It’s two in the afternoon. Shiku is seated at the edge of her bed, staring straight ahead at the wall. Alex quietly opens the door to check on her. At least now she is awake. Alex had begun to get worried when it had gotten to midday and she was still asleep.
He takes two steps into the room. He can now see more of her face. She doesn’t seem to notice his presence.
Her light-skinned face is still beautiful. Her cheeks are still a bit chubby. Her lips are still full. But her eyes seem lifeless. Alex gets the sense that he is looking at a corpse and that he should go put his hands over her eyelids and close them because it is not right for the eyes of a dead person to be wide open.
But this corpse is his wife. Alive but dead.
It has been a month since the death of Shiku’s father. She was the apple of his eye and Alex knew that his death would fill her with grief. But he hadn’t imagined that it would suck the life out of her. Not like this.
He feels something brush along his leg and looks down to see Marvin, their son. Marvin’s body is behind his dad’s leg. Only his head sticks out from behind it as he timidly calls out, “Mum?”
His mother doesn’t seem to have heard him but he still goes on to say, “Ona kenye nimechora.”
Still, Shiku shows no sign that she has heard her son or that she is even aware of his and his father’s presence.
Alex bends down so that his head is at the level of Marvin and says, “Mum ameamka saa hizi. Wacha tumpee time kiasi. Atakuja kuona. Tuende ukanionyeshe.” He then throws one last look at his beautiful, alive but dead wife and gently starts pulling Marvin away, out of the room.
He is slowly closing the door when Shiku utters a sound. He softly swings the door open. Shiku looks at them, first at the father then at the son.
Marvin is looking back at her with his big, innocent eyes, which seem to ask, “What’s wrong mum?” Worry is written all over his face and she finds her eyes tearing.
She can’t allow Marvin to see her cry so she squeezes her eyes shut and takes several deep breaths, trying to calm herself.
Marvin, who has seen a glimpse of his mama somewhere, gets the courage to go up to her. As Shiku opens her eyes, she finds Marvin leaning his body on her thigh. She glances once at those big, innocent eyes and fearing that she will end up crying again, quickly takes the drawing book and looks at the drawing on it.
It looks half man and half alien. She smiles and asks Marvin, “Hii ni nini umechora?”
Marvin suddenly brightens up and with excitement, says, “Ni yule Black Panther anakuanga kwa TV.”
Shiku finds herself laughing. The drawing does not look anything like Black Panther but she puts an expression of wonder on her face and says, “Wah! Anamfanana kabisa. Kumbe unajua kuchora ivi?”
Little Marvin blushes at the compliment, his face beaming with irrepressible joy. Shiku, looking at her son’s joyous face and listening to his giggles, feels the sad frost in her heart begin to thaw. She feels a wave of warmth go through her body. Looking at him, she feels that maybe being alive is not so bad and she rises, picks him up in her arms and says, “Tuendeni tukapike lunch. Ama mshakula?”
Shiku is seated on one of the leather sofas in the living room. She feels tired from spending the whole day sifting through dozens of documents in preparation for an upcoming court case. The television is on. She feels extremely uneasy because of something she has just seen in the news. She can’t wait for Alex to come home.
Marvin is in his room, doing his homework. The house help is in the kitchen, preparing supper.
Shortly, Shiku hears the soft purr of Alex’s Mercedes Benz as it pulls up in the driveway outside. She turns her eyes to the door and a moment later, Alex opens it. He looks at her with a smile, then walks over and plants a brief kiss on her lips. He sinks into a nearby leather sofa, closes his eyes and lets out a sigh.
Shiku watches him. He seems tired. And stressed too. She picks the remote control and mutes the television.
Alex looks up. Muting the television is a bad sign. And he doesn’t like the look on her face.
“I just saw you in the news minutes ago,” she says. “What’s that about?”
Alex assumes an expression that seems to say, “Oh, that.”
He says, “The EACC is looking into the Ministry of Health. All senior officials are on the spot. It’s nothing serious.” He shrugs it off then adds, “But I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve been dealing with it all day at work and I was kind of hoping that I would get a break from it once I came home.”
