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.

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!

Atlantic by Phil Dass

Atlantic

9dmzyieg4oi-frances-gunnReta eased her running, slowing the treadmill, as she let her muscles relax in relief.

Two minutes later, she went to her yoga mat for cool down stretching exercises, nimbly extending her legs and arms as far as she could.  Then she lay flat on her back on the yoga mat, her face and palms glistening with sweat.

When she started her exercises, it had been cold.  So, she dressed appropriately.  She wore a black seamless lurex pullover and high-waist leggings with her feet ensconced in Nike running shoes. She lay for a few minutes savouring the rush of warm blood coursing through her taut veins as her muscles relaxed after a two-hour long onslaught.

Her reverie broke only when she heard her phone buzz for the umpteenth time.  She never picked up the phone when she was working out and all her contacts knew her routine.  She sighed and stood up, walked over to the window sill and picked up the phone.  She looked at the caller’s name and her shoulders arched up.

“Hallo,” she said softly, trying to hide her excitement.

She listened to the caller for a minute and she cut in, “That’s great…”

Her face fell a few minutes later, her glowing pretty face suddenly losing colour, turning into a frown, and then sinking further into a distressed woebegone look.  Her eyes crinkled up.

“Oh,” is all she said, and then continued to repeat herself – inserting an “ok” now and then, in-between the conversation.

“Ok,” she said again, for the final time.

Then the conversation ended with, “Yeah sure! I am getting into it.”

Gone was the exuberance she had felt when she finished her workout.  She felt drained and incapacitated.  She looked through the window and saw the ocean churning a frothy tide.  Some distance away, she could see the other houses by the cliff.  Further way down, a few miles away, she could see the white beach trying to get one over with the sea.  It was still daylight. She turned to look at the other end of the window and could see the wind gaining speed as the shrubs and the few barren trees swayed dangerously.

She looked at the phone again, tempted to make a call, but seemed undecided.  She put the phone down and walked out of the fitness room.  She crossed the living room and into the open kitchen and poured a glass of water from the jar on the table.  She sipped the water slowly, her face still reflecting a numbed feeling.

“What do I do?  Talk to John and end it once for all?” she frowned at the thought.

She had waited long enough.  This was getting ridiculous. After everything, this!  When everything seemed to be going fine!

She was getting agitated and even more upset.

She placed the glass on the table, and left the kitchen.

Damn, this was not the end!

She went into her bedroom, entered her closet and absentmindedly picked the colorful kanga on the edge of a shelf.  She tied it around her waist, then delved through the overflowing wardrobe, pulling out a sleeveless woolen top.  She wore it too, and left the closet.  In her bedroom, she looked out the windows, and shivered involuntarily.  It was going to be cold and windy outside.  Should I? she wondered.  She wanted to go out.  Clear her head.  Do something other than think of the phone call.  She returned to the closet and picked out a cap, wore it and left the bedroom.

She was about to walk out the front door when she froze, midstep.  She smiled wanly at herself, and detoured.  She went to the bedroom across hers, opened the door and peeped in. She sighed with relief and then gently walked to the cradle to check if the baby was breathing.  Assured the baby was fine, she left the bedroom, and hurried to the gym.  She picked up the baby monitor on the yoga mat and put it in her pocket. 

On the way out, she peeked at herself in the large mirror by the back door and saw that she had become pale.  She tried to smile and pinched her cheeks.  She tried to smile again, failed and shook her head at her own naivety and left the house.

She walked slowly, trying to ignore the cold and the wind.  The sun was setting fast, lending to the gloom around her.  The path was rocky, the shrubs and the grass around the area were losing their colour.  She saw nothing of it – her mind still not coming to terms with the new situation.  After a turn here, an upward stride there, she was soon at the edge of the cliff over 300 feet up from the ground.  The rocky cliff itself fell ninety degrees straight into the rocky edges where the Atlantic Ocean met Africa.

stoat
Stoat- Cute deadly creature…^_^

She stood at the edge, the wind whipping her kanga into a frenzy, she looked back at the lights in her house, checking if John was back.  But no, it didn’t look like it.  She took out the baby monitor and held it to her ear, to see if it was working.  It was.  She put it back into her pocket and turned back to stare into the cold Atlantic Ocean that seemed to be frolicking with the wind.  Her kanga fluttered wildly threatening to come loose.  She felt her waist to see if it was tucked in securely.  Her kanga was going wild and it reminded her of the stoat’s so-called ‘dance of death.’ She had watched it on the National Geographic Channel – the stoat– a puny animal that looked like a mix of a rat and a beaver or a weasel.  Her Kanga was behaving like a stoat doing its famed dance:  flapping, swirling around with frenzied leaps, and upward rolls at dizzying speed, creating a psychedelic vision that was at once riveting as well as dizzying.

