Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Author in the making.

CHAPTER ONE The Chief Executive Officer studied the Curriculum Vitae for the umpteenth time, the twentieth time to be precise, and as his conscience had told him the first time he had been introduced to its bearer, the young man was hiding some cheekiness behind his handsome façade something that he wished he could place a reason on. He found no outright reason for disliking the young man but he disliked him all the same. “What is it that is making me loathe you young man?” He asked silently as the innocent job seeker faced the interviewing panel “So,” the C.E.O broke the silence, “tell us anything you think we should know about you that is not reflected in the resume but which you think can place you in a better place to clinch this job.” The in-betweens did not escape the interviewees’ attention as he tried to digest the full meaning of the question and not the implicit one. “ I know what you did last summer,” he told the C.E.O silently as their eyes inter locked but was quick enough to shift from that line of thought as his chief objective at the moment was to at least get salesman’s job for he badly needed something to hang onto as he sought for greener pastures later. “Well, I did not indicate in the C.V that my philosophy of life is ‘to work, work and work again.” ‘As you have seen from my records I was educated through bursaries from form one to form four simply because my father passed away before I was even born.” ‘And I know who killed him,’ he wanted to add. “So in my entire life, I have always strived to do my best so as help my jobless mother and siblings.” He concluded matter-of-factly. He avoided the C.E.O’s eyes lest his anger should betray him. What he did not tell them however was the fact that he also needed that job very much so as to win back the confidence of his unwedded wife who had deserted him due to bankruptcy. Theirs’ had been one set of bliss followed by another set of blast in a relationship that traced back to their days in Maseno university a time when he could swear he saw the sun rise set in her eyes. “My knees actually wobbled when I first laid my eyes on you.” He had once flattered her when she had wanted him to prove that his love was genuine. He was daydreaming of such lovely times when a question from one of the panelists jolted him to reality. “We are so sorry that we reminded you of such a painful event in your life,” the panelist had offered but Dan had not heard that part. “So, what can you achieve for the firm that will make you different from the other applicants who are also aiming for the same job as you?” “First of all, I have always believed that stooping is the prerequisite for conquering and that is why I just want to begin my career out in the field as a salesman.” They were keenly looking at him now. “If given this job, I will make it my duty to set higher sales unit goals each and every time I break my preceding sales pitch record. Besides, I will utilize the skills I have gained from other places not only to push the scales higher but also to develop a conducive environment for me to learn as much as I can from your excellent and experienced staff.” The interview had gone on for some few more minutes before they released him with a promise to get in touch with him as soon as they arrived at a decision. Meawhile, he expelled himself to his bed-sitter in Kayole where he went to indulge in some little dreaming and fantasizing of the sweet sweet memories of their happier college days. Back in those days, none of them could ever dream of ever breaking up. Theirs was a relationship headed for the clouds or the skies beyond. CHAPTER TWO “Mum, I really don’t mean to offend you but I have made up my mind that I am going in for Media.” She said with some finality that anyone who did not know Moraa’s family could mistake her for a spoilt disobedient young lady. “As I have always told you my little old Toy,” she had been nicknamed ‘Toy’ in her childhood due to her small sized body and till now the name had stuck like some stubborn super glue. “I will never stand in between you and your dreams, what I only want is to be sure that you make a career choice that you will be proud of even when you will be propping yourself up with a stick like your old man.” Her mother advised her. She usually referred to the father of her only child as the old man. She had learnt to forgive him for breaking her heart but she had sworn that she would never get married again. She believed that each individual had one special person meant for him or her and hers had broken her heart, she could not be married to another man for she would be grabbing or stealing somebody else’s property. She was a staunch Seventh Day Adventist and she lived by the commandments of God; ‘Thou shall not steal,’ the eighth commandment stated in Genesis 20 verse 15. she had also read in Mathew 5:32 that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. She did not want to cause someone to sin against God. “If you should ever change your mind, just consider medicine again for I have always envisioned you as a doctor but you do not have to do anything to please me; just go after your heart.” She did not have to put it in many words for she knew her daughter. Just like her grandmother, Lillian had always been a principled lady. In her childhood, her mother did not even dare to lull her to sleep if she had made up her mind to cry all night through. And when she decided to play, it was play and nothing else. “You have to move mountains to have her change her mind,” her mother had mused to a relative who had tried to soothe an unrelenting- crying stubborn kid. “Just let her cry her heart out, she will self- soothe when she will feel like.” “Mom I know I can always make it in any field that I may venture into even medicine but I just don’t have the morale to do it.” The case was settled for good. This topic was never going to be revisited again CHAPTER THREE The distant crowing of the cocks, the sweet mooing of the cows, the cock cuckooing of the chicken, the sweet smell of the mud walled house, not a poem but some of the things he was missing very much some hundred and ten plus kilometers away. A majority of youths in the rural areas could give anything to taste the urban life they had been brainwashed to believe was cool. However, those who had been there had a different story to tell. Rural to urban migration was increasing at such an alarming rate that scholars were predicting that in the near future the rural areas could be reserved for animals only. Several push and pull factors facilitated this one way traffic of human exodus to the urban areas. Good jobs, nice entertainment facilities, booze and girls were some of the pulls while lack of them in the rural was the push. He had read somewhere that simplicity is young ambitious ladder and so he had become so used to his simple life at home. He began his day at quarter past six, whispered a short prayer, then proceeded to see to the welfare of the domestics; the cows first then the goats. He ensured that the cows had enough Napier grass and the goats were well tethered at strategic places where they could feed to their full. Later he could go to the shamba for three hours before taking a shower and joining his folks for some little chit chat. He was so used to the village life that he always wondered whether he was ever going to adapt to the fast-paced college life; which one of the village boys-who was undergoing it at Njoro –had told him was a different kettle of tea altogether. “It is there that you will see all types of personalities, the only market with hundreds of madmen rather than one,” the boy had told him. So when he had reported to the university for the first time he did not know whether he was going to keep his cool to the end or if he was going to join the ever expanding league of college madmen and madwomen. On an ordinary day, he could have missed the lecture but the lecturer had promised them a continuous assessment test that would have them scratching their heads for 60% of the time allocated for the C.A.T. So here he was, Dan, the last born in a family of four and as fresh as fresh could be in Maseno University-the only University on the Equator. What he had not been told during the orientation was that apart from being the only university on the equator, Maseno was the only University where one had to learn most things by rumors, the only University where one could take his date for hiking in the famous Emabungo rocky hills, the only University where S.T.D was not an acronym for sexually transmitted diseases, but sexually transmitted degrees, the only University south of the Sahara where one could have more than five intimate girlfriends within the college without their knowing each other nor colliding. Two or three could be in Siriba’s ladies hostels while the rest could be in College campus. Dan had been guest to some of the latest rumor mills, “I tell you man, Onyago took Nancy to the tent for lunch yesterday.” The mill was Felix his course mate and great pal. “What I was left wondering;” continued Felix “is why he chose to go for that wide load while he has more than two thousand models at his disposal.” “what you should be left wondering,” offered Dan, “is why you have never known that beauty is in the beholder’s eye and not in the ‘beholded’s’ looks.” As usual the noise in Millennium hall was deafening as various rumor mongers spilled their latest. There was a belief in the maseno that a rumor had a great probability of becoming a truth for instance if one heard a rumor that there was an imminent strike and took no precaution, then there was a high chance of being got off guard. Even in the lecture halls rumor learning was one of the teaching strategies employed by the lecturers. There were no public address systems in the lecture halls and so those who were born back-benchers had to learn through this method. There was craning of necks and a lot of whispering in attempts to record the rumors accurately. “What has he said?” one backbencher could ask someone directly in front. “I only heard the last phrase; ‘forum investment,” The reply could come but on craning the neck to find out from another person the statement could be quite different; ‘Quorum ingestment of Kenya in neighboring countries.’ This is a statement that was originally phrased as; ‘foreign investment of Kenya in her neighboring countries.’ This was usually made more interesting if the lecturer was a great fan of one of the version of Kenyan English such as the Amerucan English where neighboring was modified with an additional ‘m’ to become ‘neimbouring,’; “U.K” English where the pronouncing of a ‘h’ was a crime and the prolonging of an‘s’ was macho, thus English was automatically transformed to engliss – with a prolonged‘s’. Other popular versions included the south kavirondo version where letter ‘j’ was transformed to ‘chay;’ and letter ‘l’ was replaced by ‘r.’, the kikuyu version was however not very common in Maseno. This is a version whereby ‘sh’ automatically became ‘ch’ thus a shirt became a chat. One lecture had one time amused her audience when she had called a shirt a chat. “I don’t have any pronounciation problems as you may think,” she had begun, “Unlike my river-lake Nilote colleagues, I can’t call a ‘chat’ a ‘sat’ since my mastery of the Queens mother-tongue is unquestionable.” Indeed it was unquestionable since the freshers who were her audience had not mastered her dialect to tell that she meant a shirt and not a chat. The fact that communication skills was a common course coupled with the fact that a sit-inn was in the offing in a day’s time ensured that the hall was packed beyond capacity despite the fact that another group was attending the same class at that same time in Hindocha hall. CHAPTER FOUR When Dan had learnt at first that he had been admitted to the ‘only university on the Equator,’ he had not been impressed at all for he had not chosen it among his four university choices at Agoro Sare High. He had even considered seeking for a transfer but his conservative father had dissuaded him from making that ‘blunder.’ “You may not be aware,” his dad had informed him, “but your mother was once a student at Siriba Teacher’s Training College and from the best of her memory, it was one of the places she would choose to settle given the choice.” He had accepted not because his dad had convinced him but because he did not want to disappoint his mother, the one person he greatly adored in this world. Despite the aging look in the deep-set, blue eyes, the wrinkling face, the whitening hair, and other tell-tale signs of aging in Awuor’s body, few could ever guess that she was now approaching her fifty fifth birth-day due on the 23rd of October. Dan could never recall a day that had passed without his mother going to the shamba, she was always stooping and from what he had been taught at church, this was a prerequisite for conquering. “The lower you stoop, the greater will be your conquering.” The preacher had said. He could however recall very well how she had always brought them goodies from the market every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Dan was always beaten to the goodies basket by his elder brother who always went for the biggest mandazi leaving the rest to mama’s boy and his two younger sisters. Judging by the current standards, Awuor’s family could be said to be a tad away from the conventional family of at most four kids. Not that she had attended any family planning course or had used any of those unafrican pills. Nature had planned her family for her- the Malthus style. Had her husband been alive today, the number of kids could have been approaching ten or thereabouts just like her neighbours.However, the hand of nature had foreseen this and as Malthus had predicted, the positive checks came on to rescue the universe from the imminent problem of over population. The morning was chilly that day, the cow had moored twice at night, and she had felt that funny feeling she had felt ten years ago when her mother had passed away. She had even had that scary nightmare. She was running from an unseen enemy but she was not moving, she remained glued to the same spot no matter how first she ran. The enemy was closing in on her with every step she made. She tried screaming and was also surprised to realize that she was voiceless and her screaming was in vain. Her nightmare usually ended just before the faceless enemy caught up with her. She had dressed the kids for school, and had later seen him off. She had a strong urge to tell him about the dream but dismissed the notion on grounds that maybe the she was affected by the pregnancy. “Even if I tell him,” she tried reasoning with her conscience, “would he believe me?” She had stared at him long after he was off into the horizon as though she had had a sneak preview of the imminent disaster. Whether the sixth sense really exists is contentious and what it ought to be is yet even more contentious. Is it the common sense? Or just another sense that is still yet to be unraveled by the inquisitive scientists? However the general consensus is that women have this strange sense that enables them to predict some bad outcomes such as accidents, deaths, separations, among other bad occurrences. Awuor knew it the moment she saw the neighbor approaching her at the shamba. The funeral arrangement for Okeyo was hurriedly done as per the elder’s advice so as to avoid another death in form of a miscarriage. This had been a timely decision as it had facilitated the smooth birth of Daniel Ondieki on the wee hours of twenty second of April 1981. The birth had been a good omen as the superstitious relatives believed that God had sent back Okeyo reincarnated. However, they overruled the idea of renaming him Okeyo again arguing that the name was prone to bad luck. Looking back twenty four years down the line Okeyo reincarnate wondered why Dad had to die in such a grisly manner before he even got the chance to see how he looked like. “Was he tall and handsome as I am? Or probably as blonde as Mercy? What about his temper? Was he as short tempered as Billy?” These rhetoricals were ever present in his mind. He had secretly sworn to himself that the perpetrators of his dad’s death would one day beg for mercy from him. “Dad I hope you will one day understand that I had to do it for you.” He had one day promised as he listened to Kenny Rodgers’ song coward of the country and just like Tommy, he did not want every one to consider him the coward of the county nor to call him old’ yellow. This had become an all time favorite song for him such that he had composed it as the ring tone in his mother’s mobile phone. But as time passed by and as he learnt the art of forgiving but not forgetting, Dan slowly pushed this notion to the back of his mind, and the so called sub-conscious mind where all the archives of his life were permanently pasted but the song still remained his all time favorite. He was to revisit this sad event sometime later at ICRAF. The fateful encounter with Lillian was however solidly stored in both the conscious and the subconscious sections of his mind. He had met her during his sophoremore year and since then it had been quite a task for him to get her to love him. A task that involved penning down various award winning poems some of which were now lying comfortably beneath Lillian’s closet and some of which never reached her at all. He had once considered changing his profession but he rather opted to have poetry as a hobby rather than a profession even though it could equally pay very well. It was also a hobby that would cause him some bitter sorrows. CHAPTER FIVE He had undergone a string of short term relations since his freshman year. On average he had done two relationships per semester. He had found his first girl during the infamous fresher’s ball; a time when the freshers were supposed to be given the real orientation to university life. The first and obvious orientation was the familiarization with the lecture halls, the libraries, and the halls of residence. The latter were very necessary for the process of prowling especially in the ladies halls. These included the Makerere ‘Box,’ New Makerere a.k.a twin towers, in siriba Campus, and the Institutes, Sunrise, and the Annexes, at college Campus or the various halls in the village campuses. For the poor drunkards, mama pinky’s was not so far. This is a miti ni dawa-kind of bar some few meters from Emabungo trading center and it is here that most drunkards visited first for a warm glass of ‘cham’- an appropriate goodstart- before proceeding to either Equator, Maseno club or any other beer refilling station to summarize with some one or two mawindo ya mfalme. If one made keen observations at the Equator pub then the fake drunkards from mama Pinky’s could be easily picked out, they usually held onto one Pilsner bottle from 8 p.m to midnight and yet they were the most drunken. However during such ball- the freshers’ ball, booze was available in the vicinity of Hindocha hall. The old guards also believed that freshers were loaded with money that they did not know how to use and thus they appointed themselves the financial advisers who had the task of ensuring that the innocent kids bought as many beers as they could. Davy had happened to dance with several girls and bought booze for most of them but it was the last dance partner who had captivated him. Unlike Dan, Davy hailed from a well to do family. His Dad had made sure that all of them had a decent education. This was in contrary to most kikuyus who believed that everyone should carry his or her own cross. Rumor had it that some could go to the extremes as to send away theirs kids from home once they had provided them with the basic education. One had infact employed his kid to be his driver and had even denied him any rights that was due to somebody’s child. The poor boy had to rent a room out of the meager salary he earned as his dad’s driver and budget for his food and other expenses. “Feel free to quit at any time if you feel that you are not earning your deserved due.” The father had told him one day when an argument had ensued regarding the relationship between the two family members. Ngugi’s kids were however lucky for Davy was not the first to go to the university on a special entry basis, his elder sister and brother were currently in the United States pursuing different degree courses. Davy had opted to attend Maseno University not because it could help him explore the country- away from his Nyahururu home town- but because his