We bumped into each other in a corridor next to the staff canteen on the ground floor. He had a laptop in his left hand, a pile of books in his right and a backpack. He seemed pretty disgruntled. What caught my eye, however, is the fact that he was casually dressed and in a cap, at the office!
“Hey? Are you from the research department?” I asked. We had been informed about the planned face-lift of their offices by our department lead.
“Yes. We’ve been asked to move to the hall next to the library while refurbishing our department’s office. We’ll be working in the cold for a while”. He answered. I was surprised that he gave such a detailed answer, but I later came to learn that it was his nature.
“You could work from my office. I mean it’s still cold, but it could offer some privacy,” I offered.
“Are you sure about that?”
“I’d really appreciate it”.
“Come with me”.
My office turned into a stand-up comedy hall for the two months Seth worked from the comfort of my office. I waited with anticipation for Mondays to see him at the office, until Friday, when he asked me out. I was elated. I’m not quite sure if I went on that date because of his humour, or the desire that was sitting pretty in my heart, waiting to be unravelled.
Subsequently, we went on several dates. Mercy, his younger sister must have joined us on the sixth or seventh date, and we instantly clicked off. We exchanged numbers because she had taken pictures of us and as it happens, she’d share them when she gets home; wifi isn’t accessible to everyone in this city.
There was something about Mercy that screamed caution. How she kept on stuttering every time she called her brother. Her pauses were fake and heaved a sigh of relief when Seth chimed in. There’s this time I could swear she said,
“Baba…” then she paused and started coughing desperately, looking at her brother.
“Babra. Did you mean to say “Babra?” Seth offered and looked at me with an ounce of guilt.
Babra is their sibling, but surely, how often is it that every time you mention your sister, you get startled? It happened more than ten times. I lost count. Our romance brewed sooner than I had envisioned. Seth spent most weekends at my place. He prepared elite meals, I was smitten. We went out on dates often and watched documentaries too.
“I’ll be off to Lamu from next week, I’m attending this work conference”, Seth shared.
“Hmmh…that’s fine. Guess I’ll see you over the weekend?” I asked.
“Okay. We’ll go to your place tomorrow. I’ll help you pack”.
It still beats me, how I missed the signs. He almost jumped out of his skin and appeared mesmerized. He was quick to remind me that he lives with his siblings.
“Is that a problem?”
“Well, you can’t come to the house when they are around”.
“Why? Don’t they know that we are dating?”
“They do, but I’d prefer you came around when they aren’t at home”
That was a defeated okay. The okay you say to end conversations that have the potential to aggravate you. The “I’m not fine” kind of okay. The “we must surely revisit this nonsense” is okay. The pretentious “I’m just being the bigger person” type of okay. Nothing about dating someone for over seven months and never stepping foot in their house while they’ve lounged in yours is okay. Something wasn’t right and I had to find out what.
We kept in touch for most of the time he was in Lamu until Thursday evening there were unanswered calls before his phone went off. I was disturbed and barely slept the entire night. He must have been robbed because knowing him, he always had his phone and laptop with him, in a backpack. The next morning, I called Mercy, his sister, to find out if she’s talked to her brother.
“He’s at Aga Khan hospital in Mombasa. He has terrible flu, so he has cancelled his flight to seek medical attention”. Mercy said.
“But why can’t I reach him on phone?’ I inquired.
“He says I should let you know that he forgot his phone in a cab, Wasili cabs on his way from the hospital. He’s still making follow-ups with the Cab services to retrieve his phone”.
“How did he reach you?”
“He borrowed the doctor’s phone at the hospital. But not to worry, he’s said he’ll try to contact you whichever way possible when he gets home. Give him some time”.
I hope this email finds you well😂 Woow! That felt so good. Anyways, I’m contacting you via email, because I forgot my phone in the cab that dropped me at the restaurant. I’ve emailed the Cab services for help, hopefully, they will respond in due time.
Also, I’ve cancelled my flight. If you could make out from last night, I had a pretty terrible flu, so I went to see the doctor this morning. Before you ask, Yes I’m doing fine and No, it’s not Covid. I took the vaccine remember? I’m not afraid of needles as you are.
So until I get my phone back, I guess we’ll chat via email. Also, do you know I had to beg for your email from HR? Bet she has questions. Stay beautiful ✨
Yours in love,
It fascinated me, how he called himself Sethy when he got drunk.
My suspicions were suspended in the meantime because I was relieved that he made contact.
We exchanged a series of emails, flirting, keeping tabs on his health and how I was fairing until we were added to a WhatsApp group for a funeral fundraiser. When do I tell you I froze? Gosh!
Of course, it’s always catching up amongst cousins. Like it is for most families, there’s always that aunt that wants to brag about the progress of her children while dragging the others in the mud. That’s mama Hannah for us. Hannah is her third child, her favourite of all the six.
Hannah and I are agemates. We played together growing up and shared a love for almost similar things. Our friendship was short-lived in our teenage years when she ratted me out to her mother for sneaking out to meet a boy I liked. I never visited after the beating I was given that night. It was the last time we talked, and never kept tabs since.
Hannah was dominating the conversation, asking people where they work, how many children they have, and why the cousins’ colony, as we used to refer to ourselves, had not invited her to any weddings, graduations or baby showers. I sneered, and I bet most of the other people did too.
I was reading through the chats when Hannah sent over ten pictures of her and her two children. Definitely, I was drawn, so I checked them out. There was this girl, either four or five that I had previously seen on Mercy’s WhatsApp status. She looked everything like Seth, except that she was light. I had sent Seth the screenshot and he said that’s his sister’s daughter. I scrolled through the pictures and came across the same one I had taken a screenshot of, months ago.
I felt my heart leave my body. There’s definitely no way, my supposed husband was siblings with Hannah. I thought to ask Hannah about her husband, but before I could ask, she spammed our phones with old, poor-quality selfies of her and her “huzzy”. It was Seth. The man that has been lounging in my house for over ten months now. The man we’ve been talking about marriage, trying for a child and going home to see my family.
The other cousins were sending cute congratulatory messages, drooling over how cute her children are, when Musa, the most humorous of us all, joked, “Mwanaume ni wako tu kama uko na yeye. Saahi unajua ako wapi?”
While that’s a little laughable, Hannah’s next picture is what had me packing up all of Seth’s things out of the apartment.
Seth was seated on the sofa, with Hannah’s oldest child beside him, playing with a cat. He was so focused on his laptop that he mustn’t have noticed the picture being taken.
I sank into my seat and gave myself a good cry. It didn’t help that I noticed the curtains hanging behind him are the very ones I escorted him to Eastleigh to buy for his sister.
I pieced together the number of times he made excuses why he was unreachable, or he couldn’t comfortably talk to me. While I bought the lie that he was in Lamu, he was at home, with his wife. When he finally texted me via WhatsApp after two days, saying he was on the way to my place, I replied with the picture Hannah shared on the group.
It’s been over five weeks now, I’m yet to hear from him. However, I’m glad I dodged the “city wife” tag I’d have been brandished with, had anything happened to him, and worse, with my cousin posing as the legal wife. I’m still hurting from the lies he told me, but I know better now.
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