Outside The Weston Hotel just below a huge footbridge that most pedestrians ignored, a woman stood talking into her phone. She was bearably pregnant and wore a plain white jumpsuit that impressively accommodated the lump. She seemed undeterred by the noise that evening traffic made on Lang’ata road as she spoke, her eyes on the passing cars and her left hand slightly bent to hook a big loose black handbag. She spoke into the phone for a little over thirty seconds and pushed it absently into her bag when she hung up. She was watching the cars going towards town more intently now, and her face relaxed when she saw a black Mercedes slow down and pull up beside her. It had gold rims and gold edges that breathed affluence into the black mass. She stepped back a little as the back door swung open and she got into the vehicle. It smelled of rich and new leather inside and there was almost a thick black taste to the air. A man in a black fitting suit and a white shirt sat next to her. He fingered a black tie absently in his left hand and was eagerly typing on the 5 inch phone in his right one. Scrolling through about a dozen football prediction sites. He did not immediately take notice of her so she had to nudge subtly against his side. He looked at her face and saw her staring at him with mild irritancy. He slipped the phone into the pocket of his coat and leaned in towards her, smiling with a half an apology. She hugged him back but broke the contact in less than three seconds.
“You kept me waiting. Again.”

She put her handbag on the space between them and leaned into the headrest, her right hand relaxing on her baby. She closed her eyes.

“Sorry love. The traffic was a nightmare.” He replied and added,

“How are you feeling?”

He supported his weight on his left hand on the seat as he turned his body towards her, letting her know that she had his full attention and then he placed his right hand softly on hers and smiled.

The touch of his warm fingers startled her for a second but she did not move. She allowed herself to feel them both and forgot that he had asked her a question. For a moment she forgot that she’d grown to detest him the more she loved the baby inside her. She remembered how simple love had been before all the money came. She remembered her greed and his ambitions. She opened her eyes and she said

“Tired and thirsty.”

She saw the expression change on his face and she added

“I’m joking. Jesus.”

“Are you really?”

She didn’t answer him. She didn’t know how to. She was a stranger to what she really wanted. She felt like was slipping away at the point when her body needed her mind the most. He was a stranger to her. He was speaking again but she didn’t quite come out her reverie in time to catch what he was saying. She wondered why they were still parked.

“Why aren’t we going home?”

“I…uh need to do something for minute.”

She knew what that meant but she was too tired to fight today. She just lay back to her comfort corner and heard him mumble some apologies. For the thousandth time he explained why she’d have to go home alone. To sit in their cold new house watching stupid shows on cable wondering what whore was sucking him off at that time. She sighed when he slipped out; to wash the anger and the pain away.

She felt the car come to life and join the traffic. She half hoped one of them would get knocked to the death by a quick crash.

Inside the hotel was warm and yellow and it smelled like plastic air. There was some sort of comfortable illusion of peace that made him forget all his troubles. He welcomed it as he crossed the marble floors and made his way through a sea of black suits to the back area where the open pool gleamed like a blue gem in the night skies. Around the pool about a dozen small and round tables were scattered. He proceeded to one in front of him where a woman in short black skirt sat sipping her drink seemingly without a care in the world. His pace decreased slightly as he approached her. He felt a little nervous. He hoped she wouldn’t smell it off him. She didn’t bother to stand as he reached her and opened his coat to slip into the seat next to her. For a minute all they exchanged were ambiguous stares before she spoke. With her glass half between her mouth and the table.

“You look stressed sweetheart. I don’t like you looking stressed.”

A waiter approached them with a glowing Ipad tucked in his bent left arm. He stood above them a few inches from intruding their personal space. He was going to ask something before she said,

“He’ll just have a glass of water.”

As the waiter walked back, he knew better than to get offended by her.

“You’re wearing me thin Daisy.”

“It’s not me. You know I’m just a collector.”

He sighed.

“You could get me more time.”

She chuckled. Amused at his desperate albeit makeshift innocence.

“It doesn’t work like that.”

She set her glass down and leaned on her elbows towards him, her voice now just above a whisper. 

“You got rich off their odds and they noticed it. Hell, everyone did. You know the deal. You signed the damn contract yourself.”

