By the Granary
Timbo’s heart ached with anguish and disappointment when she realised her heartbeat had missed their “by the granary date”. Next to the warm wooden walls of the village granary in Kapuoyo she had enjoyed her secret time with Odiero. Their meetings had been going on for over a year even as her mother had repeatedly warned her against spending time with “that idle boy”, as she called her man.
Coming home on that sad afternoon, when the sun was waning, she felt no hunger despite her granny’s promise of a delicious tilapia that she was to cook for this evening’s meal. It felt all too true that, in the words of her jodongo, the flour mix exceeded the added water, turning the maize meal inedible.
Walking in to the warmth of the family home and the glow cast by their only lamp her heart rose a little. But Timbo barely had time to think. “You went to meet him again”, exclaimed her mother. “No, Mum. I was coming from the river,” Timbo feebly lied, the bite of disappointment gnawing in the pit of her stomach.
Nyakano was quite traditional even for kapuoyo village and had herself given birth to Timbo, her only child, when she was young. Her protection of Timbo had been fierce but now with Timbo’s emerging adulthood, and the stares that she received from the young men of the village, it had turned to fear.
Timbo’s grandmother, Nyabwaja, cared deeply for her serious and impassioned granddaughter and was growing concerned about the family arguments that had increased since Timbo had met Odiero. She came to Timbo’s rescue before the pot was to be broken beyond repair.
“Let her be,” she said drawing the sobbing Timbo to her in a warm hug. Nyabwaja had always been the one to soothe the fractious mother-daughter pair, and today, it seemed she would need all her patience and love to soothe the quarrelling pair.
When Timbo’s mother grudgingly walked out, her cane angrily waving in her hand, Timbo started to feel calm again, like when her grandmother had picked her from the floor so many times in her childhood.
But Timbo realised she was growing up and was amazed by the looks she got from the men of the village. It made her both excited and slightly scared. Why were they so ready to console her on the loss of her father, who had died suddenly the year before? The affection from her father had gone, and the pain of his missed affection had left her spinning.
Her grandmother’s words encroached on her thoughts. “In these days, it is stupid to stay out past dusk. There are all sort of animals outside, including those with two legs, who will hesitate to take you without mercy, my darling. Make peace with your mother. She just wants the best for you and herself is tormented by the loss of your father.”
Timbo knew the news that she had been denying even to herself had to come out. And she knew it would break even her grandmother’s wise and generous heart.
“I just wanted to deliver him the news” her sobs came fast and hard. Though Granny drew Timbo closer to her she knew everything was about to change. The pot had shattered and she felt helpless. When Timbo uttered the words describing the result of her passions with Odiero, she saw her grandmother’s lined and familiar face dissolve in shock.
“He planted a seed in me!” Timbo felt relieved to share the burden of the secret. But before her grandmother had time to respond, her mother returned, the anger evident and making apparent she had heard everything. Her whole body shook. Ever since the illness had left her needing a cane, she had had difficulty walking but her mother’s sudden infirmity today left the teenage Timbo’s mind reeling.
“So that is what you have been doing by the granary,” her mother’s anger rising further. “It is a disgrace to pleasure yourselves where we store our produce” Granny added. Timbo could do nothing but bury her head in her grandmother’s lap and hope it would all change.
When she had read the signs that her body was telling her just two days previously, she had felt a heady excitement and a gut-wrenching nervousness. But this had gone far worse than even she had imagined. Her mother and grandmother were the only family she had, though she had memories of playing with a pair of cousins in far-off Mombasa.
“Leave my house at once,” Nyabwaja ordered, as her grandmother pushed her still sobbing granddaughter from her lap.
With that declaration, as if in resignation, the staggering flame of the paraffin lamp finally sank and failed. And with it, the kitchen’s warmth evaporated into the dark depths of the night beyond.