The Client Meant for Me

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.

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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 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

Life on the Fast Track – 17

Track 17 – The Best and the Worst of Moments

Heartbeat electrified, Jasmine followed Terry into the racing grounds Danny owned with Jimmy.  They had to park their car outside the gates because there was no space left inside.  Jasmine glanced at the time on her phone.  Eleven

Spin Me Baby!

o’clock in the night, and it felt like she was walking through a busy street during the day. Danny’s races drew a crowd of spectators.  It was a revelation to discover such a following in Nairobi for the races.

Loud music filled the night, it was lucky the property was removed from any residential areas.  Excitement skated down Jasmine spine, increasing with every step, bringing her deeper into Danny’s world.  Thrilling and frightening at the same time.

Terry took her right hand and squeezed, twining their fingers.

“Don’t be nervous,” Terry soothed, as they weaved their way through a sea of souped-up cars.

Gazes followed their progress.  Jasmine suspected it was because she was a new face in the very tight circle.  Despite the number of people in the place, they all knew each other.  As if on cue, a short man in shiny white leather, who looked like he had married a gym and lived in it day and night, stepped in their way.  His hair dyed blonde, Jasmine thought he would fit right in to a boy band.

“Who you with?” he demanded, his expression forbidding.

“Back off,” Terry said, her tone bored.  “Rick, run back to your master.”

“No strangers allowed, Terry,” Rick insisted, his gaze on Jasmine.

Jasmine started to explain, but then Danny’s arm slid around her waist and she looked up in surprise when he pulled her against him possessively.

“Ricky, are you giving my gal a hard time?  Coz, you know what that means.”  Danny kept his tone low, his stance deceptively calm.  His eyes though spelled doom.  Jasmine hoped Rick saw it too.

Rick’s eyes widened and he took a step back.

“Danny,” Rick said, his tone apologetic.

Danny’s eyes narrowed and Terry sighed when Nic Mugera came to stand beside Rick, placing his arm on Rick’s shoulders.

“Do we have a problem here?” Nic asked, meeting Danny’s gaze.

“”I don’t know, Nic, do we?” Danny asked, his arm still around Jasmine.

She moved closer to Danny and Nic’s gaze shifted to her.  Jasmine found she wasn’t afraid of much standing beside Danny.  She met Nic’s gaze and smiled.

“I don’t think we do,” Nick said, returning her smile.  “Rick, get back to the pit.  Make sure everything is running fine.  Danny, I apologize for my people.  Jasmine Lima, welcome to the fold.”

Danny watched Nic stride away before he pulled Jasmine into his arms.  Wanting to make a point, Danny kissed Jasmine.  She clung to his jacket and gasped when he stopped the kiss as abruptly as he had started.

“Well,” Terry said, smiling.  “You’re in good hands, Jazz.  I’m gonna go mingle.”

Danny kept his gaze focused on Jasmine.

“I’m sorry for that,” he said.

“No need to apologize,” Jasmine murmured.  “I suppose that makes me one of the babes.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.”

“You’re not one of the babes,” Danny said, smiling.  “You’re my woman, Jazz.  My woman.”

“As long as you don’t call me the little woman at home,” Jasmine said, pulling back.  “Now, let’s get this show on the road.  How much money are we winning?”

Danny chuckled.  “Babe, I like how you think.”

Jasmine frowned at him.  “I thought you said I wasn’t one of the babes?”

Danny grinned and lifted his hands up in surrender when she threatened to punch his arm.

“No money tonight,” Danny said, taking her hand and leading her toward his spot.  “We’re racing for a log book.  Nic has a very smooth running Nissan Skyline.  I want it.”

“Nice,” Jasmine said, excited.

“I’ll introduce you to my crew.  By the way, my girlfriend, you get to start the race.”

Jasmine gasped at that.  “What?”

“You look sexy,” Danny said, running his hand over her hip.

She had worn a short leather skirt and a light blouse for the occasion.  Her feet in ankle-length heeled boots.

Danny grinned when she looked like she might stop breathing.

“You’ll love it.”

Yep, he had stolen her heart, she decided when all it did was flip-over in excitement instead of freak out.  He was right about the start.

