This is the story of a modern Cinderella Zawadi. Zawadi is the daughter of a wealthy man, but she was the maid. Her stepmother took advantage of the fact that her father is not in the country to mistreat her. Her luck changed and she got an invite to Rafik’s party where she goes as somebody else. Rafik is the most famous musician in Kenya, a prince among men. They have a spark but Zawadi like the fairytale Cinderella had to leave the ball at midnight. Zawadi goes to design school and she has finally graduated. Her secret has been discovered during her final project that she is the mystery lady who was at Rafik’s party. Her wicked stepmother tells the press that not only is Zawadi a maid but she is a thief as well. Zawadi’s friends get together and decide that she should tell her side of her story to the media. One of them contacts a prominent media personality. Zawadi tells all the dirty family secrets. Here is where the story begins if you haven’t read it.
It was good to be back home in the village.
Zawadi was sitting on a wooden three-legged stool, trying to balance on it as she tried to make sure the charred wood between the three-legged stone jiko caught flames. She was pepetaring the wood with the tin cover of the big sufuria she was making some meat stew with.
It was hard to imagine that a few weeks ago she had been dancing at the ball with the handsome musician Rafik and now she was here literally trying to light a fire, with cinders from the night before. She thought how if the reporters could see her now, boy would they have a story! She had been named the Kenyan Cinderella after her story got out. It had made her famous, some people loved her, but some didn’t.
Right this minute Zawadi missed her grandmother who had died a few months back. It would have been great to talk to her. Her grandmother had always given her the best advice and cheered her on when she needed encouragement.
She was thinking about that night with Prince Charming, Rafik. That night she had only been thinking about how everything was perfect, not remembering that life is not perfect. She had forgotten about how her evil stepmother and sisters had treated her. She had felt like she belonged for a few hours.
Well, that hadn’t lasted. The one thing she was grateful for now was that the scales had come off her father’s eyes and he now knew the terrible woman he was married to. His stepmother and stepsisters had left the country and gone down to South Africa to hide. The story breaking out had been such an embarrassment that she couldn’t stay at home to hide and so she had decided to temporarily flee the country. But who knew if she would be back?
When she thought about all the things that had happened the past year, she wanted to cry but then she knew she had to be strong. No one was going to save her, not even her father who should have protected her. No, she was not going to be saved by a Prince Charming like it happened in the romantic novels and movies she loved watching. She had to save herself and she had done so through hard work and determination.
Zawadi’s father had offered to set her up with an apartment somewhere in the city. She declined his offer because she was leaving the country soon herself. Who would have imagined that the girl who had been a maid for the last couple of years was going to be an apprentice of one of the best designers in Europe?
The competition had exposed her to some international fashion modelling agencies who wanted to sign her on especially after listening to her story. Fate had finally smiled at her. A famous designer who was on holiday in Kenya had ended up at the show to see the talent at the invite of the college and had loved her work. After the show, the designer had looked for her and offered her a two-year paid apprenticeship in Italy. She would get to learn more about the international fashion business and with the money, she would also get as a model she would be living the dream life she had always imagined.
She didn’t know what the future held but she knew for sure she was going to leave this life of poverty behind in a week. She had a business class ticket to fly to Italy. She who had never even been to the airport would be flying to one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
‘My dreams are finally coming true, grandmother. I wish you could be here to see it!” Zawadi said out loud and then wiped tears from her eyes. She was happy but sad at the same time as she thought of all the things she could have done for her grandmother with all the money she would be making.
She heard the cars before she saw the cloud of dust in the air coming toward her. She wondered who this was coming to her grandmother’s compound. She was not expecting anyone including her friends so who was coming to see her? She hoped it wasn’t the reporters or bloggers. She had had enough trying to deal with the reporters who wanted her to give them an exclusive story. Couldn’t they just let her breathe?
She ran into the house to tidy up and change. She didn’t want to be found with her hands dirty from the ashes and with her clothes smelling of smoke. She heard the cars come into the compound and hurried to put on some lipstick. There was no time to do anything else. She put on a hat to cover the matutas she had on her hair. When she stepped out of the door, she saw three cars. She stood at the door not moving, waiting for whoever these unwanted guests were to introduce themselves.
Two big SUVs sandwiched a blue Range Rover. Two well-built men came out of the SUV, and one of them went to the door of the Range Rover and opened it.
A man stepped out and turned his gaze on her.
It was Rafik. What the hell was an international music star doing in her grandmother’s compound, hundreds of kilometres outside Nairobi?
Rafik started walking towards her and the two men from the front car walked with him. Those must be his bodyguards, Zawadi thought. It seemed he wanted to talk to her alone because he talked to them and asked them to stay back as he advanced towards her. He looked so handsome in a white shirt that hugged his muscles, black jeans, and some trendy sneakers. He wore sunglasses which he removed as he got closer to her.
Zawadi’s heart was beating fast. She was nervous.
When Rafik reached her he spoke. “So, this is where the beautiful Cinderella comes to hide when she is not breaking hearts”
Zawadi blushed, “How did you find me?”
“Well, I have my sources. I listened to your interview a few days ago. I have to say I was shocked to find out such a beautiful lady like yourself would have an evil stepmother. To make matters worse she turned you into a maid. Such an injustice!” He paused.
“I know I’m kinda late to the party. I wanted to come and see you, but I had a few things to tie up in Nairobi before I could get in touch. Then when I thought I would find you at your dad’s you were gone. It took me some time to get information on where you could be because nobody was home. It seems even your dad has taken off and nobody knows where to find him!”
Zawadi knew where her dad had gone but it was not her story to tell.
“Why did you want to see me?” Zawadi asked.
“I still want to get to know you. Is that something you’d be interested in?” Rafik replied.
Zawadi was looking for the right words to say but what came out was what was on her mind.
“So, you don’t care that I was a maid?”
Rafik smiled and Zawadi stared at his dimples.
“I liked you when I met you. What you did with your life doesn’t really bother me. I know I’m a superstar, but I was once I was once a regular guy. I just want to get to know you and maybe see if there is something there. I felt like there was a spark between us, you know. I don’t know if you felt it?”
Zawadi was trying to compose herself. She crossed her arms and took a step back. “You know I’m leaving next week for Italy?”
Rafik nodded. “Yeah, I know about that. Congratulation by the way. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks you’re beautiful. I would still like to take you out. When are you going back to Nairobi? Can we meet, have dinner and talk?”
Zawadi was confused. But something made her ask
“Rafik would you still be talking to me if I hadn’t gotten a modelling contract or is it just now that I’m no longer going to be a maid that you’re interested?”
Rafik laughed out loud.
“I guess I deserve that question. I would have liked you no matter what and I would still have asked you out. I know that may not make sense to you right now, but I do like you. I want to get to know you so can I take you out for dinner?”
They stood there for a few moments looking at each other.
Zawadi said, “Can I think about it? I have a lot to do before I leave. I am coming to Nairobi next week for a few days before I go to Italy. Can I let you know then?
Rafik looked shocked that she would ask for time to think about it. I guess he had never been told no in a long time. “That’s ok. I completely understand. Can I have your number so that I can call you next week?”
Zawadi gave him her number. Rafik saved it and then he typed something.
Zawadi heard her phone’s message notification. Looking at her phone she saw he had sent a message.
“I can’t wait to hang out with you mrembo.”
Rafik told her, “I brought you a gift. Is it ok if I get it from the car?”
She nodded. Rafik went to the car and came back with a wrapped big gift.
Before he went back to the car he asked, “is it ok if I hug you?”
Rafik hugged Zawadi in a big bear hug. ‘OMG Rafik smells so good’, thought Zawadi as she was trying to process the emotions and reactions she was feeling.
Rafik let her go and kissed the top of her forehead.
“I can’t wait to see you again. Now that you have my number you can call me anytime. Or text me.” Rafik winked at her and walked away to the car. He got in and the cars drove off.
Zawadi was left contemplating whether she was dreaming, or this had actually happened. She waited until the cars were quite some distance away and then she started dancing to some invisible music. She was filled with joy. Yes, she did not need a Prince Charming to save her, but Prince Charming was really cute. She would love to find out what dinner with him would be like. She wasn’t quite sure whether she should say yes. But her mind was bursting with ideas of what dress she could design for her dinner if she decided that she would go.
She would not let a man change her plans. She wouldn’t let love ruin her plans like her father had ruined her mother’s plans.
Although she had the biggest crush on Rafik and yes, she had felt that spark she would not let it get to her head. She would meet Rafik. It would just be as friends. She had her dreams to pursue and no man including the most handsome musician she had ever met would make her give up her dreams.
Zawadi opened the gift box inside the house. Inside were signed albums from Rafik, some very expensive-looking chocolates and perfume. There was also a jewellery box. Inside was a beautiful bronze necklace with beautiful tiny crystal beads made into the shape of a shoe. There was a card with it that said, “For the beautiful Cinderella who stole my heart!”. The beautiful red headwrap she had dropped the night of the party was also inside the box. She noticed the crystal beads of the necklace matched with the embroidery and beads on the headwrap.
Excitedly she called her friends to tell them what had happened, and they did a three-way call. They were giggling on the phone asking her for details about the surprise visit and how she felt.
Later on, when Zawadi was in bed she was thinking out loud.
“I couldn’t believe all these things that have happened. Maybe it was time for things to turn around. I think Grandmother is watching out for me up in heaven. Maybe I can have it all, a career and a boyfriend. But what am I thinking? Who said Rafik wants to date me? I need to stop thinking ahead of myself.” But as she said that she blushed. “Maybe it could be something more! After all, he did come all this way to see me!”
With this love story have a happy ending? Or will the distance separate these star-crossed lovers? Check out the finale – Love And Goodbyes
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