An odd job, a fake engagement and a conspiracy
After my small near death experience on Saturday, I decided to spend time indoors to avoid any unnecessary drama or collision with the grim reaper. However, my self-imposed curfew ended up being much worse of a punishment because by Sunday afternoon, I was bored to near death. I resolved to catch up on some reading. I found out that all the books on my shelf had picked up several layers of dust. Perusing though my collection, I settled on an autobiography written by a doctor who discovered he had a terminal illness and had a few months to live.
It stirred a whirlpool of sadness inside my heart. The sadness compounded with the boredom I was earlier experiencing concocted to create a cesspool of despondency that threatened to ruin my Sunday. I couldn’t take it any more, I had to leave that house!
I explained to Mia by predicament. She told me that only a madman abhors silence and that is why every busy market has one. I told her that harsh words have never separated a man from his madness, took a shower and stepped out into the buzz that is city life.
Being a Sunday afternoon, I knew that fellow thrill-seekers/silence avoiders would have congregated at their favourite water-hole to receive their dosage of music, gossip, drama & intoxicants.
I jumped into my jalopy VW Golf and headed to my local, Pitstop, along Langata Road. Twenty minutes later, I arrived and took a seat at an ideal spot where I presumed there would be minimal disturbance. It was a strategic spot with a good view of the T.V.
I ordered a White Cap Lager, cold as July weather, poured it into my glass and took a sip. Within the course of time, something interesting happened. I can’t really recall how long it was, what I know is that I was 6 beers down when a man approached me, ”How would you like to earn ten thousand shillings for just a few hours of your time? By the time the clock ticks to usher in the commencement of the curfew, I promise you you’ll be home with your money in your wallet”. he asked.
I looked at the guy, wondering what drunkenness would bring a man to promise another ten thousand shillings in the middle of an economic-ravaging pandemic. Ten thousand? For just a few hours? It made absolutely no sense, even in my drunken state.
”What do I have to do? If it is illegal, involves sex with another man, or involves an experiment on my body, or involves getting into a cult, you can count me out!” I retorted with defiance.
”No, no, no, my friend”, he laughed, ”It is a much simpler assignment. I’m heading to a social function and I need someone to flank me”.
”You mean security”, I wondered out loud trying to remember the last time I worked out. ”I’ll do it!”, I said.
”Yes, it’s something like that, but requires more brains than muscle”, he said. ”Finish your drink then we go. I doubt we have all the time in the world,” he said impatiently.
”Sawa!” I said, chugging the rest of my beer.
”Are you driving?”
”Cool.” He beckoned me as he ushered the waiter to pick our tab. Once we were at the parking lot, he pointed at a grey Mazda Axela, ”I’m Peter by the way”, he said, extending a fist for a bump.
”Howard”, I replied, bumping my fist into his.
”Howard, follow me!”
I jumped into my automobile and we snaked through the gate and on to Langata Road heading towards Galleria. Ten minutes later, we were at Galleria where we parked and as I was getting out of my car, a young woman of about 27 years approached his car. I could hear them conversing about something and when I arrived, the woman asked;
”This is he?”
”Perfect,” she opined, ”I’m Natasha”
”What do you mean, perfect?”, I asked, my face blasting with confusion.
”Put this on.” said Peter, handing me a packing bag.
I took it hesitantly and opened it, sizing the contents cynically. It was a grey suit and a pair of official shoes.
‘‘We’re going to my dad’s”, said Natasha, ”As I told you earlier, all you need to do is follow my lead and everything will be okay. I presume Peter has spoken to you about your pay?”
”Umm, yes. Umm, what are we going to do at your dad’s? Why do you need me there? I thought Peter said he was headed to a social function and needed to be flanked?”, I had so many questions.
”Don’t worry, just follow my lead”, said Natasha, a sheepish smile curving across her face. It could have been sheepish, but I didn’t miss the streak of connivance that flushed through her face for a second.
”You can change in your car. I can see it’s appropriately tinted. Then we shall go”, said Peter as he took a glance at his timepiece. I got into my car and changed.
‘‘It fits you perfectly”, said Natasha.
Without further ado, we got into the cars, Peter in his, Natasha and I in mine and we left, with Peter taking the lead and I following closely. We combed our way through the tranquil Karen neighborhood and within a few minutes we arrived at what I guessed was our destination – an magnificent townhouse sitting on a half an acre of land, with well-trimmed hedges marking the inner boundaries of the compound and a waterfall on the side. The entire compound was ring-fenced with a high perimeter wall reinforced with razor wire. ”Must be electric”, I thought to myself.
We parked our cars on the cabro pavement and alighted. Natasha slid her arm in mine, and we transformed into the perfect couple.
”Just follow my lead”, she said as we walked around the house. ”Here, put this on”, she handed me an engagement ring that matched one she had on her ring finger. ”Now we’re on set!”
The backyard came to full view. There was a man leaning pensively over a grill. The exquisite aroma of roast meat hit my nostrils.
”Dad!’‘ exclaimed Natasha.
The man looked up from his work of art and his face broke into a smile, and his arms opened into an embrace, ”my lovely Natasha! Peter!! How are you, my children!”
”I’m good”, exclaimed Peter.