He looked like he wanted to say something in his defence to protest but she was not done yet.

“Don’t get greedy now love. For both our sakes. Pay the goddamn money.”

She leaned back and took a long sip from her glass as the waiter approached. Hand out and all fake smiles with an expensively packaged bottle of water and a glass.

He watched her as the waiter set the bottle on the table and felt oddly conflicted. Something about her soft ruthlessness attracted him to her. And something about her smugness repulsed him. She had become the mascot of all his troubles just a few months after she’d been lady luck shining in the night.

He silently bemoaned his senselessness and hoped she wouldn’t ask more of him that night.
They were waiting for her that night when she got home. They were parked outside her gate in their very conspicuous red 504 Peugeot and they seemed to overflow in shadows out of the car. As the automatic gate pulled open and her driver entered the compound, she glanced out her window and got ready for her stomach to twist with the dread that they always came with. It did not. There was some kind of emptiness and resignation instead. Perhaps she was just tired. Either way, she was not going to fret figuring it out. She welcomed it as the gate closed silently in the security lights behind her. 

The car pulled to a stop outside the front door and she picked up her handbag and opened the door to step out, slowly. The driver too got out and came around to help her out. He took her left hand gently and she felt his hard muscles beneath his black cotton shirt. He was tall and was built like a soldier. She found some little faith in the fact that once upon a time he had been in the army. 

“Thanks.” She said as soon as she was on her feet. He nodded back as she passed him.

She stopped at her door and turned back. 

“Only two of them can come in.”

He walked towards the gate as she unlocked the door and slipped into her living room. It was cold and dark, the only light sneaking in from the half moon outside in single rays through the half open drapes. She felt for a switch on the wall but changed her mind. There was some comfort in the shadows and she also did not wish to glance upon the misery that seeped from the walls of the house. She walked to the kitchen in slow strides, dropping her bag on the floor as she went and her left hand fingers brushing on a sofa softly. The open kitchen had a marble counter that faced the living room and she turned and settled her elbows on top of it, waiting, watching, and thinking. She glanced at the empty wine rack on her right and cursed him silently. 

“You’re in no condition to be drinking.” He had said. And while she knew he was right, she felt more and more in need than she had ever felt before. 

Her eyes now adjusted to the darkness, she saw a couple of shadows block the light on her front verandah. She saw them through the glass on her door and she yet again waited to feel her stomach to twist with dread. Again, it did not come. She raised herself up and walked to stand in front of the kitchen. She leaned on a wall and waited. 


Stay Stay Stay

 The city in the evening was a nightmare. Especially to him. He did not quite like being touched. By anyone. His skin would freeze up against his bones and he felt almost assaulted. Then here were people, albeit with ignorant intention, shoving into him and pushing him around as he cleared the streets and headed towards his bus terminal. They seemed to be an awful lot of them today. A Friday evening. He felt himself die a little every time he walked into a rough, uninvited shoulder bump. Ten minutes after he had left the office, he heard the sound of his phone ringing in the breast pocket of his leather jacket. He was just turning into the paved walks outside The Kenya National Archives. He thought about ignoring the call, heading to the caution that comes naturally after you’ve had one or two phones snatched out of your hands in places as crowded as this. But he also felt like it could be important. After all nobody ever called him just to say hi. So he looked around and saw a somewhat safe spot outside a fashion store where a bunch of students in all their attention seeking attires had decided to cluster. He only took out the phone and answered it when his back was safely against the walls of the building. The people traffic continued like a haze in front of his eyes.

“Hey grandma, are you okay.”

“Come home now, Andrew. I’m dying!”

Her voice was a rash and urgent whisper that should have at least shocked him. And it would have, were it not the fourth time he was hearing her say that in as many months. She was dying, of course. Slowly. All of us are just slowly dying, he thought, but in her case they knew what was killing her. She had been living with the disease for about fifteen years. But she was not dying today, he told himself. Just calm her down and it will be alright.

“It’s okay grandma, I’m on my way home right now. You’ll be okay,”

“Kuja haraka!”

She hung up.

