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“Four Days with Luwa” by Joyce Nawiri

“Four Days with Luwa” by Joyce Nawiri

Kipenzi Karafuu,

The letter in Nani’s hand began. The papyrus sheet was a bit rough to the touch. It wasn’t long or particularly thick and the black ink on it had run but only slightly.

Ningeweza kukuandikia nyaraka mia na moja, kila moja sawa na uliofuatia, kutobadilika. Isingejalisha idadi ya maneno. Isingejalisha mpangilio wake, maana desturi imetukataa mimi na wewe.

Nani posed and stared at the handwriting. The words slanted, written with profound sadness.

Unakumbuka siku ya kwanza sisi ku’tana?

“How could I forget?” Nani thought.

That day was a Friday evening. The sun had sunk lower in the sky and the rays of light that shone over the quaint and narrow labyrinthine streets of Luziwa were beginning to drain away in an amber glow. Langoni market was pulsing with life. Loud chatter and giggles filled the air. At the entrance, the voices of the fish vendors rang calling out to customers, “prawns kamba kamba! Prawns kamba kamba!” A crowd of men, walking in groups of twos or threes dragged their feet on the cabro floors, back from the mosque. Some were adorned in white kanzus and kufi hats embroidered in gold patterns, while the rest wore white plain shirts and vikois wrapped around their waists. Some stopped by mama ntilie to buy sambusas and bhajia za kunde with chilli-coconut chutney to take home back to their families.

At the far end of the market, Nani sat on a teni, getting ready to leave. She scooped a large chunk of soil and used it to scrub the black karai that she had used to stir-fry fish, with a sponge cut from a sack. It was made of aluminum and had a round bottom with deep curved sides and two curved handles on either side. She rinsed the karai afterwards and packed it in a large papyrus woven basket together with the cooking stick. Beside her was a brown wooden crate with papyrus leaves spread on top. There were two round pieces of fish, left. The sales had been good, lucky even. It must be the new coconut cooking oil I tried today, she thought. Or maybe the local myth about a lucky sale being a sign that she’d meet a special someone, was after all, true. And for a moment there, she wondered who the special someone could be. No one special had bought fish from her, only her usual customers. “What Nani? So you’re a believer now?” her inner voice mocked, and she chuckled.

After everything was set, Nani stood up to leave the basket on her shoulder, when she spotted a young girl in a half-sleeveless dark-green dera and a bright yellow flowery mtandio wrapped around her head that covered her shoulders. 

The girl was about her age, maybe a year or two, younger. She was ordinary in her features, shorter than average and her skin the color of tende. Nani felt drawn to her. There was something about her that struck although she couldn’t put a finger on what exactly. Stare, that’s all she did, while silently wishing that the strange girl would walk by her. 

Perhaps she’d stared for too long because the girl smiled and began walking in her direction. Nani felt a flush growing in her cheeks and dropped her gaze.

“Salaam aleikum dada,” the girl greeted.

“Aleikum salam.” 

A momentary silence followed before Nani spoke again. She asked the girl if she wanted to buy fish. 

As the girl reached over the papyrus leaves to select a piece, Nani stared at her heena painted hands. They were adorned with floral patterns from her wrists all the way to her upper arms. Her fingers, were long and slender, and held the end of the leaves in a touch, soft as the green blades between them. From the sweet essence in her eyes to the warmth of her smile, she was a conduit for happiness, as if the sunset had chosen her to channel its brilliance through. 

“I’ve never seen this kind, before? What is it called?”

“Kiboma.”

“How much?”

“Half anna.”

The girl paid in 50 cowrie shells then stuck the larger piece with a bamboo skewer that was placed near the fish and started to eat it. Nani watched as she ate the fish in silence, extended by the occasional smiles between them.

“You’re far from home. Whatever brings you to Luziwa must be damn important.” Nani poked.

The girl paused eating and looked up at her. “How could you tell?” she blushed. “I could just be one of the locals.”

They both laughed. Before Nani answered, there was a buzz of mosquitoes and the girl slapped her left elbow with the back of her right hand.

“That’s how,” Nani said.

“I’m Luwa.”

“Welcome to Luziwa, Luwa. I’m Nani and I think you’re beautiful.”

Nani’s face lit up as the memories of that day kept floating through her mind. But so did the pain of Luwa, gone. “I miss you so much Luwa. It hurts that you’re not here with me.” she whimpered, tears dropping on the letter that was still in her hands.

