Monday, 29 August 2016

Burning Woman part 13

April 1994

Coming out of the priest’s private vestibule feels like it always does. Unsatisfactory. Father Underwood does the best he can but he doesn’t truly understand. I have unloaded my burdens to him but the weight hasn’t really left my shoulders.
Talking about it is supposed to help. His advice to keep on praying for my family seems ineffective for the titanic problem I am facing. The priest’s vows make him the perfect candidate for me to expose my private fears. He can’t tell anyone what I say behind the brown door.
I suremptously wipe the moisture from my eyes. Talking about my husband always makes me weep. I am angry at God too. I have served him faithfully all my life yet he let this happen to me.
Though the Sunday service is finished the women’s group is having its monthly meeting. I would have preferred to slip out and head straight home but the group is seated in the back pews right next to the door.
There is nothing for me to do but join them. I am a woman after all. I used to enjoy these meetings but I can’t stomach them anymore. I notice a few heads come together as I get closer. They whisper, their gazes on me. It is quite obvious that they are talking about me.
I take a seat at the back. My attention is directed straight ahead where the group leader, Mrs Murombo is making announcements.
“Now that we’re done with the business of the day. Is there anyone with anything to say?” Her eyes seem to be aimed straight at me before moving on. “Alright then we can go and make our rounds.”
The ladies at the front take up the groceries the group has purchased. The Catholic women’s group always visits the needy, the elderly and the sick once a month. Why did I have to pick today to go to the confessionary? Now I have no choice but to follow the ladies as we visit members of the church who are in need.
The ladies soon settle into groups as we make tracks for the first home. I feel like the odd one out.
“Mrs Moyo come and join us. We do understand your troubles but your mopping is becoming rather tedious,” says Mrs Mlambo a matron in her sixties.
The other women are all staring at me.
“With all due respect mam you have no idea how I am feeling.”
“Really?” she said. “Look at all of these women here. Do you think you hold the monopoly on marital problems...or that yours are the worst?”
The women nod in agreement, there isn’t a single sympathetic face in the group. I feel cornered.
“All of these women are facing difficult times. Sandra’s husband has a good job right here in the village but he drinks it all away within a few days of getting paid. Chipo’s husband beats her for no reason. Claudia’s husband left the village same time as your husband he hasn’t been heard from again. Would you prefer any of these men instead of your own?”
I look at Chipo’s heavily made up face, Claudia with her toddler on a hip and look away shamed by my attitude these last few weeks. “I am sorry mam. I will strive to do better.”
Mrs Murombo nods. “Talking to the priest helps but what you really need is this group of women you’ve been avoiding. Sweetie we’re not just here to gossip-” At that the other women laugh. “We’re also here to help and give wholesome advice. Believe it or not these old village women have been around the block a few times. There’s nothing you can share one or two of us haven’t experienced first-hand.”
A genuine smile forms on my face. I don’t see myself surrounded by gossiping busybodies and backbiters. These women are my family they will support me through thick and thin. I can see now I’ve been wrong to isolate myself. These women truly understand me. For the first time in months I can breathe easier knowing a part of my burden is shared.

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Woman Worth Ten Coppers (Shadowed Path, #1)A Woman Worth Ten Coppers by Morgan Howell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. Yim is a girl who is fighting her destiny which seems heavy and unattainable. Throughout the book she faces challenges that slowly lead her into accepting her role in the coming war. I can't wait to read the next book. I hope she finds love and fulfilment in the end.