He stood there feeling mildly irritated and for a second, he considered delaying on purpose. He could not allow himself to be manipulated like that but he also knew that she was a 72 year old woman and her delusions inevitably overlapped into her sense of the real world. He had also promised his mother that he would take care of her. So he put back his phone and started to walk again, his paces now in perfect sync with the rest of the world. He did not seem to notice any shoulders that pushed him around anymore. Probably because none did anymore for he only had but a hint of concern in his mind. Thirty minutes later, the matatu he was in was just turning the roundabout at Nyayo stadium and into Lang’ata road. He checked the time on his phone and found himself hoping of there would be little or no traffic. But it was just after six p.m and he knew only the best of luck had him in Kiserian before eight.


He sat by the window on the right side of the vehicle and leaned his head lightly against it. He felt exhausted. The traffic turned out to be a little bit bearable and in the stillness that he had found, he felt a little pinch of anxiety start to creep in. And with it, came a restlessness that would not allow him to sleep. He turned in his seat to pull out a pair of entangled earphones from the back pocket of his black pants, brushing against the naked arm of the breastfeeding woman next to him. He started to murmur an apology but her eyes were closed and she looked even more tired than he felt. The baby in her arms was sleeping silently too.  Undoubtedly coxed by the nipple in her mouth. He felt a little envious of their rest as he plugged the earphones into his phone and ears then settled to watch the evening yellow lights slowly pass by outside.

He tried not to think about his grandmother and failed. There was that little voice inside his head that kept shaking around, whispering, what if this was it? What if the time had finally come for her and he was going to be left all alone, once again? The low and heavy growls of Paradise Lost in his ears seemed to add to the sense of impending doom that suddenly overcame him. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to will his mind into submission. But calm had long since deserted him.


When he checked his phone for the time again, it was twenty minutes to nine p.m and he was sitting in a skillfully crafted wooden armchair in their home verandah. It was a delightfully warm January night and there was an occasional draught that raised the hairs on his skin and tasted a little like dust. His grandmother was propped up against the arm of a low sofa next to him, covered to her waist in a beautiful African leso. She did not look frail or weak. She just seemed so small with her legs stretched out briefly in front of her. The scarf on her head was pushed back a little, exposing the few strands of grey hair that looked like her eyes. There was a sort of unsettling feeling in her chi He had found her there and she’d said that the house suffocated her. They lived alone on about an acre of family land. The overhead light bulb stuck out in the darkness and shone upon them almost affectionately. She looked into the night and began to speak, slowly


“You have to leave this place Andrew. The minute I am gone you should too. Really, you should have left four years ago when your mother died but I know I kept you here and for that I am sorry. I was weak and I dreaded losing you to the world the way I had lost her. But this place is dangerous now. Your home has turned into hunting ground for its children and I’m afraid for you. There is so much hatred and resentment in this place Andrew.”

She lingered on that last sentence for a little bit and then sighed and turned her face to his. He saw that she bore in her eyes the strain that she kept from her voice. Something terribly sad had passed behind them and lingered, swallowing him too. But nevertheless, she continued.

“Your uncles and cousins are poisoned. They are bitter and they will not stop until they get this land. I have held them off for as long as I could but I’m dying my son. And they know that. They’ll come after you and they will take everything.”

A small pause. Then another sigh. Then her voice was low and hollow and broke his heart.

“I have failed terribly. I alienated them. I made them feel worthless and now you will be the one to suffer. I should have let them have a little bit of it.” She seemed to be talking to herself more than she was to him as her gaze once again left his face and fell on her covered feet.

“But none of that matters now. There’s nothing left for you here anyway. Quit that job and go. I know you hate it. We both know it. Quit it tomorrow and get your camera and some clothes and all that money in my bedroom and go. Go see the world. I have a friend in Mombasa. I already told him to expect you so don’t even think about saying no. Go and never come back. I don’t want you to get consumed with that fleeting feeling of home that once in a while blinds you. This is not your home anymore. This is just a house with a lot of painful memories.”

