During the sunny summer of 2014, my friends and family organized my wedding with Flora. My mother was worried that she was marrying my treasure.
After my secondary school, I didn’t receive any scholarship. I refused to stress out my dad by asking him to sell more of his cows to pay my university tuition. As I was the sole son of my parents, he would have invested in my studies for I was considered as the heir of the family.
I rather joined my uncle in the mine business. We both worked for a German coltan company based in Gatumba mining zone. This job was the chance of my life, especially since I was freely hosted in one of the comfy company houses. It was a colonial house that breathed oldness and wisdom. I wondered how many stories that building had witnessed and how many secrets it kept, including mine.
During leisure time, I loved to seat on the porch and sip a glass of Amstel beer while learning a new language. I started by English.
One late afternoon, I went to Kigali to hang out with my friends and bought P1 English books. People looked at me strangely causing me to claim to the bookshop attendant that the books were just a gift for a niece that I didn’t have.
In the mining company, I occupied an isolated tiny office that smelt mildew where I could hide and learn English words that became a song in my head. I created a melody for them. ♩♪♬ “ An avocado, a baby, a cow, a dog, an egg, a fish, a goat, a house, an ice, a jug, a king, a lion, a mango, a nurse, an ox, a pen, a queen, a rose, a snake, a teacher, an umbrella, a vehicle, a woman, a yam and a zebra. That was my morning anthem.
Simultaneously, I was learning Swahili from Assuman, the company’s driver. He was a middle-aged Muslim man from Nyamirambo. On his forehead, he had a black star-shaped spot, proof that he had prayed over and over. He was always wearing takiya, the Muslim hat. He looked totally different once he removed it, perhaps due to his baldness. Although he was a respected Muslim man, his hidden sin was an addiction to a bottle of Primus. So after each Swahili lesson, I would reward him with a bottle of this popular Rwandan beer.
My English was also improving although I lacked occasions of practicing all the sentences I learnt to compose till the daughter of my German boss came to visit the family business. Her name was Grete. She was a pretty brunette. She enjoyed jogging with all village children and the kids were crazily shouting:
“Muzungu, muzungu, muzungu.”
During the holidays, she spent most of her time, in the mines, only travelling to Kigali during some weekends.
“I live in Berlin, why should I spend my holidays locked in another city?” she would say.
During her first days, she occupied a desk in her father’s office. Mr Müller was often upset that Grete always forgot to lock the office in his absence.
Most of my colleagues enjoyed socializing with the boss’s daughter. They liked to ask her how she could help them to go to Europe or if she could help them find wealthy European families to support their further studies. As for me, I just half-smiled to Grete whenever I ran into her in the corridor. However, she became my problem when her papa asked her to occupy the vacant desk in my small office as a punishment of not locking his office.
Her presence in my office was not an issue but she was too talkative for my liking, often posing many questions in halting French. Unlike her, I loved to work quietly, focusing on my finance-related tasks. I really didn’t know how to make Grete understand that I needed silence.
She would ask, “Benjamin, do you think, that I should ride a bike to Gisenyi?”
“Ben, basing on your experience, do you think I should trust Assuman?”
She would really make me think.
The first days, I listened to her stories; and one day, I fell asleep in a middle of a story about a place she had visited in the Philipines. When I woke up, she was in a South American village. I saw my productivity sinking during Grete’s presence in our shared office. I would breathe deep sighs of relief whenever she was touring the mines with Assuman. As time progressed, I got used to her stories, usually surprising myself guessing what the next story would be about.
What surprised me with Grete was that she had a deep respect for people from all the countries she had visited courtesy of her rich dad. Even when she was telling me a story of local children in Gatumba, she genuinely expressed kindness.
One day, when I was out, Grete found my English books. I thought that she would naturally laugh at me but she offered me her kind help instead. Gradually, Grete and I became friends and people started gossiping. Her father became a little bit concerned that she spent more time locked with a male accountant in an office.
