Art

Growth Warrants Change

By Scholastica Memusi

Lonely in Africa. “story” by Loui Jover.

The only way Africans knew how to bid one goodbye was to hold a proper feast. As much as Wambui did not want anything extravagant, her family wouldn’t take no for an answer.

So as per the usual, the feast had to include nyama choma and a bunch of drinks and as typical Africans, if you invite people to a get-together, the bill is definitely on you. Surrounded by a table full of family and friends, she could not stop smiling, but deep inside, she felt loneliness creeping in.

What would happen now that she was moving away, would she be able to
survive on her own? Away from everyone else, new surroundings? She was used to being the noisy one in the room, but she knew where she was headed, she couldn’t be the same person. People would find her weird if she walked into a room and just burst into laughter.

She would have to give them time to accustom to her loud personality. What they wouldn’t know was that the noise she was making was just a façade, to hide the loneliness that would creep in every time she decided to keep to herself.

How was she going to survive this?

Her flight was on Sunday afternoon. The hugs were tight, the farewells touching, but as soon as she stepped on the plane, she felt empty. This new chapter was going to be difficult.

Her phone buzzed.

Mercy was calling.

“Hey quizn, I just got onto my flight. Where were you? I missed seeing you at Roadhouse.”

“I was trying to finish up an assignment. Sucks I missed out on the nyama and drinks. Anyway, go make us proud, we’ll be awaiting the graduation invitations and of course your awesome valedictorian speech.”

“I feel homesick already and I haven’t even left yet, lol.”

“You’ll ace this, you have always been the bright one.”

“Thanks love. Time to leave. I’ll holla once I’ve landed.”

“Safe flight.”

The lump in her throat kept getting bigger and bigger. A tear almost escaped from her eye but before she even had a chance to shed any, the lady in the next seat asked for help adjusting her seat belt. A welcome distraction.

An hour later, they landed in the ‘land of 1000 hills’. This was going to be home for the next year or so.

“Breathe in, breathe out. You got this. All you have to do is take life one step at a time.”

She sent out a quick text to Davies.

“Arrived safely, headed to the hostel.”

“Great! Make us proud little sister.”

“Will do. 😊 ”

There’s just one thing missing. Mum hadn’t called to confirm that her baby girl had landed safely. But how could she?

There was a horn blaring in the distance, the bus had come to pick her up. Right on cue, otherwise, she could have broken down in public while lugging around a humongous suitcase twice her size.

“Amakuru! Hope you had a good flight and are now ready for classes.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Great, let’s go then. Is that all your luggage?”

“Yeah, tried fitting everything in here coz I didn’t want to heave around more than one suitcase.”

There was no time to sit down and sob about being alone in a new country. It was time to put on a smile and blend in. After all, there was no way she could survive without friends.

******************

As the days went by and she slowly started adapting to the new schedule, she barely had enough time to look at her phone. Her friends would check in ever so often as they promised they would.

Wednesday:

“Found a house yet?”

“Yeah, was lucky to find two people who needed a housemate.”

“Great, when do you go shopping?”

Thursday:

“Found a mattress and utensils?”

“Yeah, was directed to Nyabugogo market, we even got a meko. Tonight, we are having some decent ugali for supper 😊 .”

Wednesday:

“Week one and I have 3 assignments due. What life is this?”

“Kazana mami. We are praying for you.”

Monday:

“Who invented MATLAB and why? This life is torture ☹ “

“Haha, soma, si wewe ndio ulitaka Masters?”

The days went on, the messages got fewer, the deadlines got hectic and the tears and sweat were in abundance. Was she ready to do this?

Mum was telepathic. It’s like she always knew when her baby girl was in trouble and would send a text demanding a phone call.

‘Please call me, thank you.’

“Hi, mum.”

“Hey, how is the going? Is the food any good? Is it as clean as they say it is?”

“I have eaten too much rice. I miss githeri and ugali.”

“Kwani hawana unga? Tell us what you need we’ll send it over. Can it come by bus?”

“Their ugali tastes meh. The unga here is too fine so it doesn’t come out as good. It takes longer to cook. And will you manage to send over stuff?”

“What do you mean it ‘tastes meh’? Just send me a list. I’ll get your brother to send them over.”

“Great, some decent ugali…ooh yeah and uji.”

“Are you planning on opening a shop? Sasa unataka unga ya wimbi pia?”

“It’s just a few things, unga ya ugali, ya uji and some honey as well. Ooh and Kericho Gold tea bags”

“Just send me the list, I won’t remember all these things by tomorrow morning. Plus, I am about to go to bed.”

“I will, let me finish an assignment that has a midnight deadl…”

*****************

She suddenly woke up.

She had dozed off on the sofa in the student’s lounge. She needed to get that assignment done before midnight. She sent a quick text to Davies;

“Hey bro, I need a few things sent over.”

“Cool, send me a list. I’ll try to send em before the week ends.”

“Coolio.”

She kept counting down the days to when she would be back home. This kept her going. Often, she checked her phone. No new messages, no missed calls. Life was happening around her. It was time she stopped feeling sorry for herself and started enjoying her life.

But all she wanted was a hug, someone to ask if she had been eating right, sleeping well and how her studies were progressing. Her advisor asked if she was doing ok, and she said she was.

When she was quiet, her classmates would know something was wrong, after all, she was always the loudest in the room and had this laugh that was just infectious. But when she went home at the end of an 18-hour day, all she did was curl up and cry into her pillow to muffle her sobs until she fell asleep.

