The rain had died down and darkness had risen, spreading its large wings to cover the whole of Sahara village. It was so thick, this darkness, a spear wouldn’t have been able to pierce through it. The kind of calmness that shows its face after a heavy storm also settled in, making the night one of a kind. From where he sat, in the living room, his legs stretched out on the couch, and with the lights off, Tony listened to the distant voice of a lady singing in what he assumed was a church vigil. She had a beautiful voice which managed to pierce through the still night as she sang her heart out about hope. Or something along those lines. He listened to it until this voice turned out to be Eve’s and was no longer singing about hope. It was, instead, calling him a coward. A coward is what she called him earlier that evening and while ordinarily, he cared less if someone called him a coward for something he did or didn’t do, this was different. It was different because it was Eve calling him so. And what she thought of him mattered.
He closed his eyes and tried to catch some sleep but the only thing he caught were the memories of what happened that evening. He remembered standing in the kitchen’s doorway, hands thrust deeper inside his pockets, glaring at Eve with her face buried in his phone. He could have rushed and snatched the phone from her but he didn’t. He remained put, almost as if he wanted her to find whatever she was looking for. When Eve raised her head, he cleared his throat to announce his presence, but she did not look his way. He waited for a few seconds and then cleared his throat again, this time louder and she turned to look at him, eyes watery, veins running down her neck like multiple railway lines.
They locked eyes.
He removed his hands from his pockets and walked to her. Standing over her, he opened his mouth to speak but she raised her hand, her open palm facing him, signalling him to stop talking though he was yet to utter a word. She then stood up and moved closer to him, holding his gaze, and with a whisper which came out with so much venom, he was surprised it didn’t kill him immediately, called him a coward and left. It was still raining he tried in vain to stop her from leaving.
Afterwards, he felt guilty for so many things. He felt guilty for letting her go through his phone even though he knew she would find a conversation that would infuriate her. It was a conversation between him and Sophia, his longtime ex-girlfriend whom they had a civil breakup, complete with a handshake and acknowledgement that they had done their best, only their best wasn’t enough to keep their relationship afloat. They kept in touch when they could, and that’s how he learned that she was now blessed with a kid she named Tony. He thought she was bluffing when she told her this the first time but she wasn’t. “I can’t believe you are married now, Sophia,” he said. And after a long pause, she asked, “And who said I am married?” Sophia was an amazing woman as far as he could remember. When they first got together, it was because they thought they were right for each other. They were both outgoing, from well-to-do families, wild and attached no meaning to sex. Sex was just sex. But then things got serious when Sophia started getting jealous when Tony hung out with other women. So they decided to be serious. And later decided theirs wasn’t meant to be. But the understanding they had of each other was the one reason why they always went back to each other for advice when on a crossroad.
And so Tony had opened up to her about Eve and everything that was going on in his life. His dilemma. His confusion. It was in this conversation that Eve learned Danny was not really the father to Clair’s unborn baby. But for some reason, she was not even angry because of that. What made her angrier was when Sophia asked Tony what he planned to do and his response was, “I honestly don’t know. I know this will sound twisted but I wish I hadn’t let love change me. I kind of miss who I was. You think the other version of Tony would be caught up in such a mess? Sophia to be honest, I miss the kind of thing me and you had.”
And that was why got Eve angry. First that he was more than ready to open up to his ex than to her. And then that he lied to her about Danny. And though there was no evidence from the thread, she could swear that Sophia was dying to get back together with Tony. She hadn’t offered him any solution anyway. And so she had snapped when Tony tried to reach out and talk to her, called him a coward and left. He couldn’t stop her. The rain couldn’t stop her. She wanted to be as far from him as she could.
“God, I am stupid,” Tony mumbled as he lay there on the couch.
Eventually, weary and sleepy, he dozed off.
The next morning he left the house early to take a walk. When he told Sam that he was going out for a walk, Sam stopped brushing his teeth to look at him, wondering what he was up to. Going to take a walk wasn’t something that Tony would do. He loved staying indoors. So he rinsed his mouth and said, “I hope what you really mean is that you are going to find Eve and apologise profusely because, dude, that whole conversation with Sophia was uncalled for. Unless you want to lose her forever, you better apologise to her.”
Tony who was already at the door stared at him, chuckled, and then walked out, closing the door behind him.
Because it was always raining, Sahara village had green as its default colour. Almost every homestead was surrounded by a green fence and banana plantations to boot. A river run through the village, cutting it into two unequal halves. It was called Sahara River, and its water was so clean and clear when you stared at it, you could clearly see the clean sand laying beneath it. Sahara River was surrounded by big rocks and a manmade forest, which had beautifully arranged trees, making it a perfect spot for picnics. But picnics were a foreign phenomenon to Sahara villagers so no one came here for any picnic. In spite of all this, it was the children, their playfulness, that really brought the village to life. As Tony stood on top of one of the rocks, a safe distance from the river, he watched with a smile as kids, between the ages of eight and ten, others half naked and others completely naked, swum, splashing water at each other. They were full of giggles, these kids.
On a flat rock directly beside the river, sat two kids—a boy and a girl—who seemed more interested in whispering things to each other’s ear than to swim. The boy was shirtless, though, and in a pair of blue shorts. The girl was in a black dress and she sat with her legs spread out in front of her. The boy was doing more of the whispering and the girl more of the giggling. A boy who was completely naked, standing in the middle of the river, splashed some water to the girl on the rock and the boy she was with pointed his finger to him like he was daring him to do that again and the boy in search of mischief recoiled, going back to swimming.
Tony wanted to move closer and take a look at this boy’s face. Wanted to see the kind of authority he wielded for the other to fear him like that. Was that girl his girlfriend? There was something about that boy and girl that stirred his emotion. He suddenly felt this huge urge to see Eve. Like a revelation, it dawned on him that it was within his power to make things right. What the boy in the river had to do was wiggle his finger at the direction of the boy looking for their trouble and the problem was solved. And he knew he definitely needed to do more than just point his finger but whatever it was going to take, he was ready to do it. There was a renewed energy in him. His heart felt lighter he walked with ease. He removed his phone from his pocket to call Eve but something told him that going to see her in her father’s house was even a better idea. So he thrust his phone back in his pocket and walked, nay, run to mzee Daniel’s home.
At the gate, he stopped to catch his breath and when he was sure he was calm enough, he walked through the gate, confident, like he was walking into his own house. Eve’s mother was stepping out of the house when she saw him coming. Tony walked right to her and shook her hand. At first, he was scared that Eve might have told them everything but from the look on her face, it was like Eve hadn’t mentioned a thing to them. When they were done with pleasantries, Tony said,
“I am here to see Eve, ma, is she around?”
“You mean she didn’t tell you?”
Tony’s eyes narrowed, “Tell me what?”
“That she would be travelling to the city. She left early this morning.”
“To the city? To do what? What about her condition? She can’t be travelling to the city just like that, she is expectant for crying out loud.”
He tried not to raise his.
“I am confused, my son. I thought you knew that your mother had invited her over to stay with her until she puts to bed. You mean to tell me that neither of them told you this?”
His mother? Invited her over? When did she invite her over? Why hadn’t either of them mentioned anything in that regard to him? What was going on? Confused, he looked up to find Eve’s mother staring at him. For all it was worth, he was not ready to start answering the questions she was surely going to fire his way if he didn’t act up so he smiled and said, “I think they mentioned it to me, I must have forgotten. Sorry for bothering you, ma, I will simply give Eve a call.” And without giving her room to respond, he turned around and quickly walked away.