(Continued from But Deliver Us from Evil III)
Margaret has mixed feelings about this meeting with Julius. On one hand, she really likes Julius and has even allowed herself to imagine herself in a romantic relationship with him. Julius is a pleasant man, forthright, dedicated, and good-looking. He is everything she would want in a man. She even likes how he stepped up after the death of his wife to take care of his two daughters. The girls were in their teens when their mother died.
Margaret has never been married, but she has a teenage son from a previous relationship. Her romantic life has not been spectacular. She did not mess around in her teenage years because she was focused on her studies. She got into her first relationship when she was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She loved the guy, another Kenyan called George who was studying at Harvard. Harvard University is also in the Massachusetts city of Cambridge, just like MIT. Margaret was sure they would get married.
But the relationship crumbled after they graduated and relocated to separate cities. Margaret went to Minneapolis to work at the Cargill headquarters, while George went to Wall Street in New York to work for an investment bank. The long-distance relationship seemed to work at first, according to her. Now and then she would fly to New York to spend the weekend with him. He never visited her in Minneapolis though.
One day, she went to his apartment in New York and she found a woman there. The woman, a Latino, was surprised when Margaret eased into the apartment, just as Margaret was surprised to find her there. Margaret had not told George that she would be coming because she wanted to surprise him for his birthday. It wasn’t a problem because she had a key to his apartment. His Latino girlfriend had the same thought of surprising him, and that is how the two women found themselves staring at each other inside the apartment. George was away at work. The two women were civil to each other from the start and quickly overcame the initial awkwardness. The Latino lady, Rachael, had initially thought Margaret was an intruder and nearly called the police. But they soon discovered that they were dating the same man, lived in different cities from him and each had a key to the apartment.
The two women swapped stories and figured out that George had been playing them. Rachel was a lawyer working for a lobbying firm based in Washington DC, and had met George at an investment conference in DC. George was there to represent his company, and Rachel was there because lobbyists have to be anywhere where influential people congregate. Rachel hit it off and started dating. George frequently flew to Washington DC to be with her and she often reciprocated. They had been dating for two years and had gotten the key to the apartment five months before. He made her believe she was the best thing that happened to him. She was certain marriage was in the cards, until Margaret appeared in his apartment.
Rachel had already started cooking, so Margaret helped her finish up, and then they agreed to sit in the bedroom and surprise him when he came home. The surprise was on them. George came home with a third woman, this time a white woman. By the time George and his white lover entered the bedroom, they were all over each other kissing and groping. They were just about to take off their clothes when Rachael coughed, surprising them. George was stunned. All his three girlfriends had met in his bedroom.
Margaret and Rachael sarcastically congratulated him for his new conquest and told him it was over. After overcoming her initial surprise, the third woman, who happened to be an investment banker like him also dumped him on the spot. Her name was Diane and she was his colleague at work. She told them that she had been dating George for over a year. The three women went to the kitchen, ate the meal that Rachel had prepared, and ate it all. Diane went back to her apartment while Rachel and Margaret booked themselves in a hotel. The following morning, they left for their respective cities. Margaret cut off all contact with George after that incident.
The breakup hit her hard. George was her first love, and there had been no indication that anything was amiss in their relationship. They had been talking daily, and everything sounded normal. If she had not decided to surprise him, the relationship would probably have continued for a while, even though it inevitably would have ended in tears. It still surprises Margaret that he was able to stay in multiple relationships at the same time for over a year without getting discovered. Two of the women were indeed in different cities, but it takes a lot of emotional investment to keep three women happy. Besides, Rachel had been visiting George in New York, where Diane was based.
Margaret took a break from dating after that incident and threw herself at her job. It was also after the heartbreak that she applied for the MBA. She left herself no time for self-pity or a rebound relationship. She drove herself hard for a couple of years and not only earned her MBA but also earned a couple of promotions at work.
Eventually, though, she was won over by the quiet charm of one of her colleagues, an African American by the name Dwayne. She did not intend to fall in love, but they were working in the same department, and they constantly found themselves working together. Slowly, a casual acquaintance developed into a friendship, and friendship evolved into romance. It did not take long before they became lovers.
It is out of that relationship that Margaret became pregnant at the age of 28. Unfortunately, Dwayne dumped her when she announced her pregnancy. It was a difficult year for Margaret, and she thought many times about asking for a transfer to Nairobi, but she persevered primarily because she wanted her child to be born in the United States so that he could get American citizenship.
Just before the child was born, she begged Dwayne to accept paternity and promised that she and her child would leave the country soon after she secured US citizenship for him. Dwayne reluctantly agreed, although by then he was seeing another woman. It hurt Margaret deeply to have to beg her baby daddy to accept his son, but she had been advised that if she intended to leave the US, it would be a good idea to get a US passport for her child even though he would have acquired US citizenship by birth after getting his birth certificate. Getting a passport for a minor, however, would be faster if both parents were involved.
Everything went smoothly after the boy was born. She got the birth certificate and passport without a hitch, and Dwayne cooperated as she had requested. Cargill granted her request for a transfer and she left for Nairobi. Once she got into the country, she focused her energies on her work and on raising her son. She left no part in her heart or mind for dating. She was still hurting from the two relationships that had left her heartbroken.
She still is.
