Continued from In Sickness…I
Reginah dresses up and walks out of the house, accompanied by Martin. The excitement that she originally felt after making the decision to leave George has waned, and has been replaced by anxiety about the conversation they are about to have. She knows that George will be hurt; no one likes to be abandoned at their hour of need. But the truth is that George doesn’t have an hour of need: it is a lifetime of need. And that lifetime of need will sink both of them into poverty, and that is something Reginah is not willing to accept.
Besides the financial implications of his conditions, there are other considerations that Reginah is thinking about. One has to do with her sex life. George will never be able to make love again, which is Reginah’s primary excuse for sleeping with Martin. She is not willing to accept a life of celibacy in the name of remaining faithful to a bedridden husband.
George and his family will have to make some decisions about the future. For instance, George may have to stop the physiotherapy sessions, which are very expensive. What is the point anyway, when it is so obvious that he will never walk again/ The nurse will also have to go. The house help will have to start taking care of George’s needs because she is way cheaper. They will have to sell Michael’s one acre piece of land in the village, together with the house, to offset some of the loans. With proper valuation, it might even settle all the loans. Michael can then move in with his parents in the village. He doesn’t need the land or the house, given his condition. And what is he doing in the city anyway? Let him go back to the village where his parents can take care of him, and that will even save on rent. Reginah is not willing to be part of these lifestyle changes. She and her children deserve a better life. The better life that Martin is offering.
Just before she gets in the car, she hugs Martin and kisses him on the lips.
“See you tomorrow, babe,” she murmurs into his ear. “Tomorrow I will be fully yours.”
She gets in the car, starts the engine and drives out of Martin’s compound. It is late in the night so there is no traffic on the streets and on the highways. It takes her about thirty minutes to get home. She parks on the grass in front of the building. The good thing about this estate is that it has ample space for parking. There is a yard in front of the building, and that is where the children play and where cars are parked. Besides Reginah, there are only two other tenants who have cars so parking has never been an issue. Reginah’s heart is already pounding as she approaches the house. They live on the second floor of an old building. It is 11.30 PM and all the tenants are asleep, except a bachelor on the first floor who is either watching a movie or putting some unfortunate girl in the family way.
Reginah uses her key to open the door. The lights in the sitting room are on, and Reginah finds Corazon, the nurse, quietly reading a story to George. George sleeps on a hospital bed, and it was placed on the sitting room so that the physiotherapist, the doctor and Corazon can access him easily without infringing on Reginah’s privacy. George’s clothes were placed in the children’s room where Corazon can easily get them. Reginah keeps her bedroom under lock and key. Six months ago she would have felt some guilt for not being the one on George’s bedside, keeping him company. Now what she feels is relief that there is someone with him.
Corazon is a competent nurse. She is the major reason why George is still alive. She fusses over what he eats, taking time to plan his meals and consulting a nutritionist at her place of work. George is able to chew like anybody else, and he has no problem swallowing. His digestive processes are unaffected by his paralysis. But because he is not able to use his hands, he needs help getting food to his mouth, and he has to be propped up in bed as he feeds so that he does not choke.
Corazon turns him regularly in bed so that he doesn’t get bedsores. She also changes his diapers regularly. She is also the one who bathes him, which really involves wiping him all over the body with a cloth dipped in warm soapy water, applying oil on his body and massaging him. The massages are particularly important, especially on the legs and hands, because they help to prepare the muscles for therapy. She dresses him daily and changes his bedsheets every three days. She monitors his blood pressure multiple times a day and reports his condition to the doctor every evening.
Her most important job, however, is to keep him company. She is funny and intelligent, and keeps challenging him intellectually. Ever since she was retained as his full-time nurse, George stopped wallowing in self-pity. She reads books to him and they watch news and movies together. They discuss various topics ranging from politics, world affairs and business to medicine, law technology. George is a very well read and knowledgeable man, and that has challenged Corazon to research a lot of stuff over the internet whenever he is asleep in order to hold meaningful conversations with him. She often tells her friends at the hospital that this assignment has made her a more knowledgeable person than she was when she was a regular nurse at the hospital.
Corazon works at the newly established PCEA Ndenderu Mission Hospital. Under the current arrangement, she is seconded to George as his fulltime nurse. Her salary is paid by the family, but not directly to her but to the hospital. Reginah likes to say that she is the one who pays Corazon’s salary, but a huge chunk of it is paid by George’s parents. Corazon earns a gross salary of sixty thousand shillings. Reginah pays twenty thousand, while George’s parents pay forty. This money is remitted to the hospital every month, and the hospital pays Corazon’s net salary after making the statutory deductions. That way, she remains in the books of the hospital as an employee. NHIF pays for George’s doctor’s consultation fees, and for whatever medicine he might need. Physiotherapy is paid for using the money George and Reginah got when they sold the household items they had in Kitsuru. But that kitty is dwindling fast, so physiotherapy may have to stop soon.
Reginah closes the door behind her and greets George and Corazon as she heads to her bedroom. There was a time when she would go and peck George’s cheek and exchange pleasantries with him before going to change. Those were the days when she used to come home straight from work. Corazon would retreat to her room-that was back when they lived in Kitsuru-to give the family some privacy. The house assistant would serve Reginah food and also retire to her room. Not anymore. These days Reginah goes straight to her room and locks herself up. She comes home late anyway, because she goes to Martin’s house first. She cooks for and eats with Martin so by the time she comes home she is usually full.
Today she had intended to ask Corazon to excuse her so that she can talk to her husband but she decided against it, because of the logistics involved. Because the house is small, the house assistant sleeps in the kid’s bedroom, while Corazon sleeps on the couch right there in the sitting room. Even if Reginah asks her to go, the only place she can go is the kitchen, and from there she will hear the entire conversation anyway. There is also the question of children. If she has this conversation with George tonight, in the morning the children will know before they go to school. And since she wants to leave without them first and then come for them later, she expects there will be some drama from them.
To avoid all that, she decides that she will hold this conversation with George in the morning, after the children have left for school. She will send Corazon and the house assistant, Maureen, to the shops, so that she and George can have some privacy. She has already talked through this plan with Martin, and they are aligned. He excused her from work today, and that will enable her to make her move.
Tonight she will spend time packing all her clothes, shoes and personal belongings into suitcases. In the morning she will take breakfast with the children and affirm them of her love, just before they leave for school. They will take breakfast together as a family, and then she will escort the children to the road where the school bus picks them. Then she will come back to the house, take a shower and dress up. She will talk to George when she is ready to go. The conversation will take a maximum of ten minutes. She has already decided that she doesn’t want to get drawn into an argument, or allow him to blackmail her emotionally.
She will just tell him what she has decided, and then take her suitcases and leave. She has lots of stuff to carry, but she is confident that everything will fit in the Fielder. She doesn’t intend to return the car, because George doesn’t need it anyway. In any case, she doesn’t want to start nagging Martin to buy her a car so early in their relationship. He will probably surprise her with an upgrade soon, but before then she will be using the Fielder to move around. Besides, when she bought it after they sold the luxury cars, she registered it under her name, so it is her car. When she gets an upgrade she will donate it to her father.
As she starts removing her clothes from the closet, Reginah smiles. She is feeling happy and alive again. She is just about to break free from the shackles of poverty, pain and despair. And the love of her life is about to do something for that George has never done when he had money: take her out of the country on holiday.
What more could a girl ask for?
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