Janis stops sobbing immediately Cyrus leaves. He has just announced that he is walking away from their 11-year marriage. She has known for a long time that Cyrus does not love her and that he has been cheating. But she did not think he would ever leave her. Nevertheless, she has always been prepared for this eventuality. Her lawyer, Sharon, drafted court papers to end the marriage and divide the property two years ago.
Janis just keeps updating them. The matrimonial cause lists properties that Cyrus thinks she does not know about. Janis smiles at this. Cyrus thinks she is a fool, just because she has been playing naïve, trying to resuscitate their marriage, even though it is clear now that it was dead on arrival. To think she even left her job to support his political ambitions.
Sharon is a local girl who has been friends with Janis since they were toddlers. They even went to the same law school, the University of Nairobi Parklands Campus. She is based in Nairobi but has an office in Chuka which she visits every Wednesday. Janis calls her and tells her she is ready to file the applications and checkmate Cyrus. Janis drives to the Chuka office where an associate of Sharon helps her sign the necessary affidavits.
Sharon has been urging Janis to walk away from the philandering Cyrus. She has even offered Janis partnership at her firm so that she can start her life away from Cyrus. But Janis wanted to live up to her mother’s standards. She wonders what Mother would say to the latest development. She would without a doubt persuade Janis to fight for her marriage. After all, she stayed married to Marangu, Janis’s dad, for forty-two years, until her death two years ago.
Mother believed that marriage is a lifetime commitment. She tolerated Marangu’s infidelity for all those years, and he, unlike Cyrus, honored her by not leaving. The arrangement seemed to work for both of them, and when she died, he mourned her appropriately for a year. But last year he married one of his mistresses, a girl younger than Janis.
Janis has often wondered whether her mother was really happy. Marangu treated her with courtesy and respect, but the romance was obviously missing. He tried to keep his affairs secret, but word gets around especially in small towns and people talked behind Mother’s back. By their 10th anniversary, it was an open secret that he couldn’t keep his zip up. But Mother her faith in her marriage.
As a teenager, Janis swore she would never be as subservient as her mother. And she found a man she could trust. Elijah would have offered her stability and faithfulness. He was loyal to the core. They dated from their second year at the University, through KSL, and into employment. Elijah was a consistent guy, predictable and dependable.
Then Cy came along with a promise of hot passion, and she, in a move that even she does not understand to date, dumped Elijah and married him. Janis is still haunted by the look on Elijah’s eyes when she told him it was over. They have kept in touch over the years, usually, because he calls exactly three times every year: on her birthday, on New Year and on their anniversary, as he calls the 6th of September, the day she agreed to be his girlfriend those many years ago.
He married two years after she did but the wife left him for another man. Poor Elijah. Now he lives alone on his Limuru farm. He has a small but thriving law firm in Limuru town. Their relationship has settled into a warm platonic friendship, sustained by three calls a year.
Cyrus thinks she does not know about Phanis and the other girls. He also assumes she has no clue the extent of his wealth because she acts disinterested. Right now Janis would give anything to see the look on his face when he reads the court papers.
She walks to his bedroom-they stopped sharing a bedroom years ago- and notices he has already moved out of their matrimonial home. He has no doubt moved into the Governor’s mansion with that twerp Phanis.
Janis’ only concern now is her father. The old man, chauvinistic to the core, will certainly try to block her divorce. Not least because he is convinced that his son-in-law will be President soon. Who wouldn’t want to be the President’s father-in-law?
Cyrus rises from his desk with a sigh and walks to the window. Phanis. Of all his girlfriends and mistresses, none has ever made him feel the way Phanis does. His wife Janis is a lovely woman. She adores him and she has borne him two wonderful children. But he does not love her. His string of mistresses have provided the spark he needed for the eleven years he has been married. But they were all short term flings. But Phanis is different. For the first time in his life, he is considering a long term romantic relationship.
This morning he told Janis that he is leaving. She took it surprisingly calmly, although she did sob softly. He had expected her to lose it. He almost felt sorry for her, but thinking about Phanis quickly banished such tenderness.
Janis may be a lawyer, but she is naive. So he expects the divorce to be quite straight forward. All he needs to do his watch his father-in-law. The old man will certainly be opposed to the divorce, but Cyrus is convinced he can handle him.
Unlike twelve years ago, Cyrus feels like he can now go toe-to-toe with the old fox. He now has money and connections. The masterstroke was moving the headquarters of Tharaka Nithi County from Kathwana to Chuka town. That move alone earned him millions in bribes from contractors and Chuka businessmen.
Cyrus smiles. His second term as the fifth Governor of Tharaka Nithi County is winding down. At thirty-eight, he cannot retire from politics. There are two positions he is exploring: either the Presidency or the Senate. He is his own man now, and that means he no longer needs Janis or her father.
Cyrus is the son of a primary school teacher father and a housewife mother who lived a modest rural life. Cyrus studied hard and eventually became a lawyer, and was hired by one of the top law firms in Nairobi. Being a man who hated poverty, he adjusted his social circle, including the joints he visited, the neighborhood he lived in, the cars he drove and the girls he slept with. He was soon teetering on the brink of insolvency, even though he was earning an enviable salary. He was deep in debt, and he could only barely afford to service the debts and stay afloat.
Then he met Janis. She was working at one of the top banks as a legal officer. Cyrus was originally toying with her as he did with all the other girls. Until he found out whose daughter she was and swiftly moved to marry her, in order to get through to her father.
Marangu, a rich and connected Tharaka Nithi oligarch quickly spotted Cyrus’s political potential and not only approved his marriage, but also bankrolled the wedding. He did not waste time. He fronted Cyrus as a candidate in the gubernatorial elections in the next election cycle and financed the campaign. Cyrus’s smooth tongue that has lied to so many girls was equally effective in convincing voters. He easily floored the incumbent, old Mutegi, to become the youngest Tharaka Nithi Governor at 29.
Marangu has been the shadow governor. All of Cyrus’s policies and projects are really his. The old fox has become even wealthier and more connected. The contracts that he influenced Cyrus to award made him even wealthier. But the old fox is too clever and not even Cyrus can find that connection between the contractors and Marangu. Not that Cyrus cares. He has become wealthy as well. His nine years as governor have served him well. And he has a decent chance of becoming President. Cyrus is the most visible Governor in the Mount Kenya region, and the populous region has not had a President since Uhuru Kenyatta retired.
He goes back to his desk just as his secretary steps in and brings him court papers. As Governor, he is used to lawsuits. He usually reads them for fun, being a lawyer himself, then shoves them down to the County Attorney.
But this one is different. It is a divorce petition. His wife has moved faster than him and filed a divorce petition. Maybe Janis is not as stupid as he has always thought. Then he gets to the Matrimonial Cause and his heart nearly stops… Janis is asking for half of his entire wealth, even those he thought he had carefully hidden: his offshore accounts and investments.
How did she know about them? What else does she know?
In order to secure his wealth, he will now have to involve his father in law by lying that he does not want to lose Janis. The old-fox will straighten this out. Of course, that means that the divorce will not happen. He will have to find another way of getting rid of Janis without upsetting her father or risking his wealth. Who said a Governor’s wife can’t die at the hands of robbers?
Cyrus picks his phone and calls his father-in-law.
(To be continued)