This is a 3-part story – fictionalised real events –
Life doesn’t stop with betrayal and treachery, it goes on with lessons.Sudha Ram Joshi
The half-cooked eggs didn’t sit well in my stomach because I still had 9 hours of cabin air wreaking havoc to my system. As soon as we hit the motorway, travelling at speeds I wasn’t accustomed to, my stomach churned and somersaulted. I was worried I might expel the contents on the pristine cream leather Lexus we sat in.
“We need to stop…..,” I said.
“Please…” one of the ladies said through gritted teeth. I didn’t understand her tone of voice until I learnt Britishism a few days later.
The driver, Sheeqs, a lady I’d just met unlike everyone else who I knew from our little village, said we couldn’t just stop on the motorway, but she’d look for a service station. The word just was loaded with contempt and loathsomeness. No one said anything. Unanticipatedly the energy in the car shifted and it was unsettling. My gut, as it churned and threatened to explode into a tsunami of undercooked egg yolks and gas, told me something was not right. The women’s tone of voice and demeanour was different from the one they portrayed when I was still in Nairobi.
A few months earlier, my mother had summoned me home. “We need to talk,” she’d said. I assumed it would be yet another talk about her imaginary future son in law. Her welcome greetings usually begun with emotional semi-threats, “all your agemates are now married and having children, when are you going to join them? Or you’ve decided I’ll die grandchildrenless?” I hated those conversations because I couldn’t come clean and tell her I wasn’t about to marry let alone have kids. I couldn’t because I knew that would send her to an early grave. She was already unhappy about many things other people’s daughters were doing that I wasn’t. For her, life was one competition after another. She worried more about her image than my happiness.
I arrived at my mother’s house laden with shopping bags. Even though I couldn’t build her a nicer house, I made sure she had food and clothing, and money in her mobile wallet. My older brother, who lived with her, was a drunk who stole anything that wasn’t nailed down to sell to fund his ‘drinking and women problem’. Mum prayed for him fervently, I imagine more than she prayed for me to get a husband. He was held to a higher esteem than I was because everything he did had a reasonable explanation. Most of the times her prayers were loud, not because her God was deaf, but because she needed the neighbours to know she was cursed with bad children, and how they turned out had nothing to do with her.
“I thought you’d surprise me with a visitor?” she said as she hugged me and took the bags off my hands. My mother only spoke in metaphors and suffered selective hearing. I ignored her question. “Hello, mum.”
“I hear the daughters of Thandie are making a lot of money in US!”
“I think they are in London mum!”
“Oh! Is that not US?”
“I wouldn’t know because you don’t tell me anything. Anyway, I hear they were asking if you’d like a job.”
My heart skipped a beat and my stomach churned. I was excited and scared at the same time. All my life I waited to hear such words. However, I couldn’t get too excited – the British Embassy was one Goliath I wasn’t looking forward to taking to war. And because my mother would automatically assume I would go and if I didn’t, it was because I wanted to punish her.
The daughters of Thandie were the talk of the village. It was rumoured they had thriving businesses in London and successful marriages. The only thing that nobody questioned was why they never visited.
“What kind of job?” I asked her. She shrugged her shoulders and evil-side-eyed me because only fools ask such questions – a job is a job. As she walked into her dark bedroom with the shopping, she shouted something about hiding food because my brother was intent on starving her to death. She emerged minutes later with a folded piece of paper.
“Here’s their number. Call it my daughter and maybe you can save me from an early grave.” I believe the only reason my mother had kids was solely for her benefit. She didn’t only talk in metaphors, she loved emotional blackmail – it was the only way she knew how to survive.
“Uhm, I will think about it…”
“Think about it?” She screeched and let out a loud ululation while flapping her arms aimlessly in the air and spinning around. I momentarily worried she’d gone mad. “What is there to think about? Find a way and go there! Do you think those daughters waited for someone to invite them? They found a way while you were daydreaming and loitering in the city. This is our opportunity. Do not disappoint me.” I was lost for words, “yes, mum.”
I couldn’t argue with her because by far, her worst trait was toxic-positivity – excessively happy and optimistic about situations that inflate her ego and inclusively disregard reality and the feelings of others.
I left her house that evening feeling like a failure. Everything she’d said, though hurtful, were true. I cried all the way to the city wondering when I turned left instead of right. When I couldn’t cry anymore, operation Goliath formed in my mind. I may have been loitering in the city as far as my mum was concerned, but I was resourceful and London, now, was my way out. Naturally, my next stop was Stella’s one-room house in Westlands to hush out the details.
The motorway drive and dense situation came to an end two hours later. We pulled up in a quiet cul-de-sac, where the houses were identical: town houses with identical driveways, front doors, windows and roofs. The only house that stood out like a sore thumb was painted hot pink.
I got another gut-contents-churning feeling when the women insisted on examining the contents of my suitcase. I couldn’t understand why but they decided everything I owned was crap and ‘just wouldn’t do’.
“She needs shopping,” one of the them said to the other. They spoke about me like I wasn’t in the room. “No, not yet! She can borrow Marie’s.”
My mind was spinning out of control trying to decipher what was being said.
“I don’t need to shop, I need to work,” I laughed nervously looking at the women. They stared at me. Sheeqs, who I assumed was the spokeswoman and whose mission I couldn’t understand, looked evily at me through veils of fake red hair (she’d said earlier it was imported human hair).
I stood up straight, rolled my shoulders back and spoke with renewed energy because at that very moment I was petrified.
“What do you mean I can borrow Marie’s? What is going on?”
“Nothing. You came here to work, right? You start tonight. So, if I were you, I’d get some sleep, it’ll be busy tonight!” They left the room and locked the door behind them.
My fear turned into terror, “shit!”
To be continued…..
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Photo credit: Curtis Loy – Pexel.com