This writer has been taking detours from regular writing. It happens and I had a request to review a book recently. I love any books set in my corner of the world, love them even more when the author reaches out to me for some thoughts. So, my detour lately has to do with this book: The Virgin Journey. No, I haven’t finished reading it, but am eagerly turning the pages, and will share more on this story soon.
The Virgin Journey
by Mazzi Wampamba
Book One of The Reporter Trilogy
Gary Stokes, a young American from California, accepts a job that takes him to East Africa, a place he never imagined calling home. Loneliness confronts him as he struggles to understand his new, postcolonial environment and his role as an expatriate reporting in a foreign land. Gary, who promises his girlfriend in the U.S. that he will never let anything come between them, finds himself falling in love with a Kenyan native and relying on the help of Guy Woodward, his new expatriate friend, to help him navigate his way through the complicated love triangle.
Ashi wrapped an arm around Koya’s waist. Koya was grateful as it rather felt like she’d fall on her face. Kim stood glaring after the black Mercedes, his fists clenched. All Koya could think was that Charlie needed help. He was hurting, she’d seen that in his eyes. There was no way he could do this on his own. He loved her.
“He doesn’t know what he’s saying,” Ashi said in agreement with her.
“His mother was in the car. I know it. Charlie would never say those things unless she threatened him. I’m going to see him at their house,” Koya said.
If their relationship was over, Koya needed him to say it again. She needed Charlie to confirm that he was letting her go, killing their relationship.
“Let’s go inside,” Kim said. “No one is thinking straight ‘coz you haven’t slept all night.”
He herded them back inside the house.
“I can’t sleep with Charlie this upset,” Koya said, rubbing her eyes, hoping to clear away sleep. She was so tired.
“Imagine what this is doing to him. I need to talk to him.”
“You can’t go to his house right now,” Ashi said. “His mother—
“I’m going to fight her for him,” Koya said. “She can’t do this to us. I won’t let her.”
“You’re in no shape to fight anyone,” Kim said, placing an assuring hand on her shoulder. “Get some sleep first.
When you wake up, and you still want to talk to Charlie, I will walk you to the house on the hill.”
Koya rubbed her eyes again. Kim was right. He was always right. A sigh escaped and she shook her head. Her brain hurt. The thought of not seeing Charlie again made her feel crazy. She turned toward the door but Ashi stepped in front of her and shook her head.
They were right.
She needed sleep.
Kim took advantage of her indecision. Taking her hand, he led her through the living room, through to the short corridor and to the room she was sharing with Ashi. He pushed her toward the bed. Once she was tucked in, he patted her shoulder.
“I promise I’ll take you to Dhali’s home later.”
Closing her eyes, Koya hoped that it would all make sense when she woke up. She hoped that her heart would quit trying to fly out of her chest, and that Charlie would smile at her when she got to his house.
Five hours later, her hopes turned to dust.
It was two o’clock, the sun high in the sky. Koya stood at the high black gates at the Dhali estate waiting for the guards to call Charlie. None of them moved from their post. Instead, they watched her with pity in their eyes.
“Come on, Wainaina,” Koya said, her tone pleading. “I just want to ask him one question.”
“I’m sorry, Koya,” Wainaina said. “I’ve been instructed not to let you in.”
“Koya, let’s go. You don’t need to do this to yourself,” Kim said. He was leaning on the gate pillar, chewing on sugarcane; discarded sugarcane pieces decorated the ground around him.
She ignored his calm, untouched mood, and slammed her palm on the metal gate.
“Charles Dhali, you get out here and talk to me,” she called.
“Koya,” Kim sighed. “Really, this is what you want to do? He’s not coming out.”
“I can’t take it,” Koya said. “I can’t take this, Kim.”
Koya looked through the peephole and saw the groundskeeper rushing to the gates. He held a white envelope in his hand. She hoped it was a note to tell Wainaina to open the gates for her. She smiled. The groundskeeper reached the gate, and instead of handing the note to Wainaina, he slid it through the peephole to her. The white envelope had her name on top. Glancing at Kim, she took the letter, afraid of the contents. Kim dumped his sugarcane on the ground, moving fast…ready to take the letter away from her. She moved away from him and ripped the envelope open. Straightening the leaf let, she read it:
My dearest Koya, This is the last time you will hear from me. It’s over between us, and I hope you understand this because I never want to see or hear from you again. It’s taken me a while to realize you’re not good enough for me. You don’t have the status that a person like me deserves. It was fun having you, but now the fun is over and I need to focus on important things in my life. Those important things do not include you. Have a nice life. Charlie.
