Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 9

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 9

After the unexpected confession Alicia made to Kondwani, she made sure she avoided him by all means at work, only showing herself when it was absolutely necessary for the two to be in the same space at the same time. No sooner had the words come out of Alicia’s mouth than she regretted uttering them.

What was I thinking? She kept asking herself. She would shut her eyes for minutes and wince in embarrassment whenever the memory crossed her mind…and it did so with a committed vengeance. Just like before, after their time together at the camping resort, Kondwani too religiously stayed away from Alicia, making sure their paths didn’t cross if they were not attending to the same patients.

Kondwani had had a lot of women profess their love or feelings to him first and unexpectedly many times before, however, it was the very first time in his life that a woman uttered those words and he was moved into action; flight. Like a fool, he had set a bait hoping to trap someone into doing his bidding unconsciously but he ended up trapping himself instead.

Very suddenly, Kondwani was forced to reckon with just how much power Alicia had over him. She was not just the girlfriend to the man whose death haunted him through the night; she was now trying to make her way to his heart. If his mission was to ensure that she’s well taken care of in Nicolas’ stead, then how was he to achieve that knowing how she felt about him? Why did she come out and say out her feelings? Why didn’t she just keep them to herself, wouldn’t that have been the better option…move on with her life pretending she felt nothing?

Why did she confess?

For close to six years Kondwani had managed to live an almost guilty-free life, only thinking about the past and that fateful accident when its anniversary came. Somehow, in his desperation for survival, Kondwani had managed to convince himself that whatever had happened had been an accident. He had blocked out the details and focused only on one thing. He had not set out that day to kill anyone’s son. What happened was simply a misfortune between two people that met at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If anyone at all is to blame for that calamity, Kondwani reasoned, it is the man that allowed the rains to pour with such a vengeance on that particular evening. As for him, he was only human, how was he to control something so natural and keep that unfortunate incident from happening?

According to Kondwani, the only mistake he made was trusting in a supernatural being he had not even seen to have his back, to give him the strength he needed to take care of his family at such a young age, and to shield him from all sorts of harm.

While his mother was breaking her back and risking her life to take care of her children, where was the God that she trusted in the most? In the end, it had been him that took up that responsibility. His mother’s God might have given up a son he fathered by spirit but he, Kondwani reasoned sacrificed his youth, his happiness and even his life to take care of his family.

For his love, he had something to point at? Where could the other guy in his mother’s life point? Apart from the pain, the heartache and disappointment, where was his love?

For years Kondwani had allowed himself to live in that pretence, convincing himself he had no part in the accident. He owed no one anything; after all, didn’t that man’s family accept the money? So why did he have to feel guilty? Given his circumstances, Kondwani truly believed he did what he could to preserve himself and the lives of his loved ones. If God himself had turned His back on them, who else but him only could protect them and give them the kind of life they deserved?

Why should I feel guilty for loving my family and acting responsible towards them? Kondwani always asked himself whenever the guilt threatened to drown him under. It was his only coping mechanism; to detach himself from the event and present it as a necessary evil on his way to success.

Like the saying goes; there is no escape for the man living in sin, the appearance of Alicia before his eyes sent Kondwani’s guilty-free life into absolute chaos. From that day forward, he had not been able to get a good night’s sleep. It was not like he had not known of her existence before she stepped her feet into his hospital and stood before him.

Kondwani stopped pacing to and from in his office, one arm folded across his chest while the other was raised to his chin. His mind went back to that night when he had secretly sneaked into the hospital after the accident to check on how the man at the accident scene was doing.

Did he make it? The then 29 year old doctor had asked himself from behind the wall where he was hiding, scared straight in his boots from fear of being discovered by the man’s relatives camped outside the operating room. Except, he needed to know…no matter the outcome he needed to know. How could he simply walk away?

But he had been standing there for close to twenty minutes and the doctors still hadn’t come out of the ER.

“Just what is going on in there?” Kondwani asked himself, his hands pressed hard together as he held on to his breath. Just then, someone brushed passed him with so much force he was almost pulled out of his hiding place if not for the fact that he was quick enough to grab hold of the pillar he was hiding behind with both hands.

That had been his first encounter with Alicia.

Even for their very first meeting, she had unwittingly tried to force him out of his hiding place so he could be slaughtered by those after his life. She had unconsciously done it then and she was still unconsciously doing it now. Oh fate, thou art cruellest!

Kondwani watched wide-eyed as the people he assumed where the man’s family immediately launch into attach the moment they spotted the girl that had just brushed passed him, crying. In the next few minutes, he would come to learn about her relationship to the deceased. The doctors had finally appeared before the family and the first one to be hit by the impact of the news was the very girl they kept calling Alicia.

She had clatched her hand over her stomach in pain and went straight for the floor.

Kondwani felt an immediate change in time as everything around him started moving in slow motion. The moment the girl went down, he turned his back away from the grieving family, bracing himself for escape but not so quick as to avoid being pushed to the side by the group of nurses wheeling the girl that had just collapsed passed him. She still had her hand over her stomach even in her passed out state.

He had heard the insults from the man’s feelings. He had an idea of who she was and out of everyone present there, it was the image of her collapsing to the floor that haunted his memories and visited him as nightmares every now and then for the past six years; that and the accident scene itself.

If they can attack someone who wasn’t even there at the scene of the accident and place all the blame on her in such fashion, what would they do if they uncovered the actual culprit behind the crime? With that, Kondwani walked away from that family, never to look back at them.

Until Alicia came and found him.

After their memorable encounter in the locker room, Kondwani spent that evening going over his assessment of Alicia’s personality; how had he miscalculated that move she pulled? For a man that was quick on the uptake and calculated five or ten steps ahead of everyone else, in that single moment, Alicia had crushed his confidence and made him question every decision he had made about getting her out of his life.

“You mean that-that same nurse?” Chilufya asked, disbelief written all over her face.

Kondwani nodded.

“That-that timid looking and shy woman confessed her feelings to you?” Chilufya asked for the umpteenth time.

“Why do I get the feeling that you are asking all the wrong questions sis?” Kondwani asked.

“Chill, chill,” Chilufya said, waving her hand at him. “I’m still trying to get over the initial shock.” Her mood was still in the 21st century, the medieval times had not yet called for the day. Kondwani could only be glad.

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t been asking yourself the same question.”

Kondwani said nothing in return, the guilty was written all over his being.

“See,” Chilufya said, pointing at him accusingly. “You like that she confessed to you don’t you?”

“No!” Kondwani answered a little too quickly. “How can you even say that? What sort of man will I be if I dared entertain something like that?”

“That’s beside the point.” Chilu argued. “I just want to know how you felt when she told you how she felt.”

“I don’t know how I felt…really, I can’t say.” He added when his sister gave him a look. “I was just so shocked by the suddenness of it all. I never saw the confession coming!”

“How did she say it?” Chilufya asked.

“She walked up to me, looked me in the eye and said she thinks she’s in-love with me.”

“NOOOOO-“

“And then added that she had no intentions of coming after me and that she only informed me in order that I may leave her alone.”

“Noooooo-“

“Yesssss.” Kondwani mimicked his sister’s tone, except, there was disappointment on his face and not disbelief like the one on her face.

“You really like her don’t you?” Chilufya asked.

“Chilu, I’ve told you-“

“No, just be honest with me bro.” Chilufya insisted. “I have never seen you look this disappointed or broken when talking about a girl. You’ve been with Gwen now for a very long time and despite everything she does-“

“I am not disappointed sis.” Kondwani insited.

Chilufya got up from where she was seated and went to sit next to her brother. She took his hand and held on to it as she spoke. “I think sometimes you forget that I used to be your best friend at some point in your life.” She reminded him.

Indeed, the two siblings were inseparable growing up. Of all his siblings, it was Chilufya Kondwani loved the most and it was she he was very close to. Growing up, Kondwani did everything he could to protect his baby sister who was the centre of ridicule amongst her peers due to the outlandish nature of her personality. To protect his sister through her most difficult adolescent age, Kondwani made sure he walked her to school and picked her up in the evenings so they could walk home together despite his busy schedule as a pre-med student.

