Fish Love

Nayla sat on the edge of her bed covered in her blanket as if saving every emission of heat from her body. Her eyes were swollen and her face itchy from the dried tears on her face. She rocked herself back and forth, as a parent would an infant.

From a very tender age, she had been taught to love, to serve, to always put others before her. She was the first born in a family of six children, to a mother who could not walk. Her mom had lost her legs to polio, back then when her community thought the vaccine would make women barren. Nayla had learned how to cook, clean, bath her mother and serve her father ever since she was six. They had the help of course but Nayla’s mother was a traditional woman who believed that a woman’s core duty was to serve her husband and keep the home warm.

She remembered her mother forbade her from playing football with the boys as it was not lady-like. She was forbidden from kickboxing as well, despite the fact she was the best in her school. Instead, she was signed up for ballet and voice lessons. She was happy there despite her initial resistance. She made good friends and made her family proud of her.

Fast forward to college, she graduated with honors as a pediatrician. She met her husband, Desmond, a year after that. They dated for a while before she took him home. An engineer, she remembered how happy her father was then. They had a grand wedding that was deemed for happily ever after, up till today.

It was six years since they were wed. Six years was a long time with no children. Desmond’s mother had summoned them to the village three years before and asked why she had no grandchildren from her only son. They said it was not a priority, and it was not. But for the last two years, they had been trying.

Nayla had taken everything from supplements to herbal concoctions, to eating raw chicken liver for a whole month. There was no sign of a baby. Two months ago, her best friend told her she was with child. She was not married and was worried what her parents would think. Nayla laughed at the irony of life in that situation; here she was, married and ready to fend for a child, and here was her best friend, pregnant and did not want the baby. Why was life so ironic?

So she secretly went to a fertility doctor, you know, to find out if everything was okay. It was, she was perfectly normal. So the next time she slept with her husband, she rushed to the bathroom after and put his sperm in a container, then in a cooler for examination. They said his sperm count was low, which was very normal. He just needed to relax a bit more, and she needed to focus on his diet.

That day, she went to the grocery store and bought spinach, bananas, lots of garlic, oysters, pumpkin seeds and ginseng. They came in highly recommended to increase sperm count. She would save him the pain while fixing the situation. She got home and made him a fabulous meal.

He came home at ten. He was distant, and you could smell the whiskey on his breath. She went towards him to pick his coat and welcome him home, her sense of duty taking charge. He allowed it then he proceeded to have dinner with her. His answers were monosyllables today. Something was wrong, but he did not wish to speak of it yet.

She offered to run him a warm bath, maybe pour him a glass of whiskey, maybe watch his Sci-fi films with him which she hated.

“Dammit Nayla, you suffocate me!” he shouted as he banged the table. “You are a good wife, I’ll give you that,” he hissed, “but the one thing I want from you, you cannot give me.”

Nayla was dumbfounded. In their nine years together, he had never shouted at her.” Des, you’re a bit upset, maybe I can get you-”

“No, no Nayla, you cannot get me the one thing I want,” he said without looking her in the face. “I am getting a second wife Nayla, a man must have a legacy to leave behind.”

She did not hear the other words he said to her. She was frozen in her seat. All she could hear in her head was her mother’s voice saying that a woman’s first duty is to her home and her husband.

She could not tell him, it would break him. Breaking him would mean breaking herself. You see, Nayla loved Desmond with her whole being. His happiness was her joy, his pain her sorrow, his success was her celebration. To tell him the truth now would mean breaking him and in turn, killing herself.

But what to do, what to say, how could she save this situation?

She must have so deep in thought she never heard him get up and leave.

She never felt so alone like she did at that moment. She went to her room, changed and wrapped a blanket around her as she thought of her life, and who she had become.

She gave and gave and gave. From her place of work to her friends, to her husband, she gave her all. But who ever thought of her?Of giving something to her? Her tears ran free as she hoped he would come back to the door and say she was enough for him.

 

 

 

First Love.