“Of course,” Shiku says with a slight smile. The rest of her face does not seem to be aware that she is smiling. The smile only gets to her lips and Alex guesses that something is up.
Shiku takes the remote and turns her attention to the television. She switches it off.
She then looks at Alex and smiles. This time the smile gets to her eyes. Alex finds himself getting tense.
“I want you to tell me the truth. Please. If you don’t want to, well and good. But you know I have my methods of getting to the bottom of things,” she says, all the time with the most genuine and dazzling smile on her face. Were it not for a twinkle in her eyes that spells danger, Alex would be very much at ease.
He gets up from his chair and goes over to hers. He looks at her for a moment then sits down beside her.
“You also know that if I really wanted to keep something from you, I am capable of doing it successfully,” he says.
They look at each other for some time. Shiku’s smile gets even wider.
“But I have no interest in keeping anything away from you. So ask whatever question you want to ask,” he says.
The smile disappears from her face and she says, in a perfectly normal voice, “Why is your name on the EACC list?”
Her face is calm… too calm.
He looks at her for a moment, trying to guess what is going on behind that face. He is unsuccessful.
“What I’m about to tell you is strictly confidential. If the EACC were to get hold of a recording of it, I would end up dead or in jail,” he says.
Her face is blank.
“Some months ago, I kept running into irregularities at the Ministry. I followed the trail and discovered that hundreds of millions of shillings were disappearing at some point in the procurement process. The head of procurement is a friend so I went to him unofficially and demanded to know what was going on. As a friend, he told me that I had three options: To ignore everything and go on with my work, to blow the whistle and join my ancestors or to join them, help cover their tracks and get fifty million at the end of the operation.”
She seems completely disinterested in what he is saying but her eyes are fixed on him.
He continues, “At the same time, I learnt of an opportunity. The foreign minister was selling his garage on Ngong Road. With fifty million, I could get everything including the land, the staff and the equipment. So naturally, I decided to buy the garage. It’s bringing in at least a million each month in profits. And in December, I have a friend in Munich who has invited us over for Christmas. We’ll be able to afford a very expensive cruise and be there by the 25th. I know you’ve always wanted to go to Germany. I was planning this news as a surprise on your birthday but now you know. I guess I’ll have to find something else to surprise you on your birthday.”
Something is very wrong. She should be jumping up and down and squealing in excitement. But she is calm, just watching him.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you excited for Germany?” Alex asks.
In her calm manner, she says, “Of course I am. I am dying with excitement at the moment. I just have to clarify one little thing.” She pauses. God! She is beautiful and he finds himself thinking that after they are done with whatever this is, he would very much love to destroy this calm attitude that she is feigning. He can’t wait to bring out the sexual animal in her once they go to the bedroom. He can’t wait to see how she pretends to be calm while he makes her utter noises that are not fit for a lady.
She starts talking again and he is forced to come back to the present, to deal with her calm exterior that he knows may be hiding a dark storm.
“When I was listening to the news earlier,” she says, “I heard them say that the stolen money ought to have been used to hire more medical personnel and get more supplies for referral hospitals.”
“Yes, it was. But like I told you, there is nothing I could have done. They would have stolen the money whether I was involved or not. And whistle-blowing would only have gotten me killed. If it was entirely up to me, the money would go where it is meant to go. I just did the smart thing and got a lot of money out of it.” He says.
It doesn’t seem like a bid deal to him.
Shiku chuckles and says, “Do you remember how my dad died?”
Alex suddenly realizes that if this is about her father, then it is worse than he could have imagined and there will be no animal sex tonight. Unsure where this is going, he says, “Yes. In a road accident.”
“Yes,” she says, nodding and looking away from Alex. “But let me refresh your memory further. He told his personal assistant and his driver that he was going for a walk in Uhuru park and that he would call them later to pick him up. And before I continue, dad would have given you the money to buy that stupid garage of yours. Yes, he couldn’t fund my one-month trip to Germany when I was in campus but he would have loved to invest in something with his dear son-in-law because it was not wastage of money. Dad was weird like that.”
