Not like that

It was a warm Saturday morning; an ideal time to divorce oneself from demanding tasks. James was listening to the subtle sounds of nature when a shadow obstructed the warm rays of sunshine on his face.

‘James,’ he heard his mother speak from above him.

‘Yes mum?’ he responded without as much as cracking an eye open.

‘We are heading for a meeting at the Kombo’s and then we will go and see a farm near them,’ she said.

‘Town or the farm?’ he asked lazily.

‘Out of town,’ she replied.

‘How long will that take?’ James asked sitting up and giving her his full attention.

‘Most of the day, I would expect,’ she said looking over the lush green garden.

‘When do you leave?’ he asked.

‘As soon as I get to the car,’ she said, laughing as she turned to walk away.

‘Ok, have a great day and be careful,’ James said chuckling to himself

‘You know we will,’ she said. A moment later she paused, ‘James, please do me a favour,’

‘Anything Mum,’ he replied watching her delicate posture.

‘Check on your sister for me. She was so mad at me when I spoke to her a few minutes ago,’ she sighed looking off in the distance, wringing her hands and looking down.

‘Do you think things will ever be cool between you and Juliana?’ James asked

‘Hard to say. I just wonder about the things she says to me,’ Mum said looking away.

‘Why? What did she say?’ he asked watching her jaw twitch as though she was grinding her teeth

‘I’d rather not repeat it,’ the hint of a blush beneath her chocolate complexion spoke volumes.

‘I’ll check on her Mum, have a great day,’ he smiled at her

‘We will,’ her voice tinkled.

***

‘Hey James, why are so quiet?’ Andy asked

‘I’m just wondering about my folks,’ James replied turning to his long time oldest friend.

‘What about them?’ Andy asked running his fingers through his uncombed hair.

‘They went to the Kombo’s, then to see a farm, but they should be home by now or at least they should have called by now,’ he said quietly, glancing at the clock.

‘What are you, their time keeper?’ Andy asked.

‘You know us, we talk all the time especially while on the road,’ James said glancing at the clock again.

‘Have you tried to call them?’ Andy asked watching James brow crease slightly.

‘Of course I have but their phones are both off,’ he said.

‘That is odd for your folks, I see why you are concerned,’ Andy responded. Do you have the Kombo’s numbers?’

‘No,’ James replied, ‘Do you think your mum has them?’

As Andy calls his mum, Juliana walks in. She was the most adorable little sister a guy could have and she was growing up to be a beautiful young woman. The seven year age gap makes him very protective over her.

‘Hey girl, have you heard from mum and dad?’ He asks keeping his tone level

‘Nope!’ she responds as she flops into a seat, ‘We barely talk so silence between me and them is normal,’ she adds, cranking the television volume up.

‘Do you have to do that Juliana?’

‘What?’

‘Turn up the volume at night?’

‘You are so boring. Ah!’ Juliana says, stomping out in disgust.

 

Just then his phone lights up with an incoming text from #GET411

This evening a trailer heading down the escarpment lost control, ramming into five vehicles including four personal cars and a fourteen seater minibus. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the driver of the trailer lost control after his brakes failed as he descended the final section of the Rift Valley escarpment. He is said to be injured but alive. Two occupants of one car, a man and a woman died on the spot with many other casualties rushed to hospital.

He grabs his tablet and spends time checking out updates, momentarily forgetting his phone which kept ringing incessantly. It is after eleven pm and regardless of the odd hour, he grabs it.

‘Hello?’ James says.

‘Yes. My name is Sergeant John Kibet from the Naivasha Police station,’ the caller responds.

‘How can I help you sir?’ James responds, straightening up.

‘Are you James Kasina?’ Sergeant Kibet asks.

‘Yes I am,’ he responds.

‘Is your father Michael Kasina?’ Sergeant Kibet asks.

‘Yes he is,’ James replied.

‘Where are you?’

‘Sergeant Kibet, what are all these questions about?’ James asks stilling himself waiting for the punch line.

Breathe dude, breathe! Get your emotions under control.

The mention of a police officer caught Andy’s attention and he watched James face keenly for clues.

‘Did you hear about the Kinungi accident?’ Sergeant Kibet asked.

‘Yes, I have just seen the story online,’ James said.

‘I regret to inform you that your parent’s car was part of that accident,’ Sergeant Kibet said.

James held his head seeking balance. Many thoughts were running through his mind, are they ok? Why is Sergeant Kibet calling and not them? How did they get his number? His breath hitched as he struggled to calm his racing heart and keep his body in check. Even with his hand lost traction and his phone fell to the sofa beside him. Andy saw the phone fall and picked it up,

‘Hello?’ Andy says

‘Who is this?’ Sergeant Kibet asks

‘I am Andy, a friend of James.’ he responds.

