Today George goes home early for the first time since Rose left. Rose is gone, forever. George has even heard rumors that she is pregnant. A tiny part of his mind wonders if that child is his. But if it is, surely she would have said something over the phone. So it is safe to assume the child belongs to the other man.
He wonders how quickly she has moved on and even got pregnant. Didn’t the five years of marriage mean anything to her? But then he reminds himself that another woman is carrying his baby within the same time frame. He should be the last person to judge. True, he doesn’t remember how exactly he impregnated Karambu, but that is neither here nor there. She is carrying his baby, and that must have led Rose into the arms of another man. Jacinta didn’t help by sending those nude photos to her, or the pregnancy result.
It is weird how for five years he could not get a child with Rose, yet within months of their separation she is pregnant for another man and another woman is pregnant for him. This world is weird. A tiny thought says God is weird, but that sounds blasphemous so he banishes it from his mind.
All he has now is Karambu and his unborn child. He has treated her harshly for the few months she has been in his house. But she has never complained. Maybe, just maybe, she is not so bad after all. True, she was complicit in destroying his marriage. But maybe she was just manipulated by his mother. He of all people knows how Jacinta uses people to achieve her selfish interests. Karambu has actually been good to him. She cooks his meals even though he never touches them. He knows that hurts her, but he didn’t care. Until now. She wipes and polishes his shoes every evening. He is sure she would iron his clothes as well, only that she has no access to his bedroom. He has never given her money so she uses her own money to buy sugar, rice and other necessities in the house.
Besides, she is beautiful. Ever since he married Rose he has never allowed another woman to dominate his thoughts. He is a self-disciplined man. He sees a beautiful woman and her body lingers in his mind for just a few seconds before he forgets about her. He never flirts. He had a solid marriage with Rose, and had determined earlier on that lust would not break it. In any case, he reasoned, a female body is a female body, and Rose is an incredibly beautiful woman. There is nothing another woman would give him that he couldn’t get from her, other than the package of stress, anxiety, heartache and a broken marriage that eventually follows the thrill of an extramarital affair. The major difference between one woman and another, he reminded himself often in his days as a married man, is not the body, even though they come in different shapes and sizes. It is personality. And he was fortunate that his wife Rose had both a fine body and personality.
The irony of life is that for all his self-discipline and marital fidelity, it is another woman who eventually brought down his marriage. As if that is not enough, it is a woman he did not even know existed before she intruded into his life. And now this strange woman has been living in his house instead of his wife and is even carrying his baby even though he cannot remember having sex with her.
But now, in another twist of irony, he is beginning to think that maybe this intruder is not so bad after all. Maybe he is not thinking straight and is just reacting to the impending divorce. But rebound or not, what does he have to lose? The woman is already living in his house. She is carrying his baby. And Rose is marrying another man.
When he gets home, George sits on the sofa for the first time since Rose left. He has to fight the urge to go straight to his bedroom, as has become his custom. His mother is on the couch, sewing something. Wasn’t she supposed to leave when Karambu became pregnant? Karambu is in the kitchen. George feels uncomfortable, but why? This is his house. He can do whatever he pleases. Except that the last time he sat on this sofa, Rose was curled up on the couch, watching a soap opera. That is when it truly felt like his house.
When Jacinta greets him, he grunts something incoherent in reply. She tries to make small talk but he ignores her until she finally gives up and goes back to her sewing. He takes the remote control and switches on the TV. But at six pm most of the stations are airing soap operas, or talk shows that he cares little about. So he rises and goes to take a shower. When he comes back, Karambu has placed a flask of tea and a cup next to his seat and gone back to the kitchen. It is perfectly brewed tea. The first thing cooked by Karambu that he is tasting.
He takes the book he bought today, Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson, and reads as he takes the tea. He may have limited formal education, but he is an avid reader. Rose made sure of that. She taught him how to read and bought him numerous books, from novels to self-help books to memoirs and biographies until he was hooked. In the early days of their dating and marriage, she spoke to him only in English and demanded that he replies in English. Because of that, five years later, his written and spoken English is polished. He has even spoken in a few business conferences that Rose pulled strings to get him invited to.
