Paying The Dues

It all started like a normal day for me. Business meetings, as usual, meeting up friends here and there and dropping off my lovely wife at her place of work. So many times I had offered to buy this woman her own car but she was always as stubborn as a mule. The village mentality had never left her even after more than ten years of marriage and packing her into a five bedroom duplex in some leafy suburb somewhere.

“I don’t want to be bullied by those rogue matatu drivers,” she would say every time I brought up the topic.

“And again, daddy would never allow me to drive on my own. You know our history with motor vehicles.”

Motor vehicle? Who in this age and time used the word motor vehicle in a casual conversation?
It was true I knew their history. Her father the former county police commander had been the richest man from his village at that time. Having just married and landing this government job almost immediately, his family got to enjoy the finer things in life, while most of their neighbours wallowed in an endless cycle of poverty.

He had bought a car which made him the envy of the village folk until lorry rammed into him one day while going home from work, knocking him unconscious immediately. By the time help arrived he had already lost a foot and four fingers on his right hand. Life changed from that point onwards. His job at the government was taken away and given to someone ‘more able.’

The mansion in the city was confiscated by the bank when he could not pay back his loan. He had no choice but to move his family to the village. Now being the apple of her father’s eyes and an only child, Paulina was forbidden from going near anything with wheels. It would be recorded in the poor thing’s mind that vehicles were porters through which death came for its victims.

I had grown accustomed to her peculiar behavior but from time to time I would bring up the topic of how good it would be if she owned her own car like the other women in the estate. Money was not a problem. I could afford to buy her three cars even if she allowed me but as fate would have it, my wife was wired differently. While my girlfriend had jumped with joy at the prospect of owning her own Vitz, my wife still remained adamant. Due to that, I had hired the services of Alex, a son of one of my distant relatives who helped with the house chores while I catered for his education at the college of humanities, to be driving her around when I was not around.

On this particular day, I was meeting one of my prospective clients at a posh restaurant in Nairobi when a call came in from the house. Not wanting to annoy this particular mzungu who had come all the way from the UK for a partnership with my construction firm, I put the phone on silent and slid it across the table and went back to discuss the matter at hand.

Two hours later after striking what was one of the biggest deals for my firm since I established it over twelve years ago upon completing my studies in Havard, I decided to pass by Loretta’s house before heading home. She was a good girl in her third year at the university. I had rented her a two bedroom apartment because I didn’t like those university ‘boys’ who were always hovering outside her room. She was a beautiful girl, her dark African skin and brown eyes illuminating your heart every time you looked into them. Her dark hair was particular long for an African woman. She had thin lips that melted my heart whenever she smiled. I had known her for some time now. She had suggested that she would bear children for me as long as I kept supporting her lavish life

I had no problem with that. I had the resources for that and she was beautiful, young and a well-behaved girl who I had never known to mess around with men. My marriage had not been so forthcoming. After eleven years, I was yet to get the son I so craved for. My wife had only managed to give me a daughter who later died before her second birthday. After so many trials, nothing was yet to show for it. It was a business friend and one of my longest friends, who made a suggestion that I could try out things with a younger woman. He was the one who introduced me to Loretta, having three girlfriends himself at that time that his wife was yet to know about.

“These women will play you for a fool. How do you know that she is not saving herself to bear children for another man once you are gone, huh? Think about that.”

I did not like the idea of cheating on my wife, but his words kept ringing in my head over and over again until at last, I gave in. And at that point, my affair with Loretta was born.

I called Loretta to tell her that I was coming over. Her excited voice came over the phone and she instructed me to buy her chocolate on my way. As usual, I stayed there until late in the evening when I waved goodbye to her and buzzed off. My wife was used to my coming late every day. She knew I was a very busy man, running my own company and everything. It was a good thing because I didn’t want to have to explain why I was having an affair with a younger woman.

I was driving across the lonely lane, with only a few cars passing me when it hit me that I had received a call from home earlier that afternoon. I had not bothered to check the phone since I had a particular one that I communicated with Loretta. I decided to just head home. It was too late anyway to call back. I drove on in silence until I reached home.

I honked to alert Alex that the owner of the house had arrived and that he should open the gate but no one came. Something was not right. Again and again and still nothing.

