Fiction

Lucy Mwelu: Woman of Steel

Image by Andy Choinski from Pixabay

I was staring at a diaper commercial when the idea first conjured itself in my head. The doe eyed Caucasian baby was releasing a chain of snorts and giggles while its parents hovered around it. The mother was making faces at it while the father expertly did the diaper change. I recall an unnatural ringing sounding in my ears as I watched the two parents fondly handle their baby. The baby’s giggles drastically heightened while the parents’ movements became extremely slothful; everything was suddenly happening in slow motion. The eerie ringing only stopped when the commercial ended. It took me a whole minute to realize that my towel had unwound itself and fallen to the floor without my knowledge; I had been standing naked in my living room for almost five minutes, my large living room window had been open the whole time. I remember avoiding making eye contact with any of my neighbors for a month.

The idea had seemed frivolous at first and I had strongly debated erasing it all together. If I hadn’t run into Victor in town, I would have probably dismissed it. I will be forever indebted to the forces that enabled our paths to cross that day. Victor had guaranteed that it was perfectly safe and that I would be, in his own words, “phenomenal” at it. He made sure to share his secret in the art before muttering “duty calls” and abruptly taking off. He said that the trick to bagging a head shot was perfecting your aim through a lot of practice and patience. The guy at the gun store shared his secret too. The intense pudgy man looked me straight in the eye and proceeded to do an elaborate mime of cocking a gun. He then aimed the imaginary gun at my forehead and lowered the decibels in his voice saying, “the trick is in owning the right gun.” Of course, this was a sales gimmick, he had just wanted to sell me the most expensive gun in his store. After I waved the legal permit at him and handed him the cash, the pudgy man flashed a grin and said that the trick also lay in playing video games. Both of them were wrong though, the key to a perfect head shot did not lie in patience or video games or the type of gun you choose to use. The key to shooting the spot between the eyebrows aka the sweet spot, lay in anger: raw, untamed and unapologetic anger.

 

I briskly pulled the trigger of my Walther P99 9m. My mind immediately rushed to paint a picture of its firing pin striking the primer, the primer igniting the gun powder and finally the burning powder creating just enough pressure to push the bullet down the barrel and out the muzzle. I watched smugly as the bullet landed squarely on the target dummy’s glabella; the soft area between its eyebrows or as I liked to call it, the sweet spot. A satiated smile crept on my lips as my arms withdrew from their stretched position. A sudden feeling of weariness swept over me but I swiftly shrugged it off. I removed my hearing protection then proceeded to hang them on an ill plummeted nail on the wall. I made a mental note to bring my hammer the next time I woke up with a trigger-happy finger. I walked out of the shooting range feeling lighter, serene even.

“If it isn’t my favorite student…Lily, the woman of steel…literal steel.”

I rolled my eyes and playfully punched Victor Oduor on the side of his arm. Of course, I immediately regretted my impulsive action given that the man had bones that seemed to be carved out of iron. I found my eyes fleeting over to his perfectly chiselled jaw, it was after all his most outstanding feature. I usually had a very hard time ignoring its presence and I highly doubted I was the only one suffering from the same hardship. Victor had graciously arranged my easy access to the shooting range in the Lanet Barracks.

“Well, if you really think I deserve such a title then I challenge you to a shooting stand-off…”

Victor corked an eyebrow before the ends of his dry lips slowly tugged upwards into a cynical smile.

“You do realize that I can beat you with my eyes closed right?”

“Driving a hard bargain as usual I see? Men from the west and their egos…how delightful it will be to trample all over it.”

“Women from the east and their mouths…how delightful it will be to watch you swallow your own words.”

For a moment, we stood there unmoving, our eyes locked in a ferocious duel. There was a humongous contrast in Victor’s appearance; a hard exterior complemented with beady gentle eyes. He placed his hand on my upper arm, a move I had not anticipated. A poignant eerie ringing draped over us like a wet blanket; heavy and suffocating.

A shrill ringtone blared through the air putting a stop to the unnatural sound that had clearly emanated from my head. Victor’s face was etched with concern, it was then that I noticed his lips had been moving the whole time, he had probably been asking if I was okay. I gingerly removed his hand from my forearm and forced a smile. I quickly and fervently blamed the infamous Nakuru heat wave. My ringtone continued to steal the spotlight. I pursed my lips, my fists clenching instinctively as I stared at the screen on my phone, I let it go straight to voicemail.

“Go…we will resume our little dance some other time.”

I gave Victor a curt nod before hastening my steps towards the barracks gate. Patting my trousers’ back pocket, I fished out a fifty-shilling note.

“Ah daughter of Governor! Beautiful girl, tea today?”

“Here.”

The soldier’s calculating eyes bore a hole at the back of my head as I trotted towards my Toyota E 100. My lithe fingers fumbled with the car keys as I blinked away the pool of tears brimming in my eyes. I finally managed to yank the door open careful not to let the soldier see my distraught state. Sliding onto my leather seat, I let out a strained sigh while my hands, with a life of their own, reached out to grab a packet of farasi cigarettes. I lit one of them, my numb nerves relaxing as I lavished the bliss feeling of smoking tobacco. Back on campus I had mastered the art of releasing the smoke in chains; I watched them as they formed, dissipating in the air as swiftly as they appeared. The shrill ringtone split through the air once again jolting me out of my pensive state. I stole a glance at the screen as a wave of smoke strained to escape through my clinched teeth. My hands trembled as I reached out for my phone.

