We carried a story of a mother whose two daughters left university and got into sex work. She wondered where she went wrong for her daughters to distance themselves from her. Lilian, her youngest daughter, candidly responds to all her mother’s questions as she narrates her version to Lucy K Maroncha
Sex work is a difficult job but like many say, it’s as addictive as any intoxicant. Any mother would hate the mere thought of their daughters being sex workers. I personally know how humiliating, degrading and risky that job can be. That’s why I wouldn’t do to my daughters what my mother did to us though I guess she must have been oblivious of the damage she was causing and thought she was being a responsible mother.
The woman who bore me was a headmistress at the school where she was teaching and at home. Though my late sister and I would smile and nod approvingly at her numerous lectures and sermons, I dare say she was exhausting!
Being close friends with my late sister was technically pushed down our throats; my mother rejected all our friends claiming they were bad company or they were from a witchcraft-practising family and she completely isolated us from the world.
When we joined high school, she started discouraging us from being close even to our two younger brothers lest their friends seduced us. We only had each other for consolation hence we became the best of friends.
We were in the same boarding school and we used to envy our classmates as they narrated how they visited each other over the holidays and how they had fun at each others’ homes. We were not allowed to visit or be visited.
Mother should be complimenting us that we tolerated her and remained sober until we joined university. We practically feared her; we would listen with awe as other students discussed how they tricked their mother to cook or buy something nice for them and later they would all joke about it joyfully. That was unheard of in my family; mama’s word was final.
She chose our dresses, our shoes and even our hairstyles. I can dare contradict her when she, without remorse, says that in her demanding job, she had time for us; our sitting together would either be for a long lecture on studies, on whose children were bad company and consequences of premature sex.
When I started my menses at 12, I informed her, hoping she would congratulate me and tell me that I was now an adult and even teach me how to use sanitary towels. But she sternly looked at me and as if it was a crime to start menstruating, she whispered, “now you know what will happen if you play with boys!”
It’s in record in heaven that we joined university as virgins, though we didn’t last a month the same way. We quickly made friends with other girls and learnt what our mother had been protecting us from. Chatting with other girls and even young men about love, sex and money was fascinating.
We got little boyfriends in the university but it was like jumping from our mother to another mother. My boyfriend, for example, was over-possessive and monitored my every step: he would come up with a story like, “today, one of the professors smiled at you, who was that boy you were standing with yesterday?” I hadn’t signed up for that, it was equally draining!
I almost bought the idea that in life, you must have someone to scrutinise your every move, until I spoke to Lisa, a friend I made at the university. She introduced me to the world of mature married men. The terms were clear; I will entertain you, you give me some token of appreciation, and we part ways. Should we meet again and you want the same service, fair enough, if I am available. My sister was recruited too and we enjoyed every second of it.
Every moment I spent with an older man was golden; they knew I was fragile and vulnerable so they treated me with a lot of care. When I got pregnant, we left the hostel our parents had paid. I couldn’t trace the man responsible.
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With the pocket money that my sister and I had saved from both our parents and our clients, I procured an abortion crudely that robbed me of my uterus. I bled for many days and had a deathly stench for several days. My sister — may her soul rest in peace — supported me all through and suggested we had to move out of the hostel before word reached our parents.
I had to go through surgery because, as the doctors explained, my uterus had been badly bruised and was rotting from within hence the deathly smell. That is when we rented a small room at Kangemi, which we shared. It was not every day that my sister, who was taking care of me, would get a rich older man yet she had to get us food and money for my hospital fees.
I am sure my sister would have aborted her twins had it not been for fear of a repeat of that terrifying experience. She had to practically rob a drunkard of money and valuables to save my life. That’s how we got the Sh120,000 for the operation at a private hospital.
When I went through the operation, my sister rarely left my bedside apart from the nights when she would go looking for money. By the time I got well, three months had already elapsed though my dear sister kept lying to our parents that all was well. They would send the monthly pocket money which was too little to sustain us.