“You may not be formally educated, but you have built a successful business from scratch. That is a lot of learning. You only need to polish your English so that you can be able to communicate fluently,” she used to tell him when she was giving him language lessons.
Oh Rose. Sweet, loving, Rose.
He wonders momentarily whether he will ever get over her. Then he suddenly remembers that she is marrying another man and his mood darkens. Just then, Karambu steps into the living room and serves him a bowl of sliced mangoes and bananas. As she places the bowl on his stool, he studies her keenly, as if he is seeing her for the first time. She is actually a beautiful woman.
“Karibu,” she says, flashing him a smile. He smiles back at her and as she goes back to the kitchen, he thinks there is a new spring in her step. A while later, she comes back to the living room with ugali, vegetables and beef stew. She serves everyone then leads a short thanksgiving prayer for the food before settling on one of the empty seats. He eats in silence, while Jacinta and Karambu engage in small talk.
After the meal, Jacinta and Karambu retire to their rooms. George stays behind to watch the 9 pm news bulletin after which he rises and heads towards his bedroom. As he passes Karambu’s door, though, he pauses then knocks. There is no answer, so he knocks again. This time a sleepy voice says “come in”.
He opens the door and switches on the light. Karambu struggling to get up.
“I am sorry…I…”
“It is okay, come in,” she says. “You can sit on the bed,”
George hesitates then goes ahead and sits on the bed.
“Look Karambu, I don’t know you very well. But I have been unkind to you, justifiably so because you came and disrupted my marriage.”
George hesitates before continuing.
“But you are carrying my baby and I want to be a good father. And I know I can’t be a good father if I continue treating you the way I have been. I will not lie to you that I will love you because I still love Rose. But she has moved on and I thought if we get to know each other maybe, you never know…”
It is then that he notices tears rolling down Karambu’s cheeks. Instinctively, he moves closer to her and wraps one hand around her, drawing her closer to himself. He uses the other hand to stroke her hair, then her cheeks. She turns to look at his face and before he can stop himself, he kisses her on the mouth.
He stops himself before he gets carried away.
“I heard that you are a born again Christian. I am too, so we should get this right. You will remain in this room, and we will not be having sex. But we will get to know each other. You could say we are dating. If we fall in love, then fine. We will get married after my divorce to Rose is complete. If we don’t, then we will figure out how to co-parent this child. Is that okay?”
“But I need to know one thing. Did you put something in my water the night you woke up in my bed?”
“Of course not,” Karambu says, appearing shocked. “I know you don’t think much of me, but I am not that type of a woman. That day I thought you had gone to bed when I decided to take a shower. As I was leaving the shower, you came out of your bedroom and I thought you were acting strange. I only had a towel around me, so I decided to mind my own business and go to my room to sleep. But before I could get to my room, you grabbed me and dragged me to your room. You had sex with me then you blacked out. I never imagined I would lose my virginity that way and it really hurt. I always dreamed of saving my purity for a man who would love me unconditionally…”
Karambu starts crying again, and George holds her tightly.
“I am sorry. I am not that kind of a man either. I honestly can’t remember anything from that night. I don’t know what happened to me. But we will try and make this work, okay?”
She nods. He kisses her again then wishes her goodnight. He switches off her light and heads to his bedroom.
Karambu smiles when she is left alone in the darkness. Everything is finally falling in place. He may not know it, but he is now hers. He will want to kiss her again, and again. As she drifts off to sleep, her mind is already thinking of ways of kicking out Jacinta without antagonizing George. That woman kicked out George’s legitimate wife of five years, and Karambu knows she might suffer the same fate if she doesn’t cut Jacinta to size. Besides, Jacinta helped her to spike George’s water. She might recklessly say something. She needs to be sent packing.
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