(Continued from Henpecked II)
Michael eats silently as his sister and her husband chat about nothing in particular. The television is on, which helps to reduce the awkwardness of the situation. The food is delicious: it is a long time since he ate a properly made meal of mukimo. Once he is done, he is served with the obligatory cup of tea. He had forgotten that when they were growing up, every meal was followed by a cup of tea, irrespective of the time of day or condition of the weather. Even a hot lunch on a hot afternoon was followed by a steaming cup of tea.
“So tell me bro. What exactly is your problem and how can we help?” Veronica asks.
Michael takes a sip of the tea and then stares at the cup for a minute.
“My life is messed up siz. I don’t know where to begin.”
“Just start from the beginning.
Slowly, Michael tells them about the woes of his marriage.
“The bigger problem is not Mercy, bro. It is you. You are weak.”
“What do you mean?”
“From what I have heard you say, Mercy has been manipulating you. But you have allowed it. You could have put a stop to it, but you did not.”
“Let’s start with your salary. Is there a rule that says you cannot open another account and channel your salary there? That will put you more in control over your salary and you can put a stop to your wife’s excesses. I won’t lie to you bro, I was deeply hurt when you said you don’t have money to help us with mother, yet I see Mercy going to all these fancy places. That is why I am so bitter. I couldn’t understand why Peter is willing to sacrifice for mother yet you are not.”
“I am sorry.”
“It is okay, bro. I am not trying to guilt-trip you. I am just trying to open your eyes. If you are genuine about wanting to help, the first thing you do is to change your account. You said you have an account at the Sacco. Is it a joint account?”
“No, it is not. But it has a loan and no savings.”
“But you have shares.”
“Yes, I do have shares.”
“You can channel your salary through that Sacco. I do get my salary through my Sacco, and so does Peter. Unless there is a rule that prevents senior people like you from using Saccos, which I highly doubt, that is what you should do.”
“I don’t think there is such a rule. I have to write a bunch of letters to my bosses and the folks at treasury but I know people who can make it happen by the end of the month.”
“Good, that is step one. You now have control over your salary. But what do you do with that control? You need to draw up a budget.”
“Live within my means,” Michael says with a smile. “Trust me I have read acres and acres of articles and books on financial management.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“I don’t know what to cut from my expenditure. For instance, I don’t want to get my children from their school. I am afraid I might traumatize them. Having paid up a third of the way, I can’t stop paying my mortgage either. And I honestly don’t know where the rest of the money goes. I think it is spent on the minor bills like fuel, water, electricity etc.”
“That is what you should find out. What are those bills? Can you itemize them?”
“That will almost definitely lead me to a major fight with Mercy. She is the one who settles the bills.”
“And somehow gets money to fly to Hong Kong to shop.”
“She uses her own money to fly.”
“Where does she get the money?”
“From her YouTube channel.”
“If her YouTube channel is making money, shouldn’t she help with some of the bills? I mean, instead of flying all the way to Hong Kong to purchase clothes, she can get clothes locally and then use the money to settle some of the bills so that you can share the burden.”
“I know her. She will never agree to that. I don’t even know how much she makes from that channel.”
“She controls your salary and you have no idea how much she makes? That doesn’t sound weird to you?”
“I am the man. I should take care the bills without complaining.”
“But you don’t. She takes care of the bills, but using your money. You have no clue on the state of finances in your home. You should take charge.”
“Mercy will not agree to that.”
“Is she your boss? Whether she agrees or not, you should find out what you are paying for. That is the only way you can rationalize your expenditure. Knowing what you are paying for will help you know what you don’t need and what is inflated.”
“I will do my best.”
“Look bro. Maybe you will not get three million for mum to get her surgery, but honestly there is no reason why you can’t spare three thousand a month just to shop for her. You can get her a pair of shoes and a dress every now and then. That cannot be too much to ask bro, can it?”
“It is not.”
“Another thing bro; even if you don’t have money to give mother, why don’t you visit her? Are you seriously so busy that you cannot visit your mother? Imagine we have lived here for over ten years, and you have never visited. Your kids are eighteen and sixteen years old, and they have never met their grandmother. Mama may not complain, but I know it hurts her bro. She is human like the rest of us.”
“Mercy doesn’t like me visiting. She says you and mother are going to turn me against her.”
