They slept together. It was the most natural thing in the world. At the back of their minds, they both somehow knew, from the first time they met-‘Excuse me, where’s the branch manager’s office’-this was going to happen. The branch manager was not in that time, but she did not mind in the least, though she had been meaning to cause the whole office to come running in to rescue him, as she screamed curses at the lousy bank service she had been receiving for two weeks.
When he would look back later, in ‘exile’ in Soroti, where he had been flung, after the whole scandal, in his tiny main town lodge room, he would think-this had been meant to be. How could he explain why he had been so nice to her? He could be professional, he was often professional, he liked to think, even after all the shake up, he had been retained, because he was still very good at his job (the photos on the internet, then in Red Pepper, the summons to grovel before his wife’s parents and the elders of her family-the weekend before he had to go and do more grovelling before his the Uganda bank branch management then again to Nairobi-he thought it was his record that had saved him. He was proud of that record. But with her, he knew he had been more than just professional.
He had made her tea, in the office, and sat with her in the select customers waiting lounge, soothing her, calming her down. Usually he would never have reached for a bank customer’s hand, a female bank customer, and her hand resting in his palm, begin to compliment her on her manicure. Not in that brusque, matter of fact way either, but low whispering, like they were on phone secretively and they did not want anyone to hear. That corner of the sofa in the select customer’s waiting lounge, with its huge ugly leafed plant in a black pot haunted him from then on. He could never walk into the lounge without, almost against his will, glance furtively back there, like he was expecting her to be seated there. Like they had sat there that time.
They call her the home wrecker now. She knows. They do not have to say it. She can sense it. Hear it, when her back is turned. They must be calling her that but they cannot dare to her face. They know she would not hesitate to fire them all, and in a day have them replaced. Every day, her clinic receives resumes, applications for internships from candidates so qualified, that sometimes from the pool, she will take out the most impressive, and pass them on to contacts who are looking for good quality doctors and nurses on the cheap.
She tells herself she does not mind. Does not care, whatever they call her. All of them. Her employees, her colleagues on the medical board, those who turn startled, when she is not wearing her shades, walking down a street, and think I know that face, I have seen that face...and body somewhere...They can do nothing to her. This keeps her strong. This keeps her working, never breaking her routine. There is only one person that matters and he has already hurt her more than they all could ever hurt her. No, not him. They were in it together. They both knew what they were doing. It was not just about sleeping together.
It is her father.
It is her father.
He has asked that she removes his name from the clinic masthead, the company. That she goes and finds another reputable medical personnel to sign her recommendation forms. He sent the message through their mother. That changed everything.
He looks at the world, he imagines, as the survivors of a major natural disaster must look at the world, with new eyes, startled eyes. He is always looking for signs that another disaster is about to erupt and though he knows it is stupid, he thinks he can be better prepared this time. He is careful, he ponders more-and wonders how many people around him carry within themselves what he has gone through, and know because of what they went through. He has been on the outside and he does not think he will ever be able to fully come back inside and sit at a table with the confidence of the sinless insiders.
But it was no sin...he tells himself. It did not feel like a sin. He is not ashamed of it, on its own. Maybe that’s why they will never forgive him? Because, they ‘sense’ he is not really sorry. He says the words, he is taking the punishment, he is a prisoner serving a sentence and waiting it out for his parole, but they know, somehow they know, now that he has done it, he is gone...
She is supposed to be less than perfect now. The superwoman achiever tag will never be applied to her again. Doctor at 21! What headlines, those had been. But she has never felt more perfect. She works a four day week now. So that on Thursday night, she is on the road to Soroti.