Catherine pleaded with her husband as he threw her out of their Runda house. She asked him “What about the children?”
Thimbi said, “They are your problem, not mine!”
Catherine looked at her husband of 15 years wondering how the love of her life had turned into a monster. What happened to that guy who she had eaten sukuma wiki and ugali with so that he could go back to university so that he could do his master’s?
The new occupant of the house her husband’s secretary sat on the bonnet on what yesterday had been her BMW. She had suitcases next to the car and she was watching as her “boss” kicked out his legal wife.
Catherine was glad that her kids, Hemi who was in Form One and Jayne who was in Form Three did not have to see this. She wondered how they would react once they came home for the holidays. They were boarders and came home on weekends.
Catherine told him that he couldn’t kick her out of the house. “This is my house.” She screamed.
Thimbi sneered as he threw another outfit at her on the patio. “No, it isn’t. I pay the mortgage on this house. This is my house.”
Catherine sat outside and sobbed. She felt helpless and not sure of what to do.
She took out her phone, an iPhone and called her sister. Her sister told her she would be right there.
10 years later
Catherine got the phone call at 8 AM in the morning. It was a man’s voice on the phone.
“Good morning. Is this Catherine Mwembi?”
“I don’t go by that name now. I am Catherine Salle. “
“This is the millennium private hospital. We have a man here by the name Thimbi Mwembi. He is asking for you.”
“Why is he in the hospital?” Catherine asked curiously.
“Thimbi has cancer of the colon. He is going for surgery in the morning. He insists on seeing you!” Said the voice on the other end.
“What time are the visiting hours?” Catherine asked.
“Lunchtime visiting hours are between 12 and 2 and between 4- 6 in the evening. What time would work for you?”
“I don’t know! I will think about it. Let me think about it.” Catherine cut the phone call short.
Catherine sat on the faded green and yellow sofa set. She was trying to make sense of the phone call she had just gotten.
Thimbi was in the hospital and he wanted to see her. They hadn’t spoken in 5 years. There was nothing to say really. What do you tell the man who broke your heart and refuses to pay school fees for his children so that he can take his second wife and son on a long shopping holiday in Dubai?
The last ten years had been cruel. You could tell it just by looking at Catherine’s face. Her once beautiful chocolate-coloured skin had wrinkles and frown lines. She had that beaten look of a woman who doesn’t get enough rest and works too hard.
Catherine had struggled for the past ten years. Since her husband had thrown her out ten years ago she had moved houses three times. First, she moved to a house in Kileleshwa. She had thought that her husband would come to his senses and wake up to that witch’s schemes. He didn’t. He didn’t pay the children’s fees the next term. It took all her savings to pay for them the next term’s fees. They were all in international schools and the fees were really high.
She didn’t stay in Kileleshwa long. Six months and the landlord humiliated her for not paying rent by taking away the furniture and removing the gate to the house. She was left only with mattresses in the house; they even took away the beds.
She tried to talk to Thimba at least to pay the school fees for the kids. He didn’t answer his phone or texts. She tried getting a lawyer but Thimba had put everything in his name. And he had cleverly hidden his properties so she couldn’t get to know what he owned. Apart from the electronics which she had bought and couldn’t trace the receipts, everything was in his name. The cars, the house, their second home at the coast and all the plots of land they had bought over time. Many of the plots he had sold and they couldn’t track where the money was.
Catherine was forced to move to Githurai. She had to change her children from the prestigious schools they were in and take them to private boarding schools outside Nairobi. She was struggling. She had a job in an insurance firm as a secretary. The pay couldn’t support the lifestyle she was accustomed to. She had been the wife of a CFO. He made half a million a month. She hadn’t bothered with advancing her studies as she had taken the job just so that she could be out of the house when the kids started going to school.
Catherine almost burst into tears as she remembered what she had gone through in the past because of her ex-husband. But that wasn’t the worst that had happened to her. Now Thimbi wanted to see her. “What the hell did he want?”
