(Continued from Sins of the Forebears I)
Sebastian doesn’t have time to make a rational decision. Fridah is screaming and he cannot bear it. He grabs his mother forcefully and pulls her away from Fridah. His mother is a strong woman, but so is he. He wrestles with her until she lets go of Fridah. Philomena, after losing her grip on Fridah, turns her wrath on her son, and she starts slapping and insulting him. He doesn’t respond to her provocation but instead stands calmly between her and Fridah, blocking her every attempt to get to Fridah.
This infuriates her even more and she fights him even more violently. She slaps, scratches and even bites him as he continues to block her path. Meanwhile, Fridah is gathering her shopping and her handbag. Sebastian takes the assault calmly, until Fridah is able to collect her things and leave the restaurant, her traumatized son in tow.
After giving Fridah adequate time to get to her car, Sebastian calls a waiter and pays for the lunch, then turns and walks away. Philomena follows him with insults, until he gets to his car. He drives off without saying a single word to his mother.
Fridah leaves the cafeteria crying. She is humiliated. Why do these things happen to her? Why is her life so difficult? What crime did she commit to deserve this? She is doing well in many aspects of her life. She is a junior partner at a large law firm in Nairobi. At 31, that is a huge accomplishment; she has done well for herself. But she has sore wound in her heart, and it has everything to do with her father Leonard. Sebastian’s mother has only rubbed salt onto injury.
Leonard is a drunkard. For as long as Fridah can remember, she has always had to endure his insults. When she got pregnant while she was in campus five years ago, prostitute became Leonard’s choice insult for his daughter. Not that he ever a loving father. His plan, which he always voiced in bars, was always to marry her off and reap a huge “Return on Investment” in terms of dowry. An investment did not really make, because he hardly provided for them when they were young.
His only contribution to their early life was owning the piece of inherited property on which they lived. The food that they ate was grown by Harriet, Fridah’s mother, on that plot. Harriet sold part of her farm produce to buy the other essentials of the house. A cousin of hers was paying Joses and Fridah’s school fees, while Leonard drunk away his salary. But that was before Leonard kicked them out of the home and married a younger woman, a teacher at the school he was teaching. He started selling the land soon afterwards. Fridah and her brother Joses were still in primary school when that happened; Joses was in class eight while Fridah was in class six.
Harriet, a determined woman, got a job as a janitor at a Kenekene secondary school. Philomena, Sebastian’s mother, was a teacher there at the time, but she was not in administration. She became the Deputy Principal and Principal much later. Through that job, Harriet was able to rent a small mabati house and put food on the table. Leonard would still pass by their house every evening on his way home from the bar just to insult them. He often accused Harriet of sleeping with her cousin, the man who was paying Fridah and Joses’ school fees.
Joses and Fridah did not let their mother and uncle down. They both scored A in KCPE, with over 400 marks out of the possible 500. They were the best students overall in the then Shava district in their respective years. They both got admission to national schools: Joses went to Maseno School and two years later Fridah joined Moi Girls Eldoret. Their uncle pledged to continue paying their school fees.
After High School, Joses got a straight A while Fridah managed an A-. Joses studied medicine at Moi University, and after graduation got a scholarship to do his Masters in the USA. Fridah studied law at the same institution and joined her current employer as an intern. Their uncle paid their undergraduate fees. The law firm paid Fridah’s Kenya School of Law fees. When she was admitted to the bar, the firm retained her as an Associate Advocate. Two years ago Fridah combined efforts with her brother and bought a piece of land in Kenekene where they built a nice home for their mother. The firm promoted Fridah to junior partner last year.
Everyday Fridah tries to convince herself that she does not hate her father. But his insults over the years have left little room for pacification. Besides, there is something she has never told anyone. Not even her mother. One day, when she was in class six, her father came home early and found her alone in the house. Her brother was away for a school sporting event. Her mother was in the market. She was going to shower when her father grabbed her and forced himself into her. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone. She was humiliated and pained. He kicked them all out of their home soon thereafter.
