Julia. That was her name; a name smooth to the tongue. The name she gave me when I first moved next door. Not mama Boyie, as the other neighbours called her, just Julia to me.

That night I came in early from work, did a few things and settled down to making supper. I had just discovered a food blog and was making Baked Greek Chicken Meatballs with Tzatziki for the night. Ok, I just played with your mind there. That is a recipe for another day and definitely for another kitchen. I was making githeri from mama Anita’s Kiosk.

Soon as I sat down with my supper, Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes and some country music I heard raised voices. I put the music on mute, put my book down and listened. Then I heard Julia’s distinctive voice and the husband. They were arguing about something. They went on for a while; I got bored and went back to my reading.

Boom!!! I heard a thud, then another, then another…

I held my breath, heard a thud and my heart racing against my shirt. Then a shrill scream tore through my ears. That must be boyie. The voices grew louder with every thud and so did the scream. I started thinking. Should I go see what is happening or should I wait. Should this turn into a police case what will the immediate neighbor-me- have to say?

I would like to say I was the brave one. I got out, my most serious face on and knocked on that door to try offer help. But I did not. I lived through the beatings, the animated arguments and the child crying. Then it all stopped and an uncomfortable silence engulfed us. I stayed up late thinking of men who hit women and what could possibly make them do that.

The next morning I woke up early and made some lemon pancakes with a recipe I got from the food blog. I packed them nicely in a paper towel lined bowl and knocked on Julia’s door. She welcomed me with a warm smile. I was looking for a broken hand or a swollen eye; I found neither.

As I handed her the pancakes I whispered “I am so sorry, if you want I can tweet FIDA Kenya for you” She looked at me, through me…I don’t know. She did not for a second understand what I was saying. I turned to leave and came face to face with a battered face, swollen, bloody and pained. Julia’s husband stood before me…I feel like I am still standing before him.

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