There was something absolutely exhilarating about standing at the starting point while five supercharged engines growled like beasts, itching for take off.  Jasmine stood between Danny and Nic Mugera’s cars, her hands raised while Jimmy counted down on the sideline.  When he got to one, she dropped her arms and the rush of cars whipping into motion past her let her breathless.

Terry rushed to her side jumping in excitement.  They moved out of the road, to the closest screen to watch the race, documented by strategic cameras placed along the circuit.  The competition was high-powered energy; Jasmine could feel the current on her skin.  Everyone around them vibrated with it, watching with bated breath, she could hardly stay unaffected.

Watching Danny’s car muscle its way along the course was both hard and exciting.  She clung to Terry’s arm when Nic’s car got too close to Danny’s or when the curves they took looked too dangerous.  Danny was a great driver, but the maniacs racing him worried her.  They drove aggressively, and seemed uncaring of safety.  A green car tried to overtake Danny on a narrow part of the road, and for a full two minutes, Jasmine couldn’t breathe.

Danny freed himself from the crazy driver in the green car, edging ahead with Nic behind him in a white car.

Then, when Danny started on the last stretch, a brilliant blue car broke into the race.  Forcing Danny to swerve out of the road to avoid a crash.  The rogue blue car followed him, forcing him into the dirt field in the middle of the racing course.  One moment, Danny seemed in control of his car, and then the blue car tapped his back and sent him into a wild spin.

Jasmine stood frozen, screams filled the night but none of that penetrated.  The race continued on, but Jasmine’s gaze remained on Danny’s car bringing up a pile of dust in the middle of the field.  She started to move, and Terry locked arms around her.

“Let me go,” Jasmine ordered, slapping at Terry’s arms to get free.  She needed to get to Danny, save him, make sure he was okay.

“Let them pass,” Terry said, nodding to the oncoming cars.

A bitter taste filling her mouth, Jasmine stopped long enough to let the four remaining cars pass by the tarmac road, and then ran across, heading straight for the cloud of dust.

“Jazz!” Terry screamed.

She ignored the call, and kept going, wishing she hadn’t chosen to wear heels tonight.

Danny!

Strong arms wrapped around her waist lifting her up.

“You idiot,” Jimmy cursed when she started to struggle.  “Don’t go running into a mess you can’t see.”

Jimmy’s hold around her waist was tight, and for a minute, she didn’t understand what he meant until that rogue blue car emerged out of the dust.  She felt Jimmy brace to push them out of its way.  A scream escaping when the blue car missed them by an inch.

She clung to Jimmy then, her gaze on the blue car driving out of the property in unholy speeds, sending people scurrying out of its way.  The driver clearly in a hurry to get away.  When she could stand without shaking, she pushed off Jimmy and raced toward the settling dust.

Danny’s car stood still in the middle, parked haphazardly.  Heart in her throat, Jasmine raced to the driver’s side in crazed madness.

***

To be continued….Thank you for reading!

←Previous Track

Life on the Fast Track – 16

Track 16 – Did you know there are a million sides to you…?

Later in the day, Danny stood in the pet supplies aisle at the supermarket, staring at the

jesse-bowser-255382
Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

range of cat litter products.  How was he supposed to know which one was the right one?  How strange was it to put a litter box in the house?  The cat his mother kept had known to go pee outside.  Why didn’t Jasmine’s cat know?

“Well, well,” Nic Mugera said, making Danny glance up from his perusal.  Nic stood a few feet away, his right brow raised in amusement.

“What are you doing here?” Danny asked with a scowl.

“Seeing it for myself,” Nic replied.  “Try the scented.  Women like things that smell nice.”

“How would you know?” Danny asked.

“I have three sisters,” Nic answered.  “I never imagined a woman would tame you into shopping.”

“Speak your mind, then leave Nic,” Danny said, irritated.

Nic sighed.  “You are no fun.  Fine.  Anderson tried to hit up my warehouse in Industrial Area last night.  Security stopped it.  You should watch out.”

“What was he after?”

