She wasn’t at all beautiful, not in any way, I thought. But there was an attractiveness about her, a pleasantness that, though it could not make up for her total lack of beauty, still had a certain charm.

She illuminated everything on her path with a charm that made everyone roll with her vibe. I couldn’t notice her on the first day primarily because she was un-present; in that, her presence didn’t make an impression on me at all.

But then I did. Maybe it was the second or third day. She had bumped on me during tea break. She wanted some honey and as she reached for it, she hit my tea mug unintentionally. Not much of the tea spilled on me but the mere act drew my attention to her. She had her badge hanging by her neck and from the tag, I made her name as Liz. Liz Laleti.

“I am so sorry,” she profusely apologized to me as she reached for a serviette to clean up the tidy mess she had created.

I set down my cup and looked at her smiling, at least to reassure her.

“Its okay,” I said as I took the serviette she was offering to clean up my hand that had been holding my cup.

“Must be the pressure of the presentation coming up…” I continued.

She looked calmer as one of the waitresses came with a mop to clean up the spot on the floor the tea had spilled. She was smiling.

“My name is Liz, Laleti,” she said as she smilingly stretched her hand to me.

I took it and looking into her eyes, introduced myself.

“…. And I am Kelvin, Mtwana.”

“I think I saw your name on the programme, that’s why I referred to it earlier.”

“Yes, I am doing a presentation on contemporary development models and the most applicable ones to developing countries of Sub Saharan Africa. I am so sorry for spilling tea on you.”

“It’s okay. It was a small accident, good thing no one is calling an ambulance for me.”

She laughed. The kind of laughter that involved a stretched smile and an inaudible voice because she was covering her mouth with a handkerchief. She then set down her cup and looked towards me.

“I need to go and do some final touches to my presentation. I hope we can bump into each other later.”

“I hope so too. Please don’t spill anything on me when we do.”

“I will do my best not to. Thank you. See you later.” And she left.

That was our first encounter. The first of the only three we had during the entire three weeks I was in Cape Town.

The second one would happen after her presentation. I was seated on tables among those at the front and I could see her eyes darting around until they settled on me. She smiled and looked elsewhere as if she hadn’t even seen me. But immediately after, I sensed a bit of settlement of her eyes. From their corners, she could see me and I figured that settled her anxiety.

As I was headed out for lunch after a lengthy discussion of Rostow and other economic rockstars, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Looking back, I was met by a smile I didn’t expect.

“Hey, how did I do?” she asked as she caught my stride and started walking side by side with me.

“You weren’t that bad,” I responded and smiled at her.

“haha, I expected that based on our earlier encounter.”

“You were magnificent. You seemed to understand, in depth, what you were moderating on.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, I do. Where did you go to school?”

“I did my undergraduate at Dar Es Salaam University, my MSc at the University of Nairobi and I am pursuing my Doctorate at the London School of Economics,” she responded in a way that radiated pride and achievement.

“That’s quite an academic background. What about work?” I asked before we joined the queue that led to the serving tables.

“I have been in academia mostly but I recently joined ICRAF as head of Research. I have talked too much about myself. What about you? What’s your background?”

“I don’t think I have achieved as much as you have but I recently graduated with my second MSC in Development Economics. My first was on Geographical Information Systems with a specific focus on mapping economic indicators. I have studied in South Africa all along but I recently got an offer to do my Ph.D. at Oxford. However, I couldn’t manage to do so because of commitments elsewhere.” I responded as I picked up a hot towel from one of the waiters.

When she didn’t respond, I looked back to find her staring at me disbelievingly.

“Is anything the matter?” I asked.

“Is that what you call a lack of achievement?” she asked as she took a wet towel to clean her hands.

She smiled coyly, but then again, I had only ever seen her smile once, some hours back. She was never caught staring at someone, though I had caught her looking towards my direction earlier. Here she was, donned in elegant sharpness, wit, and intelligence that was threatened by my achievements or lack of them thereof. The way she looked at me was very observant. As if she was studying every single bit of me until she had a picture of them wherever she went.

Her hands were small, but I am sure that through them, big things had passed through. They tended to disappear in the white towel as she cleansed them of imagined impurities, germs, and filthy organisms. She was articulate when she addressed me next.

“I am impressed. You are too subtle.”

The lunch felt like a first date. Giggles, interest in knowing about each other, leaning ins when someone was making a point, blushes when I complimented her hair, or her brow, or her command of English… At times, unconsciously, she fidgeted, adjusting the strap of her dress and applying another coat of wetness to her already moisturized lips.

The third encounter was on my door, on the last day of the conference, with her leaning against the door frame and me opening up at 11 pm.

She looked ravishing in a strapless black dress, a matching clutch bag, red heels, and redder lips. An aura of thrill and adventure emanated from her mere presence.

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Work in Progress


“How much is the fare?” I ask the cab guy as he looks for parking outside Fortis Tower in Westlands.

“Its 860 sir,” He responds as he reverses into a parking slot between a Premio and a Hummer he has spotted.

“Can I pay using MPESA?” I ask him as I take out my iPhone.

