(I first wrote this story in February 2019 but I have reworked it so that I can expand it and turn it into a novella).
“So what are we, Ford? We have been engaged for two years now. Who even stays engaged for two years?” Salome asks as she washes utensils in his kitchen. He does not respond. He continues to rinse them and place them in the cabinet as if he has not heard her. He knows she is very angry because she only calls him Ford when she is furious with him.
Rutherford is a talented manager and is currently running his mother’s retail chain, Hearto Supermarkets. Under his care, the chain has grown rapidly, becoming the largest retail outlet in Shava County. The store in Shava town is huge and occupies five floors. The ground floor houses the general household items, groceries, the butchery as well as the bakery. The first floor houses a full service restaurant, where shoppers can relax and have a meal. The second floor is the clothes store; the third floor is the electronics shop while the fourth floor is the furniture store.
Rutherford did not want to get involved with his mother’s business in the first place. When he finished his Business Administration degree from USIU, Hearto Supermarket was a small self-service shop in Messa. His mother was managing it full time, and she manipulated him into taking over. The first thing that Rutherford did was to move the shop from the old Messa town center to Beeline market. Although it was not evident at the time, Rutherford knew that Beeline would become the new town center of Messa, because of its proximity to the hospital. In addition to a large number of patients and their relatives, Beeline Hospital has hundreds of employees who were taking up rental houses that were sprouting around the hospital. Rutherford knew that these people would not walk all the way to the old town center to shop if there was an alternative. He was right. All the traders followed him to Beeline, and the market is the now the town center of Messa Township. Shops in the old town center have since been converted to residential space to cater for the town’s growing population.
With time, Rutherford opened another store in Shava, which is the larger town, and grew it to its current status. He is currently thinking of opening a third store. Rutherford loves his job. The only problem is that Alice, his mother, is very controlling. She forced him to join the supermarket when what he wanted was to start something of his own. He had envisioned working at a large corporate, perhaps PWC or KPMG for a few years, saving enough money, then starting his own business.
But Alice had other plans.
She is an effective manipulator. She accused him of being ungrateful for all the sacrifices she had made for him. She yelled at him and called him names. Then she broke down and started sobbing, saying she never imagined her only son would prove to be so insensitive to her. Eventually, Rutherford caved and joined the supermarket as the general manager while Alice took a back seat.
Now the battle is on a new frontier: marriage.
Rutherford loves Salome. She was his classmate at USIU and they became friends when they discovered that they are both from Shava County. But they did not officially start dating until a year after clearing college. Salome had similar ambitions to Rutherford’s, and is actually living them. She landed a job at one of the leading telecom companies in Kenya, worked for three years then quit to start farming.
She started by growing melons and passion fruits and selling them to small restaurants. Now she grows a wide range of fruits and supplies many organizations, including large institutions. Her main clients are Beeline Hospital, Hotel Shava, Messa Oval Restaurant and Hearto Supermarkets which Rutherford manages. But she also supplies many of the smaller establishments in Shava and Messa towns. She bought fifty acres of land in rural Shava and grows a wide range of fruits. Salome is sharp, witty and hardworking.
Rutherford loves her. No, he adores her. They consult each other frequently on business matters and have helped each other grow their respective enterprises. They are the ultimate power couple.
But Alice does not like Salome. She has a host of accusations against the girl: she is uncultured (Salome comes from a poor family and only made it to USIU through a scholarship); she is a Kamba (and therefore a witch); and “my spirit doesn’t agree with that woman” (what do you even say about that now?). Salome does not even identify herself as Kamba, although her mother is from Makueni. Her father belongs to the Andreda tribe, which is the dominant tribe in Shava. Salome grew up in Shava. Her mother has been assimilated into the Andreda culture and is very fluent in Dredi. Salome is fluent in both Kikamba and Dredi, in addition to Kiswahili and English.
Rutherford wanted to, for the first time in his life, defy his mother. He planned to go ahead and marry Salome. That was two years ago when he proposed. Alice cursed him and fired him from the Supermarket. Rutherford was undeterred. He started applying for jobs. He wasn’t bothered even when she threatened to kill herself because “she couldn’t face the embarrassment of her only son choosing a witch over her”. His defiance ended when she took some pills and was rushed to hospital by her house manager. Rutherford caved and got his job back.
Alice has found a woman she thinks her son should marry. The girl’s name is Tracy, and she is the daughter of one of Alice’s friends. Rutherford cannot stand the woman, who he sees as shallow and vain. Perhaps he is biased because he loves another woman, but he simply cannot stand Tracy.
Tracy wants to be an Instagram housewife. Her only interest is going shopping, eating exotic meals in lavish hotels and posting it all on her lifestyle on the Gram. When asked what she does for a living for a living, she says she is a fashion blogger. But she will not even find someone to set up a website for her because it is too much work. Taking photos with her phone and posting them on Instagram is her idea of fashion blogging. She has a YouTube channel, but she posted three videos and quit.
Rutherford wants an ambitious and driven woman; a woman like Salome. No, he specifically wants Salome.
There is no way I can marry Tracy, Rutherford thinks as he stirs the pot of meat that is on the cooker. He enjoys sharing house chores with Salome, whether at his house or hers.
“Ford, I asked a question,” Salome insists.
Salome does not know that Tracy exists. She knows Rutherford’s mother doesn’t like her, but Rutherford has always assured her that Alice will get over it. But Rutherford himself is anxious. He has a feeling that his mother will eventually have her way and force him to marry Tracy. And that frightens him.
He hates himself for not having the toughness to tell his mother off and stand by his decisions. Alice only needs to mention her blood pressure and Rutherford will trip over himself running to do her bidding. He knows he is being manipulated, but somehow cannot break free. He knows Alice wants Tracy because she (Alice) thinks she can control her (Tracy). Salome is too sharp and independent to be controlled by a mother-in-law.
“We will get married Salome,” he says smoothly. “I am just not ready now.”
Then his phone rings.
“Hi Rutherford baby,” Alice coos.
He hates being called that, yet that is what both Tracy and Alice insist on calling him.
“Hi mom, can I call you back? I am cooking.”
“You are cooking? Stop right there. Your fiancé and I are coming to cook for you.”
“Mom, I have a guest in the house. Can you come another time?”
“By guest you mean that witch?”
“Salome is not a witch mama,” Rutherford says, then realizes his mistake when he sees the horror on her face. “Yes, she is the one I am cooking with.”
“That witch made you cook? I have good news for you. You will have a proper wife soon, so you will not have to bother about cooking. I was with Julius, Tracy’s father, today and we agreed that we can do the traditional wedding next month. Now open the door. Tracy and I are outside.”
Rutherford hangs up then glances at his girlfriend.
“Did your mother call me a witch?”
Rutherford is too confused to respond.
“Tell me the truth Ford. Is your mother the reason you keep postponing our wedding?”
“No, it is just that I…”
As he fumbles for words, his mother starts banging the door and yelling at him to open.
“You know what, you don’t have to answer. The answer is written all over your face. It is okay Ford. I do not want to come between you and the woman who gave birth to you. Enjoy your time with your mother.”
She removes the apron, takes her handbag and opens the front door. Tears are rolling down her cheeks.
“What took you so long baby?” Tracy coos before she realizes that it is not Rutherford at the door. She sneers then pushes Salome out of the way as she gets in, followed by Alice.
Salome allows them to pass then leaves without a word.
Image by wtfisupbreeze from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/rapper-happy-laughing-america-442184/
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