Thunder rumbled, dark clouds rolled in, large drops of rain drummed the iron sheet roof. Nalia wondered if the creator was starting a band. The drops kept falling in fierce beats on the roof, like a doomsday rhythm.

She kept chopping onions, her eyes stinging. Tears slid down her cheeks.

Nalia wasn’t sure where the onion tears and the ones caused by sorrow met and melded. Wiping her arm over her cheeks, she finished chopping the onions and put them in the pot. Adding oil, she turned on the fire on the gas cooker and banged the pot on the stand.

No one could hear the noise anyway.

Taking a wooden cooking spoon from a drawer, her gaze lingered over the chopped vegetables laid out in bowls on the counter. Carrots, potatoes, green pepper, cilantro and tomatoes…she sighed.

There was no meat today.

He wasn’t going to be happy.

Nalia shrugged, a short elegant movement of her slender shoulders. Yet, instead of relief, a heavy weight settled in her stomach.

Malik liked his meat.

The onions started sizzling in the pot and she stirred them, her gaze barely seeing the browning onions. Her thoughts on her husband, Malik Kanda. They married early. She was eighteen, Malik twenty.

Children really, none of them had known much about life then.

Seven years going and Malik had turned into a stranger. He’d grown distrustful, edgy and over-ambitious. It was his new job, Nalia thought. The one he’d gotten a year ago.

Malik was managing a construction company for her uncle. The job paid good money. Her uncle had told her Malik was paid almost sixty thousand shillings every month. Twice the amount he’d gotten before. She’d been happy for Malik then, thinking their home would grow, benefit from the good fortune. But no, their lives were deteriorating. The money had gone to Malik’s head, making him prideful.

He paid for nothing in the house.

Nalia sighed and started adding her vegetables to the onions. First the peppers, then the tomatoes, followed by carrots and potatoes.

“Now what to do?” she asked the sizzling vegetables.

Reaching for a container of mixed spices, Nalia sprinkled just the right amount over the mix in the cooking pot. Her thoughts returned to her  dilemma.

Malik’s indifference to the well-being of their house worried her. He never had money to contribute to their expenses, yet he wanted to eat and sleep in comfort. He wanted neat clothes in his closet, good food and a clean house.

Her funds were stretched.

She was a primary school teacher. She taught English in class six at the local primary school. Her salary was a quarter of what Malik made. Yet she paid the house bills – rent, water and electricity, as well as bought food for the house. End month was pure hell. She could barely afford things in the house yet Malik’s standards had to be met.

Covering the stew, Nalia picked up the plates and spoons she’d set aside earlier. She went to their small living room and started setting the small table they used for dinner.

There was no meat today.

Nalia’s hand shook as she placed a spoon on Malik’s plate.

Thunder rumbled in the distance and she pressed a hand to her chest. She didn’t want a beating tonight, but the harder it rained, the more the rain rapped on the roof, the faster her hopes vanished. Malik’s bad temper thrived on nights like these, rainy nights when no one would hear her scream.

The front door opened and she froze, her gaze flying to the man entering the house. He was soaking wet. Malik slammed the door shut and Nalia’s heart squeezed tight in her chest. The moment his dark gaze settled on her, her blood ran cold.

***

“Damn it!”

Nicholas slapped the steering wheel and peered out the windshield of his car. He couldn’t see in the thick rain. For a moment, he wondered whether pulling over was better. At least then, he’d be sure of not taking a wrong turn. The wipers on his black Isuzu pick-up worked overtime, trying to keep the windshield clear.

The clock on the dashboard said it was almost nine o’clock in the evening. The map on his phone said he had thirty more minutes before he would arrive at the Villa Matiga. The sixty year old house he’d bought from a retiring expatriate. He wanted to renovate the villa and put it up for rent. His third jaunt into the real estate industry. So far, he hadn’t gone wrong, but this late night trips were murder.

“I should have started out earlier,” he murmured.

He was a lawyer by profession and worked for a successful law firm in the city of Nairobi. The pay was good, the lifestyle exhausting, but he was happy. At thirty-two, his life was on the right track.

To a point, he thought, when he remembered his girlfriend had gotten married a week ago to one of his wealthy clients.

The bitch, he thought.

She had strung him along for three whole ears only to leave him and hook bigger fish. She was now a Runda housewife. Nicholas couldn’t help wishing she got fat and ugly soon. He cursed under his breath.

She had turned him into a bitter bastard.

Nicholas drove over a bump too fast. The map on his phone said he needed to make a right turn soon, but where? Peering outside, he frowned when all he saw were trees and bushes.

Great, Villa Matiga had to exist in the middle of nowhere.

Well, it wasn’t really nowhere, the Ngong area was turning into a prestigious area to live.

He braked hard when the dirt road he was supposed to take appeared to the right. Thank God there were no vehicles behind him. He was driving like a maniac tonight. Taking the right turn, excitement swept through him and he pressed the gas pedal harder, eager for warmth.

A dark shadow streaked onto the road, and he hit the brakes in panic, afraid he was going to hit the woman ahead.

***

(to be continued)

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