“I was wrong about you and Masai,” her father said, “No doubt he makes you happy and I am sure he will be a good husband.” Amara could not believe this was her proud father admitting he was wrong. Arms folded, she looked at him with teary eyes. They were standing near the gate, the morning sunlight shining on their faces. She had made peace with the fact that her father was always going to treat Masai with indifference and it was a relief to know he had had a change of heart. She unfolded her arms and embraced her father who wrapped his left arm around her waist and patted her back with his right hand. Amara closed her eyes, lay her head on his shoulder and beamed when her father broke into a song. It was strange to hear him sing because she could not remember ever seeing him hum, leave alone sing. In his arms, she felt like a little girl again. Like his favourite daughter again.
She flashed her eyes open when she heard the sound of water patting the floor. She recognized the elegant curtains running down the bedroom window and the familiar voice of Masai singing in the bathroom. She rubbed her eyes, looked around with fresh keenness and threw her head back on the pillow in exasperation. It was just a dream. But a smile returned to her face when she remembered that though it was only a dream, it was a good one. Since moving to the city, she had never talked to her father and only mentioned him in passing in her conversations with Masai or Achika. She was yet to get over the fact that he slapped and drove her out of his house. Even worse, that he had never bothered to call and apologise. “He is your father, you are the one who is required to take the first step to reconciliation,” Masai had told her not once, but she would have none of it. Now she thought different. She had a yearning to make peace with her father, and the dream couldn’t have come at an appropriate time because she and Masai were travelling to the village.
It was also not a surprise that she dreamed about her father because she had spent the better part of the night thinking about him and his expected reaction on seeing her with Masai. She was worried that despite what her mother told said, her father was still not ready to accept Masai as his son-in-law. But the dream, she thought, was a good omen. She climbed off the bed, threw on a T-shirt and went to the kitchen to fix herself a cup of tea.
Masai was still singing. His voice got louder when he sang the chorus. The song sounded familiar but Amara could not place it. Stirring her tea, she mused at how Masai had changed. Ever since the brawl with Hassan, he carried himself with the airiness that came with letting go of one’s grudge. He smiled often. His vocabulary of sweet names grew. It was almost as if seeing Hassan helpless as he struggled to free himself from his tight grip had lifted the weight of his heart, unleashing this side of him that made him sing loudly in the bathroom without a care in the world. On her way to the living room, she stopped to knock on the bathroom’s door. Masai opened the door a crack and stuck his head out.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” he said.
“Good morning. Do you think you can find it in you to stop messing with my eardrums with your horrible singing?”
“Leave me alone, is it not common knowledge that you are jealous of my talent?”
“Oh please.” She held the cup mid-air with both hands and tilted her head to the left. “I had a dream.”
Masai, towelling himself, asked, “A good dream or bad dream?”
“Bad dreams are called nightmares, Mister.”
He stepped out of the bathroom, “Just tell me what the dream was all about, okay?”
“He is finally okay with us being together.”
She shook her head and followed him into the bedroom and watched him dress up as she narrated her dream word for word. She only stopped to sip from her cup.
“That’s a good omen, right?”
“That’s what I thought,” Amara said and stood up abruptly. “Oh shit.”
“We haven’t bought him anything.”
“You haven’t bought him anything. I have a classic watch for him.”
“We will get him something on the way.”
“Now I know we will not get in the village until three months from now.”
“I will be quick.”
“Okay, you can start by taking your shower and dressing up, which I am sure will take you, what, three days?.”
She laughed and hit the shower. When she came out, she found him staring at the mirror and it amused her that now he spent time in front of the mirror. He seemed to have forgotten his initial belief that mirrors were for women. Dressed in a fitting grey T-shirt and blue jeans, she noticed, for the first time, that it wasn’t just his demeanour that had changed, his looks had changed too. The roughness that she associated with him was gone. His skin looked refined. His hair cut looked as though it was drawn by an artist. She noticed him watching her in the mirror and she gently elbowed him, teasing that he would grow boobs if he stared in the mirror for too long. When he left for the living room, the strange feeling she had when he revealed that he had a driving licence the previous day settled in again. She had mentioned that Achika had offered them their car to travel to the village with and that Samuel had agreed to drive them, but he told her that wouldn’t be necessary because he could drive. She thought he was joking but he wasn’t so she asked him if she had a driving licence and he said he had.
