(Continued from Daughters of Jezebel III)
Linet sits on the couch with her elderly parents and nurses a cup of tea, which has since grown cold. She has cried until her tear wells have dried up. At 50, she did not expect that her life would turn out this way. She had expected to grow old with Alfred, to travel the world with him and to generally have a happily ever after, one which would probably end when they died peacefully in their sleep one night in their old age. Now those are memories from another age. She never expected that she would be forced to return to her parents’ house, but that is where she is.
Linet and Alfred met thirty years ago at the University of Nairobi. They were classmates at the school of business, and they soon fell in love. They had so much in common. They were both very bright, perhaps the brightest in their class, yet the most hardworking too. They spent hours on end in the library, studying next to each other. They were both staunch Christians and active members of the Christian Union.
Both of them grew up in poor, rural areas, which was the story of many of their classmates anyway. And they both dreamed of becoming important people in the world. After college Linet got a job at Barclays Bank, as it then was. She was a teller, but she dreamed of one day becoming the CEO of the bank; perhaps even becoming the CEO of Barclays Africa, or even the global chief of Barclays. She was young, and her dreams were alive.
One of her dreams came true soon enough. She married the love of her life, Alfred, about a year after they graduated. In sharp contrast to their poor, rural backgrounds, they were now on their way to becoming urban elites. Alfred was working at the audit giant, KPMG. Two things happened the following year: both Alfred and Linet enrolled for masters degrees, and a few months later they discovered that Linet was pregnant. Linet resigned from her job to bury herself into motherhood. But she pushed ahead and completed her Master’s degree, even though it took her longer than it took Alfred because she had to take a break and nurse her newborn before completing her thesis. By the time she graduated, Alfred was already doing his Ph.D.
Her plan was to give birth to three children, two years apart from each other, and then return to the corporate scene once the last born went to kindergarten at three years. That would take her, in her estimation, about seven years to return to the corporate world. The plan got derailed a bit when she got pregnant a fourth time, and by the time her last born went to kindergarten, ten years had flown by. By then, Alfred had quit his KPMG job and was working full time as a university lecturer. He had also completed his Ph.D and was doing a lot of consultancy jobs on the side.
Up until that time, he had been doing is consultancy work from his office at the university. When Linet declared that she was now ready to go back to work, Alfred convinced her that instead of going back to the banking world, they should set up a financial consultancy office and run it together. That is how Linalfred Financial Services was born. Alfred was of course the lead consultant, since he had superior qualifications. Linet has been the CEO and has been managing the day to day affairs of the company, but she also helps Alfred with the consultancy work.
Alfred and Linet have built the firm into a reputable brand. As the business thrived, so did their finances. They bought a home in Loresho and took their children to good schools. Alfred has been a good husband and father. They have been prominent members of Parklands Baptist Church in Westlands and life has been good.
Alfred started changing three or so years ago. It was not one dramatic change, but very rather gradual changes. He started coming home later and later in the night, and whenever Linet asked, he would claim that his responsibilities as a dean in the school of business were weighing him down. Linet had wanted to point out that each of them has a functional home office that they had been using whenever they had work that would otherwise have kept them in the office for hours, but she decided to hold her peace. If Alfred wanted to work from his office at the university, then it was not a big deal.
Linet would never have suspected him of cheating, but with the benefit of hindsight, she realises that she should have seen the signs. Other than staying out late, Alfred had increasingly become more withdrawn and irritable especially towards her. But Linet excused this as pressure from his work at the university. She was therefore caught by surprise when Alfred kicked her out of the house the day before yesterday. He told her that he had found a “better” woman to spend his life with, and that that woman was already pregnant with his child. At first she thought he was joking, and she ignored him. But yesterday morning, before she left the house for work, a lawyer came to the house and served her with divorce papers. The divorce petition, which she glanced over in disbelief, cited “irreconcilable differences”. Alfred called her shortly thereafter and told her to start packing because he wanted her out of the house. He informed her that he had hired a moving company, and that a lorry was coming to pick her and her stuff to take her to a destination of her choice.
