He got his things and left. He left all the pain behind. His home which was nothing more than a house filled with memories of sadness and grief. Kona was convinced he had done the right thing. He raced down the street trying to remind himself repeatedly that he was the victim. Kona clutched his bag a little tighter than necessary trying to control the energy and adrenaline that forged through his body. He looked back one last time just in case he was being followed. Seeing the highway just ahead he relaxed a little. He remembered the night when his whole world came crashing down.
“Don’t worry Kona, everything will be just fine, things will be just the way they were.” Aunty Carol had whispered into his ears.
“Thank you Aunty.” said Kona, dismounting the dining stool where his feet had hung loosely while seated.
“Kona, I don’t want you to call me Aunty again, call me ‘Mum’ and call Uncle George ‘Dad’ instead, understand?”
He was overwhelmed by her words and searched her eyes to understand exactly what she meant.
“I-I am sorry, I can’t.” the eight year old said, as he ran upstairs, banging the door loudly behind him.
It was the first time he wept since their funeral. It was the first time it dawned on him that they were never coming back. That he was all alone.
Kona cried himself to sleep that night. It was just 2am but he found himself suddenly startled by the creak from his bedroom door. It was dark and the power was out. He searched frantically for his torch but he couldn’t find it. He could see a silhouette at the door, but could not make out what it was.
“Who is it?,” he called out.
The shadow advanced toward him, it was a man, a very well built man of average height. He knew who it was now, it was Uncle George.
“Uncle, is that you? What’s the matter?”
Before he could ask a third question, he felt a sharp pain forge through his shoulders as he fell on the floor.
“You are an ungrateful child, we took you in as ours. Is this how you repay us? You cursed child!”
“No, no, no Uncle George, please, please”, Kona wailed as he ran around the room to evade the determined strikes of Uncle George’s old belt. “Please Uncle, please, please”, Kona gasped as he passed out .
The boy lay unconscious, as the man walked out of the door.
“Get off the road you fool, if you don’t know how to cross ask for assistance.” An angry motorist yelled at the teenager who was lost in thoughts. Startled Kona jumped off the road. He had walked for five minutes already and had not realised he had arrived at the busy highway; a kilometre away from the house. Looking at his wristwatch, he knew he had to move faster. “Angela should be at the bus station by now,” he muttered to himself, scanning the traffic for a commercial motorbike.
The last eight years of his life had been nothing but misery and injustice after his parents had died in a fatal car accident. He watched his Uncle and Aunt live like kings and queens while he worked like a mere peasant. Dying intestate, his father had placed his brother as the next of kin. There was little the law could do about it; except for his uncle to take care of him.
As the okada moved faster perspiration that had stuck like glue to his shirt slowly dried off and he felt less tensed. His thoughts trailed off again as he recalled how he had gone to the police after a week of repeated beating from both Uncle George and his wife, Aunt Carol.
“Young man we understand, and we promise you they will not hurt you again. Right now you have to go home, you cannot stay here.” the policeman had said as he gently shoved Kona toward the door.
“You don’t understand, they beat me every night at 2am, I cannot sleep, I am afraid. Please help me Sir.” The little boy pleaded with tears in his eyes.
“I know your Uncle very well. We will call him to order, just go home; we will go to the office to see him.”
It was a lie. Kona knew nothing would be done. The entire village was corrupt with Uncle George’s lies and political ambitions. Everyone cowered at his presence. His father’s death had made it all too easy for Uncle George to attain the fame he and his wife hungered for. The villagers all thought Kona was insane, they believed anything they were told. School was torture for Kona; his classmates despised him because their parents had fed them with the same lies. The only person who ever talked to him was Angela, a little girl about his age who used to come on holiday from the city twice every year. She was his next door neighbour, she heard him cry every night for help. Kona remembered vividly the first time they met. She was different. She was not anything like the other girls in the village. Her hair was braided differently in tiny spirals of corn rolls all meandering into eachother, her smile was so beautiful and welcoming.
“Hello.” He smiled sheepishly
“Do you need any help?”
“No I-I am fine” he said, trying to balance a crate of drinks on his head with one hand while struggling with a bag full of groceries in the other.
“I insist.” She seized the bag away from him.
“Thank you, you really don’t have to.”
“It’s really not such a big deal, I mean we are neighbours and we are heading in the same direction”
She was twelve like him but she was a shoulder taller than he was.
