This had to be a dream. She surely was dreaming because there was no way, in this life or the other, Masai would call her a ‘bitch’ without flinching and slam the door in her face. The loud bang painfully echoed in her head; she squeezed both sides of her head to try and subdue it. She heard giggles. The overly excited voice of the woman Masai was with annoyed her. She lifted her right hand—curled into a fist—ready to bang on the door and lash out at both of them, but James was quick to grab her hand mid-air. She struggled to free herself from his grip but he was too strong for her. When she had calmed down, he loosened his grip and asked what happened and she nearly broke down when she tried to speak.
“You know what? Don’t worry, I will find out myself.”
He gently pulled her back and repeatedly knocked on the door until Masai opened. Masai had a disgusted look at first, but it drastically changed to that of concern when he saw James. It was obvious he hadn’t expected to see anyone else other than Amara. He stared James in the face and James stared right back. When it was obvious neither of them was going to back down from the staring contest, Masai stepped out and shut the door behind him.
“I am sorry, who are you?”
“My name is James, Amara’s friend. And you must be Masai, right?”
“Oh, really, then what’s your name?”
“I don’t see how that is any of your business, Mister. What are you doing here anyway? Because I have already made it clear that I do not know who this woman is and, quite honestly, don’t care who you are either.”
James took a step closer to him. “I don’t know what’s really going on with you but Amara here is sure that you are her boyfriend and I have no reason to doubt her.”
“So, what, you are here to bind us in a union of marriage or something?”
“I am not sure if you can read the mood around here, but no one is interested in your jokes. Now, why don’t you tell us what’s going on with you? Amara here has been sick with worry about you and you think now is the best time to crack jokes? Are you really this stupid?”
“Be careful what you say to me because if you are not careful, you will walk out of here with fewer teeth if any.”
James laughed. A short sarcastic laugh that seemed to annoy Masai even the more. All this while, Amara noticed that Masai was avoiding her gaze and she was opening her mouth to speak when the door opened and Masai’s new catch walked out, all dressed up now. Unlike before, Amara took her time to study her and she could see why Masai would be interested in her, her fake accent notwithstanding. Her long plaited hair was pitch black, a sharp contrast to her brown skin. The short dress she was in barely covered her thick thighs and, because she was standing behind Masai, Amara noticed she was taller than him, too. She glanced at her feet to see if maybe it was heels making her appear taller but she was in a pair of white flipflops. Amara watched the lady wrap her arms around Masai’s waist and with her gaze fixed on her, ask ‘Sweerrrheart, what’s going on.”
“Nothing to worry about,” Masai said before shifting his attention to James and Amara. “Before you two came, we were actually busy so if you don’t mind, you can take your leave and we will pretend this never happened.”
“Stop with your bullshit already!” Amara snapped. “Masai, what’s going on? Are you in some kind of trouble? And who is this woman? Look, James here and his friend Steve are security specialists, if you are in some kind of shit that’s making you behave like you are high on some illicit stuff, you can tell us and they can help you get out of it.” Amara looked at James for affirmation and James nodded his agreement.
“Why does she keep referring to you as Masai?” the other lady asked. “Who is this woman? Have you been cheating on me?” She stepped aside to look at Masai with her head tipped to the side. She struck Amara like a drama queen. It also angered her that though she believed this was some kind of a game, the woman sounded like she and Masai had known each other for a while. Or why else would she ask if Masai had been cheating on her? Amara wished this was one of those days when her level of madness would be at its peak, so she could spin into action and tear that woman apart, limb by limb. But she was calm. The kind of calmness that hit her whenever she realized her life was fucked up and there was little she could do about it.
“They are obviously mistaken,” Masai said with a rather harsh tone.
“Masai, stop this madness and—” Amara started but Masai held his finger up and she had to swallow the rest of her words.
“I am sorry I called you a bitch and crazy. But I am not Masai and I have never known anyone in my life who goes by that name, leave alone look like me. Like I said, this is a mistake.”
“How can? You are Masai. Look at you, you even sound exactly like him! Besides, I have known you for a long time to know you don’t have a twin brother, not to talk of an identical one. So this is no mistake, you are who you are.”
