Continued from Masseuse of the Wallet II
Barbara takes Nick to the offices of the housing agency. She has already learned, from casual conversation, that he is a store manager in a private secondary school. She is not surprised. She did not expect him to be a wealthy man, even though she had kept that as an option. There is an air of confidence that wealthy people have that he did not display when he entered the barbershop earlier today. Still, he is not a broke wannabe, at least by her standards. He will still be useful to her.
Barbara fell out with her parents when she was in high school. She was a naughty teenager, and in the two years that she was in secondary school she earned three suspensions and two expulsions. In form one, she was suspended for two weeks in the first term when she and a few other students sneaked out of school to go clubbing in Murang’a town. In the second term she was suspended after she spit on a teacher who punished her for not doing her assignment. She had a quiet third term and first term of form two, in the sense that she did not earn any suspension. But even in those terms she was constantly getting punished for minor offences such as noisemaking. In the second term of form two she was suspended again for playing truant. In early third term, she was caught having sex at night with a classmate-she was in a mixed school-out in the field while others were in preps. They were caught by none other than the school principal himself. The principal had decided to use a shortcut through the field to get to his staff house. Both students were expelled.
Barbara’s parents were furious. Barbara had performed dismally in KCPE-again largely due to indiscipline as opposed to lack of intellectual capacity-and her parents had to part with some money to get her into the school. They had reprimanded her many times over her indiscipline, and when she was expelled she got a beating from her father. Still, her parents did not give up on her. Her father, who is a primary school teacher, found a girl’s only secondary school for her to attend. He also had to part with some money for the principal to accept Barbara.
But Barbara did not even last a full term in the school, she beat up a form one student early in first term of her form three and was reported to the administration. When the principal questioned her, she downloaded vitriol on her, calling her a ‘bitter unlovable woman’, ‘an ugly excuse of a woman’ ‘a lonely husband snatcher that even men don’t want’ and several other juicy and very unprintable insults. These insults were particularly cutting, because the principal, a single woman of forty-seven years, had been in a relationship with a married man for five years. The relationship had resulted in one daughter. But the man had dumped her in a dramatic fall out and returned to his fifty-six-year-old wife. According to local gossip, the man had told his friends that the school principal was ‘bitter, toxic and extremely unlovable’. How this information got to students, especially Barbara, nobody knows.
The principal quickly expelled Barbara from the school.
Barbara’s plan for life was simple. She knew she would hook up with a rich man, either as a wife or even a mistress, and the man would be her ticket to riches. That plan is the primary reason why she was not taking school seriously. She was not seeing the need for struggling. She was beautiful and she knew it. Men would be falling over her. After she was expelled a second time, she told her parents to go to hell when they tried to lecture her.
Barbara escaped to Nairobi where she hoped to quickly find a man. But life wasn’t as easy as she thought, and she found herself as a commercial sex worker, prowling through streets looking for men with an itch to give her four hundred or five hundred shillings for a session. But she also discovered that the streets are controlled by gangs, and she had to offer her body many times to street boys just to be allowed to ply her trade in peace. She was hurt and bruised, and the money she had hoped for was not forthcoming. How she avoided pregnancy in this period is the main mystery.
Her small break in life came quite unexpectedly. She standing outside on the streets with other commercial workers waiting for thirsty men to pick them up when a car slowed and stopped. They all rushed there but it was Barbara who got the man’s attention first. It took them seconds to recognise each other. It was Allan, the same boy she had been caught in the field with. How did he manage to acquire a Toyota Harrier so quickly? Weren’t they expelled from school at the same time?
Allan recognized her instantly and his face also registered surprise.
“Get in, Barbs,” he told her fondly, using the same name he had used when they had their little affair back in high school. Barbara quickly went to the passenger side of the vehicle and hopped in, as the other sex workers disappeared into the night.
“Oh Allan, it is so nice to see you again. When did you become so rich?”
“You should have stayed with me baby girl. We were meant to get rich together. We were quite the power couple, even the principal was jealous.”
“We can still be that couple, darling. Now that you rescued me from the trenches.”
Allan smiled. Barbara still remembered that beautiful smile that had enthralled her in school. The smile that had made her forget all the risks about pregnancy, HIV and other STDs. He wasn’t her first lover, but he was the first one she had gotten reckless with. Before that she had always insisted that the men she slept with use protection. Even the boy who awkwardly broke her innocence when she was just twelve years old had to figure out a way to get protection.0…00
“I am not a rich man, Barbs. I am at work. This car belongs to my boss. But he pays me well so I cannot complain.”
