Continued from Entitlement III
Grace’s house is a large mansion, larger than the apartment Ruth and Ambrose were living in. It is also larger than Flora and Nelson’s house, although Flora and Nelson’s house is large by itself. Ruth has been to houses similar to these. Some of the celebrities who invited her and Ambrose to parties in their houses used to live in houses like these, or larger. Grace’s home has a lovely lawn, which Ruth can see thanks to the security lights that are illuminating the entire compound.
“You have a lovely home,” Ruth tells the older woman as they enter the house. Ruth’s twins, who are three years old, trot in and jump onto the massive sofas that are in the living room. They are not shy; the hardship they have endured in their short stay on planet Earth has taught them to be bold.
“Thank you, Ruth. My husband and I sacrificed a lot to build this house. We started building it when we were newly married, and we built a huge one because we wanted lots of children. Both my husband and I took loans to build the skeleton. Once the superstructure was complete we moved in. The walls had not been plastered, and the floor was still rough. There was no ceiling and we did not even have a toilet. The toilet and the plumbing had not been done so we were using a pit latrine outside. We stayed like that for three years because the loan repayments were depressing our salaries. After clearing the loans, we started doing the remaining things slowly until the house was finally complete. But that was a long time ago. You were not born yet.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Let me see. We started constructing shortly after our second wedding anniversary so that means it was forty-four years ago.”
Ruth whistles. She has perfected the art of feigning every emotion that suits her at any particular moment. Right now it is surprise.
“That means you have been married for forty-six years? Jesus Christ of Nazareth! But you look so young! You don’t look a day older than fifty years of age. And I am assuming you did not get married at four years of age.”
Grace laughs. People say that about her quite often.
“Even if I did, I doubt I would have been able to get pregnant at that age and give birth a year later. My son Nelson is forty-five years of age, and I am turning seventy next month.”
“Wow. That is fantastic. I hope I will look as good as you are when I am your age.”
“If you take care of your body I am sure you will be even better. My husband and I still go to the gym regularly and we are particular about what we eat. Have you had dinner?”
“Yes, Flora’s assistant already gave us food so we are okay.
Okay then, let me show you your rooms. My husband and I usually have coffee before we sleep, but he is spending the night at the hospital with Nelson so maybe you can join me after you have put the kids to sleep. Can the children have their own room away from you or do you want to spend the night with them?”
Ruth thinks quickly. If she is going to be staying long-term here, she will want to have a room to herself. That is especially so if the man of the house will be sneaking from the master bedroom to her room. They cannot play adult games with children sleeping on the same bed.
“No, they can sleep on their own. I like teaching them independence.”
“That is fine. Flora’s children also spend a lot of time in this house. Actually, they have their own rooms here as well as in their parents’ house.”
“Oh, I don’t want to take their rooms or invade their privacy. The children and I can share a room.”
“That is okay. It is just for a night. But I will not give you their rooms. We have some extra bedrooms upstairs. As I said, Humphrey and I built a large house because we wanted many children. But God saw it fit to only give us Nelson.”
Grace shows Ruth the first room, which is quite spacious.
“You can leave the suitcase here. This is the room you will be using for the night. Let me show you the kids’ room.”
The next room has a double-decker bed with rails all around.
“This a very old bed. It is the same bed that Nelson slept on when he was a child.”
“No way! It looks practically new.”
“In the olden days, they used to make durable things. All the beds in this house are very old. The one that Julian sleeps in when he comes over is the same one his father slept on after he graduated from this decker.”
“Wow. That is very impressive.”
“Okay, I will leave you to put the children to bed. You don’t have to worry about the bedding because the lady who cleans for us changes them once a week to ensure they don’t accumulate dust. Once the babies settle you can join me in the dining room for coffee. The dining room is adjacent to the sitting room where we were.”
Ruth’s twins, Beryl and Cheryl, are exhausted after a day of travel, and it doesn’t take long for them to fall asleep. Ruth places both of them on the lower bunker of the bed and switches off the lights. Then she walks downstairs where the sitting and dining rooms are. She wants to use this coffee talk to convince Grace to allow her to stay beyond tomorrow. She has to create a sob story to touch the woman’s heart. She finds the older woman reading a novel, a steaming cup of coffee in front of her.
“Make yourself comfortable. That flask has hot water. You can decide whether you want coffee, lemon tea, chocolate or milo. I prefer coffee but Humphrey prefers lemon tea. We stock chocolate and milo just in case we have guests. We normally take the evening beverages black, but if you want yours white you can get a packet of milk from the fridge and heat it in the microwave.”
