to develop in him. No, it had been there for a while. Just that it was now becoming more explicit and profound. And the feeling was hatred. He hated Becky with his every flesh and bone.
He would not accept to be disparaged, especially by a woman. He rolled the blankets off his body and lowered his legs over the side of his bed. Rising to his feet and gathering his garments, he dressed himself and stepped out of the house.
It was dark. Chirping birds proclaimed it would soon dawn. He took a plastic barrel full of water nearby and poured some of its content into a basin. Then bending downwards, he washed his face and went back to his room, picked a walking stick that was leaning against the side of his bed and left the room.
He was going to call on Becky. He had resolved that the young woman urgently needed enlightening about the few individuals in the clan she should never mess with.
In a daze, he set out on his little journey. With every step he made, his pace increased and his walking stick swung to the rhythm of his stride.
He peered through the fading darkness. A river lay across from him. The river marked the boundary between Tirita, Becky’s village and Kures his village. Beyond this river, the ground rose steadily at a gentle gradient forming a small hill that leveled at its peak. He could see the corrugated iron sheets that roofed Becky’s two houses. Becky was probably peacefully asleep in one of those houses.
He crossed the river and climbed up the steep path.
Fifteen minutes later, he stood at the gateway to Becky's compound. Much to his surprise, smoke spewed out of one of the houses that served as a kitchen – a sign that she was already awake. He scanned the compound and at first, he could not see any sign of her then he moved closer, and she came into view bent down next to a chicken coop, her back to him, washing dishes.
Becky soon heard his footsteps, stood upright and turned around to face him. She paced aside from the dishes and wiped her hands dry against the leso wrapped around her waist intending to shake his hand. Then with a smile lighting up her face, she boisterously extended her hand towards him; a courteous and polite gesture.
Pabonya had not expected to be treated to such a welcome sight. But still, he would not be easily entertained. He did not take the hand. He just stood still staring hard at her a look of disdain in his eyes.
His act reminded Becky how she had crossed paths with him and at that instant she perceived that his visit was not socially concerned. Perhaps he had devised a way to settle the unfinished business of the previous day. And so the smile on her face died degenerating into something different.
“I don’t come in peace,” Pabonya proclaimed. “I am here to serve a notice. Your days in the clan have come to an end.”
“What does that mean?” Becky asked?
“You are in a lot of trouble. That is what it means. Yesterday, you created an enemy in me with your outburst. By the reckless words you spat to my face you declared war between us.”
Becky no longer felt any need to contest with him and preferred to end the feud and save it from escalating. “I am sorry!” she said. “Whatever happened yesterday I sincerely regret it.” She was trying her best not to sound offensive.
Pabonya was amused. Had he stamped his authority once more? Now he needed to give it more prominence. “Apology not accepted,” he said. “To serve as an example to women with such mind as yours in this clan, you shall be punished. Yesterday you drew the battle lines. Let’s get on with the war and see who wins. Let’s see what becomes of the arrogance you displayed. I assure you, I will blow up your world in a way you will never be able to mend.”
Becky took a sigh of disappointment. Her goodwill and pursuit of reconciliation would lead nowhere. None of her efforts to be amiable would result in any harmonious existence between them.
She had had an immense respect for this elder. But with his disquieting nagging, he had aided it to evaporate bit by bit. Is there dignity in respecting someone who does not respect you?
It was incredible how Pabonya had changed. He was no longer the very kind man she had known in her early days in the clan when things were rosy. He had been of great help during cultivating season. He would lend his men and oxen to help in tilling her land. Now he was always scolding, showing every indication of contempt and watching her every move with an appraising eye.
“So you won’t forgive me?” she asked giving a callous smile, “You came here just to aggravate me? You think you can scare me?” Her tone had changed.
“I am not here to scare. But like I said, to declare what is about to befall you. What you have committed is a great evil. And that would be paid for in full measure. I will not put up with your madness any longer. You will be relieved of your membership to this clan. For nothing can atone for your sins.” His voice was quiet but fatally sincere.
