(Continued from Mama’s Hubby)
Rita closes her eyes as he continues to fondle her. Although he is very drunk, he is still too strong for her twelve-year-old muscles. She lies very still waiting for him to defile her. She is sobbing softly, wondering why she allowed herself to leave the safety of her grandmother’s house.
He stops groping her suddenly and before long, she hears him snoring. Alcohol has gotten the better of him. She rises from the bed softly, careful not to wake him up and runs out of the room. Although he has not penetrated her, his groping makes her feel dirty and defiled. She runs to her mother’s bedroom and knocks.
Rita tries the door: it is locked. She feels fairly sure that her mother is not asleep. Rita is certain that Diana is simply ignoring her. And this causes Rita more anguish than the attempted rape. She sits right there and sobs softly. Why would a mother abandon her own daughter like this?
For the first time in her life, Rita thinks about her father-the father she does not know. What kind of man is he? Why did he and her mother separate? How different would her life have been if they had stayed together? Does he have another family? Does he go around raping women and girls?
Rita then starts thinking about her grandmother. It is only this morning that she left the village, but she is already missing the village and Grandma Florence terribly. If she was still in the village, right now she would be asleep beside the old woman, and the only worry in her head would be whether she would be able to score 420 marks in next year’s exam to secure her spot at Alliance Girls.
But as it is, right now she doesn’t even know where she should sleep. She cannot sleep in the room and bed that is supposed to be hers because there is a drunk predator sleeping there. She cannot sleep beside her mother because she-her own mother-has locked her out of her room.
She has fleeting thoughts about sleeping on the sofa but quickly dismisses them. What if that animal that her mother married happens to be the first person to wake up? He will find her curled up invitingly on the sofa, and since alcohol will have cleared from his system, he will have a field day doing the unimaginable to her. Granted, it is unlikely that he will be the first one to wake up, given his drunken state, but Rita is not willing to take that chance.
She explores the rest of the house, walking softly so as not to awaken anyone, least of all the monster. He reminds her of the ogres she has read about in school books. The ugly, one-eyed monsters that chase and eat small children. She quickly dismisses the toilet and the bathroom as places where she can sleep. The kitchen is inviting, but she cannot find a comfortable spot where she can sleep. There are three other rooms in the house, but they are all locked. Having run out of options, she opens the back door of the kitchen and peers outside. The sky is clear of clouds and moonlight is illuminating the entire area.
There is an old abandoned pick up outside. Rita closes the door of the kitchen and walks to the pick-up. She shivers as the cold bites into her skin but she trudges on. The tires of the pickup are flat and it looks as though it has not been used for centuries. She tries the driver’s door and it squeaks open. The inside smells of dust. With the help of moonlight she determines that it is safe to sit inside the pick-up. As far as she can tell, there are no spiders or snakes waiting for her.
She closes the driver’s door and walks over to the passenger side, opens the door and hops inside. The inside of the pickup is warmer than outside, but it is nothing compared to the warmth of a blanket. Or the warmth of grandma Florence’s love. She stays awake for a very long time, listening to the sounds of the night. Crickets are chirping all around her. A dog is barking from a distance. An owl hoots nearby. Her grandmother told her that if an owl is hooting near a homestead, it is an indication that someone will die in that homestead. Rita hopes that it is the ogre that will die in his sleep.
Rita thinks about escaping back to Grandma Florence’s house. But she knows that that is mission impossible. First, she doesn’t know where to get vehicles to go home. She knows that she is in a place called Ruiru, and that her step-father teaches at Kenyatta University. They alighted outside the university yesterday and they were brought to the house by an old taxi driven by an even older man.
They travelled for quite a distance along a dirt road before they got to the house. Her mother did not pay, she simply told the old man that ‘the professor will pay’ and he seemed satisfied by that. Rita knows she cannot walk to the main road. The path leading to the main road was not a straight forward affair, it meandered through farms, crisscrossing other roads and footpaths in a way that would make a visitor hopelessly lost.
Besides, even if she made it to the main road, where would she get the money to pay for a seat in a matatu? The only way she can get out of this place is if her mother agrees to take her back to the village. So tomorrow she will plead until her mother agrees to do just that.
