Queen Bessie: From Victim to Queen

Her palms were sweating through the handkerchief she held in them. She tapped her foot on the tiled floor nervously. Her heart pounded so loudly that she heard every beat. She shifted in her seat, glancing towards the door. She figured she could make it out of the restaurant fast enough that she would not run in to him on her way out. She pushed her seat back with her and was preparing to get up and run when the waitress came to her with a smile, “Can I get you a drink while you wait? Maybe some bread for the table?” She leaned back, looking at the waitress while she made up her mind. “Actually, yes! Can I get a cocktail?”

“Which one? We have our house cocktail ‘the club special’; we also have a Pinacolada that has won some awards. Oh and….” The waitress was overly eager.

“Which is your strongest?” She cut her off rather crudely. She definitely was not interested in their award winning cocktail ingredients.

“Well, it kind of depends. We make them very mild to suit everyone but we can increase the alcoholic content at your request. Say! For instance……”

“Ok. Good! Get me your Club Special with the maximum alcohol content you are allowed for it.” She cut her off again. She wasn’t in the mood for friendly human interaction.

“Ok, Ma’am.” The waitress was still at it. “And may I ask? Do you prefer a slice of……” She had really had it with this perky cheerful drop of freaking sunshine waitress so she gently placed her arm on hers.

“Sweetie. I know you’re doing your job and you know what? You’re great at it.” The waitress’ eyes sparkled, indicating that this was not a thing she heard very often. “But I’m not in a chirpy, hyperactively good customer service mood. So get me your club special, lots of booze and no ice. No fruit, No vegetables, nothing. That’s it! Can you do that, honey?” The waitress nodded and skipped away.

She turned towards the door again. She was now facing a new variable to her calculations. She was now evaluating the possibility of escape before her drink or her date had arrived. She got out her phone. It is was 15 minutes past the hour. He was late, a little but still late. She didn’t know if this fact brought relief or anger. Did she want him to be late? Did this momentary lapse of punctuality raise a red flag that she was not yet aware of? Did this mean he was always late and she should get used to it? Was he standing her up? Had he forgotten about her? Or did he hear something from someone about her? It must have been something he heard or something he researched. With Google and online government databases, not to mention that ‘the incident’ was indeed public knowledge, he must have found out. Once again she regretted it; the party, the assault report, the dreadful court case, everything.

It had been exactly 2 years, 8 months and 13 days since she was raped by men, no monsters, whom she had assumed were her friends and she had never really been the same afterwards. Maybe it was the betrayal by friends she’d held dear, or the unnecessary intense scrutiny she had received reporting the case, Maybe, it was the case itself and the way her school’s publication followed every motion, every ruling, Maybe it was just the rape. The whole thing had changed her so much. She was once outgoing, overly social and extremely friendly; the real life of the party. But one fatefully rainy day in November, her charismatic strengths led her to her impending doom. She in her third year of Veterinary School and so far she was enjoying every part of it. Her grades were good, she was sufficiently involved in campus activities and she had made friends, most of the male variety, but only because not a lot of women glamorized the care of farm animals like she did, but it wasn’t something that had bothered her much. One Friday in November, she was invited for a small after-school get together. The message had said, “Lots of food, music and drinks. Bring your own girl.” At the time, she giggled at the sentiment that each was to appear with a female companion. At the same time, she was relieved that she wouldn’t be the only female attending this party. Friday evening rolled through swiftly, she walked with a few of her closest study buddies to an off-campus residence apparently belonging to a friend of a friend. They said he didn’t mind a bunch of strangers partying at his house, he actually enjoyed it. On their way there, Bessie did what she assumed was research; diligently asking Kobe if he knew this guy enough to trust him. He didn’t really know him. She asked Patrick and Phil (Short for Philemon) the same, they gave no more detailed answers than Kobe. She stopped dead in her tracks, the boys soon after she did. She said, “Guys, are we sure about this? I mean I love a party just as much as the next girl but I don’t know how I feel about this.” The men were quick to calm her with words like, “You’re going with us aren’t you? We’ll make sure nothing fishy happens. Don’t worry. He’s Jay’s Friend. We’re all friends, aren’t we?” Looking back, she now knew that was the moment she should have turned back and walked straight to her hostel a few paces away. She wished she did, but instead she believed these friends of hers and walked on towards her personal Armageddon.

It was twenty minutes past the hour now. The overly cheerful waitress returned with her drink and enough sense not to say much to her. Her date was now twenty minutes late and counting. She stirred her drink with her straw before she took it out and took a large swig of her drink. It was strong but for the kind of day she was having, it wasn’t strong enough. She would need a few more if she was to make it to the end of this evening and even more to spend the evening on this date. You see, Bessie had been having a totally normal day when she received a message to a friend with a link. “Gang Rape at Veterinary School: Do you know what you’re children are doing while away?” Her heart had sunk at the moment when the headline popped up on the screen. It hadn’t returned to normalcy yet. She knew the court case was public record but she had never assumed that some journalist would use it. Apart from her rescuer and a few friends, no one knew what had happened. The school publication had been smart enough to redact all facts that led to her identity. Despite this fact, she had not returned to school after that. She dropped out and convinced her parents that she was more into entrepreneurship now. She wished she had let her parents know exactly what happened that November Night. But now the damage was pretty much done. There was no saving face or damage control at this point. The stage at which she had arrived required truthfulness and courage to relive the incident every time she told it. It was excruciating to think about. She hadn’t read the article all the way through, just the headline was enough to send her stomach into painful knots.  She got out her phone. It had been off since she read the headline; she wasn’t quite ready for the mental torture. She would see if she was now. She powered it up. The tiny aluminum colored device began to dance on the table violently; everyone was looking for Bessie. Her name must have leaked in the article as her phone vibrated violently seeking her attention. She ignored the messages, she wasn’t in the mood to be pitied and judged all at the same time.

The headline had already made it to her browser’s news reel. She clicked on the headline. As it loaded at what seemed to be a snail’s pace, she could already tell that even though the headline seemed generalized and informative, the article was specific to her case and vindictive. For why, even though he thought he was serving the greater good, would a journalist publish her name and all the particulars of the case without asking if he should share or conceal her, the victim’s identity. The first thing that she saw on the website was her school ID picture. She must have been 17 when that was taken. The caption read ‘Beatrice, now 20, was forced to drop out after she was unable to convince the school administration that her rape was not her fault.’

“What?” Bessie exclaimed loudly. Everyone turned in their seats to look at her. She did not notice. She began reading the article. And as if the publicity surrounding her rape were not enough, the author of the article all but asserted that Bessie caused her own rape. He used quotes like ‘A girl like Beatrice is known to play hard to get in the daylight and let too loose in the evening. These girls tease our boys then get intoxicated around them expecting them to express nothing but self-control and awe for their tiny outfits’ Again, her inner voice reminded her that reading this article would cause nothing but harm and emotional trauma. She had to police her heart, her therapist had always insisted. You mustn’t allow yourself to be exposed to triggers for your condition. That’s what he called it, a condition. At first, it had bothered her so she asked that he called an illness meaning that it was curable. He had declined stating that it was in fact incurable but optimistically he added that it was a treatable condition.  She stared at her phone. She should have been calling the therapist or at least her date but instead she kept reading the foulest words she had ever heard or read about herself.  This time she focused on seeing if any of her rapists had been mentioned. Then another quote ‘Your sons like these young men charged with the alleged rape of Beatrice are being lured like snake bait and then arrested for giving in to their most primal urges. Ludicrous!’

“Ludicrous?” She was laughing now while she spoke out aloud. “It’s not ludicrous to be a rapist in the first place?” When she looked up from her laughter, her date stood before her gazing at her. She composed herself quite quickly and said hello. He replied taking his seat across from her.

“Why you’re in a good mood for a girl whose date is half an hour late. What are you reading there?” He gestured at her phone. She instinctively covered the phone not wanting to bring up the whole article or rape thing and looked straight in his eyes. They gleamed with curiosity behind the gleaming was a sparkle that you could not miss. The sparkle in the eye of a man about to crown his queen. This man had been obsessed with her for a few months now and she couldn’t figure out why. They never did anything other than meet for meals and talk. He had always been a gentleman and never even asked why he was never permitted to ask her out on a more intimate date. Most guys gave up at around the third month of expensive lunches and fancy coffees but here he was, eight months later, with that damn sparkle in his stupid big brown eyes. Why didn’t he just give up? Why didn’t he just run!

“So? What’s so ludicrously funny?” He leaned forward, placed his hand over hers and looked deep into her eyes. She was uncomfortable, blood rushing to her face. She began to breathe heavily, deeply as if taking him in, all of him.

“It’s nothing. Just this article.” She wasn’t going to say anything more but somehow it just slipped out. “It’s about me actually. I made the news.” His face lit up.

“Can I read it?” She glanced at his hands over her hands over her phone. It felt like a crude metaphor for what would be of their relationship when she showed him. To reveal what had happened to her, would require her to detach from him first; for her to see him, not as a potential lover, but as a stranger or a plutonic buddy. In her mind, there was no way for them to continue down the path of love after he knew what happened to her.

“No. You can’t. I shouldn’t be reading it either.” His face cringed, he withdrew one palm from the table then the next.

“Why?” The look in his eye was less loving and more curious now. Bessie looked him genuinely trying to decide if her rape was coffee house conversation or pillow talk or one of those ‘never’ conversations. How would this man react to hearing what he wants has been had over and over again by force over her screaming and kicking? He could tell she was battling something deep within. He reached out for her hands again. She withdrew, leaving him to cuff her wrists. She tried to break free, the sensation of his hands around her wrists feeling oddly the same as that night. A feeling of restraint, not affection. Phil had held her down, just like that. She tried again. He wouldn’t let go. He was looking at her squirm and obsess like a caged animal. It seemed absurd, since he didn’t mean to restrain her but to keep her from withdrawing from the conversation. He let go eventually with a heavy sigh; he gave up trying to pry it out of her.

“I read it, Bessie.”

“What?”