‘I’m Sergeant Kibet from the Naivasha Police station,’ Kibet said.

‘Sergeant Kibet, is something wrong?’ Andy asks

‘Mr and Mrs Kasina were in the Kinungi accident and I would like James to come down. Can you organise that?’ Sergeant Kibet asks.

‘We’ll be there as soon as possible,’ Andy responds, glancing at James and wondering where to start.

***

‘James, we need to get going,’ Andy said.

‘Alright,’ he replied. ‘Will you drive?’

‘Of course! Which car do we take?’ Andy asked.

‘Let’s take the Subaru, it has the best lights and mum keeps it fuelled,’ he said, driving hands deeper into his pockets as he turned around to stare at a portrait of his parents. Thoughts of the events which had just occurred filled his mind.

‘Hey…hey…,’ Andy jabbed him, jolting him out of his thoughts.

‘What dude? Can’t you just call me instead of jabbing with your bony elbow?’

‘I have called you four times, what else did you expect me to do?’ Andy retorted.

‘What?’ James asked.

‘We need to get going now.’

‘What will we do about Juliana?’ James asked. Juliana’s had reacted unexpectedly, coiling herself in the sofa as she sobbed, saying she wanted to accompany her brother to Naivasha. It took some amount of convincing her to stay, and she had eventually calmed down.

‘Sarah is on her way over to stay with her,’ Andy replied. ‘I told mum what happened and she will be dropping Sarah as soon as possible.”

He picked the keys from the key rack at the door and went to warm the car as James did one last check of the house before following him out. Naivasha was only eighty kilometres from Nairobi and with a good car and clear road they did it in less than an hour. For the first time in many years it was a silent drive, listening to music each one lost in his own thoughts. Andy kept drumming the steering wheel in tune to the music, throwing in a few words to try and cheer James up. Once parked at the police station, they took a moment to gather their thoughts.

‘Call it intuition,’ James said, softly, ‘but I think my parents are the couple that did not make it.’

‘Don’t be like that…hold onto faith man, hold onto faith,’ Andy said.

‘I am still hoping but I just have this thought that I can’t get off my mind. It is them who died,’ he said

‘Why?’ Andy asked

‘If they were alive we would have been told to go a certain hospital not come here,’ James said

Andy remained silent as he tried to process the information.

‘Anyway, let’s go and see what’s going on,’ James said, opening the door.

***

Sergeant Kibet was quickly called once they identified themselves.

‘Thank you for coming so fast, gentlemen.’ Sergeant Kibet said. ‘This way, please,’ he added, motioning them to follow.

‘To where? What’s happening?’ James asked.

‘Well, I needed you to take possession of their belongings pulled from the car,’ Sergeant Kibet answered.

‘Why? Where are they?’ Andy chimed.

‘We are still trying to figure out who is who at the hospital,’ Kibet replied

‘Really? Still figuring it out?’ James snorted. Andy kicked James just as Sergeant Kibet gave him a pointed look.

‘Sir, can we see the car?’ Andy asked politely.

They walked out with Sergeant Kibet to the left side of the parking where impounded cars were parked and indeed there was the Kassina’s car. The car was mostly intact with only evidence of a minor hit on the driver’s side. How was that even possible? The floodlights came on just as Andy was about to put on the light they kept in the boot.

‘How is it possible?’ Andy asked. ‘This is just a simple side swipe.’

‘They were at the tail end of the impact,’ Sargent Kibet said.

‘What does at-the-tail end even mean?’ Andy pushed.

‘They were one of the last cars in the line. So it is one of the least damaged,’ Sergeant said

‘Andy!’ said a familiar female voice

‘Hi mum,’ Andy said.

‘James, I am so sorry,’ she said hugging him. ‘Hello,’ she turned to Sergeant Kibet, ‘I am Jane Kimani, close friend of Mrs. Kassina and mother to Andy,’she added, pointing at her son. ‘I followed these two as soon as I could.’

‘Thank you for coming.’ Sergeant Kibet said. ‘We were just looking at the car as the boys sought an explanation.’

‘Have they been taken for treatment?’ she asked. ‘Which hospital are they in and why are we here instead of there?’

As if on cue, Sergeant Kibet’s phone rang and he walked a few steps away to answer it. All James could hear were his short responses but they were enough to catch his attention.

‘Okay… I see…both?…tragic indeed… Yes… Yes they are here… I hate this part of my job…’

Sergeant Kibet turned and looked from Andy to James, then to Andy’s mother who was standing next to her son. They all looked at him expectantly.

‘I’m not sure there is a better way to say this,’ he said, sighing. ‘That was the hospital. I am sorry James, your parents died on arrival.’