It was going to be a tough year, and she did not know how she was going to survive. All she knew is that she had to keep fighting. She was not a quitter. Her guardian angel was watching.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

Scholastica Memusi is an upcoming Writer/Blogger from Nairobi, Kenya. She currently runs the blog http://www.mimimemc.wordpress.com. To read her full bio, click on the “WRITERS FEATURED” page at the top.

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The Man On Facebook (Part 2)

Nude African Woman Drawing – Il Suo Dolore by Alison Schmidt Carson

(A continuation from The Man On Facebook Part 1)

KK’s house was tastefully furnished in brown. Brown leather sofas, a brownish glass table, a brown carpet with large biege circles. Brown African carvings standing on all four corners of the room. Even the curtains were a lighter shade of brown, going all the way down to the wooden flooring.

There was a door opening out to the balcony where KK had put woven brown chairs and a woven table. It was almost like this man was obsessed with brown. Enid had never seen so much brown in one particular space like it was in KK’s house and yet it blended well together.

“You have a beautiful house.” She found herself complimenting.

“I try.” Was all KK said, smiling ruefully. Weird how he took compliments.

“Come, let me show you the bedroom!” He then quickly decided, grabbing Enid’s hand.

Enid had expected to see more brown but was pleasantly surprised when she got to the bedroom and saw other shades of colors. At least he had a nice blue chequered duvet, cream curtains, a black dressing table, an inbuilt wardrobe and a cream floormat.

On top of his dressing table was an assortment of male products. Colognes, male body lotion, after shave…The more Enid got acquainted with this man’s house, the more he surprised her with his personal tastes.

Then suddenly, KK pulled her into an embrace. It was not the side hug that he had given her outside the gate but rather a full, almost sensual embrace. Her face was buried in his chest and she could now take in the whole unique scent of his cologne. Previously, she had just been catching whiffs of it as she followed him up to his house.

“I have longed to see you in person.” KK was mumbling, still holding her close.

In that moment, several things ran through Enid’s mind. She was not very sure what his intentions were. Did he want them to have sex? Was she ready to do it on a first meeting? Then she begrudgingly realized that she liked being embraced by him.

But when KK eventually led her to the bed, all of Enid’s defenses became alert.

“No, I don’t think we should…” She began to protest only for KK to cover her mouth with his, in a languorous kiss. “You know I love you.” He whispered in between kisses. It was hard for Enid to reason rationally at that moment.

A part of her wanted to push him away and jump up from the bed. She barely knew him and had only conversed with him previously through Facebook and over the phone. What if he had lied that he was single? What if he had a girlfriend or a wife or even children? Would he think that she was too easy for giving in too quick? She had no intention of pushing him away this early on with her goofs.

And then another part of her wanted to just lie there and savor everything that KK was doing to arouse her further. His hands travelled to her breasts, her hips and finally to the fly of her fitting jeans. She did not stop him when he lifted up her top and expertly unclasped her bra. She did not stop him when he fondled her breasts and rubbed her nipples. Neither did she stop him when he struggled to pull down her jeans.

And when his fingers probed underneath her panty and into her folds, whatever reason was left in Enid flew out the window. Once she was fully undressed, KK quickly undressed too. She could hear him fumbling for condoms, all the while planting kisses all over her face and neck. Enid would only have a vague memory of him putting on a condom, before he slid into her and then she was moaning in ecstacy with every thrust into her.

She surprised herself even. She who had never been very vocal before during sexual activity. Perhaps it was the fact that she knew they were there only by themselves. A desire to abandon herself to this adventure. There was something about KK. There had been something about him too on social media. She just had no idea whatever it was.

***

KK would immediately change after the deed. He claimed that he had to urgently meet with some business associates. Enid really wanted to believe him. Surely, that steamy session they had just shared meant something. He had even mentioned it himself that he loved her.

She watched him take a quick shower and get ready. From her vantage position on the rumpled bed, still undressed and smelling of KK, she thought he looked handsome in jeans. Perhaps the meeting had suddenly stressed him up, she tried to convince herself. He will get back and all will be okay. All had to be okay. He would not have sent her fare to Nairobi if he did not want to spend quality time with her over the weekend.

When KK eventually left, the house grew deathly silent. Enid decided to take a shower. There was hot water in the bathroom. Just what she needed after all that sweating. When she was dressed, she went into the living room and for the first time noticed a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. She had no idea where the remote control was, so she went out to the balcony and sat down on one of the woven chairs, where she had a full view of the parking lot below.

Later on, KK would show up with a group of friends. Two men and a woman. The woman’s make up was heavily done and she had on those weaves that reminded you of a lion’s mane only that hers was curly, shiny and black. Her male companions were flashily dressed with visible rings on their fingers and sleek phones. None of them paid much attention to Enid.

They simply chose to ignore her like she did not exist. It broke her heart that KK did not even see the need to introduce her to his friends who sat in the living room, having drinks, talking and laughing loudly. Enid had not eaten all day and she felt hungry. Her stomach rambled but she could not interrupt KK with his friends who stayed till midnight.

When they were gone, she finally let KK know that she was hungry.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you, there’s food in the fridge which you can warm in the microwave!” He announced, without as much as a glance at Enid.

At that point, Enid knew that she had made the biggest mistake of her life, coming to Nairobi to visit this stranger she had met on Facebook. Tears filled her eyes but she was careful not to let KK see that she was crying.

When they went to bed that night, KK did not touch her. No attempts to hold her nor speak to her. It was like she was not even in the same bed as him. He simply slept on his side till morning. He also made sure to leave early the next morning. The usual excuse of a meeting with business associates.

By now, it was evident to Enid that she had been used. She had no desire whatsoever to spend the rest of the weekend in KK’s house, whatever those initials meant. Gathering enough courage, she went over to the Jamaican’s door and knocked.