Catherine debated on whether to go see Thimbi. She then decided that she would go just to see how sick he was. Catherine thought to herself “Karma is a bitch”
Catherine had no intention of taking time out from work. She was just about to retire. Actually, her retirement party was two weeks away. In the last 3 years, she had been the marketing manager of her section. With her family’s misfortunes, she realized that she needed to make more money so she started aggressively selling insurance. That money had paid for her children’s college fees.
Catherine thought about her children and sighed. Her daughter Jayne was doing well. She had become a lawyer. She wanted to know the law so that she could defend women like her mother. She was currently at the School of Law studying to be an advocate.
Hemi her son was now in the third year of university studying fine art. He was a troubled young man, sinking into depression sometimes but now they knew how to handle it. Thinking of Hemi she realized she needed to call him to find out if he was ok.
7 years ago Catherine had thought that Thimbi kicking her out of the house and bringing in a new wife was the worst thing that could happen to her. She had been wrong. At the time she was living with the children in Githurai. It was a struggle but they survived. She had taken a loan from her Chamaa and she started a second-hand clothes business on the side.
Thimbi’s father, Edward Theka had a heart attack and died. It was unexpected. Edward had always been so healthy. Thimbi’s mum passed away about 4 years ago. Just before Thimbi got his mid-life crisis and decided that he needed a new wife and new life. Edward had always been kind to her treating her like the daughter he never had. He only had two sons. Thimbi’s older brother lived in America and didn’t seem to want to come back home.
Edward had gotten so angry at Thimbi for what he had done. He had land but he didn’t have money to give Catherine. Most of his money had gone towards his wife’s medical bills. She had liver cancer and her treatment had drained all his savings.
After Edwards’ funeral, his lawyer called Catherine and told her that she and Thimbi were required at the reading of the will. Catherine thought he had probably left her some of his wife’s things. Thimbi was there with his wife. Jack, Thimbi’s brother and his family had come from America.
The lawyer Mr Mende read out the will. Edward had specific instructions. He had divided his property into two. Half of the property would go to Jack and the other half would go to Hemi. When the lawyer read that part Thimbi was outraged.
“How could my father give Hemi what belongs to me? There must be some mistake. That half should rightly be mine. That will is fake!”
He turned to Catherine and shouted at her. “This isn’t over. You have put things into the old man’s head.”
The lawyer told Thimbi to calm down as he read the rest of the will.
“I am leaving half of my property to my grandson Hemi Mwembi. The land should not be sold but can be rented out. I was to leave the property to my son Thimbi but seeing how he has treated his own flesh and blood I have realized that it would be a mistake. Catherine will hold the land in trust for Hemi until he reaches the age of 25 when he can decide what he will do with the land.”
“The house I own and lived in Buru Buru I give to my granddaughter Shemi. Catherine will also hold the house in trust for Shemi until she is 25. In the meantime, Catherine has permission to live in the house or rent it out.”
“To my son Thimbi, I thought I raised a better man. I am so glad your mother did not live to see you disgrace our name. Since you seem to think that money gives you the right to act any way you want you don’t need anything from me. I hope one day the things I taught you, you will remember.”
Catherine smiled even as she cried. Edward had been a father to her. Her parents had died when she was in high school.
Thimbi came to talk to her with his wife. “You think you have won. You will be sorry, very sorry,” he said angrily then walked away.
2 days later
Catherine turned on the news. After the usual news items, bad news and more bad news she saw Thimbi on TV. He was outside a courtroom.
The reporter asked him what he had to announce.
“I have come to petition the court to investigate the will that my father wrote. I believe my ex-wife planted ideas in his head. I wouldn’t be surprised if she forced him to sign the will.”
Then he went on.
“If my father was giving his grandsons his property instead of me he should also have given land to my son Hemi Thimbi. In fact, how do we know that he meant Hemi Thimbi Mwembi Salle? Not Hemi Thimbi Mwembi my other son. They both have the same name.”