Tears slid down her cheeks as she took in the harsh words. The knife stuck in her back was more than she could bear, and her knees were giving out. Kim wrapped strong arms around her, and she clung to him as he took the letter from her. He read it fast, then he ripped it apart and threw it into the wind.
“This is why I didn’t want you coming here,” he said. “They can be cruel, Koya. You didn’t need this.”
“I needed to know,” Koya said, sobs wrecking through her body. “I needed to hear him say it, but I guess reading it is even better.”
Kim cursed under his breath and turned her away from Charles Dhali’s gate.
Victoria sat in the waiting room on Thursday morning, fighting anxiety as she waited for her doctor’s appointment. She’d called her doctor the same day Grace told her about Ronald. Olive had insisted she come in the evening after work. They’d taken her blood for testing, her anxiety had started building from that moment on. She kept suffering episodes of fear every time she thought about the test results. She’d barely gotten any work done yesterday.
Shifting on the comfortable gray couch, Victoria picked up a magazine and flipped through it absently. The nurse was busy at her desk typing away into her computer. Victoria looked around the elegant waiting room and smiled. She and Olive had been in college together. They’d gotten closer when Olive started dating her big brother, Clifford.
Victoria sighed and dropped the magazine on the glass table. She was afraid her brother might walk in and find her waiting. She wasn’t ready to discuss why she was here. Ronald’s betrayal was too new, too painful. So much so, she was actually avoiding him at work. She figured it was better not to see him until she could control the urge to scratch out his eyes.
She’d instead thrown herself into the wedding reception plans for the Kamau wedding. Thinking about the coming wedding, she remembered Eric Kabuto’s ridiculous invitation. Her cheeks flamed when she also remembered he’d seen her at her lowest moment. Closing her eyes to escape that embarrassing memory, she wondered if she could just keep from seeing him again. She’d contemplated not showing up at the church. After all, Beth would be too busy getting married to notice if she showed up, and her car was still messed up.
Clifford had said he’d get it fixed by today, but-.
She shrugged. She also didn’t have a dress to wear. What she needed was a day spent on the couch eating ice cream and mourning her stupidity.
“Miss Waina,” the friendly nurse called her name. “Dr. Mulua is ready for you.”
She stood up with shaky knees and followed the nurse to the doctor’s office. Her anxiety returned tenfold as she entered the neat room to find Olive jotting down notes at her desk. Her friend looked every bit the successful doctor in a neat gray skirt and matching silk blouse. Olive had always been the studious one in school. The gold-rimmed glasses resting on Olive’s nose had helped the image along.
“Vicky,” Olive said when she glanced up and saw her. “I’m sorry to make you wait.”
Olive finished writing and closed her pen. She came to hug Victoria warmly. “I’ve had the busiest day and it’s not over yet. One of my patients was admitted earlier this afternoon. I need to see him this evening.”
Olive’s life was a series of emergencies now. Victoria understood since her older brother Clifford was in the same boat. No wonder the two made a perfect couple, she thought.
“I don’t mind waiting,” Victoria said as she took a seat.
The butterflies in her stomach went on a wild riot when Olive chose to use the guest seat beside her. She couldn’t help thinking Olive was doing it in order to comfort her. The idea that she was sick made her more sick. Did that make sense? Goodness her heart was going to come out of her chest.
“Vicky,” Olive said, interrupting her wayward thoughts. “I said I got your results.”
Victoria sucked in air, watching Olive read through the white paper she held.
“You specifically asked for a H.I.V. Test. You’re negative and your blood work looks good. Your weight needs to go down a bit, but that’s not critical. You’re healthy.”
Relief flooded through Victoria so hard, she got light headed. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Olive said gently. “Can I ask why you wanted to do these tests? Did something happen to you? You can tell me you know.”
Victoria felt tears prick her eyes and she reached for the box of tissues at the corner of Olive’s desk. The past forty-eight hours had been hell. Ever since she’d discovered what Ronald had done, she’d felt stuck in a dark cloud. Afraid of what could happen to her if he’d caught something and passed it on to her.
