She almost sprinted out of the bathroom when cold water touched her skin. Her Instant Shower Heater was faulty, again, and she blamed Maasai for it. He was the one who insisted on being an electrical engineer the last time it failed and she was the one who loudly challenged his skills. Holding her breath, she froze under the shower and waited till her body got used to the coldness before continuing with her bath. Later, she put on a short black dress she had neglected for a while and noticed, with alarm, that it held her too tightly she couldn’t breathe. Her breasts and hips threatened to burst out of it and as she glared at the mirror, she feared she had become fat or that she was pregnant. But she ruled out the likelihood of being pregnant because the last time she had sex was three weeks ago and that, she convinced herself, was not enough time for her body to experience changes if at all she was pregnant.
Or was it?
She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her reflection with narrowed eyes, silently telling herself that there was no way she was pregnant. Achika called to say she was on her way and so she postponed questioning her fertility and ransacked her wardrobe for something to wear, carefully avoiding clothes that had the potential to hold her tightly. But she had no baggy clothes so she settled for a pair of blue jeans and a hand-woven brown sweater. She ran her hand through her braids and held them at the back with a black hair band. She was at the salon the previous day and she had told Nyathiwa that next time she would be dreading her hair.
“You will look gorgeous,” Nyathiwa had said. “You have the face for dreads. You know dreads are not for everyone.”
“I know,” Amara had replied, even though she was not sure what her face had to do with the fact that she would look good in dreadlocks.
In the car, Achika kept glancing her way and smiling. When Amara asked what was funny, Achika said it was because she was glowing.
“You are, am I going to be an aunt soon?”
Amara threw her head back laughing and waved off that topic. Thankfully, Achika did not pursue it. At the event, white plastic chairs decorated with pink ribbons were arranged at the lounge of Faraja Hotel. Most of the seats were occupied and Amara was waiting for Achika to finish talking to the gentleman they found standing in the parking lot when she saw a slim, smiling woman in a knee length skirt and pink blouse approaching her. She walked with a slight sway and Amara could not have guessed that this was Joanne because she looked nothing like what she had imagined. Joanne was what Amara described as thick. She was neither slim nor fat. Neither did she wear glasses. She smiled often, a soft friendly smile that was made even better with her eloquent speech. She had walked to Amara with opened arms and when she noticed the puzzle in Amara’s eyes after the hug, she said, “I am Joanne and I know you are Amara, am I right?”
Amara recoiled. “How did you know?”
“Achika once showed me a photo of you on her phone. You are so beautiful,” she said this while still holding Amara’s hands and Amara found herself blushing as she said, “Thanks, and you are gorgeous.”
“Thank you. I am glad you came,” Joanne said, “Especially since Achika told me you are not big with such events.”
“I’m not, but what you are doing is amazing. I like your determination to make The Girl Child Triumph,” Amara said the last part with the kind of enthusiasm that lit Joannes’ face, her white teeth showing. Achika joined them and after a few minutes of talking, Joanne led them to where the rest of the guests were seated. The place was full of men and women who spoke in the language of poshness. A middle aged woman sat in the back row, dressed in a low cut black dress, which revealed her brown thighs when she crossed her legs. She had a nice wig and she stood to greet Achika and then, still holding Achika’s hand, turned to Amara.
“I think I know who you are,” she said. Amara’s chest swelled with pride. That people knew who she was and she did not know who they were was a good thing. The lady introduced herself as Samantha before introducing them to James, the guy seated next to her, tall with a white handkerchief in the pocket of his striped suit. Amara glanced at his shoes; brown and pointed. When she looked up, James was smiling with his eyes.
“Nice to meet you, Amara.” His voice had a small vibration to it.
“James is still single,” Samantha said as if that was one important fact that needed to be stated immediately to save humanity.
“Oh, you are still breaking hearts, huh!” Amara chided.
When the event started, one speaker after the other took to the podium to speak and one would have been forgiven for thinking it was an accents’ exhibition. But they did not sound like they were trying to impress with their accents because everyone was cool and no one pinched the other to laugh about the weird pronunciations. One could also tell that those in attendance were there because they wanted to be there. Many promised to keep supporting Joanne in any way they could to keep her foundation going, but what was more encouraging was to see that though this was a foundation aimed at improving the lives of girls, most men were in support of it. And when they stood to speak, they warmed Amara’s and everyone else’s hearts with their words. When James stood to speak, Amara leaned back against her chair and crossed her arms over her chest to listen keenly. His bright smile could only be compared to his coat’s two buttons, which he undid before holding the gooseneck mic with two of his fingers, leaning forward and scanning the room.
