James Mulunzi walked into his private office on the fifth floor of Canon
towers, which was located along Moi Avenue. He pulled up the blinders to let the sunlight in and adjusted the air conditioner
to minimum temperature. He took off his decorated military jacket and beret and threw them on the leather couch and switched
on the quiescent wall video screen flanked on one side by the flags of Kenya and on the other by the flag bearing the army's
coat of arms and settled himself with a slump on the bentwood chair. He then flipped through the channels, "a guard of honour
to be inspected by the president on the 14th of May, his visit to the coastal town of Mombasa..." the presenter was saying.
It was the same news everywhere and he switched it off and went and picked
up the Rothmans cigarette which sat lifeless next to the Silver coated ashtray and just as he was about to light it the phone
rang and he moved swiftly to it. "Yes!" He growled into the receiver. "Someone's on the line... a lady, sir." replied his
"Put her through."
"I saw you on TV today." a mellow voice spoke. "I tried reaching you on
your cell phone but it's always on "mteja hapatikani..."
"Hey Hilda! I haven't seen you for a while."
He chuckled warmly. "What's up?"
"Um... I just wanted to confirm if we were still on this afternoon."
"Of course we are. I'd never miss our date for the world. 1500hrs it was,
right?" "Heey... you don't have to go military on me," she joked. "Sorry dear." And he gave out a quick laugh. "Can't wait
to see you."
"And I wish I were with you now," she replied wistfully. "I'm running
out of credit. I'll call you later, 3oclock, bye." the line went dead. He stared at the receiver with a puzzled look on his
face, had he heard someone call Hilda's name? He brushed the thought away and smiled as he picked up the car keys from the
table and stepped out of the office in a swagger. He waved a cheery hand to his secretary and announced to her that she could
take the afternoon off. "Thank you sirā€¦" she replied gleefully as he disappeared down the corridor. He drove up Moi
Avenue and turned onto Digo Road, heading for Mwembe Tayari. Once there he picked up some groceries and made one last stop
at Rawaaz Wines and Spirits, purchasing two bottles of Baccardi and one Cinzano spirit and headed home to freshen up. By quarter
to three he was at the entrance of Bamburi nature trail. He bought a pair of tickets and returned to his car, brought out
the picnic basket from the trunk, lowered it onto the ground and sat on top of the trunk. A while later he glanced at his
watch. Its pointers read 3:42; he stood up and headed for his car door. Just then he saw a well endowed lady dressed in a
brown spaghetti strapped top wearing a pair of washed out jeans. He recognized the gaiety walk. It was Hilda. His face formed
a smile, but when she approached him, he screwed it up so that the creases formed in his forehead. "You are late," he muttered.
"Traffic" she responded, her voice sounding apologetic as she hugged him and added, "but I'm here now" while whispering in
his ear, which to him felt like a million angels singing a happy tune. "Shall we go in?" she urged as she picked up the basket
and walked briskly in front of him. "After you" he drawled as he followed her through the wooden gates and into the bougainvillea
flowers and the palm trees bisected by a pathway.
...didn't see the man with a camera...
Only the distant traffic noise penetrated the cacophony of birdsongs.
He plucked an amaryllis flower and handed it to her and she leaned tenderly on his broad shoulders. They settled on the stone
benches between the low-lying clumps of ivy and olive trees and pulled out various items from the basket; a napkin and some
paper plates and two glasses. He placed the pancakes and the kebabs on tops of the plates and began to eat. All the while
James was smiling, his oaken gaze smouldering over her luscious lips and her bountiful breasts and he licked his lips. He
then picked up a bar of chocolate, unwrapped it and raised it to her and said. "Darling, my one and true mission is to be
true to you, and like this chocolate which is about to enter your mouth, I too want to enter into your life, giving your every
pleasure imaginable. I vow to love you unconditionally, and as I fall on my knees, I am once again asking you for your hand
in marriage." She gazed into his brown irises and tears danced at the corners of her eyes and she held his cleanly shaved
cheeks then spoke softly. "I love you from the bottom of my heart... and if I could... I would do anything to be with you...
but unfortunately... I can't Sorry" She then stood up and stared at the sky which had now began to change its shades to grey
with only some slight orange streaks which threatened to destroy its endlessness and then turned back to him. His head was
bent to the ground and she touched him softly. "As I told you before... I'm not ready for marriage yet... I still have my
career to think of... my life..." and she moved away from him. James sat slouched, speechless and then stared at her in frustration
and growing anger.