As long as he stayed by her side and everyone knew who she was in his life, Kondwani felt that they would all look kindly on her if they knew she had a very cute and intelligent brother protecting her all the way; and it worked.

“I remember that day, I think it was in your fifth year when you stopped along the road on our way home and you sat down crying because the girl you had a crush on…I can’t remember what her name was,” Chilufya said. “She beat you in that one exam and broke your record of being the top student.” Chilufya was laughing hard from the memory.

“Sylvia!” Kondwani shouted as he slowly shook his head with a smile on his face before embarrassment crept in. “Her name was Sylvia; I hear she’s married to some Arab guy who forced to quit work. She even wears those ninja outfits those people wear.”

Chilufya laughed. “It’s called a hijab Wani.” She corrected him.

“I don’t care what they are called.” Kondwani said. “Don’t you just find it sad that she has those brains and she spent all those years studying only to be cooked up at home covered in that thing attending to twenty children?”

“That’s the con of being a woman.” Chilufya said. “Anyway, who are we to judge? I am sure she was aware of everything before she married the guy; her choice, her life.”

“But why did you bring that up Chilu?” Kondwani asked.

“Because that was the last time you and I were that close.” She answered. “After that you changed, completely.”

“Chilu,” Kondwani looked his sister in the eye. “It wasn’t because-“

“I know,” she interjected him, her face suddenly turned serious. “I know it wasn’t because of that. A lot was happening around that time but!” She brightened up again. “I just wanted to remind you that you still have a friend in me…that you can talk to me and that you don’t have to hide your feelings with me.

“I know that you don’t have anyone you can truly call a friend. Most of the people around you are only there because they serve some sort of purpose in your very ambitious lifestyle. Before, you used to talk to mum and me about things going on in your life but after the accident…everything changed.”

Kondwani squeezed his sister’s hand as a bitter-sweet smile appeared on his face. He got up from the sofa to stand by the window, his back to her. He didn’t need her to remind him of how much he had changed. Every morning he looked in the mirror, the stranger looking back at him yelled out the change in him. And every day he walked the corridors of the hospital or attended to a patient on the verge of death, he felt that difference.

How many more lives would he need to save to atone for his sins? Could someone like him have any portion of happiness in this lifetime? Kondwani wondered. It had been years now since he had given up on certain dreams that men his age busked in. Things like love and happiness were not even a possibility in his life. He could not afford the luxury of such pursuits and even if by chance they came his way, his greatest fear was that he did not deserve such good fortune.

Kondwani’s purpose on earth was to simply exist and survive each passing day as he waited for judgement day to come, if there was ever such a thing. His life as he knew it ended that day on that rainy empty street where two cars embraced, everything else torn apart.

“Did I cross the line?” Chilufya was standing next to him, she too looking out into the lit backyard through the sheer curtains.

In response, Kondwani stretched out his arm and placed it over her shoulders, drawing her in closer from the side. “How could I have changed this much while you remained the same?” He asked. “Can’t you rub off some of that sweetness onto me?”

Chilufya chuckled. “Instead of just rubbing off some of it on you, how about I share the whole lot of it with you?” She was looking up at him expectantly.

“What are you talking about?” Kondwani laughed.

“Free your Wednesday evening next week, I want to take you to some place somewhere where dreams come true.” She offered.

“Huh?”

Chilufya laughed at the puzzled expression on her brother’s face. “I won’t give any more explanations, just promise me that you will be home early on Wednesday and I will come to pick you up.

“And don’t talk to me about patients, emergencies and what not.” She added. “Someone else can save those people for a few hours. It’s not even your job to actively attend to patients.”

“I didn’t spend all those late nights in school just to sit in some office looking at papers and a computer screen.” Kondwani said.

“You deserve a break.” His sister argued. “While you are busy saving others, who’s saving you? This is not a request bro,” she was looking up at him as she said this. “I am telling you that you have a date with me this Wednesday and if you still consider me a friend, you will honour that date.”

“Emotionally blackmailing your own brother sure,” Kondwan said. “Have you no shame young lady?” He pulled her head closer and playfully raffled up her short weave while she protested under.

“So what are you going to do about Alicia the nurse?” Chilufya later asked Kondwani when they sat down for dinner that she had prepared for them.

“What do you mean what am I going to do?” Kondwani asked. “I was the one that made the mistake of playing around with her emotions expecting a different kind of outcome so now I just need to treat her strictly professionally and stay out of her personal business.

“Anthony says that he will have no trouble getting her back her son so my responsibilities towards her end there; that’s all I can do for her. This business of chasing her around and begging her to let me take care of her stops now…and you know something funny?”

“What?” Chilufya asked.

“I actually thought that I could help her…physically you know….”

“You mean having sex with her to fill her loneliness?” She asked sarcastically.

Kondwani cringed in embarrassment.

“Yeah, you already told me about it.” Chilufya reminded him.

“I actually thought that something like that was possible without any of us getting emotionally attached but Alicia is just too naïve and innocent she spooked me.”

Chilufya laid her folk down and stared at her brother. “It’s not just Alicia bro,” she said. “All humans, especially women are like that. You are the strange one in this.”

“How so?” Kondwani asked. “There are women out there who parade themselves on the streets to lure men into sleeping with them for money. They get what they want and they leave, it’s that easy. Why do people need to complicate things so much? It’s just sex, not a life sentence.”

Chilufya laughed at her brother’s ignorance in matters of the heart. “Fall in-love first and let’s see if you will utter those words.”

Kondwani busted out laughing. “The day I come to you talking about falling in-love, shoot me.”

Chilufya’s heart ached for her brother and it showed on her face. Was there no hope for him? She wondered silently. Was he so far gone that there was no turning around anywhere in the future?

“Stop looking at me like that and eat your food.” Kondwani said, his head was busy on the food down on his plate.

“How did you-“

“I don’t have to look at you to see that look on your face. I can literally feel it piercing into my sculp.” He still hadn’t raised his head to look at her, he just kept shoving food into his mouth.

“Mwansa has a boyfriend now.” Chilufya quickly changed the subject.

Finally, Kondwani raised his head from the plate. “How is that news?” He asked. “That girl has been dating from the moment she could tell the difference between girl and boy.”

Chilufya laughed, hard. “That’s true though.” She agreed. “But this time it’s different. She seems to truly love this new guy.”

“Shouldn’t she be concentrating on school right now instead of some boy? Who’s this boy anyway?”

“His name’s Stephen Malambo, I think. He should be a student as well, I’m not sure, I never really asked.

“Malambo?” Kondwani said. “Where have I heard that name? I feel like I know someone with that name. I just hope she’s not dating some old guy. That kid has no fear. She is too bold for her own good.”

Chilufya laughed. “Let’s hope not.” She said. “She comes into my room to chatter about him all night long. She doesn’t really care whether I’m listening or not. She’s even talking about being a born again Christian now.”

Kondwani raised his eyebrows at his sister. “Another one in the family, gone. May her sould rest in peace.” he said disappointedly. “Mum must be so proud.”

“Stop being so sarcastic, there’s nothing wrong with Christianity.”

“Yeah, when you are five and everything in the world is black and white.” He finished the food on his plate and sat back in his chair. “I don’t understand how grown ass men, and women too can obsess over two beings they’ve never actually seen.”

“You used to believe in those two beings yourself.” Chilufya reminded him. “Up until the…accident.” She immediately regretted bringing up the accident again. Why did everything somehow always end up with the accident? But the damage was already done so she went ahead with her argument;

“You still believe in hell and in judgment though…so why don’t you believe that there’s a God somewhere?” She asked him.

“Just because I talk about hell and judgement doesn’t mean I believe in them. And this is the issue I have with your faith; mum pounded those things on us, sometimes even with force that we can’t be rid of them easily even if we wanted to.

“When I believed,” He put the word in quotation marks. “It wasn’t by free will; it was only because mum did. But then that night happened and everything became so clear to me. In this world, whether you do good or bad, the end is the same for everyone. What’s wrong with you now?”

