“Oh little girl, you really have seen some drama , you mean at only 10 you have experienced all this?” Joe teased after l gave him a detailed story of my life .
“Hey, I am not a small girl ” I retorted.
“For your own information I’m turning 11 in 3 months time” l bragged .
“What’s the difference , you are still a baby ” he pointed out laughing, making me realise l was actually too young to create such drama .
“Joe what now? You said you will help” I inquired getting worried . It was past 17 hrs and I had no solution at all .
“Ok first, we have to go to my place in chawama , let me ask if my sister can help us maybe tomorrow we can get you on a bus to chipata in the morning since it’s too late for you to board a bus today.” He stood rubbing his mouth after washing his hands clean.
“But…” I couldnt finish the sentence ,
“No buts” interrupted Joe .
“Let’s go to Soweto market we ask my sister if she will allow you to spend a night with us or else you end up on the streets of Lusaka.”
“Ok” I said defeated I didn’t seem to have a lot of options after all .
“So what do you do in the station ?” I asked as we walked to Soweto Market .
“l work” he answered plainly.
“What kind of work?” I continued curiously.
“The thing is , I’m not as lucky as you are Mwazi, both my parents are dead . I live with my elder sister who is 18 years old and the two of us rent a two roomed house in Chawama . We have to fend for ourselves. So I do whatever small jobs I find at the station , lifting people’s bags , washing plates at restraunts , sweeping and cleaning inside the big buses and any other job I find” he explained looking at me and walking on.
” So what time do you go to school then ?”
” Mmmmh school you say, I dropped out my dear. I couldn’t continue I have no money to pay . I went to a community school in our area but after qualifying to grade 10 I could not proceed . I was supposed to go to a different school my previous school only went up to grade 9.”
” Too bad” I shook my head.
“So you don’t think of going back ?”
” I do” Joe acknowledged. “But I have to wait for a miracle .”
We had finally reached a place with a lot of people and busses everyone that looked so busy . lt seems everyone was in a hurry , the hooting and peeping of buses was also loud . I almost covered my ears , the noise was too much that I couldn’t even move freely. Luckily Joe offered to help carry my bag which I agreed reluctantly. My flat shoes almost burning my toes , because I wore them the whole night and now day .
We came to a stand in the busy area and stood in front of a lady with a lot of lipstick and wierd eyebrows . I had seen some make up before but that one was surely over done .
“Ba Chile bwanj.”
Joe greeted her lnstead of answering him , she gave me a weird look and asked.
“Nanga aka ? (What about this one). ”
“Oh yea, she’s Mwazi ,” Joe responded pushing me forward to her.
” How are you?” I greeted her.
“Fine,” she said carelessly. I looked at Joe as though to say; “Are you sure this is a good idea? ”
Joe then pulled me to the other side of the table were Ba Chile was .
“Namupeza mu intercity saziba Lusaka , aoneka asoba . ( l found her in intercity . She doesn’t know Lusaka , it seems she’s lost) ” Joe explained .
“So ?” Ba Chile asked ,
“We came to ask if you can allow her to spend a night at our place, tomorrow she will find her own way back” pleaded Joe .
I watched them argue as Chile pulled him a distant from were I was. I couldn’t hear their arguments , only gestures and I could tell the sister didn’t like the idea at all.
” Ok fine” she said finally walking back to were I stood.
“Should you dare steal our things. I swear to God I will cut you in pieces” Chile warned looking at me .
“I will cut you starting with your long hair. wanvela?(is it clear).” She asked me . l just nodded my heard in agreement .
“Good ” was her response and she went on with her business.
We waited for her to pack the remaining fruits in the boxes , she was selling apples and oranges .
Joe got some coins and handed them to his sister . He got two apples and gave one to me. I felt bad for him because it seemed he spent all his day’s wages on me but I couldn’t disclose I had my own money yet .
“I have to know these people” warned my inner self.
We got on a small bus , the conductor was shouting K2 Chawama iyo. Joe and I say in the back seat while Chile sat in the passenger seat near the driver . I couldn’t help admire the strèet lights as the bus drove through a wide and busy road . lt then started moving slowly other cars were lined up ahead . I had never seen so many cars in one place before .
“So what’s there ?” I asked Joe when I saw a place with some kind of words but made of little coloured lights .
“it’s a Casino” he smiled . I dared not ask what it was for. I kept the next question to myself.
We dropped off at some busy area, Chile signalled us to go ahead.
“Let me buy charcoal ” she told Joe who carried a plastic with some pieces of chicken and vegetables they got from town , we walked through the noisy compound and turned to the small house. lt was dark and I couldn’t see clearly .
Joe lit a candle and showed me a small armed chair, “Sit there” he ordered. I sat quietly and felt some relief after removing my shoes , the jean pant I wore was a bit dirty I noticed after i tried to rub the dirt off but it was impossible. I gave up the act and sat silently.
I was just watching Joe making fire on the small brazier outside . l watched through the small holes in the door .
Then, i decided to take a look at the small house . lt had two rooms , the other room had some kind of curtain hanging on the door. In the room I sat were two chairs. The one l sat on and another one opposite me . ln the corner was a small wodden thing which I guesed was a kitchen cabinet , plates and 3 pots were pilled there and some plastic cups.
In the other corner was a small matress and a small heap containing two blue bedsheets and a checked blanket , from the look of things it was Joe’s since his clothes hang upon the big nails in the waĺl . There was a tiny table in the middle which was the size of a stool according to my perception.
