Salons are some of the spaces where women are heard, validated and advised on whatever is affecting their lives. To some extent, salons are safe spaces; away from men, but not from fellow backstabbing women. I mean it would be too pretentious not to talk about the slander that goes on, especially if it’s a salon frequented by several women in the same locality, like Frida’s salon that Wednesday evening.
Sharon was getting her hair plaited into cornrows at the front and knotless braids at the back. I walked in the middle of her narration. The girls were quiet, paying attention to her. She lifted her head to look at me and the entire group turned to me, then back at her. It was like a nod of approval. When the coast was clear, she could continue sharing her problems with us.
“He asked me to lend him the cash. He’d refund me at the start of the year to clear my both and my sister’s school fees. That’s the agreement we had,” Sharon said.
“So why hasn’t he refunded you the money?” Laila asked.
Sharon shrugged her shoulders, “he’s said he doesn’t have any money.”
“So how are you and your sister supposed to pay your school fees?” Asked an agitated Susan.
“My mother will literally kill me. Thank God my father is still in rehab. I don’t know how to break it to my mother. She will be so disappointed.”
“It’s getting pretty late. Why don’t we create a WhatsApp group as we had planned earlier then we’ll add everyone to the chat and share the Mpesa statements, and think of a plan to recover that money. However, I doubt if we can recover the full amount,” Alice interjected.
We all agreed, especially since I hadn’t quite gotten all of the facts of the matter right. The group invite landed in my inbox before I got home.
Sharon had been dating this guy James for close to one year now. It didn’t come as a surprise when we learnt about the affair because we somehow expected it from her. James is newly married to a pretty lass, Janet and she spends most of her days at the barber shop, their business investment. At the time of Sharon’s scandalous fallout with James, Janet was heavily pregnant and made a point of showing it off to Sharon.
Let us rewind a little. Janet got wind of the affair at Frida’s salon. It was during the Covid pandemic, and Sharon was working as a shop attendant in the same building the barber shop sat on, on the ground floor. Her boss, after sensing some kind of sexual tension between James and Sharon, decided to lay her off and tell the secrets of the affair that very much benefited her business. James would buy everything in twos. Trousers, undies, shoes, anything you can think of that was sold at the shop. If you ask me, that’s pretty weird for a man with seven children from past relationships, and expecting the eighth child with his new ‘come we stay’ wife. Sharon thought it was romantic and fascinating and that he loved her more because he let her pick and choose what to buy for them.
The relationship between Janet and Sharon became turbulent when their business was put out in the streets. They got into several fights, often in the presence of James who could care less to intervene. It quickly escalated to a competition and you could bet everyone else was enjoying it. What people underestimated, however, is the lengths these women could go to wow a man. You’d expect them to hold a knife at each other, or like it’s pretty common in counties bordering Uganda, that they would seek the services of witches and other horrific tales, but no. Our girl Sharon went to war with modern weapons; money. Cash money.
Sharon’s father is a retired teacher, with a drinking problem. Determined to take control of his life, he signed up for rehab to deal with his addiction problem. His retirement benefits had been trusted to his next of kin, Sharon because she was the better child. She hadn’t eloped with a high school teacher like her older sister, not on drugs like her brother neither was her loyalty questioned like their mother’s. She’s the one actively pursuing a diploma at one of these popular universities in Nairobi. She’s the family’s hope for a better tomorrow. That’s why she enjoyed unlimited access to her father’s accounts and his lifetime’s hard-earned money.
The first time she wired James cash, his car had gotten into a terrible accident and he hadn’t paid insurance for a while. She sent him 80,000 KES to repair the car. He would refund it before schools re-opened. That was way back in July. When nothing was certain, it was projected that things would go back to normal. The second time, she withdrew 30,000 KES from an agent close by and gave it to him in cash, to sort out small issues she had no idea about.
Going through the Mpesa statements, it seemed unreal. Like I was watching a low-budget version of The Tinder Swindler. She sent him money in chunks and in bits, and the total approximation amounted to nothing less than 271,000KES. One time, she had sent him 100,000KES to refurbish the barber shop and pimp the car so that it would boost business. There were rare occasions that he had sent her, KES 1030 to spoil herself as she called it. It must have been the days she posted cheap ass dresses and a plate of chips with some blackcurrant. So that’s why we created the group, we needed to help her recover this money before her parents learnt about this mess.
