Truant

Truant

A Story by Alvin L. Kathembe
"

Parents always want to know what their kids are up to. Here's one who found out.

"

 

 

The alarm woke her up 5 a.m. as usual, the shrill buzz heralding the start of yet another day. She groaned, turned once to look out the window, and seeing nothing but pitch darkness outside, hid her head under the pillow. With a Herculean effort she threw off the covers and woke up to turn off the alarm.

Stifling a yawn behind her hand she went into an adjacent room and shook the sleeping form silhouetted in the darkness.

“Wake up!” she called, pulling the covers off the protesting figure. “It’s time for school!” Nat kept nagging till her daughter sat up in bed, trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes.

“Breakfast in ten, get dressed.” She ordered, as she went out the door and down the stairs to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

As she bustled over the bacon and eggs sizzling deliciously in the pan, she mentally went over her itinerary for the day. She piled the eggs onto two plates, poured herself a glass of juice then went through the planner on her Blackberry.

Back-to-back meetings till twelve, then a power lunch with her colleagues. After that, it was slaving in the office till late at night. She groaned silently in protest.

A typical day.

It was difficult- juggling raising a teenage daughter by herself with maintaining her position as one of the top female executives in the country. She’d divorced her husband, Felix, two years ago when his inferiority complex got out of hand as she rose through the ranks of PowerHouse Financial Consultancy Group to become one of their top executives. He had tried to make her quit her job, claiming that ‘only one of us can wear the pants in this house,’ and she wouldn’t hear of it. She’d won custody of Sarah after a protracted courtroom brawl that had left her both emotionally and physically drained. But it was worth it- Sarah was the apple of her eye, and she’d have given a limb to keep her.

“Breakfast’s ready!” She yelled in the general direction of the staircase, which was Sarah’s cue to come down. She did, her eyes half-open and stifling a yawn. Her school uniform was immaculate as ever, and her school bag was slung casually over her shoulder.

“So what’s going on at school today?” Nat asked as they sat around the small table.

“Nothing much- mum, I told you no more eggs and bacon I’m trying to watch my weight!” she protested.

“Eat!” Nat said imperiously in the voice her mother used to use whenever she wanted something done. Already Sarah had a tiny supermodel waist. Nat was afraid that if she lost any more weight she’d disappear.

“How’s your schoolwork carrying on?” Nat asked, feeling guilty that she knew hardly anything about Sarah’s academics. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d attended Parent’s day-come to think of it she’d never been invited to one.

“OK.” Sarah replied disinterestedly.

“Any new developments?”

“Yeah. The tuck shop hiked their prices again; recession and all-you know, you know. I need more money! ”   

“Sarah-” Nat protested. She already felt that she was giving her daughter way too much money as it was. “I’m giving you way too much-”

“Mum, d’you want me to be unable to concentrate in class just cause I didn’t have enough lunch money?”

“No but-” Nat grumbled weakly as she handed over the money.

“Thanks, the bus’ll be here soon. Bye mum!” Sarah jumped up and kissed her mother on the cheek and had raced out the door before her flustered mother could notice that she’d barely touched her breakfast.

“Teenagers.” Nat sighed whimsically, shaking her head as she stared at the door. They grow up so fast. One of these days we’ll have a nice long chat, she promised herself.

She sighed and headed to the bathroom to prepare for what promised to be a long, hard day.

 

                   *                 *                 *                 *                 * 

 

Her pink Vitz had been in traffic for half an hour, and if this kept up she’d be late for her first meeting.

Then it started raining.

Drum! Drum! Drum! She listened to the raindrops as they pummeled her car mercilessly. She could see, through the window, that hawkers selling umbrellas had materialized out of nowhere and their wares were selling faster than vodka in Russia on a Friday night. As she interestedly viewed this phenomenon, she caught a glimpse out of the corner of her eye, of a bright pink bag- almost like Sarah’s, she thought as she squinted through the rain…

It was Sarah. She was wearing a pair of hip-hugging jeans that Nat couldn’t remember buying, and a microscopic top that revealed far more than it covered. Her school uniform apparently discarded, she was talking animatedly in the midst of a gaggle of girls who were window-shopping along the canopied street.

