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Underneath these skirts, p.1
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       Underneath THESE Skirts, p.1

           Njoki wa Maitha
 
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Underneath THESE Skirts
UNDERNEATH

  these

  SKIRTS

  A novel by NJOKI wa MAITHA

  This novel is a work of fiction. All of the names and characters in this book are the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is utterly coincidental.

  Njoki wa Maitha asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

  Copyright © 2014 by Njoki wa Maitha. All rights reserved.

  Cover photo copyright ©2014 by Njoki wa Maitha

  Cover photo illustration by Light in Captivity/Njoki wa Maitha.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used, copied or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except by a reviewer who may quote brief quotations in a critical review.

  Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

  DEDICATION

  This book is most importantly dedicated to me; for believing that I can make it, and making it happen.

  One Year Ago

  Sunday 10:45pm

  I am lying on top of my friend’s bed, staring at the stained white washed ceiling of her hostel room that is almost falling off. Caro is never around, neither is her roommate. Most of the time I find myself crashing in here when I don’t want anyone to bother me, when I want to concentrate and study for my CATs, or when I want to cry myself to sleep, like I am doing tonight.

  It's getting late and I try to concentrate and pay attention to my crazy fantasies, the kind of lullaby fantasies that send me to sleep with a smile, but at most times, these fantasies only help in draining every tear from my eyes and soaking wet my pillow. Maybe I should stop fantasising about tragic stories and instead replace them with the happily ever after bed time fairy tales. Tragic stories though are a lot more nourishing, for it's during such days that I sleep the best; not like a baby, but more like a corpse.

  The girl next door is having lots of fun. I can barely build my characters or create conversations with them. I always fear that someday she will fall from her bed and handicap her sexy figure. The squeaky noises from that room are killing me. As soon as I learn to filter them and I'm ready to pick up my fantasies from the last scene, she starts moaning, then screaming, and then shouting curse words. Her boyfriend must be the real deal; not many guys are capable of getting a woman to climax. I once tried giving her a role in my imaginary world, as a professional call girl, but, all I ever imagined was her sleeping with my imaginary boyfriend.

  Tonight, I think that I could after all give her a role.

  Again, my fantasies are brought to a halt upon the arrival of an unexpected visitor. He’s repeatedly banging on the night nurse’s door; but this doesn’t stop her from telling the whole world how good her man is making her feel. I am thinking it’s another one of her clients who has either arrived too early, or is in need of impromptu services.

  “Madam, who do you have with you in there?” I hear the watchman’s voice asking.

  “What, how is that your business?” She rudely responds amidst her moans.

  Since sex is the only thing capable of transforming a classy lady into a real gangster, I was expecting a better answer like,

  ‘Nilidhani ni majambazi, kumbe ni watchie.'

  “Men are not allowed into the ladies hostel after 10.00 pm, so if you have hidden a man there ask him to leave. Sitaki kupoteza kazi” Says the watchman.

  I hear her walk towards the door, open it, say nothing and slam it behind her.

  What's going on over there? Did she just confront him stark naked, or did she spit on his face, or maybe she just rolled her eyes?

  The watchman continues banging at the door, but she doesn’t open. She instead puts on very loud hip-hop music that sends the door, window and walls of my friend’s room vibrating. A few pieces of the old ceiling fall on Caro's bed. With that kind of music, I can’t even concentrate on building her character as a sexual goddess in my fantasies. All that I see is her and an unknown dark faced man tearing each other apart with passionable lust. I want to create a romantic scene, but she's prompting me into turning it into an 18+ commercial sex scene.

  I do not blame her. She, just like me, is already old enough to be someone’s wife and a mother to at least two kids. By the time my mother was my age; she was already married and was on the verge of welcoming the family’s third born into the poverty stricken and religiously possessed family. I hated poverty as much as I hated religion. But, it’s through this obsession that my father had demanded that I enrol in Christian learning institutions, from primary to secondary and now college. But in here, religion was just a word to be preached about but never to be practised.

  He had liked the idea that there were certain clothes we weren’t supposed to wear, certain ways we were never allowed to talk, certain relationships we were never allowed to think about, and a thousand rituals we were forced to perform.

  “How many of you are virgins?” The lecturers would always ask the new students during the orientation week. They would then counsel the new brood about being responsible and entrusting their bodies to Christ, for they were indeed the temples of the Holy Spirit. To them though, that question was nothing but THE BAIT. If you looked clearly, you could see them ogle and salivate for this brand new and yet to be contaminated pieces of cake. A week after, affairs would be started, a number of cats and bull fights would kick off, girls would start wearing extra baggy clothes to hide pregnancies, some would be suspended, and others, out of shame, would transfer to far away colleges.

  Last semester, 47 girls disappeared mysteriously from campus as soon as motherhood came knocking. This got everyone talking, especially the Holy churches that had for so long been proud to be associated with this first ever Christian University.

