Forgiven: Nuru

Our people say that you should not curse the land you walk upon.

They are right. They are wrong. They have no say on where you step on, but I heard about her. For every time I blink, I imagine what she would look like, her laughter, her touch, her hair…her teeth, her footsteps.

When they are not watching, I walk down to the river, sit on the big rock by the bank, talk to the water, ask it to bring her voice my way.

She was a rare beauty.

She was a lovely soul.

She had the moon in her eyes, the sun in her smile and the wind in her walk.

I listen and send my pleas to the river, how the water flows…miles and miles away, taking our stories, hopes, dreams, fears and pain down a path unknown to us. Where does the river end her journey? I once asked and Father told me to go and ask the river, it might give me an answer to my question.

How do you live your life as a shadow? I’ll tell you…you take a breath when the world is asleep, look not into people’s eyes but stare at the steps they leave behind when they walk away from you…and finally, you visit the river every day asking her to bring back to life the sister you never met.

For like the stars, she shines brightly but is so far away that if she were to come closer…then maybe, just maybe, you would take a breath when the world is wide awake, and finally they’ll get to see you.

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Peaches and Grapes

Loving someone is tiresome. It is exhausting to always think of someone and when you want to call them you realize you have no credit. You brush your teeth and wash your face with cold water jolting those facial nerves awake. You wrap the lesso around your waist because God knows you cannot walk out of the house to Moha’s shop in your nightdress, or else people will know that you sleep in the little mermaid’s red nightie.

They’ll see Sebastian hovering slightly above your ever growing bum, and think, ‘Gosh! She is certainly expanding, that one…yes, ever since she got that job up the street, she seems to be growing from behind.’

So, you get to Moha’s shop and buy an Airtel top up card for 50 bob and rush to the house. You load the credit and check out the Unliminet options- because that card says that you get some 100MB+20mins+100sms.

You wait for that text….

When you check, you realize that you are only going to get data bundles and you have no money to call him. It’s 7:30A.M. You check whatsapp but he was last seen yesterday at 2A.M.

2A.M?

What was he doing up at 2 A.M? You check your last chat and it ended with a ‘goodnight’ at 9 P. M. and an unrequited emoji kiss…

It is almost eight o’clock and you are already exhausted, having asked yourself so many questions and arrived at no answers.

Loving someone is tiresome I tell you…hand me some grapes will you?

Flowers in June

Rebecca knew Matthew. His smile, the way he walked in long strides, laughed at odd comments in Facebook posts and even how he removed money from his wallet to pay bills. She knew it all, except for why he loathed flowers.

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She paid three hundred shillings for them. A bouquet of red, pink, yellow and one that slightly resembled crisp orange. When she got to the house, she placed them on his side of the bed and waited…

The call came in at 7:00pm.

P.S.: Flowers in June; A 2016 NanoWrimo Project

A series of fortunate events

I woke up to two things: a splitting headache and a text from my younger sister. The former was not as serious as the latter,why, well she is in campus and has run out money. I know how being broke on campus especially on a Friday sucks, so ignoring the headache and nausea, I got ready and set out into town.
My first stop was the Naivas supermarket to simply buy a soda, not just any soda, but something bitter sweet like Krest. So, there I was at 9am in line waiting to be served by the cashier. See in Naivas, they don’t have the express counters, any cashier can serve you, so that means you can be in line for half an hour to buy a life changing product like Krest, but don’t freak out, I was patient. It felt good to be out of the house and see the city a little. There was a guy right behind me who reeked of new cologne and an aftershave gone wrong, but I couldn’t check him out without being obvious, so I took a step back and told him he could go ahead. He smiled and said thanks. He said and you can quote me on this “you look lovely,” now isn’t that a great way to make a recovering invalid’s day!
As we were still talking, I heard the cashier shout “password” and turn his attention to the customer care desk. Why is it that when you are in a hurry in the supermarket these two things happen? First, you find yourself behind someone with a full trolley. Second, you find yourself behind someone who either spends more than they planned for and the cashier calls for that password and the guy who has it is either upstairs or ten minutes away from you.

