Eve had just stepped out of the bathroom when the doorbell rang. She tossed the towel on the bed and grabbed a dark brown Kanga, wrapped it around her chest and tiptoed to the door. She flushed Christopher a smile when she opened the door, said “hi,” and stepped aside to let him in but he did not move. Something seemed to have grabbed his attention and Eve could immediately tell what. The kanga covered only a small portion of her thighs, leaving the rest bare for Christopher to marvel at. Worried that he would think she was doing this on purpose, Eve cursed herself for not throwing on some random clothes before rushing to the door.
When Christopher didn’t look up or pretend he wasn’t ogling at her, Eve feigned a cough which snapped him out of his bewilderment. He smiled, his usual easy smile that lightened up his face and made his eyes appear bigger in a good way, mumbled something she couldn’t hear and stepped in.
“Can I offer you anything?” she asked, closing the door behind her before pointing him to the sitting area.
“I am fine, thanks.” He curled his wrist and looked at his watch. “Tony must be waiting for us so maybe you can go change we leave?” he asked, almost as if he was expecting her to tell him she had something else in mind, something he would be down for.
“Sure,” she said, walking away.
As she walked towards the hallway leading to her bedroom, she could feel his eyes on her ass, which was rocking beneath the kanga. She showed up almost fifteen minutes later to find him still standing, looking at her family photos hanging on the wall. He seemed interested, especially, in a photo in which Eve was seated on Tony’s laps with her arms around his neck and his hands around her waist. He turned around when he heard footsteps, glanced at her, and again mumbled something she couldn’t hear. For a lawyer, Christopher was a reserved man. He did not say much, almost as if he saved his words for court battles. But she could still tell from the way he looked at her that he loved her short, blue lace off the shoulder dress.
“Tony will be happy to see you,” he said. “Shall we?”
Eve nodded and led the way out.
They drove in silence. Christopher had one hand on the steering wheel and the other resting on the open window. She would occasionally throw him a quick glance and smile. There was a certain calmness to him that made it easy and comfortable being around him. She adjusted her seat, leaned backwards and with her palm on her forehead, asked, “Do you think he has had a change of mind?”
“I hope he has,” he said. “Being in prison even for a month is not easy, so I am ready to bet he has had a change of mind.”
“I don’t understand why he thinks he is to blame for what happened to Raymond.” she sighed. “The least he could do is allow you appeal the case so he can get a lighter sentence and come home to us. I mean, how could he think it’s okay being in there while we are out here?”
“Tony needs to forgive himself to be at peace. Even if he is released today and he hasn’t forgiven himself, he will still be a prisoner of self.”
“He needs not forgiveness but understanding that it wasn’t his fault. If anything, I am to blame because I am the one who started it.”
“Don’t beat yourself up. What happened was no one’s fault.”
“I wish his mother thought so, too.”
“What? Is everything okay with you and Tony’s mother?”
She did not answer him. He was going to ask again but reserved that question for later because he could now see the long and wide perimeter of the correctional centre Tony was in, guarded by heavily armed prison guards, some of whom patrolled the perimeter fence. As they drove past the manned gate, Eve imagined how bad it was being held captive in this place. The inmates were in white uniforms with black strips. They were all bald, and she dreaded seeing Tony without his facial hair. A few inmates were playing basketball in a small fenced area with metallic benches around it. Those who weren’t playing were standing in twos, and though she hadn’t expected all inmates to be shedding tears, she certainly didn’t expect to see wide smiles on their faces. When they stepped out of the car, one of the guards led them to the visitation room where friends and relatives had come to see their loved ones. They sat on one of the benches and Eve tried not to stare at the inmate on her left who was whispering and softly banging on the table with his fist as the elderly woman Eve assumed was his mother listened silently. She feared looking the inmates in the eye would upset them.
The joy in Tony’s eyes when he showed up was profound. Jumping to her feet, Eve made as if to walk towards him but one of the guards standing on the sides of the room shook his head disapprovingly. When he hugged her, it was a brief hug because they did not allow lingering hugs in prison, leaving her yearning for more. He only shook hands with Christopher who after a minute or so, walked out of the room to give them some privacy.
“You promised you won’t get locked up,” she said as they sat down.
