Chapter Nineteen: Okwan

Okwan was closing up the restaurant when Belinda walked in. She was wearing a black pencil skirt a white chiffon blouse and was in nude heels that gave her the upper edge as she walked. She hugged her briefly and pushed back the door to welcome her. Belinda helped her stack the plastic chairs before sitting down.

“I haven’t seen you in a while Belinda, how are things?”

“I miss you Okwan. You know while I worked here there was no office drama but it seems I have found myself in the middle of a battleground there. How are the girls? Do they follow your instructions?”

“The tiny one does, but the dark one is a pain. She served a customer ugali-matumbo and brought back fifty shillings instead of a hundred. I almost slapped the money out of her, but I sent her packing instead. I cannot work with thieves.”

“I am sorry to hear that.”

“Okay, speak up. Something is bothering you and given the fact that you did not come here with the skinny thing that talks too much, I have the feeling that you are unhappy.”

“I moved back home.”

“Mesh told me about that last week.”

“Okwan did you ever have the feeling that all’s lost at a particular moment? I mean, when Jeff talked to me, he asked me to go back home but not to him and not as his wife. He put the children first and something in me felt like we were done. We could never work and live as happy family. I found out yesterday that Michelle is pregnant. Okwan, I cried. It was the first time I cried until I fell asleep. Do you want to know what hurt me the most? It’s the fact that she sent me screenshots of her conversation with Jeff and he was telling her he loved her while he was telling me she was nothing. Okwan, what did I ever do to deserve all this?”

“Have you talked to Maureen about this?”

“No, she would not understand.”

“Do you remember the woman she invited to your apartment two weeks ago?”

“Akinyi? Yes, why?”

“Well, I cannot step on a thorn and keep my mouth shut. Akinyi is Michelle’s sister.”

“No”

“Yes, you were drunk to see the similarity, but I saw it the moment she walked in and the truth is, Maureen is a sneaky devil, but she is a good person. I don’t know if it was her way of getting Akinyi to understand how far her sister had gone in destroying your marriage, but it is what it is.”

“No, why couldn’t she tell me?”

“She has not told anyone. I overheard their conversation as we were leaving that night. So, has Jeff said anything about the baby?”

“No, he has not.”

“Good. Let him be Belinda. You started this new job, concentrate on that, make some money and save enough for your children.”

“Okwan, he took me for a fool and look at me, all this time, I thought that maybe we could work things out. He says sorry now but does the opposite the very next minute, how could I not have seen it Okwan? And Mesh knew all this. She knew about Michelle and even introduced her elder sister to me, like we were friends! How could I have been so stupid Okwan? How could I have been so blind?”

“You are not stupid Belinda.Do not put yourself down for a man’s mistakes. He is the one who cheated. He is the one to bear the consequences of straying. You did your part and you have an even greater part to play, so pick yourself up and keep moving. By the way, I expect to see you here on Saturday, we are catering at some funeral and I know you could use the cash. It’s a lot of work but you can make something more than you did earlier.”

“Thank you Okwan. You are a true friend. Let me get to the house now.”

“Think about it Belinda, you are a good person and you should pick yourself up and keep going.”

Chapter Fourteen: Okwan

Okwan knew something was wrong when Belinda came into the restaurant a few minutes after Maureen. She watched the skinny girl bite her nails as Belinda walked to the kitchen. “What is the matter with you two?” Okwan asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I am not your age mate Maureen! You do not answer a question with a question; now tell me, what happened before I stuff garlic in your mouths!”

“Okwan, listen…”

“Is it the interview? How did Belinda do?”

“It’s not the interview. Well, the interview went well and I am certain they will take Belinda. It’s just that on our way out we got caught up in our conversation and the next thing we knew, we were near the Victoria Hotel and Michelle was seated at a table having lunch with Belinda’s husband. She went to talk to them and I ran all the way here.”

“I see. You saw them first if I’m correct.”

“Yes, but that is not the issue, Belinda just went in there, like it was her right!”

