The white casket was brought forward for the mourners to pay their last respect to the departed as the song “when the trumpet of the lord shall sound” softly played in the background. A sombre mood had engulfed the place, the family and friends. Later, the casket was lowered to the beautifully constructed 6 ft deep grave, “the final rest place for every living soul” as the preacher referred to it. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.” the preacher said as the family members converged to the grave.
Grace was terribly affected by the loss. “If only she could have cared to listen.” She thought, amid torrents of tears flowing down her swollen cheeks
Kiptoo had only two children, both of them girls. Esther and Grace had come just at the opportune time and thus Kiptoo had no problem bringing them up. As a person who always advocated for the education of every one regardless of gender he had done a good deal to set an example for the community by ensuring that his two children had the best they could in the academic front. The children did not disappoint him, they were what the local residents called “tuwenzi”- razor sharp. They held the top two positions in the district for the best students both in the general and in the female category.
Kiptoo was really proud of his two children and would always tell them so. The primary exams came and passed. Everybody knew that it was just a matter of time and the results were out. And when they did there were no surprises at all. Both girls were admitted to national schools. Mr Kiptoo could have sent them to the best private schools but he decided let them taste the waters of public education. After all, they would be mingling with the best brains and the competition would be healthy for them to prove that they were the best of the best.
Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you view it, they went to different schools, though both of them were prestigious in the academic front. They took to studies in secondary school like ducks to water. They were not top of the class this time round, but their report cards were not anything to complain about. If anything, they were in the top ten of their respective classes and that was good enough for their mentor and hero; their father. It couldn’t get any better than that; they were God fearing children, bright and without blemish, at least in people eyes.
“Is there anymore that any parent would ask from his children” Kiptoo was always thinking to himself.
Four years passed by and the Secondary School exams came. As always the girls passed well. Esther the older girl, performed slightly better than Grace. Both however, qualified to join university.Esther, the more outgoing of the two, found new friends who promised to show her the “life”.
Esther’s new friends could not comprehend how a smart girl like her had not tasted alcohol, not had a boyfriend and not, wait for it, had sex. “Gosh! How do you survive?” they would tease her and she would shyly look at the ground. “Even when you have a car you have to test drive it and see whether it’s in the perfect condition, sasa wewe how do you know you are in the perfect condition?” the mockery would continue.
Esther decided that it was enough and decided to experiment a little. She gave herself totally to the ‘life’; it all started with a sip, always starts with a sip, a peck here and there and before you know it you are deep in the murky world of drugs and violence and sex such that you can’t entangle yourself. But Esther thought she was bright enough to know when to stop.
Grace, on the other hand, was the typical church girl, doing intercessory prayers for the sick and those who need the Lord. Mungu awaonekanie. She occasionally led worship both in the college and in the church. She was daddy’s girl. She chose to concentrate on studies and hold on to God because as she had read somewhere in the bible, God had a plan to give a future and a hope to everyone. Her star was shining brightly.
Rumours started to spread fast and furious about Esther’s metamorphosis and eventually reached her father. Kiptoo was a practical person and asked of proof from the rumour mongers to substantiate their claims. Inwardly, he was a little concerned. He thought,“lisemwalo lipo na kama halipo linakuja”. The colleges closed and both girls were home and both behaved very well. But Kiptoo, always keen and observant, could not help but see that his once open and talkative Esther had changed and that her place was occupied by a shy, closed and rather withdrawn person.
He got the courage to ask his daughter what the problem was. Esther denied vehemently that she had a problem, but Kiptoo could still see that she could not maintain eye contact.
Grace determined to uncover the truth and to help her sister. Her first mission was to find out who Esther’s friends were; she believed in the adage, “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are.” Grace visited her sister in her college.
Esther was furious!She had a gig to attend now she would not, thanks to her stupid sister. Why did she not call? Esther’s friends were disappointed. They could be heard telling her “Can’t you just boot your sister? It’s going to be fun.”
Grace could not believe her ears. What had happened to her sister? God, how could this happen to her only sister? She was in a state of shock.
News reached Mr Kiptoo, this time, not from other people but from Grace his youngest daughter. A sickening feeling engulfed his stomach.It was more than he could bear and for the first time since his wife died when the two children were still toddlers, he cried in public.
What would the people in the church say now? He was church elder that could not discipline his own children, female children at that! What would his buddies say? They had tried to advice him against educating girls, that they would turn into whores.
Later in the week, he visited his pastor and told him about his predicament. The pastor, a very sympathetic man tried to calm him down telling him the story of Samson and how he courted Delilah against his parents’ wishes. He told him it was something that could happen to anybody.
Kiptoo tried to call his daughter but his calls went unanswered. He resorted to calling from a payphone but when Esther recognized her father’s voice she would hang up. She even changed hostels and became virtually untraceable to her family members.
Then came the special weekend. Exams were over and Esther was in very high spirits. She had completed a whole course had not failed any unit. The next year she was joining medial school. Life was great! In her younger days, she would spend the night in church but that had become boring and other interesting ventures had taken the place of sitting in church for nine hours.
May be, she thought, she would finally break her virginity. It would be a cool way to celebrate the end of college. And off she went with her friends to party vigour and style. Alcohol and some hard drugs were also available for those who could afford. Esther could but she did not want to indulge herself, deep inside she was still the daddy’s little girl.
She was paired with a guy, but when she suddenly developed cold feet the guy forced himself on her.
After the party, Esther felt dirty, cheap, and totally violated. How had she sunk this low? They say human beings remember their creator in the lowest moments and Esther was not exceptional. She remembered her father and her sister. She couldn’t call her father, but her sister was the nearest option. Hands shaking and guilt flooding her conscience, she called her sister only to find the phone on the answering machine.
“Hi, this is Grace, please, leave a message, I am in church.”
“Grace, I called to say, that… I am sorry, for all I have done to you,… and dad. Tell dad I am sorry too. I will sort it out with him tomorrow. Bye. Esther”.
She now longed to be in church, the place, where she felt, would offer the much needed comfort. Would Jesus really accept her considering how she chewed him like a bone? She wondered amid tears. Tomorrow, I must apologize to my dad.
They left the party in a friend’s car. The driver was drunk and driving fast. Esther tried to plead to her to slow down but she was only ridiculed for being scared.
The bend was a sharp one, the reflex of the driver very slow, the car was speeding and moving in a tangent away from the road down into a ditch. No one knew what happened. 3 passengers died on impact. The remaining two were alive but critically injured.
The news reached the newsroom but they were treated as statistics after all there had been five accidents that month alone, and the month was still in mid section. “And the injured were rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital…” and the presenter went on to discuss other issues affecting the country.
Grace was the first to arrive in the ward a while later she could not recognize her sister but there she was. Mr Kiptoo arrived some hours later looking haggard and tired. When he saw his daughter he cried again. Two days later, Esther regained consciousness but she was too weak to talk. When she saw her family she cried; the people she had snubbed were here by her side no matter what he had done to them. With all the strength she could master she managed to whisper “I am sorry.”
A week after, Esther died. It was a sad ending to a young life, a flower nipped in the bud. The next month she would have begun the long, tricky yet coveted road to become a medical doctor. Now she was no more.
Grace was really affected when she listened to the voice-mail message that Esther had left. Today, college kids continue to party as usual and the newscaster still broadcasts accident news. The more things change the more they become the same.