A lousy Christmas

If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that life can be so unfair

In Summary

• Festive season comes at that moment when your chips are down


It’s Christmas in Jiji Ndogo. Everyone but me is in a festive mood, including two men who started the celebrations too early and are currently snoozing in our cell. Inspector Tembo and Mrs Tembo plan to host a party for the village kids, complete with a Santa Clause costume from Dr Selitol.

“Cheap price, I give to you,” Selitol said. “For Jesus, ka janmadin I do this. Birthday, it means, only.”

“Surprise!” Tembo says. “I’ll be Father Christmas this year. Ho! Ho! Ho!”

“Suits you perfectly, sir.” I pat his bulging tummy. “No padding necessary.”

My big surprise hits me on Christmas Eve. And by big, I mean the hulking, shirtless figure of Chief knocking on my door, looking like he swallowed two kids since that time he suspected me of impregnating his daughter and almost shot me.

“Cowardly policeman,” he bellows loudly enough to wake up my neighbors, “hand over my daughter.”

“But, Chief,” I stammer, wary of the AK47 he’s wielding. “You kicked Millicent out for getting pregnant out of wedlock, remember?”


He swats me out of the way, steps into the small room I share with Millicent.

“Chief!” Just from breastfeeding Hannah, the daughter she named after my mother, Millicent quickly fastens her top. “What are you doing here?”

“My wayward daughter, I have forgiven you for the shame you brought upon our family.”

“Mother made you do it, didn’t she?”

“Nonsense! This gentleman did.”

Chief reaches through the door and pulls in a skinny man in an ill-fitting suit.

Brayo?!” Millicent and I chorus. My shock mirrors hers.

Mambo, Millie,” says Brayo. “Nimekuom officially sasa.”

If you recall, Brayo is Millicent’s boyfriend from Nairobi. The same one who used to beat her up and disowned her pregnancy, only to show up a few days ago in Jiji Ndogo to a surprisingly warm welcome by Millicent.

Oh, I did query her about her unexpected behaviour towards her former tormentor, but Millicent didn’t want to talk about it. In her defence, though, she dismissed Brayo, and I assumed he had ridden his tail back to the city.

“This gentleman explained everything.” Chief slings an arm over Brayo’s shoulder. “I give him my blessings to take you as his bride.”

“But Chief,” I complain, “he used to abuse her!”

“What? Brayo is genuinely shocked. “I never touched her. I mean, not in that way.”

I turn to Millicent.

“Makini,” she says meekly, “lemme explain. Brayo was not my real boyfriend. Otero was. I mean, later it changed, but at first he was my friend.”

“Otero was?”

“No, Brayo. Then, after I decided to leave Otero, he changed.”

“Otero changed?”

“No, Brayo.”


“From my best friend to my boyfriend.”

“But you told me Usikimye saved you from your boyfriend.”

“Yes, I was still living with Otero.”

“Now I get it.” I’m beginning to hate Millicent again. “You were cheating on Otero. That’s why he beat you.”

“I never cheated on Otero.”

“But you just said…”

“I escaped before I could. But Otero swore to hurt both me and Brayo. So, I never told Brayo where I went.”

Ilibidi nicheze ki-Sherlock Holmes, buda,” Brayo adds.

“Enough nonsense.” Chief brushes me aside. “We’re going home. You have a wedding to plan.”

Millicent packs a bag in haste.

“I’m sorry, Makini.” She picks Hannah up. “I love Brayo, but I never thought he’d find me. But hey, no more pesky roommate for you, right?”

She walks out the door.

“But you named Hannah after my mother!” I shout.

Tulia buda,” Brayo says. “Anna ni mother wa mine.”