Sarah gets off the bed slowly. Robert is not on his side of the bed, the first time in their twelve years of marriage that he has spent the whole night out without telling her where he is. Sarah is still reeling in shock from the slap he gave her yesterday. She probably should have seen it coming, but she it is still shocking. This cannot be the man she married twelve years ago. The man she married was never violent. The man she married never even raised his voice in anger. He was a pleasant young accountant. And that is how he was for eleven and a half years of their marriage.
But for the last few months Robert has been changing. He has become moody and irritable. He stopped going to church and started taking alcohol. He started coming home late. He even pushed aside his two best friends, Sebastian and Gerald. That was even more surprising because he had been friends with both of them since childhood.
As children, Robert and Gerald were neighbors and schoolmates at St. Augustine Mwelekeo Primary School in Runyenjes. They were best of friends. After sitting for their KCPE, both of them were admitted to Kangaru School in Embu, and that is where they met Sebastian. He joined the friendship and the three of them became very close friends. They had a lot in common. They were all Christians and ended up as Christian Union officials. In their final year in High School, Sebastian was the Christian Union Chairman, Gerald was the Secretary and Robert was the Treasurer. They were all footballers. Robert was a goal keeper, Sebastian was a striker and Gerald was a middle fielder.
They all went to the University of Nairobi after High School, and they all went to Kikuyu Campus to pursue Bachelor of Education. Robert chose the History/CRE subject combination, but he also did CPA on the side. Sebastian pursued English/Literature while Gerald pursued Business Studies/Mathematics, but they also did CPAs on the side. The CPA thing was an example of the positive influence the three of them had on each other. They studied together as private students, registered for exams and aced them. By the time they graduated, the three of them were certified public accountants. And they also did well in their bachelor’s degrees. Robert graduated with first class honors, while Gerald and Sebastian got Second Class Upper Division.
They all met their wives at UoN Kikuyu Campus. Sarah actually became friends with Sebastian first. They were both doing the same subject combination, and discovered that they often sat together in class. Conversations began between them, and they discovered that they came from the same locality in Chuka. As their friendship solidified, Sebastian introduced her to his gang. Sarah was not even born again at the time, but the three young men introduced her to the Christian Union.
Sarah had a crush on Sebastian, but he did not seem to be interested in her romantically. This was confirmed when he started dating another of their classmates called Ruth. Months later, Robert asked Sarah to be his girlfriend, and she accepted. After Sebastian started spending more time with Ruth, she had been pushed aside, and Robert had filled the void. So by the time he asked her to be his girlfriend, the chemistry between them was already brewing. Gerald completed the team when they were in third year when he started dating Faith, a girl who was a year behind them. The six of them have remained very close over the years.
After school they all remained in Kikuyu town scouting for employment opportunities. The men were the first to get employed. Sebastian was hired by a microfinance bank in Kikuyu on the strength of his CPAs. Two months later Robert and Gerald were hired by the same accounting firm based in upper hill. Sarah was the first of the girls to get a job. She was employed by the board of Njuri High School in Chuka, which also means that she was the first to leave the city. She was followed by Ruth, who was employed by the board of Moi High School Mbiruri in Runyenjes. Faith remained in Kikuyu, and would later be hired by the board of a small day school outside Kikuyu Town. As fate would have it, TSC declared vacancies at Moi Mbiruri two years later, and Ruth told her two friends about it. All the three of them applied, but only Ruth and Sarah were hired. Both of them are still teaching there, fourteen years later. Faith got employed by TSC a year after her friends, and she was posted to the nearby Kyeni Girls High School. She is also still teaching there, thirteen years later.
The six friends got married within the same year, about two years after Sarah and Ruth got hired by TSC. Robert and Sarah were the first to get married in August, followed by Gerald and Faith in November while Sebastian and Ruth closed the chapter that December. The following year, Robert and Gerald quit employment and decided to open their own audit firm in Embu town, so that they could be close to their wives. That same year, Robert and Sarah decided to settle on the land Robert had been given by his parents as his share of ancestral inheritance and save on rent. Since she was now employed on permanent and pensionable terms, Sarah took a loan from her Sacco to aid the construction. Robert used his savings to buy a car. Every morning he would drop her at school before proceeding to his office in Embu town.
Gerald and his wife Faith followed suit and built a home on their ancestral land in Runyenjes, not far from Robert and Sarah, and they also bought a car. Sebastian, who comes from Chuka, resigned from his microfinance job and abandoned accounting altogether to return to teaching. When Kangoro Secondary School, a small day secondary school in Chuka was allowed by TSC to recruit teachers, Sebastian applied and was hired. But he had a larger plan. He wanted to become a pastor in Chuka. He opted to become a teacher so he could have a steady source of income; he did not want to depend entirely on tithes and offerings for subsistence, especially when the church was still young. He knew that the finances of the church would be depressed in the early years, and he also suspected that since Chuka is a small town, an accounting firm would not give him much profit.
His wife and four friends became the first members of his church. Robert, Sarah, Gerald and Faith would drive from their Runyenjes homes for Sunday services in Chuka, and they would also come for midweek services. They still do, although the church is now fully established with over five hundred members. Sebastian quit teaching three years ago to focus full time on the church.
Gerald was the first one to notice the change in Robert, and he talked to Sarah about it. He told her that Robert was neglecting clients, and that was hurting the business. He also told her that her husband had been making unauthorized withdrawals from the firm’s accounts and using the money for his personal expenses, something that bringing tension between the two friends. In the end, Gerald was forced to change the signatory instructions on all the accounts so that Robert could not access them without his consent. According to Gerald, they almost fought physically over that. Gerald begged Sarah to talk to her husband.
It is after that that Sarah also started seeing the changes in Robert. He started coming late. Then he started reeking of alcohol and became irritable. Whenever she asked him about any of it, he would snap at her and then storm out of the house. She talked to Gerald about it, and agreed that Gerald would talk to Sebastian, and the two men would have a conversation with Robert to find out what was going on.
But as they told Sarah later, he stubbornly refused to talk to them and then abruptly walked out of the meeting. Robert officially became a prayer item. All the five of them-Sebastian and his wife Ruth, Gerald and his wife Faith and Sarah have been praying for him for two months now. They meet twice a week in Sebastian’s office at the church to pray.
But Robert has been getting worse. Yesterday he slapped Sarah apparently because she served him food that he didn’t want, and then walked out of the house and spent the whole night out.
Sarah has not yet told any of her friends about the slap. But today is Sunday, and she will see all the four of them in church. She has her own car now, so she does not have to depend on Robert for transport. The house help is cleaning the house, after which she will iron their clothes, so Sarah goes with her son and daughter to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. On Sunday her tradition has been to prepare pancakes. She instructs her son Eugene to prepare tea, while her daughter will prepare fruits and then set the table for breakfast.
They are all at the dining table taking breakfast when Robert drives in. His space at the head of the table has already been set.
“Welcome home sweetheart,” Sarah says pleasantly when he opens the front door. “Breakfast is ready. You can take your seat so that I serve you.”
Robert stands at the doorway and does not say anything for a while. Even from that distance, the smell of alcohol is reaching the dining table.
“I don’t want your food,” he says finally. “I want you to pack your things and get out of my house.”
“You heard me. When I come back I don’t want to find you here. I am giving you an hour.”
He walks out the door, bangs it as he leaves and then drives out of the compound.
(To be continued on Friday)
Image by Myriam Dreamer from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/girl-beauty-face-young-woman-6043312/
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