She sat there in silence as he spoke. She had been through this before, or at least she thought. Men are cowards at times. Whenever they had bad news to give, or if they had messed up terribly, they always chose a public place to break the news. At least for her, or maybe it was just the men in her life. When she was in seventh grade, her first boyfriend, Mike, took her to the lunch cafeteria to break up with her as he knew she would not cry while everyone was watching. Fast forward to university, her then boyfriend took her to a bar to say he was sleeping with her best friend. Her brother always took her to Joe’s Ice cream parlor whenever he needed more money to get off a gambling debt.

So this was not new. Her seated in this fancy restaurant as he sat opposite her explaining himself was not new. Yet, it felt new. There was an irritating noise in her ear. It was not real, but she heard it loud and clear. She looked straight at him but could not see him. All she kept thinking was how happy they were, and how, at this exact moment, her world was being torn apart.

She was getting married in ten days. These were the last days of her life as she knew it, everything was supposed to be centered around her. But now, this man seated across her had a fight with his conscience and he had to tell her his secret now. Why couldn’t he have waited until after the wedding?

“Why are you telling me now? What’s the point?” she asked harshly, harsher than she had expected it to be.

This caught him off guard and cut him off his sentence. He looked her straight in the face, full of remorse.

Amanda had never seen this look on his face before. He looked frail, tired and old. Time was not kind to anyone.

Guilt crept up on her. She loved him, she never wanted to hurt him. God knows, if the situation were different, she would have handled this better. But this man, her rock, her world, her support was breaking her heart just by sitting across her and telling her the truth.

She loved her father but never had she thought she would see the day he would make her cry. Then she thought of her mom, did she know? How would she take it all?

“I want you to invite her to the wedding,” he said with a lot of seriousness.

Amanda saw the irony of the entire situation and let out a sarcastic laugh. “You’ve got to be kidding me, dad.”

“No, I’m not. We’ve discussed this with your mother, and we all believe it’s high time-”

“It’s my wedding dad, mine.” She said angrily. “You do not pick my wedding day as the date you introduce your illegitimate child to the world!”

“Amanda, I know you’re upset, but being the first born in this family, I thought you could be more understanding of the situation.”

“You mean second born, you had her before me, right?”

Her father sighed. “I’m human Amanda, just like any other man. I made mistakes in my past but your mother forgave me. But I will not sit here and behave as if Julie does not exist.”

“That was never a problem to you in the past, so why change it now?”

“Just because you did not know about her does not mean I was never there for her. I took her to her first day of school. When she went to boarding school, your mother and I visited her all the time. When she got her first job, we went to dinner with her mother to celebrate. We just never told you as we thought you were not ready. I thought that this would be a good time for you as you are about to become someone’s wife. I thought you would understand. I’m sorry to have hurt you like this dear, and I respect your stance. We’ll talk about this when you are ready,” he said smiling and reaching out for her hand.

Their waiter came through to ask if they were ready for dessert.

“I’ll have a coffee and a double scoop of chocolate ice cream with strawberries on top for her,”he said looking at her.

“Dad, why do you always get me the same dessert wherever we go?”

“You’re my little girl,” he said casually, “chocolate ice cream has always been your favorite. When you were eight, you told me chocolate ice cream with strawberries would always make you happy. And that’s what I always want for you.”

She smiled back and gently squeezed his hand. Dad would always be dad to her, no matter what.

But now, she couldnt help but think, what if roles were reversed and she was Julie?

She erased that thought from her mind. Tonight, she was just a girl having dinner with her dad. Tomorrow would however be a different day.

Signs of Hope

They all sat on the ground, with a leso in place to avoid the dirt on their clothes. It was a Sunday, and with it, the best clothes came out for display.

A woman with a crying baby sat next to Winfred. He had the flu and runny nose thus the crying. One particular housefly hovered over the baby’s nose and the mother seemed unbothered. This irritated Winfred. She wanted to stand out today, but not next to the child with the running nose.

