Pinks roses, baby's breath and yellow carnations in a cute little bow peep basket,
hand delivered by Jjuuko's Flower shop on Monday morning.
There's a tiny note attached from ever persistant Charles
'Mama' Helen the elderly receptionist smiles at Martha.
"Beauuuuuuuutiful!" she chuckles as she hands the basket over.
You don't seem excited?" she prys;
Twenty five year old Martha dashes up the polished marble stairs of the accounting firm,
balancing herself as best as she can in her purple pumps and a sleek black dress.
She is pleading with the universe to allow her safe passage to her desk unnoticed.
But the universe duly denies her request.
She bumps into Agnes on the second floor.
"Have you seen Kirabo, I need her input for these PSA messages? Oooooo... those look lovely,
Bambi enjoy it," She romantically sighs, "once you are married
those things stop happening."
At her desk, Martha quickly glances at the note, before hiding the flowers
in the cabinet.
Charles must have copied a line from brainyquote.com
He calls at lunch time.
On their first date he told her,
“When I see something I want, I just have to get it!”
He never beats around the bush.
"Did you get the flowers? You're not replying my whatsapp messages."
"Oh sorry, been busy all morning, not had time to check my phone" she lies.
There is a long pause
She can feel his stifled disappointment through the phone.
"Thank you!" She says, trying to sound upbeat.
Her eyes quickly run through his fifteen unread messages on her phone.
The skin around her nails is pink and distressed from her picking them throughout the morning
A teeny bubble of dried blood has formed at the base of her middle finger nail.
"Listen...I'll call you in the evening. Thank you so much once again," she hangs up.
"Shouldn't I feel something for Charles?" She wonders.
But she feels nothing
There is nothing in the pit of her stomach.
If she marries Charles their lives are set.
Jobs, money, houses, their off spring in the right schools etc...
Her Ssenga introduced him to her in January at a kwanjula.
The son of her wealthy connected best friend.
"A match made in heaven for you Martha,
He may not be handsome,
but he's responsible and reliable and that is what counts in marriage these days.
Don't be like me Child...
For the fifth night in a row your father isn't home,
I am alone,
scrambling for school fees for your brother in this God-forsaken economy. "
scrambling for school fees for your brother in this God-forsaken economy. "
Her mother reminds her on her return home in the evening.
“Martha, are you going to have tea? The flask is on the table.”
“No…Let me go shower.”
Martha leaves the flowers on the kitchen table.
On Tuesday she asks Ben to give her a lift home.
She is too exhausted to struggle with public transport this evening
He cheerfully waits in the parking lot in a turquoise Hipsum
As she enters the car from the passenger side,
He grabs his tattered dairy and a stack of old newspapers from the seat,
then stuffs them in the back.
“Wait!” he panics while dusting off some crumbs from yesterday’s meat pie
“But Ben, why is it so hard for you clean your car?” Martha teases.
A friend since her university days, she trusts him with her whole self.
He is book smart, with a heart of gold, a very rare combination for an african male, according Martha’s youthful opinion
Last Sunday morning after church service he surprised her by making it clear that he wants more.
As they drive, he sings along and taps his hands on the steering wheel in time to the music,
After one hour of crawling through Kampala traffic, bumper to bumper,
He gives her a mars bar from a Shoprite shopping bag.
Ben’s sweet tooth never lets him move anywhere without a treat nearby.
"What are you doing on Saturday? Come with us to Entebbe.
A friend of mind is opening a new restaurant."
"Maybe...I'll let you know." She says while scanning through her messages.
Another hour passes before they finally reach her home.
She is saddened by her relief to see the gate.
The lighthearted friendly banter between them
forever changed by that Sunday morning conversation.
"I'll text you." he says
"okay...thanks for the lift, safe journey home" she replies.
But there is nothing there for him too.
Nothing in the pit of her stomach.
Her Mother is peering from the window
"You'll have to choose soon, you can't keep stringing them along."
