He dipped his hand into the left pocket of his black leather-motorbike jacket and pulled out a dirty piece of paper which he positioned in front of his eyes. He didn’t read it immediately. He first cleared his throat and announced…”we will give you our daughter. You only need to appreciate the parents with Kshs. 750,000″. His heavy distinctive Kikuyu accent helped propel the message home. My father almost stood up to leave the negotiations had I not quickly and slightly tapped his thigh.

Our soon to be in-laws had arranged seats strategically in such a manner that we faced each other. In attendance was Millie (my fiancée), her eager family and I, Matthew alias Jakom and my family.

There was a huge fading-brown table between us which had all sorts of foods; which I had painfully paid for a week earlier.

Millie’s uncle, Mbugua, explained that the family had wisely chopped off a whole Kshs. 250, 000 because [wanaelewa] “they were also aware” of the hard economic times most Kenyans were facing. Otherwise, had the parents not interceded, I could have been asked to pay Kshs. 1, 000, 000. “Our daughter likes you so much. We have also liked you. That’s why we decided on this “small” amount of money as dowry.

Folks, this imbecile didn’t know the exact meaning of “small amount of money”.

Apparently, their dear Millie had been prized high above rubies, diamonds and gold for various reasons. Top on the list was the fact that she had a degree. Secondly, they argued that she had never “disturbed” them. For the uninitiated, this means that she had never entertained any kind of boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. To them, she was still a virgin at 28 years of age [which is 100% possible].

 Thus, no one was permitted during the negotiations to even imagine that she had ever had any kind of sexual interaction.

It was illegal to think that way.

Keen observers will tell you that what really hiked the prize of the dowry was what millennials call “fundamentals”; thanks to the global hit Musician-Ken Wa Maria who intelligently coined or brought the word to the limelight. It is true that her parents, uncles and aunts had noticed her oversized bottoms which were curved just enough to fit her size 8 body figure. Aware of this rare blessing, Millie wriggled and wiggled herself as she walked in an attempt to torment her viewers. She succeeded. Even uncles had to turn and look at her when she walked or bent down to dust the house. Were they sincere uncles or hungry manipulative weirdos who wished not to have been related to this young beauty? I will let you decide.

In addition, she had a brown smooth face that shown brighter when she exposed her teeth to smile. I don’t want to mention her cheerful and watery eyes that had the ability to weaken men. As you would guess, many people were interested in her. Many tried but didn’t succeed. Millie chose me. I still don’t know why. She should have cleverly chosen a moneyed business mogul not a poor hustler who had spent one whole year without a job, after graduation. How much had I saved? Would I sell my one-acre piece of ancestral land to entertain Millie’s parents and in-laws?   Damn it!

When I heard the sum of money mentioned, I got lost in my thoughts momentarily. I had heavy calculations to make which included re-evaluating my financial abilities.

I had a few loans from the likes of Tala and Branch against my monthly Kshs. 27,000- salary that I earned as a hotel floor cleaner dubbed Sanitary Manager. I had also taken a huge advance on my second month of employment which was being deducted monthly. I was lucky to secure an advance from an Indian boss [no offence to good Indians; I have no apologies for the other class].

Not to mention also the numerous cousins who timed and called each end-month and of course, my immediate family. I am sure you know what it means to be a first born in a family of six siblings.

I knew and respected the fact that true African men “give” dowry. I had planned myself accordingly and so, I thought.

I had scooped everything from my savings account. From my estimation, 2 cows and 2 goats cumulatively couldn’t have been more than Kshs. 60,000; if we got sizable cows at Kshs. 20,000 each and goats at Kshs. 5,000. After all, to me dowry was an appreciation not a business of buying and selling human beings.

When the dowry amount was mentioned, a mysterious and embarrassing silence engulfed us. However, my unlearned uncle couldn’t take it anymore, he jumped up and asked, “my in-laws, are you chasing us?”

Mbugua looked at the piece of paper again, as if to consult it further. When he spoke there was a tremor of anger in his voice, he said, “Mzee, Millie amesoma sana! Amefanya course kubwa sana” [Loosely translated: My Elder, Millie is well learned. She has done a huge course].

Hold on right there!

Just to inform you, this prestigious course was Environmental Science. No offence to anyone who has graduated or will graduate having attained this course. But, from the way Mbugua mentioned it, you could think that Millie had secretly studied Medicine at Harvard University.

She was my school mate for four years and I had seen enough of her theatrics. She recorded the highest number of classes one could attend, in first year before The First year’s bash. Afterwards, she would be seen in class at most thrice in a whole semester. Her assignments were done by other students who had turned entrepreneurs by identifying a “gap”- that they could make an extra coin by doing assignments and sitting for exams for lazy fellows.

Millie was among the forensic experts who came into exam rooms with thin well-scribbled pieces of paper hidden in places we can’t mention in this article. Once or twice, she was caught red-handed copy-pasting answers from such pieces of paper.

Any stupid person would think that she would miss those results, but no, not her…. all she had to do was to seek the attention of the invigilator for an hour or so. The boys who were caught cheating in the same exams are yet to graduate; they had nothing to offer.

