The phone call came at around 6am in the morning when Siera was still fast asleep. She jolted upright when she looked at the ringing iPhone on her bed side drawer and saw it was her mother calling. She answered instantly.
“Hello mum.” She said as she prayed all was well.
“You need to come home as soon as possible.” She didn’t even say hello. “Your father has deposited enough money in your account to buy a ticket. Do it now!” her mum said hastily as if there was someone holding a gun to her head.
“Wait….. what?…. mum?”
Silence. She looked at the phone, the line was still live but she couldn’t hear anything. “MUM!” she shouted. “What the hell is going on?” She muttered under her breath. A few seconds later the phone went dead. She was now fully awake and having a complete nervous breakdown. She couldn’t understand why her mum would call and give cryptic instructions and then disappear – it made no sense. She tried calling back, but her phone was busy. She sent text messages, but the ticks reminded grey for a long time. She wanted to die. She spent a good chunk of her morning trying to call her mother back, to no avail.
When she eventually checked her bank balance, the balance was fatter than before. Her father, a larger than life character, literally and figuratively, was a rich man who threw money around to control people. In the four years since she’d been in London, she never went home when she chose or wanted to, or buy her own ticket because her father dictated when she would be home and he paid for her tickets even when she started earning money and asked him not to.
Now and with her mother ignoring her messages, she was experiencing conflicting feelings – although she was completely panicked, deep down she knew there’s was nothing wrong. Her mother was being dramatic, it was her way of not having to deal with her husband: when she couldn’t say no or make him see sense, she took it out on her children or her co-wives children – no surprise, they all did. She knew Siera had started a business, and the last thing she wanted was to stop and jet off anywhere. Her father though didn’t understand because he wanted to make choices for his children. He also didn’t understand that just because he was rich, and could afford to set businesses for all his kids, some wanted to make it on their own. At 24, Siera understood that her parents had given her all they could and should – education – the rest was up to her, but their suffocation was strangling her. She calmed down and decided to call any one of her 21 siblings, and tell them she wasn’t coming because she had work and other responsibilities: unless of course there was a good reason why she was needed at home.
Her father, a prominent business man and a revered member of the community wanted her home to build Kenya – he had said that on many occasions. He had started from humble beginnings and amassed his wealth in the timber industry – he had enough money to feed half of Kenya – instead he married more wives and had more children: their homestead looked like a little country. He was an imposing control freak who wanted to map out his children’s lives; some of his children loved it others wanted out which brought conflicts in the family.
Around mid-afternoon, she had, at last, got her mum on the phone.
“Mum, I won’t be coming because I have responsibilities here that……” she said with tears streaming down her face and voice quivering.
“You need to come! Book tomorrow’s BA flight to Nairobi, someone will meet you at the airport.” Her mum said unapologetically, unmoved and flatly.
“But why?” She was now crying uncontrollably.
“Because you are needed here.” She said authoritatively.
“To do what….. exactly?” Frustration turned into anger.
“Could you just do what we ask for once!” Her mother bellowed: of all her children, Siera was the most defiant – once she told her father to ‘fuck off’ – and on that day the gods set Mt Kenya on fire.
“Is grandma ok?” Siera asked with a calmness that shocked her.
“Yes. Why?” Her mother whispered.
“Is there anyone dead in the family that I need to come and say my goodbyes?” She asked sarcastically.
“Girl, what are you talking about? Get your ass down here immediately. This is not up for discussion. I’ll see you tomorrow.” And with that she hung up.
Siera was livid – she wanted to enter the phone and strangle her mother. Her family had no respect for her or the life she was trying to lead in UK: they call at all hours, and she was expected to drop everything and fly to Kenya and with no explanation. She had a feeling she was being set up for something, like when a few years ago, her father had tried to trick her into politics – she was barely out of her teens.
She spent the rest of the day calling everyone and anyone who could tell her anything – no one said a word. The most forthcoming answer was from her cousin, Sironka, everyone called her pure because she was incapable of lying, and even her answers were as vague as Harry Style’s. Just before she hanged up, Sironka asked Siera if she would bring her some bras.
“I don’t have time to shop! DO I?” she shouted unnecessarily and felt guilt instantly. “I’ll try.” She said as an after-thought.
“It’s OK sis, bring old ones that you don’t need.” She had plenty and Sironka knew that.
“Don’t worry, just come and you’ll see it’s not anything bad – I promise – you’ll see it’s all good.”
Her voice told more than she was willing to admit. Siera didn’t push.
She booked next day’s BA morning flight from Heathrow to Nairobi, all the while feeling homicidal. The timing was bad as she was in the middle of creating a website for her business, but now she had to attend to yet another of her father’s mindless schemes. She emptied her wardrobe on her bed and started packing while listening to Michael Bolton’s greatest hits. By the time she went to bed that night she was beyond exhausted and was out like a light as soon as her head hit the pillow.
She arrived in Nairobi bone-weary from the eight-and-something-hour flight because all she did was overanalyse the purpose of this trip. As much as she loved her home country, she didn’t like her dad’s controlling tactics and she wanted to be thousands of miles from him. She thought staying in London after her education and starting a business would do the trick, but she was wrong. Whatever happens she was going to put a stop to that at the end of this visit, or so she thought.
In previous visits to Kenya, she would stay in the city on arrival night and make her way home the following day. However, on this night, there was a driver waiting for her and he told her they’d drive all the way to Nanyuki. She had no more energy left to argue or be angry. He loaded her suitcases in the boot as she sat on the passenger seat, reclined her seat as flat as possible and went to sleep. “Wake me up when we get there please.” Then blackness.