BY VICTOR KEMBOI

Brenda Sang yawned and wiped her eyes as she observed the town growing busy that morning. She had been there for long seated behind the steering wheel of her Toyota Vitzand boredom had started eating up her mind. A fleet of vehicles roaredsoftly in front of herand she switched off the engine of her car and rested on her seat with her eyes closely arrowed to the road, waiting for the road to open. 

She knew she could spend several minutes there. Lately, traffic jam in Eldoret town was heavy in the morning. It seemed the town was growing together with her problems, or so she thought. In the recent days her job was dangling above the valley of death as the company she was working for was running into bankruptcy and soon it was going to be shut down. Her marriage with Mr. Peterson was experiencing some shake ups too. And few days earlier, auctioneers had sent them a notice to vacate their house for failing to afford rent for seven months. Worst of all, Peterson had just been discharged from hospital following an accident that had left him disabled, and  had drained all her finances as hospital bills hit the rooftop. She had recently changed her daughter’s school to a cheaper one because of this.

Now she thought of what to do as she observed the jam. She was now the breadwinner in her family. However, she was convinced that better days were coming and the story of Job in the Bible strengthened her. She decided to forget everything lest her day spoiled. 

A newspaper vendor passed by and she beckoned him for her favorite Daily Newspaper. She suddenly carried all her thoughts there and quickly scanned through the front page on the politics of ‘Building Bridges Initiative’ headline before she decided she would read the whole newspaper later in the office when she would be free.

But first things first, as it was always her norm, she rushed to the advertisement section to catch an eye of announcements which she at times benefitted from sales and contracts advertisements. Being the company’s procurement manager she could dig out into hefty contracts which could revive their company and prolong her employment at Premium Microfinance Bank. Information was the key to the success of every business, and she envisioned growingit to the status of being known nationwide and even overseas despite challenges.

There were so many advertisements but one got her attention and invited her to scan the page with a fine toothcomb. This time round, a promising job was in the offing. Olive Branch Company, the newest and biggest company in town was advertising a job for a senior procurement manager. As juicy as the advertisement was, her eyes landed on the privileges: a hefty pay which doubled her current salary, a company car and a spacious mansion in the leafy suburbs of the Eldoret town. Had her positivity that morning connected with the God she had been praying? And wasn’t that a dream come true, she thought as she smiled. 

Immediately she opted to make a call through the number that had been provided for enquiries.However, as soon as the phone started ringing the jam was released and she disconnected as vehicles started humming and buzzing like angry bees, supersonically dashing on the road.

Even though, she didn’t concentrate well all along. Curiosity and excitement mixed in her mind and she went to a utopian world. The privileges she had read made her anxious as she really needed a better job to return her to her previous financial status.

Eventually she reached her office compound and parked her car. When she stepped out she was still burning with curiosity to make enquiries. She picked her purse and walked hurriedly to her office with a resolution of calling Olive branch immediately. 

Even the bad news that the secretary gave her as she walked into her office did not bring her spirit down. She informed her of a Pioneer Group of Schools which had revoked her company contractfor classrooms constructions.

“What happened?” she asked.

“They say they did an investigation about our company and found out that it is already running bankrupt and that they cannot trust us to build such a school with precision.”

She clicked and did not give a hoot as she entered her office. Overwhelmed by the thoughts, she decided Olive Branch could be the real deal for her life. Leave the useless Pioneer Group of Schools, she quipped and sat in her executive chair behind her huge mahogany table. She dialed hurriedly the number in the newspaper which was picked from the other side within two rings.

“This is Olive Branch Eldoret, my name is Jane, and how may I help you please?”

“I am enquiring about the advertisement on the Daily Newspaper. I would like to know more about it.”

“Oh, thank you, as our company celebrates its fifth anniversary and we are opening its branch in Eldoret to expand our customer base. We are looking for a senior procurement manager to help us and if you are interested, kindly visit our offices situated in New Olive Branch Plaza and submit your documents. From there you can be vetted and the best to win would be advertised in our daily newspapers.”

