The whole village echoed with Amara’s father’s threats. His voice rose like sunrise in the sea as his sharp words cut through the thick cloud of darkness. “If you don’t open this useless door, I will break it. I will even burn this house to the ground if I have to!” he swore and to show how serious he was, he banged on the door. Amara looked at Masai and she saw threads of veins running down his neck. His eyes had turned blood red and with the way he tightened his jaw, she knew it was only a matter of seconds before he exploded. The last thing she wanted was for her father and boyfriend to fight so she attempted to calm him down but like lightning, he slid from her hold and sprinted to the living room. She raced after him and gripped his hand just before he turned the door knob.
“What do you think you are you doing?” She spoke in a hushed tone like she was afraid her father would hear her.
“It’s obvious your father and I need to talk.”
Her eyes dropped to his clenched fist. “You don’t have to, I will do the talking.”
“What if he . . .”
“Hurts me?” She waved her hand dismissively, “I have seen my parents quarrel so many times and not even once has my father ever laid his hand on my mother. Trust me, I will be fine.”
She was calm. Her voice was steady when she spoke. So Masai nodded and stepped aside. She moved closer and kissed him on the lips before opening the door. She was not surprised to see a crowd of villagers already gathering outside, standing a safe distance with arms folded, waiting for the fun to begin. The women who their sleeping costumes comprised of old t-shirts and worn out pyjamas mumbled and giggled to themselves.
“I asked you a question, what are you doing with this nincompoop?” her father was talking. But she was not paying attention. All she could think of was how news was going to spread throughout the whole village about her father catching her pants down with a man, at least that’s how the story would be told. The people of Ola village had the penchant for adding a little salt to a story to make the gossip juicier. Now she would not be able to walk without pointed fingers and whispers trailing her the same way lies trail politicians.
“Have you suddenly gone blind and deaf?” His father snapped his fingers on her face.
“L-look, dad. I am sorry I took your car.”
“I am sorry I took your car!” he mimicked her, wedging himself between the door and Amara before walking to Masai who was yet to unclench his fist.
“I will look the other way today, but the next time I see you anywhere near my daughter,” he poked his stomach with his finger, “you will wish you weren’t born.” He turned around, grabbed Amara’s hand and dragged her away to the car. He ordered her to give him the car keys but she told him the keys were still in the house alongside her bag. He dragged her into Masai’s house, asked her to grab her bag and hauled her again to the car without saying anything to any of the villagers. When they drove away, the villagers complained that he had woken them up for nothing. “I have completely lost respect for this man, what was the point of making noise and disturbing the entire village if he wasn’t going to beat the crap out of a lousy man messing with his daughter?” complained one man to his friend.
Amara’s mother was in the leaving room sewing her young brother’s school uniform, again, when they got home. She briefly looked at Amara and went back to her sewing. She did not give one of her many lectures she usually gave Amara when she did something wrong. Her face was blank, it was difficult to tell what was going through her mind. Amara thought her mother’s silence was for the best for she herself was in need of some quiet alone time. But the next morning when she walked into her mum baking in the kitchen and wrapped her arms around her as she always did, her mother did nothing to show she had registered her presence. She continued baking and humming to a song as if Amara was a disturbing memory she was trying to ignore. Amara felt a sharp sting of disappointment and guilt on her lower abdomen.
She spent the rest of the day thinking of how to apologise to her mother so that things could go back to the way they were then she figured all she needed to do was say how sorry she was. She glanced outside her bedroom window and saw her mother watering her flowers in the yard. She walked out of the house and approached her.
“Mum, do you mind if I help?” she tried to take the hosepipe from her mother’s hand but she tightened her grip on the pipe.
“I am doing just fine, thank you.”
“I am sorry I disrespected you last evening.”
Her mother stopped to study her face as if to ascertain whether she was being truthful. “This is not how I raised you, Amara.”
“I know, mum. It won’t happen again.”
“It better not, because next time I will not wait for your father to drag your ass back here from wherever you would have gone, I will simply strangle you.” Her threat was marinated in that motherly love tone that simply lightened Amara’s face. She was distracted by the good feeling of being in good terms with her mother again that she did not notice her pointing the pipe at her and spattering her with water. Amara squealed when the cold water came in contact with her skin. Her reaction made her mother laugh.
“But mum, is it wrong to fall in love?” Amara took the pipe from her mother and continued watering the flowers.
