After completing Sykes’ novel, she felt somewhat idle. She wanted to reread the last chapter but it was too soon she wanted to let time pass by before she could. She had lost interest in talking to people. She hated talking to strangers. Everyone had suddenly become a stranger to her. The next day she did some drawing then helped around the house. Then from nowhere she felt an urge to check her phone. She could almost swear that it was beckoning her. She had a feeling Ali was looking for her. For that very reason she suppressed the feeling. What if she was imagining things? And what if he was indeed looking for her? What was she say to him? He had been gone so long she wasn’t sure there was anything she could say to him. She went to bed early and never bothered to check her phone.
The next morning, she did check the phone. She also had things to do online, especially because she was looking for a job. True to her intuition, he’d texted her the previous day. It had been a simple hey. She wasn’t excited, she was confused. She responded though and went on with the rest of the day. She had responded after about 24hrs. Ali went silent. Usually, V would have gotten upset. She would have reminded him how rude it was to read a text and not reply it, but by now she knew better not to expect. She left him alone and carried on with her day like none of it had happened.
The next morning, after exactly 24hrs again, he responded. Asked her how she was. V found it rather childish. It felt like he was still playing games. She responded and left him alone. If he had something to say to her, he would say it. She wasn’t going to get it out of him.
The week was slow but she watched the days go by. She prayed for a job. She was almost desperate at this point and so she promised herself she would do anything decent as long as it made her clean money. On Sunday, Lydia went to church like normal, and she, V, stayed behind with her niece and nephew. In the evening, she received a call from Lydia.
“My friend’s house-help left without a warning. She wants someone to help her watch over her daughter while she goes to work, as she looks for a replacement. Do you think you can help?”
NO! God no! I can NEVER be a house-help. That’s one of the things I live for. How can you even ask me to do that?! “Sure! Why not”
“Thanks so much! She was really frustrated. She has missed work already for some days last week.”
“What exactly does she want me to do?”
“Just to look after her daughter while she looks for a house-help.”
“And she will pay me?”
V hung up. Her heart was racing. She wanted to call back and say she couldn’t do that. Her father had once told her that no matter what she did, she should never stoop that low. She wasn’t in the best place with her father. So maybe she would take it.
Lydia came back later with the rest of the instructions. “She says you won’t have to wash her clothes nor her husband’s, just their daughter’s. Then you will be cooking. She will give you the other instructions when you get there.”
“How much does she pay?”
“Should be 35 or 4, I’m not so sure.”
Her heart sunk. That was little money. If she was going to be a house-help then she had to do it for good money. But it was already too late. She’d given them her word that she would go. Besides, little as it was, it was better than the nothing she was making at the moment. She had earlier begged God for anything genuine and now here it was. She wanted to believe that the humility in her was more than the pride in her so she accepted the job.
“When does she want me to report?”
“Won’t she be late for work?”
“No, tomorrow she is reporting at one. But you could go now if you want to. She gave me your fare for tomorrow.”
V slept at eight. She was excited about the next day. She didn’t know if she was happy. She was sure of one thing; she was going to make some money. She had a daughter, maybe this was how she was going to start and she would eventually wind up somewhere. She had promised herself she would never ask money from her father or any other man in her life. If this meant that she wouldn’t have to depend on anyone again, then so be it. Even though her sister’s friend only wanted her to help while she looked for a house-help, V considered the thought that upon arrival, she would talk her new boss into taking her in as the new help and stop searching. All of this sounded acceptable, yet for some reason, she still had a hard heart. She didn’t want to go. She quietly hoped that something would come up the next day and she wouldn’t have to go. She didn’t want to tell her sister she felt too good to be a house-help. She knew Lydia was nice. And she had had good intentions when she’d called V for the job. V and Lydia had grown up differently and had turned out differently. V was proud and arrogant. Lydia on the other hand was receptive and a job like that was no big deal for her. In fact, if she didn’t have children of her own to look after, and if she didn’t live so far away from her friend, she would take the job herself. As much as V had all reasons to accept this job, and as much as she would be the one to get paid, she knew she was doing it for her sister.
The next morning, she packed a few clothes and left at around ten. She was still in denial up until when she knocked her new boss’ door. In that instance, she wanted to back out, but she swallowed hard and sat down. Maybe she could do it. They exchanged pleasantries. There was no telling how she felt inside because it was concealed with a smile. She was good at hiding things behind a smile.
