(Continued from Marriage of Servitude II)
“Frank, what is going on here?” Veronica asks as she opens the door of the bedroom.
“Where is that woman?” Frank roars. “I swear I will kill her today!”
“Calm down and tell us what happened.”
“Can you believe it mother? I came home and found that woman in bed with another man. When I confronted them, they beat me up and then locked me in the bedroom before running away. They ran away naked, mother. Just imagine! The man managed to grab his clothes as they ran, but that shameless woman ran away naked.”
“Do you know the man?”
“No, I did not see him clearly mother. It was dark because the lights were off.”
Veronica has found all the lights in the house on, including inside the bedroom, but she doesn’t say anything.
“And they ran away together?”
“Out of the bedroom, yes. I don’t know what they did after locking me up in the bedroom.”
“I always knew that that woman is not good for you son,” Frank’s father Martin says. “She only seduced you because of your money.”
Tears are now running down Sofia’s cheeks. What does one do when she is rejected even by her own parents? It is a good thing that it is night time, because she wouldn’t want her sons to see her tears. Henry is already asleep; she can hear him snoring softly on her back, without realizing that they are homeless. Denis is holding on to her hand tightly as they walk.
There is only one person she knows who can help her: Meshack, the principal of the school where she teaches. He has always been sympathetic, probably because he is a victim of a bad marriage himself. He divorced his wife eight years ago, and has never remarried since. The divorce was scandalous. He is the one who filed it citing infidelity and emotional cruelty, but his wife, the daughter of an influential business man, accused him of sleeping with students and nearly got him fired. Meshack won both times, keeping his job and getting the divorce, but he became somewhat an outcast in the local community.
The church, which sponsors the school, would probably have pushed for his transfer except that the school has been on the rise academically with him at the helm. Nevertheless, he was stripped of his eldership in the church in the wake of the malicious rumors that his ex-wife spread against him. The elders of the local church have been speaking with both sides of their mouths since then: praising him in his presence but undermining him in his absence. Meshack knows this and chooses to ignore them. But he knows that he has the support of the teachers and the students, and that is what has been propelling the school forward. He is known to be a visionary leader.
Meshack is not easily cowed. He has managed to keep his head high and ignore all the malicious gossip that his ex-wife Beatrice spread. Beatrice barred him from seeing his children after the divorce, even though the court granted them joint custody. Meshack was tired of courts and decided not to fight her. Her eldest child was twelve then, the second ten and the youngest eight. The children started visiting him voluntarily when they joined High School, and generally ignored Beatrice’s emotional blackmail. Now they are twenty, eighteen and sixteen respectively, and they visit him often. His eldest son is in the university, and the youngest is a form two student. The daughter is sandwiched between them, and is in form four.
When Frank dumped Sofia in the village while she was pregnant, it was Meshack that she approached for help. She told him the whole truth about her marriage to Frank and begged him to give her a job. Meshack hired her as a B.O.M teacher. A few months later when TSC was hiring, Meshack fought for her until she got a permanent placement. She has been repaying his faith in her by being the most hard working teacher in the school.
Meshack’s home is about five kilometers away in a neighboring village, and Sofia knows that she and her young children cannot walk that far. She is crossing fingers that she will find him in his staff quarters residence. She knows that asking him for shelter is asking too much, but she is desperate. Had she been alone, she would have curled up outside her parents’ house and slept. But she cannot expose her children to the cold till morning.
The gate to the staff quarters is closed, so she goes through the school’s main gate. When the watchmen realize who she is, they let her pass without asking too many questions. But they are clearly taen aback because she only has a lesso tied around her body. Sofia walks all the way to the principal’s house and knocks. The house is dark and quiet, and Sofia fears that Meshack is not in. But when she knocks a second time, someone switches on light in one of the bedrooms, and shortly after the sitting room becomes awash with light. Meshack pulls the curtain at the door aside to see who it is before opening the door.
“Please come in Sofia. Are you okay?”
“I wish I could say I am, Sir. But I am not, and I need help, and I didn’t know who else to turn to.”
“It is okay. Have you and the children eaten?”
“Yes, we have eaten.”
“Okay. Let us put the children to bed first then, and then we can talk.”
