(Continued from The Photographer II)
“I don’t know what you are talking about Jackie,” he says feebly. Initially he used to call her ‘madam’ but she forbid him. She has always seemed to be okay with ‘Jackie’ but she has recently started pressuring him to call her ‘babe’. Jimi has not yet gotten to the point where he can use pet names when referring to her.
“I know you probably think I am just another old woman, but one thing I can assure you is that I am not a fool. I know you are in love with that girl called Edith.”
Jimi does not respond. But his mind is doing high speed calculations. He knows that Jackie wants something, but at this stage he cannot tell what it is.
“She is safe for now, if that will be any consolation for you. But something terrible might happen to her if you don’t do what I say.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Ah, so you finally found your voice.”
“Edith has done nothing wrong, Jackie. Please do not harm her. She is my friend yes, but there is nothing more to it.”
“Okay. But you will have to prove it to me.”
“I want you to marry me. From now on I want you to be exclusively mine. In the past I have given you the liberty to sleep with other women, and I hope you have quenched your thirst. But now it is time to be serious about this relationship. No more sleeping around or idling around with campus students. It is time to grow up and become mature. I will give you proper responsibilities in my businesses to keep you busy and you will be paid accordingly. But you will have to promise me that you will not see any other women.”
Jimi wants to ask whether that rule applies to her as well, but he keeps his mouth shut. They might be lovers, but they are not equals. She is the boss. But he knows that the dynamics of the relationship are about to change; being sexual partners is one thing; marrying her is another question all together though. Getting married to her will give her more control over his life. Right now his autonomy is limited, but even that little he has will be taken away by marriage.
The other issue he has to consider is publicity. Jimi is now 29, while she is 63. While there are many more older women getting into relationships with younger men today than in 2003, the truth is that actual marriages in such situations are still rare. This is one marriage that is likely to attract a lot of attention, just like the marriage between Wambui Otieno and Peter Mbugua in 2003. It doesn’t help that Jackie loves publicity, and therefore is likely to make the wedding a big deal. Everyone will suddenly view him as a gold-digging sugar boy, and he will lose respect in the society. His family will be traumatized, although he knows some of them will befriend him hoping to benefit financially.
But then he remembers Edith.
If doing this will save her life, then he is more than willing to do so. Besides, what respect is he likely to lose? There is nothing that earns you disrespect more than poverty. And if he walks away from Jackie, then Edith will die and he will be back to the trenches. Double loss.
“I will marry you, Jackie,” he says calmly. When do you want us to do the wedding?”
“You really love this girl Edith, don’t you?”
That question throws Jimi off balance. Was this marriage business just meant to be a trap?
“She is my friend, and she is innocent. I don’t want anything to happen to her on my account.”
“Nothing will happen to her provided you don’t break the promise you have just made to me. We will be a lovely couple, don’t you think?”
Jimi tries hard not to sigh. He can see how difficult his life his going to be in the coming days. But at least he has several months to prepare psychologically before they can tie the knot. Maybe he can even find excuses to delay the process. Maybe somewhere along the way the police will rescue Edith and then he will not have to go ahead with the wedding.
“You know in as much as I want to marry you babe, I cannot afford your dowry. You know very well that I am just a poor man from a poor family.”
Jackie laughs loudly.
“You think I didn’t know that when I asked you to marry me? There is no dowry over my head because my late husband already paid it. Besides, my parents are dead. Who would dowry be paid to? You are marrying me for free. In fact, we are skipping all those traditional shenanigans and going straight to church wedding.”
“We are getting married in church?”
“Yes, we are. You are Christian, aren’t you?”
“I am but I thought you would want a small civil wedding.”
“We need God’s blessings darling.”
“When do you want us to hold the wedding?”
“About a month from now. Tomorrow we will visit Sheria House to start the process by filling the relevant forms.”
“I thought you have said we will wed in church.”
“We will. But you know all marriages have to be recognized by the government so the process starts at Sheria House. It actually ends there as well when the pastor takes a copy of the wedding certificate. Tomorrow after visiting the marriage registrar we will go and see a pastor friend of mine who will officiate the wedding. I have already booked an appointment with him.”
“Do you think we have enough time to plan for a wedding in a month? You don’t think that is too soon? I mean weddings are hectic and have a lot of logistics.”
