Jabali's Redemption - Episode 24
Neema breathed in the fresh air of the mountain as she gazed outside the car window as it raced up the mountain. The chilly air helped the clear her thoughts and Neema needed her head clear for the uphill task ahead of her.
Beside her Jabali was talking low on his phone.
‘Yes, we are almost there, is everything ready?’ Neema was sure he was talking about the home that they were going to occupy. She turned her head back outside and closed her eyes.
‘Neema you will catch a cold,’ Jabali placed his hand on her shoulders, his warm palm casting away the cold chill away, she shrugged him away and closed the window, leaning back on the comfy seat . She didn’t glance his way.
Jabali sighed, ‘Neema…’ he began, ‘you have to talk to me at some point. We are going to be spending much time together,’
That was the problem.
Earlier that morning Jabali had surprised her whole household by knocking on there door at dawn. Her mama had answered the door with a panga (machete) in her hand and she had nearly took a swing at Jabali had it not been for Jabali’s quick reflexes. Neema chuckled remembering her mama’s reaction and Jabali visible horror. She could not blame her mama; the mysterious car had stopped making rounds in front of their compound but they couldn’t be so sure
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. Her mama was taking all precautions.
‘Jabali, I could have cut you,’ mama exclaimed lowering the panga. ‘what are you doing here so early in the morning?’ her mama asked as Neema was making her way groggily in the siting room, yawning and wondering what all the chaos was about. She stopped shot seeing her mama and Jabali.
‘Jabali?’ his attention turned from her mama to her and Neema could feel his scorching gaze on her body. Though she was dressed in a decent night dress, his gaze managed to burn through the flimsy material. She fidgeted where she stood.
Jabali cleared his throat when her mama repeated the question, ‘I came to pay you a visit,’ he focused all his attention to mama again, ‘I am sorry to wake you up so early in the morning,’
‘This is a very unlikely time to visit your in laws but come in, we have a lot to discuss,’ mama opened the door wider, ‘Neema prepare my son in law some tea,’
Both Jabali and Neema looked at mama in astonishment,
‘What? Are you not my son in law?’ mama pointed the question to Jabali, ‘and you are you not his wife?’ the question was for Neema,
‘Mama, I have to apologize for…’ Jabali trailed off and cast a glance at Neema,
‘I don’t need your apologies Jabali,’ mama put her hand up to stop Jabali, ‘I want your assurance that you will take care of my daughter,’
‘You have my assurance,’
‘Good, now come in and let’s have a talk. Neema,’ mama turned on Neema who was not moving, ‘go get us some tea. I will have a talk with Jabali,’
Neema found her way to the kitchen though all the while, her ears strained to hear what her mama and Jabali were discussing. Their voices were low and all Neema could hear was Jabali deep rumbles as he acknowledged whatever her mama was saying. She willed the tea to bubble fast so that she could go back to the sitting room where the supposed talk was taking place.
She hurriedly ran back to the bedroom and found a leso which she hurriedly wrapped under her arms. Preparing the tea cups and arranging them in saucers, she hurried to take the tea to Jabali and her mama.
‘…Neema, Jabali is telling me, he is here to pick you up to take you to your new home,’ mama said the moment Neema was placing the tea tray down on the table. Neema tried to steady her trembling fingers. Jabali seemed to notice and he took hold of the tray before it crashed down on the old wooden table. His other hand reached for her wrist, steadying her. Neema snatched her hand away as if scorched by his touch.
‘Um…mama,’ Neema started, she wanted to object, she wasn’t ready to move in with him, not now. Neema needed more time to adjust to being his wife. Surely her mama would see this.
Jabali ignored her reaction and reached for her, pulling her down to his side on the long sofa adjacent to her mama’s single chair. Neema tried to ignore him but his scent engulfed her, the spicy cologne and another underlying male musk totally unique to him. Purely Jabali’s. She tried not to squirm in front of her mama, who was eyeing them with hawk eyes.
‘You two have my blessings, Neema listen to your husband and Jabali be patient with her,’ mama concentrated on pouring tea into the dainty tea cups Neema had brought.
