By Sheillah Maonga
To read part three, click here
Phyllis saw her mother first. She pulled out from Fiona’s embrace.
“Why did you do it, mum?” Phyllis asked.
“Do what?” Nafula asked.
“Get back together with dad.”
“You make it sound like it is a bad thing.” Nafula said.
“That is what I was telling her too. That she is taking it as a bad thing.” Fiona said.
“But it is a bad thing.” Phyllis wailed.
“Really?” Nafula asked, shocked.
“Yes. We shouldn’t go back to that toxic environment at home. None of you was happy, which was making us so unhappy. When you finally separately, we were able to breathe.”
“You want to say ours was never a happy home? Even before I left for Ireland?”
“Things were okay before Ireland. Mum, do you think we can go back to that state of happiness? Is it really possible? Or, has too much water gone under the bridge?”
Nafula could not answer that question, because it was one that plagued her mind too, ever since the meeting decreed that they live together as man and wife. She wondered if they could ever be happy together again. She was doubtful.
The drive back was silent. Wakoli was thinking of the new dynamics. He still saw Mongeli every week, when he went to see their son. This was his only son, and he loved him dearly. He had even named him after his own father, which had instantly softened his parents’ hearts towards Mongeli and the baby. This had thawed the frosty relations that had developed following the aftermath of his marriage falling apart. Because of the baby, both his parents and Wakoli himself had developed a deep affection for Mongeli. Wakoli enjoyed visiting her. He felt at home in her house. She had always been very easy going and understanding. She hardly made any demands on him. She accepted him as he was, and whatever he had to offer. He thus felt himself relaxed in her company. She took care of him in ways that Nafula had never done. Thus, he did not want to stop those weekly visits, because they rejuvenated him. But, he couldn’t see how Nafula would support them.
At the meeting, Nafula had been strongly advised to accept his son with Mongeli. She had tentatively agreed, though Wakoli knew that she only did so because she had felt cornered. He knew that when they were alone in their house in Nairobi, she would let her feelings about the son known. It was because of that son being born that she left him. He knew that she would reject him all over again. He just couldn’t see how Nafula would ever accept this child. He also knew that she would put a stop to those weekly visits to Mongeli’s house, because not only did she dislike the baby, but the baby’s mother too. He knew that Nafula would demand that he walk away from Mongeli and their baby. He was not ready to do that. That made him very unsure how living together would pan out. This was what plagued his mind as he drove, Nafula sitting next to him. He was trying to see how he could have Nafula back in the house but still keep his weekly visits to Mongeli.
Nafula was thinking of that fateful day she found out about Mongeli and her baby. The story still haunted her, a year later. She was still hurt by it all, and she had resigned herself to living with the pain in this lifetime. It pained her the most that Wakoli showed no remorse for his actions. She felt resentful that he looked like he was more bothered about his image being damaged (which had not happened yet) more that the havoc he had created in the family. No one seemed put off by him because of what he did. They seemed put off by Nafula more because she had walked out of her marriage. It seemed that walking out was a bigger social sacrilege than siring a child out of wedlock. She got so enraged thinking about it, and even on that drive, she found herself clenching and unclenching her fists. She stopped herself in time before Wakoli made a snide remark about it. She feared that if he made a wrong comment, she would lash out at him, and that would be dangerous, for they were on a highway going very fast.
She thought of how Wakoli loved the interpretation that she had committed a bigger crime by leaving the marital home. Because it gave credence to his claims that Nafula was overreacting. He always portrayed himself as the aggrieved party. The man that his wife left him to take care of his two teenage daughters on his own. He made it look like her moving out was too much of a reaction for this mistake. He cited that so many women in her position stayed put in the marriage. He thus held it against her that she had left and Nafula couldn’t just fathom this. It was as if she should have taken it on the chin and turned a blind eye. Because the society, including Wakoli himself, didn’t see what he did as a big deal. They saw her reaction to what he did as a bigger deal. She wondered how they were going to live together under one roof when her anger was still as raw as it was a year ago when the news of his infidelity broke.
Wakoli didn’t see anything wrong regarding his indiscretions with Mongeli. Many men had done worse. For him, he never left his wife. He had remained loyal to her and made sure that the other woman knew that his wife came first. He felt that this set him apart from other men. He also didn’t deliberately set out to cheat on his wife. He felt that it was indeed Nafula herself that created this situation by going abroad to study. She left him, a man that was used to have a woman around. That emptiness created by Nafula’s absence meant that an affair was bound to happen. Mongeli filled this space. She was there when he needed her. Nafula wasn’t, as she was busy pursuing her studies. He just utilised an opportunity that presented itself. It was never serious and both Mongeli and him knew the score- that they would end their dalliance immediately Nafula returned to Kenya after completing her studies. Mongeli knew she was a placeholder. She seemed okay with that.
Their plan had worked quite well. The children were away at boarding school, Nafula was in Ireland studying, he was home alone. Mongeli was an old friend that was single and ready to mingle. Mingling they did, and sooner than later, she was sleeping over at his house, several times a week. They got along easily, since they seemed to have so much in common. It was a very easy, laid back relationship that kept his loneliness at bay. He looked forward to those moments he spent with Mongeli.
Then Nafula announced her arrival date. It was sooner than anticipated. Months sooner. The call had not gone well at all.