(Continued from The Angel of Darkness III)
Isabella is finding it difficult to concentrate in church. She has no idea where her husband is. She tried to call him before she came to church, but he did not answer. Where could he be? He has never missed church in as long as she can remember. She had to make some excuse for him in the vestry, something about him being unwell. To make matters worse, the elder conducting the service has asked the congregation to pray for Chairman Njiru because “he is not feeling well”. Isabella cannot imagine the embarrassment that will come upon her if any of the members of the church meets Joseph after church. For the umpteenth time, she curses him under her breath.
The worst part of the situation she is finding herself in is being out of control. She hates being out of control of any situation for whatever reason. She has always kept Joseph under a tight leash. But today, for the second time in their married life, he openly contradicted her. The first time happened when she tried to control his finances. They were newly married and were both young secondary school teachers. Isabella suggested, sweetly, that since her father was a successful businessman, and since she had grown up helping out at the business, she would be better off handling their finances.
He smiled at her and readily agreed.
“I will give you half of my salary and gladly leave you to deal with bills.”
That is not the answer she had been expecting.
“Half a salary will not be enough, sweetheart.”
“But you also have a salary, babe. You can top up the rest.”
“You want me to help you pay some of the bills? But you are the man!”
“Let me get this straight,” Joseph had replied evenly. “You want me to hand you my entire salary and still foot all the bills? Meaning that if I want a new shoe or whatever else I will have to beg you for my money?”
“You are getting it wrong. I just want us to prosper in future. I feel I am better at managing our finances and if you allow me, you never have to worry about new shoes, trust me.”
“Take half of my salary and manage all the bills. If you can’t handle that then leave me to handle the bills. You can manage your own salary.”
That was the end of that discussion. They don’t discuss finances in the house; Joseph has always handled all their bills without complaining. But while she failed in controlling his finances, she found that she could easily control his social life. Part of the reason is because after that finances incident, she changed tactics and became more subtle in her manipulation. It has worked, and for almost forty years she has kept him under her thumb. She is an excellent manipulator and has over the years used various tools of emotional blackmail to keep him under her control. They taught in the same school for years, so she always kept an eye on him. If he as much as smiled at a female teacher, she would guilt trip till heavens come.
They got separated at the work place when they became deputy principals and were posted to different schools. But their new schools were within the same area in Runyenjes, meaning they both could live in their home. Joseph had completed the construction of their home a year earlier. The house was on his ancestral land; he had inherited three acres from his father. By the time he started construction of the home, Joseph had rentals that were earning him good money, so he did not seem to strain financially even though their daughters Christine and Rose were both in high school. Robert was in a boarding primary school. Between the two of spouses, Joseph turned out to be the better financial manager.
During the period they were high school deputy principals and later principals, Isabella used a young teacher Amos who was teaching in Joseph’s school to spy on him. Whenever he was not in school she would know, and she would know how long he was away. She would use that information to find out from him where he was under the pretext of finding out “how your day was”. It also gave her an opportunity to see if he would lie to her. If he lied, for instance if he told her he had spent the whole day in school when she knew he had been out, she would know that he was cheating and would up her investigations. But he never lied.
Isabella paid Amos using both money and sex. These days, a young man Joseph has in his office at the University as a research assistant is her spy and lover.
As she sits in the church, Isabella is regretting the way she treated Joseph earlier. She should not have snapped at him. There were better ways of getting him to her side. By engaging him in a confrontation, she steeled his resolve, more or less the same way she did almost forty years ago when they squabbled over his finances. Like every other male, Joseph has an ego. And if that ego is bruised, he will rebel. Isabella has been manipulating him for so many years that she forgot that basic fact.
She is not worried about her marriage. She knows that Joseph cannot leave her. But he might start seeing her as his adversary, and that will make her lose control over him. She cannot lose control over Joseph just when she is regaining control over Robert. For years, she has been watching from the sidelines as her son made decisions without consulting her. She felt let out and neglected. She attributed that to his wife, but she did not want to complain because Robert and Sarah seemed to be a tight team. She was afraid that Robert would react badly if she spoke ill of his wife.
But then she found him making love to the house help.
Since then, she has been able to poison his mind against Sarah. At first Robert was feeling guilty about cheating on his wife, but Isabella convinced him that it was Sarah’s fault. Over the past year Robert has detached from his wife and started leaning on her, his mother. She does not intend to relinquish the new control she has gained in his life, which is why she cannot allow him to marry another intelligent woman. That house help Fridah would have been perfect wife for him, with her limited education and even more limited imagination. But even the new girl he brought this morning is okay. Isabella talked to her before church and determined that she is as brainless as she is beautiful. Isabella is confident that she can put her under control. She will from now on control both Robert and his wife.
After church Isabella calls her husband again but Joseph does not pick up. She is just about to drive out and head home when she notices that she has unread WhatsApp messages. A majority of them are from the various groups she is and she quickly leafs through them without really concentrating. One message is however from Fridah. Two messages actually. The first is a photo of Sarah tightly embracing Joseph. The second is a simple message.
“You and your son betrayed me. But God is fighting for me. Sarah has taken your husband Joseph.”
Isabella considers the photo for a moment. Could it be true that Joseph is cheating on with their daughter-in-law? Isabella suddenly remembers the many times she has tried to point out Sarah’s flaws to Joseph, and he defended her vigorously. That includes this morning. Now everything makes sense. He has been sleeping with her. How stupid she has been! She had expected him to find other women out there, but he found one right under her nose, where nobody would suspect him. Not even her spies.
Isabella is suddenly overwhelmed by jealously and insecurity. Has she become so old that he is now seeking out a younger woman? Then she thinks about the embarrassment that will follow when word leaks out that her husband is sleeping with his daughter-in-law. It will be worse if the devil speaks to him and tells him to move in with Sarah, now that she is no longer living with Robert. Men have done worse things, so it is not impossible for that to happen. Another idea crosses her mind. It is not the first time she has thought about it, but she has never given it prominence in her mind. But now it comes to the fore of her mind.
If Joseph dies, she will be left as a respectable widow. On top of that, she will inherit his property. It is a good thing that she has Robert back in her control. It will not be difficult to convince him to give her his share of the inheritance. The other two will be more difficult, but they can also be manipulated. In the end, she will be the sole beneficiary of Joseph’s wealth. After all, she will argue, everything will be theirs after she dies. That will technically be true, except that before she dies she will be free to do whatever she wishes with the property, including disinheriting whoever decides to disobey her.
The only question is how Joseph will die. That is easy to resolve. If she poisons his water bottle at night, she knows by experience that he will sip that water on his way to work in the morning. And when he does, the pain that will engulf him will cause him to lose control of the car. Then he will crash and die, and everyone will say he died in a road accident.
With a new sense of purpose, Isabella starts the car. She wants to buy rat poison in Kagio, where nobody knows her. Joseph packs his fruits and fills his water bottle at night before he goes to sleep, so all Isabella has to do is to wait until the middle of the night and dissolve the rat poison in the water.
By midmorning she is certain that her status will have changed from that of a frustrated wife to that of a wealthy and respectable widow.
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