The sun was yet to rise when Eve woke up that Saturday morning. Tiptoeing to the window with a loud yawn, she drew the curtain to let in a tide of fine breeze, jumped back in bed, and grabbed the book she’d been reading before falling asleep—A Way Out Of No Way by Wanda Wright. She loved everything about the book, but she especially loved how Wanda didn’t hold back when writing the sex scenes, laying everything bare and making her burst into flames of want. On Page 37, she threw her head back against the pillow and imagined how wrong and fulfilling it would be if she were to find someone who would do to her what ‘O’ was doing to Paradise. A few names crossed her mind, but for each one of them, she had a reason why they didn’t fit the bill.
There was Tyson, the tall and muscular guy who lived downstairs. He drove a big car and had a shiny head. She suspected the reason he never grew his hair was that he was balding and was afraid that would ruin his chances with the ladies. He played for a local rugby team but she couldn’t be with him because, at 35, he still lived with his mother. Granted, he claimed it was his mother living with him, but still. Then there was Enock, her church mate. Other than his name sounding so Biblical it felt wrong to commit adultery with him, listening to him always felt like watching a movie with hip characters who suddenly decide to hurl their luggage in a car trunk and drive down to coast for an impromptu road trip. He worked with a travel agency and loved talking about the places he visited, and the women in the places he visited.
“When a woman from Kampala Uganda sits on your face, you will be dead in seconds because the size of her bum won’t allow air to reach you. But Ugandan women, my sister, are the real deal,” he once said to Eve after coming back from his trip to Kampala. He even had photographic evidence to back his assertions.
He, too, did not make her wet.
But Christopher, or Chris, as she loved to call him, was different. He was smart and measured. Always saying the right thing. That he was married and Tony’s lawyer made the whole thing intriguing. She closed her eyes, pictured herself in his arms then suddenly, flashed her eyes open and reprimanded herself. If she wasn’t careful, she would find herself in pursuit of her wild thoughts, aiming to turn them into a reality. She sat up straight, sighed, and loudly turned a new page. She hadn’t even finished reading a sentence when she heard a knock on the door. Because she wasn’t expecting anyone, she listened in again until the doorbell rang for the second time before stepping down from her bed, throwing on the short white dress she wore the previous day and went to check who it was.
Standing outside the door was her mother-in-law and a young lady she was seeing for the first time. The lady was in a long green dress and next to her was a big brown travelling bag. Eve quickly studied her, admiring her light skin which lightened up the otherwise dull morning, and her striking restless eyes. She then stepped forward with a smile to hug her mother in law, but her mother-in-law did not wrap her arms around her like she usually did. Like a tree trunk, she didn’t move. And Eve was stung by this show of coldness. Were they quarrelling? The last time Tony’s mother was around, when Eve came home in the morning after a night of partying, she had expected hell would break loose and the devil to join them for breakfast but, to her surprise, Tony’s mother had maintained her cool. Even when she offered an explanation on where she had spent the night, Tony’s mother had shrugged as if to say she didn’t need to explain herself.
Eve took a step back, eyes narrowed at Tony’s mother who avoided her gaze. She turned to the lady she had come with and held her hand out for a handshake, but the lady shrugged off the handshake and came in for a hug. Her friendliness surprised Eve, and she immediately decided that she liked her, a decision she would revoke soon after.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming,” Eve said as she ushered them in.
Tony’s mother gestured with her hand for the young lady she was with to go in first. And when she eventually came in herself, she did not make any effort to go further inside. She stood close to the door and announced, almost too suddenly, “This is Diana, my best friend’s daughter. I have been her godmother since she was a tiny little girl.” She turned to Diana and added, proudly, “She has a bachelor of arts in Psychology from the University of Nairobi.”
“Nice to meet you, Diana,” said Eve. “Please, have a seat. Can I fix you two something to drink?”
“That won’t be necessary, my dear, I am in a bit of a hurry,” Tony’s mother said.
“Where are you two travelling to?”
“No one is travelling. Diana will be staying with you until the day Tony will be released from prison.”
“I-I am sorry, what?”
“I know you heard me right the first time, dear, don’t make me repeat myself. Besides, since you have taken up the habit of going out to drink at night, leaving my poor grandson alone, or in the company of some stranger, it’s only right that I step in and make sure someone will always be here to take care of him. Either that or I take care of him myself.”