Winfred softened her heart when she remembered how it was to be a young mother. You see, her son George had just finished high school and had passed with flying colors. He wanted to be a lawyer, in order to help her get back her land from her in-laws. You see, Winfred’s husband had passed away six years ago, and with his death, she got to know the true colors of her dear in-laws.

No sooner had her sweet Henry been buried than they came to her homestead to divide the land amongst themselves. They left her the plot of land next to her homestead seeing that she had born a son. Beyond that, they raided the house, carried her sofa, her bed, her television and her new gas cooker. She went back to using cow dung for fuel and depending solely on the harvest of her small shamba. Two years down the line, her son came home with a woman from one of the humanitarian NGO’s. A white Christian woman. They had an outreach ministry at her son’s school and she was moved by his zeal to study despite the lack of shoes and a warm sweater. She said he stood out and she wanted to help. She sponsored George’s school fees and introduced Winfred to sheep farming. Soon enough, Winfred’s income increased and she managed to buy new furniture to fill her house again. Her son had good clothes to wear now and his mind more focused on school. Sadly, a year to his completing high school, his sponsor died. The church said it was cancer. She had no living relative, and thus, they were on their own again. But things were better now.

A year passed by fast after his exams and he was among the top five students in his school. She was proud of her son, and the achievements he had made in life. He had been called to The Grand University and was assured of a bright future. Her only problem was the fees surpassed her income, and that was why she was here.

Mzee Mtaa had a meeting in the town market today. He was running for a political seat, and this was a political year. A year when politicians had a sympathetic ear and a giving hand. If she could have a moment with Mtaa he would surely help pay her son’s fee.

The Master of ceremony announced the arrival of Mtaa as a fleet of Landcruiser’s drove up the market. There he was, on the roof the red Landcruiser, waving at his supporters. They all stood up and welcomed him with claps as the hired drummers danced and welcomed him.

“Karibu mheshimwa, karibu!” they sang to the rhythm of their drums. “Welcome honorable, welcome!”

He got out of his car and immediately was surrounded by his security all in black suits despite the heat. His wife followed dressed in her full African regalia, all in white symbolizing peace, and wealth to others. The soil in the area was red, and the water discolored. Therefore, only the rich could afford to wear white in such conditions.

Mheshimiwa went to the podium and without wasting time, apologized to the crowd that waited for him for so long. He promised water would be distributed them shortly to quench their thirst. He spoke of his opponent, and the current representative of the community; said that in four years he had nothing but enrich himself and his clansmen. He promised if he were elected in he would tarmac roads, he would ensure each home had piped water, each home had access to electricity and that the community would thrive through the export of sheep products and mutton. He reminded them that he was a farmer, that he had worked with the ministry of agriculture and therefore had the connections to make this work. The crowd cheered

The crowd cheered which excited him more. He spoke with such vigor, such confidence, such zeal that he inspired all those around.

He soon gave an opportunity to his listeners to speak. After a few men spoke, Winfred mastered the courage and stood up. She was ignored severally, but still, she persisted. Soon the women around her demanded the attention of the master of ceremony. Their shouts were too loud to be ignored and soon enough, Winfred had the microphone.

She spoke of her hard times in the hands of her in-laws and explained how hardworking her son was. She begged Mtaa to pay his school fees and in turn, they would elect him and pay him back as soon as he got his first salary.

The crowd was touched by her story, and Mtaa looked sympathetic as well. He called to her. In front of everyone, he swore to help her, and all those in the community like her. But he needed to be in government to create bursaries to fit everyone. He promised, if elected, he would personally follow up on her son’s education. With that, he gave her five thousand shillings, a T-shirt, water and most importantly, hope.

By the end of the day, Winfred went home to her son to share the good news of Mtaa’s promise to them. It was only a matter of months, she said smiling and hopeful. Only a matter of month’s till the truth comes to light.