“What’s wrong is you disrespecting your parents because you have fallen in love. I am convinced you children of nowadays know absolutely nothing about love because you meet someone in the morning, at night you can’t sleep, claiming you are in love. Isn’t that craziness?”
“I am not crazy, mum. I love Masai. He is a good man once you come to know him.”
Her mother looked at her as if with her words, she had just proved that she was crazy. “I want you to go and buy grocery on the market. We will talk about this your Masai when you come back.”
Amara looked down at her feet and they were golden brown together with her sandles—the road was dusty. She stopped to greet a few elderly people who recognised her and who had something nice to say about her parents. The elderly people in Ola village were nice, but it tickled her that none of them ever said something nice about her without bringing her parents into the equation. It was like they believed every child inherited their good traits and looks from their parents. Any bad trait was simply blamed on the devil and weed. Especially weed. It didn’t matter if you had never seen weed in your life, it would be blamed for your misdoings and unattractive look.
When she saw a man resembling Masai negotiating a corner in front of her, she rushed and negotiated the corner but it turned out to be another fellow who happened to be in shorts like Masai’s. She mumbled something unpleasant about the man to herself.
“Are you okay?”
She turned to see this lad driving a black Toyota Lexus. He was smiling at her but Amara was too busy trying to catch her breath— after his cologne raided her nose— to smile back. He was on a pair of long sleeved shirt and a watch that screamed VANITY on his left hand, which was stretched out of the car window.
“Are you okay?” he asked again.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Amara had meant to say that with a little bit of hostility but instead, her voice came out jittery and with a hint of flattery.
“You were talking to yourself.”
She grinned. “I am sorry but I don’t see how that is your business, or even how it makes me not to be okay.”
“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, Amara.”
She stopped abruptly. He stopped the car too and climbed out. He was a bit short compared to her and she intimidatingly stared him down.
“How do you know my name?”
“Masai has told me all about you. He said you are the most beautiful woman in Ola village and the way I see it, it can only be you. Unless you have a twin, in which case, I stand to be corrected.”
“You know Masai?”
“He is a childhood friend. Hey, we are both heading towards the same direction, do you mind if I give you a ride? We can talk more as we go.”
Amara wanted to turn down his offer and give one of the cliche excuses about not accepting lifts from strangers, but the scorching sun and dusty road had made her weary. She carried a quick interrogation and was satisfied when Hassan, as she later learned he was called, told her that he was good friends with Masai and that he was just coming from seeing him. She hoped into the car and fired a series of questions towards him. Why was he called Hassan, was he a Muslim? Why hadn’t Masai mentioned him in any of their conversations if indeed they were good friends? And when was he planning to seriously step on the gas so that they can get to the market already?
She noticed that he laughed mostly before answering any of her questions. A short laughter that said he was enjoying her company. “I am not a Muslim. My mother named me Hassan because she says it means handsome.”
“Is that what it means?”
“I haven’t checked it up yet,” he said with a straight face but she knew he was lying. Amara wanted to talk about Masai. She wanted to ask how Masai was as a kid. Was he always in trouble? Fighting his peers? She thought maybe Hassan could tell her more about Masai than Masai could tell her about himself. But they arrived on the market before she could ask these question so she thanked Hassan for the ride and alighted.
“Look, I am not going anywhere, in particular, I can wait till you are done here and I can drop you home,” Hassan said through the open window.
“Thanks but I will be fine.”
“Mind if I buy you a drink some other day?”
“You and Masai may be good friends but I am not sure he would appreciate me going out with you, even if it’s just for a drink.”
His forehead wrinkled with disappointment. And before driving away, he said, “Masai is lucky to have you.
Amara’s gut told her that beneath the layers of Hassan’s kindness and charm, laid a sexual desire he already harboured towards her. He looked to her like a guy who always had his way with women and was not used to being turned down. Was that the reason why Masai never mentioned him? But then why did he mention her to him?
When her father came home that night, he had slid back to his normal self. She was surprised he was back to calling her his favourite daughter. when she served him food before plunging herself on the couch to read a book, her father cleared his throat in the way he always did when he wanted to say something, “That gentleman you were seen with today, the one you were seen coming out of his car, is exactly the kind of a man I want you to be with. I am not saying that you get married to that one, though I don’t see why not if he is interested, but look for a guy like him. That way, you won’t need to steal my car.”
Amara wanted to ask hm if he now had people watching her every move and reporting to her. But she thought better of it. She stood and walked to her room, banging the door shut to register her disappointment with her father.