Come close, I want to whisper a secret into your ear. I will poison a little boy by the end of this story but it won’t be out of malice; it will be in the defence of my daughters but who am I to tell you what to feel? That’s for you to decide. Let me start by introducing my husband. You see I have been with him since he was a little boy with nothing to his name and nothing in his pockets. I have stuck by his side and watched his ramshackle kiosk grow, together with his kitambi, into a duka and his duka grow into a supermarket and that supermarket grow into a chain of supermarkets.
My husband is not a bad man, far from it. He has his moments but he is a good man at his core. He comes home to my bed every night. He buys bread and milk, pays fees for our daughters, and we live comfortably in a gated community with trees, fresh air and chirping birds. The only disease that he suffers from is that of not having a son.
My husband loves our daughters but I know he doesn’t love them enough, at least not enough for them to carry his name. I see how he looks at them and talks to them, sometimes softly as if they are fragile petals, other times harshly as if they are mistakes. In their skirts, I know he feels they are not enough. With their breasts and hips and womaness, I know he feels they are second to boys.
Sometimes I wish he had a different disease. Alcoholism, golf, football perhaps. I have lived with him through the frustration of daughter after daughter after daughter, till they numbered seven, till I hit menopause. We still tried, crossing our fingers that this time it would surely be a son, but a miscarriage followed and his illness festered. I can tell you for a fact that it would have been another daughter. I could feel her in my wrinkled womb, painting her nails with my amniotic fluid and craving chocolate.
Perhaps she would have turned out like her sister, Wangui—a peacock who spends all her time bathing with oils, brushing her hair and using the little pocket money she gets to buy flamboyant dresses. I look at her sometimes and feel as if she was born in the wrong era. She deserves to be a princess in a castle on a hill somewhere.
Or maybe she would have turned out like Njambi who has decided that her life will be about books. She is always reading; in the sitting room, in her bedroom, in queues. I have a feeling she is trying to prove something to her dad, that like boys she is also smart. Her report form is always full of A’s but my husband looks at it vacantly and mouths a faint, ‘congratulation’. Of course it would be a different case if a boy were holding that report form.
I see how uncomfortable and withdrawn he gets whenever we sit down with friends or family and they start babbling tales of their sons’ valor. They are ever chivalrous, moral and outstanding but truth be told, most of them are scumbags, drunkards who whore themselves to any woman that says yes to them. And yet they are portrayed as heroes. Sometimes I feel they up the ante and spice up the melodrama when we’re around. I know how they gossip behind my back, that my womb is cursed, that I am a witch, that I bathed in the blood of my miscarriage. I smile at them but I want to vomit at their falseness. The only thing that stops me is my custom-made dress.
Do you know who is valiant though? My poor daughter, Wanja. She has too much masculine energy. You should see how she carries herself whenever her father is around. She wants to lift the table, she wants to fix a broken chair, she wants to change the bulb even though she is just a short thing. She wants to go out in the dark and check the compound. She’s a girl but I will tell you one thing, she is more valiant than any of those miserable boys they brag about will ever be.
And you can’t talk about morals without bringing up Njeri. I fear she will die a virgin. She’s almost twenty and I am yet to see her with a boy or giggling on her phone. She is always buried in her King James or attending some bible study. The other day, I heard her praying in tongues and I wondered what she was asking God for. Perhaps a father who is present in her life. But knowing her, she was probably praying to be accepted into some nunnery.
But enough with these fables of my dull daughters, they are anticlimactic. I told you to come close so I can tell you about the woman who knocked on my door with a small boy recently. She was middle aged, perhaps in her late thirties, mild appearance and even milder mannerisms. The boy in tow looked every bit like my husband except for character. Where my husband is melancholic, he was jovial. Where my husband is bold, he was shy and delicate. The mish-mash in character must have been as a result of bastardy. Aside from that, his persona reminded me somewhat of my daughter Nyambura; bubbly, shy, animated.
The good woman claimed my husband had her shacked up in an apartment and she was here to claim what was rightfully hers; to live lavishly like the rest of us. Furthermore, she was the one who had given him a son while I had only managed to give him daughters. The mouth on her, mmh? I did not fight her. The good book tells us to turn the other cheek and in any case she reminded me too much of my daughter Mugeci, gossipy and headstrong.
I told her to come back on the morrow so I could make arrangements for her living quarters and she stupidly obliged me. I had wrongly mistaken her for Mugeci. Mugeci, though gossipy, has a head on her shoulders. Perhaps the daughter she should have reminded me of was Njoki, the dumbest of all my daughters. I will tell you for free, right this minute, that she gets it from her father’s side.
The stupid woman came and she stupidly let her son eat my food.
It won’t be long now before he succumbs to my cooking, one week, two at the most. The first symptom has already sprouted, a dry cough. The doctors have signed it off as an allergy but I know better and they will too, soon. My husband is on the edge of fifty. I’m certain his sperms are vibrant, fresh and ever dancing. He can have a thousand sons if he so wishes but when that day finally comes and he looks at his fragile boy descending to the ground, he will know that whatever happens his lineage and his inheritance will pass down to her daughters.
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