[This also an edited and modified version who what I posted two years ago]
(Continued from Romanced by a Villager)
When Rose is done praying, she wipes her tears, blows her nose with her handkerchief and rises to leave. That is when she notices him. He is watching her from the door of the sanctuary. Ambrose is a deacon in the church. He is well respected, both because he is wealthy and because he is known to be a devout man of faith. At 38, he is the youngest member of the Deacon’s Board. A handsome man. He easily admits that he dropped out of form 2 because of lack of school fees, but he has a sharp mind and is an astute businessman.
Although Rose is not active at the church, she knows him because he is the one who reads announcements in church.
Rose is surprised that he knows her name.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. I was just praying.”
He looks at her questioningly. Anglican Christians rarely show emotion in church. At least not like Pentecostals. But she does not give any further details. She does not want to.
“How is your wife?” she asks in a bid to steer the conversation away from her. She has learnt a thing or two on how to deal with married men.
“My wife died early last year. Breast cancer.”
“I am sorry. I didn’t…”
“It is okay. You joined the church after she was buried. There is no way you would have known.”
Men in this church do not sit with their wives. They are old school men who do not even wear wedding rings. Except the younger ones. You just assume someone is married by approximating their age.
The conversation between Rose and Ambrose picks up on from there. An hour later, Rose finds herself opening up to him. She tells him about her financial woes as well as her social woes. He listens without interrupting until she finishes.
“Why is it so important to you “to fit in” as you call it?” he finally asks.
“They are my friends. If I don’t fit in, where will I get other friends?”
“If they are your true friends they will accept you even if you are broke. If they judge you, then perhaps you should find new friends,” he says.
She ponders this for a while.
“Let us assume they do not judge me. Won’t I always be a liability to them? I do not want them to always be footing my bills. It is embarrassing.”
“Then don’t go with them everywhere. You can join them occasionally when you can afford it, but you do not have to go with them every time they are meeting for coffee or going out of town.”
“You have a point.”
“I am going to help you Rose. What did you study in college?”
“Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in accounting. I also did CPA on the side.”
“Good. I am going to give you a job. The starting salary for my graduate employees is seventy thousand shillings. Is that an offer you are willing to take up?”
“Of course sir! Thank you so much! When do I start?”
“On Tuesday. On Monday go to your work place and hand in your resignation. We are at end month, so you will just surrender your salary instead of serving your notice period. I suppose your notice period is one month, isn’t?”
“Yes. But sir, if I surrender my salary, how will I survive until I earn my first salary at your company?”
“I will pay your debts, and I will also give you twenty thousand shillings, which is what you would have earned this month. But that is the first and last time I am bailing you out. I want you to start on a clean slate and learn to manage your finances.”
As Ambrose walks back to his house, his emotions are all over the place. His mind doesn’t want to admit it yet, but his heart knows that he is falling in love again. There was something that moved in him when he saw her in that corner, vulnerable and crying to God. He has really enjoyed talking to her, and wants to do so, again. And again. He has not felt this way since he first met his late wife Sheila. It is a long time since he dated a woman that was not Sheila. And Sheila has been gone for over a year now. In the last year of her life he served her diligently. He bathed her, fed her and cried with her when the pain in her body was too much to bear. But she is resting now.
How should he go about the Rose situation? Has he made the right decision by hiring her or was his judgment clouded by infatuation? But Sheila was also working for him before he married her, and their marriage worked out fine. There is no reason why he cannot be happy with Rose.
As she floats back to her house, Rose is thinking about the many ways in which she can utilize her increased salary. An increase of fifty thousand! First she needs to get a bigger house. At least a one bedroom house. Then she needs to help her mother. And a car.
Seventy thousand shillings sounds like a lot of money.
But then she remembers her conversation with Ambrose. She needs to be more financially prudent. Ambrose is an older version of Dave, although their age difference cannot be more than ten years.
Dave. She was a fool to let that man slip away from her.
