She wanted to wake up beside him every morning. But he was always gone when she opened her eyes. She would roll off the bed and walk into the kitchen where he would be fixing breakfast and with a smile stretching the corners of his mouth, he would hug and kiss her, savouring the warmth and sweetness of her mouth. She once joked that he was spoiling her by never allowing her to wake up early to help with the chores. He shrugged off that thought, claiming she was still a guest in his house, two weeks after moving in with him. So today she was surprised to wake up with him beside her, lying face up as if he was examining something on the ceiling. When she looked up the ceiling too and saw nothing, she touched his thigh and watched his lips break into a smile.
“Good morning,” he said.
“Good morning. I am glad you stayed in bed today.”
“I was thinking.”
“About how you are going to make my morning?”
He laughed, “Now that you have mentioned it, yeah, but also about something else.”
“On second thought, I think you should take the job.”
She sat and drew up her knees. The evening that Achika told her about the job offer, she was so excited that she told Masai about it immediately they walked back to the hotel. He said he was happy for her, but only because Achika was there with them, searching his eyes, keen to see his reaction. As soon as they saw Achika off and her car was out of sight, he turned to Amara and said, ‘you will not accept the offer, will you? ‘The way he asked made it clear that he was only going to be okay with a ‘No’ for an answer. Amara, still walking under the bright light of his forgiveness, mumbled, “You sound like you want me to reject it.”
“You should reject it.”
“Why? It’s been my dream to work on the radio and now that an opportunity has come my way, you want me to shrug it off just like that?”
He shook his head and walked away, “I can’t believe you asked me why.”
She followed him, “Okay, I won’t take it then.”
He stopped, “Really?”
“After what happened between Achika and I, it would be selfish for me to expect you to let me near her again.” She surprised herself with how easy it was for her to let him have the final say.
They did not talk about the offer again. Amara remembered not to listen to Achika’s show while Masai was around because she feared it would force them into talking about the job and so she was surprised he brought it up.
“We agreed I wouldn’t take the job,” she said.
“I am humbled that you chose me over your dream job, but this relationship will fail if we don’t trust each other. I want you to take the job and trust that no matter what, you will be faithful to me and me to you.”
Listening to his words felt like finally breathing the air of freedom after being locked up for years in a maximum prison. He would never imagine what his go ahead meant to her. Before he told her he didn’t expect her to take the job, she had imagined herself sitting behind a mike, speaking to thousands of listeners hanging on her every word. She had imagined herself speaking for the voiceless women smiling not because they were happy, but because no one notices their frowns anyway. She saw herself confronting the women with a voice, but who spoke for the male chauvinists and self-proclaimed religious angels, betraying every sense of femininity. In her head, she saw a girl lying on her bed in a dark room like she used to do, nodding her head to what she said over the radio, getting inspired and chasing dreams that only she understands. With Masai’s hesitance, though she respected it, she saw her dreams fade away like a scene at the end of a movie. But not anymore. Now she saw people drawing her impressions like she used to draw Achika while dying to meet her in person.
She threw back her head, loving the salty taste of her tears. “I have to tell mum.”
“Sure. Sure,” Masai groaned.
“If I get the job, you will come live with me.”
It pleased him that she didn’t ask; she outrightly said he would come live with her as if that was the most obvious thing to do. Without giving it too much thought, he agreed and drew her to him. They made love in the morning for the first time since she moved in and she loved how he slid into her with so much gentleness and took forever to cum. She would later refuse to idle around. She insisted she was not a guest and went ahead to clean the house as he milked and then fed the cows. She decluttered the bedroom and, though he put on a resistance when she said some of his old clothes had to go, he agreed the bedroom reeked of clean air. When they sat for breakfast, she asked, “What do we do about this wall unit? You know no one keeps a wall unit in their living room anymore!”
He stared at that wall unit as if he was seeing it for the first time. “My father said that mum gave him no peace until he bought this wall unit for her. It was fashionable back then!”
Amara was silent for a while.
“We can keep it, for now.”
“No, if you think it should go, then it should go.”
She cast the wall unit and the small analogue TV a quick look and silently wished them a better life wherever they would end up.
