FOUR YEARS LATER.
Nyokabi sat at the head table as she looked at the people in the room, her guests as it were to her graduation party. She had graduated from the University of London with a degree in law. After what had happened to her and Kamau she had felt helpless. She had wanted to help people be able to fight for her rights.
She wondered what had happened to Kamau. She had no one to give her the information. She had never come for holiday visits to Kenya, her father preferring to keep her away. Her parents and siblings had moved to Nairobi after the incident because of what had happened to Kamau.
From what she had gathered from her sisters, Kamau’s dad had been kept in jail for two months under orders from her father. He had said that Kamau’s dad would stay there until Kamau returned as it had been determined that the dad had taken his son to the bus stop and thus allowed his escape.
It is only after the village elders and Nyokabi’s mother’s intervention that kame’s dad was released. But during that time bad blood had developed between the villagers and the Mbae’s family. Mr. Mbae had been forced to take his family to Nairobi.
Since they did not have any friends in the village anymore, no one seemed to know what had happened to Kamau.
“So much for the dream that Kamau and I will find each other and live happily ever after. I know that after what my father did, Kamau will never want to talk to me again. I wish I could see him and tell him how sorry I am. I wish I had never kissed him not for my sake but for his. Maybe things would have turned out different.’ Nyokabi thought to herself.
Kamau sat in his office at Nyaga Construction Company. He was trying to finish doing the payroll for the construction workers. Kamau was the cashier for the construction company that had hired him four years ago. He had worked in construction rising up the ranks from carrying stones to being a fundi.
Two years ago the cashier had quit running away with some of the money for payroll. The boss was looking for someone to hire and was waiting to interview some candidates.
Kamau had seen this as his opportunity to get a better job. He had been tired of being a fundi. It was not something that required him to think. It was a routine job that was very repetitive and boring. He also needed money for university. His letter had come for the university and his parents had sent it to him.
He knew he could not apply for HELB because it would mean that Mr. Mbae could track him down. He needed money to pay for his exams. So he went to talk to the boss.
“Sir, in high school I did accounts and got an A. I would like to apply for the position of cashier.” Kamau had said to the boss.
The boss was surprised. “If you got an A in accounts, what are you doing working as a laborer. Bring your papers and I will think about giving you a job on probation”
Kamau had already carried a copy of his KCSE certificate plus the original. He gave them to the boss.
The boss was shocked. “Son, you have an A. Shouldn’t you be university right now?”
Kamau explained that circumstances had forced him to look for a job just after high school. He now needed to pay for his university education and so that’s why he needed the job.
The boss agreed to hire Kamau as the cashier on probation for 3 months and if things worked out he would hire him permanently. The boss had been so impressed with Kamau’s good and hard work that he had even increased his salary so he could pay for his university education.
Kamau had given up the idea of doing architecture. It was a full time course with no classes in the evening. Kamau was heartbroken to give up his dream but he knew that in life sometimes you have to take the lemons and make lemonade. A year ago he had started his degree in the parallel programme. He was studying accounts and business. He was enjoying the course and the things he was learning.
As he sat in his chair he thought about his life. It had not turned out the way he expected or dreamed. He thought about Nyokabi a lot. He wondered what had happened to her. He knew that she had been forced to go to the UK. But since the parents had moved to Nairobi no one seemed to know what had happened to her.
Kamau had written a song in Kikuyu about her which he would play on his guitar. Some of it went something like this.
Nyokabi my beautiful one,
Your face haunts my dreams,
I wonder where you are.
Your beautiful face and your smile,
I hold in my heart.
You were my one true love,
I wish I could see you honey
And tell you how I feel.
My beautiful one,
I love you, come home to me.
Kamau played in a band called “the kikuyu calabashes.” He was actually the lead singer although he had come into the group as the last member. The group was composed of four guys and a girl.
It had all come about a year ago. Sometimes Kamau’s classmates from university parallel program would invite him out for a drink. It was at one of these nightclubs that he met Angela. He had no idea how that encounter would change his life.
Angela was the female singer and dancer for the band. She had moves like Shakira and had a full African figure. Big breasts and big hips. She was not what you would call beautiful. More like very pretty. But when she was up with the band she was sensational. No man could take his eyes off her. It’s like she spun a spell with her sexy voice and sensual seductive moves.