Dave is her age mate, which means that he is probably thirty one or thirty two. Ambrose cannot be more than forty. Ambrose is by far much wealthier, of course, because he started making money much earlier than Dave. Dave was still in primary school when Ambrose got his first job as a lorry loader in Kerugoya, earning fifty shillings a day. Dave spent the next fifteen years in school, while Ambrose was making money.
Given time, Dave’s frugality will also pay off.
The more she thinks about him, the more she misses him. She should not have allowed herself to lose him. Dave was a young man who had wanted a secure future for them. She should try and get him back, although he probably wouldn’t want her back. She not only hurt him, but by dumping him for a richer man, and broadcasting it on social media, she humiliated him. She knows that she broke his heart in a massive way, and the only way they can have even a slight chance is if she swallows her pride, looks for him and apologizes. But how will he react if she calls? He will probably not call back. So she should just send him a text because he will read it. He cannot delete it before reading it.
She writes a lengthy text telling him how sorry she is and how she regrets what she did to him. She does not say it expressly, but she hints that she is open to a reconciliation. She sends the text then lies on her bed thinking about him.
To her surprise, Dave responds almost immediately, inviting her for coffee at a café in Ruaka. He does not want to talk about the context of her text on phone. He wants a face to face meeting.
Rose is ecstatic. Dave’s response can only mean one thing. He wants her back. A few hours ago her life was in shambles. Now everything is falling in place.
Dave’s heart is torn. The one woman he has always loved is Rose. But three days ago he asked another woman, Faith, to be his girlfriend. Faith is a good, Christian girl, and he had convinced himself that she would make a good wife even though chemistry between them is missing. After he asked her to be his girlfriend, she asked him to give her time to pray about it.
Then Rose texted him yesterday.
Dave feels he owes Faith the duty not to break her heart. But he cannot ignore Rose, even though he wants to. His heart aches for her. She is the only woman he has ever loved.
“I wish you had texted me a week ago,” he tells Rose when they finally meet for coffee.
Rose is heartbroken. She spent the night thinking about a future with him.
“A week ago I was still the girl who dumped you two years ago, Dave. My eyes only opened yesterday, and I texted you immediately. But I understand you. I was gone for too long and you had to move on with your life,”
“That would be nice if it were true. The problem is that I still love you so much. On the one hand I know that it won’t be fair to tell Faith now that I am no longer interested. But at the same time it won’t be fair to date her when my heart is with you.”
“Maybe she will not even agree to be your girlfriend,” Rose says helpfully, hoping she is right.
“You are right,” Dave says. “I will first wait and see what she says then I will know what to do.”
They talk until evening, reminiscing the old days. It is dark when Dave finally walks her to the matatu stage. On the way there, Dave suddenly pulls her close to himself and kisses her deeply. She melts in his arms. That kiss convinces her that with or without Faith, Dave is still hers. At the back of her mind though, is a little fear. If Faith says she wants to be Dave’s girlfriend, will he be bold enough to end a relationship that has just began?
She pushes the dark thoughts away. Dave kissed her. He is hers.
Galilee Trading Co. Limited, Ambrose’s company, has its headquarters in Ndenderu. The headquarters is a three storey house surrounded by a yard where lorries can be seen going in and out. The ground floor is a warehouse. Offices are on the upper floors. Ambrose’s home is on the other side of the fence. The church which he and Rose attend is a little further down the road.
Galilee Trading is a conglomerate. The transport unit has a fleet of eight lorries and twelve pick-ups that are regularly hired by farmers and middlemen to ferry farm produce. The three petrol stations also fall under the transport unit. The agriculture unit consists of Ambrose’s six farms. For some reason, the restaurant in Ruaka is organized under the agriculture unit. Finally there is a construction unit that controls thirteen lorries that sell sand and ballast, two quarries, six hardware stores and four blocks of rental houses. Even though Rose doesn’t know it, the bedsitter where she lives is Ambrose’s.
Each of the three units runs independently with its own manager and staff, including accountants. The unit managers report directly to Ambrose. There is only one employee who does not work under any unit. Her name is Janet, Ambrose’s secretary and the office administrator. Janet was Ambrose’s first employee and she has seen the company grow from a small hardware store to what it is today. She is therefore very close to Ambrose and very influential within the company.
