Promise in the Dark


That was the day I was officially introduced to Juliet Mwansa, a ten year old kid with big round
piercing brown eyes. She stood there looking from her mother, her sister Alice and then me,
daring any one of us to go against her and the coward that I was before Alice had no chance
against a kid that appeared to know exactly what she wanted and went for it.
I am not sure whether Juliet was aware of it or not but that day she brought shame and
embarrassment upon her mother. The woman had been so convinced I was guilty of a crime and
was more than ready to publicly shame me for it only to have her own daughter throw her a curve
ball. She went ballistic! She pulled Julie by the ear like she had done to me and led her out of
campus like that. The little girl followed her mother without protest but I knew exactly the kind of
pain she was going through because I had experienced the wrath of her mother’s hand on my ear
not so long ago. As I stood there watching, I felt a huge pang of shame and something else I could
not place my hand on at that time.
“I see you got yourself a little fan my dear Jackson.” It was Alice, she was now standing next to
me, her hands crossed over her chest as she too stood watching in mocked amusement the
disappearing figures of her mother and sister. She was taunting me.
I sent her a repugnant look and without saying a word walked back into class.
That evening after getting back from prep, I stood at the kitchen door that overlooked the small
wall fence separating our home from the Mwansa’s. From where I was standing, I was able to see
almost all the activities going on in the next yard. The wh0le design of the fence made me believe
that whoever had lived in our house before us must have been very good friends with their
neighbours, a design the remaining neighbours very obviously came to regret seeing how they
had already started works on raising the height of the fence. I didn’t blame them.
Fortunately, the construction had not yet started and that’s how I was able to s₱0t Juliet come out
of the house with a small basket in hand, she put on her shoes and started walking towards the
gate. I knew exactly where she was headed so I ran ahead of her and waiting for her a short
distance away, safe from the prying eyes of everyone at home. She came to a sudden halt the
moment she s₱0tted me standing by the road side a few feet away from her. She didn’t look at all
pleased to see me and she went ahead and proved it by resuming her walk and moving passed
me without so much as a glace in my direction or a hello.
I was about to follow her and give her a piece of my mind when she surprised me by suddenly
stopping and walking back to where I was. She stopped right in front of me, barely any breathing
space separating us, her head raised all the way up so she could have complete access to my
face and the look she had about her had no business being on the face of a ten year old kid. Who
was this kid?
“Do you like her that much?” She asked me, more like judging me if am being honest. I felt
stripped and condemned, by a ten year old.
“What?” I asked, completely taken aback by her attitude and line of questioning.
“I said do you like my sister that much you fool?” She said.
I scoffed and scowled, unable to fathom her audacity. “That’s none of your business.” I hollered.
Honestly, I was just ashamed of the depth of my foolishness, and mostly because even a kid her
age could make that diagnosis.
“Why did you lie to your mother?” I quickly changed the topic.
“It’s none of your business what I say to my parents.” She used my own line against me and
resumed her walk to the market.
I ran after her. “It’s my business because I was the one accused and we both know who actually
stole that watch. So why did you lie for me?”
She stopped and turned to look at me. “What makes you think I did it for you?”
Yeah, what made me think that?
“I did it because I am just tired of watching my sister get her way.” She said. “It’s got nothing to do
with you. If you know what’s good for you, you should stay away from Alice. She will never accept
you as a boyfriend, don’t you know that? Are you that dumb?”
The mouth on her. I hated the kid more with every word that fell out of her mouth. She was the kid
and yet she was chastising me like I was the kid! I was five years her senior!
“Why are you angry at me?” I asked her. She was acting like I had done something wrong to her.
What business was it of hers if I liked her sister and she didn’t like me back?
In what would be one of the first defining moments of our lives, the kid gave me this look, it was so
intense and then she started shaking her head slowly, like you would if you were looking at
someone doing something utterly stupid. She was giving me that very look and in what was
becoming her fashion, she confirmed her unspoken thoughts with words; “
“Fool.” She spat and started walking again.
I felt like running after her and kicking her right in the heel so she would fa
ll flat on her belly but I
was so angry I was scared of what I might actually end up doing to her so I walked back home.
But that would not be the last time I would be seeing her.
Back at home the situation between my parents seemed to be getting worse by the day. Not a day
went by that the two did not fight. At first it was all verbal, with a few things thrown about here and
there but it was never physical…that was until the night of my almost humiliation at school by Mrs
Mwansa. As usual, dad came home late, passed midnight and heavily drunk. My mother had
heard about what had happened to me and she had gone straight to Mrs Mwansa’s house earlier
that day but unfortunately for her, Mrs Mwansa had travelled right after the school incident for a
relative’s funeral in Choma. My mother had not had her release so she needed someone to take it
all out on and my father happened to throw himself right into her venomous path.
I first heard the pots and pans flying about while I was in my bedroom and because they were
sounds I had become accustomed to, I simply pulled the blankets over my head and pretended to
fall asleep. I could hear voices shouting, my mother’s mostly but over the past months I had
mentally devised ways of drowning everything out. Unfortunately, that night proved to be different
from the others because the fight seemed to go on and on and the next thing I heard was my
mother wailing at the top of her voice. I got out of bed and rushed to the kitchen where I found my
parents engaged in a heated physical fight. My father was obviously the strongest despite his
drunken state but my mother’s fighting spirit was all over the place, daring him to do more harm.