Chilufya had tears in her eyes as she listened to her brother talk and when Kondwani asked the question, they came streaming down her cheeks. “You know,” she said, wiping away the tears as she did so. “For years I used to wonder why God made me the way He did. I remember how mum would proudly tell us; we were all made in the image of God!”

She was smiling despite the tears welled up in her eyes. “I believed in that statement as much as mum believed it until…until I discovered I was different from everyone else. I asked myself; if we were all created in the image of God, then why do I have this disorder?”

“And your answer?” Kondwani asked.

Chilufya wiped away all her tears with her hands and left her face dry. Smiling again, she looked up at her brother. “You know how I am, when something bothers me, I will search for answers until I find them. You were right when you said we all believed because mum did but when I took a personal interest, I discovered certain things about God and Jesus Christ that I could not learn through simply following mum.

“You look at me now and you think it’s the meds that are helping me heal; it’s not just the meds Wani, there’s something else that’s helped a lot.”

“Don’t tell me, don’t tell me, its God right!?” Kondwani teased her, laughing.

Chilufya laughed softly with him, shaking her head. “I know it sounds funny to you right now but at the right time, you will get it…I know you will.”

“So are you telling me that I should take you off the meds now?” Kondwani asked.

“I never said that.” Chilufya said. “Me taking those meds in also a way of God helping me. Who do you think gave the person that came up with that drug the intelligence to come up with it?”

Kondwani laughed. “Have you ever seen some of these scientists in person?” He asked. “They are the worst kind in the whole world. Some of them go as far as to create the disease and then provide the antidote just so they can make billions and billions of money.”

“Intelligence, talents, or gifts, whatever you call them where given to every human being by God.” Chilufya preached. “Both good and bad people, that’s just how God works; it doesn’t matter who you are or what the world thinks you are, God loves us all the same, enough to give us-“

“His only begotten son, yeah, yeah, yeah, I still remember the lessons kiddo.” Kondwani sarcastically finished for her. Then he got up. “Finish up and bring the dishes.” He said as he picked up his. “I’m going to put this one and the others in the kitchen in the washer.”

“I thought you had a maid?”

“I do, what’s that got to do with me putting the dishes I used into a machine that will do the work for me?”

Chilufya laughed, she finished whatever was remaining on her plate and stood up as well. She picked up the rest of the dishes on the table with Kondwani’s help and they carried them into the kitchen.

“I feel pity for the woman who’s going to end up as your wife,” Chilufya teased her brother. “You are such a perfectionist and a clean freak. Women like clean and smart guys, but even to that, there’s a limit and you are way over it.”

“How I wish Gwen could take care of her home the way she takes care of her face.” Kondwani said. “I have been in her room, once, I never went back in there.”

Chilufya paused whatever she was doing. “Are you still marrying that woman Kondwani?” The disappointment in her tone was as clear as day.

“What do you mean I’m I still marrying that woman?” He laughed. “Was there ever a time I said I wasn’t?”

“Don’t you even envy people around you that are happily in-love?” Chilufya asked.

Kondwani laughed. “Let’s not go there Chilu, let’s not even go there.”

“There’s just no winning with you.” Chilufya laughed and went back to packing the left overs into bowls to be put in the fridge for Kondwani to heat up later.

“And you keep trying.” Kondwani said once he was done placing the plates in the dish washer.

Chilufya laughed.

***

Samuel Kayombo could never find any sleep that night after Alicia told him about her feelings for Kondwani.

Why was is it that every woman he was falling for ended up loving that man instead? Kayombo wondered. What was it about Kondwani the made all the women pick him instead?

For a moment, Kayombo had entertained the idea of using Alicia to discover Kondwani’s weakness but after spending so much time with her in the past weeks, he had changed his mind. What normal man would spend an hour or less in the company of the beautiful but well-grounded woman like Alicia and not fall for her?

Her timidness, though unattractive brought out the man in him; the need inside him to protect her and shield her from the world kept growing each passing day.

Kondwani glared at the white ceiling of his bedroom as he lay on the bed, an angry expression on his face as if disappointed that it could not provide him the answers he was seeking. He placed his hands on the pillow and laid his head over them, his legs stretched forward, one over the other.

Despite her beauty and intelligence, Alicia was not the type that Samuel went after. He liked his women, tough, confident and always dressed to kill. Gwen was the perfect representation of that group of women. When he started looking at Alicia as more than just his late friend’s girlfriend, Kayombo didn’t know. The feelings had just crept up on him and took him by surprise.

Hearing her talk about her feelings for another man made him realize just how deep his own feelings for her were. Unfortunately, while he was busy battling his conscience, Alicia’s eyes had landed on Kondwani.

However, it was not just Alicia’s feelings Kayombo seemed to be fighting against, it was also what she revealed about Kondwani’s feelings.

“No way,” Samuel said to himself. Something is definitely going on with that guy. He thought. But why did he tell her he didn’t reciprocate her feelings? It can’t be that he’s really fallen for Gwen…no, that’s not even a possibility. We all know what he’s after with Gwen.

Is his ambition so grand that he is willing to push away a woman he likes just to achieve that? Kayombo kept asking himself.

When two hours passed and he still couldn’t find any sleep, he gave in and called Alicia.

“Sam?” Alicia answered, half-asleep. “Are we needed?” She asked, used to always being called randomly since interns were basically slaves that needed to appear even if their own worlds were crumbling down.

“No, it’s not work.” Kayombo said. “Can I see you?”

Alicia forced herself up. “Now? You mean now?” She asked.

“Yes.” Kayombo said. “I’m on my way to your house.”

Alicia came fully awake.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 8

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 8

The thing with Alicia was that when it was required of her lips to say something, they chose to tighten, tightly so. Like a comatose person, while they can hear some of the things going on around them, they can do nothing to engage or respond, except slightly twitch their fingers. That was the kind of personality Alicia had.

From up his office window, Kondwani had accidently seen Mary storm into the building and immediately recognized her as Nicolas’s mother and Buseko’s grandmother. He had done enough research by now on that family to even chant their names involuntarily in his sleep. Despite everything that had happened, why did his sympathies lie with the girlfriend of the deceased and not the woman that had given him life?

Perhaps, had the woman not sold her conscience for a thousand bucks, would Kondwani have something else other than malice in his eyes when he confronted her in the cafeteria? But who was he to judge? If heaven and hell existed, the two of them would probably end up on the same ride anyway. Kondwani thought.

“This is a hospital,” Kondwani told the woman fuming in fury. “We are in the business of taking care of people and not bringing them harm. What do you think you are doing bringing your personal issues here? Have you no shame or class?”

Mary tried to spit something back at him but her lips refused to budge. Instead, she was looking up at him with the mouth wide open. She had never been that disrespected in her life. Who the hell did this young man think he was embarrassing her like that?

Oooh, it seems you’ve made a few friends for yourself now Alicia haven’t you? Mary sent a chilling look in Alicia’s direction. Alicia shrivelled up behind Kayombo who had moved in-between the two women.

Kondwani was glaring at Mary as if daring her to say something or do something else stupid. “This is my ship and these are my people. I run things around here so please leave while you still have your head held high.”

Alicia almost jumped at Kondwani’s unexpected thunder as she watched her former mother in-law cower before him. She had never seen the woman at a loss for words before. Mary Kabwe was always the woman in charge wherever she went. People cowered in her presence and not the other way round.

When Mary finally made her move to leave, Alicia knew just how much she was going to pay for everything that had transpired in those five minutes.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Kondwani thundered down on everyone in the cafeteria and sent them scampering in all directions.

“Not you,” he said to Alicia whose face was drenched in tears from imaging the kind of wrath that awaited her when she got off from work. “In my office.” Kondwani commanded and Alicia ran to walk behind him, she was no match for his angry long strides.

When they were finally in the privacy of his office, Alicia frantically tried to wipe her tears with her hands. Kondwani stopped before sitting down to give her a disapproving look. How many times in a day did this woman cry? He thought to himself as he threw a pack of paper napkins at her.

“Sit.” He said and Alicia did as instructed. She took a couple of towels and rubbed her face but the fear of the pending doom and the realization of what had just transpired was too overwhelming that her body was rocking in the chair from all the effort she was putting in not to cry out loud.