Masai threw his hands in the air. “I don’t know what you want me to say, but we are done here.”
As Masai and his girl walked back in, James stepped forward and wrapped his arm around Amara’s waist before they begun walking away. Amara shuffled along and when she turned to look back, her eyes met with Masai’s. He was standing at the door, watching, his eyes softened and with a hint of jealousy in them. It was the same look he had on the day she told him about her secret meeting with Hassan back in the village, and the day she found Hassan in her house. That look was unmistakable. He looked to Amara like he was about to sprint after them and yank James’ hand off her waist. But he didn’t. He instead disappeared into the room and banged the door again, this time louder than the other time.
Downstairs at the reception, Steve asked, “What happened, was that him?”
“I don’t know, man,” said James. “Amara says it’s him but the guy keeps insisting he is not who we think he is.”
“I don’t understand. Amara can’t be mistaken, obviously. Are you sure the guy is not lying?”
“He is obviously lying, something must be up with him.”
“Did you ask for some sort of identification?”
“How could I? I am not a police and he is not under investigation.”
“Take me back there,” Steve said, “Or better still, remind me the room number he is in because unlike you, I don’t care that I am not a police officer. That idiot is going to prove that he is not who we think he is, and he will do so willingly, or I will beat the shit out of him and that whore he is with until either of them opens their mouth and say what we want to hear.” Steve was folding his sleeves. His stern voice and the fury in his eyes excited Amara. She liked his readiness and willingness to yank Masai out of his pretence, by all means necessary, and she silently wished James had shown the same enthusiasm. But both her and James run after Steve when he sprinted towards the stairs and stopped him.
“Look, we promised not to start any trouble, remember? That receptionist might lose her job for this,” James said.
“She won’t lose her job, I know the owner of this hotel. Besides, that Masai of a guy might be involved in something illegal because I don’t see any reason why he should be lying about his identity.”
“Let him be,” Amara said.
“What?” Steve was surprised.
“I was worried that something bad had happened to him but seeing that he was only running away from me, I no longer care about him.”
“Are you sure this is what you want? Because you might be saying this only because you are angry.”
“I am angry, Steve. Furious, even. But I am not going to lower myself into begging him to at least accept that he is the guy I have been seeing all this while, the same guy who got me pregnant! So like I said, let him be.”
They looked at her in silence, still stuck with her news about being pregnant. She hadn’t mentioned to either of them that she was expectant and so she wasn’t surprised to see the look on their faces. She wrapped her arms over her chest and stared at them, giving them the time to process this information and decide whether they were still interested in beating the shit out of Masai until he revealed whatever conspiracy he was hiding. James walked to her and asked, rather rhetorically, “You are pregnant?”
He embraced her and she embraced him back. The hug was the best thing that happened to her the whole day because it was warm and comforting.
“Now I am agreeing with Steve, we should beat that chap up. No man who tries to run away from his responsibilities should be allowed to walk scot free. In fact, after we are done with him, Steve and I will gather all deadbeat fathers and beat the shit out of them, too.”
She rubbed his back and chuckled. “Please, just take me home.”
James whispered something in Steve’s ear before taking Amara’s hand to his and walked away with her. On the way, he told her he and Steve were going to get to the bottom of this for they suspected something bad was brewing. She said nothing. Though she knew it was unfair to give him the silent treatment, she couldn’t help herself. All along, her mind was a playfield of flashbacks; of him coming to her rescue that day in the village, leaving an impression that stuck with her like a tattoo. Of him lying next to her in bed the night she told him she was pregnant and him beaming with smiles. It was difficult for her to imagine this was the same Masai that had treated her with disdain. Her mind, as if to console her, wanted her to believe that there was a bigger conspiracy at play. That this was one of those scenarios like the ones in movies where eventually, she will come to realize that Masai was actually a good guy, acting badly because that was the only way for him to save the day. But her heart had a simple explanation to this, one which scared her and which was likely to be true, that Masai had been fooling around with her all along and his leaving and denying her had nothing to do with any conspiracy. That he was only doing what every man who fears the responsibilities of being a father would do.
