Martin has been married to his wife Peninah for twenty-one years now. They have three children; the twins, Joyce and Loyce, 19 and Antony, 16. He is happy with his family. They live a comfortable, middle class (wealthy, by village standards) life in their home in Nchuguni village, Karanga Location in Tharaka Nithi County. For twenty-one years, his marriage has been happy and stable. He has enjoyed every minute of his life with Peninah for these twenty-one years. Their friendship is solid. Their intimacy is still as fulfilling as it was when they were newly-weds.
Martin, 47, is the CEO of PCEA Karanga Mission Hospital, a job he has held for four years now. Peninah, 46, is the Managing Director of Karanga Sacco, a deposit-taking microfinance institution that she birthed and nursed from a self-help group to its current status. She is also a prominent poultry farmer. She started with chicken but has diversified to ducks, geese, quails and guinea fowl. They have also invested in real estate, and over the years have built many residential rental houses around Karanga location, and commercial buildings in Karanga market. Martin has a hardware and auto spares shop in Karanga Market.
They fellowship at PCEA Nchuguni church which is within Karanga Parish. Martin was ordained as a church elder three years ago, while Peninah is the Chairlady of the Woman’s Guild.
Theirs was a quiet, blissful life until Patricia happened.
Patricia is a 29-year-old doctor who was hired by the Hospital Board last year. Admittedly, she is beautiful. But then again the hospital is crawling with pretty, young nurses, secretaries, clinical officers and orderlies.
Martin is not the type to chase after women. Like any other man, he does appreciate a beautiful woman when he sees one, but he is disciplined and self-controlled. He does not allow any woman other than his wife Peninah to linger in his thoughts for more than a fleeting moment. He is very conscious about respecting his wedding vows.
But Patricia has changed that.
At first it was subtle. She would always find a reason to be in his office. The medicines are running out. The children in the pediatric ward need more toys. The things she came to complain about were supposed to be handled by the Deputy CEO, Administration or the Chief Doctor, who is also the Deputy CEO, Medical Affairs. By nature, Martin is not a confrontational man. He would listen calmly then he would send her to the Chief Doctor. He would quickly forget about her and go back to his work.
But these days she just pops by for a chat. She will crack him up with her jokes then leave for her rounds in the wards. Slowly, and to his dismay, he has realized that he is thinking about her more and more often. He looks forward to the smell of her perfume filling his office. He thinks about her jokes; he thinks about her cleavage, which these days she finds clever ways of flaunting for his benefit. He thinks about her body in a way that he knows, subconsciously, will land him in trouble.
He knows he should stop entertaining her in his office and so decides to put her in her place when he sees her next.
Martin grew up in poverty. His father was a drunkard who sold his entire inherited land and used the money to finance his drinking habits and mistresses. He kicked out Martin’s mother when Martin was just four years old. When the money ran out, and he had no more land to sell, he committed suicide by taking rat poison.
Martin’s mum, Diana, rented a single room house at Karanga market and did odd jobs to put food at the table and send Martin to school. One day she would be picking tea at someone’s farm, the next she would be washing clothes, the next she would be weeding at a maize farm. She sent Martin to Karanga primary, a day primary school. Being a public primary school, the fee was minimal but Martin’s mother still struggled to pay. That was before free primary education.
But the headmaster was kind and allowed her flexibility of payment. Sometimes she would even be allowed to work at the school farm to settle the fee. She always reminded Martin that their only hope out of poverty was his education. So Martin studied hard. He was always top of his class. At the end of class seven, he passed and was admitted to Meru School.
Fortunately, he got bursaries and was able to go through his secondary school without a hitch. He passed his exam and was admitted to Egerton University to study Bachelor of Science in Soil Management. It is while at Egerton that he came to know Peninah. He was elated to know that she came from a neighboring village. They found themselves as members of MUBET, a Christian evangelistic team for University students from the Meru region.
Soon, they fell in love and started dating. They told their parents not long after. Diana said she was okay with it, but reminded Martin that his education came first. She counseled him not to allow his relationship to sidetrack him from his education. Peninah’s father, Geoffrey, embraced the relationship. Apparently, he had met his wife, Rachel, while studying at Kenyatta University College. Rachel succumbed to breast cancer when Peninah was sixteen years old. Peninah was an only child and Geoffrey never remarried.
