Jacob adjusts the collar of his shirt as he stares at his image in the large mirror that is in his office. He is not particularly handsome, and he knows it. He is not a traditionally good looking “tall, dark and handsome” man. Neither is he a mammoth of a man with taut biceps and legs the size of Meru Oak trunks. He is not even a cute boy with moistened lips and a near-feminine fragrance about him. He is an average man with average looks.
But he has a goatee.
It is the goatee that makes him stand out. It is what makes women flock to him; assuming that two women can be called a flock. The two women he has been involved with were all brought in his direction by the goatee. One is his ex-wife, Miranda, and the second is the current subject of his affections, Deborah. Right now he is preparing to go and see Deborah.
This dinner date is a big deal for Jacob. That he is dating a woman is actually a big deal, given the trauma he suffered following his separation from Miranda. Miranda left him emotionally shattered and psychologically traumatized. His self-esteem was blown apart, and he contemplated suicide more than a few times. For three years he lived in the bowels of gloom, in the very depths of despair.
But this year, the fourth year since he parted ways with Miranda, the sun is shining upon him again; and Deborah is the brightest ray in that sunshine.
Jacob met Miranda at a civil society meet up at the Panafric Hotel in Nairobi. Those were not the kind of events that Jacob would ordinarily attend, but the NGO he was working for was the one hosting that particular event, and all employees were therefore required to be there. Although the organization he was working for did a lot of human rights activism, Jacob is not a frontline activist. He is a quiet and extremely shy man, who prefers to work from the comfort of his desk. His forte is research. A trained lawyer, Jacob is able to pore through mountains of paperwork looking for threads of relevant or correlating data, something that many activists in the NGO he worked for struggled with. They preferred processed data; they liked to be given information in talking points that they could easily use in television interviews, or which could be converted into slogans to be chanted in protest marches.
Miranda is an activist in fact and in appearance. She is brash but very articulate. She is can be domineering, but she also knows when to turn on the charm. She is not the kind of woman who would shy away from a confrontation. She describes herself as a go-getter who gets whatever she sets her eyes on. In other words, she is the complete opposite of Jacob. At the time, she was working for another NGO, one that dealt with issues to do with Gender Based Violence. Jacob cannot even remember the name.
Miranda found Jacob taking his lunch alone while fiddling with his phone. Almost everybody else was in one or the other of the informal groups that had been established over lunch break. But Jacob is not a social animal. He is not a snub; he is just shy. He was itching to go back to his office and pore over the mountains of data that were awaiting him on his desk.
“Can I touch your beard?” was the first thing she said to him, after setting her food down and sitting opposite him. Jacob remembers being very stunned. He was not used to attracting female attention, and he was certainly not used to women being so brazen. Even the female activists in his organization, all of them hardnosed lawyers who had proven over and over again that they could hold their own in boardrooms, courtrooms and the streets, tended to be coy on the social scene. In fact, Jacob has never been one to attract attention from anyone, male or female. Social gatherings make him very uncomfortable. He did not know how to respond to the strange request, so he just smiled. Miranda took that as consent and she started stroking his goatee.
“Your beard tells me a lot about you,” she said.
“Such as what?” he managed to ask.
“You are a caring and attentive person. This beard is well groomed, which means you take good care of it.”
Miranda sat next to him in the afternoon session and at the end of the day, she offered to drive him home.
“It is okay, Miranda. You don’t have to take the trouble. I will take a matatu.”
“I insist,” she said with a charming smile. “I like you, and I want to spend more time with you.”
Jacob reluctantly agreed. When they got to his place, she invited herself in. She cleaned the dirty dishes that were in the sink and prepared dinner. They made love after eating. Thus, Jacob was dragged into the relationship without his consent. He was not complaining though. Miranda is a beautiful woman, and being an outgoing person, she brought excitement into his life.
Three months after that first day, Miranda discovered that she was pregnant.
“I think we should get married babe,” she told Jacob. “Our baby needs to be brought up in a proper family.”
Jacob was conflicted. He did not feel ready to be a husband, at least not to Miranda, but he was excited about being a father. He did not know how to tell Miranda that, so he came up with the lame excuse that he was not financially stable to marry; that he wouldn’t even afford dowry, leave alone a wedding. That is the time he discovered that Miranda is the daughter of a city tycoon. Her father waived the requirement for dowry and sponsored a lavish wedding. As wedding gifts, old man gave his daughter a house in Spring Valley, and he gifted Jacob a Mercedes. Two months after the wedding, Jacob was promoted to head of research, a newly created post, and the NGO hired a team of six researchers to work under him. He was now at the level of Deputy Executive Director.