 

 

 

 

 

Dance it Off

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She stepped out the car and her four-inch heel touched the red soil. She immediately knew her white dress was a mistake for such an event. She smirked as she opened the door for her nephew; the rest of the ladies would have something to say about her outfit. After all, who comes to a child’s birthday party wearing a white body con dress, a flamboyant hat and four inch heels?

“You look lovely,” said her husband who stood behind her assisting to close the door. She smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips, he always had a special way of reading her mind, and that’s why she married him six years ago.

“You don’t think it was a bad idea bringing Timmy, do you?” she asked as they walked towards the house.

“Nonsense,” Greg replied, “it’s a child’s birthday.It was lovely to let his parents enjoy a Saturday afternoon to themselves. Plus the rest of the children know him already.

Timmy was the son to Angie’s blood brother. Today’s birthday was on Greg’s side. She was thinking beyond mere appearances and was thinking about what the cousins and aunties would say behind their back. You see, the whispers had started but she did not want to stress Greg. He was a peculiar guy, always relying on facts. He did not understand why gossip would hurt you if it were not true. But his exception was Angie. If she was stressed, so was he. And if Greg was stressed, it showed in his work and in the way he related with people. He was an architect, and whether he admitted it or not, his emotions drove his passion to draw despite his practical mind.

Timmy rang the doorbell and turned to face his aunt and uncle. He asked if they were sure Fred would be there. They nodded and assured him that his only Star wars playmate would be there. And true to their word, a tiny Darth Vader opened the door and challenged his friend to a fight. Off the kids ran to the backyard as the adults walked in casually.

Cathy saw them by the entry way and walked towards them to welcome them to her home. She happily received their gift, and thanked them for coming with Timmy. They were then guided to the dining room where they could eat before joining the other adults.

Cathy always had impeccable taste in decor and ensured her house was a clean showcase whenever she had events. In the dining room directly opposite the large window was a huge A1 portrait of her family of five. Whenever they met the rest of the cousins, she made sure to remind them that taking care of three children and running a successful business while maintaining a happy marriage was no joke. But she always thanked God for the Grace she had and hoped that the rest of her female cousins would have the same grace if not more.

With lunch out of the way, Greg kissed his wife goodbye and went to join the men. Angie decided to pass by the bathroom to retouch on her makeup before joining the ladies. They were in the living room and their talk and laughter could be heard audibly.

As Angie walked into the room, silence creeped in first as they all turned to look at her. She felt self-conscious but managed to let out a little smile and say hello.

As always, Cathy came to her rescue welcoming her and showing her where she could sit. Once seated Angie immediately removed her hat. She was quite overdressed compared to the other ladies. I mean, Salome had shown up in sweatpants and a head wrap to hide her bad hair day. Angie took a mental note to stick to jeans and a casual blouse for such events. Martha was the center of attention today. Her eight year old son had made it to honor roll and was the best pianist the school had. He was going to England in a month’s time to compete against kids who took piano lessons as a life time career. It was quite impressive. And her business was doing great too, only last week she had made it to the top 40 under 40 women in the country, all for selling baby cribs!Everyone was happy for her and all the ladies agreed to a toast in her honor.

“Are you feeling sorry for yourself yet?” whispered someone into Angie’s ear. Se turned back only to find Tess behind her. She smiled upon seeing the one person she felt understood her. They hugged and Angie moved a bit for her so that they could share the couch.

“Am I glad to see you,” murmured Angie while holding Tess’s hand, “it’s been a long time since I last saw you.”

Tess smiled.”Well, I’ve been globe-trotting in the hopes of landing me a husband and getting accepted into the inner circle.” They both laughed at this comment.

