When Tony Masinde wrote her a note that said: “I want to do it with you”, she quickly ran home to her mother after school and reported that Tony Masinde wanted to do bad things with her.

Bad things may have been ambiguous to an untrained ear, or perhaps to the village women (whose entire wealth of the English vocabulary centered on  the word “Good morning”, and even that came out like the lyrics to a Bukusu song )but not to Mama Sofia’s ears. Mama Sofia had been to secondary school, taught by white nuns who, among other things, taught them to speak English right. Mama Sofia’s ears puckered when she heard this and her consternation grew when she saw the accompanying diagrams of two desperately thin matchstick figures humping away at each other’s body’s with such vigor, passion concentration that even the amateurish, childlike strokes could not hide the action. Mama Sofia’s color changed to a less dark shade of her original color, as it often did when she got upset.

Sofia, ten years old and accustomed to being seen more than heard, stared at her mother from beneath her lashes.

Mama Sofia stared at her child and wondered when her little girl had turned into an object to be desired.

She thought:

“I should have had a boy. Boys do not grow breasts. Breasts are trouble.”

She said:

“Go to bed, tomorrow we shall go to school together.”

***

Several things occurred to Mama Sofia on her way to school the next day. It occurred to her that she would be late for choir practice again today. It occurred to her that she needed a new dress for Easter celebrations. It occurred to her that she would need to buy new material for the dress. It occurred to her that she would have to be extra nice to Mudegi her husband that night so he could give her some of his savings. Her thoughts drifted back to her daughter, to the day she had her…

December, the twenty-second day. She remembered the day well. That was the day Mirenja was supposed to make her hair in readiness for Christmas celebrations. Sofia came early. It was not her time yet. It occurred to her that Sofia had a knack for interrupting her plans.

Mudegi was not with her when the labor pains started. He was not with her when they looked for the wheelbarrow to take her to hospital. Mudegi was not there to see her face turn gray when they told her it was a girl- an extremely tiny, extremely wrinkled baby who, she realized years later, would never pass for a boy no matter what she wore or how short her hair was. Her features were far too delicate.

***

Mr.Obala, the discipline master, was waiting for them when they arrived. Word had already gotten to him and he was brandishing a whip in the right hand and the criminal, Tony Masinde himself in the other. The note changed hands.Mr Obanda grimaced as he soaked in the sheer luridness of the note. He handed the cane to Mama Sofia. He wanted her to have the honor of being the first one to beat the foolish thoughts out of Tony Masinde.

Finally he took his turn to give Tony Masinde one of his famous “snake beatings”-Blows to the head, while questioning the boy’s intentions:

“What were you planning to do after you got her naked? Do you even know what to do with that instrument?

Tony Masinde knew in his ten year old wisdom knew not to answer.

Mama Sofia said:

“I am running late for choir practice,” and left.

***

Tony Masinde’ revenge came in the form of day old shit deposited in Sofia’s desk the next day. He paid that boy Waiaula two shillings to shit in her desk that evening.

***

Tony Masinde was not the only man that had noticed Sofia’s chest. Mr. Walingilo, the class teacher, would call Sofia every day after class to the back of the class and feel the tiny lumps in her chest. Every day. He said her name was beautiful. He said she was beautiful. He listened to her. He asked her what punishment she thought was best for naughty students. He told her she was beautiful. He told her he wanted her. He told her she could visit him whenever she wanted. He wanted to do bad things with her. She couldn’t tell mother. If she told mother, she would ask Mr.Obala to give Mr.Waingilo a snake’s beating. She couldn’t let mother know. Besides, Mr.Walingilo loved her, see?

 

© Faith Oneya