The first year of the marriage was okay. Miranda seemed to be intensely in love with him, and Jacob grew into love with her. By the time their daughter was born, he was just as deeply in love as Miranda seemed to be. But their little paradise did not last long. Towards the end of the second year of their marriage, Miranda started being aloof and then she stopped having sex with him, giving a host of excuses. Jacob did his best to make the marriage work, but nothing seemed to please Miranda.
And then one day he found her in bed with another man. She was making love to the stranger on their matrimonial bed.
Miranda did not apologize. She asked him to use the guest room and then locked the master bedroom. It was humiliating. The house manager pretended not to notice the drama, but Jacob could see pity written all over her face. That was not the end of the embarrassment. The following morning Miranda invited her lover to the breakfast table. Jacob could no longer stomach it.
“You are disrespecting both me and our marriage, Miranda,” he had said calmly.
“How?” she asked, to the astonishment of Jacob.
“Did you just ask ‘how’? You cannot just bring another man into our home like this.”
“Jimmy is helping our marriage thrive, Jacob. He is just a friend-with-benefits, and all there is between me and him is sex. I am sorry to tell you, Jacob, but you are boring in bed, and the only way I can stay married to you is if I get someone to keep me satisfied in bed. That is the role Jimmy is playing.”
“I am not going to allow you disrespect me this way. I am filing for divorce.”
“Don’t even thing about such nonsense. My father does not like being humiliated, so if you try that you will pay dearly.”
“I am not afraid of your father, Miranda. You can keep your Jimmy if you want. But I will not be disrespected this way.”
That was the beginning of Jacob’s nightmare. Miranda kicked him out of the house with nothing other than the suit he was wearing that day. He was denied access to his daughter. The car that her father had given him was repossessed. And he was fired from his job. It was at that point that he got to know why he had been promoted so soon after the wedding. Miranda’s father had given a huge donation to the NGO that he (Jacob) worked for, with a promise for more in future. That put Jacob under his father-in-law’s control. To make matters worse, Jacob had no savings. Miranda has an expensive taste, and since she was now his wife, her father made it clear that she was his responsibility. He had spent all his savings and income trying to keep up with her shopping demands. And then he was thrown to the streets, broke and jobless.
The three years that followed were hell for Jacob. He sent job applications everywhere; he got quite a number of positive responses, but he still did not get a job. He was actually hired twice, but the decision was on both occasions reversed before the reporting date. He became a briefcase lawyer, but then one of his clients accused him of stealing her money. She reported him to LSK and his license to practice law was revoked. Jacob was certain that Miranda and her father had something to do with his woes. Things got so bad that his former classmates and colleagues got tired of hosting him and he went to the streets. After several months of despair, he started working on construction sites, and that helped him to rent a shack in Mathare North.
But things took a turn for the better this year. When he was at his lowest, he turned to God. He got saved and started attending and volunteering at a church in Mathare North. Late last year, a Dutch NGO wanted to partner with Kenyan churches to create medico-legal clinics for the most vulnerable. They wanted to create centers in the slums and each centre needed a manager. The church Jacob was attending was selected as the Mathare centre. When vacancies were announced for the centre manager, Jacob applied. The powers that be in the Netherlands were so impressed with his CV that he was interviewed for the position of Deputy Country Manager. He got the position.
Now he is comfortable. He lives in a nice apartment, has a good salary and even has car. And he has Deborah, a woman he is deeply in love with. He met her at a work conference he attended three weeks after he got this job, which is about eleven months ago. The chemistry felt right, and it took Jacob only two months to ask her to be his girlfriend. Although they have been dating for nine months, Jacob has not told Deborah about Miranda. It is still a very painful subject for him. But he intends to do so tonight, over dinner. He is now certain that she is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, so he has to be completely honest with her. If she doesn’t have a problem with his past, he will propose to her. Tonight.
Jacob is running late, but he has already texted Deborah telling her that. When he gets to the table where they normally sit whenever they meet at Traedon Restaurant, he is surprised to see Deborah having a conversation with a woman. Deborah is not the kind of woman to tag her friends to dates. The woman’s back is turned to Jacob, so he does not recognize her immediately. When he does, he nearly faints.
“What are you doing here?” he asks harshly.
“Talking to Deborah,” Miranda responds calmly. “I was telling her that it is not a good idea to date married men.”
“Miranda what do you want from me?”
“Of course it is you I want, my darling husband. You can’t abandon your daughter and I just like that. If you want to divorce me, it is fine. But at least take care of your child.”
“I have to leave,” Deborah interrupts. “I will leave the two of you to settle your domestic quarrels. But I am so disappointed, Jacob. I really thought you are different. I thought you were an honest, God fearing man, but clearly, I was wrong. I don’t want to ever see or hear from you again.”
Deborah is already shedding tears as she rushes out of the door, brushing aside Jacob’s attempts to explain.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/girl-woman-emotions-expressions-1149933/
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