Heavy rain woke Zuri from a deep sleep. She sat up on her bed, rubbing her eyes as she tried to shake off vague dreams. Rain pounding on her window cleared the remaining cobwebs.
“No, no,” she said, as she bounded out of bed to her window.
Throwing back the curtains, she stared at the dark clouds overhead, and the water running down her windows. It was six o’clock in the morning. She’d planned an outdoor birthday party for Mrs. Tolinda’s daughter. That gave her approximately five hours to find tents.
Sleep escaped as she grabbed a pair of jeans and t-shirt from her closet. Taking her phone, she hurried out to her small kitchen to start a pot of coffee as she thought about whom to call to get tents on such short notice.
She’d found a vendor by the time she made it to her office at seven o’clock. The problem was he couldn’t deliver the tents because of a previous engagement. She had to find her own transportation.
Anjik found her pacing their small reception hall with the phone pressed to her ear.
“What’s going on?”
“People want an arm and a leg to get tents from Kikuyu road to Lavington.” Zuri sighed and ended another disappointing call. “I need someone who’ll do me a favor without cost.”
“Call Devin,” Anjik suggested, dumping her bag on her desk. “He’s always doing things for you.”
Zuri frowned. “Now why didn’t I think of him? Anjik, you’re the best.”
She grinned at Anjik, pulled up Devin’s number on her phone and dialed. He answered on the second ring.
“Zuri?” he answered, his voice sleepy.
“Did I wake you?” she asked as sweetly as she could manage. “It’s not too early, is it?”
He yawned on his end.
“It’s seven o’clock in the morning, gal. What’s wrong?”
“Do I only call you when something’s wrong?”
“Then did you call me because you missed me?” he asked, his tone way too hopeful.
She chuckled, filled with guilt. “Devin, I always miss you. How’s your company doing?”
“Fine,” he said. “Zuri?”
“Just tell me what you need help with. It’s painful to listen to you beat around the bush.”
She bit her lip. “I actually do need your help. You have a Pick-Up truck and I need to get tents to an event in the next two hours. Are you available?”
There was silence and then Devin cleared his throat. “Yeah, sure, I’ll get ready. Where do you want to meet?”
She sighed in relief.
“How about in thirty minutes? Pick me up at my office and we’ll go together. The tent place is on Kikuyu road.”
“Right, sure,” he yawned. “You owe me breakfast.”
“Anything,” she answered and hung up. She jumped up and down happily. “Thank God for Devin.”
“You should really pay more attention to that guy,” Anjik said with a slight sigh. “Ask yourself why he never says no to you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Zuri said, slinging her handbag over her shoulder. “I’ve no time right now. Time to find out if Amari Bakery is on time. I’m sure I can convince Devin to help me pick up the cake and party favors on our way to Lavington. I’ll meet you there later.”
“Think about it, Zuri,” Anjik called after her.
Zuri got Devin a huge travel mug of coffee and mandazi from a shop close to the tent office. They got the tents and headed to Amari Bakery on Ndwaru Road. Maureen, the Bakery’s owner met them at the gates with the party favors, and the Birthday Cake: a four kg. Chocolate cake decorated with chocolate shavings. Just looking at it, Zuri knew the birthday girl would love it at first sight.
Thanking Maureen, they headed out to Mrs. Tolinda’s home in Lavington.
“Where have you been this past month?” she asked Devin.
“In Nyeri,” he said, sipping his coffee. “I got a huge contract to set up computers in a primary school there. The job turned into five and suddenly the month was over. You didn’t call me.”
She shrugged. “I had a few problems of my own.”
Devin glanced at her for a second.
“You sound sad. Did something bad happen?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head, “just had a serious dry spell. I was worried I might have to close my business if I didn’t get any clients. It’s a scary thing. I’ve sunk everything I have into it, you know. I keep thinking what would I do if I closed Binda Events?”
“Find a job,” Devin answered casually. “Get married, maybe start another business. I don’t think you’d stay down for long, Zuri. It’s not your style.”
“Get married, really?” she asked, looking at him.
Devin Makoto was those lean guys that just seemed never to gain weight no matter how much he ate. He was a genius with computers and had managed to create an IT company that had clients all over the country. He was innovative, easy going and industrious. She could see how women would find him handsome: he had a cute face, and boyish charm. He never failed to make her day. They’d known each other since nursery school when he’d shared his juice box with her because he liked her strawberry jam sandwich.
“Don’t you think it’s something you’ll do soon?” he asked.
“I’m busy waking you up at seven o’clock in the morning, running around trying to make Binda Events work. What time do you think I have to get married?”
“I was just asking a question,” he answered mildly. “Jeez, Sonnie is right. You have tunnel vision these days.”
“When did you and Sonnie talk about me?” she asked.
“She calls me all the time,” he said with a smile.
Zuri blinked. “Well, good for you. Maybe you can marry her then.”
“Now you’re getting pissy,” he chided. “Relax, I was just teasing you. You don’t need to get married. In fact, I think I like seeing you live alone.”
“Such caring and warmth,” she teased.
He laughed, and turned onto the street Airi lived on. Mrs. Tolinda’s house was opposite Airi’s house.
