A LOVER’S MOON

The night air was still, not a cloud in the sky. He moved stealthily, taking cover in the long shadows created by the moon’s illumination on the various buildings on the homestead. Surely, everyone was asleep at this time, he thought.

 

Every few steps he would stop and listen. He would take no chances. How unfortunate it would be for him if anyone saw him. They’d probably mistake him for a thief and raise the alarm. Once others came, they would do their best to maim or kill him. For her, he would risk life and limb.

 

Her hut was just ahead. A heavy curtain was drawn where the door was supposed to be. After one last look around, he slipped inside. Once his eyes adjusted to the gloom he could make out her lumpy form curled up on her pallet on the floor. He moved quietly to her and knelt down.

 

“Serah,” he whispered, “wake up, my love.” He shook her gently.

 

“Hmmnnnf, wha-?”

When she opened her eyes she didn’t see him. All she saw was a hulking shadow and fear was a tangible taste on her tongue. A hand clamped down on her mouth before she could open it to scream.

 

“Shhh, don’t be afraid, my love. It’s me. ”

 

She moved his hand away. “Loti, what are you doing here? Do you know what time it is? Oh no, did anyone see you? “Her voice, which had started out as a whisper, had risen steadily the more she got agitated.

 

“Please keep it down. Don’t worry, no one saw me. “Loti helped her sit up.” I’ve decided to go to the city tonight, and I want you to go with me. I left my bundle of belongings just outside the gate, and I’m here to help you pack. If we hurry, we’ll be able to take the last bus to the city. ‘’He looked around the small room. ” Now, tell me what you need and where you keep it.”

 

She had to stand. She couldn’t keep still any longer.

“This is madness. You know that, right? ”

It was hard for her to keep calm and quiet. It was her pacing and the fact that she couldn’t keep her hands still that betrayed her inner turmoil.

He stood as well, and when she next went by him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and held her fast. “Serah, all I know is that we love each other and we deserve to be happy. Together. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Don’t you want that? ”

 

“You don’t understand,” she said in an agonized whisper. ” I-I…”

 

“What I don’t understand is why you seem not to want this. You should be as excited as I am, maybe even more so. You won’t have to get married to that man your father chose for you. I’m giving you a way out. ”

 

“I know, but-”

 

“When I see you in the village, I have to pretend to not know you. I have to go out at all hours of the night in order to see you. Don’t you see? In the city we can be free. They’ll be no one to divide us.”

He was getting pretty worked up. “I love you, and I’m tired of hiding it like some shameful secret. I thought you felt the same way. ”

His hurt was evident in his voice and in his eyes.

 

“I can’t just disappear. People would talk and my family would be devastated. My father…”

 

“The city is very vast. Your father will not be able to find us. Trust me. ”

 

What she’d been about to say was that if she went with him, her father would blame her mother for not keeping a close enough eye on her and take it out on her two younger sisters. Whatever she suffered now would be ten times worse for them. She shuddered to think of what her father would do to them.

 

Loti mistook it for fear and pulled her close. “Don’t worry. Once we leave here, everything will be alright. ”

 

She couldn’t go. She realized that now. It almost physically hurt knowing that she would have to look Loti in the eye and tell him no, watch as the brightest star in her night walked away. Still, she couldn’t go. She would never have peace if she did, knowing the fate she would have condemned her sisters to. She would suffer alone.

 

She stepped back and looked him straight in the eye.

 

“I ca-n’t.” Her voice broke on the last word, a war raging inside her.

 

He must have seen the resolve in her eyes. She watched in horror as his shoulders slumped and the light in his eyes was extinguished.

 

“So, you would continue to live under your father’s thumb and marry a total stranger, yet you say no to the man you claim to love? I can see I’m not as important as I thought I was to you. ”

 

He turned and walked out without another word. She could barely see his shadow move through the sheen of her tears. He didn’t realize it, but he’d taken Serah’s heart with him.

 

“Loti… ”

His name was a mere breath of sound.

 

Originally posted on STORYMOJA

WHEN YOU EAT TOO MUCH

Dead dried up purple flowers were spread all over the compound. No more were falling, the tree was completely bare. The old man sat beneath the jacaranda tree, looking for what shade that could be found underneath the branches from the scorching sun. It’s likely that he didn’t know where he was. His only company was worry, a tangible thing that sat on his chest and sucked away all his air.

Like a madman, his fingers were twirling a coin round and round, round and round. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast. He could hear Kamaru and the other children playing near the granary, a game that on any other day he would have encouraged and even joined, but today the thoughts in his mind held him down like a sack of potatoes.

His granddaughter came out of the house carrying a cup of watery porridge and set it at his feet. Even though he averted his eyes, he knew in his mind how her bones showed through her skin, how hollowed out her cheeks now appeared, how dry her lips now were and how she looked like she could be blown away by a gust of wind. It pained him.

The rains had failed again. Prayers to the deities had gone unanswered. The face of luck was turned away from them. Food supplies were dwindling and watering holes were drying up. Like him, no one knew what to do about this situation.

