Beatrice and her husband Ronald have been married for slightly over sixteen years. Beatrice is the Chief Internal Auditor at Vanzatu Sacco, where she has worked for the last ten years. Before that, she worked at Faulu Microfinance Bank as a credit officer for three years and before that she had worked at Mugwaci Secondary School as an accounts clerk for seven years.
She met Ronald at Mugwaci Secondary School. She had already been working at the school for about three years when he was hired as a teacher by the Board of Management, which was then called the Board of Governors. The romance was swift and intense: a handsome young teacher and beautiful young accounts clerk, both of them born again Christians. It was a match made in heaven. Ronald was the ideal suitor for a Christian girl: kind and respectful, but at the same time charming and outgoing. He often left the staffroom in stitches with his jokes. He was the youth leader in his church, and a preacher of unmatched charisma.
Beatrice’s mother liked Ronald the first time they met, and even her old man, reserved as he was, could not hide his admiration for the young man. As a BoM teacher, Ronald was not earning much, but that did not stop him from buying Beatrice thoughtful gifts every now and then. Whenever he visited their home, he would never go empty handed, he would always carry a kilo of sugar, two packets of milk, a kilo of rice and a packet of salt. And he would always have some cash, two hundred or three hundred shillings, for Beatrice’s father.
His parents also took in Beatrice warmly. Beatrice is not as outgoing as Ronald, but she has a warm personality that is easily likeable. Ronald’s mother was in particular very keen in ensuring that she felt at home whenever she visited. The bond was made even stronger by the fact that Beatrice was Presbyterian, the same as Ronald’s parents. But Ronald had become a Pentecostal while at the university, and when he returned home he joined Pastor Linus Kiruja’s Church of Holy Saints, Gantaraki. Gantaraki is a market ten kilometers away from Mugwaci.
Seven months after they started dating, Ronald asked for Beatrice’s hand in marriage. The dowry negotiations were smooth, with both sets of parents keen to assist the young couple get married without hindrances. Beatrice’s father resisted pressure to demand exorbitant bride price. He insisted that the negotiations would be a formality, and that the young man would be allowed to give whatever he could afford.
Ronald and Beatrice got married in a colorful wedding held at Church of Holy Saints, Gantaraki. The reception was held at Mugwaci Secondary School. After the wedding Beatrice and Ronald went to Nanyuki where they spent five days in a hotel. Those five honeymoon days remain the best moments Beatrice has ever had in her marriage to date.
Beatrice did not have a problem when Ronald told her to be surrendering her salary for him to manage. She gave him the ATM card to her Equity Bank account, where she the school was channeling her salary. After all, she was a Christian and understood the concept of submission. The man was the head of the house, and she was expected to submit to him. Her mother had done it and was still doing it effortlessly, and as a result Beatrice and her siblings had grown up in a happy home. Beatrice did not mind leaving the Presbyterian Church to join the Church of Holy Saints, because the husband is the priest of the home, and she is expected to follow his lead.
But Beatrice soon discovered that Ronald was nothing like her father Leonard. Never once did Beatrice hear her father insulting her mother. Maybe they argued in private, but never in public. It was obvious that Leonard M’Thaara valued the opinions of his wife. They worked as a team, even though Leonard was the declared leader. Leonard knew how to sacrifice for his family. He always put the needs of his wife and children ahead of his own. He worked hard, and even though his income and his wife’s were meagre, he tried his best to make it work. His family never went without food. They never lacked clothing; their clothes were cheap, mitumba clothes, but they were decent clothes. And Leonard did his best to pay school fees for his eight children. In the end only four managed to get to form four, but it was not Leonard’s fault. He did put his best foot forward.
Ronald, on the other hand changed almost immediately after the honeymoon. He started rebuking her sharply for the slightest transgressions. She could not comment on any issue, even a news story on TV, because he would quickly remind her to concern herself with cooking and washing and leave “intelligent talk” to men. He stopped calling her ‘darling’ or ‘sweetheart’ and started calling her ‘Beatrice’. When their first born child was born, her name permanently became ‘Mama Judah’. Sometimes Ronald put her down in front of his friends, and they would all chuckle in approval. But Beatrice took the humiliation in her stride.