Nat checked her watch- it was 9.30 am, Sarah should’ve been safe in school sweating over loci and binomial expansions, not strolling nonchalantly down Moi Avenue! She had half a mind to get out of the car and confront her there and then but somewhere up ahead the traffic cop had waved go and the stationary vehicles roared to life and began moving. The motorists behind her began hooting furiously, only too aware that the policeman could abruptly change his mind and condemn them to another hour of Munene Nyaga on Kiss FM. Reluctantly she began to drive off as the group of girls disappeared around a corner.

If she wasn’t so late already she’d have followed them and given her daughter a first-class tongue-lashing. She swore to herself that she’d interrogate the truth out of Sarah that night at home.

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

That night she got home late, exhausted and found Sarah already asleep. She tiptoed into her daughter’s room and stood in the darkness just looking at the sleeping form of the most precious thing in her life right now. She looked down at the beautiful face framed by silky jet-black hair; she watched the rhythmic rise and fall of the bedclothes as she breathed and listened to the faint, soothing sound of her breathing…

Finally she tore her eyes away and went into her own bedroom, collapsing on the bed fully clothed. She fell asleep instantly to shadowy dreams of sinister men chasing her and Sarah through a pitch-black forest, her ex-husband’s face prominent among them and somehow she knew that they wanted to take her daughter away from her. 

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

KRRRrring! The alarm clock’s wail put an end to her dreams. Even as she went through the motions of the morning the knowledge of Sarah’s truancy hung heavy on her like a burden she could not shake off. She eyed her daughter’s face searchingly over breakfast. No hint of guilt, no sign of a secret burning inside. She wished she could see past the perfectly creaseless forehead into the thoughts it hid. What was going on?

Her daughter was beautiful, she acknowledged, not for the first time. Big, clear hazel eyes, a perfectly formed nose and full, luscious lips that hid a brilliantly white smile. She was a splitting image of her mother, who felt like she was looking at an old photograph of herself. It scared Nat that almost overnight her daughter had turned into a woman, and she had been almost completely oblivious to it.

Tentatively she thought of ways to breach the subject.

“Sarah,” she said, breaking the silence. “You know you can talk to me about anything, don’t you?”

A puzzled expression. “Sure mom, I do.” Sarah replied.

“And I do mean anything,” Nat stressed. “Anything at all!”

Nat held her daughter’s gaze for a second- what did she detect there? A glimmer of uncertainty, a shadow of guilt? But the moment was soon gone, the bond broken when a flustered Sarah got up hurriedly and kissed her mother on the cheek goodbye before tearing off with her usual whirlwind speed.

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

That morning as she drove to work she kept her eyes peeled for signs of a pink bag or an excited gaggle of girls. No sign of them. A deep sigh. Something was definitely up. She could feel it in her gut.

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

That day at work she confided in her close friend and colleague Mary over lunch break.

“I just don’t know what to make of it,” a distressed Nat said. “Tell me Mary, am I overreacting?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Mary replied, “but you should get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. You know these days kids are doing all sorts of crazy stuff- infact, there’s this one girl-”

And for the rest of lunch break Mary, in conspiratory tones- regaled Nat with stories of delinquent teens doing drugs, having sex and doing the things that are the stuff of parents’ nightmares. When they finally parted to go back to work Nat was feeling even more depressed than ever.

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

Over the next week Nat monitored her daughter’s behaviour like a biologist examining microorganisms under a microscope. Every single word, every action was well-weighed carefully- was that normal? Did Sarah usually do that? Was that a sign of �"

Nat tortured herself wondering what was going on. All her carefully phrased questions were met with resistance from Sarah. Finally Nat could take no more. She decided on a course of action. She told herself that it was for the best- to secure Sarah’s future.

