(Continued from Deadly Machismo I)
When Wambui receives a call from her husband, her heart skips a beat. If her husband is asking for a stethoscope, it means that someone is in a whole lot of trouble. Has Mutegi finally killed his wife? That would surprise no one. He has in recent days looked like a man on a mission-a mission to kill.
Before she got married, Wambui had no idea what kind of family she was getting married to. She met Murithi at Moi University; the first time she noticed him, however, was not in class as some people imagine. She met him in the Christian Union. It is a miracle that she noticed him because he is so easy to miss. Murithi is a quiet man. He prefers to stay in the shadows and avoids being in the spotlight as much as possible.
But as fate would have it, they sat next to each other during the Christian Union’s first year orientation service. Because the freshers were all still very green on campus, nobody had any friends yet, apart from those who had come from the same school. But Wambui is the only one who made it to medical school from Kangaru Girls High School in Embu during her year.
Naturally, Wambui is a sanguine. She has no problem talking to strangers. So when she found herself sitting next to the quiet stranger, she quickly introduced herself.
“Hi, I am Wambui, what is your name?”
“It is a pleasure to meet you Mureithi.”
“It’s ‘Murithi’ not ‘Mureithi’. I am a Mumeru, not Mugikuyu.”
Wambui had laughed, and the quiet stranger had actually smiled.
“Okay, Murithi from Meru. Which school?”
That was one of the standard questions that first years asked each other then. Students from top schools carried their backgrounds like a badges of honor. Students from schools with unpronounceable names either wilted in embarrassment, or proudly pointed out that they had made it to medical school or school of engineering or school of law or whatever other rated course from schools with no laboratories or libraries.
There are two types of schools: top schools and the rest. If you say you are from Alliance High, or Precious Blood Riruta, then that settles it. If you say you went to Kanunga High School, though, anyone who schooled outside Kiambaa Division will stare blankly at you. Murithi was therefore surprised when Wambui’s face lit up when he said ‘Kangaru School’. He had expected her to ask the next standard question: ‘where is that?’ Instead, she smiled at him knowingly.
“You know where that is?” he asked her.
“Of course I know where Kangaru School is. I even know your full name now. Zebedee Josiah Murithi, am I right?”
“Yes, that is right. But how did you know that?”
“I schooled across the fence at Kangaru Girls High School.”
Murithi smiled at her.
“Then I think I know your full name too: Ng’ang’a Miriam Wambui.”
For quite a number of years, academic performance in Embu had been dominated by Moi High School Mbiruri, Kyeni Girls High School and St. Thomas Moore Nguviu Boys High School. But during Murithi and Wambui’s year, the two Kangaru sleeping giants had upset that order by not only producing the joint best students in the county, but also emerging as the top two schools in the county, with Kangaru School edging out Kangaru Girls very slightly to emerge as the best school in Embu.
The two top students in the county knew each other by name and reputation, but had not actually met. Equity Bank had not rolled out its sponsorship program, otherwise they would have met at Equity Bank, Embu Branch, long before they travelled to Eldoret to study.
But as fate dictated, they met for the first time on a Friday evening in Eldoret. They talked as they waited for the service to begin, and later as they devoured the tea and cakes that the Christian Union had provided for its freshers. The chemistry was instant. Wambui is an extrovert, and in Murithi she found a keen listener. Murithi, an introvert, found that he enjoyed being around Wambui’s positive energy. Her stories were captivating enough.
They dated throughout campus. Wambui met M’Nairobi, his wife Gatune, Murithi’s brother Mutegi and sister Kathomi during the graduation ceremony, as they completed their studies. Murithi introduced her as his girlfriend, and she also introduced him to her parents and siblings. Shortly after, Murithi organized his people and they travelled to Wambui’s rural home in Karatina for bride price negotiations.
Unlike some parents, Wambui’s parents do not view their daughters as an investment. They only demanded a token amount of dowry just to keep tradition alive; because of that, the three traditional ceremonies were completed in three months. Two months later, and five months after they graduated, Wambui and Murithi tied the knot in a simple church ceremony. By then, they were interns at Tenwek Hospital.