“I read the article. It’s everywhere, I’m sorry.” She looked away, fighting back tears with every fibre of her being. He continued speaking, “Frankly, it was distasteful and in my opinion, downright disgusting.” Bessie buried her face in her hands, realising that she couldn’t fight the tears anymore. “I know this is not how you wanted to break it to me. I know maybe you didn’t want to break it to me at all. I know you’re scared that what those animals did to you will follow you forever. I know this article kind of reinforces this fear.” She looked up now, scrambling for a napkin to dry her eyes. He continued while she blew her nose noisily, “It’s not your fault. It can’t even be. I wasn’t there, I know that but I also know you. You are kind-hearted and cheerful and no one!” He took her hands in his, looking her directly in the eyes which at this point felt like a dagger to her soul. “No one, Bessie, least of all you deserves such hostility and injustice. They tried to strip you of your soul, your being and your essence, yet here you are standing tall exuding strength and bravery that I could only dream of. I know you thought I’d run; for a hot second I thought I would too; but how? How could I leave a gem just because it is buried somewhere beneath the surface? I couldn’t possibly leave when I know that I will not, no, cannot find someone as brave as strong as the queen who sits before me. “

Breaking Chains

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Judgemental Women: I’m man enough to admit I am one

It’s Monday morning; I’m moody. Don’t think that makes much of a difference cause every Emm Morning is a Moody Morning but I digress. A co-worker, who also doubles as a friend walks up to me and begins to speak. At the utterance of my name, I shoot her down assuming that she wants to indulge me in some vain-themed conversation about weaves or handbags. (My first mistake) She walks away. The energy in that room should have told me I fucked up; but being as anti-social as I am, I don’t notice. (My second mistake) Few minutes later, she’s at my desk confronting me about how I had behaved earlier. I give a vague excuse; I’m Monday Morning Moody. (My third mistake) She doesn’t buy it. She eventually tells me that the reason why she had wanted to speak to me in the first place was that she had just discovered “EmmBoldened” and it inspired her; she wanted to exchange some ideas, maybe collaborate on a few pieces. My heart sinks; there are genuine tears in my eyes. Let me tell you why.

You see as much as I’m the loudest feminist in every room I enter, I’m not a very good one. I think it stems from my youth, but I’ll get to that. I feel horrible because I dismissed my friend. We’ve never had a deep conversation about our experiences as women so I didn’t view her as ‘my kind of woman’. She lives the life of the average woman; so I never ever for a second imagined that she had some sort of feminist agenda like I do. A few genuine conversations in, I can tell she has something to say; something similar to what I keep saying. It’s almost as if I imagined that you had to be overweight, single or bitter to fathom my concept of feminism. I am deeply ashamed to admit that I am a feminist who judges other feminists.

Let me take a few to diagnose myself. I am who I am because of how I grew up. I’ve told you guys enough times, I was a frampy kid; a bit overweight, too smart for my own good and with enough social anxiety to keep me quiet and invisible. Girls did not like me; actually people did not like me because I barely spoke, when I did I almost always made you feel dumb and also I wasn’t very pretty to look at till I turned about 13. So throughout the early primary school years, a lot of mean girl stuff happened to me and most of the time I wouldn’t speak to defend myself. I was once blamed for petty stuff like stealing someone’s something and since I mostly hung out alone I had no alibi. In the end, I found out she stole it herself to get me in trouble. Girls would read my diaries out loud in class (yes, this happened twice. I stopped keeping a diary after that), spread outrageous rumors about me (Say hello to the girl who supposedly dealt narcotics when she was 13, I have still never even done them) and the best of them, call me out all the fucking time in public where I did not thrive. (I don’t want to detail this one, still hold some childhood trauma). Up until I was about 17, I had never kept a female friend for more than a school term (usually about 3months). (No I am not counting my sister, who beat the shit out of most of the girls mentioned above, Thanks Romie) So I have always been skeptical about being friends with women. They never seemed to pan out in the end or were actually just fake from the beginning. Now, I know I have projected this onto almost every average woman I have met since. by average, I mean women who are not weird off the bat. I keep my distance and wear my life stories close to the vest. In so doing, it’s not entirely a surprise that most people that know me don’t know why I’m still single, why I don’t believe in marriage or soulmates or even why I don’t want children and these are integral parts of my feminist self. Let’s be honest, a feminist that cannot connect with other women no matter their background is a shitty feminist. I am a shitty feminist.

The events of this Monday morning sent into a mental tailspin; picking up on all the side shade I throw at women I don’t know or understand just because they don’t look like me. It sent me back to all the comments I have made about women who cross me on the street wearing too much make-up. Who I am to say that make-up is too much, to her it’s just enough. It got me thinking about all the women I laughed at because they were freezing their asses in micro-minis at the club. Who am I to declare that her clothes don’t match the weather, she felt it did. All the women I judged for dating older men for their money. Who the fuck am I to declare that dating for money is a crime or a social vice. How  I ask not to be faulted for not wanting children while I fault others for wanting them too early or too bad? I have lived my life running away from social standards while deep down I set them for all those around me. Who the Fuck do I think I am!! Women can do whatever they want and if I am not a testimony to that, I don’t know. How am I fighting the patriarchy yet bringing down equality between women themselves? How do I scream, “Let me be” while I can’t let others be. It almost seems as if its not women’s equivalence to men I want, its mine. I want to be held equivalent without holding others the same.

Now sneer at me all you want but I’m not the only one. Some of us are guilty too. Or have never made a comment that supported the rape of a random lady because you were too conservative to wear what she was wearing. “Now if she gets raped, looking like that, who will she blame?” The rapist that’s who! Have you never judged a pretty girl because she was just better looking and attracted more male attention; called her a ‘whore’ or something worse because what you desired came so much easier to her. We are women and that’s just what we do, right? WRONG! We are feminists and we refuse to grow up competing with each other for what really comes down to men’s approval. It’s what society wants but it’s not what feminism entails. For me, I have seen the error of my foolish and even more selfish ways; and if you watch this space, you will see me collaborate with all kinds of women on everything woman and woman adjacent; fashion, hair, feminism, female oppression, domestic violence. If it’s for women, I want to write about it, I want to talk about it. Because she is you and you are her. I am you and you are me. We all jump the same huddles.

Now, allow me to make one more declaration, the last I will ever impose in a woman. I will steal it from some Mexican women protesting sexual violence a few years ago, “Ni santas, ni putas, solo mujeres” “No saints, No whores, Just women” We cannot win this very real war by putting each other down and the first step to correcting a mistake is admitting it. I admit I can be a hella bitch to other women sometimes and I also admit it almost never has anything to do with them. To you that I have judged, I apologize and make this public declaration to pick women up or shut my mouth for as long as I live. (Yes, you can hold me to it) Feminism is about your choice to be whomever you want and as a fellow feminist I refuse to stand in your way and promise to pay you enough encouragement and compliments to get you there. You are no saint, you are no whore, you are just a woman and that in itself is enough for me.

An African Feminist’s Letter to her Future Husband

AAFLTMFH

Hey! Emm here, your guide to the world of the African feminist in the 21st Century! Today, I’m going to rustle a lot of raw nerves and probably lose three of my two followers but hey! I want to do this. I have to do this. Before I get to this, let me just put this disclaimer out there; these views are mine, if you don’t like them that’s OK but also I don’t care. Without further ado, I present an African feminist’s letter to her future husband.

Dear Future Husband and Partner;

First, thank you for coming into my life. I already know I love you because I chose you to walk in this unbelievable institution with me. Marriage is not an issue I have bought into so you must be really something special. Soak all that in for a minute, from this point I will venture into a deep bitter and maybe hurtful rant, but remember I love you. I choose to write you this letter now, years probably decades before we ever meet because you need to know how exactly I feel about some of these issues and as a woman I will not trust myself not to silenced by raging emotions when the time comes. Simply, I’m saying that I want you to know this without me having to tell you.

Feminism is forever.

The first thing you need to know is that I am unequivocally and unapologetically a feminist and unless the world is upside down and men are giving birth and breastfeeding babies now, I am still and will always be a feminist. Not to say that I do not believe an age will come when the world treats equally despite our gender, I just feel like the very laws of nature are likely to turn 360 degrees before men allow that. (See that bitterness I was talking about). And in being a feminist, I would like equal parts in this union; the good, the bad and possibly the angry children who already hate how loud their mum is.  This is the 21s Century; I don’t need a protector and I’m not in the mood to be your protector either. I don’t need a provider, and neither do I need providing for. I am not Bonnie Tyler, I am not holding out for a hero till the morning light. In addition to this, I will not be your hero either. I am a firm believer in self-sufficiency. I am a (hopefully still) young able woman and if somehow I choose to loan part of my life to you, it wouldn’t be because I need you but simply because I have discerned that you are the best human being to spend most of my time with. Yes! Marriage to me is basically just the privilege of my time and partnership. You do not own me or my body. I remain an independent entity. Good news though; you also don’t owe me jerk shit. You don’t want to? Don’t! I’ll do it myself. Also, Sorry but I don’t want your last name; mine has been serving me just fine but hyphenated surnames are still on the table.

Predefined gender assigned roles are not a thing

Now, I’m not surprised you can’t prepare a meal to save your life. I don’t blame you either; but, hey! You need food to live, yes? You don’t exactly hunt game or gather wild fruit, do you? You also won’t be building our matrimonial home with just your hands and readily available material, will you? Good! So do we agree that the gender assigned roles you were taught by society are basically just part of an outdated lesson? Do we agree that cooking and cleaning duties are not a woman’s job; rather the job of the human being who wants to live decently?

Now, I know you’re a little disappointed. You were brought up thinking that some young girl somewhere is training to serve you for a lifetime, I get it. But as that young girl, let me just tell you that I did not take to heart anything that was preceded by or succeeded by “For your future husband”. So, No! When I was taught to make chapatis I didn’t take an interest or learn anything at all. And when I failed at preparing ugali once, I never tried to make it again. And I can’t peel a pineapple to a state safe for human consumption. I’m not perfect, OK! But neither are you! Because if you’re so interested in eating these meals with extremely complicated recipes, why have you never taken an interest in learning how to make them? I’m not saying I can’t cook! I can. I’m saying, I like to eat samosas so I learnt how to make them. I wasn’t keen on chapatis, so you know what? I didn’t bother to learn. If that makes me a bad future wife, guess it makes you a horrible human being; having a meal you like but cannot prepare. That being said, you better get to learning how to cook and clean because the only task I consider my job is my actual salaried job; the rest is fair game.

Not all men cheat; just you

Brace yourselves for some tough love, buddy. This section’s got a lot of it. I know society gave you this ‘All men cheat’ card and maybe you’re thinking you’ll use it with me a few times. Those three words can send me into a Gender Inequality rant you wouldn’t believe so let me just burst your bubble right quick. I don’t think self-control is determined by gender. It is crazy for you to assume I will control myself when you refuse to. You can’t expect respect that you don’t reciprocate. The fact that you are a man does not absolve you of your crimes; bringing it up will just make me angrier. Also, Infidelity is never really forgiven and forgotten. In the event that you make a promise to remain faithful, it really doesn’t matter what state you were in during the crime, who was there, what they said or did and it definitely matters less what is between your legs. The only thing called into question by your infidelity is your integrity and your character. Only men with a deficit in character cheat. (Sorry, not sorry) The deficit could be in self-control, humility, communication or whatever god damn excuse you gave yourself right before you decided to cheat.

