She looked up. The clouds had started in from the East, dark and heavy, silently crawling up the length of the sky heading West. She wasn’t sure it would all fall, but some of it was definitely getting off here. The tall grass had been browning, on the verge of breaking clean off at the middle before it rained last night.
” Chum, grab the other end. Let’s get the table back inside,” she called to her younger sister. Rain bugs littered the area outside the front door. They’d been swept from behind the sofas by the hundreds, wingless, half dead. Strange how some things are born to die.
The air was crisp but she was in a long light dress, nothing underneath and a beanie hat on her head. Chum was sitting on the edge of the door. The light was fading.
” Mum knows we don’t have tomatoes or charcoal for the jiko?” the elder asked.
“I told her,”
” Did she give you money for them?”
” Not yet”
” What are you waiting for, go ask her,’ this was said as she went herself.
Her mother sat on her bed, traditional music playing from the phone in her hand.
” Mum, we need money for tomatoes and charcoal,”
” I already told Chum to come for it”
The girl walked across the room to the green vanity table that held her mother’s purse and opened it. She found the bill she needed, took it and left.
Soft drops of water hitting the roof and the cemented ground drew her attention, but she grabbed for a broom and quickly swept up the stray bug wings that had fallen into the dining room. Chum went up the stairs and turned right to their rooms to grab a couple of jackets. When she returned, her elder had finished and had gone to put aside a mop and bucket. They meet at the door. She gave her a pink jacket in one hand, and her phone and the money in the other. She didn’t think about it, simply slipped on the jacket and shoved her phone in one of the pockets. The drops were heavier now, and numerous. Chum pressed the button on the umbrella’s handle and it opened up. They walked to the gate and she stepped out first while Chum angled herself out. They set a brisk pace.
At the fork ahead, a group of boys were standing around talking in the rain, among them was their helper boy, but he started back for the house as they drew closer.
“There is no rain,” he said, as they passed one other.
” Speak for yourself,”
The two took the right. Their umbrella shifted upwards in her hand as the wind dug in. So she tilted it to the ground, moving forward like a soldier in battle. The road was darker because of the weather, but most of the houses had their gate lights on so they could see where they were going. A few people were about, probably being chased in now by the rain, and the black soil under their feet was starting to grab hold. The shop appears to their right. Chum spotted carrots in the dim lights and sighed. She went ahead then stopped under the aluminum extension of the ramshackle box-like shelter and started choosing tomatoes. Her sister stood a couple of feet away and took out her phone, Chum’s voice and the soft sound of gentle rain in the back of her head . A few minutes pass then she turns to her.
“Hand me the note, please,’
“I need to pay,”
She stared at Chum, her mouth a little open.
“Wha…?” she breathed, “don’t you have it?”
She was already feeling her pockets. There was nothing there. She stared a little more.
What the hell…she wondered, her head going over the recent events. Yes. She was in fact given the money, when Chum gave her her phone. So why does she only have her phone? Where was the money?
“I gave you it together with your phone, remember?”
She hadn’t touched her pockets since they left the house. How could she have lost it? She turned in circles where she stood, staring holes into the ground. Then she looked up at chum. The shopkeep was also looking at her now, the bag of vegetables near his hand.
“We need to pay”
“I’ll pay via phone,”
And she did, in a state of utter shock, as her mind fought to process what the hell just happened. Immediately after, they bent down, started worrying at the ground, poking and moving objects as they retreated from the shop.
” This is the one thing that hasn’t happened to me in a long time. I can’t remember when last I lost money. I feel like I’ve just been blindsided. How did this even happen?”
By this time they had their phone lights on, both of them darting eyeballs all over the path trying to spot something rectangular and brown. Everyone they passed seemed to just be pocketing something. As they turned the corner to their house, she was in a state of ironic disbelief. It was really dark, after seven pm and the rainy weather wasn’t helping her, and, hopefully, anyone else, see. The last stretch to the gate revealed only dirt, grass and stray cat. No lost notes. She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.
Perhaps it hadn’t even made it out the compound. Maybe it fell out when she put on the coat. Then she immediately recalled watching the helper boy walk into the compound behind them and groaned inside. It was gone. It was likely already gone.
How did it happen?
The rain drops were loud as they landed in the mop bucket, splashing out the brown water inside. So distinct from the gentle taps on the concrete ground.
And How did she not notice?