Continued from Masseuse of the Wallet III
Nick doesn’t have a lot of things to move with. He has been sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor. He bought the mattress from a second-hand dealer in Mukuyu. He has been covering himself with an old blanket that he got from his mother. His clothes are in a suitcase on the floor. He has an iron box that he moved with from the village. As a teacher, he always had to go to work crisp and neat, and that is a habit he carried over even after getting a job as a store manager. More often than not he is usually in a dust coat, but his clothes underneath that dust coat are usually clean and neatly ironed.
The only other property he has is a kerosene stove, two sufurias, a cup, a plate, a spoon, a mwiko and a sieve. Barbara has decided that he should only move with his clothes and the iron box and that he should leave everything else in the single room for the next tenant to use.
“When God decides to upgrade your life, you cannot be so ungrateful as to carry over poverty to the next level of your grace. You have to accept blessings wholeheartedly as a symbol of your gratitude to God.”
The deep spiritual things that Barbara is saying are as intriguing to Nick as her physical beauty. He knows they are going to make a lovely couple and that they are going to grow together spiritually. Mercy goes to church regularly, but she is illiterate and she doesn’t understand the mysteries of the Kingdom the way Barbara seems to understand them.
He and Barbara have gone to the new house and cleaned it. Barbara tied a lesso around her waist and washed the floor with a rag and basin, another item that Nick carried over from his old house. As she washed, Nick found a carpentry shop not far from his new residence and bought a 4×6 bed for five thousand shillings and a simple kitchen table for a thousand. Barbara said they will place the gas cooker on the table, and that is why he had to acquire it. He is now left with fourteen thousand and some hundreds. He paid fourteen thousand shillings to the housing agency for rent and rent deposit, and another five thousand for water and electricity deposits. That is nineteen thousand. The agency is quite efficient because they already have water and electricity connected in the house, even though it is a Saturday afternoon and neither MUWASCO nor Kenya Power offices are open. Nick doesn’t care how they did it, he is just happy that they did.
Before that, he had paid two hundred and fifty shillings for his haircut. He spent five hundred for their lunch at Marmu Restaurant. The other two fifty is the money they have been using to move around in motorbikes. That made twenty thousand, and after he forked out six thousand for the bed and table, he is now down to fourteen thousand shillings.
Once the house is clean, Barbara makes a list of the things they will need for their new home. She says they need a gas cylinder, curtains, utensils, a mattress, hangers for clothes, bedding and a simple gas cooker and a TV. Those are the things they need urgently. The rest, such as a fridge, can be acquired later.
“We can use your fridge, can’t we?” Nick asks. “The one I saw in your house.”
“I wish we could. I loved that fridge. But the thing is, I have unpaid rent and so my landlord will not let me take it. I guess the only thing I can take out of that house without getting in trouble is my clothes.”
“How much is your rent? If it is not as much as the cost of the fridge, we can settle it and get the fridge. And the microwave as well.”
“My rent arrears is five thousand shillings,” Barbara lies smoothly. Her mind is already making calculations. If he gives her five thousand shillings, she can bribe a guard to look the other way as she gets someone else to take out her things. A thousand should be enough for the guard, and another thousand for the person who will ferry the things. Then she will bank the rest.
“Give me the till or bank account number that you normally use to pay rent so that I can pay.”
“We pay in cash.”
“We can head there, pay and get the fridge.”
“Good idea. But isn’t it getting late babe? The office is already closed. Besides, we still need to go to Mukuyu to get the more important stuff for the house. I can take care of the fridge and the microwave in the morning if you don’t mind.”
“Tomorrow is Sunday.”
“I will talk to the caretaker. It is no problem.”
“Okay babe, I will send you the money so that you can take care of that tomorrow.”
“Thanks, babe,” Barbara says, trying not to sound too relieved. She knows she has to devise a plan so that the items are removed very early in the morning before the shops open. She cannot risk having Nelson pass by as the items are being removed.
By eight in the night, the house looks like a home. Barbara has arranged everything they have bought in the house, and now she is preparing dinner. They bought groceries and other foodstuffs, including the meat she is now cooking. Somewhere along the way, Nick’s money ran out. But he did not want to admit that to her, so he borrowed money from Tala and Branch to top up his shortfall. He figured that he would pay at the end of the month, since next month he will not be buying all the things he needed this month to settle into this house. The house doesn’t have furniture, but Barbara has promised to purchase a sofa set as soon as she is able to recover her salary from the barbershop. She has told him that she is not comfortable working there anymore because of the low income-she was getting only seven thousand shillings a month-and the long hours she used to work.
“That barbershop opens at 7 am, even if there are no customers. You have to be there and wait. And it closes at 11 pm. Those are the operational hours every day, including Sunday. That is why I haven’t been cooking. There is simply no time to do it. I love cooking, and now I am glad that I have someone I can cook for. I am going to find another job that I can do while taking care of you my love.”
Nick turns her around and hugs her. Then he pecks her lightly on the cheeks.
“God does some very interesting things. I am so glad that He placed you on my path babe.”
“I am glad I met you too darling. God had a reason to bring us together.”
“That is true. God never makes a mistake. Everything He does is beautiful.”