The family saw Tess as a rebel, a woman beyond reproach. She had a wonderful daughter but she continuously refuse to marry the father of the girl. Of course they lived together for about a year after her daughter was born but things went south very fast. He cheated on her to the point of bringing those women home. He even slept with the help. So Tess left with her baby girl. A few months later he came back remorseful, pledging to be a better man, that her would never disrespect her again. But Tess’s heart was closed. She forgave him but she could never reunite with him. Tess’s mother and aunties did not understand what Tess wanted. They said marriage was hard and you stuck through the thick and thin. They said Tess was lucky that the man even apologized. They said if they were ever to tell her what they’ve gone through to keep their marriages Tess would happily take him back. But she was headstrong, said if he had disrespected her once, he would do it again. Said maybe she was stupid for not listening to her elders but she would rather be stupid and happy than unhappy and pretending to impress the world.

Angie loved Tess for you knew where you lay with her. She did not have time for family drama, picking sides and judging people. She believed that everyone deserved space to live as they wished and as family, we were there to provide a safe circle, nothing more. Her ideology of family therefore made her accepted in all circles, and was constantly used as a mediator of disputes when it came to the cousin squabbles. A

“Tell me about your fellow globe-trotter,” Angie said holding her friend’s hand, “your Facebook photos always leave me so jealous. I wish Greg had more flexible working hours then we could travel together.”

“Well, I’ve known him for about seven months now, and since there are many juicy stories involved, I would rather we have coffee this coming week and talk about everything in detail,”she said smiling. ” But let’s talk about you first.”

“What about me?” asked Angie now curious. “Am I in trouble again?”

Tess laughed. “Well, not really. But I thought it might be good for you to know what’s going on before you’re caught unawares. The aunties are at it again”

Angie sighed. That was code word for gossip. The last time she was a topic of discussion was three years ago. She had gone on holiday with her friends to the coast and aunt Bertha met her in town in a hot pant holding Jeff’s hand. Now, there was never an opportunity to explain Jeff was her best friend’s husband. By the time she got back home everyone knew she was having an affair with a man named Jeff. After all, what married woman dressed so provocatively whether her husband was around or not? Greg saw the humor in it all and said they owed no one an explanation, they can think all they want.

“Well, rumor has it you’ve advanced from a promiscuous gold digging wife to one whose husband cannot bear any children.”

“Oh no,” Angie said distressed thinking of how Greg would feel if he heard this gossip. This was the very first time he was ever a target of such malice.

“Yes, Greg cannot have any children and since you want to save your marriage, your back in the market looking for a man who can impregnate you. And it’s not short of you to look for a relative, that’s why you come to these family events dressed so seductively. You’re hoping that one of the men will notice you and-”

“Rubbish!” shouted Angie angry now.

The rest of the ladies turned to look at them confused. Tess started grinning sheepishly.

“Everything okay Angie?” Catherine politely asked.

Angie smiled in embarrassment. ” Yes, you know Tess and I, always getting carried away in our conversations.”

Cathy nodded and the ladies continued with their conversations.

Tess looked at how angry Angie looked and smiled. “Why are you so mad Angie? You know all these stories are lies.”

“Yes, but how can people be so, so mean? And they are the people who are supposed to have our backs.”

Tess smiled. “Ah, family. The glue that binds. It’s also the glue that suffocates. Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in a society where there are set expectations of us. You can dream, you can aspire to be more, but you must first conform to what we expect of you as a family.”

“But-”

“Angie, do you think Martha would still be considered successful in the eyes of our family if all she had was her business?If she didn’t have a husband and children, do you think she would be accorded equal respect to Cathy? I mean, look at me. I am not doing bad, I may not be in the newspapers but I have my own house, my child goes to the same school as Catherine’s and Martha’s, I help out more relatives than the two combined but yet, they are accorded more respect than I am because they conformed to society’s wants before reaching for their dreams. It’s a double standard world and it’s stupid.”

“Tess, I understand where you’re coming from and I agree we cannot get approval from everyone, but why can’t we just let each other be? Why can’t we just mind our own business and support each other?”

“According to society, that talk is usually issued by the losing team. If you conform, you want to share your news and get approval. But people like you,” Tess said smiling,” people who just got married for the sake of love, are the ones that talk like that. Didn’t I tell you if you took long to have a baby people would start talking?”

“But we are not yet ready to have one.”