I got a second text from my sister.
I waited and paid for the soda and walked to an Mpesa agent within the supermarket and sent her the money she needed. After that, with three sips of Krest down my throat I felt like taking a short tour and buying stationery just to remind myself that life is worth living and I had better resume my writing. The calls and texts from my friends asking about when my next book would be out suddenly filled my already aching head. So, I walked to Uchumi supermarket to get some pencils and a scribbling pad. After that I made my way down to the post office to check if we had mail and since Mega plaza is under construction I found myself making an eye connection with a danger sign “Warning! Watch out for falling objects.” The next thing that came to mind was how could I do that? I was walking under and right beside a building under construction because I had to. It was the only way to access my mail and these guys were telling me about falling objects and not offering any helmets. The sheer madness of it had me smiling all the way to the post office and out.
But, I was not prepared for what came next. As I was leaving I ran into the guy I had met at Naivas. He smiled first and said “we meet again, unanifuata ama ni mimi ndiyo nakufuata?” I shrugged and stepped aside thinking he was walking in the opposite direction but he stepped beside me. “Naitwa Mose and you?”

Okay, hold on a second, I know guys always have an agenda. A guy does not approach a girl just for the sake of approaching someone and though I was tempted to ask him what his deal was, I knew he would step back. So, I told him I prefer to be called Arch and he laughed.
“Yeah, I thought so too, I follow you on Twitter. It’s nice to finally meet you, though unakaa poa sana in real life.”
I turned back hoping to lose him and said that I wanted to check out some books at Nakumatt. I only had three hundred shillings with me but even then I was sure I could get a couple of books, if not one then two. The guy followed me all the way to the BooksFirst section yapping about how he did not read much, but he read the newspapers.

Reading a newspaper is not active reading. It is sourcing for information not building a creative imagination or traveling on a journey with a Writer.

I started looking around and caught up with Fred, he showed me the latest selection they had on offer and shared his insight on the new books I could buy. As we talked I noticed Mose taking a backseat until he finally said he would go and check out the home theatre systems downstairs leaving us to the discussion of to read or not to read. Then Fred turns to me and says, “Your boyfriend does not seem interested in books.”
“He is not my boyfriend.”
“Serious? I just thought…”
“Don’t apologize Fred, it’s okay, I will come for these four books kesho, usizirudishe kwa shelf. Sina pesa ya kutosha.”
“Ni sawa kama hujanipata ulizia Brian atakupatia.”
“Thanks.”
I walked out of Nakumatt and walked to the place where I could pick a mat home. For the love of Geography I don’t know the name of that street I just know iko karibu na CFC Stanbic bank ama nyuma ya Guru Nanak hospital. I scouted for a 44 and got into one immediately it came to a halt right before me. The Driver goes, “msupa niaje,si ukae na mimi hapa mbele?” I hop in and before I can say hello those big yellow paper bags make their way beside my leg followed by a woman eating a slice of watermelon.

Watermelons are like sugarcane, they cannot be devoured in silence. There is always that iss  sound that comes with each bite and this woman was a beast at it!
For a short while I enjoyed the sound of her enjoying that watermelon until I saw my next stop. The Driver told the conductor, “huyo msupa ni family ya mine” when I was reaching for a twenty bob  coin to pay him. The conductor smiled and wished me a good day and I turned to the driver to see him wink as he drove away. And do you know what the best part was, I came home and turned on the computer but it wouldn’t start, thanks to a blackout.
So, I set my tablet on battery mode and typed this as the words came to mind. What a day!

The guests have arrived, Kenyan style

Having guests in Kenya is throwing a feast.

If someone drops by to say hello, then you share what you have but if the visit was announced in advance, then it is a state function.

Growing up, my Mom, entertained guests and they came in three groups: widows group, estate fellowship and just guests. Now when it came to preparation and ensuring the best service was delivered they ranked as follows:

  1. Widows group
  2. Estate fellowship
  3. Other guests.

This order changed only when one person was scheduled to visit and mom would prepare the best tilapia fish stew using milk. This person was: The Reverend/Canon of our Church.

We lived for these days to end because we would prepare the food, arrange the dishes, serve the guests and then do the worst of tasks by doing dishes. I am not a fan of doing the dishes especially Mom’s imported dinnerware dipped in a basin of soapy water with the tendency to slip through my dainty fingers like a fish out of water.