  The Dean of Students was irate. She lectured us for hours about the high increase of condoms found lying within and around the hostels. She called it immorality, cursed the devil that had possessed our innocence and prayed for a whole one hour so that the demons in us would leave us in peace. Too bad, she ended up passing out before saying Amen.

  After weeks of brainstorming, the administration came up with an ultimate solution that turned us into prisoners rather than students. Every day after 10.00 pm, the watchman/housekeeper was to make rounds within the hostels and sniff around for men’s colognes, eavesdrop at girl-talk with hopes of catching a husky man’s voice, or listen for any funny screams or noises from passionate lovers that managed to escape the tiny walls and cracks of the student rooms.

  Three months after expunging the devil in us, the rate at which girls’ starting falling pregnant became alarming. Of course the administration didn’t find out, because the pregnancies were aborted long before morning sickness kicked in. And last week, we finally made it to the papers as the best Christian University in the entire East African region!

  The constant knocks from next door subside, but in a matter of seconds, I start hearing them from a closer range. It must be the watchman, doing what he does best; snooping around. I keep wondering what was written in his job description and what qualifications he had to have for him to be awarded the job. How I wish that I had enough courage to open the door and scream at him just like every other girl in this hostel does, but I can’t, because this isn’t my room, and I don’t want to abuse the courtesy my friend grants me of crashing into her territory.

  The door knob starts turning... For the next few minutes I don’t hear any footsteps leave the door and it’s evident that Big Brother is trying to peep through the keyhole. He is such a pervert! What this guy needs is to be set up…and I can
t wait to share my plan with my friend.

  I choose to not open.

  But, if I don’t, he may slip in a warning ticket under the door requesting that my friend report to the Dean of students' office. No one has ever been able to win their case against the dean.

  After a few minutes of keeping my fingers crossed and praying to the few Saints I know of, Mr. Pervert leaves for the next door.

  I am so lucky to have switched off the main light and used the lampshade instead. The last thing I want is to get Caro in trouble since without her, my life is not worth living.

  Minutes later, I hear a key ram at the door. I doubt if it’s Caro for she never arrives this early…she is the kind of girl who recalls her way back home during the wee hours; sometime between midnight and dawn. Though the University does not allow students in at such times, she never fails to find a corruptible watchman to bribe at the main entrance.

  I immediately jump off the bed, turn off the lampshade and hide under the study desk. The door opens, the lights go on, and someone jumps on the bed leaving it squeaking for a couple of seconds, a sound that brings the watchman back to the room in a flash. I can't let him see me. I immediately dash out from my hiding place and rush towards the door. On seeing me, the girl lying on top of the bed jumps off while screaming her lungs out as she dashes for the door after me. I bump on the door and fall with a big thud. The other girl falls on top of me. The watchman just stands there, watching, surprised, but also excited.

  “I always knew there was something going on between you two.” He says with a cheeky smile and leaves.

  I turn to see Caro trying to get off my back. I am shocked.

  “It was you?” I ask her while still trying to catch my breath and get on my feet.

  “Did you hear him? He just called us lesbians!” She responds.

  “You are back early. I wasn’t expecting you.” I later tell her after we have both composed ourselves and are sitting on top of her bed, nursing a few minor injuries.

  “I too wasn’t expecting to find you hiding under there. What’s going on, who were you hiding from?”

  “That pervert guy had been standing at the door for ages and when I heard the door key, I thought he was up to something. Anyway, how was the date?”

  “Not bad. I had to spend my savings on treating him only to have him leave for a meeting even before dessert was served. But, he compensated for it!”

  I hate it when my friends talk so admirably of their fathers. I never had a father growing up. Not that he is dead, or missing. Physically, he had always been there. Actually, he was omnipresent. But, he is the kind of an African father whom many Africans children were forced to grow up with: the kind that kids run away from, whom last word is final, the kind that never smiles or complements anyone. From our early childhood, everytime he entered the room, we would all run to our rooms and lock ourselves in, whispering in low tones. He hated us talking loudly or even laughing. The only time we used to have a conversation with him is when he was asking about our academic performance and it would be an all Yes and No kind of conversation from us. He would shout at us whenever we said too much, or used words like Maybe, I'm not sure or I don’t know. He would then spend the rest of the year verbally abusing us for being stupid as our mother and for embarrassing him.

  As a little girl, I had loved him. Slowly by slowly though, the deep love and admiration I had for him was in no time replaced by fear. We feared him, but in his mind, he assumed that it was respect. It only took a few years of wisdom before I realized that I no longer feared him. I hated him, and so did my sisters.