She had tried reconciling the image of the Masai she had known as nothing but a village boy and the Masai that kept revealing himself to her and it confused her. It felt as though he had another secret life. She dressed up in a flowery kitenge dress which stopped right at her knees and showed up in the living room holding her waist. The smile on his face said that she looked gorgeous. He was holding his socks, a sign that he was only waiting for her, but before he stood, she went and sat next to him, rested his elbows on his thigh and asked him, for the umpteenth time, if he was sure his driving licence was legit.
“Should I write a song about it for you to believe me?”
“If you think it will reassure me, why not?”
“If you are worried I will drive Achika’s car into—”
“It’s still a car.”
“Not if it costs an arm and a leg.”
“Okay, if you are worried I will drive Achika’s BMW into a ditch or ram it onto a tree, then don’t, because I won’t.”
“No reason to raise your voice on me, Masai.”
“I am sorry?”
“You sound angry.”
“I am fine.”
“No, you are not.”
“Okay, I am not fine.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me? You are the one who keeps questioning me at every turn and I am the one with a problem? What’s so strange about me having a driving licence, or is it a reserve for the few you deem fit?”
“You see nothing strange in it? Ever since we started dating, you have been treating me nicely and by nicely, I mean you have been spending a lot of money on me, money that I have no idea where it comes from or how you get it. Then I learn that you have a driving licence and I have no reason to be suspicious?”
“If you do not want me to meet your parents, you should go ahead and say so.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?”
She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She looked at him, her eyes burning with rage and wished she didn’t bring up the driving licence issue. At least not on this day when they were going to meet her parents. He stood and walked to the door, and while putting on his socks, told her he was no longer interested in travelling to the village with her. He walked out, banging the door shut. But unlike last time when he walked out on her, she knew where he was probably headed to, only she wasn’t going after him. She told herself that it would be better for her not to introduce him to her parents if he wasn’t ready to be upfront with her. But as seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours, her resolve grew weaker. Maybe she was being hard on him. She should give him time to tell her what he was hiding at his own time. So as evening approached, she left the house and went after him.
She walked into the crowded bar and sat on the high chair at the counter, next to Masai. She asked the bartender to serve her sparkling water and turned to Masai who was holding a glass of what she assumed was water. The bartender, a light skinned guy with a hand towel thrown over his shoulder, set a bottle of water and a glass in front of Amara and asked her if that was all she needed. Amara nodded and turned to Masai. Not wanting to be the first one to speak, she filled her glass and stared ahead until Masai broke the silence.
“I am sorry,” he said.
“I am sorry too.”
He turned to her, “Just give me time and I will tell you all about my source of money. I promise.”
“You will tell me when you tell me,” she said, “Now, was it your plan to get yourself drunk with water?”
He laughed. “I am the designated driver, can’t drink.”
“Should we still go?”
Dusk had fallen when they arrived in the village. Because traditionally Masai could not go to Amara’s parents’ place at night, they agreed to spend the night at his place and then go to her folks’ first thing in the morning. They passed a small group of people on the roadside discussing among themselves. A few minutes later, they passed another group and another, until they got curious.
“It’s probably nothing,” Masai said when Amara asked him to stop so they can ask what was going on.”
“It can’t be nothing,” Amara insisted. Knowing she wasn’t going to stop, Masai pulled over in front of another group and he left the engine running as they stepped out to talk to the men aged mostly by poverty than their number of years on earth. One elderly man, whom Masai immediately recognized as his neighbour, stepped forward to shake his hand, his eyes darting from Masai to Amara and then to the car. His eyes and those of the others swung with respect and Masai knew it was because they thought the car was his. They didn’t seem to have recognised Amara, not until Masai introduced her. Suddenly, all their eyes turned sad. They avoided looking Amara in the eye and she had to ask them what was happening.
“We are sorry for your loss, our daughter,” the elderly man spoke.
“What are you talking about?”
They looked at each other in confusion before another elderly chap in an oversized blue sweater said, “You mean you haven’t heard about your father?”