“Why do you want to take my car?” Melody asks.
“Babe, you are not listening to me. I have told you that I want to take it to the garage. It is due for service,” Donald replies. “What’s up with you today, anyway? I am the one who deals with all the car issues in this house and it’s never been a problem.”
Melody knows that Donald has a point. Ever since they got married, he is the one who does all the traditionally masculine jobs in their home. And she doesn’t even have to do the traditionally feminine jobs, because he has hired two house assistants to do that. One was instructed to devote her time and attention to the children, especially the twins who are now two years old, and the other was instructed to do house chores.
Donald treats her like a queen. When they got married, she was stuck at a job she loathed. She is a lawyer, and was employed at a small law firm in Nairobi’s CBD. There was everything wrong with that firm. First, there was no money. She and the other employees of the firm were constantly having their salaries delayed. And when they finally got it, it would never be in full. What was even more annoying was the fact that Riungu, the owner of the firm was a flashy womanizer who threw money at women to impress them. He would come to the office in shorts and a T-shirt, his latest girlfriend in tow, stay for a few minutes then leave for the golf club.
For a long time, Melody never quite understood what that was all about. Why was Riungu trying so hard to show his underpaid employees that he was living a good life with good women? Or was he trying to show his girlfriends that he was a rich man with an established law firm? It only much later that Melody understood that the show was for her and the office secretary, because they had resisted his sexual advances. He was trying to show them that there were “better” women who were eating off his palm.
Then there were baby mamas. A month would not pass before a baby mama came to the office breathing fire and threatening to kill Riungu. For a man who changed girlfriends like baby diapers, the list of baby mamas was endless. And since they had all been brought to the office as a show off, they knew the way. If Riungu happened to be in his office, he would lock himself in at the first hint of trouble. Melody and her colleagues would get insulted for the sins of their boss.
The whole drama would probably have been funny except for the fact that Melody and her colleagues were overworked and underpaid. As the only other lawyer in the firm besides Riungu, Melody carried the law firm on her shoulders. Riungu had stopped caring about cases: he would dump all of them on Melody. The office had five employees: Melody, June the office secretary, Abel the accountant, James the clerk and Ruth the office messenger who also doubled up as the tea girl. Ruth was an older woman which is probably the reason Riungu had not made passes at her.
All of them were tired of working for Riungu and were threatening to quit. The only reason they were there was because they hadn’t found other jobs yet. None of them was willing to resign blindly, especially Melody, who had a son to take care of. Her baby daddy had vamoosed as soon as he realised that she was pregnant, so she was raising the boy alone.
Melody’s salary as an associate advocate was fifty thousand shillings, but she has never seen a whole fifty thousand shilling salary from her boss. Riungu used pay thirty or thirty five thousand and promise to pay the balance alongside the following month’s salary. It never happened. By the time she quit the firm, Riungu owed her over two hundred thousand shillings.
Still, Melody was able to survive, and she didn’t want to lose that tiny income. At least she was paying her rent, buying food, paying her house help and settling the basic bills. She had sent a thousand and one applications to other firms, but the only offers she was getting were from firms smaller than Riungu’s sweatshop.
She met him in church. Donald was seated next to her that day in church. Before the service began, he engaged her in polite conversation. They talked some more after church and somehow he managed to ask for her number without embarrassing her. He timed when her house help went to the church crèche to change her son’s diaper and asked for it. She liked him, and he looked born again, so she gave him the number.
She didn’t think anything would come out of it even though he had asked for her number after learning that she was a mother. At that time Melody was 29, and her son Kyle two years old. Most men she had dated after she gave birth to Kyle bolted when they realised that she was a single mother. Donald had seen the boy, and she had told him frankly that he was her son. Still, he had asked for her number. He called on the Wednesday that followed and invited her for coffee.
It wasn’t long before they started dating. She found him to be Godly, intelligent, witty, kind and honest. And he also knew how to dress. When he asked her to be his girlfriend, she did not hesitate. Soon thereafter, they did a traditional wedding ceremony and then she moved in with him. She got pregnant and gave birth to twin girls. They did a church wedding ceremony a year after the twins were born.
Donald has been a good husband and father.
When they moved in together, Donald told her quit her job. He set up a home office for her at his house, where she could work while also being a stay at home mother and wife. He made her his legal adviser, and in that role she has been drafting and reviewing his commercial agreements. He is a businessman with diverse interests: he owns two restaurants in Nairobi West, he has a number of minibuses plying various Nairobi routes (he is the chairman of that matatu Sacco), he has a car sales business with a yard along Thika Road and he also has a real estate business. He pays her a hundred and fifty thousand shillings just to review his contracts and to give him legal advice.
He says that the money he pays her is her “salon and chama money.” He takes care of all the bills in the house, including Kyle’s school fees. Donald has adopted Kyle as his own son. Donald’s house is a seven bedroom mansion in the outskirts of Kiambu town. Shortly after they started dating, he bought a Toyota Rush for her to ease her movement. And although he is a busy man, he always creates time for them. He comes home on most days past ten pm, but he usually doesn’t leave for his office at View Park Towers Nairobi until ten am the following morning. He drops off Kyle in school and then returns to the house for a late breakfast with his wife and the twins before going off to work. Most Saturdays he usually stays at home all morning and then goes out in the afternoon to watch football with his friends. On Sundays they go to church in the morning and either stay indoors in the afternoon or go out as a family. Donald normally watches Sunday football matches from the house.
Melody considers herself lucky to have him.
Today is Saturday. They have just had lunch. Donald wants to go to the petrol station to have Melody’s car serviced. Then he will go to one of his restaurants and watch football there with his friends. Melody wants to go to the market to buy foodstuff.
“I am sorry sweetheart. I don’t know what came over me,” Melody tells him. “I don’t know what came over me. Of course you can take the car. I will use yours to go to the market.”
“Or maybe I should dash the petrol station, have the car serviced and then bring it to you. It should take me under one hour.”
“No sweetheart. There is no point of all that hustle. Let me just use your car to go to the market. After you take my car for service you can just proceed to catch up with your friends.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure babe, no problem.”
Donald takes her car keys and drives out. Melody goes to the shower.
Melody is about a hundred meters outside her gate when three men armed with guns stop her. She considers her options and decides to stop. She cannot outrace bullets. The men cannot see her because the windows are tinted, but before she can roll down the window, one of the men yanks the door open. He seems surprised to see her.
“Madam, why are you driving your husband’s car?”
“Who are you?” Melody asks instead of replying.
“Get out of the car,” the man orders and yanks her out. He climbs on the driver’s seat and Melody is bundled to the backseat, sandwiched between the other two men.
“We don’t want to harm you madam,” the driver says as he starts driving towards Kiambu town. “And we won’t harm you if your husband cooperates. All we want is our money. Let him return the money he stole from us and we will set you free unharmed.”
“We had a deal. We got some money somewhere and were supposed to share it equally. But your husband got greedy and took it all. Now he doesn’t even answer our calls.”
“How much money are we talking about? Maybe I can pay you.”
The two men sandwiching her laugh, but the driver remains serious.
“Five million for each of us. There are others in the deal, but we don’t care about them. We only want our share, nothing more.”
Melody’s heart skips a beat. She doesn’t have fifteen million shillings. And what kind of deal are they talking about? They are now in Kiambu town, and the car slows down due to traffic, Melody contemplates screaming for help. But before she can do it, two other men appear on the pedestrian path outside and start spraying the car with bullets.