The last bit of her scream was muffled up with a sigh of relief when she ascertained that it was Masai in her house. Neither of them said nor did anything for the next few seconds. They stared at each other in silence, his red unblinking eyes showing he had been crying. His hair, just like his beard, was unkempt, one would think he had been living in a forest. But even in the midst of all this mess that was him, she couldn’t help noticing that he had grown more handsome. His lips moved with a twinge of a smile and hers trembled with both excitement and anxiety. When he stood and started walking towards her, she took a step back, almost as if she was terrified of him. He stopped and threw his hands up in the air.
“I know I look different,” he said, “but scary?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You keep disappearing when I most need you, yet you expect me to welcome you with open arms when you show up unannounced? What’s wrong with you?”
“I am sorry, my dear”
“You are sorry? Sorry for what exactly? Because I have lost count of the things you need to apologize for.” Her voice was rising with anger.
“For everything. I am sorry for everything. I put you in this mess and it was wrong for me to run away when I should have stayed by your side and protected you and our unborn baby.” He lowered his eyes and spoke in a near whisper. “Just that I thought being away from you would keep you safer.”
“And the other woman?” she snapped. Deep down she knew that this wasn’t the right time to bring the other woman into the conversation but she couldn’t help it. She took a step closer to him and looked him in the eye. “Was she also part of the plan to keep me safe?”
He knew the woman she was talking about, but he still asked, “What woman?”
She scowled. “Don’t annoy me.”
He sighed. “You won’t believe it but yes, she was part of the plan to keep you safe.”
She broke into a strong, long sarcastic laughter, and clapped her hands in the same way African women do when they need you to know they are not going to believe what you are going to say, but still want to hear you say it anyway. He took a step closer to her and this time she did not move back, she instead cast him a warning look. “Do not try to touch me, mister,” she said.
He sighed. “I am sure you already know about Abdi Hassan and the deal I had with him so I will skip that part. You know, men like him instill fear in people by going after their loved ones until they get what they want. For me, I had no loved one, and it was working in my favor until I met you. After the death of his son, he had no reason to spare my life anymore, he did his investigation and discovered that I was seeing someone but didn’t know whom. I walked away and hooked up with the other chic to mislead him.”
“Are you done? Is that it?”
“You have to believe me, Amara.”
“Of course I believe you,” she said. “Can’t you see how excited I am to finally get to listen to this grand excuse? You, my dear, must think I am a fool.”
“I knew you won’t believe me,” he mumbled.
“And you still didn’t think of coming up with a better excuse. I mean, tell me, you hooked up with some other chic to save me because, what, her life didn’t matter to you?”
“She was not just any other chic, Amara.”
“I know, she had a borrowed accent.”
“She is a cop.”
“I told her everything and she agreed that, for a small fee, she would act like my girlfriend because she was more than able to protect herself.”
Amara did not know what to say. Suddenly, what he was saying sounded like the truth. She folded her hands over her chest and gave him a long stare, and he stared right back at her.
“How did you meet her?” she asked, softly.
“In a bar.”
“Did you have sex with her?”
“Once, but it didn’t mean anything Amara, I—”
She lifted her finger and he kept quiet.
“I didn’t ask if it meant anything or not,” she said before sprinting to her room and locking herself in. He kept knocking on her door, calling out her name but she refused to open. When he couldn’t knock anymore, he slid, with his back on the door, to the floor and sat down. Amara spread herself on the bed, tears rolling down her cheeks. She did not quite understand her anger. Was she angry because Masai had sex with another woman or because he had the audacity to admit to it? Would she rather he had lied? She pulled the pillows close and cuddled, occasionally coughing to free the lump that had formed in her throat, making it difficult for her to breathe. But it wasn’t long before a sense of guilt kicked in. Life had been a mess for her, knowing that her life and that of her younger brother were at risk, but how had it been for Masai? Constantly being on the run, knowing that if he closed both his eyes while asleep a psycho drug dealer would creep onto him, bearing a razor-sharp knife and cut the life out of him? Maybe she should be a little bit understanding? Maybe she should forgive him, find a way to deal with their issue and then be mad at him later? She turned and tossed, then hopped out of bed, half expecting to find him gone. It wouldn’t be the first time anyway.
She opened the door and Masai, who had been sleeping with his back against the door lost his balance and almost slumped on the floor but he was quick to put his elbow down for support. He looked up, his eyes half closed and saw her. She wasn’t smiling, but there was a new calmness about her. About the way her eyes rolled on him, almost like he was a homeless man and she was sorry for him.