“Kond-“ Gwen stormed into the room, looking about ready for a fight in whatever form a fight would present itself. She stopped when she saw Alicia crying in her seat, her face bowed down.

“Ms Miyoba, what gives you the right to storm into my office in such fashion?” Kondwani’s tone was a stern reminder that he was in no mood to be personal with her. Even without him saying it, Gwen could hear him say; I am not your fiancé at work and I owe you no explanation so disappear from my presence right now.

Remembering the last conversation she had had with her mother, Gwen threw Alicia a look and left the room in the same manner she had come.

Kondwani sighed frustratingly and walked over to Alicia who was bawling her eyes out now. He roughly grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her up from the chair. Alicia braced herself for more tongue lashing but Kondwani surprised her by pulling her towards him and wrapping her into a tight embrace.

He rested her head on his shoulder and told her something he never imagined he would ever tell any woman to do. “Cry, just let it all out.”

The sudden and unexpected words uttered by those lips and in their soothing tone caught Alicia by surprise and before she knew it, she succumbed to the moment and sobbed in Kondwani’s arms. As her body rocketed in anguish, Kondwani tightened his arms around her and said nothing.

She had a lot of questions to ask Kondwani, the most important being, why? Why was he doing the things he was doing and why was he being so kind to her? The more questions she passed through her head, the more she cried, the uncertainty and confusion of it all making her feel even more helpless.

She would have sold her own soul if it could get her back her son so why should she be mad at him for interfering and setting her up in the cross-hairs of her son’s grandmother? Since Nicolas, no one had gone out of their way to give her something she so desperately desired.

In that moment, in his arms, it did not matter to Alicia what Kondwani’s motives for helping her or the consequences of his actions on her against her former mother in-law were. She was just happy to know that at least there was one more person in the world on her side.

When he felt her start to calm down in his arms, Kondwani held her by the shoulders and pulled her slightly away from him. “Are you feeling a little better now?” He asked, his eyes closely searching her face.

Alicia froze. She had never seen Doctor Chileshe’s face that up close. She felt something move in her stomach and she could feel her eyelids move ferociously against her will.

When a sudden smile appeared across Kondwani’s face, Alicia felt her knees weaken and the doctor had to place his arm around her waist again to steady her. “Are you okay?” He was examining her in his usual doctor-patient manner.

Alicia nodded and batted her eyelids a thousand times in a second and pulled herself away from him. “I’m fine,” She said, and then placing her hand over her forehead she added, “Just a slight headache. I haven’t cried this much in a long time.”

Kondwani raised an eyebrow. “In a long time?” He laughed. “I seriously doubt that.” He then went back behind his desk and sat down.

“Do you think we can talk now?” He asked, pointing to the chair in front for her to sit down. “I think you and I-“ His phone rang and he knew it could only mean one thing. He got up, took his phone from his pocket and just as he was about to check, Alicia’s phone rang as well. While Kondwani grabbed his coat, Alicia excused herself and ran out of his office. Kondwani rushed out of his office behind her, following the direction she had taken.

A few hours later, Alicia was freshening up in the bathroom by the nursing department when she was accosted by Gwen. With Alicia’s colleagues watching, she slammed her back hard against the wall and slapped her on either side of her face in rapid succession. The other four interns watched in horror as their friend got raffled up, afraid to move or say anything that might anger the hospital’s first lady. They had a gruelling internship to survive; they dared not risk their chances by interfering in business that was none of their concern.

“Didn’t I warn you?” Gwen spat in Alicia’s face, her complexion working completely against her. Gwen’s fingers were visibly imprinted in red on either side of her face.

“I-I-I….” Alicia’s tongue froze as tears streamed down her face. She remembered those few minutes she spent crying in Kondwani’s arms and the guilt could not allow her to look Gwen in the eye. She lowered her gaze.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!” Gwen yanked Alicia’s face up. she was about to land another slap when Caroline entered in her usual jovial mood only to freeze when she realized what was going on in the bathroom. Unlike the others, she did not remain frozen for long, she rushed over to her friend and pulled Gwen away from her.

She was so rough in her movements that Gwen fell straight on her bottom. A very embarrassed Gwen glared at Caroline. “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?” She said as she lifted herself back up. She walked over to Caroline and yanked her name tag off her uniform and stormed out of the bathroom.

“Nooo!” Alicia tried to run after her to get back her friend’s nametag but Caroline pulled her back.

“It’s fine,” Caroline said nonchalantly. “Let her keep it if she wants.”

“But-“

Caroline laughed. “Relax Ms Keys,” she put her arm over Alicia’s shoulders. “Her old man and I have history,” she whispered. “How else do you think someone like me got into this kind of place?”

Alicia held her hand over her mouth in shock. She looked around the room to see if the others had heard her friend’s confession.

“I’m sure they all heard.” Caroline said, turning to face the other four in the room. “Yes, I sleep with men to get what I want? Does anyone of you have a problem with that?”

The four cowards said nothing.

“My moral campus might be grey but at least I still have a conscience.” Caroline shamed the girls. “You people have no heart at all and I will make sure to sleep with whoever is in charge of making the final grade just to make sure none of you fools make the cut. Scram!”

The four immediately scrammed out of the room.

“I will even collect packets full of condoms just for their benefit, bloody cowards.” Caroline threatened. “Come,” She took Alicia’s hand and started leading her out of the bathroom. “I have something in my locker we can use to hide those things on your face.”

On the other side of the hospital, Gwen found Kondwani in the one place she knew he would be after a full day’s work. He was standing at the very far end of the rooftop, his legs spread apart and his hands in his pockets.

Kondwani was so deep in his thoughts that he did not hear Gwen approach.

“Thinking about her?” Gwen said and Kondwani turned.

“Don’t tell me you are still mad over what happened in the morning?” Kondwani said.

“Do you even hear yourself Kondwani?”

“What have I said? I simply-“

“How would you feel if I embarrassed you like that in front of a stranger?” Gwen asked.

“Do you honestly think you have the right to ask me such a question Gwen?” Kondwani asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.

“Just forget it.” Kondwani said and started walking away from her.

Gwen ran after him and stood in front of him, stretching her hands out to block him from moving further. “What do you mean right to ask such a question.”

“I don’t want to talk about this here.” Kondwani tried to move passed her but she followed him still.

“No, we are going to talk about this now!” Gwen shouted. “That’s the problem with you, you always shut me out whenever I try to have a conversation with you and you never say what you feel no matter how much something bothers you.”

“Then if you know it bothers me, why keep doing it?” Kondwani yelled.

“Because it’s the only way I know to get your attention.” Gwen answered.

Kondwani stared incredulously at her. “Sleeping with my junior at work is your idea of getting my attention?”

“Would it be different if he was not working under you?”

“What?”

“I knew Samuel even before he came to this hospital.”

“Somehow that makes things better?” Kondwani asked sarcastically. He pushed her to the side and walked the remaining distance towards the stairs.

“I beat her up good you know.” Gwen shouted from behind him.

Kondwani stopped. It took a few seconds for him to grasp the meaning of her words and the moment he did, he flung at her. “What are you talking about?” He was grasping her by the sides of her arms, shaking her for an answer.

Gwen scoffed. “Just look at you,” she said, looking into his burning eyes. “Look at the way you are acting because of her. Even when you discovered something was up with me and Kayombo, you never had such a look in your eyes.”

“What did you do to her?” Kondwani asked.

“You are hurting me!” Gwen pushed him away and stormed passed him without giving him a response.

“If you think I’m going to tell you then you truly must take me for a fool Kondwani.” Gwen said to herself as she silently cried. When she reached the corridor, she quickly wiped her tears and put on a brave face.

After searching everywhere for her, Kondwani finally found Alicia by the nurses locker rooms. She was seated on a stool while her friend towered over her, doing something to her face he couldn’t see clearly.

Just how much damage had Gwen done? Kondwani ran towards them, his heart almost falling out of his chest in horror.

