That was the most embarrassing time of Zoe’s life. If there was an eraser that could rub a certain part of a memory,she could without a doubt delete that part.
It was just two years ago. Now she is in fourth year in a local university. There are still a few stares from a few students. There is a worse group,the group that speak not behind her back but within her earshot,with an intention.
“You mean she was banging a ninety year old man?”
“Can you imagine?Then the banging became too much for the poor old man!”
The two ladies then broke into high shrills of laughter. Laughter that made Zoe wince. She often left very quickly to avoid more attention.
But Zoe swears the guy was not ninety. Sixty ain’t ninety. Ok, it’s true they were actually going at it. Not that she was enjoying it. In fact she wished it would end soon. She was eager for the goodbye part, because first, she would go and have a long shower and second because he would leave a large sum of money.
Zoe does not explain her story because she does not expect anyone to understand her anyway. Only someone who has really been in her shoes may see where she is coming from. She reckons that it’s her life anyway. This is how she lives best.
Zoe is actually from a very humble background. She remembers eating boiled maize for seven consecutive days a week. Sometimes when her father got some money from working in people’s fields, his wife would take the maize for grinding and the flour would be used to cook a large lump of ugali.
That day,with the flour on her back, her mother and her four children would walk home picking amaranth weeds along the road that would make sweet vegetable stew.
That day would be full of joy. The prayers would be shorter that day before the ugali becomes cold. Then their father would get out and cut some small twigs of the Cypress tree and give each of them.
“Take these toothpicks. This is how the rich sit and do after they take such a sumptuous meal.” He would place his legs on the breaking table and pick his teeth with the twig. Then the ramshackled house would shake at the heavy laughter.
Zoe and her siblings suffered financially but they had loving parents. They saw the effort of their disabled father and diabetic mother to put a plate on the table,to take them to school and to hide their nakedness.
Zoe was the first born. She did her form four national exams and passed. Sadly, her parents told her, yes she had attained good grades, she had received her letter of admission from the university but they did not have the ‘little’ money the university was asking for. A friend recommended applying for the government loan for university fees but it was too late. The loan board had already closed their portal.
Meanwhile, a neighbour found a job for Zoe at the main town. She would work at a supermarket as a monitor. So she left.
It was a hard job standing all day , being watchful of any thefts in the supermarket, longfully desiring to be like the compulsive shoppers that picked items from the shelves without inspecting the price tags.
“I need the usual.” It was Mr. Prado. All the employees of the supermarket called him so. He owned a sleek black Toyota Prado. He would walk in the supermarket and ask one of the employees to do some shopping for him as he went to wait at his car.
Since Zoe joined the company, he would loyally ask her to do the much coveted favour. He always left a hefty tip. Then one day he asked Zoe to get in the car. She was hesitant but he was persistent. He wanted to know more about her. Mr . Prado had been so good to her, she thought. There was no harm in telling him her story.
So she did. She mentioned the poor background, the sick parents, the failure to get to university. She said it all. She knew he was bored at her poor story but she was taken aback by his next utterances.
“There is a university with an intake this month.I want you to accompany me tomorrow as we get admission forms.” She could not believe her ears. This was an opportunity she thought she would never achieve in her life. She was elated. She imagined graduating and building her parents a big stone house.
Zoe finally joined university. Mr. Prado paid for all requirements. He even rented a flat near the campus and furnished it with all a university girl would want.
Zoe knew it was not out of sheer generosity that he had been so good to her. She knew there was a price to pay. She had thought about it. Would she sleep with him if he requested? She thought she had no choice. She would sacrifice that part of her dignity for a better tomorrow not just for her but for her family. So when he came to her flat that one Saturday, a bit drunk and visibly aroused, she gave in to his demands. She could not look at the mirror that day. She spent hours at the bathroom when he went. She noticed that he had left a bunch of notes on her table.
This became the norm. She yielded to all his sexual demands. She knew she was a piece of shit for this but she remembered that she had a bank account now that had a proud number of notes to her name, her siblings were now in boarding schools, her parents were taking their medications regularly now and the leaking roof was now repaired. She lied to them she had been promoted. The bosses had noticed how hardworking she was and given her a better paying job. They believed and she was happy.
However, in her second year, life took a turn. It was on a Sunday at 7.00pm. Mr. Prado parked his posh vehicle in the parking and came in to meet a waiting lady. She always tried to pretend she was into it too. He had taken three blue pills that day, he told her, so she better be prepared to work all night. She laughed .
“All night for you babe!” She whispered in his ear sensously. She forced her hand to caress him. She pushed away the conscience that reminded her that the man was older than her father. She quickly glanced away from the gray hair on his head. But Mr. Prado was sailing in love. He moaned excitedly at the fondles and her whispers.He was in cloud nine.
Then he went silent. There was no moan. There was no quick heart beat. There was no heart beat at all.
“Babe,babe!” She rose quickly,pushing him away from her and he fell on the side of the bed like a sack of potatoes, stiff. She searched for a pulse. It wasn’t there. She did not know why she did it but it was too late, she had already let out a bloodcurdling scream.
The nosy neighbours heeded to the terrified scream. One unanswered knock amd they let themselves in. They talked in shocked amused muffled voices until one of them decided to call the police who picked the body leaving Zoe at the mercies of prying neighbours.
His burial was attended by dignitaries, and the who is who. Automobiles lined up in kilometres to his home. She went ,disguised in a long brown dress, a big hat and sunglasses. She watched as they eulogised him. She smiled when they announced that he had died in his family house in his sleep. She waited for everyone to leave and went to his grave.
“You changed my life Prado. And for that I will forever be grateful. Rest in peace.”
Then there was a pat on his back. It was his wife.
“It was you,isnt it? Zoe? He would mention your name in his sleep . “
Zoe did not know what to say about that.
“I am sorry mum , I am so sorry at your loss. Prado was a great man.” She realised she would miss him. Her eyes were teary.
“It’s your loss too. You are brave after what happened. You must have really cared about him. I respect you for that. Now go, and don’t expect to inherit anything,you were not his wife . You have already been given a lot that belongs to us. Go , girl. Have a good life. You have a good soul in you.”
Zoe left. She endured the mockery of her neighbours and the jeers from her fellow students. It was only she who knew how worth that affair had been. She had enough money to see her through the remaining part of her university life. She would sell the two acres of land Prado had bought her, for her siblings’ school fees and her parents’ medication.
She knew she had to survive the taunts. Her focus was her graduation day. Many did not know where she was coming from hence did not know where she was heading to.