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Monday, 22 August 2016

Burning Woman part 11&12

April 1994

At first Morris couldn’t look me in the eye. I didn’t question him but kept an icy silence whenever he was around. If he wanted to pretend that nothing had happened then that was his problem not mine.
He didn’t seem to know whether he wanted to apologize or mock me anymore and simply did what suited his mood. Sometimes he would be full of praises. My hard working wife, he would say, there is no one like you. When I remained untouched by such cheap platitudes he would become angry and resort to ridicule.
Sometimes I get so angry I can barely control myself. I simply can’t pretend everything is fine.
Morris Jnr sits quietly close to the door ready to bolt if his father loses his temper. Something that happens more often than not these days. After a short stay Onicca has long since returned to the city to have her baby. I wish Morris had gone along with her.
“I don’t like your moodiness,” he is saying. “I am your husband and if you don’t like anything about this situation the door is open. I won’t take any more attitude from you as long as you reside in my household.”
In the darkness outside I can see the shadowed skeleton of the brick house he is building for Onicca. It is a square building that will have an asbestos roof. The compound has been divided in half. My own territory is made up of thatched round huts.
“Do you understand what I am saying?”
“I understand.”
“And Morris, you will respect your stepmother like your own mother. If I hear any different I will deal harshly with you. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes, father.”
“Okay right,” Morris takes a deep breath as if he has just tackled a very difficult subject. “Nothing is going to change. I still love my family. I will still look after you and your mother as before.”
You did an outstanding job of it too.
“Thank you, father.”
The next morning we are having breakfast. A few hours from now Morris will be returning to the city. His holiday is over. I am literally counting down the time. I can’t wait. I think I hate my husband.
“I saw a lovely blue dress in a shop in town before I came here. It is in the latest fashion. It will look good on you,” Morris says into the silence. “I think I will buy it for you when I return to the city.”
“That would be nice,” I say. “But it would be nicer if you got junior a new uniform. The one he has is getting frayed.”
“What is wrong with you woman?” Morris explodes. “Can’t you just say thank you. I know Morris needs a new uniform. I can afford to buy the uniform and the dress.”
“I would love a new dress, Morris.” I say. “Thank you.”
Morris smiles widely and springs from his chair. “Come Rudo, I miss walking in the forest with you.”
We walk through the village hand in hand. I can feel people’s eyes on us. They all know Morris has a new wife. My life is fodder for the gossip mill. I am grateful when the forest finally hides us from their sight.  After walking in silence for a while Morris starts to speak.
“I don’t want to lose our friendship. Onicca and I...we just happened. It doesn’t mean I think any less of you.”
As much as I would like to lash out I know it will not benefit me. Nothing I say will make the last two years disappear.
“Then you shouldn’t have done it,” I say at last. It’s not much of an apology but at least he is not trying to flatter me into forgiving him.
“I know but it is what it is.”
We’re close to the river a beautiful green spot we used to meet when we were so much younger. Remembering those days only intensifies my pain. Bringing me here only reminds me of everything I’ve lost.
Morris grabs me and starts to kiss me passionately. I belatedly realise that his bringing me here is his way of rekindling our dying love.
Who says I want you to touch me Morris, I feel like screaming. The idea makes me nauseous, I scream in my head. I’d rather die than let you touch me. You cheating slime. I wouldn’t dare say these words out loud.


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Second Chance at LoveSecond Chance at Love by Monica Botha

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off I would like to thank Monica Botha for the review copy she send me. Second Chance At Love follows the story of Emma a married woman who has lived through fifteen years of abuse from her no-good husband Jason. Emma has the typical married friend Lucy who encourages her to hang on to her obviously bad marriage. I found myself wanting to punch this woman in the face many times during this story.
Apparently she felt that she was worthy to judge her friend even though she didn't have a successful marriage to speak of. Thank God Emma didn't listen to her horse dung advice ;)
And Micheal bless his soul was just the hero Emma needed to get her to move out of a bad situation into something beautiful. He was everything a real man should be.
The main character Emma is very real, a person the reader can relate to and empathize with. This book is a good read for people who are coming out of an abusive relationship. Once she found her courage Emma took decisive action that finally led her to her happily ever after. A good, entertaining read.

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Monday, 15 August 2016

Burning Woman part 10

April 1994

When he finally came to visit my husband had nothing good to say. He came with his city woman and her people in tow. It seemed everyone but me was overjoyed. Even my mother-in-law sidelined me in favour of the exotic creature purely bred in the city.
“It is the way of the world. We are women. We can do nothing but accept our station in life,” my mother-in-law says.
I say nothing as I pound the grain. If I open my mouth to speak I am afraid I will say something I will regret.
“Morris’ second wife seems to be a sweet young woman. It could have been worse.”
As I do all the work the delicate city flower can’t do, my mind can’t help but take stock of my situation. I am a woman, a mother and a wife in a place where I have no power or voice. Taking myself from this household would bring me peace but could cost my son dearly. Morris Jnr is an innocent in all this.
And if I left where would I go? My whole world revolved around the village. My uncles would never take me back. I would become a pariah among my own friends. They would only see a woman too proud to embrace the ancient customs.
“My dear sit down,” my mother-in-law pushes Onicca back onto the mat. “There is no need. Rudo will do everything. There is no need to endanger my grandchild.”
I barely suppress a snort. When I was pregnant I worked around the compound. No one had worried about my pregnant state. Onicca obeys and slowly lowers herself to the ground. Even fat with child the girl is beautiful. Her clothes are lovely and flatter her body shape. I know I am not ugly but compared to her I grudgingly admit I look drab.
Would things be different if I had grown up in the city, I wonder.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Burning Woman part 9

