“You fired Jake? The man is innocent, dad!” Erica screamt.
Her father was having dinner at the dining table when Erica came in breathing fire. He did not seem perturbed by his daughter’s outburst. He was expecting it.
“Dad!” She shrilled again.
“Erica, hold your temper for heaven’s sake and stop ruining our dinner” Erica’s mother sternly said. The two maids who stood by the dining table watched the scene curiously. They knew how much their colleague Jake meant to the boss’s daughter. Jake too was head over heels in love with Erica, but the two were from extreme opposite ends of life.
She was daddy’s girl, his only daughter, the heiress not only to his vast wealth but his political career. Erica had shown interest in her father’s dream much to his delight . She had accompanied him in his political meetings, met several men of power, even the president himself. He was progressively training her to be a powerful and influential political figure just like him. She had readily accepted taken it all that he taught. Until she fell in love with the driver,Jake.
“Erica sit down and eat. He is gone now, the infatuation feeling will be over and life will go on.” Erica’s father ordered.
“It was not an infatuation, I loved him!” Erica said. She was almost in tears now. Her father looked at her. She was the apple of his eye. Every dream he had of her was of her success. He hated to see her tears. But there was no way he would let her fall for a nobody. Every dream he had of her would shatter. His political enemies would have a field day laughing at him.
“Erica!” He called out at her as she ran upstairs to her room. “Erica!” He called out louder but heard a loud bang of his daughter’s bedroom door. He put his fork down and heavily thumped on the dining table. The two maids took a step back.
“Let me talk to her!” Erica’s mother rose up leaving her food untouched. She passed by her seventeen year old son who had hunched himself up in fear and was now stubbornly refusing to swallow his food as the maids looked on helplessly. He was sufffering from cerebral palsy. His mother would attend to him later.
She ordered one of the maids to bring a spare key to Erica’s bedroom quickly.
When she opened her daughter’s bedroom, she was in bed, holding a picture frame of their former driver, her eyes swollen and red. Her mother sat on the bed and touched her daughter’s legs.
“Erica baby, this is our life. People like us do not fall in love. Our marriages are like political alliances. We marry for stronger political bonds not for love.” Erica said with a subdued tone.
“I can’t let anyone dictate who I am going to marry mum,” Erica said sitting up. “I don’t want to be like you mum. I know you married dad so that grandfather(your dad) could win the hearts of the people who claimed he was a tribalist. It worked because he won the election that followed, plus he also had new support from dad’s father, grandpa. No, my life,my choice.” Erica said.
“I understand what you are saying Erica. All you said about your dad and I is true but look at the bigger picture, the good it brings, stronger alliances, power, vast influence, immunity…” She tried to convince her daughter who interrupted her.
“Happiness? Are you going to mention that?” Erica said eyeing her mother who turned away. “I thought so mum. You know Jake asked me a question, what is the good of having so much yet you cannot afford a genuine smile? Mum, it’s Jake or nothing. After all, I am not the son of the house. Dad already has a son!” Erica said the last words almost regrettably.
Her brother Edwin had been born with cerebral palsy. Every specialist, possibly in the world had been visited about his condition but everything failed. The muscle weakness, muscle spasticity and coordination problems still continued. Erica’s father’s joy at having a heir was short-lived. Worse still, Erica’s mother could not bear more children after Edwin. Erica’s father therefore bounced back to his daughter. His dynasty would be succeeded by her.
“Mum, I did not mean to hurt you.” Erica said holding her mother’s hand. She knew that her brother had a special place in her mother’s heart. She did not contest it. She adored her brother too and was always so protective of him.
“Erica, I have to go see how he is doing now, he was so scared when I came to see you. We will talk some more, tomorrow.” Her mother said, as she kissed her daughter.
Erica admired her mother’s support for her husband. She had many women-empowering projects that succeeded immensely. Erica felt deep down that her mother would be happier doing something different but she knew her mother had resigned to her fate. But she would not be like her mother. Her life would not be puppeted by anybody.
“Hey, how are you?” It was Jake on the other end of the line. Erica’s heart beat at the sound of his voice.
“I am sorry about losing your job. I can get you another if you want. I have friends.” Erica offered.
Jake preferred to speak in Swahili. He asked her not to be sorry for it wasn’t her fault. He would concentrate on farming so another job would not be appropriate for now. Erica asked him to invite her over so that he could teach her a thing or two about farming. He joyfully accepted. The next day? Yes that would be fantastic.
She hardly slept. She imagined his strong muscular hands embracing her, lifting her up. She dreamt of Jake that night. She could not wait for dawn to break. She took a bath quickly and sneaked out of the house. The watchman opened the gate quickly unable to see through the tinted glasses of the Range Rover.
Erica’s mother and father, in their pyjamas watched her through the windows of their bedroom.
“We have to do something.”
“Let her have the last dance with him. Just today.” Erica’s father said. His wife nodded, her mind flashbacking twenty five years ago, when she herself had been naive and dreamy in love with a primary school teacher.
He had died under mysterious circumstances in a lodging with a dead school girl on his side. Only few had known of her affair with him. She had felt betrayed but she moved on with a scar in her heart.
Erica passed through the supermarket. She filled the cart with goodies. She went for another cart and another. By the time she left the mall, the boot of the Range was packed!
