(I wrote this piece in September last year as a short story. I have decided to spruce it up, change a few details here and there then expand it into a novella).
Rick and Kyle are flying to Italy for an exchange program between their school and an Italian school in Rome. Ten boys will be traveling. Rick and Kyle were chosen because they are not only the top students in their class, but also because they are the school’s lawn tennis stars. The school is sponsoring two parents and five teachers to accompany the boys. Kyle’s mother Christabel, or Christy as she is popularly called, has been chosen as one of the two parents. Rick’s dad, Richard, is in Spain attending a conference, and they will find him in Italy when they arrive. Rick and Kyle will be playing in a school tournament in Rome, and they are elated to have their parents there.
The two boys are inseparable. Rick’s mother Dorothy, or simply Dot, has been friends with Christy since primary school. They went to Shava Girls Boarding Primary school before crossing over to the neighboring Shava High School. They both went to KMTC Shava campus to study nursing. After graduating, both Dot and Christy were employed by the government and posted to Shava General Hospital. It is at Shava Hospital that Dorothy met Richard, an ambitious young doctor. They fell in love and after a brief dating period, got married at PCEA Messa Town Church. Christy was the maid of honor at the wedding. Richard and Dot started their marital life in a rented house in Shava town, not far from the hospital.
Richard is a native of neither Shava nor Messa. His parents are from Kitui, but he was born and brought up in Nairobi. Rick was born a year after his parent’s wedding. Two years after Rick’s birth, Dot and Richard acquired two acres of land in Messa and set up their home. They became active members of PCEA Messa Town Church. They later got two other children, the twins Alice and Sharon.
Richard’s ambition was to start a rural hospital to cater for the needs of the poor. He resigned from his job and started a clinic, Beeline Clinic, on half an acre of their land. The idea was to offer premium services to the super-rich which would enable the hospital to offer free services to the poorest of the poor. He hoped to attract financiers who could support the cause, and help him build a high-end hospital that the wealthy would be willing to go to and pay top dollar, and in the process enable the hospital to offer free services to the poor.
The agreement was that Dot would remain in employment for a while and pay their bills until the clinic started making money. The gamble paid off, and they got financial backing from a Russian tycoon called Vladmir Rostoktov. They were introduced to Rostoktov by an American friend of Richard, whom he met while attending a medical conference in New York. Rostoktov gave them six billion shillings as initial capital to establish the hospital, in exchange for 30 percent stake in the hospital.
Dot resigned from her job and joined the hospital as the COO. She added a degree in nursing to her diploma and also did an MBA. Richard, the CEO, has also added an MBA to his degree in medicine and surgery. They formed a five-member board of Directors, with Rostoktov as the chairman. Rostoktov attends most meetings on Skype and more recently, Zoom. He has physically visited the hospital thrice. Richard and Dot have built Beeline Hospital into a high-end facility sitting on 100 acres of land in rural Messa. It has modern equipment imported from Russia, including modern cancer facility and a modern kidney transplant and dialysis center. The hospital has also attracted top specialists in medicine. Over the years, the reputation of Beeline Hospital has grown to legendary heights. Tycoons from all over East Africa now troop to Beeline instead of flying to Europe and the USA.
The hospital has remained true to its objectives. It is divided into two wings separated by a brick fence. Each of the two wings is a complete hospital on its own right, but they have identical equipment. The doctors are the same, and often cross over from one to the other, but each wing has its own nurses and other staff.
One of the two wings has luxury facilities though. There are furnished apartments which families of the patients can use; there is a mall, swimming pool, and a children’s fun park. There are no general wards on this wing; each patient gets a private ward. This wing is dedicated to the super-rich. They prefer to have their privacy, and since they foot the bills, Richard and Dot built a separate mini-hospital for them. The other wing is for the poor who do not pay a cent but who are thoroughly vetted to ensure they deserve admission. It has all the modern medical facilities, but does not have the luxury facilities, save for a cafeteria and a garden that children can use to play while adults relax. Richard and Dot’s hospital is not for the middle class: you either can pay in millions or can’t even afford to pay for NHIF subscription.
The hospital has been a success, making Richard and Dot very wealthy. They have invested at the NSE, holding shares in top companies. They have also invested in real estate and also own a couple of hotels.