They talk of women who take that cheating man back into the marriage for the children. I don’t know how that has worked out for them and frankly I don’t care; because it would not, could not ever work for me. When the trust has been broken then by all means the other ties between us must be severed. That being said, let me detail the unspoken rule; cheaters get left. Say it with me: CHEATERS GET LEFT; even at the altar.

Spending habits Vs Spending Power

You know, I keep hearing that women are all gold diggers. Now, I don’t refute that some women are more attracted to the weight of one’s wallet more than anything else, but I am not that woman. De-stereotype me, at once! But Money is and probably always will be a discerning factor; let me explain. A man is more than his wallet but he is indeed a direct reflection of how he chooses to spend what is in this wallet. As much as it is ok be broke, why are you broke though? Have you landed on hard times? OK, that happens and it passes. Or do you spend all your income on partying with friends you never see in the daylight? Or is it that you’re the ‘Get Rich Quick’ guy who will spend everything down to the last dime on some pipe dream only for it to fail miserably (as I probably would have told you)? Or are you just bad with money? I find it hilarious that in this generation of men, some cannot even clean their own boxers in the name of ‘It’s a woman’s job’ but have no shame living off their wives under the pretext of borrowing; even though we know that he is not a Lannister and he never repays his debts least of all those borrowed from his ‘rib’.

In light of recent times my future husband, I only ask that you be self-sufficient yet frugal with joint affairs. I am not asking for any of your money. I’ve been going on fine without it. However, in this day and age, I will not willingly support your laziness and spoilt boy routine. I’m sorry to say: I. AM. NOT. YOUR. MOTHER. (Actually I am really not sorry to say this) Your spending power doesn’t matter to me but your spending habits do.

Children, Pets and Other Living Things

I generally like children and pets but that doesn’t mean I want to possess any of my own. Now settle down, let me answer the normal questions that succeed this statement. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I have been since birth. No, my uterus and ovaries work just fine. And yes, I am a woman who doesn’t want children. Before you throw that biological clock, maternal instinct garbage at me, realise that it is well within a woman’s right to change her mind whenever, wherever and as often as she likes. I resent that a woman’s choice not to reproduce is met with such prejudice and judgement yet men live their whole lives with no children and it’s never considered a ground-breaking finding. While for women we consider it a sort of disability; as if women were made to breed and without it they are unfulfilled. I’m not shading the mothers and future mothers out there, but it is not necessarily programmed into the female brain that our end goal is the production of children. Some of us just don’t want them. It’s not mean or arrogant or in the least bit selfish. It’s simply a choice like getting a tattoo. “Do I want this thing for the rest of my life?” Some women like children, I like tattoos. Deal with it. I will not be bearing and caring for children for you. I may change my mind but that won’t be for you either. Also you can’t have pets or other living things that aren’t us around us, PERIOD. I will not change my mind on that but I have the right to.

My dress, my choice

I know that while growing up you have been led to believe that your wife’s attire concerns you; that you have some kind of final say. You have obviously been deceived. If it isn’t already obvious, I’ve been wearing clothes a long time, almost all my life. And I only just met you. Therefore, your opinion on what I wear is welcome but it is but a mere suggestion. I will not change the way I dress for you. If you didn’t like it on the first place, then we should have never made it to the altar. This is not ‘Build-A-Wife’. What you see is what you get, you don’t approve, maybe you should move…. On!

Finally, my dear, my darling, my love, the one who stayed, I want you to know that I don’t write this because I believe you are the kind of man to get any of these points wrong. I only write this letter this way because the men I have met would need this elaborate guideline. Because the idea of a wife with an opinion is new to most of these men out here. I know you are first off, a feminist. Maybe one more adamant than I am. That even though you were raised in a patriarchal society, you do not see women as your subordinates but as your equals. I know that you can probably throw down a meal so good, we would have to make you our household’s head chef. I know that you understand your spending power and that defines your spending habits. I know you are a man so great that my greatness would never intimidate you. I know you love me, care for me and are ready to spend the rest of your days with me. To me, that is all that matters

With love and incredible foresight,

Your future wife,

Emm.

Hon. Hajji’s Bigger, Better

Mrs. Hajji was talking her husband’s ear off about the children. “Rose …this…. Paul ….that…. and Minysteria’s just rude.” Hon. Hajji didn’t indulge; he had already said what he needed to say about his children to his children. Not to say, he wasn’t bothered by the disappointment they had brought him; but rather he did not care to speak his wife on this matter as she would just fuel the fire. She was the eternal bad cop when it came to their Super Parenting Team; Hajji suspected that this was only because she would rather have all his attention to herself and all the wealth too. Hon. Hajji imagined how amazing it would be if his wife and children weren’t so spoilt; if they did not act as if privileges afforded to them were rights. Had they raised the children wrong? Or was it the pressure of being in the political eye for most of their formative years? He reminisced about the days when Paul, his son looked up to him and followed him everywhere possible. Now it seemed as if he strayed as far as he could from his father and his career path. He looked back fondly at the days when Roselyn had big ceiling-shattering dreams that did not involve her being naked or objectified. However, now it seemed that if it did not objectify her, she didn’t want it. Minnie was on the right track at least her career was; in a matter of fact that was the only thing going right in her life and Hajji suspected that her defects were much deeper than her siblings’.

 

These were not the children of a Career Politician; they were the children of an arrogant rich man. He unconsciously feared that his children and their failures were the main reason the party wouldn’t nominate him for the bigger better position he always pushed for. He had been in politics for almost 30 years now; 20 as a Member of Parliament with each election yielding better and better results but nothing higher.  He wanted to move on to bigger better things. Even though he held an enormous degree of power and influence, he had been limited to the same old constituency for 30 years. He felt like he was still someone’s henchman;  articulating orders that came from higher up. He still answered to the party. Like all first-timers, he had been honored to serve in any way at the beginning but 30 years of stifled policies and shot-down ideas left him with little honor and fleeting loyalty. He hadn’t decided on how he was going to break into this Bigger Better position yet but he knew for sure that he would have to fight a lot of adversity for it.

 

“Hon. Hajji! Hon. Hajji! Hon. Hajji!” It took Jabari three tries to get the Mheshimiwa’s attention, “I have the Party Chairman, Hon. Chacha for you on the line.”

Hajji immediately discerned that he was not in the right mindset to speak to the Party Chairman. “Tell him I’ll return his call after the charity event.”

“Yes, Sir. “ Jabari spoke calmly into his phone and turned to Hon. Hajji again. “He says it can’t wait.”

Hon. Hajji reached over for the phone, put his hand over the voice receptor and took a deep breath before putting it to his ear.

“Chacha! I didn’t think I’d hear from you until the next Fundraiser.”

“Ahaha! Hajji don’t kid me. We spoke last week. “The voice on the other side did not portray the playfulness of its statement. Hon. Chacha’s voice was stern and urgent.

Hon. Hajji’s eyes widened as he collected himself. He could tell that this was an important call. He asked dutifully,” What can I do for you, Mr. Chairman?”

“Your Annual Hajji Foundation Charity Event is today, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Now I may be divulging information that exceeds your rank but you are our most popular Member of Parliament in the area.”

“Last time I checked.” Hajji smiled a little.

“Well, we are far behind our projection targets for the General Election and we feel that only you would be able to boost us to where we need to be.”

“Chaaacha.” Hon. Hajji tried to level with the Party Chairman. “You know how I feel about talking politics at my Foundation’s events. In its 17 years, I have never.”

“This is not lost on me, Hajji. IT. IS. NOT. But President Kibaraka may not succeed in re-election if we don’t take some drastic measures. Ones that maybe we haven’t taken for 17 years or even more. “

“I don’t see how my remarks will tilt the scale.” Hon. Hajji was careful not to show too much of his apprehension. “Seeing as the president’s poll numbers fell right after the audits of those two government entities were released detailing deep-rooted corruption and rampant mismanagement. How did that even happen, Chacha?”

Hon. Hajji could feel the Party Chairman’s face turn bright red from the other side of the phone. His breathing was now heavy enough for Hajji to hear, lucidly.

“Now look here. You are either with the party or you are against it. You cannot straddle the fence and if you choose to, we will have to find you a new party to run with in the next general election. I call you with complements and praise and out of the benevolence and goodness of my heart, ask you, not tell you, to do something for me and you throw doctored audit reports and corruption claims in my face! Hajji, I must just say I am…. “

“I have offended you. I apologize. I will make a few remarks about our good ol’ president.” Hon. Hajji extinguished the fire before it turned into an inferno. A good politician knew when to compromise on his honor; that is if he wanted to remain a politician and an active one at that.

“You better.” Hon. Chacha hung up and Hajji passed the phone back to Jabari.

“How much longer, Jabari?”

“About 45 minutes”

Hon. Hajji turned to his wife, “How do you feel about an independent Member of Parliament for a husband.” His voice tried to convey perky and casual but came out jaded, just jaded. His wife was not known for concealing her immediate emotions; in fact it often worked to his disadvantage as his wife would openly sneer at press conference and ugly cry at politician’s funeral. She was photographer’s candy at any event they attended. However, Hon. Hajji loved that his wife wore her emotions on her sleeve, he could always tell what she was thinking; what she was feeling. Lying between them was simply not an option. It had kept them together for forty years and it would keep them together even longer, maybe even forever. But this time was different, her face went blank; no expression; no emotion; nothing.

“Martha? Did you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“And?? What do you think?”

“I don’t know……”

“Don’t know what??”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Henry! “ Martha raised her voice a notch.

“What does that mean? I want your opinion. I thought that was clear.”

“No; you either want me to talk you out of it like I’ve always done or you want me to act somewhat supportive while you throw away 30 years of building rapport and coming up in the party.” She looked Hon. Hajji dead in the eye, her stare piercing his soul, revealing years of dissatisfaction and discomfort working in the party, “So which one is it, Henry? “

“I’ve been back and forth about this and that call from the Conniving Chacha just sealed it. I can’t stay. Winning party or not. The rot is deep and the most rotten lead us like dictators. “Hon. Hajji sighed. “I’m not ungrateful; at least I didn’t mean to be. But this is the party that plucked me from university politics with big dreams and better promises. This is not the party that gave me a platform big enough to get elected and help me finally implement some of my ideas for development. Somewhere, some when, somehow the party began to rot from the head down leaving me surrounded by people with whom I do not share a common principle or dream. I want Bigger! I want Better! And if that is to come true, the party is not the best channel with which to do it.”

