Jabali's Redemption - Episode 8
Jabali was a man of few words. Neema concluded.
For the past one week she could count the number of times he had talked to her. Aside from telling her to secure her seat belt and a good night when dropping her home, he didn’t say much.
He always came in at around eight thirty at night at the restaurant and ordered kahawa tungu before settling in to his work. Recently he had been carrying a small laptop and some papers . He would concentrate on whatever he was doing until she closed up the restaurant. Then he would drop her home in his jeep. He didn’t complain when she worked in late and delayed him. Ma. Zainab didn’t mind him around as long as he eat and paid. Lulu kept on gashing about his good looks and how lucky Neema was to score such a handsome boyfriend. Neema got tired of correcting her assumptions.
Lulu also insisted that Naiti would probably kill Jabali if he found out he was talking to Neema.
‘As if,’ Neema replied flippantly to his friend, ‘they are no longer enemies, surely. How many years have passed since they last fought?’
‘Am just saying, Naiti will be furious if he finds out you two are frolicking together at night,’ Lulu shrug her slender shoulders.
‘We are not frolicking,’ Neema spat out, ‘he just gives me a lift home whenever am in a jam,’
‘Neema you have been in a jam for a week now,’ Lulu gave her best friend the ‘duh’ look and Neema swallowed back a retort.
Though he didn’t say much Neema enjoyed her rides with Jabali. They shared a companionable silence
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. Most of the time she would be sleeping by the time they got home, lulled into sleep by the relaxing reggae music he was so fond of.
‘You two better get moving or else…’ Ma. Zainab pocked her head outside the kitchen at them. Giving both of the stink eye. Neema scampered quickly to the cashier table.
Later that day in the mid-day Naiti came in with Majid. Neema wondered why the two of them would be together.
‘Neema the beautiful, I have come back,’ Majid began in his obnoxious voice after they had taken their seats. The scent from his unwashed body sent her reeling back. Why couldn’t he take a shower?
‘Hey stop it, that is my sister,’ Naiti admonished him, clearly not entertaining Majid’s jokes. Neema picked up a menu and walked towards them.
‘Neema is your sister?’ Majid asked completely ignoring Naiti’s cold reprimand. ‘Then you can help me convince her to accept my advances,’
‘Never,’ Naiti sternly answered now let us get down to business,’ Naiti cut him down and Majid pouted for a second before turning his leering gaze back to her. Flashing her his yellow teeth.
‘I will have the normal,’ Naiti made an order and Majid reluctantly did too. Neema shuddered at the malicious look Majid sent her brother. Something about Majid was evil, she internally shuddered. What was her brother doing with the smuggler?
Naiti looked behind Neema towards the cashier desk. She turned to see Lulu darting back into the kitchen quickly. What was that?
After taking their orders she turned and walked back to the kitchen, where Lulu was busy scrubbing plates.
‘Neema you didn’t tell me Naiti will be coming in today,’ Lulu didn’t raise her head from the large sink as she posed the question
‘I didn’t know. Am actually surprised to see him here, with Majid of all people,’ Neema replied piling food on top of plates.
Neema served her brother and Majid who talked is silent tones but went quiet when she approached them.
They completed their meal but before they left Naiti questioned her,
‘The boda I hired to pick you up in the evening told me that he always comes around after you have left?’
Neema composed her face. Naiti was good at reading emotions and if by any chance he found out she was lying, she would be in big trouble.
‘I walk home with Lulu, the boda always comes in late,’ Neema answered holding his gaze steadily hoping he would buy her story. Lulu would definitely stand up for her. Neema didn’t doubt that.
‘I don’t know Neema, it not safe for you to walk this late at night, not for you or Lulu,’ he threw another glance towards the kitchen,
‘We are doing fine Naiti stop worrying,’ Neema knew Naiti worried for her. He was against her working at the restaurant for a long time, he insisted she stay back at home as he worked to provide for the family. Neema knew that his brother was struggling to make ends meet. She was not about to let him do all of that alone. She could help whenever possible.
‘I will hire another one to come in at exactly nine o’clock. Don’t you walk on the dark alone…nor Lulu,’ he added before joining Majid outside.
Lulu took that chance to appear, ‘did he leave?’ she looked towards the entrance.
‘Yes, after giving orders,’ Neema rolled her eyes.
‘Thank God,’ Lulu sighed and Neema could not help but notice her friend was behaving in a very strange way. Since when did Lulu start avoiding Naiti? They had all practically grown up together.
