Church Fairies and Catways – The Little Girl

“Hubert, where are my red heels!” she shrieks out, as she frantically searches for her shoes among her many pairs.

She has a particular set of shoes in mind, matching her newly bought handbag from Duscs wear. She needs to stand out, look good, it mattered to her.

I join in the search, a slight frown on my face, perhaps wondering why these particular shoes meant so much to her.

“Got it,” she shrieks again, and immediately fumbles into the new pair.

Slightly irritated, I reach out for the car keys by the dining table and head for the back door leading to the garage. I start the car engine, close my eyes and rest my head on the Volvo seat’s head rest, waiting.

A few minutes later, Aidleen storms into the car, eye pencil and lipstick in hand.  I hear the front passenger door shut, but I remain still, eyes closed. I am deep in thought.

My wife had changed over the years, tremendously. Sundays had become red carpet occasions ever since her re-union with her long time group of flashy friends from campus days.  The conversations had changed to who has the latest Gucci bag matching with shoes, wearing the latest fashion trend, and so on.

Hubert was born into a conservative catholic family, where church Sundays were more of worship days than fashion show offs, where dress codes really didn’t matter, or the kind of car you owned didn’t raise an eyebrow when you drove into the church compound.

The local community knew each other by their last names. What mattered was the genuineness of your worship, what was in your heart, how you spoke to God one on one, how you saw people for who, and not what, they were. For all we know, God looks into the heart, not into your Ferrari, MLG Mercedes or two thousand dollar custom-made Armani designer suit.

He really believed that, deep down.

“Hubert! Hubert! Can we go please?  We’ll be late, honey. Why didn’t you wear the blue suit I had taken out for you? Babe, you need to look good.”

He leans forward and kisses her forehead, and whispers, “I’m good”.

He had worn a plain t-shirt embroidered in white and blue stitches, and faded khaki pants to match his oxford brown leather shoes.

“I look alright,” he whispers to himself, as he as he stepped on the accelerator and listened to the soft humming of the powerful Volvo engine as it came to life.

He loved the engine’s sound, how the machine picked up with ease, gliding past other cars on the highway with effortless power for such a big car.

“Hubert, let’s go!”

This time there was a heightened sense of impatience in her tone.

He obliged, and finally straightened his back.  He changed gears, pressed the accelerator and eased into the driveway leading to the gate.  The sun was hot, perhaps too hot for that time of day. He put on the air conditioner, it was instant, and the cold air felt refreshing to the skin.

The church usher stood at the gate entrance in bright blue African attire, clean-shaven and neatly dressed, patches of sweat clearly visible under his armpits, as he brilliantly tried to squeeze in as many cars as he could into the small parking area. Our turn came, and we were ushered into a small space beneath a leafy small tree right next to the entrance. It was a good spot, easily accessible and under a shade.

Aidleen was busy waving frantically at her friends as I parked. I couldn’t help notice the parking lot looked like an exotic car exhibition, a paradise for car lovers, fit to pass for a diplomatic convention of some sorts.

Melany was the first to catch up, looking very exquisite in a dark blue Bavaria suit with a matching handbag and shoes. Mike, the husband, was beside her, proudly clutching his newly bought iPhone 8 masterpiece, and we exchanged niceties over hugs and kisses.  The ladies had already began making their way to the church entrance, greeting acquaintances and friends along the way.  Catching up on the past week with church members.  I turned to lock the car, and then she caught my eye.

Our eyes locked in what might have seemed like eternity.

She just stared, a beautiful little girl in a pale-white wrinkled dress that seemed too big for her, dark short hair and a pair of worn out slip-ons for shoes. Despite the creases and over-sized attire, she looked very neat, perhaps trying to fit in, as much as she could in a world she knew very little about.

She stood beside the entrance gate, motionless, hands clutched together in front of her. She smiled, but her eyes told a different story, one of sadness and despair. Eyes never lie. I slowly walked towards her, trying to smile as reassuringly as I could, vaguely acknowledging greetings from incoming congregation members.

My gaze locked on the little girl.  The fixation growing the closer I got to her.

“Hello.  How are you?” I asked.  “Are you okay?”

She nodded, hands still clutched in front of her. She looked frail and weak, perhaps saddened by how life’s cruelty did not discriminate against age. Her cheekbones stood out, almost piercing the thin skin under which they held so tightly. Shoulders back, she had a confident pose, and despite her pale skin, her beauty still stood out.

She looked frail and weak, perhaps saddened by how life’s cruelty did not discriminate against age

Gilbert Kariuki

Unconsciously, I held out my hand to her, as gently as I could. She did not hesitate. She put her hand on mine, clutching it tightly, as if never to let go. I didn’t want her to let go. There was something special about the little girl.  I didn’t know what it was, but it was special.

We walked hand in hand towards the church entrance, and sat beside Melanie and the husband.

Church service had begun, and though the sermon was about giving unto others as the Lord had blessed, I wasn’t paying much attention. My mind wandered to the little girl beside me, hand still holding tightly to mine.

“Who is she? Why was she standing all alone by the gate? Where were her parents?”

