(I first wrote this story in September 2019 and titled it ‘Poisoned Chalice’. I have decided to turn it to a novella, and to do that, I have changed the story line slightly so as to open it up for expansion. Events in this story may differ from what you read two years ago).
Martin is thinking about her when she breezes into his office. Her perfume announces her presence even before she arrives, and as she draws closer, it casts a momentary spell on him.
“Happy birthday Mart!” Patricia coos.
Martin cannot remember the exact moment when she stopped calling him “Mr. Arithi”. But sometime last year their relationship strayed from professional to personal. She is carrying a cake and a nicely wrapped gift. It is 8 PM. He has had such a busy day that he forgot it was his birthday. He is also remembering now that his wife Peninah had promised to prepare special dinner for him. How could he forget? He checks his phone. Six missed calls.
“Look, baby. I need to run. My wife is waiting for me,” he says, standing up and straightening his jacket.
“Have I done something wrong?” she asks, pouting. Sometimes she behaves like a child, and that reminds Martin that even though she is a doctor, she is twenty three years younger than he is. She places the cake and the gift on his desk and moves around the desk until she is standing a few inches from him. He is adjusting his tie when she cups her hands on his face. His body starts becoming weak with lust, but he pulls himself together and gently removes her hands from his face.
“My wife Peninah is dying, Pat. This is probably the last year she has, which is the reason why I need to make it special for her. After that we can enjoy ourselves till eternity.”
“I mean no harm baby. Is it my fault that I fell in love with you? I am not the one who gave Peninah cancer either. All I want is to share a little time with the love of my life on his special day,” Patricia says and starts sobbing. She knows tears will disarm him for a while. She slowly wraps her hands around him and hugs him tightly while still sobbing. Before he can decide what to do, she lifts her head and kisses him softly on the lips. Then she takes his hand and places it on her chest, under her blouse.
Soon, their bodies are entangled in passionate petting. They collapse on his chair, with Patricia sitting on his lap. They are making out so passionately that they do not hear Peninah and her daughter Tess enter the room.
“I wish I could have more time with you babe,” Patricia whispers. “Why don’t we go to my apartment? We could make love the whole night.”
“No, babe, that will not be fair to Peninah. She is dying. I need to show concern until she dies. Once I have buried her then you and I can be together forever.”
“Daddy, have you no shame?” Tess shouts, unable to contain herself any longer. “Mommy is sick, yet she braved the pain to prepare a special meal for you. And when you didn’t come home, she insists that we bring that dinner here in your office because she thinks you are busy working for us. That is how much she loves you. And you repay her by fooling around with a girl my age? What is wrong with you? And you, woman, get off my father!”
Tess grabs Patricia by the hair, pulls her away from Martin’s lap and slaps her twice. Martin bolts up and slaps his daughter but before he can hit her a second time, Peninah intervenes by stepping between them.
“You can keep your lover Martin, but don’t ever lay your hand on my daughter again. She is an adult now and her anger is justified. Tess, let’s get away from this brothel.”
“Save it, Martin, I don’t want to hear it. I heard you telling your lover that you are waiting for me to die. Don’t wait any longer. You can marry her right away because I certainly don’t need your fake pity. And when I die I don’t want your crocodile tears at my funeral.”
Martin and Peninah have been married for twenty-one years. They have three children: Tess is twenty two, her brother Antony is sixteen and the last born of the family, Philemon, is seven. Tess was born before Martin and Peninah even got married; they were in the process of getting married when they discovered that Peninah was pregnant. For nineteen years, Martin and Peninah were seemingly happily married. Their friendship was solid and their intimacy was still as fulfilling as it was when they were newly-weds.
Martin, 50, is the CEO of Karanga Mission Hospital, a job he has held for four years now. Peninah, 49, is the Managing Director of Karanga Sacco, a deposit-taking microfinance institution that she birthed and nursed from a self-help group to its current status. She is currently on sick leave. Peninah is also a prominent poultry farmer. She started off with chicken but has diversified to ducks, geese, quails and guinea fowl. She and her husband have also invested in real estate, and over the years they have built many residential rental houses around Karanga location, and commercial buildings in Karanga market. Martin has a hardware store and auto spares shop in Karanga Market. Financially, they are comfortable; they can even be described as wealthy, if you judge them by the standards of their Karanga community.
Martin and Peninah fellowship at PCEA Karanga Parish; theirs is an affluent Presbyterian parish that has only one congregation. Martin was ordained as a church elder three years ago, while Peninah was the chairlady of the Woman’s Guild until eighteen months ago when she stepped down due to illness. They led a quiet, blissful life until cancer intruded into their lives. Peninah was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer two years ago. After a series of tests, doctors told her that there was no need to remove the entire breast because the cancer had been detected early. The doctors isolated the cancerous cells within the breast and removed them, and then attacked the breast with radiotherapy. Peninah was also put on several rounds of chemotherapy for eight months. After the eight month, doctors were satisfied that the cancerous cells had been eradicated.
Her life returned to normal for a while. But then, six months later, doctors felt a lump on the same breast during a routine checkup. Cancer has attacked her more aggressively this time than it did the first time. The whole breast has been removed and she is under intensive treatment. She has good days such as today when she can brave the pain and move about, but on most days she can hardly raise her head from the bed. That is why Martin is convinced she is dying. Frankly, she has also started preparing for her death. It is only Tess who remains steadfastly confident that her mother will beat cancer the second time, and this time for good. The boys are mostly scared.
After the exit of Peninah and Tess, Patricia is left sobbing softly. Martin is confused. He doesn’t know whether he should follow his wife to placate her or whether he should stay and comfort Patricia. He has enjoyed many years of love, intimacy and friendship with Peninah, and she is the mother of children. But she is dying. Patricia is the future. She is the woman who will be left comforting him after Peninah goes to dance with the angels.
Patricia is a 25-year-old doctor who was hired by the Hospital Board last year. Admittedly, she is beautiful. But then again the hospital is crawling with young, pretty doctors, nurses, secretaries, clinical officers and orderlies. What is different about Patricia is that she is an unapologetic go-getter: she is very ambitious and aggressive in pursuit of her goals.
Martin does not usually chase after women. Like any other man, he does appreciate a beautiful woman when he sees one, but he is disciplined and self-controlled. Before last year, he did not allow any woman other than his wife Peninah to linger in his thoughts for more than a fleeting moment. He was very conscious about respecting his wedding vows.
But Patricia has changed that.
At first the seduction was subtle. She would always find a reason to be in his office. The medicines are running out. The children in the pediatric ward need more toys. The things she came to complain about were supposed to be handled by the Chief Doctor, who is also the Deputy CEO, Medical Affairs. By nature, Martin is not a confrontational man. He would listen calmly then he would send her to the Chief Doctor. He would quickly forget about her and go back to his work.
But with time she started dropping by his office just to chat. To his dismay, Martin realised over time that he had started longing for her presence. He started to confide in her; he even told her about his ailing wife. Perhaps he should have been shocked when she kissed him one evening, but he wasn’t; it looked like the natural progression of things.
“Let’s go home babe,” she tells him now. “You can’t stay here brooding all night.”
“I can’t go home Pat. My wife and daughter will kill me.”
“I know baby. When I say ‘our home’ I mean my apartment. It is your home too,” Patricia says while loosening his tie. She massages his shoulders gently while whispering into his ear. They have only been together for a year, but she already knows how to manipulate him.
Image by Eleatell from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/woman-african-american-avatar-5963386/
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