Kamau as was still naïve and sweet when he met her. When she finished her set Kamau went to congratulate her on her performance, telling her that she had a great voice but the man playing the guitar did not do justice to her voice.
Angela was a woman of the world, loved the sincere flattery that she heard from Kamau but she was not interested in his opinion. He looked like a simple guy. From his dressing you could tell that he didn’t make much and he had that cheap look that said he was probably a student. He was handsome, she thought and he had a deep voice that for a weaker woman would have made her tremble. But she was not a weaker woman.
She dismissed him as a bother. Angela looked out for number one. Herself. She was not interested in admirer’s who could do nothing for her. She had rent to pay and other things that needed money. But somehow that comment about the guitar player not doing her voice justice stuck in her mind.
The next night she invited her boyfriend over to hear her play. He was a record producer who had been telling her for ages that he would get her a demo tape. That had never materialized. Angela didn’t let it bother her. She knew he was using her and she was using him. Angela made sure that at any event she attended with her boyfriend she would attach herself to an important musician. Sometimes she would find herself going back to the musician’s house for a little fun. She didn’t mind. That’s how things were done. Some might have called her a groupie but she didn’t go by that. You would never find her following those musicians around begging for scraps of time or a photo opportunity. Angela was smart. She was not one of those women as she would tell herself. I am going to make it and make it big. Everyone will remember my name.
When it was time for her break she asked her boyfriend casually ‘baby you think the group is playing well. I thought the guitar wasn’t quite right?”
Her boyfriend replied “actually he is not that great. He is off key sometimes but unless you listen closely you can’t tell.’
Now this was interesting. Her boyfriend had never told her the guitar was off. Clearly he did not have her best interests at heart. Clearly it was time to let him go. He couldn’t help her anyway and she had heard that his studio was having money problems. “I don’t hang out with losers. Its time for you to hit the road,” she thought.
She thought about her problems. She tried to tell the guitar player to work on his skills but it seemed he thought he knew better. After all what did she know about guitar?
Two weeks later Kamau was back with his friends. Even though he had never quite gotten over Nyokabi, Angela was on his mind. He was infatuated with her. He had not really had time to socialize much in the city. With his busy job and university he was so swamped and tired at the end of the day all he wanted was his bed.
Kamau was no fool however. He understood signals and he had gotten the signs that Angela was just not interested. But it didn’t stop him from thinking about her. Her music drew him to her. She was like a flame that moths gravitated towards not knowing that their death might be imminent.
So when Angela came to his table at the break to say hi, Kamau’s heart almost stopped. He did not stop to think what could have brought about the change of heart.
Angela on that day was wearing a blue dress that clung to her like a second skin and left nothing to the imagination. It was a good thing Kamau had not watched the movie the devil in a blue dress otherwise he might have been more weary of Angela.
“Sweetie,” she said, how are you. I haven’t seen you for a while. I thought you liked my singing. I was sad when you didn’t come back!” as she sat at an empty seat that one of Kamau’s friends had just vacated to create room for her
Kamau could not believe that she had remembered him. He was mesmerized by her lips that had some shiny red lipstick that seemed to glitter. As if to heighten the effect she took a cigarette out of her stocking.
‘Sweetie, please light this cigarette for me,” Angela said. Kamau looked around to his friends to see who had a lighter. One of his friends who smoked gave Kamau his lighter. Kamau leaned in to light Angela’s cigarette which was now on her lips. He could smell her perfume, something light and fresh. It smelt heavenly.
Angela took a puff and then said, ‘honey I have been thinking about what you said about the guitar player. I think that it may be true that he is not so good. Would you happen to know how to play? I would like to see if there is a difference. Would you play with me one set? Please baby!” and with that she leaned forward and showed Kamau a glimpse of her cleavage.
Poor Kamau. He wasn’t thinking properly. Actually at that moment if she had told him to go to the moon he would probably have found a way there.
Kamau agreed. Angela went to the guitar player whose name was Michael and told him to go get a drink. She had gotten a friend of hers to do the next set. Michael went off, glad for a chance to get some beer and some rest. That gal is so pretty but she is such a bitch, he thought as he went to the bar to get himself a drink or two.
