Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 11.4

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 four.

The hall was decorated in as festive a way as any room I’d ever seen and it looked like the whole village had turned out. And there was music. The girls were right to describe me as a dinosaur – I had expected the music to be provided by a traditional ensemble – you know, hand-drums, chanting and ululating. I hadn’t anticipated a disco with a lively young DJ who courted fame for what he called his creative mixology, whatever that is. I always thought a DJ played records, end of.

The music was playing as we arrived. Kanene gave it a strange name, but aren’t they all strange? House, garage, grunge – I can’t keep up with it. Don’t care to, truth be told. Anyway, the DJ carried on for an hour or so after we arrived, mixologising or whatever it is he does. The dancing was closer to what I’d have expected to see in a trendy young people’s nightclub in London than in a village hall in the middle of Africa but then, I am a self-confessed relic from a bygone age. After some time, the loud stuff stopped and was replaced by soft, background music. We made our way to the tables for a celebratory meal and I, for one, appreciated and enjoyed what Max described as the lounge music.

Once the meal was finished and everything had been cleared away, Kanene stood to her feet, tapped loudly on a glass and, acknowledging my reticence when it comes to public speaking, announced that Max wanted to address the village. I had no idea just how accomplished Max was as an after-dinner speaker. Her address was sensitive, witty and just the right length. After she’d finished, our standing in the village was second only to Kanene’s.

After a few more speeches, mostly in Kiswahili and so of little interest to me (I may even have dozed off briefly during that period), the party was finally over and people started to drift away to their homes. Sekelaga told us of a village tradition that we were duty-bound as honorary elders [did I forget to mention that during one of their addresses they’d bestowed that honour on us?] to respect. The tradition dictated that we visit every house in the village before we could head for home. On arrival at each dwelling, we were to place one hand on the outside of the front door and the other on the inside while Kanene muttered something in the local tongue. We were then required to touch the fire surround and the bed. This, Sekelaga explained, was to bestow our blessing on the house and everything in it. That neither of us believed in any of this was irrelevant, Kanene told me. What mattered is that the villagers believed in it and that they were convinced that our holding their entrance door promised them security and prosperity, that touching the fire surround guaranteed them health and safety [yes, I did chuckle at that] and that smoothing our fingers over the bed ensured fertility. Older couples who believed themselves beyond the age for bearing children had us drink a little of their pombe to secure them a fruitful harvest of maize, their primary crop.

It was almost 2am by the time we left the last house in the village. Neither Max nor I were in a fit state to drive home so Zahara offered to act as the designated driver.

“Are you sober enough?” I asked.

“Of course. I took no alcohol all evening. Or magic juice. Bad for baby.”

Kanene’s eyes flew open wider than I’d ever seen them do before. “You’re pregnant?” she asked, “I didn’t know that. How long? Who’s the father? I have so many questions for you.”

“And I’ll explain everything in the morning. For now, I need to get our honoured guests safely home.”

“How will you get back?” Max asked.

“My baby’s daddy will bring me back. Will it be okay if I drop you at your place then use your car to get to my man’s house? I’ll bring it back before four o’clock.”

“Of course,” I said, “though we won’t be there, we’ll be at our office. We generally leave at about nine-thirty so we can be there to start at ten. And we’ve a big day tomorrow – an important meeting with our first big client.”

“True, Hannice, but I think Zahara was using Tanzanian time. The day starts at sunrise, that’s six in the morning. That means four o’clock is ten in the morning to us.”

Zahara laughed. “Did you think I meant four in the afternoon, western time?”

“In my defence, I am very old,” I said, embarrassed.

“That’s great news. Not that you’re very old, which I’m sure you’re not, but that you have your first big client,” she replied, “I will do this one thing for you. I will call Richard, my baby’s daddy, and have him meet me at your place when we arrive. That way I can leave your car with you and you’ll have no problem getting to the office in time for your meeting.”

“And we’ll get to meet your baby’s father—”

“Briefly, but of course.”

“Before I do?” Sekelaga howled.

“Don’t worry, Mama. Hannice and Max will only see him for a minute or so and he probably won’t even get out of his car. You’ll have him practically to yourself all day tomorrow and be able to give him a proper interrogation.”

“Interrogation? Am I that bad?”

“Worse, Mama. Much worse,” Habibu said, laughing.

“We should go,” Zahara said, as we ducked to avoid an incoming unidentified flying object that appeared to threaten our continued status as living beings.

“Drive safely,” Kanene said as a mass all-around hugging session overtook the entire group.

Except me, of course. I don’t do hugs.




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