NOTE: This is a continuation of the story Her Secrets, Part 1,2,3, and 4. If you didn’t read it, you might have to read it before continuing with this one.
She got into the house around 9.30 pm. She had gone to buy foodstuff with some of the money. There hadn’t been any food to eat the next day. They survived each day as it came.
“Umetoa wapi hizo vitu Jess?” her brother, Martin, inquired in a sharp voice immediately she got into the house. “I thought ulinishow hauna dough venye nilikuuliza leo morning.”
She felt the usual fear trickle down her spine. What to say today?
“Martin, wacha kumhanda. Si unajua yeye hukua tu na mishoni zake matym.” Annett chipped in.
Thank you Annett, Jess, thought immediately as she set the meager shopping on the wooden table; although she knew that won’t cut it.
“Kuna beshte yangu flani nilikua na mdai. Nilikua nimeenda kumeet kiasi alafu story zikakua mob”, Jess, answered taking her usual sit while avoiding her brother’s perceptive eyes. He knew her more than anyone else. And he could always tell when she was lying
“Uko sure you not lying to me Jess?’’ Martin asked looking at her directly, forgetting about the TV completely.
Her fear brought on by guilt almost choked her. But like so many other times, she had to put on a poker face.
“No am not lying. When have I ever lied to you?” She raised her voice, feigning annoyance. She knew how much, Martin, hated confrontations. Their eyes clashed but he kept quiet.
“Umebuy?” Annett cut in trying to diffuse the tension.
“Nimebuy food ya kesho na breakfast.” Jess, replied turning her eyes on her little nephew, Jay, as he came stumbling into her open arms.
“Chweeti! Chweeti! Auntie!” his excited baby voice demanded, while his little hands rose expectantly towards Jess.
Her nephew always made her smile despite everything else. His innocence and liveliness soothed her. He made it possible for her to forget her demons for seconds sometimes after Caleb, like incident.
“Unataka sweet?” she smiled dipping into her pocket and removing the treat. “Shika lollipop daddy.” Jay grabbed it with a happy smile, making a U-turn to his mother.
“Mom, Chweeti!” Jess, witnessed mother and son interacting with a smile tinged with love and sadness. It must be amazing to have a kid, she thought. But would she ever want to have a kid with all the uncertainties of providing for it? Would she want to put her kid through such fears? Never being sure where the next medical money will come from, sometimes wanting to change its diet but it was not possible because there was no money. Sometimes letting the baby sleep without the diaper because that day, it was too expensive to afford it. Or what if it grew up, and because it was hard to provide for it, the baby ends up like her? Oh, God. It would kill her.
She was not hungry anymore. She had to go shower- clean herself up. She still felt dirty. Felt, Caleb, all over her.
“Mimi nimeenda kulala. Ntakula kesho. Goodnight, family” With that, she took the keys to the adjacent room and walked out. No one asked questions. They were used to her mood swings.
Jess lay on her bed thirty minutes later. She had taken a bath and gotten ready for bed. A deep sigh of contentment escaped her when she felt the cool sheets on her skin. She was tired; both physically and emotionally. A good night rest would have done the trick, but from past experiences, it was going to be a long night. These kinds of appointments affected her.
Thoughts escaped her. Guilt ate at her. And self-loathing filled her heart. Tears started trickling down her face. She held her pillow to her face, deep racking tears engulfing her. She turned restlessly from one side to the other cussing her conscience, pleading for it to shut the hell up.
“By now you should know that is not going to work, Jess. You cannot shut me up.” Her conscience brutally retaliated. “Let us get over with it, shall we?”
“Damn you” she softly cussed. But her conscience was right; always had been since the beginning. She had refused to listen by choice.
One year ago
“I need money, Vivian. ASAP!” Jess’s voice echoed with urgency and desperation.
“Really now?” Vivian, her best friend’s voice, drawled with disinterest.