“It is my right, Mesh! They were having lunch and holding hands like they had no care in the world! Do you know how much he’d pay for that lunch? All the money he spends on her could be set aside for the education of our children. In fact, he’s never taken me out to lunch or taken the kids out, but he sits there, holds her hand and eats with her like she’s earned it. Don’t ever tell me that I have no right Mesh, don’t you ever dare tell me that you don’t want drama when I have to live every single day with the fact that he would rather have other women but me, that he would rather spend his time and affection on other women but his own wife! Don’t you ever dare tell me a thing about drama when he rolled out the whole production plus cast and crew right into our marriage. I am an educated woman. I am a responsible wife and I love my husband and even go out of my way to make sure that he is seen as a good father and spouse. I have never demanded a thing from him. I have never looked down on him or made him feel like he was not loved and appreciated. So, don’t…”

“Sit down Belinda…yes sit down and listen, take the day off. I want you to go home and prepare supper because we will be coming over to your house tonight,” said Okwan.

“What?”

“Belinda, you are boiling with anger and you have every right to. If I were you, I’d have beaten the two of them. You have friends, people who care for you and if there is one thing I know about that kind of anger is that, you need to eat. You also need your friends around. Go to your little house, sleep, cry, clean or do whatever it is you want to and we will see you in the evening. Mesh, see to it that she arrives home.”

“I am not going home Okwan.”

“Yes you are, besides don’t you think that your husband will look for a way to confront you after what you just did? Wait, before I even get ahead of myself, what did you tell them?”

“It doesn’t matter; those two will not stay away from each other. I am tired of all this Okwan. I deserve better.”

“What doesn’t matter matters and sooner or later it becomes a huge matter no matter.”

Uh? What are you some tongue twister, lyrical restaurant owner or something? Would you speak some sense, please?”

“Look at you making fun of me yet you ran here instead of standing up for your friend. Sugarcane legs!”

“I can run faster than you and in heels!”

“Are you two going to bicker like babies or will you listen to what I told the other woman?”

“I thought it didn’t matter?”

“Oh, shut up! I told her to get an HIV test because my husband had been with so many women. I also told her that I hope they have two kids just like he did with me.”

“Jeso! You did not! And then, what did she say?”

“I did not wait for her answer. I pushed back the chair, got up and walked out of the restaurant.”

 

Chapter Seven: Okwan

Okwan rolled off her bed into the restaurant.

She had sent Joshua to the slaughterhouse to get fresh matumbo and some maini for the day. On Wednesdays were her worst days; everyone loved matumbo but she hated the process of preparing them. The customers sat down to eat holding the belief that she could deliver on what they paid for. Some days, like today, she felt like pulling out her dreadlocks as one would pluck a chicken. She’d been living in this city for ten years.

The first five involved running for her dear life and the next five setting up a restaurant.

The thought of making her way to the peace of mind she had, made it harder for her to deal with Belinda. There was something about the woman that reminded her of a dead cat by the road. Belinda had soft smooth skin, like the ones she saw on women plastered on billboards. Her face was adorned by a smile that when revealed, lit up her brown eyes. There was also the way she dressed, as though the clothes were privileged to grace her body. It was this last fact, or better yet, that she had hips that everyone at Winmart felt was appropriate for the ideal woman, that made Okwan loathe her. How she came into Okwan’s world and started reigning resulted in sleepless nights. In the dark of the night, Okwan would wake up, go to the kitchen, open the fridge and pour some Viceroy in a cup and drink it while seated on the floor. She would brush her teeth immediately after, trying to mask that scent with some peppermint, but the liquor burned her throat so bad, she would wake up, her voice coarse.

Okwan did not expect to be entertained as soon as lunch time, but when the customers arrived and asked for Belinda, she had the feeling that they were not after her food. She called Belinda and asked the men to sit down and wait. She walked to the corner, which was two steps away from the kitchen door and watched as Belinda approached the men.

“So, it is true Besh, you work here.”

“Hello Jeff and who are your friends?”

“It doesn’t matter Besh, I just wanted to see it with my own eyes. Are you happy doing this?”

“I love working here Jeff.”

“That’s not what I mean and you know it! Why? I mean, are you trying to get back at me for something I did? I don’t know whatever it is but I am sorry, just forget this place and come home.”

“Would you like to order something? We have the ugali-matumbo for lunch today and it’s really tasty.”

“Do you have kienyeji?” asked one of the men.

“Yes we do, may I get you some?”

“Please, I’d love that and then be sure to bring some pepper too, teargas.”

“You’re most welcome.” She walked back to the kitchen and went about serving the men and returned with their meals. She also set a plate of food in front of Jeff and whispered in his ear, “lunch is on me,” before going back to the kitchen. Okwan sank into the plastic chair at the corner waiting, pretending not to care, but she knew the signs all too well.