“A new consignment of parts,” Nic said.  “You know I don’t get cheap stuff.  Losing my stock would have set me back on my profits.  Now that we have decided to exclude Anderson, he will try to hurt us.”

“I know,” Danny nodded.  “Our best bet is to gather as much evidence as we can.  Use it against him.”

“The CCTV feed at the warehouse is a good start,” Nic said.  “We need more than that though.  I suggest you tighten your security.  He’ll hit you where it hurts most.”

“Are you having me followed?” Danny asked, wondering how Nic had known he would be here.

“Danny,” Nic said, his tone teasing.  “The same way you’re aware of my movements, I’m aware of yours too.  She’s hot by the way.  Hang on to her, or I’ll make a move.”

“Don’t even think it,” Danny growled as Nick chucked and raised his hands up in surrender.  Nic turned to leave, and Danny said, “Thanks.”

“Yeah, see you around, Danny boy,” Nic said with a wave.

Danny grabbed a bag of scented kitten litter and went in search of Jasmine.  He found her reading a gossip magazine in the book section.  She almost jumped when he placed the kitten litter in the cart.

Placing the magazine back, she turned on him.

“Where have you been?”

“Getting the litter,” Danny said.  “Do you want the magazine?”

“No,” Jasmine said.  “Let’s go.”

“You were reading it though.”

“Are you hungry?” Jasmine asked, walking away.

Puzzled, Danny followed her to check out.  She was busy putting items on the counter when he reached her.

“Why did you take a day off today?”

“I wanted to spend the day with you.  Why did you leave a magazine you were reading?  Don’t you want to finish it?” Danny asked, lifting laundry detergent and placing it on the counter.

“I don’t want to buy it,” Jasmine said.

“Does that mean if I buy it, you’ll want it?”

“No,” Jasmine said.  “Why are we having this conversation?”

“Because it’s fascinating how you start something and walk away from it, without a second glance,” Danny said.

“You’re reading too much into it,” Jasmine said, reaching for her purse.

Jasmine shook her head and turned to the cashier.  When she finished with her, and her shopping was all packed up, Jasmine followed Danny out of the supermarket.

“You’re so defensive,” Danny complained, once they were inside the car.  When she raised a brow at him, he grinned.  “I’m getting used to it.”

“You’re not easy to deal with either,” Jasmine said with a snort.

“You must like me though,” Danny said, navigating traffic.

“I must,” Jasmine said on a smile.  “Tell me about racing instead.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Is it illegal?” Jasmine asked, shifting in her seat so that she faced him.

“It depends on the perspective,” Danny answered.  “The modifications on the cars are illegal for regular use, things like using NOS—

“What’s that?”

“Nitrous Oxide Systems,” Danny frowned.  “They’re used to increase speed.  Say for example you want to increase speed to 65mph in four seconds.  You install NOS in to the system, but it has to be able to handle it.  Their use is regulated because you can’t strap them into a regular passenger car, or public vehicles.”

“Do you have NOS in your race cars?”

“Yes,” Danny said, he wouldn’t lie to her.  It was easiest if she knew every detail.

Jasmine nodded.  “Go on.”

“There are many types of modifications.  We’d need a separate lesson just for that.  We race in the evening most times, in the racing course we developed.  Though, there are times when we do close down streets and run a street racing round.”

“So, if police caught you—

“Yes, that part of it is illegal.  We all work around it,” Danny gave a small smile.

“Can you use my car?” Jasmine asked.  “Can I take my Chevy out there?’

“Your Chevy is too old,” Danny said.  “Each car in any particular race has an engine that is built from scratch, tuned and maintained to perfection.  So, we would have to change everything in your Chevy’s engine, change the type of tires, suspension, modify the chassis, that way, the car would have a fighting chance in a race.”

“What do you drive?”

“A Nissan Skyline,” Danny said, his voice filled with pride.  “Jimmy and I modify and tune it with each race.  It’s earned us a lot of money.”

“It must be really expensive doing all that,” Jasmine noted.

“The garage pulls in money, Jazz.  We never make any serious financial risks,” Danny assured her.  “Besides fixing cars, we also modify and tune other racer cars.  We rent out some of the street racing cars we have.  Income comes from selling parts in the shop.  We keep a low profile, and make sure our tax payments are paid on time.  Don’t want the KRA calling.”

