Family Life

Redundant IV-By Edward Maroncha

(Continued from Redundant III)

Ryan does not intend to fight the divorce. He doesn’t even have the money to fight. He intends to use every coin that he gets for survival, not to pay lawyers. The gentleman he is negotiating with has finally agreed to pay Kshs. 320, 000.  Ryan will meet him today so that they can sign the papers and so that he can get his money.

He has started making inquiries about houses and he is shocked. When he rented this house for sixteen thousand shillings some ten years ago, it was probably the most expensive house in the neighborhood. It is a two-bedroom apartment, and back then he could easily have rented a one-bedroom apartment for eleven or twelve thousand. His landlord has not increased his rent in ten years, and so he has been living in a bubble.

A cursory check yesterday revealed to him that he will struggle to get a one-bedroom apartment for sixteen thousand, unless he is willing to move to another neighborhood. And a cheaper neighborhood probably means somewhere where security is not guaranteed, or where water is a headache. His current landlord installed water tanks that ensure that his tenants have water every day of the week, even when the county government is rationing.

That reality, and the fact that he doesn’t want to experiment with another neighborhood, has convinced him to stay in this house for the next two months only. When schools close, he will move to the village with the children, and use the money he would have used as rent to find them good schools in the village. As he transfers the kids, he will also try and negotiate with the school to refund the unused school fees for the rest of the year. If he is careful about his expenses, the money he will get from the sale of his car and the school fees refund will be enough for them to live quite comfortably in the village. He will even manage to start an income generating project, such as poultry or vegetable farming. Their lifestyle will not be the same, but Ryan doesn’t care about that. As long as the kids are going to school, and he is able to feed, clothe and house them, then he is okay.

Ryan is upbeat about the future. He knows things will be rough in the shortrun, but he is convinced that he and his children will make it in the long run. His current struggle is how he will tell the children that their mother is not coming back. Even with her recent change of attitude, the children still love her. Her absence is going to hit them hard, but there is nothing he can do about it. He will just have to find the words to gently explain to them that their mother might be gone for a while…perhaps forever.


The purchaser of the car turns out to be a middle-aged man called Leonard. He is pleasant enough, and comes accompanied by his daughter. They meet at a garage about a kilometer from where Ryan lives. Ryan did not want to bring a stranger to his house. Leonard has tagged his daughter along.

“You have really taken good care of her,” he says with a smile, referring to the car. He has inspected the outer body, the interior and checked the engine. “I saw the photos but I still could not believe that a car this old could be in such a good shape. Trust me I know a well maintained car when I see one, because I am a trained mechanic.”

“I have had her for nine years, and let’s just say that we have taken good care of each other. Even right now it hurts me to let go of her.”

“Nine years! That is very impressive. Very few people in your generation stay with one car for that long. Have you finally decided to upgrade?”

“I wish that was the case,” Ryan says, trusting the man for some reason. “I have just fallen on some hard times and I want to stay afloat until I can get back on my feet.”

The man nods sympathetically.

“Just hang on there, brother. Better days are coming. I was there about fifteen years ago. Cancer knocked on my household and it nearly destroyed me. It took my wife, my finances, my job and left me with two little girls to care for with nothing. I was certain that that was the end.

But God is always faithful. Before my wife’s death I was a banker and she was a doctor. But when she fell sick, I was fired because I was constantly away from work taking care of her. Her treatment drained our savings and left me in debt. After her death I really struggled  to find another job.

At some point I moved to my rural home in Thika with my daughters and started doing vegetable farming. That is also the time I trained as a mechanic, just to earn the extra coin. That is what kept us going for some years. The farming venture went particularly well, and I expanded to dairy cows and poultry. Thank God I had ancestral land to fall back to. After a few years I started buying and selling land. I started with cheap plots in the interior parts of Thika and Murang’a. That is how I got into real estate. I am not the richest person on this earth, and my company is not the largest in this city (you have probably never heard of it) but I am doing okay.

This girl is my first born and she is now a university graduate. She graduated last week with a degree Mathematics and Statistics. I am buying this car as a present for her. Her sister is a second-year student at Kenyatta University, so in two years’ time I will be done with this school thing.

My point is, whatever situation you are going through, better days are coming. Hang on there, bro.”

The words of the stranger are very encouraging to Ryan. He is in better spirits as they conclude car deal. Leonard rides the car around the estate to “get a feel of it” then allows his daughter to drive them to the bank where they transfer the money to Ryan’s account. Ryan initiates the NTSA transfer and then gives Leonard and his daughter Cynthia the original log book. He and his children take a matatu back home.

“Daddy, where have they taken our car?” his four-year-old son Malcom asks as they head back home.

“It’s their car now, son,” Ryan explains to him gently. “We have sold it to them.”

“So, we don’t have a car now?”

“We have mommy’s car. Isn’t it dad?” six-year-old Donald says, looking very clever. A public matatu is not the best place to tell the children that their mother is no longer in their lives, so he just nods in agreement.