The house has three bedrooms, and Meshack puts the boys to sleep in one. When he comes to the sitting room, he is holding a T-shirt, a sweater and pair of trousers.
“The T-shirt and the sweater are mine, so they are probably oversize. But they will do for the night. The trouser belongs to my daughter. It was oversize, so it should fit you.”
“Will your daughter be okay if I wear it?”
“She doesn’t wear it, that is why it is here. Her clothes are in the other house.”
“So she stays with you now?”
“Yes. When schools close she prefers to stay with me; all of them actually. Apparently they don’t like their step-father.”
“Anyway, can I fix coffee so that you can tell me what is going on? Do you want a snack?”
“Coffee is okay, if it is not too much trouble.”
Meshack fixes two mugs of black coffee and comes to the sitting room with a platter of pancakes. Sofia has already dressed up, but she is grateful for the coffee. Walking in the cold with only a thin lesso tied around her body made her feel cold. As they eat, she tells Meshack the whole story.
“I am not going back to Frank. I am done, Sir…”
“Just call me Meshack. We are not in the staff room.”
“Okay, but that will take some time to get used to.”
Meshack laughs. He doesn’t like titles, but over time he has realised that people like using them, so he stopped fussing.
“So what do you plan to do?”
“I don’t know, and that is the problem. Like I said, I am done. I am not going back to that man. But Frank has my ATM card, he is the one who controls my salary. So I cannot even rent a house to stay at. I don’t even know what my children will be eating.”
“You can stay here…”
“No, sir…Meshack. I do not want to drag you into my mess. As it is, there is already going to be a lot of noise around this village-town when people discover that I spent the night here. Can you imagine the scandal that will arise if I live here with you for more than a day?”
“You worry too much about what people say, Sofia. They have been backbiting me for close to nine years now and I have not died. Anyway, I am not planning to stay with you here. I can leave this house to you and your family and stay in my home. I rarely sleep here anyway.”
“But this is the principal’s house. If you let me occupy it, other teachers might not be pleased.”
“I will just tell them that you are my wife now,” Meshack says, laughing. “Listen, Sofia. I am trying to help you. Tomorrow I going to take Denis to school, then I am going to get you some clothes. After dressing up you are going to school and fill up the leave forms. You have to do that officially, so that everything is formal and legal, the way TSC wants. Take the day off and settle. Call the lady who watches over Henry during the day…”
“I don’t have my phone. I left it in the house.”
“No problem. Just carry Henry to school and fill up the forms. After that you will go to the bank and tell them that you have lost your ATM card so that they can block it and issue you with a new one. I will give you some money that will keep you going till end month. After that I am sure you will be able to organize yourself, but if you need help, let me know. Mrs. Madan is retiring in a couple of months, so her staff house will be free for your use. I will explain to the staff the situation so that there will be no problems about you using this house for a couple of months.”
“I don’t know how I will ever repay you, Meshack.”
“A time will come when you will get opportunities to be kind to someone. That is how you will repay me. For now, I want you to go to bed and rest. You have a long day ahead tomorrow.”
Meshack, Sofia and the boys are having breakfast the following morning when someone knocks at the door. Meshack and Denis are already dressed: Meshack in a navy blue suit and Denis in his school uniform. Sofia and Henry are still in the clothes they slept in. Meshack is the one who prepared breakfast, which is simply tea and bread. Since it is his house, Meshack is the one who goes to open the door.
He is confronted by an angry Frank and four police officers.
“Who do you think you are coming to my house and beating me up?” Frank fumes.
“Excuse me?” Meshack asks, confused. “You are the one who is at my house, and I haven’t touched you.”
“Didn’t I catch you on my bed with my woman last night? And after I confronted you the two of you beat me up and ran away?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, Frank.”
“Are you denying that my wife is in there?”
“She is in here but…”
“You will say what you have to say at the police station, sir. Right now you and Sofia are under arrest for assaulting Mr. Frank Matuga,” one of the officers says, slapping handcuffs on Meshack’s wrists. “And move out of the way. We need to arrest Ms. Sofia too.”
Image by Photoshot from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-profile-black-black-and-white-1151562/
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