You are not a victim for sharing your story, you are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth and raging courage.Alex Elle
Read part one here
Read part two here
Read part four here
By my 15th birthday, there was little difference between me and girls born in this country, as mum proudly announced to anyone who cared to listen, “her accent is so Bri’ish, it was rike she was bon hia!” Mum had a very prominent central Kenya accent that no amount of bleach or fake hair could eradicate or mask. There is nothing wrong with having accents, everyone has one, but there’s everything wrong with thinking some accents are superior to others, and my mum and her cohorts definitely thought of their Kenyan accents as inferior to their white friends’ accents. Living with mum the last few years revealed a few truths about her – she valued conformity more than individualism; she was shallow and had no real friends; she was every type of phobic buried under an avalanche of misinformed values and religion, and she was a class A liar, more on that later.
As time went by, my hour-long weekly calls to grandma trickled to 5 minutes one-answer conversations once a month, and I no longer missed the sun. I was happy with the few (3) weeks of sunshine we got per year, and using mum’s skincare products ensured I was no longer the awkward dark-big-eyed child with kinky hair from the jungle but a beautiful butterfly with ample bosoms, straight hair and a British accent. If you behaved and looked like everyone else, she was happy. She could never settle for me growing up in Kenya and “becoming whatever those people become.” She was shallow and had no real friends apart from Robert who visited every few weeks.
One Saturday afternoon when mum was at work, I decided to snoop around her drawers. I discovered she had married Robert for papers and the visit to Kenya was to make it real. While there, Robert had adopted me so I too could come to England. In return for this, mum agreed to pay him a few thousand pounds and sleep with him a few times a month. I was retching as I read this. I couldn’t believe they had the audacity to have this incriminating information on paper and then sign it. This discovery stripped off any remaining respect I had for mum. I had to confront her, however, on second thought I decided to talk to Robert first.
“Hi Robert, it’s Maya. I need to talk to you about something important,” I texted.
He replied almost immediately and with palpable urgency, “I need to talk to you too, ASAP!”, and then an ominous follow-up, “don’t tell your mum, please!”
What Robert had in store for me, blew the lid off my mental stability. Not only was my mother a pathological liar, but she was probably a criminal too. In their initial negotiations about the ‘fee’ to marry her, mum had offered me to Robert if he was ‘into’ young virgin girls. When he showed his disdain for her suggestion, she said, “well, Maya is a child of rape and I have no maternal love for her! I might as well benefit from her existence!”
I was hurt beyond words. I was in shock for several minutes Robert had to shake my shoulder out of catatonia. Then I felt a wave of intense anger I hadn’t experienced before, I wanted to murder mum. Then a thought occurred to me that Robert could be lying, however, there was a kind of sincerity in his voice that wanted me to know the truth about my mother. I immediately began planning my emancipation, after all, I was in England the land of milk and honey.
There were other lies my mum had told Robert, the second biggest one was that grandma was not her mother but a woman she employed to look after the daughter she despised. Her supposedly dead parents physically abused her since her birth, and she had no choice but to run away to Europe. I laughed out loud when Robert told me this, I mean who runs away to Europe from Africa. It’s not like an aeroplane is a bus you wave down, or a VISA is a document you bribe some crooked official, or airfare is equals the price of coffee, but compulsive liars have a way of convincing Eskimos they need ice.
I realised my love for mum was based on my idea of her, not for any love or affection she’d shown over the years. The material things she got for me were out of obligation, not love. She brought me to England because, according to Robert, she was tired of paying school fees and medical bills, and wanted (no… needed) me in England so I could work and, someday, look after her. She invalidated me every chance she got: I didn’t know this at the time, I simply thought she cared for me and wanted to protect me, but then she’d go to Robert and whine about her ungrateful daughter.
In the midst of it all, grandma was taken ill and died before anyone could do anything about it. I believe she died of a broken heart; I cried for days thinking of how I let her down, mum was indifferent, it was like she was relieved, “at least we haven’t been left with a hefty hospital bill!” she said nonchalantly as she googled flights.
Grandma’s brother, his wife, 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren moved in our family home before grandma was even cold. That was typical of that old man. “I’ll burn that house to the ground before I let those vultures live there,” mum threatened. I believed her. She was devoid of emotions and addicted to money (yeah, she hasn’t paid Robert a penny to date – something about all the sex), so anything was possible. “I am not obligated to look after them now that mum is dead,” she proclaimed even though no one asked anything. “I thought you liked grandpa, and you supported him…..,” “He’s not your real grandpa!” she interrupted and signalled the end of that conversation.
Grandma came from a long line of strong independent women, she used to say the flamed died with mum, “I hope one day you’ll re-ignite that flame!” she told me often. It wasn’t until the revelations from Robert that this statement made sense.