Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 11.2

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.

Knight after Knight. Chapter eleven, part two.

Hodi!” Habibu shouted as the four of us walked through the door to his mother’s house.

Karibu.” The reply came from Sekelaga, seated on a simple bench with her daughter and another, older woman.

Kanene whispered something to Max, who said, “Sekelaga, it is so good to see you again.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, the older woman rose to her feet and, with faltering steps, approached us. She stopped in front of us and raised her hands towards Max. “Miss Matham?” she said, her voice shaking with emotion, “is it really you?”

“It is, Mercy. Kanene said you’d recognise my voice but I didn’t believe her. How long has it been?”

“Many, many years, Miss Matham—”

“Please – call me Max.”

“Too many, Max. Can I feel your face, please?”

“Of course, Mercy.”

Mercy Kariuki raised her hands to Max’s face and ran her fingers delicately over the younger woman’s features. “Time has been kind to you, Max,” she said, “your face feels the same as my mental picture of you.”

Max laughed. “I fear your picture must be teasing you,” she said, “didn’t you feel the wrinkles, the sagging jowls and the multiple chins?”

“I felt past them to your inner beauty, Max. That hasn’t changed and that is what’s important. The real you is so much more than what presents itself to the eyes.”

“I was saddened to learn that you had lost your sight, Mercy. Is there nothing can be done?”

“It is said that the very best doctors could improve my condition, but the procedures are extremely expensive—”

“And I have offered to pay for it for you, Mercy,” Kanene said, “I owe you so much – it’s the least I could do.”

“I know that, child, and I appreciate it; I really do. But the money you would have to spend on that could do so much more for the whole village. Rather than using it to restore my sight – which I have learned to live quite well without – it could be spent on preventative health-care or even research. Why help one old woman who has little left to contribute to the common good, when you can help create a healthier community in a healthier environment?”

“But it would make me feel so much better if I could help you, Mercy?”

Mercy Kariuki took a step back. The smile that had been playing on her face since she heard Max’s voice left her and she presented a stern expression – one worthy of an angry school-teacher. “Kanene Fonseca!” she said, “I am disappointed in you. Is this what it’s all about? Making you feel better? What have you become; just another rich person trying to salve her conscience through ‘good works’?”

“That’s not it at all,” Kanene said, meekly.

I thought it time to wade in. “I think what Kanene was trying to say was that you hold a special place in her heart and she has a deep wish to do what she can to make your life better. As for selfishness, which of us is not guilty of that? Billionaire philanthropists? Religious leaders? Politicians? Everyone is ultimately driven by a need to please their God, their constituents or their ego or conscience or even their sense of self-worth. And is that necessarily a bad thing? I think not. If our friend spends money on your care to the detriment of other projects, that could be problematic. But if she spends some on you and still helps other people, where is the harm? Only if her motivation is personal gain at others’ expense is it really questionable.”

“My apologies, Kanene. I misspoke. You have great wisdom, Mr…”

“Knight. Hannice Knight.”

“Kanene has spoken much about you, Mr Knight, and what you and Max are doing. You have our gratitude and our blessing.”

I saw that Sekelaga and her children had joined us during the discussion and left us in no doubt how they felt about what was said – Kanene’s left hand was in Sekelaga’s and Zahara had a firm grasp on her right.

“Will you indulge an old woman, Mr Knight?” Mercy asked.

“Of course he will,” Max replied before I even had chance to open my mouth to speak, “What is it you want?”

“We have to give the elders a few more minutes to prepare the festivities, and I would like to spend those minutes thanking our ancestors for bringing you to us.”

“I don’t think—” I started to say. Max, however, had her own ideas.

“We don’t think there could be a better way of spending those minutes, Mercy. Would you like Kanene to lead the way?”

“Max, do you think I don’t know my own village? I may be old, blind and not as strong or as agile as I was, but I’m not helpless. Follow me.” She strode through the back door and led us, at an impressive pace, to the ceremonial ground – a bare, circular patch of earth about fifty metres across surrounded by thirteen traditional grass-thatched, baked-mud roundhouses.

“Is there a significance to the number of houses?” I asked Sekelaga.

Mercy replied, “Ishumi Na Ntatu. In Bantu tradition, it is ten and three. Ten is complete and three is perfect. Ten and three is both — second in holiness only to the number One. It speaks of perfect harmony between a husband and his wives or between a chief and his subjects. For us, perhaps it points to harmony between the living and our ancestors. Come.” It was only when she took my hand in hers that I fully appreciated her age and frailty, and yet the strength she displayed when she pulled me towards the centre of the circle was of a different woman, a younger, stronger and more vital one.

Once in the centre of the circle, she looked around at us and announced, in strong, strident and confident tones, “Now we wait.”

“For what?” Max asked. Kanene, Sekelaga, Habibu and Zahara all shushed her.

“We wait,” Mercy repeated as Kanene joined her in the centre of the circle.



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