Job rests on the couch. He is holding his phone with one hand. He is chatting while watching a T.D Jakes sermon on TV. Being a church pastor, he forces his family to watch Christian programs.
“Dad, my exams are next week. I will not sit for them if I will not have paid my school fees,” his daughter says.
Salome is a lovely girl. Tall and athletic, she has a beautiful face and a brilliant mind. She is a second-year student at Kenyatta University. Job admits that she picked most those physical attributes from her mother. But there is one she picked from him: she is combative and has a very sharp tongue. His wife Nancy, a manager at a Sacco, is docile and will do anything to steer clear of conflict.
“I don’t have money,” he says, resuming typing on his phone.
“Dad, you never have money. You have never once paid my school fee or Jeremy’s. You leave mom to struggle to do that. You don’t buy our clothes. You don’t even buy food in this house. Are we not your family?”
“Shut up Salome. You will not talk to me like that. I am your father, and you are in my house,”
Salome starts to retort but Nancy cuts in.
“It is okay Salome, I will pay your fees tomorrow.”
“You don’t have money, mom. You know that, and I know that. You even took a loan to pay Jeremy’s fees for this semester,”
“The Sacco will give me a top-up loan. Don’t worry. It is okay,”
Nancy can see Salome cast a wicked glance at her father, who has forgotten all about them again and gone back to his phone.
“I am almost done with school mom, and I secured a job this month as you know. I am getting paid this Friday. I will pay Salome’s fee. Don’t take another loan,” Jeremy says quietly.
Nancy smiles kindly. Jeremy is her first child. He is good-looking, with a tall, thickset frame like his father. He is on his last semester at the University of Nairobi. But like her, he prefers to steer away from trouble. Both children commute to school from the family home in Ruiru.
Jeremy rises and clears the tables. Their father has not touched his food so Jeremy leaves his plate on the table. Job usually warms the food late in the night and eats when everyone else has gone to sleep. He is addicted to his phone and hardly talks to his children or wife. It is either his phone or the television.
At precisely 9.30 pm, Jeremy switches off the TV.
“Dad, you are the one leading the devotion today,” he says.
Job reluctantly looks up.
“Okay. Anyone who has anything special to say before I pray?”
Jeremy and Salome exchange looks. Their father gives tediously long sermons and equally long prayers in church. But at home, he does not bother with sermons and the prayers are shorter than the toes of the Biblical Zaccheus. What more, they can sense his impatience when his wife is leading the devotion, except that he can’t tell her to hurry. After all, he is still a pastor.
Salome now knows why their father is usually in a hurry to go back to his phone. And she only found out today.
Within minutes, the devotion is over. Nancy and Jeremy retire to their bedrooms upstairs. Usually, Salome goes with them but today she stays behind with her father. Nancy gives her daughter a worried look. She knows that the younger woman is up to no good, and a fight might erupt while she and Jeremy are asleep.
By the time Job goes to warm his food, it is 11 pm.
“Aren’t you going to bed?” he asks, coming back to the sitting room with a warm plate of food.
“I want to talk to you,”
“About what? I said I don’t have money,”
Salome takes a deep breath. She has already decided to play this calmly, so she fights the wave of resentment that rises within her and tries to be sweet.
“It’s not about money dad,”
“Then what about?” Job asks, looking at his daughter quizzically.
“What about life?”
Salome pauses, choosing her words.
“Isn’t it funny how unfair life is? For instance, I have this friend who took me took me to visit another friend of hers. That friend of my friend is so wealthy. She lives in a two bedroom apartment and drives a nice car. Yet she is my age-mate,”
Job is hardly listening. He slouches on the sofa again and continues chatting while eating.
“Dad, are you even listening to me?”
“Yes, I am. That is how life is. Some have a lot, others have little.”
“She is dating this married man who pays for all her expenses, including the car. Today she was bragging about her boyfriend, even showed us his photos so that we can see how handsome he is,” Salome continues.
If Job looks at his daughter at this moment, the fire in her eyes will alert him that she is reaching the boiling point. But he is chatting and hardly hears what she is saying.
“Dad!” she screams.
“Stop yelling. If your friend has a car, she has a car. How is that my problem?”
“It is your problem because you bought the car dad. And you pay the rent. I am pretty sure you are not listening to me because you are talking to her. Deny it, dad…deny that you are seeing Janet. You cannot afford my fees but you can buy Janet a car and rent her a house in Rongai? Do you also pay her fees? It was your photo she showed us, dad. Photos of you and her on her phone, cuddling. Do you know how humiliating it was? How many other women have you been cheating on mom with anyway?”
Job is speechless. How could his girlfriend meet his daughter? He has dated young girls before but he has avoided Kenyatta University ever since Salome joined. He has also avoided girls from the University of Nairobi ever since Jeremy joined. Janet studies at Multi-media University, so he assumed he is safe.
He recovers quickly.
“Listen to me, young lady. You will not talk to me like that, throwing false allegations around. Your friend could be a drug dealer and downloaded my photo on the internet to brag with. I will not take nonsense from you. Today I will teach you a lesson,” he booms as he approaches her.
Salome fishes a knife she had hidden under a cushion behind her.
“I swear if you touch me I will kill you!” she yells.
“If you touch Salome I will kill you myself dad. And you Salome, put that knife down,” a masculine voice says.
Job whirls around and sees his son looking at him menacingly. On the sofa where he had been sitting, his wife Nancy is scrolling through his phone, sobbing. Neither he nor Salome heard them come down the stairs.
“So you are all ganging up against me now? You all think you are grown up and can challenge me in my own house?”
“Correction Job,” Nancy says calmly. She has stopped crying. “This is not your house. This plot was gifted to me by my father and I built this house singlehandedly using Sacco loans. All this while I believed that your church members do not give much, that is why you are struggling financially. But I have been struggling while you courted other women out there. You are not even ashamed of dating a girl Salome’s age?”
“Don’t talk to me like that,” Job growls.
“You have a house Job. The one you have rented for your little girlfriend. Tomorrow pack your things and go to that house. I do not want you here anymore. After all, I have seen that you call me a witch when talking to her. You shouldn’t be forced to live with a witch. So tomorrow, leave my house,” Nancy says, then turns and goes back upstairs.
“One more thing,” she says, turning around. “Don’t bother coming to my bedroom tonight. It will be locked. You will find your clothes on the corridor.”
Salome follows Nancy upstairs. Jeremy lingers behind.
“Dad, do you know how it hurts to feel fatherless when you have your biological father living under the same roof as you? If your girlfriend gets pregnant for you, try and treat that child better than you have treated me and Salome. Make time to talk to that child. And try to provide, even if it is just buying cheap toys. It shows you care,”
With that, Jeremy also turns and goes upstairs.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/child-love-child-happy-cute-2218535/