Was this boy sleeping again? I couldn’t help but wonder. We had nicknamed Alex sleepy pants owing to his particular behavior of falling asleep anywhere. I alighted and knocked at the gate as hard as I could manage. Still no answer.

It did not have to take rocket science or landing a man on the moon, for me to know that something was amiss. I glanced at the phone in my hands. There were six missed calls that I had ignored.

I lifted myself on my toes and jerked my head forward and peeped inside through a space in the gate. The house was dark. Where was everyone?

I thought about all the horrible things that could have happened. Maybe my wife had caught wind that I was having an affair with a university girl and she had chosen to punish me by going back to her home. I thought of my friend. Maybe the idiot had finally betrayed me. Everybody knew that he once had eyes for my wife only for her to choose me instead. Maybe that was why he had been so enthusiastic to introduce me to Loretta. That cursed wretch of a man. How could I not have seen?

I used to carry my own key to the gate for those particular days when Alex decided, it was time for his siesta. I expected to find that my wife out of anger had cleared the house. I wouldn’t have blamed her. I had brought this on my own. I thought about Loretta and how she had charmed her way into my heart. Once again I wondered what I was thinking betraying my wife like that. Had I not promised her at the altar, my love for better or worse?

The front door was unlocked and I silently stepped into the dark living room. I carefully switched on the lights expecting the worst.

My eyes adjusted to the bright light and I saw my wife lying on the floor with the dirty -faded boot of one of her captures on her neck. The three men held guns and one of them was aiming it at Alex, ready to fire the round if he tried anything foolish.

“Hey!” one of them bellowed pointing the gun at me.

“We have been waiting for you Mr. Dollar Bills.”

That was what most people used to call me. My legs shuddered under the weight of my own body. I looked around, trying to imagine that this was all a dream. It was not. The man came forward and grabbed my shirt with such force that I almost passed out. He pushed me down such that I fell on my Paulina who put her arms around me as soon as I hit the floor. I looked at Alex. The young fellow was so scared that he had already done justice to his pants. He looked at me with despair expecting me to make it all go away.

“Do you know who we are?” the same man barked again.I did not and so I shook my head.

I did not and so I shook my head.

“Stay clear of Babu. You’ve been warned!” The man said still pointing his gun at me.

Babu was my political rival as well as a ruthless man who was known to take anything or anyone down that stood in his way. I had decided to vie for the Member of Parliament position in the by-elections after the former parliamentary seat holder was mysteriously poisoned at a famous hangout joint.

So this was all politically motivated?

Is this not the same Babu who was suspected to have collaborated with the late MP’s wife to finish him off?

I sure did not want to end up with my body parts in different locations. At that moment all I could do was give a nod to show that I agreed.

I was a great businessman who had conquered the known world. But deep down I was just like any other man- traumatized by death. I was not ready to go. I remember thinking at that moment how lucky I was that this had nothing to do with my wife discovering my affair and my face lit up with a goofy smile.

After beating us up for a while to make their point clear, the three men disappeared into the dark night through the back door kicking my cat on the way. Alex narrated the whole ordeal after they left. They had been there since the afternoon and were waiting for me to arrive.

“It’s a good thing that you didn’t pick those calls at that time. God knows; maybe you wouldn’t be standing here with us.” He said.

I was going to withdraw my candidature the very next day. My political advisors would come up with a good way of breaking the news to the people and still maintain my image.

However, in other ways, that image had already been tarnished. I looked at my wife as she came from the bedroom, still traumatized. She dragged a suitcase behind her and she placed the brown envelope in her left hand on the table. She looked at me with anger or hatred – it was hard to tell, picked the car keys from the table and called Alex, who came running amidst the terror we had been through.

Before I could even add one to two, I heard the sounds of a car zooming away. I emptied the contents of the envelope. Pictures of Loretta and I – taken from very perfect angles fell out.

I was finished. Not only had I lost my dream of ever getting into politics and assisting my people but I was about to lose the one woman who had stood with me, through all the trials and tribulations that our marriage had. I would have given anything for this to be just a cruel joke but it was not. By the time, I opened the gate; the car was nowhere to be seen. And I stood there, hoping to see headlight lights heading my way. It pitch dark!

And I stood there, hoping to see headlight lights heading my way. It was pitch dark!

Written by Lillyanne Gathoni

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