The lady, who worked for the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in Kakamega County Government, looked like she was in her late 40s. She was elegantly dressed in a black skirt with a slit running up her thigh, you suspected if she bent to pick the piece of paper lying on the floor, you would see her knickers. A part of you wanted her to bend, even though you knew that was never going to happen. Her heels made a clacking sound as she paced the podium, banging on and on about how you, the youths, should take advantage of the opportunities brought about by the New Constitution and County Governments to venture into entrepreneurship.
You loved her youthful voice. You loved how she wet her lips with her tongue. You loved how her eyes looked like they were still in bed. You loved her enthusiasm, too, but paid little attention to what she was saying. You had tried taking advantage of the purported opportunities brought about by the New Constitution but the rough hands of government’s bureaucracy held your upper arm and pushed you away. Now you only attended County Government seminars, including those organised by the NGOS, for the free meals and allowances that came with it.
She had stopped to drink a glass of water when your phone buzzed to life. Mariam, your girlfriend, was calling. All eyes turned to you. You disconnected the call and sent Mariam a text message, telling her you will call her later because you are in a seminar and she replied, “One of those you attend for free meals and allowance? Don’t worry, babe, you will get a job soon.” Her optimism put a smile on your face. You loved her more because you didn’t understand why she loved you. She was from a well to do family. Her pocket money was enough to pay your rent for the whole year and remain with some change to pay the thin Maasai guy masquerading as your hood security guy, even though you were not sure why he thought you needed security. Chances of thieves stopping you at night were next to zero because the echo from your empty pockets was too loud for thieves worth their salt not to hear.
“I am from class and I am going to your cave. You will find me there, though I always have a feeling I have been kidnapped when in that cave of yours because it’s too dark, sweetheart. Why did they insist on putting a window if it was going to face another wall?”
You laughed out loud and replied, “Stop insulting my mansion, you idiot, let me call you when I am out of here, everyone is looking at me like I have insulted someone’s weave.”
When you put your phone back in your pocket, you looked up and the speaker was looking at you. She looked like she was about to ask you a question and you were relieved when she instead continued talking. But you noticed that henceforth, she kept stealing glances at you. You wondered if it was something about your dressing and so you checked yourself to make sure you were still in your white shirt and blue jeans. You made a point of gazing her in the eye when she looked at you until she started avoiding you.
The session ended and you all walked out. There was a buffet, and you were standing under a tree alone, eating from your disposable plate when she approached you. She walked with a sway. As she got closer, you noticed there was a smile lingering on the corners of her mouth. You lowered your plate to chest-level and replied to her greetings with a smile.
“Enjoying your meal?” she asked.
“I am, thanks.”
“What’s your name?”
She nodded as if in approval to your parents’ choice of name. “I am sorry for the intruding questions, but what do you do for a living, Jack?”
What you did for a living was a question you were yet to find a decent answer for. You hated it, especially when the person asking had no intentions of getting you a job if the answer turned out to be no. But since this was someone working for the County government asking, you did not mind.
“I attend seminars like this, eat free food and hope the organiser will not run away with our allowances as it has happened before. Not an easy job, I tell you, because I have to make sure I have ears on the ground for any seminars or youth shindigs.”
She laughed and said, “you are funny, Jack, I like you.”
You wanted to ask her name but you were sure she had introduced herself in the hall only you weren’t paying attention. So you didn’t ask.
“Bachelors degree in Business Management from Masinde Muliro University, Class of 2013. Majored in Procurement.”
“Yet still jobless?”
“I told you my job, didn’t I?”
You shake your head, “Lakini still praying for one.”
A brief moment of silence passed. You looked around and you noticed eyes were on you, and it seemed she noticed this too because she gave you her card and asked you to call her. She had said ‘call me’ with a rolled tongue and your mind, going on an overdrive, wondered if it was what you thought it was. You finished your food, got your 1000 bob allowance, which, thankfully, was given out without much fuss and went home. You wanted to tell Mariam about Rose, for that was her name, but you didn’t. You spent the better part of the night figuring all the possible ways your interaction with Rose was going to end.
You called her the next day and she asked you to meet her at Friends Hotel, down Mumias Road. You showed up earlier than the agreed time and ordered passion juice because the waitress, who you kept sending away, kept coming back, asking what you would be eating. When she showed up, she looked nothing like the woman who gave you a long talk about Youth and Entrepreneurship. She looked even younger. Her high waist jeans, flat on her tummy, made you suspect she was wearing a corset. You stood and extended her a handshake but she hugged you instead. Pulling a chair, she chided why you hadn’t ordered real food.
“Turns out they don’t accept cheques here,” you said.
She laughed. You loved the way her face widened when she laughed, and how she threw her head back. When she flagged down the waitress and asked you to order any meal you wanted, you politely declined and said it was too early for you to have your dinner. But the truth was you did not want to order anything you couldn’t afford, lest something went wrong and she refused to pay. You needed to be sure what she wanted first. Was she going to offer you a job? You hoped so.
“Okay then, I am sure you are wondering what I need from you?”
“You read my mind.”
She leaned forward, her elbows on the table. “I think you are a very handsome young man.”
“Thank you. You are gorgeous too.”
“You think so?”
She stretched her arm and took your hand in hers. You wanted to pull back your hand but you didn’t.
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“You must truly love her, don’t you? Most men would deny.”
