4/40

“Ndovu wawili wakipigana nyasi basi ni lazma zihamishwe! So, what has baba watoto done this time because it’s all over the office and you know people here love gossip. So, tell me Marjorie what happened?”

Nicole perched herself in her new red dress on my desk revealing legs I wished I had back when a few whispers from men mattered. It was eleven o’clock. Francis promised he would call me by noon with updates on Dad’s condition. The doctor had insisted that he stay in the hospital until he’d regained his strength. Francis believed in God so much that his presence beside my Father felt like impending judgment. I blew the whistle, pulled out yellow cards and red cards. Sometimes I waited to see one of them tap out in order to keep the balance and maintain the little sanity I had left. Nicole storming into my office with the perfect dress, round firm buttocks, great legs and shoes was my cue to get maramoja. Pain relief for never ending headaches.

“Marjorie why are you like that? Don’t I share my drama with you? Tell me what happened.”

“Will you resolve the matter?”

“I don’t know but you know a problem shared is half solved. Ni kama avocado unaweza kula vile unataka but ni poa ukiikata katikati, so Martin alifanya nini this time? Nasikia boss alijam! Amepewa ka project kengine hataki.”

“He was simply being Martin and I was being Marjorie. We started arguing mbele ya boss and he called us into his office to resolve the matter.”

“I see, but why is he doing your job? You are the one who was given this project, so what is it with him? Wait, what if…no, this is too awkward to be shared here, but I will ask you, do you like him?”

“Like him? He is always on my case trying me make me look bad! What’s there to like?”

“I mean, as in like him enough to date him?”

“Work and pleasure? No thanks. Do you like him? You can date him if you want to, I do not think he would mind.”

“Eish! Kwani wanaume wameisha Kenya hii ndio niambiwe offer valid until stock lasts? I was just saying that maybe he likes you and forget the stuff you hear around. He is single and very romantic or so some people say, but ni sawa, are we going to BoBos for lunch? They are having Juicy Thursday today. I need a free drink like that!”

“Sure, I will pitia you we go.”

“Okay, let me load my professional demeanor nikitoka hapa kwako. If I’m heard speaking Sheng’ itakuwa ati siku hizi we lack professionalism. I sold my freedom of expression for a paycheck! Weh,baadaye!”

“Bye and thanks for checking up on me.”

3/40

The computer was on when I left the office to get some hot water from the kitchenette. Mama Chai, the lady who serves us tea and snacks, reached out for the green thermos beside me. She gave me one of her famous half smiles. I don’t want to know. I do want to know but it won’t pay my bills. 

She placed her thermos beside the bowl of fruits on her trolley, adjusted her apron and left. The scent of soap followed her just as the gloom did me. Silence that could slash your vocal chords. She walks in at six. She walks out at six. She preserves her poison in that green vacuum and slowly dishes out a dose of it down every willing throat but mine. Those who believe that she has three grandchildren and slaves daily for them fill their cups with her poison.

I know this much about tea; it’s brewed. 

It is served black with either lemon or two teaspoons of sugar. So when I walked in on her boiling milk and adding some water and throwing the tea leaves that first day of work, I knew she was up to no good. Telling my Father that story marked the beginning of my paranoia. Don’t be fooled by what she says or how she appeases the spirits in your stomach, there is something about that woman. Mama Chai. Francis, my brother who can quote the scripture like a child singing the alphabet, insists that I project my feelings of disappointment as induced by our mother on her. The woman he calls our mother left us with our father for another man. He owned three sugarcane plantations and a blue Peugeot back then. And onto these blessings he had two wives of whom my mother joined to become the third. Francis was three years then. Raphael was four and I was six. Francis sees the romantic version of things while I understand the horrific version of it. They woke up at seven found tea and warm water for their baths ready. 

So, Mama Chai is doing what she knows best. I can give her that much, but my hesitation towards embracing her warmth has nothing to do with the woman Francis calls our Mother. I was looking out the window when I heard voices behind me.Two interns in oversized trousers came in after the woman suddenly losing their voices when they saw me by the sink. 

Working here was like walking in the dark. No matter how much you widened your eyes, you still saw nothing. I washed the cup and served myself some hot water from the water dispenser and walked back to my office. Nancy, one of the Assistants, said hello adding that my scarf would look beautiful around her neck. I told her she could come for it at the end of the week. 

I pushed my office door using my left hand and saw the blue file behind my tray. There were two pages missing from the file. It was not the first time this had happened here, but with a boss like the one we had, work was a race. My first year involved summons to the office and botched presentations that miraculously gained other employees a thumbs up from the boss. Being assigned this project with a huge cash bonus and holiday package meant a fight, but with my exams and my dad’s illness it was proving to be a worthless battle. The desire to match up to Martin’s office overwhelmed me. I would yell at him or turn his desk upside down. I added a teabag and sugar to the hot water I had and stirred it. What was it with Martin and stealing my thunder? The way things stood I could:

  1. Be friends with him
  2. Turn his desk upside down
  3. Ignore him
  4. Work away from the office
  5. Use a different email address, something the IT boy,who stays in the same hood as Martin, could not access.
  6. Definitely turn his desk upside down.
  7. Tell him to back off
  8. Upload a virus on his computer
  9. Choke him and turn his desk upside down and shred his files.
  10. Drink tea and forget the loser!
Forty Days(1)

2/40

There are some things a girl can take. However, there is nothing a woman should take, especially being unappreciated. So, when Martin decided to squeeze into my spotlight at the meeting by stating that he was the brains behind The LightKeepers venture I had to tell him off. 