”And who is this?”, asked the man.
”Dad, this is Eric. My fiancée. The one whom we spoke about.” said Natasha, nudging me slightly with her elbow.
‘‘Nice to finally meet you sir”, I said, extending a fist.
”No, no, no, come here my son!”, he extended his arms for a hug. I reached in, a bit hesitant. ”Go into the kitchen and say hi to your mum. She is very eager to meet you.”
We entered into the kitchen where a woman, seemingly in her mid-50s, was stirring a pot of what appeared to be stew.
‘‘Hello!”, she exclaimed, and I could see the striking resemblance to Natasha, that she indeed was her mother’s daughter.
”Mom, this is Eric.”
”Nice to finally meet you, Eric. I’ve heard so much about you!”
”Umm, the pleasure is all mine”, I said with a smile.
”Food is almost ready, we can congregate at the table”, she said.
We were ushered into the dining area. Table was set. Delicacies were brought. There was chicken, beef, mutton. There was also rice, pilau, ugali, home-fries and french-fries. We were spoilt. For choice. I took a serving of ugali, spinach and some chicken, accompanied with fresh mango juice. I didn’t choke. Luckily.
”So, how did you two meet?” Natasha’s dad asked, his eyes transfixed on my sacred frame.
”Well, ummm. we met at…”
”Dad, we met in France. It was that time I went on a study trip in Paris, and I grew so lonely and I kept asking God why He would take me to a foreign land with no family. I was so lonely. One evening as I was walking to my apartment after a long day at the study centre, I came across this fine young man, and for me, it was love at first sight, I’d meet him every day at around 5pm every day and soon, we started talking. I found out that he was a Kenyan. The rest, as they say, is history as they say” said Natasha, almost shedding a tear.
I was flabbergasted. First, I had never been to France. In fact, the last time I left the country, it was to our immediate neighbor Tanzania on a primary school tour. Here on this table, I was made to appear like a well-travelled and cultured fella.
”So you can actually speak French”, asked Natasha’s mum with excitement.
”Yes I can”, I said sheepishly.
”What do you call love in French?”
‘‘Mom! you ask too many questions, what are you, the police?” quipped Peter.
The room broke into a slight laughter.
”I’m sorry to probe. I’m just excited. I’ve always found the French an exciting lot. Their sophistication, their exclusivity, their romantic nature” exclaimed an excited mother.
I was sweating profusely, wondering what would happen when they found out that I was an imposter, a part of a game I did not understand. My heart was pounding so rapidly, I imagined it would find a way out of my chest cavity.
‘‘Son, are you okay. Feel at home! Here, you’re with family”, said the dad emphatically. I felt a tinge of guilt fester in my heart. This were good folk, and I certainly did not want to be a part of whatever conspiracy Peter and Natasha were cooking against them.
”What’s your profession?”
”Umm, I’m a freelancer. I do…’
”Eric is really passionate about their family business. He freelances for his family.”
”What is it that they do?”, asked the Dad.
‘‘Well…”, I started, trying to think of something.
”Retail, manufacturing, farming. They’ve rally diversified. ” Natasha said.
”Ah, I see. I’ve been meaning to get into farming myself.” said the dad introspectively., ”It is good that we now have you to show us the ropes..”
”.That we can do!” I said.
”Give me your phone number” he said, I’m calling you immediately so you can also save mine”.
He typed in my number and gave me a call. ”But why does Truecaller have your name as Howard Mukhwana?”
”I guess that must have been the previous owner’s name. It’s a new number.”
”Okay”, he said with finality.
Meanwhile, dusk was setting in.
”Ummh, Natasha I need to see you in private”, I said, pulling her aside.
”I need to leave.” I said, ”Your parents will find out. And when they do, you know what will happen next”.
”I understand. We’ll leave in the next few minutes”, she said.
”Why are you doing this?” I asked, ”Lying to your folks.’‘
They have been pressuring me to settle down! However, I refused and refused. Finally, my dad said that if I brought home someone who was worth the while, he’d gift me a car and cash. Lots of cash.
”But eventually they’ll find out that you’ve been lying”, I said.
”They won’t. I shall simply say that we broke up and called off the engagement. Problem solved.”
”Don’t you feel guilty?”’ I asked, a bit concerned.
”I don’t, she said, they are the ones who should! They’ve always thought that money can solve all problems. This should teach them a lesson!” she retorted, besides, why do you care? Take your money and go”
”Yes about that, you’ll need to up my pay”, I said. ”What I’ve gone through in there is much more than I bargained.”
”Sawa’, you’ve done well’ she said.
”Don’t you feel strange that you picked a stranger for such an intimate job?” I enquired.
”No, it doesn’t matter any more. We took the risk. It paid off”, she said, shrugging her shoulders carelessly.
We went back in for some nyama choma and left just a few minutes past 9pm so that I would make it in time before the curfew.
As we were leaving, Peter stealthily handed me an envelope. I jumped into my car and rushed to my humble Rongai abode. On reaching, I opened the envelope. It had cash inside. I counted it. Twenty thousand shillings.
I still haven’t told Mia how I came across that amount of money. I soon will. I will.
Till next time. Goodbye.