“It hurts that you’re not here Nani,” Luwa cried into her hands standing at the bottom of the bed facing the bedroom window. It was more than crying. It was the kind of desolate sobbing that came from a wound somewhere deep in her heart, a wound festered with longing for Nani. Nani whom she met eight days ago when she went seeking a one last time adventure in Luziwa. Luziwa, the town famed for its civilization. 

“Abba, have you ever been to Luziwa,” she had asked her father one night as they were having supper. But her father was angered by the question. He rebuked the town and its people, claiming that it was rot in immorality and decadence. 

“But Maduka said it’s like paradise over there. That the people are free. They go wherever they want, eat all kinds of fish and birds, dress however they feel like and merry in sweet vintage wines. They also dance all night in colorful festivals. He even said…”

“Quiet!” her father had ordered. “Let me never see you talking to that Maduka boy ever again! He fills your head with silly fantasies.” But the discouragement from him only got Luwa more curious and the day after he sailed with other merchants to Kismayu, she left for Luziwa, taking with her only a coin purse made from oxhide that had a thousand cowrie shells for her fare. 

Luwa slumped on the floor as she thought of the day she arrived at Luziwa. The island was tucked away in a lush forest. On her way there, the ngalawa passed through a few lagoons, inlets, archipelagos, and one harbour, the one in Saadani town. When she got there, it was like Maduka had promised, even better. It was a quaint town lost in time, built in coral stone and mangrove timber and enriched with glamorous mihrabs and minarets, inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden Moorish doors. The residential houses were made of coral rag, flat rooms most of them with two storeys of room. It was nothing like Bondeni, the village she was born in and brought up. 

She arrived at Langoni market in the evening when the shadows were now twice as long as her and the air was damp and cool, rich in the aroma of the spices and street skewer food. The entrance was flanked by donkeys drinking from low-water troughs. Luwa waded through, avoiding stray cats and stepping on donkey excretes. Goosebumps dotted her arms and after she bought halwa from one of the stalls nearby the entrance, she made her way down hoping to find a stall that was selling wrappers to cover herself from the evening chill. 

That’s when her eyes caught sight of Nani, sitting on a low brown two-legged wooden stool, two-stones throw away from where she was standing. She watched as she did the scrubbing, nodding her head and whistling along to the taarab music being played in the market. To the average eye, Nani was dressed like any other urban Swahili woman in a long dira dress and immersed in the colors and smells of the local life. Her face was made up and her afro abundant hair tied into a large round bun that sat on her head like a thatch. But in Luwa’s eyes, there could never be a woman more beautiful than her. She wore a zest for life like a second skin. It was spellbinding. A spark struck inside. That evening, after Nani invited her to her home, Luwa wondered about the spark she’d felt. What did it mean? Would it flicker? Would it die? 

“Luwa,” her mother’s voice coming from outside her bedroom door, snapped her back to the present moment. 

Quickly, she stood up. “Abee, mama.” 

She did not hear what her mother said next, from tightly holding back the sorrow in her teeth to keep it from escaping, but there was something about the wedding guests starting to arrive. 

After her mother left to attend to the guests, Luwa walked over to the window sill and leaned against the wall. She glared at the sun as it gleamed on her face. The beauty of the sunset only intensified her pain. There was nothing beautiful if Nani wasn’t here with her. But the defiant sky shone, mocking her pain with swirls of reds and oranges in garnish splendor. 

  •  

Luwa watched as the women carried sinias of sauces and spicy chutneys, savoury fruits, and nuts, biryani, coconut rice and chapatis from the kitchen behind the main house. Food was the star of every Digo wedding. The aroma of the fish stew pulled her back to that morning when Nani and she went fishing. She had been excited at the thought and before dawn, she rose with Nani and they walked hand in hand to the pebbled shore. The ocean shore lay jagged and glittery. As soon as they stepped into the water, the turquoise waves rolled in with a soothing sound, the salty water a brief flurry of sand soaking their feet. 

They walked towards the creek until Nani spotted a floating weed line. Nani told her to stop and said they’d fish there. She took out a leso from the basket hanging on her left shoulder and unfolded it. Each of them held the two ends of the leso spreading it into a rectangle shape. Slowly, they cast it below the floating weed, and after a few attempts, they caught twelve redfish and dropped them into the basket. 

“Redfish are available all year round,” Nani explained as they went to check on the basket traps that Nani had set the previous night. “You’re sure to find plenty of them hanging below a floating weed line.”