Jasmine chuckled.

“Does it scare you at all?” Jasmine asked.  “Ever?”

“Only when my head is not in the game,” Danny confessed.  “Driving takes skill, Jasmine.  A car is a machine that requires a clear calculating mind behind the wheel.  I’m not an idiot.”

Jasmine studied him for a moment.  No, he wasn’t an idiot.  Far from it.  Still, she was scared to think of him at the wheel of a car flying at sixty mph in four seconds.  How could he catch his breath under such speed?

Clearing her throat, she asked.  “Will you take me on a ride one of these days?  I mean not at your races.  I couldn’t handle that, but—

She paused when he looked at her, surprise clear on his face.

“When you’re free,” she finished.

Danny smiled wide.  “How about now?”

“Really?” Jasmine shook her head, not sure she was ready for this.

“Sure,” Danny said, before she chickened out.

Changing gears, he changed lanes and headed toward the exit that would take him to the racing course.

***

Thirty minutes later, Danny pressed on the gas pedal, steadily increasing speed and grinned when the hand on his thigh squeezed tighter, then relaxed.  They had gone three rounds around the course.  Each time, he’d taken them on a faster speed.  Jasmine sat silent beside him, her expression one of excitement.

He didn’t talk, just allowed the atmosphere to fill with the sound of the engine, and his woman beside him.

It felt safe, Jasmine thought, her gaze on Danny’s hands as he turned the wheel.  The movement so effortless, she wasn’t apprehensive and anxious.  It was him.  He made her feel safe, happy.

“I—

She started to say she loved him, then stopped, surprised that the words had almost escaped.  She shut her mouth and turned to look out the window.  The world was moving fast around them.  Like her emotions, she warned herself.

“You what?” Danny prompted, placing his hand over hers on his thigh.

Jasmine smiled.  “I’m glad we did this.  It’s exciting.”

“Are you still scared?” Danny asked, easily navigating the car into a fast turn.  Jasmine watched the motion, feeling weightless.

“No.  Not when I’m with you,” Jasmine said, turning to study his face.  He looked so happy, the expression on his face was memorable.  She’d definitely never seen this side of Danny before.  He was excited, relaxed, and content.

“You make it effortless,” she said.

“Isn’t it?” Danny teased.  “You must come to all my races now.”

Jasmine breathed in and squeezed his thigh.  She might trust him behind the wheel, but others—

That was another case.

Could she live through that kind of anxiety?  Guess she would find out tonight, she thought.

****

To be continued….Thank you for Reading!

←Previous Track

Life on the Fast Track – 15

Track 15 – Because getting to know you, is my favorite adventure…

The door was open, and Jasmine sat on her bed writing in her diary.  She didn’t look up, so Danny leaned on the doorjamb and watched her for a few minutes.

The reading glasses resting on the bridge of her nose made her look studious, and sexy…Danny grinned.  He leaned the hockey stick on the wall inside her bedroom and cleared his throat.

She looked up at him.

“Still mad at me?” he asked.

Jasmine closed her diary and placed it on the bedside table.

“No.”

“I need to know you’re safe when you’re alone,” Danny explained.

“I know,” Jasmine said, removing her glasses, she held out her right hand to him.

Danny entered the bedroom and closed the door.  He moved closer and took her hand.  Getting on the bed, he pulled her into a tight hug.  Not wanting to let go just yet, Danny shifted until he was comfortably resting on the comfortable pillows.  Jasmine settled against him, and he rubbed her arm, breathing in the scent of mint.  The scent like home.

Jasmine traced shapes on his t-shirt.

“Will you tell me what tonight’s been about?”

Danny held her tighter.

“First, let me ask, do you trust me?”

Jasmine’s finger stilled on his chest.  She lifted her head from his chest to meet his gaze.  Danny searched her eyes for a hint of doubt, and when he found none, he couldn’t help the little burst of joy in his heart.

“I’m not a criminal,” Danny said then, needing her to know that.  “The garage’s revenue is clean, no dirty money.”