“Then you shouldn’t have gotten married. Marriage is for leaving a legacy, filling the earth as the bible says. A marriage is not complete without children, according to the society we live in. Having a spouse alone is not enough, it’s not complete. Unless you really can’t have children, then only will society let you breath.”

Angie sighed and looked at her dear friend. She understood so much for such a young age, and yet she rebelled. She put her happiness and self-worth first, which was something most women were never taught to do. It made her dangerous. She was the impossible turn true, a change from society’s thinking. But one would never know this simply by looking at her, for she was just viewed as a statistic of a single mother and failed marriage.

“What’s your secret? To preventing what people say about you affect you?” Angie asked, hoping to gain some wisdom on how to handle her oncoming situation.

Tess smiled. “Well, I always dance it off. Life is so much happier when you dance everything off.”

Goodbye seems forever

She stood on the back of a pick up truck, hands raised to the sky. Her hair fluttered against her face as her skirt swished from side to side. She was singing along to Tracy Chapman’s Fast car. She looked alive, like she did when sixteen with no idea how harsh life could be.

Sam sat beside her with beer in hand. He looked at her and smiled. She had always been the life of the party. He remembered during his seventh birthday when she decided to dress up as Michael Jackson and waited a few minutes before the cake cutting to join the party. Even as the other children sang happy birthday, their eyes were all glued to his sister. He never minded her getting all the attention, she lived off it, while her lived off her energy. It was the circle of life, everyone had a purpose, and well, today was no different.

They were at the cliff they used to hang out in when children. They had their fist family picnic here, Sam kissed his first girlfriend here and escaped to this cliff when in need to blow off some steam.

He looked at his watch. It was quarter past six. It would be getting dark soon and Milly would need him home to help with the kids. He looked at the cooler to see how many more beers they had to go. six. They had downed twelve cans since mid day. He smiled.

He couldn’t remember the last time he got this drunk with Julie, or with anyone for that matter. You see, being a dad had changed him. Being a mum had changed Julie.

Parenting. Being a dad was amazing and hard. He thought of his dad at that moment. He taught him how to ride his first bike, how to clench a fist and taught him how to always defend his sister. He always reminded him Julie was a free spirit, and a beauty, boys would always bother her and it was his job to ensure his sister’s heart was never broken.

So when Mathew came home to ask for Julie’s hand in marriage, dad let Sam do all the talking, and respect and love was formed between the brothers. Their families remained close and they always came to visit their folks over Easter and the week before Christmas.

Dad had always led the Easter treasure hunt games and the children loved. He was their favorite grandpa as he always fed them candy. And every Easter Friday he’d forgo the festive season and play x-box with the kids an hour past their bed time.

“Julie,” Sam called out interrupting his sister’s singing, “you remember dad’s dance? When he’d arrive home from work and hit his belly while dancing to that nesquik advert? I miss that a lot.”

Julie looked at her brother and sat next to him to embrace him. “He made me like history. Remember how he’d help out with our homework? He bought a costume for each great person we read about and impersonated him to help me remember.”

She opened a can of beer and stared at it.” He always hated the fact that we both drank. If he saw us now Sam, if he saw us he’d be so so so mad….”

Julie was crying now. “I miss him Sam, I really do. I don’t know how to be strong without him around. I don’t even know how to be strong for mum, and the kids….”

“Hush hush,” he said stroking her hair, ” this is what today is for. Today is for us to be weak as we want so that when we go back home, we can be strong for everyone else.”

“I miss him too Jules, he made parenting seem easier than it is. He gave us strength for the moments we wanted to break down. I don’t know if I’ll ever amount to the kid of father he was Jules. I’m so afraid.”

“You’re a great dad Sam. There’s so much of him in you. And so much of you in you. Yes it hurts, but we don’t have a choice but to endure and be strong.”

They sat side by side in silence. They knew they did not have much time with their father since last year but cancer always creeps up. And nobody is ever ready to lose their loved ones. Nobody ever has enough time, but they at least had good memories of their father.