“Ni sawa,” he responds.

“Alright,” I respond as I go through the whole my sim kit process.

“What’s your number?”

“0721325345,” He says and reads the number to me one digit at a time.

“Umepata?” I ask him as soon as I am done sending the money.

“Yea. Thank you.” He responds and I alight.

I say hi to the guards at the front of the building and immediately touch my jacket pocket to check whether the box is still there. It is.

I text Calvin to tell him I am on the ground floor and he responds by telling me she is already there and they are having a time of their life. (Calvin is an associate and a friend I trust with everything about me including my life).

Coming right up; I respond to his text.

Several other revelers are awaiting the elevators and I press the 11th floor and wait with them.

There are two ladies, one has her arm intertwined with that of a gentleman I assume is the boyfriend but then I see they have matching rings; a sign to show he is the husband. I don’t know if he is the main shareholder or the largest shareholder of that fine ass. She is in a micro red dress and an anklet. Those ones are usually trouble. I remember Calvin once telling me. The ones with an anklet that is.

The pinging sound of the elevator wakes me up as the doors open to lead us to the rooftop establishment. I am in a jovial mood. This is the night. I keep repeating to myself to reassure myself I am not dreaming.

I am sweating and as the lift starts its way up, I check my palms to find them wet. They are shaking a bit and I put them in my pocket as I try to steady them and contain my nervousness. I wouldn’t want anyone to notice how unsure I am of what happens when the doors open to usher me into the topmost floor of this entertainment joint.

When the doors open, I let everyone else get out first and check out my looks for the hundredth time on the mirror on the elevator wall. I look okay. I reassure myself. I am wearing a sky blue suit, a white shirt, black bowtie, black belt, and black shoes. I didn’t wear my watch but opted for a black male bracelet she bought for me while on a business trip to Malindi.

Being a regular at this place, I say hi to the security guys manning the entrance and immediately spot Calvin who is laughing loudly with two ladies at a table placed at the far end of the club. The couches are white and I can see a bucket with some bottles of Moet at the table. Glasses placed there are half full and I can immediately tell they are having a great time.

Calvin is facing the door so he sees me first and stands to say hi.

“Vipi bro? Right on time huh?” he says as she comes in for a shoulder bump.

“Po asana bro. Yea right on time.” I respond.

Jackie recognizes my voice and turns to find me looking at her.

She grins from tooth to tooth revealing a smile I first noticed on my screen reading from a teleprompter. She looks dashing in a white dress that believes in hugging her body in ways I am not sure I ever will get the chance to. I plan to find out tonight.

“I thought you were traveling earlier this afternoon?” She asks excitedly as she stands to hug me.

“Hata salamu hakuna?” I respond cheekily as I bring her in for a hug. She responds fluidly and as soon as our bodies come into contact, I know this is a place I have waited to be for quite a while.

She encircles her hands around my neck as she hugs me and I encircle mine around her slim waist… I know this is the only honest moment I will ever get to pop up the question.

“Will you marry me, Jackie?” I whisper into her ears as time comes to a standstill just for a moment at least for me. My heartbeat increases as she ponders on the question still holding me… I then feel her tears starting to soak my shirt.

“What?” She asks faintly…

I let go of her waist and get down on one knee and repeat the question…

(By this time, Calvin and Chloe are just looking at us overwhelmed my emotion. Everyone present seems to notice what’s happening and all their eyes are on us waiting to see what will happen next… The DJ has since reduced the volume of the music so that we can hear each other as we make eternal promises. I am unsure of so many things but I know this is what I want for so many reasons.)

“Will you marry me, Jackie?” I repeat the question more deliberately this time…

She looks around the club, looks at Chloe and Calvin then stretches her left hand towards me as tears well up in her eyes…

“Yes, babie… I will marry you” she screams out loud.

I am out of words as I slip the golden ring on her finger. A tear threatens to blind my vision, she sees this and takes me up using my hands. She pulls me in as the crowd behind us claps in excitement and I feel at home.

I am home away from home, not in this beautiful establishment, but in her arms.

“Congratulations man,” Calvin says as he congratulates Jackie and me.

I am overwhelmed. As Chloe comes in for the congratulatory hug, I think back to the very few months I have known Jackie. They have been the best. She isn’t the most phenomenal woman I have ever met but she is the one that has seen through my bs, my crookedness but still wanted me after the realization.


I wake up to find her next to me. Her coal black hair covers some aspect of her face and without the makeup, she looks darker. A beautifully dark complexion that I prefer to the light one that radiates through the lighting, the teleprompter and the fast life in front of the cameras.

I kiss her forehead and get out of bed. Removing my phone from the bedside charging port, I switch it on and the first message that comes in is from Niq.

Niq: I should be landing in Nairobi from Juba around midday. Mind picking me up?

Before responding, I look back at Jackie and notice she is still sleeping.

Me: Good morning babie… I don’t think I will manage to because J is still here. However, I will send someone to pick you up and we can catch up later.

After a few seconds, she types back…

Niq: Okay. I will call you after landing.


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