Tasty Restaurant Head Offices was a three floor flat surrounded by a high perimeter wall. Nukwita scrutinized the enormous pitch black gate with awe. It was decorated with golden carvings. The fence was painted in light orange and images of pizza, chips and chicken were drawn all over it. She could see the flat hovering above the busy streets of Kampala. A long sign post indicated with an arrow that the building beside it were the Head Offices of the popular Tasty Restaurant. Taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, buses and heavy trailers hurried past the road. She could hear the wails of taxi and motorcycle horns rising and disappearing, rising again only to mix up with other sirens. She marshaled the courage as it was her first time, in her nineteen years of existence to step into a building of luxury and prominence. A male dark guard opened the tiny gate and let her in. "Are you here for the interview?'
"Oh yes I am." "Oh. Please go forward to the reception." the guard directed. She was greeted by many faces rich in makeup. Unlike them, she was dressed in a long patterned dress that slightly kissed her feet. She had no makeup at all and her hair was neatly arranged into a tight puff. Her yellow skin seemed to intimidate a few girls that shied away to patrol their smart phone jam. Behind a counter on her left, a youthful secretary, looking up from her laptop glared at her. "Are you here for the interview?" her voice was as sharp as the crack of dry wood. "Yes ma'am." She signed to her to join the row of seats that faced a staircase which she assumed led to some office. She wondered why so many girls had turned up. It was a zero percentage that she would be selected. She thought. But this was Kampala, she thought. The land of the jobless. The hopeful girls sat silently tapping on their phones with red, orange and sometimes yellow painted finger nails. The majority wore above the knee skirts and dresses which tightly clung on their bodies, revealing a wide variety of breasts, hips and bellies. Nukwita was the only one without a decent phone. It was one of the earliest tiniest phones manufactured by Nokia. She consoled herself that in future, she would get a decent phone but as time flew by, the longing for a phone stung her. She would steal occasional glances at her neighbour's phone whose concentration went no further than her phone. It seemed like ages when the secretary stood up with a sheet of paper on which she read the first name. "Viviano Musoke" she called. A tall dark lady stood up and was ushered upstairs. After nearly thirty minutes, she came back carrying an envelope which invited Nukwita's curiosity. This went on with more girls who went out exactly as the first, wearing unreadable faces. Nukwita tried her best to keep sleep at bay. Her ear had to be steady for any mention of her own name. To discourage the tyranny of sleep, she allowed her mind to sail into the past. "What if father was with us? Would I be here?" A soft voice seemed to answer. 'It would be different. You would have a smartphone' She mused at this possibility. She remembered her mother's description of him. 'He fled the arena of responsibility when he heard she was pregnant of Nukwita' She knew her mother was right. Mama Lita loathed discussing him. When she had grilled her on the possible whereabouts of her father, Mama Lita had oftentimes evaded these enquiries. But somewhere in the girl's heart, she longed to set her eyes on her father even if it was just for a while. She knew Lita shared the same longing but rarely discussed it. She thought of herself. Was she an odd man out as far as the hopeful interviewees were concerned? She felt suddenly lowly. She was, as she believed what many town girls labelled local. If only I could get some money...if only.... "Nukwita Lyn!" the dry voice of the secretary cracked in her ear. The door was marked 'Manager's Office.' The secretary ushered her in. It was a spacious office painted in orange (like all the walls in the building). Four men and one Lady smartly dressed black suits sat behind the lengthy mahogany desk. In front of them, a chair stood like a neglected child facing the desk. Amid them sat an enormous man with no visible neck. His tiny spectacles rested lazily on his bulbous nose. His cheeks tagged him as one of the gym haters. Nukwita was nervous. She had never been in front of such a crowd although they were just five. She held her wallet firmly and at the instruction of the secretary, she took the lone chair. Immediately the secretary left, locking the door behind her, Nukwita's heart thumped fiercely on her chest. She had never before felt lonely and scared. She had a feeling that she was before God and His angels on judgement day. "What's your name Miss?" "Nukwita sir." "Nukwita who?" shot a deep voice from another male, who had a thick moustache. 'Lyn.' she managed to whimper. "According to your Curriculum Vitae," the huge man began. 