She looked up and shook her head, clearing her head of the vision of the stoat and her unruly kanga.  The cold was now penetrating her skin.  Her face was going numb but she did not seem to realise it.  There was a lump in her throat and then the tears flooded down her cheeks and she cried loudly.  The howling wind helped her along.

No, she had to do it.  She told herself grimly while trying to control her sobbing.  It was just two feet away.

She took one step forward.  The wind seemed to support her decision.  She paused and then the baby monitor came alive.

“Hey Love!  Where are you? I’m home!” Her husband’s cheery voice broke through the wind.

She stepped back from the edge and turned around to look towards the house.  She had to wait a few seconds before her husband came into view on the porch, with the baby in his arms.  He seemed to be scouting for her but it was getting darker and she doubted he could see her.

She put the monitor away and walked swiftly back to the house.

“There you are!” John kissed her on the cheek while trying not to suffocate the baby.

“Yes,” she replied. “Was by the cliff – Phew it is cold and windy!”

“So, any good news?” John asked as both of them walked back into their warm and cozy living room.

Reta took the baby from him and cooed into her face making baby talk. There was no sign of her gloomy self by the cliff. The light was back in her eyes and her skin glowed in the light of the fireplace.

“Sure is,” Reta replied. “I am being called for another screen test tomorrow.”

“Swell!” John said. “Congrats – and what role is this for?”

“That screenplay we read together…of the love triangle? They offered me the wife’s role. You know – the one who is supposed to be schizophrenic and suicidal…”

“Nice,” John said. “You will surely get the role.”

”Of course, I will. I just had a practice run by the cliff and I was awesome.”

Reta had a flair for dramatics at short notice.

The End

Story by Phil Dass writing for the Prompt: She stood at the edge of a cliff, the wind whipping her kanga into a frenzy, she looked back….

This little gem was written by Phil last week for a writing prompt exercise.  I loved the dancing kanga in the air, colorful, and fighting with the wind like a Stoat.  ^_^ Didn’t even know there was an animal like this.  You learn as you read more!  Tidbit from Phil: – The story is titled Atlantic as Reta’s emotions are turbulent and changing like the Atlantic Ocean.   I look forward to reading more stories by Phil Dass.

 

Longing to Heal the Earth – Day 13

Longing to Heal the Earth 

People don’t realize the earth is…alive, her grandmother would say.

events_crystalitas_gaia_mother_earth_healing_meditation_elementars_180x120Before…when her grandmother was young, the world was lush green.  Thick trees grew tall, so tall, one couldn’t see the highest branch.  Green grass in fields, vast and wide, as far as the eye could see.  Her grandmother would run down the hill, to the valley where the fresh spring flowed.  The water sweet, cool and clear.  So clear, the rocks in the riverbed were visible.

Those days, her grandmother would say that all she needed to do was scoop water in her hand and take a sip, drink a gulp, dunk her face in the fresh spring water and drink her fill.

There was no need for machines to clean water.

Not like now, Mira thought, her gaze on the clear glass of water on the table.

All her water came in bottles sold at the supermarket.  She was thirty and had yet to see a clear spring or river, one safe for her to dunk her head into the precious water and drink her fill.  Mira gagged at the thought of dunking her head into the Nairobi River for a drink.  The river was sick with muck, garbage, waste….God knew what else…one sip and she’d end up in the hospital with poisoning.

Her grandmother’s stories sometimes sounded like lies.  Yet she knew, her grandmother would never lie to her.  Mira believed her when she spoke of lush green fields and tall trees.

On days like this, she wanted a taste of the water in a clear fresh spring.  Mira took the glass and drank deep.  It was hot outside, and she still needed to go to the market.

Letting a sigh escape, she got up, wore her hat and took her purse and a light bag she used for shopping.  She stopped at her door to wear the nose mask that had turned essential in the past year, then left her apartment.

The sun was hot.  Scorching hot.  Mira walked along Ngong rd heading to the junction mall.  Pedestrians she passed wore similar nose masks, their heads covered with hats and dark eyeglasses.

The masks were for the dust.  In a frenzy of progress, the country had lost eighty percent of its tree cover.  Forests, fields of green and lush valleys replaced with forests of sky scrapers, apartment buildings and factory buildings.  The rivers had turned to muck-filled waters thanks to the factories dumping at will without regulation.  The streets became filled with trash, as the population increased and no garbage regulations were imposed.  Garbage, muck, chemicals in the air…no trees, the air changed, the soil changed…the earth started dying and so did the people.

She was lucky.

Mira worked in one of the factories that manufactured portable home-water cleansers for those who could afford them.  Water was an essential commodity.  One that the entire nation needed to live.  The water cleansers brought in enough revenue to keep the factory going.  It was a good job, a secure one.

Her job allowed her to afford an apartment that provided clean water, air conditioning to escape the relentless heat and sealed doors to keep out those who couldn’t afford it.

