He stood there, with his hand outstretched. There was a ragged charm about him. I was instantly drawn to him. I stopped where he stood and greeted him.
“Hi! I need to get home and I don’t have any money,” he started.
“Well, if you don’t have any money then how are you here?” I asked him.
“You see, I go to school at the primary school within the university. My mother works here and after school, I go get bus fare which is 20Ksh from her. Today she wasn’t there, you see. I’ve waited for her but she didn’t show up. I need to get home so that I can open the door for my sisters and give them food and then we eat together. I’m only asking for 20Ksh,” he said.
I sighed. 20Ksh wasn’t a lot of money, I probably had coins in my pocket, but I was also hungry and the noon sun was burning me up and 20Ksh would get me a cold fruit drink which would then give me the energy I very much needed to walk home and get some food as my classes for the day were done. I hadn’t gotten to have breakfast that morning and the heavy backpack I carried made me slouch. I shifted from foot to foot to even the weight and looked up.
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“Ruiru,” he said.
True, that was 20Ksh away. I wiped the trickling sweat off my brow. I was starting to feel dizzy. I became aware of people watching as they walked on by. The boy had been there, you see, and no one had stopped. I supposed they were looking at me because I had. I shook my head and slipped my hand into my pockets. “20Ksh you say?”
“Yes,” he answered.
I found a 50Ksh note in my pocket. I thought of the long walk home and how hungry and thirsty I was and how tasty the cold fruit juice was going to be; but then I thought of that little boy whose mother had probably had him at a time that wasn’t convenient for her probably because she was supposed to be studying and not carrying a pregnancy but still had him anyway, and his sisters too, and now does all she can to scrape by. “Beware, first years, most students drop out of school within their first year, mostly due to unplanned pregnancies,” we had been told at matriculation. But he could also be a con artist, a very young one. I sighed and looked at him. He was believable, but isn’t that the most crucial part of pulling off the con? I thought of his supposed hungry sisters waiting to be let into the house. I looked down at the note again, then I stretched out my hand and gave it to him. I told myself that he needed it more. “Take it,” I said.
He looked at me in disbelief. “Thank you so much!”
He looked happy. Tired, worn out, hungry, frustrated, but happy. I bid him good day and watched him disappear into the distance. I had chosen to believe him. In that moment, even the scorching sun and how tired I was couldn’t hold down the rush of joy and excitement I felt. I was lost in bliss, till I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Danny, a good friend of mine.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“Yes I am. Actually, I’m better than OK!” I said happily.
“Are you sure?” He looked very concerned.
“Yes, is something the matter?”
“Yes. You have been standing here talking to yourself for the past seven minutes!”
“What!? Don’t be silly Danny, I was talking to that ragged young boy!”
“How could you not have seen him Danny, you were right over there by the shop! You must’ve seen him! Are you playing a trick on me?”
“Sheryl, there was no boy,” he said, very slowly.
I dipped my hand into my pockets and found a 20Ksh coin. “Then where’s the 50Ksh note then?”
“You had only a 20Ksh coin today, remember?”
I noticed a crowd had gathered. They seemed to have been there for several minutes. It was then that it dawned on me.
“He was right here!” I mumbled.
“Come on,” said Danny, “I’ll take you home.”