Her mother secretly likes Ben, but Ssenga persuaded her Charles is best.
"Sure" Martha's says as she scampers up the stairs to avoid another lecture.
“You’re not having tea today as well? You children think I just buy milk and sugar like decorations for the house.”
"I have finally seen more land I want to buy." Moses proudly announces.
Sharing a double Chocolate Fudge Obsession desert with Martha at Java's Cafe Kampala Road
It's Friday evening. Every young person of age is looking for the ultimate party plot.
Moses knows and has access to all of them.
His mobile phones are neatly laid out on the table as they eat.
Every now and then one buzzes and he interrupts himself to pick up and close a deal.
They interned in the same law firm two years ago.
Both assigned to record keeping,
They would laugh & joke their way through the long hours of strenuous paperwork.
Martha is wearing ruby woo mac lipstick which complements her complexion,
Because Moses has always liked shinny things.
An inside joke between them.
She stuffs her mouth with dessert so he won't expect much talk from her.
But he never has, a peacock in a flashy suit that loves the sound of his own voice.
"I have a brother coming from the States, would you like anything?
How about a new phone? An iphone would be good for you."
She starts to reply, but the sticky fudge has caught her tongue
and all the words she had, are jumbled up stuck at the ceiling of her mouth
Last month he casually informed her that it made logically sense for them to date.
"You're not fussy and needy like other women, I need someone level headed like you,
it can work out well for us. Just think about it."
The fudge loosens it's grip on her tongue.
But the words have all gone.
She feels nothing for him.
Nothing in the pit of her stomach
He drops her home in his silver Benz at midnight.
She doesn't want to go to the new Snap vodka launch at Club Rouge.
As usual, her Mother is waiting for her in the sitting room.
"Where did he get the money to buy that swanky car?" she asks.
"I don't know." Martha replies the smell of sweet fudge tangled in her breath.
"Those are the dangerous ones, the Police will come in the night
and snatch him away as you breastfeed your newborn.
Is that the life you want for yourself?"
At 1.00 am Martha is seated on the edge of her bed
The house is quiet, everyone has gone to sleep
She welcomes the silence
She knows where her heart is.
It's six feet under concrete, buried with the body of Alan.
Her eyes glazed she remembers,
the first time they met at Malcolm's .
It is where all the students went on Fridays after lectures.
His hair was freshly cut
His beard was neatly shaven
Tanya her university room mate introduced them.
Their eyes locked
She was whooped, and pleasantly annoyed by the cliche of love at first sight
"Oh my God, it's true!" she thought.
The intensity of his stare made her shy, as if naked
and deep down in the pit of her stomach
a spark ignited, sending warmth all over her body.
Afterwards on their many dates & shallow lovers' tiffs,
delirious and isolated in the magic bubble of infatuation
They planned their lives together
What careers they'd create..
The home they would build together...
The number of kids they'd bear...
"Five!" He'd tease her "Maybe even seven!"
"We cannot afford that much school fees!" she'd huff and fold her arms,
pretending she didn't want to be touched.
But her body would always betray her.
A year and half later from the day they met, his sister Anne called at 1.00 am.
Rubbing sleep from her eyes " Hi Lover", she joyfully answered,
thinking it was Alan calling to wish her goodnight.
If he didn't have credit on his phone, he used his sibling's .
Expecting his smooth tenor voice, she was startled into sitting upright in bed by squealing.
Was he still at the club?
Had Anne pocket dialed her by mistake?
Then she recognized the animal like squeals were cries of shock, grief and denial
All mixed in one.
And the bubble was burst.
Stark reality came flooding through...
In between Anne's uncontrolled sobs, Martha heard words her heart refused to swallow
"He's dead....He's gone....
knocked....knocked off a boda boda
Why did he take one Martha?
We told him not too...
We told him NOT TOO.
His body is cold Martha,
His body is so cold!"