We were a group of six. Laila, Susan, Purity, Talie, Sharon and me. However, Talie was probably there for the gossip, because she never made any contributions. Purity suggested that we create posters, hang them all over town, and post them on social media to threaten James into paying the money while tarnishing his reputation at the same time. I suggested that we add him to the group immediately after we’ve created a plan to brief him and also volunteered to create a Twitter thread, exposing him. Susan suggested we threaten to torch his car and drag the rest of his family into the mess by tagging them on social media and highlighting their relations. Laila was big on threats. She issued the first threat as soon as he was added to the chat. We’d break and burn everything at the salon if it was opened the next day.
James seemed pretty tense, so he called Sharon almost immediately and asked her to disband the group. He then texted all of us privately, asking us to hold off on such demeaning plans because he was working on them. In fact, he did mention that he also had to budget for his pregnant wife’s delivery. He sent Sharon 40,000KES almost immediately and we were happy that our strategy was working. However, we insisted on carrying out the threats if he didn’t send her more money by evening the next day. Talk of modern problems requiring modern solutions. I would have earned my place on the money heist cast had there been auditions in Nairobi.
Neither his car nor his barber shop operated that day, and we were damn sure that he had received the message quite well. Sharon sent us a screenshot of 2000KES that evening, with a note asking us to be kinder to James and that he was trying. We were all surprised by her change of tone, so we created a side chat to discuss it. Talie shared that she had seen her with James that evening and they were all loved up. Our fears were confirmed the next morning when she showed up at Frida’s salon with her bags packed.
“I’m leaving for school today!” she announced.
“How? Do you have school fees? Do you have hostel fees? What will you eat?”Susan asked, pretty concerned.
“My mother has heard rumours. She’s very mad at me. I can’t take it. She will be too brutal if she lays her hands on me again today,” Sharon replied.
“You could come to stay at our place while we wait for James to finish paying you up.” Laila offered.
“I must go today. Thank you very much to you guys for being helpful. Tina, he’s very afraid of you. He asked to tell you to tone it down,” Sharon said before breaking into hearty laughter. We all looked at each other. The ‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing here?’ type of look. Susan didn’t think twice about it, she asked the question on everyone’s mind.
“Sharon, did you spend the night with James?” We should have judged by the sheepish smile she gave rather than the lies she spewed so comfortably.
“No, we didn’t. He just said it via text. Of course, I didn’t respond. I know we agreed to no direct communication between him and me.” We bought the half-baked lie, even when we knew she lied.
The very night she travelled, Sharon disbanded the group without an explanation and disappeared for a while. She blocked us too, so there was no way to reach her and we figured it must have been intentional. So we laid back, until mid-February when she called Susan crying. She had just learnt about her pregnancy and the person responsible, James, was doubting it. You guessed it right. The night she was travelling back to campus in Nairobi, they were secretly meeting up with James.
Susan advised her to terminate the pregnancy while she still could, but she thought that since they made their baby out of love she would travel back home, to make it known to Janet that she too, was pregnant for James. Rumour has it her mother beat her to a pulp, and helped her to get an abortion. Most people would pull up as morality cops and question her mother’s decisions, but honestly, what good would a married man, with several children and a speciality in taking advantage of young women help her with?
It’s pretty obvious that James has never cleared the debt. What’s sad is that the law can only do so much because of the nature of their transactions. Sharon was never under duress to send that money, she did it willingly. When she finally unblocked me, she was the master of sharing all the fake friend quotes on her status but who cares really? She made a choice. I put an end to our friendship that had been long dead when she posted James on his birthday, captioned by all the sweet nothings. What took me out was her phrase, ‘wajinga wanaingilia mambo ya watu wame share duvet wataongea vile wamezoea’. Child, please!
Shouldn’t everyone be focused on the ailing economy, praying for rain and other things that matter? Or is simping for a married man, a full-time career? Because she ought to understand that she tried to buy her mubaba’s love with money, her father’s life’s work! But in her defence, she’s still young. He is forty, she’s twenty-two. There’s still so much to do but very little time, it might make sense. They say to pick your poison, she’s picked hers don’t you think?
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