Chapter Twenty: Finale

Maureen stood in Belinda’s way at the office. The first two months had taken a toll on Belinda and Maureen could see that she was beginning to get a grip of her home and her work. She had also noticed the wall her friend put between them.

Belinda would leave the office in a hurry. She never answered Maureen’s calls over the weekends and whenever she was asked about it, she said that she was busy with the kids. Maureen could not understand who was busy with kids at 11 PM.

“You are avoiding me Belinda. Tell me, what is wrong?”

“I have so much work to do. Can I talk to you later?”

“I don’t have time for later. What is the problem?”

“Mesh, we are at work and I have reports that need to be filed. Can we talk about this over lunch?”

“No, we never have lunch together. You always rush to Okwan’s and leave when I walk in. It’s either we talk now or I start shouting at you.”

“As you wish then, you knew Michelle and you also knew that Akinyi was her sister but never bothered to tell me, that is my problem.”

Maureen folded her arms across her chest, shook her head and said “You are right on both counts, so?”

“Your friend is pregnant for my husband.”

“Wait, Akinyi? No!”

“Michelle and to be honest Maureen, you may think that you are doing what’s best for me by bringing all these women into my life and watching how it hurts me, but the truth is, I cannot be friends with someone who cannot come to me and tell me things as they are. It is too much.”

“I came to you and told you everything about Michelle, what did you do?”

“I don’t have time for this!”

“Make time, Belinda. I came to you and you yelled at me and insulted me for an hour! Do you remember? When you moved back into your house, what did I tell you? You went on and did just that, listen, you may be right and I may also be right, but here’s the thing Belinda, your husband cheated on you, not once or twice but a couple of times. You have been low for so long that you’ve forgotten what it means to think and act for yourself. You are going to need friends and frankly speaking, you owe me for playing nice so you could get an interview at this firm. So, how about we forget this drama with your baby daddy and focus on you being a superwoman?”

“Mesh, I am serious. Jeff played games and look where it got me. It hurts knowing that you withhold things from me because you are afraid of how I would react. Think about it, if you were me, how would you feel? Would you trust that kind of friend?”

“I know, you are very sorry for jumping into conclusions and all that stuff, now, get back to whatever you were doing and let’s earn some money.”

“See, I am having a serious conversation with you and you are busy cracking jokes.”

“Madam! I will have you know that I do not crack jokes when it comes to earning money. You should know all this by now, weren’t you the one who had enough savings to move out of her house when things got thick? Listen, my mother always tells me that there is nothing as powerful as a woman who can earn and save her own money. She also says that there’s no better feeling than spending your own money.”

“I will see you later on Mesh. Now, let me file these reports. You know we are having external auditors coming in for an evaluation and the bosses are tense.”

“Forget about it, why should you be scared when a visitor comes to inspect your kitchen? If they don’t like what they find, they can always go to their homes and cook for themselves.” Belinda was about to respond to Mesh when she saw he computer screen light up. Mesh walked back to her desk, giving her time to respond to the email she had just received.

****

Jeff dreaded having a conversation with Belinda. The children were at home with their grandmother and he could not escape his wife’s presence at every turn. He thought of his friends advice on keeping the news of Michelle’s pregnancy to himself. It worked well for the two months but he knew that sooner or later he’d have to break the news to Belinda. He sat on one of the steps leading to the front door and took in a deep breath.

****

Belinda watched him sitting outside the house and approached him with a cup of black tea. He took the cup from her and set it aside as she sat beside him.

“How was work today?”she asked.

“It was the same stuff. You know nothing changes in banks as much in terms of what’s done. How about you? How was your day?”

“My day was good. I sorted out things with my friend, Maureen, and so far all is well.”

“That’s very good. Thanks for the tea.”

“You’re welcome. Jeff?”

“What happened to us?”

“You are asking the wrong man, Besh. You are seriously asking the wrong man.”

“Well, at least I asked, kuuliza sio ujinga, isn’t that right?”

“You always asked me questions Besh. Do you remember when Iman was born and she was admitted at the hospital because she was running a fever and the doctors had to run tests? You turned to me and asked ‘is she going to be okay?’ and I was so stupid then, I answered ‘of course, isn’t she under the care of qualified doctors?’ Do you remember?”

