A Story By Many (complete)

Chapter 1
I watched her twirl her hair around her index finger as she let out the softest laugh I’d ever heard. It was unlike her, I knew her laugh and this was far from it. She often made a snorting noise when she laughed, something I was always made rudely aware of every time we watched Wipe Out on cable. Why she insisted on tugging on her poor hair every time he grinned at her was beyond me. I didn’t like his teeth either, from this angle they looked like fangs ready to puncture her neck and suck the life out of her.

The more I stared at them, the more I realized how unaware she was of my general disdain for having been dragged here and placed strategically at a table near the refreshments. Because, why wouldn’t I want refreshments as I watched my mother throw herself at random men.

To think that only this morning I had confronted her about the marks across her chest. One thing you need to know about dear old mum, is that she liked men who took control, told her what to do, when and how to do it, sometimes even with whom to do it. Since dad died, all we ever did was meet dad number n, and they often brought gifts for her. This time, her new accessories were from Barry. Purple, blotchy and swollen, these gifts were consistent with her taste in men.

Even from where I sat, I could see them peaking through her dress. He grinned at her again, his uneven teeth protruding as if reaching for her, reaching for her like he did last night, and the night before that, these new accessories, as if meant for decoration, these marks, were from Barry.

Chapter 2
Alex shut her notebook in frustration. She’d read the paragraph over and over again, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. She needed to write more. Her editor was on her neck, he needed her first draft on his desk by Monday and all she had to give was one lousy paragraph. A paragraph, which sadly, only reminded her of a past that years of therapy had done little to help forget. It had always been a dream of hers to be a writer and after the success of her first book ‘The Memoir of A Struggling Author’, it seemed her dream was slowly becoming a reality.

She’d written the first book without a hitch and had gone on to enjoy the perks of her success, from limo rides to dinner dates with some of the most prolific writers. She’d enjoyed herself long enough though, that’s what her editor told her, and it was time to move onto book no. 2. She was finding it hard to get inspiration for it however, that’s why she’d come to the café, to try and get out of her writer’s block. It did nothing to help her and now all she wanted was a chocolate croissant to eat away her disappointment. She’d have to reschedule her appointment with her editor.

Chapter 3
She sat there, the sides of her mouth smeared with chocolate, wondering what excuse she would use this time. Last Monday, she said she had been out of town giving a talk to literature students and hadn’t had time to write. This was partly true, but she had more than enough time to write, just that she chose to spend her time with Safari, a Kenyan literature student she met at the university she was lecturing at.

Something about him intrigued her. Maybe it was his thirst for authenticity, or how he said he related with her last book, or maybe just how he stared longingly at her lips whenever she spoke as if wishing to draw the words from her. Whatever it was, it wasn’t helping much with her new book as she couldn’t help but think about him. She had to see him again. She had to see him now.

Chapter 4
Eyes closed, him close. That was all she wanted. No, that was all she needed. His touch on her thighs moving up higher was nothing but electrifying as it sent spasms of electricity through her body. His kiss on her lips was nothing but a wave of pleasure that soared through her body leaving her moaning for more. She had no more doubts. Seeing him now was not enough, she wanted him and she wanted him badly…

The sudden buzz of her phone dazzled her back to reality leaving a sigh of disappointment on her lips. A quick glance at the screen and it was her editor. What was she going to tell him? That the reason she couldn’t come up with content was due to a boy she had just met who had done nothing but occupy all the corners of her mind? Oh no, she’d get fired. It was simple; she’d just ignore the call and call him later, after she had had ample time to think of a better excuse. The buzz faded off and she couldn’t help but feel a bit of relief. The bill settled, she quickly packed up her notebook ready to leave the café only for her to turn and see her editor standing there with what looked like an angry look on his face. “I thought I’d find you here. So, are you dodging my calls now?” he said. Oh dear, this was not good…

Chapter 5
“And he had the audacity to yell at me right there, in the cafe, in front of everyone!” She screamed out loud and put another chocolate bar in her mouth, making a mental note that this was not the healthiest of habits. They were at her apartment, her and Stacy, as usual. An unwritten ritual they practiced every Thursday, they always found each other together, regardless of deadlines or dates. This time they were at Alex’s place because she had wanted to be in her space, find something to write. She couldn’t move places just yet. She couldn’t explain the feeling, but she knew there was some sort of inspiration that came to her in this space.