high school buddies Dan ondieki and Fabian Mulusi had been sent there by the unmerciful J.A.B. Dan had been admitted for a Bachelor’s degree in Business administration (B.B.A) commonly referred to as Bachelor of Being Around whilst his other buddy was a media personality-to-be just like him. They had not left the dance floor for almost two hours running even when piga makofi -the song he loathed most was playing. Davy did not agree with Dan’s notion that most Kenyan musicians could only sing about three things; partying or hepi, mamanzi (girls), or keroro except for some few exceptionals such as Eric Wainaina, Victor Seii, and Achieng Abura amongst others. He had always had a rough time trying to convince his pal to appreciate the beauty of the genges and kapukas rather than the boring bongo flavors of the neighboring Tanzania as Dan fondly referred to his second favourite genre of music after rhythm and blues – the number one. Oblivious to Dan’s opinion, Davy and Sandra were as busy as ants on the Hindocha dance floor. He had almost resigned at one point when the D.J had played Jaci Velasquez’s song ;Sin Ti No Puedo which called for some salsa prowess but thanks to Sandra’s quick crash course which had him doing mumbo’s, cross over’s,and swivels even for such benga songs as; “am not sober” which was the Kenyan version of Kenny Rogers’ country road. It was the salsa bit that had actually attracted him to Sandra. They did less verbal talk on the dance floor they were specialists in bubu talk- the language of saying without talking. The older Sandra was however more versed in this language and was teaching the first year some new vocabularies. That night after the dance Davy had learnt some new vocabulary in the Maseno English. He had learnt that exile does not only apply to political parlance but can also apply to an innocent student like him. He had quit the dance floor finally at midnight to see off Sandra to her room in the institutes which was at the other end of the college and on returning he saw no other reason to continue dancing without his salsa tutor. So he had headed off to his room to rest his tired limbs. He was not prepared for the surprise that was waiting for him, but he had at least been warned by one of the fourth years who had wanted to swap rooms with Davy. “I wish you could know what it feels like to be locked out of your own room.” But poor Davy had not understood the warning when he had refused to swap. He had thought that maybe the sly old guard had a copy of the key to the room he wanted to send Davy to so that he could sneak in at some point to steal. “I wish I had said yes,” he regretted as he tried to peep for the last time through the keyhole to make sure that his eyes were not playing tricks on him that instead of the key he was seeing in the keyhole, some other object were preventing his key from opening the door. But the creaking of the bed was clearly audible amidst the full blast noise of the radio, and the moans of what he thought must be a lady were a bit incoherent as he made up his mind to head back to Hindocha. Even after dancing his head off till six o’clock Davy still came back to find the key in the lock. He promised himself to report the case to the janitor on Monday and seek for a transfer to another room if it could be possible. He went to Dan’s place to sleep that day. However Monday found him with a completely new idea that had not occurred to him. He had decided that if two formed a pair, then four would form a team. ‘It takes two to tango baibe!’ he had silently exclaimed to himself when the idea had first dawned on him. “I only have to convince Sandra to spend a night at my place even if it means giving her my word that nothing would happen.” He had told Dan that morning. “That would be the only way to teach that brat a lesson and to beat him at his own game.” Dan had however objected to scheme and some six years later he would regret why he had not used all the possible ways to dissuade his friend from digging his own grave at such an early age. But by that time Davy would be resting comfortably six feet under with some withering flowers for his roof and some unrelenting worms for his constant companions. Most people argued that the disease was meant to infect some human beings and that therefore there was no need to take any precaution but to let nature take its natural course. People who made such comments were usually those who were taking the necessary precautions but were out to prove to their colleagues that they were real men who feared nothing not even the killer itself. This could be the main reason why the disease was wiping away many Africans in the sub-Saharan like ants. In Kenya ironically it was in Nyanza province that the highest prevalent rates of the disease had been reported and coincidentally, this was where Maseno University was located. Davy was aware of these facts when he had left Nairobi, his parents had even reminded him of this fact several times and had even tried to discourage him from going to take his studies there but the boy had been adamant. Their dreams for him was that he joins his brother and sister overseas but Davy had always told them that he was a patriotic Kenyan who could not contribute to the unpatriotic brain drain from the country. “Mum,” he had once tried to reason with his mother, “you are the one who loathes the ‘white men’ for the way they treated your grandfathers during the MauMau era, why is it that you don’t see this new form of slavery?” “Which one my son? My eyes are getting old; can you help me see it?” “Well, mum, this is what is called neo-colonialism. Mzungu is coming back through the back door to colonies us by taking our best brains and our best raw materials. I also hope you know their trick of hiding under the veil of the Brettonwood institutions and pretending to give us aid while in the real sense they are bringing us A.I.D.S….” She was used to such long lectures from him and she did not take them in bad faith but as usual, she had to interrupt him or else there would be no end. “As usual you win, I will try and convince your dad that your choice is sound and Maseno it will be. Now go get me some cold water from the fridge, it has been a long briefing.” She teased him as she made for the guestroom. Davy was indeed a patriotic Kenyan going by the decoratioins in his room. The cubicle was filled with “Najivunia Kuwa Mkenya” which unfortunately had been corrupted to read “Najihurumia Kuwa mkenya.” Fortunately Mutua the government spokesman under whose docket the printing of these stickers fell did not have the faintest clue of what his noble idea had been turned into. However, it was not Davy’s idea to corrupt the stickers as such; it was his younger brother’s responsibility. CHAPTER SIX If Davy could be branded spoilt, then Fabian would be the most spoilt among the three former schoolmates. He walked, talked, dressed, acted and looked comfortably dirty. He was the only member of the ‘gang’ as they called themselves who smoked. Each member was unique in his own way, Dan the teetotaler, Davy the drunkard and spoilt rich, brat, and Fabian the poor, spoilt, careless smoker and drunkard. At high school he had not been such a chain smoker or maybe the other two had not known him well enough since he was in a different stream. They had only been united by the fact that they came from the same school otherwise as they were soon to discover, new friends were in the waiting. By the time they became sophomores no one could ever guess that the three hailed from the same school. Except for Fabian and Davy who were taking the same course, the three friends rarely met. Even for the two their friendship was withering day by day as everyone discovered some new other friends and realized that their interests were quite different. “I don’t know what else I can tell you Lil, I have tried to employ all the five languages at my disposal but you don’t seem to understand the depth of my feelings for you.” Dan complained to Lillian as they were leaving the student’s mess after a lunch date. Dan was your ordinary polyglot. He was very fluent in his mother tongue “Luo”, English, Kiswahili, French, and the universal body language –the five languages with which he had tried expressing his love for Lillian to no success. He had composed over twenty poems inspired by Lillian’s beauty. Of the best four, as per Lillian, two were in French even though the only French word she had managed to cram was laissez faire that is why she was not interfering with his infatuation of her. However, one poem in English had really touched her and she had neatly pasted it in the wardrobe of her cubicle. It read: Oh, how I hate myself When I have to admit To myself that, I love you Yet I cannot help it Yes I hate myself When I cannot read your mind Though I’m not psychic And find out If you too, love me Oh yes I hate myself When I confuse The look in your eyes For desire When in your heart; It is a contradiction I hate myself, hate myself, Hate, hate, and hate myself When, I cannot accept The fact that, Maybe; You are too good for me With luv Dan. To be fair and frank Dan had done his homework; this poem could make Beyonce Knowles to choke on the microphone. It was a chef d’oeuvre by all standards. The initial poems had been short and had not touched Lillian’s heart .She had simply threw them into the dustbin after one reading. Her roommate –Wairimu-had reprimanded her for these bad mannerisms of discarding such marvelous artwork especially the third one, which she had carefully retrieved and included it in a letter to her boyfriend Nick who was in Kenyatta University. It was as simply as: I met you as a stranger but I loved you as a friend, I hope we’ll even meet in heaven where true love never ends. Dan had memorized it that one day he had recited it in-between his love-lines to Lillian. His pals had tried dissuading him from trying to prove his love for her. Ken had told him to keep off her for two weeks and then wait for the outcome. “My boy, she’ll come crawling to you on all fours, and from then on you will be the one calling the shots.” Njugus-short form for Njuguna and not plural for ground nuts-his clown of a room-mate had advised him “not to throw the wood” -a direct translation of the street cant kutupa mbao –as there were a lot of fresh fish in