Damaris is excited. She had started thinking that this day would never come, but here it is. Today Bruce is finally going to visit her home. It is an informal visit, but it is the first step towards formalizing their union. Bruce and Damaris have been living together for four years, and they have been dating for seven, but neither of them has been introduced to the other’s parents. Damaris has been pushing, especially after the birth of their secondborn, but Bruce always insisted that he is not ready.
But the birth of their third born seems to have changed his perspective. Maybe he has finally reconciled in his head that he is now a father and a husband and that he has to formalize things. Not that Damaris has ever doubted his love for her. On the contrary, she has always felt loved and cared for by him. They started dating while they were in their second year at Maseno University, and they dated throughout the rest of their stay on campus.
Damaris got pregnant in their fourth year, and due to the stories she had heard before about young men dumping their girlfriends after they became pregnant, she became very anxious. But she was pleasantly surprised. Instead of backing out of the relationship, Bruce stepped up and took responsibility. Bruce has always been an enterprising young man. Even when they started dating, he was already running a movie shop from his room on campus. But the installation of wifi around the campus hit the business, as students started streaming movies on their laptops. Instead of giving up, Bruce bought a small printer and started a bureau in his room. He also started cooking chapatis and hawking them around the campus.
Because of his entrepreneurial activities, and because he had been receiving some cash from his parents, he had been saving his HELB loan. He had told Damaris that he intended to use that money to start a business once they completed their studies. But that is the money he used to rent Damaris a cheap one-bedroom house in the outskirts of Maseno town two months before they did their final exams, which is the time when she gave birth to their son. He also hired a nanny for her so that she could complete her studies and do her final semester exams. He retained his room in the campus hostel because that is how he would be able to continue running his business for the remaining couple of months.
Fortunately for them, Bruce got a job a week after he did his final paper. He was hired by a local wholesaler in Maseno as an accountant. He was thus able to continue providing for his small family. Damaris told her mother about the pregnancy, and she, being a single mother herself, was very supportive. She begged her daughter to return home, but Damaris lied that she had found work in Maseno. It was true that she was working, but she was doing online writing which she could have done from their house in Dandora, Nairobi. Damaris did not tell her mother that she was living with the father of her unborn child until much later.
Bruce officially moved in with Damaris after he completed his final paper. The one chance when both families would have met would have been during the graduation ceremony. But a tragedy happened in Bruce’s family: his younger sister was hit by a car, and Bruce had to rush home. He did not attend his own graduation because his sister’s burial was scheduled for the following day. Later that year, Bruce found a better-paying job in Kisumu, so they relocated. Kisumu was kind to them because Damaris found a formal job too. She got pregnant again the following year and gave birth to a girl. That is when Damaris started asking about officiating their union. She didn’t care about a church wedding, although she would be pleased if it happened; all she was asking was that they do the traditional wedding so that they could get formally introduced to each other’s parents.
All the three parents knew they were living together, but they had not had a chance to meet. Damaris had met Bruce’s siblings, but not his parents. Damaris is an only child of a single mother, so Bruce has not met any of her relatives. For two years Bruce has been making excuses for not starting the traditional rites, and at times it has strained their otherwise very loving relationship. Last year Damaris got pregnant again with the child who, if God allows their plans to be, will be the last. Both of them have always wanted three children.
As per their agreement, the firstborn, Lloyd, is named after Bruce’s father. Lloyd is now four years old. The second born, two-year-old Tracy, is named after Damaris’ mother and the last born, the newborn Georgette, was named after Bruce’s mother. The birth of Georgette seems to have made Bruce change his thinking about visiting parents, and about a month after her birth, he told Damaris to arrange for an informal visit with her mother.
“It is the first step, babe. Later in the year, we will start dowry negotiations. Right now though I just want to meet your mum and tell her that I am the one with you. Just an informal thing.”
Damaris was over the moon. She called her mother that same evening and they set up this meeting. Damaris’ mother, Anne, was also very excited. She had come to know that her daughter was living with a man, and she kept urging Damaris to bring him home. Finally, it is happening.
Bruce pays for a flight from Kisumu to Nairobi. Their children, who have never been near an airplane before, are very excited about the journey. Lloyd, in particular, cannot stay still. He keeps chattering and asking his parents a thousand questions. In Nairobi, they take an Uber from the airport to Dandora.