“Alicia?” He pushed Caroline aside to take a closer look at Alicia’s face.

Caroline watched the doctor in amusement, shaking her head slightly before leaving the two of them alone. Once at the door, she removed the lock from the door and then locked the door from outside.

Alicia and Kondwani stared shocked at the door when they heard the key turn and the next thing they saw was a key pushed from under the door towards them.

“That girl.” Kondwani laughed. And then turning back to Alicia, “are you alright? Gwen told-“

Alicia got up from the stool to avoid him seeing the glowing part of her cheek that Caroline had not yet attended to. It was the same side Mary had assaulted earlier that day.

“I’m fine,” Alicia said with her back to him, her hand covering the area.

Kondwani went to stand in front of her. He touched her arms and removed her hand from her face. He winced in pain when he saw it, instinctively, his hand reaching out to touch her face. Alicia pulled herself away from him and in the process almost tripped over the stool she had been sitting on.

Kondwani grabbed her by the waist and pulled her towards him. “What I’m I to do with you?” He asked in helplessness. This time he managed to place his hand over the red area of her mildly swelling face.

“Doctor-“

“I know.” Kondwani said resignedly and released her, putting a safe distance between them. “I’m sorry about that.” He pointed to her face. “I wish I had something better to say-“

“It’s not your fault doctor,” she said. “I think I would misunderstand things too if I were in her position.”

“That’s no excuse to get physical with someone.” Kondwani said. “I hope you report her to HR. Gwen needs to learn that she can’t mix business with her personal issues.”

“There’s no need for me to make a report.” Alicia said. “My conscience will not allow me to do something like that to her.”

“Your conscience?” Kondwani asked.

“I deserve what happened to me.” Alicia said, turning away from him to stand in front of her locker. She opened it but Kondwani closed it right way, pinning her back against the locker, one arm passing over her head and pressed against the locker while the other locked her in place from the side.

“Why do you think you deserve what she did to you?” Kondwani asked her, his face just a few inches away from her. Alicia’s eyes instinctively went towards the door.

“No one is going to come in here.” Kondwani reminded her, his eyes pointing to the keys on the floor just a few feet away from where they were.

Alicia’s heart was racing and pounding loudly in ways it had never done before. She tried to move away from Kondwani but he placed his other hand to the other side, now completely locking her in.

“I am very uncomfortable right now Sir.” She nervously told him, lowering her gaze to look at his shoes.

“Why?” Kondwani seemed to be enjoying putting her on edge a little too much.

Alicia suddenly raised her head and looked straight into his eyes. “I think that I might be in-love with you.” She said.

Kondwani coughed and dropped his arms right away. “What?” He said as he tried to catch his breath. Her confession was so unexpected that it completely threw him off guard. Even as he deliberately pushed the boundaries with her, he knew without doubt that she had the power to push him away which made teasing her more fun for him.

However, he had failed to be comprehensive in his assessment of her. In his calculations, he had forgotten to account for her inexperience in matters in the heart, thinking that she would keep pushing him away if not threaten him with a report of harassment.

If he could get her to leave the hospital on her own free will, Kondwani thought his life would get back to normal then. He would make sure she got into a new good hospital where she wouldn’t have to worry about losing her job. If she was somewhere he could not see her cry or witness her hardships, would his life get back to normal then?

Kondwani only intended to push her slightly towards that decision without arousing unnecessary feelings between them. Knowing the kind of person she was, He figured that instead of confronting her feelings, she would simply run away without revealing them to him. How was he to know that she would come right out with her feelings the very first moment an opportunity presented itself?

Whereas more experienced women employed tact in their pursuance of men, inexperienced ones simply went with the flow. That was something Kondwani had not accounted for in his rush calculations to free himself from the sorrowful widow.

“I think that-“

“No, I heard.” Kondwani said, putting his arm forward to keep her from talking and at the same time, taking steps away from her.

“Doctor-“ Alicia tried to say something but Kondwani started shaking his head.

“I know, this is all me.” He stopped at the door. “This one is on me,” he repeated. “I think I overstepped my bounds and –“

Alicia laughed.

Kondwani looked puzzled.

Alicia walked forward and picked up the keys Kondwani had stepped on as he made his way towards the door backwards. She picked them up and covered the distance between them.

Alicia stopped right in front of him. In just a few seconds, their roles had shifted; she the aggressor and he the subdued one.

“My heart beats so fast whenever you and I stand this close and I feel butterflies in my stomach.” Alicia said. “I want to do things with you that only Nicolas and I used to do and yet…there is something else I keep feeling when I think about you that I’ve never felt before.”

Kondwani lost his tongue; he could only stare at her in shock and amazement. Something about Alicia’s personality reminded him of his sister Chilufya. They both had a way of surprising him in the most profound ways possible.

“I am not coming after you.” Alicia candidly informed the doctor, a playful smile showing slightly at the corners of her face. “I am telling you this to warn you to keep a safe distance from me. I have neither the time nor the luxury to feel feelings or act out a hospital’s sad love romance where I’m the woman who stole another man’s fiancé.”

She then lifted the keys up and handed them to him. Kondwani quickly turned around and opened the door. He was ready to bolt out when he heard her say;

“Ah, please text me the number of the lawyer you hired. I think it’s only right that I meet with the man who intends to help me get my son back. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” Kondwani said. “I will send…I mean, I will text it.”

Alicia smiled. “Thanks.” She said and closed the door.

After walking for a few steps, Kondwani suddenly came to a stop. He turned to look back where he had just come from and he sighed heavily. “Did I just get played?” He asked himself.

Back in the locker room, Alicia closed the door and leaned against it, heavily breathing in and out before collapsing to the floor, her hand over her chest as she willed her heart to settle down.

A few minutes later, Kondwani texted Alicia the number of the lawyer.

“Can I meet you at 6 after work?” Alicia asked Mr Silavwe after exchanging a few pleasantries with him.

“Yes, sure.” He said. “You know where our offices are?”

“No, but I will find my way there.” She said.
Immediately after ending the call with Alicia, Anthony Silavwe called Kondwani.

“She just called.” He reported.

“What did she say?” Kondwani asked.

“She asked to meet at 8 this evening.”

Kondwani looked at his wristwatch. “That’s about an hour from now.” He said.

“Yes.”

“Don’t forget to brief me after.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Great.”
***

Once her meeting with her lawyer was done, Alicia braced herself and took the bus to Mary’s house. When Mrs Kabwe opened the door and found her on the other side of it, she let go of the door and went back to sit down.

“I knew you would bring yourself here.” She said.

Alicia let herself in and went straight to kneel before the woman who could have been her mother in-law. “I am very sorry Mrs Kabwe.” Alicia hung her head low before the woman.

“So now I am Mrs Kabwe when you want to drag me to court ah.” Mary said. “C’mon get up and get out of my house. Stop wasting my time.”

“He is my son.” Alicia cried. “I just want-“

“That child is not your son!” Mary yelled. “He is my child, left to me by the son you took away from me. Have you no heart Alicia? How can you do this to me after everything that you’ve done? How can you?”

“You’ve had him since he was born, can’t I have him now?” Alicia begged. “He is the only one I have-“

“The only one?” Mary scoffed. “What about that rich doctor of yours that hired you the lawyer? The both of you are still young, can’t you just start a family of your own and forget about my Buseko?”

“There’s nothing going on between me and the doctor.” Alicia said. “He’s simply helping me out-“

Mary laughed. “Is that what you people call it these days, helping out?” She scoffed again. “I always wondered when your true colours would show and here we are. You got a bit of education and now you think that you are all that. Do you think that such men are interested in damaged goods like you Alicia?”

Alicia did not respond.

“As the woman who gave life to my grandson, let me give you some free advice.” Mary said. “He is just using you. I am sure he could see how naïve and timid you are and he jumped right at the opportunity. Does he even know that you drove your boyfriend to his death? Does he?”

Alicia still remained quiet.

“Did you come here to gloat about the new fancy lawyer your rich boyfriend has hired for you? Do you think that someone like Mary Kabwe can be intimidated but such trivialities? I have already hired the best lawyer in town as well. There’s no way I’m going to let you take away another one of my family members.”