“You will have to make more trips to the hospital now. I know Michelle is pregnant. She must be two months and one week along, right?”

“Besh…”

“Don’t beg. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to argue, Jeff. Congratulations, you will be a father. You’ll have to take care of that child.”

“Besh…listen, I wanted to tell you but I couldn’t find the…”

“Words? Well, you have uttered quite a number this evening, haven’t you? Jeff, we cannot argue about this anymore. You made your choice. I love this house, but it’s not a home. I’ll look for another place and take the children with me. I am telling you this because I want you to see them as often as you can. I will never deny you the privilege of seeing them, but when you do, she is not allowed near them, not until I am certain that she understands we are not feuding or competing for your attention. You can have her Jeff. In fact, you can keep her and all the other one night stands that you so desire. I have already told my uncles of my decision and they’ll be visiting your parents over the weekend. You win Jeff.”

“Besh, listen, you don’t have to move out. We can work something out, a plan or a sleeping arrangement, please don’t do this to Hakeem and Iman. What will you tell them?”

“I see, now you understand that the well-being of our children is at risk? Jeff, it is not about what I will tell them. It is what we will tell them because as far as I know, you are the one who won’t be coming home to them. Shall I add you another cup of tea?”

Belinda stood up and took her cup of tea with her. Jeff stared at her back but even then he could not find the right words to say to make things right. If he would have only answered truthfully the first night she asked about Michelle, then maybe he’d not have been swept by the storm. Maybe…just maybe he never knew that they were like a string of beads, if the clasp holding the string snapped and one bead fell off, then the others would scatter.

Chapter Seventeen: Akinyi

Akinyi knew two things as she took the stairs to the apartment. She was going to meet Maureen’s friends and she was not going to keep her thoughts to herself. She adjusted the strap of her heel briefly before ascending another floor. She knocked twice before the door was opened.

“Hi, my name is Akinyi. Mesh invited me.”

“Um…okay, come in. She will be with you shortly.”

“Thanks. I brought some wine, have it.”

Belinda followed the woman into her apartment careful not to utter anything offensive, but she had the air of being in-charge, it was like seeing an older version of Mesh. Akinyi kicked off her heels and sat on the carpet right next to Mesh after greeting Okwan.

Mesh waved Belinda over and asked, “You remember the friend I told you about?”

“Which one?”

“The one I wanted us to go out with? This is Akinyi, we’ve been friends for almost four years now and she’s a Programs Manager. She’s got beauty, lots of brains and is constantly serving people truth juice.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Akinyi. I am Okwan, the uncouth friend who runs a restaurant.”

Okwan, seriously, how would you introduce yourself like that? Don’t believe the uncouth part, she is saying that because she is hurt by what I said this evening. I see you brought a bottle of wine, let me pour you some. I think we ran out of wine awhile ago,” said Maureen.

“Hi Akinyi. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Belinda and you can go with what Mesh told you about me.”

“Thanks. It’s nice to meet the two of you. Mesh cannot stop talking about you, so, why are we getting drunk on wine tonight?”

“I just confronted my husband and his mistress today and these two thought I needed friends. They asked me to prepare supper but showed up with two bottles of wine, so we drinking my sorrows away.”

“I see and who is going to nurse your hangover?”

“Don’t worry about my hangover, worry about your own and here, have some chips. They are still warm.”

“Thanks.” Akinyi looked at the three women and smiled, something about seeing them huddled together on the carpet inside the small apartment made her want to laugh. She wanted to laugh so much that her throat burned as she tried to swallow the fried chips she was eating. Maureen never ceased to surprise her with the kind of friends she rallied around. There was an odd strength to Belinda, the one whose husband was having an affair with her sister, she almost felt sorry for her.

Chapter Eight: Okwan and Belinda

After all, was she not the one who always wanted to leave her husband? It might have been how Belinda coaxed her husband out of his anger or how she walked with him out of the restaurant and to the parking lot that ignited a heart beat in Okwan. She would never tell the exact moment when she found the courage to confide in Belinda, but later that evening as they were closing the restaurant, she asked Belinda to listen to her.