the pond. He was advising Dan to join the gold rush for freshers as all the third years were doing. “Dan, maze you cannot Sit around and watch the remaining piece of your heart being broken down into atoms by this good for nothing sophomore, cant you look for a kafresher like mine; so portable, so lovable, so kissable, and…by the way I would never hanya a non-Kamba, men, they are so hot with a libido of ten plus oxen; talk of multi-libidinous.” By the time his roommate put a full stop to his rap Dan was dead asleep and far away in the land of fantasy. He was dreaming of the perfect couple they would make and the beautiful siblings they were going to sire. The best part of the dream was when they were making love. A part he always wished would never end. He sprayed her tender body with French kisses from head to toe as he tenderly opened the buttons of her blouse, and then…no input. His dream always ended on this sad note and no matter how hard he tried he could not go back to dream let alone sleep. When this happened, as it often did, he would wake up turn on the lights and write a love poem, or if there were no ideas he would read his notes. This habit had advanced unchecked ever since he had his first crush on Lilian during his sophomore year. However it was a good habit as far as his grades were concerned. While his comrades were busy trying to cram their heads full of phonetics and the nitty gritty of literature especially during the pre-exams period, Dan would be busy writing his award winning poems. His notes were read and re-read during the disturbed nights. CHAPTER SEVEN Having been brought up by a single mother, Lillian had been cautious wherever matters touching on her emotions were concerned. Her father had been a good “broadcaster” not of Kasavuli or Mbotela’s profession but a sibling’s broadcaster. He could be heard advising his wazee friends to leave as many photocopies on the face of the earth as possible as this was not only a sign of respect but also an assurance of the continuity of the family tree. His advice was restricted to the beer-circle escapades and most of his colleagues considered this as a mare beer- inspired wisdom. Moraa was among the good grounds upon whom mzee Angwenyi’s seeds had fallen upon and brought forth the beautiful fruit-Lillian. So beautiful indeed was she that her father was the first victim of her heartbreak. When he first saw her after her third birthday mzee Angwenyi had regretted why he had not married Moraa so that he could be called ‘beautiful’ Lillian’s father. Lillian had been so keen in observing all the sacrifices that her mother had offered to bring her into her current status. Moraa was not a lazy woman and she had defied all odds to make her daughter as comfortable as possible. Had she paid attention to her relatives and friends, she could have been married by another man, but she had told them severally that each and every person has one love in this world and hers had disappointed her-he had simply been playing around with her heart . Her homestead never lacked an avocado tree, bananas, sweet bananas, sweet potatoes, among other subsistence crops. She was always stooping that Lillian in her childhood naivety had assumed that her mother was trying to reduce her height oblivious to the fact that she was stooping to conquer. At one point in history, it was not only a great cultural sin for a luo and a kisii to intermarry but something which was not even imaginable. A luo who was caught having a relationship with a Ja kisii was branded an outcast and likewise a kisii who was caught having an affair with omogere was also disowned by the community with specifications that one could only be accepted back if and only when he or she appeased the gods by slaughtering a goat and disowning the woman or man in question. However, times had changed and the two tribes lived harmoniously with the advent of trade. It was now commonplace to find a kisii residing permanently in Oyugis or kisumu or a Luo comfortably staying at Daraja Mbili estate in kisii. The two cultures had borrowed and assimilated a lot from each other and thus they were gradually getting to accept each other. These are some of the issues that clouded Lillian’s mind as she tried contemplating the idea of being married to a mjaluo. “Their only positive is that they perform in the bedroom,” one of her friends had adviced her, “otherwise I couldn’t advice you to involve yourself with such an arrogant breed of men.” The friend in question was definitely a Kikuyu. Somebody had once said that the two tribes were like oil and water, the two could never stay together in peace. But in a civilized society like a University, it was a crime to be so uncouth and uncivilized to still walk in the chains of tribalism knowing very well that intermarriage was occurring in approximately every minute that if tribal clashes were to occur in the near future, no one could be hurt as everyone would be a mkosa kabila and thus just a Kenyan. It was this reasoning that made Lillian to give Dan that one chance he was waiting for so much. CHAPTER EIGHT She was a year behind him and with her humble demeanor; anyone could take advantage of her. The new cant for gold rushers was ponyoka na fresher. this simply meant that a senior who was worth his salt or at times her salt, would go out to hook up the new kids on the block and give them an orientation of what life ought to be like but is often not especially when one befriends the library so much. College relationships were often on the basis of annual inheriting and disinheriting. A fresher for instance could be inherited by a fourth year for one year later to be handed down to the younger generation of first, second and third years. This made it easier to pass on the H.I.V virus too. Despite the timely advices given by various people, university students never took the issue of A.I.D.S seriously most of them believe that it is a disease for the illiterate and not for the cream of society like them. However, they always take the precaution of using condoms which could be found everywhere from the field, hostel corridors, lecture halls to the alleyways. But what could not be ascertained was whether those who were scattering these vital commodities everywhere ever used them or they were among the prophets of nyama Kwa nyama or literally skin to skin. At least if the university V.C.T’s ever had patrons, then some statistics could be used to help develop some way forward. The vice-chancellor had relentlessly tried to hit home with his annual recurrent but timely advice on H.I.V AIDS. “Almost three quarters of your comrades that you are about to join are positive,” he usually told the freshers in his usual welcoming speech, “so just be extra cautious not to engage in any relationship with any of them.” He usually gave this advice with an assumption that he was addressing freshers only but not knowing that the sophomores, third and fourth years usually attended these meetings. Their attendance was not due to the good advices given there but because of the free sodas provided thereafter. It was usually funny that those whom the soft drinks wee meant for never really got to take them but instead had to wait until they got the primitive but necessary skill of shoving and scrumming. Bottles usually broke and some scramblers walked away with bags full of sodas and snacks and also beautiful scars that were later to be souvenirs and exhibits when giving the freshers the necessary course of scrambling. If the course could be introduced at the university then its code could definitely begin with an ‘S,’and not an ‘A’ since it was more of a science and not an art but if it could be an art then the code could definitely be ASC 101; Art of Scrambling and no third or fourth year education student could ever get a resit. This was the most notorious faculty when it came to ASC 301, and 401. If these individuals were being posted to one district to teach there the banks there should brace for some hard times. These advices were obviously neither meant for the likes of Davy and Fabian who lived without any care in the world nor the likes of Lillian who were focused on success that they could never think of ever giving the virus an occasion to attack them. However the latter groups were working on an assumption that the disease was always sexually transmitted which is not true. The truth is that over 90% of the cases are due to sexual promiscuity but some were not. Cases have been reported of faithful wives or husband dying due to the promiscuity of their unfaithful husbands, or other cases of people been infected due to mistakes committed by unprofessional medical practitioners. Even if this had not been the main rason for their break up some two years later, it was a contributing factor. After attending some peer training at the college, Lillian felt that it was time for them to go for a blood test. And it was on this seemingly minor issue that a thirty minutes argument had ensued. “Honey, is it that I seem to be that unfaithful to you?” he could not imagine himself being infected with the disease. “Of course I wholly trust you more than you can ever know. What I want us to do is to be sure of ourselves so that you don’t come to complain one day that I hid something from you.” “Look here my sweet lady, even if I discovered that you are a victim, I would never leave you…” “That is the mistake most of us usually commit, we assume that beautiful ladies and handsome men cannot be infected by the disease. That is an uncivilized way of reasoning Master Daniel Ondieki.” For the first time she had called him by his names. They had tried to reason with each other for a long time and when they realized that the argument was heading nowhere, they agreed to postpone it. “All I was trying to put across is that I really do care a lot for you. You can go and think about this issue and inform me of your final decision on Saturday when we meet again.” The issue was laid to rest for the time being as she changed the subject to the latest gossips going round in the ladies hostels. “Guess who is going out with Sam?” she enquired from him referring to one of her lecturers. “Don’t tell me it is you coz I will just faint right here.” He teased her to show her that he was really not upset by the previous topic. However this was a