“Respectfully, mum, you surely don’t expect that I will be okay with you bringing a total stranger into my house, leave alone agreeing to live with her.”
“I just told you that I am Diana’s Godmother and that her mother is my best friend, how is she a stranger then?”
“You said it yourself. Your Goddaughter and her mother is your best friend, not mine!” Eve was trying to keep her voice down.
“She is staying here.”
“No, she’s not.”
“Are you challenging me?”
“Tony would have done the same if he were here.”
“But he’s not here, is he? You made sure that he ended up in jail so you can sleep around and drink yourself to stupor! If you didn’t want to be married anymore, why didn’t you just say so? Did you have to send my only child to prison?”
Eve felt anger rising in the pit of her stomach. Her whole body shook, first with rage, then with disgust. She wiped tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and when she looked at her mother-in-law, she hoped to see something different. But all she saw was contempt in her eyes. She folded her arms and then unfolded them. Pacing the room, she ran her fingertips over furniture and silently wished her hand could grasp something she could throw at someone. Why did she have to take this? Why did she have to be the one to take the blame for someone else’s action? She stopped, almost too suddenly, as if she just had a revelation.
“Diana is not staying with me and that’s final!” Her eyes flashed with defiance. “And one more thing, you are not welcomed in my house if all you are going to do when you visit is bring trouble with you.”
She felt liberated to be able to say these words to her mother-in-law. Though something told her she was going to need more than stern words to back her mother-in-law into a corner of retreat.
“Your house? Did I hear you say that this is your house?” she let out a long, lifeless laughter that was meant to ridicule Eve more than it was meant to anger her. “I paid for this house with my money, in case you don’t remember.”
“Doesn’t matter. It still is my house. And I am going to ask you both to leave before I lose my temper and . . .”
“And, what, send us to our graves? Don’t kid yourself. How did you imagine this playing out? That you will send my only child to prison and I will allow you to enjoy life in the house that I paid for? Are you really this stupid?”
Tony’s mother moved further into the room, the clip-clop sound of her heels filling the air. She dropped her handbag on the table with a small thud and paced the room, surveyed the living room as if to make sure everything was in order. Her eyes landed on one of the photos hanging on the wall, that of Eve sitting on Tony’s laps with her arms around his neck and his arms around her waist. She moved closer to stare at it, arms folded against her chest. Diana looked confused like no one had told her this was going to happen.
“I was excited when you and Tony got married because I thought you would make a good wife,” she snorted and turned to look at Eve. “I am not sure I want you for a daughter-in-law anymore. But I won’t send you back to your folks just yet. For the meantime, Diana will stay here whether you like it or not.”
“But, mum,” Diana started, but Tony’s mother couldn’t let her talk.
“You don’t have to say a word, my dear. You will be comfortable here, I promise.”
“But the only reason I agreed to come is that I thought Eve is okay with this arrangement. You said that she needed company, did you not?”
“Forget what I said. This, by all means, is my house.” She turned to Eve. “Please, show Diana her room.”
Eve tried to speak but her clenched jaw couldn’t allow a word to escape her mouth. Afraid she will say something she would regret, Eve went and sat down quietly, legs crossed and face buried in her arms. She wondered how the love Tony’s mother had for her could turn into hate that fast. She also wondered if perhaps she had pretended to love her all the while because she knew her son was broken when she met him and was lucky to find a woman ready to commit to him.
“You can’t do this to me,” Eve mumbled.
“Please show Diana her room.”
“She. Is. Not. Staying. Here!” She could no longer keep her voice down. The bubbling rage in her couldn’t allow her. “You are not going to intimidate and humiliate me in my own house. No, I won’t allow it.”
Without a word, Tony’s mother walked across the room, grabbed her handbag and left. When Diana made as if to follow her, she said, “Your mother is not expecting you home today. This will be your home if you behave yourself. My son deserves better, and he will get it, once he’s out.”
Confused, Diana walked back into the house and sat next to Eve on the couch.
“I do not know what arrangement Tony’s mother has with my mother, but I want you to know I am not a part of it.”
“Please, leave my house.”
Diana stood and dragged her heavy bag behind her on her way out. When Eve looked up, Damian, whom she thought was still asleep, was standing at his bedroom door, sucking his right thumb, and looking at her with teary eyes.
Something in her moved.
Editor: Nyarinda Moraa
Model: Rael Tomboy
Photographer: Otieno Nyadimo