Her people were killing the planet with progress.  The reduction of trees had led to a drastic rise in temperatures.  Summer weather turned deadly, those living in the semi-arid areas suffered first.  The heat spread through the nation like wildfire, it dried the rivers and lakes.  By the time the government started responding to the crisis, essentials like water had turned into a precious commodity peddled by opportunists.  Water was the new Oil.  Oxygen, the second highest money-making commodity.

Air conditioned houses were an essential now.  No living soul could withstand the heat at midday.  Unfortunate souls caught in the daily heat wave met their deaths within the hour if they couldn’t find air conditioned shelters.  It wasn’t easy as the government commissioned shelters got overcrowded.  This daily scramble to get into these shelters was even more deadly.

Mira shivered.  She made a conscious effort never to be outside at midday.  Once, the newspapers were filled with stories on politics, now they were filled with the death toll numbers from the daily heat wave, the severity of water shortages, and what to do to escape the heat.

Mira reached the supermarket.  She stowed away her nose mask, just as she saw customers running to the vegetable stands.  Vegetables were a rare commodity.  She caught a glimpse of leafy greens and found her self running too.  Slipping in to the throng of struggling bodies, she slipped under a thin man’s arm and reached out her hand to the shelf.  Her fingers searching, searching, then they closed over a bunch.  She gripped it tight and fought hard to pull out of the human scramble. 

When her hand was free, she hugged her bundle tight against her chest in case an opportunist tried to take it away from her.  She kept walking and didn’t stop until she was in the canned food section.

A smile escaped when she saw the bunch of fresh green spinach in her hand.  She hadn’t seen one of this in three months.  The price on it was high.  One thousand shillings.  More expensive than chocolate.  Lord knew how long it would take until she could get her hands on another one like this.

Fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by.  Mira headed to the water aisle and got a ten bottles which she put in her cart for the week.  She took one bottle and stared at the label.  The ice-caped mountain, with flowing streams and green trees on it’s hills seemed surreal.  She doubted anyone in her generation had ever seen anything so beautiful.

No wonder her grandmother insisted that the earth was alive.

If we had only stopped killing the trees, stopped abusing the earth by dumping garbage, pumping gases into the sky at will…my dear Mira, you might have seen how clear a spring can be,’ her grandmother would say.  ‘I miss that sweet water I tasted, my girl.  Nothing like this garbage you drink.’

Mira sighed and placed the bottle into her cart.

She too wished for that sweet spring in her grandmother’s past.  If only she could heal the earth…

***

Thanks for reading!

100 days Writing AdventureDays go on, this week a prompt on writing for the earth.  Collect the garbage, don’t cut your trees, and ride a bicycle or walk to the bus stop.  Love the Earth as she’s alive.

 

Other Stories:

  1. Oran – Child of Destiny

The Hyena’s Marriage – Day 12

Prompt: Three children are sitting on a log near a stream. One of them looks up at the sky and says…

The Hyena’s Marriage

spotted-hyenaThree children sit on a log near a stream eating sweet ripe mangoes from their grandmother’s garden.  Mango juice runs down their chins, none of them stopping to wipe it away, to eager to savor the taste.  The sweet delicious feast oddly exciting, as they had to climb the tree to get the mangoes.

After their grandmother explicitly told them not to climb the tree.

The fact that they had not listened to her, and had then gone to climb that mango tree, with the threat of her finding out, made the mangoes all the more sweeter.

Now, one of them looked up at the sky, and saw an old hawk fly by in a hurry.

“Where do you think Kito is going?” the boy asked.

“To cause trouble no doubt.  Why?” the girl in the middle asked.

The boy wiped his chin on his sleeve and stared at the mangled mango seed in his hand.

“Kito carried a sweet potato vine in his beak.  Where do you suppose he is taking it?”

“You’re seeing things, Munya.  Why would a hawk carry a vine?”

“I don’t know.”  Munya shrugged, licking on the mango juice escaping between his fingers.  “Aren’t you curious, Lena?”

“No.

Munya sighed.  He was the curious one.  Everyone in his home knew it.  He asked too many questions, and got into trouble because of his curiosity.  Once, he asked his mother if being curious was a bad thing, but she’d smiled and said it was the best way to learn.

Oh well, Munya threw the mango seed and stood.  He went to the edge of the stream to wash his hands, otherwise he would be sticky all day.  Besides, their grandmother would take one look at their sticky fingers and know they stole her precious mangoes.

“Lena, Karua, don’t forget to wash your hands,” Munya said.  “Grandmother might really beat us with that cooking stick she waves this time.”

“Yesterday, she wanted to hit me with it when I forgot to close the chicken house,” Lena said with a giggle as she rushed to his side.

Karua moved slower, he was the youngest in the family and often followed Munya and Lena on their adventures.  Munya worried about Karua more than Lena, because Karua was slower.  He didn’t like running as much as Lena did.  Lena was a tomboy, or so their mother said.  Whatever that meant.