Janet is fiercely territorial. She is the gate-keeper, and everyone knows that. Everyone in the company, with the exception of Ambrose, knows that she sees herself as more than an employee. She has always been in love with Ambrose. When Sheila was alive, there was always a subtle cold war between them. Sheila had the upper hand of course, because she was the boss’s wife. But now, with Sheila dead and buried, Janet is determined to make Ambrose fall in love with her.
If a female employee gets too close to Ambrose, Janet is known to either get her fired by feeding Ambrose with lies, or if that fails, forcing her to resign through sheer frustration. Thanks to Janet, all the current female employees are junior employees with minimal contact with the boss. The second and last female unit manager in the company was a brilliant girl called Beth. She headed the Agriculture unit for two weeks, before resigning after having a running stomach for the entire two weeks. No one would ever know that Janet was lacing her water with a chemical.
The first female unit manager at Galilee Trading was Sheila, who ended up as the boss’s wife. Janet is determined not to let that mistake happen again.
Janet hates Rose even before she arrives. First, Ambrose assigned Rose an office next to his. Sheila’s old office, which has been vacant since Sheila became ill and stopped coming to work. Technicians spent the entire day yesterday fixing the it. By the end of the day it looked almost as prestigious as Ambrose’s own office.
Second, Rose has been given the ostentatious title of “head of finance”. That puts her at a rank above the unit managers. And with an office next to Ambrose, she will certainly compete for clout with Janet.
Janet does not like that.
She is particularly not impressed by the fact that this girl has spent the entire morning holed up in Ambrose’s office. Janet is the one who orients new employees, including new unit managers, but Ambrose has decided to orient Rose personally. Then at lunch time they leave together and go for lunch outside the office, even though the company provides lunch at the eatery on third floor. Ambrose always eats with his staff at the staff eatery on third floor. But today he has gone out with the new girl. This makes Janet go green with envy. Ambrose has never taken her out, even though she has worked for and loved him for thirteen years now. He doesn’t even seem to notice how much she loves him.
But the most disturbing thing for Janet is the way she has seen Ambrose looking at Rose. Janet can tell that he is smitten. She is not about to lose Ambrose again. She quickly comes up with a plan. She has seen that Rose is one of those health freaks who like sipping water all day long.
Fortunately, she has left her water bottle in her office as they stepped out for lunch. The water bottle is one of those common ones that are available even in Ndenderu. Janet rushes to her house and gets a sachet of rat poison, then she passes by a shop and buys a water bottle identical in shape and color to Rose’s. She puts water in the bottle and laces it with the poison, then places it in Rose’s office, swapping it with Rose’s bottle.
The poison is potent. It will kill her within an hour. When she starts groaning and wailing, a commotion will ensue. Janet will take advantage of the confusion to swap the bottles again, replacing the poisoned water with the original water bottle. The bottle with the poisoned water will never be found. When they do a post mortem, they will certainly find the poison. But the suspects will be the cooks and waitresses of whichever restaurant Ambrose has taken her.
[Continued Here. A kind request, if you are yet to like Sanctuaryside’s page on Facebook, please do so. You can also follow Sanctuaryside on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Remember to share the stories with your friends, and invite them to join out little community here. Thank you all for your support so far. I am grateful- Edward]
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-portrait-male-pensive-black-1733391/
To purchase a copy of last month’s second novella, Mama’s Hubby, you can follow either one of two ways:
- Digital Method. Log in to the bookstore- register if you are new-(https://www.maroncha.com/book-store). Select the book (Mama’s Hubby). Add to cart, check out then pay. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
- Manual Method. Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264. Send us an email at email@example.com us your M-PESA name and the book you wish to purchase (Mama’s Hubby). It might take us some time to process your order, but we will email your copy once we have verified your payment. If you are using the manual system and wish to buy my previous books, just log in to the bookstore (https://www.maroncha.com/book-store) and you will see all the previous titles. You can then pay for any of them.
Remember you can always inbox Sanctuaryside on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a query or feedback.
See you all on Tuesday.