“I told you that I did not want any birthday gifts Monica!” Pendo shouted as she pushed the cake off the table.

Pendo did not do birthdays. It was like her own mini tradition and she did not want to put any unnecessary pressure on her dad. 11th of August was a normal day to everyone but to Pendo, it was an awful day. It was her birth day but it was still the day her mother passed on. She had constantly blamed herself for it year in year out. Her mother would have been alive had it not been for her. 

“Get out of my house Monica.”

Monica looked at Pendo, confusion written all over her face. She frantically searched for her school bag and without further question, bolted out of the room. 

Unlike many teenage girls, Pendo had  a hard time making and keeping friends. She was a socially awkward 16 year old who was a freshman in University. Her biggest weapon was her brain because apart from being the smartest person in class in all her primary and high school years, she was also the youngest by far. And now that she was in her first University year, she hoped all that would change.

 Adjusting was also something she was not good at and even though she had a high IQ, she lacked emotional intelligence. She was the type of person who would say what was on her mind without really thinking about the emotional repercussions on the other party. And this had cost her far too many friendships. Until she eventually stopped trying to make friends because she found it exhausting. People, to her, liked complicating things yet she always put it as it was.

“Pendo!… Pendo!” someone shouted from the front door. She immediately recognized the voice and picked  up her phone as she rushed out to meet her only best friend. The only person who understood her and who she was sure would literally take a bullet or ten for her.

“Baba! You are back so soon. I thought you would not be back till next Sunday. Everything okay?” Pendo asked as she shook her father’s hand. She looked at his face and could almost see the exhaustion and the stress through his dark brown eyes. Pendo’s heart broke into a million pieces every time she saw her dad. He was a traditional man who did not show much emotion. That explained why Pendo never hugged him and they never really talked about his emotions. But she knew he worked so hard for her to be comfortable and to never lack anything. 

They lived in a small two bedroom house on an eighth of an acre plot of land. It was a two stone foundation house built out of grey painted iron sheets and blue painted timber. They also had this beautifully maintained Kei-apple green fence which enclosed the home and was linked to a black painted wooden gate that opened inwards. They always made sure that the grass never reached the fence by maintaining a 30 cm distance from the fence to the grass. 

There was also a tree that stood majestically at the left corner of the land just near the fence that her dad never wanted to cut down. He called it the tree of heaven and it had this beautiful smell. They both enjoyed many naps under this tree and Pendo loved reading under it too. 

As you approached the front door, there were two large potted ferns in identical pots that Pendo had bought. She loved decorating and always bought decoration pieces for the house each chance she got. Most pieces were of course thrift finds but her tastes were impeccable. On the wall with the door, was this beautiful two tiered rustic blue pallet wood television stand and on top of it was a 32 inch Samsung television which was centrally placed. There was a mini library on the left side of the bottom shelf, a decoder and a small antique CD player which Pendo’s father had bought when he was a boy. 

On each side of the television stand were two yellow lamp stands which her father had bought off a vendor by the road side. Pendo had always insisted on how aesthetically pleasing it would be to have two yellow lampshades on each side of the stand. They had cost just a little over a thousand Kenyan shillings and though that money was a lot for such a buy, they had both come to a conclusion that it was worth it.

Directly opposite the television stand was an old looking brown three-seater patterned grandmother fabric couch and on each side were two accent chairs which matched with it. And in the middle of the room was a simple pallet wood coffee table that matched the television stand. The inside walls were lined with a white painted thin card board and you could tell from the paint job that it was an amateur’s work.

The wall with the television stand was the accent wall which was painted in grey and there was an old antique silver clock at the middle. This had also been a thrift find at Gikomba market, which happened to be the go to shopping “mall” for Pendo and most of her friends. There were different paintings, photo frames and a calendar on the walls too.

“Sit down baba. Would you like anything to drink? Tea with masala perhaps?” Pendo asked as she took the shopping from her father’s hands and walked with them towards the kitchen which was on the left side from the front door. 

“Water will do just fine for now. I will have tea later but just make it and put it in the thermos flask, thank you.” 

Pendo fetched her father’s water glass and retrieved the boiled water jug from their small fridge and walked back to the living room. She handed the glass to him and poured him some water as she picked up the remote control to switch on the television. 

