Ever since the end of the rainy season, ever since the destruction of the village green house and the chief’s little baraza, Kombo’s heart bore the weight of the universe. It wasn’t because of the rains that had swept away three huts, thirteen cows, five goats and a toddler. It wasn’t because his alcoholic father was down with liver cirrhosis or that his elder sister Nyakara was a harlot who when ‘decent’ wore short skirts that squeezed her expansive thighs too tight she had trouble walking, a strapless top that let her breasts almost hang out loose for the ravenous eyes to feast on and heels which made her walk as if the ground was burning.
No, Nyakara was out of the trouble list this time.
Omboji village was still with the calm evening breeze. Kombo filled his lungs with the breeze and grinned in appreciation. The glorious sun was taking its last dip, painting the lake water an illusionary orange which from his homestead looked like a magnificent piece of art. Smoke rose from the neighboring houses and the smell of burning pine and blue-gum penetrated into his lungs. Tired birds noisily chirped returning to their nests. The valley below was hollow with silence and all he could hear were a few frogs on the little stream croaking softly.
He cleared his dry throat and headed for his mother’s house. Yambo, his younger brother was on a rocking chair, staring into space, oblivious of his overwhelming presence . His mother was doing Max, her husband a hot water foot bath while profusely plastering his forehead with a wet dripping face towel such that one would have thought she was waterboarding him.
“Kombo ,there is no change, will it always be like this? When will we take mzee for another checkup?” she asked somberly.
“Mum, when he is done with his current medication. Should there be no change, we’ll seek further intervention,” he replied calmly.
“Baba, how are you feeling today?”
“I am more than fine…. but your mother here insists on inserting my feet in hot …water and washing my face with this soaked towel here,” he mumbled between coughs.
“Stop being stubborn, if only you had stopped smoking when I…. “
“No, mama,” Kombo raised a restraining hand, cutting his her short. “Let him be, don’t start stressing him out. Baba will be fine, just make sure he takes his drugs on time and faithfully.”
“Okay, but this old man has given me enough trouble,” she whined, dipping the towel in cold water once again before placing it on her husband’s face.
The name kept ringing in his mind.
No matter how hard he tried to concentrate during dinner every once in a while a frown would form on his face and his all-knowing mama would inquire as to the reason for his apparent discontentment . He wore a calm demeanor. He found it unnecessary to trouble ma with his misery.
Later while laying out his bed about to retire, he heard their two dogs barking, then Nyakara’s drunken voice cut through the dark as she returned home from one of her many night escapades. There was a huge thud and Kombo concluded that she had lost her balance due to the alcohol in her head.
There was a long-drawn silence before he heard feet shuffling towards his door.
He switched off the last corridor lights in his room.
“Gooooombo….. I wan’t you to….. to…. Ooveeen this….rooooor…,”she stammered.
He sat on a stool, not moving a muscle and waited for Nyakara to calm down. He didn’t open the door and after banging on it profusely and fumbling with the handle to no avail, she gave up and left,, dragging her feet along and uttering all sorts of profanities.
Hadn’t the whole family talked to her on her drinking habits? Hadn’t the women from church prayed for her and even urged her, quoting verse after verse from the Bible that she needed to change her ways? Hadn’t Kombo himself signed her up for Roots Rehabilitation center and she somehow managed to escape? Hadn’t he done enough for her and she still remained adamant?
Let her drink to her own death! He didn’t care anymore. The village women gossiped. Mothers warned their daughters about recklessly living like Nyakara, wanting complete disassociation with her.
“A woman that wears men like clothes and drinks alcohol like water will she ever get married, such a disgrace!” he once overheard them say at the community water project. He had tried, everyone had, but clearly Nyakara was beyond help.
Dansela,even despite all these family storms. Dansela. There was another thud in his father’s house below. Nyakara had probably fallen down again. Dansela,Kombo got up, switched on the bedside lamp and sat on his bed, feet hanging in midair. Her name kept ringing in his mind. She was his past, the past that he never wanted to let go. A story best left untold but even so, in moments like this, her memories were a good distraction from his miserable life.