“That’s cold-” Stacy said, but she didn’t get very far. Alex interjected near immediately.

“Yeah! It is! And he just kept on yelling! About how I didn’t take his calls, about how I’m behind on my deadlines. And these things, stories don’t just… just… materialize out of thin air!”

“That is cold, and you’re right-” Stacy started, but again she was cut short.

“I know I’m right! And I am angry right now.” Alex moaned and took another bite.

“Thanks for this though.” She waved the bar around. “God, I hope I don’t die of diabetes or something as silly.”

“Alex, shut up.” Stacy said, absoluteness in her voice that Alex was too familiar with. She was monopolizing the conversation again. She reacted, her body leaning away from Stacy, but nearly as fast her shoulders slumping with the awareness of this. “That sucks, him shouting at you and all. But, then again, you get dramatic if I don’t take your call even once-”

“That’s because I worry easy-”

“-and this is work. It’s not work and play. And, by the way, if it were I, I would just cut you off. Thank your lucky stars he was patient.” Alex looked at Stacy and knew she was right. Only twenty five, Stacy had somehow roped herself a managerial position in a start-up company dealing with events management, and her no nonsense way of working had brushed a lot of shoulder wrong, but at the same time had accelerated the company’s growth. Alex knew there was no way she would have survived in that company. She was too in love with her personal freedom, her independence to do what she wanted when she did. Writing allowed that lifestyle. Most of the time. She frowned again.

“So what? I feel good about him shouting at me in the middle of a cafe, like I’m a… a child?”

“No, you don’t. But at the same time, you were asking for this when you decided to shut him out.”

“I had nothing to show him, and he was on my back, so relentlessly-” Alex’s hands were all over the place, her gestures wide and visibly showing her resilient anger at the situation.

“Because its his job. You write, he does everything else. He can’t sell if you don’t give him something to sell. Think this through.”

Alex opened her mouth, ready with a comeback, but the last words Stacy said made her think. And after a few seconds, her mouth went shut. Stacy, as much as it sucked, was right. “Well, damn, Stace.” She giggled. “Why stress myself with thinking things through when you’re here?”

Stacy smiled. “Because you’re smart. Use it.”

“Ouch. I thought you’d automatically side with me. Sometimes I forget your character. Look at you, siding with the villain of the story…Wait…”

Alex got off her lazy position, her back on the couch, her legs slumped on the armrest, and she sat up fully. Stacy immediately sighed. She knew what was about to happen even before it happened. “Alex, you will not leave me here again because some idea hit you. Write it down and let’s continue-”

“Too late.” She was already on her feet. “Siding with the villain. Of course. I need to add something, Stacy. You know the drill.” Alex was already gone, laptop in hand, headed to the solitary shelter of her bedroom. Stacy did not move, she took the bar of chocolate. She knew the drill. Food in the kitchen, she could leave when she wanted, Alex was not to be disturbed until she was done. She looked at her own laptop that she had placed on the table. She had never been a person who just idled by but she picked up the laptop and opened the browser. She typed in something on her laptop sighed a little more, and watched the YouTube page load slowly.
The things she did for Alex.

Chapter 6
I needed to grab the threads before they floated away never to be seen again. I’ll make it work just like I normally do just tug at them slowly getting more and more then I’ll slowly pull them together. My masterpiece was at hand, or at least that’s what I was telling myself. Five minutes in and I still couldn’t seem to hold onto the threads they seemed to slip through my fingers, something was distracting me, and someone was distracting me. The realization brought a smile to my lips. I pushed the laptop aside and stretched myself out on the bed, content to dream…

Dream about his full black lips, his tough hair, those playful eyes; what they made me feel when he looked at me…I could feel the heat in my cheeks, I thought of all things he could do to me…that I wanted him to do to me. I could feel one hand on my back the other sliding down past my waist; breaking his gaze as he found me …I let out a gasp.
I chuckled to myself “All this wonderful imagery and the closest we’d ever been to each other was a foot at the least…GO YOU ALEX!! YOU STRONG INDEPENDENT BLACK WOMAN YOU!! USE THAT IMAGINATION!!”