Though Becky did not see the real meaning of his threat, she felt its hostility in a different way. And her heart ached. For how long would she bear his humiliation?
The elder was going overboard, pushing her to the wall and if she would not push back, she would soon crush against it. “Perhaps we need to get a few things clear here," she had become so serious. "It is because of one man that I live among you. Kindly understand that I am neither married to you nor to the clan. If you find any shortcomings in me, or so do any of the elders, report to my husband. He will listen to you. But don’t barge into my house as early as this rattling at me like that.” She was fuming.
Becky needed to resist any of his attempts to bully and molest her to give up her self. She would not let him destroy every facet of the person she was and replace it with a being of his own creation. Neither would she let anyone rob her of her ability to think and judge for herself what is right and what is wrong regardless of whether her ideals subscribed to the sway of the majority of those around her.
There was that tone of confidence in her voice which Pabonya didn’t like.
It was his time to get angry. How could he be so dominated in his own territory? He was a permanent member of the clan unlike the hard headed woman standing before him whose position could be substituted anytime. Was this not Kapsoket clan, known for its strict adherence to the norms and customs of the tribe? Was respect for the elders no longer an integral part of the norms and customs? Becky was a deviant. She had failed to meet the minimum requirements to continue being a member of the clan.
“You have forgotten your place,” he said. “Don’t think for a second that there is anything special about you. Your marrying our son gave you no license to hurl insults at elders like you do.”
“I am tired! I am tired! I am tired!” she yelled raising her hands and locking fingers behind the back of her head. She had turned black with rage.
Pabonya stared at her with astonishment. “Calm down,” he pleaded with her.
“Don’t tell me to calm down. You can’t be stepping all over me like I am nothing. Hurry up with whatever you want to do.”
He felt the lethal bite in her reaction he looked into her eyes calculatingly trying very hard not to show a shiver that coursed through him. He was conscious of the fact that the engagement was getting chaotic and out of control. They could soon be creating a scene. People would soon be flocking around to watch them. Every spectator would begin to speculate on the matter and Becky could end up with a bunch of sympathizers. He would not like that to happen and a moment of quick calculation allowed him to pick the best cause of action: tactically withdraw and go tie up some loose ends. He would need to relay his plans with more precisions. He would need a coalition to back him war successfully and prevail against Becky. He would need to induce a few people to look at her in a bad light. A little stain on her image could turn everyone against her.
He cast a look at her one last time and the flaming raging hatred in his heart intensified. He felt like grabbing her by the arms and crushing her on the ground under his feet; crushing her into a paste as if she was some annoying cockroach.
But how sorrowful, his powers were inadequate to do just that. Yet he would find some way to do it in the future.
To Becky’s relief, Pabonya turned around and left. And she resumed her work with the dishes. But her mind lingered on the ordeal. Was there any real power in him? Was he capable of ruining her life? She could not tell exactly in which form that would come. The man enjoyed a great honor and respectability in the two villages of Tirita and Kures and more importantly in the whole of Kapsoket clan. How would she stand up to him? How would she put up a resistance?
She was not a coward. She was not afraid of him. Whatever plans he had against her, she will face it like a brave soldier in a raging battle. Besides, her husband would protect her. She was sure of their love and nothing could come in between them.
Pabonya retraced his steps to his house. He was bitter than he had come; partially suffocated by anger. He no longer walked with an air of superiority. The feeling of self importance in him was gone. He had failed to achieve the purpose of his visit to Becky’s house. He had failed to demonstrate the power of an elder whose utterances became the unquestionable law. He could not even intimidate Becky. It was incredible how she had treated him to a reception of condescendence and disparagement.
For several years of his existence, he had never come across a woman, born or married to the clan trying to challenge the elders’ endeavors to guide and direct the younger generation.
But here was Becky who seemed to have taken him as her equal and managed to instill a little feeling of inferiority within him.
He soon got back home, his breakfast was ready. His wife, Tabutany, had set a table for him. But he was in no mood for food. He sat down and was soon lost in his though
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