The second Anikwa stepped down from the tuktuk she felt at peace. Home lay before him like a divine fingerprint, curving and changing: no two parts were the same. The land stretched before her into quiet green grass-like fields. The countryside had not yet stirred into life. She delighted in every breath of clean air she inhaled.
“East or West, home is best.” She whispered to herself.
Anikwa could see the whole day mapped out before her. By the next hour, the villagers would be awake. Men would be seen with ropes and chondos tied around their waists to be used for harvesting coconuts, madafu, mkwaju and mabuyu. Women would be seen going to River Mwatate with huge gourds to fetch water for cooking, cleaning and bathing water for their husbands when they came back from the farms. Teenage boys would be seen herding cattle and the girls sweeping the Kayas. Children would be left unattended in their singing games such as ukuti ukuti, kibe and kalongolongo. This was the beauty about Mwatate; it was unlike in the busy streets of Nairobi where the air was stale, life was fast and expensive, and children mugged you at the corners of every street.
In the forenoon, the whole village would gather under the mistletoe tree to be briefed by Salim Mwashighadi, mzee wa mtaa – village elder; on preparations for Christmas festivity. She smiled as she imagined how perfect the day would proceed until the Christmas night of feasting, drinking and dancing. What could possibly go wrong today?
A few hours later, a few of the villagers came to welcome Anikwa with baskets of farm produce. She was a daughter of the community; one they were proud to call such. She was not the only woman that had left for the big city in search for greener pastures. There were other four young women; but these ones were lazy fatumas who abhorred hard work and instead chose to commercialize their beautiful bodies for wealth in the big city. Anikwa was no such; before she began managing her own boutique, she had toiled as a secretary for two years. The kind of jobs that her people approved of, for a woman.
The villagers had also visited for another purpose. Last year they organized a harambee for Anikwa so that she could travel to China to buy merchandise for her store. They wanted to know whether their efforts had paid off. As they left Baba Anikwa’s Kaya, they continuously enchanted about the huge development Anikwa was going to bring to the land.
Anikwa’s parents looked at their eldest daughter in great admiration. Baba Anikwa even felt embarrassed that during Anikwa’s birth, he had wished for a male child. But their joy was nothing compared to that of the women in the community. The well and the clinic that Anikwa promised to have them constructed beginning the following year would be of immense significance to them. The river was showing signs of drying up and the pregnant mothers had incurred costs by having to go all the way to Voi; a countrytown hundreds of kilometres away, for medical services.
“Dada amka! Mama an’sema twende tupakwe henna kabla pilkapilka za Krismasi zianze. Amka twende basi.” (Wake up sister! Mother has said that we go for henna painting before the Christmas celebrations begin. Please wake up so we can go).
Anikwa woke up, hours later, to the voice of her sister waking her up. She yawned quite loudly, stretched herself and then let out a deep sigh of relief. Everything was in place. She ran away from her job after having stolen profits worth 2.7M and Fina bank had already given her the 8.5M loan in cash. She had no intentions whatsoever to return to the big city. After all no one would be able to trace her here since she had given no such details. In fact, all her creditors knew was that she was an orphan, residing and working for business in Nairobi. Her assumptions so far turned out to be right since no one had come asking for her in the village.
At around seven in the evening, the festivities began. Light was slowly surrendering into twilight. Everyone wore their favorite festive attire. Men were dressed in coffee brown vikoi wrappers while the women in bright yellow, green, red, blue and pink dera dresses. But it was the children that shone brighter with their matching white dresses, shoes, hats for the girls; while the boys matched in matching white shirts and pants. The girls wore Cinderella glass slippers while the boys put on blue or black canvas shoes. They were the latest fashion trends and every parent had toiled double than what their backs could handle so that they could put smiles on their children’s faces on Christmas.
It was only Anikwa that dressed differently. She looked outstanding in her sky-blue gown. As she walked towards the crowd gathered at the fields, every neck turned in wonder. She looked like a black Princess Aurora. Her beautiful gown looked like an ice-blue shining galaxy. Her fellow women were envious of her beauty while the men lusted for her. As she cat walked to the centre of the gathering where she was supposed to deliver a short speech of her Christmas gift for her people; some men in blue walked in to the first gate of the Mwatate community. After a few questions and showing a photograph of a pretty young woman, two little boys offered to take them to the Kaya they were looking for.
When they arrived, nobody was at home. Away on the celebration grounds, the community was whirling and twirling in its wild music. Anikwa’s heart merried more than everyone else’s. She had every reason to. As the crepuscular twilight fast disappeared and darkness grew, out of the blues, Anikwa’s heart began to unsettle. She lost the pattern to her steps and her heartbeat began to increase.
‘Maybe I need a rest,’ she thought to herself. As she went for her seat, the men in blue began to penetrate the crowd of merry villagers.
Immediately Anikwa heard the voice, her buttocks now well-positioned on the warm seat, froze, her legs became paralyzed with fear and her intestines twitched. Without looking up from her cup, she could tell who it belonged to; it was her boss.
“Anikwa, you are hereby under arrest for…”
As she surrendered to their custody she imagined how her name would from thereon sound on the villagers’ tongues. Who would welcome her back after that pathetic scene they witnessed? How would they think of her after knowing that she had never worked as a secretary nor owned a boutique; but worked as a coffin maker? For a woman to be such is a taboo; and never heard of. At this point, even being a prostitute would have been a better cross to bear. How would her family bear the shame? For sure, her father was going to be stripped off his chieftancy title. Her mother would be welcomed no more in church and women’s meetings. What about the money she had stolen and the loan from the bank? What of the money from the harambee? Oh no!
Anikwa sought answers she could not find to the many questions now flashing through her mind. She felt like life was about to leave her lungs. She was confused. She was unsure of what her life would be from here on. The only certain fact here was that of all days that truth could expose her, it went for Christmas. But above all, as Waswahili would have said, “Anikwa ameanikwa kuanikwa.” (translates to Anikwa was now exposed)
About The Author
Joyce Nawiri is a lawyer, proud feminist, legal researcher, environment enthusiast and above all a female writer of fiction and poems. She finds freedom through writing as she gets to express her thoughts, feelings and prejudices through words. She draws inspiration from iconic figures like Stephen King, the late Nina Simone, Maya Angelou and Chimamanda Adichie. Due to her unique personality, she has earned pen names such as Inked_Indie and Rebel. She resides in Mombasa, Kenya. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org