Zuri Kabinda : The Birthday Party – Part 3

Heavy rain woke Zuri from a deep sleep.  She sat up on her bed, rubbing her eyes as she tried to shake off vague dreams.  Rain pounding on her window cleared the remaining cobwebs.

“No, no,” she said, as she bounded out of bed to her window.

Throwing back the curtains, she stared at the dark clouds overhead, and the water running down her windows.  It was six o’clock in the morning. She’d planned an outdoor birthday party for Mrs. Tolinda’s daughter.  That gave her approximately five hours to find tents.

Sleep escaped as she grabbed a pair of jeans and t-shirt from her closet.  Taking her phone, she hurried out to her small kitchen to start a pot of coffee as she thought about whom to call to get tents on such short notice.

She’d found a vendor by the time she made it to her office at seven o’clock.  The problem was he couldn’t deliver the tents because of a previous engagement.  She had to find her own transportation.

Anjik found her pacing their small reception hall with the phone pressed to her ear.

“What’s going on?”

“People want an arm and a leg to get tents from Kikuyu road to Lavington.”  Zuri sighed and ended another disappointing call.  “I need someone who’ll do me a favor without cost.”

“Call Devin,” Anjik suggested, dumping her bag on her desk.  “He’s always doing things for you.”

Zuri frowned.  “Now why didn’t I think of him?  Anjik, you’re the best.”

She grinned at Anjik, pulled up Devin’s number on her phone and dialed.  He answered on the second ring.

“Zuri?” he answered, his voice sleepy.

“Did I wake you?” she asked as sweetly as she could manage.  “It’s not too early, is it?”

He yawned on his end.

“It’s seven o’clock in the morning, gal.  What’s wrong?”

“Do I only call you when something’s wrong?”

“Then did you call me because you missed me?” he asked, his tone way too hopeful.

She chuckled, filled with guilt.  “Devin, I always miss you.  How’s your company doing?”

“Fine,” he said.  “Zuri?”

“Yeah?”

“Just tell me what you need help with.  It’s painful to listen to you beat around the bush.”

She bit her lip.  “I actually do need your help.  You have a Pick-Up truck and I need to get tents to an event in the next two hours.  Are you available?”

There was silence and then Devin cleared his throat.  “Yeah, sure, I’ll get ready.  Where do you want to meet?”

She sighed in relief.

“How about in thirty minutes?  Pick me up at my office and we’ll go together.  The tent place is on Kikuyu road.”

“Right, sure,” he yawned.  “You owe me breakfast.”

“Anything,” she answered and hung up.  She jumped up and down happily.  “Thank God for Devin.”

“You should really pay more attention to that guy,” Anjik said with a slight sigh.  “Ask yourself why he never says no to you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Zuri said, slinging her handbag over her shoulder.  “I’ve no time right now.  Time to find out if Amari Bakery is on time.  I’m sure I can convince Devin to help me pick up the cake and party favors on our way to Lavington.  I’ll meet you there later.”

“Think about it, Zuri,” Anjik called after her.

****

Zuri got Devin a huge travel mug of coffee and mandazi from a shop close to the tent office.  They got the tents and headed to Amari Bakery on Ndwaru Road.  Maureen, the Bakery’s owner met them at the gates with the party favors, and the Birthday Cake: a four kg. Chocolate cake decorated with chocolate shavings.  Just looking at it, Zuri knew the birthday girl would love it at first sight.

Thanking Maureen, they headed out to Mrs. Tolinda’s home in Lavington.

“Where have you been this past month?” she asked Devin.

“In Nyeri,” he said, sipping his coffee.  “I got a huge contract to set up computers in a primary school there.  The job turned into five and suddenly the month was over.  You didn’t call me.”

She shrugged.  “I had a few problems of my own.”

Devin glanced at her for a second. 

“You sound sad.  Did something bad happen?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “just had a serious dry spell.  I was worried I might have to close my business if I didn’t get any clients.  It’s a scary thing.  I’ve sunk everything I have into it, you know.  I keep thinking what would I do if I closed Binda Events?”

“Find a job,” Devin answered casually.  “Get married, maybe start another business.  I don’t think you’d stay down for long, Zuri.  It’s not your style.”