Life stopped and went black for a long moment and only the hand on his shoulder kept him upright. How? Surely how? It can’t be. It can’t be! Bending over with his hands on his knees he struggled to even his breathing and still his heart but it wasn’t working. How God? How? Why today? Why us? Why?

The screaming in the background brought him out of the darkness…who was that? What were they screaming about?

James turned to watch as Aunt Jane crumpled to the ground next to the car and wailed like a little child and Andy did his best to calm her down. Now I don’t have anyone to console or be consoled by, he wondered to himself. Why Lord would you do this to us? Why would you take both of them? Didn’t you think we needed at least one of them?

‘James, I am sorry. You need to be strong,’ Sergeant Kibet said.

James just sighed.

‘I am sorry…’ he said again, patting his shoulder.

‘Sorry won’t bring them back you know,’ James retorted. ‘Besides, it wasn’t your fault.’

‘I know. There’s something else you need to know.’ Sergeant Kibet said.

‘Something worse than death?’ James asked sarcastically.

‘The doctor cannot find the cause of death,’ he replied.

‘How?’ James asked.

‘They have no visible injuries and x-rays show no internal injuries either,’ he replied.

‘Uh,’ James retorted and walked out of the police station to cool off.

Dear God, for some reason you send me this faraway place to tell me that my parents who served you diligently have died in an accident with no signs of injury and what caused their death and you want me to be happy with you? That is impossible my friend, You have taken it too far today.

It took a while to exhaust her tears and find balance then Jane Kimani became a woman on mission. Notwithstanding the fact that it was not yet two in the morning, she picked her phone, walked away and made a series of phone calls. Sergeant Kibet, a fellow officer and Andy had caught up with James walking in a daze along the road, led him back to the station and had found a place for the young men to sit as they processed the situation.   He even provided a cup of strong tea but Jane wouldn’t sit for even a moment. Her phone rang nonstop and she responded to question after question with clipped precision. Watching her was a marvel because from the broken, beaten woman a few minutes earlier here arose a warrior queen, ready for battle, marshaling troops with precision and determination.

***

As the sun rose and the day begun to warm the day, a convoy of six cars arrived at the Naivasha police station with reinforcements for the three. Sergeant Kibet watched in amazement as the occupants poured out and quickly surrounded James and Andy with love, hugs and prayers before they fanned out each with a different assignment. With military precision, tasks were assigned from confirming the process for transportation, to insurance assessment, to accident investigation, to release of the remains and the people were set to task.

‘Who are these people?’ Sergeant Kibet quietly asked Andy.

‘Family friends,’ Andy answered.

‘Do they always behave like this?’

‘Yes! They are a well-oiled machine mostly,’ James said.

‘They seem to know someone everywhere,’ Kibet said

‘They do, and that is a very scary thing.’ Andy said

‘Why scary?’ Sarge asked

‘Just scary,’ Andy said as they exchanged looks with James.

James walked away to stand by his parent’s car once more and Sergeant Kibet turned to Andy.

‘Was he close to his parents?’ he asked.

‘Very,’ Andy said, ‘his mother especially.’

‘He seems unmoved by this. He hasn’t broken down again since the walkout or is he just being a man?’ Kibet ventured.

‘He was mostly silent after your call and all the way here but as we got here he simply said, my parents are the ones who perished,’ Andy responded.

‘How could he know that for certain?’

‘I don’t know but I remember the look on his face and he was serious…he knew something on the inside.’ Andy responded

‘Mmmmhhhh! Interesting! Well, you have a long road ahead.’ Sergeant Kibet said ‘Is this normal behaviour?’

‘Is what normal behaviour?’ Andy asked

‘The stoic face, the lack of tears, the silence, the random joke?’

‘For James, yes! He keeps his emotions in check most of the time but not today?’ Andy replied.

‘His behaviour is almost psychotic. I see a problem once all that emotion is finally let out,’ Kibet said.

‘I’ve just had the same conversation with Daktari over there,’ Andy turned at the sound of Uncle Jim Oloo’s voice who joined them. ‘It isn’t normal to be so calm.’

‘Clearly you don’t know the Kassina’s,’ Andy responded.

‘What do you mean?’ Uncle Jim asked

‘Do you remember when Grandpa died?’

‘Yes,’ Uncle Jim said.

‘Did you see either James or his father shed a tear?’

Kibet and Jim exchanged a look.

***

Standing in the police station next to the hardly damaged car that his parents had died in brought tears to James’ eyes but he wouldn’t allow them to fall. He walked around it then sat on a large stone behind it and just stared into nothing lost in thought and deep sadness.

He vividly recalled his last conversation with his mother and wished he had hugged her instead of just responding to her questions while lying down.

I told you to take of yourself mum, he muttered to himself. Why didn’t you?

