Ma Kofi was killed last night.
She was a lovely woman. She ran the shop near our house. Ma Kofi had smiles for everyone and was always kind. Ma Kofi was my neighbour, my friend.
"It was her husband," some whispered. I did not understand. The police came over with an ambulance and there was a great to-do about it. I didn't understand what it was they meant and mama told me not to ask too many questions since I was just a child.
She sent me into the house so I went to the window to watch.
The ambulance people were carrying something with a sheet on it. The people had masks. I could hear Auntie Louisa and Auntie Jane crying from the street. There were people trying to calm them down but they screamed even louder. Auntie Jane was rolling on the floor.
It looked funny but nobody was laughing. This was strange. She was acting like a baby and everybody just looked sad. I didn't understand that either.
Then there was a wind. Grandma calls it the village wind and told me a story of it carrying the good wishes of those who have gone before. The wind lifted the sheet that was covering what the ambulance people were carrying.
I understood then, as I glanced in that direction, why nobody was laughing at the Aunties.
Mother sat in the hallway furious at me.
I dared not speak because I knew what would come next. She would tell my father and he would not just yell. He would take a cane and beat me also.
The secretary was typing away at her machine. It pinged and she dragged the top bit back and continued clacking away. It was very silent in the office. I looked outside wishing I could play but then remembered what happened when I went out to play. It made me mad all over again so I sat there in silence swinging my feet back and forth.
"Mrs. Mwema?" came the principal's voice from his door. Mama looked up and smiled then got up and forced me to my feet. I can understand that she doesn't like being called to school just like that. I don't know why the teacher had to call her. He could have just beaten me and left it alone like always.
When I walked into the room, I saw him there. Tom Wakali was sitting on a chair facing the ones we were to sit on and his Very Important Father was sitting beside him.
He was a large man with a short neat beard and very hard eyes. He glared at me as I came in then glanced at Tom and then stared forward. His arms were crossed and he was leaning back. I don't think he was very pleased to be called into the office either.
I had heard Tom bragging that his father was a Very Important Man. He had told us that he went to other countries all the time and brought a lot of toys home for Tom and his brother to play with.
I was a little jealous of Tom since all my toys were old and sometimes torn. Mama sometimes gave me something new, but it was never as nice as what Tom had. Their parents were rich and mine were not.
The principal, Mr. Vuga, asked us to sit down and then began. Tom smiled at me then winced at the pain the cut on his lip gave him. I didn't smile. I was angry at him for getting me in trouble.
"Can we please get on with it? I have a Very Important meeting to attend."
" Of course," said Mr. Vuga and he nodded pleasantly.
"Mrs. Mwema, Mr. Wakali, I have called you both here because your children were caught fighting in the yard. This is the third complaint we have had and we thought that it was time that we involved you are their parents."
I glared at Tom who smirked and then I glanced at mama who glared at me. I looked firmly at my shoes.
" Well, I think the children themselves should tell us what all this is about. Frida, would you like to begin?"
I didn't answer. Why was this happening? I didn't want to tell mama what happened. I didn't want to think about Tom and his Very Important Father. I didn't want to get in trouble and have my father beat me again when I got home. Stupid Tom was getting me in even more trouble than I wanted.
"Okay then, you start Tom. What happened?"
"I was talking with my friends. I called this one to come and tell us something then she started beating me so I beat her back. And then Teacher Martin came and stopped us."
Well, he wasn't lying, but he left a lot out. I raised my gaze and glared at him.
"Young lady, stop looking at my son like that. You were the one in the wrong here. Why were you beating up my son? Is that what you're taught at home?"
I felt mother's gaze shift. She turned to look at Tom's Very Important Father. I could tell she was annoyed since her hands were now balled into fists. But mother never raised her voice.
"I'm sorry Mr. Wakali. I'm sure there is a perfectly good explanation for this." Then she turned back to me. I looked back down at my shoes.
"Frida, tell us what happened."
I shut my eyes and began in a small voice.
"Speak up," said Mr. Vuga kindly, "we can't hear you if you're talking to your shoes."
I opened my eyes, looked straight at Tom and began my story.
"I went out for break with Mary and Kim. We were playing hopscotch. Then Tom and his friends called us little crying babies. He called me something bad and said I should come and kiss his shoes since he was the man and I was just a silly little girl. I got angry and I kicked him and then punched him. He started beating me back then we continued fighting until Teacher Martin came and separated us."
There was complete silence in the room.
"Something bad?" asked Mr. Vugo. Tom's Very Important Father was staring at me now. Mother had taken my hand. Tom wasn't smiling any more. He shook his head at me and glanced at his father. I nodded.
"What did he call you?"
I repeated the word. The silence was deafening.
"I think there has been a mistake here. My son would never say something like that."
"Are you calling my daughter a liar?" asked my mother tightening her hold on my hand.
"I'm just saying that children sometimes get things wrong. I'm sure she was just saying that to get Tom in trouble."
"And I suppose we cannot say the same of your son towards my daughter?" she asked.
"Mrs. Mwema, I know my son and..."
"And I know my daughter." I stared at my mother. She was not backing down. I didn't believe it!
"Look," said Tom's Very Important Father, "I raise my children right. If you don't raise your children the right way..."
My mother yelled for the first time.