By Kemboi Victor
Bryson’s return to Kenya from the States after the completion of his Masters degree finally came with jubilation. He was really excited to be home again, to reunite with family and friends having stayed abroad for almost a decade.
Everyone in the village celebrated his come-back and his reception was made warm, with jolly and elation, characterized with feasting. People expected to see a transformed man, a man reputable to be depended upon for sober decisions and counsel.
That was true. He had his sober mind, except for one thing that gnawed him. Grace, his mother continued to put pressure on him to marry Sharon, Kizito’s daughter, the girl she had chosen for him, the girl he was not ready to settle down with. Some days after he had settled home, she would broach this girl into the subject of their discussion, often.
Severally, while he was still abroad, she had spoken well about her and now, she wanted him to make up his mind, and settle down with her. She had claimed that times were moving fast before he got married. And because he had never spoken about this matter, she had decided to find a woman for him, from a Christian background, a family friend Mr. Kizito, a renowned lecturer in a number of universities in the country. She had also said that the bond between their family and that of the Kizitos would strengthen and give forth to better things in future, with Mr. Kizito helping him get a job in one of the universities as soon as possible.
Bryson wondered what had gotten into his mother. Was it because of employment that was making her this mad or him not showing any indication of being in love with any girl? He started to believe that she was growing old and that her mind was also getting old and forgetful, because she was the one that had often advised him before that men; or rather real men searched for their wives alone without the help of anybody. Had she forgotten what she had told him?
Was she was going to take up the responsibility?
Well, he never wanted to disappoint her and he started to talk with Sharon. However, he could not understand whether Sharon was still the girl he had left about a decade ago being so fragile, or she had changed. He had always considered her a Cerelac baby: Was she was going to take up the responsibility and be a family woman?
All Bryson knew was that Sharon was never used to cheap life, and that she had never lived a life of her own, a life of struggles and hard work being a daughter of a senior lecturer. Since childhood, she had been nurtured in a soft environment and Bryson had a feeling that she could not even cook a proper traditional meal, which he had missed for a long time, since her home was full of house helps and shamba boys. Did she even know how to handle duties like milking a cow?
Of late he would see her at home, performing some wifely duties in close supervision of his mother, something he thought was meant to impress him; He now wanted to know her properly with the help of Billy, his childhood friend who of late often spent time with him; a friend that had been with Sharon around when he was away.
For a fact, he didn’t want to disappoint the Kizitos for the vital roles they had played in his life. Mr. Kizito had always supported him to see him succeed in life. Furthermore, he didn’t want to disappoint his parents and kill his dreams of being a lecturer through Mr. Kizito. Billy and his perceptions had told him Sharon was not his type but what and who was he to believe? Often, Billy had regarded her a ‘substandard woman’, and just dear to marry.
The Kizito’s had been invited to his home for Christmas and one of the subjects he knew his mother could bring up, and perhaps the Kizitos too, was ‘how far had he gone with Sharon’. For once, when he felt like he had been caught in a dilemma, he resolved to find his sweetheart alone, to make this story over. Whether the resolution was wise or not, he decided to have it.
He wanted them to see this girl on Christmas day
Even without having a second thought he lied to his mother that there was a girl he was in love with and that he had never wanted to tell her until the right time. But now because she was forcing him to go with Sharon, he wanted them to see this girl on Christmas day. Well, it took him time to convince her against Sharon, her best choice but at least she accepted his position and congratulated him at last.
“I had thought you were still sleeping on your eyes,” she had said. “Now, I hope you are not lying to me because I want to see this girl of yours on Christmas day like you have said,” she demanded.
That was the deal; but a big assignment. He knew his mom as curious a cat that people said died of curiosity. She would really want to see his girlfriend. But where then was he going to find that girl? Christmas day continued to draw near; only three days away.
He decided to find a girl to pretend to be his girlfriend on the day the Kizitos would come. He was going to do everything possible, even bribing any beautiful girl in town to be pretend to be his bae. However, the places to get this ‘wife to be’ ended being a misery.
Billy suggested to him a place he could hire a girl. So that evening he walked him to BONDENI BAR in town, and advised him to identify the most beautiful girl that caught his eye so they could talk to her. Find a slay queen, they love money, he told him.
