THE HOUSE ON THE HILL had been bellowing smoke from the Rose gardens for months now. The scintillating scents of withered bloom interspersed with the screeching irritation of once a musical angelic sound from the fairy tales of yore. The man stood making twitching faces at the reflection of the wife in their 6 by 6 ft bed, clearly wishing the mirror was lying. How did the forest get this thick and ugly? The man wondered as he tightened the tie round his neck with a violent jerk. The move made his fingers itch to put them round the woman on the beds neck and squeeze till the snores ended forever.
The disturbing train of his thoughts was disrupted by the vibration of his phone. The caller was not one to be ignored even at this early hour of morning, in front of the mirror inside his bedroom and two meters away from his legally wedded wife.
“Hi babe.” the man of the hour murmured as he walked out of his bedroom which to his jaundiced and biased mind, was a war front at best and a mortuary without freezers with bodies littered on the floor.
“Hi babe. Hope I didn’t catch you at a bad moment” the caller purred
Mutiga, had turned the door knob very gently so as not to arouse the sleeping dog. He laughed seductively to the caller’s ear, sending a ripple of pleasurable emotions down her small frame. Gloria, or Glo as he fondly called her was his present, future and forever.
“Not at all.” He replied.
And all the way down stairs, he was on the phone. Past the main door, down the steps and into the back left side of his chauffer driven government car. His driver, was a military man, who besides saluting, opening the car doors and closing them, he remained inside his own head minding his own business.
The sun was coming up this early Friday morning and Mutiga smiled to the orange rays as they sprang from the sleep of the previous night to greet him and give him hope of a better weekend than the entire week rolled up in one. The morning fresh scent of roses and myriad other flowers give his nostrils a tingling sensation. He felt alive as late comers in the breakfast show of birds dancing around the bushes drew his fancy for a moment. He lived well. Much more than well. He was a wealthy man and the expansive space his home in the city’s best suburbs was a testimony to this. Half way through the journey to his office up the hill, where justice was weighed and handed over to the deserving and undeserving, Mutiga ended his call and turned to the driver.
“Did you secure the facility?” he asked
“I did sir”
“And security is guaranteed, right?”
Mutiga congratulated his driver. He trusted him completely to mind his businesses of whatever nature, both official and unofficial. He relaxed on the back seat wishing he could start his weekend earlier than two o’clock that afternoon when he would be through with official duties.
After thinking through his longing, he added.
“I think you should not use this car. Can you arrange for private means?”
“Yes sir. I can”
“Good. Do you have enough money for that?”
“I do sir. I still have pipelines cache with me. It’s Kshs2.5M Sir”
“Good. Go and pay off all the stock at the place as well as the rooms. No space for stray guests.”
They reached the office at the usual hour. Seven o’clock.
In his chambers, where another government officer took over from the official driver over the security of the chief magistrate, Mutiga sat down to go through the briefs he had made for that days judgment.
Only one case was of interest to him. The pipeline case. The accused needed a bond pending the hearing of his case over corruption, where the corporation had lost over a hundred a forty million shillings over a botched up oil pipe line tender.
He had decided to put a bond of five million in cash and demanded a half for this amount in order to allow the accountant freedom on bond
With a satisfied smile, he called Glo just to hear her purr once more before he went to the courtroom. A happy man he was. He visualized the girl with more than a heartbeat rising. At fifty, and with five kids ranging in years from early teen to mid teen, he was enjoying the largesse of his lucrative career and the top up of recapturing his youth once more, now that the woman he had married had turned out as a pig escaped from the sty to his bed.
He had married her immediately she had finished her nursing degree only for her to deliver triplets for their first born. They had agreed she stays home to supervise the care of their children but since she could not breastfeed the two boys and one girl beyond the first three months, she conceived again before the children celebrated their first birthday. Talk of a nurse without sense. She dropped on him two more boys and suddenly, his home became a hell of choreographed trumpeting at all odd times of day and night. Worse was the wife’s lack of hygiene and new found eating habits.
Mutiga made a face just thinking about it. She grew round and ungainly and her body smelt of sour milk. Mutiga grimaced again at the thought
When he raised the issue of weight, the woman, who felt insulted by his concern retorted that he was responsible for her new state. Disgusted, Mutiga took his interest elsewhere. First to Atieno whom he dropped off for her fascination with face book as she posted pictures of wherever they spent weekends and this worried him. He, after all, had an image to protect. Next, he picked Liza who decided to be calling him every time. The climax came sooner. He fell sick and took a few days off to recuperate.