The “lorry” arrived thirty minutes later. Except that it was not a lorry but a pickup truck. Linet had not yet packed because she still could not believe what was happening. She tried to take away some of her kitchen appliances but young men that came with the pickup stopped her. They informed her that they had instructions to the effect that she was only allowed to leave with her clothes, shoes, handbags and other personal effects. The young men actually supervised her as she packed her clothes and shoes. She felt insulted, but she decided not to fight them or Alfred.
She drove ahead of the pickup and led the young men to her parents’ house in Embu. At least they did not stop her from taking her car. She wanted to drive back to Nairobi to house hunt, because still thought she had a job at Linalfred Financial Services, but then she received a call from the firm’s accountant telling her that her cheque was ready for collection. She asked him what cheque that was, and was informed that Alfred had terminated her services as the CEO of the company and was paying her one month’s salary in lieu of notice. Linet feels like screaming. How could he? She built that company from scratch, and even though it is registered as his name, she is technically a part owner. In fact, the name of the company was coined from both their names. What kind of monster has Alfred become?
She has been crying since she arrived in the afternoon, and even though her elderly parents have been trying to console her, she is not feeling much better.
Alfred arrives in the office at nine in the morning. He had informed Tabitha that even though they were now living together, they would not be going to work in the same vehicle. Yesterday evening he took her out to a yard and bought her a white Toyota Belta, after she assured him that she had a driving license and could actually drive. She was in the office by 8 am, as is her norm. When Alfred gets to the office, he greets her as though he is seeing her for the first time in the day, even though they woke up from the same bed, took a shower together and even took breakfast together before Tabitha left the house.
Alfred has just sat down on his desk when Philip calls. He tells Philip to call back after fifteen minutes, by which time everything will have been fixed. After hanging up, Alfred walks to the cabinet where he keeps exam scripts and picks out the MBA class bundle. It is a small bundle because there were only fifteen students in the class. He goes through the papers one by one, but he cannot find Philip’s script. He calls in his secretary, who is now his come-we-stay wife.
“Tabitha, there is a young man who is not in the graduation list but who got a distinction in my unit. Could you have seen such a script?”
Tabitha calls him “sir” around the campus.
Have you ever allowed anybody into my office without my authority?”
“Nobody gets in here when you are not in, except me,” Tabitha says earnestly. “And I only get in here when you send me to check or fetch something for you. I have no business rummaging through your safe and cabinets. Are you sure that that young man sat for the examination?”
Alfred is also having doubts now. He has been a lecturer for many years, and he has never misplaced a student’s script; not even once.
“He said he has a provisional transcript.”
“Those things can be photo shopped. The only way to be sure is to check the university’s copy of the transcript. Jim, the ICT guy, always keeps a copy in the system, I think. You can also tell him to come with the list that you gave him to key in the results into the system.”
Tabitha is confident because she already told Jim to manipulate and change both documents. Ten minutes later, Jim is in the Dean’s office with both documents. The provisional result slip, which is unsigned because Jim says he had just printed it, shows that Philip has an F. The list that the dean had given him, which is printed but has the dean’s signature at the bottom, has an hyphen where Philip’s marks should be.
“As you know sir, as per the policy of the university, if the student had sat for the exam and you forgot to put his marks, perhaps because you forgot the script at home, you leave the space blank, and I also leave it blank in the system. That is a missing mark. But if the student does not sit for the exam, you put an hyphen, but on my end I give him an F.”
Just then, Philip calls, as he had been instructed.
“Philip, I understand that you did not sit for the exam,” the dean says harshly. “You actually forged a provisional transcript to fool me. Do you know that forgery is a crime?”
(This is the last free subchapter of this story. If you wish to find out what became of Philip, kindly follow the instructions below to get your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100).
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