She looks at him. He is about to say something when he cuts her off with a flick of her hand and continues, “Anyway… He was hit by a matatu. The driver of the matatu is in jail as we speak – you know what I did to him. Then a good Samaritan took my dad to the Kenyatta Referral Hospital. I wish my dad had this sign on his forehead that said, ‘I am filthy rich. Please take me to Aga Khan and immediately they learn of my name, they will drop everything and attend to me.’ Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t into tattoos so he didn’t have that message on his forehead and ended up in the referral hospital for normal people. And guess what, there was no doctor to handle his emergency. I checked and ideally, there should have been at least 8 more doctors at that time. ”
She pauses, lets out a bitter chuckle and turns to face Alex, who by now can see where this is going.
With that perfect smile of hers, she puts her left hand on Alex’s shoulder and looking into his eyes, says, “I wonder what happened to the money that was supposed to ensure there are enough doctors and medical supplies at the country’s top referral hospital.”
She comes closer to him, so that their faces are just inches apart. She takes her hand from his shoulder and cups his face. Her thumb trails his lower lip. She looks at his lips for a moment and almost in a whisper, asks, “Babe, do you have any idea what happened to the money?” For a moment, she looks up into his eyes. She gets closer and their lips touch. She gives him a brief kiss, then pulls back, her eyes still on his lips.
“I feel like killing you,” she says, her smile disappearing. Her voice has a deathlike coldness in it. She looks up at him and what he sees in her eyes makes his heartbeat quicken in fear. “You and everyone who stole that money.”
After a short pause, her face takes up a smile that can only belong to the devil and in a low voice, says, “It would be easy. Dad had… all sorts of friends.” Her hand trails down his neck. “He had dangerous friends who owed him a favor or two. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind getting their hands a little dirty to exact his daughter’s revenge. I would kill everyone they love as they watch and then kill them.”
She looks into Alex’s eyes. Seeing the fear in them, she laughs and says, “Come on babe. If I decided to kill them, I would have to kill you too. And I can’t do that because I love you. There’s no need to fear.” She pecks him on the cheek. “Plus, what sort of mother would I be if I killed Marvin’s dad?”
The next morning, everything seems okay. Alex and Shiku play around with Marvin. They have an excellent breakfast.
As soon as Marvin leaves for school, Shiku, seated on one of the chairs at the dining table, says, “I’m divorcing you. And I’m taking Marvin with me.”
Alex almost chokes on his tea. Smiling, she watches him as he coughs. When he is no longer in danger of choking, she says, “Unless you would dare to sue me for custody.”
“You can’t do that. Don’t do that. Please. You and Marvin are the essence of my life. If you two go, my life will be meaningless,” he says, his tone begging.
“Marvin can come visit you over the weekends and he can spend the holidays with you. And if you miss him too much, you can always come to visit. I’ll give instructions to the housekeeper that you are always welcome to see and spend time with Marvin,” she says, emotionless.
Alex’s voice is desperate as he says, “I’ll go to the EACC and take the blame for the whole thing as long as I get to keep you.”
“Don’t be silly. You know that you won’t last one day before your thieving friends kill you. And if they do, then I really will have to go to war and destroy them all. I don’t want to become that person. I can’t be the devil and a mother at the same time. I don’t want Marvin to lose me so please don’t do that,” she says, showing emotion for once.
“Then forgive me,” he says, tears in his eyes.
There is silence.
Her eyes brim with tears. Finally, she says, “I want to… but I can’t. Every time I look at you, I see the person who killed my father. And I know that’s unfair to you because to be honest, if dad was alive at this time, I would be very proud of you. I would be looking forward to the trip to Germany with all my soul. I didn’t have a problem with corruption until it took my father. I’m sorry. But even this tea that we’re drinking or this watch that you bought me, I can’t help thinking that they were bought with the money that killed my father. I can’t live with you.”
After a moment, she smiles and jokingly says, “You should take this as an improvement. Yesterday I wanted to kill you. I actually woke up at night and took out my gun. You really shouldn’t sleep in the same bed as a woman whose father you killed. Especially if that woman is me. Luckily for you, I love you.”