Back then, the preparation would start at 7am. We would wake up and clean the house, dust our rooms and we could only use the toilet before the guests arrived. Mom did not want anyone going for a long call only to stink up the house while guests were around, so we snacked and used the toilet before the guests started arriving. It was courtesy to mom, but torture to us. The other room that was out of bounds for us was the sitting room. I used to clean this room because Mom said it was the first place that any visitor saw before they saw the whole house. I dusted and mopped and ensured all the seats were ready with matching crotchet vitambaas- I don’t know how to say that in English. They were white. No one was allowed to enter this room, not even to watch an episode of our favorite program like Escava Esaura (please tell me that’s how you spell it) or Sinbad! KBC had repeats of Sinbad on Sunday afternoons and any adventure in the high seas was welcome, but mom stood her ground. She only looked at us and that was enough to know we’d suffer a quick painful death by even touching the doorknob.

But if there was one thing I learned was that it is good to entertain guests. Mom would always say that you treat people like the royalty they are when they take time to come and visit, especially when they arrive safe and wish you well. It was through these guests that I discovered my love for cooking and loathe for dish-washing. Everyone had their specialty: my cousins Jackie and Leah could make a mean beef stew each taking turns to check in of the progress of their delicacy. I could make some amazing rice and fry just about anything, including paw paw (ask my sister, Chez, she was always the first to taste any new invention and suffer in silence, like the time I roasted green peas).

We were an army of ants every time we had guests and we would go to bed like logs. I just visited a friend this morning, they are having guests from home- her aunts and uncles and she told me, “we will have a few snacks and some tea at four as we wait for supper.” I was working my way to the perfect tantrum but she smiled and said, “it’s no big deal, they are sleeping only for one night, so why bother?”

Why bother? Chica allow me to introduce you to my Mother…

Speaking of-The Penthouse Prince by Virginia Nelson

I love a good romance story.
Nothing eats me up like a fake arrangement that spins out of control and that’s exactly what happened in Virginia Nelson’s “The Penthouse Prince.”

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Most romance novels are predictable: people meet, some drama takes place and in the end there’s a resolution which leads to a happy ending, kissing, love making and lots of ” I love you,” phrases- the end!
But with this there was chemistry between the leads: Camden is the rich boss who doesn’t do love, only business while Jeanie is the one hoping to provide for 5 year old Kaycee.

It starts out with Camden pushing Jeanie to sign a contract stating the terms of their fake engagement so he can get to buy out his dad’s shares and own the company he runs. He has a friend, Lowe, and Father who see right through his facade but they have no clue as to what he’ll do and whether he will succeed.

So,  the whole damsel in distress thing did not go down so well with me.  Why does the guy get to be rich and in control while the girl needs saving?
But, Virginia  tried to make it up to me since she showed that Camden had money, control, power but nothing as close as the comfort and peace of mind that Jeanie could offer. Not bad, but I  still wish she was the billionaire while he was the man in distress!

Okay, so here’s what I liked about this book (that made me eat it up like cake) : the sequence of events is spot on. There’s no rush, just the right pace throughout the story that builds up to the climax anyone  who loves romance would die for!
I could talk about the cover,  or go on about the characters or even babble about the plot,  but all that would not hit the target as much as the sequence of events. Nothing felt out of place in the story, and each scene laid the foundation for the next one and that’s what struck me while reading this book.

You can check out Virginia’s page here for the links to this book. You’ll love it☺

A Chef, a story, and a whole lot of time!

Some books call out to you, like a slice of chocolate cake!
I never intended to buy this book. In fact, I swore every time I saw it on the shelf at BooksFirst in Nakumatt.

A season of Hell’s  Kitchen made me hate this guy so much that my head would explode with the possibilities of throwing stuff at him every time he yelled at a chef! See, I know the kitchen is the most dangerous place in the house (nowadays bathrooms are too, but still a kitchen is where fire does magic to food and that set of sharp knives exists!)
So, I kept walking past this book for six months.

But, you know what they say about curiosity… It killed this cat, and now she’s fessing up!
So, I bought it and once I started reading it even the nasty cold I have could not stop me from reading more about how he came to be Chef and how hard he worked to get to where he is. Previously, I saw him as a meanie, and an adult who throws some major tantrums, but even so, I’d have to say that being a Chef requires balls of steel. I am not saying that I like him now. No, I have a new found respect for his hard work and determination that’s it! I know being a Chef is not as easy as baking pie, because my younger sister is learning how to and she tried to teach me a few things and I failed! Who sets a timer while cooking? (That’s what I said) She looked at me and said, “I do, all chefs do because you do not prepare one dish but even ten at a time.”