“Do you always catch many of them like we did today?” 

“Not always. It depends on the winds. When the monsoon starts to change, they appear in huge numbers and can easily be caught on light tackle.”

Luwa marvelled at Nani’s knowledge as she kept on going about fishing. But more so, she admired how Nani spoke in a clean and pure tongue with a greater fineness in pronunciation. It was partly Kigiriama and a mixture of Kisomali and Kigalla. Especially when she pronounced that word that Luwa loved. She thought hard. Machero, was it? 

“Macheo,” Nani grinned. It was amusing how Luwa loved to use that word aimlessly, even though she pronounced it wrong the entire time they were together. In her letter, she had still written it as “machero”. At first, Nani was bothered by Luwa’s small vocabulary, how she spoke ungrammatically, and used slang words. She would correct Luwa, to her displeasure. But with time, she grew more understanding when she noticed that Luwa struggled with pronouncing two consecutive vowels, and so she kept adding the letters “r” or “k” in place of the second vowel. After all, you could take a girl out of Digo land but you couldn’t take the Digo-ness out of her.

Natamani kupa pendo uangize kahuni ila machero goma la mama nanenda. Natsoha machozi na moyo unahonda.

Nani felt guilty. It didn’t matter now, that Luwa couldn’t speak Kiswahili as fluently as she did. It didn’t matter how she mispronounced words. Not when she wasn’t here with her. “I’m sorry Luwa,” she whispered as she continued to read the letter. “I should have given you affection that could fill a big basket. Now you’re gone and I’m the one left with an aching heart and raining tears.”

She wiped the tears off her right face with the back of her arm as her mind went back to that part of the morning after they were done fishing. Luwa was disarmingly unaware of how alluring she was when curious. She asked the meaning of words that were alien to her, even those spoken by someone else other than Luwa. She was curious about the political history of Luziwa and about boats, particularly. 

“Why are those dhows never used?” she’d asked pointing to several dhows abandoned on the sand at a far distance. 

“The wood was eaten by marine worms, so from time to time the fishermen use them as floating boats for couples to go dates on.”

“Why are boats made of teakwood? Why not neem or baobab?” 

Luwa had laughed. Her accent was even funnier when she asked questions. “Teakwood doesn’t rot easily in salty water.” 

Or maybe what attracted her was the way Luwa waltzed on the fine sandy beach, spinning around while standing on her toes and siren at the top of her lungs.

The island was coming back to life. The sun was out. Suddenly, the Mwadhini’s voice rang sharply from the minaret calling Muslims to prayer. 

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! 

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah. Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah.

Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah. Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah.

Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah. Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah.

Hayya ‘ala-l-Falah. Hayya ‘ala-l-Falah.

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

La ilaha illa Allah.

As soon as the five-fifteen azan started, they met several men on the beach making their way to the mosque. The basker was already playing his guitar. 

“I knew my father was wrong, Nani!” she shouted, attracting the looks of a few men. 

“Wrong about what?” 

“Luziwa. It’s a haven. One God, I could live here forever!” Luwa went on, partly running and partly jumping in mid-air.

Nani smiled. Even though she kept avoiding the question about why she travelled miles to be here, anybody could see that Luwa was a girl on an adventure. She blew through the beach like a fresh breeze. It was as if her feet were made of the sand, her arms were the trees and her eyes a reflection of the azure sky. 

To her, Luziwa was the usual slow but chaotic islandic town. But in Luwa’s company, it became the beautiful swathe of rolling dunes and endless beaches she once fell in love with. Where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen sailed dhows ply the waters, when she and her mum moved here a decade ago. Then, her mum had been in a Kinanda dance group and they had been called to perform for Bibiye Hadiya who had defeated the Sultan in a battle of riddles for the independence of Luziwa. The island was declared an Uungwana and Bibiye ruled it on values of freedom. A lot had changed in ten years. And the change at first was good or so it seemed until the island became crowded and polluted by mining industries. 

