(Continued from Father Wounds IV)
The door opens slowly, and a huge man gets in. He is tall and muscular with well-trimmed hair. Teresa is speechless.
“Joshua,” she whispers.
Joshua is stunned. How does she know his name? They stare at each other for a few minutes.
“Tonya (get in)” she says in Kimeru.
She actually knows he is her tribe mate. But how? They have never met before. He has heard Brian talk about her. He has seen her a couple of times but from a distance, and he is sure she did not see him. One rule in his gang is never to introduce girlfriends to the gang. Brian actually broke that rule in mentioning her, and Joshua is still thinking of a way to punish him so that the rule is enforceable. Members of Joshua’s gang know very little about the personal lives of the others. They do not even know each other’s second names. Joshua knows all of them very well, of course, because he profiles them before recruiting them. Joshua himself made the rule against personal engagement and the reasoning is simple: if one gang member is arrested, he cannot betray the others. He found the rule necessary because most of his gang members are college students, not seasoned pros, and it would take less than an hour for the police to make them talk.
Joshua is not a student himself. He dropped out of form 2 when his father died in a road accident. His father was a primary school teacher and was doing a good job taking care of them. Joshua has two younger siblings, Alice, who was in Std. 8 when their father died, and Jenifer who was in Std. 3.
When their father died, their mother, who had been a housewife started sleeping with married men in the village. One day the village women ganged up against her and beat her to a pulp. It was the most humiliating day for Joshua and his siblings. From that day they started being called “the prostitute’s brats” by not only other children, but also adults.
Their mother ran away and they later heard that she got married in Makueni. She never came back for her children. Not even to inquire about their wellbeing. They were left with their grandmother, a blind old woman who was nonetheless very kind. Unfortunately, her other children were not as good as Joshua’s father. They grabbed his land, including his house and his work benefits and refused to help his children.
That is how Joshua dropped out of school. He started hustling in a bid to give his sisters a shot in life, and also support his grandmother the way his father had been doing before he died. He did casual jobs around the village and struggled to pay school fees and put food on the table.
Luckily, there was a woman in the village who pitied them and often sent them foodstuff. Whenever she went to the market, she would buy extra groceries and send her daughter to deliver them to Joshua. She also often sent them maize and beans from her farm, and sometimes arrow roots, sweet potatoes and cassava.
Joshua’s biggest huddle came when it was time for Alice to go to High School. He had no money, yet he desperately wanted his sisters to get the education he did not have. He felt that if they dropped out of school, he would have failed his father.
A few friends persuaded him to hold a fundraiser and invite the village tycoons. He did, but only managed to raise Kshs. 10, 000 which was hardly enough. None of the wealthy men in the village attended. Alice’s first term fees was Kshs. 16, 000 and she needed to buy stuff worth about 6,000. Joshua approached a local businessman and asked for work. The man almost ran him off, but Joshua pleaded with him saying he just wanted to send his sister to school.
The man agreed to hire him as a loader in his cereal’s business for Kshs, 5000 a month. Joshua would be required to load and unload sacks of cereals to and from lorries. So Joshua took Alice to school and pleaded with the teacher to accept part payment. He promised to be paying an instalment every month.
But the businessman did not honor his promise, and Joshua did not get his salary at the end of the month. Or the next. When Alice was sent home for school fees, Joshua pleaded with the man to pay him to no avail. So he took matters in his own hands and stole a bag of maize with the intention of selling it to recover part of his salary and return Alice to school.
The plan failed. The man’s thugs found him before he went too far and descended on him with blows, kicks and crude weapons. They left him bleeding and on the verge of death. Luckily, a couple of his friends saw him and took him home. On the way, they met the woman who gave him and his sisters food. She followed them and washed his wounds. That evening, she sent her daughter with a bowl of soup. The next day she sent a flask of porridge. When he recovered, she gave him Kshs. 2000 and told him to go to Nairobi and try his luck there.
His sister Jenifer later told him that the woman had stolen the Kshs. 2000 from her husband and had been thoroughly beaten for it.
“Ni niu, Teresa wa Harriet (It is me, Teresa, Harriet’s daughter),” Teresa says, when she realizes that he does not recognize her.
“What?!” Joshua says, even more stunned.
The woman who used to feed his family those many years ago, the same one who stole from her husband to try and help him get a better life, was called Harriet and the little girl she used to send with the food was called Teresa.
“You Teresa? You have become so big,” Joshua stammers.
“Time has passed Joshua. I am your sister Jenifer’s age mate. I am sure she is a big woman too,”
“Yes she is. She is a first year at Kenyatta University,”
A year after Joshua left for the city, their grandmother died. So Joshua took Jenifer and went with her to the city. Alice joined them whenever schools closed, and none of them ever returned to the village.