It is thirteen years since she left the US. She has risen to the pinnacle of her career. She has brought up a fine young man, who is now in high school. And all these years she has never dated another man. She has met some wonderful men in those fourteen years, but she has not allowed her mind to be swayed. She has guarded her heart so carefully that no man has succeeded or even come close to cracking it.
But Julius is dangerously close.
She first met him when she joined BAT from Mastermind Tobacco. His firm was already on the company’s panel of lawyers. The company was at the time embroiled in an employment tussle with former senior employees. Emotions were running high all around with employees quietly taking sides in the dispute. It was threatening to paralyze the operations of the company, and that is why Margaret was involved.
It probably would have overwhelmed her, especially because she was new, but in Julius, she found a steady captain of that particular boat. He is a calm and composed lawyer; he is extremely competent and he doesn’t play to the gallery. He hardly ever speaks to the media about his cases or at all. He is the direct opposite of his law firm partner, Ronald. Ronald thrives in publicity. In the BAT case, Julius told the senior management of the company, which included Margaret, that publicity would only hurt the company’s brand. He told them that if they wanted a long and protracted court battle, he could put up a spirited fight. But even if the company won in court, there was the probability that the brand would be hurt in the long run. The ex-employees’ lawyers were already posturing in the media.
The alternative, he told them, would be to engage in a settlement plan. This would save on time and legal costs and would save the company from negative publicity. The management gave him the green light to proceed. He turned out to be a skilled negotiator, and the company ended up paying a quarter of what the ex-employees had been demanding and even got their lawyers to make a statement in the media apologizing for their “hasty and misguided statements” about the company. Everyone was impressed, particularly Margaret. It was from that time that they became friends.
She has suspected for a while now that he has romantic feelings for her, but she has never been sure. Sometimes she even thinks that it is her own feelings towards him that make her think he is interested in her romantically. But tonight he has flirted with her, which is something he has never done before. Still, she is worried. What if he was flirting just to get her to agree not to resign? She will be deeply disappointed because she doesn’t associate him with such tricks. And she will also be deeply hurt. After being disappointed by men twice, and after guarding her heart for over a decade, she has allowed him to creep in, and she will be heartbroken if he turns out to be different from who she thinks he is.
She arrives before him, gets a table, and texts him to tell him where she is seated. Her heart is beating fast with anxiety. She is telling herself that it would be good if he turns out to be a jerk at this stage because it will save her from future heartbreak. But deep down she is hoping he is who she thinks he is. She has already invested a lot of emotions in him, and whether he turns out to be a jerk now or in the future she is going to be heartbroken.
Julius arrives ten minutes after her. He is not late, she is the one who arrived early. He still has his signature smile, but she can sense that he is under strain. She is tempted to tell him to get straight to the point so that they can get it out of the way, but she decides to let him take the lead. There is no need to rush him.
He suggests that they eat first, and she agrees. They order food and eat while making small talk. But Margaret is too nervous to enjoy the food. After the meal, they order coffee.
“Okay, let’s kick the elephant out of the room. What did the Chairman tell you to tell me? He already threatened me with death so I am curious to know what else is under his hat.”
“He did what?”
“Yeah, when I gave him my resignation, he told me there is no way out for me because I know too much. The only way I can leave the company is through suicide.”
Julius opens his mouth to say something and then changes his mind. He shakes his head slowly.
“Tell me the truth, Maggie. Are you guys involved in something shady? Ronald looked distracted when we were speaking today, and I had a feeling that he was keeping something from me.”
“To be honest, I haven’t seen anything shady or illegal in the two weeks I have been there. That is why I found it weird that when he told me I couldn’t leave unless I committed suicide. At first, I thought he was joking but my sixth sense says he wasn’t. So, what do you have for me?”
“Why did you want to resign in the first place?”
“There is intense in fighting in that board over the decision to invest in Somalia, and I am caught in between. I have even gotten veiled death threats from the Somali board members so I am not surprised that Muthatu is making his own threats. I am honestly tired. So, what do you have for me?”
“I will be straight with you, Maggie. I love you, and I have been thinking of asking you out. I don’t know whether you would have agreed, but I would have crossed that bridge when I go there…”
“Why are you talking in the past tense?”
“Because now apparently I can’t. Ronald was there as I was flirting with you, and he warned me to stay clear of you.”
“Don’t tell me he is interested in me because that will be the joke of the year. I have heard about his promiscuous ways and I would want no part of it.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he has an eye on you as well. I mean, you are an incredibly beautiful woman. But his interests, if any, are not the reason he warned me. It is your majority shareholder who wants you.”
“Yes. Apparently, he is the one who influenced your recruitment because he is interested in you romantically. I don’t know much about him, but Ronald says he is a dangerous guy. If you resign, it turns out that he might take it as a personal rejection and harm you. That is the same fate that will befall both of us if we start dating. Our naked bodies might be found in some river somewhere.”
Margaret stares out of the window for several minutes before turning back to Julius.
“Please tell me that this is some kind of cruel joke.”
“I am sorry Maggie. But those were the words of Ronald, and I don’t think he was joking. I guess your fate is to be the miserable wife or mistress or whatever of a billionaire.”
“No, Julius,” Margaret replies with an edge in her voice. Her jaw is clenched in steel determination. “My destiny is to die young because there is no way I am giving in to the whims of some lunatic, however rich he is.”
(This is the last free chapter of this story. To find out what became of Margaret, kindly follow the instructions below to grab your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100.)
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