Oga came in with a stormy look, he seemed to be about to bring down the house but she wasn’t afraid.
“is he okay?” he whispered at Mary as she still sat rocking the boy in her arms. She nodded in response, afraid that the boy would somehow wake up and all hell would be let loose. He smiled in his sleep and snuggled deeper into arms, putting his head right on her ample bossom. Mary looked at her feet, embarrassed at the appearance of things but the man who stood before her did not seem to notice, or if he noticed, care very much about it.
He looked at her, at that moment, he realized just how crucial the presence of Mary in the house was turning out to be for the welfare of the child. He had never seen the child in anyone’s arms like this, in fact, even as a kid he had cried so much, so constantly that he had been scared that he was probably terminally ill. But he had soon discovered that the child seemed to find some comfort in being by himself. What sort of a child didn’t like being held? He had found it difficult to explain this phenomenon to people so he had just put the boy in a room where he could be by himself. Now he was starting to think that it might be a good idea to re introduce the boy to the world.
“ Mary” he called. She looked up and met his fiery eyes, an unsettled feeling grew in the pit of her stomach
“ oga” she responded as low as she could
“ thank you…” he said. She could not stop looking at his eyes, they seemed to have taken on a stormy appearance, like it had developed a new depth. He needed not have said the words because his eyes said more than his lips were saying already. She blinked a couple of time and forced herself to look away.
“you’re welc…oga no problem” she said… again catching herself just in time before she revealed her command of the English . it was becoming so notoriously difficult to keep up the façade that she had built. It was becoming difficult to be Mary the house maid, the underprivileged girl whose only usefulness was in house chores.
More often these days, she found herself automatically reverting to being Mary the girl who had gathered so much experience that despite having been unable to attend any school beyond primary three, she could speak the language of sophistication and act in ways that would make it difficult to think she wasn’t born to the high class of society. His eyebrow went up in acknowledgement of the change she had made to the mode of communication. He smiled and turned around and walked out of the room. Mary watched him leave, consumed with thoughts of the things that had been and the things that she believed would have been.
She ran… she didn’t look back once. She didn’t bother to check if the girl had escaped her assailant. She ran with all of her strength. Mary knew that she had committed an abomination, she knew that the gods would be angry at her as she had raised her hands to their agents. What she had never been able to fathom was why the gods would need a medium in the first place. It seemed to her that the gods either had humans do their dirty work for them or humans were hiding under the robes of the gods to commit evil. Either ways, she didn’t want to be a part of it.
But she was a part of it and she knew, for was it to be called an accident that she had witnessed the the agent of the gods taking the meat of the gods twice now? Was it just chance that she happened to know that the agent of the gods walked with a very slight almost unnoticeable limp and had the smell of fire on his clothes? Was it just chance that she also knew that the village blacksmith had a limp that was peculiarly similar to the one that she saw in that person?
Maybe, maybe not. She damned all consequences and rushed into her mother’s hut which was now hers. She sat on the bed in the corner and dropped her head in her palms. Fear wracked her body and strangled sobs escaped her mouth. Who was she to tell what she had seen? Who would believe her? she feared that the girl had seen her, that if she survived, she would tell everyone the identity of the person who saved her, momentarily, she wished she had not saved the girl. If she told the people about the experience, the blacksmith would know that Mary had seen him. He would know that Mary was he one who attacked him with the stone, that was the last thing she wanted.
That same day, there had been another death. It was not the girl Mary had rescued. It was some other girl. The village mourned. And again, they took the body to the evil forest. Mary was bereft of tears, she felt dry. Now she knew for sure who the face of evil was but there was nothing she could do about it. The village would burn her alive if she even whispered what she saw to anyone.
When three days later, Mary’s step uncle had come to the house and told her to come to the city with him, it had been a very welcome idea. She had left the village without a second thought. She was a girl on the run.
The following day, when Mary went to the kitchen to get some chicken for duke who had suddenly developed a sickness that only chicken would cure, she saw the two maids and the cook talking in hushed tones. The minute she entered the kitchen, the three hushed. Mary did not bother to ask them what they were talking about, but she had a good idea what it was. She greeted them casually and went into the freezer to fetch some chicken drumsticks which she proceeded to microwave before leaving the room. The house felt strange, everyone seemed to be tense and even the T.V that used to be on all the time was off. Mary thought about the days when watching TV in a boss’s house was prohibited. The days when she had to hide behind doors to see what was going on in the movies that the boss’s children watched. Now she was in a house where the boss didn’t even care. Where the TV was always on and the mad could sit around and watch TV. She smiled and continued on her chicken bearing journey.
She opened the door and went into the room, duke was on the bed face down. he held a small superman toy in his hand and was twisting it around. The minute she saw him, she knew something was wrong.
“ duke? What is wrong? Are you okay?” she said all in one breath he he was muttering something under his breath. She bent over and inched closer to him to get what he was saying right.
“ what are you saying duke? I cant hear you clearly baby talk to me” but he was just muttering incoherently. She was frustrated.
“ duke, your chicken Is here… should I serve it?” but he still wasn’t responding. He was starting to rock back and forth. Mary was exasperated. The boy had woken up happy. He had asked for chicken and now he was not even able to utter a word. So she did what she thought would be the best thing to do at that moment. She laid back beside him, in the same posture and the same style. The she rested her head on her folded arms and looked in his direction. He noticed this and inched closer to her just a little bit. She knew that he was not going to give her another sign. She moved closer to him too and let him put his fluffy little head near her chest.
“ the d…” he was saying something again. She calmed her nerves and listened gently. Then she made out the words,
“ the devil is in our house” he was saying. Her heart rate increased. She became instantly alert. The word “ devil” struck a cord in her. she fought her impulse to spring out of the bed and get a knife. Her eyes rolled around the room and she held duke closer protectively. She knew that the chances of evil happening in her house were slim, but then… she also knew that anything was possible. She would not take chances with her boy. Whatever duke saw which made him like this… it had to be something crazy enough to scare a kid into fits.