Chapter Sixteen: Belinda

Okwan and Maureen stopped by Belinda’s house that evening with two bottles of wine and cake. She ushered them into the living room where she’d already set the table. Maureen sat on the carpet beside her and hugged her. “Well, at least we have some good news.”

“What is it?” asked Belinda.

“You got the job and I know the HR will call you tomorrow morning because I happened to print out contracts and I was not snooping or anything but your name was printed at the top. She might call you in to review it and if the terms and conditions are okay with you then you can start working.”

“Thanks, at least that is something.”

“Why aren’t you happy?”

“She’s had a rough day Maureen, let her be.”

“What is wrong with you two? Life is too short to sit around moping and crying about what’s hurt you. My mother always tells me that cry but don’t bleed your eyes dry. Now, enough about the sad stuff, ehe...tell us, what do you think of your new life?”

“What new life are you talking about?” asked Okwan. She was sitting on the only chair in Belinda’s living room. Maureen looked at her and frowned. The woman took a plate and served some meat before dipping her finger into the stew and licking it clean.

“I don’t understand where you come from Okwan. It’s like the term ‘decency’ was a foreigner in your home!”

“Mesh, do not disrespect Okwan. Look, you are what…twenty four almost twenty five years old. This is your second job and you have no experience whatsoever with men and have not been married, so do not judge because it’s never happened to you.”

“I am not judging Okwan. Look at how she is eating all the meat while we are talking. Hand me a plate will you?”

Belinda handed her the plate and the bowl of meat. Okwan laughed. Belinda threw a pillow at her. Maureen clicked and Belinda turned to her, raised an eyebrow and said “see! you are judging again?”

“Look, I say things the way I see them. Okwan is beautiful and she makes her own money. She dresses and acts like she is an old woman but she’s not. It just pisses me off. Before you start saying that I have no experience, I got pregnant in form three, carried the baby to term but he died during delivery. My dad kicked me out of the house. My mom defended me and she too was told to go back to her home because well, she was the third wife and he didn’t care that much. So, yes, I judge, but don’t sit all mighty and righteous crying about something that’s already done. Get up and get moving is all I say.”

 

Chapter Fifteen: Jeff

He went home early. He parked the car in the garage and walked into the house. It was four o’clock when he stepped into the sitting room. Hakeem ran up to him and hugged him. “Where’s Iman?”

“She is drinking juice in the kitchen with Auntie Mary.”

“Auntie Mary is here?”

“Yes, she bought us ice-cream but I finished mine! Sorry.”

“It’s okay, let’s go and say hello to Auntie Mary and get some juice too.”  He lifted Hakeem and made his way to the kitchen where his sister-in-law was busy grating carrots with the help of Iman. They looked up when he entered the kitchen. Iman smiled and waved at him. Mary nodded and continued grating the carrots.

“Mami, go into your room with Hakeem, I’d like to talk to your Auntie.”

“Why? Did she not do her homework too?”

“Something like that mami, get off the kitchen counter and see what you can do as we catch up.”

Jeff waited until the kids had left the kitchen before turning to Mary. She smiled at him and continued grating the carrots. “Where’s Besh?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? She is your sister for chrissake!”

“She is your wife and you know what Christ has to say about that and being put asunder.”

“Mary, I am not in the mood for one of your games. Tell me where Besh is!”

“I don’t know. She called me this morning crying about something and asked me to be home when the kids came from school. I was shocked but seeing as I had no lectures today, I got into a matatu and made my way here from Maseno. Iman told me that she does not stay here anymore. I don’t know what is going on Jeff but given how you demand to know her whereabouts, I have a feeling that you did something to make her leave. What did you do? Wait, better yet, whom did you do?”

“Watch your tone Mary! You are in my house.”

“You are right. Listen, you can finish grating the carrots and check on the meat that’s cooking. I have other things to do with my life than live by your rules.”

“Mary, wait…just finish cooking, you can leave in the morning. Forget what I said, it’s been a stressful time for us. Your sister asked for time to think things through and I don’t know, maybe I was putting too much pressure on her to have another baby, she just snapped. I am sorry if I offended you. It was not my intention.”

“Aha…I see, so you can also apologize? Listen Jeff, she knew about the other women and it killed her. I don’t know how you could never see how much it hurt her when you lied to her face. I don’t like you but I am here because my sister asked me to. Besh, did not ‘just snap,’ she broke and for the sake of your life, I hope you get what’s coming to you. You don’t deserve my sister Jeff. You don’t.”