  I loathed having him around so much that I and my sisters contemplated killing him a million and one times. He had put us through too much stress, and if he were to die, we had to make his death worth remembering. Nothing to do with a single shot on the head, but a couple of weeks or months in some abandoned old house where we would torture him to the very last minute of his day on earth. But, everytime we thought about the death penalty, and the depression our mother would have to live with, we felt that getting rid of him was not good enough.

  Inside my tiny head I used to pray that mama and he would get divorced so that I would leave with her. But she was excessively kind, tolerant, forgiving and submissive. That day never came to be; and probably will never be.

  Up to date I can’t stand friends, or anyone who speak highly of their fathers. I envy them, and whenever they bring up that discussion, I change it to how dependant they are and that they are to blame for lack of gender empowerment for always having to sulk up to men.

  Now that I had joined campus and was in my third year, I promised myself that I would spend my first salary on getting a DNA test to establish whether he was my biological father. I worked hard, always emerged on top of my class and was everyone’s envy. Life wasn’t good, it never had been, but soon-within the next one or two years, it would come to be.

  “Hey, are you listening…or did you once again leave me blabbing to myself?” I hear Caro say as she waves her hand in-front of my face, close enough to poke my eyes.

  “Yes, of course…you want me to accompany you to that clinic.”

  “So will you? I know I have been asking a lot from you lately but, I promise, this is the last time. I am so done with men. From now on, I am taking back my virginity…secondary virginity, or is it tertiary virginity?"

  #1

  I was loved

  Nourished, appreciated

  Really, really loved

  Then

  A hungry passerby passed by

  Stunned by my beauty

  He plucked me

  Tasted then spat

  I wasn't ripe yet

  There I was

  All alone

  Never to be salivated for again

  Saturday Evening

  It’s yet one of those weekends that separate the college singles from the attached, the rich from the poor, and the introverts from the extroverts. All of my friends are going out. Myself, though I have never gone out, I have a more than clear image of what goes on out there. The wild photos and videos that these girls take of themselves before posting and tagging each other on Facebook are unimaginably scary. I have never shown interest in such parties and for that, everyone assumes that I am not spontaneous enough.

  Today though, Caro, Sera and some other girls have convinced met to join them. It has been a very stressful week and being the first weekend of the month, many of them are more than eager to chop their parents’ and employed boyfriends' hard earned money in the club scene.

  “It’s going to be so much fun!” Sera, a close pal of Caro but more of my acquaintance chips in. She is not really the fun type; I am even more fun than she pretends to be. Her greatest weakness is giving in too easily to the status quo, for the sake of fitting in. I somehow like her, and I think she likes me too, but she would never admit to it lest she be regarded to being as boring as they say I am.

  All through the years, jeans, sneakers and t-shirts have always given me a more than classy look; thanks God that they never go out of style. Tonight is no different. I wear the usual except that I make sure that I have my less faded and tighter blue jeans, a more revealing v-necked tee and some colourful sandals. I don’t look that bad though I feel rather uncomfortable especially during this freezing cold weather.

  “I forgot to bring my jacket. Can I borrow yours?” I ask Caro.

  All the girls give me questionable looks, but none says a thing. Though they have their backs turned on me, I can clearly see their faces on the mirror; the kind of smiley faces that are ashamed to be associated with me.

  “What? You are not thinking of following us looking like that, are you?” Sera, who is dressed in an embarrassingly short, tight and skin flaunting black dress brakes the ice cold silence.

  “I’m not following you, you invited me. And what’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I ask her.

/>   “You look good but...” Caro takes my hand and leads me to her closet. Like always, it’s full of beautiful and expensive clothes some of which I have never seen her wear. She also has two extra suitcases full of clothes that she keeps under her bed. Compared to what I have, hers is more of a boutique. She picks out a cute small dress for me to wear. It's the kind of dress I would have preferred to wear during my wedding night but, there's no way I can say No to Caro. I never have.

  “Oh my God you look stunning! Who would have ever thought that there’s such a sexy little you underneath all that clutter?” One of the girls’ comments as soon Caro presents the new me.

  They voluntarily make my hair, powder my face, paint my lips and give me 4 inch high heeled shoes. They say that I should feel confident with my new look, but I’m so scared of tripping and embarrassing myself, or sweating too hard to the extent that the heavy paint on my face starts dripping down my clothes. With this extra naughty new look, I wouldn’t be surprised were I to be confused for a prostitute.

  We arrive at the club and enter in together, the five of us. No one, not even the scary, dark skinned and burly bouncer stops us. I can feel a thousand and one envious and horny eyes stare at us, and mostly at me. I am keeping my fingers crossed praying that none of them notices that I am the fresh blood. The girls disappear into different directions all at once and I am left all alone, not knowing what next step to take. Caro had skipped this part when giving me an orientation on how to become this new person. Should I go sit at the bar, make a move on some random guy, make my way to the dance floor, or go hide inside the ladies' bathrooms?

 
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