“I don’t have any intentions of taking anyone away from you.” Alicia tried to reason with her. “Buseko is still going to be your grandson and he will keep coming here whenever you wish to see him.”

“That’s not up to you to decide.” Mary snapped.

“My lawyer says that I have every right to have my son back this time.” Alicia said.

“That’s what he thinks.” Mary retorted. “You will have to kill me first before you can take that boy away from me.”

“Mum-“

“I’m not your mother!” Mary snapped. She got up from the sofa and glared down at Alicia. “Get the hell out of my house Alicia!”

Alicia quickly got up and walked out of the house.

She was waiting for a bus to come through when Kayombo stopped in front of her. “Are you coming from where I think you are-“

“Yes,” Alicia said, going over to his window. “Is that where you are going?”

“That’s where I was headed until I saw you. Hop in.” He opened the door for her from inside.

“I’m going this way.” She pointed in the opposite direction.

“Yes, I’m taking you home.” Samuel said.

“I thought-“

“Just get in Alicia.” He insisted. She obliged him.

“Why have you changed your mind about going there?” Alicia asked as they got onto the road.

“I was going there to try and calm her down about the custody issue because she scared the hell out of me today. I have never seen her lose it like that before.”

“Me too.” Alicia said. “She’s really not taking this well. I wish I had given her more time to prepare herself. I was also caught off-guard by everything.”

Kayombo gave her a suspicious look. “Why did Kondwani do something like this for you…and without even telling you about it? Is there really nothing going on between you two?”

“How can you ask me that again Kayombo?” Alicia said. “I expect people that don’t know me to think me capable of seeing an engaged man but you…you’ve spent time with me and you’ve known me for a longer period of time despite having only met recently.”

“C’mon Alicia,” Kayombo said. “You have to admit yourself that everything seems suspicious. I have known that guy Kondwani for about five years now and I have never ever seen him show interest in anyone, not even his own fiancé.”

Alicia mulled over Kayombo’s words, her mind going back to that moment in the locker room.

“I will be honest with you since you are my friend.” Alicia said. “I like Doctor Chileshe.”

Kayombo parked the car by the road side. Slowly, he turned towards Alicia. “You what?”
“Yes,” Alicia said. “I like him but nothing is going on between us. I didn’t even know I had such feelings until…anyway, it doesn’t even matter because nothing is ever going to happen between us. I already told you, I am not interested in dating anyone, especially someone who isn’t even available.”

“And does Kondwani know about your feelings?” Kayombo asked.

“Yes he does.” Alicia answered simply. “I told him and if you must know, he isn’t interested in me like that.”

“Is that what he told you or that’s what you think?”

“He told me straight to my face.”

Kayombo shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense at all.” He said.

“What doesn’t?” She asked.

“Nothing,” Samuel answered absent-mindedly and got back on the road.

“Are you okay Doctor…Samuel?” Alicia asked after ten minutes passed and Kayombo had not said a word to her.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just thinking about something. How’s your sister Belinda?” He quickly changed the subject.

On the other side of town, Kondwani opened the door and Chilufya walked right in.

“What’s so important you needed me to come all the way to your house Wani?” She threw herself onto the sofa and made herself comfortable.

“No go ahead, feel right at home Ms Chileshe.” He said sarcastically as he sat down.

Chilufya laughed and sat up. “What’s eating you up?” She asked him.

“She said that she thinks she might be in-love with me.” Kondwani said.

Chilufya’s face beamed with hope and excitement. “A girl confessed to you? Who is she? Is she a doctor too?”

“Chill out young lady.” He said. “Yes she works at the hospital but she’s a nurse…and you know her.”

“I don’t know any nurse at your hospital.” Chilufya answered quickly. However, no sooner had the words escaped her lips than realization crept in. “NO!” she said, eyes wide open.

“Yes.” Kondwani said. “The girlfriend to the man I killed says she’s in-love with me. Tell me again sis, which seat next to the devil shall I occupy in hell; left or right?”

Chilufya gasped.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 7

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 7

“Pay back a debt?” Alicia asked.

The server chose that particular moment to appear with their food.

“Thanks,” they said at once.

“Is there anything-“

“No thanks, we are fine.” Alicia quickly answered, anxious for her to leave so she could hear Dr Chileshe’s explanation.

The twenty something year old server got her cue to leave and immediately left them alone.

“You were saying….” Alicia prompted him again.

Kondwani laughed. “Relax,” he said. “I just meant that I owe you for the way I treated you when you first joined the hospital.”

“Ooh.” She said, her features suddenly relaxing.

“What did you think I meant?” There was still laughter in Kondwani’s voice.

Alicia shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I was just curious because of the way you phrased your statement.”

“I see.” Kondwani said. “Can I ask you something though…a personal question?” He was looking at her cautiously, wondering how she was going to take his line of questioning.

Alicia raised an eyebrow at him. “You are not going to talk about rescuing me again are you?”

Kondwani chuckled. “No,” he said. “I think you’ve made your point very clear on that one.”

“Good.” She said. “What did you want to ask me?”

“Have you ever been with anyone else apart from your late boyfriend?” Kondwani asked.

Alicia gawked at him in wonder, a whole lot of questions flashing across her face.

“Did I offend you?” Kondwani asked.

“I am trying to figure out whether it’s mere coincident or not….” Alicia said.

“What?” A confused Kondwani asked.

“You are not the first person to ask me that question today.” She said.

“I’m not?” No sooner had he asked than the answer came to him. “Kayombo?”

Alicia chuckled shyly. “How did you-?”

“I don’t believe that nothing is going on between the two of you.” He said. “I have seen the way he looks at you.”

“I think you and Dr Kayombo should really think about becoming best friends. He said the same thing about you.” Immediately the words came out, Alicia regretted having uttered them without thinking. She put her hand over her mouth but it was already too late.

Kondwani was looking at her suspiciously, a new kind of interest glowing in his eyes. “Dr Kayombo said something like that about me?”

Alicia grabbed her glass of water and gulped down the contents. How did their conversation get to that point? She wondered.

Kondwani was watching her closely. He could tell she was going to try and avoid his question but he had no intention whatsoever of letting her get away with it.

“Do you think these people would tell us if we asked them what sauce they used for the beef?” Alicia had put down her glass of water and was now forking her meat. “It’s very nice, never tasted anything like it before.”

Kondwani said nothing in return, he just kept staring at her and he could tell she could feel his eyes on her because she dared not raise her head or her eyes from whatever was going on on her plate.

Alicia was now fatuously trying to cut a piece off her steak but it appeared neither the meat nor the cutlery were in corporation mood.

“I’m still waiting.” Kondwani said, now knotting his hands together over the table and feigning a look of determined patience on his face.

Feeling cornered, Alicia laid down the knife and fork angrily, dipped the tip of her fingers in the bowl of water and went at her meat with her bare hands. “God put me in charge of the meat and not the other way round.” She said between clenched teeth as she tore a large piece and dropped it into her mouth.

Kondwani watched in amazement as she shameless chewed at her meat. “Are you kidding me?” He asked, looking both shocked and amazed at her behaviour.

Alicia tried to mouth the word ‘what’ at him but her mouth was too full for her to utter anything comprehensible.

“What do you see when you look at me Alicia?” Kondwani asked. He appeared to genuinely be in need of finding out the answer to his question. He was seriously examining his companion’s facial expressions. How could she not even try a play at cuteness around him?

Glad that she had managed to circumvent the other topic, Alicia quickly chewed her meat and swallowed hard. “I see a doctor.” Her answer finally came.

“Is that all you see?” He asked disappointedly.

“Is there something else I’m supposed to see?” She asked.

Kondwani felt a chunk off his pride drop to the floor. “Sometimes I wonder if you are putting on a perfect act of naivety or if you are simply just plain naïve. Isn’t there a part of you that finds me attractive as a man?”

The fork in Alicia’s hand dropped onto her plate causing the few heads in the restaurant to turn in their direction. Some of the sauce from her beef steak went splashing all over the front of her top. The bluntness of Doctor Chileshe’s question had completely caught her off guard and she wasn’t quite sure how she was supposed to respond.

