(Continued from Domestic War II)
“Dad, this man has been cheating on me, he has physically assaulted me and you are asking me to go back to him? Am I not your daughter anymore?” Helena asks in shock. She had expected that her parents would give her a cool reception, but she would not have imagined that she would be sent away.
“And why won’t you be beaten if you keep humiliating him like that? He is human and he has feelings. If he beat you, it is because you did something to warrant it. And really, what 47 year old moves back to her parents’ house?”
“Mom, are you going to stand there and watch dad do this to me?”
“There is no point of dragging your mother into this. I am the head of this home; that has never changed. And when you get back to your home remember that your husband is the head of your home. Now get out.”
As Helena heads back to the taxi, tears are flowing down her cheeks. She has no idea where she is going next. She is officially homeless.
“I am so sorry pastor,” the taxi driver says he pulls the car out of the gate. Helena is surprised. She doesn’t recognize the young man; how did he know that she is a pastor?
“You know me?”
“Of course I know you Pastor Helena. I was once a member of your church, although you wouldn’t know me because I was a “Sunday Christian” and I did not stay for very long as a member. I used to come, enjoy the service and sneak out without talking to anyone.”
“You don’t come to church anymore?”
“No I don’t. I don’t even know whether I am a Christian anymore.”
“Why is that?”
The young man stares at the road ahead. Helena notices that he is holding the steering wheel tightly as if he is using it for support.
“I was brought up in a Christian home. My parents were not super-rich, but they were a hardworking and God-fearing lot. They were devout Presbyterians. They tried their best to ensure that my siblings and I got the best that life could offer. We went to relatively good schools and all the three of us made it to university as government sponsored students. I was at Kenyatta University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Education. Quite naturally, I joined the Christian Union. That is where I met a beautiful and God-fearing lady.”
“You fell in love.”
“That is correct. We started dating when we were in third year.”
“You were classmates?”
“No. We were year mates, but pursuing different courses. She was studying economics.”
“I see. Then what happened?”
“After we completed our studies I introduced her to my parents; I wouldn’t have dared to introduce her before because they would have killed me,” he says breaking into laughter for the first time. They are now in Juja headed towards Ruiru. “Both my parents are retired teachers, and both of them retired as school principals. You don’t joke with education when you are around them. And you certainly don’t get a girlfriend or in the case of my sisters, a boyfriend, before you complete your studies.”
Helena smiles in spite of her circumstances.
“Typical African parents; and then when you graduate they want you to get married immediately. Anyway, go on. So you introduced your girlfriend to your parents.”
“Yes. In a way that I have never understood, she and my mum hit it off immediately, and she was even offered a place to stay in our house while she looked for a job. Up until that time she had been crashing at her friends’ houses around Juja.”
“Where do your parents live?”
“In Juja. We have a farm about three kilometers from the main road; ancestral land.”
“So you lived with your girlfriend in your mother’s house.”
“Well, not exactly. I had my own separate house that my father built when I got circumcised. My girlfriend stayed in one of my sister’s bedroom in the main house.”
“You didn’t have a bedroom in the main house before you got circumcised?”
“I did. I used one bedroom and the girls shared the other. When I left the main house my younger sister moved into my bedroom.”
“The same one your girlfriend later reclaimed.”
The driver laughs.
“No, Rita took my older sister’s bedroom.”
“Your girlfriend was called Rita? And where were your sisters at the time?”
“Yes, her name was Rita. The one whose room Rita occupied was already married. She lived, and still lives in Berlin with her husband. He works for the Kenyan Embassy there as a commercial attache. My sister she got a job as a teacher of English at a small college there, but now she is a professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin.”
“Oh I see. So Rita stayed in the main house with your parents and your other sister?” Helena is now fully consumed by the man’s tale.
“Actually no; it was just my parents. My other sister was studying at Masinde Muliro University in Kakamega.”
“Then what happened?”
“Rita was a devout Christian, and she was a good person through and through. My parents were convinced that I had chosen well. For the first couple of months we all went to the Presbyterian Church. Then you and your husband advertised positions for pastoral interns.”
“Oh, it is that Rita!” Helena says in surprise.
“Yes, it is that Rita. She had told me since we were in campus that she felt that her calling wasn’t in the corporate world but on the pulpit, so I encouraged her to apply. She must have already told my parents about her calling beforehand because they also supported her decision to apply. If they were disappointed that she was leaving the Presbyterian Church, they didn’t show. In fact, they allowed me to join your church to as they said: “support your wife”. I joined your church, but became a backbencher because of course I was new and all.
To my parents, my marriage to Rita was done and dusted even though we were abstaining from sex like good Christians. My parents kept asking me when we would go to Bomet to pay her dowry. They were ready to sponsor both the dowry and the church wedding.”
“Why hadn’t you married her then?”
“Rita and I had agreed that we wouldn’t start a family until we both got stable jobs. We couldn’t tell my parents that of course, because they would not understand. They themselves got married while in college. Anyway, about two weeks after Rita got her internship, I got a BOM teaching job. So we now seriously started thinking about getting married. We even set a date for me and my parents to go to Bomet for introductions. After that we would do the ruracio-they call it koito-proper, and thereafter the church wedding.”