“Get up,” she said.
“Do you forgive me?”
“Don’t mention forgiveness to me. I will kill you myself when this is over.”
He smiled. That she believed all this was going to end filled him with joy, making him hopeful of the future. They stood too close to each other, and he could tell that a kiss was forthcoming, but she took a step back, grabbed a towel hanging on the wall and threw it to him. “You need to take a shower, you are smelling.”
Barely had the shower water started running when he began singing. The normalcy of his singing reminded her of the good old times when they only had their future to worry about. From where she stood in the kitchen, holding a cup of coffee, she broke into a smile before silently singing along with him to Nelly’s Just A dream. It was difficult to keep up with him though since he sang a little bit faster, probably because of the water hitting his body; making it difficult for him to breath and sing in the normal pace at the same time. He stepped out of the shower a few minutes later with a towel wrapped around his waist and saw her watching him. He thought she was staring at his stubble so he said, “I will shave tomorrow.”
“Actually, you do look great, maybe you can just trim it.”
“If you say so.”
She gave him her grey sweatpants and T-shirt to wear as he had no changing clothes. In bed, she told him to stay at his side of the bed because she wasn’t going to let him touch her and he nodded in agreement, though she wished he didn’t. She wished he could at least beg to hold her but he didn’t, and she knew it was because he didn’t want to push his luck. So as she slept with her back to him, she fought the urge of turning to him and asking him to touch her if he wanted. But she didn’t. He needed to know that she was still angry that he cheated on her.
She woke up just as the morning sunlight started lingering behind the curtain. Propping herself up on her elbow, she looked at Masai and was amazed at how peaceful he was in his sleep. He did not look like someone who knew his life was in danger. So he did not sleep with an eye open. He just slept. With his eyes closed, his chest rising and falling slowly as he breathed. She ran his fingers through his beard, stroking it, and her touch woke him up. He broke into a smile and closed his eyes again.
“What happened to each one of us staying on their side of the bed?” he asked.
“They will come for you, you know,” she said softly in a caring voice.
“Let them come, I am done running.”
“What’s the plan? I mean, you have a plan, right?”
“The plan is to stay here with you and wait for whatever happens to happen.”
He pushed the duvet off to reveal her semi-naked body. Her breasts were out, erected defiantly against the morning cold and pointing in his direction like dangerous weapons. He looked at them like he was seeing them for the first time before he lifted his hand to touch them. They were firm. Excitement coursed down his being as he fondled the left one, then the right one. She held his gaze and it wasn’t long before she helped him out of his T-shirt and sweatpants, completely uninterested in foreplay because him being away for that long was foreplay enough, so she climbed on top of him and rode him, slowly at first, then quickly, like she was trying to light a fire in her nether regions.
There was something about the way he looked at her that was endearing. Like he knew he didn’t have too much time to live or look at her and was savoring this moment. She slowed down and in a flash, he flipped her and came on top, humping her with the slowness and surety of someone who knew what he was doing. Minutes later they were both gasping for breath, him groaning loudly like a wounded lion, before dropping on her side. She ran her open palm over his sweaty and sticky chest.
“You must leave,” she said.
“I am not leaving.”
“He may come today or tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how long it will take but I am sure he will come and you do not want to be here when he does.”
“I am flattered that you are worried about me but like I said yesterday, I am done running.” He slipped out of bed and walked to the window, drew the curtain and stared outside. She loved his determination but was still worried.
Night came and day broke and Abdul didn’t show up. He didn’t show up the day after either. When two weeks elapsed and Amara didn’t hear from him, she thought maybe the plan Hassan had worked and now they had nothing to worry about. Yet even Hassan couldn’t be reached over the phone. She would be worried when she went to work, at first, but after the two weeks she worried less and stopped imagining coming home from work to find Masai strapped on a chair, breathing heavily with a knife on his throat.
One day in the evening as she prepared for work, her phone rung. It was her mum calling. There was nothing unusual about her mother calling her but she knew immediately it was about her brother. She hesitated to answer her call, especially when she saw Masai standing by the door, staring at her as if he knew what the call was about as well. When she finally answered, it only took a few seconds for her to turn to Masai and whisper, in the midst of tears, “My brother is missing.”
Editor Credits: Nyarinda Moraa
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