Leila has it all, the dream job she wanted and the kind of life she always wanted. But her past comes back to haunt her in the worst way. They have a new boss and the boss is her ex who broke her heart and humiliated her by making another woman pregnant while they were engaged. Read part one here.
“Okay, change of plans,” Maggie started as soon as we got to her cubicle.” No more sexy plans, we sabotage him!” I sunk into her seat rubbing circles into my temples. Everything hurt. Everything was a mess. Maggie kept pacing back and forth spewing ideas which would have been funny if I wasn’t so goddamn exhausted.
“We could drive him crazy! Make him think that office is haunted until he resigns!”
“Maggie, seriously? There are security cameras everywhere. We’ll get caught before we even make it off the elevator. Also, you watch too many movies.”
“Well, what’s your brilliant plan? I’m trying to help, but I know your Miss Goody Two Shoes ways will just have you running back to that idiot the moment he gives you a little attention!” Immediately she said it, she knew it was unnecessarily unkind. I didn’t even have to look up.
“Leila, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. Misdirected anger.” She said, rubbing my back. “It’s fine. I just don’t know what I’ll do because…”
“Yoh! Bossman is in your wing Leila,” said Andrew, peeking his head into Maggie’s cubicle. He must have read the mood because he stopped to ask, ”Kwani who died?”
Maggie whose irritation at Andrew could only be surpassed by her love for gossip didn’t miss a beat.
“Bossman is… was Leila’s ex imagine. It ended badly, and they haven’t seen each other in years. Aki it’s stressing her.”
“Haiya? Kumbe Leila has a past? Honestly, I just assumed you were in a purity cult or something.” “It’s those high collars she wears si ndio? I keep telling her to show some skin!”
“Guys, my life is collapsing in on itself and all you can talk about is my wardrobe? What is the time?”
Andrew checked his phone and quipped,” It’s one. We could go talk about this over our lunch break.” “Okay, good idea. Café or kibanda?”
Maggie stood up, “Café, I think Leila needs the kind of therapy only a good milkshake can give.”
I stood up. “My purse is in my cubicle. I can’t go in there and risk meeting him.”
What I wanted was a nice Long island cocktail to drown my sorrows in. If I could get my purse, I could just go home and rewatch Being Mary Jane until I fell asleep.
“It’s okay honey, I’ve got you,” Maggie said. We sneaked out of the back door because we didn’t want to have to pass by the nosy receptionist.
At the café, I stirred my milkshake mindlessly with the straw. Listening to Andrew and Maggie fight and talk was a nice distraction from my thoughts. But the peace didn’t last long enough. The flood of sweet, cold vanilla in my mouth sparked an intrusive thought. Friday nights were date nights for Masha and I. He always ordered different things off the menu and mocked me for sticking to vanilla.
“You always play it safe Lelo. There’s like a whole universe of drinks you haven’t tried because you insist on vanilla,” he’d say. “Well, when I like something, I stick to it. Can’t fix it if it ain’t broke, right?” And he’d smile at me in that gentle way of his and go back to exploring the menu.
“Babe, you’re crying,” Maggie’s voice shook me out of my mental trip. I returned to the present to find a bunch of serviettes being waved in my face. That’s the thing with memories, they always come back. If you didn’t mourn the people that left when they did and if you chose to put on a brave face and push your feelings to the back of your mind when the memories come they’ll be like knives tearing through your insides. Dabbing at my eyes, I made a decision.
“I am twenty-nine years old, you guys. Why am I hiding from a man I knew years ago? It’s all in the past now.” I wished I could convince myself of that as I said it.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” Andrew said, “because there’s a poster for Daktari wa Tanga outside, we could try on him. I’ve been curious anyway.” We laughed and the mood lightened as we finished up our lunch.
Back at the office busybody Nancy who sat next to me was fuming.
“Where have you been? Because you weren’t here I had to answer questions about your work which I have no idea about!” Nancy could be so dramatic.
“I’m sorry Nancy, I was at lunch. What did mkubwa say?” “He asked that you go to his office once you got back with last year’s reports.”
“He specifically asked for me?”
“Like, with my full name?” Why was Macharia looking for me?
“Uh, yeah. Why are you acting weird?” Nancy was curious, not a good thing as she could start asking me awkward questions.
“Oh, nothing. Thanks, Nancy.”