I was lost in thought, as the priest’s voice became fainter and fainter….

~~~~

Fifteen years later, I sit in the front row of a dignitary-packed conference room.  I listen to a well-dressed, young lady telling the extraordinary story of her journey to her current status.  She is the youngest leader in the history of a global humanitarian organization that focuses on Children Rights and Welfare.

Her story is captivating, inspiring, emotional, exuding faith and persistence all through. Against all odds, she made something of herself. Against all odds, she triumphed over life! Against all odds, that beautiful little girl in a pale-white wrinkled dress that seemed too big for her, short hair and a pair of worn out slip-ons for shoes, was now a global symbol of what it takes to achieve dreams.

All it took was a ‘hello’, and stretching of a hand.  I took her in and cared for her as my own. Our eyes locked, as they did fifteen years ago.

She smiled, and this time her eyes told a different story, one of appreciation and love. She ended her life story with a soft ‘thank you’, amid a roaring standing ovation from the crowd. Our eyes still locked, tears streaming down both our faces, she came down the podium.  We hugged and just like fifteen years ago, at the small church compound, she put her hand in mine, and clutched it tight, as if never to let go.

I never did let go – it’s been fifteen years, and it all began with a stretched hand to a beautiful little girl in a pale white wrinkled dress.

In life, we come across people on our paths whose destinies are intertwined. A simple stretch of a hand can mean a lifetime difference. As we are blessed and cursed in different capacities, so do we have a spiritual duty to reach out to others and try to correct the imbalance this world serves humanity!

Story by Gilbert Kariuki
Email: maheniagk@gmail.com


I hope you enjoyed this story feature today. Nairobi is cold this month, stay warm. – Elly.

The Client Meant for Me

Nouta Ahito stood at her door, her gaze intent, as she stared at the fat drops falling on the steps outside her house.  Rain, the blessed waters from the skies, the tears wept by the earth, her most feared enemy, taunted her.  The faster it fell, the more it mocked her, and she could do nothing.  She wished for super powers.  How wonderful it would be if she could wave her hand and stop this rain.  She groaned long and hard, and closed the door, escaping the upsetting scene.

Nouta walked to her chair at the dining table and stared at her cup of tea, now cold.

“What are we going to do?” her sister asked.

She looked up to see her sister watching her.  Everyone in the house knew that when it rained, she worried.  At some point, in the past two years, rain had become her nemesis.  She loved the hot months, and never complained even when it got too hot in January.  Everyone complained then, but not her.  No, hot months were her favorite days.

Why?

Well, during the warm months, she did not have to worry about a muddy access road.

Nouta was a business woman.  She ran a baking skills training workshop at her family home.  She was proud of her training workshop: a neat green building, constructed with mabati she had painted green.  She had furnished it with all the baking equipment she could find, and more to come.  She liked calling it a workshop because it was not an institution.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

She enjoyed focusing on her work: on the process of imparting knowledge to a new baking student.  It was hands on, practical, and personal.  Her workshop would never be an institution.  She was proud of that.  However, banks consistently and with precise prejudice categorized her as a small business, without the enterprise in the SME acronym.  They did not look at her or favor her business.  Not even when she had all the necessary city and government permits.  Banks would not touch her with a ten-foot pole.

Sometimes, Nouta imagined, they probably smelled her coming into the bank to seek a loan for her small business and locked the vaults.

Don’t let her know we have the money, the officers would say to each other, and then chortle when she walked out.

She was too young, the loan officer would say.  As if, twenty-eight was just right, she thought.  Her faults were that she was single, with no rich husband in sight.  Her business was a passing fancy: because doing business in her family home was a temporary thing, a passing thing, it won’t last, they said.

Ah, her personal favorite was when once, a loan officer told her not to worry because her parents would get her a job soon.  In this day and age, jobs were about as available as unicorns in the sky.  Nouta rolled her eyes at that memory.  She doubted that loan officer had seen a unicorn in the sky.  How did he know her parents would help her find a job?  Her mother did not have that kind of motivation.

The rain amped up its rhythm as though demanding Nouta’s attention, she sighed.  Her biggest challenge in life, was not running a business, she was managing that.  No, her challenge was getting a decent access road, one that didn’t flood, or get muddy with each flash of rain.  She needed money to fix the access road to their home.  Her business could not afford it as an expense, yet.  She couldn’t get a loan, so it was not a quick fix.

Customers hated muddy roads, especially when they came from neat tarmac roads.  No one wanted to trudge through the mud and ruin good shoes.  She could understand that even respect it.  However, her business had to move forward.  She needed her customers to reach her, so that she could keep saving to fix the muddy access road.  And so, the love of sunny months and the hate and stress of rainy days started, and turned into her daily struggle.

Nouta got up from her seat and went to heat up her tea and sweet potatoes.  She needed a good breakfast.  She needed to be at full energy to convince the two women visiting her workshop today to sign up for a class.

What was a little rain, she thought.  What was a little mud?

She was strong enough to face down barbarians if they ever appeared in her corner in Nairobi.  Nouta chuckled at that stupid idea and set the microwave to heat her tea.

“We will manage,” she said to her sister, when she got back to the dining table.

“Well, if the two ladies don’t sign up, we’ll look for others,” Lita echoed, nodding her head.  “I’ll offer to get them from the road with gumboots, if they need it.”

“Or, we could pay someone to carry them on the back to the gate,” Nouta suggested, making her sister laugh so hard she almost spilled her tea.  “God help him if they are chubby.”

“As if that will happen,” Lita scoffed.  “We could try Mutheu’s mkokoteni.”

“I’m not pushing it in the mud,” Nouta said, thinking of the wooden cart with car tires Mutheu drove.  “Besides, he’ll just walk away if you suggest it.  He hates stupidity.”

Lita sighed and sipped her tea.

“It will work out, Nouta,” she said, her sure tone brought comfort to Nouta.

Lita always made it seem as though they could manage any kind of situation, and they did.  They always managed.

The first call of the day came right after breakfast.  Nouta answered her phone with a sense of calm.  Her first client was already on the way to visit the workshop.  She sounded levelheaded, and friendly.  Nouta took the opportunity to warn her of the rain.

“It’s a bit muddy,” Nouta said.  “Do you have sturdy shoes?”

“It was raining at my place too.  I’m prepared.”

“Okay,” Nouta said, hopeful.

She ended the call, giving her sister a small smile, though the nerves didn’t disappear.  They already had two students in place, and needed two more to fill the current class.  Two more to make a profit, otherwise they might need to cancel the class or do it at a loss.  This was their constant struggle.

It was nine in the morning.  The rain kept up for another thirty minutes, and then it stopped.  The sun stayed hidden behind clouds.  Their dirt road would take a while before it dried.  There would be mud; there was no escaping that reality.  Nouta finished her third cup of tea.

At ten, her first client called her.  She was at the end of the access road.  She sounded unsure about her destination.  Nouta came out of the house and went to stand at the gate.

“You’re on the right track,” Nouta assured her.  “I can come to you with gumboots.  Or meet you at the road—”

“Ah, I see you.  It’s not that far after all.  I’m on the way,” the lady said, and ended the call.