“I’m going to be blunt, Henry Hajji, because that is what you need from me right now.” She looked away while she continued. “This country was built by men like you, Henry. That is why the party saw something in you so many years ago and funded your campaigns. And Unlike that party, you are still the same man; wiser and bolder but still governed by the same integrity. That is not something many men in your position can say honestly. You have not allowed your principles to fall for the spoils of power, and that has made you the most popular man in this region. From where we sit, it looks like it all works in your favor. But while you were busy developing your principles and standing by them, the country, just like the party, changed; and not for the better. Look around Henry, that Conniving Chacha orchestrated the selling of his country to foreigners. What he didn’t sell, he privatized and kept for himself and his cronies. He placed a puppet at the top and began to pull his strings. You wouldn’t just be fighting the party opponent in the constituency if you were to run independent, you’d be fighting Chacha, the party, the president, the whole damn country! This may not be what you wanted to hear but it is every single bit true. Bigger and better, also means harder and bloodier, Henry. ”

Hailey: Bold Vs. Backward

“Why do we have to? Why do I have to?” Hailey let out a sigh and pouted visibly. Her pout brought out all her good features as she pouted with her whole face; her curly blonde locks paved way for her excellent cheekbones, sharp, defined. Her broad African nose wrinkled perfectly highlighting her big blue eyes.

“Because you just do!” Her father barked at her as he tried to fit his big brown broad-rimmed hat round the corners of his head. “Now, again. You tell them your name is NJAMBI, not that American rendition you keep advertising. ”

“Hailey has been my name for a long time. If I am correct, all my life. I don’t understand why I have to change it now for some relatives I barely know.” Her father’s eyes narrowed with the slightest pang of anger.

“Also I want you to use the language. At least try to. We want these people thinking you’re wholesome home-grown Gikuyu woman. Mutumia Gatha. Ready for marriage!” He was calmer with this decree, knowing it would be hard for her to converse with strangers in a language she had only just begun to learn.  Hailey nodded giving up her comfort for the day even though she could not grasp why exactly.

“You may want to spend most of the day helping in the kitchen and serving the men. A domesticated woman fetches a lot more than a spoilt one, Njambi. Smile, too! It’s important.” He mimicked to her through the mirror’s reflection.

“What is thing called again, dad?” Hailey began to lean into her woes.

“We call it a ruracio. It is a dowry negotiation ceremony, a coming together of families, an alliance! “He declared while he turned on his heel, rather too ceremoniously.

“Sounds like a bore. Dad, I’ve told you enough times. Allan is nice but I don’t want to marry him. “Hailey’s big blue eyes pleaded with her father to reconsider.

“Njambi, my dear, my only daughter, the only thing they let me carry home with me when they deported me,” He moved to closer to his daughter, bent down and held her face close to his, “We are in Africa now. OK? And in Africa, your father says you marry, you marry. Now for the last time, Kamau is the man for you, PERIOD! “He screamed, with his eyes fixed on hers before he threw her face away from his, letting go. Hailey’s eyes began to sting with tears. All too visibly, her light-skinned cheeks began to fill with rose color.

“It’s….. It’s……. It’s just backward to arrange my marriage to Allan.” She retorted between tears feeling herself refuse to subdue or submit.

“Backward? You dare call your ancestry backward! You listen here, and you open your ears and listen good. This is your home now and there is no Gloria Steinem here! No Germaine Greer and No Susan B. Anthony to save you from your God-granted duties. In this country, men lead and women follow. Men speak and women obey. You are a woman and you are no different!” He said this, eyes fixed on Hailey as she reacted. She rose and fled the room, head in hands.

A year ago, Hailey was a very different person, in a different country, living a different life with different people. Then her mother passed away, a young Caucasian woman in her forties leaving behind a Kenyan husband and her mixed race daughter. At the time, her father had been inconsolable for about three months. He didn’t speak, he didn’t eat, he didn’t work and he didn’t sleep. Even though Hailey was in her early twenties, she had never realized that her mother was, in fact, the breadwinner and her father simply just worked to fill his time. Something that only came to the light when Hailey and her father began to struggle financially after she died. They lost their house and found themselves in a homeless shelter. All of a sudden, Hailey’s father was all too eager to see Hailey find a job and support them. Unfortunately, not much in the way of employment materialized for any of them; but to be honest, Hailey was the only one trying.

Then after three months of grief, something changed. Hailey didn’t know what exactly. They did not return to the shelter. Instead, Hailey’s father rented a penthouse out of the blue. He ‘employed’ Hailey as his housekeeper as payment for letting her live with him. He hopped back on the dating scene after twenty years, bringing home women who were barely her seniors. Hailey endured this for few months, though grateful that they weren’t penniless and homeless. Then one fateful day, a persistent banging rang at the door, in the dead of the night while her father was ‘entertaining’. And as sure as the sunrise she saw every morning, something was indeed wrong with how her father had procured the penthouse and his new lifestyle. He was running an immigration scam for Africans; taking huge sums and promising non-existent green cards. So he was deported and she with him to a land she had never been to and considered the farthest from home.

She sat at the front door step crying, while she stared at her dress. It was itchy and a little too big for her. She wasn’t comfortable, with any of it. The move, the ‘ceremony’, the dress, the way her father spoke to her, the forced marriage, the foreign name. She looked out into the horizon. The magnificent rolling hills covered in vibrant green took her breath away and even in the state of discomfort she had been forced into, she still felt drawn to the land’s beauty, its abundance, its magnificence. She couldn’t fathom such a beautiful place could be so…….

“Eh! Tuthie! Her father barked from behind her while he tapped her shoulder which what looked like a dead cow’s tail but he called a ‘fly whisk’. Startled, she completed her thought. Horrible. Getting up behind her father, she realized the only way to survive this day was to either be bold or backward.

Curious Collusion – Det. Cooper Series

“So did you catch him? You’re here for back-up, aren’t you? Coop? Coop?” Brown appeared at Coop’s side out of nowhere when he walked into the station. His grin beaming from ear to ear. Last time he checked, they were inches away from catching a murderer; scratch that, a serial killer with a suicide fetish. Being a homicide detective that was like a home run or a three pointer that puts your team up by one just before the buzzer goes off, and Brown was gunning to be the MVP. It was a big break for this team! But Coop didn’t speak at first, he only maintained a stone-cold look on his face; the face of a man calculating and associating.

“Back at square one, Brown!” Coop sighed loudly as he dropped himself in his chair. Brown taking his next to him. He flipped through the Nursing home’s visitors’ logs as Brown just stared at him. Brown knew to give Coop a moment when he had been let down by a lead; he was prone to violent outbursts of emotion. Brown had to break the silence, he had relatively good news; news that took them to square two at least.

“Not quite. Autopsy report came back.” Coop’s eyes lit up a little, he sat straight and stared at Brown as he flipped through the medical file on his desk. “Turns….. Out…….” He dragged the lead, searching for the page

“Spit it out! Porky Pig!” Det. Coop insensitively quipped. Brown gave Coop a sharp look before he continued.

“It turns out Alicia Doe, 28 was indeed raped by her assailant.”

“What’s the Bad news?” Coop was skeptical.

“How did you know there was bad news?”

“I just know. Now spit out.”

“Well, we run the……. Samples”

“The SEMEN samples?” Coop smiled at how easy it was to get under Brown’s skin. His own personal doormat. He used him to vent and to reassure himself because history had shown Brown to never ever challenge him even when he should have. They were just a team like that.

“Yes. Those samples. And guess what??”

“Brownie!” A nickname Coop used to toy with Det. Brown, “I swear on my mother’s noose…..”

“OK! There are no matches for the sample. Which is weird because…..” Coop cut him off

“It would mean the assailant has never been arrested or even registered in this country. He’s never donated blood or even gone to the hospital for any sort of check-up. He’s a ghost?”

“He is a ghost!”

“Well, spank me and call me pretty, we just uncovered the tale of the serial killing ghost.” The middle-aged men burst into loud hearty laughter; even though they both knew they were no closer to finding Alicia’s murderer than they were when they found her dead in a stranger’s house with her wrists slit.

Three minutes of hearty laughter later, Coop went back to the Visitors’ Logs, chroming each page for something that would blow the case wide open. Even a little inkling pointing toward the killer would have been enough at this point. As he ran through the names in the Visitors’ Log, he couldn’t keep his mind from straying to the thought that he may be wrong. Every few years, a girl kills herself in a strange place, so what? How could that mean there was a serial killer? What if there was no ‘serial killer’ and these ladies just killed themselves as some people are often prone to do? Why did he have this feeling deep in his stomach every time he thought about it? Or talked about it? Why did it bother him so much when he had seen it himself? The arrival of a human being to their breaking point and their choices thereafter were nothing new to Coop. This is something he knew all too well. He was only 22 years old when he came home after a few months away and found his mother hanging from the rail of the staircase. She hadn’t been dead long, maybe an hour or two. He must have still been on the drive there. They had just spoken that morning. She had mentioned a break-up from one of the countless random men she’d seen after Coop was born but she didn’t seem bothered or even torn up about it. She knew he would find her, she did it anyway. She was aware of his character and inability to open up to anyone but her, she did it anyway. She knew he loved her more than anything, she did it anyway. Coop only shed tears while he cut her down. Seeing her body fall from the first floor to the ground with an enormous yet lifeless thud, then covering her with a white sheet, unable to fathom moving her any further, Coop never shed another tear after that. Not at her funeral, not when he spoke about it, not even when he thought about it. He just knew he had lost a large portion of himself when she died, he had cried for the lost parts of himself. He would never cry about it again. He would never be the same man again. He joined the Police Force soon after that and the rest was history. Till he met Jill. Jill! His mind screamed. Cooper gathered the remaining unexamined Visitors’ Logs and left suddenly without a word.

Whitney Houston was belting out notes perfectly in Cooper’s car. He drove out of the station to the apartment complex with one thing on his mind. “Jill can fix this. Jill can fix me.” He parked his car close to the one he bought her about a year before. He could tell it hadn’t been driven in a while, he could tell by the layer of dust he had distorted when he ran his finger across the car’s top.  However, It didn’t bother him; at least not as much as it should. When he bought it, he knew she wouldn’t drive it. It was just another gift he used to dissuade his guilt from forcing him into doing what he knew he had to do. Jill was a patient woman, more patient than he knew people to be. He couldn’t believe it at times. For five years, this woman stood by him, with her budding youth, no real title or recognition and even less in terms of respect. He was an old stubborn man, he knew it, he carried himself the way he did because of it. He had always expected her to leave him, walk off into the proverbial sunset rendering him just a messy part of her history. And she did, over and over again. She also came back over and over again too, holding no grudges, asking for no apologies.

