Category Archives: Fiction

Short Story: The Jasmine Tree

The rain had finally stopped.

She walked out of the house, closing the door behind her. She was careful, dragging it slowly so that the rusted hinge didn’t make a sound to announce her departure. She stood still for a few seconds, listening, making sure no one heard her leave. Once certain, she continued across the yard, slowly making her way to the edge of the cliff. When she got there, she  allowed herself to breathe in the cool air.  It was always crispy for a short while after it rained, a relief from its normal hot and sticky. She was free, even though it was just for a few moments.

She looked out at the sea below, in the fading light of early evening. When she first came to this house, her first glimpse of it gave her the one ray of hope from the darkness that her life had become. In the early morning it was a soft grey, waiting for the sun to wake from its slumber and illuminate it. During the day, in the height of Mombasa’s unbearable heat it was a bright blinding blue throwing shards of lights. It was difficult to look directly at it. When it was raining it turned an angry metallic grey. Right now, in the aftermath, it was a darker blue. By night fall it will be an inky black, deep and mysterious and a bit daunting. She loved how it changed colour at different times of the day.  In the distance the sun was in its final descent, almost touching the water; a liquid ball of orange fire. Birds dotted the sky, returning home from a hard day’s work. It was quiet now. In a few minutes the calls for prayer will signal the beginning of night.

She walked around the small garden, looking at her flowers. The viluas were ready to be picked.   She absently plucked a rose. But her favourite were the yasmini flowers. They were 5 bushes at the edge of the garden, next to the fence made of old mabatis. The green leaves were dotted by the white flowers. Their scent filled the whole garden.  I should pick them she thought. But she liked seeing them on the tree first, a reminder of their fragile beauty. If not plucked as soon as they opened, they started to die, turning brown at the edges. It was bitter-sweet; how beautiful they were and how short their lifespan.  Some were scattered on the ground, discarded and already turning brown. She felt like that sometimes. Then there were the young ones, not yet opened. They live to die another day. Her youngest daughter, Shadia liked picking them so she’ll call her later. But not now. She needed some time alone first.

She makes her way to the bench near the trees. She had asked her husband to put it up for her, after she was done planning the garden. It was the early years of their marriage and he was still eager to please her. It was nothing elaborate, just 2 pieces of wood erected on the ground and a board nailed on it. But it was enough to sit on and look at the ocean. And it had been a victory against her mother in law. May God rest her soul in peace.  She sat down and finally allowed herself to think of what had brought her here.

She had seen him today.

She had been in the market accompanied by Hamida, her house girl. She was examining the coconuts. You have to be careful when choosing them so that you don’t end up with one too young. Or an overly mature one. She shook it to make sure it was full of  juice then tapped it with a small stone listening for the hollow sound.  She then told Hamida to break it just to be certain. “Ikiwa ni mbaya ujue sikulipi”  she told the vendor. “Mama usijali, nazi zangu zote nzuri” he responded in the sing-song Mombasa accent. She looked around her absent-mindedly planning in her mind what she would make for dinner. Cassavas in coconut milk and fried fish. Or maybe some mahamri. She was lost in thought and at first didn’t notice him. He was standing at Mzee Abdallah’s gahwa stall, a small coffee cup in his hands. At first she didn’t recognize him. He was taller than she remembered. And she could see by the way the kanzu he was wearing fit him his skinny frame had filled out. But it was his stance that gave him away; slightly leaning on the leg he had broken as a child. His face was half turned away from her and she could see he had grown a beard. She almost turned away, thinking it was one of her false sightings. In the beginning she had looked out for him everywhere she walked. Those days her husband didn’t let her out of the house alone. He accompanied her everywhere. So she had been discreet about looking. But she had searched every face. It was torture, those days; His smile in someone else’s lips or someone with  exact shape of his eyes. But never the real person.

But just then he turned as if sensing that someone was watching him and there was no mistaking that face. Her breath caught and the gasp that came out was masked by the crack of the coconut breaking. Their gazes held. It must have been just a few seconds but it felt like hours. She stared at this man, almost a stranger, with the face of the boy she once knew. His eyes crunched as if puzzled, and then he looked away. He hadn’t recognized her. But how could he? She was one of the many buibui clad women moving in the market. Her face was hidden by her niqab, just revealing her kohl lined eyes. She could be anyone. And yet she couldn’t avoid that pang of disappointment that settled in her stomach. She doesn’t remember the rest of her shopping trip only that it felt like her heart was pounding in her mouth.

To be continued…

Short Story: Tear Drops From The Sun

She woke up with a start, feeling a bit disoriented, not sure what had woken her. She lay still for a moment listening to the sounds of the night. The drip-drip of  the bathroom tap that couldn’t tighten. Need to call a plumber about that, she thought. The branches of the mango tree tapping lightly against the window; it had kept her up many nights before she got used to it. The distant sound of cars in the highway a kilometre from the house. Next to her, she could hear her husband’s soft breathing . She turned and watched him using the street lights. Even in sleep, his face looked animated. She smiled wondering what he was dreaming. Her husband was always in motion. He couldn’t sit still for a minute, always talking, gesturing to emphasize on his speeding thoughts. It had fascinated her when they met.

