There, in the silence of her room, she stood trembling. She could hear the sound of faint music and the occasional burst of laughter from her neighbor’s house, and she wished she had socialized with her neighbor because she would have then gone and asked if she had seen anything strange. Taking two steps back, she plopped into the bed as if her knees could no longer support her. Where was Masai? How could he do this to her? She was already imagining the worst, that he had deserted her, just like her father did. She buried her head in her hands and tried not to sob but her emotions got the better of her and soon her eyes were drowning in the small pond of tears forming in her hands. When she looked up, she caught a glimpse of herself in the dressing mirror and the terror in her bloodshot eyes frightened her. Or maybe he hadn’t run away. Maybe something bad had happened to him and he needed her help. She sprung to her feet and in a lightening speed, scrolled through her phone to find Achika’s number.
She paced the room, willing Achika to answer her phone, but she didn’t. She had probably left her phone in the car and her tongue was sweet talking whomever she was with. She thought of whom else to call to no avail because she couldn’t think of a single soul, other than Achika, that would answer to her call of despair at such an ungodly hour. Hassan would, but she couldn’t bring herself to dial his number. She was beginning to lose hope when she remembered James, the tall suited guy she met at Joanne’s charity event. It got even better because he had told her he was a security consultant, making him the perfect guy to call in this situation. As his phone rang, she prayed that he would answer, and he did. His deep voice coming through the phone was like a voice of God.
“Hi, James,” she started.
“Amara, if you tell me you can’t sleep because you are thinking about me and my killer looks, I will believe you.”
“I need your help,” she said, her overworked mind incapable of processing his humor.
“You sound worried, is everything okay?”
“My fiancee,” she paused to hold back her tears, “He is missing.”
“Missing? Since when?”
“My friend and I left for a girls’ night out and when I came back he wasn’t in the house. I fear something bad might have happened to him.”
“Calm down, Amara. Why don’t you text me your address and I will be there in no time?”
“Do you have a photo of him?” asked the thin officer.
Amara stared at him as if he was suddenly speaking in Mandarin. It had never occurred to her, until now, that Masai had never posed for a photo either with her or on his own. They had been to different exotic places and uncountable dates yet they had never taken a photo together. James and the officers looked at her with prying eyes and she looked away as she said, “No, he did not like taking photos.”
“Not even one?” The thin officer sounded surprised. Buffled even. She struck Amara like the kind who took selfies while staring at the mirror.
“Not even one.”
“I don’t mean it in a bad way, but what did he do for a living?” The fat one asked.
“A small time farmer.”
He shook his head. “I am sorry about this but from the look of things, nothing bad seems to have happened to him. My guess is he, for reasons only known to him, might have just decided to pack and leave.”
“And his phone? Why would he leave it behind?” James asked. Amara suspected that James already knew the answer and was only asking to burn her candle of hope a little longer.
“Maybe he forgot it because he was in a hurry. Or he left it so that Amara won’t have to contact him. All the same, after 24 hours, we will file a missing person report and make sure that we help you to the best of our ability, okay?”
“Kindly describe him and how he was dressed this evening so we can have a rough idea of how he looks like,” James said, taking out a notebook from his coat. “And please, don’t leave out any detail. If he has only but one eye, we need to know.”
Amara chuckled. It was a fusion of pleasure and grief for her as he described Masai while they took notes. Before they left, James asked if perhaps she would have preferred for him to stay but she told him she would be okay. That she needed to be alone. As they stepped outside, James asked her to call him if she needed anything or if she changed her mind about being alone. She went to bed clutching to Masai’s phone. Occasionally, she would call his number and listen to his phone ring, insanely expecting him to answer. The music and laughter from her neighbor’s house died down. Even the sound of cars driving in and out of the estate ceased. Her world became silent. She hoped that in the morning she would wake up to the sound of Masai’s knocks on the door, even though she knew that was not going to happen. At some point, she admonished herself for allowing herself to be deceived that Masai was extra ordinary, incapable of breaking her heart. Achika was right, it was foolish for her to trust a man who couldn’t be bold enough to tell her what he did for a living.