Nouta stood at the gate watching the woman who entered the access road.  Her steps were steady as she navigated the muddy road, jumping over puddles, and going around rough patches.  It took her five minutes to reach Nouta.

When she did, Nouta realized why the lady had been so confident.  She wore gumboots on her feet.  Black gumboots with a silver bow on the side, they were so handsome, Nouta could not help but smile wide.

Karibu,” she said, holding out her hand to her first client of the day.  “Welcome to Nolita’s Baking Workshop.”

“Hi, I’m Halima.  I’m so honored to meet you, Nouta,” Halima said, taking her hand in greeting.  “I have heard you’re the best in the city.  I’ve wanted to take classes with you, and always missed intake.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to sign up with you this time, so here I am.”

Charmed, Nouta launched into a conversation about the workshop and the upcoming classes, forgetting about the mud.

They entered the compound and went straight to the green workshop.  They talked for thirty minutes, and by the time Halima was ready to leave, she had paid a deposit.  Halima booked her spot for the class.  Nouta walked her to the gate, and once again remembered the state of the road.

“I’m so sorry about the road,” Nouta felt compelled to say.  “It’s not usually so muddy.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,” Halima said, showing off her gumboots.  “Your road is just like ours at home.  I don’t mind it, Nouta.  I’ll see you on Monday next week.  I look forward to learning from you.”

Nouta smiled wide and waved Halima off.  The first client of the day had set her mind at ease.  She rushed back to the house in a pleased mood to share the news with her sister.

Flush with a win of the day, Nouta waited for the next call with less anxiety.  It came at around twelve o’clock.  The sun was peeking out, the ground less wet from the morning rain.  Nouta felt confident that their muddy road was easier to pass now, than earlier.  When she answered the call, she was pleasantly surprised to discover that her next client had a car.

Great, she thought.  This will be even easier.

Nouta gave her precise directions to their access road, and the lady promised to call when she reached.  It took another thirty minutes.  Nouta was surprised when she answered the call and the lady on the other end sounded less than cheerful.

“You didn’t tell me the road was so muddy.  Why would you keep that from me?”

“I’m sorry, I told you it rained,” Nouta said.  “Our access road is a dirt road.  I was very clear about that from the beginning.”

“No, no, no,” the lady said, as though saying it in threes made it more negative than it already was.

Nouta felt a flush of annoyance race through her.  She sat at the dining table working on her laptop.  Opening her email, she double-checked the message she had sent to the lady.  In the directions, she clearly stated the access road was a dirt road.  It was necessary, especially in Nairobi.  She had dealt with all kinds of people.  It was always easiest to describe the destination without rose-colored glasses.  Her home area was not upscale Lavington, but it also was not slummy, but a homey kind of area.  Farms and family homes dominated the street.

“I’m not sure I can make it for this class,” the lady on the other end said to her.  “First, it’s so far and now this muddy road…”

“Where are you coming from?” Nouta asked, curious.

“South C,” the lady said, indignation clear in her tone.  “It took me almost an hour to get here.”

Nouta wanted to point out that it took her just as long to get to Eastlands.  This was Nairobi, no place was close, and no place was far.  Two, last month, she had a student who had come all the way from Muranga every morning.  That was four to five hours away.  She was still awed at that boy’s dedication to his baking dreams.  He never missed a day, and was never late.

What was South C?  Ndwaru Road was not in Ukambani, but in Dagoretti.  Less than an hour away if you took the newly minted bypass.  She rolled her eyes, but did not voice her opinion.  She kept her tone calm when she spoke.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Nouta said.  “Since you’ve come all this way, wouldn’t you like to see the place?  We can talk—”

“What about my car?” the lady asked.  “I can’t drive in to this mud.  Who can I ask to watch it?  I don’t even have gumboots to walk in the mud.”

Nouta fought the urge to talk back and pushed her chair back

“We have clean gumboots I can bring to you,” Nouta said.  “I’ll be at the road in five minutes.  Please wait for me.”

She ended the call and let out a frustrated groan.

Why had she attracted this lady again?  If she was from South C, why didn’t she then get a baking teacher from there?  Why come all the way here?  Why the frustration when the woman had a car?

Nouta found the clean gumboots.  She slipped her feet into her own used ones and gripped her phone tight as she left the house.  She headed to the road with an annoyed sigh.  Why did she need the money so bad?

Nouta breathed in and out on the five-minute walk to the main road.  She was right about the access road.  It was much easier to navigate, with only a single rough patch in the middle.  A car could manage it with no trouble.  When she reached the road, she bit back a curse word when she saw the white jeep waiting on the curb.  The driver rolled down the window and she met her second would be-client.

“Hi, I’m Rose.  You must be Nouta,” Rose said, smiling at her from the safety of her car.  “How come you don’t have a branch in town?”

Nouta slipped her phone into her jeans pocket.  She worried she might crash it with anger and frustration.  She hated this question most.  Did Rose even understand the logistics of opening a second branch in Nairobi town?  The capital that would involve, the amount of money she would need to sink into marketing to make both places work.  Why ask such a question?

Nouta smiled.

“Oh, we’re working hard to get one,” Nouta said in her most cordial voice.

“Oh well, I don’t think my car can make it through that mud,” Rose said, shaking her head, looking at the access road, disdain clear in her eyes.  “Is it always like this?”

Nouta bit her bottom lip, and breathed in and out.

“No.  It rained this morning.  If you give it a few hours, it will be good as new.”

“Why can’t you get it fixed?” Rose asked.

Nouta smiled, because the alternative was to shout, maybe shed a few tears of frustration.

“We’re working on it,” Nouta said.  “You know how it is.”

Actually, Rose’s expression said, she had no idea how it was to mobilize neighbors in such areas.  To get them to work with you, or otherwise, you work alone and find the money to fix the access road.  Nouta sighed and lifted the gumboots.

“You can wear these,” Nouta said.

She then pointed at the small parking lot in front of the small shopping center to her immediate right.  She was friends with all the shop owners in the center.

“If you park here no one will touch your car.”

“It doesn’t look safe,” Rose said, giving the shopping center a skeptical glance.

“It is,” Nouta said, her tone strong, leaving no doubt.

Rose looked at her for a minute, and then started the car.  When she backed up, Nouta took a moment to study the Jeep.  It looked too clean and the tires were new.  Rose had stopped the car at the entrance into the parking lot, and wasn’t moving.

Nouta closed her eyes, a tirade forming in her head.

‘Let me ask you a question,’ she wanted to say to Rose.  ‘Let me really ask you a question.  Do you want to tell me that you have never traveled upcountry?  Do you not visit your grandmother in your fancy car?  Are you telling me your big car does not and cannot drive on muddy roads?  What is a small stretch to the green gate?  Three minutes, probably less, those tires look new.  Are you telling me you can’t drive to that gate, to my place of business, because the road is muddy and not tarmacked?’

Nouta let frustration ride her for a full minute, and then she opened her eyes to find Rose still paused at the parking lot.

In life, there was one lesson she had learned.  She could not force someone into joining her class.  There was nothing like teaching a mind that was skeptical.  It felt like adding milk into an already full gourd bottle.

Rose looked like a full gourd bottle

Nouta hugged her clean gumboots and walked up to Rose’s car.

Rose’s window was open, so she smiled as Rose turned to look at her.

“I’m sorry, Rose.  I don’t think we’re meant to be.  I’m afraid it will rain all next week, and our road will be very muddy.  Thank you for coming all this way,” Nouta said.  “I will send you a free recipe e-book for the trouble.”