Geoffrey was even more excited when he learned that Martin was the MUBET Chairman and an active youth member of PCEA Karanga church. Geoffrey was a church elder and the Chairman of PCEA Nchuguni church, which is within Karanga parish. Although he remains influential in PCEA circles, Geoffrey has since retired as an elder, and his son-in-law has taken his place.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, Peninah came back home and decided to start farming. She started rearing broiler chicken at her father’s farm. Her father, a retired secondary school teacher and established farmer, gave her the capital to start her chicken farm on one corner of his ten-acre farm.
As her farm flourished, she hired several employees, and her father transferred an acre of land to her. She constructed her house on one part of her newly acquired land and used the rest for her farming business.
Martin did not graduate. He was accused of cheating in an exam and was expelled. He maintained his claims of innocence and Peninah, who was at the same school, believed him. The reality was that he had resisted the advances of a female lecturer and she fixed him. Diana was devastated. Her life’s efforts had come to naught.
Unlike Peninah, Martin did not have a father to give him land to farm on. So he struggled with joblessness. When Nchuguni Day Secondary School was established, he applied for a teaching job and was hired, earning a salary of Kshs. 2000.
Peninah kept asking about marriage, and he kept dodging the question. By then they had dated for six and a half years. Eventually, he came clean and admitted his fears. He was earning only two thousand shillings, was living in a single room in Karanga market, just next to his mother. Without a degree, his prospects were dim. Where would he take a wife?
“Marriage is a partnership darling,” she told him. “I have a house, which will be your house. You can join me in the farm and we can grow it together.”
“How will I even afford dowry?”
“Leave that to me,”
Geoffrey was not even keen on dowry, and he gladly blessed their union. A simple church wedding was done at PCEA Nchuguni church, and the newly-weds established themselves at the piece of land that Peninah had inherited from her father.
Martin refused to join the poultry business. He said he wanted to have his own career. Peninah paid for him to do a diploma in education. He was later hired by TSC as a teacher at Karanga Boys High School, then a tiny, abandoned school. The University Senate at Egerton overturned his expulsion after several years, and he was allowed to graduate. He later did an Executive Masters in Business Administration at Strathmore University but chose to remain a teacher.
He rose through the ranks and became the Principal of Karanga Boys. In the five years he was at the helm, he built the school into a modern institution. He constructed new classes, built and equipped laboratories and dormitories. He raised funds through three fundraisers, one of which was attended by the Vice President.
He has been hailed around Karanga as a visionary. Four years ago the Hospital Board offered him a position at Karanga Mission Hospital as the CEO. He resigned from his teaching job and joined the hospital. That is where Patricia found him.
He is actually thinking about her when she breezes into his office. Her perfume intoxicates him and he is momentarily in a stupor.
“Happy birthday Mart!” she coos. He cannot remember when she stopped calling him “Mr. Arithi”.
She is carrying a cake and a nicely wrapped gift. It is 8 PM. He has had such a busy day that he forgot it was his birthday. And Peninah was to take him out for dinner! He checks his phone. Six missed calls.
“Look, Patricia. I need to run. My wife is taking me for dinner. And tomorrow, you and I need to talk.” he says, standing up and straightening his jacket.
“Have I done something wrong?” she asks, pouting.
She places the cake and the gift on his desk and moves closer to him. He is adjusting his tie when she cups her hands on his face. His body starts becoming weak with lust, but he removes her hands from his face.
“I am a married man, Patricia. And I am your boss. We need to draw certain boundaries between us,”
“I mean no harm baby. Is it my fault that I fell in love with you?” she asks and starts sobbing. She knows tears will disarm him for a while. She slowly wraps her hands around him and hugs him tightly, while still sobbing. Before he can decide what to do, she lifts her head and kisses him softly on the lips. Then she takes his hand and places it on her chest, under her blouse.
Soon, their bodies are entangled in passionate petting. They collapse on his chair, with Patricia sitting on his lap. They are making out so passionately that they do not hear Peninah enter the room.
“Marty!” she screams and drops the cake she is carrying.
Martin bolts up upon hearing her voice, shoving Patricia aside. His eyes meet Peninah’s briefly, before she turns and hurries out of the office, tears rolling down her cheeks.
(To be continued)
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