The Landlord’s Daughter
By Pius Nyondo (Malawi)
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The landlord's daughter came back. She did not knock this time. She just entered unceremoniously – with no attention getters – like a harmless snake.
"It wasn't them."
I heaved a sigh of relief. Before she entered, I had already made plans on where I would go in case I got evicted; I was ninety-five percent sure I would be since we had been caught red-handed.
"So who was it?"
"The mail-man," she said, softly rolling her hand on my naked back. "He said he couldn't make it on time during the day."
I sighed. Again. Aimed my gaze at her. Smiled. She smiled back. She provoked me. She waged war on him – cleverly, affectionately– leading him into temptations.
And; through our fault–our most grievous fault–the l andlord’s daughter and I sinned.
While on commercial break – waiting for the next service – I reminisced how I had first hoped to fall in love with her, and then—dangerously—had. . She was beautiful, of course, with a not-so-daunting height, round face, light skin and squinting big-lazy eyes.
Esther, for that was the landlord’s daughter’s name, was not the kind that attracts lusty manly eyes because of their well-oiled skins and painted lips. She was just fine. Gentle. Self-effacing. Charming.
The day – the day when this whole madness started – had been a splendid one with a clear sky and a soothing land breeze. And Luwinga University was serene. Graveyard quite. As if it was not a university at all. Universities were renowned for their notorious lot. Students who stoned innocent passersby. Cursed. Sexcapaded–ungrudgingly, condomlessly–as if their names were already on the Creator’s list.
A fresh student of the university, I was unaware of how I would get myself lodging before nightfall. It baffled me when the university warden – a pint-sized old man with a tonsured head – told me that there was no accommodation for me on campus.
“Didn’t you get your admission letter?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“You’re an off-campus student,” the university warden explained. “It means you’ll not stay on campus due to limited space.”
“I’m a government sponsored student!” I retaliated. “My name was called on the radio. the government is responsible for my tuition, food and accommodation.”
“Everybody’s name was called on the radio, buddy!” some loudmouth shouted from the group that was now watching the ‘freshman-university warden’ drama.
“Yearo!” another loudmouth shouted – a female voice this time.
Later, as the university warden led me by hand to his office, I learnt that ‘Year0’ actually referred to all first year students who were apparently in year zero.
It took me over thirty minutes to understand what the university warden was talking about. When he was done, I left without a word and headed toward the main gate. There were some cheers again – of course.
But I did not mind this time. I had to get accommodation – before nightfall.
Just as I walked out of the main gate I met Esther – dressed in a miniskirt that exposed her spotless thighs. I did not mind. She looked very young – young enough for me to gather courage and talk business. I mean, doing so would have given the unruly fellow university students a warrant to report the matter to the police for defilement or such related cases.
But I was mistaken. Esther was no child. She stopped as soon as she met me, offered her hand and asked me what I was up to. Being the desperate student that I was, I emptied my problem to her. I had no accommodation.
She smiled – and told me that she would help me get accommodation. They had a boys-quarter.
When we arrived at their house I learnt that she was not only the daughter of a very influential family but also very beloved. Esther’s father was a renowned financial magnate and her mother a senior surgeon at Luwinga Central Hospital.
Esther convinced her parents that I was the best person to occupy the boys-quarter. She told her parents that I was 34. And, her parents agreed. Of course, I was 34.
But my freedom was not for long. It all started one night when Esther sneaked out of her father’s house and came to my room. She dressed to kill and I really died. Died for her. Died for young Esther. Died for the thirteen year old.
With no contour of shyness drawn on her face, Esther told me to sleep with her – if I wanted to continue staying at their place. I could not take it. I swore by my father’s grave that it was not possible. That she was young. That she was only thirteen.
She could not take it. She threatened me further. She was going to shout and her parents were going to storm into my room. She was going to tell her parents that I wanted to rape her.
I froze. I was very afraid. Her parents would get me arrested for sure. She was their one and only. Esther was their beloved. So we made love that night. She amazed me, I must confess – with her antics.
“Where did you learn all that?”
“My friends give me movies and I watch them on my phone.”
She let me have a look at one of the movies. God! Sins, I tell you. Sins. In my village Kapenda, the movies were very scarce. We watched them, of course, but at a lumbering cost. Here was a little child, watching a movie that was supposed to be watched by us – those of us who knew what the nectar of matrimony was all about.
“Do your parents know about this?”
“Why should they? It is my phone and if I want them I can just download on the internet and watch. I will show you more.”
I did not say an extra word as she left. I had enjoyed her, of course. She sounded like she was twenty-four throughout.
And that had been the beginning of more love-makings. More sins.
Sound of a car.
We both jumped. Esther started crying. I was confused. I was still putting on my clothes when her mother knocked at my door and did not wait for a reply to enter.
“Ma,” Esther told her mother. “He has impregnated me but is refusing the responsibility.”
I was dumbfounded. It could not be. I was sterile. Nyakaira and I had failed to have children of our own for years.
Esther’s mother eyed me – with a dangerous look – and left. I knew she was going to come back shortly. I left the room, jumped over the fence and ran away.
I had run only a short distance when I met a couple of boys talking. They were talking about Esther. The same Esther I knew. No coincidence.
“Esther,” said one of the boys, “is really a small girl. How can she dump me when she knows that I have impregnated her?”
“Does she know that you have given her HIV too?” another boy chipped in. “She has been taught a lesson. No one messes up with this university gang man.”
As I walked past them, readying myself for more running, I cried. Not for the landlord’s daughter though.
I knew I was going to die of AIDS.