There was no trophy to be won. Still Ty felt proud of their victory that day. He had gone on to champion his team to their first league victory in weeks. Congratulations were abounding for Ty. His teammates had carried him on their shoulders at the final whistle and Menza couldn’t have been more proud. The envy of the other girls was almost tangible when he had made his way to her and swept her into a long hug. She thanked him in his ear for a wonderful day and she sat by him at the pitch side browsing the pictures she had taken of the games.
They were interrupted when Menza’s phone rang and the caller identification said her mother was calling. That was when Ty had noticed how late it was. The security lights around the estate illuminated the area nicely and had been bright enough to fool him into forgetting darkness was falling. So half past eight caught Menza and Ty walking hand in hand through the estate trying to get to the bus stop. They conversed in low tones as they made their way along the dirt roads that led out of the estate.
“Do I get to see you again?” Menza cooed at Ty.
“I sure hope so. I have had the time of my life today. You are like my good luck charm.”
They walked another few paces in silence.
“So I’ll be seeing you at the bookstore, Saturday afternoons then?” He queried.
She squeezed his hand tighter. “I’d like to see you more than once a week… there’s only so much you can do in one afternoon…”
“I can make time for you. We can go dancing chakacha at Bomas,” Ty teased.
“You will love Bomas,” she assured him. “Just as much as I loved watching you play today.”
They cut a lovely picture just strolling down the path. Ty felt accomplished, the girl in his hand had given him a chance. Earlier in the afternoon when he had made his way to her, he wouldn’t have bet the ghetto love story would favour him so. Perhaps, that was why he wasn’t his vigilant self and did not see the gang of five youths waiting to waylay him and his date just a few hundred steps ahead.
“… The soccer, the hip hop… that is what keeps the youth of Dandora occupied, you know? Keeps us from sinking to crime and whatnot,” Ty was explaining. “But we make our own choices here; decide whether to be good or bad
“So which one are you? Butterfly or scorpion?” She asked. He could feel her eyes searching his face.
“Would you look at me the same way if I said I’m a scorpion that never stung?”
Menza laughed. “You think having to live here makes you a scorpion?”
“I know what you meant. My scholarship kept me busy at school but I’ve had to put off college for a few years to put my brother and sister through school…”
Two of the gang members emerged from the shadows in front of the couple and even still Ty had to almost bump into them before he realized someone was blocking his way. That was when he noticed how deserted the road they were on was.
“I see you brought the army some food,” the taller one rasped.
Something in his voice sent a chill down Menza’s spine. The boys were young, probably teenagers but his tone made it clear that he was to be taken seriously. The smell of bhang hung heavy in his breath as he stepped closer to the couple. Menza, who at first had been content with just holding Ty’s hand, now drew herself closer to him.
“Ty?” She called uneasily.
Ty was already chastising himself for keeping Menza here that late into the night. He had understood the situation almost immediately he saw the boys in front of them. Dandora’s darkest secret had to be the serial rapist gangs that had sprung up all over the estate. These fearless gangs of teenagers had terrorized girls in the neighbourhood to the point they hardly ventured out at night even in the company of men they trusted. But then again, they weren’t exactly safe when they stayed indoors because the gangs also had the nerve to invade people’s homes to abduct the girls they wanted. Abducted girls would disappear for days, sometimes weeks and would be subjected to gang rape at the hands of boys their age, if not younger. The boys of course engaged in other more profitable criminal activities. The girls were just one way they blow off steam, colloquially calling it ‘feeding the army’.
Ty knew he was at a disadvantage but also knew he owed Menza her security. So he stepped between her and the taller teenager. The teen laughed scornfully.
“Get out of my way, man. We are not here for you,” he said, breathing into Ty’s face.
Ty stood his ground. “Yeah, see I can’t let you touch this girl.”
“Ty, what do they want?” Menza whispered from behind him.
