(Continued from The Tango of Love I)
After hanging up, Jean sighs deeply. She cannot explain what she is feeling. On the one hand, she is relieved that Nicholas is now out of the way. That means that she can now date Jeff without feeling like she is cheating. However, there is a tinge of regret about the way their relationship ended. She would have preferred to have Nicholas as a friend, some sort of back up, in case things do not work out with Jeff. There is a reason she dated him for this long, and the reason is simple: in terms of personality, Nicholas is the complete opposite of her father.
Charles, Jean’s father, is a traditional man, and in that traditional sense he was a good father. He worked hard to provide, and made sure that his family never lacked the basic luxuries of a middle class existence. Jean and her siblings went to good schools, they dressed nicely, they ate well, they lived in a four bedroom house that was one of the largest in the village and they had two cars, even though one was Charles’ workhorse. Charles drove, and still drives, an old but sturdy Land Rover that has the practical purpose of doing farm work. He was, and still is, a farmer. He has a tea farm which is one his three primary sources of income. The Land Rover, which is still around and in very good shape, helps to ferry tea from the farm to the collection centre. It also helps to ferry fertilizers to the farm.
The Land Rover also helps him to ferry napier grass and other animal feeds for his seven dairy cows, which constitute his second income stream. While he sells his tea to KTDA like other small scale tea farmers, he is a member of a cooperative society that processes and sells milk products and that is where his milk goes. Every morning and evening he uses the Land Rover to ferry milk to the creamery. Charles has employed three young men to work on his farms. Two of them are assigned to the dairy farm. Their job is to ensure that the cows are fed and milked and the sheds cleaned. The third one is a foreman at the tea farm. He supervises the casuals who Charles hires to pluck tea.
When Charles is not ferrying tea, milk, animal feeds or fertilizers, he uses the Land Rover to ferry stuff for people at a fee. It could be firewood, or grains for market traders and so forth. That is his third income stream. He works hard every day so that his family can enjoy a good life. Old habits die hard, and even though his children are all grown now, and even though he has achieved some measure of financial success, he still works as hard as he has always done. Jean’s mother is the beneficiary of that hard work. She is the envy of many other women in the village because she dresses in trendy clothes, and has a car. She is the one who drives the family’s second car, a Toyota Corolla, except on Sundays when Charles drives them to church. Unlike the Land Rover, the Corolla is relatively new. The one they had while growing up was replaced seven years ago with the current one.
It is the darker traits of her father that Jean doesn’t like. For a start, Charles completely dominates his wife Patricia, Jean’s mother. At their home, his word was final. He doesn’t bother consulting Patricia, and if she makes a decision without consulting him it will certainly be reversed. There is no romance in that marriage. They never go anywhere together, except to church on Sundays. They do not hold ordinary conversations like normal couples. If you see them talking, Jean’s father is most probably issuing instructions. He can be brutal at times; while growing up, the children usually got a beating for the slightest offence and there are times he even beat up their mother. He was a dictator, and it was obvious that every member of the family was frightened of him, Patricia included. Jean does not want to get into such a marriage. She wants a man who will respect not just her opinions, but her as a person; a man who will treat her like a partner, not a servant. Nicholas has always been that person. He has always been kind, supportive and respectful to her.
At the same time, though, Jean does not want to get into a ‘boring marriage’. When she thinks about a boring marriage, the first image that comes to her mind is that of her aunt Sarah and her uncle Obadiah. Sarah and Obadiah have been married for about 21 years. They are happy, as far as she can tell. But their marriage is also ordinary. They are both high school teachers and helped each other build a home. They bought their land together. They built their house together. They educated their children together. In other words, they pool finances and do what has to be done.
But there doesn’t seem to be any romance in their marriage. They are just an ordinary couple, happy in an ordinary way. In truth, that marriage is far better than that of her parents. Sarah is Charles’ younger sister, and as children Jean and her siblings would sometimes get permission to stay at her home over the holidays. Unlike Charles, Sarah’s husband Obadiah is a gentle man, and his children, Jean’s cousins, are not terrified of him.
Obadiah is a good man. Jean certainly enjoyed staying at his homestead. He and Sarah also live a comfortable life, but they are not nearly as financially endowed as Charles is. They have always seemed happy though, and that is the kind of life Jean knew she and Nicholas would enjoy. Between his salary as a pastor and her income from her business, they would be comfortable. However, she suspects that there will be little romance in the marriage. Being a church boy, Nicholas has never kissed her. He doesn’t even hold her hands. But that has never been a problem because she understood where he was coming from. Their Senior Pastor is very keen on sexual purity, and he always warns young people about the dangers of premarital sex.
Being a youth leader, and later a youth pastor, Nicholas is of course at the forefront of promoting sexual purity. He has to be an example to other young people. But as a woman, Jean sometimes wished he would kiss her when they were in private. Nobody would have to know. But he has never attempted, and she would never dare make the first move. That would make her a temptress, a tag that no Christian girl wants.
Her secret fantasies have never been a problem between her and Nicholas until Jeff arrived. As a matter of fact, Jean has never thought about her aunt Sarah’s marriage as ‘ordinary’ or ‘boring’ before Jeff arrived. They have always been the model couple for her. But then Jeff came into her life and changed her view of romantic relationships.
Jeff stormed into her life and showed her that a man can have her (Jean’s) father’s strong characteristics while at the same time being loving and respectful. She met him at a wedding where she was catering. He came to the tent where the food was and asked her employees whether their boss was around, and he was directed to her. When he found her, he asked her whether she could cater for a corporate event that was to happen the following week. She readily agreed.
Over the following week they got talking about the event, in which he was the MC. After the event he asked her out for dinner and from there they continued talking regularly, and one thing led to the other until he kissed her last night. He knows she is in a relationship, and he promised not to pressure her.
Like Jean’s father, Jeff is a hard worker. Whenever she calls he is always either in his office or in a meeting. That would explain why he is so wealthy, and why he can support her without asking her to chip in financially. That is the one aspect about her father that she admires. Her mother was a secondary school teacher, but her father never asked what she did with her salary. He believed that it was his job to provide for his family. That is the same philosophy that Jeff carries.
Reverend Samantha, the wife of Senior Pastor Benedict, says that for a marriage to work the man must take his place as the head of the home. This entails providing for his wife’s material, spiritual and emotional needs. Generally, a man should make a woman feel secure. Traditionally, this was done through hard work in the farms, pastures or fishing grounds, and through raw courage whether in war, duels or in fighting wild animals. But the kind of security the modern woman needs is emotional and financial. Nicholas looks like the type Pastor Samantha has been preaching against: the type of man who wants to share his financial responsibilities with her.
Jean goes to the washroom and then goes back to bed. Having talked to Nicholas, her anxiety has reduced, and she is now confident that she can find sleep. She knows that Nicholas is deeply hurt, but she cannot stop living her life just to make him happy. She pushes thoughts about him away from her mind and thinks about Jeff. She cannot wait to tell him that she is now free to date him. She decides to text him on WhatsApp before she sleeps.
When she opens her app, she notices that she has a message from a strange number. The message is just three words: ‘Get a life’.
She clicks the profile picture of the sender of the message. The photo is a family portrait. It has Jeff, a woman and two children. Jeff is holding one child and the woman is holding the other. The younger child appears to be two years old, and the older one about five. But both children are spitting images of Jeff.
Image by Boombinomie from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/converse-couple-love-lover-sneaker-2521534/ *
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