SHORT STORY May 20, 2022

For Christmas this year, I have decided to build a fire for my soul and watch as it combusts into flames.

That is a poetic cliché way of saying that I have decided to get back together with Gerald.

I don't feel like hearing the judgment in Faith's voice, so when she asks where I am going dressed so nice, I lie and say I am going to see Lisa.

She rolls her eyes, as I expected her to, and tells me to be careful around Lisa, also as I expected her to.

Faith is a total mama bear when it comes to me. I guess it is because I am the only family she has left since our parents passed away in a road accident last December.

Sometimes, I like the feeling of her watching over me. But only sometimes.

Most times, it feels like I am locked up in a vacuum, and I am struggling for air that I know is not there.

I am dressed for bad decisions – a short tight black leather skirt, a navy green crop top with the words IDK and IDC written across the boobs, a pair of cute furry brown boots, a heavy black denim jacket, and a beige scarf to fight the cold.

The hallway mirror approves of my look, but it tells me something is still missing.

I fish around the make-up stand until I find the counterfeit dark-red MAC Jacobs lipstick I bought when I was still going out with Gerald.

Faith's eyes are watching me as I apply the lipstick in the mirror, but I pretend not to see the suspision inside them.

"Usilewe na Lisa sana. Remember we have our thing at 12?" she calls out as I head out the door.

I nod and promise that I won't.


Christmas Eve has its own kind of magic.                                              

That is what the cold bright night whispers in my ear the second I step onto the street.

Mama Freddie, who owns the Mama Freddie Wholesale/Retail shop opposite our apartment building, has decorated her shop with all kinds of Christmas lights.

To match her spirit, King's Butchery, located next to her shop, has put outside a small Cyprus tree decorated with cheap Christmas ornaments.

King's Butchery used to be owned by Mzee Kijana, but he passed away early this year, and the ownership of the butchery unsurprisingly fell into the hands of his overly-romantic only son, Kijana.

I guess that explains the first-time Christmas tree.

Mama Freddie and Kijana's Christmas decorations make the street brighter, more cheerful, and Christmassy.

But that is not where the Christmas Eve magic lies.

The magic lies in the group of children playing beside the road - in how they are laughing and running and in how, every once in a while, they burst into Christmas songs.

The children have horrible voices, and every song they sing is off-key.

Still, there is some kind of irresistible melody and playful innocence in their childish voices that pulls the Christmas spirit out of every heart in the street, including mine.

As I watch them, I remember a quote Gerald texted me once - A child is a beam of sunlight from the Infinite and Eternal, with possibilities of virtue and vice, but as yet unstained.

He texted me that quote last year, around August.

He said he came across it on the internet, and it made him think of the baby and me.

That was when I was still pregnant with his baby and before everything went south.

Suddenly, I get a bad taste in my mouth and it compels my legs to hurry away from the caroling children.


I haven't told Gerald I am going to his place, but I expect that he already knows.

Christmas Eve is after all our holiday. It has always been since the first time we met, Christmas Eve 2018.

It was at Lisa's annual Christmas Eve party, and we officially met when both of us, unable to bear the overwhelming cigarette smoke, the smell of sweaty bodies, and the ear-shattering music, went out to the balcony to catch some air and some sanity.

He kissed me later that night when the clock struck 12, and the twinkling stars, the glowing moon, and Santa Claus became the involuntary witnesses to the birth of our new love.

Exactly two years later on Christmas Eve, it was on the same balcony, with the same stars and the same moon and Santa Claus still as witnesses, that our love was pronounced dead.

That was after he learned that I had lost the baby.

I had just found out myself that afternoon, and I was afraid of telling him the news.

I had called Lisa up and asked for her help, which in Lisa's case meant – I needed alcohol. A lot of it.

When Gerald arrived at the party, he found me shit-faced drunk.

He accused me of many things that night, but the one that hurt the most was that I hadn't loved our child enough for him.

He moved out of our house later that night, but I didn't know that until Christmas morning.

That was also when I learned of my parents' passing.

Faith had tried to reach me all night, and when she found me bent over Lisa's toilet bowl Christmas morning, the first thing she did was break down on the floor next to me.

I thought she was mourning my loss of Gerald and the baby, but when she told me that was not all I would be mourning that Christmas, all the guts fell outside my body and into the toilet bowl.


I am seated outside one of the shops near Gerald's apartment, waiting for him to come outside, like some stalker.

Several times, the gate opens, and my heart leaps to my throat only to sink back down.

I am nervous. I haven't seen Gerald in over a year. He didn't attend any of the funerals – not my parents', not our baby's, not ours.

When the gate opens for what seems to be the hundredth excruciating time, and I see his dreadlocked head push its way out, my body freezes and burns up at the same time.

I watch as his face makes its way out and up, and when my eyes land on it, I suddenly feel like rushing over and kissing his shaggy beard, his narrow brown eyes, his small nose, his wide soft lips.

And that is when I see her.

She is behind him, holding onto his waist in a way that seems both painfully playful and heart-wrenchingly familiar.

It is she who pushes their bodies out of the gate, and he almost trips on something, but he catches himself just in time and turns to face her.

He laughs, then gives her a playful smack on her ass.

As a response, she also smacks him on the ass and starts running playfully away from him.

That is when I see it - the bulge of her stomach.

When he catches her, they are both gasping for air from laughing too much.

He holds her from behind, his hands resting lovingly on her stomach, and whispers something in her ear.

I don't know what he says to her, but if I could take a guess, I would say it is something along the lines of - I love you, Lisa. I love you and our baby and I will never break your heart like I did your best friend's.


I arrive home at around 10 P.M.

Faith takes one look at me and does not question my quiet soberness or my unusual punctuality.

When the clock strikes 12, it finds both of us on our knees - a Bible laid out before us, rosaries on our hands, and pictures of our parents, my baby's ultrasound, and Gerald placed above our candle-lit shelf shrine.

In the middle of mourning, I rise, find a printed picture of Lisa, and add it to the shrine.

Faith watches every step I take, but she does not say anything.

I kneel back down, and we continue with our silent mourning.

Christmas for us, it seems, has become an annual Memorial service.

by Amanda Nechesa 23

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