'Submitted on the 23rd of January, 2020, you dropped out of Senior Four.' What ...No! ‘Exclaimed Nukwita 'I didn't drop out. I lacked money.' The whole board was impressed. 'How bold!' cried the lady. It was evidently the first time anyone interrupted them. The fat man composed himself, taking a sip of water. ' Nukwita. - what do you love most in life?' She turned and turned the eddies in her brain. 'I love interacting and socialising with people.' The lady at the far end leaned forward. 'Are you married?' "Why. No." "Do you have a phone?" Yes.' Her bands tightened in her wallet. 'Let us see.' Said the man with a moustache. 'We shall need to use emails, WhatsApp and the like to communicate if you have the job.' Reluctantly, she opened her wallet and displayed her phone. This sent a roar of laughter circulating through the board, except for the fat man who just looked at her, with an expressionless face. Nukwita nearly cried. She turned her eyes to the ground. 'Is this the interview?' she wondered. 'Why am I poor?' She had heard them laugh, her friends and enemies. She had imagined that the board would understand that she was short of fortune enough to empathise with her. The laughter slowly subsided, like the setting of an inpatient sun. 'Nukwita!' called the man with a moustache. She did not look up as her stream of tears, she imagined would put her to more shame. She heard a man rising, footsteps approached her. In a few seconds, she could see the shiny black shoes and part of the clean black pants. She felt a gentle touch on her shoulder 'Please look up you have a phone now.' Suddenly, as though some excitement nerve had been struck, she looked up. The man with the moustache was offering her a brand new Infinix phone enclosed in its box. She snatched it like an animal, opened it and felt it, as one in a dream. 'This is mine? 'She asked. 'Yes ' said the man. 'On one condition.' 'Which condition sir?' Her excitement reduced. The man looked behind him, nodding. The board nodded its approval. Turning to the girl. He said 'I will tell you once inside there.' pointing toward a door marked 'Private'. Not suspecting anything, the girl agreed. Her mind was on the phone. I am going to be on WhatsApp and Facebook, she thought, smiling to herself as she entered 'Private' the man with the moustache closed the door behind him. Inside, a little bed with signs of an earlier intrusion stood. There was definitely nothing else that could entertain her. 'You'll have to undress.' said the man. 'You have to. The board won't help you if you cry. Yield or die.' the voice turned cruel. She could see an enormous swelling growing below his belly. When she hesitated, the man flew at her, grabbed her dress like a mad man while she gave little resistance. Lita was in high spirits as she prepared to go to work. It had been a week and the profits were growing day by day. She was alone at home, her mother having gone to work. Their house was one of the many tiny rental rooms that lay in the ghetto. Inside, it was a single room where the three slept. Lita starred peeling the Irish potatoes, slicing them meticulously to tiny curvatures. She would carry them and fry them from the stall in town. She was engrossed in the activity of peeling that her mind floated to Nukwita. She had been hopeful when she left. She was just a girl like herself who desired to free herself from financial drought. She wondered why she was taking long to return. Perhaps she had the job and was working, perhaps she is being taken on a tour. But there was also the possibility Lita shuddered at the thought of it, the likelihood of her getting lost in the many many roads of the town. It was also likely that she could have been 'stolen' She pushed away these ugly thoughts and chose the happy ones. Yes, she and her sister would make mama proud. She made lunch slowly, as it was impossible for her to leave home without Nukwita's return. She boiled rice to go with the beans and waited outside the room, occasionally chit chatting with a passing neighbour. The clock was striking four when she caught a glimpse at a yellow patterned dress she had seen in the morning. But it was not alone. It was with someone, a girl whose dressing was termed 'Indecent' by her jajas. It was a mini skirt, stopping at mid-thigh and a top that did not cover her belly. Lita looked steadily, as one would watch an exceptional martial arts movie. The girls were approaching her. Nukwita was visibly excited. Liita's heart was relieved that at least her sister was in no real danger but what about the girl? Had she dipped poison in her sister's mind? 'She is Achipah Specie' said Nukwita. Achipah stole a glance at Lita. 'Call me Specie.' her accent was a struggle at imitating the Americans. 'I'll go with Achipah.' they shook hands. The girl looked at her watch and looked alarmed. 'It's getting leit.' she said. 'See you Lyn.' and hugged the girl, like she had known her for centuries. Lita no sooner had Achipah gone than she immediately launched into a verbal attack on her sister. 