Rhoda sobs softly on the pillow. She knows he will come, and there is nothing she can do about it. It is his house. She wonders why all this has to happen to her. She remembers her grandparents, Mwikali and Mutuku. Mutuku was a kind man. He was poor, but he worked hard to ensure his children went to school. And as far as Rhoda could tell he loved Mwikali even after forty years of marriage. All his four children, three sons and one daughter, finished form 4. He warned his only daughter severally about fooling around with village boys; but when she became pregnant, he took her in and embraced the infant as his own daughter; that infant was Rhoda.
If there was ever a perfect example of a Christian, Rhoda is convinced that Mutuku was the one. Mwikali too. They two made an adorable elderly couple. When Mutuku died, both Rhoda and Mwikali cried bitterly. He had been their pillar. Rhoda was only six years old when he died, but she can remember him clearly.
Rhoda’s mother, Felista, did not even attend her father’s burial. Mwikali stepped into her husband’s shoes and brought up Rhoda as her own daughter. But now she is dead too, united with her beloved Mutuku by the grim reaper.
Rhoda feels misses them both very much. Especially now.
Rhoda was born sixteen years ago. Felista, her mother, was a stunning beauty then. Still is. Felista had just completed form four and was fooling around with a local lout when she became pregnant. She had passed well, having attained a B-, but Mutuku was too poor to afford college. Of course the ruffian denied being the father, even though he had all along been bragging to his friends about bedding the beauty queen of the village.
Under a different household she might have turned destitute and desperate, but Mutuku embraced her and her baby.
When Rhoda was a year old, Felista moved to Nairobi to look for work. The only work that she could find, however, was that of a house help. She was employed by a well off couple in Kilimani. They had only one condition: they did not want a woman with children. They wanted someone who would give undivided attention to their two kids. Rhoda’s mother told them with a straight face that she did not have any children. She got the job.
The couple was kind to her and paid her well. She usually sent the money to her parents, keeping only a little to herself. Mwikali and Mutuku used the money to take care of Rhoda. Because of the demanding nature of the job, Felista hardly came home. She only appeared for a few days over Easter and a few more days over Christmas. But Mutuku and his wife Mwikali did not mind taking care of Rhoda. They loved her to bits.
Felista was a hard worker and her bosses loved her. After working for them for six years, the woman, Nadia pestered her husband Stephen to sponsor Felista’s college education. Stephen agreed, and Felista was enrolled at the University of Nairobi as a self-sponsored economics student. She was still expected to do the household chores, but this was not much especially because the children had by this time been sent away to boarding school.
It is around this time that Mutuku died. Felista did not mention his death to her bosses. Nadia would have allowed her to attend the funeral, but Felista feared that with the children gone, they would realize they could do without her. Her fears were, of course, unfounded.
Stephen, a businessman, had more flexible hours than his wife Nadia who was working as a Chief Technology Officer in a large IT company. So he insisted on dropping Felista to school and back, to save her from the hustle of using public transport. Nadia had no objection. Felista had been with them for close to six years and was like a little sister to her. She was proud of her husband for being so thoughtful.
When Stephen and Felista started sleeping together, Nadia had no clue.
Felista completed her studies and Stephen hired her in his company and gave her a pay rise. She built a decent house for Mwikali and took Rhoda to an expensive private school. But she still did not confess to Nadia and Stephen that she had a daughter.
Nonetheless, things were finally looking up.
Felista continued to do the housework and sleeping with Stephen even after he hired her in his company. She would wake up early to prepare breakfast because Nadia left the house at 6 AM, then she would tidy up the house before taking a shower. Depending on whether he was up to it, Stephen would make love to her then they would take breakfast and leave for the office together. Stephen would drop her at 6 pm and go to meet his boys. She would take a shower then prepare dinner. Nadia would come about 9 pm, exhausted and quickly take dinner before going to bed. Felista would watch television until Stephen came home, usually about 11 pm. She would then serve dinner which they would take together. They never made love when Nadia was in the house, asleep or not.
But Nadia found out in a most dramatic way. The CEO of her company had just left to take over as the Global Director of their mother company based in London. The Board appointed her as the CEO. She was scheduled to give a speech at the farewell party of her predecessor. The speech was ready, but she decided to spruce it up and print it after squeezing in some time at the office. To her horror, she had forgotten the flash disk where she had saved the speech at home. It was still in the handbag she had used the previous day. So she jumped into her car and drove home.
The house was unlocked so she got in and went straight to her bedroom where she kept her handbags. There, on her matrimonial bed, lay her husband and the girl she has started to consider a sister, both naked and in the throes of passion.