“What is going on with you Belinda?”

“Nothing much, why do you ask?”

“I heard the conversation you had with the men who came in today for lunch. One of them was your husband and he asked you to go back home, tell me, what is going on?”

“He asked me to stop working and I refused. I moved out of the house and now I am still working for you.”

“I see, and what about your children?”

“They are at home. I get to see them and spend time with them. I just do not sleep in that house.”

“What made you come to that decision?”

“You are asking as though there is a definite answer to such a question. Look, Okwan, do not worry about it. My husband and his friends will not cause you any trouble.”

“No, they won’t, but you on the other hand, could.”

“What have I done?”

“Exactly…that’s what I’m talking about, what have you done? You may think that you took one step but it doesn’t change the fact that you took it. There are some things in life that you can never turn your back on and just be careful while you are on this new path you’re treading.”

“Is that a threat?”

“If it feels so to you, then it is what it is. By the way, your friend came looking for you sometime after you’d seen off your husband.”

“What friend?”

“Some skinny girl who talks faster than I can count money, she said her name was Mesh!”

“Mesh! Yes, she helped me collect payment from the people are Re-Insurance plaza. She’s nice.”

“Yes, if you believe that anyone who responds to Mesh is nice, then you are really going downhill. Anyway, it’s not in my place to judge. Here’s your pay for today and please think carefully about what it is you are doing.”

“Thank you, Okwan. Do not worry about me. I will see you tomorrow.”

Omolo Agar Road

Friendship is like clay.

You can scout for it, but never come across the fine particles you seek. Sometimes, you stumble upon a nice heap of soft, fine clay that summons the potter in you. Then, without knowing it, you start to knead it, compress it, air it and slowly add water, and color to create what you had in mind.

Friendship is nothing like clay.

Clay receives direction on a potter’s wheel. It endures the heat knowing that it will come out firmer than it was whilst going in the kiln. Clay follows the path set out for it by the potter’s hand, bending, twisting, falling off…all at will, confident that it will be as the potter imagines it.

black and white dark night people walking light shadow
Always stocksnap.io

Friendship is clay.

It is there but few seek it out to sustain it.

Like the Potter, some use it to mold it into what suits them before casting it aside or passing it on to the next person.

I found myself at Omolo Agar Road, at a crossroads, and that is when I saw this neat heap of red clay. I wonder how long it took me to accept that it was not going to be mine, but the thought of molding a pot or a family of four had me smiling all the way to work.

 

6/40

What are you thinking about Marjorie? You have just closed your mouth on me right here. We had better finish up and head back to the office. I have some interviews to conduct at 2pm.”

“Nicole, if you talk this much around me, and we are not best of friends, I wonder, just how much do you spew around your family?”

“Family is crazy. You are born into this group of crazies and you deal with it, but with friends, ni kama buffet, you can choose what to add to your plate. So, tell me ,what are you thinking about?”

“It’s just that Martin is seated at that corner, next to the window looking at me.”

“Where?”

“Stop doing that! You’ll break your neck! And, wait, next to the blue pillar with those flowers on your right, act like you are picking something from the floor…Nicole!”

“What? I do not have to check him out, we are not scouting for a future husband. We don’t have to steal glances. I want him to see us talking about him. Kwanza let me wave!”

Martin meets her eyes. Nicole looks at me, smiles and turns to Martin her right hand going up, and she waves. I shake my head. My Father’s daughter.

I push my plate aside. Push the chair back, a screeching sound startles Nicole. I’m up and walking out, but I do not miss it. Martin waves back at Nicole.

His eyes are on me.

My Dad would know what to do. He would know what to say to make things better. His only fear was that he let me carry the world at a young age and I have never shrugged since then. I had expectations. The issue with Martin unsettled me because I was the only one who seemed to be aware that it was a game to him. He would apologize and do it again. He loved being punished but what did that say about him as a person? Why did his actions unsettle me? What was it about this project that made me realize how much of a jerk my colleague was? This was the sixth day after the boss assigned me that project. It was a charity event, why would Martin want it so much that he would put me down?

Nicole did not come after me. I wished she did but I would never admit it to her.