THE PREDATOR AND THE PREY
Zuri felt her phone buzz from under the sofa cushion she was sitting on, she slowly groped for it and turned it to face the screen. A sigh of irritation followed next as she stared daggers at the caller. Quickly, she slid the green call button to the red one cutting it off and threw the phone to the corner of the sofa she was lying on. It landed with a dangerous thud next to her feet almost hitting the arm of the sofa and come toppling down to the shiny marble floor of her apartment. She then turned with herback in contact with the body of the sofa,and remaining very still with only her right leg barely halfway bent to the knee and swinging to the rhythm of the uncomfortable thoughts racing in her mind.
Her eyes showed signs of distress as they darted from one corner of the room to the other while her fingers drummed her forehead alternating from the index finger to the middle finger.
Zuribelieved her ex, Baya had vowed to make her his lifelong prey after she decided to end their relationship which she felt like had turned for the worst and too intoxicating for her emotional wellbeing. Until then, it seemed he wasn’t going to give up his hunting expeditions on her, spying her every move and to make it worse, letting her know that he was on to her though implicitly, making sure he wasn’t being too outright with his sick behavior. She was only twenty five, had a well paying job as an auditor in an audit firm but still remained single not because she wanted it that way but because of some personal circumstances that barred her from engaging romantically with someone else, circumstances she wished she had known and wouldn’t have gotten into in the first place. Although she saw right through him, Baya was smooth with his moves. If anything one who did not know would think that he was just in love and only making romantic gestures to his lover.
She stared annoyingly at the text message he had sent her immediately after his thirteenth call that afternoon and of which she ignored as usual. The text read: “ Hi babe, I hope you’re good today and you’re missing me like I am now. Saw you in town yesterday when I was coming to your work place to bring you a bouquet of roses your favourite, remember?You’re still as beautiful as those roses. Those almond eyes, those round hips and your honeycombed skin got me dreaming about you upto now. Hey, who was that guy I saw you laughing with today? Remember cheating is not allowed and I’m not going to lose you to anyone, hehe! I love you, mwaaah!” If not for the thin cracks that had formed a spider’s web on her phone screen, Zuri would have banged the phone on her coffee table. The cracks flashed a quick memory of two weeks ago at around 2.00a.m in the night when Baya had called insistently for almost half an hour. She remembered how violently she tossed and turned in her bed, took the pillow and pressed it on the back of her head covering her ears before grabbing the phone from the bedside table and threw it on the other side of the bed. It bounced off the bed and fell screen flat on the cold marble floor right beside her red, embroidered Swahili mat. Only a crackling sound was heard as the phone battery and back cover jumped right under the bed.
The sudden silence that followed next made her weirdly comfortable as she drifted to sleep, unbothered about the sorry state of her iphone 8. She wasn’t going to live like this. This constant worrying and looking over her shoulder to see if Baya was following her made her feel like some escaped convict. Baya pursued her endlessly and it seemed like with each day passing, he grew more thirsty for her. He almost jeopardized her work when he one day walked in to her work place and demanded to see her. This was after she had told him off because she had gotten fed up with his nagging calls and texts. She imagined him wearing a senile smile like a mercenary who has just shot down his target in a crowd; spread to the corner of his lips as he typed the message.Sarcasm written all over his face.To her, it appeared Baya had tossed himself in an illusion of desperate romanticism yet it seemed like he was enjoying and had made himself comfortable in that limbo of misplaced romance. It was this knowledge that made her writhe with so much frustration blending with fear over her sense of security.
Baya came into her life when she was still young and barely touched by the enthrals of young teenage love. They were both in high school with Baya a year older than she was. It was love at first glance, Baya was with a group of friends laughing at the jokes they made, typical of any boy his age to want to hang out with other boys and probably talk about women or football. But what stood out for her that evening as she and her mother moved into the new neighbourhood after walking out of a dysfunctional marriage with her father, was his aura of gentleness that emanated from him. She could tell that he had a different upbringing. Unlike his friends who seemed too rowdy for her liking, he stood out to be prudent in his mannerisms and even when he laughed, he covered his coffee stained teeth with his hand. It was Baya who first approached her and went ahead to introduce himself with his Facebookusername before proceeding to tell her his real name. He spoke with a medium tempo heavily punctuated by a Swahili accent. He laughed anytime she laughed at a joke a friend any of his made. They went ahead and formed a five year old relationship that at first, Zuri thought was real and mature for girls her age. She finally felt secured and happy that she had something she could hold on to.
