“I have to go babe,” Reginah says, gently tugging at the hairs on Martin’s chest. They are lying in bed, with Reginah wrapped in Martin’s arms, both of them naked.
“You know you don’t have to…”
“I am a married woman, babe. I have responsibilities.”
Martin lifts one of his hands and strokes her hair, and then he pecks her nose playfully.
“You are just thirty four years old, sweetheart. I don’t think you should spend the rest of your life taking care of a cripple. George has a mother. Let her take care of him, as I take care of you.”
“I don’t know babe…”
“Of course you do, honey. You are just afraid of what people will say.”
“We can’t ignore that either. I will be judged harshly.”
“You shouldn’t worry your pretty head with such concerns. You should be worrying about your happiness. Are you willing to spend the rest of your life worrying about what the children will eat or whether they will get school fees? You will be so stressed about basic necessities of life that you will forget about things like nice dresses, make up, etc. By the time you turn forty you will be looking like a grandmother. Is that the kind of life you want?”
“Of course not babe…it is just that…”
“Shhhh,” Martin says softly, putting his index finger on her lips. “You don’t have to say anything. You say the word, and my lawyers will prepare the divorce papers. And once you sign them, you and I will fly to Paris for a short holiday and leave the lawyers to do their thing. Have you ever been to the most romantic city in the world?”
“No, I have never left this country. But after the holiday, what will happen to me?”
“You will move in with me into this house. I am serious when I say I am madly in love with you babe.”
“I have two children…”
“I will take care of them. But we need a honeymoon period first. I am sure George’s parents will not have a problem taking care of the childre for a short while.”
“I can’t really ask them to do that…”
“You don’t have to. Just tell George that you are tired of the marriage and that you want to divorce him. Then pack your things and come here. George is just crippled, but he is not stupid. He will call his parents and they will come to his rescue.”
“What if his parents refuse to give me back my children when the honeymoon is over?”
“Then we sue them. The courts always rule in favor of the mother in such cases.”
Reginah sighs, and Martin pulls her closer. He knows she will say yes. He knows she is fed up with her husband, who became paralyzed after a plane crash a few months ago. That accident was a gift to Martin, because he has finally gotten Reginah. He has always desired her, and he has always known that she desires him. They have actually been flirting for many years, but whenever Martin tries to push the boundaries and get her to sleep with him, she resists. He knows that the reason for this is her marriage; she did not want to antagonize her relationship with her husband George.
Reginah is a beautiful woman. She is also charming and full of energy. Martin started lusting after her from the very first moment he hired her as his secretary. He is certain that he would have slept with her then, because she was single and unattached. But just when he was making his move, George came into the picture and swept her off her feet. Within months, they were married.
Of course George was not, and still is not as wealthy as Martin is. Martin is an established businessman. He owns three auto-repair garages, each of them with an auto spares shop attached, a petrol station, a restaurant and a number of commercial and residential rental houses. He is also a land broker. He is 51 years old and widowed. Unlike many other businessmen his age, Martin takes care of his body. He frequents the gym, and therefore has the physique of a twenty seven-year-old sportsman. He also dresses stylishly and that coupled with his looks and money, makes him a magnet for girls. Reginah actually feels privileged that he chose her when he could have picked any twenty year-old of his liking.
But he is married.
That is the primary reason she turned him down seven years ago. He had just hired her as his secretary, and they had started flirting almost immediately. They had even kissed a couple of times, and she had been ready to throw caution to the wind and surrender her body to him. She loved him. But then George asked her to be his girlfriend. She knew George from church. She knew instantly that he would be a better catch than Martin, even though he was several millions poorer.
For starters, George was twenty eight years old, just a year older than she was. He was also single, which means he was looking for a wife. Martin was forty four and married, meaning he was looking for a mistress. George was the worship leader in their church, and a very respected young man in Christian circles. That means he would be readily accepted by her family. It also meant that chances that he would be cheating on her were significantly low. With Martin, however, she would be a mistress and therefore she would always remain in the shadows of his wife. She would never be seen with him in public. In essence, she would remain single while giving her body to him.
The one advantage Martin had over George was money. Martin was and still is a millionaire, and he is always willing to spend his money on her. But George wasn’t poor either. At only twenty eight, he was already a senior associate in an established law firm and earning a handsome salary. George had a promising future, and that is why she chose him. Saying that may imply that she did not love him. She did. Choosing him was easy because she was very attracted to him as a person. But his future prospects did not hurt either.
In the six years that they were married before the accident, George lived to his billing. He rose from senior associate to junior partner in the law firm, and his pay cheque almost doubled. And then three years ago he left the law firm and joined global tech giant Peanut Inc. as the regional Head of Legal. His salary pushed past the million mark. They moved to Kitsuru, and dumped their Toyota and Mazda salon cars in favor of German SUVs. George acquired a BMW X6 while Reginah got a Mercedes S-Class. Their children transitioned to international schools. She, Reginah, the daughter of a rural carpeter, joined the society of high class women. She who had no other qualification other than her KSCE (which has a C-) certificate started rubbing shoulders with the wealthy and the sophisticated. This shift in her status was most noticeable in church, where she gained influence she could only have dreamed of before. Even Martin changed her title from ‘secretary’ to “Administrative Executive” and gave her authority over all the other employees. She was still working as his assistant, but her mandate was broader.