The clock hit 9.00 pm that night but Jabali hadn’t shown up. Neema sighed and busies herself closing up. He was a Good Samaritan helping her out that didn’t mean he was obligated to pick her up every night, she told herself wrapping a scarf around her neck to prevent the cold from freezing her to death. That didn’t stop her from missing him. She had grown attached to him.
She locked down the door and turned to the dark night. Rain drizzled slowly, the hairs on her back stood on end when she felt someone looking at her. She turned sharply to see a shadow larking in the dark staring at her. Neema felt her heart missing a beat. Who was that?
Suddenly the headlights of Jabali’s jeep reflected the restaurant door where she was standing. He parked and came out. Neema let out a sigh of relief. She looked back at the shadow but nobody was around.
‘Why are you standing here alone?’ he jogged towards her a black hood on top of his head. ‘It’s not safe for you out here alone Neema why don’t you understand that?’ he removed the hood and shook his jumper to remove the rain water, Neema held her breath as she watched him. Part of his hard stomach was exposed when he removed the wet garment. His stomach was toned and his muscles flexed, Neema bit her lower lip.
‘Neema are you okay?’ he raised his eyebrows at her quizzically and Neema realized she had been staring.
‘I am fine,’ she corrected herself praying she wouldn’t choke on her on her own saliva. He looked so good.
‘Then come on, we don’t have to wait here in the rain,’ covering both their heads with the hood, he walked her towards the car. Being close to him was wreaking havoc to her mental state. He had a woodsy spicy scent that was intoxicating and being pressed so close to his hard body was making her shiver, and not from the cold.
For the past week since he had employed herself as her designated driver, he had maintained a respectable distance from her but now it had changed. Neema was not complaining. She told herself she would have time to analyze all of her feelings later. Right now, she would just enjoy. Enjoy Jabali’s warmth.
He opened the door to the jeep which a she had come realize that it was a raised vehicle. She cursed her shortness and raised her leg to climb over but Jabali was already onto her. He picked her up and dropped her unto her seat. The heat from his hands burned through the fabric of her cloth and into her skin. Branding her, marking her. Neema felt light headed.
It did not help matters that he didn’t let her go immediately and his hands stayed on her waist for a second longer.
The atmosphere suddenly changed. The drizzling rain became distant like a serenade for both of them.
Neema avoided Jabali’s gaze, she focused on the way the rain drops were soaked by his white cotton shirt. The shirt hang on his body like a banana peels, showing the muscular contours and dents.
‘Neema,’ Jabali whispered, his voice deep Neema slowly raised her eyes to his dark eyes,’ you can let go now,’ a small smile was on his lips.
‘Oh… sure,’ Neema looked at how her hands had fisted his shirt at the waist, she was he one holding tight to him. Realizing her mistake, she quickly let go and looked away in embarrassment. What was wrong with her?
Jabali only chuckled and locked the door after she settled in. he then jogged to the driver’s side and jumped in the car.
Neema burned with embarrassment as he drove off.
‘Who was that?’ Naiti pounced on her in the dark sitting room and Neema squealed in fright. What was he doing hiding out in the dark? It seemed like he had ambushed her.
‘Naiti you scared me,’ she held her hand close to her chest trying to calm her thudding heart. Neema was not ready to answer the question.
‘I have been told that you have been getting lifts from a man with a big car but I didn’t believe it. Tell me Neema who was that?’ he insisted having switched on the light on the wall.
‘A friend, don’t worry about it,’ she defiantly answered but also knew that Naiti won’t let her go that easily.
‘A friend huh? Jabali Kasri is your friend? Since when?’ Naiti revealed and Neema felt air leave her for a second. She was so busted.
‘If you are not going to open your mouth I swear to God Neema I will slap you. Since when are you friends with Jabali,’ Naiti threatened her to make her talk. Naiti had never hit her but Neema didn’t want to push her luck today. He brother was like a raging bull.
Neema only hoped that they wouldn’t wake up her younger brother and mother.
‘He offered to drop me home…’ Neema started but Naiti cut her short.
‘Oh, Neema how can you be so naïve, you think he likes you?’ Naiti pinched the bridge across his nose and closed his eyes as if to ward of a headache.
