Titus is leaving early today. It is 5.30 pm, but his business usually closes at 9.00 pm. He shuts down his laptop and gets his jacket, which is hanging on a coat hanger behind his chair. He has a neat office, thanks to Liz, his Deputy Manager. She was his first employee and so understands every inch of the business.
Liz insists on personally keeping his office neat, something that his fiancée Sandra takes an issue with. Titus is set to marry Sandra next month, and is actually leaving early because he is meeting her at their church, The Spring of Life Tabernacle, for premarital counseling.
Sandra is currently volunteering at the church, so he will find her there. He walks out of his office and sticks his head into Liz’s office to let her know that he has left and that she is in charge. Liz goes to the window and watches him get into his car and drive away. She tries in vain to fight the tears that suddenly start rolling down her cheeks.
Titus has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Kenyatta University and a Masters degree in Finance from the same University. When he graduated with the Bachelor’s degree, he was hired as a teller by Grind Bank, one of the leading banks in the country. The pay was way lower than he had expected, but Titus is a hard worker and he was convinced that it was just a matter of time before he climbed through the ranks to management.
Titus graduated with a first class and got a scholarship to do his masters. Juggling between school and work was hectic but he pushed on. On most days he made do with less than four hours of sleep. But he still managed to do his job satisfactorily and also graduate at the top of his Masters class. So when the bank hit a rough patch and the redundancies began, he was not worried. With a resume that read B.A (Economics, First Class Honors), M.A (Finance, Distinction), CPA (K), he was a star employee and there was no way the bank could axe him. In fact, while colleagues were fretting over being redundant, Titus was working out a plan to get himself transferred from the Thika Branch to the Headquarters, where he would be more visible to the powers that be.
Unlike most of his age mates who hop jobs at the tiniest incentive, Titus could already see himself as the Group Managing Director and CEO of Grind Bank Group Limited in twenty years time. But the powers at Grind Plaza did not share in his grand vision, and his redundancy letter came one early November morning. The weather seemed to share in his mood that morning. It was a gloomy morning with heavy fog and a light shower that seemed to neither increase nor abate.
Titus was shell shocked. Unlike his colleagues who had been planning exit strategies since the redundancies began, he simply had not imagined it would happen to him. But after the initial shock wore off, he convinced himself that he would land another job quickly.
But the reality soon hit him. He made applications to other banks, insurance companies, audit firms and other leading companies, but none responded. After months of joblessness, his savings were getting quickly depleted so he packed his bags and went to his father’s home in Maragua, Murang’a County. He used part of his savings to open a small accounting firm in Murang’a town, but it did not pick up as quickly as he thought it would. His parents were poor peasant farmers, so life was hard in Maragua. He had been helping financially when he was working, but now without an income, he could only support himself and his parents by dipping his hands into his savings. But his father stopped him, reminding him that he had saved so that he could invest.
“Do not just spend because you are in need, son. Hold on, and figure out a way to invest. You don’t slaughter a chicken just because you want the egg in its belly. You feed it so that it can produce the egg without dying,” the old man counseled.
Titus’ relationship with Sandra has been stormy. They met at the Christian Union in second year, when they found themselves in the praise and worship team together. They became close friends and soon started dating. They quickly became a popular couple around campus and looked like models on the photos that Sandra splashed on Facebook regularly. In their final year, Titus was nominated as the Christian Union Chairman and Sandra was elected as the Secretary-General of the Kenyatta University Student’s Organisation, making them the ultimate power couple on campus.
But their relationship deteriorated soon after campus. While Titus was earning peanuts at Grind Bank, Sandra got a job as an executive in a Chinese tech giant that was establishing itself around the world as Google’s fiercest rival since the downfall of Yahoo. She was earning six times Titus’ salary, and with perks such as a company car and a driver and a seemingly limitless expense account. She lived in an upmarket estate, paying rent equal to Titus’ gross pay, wanted to dine in high-end restaurants and shopped in upmarket malls. Suddenly Titus found himself fighting a losing battle to keep her happy. He got into debt and became more and more depressed. One day he told her he couldn’t afford a weekend trip to the Mara. She dumped him and went for the trip that same weekend with a Chinese colleague who soon became her boyfriend.
Titus was crushed. He deeply loved her and had been persuaded that they would spend their old age together. But he moved on and got on with his life. He got out of debt and even started saving. He dated a couple of girls but the relationships did not last. The only woman he loved was Sandra.
Two years later the Chinese company ended its operations in Africa and Sandra and her colleagues were declared redundant. Sandra’s Chinese boyfriend went back to China. She came crawling back into his life. His friends Paul and Eric begged him to leave Sandra alone, but he was still in love with her, so he took her back and they picked up their relationship where they had left off. However, when he was fired by the bank, she dumped him for none other than his friend Eric.
Paul was happy about that.
“She deserves him bro, and you deserve better,” he had told Titus then. Paul had always disliked both Eric and Sandra. Both Paul and Titus knew it wouldn’t be long before Eric cheated on Sandra. The only concern Paul had was that Titus would get another job and Sandra would come crawling back. But as fate would have it, Titus did not get another job, and Sandra did not come back. For five years.
