By PATRICK NGUGI
I looked at my watch for the umpteenth time. The second hand was ticking at the same pace with my heart; its beat increasing with each tick.
I was waiting for Angeline, my girlfriend for the last two years. I did not always feel like this whenever I waited for her, but today’s meeting was different. Perhaps it would be the last meeting with her, as a lover. I still wondered how I would break the news to her, now that I had decided to ditch her for Joy.
I could not believe I had managed to keep my affair with Joy so secret that Angeline had no clue what has been going on behind her back. All those fake trips out of town, all those alleged late duties at the office, she had swallowed them hook bait and sinker.
It all started six months ago when I met Joy in a shopping queue at Coolmatt Supermarket. She was in front of me with a handful of cosmetics she had bought.
Looking at her from behind, my eyes and heart could not behave when I beheld her shapely figure, with just the right curves at the right place, packaged in a well fitting light blue skirt suit.
She had a dark chocolate complexion, with a beautiful natural black Afro hair, about half an inch long. She also had dark goggles and a golden chain around her smooth neck, and a faint arousing aroma of aphrodisiac perfume. Being close to her was just heavenly bliss and I wished that this queue would last forever.
She reached the cashier, placed her items on the counter and as the cashier punched her purchase into the cash machine, she opened her handbag to retrieve the money. The casher assistant took a small bag and packed her items. Suddenly she flinched and remove her goggles then started rummaging inside her bag as the cashier stared at her.
“Oh my God!” she said.
“What is it?” the cashier asked.
“I forgot my purse,” she said.
Robotically, the casher assistant took the lady’s shopping and placed them aside.
“Madam there are other shoppers behind you… if you have no cash, step aside. Go away and come back later for them.” The cashier said angrily, taking the purchases from his assistant and placing them in a drawer under his desk, and literally shoved her aside, to make way for me.
I cast a glance at my fair lady as I moved to the cashier. She looked devastated, angry and embarrassed. She took her phone and desperately started to make a call.
People say that successful people see opportunities, where there are problems. There I was, a beautiful opportunity standing in front of me!
I had a few items to buy, a shaving cream, toothpaste and a bottle of whisky. The casher punched in the prices and gave me the total.
I looked at her. She still stood there, about three feet away from the queue. Apparently her call had not gone through. She still looked devastated.
“How much is her purchase?” I asked the cashier, pointing backwards at her with my thumb.
“Two thousand shillings,” he said.
“I shall pay for them,” I said as I produced my debit card.
He debited my card with the total purchases and after my stuff was wrapped, he retrieved the lady’s package and gave both to me.
I turned to her. She was still struggling to make the call.
“Hi there, here is your stuff,” I said and she looked up at me, first suspiciously, then her face up.
“Oh, thank you so much – that’s so kind of you,” she said as she hugged me with one arm, while receiving the package with the other. “So silly of me forgetting my purse,” she added as we walked out.
“It happens. It’s one of those things,” I offered.
We chatted as old friends as we walked out of the supermarket I escorted her to the parking lot where she had parked her car.
“Joy – Joy Gathithi,” she said, offering a handshake in self introduction. “We have not even introduced each other,” she said giggling.
“Yes. Mine is Dominic. Dominic Gitaruru,” I said shaking her hand. She had a firm handshake. I guessed her embrace would be that strong.
We then exchanged our numbers, so that she could MPESA my money back, despite my insistence that she did not need to. I was glad however because with the exchange of numbers, other things could follow.
That is how we started and one thing led to another and before long, we were in love, and to make it even exciting, I discovered that her father was Geofrey Gathithi. The G. Gathithi! That multi billionaire who owned half of Nairobi.
At first she didn’t know about Angeline. She didn’t have to know, and I could not tell her since she hadn’t asked, and after all I wanted to get the maximum benefits from the two worlds.
I can tell you that I loved both, but I felt more deeply with Joy, rather than Angeline.
Angeline and I had been lovers for over two years now and in the last few months we had even started talking about wedding plans. I had disappointed her several times when I kept on postponing a visit to her parent’s home to declare my interests, always telling her there was still time and that I was still getting organized.
We were still living separately, but we had plans to move into one house as soon as both sides of the family had officially been informed of our plans.
Then Joy happened.
