FOOTPRINTS - Episode 6

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“Who are you? What do you mean? What do you know about me and Bitalo?” Najja asked frantically....

“Who are you? What do you mean? What do you know about me and Bitalo?” Najja asked frantically. She could hear her heart ricocheting off her rib cage with the force of a raging storm. “I was there that night. I saw it all happen. I believe I was destined by the gods to witness what happened that night.” “Stop talking in riddles and go straight to the point,” Najja said petulantly. “The night that Bitalo’s late adopted mother picked him up from the bush path, I saw it all happen. I was atop the tree fetching some leaves for my local antimalarial concoction when I saw a woman stop by. She looked sad and afraid. She dumped her baby in a heap of cloth and dashed off. There was a man waiting for her nearby. That man was your father’s late brother, Kakuru.” “You knew Kakuru?” “Yes. I have been around long enough to know a lot of people. Kakuru was Bitalo’s father. Because he was married with children, he could not stand the wrath of his feisty wife, so he allowed his mistress, Nsungwa to get rid of Bitalo. As I began to climb down the tree as Bitalo cried painfully, his adopted mother stopped by and picked him up.” “So, you mean Bitalo is my cousin?” “Yes my child. You cannot consort with him.” “How come you know so much about me?” Najja asked.

“Is everything okay? Sanyu asked Najja. “I will be with you in moment. I don’t know what to think,” she answered. “What is your name? How did you find out that I am dating Bitalo at this point in time,” Najja had a million questions to ask the old man. “My name is Okwayi…the witch doctor of Bakuli,” he answered. “You are a witch doctor?” “Yes.” “I need to figure out what is going on. If I wanted to talk to you again, how do I find you?” “Come to Bakuli and ask for Okwayi. I will be leaving now. Remember, you two are cousins.” The old man had a raffia bag dangling off his shoulder and he walked slowly away. Najja was devastated. She did not believe the old man, yet at the same time, she could not expunge the fear and worry stemming from his encounter with him from her thoughts. She shared her discussion with the old man with Sanyu and Onzia. Surprise and confusion were written all over their faces as they walked back to the hostel. “So what are you going to do now?” Onzia asked her. “I don’t know. A part of me believes the man is a phony, and a part of me is afraid there may be substance to his story. My father speaks highly of his late brother Kakuru, so it is hard to fathom that he was ever involved in extramarital affairs.” “People have secrets, you know,” Sanyu pointed out.

“Do you know anything about your biological mother?” Najja asked Bitalo. He shook his head. He had never bothered to look for her. He and Najja wore a sad look on their faces. Najja had just narrated her encounter with the old man to him. “I have to go home this weekend. I need to talk to my father. Let’s see if he has any information that may help us,” Bitalo offered. “Good, I will be going home to. I want to find out everything my father knows about his late brother. Maybe my father can talk to his late brother’s wife,” Najja replied. They looked at each other. Each of them wanted to say I love you, but those words were too sensitive at that point. Bitalo left shortly after. He walked sadly along the road wondering why this had to happen. Now, I have found love finally and here we are, he thought.

“Papa, I have something very important to ask you,” Najja said. She had just returned home from campus. “What is it? I knew something was wrong the moment you walked in here. What is it my dear?” “How well did you know your late brother Kakuru?” “I knew him very well. We were close.” Najja dragged her feet for a moment. She did not know how to describe the scenario to her father. “You know you can tell me anything my dear.” “I really need your understanding on this one papa.” “You always have my understanding.” “I am seeing a boy at university. I have come…I have come to…to really like him. I was going to bring him home to meet you this weekend and then I got a visit from an old man who calls himself, Okwayi, from Bakuli.” “I think I have heard the name. He is a witch doctor.” “That is exactly what he told me. He claims that the boy I am dating is my cousin – you late brother’s son.” Najja looked her father in the face in search of answers. He pondered Najja’s question. “It is hard for me to believe that. Kakuru was very loyal to his wife. If he ever had any affairs, I had no idea. I will dig around for you. You really like this young man that much?” “I do papa, but right now, I am afraid and stressed.” “I can imagine. Try to relax my dear, while I look into it.”

“I hate to come to you with this, Namirembe,” said Bagamba. He explained the situation that Najja had described to him to Namirembe, Kakuru’s wife who had remarried years after Kakuru’s death. “This is an aspect of my life that I have kept quiet all this while. I loved your brother beyond measure. I was loyal to him, and I believed that he too was loyal to me. However, I began to hear rumours that he was running around with young girls after some years of being married to him. I brushed them aside, because he was such a gentleman at home. One night, he returned from work late, with the smell of female perfume all over him. The next day while washing his clothes, I found smudges of lipstick on his shirt. I could no longer bear it. I had to do something. I went to Okwayi for advice and he confirmed that my husband was indeed seeing other women. Later on, he told me that my husband had a child with another woman, and that they got rid of the child. This was after Kakuru had died. I was incensed. I felt like a fool all those years. That was the reason I remarried and moved away from your family.” “You could have told me about this, Namirembe. I would have spoken to Kakuru while he was alive. I am sorry to hear that you have been carrying all these inside for years now. Do you trust Okwayi? Can he be trusted?” “I think so. Kakuru denied having an affair when I confronted him, but I saw no reason why Okwayi should lie to me.” “I think I have to talk to him by myself.” “I think you should do that, Namirembe suggested.

“It is surprising that you are asking these questions, Bitalo. You have never showed any interest in your biological mother,” said Musoke, his father. “I guess, all of a sudden, I have an urge to know. I love you and my late mother and I will always love you papa. I just want to know my roots on the other side. Perhaps I could find out who my father is too.” “Well, your mother and I tried frantically to find out who might have left you on that bush path years ago, but we had no luck. However, not long ago, I decided to do some more digging in case you decided to ask. I guess I was right.” “So, what did you find out?” “I found a woman who lives far up north in Arua.” “Was that the reason you made a trip up north some years ago?” “Yes,” Musoke answered. “Someone here in town told me that she knew the woman, whose name is Tusuubira had been pregnant around the time, but all of a sudden, the pregnancy was gone and there was no baby. My informant told me that Tusuubira was careful to cover up her pregnancy, but she managed to find out about it. Shortly after the pregnancy vanished, Tusuubira moved away from here, which explains why our initial search came up empty.” “So, did you talk to this woman,” Bitalo asked eagerly. “Yes, my son…I did. She lives and works on church premises in Arua. She has dedicated herself to God. As a matter of fact, she was under the impression that her baby died on that bush path and she has been living with the crushing guilt all these years. I guess that is the reason she sought deep solace in God.”

“Did she say who my biological father might be?” “She admitted to dumping a baby on that path, but she would not talk about the father. I told her that God would be pleased if she emptied all the secrets she is carrying inside, but she would not budge. I think the man responsible must be some important person – a top businessman or a politician, someone who would want to keep his affair with Tusuubira quiet, even after many years.”  Bitalo hoped that there was someone else involved…someone that was not Najja’s late uncle. “I would like to meet her papa. I think she will open up to me.” “Are you sure you want to do that?” “Yes, papa. Let’s plan a trip up north as soon as possible.” “Why the sudden urgency?” “I just want to know, papa.” “Okay, we will plan a trip up north in a few weeks.”     STORY CONTINUES...

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Victor Chinoo

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