It should be remembered that Millie partied and drank herself out for almost 3 years. There are some who also saw her dance too closely to men during those parties such that no space whatsoever remained between her and the men. And yes, it is almost a miracle that her eyes managed to change back to white. “Ganja” and cigarettes had almost blinded that senorita.

So, when Mbugua insinuated that they were giving me a pure rose of a girl, I momentarily giggled. Even my father turned to look at me.

In my normal senses, I couldn’t have married Millie based on her history.

Only one thing propelled me.

After leaving Campus in 2015, like most youth, I tarmacked for one year. I rotated through offices dropping my CVs and meeting HR managers; seeking job opportunities. Most of them ended up asking for money from me before they could get me the job. I didn’t have the money otherwise; I could have paid. I was too desperate.

My one roomed house at Coast-Kawangware of Kshs. 2, 500 per month was giving me headache. I had dodged the landlady for 2 months until one day she waited for me outside the house till around 10pm to give me a notice to vacate her house in 3 weeks. She also strictly informed the watchman not to allow me carry anything other than a small bag when getting out of the compound. She thought I would pack and run away at night. How did she manage to read my mind!

Two weeks passed, I had no money. It was very difficult to even find food.

I clearly remember the Tuesday evening. It was around 5:30pm. I had taken a left turn after ABC Centre, Westlands and was speedily walking on that James Gichuru road towards Lavington Mall before branching off to Kawangware. I was just a few metres from Muthangari Police Station when a black Vitz came to a sudden halt just in front of me.

The driver swerved too much such that I had to duck to avoid being hit by the car. My fellow poor men who were also taking the shortcut on foot to Kawangware complained bitterly of my near death experience. The driver didn’t immediately get out of the car.

I went and knocked on the driver’s window rudely to complain of the mistreatment. That’s when the window rolled down and I came face to face with a smiling Millie.

Millie: Jemooooooooo. Jemooooooo. Aki we-i-we Jemoo. Ghai!

Me: Millie!

Millie: Umepotelea wapi?

Me: Niko tu. Natoka works hapa chini. Niliona nichukulie Uber hapo juu.

Millie: Wow, you work at Westlands?

Me: Mmnh

Millie: Do you work at Westlands? We are near Westy?

Me: Oooh yeah, yeah. Yeah. Of course.

She offered to drop me at my place instead of me taking an Uber as I had stated. When asked where I lived, I mentioned a former school mate’s place at Kilimani and prayed that he was home. The watchman had seen me severally and so I thought he couldn’t have any issue.

Apparently, Millie was not doing bad. She rented a two-bedroom house at Ndumboini at Kshs. 20,000. She was also working as a receptionist at a three-star hotel at Westlands where I am sure she attracted a lot of attention.

As she drove us and as we talked I was convinced that she had weighed me on the scale of financial stability. I saw the way she looked at my black pair of shoes. They were the same ones I had since my Fourth year at the University. My mouth was really dry for lack of enough food and water. Thirdly, because of the long stretch I had covered on foot, my armpits were also on fire. A maddening stench oozed from those hairy armpits and threatened to kill the two of us in that small vehicle.

When we got to the compound where I had told her I lived, the watchman added to my troubles and shouted that my friend was not in the house. I tried to insist on going into the compound but, it made matters worse.  He openly shouted again,” Jamaa, Steve hayuko. Amefunga nyumba. Unaenda kufanya nini kwake?!!!” [Loosely translated: Guy, Steve isn’t at home. His house is locked. What are you going to do at his house?]

I wanted to die. I chose death.

Millie was silent all through even as she drove off. I didn’t say a single word. I looked outside the car and assumed that I was dead.

 By the time I came to my senses, she had packed the car outside her compound.

She invited me into the house and served some left-over rice and beans which I cleared in less than 3 minutes. After her shower, she cooked some Ugali, kales and beef. When she served me again, I ate as if I hadn’t had any food for days.

I didn’t even care that it was getting to 9pm. I just wanted to relax my troubled mind.

I also took a shower and changed into her pajamas. After which, I paid for the food in ways I am not willing to explain.

The next morning, she woke up early, took her breakfast and left. I managed to get out of bed at 10am. I took breakfast and cleaned the house before sitting on her grey comfy sofa to watch some movies. At around 4:30pm, like all responsible men, I rushed out and bought some spinach which I cooked with some eggs and Ugali. She found the house clean and ready food.

We ate at around 6:45pm and rested for the night. I paid for her hospitality again.

That’s how I spent 2 months at her place.

By the third month, she had gotten me a job at her place of work such that we could leave every morning and go back home together. We split the bills and contributed almost equally whenever we wanted to buy anything for the bigger house we had moved into.

When she got pregnant, I had to move with speed.

I went for introductions at her home. We also went to my rural home and met my parents.

Everything seemed alright till we went for dowry.

That’s when the huge sum of money was mentioned and almost broke my heart. Irrespective of her past, I still loved her and prized her highly.

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