Continued from Siblings III
Harold feels like he is cornered, and he doesn’t like being cornered. He always knows how to wiggle out of any situation, or to work out a disadvantageous position into an advantageous one. For instance, one of the secrets he will take to the grave is that he has never really loved Linet. The woman he loved as a young man was Anne. According to him, Linet was and still is a boring, conventional wife. She didn’t add any excitement to his life when she was a girl, and she doesn’t do it now that she is a middle-aged woman. Anne was the fireball, who at only sixteen years of age, was daring enough to cross the school fence at night just to be with him. Harold envies his son because if Anne’s daughter is even half the girl Anne was, then Bruce is really enjoying life.
Harold would have wanted to marry Anne, but he was a practical man. Anne was the daughter of a struggling primary school teacher, while Linet was the heiress. Harold knew from staffroom gossip that Linet was the principal’s only child and that the principal had inherited a fortune from her late husband. Conventional wisdom around the school had it that any young man who wanted to make it big in life would just have to marry Linet. Harold did not need any other persuasion. He knew for a fact that he wanted to inherit that wealth. He ensured that June noticed him by being the most hardworking teacher in the staffroom. He became active in the Christian Union, becoming the de facto Assistant Patron. When the long-serving CU patron retired, he was the obvious choice for the role. He wanted June to see him as a suitable son-in-law, and the plan worked.
Harold also started coaching the volleyball team. And because he was both a talented volleyball coach and player, the school’s performances in the sport improved, and soon enough the school made it to the national competition. It is while he was coaching the national team that he met Anne. She was the star and the captain of the team. Their conversation started innocently and all they talked about at first was volleyball. Until one day he kissed her when they found themselves alone in the sports office. They spent about a week sneaking around, kissing and fondling each other until Harold worked out a plan with the watchman that allowed him to finally have her visit his tiny house at night.
The intention was to marry her after she completed school. At least that is what he told himself. But that position soon became untenable for two reasons. First, Linet was in the picture and she was the more attractive marriage prospect. Harold came from a poor background. His father was an unskilled laborer who worked other people’s farms. His mother was a housewife with a brood of eight children to take care of. Most of Harold’s siblings did not make it to high school; the boys dropped out of classes six and seven and became casual laborers like their father. Harold has only two sisters. One fell pregnant in class six and dropped out of school in class seven when she gave birth. The second completed class seven and did the CPE exam but eloped with an older man before the results were announced.
Harold is the last born in the family and the only one who showed some ambition in life. He topped his class from class one to class eight. Harold went through the 8-4-4 system. His siblings, however, went through the 7-6-3 system, although none of them made it beyond class 7. Harold passed well enough to get admission to Njiiri School. He was sustained in school by fundraisers, bursaries and the kindness of the Njiiri School principal. He made it to university; he got admitted to Kenyatta University to study education. Mumbi Girls was his first posting.
In his struggle to the top, Harold has developed a survival instinct. That is the instinct that made him aware that Linet was a better marriage prospect that Anne, even though Anne was the more exciting woman. With Anne being an only child, and being a girl with a dead father, Harold knew that he stood to inherit everything from June if he married her. And even before the death of June, he knew he would benefit greatly from being June’s son-in-law. June had multiplied the wealth she had received from her late husband, and by the time Harold came into the picture, she was very wealthy. She was also very influential in teaching circles, and Harold knew that if he wanted to advance rapidly in his career, he would need to be in her good books.
The second reason Harold quickly dropped Anne in favor of Linet was Anne’s pregnancy. Harold knew that if it came out that he had impregnated a schoolgirl, so many things would go wrong. The first is that he would be interdicted by TSC. The second was that he would fall out of favor with June and Linet, and that marriage would be off the table. The third and most menacing is that he would land in jail for sleeping with a minor. His survival instinct kicked and he engineered Anne’s removal from school. Mercifully, she disappeared from his life and that story was forgotten. Until now.
