(Continued from Redundant I)
Ryan wakes up early, partly because he is used to, and partly because he has to prepare the children for school. He has been married to Lucy for seven years, and together they have three children: Donald, 6 years; Malcom, 4 years and Diana, 2 years. He leaves his wife snoring in bed and drags himself to the kitchen. He has to prepare porridge for the children before he wakes them up. As the prepares the flour, his mind drifts back to the time he met Lucy for the first time.
It was at his friend Jack’s wedding. Jack and Ryan had been friends since high school, and as it happened, his bride Daisy had been friends with Lucy since college. Both Ryan and Lucy were in the bridal line-up, and as it happened, they were paired together for the dance that leads to the altar.
They danced their way out of the church after the service and onto the reception. They sat at the same table and got talking. It was obvious to both of them that they had some chemistry. They exchanged numbers before the day was over. Lucy texted him two days later, on a Monday, and asked if they could hang out after work. Ryan agreed.
Lucy was and still is a very beautiful woman, but Ryan liked her most because of her intellectual depth. She held a Bachelor’s degree in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, but she was well read and could hold an intelligent conversation on almost any subject, ranging from law, economics, politics and religion. That first day they talked until the restaurant closed. It is on that Monday that he discovered that she was jobless. She explained that she had walked away from her workplace because it had become too toxic, and they had been paying her peanuts anyway. By the time they finished their conversation, it was late. Ryan dropped her at her house before proceeding to his.
A second date followed two days later. Ryan would have given it a couple of days, but she asked and be couldn’t say no. He liked her; that was not in doubt. But he was recovering emotionally, having broken up with his long-term girlfriend less than a month before. He was conflicted. On the one hand, he wanted to give himself time to heal and mend his broken soul, but on the other he did not want to let Lucy go.
He went for the date, and another one over the weekend that followed. When Jack came back from honeymoon, Ryan went to consult. They agreed to meet for coffee in one of the city’s many restaurants. His friend had always been wise, especially in matters relating to women. Jack came to the meeting with his wife, and that made Ryan slightly uncomfortable. He did not have anything against Daisy. To the contrary, he believed that Jack had found the best partner he could.
But he had expected this to be a boys’ chat. Still, he convinced himself that the new development was probably for the best. After all, Daisy knew Lucy better than her husband did. They sat together at the restaurant for hours, discussing the issue. Jack was at first advising Ryan to take it slow, but his wife was pushing for Ryan to “get serious” with Lucy.
“I know you were deeply hurt by Shanice, Ryan,” she said. “But you have to give yourself a chance to be loved. You have to let go of the pain, bitterness and suspicion that have become ingrained in you.”
Jack soon joined in the chorus.
“My wife has a point, Ryan. What happened with Shanice was unfortunate, but it is now in the past. You need to move on with your life. Allow yourself to experience love again.”
It was not surprising that talk about Shanice dominated the night. She had been his girlfriend since college. They were both Christian Union leaders. After campus they both found jobs without tarmacking too much and they immediately started planning to get married. They underwent pre-marital counselling at their church, and Ryan even paid dowry in a colorful event held at her home. They were set to get married two weeks before Jack and Daisy, so that they could return from honeymoon in time to attend Jack and Daisy’s wedding.
But then Ryan discovered that Shanice was pregnant. That was not the problem. They problem was that they had never slept together. They had promised to keep themselves pure till their wedding night. The discovery was accidental. Shanice herself did not know. They were out hiking one afternoon when Shanice started feeling unwell. Ryan rushed her to hospital, especially after she started vomiting.
After initial review of the symptoms, the doctor ordered a number of tests. She was given two containers to give her stool and urine samples. The lab technician also drew blood from her hand. All the tests came out negative except one: pregnancy test.
“You are not unwell, madam,” the doctor said gently. “But you are carrying a baby.”
“It can’t be morning sickness. Isn’t it supposed to happen in the morning? I cannot be pregnant.”
“Some clever soul called it morning sickness but the truth is that it can happen at any time of the day. I could give you some pills to deal with the nausea, but we try to avoid medication unless it is absolutely necessary. I have written down a number of foods that you can eat that will help you. However, if the situation becomes worse-some women do have a very bad experience with morning sickness-please go and see your gynecologist. Once again congratulations to the both of you.”
“Thank you doctor,” Ryan said pleasantly, although he was seething inside. They walked back to the car in silence. Ryan was working as an accountant in manufacturing company at the time, thanks to his CPA qualifications. They were paying relatively well, and he had managed to buy a second-hand Nissan Bluebird.
“Is this how Jesus is coming back?” Ryan finally asked when the car started moving.
“What do you mean by that?” Shanice asked defiantly.
“You are a virgin, and I am a virgin. But we are expecting a baby. This sounds like the Joseph and Mary story. What did Angel Gabriel say you name him? Is it still Jesus or has God changed his mind about the name of the Savior?”
“There is no need to be sarcastic, Ryan. You know this baby is human.”
“But how can it be, Shanice? You and I have never been together sexually. Is there something you are not telling me?”
Shanice signed deeply.
“Ryan, I don’t know how to say this. There was this day last month when you, Eric and I were out shopping for a wedding gown, rings and other things and it got late. Instead of dropping me home you asked Eric to drop me home.”