“Pendo, sit down,” he sighed.

Pendo recognized that sigh almost immediately. She felt the tension rise as she refilled her father’s now empty glass before sitting down next to him. She looked at his calloused hands and a lump formed in her throat almost immediately. Life was unfair especially to people like her and her dad. It was as though her mom’s death was not enough. And now they were living from hand to mouth which was not fair especially for him. 

“You know it is time you moved on. Your mother loved you so much up until her death, you know that. But you need to stop blaming her death on yourself because it was not and will never be your fault. It was her time to go and I am sure she would want you to be happy and be able to make and keep friends. It pains me to see you hurt like this and with each birthday I always hope it gets better but it either stays the same or gets worse.”

“Baba, how can you ask that of me when you clearly have not moved on too? You have never seen anyone else ever since mom…” Pendo paused as she contemplated on whether she was ready to go down this path. “Ever since mom died. You need to move on too baba.”

They both stared at the television pretending to watch what was on but none of them actually paying attention. They were touching on a pretty sensitive topic that had left deep scars inside their hearts. Pendo had lost her mother and this had led to her craving motherly love and wishing that she would somehow get it. Her dad had lost his best friend, a soulmate, a companion and the mother to his two daughters; Anita and Pendo.

Anita was Pendo’s only sibling who was seven years older than her. She was married with one child and lived in Syokimau which was in the outskirts of Nairobi. Moving from home was another hard thing on all three of them but life had to go on for all of them. She hated that she had to leave her father to take care of her sister who was then just 14 years old but she at the same time always helped with school fees and other expenses. She worked as a receptionist for a hotel and sometimes she got tips mostly from foreigners. This money would come in handy because although her husband worked as an accountant, they needed extra income because they had a child, rent and she had to help her father out. 

“You think I should talk to Monica, right?” Pendo asked as she smiled at her father.

He chortled gently as he gave her a pat on the back.

“You got your mom’s brains. You must really be reading my mind because you always say what I am thinking. And I mean it literally. You do read my mind young girl.,” he paused to sip some water then pointed at a brown envelope. “Pass it to me”

Pendo reached out and picked the brown envelope from the coffee table and handed it to her father. She watched as he neatly tore the envelope open and pulled out some documents which he handed over to her.

“What is this baba?”

“I reckon you can read, right?”

Pendo looked at her father, confusion written all over a face. She wished deep down that it was not a letter of dismissal from the university because of her age or a boy. A boy would probably be better because at least she would have someone to yell at.

“Dear Miss Pendo Baraka,” She read. “Your application for…” 

Pendo mouthed the next paragraph, looked at her dad, jumped from the couch and broke into a smile then dropped down to her knees as her smile changed into tears.

“Happy birthday Pendo,” Mr Baraka said in an undertone while smiling and looking at his daughter. 

“Oh baba, when did this… I mean how… Thank you baba. I got in. I got the scholarship. Now we do not have to worry about the school fees and we can finally do the rest of the house decoration!!!” Pendo screamed but her tears for some weird reason kept coming. And she did not bother to wipe them because they were happy tears. She let out one last happy sigh and stood up.

“God is good baba. We need to celebrate now. I have follow up questions but I need to go get the vegetables and fruits. You should probably get yourself some chicken or pork too. You seriously do not need to go vegetarian just because I am one. I will pass by Monica’s so call me if you need anything else. And do not tell Anita yet. I will let you know why when I am back. Chicken or pork?”

“You know pork is my favorite,” Mr Baraka laughed. “And do not forget the chilli because…”

“Pork without chilli is not really good pork,” they both said in unison.

“You get some rest baba. I will head out right now. I should be back in two to three hours and yes I still have some of the cash Anita sent from last week so do not worry about it.”

Pendo looked at the wall clock and grinned. It was just a quarter past 3 which meant she had time to go by Monica’s house, do some shopping and be back before half past six. She dashed to her father’s room to fetch a blanket and a pillow and placed them next to him. 

“That is just in case you feel sleepy and are to lazy to get a blanket or go to bed.”

She then rushed to her room to get her sling bag before heading to the kitchen to get a carrier bag which she stuffed into her sling bag. She proceeded to put her father’s phone to charge before leaving. Pendo could not wait to tell Monica the good news.


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