From that day Fridah has always hated men. She swore that she would never get married. Those feelings were reinforced when another man took advantage of her years later. She was out partying with friends, and she must have become drunk. The following day she woke up in a man’s bed, naked. She knew him; he was a class behind her in campus, but she had never talked to him before. She did not even remember seeing him at the party the day before. She became pregnant, and she was sure it was his baby because she had never had a sexual encounter before that, discounting being raped by her father when she was a child. The man denied responsibility and that was how Tom was born fatherless.
Fridah stopped taking alcohol after that incident and dedicated herself to raising her son, who was born just after she had completed her undergraduate studies. She loves her son, her brother and her uncle Alexander (the man who supported her and Joses through school), but she has little time for other men, and no time at all for romantic relationships.
Fridah knows that Philomena does not like her. Philomena tried many times to stop the friendship between her and Sebastian. Part of the reason is of course because Fridah and her family were very poor. Sebastian’s family is wealthy. The old man Aaron was a District Education Officer and he also inherited a large tract of land from his father.
On the twenty five acres that he inherited, Aaron grew coffee on ten and tea on another ten, then used three to rear dairy cattle and two for subsistence farming. During the days when coffee was very profitable, he acquired more land in Shava town, which was then a very small town then. As the town grew he built commercial buildings in the town. By the time he died, Aaron was a very wealthy man.
When Isabella died six years ago, Aaron split up the twenty five acres of ancestral land amongst Isabella’s three children. Joel, his brother and his sister each got eight acres, while the old man retained once acre, where his house stands, to himself. He did not distribute the wealth he acquired through purchase.
Joel and his siblings attended Shava Springs Academy, which had just been established as an elite private school. It was a matter of pride for the old man. Joel was bright, so he worked his way to Mang’u High School and onwards Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied Civil Engineering. When he came back he was hired by the government and worked in the Department of Roads for several years before quitting to start his own construction firm based in Shava town. Philomena is a secondary school teacher, and she is the current principal of Kenekene Secondary School. She is set to retire in five years’ time.
Fridah’s father is a primary school teacher, but they were always wallowing in poverty because his entire salary would end up in a beer den or in the pockets of one or the other of his mistresses. He had already kicked them out of the homestead when he sold his ancestral land. Harriet, Fridah’s mother, is uneducated and has survived through life by doing manual jobs.
Philomena did not want her son to associate with poor children, but she couldn’t monitor Sebastian every hour. Fridah and Joses attended Shava Springs Academy, thanks to Alexander, their mother’s cousin. Alexander often said that he did not want to see their brains go to waste. Shava Springs Academy is the same elite school that Sebastian attended.
Comparatively, Fridah is still poor. Of course she and Joses are now comfortable in their careers. But they were laboring in school, Aaron was making more and more money and expanding his empire, which is set to be divided in the family now that he is dead. At the same time, Joel, Sebastian’s father, has also been growing his wealth, and Philomena herself has been investing around Shava. Sebastian’s twenty fifth birthday coincided with his graduation, and his father gifted him two plots with rental houses. Sebastian himself has a good job. So in terms heritage, Sebastian is still a royal, while she, Fridah, is still a pauper’s daughter.
Philomena no doubt wants her son to only associate with the daughters of other wealthy families. And this is making Fridah more furious than even the humiliation of being beaten in public. She grips the steering wheel firmly and presses the accelerator all the way down. Is it her fault that her grandfather and father were not wise in their financial dealings? It is not like she wants Sebastian to marry her, but she doesn’t like being humiliated because of her background, which she has no control over.
She is heading to the police station to make a report. She intends to get Philomena arrested. She is so distracted as she ascends the last incline to get to the police station that she does not notice that the trailer that is descending in the opposite direction is swinging between lanes. It is moving at a very high speed, with it lights on. Too late, Fridah realizes that the trailer has lost control, because it is now on her lane and coming at her at a dizzying speed.
Image by 1388843 from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/people-emotion-dramatic-female-1492052/
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