***

The following morning was unusual for Brenda. Instead of driving to the office,she decided to first drop her application at Olive Branch. The previous night she had spent a better part of it editing her CV and flavoring it to suit the requirements she had read.

It didn’t take her time to arrive there as Olive Branch Company was within town. However, she was surprised upon her arrival. After she had delivered the documents to Jane, a woman she seemed to know appeared from the inner door tagged ‘The Manager’s Office’. She whisked her braided hair back and without minding to take notice of anyone within her reach except the secretary, spoke in a soft and polite voice asking to have all the applications on her table immediately. Before Brenda could think, the woman closed the door as she returned.

The woman, she thought, was by default Anne, her seven years ago maid whom she had kicked out of her house the time she had abandoned her husband-to-be- Boniface Amutali. That, she could clearly tell from a scar on her forehead, the scar she had put there herself with hot water which she had poured on her one day out of anger when she entered her house one evening from job to find her sitting on one couch with Amutali. She had neither seen her nor spoken with her all that time and she shuddered when her picture reappeared several times on her mind afterwards. 

“Is that your boss?” Brenda asked Jane.

“Yes, that is our boss. Madam Anne,” replied Jane.

“Can I speak with her please?” she asked. She wished she could confirm what she had seen.

“I don’t think she has time now. She is not receiving any visitors now. She is so busy with the CEO.”

“Just for a short time, please,” Brenda begged.

“Okay, wait a moment I hear from her,” Jane replied and dashed to the manager’s office.

As Jane left, Brenda’s mind exhumed memories which she had long ago forgotten. Apart from the ugly moments she had had with Anne, she also remembered how her bond with Amutali had hit a rock bottom. She had mysteriously lost her love for him when he lost his job and remained jobless for more than two years. Only their daughter Olive remained the only reason to stay with him.

But a few months later, when the center could no longer hold she decided to leave and marry Peterson Kongowea, her boss whom she had started seeing. She felt like she couldn’t marry Amutali with all the troubles he was going through. And by now, she thought he would be languishing in poverty somewhere in the village and attending to menial jobs. 

She remembered the way life had roasted Amutali’s young family after the loss of his job. To Brenda, Amutali was that man people describe as lazy, that man that his life depended most on women who worked hard instead of the latter depending on him.

Because of such hate, fueled by the advice from friends ‘who would not tolerate lazy men in their houses’ feelings of hate towards him overpowered the feelings of love in her heart. Not even Amutali could arouse her sexual feelings like the past when they had met; when Amutali was a manager in a well-to-do company before he was sacked for alleged corruption charges that later turned out to be outright lies. 

Brenda was then a newly employed at Premium Microfinance as a junior officer and she suddenly felt disinterested with him who depended on her meager salary. She was already tired living with a broke guy. In her life, she had never been like this. Her father, she often remembered, ensured she was always comfortable. And even in school, her box never lacked junk food and her pockets never missed notes while others carried coins which finished the first week of the term.

How could she continue feeding him, paying rent and leaving money for his food whenever she left for work? How could she continue being the sole breadwinner when her man, a man that never worked hard, except sleeping from morning to evening as she toiled at work, was alive? How could she continue paying all the bills when a man that had both hands and legs and brain continued to lazy in her house watching television which translated to hefty electricity bills? Someone that ate a lot and spent most times at the toilet and increasing water bills at her flush toilet?

Unfortunately she didn’t know how to break up with Amutali. So many times she had bashed him, always sarcastic, even when Amutali bore her insults. He would often tell her to be patient as his corruption case at his workplace would one day be dropped and he would be recalled as he was sure that he was innocent. He always knew his property would be restored. The case was nearing completion at the anticorruption court and he was certain life would return to normal. 

