The Place You Call Home

Our journey started long before my feet could meet the ground. It must have been past nine o’clock at night when we heard the chants outside your parents’ house. Your Father, Omutete, stood up and approached the door but it was your mother who knew it before they begun.

She pulled me aside and said, “You have to promise me that you will protect our daughter, listen, I know people think you are lazy and a drunk, but she needs a Father and you are the only one I trust. Do not even mention my people, because ever since I came here they have not bothered to visit me or send their best wishes. My own mother has forgotten me, but what would you expect of them given that I married beneath their expectations? Now, listen, I have wrapped some ten thousand shillings in this lesso and packed a few clothes for Maria. You have to go with her and protect her. I will not ask anything of you again, and Juma, you should not come back here. These people will take everything away from you when you can have three meals in a day.”

She placed you in my arms and threw the strap of the bag around my neck and pushed me out of the house through the small back door that led through the cow shed. I stood there for what seemed to be my whole life, thinking of a cold glass of busaa and a few women singing my praise. How could I have told you the truth then? For years, I went back to that night wondering what happened but nothing comes to mind. So, I held onto you and walked away carefully making my way through cow dung and maize fields until I got to the road where I boarded a matatu to Kisumu.

They said that my brother and his family were burned alive and their property destroyed by cattle rustlers, but I know that those were not rustlers. They were Omuchai, my brother’s rival, and his men out to avenge a business deal gone wrong. Weeks later I heard it on the radio that they believed I was also killed in the fire because I had gone to visit my brother that afternoon. Maria, I told you that our journey began long before my feet met the ground, but I was never prepared for the life of bitterness that followed.

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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?”


“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 Eighteen: Jeff and Belinda

Belinda looked up from hugging Iman and Hakeem to see Jeff driving into the compound. She walked with the children into the house and took their bags. They went to their rooms to change into their play clothes as she waited in the sitting room for Jeff. He walked in a few minutes later, “I was hoping to see you today. Have you had something to drink?”

“No, I haven’t. What are you doing home so early Jeff?”

“I was hoping to talk to you. I called Mary and she told me she was in school so I guessed you would be here and seems I was right.”

“Yes, at least you are right.”

“Come home Besh.”

“It does not feel like home Jeff.”

“I know that things cannot change overnight Besh. You always used to talk to me, to tell me anything that came to your mind. It was easy back then and then we had Iman and you started retreating into the shadows. You know we never argued about a thing, we would talk things through and I miss that. Mary said something to me yesterday, it was almost as though, she was giving life to the pain you’ve been going through. She said that you did not just snap, that you broke…and Besh, I am sorry, look, if there’s anything you want me to do to make things right then I would do it. I just want you back home. I want you here beside me and I want Hakeem to wake up at night knowing that his mom is there. I want Iman to see you home because this is all they know.”

“You want me to come back to this house?”

“I want you in our lives Besh.”

“I’ll think about it Jeff and let you know.”

“Do you still work at that place?”

“I got a job. I’ll also keep working at Okwan’s but not as often as I did. We worked on a system that suited us.”

“Congratulations, where’s this new job?”

“It’s here in Kisumu. Do not worry about the details but just know that I am embracing the eight to five lifestyle. Mary will be coming over next week to help with the kids and after that I was thinking they could go home and spend some time with your mom when they close school. It will give me enough time to get someone to help around the house.”

“Sure, that’s great.”

“Okay, let me go and see what those two are up to.”


“Yes, Jeff.”

“You are the mother of my children. I love you, always have…and though I have made all these stupid mistakes that cause you nothing but pain, I just want you to know that Michelle was a mistake and it took me a while to accept that.”

“Honey, no woman wants to be called a mistake when it comes to love. Can we not talk about this today?”

“Sure, I just wanted you to know.”

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 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 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 Three: Okwan

It was a relief seeing Belinda the next morning and so Okwan gave her a set of tasks to see to at the restaurant as she proceeded to pay for the delivered groceries.

“Belinda, we have some deliveries to make at Re-Insurance Plaza and I hope you can do just that because Joshua is not around.”

“Sure, I’ll deliver the meals.”

“Make sure everyone pays you for their meal, they always have the tendency of saying you can collect the money tomorrow. I am in no mood for credit today and tell them the pilau is already mixed with beef. O and there’s this mama, some short plump lady who insists on wearing red lipstick even though the color makes her look like a dead hen.”

“You do not like this mama I presume.”

“I am telling you to watch out for her. She always finds fault in the beef stew every time it’s delivered to her. Do not let her talk to you through her nose.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Belinda took the wrapped lunches and put them in one big shopping bag and left the restaurant for Re-Insurance plaza. It was a relief to have stepped out of the kitchen into the fresh air. The plaza was a five-minute walk from the restaurant and she was greeted by the guard upon entry who proceeded to direct her towards the reception.

The lady at the front desk smiled when she approached, “you must be the new person Okwan got. I heard you were beautiful but they must have missed something because you don’t look like any mama kibanda.”

“Is that a compliment or an insult?”

“I don’t know. You are quite pretty you know, anyways I am Maureen, but you can call me Mesh.”

“Why Mesh and not Moh.”

“It’s my name and I get to pick the nickname, what do they call you?”

“Belinda but do not call me Besh.”

“I see, anyways, you can place my order right here while I go and tell the others that their lunch is here. Before I forget, here’s your money.”

“Thank you, Mesh.”

“Don’t thank me, let me sit down and eat then you can thank me.”

Belinda sat on the brown couch at the reception and watched Mesh walk into the other offices announcing at the top of her voice that lunch was served.

Five minutes later she’d handed over everyone’s meal and collected her money. As she was about to leave, Mesh rushed beside her with a phone in hand. “Hi, can I have your number?”

“You have Okwan’s number isn’t she the one you’d rather call to place your orders?”

“Yes, but she is not easy to talk to. I promise I won’t disturb you or stalk you; it’s all about keeping the business of lunch deliveries going. I would really love to have your number.”

Belinda looked at the lady once more. She couldn’t be a day over two decades but there was something about her that reminded her of life. She took the phone, keyed in her number and handed it back to Mesh. “See you tomorrow Belinda, and I love your jeans, they really make your hips look great!”

Belinda walked back to the restaurant and handed over the money to Okwan. She walked into the kitchen to check on the beef stew.