Rose studied her for a moment, and then smiled, as though relieved.

“It was nice to meet you, Nouta.”

“You too, Rose.”

Nouta smiled at her as courteous as could be.

In the next minute, Rose pulled out and was on her way back to South C.

Nouta worried she would need to monitor her social media pages, in case Rose wrote a bad review about her location, or even her experience.  She worried about this encounter until she was at her gate again, only to receive a call from her sister.

“Where are you?” Lita asked.

“At the gate,” Nouta said, heaving a sigh as she entered the compound.

“Oh great, we have a client who just paid for the class.  She wanted to meet you.”

“What?” Nouta grinned.  “How?”

“She walked in like three minutes after you went to deal with the one at the road.”

Nouta hurried to the green workshop her worries disappearing.  They had won the day.  Their class was full.  They had managed this round.  She would worry about the rest as it came, she decided.

For all the women in Small Medium Enterprises (SME). You are super women.

Zuri Kabinda: Sweet & Lemon/ Big Numbers and Li’l Sisters – 2

“We have a two-day conference to be held at the St. John Riruta hall.  We’ve invited a hundred people to participate from the surrounding area.  I have to handle the program from the office.  I need you to help me handle venue logistics, food, and everything else.”

A hundred people, Zuri smiled.  She loved big numbers.

“I’m happy to help out, Mr. Khali.”

She got a brochure from a drawer to her right and handed it to him.

“These are our prices.”

When he took the elegant paper, she continued.

“We have a package for corporate events.  The price is reasonable and I assure you that my staff and I handle everything from day one to the last.”

Mr. Khali read the prices carefully.  She wondered if he always looked so serious.  Relief flooded her when he nodded in approval.

“Great.  Shall we get started?” she asked, picking up a pen and a diary from the corner of her desk.  “Let’s start with what the conference is about?”

Mr. Khali gave her his first genuine smile ready to relinquish control to her.

****

An hour later, Zuri walked along the path to the St. John Riruta Hall with Anjik and Lily.  She jotted notes in her diary while Lily and Anjik talked about the coming event.  Mr. Khali had written a check to pay the booking fee and a deposit of his estimate.

Zuri stopped at the entrance into the hall.  She’d introduced herself to the church secretary, and gotten permission to scout the hall.

“Can I work this event?” Lily asked, coming to lean on the fence beside her.  “Please?”

“I suppose that means I have to pay you?” Zuri asked with a slight grin.

“Money sounds good,” Lily said.  “I need to get my hair done, sis.  Weaves don’t come cheap.”

“Yeah sure, you can work the gig.  But, it sounds like a big wigs kind of thing.  So—”

“I know the drill,” Lily said happily.  “Be cordial and smart, no hitting on cute executives in perfect suits.  Jeez, Zuri, when do you let loose?”

“When my bank account is chubby,” Zuri answered.

Lily laughed then teased, “That’s like never, you hustler.”

“See what I mean?” Zuri said.  “Come on, we have to check the chairs in there and find out how many more we need.  Then we can go find out about food.”

“Yes, mistress,” Lily said, following her to the hall doors.

****

Have you read all about Zuri Kabinda? Catch up on all Zuri Kabinda’s Snippets below:

1. The Birthday Party Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

2. Sweet & Lemon Part 1 ,

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.

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: Sweet and Lemon/Family Relations -1

Zuri spent her Monday morning sorting out receipts and logging them into her accounting system.  It was her least favorite activity but a necessary one for her business records.  She’d found those records useful when she needed to get a loan from her bank.  Moving closer to her desk, she stared at a receipt from a supermarket without an items list.  She was busy writing in the paper cups she’d bought on the receipt when her office door swung open.

She glanced up at the skinny five foot two girl standing at the door.  Dressed in a pink silky blouse and white skinny jeans, long braids falling down her back, her baby sister was clearly in crisis.

“Zuri, help me,” Lily Kabinda wailed.  “My boyfriend wants to get married.  How can he think about marriage when I just finished college?  What do I do?”

Zuri sat back in her chair with a smile.

“Hi Lily,” she said, amused by her sister’s constant drama. This wasn’t the first time she had heard this question.  “How have you been?”

“Are you listening?” Lily asked, coming to sit in the chair across her desk.  “That guy won’t take no for an answer.  He keeps acting like I’m playing around.”

Zuri sighed.  “Lily, how long have you and this guy known each other?”

“Eight weeks,” Lily said dramatically.  “Imagine that, how could he talk about marriage?”

She chuckled because this was so typical of Lily.  In the last two years since Lily graduated from university, she’d had a series of crazy and weird relationships and jobs that made Zuri’s head spin.

“Break up with him,” Zuri advised.

“But I like him,” Lily said with a disappointed sigh.  “He actually makes sense when he talks, you know.  He’s real, he’s-,”

“Do you want to get married?” Zuri asked her.

“No!”  Lily’s eyes were wide with horror at the mere suggestion.

“Then, end it,” Zuri said studying her sister.

Lily groaned and leaned her elbows on her desk.  “That’s so final.  Do you ever think of how hard that will be for me?  ‘Break up, why do you get yourself in these situations’.  Your advice is so black and white, sis.”

Zuri laughed.  “Lily, you’re twenty-two years old, barely out of college.  Please work on getting a job, or come and work for me.”

Lily sat up and picked up a pen from the desk.  She stared at it for a moment and Zuri frowned at the pensive look on her sister’s face.

“Zuri, can I tell you something?”

“What?”

Lily sighed and met her gaze.  “Is it okay if I don’t like Henry’s new wife?”

Henry was their second oldest brother.  Zuri placed her receipts on top of her keyboard and got up.  She walked around the desk to take the seat beside Lily.

“What happened?” she asked, taking her sister’s hand.

Lily squeezed her fingers.  “Yesterday, I went to Henry’s house in Uthiru, just like I’ve always done on Sunday afternoon.  I just wanted to hang out a while, maybe help that woman make dinner.  Henry really likes when I make pilau.  Anyway, I show up, and she’s with her friends.  Henry was out.  That Doris acted as if I was a maid or something.  She made me clean all the dishes for the weird party they were having.  I ended up leaving early because I didn’t want to fight with her.”

Zuri took in a deep breath fighting the urge to run out and give her brother’s wife a piece of her mind.  No one mistreated her sister, no one!

“Zuri,” Lily said her tone unsure.

“What did she say to you?” Zuri asked her tone hard.

“Nothing,” Lily said with a sigh.  “Hey, relax before you jump your guns and go off running to yell at Doris.  She ignored me most of the time.  Acting as if I don’t exist or something-,”

“Don’t go there without me,” Zuri cut her off abruptly.  “If you need a place to hang out on Sunday, come over to my house.  Hmm…I don’t mind having you, Lily.”

“But Henry,” Lily said shaking her head.  “Does he have to stay with a woman like that?”

“Henry has made a choice,” Zuri said quietly.  “We both love him, so we can’t do anything to make him unhappy.  We can’t tell him not to like Doris, my dear.”

Lily sighed.  “Fine, so is it okay not to like her?”

Zuri chuckled and reached out to rub away the frown on Lily’s forehead.

“Yes, it’s okay not to like her.  Just don’t let it affect you so much that you don’t see Henry too.  And don’t be mean to Doris either. Let me know if she does something to hurt you. Is this why you’re freaking out about your boyfriend?”

Lily shrugged.  “You’re right about him.  He’s too clingy; I was going to let him go anyway.”

“Jeez,” Zuri said with a laugh.  “Look at you, so many boyfriends.”

“At least I’m trying.” Lily pointed out, squeezing her fingers.  “When are you going to give Devin the time of day?  He’s so into you.”

Zuri scowled.  “Don’t say things like that.  Devin and I are just friends.”

“Yeah, keep saying that,” Lily said with a laugh.

Anjik came in to the office with a short knock.

“I have a new client waiting for you.” Anjik smiled at Lily.  “Lily, come with me.  I’ll let you share my cinnamon rolls from Amari Bakery.”

