She had known Jared all her life. He was always there for her. It was he who trained her how to ride a bicycle when she was four. It was also he who pulled out her first milk tooth when she was six. She remembered that it was Jared too that taught her how to slaughter a cock, unfeather it and cook it to make a nice delicious chicken stew. That was years ago. She was now eighteen years old.
Edna recalled as she watched him water the flowers in the compound. He looked up at her and smiled at her. She loved that he always had time for her. She knew if she walked up to him then, he would drop everything and give her all his attention. No man had ever made her feel so safe and special as Jared did.
Edna was in love with Jared. But there was a problem.
Jared was much older, fourty years old. The age gap was tremendous! But that was just the tip of the iceberg. What Edna thought would not rub well with people was that Jared was her family’s farmhand. Her father employed him when he was twenty one years old. He was a loyal worker, an industrious man who impressed her parents enough to keep him on the employment roll for so many years.
Edna had thought about it all. The two came from different worlds but it was clear they loved each other. She recalled telling him three months ago, that she loved him and he had fondly said that he loved her too.
“I love you too Edna but what you are asking is despicable!” He had said.
“Why? We both love each other, let us elope, let us go to a world where nobody knows about us and have so many chil…” She was saying when he interrupted her.
“Edna, please find a man of your age whom you can share all that lovey dovey stuff.” He said. She did not comprehend what he was saying. Seconds ago he had professed his love for her yet here he was pushing her to another man. She clicked her mouth with annoyance and marched away.
Edna had pondered and concluded that she was going to fight for her love. She had planned it out. Her absentee father always sent her money. She had saved enough to pay for tickets to the furthest town with Jared and start a business. She thought of her father. He was always busy. He was a known tycoon. He probably would use his influence to try and trace them but they would do their best to evade him. She thought of her mother, she would likely cry a lot and go through the roof but the two lovebirds would be enjoying their love somewhere in Timbuktu.
“I want to talk to you.” She said as she saw his eyes light up when she appeared. He dropped the water can and stopped to listen.
“I still think we should elope…” She said.
“Baby,” he said,holding her shoulders lovingly, “please stop torturing your mind over that issue.”
“I have it all planned. We can go and start a business somewhere far and…” Like always, he never let her explore that topic. She was not leaving angrily this time. She would convince him.
“Jared, I know you love me, don’t you?”
“You mean the world to me sweetheart but…” He said.
“I love you too. I don’t care how uneducated you are,or how older you are than me or how poor you are, I just want you!” She was crying. He stared at her. She held his hand but he pulled away and walked a few metres away from her, looking far in deep thought. He often avoided romantic physical contact.
After a number of minutes, he came up to her and held her hand.
“Edna, I feel like my time here is up. I have worked here long enough. I have seen you grow. I will leav….” Then a thunderous voice interrupted them.
“Jared!” It was a voice full of anger. It was her father. Her mother was behind him looking on with a blank stare. Jared jumped back shock written all over her face.
“Boss!” He said, his voice trembling.
“I have trusted you all these years and you stab my back by wooing my child?” It was Edna’s father speaking through gritted teeth.
“Oh No Boss, I would never do that to Edna,” Jared said.
“Shut up. In fact, in five minutes I want you out of this compound before I call the police!”
Mother and daughter called out to Edna’s father at the same time. He ignored Edna and turned to his wife.
“He should go! Did you not see the imbecile holding Edna’s hand? Why are you so calm? Is that how a mother should react when she witnesses a man deceiving her daughter?” He was spitting tiny bits of saliva as he rebuked his wife.
“Jared has been with us for many years. If he was to ruin our daughter, he would have done it years ago!” She replied.
“Don’t you see that Edna is still a young girl?” He barked back.
“Dad, I am no longer a young girl. I am eighteen years.” Her parents were gazing at her now. “Dad, mum. I am in love with this man and I don’t care what you two will say.” She said as she pointed at where Jared had been standing. Her parents, nonplussed, gaped at her. Edna was the first to notice that Jared had disappeared. She called out to him anxiously. She was running to the staff quarters but stopped on her tracks when she saw Jared exiting the main gate. She screamt his name in despair.
“See what you did now?” Edna wailed at her father as she ran to her room. Her parents thought she would close herself in there and spend hours sobbing but they did not expect what happened next.
