(I first wrote this story in October 2018 under the title ‘Siring the Fatherless’. I am tinkering with it a bit, so that I open it up and expand it into a novella)
Wayne rests on the couch. He is holding his phone with one hand. He is chatting while watching a T.D Jakes sermon on TV. Being a church deacon, he forces his family to watch Christian programs every evening. Soap operas are not allowed in his house. He usually switches back to Citizen TV at 9PM so that he can watch the news bulletin.
“Dad, my exams are next week. I will not sit for them if I will not have paid my school fees,” his daughter says.
Salome is a lovely girl. Tall and athletic, she has a beautiful face and a brilliant mind. She is a second-year student at Kenyatta University. Wayne admits that she picked most those physical attributes from her mother. But there is one she picked from him: she is combative and has a very sharp tongue. Wayne’s wife Nancy, a manager at a Sacco, is docile and will do anything to steer clear of conflict.
“I don’t have money,” he says without looking up from his phone.
“Dad, you never have money. You have never once paid my school fee or Jeremy’s. You leave mom to struggle with all that. You don’t buy our clothes. You don’t even buy food in this house. Are we not your children?”
“Shut up Salome. You will not talk to me like that. I am your father, and you are in my house.”
Salome starts to retort but Nancy cuts in.
“It is okay Salome. I will pay your fees tomorrow.”
“You don’t have money, mom. You know that, and I know that. You even took a loan to pay Jeremy’s fees for this semester.”
“The Sacco will give me a top-up loan. Don’t worry baby, everything will be okay.”
Nancy can see Salome cast a wicked glance at her father, who has forgotten all about them again and gone back to his phone. Wayne doesn’t find it ironic that he denies his family the chance to watch their preferred programs yet he doesn’t even concentrate on the programs he insists everyone should watch.
“I am almost done with school mom, and as you know, I secured a part time job this month. I am getting paid this Friday. I will pay Salome’s fee. Don’t take another loan,” Jeremy says quietly.
Nancy smiles kindly. Jeremy is her first child. He is good-looking, with a tall, thickset frame like his father. He is on his last semester at the University of Nairobi. But like her, he prefers to steer away from trouble. Both children commute to school from the family home in Ruiru.
Jeremy rises and clears the tables. Their father has not touched his food so Jeremy leaves his plate on the table. Wayne usually warms the food late in the night and eats when everyone else has gone to sleep. He is addicted to his phone and hardly talks to his children or wife. It is either his phone or the television.
At precisely 9.30 pm, Jeremy switches off the TV.
“Dad, you are the one leading the devotion today,” he says.
Wayne reluctantly looks up.
“Okay. Is there anyone who has anything special to say before I pray?”
Jeremy and Salome exchange glances. Their father gives tediously long sermons and equally long prayers in church. But at home, he does not bother with sermons and his prayers are usually shorter than the toes of the Biblical Zacchaeus. What more, his family can sense his impatience when his wife is leading the devotion, except that he can’t tell her to hurry. After all, he is still a deacon in church.
Within minutes, the devotion is over. Wayne has said a very short prayer and then declared the evening devotion over. Nancy and Jeremy retire to their bedrooms upstairs, while Wayne goes back to his spot on the couch. Salome would ordinarily have gone upstairs to her room, but today she stays behind with her father. Nancy gives her daughter a worried look. She knows that the younger woman is up to no good, and a fight might erupt while she and Jeremy are asleep.
Salome stretches herself on the couch that is directly opposite the one her father is occupying and whips out her phone. She has decided that she will wait until he goes to warm his food, because that is when she is likely to get his attention. By the time Wayne goes to warm his food, it is 11 pm.
“Aren’t you going to bed?” he asks, coming back to the sitting room with a warm plate of food.
“I want to talk to you.”
“About what? I said I don’t have money.”
Salome takes a deep breath. She has already decided that she will do this calmly, so she fights the wave of resentment that rises within her and tries to be sweet.
“It’s not about money dad.”
“Then what is this about?” Wayne asks, looking at his daughter quizzically.
“What about life?”
Salome pauses, choosing her words.
“Isn’t it funny how unfair life is? For instance, I have this friend who took me took me to visit another friend of hers. That friend of my friend is very wealthy. She lives in a two bedroom apartment and drives a nice car. Yet she is my age-mate.”
Wayne is hardly listening. He slouches on the sofa again and continues chatting while eating.
“Dad, are you even listening to me?”
“Yes, I am. That is how life is. Some have a lot, others have little.”
“That girl is dating this married man who pays for all her expenses, including the car. Today she was bragging about her boyfriend. She even showed us his photos so that we could see how handsome he is,” Salome continues.
Wayne does not respond. Instead, he continues chatting on his phone.
“Dad!” Salome screams.
“Stop yelling. If your friend has a car, she has a car. How is that my problem?”
“It is your problem because you bought the car, dad. And you pay that girl’s rent. I am pretty sure you are not listening to me because you are talking to her. Deny it, dad…deny that you are seeing Janet. You cannot afford my school fees but you can buy Janet a car and rent her a house in Rongai? Do you also pay her fees? It was your photos she showed us, dad. Photos of you and her on her bed, cuddling. Do you know how humiliating it was? How many other women have you been cheating on mom with anyway?”
Wayne is speechless. How could his girlfriend have met his daughter? He has dated young girls before but he has avoided Kenyatta University ever since Salome enrolled there. He has also been avoiding girls from the University of Nairobi because Jeremy is a student there. In fact, he prefers girls from Universities that are out of town yet close enough to the city. Multimedia, Machakos and Murang’a universities are his favorites. Janet studies at Multimedia University, so how did she and Salome meet?
He recovers quickly.
“Listen to me, young lady. You will not talk to me like that, throwing false allegations around. Your friend could be a drug dealer and downloaded my photo on the internet to brag with. I will not take nonsense from you. Today I will teach you a lesson,” he booms. He rises from his seat and approaches her.
“If you touch Salome I will kill you dad,” a masculine voice says from behind them.
Wayne whirls around and sees his son looking at him menacingly. On the sofa where he had been sitting, his wife Nancy is scrolling through his phone, sobbing. Wayne did not hear them coming down the stairs.
“So you are all ganging up against me now? You all think you are grown up and can challenge me in my own house?”
“Correction Wayne,” Nancy says as she struggles to stop crying. “This is not your house; it is our house. This plot may be yours, but I contributed to the construction of this house using Sacco loans. The children have a right to call this house their home. Are you not even ashamed of dating a girl Salome’s age?”
“Don’t talk to me like that,” Wayne growls. “Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror? You are a tired old hag. You don’t even bother to look after yourself. What am I supposed to do when this world is crawling with women who know how to take care of themselves?”
“Of course I am an old hag; an old hag who spends all her money and energies taking care of your children. What kind of a father are you anyway?”
“Who told you to give birth? And how can I even be sure that the children are mine? You pretend to be suffering with loans but we all know you prostitute yourself for money.”
The insult cuts Nancy deeply. She turns and leaves, tears rolling down her cheeks. On seeing his mother’s tears, Jeremy loses it. He grabs his father and pushes him to the wall.
“I will kill you with my bare hands today,” he hisses. He is so occupied that he does not notice as his father pulls out a pocket knife.
Image by Pexels from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/man-heartache-chest-pain-hurt-pain-1846050/
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