On their way home, it dawned on her that she had stopped noticing the things that used to matter. The susurration of swaying palm trees, the quiet sounds of the birds, the salty fragrance in the air, and even the June solstice now seemed like a gold ball of orange wonder. Perhaps, even the harmless yet ridiculous silent leso wars her mother would engage with other women. They called it “kupiga kanga”. It started when Kauye, Nani’s mother, won the Kinanda dancing competition held during the town’s Maulid festival. Rumours spread that she had been favored by the Bibiye’s liwali because they were in a secret relationship. The next market day, the two women wore lesos with a personal message from Bibiye’s wife attacking her. On the first woman’s leso were the words, “WEH PAKA HUNA HAYA WEH’ and on the second one’s ‘KUINGIA NYUMBA ZA WENZIO KULA TU’. But Kauye was not one to go down without a fight and she sent a gift to the palace for, Yasmini, the Bibiye’s wife. When Yasmini opened it, she found a leso with the words ‘HUONI AIBU WEWE KUENEZA UNG’ONG’O’. The leso wars became a trend among women. When Kauye died from the degedege virus, the Bibiye’s wife declared a national holiday in honor of her memory. 

Nani placed the letter on the table as the sound of Luwa’s voice kept replaying in her mind and for the first time, with her lips lightly curving into a smile, she pronounced it as Luwa used to. “Machero.”

  •  

“Nani, it’s you I long for. It’s you whose chest I crave, the smooth press of your breasts against my face when you breathe. I’d lie here for eternity if I could.” Luwa had confessed on the third night since arriving at Luziwa when they lay down, naked on the bed after making love. 

Nani held onto that part of that night not wanting to let go. How the savoury taste of her lips felt right. As was everything else from the day she met Luwa. It had started with a voice, the gentle voice that broke into giggle or two. A stranger who turned into a friend who grew into someone much more. Someone she fell in love with everything that she was. For the crease of her thick brow, how she chewed on sugarcane and in the way she sounded like she was singing when she asked questions due to her Digo accent. 

That night in June had started on a blissful note. They had spent the afternoon on a tour around the town and after returning home from the fish sales, they were absorbed in a story about Bondeni. Luwa told the story as Nani prepared their dinner—tamarind spiced chewo fish stew and coconut rice. As the masala curry was simmering in a small silver karai over the fire, they role-played the riddle game between Bibiye Hadiya and the Sultan, with Nani being Bibiye. Luwa won and Nani promised to take her on a boat ride in the morning. 

“Let’s play one more time,” Luwa begged. 

“Alright, but no prize to be won this time. And…and it should be about something you like. Say, like a fruit.”

Luwa accepted her terms. “Kitendawili.” 

“Tega.” 

“Kuku wangu katagia mibani.” 

Nani pretended to think hard. 

“Nipe mji,” Luwa said. 

“Luziwa.”

“Nilikwenda Luziwa nkakutana na binti mmoja asiopenda marafiki akaniambia nenda. Basi nlikwenda zangu kutembea mjini nkakutana na bi kizee njiani. Nilikuwa nalia. Bi kizee kaniuliza mbona walia? Nikamwambia kule Luziwa kuna dada nimemwambia kuku wangu katagia mibani ila akasema hajui. Bi kizee kaniuliza hilo tu mwana ndo lakuliza? Basi kamwambie nimesema ni nanasi.”

Luwa roared. “But I like having friends and I didn’t chase you. I’ll tell bi kizee you lied to her.” And they both laughed. 

Suddenly, the letter was blown by the wind coming from the open window positioned three o’clock of Nani. Luwa stood up from the desk and walked to where the paper had fallen on the floor and crouched down to pick it up. It had rolled up into the shape of a scroll leaving one sentence visible. Mapenzi kitu cha ajabu Nani. 

Luwa thought about love, how sometimes it is propelled by strange events. Like theirs had because of the argument she had caused that night before they reconciled and made love for the first time. After they had supper, Nani decided to retire to bed early from the fatigue of the busy day. 

Luwa was having difficulty sleeping from a throbbing headache. Nani made a paste of powdered turmeric mixed with honey and plastered it across her forehead. When they both got into bed, Nani narrated her a scary bedtime story. 

“Here in Luziwa, everyone is usually indoors by ten. There’s a tale of a floating Jinni who promenades the town at night and knocks at people’s doors and calls them by name. They say that he walks with sounds of clinking bells. When he calls, you must only answer after the third call. If you answer before that, you die at once.”

But the headache was not why Luwa couldn’t sleep. A secret she’d kept wore her down and no amount of tossing and turning unburdened her conscience. 

“Nani,” she called, in a barely audible voice. “Nani. Nani are you awake?” 

“I’m awake now, Luwa.”

“I need to tell you something.”