She stopped and took in a long breath. He had not interrupted once. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the pillow then sunk deep into the sofa. He couldn’t speak for a moment as all the things she said and all the things he had known sailed through his mind. He felt her hand touch his on his right knee and looked at her face. With her eyes closed, he could feel the energy seep out of her body. He knew in his heart that she did not have long and a tear dropped on his cheek. He whispered to himself and to her cold hand that he lifted and pressed on his lips. Stay, stay, stay. Over and over again.

He did not hear the front gate open and he did not see the spot lights that approached the verandah in the night. He only looked up when he heard a voice over him.

“Time’s up, son”

Eveything Has Changed

The light on the balcony shone white rays into the bedroom through the cream curtains on the window. It was just a little past midnight on a Monday night and he could not sleep. It was not an uncomfortable night either. The temperature was just right and the streets below them were quiet. It was some a subtle uneasiness that had found a way into his head, into his body and into his heart. He felt a familiar kind of strangeness. For the better part of an hour, he had watched the way the light fell on the door and bounced off the aluminum doorknob in different positions on his side of the bed. He was careful when shifting not to wake her up, as she slept softly by his side. With her back gently by his side and her left hand curved in a v beneath her face. Her right hand was resting on her side, the fingertips feeling the seven month bump in her stomach. He would look at her resting frame occasionally during that hour and he would be calm. Lost in the beauty that seemed to take away all anxiety that shadowed him. The pregnancy had been a surprise to them both but surprises don’t last long. After a month of doubt and nights of heart griping fear, here they were, already used to the baby they decided to keep. But as the reality of childbirth slowly crept in, the anxiety came back, along with it.

He made his mind up and started to slowly get out from under the covers. He felt her squirm a little in her sleep as the cold took his place against her skin. As he stood up, he made sure she was all covered up and then he remained there for a minute. In his boxers and t-shirt, with his toes in the cozy rug, he looked like a black hole in the shadow. He felt like reaching into her stillness and loosing themselves in it. He felt her light shining at the shores of his troubled depths. It would all be alright as long as they were alright. He turned slowly and made his way to the living room.


The living room was in complete darkness. He felt around the wall and switched on the softer side lights on the adjacent walls. He closed the door behind him and walked across the floor straight to the kitchen. He passed an impressive layout for such a small apartment. There seemed to be a strange sense brown in the whole place. The polished wooden furniture and the huge painting by the window on the opposite wall were largely responsible for this. It screamed modesty and beauty. He walked into the kitchen and then stopped at the sink to fill a glass of water. He stood by that sink window and drank slowly, feeling no taste of it. He watched the road below him, lit dimly by a lone street light at a corner. There was no sign of life outside. He felt himself sigh. He turned and sat on one of the two raised seats at the small kitchen table that absorbed some light from the living room, glowing. He opened the laptop computer on the table and booted it up as he took another sip of the water. Out of habit more than need. He stared at the screen and thought about all the things running through his mind. He thought of the things he couldn’t say to her and the way they weighed on him. He thought of all the things that he wanted for his little daughter. He thought of all the ways he was unsuitable to raise a child. And he thought he could write about them.

He clicked on the Notepad icon on his desktop and waited, thinking of some order to his jumbled up thoughts. Three minutes later, he was staring at the blinking cursor on the white background that invited him in and waited patiently. He knew it was a fruitless hope. He could not write like this. So he thought of the next best thing and turned on the webcam. It did not blink as he started recording and he stared into the red light and began to speak.


“For the longest time, I have taken for granted the fact that I never really had a father. I thought it was just one of those things that were and could not be changed. And because I was so young when he was taken from us, my perception of him remained just sort of an incomplete feeling. This helped the process of disregarding the reality and importance of the father. My mom tried with me, fact, she did more than try. She did it the best way she knew how. I was pointed to father figures and I was gently probed towards male role models. And most times than not, she was both my father and my mother. But I was different then. My anxiety was more violent in the way that it affected my actions. I did not see the need and I definitely did not need that kind of pressure. Because family is pressure. And I was so young. I was so lost and I did not know I was lost. I thought I knew exactly how I felt about the world.”

He took a small pause to take a breath before continuing. He could feel the flow coming.