***

“Oh, hi there?!” The lady answered, all smiles. A stark contrast to her previous demeanor the previous evening, when she did not want her son to go downstairs to ride his bike.

Today she was in a wide legged, peach colored, cotton jumpsuit that was so fitting from the knee area upwards, you could actually make out the outline of her crotch. Barefeet as usual. Her dreadlocks loose. But what she wore was the least of Enid’s worries. She needed to know how she could get to town. Her mind was made up. She was going back to Nakuru.

“I need your help.” Enid did not beat around the bush.

“Come in dear!” The Jamaican ushered, stepping away from the door.

“Never mind the silence, my son left with my husband a while back.” She assured as Enid walked in.

Her house had an oriental feel to it. It was vibrant with paintings on the walls, hanging chandeliers, scented candles, floormats and table mats. Too much color and articles for Enid’s liking. These wealthy people could literally confuse you with their over the top tastes.

“What’s the matter dear?” The lady asked in a British accent, tinged with a slight Jamaican accent, once Enid was perched on one of her dining table chairs. She seemed to have a penchant for referring to someone as dear.

“How do I get to town from here?” Enid was straight forward just as tears once again filled her eyes.

“What did he do?” The Jamaican quickly and rightly guessed that whatever was wrong had to do with KK. But Enid was not about to open up to a complete stranger. There was a painful lump in her throat and she tried her level best to compose herself.

After a couple of minutes of the lady looking sympathetically at her, she finally said, “Don’t worry, I will drop you off at Yaya Center, then you can get a bus to town.”

“Whatever it is dear, I hope you both work it out.” She would later remark as Enid alighted from her vehicle. “I hope you have enough money to get you to your destination.” She quickly added to which Enid replied in the affirmative.

Months ago, a friend had adviced her to always have that extra money, whenever she went out on a date as back up incase things went wrong. Mum had given her 1,000shs. She was sure this would get her back home safely to Nakuru.

“Thank you so much for your help.” Enid thanked the Jamaican and she really meant it. This lady had helped her just by sympathizing enough to even see her off.

“Oh, no worries,” The Jamaican quickly brushed her off with a lovely smile. She was beautiful, so Enid decided, as she walked to the bus stage.

***

KK would try to call her much later when she was already home in Nakuru and Enid would not pick his call. He would try again and again and her response would be the same until he gave up. Eventually, she blocked him on Facebook.

She had learned her lesson.

 

 

 

The Man On Facebook (Part 1)

index

Flamingos Painting  by Michael Lee

The first time Enid went to Nairobi was after an invite from someone, who could as well have been a stranger to her on Facebook. He simply went by the initials KK.

A wealthy man by the look of things on his Social Media activity. But then people lied all the time on Facebook, so Enid wasn’t very sure that what she had been seeing, is what she would get.

She went anyway. Out of a desire for adventure, an illusion that she was in love and curiosity. This was not really the very first time Enid would be in Nairobi. Rather it was the first time she would be in the city by herself.

A 22 year old college student from the dusty town of Nakuru or Nax for short or Nax Vegas, depending on what brought you to the Rift Valley town. The home of flamingoes. She had noticed that those who referred to Nakuru town as Nax Vegas, were mostly revellers who showed up for weekend events from other towns, specifically Nairobi.

Nowadays, the flamingoes had declined significantly in number, on Lake Nakuru, unlike how they had been when Enid was a kid. Plus climate change had messed up things and the levels of water had really risen in recent times, so much that the KWS Offices had been submerged. They had to put up some new structures a bit further from the main gate to the game park. And it was now simply Nakuru County. No longer Rift Valley province and Nakuru town anymore.

If Enid was to talk about her town it would be endless. It was basically the only place she knew having been born and brought up there. She even had that brown discoloration on her teeth. The one synonymous with Nakuru dwellers only that hers was not very conspicuous. You had to really pay attention to her while she spoke to notice the dull streaks of brown on her teeth. Nothing like some garish brown she had seen on some people, thank God.

Enid had been to Nairobi before as a kid but her memory of it was foggy. It was a traditional wedding of someone in the family. Those distant relatives that you could not recognize on the street at first glance but your parents knew them very well. It was somewhere on the outskirts of Nairobi but still Nairobi. She had seen the tall buildings and the people on the street and the hustle and bustle of downtown Nairobi.

Now she would be here on her own. KK had sent her the fare. At least he was a gentleman. But he could afford it.

***

Meeting KK had been interesting. He sent her a friend request. She looked at his photos, could not recognize him from anywhere. As a matter of fact, he appeared significantly older. But there was something about him. How he dressed. How he took his selfies. The people he hang out with on his photos.

She had confirmed the request. That was about 3 months ago. And then the “Do I know you from somewhere?” and “You look familiar” had followed. Gradually, over the 3 months, they had gotten to know each other eventually exchanging numbers.

Then one day, out of the blue, KK had confessed to falling for Enid. She had been taken aback at first. All that time, she had assumed the conversations were purely platonic. And then he had insisted that he wanted to see her and would send her money to come.

So here she was, getting an Uber taxi to Kilimani. Wherever that was. It sounded posh though.

“What is the name of that?” Enid asked the chatty driver, when they got to a curious looking building, overlooking a petrol station.

“Ah, that’s Yaya Center. Been here for years!” The driver readily offered. “Haven’t you been to Nairobi before?” He asked.

“Not as an adult.” Enid revealed.

“And from the way you looked I assumed you lived in the city.” It was the driver’s turn to get surprised. All that time he had been in the car with Enid, they had been talking about mundane things. Nothing to give away the fact that his client was a newbie.