“You can’t be serious. I was already on my way to slumberland. Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” 

Luwa cleared her throat as she prepared to break the news just like she had rehearsed the previous dayt. “Luwa this is hard for me to say,” was how her speech was supposed to go but she couldn’t will her lips to move. Now the silence lay on her skin like a poison. It seized her tongue, seeped into her blood and robbed her voice. 

Nani slid closer to her and reached out to hold her hands but Luwa pulled away. “I’m getting married,” the words burst out at the same time her tears fell. “I’m sorry Nani…” Luwa continued to bubble the details of her arranged marriage to a man called Farshan in the next four days.

That moment her words stopped was the moment Nani’s heart fell silent.

“Please say something,” Luwa begged her eyes desperately searching Nani’s. 

Nani felt a ball of saliva form in her throat. She expected that the pain would speak for her but her heart betrayed her, breaking a little more inside. 

“I’m in love with you Luwa.” 

Luwa climbed back on to the bed and knelt beside her. She held Nani’s hands and pressed them firmly on to hers. “I’m so sorry Nani. I’m so sorry.” 

Nani broke away from her touch avoiding her eyes and turned her back to Luwa. She preferred instead to rest her eyes on her laps, on anything in the room that wasn’t Luwa. 

“Nani, I didn’t mean to…”

“Fall in love with me or break my heart?!” Nani cut in. 

Luwa stayed rooted to the spot. The scarf on her head slipped off her hair softly, and fell on her neck away from her face that had now become soaked from tears. “I don’t know, maybe both,” she barely whispered.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Because I was afraid of that, that look in your eyes like I’m a stranger, yet worse. I never sought to hurt you. This is as painful for me as it is for you my love.”

“Don’t call me that if you won’t be here to call me that tomorrow.” Nani retorted. 

“It breaks my heart to see you in pain. What can I do?”

“Either take back time or…or stay with me.” A moment of silence followed before Nani spoke again. “Luwa,” she called and walked to Luwa’s side of the bed. “I know many others whose fate was broken by such obstacles. That can’t be us though. It can’t be the end to our story.You don’t have to go back. Stay here with me,” Nani cried and tagged at Luwa’s hands. 

Luwa slipped her fingers between Nani’s and raised them close to her cheek and then kissed them, lightly. 

Nani waited on Luwa to say something but a loud silence hung in the air around them. 

Both of them wished that the other would say something or make a sound. Nani walked back to her side of the bed, turned her back to Luwa and once in bed switched off the lampshade. She quietly lay her head on the pillow made from a bundle of old rags while Luwa sat staring regretting why she had said anything. 

“I can’t,” Luwa despaired. 

Nani rose into a sitting position and switched on the lampshade again. She turned to look at Luwa and said, “You don’t have to marry him. You can stay here with me for as long as you like. We can build a life here…”

“I can’t. It would break my mum’s heart. She’d be the laughing stock of the village if I don’t get married…”

“To a man that you don’t know? A man that you’ve never met,” cut in Nani again. 

Nani cringed when she remembered the raucous exchange of words that followed, between them. Luwa accused her of being judgmental. She called her a simpleton. In an aching hollowness, Nani grew cold and accused Luwa of being a coward, even though there was a part of her that knew that Luwa hurt also. She felt a sharp stab of pain in her heart when she thought of how unkind she’d been to her. “I was wrong,” she admitted to herself. 

“I was wrong and you were right,” Luwa admitted as the memory of that argument floated in her head. She couldn’t remember much of the insults they flung at each other because the argument ended or rather was cut short by the sounds of drums and people singing, quite a distance from outside the door. They both ran outside to see what it was. 

It was the Friday dance. A group of youth had convened at the kinyaka and were in merry. Hurriedly, Nani went back in the house, took off the dera, and wrapped a bandika skirt around her waist, tying the ends in knots so it could hold tight. It was made of four lesos of different colors and patterns with a white sisal rope holding them together like a belt. The matching leso top that she also wrapped around her chest exposed the three waist beads that rested on the bandika. She also took off the mtandio she had wrapped around her head to hold her hair in place and then ran down to join the others who had gathered in a circle under the baobab tree.

Luwa ran after her and stopped a few feet away from the crowd to watch. At the entrance of the circle, facing inside, sat two men on traditional stools, opposite one other. They were drumming the chapuos placed on their right laps. The drums were small in size and enclosed with dried animal skin on either side. A few people sat in between them and the two men, one on each side, were blowing into the siwa horns. There was also a man who strung a kivoti. He had a clay-red kikoi around his waist and was bare-chested. At the centre of the circle, were two girls striking oryx horns with wooden sticks swinging their hips. 