“Get married, really?” she asked, looking at him.

Devin Makoto was those lean guys that just seemed never to gain weight no matter how much he ate.  He was a genius with computers and had managed to create an IT company that had clients all over the country.  He was innovative, easy going and industrious.  She could see how women would find him handsome: he had a cute face, and boyish charm.  He never failed to make her day.  They’d known each other since nursery school when he’d shared his juice box with her because he liked her strawberry jam sandwich.

“Don’t you think it’s something you’ll do soon?” he asked.

“I’m busy waking you up at seven o’clock in the morning, running around trying to make Binda Events work.  What time do you think I have to get married?”

“I was just asking a question,” he answered mildly.  “Jeez, Sonnie is right.  You have tunnel vision these days.”

“When did you and Sonnie talk about me?” she asked.

“She calls me all the time,” he said with a smile.

Zuri blinked.  “Well, good for you.  Maybe you can marry her then.”

“Now you’re getting pissy,” he chided.  “Relax, I was just teasing you.  You don’t need to get married.  In fact, I think I like seeing you live alone.”

“Such caring and warmth,” she teased.

He laughed, and turned onto the street Airi lived on.  Mrs. Tolinda’s house was opposite Airi’s house.

Devin backed up the driveway, going around Mrs. Tolinda’s house to the backyard.  She was glad to see the staff she hired standing in the garage, sorting through decorations.

“Okay, time to get to work,” she said and opened her door.  “Thanks, Devin.  I know I don’t say it enough, but I really do appreciate this.”

He smiled at her.  “You’re my girl, Zuri.  Call me anytime.”

The expression on his face made her pause, Anjik’s words flitting through her mind.  Did Devin like her?  She squelched her suspicions as fast as they came and got out of the truck.  She instead concentrated on getting tents erected for the party, as well as getting the bouncing castle up for the younger kids.

By the time they finished, her jeans were muddy, her t-shirt sweaty.  She spotted a new cut on her palm.  She’d gotten it helping Devin and the crew put up the tents.

“It looks great,” Devin said, coming to stand beside her.

The tents covered the back yard keeping away the rain, and creating a warm ambiance.  She’d scattered tables along the edges of the tent, leaving the middle for the kids to play and dance if they so wished.  The bouncing castle took up one end of the five tents.

They had set up a stage in one whole tent for the Deejay she’d gotten for the party.  Sweet sixteen birthdays were about being cool, and having music at your party.  She had gotten Deejay Dre, an up and coming entertainer, who’d give the kids a good time.

She set up the caterers in the open garage, and the cake was safely kept in Mrs. Tolinda’s kitchen.

“I didn’t think I’d make it,” she said after a minute.  “I can’t believe it’s finally done.”

“Time to change,” Devin poked her left arm, “you stink, Kabinda.”

She cuffed his shoulder.

“Whatever Devin,” she said, shaking her head.  “You look worse than I do.”

He grinned when she reached up to wipe mud from his jaw.  Conscious of Anjik’s earlier warnings, she stepped back and gave him a slight smile.

“I left a change of clothes at Airi’s house,” she said then.  “I’ll just head over and get a shower.”

Devin nodded.  “Sure thing, I need to go anyway.  I’ll see you later?”

“Sure, Devin,” she said and practically ran away from him.

****

“You ran away?” Sonnie asked with a laugh.  “You ran…”

Zuri scowled when Sonnie burst out laughing.

“Hey, that’s not fair.  It’s not my fault I started thinking he wanted me.  Blame Anjik.  That darned girl speculates too much.  She’s making me paranoid.”

“Well,” Airi said, coming to help her zip her dress.  “Anjik is not speculating anything.  We can all see how much Devin cares for you.  I mean, you drag him out of bed at seven o’clock and he comes running without complaint.”

“He demanded breakfast,” Zuri pointed out as she swept up her braids into a top ponytail.

“Yeah well, that was more like his woman feeding him,” Sonnie said still chuckling.  “Devin likes you, Zuri.”

“I’m not listening to either of you,” Zuri said decisively.

If she did, she would have to reevaluate every conversation she’d had with Devin, and that was just too much work.  It would break her concentration on her business, and she couldn’t afford that right now.