“I’m from Nakuru.” Enid thought it best to clarify.

“Nakuru it is! What have you brought for us from there?” The usual question that city dwellers liked to ask those they assumed were from the village. Enid would have literally rolled her eyes, were it not for an incoming call interrupting them on the driver’s phone.

“Sawa, sawa” He kept repeating over the phone. Then once he had hang up he looked over at Enid on the passenger seat.

“We are almost at your destination.” He mentioned.

For a moment, Enid wondered how the driver knew and if it was KK who had been calling. These Uber things were very different from the bodas and tuk tuks of Nakuru that she was used to. It was KK who had actually gotten the taxi for her, after instructing her to let him know when she approached Westlands.

Enid had to ask the person sitting next to her where Westlands was. Luckily, he was a middle aged man who had spent the better part of the two and a half hour journey, peering into his newspaper pages through his glasses. He was also very helpful. Fatherly even. She had alighted at Westlands, where the Uber taxi had picked her up.

***

The driver eventually pulled up infront of a big black gate. She could make out some huge buildings, with wide balconies in the compound.

“Madam, you have arrived.” He announced.

Enid then alighted, her backpack in tow. It was only a weekend anyway and she had lied to mum that she was visiting a friend in the city.

Mum was never the suspicious type and if dad questioned, she always knew how to shut him down, if she felt he was poking his nose too much into her children’s affairs. After all, Enid had been the poster child. The one who had never had trouble at school. There was nothing to suspect, or was there? Seeing that she was meeting with a man she had never seen in person before.

As she dialled KK’s number to inform him of her arrival, Enid realized that she was trembling. From nervousness or fear or both, she could not tell. How would KK look in person? Would he like the effort she had put in her appearance just to look good for him? The newly braided hair, fitting jeans, stylish top, pedicured toe nails  peeking from the front of her open shoes?

He picked up on the second ring.

“I’m actually at the gate.” He mentioned, before abruptly hanging up. Then immediately after, the gate swung open and out stepped KK in person. He was of medium height, comfortably dressed in a T-shirt, a watch on one of his wrists, a wallet in hand possibly to pay for the Uber services, a phone in the other, track bottoms and sandals. From where she stood, Enid could smell his cologne. It was definitely not cheap.

“Oh, hi dearie?!” He began once he was done with the Uber driver, a huge grin on his handsome face. An awkward side hug followed and Enid literally had to stop herself from showing the disappointment on her face. But what had she expected? A sensual hug out there on the street?! The Kilimani neighborhood surely looked like a well tended street, tarmacked, with the ocassional cars driving past. She also noticed that it was quiet.

Just the ideal place for the wealthy to reside.

“Welcome! Welcome! It’s so nice to see you! You must be tired!” He was rambling as he ushered Enid into the compound. It was now Enid’s opportunity to scan the new environment. A wide parking lot. Two storey houses that looked very spacious even from the outside. Clean, quiet, a pavement covering the entire compound, two vehicles parked at the entrances to what she assumed were the houses of the owners. A security guard lazing about inside his small wooden post by the gate.

Surely, KK must be swimming in money.

She found herself wondering how his house would look like as he led the way, into one of the two storey units, up a flight of stairs. There was a child of about 4 or 5 struggling to get his small bike down the stairs on the upper floor.

He looked like a mix of Black and White with his brown skin tone and a head of curly, blondish hair. Enid decided immediately that he was a cute child and would have readily helped him with his bike, were it not for a harsh voice that suddenly interrupted them.

“No, now is not the time to ride your bike!” A slender woman admonished, appearing at the door. She gave a disinterested look at Enid before stepping out in a maxi dress that hugged her petite figure, barefeet, with long dreadlocks falling over her shoulders.

“What did we say Jason? No bike riding in the evening. Come into the house.” Her voice was now gentler, as Enid followed KK into his apartment.

“Those are my new neighbors.” KK was now saying. “The lady is Jamaican married to a Briton. They moved in just last month.”

“Oh,” A gasp escaped Enid’s throat. Everything about KK sounded so foreign. She had never really felt it in the course of their conversations but now that she was here, she could literally feel it. Back home in Nakuru, it was rare to have foreign neighbors and especially, people who came from far of countries such as Jamaica.

When they said that Nairobi was cosmopolitan, perhaps this is what they meant. Your next door neighbor could just be from anywhere in the world.

14.

Well seasoned banter. African Art courtesy of Pinterest

With the troubles back home preoccupying my mind, it is such a welcome relief that Abel is finally leaving the house. Angie mentioned that he will now be staying at the University hostels. Finally, I can be more comfortable. It has been such a struggle for me, working in this very same house, where a young man imagined how easy it would be to pounce on me. It has really made me question the male motive. I would rather carry on being a virgin than give in to such kinds of advances from the opposite sex.

Being 19, a lot of adult things do not make much sense to me. It is almost like being in a fog. You know that you are supposed to act like a grown up but the whole idea of being grown up is still not very clear. I wonder if my friend Priscilla goes through this too. But I have always known her as one who takes life easy. Even when teachers were openly ridiculing her at school for not performing, she took it in her stride. She never showed that she was affected by it up until the time she quit school.

Priscilla’s husband recently bought her a phone and the first thing she did was rush to mother’s and request for my number. When she called me, she sounded very excited just to get a hold of me. I asked about the baby and she said he was doing fine only that he kept her awake most nights. She equally mentioned that it was unfortunate that someone was malicious enough to steal from us.

