It was easier to carry placards in the streets of the capital city and shout your voice hoarse on the rights of homosexuals and same sex marriages. Way easier. It was also easier to make speeches during those well attended seminars for equal rights for gays and lesbians. To be honest, much too easier.
This was a different ball game all together. And suddenly, Sue wasn’t sure she wanted to do this. Landing in the village, the village she grew up in, sapped the courage from her. Suddenly she was frightened; sure that she had made a terrible mistake.
Someone was shaking her shoulder gently.
“Are you okay darling?”
She looked up to see the concerned face of Maryann.
Maryann. The love of her life. The woman who made her feel alive. Who made her feel like a woman. Whose single touch was like fire to her body. Something that no man had ever been able to do to her. She used to think she had a problem. She thought there must be something wrong with her……why wasn’t any man bringing that spark to her life? Yes, she used to think something was terribly wrong with her. Until she met Maryann. The woman who made her feel like a woman.
Oh, the paradox.
“Are you okay love?” Maryann asked again, bringing sue back to the present.
“I’m okay,” sue said with half a smile. The truth was; she was terrified. As a thirty two year old woman, her parents had been pestering her to introduce her lover to them. Their persistence wasn’t without basis. They’d been asking around and no one knew of any man in her life. So when she and Mary decided to do the introductions, they were more than elated.
There was only a slight shortcoming. Slight could err, be an understatement.
Actually, it was a huge shortcoming.
Sue was going to introduce a woman to them as her better half. A woman, not a man. In her village, that was not only unheard of, it was unprecedented. Standing there as they removed some of the stuff they had brought from the back of the car, sue felt stupid and numb, sure that so far, this was the most stupid thing she had ever done in her whole life.
They walked towards their homestead and someone spotted her. In no time at all, a small crowd of relatives and neighbors was there to receive them. They got to their home and the nostalgia was too much. All the memories of her growing up came tumbling in a rush.
Her mother was there to welcome them.
“Where is he?” she asked excitedly, looking past them, ready to see the tall handsome prince who swept her daughter’s feet away.
Sue swallowed hard, suddenly aware of how merciless the sun was beating down on them. She raised her hand to her face and squinted.
“Let’s go in first,” she croaked, angry at her voice for giving her away. She cleared her throat and tried to smile. A miserable fail. Well, no one could blame her for not trying.
Rebecca- her mother- looked at her for a few seconds without saying anything. She looked over at Maryann and sampled her from head to toe. Maryann smiled nervously and Rebecca’s questioning face broke into a huge grin.
“Welcome home,” she finally said.
It was official now. This was war. A war sue would rather have not fought. But she was here now, so.
Only family members were allowed into the house and the greetings as with any African family, were ferocious, genuine but with so much fanfare you would have thought someone had just risen from death. She shook hands with her father and uncles then hugged her grandparents and aunts. Finally she went to kiss her great grandmother, who’d lost sight a while back and who rarely talked. Under different circumstances, this would have been Christmas for sue. A day she would be enjoying to the core.
They’d barely sat down.
“So, where is he?”
It was Rebecca.
“Mum, I want to introduce you to my partner and best friend. Her name is Maryann.”
“So, where is your man?” her mother asked without flinching, as if she had not heard that statement.
“Are you listening? Her name is MaryAnn,” she said pointing towards her lover with a smile. “We want your blessings before we get married.”
You could hear a pin drop.
Someone coughed quietly, that disturbing cough that signifies someone who has choked on their own saliva. The silence prolonged. It was a painful uncomfortable silence.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, her great grandmother chuckled loudly.
“Does she have a cock?” she asked amusedly and despite herself MaryAnn almost smiled. One of the uncles wasn’t able to contain themselves though. He roared loudly, thumping his legs on the floor. He was so engrossed in the laughter it took him a while to realize everyone was looking at him disgustedly. He stopped immediately and lowered his gaze. He didn’t look apologetic though.
“What kind of joke is this?” Mathew, Sue’s father, asked with an extremely pained expression on his face.
“It is not a joke—“sue begun
“Oh you shut up,” Rebecca said through clenched teeth. “Just shut up!” she was on the verge of hysteria.
“Give the girl a minute to explain herself,” her grandfather begun.
“Ohh shut up you too!” Rebecca shouted and pointed a trembling finger towards MaryAnn. “You, whatever stupid name your parents gave you, kindly leave this house and never set foot here again.”
“Mum!” sue shouted. She was horrified.
Immediately, there were murmurs around the table, everyone talking at the same time.
“Isn’t that a bit harsh,” the grandmother begun.
“It is what it is,” Rebecca said with a shrug.
“And here I was thinking I had seen it all.” It was the great grandmother again. Everyone heard her statement loud and clear and suddenly the room went quiet. “If this isn’t my cue to leave this earth, I don’t know what is. My age mates were lucky. They never got to see this.”
Maryann was crying quietly now.
Mathew got up and signaled the other males to follow him outside.
Inside, the women kept quiet and said nothing, all of them avoiding each other’s eyes.
Suddenly Rebecca turned to face MaryAnn. Her look was venomous to say the least.
“I’m sorry and I want you to know that I have nothing against you personally. But you have to leave now.”
“You can’t do that! We love each other!” sue wailed.
One of the aunts’ spit on the floor contemptuously and said nothing.
Sue’s heart broke into a thousand pieces. This was not her family. These were not the people she loved and who loved her back. Or whom she thought loved her back. These were strangers. Cruel un-understanding strangers. She almost hated them at this moment.
Suddenly her father’s figure appeared on the doorstep. He had a machete on his hand and for one horrifying moment Maryann thought he was going to throw it at her. But he didn’t.
He pointed it at his only daughter and said in a quiet grim voice, “you have disappointed us hugely. This is not how your mother and I raised you. We have a goat here with us. We will offer it for sacrifice and the blood will be used to cleanse this compound. We will ask that woman you are with to leave. The way I see it you have two options. Stay where you are as she is escorted away or follow her. If you do, we will disown you as our daughter.”
Sue sat still and as the words sank in. she couldn’t help it anymore. She burst into tears. An anguished cry that came deep from her soul.
Only because she knew she’d lost her family. Maybe forever.