Amara sat on the floor with her back propped against the wall and a pillowcase between her thighs, fighting hard to stop tears from rolling. Her mind was being tormented by her mother’s voice, cursing and crying, wondering how she could be so insensitive that she hadn’t bothered going to the village to help in the search for her brother. Visions of where and how her brother was, came and went out of her mind in a flash. She imagined he had already passed out from crying a lot since Alexis hated being in unfamiliar places amid unfamiliar people, even when Amara and his mother were around. He loved home. He loved being in a space where he could play freely; disorganize everything in the house without backlash, other than a warning look from either his mother or Amara. He was probably confined in a dark room somewhere, where he would occasionally be given a plate of suspicious-looking food until something happened; something like giving Masai up.
She glanced up to see Masai pacing the room, her phone on his ear. He snapped his fingers and mumbled something under his breath as if willing for whoever was on the other end of the phone to answer. He turned to Amara and their eyes met. He froze for a second, before looking the other way as he paced around. Moments later he sat next to Amara without saying anything. Amara was crying silently, her head thrown back against the wall. He stroked her dreadlocks and later rested his hand on her shoulder, pulling her closer.
She rested her head on his shoulder.
“She hates me,” she said, her voice gentler than the touch of a feather.
He rubbed her neck gently.
“Your mum doesn’t hate you, my dear, don’t be silly.”
“But she does. She thinks I don’t care about Alexis. I mean, what else could she be thinking after I told her I couldn’t go home?”
“We know you have a valid reason for not going. Look, we will get Alexis back; that I promise you.”
“How will we get him back?” She raised her head and blew her nose. “we are not even sure what that cruel man has done to him and, why hasn’t he called to state his demands?”
“I can’t tell for sure, but he is only using your brother to get to me, so he can’t harm him. About calling, he will. I think he wants you to grow desperate so by the time he calls, you will do as he asks without asking questions.”
“How I wish I could tell my mother what’s going on. Knowing her, she is sick with worry and I am scared something bad might happen to her.”
She blew her nose again, this time harder, and wiped the tears that kept flooding from her face. Masai saw defeat in her eyes, and it made him angry that she was suffering because of him, and his selfish desire to get money; money he did not even need in the first place. He scrolled through Amara’s phone to find Hassan’s contact then called him. He sighed in relief when his phone rung, but shook his head in frustration when he didn’t answer. He called him again, and again, and when he still didn’t pick up, he almost threw the phone against the wall. He slumped on the couch and spread his feet before him like someone having an epileptic fit. When the phone rang, he jumped in excitement and started talking before pressing the answer button.
“It’s Masai,” he said. Amara looked at him and he mouthed, ‘it’s Hassan,’ before focusing on the call again. “I am good, man, but we have a problem; your uncle has kidnapped Amara’s brother and I thought maybe you could help us find him, on phone or otherwise.”
He listened in for a few seconds and said. “I know I’m the one he wants, and I am ready to give myself up if he lets Amara’s brother go in one piece. That poor kid doesn’t deserve this.”
They talked for a few more minutes and when he hung up, Amara was standing right next to him.
“What did he say?” she asked
“He says he has been trying to reach his uncle in vain. But he will try again and get back to us.”
She held her waist. “Are you really going to give yourself up?”
“We have no other option. Besides, I knew this day would come so we will have to wait and see. Don’t worry, we will be fine,” he said with a smile.
“We will be fine? In what world are you imagining us being fine? That man is dangerous; he will kill you. And there is still no guarantee that he will let me, and my brother live after that.”
“Like I said, we will be fine. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I don’t know,” she shook her head, “Maybe telling yourself that everything will be fine is your way of dealing with a stressful situation, but I am scared. Nothing is going to be fine.”
He chuckled, pulling her in for a hug. Half an hour later, Hassan called to confirm that his uncle would be seeing them in the evening at Amara’s place. He would be coming with Amara’s brother whom he would give up in exchange for Masai. Hassan also said that he didn’t trust his uncle, so he advised Masai to be away from the house and await his instructions on when it would be safe to show up.
“Will you be coming along with him?” Masai had asked.
“No, I am coming early. We can’t let Amara be alone with that beast even for a second. He will find me at Amara’s place when he arrives.”
Masai was uncomfortable with the idea of him hiding, again, leaving Amara’s safety in the hands of Hassan. So, he had told Hassan the idea won’t work but Amara told him they would be going with Hassan’s plan. Neither of them knew what to expect that evening. They sat opposite from each other, often stealing glances at each other, without breaking the deafening silence. As evening approached, Amara called her mother and when she didn’t answer, she left her a message. She had never written her mother a text message before and she doubted she would even read it, but she sent it anyway because she had run out of options.
“Mama, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to talk to you that way when you called but something is happening and believe me, my coming home won’t help with the situation. But I promise you we will find Alexis and bring him home safely. Then I will tell you everything.”
She kept staring at her phone after sending that message, her eyes flashing with excitement each time her phone blinked for she expected that it was her mother’s text. Disappointment would creep in each time she found out it wasn’t her. Her worry grew with each passing second till she wasn’t sure which worried her more; the thought that her mother hated her or that Alexis was missing.
She stood by the window and maintained her gaze outside. She keenly scrutinized the cars that drove in and the people that alighted from them, suspecting Abdi Hassan would be dropped by one of those cars soon. Her phone blinked with a message. It was her mother. Her whole body shook with emotion as she opened it, and suddenly her eyes were covered with dark clouds. With her fingers trembling, she let the phone fall on her feet. Masai dashed to her, asking, “What is it?” before picking the phone on the floor and reading the message.