lie for the issue left him disturbed for more than one week. Does she suspect me for a victim? He asked himself over and over again. CHAPTER NINE This was going to be Dan’s third visit to Lilian’s room. The first two had not been as successful as he had wished maybe because he had defied the ten-to-ten rule; an unwritten rule restricting men from visiting ladies’hostels or vise versa past ten o’clock. These two times he had bounced on her or she had simply refused to open the door. Today however, he came at eight thirty the earliest he could manage to visit the ladies’ hostels otherwise his usual time was as from quarter to ten up to midnight or some minutes to midnight. Moreover, it being a Saturday he hoped that she would be around as the library was not open. On his way, he met several girlfriends but he had little time for them fearing that they could distract him and cause him to forget his latest masterpiece. He had red it severally including the gestures this time round if at all they could help him express his feelings and relieve his troubled heart of its heavy load. If I had one wish to make, I would wish, wish and wish That my wish be granted. If I had one dream t dream’ I would dream, dream and dream That my dream never ends. If I had one prayer to pray, I would pray, pray and pray That God our dear lord, Answers my prayers, Grants my wishes, And, Makes my dreams come true. However, should you grant me you? I would love you twice as much Each day as I wish, Dream, And pray That my wishes for you, And dreams about you, Find a minute of ‘dreams come true.’ What he was to discover later was that this poem was not going to be recited. 2003 was not such a promising year as most had anticipated even with an economist on the controls. The living standards of Kenyan continued dwindling even though economists argued that the Gross Domestic Product of Kenya was steadily rising at a rate of about 3.055%. Far away in Nairobi their counterpart comrades had once again done what they do best they were out in the streets releasing their wrath on innocent wananchi all in the name of having their demands fulfilled. The government usually aggravated the situation by sending anti-riot police. As usual, the reaction between police and university students on the streets was an exothermic one releasing a lot of energy in form of loses of property and at times life. One group was armed with teargas and rubber bullets whilst the other was armed with stones and rocks and the expertise to throw the like a boomerang. The same students usually came to face the same situation when they became employed and they were always the first to complain when the windscreens of their cars were shattered along university way. However, none of those worries had prepared Dan for the surprise that lay in store for him as he knocked on Lillian’s door. “Perhaps she has gone for supper,” thought Alphy as tried the doorknob after knocking thrice without any response. The doorknob yielded slowly to the biggest surprise in his life. He could not tell whether the room had any occupant at first as the lights were turned off. He thought of going back but on a second thought felt her presence. He could tell that she was not far from that room for he could smell her favorite cologne ‘Top society’ which was absorbed in a mixture of other scents such as candle smoke and the sweet aroma of chicken stew and chapatti’s –his favorite meal. This was just but a suite of the surprise that was about to unfold. The first movement of this suite; Bach’s allemande, was the soft Marvin Gaye’s ‘sexual healing’ humming softly from the Artech DVD player. The music was so soft that at first he had thought it was coming from the next door. The courante; second movement, was the candlelit dinner artistically set on the 4 by 4 study table from where the sweet aroma defiantly drifted from to all the corners of the room. The steady steam rising heavenward from the stew implied that the meal was not more than twenty minutes old. The third movement; the sarabande, was the sexy figure in a satin negligee hugging its wearer as if it had been tailored on her body. The clothe and its wearer provoked his emotions but that could wait. First things first. “Lillian, you are either being unfair or if my senses are not on holyday, I am in the wrong room with the right person.” Dan complained surprised and excited at the same time. Lillian just lay on the bed smiling waiting for her perfectly executed plan to take its full effect. “Come on Lillian, tell me something, were you waiting for me or have I gate-crushed on somebody’s birthday?” he continued in consternation still eliciting no response from his audience. “Okay,” he said in a resigned tone, “what is the occasion?” “Take a seat Dan and keep your questions till we finish with this two course meal.” She finally offered as she begun serving the stew. What he did not see on the table was the table wine tucked in a box beneath the table. It could have been champagne but the Helb loan was fully spent by this time and Lillian was also green when it came to maters of partying. All she knew was milk coffee and blended juice. The table wine had been Wairimu’s idea. She had personally bought it and had advised lilian on how to serve it to have the desired effect. “I don’t intend to develop any desired effect here Nimmo,” she had protested to her spoilt roommate. “All I want is to have some good time with my friend.” “Come on lil, how many times I have to remind you that this is your dream man?” wairimu hit back, “remember that if you don’t claim him very soon some fast chick is going to ponyoka with him. And who knows, that wise chick might be me.” she teased. However this was an ordinary and usual joke that wairimu often used and Lillian had no fear at all that this could ever happen. But on a second thought, she reconsidered her position; well, he’s quite a handsome guy that any lady worth her salt could fall head and bust over heels for she thought t herself, but, do I really love him? Or it is just some kind of infatuation? Experts in matters of love had asserted that unlike men who fall in and out of love so quickly, most ladies were quite different, they usually grew in love over a long period of time. To them, love, like a flower blossoms well in the garden of time, it should be watered seasonally by caring and little acts of love such as a surprise hug, a short but lovely sms, or an occasional simple date. Without knowing it, Lillian was slowly growing in love with Dan whilst Dan on the other hand had fallen a long time ago and had not yet picked himself up; he was waiting for her to pick him up. Cupid was probably working overtime nowadays. Dan had read somewhere that if one plays with anything for a long time the object was bound to break and this is what he was banking on to win the love of his life. he could however not say that he was playing for it was something very serious and he could not afford to leta mchezo kwa kazi for this was a matter that touched man’s most sensitive place- the heart; the seat of all emotions, attitudes and other funny and bizarre dispositions that could not be revealed to other people. “I thought you once told me that chapos and chicken stew is your favorite meal?” she inquired, as he seemed to be hesitant. However, it was not long before he began on a ground assault of the unlucky bird. It will always remain mystery why God did not prohibit the post-flood generation from feasting on the other animals since after all Noah and family had been advised to feast on the animals due to lack of vegetables but now that we have greens in plenty why not revert to the pre-food diet? As most luos Dan was, an Adventist and he always felt guilty eating any kind of meat as it was discouraged by the church. “For the sake of your good health,” a local pastor had once preached, “try to minimize your meat intake as it has been closely linked to various bodily diseases such as heart attack, obesity among others which any renowned medical personnel can explain to you in detail.” Being an inquisitive person, he had done his own research and found most of these claims to be true. However, today in this small room, no worry could prevent the two souls from feasting sumptuously on the unlucky hen. The meal was finished with little conversation before the wine evoked a heated conversation. “I can excuse you for the other surprises,” Dan complained as he slowly picked his teeth, “but this…no! It is too much.” “Wait until you take it,” Lillian tried to dispel his fears, “because you will realize that this is a non-fatal, alcohol free table wine that originated from north eastern France.” “Okay let me give you the B.O.D [benefit of doubt] and commit this faux pas once in my lifetime,” he said after some soul searching, “but be warned, you will stand to answer angel Gabriel when me before J.C why I betrayed him.” “Of course I would tell him that I was only trying to facilitate a non-violent rape.” She said pouring the wine into two glasses commanding him not to take it before the speech was delivered. “And who is going to deliver this speech?” he enquired, “Marvin Gaye has already done it and ABBA are half-way into their second speech.” He teased. “Okay cut the musketeering as your other two friends are not here to make it the legendary three musketeers.” She teased back. “So here comes the third speech; the climax from the host herself.” It had taken her ages to arrive at this decision and it was so ironical that she was going to blurter out her decision in less than ten seconds and in a simple ten-word sentence; “Tonight, I am giving you the keys to my heart.” It was some few minutes later that the gigue-the fourth and last movement of the suite unfolded. Immediately after the wine, everything had moved at a dazzling speed and soon the lovebirds were enveloped in a hungry fit of kissing which seemed to last an eternity. Before the curtains were drawn to mark the end of the suite, Dan remembered the dream; …he sprayed her tender body with French kisses from head to toe as he tenderly opened the buttons of her blouse…however, that this time, there were no buttons to open and no blouse at all but a smooth satin negligee to slip off her shoulder...and then… She just remembered later that he had not told her what he had decided but that could