Barbara has not been paid in full for almost six months, so Henry and his thug Nelson owe her almost fifty thousand shillings. If she had a way of reaching Henry, maybe she would get paid. But the problem is that she cannot get to Henry except through Nelson. She doesn’t even know what Henry looks like. Henry leaves the running of his brothels-Barbara hears there are others in other towns-to his assistant, and it is that trust that Nelson abuses. Allan was a good one; he treated everyone, even the male commercial sex workers with kindness and dignity. Nelson treats the girls as his sex toys, and he doesn’t hide his open disgust for the male prostitutes even though it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are earning more for the brothel than the girls.
The male commercial sex workers were Allan’s idea. He told Barbara that he had noticed so many middle-aged women who were throwing money at him just so he could make them happy in bed. He admitted that he took what he could, but the demand was insatiable. So he approached Henry and pitched the idea. Henry liked the idea and they hired male masseuses at his beauty shop to do what Barbara and the other girls have been doing at the barbershop. The number of women who were willing to pay for sexual services surprised even Allan, who came up with the idea originally. And it wasn’t just single women; a majority of the brothel’s female clients are married women.
Ironically, Allan died because of his sexual activities with a married woman. Henry wouldn’t have cared about the sexual activities of his assistant, except that the woman Allan was having an affair with was his wife. Henry couldn’t forgive that, and so Allan had to die. Henry spared his wife, but everyone knows that she lives in fear.
Barbara knows that she is not getting her money back from Nelson. In fact, she is happy that she will at least be able to recover the fridge and the microwave from the room she had been allocated. It will offset some of the money they owe her. But she has some money tucked away. Some of her customers were generous, and they used to tip her over and above the two thousand shillings they were required to pay to the brothel. These are the customers that she intends to reach out to so that she can serve them away from Henry’s brothel. Everything they will pay her will be hers to keep.
The tip money that she used to receive while working at the brothel is tucked away in her bank account, and that is what she will use to buy a sofa set for the house. She wants to cement her place in Nick’s life.
She will buy the sofas on Monday. While Nick is at work, she will go and withdraw the money, and then she will find a carpentry shop that can sell her cheap sofas. She will tell Nick that the manager of the barbershop called her and paid her, and that is the money she used to purchase the sofa set. She doesn’t want to give him a reason to be suspicious of her.
On Sunday morning Barbara wakes up early, more out of habit than anything else. Since she started working for Henry, she has been waking up at six am every morning. She used to take a shower, dress and head to a restaurant called Sunlight for breakfast. The restaurant is just next to the barbershop, and it is also owned by Henry. In fact, Henry owns the building. The first to third floors are residential units, some of them occupied by his commercial sex workers, others let out to genuine tenants. On the ground floor, he has three businesses; the restaurant, the beauty parlor and the barbershop. The other units are let out to other businesses.
All employees of Henry get their meals at Sunlight free of charge. They usually congregate there at 6.30 am for breakfast so that by 7 am they have opened the barbershop and the beauty parlor. They take lunch in turns, while dinner is usually packed for them to take in their rooms after closing. That is the purpose of the microwave. The purpose of the fridge is usually to stock alcohol. The commercial sex workers are encouraged to sell alcohol to their customers as part of the package. But each bottle is usually accounted for so the girls can’t take it themselves. Barbara has already had her clothes delivered to her new address by a rider. He was given the clothes by a friend who also works for Henry. That friend is the one who stuffed the clothes in the suitcase since she has a spare key to the room. Barbara intends to ask the guy who will move the fridge and microwave for her to leave the bottles of alcohol in the room. She would have loved to take them as well so that she can sell them, but they will be difficult to carry. Besides, she is now a Christian wife, and she doesn’t want Nick to think otherwise.
Having woken up at her usual time, which now seems so early, Barbara decides to go and get milk, eggs and bread from a nearby shop so that she can prepare breakfast. Nick is still fast asleep. They have agreed that they will be attending the church he joined when he came here last month, but the service will not begin until 10.30 am. So it is still early. As she is passing through the sitting room, she sees Nick’s phone on the floor, vibrating. Yesterday they ate while sitting on the floor, and afterward they started making out until Nick carried her to the bed. His phone was left right there on the floor. Even the plates are still on the floor.
Barbara picks up the phone and realizes that it is Nick’s wife calling. He has saved her as ‘wifey darling’. She takes the phone and quickly steps out of the house with it. She will put this woman in her place, but she can’t do that in the house. She will do that on the road, and if Nick asks, she will say she took the phone to use it to pay for bread and milk. She will admit that she talked to the wife, but claim that all she wanted was to tell her to call later when Nick was awake. If Nick is like most men in love, then he will not listen to his wife’s side of the story, and she, Barbara, will have won round one of the war.
Barbara picks up the call when Mercy calls the third time. She is now on the road headed to the shop.
“What do you want?” she asks rudely.
“Who are you?”
“I am Nick’s wife, and I don’t like it when women call him at night or early in the morning. So I will ask only one more time, what do you want?”
Mercy is speechless. All night she has been thinking that Nick was involved in an accident. She has been praying and hoping that he is alive. Never once did it cross her mind that he was with another woman. How could he be so cruel?
“I want to speak with Nick,” she says, her voice trembling.
“I will not let you steal my husband, woman,” Barbara hisses. “Go and find another one because this one is mine.”
She hangs up before Mercy can say anything else.
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