“I want to know where Kito was going,” Munya said, looking above the trees near the stream.

The small forest near the stream bordered their family’s farm.  Their mother and grandmother often sent them to collect firewood.  That was how they met Kito, the old hawk that lived deep inside the forest.

“Let’s take Karua home first,” Lena said, watching their youngest brother splash water at the stream.

“That will take too long,” Munya complained.  “Kito moves too fast.  Please, I’ll look out for him.”

“You said that last time, and I ended up falling behind taking care of Karua.”

“Lena, I promise I won’t leave you alone,” Munya said.  To convince her, Munya went to Karua, took his left hand and led him toward the forest.  “See, he’ll walk with me.  Let’s go, Kito is surely going to cause trouble.  I want to know.”

“You’re going to get us in trouble,” Lena complained even as she followed them.

Munya ignored her and with determined footsteps, led them into the forest.  Sunrays from the sun shone in intervals, breaking through the tall, tall trees with leaves that sang when the wind blew.  Soon, Munya noticed they weren’t the only ones in the forest heading in the direction Kito had gone.  Rabbits raced by, each carrying a gift in its mouth.  Monkeys laughed overhead, swinging from tree to tree.  More birds flew by, the great big elephant who sometimes came by the stream for water stomped by.

Each animal carried a small gift, and Munya wondered if he’d been wrong about Kito going to make trouble.  They soon came to a clearing and Munya clutched Karua’s hand tight when he started tripping over a stone.  Lena took Karua’s left hand and together they steadied him.  They looked up to find the animals waiting in a circle in the clearing.

The silence was unusual, even the chattering monkeys sat in silence on the edge of the circle.  Munya glanced above and saw Kito resting on a low branch on the tree next to them.

“Old Kito,” Munya said, his voice in a loud whisper.

“Shh…” Kito answered, not looking at him.

“But…” Munya started only for Kito to fly off his branch to land on Kito’s right shoulder.

“Stop making noise,” Kito said, dropping his sweet potato vine.

Munya caught it before it touched the ground.

“What is going on?  Why have the animals in the forest gathered?” Munya asked, trying to keep his voice low.

“You’ll see,” Kito answered.  “Here it comes.  Look to the sky, my noisy friend.”

Munya and his siblings all looked up in time to see the sunrays dance into the middle of the clearing.  Bright and pretty, they were golden yellow and almost blinding.  Munya gaped when he saw two hyenas walk into the clearing from opposite sides.  They moved slow, and only stopped when they met in the middle of the clearing.

Before Munya could ask what the hyenas were doing staring at each other in the middle of the clearing, a light rain started and all the animals cheered.

“Munya,” Lena said, her tone amazed.  “Look, it is raining and it is sunny at the same time.”

“Yes,” Kito answered, his voice too pleased.  “The Hyenas are getting married.”

Munya smiled in wonder as each animal walked up to the two hyenas in the middle and left an offering close to them.  Munya lifted the sweet potato vine he held, looking at the old hawk.

“Why did you bring a sweet potato vine for the hyenas?”

“So they may have a prosperous and long life together,” Kito answered.

Munya gave the sweet potato vine to the hawk and watched him take it to the new family.  The animals then included them in celebration and Munya and his siblings had a fun and exciting afternoon celebrating the hyena’s marriage.

***

100 days Writing AdventureThis post is part of the East Africa Friday Feature entry.  Still going with the writing challenge.  I went out last week and it started raining while the sun was out and I remembered this story my grandmother used to tell us.

 

Read Other Stories from Participating Bloggers

The Other Woman – Olufunke Kolapo

Alien Abduction

 

October Snippets – The EA Friday Feature

EAFF Sept

Beautiful October is coming to an end, and this month the EA Friday Feature writers have been letting their creative juices run wild.  The plan in October was to write without a prompt, and instead let the creative juices run.  Each participating blogger wrote 1,000 words on Friday, of an original story that fit their most favorite genre.

I love reading great stories, and these bloggers have not disappointed this month.

Next week, this blog features each of these amazing writers and their blogs.  I can’t wait to share their stories outside the EA Friday Feature.

Look forward to it.  Meanwhile, visit their blogs, read great stories.

 

E. A. Friday Feature Bloggers:

Dora from Nilichoandika

Annemarie from Child of Destiny

Vincent from Flashes of Vice

Maureen from Nepenthe

&

Elly from Love in Nairobi (that’s this blog)

 

The Girl with the Golden Smile – Final

Part 8 – On Love, Waiting & Realization

The thing with love, Nicholas thought, is that it didn’t come like in the movies.EA 2

There was no spark, no wave to wash over the heart like magic.

Love at first sight, he scoffed.  Yeah right.

He’d never subscribed to that piece of lunacy. All he knew was that love came when you least expected it. In the form of realization, and not struck down like an idiot holding a lighting rod.