Although she did not realize it then, Wambui’s problems with her in-laws started when she gave birth to her first child. Murithi’s younger sister Kathomi came over to assist, but then she started disrespecting Wambui claiming that she (Wambui) wasn’t taking “proper care” of her brother. She never did it when her brother was around though. Wambui took it in her stride, but when it became too difficult, she complained to her husband about his sister’s attitude. Murithi promptly sent his sister packing and they hired a house assistant.
Wambui forgot about all that until they left Tenwek and came to Chuka to establish their clinic. For the first time, she noticed the cold reception she was getting from her in-laws. She suspects that Kathomi poisoned their minds against her. Her in-laws don’t call her by her name; to them, she is muka uu Mugikuu-that Kikuyu woman. She is accused of emasculating their son. She and her husband treat each other like equal partners, at home and at the clinic. At the clinic, which has grown into a level three hospital, Murithi is the CEO while she is the COO, but in actual sense they make all the decisions jointly. They are equal shareholders.
The M’Nairobi family does not like that. They would prefer to have their son as the ultimate boss of both his family and his family business. It particularly irritates them when they ask Murithi for something and he says he will consult his wife before making a decision. It does not help matters that Wambui is the more outspoken one of the two of them.
Wambui has an awkward relationship with her husband’s sister-in-law Kawira. Awkward because while they have no problem with each other, Kawira avoids getting too close to Wambui out of fear of backlash from the M’Nairobi family. Dealing with her father-in-law and brother-in-law has always been easy for Wambui: she simply ignores them. Murithi doesn’t like them to begin with, so it has never been a problem. Kathomi got married, lives and works in Maua town, over a hundred kilometers away, so she is not a factor either.
The most difficult relationship Wambui has had to manage is her relationship with her mother-in-law Gatune. Like other members of her family, Gatune does not hide the fact that she does not like her daughter-in-law. What compounds the problem, though, is that Murithi is her favorite son, and Murithi reciprocates the affection. Murithi and his mother are very close.
Over the years, Wambui has learnt to get used to her mother-in-law’s attitude. She no longer gets annoyed when she is ignored, or when she is accused falsely; she simply brushes it aside. One of her coping mechanisms is that she does not entertain gossip, so she doesn’t hear what her in-laws say behind her back. She only gets to hear what is said to her face.
When she gets to Mutegi’s house, she finds her husband working on his sister-in-law. She immediately bends over her mother-in-law and places the stethoscope on the old woman’s chest and listens. The old woman’s heart is not beating. She looks over at her husband. But he is busy trying to arrest his sister-in-law’s bleeding. It seems that at some point Mutegi stabbed his wife with a knife. Wambui touches her mother-in-law’s wrist and then neck just to make sure, even though she knows it is unnecessary. There is no doubt that Gatune is dead.
Zebedee arrives at about the same time as the paramedics. He insists on riding on the ambulance with his wife. Murithi rides with Kawira, and she (Wambui) rides with Gatune…and Zebedee. Gatune is already dead, so there is nothing she can do. But she does not want to break the news to Zebedee, and certainly not on an ambulance. All the way to the hospital, Zebedee throws insults at her accusing on not doing enough to help his wife.
The two ambulances get to the hospital at the same time. Zebedee jumps and heads to the other ambulance and grabs her son.
“Why would you leave your mother with that witch?”
“My wife is not a wit…”
“But she is! She was chatting on her phone all the way here. If my wife, your mother, dies, it is on you.”
Murithi heads over to his wife, who is holding her phone in her hand.
“Father says you were chatting on the ambulance.”
“I wouldn’t do that babe…”
“Why then are you holding your phone?”
“It has been in my hand since I left the house. I hadn’t even noticed that I am holding it until you pointed it out.”
“I know you don’t like my mother, but if she dies, I will never forgive you.”
“That is unfair sweetheart. Your mother was already dead by the time I got there.”
“What? Liar! I checked her myself and she was fine. You killed my mother! Father is right, you are witch!” Murithi bellows before storming off.
Image by Bruno/Germany from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/stethoscope-doctor-medical-1584223/
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