Jackie smiles at him as though he is a naive primary school kid.
“I already have a wedding planner on standby. She will get everything in order by the wedding date. By the way we are talking about five hundred guests. Two hundred and fifty from your side and two hundred and fifty from mine. You can start preparing your list because in about two weeks the wedding planner will need the list so as to be able to prepare the guestlist and the invitation cards.”
“That is settled then. Please come and join me in bed my love. I want to feel your warmth. I cant wait to be your wife.”
The two gorillas are scary to think about, but they have actually been kind to Edith. They hardly ever speak to her. But they have given her freedom to walk around the house, although they never let her out of their sight. The house is a three bedroom, well furnished container house in a wooded area. For a container house, it is surprisingly spacious.
Edith has not seen anyone else around the house, except the two men. But she knows that there is a third accomplice, the woman who lured her into a trap. Edith was headed to town to do her shopping when she saw a woman struggling with luggage and three children. She asked Edith for help, saying she was new in the city but that her cousin had told her that he was waiting with a car just down the road.
Edith agreed to help and sure enough, there was a man waiting with a Toyota Noah just down the road. He thanked Edith for helping his cousin and offered to drop Edith to town if she was headed that way. Against her better judgment, Edith agreed and hopped into the car. That was a dreadful mistake that led her here. Instead of heading towards town, the vehicle sped in the opposite direction. The driver, who is one of the men in the compound, meandered around the city until he got to this place. Edith has no idea where this place is.
Edith was dragged out of the car by the driver and carried to the house. She tried to protest but soon discovered that she was no match for the bear of a man. The car drove away shortly afterwards, and she believes that the woman is the one who drove it. She has not seen her since. The other man was waiting inside the house when they arrived. The men speak to her in monosyllables, and only when it is absolutely necessary.
The silence and boredom are driving her crazy.
She has been wondering how this trap was set for her. How did they know she would be heading out of campus at that very moment? The woman appeared at the campus gate at the very precise moment when Edith was leaving. Had she been waiting? If so, how did she know that Edith would go out at that particular moment? Or is it a case of mistaken identity? That is where it gets even more confusing. These people know her name, so they did not confuse her with someone else. On the other hand, on the day they took her, the woman told her that she will have to learn “not to snatch other women’s men”. She did not elaborate, even though Edith asked.
That made Edith believe that it was a case of mistaken identity. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, so what man could she have stolen and from who? Edith has thought hard about this, and the only conclusion she has made is that if this is not a case of mistaken identity, then it must have something to do with Jimi. He is the only man she is close to. They are not dating, but one of his many girlfriends may think they are.
Against her better judgment, Edith has found herself beginning to like Jimi, even though she would never admit that to him or anyone else. She finds him to be thoughtful, understanding, kind and very intelligent. In private, or at least when he is with her, he is nothing like the overconfident character he portrays in public.
She had no use for him at first. She disliked his “arrogance” which is what she interpreted his self-confidence to be. That is why she fled from him when he tried to hit on her at church. That in itself was disrespectful, in her view. Church is a place of worship, and hitting on girls while a church service is going on borders on blasphemy.
But she has come to see and appreciate another side of him. Unfortunately, she is falling in love with that side of him, even though she knows that she cannot date him. He might have a good soul, but the truth is that he likes women too much, and that is something she cannot deal with. In fact, his love for women might be the reason she is here.
Edith has been praying for a miracle to happen so that she is released. She has been here for three days. She has not been tortured, she has not even been talked to harshly. There is no indication that they want to harm her. But the truth is that they did not pick her up so that they can feed her. There must be something evil that they are planning.
Jackie stares at the sleeping Jimi. He is a handsome man. He is also intelligent, hardworking and everything else she would have wanted in a husband about forty years ago when she was looking for a husband. In fact, she had such a boyfriend, a man she would have married for love. But he did not have the pedigree that her father wanted, so she was forced to break things up with him so that she could marry the politician’s son.
She lost Jeremiah forty one years ago, but she will not lose Jimi. He is the right man to spend her sunset years with. For that to happen, she has to guard his heart. That is why, in spite of the assurances she has given him, that girl Edith will have to die. She will remain a threat for as long as she is alive. But she will be released first, and then will die of ‘natural causes’.
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