“And then you gave me this little gift that completely overwhelms me. Every time I think about that little life that grows inside of you I feel like my life finally makes sense. I feel like this is what it was all about. It feels like all the roads I have taken in my life have led to this moment. All my time to this stilling and all my pain to this healing. I look at you and you look so beautifully happy and I want to cry because for the first time ever, I have given someone so much. And you have given me even more to be happy about baby. You have made it all shine again. But with this bliss, there follows a distant uncomfortableness that sticks like a patch in my delight. Then slowly fear creeps in too and suddenly there is a thousand little what if’s. Then I finally figured it out. My own father. The person I was becoming in less than two months and by scientific definition, the person I already was. And I know that deep within me, all these uncertainties would have been bearable if he was still around. Or if I had an influence like his on my life. And then I miss him so much. Which is weird, because you cannot miss something you never had.”

He noticed that he had begun to pick a pace and a pitch with his words and he thought he should probably talk a little slower and more silently. He did not want to wake her up. So he continued, as soft as he had started out.

“But I cannot do anything about that now and the reality is I am going to be a father real soon. So I am going to have to go about it the best way I know, and I feel how. So I want to promise you something honey. I want to promise that I will be as loyal to our little girl as Jesus is loyal to God. I am going to make up things as I go along…”

He stopped suddenly as he heard the sharp honk of a car from the other side of the building. It was a late tenant asking for the gates to the apartment buildings to be opened. And he thought, as we all do, that someone else would get it. The second and third honks however, came in quick succession and a scream followed.

“Nisaidieni! Wezi!”

He startled out the chair and fumbled for the keys on the table in a sudden panic. He rushed to the bedroom and saw that she was still peacefully out. He then threw on a long trench coat and proceeded to open the door and walked outside. He banged on his neighbor’s doors a couple of times as he rushed down the single flight of stairs, fumbling for the key to the main gate. As he came to the ground floor and turned into the parking lot that covered most of it, he saw the night watchman fumbling at the gate, while the headlights of the car that had kept on honking shone through the spaces. He half ran and half walked towards the gate, seeking to help, the sandals on his feet making a sound that was drowned out by the now incessant honking. Then he heard the unmistakable sound of a car charging forward just as the watchman began to pull the gate away. The car leapt forward and pushed open rest of the gate, throwing the watchman clear over a short distance.

It was coming at him like a light bomb, fast and bright. He did not once notice the sound of braking tires on the floor as it hit him on the side of his stomach when he tried to dodge away.     

Sad Beautiful Tragic

Nine a.m in the streets of Nairobi was a bitch. It was almost as bitchy as five p.m but everyone was a little less angry and a bit more eager. So, their pushes were friendly pushes but pushes all the same. He noticed the way they shoved him before he realized how he felt about them. As he hoped from a matatu to another, he cursed the pleasures of morning sex and hoped he would make the office by at least nine thirty. It was his third week and this was the fifth time he was late. And like on all the other similarly miserable days, there was a meeting scheduled for that morning. He remembered how everyone was always telling him to get a place nearer to his workplace and how he’d not even thought about it. He thought, because apparently all he could do was think of all possible ways to make himself feel worse, about the first major client seeing them in months who was probably already waiting in the office and how his boss had insisted on promptness. But he knew the futility of thoughts when an ugly, blue and blaring bus almost hit him.

He swung out of the way instinctively and crashed into the tall man in a grey suit who was beside him. He swore some more but didn’t bother to turn and apologize as he made his way. He felt the stranger’s eyes curse after him and said to himself.

“Fucking pass it on.”

She was still lying in bed missing him and feeling the hole that his absence made in her small square one bed roomed apartment when her phone rang. He had left about an hour ago and she knew she should have been out of bed already but she was carefree. All she felt like doing was think of him. It was her classmate on the phone asking for class notes. There was some test scheduled for that day at two in the afternoon. As soon as she hung up, disappointing the desperate lass on the phone, she swung her hips out of the bed. They say that’s the most effective way. Next stop was the bathroom and by some miracle of slow time, it was only thirty minutes later that she sat straight against the headrest and opened her notebook.  She tried for a few minutes to concentrate on the pages but after she had turned a few of them, she realized that she could remember nothing. She sighed and leaned back, surrendering to the memory of the first time that she had laid her eyes on him.