Scouts had been sent out far and wide to look for a way out. It was not looking good. Madeze’s son, the latest scout, had been gone for two weeks. Madeze didn’t speak much these days, the former storyteller of the village now reduced to mumbling the same thing over and over. He knew, even without being told, that his son was no longer of this world. He felt it deep inside, as only a parent could feel, the snap as the rope connecting their life force was ruthlessly cut. The light had gone out of his eyes a long time ago. It wasn’t just the drought that made his body gaunt and his eyes dead. He no longer had anything to live for.

The old man shifted on his stool. So much had gone wrong over such a short period of time, and it was only likely to get worse. He couldn’t remember the last time he had something solid to eat, but it wouldn’t have mattered much if he were alone. After all, he’d been eating all his life, and old men like him didn’t need much sustenance. He would be fine, yes, but that was a hollow victory. He had to think of Kamaru, who at nine was an innocent too young to understand anything about life’s struggles; what a drought meant for their family. As long as he got to play with his friends, like he did now, and come home to a plate of food, his little world revolved in the right direction. He had to think of Nalia, at fourteen still too young and fragile to have the weight of the world thrust upon her shoulders. Already she knew that the food they had would only last three days, a fact he’d failed to hide from her, and now he could see she was eating even less in a vain attempt to make it last. It broke his heart.

He desperately wished he could turn back the clock. Maybe things would have worked out differently if their mother were alive. He wished he had a way to dig them out of this hole they found themselves in. He didn’t have many earthly possessions, but he would gladly sell them all if the children, the light of his life, never had to go hungry again. Just then the rays of the sun shone upon the coin in his hand and made it sparkle, and just like that a plan began to take shape.

Silver it was, with the engraving of a phoenix on one side, and a single feather on the other. It was said to bring luck upon anyone who took ownership over it. Mzee wasn’t much of a believer of luck – hard work and reaping from it was all he knew – and yet…. Didn’t he have it in his pocket when he’d gone to ask for the village beauty’s hand in marriage, even while knowing she had rejected all the young men in the village?

He could sell it, but money couldn’t be eaten. He couldn’t even say that he would buy food with it as none of them had the strength to walk at least a day’s journey away for it. Thankfully, they wouldn’t have to go far. He knew the one person who could help them right here in the village.

Roiyo was the village chief. He was a big, round man, with a honeyed tongue that could convince a cheetah to change its spots and grant him use of them. Rumor had it that he was the cousin to a big time politician in the city. Several times a year, a convoy of big cars could be seen heading to his compound, trailed by a large cloud of dust and exhaust fumes. One time a helicopter had landed on the children’s field and the occupants driven to Roiyo’s house, sending tongues wagging.

It was like scarcity never hit Roiyo’s house. In fact, he’d never looked better. It was said that food was delivered to him directly from the city every week. He’d taken to selling miniscule portions of food at very exorbitant prices, causing many people to sell or barter their possessions to him to sleep partially full. Roiyo was a good man, most of the time. His major flaw was that he liked things. Many things. Shiny things. He like to flaunt his old gold watch, using any opportunity to ‘look at the time’ while angling it towards the sun to make it sparkle. He would love the coin, how it shone in every light. Maybe that would get them enough food for a month, after which only the deity knew.

*Originally posted in STORYMOJA

DADDY ISSUES

My earliest memories of my father are of him not being there. He had another family, and I guess they needed him more than I ever did. I remember suppers my mum and I ate alone, the food I insisted she leave aside for him, and even though he didn’t show up most times I was always happy to see him. I loved him, and that’s all that mattered.

I rarely saw my father. Most times he would call my mother to meet him outside the house. When he finally came home I remember him so tall over me, car keys in hand, trying to look interested as I ran circles around him and telling him some nonsensical story from school. Or asking to play with his gold watch. His phone. Showing him my books, the food I’d kept aside for him, anything to make him proud of me. Anything to make him stay longer.

I couldn’t stay a child forever and as I grew up, the cracks in our relationship turned into giant fissures. It wasn’t more glaringly obvious than when my father decided to finally come live with us when I was fourteen. I’d gone from the girl with virtually no father to the girl with a hovering father almost overnight. I hated it. We fought over everything. He wanted to assert his authority but in my mind he had none over me. My father had made his choice years ago. He hadn’t been there when it counted, and he didn’t know the first thing about me. How dare he try to pretend otherwise!

One thing about growing older is knowing that there’s a time to just forgive and try to forget, otherwise bitterness will build a fort around you then you’d be stuck. That moment came when I examined my life and noticed the destructive patterns I had all stemmed from the need to find the love and validation I never got from my father. I had to remind myself that this was MY life, and I needed to live it for myself, not as a reaction to something I never had.

For a long time the only things I felt comfortable talking with my father about were school things and official things. It was awkward. It still is sometimes, but he tries. He’s a good father to my siblings and I’m happy for them.

Sometimes I look at him and I get so ANGRY. Does he know he broke his little girl? Does he care? He was supposed to teach me about love. He was supposed to teach me about acceptance. I hear fathers do that.