There is nothing more aggravating than the certainty of the night for one spending it behind bars, and feeling the second night settling faster than the first night
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
The walls of the remand prison were like a great monstrosity that would watch every movement Feline would make, to ensure that all her woes would either stay or increase. The skylight, peeping from the high roof of the prison cell, could hardly illuminate the room. Its purpose was probably to ensure that the inmates were able to see their way to the stinking toilet seat, but it was unlikely that anyone would get lost on the way to the consumer of human waste because it was easy for an inmate to follow her sense of smell.
As she lay on a thin blanket that covered the concrete floor, another one of like nature covering her body, she sensed an uncomfortable dampness, rising from the coldness of the floor, seeping through her clothes into the tenderness of her skin. There was barely any space between one inmate and the other.
Feline searched her heart for any venomous feelings towards Mrs Nyakubika and found none, yet her blood had become the food of bed bugs and lice because of her. She even felt a little sorry for her who had high expectations for her brother. Feline’s relationship with Mrs Nyakubika’s brother had come as a shock and a half to her.
For all his intellectual muscle, Felix had resolved to wed a housemaid as if the world had run short of eligible spinsters. A woman’s enemy is definitely another woman. Surely Felix had planted Feline as a flower at the centre of his garden, and Mrs Nyakubika had opted to be the worm that would suck all the sap out of the same flower.
Now the grim walls of the prison cell were watching over her like a devourer of rotten flesh waiting for his food to be ready.
Feline had never imagined that the night could be so long. The airless trap, in which she was massed together with convicts and would be convicts proved to her that even without the raging flames of biblical prophecy, hell could be furious enough to torment condemned souls to the deepest spot.
Mrs Nyakubika had had Feline thrown into the gutter because she suspected her of having stolen her diamond ring worth US500. After a brief search by members of the ZRP, the ring had been found tucked in one of the pockets of her handbag, which she seldom opened or carried around.
“We have no choice,” said the officer, leading the unformed team, “but to put you under arrest as this is evidence enough to prove that you have a case to answer.”
A curse, she thought, before saying, “I do not know by what miracle the ring found its way into this bedroom, let alone into my handbag.”
“Our call of duty does not entertain miracle nonsense,” said another officer, “We deal with tangible evidence.”
Feline had vehemently denied the theft charges before the police, but with stark evidence found in her bedroom, Feline hardly had any defence except simply denying the charges. Worse still, the offence had been allegedly committed when she was due to take her weekend leave.
The youthful suspect was not denied bail, but she had no means with which to pay the ZW$6 000 bail the court had offered to buy her freedom before possible conviction. From court she was loaded into a heavy prison van with small high windows and peeling plastic coated seats, the ankles of her feet burning in the grip of leg irons.
It is a misnomer to say Feline was taken to remand prison because most of her inmates were convicts, yet the loudest slogan from the justice delivery system was, “Everyone is innocent before the law until proven otherwise by a court of law”.
Her mother’s visit did not leave Feline refreshed of the horrors of the night. “Daughter, why did you do it?” she asked, her voice choking with tears.
“Do what Mother?”
“Damn you. You know what I am talking about. Mrs Nyakubika had been so kind to you. She literally picked you up from the gutter, and was that your way of expressing your gratitude?” Mrs Murazvu said aggravated.
“Mother, I never stole that woman’s ring. Now I feel spiritually abused because even my late sister’s handbag has been taken away from my possession as part of the exhibit. I can’t bear the pain, then my own mother is not even ready to fight in my corner,” the young beauty responded.
There is nothing more aggravating than the certainty of the night for one spending it behind bars, and feeling the second night settling faster than the first night. Feline tried to look at the positive side of things, but the negative side kept interfering with the stubbornness of a reality that cannot be shrugged away.
Mrs Nyakubika was not only an enemy, but a sweet one. She had been unreservedly kind to Feline. Infact, she had made Feline her household friend. Despite Mrs Nyakubika’s kindness, Feline had kept one very hot secret from her, one that had the potential to cause permanent damage to their friendship.
Mr Nyakubika had returned home several times during working hours to be with Feline. “I really love you Feline, and we can always enjoy our moments in this house as I don’t need permission to leave office any time I wish,” Mr Nyakubika would say, “while on the other hand my wife is on duty everyday Monday to Saturday.”