We still do not know who took the coop and the chicken. I doubt we ever will. And then Priscilla’s credit finished. I could not call her back. I haven’t yet received my salary. The little extra I had, I sent it to mother the day she told me about the theft. Mama Ken is not the kind of employer whom you can ask for an advance. I can tell that she is very glad that Abel is leaving the house. More so because she thought me and Abel were up to no good. I wish she knew that I have always felt harassed with Abel around me.

But I should not expect anyone to understand me around here. I have since learned that adulthood entails handling some of your problems by yourself, the best way you know how to. By now you would have thought I would have been accepted in this house, but that is not the case. I am an outsider and will always be in this house. As a matter of fact, I ought to be grateful for the free lodging and food. Sometimes, when Mama Ken is really angry with me, she likes mentioning how she has provided me with a place to lay my head and food. I take it to imply that I’m the one who needs her not she who needs me although I’m very tempted to doubt this fact sometimes.

The thing with these urban dwellers is that they expect their domestic workers to always feel indebted to them, the same way uncle expects mother to feel indebted to him for getting me a job in Nairobi. They also have this weird attachment to food. An employer can lock up all the foodstuffs in the house when they are out, for some crazy reason that the help will spend the rest of the day binge eating, if the food is left out in the open.

They like to treat us as if we are greedy hyenas who cannot control our appetites. I keep hearing them giving the excuse that food is expensive yet they still get to stock up on all these luxury foods that us villagers have never even heard of. Sometimes we only eat what we are not supposed to out of innocent curiosity.

Koki, Mama Brian’s help from next door told me that when her employer is out, she makes sure that she has eaten to her fill whatever food is available. On some occasions, she also finishes up Mueni’s food, the 2 year old last born daughter of her employer’s, when the child won’t eat. I asked her why she does so and she disclosed that Mama Brian is very stingy with her food. She rarely gets full during supper. The woman’s eyes are always on her, to see how much she has served on her plate.

I did not tell her that I have my meals in the kitchen  where I have easy access to second helpings without my employer’s knowledge. Mama Ken barred me from the dinner table very early on. It bothered me for a while why they excluded me from the table until I realized just how much never ending house chores made you hungry. Now I can always choose the kitchen over the dinner table where nobody is monitoring my food intake. The employers can carry on calling it greedy, but we house helps know it is the only way we can keep our energies up, to effectively run their houses.

I know Koki always has these questions and stories for me because she likes to compare notes being way newer in the court than me. This is why I often times withhold information from her. You just never know whose ears the news would land on and I like to pretend that, I do not engage with the other house helps as per my employer’s instructions.

 

13.

“Yellow Chicken” by Franceska Schifrin

Some people seem to delight in the misery of others. That is the only explanation I can give to this occurrence.

Mother called me today morning. She said that when they went to sleep the previous night, all 4 chicken were in the coop. When they woke up in the morning, the chicken and the coop were missing. I can’t even begin to put to words just how annoyed I am. Who would do such a thing?!

Mother suspects some young men who idle in the village. They are rumored to engage in petty criminal activities but nobody seems to produce enough evidence to incriminate them. I’m sure whoever stole the chicken will fetch a good price for them at the shopping center.

Then they will pass by our homestead later on, pretending to be concerned while gloating secretly at the misery of mother. Or they will completely avoid the homestead, until when they are completely sure that their crime has been forgotten and therefore, gone unpunished. The nerve of brazen thieves! This however, is not the only problem that mother has to deal with. The other problem is uncle.

For some reason, uncle’s village wife and 3 children have been having frequent meals in mother’s house and sometimes, demand money for their various needs from her. So far, mother has put up with it since uncle makes her feel indebted to him for getting me a job in the city.

I still do not understand why mother kept this particular piece of information from me when I was home visiting. I did not see any of my cousins nor aunt near the homestead the whole duration. But as soon as they were sure I was gone, they must have resumed their previous bad habits.

I’m beginning to lose all respect for uncle. I told mother this to which she made me promise not to say anything to uncle. My mother does not like ruffling feathers. Besides, it is disrespectful for a younger one to question an older one. In a way, I feel sorry for uncle’s village wife. She has no idea that uncle has an additional wife in the city who recently gave birth to uncle’s child.

But that is no excuse for uncle to make mother feed and cater for his other family’s needs! And especially now that the chicken have been stolen and mother has lost another source of income. She used to sell those eggs that the chicken laid to her immediate neighbors. Perhaps it is uncle who gave instructions to his children to carry out the theft. I would not be surprised. Jealousy can turn anyone into a monster.

I have always thought that uncle meant well but it seems I was wrong. We did not ask him to get me a job in Nairobi. The whole idea was his. So to make mother feel indebted to him is wrong. Had I stayed in the village, I’m sure I would have found other means to help mother financially. I can make hair. I would have definitely plaited the village girls’ hair and made some money.

Meanwhile, Abel has kept his distance. After that incident from a few days back, I am still fearful of him. Today morning, he left in the company of Baba Ken. Something to do with admission at the university. Sometimes, I cannot help but question what such uncouth people are going to do there.

University is where the privileged in society go to acquire degrees and get good jobs so that they can be able to drive good cars and live in big houses in nice environments such as this one. I guess that pretty much answers my question. Abel is uncouth, but definitely privileged.

I have not shared with anyone what Abel tried to do to me. Not even with the ever inquisitive help next door. The one that Mama Brian replaced Jesca with who always wants to talk whenever she spots me outside. That girl can ask a million questions in a very short time period. If I am stupid enough to say anything about Abel to her, I bet the whole court will know within no time.

But Abel is the least of my worries as long as he does not get near me. I’m more worried about mother. Maybe she should get a dog. We used to have one in the past but our youngest is very scared of dogs. For her sake, father gave out the dog. It is times like these when I wish father was still with us. Nobody would be pestering mother. But they keep doing it knowing there is nobody to defend her.

