• Sometimes women who kill are just human beings trying to have the best human experience and in their effort to live happily ever after, someone ends up dead. Most times, unintentionally.
• Gigi, Ava, Beth, Marianne and Cherie are all ordinary women, but life... Read their stories in a six-part series exclusively on the Star website.
DISCLAIMER: ALL CHARACTERS APPEARING IN THIS WORK ARE FICTITIOUS. ANY RESEMBLANCE TO REAL PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD, IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL
He was a premium customer. She always made sure to serve him. It was so obvious but she did not care. This was the year she was getting a husband. One thing led to another and they were having an affair. He was perfect except for one problem. A wife. She had not planned on being a mistress.
This was not going according to plan, she needed a husband, a family of her own, the proverbial white picket fence and a dog. Juma did not seem bothered. He actually liked having his cake and eating it. Beth though was not happy. Sure, she thought she loved Juma. He was a doctor with a successful practice. Good to look at, right build and nice face, and he dressed very well. They looked great together.
Beth convinced herself that Mrs Juma was making Juma miserable. Why else was he spending all the time at her house? Beth came from a somewhat dysfunctional family. She did not know her biological father. Her mother insisted the man who came by their house was her father.
The man denied it on many occasions, even when not provoked. She was determined not to end up like her mother. But history seemed to be repeating itself. Juma began to complain insistently about Mrs Juma but did nothing about it. He promised her that he would leave her. Three years into their relationship, nothing happened. She decided to help him make a decision. She got pregnant.
Beth gave Juma the good news and he seemed excited. No mention of leaving Mrs Juma. What more did he need to leave that old hag she wondered. One evening, Juma did not show up as scheduled. He did not show up for a week. He did not answer her calls nor reply to her text messages. She was getting anxious, she had tried so hard to be better than her mother, yet here she was.
Same story. She was so driven by wanting to change the narrative that it literally drove her crazy. Beth appeared at Juma’s practice, she waited patiently till the last person was seen and then entered his office with a big smile. She had studied Juma long enough to know he did not handle stress well. If she was going to win him over, she was going to have to be calm about it. Juma was surprised to see her, he looked haggard. Guess what? Turns out Mrs Juma also had good news. Three months along. Beth felt as if she would just lay down and die! This was Mrs Juma’s second child.
Then Juma did the unthinkable, he asked Beth to consider aborting. He could not afford two babies born two months apart. The truth was, he was afraid of explaining this mess to Mrs Juma and their friends and family. Beth pretended not to be hurt, instead, she talked Juma into going home with her. She made him a nice dinner and talked to him almost all night.
Soothing him and listening to his cowardly excuses. By the end of the night, they had agreed that Beth would keep her baby but she would be the other woman. At least for now. They needed to let Mrs Juma deliver her baby first. Mrs Juma was fragile. When Juma left in the wee hours of the morning, Beth thought her head would explode. Why wouldn’t Juma love her? Why wasn’t she the one to be treated with care? What was so special about that Mrs Juma? All she knew was that she was not going to turn out like her mother.
Beth was getting big. Seven months along and the bump was now visible. She felt the stares and judgment of people. It was all in her head, of course. One night after a day of shopping for baby clothes, she heard Juma’s car screech outside her gate and come to a stop. He jumped in, flinging the door open like a demon was chasing him.
“She’s gone! Oh my God, she is gone!” He was sweating, covered in dry blood and his eyes were so red. He looked stunned. “Who is gone? Where are you from? What happened?” Beth asked as she struggled to get up. Turns out Mrs Juma had been shot in a carjacking. Rather an attempted one.
According to Juma, he and his wife had been coming back from their construction site when a car hit them from behind. When he got out to assess the damage, three men jumped out, one tried to pull Mrs Juma from the car. When She did not come out fast enough, he shot her. In the head. They then ran back to their car leaving Juma screaming. The police had kept him overnight. Mostly because they assumed he was behind the shooting. They checked his phone records, they checked his phone. He looked too shaken to have been behind the murder. They released him but asked him not to travel, in case they needed to question him further.
The next few weeks were a blur. Juma was like a zombie. He did not go back to Beth’s until after they came back from the funeral. She tried to "cheer" him up by sending him scans of their baby. She had not asked the doctor what sex the baby was because she believed she was having a boy. Juma’s first child was a boy. She needed to give him a son too.
Juma needed cajoling to return to Beth’s arms. He was full of guilt. He somehow blamed himself for his wife’s death. Beth was patient. She knew Juma was weak. One month to her due date, Beth moved into Mrs Juma’s matrimonial home. Juma was too engrossed in his guilt to disapprove and his son was too young to object. Friends and family just stood by and watched.
