Fiction: Tom and Terry

I first met Tom the day I joined college. That was two years ago. Tom was always a jovial guy, took his studies seriously and was always sociable and kind to others. But most of all, everyone knew Tom was deeply in love with Terry.

Terry was a rather tall, brown girl with a most wonderful smile. It was no secret that almost all the guys had a secret crush on her. Just like Tom, she had a sociable nature, was kind and always polite even when turning down advances. She also loved Tom to a fault. It was an open secret around college that the two had promised to get married after college.

What we most admired was their sincere love and loyalty to each other. And they never tired of letting us that they had known each other for over ten years having met at a local church function.

Tom and Terry actually came from families that had known each other for many years. Both their fathers worked at Patel Flower farm and were best of friends. Their mothers had been childhood friends and both used to sell fish at a dusty local estate market called Pondamali. It goes without saying that Tom and Terry were born for each other and were meant to live together all their lives.

2020 was our final year before graduation. We had been a tight class having stuck together for two years. We had started the year on a high note and most of us expected to end our studies with a stellar performance. January came and went. We had fun in February which we have always considered the love month. In March we settled down to study. And then, boom! Some strange illness that had started far away at a Chinese village was now in Kenya.

At first, we didn’t panic. After all, this was a disease for white people. And then again, hadn’t we dealt with Ebola and Sars before? Even Covid-19 would just pass by and go, or so we thought.

But before long, things grew from bad to worse. More and more Kenyans were getting infected. A few were dying here and there and then the whole country went into a panic mode.

Then came the dream shattering announcement from the president. The country was going on lockdown and all learning institutions were closed indefinitely. We parted ways and promised to see each other “soon.”

As a close-knit group, we kept in touch online. There are those students from the neighbourhood whom we would meet now and then and we would take the chance to catch up. Some completely disappeared from the radar. Never appearing online at all and as usual, we were always too lazy to call. We just hoped and prayed that the other was ok.

In a month, Tom and Terry’s families suffered double blows. In a single week, the County Government closed down the market where their mothers used to trade and Patel Flower Company was closed down rendering their dads jobless.

Things moved fast from there. The two families went into a lot of suffering. Without a single source of income, they had to swallow their pride and started receiving donations from well-wishers. That was the lowest point in their lives, but it was just the beginning.

Two months later, Terry’s mother tested positive of Covid-19. The family became a pariah. Nobody wanted to pay the family a visit and even those who had been giving them charity disappeared. Spending the night on an empty stomach became the norm. Apart from Tom, not many other people dared to visit Terry’s family. Although they had tested negative, still the stigma was killing them.

Tom had gotten a job at a construction site. Terry was hawking fresh fruits in a bucket around town to help their families at least place food in the table. But they could never raise enough to take care of their families. As some of us continued with our studies online, Tom and his beloved Terry had to defer their learning since they couldn’t manage to raise money for tuition.

“Terry’s family needs to raise Kshs. 350,000 for her mother to be put on oxygen,” I remember Tom posting once. He rarely posted and we all felt a collective sadness knowing what our colleagues were going through. Tom had always treated Terry’s mother like his own and this had really affected him. The good thing was, he was always there for Terry. Without him, Terry may not have had the energy to go through each passing day.

We managed to raise an embarrassing 4,000 shillings on the WhatsApp group. It was hard enough to help her mother and Terry was becoming desperate. One day, she woke up to find her dad had disappeared. The pressure had become too hard on him. It was left upon Terry to take care of her ailing mother and two young brothers. But with rent to pay, food and medication to buy, Terry was at her wit’s end.

It was Tom who introduced Terry to Mr Tumbo. One day during the lunch break at the construction site, Terry had dropped in to check on Tom and bring him some fruits. Mr Tumbo, a local tycoon and political broker had come to check the ongoing construction which was one of his many projects. He had been joking around with the workers discussing politics when Terry came calling.

Her natural, unpretentious beauty had struck Tumbo immediately. He had tried to crack some randy jokes with her when she had introduced herself as Tom’s fiancée. Tumbo had bought all the remaining fruits for the workers and asked her to bring fruits daily to the construction site.

For the following few days, Tumbo always found himself at the site when it was time for lunch. He would buy the fruits and pay in large notes asking Terry to keep the change. He would sometimes ask Terry to wait for her payment until the labourers returned to work then he would find time to chat up with Terry.

Before long, Tumbo knew the predicament Terry was going through. He sympathized and empathized with her. He would regularly give Terry money to do the family shopping and even paid her rent. The good-natured Terry never suspected that Tumbo may have had ulterior motives.

But Tumbo was a lecher. As Terry would tell us later, Tumbo gradually won her trust and she became dependent on him. One day, he promised to pay the full amount that Terry’s mother needed to complete her treatment. But it would come at a cost. Terry would later relate how the heartless Tumbo played with her mind blackmailing her with her conscience.

“You just have to agree to it once Terry. And your mother’s treatment will be fully settled,” Tumbo would tell Terry.

