The brightness of the day didn’t seem to reflect in my mood as I walked down the street that led to my home. It had been two hours since I had ran away from my father’s beatings. By now, his anger would most likely have died, at least that was what I hoped for. I kicked a tin and watched it bounce to the middle of the road to be immediately driven over by a fast passing car and left disfigured. I cringed inside, feeling guilty for having hurt a non living thing. Just how many times do we, as humans do things that hurt other things that we are not aware of? Knowingly, I ignored the small strip of road that led to my home that could have gotten me there quicker. No need to hurry, nothing new happening at home. My father had been in a bitter mood for the last two weeks, maybe more. Given, I had been very mischievous playing that prank on him and scaring my stepmother half to death. Two years ago, if my mother would have been in her place, she could have laughed it off, they both could. But not now. Things had changed, big time. And there were times I wished we could go back to the way it was, that they would pay more attention to us. But as usual, my wishes never came true. The beatings had started a year earlier, and had somewhat increased. My sister and I had came up with the running away plan. If you could free yourself from his deathly grip, you ran as fast as you could away from him, gave him sometime, then came back, and all would be back to normal. And normal, in the Wambigi’s household was no smiles, no laughter, no noise. For a twelve year old boy and a 10year old girl, our normal family was hell.
I carefully crossed the road and headed for the long road home. Right beside the road lay an abandoned cemetery, something that had held my interest for the last couple of months. Every morning as my dad drove me to school, and every evening as I made my way home, my eyes always wondered to the cemetery. There it stood, in the centre of a noisy road with horns blaring and motorists cursing, yet all that came from it was the deathly silence of the presence of the dead. I knew about the dead, my mother had died a few years after my sister was born, and I had always believed she was somewhere watching us, and this made me try to be good every so often, only sometimes failing was so easy. Which is why the cemetery held my interest. If everyone that was buried there looked down on their people, they would be very sad. For some graves were covered by weeds, some not even the names could be seen. It was an unkept place. I glanced at my watch, just a few more minutes before dark. Surely, it wouldn't hurt to walk in and have a look around. I jumped over a broken wall and landed on a rock hard surface. I realized I was standing on one of the graves. Quickly I stepped away from it and looked at the headstone. “Maureen Watuni, 1984-1994 Beloved daughter” instinctively I reached over and pulled out the weeds that surrounded the headstone, leaving it more visible. The act made me feel better, better than I had felt in ages. I stood up and looked at the vast piece of land filled with graves covered by weeds and dirt. The image of me kicking the can to the street instantly flashed in my mind. “How many times do we do things that hurt others and rarely ever notice?” The thought played in my head again. Suddenly, I knew what I had to do, I glanced around again and tried to come up with a plan of action. Someone shouting at me from the streets drew my attention to the crowd that had formed there looking at me like I was a freak. No one ever went to the cemetery anymore. Panickly, I started my way back to the wall, throwing a quick glance at Maureen's grave I whispered. “I'll be back.”
I quickly ran home fearing whatever wrath the people on the side of the road could have inflicted on me. Rushing through the back door I nearly knocked my sister down.
“There you are! You are soooo dead. Dad is still mad!” I quickly put my hand on my mouth and motioned for her to whisper.
“What did I do now?” I whispered back at her. Normally, my dad never stayed angry for long unless something else angered him.
“Mr. Mwakio was here!” Instantly I was more worried. Mr. Mwakio was my maths teacher and I had been skipping his class for the last week. This was not good. It was one thing to pull a prank on my parents, or shout back at them and call them names. But when it came to education, my dad drew the line. Quickly I glanced outside and noticed it was already dark. If I sat around there, the beating would be worse, and there would be no running because I would not have a place to run to. Quickly I turned back and headed for the door.
“Where are you going.” Christine asked, her voice raised a little and a hint of panic sipping through it.
“I'll come back, I promise!” And with that I ran out into the street, just in time too as I heard my step mothers shrill voice calling me to come back home. I kept running, no fear running through me at all, I had a mission. I was going to fulfil it, tonight!
My journey back to the cemetery was far shorter than normal probably because I was looking forward to getting there. There were lots of things I needed to straighten out, my relationship with my dad, my step mum, my school, and all that was important. But I had this tug in my heart that I needed to straighten things out with Maureen too....that was my mothers name. I had this idea, if I could fix up the cemetery, it would be a good start.
I would please my mother, the most important person in my life, then all the other souls watching down would be happy, and maybe together, they would be on my side and make everyone on earth give me a clean slate. I was in trouble, but I had a perfect plan.