As they approached the house Kona got worried that he might get in more trouble, he wasn’t supposed to have any friends.
“Please don’t come in” he said, as he took the bag from her. “Thank you.”
“I know. If you ever want to talk you can come over.” She whispered.
That was the start of a friendship that manoeuvred Kona’s already disordered world.
The beatings continued as both his uncle and his wife, Carol took turns to whip him, in a quest to change the insane boy. But, he grew used to it. He feigned unconcious whenever he wanted them to stop, they didn’t know whether he was pretending or not. They never bothered to check, when they saw him motionless they knew he had been cured for the day. Meeting Angela gave Kona the strength he needed to live again. She was the only reason he kept fighting to live.
The okada man meandered his way through tiny streets escaping traffic that had began to take its form on the busy streets. Amidst the noisy sound from the okada, he felt a vibration in his pocket.
“Where are you?” Angela yelled in desperation
“I am almost at the station, sorry I am not there yet, I encountered some difficulties I will explain further when I get there.”
“Kona, this is not the plan, you were supposed to be here by 1.30pm, I have no idea why you had to go back into the house…” she trailed off.
He had forgotten how meticulously organised she was. She never understood that plans were always subject to change. As she continued speaking, Kona’s mind was once again lost in the events that had made him late.
It was 12noon, no one was at home, Aunt Carol had travelled, Uncle George was at work, Kona was supposed to be at school. He waited for his Uncle to drive out and then broke into the house. He had been planning this escape for years, thanks to Angela, the plan was flawless. He had his own key to the house unknown to them and he knew where his documents where. The birth certificate and the adoption papers were lying in Aunt Carol’s neatly arranged stack of books. He quickly grabbed his documents and stuffed a few clothes from his room into his bag and headed for the stairs. As he locked the front door, he heard the sound of a car engine revving in the compound. His uncle was back.
“What are you doing here young man? You ought to be in school?” Uncle George looked at him in shock.
“I forgot something, I had to come back to get it.
“How did you get in?”
Closing the gap between them, the 220 pound man moved briskly toward Kona and noticed the bag in his hands, it wasn’t his school bag.
“Let’s go inside.” Uncle George said.
He pushed Kona through the door, sending the skinny teenager lying face down on the floor. The force was not anticipated. He got back on his feet and looked his Uncle in the eye. He could sense fear in the man’s eyes.
“Don’t you ever lay your hands on me again I am tired of this, it has to stop now Uncle.” He had not addressed him as ‘Uncle’ in eight years. His courage earned him three slaps and a dozen kicks.
“Get up! You want to be a man?” He said, talking between breaths. “You want to run away? Don’t you? You are ill Kona, you cannot survive out there without us you stupid boy…”
Kona looked around for an object big enough to knock down his Uncle. He noticed the glass vase twelve inches away. His body ached all over from the kicks. He struggled to get on his feet, then took few steps back feigning tears as he apologised for his actions.
“You should be sorry. I can’t wait to tell Carol, this is utterly preposterous.” He got out his phone to call his wife.
This was Kona’s cue. He lifted the glass vase with all the strength he had and threw it at his Uncle. The hefty man fell on the floor with a thunderous sound, as pieces from the broken glass dissipated all over the wooden floor. Kona looked at his Uncle in shock. He was not sure whether he was dead or not. He did not want to know. He pulled his Uncle into one of the rooms downstairs and swept the mess on the floor as quickly as he could, that was when he noticed his Uncle’s phone. He picked it up and discovered his Uncle had not successfully called his wife. He took the phone with him, picked his bag and left.
“Hello. Hello. Hello…” Angela yelled, then hung up. He forgot she was still on the phone.
He was already at the bus station now. It was packed with so many people; from travellers to traders. He began searching for Angela. She should have bought their tickets by now. “He was the only loose end of this plan.” He thought.
He called her, her phone was off. He dialled the phone number more carefully this time, and he received the same message. Beads of sweat lined Kona’s forehead as he struggled to remain calm. He broke into a half run, as he walked and ran at the same time, searching more frantically for Angela. She was not in the bus station. She had not come to the bus station.
He had no ticket. No money. He sat on the floor in frustration and cried. He cried because he had nothing to live for. He began to second guess himself and for the first time ever, he believed what his Uncle had said. He couldn’t survive without them. He was ill.