Lily stood up to follow Anjik.

“Who is it?” Zuri asked Anjik when Lily left.

“He works for a publishing company,” Anjik said.  “He wants to plan a two day conference.”

Zuri smiled happily just as their client walked in.  A tall thin man with glasses resting on his nose.

“Good morning,” Zuri said, taking the man’s hand.  “I’m Zuri Kabinda, how can I help you today?

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.

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 : The Birthday Party – Part 3

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?”

“Yeah?”

“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.”

Zuri beamed. 

“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.”

“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

Zuri Kabinda: The Birthday Party – Part 2

Airi to the Rescue

That evening, back in her one bedroom apartment, Zuri grabbed her towel from the foot of her bed and turned to Sonnie.

“Where are we going again?”

“You’re not the only one with problems.  Airi called me earlier.”

Zuri groaned.  “What’s wrong now?”

“Her boyfriend has flown out of the country and he didn’t tell her for how long.”

Sonnie sat on her bed as she rushed into the adjoining bathroom.

“One of these days, Airi is going to have to make a choice.  Living like a kept woman is so not cool.”

Zuri sighed and closed the shower door.  She turned on the shower, made sure it was steaming hot before she jumped in for a quick wash.  The heat soothed her tired muscles, and she closed her eyes as she took in a deep breath.  The day had ended much better than she’d imagined.  Her loan was paid, Anjik was paid….sort of…she’d paid the girl half her salary.  Now all she needed was a client.

She was thankful for Sonnie.  They’d grown up together, gone to the same high school and university.  They’d also worked in the same advertising company until Zuri quit two years ago.  Sonnie grounded her when her world was imploding.  Together, they grounded Airi who was always having problems with her longtime boyfriend.

Zuri washed up quickly and stepped out of the shower in five minutes.  She grabbed a towel and heard Sonnie call out from her bedroom.

“Don’t forget to shave your legs.”

Zuri put toothpaste on her toothbrush, stuck it in her mouth and reached for the razor.  Propping her foot on the toilet seat, she grinned at the thought of an evening spent listening to Airi complain about her boyfriend.

Five minutes later, she hurried into her room to find Sonnie had laid out a white and pink sundress for her.

She grabbed a bottle of lotion from the top of a chest of drawers set against the wall and sat in an armchair by the window.

“I wish Airi would leave that man,” Zuri said with a sigh.

“I don’t think she can,” Sonnie said lying back on her bed.  “She’s spent the past three years holding on to him.  She’s invested time, her heart, emotions…do you think she’d give him up so easily?”

Zuri concentrated on dressing.  “I guess when you put it that way it makes sense, but surely,” she shook her head.  “I don’t understand why she needs to keep staying with a guy who treats her like a second thought.”

“Fear,” Sonnie said sadly.  “Fear to be alone.”

Zuri pulled on the dress over a white short slip and turned so that Sonnie could zip it up.  When it was done, she reached up removed the hair band holding her braids up.  The long braids fell down her back and she ran her fingers through them with a relieved sigh.

“Aren’t you afraid of being alone?” Sonnie asked getting off the bed.

“Do I look like I have time to be concerned about loneliness?”

Zuri grabbed a tube of lip-gloss from her dresser, used it negligently, before she dumped it in her purse.  Taking a beaded flower ring, she slipped it on her right middle finger and smiled at Sonnie.

“How do I look?”

“Pretty,” Sonnie said leading the way out of her bedroom.  “And stop changing the subject.  You can’t tell me you’ve never thought about it.  You’re twenty-seven years old.  I’m sure your mum keeps mentioning it.”

“She’s open-minded,” Zuri said stopping in a small closet in the corridor to take out a pair of white wedges.  She slipped them on, and watched Sonnie take her own purse from the coffee table.  “She’s more worried about my lack of a steady income.”

“Well, you’re lucky,” Sonnie said as they headed out.  “My mum thinks we should have married at age twenty.”

Zuri chuckled.  “No she doesn’t.  Your mum just worries about you, Sonnie.  She’s very sweet when we talk.  Yesterday, she called me to ask the best place to buy wholesale flour.  I directed her to that shop we like in Kawangware.”

“Come to think of it, should I be jealous that you get along with my mother better than I do?”

“You get along with my mum too.”  Zuri pointed out as they went down the stairs.

Sonnie chuckled.  “I guess that makes us even.  Should we walk up to take a forty-six bus?”

“Yeah, it’s easier than taking a matatu here and then connecting.”

****

Airi Kwetu lived in Lavington, at a two-story house that belonged to her boyfriend Evan Latema.  They’d lived together for two years.  Zuri couldn’t remember a time Airi had ever lived her life without Evan drama.

Airi met them at the door, dressed in grey sweat pants and a t-shirt.  Her eyes were red, as though she’d been crying all day, and when she ushered them into the living room, Zuri sighed when she saw the bottle of Baileys sitting on the coffee table.

“How long have you been in here?” Zuri asked, although the used tissues on the coffee table told their own story.

Airi might have used an entire box; used tissues piled a tray on the table.

“All day, I was watching movies,” Airi said quietly.  “Thanks for coming ladies.  I’m so glad you came.”

“You know what, sit.  I think it’s time we changed what you’re drinking,” Zuri said.  “I’ll make some coffee.”

Sonnie drew Airi to the couch and Zuri grabbed the tray of tissues, the bottle of Baileys and the used glass.  She took them to the kitchen, grimacing when she had to discard the tissues in the trashcan.

She started making coffee and rummaged in the stocked cupboards for food.  Fifteen minutes later, she went back to the living room with a fresh pot of coffee, and a plate piled with peanut butter cookies.

“Airi’s thinking of getting a job,” Sonnie announced when Zuri had served everyone.

“What kind of job?” Zuri asked, sipping her coffee, careful to wear a blank expression.

Airi’s business ideas were perishable, like flowers blooming at night and withering in the morning.  The last time her boyfriend left, she’d decided to start a fashion business.  The idea only lasted until Airi registered the business name.

“I don’t know, maybe consulting,” Airi said softly.  She stared into her coffee mug.  “Maybe, I’ll join Zuri in her business and help her plan parties.”

Zuri winced.  Airi was bossy, and demanding.  She couldn’t imagine working with Airi on a day-to-day basis.

“Well, we could work something out,” Zuri said cordially.

Sonnie gave her a skeptical glance before she turned to their friend.

“Airi,  you need to take a few more days before you jump into any serious project.  If you want something to do, help us find Zuri an event to plan.”

Airi sighed, still staring into her coffee, and then she looked up with a small smile.

“What?” Zuri asked when the smile only widened.

“I might have something,” Airi said happily, the shadows in her eyes disappearing.  “Remember Mrs. Tolinda?”

“Your neighbor?” Zuri asked, with a frown.

“Yeah, we had an estate meeting the other day.  I heard Mrs. Tolinda wanted to throw a sweet sixteen party for her daughter.  I’ll give her a call.”

Airi jumped up and ran off to find her phone.  Zuri met Sonnie’s gaze and smiled.

“At least she got off the couch,” Sonnie said, biting into her cookie.  “Jeez, I think I have to go to the gym tomorrow.  Between you and Airi, I’ll end up gaining a ton.”

Zuri laughed and they both stopped in surprise when Airi returned dressed up in tight black jeans, top, and vibrant red heels.  There was no sign of the lost woman who met them at the door.  She was with purpose again.

“Come on, ladies,” Airi said, waving her car keys.  “Mrs. Tolinda wants to meet.  I think we got Binda Events a gig.”

***

← The Birthday Party – Part 1

To be continued….thanks for reading ^_^

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.

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.

All baked goods mentioned refer to the Amari Baking Center

 

 

Zuri Kabinda: The Birthday Party – Part 1

“Please.”