‘I…I dint say that…’
‘You are a grown-up girl now, of course men will take interest of you but the like of Jabali only want one thing,’ Naiti held her by the shoulders and looked her direct in the eye, ‘Jabali is only after your body. Nothing else, stop building castles in the air Neema,’
‘That is not true,’ she shook his hands off her shoulders, his words were cutting deeper than he knew.
‘Did he tell you that he likes you?’ Jabali asked and Neema remained mum. Tears threatening to fall.
‘Of course, he didn’t.’ Naiti concluded noticing her silence, ‘Neema you have to be careful. The likes of Jabali use naïve girls like you to amuse themselves before they move on to the next person.’
Neema’s tears dropped and she wondered why Naiti was saying those cruel things at her.
‘That is not true…’
‘I am a man Neema. I am telling the truth. Staying away from Jabali is the best thing that you can ever do right now. He will break your heart and leave you alone. Don’t be stubborn and stay away from him,’
Naiti then walked off to his bedroom. Leaving Neema crying silently alone in the sitting room.
She wondered if Naiti’s words were true. Was she reading too much into Jabali’s assistance? Did he want something more? She tried to recall any indication that he was interested in her but apart from dropping her home late in the night and the small encounter they had had in the evening, nothing else. Maybe Naiti was right, she was building castles in the air and she should stop. Why would Jabali be interested in her? She was a daughter of the town’s drunkard who mysteriously disappeared and he was the educated son of the mighty Mzee Kasri. They came from different walks of life.
Neema felt her heart breaking, she thought she stood a chance with Jabali but it all seemed like a dream now. A good dream that had come to an end. She was supposed to wake up and face the reality.
Neema got home quickly to pick up her mother so that they could go to the police station and pick up her brother from remand.
To her surprise she found Ngao home already, sitting on the front seat of the house with their mother fussing over him. He saw her approaching and jumped to his feet. Neema was still in amazement at how much her brother had grown. Now taller than her but on the thinner side. He appeared to have led a rough life.
‘Neema this is good news, Officer Mukabi just dropped him off a few minutes ago. How did you manage to convince Jabali to let Ngao go?’
‘Yes, how did you do it Neema?’ Ngao chimed in standing up .both mama and Ngao looked at her expectantly. She sighed and decided to come out clean.
‘Ngao as part of the agreement I made with Jabali, you are still in probation. If you are found anywhere near his property causing trouble, he has the right to prosecute you…,’ Neema trailed off
‘Is that it?’ mama asked.
‘No that is not all mama. I have to work for Jabali to pay up that debt,’
‘What? You can’t work for that man, Neema,’’ Ngao went ballistic throwing his hands up in the air and walking round in circles.
‘Neema,’ mama started
‘This was the best solution I could come up with which would work so Ngao I will need you to behave. I don’t know if I could help you out the second time.’ All this time Neema avoided her mother’s concerned gaze. She focused entirely on her erratic brother.
‘Jabali killed Naiti and…’
‘Stop right there, that has nothing to do with you young man.
Read " The Dancing Bride And Her Spirit Warrior " by the same author ( Razia Iminza )
. You better do what your sister is telling you or else it is me you will be facing,’ mama admonished Ngao and Neema felt relief. Ngao needed a strong hand to be dealt with or else he would end up in trouble.
‘Now thank your sister from stopping you from landing in a juvenile detention,’ mama ordered him
‘Thank you Neema,’ he mumbled silently but Neema could see sincerity in his eyes, he then stalked inside the house.
‘Neema…’ mama started.
‘I told you it would be fine mama,’ Neema took her mother’s hands, ‘we now have to keep Ngao far away from Jabali. That’s all,’
‘Neema, you are you fine? Am sure seeing Jabali again after such a long time is tough, you two have history together,’
As far as Neema knew, mama didn’t know about her past relationship with Jabali and that is if you could call it a relationship. The history she was talking about was that of Naiti’s murder trial.
‘You two have to work together. I hope you will be at least in different department,’
‘No I will be his personal secretary,’ Neema revealed
‘But what about your job in the city?’
‘I was laid off mama. The company was undergoing through tough times,’ she explained and her mother nodded her head in understanding.
‘Then why didn’t you say anything or better yet come home? Why choose to stay there when facing all these problems alone? You have a family Neema, don’t keep everything inside. You can talk to me anytime about anything,’ mama embraced her and Neema felt a tear drop from her eye. It had been so long she had talked to her mama. Maybe it was a good thing she was home for good. She had missed her connection with her mother and brother.
Another chapter for you.
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