Drama re-appeared in my life….
The Oasis Fish and Chips was frequented by the middle and lower class society of Kenya, in what was an endless stream of customers. Kenyans were obsessed with chips and sausages, which served both as a prestige and affordable meal. Midday was the busiest time of business followed by a constant flow of customers all afternoon and evening.
My first day at work was one full of excitement. Strangers talked to me because of my apron. They asked for food, pleaded and commanded; they made me feel important. What makes a woman to put on an apron and serve people? There was much to test my spirit but I promised not to break.
Murugi trained me on the job, and was a very patient teacher. "You will always smile regardless of personal problems," she said. "Aprons will come out of your first cheque so be aware. Every time you serve a customer, don't come back empty handed, grab an empty plate or something. Every trip counts and the less footsteps you cover the more effiecient you become."
Nissans loaded passengers at the restaurant's entrance. The yelling and honking was loud at first, but over the days it became a background noise. For me, it was a fresh change of pace from a life of tarmacking and staying home. I had a job now, and for the first time in my life I felt a sense of direction and a need to defend the dignity of my family. I was not only making money to support my sister Wanjiru but also saving some for the future of my unborn baby.
Mr. Njuguna my boss was very supportive and worked well with my schedule. He let me come and leave early so as to avoid getting home late at night. He said he was protecting my innocence, and a girl in my condition needed a lot of rest for the sake of the baby. "Many are called but few are chosen," he liked to say, and I finally figured out he was telling me not to mess it up. The job was my second chance and my pregnancy was God’s plan. He gave me hope and made me believe that I could prevail in the face of all challenges.
I was five months pregnant and my pregnancy was showing. My belly was swollen and my breasts enlarged. My co workers were very nice to me and I especially liked Murugi because she made good conversation. Her story was similar to mine; a girl who had come every day to Nyeri Town in search of a better life. She had believed beyond doubt that things would be different with independence. She had eventually succeeded in getting a job and was able to support her parents and siblings. Then there was the waiter, Kamau, a hard working young man who had been on the job for three years. It was why he was able to operate the cash register and still collect plates from the counters. He was diligent and communicated well with the customers. "You are in the right business," Kamau told me. "People have to eat no matter what and that’s job security for us."
Once in a while when we were not busy, Kamau would show me how to use the cash register and in his own words, 'my degree in the restaurant business'. I enjoyed every day I spend with them at the Oasis and always returned home full of stories for Wanjiru
Oasis Fish and Chips was a small restaurant with a capacity of around twenty customers. The ceramic counters were lined in four rows with an array of bar stools on each side. The walls were covered with mirrors that made the room look bigger than it was. The white tiles on the floor looked dirty and greasy but nobody seemed to care. I loved the smell of chips in the building and dreaded the afternoon heat that made the kitchen unbearable. The space in the kitchen was small but somehow we managed to work around each other, squeezing past the soda machine to get to the toilets. I helped to prepare the food and sometimes served when Kamau was overwhelmed. People walked in hungry and left with a smile, and that made me happy.
Two months into the job and my white apron had turned brown. And it didn't matter how long I washed it because nothing could bring back the sparkle of new fabric. And so I surrendered myself to look like the rest of the workers - well groomed with dirty aprons.
Life was good again. Our two cows made milk and brought us money. I sent Wanjiru to the market every other day to sell carrots and produce from our shamba. The market was a walking distance from our home and Wanjiru covered the three miles at an easy walk.
I was happy and hopeful until drama reappeared in my life in the name of Martin. It so happened that Martin, my boyfriend showed up on a day when I was running the cash register. I looked up and he was standing there, watching me with soft brown eyes, waiting to catch my attention. Two months I hadn't heard from him, and just like that he reappeared.
"Hi Wangechi," he said, looking uncertain. His eyes met mine briefly then dropped.
I could tell he was feeling guilty for his absence, but I was happy to see him nevertheless. "Hi Martin," I greeted.
"Can we talk?"
"No she can't talk!" The voice came from behind me and belonged to my workmate Murugi who knew all about the boyfriend who had left me stranded to peel potatoes. "Wangechi is busy. Come back later."
I looked at Martin and saw panic in his eyes. I thought he was going to bolt and so quickly said, "Its okay Murugi. This will only take a second."
Murugi cursed under her breath and went to get Kamau to cover the register. I took off my apron and walked through the restaurant with a plastic smile on my face. There were only a few customers present, eating slowly, the afternoon heat showing in their movements. I followed Martin's white shirt outside, taking a right and stopping in front of a Kodak, instant passports' shop. Martin was wearing a red tie with black pants, and looked every bit like a lawyer.
"Where have you been Martin?" I asked as I came to a stop in front of him.
"You work here now?" He asked sounding puzzled.
"Yes. How did you find me?"
He grinned. "It’s a small town Wangechi."
"Where have you been?" I wanted to know badly. I wanted to know whether he had vanished because of the baby.
"I'm sorry Wangechi," he said. "We were busy at the law firm and the news about the baby took me by surprise. I needed some time to process everything."
"Two months is a long time to think," I said, my voice flat and skeptical. I wondered whether there was another woman somewhere.
"It's just that I didn't expect ..." He stopped himself and sighed. "I want to make it right with you. That's why I’m here my love. Let's meet after work and I will take you somewhere nice and we can be us again." He touched my shoulder and I felt a pulse. I liked the way he touched me and two months without a man's touch was a long time.
"You left me ...," I said. “You hurt my feeleings.”
