This is the story of a modern Cinderella. Zawadi is the daughter of a wealthy man, but she is the maid. Her stepmother takes advantage of the fact that her father is not in the country to mistreat her. Finally, her luck is changing, she gets an invite to Rafik’s party. Rafik is the most famous musician in the land, a prince among men. Here is where the story begins.
The day of the ball.
Zawadi’s step mum and her daughters went out to have their hair and nails done. Angelica and two of her friends were sneaked into the house by the watchman. Angelica retouched Zawadi’s hair like her friends who were beauticians did a facial, threading, manicure, and pedicure for Zawadi. Angelica tonged Zawadi’s hair and then made her wear a kitamba to cover it up.
Angelica also brought some jewellery and perfume to Zawadi. After they were finished they made Zawadi try on the dress. She looked very beautiful and regal. Angelica who had spent time among the upper class told her how to hold her head and then also made her practice how to walk in high heels. Zawadi being tall always wore low shoes, she rarely wore high heels.
Angelica told Zawadi that she should be waiting for her at the gate at exactly 8 pm. Her stepmother and sisters were supposed to leave at 7 pm for the party. Zawadi left the house with Angelica, she had to pick up the dresses for the madam and her daughters at the laundry. She took a matatu and came back just before the girls came back.
When the girls came back they looked lovely. They had been waxed and had facials. They had been professionally applied makeup and they had long black human weaves. They went to their rooms to shower and then they made Zawadi dress them.
They made fun of Zawadi and her kitamba on her head. “Dear Zawadi, when will you ever get a boyfriend when you wear kitambas like that. What man would ever look at you? You are so tall and ugly.”
They were always trying to make Zawadi feel bad. This time Zawadi was in too good a mood to let them get to her.
At 7 Madam Asila and the girls left. Zawadi went to get her clothes from the servants’ quarters. She went to Zosi’s room to take a shower. Her room only had cold water. She wore her dress, it was beautiful. It was red with gold designs on it. She put on her headdress and then let a few curls down. She sprayed some perfume and then went to the mirror. She did not have a mirror in her servant’s quarter room. She applied makeup the way Angelica had taught her.
Zawadi was amazed at how good she looked. She couldn’t believe this woman in the mirror was her. This woman looked different, very beautiful. She then wore some red and gold beaded jewellery Angelica had given her. She wasn’t quite sure about walking in the shoes so she practised some more.
At 8 she heard somebody hooting at the gate. She knew it was Angelica. She started to panic. Was she doing the right thing? This thing could end badly. What was she thinking? Who was she kidding? She couldn’t do this. It could be suicide especially if she was caught.
Just then Angelica called. Zawadi answered, “Angelica I can’t do this. Madam Asila will kill me when she finds out. I have nothing to say to these people at the party. I am staying at home.”
Angelica said, “don’t be silly Zawadi. You can do this. We already discussed this. You are going. Don’t make me come to the house. Come out, it is time to go. This is your one shot to ever meet Rafik. If it was me I wouldn’t even hesitate!”
Zawadi got her things together and took them to the servants’ quarters. Then she carefully walked to the gate. The watchmen told her she was looking beautiful. Zawadi said thanks and entered Angelica’s boyfriend’s car.
Angelica told her that they would be there to pick her up at exactly midnight. Angelica’s boyfriend needed to drop her off, and then take Angelica home. “If you are late, we will have to leave you.”
Zawadi agreed. She knew she couldn’t pick up her phone which was in her clutch bag. It was an old phone and it would give her away if she answered the phone at the party. Zawadi was dropped off at his house of Rafik. As she climbed the steps to the house, she tried to calm herself. She could do this.
Zawadi climbed up the steps to Rafik’s house. Her heart was beating fast, she felt like running back home but it was too late, she didn’t have transport back. At the door, she presented her card and she was let into the house.
Zawadi took a deep breath as she was ushered into the house and taken to the ballroom. There were so many people all dressed up. She saw very famous people she had only seen on TV. Musicians, artists, politicians, and business people. Some of these people she had seen at their house when they had come for dinner or lunch with her step mum and stepsisters. Some were neighbours.
Zawadi felt awkward because she didn’t know anybody so she went in and stood in a corner. She felt like an imposter coming to the party. She took the time to study the paintings on the wall. She did not know that many at the party were staring at her. She was so tall and beautiful that even in a room of famous and influential people she stood out. People were looking at her and asking each other who the beautiful lady who had just arrived was.
The women wondered who had designed her dress. It was a work of beauty. Zawadi had designed it specifically for herself so it fit her exactly. The lights in the room also highlighted the red and gold dress. The men were trying to figure out if she was taken. Some were already planning their moves. They thought that she must be from outside the country. Such beauty would not have gone unnoticed in their circles.
Zawadi was startled when she heard her name being called. She turned and saw Alex, her step-sister’s boyfriend. “Zawadi is that you?” Alex asked.
Zawadi started to panic. Her stepsister’s boyfriend would ruin everything.