Around the time Dot was pregnant with Rick, Christy also became pregnant. It is then that her relationship with Alexander, a secondary school teacher, became public. Christy moved in with him at his ancestral home. Kyle was born two days after Rick. But Alexander is an irresponsible father and husband. He drinks too much and runs after every skirt in sight. He has fathered three children with three different women in their village, and only God knows how many other children are carrying his blood out there.
Alexander spends his entire salary on alcohol and sometimes even demands money from Christy. If she declines, he beats her. A few years ago he started selling the land that he inherited from his father. He has already sold five of the seven acres he inherited, but Christy has never seen a coin of that money. She once went to the land board and attempted to block the sale of the land, but later that night he beat her to a pulp and she decided it was not worth it. She didn’t even have to sign spousal consent affidavits for the sale of land: he forges them.
They have six children because he was opposed to family planning, but after giving birth to the sixth child, Christy started using contraceptives without his knowledge.
Christy has become bitter over the years. She is struggling to raise up her children and support an irresponsible husband. Alexander does not know anything about school fees or clothes or even the cost of an onion. So Christy is struggling with loans to meet the demands of her family. Twice, Dot has stepped in and paid Rick’s school fees because Christie could not afford it. It was humiliating for Christy even though Dot assured her there was nothing to be ashamed of.
Dot and Richard have been urging her to leave Alexander and raise the children in a more peaceful environment. They offered to hire her at Beeline, which offers way better salaries than the government, but she declined. She felt it would be humiliating for her friend to become her boss. Christy may not admit it, but she is jealous of Dot.
The trip to Rome is uneventful, even though most of them are flying for the first time. Once in Rome, they are settled in a hotel about ten minutes drive away from their host school. The boys will be sharing rooms in pairs, but the teachers and parents will each have a room. As expected, they find Richard waiting for them in Rome. He has booked accommodation in the same hotel.
Richard, Christy, Rick, and Kyle have dinner in the main restaurant of the hotel on that first night. Kyle and Rick leave shortly after dinner because they will be required to wake up early and join the students of the host school in training. This will be an intense weekend for the boys. They leave their parents having dessert.
When the children leave, Christy tries not to stare at Richard. But it is difficult. Richard is handsome, unlike her miserable husband Alexander. He talks with a rich voice and actually laughs at her jokes. He looks at her straight in the eye as she talks, which makes her feel special. In the few times that Alexander talks to her, he addresses her as though she were a piece of old furniture. What did Dot do to get this angel?
Richard is dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, revealing parts of his well-toned body. His lips look soft and fleshy. Without thinking, Christy moves over to him and kisses him on the lips. Richard is surprised but does not resist. He kisses her back then starts caressing her.
He takes her by the hand and leads her to his room, where a carnal session begins with abandon. In the throes of passion, they do not hear the soft knock on the door or the door opening after the third knock. In their hurry, they forgot to lock it.
“Dad!” a voice shouts from the door.
Richard quickly disentangles himself from Christy and turns to look. At the door is his stunned teenage son, Rick.
Rick recovers quickly and runs away. He is in shock. First, he has seen his father naked. That is traumatizing enough. Second, he has seen his father having sex with the mother of his best friend. He goes down to the lobby of the hotel and sits on a sofa at a corner. He is looking at the television, but he is not really seeing anything. His mind is racing. Should he tell his mother? Should he tell Kyle? What will his mother do if he tells her? Will she believe him? Are his parents going to divorce?
But he is more disillusioned by another issue. For the seventeen years of his life, his father has been his idol: the paragon of virtue. His father taught him integrity, honesty and many other lessons about life. How many of those were real? How long has he been cheating on his (Rick’s) mother?
Richard rises to follow his son then quickly remembers that he is naked. He grabs his pair of trousers and slides them over his body. Then he takes a shirt and wears it.
“You know chasing the boy is pointless, don’t you?” Christy asks. She has slid under the covers, leaving only her head uncovered. Richard does not respond. He continues dressing quickly, then leaves the room.
He goes up the stairs quickly into the boys’ room. Once at the door, he pauses. What exactly does he want to tell Rick? Perhaps that he is sorry and that it won’t happen again? That he shouldn’t tell his mother?