Kamau took the guitar and tuned it. It felt right in his hands. He did not have a guitar to play with at home. He had left his guitar when he had fled the village. But sometimes in the youth service he attended he was called to play and sing whenever there was a special guest coming in.
The music was flowing. Kamau had a gift for musical instruments. He could play and had played most instruments including the Isikuti while in high school. The only thing he had not learnt to play was the piano because his school could not afford one let alone hire a teacher to teach it.
At some point Angela asked Kamau whether he could sing and when he said yes, Angela asked him to join her in a song. The chemistry was amazing. The music sounded good to the ears. It was like collaboration between Barry White and Mariah Carey. At the end of the performance the audience clapped and cheered asking them to play another number together. They seemed to have real appreciation for the duet.
When Angela saw how people were appreciating the music more and seemed to be focused on her, she realized something. She had to get Kamau into the band and under her thumb. He was going to be her ticket to fame.
And that is how Kamau started playing in the band “the kikuyu calashes” as the lead singer and guitarist. Kamau had no way of knowing it at the time but this band would change his life and fortunes.
Nyokabi sat on her bed and wept. The party for her graduation and homecoming had taken place hours ago. The party had wound up at around 2 o’clock with people going off to various spots to enjoy themselves. But Nyokabi had not felt like celebrating. Her degree seemed to her an empty trophy. She could swing it around yes and show everyone but somehow to her it meant nothing.
The past four years that she had spent in UK doing her degree and pupilage had seemed to have dragged on. She had hated the winter. The place was so bloody cold. She wondered how anyone would survive and thrive in such an environment. She had wanted the sun, its warmth on her face as she woke up and went through her day. The weather had just made more depressing a situation she had not wanted to be.
She had not wanted to go to the UK. She planned to hate it with all her heart and grudgingly do her degree. Eventually though she found that the city had cast a spell on her and she started to love it. There was nothing to go home to. No one knew where Kamau was and she hated her father with all her heart for what he had done.
Nyokabi chatted with her mum every week. On Saturday night she would call her and they would catch up. She had tried to tell her mum about email but her mother just didn’t seem to get the concept so they were forced to write each other letters. She would get so excited to get letters from her mum and sisters. Her dad wrote too but she didn’t care about that. Nyokabi largely ignored him unless she was asking for money for allowance and expenses.
Nyokabi had a social one through a screwed one. She had made friends with a couple of girls and they had become close. But men, she stayed away from them. The experience with Kamau had scarred her. It was partly because she was in love with him and was sorry for ruining his life and also the guilty at what her dad had done ate at her. She did not want to be distracted from her studies by men who were just passing time with her.
She would think, “one day I will go back to Kenya and find Kamau. Maybe there is still a chance for us to be together, to be happy.”
But as the years past Nyokabi gave up on the illusion of love and of finding Kamau. “He probably has a girlfriend or two. He is so handsome and his voice…..” she would think.
By second year she had mellowed at least a bit. Nyokabi started going out with the girls out on the town to have a great time. She did not drink much though. She was scared of what might happen if she set herself loose. Nyokabi had seen what happened to some girls when they got drunk. They would strip their clothes or start singing at the top of their voices. Sometimes they would let a man take them home.
“That life is not for me. I want to get my degree and go home. I don’t want attachments or one night stands.” Nyokabi had not let go of her old fashioned values. She did sometimes though wish she had a boyfriend who loved her and cherished her like some of her friends had.
Nyokabi put all her energy into school. She always ended up in the dean’s list. She was an outstanding student but a D average in social skills.
Some campus guys were fascinated by her. She was very beautiful even by standards outside of Kenya. They kept trying to woo her and were not rebuffed when she said no. they tried again and again. Eventually they got the message that “Nyokabi was not available”
So here was Nyokabi back in Nairobi. She had her degree in law but she had no love. The worst thing was Nyokabi felt lost. She felt like she was caught in a time warp. Things had changed and no one had time for her. Her sisters were close probably because they had not been banished abroad although they went to expensive schools in the city and one was in 1st year at university.
Nyokabi had tried asking her mum about Kamau. Mrs. Mbae had looked at her daughter with a sad look in her eyes and said, “Kamau’s mum no longer speaks to me and no one from the village has told me anything. They all despise us for what your father did. But I heard I don’t know if it is true that Kamau is working as a clerk somewhere in the city.’