“And the race grounds?” Jasmine asked.

“Jimmy and I bought the land and own it free and clear.  We built the course, developed the tracks.  We’ve ran a tight circle until a few months ago when Adrian approached us wanting to join in.”  Danny shook his head.  “At first glance, his business looked legitimate.  He imports car parts and has a shop in the middle of Nairobi town.”

“He has other sources of income,” Jasmine said, resting her chin on Danny’s chest.

“We allowed him into the circle because he could pay the cut,” Danny sighed.  “It worked out well a few races.  Then Anderson’s people started working the guests.  Trying to sell merchandise, Jimmy thinks there were drugs involved.  It got weird, and we started not calling him for any races.”

“Now he’s upset,” Jasmine said in understanding.  “Upsetting Adrian is like stepping on a cat’s tail, Danny.  He’s a mean bastard, his claws scratch deep.”

“I made Terry finish her business with anyone associated with Anderson.  Jimmy has people watching her.  I stayed away from you thinking I was protecting you.  Then Terry came home and told me you used to date his little brother—,”

“Hence the ex-boyfriend conversation,” Jasmine sighed.  “Danny, I doubt Anderson will come after me.”

“He will because you matter to me,” Danny said, tightening his hold on her.  She frowned, and he brought his free hand to pinch her left cheek, and then gave it a small caress.

“It would hurt me if something happened to you, Jazz.  That’s no secret,” Danny said.

***

Well…when he put it that way, Jasmine thought, sucking in air.  Danny certainly knew how to say the right thing to make all her mad disappear.  Wiping out a full evening of being upset with a few words, what talent.  Her heart squeezed and she gave up on fighting her feelings for this man.

She smiled and Danny stared at her, then ran his hands down her back, tickling her.  She started laughing and tried to wiggle out of his hold.

“Were you really going to hit me with the hockey stick?”

Jasmine grabbed his wrists to stop him, but he was strong.  He tickled her sides and she convulsed into uncontrollable laughs.

“Tell me, or I won’t stop,” Danny threatened.

“I thought you were a thief.”  Jasmine tried to move away, but then Danny rolled on top of her.  “You’ve been freaking out about psychos at my door.  Then I hear banging—,”

“Next time, call for help,” Danny said.

“My phone was in the living room,” Jasmine said.

“You’re exasperating,” Danny chuckled.  “I think I need to stay here with you.”

“What?” Jasmine stared at him in surprise.  Then he kissed her hard and she forgot all thought.

***

She wasn’t working the next morning.  Danny finally got his wish.  He woke her with heated kisses, bringing her up as the sun rose to a beautiful Friday morning.  Jasmine curled to his side and pressed a kiss on his shoulder.

“Morning,” Danny said.

“Morning,” she smiled.  “If they were all like this, I’d never get to work.”

“Hmm…” Danny said, his tone low.  “Is that an idea?”

“Maybe,” Jasmine said.

They spent the morning lazing around in bed.  At around nine, they dressed leisurely and ended up in the kitchen around nine-thirty.  Danny stood behind Jasmine as she made eggs, his hands on her hips.  He pressed a kiss on her neck.

“Danny,” She chuckled.  “Do you have to stand so close?  I’m trying to cook here.”

“I know,” Danny said, kissing her shoulder.  “I’m hoping I’m the only one you cook for woman.”

“Such a jealous man,” Jasmine said, turning the eggs.  “Pass the plates.”

Danny reached behind him and picked up the plates.  Helping her serve the eggs, he took the plates to the dining table while she turned the fire off.  Taking their cups of coffee, she followed him to the dining table.  Taking a seat beside him, she grabbed her fork and started eating.

“Baby, you’ve got an appetite,” Danny teased.

“So what?” She sipped her coffee.  “Am I fat?”

“I love your body,” Danny answered rubbing her back.

“Good answer.”

Danny chuckled and sipped his coffee.

“What were you busy typing last night?”

Jasmine swallowed her eggs hard, meeting Danny’s gaze.  She’d never told her friends about her hobby other than her immediate family.

“Uhm…some stuff.”