Brenda however could no longer listen as Peterson had started to spoil her with all she needed. It is only Anne that continued to console and give Amutali hope. During one of those moments Anne opened up to Amutali and told him that she was a graduate of Business Management who had never gotten a job. And while she was working as a maid she still had faith of getting a job one day. Severally they spoke when Brenda was away and before long their friendship grew to which Brenda noticed and became jealous. Several times she found them at the sitting room talking and watching television and one day jealousy and anger went overboard and she poured Anne hot water that Amutali was having on the table to suppress flu. That left Anne with a scar on her forehead.

Mr. Peterson too reciprocated so well by giving her money. The expensive phone which Brenda used was courtesy of him. And soon Brenda was drunk with love and material things that she decided she would move in with Peterson and abandon Amutali. Even their daughter was not a stumbling block as Peterson accepted to receive her as her daughter too. She felt like she was with ‘the right one’ now. She had suddenly developed sweet feelings for him which made her to even sleep with him several times. Later she was elevated to her current position of a senior procurement officer by Peterson. Shortly later she moved in with Peterson, her boss turned to a secret lover at Premium Bank. 

Seven years later she was here looking for a job in an office Anne was probably a boss. She remembered where she had left Amutali too. Where was he lately? Brenda wondered but brushed him off her mind quickly as she resolved to bribe Anne out of her way. She was only interested in securing the job than knowing where her useless ex-lover was and now by bribing her old maid could see the boss giving her this opportunity. 

However, she wondered how Anne could have made it to Olive Branch, and be the company’s manager? And was she really a maid in those years or she was someone else? She wondered. Intriguing was that the last time Anne was a mere maid who could hardly communicate in fluent English. She remembered a few instances when she had admonished her, as an illiterate maid. Had Anne forgiven her really? She really needed the humongous salaries that could see her family up again

When Jane returned ten minutes later she asked Brenda to see the manager. Immediately she entered, Brenda was shocked more to see Anne and her ex husband Amutali sorting so many documents in the office. They were both laughing holding her documents. Could Amutali be the CEO Jane had talked about?

“What!” exclaimed Brenda. “Am I seeing ghosts or I am drunk?”

“Welcome madam Brenda Peterson,” Amutali said satirically as he showed her a seat. Brenda’s legs became weak as she sauntered on the seat. “Amutali, I have been thinking about you, thank God He has led me here today. You have employed Anne again here as your secretary I think?” She added as she refused to believe Jane who had already told her that Anne was her boss.

Amutali and Anne looked at one another and then turned to Brenda with their eyes popped out of their sockets. They wondered what to tell Brenda. Apparently, after she had left Amutali poor, Amutali was cleared of corruption charges and his frozen accounts credited his money back and compensation in millions. Few days later Anne had landed in a lucrative job.A few months later, he proposed to Anne.The duo had then fallen in love and got married. 

When Amutali opted against returning to his old job, he started Olive Branch in Nairobi and Anne resigned from her job to concentrate on the company affairs with her husband. The company grew well and it is recently that they had opened an office for Eldoret branch.

And here today was Brenda.

“To be honest,” Amutali broke the silence. “Anne is now my wife, and Olive Branch is our company.”

“What? You forgot we were about to be married and I have your daughter? And the way I still love you, why did you do this to me Boniface, why?” she cried. “We can talk,” she added.

“For now please we are married and we cannot do anything else. You refused to believe in me; Anne did. The only thing we can do to help you is considering you for this job. But you will go through a panel before you’re hired just in case.Of course if you fail to impress us we shall not give you the job. As for our daughter I want her back. Anne can be her mother. Anything more?”

“We can talk Amutali. I can even be the second wife for the sake of our child.”

But Amutali could not listen anymore. 

“Now if you can excuse us, we have a lot to do. That’s final. Please leave and wait to be communicated. As you see we are busy now. So please leave before you create a stir.”

As Brenda remained adamant a guy dressed in black suit came in and pushed Brenda out of the office. It was the end of her great morning. She felt like she had made the gravest mistake abandoning Amutali in her downtrodden times for Peterson whose life was now going down the drain. What a life!

THE END

© 8/10/2020 Kemboi Victor

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