Chapter Fourteen…

“Now, that is the reason why you need to go and sleep it off. I know your husband is a coward and he will come here trying to confront you. Listen, go home and rest and we can talk about your next move.”

“Mesh, what do you mean by my next move?”

“Belinda, what she means is that you have finally caught him and he cannot hide from the truth. He knows you can do one major thing and that is to take the children from him. He also knows that he has to act like he is saving his marriage in order to look good among his fellow men. You have started a war Belinda and from where I’m sitting, I want you to win.”

“What is wrong with you two? I just confronted my husband and his mistress. I haven’t been living in our marital home for two months. I might lose my children and worse off, it hurts that he cheated on me and you are talking about war and winning?”

“You are too good for this life Belinda. You should become a Pastor.”

“I know right? We can be ushers and help collect all the tithes. Belinda, listen, Mesh is right. You are too good for this life and look where it got you. You got married and you embraced the season of marriage so much so that you forgot about yourself. Your whole world revolved around Jeff and sometimes when you give people the title of “Perfect” without informing them, they let you down. You expected so much from someone who knew nothing of your expectations. It hurts and it won’t stop hurting until you decide to keep loving and embracing yourself. You are lucky he didn’t leave you seeking the casualty wing of a hospital.”

“Okwan, I didn’t mean to…”

“No, that is what I mean by it hurting. Women bear secrets that could drain this world of all the tears the creatures have. It took me five years to choose myself. In those five years, all the nurses at Russia knew me as the punching bag of my husband and whenever I came in, they’d say ‘the usual,’ and write on my visiting card that I fell down. You know, later on when I looked at those cards, I saw that I’d fallen down four hundred and fifty three times. Did you know that anyone with Epilepsy does not suffer that much number of fits? Go home and sleep. We’ll talk in the evening.”

“Thanks Okwan.”

Chapter Six: Belinda

Iman and Hakeem jumped into her embrace as soon as they got off the bus. Once in the house, she helped them change into their play clothes and watched as they started chatting up their grandmother. She served them juice as their clothes were soaking in the bathroom.

Half an hour into the cleaning and dusting of the room, their bedroom door was flung open and Jeff said, “You’ll not work there anymore. If it is money you want, I’ll give it to you, but you are not going back there.”

She sat on the bed and looked up at him, “why?”

“Why? Did you just ask me that? You work in a kibanda! It is a small thing pretending to be a restaurant and do you know how it makes me look to have you working there? It’s just so wrong.”

“So, it is about how you look and not that I work.”

“If you want to work, send your CV to some places, apply for jobs and get called into an interview, just not there and it is not fair that you leave Mother here the whole day just so you can make loose change. Besh, you are a graduate for crying out loud! How can you sit on all that potential and instead waste it working for peanuts at some kibanda?”

“Are you asking me to babysit your mother?”

“Whatever! For as long as you live with me, you will not work there.”

“Thank you, Jeff. You should have said that in the very beginning. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Belinda, wait, Belinda…be serious, and where would you go? Look, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Stop talking to me Jeff, I am tired and I need to start preparing supper.”

“Is having that job more important than me and the kids?”

“Jeff, since we got married, I have done everything just for you and the kids. Now, sometimes I sit down and ask what have you done for me? I am not talking about taking responsibility for the kids or ensuring that there is food and supplies in the house and bills are paid. What have you ever done for me? I am tired Jeff, I am sick and tired of everything and now, I want to simply do what you always expect from me which is prepare your food and serve it to you and the kids. I’ll be sure to leave very early in the morning so you can go with the house keys.”

“Belinda…this is not the way we sort out this issue.”

“It is because you said so and frankly speaking I am glad that I finally get to see the real you Jeff, besides your mother is around and things will be okay, won’t they?”

“Leave my mother out of this!”

“You should take your own advice because she has more understanding and love than you and it hurts me that no matter how hard she tries to tell you to support me, you constantly put me down. I am done, Jeff.”

She walked into the kitchen and switched on the burner then placed the sufuria on it with some water for making the ugali. She was reaching out for the maize flour when someone reached for her hand. Her Mother-in-law was smiling and she took out the floor and switched off the burner.

“Mama, how are you? Can I make you some tea?”

“No, sit down.”

“What’s the matter, Mama?”

