Celebrating East African Writing!
Alice sat on a leather sofa in the large living room clutching a glass of vodka while staring at the glass coffee table. She could not control her sobbing as she kept on wiping away tears and wondering where her husband could be.
She was a pretty woman in her early twenties although anxiety made her look twice her age. After every five minutes, she glanced at the antique wall clock and it was obvious that she was anxious or worried about something. Not even the slow music from the Sony system or the cool light cast by the tinted chandeliers hanging above; could brighten her mood. It was 10:30pm and John had not arrived home from his usual business of locking up his shops. Alice slid open her Samsung phone and redialed her husband’s number. This was the tenth time she had tried to reach John all to no avail. The familiar voice of ‘mteja hapatikani’ buzzed in her ear. She tried hard to strain her ears to hear the familiar sound of crunching gravel and snapping twigs as the Mercedes Benz made its way up the driveway. The only sounds she could perceive were: the chirping of crickets, the howl of dogs, and the sound of the watchman’s Sanyo radio blaring from a distance.
‘Where could John be?’ she thought. It was unusual of him not to have called or arrived home after 10pm. Being newly weds, she was not used to the idea of having supper alone or spending the night without her husband by her side. It was unlike him to stay out late without informing her. They had been married for two months and they had grown so fond of each other to an extent where John would call her after every hour. John had landed a big business deal and this had brought great changes into their lifestyle. They had moved from their two-roomed house located in a city estate into a five-roomed house in the suburbs of Nairobi.
Trying to control her sobbing, she switched on the LG plasma display panel. There was nothing interesting on the popular local TV stations apart from big fish politicians being interviewed and giving viewers false promises. She switched off the plasma set and went to the patio outside. She sat on one of the makuti chairs that John occasionally shared with his friends while having a drink and discussing their business interests. She took a sip from the glass and thought about their marriage. After two months of marriage, she had learnt not to interfere with John’s business life, especially during his meetings at the patio. All she did was serve them with drinks but never failing to realise how gravely silent they would become; the moment she arrived with a tray laden with refreshments.
Alice had met John a year ago at a nightclub in Nairobi and he had offered to buy her a drink in exchange for her company. John was charming, and he stepped up to his game well. For the rest of the night, he would pull out the chair for Alice whenever she was going to the ladies, and he would say the most pleasant things that Alice wanted to hear. She was also captivated by the thickness of John’s wallet and she could not help peeking when he pulled out wads of notes. Apart from the wallet, he was smartly dressed in a dark blue, suit and a fashionable polyester shirt. They had drinks, chatted, danced and exchanged numbers. After six months of dating, it was no surprise when Alice moved in with John. Six months later, they were walking down the aisle. She had only informed her parents about the wedding via E-mail. They did not have time to prepare for and attend the private wedding at a 5 star hotel in Nairobi.
John owned a chain of stores along Loita Street in Nairobi. Apart from a motor garage that sold imported vehicles and spare parts, John owned boutique stores, restaurants and mobile phone and accessories shops. Despite the fact that he was not well educated, John smelt of money. This made him the envy of most businessmen who owned shops along Loita Street. Many people had tried to hustle him out of the street but John always emerged triumphant. Either the rival would give up or he would mysteriously disappear from the street and John would buy out his business. Many rumors had emerged about John’s success. Most people had claimed that he ran a vicious gang that car-jacked people and killed anyone who tried to create competition. Alice had never believed these rumors because she understood the enmity involved in his business and success. She loved John dearly. He had been the only person she could look up to; as her own family had gone to settle in the UK and above all, he was wealthy.
That previous day, John had had a long and heated debate at the patio with his associate Kamau. From the sofa in the living room, Alice could clearly see through the glass door leading to the patio that there was some kind of misunderstanding between her husband and Kamau. John kept on raising his hands in what seemed to be protest mixed with rage. Seeing this, Alice decided to serve them with refreshments to cool them off. The moment she slid the door open and stepped outside, John told her to take the drinks back into the house. Alice tried to inquire why but John quickly ushered her back into the house. After an hour characterised by finger pointing and cursing: Kamau stood up, stormed towards the parking lot, got into his car, and left in a hurry leaving John’s driveway filled with the echo of screeching tires and the smell of burning rubber. That night, John spent most of his time making phone calls and the next morning he left without breakfast or even kissing Alice goodbye.
It was 11:00pm when Alice snapped out of her reverie. She took a swig clearing the glass, winced and walked back into the house. Picking up her phone, she re-dialed the number. The automated voice announcing that the subscriber could not be reached made her hurl the phone on to the coffee table. The sound of a car passing by made her rush to the window and peek outside. Through the little spaces on the hedge surrounding the compound, she could see Mrs. Karen’s green Range Rover driving up the dirt road past her gate. She drew the curtains and sat on the sofa. She picked up the remote and switched on the plasma display. She was now tipsy but her senses were still fully alert waiting for any sound that would announce her husband’s arrival. The news anchor’s voice that boomed from the Dolby Surround system made her concentrate on the late night news. The young handsome news anchor flanked by an equally beautiful partner introduced his name and begun with the top stories. Alice had always dreamed of becoming a news anchor and she had planned to pursue a career in media studies.
That did not happen. She met John and all her dreams had been fulfilled. Just then, a news bit that was being presented by the female news anchor caught her attention and she focused on the news. The news segment was about two gangsters who had been gunned down by the police that afternoon. The gangsters had tried to get away after a failed attempt to kill a businessman known as Jack Kamau but were gunned by police patrolling the area. One of them was described as a well-known businessman in Nairobi. Alice was now trembling as she saw Kamau’s face clearly describing the saga. He looked shaken as he narrated how men well known to him had waylaid him and tried to kill him. Noticing that the victim was clearly traumatized, the police led him away from the media into a waiting police van. This prompted the cameraman to focus on the dreadful scene. One body was hanging from the open passenger door of a silver Mercedes with its head dangling on to the road. It seemed like he had tried to escape before the bullet caught him squarely on the neck. The face of the other body was not visible as its head lay slumped on the steering wheel. But one could clearly make out the bullet riddled blue suit.
Alice was ghastly silent. A voice in her mind kept on asking questions which she did not dare reply.
‘‘Isn’t that John’s car?” Isn’t that the suit he wore on our first date?” That was definitely Kamau, his business associate. Wasn’t he?”
She let out a wail and dashed through the corridor breaking ceramic vases and potted plants on her way to the staircase. She hurriedly climbed and tripped on the last set of steps. She had injured her arm from the fall but that did not deter her from her mission as fear and shock overwhelmed the feeling of pain. She got up and dashed towards their bedroom. She pushed the door open and made her way towards her husband’s closet. She opened the doors and started yanking clothes from coat hangers onto the bedroom floor. When she had finished and the whole closet was empty, she stared at the clothes on the floor and back at the empty closet. Her fears had been confirmed. The blue suit was missing.
©Mathew Wasambo Ntulwe