Hannah met Fredrick two years ago, when the latter opened a meat shop at Marima market, a tiny urban area on the edge of the infamous Nithi precipice. Hannah is not from the Marima area. She comes from Mitheru, another market that sits on the opposite edge of the Nithi valley. Fredrick is not from Marima either. He does not speak the local Kimeru dialect, known as Kimuthambi. Instead, he speaks another Kimeru dialect called Kimwimbi, which suggests that he comes from the neighboring Chogoria area.
Hannah and Fredrick have been dating for almost two years, and they have been living together for slightly over a year, yet Hannah knows almost nothing about Fredrick’s family. Fredrick himself has been to her home in Mitheru, and he has me her mother and siblings. But whenever Hannah suggests that they should visit his parents, he dodges the issue.
The Butcher, which is the name of Fredrick’s butchery, has become a popular nyama choma spot in Tharaka Nithi County, stealing the limelight from the more traditionally popular spots across the valley in Mitheru. Residents refer to Fredrick as The Butcher, making the name of his establishment his nickname.
Fredrick is in his early thirties, a man of slight build and height. He has a charming smile that exposes dimples on both cheeks and a perfect set of snow white teeth. That is the first thing that Hannah noticed, on that day two years ago when she first went to buy meat at The Butcher. Fredrick prefers to stay at the counter, where he sells raw meat and manages cash. His employees roast and sell meat at his supervision.
Hannah remembers being smitten by the dimpled smile right from that first day when she went to the meat shop. She works as a secretary at Muthambi Girls High School, a school not far from Marima market centre and walks home across the valley every day. Deeply attracted to The Butcher, the man that is, Hannah started buying meat from the establishment regularly. One day her mother loudly wondered whether she had gotten a salary increase, but Hannah was not deterred. With time, however, The Butcher noticed her and started flirting with her. With her encouragement, he started escorting her across the valley every evening, leaving his employees in charge of the meat shop. They always walked, which gave them time to talk. Every day he would give her a kilo of meat to go home with.
At first The Butcher used to get to Mitheru market and take a matatu for the ride back across the valley to Marima. But one day Hannah invited him for dinner. Her mother Alice had become very curious about the regular meat diet, and even though Hannah had told her the truth about The Butcher, she was not entirely satisfied. So Hannah invited him home to introduce him to her mother and her sister. From that day on, he would take her home every evening and have dinner with her family.
Alice, Hannah’s mother, is a single mom. She was kicked out of her matrimonial home by her husband many years ago and she returned to her father’s house. Her father transferred half an acre of land to her and told her to settle there. She built a wooden house and that is where she brought up her four daughters. Hannah is the second last born. Her sister Jessica is the last born, and she was a form three student at Kiini Secondary School when The Butcher first visited their home. On that day Jessica was home because it was during school holidays. As a secretary, however, Hannah was required to report to work as usual. The Butcher charmed both Alice and Jessica with his sweet words and kindness, and he was accepted into the family.
Hannah’s relationship with Fredrick, aka The Butcher, gathered momentum rapidly. It wasn’t long before she started sleeping with him. She would leave her desk at Muthambi Girls over lunch time and sneak into his house. They would make love and then eat the food Hannah would have carried from home in the morning.
When Hannah told Fredrick that she was pregnant a few months later, The Butcher asked her to move in with him. He promised her mother Alice that he would come with his parents and other relatives to pay dowry and that he would honor Hannah by marrying like a “proper Christian”. But he asked for time to get his affairs in order. In the meantime, he said that he wanted to take responsibility over Hannah and their unborn child. Alice agreed, and Hannah moved in with him.
The Butcher lives in a two bedroom apartment in Mitheru market. Hannah moved in and made a home out of it. Earlier this year she delivered a handsome boy who they named Barack after the former US President. At first The Butcher was all that he had promised. He was a doting husband and would-be father and he provided everything that the pregnant Hannah needed. But slowly he started changing. He started becoming more withdrawn, cold and violent. He started beating Hannah two months after Barack was born.
There was a time he beat her so badly that she had to be admitted at Chogoria Mission Hospital for two weeks. When she was discharged, Alice took her home and nursed her back to health until Hannah was well enough to return to work. But The Butcher reached out to Hannah and pleaded for forgiveness. Hannah decided to forgive him and returned to her “matrimonial home.” Alice begged her not to go, but Hannah’s mind was made up.
Since that time The Butcher has been beating her regularly, but she has kept it to herself. She decided not to tell her mother so as not to worry her. Hannah has taken to praying for Fredrick. She is convinced that it is Satan who is fighting her marriage, and that view has been supported by her pastor.
Today’s fight was brought about by a new teacher at Muthambi Girls called Adrian. Adrian has taken to openly flirting with Hannah. She has told him off multiple times, but he is persistent. When Hannah told him that she was married, he asked her why she was not wearing a wedding band. She made the mistake of telling him that her marriage is not official. That emboldened him even more. He has told her repeatedly that Fredrick is a boyfriend who is not serious about settling down with her. He promises to marry her in church and take care of her and her son.
Hannah told Fredrick about Adrian hoping that Fredrick would confront him and ask him to stay away from her. But instead, Fredrick’s insecurities have increased, and he started accusing her of cheating. Hannah has been beaten several times because of Adrian, and Fredrick has threated on two occasions to kill both of them.
Today Adrian timed Hannah as she left the school and followed her. He walked alongside her, talking to her but she ignored him and didn’t say a single word all the way from the school to the meat shop. Ordinarily, she would have gone straight home from school. But today she decided to go to the meat shop so that Adrian can see her husband and leave her alone.
“This is my husband Fredrick,” she told Adrian when they got to the shop. “He is the only man I will ever love. Fred, this is Adrian. He is a teacher at our school. I think he is coming to buy meat and he asked me to show him the best butchery in town. Now that he is here, I think I will head home.”
Hannah left the two men at the meat shop and walked home alone. But when Fredrick got home a few minutes ago, he was and still is boiling with anger. He starts by accusing Hannah of humiliating him in front of his employees.
“Isn’t it bad enough that you are cheating on me with that male prostitute? Did you have to bring him to my butchery? What did you want to show me? That I am a mere butcher and that there are teachers who desire you?”
“No babe, I told you that there is nothing going on between me and Adrian. He is the one I wanted to show that I am happily married so that he can leave me alone.”
“Shut up!” Fredrick thunders as he slaps her. “You think I did not see the way you were looking at him? Do you think I am fool?”
He descends on her with kicks and slaps. Hannah is frightened. Fredrick is violent, but she has never seen him this angry; not even on the day that he beat her so badly that she was hospitalized. Today he is like a man possessed by a very angry and evil demon. She starts screaming and begging neighbors to come to her rescue but nobody comes. If anything, her screams seem to make Fredrick even angrier.
Suddenly he grabs her by the throat, pushes her to the wall and starts squeezing. She begs him to stop, but he tightens his grip until she starts choking. As he strangles her, she can hear the distant sound of her son crying. Hannah knows she going to die, and she wishes she could hug her son good bye. She tries to fight back, but The Butcher is too strong for her. As she feels herself slipping towards death, she starts thrashing her body about involuntarily, in what will be known to others as the throes of death.
Image by Maciej Cieslak from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/street-market-butcher-meat-pork-4736902/
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