“Hi, Amara, this is Suzy, your cousin. Your mother collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. We are still not sure what it is, but we suspect it’s a heart attack.”
Masai wanted to say something that would make her feel better, but he didn’t know what to say. He hugged her instead and didn’t try to dry her tears. They were still in each other’s arms when a knock was heard at the door. Masai went to get it and the moment he came face to face with Hassan, they both looked lost on what to do. Do they hug? Or just shake hands? Hassan spread his arms and came in for a hug but Masai stretched his hand. Trying not to act disappointed, Hassan shook Masai’s hand and noticed that Masai’s grip was tighter than it was necessary. He was also looking him directly in the eye and all the while Hassan forced a smile, making the situation more awkward.
“Good to see you, man,” Hassan said.
“Come on in,” Masai replied, stepping aside.
When Hassan and Amara hugged, they held each other with the familiarity of people who had held each other before. Masai was not sure whether this was true, or if this was him being jealous and suspicious, for nothing. He also hated how Hassan held on to Amara’s hands long after they were done hugging, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it was only yesterday that he had confessed to cheating on Amara, he would have gone and slapped Hassan’s hand away. Amara glanced his way and he tried in vain to force a smile. When Hassan finally let go of Amara’s hands, he sighed and closed the door before taking a seat next to Amara. With the three of them in the same room, the air reeked of awkwardness. Three times, they talked over each other and three times they all had to stop mid-sentence to allow one person to speak.
“Masai, you need to get going, bro,” Hassan said, ” we need to be sure that my uncle gives us Alexis before seeing you.”
Masai did not say anything. He left to the bedroom, emerging a few seconds later holding Amara’s trench coat. He leaned down to kiss Amara on the lips. “Like I said, we will be fine.”
She nodded and watched him leave.
“What’s the plan?” she asked Hassan as soon as Masai closed the door behind him. “Masai and my brothers’ lives are at risk here, so I need to know what the plan is.”
“The plan is to get everyone out of this shit safely.”
“That doesn’t sound like a plan to me.”
“We need to have a leverage for when my uncle arrives. If he steps foot into this house and the first person he sees is Masai, what would make him let go of your brother or anyone else for that matter? Look, all I ask of you is trust.”
She did not say anything, not because she had nothing to say, but because she did not see words making the situation any better. She and Hassan loafed around, watching the clock tick. At nightfall, Amara walked into the shower to have a long bath. She needed to be fresh when things finally went down. When she stepped out of the bathroom, she had a warm towel wrapped around her chest. She knew Hassan was watching her as she tiptoed to the bedroom and it was like she was teasing him intentionally. Later, sliding into a dress, she scolded herself for having revenge thoughts at such a time. She thought she heard a knock on the door, so she stood still and listened keenly.
“They are here,” it was Hassan speaking.
Her heart leapt. She opened the door and stuck her head out. Hassan was rubbing his hands together as if he was preparing for a fight.
“What do we do now?” she whispered and wondered why she was whispering.
“I will go open the door,” Hassan said.
“Wait,” Amara reached out and grabbed his hand.
“Nothing will happen to you,” he said.
She tagged behind him as he went to open the door and a lump of rage formed in her throat when she saw Abdi Hassan standing outside, smartly dressed in an expensive black suit like last time. He stood with his hands clenched in front of him. His two muscular bodyguards stood on his sides. He gazed past Hassan to stare at Amara and then his gaze dropped to Hassan.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“You had no business kidnapping Amara’s brother. Don’t you have a conscience?
“I am sorry, you think I came all the way here to listen to a boring lecture about Conscience. Please! Where is that idiot?”
“Where is Alexis?”
“He is in the car downstairs,” he said. “But don’t worry, someone is keeping him company.”
“I want to see him,” Amara said.
“You will see him, right after you tell or show me where Masai is.”
“We need to see the boy before anything else,” Hassan said.
“Do I need to remind you who is calling the shots here?” Abdi Hassan said.
“I am calling the shots here,” Hassan snapped, raising his voice. “You have a problem with Masai, you go after Masai and not his fiancee or his fiancee’s little brother.”
“Just because you are my nephew it doesn’t mean I will hesitate to put a bullet through your skull. So listen up, tell me where Masai is,” he pulled a gun out of his pants, “Or I will start shooting.”
“I am sorry?”
“We need to see Alexis. Tell whoever he is with to bring him here otherwise,” Hassan pulled a gun out of his pants too and Amara gasped. The two bodyguards pulled out their guns too and pointed at Hassan. Hassan had his pointed at his uncle. “Otherwise I will shoot you. Being my uncle doesn’t mean I will hesitate to put a bullet through your skull. Now. Tell. Whoever. Is. In the Car. With. Alexis. To. Bring Him. Upstairs!”
“You are not going to shoot me!”
Hassan cocked his gun. “Try me.”
“You have balls,” His uncle said, and put his gun away. He pulled a phone out of his coat and made a call. A few minutes later, a thin guy with a fancy hairstyle and thin pair of jeans showed up with Alexis walking ahead of him. The moment Amara saw her brother, she pushed herself past Hassan and his uncle and ran towards Alexis. Alexis ran towards her screaming in excitement and soon she was lifting him up in the air. Hassan was enjoying the little reunion of a brother and sister that he forgot he was holding a gun, which his uncle snatched and pressed its muzzle on his forehead. “Now. Tell. Me. Where. Masai is. Or,” he laughed “I will shoot.”
Editor Credits: Nyarinda Moraa