About three months after the shopping incident, Joy found out about Angeline. After the initial shock, she was categorical that despite being in love with me, she would discontinue our affair – unless I chose between her and Angeline. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I loved, or thought I loved Angeline, with whom we had had a long relationship, only waiting for parents’ blessings before becoming man and wife.
She was a hard working woman who had established herself from a scratch to be an owner of two executive salons in the city centre and a boutique in Westy.
Being a loving companion, she would make a perfect wife for an insurance sales executive like me.
But Joy had stolen my heart. She was more charming, romantic and humorous and being a daughter of one of the richest businessmen in the country, I felt proud being a possible son- in- law and part heir to a staggering fortune.
Without much thought I decided that I had to end my relationship with Angeline, since marrying Joy would be more advantageous to me. I told Joy that I would be leaving Angeline for her.
But telling Angeline that we were no longer an item since I wanted out was easier said than done.
I kept on procrastinating for almost a month, as Joy prodded me. I just could not get the right words to tell her whenever we met.
Then after I gathered courage, I proposed that we meet since I had important news to tell her. To my dismay, she postponed the meeting, saying how busy she was at the boutique or the salon and could we meet another day? She did this twice or thrice and I wondered why since previously she would jump at any opportunity to meet me.
Finally she made time, and here I was, at this restaurant waiting for her.
I ordered another cup and looked at the watch again. And the clock on the wall, wondering why they were so slow.
“Hello Dominic,” Angeline called from behind. I stood up and turned. We hugged and stared for a moment into each other’s eyes as we had always done. As always, her eyes were enchanting as she looked at me and for a brief moment I wondered what was wrong with me, deciding to end a relationship with such an angel.
“Sorry to keep you waiting Dominic, I know you have been wondering,” she said as we relaxed our embrace, and I pulled the chair for her.
“Do not worry, Angel,” I said. I always called her “Angel,” short for her name and also she was literally one. “I know you have been busy,” I said.
The waiter brought my second cup of coffee, and looked at Angeline expectantly.
“Bring me lemon tea,” she said.
“Anything else madam?” the waiter asked.
“No, tea will do,” she said.
We had not met for almost a week and this something had never happened in our two year affair. I wondered what happened to the love we knew. Then I remembered Joy, and the answer hit me like a sledgehammer on the forehead and my heart started racing again.
She placed her handbag on the table against the wall, smiled as she looked at me. Then for a moment uncomfortable silence reigned. Something was amiss. I had known her for over two years, and her smile was better than this. Something seemed to be bothering her. Though she was smiling, her eyes were not smiling with her lips.
“So how have you been my love?” She asked finally.
“I’m alright, Angel,” I said with my lips, but I guess my eyes were also giving a different story.
“You look edgy, is anything wrong Dominic?” she asked, her eyes changing from sadness to curiosity. So she had noticed my uneasiness, I thought.
“No, I’m fine as I said. It’s you I’m worried about,” I threw back the question. “You look like something is bothering you, honey,”
She smiled, but again, without her eyes. She was about to say something when the waiter brought her tea. We waited as he served her. I watched Angeline put her teabag into the hot water as she added the pieces of lemon, one and half tea spoons of honey and stirred. Her lips were curled in a smiling fashion and her eyes were struggling to sync with them.
I added sugar into my coffee meanwhile, and when she was through she lifted her cup and said “cheers”. I did the same with mine and we both took sips of our drinks in synchrony and put the cups down on their saucers.
“So tell me what is bothering you? Or is it pressure at work?” I asked, avoiding speaking of my own pressures until at the end.
“I don’t know where to start Dominic, but I’m exhausted. I think I need a rest, but who can I leave to run the businesses. It’s almost Christmas and we are too busy. Imagine you and I have not had time to ourselves for over a week!” she said.
“Do not worry. It will soon be over,” I sand and the irony hit me. What was going to be over soon? The stress at her workplace or our relationship? I wished my heart could behave. I did not want her to hear the loud beats coming from my ribcage.
“I hope so too,” she said as she took another sip.
Not to let silence reign, I said; “But too much work is good. It means good business, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, but not to our detriment. There is also lots of stress unloaded to us by stressed customers, who come to dump stories about their skewed affairs and breaking marriages. You’d think we are counselors,” she said attempting to crack a joke, but neither of us laughed. Our own tension could only allow grins.
“Yeah, I understand there is a lot of gossip too.” I said playing with my cup, and stirring the tea again.