It was a well-known fact that he was a very good looking man. There was no woman that looked at Kondwani Chileshe and failed to silently recognize that fact in her head. However, it was a whole other matter for one to be forced to utter that fact to the man’s face without wishing for the ground to open up and swallow them.

Kondwani appeared completely pleased by her reaction and the proud smirk on his face showed just how flattered he was by Alicia’s admission even though she had not uttered a single word in reply. Her glowing cheeks and blushing eyes were literally screaming her response at him.

“I am going to go to the bathroom!” Alicia’s was suddenly on her feet and off towards the direction of the toilets.

Kondwani literally laughed out loud. “I seriously think she lied about her age.” He said to himself.

The beautiful server that was in charge of their table tried to intercept Alicia along her way to the bathroom but Alicia was too embarrassed to stop and talk to her. She just shook her head and pointed towards the bathroom in urgency. Instead, the server went to Kondwani who was still busking in the aftermath of Alicia’s unintended confession.

It was not as if he was not aware of the fact that women find him good looking so why did he find himself utterly flattered by Alicia’s silent admission? He was a man used to having women throw themselves at him and do everything in their power to get his attention. So why did the silent confession of a simple-looking, naïve but beautiful nurse cause him to feel like he had just won gold at the Olympics?

“Is everything all right sir?” The concerned server asked Kondwani.

Kondwani lifted his head to look up at her, he was grinning from ear to ear. “Everything is absolutely fine!” He was almost shouting the words. “My day had started off on a crappy note but it’s suddenly brightened up. How about you give me the best wine you have in the house? The very best.”

Smiling, “yes sir,” replied the server before leaving for the bar.

By the time Alicia came out of the bathroom, the wine had already been served. She found two empty glasses set on the table and it appeared as if Doctor Chileshe was waiting for her before he could pour it into the glasses.

Kondwani looked at her and immediately realized she had utilized her time out very wisely. The sauce stains on her blouse were completely gone. “Sit,” he pointed to where she had been seated earlier.

“What’s this about?” She pointed to the red wine and the two glasses.

“We are going to celebrate the fact that you like me Alicia.” Kondwani said. Alicia’s eyes immediately went searching across the room to see if anyone had overheard his words. She wanted to reach out from across the table and put her hand over his smirking mouth.

She sat down and leaned towards him to whisper; “I never said I liked you.” She emphasized every word in the sentence. “Just because a woman thinks you are good looking does not mean that she likes you.”

Kondwani grinned some more. “Finally, she actually says the words.”

Right away, Alicia realized she had fallen flat into his trap.

Kondwani opened the bottle of wine and poured half a glass for her before pouring for himself.

“I don’t drink.” Alicia announced just as Kondwani set the glass before her.

He gaped at her. “You gotto be kidding me.” he said disappointedly.

“It’s getting dark outside,” she made a point of actually looking outside. “I still live with my parent’s so I need to get back home on time.”

“Why does a twenty-eight year old woman with a fully-functioning career still live with her parents?” Kondwani asked.

“Because this 28 year old woman needs to save money for something more important than her own life or freedom.”

“You mean your son?”

She nodded.

“What if I find you a good lawyer to help you get your son back?” Kondwani offered.

“Now why would you do that?” Alicia asked.

“I told you, I have a debt to pay.” He answered.

“I can’t afford that kind of lawyer right now and I think I would really feel uncomfortable receiving that kind of help from you. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything for the way you treated me when we first met.

“You were just doing your job and I understand. You don’t need to do these kinds of things,” she was looking at the table set before them as she said the words. “You really don’t owe me anything…but thank you for offering anyway, it means a lot.”

“I thought you said you would do anything to get your son back.” Kondwani’s tone was suddenly serious. “If getting your son back is your prerogative, then isn’t a little discomfort on your part a small price to pay to achieving your goal?”

“Why are you doing this doctor?” For the first time since they sat down, she was looking directly at him. “Why do you care so much about what goes on in my life? It can’t just be because you feel bad about how rude you were to me. You are rude and smug with everyone at work, it’s not just me so…or do you follow up the others as well and offer to do them favours?”

“Why are you acting like I asked to bed you when all I want to do is help you get your son back?” Kondwani asked. “If you don’t want my help then fine!” He got up and walked over to the bar where their server was standing.

“The bill please.” He said.

She handed it to him., he quickly signed it and returned it to her. When he was done, he headed right out of the building instead of back to the table where Alicia was seated watching him walk out in disbelief.

She quickly got up, waved to the server and ran out after Doctor Chileshe.

She wanted to ask him what was wrong with him but something about his demeanour sent her straight into silence. She waited for him to get into the car and when she noticed he didn’t drive off without her but instead waited for her to get in; she quickly rushed to get in.

“I thought you were going to leave me behind.” She said but Kondwani said nothing in response. All the way to her place, there were no words exchanged between them. Alicia had no idea when it happened, but she found herself being gently shaken by Kondwani and she opened her eyes to find them parked in front of her gate.

“How-“

“I figured you were tired, didn’t want to wake you.” Kondwani said. He was awkwardly avoiding looking at her.

“When did we get here?” Alicia asked, realizing from his words that they hadn’t just arrived.

“Does it matter?” Kondwani said flatly.

Alicia checked her wrist watch for the time and her mouth fell wide open. She went straight for the door so as not to keep him any longer but Kondwani surprised her by grabbing her hand.

“Wait,” he said, his voice soft and controlled.

Alicia’s gaze went straight to where their hands were touching before she sat back. Kondwani immediately released his hold on her.

“You like me, don’t you?” He asked.

“Huh?” Alicia said. Was it his mission to shock her to death with his random questions?

“Let me rephrase,” he said. “I know that you like me.”

“Is this some kind of joke or test?” Alicia asked.

“Maybe, you hate me?” He was now looking straight into her eyes.

“I don’t hate you, but neither do I like you.” Alicia stated matter-of-factly. “Where is all this coming from? I thought I told you-“

“Then why are you refusing my help?” Kondwani asked. “If you have no feelings whatsoever for me, why not just accept my help as something coming from a colleague who wants to be your friend?”

Alicia scoffed. “A friend?” She asked. “You and me?” She scoffed again. “You and I live in two different worlds Doctor Chileshe. You live in a castle and I live in my parent’s spare bedroom.

“We might work in the same hospital but the only reason I exist there is just so I can pass tools to you so you can effectively do your life-changing job. Only a fool would expect more from this kind of relationship. Besides, I almost lost my job because your fiancé misunderstood something between us so the last thing I-“

“So is it because of her?” Kondwani asked. “Is it because you think your job will be threatened that’s why you keep refusing my help?”

Alicia couldn’t believe Doctor Chileshe’s persistence. “I told you-“

“What if I ended my relationship with her?”

“What!?” Alicia couldn’t believe her ears. “Is something wrong with you Doctor?” She was genuinely examining him for symptoms of disorientation.

“Nothing is wrong with me.” He said. “I am perfectly fine so stop looking at me like that. I simply just what to help-“

“Why do you care so much?” Alicia asked.

“Does it really matter?” Kondwani asked. “Can’t you just accept my help, say thank you like a normal person would so that we can both continue with our lives?”

Alicia was glaring at him in disbelief. Why was he getting upset with her? She should be the one getting upset with him. “I told you, I don’t need your help.” She said sternly and stepped down from the vehicle.

Kondwani quickly stepped out as well. “Then you shouldn’t have allowed me to see you cry like a fool everywhere I went!” He shouted at her before she could open the gate.

Alicia turned to look at him in fury. His brutal reminder of those painful moments of vulnerability when she thought no one was watching brought tears straight into her eyes. “What, do I need permission from you to even cry?” She snapped. “I can cry whenever I feel like it but that doesn’t mean I need anyone to rescue me.” As she said the words, the tears streamed down her face, as if to prove a point to him.

“You are not asking to help me because you care,” She added. “You simply want to fulfil some private dark desire just so you can make yourself feel better. Yes, you are a good looking man I will give you that but don’t go around thinking every woman is out to get your heart or attention. I am not one of them.”

