Bishop Nkanata’s private prayer room is a large, empty room with a thick, green carpet of oriental origin. The walls are bare, save for the portrait of his first wife Esther, the wife of 26 years who was ruthlessly grabbed from him by breast cancer. Esther fought the cancer bravely for two years. She always welcomed her visitors with her smile. Towards the end the smile was strained, but it remained there. In fact, when she finally departed, she left with a faint smile on her face, defying the cancer had ravaged her body, leaving her just but a skeleton.
The emptiness that the Bishop felt when she died was overwhelming. He had met and fallen in love with her at the University of Nairobi School of Law and married her shortly after they were admitted to the Bar. She became his partner in every aspect of life for 26 years. When he decided not to practice law shortly after their wedding and instead start a church, she supported him and for a couple of years, they lived on her salary while the young church struggled to attract members. They had raised three fine boys to adulthood, together. They built the church from a congregation five-themselves plus three neighbors-to the nine thousand members that she left when she died.
Esther frowned upon their using church funds to enrich themselves. So she fixed a salary for him and adjusted it as the church grew, but always kept it modest. She refused to fix a salary for herself, insisting that although she had an office at the church, she was a part-time volunteer because she was still employed, and later, ran her own law firm. She gave to the church like every other congregant. As the church expanded, she hired administrative and support staff for the church, and encouraged her husband to appoint a Deacon’s Board and Associate Pastors to help him with his pastoral duties. Most importantly, she established a Fund registered under the Church’s name whose purpose was to help the poor. The surplus of the church collections, after salaries and other bills were paid, went to the Fund. The Trustees of the Fund used the money for charitable causes agreed upon by the church board. The Deacons and Fund Trustees did not draw allowances but did the work on a part-time voluntary basis.
Esther was an administrator par excellence, which gave Bishop Nkanata the freedom to focus on the spiritual aspects of his job.
Dorothy has undone most of Esther’s work in six short years. She now pays herself an equal salary to her husband, and the church caters for all her expenses, including foreign travel and shopping. The Fund is now severely underfunded. Sometimes pastors and other staff go without salaries. There have been murmurs, but no one can confront Dorothy. The Bishop at first let Dorothy takeover Esther’s role because he was smitten and because it was the logical thing to do at the time, but now he has lost control of her and has no idea how to rein her in.
After twenty-six years of having Esther do the administrative work, the Bishop has no idea how to go about firing anyone, much less his own wife.
The Mansion, Dorothy’s jewel, would have appalled Esther.
“Why do we need a mansion for a home John? Do you know how many orphans we can feed with the money you are spending on this construction?” she would have asked.
They had lived in a rented apartment for ten years, before buying a piece of land in the outskirts of Nairobi and constructing a modest three bedroom house. The Bishop still owns the house, but it is his first born son Joe who now lives there with his wife Judy. Joe took over his mother’s law firm after her death.
But Dorothy’s extravagance is the least of the Bishop’s headaches. His second marriage is itself a major migraine. Dorothy started treating him icily almost as soon as she had a ring on her finger. She hardly acknowledges his presence in private. If he tries to converse with her, she replies sharply, her tongue dripping with sarcasm. It is obvious she loathes him and only stays married to him for the attention, power and wealth. Of course they are pastors so in public they have to keep appearances. They hold hands, they hug, and they peck and gush over each other on social media. But it is all a façade.
The Bishop is frustrated, but he has no idea how to get rid of his wife without offending scripture or causing a spectacle. He feels old, and he is. He is turning fifty-eight in September, twenty-seven years older than his second wife.
The Bishop stares at Esther’s portrait with tears dripping down his cheeks. It is a beautiful photo, taken on her fortieth birthday. Beautiful as ever, she is smiling down at him with those eyes that seem to dance mischievously even in a still photo.
He had a good marriage once. How did he get it so wrong with Dorothy?
Dorothy had been the leader of worship at the church. He cannot remember exactly how their romance began, but it was shortly after Esther’s death. The romance consumed them like a wildfire. Before long, they were sleeping with each other. This filled the Bishop with guilt: standing on the pulpit every Sunday while living in sin. So he moved quickly to regularize the situation by marrying her.
“I am so sorry Ess,” he whispers, touching her left cheek on the portrait with his hand.
A gentle knock on the door startles him to the present. Never before has anyone come to this room when he is praying. Or supposed to be praying. He turns to face the door, forgetting to wipe his tears.
Nancy peeps in, sees his tears and hesitates.
“You have seen them already, Bishop?”
Nancy whips out her phone and moves towards the Bishop.
“I know it is none of my business, but I thought you might want to see this immediately so that you can decide how to deal with it.”
Jane is disappointed. She was sure she was Mwangoye’s woman on this trip, but when she knocks on his door, she hears a woman’s voice laughing. The brute has managed to smuggle a woman into a holy man’s compound. Miffed, she turns to go back to her room.
But as she passes Peter’s door, a thought occurs to her. What if she ambushes him? What if he has forgotten to close the door, and she manages to get in and snuggle into bed with him? She has tried to seduce him many times, and so far he has resisted her. But any man can be seduced. If she catches him at the right moment, she can break his defenses with her feminine charm.
She laughs at her own ridiculous idea. Of course Peter has locked the door. The man is too careful, almost to the point of paranoia. But then again, what is the harm in trying?
She moves closer and tries the lock. The door yields and flings open. It takes her a moment to realize what she is seeing.
Ho-ho! She almost yelps with excitement when it hits her. The Mr. Righteous who has resisted her advances for two years now is stark naked and making out passionately with their host, the Bishop’s wife.
Instinctively, she whips out her phone and takes photos. Peter jumps and dashes towards her but she ducks out of the room and flees, knowing he wouldn’t chase her outside while naked. She locks herself in her room and within minutes, she is telling her girlfriends her discovery. She even shares the photos.
Less than an hour later social media is abuzz with nude and almost pornographic photos of celebrity pastor Reverend Dorothy Nkanata. Nobody knows where they came from, and nobody cares. Twitter is ungovernable. Facebook is ablaze. A country that thrives on celebrity scandals has just found a hot topic to discuss for the next several days.
Peter instinctively knows what is coming. He has worked with Jane long enough to know that the photos will leak within no time. The girl acts without thinking. The first thought that crosses his mind is not even his boss or the Bishop. It is his wife, Rehema. The lovely woman he has fought so hard to remain faithful to for the five years they have been married. Is this how it ends?
Tears of guilt and frustration start welling in his eyes.
(Continued at Potiphar’s Wife III)