Tuesday 18 February 2014

Time to see the world

By Diana Gitau

It was mid January; the sun was out with a vengeance. Scorching, brutal, exacting its force on everything underneath it.

However, I was freezing cold. My skin was covered in goose bumps and I couldn’t stop shivering. An odd day it was.

I woke up with a single thought on that day. I had to go to Kingston, Jamaica! 

This had nothing to do with cold. I had always wanted to go there. Or Seychelles, I don’t know why but those two places had always intrigued me. When I started my first job fifteen years ago, I came across beautiful pictures of Kingston and started saving up to a vacation there. Years later, I made enough money but then had no time to take the trip. My career consumed all my time. The clothes that I designed got to see the world. They were in fashion magazines, movies and all over the internet and were being worn worldwide but I just couldn’t leave my office.

However, I made up my mind. For the first time in fifteen years, I was finally going to take a vacation. I couldn’t wait to get away for a few days.

I wanted to tell my sister about it. Mukami would be excited. For years, she complained that I worked too hard and needed to take a break. She simply didn’t understand how hard it was for me to get the time. She used to complain that I didn’t even have time for my family. I knew she was jealous though. Mukami had settled for being a mother and housewife. I was sure that she wished she had a glamorous career like mine.

I knew that she was still upset because I hadn’t been home in years. I had missed so many Christmas holidays that I lost count. I hadn’t yet seen her kids. I knew she had a son, or was it a daughter? I really didn’t know but just knew that Mukami was a good mother.

I quickly scanned my phone to get her number but to my surprise, I realized that I didn’t have it. I was using a new phone and had lost most of my contacts with the old phone. Well not all of them, of course I still had the numbers of all my important clients. I knew Maryam Chele’s number off head. She was a loyal client, a movie star who had put my name on the list of celebrity designers in the continent. Maryam was the most important person in my life since she held the keys to my success. 

I felt bad about not having Mukami’s number but she would understand. Career women always had much tougher and more important responsibilities than housewives.
I thought of my brother Chege, I wondered what he was up to. I hadn’t seen him in ages. The last time he had visited was months ago, he needed something but I was caught up with Chele’s new gown. She had won another award and had asked me to design a ball gown for her. I had to focus; the money that she was paying was enough to buy me a new house. In addition, awards meant publicity. Once again, my name would be all over the media, Maryam Chele dressed by Ngina Mato. Then I would spend days going through every news coverage and read every single thing that people wrote about my designs.

Maryam’s awards seemed to always come at the wrong time. Last time they were announced a day before my mother died. I couldn’t even make it to the funeral since once again I was swamped by work. Maryam was my key to being the top designer in Africa. The secret to helping me stomp out all the competition and run a fashion empire. My name was going to be mentioned alongside other famous designers like Versace and Dior. Money and fame required sacrifices. I loved my mother but hadn’t seen her in ages. I knew that she would understand though. After all, she was the one who had encouraged me to become a designer.

Anyway, back to Chege, I really wondered what he had wanted to tell me. I should make plans to meet him up someday. We could do lunch and a movie. I hadn’t even watched anything in months.

I needed to pack for my vacation; there was so much to do. I planned to call that assistant that I had recently hired. She had a name that started with J but couldn’t remember what it was.

The chill, now why was it so cold! 

I rubbed my hands together trying to get warm.

“Thank you all for coming…...” I was interrupted by a voice.

I knew that voice, it was Mukami’s! What was my sister doing in my house?

I followed the sound of her voice right to the living room. The room looked so different like it had been re-decorated. I never did that! What was going on? There were people seated in the room all looking so solemn. 

Who had invited them in?

Wait, was that my brother Chege?

“Mukami, what is going on?” I asked.

She looked right past me like she didn’t even see me and walked to the front of the room.
“Ngina would have loved to see you all here,” she solemnly said as she started sobbing softly. 

It was getting ridiculous! I stood at the back of the room, watching the drama unfold and wondering what was going on.

“Is there anyone who would like to say a few words?” she asked again.

Nobody said anything, they all just looked down. 

None of it made sense.

“I can say something….,” I heard her say. It was Jane, My Personal Assistant. 

Yeah, Jane, I think that was her name. Oh wait, or was it Janet, it was hard to tell. I have had so many assistants. I thought of telling her about my vacation but first wanted to hear what she had to say.

“Ngina was…hardworking, she always came to work very early in the morning and left late at night,” Jane mumbled and quickly sat down.

That was odd! What was she going on about!

“Anybody else?” Mukami asked again.

I watched as Chege walked to the front, he looked so grownup. I didn’t remember him having a beard. My little brother had become a man without even me noticing it. He was holding a baby in his arms. That was confusing, was he some kind of a baby sitter?

“Ngina never got to meet my son, Njamba, I don’t even know if that’s a good or bad thing.” He said as I watched him in shock. 

Was Chege even old enough to have children? Son? When did that happen? What had he meant about me not meeting his son?

“I don’t know what to say about my sister because honestly, I didn’t even know her,” he quickly added as he took his seat.

I was confused. Why would my family, assistant and a few strangers have met in my living room to talk about me that way? It didn’t make any sense.

“Ngina was a good person, that may seem hard to believe, but she really was,” Mukami muttered defensively.

Why was she even defending me? Of course I was a good person. Didn’t I send money to them all? When she told me that she had a son or daughter, I sent her a cheque! I was a good person. 

Come to think of it, why were they talking about me in past tense, were they planning to cut me out of their lives? I needed to make amends.

Anyway, the circus needed to end, they all needed to leave. I wanted to ask Jane or Janet to start working on my vacation. Jamaica, I couldn’t wait! I could plan and see my family and ask them about the weird meeting but after my vacation.

“You will all get a chance to say your goodbyes now.”

I guess they had decided to leave! Good riddance!

Just then, a door that I had never seen before opened at the front of the room. An old man wheeled in a coffin as I stood watching speechlessly.

“Who died?” I screamed but nobody answered me. A photographer rushed to the front and started taking pictures of the casket. 

In a daze, I walked towards the open coffin. Looking at the body was like looking into the mirror! I found myself looking at myself lying there stiff. I tried to touch my face; the dead face, but couldn’t feel anything. 

It dawned on me that I was at my own funeral.  I had a sudden urge to look around the room, searching for one face. She had to be there. The most important person in my life had to be at my funeral, right? Devastated of course but she wouldn’t have missed.

Maryam Chele was not there!


  1. Love this story, Diana! A good wake up call for many of us, I think!

    1. Thanks Sarah, glad you enjoyed it and yes it is. I try to remind myself of what is important all the time though sadly sometime, we all forget.

  2. Some people don't get second chances.

    1. Sad reality of life, most people just don't...

  3. Wow! Mind boggling.

  4. This is fabulous. Nicely structured and ends on an interesting note! I think you should surely check out this online short story contest http://www.tallenge.com/contest/literaturestorycontest.html It's got visitors from over 100 countries around the world. There is no entry fee and the winner gets $100!

  5. What? Wait, Maryam Chele didn't even come for Ngina's funeral? now now now, Diana you have to continue the story and bring in a character who will starngle Chele.........no, don't!

    but great story as always, am wondering why ii never read this earlier! lesson well taken, the journey of death is and will always be taken alone, no companions!


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