If the cost of a marriage was directly proportional to longevity, Edwin and Regina’s would have been ad infinitum.
Their wedding day was celebrated with 20 bulls from Regina’s father (as the bride’s father he had no obligation to, but the recalcitrant old tycoon simply had to chip in because it salved his ego), a truck of soda and five hundred chickens all slaughtered in one short morning and eaten up in an even shorter afternoon by thousands of friends, relatives, neighbours and other detractors. People still remembered that day years later because of how well they had been fed.
It ought to have lasted forever but by the second year, storm clouds were gathering on the horizon like the devil’s hood, and by the beginning of the third year, it was all Edwin could do to hold the marriage together. By then, Regina was lost in her own world, having found sanctuary in a new religion.
The tough times started after her first miscarriage, two more following in quick succession and each one pushing her deeper into depression. Then a friend introduced her to a pastor who was wildly acclaimed by a gullible congregation for creating miracles.
During her first church service, a sick-looking woman was carried to the stage on a stretcher and after being prayed over was soon standing on her own and dancing. The worshippers cheered and praised the Lord, and a collection basket went round while the pastor told them that, “The Lord giveth those who give generously.”
Regina had given all the money she had in her purse.
Edwin had no idea what to do and it all got too much when he came home late one night to find his mansion had been converted into a church. He charged into the living room as the shocked women grabbed their shoes and handbags, wailing as they stumbled out as if fleeing from the devil.
Regina had stared at him with loathing, for the first time realising he was indeed evil. No wonder God was punishing her, in spite of all her prayers.
“Regina, we can’t go on like this,” he sighed after a week of mournful silence, desperate to recoup what was left of a failed marriage. “I was thinking we should-”
“I have come to a decision, Eddy,” she interrupted tearfully, her back to him. “We’ve been drifting apart for too long, and there is not much left between us. While I have accepted Christ as my Saviour, all you worship is money! That is why He is punishing me, Eddy!”
“What do you mean? There are many wealthy couples with children,” he said defensively.
“You simply do not understand, Edwin!” she shouted back vehemently, her hands balled into fists. “God is trying us and you’re failing! That’s why I pray so much! You should also start praying or- or-” Her voice turned tremulous. “Or give me a divorce!”
Edwin thought quickly, knowing the final thread of their marriage was giving. What would her tycoon father think — the man who had more or less given him a lifeline using his wide connections to set him off on the path to progress?
“Okay, Regi (he knew she liked it when he called her Regi), I will try. The Bible does say one can pray to God wherever one is, right? Then I’ll start from there and work my way up, OK?”
“I’ll help you,” she said softly, even managing to smile.
“I was thinking that since we have been through so much, like you said, we should go on holiday to Mombasa to unwind.”
“That would be nice,” she said, wrapping her arms around his waist for the first time since March.
He studied the wedding photograph on the wall wistfully, his hand around her slender waist. Only moments ago, she would have shrunk away from his touch. Now he could feel her heartbeat. Maybe things were going to work out in the end.
While unpacking at their hotel suite, he marvelled that Regina had carried just a couple of long evening dresses and khangas but no jewellery. Come to think of it, she no longer wore any jewellery. But, she had brought along plenty of motivational reading as well as her MP3 player and even CDs.
He sighed inwardly, knowing if she went through all that material, it wasn’t going to be much of a holiday.
“What would you like to do?” he asked.
“Take a shower first.”
He laughed. “Why not go swimming?” Then he realised she also no longer approved of swimming costumes.
“It looks beautiful out there right now. Maybe we could take a stroll along the beach later?”
“You go ahead. I think I will read a chapter or two and thank God for the safe journey, then perhaps catch a nap.”
“Okay,” he sighed, going to the bedroom to change.
On the way out, he paused to check his e-mail and saw the shipment had arrived in Bangkok and papers were being processed to re-route it to Singapore. He walked back to the sitting room and paused at the door. Regina had her earphones on, already immersed in her gospel.
An hour later, he strode back to their hotel suite. The thought of her seated in the room buried in her endless gospel material slowed his pace. What would the rest of the holiday be like, he wondered?
He walked in and the first thing that caught his eye was a half-empty bottle of wine. He smiled and shook his head wonderingly. The evening might not be so bad after all, he thought. Then he spotted her suitcase at the far end of the floor and the smile died.
He strode into the bedroom. She was sitting on the bed sobbing.
“Regi! Regi- what’s the-”
“Don’t touch me!” she snarled, backing away.
“Regi-” he whispered, taking another tiny step. “Regi- please-”
She backed away farther, gripping the empty wine glass like a weapon. “Smuggler!’ she said hoarsely, her chest rising and falling. “That’s why you chose Mombasa!”
He turned and saw the luminous screen of his laptop and a couple of her CDs next to it. She must have read his e-mails.
“I called the police and they’re coming to take you away!” she hissed triumphantly.
Behind him, the door banged open, and the Chief Inspector at Central Intelligence stood there with an armed team, all looking startled.
“Mr Karani! I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was you the lady called us about!” he said apologetically.
“Inspector, I know you know that I only import tea and coffee, right?” he asked the embarrassed looking officer.
“Yes of course, I know that Mr Karani. But we have to follow all smuggling-related tips,” the inspector replied.
The inspector turned to look at Regina, who was staring at him as as if he was an angel, who had come to answer her prayers.
“Is- is she okay?”
Edwin sighed. “Not really.”