We were not oblivious to the fact that our relationship was unacceptable to many people, institutions included. We had, at many stages, the option to end our illicit affair before things could go out of hand, but instead, we fell deeper. In fact, we talked about it daily in the early days of our relationship. We set deadlines to stop seeing each other, cut communication and do what is right.
We met in the department at 4 pm that Friday after we had agreed that none of us should be there at that time if we wanted to end the affair. I arrived a quarter past four and he was there, waiting. We met on Fridays because he wasn’t presiding over mass at that time and the entire school was in church for mass.
“You came,” I said staring directly into his eyes. They had the same burning desire as I felt in mine. Fear had weakened my steps as I walked from the staffroom to the department, afraid that I won’t find him waiting. My heart was at ease, as I watched him smile with desire. He wanted me as much as I wanted him and maybe, it was time we changed the narrative we had been telling each other.
“I knew you would come,” he said, sighing heavily.
“Why were you so certain?” I asked.
“I saw it in our eyes Maggie. My Margarita. I knew you would come.”
“You are a difficult man to quit Wenslaus,” I said, steadying my head to meet his eyes. He came around and held me from behind. He always did this whenever tensions were high and he knew I loved it.
“Wensy, we’ll get caught,” I said like always. It was more like our ‘proceed’ phrase. He lifted me up, placed me on the desk and made love to me as the desk squeaked.
The consequences of our illicit affair came sooner than expected when I was throwing up one Sunday morning as the family prepared for church. Mama gave me inquisitive eyes as I gargled my mouth. She followed me to the hut and locked the door behind her and I knew I was in trouble.
“Maggie, are you pregnant?” she asked her hands supporting her ageing waist.
“I think I have Malaria,” I tried to lie.
“I birthed ten children, buried three and you are my last, I know it when I see it.” She said with so much command.
“You could be wrong mama,” I answered.
“Who is the father?”
Words failed me. I hadn’t quite pictured how I would tell Mama that I’m seeing a catholic priest, let alone one she knew and adored. I imagined how it would sound in her ears. Like sin. That my voice would sound like the snake’s when she called Eve to the Garden of Eden and talked her into sin. My face frowned when these thoughts came to mind and it dawned on me; I’m a sinner.
Our walk to the parish was rather too short that day, probably because my mind was racing. I knew Mama would come back for answers and I had to think of something. It was in the nineties, I was a light-skinned, smart mouth, educated high school teacher and my father took pride in the beautiful women he sired. He worked in the army and was the rare brood that educated his daughters. My elder sister had been married twice and he welcomed her back home when she complained about her husband. Something inside of me thought he would be understanding of my affair with Wensy, but he died before he could find out.
Father Wenslaus was presiding over the mass that day. I tried much as I could to avoid looking in his direction. I never greeted him after mass like it was the norm. I hurried to the dispensary for a pregnancy test after mass to confirm my fears. I was disturbed, by how I would break the news to Wensy, but even worse, how my older brother would react to the news. We had gotten into a fight one day over this nice mushroom soup Mama had prepared and I treated myself to it when I came back from work. Thomas hit me with a log of wood, reprimanded me and reminded me to get married because it was way past time. If Baba was around, things would have panned out differently, but since I was alone, I resorted to a screaming battle. The aftermath of our fight was constant insults and him reminding me to leave my father’s house.
Thomas knew about my pregnancy that evening and I could hear the disgust in his voice as he hurled insults at me. News travelled fast in the village, someone at the dispensary must have started the rumour and probably, everyone was interested in knowing who impregnated me. He came knocking on my door and I pretended to be deep in my sleep as he shouted at the top of his voice. My mind raced and I barely slept that night. I was afraid of what would become of me and Wensy if the congregants found out about my growing baby bump.
I went for the morning mass with the boys so that I could have a talk with Father Wenslaus after mass.
“Wensy, I’m pregnant!” I said immediately he held my hand. He dropped it in shock, his big eyes rolling into a question mark.
“What do you mean how?” I asked agitated.
“I’m sorry. Who knows if you are pregnant? Have you told anyone?”
“Mama figured it out yesterday morning. I’m yet to tell her who is responsible,” I respond.
“Margarita.” He went silent. “You can’t tell her,” he continued.
“Thomas knows. He won’t stop until he finds out,” I said.
“Go to work, lets’s meet at the department when I come in for my classes. I will have thought of something by then. Okay?”
I barely uttered anything constructive in my literature lesson in form four East that morning as I kept looking at the gate, checking if Father Wenslaus was coming. I resorted to sitting at my desk and lying that I was catching a cold. I could feel the judgemental stares from my fellow teachers who I assume had gotten wind of my pregnancy rumours. I must have gotten lost in deep thoughts while staring out of the window till he was standing in front of me, tapping on my desk. We immediately walked to the Humanities department and I thought everyone could see our sins printed on our clothes.
“You have to transfer Margarita,” he said as soon as he closed the department door.
“Yes, I can organize that very fast so that no one will see you pregnant and they will be left speculating,” he said. “It will also give me time to figure out how to inform the church about my decision to quit the priesthood,” He continued. His words were music to my ears, it was what I had been longing to hear and this pregnancy had finally made it happen.
“Yes, I will move. If you promise to follow me soon after.” I said.
“Of course Margarita,” he replied with a smile.
I transferred barely a month later to a school next to his hometown and our affair flourished without a lot of speculation. Our daughter was lucky to have four more siblings, all boys. I stayed away from home for all those years because I wasn’t ready to let the world know about my children’s father. Tevin and Junior are spitting images of their father. Wenslaus was pretty committed to the children, coming in every other month to check on them and updating me on his progress to quit the priesthood. I had imagined that at the mention of five children, the church would let him go almost immediately but the process was taking years.
I travelled home after close to eight years of being away, pregnant with our lastborn son, Junior. I was welcomed by rumours of Father Wenslaus’s affair with another teacher. Apparently, he had been in several compromising situations with several women at the church, but the congregants had dismissed these women that wanted to taint the image of the man of God. Upon confrontation, Wensy did not deny the rumours but furnished me with rather heartbreaking information.
“Margarita, You are far away. I need someone to take care of me here,” he said confidently.
“Then why did you make us move Wensy?” I asked anger seething through my veins.
“You got pregnant. We have five children now,” he said in a whisper.
“But she’s pregnant too!” I screamed.
“She will never replace you,” he consoled me.
“Wensy, tell me the truth, did you ever tell the church about our family?”
“Margarita, it’s not that easy,” he stammered.
Eight years, five children and an illicit affair all fabricated by lies into a secret family. Now, he was building a new one with another woman. Anger consumed me and I was reduced to a shell of my previous self. I birthed a frail boy whose eyes reminded me of his lying father. Father Wenslaus had pretty much abandoned me and I sought revenge. I exposed the secrets of our affair to the church, and the overwhelming number of secrets that came to light after that overwhelmed me. I instantly regretted it, because I had ruined the good name my family had established over the years.
Mama did not accept his dowry because he was the man of God after his priesthood roles were stripped of him and he decided to do the right thing. Now, I realize I tolerated that gesture because I was desperate to prove that what we had was true love. The pain, regret and anger in my heart after learning of his affairs made me realize I wasn’t special as he had made me believe. I was the woman that turned a man away from the Lord, that’s what society labelled me.
I’ve led a single life since, while he was building a whole other family with his other woman. He finally paid my dowry last year because our firstborn daughter was getting married and tradition dictates that my dowry must be paid to allow hers to be paid too. Wensy died five months later, and I sat outside his home at his burial, reminiscing on our days as youths, the consequences of an illicit affair and the pleasures of our youth.
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