"Is that all you can think of? A bank job! An empty life!" He thundered.
"it's always about you... YOU!!!" and then he said softly. "What about me... about us? We've been together for eight months
now, and this is the fourth time you have rejected my proposal. If you love me, what's holding you back?" Hilda was taken
aback. She had never seen him throw a tantrum before and now tears flowed freely from her eyes.
"I think we better go," she announced as she started to repack the picnic
basket. James sat back in a slump and held his head in the palm of his hands. I won't give up on you yet, is what he wanted
to say, but what came out was, "It's late anyway," he mumbled as he shuffled behind her with his head hung low, following
her down the gravelled path. He did not notice the man who was holding a digital camera and hiding in the thickets to his
right. They drove without much talk and he later dropped her off at the junction of Tudor creek and Nyali Bridge then headed
for his home in Kizingo.
Going through the wrought iron gates of his house felt like entering a
prison. The armed guards on stand-by accentuated the effect as he wondered. What makes a man? Is it the job? Is it the wealth?
Is it the status in the society? What? And he felt that there was no use having all that if there was no one to share it with;
no one to welcome you home; give you warmth whenever you need it and share in your joys and sorrows. He paused at his doorstep,
wondering whether to go in or turn back; but where to? And he stepped inside the house. He walked swiftly across the green
Moroccan rug and into the mini-bar, opened the cooler and poured himself Smirnoff vodka into a glass then swigged at it, distorted
his face, and banged the glass on the counter and began to drink directly from the bottle. His cell phone rang and he threw
it and it hit one of the two lamps which sat next to the piano and it exploded into small sparks. He then headed for the leather
couch and sank deeper into it as the effects of the alcohol increased. He did not hear the door being opened and he only felt
a human presence; a tall and well built form and with a cowboy hat on his head. He immediately recognised him as his dad.
He was now staring down at him as he spoke. "Look at you! shameless brat." His father said as he picked up the almost empty
bottle from the couch. "B-B-Baba. What are you doing here?" He stuttered. "I came to tell you to stop seeing her."
"W-W-Who ... w-w-what ... what are you talking about?" And James jolted
"HILDA! I'm talking about Hilda!" His father rumbled and James now faced
him squarely. "Did I get you right?" He said as he moved across the room and stood next to the bookcase to his right. "What
reason do you have now? Not rich enough? Too young for me? WHAT!?" He roared and banged on the reading table with clenched
fists, upsetting the books there. "I will not be challenged on this."
"Damnit!" James answered abruptly as anger increased and he moved to his
father's side. "Baba, must I always succumb to your every demand? Twice you have destroyed my chances at happiness, but this
time you'll not succeed. At thirty-four I should be able to make my own decisions." "Not at the expense of my family you don't"
"Family! Family! Ours was dead when mother..."
"I will not have you talk about your mother!" James now held his burning
cheek from the slap and felt a pressure mounting from within him. It was better to end this now, he felt and he pressed on.
"I know she left you for another manā€¦" WHACK! He was now sweating, his chest heaving as if with laboured breathing,
his low grunts becoming the only sounds and he held both his cheeks in his palms. Just then Hilda stepped in and she froze
on site of the two men. Her knees bunched and she leaned on one of the two life-sized bronze lion heads mounted on pedestals
to take the form of herms which stood next to the door. Her heart pounded with turbulent emotions as she felt the two pairs
of eyes bore into her soul. But what was Tom Mwaluka doing here? She wondered then heard the now composed voice of James call
her but she did not move. James then went to her and hugged her but she still stood, stunned, and then said softly. "He's
the reason I can't marry you."
"I know... and I won't let him."