“Hello? ”

“Lily? Where are you? The court session is about to begin!”

“I’m in Lanet…coming in a few, Mercy…have they started?”

“Will you just get here? The judge will be on my throat if he spots that you are a no show! Get yourself together and for the love of God Lily, no smoking!”

“Okay and Mercy is he-”

The line went dead. I threw my head back hitting the head rest of the driver’s seat with a silent thud. Nausea swept over me and suddenly the relishing feel ignited by my cigarette turned acrimonious. I rolled down the window pane and disposed it. I then sent the packet of cigarettes back to their haven. Switching on the ignition, my engine roared to life and the car lurched forward. I paused, my eyes flitting to the rear-view mirror; my hair as usual was in a tight bun with a few rebellious tendrils escaping their confinement. I tucked them behind my multiple-pierced ear, I had chosen silver studs for the occasion. There were visible bags under my large eyes and my protuberant cheek bones were a testimony of my lack of eating. I had evidently lost weight; my chic burgundy jumpsuit hung loosely, a little too loosely. The dark burnished reflection looking back at me hardened as I set the car’s gear heading straight for Nakuru Law Courts.

Mercy Wahome was as tough as she was beautiful. With sizzling olive skin complemented by a striking voluptuous figure, the woman cracked necks wherever she went. A prejudiced mind would profile her as one of many Nakuru leeches upon sight, but in truth, Mercy was hard working, independent and most of all a brilliant law practitioner. Today she was dressed in bold mauve, she reverberated confidence.

“You look like shit. ”

“Good morning to you too Mercy.”

A sympathetic smile crawled on her lips when she finally locked her eyes with mine. I was then engulfed in a tight embrace, a lavender laden scent lingering after she finally grew tired of sniffling the air out of me.

“So… did you finally give Victor my number?”

A chuckle escaped my throat as she encircled her arm around the low of my back.

“He has given his life-”

“Yes, yes to the country…but what about his-”

“Mercy! Stop it! We are in court!”

A chuckle emanated from Mercy as we rounded a corner leading to the court room.

“I was going to say his heart…woman, mind out of the gutter please?”

My cheeks flushed crimson as Mercy opened the door of the court room. My feet suddenly became heavy prompting me to remain rooted to the spot.

“You can do this Lily.”

The atmosphere in the courtroom was sombre. It was half empty yet it still felt crowded. Air constricted in my chest as my eyes landed on the man slumped in one of the front row seats.

There he was, seated comfortably on his metal chair with his arms crossed nonchalantly. His ashen hair was unruly, his stubble draped with a pronounced five o’clock shadow. Trepidation suddenly infringed my being as locked away memories began drilling their way back. He suddenly turned around, his eyes boring through mine. His mouth morphed into a malevolent smirk; it was as if he could hear the heightened sound of my heart frantically beating against my chest.

“Lily, sit down…the judge will be here soon after he finishes his sojourn in the washroom.”

Mercy let out bouts of snorts which soon trailed off when she took note of my frozen stance.

“Lily…he cannot do anything to you, sit down. ”

Mercy yanked my hand forcing me to plant my rear end onto the wooden arm chair beside her. I could still feel his eyes on me, regarding me amusingly from his table. Searing tears pooled in my eyes but I swiftly blinked them away, not today Lily.

 

“All rise.”

As if in a trance, everyone rose to their feet as the judge gracefully sauntered in. He motioned for people to resume their sitting positions while instructing the prosecutor to unravel the day’s case. My mind reeled away from the prosecutor’s foghorn voice and proceeded down the path of memory lane. The familiar eerie ringing began sounding yet again.  I was suddenly six years old, the younger version of myself was happily sprinting towards my father. He hoisted me up with his burly hands then tossed me in the air multiple times as I laughed gaily…

“I would like to call Lily Senene to the stand please.”

I had been so profoundly doused in my thoughts that I had not noticed Mercy addressing the jury. The foreign ringing sound disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. Luckily, I had alighted from my train down memory lane just in time for her summoning. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I waddled to the stand. Feigning courage, I swore on the Bible to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

“State your name and the reason for your presence in this court today.”

My throat felt scratchy and when I spoke my voice came out as a harsh whisper.

“My name is Lily Senene and the reason why I am here today is because…”

My voice trailed off as valor dissipated from me. Suddenly I was six again, terrified and voiceless.

“Miss Senene you are required by the court to state your reason for attending this session.”

My head bobbed as I twiddled my thumbs. From the corner of my eye, I saw the judge signalling Mercy to continue. Mercy ‘s gaze was unwavering as she repeated her earlier question. I closed my eyes momentarily as I took in the swirl of memories churning within me. My lower lip quivered as each painful memory depicted itself across my mind, enough was enough, it was time. I am a woman of steel.

“My name is Lily Senene, daughter of Governor Philip Senene…and today I am here to plead with the court for comeuppance to this vile man…the man who continuously raped me from the time I was six years old….my own father.”

It was about time I became the voice of abused women everywhere. This, right here, getting justice for my years of torture was my life’s head shot aka my sweet spot.

—————

Image by Andy Choinski from Pixabay

About the author

Lucy Mwelu

Lucy Mwelu is an emerging writer from Kenya.

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