 

 

 

 

12.

A painting depicting fear. Google Images

What is this?

Is this how attraction is supposed to be?

Is this how a man communicates his desires to a woman?

“You know I want you. I have wanted you from the very first day I saw you and I know you want me too.” Abel confessed a while back. He had suddenly grabbed me by the waist and declined to let go even though I struggled to get out of his grip. The bulge in his trousers was obvious. I could feel it on my behind and I was scared.

Avoiding Abel is becoming impossible by the day. The fact that it is always me and him in the house at daytime, makes things even worse. Mama Ken has already given me the lecture.

“Do not play innocent with me Coretta. I know there’s something between you and Abel.” She accused. “I hope you realize that Abel is my husband’s nephew and whatever is happening with the both of you will not work.”

Nothing has happened. I do not understand why Mama Ken is always on my case. I am not the one who brought Abel to the house. If she did not like the whole idea of it, she should have just communicated her displeasure to her husband.

But Baba Ken can be firm. He has this way of shutting down his wife. I have witnessed it before. On those rare occasions, I see a meek side of Mama Ken come out.

This is the first time that Abel has initiated contact. It caught me off guard. Here I was, cleaning the surfaces in the living room and suddenly, male hands were on my waist. All those other times that he got near me, it was only to make me uncomfortable or to whisper things into my ear. He never placed his hands on me.

That I have tolerated. Even secretly liked it. This however, I could not tolerate. It felt inappropriate. Like I had no right to my own body.

“I don’t want you!” I announced angrily, trying unsuccessfully to push him off me.

“You all pretend that you don’t but you do!” Abel retorted, now pressing his body into mine. This is how I could make out the bulge. The disgusting prick! I decided then that I did not want this to happen. Whatever it was that he intended to happen.

“Let go or else I will report you to your aunt!” At the mention of his aunt, he suddenly got his hands off me.

Terrified by the whole ordeal, I fled to my room and shut the door. If I had a key I would have as well locked the door but Mama Ken has denied me one. She once stated that there was no need for me to have one.

But I suspect that the real reason for denying me a key was to make it easier for her to inspect the room without my knowledge. My mother did not raise a thief so I have nothing to hide! But at that moment, for protection purposes, I pushed the bed to jam the door.

“Coretta!” Abel’s voice startled me seconds later, through the jammed door.

“Coretta!” It sounded urgent.

“What do you want?!” I demanded, still terrified. I was literally shaking.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to treat you in such a manner nor scare you.” I was not too sure if he was being sincere. No matter how much he begged, nothing would make me push the bed away from the door.

“I understand that you are just doing your job and I should respect that but sometimes, I can’t help myself. You are too beautiful and I like you…” Whatever was he rambling about?

I did not respond.

“Coretta, say something!” He pleaded.

I said nothing.

It then dawned on me that as long as Abel is in this house, I am not safe. Being the help puts me in a very vulnerable position. It’s not that situations such as these are uncommon. I have seen it happen in this very same court that my employer resides in. Husbands preying on hapless house helps and sometimes getting them pregnant in the process.

In my case, it was the nephew to the husband constantly harassing me. But I have now had it! Since Mama Ken never believes me, the next time Abel tries the same, I shall make good on my threat and instead of reporting him to his aunt, report him instead to his uncle. I know Baba Ken is more reasonable than that wife of his.

 

11.

Young man portrait painting by eydii …

There’s a new occupant in Mama Ken’s house.

His name is Abel.

It is pretty obvious that Abel won’t be staying with us for long. He is Baba Ken’s nephew who came when I was away in the village. He is waiting to join University in May but I can already tell that Mama Ken does not want him around.

If I previously thought that Ken was bad news, Abel seems worse. You can just tell from looking at him. When I arrived from the village and found him at the house, he gave me one of those looks. Those looks that communicate a lot without words. Those looks that immediately warned me that I ought to be careful around Abel. But yet sometimes I can’t help being curious about him.

Unlike her own children who dump their dirty clothes in the laundry basket outside the downstairs bathroom door, Mama Ken makes Abel launder his own clothes. He does it, albeit reluctantly. She also warned him about his habit of watching movies the entire day.

This particular warning, Abel seems to ignore. He still watches the movies whenever my employer is out and wears those jeans of his in the house. The ones with large holes at the knees. In my village, wearing tattered clothes exposes the poverty that has afflicted your family. In the city, wearing jeans that have holes in them seems to be cool.

I have so far done my best to avoid being around Abel but without much success. The young man always seems to find an excuse to get near me. Like the other day when I was washing utensils by the sink, Abel must have crept up quietly behind me. I was only made aware of his presence when he whispered, very close to my ear, “You are beautiful.”

I swear I could have died from shock. But the young man seemed unfazed by my reaction to his gimmick. With a naughty grin on his face, he proceeded to dump his dirty plate in the sink. My heart was beating wildly in my chest. I am not sure whether it was only from shock but also from delight at having a man show that much interest in me.

You see, I recently turned 19 a few days after my return from the village. In a way, I feel like I have not experienced as much as my friend Priscilla has. It is not that I want a baby. I do not feel ready for one at the moment plus I do not have a husband. But I must admit that I harbor a curiosity for many things. And especially a curiosity about love and how it feels to be loved by a man.

Something however tells me that Abel is not sincere. Every time he tries to get close to me and succeeds, I experience mixed feelings. One is a bad feeling that he is up to no good and the other is a somewhat good feeling that he is paying attention to me. A mere househelp.

