Lisa quickened her pace as the rain clouds began to gather in the sky. Just a while back, the sky had been post card perfect with the sun shining brightly. The blue beautiful majestic colors of the sky were now darkened into a gravel grey. Strong winds blew threatening to tear down anything on their path. By the time she reached the steps of her house, the first drops of rain had already caught up with her. She tightened the lose sweater around her neck. Something vibrated in her purse. It was her phone and it would have to wait.
The rain was already pouring intensely by now and the flashes of lightening accompanied by thunder were only making her more nervous. She reached in to her purse and scrambled to find her keys but she missed the grip every time. Her neighbor peeped from the window not wanting to attract her attention. Pretending she hadn’t seen her, she went on the mission of finding her keys. Pissed off with the rain that was beating on her as if it was seeking vengeance, she poured the contents of the bag on the wet floor and picked the keys. The landlord watched from the balcony of his house.
“Do you need help?” he asked.
Without looking his way, she mumbled something, opened the door and gathered her things in an unorderly manner.
The room was dark and she kicked a shoe on her way before reaching for the switch. She then changed out of her wet clothes dumping them on the chair in the far corner of the room. Dirty dishes from last night still soaked in the sink. She had been up and down the entire day and had not managed to do anything. So many times she had asked Joe to get her a house help but he would always dismiss the idea. He was still one of those African men who believed that a woman should take care of her own house and that house helps only made a woman lazy and rebellious. Most of her women folk in the neighborhood, who just sat in the house growing fat had maids attending to them. But not her.
Her eyes swept through the room. The single room was becoming stuffy and for some reason she was having difficulties breathing. She opened the window and went to lie on the bed. It was still pouring cats and dogs outside and she was not in the mood to do any work. From the bed she could hear her neighbor reprimanding her kids for apparently playing in the rain without giving a care about the money their father would use to take them to hospital if they fell ill.
“Crazy village woman,” she whispered to herself as she rolled her eyes and covered her ears with the pillow to muzzle the noise.
She had never liked the place or the neighbors. The way she saw it, she deserved to live in a palace or a posh bungalow with servants attending to her every need. She always considered herself more sophisticated than they were and for that reason she never liked to associate with any of them lest she contracted their witchy village ways and mentality. Her neighbors had learnt to keep it to themselves even when they passed each other on the corridors of the plot.
“Such a spoilt woman who behaves like everybody should bow down to her. She forgets that she can’t survive on her own.” They would always say behind her back. But Lisa knew she could survive. She had done it for so long and had never needed anything from any of them so such comments never took much of her time.
Whenever provoked she never failed to give her piece of mind throwing in a few useless insults about how she was way beyond their league. She had begged from time to time for Joe to move her to a different estate but he was adamant and he had a good reason for that. At that time they would have had to starve for him to afford her the kind of place she desired. A three bedroom house with constant supply of water and electricity was all she desired. A place she could even invite her family and friends to spend a few nights over. And not that she didn’t have water and electricity in the current house.
His work was not giving in much and though he loved her, he could not daunt on her the way she wanted. His parents had even suggested once that he should think about marrying another girl, preferably the neighbor’s spinster daughter who had been in love with him ever since they were in lower primary.
“That woman you married only cares about money and nothing else. You should have married a good woman, well-bred in our ways and who would submit to you like a wife should.”
Joe loved her and even though she had not managed to give him a child, he still considered her as much a woman as any other. Life had not been easy after the loss of their first child still in the womb. Lisa had changed and kept to herself most of the time. For several months she went back to her parents’ house owing to the fact that the house reminded her so much of her dead child. Joe had understood and allowed her the space she needed.
It was after four months that she came back. Joe wanted to try again but she could hear none of that.
“My child died because of the deplorable condition you’ve made me live in. Do you want me to lose another child, huh Joe?” She would always remind him wherever he brought up the topic.
After trying for so long to convince her to give it a try, he gave up when he realized that she was determined to change the course of her life and a child was not in the picture. To make her happy, he had moved her from the slum like dwellings they had lived to a better location which he thought would make her happy, but Lisa was the most difficult woman to please in the history of women.
One time it was the water that was dirty, the neighbors who annoyed her when they hanged their clothes too close to her house and even the neighbor’s children who played around aimlessly without a care in the world. At one time she even complained that the landlord was too nosy for her liking and her next door neighbor did things to rub it into her that her life was better than hers. The people in the estate had stopped asking too many questions and kept their opinions to themselves. You would only be attracting her wrath if you meddled in her affairs.