“Like there is this lady. Comes from a wealthy family. She just discovered that her boyfriend has a side chick, and she is very unhappy. She has told the guy to choose between her and the other woman,” Angeline said.
“And then?” I asked almost feeling like she was describing me.
“She feels that this guy is after her father’s property, and is not really in love with her because it has taken him so much time to end the relation with the other girl, as he had promised.”
My heart was racing again. I took a serviette and wiped my brow. There was no sweat, but I was feeling hot.
“Kwani her father is how rich?” I found myself asking.
“He is rich. He owns most of Nairobi.”
“Really? Do I know him?” Slow down heart, slow down.
“Maybe, I’m not sure, but you might know his daughter. The woman I’m talking about.”
“Do I, who is she?” I asked and I can tell you that I’m sure this time I was sweating.
“Joy.” she said, looking at me with a weird smile on her lips.
“Joy?” I asked, holding my breath and my heart at a standstill.
“Yes, Joy,” she said, placing her cup on the table, and pointing behind me.
I placed my cup in front of me and turned, then I froze.
Joy was standing behind me, with a mischievous look in her eyes and a sardonic smile on her lips.
“Joy!” was all I could say as I half stood up, almost upsetting the table with my legs, making the cups shake, almost spilling the drinks.
Joy went straight to Angeline and hugged her, and then they shook hands as old friends. Then she turned and gave me limp handshake.
“Please sit down Joy,” said Angeline. “Talk of the devil, we were just discussing you.”
“I hope not in a bad way,” she said looking at Angeline in a faked frown.
“Not really,” Angeline said, then looked at me, “By the way, meet Dominic,” she said pointing at me. “Dominic, this is Joy.”
They were both looking at me, smiling. I could not read the mood behind their smiles, and I did not know if I should say “pleasure to meet you.”
To my surprise, Joy just nodded, and then turned to Angeline, “so what were you talking about?”
Without looking at me, Angeline said: “I was telling Dominic about your boyfriend, who has another woman, and that you want him to decide. It’s either her, or you,”
“Yes, and by coincidence, he is also here with us,” Joy said looking at me. “This Dominic here is the boyfriend I told you about. And he was supposed to declare by today. I wonder if he has made up his mind.”
Then they both looked at me. I had not seen it coming so soon.
“Yes, Dominic. I know what has been going on. When Joy told me about her boyfriend, I inquired further and she gave the name, and even your occupation, and telephone number. And I didn’t know you had been lovers for six months! How could you cheat on us both?”
I struggled to speak but words could not come out of my mouth. I could cheat both separately, but when they were together like this, I became dumbfounded.
“Its… it’s not like that…” I struggled to say.
“Tell us. It’s like how?” Joy asked.
I looked at her. Then at Angeline. Their accusing eyes were torturing me.
“Listen Dominic… we have decided, at least I have,” said Angeline. “We shall not let you choose, because you have made a fool of us. I give you freedom to continue with Joy. I cannot have you anymore. As she tells me, you were a gold digger, hoping to inherit her father’s property. So I leave you for her… I’m done with you. Gone,” she said as she started to pick her bag. Surprisingly she didn’t look sad or angry. She just looked fed up and determined to leave.
“No, Angeline. NO! You are not leaving me here with this double dealer. I won’t have him for cheating on both of us.” Joy said as she also collected her bag. “Let’s go Angeline.”
“No Joy… Please listen, hear me out please,” I begged. “Angel, please don’t just go like that…” I pleaded, attracting scores of eyes from other customers. But they did not listen, and they walked away, hand in hand, towards the exit.
I sat there gaping at the door like a fool. It felt like the world had come to a sudden stop, throwing me and my plans all over the chaotic cosmos.
“Your bill please,” the waiter said.
I took the bill and looked at it. Three hundred shillings. Mechanically I took my wallet and fished out a sh500 note and gave it to him.
I do not know how long I sat there feeling like a useless cheat who thought he was too clever. All I know is that after a while, I drew a deep breath, shrugged and stood up. Shit happens, I said under my breath as I walked out.
“Excuse me sir,” someone called from behind. It was the waiter, with my two hundred shillings change.
“Hiyo ni yako,” I said and he smiled sheepishly.
“Thank you Sir,” he said as he took our cups holding our half drunk drinks.
Yes. That’s the least I can do. Make one soul happy despite feeling like garbage.