He shook his head, his gaze on Nalia who’d spent the past five minutes lighting a jiko. She was coughing now, the smoke rising from the lighting charcoal all but choking her. She wiped a hand over her brow, and left a smudge of charcoal on her forehead. Her weave was covered with an old scarf, and the green apron she wore had definitely seen better days.

Nalia scowled at the rising smoke and stepped back from the jiko. She entered her bakery, using the back door and returned with a plastic lid. Nicholas sat back in his seat, watching her fan the jiko like her life depended on it. She had a cake order due in the afternoon. Her charcoal oven was unlit, and it was almost eleven o’clock. He’d asked her countless times if he could buy an electric oven for her, but she refused. Preferring the charcoal oven to the whopping electric bill…the woman was strict when it came to expenses.  Her bakery was doing well. She was the baking primary school teacher now, instead of the divorced primary school teacher.

She’d worked a year to get rid of that title.

One whole year, he sighed. One year of watching and waiting for the right moment. One year for the realization of love to come, take root and take over his life.

Nicholas visited Nalia when he could.  He sat here in the small yard outside her bakery and rental house watching her work to build a new life out of the ashes Malik had left her.  She never complained, even when her orders overwhelmed her at times. Or when she ordered sacks of flour and her supplier refused to bring it over, making her get it from the shop. Nicolas chastised her constantly when she chose not to call him for help and instead struggled with public transport.

Stubborn woman…Miss Independent…he sighed.

Yet her tenacity made her appealing. Hell, he’d probably started falling for her when she’d jumped in front of his car one rainy night. Those days, he’d not been ready to imagine he could allow a woman close to his heart.

A painful poke on his shoulder brought him back from his thoughts, and he blinked when he realized Nalia stood a few feet away.

“Your phone is driving me crazy,” she said. “Answer it.”

The ring tone penetrated his thoughts, and he grinned. Reaching for the gadget, he watched Nalia walk back to her jiko. Thankfully, there was progress and the charcoal was lit.

“Hello,” he answered his call.

“Did you find the courage yet?” Eli asked in greeting.

Nicholas sighed staring at Nalia as she carried the jiko to her charcoal oven.

“I’m afraid to talk about that right now, she’s on a tight deadline…

“Chicken,” Eli teased. “If you don’t tell her, I’ll call her and break the news to her.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Nicholas said, afraid Eli might carry out his threat.

Eli and Nalia had formed a fast friendship. He’d been jealous at first, but now he liked that Nalia had Eli to rely on too. AFter learning the truth about her submissive life with that Malik, he wanted her to have people to call on, people to trust.

“Your pitiful stalking is getting to a critical stage.” Eli sighed on the other end. “You’ve even kept the villa, Nick. Is it for her?”

“She liked that house,” Nicholas said with a sigh. “The books in the library…Oh stop rushing me, I’ll do this on my own time.”

Eli laughed. “Fine, you coward, if she calls me at all, I’m going to drop a huge hint.”

Eli ended the call before he could protest, and Nicholas got to his feet.

“Do you have to leave?” Nalia asked her hands at her hip as she turned to look at him.

“No,” he said.

“Oh good, make yourself useful.”  Nalia frowned, her gaze taking him in. “You might want to roll up your sleeves. Don’t want to ruin your handsome shirt.”

Nicholas put his cell phone into his pocket and did as asked. He neatly folded his shirtsleeves to his to his elbows.
He glanced at Nalia, and almost balked when she pointed at a sack of charcoal leaning against the wall.

“Will you put that in for me?”

Nicholas shuddered glancing at his pristine pale blue shirt. He had come straight from his office, hoping to catch Nalia and ask her out. Instead, here he was…he gave an inward groan and bravely walked to the sack of charcoal. Thanking his gym time, he carried the bag into the bakery and placed it at the spot she designated. Dumping the bag on the stand, he stepped back quickly and caught a snicker from Nalia.

Turning to look at her, he frowned when she laughed.

“I didn’t think you’d do it,” she said in between chuckles. “Nick…

“Woman,” he said inspecting his shirt.  There was a smudge on his stomach, he wiped at it with his hands and frowned when he added to the stain.

“Stop,” she said, swiping his hands away. “You’ll only make it worse. Come on, wash your hands, and take the shirt off, I’ll clean that spot for you.”

“Why would you make carry the charcoal then?” Nicholas asked as she led him to the sink and handed him soap.

Nalia leaned on the counter with a smile.

Damn that smile, the golden smile he saw in his dreams.

Nicholas stopped washing his hands and turned to her.

“I came to ask you if you’d go see the villa with me.”

Nalia met his gaze in surprise. “Are you selling it?”

Nicholas winced. “I was going to, when we first met.”

“Oh,” Nalia sighed. “I guess the new owners will have asked you to gut it and—

“I changed my mind,” he said then.

“About what?”

