Short story by Al Kags
The music was playing on the radio and Musevo was happy when the presenter wasn’t talking. These young fellows and their tiktok kid of language, “it’s just noise.” The reggae was smooth and the road was straight. He had just passed Mtito Andei and he was really feeling the power of 510 horses on the supercharged V8 engine, gulping the road at 160 kmph with ease. It felt good.
At the back, his two daughters were asleep and he was enjoying that respite from the chitchat. How he has survived these last ten years is beyond him. Anita, their mother left them in his care during the birth of Anita II, his second daughter. 15 hours of labour, she pushed out that tiny thing and exhausted she gazed upon her little face and told him, “wah! This is the last born, sawa?” They agreed.
“Take her to nursery with the nurse, I want to rest up a bit,” she said, “watch her like a hawk.” He followed the nurse and saw to his daughter. Tagging the little foot, holding her in his arms and blessing her and then into the warm bed she was placed. As he walked back to the delivery room now to move his wife, he was chuckling, thinking about that agreement. “This is the last born, sawa?”
He can never forget the look on the nurse’s face as the doctor said the words, “I’m sorry, we did everything we could.”
Now here they are ten years later, driving to the coast to celebrate their mum’s birthday at the beach. Jecinta – “Cinty” – his eldest almost shared a birthday with her mum – she was just a few days off. Anita II “Nitty” missed Musevo’s birthday by 6 days. They had chosen to celebrate their mum’s birthday every year to remember her rather than do a memorial on the day of her death.
Anyway, these girls can talk and even though he had been able to acclimatise to the constant chit chat and high pitched bickering, well, the man enjoyed all the silence he could get. He barely noticed as he passed the Manyani prison, nary giving thought to its history as the car flew by. On his mind was Anita, the love of his life. This Kao girl who loved flowers on her hair and crows feet around her eyes when she smiled. His mind was on her quirky “mzungu” dances as she danced reggae, them days just after campus.
“Daddy! I’m bleeding!”
Cinty’s yelled exclamation – no, Cinty’s scream almost drove them off the road into the wild. “I’m bleeding!” she sobbed. With his heart resting between his chattering teeth, he was able to slow the car safely to a stop on the side of the road. He turned to see the distraught girl looking down at her dress and sure enough that was blood. A lot of it, too.
He went blank. When the doctor told him Anita had passed, she was still on the delivery bed and in the area around her hips, the sheets were soaked in blood.
“Er.. um… it’s okay, baby, I think you are having your periods.” he uttered the words automatically as if he knew that for sure. The truth was, as he said them, he was receiving the news at the same time.
“Shit, she is only 12 – do they have periods that early?” his mind was asking. “how much blood are we talking about? Should I buy her supplements?”
All these thoughts went through his mind as he went to the boot of the car, and found his camping blanket – the red maasai one safely folded back there.
“Don’t worry, baby, it’s fine.” he said, soothingly to his daughter. His fake confidence belying his panic. “Let’s get to the next town and we’ll handle it. It’s normal, don’t panic.”
He wrapped her with the blanket and held her for a minute as her sobs and her sisters slowed down.
“What if she bleeds out, daddy?” Nitty wanted to know.
“All women go through this, honey and they don’t bleed out,” he was talking to himself as much as he was reassuring his daughters. “it’s normal, I promise.”
Soon, the 510 horses were galloping towards Voi town at maximum speed. In the rearview mirror, he saw his daughter light up upon seeing a pack of Zebras, momentarily forgetting her troubles and he could swear, looking at the crows feet around her eyes, that he saw Anita again.
“It’s going to be fine, baby,” he muttered over and over, gripping the wheel as if his life depends on it.
In recognition of World Menstrual Health Day. Inspired by Kinyanjui, who raised two daughters and who went through a similar experience. No details are true.