I sat back up trying to compose myself after my little vivid daydream. What was it about him? It wasn’t the physical (maybe a little of the physical), he was an interesting soul. He took me beyond the casual everyday pleasantries, with him I fell; there was no past or future only the present; only now.

I shook my head “SNAP OUT OF IT GIRL YOU’VE GOT A BOOK YOU NEED TO WRITE AND EDITOR ON YOUR BACK LIKE A FUCKING HELL HOUND!! THIS AIN’T NO TIME TO START BUILDING CASTLES IN THE SKY!”

But the threads were gone, carried by the wind and maybe some other lucky soul would chance upon them, get to tell the world the story I never could. I slunk out of the room; to be honest I was pretty disappointed in myself…this had never happened. I’d had writer’s block before, I mean sometimes that was part of the process but never this. Sometimes the results were disappointing but I had never failed to take the opportunity given to me.

“You’d better have written an amazing addition in those 30 minutes,” said Stacy.

I sighed… “Nothing Stacy”

Chapter 7
Another day was here, still lost in a world of my own as I watched people from my window, walking by as if with no worry at heart and mind. Quizzically, my attention drifted to the couple by the corner table at Alfonso’s Cafe. They seemed so drawn to one another with a passion that tied not only their hearts but also their entire existence. Was that what I had started feeling for this young man. “Cmoon Alex are you sure he’s not one of those come and goes?” A voice inside me had already intervened.

Knowing that he was the reason why my block yesterday was triggered, I blamed it on him and couldn’t let him receive glory or any praise for it.

In an attempt to erase this intoxicating new addiction, I happened by a fortune cookie, that I rarely did believe in, but today it seems the universe had it out for me. The message well inscribed in bold, “HAPPINESS FINDS THE SEEKER, DESIRE PRECEDES THE INTENTION AND LOVE WILL ALWAYS FOLLOW WAITING AN OPPORTUNITY” what this meant I don’t know and I didn’t really care but it lingered in my head all morning as I paced around the house doing nothing as had become my new job. When I finally decided to take a shower and go out for a walk, the phone started ringing. I hesitated; cooking up an excuse, knowing it might be my editor. Finally, clasping hard on the phone, I picked it up…and it was Safari’s voice on the other end…

“Alex I miss you…”

Chapter 8
His voice was strong. It always captivated her.

“Don’t say that,” she said quietly.

It was the last thing she wanted to hear, especially from Safari.
She slowly placed the phone away from her mouth catching her breath.

“But I do Alex,”

“Please don’t say that,”

His words were hard for her to stomach. She contemplated putting down the phone but she desperately wanted to keep speaking to him. To listen to how his voice made highs and lows as he spoke, speaking beautifully, as if his voice was made only for her ears. She loved hearing him speak. But how could she today? When all he would say were words that made her heart hurt. Words that destroyed the only sanity she clung onto. We could talk about the weather she thought. The weather was perfect to beat around the bush with she concluded.

“Can we talk?”

“Only about the weather,” she said excitedly, successfully hiding how she truly felt.

“Don’t play these games, come to the door.” Safari demanded.

“Wait, what?? You’re here?? How? And how did you know…”

“Open the door Alex”

Her heart started racing as butterflies erupted in her stomach. She placed her hand on her stomach as if to calm the active butterflies and made her way towards the door. She was unsure of what was happening, it was all so fast, she had no time to question anything or think everything through.

She found herself opening her door and seeing Safari stand on her doorstep in all his glory.
Chapter 9
Safari happened to Alex the way the sunrise catches up with the ungodly – sudden, blinding and most of all, inevitable. Even so, she could not have seen him coming. The sound of the doorbell startled Alex from her languid anticipation of it. The hours between had been spent obsessing over the perfect evening with him – taking a shower, bantu knotting her kinky hair, putting on a face mask – so that he would make the impression that this was how she always was, female, in her natural habitat. Warm vanilla and cinnamon enveloped the dimly lit room in a serene, welcoming, candle-lit haze.