They blended well together even his friends jokingly called Zuri “babe” to tease him for being hopelessly in love. She thought it funny that people praised how good they looked together even though she was taller than he was. He was well built that made it seem like he was compensating for his lack of height though his muscles ironically made him look shorter. He had dark silky hair that had a softer texture to it than hers which was kinky with knots and felt tough and which he made fun ofthat it was capable of scrubbing clean a pot with tough soup stains. After school, Baya would always wait forher at the main road from their homes. He would watch her cross the road with her hands firmly holding on to her back pack then walk hand in hand to their homes. Less than a year after high school, Zuri got herself a place in a public university within Mombasa and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Education where she majored in English and Literature. Baya on the other hand had failed miserably in senior highschool and was forced to seek unskilled labour also within Mombasa. It was after these changes in their lives that their relationship started to change face. The idea of having Zuri away from his watchful eyes even though she never stayed away, and in an environment where she would become easily looped up into the thresholds of another man’s love didn’t quite sit well with him.
The calls from Baya started becoming way more than usual, especially when she was in school. He would insistently call and tell her that he was only checking up on her. This was after she would complain about having to step out of her classes about five times just to answer his calls.“ ListenBaya, I can’t keep on walking out of lectures like that. Do you want me chased out of class?” Zuri would remark. “ No, I’m just checking up on you.” Baya would respond with his usual casualness and a slight stretch of the words. “ But do you have to constantly call me like that?” She sounded irritated and a frown had formed on her face.” So what would you have me do if I constantly think that some college guy is there trying to impress you?” “ We’ve been over this before and I’m not even going to try and talk some sense into you. Good bye, I have a class going on.” She hanged up before he could finished what he was saying only hearing him bark the words, “ Zuri don’t you dare… .
Zuri would sometimes change routes and choose a different path home just to avoid Baya. He had formed a habit of asking her for her phone which she would,with a blank expression on her face give and watch him scroll through the day’s pictures for any new photos she had taken for the day. Then very quickly he’d go through the call log to check who had called her. Of course his contact would come at the top and followed by those of her friends’ whom he knew. He would then lightly heave a sigh of satisfaction and act normal. Zuri watched all these alarmed and pissed off by his open lack of trust towards her. All she wanted was to scream at his face for implying that she was in school fooling around. On these days where she failed to show up at the spot he would usually wait for her, he would call and demand for a reason. The angry Baya would then slowly calm down, even change the tone of his voice and apologize for shouting at her. He would then promise in an apprehensive tone to reduce his calls. There was something in his voice, when angry that chilled Zuri to the spine. She could feel his anger chocking down on her through the phone. It was as if he had turned into a ferocious beast that wanted to scare her to subjugation.
Through the following years, everything became evident to Zuri that she was in an unhealthy relationship with a man who was gradually unmasking his true self. Three events followed that confirmed her suspicions over what Baya termed as simply “jealousy driven by a strong force called love.” It was on a Saturday morning and Zuri was on her way to see Baya at his place where he had moved to about thirty minutes away from their neighborhood and which had led into another fight after he had tried coaxing even coercing her to move in with him. She incountlesstimes turned down his offer because she couldn’t begin to imagine living under the same roof with him and constantly fighting with him. She had stopped along the way to the main road to talk to a male friend of hers whom she came to know through her mother. Five minutes into their conversation and Baya appeared right ahead of them shouting while walking towards them. He jumped on the guy and pushed him to the ground creating a scuffle. He then warned him from flirting or even looking at his girlfriend before grabbing Zuri by the arm and pulled her to walk.
On another weekend while out with friends at the beach, Baya once stood up and in a light manner warned his friends not to even think of flirting with Zuri. They might have laughed at it as a statement passed jokingly. They might have even teased them for acting like married couples but to Zuri, those words aroused feelings of discomfort in her, of uncertainty whether the love she once felt secured in was even true to begin with. Did this man even realize that what he thought as practicing true love and affection was only weighing her down both emotionally and psychologically? The love she once felt for him had turned into a bitter taste in her mouth, like a bitter sweet mango. She watched him smile slyly at her that day, his friends patting him on the back for being a true man.