“Yes, son. That is correct.”

But Malcom is not done yet.

“Dad, why did you sell the car?”

Again, Ryan is conscious of the fact that he is in a very public place. In as much as he tries to be honest with the kids, he cannot discuss his personal problems in a matatu. But at the same time, he does not want to shut down his son, who is very curious and inquisitive by nature.

“Because it is an old car, son. I will get another car to replace it,” he says, then quickly changes the subject. “You know you have not told me what you have learned this week.”

Malcom’s eyes brighten. The boy loves school and nothing excites him more than telling his father what he had discovered in his studies.

“Dad I can count one up to fifty!”

“Oh really? I don’t believe you.”

“I can! Do you want me to count?”

“Yes. Let’s hear if you have been listening to your teacher.”

As Malcom begins to count, Ryan knows he is off the hook for now. Donald will also want to show off what he learned in school, and little Diana, who is just learning to speak, will also be fighting for her space so speak. By the time they are done, they will be home.


Lucy wakes up early. She wants to impress her new lover by making him breakfast. But when she goes to the kitchen, finds another woman in the kitchen. She is surprised, because when she came in here last night, she did not see any evidence that another person lived in the house with Jonas.

A wave of jealousy sweeps through Lucy’s heart. The woman in the kitchen is a good-looking woman, and she is wearing a nice nightdress. They are probably the same age. Why would Jonas bring her here, knowing that he has another woman? It beats logic. Lucy is nevertheless prepared to fight for her space in this house. She is here now, and she will not allow another woman to dislodge her.

Lucy and Jonas spent the whole day yesterday working, although Lucy was hardly concentrating. The excitement of finally being able to live with Jonas was too much. In the evening they went out for dinner, in his car. He asked his driver to take her car to his house. They got to the house late and went straight to the shower. They made love in the shower. Then they went to the kitchen, and Jonas made coffee which they took while chatting. They returned to the bed again and made love. Was all this happening with this woman in the house?

“Who are you and how did you get in here?” she asks rudely.

“Good morning miss. I hope you have a good night’s rest. My name is Hellen, and I am the house keeper. I have a key the house. That is how I got in. Are you ready for breakfast?”

“Don’t you have a home? Why would you be coming to a man’s house so early in the morning, and in a nightdress? Or are you interested in my husband? And what are those you are packing? Are you stealing food? What kind of lowlife are you?”

Tears immediately well in Hellen’s eyes. She opens her mouth to respond, but then she shuts it again. Tears roll freely down her cheeks.

“Easy sweetheart,” Jonas says from behind her. Lucy did not him her entering the kitchen. “Don’t speak to Hellen like that. Hellen is a respectable woman. She and her husband have served me very well since I came to Kenya. I hired them while I was still working at the embassy, and they were recommended by my predecessor.

Hellen and her family live in the servant quarters, within the compound. She has a key to the house because it the efficient way for her to do her work unhindered. She comes early in the morning to prepare my breakfast, then walks back to her house to prepare her children for school. That is why she came in a nightdress. She will come back later, properly dressed, to do the rest of her chores.

And what she is packing is breakfast for her family. I told her there is no need for her to cook for me and then go to cook for her family. We can all eat the same food. She cooks all the food here, leaves mine and carries the rest to her house for her family.

And by the way, her husband is my driver, the gentleman who brought your car here. They have two lovely children, who I am sure you will meet in due course.”

Dr. Jonas doesn’t sound angry, but Lucy is deeply embarrassed. She has acted like a fool, led by her jealousy.

“I am so sorry, Hellen. Please forgive me. I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s okay madam. No hard feelings.”

“Okay, that’s cleared up then. Can we go to have breakfast?”

“Sure,” Lucy says meekly. She wonders whether that little misunderstanding will change Jonas attitude towards her, and jeopardize her chances of becoming the woman of the house. She will have to be very careful from now on. She has been upgraded from a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Embakasi to a five-bedroom mansion in Spring Valley, complete with its own servants. She cannot allow her petty jealousies to ruin it for her.

She allows Jonas to lead her to the dining room, where Hellen has laid out an elaborate breakfast of bacon, sausages, fruits, boiled eggs, bread and coffee. Lucy cannot help but feel jealous that a family of servants enjoy this kind of breakfast every day. Once she has consolidated her position in the house, that will have to change.

But for now, she smiles brightly and thanks Hellen for the breakfast.

“You are welcome, madam,” Hellen replies. “I am stepping out now. But if you need anything, just call me back.”

“That is fine, Hellen,” Jonas says before his girlfriend can say anything. “Pass my regards to the kids. And tell Wycliffe to take the day off. I will drive Lucy around myself today.”

“I will, thank you Daktari.”

Lucy knows that she should feel privileged and happy to be here. But for some reason that happiness has been ruined by this family of servants, who she feels do not deserve the benefits they are getting from her boyfriend.

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