He thought it was more appropriate to take her back in his main office. Rumors circulated around the mines that I had seduced the boss’s daughter and my uncle came to talk to me.
I was astonished at his fury. I had done nothing wrong apart from learning English with Grete. The next morning, she came to greet me and we were both embarrassed because of the rumors. She shyly smiled and apologized for any inconvenience. On my side, I was just praying that she disappears before her father appears. She however made dropped by my office on subsequent days armed with many reasons:
To say Hi…
To ensure that your English doesn’t regress…
To bring you a cup of a tea during a rainy day…
I was actually missing her stories. I couldn’t tell her of course! I didn’t want to create more tensions between us. Apart from those morning visits, the rest of my days were calm. I could refocus on my work. Till…
One weekend, I had chosen to stay in my house because of the gloomy weather. I was curled in the sofa watching Prison Break when I heard a knock on the main door.
Who could it be? I wondered. Since my houseboy Fils was out watching a Manchester United game, I dragged myself from the sofa and walked to the door to open it. My baggy shorts were scant protection from the cold that instantly assaulted me. As I let her in, my mind was full of questions.
Why would she come to my place in pouring rain?
She didn’t volunteer an answer and we instead found ourselves in a very stupid conversation. I was afraid that my uncle or her papa would suddenly appear from anywhere.
“What were you up to?” She asked in voice softened by the chillness.
“Watching a TV show.”
“Ohh!! Which one?”
“Prison Break, season three!”
She was sitting next to me, her eyes fixed on my laptop screen. I could see the reflection of her blue eyes on the screen. I was nervous wondering what would happen if her papa and my uncle found us like that. I implored God to save me from that situation. Since she had come in the rain, she was wet and her dark curly hair was glued on her head, making her skull look smaller. I got up and opened my wardrobe. I took the blue pen towel and gave it to her so that she could dry herself.
“Do you have a t-shirt?”
I nodded and went back to the same compartment in my wardrobe. I took a grey cotton polo and handled it to her.
I dropped it down when I saw that she had removed her light dress, revealing a small red underwear. Her body was tinier than I thought. In my head, I saw the image of Mr. Müller’ face red with anger. Grete’s eyes were transfixed on me. She looked like a roman statute. I tried my best to prevent my eyes to from descending to her breasts but failed miserably. They were firm and pink. She made a step forward, I moved back. She was damn beautiful.
We went back to Prison Break but my heart was cruising at 120 km per hour. I resisted the temptation. For God’s sake, Grete was my boss’s daughter. I didn’t want to lose my job. So I had to resist. But when her soft hands touched the back of my neck, I collapsed.
She played Weus’d A Herz Hast Wia A Bergwerk, a romantic German popular song by Rainhard Fendrich. She murmured into my eye that the rumors in the mines were true, that she was crazy about me.
That night, she taught me love. She was the first woman that I touched and I was the first black guy in her life.
Grete Müller stayed for the whole weekend. She tired me out…
On Monday, everyone in the mines knew that the boss’s daughter spent three nights in my house.
Mr Müller’s face was as red as I had predicted. That Monday, he bought a KLM air ticket. On Tuesday, Grete flew back to Berlin without saying goodbye and giving me back my grey cotton polo.
Mr Müller did not fire me but we had a man-to-man agreement that was witnessed by my uncle who had worked for his company for more than twenty years. Mr Müller knew that his daughter was attracted to me and would only give up on me if she ever knew that I was married. Mr Müller gave me a three-month deadline to get married or he would fire me.
The only problem was that I wasn’t dating any girl and I didn’t want to lose my job. I was the one providing for my whole family and had started building a house in Kanombe, a neighborhood near the Kigali international Airport. I didn’t have a university degree so I couldn’t apply for jobs. I didn’t want to lose everything and I didn’t want my family to lose in the game. I took the decision of getting married.
My friend Eugene told me, “Nowadays, it is easier to find a bride than a job. We will find you a beautiful girl worthy your wealth.”
This is how they got me Flora. The woman I married in the sunny summer of 2014.