Diana hears her daughter’s screams and rises quickly. What could be happening to the little girl? Is she having a bad dream? As she approaches her daughter’s room, she hears her husband’s voice. She smiles to herself. The man has actually responded to the girl’s screams.
Kuria is not the most considerate of men, and even as she went to take her daughter from the village, she was not under any illusion that he would be a model father. Far from it. But he had reluctantly agreed to pay school fees for her daughter-the daughter who was not his biological child-and that was more than Diana could have asked for.
Rita is a smart girl and would have passed KCPE even from the public school she has been attending. But Diana is now a professor’s wife, and she felt that having her daughter attend a public school did not befit her status.
Besides, she is worried about high school. Rita is smart enough to make it to a national school from whatever primary school. What would she, Diana, do then? National schools are expensive. It would be humiliating for her daughter to miss out on a national school because she couldn’t afford to pay school fees. That is why she made the strategic decision to rope in Kuria.
Rita’s screams jolt her back to reality. That is when it hits her. Kuria is not being the model father; quite the opposite. He is a predator. He is defiling the young girl. Diana has always known that her husband sleeps around. She knows that he even sleeps with the house helps. But she never thought of him as someone capable of raping anyone, much less a young girl. When one of her house helps complained to her a few years back that the professor had taken her by force, Diana fired her on the spot. Who doesn’t know that these girls throw themselves at men?
It is the alcohol, she convinces herself, unwilling to believe that her husband is actually defiling her daughter. He is not thinking straight. This is not him…
Most mothers would have charged in and protected their daughters. But Diana pauses and assesses the situation. If she confronts Kuria, she reasons with herself, she will probably lose. He will beat her up and go ahead to defile Rita. In addition, she and Rita will be kicked out tomorrow morning. Diana is not willing to lose her status as the professor’s wife, so she tiptoes back to her bedroom, locks the door and pretends to be asleep.
Professor Derrick Kuria is well known as a ladies man. He is a brilliant man, but he just can’t keep his zipper closed. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree at the age of 24. Since he had attained first class honors and was the top student in his class, it was not difficult for him to secure a scholarship to study out of the country. He did his masters at the University of Pennsylvania in the US, finished top of his class and secured another scholarship for his Ph.D. By the age of thirty three, he was already Dr. Kuria. He came back to the country after a brief teaching stint at his Alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and got a job at Kenyatta University, which had gotten a charter a few years before to become a fully-fledged university. He became a professor at the age of thirty six.
It is rumored that the first university to accept him as a graduate student was the University of Cape Town and that he actually travelled to South Africa. But he did not even last a semester there because the apartheid regime, which was on its death throes in the early nineties, discovered that he was having an affair with a white, female lecturer and quickly expelled him from both the University and the country. Fortunately, he had a letter of acceptance from the University of Pennsylvania, so he travelled to the US.
Grape vine has it that the reason he left the US was because the University administration fired him after discovering that he was sleeping with female students after he was hired as a lecturer.
Nobody knows whether any of these rumors is true. But it is well known around KU that he likes women. It is a well-known fact among students that female students who wish to pass in his unit have to sleep with him. It is also rumored that he has slept with at least half of the female members of his faculty, where he is the current dean, as well as many female members of the non-teaching staff.
He considers himself irresistible, and quite a few times he has been accused of raping women who told him to get lost. But no action has ever been taken on these allegations. This is not the US.
Rita is awoken by someone violently pulling her by the hand. She stumbles and falls out of the pick up before she realizes where she is. She does not know when she fell asleep, but she must have because it is already morning and the sun is up.
The professor is the one who has pulled her out of the pickup. He is immaculately dressed in a navy blue suit, a white shirt and a maroon tie.
“Who gave you permission to get in here?” he demands, hovering above her exactly the way ogres are depicted in the story books. Rita does not get it. Why does she need permission to get into an old pickup? But she is too scared to respond.
“So now you are dumb, uh?” he asks, slapping her. Tears shoot down her cheeks, and that seems to incense him even more. He descends upon her with more slaps and kicks. As the blows rain on her, she screams, asking her mother to help her. Rita has spotted Diana watching from the kitchen window.
But her mother moves away from the window and continues frying eggs for her husband’s breakfast.
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