He looked at her in silence with a lingering smile. She found it odd that he was looking fine because a part of her had expected he would be thinner. While he did not look as handsome without hair, he was still handsome, and his teeth were white like he flossed every morning. For someone in prison, he seemed to be doing better than she was. Since he was locked up, she had avoided looking at herself in the mirror because she feared she wouldn’t like what she would see. On this day, though, because she was coming to see him, she had taken a few minutes in front of the mirror and wasn’t surprised that her collarbones were now showing. Her face had grown narrower, and she wondered if he now found her less attractive.
“You look beautiful,” he said, almost as if he was reading her mind. His words drew a smile from her and as she sat across from him, wondering how his neck could be filled up while in prison, she was happy he was still the Tony she married. The kind who knew just how and when to erase the self-doubt creeping onto her.
“I must admit that I never thought I would be able to identify you at first sight. Seems like prison life is not taking a toll on you,” she said, reaching for his hand. He darted his eyes towards one of the prison guards standing next to the door as if to ask for his permission before letting Eve hold his hand, and Eve could have sworn she saw the guard nod. A slight nod, but a nod all the same.
“What, you’ve already made friends in here?”
“My roommate, The Reverend, is the one who has made friends in here.”
“I see. You are his what?”
Tony laughed. “Don’t even go there.”
“Seriously, I need to know if someone has turned my husband into their wife.”
He laughed even harder. “Don’t be stupid. We are just friends.”
“Oh-oh, just friends?”
“Ha-ha, stop playing. He is a roommate and a good friend. It’s because of him that life has been kind to me since my first day here.” He tilted his head, “How have you been? I truly missed you. How’s our young man? And my mother? I hope she’s not giving you—”
“Shush,” she placed a finger on his lips. “Everyone is doing fine. Damian is growing curious by the day, asking about you and when you will be coming home. Your mother picked him up this morning.”
It was probably nothing, but Tony noticed she said, “Your Mother,” instead of just mother. Since they got married, they simply referred to each other’s mother as mother, and at each given time they would know whose mother they were talking about.
“You are lying. I know when you are hiding something from me, Eve. So, tell me, what’s wrong?”
She looked away. “I could be wrong, but I think your mother blames me for what happened.”
“Did she tell you that?”
“She doesn’t have to.”
“It’s probably nothing. I am seeing you for the first time since you were locked up, I don’t think it’s wise to use this time to discuss things that could as well be my imagination.”
“If something is going on that’s making you uncomfortable, I need to know. It’s not your fault I am in here and no one, not even my mum, has the right to blame it on you.”
She kissed the back of his hand. “Life is not the same without you. My days are lonely and nights lonelier. What’s worse is I am running out of excuses to tell Damian when he asks about you every night and,” she shook her head, “And I am not sure I can continue being strong for him, so could you please come home?”
He was going to tell her that unfortunately, it wasn’t up to him to decide when to walk out of prison, but she knew that already. He wanted to say something to make her feel better, but nothing came to mind. He also noticed that by staring at one spot, she was trying to stop tears from rolling down her cheeks. He wished he was going home with her and it saddened him that he wasn’t even going to voice his wish because one of the guards was already standing next to them, telling them their time was up and she needed to leave. He turned to look at her as he walked away, tears balancing in his eyes.
That evening, after Christopher dropped her home, she decided not to go pick Damian from his grandmother’s place. She needed to be alone. She poured herself a glass of juice and lounged on the sofa, thinking of Tony, and how seeing him had made things difficult for her. She later received a text message from Christopher, asking if she could join them for an evening out with his wife. “I know you’ve had a long day,” the text read, “So I reckon you could do with a night out.” She could use with a night out, but not with Christopher and his wife. She was still embarrassed about the earlier incident with Christopher when he came to pick her up and being in his presence and that of his wife would make things even more awkward. It didn’t help that Christopher was married to an overly possessive woman who could smell mischief before it even happened. “Thank you for the offer,” she wrote back, “But I am planning to retire to bed early tonight, maybe another night?” She had just placed her phone down when it flashed with another message, “No worries, beautiful, have a lovely night.”
Did he just call her ‘beautiful?’ She sat up straight in shock.
Editor: Nyarinda Moraa
Model: Rael Tomboy
Photographer: Otieno Nyadimo