“I am going to fight this will. I am not even sure that those children that that woman claims are mine are actually mine. I was away in the US studying for my master’s when both children were born. Maybe while I was away she was playing house with others. Hemi doesn’t even look like me. I suspected that something may be amiss which is why I eventually left. In fact, I am going to insist on DNA tests to find out if those children really are mine.”
Catherine switched off the TV and wept. Thimbi was so shameless. He was implying that she was a loose woman and the children that she had borne him weren’t his.
Catherine’s cell phone started ringing and she realized this was just the beginning. Her children, co-workers, friends and family would see the news. She didn’t know what to do. She switched off her phone and entered her bed where she cried the whole night.
Catherine was at the hospital at exactly 5 pm. Visiting hours were between 4- 6 and she didn’t plan to stay that long. She found her way to the cancer ward. Thimbi was in bed number 20.
Catherine was shocked at how frail Thimbi looked. He had always been a big man, not fat but muscular. He looked like he had lost a lot of weight. He was reading a book. Catherine went up to his bed. Thimbi looked up from his book. Catherine and Thimbi looked at each other none of them wanting to be the first to speak.
Finally, Thimbi said “Hello Catherine. Thanks for coming!” He said before going into a coughing fit.
Catherine took her time to think of what she would say. There was so much she wanted to say, to actually scream at Thimbi. But he was in a hospital bed and she needed to be gracious. “The doctor said you had asked for me!”
Thimbi struggled to smile. His lips had become thin and they were dry. “Ah, Catherine always one for getting straight to the point. Do you want to seat?” he gestured to the seat next to his bed.
“No thanks, I will stand!” Catherine said.
“Ok. I can see you’re in a fighting mood and I can’t blame you. I have acted terribly.” Thimbi had a coughing fit. You could hear the wheezing in his chest. He looked so small in his green hospital gown. Catherine almost felt pity for him. She had to remind herself that this man was the devil. He had humiliated her and made her feel insignificant. She reminded herself that this man deserved what he got.
Catherine looked at the bed opposite Thimbi’s on the other side of the room. There were a few people with the patient. One of them, a lady was feeding the patient some soup. There was a look of concern on the people’s faces. “That is a man who is loved,” Catherine thought.
This thought brought Catherine to the present. She wondered where the witch was. That is what she called Thimbi’s second wife even to her face.
“Where is that witch?” Catherine asked when Thimbi had composed himself.
Thimbi laughed even though it was clearly a struggle for him to do so. “Maggie isn’t here.” Thimbi’s facial expression changed and he looked sad. “Maggie is in America doing her masters. She left me for a wealthier man. She said that I don’t give her the attention she deserves. She left me and is asking for half of everything. She was very clever. Everything is in both our names.”
Thimbi paused after that statement “I gave her everything. Money, cars, houses, and expensive holidays, but it still wasn’t enough for her. I left my family for her. There is nothing I haven’t done for her yet ….” Thimbi looked at Catherine. “You were right. She is a witch. She blinded me with her charms. I gave her everything and I lost the most important thing. My soul.”
Thimbi sat up straight. He looked like he was in pain. “Catherine I called you to ask for your forgiveness. I know I have hurt you. I don’t know what came over me. You were always the love of my life. I am sorry it took me so long to realize it. Is there a chance that … that we could start over?”
Catherine was shocked. Of all the things she had thought Thimbi would say this was not it. Thimbi wanted her back. She looked at him. This man she used to love. This man who had crushed her and humiliated her. She had a flashback to all the things she had gone through.
When Thimbi denounced her children and the backlash that followed. Thimbi had demanded in court for DNA samples from her children. Catherine had complied. The samples were taken to South Africa. During that time of waiting for the results, Hemi tried to commit suicide. He was in 3rd form final term and the pressure had gotten to him. Some of the boys in his school were calling him a bastard, telling him that even his own father didn’t want him.