“Are you the one who came and ransacked my house earlier, Joshua? What became of you?”
“It is a long story. Can I sit down?”
Teresa motions him to the bed.
“Yes, of course,”
She makes tea as he narrates her story to him.
“When your mother gave me the money, I came to Nairobi with high expectations. But the reality hit me hard. There were no jobs. I had nowhere to sleep, and the only money I had was Kshs. 1500 that remained when I paid fare. So I slept on the streets. I used that money to feed myself for a whole month. I made friends on the streets, and they taught me how to steal. I started by shop lifting, then went to stealing headlight and side mirrors from cars. I was making good money, and I was able to pay school fees for Alice. I even rented a double room, so by the time grandma died and I came for Jenifer, I was no longer living on the streets. Later I graduated and became a robber. I target cashiers in restaurants and M-PESA agents. The gang I was in fell apart recently so I formed my own, and that is how I met Brian. We also steal electronics from houses. I can open any lock with a master key. That is how I entered your house,”
There is silence as they sip their tea.
“And you, what has been happening to you. Brian says your father and your uncle almost raped you,”
Teresa narrates her story to him as he listens intently.
“I am so sorry Teresa,” he says when she finishes.He pauses and appears to be in deep thought. Then continues after some time. “I know I am a bad person. And I know I have failed you and your mother, and all the kindness you showed me. But I am comforted by the fact that I helped my sisters avoid the life that I live. Alice graduated with a degree in Education and is now a TSC teacher in Taita Taveta. Jenifer is doing a degree in commerce, and hopefully in a few years she will finish and get a job. Then my work will be done,”
“Can’t Alice educate Jenifer so that you stop stealing? Do you kill people as you rob?”
“No I don’t. We just scare them to give us the money them we take off. They can’t recognize us because we usually wear masks. My sisters don’t know what I do. They think I am a sales rep in a well-paying company. I have always been worried about Brian and another kid called Melvin. They think they are toughies. I always insist we use toy guns to rob, to avoid accidentally killing or hurting anyone. But I know they both have acquired real guns, although they obey me and don’t use them in our operations. I have always known that those two will cause me trouble. I know they are reckless enough to kill, and also the most likely to get caught. They are the only ones in my gang who take hard drugs. I have been thinking of ways to get rid of them without triggering a gun fight. I don’t even possess a real gun, but they don’t know that,”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“I don’t know either. Maybe I feel guilty because I was coming to scare you yet you and your mother were about the only people who were kind to me when I was struggling,”
“You are saying it like you have made it in life, robber,” Teresa says and they both burst out laughing.
“Listen, Teresa. Brian thinks I will kill you. I didn’t plan to, even if I didn’t know you. I just wanted to harass you so that you withdraw the charges against him. But you are like a sister to me, so I will not interfere. But that might cause me problems. Brian’s friend Melvin might kill me and you when he realizes you are not dead. I know they are trying to join another, more violent gang. I want you to take care of yourself. You are not safe here tonight. I suggest you go to your aunt’s place. I will escort you. As long as I am out here, I will protect you. But if I get killed, you must tell your aunt the truth. She is a powerful person, she can protect you. Besides, my gang is not that sophisticated. Only Melvin is a real threat. Plus Brian, but he is in jail.”
“And you? You are good person, Joshua. My mother always said that. I don’t want you dead,”
“I chose a path, and it has its risks,”
He can see tears welling in her eyes, so he put his hand around her shoulders, reassuringly. Just then, someone pushes the door open and enters, clapping.
“Congratulations. When are you getting married? I can’t believe you, Josh. Are you betraying a brother because of this whore?”
Joshua instinctively grabs a knife from Teresa’s sink, but Melvin pulls out a gun.
“This is not one of those toys you make us use, Josh. This is a real one,”
He fires a bullet outside, through the open door, to prove his point. Teresa screams. Melvin points the gun at her then back to Joshua.
“You and your prostitute will have to die, so that my friend can be free. Sorry it had to end this way buddy,”
He smiles wickedly as he positions his finger in front of the trigger and fires.
If you want to read the whole of this story at once, you can buy the book. There are two ways of getting a copy of the book:
- Digital Method. Log in to the bookstore-register if you are new-(https://www.maroncha.com/book-store). Select the book (Father Wounds). Add to cart, check out then pay. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
- Manual Method. Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org telling us your M-PESA name and the book you wish to purchase (Father Wounds). It might take us some time to process your order, but we will email your copy once we have verified your payment. If you are using the manual system and wish to buy my previous books, just log in to the bookstore (https://www.maroncha.com/book-store) and you will see all the previous titles. You can then pay for any of them.
Remember you can always inbox Sanctuaryside on Facebook or send us an email at email@example.com if you have a query.