“Selling the villa,” he said, taking in a deep breath. “I kept the house.”

“Kept it?” Nalia stared at him. “As in you’re going to live there? Here I thought you were a simple man…what do you need all that space for—

“I was going to ask you to move in with me.”

Nalia gaped, her eyes going wide. “What?”

“I—,” Nicholas broke off and he reached out to wipe the smudge of charcoal on Nalia’s forehead. “I love you.”

“Nicholas.”

“I have thought about this for months, and—

“Months?” Nalia sighed. “When were you going to let me in on your thoughts?”

Nicholas shrugged. “When I was sure?”

Nalia stared at him and for a moment he thought he’d misread her.

She grinned.

“I’ve known for a while, you know. No man will agree to carry charcoal when dressed like you are right now.”

“I should have known you knew,” he said then, staring at the smudge on her face.

“Why?”

“No woman will stay with charcoal smudges on her face in front of a man she likes, without assurance,” he said.

“Oh you,” she pushed at his chest and he caught her arms with a laugh, pulling her into his arms as he’d wanted to for a year.

He kissed her then, and smiled when she wrapped her arms around him. It was like coming home.

“I promise to protect you,” Nicholas said when they broke apart and he hugged her. “I won’t break your trust, Nalia.”

Nalia sighed and held on tighter.

“You gave me strength when I didn’t have any. If I hadn’t met you, I’d still be married to Malik. I’d have gone back to him, thinking that I’d keep surviving. But meeting you saved me from that.”

“Nalia.”

“I’m glad that you’ve waited this long for me,” Nalia leaned up to kiss his left jaw.

“So what is your answer, girl with a golden smile?” Nicholas asked needing a clear way forward.

Nalia kissed his right jaw, and said, “Yes.”

Nicholas let out a happy sigh and wrapped her in his arms, whirling about in the middle of her bakery.

“I have a cake to bake,” she said when he held on.

“You’re spoiling the moment,” Nicholas complained.

“And I have a business to run,” Nalia said extracting herself from his arms. “You’d better go inside and get that shirt off. I have t-shirts in there…

Nicholas smiled as she moved him aside to wash her hands.

His woman, he thought as she went to whip up a cake recipe…he couldn’t wait to see what the future held for them.

***

Fin

Thank you for reading.

Previous Chapters

Girl with the Golden Smile – 7

Other EA Friday Feature Stories

Can I take your order

The Prostitute Killer

Some Kind of Love – 5

It’s A Rat Race

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 6

6 – Longing for Cupcakes

“Keep the library,” Nicholas said, surprising himself. Renovations at the Villa were underway.EA 2

“Nick, you wanted to divide the library and turn it into two bedrooms,” the contractor in charge argued,

“I’ve changed my mind,” Nicholas said sitting back in his office chair.

He couldn’t forget the sight of Nalia standing by the windows, sunlight dancing on her pretty face. She had looked like a goddess with a golden smile, designed to turn him into an idiot. Why couldn’t he stop thinking about her?

“Nick?” his contractor said, cutting through his thoughts. “What about the books? They’re not exactly the best—

“Box them,” Nicholas said. “I’ll collect them this weekend.”

He knew a man who could restore those books.

“Whatever you want,” his disgruntled contractor said. “You’re the boss.”

Nicholas sighed.

“Keep to the schedule, Tony. We’re not working on this house for six months.”

“I promised one month, Nick,” Tony said.

“Make sure you keep the promise,” Nick urged ending the call.

The trouble with renovation and construction, no matter how many deadlines the contractor had, they always went beyond those deadlines.

Nicholas stared at his phone, ignoring the pile of files on his desk. Legal papers to notarize, cases to work, requests from his bosses to fill, today, he’d be stuck in his office until midnight.  His finger slid over his phone’s screen and he tapped on a two-month-old message from Nalia.

She’d paid the five hundred shillings through Mpesa. Her accompanying message read, “Thank you, Lifesaver.”

Nicholas smiled. He should have cleared the message by now, instead…he stared at the little smiley face she’d included and wondered how she was doing.

Nicholas wanted to reply to the message, had even composed replies, close to a dozen, but he never sent any. Exiting his messages, he placed his cell phone on the desk and shook his head.

This was no time to daydream about a woman. Nicholas reached for the folder on top of his pile and got to work. He had no time, he decided, no time to worry about a woman he’d met in the dark.

****

Two days later, Nicholas stood in line at a bakery opposite City Hall buying chocolate cupcakes. The aroma was delicious, but not the same one he remembered. He dreamt about that sweet scent of chocolate cupcakes every night it seemed.

His phone buzzed and Nicholas smiled when he saw Eli’s face on the screen.

“Come to my office,” Eli said in greeting.

“That’s in Westlands, you mad man. Traffic is killing right now,” Nicholas protested.

“I have a present for you,” Eli said. “If you don’t want it, fine, I’ll just eat Nalia’s cupcakes alone.”

