Hers was a yellow head scarf with black polka dots. He liked how it fit her head-so perfect unlike other girls whom seemed to have geometric heads once they donned such. He was on the third bench from the back of St. Lillian Catholic Church. His worn out safari boots perched on a raised pew that had a deep crack on it. He was the epitome of a man struggling with his emotions at the time. He peered into the air but he saw nothing. He leaned on the wooden bench, it creaking under his weight. She was all he saw. He did not see Father Wanjala saunter to the confession box in his faded black cassock and neither did he see Sister Danna walk in and refill the Holy water. All he saw was Makena, knelt and praying on the third pew from the front. He felt the weight of his emotions increase when she had walked in a minute ago without him expecting. He just stared at the lithe frame and bit back the tears of anguish that threatened to flood from the reservoirs that were his eyes.
Why did it have to be like this? Hard? Hard to love when it was unrequited. Hard to love someone who stabbed you with their insensitivity, their lack of care and the fact that they were blind to how you felt and they stabbed you more when the wound was almost healed. That was Makena for him. He had developed a sickness for her and was to the point of adoration were it not for his strong Christian upbringing that prevented him from putting her as a goddess in his life. He was a talented carpenter at the nearby town and was making a decent income considering where they were, in the bowels of rural Kenya somewhere in Machakos. He was of age to get married and had struggled with keeping himself chaste despite the rarity of this status among his friends.
He had wooed her in all the ways possible stretching his mental powers beyond even he knew was possible. He had bought flowers, made exceptional furniture for her family as gifts, written superfluous letters to no avail. “Hosea, I keep on telling you that you are wasting your time. Leave me alone. Go to the other girls who are dying for you. Give me peace,” she said. That day he fell at her knees. They were at the river bed alone and he pleaded with such intensity that it rained that night, the first rain in months.
“Please Makena, take me. I will do anything,”

And she replied coldly but retaining her beautiful serenity.

“You can start by leaving me alone,”
Right now he was a cauldron of emotions, thinking about the future, the past and the present. He was working harder than ever to keep himself from crumbling under the pain of rejection. Kitivi had noticed this and had asked him. The lad was observant and even Hosea could not hide his turmoil from him. “Give it time, maybe she is not the right one,” it was easier said than done.
She rose and sat on the bench. She was done with her prayers. She sat down for a minute or two maybe saying thanksgiving and arose. She was in a brown skirt and a black top. Simple yet they further magnified her already beautiful self. And she approached the door her eyes fixed on the exit. Her feet were fluid on the earthen floor and he stared. In the hope she would look at him and smile or even say hi. That would ease his fragile heart for he had lost his cloak of pride already at the well. She passed him and left. Did she not see him? He questioned his own presence. He did not wake up but stayed on the bench wondering how such a beautiful person could have that much bile, be that cruel. He prayed a silent prayer that God would bless him with a wife, and strength to deal with his heart. He picked his rugged faded Navy Blue cap with a NY insignia in white and walked out after a sign of the cross.
He was so lost in his mind that he did not notice her staring from the concrete tank to his left. She who had waited for moons for Hosea to even throw a glance at her, to even say a greeting. That was her prayer all the time. Mueni her sister was the one who knew how much her heart fluttered for this carpenter, in her fantasies she saw them as the perfect couple. She his Mary and him her Joseph-the carpenter. However, she had been patient for him to notice, and apparently he was just as blind. Kanini’s well of patience was quickly emptying and soon it would be at the same level as many of the riverbeds that lined the beautiful dry land, dried up and cracked. She had to make the iron hot by striking it.
She would make an order of a small wooden cabinet. And use the order to get closer to him and make him see what he was missing. With a resolve carved in stone she followed the figure now descending from the hill. Kanini was not sure this impromptu plan of hers would work let alone if she had the money even to afford the piece of furniture. She envisioned her small Safaricom purse and the few well folded notes that were so dear to her and the abundance of money in coin form.
He was enveloped in avoiding the rocky areas in the dusty road lest the small rocks
infiltrate his worn out safari boot soles. The sun shone relentlessly and small dust
storms came and went. He did not hear the footsteps behind him and became startled when Kanini appeared by his side. He wondered what she could have in mind for the road to his home was two kilometers and that meant sometime together. He had never looked at her actually and was oblivious to how she was a small nice pretty package of flesh. She was a cute short height and had a bronzed skin. Her hair was tied in four knots and was rumored to be the best in the village. How come he had never seen this before? He decided to pay more attention to this girl, for the journey that is. “I see you also pray often these days Mr. Carpenter,” she began with a tease.
Soon it was dusk and they were parting ways after an eternity of conversation. Hosea hadn’t had such an uplifting and engaging conversation with a girl in his life. He found it hard to part ways once the crickets had begun chirping and the crescent moon burgeoned the cold night in.
He held her hand in his as they parted and had held it a little longer. He looked into
her eyes and did not feel the burn that he had felt with Makena but serenity and a
deep nonchalance. She could not. She could not hold that gaze that penetrated her
very self and looked away burning up and withdrawing her delicate but strong hands used to manual work and tending to her little siblings. She left going home an emotional wreck.
In his small mud hut over muthokoi, he stared at the small hurricane lamp flame and reminisced about the day’s happenings. He felt something small grow in him, a small germination of something new but so minute it could only be felt from a distance. She had asked for a small cabinet for keeping her clothes and other things that belonged to womenfolk. He wasn’t sure she could afford for she had not come from a well off family but in her eyes he saw her determination. He felt that she wanted more than the work of his hands and probably wanted to be in them herself. He tried to shrug away the thought of them together but only ended up imagining how it would be like to hold her tenderly and kiss her in the moonlight. Only time would tell. This could be God’s answer to his prayer that day.
And in his creaking bed and unbelievably thin mattress under which was grass and leaves he dreamt of a small cabinet so beautiful and glorious, and when he tried to open all went dark.

T H E F L O R I S T.


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