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

 

She called in sick that Friday morning for only the second time in her career- the first time she’d gone into labour as she dressed for work. Her surprised secretary duly took down her boss’ instructions for the day, marvelingmarvel

 that Nat had found the time to get sick.

Nat was perfectly okay- she followed the usual morning procedure with one variation- as soon as Sarah left the house, she rushed upstairs, and changed into an old jumpsuit she’d bought years ago when she used to go jogging in the morning before work. She put on a pair of running shoes and rushed downstairs making sure the house was in order before she went out.

She rushed out onto the street and saw no sign of Sarah. The school bus had not yet arrived as it was barely six and the bus rarely came before then. She scanned the street desperately unwilling to meet with failure so soon into her mission…there! The pink bag gave her away again, just before she disappeared around the corner up ahead. Nat rushed after her and turned the corner just in time to see the bag disappear into another house in the estate. Nat recognized it as the house of Sarah’s best friend, Amanda. Seconds later Sarah and Amanda emerged from the house and Sarah was wearing an impossibly short skirt and trendy stilettos Nat recognized as her own. She turned away just as the girls passed so they wouldn’t recognize her.

Nat agonized over what to do next. Should she confront them there and then, and demand an explanation? No, that would give them time to lie and invent a cover story, and then she’d never find out what was up. No, she would carry out her plan to completion. She’d made up her mid- and just in time too, the girls were already past the estate gate and were walking towards the bus stop.

Nat followed, her heart breaking with every step as she wondered what on earth her daughter had got herself into. Sarah and Amanda, chatting away animatedly up ahead, standing at the bus stop waiting for a ‘matatu’. The old, screen-less ones were dismissed with a contemptuous glance as they waited for one that was playing music at a level that surely flouted the new City Council noise restriction rules. Finally one pulled up and they got in, flirting with the touts, and they were off at neck-breaking speed. Nat ducked into the next one- heading for town. It might not have had screens behind every seat, but at least it didn’t make her heart quiver from every blast from its woofer.

 

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

 

Once in town Sarah and Amanda met up with another large group of girls. They greeted each other with much screaming and hugging and high fives even though Nat knew for a fact that Sarah detested some of them. Nat was surprised to note that she recognized some of them from their estate- one was even her niece. What was going on?

The group mage its way slowly from the bus terminal at Afya Centre punctuated by many stops as they ogled at clothes through shop windows and occasionally even dashed in to try stuff on. It snaked its way all the way down to Kimathi Street and suddenly disappeared into a tiny back street Nat had never seen before. Now the loud, boisterous conversation was reduced to excited whisperings as they waited outside an innocuous-looking stall that sold women’s clothes. A young man soon came out of the stall and invited them in, which they did, casting adoring looks at him. One by one they disappeared inside and after the last one the man made furtive glances down the street before following them in. Nat, who’d been ostensibly perusing the wares of another stall, while all the while paying strict attention to the girls, was now at a loss what to do. Should she follow them? What were they doing in there? She made her decision in a split second.

She made her way to the stall, and at first it seemed abandoned, then another young man who’d been sitting inside the semi-darkness snapped into action.

“Niaje mama? Kuna size yako style zote- viatu, hipster, sema nikuhelp,” he said. Where were the girls? Nat wanted to ask, but doubted she’d get a straight answer. She stepped into the stall, pretending to be interested in a pair of jeans a couple of sizes too small for her. “Hiyo ni mzuri mama!” The zealous salesman encouraged. As she rummaged through the mitumba dresses along the wall she noticed a door set into the back of the stall.

“Hii inaenda wapi?” she asked. Not waiting for an answer she pushed the door open and charged in.

“Aaaiii mama usiingie hapo-”

Pitch darkness. A staircase led upwards through a tiny corridor. Before the young man could stop her she had torn up the stairs and down the corridor to a room at the end where she could hear voices… she stopped to listen at the door, her finger on her lips as she stooped to listen, her finger on her lips as she faced the boy who’d charged up the stairs after her.