“Work related?” Danny asked.

“Not really,” Jasmine evaded.  “Anyway, what are you doing today?”

“Spending the day with you,” Danny answered, smiling at her shocked reaction.

“The whole day?” she asked.

“Yes, Jasmine.  I’m going to spend the whole day with you.  Get  used to the idea, girlfriend,” Danny said, leaning over to kiss her cheek.

Jasmine shook her head, taking a bite of her eggs.

“I wonder what your racing buddies would say if they saw you now.  Your playboy reputation would suffer.”

“It would be worth it,” Danny winked at her.  “I’m trying out new things.  Speaking of which, later tonight, there is a race.  I want you to come.”

“Danny—

“I’m not taking no for an answer,” Danny said.  “Please?  Come be my luck, Jazz.  Let me try to end your fear.”

She stared at her fork.  Terry had warned her.  Told her she would need to accept this side of Danny too.  When she met his gaze, he looked anxious, expecting her to say no.

Jasmine hid a smile and turned away.

“Well, since you asked so nicely,” she said, “I guess I can try it out.”

***

To be continued…Thanks for Reading! ^_^

←Previous Track

Life on the Fast Track – 10

Track 10 – You showed up when I was having a Hard Day…my heart moved

Terry found Danny making breakfast while he fed the white cat milk.  She paused at the entrance into the kitchen and let out a whistle.

“Well, well, you look quite at home, my dear big brother.”

“Do you want eggs or not?” Danny asked, sparing her a short glance.

“I just had waffles with Jimmy,” Terry said, looking around the neat kitchen.  “Looks like you’re moving in.”

“I wish,” Danny said, placing his eggs on a plate.  Picking up his coffee, he leaned on the counter and studied his flamboyant sister.  Her hair was in a ponytail today.  As usual, she looked beautiful in jeans and a dress top thing that should be illegal.  She was too comfortable in her own skin.

Terry owned a clothing boutique in the city.  She sold clothes and offered personal styling to well-off clients.  Her friendly personality afforded her a long list of happy clients, but her working hours were erratic.  He wished she had a steady schedule.

“Your friend is impossible,” Danny said.  “What’s wrong with the cat?”

“She’s getting shots,” Terry said, stroking Min’s fur.  “Otherwise she’d be popping kittens every three or four months.  I’m glad you two got together.”

“I’m not sure Jazz is happy about it,” Danny said, sipping his coffee.  “Enough about that, aaron-burden-185993I want you to keep away from Adrian Anderson.”

“Oh come on now,” Terry scowled.  “Your big brotherly concerns are so tiresome—

“Anderson’s a thief,” Danny interrupted, spooning eggs into his mouth.  “He’s going to get our business and races in trouble if we keep him around.”

“How do you know this?” Terry asked, staring at her brother.

“Nic Mugera.”

“Nic,” Terry gaped.  “Since when do you take anything he says at face value?”

“Since Anderson became a thief,” Danny answered.  “You realize we don’t need that kind of trouble, right?”

“Aish, Danny,” Terry cursed, moving to find a cup so that she could pour herself coffee.  “Anderson has people in my client list.  I have five orders right now with them.  If I refuse, can you imagine the kind of losses I will make?”

“I’ll find new clients for you,” Danny said.  “Come on Sis, being round Anderson is not an option.  Your safety comes first.”

Terry shook her head.  “How can I wake up one morning and decide to ignore five major clients?”

“Don’t be dramatic,” Danny said.  “Whatever orders you have, fill them, then don’t take anymore from anyone associated with Anderson.”

“Is this an order?” Terry asked.  “It’s not so easily done, you know.”

“You’ll manage,” Danny said.  “I’ll have Jimmy send someone from the garage to keep an eye on you.  I’m serious about this, Terry.”

Terry shook her head.  “I worry about you, Danny.”

“I’m doing just fine.  I’ll be a thousand times better if you do what your big brother tells you.”  Placing his mug of coffee in the sink, he looked around the kitchen.  “So, where’s the carrier for the cat?  I’m not carrying her with my hands.”

