Kamau was working in the shamba with his parents. His siblings were all in school but since he had finished high school he was now working to earn his keep.
Kamau was singing as he raised the jembe up and down to till the land. He had a deep melodious voice, the type of voice that would make the gals swoon. He had a Barry white sort of voice and in high school he had been very popular at the music festivals. All the high school girls would run to hear him sing and imagine that he was singing to them.
Kamau was happy. He felt like things were finally going right for him. He was formulating plans in his head about the things he would buy when Mr. Mbae gave him a job.
“Kamau, Kamau” in the middle of his daydream he heard his name being called.
Kamau turned from where he was tilling to look up. He was at the bottom of the shamba near the river. He saw Kariuki running towards him. Kariuki was a childhood friend of his and he was wondering why Kariuki was looking for him at this time when he should also be working.
Kariuki ran down to him. He looked frightened. Kamau’s first thought was that something had happened to Nyokabi. Kamau asked, ‘what’s the matter? Is there something wrong with Nyokabi?’
Kariuki took a deep breath then said “Kamau there’s trouble. Mama Nyambura told Mr. Mbae that she saw you kissing Nyokabi now he is mad. He is going to get the police to come and arrest you. Nyokabi says that you should go hide for a while.”
“What?” Kamau said.
Kariuki continued, “Nyokabi has given me two hundred shillings to give you. She said you should go to Nairobi until things calm down.”
By this time Kamau’s parents had come to hear what the commotion was about. When Kamau’s mum heard that Mr. Mbae had gone for the police she started weeping. Everyone knew the police were not to be trusted and that they sold their services to the person who could pay the most money. Efficiency and effectiveness was based on how much you could part with from your pocket.
Kamau’s father took charge. “Kamau go pack your clothes. You can go live with your cousin in Mathare valley in Nairobi until things cool down. Mama Kamau go and wrap some sweet potatoes for Kamau.”
The family hurried to the house. Kariuki went back to tell Nyokabi that he had passed the message. Kamau did not have many clothes so he was packed in a few minutes. He hugged his mother then his father walked him to the matatu stage so that he could get a matatu to the center from where he would get a bus connection to Nairobi.
Kamau’s father told him, ‘my son don’t worry. We will resolve this issue. I will send a letter when it is safe to come back. Be good and don’t get into trouble.”
A matatu came right then and Kamau entered to start his journey to Nairobi. Kamau looked out of the window looking at his dad whose figure got smaller and smaller. Kamau was in shock, things had happened so fast that he had not internalized anything. Kamau had no way of knowing it but it would be very many years before it would be safe to come home again.
Mr. Mbae entered the police station and asked to speak to the policeman in charge. The police station in the area was not as big as the ones with the city and so there were no senior policemen stationed there. You had to go down to the center to get the big guns.
As he waited for the sergeant to come and see him Mr. Mbae was formulating his plan. He intended to have Kamau throw in jail and given a thorough beating for what he had done. He knew he had to spin the story so that Kamau looked really guilty. ‘I will make you pay for touching my daughter.’
When the sergeant came Mr. Mbae told him that Kamau had forcefully kissed his daughter and had been about to do far worse things when a neighbor came and saved his daughter. He wanted Kamau to be arrested.
The sergeant got a couple of policemen together and he briefed them. He them told mweshimiwa that they had no fuel for the police car. Mr. Mbae removed 1000 from his pocket and gave it to the sergeant.
Mr. Mbae led the way in his car to where Kamau’s parents lived. The policemen went to the door and knocked. Mama Kamau opened the door.
The sergeant said, ‘mama where is Kamau? We are here to arrest him. He has committed a grave offence.’
Kamau’s mother said he was not there and said he had gone to take for the cows grazing which is what her husband had told her to say.
By this time Kamau’s father was walking back to the house. When he reached the house he greeted the mweshimiwa and the police like there was nothing wrong. He asked with a smile, Mr. Mbae, what brings you here. It was been a long time since you visited our house. Mama Kamau please make for mweshimiwa and his escorts some tea,
Mr. Mbae said, ‘I am not here for the tea. Your son assaulted my daughter Nyokabi. The police are here to arrest him.”
Baba Kamau looked shocked and then he said, “Mr. Mbae are you sure. My son would never hurt your daughter. They are childhood friends and he would never ever hurt a woman.”
Mr. Mbae by this time was spitting mad that he had not caught Kamau. He had wanted to be the first to take out his whip and beat the boy until he learnt about respect. He was not here to be told about Kamau’s good qualities. He said, “Your son assaulted my daughter. He was about to rape her when one of my workers came in and saved her. Since your son is not here we are going with you to the police station. When your son comes he will come find us at the police station. I am not stupid. You are hiding that boy. You are hiding that rapist.”
With that the police took baba Kamau to the land rover and drove off with him to the police station. Mama Kamau was left in the house not knowing what to do.
Back at Mr. Mbae’s house Nyokabi was so scared she could not think. She decided to go talk to her mother hoping that she would talk sense into her dad. Her mother was in the kitchen boiling some maize. She told her mum the whole story as it had happened and told her mum to talk to her dad. “It wasn’t Kamau’s fault. It was mine. I am the one who put him into problems. Mum please talk to dad, please.”
Nyokabi’s mum promised to talk to her dad. Then she said, “We don’t want your dad to be angrier when he comes. Pack your things so that when he comes you can go to Nairobi. In the light of what has happened I think its best you go away for a while.” Seeing that Nyokabi was upset she said, ‘Nyokabi you are no longer a child and you have to stop acting like you are. This situation will not be easy to resolve and you refusing to go will make things worse. Or is there something else that you’re not telling me.” She said this looking at Nyokabi’s belly.