Devin backed up the driveway, going around Mrs. Tolinda’s house to the backyard. She was glad to see the staff she hired standing in the garage, sorting through decorations.
“Okay, time to get to work,” she said and opened her door. “Thanks, Devin. I know I don’t say it enough, but I really do appreciate this.”
He smiled at her. “You’re my girl, Zuri. Call me anytime.”
The expression on his face made her pause, Anjik’s words flitting through her mind. Did Devin like her? She squelched her suspicions as fast as they came and got out of the truck. She instead concentrated on getting tents erected for the party, as well as getting the bouncing castle up for the younger kids.
By the time they finished, her jeans were muddy, her t-shirt sweaty. She spotted a new cut on her palm. She’d gotten it helping Devin and the crew put up the tents.
“It looks great,” Devin said, coming to stand beside her.
The tents covered the back yard keeping away the rain, and creating a warm ambiance. She’d scattered tables along the edges of the tent, leaving the middle for the kids to play and dance if they so wished. The bouncing castle took up one end of the five tents.
They had set up a stage in one whole tent for the Deejay she’d gotten for the party. Sweet sixteen birthdays were about being cool, and having music at your party. She had gotten Deejay Dre, an up and coming entertainer, who’d give the kids a good time.
She set up the caterers in the open garage, and the cake was safely kept in Mrs. Tolinda’s kitchen.
“I didn’t think I’d make it,” she said after a minute. “I can’t believe it’s finally done.”
“Time to change,” Devin poked her left arm, “you stink, Kabinda.”
She cuffed his shoulder.
“Whatever Devin,” she said, shaking her head. “You look worse than I do.”
He grinned when she reached up to wipe mud from his jaw. Conscious of Anjik’s earlier warnings, she stepped back and gave him a slight smile.
“I left a change of clothes at Airi’s house,” she said then. “I’ll just head over and get a shower.”
Devin nodded. “Sure thing, I need to go anyway. I’ll see you later?”
“Sure, Devin,” she said and practically ran away from him.
“You ran away?” Sonnie asked with a laugh. “You ran…”
Zuri scowled when Sonnie burst out laughing.
“Hey, that’s not fair. It’s not my fault I started thinking he wanted me. Blame Anjik. That darned girl speculates too much. She’s making me paranoid.”
“Well,” Airi said, coming to help her zip her dress. “Anjik is not speculating anything. We can all see how much Devin cares for you. I mean, you drag him out of bed at seven o’clock and he comes running without complaint.”
“He demanded breakfast,” Zuri pointed out as she swept up her braids into a top ponytail.
“Yeah well, that was more like his woman feeding him,” Sonnie said still chuckling. “Devin likes you, Zuri.”
“I’m not listening to either of you,” Zuri said decisively.
If she did, she would have to reevaluate every conversation she’d had with Devin, and that was just too much work. It would break her concentration on her business, and she couldn’t afford that right now.
“Fine, we’re just putting it out there.” Airi sat on the couch beside Sonnie. “So, where does this event put the business?”
“We’re in the black, but it’s shaky,” she said with a sigh. She sat on Airi’s bed. “I need to do serious marketing. I’m going to need a few more clients before I can breathe at all.”
“Well,” Airi said, shrugging her shoulder elegantly. “I can help with the marketing for now. At no cost, of course. I don’t have anything to do, and I liked talking to Mrs. Tolinda for you.”
“What would I do without you two?”
Airi grinned. “Stumble along blindly.”
They all laughed.
Later at the birthday party, Zuri stood in one corner sipping a glass of orange juice. Her gaze sharply taking in the events as they unfolded around the tents. The caterers ran a smooth shift: no one had missed any food. The Deejay had the kids jumping up and down with excitement. She smiled as she watched the birthday girl scream happily when her favorite song came on. Their parents sat talking at the tables she’d set in intervals.
Everyone was having a good time.
Zuri smiled because Mrs. Tolinda had given her a check ten minutes ago. The amount would go into her bank and finally clear any arrears she had with the bank. She also had extra money to clear Anjik’s salary and pay back Sonnie.
“You look happy,” Sonnie said, coming to stand beside her.
“I am,” she said, watching Airi talk to Mrs. Tolinda. “I’m glad I’m in the Trep Zone.”
“Entrepreneur Zone,” she clarified with a smile. “There are bad days, like two days ago when I had no idea where I was going to get money. And then, there are really good days, like today. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
Sonnie nodded and slid an arm around Zuri’s waist.
“Well, that’s great. What about days you realize your guy friend likes you?”
Zuri groaned as she watched Devin walk into the party all dressed up.
“I call those ‘feign-ignorance-days’. I can’t afford relationship drama right now.”
<—The Birthday Party – Part 2
To be continued…thank you for reading!
Zuri is joined by her two best friends, Sonnie and Airi. They’re the people she relies on, especially when she’s down on her luck and the world is imploding.
Zuri Kabinda is a story about a young woman in her late twenties, living in Nairobi and struggling to make her Event Planning Business work. Follow her as she works through the various challenges young entrepreneurs face, especially in a city like Nairobi.
All baked goods mentioned refer to the Amari Baking Center