(Good people, first of all receive my sincere apologies for the delay in releasing this chapter. The week has been super busy in my day job. I will however do my best to have the novella ready on time.)
Miatha House consists of seven houses. Four of the houses are one-bedroom apartments, two are two-bedroom apartments and one has three bedrooms. The building also has a small room on the ground floor that acts as an office. Behind Miatha House, and separated by stone wall, is a four bedroom family house, where the owner of the house, Gabriel, lives with his wife Patricia. The two compounds are connected by a small pedestrian gate, although each house has its own main gate that leads to the main road. Patricia is the manager of Miatha House, and the small gate helps her to move from her family residence to Miatha House without having to go around the main road.
Gabriel is a civil servant. He works as a District Children’s Officer in Embu town. Miatha House and the family residence are on his ancestral land in the outskirts of Embu town, near the University of Embu. Patricia is not in formal employment, but is the one who oversees all their investments.
Gabriel, at 36, has done well for himself. In addition to Miatha House, he has rental houses in a plot of land he bought in Kathageri, two acres of tea bushes that he inherited from his father and a restaurant in Embu town. Gabriel has been in the civil service for 11 years now, having joined immediately after he graduated from the university.
His first income stream was the tea bushes, which his father handed to him when he turned 21. Gabriel grew up on the farm, and he knows everything to do with farming, especially tea farming. He had just joined the university of Nairobi when he took over the management of his farm. Because of distance, however, he still relied on his father to supervise the casuals who came to pluck the tea. But he was otherwise in charge of the farm, and the income now came to his bank account.
Gabriel used income from the tea to pay his university fees. Since he was a government sponsored student, his fee was not much, and he still had a lot of the tea money left over every year. Unlike his siblings, who went on drinking sprees and generally wasted their money, Gabriel saved up his. He knew that there was a possibility that he would not get employment after graduation, and he wanted to be able to start his own business.
As it happened, he got employed almost as soon as he graduated, and he used his savings to buy the piece of land in Kathageri and to buy some construction materials. He took a loan from his Sacco and completed the construction of his rental houses. That became his third income stream, after the tea bushes and his salary.
Gabriel inherited three acres of land from his father. Two of those acres are covered by tea bushes. He split the third acre into two parts. On one half he built his family residence, and on the other he built Miatha House. His intention was build rental houses but he soon discovered that Airbnb was becoming a popular business in Embu. He furnished the houses and put them up on marketing sites such as Booking.com. Since he owns a restaurant in Embu town, he gave his guests the option of ordering food and having it delivered in their houses.
His wife is the one who oversees all the businesses. The restaurant has a manager though, and the rental houses in Kathageri have a caretaker who also doubles as the farm manager in the tea farm. But Patricia personally manages the Airbnbs. She and her husband have two house assistants who live with them in their home. One primarily takes care of the residential house and the children, while the other takes care of Miatha House under the supervision of Patricia. Miatha House is profitable. The houses are usually almost fully booked especially over the weekends. Sometimes they even get guests who stay on for weeks, especially those attending workshops and seminars at the University.
Harold is one such guest. He has booked the three bedroom unit for three weeks.
Gabriel has been married to Patricia for six years now. Before they got married, she had been his tenant in Kathageri. At the time she had been working as a school secretary. As it happened, she became pregnant, and when she proceeded on maternity leave, the school terminated her services. After being fired, she started falling behind on rent.
Gabriel is generally a firm but considerate landlord. He will often overlook a delayed payment but if it starts becoming a notoriety, he usually will not hesitate to conduct an eviction. In Patricia’s case, he was extremely lenient. She explained to him her plight: she had been fired from her job, her boyfriend, the father of her twin girls, hand bolted and she came from her humble background. In fact, she was the one who had been supporting her parents with her meagre salary.
Gabriel took pity on her and waived her rent for six months. Then he found himself calling her every now and then to check on her and her babies, and even started sending her money for her upkeep. Slowly, friendship was built between them, although they spoke mostly on phone. About a year after she gave birth, he hired her as a waitress at his restaurant in Embu. She relocated to Embu and he helped her find a house and settle.