They were in college and she had accompanied her room-mate to a party. She wasn’t much of a drinker and didn’t do well in crowds so she spent the first hour sitting in a corner watching people. She didn’t mind though, she loved observing.  He was passing near her when a drunk boy pushed him and he poured his drink on her. He apologized profusely while wiping it off her. It took him a while to realize he had been rubbing her bosom. He stopped abruptly as if burned and hit his leg on a chair. His painful swears made her giggle and the ice was broken. He  introduced himself. and they spent the rest of the night talking. About their classes, politics, social issues and everything they could think of under the sun. She had never had so much fun at a college party before. Later, she realized he hadn’t touched her the whole time. Not even to hold her hand. He was refreshingly different from the other boys she’d met. She got to her hostel at 9 the next morning and her roommate teased her mercilessly assuming she had done more.  But he didn’t call her, until a week later, and by then  she had convinced herself she had been mistaken and he wasn’t interested.  She reluctantly accepted his invitation for dinner. By their 3rd date she was in love.

As it always did, when she looked at him, her heart filled with warmth. She loved this man with an intensity that scared her sometimes. The only consolation was he loved her with equal fervour. If not more.  2 years dating and 3 years into the marriage and he still made her feel the same way he had those early days.  She sent a silent prayer of gratitude. She was lucky and she knew it. She touched her stomach and smiled again. She  now remembered what had woken her. Probably a kick from her little one.  “Hello little lady, are you alright,” she thought. It sometimes amazes  her how she talks to her unborn. Although she was only 5 months, it’s came naturally. To her she already had a face and personality. And she had decided it was a girl. Her husband thought she was a bit nuts.  But she didn’t mind. She was too happy to care about appearing crazy. And she knew he was happy too.

She frowned a bit when she remembered the past year. Her marriage had been tested to its limits. It was only because they had a strong foundation that they managed to get through. The lack of a child in her marriage had almost broken them. Her in-laws had launched a malicious campaign to drive her husband to marry another woman.  The first 2 yrs her husband was unmoved. They had both decided to put that on hold until they became more financially stable. He had just started his business and needed time to focus on that. But as soon as they thought he was well settled they  went on an all out war against her. She shuddered thinking of how the people she had accepted as her second family became spiteful strangers. And her husband ‘s strong will had started to crack.  She forced herself to stop thinking about that.  No point dredging up old hurts. That was all in the past. There was an uneasy truce now, with her in-laws, but she knew things will never be the same. But she had her husband and soon her child. That was enough for her.

Just as she was drifting off to sleep she felt a sharp pain on her lower abdomen. She sat up gasping. That was no kick.  Before she could even think of what it could be another one hit her,  harder. She doubled over and stuffed her fist in her mouth to stop from crying out loud. She was shaking uncontrollably, her heart racing furiously. She had never been so scared in her life. There was nothing for the next 15 mins and she started to relax a bit. She decided to get off the bed and go to the bathroom. Halfway there, she was hit by another one, that drove her to her knees. She squeezed her eyes shut, and willed herself not to make a sound. She managed to get to the bathroom and locked the door. She looked at herself in the mirror and her pale reflection stared at her wide-eyed. She didn’t want to think of what could be happening. It’s just a cramps, she tried to convince herself. She had read that they sometimes happened. Nothing much to it.  “Yes, just cram- ouch!” This time the cry came out before she could stop it. She listened out checking if her husband had heard. There was silence in the next room. She rubbed her belly, willing the pain to stop. If only it could stop, she will go to the doctor first thing in the morning and everything will be ok.

The next bout of pain drove her to the floor. That’s when she noticed the red stains. She hadn’t even felt the blood dripping down her thighs.  She was crying, tears rolling down her face. But she still didn’t make a sound. She willed this to be a nightmare. She willed herself to wake up and shake her husband and he would hold her tight and tell her it was alright. She had a few nightmares before about losing the baby. She willed that this was one of those. But the choking smell of the blood, and the now continuous throb of pain was too real. She clutched her stomach and thought of her little girl. She thought of her eyes, wide like hers.  Her tiny nose sort of like her father’s. Her head full of hair and her tiny fingers. Thought of her toothless smile melting her heart. She thought of the yellow dress she always envisioned her in. She thought of this person will never be. Her night-gown was soaked in blood now. She touched it and looked at her hands in wonder. This here was her baby. This is what her hopes and dreams were reduced to.

At the horizon of her mind she thought that she needs to wake her husband before she bled to death.  Maybe they can get to hospital and something could be done. But she couldn’t move. She was held in place by the enormity of what was happening. She knew it was too late. She had lost her baby. She sat clutching her stomach rocking back and forth screaming, voiceless, No, not my baby. Please don’t take away my baby. But the pain kept getting worse. Sharp contractions that felt like she was being sliced from inside. It took her a while to realize that her husband was pounding on the bathroom door, shouting her name. She could hear the panic in his voice. It was the amount of blood that finally jolted her. The bathroom floor was red. So much blood. She dragged herself to the door and opened it. His eyes widened at the sight of the blood. “What’s wrong,” he asked. She showed him her bloody hands, looking at them with a confused expression as if she’s just noticed them.  Something is wrong with my baby, she whispered with  a broken voice. Then everything went black.

She woke up staring at the bright lights of the hospital. Without looking she knew her husband was sitting next to her. Bracing herself she turned slowly and was met with pain and frustration in his  tear filled eyes.  By his side, she saw her mother in law. Her expression wrapped up the cruelty of the past year.  She looked again at her husband, questioning how they will get through this. His expression faltered. The pain that had been in her stomach slowly moved and filled the emptiness that was her heart.

The End