Now, fresh faced, curly haired and anxious to the point of only hearing her own rugged breathing, she unlatched and pulled open the door allowing the warm dusk light to flood the room. His silhouette stepped forward into her view as he saw her face break into a smile she could not control. He towered nearly two heads over her, full crown of black wool for hair that seemed to smoothly trickle its way down into a dark, well-kept beard. His manner matched the colour of his eyes: brown, the intensity of an aged Mugumo tree, equally subtle and deep. Her gaze settled on his veined strong looking hands and her thoughts spiraled…

“Are you going to let me in?”

The question interrupted her wandering eyes and thoughts. A snap back to reality made her pay more attention to the man before her: he held an amused and expectant look which triggered her natural wit and sarcasm.

“No, I prefer to watch you stand at my door.” She mocked, unable to mask the humour in her voice or eyes as she stepped back slightly to make room for his entrance. He bent forward so that he could enter the doorway and in doing so, brushed the side of Alex’s cheek with his bristly jawline. The deadline from her editor drifted much further from her mind than it already had been, and she could think of nothing more than his sun baked skin against hers…

He took control of the energy in the room with his manner, observing intently the minor details of her space: the small painting of a calla lily above her bookshelf, softly grazing the spines of the variety of books there, carrying on as if he did not feel the lightning sparks of their brief contact. He had the style of one completely at ease with himself, a confidence far greater than his years that drew her to him. Alex watched silently as he moved with the grace of a wildcat from the shelf and splayed himself leisurely on her two-person couch, that truly only had room to fit one comfortably. She gravitated towards him against her own better judgment and settled in the nook between his left leg and arm dangling ever so idly over the back of the seat. Her positioning demanded much more contact than was appropriate but decorum was not her priority as she stared up into his smiling eyes.

“Interesting space…” he remarked, one finger raising her chin as if to play navigator to her face and gaze. Alex understood at that moment that a very thin line was about to be crossed; yet she unwittingly wet her lips in preparation.

The warm air from his mouth hit her with her eyes closed and she drew closer to meet him halfway. A strong arm wound its way around her lower back all the way to her waist, leaving little room for doubt about the situation. She arched her back bringing their speedily increasing heartbeats to a much closer, synchronized symphony.

The bathroom door facing her bed made the most eerie creaking noise whenever it was opened, this time, waking Alex up from her peaceful and lazy slumber. Her eyelids parted slowly to gauge the time of day and she was both relieved and frazzled to see only the artificial light from her bathroom and Safari’s lean torso disappearing into it. She rolled over and buried her smiling face into her pillow to scream her joy but was interrupted by a vibrating beep on her side. Instinct preceded reason as it dawned on her that he had left his phone on the bed so her curious fingers quickly pulled the blanket back, exposing the now lit screen. She glanced first at the time then at the interesting black and orange wallpaper that reminded her of the notebook she was jotting down ideas for, almost snapping her from her momentary bliss. The six words in the speech bubble on the screen however, managed to get that done quicker than her writing worries:
“Did you get the job done?”

Chapter 10
Time grinded to a painful standstill. She felt as though she was a spectator, disjoint from the ever-flowing stream that is time. And in that frozen moment, her metamorphosis began in very distinct stages. The phone slipped through her fingers and spiraled towards the floor as it spun in no particular direction.

Confusion.

The text in itself normally wouldn’t have thrown her off. It was the sender’s ID that worried her. Shocked her even. Tarin. Safari was working for Tarin. Everything was unclear, hazy. Alex struggled to comprehend the events that were unfolding. She did know one thing, though. But he can’t have known. No. Safari can’t be working for the man who constantly tried to steal her work. The man who swore to end her career. It had to be a coincidence no matter how improbable. She refused to believe that Safari, the man she loved, was conspiring against her. She tried to recollect her thoughts. To connect how Safari, a random variable, was rubbing shoulders with an influential pig like Tarin.
Safari’s phone hit the ground. A crack birthed from the point of impact and branched out lengthwise to explore the new world that was the screen. The light from its screen flashed a strange hue, flickered and then was nothing but a memory.