“Relax, everything’s going to be fine,” Ty tried to calm her down.
“Are you sure about that?” The other teen challenged.
Menza screamed from behind Ty and he felt her being pulled away. He spun around and saw there were in fact another three teenagers who must have approached them from behind. One of the new three had grabbed Menza by the waist and was dragging her backwards. The decision was a fast one for Ty. He covered the short distance between them easily. He swung a powerful right hook at Menza’s captor that efficiently stunned the short lad enough to loosen his grip. Menza struggled and broke free of the boy and fell forward to embrace Ty. Instead of embracing her back though, he pushed her away.
“Get out of here!” He hissed.
She knew what would happen if she left Ty here but the command in his voice did not want to be questioned. She took of down the path towards the bus stop and hoped against hope that she would get a bus in time. The tall teen tried to pursue her but Ty had come after him fast and tackled him to the ground. He and Ty tussled in the dust, rolling and grunting. A few punches were traded but soon the rest of the gang fell upon Ty. They grabbed his hands and pulled him back to give their leader a chance to get up.
“Hold him!” He commanded.
The others obeyed and Ty was left defenseless to the assault. He knew they would tire and eventually leave him alone. Ty continued to taunt them believing he could take the punishment. His plan had worked and they were now too preoccupied with him to go after Menza. He hoped Dandora had not scared her off; he still wanted to see her again. He wanted to go home and make sure his siblings had eaten. He wanted to get home and read the novel Menza had lent him... Where was the book anyway? Then out of nowhere, someone had produced a knife and Ty’s heart wrenched painfully as all of that came crashing back down and all that stared back at him was the folly of what he had chosen to do. He tried to muster his energy but his captors had him in a vice. Ty screamed as the cold knife dug into his gut and twisted maliciously. The boys had released his arms as he fell forward to his knees, his hands clutching at his stomach. The savage blade withdrew and he felt his warm blood trickle through his fingers but he could not bring himself to look down. He fell headlong to the ground and rolled over to lay on his back questioning why the city thought bright lights in a estate was all it took to deter crime. Now those bright lights had borne witness to his murder by the roadside. He was dying, a martyr of love… his thoughts drifting back to Menza.
The pain in his abdomen was blinding but in his delirium, he saw her beautiful face floating above his, obstructing him from rising to heaven. Her face was wracked with agony and streaked with her fresh tears. He extended one bloody hand to touch her, wipe away her tears. The vision was too real.
“Thank you for giving me the best last day anyone could ask for in life,” Ty could not even identify his own voice. But she spoke back to him, and that was all it took to confirm to him that she had come back for him.
“Don’t talk like that,” she said tearfully. “You are so brave and strong, please don’t die.”
He couldn’t bear to see her cry. He squeezed her hand to show her he understood. Another face appeared above his, beside Menza. Ty could make out the red and black chevron set on the blue fabric of the on the upper sleeve of the newcomer’s shirt. She had brought the police with her! By a stroke of luck, she had found the police patrolling the area and brought them back here.
“…we need to get him to a hospital. Help me move him,” the policeman was saying to Menza.
Ty’s senses were returning, he could hear other voices now. His head turned sideways as Menza and the policeman lifted him off the ground and carried him to wherever… the back of the Black Maria possibly. Ty saw another two policemen watching over five teens who had assailed him as they knelt by the roadside. There were bystanders around, condemning the shamed teens and Ty allowed himself to be proud of Menza’s heroism when she came back for him.
He was in the back of the Black Maria and he could feel the thing vibrate as it spurred to life and began to make its way to the nearest hospital. Menza’s face was above his again but she was still crying. She pressed heavy on his abdomen with bandages to try and stop him bleeding. She was crying, telling him about the Caribbean islands again. She was telling him that he had to live so that he could someday go there himself. The sound of her voice nursed his will to live, but the going to the Caribbean felt so trivial now. Not when the final chapter of his ghetto love story was yet to be written.