Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Joyce Marangu
Claire set down the crisp new book beside her cellular phone on the mahogany coffee table. Sticking out of it was a book mark which her best friend Misha had gifted her on their last day of campus only a year before. The book was a biography of the Nobel laureate who had not only been the first in her country but also a formidable woman. She had recently piqued an interest in environmental conservation. She had been disgusted by the ever increasing pile of plastic filth that was now a constant eye sore in her Zimmerman Estate. She longed to do something about it. Wangari Maathai, the Nobel laureate would perhaps inspire her.
As she was cautiously selecting her next read that morning at the bookstore, she had been careful to fit it in her tight, meagre budget. She had counted and recounted the small bundle of hundred-shilling notes in her purse, and agonised over the cost of the book. She knew full well that buying it would mean forfeiting the red lacquered pair of heels from City Walk she had been saving for. “Perhaps Adam will get them for me for Christmas” she had mused.
It was a chilly afternoon. She began to make her way to the kitchen. She suddenly craved a cup of hot masala tea with a bucket load of sugar. Before she could get to the kitchen, the phone lit up and Mavin’s voice rent the air with doro buchi. Claire was going to pick it up right away but decided to let it ring a bit longer. She swayed to the beat, her lithe body moving gracefully to the music. She and Adam had loved that song so much when they first heard it at his sister’s party just two days before. Adam’s sister, Audrey, enjoyed hosting parties. She held parties for all sorts of things. Once, she had invited her friends for a ‘No Reason’ party to celebrate just because they could. Sometimes Claire envied the non-encumbered life which she led. To her, Audrey always seemed happy, blissful even. Of course it helped that she came from money. Her family owned so much prime property and immense share interests in various businesses that Claire could not possibly keep count.
“Have you finished packing your bags Clarita?” Adam asked excitedly when she eventually picked up the phone.
“Not yet. But I’ll be done in a few.”
“Well, you better hurry up or else…” It was meant to sound like a threat but Claire knew he was only joking.
“Yes boss.” She said feigning sombreness but smiling all the same.
Adam said a quick “I love you” before hanging up. He said he would be there to pick her up at 7 o’clock that evening. Claire knew that he would call at least two more times before he appeared at her doorstep.
Claire’s thoughts turned to the pair of tickets tacked carefully in her polo purse, the one Adam had brought her from Milan. She had been waiting eagerly for this trip. She and Adam had finally been able to get some time off from their busy schedules. He, from the myriad business engagements which completely consumed him all year round and she, from her less challenging job as an editor’s assistant in an upcoming women’s magazine. When they had first started going out, Claire had been distraught at not being able to see him often enough. He always seemed to be busy. She had stopped throwing tantrums when she realised that they only yielded arguments which in turn squashed the time they spent together even further. She had eventually accepted, albeit with much reluctance, that he would only see her when he would. This had been unsettling at first. In one of her melodramatic moments, she imagined that he had several girlfriends all waiting their turn to see him. This had depressed her for days.
Claire emerged from the kitchen a few moments after, her favourite mug tightly clasped between both hands. It was orange with brown specks. It felt warm to the touch and gave her a sense of balminess, like it was deliciously soothing away all of her troubles. It was why she loved it so much.
Doro buchi was playing loudly once more on her phone. This time it was her mother.
“When are you coming to see us?” She asked in a calm voice after the greetings. Claire imagined her seated on the three legged kitchen stool stoking a fire and no doubt preparing the family’s main meal. She knew they would all be expecting her home for Christmas as had been the norm. She had not yet found the right moment to tell them that it would be different that year. That Adam had gotten her some tickets. That she would finally be going on a flight.
“Ma’a, I can’t make it home before 25th.”
“Are they making you work through Christmas? It’s a public holiday for heaven’s sake.” She was getting irate.
Claire contemplated for a moment. It would have been easier to lie. After all, the little village she hailed from and where her mother was now calling from was so far away. Nobody from there ever came to the capital city.
“No ma’a, Adam and I are leaving for the Tafaria Creek tonight.” She steeled herself for the inevitable outburst she knew would follow. When none was forthcoming, she continued, “We shall not be back till after Christmas.” She felt more than heard the indignation as her mother murmured some well wishes for the journey. She was grateful that this had not turned into yet another showdown about how Adam was wrong for her.
Christmas in her village, Kimipendo, would have been a grand affair. She thought with nostalgia of the previous year’s celebrations. Her father had offered a fattened goat for slaughter and they had feasted on the sumptuous meat for several days. It was never a difficult task to finish a whole goat, even two on a good year, because her extended relatives always showed up to share in the festivities. On the eve of Christmas the previous year, her aunt Dola had helped Claire decorate a tall pine tree with brightly coloured ribbons and balloons. Afterwards, they had thought it a good idea to add red plums and candy to the decorations. These were an instant hit with the children who harvested them all in the time it took Claire to fetch a glass of water from her mother’s semi-detached wooden kitchen. Luckily, aunt Dola had had another brilliant idea to hide candy in the children’s shoes which had been left outside to keep the newly painted cement floor clean. Their young sleepy faces would really come alive when they discovered the prized candy the next morning.
At first, she noticed the urgent sound of the newscaster. She became slowly aware that some major happening was taking place. She turned to face the television set whose sound was on low volume, and her attention was immediately arrested by the image on the top right corner. Across the screen, the words ‘Breaking News” leapt at her: ‘Suspects in Dovida Scandal to be Apprehended’. It took her a moment to link the image to the words. The newscaster’s overly made-up face had now been replaced by the enlarged image from the top right corner. She could not believe it, yet it was clearly him. His familiar full lips were curved into a crescent shape almost as if he had intended a smile, and his eyes bore through the screen directly at her. It was Adam. She felt faint.
There was a knock on the door jolting her momentarily. Claire slowly rose from the Persian rug on the tiled floor where she had sunk like the felled branch of a tree. She walked gingerly to the door even as the knock came a second time. It was piercing and impatient. She turned the key on the lock and as she began reaching for the handle, there was a sudden thrust and the door flew open. Standing in front of her was a visibly shaken Adam. From a distance, she could hear the distinct shrill of sirens.
© Joyce Marangu
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