The style of writing is much like the man, he says both the good and bad things he did while finding his way. I am not so keen on saying if this was good or great, because it’s his autobiography. It’s not easy for me to give a star rating or applaud an autobiography because it is someone’s true life journey, but what is real with this book is that reading it is like talking to the man, expletives and all!

There’s a lot to a person, and I am fidgeting in my seat as I read “Humble Pie”, because it is revealing a side to hulk , Gordon, that I assumed was never there.

I will get my sister her own copy, so she can know just how much heat she’ll have to take to become a Master Chef.

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The quest for a perfect ending for a story.

Every beginning must have an ending.

It might be the perfect ending to one reader and the worst to another, but how do you create a balance? How do you end the story the way its supposed to end without causing a readership uproar?

If you think this is hard for one book, try a series.

I am learning this the hard way as I write the “Current Series.” It has four books: Fire, Water, Wind and Earth.
Each book follows the life of a young prince named Ustawi as he rises to power in a kingdom faced by numerous challenges.
The first two books are out, and I am writing the third book, but readers are already asking about what will happen.
They are already rooting for their favorite characters and I find myself giving people a blank look or going mute. It’s because I know what the story line is and who will survive and who might not, but it does not stop me from asking, “can the perfect ending be achieved?”

So, how do you end the story and with access to sites where your book can be reviewed and discussed, does this affect your relationship with the story as you write it?
I asked a friend who loves reading stories on Wattpad about it and she said that the writers engage with readers there and she believes it affects the ending.

At the moment, I am writing Wind as per the story line and a huge part of me believes that the story will end when it does and how it should, a few characters might surprise me by taking a different path as I write, but it will somehow be for the best.

I also understand the feeling of disappointment that comes with an unexpected ending like what happened to me as I read the Harry Potter series and the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare . I never saw Harry ending up with Ginny!

I can go about this as many ways as I can, but can the perfect ending be achieved? For the sake of the story, the reader and the writer?

Writing backwards.

It was not my intention to be awake at 3am.

It was also not my intention to sit on the cold cemented floor and think of the perfect story to write, but it all happened, and now, I am here thinking of what to do with myself.

My friend always tells me not to be fooled by rocking chairs. They move back and forth but they never leave the spot they are in. I know about being a rocking chair, isn’t that the same as procrastinating?

It so happened that y 4am I had written three chapters of a story that could not stop bugging me in my sleep. I went back to bed at 5am, and lazily stepped out of it at 7:16am to make chapatis for breakfast.

I committed a crime, and maybe my literary sins are catching up with me- but have you ever read something you wrote and asked yourself, “what was I thinking?”

It’s been three hours and I feel as though I am back to square one- and the three chapters that I wrote while half asleep or half awake do not seem to make sense to me.

The Things Ulioko says

Ulioko is a Swahili word which means “what’s present” or “whatever is at a precise moment.”

He is a character in a story I wrote, called Fire. He is known as the Palace Informer, a drunk and comes off as a comedian to most of the readers, and a friend asked me about him yesterday. He wanted to know, where the idea of creating a character as Ulioko came from, and why he was so funny.

I told him two things: first, it’s that I do not find Ulioko funny, but rather a mystery and second, I was inspired to write about someone who was close to the King. You have a powerful King, who is widely feared as he is respected, but to make him human or to portray him not just as a brute but also as a kind person, you need to have someone that he listens to and can laugh with.

Now, this person cannot be of the same status because then it would be a show of pride, and this person cannot also be a woman because there is his wife, so who else? And that’s when the idea of a palace informer came to mind.

I would admit that at some point while writing the story I felt like Ulioko was more of a snitch than an informer and so I had to give him some qualities that would strengthen his role in the story.

With words like:

You see beyond your nose my King, yet it still remains on your face.

He is but a man, should a cock inform every chicken of its business?

Leave the barking to the dogs, my King, please, listen to what I have in mind.

No, my King, the burden of being the one who always knows everything weighs me down. How would you know?

Courtesy is the mark of all noble men. Hand me a drink.

I cannot wait to see what I can do with a character like Ulioko, since talking to my friend and hearing what his experience was while reading Fire. I am glad that the few friends and family members who have read Fire love it, and it has urged me to write and publish a better book that’s next in the series.