“And I guess that is what we are doing,” Peter says, speaking for the first time. They all laugh. “Listen Michael, I know we say marriage is not a bed of roses but I think that that is the most abused phrase I have come across. Marriage is not supposed to be a bed of suffering. Your spouse is someone you are supposed to build a happy life with. Home should be the one space where you can feel safe, secure and loved, away from all the pressures of the world. If your spouse causes you to resent being home, then you probably have the wrong spouse.”
“Let me ask you Peter. You have done all these amazing things for our mother. Do you feel burdened?”
“Not at all. Once I married your sister, Tabitha became my mother too. That is what your wife should realize: Tabitha is her mother too. The thing is, Veronica and I sit down and discuss all the things we want to do with the money we have. If we have to take a loan-like we did when we bought this land and built the house-then we agree in advance. At first we wanted to accommodate her in our house, but we realised that probably having her in a separate house would be good for our privacy and hers as well. The point is, we sit and agree on things. If we disagree on something, we work it out. There is always a way to handle differences so that everybody is happy.”
“I thought they say you can’t please everyone.”
“It’s cliché but true. But then again your spouse is not everybody. You can keep each other happy through learning the art of compromising.”
“That is what I have been trying to do with Mercy and see where it has landed me.”
“That is because you are the only one compromising. From what I have heard you say tonight, Mercy always gets her way. Everything she wants, she gets. She controls your salary, she separates you from your family. It is as though you are afraid of her. Can you seriously say you are happy?”
“Of course not. Like I told mother, I feel like I am in a prison.”
“Then break out of that prison.”
“Begin with what Vero said. First regain control of your finances. Apply brakes on any expenditure you think is excessive. And then assert yourself more. Let Mercy feel your presence.”
“She might walk away from the marriage.”
“That is not necessarily a bad thing. If she cannot handle you as the head of the household, or at least as an equal partner, then let her go.”
“But God hates divorce.”
Peter looks at his brother-in-law sympathetically.
“One, you can’t save your marriage if your partner is determined to break it. Two, I don’t think God wanted us to spend our entire adult lives in misery just to protect the institution of marriage. I think the idea of marriage is for companionship and mutual fulfillment. If that is not happening, I don’t see why you should remain married.”
Mercy and Cess get to Gatundu level five hospital at close to 1 am. They bribe guards all the way to the female ward. The guards found it difficult to resist crisp new one thousand shilling notes from two nieces of a patient who are on a connecting flight from the USA to Australia. According to the two women, they will be leaving JKIA at 6 am and just want to say hello to their aunt. The guards at the gate and the ones at the entrance to the wards let them pass, after receiving a thousand shillings each. They warn the women to report to the nursing station before seeing their aunt.
Mercy and Cess decided to say Tabitha is their aunt just in case someone knows her children. After all, Tabitha has lived in Gatundu all her life, and some of the staff members must be locals who know her children. But there is no way they can know all her nieces.
There is only one nurse at the nursing station, and they find her sleeping on the desk.
“I am sorry about your problem but I cannot help you,” she tells them sleepily after hearing what they have to say. “The patients are sleeping. Come again in the morning.”
“We are flying out in the morning,” Cess says in a very pitiable voice.
“And where were you during the day?”
“We were flying from the US to here. We live in the US with our parents but we are going to study in Australia. We chose a flight that passes through Nairobi just so we can see auntie. Please just let us see her for a minute. We will be quick. We can even buy you coffee to say thank you.”
The nurse stretches her arm with the palm open. Cess places a thousand shilling note there. She looks at it and then tucks it into her pocket. She leans on the desk once again.
“Bed 308. And make it quick,” she says as she closes her eyes once again.
Cess and Mercy are actually surprised. They expected her to demand for more. Within a minute, they have found the bed. Tabitha is sleeping peacefully.
“Quick,” Cess whispers. “Draw the curtains. That nurse is asleep, and we don’t want other curious patients to see what we are doing. In case she wakes up as I inject her, cover her mouth so she doesn’t scream. It will only take a second for the drug to kick in. She will be dead in less than a minute.”
Cess draws a syringe from her pocket. Tabitha does not even stir as Cess inserts the syringe into a vein.
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/surgery-serum-bandage-hand-3031541/
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