BY MIKE MUTHAKA
The request hit Cathy’s Bureau at eleven thirty on a Wednesday morning. The phone in her office rung thrice before she picked up: “Cathy’s Househelps, how may I help you?”
Cathy had been running the bureau for three years now, and answering the calls still gave her goosebumps. She always wondered what sort of person was on the other end of the line. Most of them were women, and most of them wanted a house girl. But this one wanted a boy.
“Yes we have houseboys. What age would you prefer?”
“Not less than 28.”
The lady at the other end spoke with a commanding edge. Cathy grabbed a pen and a piece of paper.
“Is there a specific tribe that you’d like?” Cathy never knew why, but tribe seemed to be an important factor in this business.
“Any tribe will do.”
“Okay, I have one here who says he’s Kyuk but doesn’t know the language.”
“Sawa. When can I come for a quick interview?”
I show up at Cathy’s the next day at noon. The client is yet to arrive. Cathy suggests I wait at the reception. I’m carrying a bag of clothes and a hope for employment. I haven’t had any work experience. It’s been close to six months of waiting. There’s barely any demand for houseboys, but this might be my lucky day.
A growing sense of anxiety gnaws at my belly as I wait. A wave of questions rushes through me: who would be the one to hire me? What kind of family would it be? Where would they live? And what would my work load look like? The knot in my stomach tightens the more I ponder.
A tall woman walks in twenty minutes later. Something tells me that it’s her – the client. She has a low-cut top and jeans – with a fine neat waist and strong legs. She smells like jasmine. Her hair is long and dark and it tumbles across her shoulders.
She walks by, paying no attention to me, making me feel like a pebble on the pavement. When she gets to the front desk she asks to see Cathy and is led to the office. I’m left to wonder if it’s really her.
She’s strikingly beautiful, this woman, and some twisted part of me is excited at the prospect of taking instructions from her. I hope to God she isn’t one of those cold mistresses who’d work me like a mule.
Then Cathy sticks her head through the door and beckons me over. The walk from the reception to the office feels like a lifetime. My fingers are crossed and my feet are cold. I want this client to like me. I want her to take me back to her place and order me around. Hehe.
“Sure thing, Jasmine.”
“Where would you like me to put this, Jasmine?”
I find Jasmine seated cross-legged –across from Cathy. Her feet have disappeared under the table. I stretch out my hand to say hello and I notice her sharp gaze, probably looking for that thing in my eye that would tell her if I’d be at all reliable. And the minute she takes my hand I see the lines of doubt on her face. She realizes how soft my hands are.
Will this one be able to handle it?
I take a seat next to her and Cathy excuses herself. Then Jasmine turns to me and asks how old I am.
“Twenty eight,” I say. And I can almost tell what she’ll say next.
“Aii, are you sure you’re twenty eight?”
She asks me if I’ve been a house-help before, (never) and where I come from (Maragua). She asks about my life story; how I ended up at Cathy’s, and how far my education goes. (Form 4; B+) She asks if I’d be willing to work in a house with two teenagers (why not?).
It’s hard to believe this lady is a mother of two. She tells me I have a baby-face, and that she hopes I’m up to the task.
Jasmine seems reluctant, but eventually she takes me on. Cathy comes back and hands Jasmine a form to sign. I feel like some sort of property being passed over. I try to suppress a smile when I think: I belong to Jasmine now.
I fall in beside her as we walk out the bureau –backpack slung on my shoulder. She leads me to a black Lexus. And when she enters I pause: Do I get into the back? Sitting back-left just doesn’t seem right and slipping directly behind her would be weird for us both. Going for shotgun would seem like kiherehere.
She sees my fluster and points to the front seat. I get in awkwardly while shifting the bag to my laps. After clicking on the seat-belt she turns the key and the car wakes up –purring softly under my seat. The car stereo lights up and I notice that it’s tuned to XFM.
And it takes all of me not to tell her I think she has such a great taste in music. But have you heard the new afternoon presenter? I swear if he says ‘fantastico’ one more time I swear I’m going to pen a much worded Email.
Too soon, boss?
All through the ride I wonder what kind of home she has. She tells me that her two kids can take care of themselves –they won’t need much attention. The job will be mainly housework, she says, and to wash the car sometimes.
Only when she adjusts the volume do I notice the ring on her finger. And I start to wonder what kind of man she has. He must have been lucky to land such a beauty. But does he know she’s bringing another man in the house? Is he okay with this arrangement?
But soon I find out the guy is rarely home.
Days pass and I finally get the hang of it: wake up at 5:30, make breakfast (tea, bacon, eggs), wash the dishes, water the plants, do laundry, mop the floors, and wash the car –sometimes. When Jasmine comes home early she prefers to cook supper herself. Sometimes she orders out.
Working for Jasmine turns out to be a hoot. I get three meals a day and I sleep in a cozy outhouse –with a bed, a chair, and a discarded coffee table. On weekends the family goes out and leaves me home alone, and I use the opportunity to play loud music and take selfies.
I get one day off, on Sundays, and come back the next day. I get along with Jasmine’s kids and her husband – whenever he’s around – doesn’t say much. Everybody minds their own business, really.
But one Saturday morning – when the family had gone out and I was mopping up the corridor – I noticed Jasmine’s bedroom door had been left ajar. She never left the room unlocked whenever I was home alone, and I had never glanced inside, much less gone close.
Now I got curious. I wanted to know how it looked like. I wanted to see her bed, and to feel the fabric of her bed sheets in my hands. I wanted to see where Jasmine spent her nights. Did she ever get lonely in there?
I set the mop down and walked towards the room. The closer I got the faster my heart beat, and I got that same feeling I had at the bureau – when I was about to meet Jasmine for the first time.
I was surprised at how big her bed was. It made the one in my outhouse look like a crib. A green duvet was gathered harem-scarum atop it. I had never pegged Jasmine as one not to make her bed.
A single blade of sunlight pierced between the curtains and struck the tiled floor. Wooden closets lined one end of the room, and a full length mirror was embedded on the opposite side. Her dressing table was awash with perfume bottles and different kinds of body oils.
The room smelt exactly like her. Like jasmine.
There was a pile of books on her nightstand – along with a lamp and a half-glass of water. I sat on the edge of the bed and wondered how it would feel to wake up next to her, to snuggle in the warmth of her body and kiss her lips.
Then I opened the drawer and a purple vibrator rolled out. The sight of it made me stand up – literally, figuratively. I looked at it for a moment, jaw dropped at the sheer size of it.
I put it back quickly and walked out of the room, but no matter how fast I went I knew that image would stick with me for days on end.
That night I took my supper in the outhouse. I couldn’t stop thinking about that vibrator. And I couldn’t stop thinking about Jasmine using it. I imagined Jasmine in her room, lying naked on that monstrous bed, the soft curves of her body limned in the faint glow of the lamp.
I pictured Jasmine pleasuring herself – the vibrator buzzing from between her long legs. I imagined Jasmine helping herself to climax, and the vividness of my thoughts made me reach for my crotch. And I helped myself as well.
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