He remembered the first day she joined his school, a little girl in a black tunic and a cream-colored shirt. She was from another school in the city but her family had relocated to Omboji village. Beautiful dimples formed on her cheeks every time she laughed, shy to the core but a chatterbox with those she was well acquainted with. She sang like an angel and a smile was a constant feature on her face. Young as he was, Kombo had liked her.
He recalls one Friday evening when rushing back to class, he’d accidentally bumped into her and they both came tumbling to the ground, tangled, him on top of her. He had stared into those soft black eyes and seen them change from shock, to anger to embarrassment. She had immediately pushed him off her and winced in pain as she struggled to get up.
“You …hurt me,” she muttered with pouted lips, straightening her tunic and getting up from the ground.
“I’m sorry….. It was… It was an accident,” he’d whispered back.
“Where have you two been? Why are your uniforms dusty?” the Social studies teacher roared when they reappeared in class.
“We… we.., ” she stuttered.
“Sir we fell down while running back to class,” Kombo said, saving the day at the expense of giggles from the other classmates.
The social studies teacher Mr. Obi scrutinized the two pupils, his wild and ever red eyes boring into them, not satisfied with the answer. He then pulled his trouser higher to his chest, adjusted his extravagant coat and soot-black glasses before finally motioning them to take their seats.
Kombo spent the rest of the lesson stealing glances at her. She was inspecting her limbs for any major injuries. She dusted off her tunic and wiped her face with her school sweater before turning to him with a murderous look on her face and didn’t get Mr. Obi’s question.
“Dansela Melody, which is the longest river in Africa?”
“Sorry sir, River Nile.”
Kombo remembers the English teacher. Madam Rozette having a skit on girl-child empowerment. She selected Dansela, him and Tessie. Tessie was their ‘mother’ and the duo were ‘siblings’. Kombo was to eat, watch TV and play while Dansela was to do every house chore as stipulated by the iron lady miss Tessie because she was a girl. Every while Dansela would complain that the chores be shared equally but her ‘mother’ would punish her, then in fury she’d ‘burn’ her brother with hot water. Tessie would then come to her senses and treat her ‘children’ equally.
That had been ages ago, little primary school kids with lofty ambitions. He wanted to be a journalist, she wanted to be a scientist. The two had even been selected as the weekly newscasters of Jacaranda primary School. She always thought his pieces were better and he also felt like her pieces outweighed his. Time whisked them off to different high schools for four years.
After high school, Kombo spent three months trying to find Dansela’s contacts. Ever Since then they’d been conversing on phone, catching up and just being casual. At times he thought he stood no chance and that Dansela probably had a boyfriend, or she was just being nice to keep the flame of childhood friendship burning. He scolded himself for sounding so insecure.
This Friday night however, her parents were away on trip and she said she was home alone. This would be it; he would just give her a surprise visit and tell her how he felt about her. Maybe the feeling was mutual, just maybe.
Kombo recalls that night, May fifteenth because he had just turned nineteen on the tenth of the same month. His mother always told him that men have no trouble finding what to wear but here he was, proving her wrong and just not finding the right attire. He tried one outfit after another and the mirror just proved how horrible he looked. Racing against time, he finally settled for black sneakers, denim pants, a white old navy T-shirt and a black cap. He felt confident in this because his buddies always told him it gave him a model look that could sweep girls off their feet.
Should I carry flowers? What if she rejects them?
What do girls like? She said she likes white chocolate Should I buy two at the store? Wait.. One costs a-hundred-and-fifty shillings, I only have a-hundred shillings with me. Damn! Its already eight O’clock, I better get going.
He hurriedly splashed on some cologne, grabbed his phone and after telling his mama that he was off to visit a high school buddy, he left.
Just when he was going to knock the door for the third time, there was a clutter of keys from the inside and slowly the door opened displaying an anxious-looking Dansela in a blue night dress, a white pullover and a glass of water on her right hand. Her mouth parted in shock upon seeing him and the glass immediately slipped from her hands onto the floor, shattering. Then rooted to the ground, she stood still, staring at him and fidgeting with her fingers.
“Did I scare you?” he asked jokingly.
“Uum…Well…no, not really,” she stammered. “Come in.”
“I’m sorry, let me help clean this mess first,” he said, bending to pick the broken pieces of glass.