At one time, the going got so tough that we started getting daytime clients and others who would prefer to spend the night in our house and pay the would-be lodging fees to us instead. It was so inconveniencing and my sister thought that she could move to the neighbouring Kawangware slum and leave me in our house to enjoy some privacy. However, we remained dear friends.
When our parents stormed the club where we were having fun, we were not doing anything a sex worker can’t do. We were giggling because we were happy. We were getting what we had been denied for a long time!
If she had allowed us to have little boyfriends, be caressed and kissed, perhaps we wouldn’t have been that adventurous. We planned our escape well after we were forcibly taken back home. Keeping us caged like two rabbits in Kitui while we had already known that sex is pleasurable and you can earn from it was a crazy joke. Besides, my sister was already suspecting she was pregnant and we knew the consequences of such a mistake.
If our mother knew that I had lost my uterus during an abortion; that would have been murderous. That is why we had to escape and go back to Nairobi. My sister would later have her twins and a man was kind enough to move in with her and support her though he was not the father of the children. Actually, my sister didn’t know who the father of her children was!
On the night she died I had a premonition that something awful was bound to happen. We had gone through rape, assaults and arrests and those were very ugly moments. I had got a good client who had suggested we go to Ngong for an out-of-town drink. As a client-demand, he suggested we switch off our phones and spend a quiet night.
Before I switched off mine I called my sister and told her where I was and she sounded quite happy. “My boyfriend and I will have some quick drinks and go home,” she had said. Those were the last words I ever heard from her. We spent the night at Ngong and when I switched on my phone during breakfast, it was bubbling with missed calls and messages. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I called my sister’s boyfriend who was a pickpocket usually around Nairobi’s KenCom area but his phone was off.
My client was very helpful; he drove me to the city mortuary where we were told my sister’s body had been brought by a Good Samaritan. The description suited my sister’s boyfriend but I understood his situation well; Had I been in his position, I would have done the same.
I called my parents and the funeral was arranged. I never went for her belongings and even at the funeral I watched the procession from a distance and when I went to lay my wreath, I collapsed and cried calling out my sister’s name.
The client I had on the fateful night never abandoned me and even drove me to the funeral. He went back to Nairobi and left me at home. I thought I would stay longer but everyone glanced at me suspiciously and my mother’s stare was screaming at me: “You’re next unless....” I went back to Nairobi the following day.
That incident brought me and my client very close though he is a married man who has never denied his family their rights for me. He moved me from Kangemi and got me a one bedroomed house in a more decent neighbourhood. To prevent me from going to sex work, he kept a small cyber-café for me though up to now he meets all my expenses.
Recently, he asked me if I would like to go back to the university and I answered to the affirmative. As I was coming back from enrolling at the university, his wife pounced on me and dragged me by the hair as I was entering my gate. She had a knife in her hand, and caught me by surprise.
My sister’s episode came sharply to my mind and I exclaimed, “I refuse to die like my sister!” I pushed her with all my strength and pinned her down. I have never beaten someone with that kind of wrath before; I beat her as if I was avenging my sister’s death.
When onlookers thought I would kill her, they pulled and restrained me because I had been sitting on her. She called her husband who drove like a wild man to my apartment. He dragged the two of us to my house and opened the door using his key to his wife’s disbelief. He had a spare key to my house because it is equally his.
“What explanation can you give to warrant why you are here,” he roared at his wife. I sighed in relief that the case wasn’t going against me. She wanted to shout something but the husband silenced her with, “yes, she is my girlfriend and I owe you no explanation!”
I took advantage of the situation and told them very politely that they could solve the problem in the privacy of their home. After the man showered me with apologies and promises that he’d be back soon, they left.
That’s when I started feeling the physical and psychological pain and wrote a blaming message to my mother: “If you had loved us like you did your sons, I wouldn’t be in this mess!” the message read.
Next year I will be starting a new life as a campus-girl again; I can’t wait to be back in class. I can never have children and my man-friend knows that. He has always encouraged me to study for myself and not for children. I don’t know if I am his mistress or his second wife because both titles suit me well. All I know is that he gives me the love my mother never knew how to give.