Today, they would sit in the back of his pick up truck, getting drunk, thinking of him, missing him, but tomorrow they would be his children, their mother’s support system and a symbol of his great achievements. But one thing was clear, they would never stop missing their dad.

 

What Came with the rain

She stood in the shower, water soothing her skin, but her mind was far.

Last night was still very vivid in her mind. She had boarded a matatu on her way home. It was one of those rainy Nairobi evenings so they all scrabbled for the first matatu to arrive at the stage. This one had a few passengers in it. She didn’t think much of it, after all, some people could have boarded at the Shell Petrol Station. Next to her was another woman, ahead of her  were three more, she felt safe. It would be a long drive, with rains came crazy traffic.

She took out her phone and sent her husband a text message that she finally got a car and was on her way home. She then checked her Whatsapp and responded to a few of her friends. There was a juicy story in one of her girl groups. Jacinta was getting married, Matt had finally proposed and she had shared the video. She was happy and excited for them. They were all gushing about the plans, about how romantic he was, and before she knew it, an hour had passed.

As the first lady was about to alight, one of the men seated behind her shut the door tight and told her to sit.

” Excuse me, I-”

“I said sit down bitch!” he shouted pointing a gun at her. “Onyi, tell the driver to go straight ahead,” he said to his colleague.

Inya raised her head as it begun to dawn on her what was happening. She wanted to alert her friends they were getting car jacked, but a third guy behind her put a gun on the back of her head. she could feel the cold metal against her head, as if she had no hair, as if her scalp were bear against metal on a cold rainy night.

He did not have to say a word, she passed on her phone, her bag and her shoes. The woman next to her did the same, and they looked at each other, with fear in their eyes. They held hands, strangers joined by a common enemy, as if to comfort themselves and assure themselves they would be okay.

Inya thought to herself, would they steal and abandon them somewhere, or would they kill them? Would they take them to a forest, beat them up, rape them then kill them? Would her husband find her? Or would he think she’s still stuck in traffic?

The rain didn’t help. The humidity in the matatu had formed a curtain against the world, and nobody would see what was happening. If any of them mastered the courage to scream, they would be dead before anyone heard them. So they all sat, complied and prayed to their God that nothing bad would happen to them.

They were in a hidden cemetery now. One woman was forced out of the car. She didn’t have any more, nor a phone, just some second-hand clothes she had bought at the stage, and her fare home.

The thug said they were going to make an example out of her. The boss, seated beside her, told the rest to subdue her, to beat her up till she had no strength to resist then they would take turns raping her.

Like a flock of sheep, the rest of the captives stayed put. None of them said a word, nor tried to do a thing. They listened as she screamed, as she fought in the rain. They heard thud after thud, as blows and kicks landed on the woman. They heard her beg for mercy, scream for help, pray to God, but they all sat there with their heads buried in the sand. None of them wanted to join her, and they knew all too well that was the consequence of courage.

She saw the light before she heard the sirens. Someone must have heard her cries and called the police, or whoever it was coming their way.

The leader of the gang, alerted the rest to pick what they could and flee into the forest.

He smiled at his victims and told them they would meet again, then disappeared into the forest.

Inya stayed put as the rest scrammed into the other vehicle. She could hear a police officer tell her it was alright, that she could alight.

She was afraid. She did not know if to trust them, or if this was a trick. The rain was getting heavier  and she knew she had to make a choice. To go with the cops and risk further harassment, or to walk home and risk the possibility of meeting.

She boarded the police van with the rest. they allowed them to make calls and said they would drop them at the next police station. They were asked to fill in  statements as soon as possible before anything skipped their mind.

Her husband joined her half an hour later and the proceeded to the statement room. The police officer who had taken the other statements had just completed his shift, he explained. Her requested that they give a few minutes for his colleague, who had just started his shift to come in and assist them.

The new police office walked in and sat at the desk, greeting them both.