You could have called it unprofessional of me to do that before the board but I’ve had it with his constant need to glow without burning up. 

Candles have to melt to keep the light on. 

This man did not put in the effort but he couldn’t stop basking in the glory. It did not surprise me when the CEO summoned us to his office immediately after and started talking about a balanced diet.”You cannot eat one food group and leave the other on your plate. Something is wrong here and you two should work it out before the next meeting if you love your job. Martin, what is the name of this man we are working with and why is he doing what he works on?”

“Jeremiah. He loves children Sir.”

“What did he say about our proposal?”

“He loved it and made some suggestions that we will need to include to see this project through.He’s on board Sir.”

“Martin, if I call this man now, will he tell me what you are saying and will he also attest to having met with you?”

“Sir?”

“I am not a fool Martin and you had better revise your job description because it can be filled by Marjorie. And you, do not think that you are better than anyone here, you were hired and you can be fired. This project is coming off pocket change for me. Know your limits Marjorie, go back to work Martin and she will stay on this project,work on the Khaminwa case with Lillian and give me a report in an hour.”

The CEO turned his attention to me once Martin had left the room. He was twirling his black pen in between his fingers and tapping on the desk with his right hand. His temper had a shorter leash than his favor. Since when had Jeremy become Jeremiah? What waa that about? I was still reeling from Martin’s superiority complex syndrome when the boss let out a shaky laugh.”This is my company. You can take the lead when you have your own company. I need positive updates at the end of every working day Marjorie. And before you step up always be sure of your ability to remain standing. You may leave.”

“Thank you Sir.” The boss tilted his head to the side his eyes fixed on me,but after a while he nodded and waved me out as always.

Walking out of that office felt like taking a cool shower after a jog. I stopped by Lillian’s office to pick a folder with an updated proposal and walked to my office at the corner. I pushed the door open.

Martin was sitting behind my desk.

Forty Days(1)

2/40

I stayed behind at Java for a glass of fresh juice. Jeremy showing up and leaving immediately was an inconvenience but his idea of time was not the same as mine. I thought of how I would explain the bill to the HR and ordered another glass. Two glasses=no explanation to the HR.

When I made it to the office that afternoon, I was welcomed by two eager receptionists. Alice could smell trouble as far as Nairobi. Wanja could sniff a hint of good news as far as America. The two could spit bile or honey down the phone with a simple hello. So when Wanja approached me first, I was deluded that all would be well by crossing my fingers.

“So, word is that you were meeting some fly guy who saves poor kids,is it true?”

“Which part? The guy, him being fly, saving poor kids or that I was meeting him?”

“Don’t act all Bossy! You never meet young people,all those CEOs you meet have made you forget young guys, so how did the meeting go and why are you early?”

“It went well and did Lillian leave the report I asked for?”

“You are so serious Madam PR! You definitely need that PR you talk about, and some facial treatment, like a day at the spa so you can smile more often!”

“I will smile once this project is done,and I’ve gotten that Masters degree! How did you two know about my meeting?”

“Alex, the tall guy who works in Accounts told Evans. You know Evans likes to hear the sound of his voice. He told Lillian who told her assistant over lunch and she told us,so the whole office knows mpaka Mama Chai.”

“Well, may I please have that file Lillian left so I can figure out how this whole project will work?”

Alice handed me the file while Wanja kept her eyes on me afraid that they might lose some information about the meeting if I blinked.

Forty Days(1)

1/40

Jeremy scheduled a meeting after lunch. I asked him to meet with me at Java for an introduction and his response was a swift ‘okay,’ and then ending the call I’d made.

It was no surprise that he was not there when I arrived at Java. So, I walked into WoolWorths to feast my eyes on their latest collection and jewelry that I yearned for in my dreams. He joined me later on, a tall, slightly built dark man in need of both a scrub and shave. I kept my eyes on the aquamarine earrings on display whispering my desire to steal them.

“You know what they say about a thief right? Well, each thief has forty days and when their time is up they are caught. I would be careful with what I steal Marjorie because the truth is, your punishment will depend on what you’ve been caught stealing.”

“I am not a thief, but you have to admit that those earrings are beautiful. Like have you ever seen something in Woolworths that you wished you could buy, but after tax, your rent, food, shoes and money to the parents, you could not afford it?”

“I’m a guy. We buy expensive things all the time, like you can get shoes at a hundred bob, well; I cannot even get good bathroom slippers at that price!”