“I’m sorry about that my love,” he said softly and moved closer. I could feel his breath on my face and it aroused me. “I’m here now.”
I took in a deep breath to prevent the tears from falling. "I don't want you to do anything you don't want to..." I said, my voice a whisper. “We are either together or we are not.” In just a few seconds he had reached me, and I felt conflicted. He was the kind of man who could make a woman gasp.
"I want to," Martin said and pulled me into his arms. "I want to be with you Wangechi. I missed you so much. I want to hold you in my arms and never leg go. Please say yes. Let's meet after work and we can talk like we used to. Remember how we used to talk about nothing for so long?"
I had lost. "Yes, I remember," I said, warm feelings coursing through my body. "I will see you after work."
Martin kissed me on the forehead and smiled. "Meet me outside the shoe shop at 7pm. I'll be there at 6.55pm, no, at 6.45pm." He sounded like a high school boy on his first date and that made me smiled. He was handsome and could be charming sometimes.
I went back into the restaurant smiling and only stopped when I met Murugi.
"So, is he going to take care of his child?" Murugi asked, ruining my moment.
"We are meeting in the evening after work," I said as I avoided her eyes.
"Come on Wangechi, did he say anything about the baby?"
"I'm going to check on the chips Murugi." I wriggled around her and walked into the kitchen. Mr. Njuguna who had been listening glanced in my direction and pretended not to have heard anything. I prayed he would stay silent and he did.
After work, I waited for Martin outside the only shoe shop in Nyeri Town. I leaned my back on the rails, and searched in every direction, hoping to catch a glimpse of him before he saw me. My dreams were similar to any girl my age. I wanted a husband, a home, children and love. Martin was the only man I had ever slept with and I wanted to belong to him for the rest of my life; to be virtuous and earn his trust. To be a wife and a mother, to willingly rise at dawn to provide food for my household.
At 7.15pm, I finally saw him rushing through the crowd, looking up to catch my eyes. He looked handsome and I loved that he was rushing on my account.
"Hi my love," he said, out of breath, and gave me a peck on the cheek.
"Hi babe," I said, letting myself go completely. I had agreed to meet him and so decided to enjoy myself. I had worked hard for two months without a break, and being loved was a breath of fresh air.
"You ready?" He asked, taking my hand and leading me away. He didn't apologise for being late and I didn't ask. Instead, he bought tropical sweets from a vendor and gave me two. I followed him, with all my heart, allowing him to take charge of my life. It felt good for once to have someone take care of me.
Ten minutes later, we sat inside a fancy fast food restaurant behind the shoe shop eating chips and chicken. I worked in a fast food restaurant but still managed to enjoy the food. I think the company made the food taste better. This was what the future would look like, a family of three - Martin, myself and the baby.
"How's your new job?" Martin asked.
I wanted to tell him the whole story but chose not to. We were having fun and I wanted to keep it that way.
"I love it. How did you find me?"
"I asked around," he said with a grin. "What kind of a lawyer would I be if I can't find my own girl?" He kissed my neck and I smiled.
He had called me his girl, and I liked that. The last of my fears evaporated and I exhaled. He was mine and I his.
What followed next was a blur and I would only think about it later. Martin led me down the street and I followed as though in a daze. It was dark outside by now and the broken streetlights didn't help much. We used the headlights from the cars to guide our path and cross the street. I don't remember the name of the hotel we walked into, but I remember the watchman standing guard at the entrance of the building.
It was a lodging, bed and breakfast, and I waited in the reception area while he paid for a room. He had promised to never take me to a lodging but in the haze of the moment, I felt that it was a trivial matter to bring up. We were together, and that’s all that mattered. He was the father of my baby, and the love of my life.
Room number 24, second floor. There were no elevators in the building and so we used the stairs. We stopped to kiss halfway up and giggled in each others arms. The bed had brown covers and a lamp on the end table that emitted yellow light. The bathroom was not so clean and the folded white towels smelled of cheap perfume.
Martin undressed me slowly and placed me naked on the bed. She kissed me on the lips, neck and all over my body. I could hear him groan, his voice arousing the very life inside me. He sounded pleased.
"Oh Martin!" I cried.
"Shssss... don't talk baby," he whispered. "Let me take care of you."
He did, take care of me, and I enjoyed every second of it. Martin loved me like never before, and the light inside me burned bright. I fell asleep and when I woke up in the middle of the night, he was applying jell on my back, massaging me and moaning into my ears. We made love again before he passed out, mumbling something about how he had to get up early and go to work. I lay awake long after that, watching him and wishing that every day of my life would be like this. This was why I fought every day to succeed in life - family, and a husband to hold me at night. My hand moved down to my belly and I rubbed the mound with love. I hoped the baby would look like his father, have the brains of his father and grow up with the blood of my father in him. The world felt right.
In the morning, I woke up and found Martin dressed and ready to go. He smiled at me and grabbed his folder. Soft light sipped through the curtains lifting the dakness and turning shadows into actual shapes; a desk, a chair, a lamp. The silent of the night was broken by the the sound of morning traffic through the window.
"I have to go my love," he said with an apologetic look.
"What time is it?" I asked rubbing my eyes.
"I have to get up to," I said, sitting up and covering myself with the sheets.
"Bye Martin. I hope to see you soon."
He walked over and kissed me on the cheek. "Take care babe. Make sure you take breakfast downstairs before you leave. It's paid for."
And with that, he bolted through the door, and only then did I realise that we hadn't talked about the baby. Martin was gone from my life, but I didn’t know that.
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...