As I sat across the table from Brian, I wondered if he realised I was no longer paying attention to what he was saying. I was good, I knew it. I just needed a platform to show them. I had been told since I was a child that writing was my forte. But I never really paid any attention. But now? I needed that damn job.
I could write for this tabloid, I knew it. The bills were piling up, and I had to leave the house to get a job. I had to do something, anything, to get my kids back in school. In that same school with their friends. I had already refused Mama’s plea to send them to a cheaper school, one I could afford—well, it’s not like I could even afford any at this point.
I thought of my girls, so full of life and oblivious to the change coming their way. I thought of their dad, too young to leave this world, to leave me all alone. Why did I ever get married, only to suffer this irreparable loss? I wondered.
“Alright, Kaima. Come back to earth. This interview is happening tomorrow, you know?”
Brian’s quick but gentle tap on my arm jolted me back to reality. Here I was, lost in thought, missing Brian’s helpful coaching on how to handle myself the following day.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Everything is just overwhelming and happening at the same time.”
“It’s alright,” he said. “I know you can do it, Kay. Just don’t wear this forlorn look to the place tomorrow. You’ll do just great.”
Glancing at his wristwatch, he stood up to leave. “I have to go, Kay. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
I gave him a faint nod. He patted my back and left the restaurant. Brian was my husband’s only brother. He understood my pain, mourned with me, and was helpful to me and the girls after Xavier passed. A heart condition took him from us. But Brian had his own family. He could only do so much, I thought. I had left my girls with Mama and taken a bus to meet Brian to help prepare me for the big day tomorrow. He worked at a construction company around the area, and we used his recess period to talk—well, more like wasted it.
As I picked up my bag to leave the restaurant, I wondered if tomorrow would finally be my day to smile, after so many months of holding it together and pretending my world was okay. “Well, you’ll find out soon enough,” I said to myself.
“You look pretty, Mummy. Going to a party?” I looked up from idly watching my folded hands in front of the mirror to see my four-year-old, Mira, staring at me but standing at the door. Who could blame her? The previous evening I had returned home in a sour mood and had an argument with my mother concerning their schooling … again. Mira must have heard raised voices and was staying at a safe distance. I had to smile a little at the thought.
“Good morning to you too, sweetie. Come here.” I wore a huge smile on my face as she hugged me. “Said your prayers?” I asked, as we both sat on the bed and I put her on my lap. She nodded. “Sweetie, Mummy is going to get a job. Hopefully.” I added the last word under my breath.
“Does that mean you’ll leave all the time like Daddy?” she asked with a tear-filled voice. “Daddy left and never came back. I miss him Mummy. Please, don’t get a job, Mummy. Stay with me.” Mira was in tears and at that moment, I was too speechless to do anything other than to hold her and will back my own tears.
“I’m not leaving you, sweetie. I’ll always be here for you,” I said in a tight voice, trying my best to control the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks.
“Then stay, Mummy. Stay now.”
I finally smiled at that. “Okay!” I said with a laugh, “Mama will stay now.” Mira looked up and smiled at me. I could see the seriousness in her eyes even as she continued to hold me.
How much did she understand? I wished I could spend more time with her and Grace, my first child. Since Xavier died, I found it difficult to stay apart from my kids for long hours at a stretch. It was almost something to worry about. Almost. I smiled.
My mother thought I needed to see a counsellor. She believed I needed help with my state of mind. I couldn’t blame her; I knew she was only looking out for me. But I was okay.
I sent Mira to go help Grace clean up their room, with the promise that I would meet them downstairs for breakfast. She seemed to be okay with that and bounced off on her feet.
“Graceeeyyyyyyyyy! Graceeeeyyyyyyyy!” I heard as I checked my reflection for the last time. I picked up my bag and started to leave, but paused to remove my shoes so Mira wouldn’t hear me leaving. I passed by the kitchen and saw Mother preparing breakfast. We exchanged nods and a tight smile, and I left. There was a mixture of sadness and helplessness in her eyes, and I thought about her as I walked to my car. I got to the car. It was unkempt, but I didn’t even care. I just wanted it to get me to the venue. I needed that job.
Never mind that Xavier hadn’t let me bother working since I left school, even though my mother had opposed it (I could now see why). Never mind that I had zero experience in the professional world, and oh, I was also ill-prepared.
Leaving the street, I drove by Aunty Dera, our good neighbour whose constant “Oh my daughter” was beginning to irk me. I didn’t want pity. She was already walking over to say hello, but I pretended to receive a phone call and waved and drove past. My girls needed me. Xavier would want me to do all I could for them. Xavier. I missed him so much it made me angry sometimes. I wanted to be strong, not turn to a walking bag of tears, for Grace and Mira.
“Madam, go park this car o!” I heard. I shook my head to clear it up and glanced at my side mirror to see a bike man cursing at me from a distance. I continued driving. You haven’t lost your husband, have you? I thought dryly as I picked up speed realizing I needed to hurry if I was going to make it to the venue by 8 AM.
Well, with absolutely no experience and an initially terrible interview (if you ask me), I got the job! I thought it was all over because I had stammered so much throughout the interview, but one of the interviewers, a kind hearted lady, had asked me to take a deep breath, and offered me a bottle of water. That singular act of kindness restored my confidence.
I had gotten a job! I couldn’t wait to share the news with Mother. For the first time in months, I really felt we were going to be all right. We had a long road ahead of us, especially Mira and Grace, who would have to attend a new school and live a less luxurious life from the one they had been used to all their lives. But yeah, we were going to be all right.