“Vicky,” Olive said reaching for her hand. “Honey, what happened?”
She wiped the corner of her eyes and shook her head. “It’s silly, I didn’t sleep at all last night worrying about these results. I was afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” Olive asked squeezing her fingers.
Victoria sighed and the words tumbled out. “Ronald is cheating on me. I’d never have known if it weren’t for Grace, who heard it from Nick, Tropic’s chef. Can you imagine how many people knew for Nick to find out? I’m such an idiot.”
“Oh you poor thing,” Olive said her eyes wide. “No wonder you had me check you for HIV. Jeez, Vicky. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s all my fault,” Victoria said. “I couldn’t see it. I should have, but I don’t think I wanted to see what he was doing.”
Olive leaned to pull her into a hug. “This is not silly at all. You deserve better than Ronald. He’s not worth your tears.”
Vicky laughed because those were the same words Grace had said to her on Tuesday. She sighed and pulled back to meet Olive’s concerned gaze.
“Are you sure I’m okay? I won’t stay a month and then end up having a disease?”
“I’m sure,” Olive said. When she didn’t stop frowning, Olive patted her hand. “Why don’t we have a follow-up in a month. Meanwhile, take it easy, I’d suggest a week-off work. When was the last time you took a vacation?”
She couldn’t remember. “I think it was that trip we took to Diani.”
“That’s two years ago,” Olive said in surprise. “Jeez, take time-off. You look stressed.”
“I’m not stressed,” Victoria insisted. “Work makes me happy.”
“Work is where Ronald is and you need a break from him,” Olive pointed out. “Take a vacation, Vicky. Doctor’s orders.”
Olive’s phone beeped on the desk and she sighed. “The hospital is calling. I have to go.”
Victoria stood and hugged Olive. “Thank you for doing this for me so fast.”
“Anything for you,” Olive answered stepping back. “Drinks this weekend?”
Victoria picked up her bag, the burden on her shoulders disappearing. “I have a wedding thing happening this Saturday.”
“Great, I’ll crash. We can have drinks at the bar on the second floor.”
Victoria felt the first genuine smile tug at her lips. “It’s a date.”
Olive grinned and picked up her stethoscope from the desk and her jacket from the back of her chair. “Invite Grace and it will be like old times.”
Happy about her clean bill of health, Victoria decided to walk back to her apartment. Hurlingham wasn’t far from the Nairobi Hospital, and Olive had urged her to get her weight down. She was glad she’d worn her flats. She’d take weight management over terminal disease any day. She couldn’t stop thanking God for the good fortune he’d granted her today. That stupid Ronald, she wondered what she could do to him that was worse than what he’d done to her.
When she reached the Hurlingham Shopping Center, she decided to stop in the supermarket for toiletries. She was busy debating over Close-up toothpaste and Aquafresh when her phone buzzed. Worried that it might be Grace with an emergency, she answered without looking at the caller ID.
“Where are you?” Ronald demanded in an entitled tone. “You’re not in your office.”
“I took the afternoon off,” she snapped. Just hearing his voice was enough to make her angry. “What do you want?”
“Vicky, why do you sound so upset with me? Is it because I missed our dinner on Monday? I told you I was busy–”
“Stop,” she said holding on to the shopping cart. “I don’t want anything to do with you, Ron. It’s over between us.”
“Don’t ever call me Vicky again. You bastard,” she said with disgust. “Why don’t you call Anita the concierge if you need a date? I’m sure she’ll be glad to meet you.”
She ended the call abruptly and let out a harsh breath. Everything inside her trembled. She wasn’t sure she’d ever get over the anger boiling inside her. Taking in deep breaths, she waited until she’d calmed down before she returned her attention to the toothpaste.
She’d always used Close-up like a dedicated girl, always buying the standard toothpaste her parents had taught her to use.
No wonder she’d held on to Ronald like a bad habit. The bastard had the nerve to call her and ask why she was upset. Shaking her head, she realized that choosing toothpaste had turned into a decision about her life.
She could keep using Close-up like a fool, or make a change. She reached for the Aquafresh without a second thought. She wasn’t going back to the woman who’d let Ronald treat her like an idiot. Never again. From now on, Victoria Waina was making a change.
With this new conviction, she matched to check out thinking about the best place to buy a red dress in Nairobi.