The bond that held them was deeper than marriage he thought, it was pain. His pain which caused hers and her pain which caused his. Still, she brought herself back, she waited for him to get over himself even if it was for a second. It’s what she lived for; the few seconds when Coop opened up and revealed Denny to her. He didn’t bring her a gift this time; he knew that was not what she wanted. He brought her what she needed; Him unraveled and conflicted enough to open up. He smiled to himself. This could be it! This could be the moment that solidified their bond and erased their painful past. This was their metaphorical wedding day. Coop winced as he stared at her door. Another line of thought emerged. Did she want to get married? Would she really be as open to him when he came undone? Could he really give her what would satisfy her? She was older now, probably less hopeful, maybe less forgiving. Was this a bad idea? He did need her, but did she really need him? Coop’s mind screamed insecurities and possibilities at him. He knocked anyway.

The heavy door flung open seconds later. Jill stood there smiling, genuinely just happy to see him. He saw no grudges, he saw no resentment. All he saw was the sparkle; the one he had grown to call his sparkle. The sparkle that came to her eyes whenever she saw him. The sparkle that reassured him of her forgiving nature and her pure heart. His sparkle. Even though she was dressed down for a day indoors, her beauty still took his breath away. In old sweats, no makeup and that smile, he saw through the grime that life had accumulated on her face, the subtle wrinkles, and chapped lips. He saw the love that she had yet to give and the care she was yet to share. This woman was his woman and she understood him enough for him to never have to have him say it out loud. Looking at her face, he was overwhelmed. He suddenly had the urge to do what he didn’t believe in. It was only right.

“Look! I’m an ass……… a jerk. I’m sorry.” She did not say a word, she just hugged him then let him in.

“We shall not linger about in the past.” She said as she offered him a seat, “What’s up?”

“Nothing’s up. I just came to see you and apologize.” Coop lied

“You’re lying. “ She knew.

“I am.” Coop admitted, “It’s the case.”

“What about it?” Jill leaned in inquisitively.

“Well, I thought I’d cracked it. I really did and you know I’m never wrong when it comes to such stuff.” Coop hesitated then tried to change the subject by touching her face. She held his hand against her face before putting it back down, she knew what he was trying to do

“Then??”

“I was wrong.”

“The problem is that you were wrong for the first time in your career?” Second?

“No, that’s not it.”

“Then what is it, Coop? You can tell me. You know you can” He pulled her across the sofa towards himself so that her legs crossed over his thighs. He looked at her and hesitated. She smiled, reassuring him that his weaknesses did not matter to her. She was ready to listen even more so to help.

“I think I’ve been compromised, emotionally. It feels like I only went after this case cause of my mother and how she died.” He paused, looking straight in her eyes, “Like I didn’t want it to be a suicide so I convinced myself it wasn’t. “

“I get it.” He gave her a look that said you do? She nodded. “You didn’t want her to die that way, by her own hand. So you juxtapositioned that onto the girls. “Cooper burst out laughing

“I juxtapositioned it?? Where the hell do you get this stuff! I’m pretty sure that’s not the word you want. You mean…….”

“You know what I mean! My point is; give yourself some credit, Coop! You’re a smart guy and a darn good detective. You had a gut feeling and just because a lead didn’t pan out, doesn’t mean you are necessarily wrong. You know this! You’re just a little thrown off because of personal experience. It’s allowed for some, but not you. You are objective and neutral. I don’t think you should give up just yet.” He hung on her every word, wanting to believe it all. He felt each word touch a part of his broken heart and mend it.

“I don’t know. There’s a lot hanging on this. If I mess it up, I could lose my job and so could Mitch.” She took his face into her hands and looked deep into his eyes as if she was not speaking to him now but to his soul

“What if it was me, Coop? “  He was quiet. “It could be. That’s why I need you to catch that bastard.” He smiled pulling her chin gently towards him to kiss her. Under his breath, he whispered, “I’ve missed you. “

When Jill woke up, Cooper had already made coffee. He was sitting at the kitchen table going through the Visitors’ Logs.

“Morning Sugar……..Ray Leonard. You did some punching in your sleep. Unfortunately, I was the bag.” Coop joked while he got up to kiss her good morning. Jill giggled at herself

“Is that why you’re up so early?”

“No. That case was stuck in my mind. Been up since 3 am. But I think I found something. I also have to leave.” He hastily kissed her goodbye before walking out and shutting the door heavily. Jill’s heart sank with the bang.

Coop took a minute to appreciate his reconciliation with Jill before he sped off to the station. Brown arrived just in time to see Coop arrive and notice he hadn’t changed his clothes since he abruptly left the station the day before. Coop’s face yelled determination and focus. Brown decided against bringing up the walk of shame.

“I found something, Brown” Coop said while they walked into the station.

“Well?? Tell me what it is!” Coop was quiet. He led Brown to one of the interrogation rooms. “Are you going to tell me? Am I the new suspect? Why are we here, Coop?” Coop still did not speak. He peeped around, made sure no one was around then closed the door. He set down the visitors’ logs he had been carrying around.

“It’s big, Brown.”

“How big?”

“Bigger than our pay grade. Bigger than the Homicide Division. Bigger than the Chief”

“That big? Show me!”

“Are you sure? Because when you see this, you can’t unsee it. “

“Yes, Coop! Spit. It. Out.”

“Ok look here.” Coop opened up the logs. “Louis Manning almost always gets one visitor. Only one. The whole time he’s been in the nursing home. This man!” Coop pointed it out on the page. “See his name?”

“Leonard?” Brown answered naively.

“No his last name! Leonard Harris. That’s the mayor’s son. “

“The mayor doesn’t have a son and that last name is pretty common.”

“No. During his first election, he lost, there was a story that broke of his estranged son who had lived with his mother and her husband. They never realized his picture but they did say his name. It was Leonard Harris!! Then look here!” Coop turned the pages so fast, Brown would have sworn they’d tear. “The only other visitor the mayor himself! And he came with his son. Here, Charles and Leonard Harris! ”

“Ok, so they visited him. So what?”

“I know. So, I called the Rookie and had him look into a few things. Like who funded Louis Manning’s years in exile? It was Charles Harris. Who is Leonard’s mother? Martha Manning. Leonard is the lost Manning half -brother! And finally, guess when he changed his name! Oh, you got it! After Estelle Died. How’s that for ‘so what’ Brown?”

Brown stood completely astonished for a few seconds before he belted out gloriously, “We just blew this case wide open!”

“I blew the case wide open. You? Helped.” Coop said as he left the room.

Body Positivity: A thing we should ALL try!

I struggled with the words to this particular piece more than I usually do when I write a think-piece but only because what do you say to a generation of women convinced that men’s oblivious opinions about their bodies are fact, religion, even a code to live by. Body positivity, or on the extreme body shaming, are as a result of society’s attempt to define what’s beautiful and what’s just not; there are no in-betweens. The same society coined the saying, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ so I can’t speak for its ‘mental capacity and sanity’. How do you tell all women they’re beautiful when we are almost always classified as a prejudicial extreme? A large majority of us do not love our physical image because society told us to look like Audrey Hepburn or Madonna or Gigi Hadid or [insert celebrity white girl of average height and even less weight]. Let’s take a simple poll, ladies. How many of us, at a younger age, dismissed certain career dreams because puberty hadn’t really come through for us or we hadn’t really lost the weight for the part? We live in a world where you only see ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ people on the street or bizarre shows about extremely obese people struggling with weight.   So you can understand why I didn’t go tooting my horn right after this piece’s photo shoot. Then a week later, I read this amazing piece by a friend [https://myloveintended.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/scared-to-eat/] and I had to write this. Reading her experiences which mirrored my own, I suddenly felt the real reason I wanted to write this post come back to me, lucid and not easily ignored.
How about a little backstory. I’m what they call a big girl; I’ve always been on the heavier side; even during my childhood. I often gained famed nicknames such as Miss fatty fatty and kanono. To them, it was playful but to me it just hurt. I was born this way. I’ve always been fat and in my youth you didn’t see many heavy people on TV unless they were the clown of the show. Even nail polish and toothpaste ads used size zero models. So from a young age, society steered me towards losing the weight. I heard things like, “You have a pretty face but that….” or “You know if you lost the weight you can wear this or look like me” It was depressing, it still is. In my adolescence, it occurred to me that some girls are sexy and others were smart. I took the crown in the latter, the rest could fight over who’s sexy. But that is not true. It was just a way to avoid conforming to a stereotype that I did not fit into. Showing off my body was a problem. Oversized jeans and sweaters became my thing. However adulthood began to show me there is more to life than looking like what they tell you is beautiful. With that, I began to shed my insecurities one by one; even had the stuff to model for a friend. DIY By Moe It wasn’t simple to love myself and all that came with it but eventually it pays off.

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Let’s start small, my friends. What is this body shaming? Body Shaming, according to various internet sources, is simply the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size. Knowing that, let’s take another poll. Who has experienced said body shaming? In this day and age, I’m confident the results show staggering numbers in favor of body shamed females owing to society’s changing standards. If you’ve been asleep or highly antisocial over the last few decades, let me so graciously fill you in. There was a time, men preferred us tiny, size zero with minimal fat and absolutely none hanging out of your clothes. Then it was maybe they should be tiny still but with some fat in the bosom area; maybe a B-cap or a C-cap in the extreme, the rest is fat. Then the Age of Thick dawned upon us, where men weren’t so bothered by the fat as long as it was concentrated in the buttock and bosom area and jiggled to the extent of their satisfaction. The rest was fat. As you can see ‘fat’ is considered a horrific characteristic; Men do not like it so women strive not to be it. In my opinion, body shaming is just another incarnation of misogyny. What really gets me is that you don’t hear these things from a man cause a man knows what he wants and if it’s not you or your size, he and his misogyny move on to the next one; he doesn’t necessarily go around telling women they don’t fit his description of beautiful unless he’s a real misogynist. What gets to me the most is that you’ll hear them from other women in the cruelest ways. Your girlfriend will suggest things like “stuff your bra, your bosom area is looking too small” “You need butt implants or the squat challenge.” “I saw this diet [insert celebrity name] is trying and I think it will work for you” “Try this, it will make your skin lighter.” We all have that friend or group of friends that feel like your body size or type or complexion does not match the group [cause apparently we all need to be in that clique where all the girls are light, slim with big booties] that keep trying to get you to change. Those are not your friends, but I am!