Edna had a stuffed backbag and was clad in a hood, jeans and sport shoes in lieu of the red summer dress and slip-ons she had before. She sprinted very quickly to the gate before her parents would catch her and as if fortune was on her side, a passing matatu (passenger van) provided ample space for her to jump into and drove off speedily at her request. She was the only passenger so she offered to pay the driver whatever amount it would take for her to go to Jared’s home.
She had a vague idea of where he lived. He had mentioned his village town frequent times. The matatu driver took her to the town. She would show Jared’s picture to the natives and ask them where he lived. Her efforts were not futile because many were eager to provide the information.
Edna could hear her heart’s palpitations as she nighed the house she had been told to expect. It was the only house with sky blue iron sheets. Jared knew her obsession with the sky blue colour. She was surprised the house was built rather impressively. Then her heart dropped, her eyes dampened and her knees became feeble.
She saw Jared, he had sat on a stool outside his house. He had not put his bag down yet. Two children were on his laps. Then a woman emerged from the house, carrying a thermos flask. Edna tiptoed closer to have a better view. One of the kids addressed Jared as baba! (father). Edna sat on the tall grass with a thud. She had lost all strength in her. She folded her legs to her and hugged them, sobbing for her heartache. All this time, Jared was a married man. She thought of confronting him in front of his wife. She stood up , charged. But a strong grip on her hand stopped her.
“Mum,” Edna said as she found solace on her mother’s bosom. “He said he loved me! I believed him!” She said between sobs.
Edna’s mother patted her daughter’s back as she spilled her heart’s thoughts. When Edna calmed down, she spoke.
“Edna, Jared loves you. I know he does.” Edna looked at her mother, uncomprehending.
“Mum, how now? Will he leave his wife?”
“No sweetheart, he loves you as a father would love his daughter.” Edna’s mother’s voice tremored slightly. Mother and daughter stared at each other. Edna leapt back as the truth dawned on her. Suddenly she was nauseatic. She ran a few metres and spewed out her stomach contents.
“Why? Mum?Why? How could you do this to daddy?”
“Sit down here,” Her mother instructed patting the patch of grass next to her. Edna was hesitant. Her mother started her story regardless, “When we got married, months and years passed and no child came. The doctors told me there was nothing wrong with me. When I asked Ken to see a doctor, he was hysterical. I loved him so much to hurt his ego and tell him that he was the infertile one. When we hired Jared, I seduced him into giving me a child.
“When you were born, Ken was seldom at home. Business trips now and then. He tried to pay for his absence by buying you gifts. The house helps frequently changed. The only constant people around you were Jared and I. You and Jared formed such a bond. It was an issue of blood being thicker. He would keep away from you when Ken was around so that he would not smell any rat.”
Edna had now sat next to her mother listening keenly. Her mother continued, “Edna, the love you feel for Jared is not erotic, it is storgia. But please,you have to keep this a secret especially from your father Ken. If he knows, he will kill all of us. He can never know. ”
Edna thought hard about what her mother had just said. Ken was the best father she could ask for despite his frequent absence. She knew that her mother was right, if he knew the truth, blood would be shed. She would stay with the contented feeling of having two dads. She rose and extended her hand to her mother and they walked to where her mother had packed their car.
“Your secret is safe with me. I don’t think I will ever face Jared anymore. I will always be embarrassed at the things I told him.” She said and her mother squeezed her hand smiling as they went back home silently.
Ken saw them drive through the magnificent gate. He saw the two women get out of the car. He pretended to be deeply focused on his laptop. He watched as they walked hand in hand to the kitchen. He knew Edna had been told. He knew they had vowed to keep the secret between each other. His wish had come true.
He had travelled to many places, slept with many women but none had claimed to be impregnated. He had done his secret investigations and found out that Edna was not his. He had figured out from the closeness that Edna had with the gardener that he was the father. He had decided to stay placid about it. He thought of the consequences of letting the cat out of the bag. The world would know that he was impotent. He could not stand the shame. No one could know that the high-powered moneyed Ken, the aspiring politician was sterile. Edna was his daughter!
Dinner was ready. They gathered around the dining table. Ken looked at his daughter. “I am glad you came to your senses and stopped that love nonsense.” Edna glanced at her mother.
“I gave her some motherly advice. She has something to say to you.” Her mother said her eyes fixed on her daughter.
“Dad, I am sorry about out my actions earlier. I was just being stupid. I will not disappoint you again.” Edna said. Her father nodded and smiled.
They emptied the contents on the table silently, each of them engrossed deep in their thoughts, each vowing to guide their secret. Ken’s family had to stay united.