She hesitated to answer. Alex sensing why she was hesitant said, “It’s ok Zawadi your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell anybody who you are. You know you can trust me!”
Zawadi breathed a sigh of relief. Alex was a good guy. He had always been kind to her. Even when he came to the house and didn’t find his girlfriend he didn’t try to make a move on her. He was the one rich kid from the neighbourhood to who she could talk to. He was also the only one who knew who she really was, that she wasn’t just the maid.
“Zawadi, I hope it’s ok if I stay here for a little while,” Alex asked.
Zawadi said, “it’s ok.”
Zawadi relaxed; at least there was somebody who she could talk to without worrying about exposing herself. They made small talk. Waiters were going around serving drinks and food. Zawadi asked for juice, she didn’t want to get drunk. She had never taken alcohol before and she had seen its effects on her sisters and stepmother. They were really mean when they were drunk. The men looked at Alex with envy that he knew Zawadi.
Across the room, Zawadi’s sisters were watching Zawadi. They didn’t know it was Zawadi but they hated this lady who had come in and immediately taken all the attention. Zuwaida was jealous. Who was this woman? Why was Alex talking to her like they knew each other very well? She took out her mobile and tried to call Alex to tell him to come back. Alex didn’t pick up the phone. Zuwaida cursed. She felt like causing a scene but because she was at Rafik’s party she couldn’t. Anyway, she didn’t know who the beautiful lady was. “She’s probably a model. But I haven’t seen her anywhere in the magazines although she looks familiar.”
Just then Rafik entered the room. There was a hush. Rafik looked good. He was wearing a black suit cut to fit that accelerated his muscular body. Rafik was handsome, in the dead drop handsome kind of way. He was six foot two and muscular. He was a light shade of chocolate brown, with brown eyes and full lips. He was a singer and dancer. He had started as a dancer and backup singer. Then he got a break and launched his single. All the ladies had gone crazy over him, for both his music and his body. He had never looked back. He had just come back from an international music tour.
Rafik went around greeting people. He was flirtatious with the ladies and you could hear the ladies giggling when he talked to them. When he got to Zawadi he took her hand and kissed it. “Hey princess, I haven’t seen you before. What’s your name?”
Zawadi was kind of stunned to have her hand kissed by Rafik. She almost blurted out “Zawadi!” but she remembered that she wasn’t to use her real name. She said, “My name is Susu.” She used her mother’s name. Nobody would know that name here.
“Susu such a pretty name. Well, Susu the beautiful one may I have the first dance? That is if your boyfriend doesn’t mind?” Rafik looked at Alex.
Alex and Zawadi said in unison, “She’s not my girlfriend!” “He’s not my boyfriend!”
Rafik smiled. “Excellent. Shall we dance?”
Zawadi looked at Alex. He nodded.
The DJ changed the music and the tempo. He played one of Rafik’s songs. Zawadi and Rafik danced. Zawadi was a really good dancer. She loved to dance and of course, in her free time she watched Rafik’s videos when she was alone in the house. Zawadi thought that Rafik would dance with her one song and then dance with somebody else. But for some reason, she did not understand Rafik kept her by his side even as he went around the rest of the room.
People danced. It was a beautiful night. Zawadi and Rafik danced some more. They were the stars of the show. At some point, Zawadi said she needed to get some air. She went outside to the balcony and Rafik joined her.
Rafik had been trying to find out more about her for the past hour. Zawadi had been evasive.
Rafik asked flirtatiously “why do I get the feeling you are hiding something? You won’t answer my questions?”
“I am not hiding anything. I just like my privacy.” Zawadi said.
“Umm, but what if I want to get to know you better, much better?” Rafik answered.
“What is this you would like to know?” asked Zawadi.
‘Whether you have a boyfriend?” Rafik asked.
Zawadi answered. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Rafik smiled seductively. “You don’t. There’s something I have been meaning to do all night since I first saw you”
“What’s that? Zawadi asked curiously.
“Kiss you!” Rafik said as he leaned in. Zawadi blushed. Just then fireworks exploded. Zawadi was startled.
“What time is it?” Zawadi asked.
“It is midnight,” Rafik said.
“I have to go,” Zawadi said. She started walking down the stairs.
“Can’t you wait? Cant, you feel the magic between me and you?” Rafik said.
Zawadi smiled but kept walking. Rafik shouted, “at least give me your number?”
Zawadi had already broken into a run. She was late and she knew she would be left. As she ran her hand-stitched headwrap came undone and fell. When she bent to pick it her heel caught on something and one heel broke. She decided to forget about the headdress and get to the car.
When she reached the gate she found her friends just about to leave her. As she entered the car she saw Rafik on the steps with her headwrap in his hands. As they drove off, she felt sad, that she had met Rafik and he was everything she had thought he would be and more. Also that she had left her signature headpiece at the party. She knew she would never be able to claim it unless she revealed her real identity. That would be a disaster. A famous musician like Rafik wouldn’t want to date a maid of that she was sure.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at email@example.com.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat