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. They have a spark but Zawadi like the fairytale Cinderella has to leave the ball at midnight. Zawadi goes to design school and this is her graduation night. Will her secret be discovered? If you have not read the rest of the story here is where the story begins.
Zawadi was nervous as she waited behind the stage. This was it. Her big day. She had to impress the judges with her design and her catwalk. Her long red African print dress looked stunning. She had added gold embroidery in different places and also added some gold and silver beads. It was an improvement from when she had worn the dress at Rafik’s party. She was wearing red 6-inch high heels. She had made another headdress from some red and black African print material that she had left. Her face looked beautiful, she hadn’t put much makeup just some red lipstick and foundation. She had some goldplated loops in her ears.
Zawadi wiped the tears from her eyes. No use crying. This morning her stepmother had come to her room early in the morning. She didn’t even wake up Zawadi. She went to her wardrobe and started throwing Zawadi’s clothes on the floor. When Zawadi heard the commotion she was still struggling to wake up from her dream where Rafik found out who she was, came over to get her and took her away from her stepfamily. It had been a nice dream.
Zawadi was startled to see Madam Asila in her room. Madam Asila never came to the servant’s quarters. What had possessed her to come over?
Madam Asila said with an evil smile, “today is your last day here. I promised your father I would let you stay here until you finish school and I have. But no more being nice. I don’t ever want to see you again. After your graduation, don’t come back!”
Madam Asila asked for all the house keys and gate keys. She also took the key to Zawadi’s room. She threw a thousand shillings on the floor and said, “here’s what I owe you. If I see you here again you will regret it.” She then leaned towards Zawadi and said, “If you had any ambitions of claiming anything from your father’s property you better forget it. Everything is in both our names and I will die before I let you have even a shilling of the money that we have!”
Zawadi took her clothes and put them into a garment bag that she had made. She took a shower. She took one last look at her room. It had been her home for the last 4 torturous years. She had come here so innocent but she had been hardened by Madam Asila.
As she closed the door to her past Zawadi thought aloud, “thank God we left our designs at the school last night. If madam had found them she would have ripped them apart. She would also know my secret.”
Rafik had given out a picture of her in her dress and asked for information about her. The whole of Nairobi was abuzz wondering who the mysterious princess was, who had disappeared into thin air. Her friends wanted her to come forward but she knew it would be a disaster. She didn’t want her stepmother to find out because she didn’t know what her stepmother would do to her. Well, she didn’t have to worry about that now.
Well, she knew after tonight if she won her secret would be out. She was tired of hiding, of being a woman in the shadows. She had heard that Rafik was out of town so he would not get the information unless somebody told him. By the time he did, she would be gone. She had been using her father’s address for her 4 years in college. If they came looking for her they wouldn’t be able to find her because she would not be going back there.
Madam Asila was watching her from the third floor. Zawadi paused outside the main house and looked at the house, which was very magnificent in its beauty. It was three storeys high, a white mansion with yellow trimmings. A fairytale mansion that was beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside because of its occupants.
Zawadi wanted to cry, not because she was leaving but because at least for the last 4 years she had known where she was going to sleep. Her grandmother was dead so she couldn’t go back to the village. She would have to make her own way now in the big city.
By the time she reached the gate, she knew all the servants knew. Madam Asila had called the watchman and told him to let her out. She was not to be let back in again. The watchman was also to check her bag to see if she had stolen anything and report it to madam.
The watchman, Justus, had called the other servants who worked there. They gathered at the gate where Madam Asila could not see them. They hugged her and then each of them gave her some money. She tried to refuse the money but they insisted.
Zawadi was crying by the time she left the gate. She walked to the stage. She wondered what she would do. She was at a crossroads. She couldn’t go back to the village because she would not make the kind of money she needed as a tailor. If being poor had taught her anything it was that people take advantage of those who are poor. She did not intend to continue being one of them. She wanted to have money so that she could take care of herself and buy whatever she wanted. As she walked she promised herself that one day she would expose Madam Asila for the witch she was.
Zawadi took a matatu to town and then to her college. Her friends were excited to see her. This was their graduation day. They had been waiting 4 years for this. Also there was some excitement about the mystery judge who was coming from Italy. He was the talk of the whole college, everybody wanted to know who he was but the principal of the college refused to say.
Zawadi told Angelica and Susan, “madam kicked me out. I have nowhere to go. I thought I had a few days to figure out what to do!”
It was then that the realization that she was all alone finally hit her. She started crying. Her friends comforted her.
Angelic said, “it’s ok Zawadi you can come and stay with me. I was going to invite you anyway.”
Zawadi hugged her and whispered, “thank you.”
The girls went to check on their final creations. Zawadi went to look for her garment bags. The dressed had been taken to the laundry. Zawadi stored her bag in her locker which after today would no longer be hers. She took her outfits, her makeup bag which contained her makeup and jewellery, and her shoe bag.
Zawadi tried to settle in the dressing room as she removed her jeans and shirt remaining only in her underwear. She would have to change several times so there was no point in wearing clothes. She just wrapped a kanga around her waist. All the other girls were dressed similarly. There was a separate dressing room for the guys so the girls could dress how they pleased.
Zawadi said a silent prayer to God. Throughout what had happened she hadn’t given up on God. Prayer gave her comfort in those dark days. She wasn’t overly religious but she loved God and prayed, going to church when she could.
Soon the music started playing. It was time to hit the runway. The students’ dining room had been turned into a runway stage. The girls put on their first outfits. They were showing different outfits for different occasions. The last one would be the evening gowns they had designed. There was going to be some stiff competition tonight.
Sleeveless dress with flay. Image from https://styleuki.blogspot.com/2019/05/21-unique-ankara-dresses-styles-attires.html
The girls went one by one on stage. Zawadi was a natural. She knew how to walk and pose. Zawadi and her friends had been watching fashion shows and practising. There were many invited guests. The room was packed to capacity. The college she had gone to was an elite fashion design college and it was the best in the country. They only took 30 girls at every yearly intake and so you had to be good to enter the school. By the time they were in the final year, they would eliminate 15 girls so that only 15 students graduated. These 15 students were highly sought after by design houses and magazines to be designers and stylists. Some would even become designers for the rich and famous.
Zawadi had worked hard to make the cut. Her tailoring was flawless and her designs were excellent. Most of the designers came from wealthy families. Only Zawadi, Angelica and Susan were not. Angelica’s rich boyfriend was paying for her. Susan had won the one scholarship that was usually given to needy students. Zawadi well she had a rich father, who was only paying her fees because he promised his mother. Although he paid her fees he did not acknowledge her in any way. He did not attend meetings and things like that.
As the graduates took their designs to the runway there were claps and whistles as the crowd composed of families, designers, fashionistas and media appreciated the outfits. Soon it was time for the last design. The jewel of the collection for the students was the evening gown.
Zawadi was nervous as she waited in the wings of the stage. Soon it would be her turn. Soon the world would know her secret. She would be exposed. Cinderella was coming out.
Zawadi was nervous as she waited behind the stage. This was it, her big day. It was Zawadi’s turn on the catwalk. Her face was heavily made up. She had golden eye shadow on her eyelids; black mascara and eyeliner that made her eyes look mysterious. Her full lips looked tempting with the scarlet lipstick she was wearing. She had also used some glittery lotion on her skin that made her simmer as she moved. She had small goldplated loops in her ears that had the same pattern as the numerous bangles on her wrists that clicked as she moved.
Zawadi’s golden 6-inch heels went well with her African attire. When she had gone for Rafiki’s ball the dress had been sewn up to the bottom. Now she had a slit that went up to her midthigh showing off her toned thighs.
Zawadi stepped onto the catwalk to some funky music. She walked like a panther, elegant and purposeful. They had all had professional training on how to catwalk. She took to the stage and owned it. Cameras were going off all over. She held her head up high so that her gaze was on the wall at the far end. She could hear the audience clapping as she modelled her finest creation, the gown that she had named lovers in the night.
Then Zawadi heard it. She had known it would come. Somebody shouted, “isn’t that the African princess from Rafik’s party.”
There was a gasp of surprise from the audience then she heard it.
“Yes, it is!”
“What’s her name?”
Flashbulbs were going off everywhere. The press photographers tried to get closer to take a picture of her and ask her questions. She did not reply.
Zawadi finished her modelling and went back to the dressing room. She was sweating and her heart was beating fast. Angelica and Susan came to ask if she was alright. They hugged her then Angelica said, “I guess your secret is out. What should we do?”
Zawadi said “there is nothing to do. Let’s just wait for the winner to be announced then we can leave and I can disappear this time for good!”
The judges announced that they were ready to make their decisions. All the girls went on stage. The judges made general comments about the girls’ work then they announced the winners. In third place was Susan. In second place was Angelica. In first place was Zawadi who won Ksh 200,000 for her design work. She also won a 2-year internship with the designer Richardo Scolaro who was the mystery judge who was coming in. He was a famous Italian designer whose designs were coveted by the rich all over the world.
Ricardo got up to make some remarks. Ricardo was tall, around 6 foot 2. He had green eyes, ginger hair peppered with grey and a round face with a small goatee. Rick said he was looking to have an African collection in the next year. He was interested in partnering with the college because they had some of the best student designers on the African continent. He mentioned some designers who were making waves in the fashion world with their designs. He wished all the grandaunts a successful life.
When Ricardo handed Zawadi the dummy cheque and the letter for the internship tears of joy run down her face. She had done it. She had made her grandmother and mother proud. No one would ever be able to put down her family because of what happened in the past. It didn’t matter if her secret would come out. Now she had the money to make her own dreams come through. She did not have to be a charity case anymore. Zawadi smiled as she took pictures with the judges, Rick and her classmates.
When they went behind stage, Rick congratulated her, but what he said next surprised her.“ I see you also have the height and beauty of a model. I have been looking for a new African model. Maybe you can think about modelling for me. The internship doesn’t start for another four months. This will give you a chance to learn about Italy and Europe before you start your internship. Let me know if that is something you would be interested in ok?”
Zawadi nodded, she was too emotional to reply. Rick gave her his card. Then he said, “It seems the press and the people out there know you. I heard something about being an African princess. Maybe one day you will tell me that story.”
Ricardo kissed her cheek and said “I will be in town for the next week. Let me know if we can leave for Europe together. If you haven’t gotten back to me I will assume you are not interested in a modelling career. In that case, I will see you in 4 months.” Rick walked off to talk to some of the other students.
Angelica and Susan came out of where they had been in the shadows. They watched Rick walk away. Angelica said, “he sure is handsome. Maybe when you go to Europe he will sweep you off your feet. I can see it now in the headlines. So romantic like one of those Mills and Boons I read.”
Zawadi poked Angelica playfully and said, “haha you are so romantic.”
Zawadi looked over at where Ricardo was standing. “He is handsome but my heart belongs to somebody else!” Then her happy mood disappeared when she thought of the reporters waiting for her outside. She didn’t know how she would be able to get out without having to go through the reporters.
Now that her secret is out, what will happen? Will Rafik find her? What will her stepmother do? Find out what happens next – Be Careful What You Wish For