Although it is Saturday, this day starts very early in the Mwantega household. Doreen and Moreen, however, do not wake up until 8.00 am. Outside, preparations for the day started as early as 6.00am, when the décor company started putting up tents and arranging chairs. There is no cooking going on outside though, as would have been expected, because Mrs. Janet Mwantega decided that the food will be brought by the same catering company that handles all her receptions. Inside her kitchen though, Janet and her house manager Judith are busy preparing breakfast for the family. Under normal circumstances, theirs is a family of five: Janet, her husband Bruce, their two twin daughters Doreen and Moreen and Judith the house manager.
Today, though, Bruce’s parents will be joining them for breakfast; they arrived early this morning. Bruce’s two sisters and one brother and their families are present, alongside Janet’s two brothers and their families. Janet’s parents died in a road accident six years ago.
Judith has been with the Mwantega family for twenty five years. She was barely 16 when she came, but she already had two children, having gotten married at 12 and having conceived twice in quick succession. She was impregnated by her primary school teacher when she was in class seven. She dropped out of school and moved in with him, becoming a wife at that tender age. She was hoping for a better life than the biting poverty that was the signature of their home. On the surface, life with that man was better. He lived in a brick house with plumbing and electricity. He had a two acre farm; One acre was dedicated to food crops such as maize, beans, bananas, arrow roots and cassavas. It is the same acre that had the house, the shed for their two cows and the chicken coop. The other acre had tea leaves. She expected that there would be no lack in that house.
The man had been married before, but the wife had escaped with her children. It did not take long for Judith to find out why that woman had left. Her new husband treated Judith like a slave: even when she was heavily pregnant, she was expected to tend the farm, feed the cows and the chicken, help the casual workers to pluck tea leaves, cook, wash…she used to have a back ache on a daily basis. Still, she stayed on for three years and gave birth a second time. She left immediately after her second child was born. The delivery of the second baby had complications, and doctors were forced to birth the baby via Caesarian Section. The man couldn’t understand that the surgery had made her weak, and he beat her up whenever she was unable to do the things she had been doing. That is when she got fed up and went back to her parents’ house with her two children.
She was employed by the Mwantegas that same year. The twins were roughly a year old, the same age as Judith’s second child, but the couple had been through three house assistants already. They had fired one for laziness, and two had resigned without notice. But when they found Judith, a mutuality of interests was formed. At the time, Bruce was a tutorial fellow at the University of Nairobi, while Janet was a secretary at a small company in Nairobi’s CBD. They lived in Ngara, Nairobi. But both of them came from the same village as Judith, and they came to know her through Janet’s mother.
It was a perfect fit. Judith is a hardworking girl who never has to be reminded to do her work. The Mwantegas are a generous and affable couple. They all don’t know where these twenty five years have gone. Over the years, the Mwantegas have done well financially. Bruce is now a full professor of literature, but years ago he and his wife also started a publishing firm that is doing exceptionally well. They bought land in Juja and built a mansion. As they started to do better and better, Judith’s role in the house evolved and her pay increased. She still cooks for the family and does the dishes, but those are about the only domestic chores she now performs. She is now a house manager properly so called. She has a small office tucked away in one corner of the house where she does her work. She supervises the gardeners who tend to the live fence, the lawn and Janet’s vegetable garden. Due to the sheer size of the house, the Mwantegas contracted a cleaning company to be cleaning it thrice a week. Judith supervises the employees of the company as they work. The company also does all the laundry in the house.
Judith is also the one who settles all the bills of the house. She stocks the house with toiletries, groceries and all the other domestic necessities; she pays the gardeners, settles the cleaning company’s invoices, alongside water and electricity bills. She also pays for the television and Wi-Fi subscriptions. She is the one who oversees the farming activities in the Mwantega’s twelve acre farm in Machakos: the farm manager reports to her. She gets a budgetary allocation every month to enable her do her work, quite apart from her salary. And she is paid well; she is paid almost the same salary as the middle level managers at the publishing firm.
The Mwantegas have been kind to her. Although they have always paid her well, they insisted on educating both her and her children. They hired private tutors for her and that saw her do both her KCPE and KCSE. After scoring a C+ in KCSE, she declined their offer of enrolling her in a private university and instead decided to do CPA packages as a private student. Now she is a Certified Public Accountant.
Both her children stayed with her parents, but the Mwantegas paid their school fees all the way to University level and hired the younger one at the publishing firm as a marketing executive. The older one found inspiration in Bruce and is now a lecturer at Kenyatta University. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D.
Because they have been so good to her, Judith has always taken care of the Mwantega children as though they were her own. She knows them even better than their parents do. The twins have been brought up well, but they are as different as people can be, even though they are identical twins. Doreen is a quiet girl, and she has a very gentle soul. Moreen is loud and can be insensitive. But there is one thing that Judith noticed since they were very young: although they have always been given the same treatment, for some reason Moreen has always been jealous of Doreen. Judith pointed it out to Janet, but the mother just laughed and said that Moreen was just being childish.
“Don’t worry Judith, she will snap out of it as she grows older.”
The girls are now 26 years old, but the only thing that has happened is that Moreen now knows how to conceal her jealousy. Neither Doreen nor their parents know about Moreen’s simmering jealousy, but Judith cannot be fooled.
The twins have been close since birth, wearing matching dresses and generally going everywhere together. Since she discovered she was pregnant with twins, Janet Mwantega thought of all the possible rhyming names she could give her daughters. Jane and Janet was her favorite, but her own name is Janet so it wouldn’t have worked. She considered Maureen and Pauline, but settled on Moreen and Doreen.
The girls have grown up so fast. Both of them are now through with their undergraduate studies. Moreen studied journalism and is now a reporter in one of leading television stations in the country. She is also a fashion blogger and has a popular YouTube Channel. Doreen studied English Literature and is now an editor in her father’s company.
Today is Doreen’s ruracio. Her boyfriend Joe is coming to pay dowry and formally seek permission to conduct a church wedding.
“You know I honestly don’t know what you see in my sister, Joe.”
Judith is about to knock Moreen’s door when she overhears Moreen’s telephone conversation.
“Am I not lovable?…then why do you sleep with me if you think my sister is…I don’t care whether she was your girlfriend before you met me…you always say I am good in bed and you are not sure about Doreen because she doesn’t let you touch her…I swear if you show up today I will tell everyone that I am pregnant for you…of course it is true. I am pregnant. You have been having sex with me without protection, what did you expect?…I don’t care what you will tell your parents. Just know today you are either not showing up, or this ruracio will be mine and not my sister’s…I don’t care how she feels, I only care about how I feel. I love you, and you will be mine.”
After Moreen hangs up, Judith waits for a minute or two and then knocks. Moreen opens the door with a scowl on her face.
“How long have you been here?”
“I just came to tell you to come down to the dining room. Breakfast is ready.”
“I am on my way.”
“Why did you ask how long I have been here?”
“Nothing,” Moreen replies and shuts the door on Judith’s face.
(To be continued on Friday)
Image by Photoshot from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-profile-black-black-and-white-1151562/
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