Asiepet moved sluggishly on the bed and sat up, she turned her head and fixed her shuttered eyes on Samba. The man snored away peacefully unaware that the alarm had been snoozed for an umpteenth time before Ash( he had pet-named her that!) could salvage the much required strength to severe ties with the heavy scarlet duvet. ‘Samba wake up, we’ll be late for work, ‘she drudgily muttered under her breath as she tried to shake his upper torso. Realisation dawned on him like a douche of cold water and he sprung to life. In three swift movements he had slipped into his bathrobe, pecked her cheek and slithered into the adjacent bathroom. She could hear the sound of teeth meeting brush, a tap opened then guggling. Ash allowed a happy face to slip then for no apparent reason a thousand thoughts and memories shuffled through her mind like a black jack deck. She felt so happy at the moment. Life was presently good. It had been fair to her so far.This is exactly what took her mind back to the childhood memories of barefoot strolls down dusty lanes. Those dark days are what made her feel uneasy and a visitor in this present bubble of a moment.

Her mind strayed to miles yonder, years back as she stared infront at nothing. She was only ten years then and had just started getting visitations from the Red Robin when her mother summoned her to the kitchen. It was one strategically placed outside the main house. A smaller version of the main. Still circular, made with stick, mud, mudbrick, rammed earth and pebbles. The roof was adorned in thatch and a conical piece of tin stuck round the top of the centre main pole. On that day, the smoke seemed irregularly clingy as she sat next to her mum. The smoke stung her eyes as she tried to puff into the fire that threatened to falter away. Then her mother vomited the news to her. She looked powerless, there was nothing she could do! Asiepet’s father had ‘after much thought’ decided to marry her off to a rich old man whose boma was just across the river. It was either these news or the smoke that now stung like teargas, that caused tears to stream effortlessly down her puffy cheeks. All her dreams were shattered and scattered on the floor with these news. Ash had always dreamt of making it big. Leaving home and going to work in the big city. She had always clung onto dreams of driving a posh car and living in a house with a bedroom upstairs. All that gone with the wind. Ash didn’t even notice when her mum left perhaps also overcome with emotions. She wouldn’t dare object to her husband. Those were different times. Ash went to bed directly, she suddenly had lost her appetite. Even the rag of a mattress that she cuddled in everyday felt itchy as if infested with bugs. She tossed and turned like her life depended on it.

All this while Samba had come back clean and shaven. He noticed Ash totally immersed in her thoughts and moved closer to her face until he could feel her breath. That is when she jumped up startled. ‘ Sorry baby, I never meant to stun you. You seemed very far, is anything the matter?’ inquired Samba looking very concerned. Before he could finish the question, Asiepet had marched into the washroom and closed the door behind her. Time waited for no man, they needed to beat the morning traffic! In a jiffy, they were both ready to leave their humble abode. The couple walked briskly to their family car looking, feeling, smelling like a million grand. To their utter naive dismay, the morning traffic jam had beat them to it. As sure as the sun,it presented itself as soon as they joined the highway. Bumper to bumper the vehicles assembled in a long unending line both sides of the road. They both resigned to the fate of arriving late at their respective jobs. The cars moved in hiccups and it became business as usual to switch off the engine. ‘That’s the city for us!’ Samba exclaimed as he reached forward and switched on the stereo. Some cool classic music rented the air and soothed the duo. He had noticed how preoccupied Ash seemed this morning. He let her be. She would talk when she was ready.

Asiepet escaped the traffic pandemonium with great ease, her thoughts teleported her to that morning after. Sleep was never forthcoming so the morning came ironically as a blessing. Even so, with the fact that the old mzee with whom she was allegedly betrothed to, would make a technical appearance in their compound. It wasn’t the official ‘handing over’ ceremony but moreso like a ‘view the prize’ visit. The old mzee was shamelessly early i bet lest anyone changes their mind. He walked with a limp that was magnified by an oversized coat burst out on its seams. His head was small and had scattered unkempt hair on the sides protruding from the ancient baseball hat he sported. What a sight to behold. Ash felt disgusted and wanted to throw up. She raced behind the kitchen. There it was! The shortcut that she had created for herself for going to school every morning. The path lay right in front of her, now for the taking. Yes, it was either that or go back to the house and exchange pleasantries with her soon-to-be husband. The choice was hers.

The sound of car horn sliced the air like a hot knife and brought her back to Samba. The jam had eased and he had weaved through the lanes that her offices were well in sight. ‘Have a good day dear,’ Ash whispered to Samba’s ear as she planted a well-deserved kiss on his lips. She opened the car door and made for the building’s entrance. Asiepet couldn’t help thinking that day she had made the right choice taking that path. That path had taken her to the school headmistress. The headmistress had taken her to the Commissioner. From there, her education had become unstoppable. She had become a force to reckon with from right then.