Such a simple word, a pleading word, Zuri Kabinda thought as she said it again.

“Please give me time.  I will make the payment in two weeks.”

“Miss Kabinda, why did you let it get this bad?” Sylvia, her loan officer, asked.

The woman spoke as though she hadn’t made her payments on time.  Shaking her head, Zuri prayed for help from a higher power.

“I’m trying to make you understand my situation.  Business was slow last month.  The money I had paid my business expenses.  I’ll do my best to fund raise for this last payment, but it will take me at least two weeks.  Please, don’t blacklist me.”

“You’re making things hard for me.  If you can’t pay your installment in time–”

“I have paid on time for the last six months.  This is the final payment, please.  I’ll make sure it’s done.”

Zuri owned an event planning business named Binda Events.  She’d started Binda Events two years ago, after quitting her advertising job in an international firm.  Her mother had not taken that move well.  Start-up was hard and challenging, most months she struggled to make ends meet, but this month was especially hard.  She hadn’t gotten any events to plan in two weeks.  With no income coming in, she was strapped for cash.

Sylvia let out another sigh and Zuri crossed her fingers on her lap.  She really needed this woman to consent.  She’d woken up this morning to a call from the bank urging her to pay her loan arrears.  A loan she’d taken six months ago to expand her business.  Six months ago, she’d opened an office and hired an assistant to help her with the influx of clients she’d gained.  Her clients seemed to have dwindled this last month, bringing her sales down.

Last night, she spent the evening paying bills and counting the amount left in her personal account with apprehension.

She needed a client and soon.

“Miss Kabinda,” Sylvia interrupted her thoughts.  “I’m giving you two weeks.  I’m counting on you to make a payment on time otherwise; we’re both going to end up in a tough position.  Do you understand?”

Elated, Zuri held out her hand to Sylvia and when the woman shook hers, she smiled.

“Thank you so much.  I’m not going to let you down.  I promise.  Thank you.”

Letting go of Sylvia’s hand, she grabbed her handbag and dashed out of the cubicle before the woman changed her mind.

She left the bank in a state of anxiety.  The sun blazed above in that merciless January way.  She still had to walk to the Binda Events offices.  Biting back a groan, she crossed Kikuyu road and headed toward the Riruta Catholic Church.  Her office building was along Naivasha Road across from the church.

Zuri hoped her assistant had gotten one client even if it was to plan a small tea gathering.

A stone caught in her shoe and she paused to get it out.  Her feet were dusty from walking up and down this morning, trying to raise enough cash for rent.  Her phone buzzed and she reached for it with a frown.

“Binda Events,” she said, as pleasantly as she could manage.

“I’m not calling for money,” her best friend Sonnie said with a laugh.  “Jeez, cheer up. What did the loan officer say?”

“She gave me two weeks,” Zuri said with a relieved sigh.  “Where are you?”

“At your office, hurry,” Sonnie said.  “I got you something.”

Sonnie Togo ended the call as abruptly as it started.

Zuri bit back a chuckle and increased her pace heading to her office.  She reached the small shopping center across the church and slowed down.  The apartment complex where she lived, dwarfed her office building.  She’d been lucky to get an office so close to her home.

Passing a butcher and a salon, she entered the reception area of her small office to find her assistant Anjik and Sonnie laughing merrily.

“There she is,” Sonnie said and stood up holding a white cake box.  “I have the fix for all your problems.”

Zuri grinned as Sonnie opened the box to reveal nine delicious chocolate cupcakes.  Taking one cupcake, she took a bite and sighed in appreciation.  She always loved Amari Cupcakes.  Soft, moist, and so full of chocolate, her worries disappeared at the first taste.  She took a seat on one of the reception chairs and dropped her handbag on the seat beside her with a sigh.

Taking another bite-,

Mmm…chocolate could cure all problems, she thought as she demolished the cupcake.  She glanced up to find Sonnie and Anjik watching her.

“What?” she asked.

“Was it that good?” Anjik asked with amusement.

“I was starving,” Zuri said.

Sonnie laughed. “It’s a good thing I bought the box of nine then.  Anjik, get some coffee please.”

When Anjik hurried off to their tiny little kitchen in the back, Sonnie turned to look at her.

“How bad is it?”

“My loan is overdue and the loan officer was threatening to blacklist me this morning.  I just spent the last hour convincing her to give me time.”

“At least she agreed,”Sonnie said, reaching for her handbag.  Zuri ate another cupcake as her friend got an envelope from her purse and held it out.  “Here.”

Placing her cupcake on a napkin on Anjik’s desk, Zuri took the envelope and opened it to find ten thousand shillings.  Zuri felt a lump of tears lodge in her throat. She took in a deep breath to get a hold of her emotions.

“You don’t have to do this, Sonnie.”

“What are friends for?” Sonnie asked with a small smile.  “I have the cash, and you need it.”

Zuri moved then, wrapping Sonnie in a tight hug.

“Thank you,” she said,the word sounding inadequate.  It was so small; it couldn’t possibly express her gratitude in this situation.  “Gosh, Sonnie, you’re like an angel sent to me.”

Sonnie patted her back with a small chuckle.  “Relax, I didn’t do it alone.  Airi contributed too.”

Airi Ketu was her other best friend.

“But you put her up to it,” Zuri said pulling back, hugging the envelope.  “What would I do without you two?”

Sonnie winked.  “Stumble along blindly, but you’d be okay.  What happens now?”

Letting out a relieved breath, Zuri smiled.

 “I’ll make the loan payment, which is four thousand,and then search for a client.  If you know someone who has an event, direct them my way.”

Zuri put the envelope in her handbag and met Sonnie’s gaze.

“I’m insane.  I mean, giving up a regular paycheck for this, you’d call me crazy, right?”

Sonnie shrugged studying her cupcake.

“I think you’re brave.  I’m in a job, and I wish I was you.”

“What part?” Zuri asked with a laugh.  “Broke, messy hair or the cupboards full of noodles?”

Sonnie laughed. 

“Your independence, you’re your own boss, you own a business…should I keep going?”

Zuri smiled and shook her head.  “Thanks Sonnie.”

Anjik came in with a flask of coffee and three cups.  They sat around Anjik’s desk, enjoying Amari Chocolate Cupcakes.  Her world wasn’t perfect, Zuri thought, as she listened to Anjik and Sonnie talk about who to hassle for an event, but it was almost there. 

Now, if she could just get a client.

***

To be continued…Thank you for reading!

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.

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.

All baked goods mentioned refer to the Amari Baking Center

Life on the Fast Track – Track 23 (Final)

Track 23 – Our Life Together

Danny drove Jasmine home, after calling Jimmy to pick up her car. Ignoring the messy dining table, she sat on the couch and took the glass of water Danny got her.  After, he sat with her and she told him about Daryl’s situation with their father.

“He makes it hard for the rest because of me.  I refused to follow Daddy’s plans,”Jasmine murmured, studying her hands.  “I’m the eldest, the one supposed to show a good example.  When I moved out and chose different, he cut me off.  It seems like he’ll never forgive me for going against him.”

“Jazz.”

“I told you my dad is not like yours,” Jasmine murmured.  “He’ll take one look at you and shake his head.  You might never get along.”

Danny smiled then.

“Are you thinking of introducing me to him?”

Jasmine looked at him, her heart racing.

“If it’s what you want too,” she said.  “Just so you know, meeting my dad—

“I’m in all the way,” Danny cutin.  “I want you for life, Jasmine.  I hope that’s what we’re discussing here.  “I want nothing less”

Jasmine bit her bottom lip and nodded.  She looked away after a moment.

“I’m sorry my father will be a pain, when your dad was so nice to me.”

Jasmine shook her head.

“Dads are supposed to be over protective when it comes to their daughters,” Danny said, pulling her into his arms so that she rested against his chest. “We’ll face him together, Jazz.”

Danny’s together sounded like a gift.  She didn’t feel so alone hearing it.  The world seemed bearable with the sound of that together.