***

It was all like a bad dream really, but the days had turned into weeks and today they would be laying his parents to rest side by side at the farm in Kitale. People had travelled with them in droves but James didn’t see most of them and Juliana had chosen to stay close to Aunt Janet and Sarah. Andy was a good friend often by his side and assigning people they both trusted to him when he had to be away. But the pain and grief and sadness was all his; he couldn’t share it with anyone. It was just too heavy. The only relief he had was often angry or pained conversations with God.

You know God; we haven’t had a conversation in a while because I don’t know what to tell you. You are supposed to know everything that happens even before it happens so you knew that my parents would leave the house after mum and Juliana have an argument and they would not come home ever again. You also know that Juliana is at the stage she needs her parents most but you decide to leave me with the work of raising her. So help me understand…why should I even remain and serve you.

Look at all these people here, saying how much my parents meant to them and how  much they will miss them but I know that after we lay them to rest this weekend most of them will disappear like a cloud of smoke never to be seen again. How do you call yourself a good God? How do you live with yourself saying that all things work for good to them that love you yet you allow wahala to follow them all their days? How do you expect us to live in harmony with you when you hurt us so deeply? Surely God, do you deserve the place of Father? Do you deserve to be called a good God? Is there any logical reason to follow you?

Yes you sent help from unexpected sources to get things worked out but how do you want me to live my life and raise a sister I don’t understand and now my prospects of the job of my dreams is a dream because I have to take over the family business. Is that even fair?

Don’t be silent!!! State your case! Fight for your place! Be a man and come let’s have a conversation man to man! You say you are God? Show up! You say you have a plan? Explain it! You say you are good? Prove it! Because right now…you are nothing but a liar. Right now I just want to walk away from you and never return…Who will walk my sister down the aisle? Who will teach me to run the business? Who will I ask questions about life?

You are unfair God! You just came and scooped up both my parents if we didn’t have need for them. surely you could have taken one and left one? Surely you could have allowed me to get another hug from my mother. All I want now is a hug from mum. I just want to hear dad say it will work out. I just want my little sister to stop crying and cursing the fact that her last conversation with mum was a fight. How do I comfort her? How do I teach her that it is ok? Is it even ok?

Everyone keeps telling me contradictory things. One set say I need to cry while the other set say be strong, don’t question God, He knows best. Why can’t they understand that I don’t know how to express emotion? Why do they want public displays of grief? Why can’t they leave me to grieve as I know? Why are they making demands on me yet once we are done today they will be gone?

I’m so tired Lord, so tired, yet my life doesn’t give me the chance to just let go and kick back. I’m so tired and lonely! I just want my parents back.

James had sunk deeper into himself as they sat through the burial service and now he head was bowed, his eyes closed and silent tears run down his face as he accepted that today was final and his parents won’t be back ever.

***

A gentle nudge of a bony elbow brought James out of his thoughts to find the pastor speaking directly to him.

‘What is he talking about?’ he asked Andy, barely moving his mouth

‘Long or short version?’ Andy asked

‘Short!’

‘He’s been going on about how God knows the good this situation will bring out,’ Andy replied

‘Well, God and I aren’t talking so he can take that message and park it in his back pocket and peddle it to a more gullible soul,’ James retorted

The preacher sat down and invited an older man to pray for the family but James wasn’t listening till he walked up to him and said gently,

‘Beloved son of God, I know right now it doesn’t feel like God is good or fair. I know that your life has just been turned upside down and all your hopes and dreams have been tossed to the wind. I know that you now have responsibilities you’d rather not have, yet we are all saying God is good.’

He paused and looked into James’ eyes and said, ‘God is good! There’s no debate about it…He is good. However, his goodness is not based on our understanding of good but on what He knows will bring Him the most glory. You have a choice to make today, you can take this word and believe he is good and something good will come out of it or you can get angry, walk away from him and decide he is bad. Whichever way you go, there will be results and you will have to live with the results of your choices. Note that I said results not consequences because it is a result. Whether you pass an exam or not isn’t always premised on reading…you could study and pass, guess and pass, study and fail, guess and fail, or steal the exam and still pass or fail. Something comes out of every choice…it is inevitable. Choose your response wisely son of God, even though right now you don’t want to talk to him or even hear his name. Choose wisely because this is the beginning of a new chapter. Choose wisely!

As the old man walked away, tears filled James’ eyes and poured out.

How could that man know what he had just told God? What are the odds that whole conversation could be responded to in a matter of minutes? Could it be that God was indeed interested in his life? Right now…he just needed to make it through a few more days of visitors, smiles, tears, and hugs from more people than he knew. Right now, he needed to keep it together but the words of the old man would be unpacked later when he had time.

                                                            End

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