The idea was Paul’s. Paul had resigned from his job in a Nairobi mega law firm to start his own practice in Murang’a, which also happened to be his hometown. His law firm did much better than Titus’ accounting firm, and he did not regret leaving the bustle of city life. Except for one thing: his barber. Paul had often wondered if there was no one in Murang’a who could offer executive barber services. Since he moved to their hometown, he missed the services of his barber in Nairobi.
Titus took the challenge and started a small executive barbershop. He closed his accounting firm, emptied his bank account and threw all his savings into the new venture. The first thing he did was to apprentice with a local barber to learn the skill of shaving. Many laughed at him, an accountant who wanted to be a kinyozi. He taught himself how to do shoulder massages and face scrubs on YouTube. He leased space in Murang’a town’s CBD and bought executive seats. He bought the shaving machines and the necessary items such as methylated spirit, creams and towels. He modified a sink and installed warm piped water so that he could wash his client’s heads directly from the sink. He also bought a television and a music system. But the music from his shop was played softly because he was targeting the older, professional men. Paul registered the company for him, and after getting a trade license, he was ready to go.
He had hired Liz as his secretary in his accounting firm because she was willing to accept a salary of Kshs. 2,500 a month. She had scored a C- in KCSE and her parents could not afford to take her to any college to pursue any course. There wasn’t much to be done at the accounting firm, but she kept the office clean, wiped the surfaces and manned the front desk, waiting for the non-existent clients to show up.
When she learned that he wanted to start a barbershop, she convinced him to retain her as his assistant at the same salary. Thanks to her, his new barbershop was always spotless and his towels snow-white. She soon took an interest in his job, and every day after doing her cleaning work she would watch him shave and do the massages. She requested him to teach her how to shave and do the shoulder massage, and he obliged. That was the best decision he ever made. She proved to be a fast learner and soon became a hit. Men flocked to the shop to be tended by her gentle hands. He would shave and wash the heads while she would scrub the faces and do the massages.
While barbers in Murang’a charged one hundred bob for a full shave, Titus charged two hundred shillings for a full shave, two hundred and fifty for a full shave and face scrub and four hundred shillings for a full shave, face scrub and shoulder massage. Their client base ballooned. Any man in Murang’a with some money to spare flocked to the shop, from bankers to lawyers to businessmen to teachers to the professors at Murang’a University.
Soon Titus was forced to hire more staff. He trained the barbers while Liz trained the masseuses. Liz suggested they start offering free coffee to keep the waiting clients busy. Then she decided they should start a salon to include women in the venture, and he took her to a beauty college in Thika for training. He was surprised at her dedication. She would go to class in the morning and would be at work the whole afternoon till closing time.
Within two years, Titus was forced to leave the CBD and seek more space just outside town. He bought a piece of land just outside town and built an enterprise using metallic cargo containers. The enterprise includes a barbershop, a salon, a restaurant, a car wash and an office that he shares with Liz. Now he and Liz concern themselves largely with administrative duties, ensuring that the enterprise is running smoothly.
After a few years of working side by side, Titus and Liz soon realised that they were falling in love. The chemistry between them was obvious to anyone who visited the office. Within no time, Titus asked her to be his girlfriend, and she was over the moon. She would soon be his wife, and the enterprise would be a family business that they would leave to their grandchildren.
But then Sandra resurfaced. She just appeared one day at Titus’ office, managing to be both tearfully apologetic and sensually seductive. She was living with a friend in Sagana, and was still jobless. In spite of her joblessness, she still looked as stunning as ever. She had been taking care of herself. A week later, Titus dumped Liz under the very lame excuse that it was a bad idea to mix business and romance. He started following Sandra around like a loyal guard dog.
Liz was so humiliated that she wanted to quit immediately, but Paul dissuaded her. He convinced her that Sandra was a city girl and wouldn’t stay in the rural towns of Murang’a and Sagana for long. And when she went back to the city, Titus would get breathing space and start thinking straight again.
But Paul was wrong. Sandra did not go anywhere. Titus rented a two-bedroom house for her and proposed to her in less than a month. She has been keeping herself busy by volunteering at the church, planning for her wedding and eliminating people in Titus’ life that she deems a threat.
Paul and Liz are on Sandra’s radar. Especially Liz. Sandra has made it obvious that she will make Titus fire Liz sooner than later. She keeps reminding everyone who cares to listen that she was an executive with an international company and is therefore a million times more qualified to help Titus run his business than “that illiterate Elizabeth”.
And so as Liz stands at the window watching Titus drive away, she cannot stop the tears because she knows that anytime from now she will be forced out, and she will have lost not just the man she has come to love intensely, but also the job that has become part of her. She has worked side by side with Titus for the last five years, growing it from a loss-making accounting firm to the thriving enterprise it is today. For her to be pushed out so casually by Titus’ city ex-girlfriend doesn’t seem fair. Life isn’t fair.
Remember you can get last month’s book, A Complete Family, through either of two ways:
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- Manual Method. Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org telling us your M-PESA name and the book you wish to purchase (A Complete Family). 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.
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