Inya and his eyes met and she went numb. She started shaking.

“Are you okay madam or should I get you a blanket?” he asked politely.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she whispered.

“So, Mrs….”, he said going through the previous report,” Mrs. Inya Timoi, I see you live in Nairobi West, Leaf Estate, House Number five. ”

“Yes,” she said, still shaking.

“Today must have been a bad experience for you, I’m so sorry,” He said. “But to be honest, you are way luckier than some of the cases we get here. Some people end up dead, others raped. just thank God you lost little money and a phone, right? Now, let me get your statement ma’am.”

“I…I don’t remember,” she said.”I was so afraid. All I remember is feeling a gun to my head and my mind going blank. Then I found myself here.”

“Are you sure ma’am? The woman before you says you were seated next to one of them, you can’t remember what he looked like?”

“I think I zoned out. All I want to do is go home. I remember nothing. Can I? Can I go home now?” she asked standing up.

“Of course ma’am,” he said standing up. ” Please note we will call you in the course of the week to see if you remember anything. We need justice to served, and hopefully retrace your belongings.”

As soon as she was allowed to, she walked quickly to her car, leaving her husband behind thanking the officers. She threw up beside the car.

Timoi rushed up to her and embraced her. He was worried, he said. He wanted to take her to the hospital. She said she was fine and wanted to go home. From afar, she could see the police officer watching them by the entrance of the station, smiling.

She got into the car and locked her door.

It was him, the ring leader of the gang. But she could not tell anyone.

He knew where she lived. She knew what the police were capable of doing.

All she needed was a hot bath and some sleep, and maybe, God willing, they would never cross paths with that man again.

Signs

They were in church. Praise and worship to kick in the new year.

Val sat next to her best friend, Tabitha. She was busy talking to the other girls about the fire works that would ensure at mid night. they were all excited by the fact that they were out of the house past seven o’clock. They were only thirteen after all.

Val looked across the room and saw Mike seated with the rest of the boys. He was fifteen, tall, lanky and in every way perfect. His voice was in that awkward phase between sounding feminine and deep. He had on braces for the longest time but boy was he perfect. He had helped her in the school hall two weeks ago. She had slipped and dropped his books. He came up to her, pulled her up, picked up her books and told her to be more careful net time. He smiled then he walked away.

From that moment he smiled at her, she knew she was sprung. Her eyes followed him every time they met. He had waved once, the rest of the times, he never knew she was around. They were in the same bible study, lived five houses apart, went to the same school, and yet, he seemed oblivious of her existence.

But he knew Zara. Everybody knew Zara, the sixteen year old cheerleader with the perfect body, perfect walk and attitude. Like all the other boys, he worshiped the ground that she walked on. And Zara, she did not care for anyone beyond herself. She did not have a boyfriend yet, but Val knew that Mike was not for her. He was too smart, too sure of himself to be with a girl like Zara. He was christian too, and perfect in every way for Val. But he didn’t see it.

The pastor’s sermon was about new beginnings, and it stuck with her. She remembered praying to God earlier, asking for their paths to meet, that if it was in His will, she would tell him, show him how much she cared. That if He grated her a chance for him to notice her, she would illuminate so bright he would have no choice but to see her.

She had to walk out and reprogram her mind. Tonight was a night of worship, and if her mother knew she was entertaining thoughts about boys, rather than God, she knew she would be in a lot of trouble.

She leaned by one of the piers, closed her eyes and sighed. Grace, grace, grace she whispered. There would be an appropriate time for this, when she is older, she said to herself.

” Tired of staying indoors too?” she heard a voice speak out to her.

She opened her eyes to find Mike standing by the pier opposite her. She smiled, but she was screaming on the inside.

“Yes,” she said trying to keep her cool. “I needed some fresh air and a more quiet place.”

” You’re Val, right?” he asked. ” I’m Mike.”

He stretched out his hand and so did she. Maybe God had decided to answer her after all.

The new year begun to look promising as they sat by the steps and got to know one another.