“Now that I could not go back I was not sure, after all, that I wished to go forward. It was a miserable sensation.”
“Run away with me,” he said.
“What about…,” she cut herself short. Too many confusing thoughts were racing through her mind.
“Don’t put too much thought into it”, he said. “Just run away with me.” The implore in his voice was apparent.
* * *
Nashipai had to get up early that dull Tuesday morning. It was cold outside. She had no choice. Actually no one had a choice.
According to the Maasai culture, the women and girls had to wake up at the crack of dawn (pardon the cliche) to milk the cows.
Mt. Kilimanjaro was clearly visible at this time. Narumoru village located on the outskirts of Oloitokitok was just a walking distance to the Tanzanian border with Kenya. It was really hard to appreciate the sheer majesty of the mountain with the nail biting cold sending shivers down your spine. You have to concentrate your frozen fingers not to miss the empukuri and spill the milk.
At around eight that morning Teiya, her father, was outside his manyatta. The sun was slowly coming out. He lightly leaned on his walking stick. He was an imposing figure. He keenly watched his sons, they were all out watching as the cattle were led from their enclosure. Culture dictated it. All the boys were expected to be out. They observed rather than merely watch. Through it they were taught to pick out any animal that might have fallen ill during the night. They had no choice. Or was their father really watching them? Could it be he was marvelling at the number of his cattle, hence his material wealth. No one knew for sure. There were talks of him being a tyrant but those were always hushed.
The boys after breakfast went out to graze the livestock. Nashipai and her sisters were left carrying out various chores around the homestead. They had to go fetch firewood later on in the day with her younger sister, Seiyan. She had mixed feelings about it.
It was not like she had any reason not to want to go to fetch firewood. Aside from the risks. They had to walk to the forest located at the border. At other times they were forced to go as far as across the border. Now, it was all fun and adventurous. They passed through migombani. The name originated from the many banana plantations in the area. It was also equally notorious for harboring a huge number of drinking dens. You would find men and women all seated together enjoying their brews. Scenes like those could never happen in their community. Those were Chagas from neighboring Tanzania. They had to be on high alert when they got to the forest. It was illegal, and the forestry guys were known to be ruthless. There was also that other reason.
Had they made too much noise? By the time they heard the sound of crackling wood it was too late. The forestry guys had snuck up on them and they had nowhere to go. Phew! Korir was among those doing the patrols. That other reason.
Korir was the forestry guy she had met some few weeks back. He was a nice man that one. He let them do their business so long as he got the opportunity to chat up Nashipai. He seemed to have taken an instant liking to her. He had on his signature red slippers. She was confused. At her age she was not sure of what she felt. There was some joy. Beyond that, she could not fathom what was happening to her. The hollow feeling in her stomach was like nothing she had experienced before other than when fear gripped her. But it was not fear she felt. Her skin was burning. It was like a fire had been lit inside her and was radiating the heat through her skin. Oh Lord, what is happening to me? Am I falling sick? Could it be that? No. No. She tried her best to tame her rogue thoughts.
Lately, he seemed to be getting serious. It was like he was courting her. He also had some crazy ideas. They talked for sometime. Seiyan watched from a distance. Then he blatantly said it and caught her completely off guard.
“Run away with me.”
That was thirty-two years ago.
* * *
“Mum…mum, see what dad bought me,” Claire is shouting. She is happily dancing around.
Nashipai watches as her last born daughter struggles to catch the wind with her new kite. She is seating outside their newly built house. She is in full view of their farm. It is the rainy season and the landscape is covered in a lush of green. They were going to have a bumper harvest. Korir is on the other end of the farm. He seems to be fixing something. Exactly what she does not put too much thought into it.
“Head over to your father,” Nashipai says. “Let him show you how to properly fly that thing.”
Watching her go, she cannot help but think to herself. Was I right to run away to my happily ever after?
This is the present.