“Black chocolate is fine. But out of curiosity, if you prefer your beverages black, why do you stock milk?”
“For breakfast and during the day we take white tea. Brewed tea actually, the one you boil in a sufuria. But we also stock milk for Julian and Wendy. For breakfast they usually take milk, cereals and fruits.”
“They don’t take porridge?”
“They do. But at their parents’ house. Rhoda, the assistant, prepares it. But here I don’t have an assistant and I don’t have the patience to wait for porridge to cook so I just warm milk with the microwave and prepare cereals and fruits. Anyway, enough about me. I am curious about you. Flora said you and her ex-husband betrayed her. Why would you do that?”
Ruth sighs deeply. She had been expecting this question, and she is ready for it. She is not going to lie, because it is obvious that Flora and her mother-in-law have discussed this subject. But she is going to alter the facts to make her look like a victim. She finds it strange that Flora talked to Nelson’s mother about her previous marriage, but it is none of her business.
She puts a spoonful of chocolate powder into a mug, adds three spoonfuls of sugar and pours hot water into the mixture.
“I would never have betrayed Flora voluntarily,” she says as she stirs her beverage. “The truth is that Jerome raped me. He came into my room one night as I was sleeping and started touching me inappropriately. When I woke up and wanted to scream, he covered my mouth with one of his hands. His other hand continued fondling me. He told me that he would hurt me if I screamed. He tore away my panty, lifted my nightdress and forced himself on me.
Afterward, he whispered to me that all he wanted me to do was to get a child. He told me he loved Flora and that he would keep both of us. Amidst tears, I told him that I didn’t want to do that to my sister, but he assured me that he and Flora had discussed it, and she had approved the plan. But we would have to pretend nothing was happening because he was a pastor and that people would not understand.
I was young and naïve and I believed him. I actually broke up with my boyfriend to help my sister.”
Grace doesn’t seem convinced, so Ruth forces tears to start flowing down her cheeks.
“But Flora told me that the child you gave birth to was not even Jerome’s.”
“That is true. I didn’t know it at the time, but my boyfriend had already made me pregnant around the time I started sleeping with Jerome. I believed it was Jerome’s pregnancy. I admit I did not treat my sister well after she and Jerome discovered I was pregnant, but I was feeling angry because she was also treating me coldly and I thought she was going against her word. Up to that time, I believed she had allowed her husband to get a child with me. It is much later that I learned that Jerome had lied. That is part of the reason I came. I thought that I could ask for her forgiveness and show it by helping her take care of her husband in this difficult season. The other reason was that I hoped I could use this place’s proximity to businesses to find a job. There are two interviews I have been invited to and I am sure there are more opportunities here than back in the village. I have two children to fend for so I desperately need a job. But Flora did not let me even ask for forgiveness. She wanted to kick me out at night yet I have small children.”
“You could have called her to ask whether you could have come.”
“I did, but Flora doesn’t pick my calls ever since the whole situation with Jerome.”
“You really cannot blame her for that. Still, you could have texted her.”
“Yeah, I should have. But I don’t know why I didn’t think about that.”
They sit in silence for a while, sipping their beverages. Each of them is lost in her thoughts.
“So what is your plan after you go home tomorrow?”
“I don’t know. I have applied for a few jobs and I have been called for a couple of interviews next week. I was hoping I could stay with Flora till next week. That is why I came even if she did not pick up my calls. But now I don’t know. If I go home, I won’t get the fare to come back next week. I know it is shameless to ask this, but can I stay here until next week? I promise I will be doing all the housework for you, and immediately after the interviews, I will leave. Can you help me with that, please? It will give me a chance to try and get a job to take care of the children.”
“Let me talk to Humphrey.”
She walks out of the dining to make the call and returns a few minutes later.
“Okay, you can stay, but only for a couple of weeks. There is another condition. In those two weeks, you are not allowed to cross over to Flora and Nelson’s house for any reason, unless Flora specifically asks you to.”
“Okay, thank you so much. What should I prepare for breakfast tomorrow, and what time should it be ready?”
“Humphrey will come at around 6 am from the hospital and he has a morning lecture at the university. Please have the tea ready by the time he arrives. There is a loaf of bread in the kitchen. Put it here on the dining table together with margarine. He will prepare the slices he wants himself. I will wake up later.”
Ruth is elated. She will have the man of the house all to herself early in the morning. That will be the perfect time to set the ground for the romance she is certain will happen before the two-week period is over.
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