“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 continues to rinse them and place them in the cabinet as if he has not heard her. She calls him Ford when she is displeased 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 one of the most popular retail outlets in the region. Rutherford came up with the brilliant idea of targeting smaller towns, where the giants like Tuskys and Naivas have not set foothold. He avoided Nairobi, Nyeri, Thika and other big towns, instead focusing on smaller one like Kikuyu, Wangige, Murang’a, Sagana etc. It worked, and Hearto is now a household name in Central Kenya.
But Rutherford did not even want to get involved with his mother’s business in the first place. She forced him. When he finished his Business Administration degree from USIU, the company had just one store: the one in their hometown, Murang’a. Now under his watchful eye, the supermarket chain has spread across the region.
But there is a problem. Alice, his mother, likes to have him under her control. 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.
Now the battle is on a new frontier: marriage.
Rutherford loves Salome. She was his classmate at USIU but they did not officially start dating until a year after clearing college. She had similar ambitions to his, and is actually living them. She landed a job at one of the leading telecoms 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 supplies all the leading supermarkets, hotels and restaurants with fresh fruits. She has leased a hundred hectares of land and grows a wide range of fruits.
She is sharp, witty and hardworking. And 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.
Problem is, Rutherford’s mother does not like their union. She has a host of accusations against the girl: she is uncultured (she 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?).
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. So she said she was going to kill herself because she couldn’t face the embarrassment of her only son choosing a witch over her. She actually took some pills and was rushed to hospital by her servants.
Rutherford caved, and got his job back. He didn’t tell Salome, of course. He just keeps coming up with excuses when the issue of a wedding comes up.
He suspects that the suicide was a set up. Knowing his mother, she can fake her death and funeral and make everyone believe she is dead. But what if it was real? What if she actually tried to kill herself? Rutherford cannot bear the thought of losing his mother. Especially if he is the one who drives her to commit suicide.
Now Alice has found a woman she thinks he should marry. Her name is Susan, and she is the daughter of one of Alice’s friends. Rutherford cannot stand the woman. Rutherford has concluded that she is shallow and vain. Perhaps he is biased because he loves another woman, but he simply cannot stand her, leave alone marry her.
Susan wants to be an Instagram housewife. You know, just go shopping, eat exotic meals in lavish hotels post her lifestyle on the Gram. Rutherford wants an ambitious woman like Salome. No, he wants Salome.
There is no way I can marry Susan, 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 has no idea about Susan. 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 Susan. And that frightens him. But what frightens him more is what that means for him and Salome.
He hates himself for not having the toughness to tell his mother off and stand by his decisions. You know, to call her bluff. 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 Susan because she (Alice) thinks she can control her (Susan). 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. His mother.
“Hi Rutherford baby,”
He hates being called that, yet that is what both Susan and Alice insist on calling him.
“Hi mom, can I call you back? I am cooking.”
“You are cooking? 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, Susan’s father, today and we agreed that we can do the traditional wedding next month,”
“I told you I am not marrying her mom. I do not love her,”
“Is that it Rutherford? You are dodging the question of marriage because you do not love me? So all this while you and your mother have been making fun of me behind my back? I am such a fool! I should have seen this a long time ago,” Salome burst out.
She obviously could not hear what Alice was saying on the other end of the phone. She leaves the kitchen in a huff and flies out of the house picking her handbag on her way. tears flowing down her cheeks. She starts her car and leaves the compound.
Rutherford is stunned for a moment. When it dawns on him what has happened, he runs after her, asking her to give him a chance to explain. But by the time he gets to the front door, Salome’s car is leaving the gate.
(To be continued)
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/rapper-happy-laughing-america-442184/