Besides, no one was willing to take Juma junior in. Some were relieved he had a wife who could now mother Junior. Beth did not mistreat Junior. She did not care enough to. She was too busy trying to create a perfect life. She hired a maid to look after the boy and thank God, the maid was sympathetic towards the little boy.
Juma and Beth’s daughter was born two days after her due date. Healthy beautiful girl with tea cup-like ears. She looked nothing like Juma nor her half-sibling Junior. Beth insisted she was the exact replica of her mother’s sister. No one had the energy to delve into it. Not even Juma’s mother.
She had her own skeletons, she was not about to throw stones from her glasshouse. Beth gave the girl some new-age names, I forget the name, but let us call the girl Nyanduse. When baby Nyanduse was four months old, her mother decided that she was tired of living in ‘sin’.
She informed Juma that they to be wed at the end of that month. She was going to get her happily ever after, her picket fence and respect from society. She was not going to be like her mother. Juma did not object. What was he objecting to really?
Beth planned a beachside wedding. She sent out invites. Juma’s family did not come. Many of his friends did not come either. It was too soon. Less than a year since Mrs Juma’s death surely. Beth’s spirits would not be dampened. She was the new Mrs Juma. Finally, she was not going to end up like her mother.
A few weeks to Nyanduse’s birthday, the new Mrs Juma discovered she was pregnant. Thank God, because Nyanduse was looking more and more like her people and nothing like Juma. She just knew this would be a son. She just needed a son and her little family would be complete.
Well, as soon as she sent Junior to boarding school. You know the devil is always out to hurt women. I suspect it is from that day in Eden when Eve threw him under the bus, even after enjoying the forbidden fruit. This particular day the devil convinced Beth to go through Juma’s phone. Ok, maybe I should not blame the devil entirely, but he cannot defend himself, an easy target.
Juma had started coming home late. He seemed more upbeat. He spent a lot of time smiling at his phone. He had recently been promoted and he claimed the lateness was due to too much work because of the added responsibility. It had three notifications, the phone. Juma was in the bathroom. She knew his password. From the time they were dating until now, he had not changed it.
“It’s a boy! Call me back ASAP!”
The message was from a Cynthia. Wait, this is the same Cynthia he had said was ‘just’ a nurse? Her head was suddenly hot. There was so much pressure inside her head she thought her eyes might just pop out. She opened her mouth to cry but nothing came out. She began to shake. All she could bring herself to say was, "After all, I did for you?”
Juma came out of the bathroom and stopped mid whistle when he saw Beth across the room with his phone in her hands. By this time tears were running down her face. She looked up and her gaze met his.
“Who is Cynthia?”
She hissed like a snake. She slowly stood up and threw the phone at the wall. She intended to hit him but her vision was blurry from all the anger. “Listen, Beth, I wanted to tell you. Actually, I’m so glad you’ve found out. She has been blackmailing me. It happened only once. It was a mist…”.
“SHUT UP! You stupid fool! After all I have done for you? You have always been too weak! I have had to do everything to give us a happy home. You could not even get rid of your wife! I had to do it!” Shit. She had not meant to say that.
Before she could think of anything to say to cover her confession, Juma flew across the room, lifted her by her neck and pinned her on the wall. He banged her head so hard she saw stars. “What did You say, you witch! You did what? Did you kill my wife?” Juma could hardly get the words out of his mouth. He was so angry he was shaking.
“I am your wife!” Beth said defiantly.
Juma tightened the grip on her neck. His head was so close to her face she could feel the heat his body was letting out. “You are hurting me,” Beth whispered. Her eyes started to tear as she struggled to breathe. “I’m going to kill you today! You murderer, you killed my…” He dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes.
“Juma!?” Beth called him as she clasped her neck. Her voice was scratchy. Juma had almost killed her. She dropped to her knees and tried to move him. He did not get up. She looked for a pulse in his neck. She was not even sure at what point on his neck she should be touching. Where she touched there was nothing. She got up and reached for her cell phone.
Standing by Juma’s casket, Beth tried to play the part of the grieving wife. The big black sunglasses helped. No one could look in her eyes and see what she really felt. She wished she could have a drink. She pushed the thought away. She had to take care of herself and her unborn son.
She still wanted Juma’s son. As they lowered Juma’s casket next to his first wife’s grave, she stood upright. Head high and looking into the horizon. When it was time to lay her wreath on the mound of soil she said her last words to her husband. “You were always a weak man Juma.” She whispered under her breath. Beth gave birth to a baby girl a few months later.
The article was first published on Teakisi: The Voice of African Women. Catch up with part 2 of this series here.