“Will you let your mom die because of your stubbornness?”

After a week of such chiding, and with her mother’s condition growing worse, Terry made what she would later consider the worst decision in her life. A decision that would end up in Tom going to jail and Tumbo fighting for his life in the hospital.

Their rendezvous was in two days. Terry was edgy during that time and she couldn’t bear to spend much time with Tom. She felt it hard to look directly into his eyes and she would spend those two nights rolling awake in bed with sleep eluding her. Why did it have to come to this? Hadn’t she always promised to keep her virginity till she married Tom? But then again, would she let her mother die?

The day finally came. That Friday, she woke up late and didn’t go to the market as she always did. She spent the day cleaning the house and clothes. Time moved slowly, and she did things even slower. At two in the afternoon, Tom called her and she explained that she hadn’t gone hawking fruits that day as she had to do general cleaning. Six PM inched closer and closer.

They had agreed to meet at a nearby resort and be done by 9 PM so Terry could be dropped home before the curfew at 10 PM. At 4 she started preparing for the hardest appointment in her life.

As Terry would relate to us weeks later, she started feeling nauseous the moment she arrived at the agreed resort. She found that Tumbo had already booked a suite at the resort and a professional waitress had led her to the room where she served Terry drinks before living.

Every passing moment felt like waiting for the executioner. She kept telling herself that she was doing this for the mother but when she thought of the potbellied Tumbo groping her, she would feel nothing but disgust. After taking half a glass, Terry suddenly felt that she couldn’t get through it. She thought of Tom and his undying love. She thought of the way Tom would every evening without fail visit them and her siblings to keep them company and encourage them. Finally, she decided she couldn’t go through it. She checked the time on the phone. It was a few minutes to seven. Tumbo would be here soon and she had to get away fast.

Dusk was fast approaching. She realized she had not carried any money for the fare back. The only person she could call was Tom. She would apologize and explain everything as they went back home. She dialled and Tom picked almost immediately.

“Am at your place but your brothers tell me…..”

“Tom, am at Summit Resort. Come pick me immediately please. I’ll explain later,” she cut him short.

“Ok Terry, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“Please…”

Before she could continue, Tumbo unlocked the room from outside and entered with a huge grin on his face.

“Am sorry sir, this can’t happen. I must go home right away,” Tom heard Terry from the other end. He had been about to disconnect the phone when he heard the words.

“Stupid girl. Do you think I would let you go? I have waited for this day for many days. Don’t even think of leaving. You are mine tonight,” Tom heard clearly from the other end.

In shock, he started running towards the road looking for a motorbike.

“I need to be at Summit in five minutes,” he told the bodaboda guy he met.

In seven minutes, he was at the hotel. He thrust a two hundred shillings note towards the bodaboda guy and ran towards the hotel without even asking for his change. He didn’t have to ask for the room where Terry was. By the time he got there, he saw some waiters running towards the accommodation quarters where there seemed to be a ruckus. Getting nearer, he could distinctively hear Terry screaming at the top of her voice.

A bodyguard stood by the door telling everyone that everything was ok and what was happening inside was just a little misunderstanding between friends. Pushing everyone aside, Tom demanded that the door be opened. He started hitting the door calling out to Terry. The bodyguard angered by his actions soundly slapped him and tried to push him away.

Tom says that until today, he never knew what came over him. With all the anger he had bottled up hearing Terry cry from the inside, he swung the bag in his hands hitting the bodyguard right on his head. The guy lost consciousness immediately as blood spurted from his head.

“What was in the bag?” I once asked him.

“My work tools. I had left the construction site and still had my mallet in that bag,” explained Tom.

As everyone watched in shock thinking he had killed the bodyguard, a senior waiter hastily opened the door to reveal Terry struggling with Tumbo who was panting trying to disrobe the frenzied Terry. Tom was first in the room swinging the bag in his hands. He laid a blow on the back of Tumbo’s head and he immediately crumpled on the ground before the hotel security subdued Tom and later handed him over to the police.

Although Terry still maintains that this was the worst day of his life, Tom says it was on this day that his life changed for the better. After booking him, he was thrown into a police cell where he joined the other suspects arrested that day. Only then did he discover there was a celebrity inmate among the cellmates.

“Mheshimiwa, I never expected we would meet in such circumstances,” Tom was surprised to find his MP in the cell.

“Well, I’ve been running from the police since last night but they caught up with me earlier this evening. I broke the curfew rules last night and the police have been looking for me,” explained the MP. “Why are you here?” He asked Tom.

Tom told his touching story to the legislator and the other inmates. He had not yet heard Terry’s side of the story but claimed he had caught Tumbo trying to rape his fiancée and beaten him to near death.

It turned out that the MP had been rounded up with his drinking buddies who turned out to be some really rich people in the society. Hearing Tom’s story, a lawyer among them promised to take care of his case pro bono. The MP promised to take care of Terry’s mother and both Tom and Terry were promised jobs until they resumed studies……

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