Acting calmer than I felt, I opened my cabinet to take out the file. They were all colour coordinated and neatly arranged so I couldn’t even pretend to be searching for it so that time could fly by. I gave myself a mental pep talk and decided against telling Maggie where I was going. She’d just make me anxious for no reason. I fluffed out my afro, checked that the buttons on my shirt were buttoned all the way, and then cleared my throat. It was time to face my demons.
I walked down the corridor to the corner office, the door was slightly ajar. I lightly knocked, and his voice ushered me in.
“Hello, Leila. It’s been a while.”
“Hi Mash… Mr. Macharia, you asked for last year’s reports?” Here I was trying to be professional, yet I was bursting with anger and hurt inside.
“You look like you’re about to run, standing at the door like that. Come in.” He waved me in.
I took two steps into the plush, spacious office. All the resolve in my back was melting like heated ice.
“Leila, I don’t bite. You should know this,” he laughed walking up to me and extending his arms out for a hug.
I stepped into his arms with my mind swirling. The door was open, anyone could see and misjudge the situation. Why was he acting so calm? Was that a ring I saw glistening on his finger? He smelled warm and spicy, and my frame got swallowed up in his, just like old times. By the time we separated, I wasn’t so nervous anymore. I subtly glanced at his left hand, but it was only a pen nib that had caught the light. He wasn’t wearing a ring. Was he unattached? What happened to his baby?
He crossed the room over to his seat and I lowered myself into the guest seat, placing the file in the middle of the table.
“Oh, we’ll get to this later. It was just an excuse to see you. You’re looking well. I really like the hair.” Macharia smiled at me. There was something about his smile that just made my frozen heart melt.
“You’re not looking too bad yourself, Mr. Macharia.” I was trying to keep it formal.
“Oh, we’re on formalities now?”
“You’re the one who chose to be a boss where I work, so that’s on you.”
“I didn’t stalk you. This wasn’t on purpose.”
“Can you blame me?”
“I’m sorry, Leila. Things got complicated and I panicked. You know how my parents are…”
“Oh, so it was their fault that woman was pregnant?” I was getting worked up.
“You don’t understand Lalo…”
“Don’t call me that. This isn’t 2006 anymore.” He sighed. A heavy silence settled between us. “She wasn’t pregnant with my child Leila.”
What the hell? I wasn’t expecting him to keep lying to me. That was the last straw. How could he sit there and deny everything as if I hadn’t been there? Why was I sitting there taking more crap from him? I stood to leave.
“Lelo, I’m not lying.”
“Goodbye, Masha! From now on please let’s keep this professional!”
“Leila please listen!”
I got my files and headed for the door. With my hand on the door, he dropped the bombshell. “Lelo, it was my father’s baby.”
I turned in disbelief. This lying bastard. “I’m done with your BS Masha. Honestly, if you just owned up to it maybe we could be civil to each other, but this, this is low even for you.”
“My father is a Reverend. You know this. Why do you think he was defrocked five years ago?”
I didn’t know that. My disbelief must have shown on my face.
“Google it. It was all over the news.” I pulled out my phone and typed into the search bar, ‘Reverend Steve Macharia’. The first page of results showed an old man in a torn shirt being hassled by a mob. ‘Prominent Reverend Turns Out To Be A Sex Pest.’ Scrolling down, the stories got even worse. ‘Five Women Come Out With Evidence Against Popular Reverend’. ‘Thousands Leave Church After Accusations Are Found To Be True”. ‘Reverend Turned Sex Pest Commits Suicide’.
“Masha, I didn’t know.”
“I was ashamed. My mother was ashamed. We didn’t know it was this bad. That girl used to live with us, she was nineteen. When she got pregnant the neighbours were the first to know. They started talking. My mother is a good woman, a spiritual person. When my father said it was just one mistake, she did what any good wife would do, she covered up for him. Unfortunately, I had to as well. It had to be a secret. So she moved into my house and we pretended to be engaged, but I never touched her. Not even once. Then someone left an anonymous letter on the church noticeboard claiming my father had tried to force himself on her. At first, we didn’t believe it. He’s a nice old man, a preacher, plus he’s my dad, you know? Then more women kept coming. The evidence against him added up. My father was a predator.”
He turned his back to me, shoulders shaking. His voice broke as he continued, “There was no need to pretend anymore after he die… killed himself. My mother is raising that child now. I wanted to find you to explain. I thought you’d see the headlines and message me. But we’d ended on such terrible terms that I didn’t even know where to start. I’m sorry.”
For what felt like the hundredth time that day, I had a splitting headache. I’d spent so much time crying over Masha’s betrayal. But this revelation changed everything. Or did it?