FOOTPRINTS - Episode 17

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Bitalo was in his room back at Makerere University. He had been studying feverishly to make up ...

Bitalo was in his room back at Makerere University. He had been studying feverishly to make up for lost time. He had a lot of catching up to do academically. He had been studying all day. Then, there was a knock on his door. He rushed over and opened the door. “Najja my love, what brings you here now? You are supposed to be in the library studying. We agreed that we would not see each other this weekend so we both can study seriously,” Bitalo asked. “I am sorry honey. I wanted to see you. I miss you a lot. I went to the library but I could not concentrate. Can I come in?” Najja answered. “Of course my love, you can come in but only for half an hour. We need to study.” “Okay,” Najja answered. She walked in and soon, they were both on the bed kissing ‘ferociously’. Then, Najja began to take off her clothes. “You don’t have to do that honey,” Bitalo pointed out. “I just want to do it,” she answered. “But you and I agreed that we would wait until we are married. Besides, we understand that if we do it now, your life and mine would be in danger according to the Damba rule. My father explained it very well. Should any of Okwayi’s descendants has the power to come after us, I would not be able to protect you or myself; your dad and grandmother and my dad too,” Bitalo reminded her.

“What if he has no descendants out there who can come back to fight us, honey?” She shot back at him. “I am tired of waiting. I want it just now. I can’t stop thinking of you. Bitalo.” She continued to remove her top, but Bitalo held her. “Stop it honey. This is not like you,” he said in a raised voice.” “Are you saying that you don’t want me?” “No, I want you with every blood that runs in my veins, but the consequences at this time are far too great.” “Do we have to think about everyone else all the time? Are we gods to look after everyone? We should do what we feel like sometimes. If you don’t do it now, I am through with you,” Najja said matter-of-factly. “Where is this coming from, Najja?” “It is coming from me. I am a woman and it is quite demeaning of you to turn me down like this. Have I ever asked that we do it before?  Other men would jump at this and this is how you are treating me for letting myself descend this low. I don’t blame you. I am leaving and I am never seeing you again.” “I am confused. Since when did you start bothering about what other men think? You and I are different. We love each other so much that we want to do things right and make sure we are looking after our families, our people. Bakuli would burn if I am not able to fight for the people should there be another war. Don’t you care about all that?”

“I have been caring about other people all my life, and for once…just this once I wanted to just do something for me and you treat me like this?” She began to sob. Bitalo held her in his arms and consoled her. She began to reach for his crotch. Slowly, she ran her other hand all over her chest. Bitalo’s body began to sing a different song than what his head was composing. He felt sensations run through him like tidal waves. She kissed him and intensified the movement of her hands. “We don’t have to do this honey,” he said. This time, he was pleading. His body was winning over his head. His eyes were closed and he was breathing hard. His defenses were being rapidly eroded. From a sitting position, he found himself lying down with her. She removed her top completely and reached for his jean. His body had completely succumbed to her touch and his mind was barely able to oppose the will of his body. As she went for his jean, Bitalo’s mother appeared to him. He saw her clearly standing on the edge of the room. She said nothing, just standing there with tears pouring down her face. Bitalo jumped to his feet and his mother vanished.

“I can’t do this,” he said, pulling his jeans back on. “Put on your top and leave now,” he yelled instructions at her. “You are asking me out of your room?” Najja asked. “Yes, Najja. Get out!!!” “If I leave here, it is over between us.” “Get out now!!!” Bitalo shouted again, shaking. His mother always smiled each time she appeared to him. Today was different. He could not block out the face of his mother with tears streaming down her face. Slowly and reluctantly, Najja put on her top and left the room. At the door, she stopped and said, “It is over between us.” Bitalo said nothing. He stared blankly at her. The door latched and she walked away. He could hear her footsteps as she left. He fell back into bed and sobbed. “I am sorry mama. I made you cry,” he said as he sobbed. Soon, he fell asleep. When he woke up, he was overcome with stress. He thought of the volume of work he needed to cover at school, and then he thought of Najja and his mother’s spirit. He wanted to clear his head. He changed into a pair of shorts and polo shirts. He donned his running shoes and dashed out of the hostel. He ran slowly at first and then as fast as he could later.

