He’s innocent, you know that, right?

Njambi* looks out the window. She has been silent for a few minutes now. The light afternoon drizzle is hitting the window, the rain water dripping down silently

We are silent

Eerily silent

“You know, it was my mistake,” she suddenly turns and faces me after a long minute

She quickly reads the surprise in my face

“Yes. I provoked him. He has never hit me before….ok, maybe once. And that other time he found me snooping through his phone. Ok maybe a couple of times before that…”

I pour some more tea into her cup.

“But I take responsibility. I always provoked him. Period..!” Angrily now

She gulps the tea. A bit too quickly. A few drops sprinkling on her blouse

“You know what am saying is true. You know that, right?”

I avoid direct contact, waiting for her to realize what she’s saying and change her mind

“You people keep telling me we should always accept when we are wrong. Are you changing your mind now?”

By “you people” she means our team of therapists

“Why do you always defend him?”

“Its the truth…! Even you know its the truth. See, last night, he had promised to take me out for a belated birthday party. All my friends were invited….”

I sip my tea, calmly looking at her. She avoids my eyes. Hesitates

“His friends invited him to watch football with them. See? It wasn’t intentional.”

I sip some more, waiting

Njambi is less sure now. Her brow has some wrinkles now. Thinking.

“You know friends can make you make some stupid decisions…but I shouldn’t complain. His friends mean a lot to him…”

I still wait. More sips

“And this time he didn’t beat me. He just slapped me a few times. It wasn’t as bad as last time. See? He’s improving… that’s a good sign, yes?”

I look at her puffed face. The dark circles around her eyes. The excess mascara. A bulged lip

“Say something, for God’s sake…say anything…!”

I get up. Walk towards her and without saying anything, give her a hug. A warm, deep hug

The tears, when they come, are a torrent. Big, warm, angry tears run down her puffed up face, coming out as a black river

She cries on my shoulder, her hands tightly gripping my back

We stay like that for a few minutes. Saying nothing. Listening to the noise as the rain pours steadily now

When we finally break, she steps up and starts laughing. She’s looking at my cream blouse which is now stained in dirty black, her mascara is all over my blouse

I laugh too

She drains the tea, and says, without moving a beat

“Prepare a room for me. I’m going to pack my stuff. I will be back..”

I smile weakly

“There’s always a space for you here. Anytime.”

She quickly walks out

“I will buy you a new blouse, you know….!”

She shouts as she walks out the door

I smile