(Continued from Mama’s Hubby III)
After the professor leaves, Rita lies on the grass next to the old pickup for a while, hoping that her mother will come to attend to her. But Diana does no such thing. When it becomes apparent to Rita that her mother has forgotten all about her, she rises slowly and moves to the house. Her body is aching all over from the beating she has received. She opens the kitchen door and gets in. Diana has already finished cooking and the aroma of fried eggs, which have been ignored by her dear husband, is all over the kitchen. Rita is suddenly starving. She goes to the living area and finds her mother at the dining table, taking breakfast.
“Come and take breakfast,” Diana says. There isn’t even a hint of warmth or sympathy in her tone.
“I want to go back home,”
Diana does not respond. Instead, she chews a sausage slowly while watching television. Rita remains standing, looking at her mother. After a few minutes, Diana turns to her angrily.
“I said sit down and take your breakfast,” she snaps.
“I want to go home,” Rita repeats.
“This is your home now, so get used to it.”
Tears start flowing down Rita’s eyes. She bites her tongue so that she does not start crying uncontrollably. Diana’s face softens a little.
“I know you have had a rough start here, but it is going to be alright. Just try not to annoy your father and you will be fine.”
Father? Is she supposed to call him father now? Rita has never used that word in her life. Grandma Florence has always been her father and mother. And even if she has to use it, does it have to be that monster who gets the honor?
“I did not annoy him,” Rita says quietly.
“Are you saying that I am lying? What were you doing in the pickup? Didn’t I show you a room to sleep in?”
“He came to my room last night and tried to rape me. Fortunately he fell asleep before he could harm me, so I ran out and hid in the pickup.”
Diana pauses for a minute.
“You know Rita, those kind of lies are the reason you are getting beaten. Why would you say such kind of lies against the professor? He is your father so you have to get used to showing him respect. I don’t know how your grandmother raised you but in my house, you must show respect.”
“I am not lying mother. He fell asleep in my bed. I even came and banged your door so you let me in but you did not hear.”
“Stop that nonsense Rita. The professor came to our room almost immediately after I did. So what time did he have to rape you? Do you think you are that beautiful? Besides, even if what you are saying is true, why didn’t you lock your door when you went to bed? Now sit down and take your breakfast.”
“I am not hungry.”
Rita does not see the slap coming. She just feels the sharp sensation of her mother’s hand across her face.
“I am not going to say it again. Sit down and eat your breakfast. And if I hear you saying nonsense against the professor again, I will be the one to beat you up.”
Rita bites her lip even harder but the sobs come out anyway. Her mother’s betrayal stings way more than the pain of her slap. Hearing her defend her rapist husband is way more than Rita can bear.
The professor is in a foul mood when he gets home. The VC not only thwarted his plans to deflower the student, he also humiliated him in front of the pastor, the student and his secretary. Then there is the disciplinary meeting looming over his head.
He has been drinking since the VC and the pastor left his office and he is already drunk. He slams the door of his Peugeot shut and goes to the house. By sheer bad luck, Rita has just left the bathroom and is just about to enter her room. Diana is in the master bedroom.
Rita freezes momentarily when she sees him, then hurries to her room. She is just about to shut the door when he pushes it open and gets in.
“Hello darling,” he mumbles, stripping away the towel from her tiny body.
Rita instinctively starts screaming as he tries to kiss her. But the more she struggles, the more he tightens his grip on her.
“Daddy!” a tiny voice says suddenly. The professor pauses and looks towards the door. A small girl, barely three years old, is standing at the door way. A woman Rita has never seen before appears behind the child and shoos her away, then steps into the room and closes the door. The woman’s eyes are blazing with anger as she glares at Kuria.
“As long as I am in this house, you are not going to molest this child Professor, or any other child for that matter. Let her go, now!”
“Leave me alone Njeri. You should not be poking your nose in my affairs. In case you have forgotten, you are my house help. I pay you to cook, clean and take care of the children. Get out of here before I fire you right now.”
“I am not leaving without that child.”
The professor ignores her and continues groping Rita. Njeri grabs one of Rita’s hands and pulls her away. Surprised, the professor momentarily lets go of her.
“Grab something to wear and get out of here,” Njeri tells Rita. Rita does as she is instructed, but as she is gathering her clothes, the professor recovers his wits.
“Come back here!” he bellows, while moving towards Rita. Rita is paralyzed on the spot, but Njeri moves and stands between them. The professor slaps Njeri twice, but she does not budge. She is one stubborn woman.