Mama Ken must have noticed this. Whenever she is home from work, I can tell that she is watching both Abel and I like a hawk. After Ken’s incident, I feel like whatever little trust my employer had in me previously has significantly diminished.

I have always valued my job no matter how tough it sometimes got. And especially after seeing how much my being employed has helped mother in the village, I value it even more.

Honestly, I am not sure if I will be very successful in avoiding Abel but for the sake of my job, I will try.

10.

llustration original fat chalk pregnant African woman style tribal Iemanjá – @Arkane

My best friend was beside herself with joy when I eventually gave her a surprise visit.

“When did you come?!” She demanded excitedly, offering me a seat outside her house and two ripe bananas to eat.

‘Wednesday morning.” I revealed, equally excited to see her after such a long time.

“You mean you have been here 4 days already and I didn’t know about it!” She feigned offense.

“But at least I showed up eventually!” I reminded with a laugh.

It is indeed true that Priscilla is heavily pregnant. Pregnancy has made her add a lot of weight. Her face even looks swollen and the stomach is so large now, you might think she is carrying twins.

“You went to the city and forgot all about us in the village.” She proceeded to accuse.

I knew she did not mean it. People in the village spoke like that to anyone who had been to the city. It was more of a figure of speech with a light touch.

“I did not forget all about you. I wouldn’t.” I chuckled.

Priscilla sat on a low seat directly opposite me, rubbing her stomach every once in a while.

“I tell you, pregnancy is tough. I cannot wait to have this baby.” She suddenly mentioned out of the blue. This was my cue to question her about her husband. To which Priscilla laughed and revealed that they had been dating secretly even before I left the village.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” I interrogated.

“It was supposed to be a secret, remember?” Priscilla was amused.

“But just how did you manage to get that shy guy to date you?” I insisted.

“See what Nairobi has done to you. You now call young men guy” Priscilla quickly pointed out.

I could not help it. Being around Ken and Angie must have had some significant effect on me. But I was still curious.

“So how?” I pushed.

“Let’s just say he’s not as shy as he looks.” Priscilla replied coyly.

“And were you two doing it while dating?” Before I could hold my tongue, the question had already tumbled out. There is no doubt that being still a virgin, I am somehow curious about what exactly a man and woman do together.

“Doing?” There was a sudden look of confusion on my friend’s face and I immediately regretted asking my careless question.

“Oh, forget I asked.” I tried to quickly brush it aside.

“I know what you mean.” Much to my surprise, Priscilla said with a reassuring smile. I swear I could have died from embarrassment then. Even my armpits suddenly felt damp with sweat.

“Just so you know, we were doing it.” She added cheekily. My eyes grew large.

“You were?!”

Who would have thought that Priscilla would have been engaging in that which married couples engaged in? We used to attend the village church most Sundays where the Pastor, a man of short stature, with a hoarse voice and a penchant for dull colored frayed suits, would constantly remind us of how fornication, would give us a direct ticket to hell.

Since none of our parents had the guts to talk to us about sexual activity, the Pastor’s sermons, most;y delivered in a fiery manner, were just about all the sex education we could get. And although we knew that his warnings often fell on deaf ears, seeing the ever increasing number of pregnant, unmarried village girls, we chose to refrain from that which would annoy God.

But judging from Priscilla’s revelation, I must have been the only one who adhered to the Pastor’s teachings.

“Yes. The first time we did it, I ceased to be a virgin. The second time we did it, this is the outcome.” Priscilla now disclosed, pointing to her stomach. I could not help being all the more curious at that moment.

“How is it?” I asked.

“Ah, it’s just a man panting over you for a couple of minutes and then he’s done.” It was Priscilla’s turn to get embarrassed.

“Didn’t you like it?” I was genuinely concerned.

“The first time I didn’t, but once I got used to it, it was okay.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you two were doing it while…” I made a motion of a large stomach with my hand, to mean pregnant.

“In the early stages of the pregnancy, yes.You don’t know these men Coretta. Sometimes they want it all the time and if you deny them, there are others who will willingly give it to them. But hey, the act is better explained when you experience it yourself.” Priscilla quickly explained.

“I’m even surprised that you haven’t bagged yourself a city boyfriend yet. I hear they give you girls money unlike here…” She added teasingly.

“It’s a bit hard to date when you have a strict employer like mine. Plus I haven’t really taken a fancy to anyone yet.” I informed.

I would then proceed to tell Priscilla about Mama Ken and her family. How she had once worked in an aeroplane and lived in a house with an upper and lower floor in a beautiful, middle class estate in Nairobi. I even told Priscilla  about Ken’s escapades with the girl he used to bring to the house. And about Jesca who had quit and the one who had replaced her. All the while, my friend seemed deeply intrigued almost like she could not believe my good fortune at getting to experience all this.

Indeed, I was happy to catch up with my friend. These are some of the things I occasionally missed about my old life.

* * * * *

Just before I left for Nairobi, Priscilla delivered a healthy baby boy. He had so much black, curly hair that literally covered half of his forehead and such tiny, chubby limbs. She named him Mathias, after her father-in-law.

I know for a fact that I will miss everyone in the village terribly. But duty calls and I have to return to the city. And so now, I’m occupying my seat in the bus headed to Nairobi, waiting for it to fill up.

9.

House Of Wonders Painting – Forodhani-zanzibar by Juma Hassan

The village never changes.

It is us who have been away in the city who change.

There is no doubt that I have changed.

I have been here only 2 days and some things which appeared normal to me, slightly over a year ago before I left, now look absurd to me. Take today morning, for example.

