Kenya looked up at her father. She didn’t hear him come in. “Bonsoir père” she greeted. Occasionally they communicated in French. Her mother had loved the language and speaking it somehow kept the memory of her alive. “Bonsoir ma petite” he answered. “Que fait tu?” He wanted to know what she was doing. She hesitated. It would be easier to lie but she could not keep hiding this from him. It was something she was passionate about. “I’m going through the market numbers.” She began to wish she had lied as soon as the words were out of her mouth. His face tensed up. “You’re at it again?” He stared at her and she shrunk. “Running a business and checking how demand goes up and down is not something a young girl should be looking into. You’re a smart young lady, greatly talented in other areas, why not just focus on that instead of insisting on this foolishness?” He asked. Breathing in courage, Kenya said “Papa, I love doing this. I don’t want to end up writing silly stories.”
“Silly stories? The local paper published you, readers sent in great comments, critics loved the trilogy and the editor in chief wants you on his staff. Now, how is that silly?” He looked around, stepped into the room and turned on the lights. It was getting dark. Then he sat down opposite his daughter and looked at her, thinking all the while of how smart and intelligent she was. Too smart for her own good…and for his. He sighed cleared his throat and said “Kennie, you know I’m proud of you and have always supported your choices especially with regards to your education. You need to trust me, as your father that I only want what is best for you. A happy and fulfilled life. Business is not something you want to pursue.” He looked into her young bright eyes and hoped she would take his word for it or he would not have to go through the unpleasant task of making restrictions. He never liked that part of parenting but understood it was necessary in order to guide and keep a child on to right path.
“Nobody really publishes profit margins in Africa. However, consumers do like to take polls on what products they are most satisfied with and would like to keep in the market. Inadequate profit figures plus polling results is data that can be used to determine demand. Jakobe should use that.” Kenya said while fidgeting with her hands under the table. Her father gave her a level look and said “Jakobe should use that eh”
“Yes papa. It would- “
“So now you’re going through you brother’s work. I expect better behaviour from you! Suddenly you think you have great ideas and can make suggestions to your brother on how to handle his internship assignments.”
“But papa,” Kenya said “I’m sure if- “
“Enough!” He said
Kenya slugged into her seat. She closed all the programs and clicked to shut down the computer. She stood up to leave. “Kennie” her father said “sit.” She obliged. “Your mama, God bless her soul, always hoped you’ll be that bestselling author. You have always loved writing and I know your mama inspired that in you. Here at home, on this continent, we still have values that hold. Forget what you see on TV and read on the internet. That is a foreign culture. Culture is Identity and our identity makes us a people. A business woman cannot have a family and will not get the respect she deserves no matter how intelligent she is. Don’t you want a family?”
Kennie sighed and thought of Aaron. Somehow it seemed to her a paradox that her father wanted a family for her but would kill her boyfriend if he knew she had one. “Of course I want a family. I do but Papa, I trust in God. He made me smart and gave me a passion for business. I choose to believe He’ll at the right time make me meet the right man who’ll accept me for who I am.”
The father looked at his daughter and wondered where he had gone wrong. If his wife was here then maybe she would best know how to talk to Kennie. She always said their daughter was as head strong as he was. He was only now beginning to see what she meant. “Focus on what is for you Kennie. I won’t ask you this again. If I find that you have been trying to do Jakobe’s job, then there’ll be repercussions. You’ll be in college soon enough so enjoy your free time while you can. And if you feel like you need to do some work, write something. Your mother was so proud of you when you wrote that first poem. It was all she could talk about for months. Honour her memory instead of making people think she didn’t instil any values or norms in you.” He stood up to leave. “Tell Mrs. Tarabi that I’ll be eating right after I’ve had my bath.” With that he left the room.
Kennie stayed in the room. She felt emotionally exhausted. The back and forth with her dad was killing her. She loved the numbers, figures and calculations. Was she suppose to just act like she didn’t know subjects like maths and economics existed? She frequently stole her brother’s books just to go through. She could not understand everything but she was fascinated by the things she did understand. The thought of college made her miserable. Her father would kill her if he knew she planned on switching majors once she got there. “You were right” Jokobe said. She jumped right out of her reverie. What was it with everybody creeping into this room? “Jakobe, ever heard of knocking?” she asked with irritation. “Sorry,” he said “didn’t mean to startle you”
“That’s ok. What it is I am right about?” she asked. “The demand thing. The polls. I heard you talking with Papa. I think Papa should let you do this. You’re clearly a natural” He replied. Kenya stood up and stretched. “Try telling him that. Maybe he’ll listen to his golden son” At that, Jakobe burst out laughing and Kenya joined him. They both knew that Jakobe was far from being a perfect son. A great brother, yes but far from perfect. He did well in school. The math did not come naturally but he worked hard and had excellent grades. This pleased their father.
Kenya caught her breath and said “I should tell Mrs. Tarabi to get Papa’s food ready. Are you going to be eating now too?” Jakobe shook his head. He had far too much work to catch up. “I’ll go through my home work before getting something to eat.” She shrugged and started to leave the room then stopped “I’ll borrow your marketing text book, is that ok?” she asked. Jakobe smiled and shook his head “You never learn, do you? The book is in my backpack.” She smiled as she stepped out “Thanks.”
Jakobe turned on the computer and waited for it to come on. He thought of his baby sister and how strong she was. Just like their mother. At least she had the courage to tell Papa what she really liked and tried to make him see her passion. If Papa ever found out the reason he went to Aunt Majah’s house was because he loved to work with the fabric and make designs, he would have a heart attack, kill him and disown him as a son. In no particular order. He wished he could just work on his own collection and have all the fabric he wanted, not just what his aunt thought was right. Sometimes he dreamt of having his own fashion line, a little like the House of Channel. He knew he could do it because since he started drawing for aunt Majah, her sales had tripled and she got orders from all around the region. The computer biped and he came back to reality. Back to boring homework.
By Doris Gweh