Amara’s younger brother ran and threw himself into her open arms when he saw her walk through the gate. She lifted him, patted his back and struggled to answer the many questions he fired her way without giving her time to respond. He had his arms wrapped around her neck as they walked into the house. The living room was dead silent. “Is mum in?” she asked and he pointed to their mum’s bedroom, “She is sleeping.” She knocked on the door and pushed it open almost immediately. Her mother, who was lying while facing the wall, turned. She sat up straight in bed and Amara noticed the glow in her eyes. She released her brother and bent forward to hug her mother.
“I knew you will come back home,” said her mother, wiping her eyes. The last time they had seen each other was when Amara came to pick her things to move in with Masai. Her mum, standing at the door while watching her pack, tried to convince her to stay. Her father had made it clear that he wanted no rebel in his house and she was determined to prove to him that she was going to make it on her own. She only packed what she needed. When she was dragging her bag past her mother, she had held her arm and said, “Please be careful, and remember no matter what your father says, you are always welcomed here.”
Amara smiled, hugged her and left. She thought about this now as she climbed onto the bed and sat next to her mother, “I am not really back, mum, I only came to see you. I want to tell you something.”
“Oh. You are pregnant, aren’t you?”
Amara laughed, “I still don’t understand what’s your obsession with me being pregnant. I am not.”
“Then what is it?”
“I have a job interview in the city and I will be leaving in two days time. It’s a radio job, mum, I am going to be a radio presenter!”
“Really? I am so proud of you,” she hugged her. Amara’s little brother climbed onto the bed and joined in the hug. “But wait, which radio is this?”
“Isn’t it the same radio where— ”
“Achika works? It is. As a matter of fact, she is leaving the radio and I will be taking her position.”
The glitter in her mother’s eyes faded and she struggled to maintain the smile on her lips. “Don’t worry, mum, what happened between me and Achika won’t happen again. I am only going there for the job and nothing else. In fact, it’s Masai who encouraged me to take it.” She suspected invoking Masai’s blessings would reassure her mother and she was right.
“My only worry is media people, especially women, are known for wrong reasons. I hear there are many temptations and I don’t want something bad to happen to you.”
“Nothing will happen, mum.”
They had the evening tea together before Amara left, promising to call home as soon as she got in the city. She avoided talking about her father and even though her mum mentioned that he would tell him about the job, Amara said nothing. On her way to Masai’s place, she resolved to turn around her mother’s life. Achika had mentioned that the pay was hefty, after all.
Later that night, cuddling on the couch, Amara and Masai tuned to Truevoice radio and listened to Achika rule the airwaves with her imperious voice. She had already announced her leaving, calling it ‘a short break’ and the callers were begging her to stay, saying they would miss her and they were sure the show would never be the same without her. Surprisingly, more men called in and asked her to reconsider her decision even though she was always speaking against them.
“It’s true the show won’t be the same without me,” she said, “because it will be excellent. The lady who will be taking over from me is not only brilliant but also passionate about this show and she will surely take it to greater heights. Now, enough of my leaving, can we please talk about this deadbeat fathers issue?”
Amara and Masai brightened the room with their smiles.
“Tomorrow,” Masai said, “We will spend the night away from this grimy place. It will be the eve of your new life and journey so we must treat it as such!”
The next day, they had dinner in their favourite hotel in town and afterwards, instead of checking into their room and staring at the beautifully lit streets, they took a walk. There was an air of tranquillity as there were few people and even fewer cars. They beat one corner after the other, occasionally Amara stopping to lean against the wall, daring him to kiss her. He would look around for any sign of a living thing before hurriedly kissing her. Outside a closed bank, a young man with a guitar did renditions of Country Music. A small crowd gathered around him and Masai noticed they were all couples. Until now, he hadn’t known Ola town was full of romantics. He wrapped his arms around Amara’s waist and they all shook their heads to Kenny Rogers’ I Will Always Love You. He placed a 200 Kenya shillings note in the bowl below the singer’s feet before they walked away and later sat on a bench beside a well-lit street.
She knew the night would be beautiful, but not as beautiful as it turned out. She placed her head on his shoulder and quietly mused about how she never imagined Masai was capable of treating her this well. “By the way,” she said, “Do you care to explain how you can afford all this?”
“Expensive dinners, hotel rooms, flowers, you know.”
He chuckled. “For you, the only thing I can’t afford is losing you.”