be postponed for the second time. CHAPTER TEN Two years down the line, many things had changed. M.O.1, as the second president of Kenya was commonly nick-named was packing from the comfort of a place that had been home to him and his bureaucratic ideas for twenty four years. State house had found a new tenant, one in the name of Emilio Mwai Kibaki. For the second time the throne had gone to the house of Mumbi. Kenyans were tired of cheap politicking and what they required as per the words of the politicians was a development-conscious person at the helm of leadership. Mwai was their man and in Raila’s words, Kibaki was tosha.with a resume indicating some economic expertise no one else could be a better placed candidate. The country had also made a big stride democratically as could be seen from the peaceful way they conducted their elections. In the public universities, a lot had also changed. Student unrest had reduced greatly and some students had advanced from using stones to using guns, policemen had traced some guns to a Nairobi University hostel. Back in Maseno, the upcoming twin towers were still grounded but Onyango the big man was in the process of acquiring a Kisumu facility which he promised could help the University in a big way. Plans were also underway to make Bondo teacher’s training college a campus of Maseno. However, the only development that was of interest to the students was the fact that some new hostel was underway. These were what were one day going to be christened several names such as Runda, Tsunami, Miami, Kibera slums amongst other funny names. There was a common pattern in For almost a decade now, accommodation had been a nightmare in Maseno. It was a nightmare to both the students and the administration. To the students, one had to be in college at least three days prior to he reporting date to try and corrupt the hostel personnel into setting aside a room just in case one did not make it in time on the material day. On that day one had to trans-night on the queue while waiting for some unreliable number that was a ticket to early registration and thus some chance at getting some decent accommodation. However, the numbers were not a guarantee that one was cleared on time. For instance, the numbers worked for only the first ten after which rugby came in handy, one had to shove his or her way into the registration hall. Dan was counting one such a hectic time before he called it quits. He was in his first semester of his final year and his fiancé was a year behind and presently in her second year. The academic calendar was so funny that at one point Dan and Lillian were so close with no year separating them but now there was one year in between them. The biggest change still baffled him it was a revelation of a long hidden truth that had eluded him for two and a half decade- before he was even born. CHAPTER ELEVEN “I knew your dad very well,” the man had told him, “I know you cannot know me that well because I have never been home for quite some years now and by the time I left there you were still a toddler.” The stranger told him. “Then how did you recognize me?” Dan enquired of the stranger who did not seem as genuine as he wanted Dan to believe. “Well, you understand that as a watchman, you hear and see a lot that you are not supposed to hear and see, yes, just like the three proverbial mice; see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.” “I don’t seem to understand your parables, could you please tell me why you stopped me because my colleagues are leaving me.” Dan complained. “Okay one of my cousin was recently here and he asked me if I ever knew the late Okeyo’s son. Well at that moment I did not know if I could ever meet you since I rarely come to the university,” the stranger tried to explain. “And even if I came how could I remember how you look twenty three years later, or even if I managed to place a face, how cold I trace you amidst three thousand or so students? Well a month later I accidentally happen to see this list of the students who are to come to ICRAF for a brief visit and something tells me that the Ondieki that my cousin was talking about must be the one calling himself Dan Ondieki since he did not give me the second name…” “What is it that you want to ask me?’’ Dan interrupted him midway on realizing that the story was quite long and the story teller had not stepped in the vicinity of any communication skills class to learn the art of summary. “If you are in need of money…” Dan left the sentence hanging. The stranger kept quiet for some time the replied in a sotto voce voice “I loved your father very much son and I wish you knew that it is the same money that you are talking about that they were after.” He replied. “No son, you can keep your money you will need it sometime later. You are also free to go now.” Dan remained transfixed to the spot as he contemplated whether to inquire what the stranger knew about his father’s death. He finally decided to go but promised himself to come back later. The song came back to him; Everyone considered him the coward of the county… Son you don’t have to fight to be a man. He hummed his favourite line of the song as ran to catch up with his friends Dad I hope you’ll understand Sometimes you have to fight when you’re a man The weather was rather foul that day and he wished that the stranger had given him another date. He tried to imagine what he was going to be told as he weaved his way from equator one the only skyscraper in the Equator estate. He passed by the monument but could not tell whether there were any human beings there, he did not even see the cameraman calling him to see the snaps he had taken with Lillian on Saturday. His mind was doing 120 kilometers per hour as he tried contemplating the reason behind this strong urge that was compelling him to go and meet the stranger. The amphitheatre was deserted but he chose to use it as a shortcut since the shuttle was not in operation that day. Anybody who could have taken a close examination of Dan Ondieki that day could have concluded that the poor young man was on the verge of running mad and maybe he was about to strip as was the case sometimes when things got really tight especially when exams begun. The university curriculum was so unfair as to force students who had been used to cramming at least 8 subjects to struggle with as much as eleven courses in their pursuit of the powers to read and write all that appertains to their line of study. It was thus no wonder that some students even opted to chewing and tearing library books in attempts to grasp the slippery ideas expressed therein, or stripping naked to remove the extra weight that maybe was the cause of their inability to understand the concepts. He made his way past millennium hall still undecided whether to go to ICRAF or to the college campus library to finish his take-away. He could as well had done his assignments in the resource library but he did not want to gamble with the possibility of finding the appropriate books he would especially with the approaching exams. Siriba campus was usually overcrowded at such times since no one wanted to miss any crucial lecture at such a time. The assignments had to wait, besides, one could always dub from a friend and score even higher marks than the friend from whom one had copied from- that was Maseno. The case was closed for now, ICRAF it was. CHAPTER TWELVE It was a big surprise that he had raised from a mere salesman to a marketing manager at the prestigious and upcoming Blue shield insurance company. Four years ago when he had been offered the job, he could swear that he was not going to stay there for even another month for he felt out of place selling two policies in three days and ending up with a meager fifty shillings commission at the end pf the week to add onto his Kshs.5000 per month salary. With this kind of salary he could not afford to ask Lillian out even on a single day. He had 2000 shillings per month worth bed sitter to pay for at the end of each frustrating month; he needed to commute to and fro city centre each and every day using either city hopper or the stuffy mathrees for which he needed to set aside at least Kshs.2000 per month including an occasional snack. The remaining thousand was supposed to be judiciously expended on building his feeble body. Thus no one could blame him for loathing the company of the secretaries at the office who were ever smiling to him in ridicule or so he thought. “One day you will have to transform those ridiculing grins to begging facial expressions,” He had one day told the secretaries when one had suggested to him to shift careers and become a driver as it earned four times poor Dans’ monthly wages. “Why don’t you also shift to the prestigious C.S.W profession coz I’m told it has bought some ladies cars,” he had reiterated referring to the twilight ladies who had become more business-oriented by opening brothels where they employed young, beautiful, but naïve girls to offer services to old men who apparently could not get satisfied with their wives if at all they had any. Dan had visited a brothel one day not with intentions to buy their services but to in his tiring work of selling the policies. The experience was still fresh in his memory. The Chief Executive Officer had confused him for a customer and had led him to a room containing an array of the “goods” which were in all hues and sizes from thin legged, bow-legged, to beautiful shapely angel like stuff. Before he could explain what took him there the C.E.O quickly begun telling him the advantages of each product. “Muthoni here can ride you like a horse for three hours running…” she begun but was cut short before she could proceed. “Look here madam,” Dan had not retained his composure, “that’s not the kind of business that brought me here. I was thinking that maybe you guys could be interested in buying insurance policies from me but from the look of things, I’m in the right place but at the wrong time.” “Come on mister handsome,” the C.E.O had tried to convince him, “Do not be shy. I always handle very prominent people here and if you come across one, he can tell you that this place is as secure as secure can be so don’t waste any more time,” she still pestered, “take your pick and come for the candle at the reception.” She advised him as