“Fine, we’re just putting it out there.”  Airi sat on the couch beside Sonnie.  “So, where does this event put the business?”

“We’re in the black, but it’s shaky,” she said with a sigh.  She sat on Airi’s bed.  “I need to do serious marketing.  I’m going to need a few more clients before I can breathe at all.”

“Well,” Airi said, shrugging her shoulder elegantly.  “I can help with the marketing for now.  At no cost, of course.  I don’t have anything to do, and I liked talking to Mrs. Tolinda for you.”

Zuri beamed. 

“What would I do without you two?”

Airi grinned.  “Stumble along blindly.”

They all laughed.

Later at the birthday party, Zuri stood in one corner sipping a glass of orange juice.  Her gaze sharply taking in the events as they unfolded around the tents.  The caterers ran a smooth shift: no one had missed any food.  The Deejay had the kids jumping up and down with excitement.  She smiled as she watched the birthday girl scream happily when her favorite song came on.  Their parents sat talking at the tables she’d set in intervals.

Everyone was having a good time.

Zuri smiled because Mrs. Tolinda had given her a check ten minutes ago.  The amount would go into her bank and finally clear any arrears she had with the bank.  She also had extra money to clear Anjik’s salary and pay back Sonnie.

“You look happy,” Sonnie said, coming to stand beside her.

“I am,” she said, watching Airi talk to Mrs. Tolinda.  “I’m glad I’m in the Trep Zone.”

“Trep Zone?”

“Entrepreneur Zone,” she clarified with a smile.  “There are bad days, like two days ago when I had no idea where I was going to get money.  And then, there are really good days, like today.  I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

Sonnie nodded and slid an arm around Zuri’s waist. 

“Well, that’s great.  What about days you realize your guy friend likes you?”

Zuri groaned as she watched Devin walk into the party all dressed up.

“I call those ‘feign-ignorance-days’.  I can’t afford relationship drama right now.”

****

<—The Birthday Party – Part 2   

To be continued…thank you for reading!

Zuri is joined by her two best friends, Sonnie and Airi.  They’re the people she relies on, especially when she’s down on her luck and the world is imploding.

Zuri Kabinda is a story about a young woman in her late twenties, living in Nairobi and struggling to make her Event Planning Business work.  Follow her as she works through the various challenges young entrepreneurs face, especially in a city like Nairobi.

All baked goods mentioned refer to the Amari Baking Center

Zuri Kabinda: The Birthday Party – Part 2

Airi to the Rescue

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

“Where are we going again?”

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

Zuri groaned.  “What’s wrong now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t forget to shave your legs.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do I look?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

← The Birthday Party – Part 1

To be continued….thanks for reading ^_^

Zuri Kabinda is a story about a young woman in her late twenties, living in Nairobi and struggling to make her Event Planning Business work.  Follow her as she works through the various challenges young entrepreneurs face, especially in a city like Nairobi.

Zuri is joined by her two best friends, Sonnie and Airi.  They’re the people she relies on, especially when she’s down on her luck and the world is imploding.

All baked goods mentioned refer to the Amari Baking Center

 

 

Zuri Kabinda: The Birthday Party – Part 1

“Please.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She needed a client and soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonnie Togo ended the call as abruptly as it started.

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

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

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

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

Taking another bite-,

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

“What?” she asked.

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

“I was starving,” Zuri said.

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

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

“How bad is it?”

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

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

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

“You don’t have to do this, Sonnie.”

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

Zuri moved then, wrapping Sonnie in a tight hug.

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

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

Airi Ketu was her other best friend.

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

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

Letting out a relieved breath, Zuri smiled.

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

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

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

Sonnie shrugged studying her cupcake.

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

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

Sonnie laughed. 

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

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

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

Now, if she could just get a client.

***

To be continued…Thank you for reading!

Zuri Kabinda is a story about a young woman in her late twenties, living in Nairobi and struggling to make her Event Planning Business work.  Follow her as she works through the various challenges young entrepreneurs face, especially in a city like Nairobi.

Zuri is joined by her two best friends, Sonnie and Airi.  They’re the people she relies on, especially when she’s down on her luck and the world is imploding.

All baked goods mentioned refer to the Amari Baking Center