the husband is mine

Mize looked stunningly beautiful after her and Chelule’s colorful traditional wedding. Sitting with her mother-in-law and two of her husband’s aunts, Mama Ngoma and Kanze, she watched the traditional bean soup boil in the pot. it was the beginning of leaving as it is known in Konde customs. He was going to stay home for a month, taking advice from different elders of the Chelule clan. “Take care of your husband’s stomach and you will win his heart,” said Mama Ngoma as she slowly stirred the bean soup. She was teaching him how to cook special traditional delicacies and how to be a wife in all aspects.

Mize’s parents couldn’t stop thanking the gods, as their daughter had fallen into the hands of a man with great fortune. She was the eldest daughter of a polygamous family. When Chelule first met her, her heart caught fire and it wasn’t long before she proposed to him. Chelule reeked of rich when he married Mize. He ran business chains in Sawai City and also had branches in other cities. Many parents lined up their daughters for him, but Mize defeated them all.

Chiku, the sister who follows Mize, never stopped being tormented by her sister’s envy. She had married Kazungu, a kindergarten teacher whom she perpetually compared to Chelule. Kazungu was a fervent traditionalist and staunch Catholic who never believed in family planning methods. He once seriously beat up Chiku, after learning that he had attended a family planning seminar. In a span of six years, Kazungu and Chiku had seven children. It was a life of struggle since his emigrated salary was not enough. His lifestyle was to live on handouts from friends and relatives. Mize contributed substantially to its upkeep.

Mishi, Mize’s other sister, the third born in the family, has no room for envy. Being a strong supporter of singleness, she always said that she has no time for the conventions and restrictions of marriage. “I love the freedom that single life brings,” she said. When her sisters talked about her marriages, she bragged about her latest conquests in male circles.

Six years later, Chelule and Mize had two children, a son and a daughter. A perfect number according to them. When his relatives pressured him to have more children, he stood his ground. “It is better to have few children who can be given proper attention and good education,” he said.

One morning, Mize woke up with a headache. She was initially not serious, but she persisted until noon. She sent her maid to the nearest pharmacy to buy panadol for her. Although the panadol didn’t help take the pain away from her, she still went to Keiyo’s market to check on her business. It was because of her supervision that she suddenly fell down and became unconscious. In extreme panic, her workers screamed for help from their neighbors, who rushed to call an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and stopped at Mize’s stand to admit a surprise hit on the spectators.

Upon arrival at Mikocheni Mission Hospital, she was admitted to the emergency room. After the doctor examined her, she recommended transferring her to the Intensive Care Unit. It was later discovered that Ella Mize suffered a severe stroke that tore out a blood vessel on the left side of her head, causing internal bleeding.

Doctors’ frantic efforts to save her life proved futile when she succumbed two days after being admitted to hospital. News of Mize’s death spread across Sawai like wildfire. There were tears, lamentations, dances and songs of mourning. Chelule bravely took it, but couldn’t help herself on the day of her funeral.

After forty days of mourning, the clan had the incipient task of designating who would inherit Mize, according to konde customs. It was the norm that when a married woman died, her younger sister who followed her would be the next to inherit her. Despite the spread of Christianity among the Konde people, this custom was still appreciated. Mishi, the self-proclaimed spinster, was the rightful sister to inherit Mize. But Mishi is unwilling to budget for the pressure put on her by the elders of her clan. “My respected elders, don’t let me fool you. I can’t step into my late sister’s shoes. I’m not marriage material, that’s all,” she said firmly.

When the elders gave up on Mishi, they called an internal meeting among themselves to determine the next course of action. It was decided that he would approach Kadogo, the youngest daughter in the family. Kadogo in his twenties, just finished high school, waiting to join the Accounting Polytechnic course. She is lovely, the semi-dark finish of hers could give her away as an Ethiopian girl. On the home front she is an impeccable housekeeper. Finally, when the elders ask for her consent to marry Chelule, she sheepishly says no.

The time for the “porridge party” was in sight. The older women of the clan had asked Chiku to join them for the occasion. This is the time when these women would prepare millet porridge, mix it with sour milk, pour it into a big gourd and let each person help themselves. They made Kadogo sit in the middle, while the women formed a circle around him. She would then receive nuggets of advice from each. The occasion was plentiful, and as they each enjoyed their portion of porridge from her, Chiku struck into a defiant mood. “You all don’t understand. Kadogo is a young mother, too naive to recognize the needs of a man who just lost his wife,” she said with an authority that baffled the women. As the women tried to accept her words, she left the small shack in protest.

One night, before sleep overtook her, she gazed at the four walls of her wretched bedroom. Her husband was sound asleep snoring. I wish I could leave this misery behind and taste the wealth of Chelule. I have always envied my late sister. I must not let this opportunity pass me by.” seriously contemplated.

Charo whistled and sang as she ironed Chelule’s clothes. He has been a peon on the Chelule ranch for fifteen years. His music got sweeter and sweeter, when suddenly there is a knock at the door. He continues to sing his traditional song until he opens the door. Without much to do, Mize pushes him aside and enters the house with her luggage. Charo stopped his music and gave him a rapt look. “Ma’am, may I know what his mission is?” he inquired as the smell of the cheap perfume she was wearing made him nauseous. “My mission is one, to stay and take care of my late sister’s children,” she said in a bold tone as he picked up her luggage and headed for Chelule’s master bedroom. She searched through her luggage and pulled out a cheap “see-through” nightgown that she had just bought at the market. He lay down on Chelule’s huge bed putting on a seductive facade.

The long wait for the shipment from Kabana City had left Chelule completely exhausted. “I’m too tired even to put food in my mouth,” he told Charo when he got home. Charo was confused, not knowing how she would break the news of his “visit” in his room. Chelule was quick to notice a certain discomfort and embarrassment that covered his countenance. “Charo, is there something you’re hiding from me?” Charo shivered but mustered up some courage to speak. “Sir, Auntie Chiku came tonight and insisted on staying in her room until you came,” he said in a low, nervous voice. Speechless, Chelule headed for his bedroom. At the sound of the door, Chiku jumped off the bed and quickly knelt before Chelule, but he stopped her. “If only you could let me put myself in my late sister’s shoes,” he pleaded. Without saying a word he went to take a quick shower. The cold shower restored his strength and as he watched Chiku lay down on her bed, he couldn’t resist her sumptuous body. His heartbeat rose and he found himself lying next to him. They spent the night together.

In the morning, Chelule looked at Chiku as she lay beside her and saw a ray of beauty that she hadn’t noticed in all these years. And when the elders appointed emissaries to visit Chelule’s house that morning to fix the date of his wedding to Kadogo, they found that he was in no mood to talk to them. After putting a lot of pressure on Charo to call him, he finally relented. She casually entered the living room to find emissaries whose patience had been exceeded. They shook hands while Chelule looked at them with disdain. “We have come to agree on the date of the wedding,” said one of them. “My dear elders, with all due respect I would like to return to our custom which dictates that once a woman enters a man’s house and has ‘carnal’ knowledge of her, she automatically becomes his wife,” he said as the emissaries remained. calm but surprised On a spur of the moment, Chiku in her usual defiance entered the living room in a long dress. “Yes, I am that woman. The husband is mine. Go tell the elders that the deal is done,” she said and returned to the room. The emissaries bowed and left the house.

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