But almost as soon as that crisis passed, another emerged; Linet was also pregnant. Harold had been sleeping with both of them at the same time. He would go out on dates with Linet on Saturdays, and sometimes they would end up in a hotel room. He would never have brought her to his house because it was so close to school, and there would always be a risk of June finding out. June is a very religious woman and she brought up her daughter in the same way. In June’s world, her daughter should have been married a virgin. Harold knew that the best thing to do was to face her with the truth.
Rather than wait for the pregnancy to show, or for Linet to tell her, Harold took himself to June’s office and explained that he and Linet had messed up and that she was pregnant. But he added quickly that he was ready and willing to marry her, even though he was not financially stable. The gamble paid off. June reprimanded him for leading her daughter into sin, but she also congratulated him for being a man enough to own up to his mistake. She approved the wedding and even agreed to fund it. She also said that she would talk to Linet’s uncles and they would accept a token amount as dowry. That crisis passed with Harold at the top. June went ahead and donated a piece of land to them and even helped them to build their own home.
For over twenty-five years, June has been very instrumental in Harold’s career. She helped him grow. He became a deputy principal at only thirty-five years of age, and a principal at 41. Even after retirement, June continued to wield a lot of influence and she helped Harold open doors that would otherwise have remained shut. It is through her influence that he got elected as the Chairman of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association. That election gave him clout of his own on the national stage. He left the seat years ago, but he is still recognized as one of the most influential teachers in the country. June also introduced him to Presbyterian circles, where she also wielded influence, and right now he is the national chairman of the Presbyterian Church Men’s Fellowship.
It is fair to say that right now he is more influential than his mother-in-law. But he still doesn’t want to go head-to-head against her. His instinct for survival tells him that he will have more to lose if he decides to go against June and Linet. One reason for that is his financial weakness. Harold is very bad at managing his finances, a fact that Linet accepted. She has never told her mother that she is the one who shoulders the entire financial burden of the household. Linet works as the Chief Financial Officer at a large manufacturing company in Thika. Over the years she is the one who has been feeding her family, paying utility bills and educating her children. She doesn’t know what her husband does with his money, and so she also decided that he wouldn’t know what she does with hers. She has many investments that he has no idea exist. He doesn’t even know how much she earns.
Other than his financial indiscipline, Linet thinks that Harold has been a good husband. He is a kind and loving man, and he has always been a present father. What she doesn’t know is that Harold has been keeping mistresses and that is where his money goes. His current mistress is a twenty-five-year-old girl in Karatina called Lydia. He met her two years ago when he stopped over at the town for a haircut on his way from Nyeri. She happened to be the masseuse. They exchanged contacts that day and he met her at a hotel the following day. A week later he rented a one-bedroom house for her. This year she bore him a son.
Harold is a middle-aged man, but he is still eyeing his mother-in-law’s wealth for his long-term financial security. That is why he needs to be in her good books.
“I will take the test mother,” Harold says grimly. “I am just not happy with the fact that my own son doubts my integrity.”
“Put yourself in his shoes, Harold,” Linet says pointedly. “His life is in jeopardy right now. He needs to know the truth.”
“Trust me father, I will be the happiest man when those results come as negative,” Bruce says somberly. “I don’t want my life to be complicated, but I need to get closure on this matter.”
“Okay. When do we take the test?”
“You can do it on Monday,” June says. “You can do it at Dr. Wanjau’s laboratory. It is one of the finest in the country in DNA testing.”
Harold likes that idea. He knows that June has said that because Dr. Wanjau is her friend. But the current Managing Director of that laboratory is a woman called Stella who Harold has slept with several times. She has already helped him send away three women who had been blackmailing him. She manipulated their results and the children they were using to blackmail him “turned out” not to be his.
That will be the case even in this case. He will have to talk to Stella soon.
“Okay. You can inform Damaris that we will take the test on Monday at Dr. Wanjau’s laboratory,” Harold says as he rises to his feet. “Are you the one who will contact the laboratory, mother? We need to tell them in advance so that they can be ready for us.”
“Let me call them right away.”
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