The thought that Dot will know he has cheated on her almost paralyzes him with fear. Their marriage has been solid for eighteen years. They have raised three fine children and have invested together. They were looking forward to spending their old age together. In the eighteen years he has been married, he has seen many beautiful women, and some have actually seduced him. But he has never come close to straying, largely because he has kept his boundaries with women very distinct. He has always kept other women at an arms-length.
But he failed today. He should have stopped Christy from coming closer to him. He should not have kissed her back; he should not have caressed her; and he certainly should not have taken her to his room. But he did all those things. He allowed her to breach the invincible line and not only sit on his lap, but also kiss him. Then he kissed her back. He took it up from there and led her to his room. Now he is in trouble because he has cheated on his wife, and his son has witnessed it. And he is even in bigger trouble because he wants to go back to his room and finish what they have started, and at the back of his mind he knows he will do exactly that. He will make love to Christy while they are still in Rome because it might be difficult to do so when they get back to Kenya, although his mind is already trying to work out possible scenarios where he can meet her for sex without Dot or Alexander getting suspicious.
Thinking about his wife jolts him back to the present. He knocks softly on the door of the boys’ room. There is no response. He knocks again, this time more loudly. There is movement inside, someone getting out of bed. Kyle appears at the door.
“Is Rick in there?”
“No, he said he is coming to see you,” Kyle replies.
“He came then came back here. But I forgot to tell him something. But it is okay, I will tell him tomorrow. You go back to sleep, I will see you boys tomorrow.”
Richard wonders where Rick could be. He must still be within the hotel. Surely he did not venture out in this foreign city? He walks down to the hotel lobby and sees his son sitting on a sofa, watching television. He walks up to him and sits down on a nearby sofa.
“Rick, son,” he says tentatively. Rick does not move a muscle.
Richard pauses. He has always had a good relationship with his son. They have been close. But he knows Rick is even closer to his mother.
“I have made a mistake, and I am sorry. I hope as a man, because you are a man now, you can understand how these things hap…”
“You are the one who taught me that being a man is not an excuse for bad behavior. That a real man is the one who knows how to control his emotions to protect his family.”
“Yes, son. I have failed to follow my own advice, and I deeply regret it. But we need to protect our family and your mother. Your mother and Kyle don’t have to know anything. I promise it won’t happen again. Please son, do not hurt your mother by telling her what you saw today.”
“I am not going to be your accomplice. If mum gets hurt, it’s on you, not me. I am not the one who slept with her best friend. I have always respected you dad. Now I don’t know what to think of you,” he says, then rises and quickly heads for the stairs.
Rick’s last words keep ringing in Richard’s head.
I have always respected you dad. Now I don’t know what to think of you.
Those words are searing Richard’s heart like a hot knife. He stays on the sofa for a long time, tears rolling down his cheeks. All along he thought that he was risking losing his wife. Never did he think he could lose his son.
He rises and walks back to his room. Christy is under the covers. He should send her back to her room. But first, he needs to know if Rick has told Dot. So he picks up his phone and calls his wife. She answers with her usual chirpy voice. She doesn’t know. He glances at the figure of a woman on his bed and guilt cuts up his chest and stomach.
After hanging up, he walks to the bed, determined to send Christy back to her room. He does not even lock the door, because he is sure that she is leaving in a few minutes. He uncovers her to wake her up. She is still in her birthday suit, and she is not asleep. She looks at him with dreamy eyes and smiles. Before he can say anything, she pulls him down to herself and kisses him. He instantly knows that she is going nowhere.
Rick desperately wants to believe his father. He really doesn’t want to hurt his mother by telling her that her husband is cheating, but he also doesn’t want his father to make a fool of her. He convinces himself that if his father was speaking the truth, if what he witnessed was a mistake, then there would be no need to tell his mother.
He sits on a dark staircase watching his father’s door. He doesn’t care what hotel staff will say if they find him there. He stays there until his father enters, alone. He watches the door for a while longer. Maybe his father was speaking truth. Maybe Kyle’s mother already left.
He decides to go down and confirm before going up to his room. But he doesn’t even get to the door before he starts hearing a woman mourning in his father’s room. Kyle’s mother is not only still there, but she and his father are still at it. Heartbroken, Rick runs up the stairs to his room.
“Your father was looking for you,” Kyle tells him.
Rick grabs his friend’s and leads him down the stairs. They walk to Rick’s father’s room and open the door.
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See you all on Friday.