I took in every detail of the house , just then I remembered home . Our farm house was 20 times better and it was clean and neat and spacious with nice sofas and a TV . I really missed being there at that moment and watch some movies . I thought of granny and prayed she was alive despite what uncle Jonah had said , in my heart I knew she would live .
Chile came back with some company , a big guy with a drunken voice . He even reminded me of Uncle Joe .
“Hey Sweety!” he called Chile ,
“Who is this little girl ?”
” she’s Joe’s friend sweety, I will tell you later ” Chile responded adding more charcoal to the small brazier . Chile’s boyfriend entered the other room . I just heard the squicking of the bed in the other room as the man frowned . lt seemed he was relaxing on the bed .
After super that night Chile who barely talked to me since we arrived handed me a blanket and asked Joe to join the two armed chairs that l sleep on them . lt wasn’t so comfortable but l was so tired , I fell asleep almost instantly, my bag beside me.
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I woke up early the following morning everybody was fast asleep , I went outside and headed to the small toilet Joe showed me the previous night. I stood outside, now I could clearly see the house , it was made of blocks but not plastered . I realised it was attached to two other blocks , some kind of a flat .
The house on the far left had a small door mat and red polish on the floor , it was in fact shinning . The one in the middle had a curtain hanging outside the door . I noticed the door was left a bit open . I could hear voices inside , l assumed the neighbour’s were up early as well , on the far left was Joes house . I noticed the door was quiet old and had lots of nails in it . lt looked like it had been fixed several times , no wonder I could see through when Joe lit some plastics as he made fire last night . l thought to myself .
The yard was very small , there was a small toilet few meters away from the flat . I could hear the shouting coming from what seemed like a road . I recalled that’s the direction we came ,
“The main road must be near” I thought . Seeing, two women pass around the corner from Joe’s flat . I wondered why someone would possibly just pass in someone’s yard without even asking for permission, then two other women with baskets came by. I walked to see where they came from and realised it was actually a path . Soon more people walked through. I decided to go back inside, Joe was still sleeping . I could hear Chile’s voice in the other room ,
“okay sweetie, see you in the evening“ she said opening the curtain .
“Good morning.“ she greeted me upon setting eyes on me.
“ Hey little girl!” followed the boyfriend .
I just wondered why everyone was calling me little , maybe coz I was slim . My granny always said I was slim coz I never eat enough food but thankfully I was tall . Granny would say taller than my age ,
“Morning” I answered back and the boyfriend walked out, Chile came to sit near me . I had separated the chairs already but didn’t move them to their original position.
“So tell me dear what happened to you ?” she asked surprisingly sounding like she cared. I then went through the story I told her brother. She just looked at me with concern this time ,
“But what are you going to do if your granny is dead for sure , its like that uncle of yours is bad news ?” She asked me the same questions I was asking myself and I had no answers at all.
“Okay let’s see” continued Chile
“So you know your grandmother’s phone number so we can try calling her and find out what is going on there ?”
Oh , I was so dumb, why didn’t I even think of that yesterday, I blamed myself in my thoughts . I knew granny’s number I had mastered it 2 years ago when she told me in case I found myself anywhere and needed to call her I could use the number .
Chile got her phone and dialled as I gave her the number , she handed me the phone
“ here talk when someone answers.”
“hmhm” I nodded and held the phone to my ears. I heard the phone ring for some time. It almost cut then suddenly I heard uncle’s voice on the other side ,
“ Oh God it’s uncle” I whispered to Chile .
“what ? “ she said back ,
“talk to him anyway” she insisted “Hello who is this?” uncle asked again .
“Hey uncle ! how is amama?” I asked without telling him who I was.
“ so it’s you ka spoiled brat. So at your age you think you can just ran away from home aii ? Where ever you are don’t even think of coming back here or else l will personally kill you , you hear ? “ Uncle ranted without even giving me the chance to say anything .
“Uncle Please, tell me how amama is doing “ l repeated the question .
“So what I am saying is useless aii , okay we will see” he cursed .
“ lf you want to know anyways, your amama is dead that’s why I ‘ve her phone , so you are all alone Mwazi . There’s. …. “ I couldn’t hear the rest I just dropped the phone collapsing back to the chair behind me , luck enough Chile saw it and grabbed the phone before it fall to the floor .
“What did he say ? “ she asked seeing how weak and pale i looked .
“Amama is dead” I told her now crying , “What do l do now ?” I screamed on top of my voice. I couldn’t hold it any more , the issue of being with strangers in a strange town , uncle wanting to rape me, the thought of living without granny, all came to hit me at once . Joe was awakened by my scream and rushed to where I sat ,
“what have you done to her?” he accused the sister ,
“What ? Are you mad ? It’s not me” answered the sister. “What do you think I can do ? She was just told her grandmother is dead.” The two of them looked at me with pity , Chile came close and held me tight.
“Shh…” she patted my back .
“lt’s okay” she tried to comfort me, “Since you are here already we can’t just throw you out , if you want you can stay with us, though it won’t be easy for you to live this kind of life but you are better off than going back to your heartless uncle . How can he even tell you such news on the phone he’s an idiot for sure” Chile added .
I sat there quietly , l couldn’t say a thing , my life was over I thought. It was over before I could even start living it .
Chile let me go and wiped my tears , “it’s okay , you are going to be okay you will see” We have been there too but now it’s just the two of us and thank God we have were to sleep , you won’t end up in the streets provided we work hard to pay rentals. “
Joe spoke up too , “yes Mwazi, we will live here together as family don’t worry okay?”
I just nodded my head.
…to be continued