At the mention of the gun, Alex feels that fear that he had felt yesterday. Soon, it is overshadowed by another feeling – anger. “I did this for you and you want to kill me,” he says.
With a chuckle and a look of disbelief on her face, she says, “What?”
“I did it for you! I want to give you the best. Don’t you see that?!” He says, voice raised.
“Jesus! You are out of your mind! Do you know how many billions I have now that dad is dead and I’m his only heir? I have never been in need of money. In fact, my salary as a lawyer is enough for me. I have grown to be a miser like dad. So let’s not get confused here. You stole the money for you. Not for me. Not for Marvin. We have more money than we will ever need. You stole for you,” she says. This time, she doesn’t manage to keep her voice even.
“And you know what?” She says, a smile on her face and her voice dripping with sarcasm. “That’s good for you. Fifty million is a lot of money. I think it’s enough to buy happiness. I’m sure there are hundreds of girls who will love you for your money. I’m sure you will find one that is way more beautiful than I ever will be. Then you’ll get children with her. In a matter of years, it will be like me and Marvin never existed.”
“You know that could never happen,” Alex says.
“No. Money is everything to you, isn’t it? Now that you have it, nothing can stand in the way of your happiness.” She says.
After a pause, she gets up and walks around the dinner table to the chair on which Alex is seated. She pushes the dinner table away to create space, then sits on his lap. Automatically, he puts his hands around her. She leans in and kisses him, softly at first then with more energy. She pulls away and looks into his eyes. They are hungry with desire.
She dives back in. This time, it’s a passionate kiss in which they devour each other. She suddenly pulls back and panting, says, “I’ll miss you, you handsome son of a devil.”
She grabs her handbag and heads to the door to leave. Just before she opens it, she turns and says, “That was a good bye kiss by the way.” Laughing, she adds, “Let’s see whether your fifty million can get you another me.”
It’s two years after the divorce. Alex is outside the Kimwaki residence. He has just rung the bell and is now waving into the CCTV camera. The gate opens and he drives in. He has a lovely weekend planned out for Marvin, who has grown into a fun loving, noise making, cheeky and at times annoying boy.
As he gets into the drive way, he notices Shiku’s favorite BMW. It is never there when he goes to pick up Marvin. She is never home. He has not talked to her in two full years.
He gets out of his car and walks up to the front door. As he passes her car, the tinted window rolls down. She is in the car, on the driver’s seat. He gets into the passenger seat. She is silent and is looking straight ahead. He looks at her for a moment then also looks ahead at the house.
After some time, she says, “I heard you quit your job at the ministry. How unfortunate.” There is a hint of laughter in her voice.
“Yes,” he responds with a smile.
She feels him smile and finds a small smile playing on her lips. Still looking ahead, she says, “I also heard that you are now working in an NGO that opens up the eyes of our people to the evils of corruption.”
“True,” he says. “And, for some reason, nobody is attacking us. It’s as if there is a guardian angel looking out for us.”
“The salary, according to what I gather, is peanuts. How are you able to survive on it, yet you donated your dear one-million-a-week-in-profits-garage to charity?” She asks.
“I have learnt that there are more important things in life than money,” he says. “I’m actually leading a pretty good life now.”
“Hmm,” she murmurs and for the first time, turns to look at him. When he turns to look at her, he is dazzled by her beauty. It literally takes away his breath.
With that angelic smile of hers, she continues, “I also hear that you have not had very much success in your love life.” She chuckles.
He laughs and says, “Yes. Every beautiful girl I meet and see for two weeks usually ends up leaving me because they got an amazing opportunity to advance their career abroad. There is this primary school teacher who won a green card in the most miraculous way.”
“Huh. You must be a good luck charm of some kind,” she says, not bothering to hide the mischief in her eyes.
She lets out a sigh and says, “It has been very lonely without you. I often sit and think that if I had killed you, I might have ended up committing suicide.”
There is silence.
“This weekend, instead of going with Marvin, why don’t you stay?”
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