“Not one sound-” she mouthed, and he didn’t dare, as the look in her eyes was that of a wounded lioness defending her cubs.

“Niiice…” a smooth young voice was saying. “Give me a smile girls, come on…flirt with me…thaat’s it Suzie I see you!” Click! Click! Click!

No way, Nat thought. Sarah was skiving school to take photos? What did she want to become a model or something and why didn’t she tell her? What should she do now? What if-

Her train of thought was interrupted by something- at first she wasn’t sure what it was, but she soon detected it- it was a change in the man’s voice; almost imperceptibly his tone had become…urgent, hungry, passionate, although his voice had died down almost to a whisper… she strained her ears to hear what he was saying…

“OK girls, you know what to do…show me some skin… that’s it-” click, click, click. “C’mon don’t be shy you are beautiful…just beautiful…” click, click, click. “Show me your beauty.”

He said this last sentence with such a bestial tone, that the horror built up in Nat’s chest so she could hardly breathe.

“Saraaah!” She screamed as she kicked the door open, tears streaming down her face in torrents.

 

*                      *          THE END       *                      *

 

 

 

 


 

© 2011 Alvin L. Kathembe


Author's Note

Alvin L. Kathembe
All comments are welcome!

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Featured Review

An interesting piece. You did well to keep the reader guessing what Sarah might of been up too. The parenting (mother and daughter interaction) appeared believable. It was an interesting topic considering it is centred around one aspect of the daughters behaviour - truanting. I am a little unsure of the ending however. I wanted to experience the shock of Sarah, the aftermath and explanations.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Great story telling. This did justice in the realm of getting the message across. Great message. There's lot of times where a story can have a great message to aim for, and have a lot of under lining things but then no one gets it, and if no one gets it, then the point has failed. But in my opinion this did well to get the message across. You made it clear, which is why I think it's good. Keep up the good work. What was also great was that I could imagine the story as I read it, and that is also a strong point of stories. The ability to have the reader imagine it because after all we're reading not watching it, but it was as if I was there as I read this, and that is great. Good job once again.

Posted 4 Years Ago


You got me with this one dear.

Posted 8 Years Ago


O.O BAD SARAH!! BAD GIRLS BAD BAD BAD!!!

Posted 9 Years Ago


This was very good. I liked this a lot. It had a nice, surprising ending, and a believeable storyline. Awesome job!

Posted 9 Years Ago


I like the point of view that you use in your story, it gives the story a more personal feeling, almost like watching a t.v. show.

Posted 9 Years Ago


That was really surprising; needless to say, I didn't expect that of Sarah. HOWEVER, it was a wonderfully written piece. I was only confused at why you ended it where you did--it feels like you could still expand it and include several events after Nat discovered what Sarah had been getting up to. What was Sarah's reason behind doing this type of thing? The reader never knows.

Posted 9 Years Ago


This was really good. I loved it. It flowed nicely and it just sounded good when you read it in your head. The words simply... I don't know how to describe it. Loved it!

Posted 9 Years Ago


Great story. The only problem is, you'll be giving all the parents out here nightmares for a month of Sundays ..

Posted 9 Years Ago


again.nice work!well done.I really loved the topic you chose to write about because it speaks a lot of truth as to what happens to most young girls in our generation,good stuff

Posted 9 Years Ago


That sarah is a naughty one!i like the way its so...authentic?i mean everythng from the life and thoughts of the characters to the mother-daughter relationship:if i dint know any better i'd imagine twas a girl writing this!:-P it does have that feminine understanding of relationships!:D i like the suspense too,make me want to get to the end already but i dont want to skip a line!its a great story!

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on February 5, 2011
Last Updated on February 5, 2011

Author

Alvin L. Kathembe
Alvin L. Kathembe

Nairobi, Kenya



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I write for the mind...and if I touch your heart while I'm at it, I'll take it. more..

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