Day two saw Lisa, shamelessly banging at his front door and daring his wife to keep her away. The fight that ensured saw Lisa undressed and battered by his wife amid screams and name calling he had never heard before. The story that appeared in the papers was something he regretted to this day though he denied and paid some journalists to trash Lisa and favor him. This incidence destroyed any warmth he and his wife had pretended at enjoying. The marriage pact was as good as dead. And Glo was the official burial for his wife’s claim to him. Only, in her arrogance of a well provided for wife, she had no clue.
The day dragged. But it came to an end and love and lust played a lulling tune to Mutiga’s ears as the hired car drove him to the weekend paradise of choice
These were strange times. Lucy, Mutigas wife, was watching the nine o’clock news at home with her brood of five this Friday night when suddenly something exploded on all of them from the huge family television. A gasp went up from everyone.
Right there, the children saw their father being bundled into a government Land cruiser with about another ten or so others.
‘What the heck is going on here?” the only daughter of the home asked no one in particular
No one answered. But what the commentator said made sense.
That a group of friends, among them a chief magistrate had violated government curfew, lockdown and drinking hours and the closing of all bars and restaurants to engage in revelry. An illegal act that according to the reporter was a burning shame seeing a law keeper and interpreter was in the mix.
“O my God!” the girl cried.
“O my God is a wasted phrase when a law keeper drops the law,” the mother replied as she gathered her ample body up and disappeared to her bedroom.
There she called the husband but the call was disconnected. She did so three more times without success. Finally she called the family lawyer who assured her that nothing could be done now, up to Monday when the Magistrate would be taken to court.
Lucy could not believe what she was hearing though the facts of the case were right there on National Television.
How could her husband be that stupid? COVID-19 was ruthless to peoples life’s hence the lockdown, curfews
Lucy broke down and wept as she remembered the lie about a weekend meeting the husband had alluded to. And now this? She had a long night wondering at the fate of her husband’s job. With five children all of them in high cost schools what would happen to them if he lost his job?
A look at the news headline as she sat at table for breakfast before setting off to the police station, the next morning, to see her husband and possibly get reassurance shocked her further.
The husband’s picture was the day’s feature. Then the story. Of the hired facility. Of a girlfriend. Of—–of—the prints blurred right in front of Lucy’s eyes as her eyes welled up with tears. And as she sat there staring inwardly into her soul, she realized that she was crying over milk that had spilt a long time ago.
If a man was willing to lie to be away from his family when social distancing was a prescription to stay this vicious viral pandemic from infecting him and his family, then, he had no value for that family
Lucy flung the car keys she was holding against the front door window smashing it to pieces. The maid and cook stood there with knowing looks.
COVID19 had arrived in this house with all its destructive force.
“Damn!” Lucy hissed before laboring up the stairs back to her bedroom.
One more casualty of a disease without cure. Shame and betrayal run down Lucys back chilling her to the bone.
The self-quarantine prescription was offered to the man of the law on Monday afternoon when Mutiga’s case came up.
To Lucy’s second shock, Mutiga opted to quarantine elsewhere and not his home. She stood in bewildered horror as Mutiga left the court with his body guard without even one glance at the family. That’s when it dawned on Lucy that the marriage she thought she had was simply a piece of paper with a man’s signature on it. The man in truth had left way back befall COVID-19. The virus had come to clear the grey in the relationship. With the light shone on Lucy head finally, she broke down and wept for living and hanging onto a lie. She wept for the wasted years and the shattered hope. She wept for her teenaged children watching their father’s betrayal on National television. She wept like a widow.
The wept the tears of all women who had been abandoned by their spouses and humiliated in the process. She wept at her folly at believing that fighting for a man intent on leaving was a honorable thing. She wept. Oh, Lucy wept, till, divorce papers were served on day 15 after her husband’s quarantine escapade. And her tears dried. The cold frigid horror of reading the papers was like a splash of icy water onto her heart.
She was to keep the home. The children would be provided for up to the age of eighteen. If she contested the terms therein spelt, she was to lose any and all the benefits alluded in the papers.
And Lucy died a second time in the times of Covid-19. She knew the law and law keepers were rabid dogs and watched over each other’s backs. She had no case against thugs pretending to be law keepers.
Her hands still shaking, she dropped the papers on her bed and knelt down as if in prayers. But no thought of God or angels would come close to her mind or head. The red flashes of anger and deep hurt swirled around her mind spinning it over and over till something snapped. Lucy fell forward where her children found her a good 20 minutes later. Her mouth was twisted and now faced the far right of her right side of her face. She could not move her body, only her eyes roved round the sockets in a tired resigned manner. She had had stroke.
COVID-19 had crippled a person and a couple and a family. Only, it wasn’t really COVID-19. It was the underlying issues that caused this mayhem on this family
Nancy Ndeke is an acclaimed international Poet and a contributing Writer with Tujipange Africa Media.