She saw him, standing by the dilapidated wooden gate. She had been there before. The gate was now painted in used car black grease. He opened it for her as she drove in towards a small wooden house that he had built for himself. Some metres away was a bigger house, also painted in black oil, his parents’. They came out of the house to welcome her. Erica asked the younger excited son to get some stuff from the car.
They called her in to the bigger house to have a cup of tea. The slices of bread were unbuttered, the tea leaves had been boiled with the milk and sugar but Erica did not mind. She looked at the happy faces and envied them. A small simple home yet so warm and homely.
Jake stood up and held his hand to her. He asked his parents to allow him to take her away.
Closing the door behind him, inside of his simple house was all she waited for. She hugged him closely and felt his heart beating next to her ear. They stayed in that position for minutes until she looked up at him and saw his face looking at her adoringly. She kissed him slowly as he responded eagerly. Then there was a knock on the door.
“Here are the car keys,” Jake’s younger brother said . He came in, unknowingly interrupting a heavenly moment. “Mum is very thankful of the gifts you bought her. She says that blessings shall always follow you.” He continued. And he went on until it was clear he had no plans to leave.
“You know what, Jake wanted to show me the farm and what he was doing about it, why don’t you join us?” Erica addressed Jake’s talkative younger brother who she was already fond of . The three spent many hours in the farm. Erica was amazed at Jake’s dedication in planting tomatoes . They later went to the river where they spent hours playing around. Jake’s brother even caught a squirrel for his new friend. They were surprised afternoon had come and was departing.
“Oh shit! Its five already. I have to go home before dad starts getting suspicious.” They all ran up the hill to Jake’s house. They first went to the main house for Erica to bid the old folks goodbye but shock hit them hard at what awaited them in the house.
Five hooded men armed with machetes filled the room. It was the famous UmaUma gang that had been tormenting families and raping women in the villages. The police as usual were slow at catching the gang causing a group of vigilante men to take over the situation . Word had reached them that there was a wealthy lady who had visited Jake’s place that day.
Now, Jake’s parents were tied up and were sobbing quietly. As soon as the three entered, three men forced them down on their knees. They wanted to know whose car was parked outside . Erica raised her hand fearfully.
“Mmh, rich urban girl,” one of the gangmen said licking his lips, “I see you came to sample the rural boys!” He said and the rest roared in laughter.
“Boss, I am rural boy too, I too want to be sampled.” Another said and they fell into a thunderous laughter. Then the ‘Boss’ gangster pulled Erica up and led her outside. Jake could not have any of it. He knew what they had in mind. He would fight for the love of his life. He fought the man holding him off as he managed to run outside to Erica. The four men pursued him and managed to have a hold on him.
He had ignited fire in them. They beat him as Erica begged them to stop. They kicked and kicked him as he oozed blood from the nose and mouth. Then the vigilante group was heard coming from afar sharpening their machetes, screaming revenge and bloodshed. The Umauma gang took to their heels as the angry avengers pursued them .
“Jake! Jake!” Erica knelt to her bleeding lover. His body was not moving. Erica and Jake’s brother searched for a pulse.
“Noo! ” Jake’s brother howled. His brother was dead. His mother joined in the cry as his father sat down his head fixed on the ground. Erica still believed she would hear Jake breath even as the police came and literally snatched the body from her. They called her parents.
Erica’s parents arrived and took their daughter who was still in a daze. She was a pitiful sight to look at. Erica’s mother tucked her to bed and kissed her. She knew only too well how her daughter felt. She went to her bedroom and met her husband sitting on the bed, his thoughts far away. He was startled by his wife’s presence.
“Shocking isn’t it?” He asked.
“Very shocking. Umauma gang just saved us from shedding blood.” Her mother said.
“They got rid of him, just like that, I am shocked at how the gods just protect our dynasty!” He said, frantic at the outcome of events.
“Let’s just be thankful our girl was not hurt, otherwise there would be no Umauma gang by six o’clock today.” Erica’s mother said in a dangerous tone. Her husband looked at her and almost saw his father-in-law in her. He was a ruthless go-getter and had been known to kill to protect his interests. The apple did not fall far from the tree. He kissed his wife on the forehead and went to bed smiling. They made such a nice match.
The burial day thronged with sympathisers. Many prominent figures came too to console one of their own who had lost his driver. They did not know the driver had been fired and no one mentioned that the boss’s daughter was there when the Umauma gang killed Jake. Politicians made their speeches, condemning everyone but themselves. But the speech that carried the day was that of the twenty four year old, aspiring politician.
“We must put an end to this madness! People must not lose loved ones! Parents must not bury their children! Police must not sleep on their jobs! Politicians must protect those who voted for them! Umauma must be put to an end! Umauma has to be stopped! Power to the people!” She was speaking from her heart. The public was in a frenzy.
When she finally ended her Nelson Mandela-like speech, there were, cheerful applauses, ululations claps, whistles, and chants of “Erica!Erica!Erica!” For a moment, it was forgotten that it was a mourning atmosphere. It was as if Erica had provided a light of hope in their state of hopelessness.
“Talk of a blessing in disguise,” her father whispered to his wife.
“True indeed.” She replied and adjusted her dark glasses as she sat at the front seat of the podium as her daughter joined her in the next seat. They held hands.
Erica wasn’t moved by the applauses. Her heart was in pain for the man who lay in the coffin. She had lost him. Her mother had called it fate. She had resigned to that fate now. There was nothing else to live for other than the dynasty.