Masai was smiling. He leant against the wall and asked, “Is now a bad time?” in a lifeless tone. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She had not expected a smiling Masai, was she dreaming? Searching his eyes, she hoped to catch a glimpse of hurt in them but his eyes were blank. She cast her eyes down at first, and then looked him in the face and said with a chuckle, “Don’t be silly, sweetheart, it’s never a bad time.” She had hoped to diffuse the tension that was building up faster than a buttered bullet and when the attempt failed, she stepped forward to hug him but he did not wrap his arms around her like he always did. She could as well have been hugging a tree.
“What’s he doing here?” he asked in a near whisper.
She pulled away from the hug.
“Don’t jump to conclusions yet.”
He pushed himself past her and advanced towards Hassan who, still shocked that this was happening, had forgotten to put on his clothes. He deliberately looked him straight in the face to make him uncomfortable. Hassan took a step back.
“What are you doing here?” Masai’s voice, though low, had lost its calmness. It had a slight tremble to it.
“Before you do anything stupid, just know that nothing happened between me and Amara.”
Hassan was terrified and for a good reason. In their school days, when their friendship was solid, Masai was the one who came to his rescue when he ran into trouble. His stern voice was often enough to scare the other boys away and on the few occasions that it wasn’t, his clenched fist did the trick. He knocked the shortest and staunchest of boys out. He knocked out the tallest and thinnest of boys. Even the self-nicknamed Undertaker who always walked with his collar turned up feared him. And all that time, he did it for their friendship. Now here they were, facing each other, this time Masai looking set to fight for his woman.
“I will ask again and pray your answer doesn’t irk me.” His hand was clenched into a fist.
Amara tried to calm him. “He is telling the truth, nothing happened between us last night and nothing was ever going to happen, trust me.”
“I trusted Anita and do you know whose wife’s she is as we speak?” He wagged a finger at Hassan, “This guy’s.”
“I am not Anita and you—”
“Exactly, you are not Anita and that’s why I will be damned if I allow this idiot come close to you again.” He pushed Amara away. It was a slight push, but a push nonetheless. In a speed that would put lightning’s to shame, he turned to Hassan and grabbed him by the throat. His stiff hand with protruding veins did not waver even as Hassan struggled to free himself from the grasp. With Hassan’s eyes bulging and his fighting spirit fading, Amara ran behind Masai and hit him repeatedly on his back. “Let him go! Let him go! Please, you will kill him.” Masai pulled his hand away and Hassan fell on the floor, gasping for air.
Masai leant down towards him. “For old time’s sake, consider this your first and last warning. The next time I see you near Amara, one of us will die and that can only be you.” He picked him up as if he was a piece of paper and threw him out of the house. The towel could not hold any longer so it fell to the ground, exposing his nakedness. Amara rushed to the bedroom and picked Hassan’s clothes and brought them to him, watched him dress and spiral down the stairs. She remained rooted at the door, staring outside, as if she was afraid or unwilling to look at Masai again. She felt him hold her from behind and when she turned in his arms, he let go and squeezed himself through the tiny space between her and the door and walked away. She wanted to follow him but she didn’t. She wanted to blame him for acting the way he did but she couldn’t bring herself to. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t let Hassan drive her home the previous night, or if she hadn’t invited him in, or asked him to stay for breakfast. Masai would have found her alone and things would have been different.
Her phone rang. Achika was calling… She remembered it was Achika who had invited her to the party in the first place. It was also she who had ditched her, forcing her to seek companionship in Hassan. If it wasn’t for her, now that she thought about it, none of this would have happened. She became angry at Achika. Everything Achika did the previous day had built up to that morning’s fuss. Was Achika on Hassan’s side? Was it her intention for her and Hassan to be together? How could she do this to her? She turned off her phone and crawled to bed. But she was not at peace. She had an urge to call Masai and find out where he had gone to. The urge grew stronger after every passing second until she said fuck it and switched her phone on and called him, but his phone was off. He hadn’t been in the city for long to have favourite spots, so even if she were to venture out to look for him, she wouldn’t know where to begin. She sent him a text message. She knew it was useless since his phone was off but she sent it anyway. She wrote that she was sorry. That she hadn’t intended for it to happen that way. It was all cliché what she wrote but she did not care.