Fat vs. Skinny

One societally fat girl to another, I need you to understand that I am not condoning an unhealthy lifestyle but body positivity. Your weight loss journey will be miserable if you don’t love yourself first cause at that point you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for this ‘society’ that has imposed age-old restrictions on you; as a woman, more importantly, a fat woman. I hated that word ‘Fat’ and the Swahili translation for it ‘nono’ even more. I think it stems from the childhood nickname ‘Kanono’ which still casts a shadow on my life now especially when it’s part of a rejected man’s cat call. It caused me to be painfully aware of my weight at all times, especially in the presence of lighter weighted people. They don’t have to actively make you aware that you are the biggest person in the room, you’ll feel it when your slimmest friend, XX complains about ‘her oversized pot belly’ while only having a bunch of grapes for lunch. You, on the other hand, are genuinely hungry, ravenously at that and that combo cheese burger meal you’re eating won’t even satisfy the hunger, you still want a whole pizza. Stuff like that makes you want to start your diet with the next meal even though you’re unprepared to lose weight and you thought you looked fine when you looked in the mirror this morning. So naturally, you cheat on your diet heftily, worse than most of these men do on their wives. Because the diet reminds you of why you started, which in itself is a very depressing reason [To look like XX]. You find yourself looking for new avenues, so you try the gym but you quit after a few weeks or days because the motivation to lose weight does not come from within you. Then you decide to go with easier routes like those slim teas and waist trainers advertised by women who frankly would be better-suited advertising plastic surgery. You soon find out ‘Naturally Slimming Teas’ are just overpriced over-the-counter laxatives that let you eat whatever you want but give you hell when food is on its way out. [Reasons why weight loss teas are bad for you] And that waist training isn’t good for you seeing as you’ll look amazing but you will have acid reflux, skin irritation, problems breathing, bruising and a ton of other stuff you probably would rather live fat without. [Dangers of Waist Training] [You’re mad they don’t put this stuff on the package, me too!]

On the flip side, we have the ‘skinny girl’. A societally fat girl will always assume that the body shaming prejudice is only against her. But with the Age of Thick Booties and Tiny waists, this is not the case. Your adorably slim friend is also worried that her back side does not look like yours; she doesn’t want your stomach area though. That girl gets called a stick, a lollipop behind her back, but like we all do; she pretends not to hear it. She is overloading on food that probably leaves her uncomfortably full, with crazily unnecessary levels of cholesterol and the looming risk of heart disease. [Being Skinny is no Guarantee of a Healthy Heart] She hears things like “have a banana, some potatoes etc. They go straight to your butt or boobs.” “That would look better if you got some implants to make you look bigger” Sitting there, you realised like I did, there are no in-betweens; you either look like Kylie Jenner or Taylor Swift. And even though both women are beautiful, one is considered more beautiful than the other because she attracts more male attention.  So even slim girls are their own kind of ‘fat’ in the eyes of society.

So girls, what have we learnt? We learnt we only hate our bodies because other people hate our bodies. In this society, ugly turns to hot and right back to ugly in a matter of days or weeks. So why should we base our self-esteem and the makings of our attitude on an ever fluctuating standard of beauty? Do we not live in an era when a woman’s worth is measured by parameters that do not necessarily relate to her ability to make men happy or aroused? You are not a snack to be baked to perfection and eaten, or an erotic novel to be written perfectly and passed around for amusement. Neither are you a piece of art to be stared at for pleasure? You are a human being; much like every man who ever belittled you based on your physical appearance. You have dreams, goals, and careers that are not correlated with your appearance or men’s opinions about you, don’t you?

So why don’t we just love ourselves either way! Because Sister, you’ll find that the social prejudice does not end. When you attain the ‘perfect body’, they’ll want you to have perfect hair (Do not even get me started on the afro/weave shaming; I never know which one they’re shaming). Then to dress perfectly for them, not too scanty, not too conservative. Then they need you to learn how to make up your face, cover the blemishes and the acne and make your eyelids smoky. Then you need the perfect man to marry you all while not being too forthright when trying to get him to marry you. Then you must raise the perfect children because messed up kids apparently have messed up mothers. Then you must keep off aging to a level that keeps your husband faithful even though men cheat anyway. Issa Rat Race!! Men are greedy creatures, they want it all. They will change the standard on you while you go through that butt implant surgery and make overbites the new thing. You cannot win with society’s standards, you can only satisfy yourself by loving your body before you begin to modify it. Love yourself; love another fat girl instead of body shaming her behind her back and most importantly, be Enlightened, Be Empowered Be EmmBoldened!!!

With love and tremendous body positivity vibes,

Emm!

Check out the tutorial for the kimono I was modelling DIY chiffon Kimono in 30 min or less by DiyByMoe
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Does he love you or Do you just think he does?

In this world, at my age, you see things that you never cared to notice before. Such as the fact that most people your age are dating or married and the realization that soon it may be too late for you and your love life (Even though this is a perpetually irrational fear, we give into it) So in this world, women my age, we get a little stupid and even more naive. No really! Hands up if you have realized mid-relationship that there was no relationship. Hands up if you have had to be the one to bring up the ‘What are we’ conversation. Hands up if at the end of that conversation you still weren’t sure of where he stands. *Waves all hands high* Ladies with your hands up, this one’s for you. I will attempt to mend your heart before it breaks and teach you how to spot the noncommittal fuck-boy who is out to waste your time before he denies the obvious. If your hand didn’t go up, take some tips home; share a link for a sister in need.

The first sign, you’re always overcompensating for your flaky man. You invite him everywhere but somehow something always comes up. You find yourself calling him a few too many times or writing texts with a curse word too many only to cool down and forgive when he gets back to you with some half-ass apology and an even weaker excuse. You find yourself making up excuses for him to friends and family, sometimes even to yourself. “He’s probably busy” He’s. Not. That. Busy! You are constantly reminding yourself to be patient with regard to his promises. All your relationship doubts are calmed by something you had to say to yourself to fill in the gap his half ass left. If I have just described you or your recent musings, Smile! You’re single but also being played.

You avoid comparing him to other suitors – Another great sign. All your friends have settled for their soul mates and you’re all still relatively young so relationships are in their sweet spot. Your girlfriends are being flown out of the country to exotic islands; getting gifts that you usually have to buy yourself;  getting proposed to in fancy restaurants and obviously having love-children with their soul mates. But your fuck-boy (Read boyfriend) is still acting like you’re in the ‘we just met’ stage. He’s never invited you anywhere and he never buys you anything. Unfortunately, it’s not because he can’t afford it. You know he can. He’s just got a new car; he’s drinking with the boys every weekend and housing a few of his deadbeat friends, he can afford to buy you lunch or a pair of earrings (Or whatever girls like these days, personally I love food). But he doesn’t. Why? He doesn’t care; about you, the relationship, your future. Girl, Listen; Run as fast as those heels can carry you! This man is obviously wasting your time. A man will fight to show you how much you mean to him; it has been that way since the dawn of time.  So if you have to ask (or even worse beg) for appreciation and pampering from an able man; then you are better off using your energy searching for a man who appreciates you of his own volition.

So now you’re super frustrated. You’re apparently a cuffed lady who has to live single. Actually, you were happier when you were single.  (Girl I get it.) You confront him as any sane person would do. Maybe bring up the ‘what are we’ discussion again. Chances are you will begin to have one-sided arguments with this fuck-boy (About everything). Because he simply can’t defend himself, he doesn’t engage you rather he lets you rant, rave and shout to yourself then proceeds to tell you what you want to hear. Cause you know mid-rant, you probably began crying or whining like a child that just needed a hug. It is at this weak point he chimes in with words you want to hear. “I’m sorry. I’ll try harder. Blah Blah Blah” Girl! Do. Not. Fall. For. It. A real man will never make you tell him what he needs to do, he just knows. He knows when he messes up, he also knows how to fix it. Find a man lacking any of this knowledge, he is a Fuck-boy (No exceptions!). Please exit stage right and your soul mate awaits.

This is another big one. Honestly, I think this is an obvious one but I wouldn’t want to be partial when giving such advice. It is a red flag more conspicuous than the Communist flag or your white bed sheet on Aunty Flow morning. There are all these women your ‘supposed’ man is associated with. He talks about them all the time, even when you’re in front of him. He’s always texting them. He has no problems buying them lunch or drinks but these are ‘supposedly’ not dates. Sometimes, he even houses them. Now, I don’t know your man. But even if all these friendly women are taken, chances are he wants what you want just not with you but with one of these random women. You are a human placeholder for another woman. A man knows that his woman is the most important woman in his life. If you are not the most important woman in his life, then I beg to reason that you are not really his woman. He won’t admit it, so it’s probably best you see yourself out of the relationship.

If somehow you’re unable to remember these signs, here comes the mother lode. This is the obvious one, the Holy Grail if you may. Ladies, if you have to ask, the answer is probably not what you want to hear. If you have to ask ‘are we dating’ or ‘what are we’ or the ever dreadful ‘what’s going on between us’, then you have your answer already. Pick up your overnight bag and go get you a play toy, because girl, you are single. A real man will leave you in no doubt of the place you play in his life.

I probably offended a few ‘cuffed’ ladies with this piece, because maybe you just realised you are single. (I’m not sorry, your man is a Fuck Boy tho) Maybe I even reinforced your misery by ending your relationship before it started. Now you’re in that ‘I’m single and men are trash’ rut. I know it all too well, been in it for years. But it shall pass. You mustn’t settle for a Fuck Boy that’s how you start this mess any way. The only way to avoid these Fuck Boys is to be the strong unwavering independent woman you are.  Don’t you dare lower your standards for no man. Do not dare tame yourself because of what a man said or did to you. The species derive their social power by keeping women like you and me down; convincing us that strong women like us never find love or judging us for living our lives just as they do. Weak women are Fuck Boy candy. Your light should not, will not be dimmed when you find your soul mate, it will only burn brighter in the presence of real love, remember that!

 

Yours Truly, Faithfully, Sincerely and with no fucks given,

1st Lieutenant, Anti Fuck Boy Gang,

Emm!

Why I became a Feminist.

When I was younger, much younger, there were two simple distinctions in human beings. You were only one of two things; a grown-up or a child. Growing up, I never really felt the difference between being born female and being born male. To young me, it was just random allocation like being born with a birthmark someplace; it didn’t really matter. My male friends and cousins and I were never really that different to me at that age. They were just like me, kids hobbling across the earth laughing at silly things.