I had cleared the weeds off five headstones when I finally noticed what was happening. I was never afraid of the dark, scary movies were my favourite and R.L Stine had been filling my bookshelf ever since I had turned 9. Yet the strange feeling around me had me looking up and around me. I was not alone, I knew that much, but who else would be brave enough to come into the cemetery this late at night? A sort of panic ran through me. The only reason I had been fearless when coming here at night was because I knew no human would do the same thing. But what if I was wrong? What if there were murderous or muggers who made this place their nightly sanctuary? My heart beat tripled as I slowly got to my fee.
“Don't be scared, we are just here to help!” A small voice that reminded me of Christina's had me quickly turn around. Before me stood a young girl dressed in a pink lacy gown. She had a couple of weeds in her hands that she had been pulling out from the grave beside me. My heart beats slowed down as fear left me. For some reason, I knew I was in no danger.
“Who are you?” I asked
“Maureen, my friends call me Mawi...I don't know why. You cleaned up my headstone.” I shook my head as if I understood all that was happening, as if that particular fact was supposed to be very normal. “This place needed clean up. We had some spare time, saw what you did, so decided to give you a hand.”
“We?” I asked and immediately I noticed the hundreds of people that had filled the cemetery. Momentarily they all stopped and waved at me.
“Twas Mawi's idea really,” a guy that had moved closer to me said as he extended his hand in greeting, “Hi, am Joseph!” I placed my hand into his and got a gentle handshake and a big smile. “You are a brave boy kiddo!” he said then he turned to Maureen, “Want to introduce him around, think we have plenty of time to finish this place up.” Immediately Maureen took my hand into her small ones and started walking towards the others. I met various people with various stories, old, young, bitter, grateful, people. It was an amazing hour as Maureen introduced all of them and told me their stories.
“So that's it, that's everyone here?” I asked after we had met Eric, a teenage boy that had died on a drug overdose.
“One more!” Maureen said as she led me further to the end of the cemetery. She knelt down beside a small grave and I knelt down beside her. Slowly we both started cleaning up the area around it. There was no headstone so I couldn't tell who it was.
“Who is it?” I asked
“Marcus! He was a street boy. Used to sleep in here a couple of times when he didn't have anywhere to go.” The thought scared me. The place was cold, how could anyone sleep here?
“He froze to death?” I asked, knowing it was probably the truth.
“No. He was killed. Chopped to pieces and buried here.” Maureen turned and looked at me. “He was our best friend. Always came in here and told us stories. He was family.” Suddenly I felt their pain and then a realization struck me. If they can feel pain, mum could too. I turned to look at Maureen's tear filled face and I immediately swore not to put a tear on my mum's face again.
“Why didn't he come?” I asked, suddenly curious.
“He couldn't. He isn't allowed to.” She said as she suddenly stood up and walked over to the others.
“Wait, Maureen. I don't understand.” I called out as I rushed to her side.
“You can't.....not yet.” Then placing her hand on my face, she smiled. “We haven't had someone here since Marcus, so thank you. We will protect you....it won't happen again.” I opened my mouth to tell her I didn't understand what she was saying but she silenced me with her finger. “Be a good boy Imani, make your mother proud. Make us proud.” And immediately she wrapped her hands around me in a fierce hug.
“Imani. Imani, wake up. You'll be late for school!” I opened up my eyes dreamily, not exactly sure where I was. Slowly I recognized that I was in my room. I quickly sat up as various emotions went through me. What had happened yesterday? Was it just a dream? Had my dad beaten me up till I passed out?
“There you are,” my step mum said as she walked into the room, a big smile on her face. “Come on, lazy boy. We don't want you missing a half day of school.” With that she tugged me off the bed and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead as she pushed me gently into the bathroom. “Do be quick Imani, you know how traffic is on Fridays.” Th dream did not seem to end, I thought to myself. For I was sure I was in a dream right about now. As I made my way into the kitchen I noticed the change in decoration in my house. My mum's picture stood on the further side of the wall. Right beside it stood another family picture of my whole current family, all in smiles.
“You kids ready to hit the road?” My dads cheerful voice rang into the room. I looked up just in time to see the big smile on his face. I was speechless.
“Hey Imani, you are not still worried about the game this evening, are you?” I shook my head not trusting my voice to speak. “Don't worry son, I will be there. And everything will be ok. You will be great!”
I loved this dream, I thought to myself. Every single moment of it. But as the time progressed I realized it wasn't a dream, it was all real. Something had happened last night, something special, something supernatural. Something totally hard to believe.
As we drove to school that morning, we passed by a big crowd of people looking at the cemetery. The local TV stations had their vans located at various points off the road.
“What's going on Daddy,” Christina asked from the back seat.
“I don't know Sweety, “ my dad replied as he crooned his neck further to try and see. A quick inquiry from a man from the crowd gave us all the answers.
“Someone cleaned up the place, all of it. It's as clean as if those people were buried there yesterday. No one knows who.” As the road winded down to my school, I smiled to myself.
“See you this evening Mawi.”