He had depended on him for the best but shortly; he left after he got a phone call which left him there, desperate. He started to study the bar afterwards and he noted that there were indeed many girls to bribe here. Billy had initially told him that girls here loved money even more than their lives. However, the thought of having to bribe a drunkard to act like his girlfriend consumed him, and he almost decided to leave the bar and have Sharon to be his wife to be. What if I coincidentally take home a drunkard known to everyone home? He thought.
Hoping beer would give him a sober decision
He ordered some beer and slowly started to take it as he chewed over this thought, hoping beer would give him a sober decision. And it really happened. Another girl walked in the bar shortly. She threw her eyes round and seemed to know him. She gazed at him and smiled. This made him to grin and before long the lady walked towards him and greeted him still in a smile and asked, “Can I sit with you Bryson?”
“No problem, sit,” he said as he scanned her trying to establish the semblance. She had her hair newly dressed with braids and when she smiled, he could feel the smile deep inside his heart. She had dimples that attractively indented inwards on her soft and chocolate cheeks whenever she spoke or grinned. He did not know her yet but she had called him by his name.
In his mind he concluded she was one of the village girls among the tens that had been trying to make acquaintance with him since he arrived in Kenya, most of them seeming to admire him. However, this one seemed to have won his heart and confused his mind, officially dressed like some of the businesswomen he had seen in some offices in town, a code that often made him melt with love.
Perhaps she has come by to refresh her thirst with a bottle of beer here only for coincidence to happen, he thought as the lass sat down. Then without taking long she beckoned the barmaid who walked there quickly, “Nipe kama kawaida.”
The barmaid went and shortly returned with two bottles of beer. Now what baffled him more is, she asked him to join her. Bryson wondered whether to take her offer or reject; a free drink from a stranger was not okay with him.
Who was this kind damsel surely? He asked himself. Anyway, he smiled and grabbed the bottle which the barmaid opened, and pushed it to him, together with a glass. And the conversation continued.
“Habari ya nyumbani?” she asked.
Don’t you remember Maryanne, your Kindergarten classmate?
Again! She is truly one of the village girls? He sipped his beer and fixed his stare on her trying to remember her. Then being lost completely, he asked, “Do you know me?”
“Yes. Hey Bryson, have you forgotten me?” she asked laughing out a ridiculing laughter. His mind tried to identify her but not even a picture of anyone like her came. This woman is a con, he concluded. A few times in this bar, he had been made to understand by his friend Billy that such women often came and conned men of their money and phones with pretence of being a long time friend. Sex workers too understood this game, especially when they knew you were new at the bar or had a lot of money. A few days ago, Musau had been robbed all of his money which he had just been paid at the National Cereals and Produce Board for the sale of his maize, after he walked in to the lodging to have sex with a woman he had met here only to wake up in the morning alone, the woman, his clothes and valuables having left. Bryson therefore decided to be keen with his beer, and this damsel. He was not going to be a victim.
“I don’t think I know you, perhaps you tell me whoever you are?” he said rubbing his forefinger on top of his glass. She laughed.
“Don’t you remember Maryanne, your Kindergarten classmate?” she asked.
With that his mind went back to the twenty eight years ago at Makongeni Day Care and Nursery School. He wondered how sharp her memory was until she had kept him in her mind for all those two and half decades. With those years, he no longer remembered her even a bit. But a spot of a birthmark on her face made him to remember her. Yes, she looked like her. Her family had migrated to Nakuru fifteen years ago, which is why he had forgotten her, something he thought was because of his memory that had been stringed with so many things: and the duration he had been out of the country. And why had she changed so much? Why was she this beautiful? He asked himself.
Ooh no, I think I didn’t even notice you
“Ooh yes,” he said and rose up to hug her. “Maryanne you have grown big, beautiful and hot. Are you married?”
“No,” she replied and Bryson embraced her again before going back to his seat. Instantly, he resolved she was the one to take the bribe, to be his ‘wife to be’. Mom would be so happy with this beauty, he thought.
“I have seen you here twice and I have been wondering whether you were the Bryson I used to know. There is a day I stood near the exit door as you left, in a bid to see if you could greet me, but you didn’t even seem to be bothered by my presence.”
“Ooh no, I think I didn’t even notice you. Hii memory nayo… I could not remember you surely. Pole,” he said and smiled. Maryanne also smiled. “Anyway, what do you do nowadays?”
“I am a banker nowadays and I come here sometimes after work to kill stress and pressure of work…”
They talked and talked and talked. He told her about himself and Maryanne also told him about her life.