“If you don’t move you are the one I will have sex with,” he says.
“It will not be the first time you have raped me, professor. You can do it again if you wish. But I will not allow you to rape this girl. She is just a child.”
The professor shoves Njeri but she wraps her hands around his neck and clings to him like a leech. Meanwhile, Rita quickly throws a dress over her body and darts out of the room.
Rita goes straight to the kitchen so that her mother can assign her work. During the day, Diana lashed out at her several times calling her “a lazy bag of bones” whenever she tried to rest. After breakfast she cleaned dishes, then she mopped the house, did laundry, then she cooked lunch, cleaned the lunch dishes and had instructions to go and help her mother prepare dinner after taking a shower.
Never once did Diana inquire about her school work. Even though schools are closed, Rita is used to studying for prolonged periods of time under the supervision of grandma Florence. Grandma Florence is illiterate but she takes education very seriously. Over time, she developed a holiday routine for Rita which allowed the girl to have ample time to study, while at the same time doing the chores that according to her every woman should learn to do, such as cooking, cleaning, knitting and even baking.
Even without the benefit of modern ovens, Grandma Florence makes very nice cakes and cookies, which she sells at the market. She also knits beautiful pullovers, socks and hats, especially for children. Other women also come to her for knitted table cloths. Somehow, she also finds time to till her small piece of land.
At the age of twelve, Rita is almost as good a baker as her grandmother. And she can knit almost as good. But Grandma Florence insists that she should only do enough baking and crocheting to learn the skill, not for commercial purposes. According to grandma Florence, Rita’s main business is school work.
Through Grandma Florence’s hard work and industry, Rita has always enjoyed a relatively comfortable life. True, they did not have electricity, piped water or a stone house. It is also true that she went to a public school where most children were barefoot as opposed to the private academies that the children of the well-up attended.
But they always had good, nutritious and delicious food to eat, and she always had all the books that teachers said they should buy. Never once was Rita sent home for school fees. All thanks to Grandma Florence.
Her grandmother certainly needed help in baking, tilling, crocheting or even distributing the products to customers. But she stubbornly refused to ask Rita for help, and declined whenever Rita offered to help. The only chores Rita was allowed to do during school days were fetching water and cooking supper for the two of them. She would then study for an hour or so using a kerosene lamp before going to sleep. Rita only helped in other chores during the weekends and school holidays, and even then, Grandma Florence always ensured that she had ample time to study.
Rita therefore found it ironic today that her mother forced her to do all the housework while she sat on the sofa watching TV and doing her nails. She assumed that perhaps she was being punished for “angering the professor”. She has not forgotten the slap she received in the morning, so after escaping her room, she goes straight to the kitchen.
She finds her mother, the little girl who had been standing at the door and two older girls taking tea and biscuits. And the girls are calling Diana “ma”.
“Who is this ma?” the little girl asks, pointing at Rita.
“That is your big sister Rita. Tell her your name,”
“My name is Charlotte Waitherero Kuria. I am three years old. Ma, where was Rita?”
“Rita was with her grandmother.”
“But isn’t Rita’s grandmother also our grandmother?”
“But we have just come from grandmother’s home and she was not there.”
“She was with the other grandmother.”
“Which other grandmother?”
“Stop interrogating me, Charlotte. Your sisters need to introduce themselves to Rita.”
The other two girls introduce themselves as Charlene Wangui Kuria and Shanice Wamuyu Kuria. Rita is surprised to know that she has sisters that she knew nothing about. Charlene and Shanice are twins, and both are six years old. Rita is even more surprised by the fact that her mother has never told them about Grandma Florence, and she has never mentioned to the old lady that she has other children. In fact, it is only the day before yesterday that she mentioned to Grandma Florence that she had a husband. And the way she said it insinuated that the husband was someone she had just met, not someone she had parented with for at least six years.
“Okay children. Let’s go and watch TV as you tell me about your journey. Njeri and Rita will make supper for us. Where is Njeri?”
“She is in her bedroom with dad,” little Charlotte says. Diana frowns but says nothing.
“Okay, let us go. Rita will prepare supper.”
Sparks of anger and frustration hit Rita from her bowels to the chest. Why is she being treated as a lesser child? They did not even offer her the biscuits they were eating. She would have understood if it was that monster Kuria discriminating her and favoring his children. But it is her own mother who is treating her like an outcast. For the umpteenth time in a single day, Rita breaks down and starts crying.
[End of the free part of the story. To read the whole story and find out what became of Rita, follow the instructions below to purchase your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100]
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