Heartbreak.

It suddenly dawned on her just how unusually perfect Safari was… Almost as if he had been tailored to match her desires, how he complemented her in an almost unrealistic way. Like he’d been coached; trained to appeal to her. No matter how you look at it, he was just too good to be true. How long was he working for Tarin? Was he using her this entire time? Who else was in on it? Was it always just a lie? She had loved him. She still did. The sting of betrayal hit hard. Harder than she’d been hit before; and she’d been hit a lot. Somehow this was different. It knocked everything out of her. Mocked her as she wallowed in her own pool of self-pity, jeered as she cursed her naivety. It drained everything she had mustered to get this far; snuffed out the light that was hope.
Alex was still staring at the phone as its descent came to a halt at an unexpected angle. On the cracked screen, she could see the both reflection of the fireplace and her silhouette. It was like art. It gave the illusion that she had burst into flame. A flame that consumed everything but her.

Anger.

“Screw love!” a voice that both was and wasn’t hers shouted. And in it was strength, power, fire. A fire that both scared and drove her. A fire that would give her the thrust forward. Drive her to fight for what was hers. To give nothing to anybody that wasn’t herself. The flames were all she needed now. If you couldn’t feel it in her breath, then you could see it in her eyes. And there was nobody more deserving of its burn than the man in her bathroom. She would make sure he knew exactly whom he was dealing with.

Slowly, she got up and made her way to the bathroom.

Chapter 11
She stood at the door contemplating her next move. She should confront him. She should just walk in there and ask him if all of this was a lie. The smiles, the cute little gestures, the love – all the fucking love. Just walk in there and find out the truth.

Her hand reached for the doorknob but she paused before she turned the handle. She stood there, staring at the door – thinking about the whole situation. There had to be a logical explanation for it, right? Maybe he was doing some work for him on the side. Maybe he was writing a small piece for him. Maybe, maybe…

Safari was Safari – her Safari. He wouldn’t do this.

She took a step back and rubbed her hand against her arms. She was suddenly very cold.
Why would he do this? Why?

She stopped rubbing her hands against her arms, staring vacantly at the door, and stood there trying not to break. Her eyes began to burn as the threat of tears materialized. She hugged herself tight as if this one simple act would hold her together.

FUCK!

The door opened and Safari walked out, with a dazed smile on his face.

“Babe, what are you doing out of bed?”

He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her. His arms felt right around her – she felt safe. All she wanted to do was sink into him and forget everything and just be Safari and Alex. He kissed her neck and pulled her closer, “Mhmm I want to stay like this forever”.

Alex’s heart shattered. She wanted that too but she didn’t know if she could trust him, if she could trust this.

She took a deep breath and stepped out of the cocoon of his arms. She felt like she left her heart in his arms.

Safari finally looked at her, and the expression on her face made his smile fall. She did not know what she looked like but she felt utterly broken.

“Alex, what is it? What’s wrong?”

She should just go for it, bring up the subject and finally get it out of the way. She didn’t want to because she was scared that he would be everything she hoped he would not be.
OH GOD, did he even like her book? Did he like anything about her? She was in so deep and she wouldn’t be able to handle it if he wasn’t either. Her heart was racing and her stomach was churning, so she chickened out.

“Uhh, your phone. It fell and I think it kind of cracked”

“Oh shit.”

He moved towards his phone that had fallen by the bedside table and he picked it up…

Chapter 12
…The phone had fallen face flat. Luckily the screen was intact but more pressing was the need to know why his phone had fallen in the first place, despite having kept it at a safe enough distance, away from the edge of the side table. It didn’t take too long for him to piece together the situation. I mean Alex didn’t even bother to close the message. He glanced to see her expression but she had already locked herself in the shower.