“Yes really. Could you quit acting like you don’t care what’s going to happen to me if I don’t get money for my next semester? I know you are a cold bi-”
“Don’t you dare you skunk!” Vivian interrupted. “Really Jess, what do you want me to do? Told you what I do to survive but you said you don’t want no part in it. The last time I checked, your holier than thou mouth dared to say am selling myself. Do you want to sell yourself now, J? Do you want to come off your high horse and join this-” Vivian dramatically swept a hand over herself before continuing in a mocking voice, “mere mortal in ‘selling herself’, as you put it the last time?”
A defeated sigh escaped Jess. They could go on and on tearing at each other, but she needed a solution.
“Oh Jess, sorry about that. But you started it. You know you did. And you know I love your silly ass and all- not that it is silly or anything. You-” She couldn’t help laughing. Viv was truly adorable when she tried to apologize.
“You skunk. Don’t ever expect me to apologize again!” Vivian fumed.
Between laughs, “I love you too, Viv. You the only person who can literally make me laugh this hard despite feeling crappy.”
Vivian couldn’t help smiling, “Yeah I know. That’s why we bffs. But you know as much as I feel for you, I can’t really help you out. You know the only way I can be of assistance is by showing you the ropes.”
“I know,” Jess whispered, her round face showcasing different emotions. She knew she had no other options. She had exhausted others. And she had to think about the future.
As she sat at, Vivian’s, classically arranged suburban sitting room sipping the offered orange juice, she felt like the hangman’s noose was tightening on her throat. She imagined she couldn’t breathe.
“Vivian, look at me. Don’t go all panicky on me do you hear me?’’ Vivian’s voice was loud and concerned.
“Why would you think I’ll do that?’’
“I know you. You had that look on your face just right now. That one where you zone out, think the world is about to crush on you. And then you go into hysterics. Now is not the time to do that. You need to woman up. Do you get what I am trying to say?”
As she looked at Vivian, she truly understood what she was saying. But she also glimpsed another side of Vivian too. She saw a girl who had to mature too quickly for her age in order to survive. She saw a girl whose innocence had already been taken at twenty-one years. And she saw the jaded woman she would become in the future. She couldn’t help wondering if that is what she truly wanted. And was her tomorrow more important than today?
Jess inhaled deeply, taking in stock all her wondering emotions and locked them up. She had to act out not simper like a school girl.
“Yes, I am ready Vivian, to woman up.” She smiled wobbly, undecidedly.
Vivian took her hands, her eyes communicating she understood how hard it was for, Jess, to come to this point; she had been at that point one time. Her warm grip on, Jess’s, assured her, she would do everything to make sure it was not a hard transition as it had been for her. And she would teach her everything she knew.
Jess woke with a start. Her phone was ringing. She winced painfully as she felt a headache coming on. She reached for her phone under the pillow.
“Hello,” she sleepily answered her phone.
“You the only skunk I know who sleeps late into the morning despite having a busy day. Do you even know what time it is?” Vivian’s chirpy voice penetrated Jess’s sleepy stupor.
“Not so loud, Viv. It’s too early for your smart answers. Mind, smart is in quotes; you just irritating as hell.”
“Whatever. It’s not like you can ruin my good mood. Are you coming to lectures today?”
“Honestly, I don’t think so. I am not feeling well. My head is killing me. I think am going to take some painkillers and sleep in. Could you like, fill me in later when I see you?”
“Sure. I will do that. You take care okay? And let me know if you going to make it so that I can let Paul know. Cool?”
“I’ll do that. Thanks.”
“Anything for you, J. Later”
“See you soon.” Jess slumped on her pillow curling on her side trying to stem her headache by breathing in and out deeply and slowly, putting her guilty conscience back where it belonged. It had been a rough night.
Later on today, she had work to do at the club. But in the meantime, she would sleep in some more, laze around when she wakes up and catch up with the family as she waited for night to reach before heading out.