Hemi had stayed out of school for one term. Catherine took him for counselling. She then had to take him out of his school and move him to a day school so that she could be able to monitor him. The results of the DNA had come in and they proved without a doubt that Catherine’s children were Thimbi’s. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
Because the will had not mentioned specifically which Hemi was to inherit the properties left by Thimbi’s dad the two sons of Thimbi got equal portions of the properties. Thimbi was made co-administrator of the sons’ estates. Jayne’s inheritance was secure.
Jayne had just started college at the time. She was pursuing a business diploma and working for her mother selling clothes. They were hoping that she would get HELB to pay for her law degree which she had been called for. Jayne had taken a semester off to stay at home with Hemi. He needed constant supervision because he was very depressed and he would have mood swings and threaten to kill himself.
Catherine would have wanted to stay home with Hemi but she was the breadwinner. She had to go to work to pay the bills. Every day she got home exhausted but she had to put on a bright smile for her children. She wondered what she had done to deserve this. As many women do in times of hardship she turned to God for comfort. She started going to church for prayer meetings. She had always been just a Sunday Christian before but these troubles had made her seek God.
Catherine had cut off all links with Thimbi. She hadn’t contacted him or seen him in 5 years. Since he had refused to pay the children’s fees or for their upkeep, she didn’t need to see him. Her friends had told her to take him to court but she had refused. She was tired of all the Thimbi drama. She just wanted to get on with her life. She realized that interacting with Thimbi was just putting salt on wounds that were fresh and that may never heal.
Catherine looked at Thimbi. He had put her through hell. She had gone through so many hard and bad times because of him. She wanted to hate him. She had hated him for a long time. Hate is a poison that consumes the person who is feeling it. Seeing him here on the hospital bed looking so pitiful and sick made her realize how she still held a grudge against him even though she had asked God for the strength to forgive him.
Catherine took Thimbi’s hand and looked him straight in the eyes. She said, “I forgive you for all the stuff you put me through.” The relief in Thimbi’s eyes was evident. He relaxed. “I have been praying for years for strength to forgive you. Seeing you in this hospital bed has made me realize that I still had anger against you”
Catherine took a deep breath and let go of Thimbi’s hand. “That doesn’t mean I can forget what you did to me. I forgive you but I don’t want you back. You have hurt and humiliated me…” Tears ran down Catherine’s cheeks “The things you have done cannot be undone. It is too late for you and me. I am sorry!!”
Catherine picked her handbag off the floor where she had put it and walked out. She knew that many of her church friends would tell her that God had answered their prayers. That she should be grateful that Thimbi wanted to come back. But she wasn’t the woman she had been 10 years ago. A woman willing to put up with a man’s misbehaviour just because she loved him. The woman who had put up with her husband having an affair with his secretary and not said anything because she was afraid of losing everything. That woman had gone through the fire and come out different.
Catherine knew that her friends would not approve. But she wasn’t going to be one of those women like some she knew whose husbands had run off, and who came back when they were old or sick. She had so much to look forward to. She was planning to take a trip with her children to Israel when she retired. She had finally made some money and she was comfortable. She was very far from where she had been 10 years ago. She had a small house, no car – she had to use matatus to work, and she shopped for second-hand clothes. But she was happy and at peace. Something all that money had not given her. Something Thimbi had not given her!
Catherine had come full circle. Only this time she wasn’t the one who had lost everything. This time it was Thimbi. “What goes around comes around!” Catherine thought as she walked to the bus stop to catch a matatu.
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Her Husband’s Death Revealed Another Side Of Him
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When Childlessness Takes Its Toll
Opinion: On Men Leaving Their First ‘Struggle’ Wives After Becoming Successful
This story first came out on Potentash as a 3 part series Full Circle Part 1: The Mistress Becomes The Wife, Full Circle Part 2: A Storm Is Coming and Full Circle Part 3: What Goes Around Comes Around!