Congratulations, Happy Birthday and Goodbye!

“It was his birthday last week,” she said, “and we used to do this weeklong birthday thing the whole 15 years we were together. I would send him a text after waking up, every morning of that week, and every evening before going to bed. Even if we were in the same room, sharing the same bed.” She would make breakfast, drive them both to the office, take him out for lunch, drive them back in the evening, make dinner and repeat that for six more days.

“Didn’t it ever get tiring?” I asked.

“Not to me,” she said.

Her birthday was the following week, so the efforts would be reciprocated anyway. This little tradition had been their own, and those two weeks every year were their happiest. Even happier than the couple was their driver and the house help. “We would give them two weeks fully paid leave, and heavy bonuses on the rare occasions when we would need their services,” she said, then paused for a moment and made eye contact with the fine gentleman over on the next table. She threw him a smile and I unintentionally shot her a questionable look, that she caught. “Divorced, forty something with two children, but I still got it!” she said. “Speaking of, my babies are great. Probably the only good thing to come out of that marriage.”

Their eldest is 15, had him in their second year of marriage. ‘The beautiful years’ as she would later come to call them. “It started right after the wedding. The honeymoon was out of this world.” Private jet to the Caribbean, a week in the sands, cruises, the flight to South Africa and the long drive back. “I paid for half of that, and it was the first time he let me pay for anything, the first of many anyway.” That period of their marriage was, in her words, beautiful. The gifts. Dates. Trips. Surprises. More gifts. “He bought me a share of this place for our first anniversary,” she said pointing around the cafe we were in. Extensive floor space, smooth surfaces, sleek stainless steel cutlery, crushed velvet fabric on the seats, cool light illuminating the area with similar tones to natural daylight, and basically everything that spoke eight hundred shillings for a single cup of coffee. “The gifts reduced within the years till there were no more. He started again when I got pregnant with Kim. He was so excited.” She paused to smile at the memory.

They worked from home during the entire period of the pregnancy. They didn’t have much to do; online meetings with investors, barking orders to their subordinates and signing off on cheques and other documents that they had delivered to their house. When little Kim started to crawl, he went back to the office, “and from then on we saw less and less of him, till we didn’t see him at all, for days sometimes.” He would put it on work; new acquisitions and business trips to Italy and making up for lost time.

The young one is turning 4 in two weeks, they had her in their second year of divorce. “We had missed each other, 3 years of courtship and 12 years married is not something you can forget.” They thought they could give things another shot, and they did, for two months. “He fell into the same pattern again. Gifty, spontaneous and excited about the pregnancy. Then his distant self made an appearance up again, only this time he didn’t wait for the child to start crawling, morning sickness kicked in and suddenly work stuff was too much.” She saw the signs early enough and didn’t wait too long to leave.

“Once bitten…” her phone rang, not the one she was holding, the one in her bag. Her ringtone a remixed version of Khalid’s Lovely. One look at the caller ID and her face scrunched up. She talked to someone called Sandra, instructing her to sign a cheque she had dropped off at her (Sandra’s) assistant’s desk. She then hang up and took a moment to compose herself before asking, “where was I?”

“Somewhere about once bitten.”

She looked at the gentleman from before foe a while, then opened her mouth as if to speak but no words came out. The phone call seemed to have thrown her off a bit. “Moving on seems harder to do, when the one that you love, moves faster than you,” she said smiling, “Khalid.”

“I figured,” I said returning her smile.

“Later on, I found out the ‘work stuff’ and ‘new acquisitions’ after Kim was born was called Sandra Njeri.” Her ex started seeing Njeri a few months before she got pregnant. “Njeri moved to Italy right about the same time we found out we were expecting our first.” They continued with their affair till Kim was five and she never knew. His best friend is the one who told her one afternoon when he was away in one of his business trips, an actual one this time. “He (the best friend) was a nice guy, too nice if you ask me, but still nice. I think he had a thing for me. He brought burgers to my office one day and explained everything to me. He even had what you people call ‘receipts’ nowadays. You know photos, videos, text messages, hotel receipts, bank statements, everything.” She wasn’t shocked at the revelation. She just laughed hard and thanked him for bringing this to her.

“I never confronted him about it when he returned from his trip a week later on a Sunday night.” It was his birthday week starting the following day and she swore evening wouldn’t find her in the same house with his cheating husband. “I vowed to leave,” she said with bitterness evident in her tone, “and I was taking my baby with me.”

“I instructed the driver to pick Kim from school and drop him off at my house in Karen, while I went to the office.” The mansion was a gift from her late parents, and she left it in her name. “He was the one who advised me to do leave it that way. He had his house, I had mine, and we built a family home together,” she said.

She didn’t text him that morning, didn’t make breakfast, didn’t drive him to work or do anything that she would have normally done in his birthday week. “I picked some things from the office and shot him a text immediately I stepped out of the building.” She wanted the text to capture everything, “that I was happy he found someone else, I was still aware it was his week and it was over.”

“Do you happen to remember the words on that text?” I asked.

“Congratulations, happy birthday and goodbye!”

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