Happy was standing behind me, sobbing. “Do something!” She begged me, her tiny hand tagging
at my sleeve.
“Go back into your room and close the door.” I told her. And when she hesitated, I put my hands
over her shoulders and led her back to her room, pushed her in,side and asked her to lock the door
behind her. “Stay in there!” I commanded her. “Don’t come out no matter what, you hear me?”
“Are you going to make them stop?” Her terrified voice asked me.
“Yes kiddo,” I told her. “I will but promise me you will stay put in here, deal?”
“Okay.” She relented.
What had started off as World War three had now turned into seven when I went back into the
kitchen. There was blood on the floor and my mother was trying to even the scores with my father.
For my father who was ex military, he was in familiar territory and in his drunken state, he didn’t
care who the enemy was. I had never before seen him hit my mother but from the way they were
going at it, it looked like each one of them had something huge against the other and they picked
that night to unleash their birse.
I jumped in between them and tried to separate them and I think it’s at that moment that my father
came to his senses. He stepped back, away from mother and me but my mother kept coming at
him, calling him names that still haunt me to this day and I will never forget the look in my father’s
eyes. She hated him for being jobless and over the years he too had started to hate himself for his
inability to be the kind of man she expected him to be.
I was determined to put a stop to the fighting and unfortunately, whilst pushing my mother away,
she hit her head against the cabinet behind her and she went at me like I was her target. She
didn’t care who was in her path and it took a while for me to realize she too was drunk until it was
too late. She hit me with something in the back of my head and I instantly fell bleeding to the floor.
My father tried to come to my aid but my mother wouldn’t have any of it.
“He is exactly like you Richærd!” She yelled. “He will not amount to anything as well that’s why he’s
busy trying to get into the p-nts of my enemy’s daughter. You all hate me in this house! Everyone
hates me and yet I am the one putting food on the table. I am the man in this house and all of you
are useless.”
And then she came for me, yanked me from off the floor by my collar and forced me to stand up
straight. “Look at your father Jackson, look at him!” She forced my head up by my chin and made
me look at dad. He was covered in his own blood everywhere and even though the fighting had
sobered him up a little, he didn’t look like the perfect picture of a father any son would be proud of.
And yet for some strange reason, I was still proud of him.
“We wouldn’t be going through all this if you had just listened to dad!” I yelled at my mother and
that seemed to catch her off guard.
Shock registered all over her face. My words hit her like a dose of betrayal and I could smell hell
from her flaming eyes.
She was ready to fire more rounds my way but I bolted out the door before she could even raise
her hand. I did not feel safe being in the same room as her, not because I was afraid of her, but
because I was afraid of what I could do to her.
I was a teenager, a very frustrated one at that and I had at lot of energy I was yet to put to good
It was very dark outside, I had never been out that late and I had stormed out of the house without
thinking. As I stepped outside the gate, I hesitated a bit, not quiet sure where to go and secondguessing
my decision to walk away when I heard the gate next door open.
“Come.” It was Juliet, the ten year old smart mouth.
“What are you doing out this late?” I asked, my hand place over the wound at the back of my
head. I could feel everything around me slowly start to spin.

“I think the wh0le neighbourhood is awake by now.” She said. Even though she didn’t actually say
the words, I knew exactly what she meant.
“There’s no way am coming to your place so you people can accuse me of stealing again.” I said.
“There’s no one else around. My parents are in Choma and Alice went off with Chisanga. She’s
not coming back until my parents get on their way back.” I was candidly informed.
I knew who Chisanga was, everyone knew who he was. He was the head boy at our school so it
was natural that the head boy and head girl hang out. My ego was dealt a blow…and it hurt even
more because the little girl standing before me was vividly aware of that fact as well.
“They left you alone in this big house!” I asked.
She laughed. “It’s not like it’s the first time.” She said. “Besides, am not a kid. I don’t need a baby
I could tell she really believed her own words. And I was starting to believe them too. There was
nothing childish or child-like about the kid. Absolutely nothing. To this day I am convinced there
was an old woman living in,side her soul.
“You’re going to fall, idiot.” I felt small hands grab me steady and I realized I was slowly zoning
“You’re bleeding.” I heard her say, her voice sounded somewhat distant, everything was slowly
fading away.
“This fool will die here.” I heard her little voice again. She had absolutely nothing kind to say about
me. I was the smartest student at school and yet somehow in the eyes of this girl I was always a
“I’ll get the first aid box.” I heard her say.
In my delirium, I forced some energy into my system and with her help we were in,side her parent’s
living room. I had no doubt she knew exactly what to do to stop my bleeding.
“I will protect you.” I think I heard her say. I was in and out of consciousness. I could feel her tying
something around my head but I couldn’t make out her words. She just kept talking throughout. I
have asked her several times what exactly she said to me that night and she’s refused to tell me.
That night changed everything in my life and it changed the way I started to relate with Juliet.
We were finally friends.
But both our families were starting to fall apart, each in its own way. Like a fire that cannot be
escaped, we the kids became engulfed in the flames raging from our parents messed-up lives,
paying the price decisions they made or didn’t make… and the events that would follow would alter
the cause of our lives forever.
Things would never be the same again.
To be continued… 
NEXT (episode 4)                                                                                      PREVIOUS (episode 2)
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