Jasmine took in a deep breath and let it out, feeling relieved for the first time in hours.

“Thank you, Danny.”

****

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon,Jasmine finished filing invoices from a distribution company in Mombasa.  She shut down her workstation for the day and got up, ready to leave.  Stretching her arms above her head, she winced when her back cracked.  A bitter sweet release from tension.  Her phone buzzed and she dropped her arms,her gaze on the lighted screen.

She answered the call with a smile.

“How did you know I was leaving?”

“I know you,” Terry said with a small laugh.  “Come out.  I’m waiting by your car.”

Jasmine had not seen Terry since the day she left Danny’s house, the night of the race.  They had written each other short messages,but not really talked.  It was weird not talking to Terry about everything.

“How did you get here?” Jasmine took her handbag and her sweater in a hurry. She left her office and waved at the receptionist who gave her a thumbs up as she ran to the front doors.  “You should have told me when you reached.”

“I used Taxify,” Terry said.  “I was just finishing with him before I called you.”

Jasmine saw Terry first.  She was leaning on Jasmine’s car, looking fabulous as always.  Jasmine ended the call and walked fast to her car.

“Hey, you,” Jasmine said, when she reached Terry.

Terry pulled her into a tight hug as though they had not seen each other in ages.

“Danny told me you and him are official,” Terry said into Jasmine’s shoulder. “I’m really happy, Jasmine.  I always hoped but dared not say anything.”

Jasmine smiled.  “Hoped for what?”

“That you’d be my sister,” Terry said, still holding on to Jasmine.  “I would have hated it if you two broke up or something over the racing thing.  I’m glad it’s all worked out now.”

Jasmine rubbed Terry’s back, gentle strokes designed to soothe.  She had not stopped to think Terry worried about losing her.  She had not thought that at all.

“Terry,” Jasmine leaned back to look at her.  “You won’t get rid of me that easily.  Even if Danny and I don’t work out, I’ll still show up at your shop and make you dress me.  You know I suck at finding clothes.”

Terry chuckled, and agreed with a nod.  She stepped back and touched the pink blouse Jasmine was wearing today to compliment her black jeans.

“This does look really good on you,”Terry said.  “And you had refused to buy it, saying it didn’t fit.”

Jasmine smiled and pressed a kiss on Terry’s cheek.

“I missed you, Terry.”

Terry pinched her cheek and waved to the car.

“Well, let’s go.  I heard your brother was hanging out at Danny’s garage today.  You wanna go check on him?  We can go celebrate after, have dinner or something at Dad’s place.”

“Sounds great,” Jasmine unlocked her car as Terry went around to the passenger side.

The drive to Danny’s garage went fast as Terry told her about getting new clients for her boutique.

“I’m so glad the Adrian saga is over and done with,” Terry said.  “Did you hear about Tyler?”

“What about Tyler?” Jasmine asked as she turned on to the street where Danny’s garage was.

“He helped the police arrest Adrian, and provided them with evidence to put him in.  He’s taken over Adrian’s businesses.  I didn’t think he had it in him.”

“Wow,” Jasmine drove into the garage and parked in the parking lot, next to Danny’s car.  “Who would have thought?”

“Jimmy says that Danny talked him into it,” Terry said, shaking her head.  “I believe it.”

Jasmine turned off her car and stared at Danny’s business.  The garage was alive with activity.  Three clients standing by their vehicles as Danny’s mechanics checked tires, and engines, and whatever else.  It annoyed her that she didn’t have the knowledge to name whatever else.

“I think I have to start learning about cars,” Jasmine said, the thought suddenly so clear.

Terry laughed, long and hard.

“What?”

“Welcome to the family, Jasmine Lima,” Terry said as she opened her door.

End of Track coming up!

Jasmine followed her into the garage, stopping in a corner when she saw her little brother having a serious talk with Jimmy.  Their heads bent over a car engine, with Jimmy using a screw while Daryl helped.

Terry started to walk over, taking her along, but Jasmine refused.  She didn’t want to take this away from her brother. He looked happy and at home doing what interested him.  It was enough watching him work with Jimmy.

“Jazz.”

She turned and smiled wide when she saw Danny.

“Hey.”

“You came.”

Jasmine nodded, waving a hand to take in the garage.

“I thought I should see where you spend your days.”  She lifted her shoulders.  “I can’t move engines, but I can drive a car, manage the receipts or arrange the new oils.  After work of course.”

Danny grinned and opened his arms.

She walked into them and he laughed when she jumped up and wrapped her legs around his waist.  Danny hugged her to him and whirled her around.

Catcalls and whistles greeted their embrace, Danny ignored them holding her tight making Jasmine feel as though she had finally found her place.

***

Life was not about the happy ending, but what happened after.  Jasmine embraced a new world with Danny.  Sure,she held her breath when he joined races. Sometimes he won, other times, he lost and was in a terrible mood for a week.  She learned to coax him out of those bad days.  When Daryl moved out of home in protest of their father, Danny helped her cope with the constant calls from her father.


Life was not about the happy ending, but what happened after.  Jasmine embraced a new world with Danny. 

She loved Danny even more for letting her little brother stay at his house, and work at the garage for money.  When their dad discovered what his son was doing, he agreed to pay for any degree Daryl wanted.

When Jenny was stranded on the road because her purse was snatched, Danny was the one to pick Jenny up and take her home.

So many little things that amounted to so much.  A year after the Adrian saga, Jasmine sat on the couch at her parents’ house facing her father once more.  Danny sat beside her dressed in a formal dress shirt and trousers, looking more nervous than a new mother.  Wanja busied herself with pouring tea for them.

Taking a deep breath, Jasmine held Danny’s hand and smiled at Duncan Lima.

“Daddy, this is Danny Kihome.  I’m going to marry him.”

Duncan Lima glared at Danny, and a new tale began.

****

End of Tracks….Rough Road ahead!

Thank you for reading Life on the Fast Track!

Life on the Fast Track – 22

Track 22: My parents make me want to lose my isht….still, I love them.

What a day, was all Jasmine could think as she drove into her family home.  The one-acre plot was set up like a farm.  Her mother dabbled in farming: growing house veggies like cabbage, lettuce, carrots and herbs.  Her father kept two cows, for fresh milk.  His pride when looking at those two cows was enough to ignore the amount of energy spent finding food for them.  It was good luck that her parents hired a workman.  Otherwise, Daryl and Jenny would never escape the duties of milking in the early morning before the birds woke up.

Jasmine chuckled as she parked her car in front of her parents’ cute ranch-style house.  A grey cat stood outside the front door, staring at the new arrivals.

Kanyau was a permanent fixture here.  Once, when she went missing for a day, the whole house was outside looking for her.  Only to discover the cat was stuck in the ceiling trying to catch a rat.

Jasmine shook her head.  The memories in this place were too many.  Some fond, others…her father stepped out of the house, and she grimaced.  Others, she preferred to forget.

She got out of her car, watching her mother greet her dad with a wide smile.

Wanja had driven her car home, knowing Danny would bring Jenny and Daryl home.

Jasmine walked to her father.

“Daddy,” she said, and he took her hand pulling her in for a hug, holding her tight.

“Look at you, you grow beautiful with time, Jasmine.”

Jasmine chuckled when her dad stepped back to give her a good look.

“Have you been taking care of yourself?”

“Yes.” Jasmine nodded, urging him into the house after her mother.  “What about you?”

“I’m an old man worrying about my children.  How do you think I’m doing?”

Jasmine bit her lip watching her dad settle on the couch.  The Sunday paper a mess on the table.  Her father liked to read the paper on Sundays.  Doing the crossword puzzles and checking the answers from last week’s paper.

