Continued from My Flesh and Blood II
Flora walks to the house and locks herself in the master bedroom. On her way there, she passes Jerome and Ruth cuddling on the sofa while pretending to watch the movie that Ruth had been watching earlier. But it is obvious that they are more interested in each other than in the movie. Flora wonders how the congregation will receive the news about their pastor’s second wife. But she realizes that most modern congregations are so beholden to their pastors that nothing will be done.
Flora also wonders whether she can reach out to the Bishop for help. The Bishop could crack the whip on Jerome, but that is unlikely to happen for two reasons. The first is that the Kenol church is quickly becoming the wealthiest in the network of churches, and everyone knows that is because of Jerome’s charisma. Like the other pastors, Jerome gives a tithe of the gross revenue of the church income to the Bishop, and that is money the Bishop would not want to lose. The second reason is that the land that the church stands on is registered in the name of Jerome and not the church. This was a deceitful master stroke on the part Jerome, one which even Flora did not discover until much later. What this means is that even if the Bishop excommunicated Jerome, the latter would simply change the name of the church and continue pastoring.
No, the Bishop cannot help. And even if he was able and willing to crack the whip on Jerome, what would be the point? There is really no point of remaining matrimonially bonded to someone who does not want you.
Flora sits on the bed wondering what she should do. She knows for a fact that she cannot and will not continue living in this house with Ruth. The disrespect will be too much. But how does she start all over again? More importantly, will she now grow old alone? Jerome has been resisting the idea of visiting a doctor over their inability to have a child, but the fact that he has impregnated Ruth means that it is she, Flora, who is infertile. So if she walks out on her marriage she will grow old alone, with neither a husband nor a child.
She is lying on the bed, too tired to even cry anymore, when her friend Joyce calls.
“What is the matter?” Joyce asks after they exchange greetings. “You don’t sound okay. You definitely don’t sound like your usual chirpy self. Is everything okay?”
Flora debates within herself for only a micro-second. She knows she has to talk to someone, otherwise her head will burst. And Joyce has been her friend since high school. They even went to university together, and so she knows Jerome very well.
“My marriage has failed, Joy. I am so confused right now.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Same old issue that plagues every barren woman since the world was created.”
“Come on Flo, who said you are barren? It is possible that Jerome is the infertile one. Besides, that is a non-issue. Didn’t you tell me that you have agreed to adopt children?”
“That was my idea. Jerome never quite accepted it. And right now it won’t even work. I have just found out that he has impregnated my sister and he says that he wants to take her in as a second wife.”
“No way! He can’t do that to you.”
“I cannot believe it either Joy. But when he learned that she is pregnant-he has also learned today-he kissed her on the lips right in front of me. He told me right to my face that she is going to be my co-wife and that I should accept that reality. Right now they are cuddling on the sofa that I bought with my own money. I am so confused sis.”
“Just let them be. Do not kill yourself with stress. Walk out and do not even look back.”
“And leave everything behind? I bought everything in this house Joy. Even the Lord knows that Jerome has never spent even a coin to purchase household items. I even built the house itself with my own money. I bought the car that Jerome is driving. I am in debt because of all the things I have been doing for these clowns.”
“You have always been one to keep records of everything. Do you have receipts of those things?”
Flora smiles in spite of the circumstances. When they were in college Joy used to call her a “receipt-hoarder” because she used to keep receipts of everything that she bought. Flora claimed that she wanted to keep records so that she could tell whether her chapati business was making profit, but the truth is that she kept receipts of even items that were totally unrelated to the business.
“Yeah I do, at least for the household items. You know I need to keep receipts so that I can tell whether I am wasting time rolling flour at night,” she jokes, and both of them laugh.
“Good. I will find you a lorry tomorrow that you can use to cart away all those items. Nobody can accuse you of stealing of you can prove that you bought them. I will talk to Joab so that we can release one or two of our lorries to you. But you will need to take off from work to ensure that this is done. Maybe you should text your boss before you sleep.”
