Celebrating East African Writing!
She liked the silence. It meant the freedom of an empty house. She read letters then, letters not written for her, reviewed pictures then, pictures not even intended for albums. It gave her a taste of their world, a taste for their wealth.
So she waited for those silences to don the Madam’s jewels, to scrutinize the Mkubwa’s receipts, to behold what they had hidden. She was in that stillness the master of the house and the owner of those secrets.
She listened to their points of dissension, listened to their rants and their gossip. The Mkubwa, the boss, suspected an uninvited audience. So one day, he opened the door and finding her ear to it, slapped her. But the warning only caused her to dig deeper and to play with in her hands for longer what wasn’t hers to hold.
Like a jealous third wife, Kalekye found comfort in stirring up trouble, and it was easy to dispense it to the company around her.
‘Hakuna maziwa,’ there is no milk, she told the Askari guard, when he asked for tea. ‘Hakuna stima,’ there is no electricity she told him when he asked if he could charge his cell-phone inside. ‘Hakuna Kalekye,’ he humoured himself when lunchtime came around and Kalekye was nowhere to be found.
But even the most patient of people had a threshold for Kalekye’s insolence. One day, the Askari asked of her, “Please, if the Mkubwa comes, open the gate for him. I’m going very quickly, to the kiosk, to send M-Pesa. I’ll be back now-now. Here are the keys.”
And like a fool handing over his money to a thief for safekeeping, Kalekye went for the kill.
“Askari? I don’t know where he went. I don’t have any keys,” she told the Mkubwa while he waited at the gate. Incensed at the Askari’s seeming irresponsibility and having to send and wait for someone to deliver a spare set of keys, the Mkubwa threatened to fire the speechless Askari when he returned.
Kalekye has to pay, the Askari decided as he went on the rampage for her.
“Aiee!” she screamed, as she fled from his angry fists. “He wants to kill me!” she cried, appearing bewildered and desperate.
Then, in complaint to the other maids, “But it’s not even my job to open the gate!”
Naively sympathetic, they held the Askari at bay and sought to pacify him. “Next time you go, give the keys to one of us,” they said in encouragement.
But like the hide of an old beast, Kalekye remained thick-skinned and not long after the Askari had chased her to her room and the maids had saved her from a beating, she found reason again to start another fire.
Setting out to do so, she bought herself ten SIM cards; one for each of her fellow househelps’ boyfriends she designed to text. And true to her intention, she succeeded in spreading bad-blood like you spread hysteria.
Uproar ensued in the estate when it was finally discovered that the only possible culprit, the common link between the maids and their boyfriends could have been Kalekye. They rallied now to charge at her door. And this time, they came with knives.
“Wacha tuingie!” They screamed at the Askari who now oddly found himself responsible for her life, “This is not your business!”
“Please, the family is here,” he pleaded, “even the children, they are home.”
“Haiya, we don’t care!” They persisted, stung by her betrayal, “Kalekye has been disturbing our men. Telling them we are prostitutes. Let us pass. This girl needs to be taught a lesson she will never forget!”
“Violence will not solve anything. Please go home, forget about it and don’t talk to Kalekye anymore. She is only doing childish things,” he reasoned with amusement at the reversal of roles.
“Yah! She is disturbing us! Buying SIM cards to disturb us! Her money is useless, look how she is spending it. You know, we pay school fees; we pay for our children… Kalekye is just buying SIM cards to disturb us! What for?!….” they blustered; already placated with the acknowledgement that violence would not repair the damage done to their relationships.
“We have never met a devil like her and we never will!” they concluded as they walked away.
Kalekye remained in her room after that, only leaving it to bring the Askari his tea, his lunch and to return his cell-phone after charging. Her demeanour was like that of a sullen child and the Askari was glad to have it for he knew that this cooperation would only last as long as it would take for her to fan another fire.
©Sahar Siddiq 2010
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