But the one think that proved to be the sticky point in the marriage was finances.
Ronald proved to be very careless and selfish with money. He was very generous in church, where he was the youth leader, contributing in every fundraiser that was proposed. He had to lead from the front, he said. He also gave generously to the community. He would not hesitate to help a stranger who came crying to him. Beatrice did not have a problem with giving; but more often than not she had to boil food because they had no cooking oil. They could not afford meat or anything nice to eat. They had to survive on boiled githeri. Ronald would raise hell and refuse to eat, and she suspected that he was eating out. Her clothes and shoes started ageing and she could not afford new ones, and when their first child was born, she found she could not afford basic baby items. Whenever she raised these issues with him, he would become angry and accuse her of trying to be the man of the house.
Two years after they got married, Ronald declared that God had instructed him to quit teaching and become a pastor. With the blessings of Pastor Linus, he opened Church of Holy Saints, Mugwaci. By then, he had already been hired by TSC and was therefore on permanent and pensionable terms. Beatrice begged him not to resign from his teaching job at least until the church picked up, but he labelled her a “destiny killer”.
When she moved from Mugwaci Secondary School to Faulu Microfinance Bank, she became clever. She asked her employer to be channeling half of her salary to Vanzatu Sacco, where she had opened an account without telling her husband. She explained to her boss why she was doing that, and he understood. The other half of her salary would remain in her Faulu Microfinance Bank account, whose ATM she had given her husband for the sake of peace. By so doing, she was able to at least provide the basic necessities for family. Her husband pestered her wanting to know where she was getting money to pay utility bills and buy food stuff, but she told him that she was surviving on per diems that the bank was giving her whenever she worked away from the office. Ronald even went to the bank to demand details of his wife’s pay, but the bank manager stiff-armed him.
When she joined Vanzatu Sacco, she went straight to the CEO and explained her situation to her. The CEO, a woman, allowed her to open a second account in the Sacco where half of her salary would go. That is the account whose ATM she gave Ronald. She did not disclose details of the account she had opened earlier to her husband. Ronald’s church has since grown to a regular membership of six hundred, but Beatrice has no idea how much he makes from his church. Till today, she is the one who buys food in the house, pays utility bills and pays school fees. He still believes that she sustains the household on per diems, and that she pays schools fees using school fees loans from the Sacco (which is true).
When she was at Faulu Microfinance Bank, he insisted that she should take a loan and buy him a car, because it was not “proper” for a pastor to be using public means. She agreed. She left the bank shortly after completing payments for that loan. At Vanzatu Sacco she took another loan and constructed their house. They had been living in a wooden house, but she managed to build a four bedroom stone house.
When she left the house this morning, Beatrice had told her husband that she wouldn’t be back until Thursday, because she was going for a work seminar in Nakuru. He usually doesn’t oppose these seminars because in his mind, that is the only way she can get per diems to feed the household. But Beatrice has just realised that there is another reason why he so enthusiastically lets her go. When she got to the office, she discovered that she had forgotten her phone at home. So she has asked the driver to pass by her house so that she could pick it. She gets into the house in a hurry, because the Sacco van is waiting outside the gate, and she doesn’t want her colleagues to be impatient with her. Her bosses are in that van as well.
But when she gets to the house she finds her husband shamelessly making love to the house help on the couch in the sitting room.
“Ronald, what are you doing?” she asks in dismay.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in Nakuru?”
“Ronald how could you do this to me?” Beatrice asks, her eyes welling with tears. “Ronald, you are a pastor…”
“Abraham, the father of faith, slept with Haggah, his wife’s maid and God approved. Rita here is my Haggah. So, my dear Sarah, take whatever you came for and leave your Abraham alone.”
He stands up, picks up the naked house help in his arms and carries her to her (the house help’s) bedroom. He locks the door behind them, leaving a stunned Beatrice rooted in the sitting room.
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