Feline dreamt of owning such a mansion, with four wings and state of the art furniture, and in such a leafy environment, but straddling into another woman’s conjugal space in the comfort of her dreams was not her idea of fun.
“At the age of 22, I know sweetness when it speaks out, but it turns out to be poison in the end,” came Feline’s reply.
“I will get you a job at one of the city hotels.My friend is the manager there; maybe with you under my roof you see a father figure in me, although I am only a decade older than you,” Mr Nyakubika proposed on another occasion, while Feline felt somewhat embarrassed in her thin dress, which she had put on on account of the weather and the hope that she would be alone in the house all day.
“That will be kind of you. Maybe that way I will be able to raise money to proceed to university,” Feline replied, “But let me make my vow clear now. I will never get into a relationship with you, even if your kindness generously cascades in my direction in that manner.”
“Maybe I need to get you that job so that we won’t continue living under the same roof.”
“You cannot sound more sensible than that. A clandestine relationship always works to the disadvantage of the female player. If you truly love me, why would you want to keep our relationship a secret to people who matter in your life? The answer is simple, I will be a pleasure machine, while you know where your commitments are,” Feline had answered thoughtfully.
Then along came Mrs Nyakubika’s younger brother, a 26 year old electrician with the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.
When he bared his heart to her, she did not allow the flame of her positive reply to be a torture within her. She simply replied in the manner Felix wanted to hear. “I love you too. I will ever be your Feline, and you will ever be my Felix.”
Feline could not imagine how bad things could turn out to be when Felix told her that his elder sibling wanted him to cease his relationship with her.
“Don’t worry. She will like it in the end. Don’t let her protest annoy you. Parade not to her your displeasure, but tell her without disdaining her attitude that you have found the Queen of your heart,” Feline told her soulmate.
“Wise words, I hope she will understand me.”
Two days after this conversation came the story of the missing diamond ring. Feline knew that the whole thing was a set up.
On her second morning at Mutare remand prison, Felix came to collect her. He had paid bail for her and had decided to take her to Sakubva, where her windowed mother lived.
Mrs Murazvu did not understand what she saw as Feline and Felix stood at her gate. She was prudent not to ask them questions while at the gate because given how Feline’s story had spread through the ghetto, she might draw undue attention towards her daughter. She quickly admitted them into the house.
“So what is your story my son? What is your business with my daughter?” Mrs Murazvu asked.
“I have paid bail for her and I am going to persuade my sister to withdraw the charges,”
“Acts of unbelievable kindness my son. My daughter’s ingratitude has killed me,” Mrs Murazvu said.
“Be careful not to hurt her. You will be shocked to learn that your daughter never committed any offence when the truth finally comes out,” Felix said.
Surely, Felix had broken the triangle that was forming between Mr Nyakubika and her on one side and the unsuspecting Mrs Nyakubika on the other side, only there was the prospect of her going to rot in prison after his very welcome arrival in her life. Feline was fervently sure that while in prison, her thoughts of Felix’s love and kindness would play the superordinate against his sister’s cruelty and all the discomforts of a condemned life.
Three more weeks passed and Feline was back in court. The prosecution brought all the incriminating evidence before the court. Feline only held on to her laconic denial of the charges.
The magistrate finally said, “Court adjourned to 1400 as we wait for forensic evidence from the criminal investigation department.”
For Feline, the wait was more stressful than her two nights within the grim walls of remand prison. When it was finally 1400, Feline was perplexed to watch the crowd that poured into the courtroom to hear the conclusion of her case. She had expected the prosecution to be given audience again. But that did not happen. The magistrate was going through some papers with a thoughtful expression on his face. He then raised his face and looked at his audience and began to speak.
“The court has received incontrovertible evidence that Feline Murazvu never touched the ring she is being accused of having stolen.”
Feline remembered that on the first hearing the CID had taken her finger prints. Things had begun to make sense.
The magistrate continued, “Someone had also touched her handbag and left their finger prints on it.”
Feline now realised why the officers who came to search her room wore gloves.
“With all this evidence, and by virtue of the authority vested in me, I declare that, Feline is cleared of any charges of theft.”
Outside the courtroom Feline fainted in Felix’s arms in the full view of Mrs Nyakubika who had to seriously consider who, between the two, she owed an apology.
A week down the line, Feline started her new job at Milkway Hotel as a trainee attendant.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263771271478 Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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