'Are these not the girls mama warned us of?' 'Please calm down. I failed the interview but got this.' She retrieved her infinix brand new phone. Lita was in a daze. The phone cost over 500,000 Uganda shillings, an amount even their mother dreamed of. 'How?' 'Oh, it was the board. It pitied me with my small phone and gifted me this.' 'Just like that?' 'Yes.' Nukwita looked down. Just like that.' Lita was relieved that at least she had not attained the luxury by ill methods. She knew girls who would offer up themselves to be used only for a plate of chicken. She caught the phone, admired it, and thought for a moment. And said 'What if we sold it?' 'Wha-at!' 'Yes. It could get us money. Don't you think?' 'I can't sell it' Nukwita snatched it and opened the curtain that separated the beds from the sitting room and landed on the bed she shared with her sister with a thud and a heavy sigh. Lita was taken aback by this reaction. The two had vowed to 'make mama proud.' She did not want to be the only one loyal to the cause. The impatient sun was gliding hurriedly to the west. Its orange colour painted the skies beautifully. Lita carried her bucket of chips on her head, she carried a kaveera which contained groceries in one hand, and a frying pan in another. She patrolled the ghetto in this manner till she reached town where people and cars swarmed around. Her stall was stationed strategically in front of a supermarket. Her next competitor was an elderly Lady, whose station was about two metres away 'You are late today.' observed the lady, who was already frying her potatoes 'Yes. Home issues.' Lita busied herself in lighting her stove, slicing the tomatoes, onions and cabbage till the sun was replaced by electro lights from the crowded buildings. Her customers were of categories. Beggars, rich pot-bellied men, elderly women, mad men, children and several harlots who were the custodians of Kampala. 'How much are your chips?' a customer would query. 'Bbili bitaano.' she would reply. Alright give me.' She would then proceed to pack the chips in a kaveera, mix them with tomato sauce, raw tomatoes and onions depending on the customer's preference. The hours tickled by as she carried on her business, serving and occasionally chit chatting with the elderly woman. The profits were rising, her hope was rising with it. She would make mama proud. While not busy she would reminisce on many things. Once she recalled a poem her teacher once read them in Senior three.
There is a trench in town, It is full to the brim, No one, passing it dare look down, It is full to the brim It was said a paedophile once fell into it, Hem cried and cried to the deaf town, Till his heart could never beat, He died in the trench in town.
She wondered if the rhyme was true. Do paedophiles really exist? With these questions, she watched a black Mercedes park a little far away. A man approached her stall. The clock was striking eleven and most of the town only had a scanty populace and a handful of cars. 'How much are your chips?' 'Two thousand five hundred sir.' The man eyed her keenly as though she had seen her somewhere and was trying to recall where... He noticed the bright eyes that glittered even in the dim. He noticed her smiling and thought that her smile was of a model. 'How can I help you sir?' she woke him to his senses. His suit was of grey. His facial features were one of the best and his perfume intimidated her. 'Give me two.' Does he have a wife, Lita wondered. Why two? Her mind was functioning fast, as it hadn't done so in many years. Is he looking at me? The man looked cute but something in his tone reminded her of a burglar. 'I am Mr. Dangote by the way.' he said, with an air of formality. 'I am Lita.' He noticed her blush as he took his chips. 'Do you normally work here?' 'Yes I do' she was nodding vigorously. 'Then see you.' he waved as he approached the black Mercedes Benz. Lita felt elated. Her competitor eyed her as she was finishing up to go home . 'It's time we went home.' she called after her. 'Oh yes. Home' The duo passed closed shops, parked cars and quiet houses. It was one of those silent nights that were disturbed only by a passing nocturnal motorcycle. The lady said. 'I noticed you were happy today.' 'Oh yes. I made a lot of profits.' 'No. It’s this gentleman.' 'Oh no.' she exclaimed, attracting the eye of a homeless man lying beside the road. 'I saw you.' Lita kept quiet. The Lady was wise and to keep denying the truth looked foolish. 'Maybe' The lady sighed heavily. They were approaching Lita's home. It looked like a deserted factory from far off. 'As you go to sleep.' said the Lady 'remember that looks are liars.' Lita watched her disappear into a dark road which led to her home. Her kitenge hid her aging body, giving her an appearance of a prodigal ghost. Her mind echoed her words. 'Looks are Liars.'
..........To Be Continued............