Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 2.2

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter two, part two.

While Jen went to the kitchen to arrange tea and biscuits, I took the opportunity to have a man-to-man with Pepu.

“Tell me something about your background, Pepu,” I asked.

“What do you want to know, Sir?”

“When you came to this country and why.”

“Why I left Zimbabwe or why did I come here?”

“Both.”

“Okay, Sir. I had to leave Zimbabwe when I was twelve because my father was an opponent of the president. He was rounded up with many of his friends and shot. My mother took the family, three boys and two girls, and fled. You see, Sir, sons of the president’s opponents were believed to be as dangerous as their fathers.

“We travelled partly in the backs of lorries and partly by jumping onto trains, but mostly on foot, until we reached a port. In the port, we were spotted by some bad people. Mother and the girls were taken – we knew that was a risk, but Mother thought it was worth taking. As far as I know, they were probably forced into sex work. My brothers and I were seized, too. I don’t know what happened to my brothers, but I managed to escape and hide on a ship. I didn’t know or really care where the ship was going; it was taking me away from Zimbabwe and danger, and from the bad people in the port city.

“I thought I’d be okay hiding in one of the ship’s lifeboats, but they found me when they did a drill. They threw me into some kind of cell on the ship and told me the captain would come and deal with me. The captain, an English man, questioned me about why I had hidden on his ship. When I explained my situation to him, he said I’d suffered enough and deserved a break. He put me to work as a kitchen-hand. When we arrived at the ship’s destination, which was Southampton, he handed me over to the authorities.

“I told them my story and they asked me if I was applying for asylum and told me what that meant. I agreed it was what I wanted. As a thirteen-year-old boy with no family in England, or anywhere else for that matter, I lived in a lot of temporary homes, being looked after by different people. I went to school, too, and even passed some exams.

“When I became eighteen, I had to leave the family I was with and start to look after myself. By then I had the visas and permission to remain as a refugee. At a hostel in London, I met Jen. Her story was even more horrific than mine. Her father was also a dissident, and she had suffered all manner of abuse on her journey and since. We did a lot of different jobs but never had a proper home. Getting married helped in some ways but not in others. You see, Sir, it’s easier for a single person to find somewhere to live and a job than it is for a couple. That’s why we are so grateful to you and Mrs Knight.”

“And you are very welcome, Pepu. We want you to feel welcomed and at home here. As long as you do your jobs well, and are straight and honest with us, you have a secure and safe home.”

“One thing we would ask, Pepu,” Sophie said, “if you have any problems, any difficulties, whether with work, with money or anything else, anything at all, for goodness’ sake, come and talk to us about it,” seeing Jen, enter with tea and biscuits, Sophie added, “That goes for you, too, Jen. Don’t try to fix it on your own.”

“That’s right,” I said, “we have a big organisation behind us. When you work for me, you become part of the Knight Global Trading family. And we look after our own.”

Jen sat at the table and wept. Pepu comforted her. Once she’d calmed a little, she said, “We never, ever expected to find such kindness. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“Are we interrupting anything?” Eddie said as he and Martha entered the lounge.

“No, Dad, but you’re too late for tea,” Sophie said.

“Are these the people you told me about, Hannice?” Eddie asked.

“They are. Eddie, Martha, meet Pepu and Jen Kunonga. Pepu is our new driver, groundsman and general handyman, Jen, his wife, is our new cook/housekeeper. Pepu, Jen, these fine people are Mrs Knight’s parents, Mr and Mrs Beard.”

“Eddie and Martha, please.”

“You are very old,” Jen said.

“Jen, that’s rude,” Pepu insisted, “nice English people don’t say that sort of thing.”

“No, but perhaps they should,” Eddie said, “it’s true, we are very old, over eighty, both of us. I like your honesty… Jen, is it?”

“Yes, and I’m sorry if I was rude.”

“Nothing to apologise for, but a cup of tea would be nice. Ooh – do I see double-chocolate chip cookies?”

“Yes, Mr Eddie,” Jen said, “I’ll get you both some tea.”

“I like this girl,” Eddie said as Jen prepared to go through to the kitchen, “such a pretty thing.”

Pepu looked at Eddie with an expression I had difficulty reading. Was it annoyance? Pride? Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t a smile. He looked back to his wife and took her hand in what seemed to be a protective gesture.

“Down, tiger, you don’t want to start your palpitations again,” Martha said, trying to take the edge off the situation.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Pepu said, “but my Jen has suffered some bad treatment from white men, especially older ones. And it usually started with them saying she was pretty.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Eddie responded, “I didn’t mean any harm. I was just trying to be nice…”

Jen just looked at Eddie, smiled, and said, “Thank you, Mr Eddie.”

“It’s good that you like them, Eddie,” I said, “because they’re going to be around for a while.”

“Can I ask you something, Sir?” Pepu said to me.

“Of course.”

“When we move our clothes into the flat in this house, is there a back entrance we can use to come and go, so we don’t disturb Sir and Mrs Knight?”

“There is, but I don’t think you need to use that unless you really want to. Provided we continue to get on well, you will be treated like family. You can use the front door. It has an electronic lock that responds to numbered badges and facial recognition. I’ve organised a badge for each of you.” I handed the two badges to Pepu and Jen. Each was on a long lanyard. “Hang them around your necks – under your clothing is fine – it will prime the door lock. I’ll record your face details in my office after we’ve had our tea, then you’ll be set.”

“Will you show us how it works, Sir?”

“I have things I have to do now, Pepu, but I’m sure Eddie will be happy to walk you through it.” I cast a look at Eddie. He nodded and smiled.

 

 

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