“Okay Joy. So you will give me a lorry to cart away my items. Then what? Where will I take the items? I don’t have a house. And I can’t put this one in one of the lorries because even if I could, I don’t have land on which to place it. Shouldn’t house hunting be the first order of business?”
“We have a vacant two bedroom house in Thika, Flo. I am thinking you can move there until you figure out what to do.”
“Thank you so much Joy. I really don’t know how to thank you.”
“It is the least I can do, girlfriend. You have also been there for me many times. Let me talk to Joab and call you back. I don’t think he will object, but still I like consulting him so that he knows what is going on in the business.”
After Joyce hangs up, Flora lies on the bed and tries to figure out how her life will be, moving forward. In many ways, she is considered successful. At the age of thirty five, she is the Deputy Head of Finance in a fast growing manufacturing company. And she has heard that her boss might be resigning soon, so she might even make another leap in the not too distant future.
But her personal life is in shambles. She could not give her husband a child, and now he has chosen a younger woman to carry his seed; a younger woman who happens to be her own sister. She envies her friend Joyce, but not in a bad way. Joyce and her husband Joab also met while in campus, although Joab was doing computer science in JKUAT. They got married soon after graduation. Unlike Flora, Joyce remained a teacher. She was hired by Chania High on board terms and later was absorbed by TSC while remaining at the same school. Joab got a job while still in campus, as an IT consultant for a small NGO. He has advanced professionally and is now the head of IT in one of the larger oil companies in the country. They started investing early, taking loans from Saccos to buy land and build rental houses. They have recently gotten into commercial transport business. They bought three lorries and six pick-up trucks that they use to ferry goods across the country. Joy told Flora that they got a loan from the bank to purchase the vehicles and to set up an office in Thika. Joyce quit her TSC job and is now the one who runs the business, while her husband remains employed. Flora invested in her family and in her husband’s ministry and now she is walking away with nothing, save for household items. She is almost starting to cry again when Joyce calls back.
“Joab has told me that we can release two lorries to come and help you move. Both will come with loaders so don’t worry about that. He has also confirmed that the house that I told you about is vacant and that you can take it. You will find me at your new house.”
“Joy, I appreciate everything you are doing for me. But there is something we haven’t spoken about. I am not in a financial position to pay for the lorries or for the rent and deposit for the house…”
“Oh don’t worry about that girlfriend. We will not charge you for transporting the items. And as for the house, we will also not charge you for six months. You will only be taking care of your bills such as water, electricity and garbage collection. I think in six months’ time you will have figured out one way or another the direction your life is taking. Right now I think what you need most is peace of mind.”
“Thank you so much my friend.”
“You are welcome. It’s what friends are for.”
“And by the way, you called first. What did you want to tell me?”
“It is not important anymore.”
“Come on, Joy. Don’t leave me hanging like that.”
“It might come off as insensitive given the latest development, so let’s just forget it.”
“Come on, Joy. After everything you have done for me, you think I would judge you for anything you say? Just spit it out.”
Joy hesitates before speaking out.
“Angela and I are organizing a couples’ get away experience. We will leave on Friday evening and get back on Saturday afternoon as we normally do. I was calling to find out if you and Jerome can join us.”
“Yeah I get why you didn’t want to tell me. I will pass, because I can’t come alone.”
“I am sorry, Flo.”
“It’s okay Joy. This is a storm but I will overcome.”
Have hanging up, Flora can feel her tears coming again. All her friends are married and with children. It has been hard enough being the only childless one in the group. They have always tried to be sensitive around her, but that only made it worse. They were excited about parenting and they couldn’t help talking about their children. Every time they remembered that she was amongst them and started holding back, she would feel guilty; she would feel as though she was the one killing the vibe of the group.
Now she knows that it will be even worse. She doesn’t have a husband, and she doesn’t have children. The dynamics of her social circle will change significantly.
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