Simon stood in the shower and soaped his entire body from head to toe, using a sponge he spread the lather all over his body and as the sweet smelling foam multiplied he heaved a sigh of relief.
The sun had set on Kyalika by the time he had returned from the search in the forest with his grand father and the police, he had quickly retrieved his hilux truck from the village square and followed his grand father to a large and expansive attractive bungalow built atop one of Kyalika’s numerous hills, the house was surrounded by more than 10 acres of a magnificent orchard with trees that flowered mangoes, avocado and jack fruit. This was Dr. Katende’s retirement home and Simon was shocked at the splendour and luxury his grand father waddled in.
The bungalow had been designed by a renowned South African architect, all the furniture was imported from Europe and opulent tiles that made up the walls and floors shimmered from every angle of the plush house.
The days events had left him feeling exhausted and filthy, he bent down to pick up the bucket of cold water between his legs and tipped it over his head, the water gushed down with such force he stopped breathing and felt a fleeting sense of helplessness not unlike being swept by a flood, he refilled the bucket from a tap in the wall and repeated the action twice until he was gasping for breath.
Simon reached for a towel, wrapped it his round his waist and stepped out of the shower into his room, he walked over to his rucksack and fished out a fresh pair of jeans and a clean shirt, after quickly dressing he looked at himself in the full length mirror atop the dressing table, his clean shaven head shone under the light bulb and a stubble has formed on his chin, he wasn’t in a hurry to shave though, Simon liked the bad boy looks a beard accorded him. He took a glance at his watch which told him it was a half past eight, he threw on a black denim jacket and went to look for his grand father.
Simon found his grand father on the patio perusing through the New Vision paper. Dr. Katende was dressed in white slacks and a white T-shirt and was reclined on a beach chair, he failed to look up when Simon stepped onto the patio.
Seated next to his grand father was a young man dressed in only beach shorts and a baseball cap, Simon knew him as Russell a first cousin of his whom he only got to see on weddings and funerals, if he remembered correctly Russell was only a year older than him and spent his life bumming around the country from party to party.
“Well Russell,fancy seeing you here.” he announced his presence.
Dr. Katende looked up from his newspaper and smiled, “he’s just here to refill his wallet Simon and I don’t mind helping”
“Dearest Grandpa my only wish is for your good health and prosperity” objected Russell.
“Thank you grandson, could you pour Simon some wine.”
Between the old man and Russell on a coffee table was a bottle of red wine that was nearly empty, two used wine glasses indicated that the duo had been at it for some time, Russell picked up a third glass and filled it, while handing it over to Simon he raised his own in a toast.
“To grandpa” he said.
“To grandpa” Simon echoed. He slumped down on the only remaining beach chair and took a sip from his glass, he let the tingling liquid rest in his mouth for a lingering moment and then swallowed, he grimaced as a burning sensation filled his stomach.
“Not a wine person I gather” his grand father noted.
“Is it that obvious grandpa? He joked, “I’d choose my beer any day thank you.”
“You young people” Dr. Katende sighed, “No appreciation whatsoever for the good things in life, you’ll find a few beers cooling in the freezer by the kitchen door.”
“I’ve got a better idea Simon ol’sport” Russell joined in, “there’s this kasiki at Col. Muwenda’s place a few miles back the way, lets go check it out.”
“He’s in no shape right now Russell, Simon needs to relax” The old man started in Simon’s defence.
“Oh! Don’t be a spoil sport grandpa we’ll be back in a couple of hours, besides it’ll help Simon get all this stuff off his mind.”
“Alright kids but drive safely okay!” the old man gave in.
As Russell entered the house to look for a shirt Simon started up the hilux and revved the engine, his mouth was already beginning to water as he pictured an ice cold Club Pilsner in his hand, unable to contain his desire he skipped out of the hilux, rushed over to the freezer and retrieved a Club, unwilling to look around for an opener he popped it open using his teeth and took a huge gulp.
As the ice cold brew flowed down his throat his tense muscles relaxed and he closed his eyes as tiny shivers traversed his entire body.
“Snap out of it homie” Russell’s voice brought him back from his trance.
“All set Russell?”
“All systems go” Russell replied.
Russell jumped into the co driver’s seat while Simon placed the Club bottle in the cup holder next to the gear lever and cruised off into the darkness with the beam from his headlamps leading the way.
A mile further down the hill lay a colonial style mansion with an expansive plush lawn surrounded by a brick fence. This was the residence of Col. Muwenda the commander of the 4th mechanized brigade stationed in Masaka. Col. Muwenda’s daughter was getting married the next day at All saints in Kampala, circulating rumors revealed he had thrown his daughter a farewell party that would be spoken about for years to come.
Simon and Russell wasted no time in getting comfortable, they walked straight to the free drinks bar and Simon ordered a Tusker with Russell settling for three shots of Uganda Waragi. The entire compound was swarming with hundreds of guests who were either busy stuffing their mouths with free food or making sure the free booze wasn’t wasted, everyone seemed to be swaying to the music that was blaring from the more than ten Disco speakers supplied by Silk mobile and one had to shout above the sound of the music to make themselves heard.
“Do you know any of those cuties?” Simon pointed to a group of three hot looking girls dressed in skimpy party dresses, they were holding wine glasses and skimming through their mobile phones as if oblivious to the festivities around them.
“Nope, but if you’d like, we could get to know them” without waiting for an answer Russell took one swig from his glass and marched over to where the girls were standing.
A baffled Simon stared at his departing cousin, shrugged his shoulders and followed suit.
“Hi I’m Russell you guys sure look out of place in this village, not from around here I reckon”
“No” said one of the girls, she was wearing a short blue dress that left nothing to the imagination. “We’re from Mbarara actually, MUST”
“Oh! So you’re friends of Claire’s I guess, I gather she has a degree from there” Russell observed.
“Claire?” a confused Simon inquired.
“The bride to be” the rest of the group said in unison.
“Oh! I see, I’m Simon” he shook hands with the girls, he took particular interest in one that was wearing a black dress that fell to the knees and opened up at the front to expose a cleavage that almost sent Simon into a paroxysm.
“So are you a med student?” he asked her.
“I wish” she answered “I’m doing a paramedics course”
“Oh! I see so I guess you can help me, my heart just stopped when I saw you, you are absolutely stunning.”
“You are so dead,” she laughed “but I’ll buy you a coffin.”
Simon closed his eyes playfully and groaned. “Let me fetch you a drink before I die.”
He took her glass and made his way back to the counter.
He was halfway to the bar when he saw her, his entire body froze and his mouth opened in shock, the glass slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground.
It was her the girl from the forest, she was wearing the same skirt and blouse he had seen her in, only this time she was clean and wearing white trainers. He eyes sparkled in the disco lights, they were the same pretty eyes that had stared back at him in terror just a few hours back in the forest.
She smiled and waved at him playfully.