“Sit down and listen to me Belinda. Your Mother would be very proud of you if she could see the woman you are today. I could not help but listen to what you told my son and if there is one thing that I have always known is that, a woman never leaves her home. You just told your husband that you’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, is that true?”

“I have to.”

“Well, if you really needed to leave, you would have left two years ago my daughter. I know what it means to be fed up. Do not say something you cannot do.”

“Mama, are you saying that I cannot leave this house tomorrow?”

“Yes, however, I know you need time to think things through and that’s why I’ll stay. You can do as you feel you ought to but make time for your children. You have to see them when you can and reassure them that you’ll always care for them because they are not the reason for your misunderstanding with your husband, and even if they are, they do not deserve the same punishment as him.”

“Thank you, Mama.”

“Now, go and check on your children and let me help you out today. I will call you when supper is ready.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I just asked you to let me do my part Belinda, are we going to argue over that too?”

“No, Mama.” She walked into her mother-in-law’s embrace and for a few minutes it felt as though the world was finally smiling down on her, but that was before she heard the engine. Jeff was doing what he knew best and for once his outburst did not bother her. It was this final admission that enveloped Belinda into a sadness she could never share with the woman who was holding her at that moment.

Chapter Four: Maureen

Two things were true about Maureen: She loved fashion and talking. For as long as she could remember, her parents had often told her that her voice entered any room before her skinny body did. It was no surprise meeting Belinda in fact she could not miss the opportunity for she’d met her once at Barcadia. Her friend Michelle had left her in the company of this handsome devil she knew was married but enjoyed spending time with. His phone lit up and Belinda was smiling right at her, back then she’d asked “Is that your wife?”

“Yes, that’s Belinda.”

“She is beautiful.”

“Yes, she is a great woman.” Michelle had walked in right then with their drinks and she’d excused herself for the night and probably for the short life span of their friendship ever since. Later that evening, she walked to Okwan’s restaurant and was pleased that Belinda was ready to leave too.

“Do you need to place an order for tomorrow Mesh?”

“No, I actually wanted to see you again and apologize for coming on too strong. I talk too much and some people take it the wrong way.”

“It’s alright. I am just heading on home.”

“Sure, okay, where do you live?”

“It’s not far. I’ll take a boda-boda.”

“Do you have kids?”

“Yes, two actually and I am rushing home because their bus will be dropping them soon. Why do you ask? Do you know them?”

“Um…no, it’s just a bit early so I guessed that maybe you have kids that’s why Okwan let you leave early.”

“Okwan is a good person. See you around Mesh.”

“Yeah, sure thing, see you tomorrow then and say hi to your kids.”

If there was a moment when Maureen felt guilty, it was knowing that Belinda had two kids and a cheat for a husband. She pulled out her phone from her bag and scrolled down her contact list. She did not find Michelle’s number but she could comb through her Facebook profile for updates on her social life.

She was still going through her phone when someone tapped on her shoulder. She looked up and said “yes, what is it?”

“I am sorry for disturbing you, but are you good friends with the lady you were with?”

“Who’s asking?”

“I am. Well, she looks like someone I know and I was driving so I couldn’t shout out her name, but if so, I’d really love to see her.”

“You just saw a beautiful lady and came up with a story. Look, if you want to see her, visit Okwan’s restaurant tomorrow. She works there. If she is the one you say then you can talk to her then but I am not giving you her number.”

“It’s alright. I appreciate it but how about your number then?”

“Really? Do I look like ugali sauce?”

The man smiled and walked back to his car leaving Maureen with thoughts she knew could stew some soup.

Salt shaker

I’ll write you a story; a good story.

I’ll throw in similes; as sweet as honey, a dark as night, as proud as a peacock and watch you become as gentle as a lamb.

I’ll paint your days dark and color your nights yellow.

I’ll write you a story, yeah, you bet I will. When you hold your phone closer to your face in the matatu, or scroll down your computer screen…you’ll know that it is about you.

Your laugh, smile…how you cross your arms above your chest, how you look at me when I am not looking at you. How you have been trying to decipher me. 

I’ll write you not one, but two stories and watch you shed your worries. Is this real? Are you for real? What are your plans?

I’ll write you a story, because I’d rather write than utter,

For I fear I might falter and stutter,

But…but…but, here’s the deal, I’ll write and you’ll read.

You’ll read and these words would sink in,

You’ll read and these words will get you thinking that maybe, just maybe I’m talking to you.