‘Thank you, mama,’ Jabali received the cup mama extended to him then she stood up,
‘My back is not as strong as it used to be, I have to go back to bed.’ Neema’s jaw dropped as she watched her mama faking back pains.
Jabali chuckled sipping his tea as mama disappeared, then they were left alone.
‘What are you doing here?’ she turned to him as soon as her mama was out of ear shot, he was dressed in all black, huge black coat and black trousers with boots on his legs. He seemed to fill up the obviously large sitting room.
‘I came to pick you up,’ he raised an eyebrow at her as if he didn’t understand how she could ask such a question,
In the spur of the next few hours she spent time packing her merger belonging, she didn’t have much but she wanted to delay her departure as much as possible. Jabali told her that her work on the company had been terminated. She was no longer going to work in the company. Neema was practically relieved she didn’t have to face her former colleagues and have to lie about her sham of marriage.
On the other hand, Neema wondered what she was going to do. For the first time in her life, she didn’t have anything to do. Being used to work and being busy Neema was lost but Jabali came up with a solution,
‘You should continue writing,’ he suggested when he saw her lost in thought,
‘Writing?’ Neema couldn’t believe that Jabali remembered her passion from all those years ago. She loved writing poems and short stories. Under her bed she had a small diary that her mama had purchased on a second-hand diary for her when she was in high school. Neema had filled the book with all sorts of stories and poems. She had won several awards in school for being the best composition writers and other creative writing projects. Her ultimate dream was to publish her writings but Neema realized earlier enough that writing doesn’t pay bills or put Ngao through school.
‘Yes, writing, Ripples, was your favorite poem, right,’ Neema could only look at him with eyes as wide as saucers, Jabali didn’t look as much surprised. The corners of his mouth rose in a half smile at her surprised face.
She had written Ripples after she met him. Secretly, she had dedicated the poem to him but she never let him read it, how he knew was still a mystery. He knew she liked to write but she had been reluctant to show him her work in the past.
‘It has been a long time since I wrote,’ she shook her head and turned away from him. She wouldn’t be charmed by his smile, Jabali was a green snake in the proverbial green grass ‘I don’t think I have the talent to write anymore,’
‘That is because you haven’t tried it again,’ Jabali countered searching her gaze,
‘We are here boss,’ the driver stopped the car outside the tall iron wrought gates and dragging Neema from her head, he pressed the bell and the gates opened exposing the mansion that Neema thought she wouldn’t see again.
Sensing her apprehension, Jabali took her sweaty palm in his warm and dry one, squeezing it gently, ‘we will go through this together,’
Neema knew that Jabali also had demons he was facing inside the huge house. He had been staying in the town house and didn’t venture much into the mountain mansion. Mzee Kasri was a hard man, Neema had seen that first hand how he treated Jabali more like an outcast than his own son. Jabali was like a back up for his son Rashid, Mzee Kasri’s estranged son. Neema wondered why Jabali never sold the home and start somewhere else. She would have moved out of that house a long time ago but then she was not as strong as Jabali. At the first sign of despair she had left her hometown to go hide out in the city. Jabali had stayed and face his demons.
The car slowed down as it approached the huge fountain in front of the house. The gravel driveway was surrounded by gardens which had lamp shades strategically set. The gardens were maintained by an old grounds man who waved at the car when it passed by him. He dropped his shovel and ran after the car. Clearly, he was excited to see Jabali.
The car came to a full stop in front of the house and stopped. Jabali came out and Neema tried to calm her flip flopping stomach as he came around and opened the door for her. In front of the house three ladies stood dressed in maids’ uniform, trying to peer inside the house, most likely anxious to get a look at her. Neema didn’t know the house had so many servants.
‘Remember you are the Mrs. Kasri now,’ Jabali whispered when he took her hand and helped her outside the car.
‘You are spending so much time with Mzee Kadiri’s girl.’ Mzee Kasri deceptively low voice slowly rumbled through the study room inside his mansion. The room was directly under the staircase.
‘That has nothing to do with my performance in the company,’ Jabali countered, he didn’t like it that his father was going after Neema. Mzee Kasri required Jabali to present his performance appraisal form every week so that he could monitor him. Jabali’s supervisor was a very strict no-nonsense person who monitored Jabali’s work inside the company. He reported directly to Mzee Kasri.