she headed for the reception. Dan left the place still wondering about the candle. “What was I supposed to use the candle for?” he wondered as he quickly retraced his footsteps out of the demon infested building. “The society has society been morally degraded to that extent?” He was at least used to coming across prostitutes in their daily trade but being asked to sodomize ladies and even worse by using a candle! No! He must have been to hell and come back alive. He later came to learn that the candle was used as the standard and most efficient timer. One was supposed to light it after tracing the room to use which was conveniently very dark such that one could not stay for a minute without it. Moreover, their were quality assurance inspectors whose work was to pass outside rooms ensuring that all those who needed new candles to top up their airtime were well supplied while those whose time was up never cheated. The personnel were also trained adequately to ensure that the clients only got what they paid for and not a penny more or a penny less. CHAPTER FOURTEEN With the promotion, Dan decided to move to a new spacious two roomed flat in Tena Estate. The room could at least express his personal tastes and preferences; he had once read in Carol Mandi’s column that one’s home is the ultimate expression of who one is. The color, texture, light and spacing of the room plus the rhythm, balance and proportion helped define his tastes on the tiny 24 by 16 room. The promotion had also given him the confidence to invite Lillian for a casual date. She was also living in the environs of Tena. She was actually residing with her uncle in the suburban Savannah Estate. She could afford to rent a house of her own with her well paying procurement officer job but had preferred staying with her folks. She had obliged to the date and even three days afterwards, Dan was still beside himself with joy for he had seen some hopes of a reunion. Their break up was so casual and it had taken its toll on both of them. It could be clearly seen in her eyes that she still loved him but he did not want to presume things that early for he knew her very well. “If you want to give me a ticket out of your life, just nag me as if I don’t have a mind to make my own judgment.” She had once told him during the good old times. It is from her that he had learnt of the untimely death of his friend Davy. Davy’s family also resided in Savannah and it had been easier for her to learn of the death despite the fact that she did not like him that much. She was not the kind of lady to dislike somebody for no reason at all. Davy had at one time tried seducing her in the estate when he had learnt that she had broken up with Dan. “Lillian, you did the right thing,” He had told her, “You know I always knew that you and I were meant to be, so I have been waiting for you patiently, out in the cold for all this time.” She knew very well from reliable rumors that he was positive even though his physique was not betraying him- thanks to the advent of the ART technology- but she did not base her decision on that. “I don’t mean to be rude to you Davy, but don’t you think that you are compromising your friendship to Dan?” she asked him, “Besides who told you that we have broken up?” “Come on Lillian don’t play with my mind who doesn’t know that he wasn’t man enough for you? With his poor family background, could he maintain a lady of your status?” “I think we should set some assumptions right here,” she was now very serious and did not care about hurting him, “Whoever told you that I’m just like the other breed of ladies who fall head over dirty heels for your money must have mislead you, my dear friend. And besides I still love Dan, we did not separate but just gave ourselves some time to reorganize our lives so that we can begin life as mature adults.” There it was, she had decided to blurt it out for all to hear. Luckily Dan was not around to listen to this for he could have died of joy. To know that the woman you love but has left you still loves you is the next best thing after life itself. “Listen to who is talking Lillian, Davy had tried to reason with her, “that is not the new you, it is the old you, that part of you that cannot come to terms with the fact that your former love let you down very much and that now your heart is in love with someone else..” She could not simply stand there listening to him trying to embarrass her. She bade him goodbye and stormed off leaving him calling after her with the hoarsest voice that she had ever heard but could never hear again in her entire life. She had explained all these to Dan during their date except for the part of beginning life as mature adults. Parents were usually the biggest losers when the killer disease claimed yet another potentially productive youth. This was made worse in cases where the youth in question had not made managed to join the Kenyan public universities through the joint admissions board but had rather joined one of them through the what is referred to by some as the ‘back door.’ In the former case, one was entitled to Cheboi or the much needed-but- not-sufficient HELB. This was a loan scheme established by the Kenyan government as revolving fund to help needy students to offset some of the university levies. However as was evident from the kind of lifestyle some of the beneficiary students led while at college, this ‘helb’ was not sufficient to ensure that the beneficiaries benefited fully from this initiative. Therefore, when their lastborn son had passed away at the tender age of twenty six, the Ngugis really felt the pain right from the heart and the pocket for they had used over a half a million shillings to educate their son until his death. But it was shiro who could really never come to terms with the death. Her call during the funeral had been broadcasted to all the mourners she did not finish conveying her condolence message for grief overwhelmed her halfway and had it not been for Mwangi her elder brother who was with her while she was calling, the mourners back at home could have been left wondering if she was still on line. The late was described using all the available positive superlatives; “I will always remember him for his obedience,” one of the mourners said. “I always wonder why God always calls home the good people only,” another lamented, “I will always remember him for his service to the church as the youth leader.” Men never cased to amaze. It was so funny that people could never tell someone how good they were while they were still alive only to pass on this vital message when the object of their praise was six feet under. Even those who have usually made it their homework to ensure that you life is forever bumpy heaped the superlatives on your grave. It was not true that Davy had been such a good boy even though he tried his best to provide the best model of what other youths in the village ought not to do. He had taught his peers how not to conduct their social lives. It was clear from his behavior that immorality was eventually punishable by death or some other equally worse forms of punishment. CHAPTER FIFTEEN “So that is how they had brutally killed him?” he wondered aloud as he left the ICRAF headquarters after visiting the stranger whom he had come learnt to learn shared his name. He had found it hard to refuse the temptation to go back and find out the truth. Now that he had been told everything, he began doubting the viability of the truth considering the source of the truth. The philosophy lecturer had once taught him that there are only five sources of truth of which remembered only two; religion and instincts. However he bet on his life that suspicious looking watchmen were not among the remaining two sources that he had forgotten. However, in the absence of some other reliable sources, he had no other option but to make do with the bird at hand. He had decided to use the shortcut Back to Siriba to save the only ten shillings h had between him and a three two day poverty before he could be allowed to make yet another withdrawal from the post bank branch at maseno. Towards the end of the semester there was usually a high tension in the atmosphere that one could actually. There were the tensions brought about by the exams, especially for those who were official enemies with the library. These included those people who were so attached to the TV room that only hunger could drive them to go to the adjacent student’s mess before resuming for another session that could either be disrupted by the crowing of the cocks or a technical error of the television set. Financial constraints were another potential source of tension. It usually this time that the gold diggers were discovered. These were those types of ladies who moved from one jamaa to the other depending on the capability of the man in question to provide for some quality lunch and supper on regular basis. This habit which came to be nicknamed ‘pep’ for poverty eradication program was not restricted to ladies alone for some men were also culprits of pepping. Pepping was usually facilitated by some lecturers who took it as an obligation to cater for all aspects of their students; the academic, physical, social as well as the emotional aspects. The former three were catered for in the official university curriculum while the later could be included in the unofficial hidden curriculum. In Dan’s case, his chief sources of stresses at the moment were; the imminent exams, financial constraints and Mathew’s revelation. CHAPTER SIXTEEN A strange cry caught Mathew Ondieki attention as he made his way through the still foggy grass of Wire hills on that promising Monday morning. Had there come another charcoal burner without his notice? Or the hill had been infested by the dreaded Jins from the coast? He wondered. Or was his mind playing tricks on him? The day before he had cleaned his ears using a stick and was sure that his auditory sense was at its best if not perfect. The twenty year old father of three was in his usual exploits of looking for bread to feed his family. He traveled far and wide away from his Ruga home in his search for the best species of trees to produce the best quality of charcoal moreover; the cost of buying the trees at Oyugis was quite high as compared to the nearby wire hills. He moved some few meters