(Continued from Father Wounds)
Harriet is not asleep, although she is dozing. She cannot sleep until Kiruja is snoring on his side of the bed. This is actually the first time she is in bed before him. Usually, by the time she comes to bed after clearing the table he is usually snoring. They have not had sex for several years now, presumably because he gets it from his mistresses.
When their marriage was young, she used to be bothered by his violence and philandering ways. She packed her bags and went to her father’s house several times, but every time her mother persuaded her to stay at her home provided she was not sleeping hungry. Her mother reminded her that her own father was just as violent and chased women all over, but she, her mother, stayed for her and her siblings. So Harriet convinced herself that she too could make it for the sake of her children.
These days it is easier. She has mastered him so she is able to placate him and avoid getting beaten. Since he no longer demands sex from her, she doesn’t care who he sleeps with. Provided they stay clear of her home. Because this home is hers.
Teresa’s screams jolt her back to life. She jumps out of bed and runs towards the living room. There, she finds her daughter pinned on the sofa by her husband, who is now removing his trousers with one hand while the other is holding his daughter down.
“Kiruja!” she yells, horrified.
Her husband doesn’t seem to hear her, so she rushes towards him and pulls him with all her strength. He loses balance and falls off the couch.
“Run, my baby, run! Run to your grandmother’s house!” Harriet yells at her daughter.
Teresa jumps off the couch and dashes to the door, which is still locked.
Kiruja rises like an enraged bull. Harriet stands between him and Teresa, who is trying to open the door. She hopes she can distract him long enough for her daughter to get out. But he slaps her repeatedly and sends her to the floor.
The door finally opens but as Teresa tries to flee, her father’s hand grabs her and pulls her back to the house. Harriet stands up and heads to the kitchen. She is still feeling dizzy but she cannot allow her daughter to be raped by her own father. She picks up a pan and returns to the living room just as Kiruja is trying to force Teresa to open her legs. Teresa has crossed them firmly and is fighting him with her hands and mouth, clawing and biting. He is winning though, and it is just a matter of time before he gets carnal knowledge of his own daughter.
Harriet hits him hard on the head, and he blacks out, collapsing on top of his daughter. She pulls him away and Teresa bolts out, screaming her grandmother’s name.
Mukwamugo, Teresa’s grandmother and Kiruja’s mother, is a light sleeper. She hears her granddaughter’s screams even before she arrives. She wakes up her husband, M’magambo who walks to the door and opens it.
Teresa comes in and goes to Mukwamugo’s arms. She continues wailing loudly as her grandmother tries to calm her down. Before long, there are voices all over as uncles, aunties and neighbors come to see what is wrong. Years ago they were used to hearing Harriet running away from her house at night, but that has not happened in years. It takes Teresa about 10 minutes to calm down.
“Okay, Ntagu. Tells us what happened,” Mukwamugo says gently. Teresa is named after Mukwamugo, hence the title Ntagu.
Between sobs, Teresa explains to them how her father had tried to rape her. The people around are stunned. They have always known that their kin is violent, that he is a drunkard and that he keeps mistresses. But they never imagined that he is a pedophile, leave alone a pedophile capable of defiling his own daughter.
“Where is he now?” one of the uncles asks.
“In our house. Mother hit him with a pan so that I could escape,”
“Let us head there,”
Harriet stares the limp body of her husband. Is he dead? Has she killed him? Will she go to jail? Her mind is racing. She bends over him and listens. He is breathing. A huge relief. Now, what next? Should she take him to the hospital? What will she say happened to him? She can’t just tell them that she hit him with a pan until he became unconscious.
Help comes when Teresa arrives with her grandparents and others. The door is still open so they let themselves in.
“Teresa has told us what happened,” Mukwamugo informs Harriet. “Has this ever happened before?”
“No, never. I think we should take him to the hospital though, I may have hurt him. We can talk about what happened when he is awake and sober.”
Harriet finds the car keys and hands them to one of Kiruja’s brothers. Although Kiruja has owned a car for over ten years now, Harriet has never learned how to drive. Whenever she needs to go somewhere she takes public transport. The two brothers haul Kiruja to the car, with Harriet following behind. One of the brothers drives to Chogoria Hospital while Harriet and the other brother handle Kiruja at the back. The others go back to their homes. Teresa, still traumatized, follows her grandparents to their home.
Nobody consults Teresa when a decision is reached. Even Harriet is not really consulted, she is just informed of the decision. Kiruja will not be reported to the police. The matter will be handled internally within the family. His father and brothers will talk to him. Talk! Harriet is seething inside. She would have loved to have an opinion on the matter. It is her child who was almost defiled. But she knows fighting them will achieve no useful purpose.
But there is more. Another decision has been made. Teresa will go and stay with her aunt who lives in Karen, Nairobi. This infuriates Harriet. Why do they think they can make decisions for her daughter without involving her? She will talk to Mukwamugo about this later, although she knows there is nothing her mother-in-law can do. All the decisions are made by her father-in-law and his sons. They do not expect to be challenged by women.
Kiruja stays in the hospital for a few days before he is discharged. He only suffered a mild concussion. Whether his father and brothers talked to him, Harriet and Teresa will never know. When he comes home, he does not discuss the matter with Harriet. By then, Teresa is long gone.
Teresa feels fortunate to escape her home. She has recovered from the initial shock, but now has a deep hatred for her father. She doesn’t wish to ever see the man again. She even wishes he were dead. Her aunt and her husband welcome her to their home warmly. They are wealthy, and the home is intimidating to Teresa.
The main house has eight bedrooms, and there are servant quarters not far away. Their TV is gigantic. Both their cars are SUVs. Teresa sees a bathtub for the first time in their home. Their kitchen has many gadgets that Teresa has never seen before. They have a dog that stays inside the house. Can you believe it? To be fair, it is a German Shepherd, not a village mongrel.
But they are kind people. Their children are all grown, so they live alone. They make her feel at home. Harriet’s aunt is a senior civil servant at the Treasury so she leaves every morning to go to work and comes back in the evening. Her husband is a businessman so he has more flexible hours. He even has a private office at home.
Harriet settles in quickly. She becomes part of the family. Months fly by and time to enroll in college comes. Her uncle drives her to the University and takes her through the registration process. Multi-Media is along Magadi Road, not far from Karen.
He convinces her not to stay in the campus hostels. She has become part of their family so she can stay with them and commute to school. Having gotten used to the luxury of staying with them, she accepts. A routine is established: he drops her in the morning at school, then gives her cab and lunch money. For the first time in her life, Teresa feels like a daughter.
But that bubble is burst one morning. She is leaving the shower when she meets her uncle on the corridor. Her aunt has already left for work, and the house assistants are yet to report. He stops and looks at her.
She suddenly feels naked, even though she is properly covered in a towel.
“You are beautiful,” he says.
Images of her father saying the same words flash through her mind. She stands there numb and unable to move. Her uncle moves forward and places one hand on her cheek. She finally finds her feet and turns to run. But he grabs her hand and pulls her to himself, and in the process, her towel falls. She fights him vigorously but he is physically way stronger than she is. Just then, her aunt makes an unexpected return.
“Bob!” she screams.
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