“What?” Terry asked in surprise.  When Danny gave her a look, she pointed to a store room tucked into the corner of the kitchen.

“I’ll take the cat to the vet,” Danny said, coming back from the store room holding a black pet carrier.  “You go arrange your business.”

“Today?” Terry asked.

“Yes, today,” Danny scowled at her.  He picked up Min and placed her in the carrier.  “Give me the address to the vets, and go handle your business, Terry.  Sawa?”

Terry sighed, there was no winning with Danny when he got this way.

“Fine.”

***

“You’re late,” Jasmine said, trying to keep her temper calm.  She pressed her cellphone to her ear.  “Do you understand that sets us back a few hours?  Clients wataka mali yao, and we’re making their lives a living hell.  Tell me, how can you help me?”

Jasmine strode out of the building and started walking around to the docking area in the back.  A line of four trucks stood, men in the back of the warehouse offloading the contents in each truck.  She needed one more, and their most demanding client would receive his property in the morning.

“I’m sorry, Madam,” the truck driver on the other end of the call said.  “We’re stuck in traffic.  When we break free, we’ll be there in an hour.”

“I hope so,” Jasmine warned.  “I don’t like lies.  If you think the situation is not going to improve, be straight with me, Banda.  Don’t make it worse.”

She ended the call, and stopped for a moment to take in a deep breath.  This job was killing her today.  Her head was starting to throb.  Glancing at her cellphone, she discovered that it was passed lunch.

Three o’clock already, where did the time go?

Leaning on the wall, she closed her eyes and sighed.  Opening her eyes, a second later, she stared in surprise at the sight of the black Mazda parked a few feet away.  Leaning on the driver’s side door was Danny, watching her.

She couldn’t explain why her heart sped up in joy.  Her mood, instantly, revitalized.  Smiling to herself, she started toward him.  When she was standing a step away from him, she said,

“Hey.”

He looked good in blue jeans and a black t-shirt, she was tempted to kiss his cheek.

“Hey yourself,” Danny said, opening his arms.

She walked right into them without much thought and allowed him to hold her in a tight hug.  He didn’t talk, just held her in silence.  After a moment, she pulled back and studied him.

“Did you miss me?” Jasmine asked.

“Very much,” Danny said, pressing a kiss on her cheek.  “I didn’t like how we left it this morning.”

“Neither did I,” jasmine said, meeting his gaze.  “How has your day been?”

“Hmm…” Danny looked deep in thought, then he winked at her.  “I took your cat to the vet to get her shots.”

“You did,” Jasmine smiled.  “Danny, you surprise me.”

“I know,” Danny said, his gaze on her lips.  “I like surprising you.”

She rested her forehead on his shoulder.

“I gotta go back to work.”

“I know that too,” Danny said, not having missed the trucks unloading in the back of the warehouse.  “Have you eaten?”

“I will, later,” Jasmine said, her phone buzzing.  She pulled away, one glance at the caller’s name and she squeezed his arm.  “I gotta answer this.”

“Alright,” Danny turned and reached into his car.  Pulling out a brown bag from the Passion Restaurant, he handed it to her.  “I also saw my dad today.  He sent me with this.  Make sure you eat it.”

Jasmine stared at the bag in shock.  Apart from Terry, no one ever cared enough to come to see her at work.  No one ever brought her lunch…taking the bag, she smiled and pressed a fist to her mouth.

“Jazz?” Danny asked.

She shook her head.

“Thanks,” she said, pressing a kiss on his jaw.  She answered her phone in the next minute and hurried off.

***

Danny grinned, watching Jasmine hurry away, her heels clicking on the pavement.  It tickled him how freaked out she had been by his bringing her lunch.  His task accomplished, he slid into the driver’s seat and watched her for a moment longer.  Her work annoyed him, he didn’t like to see her stressed.

If he mentioned it though, she’d only ignore him.  Headstrong women, he thought.

Driving off, he smiled at the little he’d done today win her over.  It was a step forward.

***

To be continued….Thanks for reading!

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A/N: In case you’re reading this for the first time, this is an ongoing story, with a few chapters in it.  I’ll work on consolidating in one page very soon, so that it’s easier to find.