away and cleared more shrubs. Then, at a narrow valley created by running water, he came across a horrifying form. Even his worst nightmare had not prepared him for this. It was undoubtedly, a man’s figure. It lay flat on the ground with some fresh blood still oozing from the deep cut wound on the neck. The scene was more horrifying than he had even thought. One leg was clearly visible as it hung from the edge of the gully, some 50 meters from the river and it still had the trouser and shoe on. The upper torso was partly hidden. He had a strange feeling that the horrifying figure was familiar but that could wait for the time being. He still regretted why he decided to run for help rather than faint on the spot for he could still be practicing his income generating hobby of charcoal burning in Oyugis. The truth was out in the open when he met some two strange gentlemen and one he knew very well as one of the businessmen in Oyugis town. He did not bother to ask himself what the gentleman was doing in the region at such an hour. What was in his mind was the deformed human figure he had just seen. He recounted to the three what he had just seen. His raised voice attracted the attention of the passersby who soon formed a small crowd who later headed for the scene to verify the story for themselves. Ondieki was not quick to notice the smooth exit of the Businessman and his entourage but when he later recounted the story to the police, he could vividly remember seeing some blood stains on the trouser of one of the stranger who was in the company of the businessman. The case was soon forgotten by the police and many other people except for some few like Ondieki whose life had developed from one form of pain to the other. What eventually made him to go to exile was some rumor that the businessman whom he had implicated in the death was seriously looking far him. “To cut the long story short,” Mathew finally concluded, “I found myself in this place and I still fear that maybe he will one day come for me because I am told that he is nowadays a very influential man in Nairobi.” “Why should I believe you?” Dan asked as he took in the full implication of his knowledge. “Well, whether to believe me or not is up to you, what am grateful for is that there is at least one more person apart from my immediate family.” Dan did not know what to know how to react after knowing what he had always wanted to know. Should I cry or jump up in jubilation, or should I just erase this story from my mind and assume that it was just another series of his usual nightmares. But what he could not erase from his mind was that name. Nixon Omolo was the man to verify the truthfulness of this story if he could manage to trace him in Nairobi and if he could still have restrained his sanity. I only have to look into his eyes and I will be able to tell whether he actually killed or ordered the killing of my father. Dan promised himself as he made his way back to Siriba through the Emabungo shortcut. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Under any other circumstance, he could not have refused the transfer to Kisumu as it was to be accompanied by a promotion. The chief was surprised that Dan the workaholic of all the people could refuse such an offer and he really wished that he could know the reason. The new chief had come to develop a strange and sudden liking for the young man. He really admired his ambition and predicted a very bright future for him. What really baffled him was that Dan had not developed a relationship with the office ladies. He was not the only one baffled by Dan’s social life. The secretaries who had made fun of him when he was still fresh at the firm came to develop a great of respect and admiration for him and they even wished that he could make a move at them but with time they had come to learn that he was intimately attached to his work. However, with the arrival of the Christine at the firm, the were rife rumors that Dan could eventually divorce his work for sometime to date the beautiful new member of the Blue shield staff who also happened to be the second unmarried lady in the firm apart from the two secretaries who were only part of the support staff. “Son I really admire your principled approach to life.” the chief had summoned Dan into his office the morning after Dan had officially rejected the transfer offer. The chief usually referred to him as son when they were alone and Dan had gotten used to referring him by his first name ‘John.’ “But don’t you think that you should take your time to reconsider this opportunity? I don’t want to have you regretting later that you were not given enough time think about it.” “Thank you for your fatherly concern John,” Dan offered, “but I want to assure you that I have my own strong reasons for rejecting this offer. I know how important this opportunity could have been to my career but I really want to hope that there will be some other equally important opportunities.” “Son, you should have known by now that this world is sometimes so unfair. You may get the same another opportunity yes, but it all depends on who will the boss by that time, if I will still be here, then be assured that you will have very many other opportunities reserved for you .” he was letting out a secret but Dan was not quick to get it. Even though they were very close friends, Dan could not dare tell him that it was all because of Lillian. How could he make him understand that she was more than just another lady? How could he explain to him the sleepless nights he had always had ever since they had separated? No he could not understand. So he finally decided to keep it to himself because he was also still unsure if she was ever going to take him back. She had told him that she needed to be married to a stable man who could guarantee her some financial security. This was a year after his graduation when she was in her final year too. “I did not expect to hear that from you Lillian.” He complained as he tried to digest the implication of her statement. “Life becomes enjoyable when the both parties in a relationship begin from scratch and struggle to make it in life.” He told her matter of factly. “I have no problem with that Dan, my only worry is that it has already been a year since you graduated and you don’t even have a small means of income.” “It’s not my wish that that should be the case, I know the lord has it all in His plans for me.” “Dan I only think our relationship should head to the next level if and only when either one or all of us have some reliable means of income.” This conversation reminded him of the day when she had demanded that he accompanies her to go for a blood test. She had won the argument that day and he knew that this time too she could not relent to his ideas. So he gave up trying to argue his case and promised to let her know when he will have landed a secure job. “I hope you will still reserve yourself for me by that time,” he put it as a statement but deep down in his heart he knew it was a humble request. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The annual staff retreat was scheduled for the beautiful Thomson falls in Nyahururu but Lillian had not made up her mind to attend it, she had a lot of commitments to attend to but the main reason was not just an ordinary commitment but something that meant life and death for her. Care Kenya was a renowned non-Governmental organization with interest and projects in various countries in the world, especially the developing world. “We cannot care for the world before we care for ourselves,” the country director had once told the staff members during one of those annual general meetings where they decided on the venue to retreat for their Christmas holidays. Every member was allowed to bring along his or her family except that the organization had offered to cater for only the children whom they assumed could not exceed three. If one had no kid he could bring along a fiancé but cater for his or her expenses. She had thought of calling him and telling him about the retreat but she could not dare show him that she was all eager for the re-union. She was contented with the pace things were taking at present. She was also afraid that if she could attend the retreat, Tom could use it as a platform to convince her to change her mind and accept to marry him. He was working in the accounts section and she had tried to woo her to no success. This is despite the fact that she had gone out on casual dates with him. The last one was some few days ago. She had told him the bad news that he was anticipating. “I don’t think I will attend the retreat,” she had told him when he had enquired why she looked so bored. “That must be a very nasty joke.” She knew that he could not take her seriously at first as usual. “Is that what I will be undergoing should I decide to give in to your marriage proposal?” she asked referring to his habit of taking her lightly on every issue. However, he did not get that implication. “I do not know what you are referring to but I want to assure you that you will never regret your decision if you accept me.” “I was not prepared for that topic today and besides, I think I have always made myself clear that we will never be more than just friends. “Come on Lilly…” she interrupted him before he could begin the contentious argument that had always characterized their dates. “ I only accepted to come here with you because I wanted to let you know that I may not be there at the retreat and I expect you as a friend to accept my decision rather than engage me in a debate.” She said matter-of-factly. Not that she harbored any hopes of ever changing her mind. Just like her mother, she believed that there was only one man created specially for her and she was not going to do anything that could jeopardize her future happiness. On Christmas Eve father christmass visited Dan with a surprise gift that would forever change his life. He could not believe his eyes when he was receiving the gift at the door and admiring it. Even though he had not opened the wrapper he was sure that this time, father christmass had not confused the address. “Is this my christmass present or father christmass read the address upside down?” he asked her as she took a detailed inspection of the

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