Four O’clock Tea

She held the tray in her hand calmly as she walked into the room.

Five men were seated a midst her boss, ranting on carelessly about the current state of affairs in the country. They were politicians you see, and they were among the best in the country.

This was not the first time she saw such dignitaries in this home. She was in her sixth year of service in this home. She remembered how the madam was patient with her in her first year of service. Fresh from the countryside, she believed sugar was added to tea when cooking and not according to people’s portions. She also believed that food that would be boiled for long hours would be done under firewood and not the gas. She did not see the need to use aprons, or change her work attire everyday, it was all a waste. But the madam saw potential in her and was patient with her.

Now it was hard to imagine Naomi was the same person. She woke up at five thirty and performed her tasks with ease. She knew the boss loved his Daily Nation on the top left of the dining table, and all other papers after. She knew he loved boiled eggs with coffee and toasted bread; the bread had to be toasted once he sat on the table, he loved it hot.

Naomi knew the madam would have tea first once she got home. She knew the madam always soaked her feet in warm water every Thursday at seven o’clock in the evening. She knew madam loved  a compliment on Sunday’s before leaving leaving for church, it was after all, the day she would show off her latest attire to her less fortunate friends.

Yes, knowing all this made Naomi efficient at her work, and thus the longest serving maid in this house hold. And she was happy with her job, and the person she had become.

But today was different. Her boss was discussing very serious issues in regards to the country. The state of security was terrible in the country and there was a new plan of action brewing. Her boss said the government was not doing enough to protect it’s people, his ally laughed saying the people themselves did nothing to protect themselves. He said there were whispers, there were people gaining more with the current state than if people were protected. Why, some large organizations were more than happy to sponsor terrorism, and there were rumors that the government itself used these so called ‘terrorists’ to tests out their new warfare equipment on the citizens, just so to determine their impact.

Two of the big men were shaking their heads in disbelief. Another said he was not happy with the current state, but his security firm had never experienced such profits with the current state. He said he understood the tyranny of numbers but he hoped something could be done to reduce the violence.

“How many sugars sir?” Naomi asked the guests, politely interrupting the conversation.

“One, thank you,” said one man as he shifted back to the conversation.

Her boss was excited by the talk, you could see the gleam in his eyes, like this was going to be his big break to make a change in the country. Naomi always thought he was a wise man and a good leader, she wished nothing but the best for him.

She picked up her tray and exited the room to leave the men debating. From the look of things, these men would stay on for supper. She picked up the kitchen phone and called the madam upstairs to inquire what to cook for supper. She sounded busy, probably winding up on her speech for the women’s conference.

She wanted fish with a hearty vegetable side and rice. Naomi nodded and put the receiver down. She walked to the fridge and took out the vegetable in order to prepare them. Then she remembered Sara, the new maid who had joined a month ago. Madam had put Sara under Naomi’s care, she was to teach the girl how things were run. She thought this would be a good time to show her how madam loved the vegetables steamed.

But the girl was not in the kitchen. She walked into Sara’s room only to find her bags and belongings gone. Startled, she rushed to the gate to find out from the watchman if Sara had left. He said she had not come near the gate the entire day. At that same time, the gardener approached them with a long sheet tied to a rope. He said he found the rope by the back wall, it was as if someone was trying to make an escape.

Naomi was very confused now. Suddenly, a huge cry came from the house. They all ran to the house to find out what had happened. The five men stood in the living room making frantic calls. Madam was on the floor clenching the boss’s lifeless body. He had been poisoned they said.

Naomi was in shock. It couldn’t be, just a few minutes back she had served them all tea, she left them talking about the current state of security. She had left the kitchen with the tea prepared by Sara, and in less than an hour, the boss was dead!

“You!”shouted one of them men pointing at Naomi, “You did this. You served him tea and he died! We were all to die, only that we opted for coffee! Askari!”He shouted facing the soldier. “Detain this woman until the police come!”

“But I…”Naomi said as she was dragged away. “Madam, madam! You have to tell them I am innocent, I would never harm you nor the boss, madam!”

But her cries fell on deaf ears as she got dragged into one of the stores.

Soon, Naomi would understand how bad the state of security was in the country.