“No, don’t, I’ll do it. I’m sorry I wasn’t expecting anyone. Come on in,” she said. “And you look funny,” she added, smiling.
“How, Dansey, my face, anything wrong with it?”
“No, your face is…,”
She just smiled.
“Does that mean yes?”
“No. Your face is okay, it’s the outfit that looks funny.”
A simple oh, was all he could manage to say before swearing to kill all the boys in his gang for always giving him false confidence.
“It’s night time, you know, I don’t have to be extravagantly dressed, simple is good,” he said.
“Okay,”she replied softly.
Kombo thanked the cosmos for the TV which offered a much needed distraction for what would have otherwise been a moment of awkward silence. He stared at the screen and the varying figures displayed therein dancing in his vision. She stared at the walls one at a time.
“Did you paint these walls recently?” he asked, peeling his eyes from the screen to the wall.
“No, why?” she asked, avoiding his eyes.
“Well, you’ve been admiring them ever since I got here tonight.”
She just smiled, studying her fingernails.
“You look tensed, is anything wrong?”
“No, nothing is wrong.”
“Oh, so someone is all nervous and nothing is wrong? Interesting.”
“You’re still the same annoying boy I knew back in primary school. You never changed much.”
“And you’re still the same shy girl that was once my ‘sister’.”
“I’m not shy,” she said flatly.
“You’re sure about that? Okay look me directly in the eye,” he teased.
“Dansey, look at me, try not to be mesmerized, I know I’m handsome! Prove that you’re not shy.”
“Okay,” she said laughing.
Same black-toned eyes and long eyelashes steadily boring into his, searching for her place in his life, finding a straight path into his waiting heart and settling there as his heartbeats picked up reaching out for hers.
“There. Happy now,’ brother’?”
“I don’t want to be ‘brother’ unless it is ‘twin brother’.”
“Okay, twin, are you happy now?”
“Ecstatic! You’re beautiful.”
Dansela grabbed a pillow from the extreme end of the chair and threw it at him.
“Don’t be silly,” she said.
He caught the pillow and threw it back, and a pillow fight ensued, ending with him drawing her in a tight embrace. She smelt fresh and her skin felt soft against his. Kombo bugged her tighter, and she clung on to him, hearts beating faster. No words were uttered, only gasps escaped their mouths. He ran his hands on her back, pulling her closer, and they stayed in that position until late into the night when he finally left.
Kombo spent the days after that night reminiscing and thinking of Dansela. How she blushed after every sentence, her soft puckered up lips and how he had to resist the urge of kissing her with abandon that night. He remembered how she felt small in his massive arms and gave him the urge to constantly protect her. He loved her. How he had to take deep breaths to calm his heart. He wished to see her again, so when Justin, his high school buddy called to invite him to his birthday party, he didn’t hesitate to invite Dansela too.
The party was on the first Sunday of June. That night his brain felt woozy at the sight of Dansela, wearing a red strapless dress that clung to her small frame in all the right places as if it had been made with her in mind. Her makeup complimented her already gorgeous looks. Thoughts of further exploring her body filled his mind, making it hard to concentrate on their dance moves. When everyone else was lost in dance and music and Dansela felt tired, he grabbed her by the hand and sprinted away to a spot of wild grass where the only light was a lonesome full moon hanging loosely in the sky.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, panting, the moonlight falling on her eyes.
Kombo turned her to face him and held her face in his hands, eyes locked on hers.
“Dansela, the moon is glorious, right?”
“Don’t you feel cold in this dress? Here,” he helped her wear his huge trench coat, “I don’t want you to freeze.”
“Thank you,” she said looking him in the eyes.
“I don’t wish to hold this back anymore. I love you, Dansela Melod, very much,” he said, staring at her full pouted lips.
“I… I…,” she struggled to find words.
His lips found hers. Fervently, ravenously devouring her in a hungry kiss. All his years of waiting suppressed in that moment. His arms exploring her body, hers clinging onto him. For a moment everything was hazy, time stopped and the moon hid behind the clouds.
Finally breathless, they broke the kiss and clung to each other.
Slowly, after a while she pulled away from him gently and nervously held his face in her arms.