Wanja had gone to the master bedroom, so Jasmine sat on the armchair across her father.  Catching up was easy, her dad was a great listener.  Jasmine found herself telling him about her work, the good days, and the frustrating ones.  Two hours passed by, and Wanja entered the living room carrying three mugs of coffee.  She handed one to her husband, and the other to Jasmine.

“Jazz, tell your dad what brought you here today,” Wanja said, as she sat down to drink from her own mug.  “It’s getting late, and tomorrow you have work.”

Jasmine placed her mug on the coffee table and met her father’s frowning gaze.

“Jasmine?”

She took in a deep breath before plunging in.

“It’s about Daryl.”

“If Daryl has something to say to me, he should come and tell me.”

“He has tried, hasn’t he?” Jasmine asked.  “You won’t listen to him when he says he doesn’t want the military, accounting or medicine.”

“You’re the one encouraging him to fight my plans,” her dad accused.  “He left the house the last time we were discussing this topic.  Jazz, don’t fill his head with ideas.  I know what’s good for him.”

“I’m only supporting my brother’s ideas about his own life, and you should too.”  Jasmine shook her head.  “Sometimes it feels as though you’re making us fulfill the dreams you didn’t finish.  You must have wanted to be an accountant, or a doctor, as you’re in the military already.  Jenny did what you wanted, and now you want Daryl to study something he doesn’t like, or get into the military, like you.  Why do you have to be so unfair?”

Duncan Lima stood to his full height and Jasmine followed suit, facing her formidable father.  She curled her fingers into fists determined not to back down.

“That military career you’re looking down on gave you kids the life you now live,” Duncan said, his eyes narrowed.  “It paid for your university, Jenny’s and now it will pay for Daryl.  Why don’t I have the right to suggest what I think will work for Daryl’s life?  You’ve always been too stubborn for your own good.  I couldn’t do anything about you, but Daryl—”

“What?” Jasmine cut in.  “He’s the one to continue the bloodline?  Your precious heir?”

Duncan growled, taking a step toward her, the coffee table the only thing keeping her from his wrath.

Wanja stood then, placing her hand on Duncan’s rigid arm.

“You test a man’s patience,” Duncan said after a minute.  “I’m your father.  I don’t deserve to hear you talk to me like that, Jasmine.”

“Daddy,” Jasmine said, gentling her tone.  “I respect you very much.  You’re set in your ways, and we all try to get through your stubborn ideas, but important things like this…”

Jasmine broke off and shook her head.

“This is Daryl’s life we’re talking about here.  He is really smart, better than—”

Jasmine bit her lip stopping herself from saying Danny’s name.  Her dad did not like Danny.  She met her mother’s gaze for a moment, then continued.

“I don’t understand half the things Danny talks about when he gets into it.  He’s always wanted to do engineering.  Why would you stop him?  Why take that dream away from him?”

“Because we have to think of life and if he can maintain a life with his dreams,” Duncan replied.  “Dreams won’t provide you with a good life.  They won’t plan your life, get you married and have you living comfortably.  You need a steady job for that, a guaranteed job.”

Jasmine nodded.

“I guess that was meant for me,” Jasmine said, with a little scoff.  “Administration work in a warehouse is not your ideal job.  It might not be something to brag about to your friends of course, but it maintains the life I want.”

“A life without direction,” Duncan spat out.  “Who knows what you’re doing anymore?  Or where you’ll end up?  Is that ideal for you?  Where did we go wrong with you?”

Jasmine stepped back at that jab and picked up her purse.

“I’m not here to talk about me,” Jasmine said, biting her lip hard to keep from crying.

“Daryl is my son,” Duncan said, turning to sit on the couch.  He picked up the paper, his expression dismissive.  “I know what’s best for him and his future.  Don’t interfere, Jasmine.”

“You know what, you’re right,” Jasmine agreed.  “Daryl is your son, but he is also his own person.  Think about that too.  Don’t let him live a life he hates.”

Jasmine met her mother’s gaze for a moment, then turned and left the house.  She got in her car and drove out of the compound in a hurry.  She had to pull over a few miles after when the road became a blur.  Changing gears to park, she leaned back and allowed the tears to flow free.

Her worth as a daughter to her father…she couldn’t define it.  He never looked at her with pride for having refused to do as he wanted.  She had refused a career he thought would be perfect for her.  The life he had planned out down to the year she should get married.  His ideal son in-law was in the military or a doctor of some sort.

Well, joke on him because she was definitely not going to be giving that to him.

Jasmine punched the steering wheel, letting out a hard sob.  She’d built her life by herself, she held down a good job, she was taking the world each day with courage.

Would her father never see that?

Jasmine hugged the steering wheel and cried hard.  A few minutes into it, she gasped in the middle of her tears when her door opened.  The doors must have unlocked when she parked the car.  She stared at the figure standing over her.

“Who is it?” Danny demanded.  “Tell me where they are and I’ll get them.”

“Danny,” Jasmine sobbed out, covering her face with her hands.  “What are you doing here?”

It didn’t do for him to see her this way.

“Jazz.” Danny crouched down beside her and stared at the mess she was.  “Jasmine.”

Reaching in, he pulled her into his arms and held on as she cried harder than she had in a while.

***

←Previous Track

So, this story is coming to an end, can’t wait to write post the last 2 tracks.  Thank you for loving this story of mine.

Cera’s Fruit of Life

Dust sifted in a fine cloud covering her forehead.  Cera closed her eyes fast, tasting fine red soil on her lips.  She blinked away dust and continued her climb up the steep cliff.  Fingers grabbed at roots and jutting rocks that felt sturdy enough to hold her.  She wedged her foot into crevices, always reaching.  She climbed up, her muscles straining with effort, ignoring the pain, gritting her teeth, she pushed harder.

Her right hand went up, fingers closed over a thick branch, and she gasped when the Tree-of-life-springbranch broke off.  Her heart slammed against her chest when she slipped, her left hand gripping the rock she held tight.  She flattened her body against the cliff to keep her balance.  Her right hand searching for another hold, she sighed in relief when she held thick roots.

Cera took in a deep breath to calm her beating heart.  Holding on tight, she risked a glance down the cliff.  Her best friend, Jeri, stood in the clearing below.  Beside her, Cera’s little brother lay on a kanga unconscious.  There was no one to fight for him but Cera.  Their parents were long gone.  Cera was Ken’s mother now.

Cera could barely see them below.  The fall down would kill her.  Cera closed her eyes bringing her attention back to the roots she held.  She couldn’t fall to her death here.  She still had so much to do.

Shaking off fear, Cera continued her climb.  Legend was a tree of life grew on top of this cliff.  The tree bore a single fruit each year.  One that stayed ripe for months.  The juices of that fruit brought life to the sick and the dying.  Many had attempted the climb, very few ever made it to the top.  Cera was determined to be one of the few.

Her brother was ill.  The doctors in their village could not help him.  Cera had spent the better part of two years trying to find a cure for Dan with no results.  Now, her brother could barely wake up: he slept too long and she worried that he was slipping away.  She could not bear such a loss.  Being left alone in this world…Cera shook her head refusing such a reality.

So, she climbed.

Not stopping even when her fingers got damaged, and her muscles got weak.  When she felt her strength waning, tears tracking down her dusty face because her arms and legs hurt, she worried she might fall off, she reached up and her fingers found nothing.  She looked up to find clumps of grass and she used them to pull herself up.  Her heart skipped with relief when she came up on a flat plain, green with lush grass.  Unable to stand, she rolled to her back, then crawled to her knees, her gaze on the majestic tree in the middle of the clearing.  A purple fruit grew low on the bottom branches.  Hers to take, hers to give to give to her dear small brother.

This was a short story submitted for a flash fiction thing.  Enjoy it!