Then at the age of two and a half, I joined school. Sometimes, I wanted to wear shorts to school. I don’t know why! For a change maybe. It never really made much sense that boys wore shorts and trousers while girls wore skirts and dresses. Still, it didn’t seem like much distinction to my infant brain. Again, I assumed gender was a just small distinction in my life. At that age, we played rough games with boys and enjoyed them as much as we would playing Mud house games with girls. We were just kids, innocent and pure. Hobbling around, discovering silly things

I remember Standard 3 a little too vividly. I had just joined a new school, a preparatory (It sounds fancy but I still don’t know what exactly that means.) New places, new faces, new slang, new fads, new culture. I don’t know if it was the new school or the age we were at but something changed. I was suddenly made aware that life wasn’t all easy and hustle free. I was a lady in the making. Believe or not, It began with an elder schoolmate pulling aside from a parking lot football game ( I loved being the goalie!) and proceeding to let me know that it was uncouth and damn near barbaric that I, in my sky blue school dress, was parading myself in front of these boys. That the only reason I thought I wanted to play football with them was to get their attention and attraction. Attraction was a loaded word when I was in Standard 3 like adolescence or reproduction. Suddenly, I was uncomfortable being myself in that parking lot. I felt exposed, naked like my dress was too short or my hair was too shaggy. I didn’t know if I wanted the attention. I was a child I couldn’t possibly discern my emotions at the time. The truth is my dress wasn’t too short, my hair was always nappy and shaggy and those boys didn’t care that they were playing with a girl; they were just happy they had a big goalie. Needless to say, I have never played football since. I began hobbled around overthinking silly things.

My Standard 5 teacher must have regarded herself a saint, ranking with the Mother Teresas’ when she said this to us. She called a female forum one lunchtime. We were crammed into a classroom while the female teachers hovered around us and silenced for some life advice.  Then the saint stood before us and proceeded to tell us that we NEEDED to be careful how we carry ourselves especially *wait for it* around our fathers.  Yes! She said that we were and I quote, “Too old to be hugging our fathers. Or even be in a room alone with them.” That If we kept ‘being close’ to our fathers, then we would be raped. Yes! I left that room knowing that if I hug my father then I shouldn’t be surprised if he rapes me. I was smart then but not that smart. Naivety was still a close friend of mine. So I stopped hugging my dad. (And I really love my dad) I became obsessed that all men wanted to rape me and if I gave them a chance, they would. I was always on the lookout. I would not be left alone in a room with men and if I was I lamented until this was corrected. I was now hobbling on, paranoid about silly things.

I begged my parents to take me to boarding school when I was around 11, mostly because I hate housework. They obliged. Boarding school reinforced this distinction between how we treat girls and boys. Even though our school was ‘mixed’, we did everything with a measure of distinction. We never saw things from the same perspective even though we were all age mates going through similar life experiences. I was now at the age where girls were blamed for boy’s lack of control and wayward boners. I remember one weekend two boys took to fists and kicks all in the name of a fair lady. Of course, there was a disciplinary meeting but it was only attended by us, girls. We were accused of stuffing our bras to attract boys (We did not! Ok, a few did but that was hardly a reason to carry out a physical inspection of our breasts in an open field like we were prisoners hiding contraband after Family day in the Yard). We were taught how to little ourselves so we would not distract the boys’ education. We weren’t to sing in class, our sweet voices distracted them. We weren’t to walk too fancy (I don’t know what that meant but I believe they implied that there was a limit to how much sway your hips could have.) We weren’t to unbutton the top button on our shirts no matter how hot it was, our soft skinned flat chests distracted them. Our jeans were too tight, our skirts were too short and our shirts too translucent. Oh, and my favorite, they made us all buy bras at 11 even though you were as flat chested as the boys you were protecting.  They also blamed the girl for the fight. I have never seen a better expression of female oppression than I did that day on her face. Given she was asleep on the other side of the school in the girls’ dorm when two dimwits decided to decide her fate over a brawl. She didn’t even desire any of them. She had just matured earlier than us all. She had hips and breasts at 11 but that was hardly her fault. She was punished. The boys, nothing, not even those who fought for women. (Yes! This kept happening.) We made ourselves more conservative for the sake of the minds of young men, too fragile to control themselves, too privileged to be taught how to. They didn’t care that the boys played a perpetual game where the one who spanked the most of us won. We just hobbled around boarding school, worrying about silly things.

As we lived in boarding school, we began to grow up, become women and men. Adolescence, they called it. By standard 8, the proportion of those who had hit puberty tramped that of those who had not. (You already know I had not) As we grew, we floated apart and girls banded together to gossip while the boys banded together to ogle at us or whatever else they laughed about behind our backs. We began to realize that some of us were prettier while others were smarter (the latter did not matter much) at the time, beauty became something you work at. I found myself alienated because I did not want to learn how to use makeup, or texturize my hair or shorten my skirt. I learned that women should be malicious and conniving and we were always meant in perpetual competition. Who’s smarter, who’s prettier, whose parents are richer, and who gets the most male attention? Everything was a competition and I was losing. It became harder to keep female friends. It wasn’t hard making them because it was always a plot. Suddenly I was introduced to a stereotype that I did not fit into. A stereotype that I grew to hate, which at the time meant to hate all women. Now I was stumbling around, caring about stupid things.

I have to say, I was excited to join high school at first. It meant primary school was over. No more bullying, silly competition and gossiping, right? Wrong!! I was bullied more than ever. People loved to make stuff up about the introvert and spread it around. Don’t even get me started on silly competition. That didn’t really matter, I was used to it. My first function out of school, however, shone a light on something that had never bothered me before. That puberty we talked about earlier, she visited me all of a sudden in the first year of high school. From the infamous flat chest, I moved to a double D cap. I had no sports bra phase, it was horrifying. The worst part was watching boys I had known a long time ogle at my chest. Most just conversed with my breasts. (Yes! We see that!)  It carried on to be a large part of my life, men talking to my breasts instead of me. A discerning factor even but not something I believe I should have to go through. From a young age, I have had to tolerate men’s blatant objectification of me. Always having to prove that I am more than my breasts and thighs.  But here I am stumbling by, noticing people do stupid things.

Growing up hit me hard after high school. All the ‘You could be great’ speeches changed tone and message.  First, ‘you should be great but remember your family life. Your family life depends on you!’ Then, ‘you are great but are you a good wife? Can you cook for your future husband? Can you clean a house after he ignorantly walks around? Can you pick his clothes off the floor he left them on and clean them the way he likes it? How much dowry will you fetch? When you will be ready to put yourself second and help your man succeed? Are you moral enough to be a wife? Will you make him happy?’ Suddenly, the subject of my life and all I do is the man who I am yet to meet. I am not only judged for all my actions, I am judged with respect to this fictional character I am not sure exists yet. I wonder if he is receiving this pressure. Does he have to go home every weekend to assure his people he can still cook chapatis? Does he stay in on Fridays because he may embarrass himself out of a good future wife? Does he not eat breakfast even though he can afford it to look good for me? Does he have to explain to relatives why he lives alone yet he is childless and unmarried? The answer is No. Because apparently he was born with that privilege. The privilege to never second guess playing football. The privilege to never worry about what he is wearing and how it makes other people feel. The privilege of hugging both his parents throughout his life without someone putting insane prejudice in it. The privilege of growing up not having to worry about tempting others. The privilege of having care-free, competition-free relationships with other men. The privilege of never catching a woman sexualizing you in the open. The privilege of following his dreams and his career wherever they take him without second-guessing how it will affect me in future.

I do not have that privilege, never have. Yet those that have all their lives fault me for being a feminist. From a young age, it’s always been about what I shouldn’t do because girls don’t do that or how I should think because I am a woman. Let me just confess in the case of all those memories above it felt like I was being told that I think too big, feel too big, act too big, for a girl. It felt like I was being told that I am on this earth to compliment the male; we cannot be equal, or equivalent because you are second. It’s not just the memories these things are subtlety whispered to me throughout my life. And they call me a feminist but I just know that it’s not true, it’s not right and it’s not fair. So yes, I guess I must be a feminist because I refuse to think smaller, I can feel no smaller than I have already been made to feel and I can act no smaller for the male than I already have. I will settle for no less in my life but equivalence. Even on the smallest scale, I wish for the day that we realize it’s not about being equal, but being equivalent, of the same importance. Maybe, we teach men to control themselves from a young age. How about we don’t allow them to get away with stupid things like objectifying women the minute they hit puberty. How about you let women live their lives without assuming the greatest thing she could do is reproduce and cater for a man. How about we stop fighting all the time amongst ourselves for stupid things like male attention and admit that every woman is different.

I know we love to call feminists in this country bitter. But can you blame us? Between the culture that glorifies men and the misconstrued religion that belittles women, a woman could easily feel oppressed in this country. And it is just absurd that you expect us to take some of these things in 2017. And that’s not even touching the deep issues like rape, FGM, domestic violence and the trafficking of women; all of which are a problem in this country. Why do you still hate the feminist? Matter of fact, why aren’t you a feminist! How are you guys OK with this! Feminism may be in its third wave but a lot needs to change in Africa for some of these global goals to pan out.

“Manning Murderer”

Det. Brown had been staring into the Chief’s office the whole time, trying to make out how the chief was reacting to Cooper’s actions. He didn’t want him fired or anything, just disciplined a bit. That’s why he called the officers. Brown assumed his life would be safer if Det. Cooper just calmed the fuck down sometimes, checked the boxes and filled his paperwork like the rest of the detectives. Like Brown had done for years, the bare minimum required of a homicide detective. But Brown knew Coop; for a long time enough now, the man had to go that extra reckless mile. He had to kick down the doors and shoot in the air when he arrived and burn it down while he walked away. He came with a certain flair; most days that was the best thing about him, not every day, however; certainly not on the day he threatened to shoot a civilian.  Brown knew he wasn’t scared of the man and his recklessness, just a little intimidated. Cooper was completely detached, an island fully sufficient relying on its own Ecosystem. A bomb could drop around him and he would still act the same. He’d probably start a race of hardened species incapable of weak emotion but they’d probably be miserable with no murders to solve. Brown thought jokingly. The shouting from the Chief’s office stopped. The two men in the Chief’s office now spoke confidentially, keenly. Brown could instantly tell that Coop had somehow managed to rope the Chief in. A skill unique to only Coop and maybe the Chief’s wife. Brown doubted the magnitude of the latter.