It was a particularly quiet Saturday evening as she and her group of three friends made their way up Kenyatta Avenue. They were flanking her on either side, as if protecting her from the unseen dangers of the world. She was in the middle feeling like she would much rather be alone in her house listening to sad music with the occasional dose of inevitable self pity. The past couple of months had come crashing down on her securities like the way a skyscraper crumbles. Fast, loud and with a blanket of choking dust. She was left bruised and bare like she’d been in a fist fight and lost. She was so tender and vulnerable she thought it best to avoid people for a while. But her friends would have none of that. So here they were, an army of will, making soft banter under the yellow and white lights of the city.

The rooftop at PAWA254 had been packed so they stood against the wall, thirty minutes later, waiting for the start of the event. And then he came on to the stage in a scuffle, almost tripping on the little raised platform. Everyone waited patiently. She looked passively at him as her thoughts sailed in the nether regions of her mind. Then she heard his voice and felt it shake as he said his first lines. She came to and automatically sought his eyes. After a while they found hers and she knew that he spoke of the same pain that she felt. As she listened to him rhyme away her sorrows, she began to hope again.

He heard them roar before he saw them charge. It sounded like a deep ominous grumble from the bowels of a whale about to swallow you whole. But he was late and he had to cross that street to get to work. He was more anxious than he was scared. So he used an alley and slipped onto Moi Avenue. And he looked up and saw them begin to run, coming straight his way, behind them a billow of teargas smoke rising steadily. Next thing he heard were loud shots that cut into the chaos and the people lost their minds. Survival instincts kicked in and as they rumbled their way towards him an ugly unity, he saw the deadly force that they were. The few bystanders close to him who had been observing from their amused distance turned on their heels too and took the head start they felt they deserved for being sensible. But he couldn’t run. He did not care to be caught in that impending carnage and he did not care to be late either. So he looked around and rushed past two glass doors and into the fast food joint that was next to him. It was almost empty but for the staff and a few customers. They were all watching the front window from various angles, waiting. He turned and stood safely inside, against a table and saw the guard lock the door hastily.

They came rushing by about ten seconds later. A flood of scared and confused faces with heavy thumps that shook the ground. No one thought to turn and try to get into the joint. They seemed to have a single linear sense. From behind the window, the group watched in uncomfortable silence and dread. Each of them hoping not to be noticed. Half a minute later, the last of the mob sped past like follow up bullets. And their sounds faded into the distance down the street. They all seemed to heave at the same time. Slowly they approached the window and he moved with them. They glanced around in hushed tones before the security guard broke away, unlocked the doors and stepped aside. He broke away too, feeling lucky and thinking that he wouldn’t be embarrassingly late.

When he got to the door, his phone vibrated in his pocket and he answered it promptly, seeing her face light up on the caller ID. He was walked out as he said,

“Hey babe,”

But before she replied, and he walked out into the pavement from behind the shelter of the next building, a single gunshot rang out.

It was nine sixteen a.m when the bullet hit his temple and his phone fell and cracked on the stone.  


The Last Time

The rain fell hard against the windscreen of the Peugeot. It hammered the glass in an incessant rap and the sound it made seemed like it was trying to get his attention. He was seated behind the wheel, staring out into the rain but not seeing past his thoughts. He wandered in them the way a madman wanders around his home village. Lost but not really lost. He was parked by the roadside, about a hundred meters away from a shopping mall they called Galleria and just ahead of him, the gate to some international school was up in bright lights that seemed to steam in the rain. He only noticed this by passing, with the hazy part of his mind. He was subconsciously aware of where he was as the rest of his conscious mind tried to figure out how and when he had gotten to this fucked up point. There was a sealed white envelope on the passenger seat and it lay there ominously, sticking out against the grey finishing of the car like a monk in a nightclub. He thought about the nights before him, now lying on the ground spent and wasted, all of them bearing a little part of the sin he was going to again commit this night. He had always thought of himself as a good man, in all the ways that mattered. He had had the rarest gift of a clean conscience and now all he had was doubt. He had abandoned idealism with the excuse of realism when he chosen to save his dying mother.