That night James refused to leave her on her own. He told her it was either he crashed on her couch or he dropped her off at Achika’s place because it was unwise to leave her alone in that condition. Of the two options, she went with the one of him crashing on her couch, though she thought of Achika the whole night. She remembered what Achika told her about men. She also remembered that though Achika had strong opinions about men, she had never really told her why, perhaps because she had never asked. But she also remembered the night she met Achika, and the first time she kissed her. She had regretted every intimate stuff she had done with Achika but not anymore. The society would look at her with a bad eye if they knew she was intimately involved with a fellow woman. Some friendships would be cut off and some would no longer hold her in high regard, but at least, she was sure, Achika would never betray her. She would never abandon her. She started yearning for this illicit affair that her heart ached and she wished she had asked James to drop her off at Achika’s house. But it did not escape her mind that she was soon going to be a mum, and her choices would affect the kind of mother she was going be. She felt at a loss, and in the darkness, and privacy of her bedroom walls, she cried.
Because she forgot to close her window before going to bed, a cold breeze blowing through the curtain woke her up the next morning. She strained to keep her eyes open as she stepped down from her bed and walked to the window, a cold raindrop hitting her hand as she drew the curtain. Outside, dark clouds had gathered and it wasn’t long before they let go of the rain they were grasping, each drop hitting on her now closed window harder than the last one. She stood at the window and continued to stare outside even though the glass was now blurry and she could barely see anything other than the fog forming on the glass. To her, the fog represented the blurriness of her future. She had never felt this empty before, especially with a human growing inside her. The sadness she had gone to bed with was slowly being replaced with self-pity, albeit temporarily.
She slipped into a baggy pair of sweatpants and a jumper and went to fix herself a cup of tea in the kitchen. But first, she peered into the living room and saw that James was still fast asleep on the couch, his face covered with the duvet. She wondered why she was feeling safe around him yet she barely knew him. As she poured hot water from the electric kettle to a little white glass, she figured maybe it was because secretly, she was attracted to him. It wasn’t the sort of attraction that would make her forget Masai in a bit, but it was an attraction nonetheless. She was stirring her tea when she saw one of the estates’ security guards, holding a small brown box and an umbrella so tiny it was no wonder he was rained on, knock on her door before he turned and saw her through the window. She flung the window open and he came closer.
“Good morning,” he greeted her.
“Good morning, how are you?”
“I am fine, thank you.” He stretched his hand to give her the small box before dipping his hand into his pocket and brought out a folded piece of paper, which he handed over to her. She looked at him curiously even as she took the piece of paper from him.
“What are these? Who gave them to you?”
“A certain lady. She said I should deliver it to door number. . .” he stepped back and stared at the door number sticker on her door. “Number 4.”
Amara was confused. “A lady, what was she like?”
“Thin and with a long hair. Look, mine was just to deliver it, is it okay if I go now?”
Amara stared at the folded piece of paper for a while and then at the small box, wondering which one to open first. She decided to open the box first and in it was a pair of white tiny baby shoes with red decorations, and car keys, which she didn’t pay attention to at first. They were so lovely, those shoes, she held them closed to her heart and resisted the temptation to kiss them. But her curiosity was now piqued so she placed the shoes down and unfolded the piece of paper, quickly going through its content:—”You must have come up with so many reasons on why I left the way I did but out of those many reasons, I want you to strike out ‘running from his responsibilities, wasn’t in love with me anymore’ and any other that might insinuate maybe I prefer my life without you in it. That will never be true. Sadly, we may never see each other again, because I doubt I will be alive for long. But if you check on the backseat of the car in your parking slot, hope you’ve seen the keys, you will see a black bag. In it is a sum of 30, 000 US Dollars. It may not be enough, but I hope you use it to take care of yourself and our baby. Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone about the source of this money or car. Much Love. Masai.”
Her hands began trembling then in a flash, she grabbed the car keys and run outside, spiralling down the staircases like a pro and stood abruptly when she saw a brand new navy blue BMW parked on her always empty parking slot, drops of rain running down its elegant skin.
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