Nadia was deeply hurt by both the man she had loved for over twenty years and the girl she had taken in and treated like a younger sister. But Stephen was unapologetic. He accused her of abandoning her duties as a wife and leaving them to Felista. He claimed that that is what pushed him into sleeping with Felista. She was more of a wife to him than Nadia was. Felista did not utter a word, and Nadia picked her flash disk and left without another word.
The divorce was acrimonious but swift. Nadia did not want her personal problems to distract her from her new job as CEO, so she agreed to a 50-50 sharing of property. Stephen knew she was entitled to a lot more than that: he was a poorly paid teacher when he met her, while she was already a rising star in an IT company. She took loans to fund the businesses they started, which were registered under both their names. She also worked her networks to find clients. In other words, she built him.
He insisted on taking the Kilimani home, and she reluctantly agreed to settle for their holiday home in Malindi.
The divorce and her subsequent elevation to wife status complicated things for Felista as far as Rhoda was concerned. Stephen controlled her income. He insisted he wanted her to be a housewife, as he did not want a “repeat of Nadia”. He monitored their expenses, which made it difficult for Felista to continue paying fees for Rhoda, who was now fourteen years old and in form one.
Mwikali took Rhoda to a public day school and was able to manage the stipend Felista sent her. But then Mwikali died last year. The youngest of her brothers claimed the house that Felista had built as his, dubiously insisting that culturally the parents’ house belongs to the youngest son. His wife wanted nothing to do with Rhoda, so she was rendered homeless at fifteen.
By this time Felista had a two-year-old baby with Stephen. She could not dare tell him she had a fifteen-year-old daughter because he was already acting cold towards her. She suspected he was having an affair with his secretary. She could not figure out why. She cooked for him. She cleaned the house. She washed his clothes. She was ready to jump into bed whenever he was. Why would he seek another woman?
Felista was acutely aware that she did not have the financial clout that Nadia had, so she could not afford to be kicked out by Stephen. She did not want to give him an excuse to get rid of her. If he could divorce the woman who had made him wealthy, he could certainly dump her for that yellow yellow girl with fake hair and nails.
So Felista did nothing while her daughter was suffering, roaming from relative to relative and being treated like trash. It was, therefore, a huge relief for her when she heard recently that Rhoda had been taken in by a wealthy and respected couple in the village.
Mr. Kioko runs several businesses in the village. He owns the local Petrol Station and a Supermarket next to it. He also owns several buildings in the local town, as well as a fleet of matatus. He is the Chairman of the Matatu Sacco that dominates the region. He is also a Christian and an elder in the local church. His wife is a primary school teacher and the leader of the women’s group at their church.
Mrs. Kioko took in Rhoda when it became evident that her mother wanted nothing to do with her. Together with her husband, they offered Rhoda a home and offered to pay her school fees at the day school she was attending. Their other adopted child, an orphan called Mutua, is also schooling there. They were hailed across the village for their kindness.
But Rhoda quickly realized that life would not be easy for her. She became their house help, cleaning, washing, and cooking whenever she was not in school. Mutua is their shamba boy. He weeds, feeds animals, milks and takes the milk to the dairy whenever he is not in school.
Mutua has been teaching Rhoda resilience.
“We are here for just a season. Bear with it and work hard at school. One day we will have a better life,” he often tells her. Every evening she takes his food to his cabin-he is not allowed in the main house-and they study together for a couple of hours. Mutua then prays and Rhoda goes back to the main house.
So life has been bearable. That is, until Mr. Kioko started visiting her bedroom. He came in one night while she was sleeping and started stroking her legs. When she woke up with a start, he covered her mouth with his hand and warned her not to scream.
He had sex to her that night and the night after. He has made it his routine to sneak into her room late at night when she is asleep. Or is supposed to be asleep. Sleep has been difficult ever since he started raping her.
She knows he will come again tonight. She is already sobbing softly, as she usually does when she thinks about him. She even sobs as he does his business on her, but that does not seem to bother him. As long as she sobs quietly. She is too afraid to tell anyone. Not even Mutua. During the day she pretends that is all is fine and goes about her chores and schooling.
When she hears the door open she cringes. He closes the door behind him and softly approaches her bed. He usually does not put on lights as that would attract attention. As he starts removing her nightdress, she feels helpless against him and starts to sob. He removes his pajama but just as he is starting to have his way with her, the door opens and the lights come on.
Through her sobs, Rhoda can hear Mrs. Kioko’s gasp.
(To be continued)