January 1994

“I heard Sophia’s husband is getting worse,” Mary says, as we walk to the well.
“I have heard the same thing,” I confirmed. “We should go and visit before it is too late.”
“It is such a strange illness. I have never seen the like. I could barely recognize him when I last visited him.”
“It is this new sickness from the city. There is a powerful traditional healer in the midlands capable of treating it. The hospitals can’t cure it.”
“The midlands?” Mary muses. “I don’t think he can make it that far. He can barely walk to the toilet.”
“Maybe they can get the healer to come here.”
“Maybe...” Mary says. “I almost forgot Morris send some money for you with my husband. You can come and collect any time.”
Mary’s husband worked in the mines and often brought back money and letters from her husband. Ever since the city visit he had not set foot in the village. I hadn’t spoken to anyone but Mary had guessed what had happened. I chose to neither confirm or disapprove her suspicions.
“Take my advice. Leave the man sooner or later he will see some sense. As long as the money keeps coming do not worry.”
But I wanted my husband for myself. If I could be faithful why couldn’t he be the same. Many women accepted what happened in the city. But I couldn’t abide such double standards. 
In his letters Morris never mentioned the new woman in his life. I read his stilted letters hoping for any sign that this behaviour would come to an end. But I received nothing but more heart break. The money I suspected was nothing more than a guilt offering.
The local hospital was growing strained under the new sickness so they had offered a course in home-based care which I could extend into nursing. I was starting in a few weeks. Hopefully that would take my mind of things.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Burning Woman part 8

December 1993

I can feel Mary’s eyes on my back. Every time I turn she looks away pretending that she’s absorbed in peeling peanuts. A week has passed since my return from the city.
After collecting Morris Jnr I had retreated to my home to lick my wounded pride. No one knew of the drama that had unfolded.
“Why are you staring at me?” I ask her as I catch her watching me for the umpteenth time.
“How do you know I was staring if you were not staring at me also?” Mary replies.
“You know what I mean,” I say.
Her eyes drift away from mine and she sighs. “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what happened.”
My facial muscles freeze and then stretch into a paradox of a smile. I wish to reassure her but I know my smile doesn’t look right. I have only managed to bare my teeth.
“Nothing happened,” I lie. There is no power on earth, not even death that could force me to reveal a single thing.
I had been disgraced. The memory alone was enough to make me cringe.
No one needed to know how my own husband had thrown me out onto the street to fend for myself in an unknown place. No one needed to know how complete strangers who did not know me took me in. They didn’t share my blood but took pity on me when Morris had shown me none. How they had given me food to eat and the means to return to the village when I had none.
I had borne that humiliation. I couldn’t do it again with someone I have known all my life. I didn’t want Mary’s pity. What Morris has done is wrong. His deeds have tainted me. I feel so small and useless. Insignificant.
“Will Morris be coming home for Christmas?”
I really don’t know the answer to that question so I simply shrug. I don’t even know if I still have a husband to speak of. Mary frowns but doesn’t question me further.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Burning Woman part 7

December 1993

After a few wrong turns, wrong directions and belly aching hunger I have finally arrived. The houses in the high density suburb all look the same. Here and there a nice green lawn and a bunch of flowers break the monotony.
I glanced at the little scrap of paper in my hand to make sure I had the right address this time. Checking to make sure there were no dogs in the yard I unlatched the gate and stepped inside. A concrete path led to a bright green door. The sun is going down in a blaze of colours as I put my hand to the door and knock.
A young twentyish woman opens the door. Her smile drops as she takes in my travelling bag and bedraggled appearance. Her eyes travel over my dusty shoes, wrinkled dress to my tired face. Something about her haughty expression rubs me the wrong way.
“How can I help you?” she asks me.
I notice her hand glide over her rounded belly. Her other hand holds the door handle in a death grip.
“I am here to see Morris Moyo,” I reply carefully. “Is this where he stays?”
Her expression hardens but before she can answer a voice calls from somewhere inside.
“Onicca sweetie, who is that at the door?”
My eyes widen in shock as my numbed mind finally puts two and two together. My anger is like a slow burning pot. It simmers and overflows the pot.
Shoving the now mute Onicca aside I stride into the house. As I march through the house I notice the beautiful and obviously expensive furniture. For months Morris Jnr and I have scrapped by barely surviving day to day.
A small sound to the right leads me into the kitchen. An almost naked Morris is in front of a white stove flipping some juicy steaks in a pan. In spite of my towering anger my stomach growls at the savoury scent.
“Sweetie?” Morris says flipping the last steak.
“Morris!” The lid to my anger has just hit the roof.
His underwear clad body swivels around. His jaw drops to the ground and the skillet falls to the ground with a resounding crash.