Nicholas gaped. “What?”

“Cupcakes, chocolate,” Eli said with a laugh. “We have them at my office—

“Whose cupcakes?” Nicholas asked.

“Oh,” Eli chuckled. “Nalia. Remember her? Two months ago—

“I’m on the way.”

Nicholas dashed out of the bakery forgetting the order he’d made. The drive to Eli’s practice took one hour and that’s with reckless driving and angry horns from innocent drivers and pedestrians.

Traffic at two o’clock was no joke.

Nicholas drove into the Medical Plaza on Waiyaki way and parked at the front parking. He dumped his sunglasses on the dashboard, and got out of the car, his gaze roaming the three-story building that housed Eli’s medical practice.
Seemed as if business was good, what with the packed parking lot, Nicholas thought as he locked his car.
Nick went into the building and hurried through the lobby to catch the elevator as the doors closed.

“Hold,” he called out and cursed when the doors closed anyway.

He sighed and started to press the button to call another one. The doors opened and he stared at the woman carrying a cake box in the elevator.

“Nalia,” he whispered.

An older woman pushed her way past him into the open elevator, and Nalia gave him a frown.

“Are you coming?” she asked, her expression blank.

Nothing there to indicate she knew him, or she’d even been thinking about him. He scowled and entered the elevator, turning to punch the number to Eli’s office. The number three was lit, already pressed. His scowl deepened and he leaned on the wall, his gaze on Nalia.

The elevator stopped on the second floor, and the old woman exited. The doors closed and Nicholas crossed his arms against his chest.

“Hi Nalia,” he said. “Are you ill?”

She graced him with her smile.

“Hi, Nicholas,” she said. “Are you ill?”

“You can’t answer a question with a question.”

“And why not?”

“Because it’s going round in circles,” Nicholas said.

“Do I look sick to you?” Nalia asked.

Nalia looked great. Fitting silk green blouse, dark slacks that hugged her hips, her feet in green flats, no excess make-up, though her lips were a pretty red.  She was pretty.

“What?” she asked, when he didn’t comment.

Nicholas cleared his throat. “You look well.”

The elevator doors opened.

Nalia led the way out, Nicholas followed amazed when she got a round of hellos from the nurses at the reception desk. She got a very warm welcome, which was surprising. He’d never gotten that reaction from Eli’s nurses.

“How long have you been coming here?” Nicholas asked as they walked to Eli’s office.

“A while,” she said with a shrug.

He frowned. “Are you really not sick?”

Why else would she visit Eli so much?

Nalia shrugged and opened the door to Eli’s office. Nicholas followed, his frown only deepening when he saw Eli grin from ear to ear at the sight of Nalia. They greeted each other like old friends. He was jealous.

“Nick,” Eli said, glancing at him. “Come on in and close the door.”

“What’s going on here?” Nicholas asked, afraid of the answer.

Eli was single after all.

Eli took out a chocolate cupcake from the white box Nalia had set on his desk. He smiled and held it up.

“I promised you cupcakes, didn’t I?”

Eli took a bite and groaned with pleasure.

“You’re magic, Nalia. These are delicious. Your customers must be going crazy.”

Nicholas stopped in the middle of the office, his gaze on Nalia who sat in an armchair, that maddening smile on her lovely face.

“You own a bakery?” Nicholas asked.

“I do now,” Nalia said. “I’m also a teacher.”

“Sit down, Nick,” Eli said holding out a cupcake to him. “Nalia and me, we have a favor to ask you.”

Nicholas took the cupcake and sat next to Nalia. To think he’d been dreaming of these cupcakes for weeks. He smiled because in truth, he’d wanted to see Nalia, wanted to know more about her.

“Nicholas, Nalia needs a lawyer,” Eli said, shocking him. “Can you help?”

Nicholas turned to look at Nalia.

“I’m divorcing my husband.”

****

Thank you for reading. ^_^

Previous Chapters

Girl with a Golden Smile – 5

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The Girl with the Golden Smile – 4

Prompt:

quote

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 4

“You haven’t told me your name,” Nalia said.

She trailed behind Nicholas, watching him survey the house. She supposed he was assessing his purchase. She tugged peeling paint from the wall in the corridor, and winced when white dust fell on the floor.

“Nicholas.” He flashed a grin at her. “Nicholas Muchemi.”

She nodded.

“Nice to meet you,” she said.

“So, Nalia,” Nicholas said walking down to the next room on the second floor. “What were you running from last night?”

“Do you have to know?”

“You said I was your lifesaver.  Of course I have to know.”

Nicholas leaned on the doorjamb to what appeared to be a library. There were old books left on the shelf. Nalia entered the room, the books calling to her.

“Lifesaver or not, I don’t know you well enough to tell you,” Nalia said, stopping by the bookshelves. She read the titles on the shelves with interest.