‘Your supervisor says here, you are spending much of your entire afternoon outside the office,’ Mzee Kasri’s keen eyes schemed through the weekly progress report from Jabali’s supervisor. He turned his sharp eye to his son, ‘I suppose you go to see her? Is her name Neema or something?’
‘I only leave the office when I finish my assignments for the day and I go out to inspect the tea estates.’
‘Lies,’ the old man palmed his hand down, squishing the report under his hand, Jabali didn’t even flinch. It had been years since his father scared him, he returned the unwavering gaze at his father, the same cold gaze that was staring back at him. How could they be so much alike than different? They were the same height, same built though his father was older, and Jabali younger. Seeing his father’s younger photos, Jabali and Mzee Kasri could be twins. They even shared the same intense eyes.
‘I don’t know why you go around sniffing that girl, her brother is trouble, her father was trouble and the whole family is one big mess. Keep off her. I didn’t send you to the city so that you can come back and chase local skirts.’
Jabali couldn’t stand his father bad mouthing Neema so he stood up abruptly, ‘I believe this meeting is over,’
‘Don’t you antagonize me Jabali,’ Mzee Kasri coldly put, ‘you wont like it. Without me you have nothing, am doing you a favor by taking you in and putting clothes in your back,’
Jabali released a cold laugh, ‘it’s been so long since your threats have had a result on me Mzee Kasri, you are an old frail man now. A dog that has lost its bark. You need me more than I need you,’
Mzee Kasri’s lips turned into a cynical smile, ‘Careful Jabali, don’t forget your place. Don’t let this girl go into your head, end this relationship before I do,’
‘My place?’ Jabali scoffed,
‘Yes, your place, looking at you am reminded of a foolish mistake I made on my younger days. you are only here because your mama blackmailed me and nothing else,’
‘Yet we are here, am working my back off for you,’ Jabali released a cruel laugh that didn’t reach his cold eyes,’ don’t use the blackmail story, its becoming old. You need me because your good for nothing son can’t replace you in the company. You are old and frail and am your blood. Am the most eligible person to succeed you. You have no choice,’
He didn’t wait for Mzee Kasri to answer he turned and walked out of the room. he needed to go out or else he would have punched the old man directly in the face. How dare he threaten Neema? Jabali hardly stood up to his father, but this time the old man had pushed the boundaries.
Outside the hall, he took a deep breath and punched the wall. His skin broke and knuckles bled but Jabali didn’t feel the pain in fact he welcomed it.
‘Tsk tsk baba has finally cracked through you. You who is so tough, so strong,’ Rashid’s cool voice made Jabali turn around. He was leaning against the staircase without his shirt on and a hazy look on his eyes.
‘You are as high as a kite, go sleep it off,’ Jabali brushed against him on his way out. He wasn’t in the mood for Rashid’s theatrics.
Rashid just laughed his head off, confirming Jabali’s suspicion, he was intoxicated. Like always. Jabali could count the fingers in his one hand the number of times Rashid had been sober.
‘Don’t let baba get to you. He has a way of breaking even the toughest of spirits.’ Rashid said when his laughter died, a dead look on his eyes making Jabali shudder.
Jabali shook his head to clear his thoughts and turned back to Neema who was smiling at the house helps who had lined up in front of them. He had hired them through an agency.
Read " The Dancing Bride And Her Spirit Warrior " by the same author ( Razia Iminza )
. One was a chef, one a housekeeper and the other would help with cleaning the monstrous house. A gardener completed the number of helps he had in the family home. Though he hardly stayed there, he needed someone to take care of the place.
He looked down at Neema’s smiling face and his heart blossomed. Maybe with her by his side, staying at the house wouldn’t bring up the bad memories. She would lighten up the dark corners.
‘Jabali,’ she called him, looking up at him drawing his attention. He realized he had been staring at her. Again. She looked at him with concern in her eyes and his heart swelled, Neema might try to ignore his as much as she wanted but her body reactions to him betrayed her every time. Without thinking twice, he pulled her to his side, marveling at how they fit. She stiffened at first but after a second, she relaxed against him.
Just like it was supposed to be all those years ago.
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