With that, she opened the gate, entered and flung it shut behind her with a bang.

“That didn’t go anywhere close to plan.” Kondwani said to himself. He got back into the car and called the person responsible for putting him in that kind of situation.

“Bro,” Chilufya answered his call.

“Meet me by Rhapsody’s in 30.” He said.
“It’s not working.” Kondwani complained to his twenty-five year old sister about an hour later.

“What’s not working?” Chilufya asked.

“What you asked me to do.” He said.

“What I asked you to do?” Chilufya appeared clueless. “I don’t remember-“

“That girl won’t give me the time of day.” Kondwani said. “I have tried everything possible to try and get close to her so I can help to make her life easy but she just won’t give me a chance.”

“What girl-“

“She keeps asking me questions and frankly I have run out of lies. I have never had any problems telling a lie before but somehow…with this woman, nothing seems to work out. Every single time I look at her, the guilt just eats me up and-“

“Ooooh.” Chilufya finally got on the same page as her brother. “You are talking about the nurse, Ms Daka.”

“Of course,” Kondwani said. “Who else could I be talking about? What’s wrong with you today?”

“Hey, hey, don’t take your anger out on me.” Chilufya warned him. “I am not the one responsible for your current state of mind.”

“Do you think I would be feeling this frustrated if you hadn’t ask me that stupid question last time we talked?”

Chilufya laughed. “Since when have you ever listened to me…or to anyone for that matter?”

“This case is different.” Kondwani said.

“So what did you try to do for her?” Chilufya asked.

That question forced Kondwani to revisit his past and recent interaction with Alicia. He couldn’t help wincing in embarrassment.

“What? What happened?” Chilufya had never seen her brother look so abashed.

“Oooh, it’s too embarrassing. I can’t believe I did or said some of those things.” He covered his face with the palm of his hands. “I wish I could just drop dead to save myself from this embarrassment.”

“What did you do?” Chilufya was now dying from curiosity. She had never seen her brother look so mortified.

“Anyway!” Kondwani dropped his hands from his face. “I am done with all this drama.” He said. “I did what I could, I reached out to her, I offered to help and she flat out turned me down.”

“You offered her help? How?” Chilufya asked.

“I asked her if she wanted help getting her son back and she said she didn’t need my help. I even offered to get her the best lawyer in town. She still said no.”

“Oh my God, you didn’t.” Chilufya’s jaw dropped.

“What?” Kondwani asked.

“Are you and that woman friends?” she asked.

“Of course not, I’m her boss. She’s interning at my hospital.”

“Exactly!” Chilufya hit her hand against the table. “How can you offer someone you have no close relationship with that kind of help? Did you expect her to jump up in joy and wrap her arms around you in gratitude?”

“I also offered to be her companion…you know-“

“Her what?” Chilufya hang her head in shock and embarrassment. “You offered to be her what?” She slowly repeated her question.

“She cries quite a lot and very so easily,” Kondwani explained himself. “I thought, obviously it’s because she hasn’t gotten over her boyfriend so…you know….”

For the first time in her life, Chilufya realized just how human her big brother was. She had grown up believing that there was nothing her big brother could not do in the whole world. He was her hero, her mentor and she literally worshiped the ground he walked on. However, in that moment, looking at him and hearing him talk, she realized for the very first time that he was not perfect, and that there were certain things in the world that no amount of money or intelligence could buy.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Kondwani asked his sister. He could read disappointment…and something else…could it be pity he was seeing in her eyes? No way.

And then suddenly, he saw tears.

Shocked by the sudden turn of events, Kondwani grabbed a napkin from the table and passed it to her. “Chilu, what’s wrong with you?” He asked, concern and shock written all over his face.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, his sister started sobbing, loud enough to attract the attention of everyone in the restaurant. And instead of hiding her face for dignity’s sake, Chilufya opened sobbed and sobbed with her mouth wide open.

“Shit.” Kondwani cussed under his breath as he went to sit next to her. “Woman, what’s all this about? Can’t you see everyone is looking at us?”

In response, Chilufya turned her body to fully face her brother. She lifted both her hands and rested them on either side of his face, all the while sobbing and shaking her head at the same time. “What have we done to you?” She cried.

“What do you mean what have you done to me?” He grabbed her hand and laid them down gently. “Here,” he took some more napkins brought to their table by a male server and handed it to her. When the server remained standing there, Kondwani felt the need to explain the situation to him…and everyone else looking at them strangely.

“She’s my baby sister,” he said. “She’s going through some issues so….”

The server nodded his head, apologized and quickly gave them the privacy they needed.

“See now people are looking at me strangely and thinking I have done some injustice to you.” Kondwani told his sister.

Chilufya dried her tears and after calming down, she took her brothers hand and held on to it for the duration of her speech.

“On behalf of mum and my siblings,” she started. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize to you for what we’ve done.” As she spoke, a fresh bolt of tears came streaming down her cheeks.

Kondwani could only stare at her blankly, completely lost from whatever was going on in her head. It was not as if he was not aware of his young sister’s bipolar personality. Chilufya’s moods shifted between night and day in a split second and sometimes it was hard to tell whether she was female or not since she woke up on certain days talking, walking and dressing like a boy and on other days she appeared as immaculate and impeccably dressed as a 15th century European medieval woman.

With Chilufya, there was just no knowing which side of the bed she would wake up on. She had the potential to shock even the most holy of men. Their mother had already gone through all the possible powerful pastors she could afford and all she could do now was wait upon new ones and new churches to be born so she could try them as well.

But as a medical doctor, Kondwani knew for a fact that what his sister needed was not holy water or holy blankets. As long as she continued with her medication and therapy, she would eventually get better. In fact, he was already seeing the change in her…even though she still wasn’t quite there yet.

“You were so busy taking care of us that you missed out on a lot of things.” Chilufya cried.

Kondwani finally understood where the water works were coming from and why. He simply laughed and wrapped his arms around his sister.

“I promise you I’m going to help you find a woman that you will truly truly love.” Chilufya promised, her arms too tightly wrapped around her brother.

“How can I desire any other woman when I have a baby sister that loves me like this?” Kondwani joked.

Chilufya suddenly let go of him. “I’m serious!” She sulked.

Kondwani laughed. “I know, so please, stop crying.” She picked up another napkin and this time around he wiped her tears himself. “Whatever man will win your heart will be the luckiest fella in the whole world, you know that right?”

Chilufya blushed, smiled, and nodded. “And my brother might not be perfect, but he is the best brother and doctor this country has ever seen!” She said.

“And for that, you deserve the best and most expensive meal on this menu.” Kondwani said, standing up to go back to his seat. He handed Chilufya the menu.

“So I can order everything I want here right?” She was beaming with excitement, her finger going over every item on the page she was closely scrutinizing.

Kondwani laughed. “Yes,” he said, silently thanking the heavens that she wasn’t a royal lady of the court that day worried about appearances and her weight. The silent Y chromosome in her was fully in charge for the moment.

He put down his menu and sat watching his sister give the server a list of items she wanted to eat, a bittersweet smile playing on his face as he desperately fought back tears.
***

That evening after Kondwani dropped her off at home, Alicia went straight to bed, turning down her father’s offer to join the family for dinner with the excuse of having eaten already. She had not told a lie but both her parents thought she was still upset over what had happened with her mother during the day.

Alicia’s mind was anywhere but home. Despite her high IQ, at the age of 28, she still had trouble discerning matters of the heart. Why was Doctor Chileshe acting like that with her? She kept asking herself but each time she couldn’t seem to come up with a concrete answer.

It can’t be because he likes me, she reasoned. He had said so himself. It has to be pity…that…that white knight syndrome. But why me? Why does he care so much?

But the time she realized it, it was thirty minutes passed midnight and she had the early morning shift. She switched off her bedside lamp and drowned into her beddings, forcefully willing her mind to focus on sleep only.

The next morning at work, Doctor Chileshe was back to being his old self; cold, rude, dismissive and disrespectful. It was as if the previous day had not happened. In her shelved nature, