As Valentine sat in the dark, against a corner of the attic, she realized she had hit rock bottom.
Only yesterday, her worst fear had been missing out on a promotion, her boyfriend leaving her and maybe, her family disowning her. Yesterday she had normal people problems and she missed them dearly.
Three months ago she had moved to the capital to make a life of herself. She had a job as a receptionist at a law firm on the good side of town. It paid well enough to cater for a middle class life, while at the same time paying her sister’s school fee.
Joshua was doing well himself. He was an accountant with the National Bank. He had a government job, which most people craved. The working hours were few, the allowances better than the salaries, not to mention the deals that went on in the company.
Yesterday she had told him that she was two months pregnant. He had smiled at her happy at the news, but she could see the worry in his eyes. Would her leave her or ask her to procure an abortion? They were after all, only twenty one. A baby would complicate their plans of travelling the country before settling down into marriage life…she knew he was thinking all this through and could not decide if the child was a blessing or curse.
But she said nothing. She looked at him and smiled back, pretending not to see the doubt on his face. She knew she had to be strong for both of them, especially during these times.
The country was ongoing a revolution. Three years back they had attained independence from the British. After eroding on common enemy, the country had started turning their hate on each other. The Kikuyu, her tribe, had taken over power, and with it, most of the lands.
The other communities felt sidelined and of late, the rallies on hate speech had become more frequent. It was then Joshua had advised her never to introduce herself with her maiden for her own safety. It had been easy for her, nobody asked for her second name. From the dark color of her skin, they all assumed she was Kalenjin.
Her Joshua was however predominantly Kikuyu. From his use of r’s more than l’s, to his forehead and his complexion, he was clearly visible.
She clearly remembers a day out dancing when she was cornered in the bathroom by a group of women. They called her a gold digger after Kikuyu money. They reminded her that her culture was filthy, and that Kikuyu’s were superior. They said all this cornering her, and in Kikuyu. They reminded her that Kikuyu was the second informal national language and she had to respect their superiority.
After that ordeal, she asked Joshua to go home immediately, she did not feel safe in her own country.
When the tragedy started last night, she feared for her life. Her father had called her around eleven o’clock at night. He told her to hide, that the killings had begun. The Luos and Kalenjins were killing Kikuyu’s, sending a message to the government that they could not control the masses.
Then Julia, her Kamba colleague called her. She was worried for her she said. Veronica had called to say that their boss had been killed in his home, with his wife and children. She was home alone, her husband was not yet back. She asked Val to seek refuge at her home, and that she could bring Joshua.
Joshua picked her with a taxi and they drove off to Julia’s.
On arrival, Julia welcomed them, with fear in her heart. Her husband was still out, and there were no mobile phones at this time.
“Not to worry my dear, I’m sure he’s fine.”
With that, the women went into the kitchen to make some tea.
Within a few minutes, they heard a group of men walk into the compound laughing loudly. Julia was relived as she heard her husband’s voice in the crowd.
As she walked into the living room to welcome him, she was stopped dead in her tracks by the look on his face upon seeing Joshua in his living room.
“What is this man doing here?”he asked as his friends looked on. They were holding pangas and had blood stained hands.
“Honey…”she said with fear in her voice. “This is my cousin Mutisya. He heard of the killing sand came here to seek refuge.”
He laughed facing Joshua. “So you are Kamba, eh?”
“Ye, yes,”Whispered Joshua with fear in his heart.
“Your ID, give it to me,”he said moving closing to Joshua.
“Wilberforce, there really is no need-“
“Silence woman!”He shouted full of anger and hate. “I shall not be the man who betrays my community. The Kikuyu’s may be close to your tribe, but remember you married a Luo. You are either for us or against us!”
With that, Julia watched helplessly as Joshua was dragged outside to meet his fate.
Julia quickly rushed into the kitchen for her dear friend who was now hiding in the kitchen store.
She quickly took her upstairs and hit her in the roof. They could hear the cries outside as the men beat him up while calling him names. Valentine wanted to go out and save him but Julia reminded her that she was outnumbered, that it was better to save one life than none at all.
“But your husband, he’s a murderer!” she cried out with tears in her eyes.
Julia sighed. “Yes Valentine, I know that. But I can’t do anything about it now. In the end, justice shall prevail. Please, help me make one thing right by hiding.”
No sooner had she agreed to hide than did the man come back, happy, with smiles on their faces. They asked for cold beers.
“Tomorrow we strike again, and the day after, and the one after that, until the government is shared equally among our people. More blood shall be shed, and no life spared!”
Valentine sat in the attic, listening to them speak, refusing to sleep, refusing that Joshua had just been killed outside while she hid like a coward. She refused to believe that she was hiding for her life, a fugitive in her own country.
She woke up to the sound of the radio playing Papa Wemba’s music. A night had passed and she was alive, hidden in a cold dark attic.
It was just yesterday she had normal people problems.