He lay prostrate on her queen size bed. There, just in that moment that he was embraced by her clean sheets, he almost forgot all what he had resolved while in the shower. In her embrace, and her in his Safari had found a home, and thus scared him. He needed to focus on the job at hand. Still e couldn’t help but reminisce on the good old days before meeting Tarin.

Safari had barely showered. Instead he was pacing up and down, sweating profusely while trying to decipher when and how he got in this deep. Sure Alex was a sunshine personality but he was determined not to get attached to her, at least not emotional enough to impede on his job. He remembered indifferently what had happened in the case of Tiffany and how afterwards he had to relocate cities; with everything at stake-his career and his reputation. This would not end up in the same way. He was however skating on thin ice and was afraid his cover was about to be blown. His better judgment had told him to flee when he still had the chance and yet there he was, still, in her shower having made love to her. He had been swimming in thoughts of what was and what could be, before the sound of something falling rudely interrupted him. His first instinct was to rush out of the shower and find his phone but he thought better of it; too suspicious. So he continued pretending to shower, splashing water here, there, nowhere, everywhere. Until he could not take the suspense anymore.

Amidst thoughts, mostly prayers that would go unanswered, that the fallen item was not his iPhone, he had stepped out of the shower, swallowed hard; a large dry lump and attempted what he hoped was a convincing dazed smile, embraced Alex and proceeded to attend to his phone.

Here he is now, in her bed thinking and rethinking the situation. He tried a futile attempt to convince himself that Alex would not make anything of the text message from Tarin, but with each attempt her face would appear in his mind, breaking away from their warm embrace, glaring hard at him.

Now what? He collected himself, dressed and knocked thrice on the shower door. Silence. He knocked again. Silence still.

“I should go”, he finally broke the deafening silence.

“Yeah my editor needs a draft, after all”

Without looking behind, perhaps afraid that he would turn into salt, he opened the door and while taking the steps to freedom couldn’t help but think; ‘was that disdain that I heard in her voice?’

‘She definitely must know’.

Chapter 13
And now I sit and stare at the white washed walls of my apartment. I feel robbed of my dignity and innocence. I mean it was one thing for me to think of what Safari was doing behind my back, but viewing the actual evidence for some reason hit me by surprise, what about the promises?

My trail of thoughts strayed everywhere. The anger and frustration confused for bitterness sent a waterfall down my frail cheeks darkening my freckles. What’s that there in a distance? My blurred vision prevents me from decrypting the puzzle. All the pieces fit but I refuse to put them together. It all makes sense now. The late nights that he compensated for with coffee mornings and late lunches. The dodgy excuses for being up at 1 in the morning that he compensated for with the sweet and crazy sex.

I pick up my phone, my thoughts running skelter with resentment being my overriding motive. “He must know. He must pay” In the midst of my rage, my eureka moment popped up. But does he even care? Aren’t you just making yourself look like the fool that you are all over again? Why must it be so hard?

Chapter 14
The heart was made to be broken…but she didn’t feel like hers could be broken again…. vengeance kept calling out to her, contempt for herself wouldn’t let her sleep at night…Tonight in particular, she couldn’t take it anymore.

Dusk brought chills with it, perhaps as a reminder that the world was indeed a cold place.
“What is love anyway?”…It’s a journey yes, but one she was no longer willing to embark on with Safari…

“Mama don’t let them take you away!”

”Please, my son take care of Tara and Mike!”.

This dream always came to Safari when he was distressed. When he was fourteen, his mother- Maria had been arrested for soliciting, the arresting officer would take only one type of bribe and when she refused to give it to him, he consumed her wares by force. The woman waited till he was on the throes of passion and took the pistol lying idly at his knees, then aimed. What followed was a loud bang, deafening silence and finally a woman sobbing into the blood-soaked shirt of a dead man.

The presiding judge upheld the soliciting charges and on top of it slapped her with voluntary manslaughter. Needless to say by the time she got out, Safari’s grandsons would be grown men…

Chapter 15

“I know you have it.”