“What kind of job do you do?”
“I don’t know what to tell you Barbs. It is not innocent work.”
“You obviously don’t think I was on the streets serving holy communion, do you?”
“Of course not. I wasn’t coming to church either,” he said and then paused for a moment. “How did you end up in that brutal world anyway?”
Barbara explained briefly what happened after she was expelled first time, and then after the second expulsion.
“Did you find another school after we were expelled?”
“No. My folks are poor and they told me that they didn’t want to continue sleeping hungry just so they could pay for me to impregnate girls in school.”
Barbara burst out laughing, and after a minute Allan joins in.
“After that I became a loader in an animal feeds store. The driver I was working with taught me how to drive. The pay wasn’t much and the work was back breaking, but I survived until Henry found me. I met Henry by accident.”
“Who is Henry?”
“My current boss. He was a customer. We delivered chicken feed on his farm one afternoon. As it always happened, I took the sacks off the pickup as the driver, Joses, smoked while leaning on the pickup. As the driver, Joses was my boss, and his job was to simply get me on location and supervise as I broke my back. But he was also a frail old man, and he wouldn’t have been of much use anyway. When I dropped the last sack in the store, Henry was standing at the doorway. He asked me if I was willing to do less strenuous work for a lot more money. Without missing a beat, I said yes. And that is how I ended up driving this car.”
“So what were you doing with this car tonight? You said you were working.”
“Henry owns a brothel in Murang’a. He has commercial sex workers under his employ. I am sort of his KYM.”
“What is KYM?”
“Kanda ya Moko. I do odd jobs for him. Officially I am his driver, taking him to meetings and stuff like that. But I also do other things. Like tonight I was coming here to pick up a girl for him.”
“So you are taking me to him?”
“No, Barbs. I am sorry to put it this way, but he doesn’t do girls from the streets. He prefers university girls. And if he wants a prostitute, he goes to those high end brothels in the posh estates of the city.”
“So why were you picking up girls for him?”
“For the brothel in Murang’a. Whenever a vacancy opens over there, usually because a girl has left, I usually prowl the streets for experienced girls. Henry usually doesn’t like putting inexperienced girls in his brothel. So I come out here, I pick a girl I think is beautiful, then I lay out the terms to her. If she accepts I take her to a hotel room and test her skills. If I am pleased I take her to Murang’a. If she fails my test, I go back to the streets to find another.”
“What are the terms?”
“You make between three hundred and four hundred shillings per customer here, right?”
“Henry pays you five hundred shillings per customer. He charges two thousand shillings. He keeps fifteen hundred and pays you five hundred. But he will also give you a house to live in, and your meals will be provided. He will also give you another job as a masseuse in one of his barber shops. That is where you will be getting customers. You will get a base salary of five thousand shillings for your work as a masseuse. Whatever you make from the men will be over and on top of that five thousand.”
“Life in the streets is hard, Allan. I will take the deal.”
“Okay. Since I already know you, I am not going through the rubbish of testing your skills in bed. I will take you straight to Murang’a.”
“Thanks, Al. But I wouldn’t mind being held in your arms one last time, for old times’ sake.”
So much has happened since that chance meeting with Allan. Allan is now dead. He fell out with Henry, and his body was found floating in some stream in Kangema. Barbara knows that it is Henry who did it, but no one has the courage to voice that opinion. The man who replaced Allan, Nelson, is a mean crook and is one of the reasons Barbara wants out. Since Allan’s death, salaries never come on time, and when they do, they are never in full. Barbara suspects that Nelson is using them to enrich himself. As if that is not enough, Nelson often demands sex from the girls, often making them do disgusting things to fulfill his weird fantasies.
And as she watches Nick paying rent and deposit for a two-bedroom house, Barbara knows that she has found her ticket out of slavery. This man will house her, he will feed her; he will give her a home to return to whenever she goes out to hunt for money. There will be no Nelson to rape her or to withhold her money. She will now be her own boss. And the good thing is, whenever she offers her body to a client, she will be depositing the full amount to her account.
She smiles at him like a dutiful wife as he waits for the receipt, and he smiles back at her. One round of sex and the man thinks he is deeply in love. He is innocent, but also incredibly foolish. But she needs that foolishness to survive.
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