When the two girls were done, Nani catwalked to the centre of the circle, as the rest of the crowd cheered and chanted her name. In the midst of the loud voices, it—their affection for each other—lingered in the air, thick and heavy, like a blanket. Nani turned back and saw Luwa staring at her. They smiled at each other. But their connection was so much more than smiles. For Luwa it was the intensity with which Nani’s words, “I’m in love with you Luwa”, echoed in her ears. A lover’s promise. While for Nani, it was in the sense of belonging she felt when Luwa had slipped her fingers into her own and kissed them. Nani felt a slight tremor course through her fingers. There was no denying that her soul ached for Luwa. 

She bent forward then rose raising her hands from her thighs to above her head while shaking her buttocks sideways in a rapid manner. She stamped her right foot once and the crowd went silent including the drums and horns.

Nani’s mellow voice rented the air. “Ache eee!” 

“Eee!” the crowd sang back in the same tune as hers. 

“Achee oyaaa!” 

“Oyaaa!”

“Alume uwoo!” A man from the crowd joined her and started to vigorously shake his shoulders moving forwards and backwards in quick succession. 

The drumming rose steadily and was joined by the sounds from the flutes and horns as Nani continued to sing and dance.

Luwa watched Nani’s legs move, how the bangles on her ankles jingled, rising when she jumped and falling at the same time her bare feet touched the ground. The shibiris that rested on the bandika moved as she whined her waist. She was held in a trance by how breathtakingly Nani’s body moved. The moon seemed to agree with her, for, a slice of its light cut through the crowd turning Nani’s skin into a gleaming brown as her hair fluttered into the wind like the sails of a dhow. 

Luwa wiped the tears from her face and walked over to the hando that was carefully spread over her bed. She had made it similar to the bandika that Nani had worn at the kinyaka, only that it was white. Her mind was made up. She would perform Nani’s dance at her wedding today. 

She tied the hando just as Nani had done and wrapped a matching top on her chest. The outfit was complemented with a ndhale necklace, sango bangle on her right arm, and added on the mavoredede bracelets on her left wrist made of different colored beads woven together, that Nani had bought for her as a gift for winning the riddle challenge.

  •  

Penzi letu limejengewa kwenye mwamba wa usiri. Ni kama kuendesha ngalawa iliyotengenezewa kamba za mmea wa pamba kwenye mawimbi. 

The letter read towards the end. Nani sat on the bed with her heart, heavy. Yesterday, she had woken up and found that Luwa was gone and so was her coin purse. She left the letter for her on the table with a flower on top. Even though she knew what it meant, she was afraid of reading the letter. 

Before Luwa’s arrival, Nani had been saving up to leave Luziwa and return to where she was born, and now that Luwa was gone, she had no reason to stay. Yesterday, her mind was resolved that it would be less painful for her if she didn’t read Luwa’s letter. But she remembered that today was Luwa’s wedding and felt like she owed it to her to hear her voice for the last time. 

Luwa rose from her bed. She tried to convince herself that she had done the right thing by leaving Luziwa and by ending things with Nani, in vain. She would learn to love Farshan. That was a lie and she knew it.  

She had to see Nani’s face one last time. She walked to the mirror hanging on the wall next to a painting of a muster flower. She saw a reflection of Nani dancing for her. She was as beautiful as the Nani in her memories. “You who loved me for the fewest of days but in the deepest of ways,” she said staring at the reflection. 

Nani carried the basket of the clothes and food she had packed for the journey and headed for the harbour. But first, she stopped by the beach. She wanted to remember Luwa for the happy girl that she had been that morning at the beach. The happy and carefree girl on an adventure. As she stood there the last words of Luwa in the letter echoed in her mind. 

Nisamehe kuondoka hivi. Nakupenda Nani

“Kwaheri,” Luwa waved to the reflection and stepped out of the door.

A few minutes later, when Luwa’s mother burst into her room to check on her, but it was empty. 


Joyce Nawiri is a Kenyan who writes to keep sane. Some of her work has en featured in Brittle Paper, 2017 Best New African Poets Anthology, Writers Space Africa, Kalahari Review and Pelleura. When she is not writing she talks about feminism, swims and listens to trance and bongo flava music. She also prefers to go by the pen name Majini ya Mombasa.

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