“Yes, I remember,” Ryan replied. Eric was his friend, and he and his wife were poised to be their best couple at the wedding. That is why they were even helping them shop for the wedding gown and other items.
“Well, I was very hurt. I felt like you did not care about me. I am your responsibility Ryan. You should have taken me home.”
“I live in Embakasi, Shanice, and you live in Regen. Eric and Doreen live in Kikuyu. It made sense for Eric to drop you off on his way home rather than me going all the way to Regen then cutting across the city again. But that still doesn’t explain how your pregnancy came to be.”
“That evening when Eric dropped me home, he mentioned that he did not know where he would eat because Doreen was away on a work trip. I offered to make dinner so that he could eat and go home. I quickly prepared ugali and eggs which we downed with strong tea. We stayed for a while talking and watching a movie and then it started raining. So Eric spent the night in my place and stuff happened. That is how I became pregnant.”
“In short you cheated on me,” Ryan said quietly.
“Don’t make it sound like it was all my fault. If you had taken me home like a responsible boyfriend none of this would have happened. You have a part to play as well. In fact, you had the bigger part to play in this.”
Ryan did not respond. They drove the rest of the way in silence. When they got to the gate of her apartment block, he politely asked to alight.
“I am not leaving this car until we sort out this issue.”
“What issue?” Ryan asked evenly. “Your pregnancy? I think that is something you sort out with your lover. It is none of my business. Now get out of my car.”
“This attitude is the same one that drove me into Eric’s arms. Instead of being apologetic you are acting harsh. With this attitude of yours, what will happen to us?”
“There is no us, Shanice. It is just you and Eric. I am out of that picture. Now get out of my car.”
“We have invested so much in the upcoming wedding…”
“I have even paid your dowry but I don’t care about any of that. Just get the hell out of my car before I lose my temper.”
Shanice sensed that he was serious and she stepped out the car. Ryan drove back to Embakasi, locked himself in his house and wept. That evening he was called by Doreen.
“Are you with Eric? He hasn’t come home which is most unusual. And his phone is off.”
“Maybe you should call Shanice and ask her if he is in her house.”
“Why would my husband be in your fiancée’s house at night?”
“I am sorry to tell you this, Doreen, but Shanice is not my fiancée any more. We broke up today after I discovered she is your co-wife. She is carrying Eric’s baby in her womb. Ask her if he is there.”
He hung up before Doreen could reply. He felt bad because he knew none of that was her fault, nut he was annoyed and did not want the conversation to continue. As it happened, he was right even though he had been speaking sarcastically. Eric abandoned his family and moved in with Shanice. Doreen nearly went crazy. She suggested to Ryan that they should have an affair to revenge, but Ryan refused. Ryan was gutted, but he took it in his stride. He buried himself in work so as to forget his troubles. He quietly cancelled his wedding and moved on with his life.
It was in this context that he met Lucy. He was still emotionally vulnerable and did not want to commit to another relationship, which he felt would be a rebound relationship. But he allowed his friends to talk him into dating Lucy and so the day after that coffee date with Jack and Ryan, he asked her to be his girlfriend.
Although he had been hesitant at first, Ryan came to love Lucy deeply, and by the time he was asking her to be his wife, he was convinced that it was the right decision. And he was right, until recently.
Of the seven years he has been married to Lucy, over six and a half have been blissful. There have been the usual ups and downs of a marriage, but by and large they have been happily married. They have had differences and argued, but they have always been able to sort out all these differences amicably.
But ever since he lost his job, Lucy has changed. She has become a totally different person. She is rude, inconsiderate and seems to have abandoned the very basic things that made formed the pillar of their marriage. Ryan has been staying on because he has been hoping to get another job quickly. For a man who has never been out of a job since he left university, he thought he would quickly be called for interviews. After all, he has the experience and the papers. But he has since realized that job hunting is humbling.
Ryan prepares the children for school and then walks them to the bus stage. He has already paid their school fees for the rest of the year, and that is the other reason he is finding it difficult to leave. If he leaves, his only option is to go to the village, where he built a house years ago. But that would mean changing schools for the children, Yet he does not have money to pay school fees for them in another school. Renting another house in the city is out of question. He cannot afford to rent another house in the city, where he would stay with them as the went to school. And even if he got a free house, he doesn’t have anything to feed them.
He has only two options: he either goes to the village alone, and leaves the children with their toxic mother, or sucks it up and stays put for the sake of his children. When he was single, and even when he was happily married, he used to think people who stayed in toxic marriages “for the sake of the children” were insane.
“It doesn’t do the children any good,” used to pontificate. “Children are better off being brought up in a happy and peaceful environment by a single parent than in a toxic marriage by both parents.”
But now he realizes why people stay. He knows that if he leaves, Lucy will not take proper care of the children, especially now that she has started to drink. And if he leaves with them, he does not have enough resources to give them a comfortable life. When you don’t have the resources to provide, you have to decide what your children need more: is it a peaceful home or is it basic necessities like food, shelter and education?”
As the school bus disappears around, Ryan feel a tear rolling down his cheek. He quickly wipes it and goes back to the house. He has to prepare breakfast for his wife before she goes to work. And he has to clean the house before baby Diana wakes up. There is no time to feel sorry for himself.
(To be continued on Wednesday.)
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