“When I told a friend I was coming to an event organised by a foundation called ‘The Girl Child Must Triumph,’ he wondered why everyone is still obsessed with the girl child while in universities, the population of girls is more than that of boys and that in most corner offices, the people behind the desks are now mostly women. What he obviously doesn’t understand is that the number of girls in the forgotten corners of this country lacking the most basic things, like sanitary towels, is staggering. And yet they still have to go to school and sit next to boys who take great pleasure in shaming them. And that a woman might be powerful but we, the men, still believe they got that power after offering men sex and so we neither respect nor fear them.”
Amara wanted to clap. If she hadn’t checked herself, she would have sprung to her feet and clapped so hard. She told herself that if she were still single, she wouldn’t waste time in saying yes to James if he asked her out. After the donations and Joanne’s speech, the event came to a close and Amara found herself in the company of James in the parking lot. He told her he was a security consultant at an NGO firm and it was no wonder he was passionate about charity.
“And you are doing a good job in radio,” he said.
“Do you listen to my show?”
“Not always, but whenever I can, I do.”
They exchanged contacts.
Joanne caught up with them before she and Achika left and she thanked them, again, for coming. She and Amara exchanged phone contacts, too.
Darkness had already fallen when Achika dropped her off but refused to come in, saying she had other engagements. Climbing the stairs, Amara read the text Joanne sent her immediately they left, thanking her for showing up. She smiled, happy to have made a friend in Joanne, a woman who stood for something and spoke with the kind of eloquence that showed she didn’t suffer fools. When she walked into her house, she was surprised to find the TV was on. It was unlike her to leave the TV on whenever she went out, but she didn’t think much of it. She dropped her handbag on the couch, undressed right there in the living room and walked into her bedroom in nothing but a pair of underwear. Her bare breasts led the way, her pointed nipples piercing through the air as she walked. The bedroom’s light went on as she walked through the door and she screamed in terror before Maasai ran to her and covered her mouth with his hand for the few seconds her scream echoed in the air, and only let go when the terror in her eyes turned to that of glee.
“You scared the shit out of me!” she hit him gently on the shoulder.
“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
They looked at each other in silence. It was three weeks since they last saw each other yet seeing him again felt like he never left. She watched his eyes drop to her breasts and she shyly crossed her left arm over them. He smiled and took a step closer, entangling his fingers in her braids. When his hand slid to her chin, holding her head up and staring right into her eyes, she licked her lips and he leaned in for a kiss. But before their lips touched, he whispered, “I missed you,” and she responded with a kiss, tracing his lower lip with her tongue. The kiss was slow, at first, both of their mouths moving in slow motion, but it grew intense, her tongue thrust into his throat. His warm hand slid into her underwear and was working its way to her crotch when the lights, as if in disapproval, went off. He paused, it came back on and when his fingers moved, it went off again. It was purely coincidental, of course, but the timeliness of it made them break off from the kiss and laugh.
“Maybe this is a sign that we shouldn’t be doing this. We should wait until marriage,” she whispered.
“Or maybe it’s a reminder that what is to be done in the darkness should, in fact, be done in the darkness.”
She chuckled and rested her head on his shoulder. He removed his hand from her underwear and held her close before suddenly swooping her from the ground and laying her in bed. He climbed on the bed and lay next to her.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming today,” she said, still whispering.
“Is it a requirement?”
“No, but if you keep surprising me like this, I will begin to think you are suspecting me and that you are trying to catch me doing some bad things.”
“Bad things like what?”
“You know what I am talking about.”
He sighed. “You are wrong, I just love seeing the look on your face when I show up unannounced. It’s priceless.”
“So it wasn’t because you hoped to find Hassan here so you could end his life?”
“First of all, I no longer care for Hassan. I trust you. Second of all, that man is not allowed back in this house. The only reason I was calm when you told me he was here the last time was that he had come to offer his condolences.”
“Please don’t tell me you have objections.”
“Okay, so tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“You called my name, I figure you wanted to tell me something.”
She rubbed her stomach and said in a near whisper, “I am pregnant.”
The lights came back on.