Anne has lived in the same house for the last fifteen years. She moved to Dandora when Damaris was a teenager. She had just been hired by the then City Council as a parking attendant, which is the job she does till today. That job was God sent. She got it just when Damaris had completed class eight. Without it, it is unlikely that Damaris would have gone to High School.
Anne was a teen mother. Damaris’ father was her teacher at Mumbi Girls’ High School in Murang’a. He started seducing her, and in her childish naivety, she believed him when he said he would marry her after she completed her studies. He was a young teacher, fresh from university with the vibes of an angel. Deeply in love, Anne started sneaking out of school at night to go to his house, which was not far from the school. Within months, she discovered she was pregnant.
When she told Harold, her lover, that she had missed her periods for two consecutive months, he turned against her. He set her up one day as she was sneaking out of school to visit him and she was caught by the Deputy Principal. When she tried to explain that she had been going to his house as she had always done, he denied it. He denied even knowing her name. The Deputy Principal and the Principal believed him, and she was suspended from school for two weeks.
When she returned to school, she was devastated to learn that Harold was getting married to another woman: the principal’s daughter. The wedding was scheduled for that December, but Anne did not last long enough in the school to see the father of her unborn child wearing a wedding band. As soon as her pregnancy started showing, she was expelled from school for good. That was not the only problem she encountered: her parents kicked her out of their home when they discovered that she was pregnant.
She left her rural home in Murang’a and came to Nairobi to try and make a living for herself and her unborn child. She was fortunate to find one of her friends from primary school who was living in Mathare North, and she hosted her in her house for a month and showed her how to find laundry jobs. It was tough, especially since she was heavily pregnant, but somehow she made it through. Looking back, she often marvels at how she made it through this period. It could only have been God, she keeps telling herself. She found solace in God during this time and started attending a PEFA church in Mathare North.
Anne and her daughter Damaris lived in Mathare North until she got the City Council job. The house is in an old, run-down building desperately in need of repairs, but it was perfect for Anne because the rent was within her reach, and it was far much better than the tin shack she has been living in in Mathare North. For the last five or so years the owner of the building has been threatening to evict all the tenants so that he can renovate the houses and increase the rent, and Anne has been praying hard that that doesn’t happen. Of course, she has less pressure now because her daughter is no longer in school, but she took a loan from her Sacco and bought a plot in Kitengela, where she intends to build her house. When she finishes her repayments for that one, she will take another and build herself a house.
She doesn’t want to get evicted before those plans come to fruition.
Anne is excited when her daughter and her family finally arrive in Dandora. Anne is very proud of Damaris. The girl grew up in difficult circumstances, but she worked hard to make something of her life. Through the struggle years in Mathare North, Damaris managed to pass well enough to earn a spot at Ngara Girls. Anne paid school fees through a series of school fees loans from her Sacco. She also sold chapatis and mandazis to supplement her income. Damaris worked hard in school and managed to earn a spot at the university. And now she has a good job and a family.
Anne has called two of her best friends to come and help her host her daughter’s family. They have cooked food in plenty. Bruce, Damaris and the children arrive at around noon. After a quick consultation, it is agreed that lunch should be served first, and then they can take tea and snacks later. They eat as they make small talk. When the plates are cleared, Anne leads introductions. She introduces her friends and then asks Bruce to introduce himself.
“My name is Bruce Kimani Maina. I am an accountant. I come from Murang’a County. I met Damaris at the university and we became friends. That friendship became deeper and now we have three children. I now want to do things properly which is why I decided to come and meet her mother and tell her that I am the one with her daughter. Later on, we can plan about dowry and such kind of things. For now, I just wanted to come and see mama.”
“Thank you, son,” Anne replies. Where in Murang’a do you come from? I also come from Murang’a.”
“I come from Maragi. I am the son of a teacher called Harold Maina…”
Anne looks shocked and scared at the same time.
“What is the name of your mother? And what is the name of your grandmother-your mother’s mother- and what does she do?”
The question puzzles Bruce, especially considering the urgency with which is asked.
“My mother’s name is Grace Wandia and she is an accountant. Her mother’s name is Peninah Wanjiku. My grandmother is a retired teacher. She was the Principal of Mumbi Girls…”
“Oh no, this cannot be happening,” Anne says, covering her face with her hands.
“What is it, mother?” Damaris asks. Her mother is now crying.
“Harold Maina is your father, sweetheart,” Anne replies between sobs. “He is the teacher who made me pregnant when I was at Mumbi Girls. In other words, Bruce is your half-brother.”
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