Sleep eluded her. She opened her gallery and looked, hoping that perhaps she was mistaken and there was at least one photo of him on her phone, but there wasn’t. It was like she barely knew him. After tossing and turning, her eye lids grew heavier and she finally closed them, hoping to wake up and find that this was nothing but a bad dream. That his clothes will still be in his wardrobe, his shirts hanging on the hangers and his pants neatly folded. That he would be in the bathroom, perhaps, singing loudly as he always did, and she would go and knock on the bathroom door and tell him about this nightmare and he would laugh it off, reminding her, as if she wasn’t the one who dreamt, that it was only but a dream.
But it wasn’t.
She woke up to three missed calls from Achika but instead of calling her back, she showered and went to her place. She told Achika what she had told James and the two officers the previous night and Achika listened silently, not interjecting even when Amara took a couple of breaks to steady her voice. When she was done talking, Amara leaned back against the chair and threw her hands in the air.
“I am surprised,” said Achika. “I never imagined Masai is such a coward.”
But Amara neither detected the element of surprise in Achika’s tone nor in her expression. In fact, it was almost as if Masai had done exactly what Achika had expected. But Amara still asked her to accompany her to the police station to see the two officers and Achika agreed. At the station, the officers told them it was going to be difficult to look for him since they did not have his photo but still insisted they would do their best. Amara decided to believe them even though now she was convinced they were only doing this because of their friendship with James and not because they were convinced there was something they could do to find Masai. And she couldn’t blame them. The only logical conclusion, one which Achika reinforced, was that Masai’s disappearance was deliberate.
Days passed without any leads from either James or the officers. She no longer got excited when James called because she knew what he was going to say anyway—that they were still doing their best to find him. Because he was worried about her, James visited a couple of times and even asked her out a few times and she had turned him down all those times. She faked a smile each time she was around him because she did not want him to know she was still aching from Masai’s leaving. She had refused to accept that the man of her dreams had left and that was part of the reason she kept the whole episode from her mother. She knew that if her mother found out, she would be too worried. Telling her mother also meant admitting that her father was right all along. But this keeping it to herself did her more harm than good. She struggled to sleep at night and labored through the waking up process. Nyathiwa had called repeatedly to ask when she would be going to the salon to dread her hair and she was getting tired of lying to her each time. Her days became longer, painfully bleeding into the next one.
It no longer took her longer than it took the Israelites to get to the promised land to decide on what to wear to work because she put on whatever she lay her hands on first. On air, she became fierce, rebuking men and siding with women even when it was unnecessary. Some of her fans and colleagues remarked that she was turning into Achika who was a fierce feminist on and off air. But since the show’s ratings continued to skyrocket, no one, especially her boss, minded. Some opined that that was how the show needed to be like, and so she did not get her foot off the peddle.
Because he was close to her, Jack noticed that she did not smile often. Even her infectious laughter had become a rarity. He usually sat with her during the show and tried to make small talk when she was off air, but she treated him with indifference to push him away. Once, Jack left the studio for a few minutes and came back to check on her, asking if there was anything she needed.
“Stop worrying about me, Jack, I am fine and capable of taking care of myself.”
“I didn’t say you are incapable of taking care of yourself, I only asked if you needed anything.”
“I am okay, please leave me alone.”
After the show, standing on the balcony, Jack came and stood next to her. When Samuel pulled over in the parking lot downstairs, Amara started walking away without a word.
“I know you have said I should leave you alone, but it’s depressing seeing you like this. Are you sure you don’t need any help?”
Amara walked towards him and stood too close to him, eyes fixed on his. He wasn’t expecting her to hit him but he was still scared because he had never seen her eyes burning with rage before. “Unless you can bring Masai back to me, don’t ever mention the word ‘help’ to me again.”
It was unreasonable for her to expect the world to stop and mourn her ‘loss,’ but that did not stop her from getting angry for things being the way they were, unmoved by the pain she carried in her heart. She no longer thought it romantic for couples to hold hands in public—she sneered whenever she spotted them and suppressed the urge to walk to the lady and advise them to run. She no longer found Samuel funny. She would stare ahead whenever he narrated one of his many tales and not even once would she laugh. Eventually, Samuel stopped telling his jokes and focused on driving. And she banged the doors a lot. The hinges on her bedroom door were almost coming off because of the constant banging. The anger she carried with her was like slow poison, slowly consuming her her.