The loud blare and blinding glare of a passing truck revived him. There, still in the car, still not a step closer to solving the problem that was before him. Self pity and running around in thoughts was not going to help. He started the car and cautiously swung onto the road. As he drove down the hill, there in front of him was Rongai town. Standing like a ghost city in the rain.

He knocked on her door about thirty minutes past eight, one hour earlier than he had come last week. She had known the minutes by heart. He was standing there drenched, his thick black hair dripping with water. He only wore a thin shirt and it clung to his skin for dear life. But he was looking straight at her without blinking. Seemingly oblivious of the rain. As she let him in, she thought to herself if there was a world in which she could actually be with him regardless. But she too learnt the futility of thoughts when he announced in her living room,

“This is the last one.”

She closed the door and looked at him as she went into the bathroom and found a clean towel by the shower. It was white and warm and she knew he’d be as cold as he was dark now. He was standing in the middle of the living room. Dripping water on her rug. His hands hung loosely by his side and in the right one was the envelope. She did not speak as she proceeded to put the towel in his hair and tried to dry him. He however gently shook his head and took the towel in his left hand.

“I can’t do this anymore Emily.” He was stretching out the envelope.

She took it and stepped back to watch as he dried himself. She set it down on the sofa and sat next to it.

“You are not doing it for me dear; you are doing it for your mother. You know what would happen if you stopped.”

He stopped his motions and sat down heavily. She could tell he was tired. And troubled.

“What happened?” she asked moving closer to him.

“These are real people that they are killing and you are helping them. We are helping them.”

He sighed.

“You ruined my life.”

She had first seen him in her French class on a Friday afternoon. He was new and he didn’t know what to do with himself. He had admitted later that he had zero interest in French. She had been captivated by his eyes before she realized that he would be the perfect one for the plan. By the time she asked him to deliver the first name, they had slept together about four times. She told him that she was being forced too, and that they were the same, just grass in a battlefield. So as often as it is that good get corrupted so fast in her world so it was and his mother got insurance. As long as he handed over the names of all small scale marijuana dealers in campus to her, the administration.

“I didn’t sign up for this you know,” he was saying.

“I thought all I was going to do was to get them expelled. And suddenly two of them are dead. I didn’t know what you had planned. ”

“It breaks my heart that you still have to lie to yourself darling.”

“I am certainly sorry that I dragged you into this but you could have said no.”

“And let my mother die?”

“No. And found an honest way to keep her alive.”

She stared into his eyes and saw his pain. His conflict and his misery. She wanted to make it all go away.

“You are my lecturer.”

The nature of his conflicts had seemingly changed.

She kissed him.

Later, when he was much warmer and less despaired, he stepped into his clothes in her bedroom as she lay in the sheets looking at him. She was ten years older than him and society would never accept them. Even if they could find a way to escape her bosses and flee to her home country, her world would still always look down at him. But he could never leave his mother. So they were stuck in a place where they would always be a secret, for one reason or the other. But he had found some kind of unmeasured satisfaction in her. He had not wanted a single thing more than just to have her in his arms. He was hopeless and she had exploited that. But he knew that deep down within this twisted life that they had found themselves in, there was a baseline of love.

And then it came back to him in a rush. The envelope. The names. And why he was here. He rushed to put on his wet boots.
“I can’t. I’m sorry, I have to go. I’m not doing it anymore. I’ll find another way.”
He fumbled in his jeans pockets and found the keys to the 504, parked a few meters from her house.
“You can have your car back.” He looked at her.
“I’m sorry.”

She did not say anything as he turned and walked to the front door. He stood there holding the knob, waiting for her to come after him. To say the wrong things in the right way and then he’d be back in again. Consumed. He heard the faint shuffle of sheets and thuds on the floor as she got off the bed. He waited, pulse racing.
She appeared at the end of the short corridor to him and stood. In her white nightgown and her blonde hair that was messy around her shoulders. He saw the gun in her hand; the long black silencer seemed as cold as death.
“No Patrick,” she said.
“I’m sorry.”

The rain outside roared on. Oblivious of the gasp that he made as the bullet hit his heart.