Safari stared at the phone in front of him, a document opened, words decorating the screens entire space. The earphones wrapped around his neck and trailed all the way to his phone’s jack. He was on the stairs leading to the apartments higher up the flat, on call with Tarin. His concentration wandering. He could hear his next-door neighbour arguing in loud whispers. Again. His other neighbour wasn’t in yet. She usually rolled in later in the night in those unholy hours. Raising a ruckus when she did. But he knew he had lucked out with this place. Other than small disruptions, it was a quiet place. And it gave him the peace he so very needed these days. Needed, but did not have. Not right now. Not today.

“Are you still there? Hello? Dammit, Safari I can hear you breathe!”

He wondered where she was right now. He sighed. Maybe he deserved this unrest in him.
He heard footsteps coming from behind him. Someone must be coming down, he thought. He stood up and moved to the side, facing the wall as the seemingly bored lady moved to her left and continued on down. He knew her, Mama Njeri, and as soon as she saw him, she came alive. He smiled awkwardly as she grabbed his hand and it suddenly became an exchange of pleasantries. His mind wandered. From the corner of his eye, he saw a lady walking in his apartment’s hallway. His eyes lingered on her, dressed in a turtleneck and blue jeans. Sneakers. She looked like her. Alex. He wondered where she was again. His thoughts disgusted him. He looked away, rubbed his eyes. Tried to gain control. Focused on the lady in front of him. A door opened; light suddenly filled an otherwise partly dark hallway. He quickly pointed to his phone, whispering he was in a call. She nodded and continued on downward. He sat back down and his eyes looked back to the phone. The hallway was partly dark again. The lady had already disappeared into someone’s apartment. Tarin was still saying something. He was becoming annoyed. He cut him short.

“I told you not to call me Tarin, not when I’m at home,”

“And I told you to give it to me the second you have it. And I know you have the manuscript.”

Of course he had it. That girl slept like a log that day. It had been easy. It just didn’t work out as simply as it should have. He wondered where she was. He sighed again. He had already deleted the documents he had gotten from her from his computer. From his drive. He didn’t like the fact that he found it difficult to delete them from his phone.

The door to his apartment opened. A head popped out and her eyes wandered a bit, then landed on him. She spoke up, her voice, melodic, alto-ish, slightly louder than a whisper. “You have a guest.” He looked at her, smiled and nodded. She smiled back and popped her head back into the house.

“Will you talk to me? God, talking to you is frustrating. I just need to know when you’re sending them to me.” Tarin again.

“I don’t have them.”
“Yes, you do. What do you want? More money, cause that can be arranged-”

“Don’t call me again, Tarin.”

“Wait, wait-”

He hung up. He put the phone in airplane mode and slipped it in his pocket. He did not stand up yet. Alex, Tarin, he felt their effect. He felt unshackled, mostly. But he also felt unsure, which was a new feeling. Something he had not felt for a very long time. His neighbour’s door opened and a lady walked out. Before she fully exited the house, a hand reached out and grabbed her hand. More whispers. She hissed out something. His words were unyielding, but his voice was desperate. She pulled herself free and walked off. Before she went down the stairs, her eyes landed on Safari. Again. Her lips moved, and he could make out the words. “Pervert.”

Safari’s neighbour popped out. A university student like him. Smaller body, shaggy hair, baggy and plain clothes. A druggie. Even his eyes, droopy, blood-shot, shouted druggie. He mouthed ‘Sorry,’ to Safari, who nodded as the guy went back into his room.
He sighed. He needed peace right now. This had helped push it away. Maybe he deserved it.

“Was that Tarin?”

She had left the house again, walking towards him. She was wearing his baggy sweater and her own pajama pants. She must have wanted to sleep early, it was only eight. Her hair was disheveled, and on one side it was flattened. Still, from this far off, her face still glowed eerily. Her eyes as clear as a child’s. Even with her petite body, he knew she was the one who dominated the room. At least, to him.

Victoria.

“Why’d you wake up?”

Safari stood up and walked down the stairs towards her. She put her hands on his chest. Stood on her toes. He bowed his head, and their lips touched. Lightly. Intimately. Thoughts ran through his mind. Strawberry. Completeness. Love. His insides cooled down, and then fluttered. Then they let themselves part. They just stood there.