Nyokabi’s heart had sunk at that news. Kamau with all his potential was a clerk. She thought Kamau must hate her and curse her every day for that kiss. She had no doubt at all that Kamau was in that situation because of her and her dad.
“I am going back to UK. There is nothing for me here. At least there I have friends and I have a purpose. I don’t want to stay here,” she thought as she buried her face in her pillow and tried to get some sleep.
Mr. Mbae relaxed in the tent outside his house. He took a sip of his expensive whiskey as his friends chatted all around him. “This was all worth it. My daughter is a graduate of a prestigious university with a law degree.”
Mr. Mbae frowned as he thought of how that imbecile boy had almost ruined his daughter’s future. Mr. Mbae had no apologies what so ever for what he had done. He felt he had been justified in what he had done. Given a chance he would have done it all over again.
As he looked as his beautiful expensive house in Karen with a view of the Ngong hills he thought, “Look how far I have come. With my brains and sweat I have gotten myself here. Who would imagine a simple poor village boy would get this far.”
Mr. Mbae had been born Jon Mbae Mburu. He had been the last born of a family of six children. His father had been a teacher and his mother a stay home mother and farmer. When he was two his father abandoned them and went to the city to look for better fortunes. He had never returned. His mother had been forced to raise him and his siblings out of her earnings from the farm. Before his father left Mbae and the family had not exactly been staving but they had gotten by. When his dad left there was no money.
Eventually to make money maze’s mum started brewing traditional changaa. There were always men, drunk men around their house. Sometimes one of them would become a temporary occupant of his mother’s bed.
Mbae grew up hating his circumstances. “I will get out of here. I promise. One day I will get out of here and I will never look back. I will not be poor like this forever. I will make it no matter what it takes.”
Mbae would go to school in the mornings. Well, when there was no work in the shamba or helping his mum get the ingredients for the changaa. Making changaa wasn’t easy. The police were always coming around for a bribe or sometimes for a drink. Sometimes especially when there was a new boss at the station there would be harsh measures. The police would come and carry away the drums of changaa and his mother to boot. She would end up spending a couple of days in the cell while she negotiated her release.
During those times the family would go hungry. Everyone around them was also poor. They did not have money to feed 8 empty mouths, the two extra being children Mbae’s mum had gotten with different men who had stayed over for a couple of months before moving on.
By the time Mbae was ten all of his siblings had left. His two sisters had gotten pregnant and married the losers who had gotten them that way. Their lives were pretty much what their mother’s had been. Suffering and more suffering. Mbae’s brothers had all gone to the city to look for money and their father. They promised to return and save the family. None did. It’s like they left the filthy hut with the fermented smell and the black cockroaches and say au revoir.
So by the age of ten Mbae was the defunct head of the family. Mbae was clever. He found ways to hide mtungi’s of changaa far away from the house where the cops even if they came would never find them. He also found a way to distribute the changaa so as to make maximum profits. He would borrow a bicycle sometimes and cycle with some of the changaa and distribute it. Soon people started sending him to other areas to buy and sell for them things. He would charge them a commission.
By the time Mbae was seventeen he had bought two bicycles of his own. He used them for transporting goods throughout the region and he had expanded his area of operation. He had even made friends with the police. Paying the police a monthly bribe to stay away from the operations. He even distributed changaa at the police station. The changaa he made was very good, he had taken over from his mum who had succumbed to the lure of alcohol and started consuming her own brew.
By the time Mbae was 22 he had one of those Peugeot matatu’s to ply people along the route from his home area to other areas. Mbae kept expanding his operations until by the time he was 25 he was very well off.
After that he moved his base of operations to river road. He had stopped dealing in changaa when his mum died when he was 18. But he had learnt lessons from doing that business that he brought to the city. Including how to put the police into his pocket.
Mbae had met his wife in the city and they got married. He had never told her where he had come from, telling her that he was an orphan who had siblings but they did not talk. He had bought land where his wife’s family came from and that’s where they had settled.
Now as Mr. Mbae looked at his house and laughed with his wealthy friends he was content. “Look at me now. I have made it. And I have plans for Nyokabi. She doesn’t know it but she is going to make me an extremely wealthy and influential man.”