Most importantly, George remained loving and affectionate. Save for minor disagreements that every couple has, their marriage has been blissful. George has been kind and gentle; he is thoughtful in his words and actions towards her, and to everyone else. He has never given her any reason to doubt his faithfulness to her. That is why she often felt guilty whenever she found herself flirting with Martin.
She could have resigned from her job as Martin’s assistant because her husband was now taking care of all her needs, but she wanted a job of her own. Plus she wanted to remain close to Martin, even though she would never admit that. To her credit, she remained faithful to George, at least until about six months ago, even though she continued flirting with Martin in private. She never crossed the boundaries, and she never seriously considered sleeping with him. But the thought crossed her mind every now and again.
But then the accident happened. That was eight months ago.
George had been flying from Nairobi to Hargeisa. As the regional head of legal, he was in charge of the company’s legal departments in Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa, which translated to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Somaliland. The company treats Somaliland and Somalia as two separate units; in fact, the Somaliland unit is larger than the Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea units combined and is thus an important market for the company.
The regional headquarters of the company are in Nairobi, and that is where George was based. But every now and then he would travel to one or the other of the country units especially if there was a problem that needed his physical presence. On the fateful day, the company was experiencing some problems with the Somaliland Government over taxes, and the unit leaders had been unable to resolve the issue. So George was sent by the Regional Director to go to Hargeisa to meet with the Somaliland officials and try to negotiate an amicable solution.
Unfortunately, the plane that he was travelling in crashed about a kilometer from the airport in Hargeisa. Fortunately, it did not burst in flames, as many planes do. But the fatalities were severe. Everybody on the plane died on the spot, except George, his assistant Marylyn and a crew member called Phanice. Phanice died in the ambulance as they were being rushed to Hargeisa’s main hospital by first responders, while Marylyn died in the air as she was being flown back to Nairobi for specialized treatment.
George became the sole survivor of the crash.
But his injuries were also severe. He suffered multiple fractures, and worse, a spinal injury. He stayed in Nairobi hospital for a couple of weeks before being flown to South Africa and later to the UK for specialized medical care. Hospital bills mounted and wiped away whatever savings he had, after his insurance cover got exhausted. The company allowed him sick leave of three months, but only paid him for two months. The third month was unpaid. His employment was terminated after the third month when it became clear that his situation might become permanent.
Martin refers to George as a “cripple” whenever he is talking to Reginah, and while the word is demeaning as it is meant to be, it is an understatement of George’s condition. It suggests that George is paraplegic and therefore unable to walk. The truth is that George is quadriplegic; he is paralyzed from the neck down, and therefore lost the use of not just his legs, but also his hands. He needs round the clock assistance ever since he left the hospital four months ago. Since she is the only one with a salary, Reginah is the one who pays for the nurse who takes care of George, and the house assistant who takes care of the house and the children. George still undergoes lots of therapy, and doctors monitor his condition every three weeks, but there is little hope that he will ever regain his motor abilities. But while he is bedridden, he remains mentally sharp, and anybody speaking to him on phone would hardly know that he is bedridden.
With the sickness draining away their finances, life became tough for George and Reginah. They gave up their mansion in Kitsuru and moved to a small two bedroom house in Wangige. Their children moved to cheaper schools this term. They had to sell most of their fancy household appliances, including furniture and electronics. Utility bills like wi-fi, Nexflix and DSTV became luxuries they could no longer afford. They also had to give up their two German machines, in favor of one second hand Toyota Premio; which they may also have to sell soon as the therapy bills are still mounting.
That is not all. Most of their fancy stuff had been acquired on loans, which banks gave generously to George on the strength of his pay slip. The first demand letter came on the third month, when he defaulted payment because he was on unpaid leave. When the banks discovered that he had been terminated, the pressure mounted. The banks have been threatening to send auctioneers to sell what is left of their worldly possessions: household stuff and their three bedroom rural home.
Reginah started confiding in Martin two months ago. He gladly gave her a shoulder to lean on, and within a week they were sleeping together. Martin has been asking Reginah to be his wife for a while now, but she has been deflecting that question. He has informed her that he and his wife are no longer together, and that he has already filed for divorce. She believes him because she has been coming to this house for two months now, and there is sign of a female presence.
Today she has made a decision. She and her children deserve a better life. Martin is better off being taken care of by his mother. When she goes home tonight she will inform him of her decision. She will leave with only her clothes, and will reclaim the children when she returns from France. The divorce papers will be served on George while she is away in France, so hopefully she will avoid much of the initial shock and drama that the divorce petition will elicit.
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