I caught two of my siblings walking out barefeet and can you imagine I scolded them. I even went as far as demanding to know where they had kept the sandals I had brought for them from the city. Before, that would not have been an issue to me. I also used to sometimes walk around the homestead barefoot.

But the city has a way of changing someone. I am not sure whether it is a good or bad thing. The looks on my siblings’ faces told me straight away that they were wondering who I was at that moment. I didn’t seem like the sister they knew previously.

Mother mentioned that I have added weight when I arrived. I know I have. I cannot even fit in some of the clothes I went to the city with. But I like how I look. I even feel more feminine. Like a grown woman now not a young 18 year old girl.

Mama Ken gave me a two week leave from work. I wish she had extended that period, but I know she cannot do without me, picking up after her house occupants.

Since it is the April holiday season, Mama Ken’s family will be traveling to Zanzibar for a week. I heard her tell her children that they have been to Mombasa so many times already. Zanzibar would make for a good change.

I only have a slight idea where Zanzibar is. Somewhere outside of Kenya.

Last year, I did not come home for Christmas. This year too, it seems I will also miss Christmas in the village. I doubt if Mama Ken can give me two leave periods in a single year.

You know, I complained about this to uncle at the bus stage as I was about to board a bus to the village, but he silenced me. This is unfair. Even uncle’s boss lets him travel home for Christmas. Why not me? This I asked uncle to which he accused me of “beginning to grow horns”. The term they use to describe a child who is getting spoilt or a wife who is suddenly changing for the worst.

I kept quiet.

However, I’m growing increasingly tired of not saying anything. It is not like I’m mute or something. I also have opinions. Why is it that uncle is the one who always gets to have the last say in my affairs?

I wanted to complain about this last fact to mother, but could not form the words to, when she showed me the developments, the money I send home has helped her do. We now even have a wooden chicken coop, 3 hens that regularly lay eggs and a big cock, all thanks to the money. Mother says that, she no longer has to work in other people’s farms and that my being in the city, has transformed into a huge blessing.

I am glad that mother feels this way. I have been a witness to her struggle after father’s death. I am also happy that my brother, the one who follows me, is also in the process of getting a secondary school education. In a year’s time, he has grown very tall, I was surprised. Nowadays, he repairs bicycles over the school holidays and gets paid for it. My other siblings are equally doing well. At least my brother and I have eased mother’s burden.

It is Priscilla, my best friend, whom I have not yet seen. I hear she is heavily pregnant now and will get a baby anytime soon. I want to pay her a visit and congratulate her in person. Mother promised to show me where she now lives with her husband.

Can you believe Priscilla married the Carpenter’s apprentice?! Who would have thought that these two had eyes for each other? The young man could barely look Priscilla and I in the eye whenever we visited the shopping center. Priscilla must tell me how he gathered enough courage to even propose to her.

8.

african american art – Cute Couple (Pinterest)

Nothing prepares a parent for the realization that their child could be sexually active.

Certainly, nothing had prepared Mama Ken for the day she bumped into her teenage son’s girlfriend coming down the stairs from her son’s room.

I have never seen my employer react with as much disbelief as she did that Saturday.

Instead of admonishing her son for bringing a girl to the house, she ended up threatening to report the girl to her parents.

“Why didn’t you tell me that girl has been coming to my house to see Ken?!” Mama Ken would then proceed to direct her fury to me.

I knew this would happen. The house help gets all the blame for the misdeeds of her employer’s children.

 

Even if Angie had known about it, I doubt Mama Ken would have berated her for it. Angie has been attending Saturday tuition sessions in the neighborhood for as far back as I can remember. It is because that girl is always preoccupied with her phone no wonder she needs extra coaching on school work.

But I cannot tell my employer this. It is simply none of my business.

“I did not know about it Mama Ken.” I lied, all the while hoping I sounded convincing.

‘How can you not know about it yet you are always here in the house?!” It was obvious that Mama Ken was not convinced.

“Do you realize that girl can end up pregnant?! What will happen then?!”

I nearly mentioned that she should be telling her son that. Not me. But I held my tongue.

“Anything that happens in my house under your watch, I need to be told!” Mama Ken was firm.

“And I don’t even know when you transformed into such an expert liar Coretta. I have always known you to be an honest girl.”

An unexpected praise from my employer although delivered in a stern manner.

“I am not lying Mama Ken.” I mumbled, averting my gaze.

“And go change into something decent! That top you are wearing is too tight!” Mama Ken suddenly ordered.

My face subsequently grew hot from embarrassment.

I had recently got my monthly salary and after sending the amount I usually send home, decided to upgrade my dressing. I ended up buying a couple of fitting tops and thought I looked nice in them by the way. But I must admit that I had not thought about the reaction from my employer, once she realized I now dress differently. And it was certainly not good.

Her mouth had now curved into a disgusted sneer.

“I hope you realize that there are men in this house. I will not have you dress in such a kind of manner!” She added harshly.

Retreating to my room, I was suddenly surprised that my eyes were wet with tears.

Mama Ken has never pretended to be particularly nice to me in the past. I have had to put up with her irritability and her need to constantly remind me of my place in her house. But implying that I was trying to get the attention of her son or husband with my dressing, had crossed the line and had indeed stung.

As I peeled off the “offending” top from my body, I let the tears flow freely. Tears of anger for having to work for someone else and follow all their rules. Rules that governed even how I chose to dress. Right then, I hated being a house help living in Mama Ken’s house.

Later on, when nobody was about and I was busy getting the dry clothes from the dry lines, Ken approached me rather meekly.

“Coretta,” He called.

“I’m sorry I got you into trouble today.” He mumbled apologetically.

Still brooding over my employer’s earlier actions, I only nodded.