At one corner in the sitting room is where I mostly sit. I like it here because it is close to the socket. I know it is not advisable, but sometimes I just have to use my phone while it’s charging. School is opening on Wednesday. I mean, time during the school holidays is like the wind. The holiday begins just the way you can feel a gentle breeze of air starting to blow. You think it’s going to be slow and gentle through out to cool the heat on my forehead and calm the pressure in my chest from the hectic high school life. I think I will graduate from high school with the same qualifications as an NYS graduate. And before you know it, the wind of the holiday whirls and blows like in the desert. So you should feel me by now. You were once in high school by the way. Remember how you felt just before opening school?
Those were the times chats got so lively. Not a minute would pass without a new message. Too bad for you if all you had in your high school days was Facebook. Okay, I guess that sells us out as spoilt brats because we have a variety of social media platforms, especially Instagram. The top conversations and of course gossips for girls when schools open is who posted what and the scandal it brought them or other mjangos as a result. Well, some gossips are as bad as guys leaking nudes of their high school girlfriends. One time, a classmate of mine didn’t show up in school for two weeks after opening because, you know, who is courageous enough to come to school after such an incident?
Thank Heavens my mama brought me up well. She tells me in her Kikuyu accent, “Joska hakuna mwanaume atawahi kuheshimu ukishamwonyesha uchi wako! Mtafurahia hapo alafu akuwache.” Oh, by the way my name is Joska, but people call me Joy. It didn’t make sense then when she said it until after I heard what happened to my classmate. If I would turn back time I would say, “Yes ma’am.” It’s the principle that if you give a man everything he wants, he will take you for granted.
She never stops talking about the way men value a woman with manners even though most of them don’t openly say it. “Decency can kill the ego of a man,” she once said while coaching me on how to cook ugali.
“Especially because I know I gave birth to a beautiful daughter, I have to tell you these things or else I will lose you without knowing.”
Being called beautiful by my mother felt more genuine than when boys tell me.
“But mum how can I stop myself from boys? Especially when they look handsome as well?”
“Joska! Hii sio saa ya kufikiria kuhusu vijana. This is the time to concentrate on your books. Next year you’re in form three. And then? Before long, form four.”
“Ai mum ebu stop saying that. You’re making me feel anxious as if I’m already in form four.” I said as I turned the ugali one more time.
“Usiwache ugali iungue Joy. Si unajua baba yako hapendi ugali imeungua hata kidogo.”
“Yes I know.”
She was chopping onions on the other side of the kitchen counter.
“But mum allow me to ask this question, because in one way or the other, you’re the one to teach me about men.”
She was silent for a while.
“Ehe! Ask. But you seem to really like this topic.” She chuckled. “But it is your age.”
As I shaped the ugali into a dome, “Is it possible to get a man who is loyal nowadays?”
She stopped chopping midway as if she was processing the question and then proceeded.
She said, “You know the world has really changed today. In our times, marriages were taken very seriously. Even when you take a girl to stay with you at your house, the society takes it like you have already married her. You cannot change that and neither can you run away from that.”
I was now giggling. “Ai mum but surely, men are cunning as far as I know,” I said while overturning the sufuria onto a flat plate.
She says while laughing, “Which man have you dated to know how cunning they are surely?”
“Mum wacha kuruka story.”
“Okay, they couldn’t escape because as soon as the clan of the man realises that he has brought a girl to his house, the elders of that clan took a goat to the girl’s parents. Those days people used to really know one another and the chain of families people came from.”
I was now standing watching her chop tomatoes, “And what would they say to the parents?”
“They would just say we have seen our boy take in your girl. Have this goat as a compensation. After they do that, they boy has to marry her.”
“So nobody could escape responsibility?”
“It was not easy. And they actually turned out to be responsible. And loyalty was there even though polygamy was rampant. They would not hide their affairs with another woman. It would be officially know from the very start of things and just like that, soon a second wife is in the house.”
“Aki no! I can’t accept that. If it were me, I would leave!”
“Joska you think it is that easy?” She stopped chopping and the tone in her voice had now changed.
I freaked out and paused too. Seems I had just hit a nerve.
I slowly walked out of the kitchen and went to this corner that I am sitting at now. For quite some time, I stayed without knowing why she reacted that way, until today. She came over and sat on the couch next to mine.
In my head I am thinking about why she has to come and talk to me now when the chat is so lit. I prep some nice ways of telling her that she can go and come back later. You know the slight misuse of a word when addressing mothers can cause greater chaos than a clash between fans of Baba and the GSU cops. The sitting room would turn into a lecture room and the phone should dare not make a sound as little as a vibration. If it does, you risk being told, “Yaani nakuongelesha na bado unachat na hao mayboyfriend kwa akili?” And the remote thrown at you. Make another mistake of devising a move that will make her miss.
“Joy.” She says.
I look at her. The face she’s wearing makes her look like the mother of pity. Upon realising that, I put my phone aside to listen. She tried not to cry through the entire ten minutes she spent speaking her heart out. I guess I didn’t have to tell her I have some chats to catch up on. It was no longer important after she said what she said.
She started by saying that I being her first born, there is something I deserve to know as I grow into a woman of my own. The question that I asked some weeks ago did poke a wound she carries in her heart through every single day. That wound is about how my father changed over the years after they got married. The reason why I have never noticed is because of how good she has been in hiding it for the sake of my younger sister and I. But the reality is that my father, her husband, has not been the loving man she knew before.
“Have you ever noticed why I hide the stove?” She asked.
“No mum.” I said.
“It’s because if he got to know that we have a stove, he will never buy gas again. He says that’s a waste of money. I have to keep it because what shall we do on that day gas will run out abruptly? Should we stay hungry yet on some nights we are never sure whether he will be coming home?”
He has built a nice house for us, yes. But she showed me how we deserve much more and even I deserve to be in a better school. Where his money goes to, not even she knows. He would not show up on some nights and he’d come back after two nights or so without caring to know what we ate. He loves his car more than he loves his family. “Men have that problem of attaching more value to their cars which is very bad. I can’t even borrow the car for us to go to church with.” She has had to do so much that she cannot say just for us to be a stable family like other families.
“Sometimes women stay in their homes in silence about all kinds of trouble about their husbands, not because they don’t have a way to leave, but because of what it will cost her children. Some have more to lose when they leave home. So for the sake of the stable upbringing of their children, they have to stay strong and pray more. Yes, men can be loyal, as you asked. But just know on some days, unfaithfulness is not the greatest fear of wives and mothers. And sadly, we can almost do nothing about them, but to pray for them. I’ve not told you this so that you can hate your father. He is still you father. I have told you my daughter, so that you grow up with the picture of the real world at the back of your mind and that you may pray for him too.” She said, stands up and leaves for her bedroom.
I bet she has gone to pray.


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