You’ll read and a part of me will be shaken, shaken like a salt shaker,ready for some seasoning.

The one who never came

Nancy knows why Gina never smiles. She’s got that car loan to pay.

She also knows why Helen is gaining weight; she says Helen is about to launch baby number three. Why? To keep her husband of course.

What about Pam? Have you heard from her? Yeah, I did like a while ago…she nods, sips her juice, connects to the Wi-Fi and smiles…”you won’t believe me when I tell you?”

She throws back the weave that’s clouding her vision of me and grins.

“Don’t you want to know?”

“No.”

“Why did you ask then?”

“I asked about you in the beginning. You told me about Gina, Helen and Pam. How are things going on with you?”

“Great! I just managed to clear my exams last week and I was appraised for a promotion at work. But, enough about me, I have to tell you about Pam because trust me, you won’t believe a word I tell you, aki dunia hii?”

Glass cannot be ignored, not even when the light strikes it at an angle. Nancy knows what should be done when your man is not acting right. She knows whom to call when things don’t seem okay. She knows who needs a wake up call and who needs to straighten out their life.

It is how she says it that brings memories back to life. She’s never been in any of the situations that Gina, Helen and Pam are in. She’s always the observer; the light that illuminates the glass. When she reached out to cover my hand with her own, I knew two things to be true; there was something she was hiding and she was trying to tell me by speaking of her friends.

“What is it Nancy? Tell me what is really happening with you.”

“Hey, I have been talking for the past five minutes, didn’t you hear a word I said?”

“No, I am sorry I did not.”

“What is going on with you?”

Glass cannot be ignored indeed, for when it cuts, it slices the skin in a neat line, leaving traces of red. I sipped my coffee and reached out for a pen.

She smiled and then leaned back into the seat. When I lifted my head to hand her the note, I saw the waitress smiling at me. “Are you okay Miss? Would you like something else?”

“Um…no, I mean, yes…yes, I am okay, thanks.”

“No problem.” She smiled and walked back to the counter. I looked at my note and reached out for my coffee. I wondered how I was engrossed in a conversation with the one who never came.

 

Drifting 

When you lie down, think of what it was that you felt when you closed your eyes.

I heard you say, “drifting,” as though I was in Africa while you were in Antarctica. 

You said we were not connected, and I thought of an electric grid that none has ever understood its complexities;neurons,synapses, memories,motor skills…I drew a Map of us, a map that was a blank as the look on your face when you finished talking.

“So, what do you have to say?”

I drew a map. 

I am certain of it. I drew a very good map. 

Tonight as I drift to sleep, I stare at my finger, I cannot seem to close my eyes for this piece of silver might disappear and I may just wake up to “Congratulations,” and that, my beloved, makes me want to have a deep conversation with my shadow at 2A.M.

A little bit of you

If there was a time when Mercy could have smiled, it would have been at her engagement party; instead, she was on her balcony watching guests stream into her two-bedroom apartment.

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Thank you Gratisography 🙂

Her sisters were not coming.

Grace had simply sent her a text message ‘I am not for this.’

Noella, the baby of the house, smiled when she’d told her the news, “Well, are you sure? I kind of find it a little bit rushed, you caught him cheating, like a minute ago and the now, he goes on one knee? But, if you’re sure sawa sawa, I’ll be going out with my friends though.”

Her fiancee, Henry, was welcoming the guests.

He had a wicked smile, the one that made women commit all kinds of sins in their minds, and sometime when she looked at him, she saw little bits of her dreams splattered all over his face. Sometimes, like right now, she felt like she could fly from her balcony and land on the ground a beautiful mess…sometimes she asked herself, ” what happened to the little bit of you?”

Her thoughts danced around her, and then she heard him call her name, and somewhere in that moment, she looked down…and there he was, the little bit of her, the one who made her simmer…dreadlocks, tatoos, caramel…and a smile. He had her dreams all over him, and he stood there…hands in his pockets, his eyes asking the only question she knew “why?”

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Flowers in June

Rebecca knew Matthew. His smile, the way he walked in long strides, laughed at odd comments in Facebook posts and even how he removed money from his wallet to pay bills. She knew it all, except for why he loathed flowers.

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She paid three hundred shillings for them. A bouquet of red, pink, yellow and one that slightly resembled crisp orange. When she got to the house, she placed them on his side of the bed and waited…

The call came in at 7:00pm.

P.S.: Flowers in June; A 2016 NanoWrimo Project