Girl who never gave Up (The)

All was well until that Wednesday night. “Mumbi wake up,” her father’s rough voice snapped her out of a sweet dream “come out here girl and make it quick.” She rubbed her sleepy eyes as she walked into the sitting room. “What time is it?” she mumbled “What does it matter what the time is?” her father asked. In the dim light provided by the moo she could distinguish her drunken father reeling at the entrance. He was holding onto the hand of what seemed to be a woman. “This is your mother, “he said. “If those elders want me to look after you properly I’m going to do it in style.” He pushed the woman towards Mumbi, almost knocking her against the doorframe. After this dramatic announcement he staggered to his bedroom and banged the door. Mumbi looked for a lamp. She found herself staring at a shy, pretty girl. “You are not much older than me,” Mumbi blurted. The girl said nothing. They stared at each other uneasily for several minutes. At first Mumbi resented her new stepmother, Njeri. “What does she think she is doing moving into our house pretending to be my friend,” Mumbi complained to her friends. “Nobody wants her.” Njeri at first moved about the home tentatively. Njoroge left her in Mumbi’s care. After that first evening he never talked to her and was not aware of her presence in the home. Mumbi wondered how a beautiful girl could throw herself at somebody who obviously had no time for her. She took a long time to learn of the hard life that had almost sent the poor girl to the wolves. Njoroge rescued her from a life of certain doom by bringing her to his home. Mumbi came to appreciate Njeri in good time. She no longer hurried home to clean and wash. She was able to do her homework in peace and supervise Karanja. Soon the two were good friends and shared their secrets. Her father ignored Njeri for many months. He continued his habit of coming home late, drunk with only enough energy to throw his tired body onto the bed. Slowly it dawned on him that somebody was making his bed. His shirts were clean and always ironed. “Have you found yourself a Gachungua by any chance?” a colleague asked him one day. “Why?” Njoroge retorted. “What have I done now? Can’t you stop picking on me, you fool?” This baffled his friends. Word went round that he was ashamed of the beautiful girl he had brought home. His drinking mates started passing remarks within his hearing. “I must get myself a Gachungua. Another jested. “I can do with a clean shirt.” One day he was so angry by a remark made by a drinking buddy that he stormed home in anger, “Mumbi, come here,” he called Mumbi into the sitting room. “Who is that woman in the kitchen?” Mumbi could not believe her ears. “You brought her home several months ago,” She told him. He looked at Mumbi in puzzlement for several minutes and then shooed her off. Mumbi went back to the kitchen. Njeri looked at her with questioning eyes but Mumbi said nothing. Njeri proved to be kind, generous and willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of the two children. She was a better mother than many villagers were with their own children. For a long time after Njeri joined the family Mumbi went on working for her teachers but no longer out of dire need. She enjoyed the work. The money supplemented what her stepmother earned. Life at home was more tolerable. Njeri did all the housework. She tilled the shamba that was neglected after Lucy’s death. Soon there was order in the homestead. Gradually, Njoroge started showing interest in the home. He mended the fence and other things in the house which needed his attention and he asked about the children’s homework and helped Mumbi with her Mathematics, an area that she found difficult.  As life got better at home, Mumbi had more time at her disposal and could focus on her studies and all the happenings at school. She no longer played the role of parent but only lived as the young girl she was.

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