The broken pieces of the mug lay on the floor. She could not believe her eyes. She had dropped it. How did it happen? One minute she was holding it and now it is on the floor! “You can break anything in this house Susana, even the house itself, but not the mug.” She could hear the threat in her ears. Sounding like it was only yesterday, when Alicia told her she could start working for her.
She watched the broken pieces bounce on the floor, like they were mourning their separation. A million thoughts raced through her mind as tears slowly found their way down her cheeks. ‘Should I pick the pieces up and lie I have not seen the mug for a while? No! That is not viable; she just used it a few minutes ago. Should I just run away before Alicia gets to me? No I need the money. What should I do? God please help me!’
“I am going upstairs to tell mama you broke her favorite mug.” The voice of the young girl, Aisha, brought her back from her thoughts. It is real, the mug is broken. Aisha looked at her. Her lips curved in a malicious smile. Her eyes squinted like she always does when she wants to remind Susana that she hated her.
It has been six months now, working at the Alicia’s house, there had been mistakes yes, but on this day, she knew she would awaken the devil in Alicia by breaking the mug. She remembered how she held the mug on cold nights, used it for coffee sometimes as she cried. “He simply won’t answer my calls today,” she had once eavesdropped as Alicia explained to her friend over the phone why she was upset. “I am holding the mug he gave me.”
The mug was a present form Andrew. Susana had seen him twice in the six months. He was a fat man with a belly so big you would have thought a pumpkin was growing in his tummy. He had promised to marry Alicia. They had spent almost two years together, given birth to two adorable daughters, until Andrew’s wife came back from the states. Andrew had not told Alicia that he had a wife. He left to be with his wife and he now visited Alicia rarely and the kids.
“Why aren’t you picking the baby and allowing her to cry this much? Huh!” Alicia’s voice was full of venom. It dreaded Susana. Susana wanted to close her ears, but she could not. Once she closed her ears as Alicia was screaming at her and a hot pan met her arm. She was told that was indiscipline; unsuitable for a maid to close her ears while her boss speaks. She turned around only to see Alicia standing at the door. Facing the baby, she had not seen the broken mug. “Susana, are you deaf, I am asking, why you are letting the baby cry this much?” she said, shouting louder.
She wanted to run but Alicia stood at the door, hands akimbo. She started to explain,
“I, I, I……”
“You you what, nonsense!”
Susana knew Alicia would resort to her normal speech. Do you think I am paying you to allow my baby cry all day? I could fire you right now! I am just afraid you have nowhere to go to, apart from that shanty place that you call home.
At first this speech hurt Susana. She could not understand why Alicia was that bitter towards her. She made her eat supper after they had all eaten. If food was left over then she was lucky. If not, then she would wait for the next meal. Alicia would accuse her of all wrong things in the house. The cooking oil is running out too fast! The baby’s formula is over so soon! Are you drinking it too? The house is not clean today! The electricity bill is too high this month! As if it was Susana who stayed all day glued on the TV and not Alicia’s sister, Nancy, who visited when school closed.
Aisha hated Susana. She called her ‘my maid’; with a prolonged ‘ai’ in the word maid. She had learnt from her mum to shout at Susana. “My mai-aid! Where is my uniform?” she would shout on most mornings. Even though her uniform was always well laid on the bed she would still call just to make her run upstairs. Aisha did not realize Susana was eight years older. Or rather her mum had taught her to disrespect the house girl.
“Oh before I forget, your family called two weeks ago I forgot to tell you,” Alicia said. Surely she had not seen the pieces lie on the kitchen floor. She could not read the shock and fright on Susan’s face because she was always scared before her. “Get this phone and call your aunt, now!”
As Alicia walked to pick the baby, she threw her cell phone to Susana. Susana was glad Alicia had not seen the broken mug, she wanted more time. More time to create a lie of the where about of the mug. She did not want to be caned with a walking stick like Alicia had done a few months ago. Andrew had come to visit. He stared at Susana and asked Alicia to take her to school. “Alicia, she is only 14 years old. Take her to school when she is not working. I will help you pay for her studies,” he had said. After he left, Susana wished Andrew had not said those words. Her arm was broken. Alicia said she wanted to snatch her Andrew, her husband.She was taken to the hospital and deducted her salary to cater for the hospital bill.
“Hallo Aunty.” Susana tried to steady her voice as she answered her aunt.
“Yes my dear, we tried calling you last week but one. Where is your phone?”
“Aunty Alicia took it. She said I should not have phones in her house.”
“Okay, it is her house dear. So abide by the rules.”
“How is mama doing?” Alicia started crying as she asked about her mum. She had been sick since her dad deaths four years ago. She had developed a sickness that the doctors could not tell, then finally it was said she had leukemia. Susana had quit school to serve as the bread winner for her mum and two siblings. She had landed at a few houses. In one the man tried to molest her so she quit. In another she was accused of stealing so she was pushed out. Then she got to Alicia’s house, which was as well, a night mare.
“Dear, mama went to be with the Lord. That is why we were calling. Alicia did not inform you?” The phone slide from her hand and fell on the pieces of the broken mug. Like the mug lying on the floor, her heart broke too. She felt like the pieces on the floor were a reflection of what her heart was; broken pieces that could not be mended. In her blurry vision, she could see Aisha standing on the door, with the usual hatred look. She wanted to look at her in the eyes and say, “baby you do not know tomorrow. Probably it will be you suffering like I am. Or it could be your children or your children’s children; you just don’t know: A life full of uncertainties.”
She rushed to her room, picked her bag and squeezed in her few clothes. “Mum, she broke the phone too.” She could hear Aisha calling to her mum. The baby was still crying and Alicia was singing songs to comfort her. She remembered her mum. Her heart ached. She could feel her heart tear up, into painful pieces, falling like the mug did.
“Susana, you broke my mug!” she heard Alicia shout from the kitchen as she opened the main door. Her footsteps felt comforting, each step felt like the song Alicia was singing to quiet the baby. She opened the gate, Alicia was still shouting, throwing insults to her. Aisha was calling out to her, “my mai-aid. Come back here! Mum is calling you.” The baby was crying louder. As she walked away from the house, it was dawning to her mind, her mum was not alive. She had died and she had not known. She did not go to her burial ceremony, to bid her goodbye. To remind her she would be good and she would miss her a lot.
She was now jogging, the clouds formed, rain drops now fell as if on slow motion, she started pacing, running away from herself, from her broken pieces, the broken pieces cut her too deeply, she could not stay around for too long, the rain drops fell faster, it was now raining. She had no money so when she got to the bus station she continued to run; past the bus station, to an unknown place. She started feeling the water on her skin; she was wet, from the rain and her tears. She didn’t want to stop and she dint want the rain to stop, because her tears would not stop.