SHORT STORY: Toast to a perfect Valentine

Saturday February 8 2020

Sharon would be home soon, so he gave the

Sharon would be home soon, so he gave the girls’ their bath, fed them their dinner and put them to bed. He wanted the evening to be romantic, without interruptions. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

SUSAN MUUMBI
By SUSAN MUUMBI
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It was yet another Valentine’s day and Peter was excited. He wondered what gift Sharon would buy him, and if she would send his favourite single malt whiskey to the office so that his colleagues would see what a wonderful wife he had.

Gifts from his wife were few and far between, and Valentine’s was the one day in the year that he could look forward to an open declaration of love.

Sharon was a busy woman. As the country’s Minister for Finance, she did not have much time for public displays of affection. She took her work seriously and depended on Peter to be a supportive husband.

At work that morning, her assistant Beatrice reminded her that it was Valentine’s day.

“Oh, is it that time of the year already? It had totally slipped my mind. Take care of that for me, Beatrice. You can send over his favourite drink, or something. Buy a card and bring it to me to sign. You know Peter likes romance and I have little time for sentimental gestures,” Sharon said as she walked briskly to her desk, already thinking of the upcoming budget presentation.

Peter was heady when the package arrived at his desk. His male colleagues gathered around as he unwrapped the whiskey and placed the red card with large hearts next to his computer. His desk was in the middle of an open plan office, where he worked as an IT assistant.

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Sauvignon Blanc

“You’re so lucky!” Joe exclaimed. “Your wife remembered! She clearly loves you.”

Jim just looked on, green with envy. He knew he would be getting nothing this year as his girlfriend had dumped him the week before to avoid having to celebrate the day.

The women around the office threw pitiful glances. Perhaps, because these men had no idea what their wives were up to behind their backs.

In the evening, Peter hurried home. As they had only one car, a 2020 Range Rover Sport, Sharon drove it to work. She had promised to buy him a “small car” one of these days, which he could use to run errands.

In the matatu, he almost whistled a tune out loud as he cradled his whiskey bottle proudly, showing off to the other men who were empty-handed.

Peter had planned a special dinner for his wife. He had already bought the ingredients for the chicken, which he would roast to almost crisp dry, just the way Sharon liked it.

He had baked the chocolate cake the day before, and they would have it with vanilla ice-cream for dessert. He would chill the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that he had saved for today.

Clear instructions

As the matatu wove its way through the heavy traffic, Peter reminisced about his wedding day four and-a-half years ago. It was the best day of his life. He had been dreaming about it since he was a little boy...what he would wear, how he would recite his vows, who his groomsmen would be.

At Sharon’s bridal shower two days before the wedding, the girls had drank heavily and Sharon had passed out. Her eyes were still slightly bloodshot at the wedding, but Peter didn’t mind. After all, he was lucky to be marrying such a successful woman, and he loved her too much to make a fuss.

At the altar, dressed in a perfect-fit tuxedo, Sharon stood next to him in a plain white dress. He looked forward to spending the rest of his life with her. He knew what was expected of him as a good husband.

At his stag party the week before, the men had given him clear instructions on submitting to his wife, and keeping the house clean and tidy, just as he had been taught from the age of five. After the children came, he took a demotion at his job so that he could spend more time looking after them. A man’s place was in the home, and his busy wife could not be expected to pitch in with the housework.

The matatu dropped him off and he walked the 300 metres to the house. It was just after 5pm and the househelp was impatient to leave for the day. She quickly told him what Rosie and Josie, the two-year-old twins had been up to, and departed.

Peter quickly took over the house chores. The twins would be up from their afternoon nap soon, and he needed to get the chicken ready before they got under his feet.

He took the chicken out of the fridge where it had been marinating since the night before, covered it in aluminium foil and placed it in the roasting pan. He set the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and waited for it to heat up before placing the chicken in. The timer was set to 30 minutes, after which he would remove the foil for the chicken to brown.

Face of contentment

Just as he finished, he heard voices coming from the children’s room. The girls were awake. Josie and Rosie were the sweetest angels he had ever seen. Even though they threw frequent tantrums, he loved them as only a father could and sacrificed his own needs for theirs.

He walked to their room and picked them up to take them to the potty. He warmed some milk and set them in their high chairs with a plastic cup and plate of cookies at each place.

The girls jabbered to each other, and Peter watched over them like a father cock. When they were done, he took them down and placed them in their playpen.

He went back into the kitchen to finish dinner preparations. Mashed potatoes would go well with the roast chicken, and suffice as dinner for the twins. To balance the meal, Peter steamed some broccoli.

Sharon would be home soon, so he gave the girls’ their bath, fed them their dinner and put them to bed.

He wanted the evening to be romantic, without interruptions.

At 8pm, he heard the car rumble up the driveway. The dining table was laid for two, with three red roses in a vase at the centre. Peter switched off the lights and lit four candles.

He met Sharon at the door, gave her a quick kiss, held her hand and guided her to the table.

Sharon was grateful. The chicken was crispy, the cake moist and the vanilla ice-cream had defrosted slightly. The wine was chilled, perfectly refreshing after a long day at work.

Knowing that the children were safely tucked in bed, she looked lovingly across at her handsome husband and was content.

Valentine’s day wasn’t so bad after all...