Nyokabi said, “Mum we didn’t do anything apart from kiss.” After saying that she burst into tears and ran to her room.
Kamau reached the city quite late. The roads were bad and it had taken a couple of hours to reach Nairobi. Because he didn’t know how to get to Mathare valley at night he had only gone there during the day he slept at the bus station. It seemed there were a lot of other stranded people who had to sleep there.
At that time there were no mobile phones so he could not call his cousin and his cousin lived in a slum with no telephone in his house. He was very careful with his money because he had heard people in Nairobi were bad. They could steal your shoes even as you watched.
In the morning Kamau woke up to the sound of bus conductors calling for customers to different destinations. Kamau stretched trying to make sense of where he was. He saw a man selling some mandazi’s and went to get some. He was very hungry. When he came back to where he had been sitting he found his bag was gone! When he had gone to get some food someone had stolen his bag.
Mr. Mbae went back to the house in the evening a very disappointed man. The police had looked for Kamau around the village but had not found him. Kamau’s father was still in police custody being used as bait to get Kamau out of hiding.
When he got to the house he went looking for Nyokabi’s mother. “Mama Nyokabi,” he said, where is your daughter? We are leaving for Nairobi today. I hope she told you what she was doing with Kamau. This is all your fault! You should have taken care more about your daughter. Tell her to come downstairs now!” with that statement Mr. Mbae stormed off to the bedroom.
Mama Nyambura went to get Nyokabi ready and to also collect her things as she was also going to Nairobi to see Nyokabi off.
Kamau was so shocked to find that his bag with his clothes was gone. He was so stunned that for about ten minutes he stood staring at the spot where he had spent the night. He was wondering what he would do now that his clothes and the map to his cousin’s house in Mathare valley were gone. At least he had put his money in his shirt pocket so that it could not disappear.
He sat down on the hard bench to think, his appetite had disappeared, and he could not even think about eating the mandazis in his hand which now seemed unpalatable. He calculated in his head what he needed for the journey to mathare valley. He had used most of the money for the trip but he had around 60 shillings left. “I hope its enough to get me where am going? The first thing is to get to Mathare valley to my cousin’s house.”
Kamau went to a conductor of a bus whose passengers had just alighted. He asked in Kiswahili “where can I get the matatu to Mathare?” the conductor gave him directions to another part of the city.
Kamau walked towards the direction he had been shown. He was looking at the buildings and the seemingly busy people who seemed like ants running around, everyone seemed to be in a hurry. In his mind he thought that it was a shame that he had come to the city under such bad circumstances. He had always liked coming to the city when his school used to come for music and drama festivals and also when he came to visit his cousins.
In an hour’s time after making many twists and turns in Mathare slums he found his cousin’s house. On knocking there was no reply. A neighbor came and said that his cousin Njoroge had left for the day to go to work in the construction site where he worked. He would have to wait for evening. The neighbor went back into his house not even bothered to invite Kamau in to wait for him.
Kamau sat outside the doorstep and wondered how rude and uncaring these Nairobians were that they would not watch out for their neighbors guests.
2 days later.
Nyokabi had landed at the airport in the UK. She was jet lagged, fatigued but the worst thing she was broken hearted. She could not believe things had turned out this way. Her father had taken the family back to Nairobi and changed her flight to leave the next day. She was to stay with her relatives in north London before she started school in 6 weeks. She had already done the interview for the British High Commission but she had been hoping that she could change her dad’s mind about studying abroad.
As she left the airport with her relatives she looked out at the surroundings. It was snowing and there was mist everywhere. She could not believe her father had banished her to this cold, strange place. She was trying to keep her emotions under wrap. Her relatives were excited to see her. They assumed that she was excited to be there. After all every Kenyan fantasized about the chance to go abroad and study or visit.
Nyokabi had cried during the flight. She had gone to the bathroom numerous times to cry. She had wished for her bed so that she could cry to her heart’s content but here she was stuck in a plane full of strangers so she could not give in to her misery in the open. She already missed Kamau and wondered what he was doing and how he was coping in Nairobi.
Nyokabi promised herself that she would not forget Kamau. I don’t know how but one day Kamau we will meet and we will be together and no one will separate us not even my father, she thought.
Kamau was wearing his cousin’s clothes. Since he had been robbed he had only the clothes he had been wearing. His cousin had come home in the evening and Kamau had told him what had transpired.
Njoroge had felt pity for Kamau. “You can stay here for as long as you like. That mp of ours has grown too big for his boots forgetting where he came from and that just the other day he was just like us.” Kamau had not eaten the whole day so he prepared for them a meal.
Njoroge suggested that Kamau should get a job at the construction site while he waited for the problem at home to cool down. It would also give Kamau a chance to make some money to buy clothes and some food while he was there.
Kamau agreed with the idea. The next day Njoroge went to the construction site to talk his supervisor about getting Kamau a job. Njoroge’s boss got him a job carrying stones with a wheelbarrow to the construction site.
Kamau had started work and found the work hard. The stones were very heavy and pushing them in the wheelbarrow was not an easy task. Kamau welcomed the work though because it kept him busy from thinking too much about what was going on at home.
‘I wonder how Nyokabi is doing? I hope Mr. Mbae did not lock her up. And my parents I hope them are ok. Mr. Mbae is capable of doing anything. But I will go home soon and then I will find out what happened.’