 After a forty five-minute run, he found himself headed in the direction of Najja’s hostel. He could not get the incident earlier in the day out of his head. She was not in the hostel when he reached her room. He sat outside waiting for her after calling her repeatedly without any response from her. He called Sanyu, but she too would not pick up.  After half an hour, he jogged back to the hostel, took a shower and returned to his studying. His concentration was low. He could not stop thinking about Najja and his late mother.

Onzia sat forlornly on the floor of her tiny cell. She had been arrested following her involvement in Najja’s kidnap. The cell was only 5 feet wide and seven feet long. The building was visibly old with paint peeling off on virtually every spot. There was a single metal bed sitting sadly in one corner of the cell. The toilet occupied another corner of the cell with a narrow aperture that was supposedly a window hugging a section of the wall directly above the toilet seat. The window heavily reinforced with metal bars even though no adult could possibly squeeze through it. It felt as though the walls were closing in on her. Then, the bell sounded. She had been waiting expectantly for it. She jumped to her feet and walked to the metal door. She waited feverishly until the guards came and opened the door. It was time for exercise, and she had an important exercise in mind to execute. She walked straight to the open field were other inmates who were mostly awaiting trial were walking, running, playing volleyball or handball. Some sat on the chairs around the field watching sadly as their colleagues played their time and sorrows away.

Onzia looked around. There she, is she thought on sighting Birungi. She was a tall, rough-looking girl who talked just as tough too. She was in her blue overall cell uniform at the net on the volleyball court. She had taken to volleyball months after arriving at the prison complex. “Birungi, please can I talk to you for a moment?” Onzia asked. “Does it look to you like I am here fooling around?” She asked Onzia in her characteristic caustic manner. She was not intending to abandon her volleyball game for whatever Onzia wanted to talk about. “It is important Birungi. You stand to make a lot of money if you are willing to listen to me,” Onzia pressed her further. “What do you mean by a lot of money?” She asked her back, this time with some interest. She smacked the ball over the net to win a point for her team. Then, she excused herself to talk to Onzia. Another person replaced her on the court.

“I have a deal for you, but no one must hear of it. I am sure you can handle the job. It is a very serious job and it will pay you a lot of money,” Onzia explained. “Stop beating about the bush and spill the beans,” Birungi said curtly. Onzia looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “I want you to…” She paused and looked around again. “I need you to wipe someone for me. I mean find someone who can do it.” “You mean kill someone?” Birungi asked. Onzia nodded. Birungi said nothing for a moment. She had been in prison for the past six years awaiting trial. She was accused of malicious assault, bodily harm and robbery. After six years, her accusers had agreed to drop all charges against her and rumor around the prison ground was that Birungi had sent in some of her rough friends on the outside to threaten the family of Birungi’s main accuser, the owner of a small supermarket in Kampala. She was due to be released in two days. Birungi looked around carefully. “Have they sent you here to rope me in?” She asked Onzia. “No. You have to trust me Birungi. I am here of my own accord. I have a problem of my own on the outside that I need to deal with.”

Birungi moved closer and took a closer look at Onzia. She felt her all over in search of any recording electronic gadgets. She found none. “How much are you looking to pay for the job?” She asked carefully. “Five and half million Shillings.” “You are joking. I have to find someone to do the job, so in the end, I have to pay them and pay myself too. You should be thinking about eight million Shillings.” “What about six million?” “No!” “Six and half. That is my final offer.” Birungi thought about it for a moment. Then she said, “Seven, take it or forget it.” “Okay. I will pay you seven million for the job.” “Who is the fish that you want to pull out of water?” “The girl that brought me here. Her name is Najja Sebowa. She is a medical student at Makerere. I have someone on the outside who will give you her picture and address. The same person will give you half the money too and when Najja is dead, you will get the rest.” “I leave here in two days. If this is a set up, I will likely come back here and you will certainly die. No matter where they put you, I will find you and kill you. If you are genuine, I will get the job done, and if for any reason I don’t get my money, I have people inside here who will be most pleased to kill you on my orders for no money,” Birungi explained. She sounded business-like. “You can trust me Birungi,” Onzia answered.     


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FOOTPRINTS - Episode 17 An African Literary Blog
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