“Bata has those blue and red slippers that guesthouses remodel so you cannot steal them, like seriously why do they always cut a v shape at the tip making them look like fish motifs? Who would want to steal cheap ugly bathroom slippers and leave the cussons soap?”

“I recall you stating that you were not a thief.”

“I recall history and womenfolk believing that men don’t listen.”

“I am not going to win this, am I?”

“Never.”

“Okay, so what are you doing this Friday?”

“I will be at work from eight in the morning to five in the evening. Why do you ask?”

“Would you have coffee with me then at say six after work?”

“Coffee?”

“Yes, with me.”

“Where?”

“Right here.”

“Java, okay, but how about we have something to drink now so I can drown my sorrows for not having enough money to get those earrings?”

“I have to get back to the office, but I promise that we can talk more about your sorrows on Friday, raincheck?”

Forty Days(1)

1/40

There are two kinds of people in this world; those who are drawn to love and those to whom love is an echo. I’m Marjorie. I could tell you that I am Beth but that would be giving away too much too soon.

When you are responsible for how the world sees your employers, you get no sleep, bonus cheques, constant calls and no privacy. It was no surprise when the CEO sent me an email at 3A.M. that I had forty days to organize some corporate social responsibility event that touched peoples lives. His words.

I walked into the office the next morning aware that a formal report was needed by noon on that email. The CEO was not one to be denied anything. He was like my two year old niece who jumped, screamed, rolled over and cried until she got that Big Daddy lollipop that you had not budgeted for. The difference was he was clad in expensive suits and shoes. All he did was point to the door, pick up his gold handset phone and tell the HR to clear your desk and find a replacement in under 24 hours. I thought the hospitality industry had the highest turnover, well, here, we work in shifts. Your time is up when the one who writes your cheques feels like cutting you loose.

It was this pressure that led me to Jeremy. I was going through my Facebook posts when I came across his page The LightKeepers. I scrolled down reading the posts and the activities they engaged in towards the benefit of children in poor families. I took down his contact information and rushed to the accounts department to figure out how much was set aside for this new venture that the CEO had in mind. The accounts manager, Evans,  was not there. Always in a blue tie and shoes that could pay my rent. I asked the other guys when he would be around but my request was not sufficient enough to get their attention off their screens and excel sheets.

I decided to call Jeremy instead and introduce myself and my agenda. He sounded very warm if not flirtatious but even so, I had enough to present at the meeting and secure my stay for another forty days. According to Jeremy, he was looking more for impact on interaction. I had a meeting.

 

Forty Days(1)

Forty Days

They say a thief has forty days. In Kiswahili it’s musical, more like a warning, a lyrical warning, siku za mwizi ni arubaini.

I came across some boards and lots of pins on Pinterest about writing challenges. There are monthly challenges, bucket lists and the greatest of them all NanoWrimo. The transition from The Currents Series to another book has been tedious. Some days I’m lucky if the words come out of me, but I still believe they will. There is a story somewhere in my notebooks, journal and book clips.

I decided to create my own challenge and set my own goals.

So, for forty days I will post twice on this blog. A 400-word post at 4 A.M. and another 400-word post at 4 P.M.

I’ll pick it up as I go and somewhere therein I’ll have gained back my composure and discipline to start working on the next book. Now, for all the readers out there and family, yes and those friends who constantly ask Writers, what are you working on now? Please know that it is not like opening a refrigerator door.

Until then. let’s see how this goes. See you at 4P.M. for the first post!

Our stories

Our stories, like rivers,flow into a deep blue lake.

They slide past rocks and are nourished by the rain.

Our stories, like shadows, follow us into our dreams,

They are dark like our fears,

Too bold to be ignored like our tears.

They thrive on our lies and likes,

Our stories are like milk sealed in a gourd,

They are shaken, suppressed,sealed,brewed

Our stories take time to be served.

Our stories, like our dance, are refined

They can never be rehearsed.

Each footstep in line with the dust.

So, if I told you that ong’er does not sound as beautiful as monkey,

 Mbura as wholesome as cat

Kibwe as musical as jackal 

 Meru as sweetly vulgar as your mother 

You would not believe me,

I would respect that because then they would cease to be our stories.

Our stories.

The girl with brown eyes

Cocoa
Rich cocoa beans splayed out in the sun to dry
The bitter taste of cocoa yet to be refined
No, something between the glow of her skin and her lips
She’s the girl.

No,
Be careful will you?
She’s not supposed to see us checking her out,
Hold on,will you?
There…she’s turning around,
Didn’t I tell you?

Okay, she may not be that fly,
But, her eyes draw you in,
They call you out of your prejudice
They refine your stance
They summon the beast in you
You don’t know what it’s like.

Yes,
You have no idea of what it means to drown
At a glance
Dreaming of a dance
Waiting for a chance.
You have no idea,
So, I’ll stay here
Until you see her.

The girl with brown eyes.