“Do you like books?” Nicholas asked.

“Some,” Nalia said touching the old spines. “The owner of these ones didn’t take care of them. Are you going to sellOld-Books them?”

“Maybe,” Nicholas said coming to stand beside her. “I might have them restored and keep them as part of the house.”

“How often do you do this sort of thing?” she asked, pulling out a geography encyclopedia from the shelf.

“This is my third house.”

Pride colored Nicholas’s words. Of course he would take pride in his achievement. She couldn’t imagine how much money it took to restore a house like this. She’d probably never see that kind of cash in her life. Returning the encyclopedia, she sighed and walked to the windows.

“It must be nice,” she said, staring out at the overgrown flower gardens behind the house.

“It’s a challenge. I like challenges,” Nicholas answered behind her. “You’re changing the subject, Nalia.”

“I don’t want to talk about last night. Why are you making me wait for your friend?”

“He’s a doctor.”

Nalia turned to look at Nicholas. He walked along the bookshelf, reading the book titles like a connoisseur. He was tall, taller than Malik. Nicholas was lean where Malik was bulky. Nicholas moved with grace, a warm refined air clung to him. Nalia imagined it came from years of living in a world he’d mastered.

She couldn’t imagine Malik browsing a bookshelf. Her husband preferred watching the news, and reading newspapers as though they held the secrets of the world. He thought novels were a waste of time, and he only wrote when he absolutely had to.

“Nalia,” Nicholas broke into her thoughts.

She blinked and stared at him.

“What are you thinking about? You looked so far away. My friend just text me, he’s two minutes away. We should head downstairs.”

Nalia frowned. “You said he was a doctor?”

Nicholas chuckled.

“Don’t worry, Eli is a real doctor. I saw him graduate and get his certification.”

Nalia stared at him and then she laughed.

The saga of a quack doctor had taken over the local news. A man who’d pretended to be a doctor and used his position to abuse women instead. She imagined doctors were having a hard time lately, having to prove they were real doctors.

Nicholas had a sense of humor.

She liked that.

“I like your laugh,” Nicholas said studying her.

His compliment shouldn’t have excited her, but it did. Warmth burst inside her, so vibrant, she forgot all the reasons why liking him was wrong. Heat suffused her cheeks and she dropped her gaze to the floor.

“We should go,” he said then.

She nodded and followed him out of the library.

She imagined the folks living here before must have been grand to have a whole room designated as a library. All her books were stacked on a carton in her closet. She often had to fight with her clothes to get those books to sit well.

Downstairs, anxiety hit when she heard the sound of another car. She slowed down, while Nicholas seemed to increase his footsteps, hurrying to the front door. She watched him open the door with a flourish.

She stopped in the middle of the living room. Fear returned, and she realized how free she’d felt before, when it had just been her and Nicholas. This house had somehow given her solace from her life in the last twelve hours. Sitting at the kitchen table with Nicholas, prowling the house with him, laughing…she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so carefree.

The sound of excited male voices outside reached her and she closed her eyes. She was scared again.  Nicholas returned followed by a short light-skinned man who carried a medical bag.

“Eli, this is Nalia,” Nicholas said, leaving the front door open. “Nalia, this is my best friend, Eli. He’s a private doctor.”

Nalia could only nod, her voice lost. She tried for a smile, but even that seemed stuck.

“Nalia,” Eli said with a warm smile. “I hope Nicholas has been good to you?”

She glanced at Nicholas and her traitorous heart skipped a beat.  Guilt set in. She was married. Yet here she was…tempted.

Alas, it was true; there is no one in the world that lived without sin, was she to count her sins in the last day, she was sure to burn.

Malik would be the one to burn her, she thought with a shiver.

“Shall we find a private room?” Eli broke into her thoughts. “I’ll take a look at that bruise on your cheek, put ointment on it.”

Nicholas pointed to a door to their right. She gave him a nervous smile and led the way to the door. It opened into a study. There was an old desk and a pair of chairs before it. She chose one and let out a shaky breath when Eli produced a stethoscope.

She closed her eyes when he leaned down to study the bruise on her cheek.

“Can I ask how you got this?” Eli asked.

She’d heard the question asked many times before. Concerned friends, her mother, her neighbors…she always lied. She told them stories of falling, bumping into doors, cupboards, absurd lies…never the truth. Opening her eyes, she met a kind gaze, and suddenly she just couldn’t lie anymore. Tears filled her eyes and she found she couldn’t form the words, though she wanted to say them.

“Did someone hit you?” Eli asked then, taking a seat.

She nodded, making the tears slide down her cheeks.

“Was it your husband?” Eli asked his gaze on her left hand.

Nalia fought back the shame that welled inside her and took in a deep breath.

“Yes,” she said, feeling as though she was jumping over a huddle. “My husband hit me.”

****

Previous Chapters

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 3

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 2

The Girl with the Golden Smile -1

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