“But that did not happen.”
They are now in Ruiru town. The young man, whose name Helena doesn’t know yet, parks outside a restaurant and leads her inside the restaurant. Helena follows without asking questions. It is not like she has anywhere to go, and the young man’s tale is intriguing. Immediately they sit down, a young lady comes to their table and they order tea. The young man orders two samosas while Helena orders one chapati.
“No, it didn’t.” he says and sips his tea. Helena is surprised that he can remember the precise point where they had left off their conversation. He had seemed hesitant to talk while the waitress was hovering about, and she let him be. “After getting her first salary, Rita moved out of my parent’s house and rented her own space. She told them that she did not want to take advantage of their hospitality, and any way, it wouldn’t be proper for us to go through the dowry negotiations while she was living in their house. That made sense, and both my parents and I agreed.”
He bites a samosa and chews slowly. Helen decides not to pressure him. She bites her chapati and takes a sip of tea.
“After she moved out we established a routine. Every evening we would meet at this very restaurant and chat until maybe 7pm and then each of us would go to our respective houses. I was still staying at the house my father had built for me at home. One day, not long afterwards, I came to Ruiru late. I had spent the day in a sporting contest with students and when I got to Ruiru it was already about 8pm. I had tried calling her from around 7 pm to tell her that we should meet the following day but she wasn’t picking my calls.”
“You hadn’t told her that you would be late?”
“I had told her the previous day that I would be taking students to Kiambu High and therefore I would probably be late for our date, depending on what time the sporting activities ended. But I had promised her that I would show up. She tried to call me at about 6.30 PM but in the noisy bus full of students I didn’t hear the phone ring. When I saw the missed calls I tried to call her but she did not pick. When I got here and she was still not picking up, I decided to go to her house and check if she was alright. When I got there, I saw that the lights were on so I knew she was in. But when I knocked the person who answered was your husband, and he was naked except for a towel that he had around his waist.”
“Yes. I was so stunned that I couldn’t speak for a minute. Remember I was at that time a member of your church, so he was my senior pastor as well. He asked who I was and I told him that I was Rita’s boyfriend. I think when she heard my voice she got startled, so she came to the door. But she was stark naked, and she realised it when it was too late. I had seen enough so I walked away into the darkness. The following day she tried to call me and sent me messages saying we should talk but I ignored all of them, and later I blocked her.”
“I am so sorry.”
“It is okay. You don’t sound surprised about your husband and Rita though.”
“I am surprised about Rita. I know my husband is a he-goat; in fact I am suffering right now because I have refused to be humiliated by his latest flame. But I didn’t think he has ever touched Rita. She is a nice, God-fearing girl.”
“Never judge a book by its cover.”
“So what did you tell your parents about Rita?”
“That we broke up. I didn’t give any explanations. It was obvious that they wanted one, but they didn’t ask and I took advantage of that. But I think they could see that I was hurting so to date they have never asked me what happened. I am grateful because I particularly wouldn’t have wanted my mother to know what Rita had done to me. She loved that girl like her own daughter, and she would have been crushed. My mother prides herself as an excellent judge of character.”
“That is a very sad story. By the way what is your name?”
“My bad, where are my manners? My name is Joel.”
“I am so sorry about everything, Joel.”
“It has been many years now. I am over it. But after what Rita and your husband did to me, I don’t trust Christians anymore. I went to back to the Presbyterian Church for a while, but then there was a power struggle. The elders wanted to start paying themselves sitting allowances, but my dad would hear none of it. My dad was the chairman of our local church committee, and his argument was that since none of the elders was needy, they should work as volunteers and use the money to take care of the more vulnerable members of our congregation, especially the elderly. The other elders started a smear campaign against him that saw him stripped of his eldership. My mom was also stripped of her position as the secretary of the Woman’s Guild and also removed from the position of a deacon. That was not enough, rumors started flying around that we are devil worshippers and so forth. My parents got fed up and left the church and joined a Pentecostal church in Juja town. But I stopped going to church altogether. Anyway, enough about me; what are you going to do now that you have no home?”
“She is going to die,” a third voice says. Helena and Joel turn simultaneously. The speaker is a masked man holding a pistol. Being a Sunday morning, the restaurant is empty. Joel and Helena are the only customers. Four waitresses are following a church service on TV, and when one of them turns and sees the gunman, she screams. The gunman panics and shoots her in the chest, the gunshot inviting even more chaos as the other waitresses scamper for cover. The gun man composes himself and turns his attention to Helena and Joel.
“I thought I could give you a chance to repent for humiliating the man of God the way you did. But these fools are causing too much noise and the police might be here soon. So I am sorry Helena, you just have to die before you make peace with your creator. He lifts the gun, aims at Helena’s head, and fires.
Image by Jan Marcus Trapp from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/pistol-fraud-weapon-firearm-3421795/
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