“Couldn’t sleep. Tried to though. Tarin?”

“Yeah. I told him not to call here before.”

Silence.

“I don’t like that man at all. He’s fishy.”

He knew. It was why he never wanted Tarin to call home. Tarin never had the ability to tell when people liked him or not. He assumed everyone liked him. His arrogance was his undoing.

“I think I’m done with him.”

“Well, that makes me happy.” She went quiet. Safari waited. She never was a one-sentence kind of girl. “He looks like a demon who’ll ask for your soul at some point in time.”

“Ouch, what did he do to you? ” He smiled, she giggled. He looked at her and he knew he had been looking the wrong way. His peace was right here. She walked towards the house but didn’t enter it. She sat down right beside the door. Safari followed suit.

“I think I get why you keep coming out here. It’s…far from things. Personal things.”

Safari stared on forward, nodding his head in agreement. He could tell. She had something she wanted off her chest.

“Remember the first days we met? Before you got me paged?” Safari let out a laugh. “Of course, I do.”

“You were absolutely young and stupid. Uncontrolled. You used to do whatever you wanted. Party nearly daily. You were always high, always drunk. I thought it was cool when I first met you. I was also young and stupid. I loved the entire thing. It was always such a rush, being around you.”

Silence.

“And?” Safari asked. There was more.

“And look at you now. There was a time Tarin had such a hold on you. And he doesn’t now. Same with the drinking and the partying. They have no hold in you. You’ve grown past all that nonsense in two years. Well, we have.”

He didn’t want to speak. But he had to. He felt compelled. “Anything for you and Simon.”

“I know. I’ve seen it.” She leaned in and kissed in on the cheek. “I love this entire thing.” He smiled. There was too much emotion. He didn’t want to risk words breaking them down. “How come you’re awake?” He asked again. From the house, he heard a loud scream of excitement, a child’s, followed by a loud sneeze. “Our boy?”

“Yeap.” Her body turned round and faced the floor that connected the patio to the house. “He has a cold.”

“So did you give him the…?” His voiced trailed, and he pinched his own T-Shirt. She picked up immediately. “Oh, yeah, I let him wear his Superman shirt. So now he’s pretty happy with himself. I even got him a cape last week. And he’s wearing it right now. So I left him flying around in the house with her.”

He laughed, and God, it felt good. And in that moment, he knew. This was why he did what he did. Anything to get them going. Anything to give them what they wanted. He knew the lengths he could go for them. He didn’t deserve anything, if only these two in his life. His wife and his child. Maybe children. He made up his mind as he walked towards the house, Victoria in front of him. He was done with Tarin, Alex, he was done. He already had a pretty decent job. He had started all this before Victoria, and had persisted after because of the money. He was done. He would push harder. Find other ways to take care of them.

“We go back in?” He asked as he stood. “Don’t wanna miss this.” Victoria also stood up and she turned, moved for the door. Something Victoria had said hit him again. ‘-flying around with her,’ They had no help, no one else lived with them.

Victoria was opening the door when he asked, “Wait, Victoria. Who is he flying around with? Who is her? ”

Victoria paused as she opened the door. “I don’t know. Some lady with pretty hair. She wanted to see you. Said she was also a writer, that you guys were supposed to meet here cause it was easier or something. Can’t remember the name, Alice or Alex.”

He stopped. Alex was here? Had she passed right by him? She must have seen him. But how could he have missed her? The best he got was the lady who looked like her… Ah, crap, he thought. He raised his right hand to his temple and rubbed it. All the elation inside him died immediately. He knew what was coming.

He laughed. Victoria looked at him, confusion on her face. The world had chosen for him.
This was what he was getting. This was what he deserved.

-END-

A collaborative project by the following writers:

m_Y Broken Mind, ZeinsWords, Becky Wairimu, Barbara Nyambura, Fred Makoffu, Michael Rumbi, Dillybear, Blvck, Tasha Teyie, DarkWhispers, GoneGirl, Kendi Gloria, Tamara Kahai and Hadithi.

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