Seconds later, Coop was walking towards Brown. He had that look on his face. Brown knew it well. The look of curiosity and thirst for justice was intense. There was something that didn’t sit right with Cooper about this case, about Manning and Coop was willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find it.

“Hey! Rat!” Coop yelled looking straight at Brown, walking intently towards him. Brown was rattled, not sure if he should reply on account of his obvious ‘betrayal’ to his partner when he called the police on him. He resolved to remorse, only slightly genuine.

“Now Coop listen. You were off your loose hinges! You had a gun in her face!” Brown sounded frantic, getting up from his seat to ‘defend himself’.

Cooper began to shout, “This guy thinks it would be amusing if I was impotent.” The station fell silent in anticipation. Brown walked closer to Coop now realizing his punishment for the ‘betrayal’ would be public humiliation. He was almost whispering,

“I can make it up to you, Coop.”

Coop smiled, “Maybe he’s just mad my girl’s prettier than his. Huh? Huh?” He nudged Brown playfully, while the officers in the station burst out in roaring laughter. The ‘punishment’ was over. Coop got serious, wiping the smile off his face like it was never there.

“Tell me you talked to Fischer before she left.”

“Of course I did. She wasn’t very forthcoming about that time.”

“What’d she say then?”

“She said if any one killed Estelle, it was their father. Louis Manning, now about 70. Lives in one of those greasy old people homes. You know, the cheap ones….” Coop nodded, urging Brown on. Brown was the compassionate one. Civilians saw him as the equivalent of a cuddly crime fighting bear. He could get through to anyone, especially children. Coop, on the other hand, was the hard guy. The guy who beat it out of a suspect and knew when you were lying. They made a pretty good crime-fighting team, Soft yet Hard.

“Why did she think that? How bad was he?”

“Well, for one he molested them, all three.”

“Three??”

“Half-brother, youngest. Tell you about him later. So yeah, he touched them, abused them, beat them and a lot of other things that she didn’t need to delve into. She said he ‘loved’ her most. Even slept in her bed almost every night until she and her sister moved out. Even then, he’d show up at their house drunk and well….. Have his way. That’s not even the best part.”

“What is?” Coop played along because he could see Brown’s eyes light up. He could tell Brown was not a believer in the Manning Suicide either.

“Louis, the father. Left town for sixteen years just after they discovered Manning. Didn’t even attend the funeral. Now police ruled it a suicide so no one ever came looking for him but he stayed until the statute of limitations had run out. That’s if he raped her. And she was never given a proper autopsy and no rape test.”

“So our killer may be a rapist. Let’s get the lab to run a full autopsy on Alicia Doe, rape test included. No fucking up this time.” Brown pulled his little brown notebook from his breast pocket and began jotting.

“I’ll get that done. We going to see Manning the Murderer?” Brown chuckled at his own joke. Cooper didn’t laugh with him though, he stared into space thinking.

“No Brown. I have a feeling about this. Not a good one. Let me go see him, shake the trees before we brand him.”

“Alright, Coop. But it’s right there in front of you. ‘Man abuses and murders his daughter and four other women.’” Brown said resigning to the fact that the case could not go on until Coop was sure.

****

…Young girls they do get weary, wearing that old shaggy dress, yea……… Coop anxiously listened to the dial tones from his phone as the radio played calmly in the background. He loved Otis Redding, so did…..

“Yes?!” The voice on the other end was smooth, sweet and composed. It made Coop think of ice-cream, creamy, cold, relaxing.

“Jill? Hello.” He managed to get that out sounding a little like himself. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs how sorry he was or how he felt his heart sink far past his stomach when he heard her voice for the first time in a long time, but he didn’t. He just said hello.

“Denny? Is that you? Oh, thank God! I thought you were dead, shot in the line of duty or something. I buy the paper every day to be sure you aren’t. How are you?” Jill’s voice remained calm, almost excited even. There was no shred of anger or remorse just concern. Pure wholesome concern, the kind Coop needed a whole bowl of. He trembled at the thought that she might have just forgiven him, just like that. He didn’t deserve it. He never did.

“I’ve been… I’ve been…. I’ve been good, Jill. I just wanted to hear your voice. How are you?” He struggled to sound like himself, strong and unweakened by her. Because he was, weakened, even miles away the sound of her voice sufficed to tear his hardened shell down.

“You didn’t call, D”

“What?” He heard her but he couldn’t muster the courage and maturity he needed for this conversation.

“I said bye forever and you didn’t call. I really thought you would. I thought I’d break Coop, get Denny and ride off into the sunset. But you didn’t call.

“Jill…. Wait….” She cut him off

“You know I knew you wouldn’t. You couldn’t. Your mind wouldn’t let your heart be.” Cooper was confused, speechless to say the least, “It’s my fault.”

“What? Jill, No!” She cut him off again.

“I know what you’re going to say, Denny. I’m a good girl, I deserve better. But I fell for you, that’s my fault. God knows you kept telling me not to. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left. You need me more than I need some of these things from you. “

“I’m working this new case.” He deflected the emotional

“Oh jolly! What’s it about?”

“Young girl, little younger than you was found with her wrists slit for her. Everyone wants a suicide but when I see murder baby….”

“It’s murder, baby.” They laughed. The tension had passed, they were Oh Kay! “But seriously D. isn’t it hard?”

“Nope. I mean I already roped it the Chief and……”

“Not that, baby!! Cause of your mum! She…..” Cooper froze, he was five minutes from the retirement home. He knew he had time to talk about this but….

“Hey Jill, Got to catch a bad guy. I’ll call you later.” He hung up. He pulled into the retirement home parking lot.

He sat at the reception for fifteen minutes before Mr. Manning wheeled himself into the room. It gave him too much time to think. He knew that Jill still wanted an apology, even though she acted like she didn’t. He also knew he was not in the position to give one, not if he wanted to keep seeing her. He also knew that it was at least a little unfair to keep her like that; waiting for crumbs of his affection. Why did she do this to herself! It was all very complicated, to say the least. He didn’t want to be distracted so he couldn’t let Jill and her his feelings distract him. He snapped back to reality as Mr. Manning ‘parked’ in front of him.

“Mr. Manning? I’m Detective Cooper. I’d like to ask you some questions.”

“Sure, Officer.”  It’s Detective, scumbag. “Let’s talk in the garden.” Walking behind this foul human being, Coop winced. A man like this, a demon, evil everywhere worst of all deep in his soul. Evil enough to molest his children. His own kids! The devil himself!

“This is a good spot. So what’s up, Cap’? “

“It’s Detective, Sir. I’d like to talk to you about your daughter.” Mr. Manning’s wrinkled face lit up and his lips curved as far as they could.

“Lynette? I haven’t seen her in ages. What’d she say? How’s she doing?” Doing better far away from you scumbag!

“No, Mr. Manning. Estelle.” Louis’ face cringed and his smile completely disintegrated. “Her body was found, wrists slit, in her apartment……”

“Twenty years ago!” Louis cut him off. Coop could see the man was getting irritable so he was going to keep poking.

Aha! Now we’re talking. “Tell me about her.”

“Why? Can’t you get the old case file? It’s been twenty years, Officer and she killed herself. You said it yourself.”

“I didn’t say she killed herself. I said her wrists were slit.” Coop sat on the bench near him. “We found a girl like we found Estelle. Then another and another. It is now our belief that Estelle was murdered. And no doubt by someone close to her, cause she was the first victim. “

“And you think I did it?? I did nothing but love that girl. It hurt me deeply that she passed away like that.”

“Hmm…. Nothing but love, eh?” Coop paused, staring into the man’s eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of his blackened soul. “Mr. Manning, we know you molested your daughter and the other daughter too, oh and we also know your molested your step son. “

“Suicides are very hard, especially for families.” Especially when you stage them too. The man stared at his fingers, a remorseful look on his face. Coop was not buying it. “I do NOT appreciate you dredging up old pain after twenty years, Officer.” Coop’s patience was waning. Here’s this brutal killer, scratch that, serial killer; one who would rather the victim’s families believe that their loved one killed themselves. This guy was as foul and evil as they come. Yet here he sat whining about how sad he was twenty years ago or how sad he still is about it. He belonged in the abyss of the worst prison this country has and Coop would be responsible for putting him there, locking the door and throwing away the key.

“For the last time, it’s De-Tec-Tive! And something else Mr Grieving Father, I don’t believe you for a second. I can smell crocodile’s tears miles away, Manning. You killed that girl! And now you don’t want to talk about it? Ah-ah Murderer Manning! You’ll talk, you’ll sing like a bird by the time I’m done!” Coop was raising his voice now, bearing over Louis Manning like an eagle going in for the kill. “Why did you leave only a day after her death? Only to return sixteen years later?” Manning dropped his head, “Your other kids. They needed you and you ‘loved’ them. So why the 16 year vacation, huh? Statute of Limitations? ” Coop gripped his weapon ready to subdue the suspect as soon as he confessed. But he didn’t confess, he began to weep instead and continued to weep for several minutes. Coop stared at him, waiting for him to peep the wrong way; then he’d be sure the man was faking. A few more tears in, he couldn’t take it. The devil was pleading mercy in front of him, and he wasn’t buying it.

“Come on! We’ll take a ride to the station.”

“What??” Manning choked on his tears, utterly confused about what the Detective was talking about.

“Answer my questions then. Or we have to do this at the station in cuffs and your favourite colour jumpsuit. They don’t clean anything in that holding cell, least of all….”

“Ok ok ok!” Manning caved, Coop smiled. “I left because I thought that I was the reason she…..” He sniffed loudly. The man was broken. He seemed to have taken a lot of time rebuilding himself too. Coop didn’t like how this sat. This feeble old man, can’t leave his retirement home, needs a full time nurse and worse still he’s in a wheel chair. It would take him a whole lot of energy and an accomplice to pull this off. Cooper began to walk away. He could still hear the man’s frantic sobs. He made his way to the reception. A young attractive lady sat there reading a backless novel with her spectacles worn low. She ignored him at first. He began tapping his fingernails against the reception desk. She looked up, uninterested.

“Detective Cooper,” he flashed his badge. “Can I see all your visitor logs for the last four years?”

Looking back into her book, “No. Those are confidential, Sir.”

“De-Tec-Tive! To you! I can always come back with a warrant and a SWAT team. Bet you’d all enjoy seeing all these old people having a collective heart attack.”

She rolled her eyes before reaching for a handful of hardcover books under her desk. Cooper nodded in appreciation before he took them with him to his car. “Asshole.” She murmured under her breathe as he shut the door behind him.