She was so bad, as they said that she never greeted anyone. At one time it was rumored that she had actually wrestled with the landlord when he came asking her to get rid of the muddy shoes that littered the outside of her house.
“We have a policy here of keeping the surroundings and the place you live as eco-friendly as possible.” He had said but before he could utter another word, she had pounced on him the way a leopard pounces on its prey. It was the neighbors who saved the poor man from her clutches.
The rain had stopped by now and only a few drops from the water that remained in the leaves dripped on the roof top. Pools of water lay here and there. Lisa stood up and walked to the window. The rain had found its way through the window and the dirty clothes were now soaked. Tiny streams of water ran from the outside down through the space between the floor and the door making their way into the house. She cursed and dragged the dirty rag with her foot to soak the water. The kids were already out as if the rain was a prison keeping them from playing outside. She looked around. The room was dark and she realized that the power had gone off.
She sighed and opened the window to allow the natural light to guide her way. The light was not good enough. She cursed.
She picked her phone to check the time. It was half past seven. There were five missed calls from Joe. She dialed his number and cursed loudly when the woman on the other end informed her that her airtime balance was too little to complete the call.
She sent a text to Joe asking him to send her credit ASAP. He did that after five minutes and she proceeded to call him.
“Hello love, I had missed you,” said the excited Joe on the other end.
“What time is it Joe? Where are you at this time?” she yelled.
“Honey, I’m just running a little late. The rain was too heavy…” She hang up before he could finish.
He was already close home. It was their fifth year anniversary and this time he wanted to make it up to her in the best way possible. He was looking to thank her in the most unforgettable way for the years she had given him as a wife and may be then; he hoped she would reconsider starting a family with him. Some of his age mates already had children who were in high school which made him feel as if he had missed out on a huge part of his life. He passed by the landlord’s house and gave him the remainder of the previous month’s rent.
“Your wife looked pale today. Is everything okay?” The landlord asked as soon as the money was in his hands.
“Yes everything is fine. I am sure she is just a bit worn out. You know how women can be. It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since she moved into my house with a belly swollen and expecting our first child.”
“It’s been that long? You are a strong man, my guy. Any other man would have kicked her out the very next day. But not you.”
“She was not always like that, you know. Losing our child took a toll on her, that’s why I tolerate her. And besides, what can I say, she is the love of my life and I couldn’t have asked for a better wife than her.”
“Just be careful my guy. That woman will drive you to an early grave one of these days. She is way worse nowadays than she ever was.”
“She has her days you know but I’ve a feeling that our lives are about to change.”
“I wish you the best my man. Let me hope she doesn’t kick you out with those flowers,” he said half-jokingly.
Joe said good bye and proceeded to his house. He was whistling to his all-time favorite “Islands in The Stream.” With the raise he had gotten, they would soon move to a better place – almost the sort of place Lisa always wanted to live.
He carefully knocked on the door but there was no answer and he figured that she might have fallen asleep. It was already a few minutes to nine anyway and she must have dozed off waiting for him. He was never that late returning home unless he had a very good reason and she knew it. He knocked again this time louder but still nothing. He dialed her number. He could hear the phone ring from the inside yet she never picked. He was beginning to get a little angry but he controlled himself.
“Lisa dear, open up. It me,” he called out but it was still as silent as a grave.
Their next door neighbor had now prepped her head through the window and was watching. Soon his knocks attracted the entire plot with some urging him to knock a little harder. He did but Lisa did not open.
“My guy she must be really pissed at you to want you to sleep outside,” the landlord retorted rubbing his back in an assuring manner.
Was she that angry with him for coming home late, he thought. He went around the house in the hope that he might convince her to open once she saw the banquet of flowers in his hands.
The window was open and the light from the neighbor’s security light revealed Lisa’s physique. She was lying carefully on the bed with her eyes closed. Blood dripped from her outstretched hands down her fingers dripping on the ground. The kitchen knife was still lodged in her chest.
He let out a sharp cry and someone kicked open the door. She had already turned cold as they switched on the light. He went inside and shook her but she was as cold as the night was. The landlord held him by the hand and led him outside as someone called the local police.
Enjoy also Absalom in case you haven’t read it yet.
Written by Lillyanne Gathoni