Since she was now close by, Gabriel started visiting Patricia’s house every now and then, and one evening, after they had dinner at her house, he professed his love for her. He asked her to be his girlfriend, and she accepted. That is how their relationship began. Months later, she became pregnant, and they moved in together. At the time Gabriel was constructing his family residence, so he was still living in a rented house in Embu town. Gabriel took in Patricia with her twin daughters, and treated them as though they were his biological children.
Gabriel’s parents were unconvinced about the union at the beginning. They expressed their reservations to Gabriel in private, but when he held his ground and insisted that Patricia was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, they backed off and even embraced her. When Gabriel decided that he wanted he wanted to pay dowry for her, they supported him.
But the dowry even turned into a circus.
Patricia’s relatives set dowry at a million shillings plus a myriad of other physical items, including live cows and goats. They wanted at least half a million shillings paid upfront. They insisted that their daughter would be remaining with them if their conditions were not met. Gabriel’s parents and relatives were shocked and appalled, but they were curious to see what their son would do. They knew that he did not have that kind of money. When they left the negotiation team to go and confer with their son, Gabriel told them to get in their vehicles and head home.
“We cannot just leave son,” his uncle told him. “We have to tell them something. After all, you are going to have a child with their daughter.”
“Just go back and tell them that I am leaving, uncle. Tell them that I am going to take care of my child. But I am not going to buy my child’s mother like a piece of property.”
When Patricia’s relatives heard the message from the very uncomfortable Gabriel’s uncle, they thought he was bluffing. Except that he wasn’t. He led his people into getting into the vehicles and they all left, leaving Patricu. Even his own father was surprised, but he later admitted that he was proud of his son. That evening Patricia called him and complained that he had humiliated her in front of her people. Gabriel calmly told her that it was in fact her people who had humiliated her by attempting to use the dowry event to extort money from him. He reminded her that he was building a home for them and that he did not have much money to spare.
The following morning Patricia took her daughters and returned to Gabriel’s house. She apologized on behalf of her people and asked him to take her back. He agreed. They got married at the Attorney General’s Office a month later. After their son was born, Patricia’s parents ate a humble pie and came to see the boy as well as apologize. The relationship between Gabriel and his in-laws has improved a lot. The dowry event happened three years ago, and Patricia’s relatives only asked for two cows and six goats plus several other items. Gabriel has nevertheless been supporting them financially, and he even built them a proper wooded house with piped water and electricity, a major upgrade from their mud hut.
Patricia and Gabriel are a model couple in the eyes of many people. They have built their nice little empire, and they are not even forty yet. They decided not to add more children, and just bring up the three that they have. The twins are in Grade 1 while their brother is in PP1. They are a lovely family, but their peace is just about to be disrupted.
Harold came via Booking.com, meaning he is a new guest. Most of the repeat clients usually call Patricia directly and inquire about the availability of rooms. When Harold arrives, Patricia is at the restaurant. But she is not worried because her assistant, Joy, is now experienced enough to receive the guests and show them their houses.
She gets back at around 4PM and the first thing she notices is the brand-new Mercedes SUV that is parked at the Miatha parking lot. It is dwarfing the other cars parked in the lot, which belong to the other guests. Most of her guests are professors and post-graduate students, and they almost invariably drive modest cars. Once in a while there is a Harrier or a secondhand Mercedes sedan. But this is the first time she is getting a guest with a brand-new luxury car.
She walks up to Harold’s unit and knocks the door. She wants to introduce herself and find out if he needs anything. But when he opens the door, she is speechless. Standing before her, looking as handsome as ever, and of course a hundred times wealthier than when she last saw him, is her baby daddy Chris.
“Hi baby,” he says with his usual charm. The charm that led her to his bed seven years ago. “Please come in. It is not proper for a lady to stand at the doorway like that.”
He takes her hand and pulls her into the house and then shuts the door.
“Oh baby, I have missed you so much. And you look as fine as when I last saw you. In fact, you look better than ever before.”
Patricia is still spell-bound, still too surprised to speak. The so-called Harold is actually Chris, who obviously booked himself using a pseudo name. The last time she saw this man was the day she told him she was pregnant. He broke her heart after leaving her stranded and vanishing into the night. She hates him, but she realizes that is still attracted to him. He seems to be reading her thoughts, because he pulls her into his arms and hugs her, then kisses her on the lips.
She does not resist, but instead kisses him back.
Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/car-mercedes-benz-brabus-suv-rover-4890611/
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