The time was ticking fast and Billy phoned him to leave the bar. Time to go, he had said, pardoning himself for leaving him with his mission alone. He had met with a friend and started talking outside until now, not realizing that time was sliding.
Before Bryson went, he decided to invite Maryanne for coffee the following day, to complete the talk and discuss a few things…or was it business? Yes, he said. They agreed to meet the following day at five in the evening, after work. He also paid for the beer which Maryanne had ordered, the beer Maryanne had bought for Peter, the beer Maryanne was to pay for.
I will pay you any amount you would like
The next evening they met at Cool Waters Resorts and held their talk. All his plans were laid out, the budget already taken care of. And finally, he told her the business, and that he wanted her to act like she had just come back from the US to make his mother think he had started this ‘affair’ abroad.
“Are you serious?” she asked.
“Yes, I am serious: in fact, earnestly serious. And I will pay you any amount you would like,” he said, placing a bundle of ten thousand shillings on the table to which he had decided was her deposit. Until the business was over, he was going to pay her the rest of the money she would demand.
“Wait Bryson, with all due respect, wacha tu. Who said I want money to pretend to be your girlfriend?” She pushed back the money to him. Bryson almost went down on his knees to beg her to accept. And now, his eyes were becoming bigger and bigger; his brain struggling to believe the shit he was seeing. Christmas was two days away now and he had to find another girlfriend for hire. What the hell was this one doing?
He did not speak for a long time until he got up with his hands folded on his chest. He tried to think about plan B. Where, what and why questions exchanged the talk in his mind. A few minutes later, Maryanne, seemed to pity him. She had read his desperation right, and stood up and said, “Okay, I can pretend. But I do not have to pretend to have come from the US. My English is not so good.”
“No problem,” he celebrated the deal. Next he told her about his mom’s efforts of finding a girl for him. She laughed the matter off and said men had to hunt for themselves.
On Christmas day, he went with his chauffeur for Maryanne in town, and brought her home. She had cooperated so well and she even accepted to go with him to church, where his entire family and the Kizito’s would not miss to spot her, a damsel of a girl, Maryanne, Bryson’s business partner.
There was a smile that had accompanied her
The service had not started the moment they arrived. To wait for it to begin, they walked in and started rehearsing some areas of their business which Maryanne had not mastered. They sat some few seats from back.
Other congregants started to arrive. And shortly, he saw the Kizitos, husband and wife, and his father walk in together, a little moment later. His mother with Sharon too followed. As they pushed their way in, they stopped and greeted them. Now, the way his mother gazed at him, he sensed mischief. There was a smile that had accompanied her gaze which was abnormal. She had been the most mischievous mother anyone could ever have and cock sure; she had something to say that day, about his love Maryanne.
He also saw Maryanne look at him, her face a bit darkened. Whatever the matter was, he did not understand. Shortly, she said, “The business has just ended my dear whether you like it or not. If whoever you don’t want to marry is the girl standing with your mom, then marry her. She is my cousin. From now onwards you are my friend.”
Those words almost made Bryson to cry. What about the deal? The deposit. And how comes is she a relative?
Even with that pain, he ignored her and focused on the pulpit where Reverend Timoteo was telling the congregants how Jesus had come to take all sins of mankind: the sins of disobedience, heartlessness, hate, deception and adultery among others. Was he reading his mind and heart? Well, if he was, then he was going to love Sharon afterwards.
After the sermon they went for lunch together. Their chauffeur drove him, his Maryanne, his mother and Sharon. Billy was not there today to give him company. On the backseat, Sharon and Maryanne had started talking so happily like they knew one another more than he knew them. And did he really know them? He wondered. A little moment later when Sharon had dashed to the washrooms, Maryanne had decided to explain to his mother how she had met Bryson, and what they had planned to do, that had ended up being unexpected. She explained it like a joke and advised Bryson to accept Sharon too.
That made him embarrassed until he kept quiet the entire journey waiting for the celebration at home. But what he was waiting for was to tell the two families where he got Maryanne, and decide whether to fall in love with Sharon. Sharon wasn’t a bad girl though, he decided. But for his business, it had to die. And the deposit, it was gone the way Musau’s had gone.
The moment they stopped and Kizito and his father met with them, Kizito hugged Maryanne and spoke to her happily.
“How are you my daughter?” he asked. Bryson stood with Sharon, who seemed to be getting more beautiful and innocent (which she was) each time. He had to love her, he decided. His mother smiled at them.
© Kemboi Victor 24/11/2018