“I love you too, Kombo,”she whispered before giving him a long passionate kiss. This time he didn’t hesitate, he covered her lips with his and kissed her with abandon, like he was branding her, owning her. His hands caressed her body, touching all places he could access. He moved back a little bit to find more balance when his right leg got stuck in a tuft of grass that he hadn’t seen earlier as both tumbled down, this time Dansela on top of him.
“I won’t hurt you this time,” he whispered before claiming her lips again.
In that epic night, he promised her venus.
That was a year ago and life changed dramatically, piting him as the villain and Dansela s the victim. First, he majored in medicine, she in journalism, and just as their destinies seemed to change, so did his promises for her. He had managed to convince her to appoint she could have dropped everything in her life to be with him, but he started cheating on her. He broke her heart, feasted on her innocence, eventually leaving her in the middle of nowhere. Hordes of girls became his constant feature and almost every girl in campus had had a fling with him. Dansela questioned him and his response was carefree, as if her love meant nothing to him. She had forgiven him far too many times.
“What happened to us?” she’d asked over the phone in tears.
Three months ago, she had called to say she was pregnant, and he didn’t want anything to do with her.
“Listen, I was desperate, you were convenient, I’m sorry if you thought this could lead somewhere. I guess you should just move on with your life and get rid of that baby because I will not offer any support. Perhaps if we were in the same campus it would’ve been different, but you’re elsewhere; how can I even be sure the baby is mine? Which by the way raises an…”
“…I hate you! I hate you Kombo…,” she cut him short before finally hanging up.
That was the last he heard of her and the moment he put his phone down, he realized the vanity of the choices he had made. Thoughts of the life growing inside her filled him with remorse and at that moment, the girls and fast-paced life and numerous one night stands he had chosen over Dansela felt like nothing.
It was ten at night. Kombo removed his phone from the back pocket, the screen lighting up to a picture of Dansela in a little white dress, a red hat and heels smiling. He’d taken the picture on her eighteenth birthday, the same night when their bodies intertwined in passion, bonding them closer.With shaking hands he dialed her number and placed the phone on his ear. No response. He tried once more with a terrible foreboding this time. He had tried calling her the previous night but his calls were never picked. His texts were undelivered and his email not replied. It has been three solid months since they last talked. He needed to make it up to her. He needed to see her in person and apologize for taking her through hell. Even if she wouldn’t take him back, he had to redeem himself.
It started raining and his calls remained unanswered. Finally, someone did.
“Hello,” he heard her soft voice on the other side.
She sounded weary.
“Hello…Dansey…how are you?”
“What do you want?” she asked, her voice cracking.
“I called to say I’m sorry. We need to talk.”
“Dansey, are you there?” he asked.
“Hello,” a sharp soprano voice cut him short, “I’m sorry but Dansela can’t talk on the phone right now. Perhaps later, please,”she said.
“Hold on, please don’t hang up on me, is she fine? She sounded ill?”
“She’s not okay,” the woman said. “Something terrible happened. Who are you, again?”
“Umm, I’m a friend. What happened? “Kombo asked, heart beating faster.
“I’m Ava, her friend. A granny of hers died, her auntie is seriously ill in hospital, and Dansela is five months pregnant with a baby whose father denied from the start, and her divorced mum will kill her if she learns that she is pregnant at only nineteen. She…,” Ava sobbed.
“…She what?” Kombo asked, swallowing hard as a tear rolled down his cheeks.
“She attempted suicide and has been in the ICU for a week now,” Ava said. “Hold on a second…hey Doc how is she doing? ,,, Is the baby fine?”
“I’m so sorry Ava, we did all we could,” Kombo heard a male voice say.
That was all he heard before the line went dead. He called immediately but the phone was switched off. Terrified, he sat down on his bed, staring into the darkness.
“I should be the one suffering, not you. Please live for me, please hold on for me, please stay…. Stay for me to make it up to you, stay…,” he prayed, weeping.
He dressed hurriedly and grabbed his car keys, ready to jump into the chilly night and find Dansela. He then realized that he didn’t know in which hospital she was in.
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Philly Vivian is a lover of life, poet and an enthusiastic soul. Currently a second year student taking Journalism and mass communication .A literature fanatic .Adventurous mind. Wandering soul.Aesthete. The cosmos is our own creation,let us paint it in colour.