“She is my sun,” you said, “I can’t deny her for anything.”
She withdrew her hand and stared at you silently. You grabbed your glass of passion juice without any intention of drinking from it.
“I am sure you wouldn’t pass the opportunity to take good care of her if the opportunity presented itself, would you?”
“I don’t understand Mrs. Rose.”
“Please, call me Rose.”
You looked away, then back at her.
“I will help you find a job, a good one in fact. But you have to give me something in return if it’s okay with you.”
“What’s that something?”
She raised her eyebrows, “You are a smart guy, Jack, you surely know what I am talking about.”
She tilted her head to the left side.
“Honestly, I badly need a job. God knows there are so many problems in my life I would solve if I had one but,” you paused to look at her, “I am not sure I am willing to do just anything to get it.”
“The end justifies the means, you know.”
“Not for me. Plus, what about your husband?” You asked before quickly adding, “You have one, right?”
“I have two daughters, though.”
“That’s good,” you mumbled.
“No pressure, Jack, I will give you time to think about it. And I will still help you find a job even if you say No.” she said.
She flagged down the waitress and paid for your passion fruit. When you stepped outside, it was dark. Her Blue BMW glittered in the dark. Because you were going in different directions, she gave you 10k for fare and you almost asked, “Fare to where, Heaven?” but you didn’t. You thanked her profusely and promised to call her back after thinking about her offer.
A month later, you took Mariam to a fast food in Tuskys Kakamega and you were devouring chips and Kuku when your phone rang. You excused yourself and walked out to receive the call. You sensed something was wrong because your sister sounded like she had been crying the whole day and now her voice was dry. You thrust your left hand in the pocket, leaned back against the wall and though you could guess what was wrong, you asked, “What is it?”
“What have they done to her this time?”
“She had a fight with Uncle Cornelius this morning. He says our house is built on his land and he wants it back.”
You shook your head, “I will call you back in a few.” and hang up.
Since your father passed on a year ago, your lives had been turned upside down by your father’s people. His brothers were laying claim on everything he owned. What you had been seeing and scoffing at on Nigerian movies had come to pass. For the rest of the evening, desperation and hopelessness pulled a chair and sat on your head. You found yourself mumbling, “I need to do something,” even though you were not sure what it was that you needed to do. You could call Uncle Cornelius and have a word with him, but that would only make things worse. You could call either of your two aunts, but they had been avoiding your family. In fact, the last time you talked to them, separately, they all said there was nothing they could do. “You know Cornelius has been stubborn since we were kids, it’s unfortunate there is nothing we can do about it.” they had said those exact words as if they had rehearsed.
But you couldn’t sit put when your mother was sinking into depression. You imagined her lying in bed at night, eye lurking in the dark, asking George, her husband, why he had to leave her to suffer in the hands of his brother. A smile on your mother’s face had become a rarity. You needed to find a job. Get some financial muscle and then face your uncle and rescue your mother. You remembered Rose and her offer. Even though she had said she would find you a job even if you said No, you did not believe her. You called her the next morning and she was surprised.
“I thought you were never going to call,” she said.
“I am sorry it took me so long,” you said. “I need your help,”
“Come to my office at around 8:30 tonight. Come to the county offices, second floor, door number two. Don’t worry, there will be no one else around.”
At 8:30 p.m. the office building was almost deserted. When you knocked on her office door, you had hoped no one will open and you would turn and walk away. But the door flung open and a smiling Rose, dressed in a sleeveless white blouse loosened up, let you in. You sat on the three-seater couch at the furthest corner of the office and you couldn’t help but notice how she eyed you with lust. You got pleasantries out of the way and though you were not willing to divulge all information, you requested her to please help you find a job.
“Like I said the other day, I will help you,” she placed her hand on your lap and her touch made you shudder. Knowing there was no turning back, you tried to smile and act as casual as you could. You froze, though, when she touched your manhood. She continued teasing you and without thinking too hard about it, you stood, held her hand and pulled her up. You drew her into you and ran your hands on her back, down to her ass, and yanked her skirt up. Her skin was soft. Her raffled breathe brushed through your ear, her hands dipped inside your trouser. She dragged herself from you and undressed, teasing you all the time. She went and sat on the couch with her legs spread, inviting you with a finger. You kicked your trousers off and walked to her, leaning down to kiss her. Your teeth knocked on each other and you both pulled away before she whispered, “Calm down.”
You didn’t calm down.
You had to cover her mouth with your hand to stifle her cries, which threatened to bring the city to a standstill. When you were done, collapsing on the couch next to her, she said, “Wow! If you can promise me more of this, consider yourself employed and rich.” You said nothing. You took your trousers from the floor and were putting it on when you noticed the two framed photos on her desk. You only had one foot in the trouser so when you released it, it fell on your feet. You stared at one of the photos and the girl in it, who at first seemed like she was smiling, now looked like she was frowning. You turned to Rose while pointing at the photo and before you could speak, she said, “Oh, I should have remembered to put those photos away. They are my daughters, by the way, and the one you are pointing at is called Mariam, my firstborn.”
The name Mariam reverberated in your head. This Mariam you were staring at was your Mariam. Your sun.
And don’t tell me the end justifies the means because it doesn’t. We never reach the end. All we ever get is means. That’s what we live with. ~ Nick Harkaway
Kindly note that though real names of people and places have been mentioned in this story, it is purely a work of fiction.