As she got close to the lock on the steel door, a shadow suddenly blocked the portion of light from the corridor bulb right behind her. She froze in a second of surprise and a bit of fear. She turned slowly but not too slowly and clutched the ray in her hands a little tighter. He was tall and slender and he looked a little unbalanced. He was definitely a boy. Just then, he stepped aside and started walking to her by the wall, in the glare of the light. She saw his face and he was smiling. His hair was a little shaggy and his red tie was hanging loose from his half tucked white shirt. He wore a black pair of trousers and they had to be sneakers because of how soft the thuds came when he moved. She smiled back as he reached her.
“Hey.” He said, still smiling.
“Hi.” She replied.
Up close, he smelled a little of weed.
She couldn’t wait.

She was still in that light blue cotton dress that they made all the girls at the school wear, with knee length black boots that made sure just the right part of her legs under her thighs were exposed. He thought he could hear his heart beat with enchantment. He couldn’t help but smile. Her hair was all around her ears in thin dreads that fell just short of her shoulders. He could tell a hint of red lipstick across her perfect lips. Intoxicating. In her hands, she held a small tray close to her chest and she almost looked a little vulnerable. But just as she reached her, she smiled back at him and lit his world on fire.

She opened the door with one try while he stood behind her, calming the night that rushed in from outside. They stepped outside together and he turned and locked the door as she waited at the foot of those half stairs. He turned back and stepped down to her and hugged her. Delicately and not for too long. She felt the faint trace of his back bone through his shirt as she hugged him back.
“You got it?” she asked, taking a step back when he let go.
As a reply, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a joint, straight and neatly rolled.
“Of course.”
They sat down next to the wall on a small bench that they’d brought here together not so long ago. The building was a dining hall that also doubled as a kitchen. It had been converted from someone’s house when their hostels had been built just over the fence. It was a very convenient and effective set-up and the nursing school had been immensely proud of it. He was close to her and she felt his arm against his at the elbows, felt the tiny sparks that raced through her hairs. The excitement built up inside her a little more and she felt wet with joy. But he was speaking.
“I hope we have food for later.”
“Uh huh. Or else you are going to go get it in your boxers.”
He laughed for a second before he leaned a little into her and placed the joint between her lips then held a lighter over it. He leaned back and watched as she drew in a long puff. When she next opened her eyes and blew out, he thought he could spell paradise in the smoke.

He had been eating alone, at a table by the door seemingly lost in the book that was next to his plate. His backpack was beside the novel the other side of the plate and his left elbow was resting on it supporting his chin. He did not realize when everyone else left. She had been with a group of hearty friends who chatted away in low delight with an occasional burst of laughter. She had decided to stay behind after everyone had left though. She would help clean the tables. The matrons appreciated her help. They had worked silently around him for about three minutes when the other two women left. She promised to lock up for the night, after he had left. The women had smiled knowingly but said nothing. They had just left and she was just done with her last table when he left his bag and his book and followed her into the corridor.

Thirty minutes later, she was pressed by her back on that special shelf that he’d said his grandfather and left his mother. Her hands were locked in one of his above her head and his body was almost crushing into hers. The buttons on her dress, which were at the front, had all been opened and her belt had been untied. His other hand was on her flat stomach, a few inches below the dark blue bra that she had worn that day. Her dress rose a little further up her thighs on her sides as he had set her above him on the shelf’s base against the books. He was bare-chest and she burned to run her fingers on his narrow muscles. His belt was unbuckled but it still clung to his trousers that still clung to his legs.
Then, he was kissing her.

It wasn’t frantic. But it was not tender either. What it did, was leave both of them breathless. She wrapped around his waist with the long legs, still in boots and let he let her hands drop to his shoulders. He held her there and sought to delve even further into her mouth. But just before he did, she suddenly said.
“I’m hungry!”
Confused for a moment, he asked.
But she was already driving both of them across the room and tumbling onto his bed. She stretched out over him and grabbed a chocolate bar from his nightstand. She broke two pieces in her mouth. Then she sat, straddling him at the waist. She looked directly into his eyes as the dress fell from her shoulders in a bundle around her ass. A small naughty smile as she sucked at the chocolate.
“Come on baby,” she said,