A month before she finally ended things with him, Zuri found out Baya was cheating on her with a girl in their neighbourhood named Monica. Monica was a fairly beautiful woman with a full figure and squinting eyes. She and Baya were actually close friends before Zuri came to know Baya so she never could have thought the two could go behind her back and betray her. Zuri saw the two of them in some local restaurant near Baya’s place flirting. He had his right arm across her shoulders and his left hand was busy fondling her right hand. Zuri thought it wise not to walk in on them and so later on when she confronted him about, he came out defensively, accusing her of trying to create false stories so that she could find a reason to leave him. What appalled Zuri was the expression on his face while he was making all these accusations against her. He had this innocent look on his face, his eyes had become teary but not a drop fell out. How quick he was to recoil himself back into his gentle mannerisms and began to caress her hair then severally kissed the back of her hand before pulling her into his body.
Despite him finally apologizing and accepting he had been unfaithful, Zuri still pushed for a break from everything and she used the chance to move out of her home to a new place, an hour away from Baya and made sure she never disclosed where she lived to him. She had recently gotten a job outside her professional training as a teacher and went to work as an auditor in an audit firm in town. She earned enough to get a place of her own. However, Baya, being one not to give up so easily, managed to get information about where she lived and decided to pay her a visit. He came on a Sunday evening looking tired and mad at the same time. Zuri had just finished cleaning her place when she had the front door knock. Her heart jumped into a fright when she saw him,standing outside her apartment, dressed in a checked red and blue shirt and silky grey suit pants. He had his head leaned against his bent right arm which he supported with the wooden door frame of Zuri’s apartment. “ Baya! What are you doing here, how did you find me?” She could feel her heart thumping in her chest. Baya’s presence had come to scare her like a frail rained on kitten.
“ May I atleast come in?” His straight face scared her even more. Even before she could say anything, he waltz in and slumped himself on an arm chair facing a book case. Zuri went and sat across him and looked with worried eyes at him. “So tell me Zuri, who’s the guy you’re dating?” He sounded like he was in very low spirits though undertones of anger could be hard in his low tone. He looked straight at her with piercing eyes. The room was hot since
it was a hot season in March and characteristic of the weather along the coast of Mombasa. The heat only served to increase the screaming tension in the room. “ I needed a break to reflect on whatever is
happening between the two of us, all that fighting and lack of trust is really wearing me out Baya.” She didn’t understand where all that confidence was coming from all she knew was that she wanted sanity and a peace of mind. A long silence broke between them before he spoke again. “Okay, okay then. I’ll let you have your break and after everything has cooled down call me.” He stood up and reached out for a kiss but she quickly turned her head to the side and threw worrying glances at him, eyes darting from the coffee table to his face. He went ahead and kissed her on the cheek and arrogantly smiled at her before walking out.
She felt disgusted, irritated and defeated. He wanted her total subjugation of her love while she was looking to break free from him. She knew things were never going to go back to the way they were before. She was empty of the love she once thought was alive between them, how
could she even go back to something that was detrimental to her. Something borderless, with no shape. Layer after layer of worry and concern over her emotional condition had formed up in her and had propelled her to assertively settle in with the idea of leaving him though she still lacked the bold epiphany to finally end things until later on. But for then, she needed to curve out a space so that she could rediscover herself for she had felt lost and without, and with that she could finally gather up some courage to break the relationship. Her constant fear was motivated by the fact that his actions were deeply dependent on his emotions and his emotions laid squarely on his thirst to continue dominating her emotional life, controlling her however he wanted like a puppet. She had earlier on
heard about a young woman like her in the news who was confronted by her ex lover with a knife and tried to kill her for ending their relationship. Fear numbed her every time she’d imagine herself a victim of a love gone sour.
She felt horrified and conflicted by the realization that she never knew him at all. Had she been wrong that very first day when she saw him, gentle as a mother nursing a sleepy baby, talking and laughing with his friends and getting carried away by his charisma and striking caring attitude towards her? Was his gentleness and tenderness just a cover up for the rage filled beast inside him? Oh how she wished she never had took into his soft spoken self? His charisma, his dedication to always wait for her as she came from school and then walk her to the main road the next morning and watch her board a public van to school. How had she been so stupid at first to interpret his constant calling and checking up on her as a sign of affection which only she felt was privileged enough to enjoy. She felt special, fortunate to have found him. If only she knew he was slowly establishing a domineering
presence over her love life. That he was slowly cutting out metal bars to encage her like a bird so she could not fly off and make a nest where she could experience true love that which was not clothed in pretence or authority. He wanted her encaged and chirp to his tune a tune which he wanted to dance to even though it lacked a sweet melody and rhythm that could jam up her spirits.
Andas she lied there on her curved red sofa that afternoon contemplating about his text message, she felt a sense of grief overwhelm her. Grief of what could have been a beautiful thing between the two of them.