“You’ll be making lunch and taking it to her before noon. Then pick her up at four. I hope you have no problem with waking up early, they go to school before 7:30 in the morning.”
“No, I have no problem waking up early.” She replied with a sweet smile.
They sat for a while and she stared at the screen as her new boss watched a Nigerian movie. V hated those, but she had to chuckle every once in a while when her boss narrated a movie that was ongoing. She was a sweet lady and so V had no intentions of being mean or snobbish. When the movie was over, she had a quick bath and V took a cup of tea. At around 11:40 they left.
“You’ll be asking her what she wants for lunch. Today she said she wants fries. I’ll show you where the school is and inform the teacher that you will be picking her up from school.”
The rest of the afternoon was slow. At four she did her job then gave the four-and-a-half year old a cup of tea before she did her homework. The small girl had delayed to talk and even then she couldn’t complete sentences still. But she was fun and verbose. V barely understood her but she liked being with her than being alone. That way it was easier to distract herself from how low she was feeling inside.
She made a simple meal for supper of kales, eggs, and ugali. She’d been told to decide what she would make for supper and she wasn’t sure what to make because she had no information on allergies and preferences. She realized she hadn’t been told much about the house so she had to inquire from the daughter. The girl was so young yet so mature courtesy of spending all her hours with adults.
Her new employer lived in a single house with her husband and daughter. So there was no more space for V. fortunately, a local arrangement had been made between her employer and another friend of hers who lived on the same floor where V would be spending the nights. Sleeping in a strange place wasn’t easy for her. That night she stayed up late on her phone. She wasn’t exactly talking to anyone; she would go through conversations, visit Facebook, check if she had any messages, go through her gallery, check her mail, listen to some music or just flip through her playlist to check which songs she missed. When she finally went to bed, she barely got any sleep. There were two girls to share the bed with; one a kicker and the other missing her boyfriend or just extremely cuddly. She however saw no need in complaining because these two girls were doing her a favour and she appreciated it.
The next morning, she was called upon at 6:30 to prepare the girl for school. She had been up for over an hour because for her, early meant 5 or 4. 6:30 wasn’t early; it was normal waking up time for her. She took her to school, came back, did the dishes, did the laundry and by 9 she was done and idle. She played with her phone for a while before embarking on preparing lunch for the scholar. She had hoped that her ego would adapt by the next morning but it had only gotten worse. The reason was the pep talk she’d received the previous night from one of the girls.
“You know, I offered this job to a cousin of mine who had just completed form four and she turned it down? When my friend told me you had agreed to come I was touched. With your level of education you are so humble to be doing this. But don’t worry, everyone starts somewhere.”
V hated pep-talk. She hated to be patronized. What made it worse was that the girl she was replacing was the other girl in the room. She had found another job and had warned her employer only the previous night. V had so many reasons to feel upset by this job and she knew it was unhealthy especially because a child was involved. She had to show love to the child, none of which she had, even for herself. She couldn’t be mean to the child either, that wasn’t her. So the solution was simple. She had to find a way to make herself accept this job. She knew that was improbable and so she decided to distract herself.
She figured she had no more pride left, so she would just talk to Ali. It was a simpler embarrassment compared to this. When she did, he was surprisingly receptive. She felt good for a while. Maybe it was what she needed. She was ok with her job now. But she was a little over-expecting from him. When he went silent for a minute, she would become even darker inside than before. She couldn’t put up with this. She had to talk to her boss.
“I won’t be around in October. I hope you can find someone within this one week.” She had done one week already and she was absolutely certain she couldn’t do more than another week. Maybe if a child wasn’t involved, she would stick it out and fight with her ego. But she didn’t want to be so unhappy and wind up being cruel to the child.
Fortunately, a new girl was found the next week and so she had to do only two weeks. V knew she needed a job. She needed the money. But she wasn’t going to sell her soul or her happiness in the name of it. Besides, Ali had disappeared again and the more she tried to poke him to talk to her, the more annoying everything felt. She knew she would get a decent job and she knew she could stand it when she got it. She wasn’t going to rush into things anymore. She would wait. She was impatient, but her ego was worth acquiring patience for.