The day crawled by. She continued to ignore Achika’s calls. She ignored her messages, too. At nightfall, she stood at her bedroom window and stared outside. She saw a man leaning against a car and a woman in a short floral dress standing a few inches from him. She was laughing at what he was saying. Around them, cars drove by and parked. Women walked past them, holding their kid’s hands. The parking lot lights made everything beneath them glitter and she became angry at how everyone was going on about their lives oblivious of the pain she was going through. Masai, where are you? She asked, hoping that someone or something would give her an answer.
The universe was silent.
She remembered her mother. She was the only person who always seemed to find the right words to say in every given situation. “Don’t worry, my daughter, all this are temptations and they will come to pass,” she would say if she told her about what happened. But she couldn’t tell her that men had fought over her in her house. The prospect of explaining that she had invited a married man to spend the night in her house did not sound appealing even to her. But she called her anyway and proceeded to ask about everyone else while hiding her own troubles.
“When are you coming to see us?” her mother asked, “We have missed you, you know.”
“Soon, ma’, soon.”
“Ehe, and what about your boyfriend? We hardly see him in the village nowadays, we assume he is there with you?”
She was silent for a while.
“Are you okay?” her mother asked.
“I am ma’. Masai is fine and, yes, he is here with me. He comes and goes.”
“You should bring him to see us. You need to make this your relationship official.”
“We will come. When I come, I will come with him.”
Long after she was done talking to her mother, the words ‘I will come with him’ rung in her head. She had made her mother a promise she wasn’t sure she was going to keep. But she did not dwell on that for long because the hunger chewing on her intestine could not allow her. She dived into the kitchen to prepare dinner. She cooked beef stew and Ugali for two as she was still hopeful that Masai would come. Sleeping on the couch, she dreamed that he had come back drunk, mumbling incoherent apologies for keeping her worried and not for what he did to Hassan. But she did not care for she was happy he had shown up. From a distance, she heard faint knocks. She opened her eyes slightly and was disappointed that it was all a dream. She looked at the clock on the wall and it was way past midnight. The knock on the door became louder.
She peeped through the curtain and when she saw Masai, she opened and threw herself into his arms. He was not drunk as she had dreamed. She rested her face on his chest and felt calmness waft through her system as he parted her hair with his hand.
“You got me worried, where have you been the whole day?” she asked after they went in and sat next to each other.
“Nowhere in particular,” he said, “I could have come back sooner if I hadn’t got lost in these confusing streets.”
“You got lost?”
“I did,” he said, “And I was too proud to ask for direction so I kept wandering about until I remembered I could just leap into a taxi and tell them to drive me here.”
She laughed. “Are you hungry?”
“I am starving.”
“I will warm food for you.”
They deliberately avoided revisiting the morning’s fight. She watched him eat in silence and when he was done, she excused herself and went into her bedroom. A few minutes later, she showed up in pink lingerie that barely covered her ass. The left strap was loosened and she tugged on the hem of the lingerie. She smiled when he walked to her, taking her into his arms. He ran his hand through her skin while kissing her, his mouth violating the territories of her mouth. He spun her around and walked her backwards to the couch and when he gently entered her, she closed her eyes and imagined this was how it was always going to be.
They were both out of breath by the time he was falling off of her. She took his hand and with a heavy breath, said, “We weren’t lying when we said nothing happened.”
He propped herself up on his elbow to look at her. “I believe you.”
“Now you believe me? I told you the same thing in the morning but you wouldn’t listen!” she said in a measured tone, careful not to give him the impression that she wanted them to argue.
“I believe you, not him. I also trust you, not him.”
“I am confused.”
“Just because I trust you doesn’t mean I am going to let a man who fooled me once to fool around with you.” He leaned in and kissed her on the lips, “Which is why the next time I see him around you, I will make good my promise and strangle the life out of him.”
The rage in his eyes proved he was serious and Amara loved this fearsome Masai. When they started dating, he had come across as a man who was ready to let go his ugly side to please her and win her confidence. It was working; except for the days when she wondered if he would ever fight for her when need be. She continued staring into his eyes because they were making her feel things already. She placed her arm on his shoulder and leaned in to whisper in his ear, “I am flattered that you are willing to do just anything for me but please, don’t kill someone.” He chuckled and kissed her on the neck, “After killing Hassan, I won’t have to kill anyone else because they won’t dare
Editor Credits: Moraa Nyarinda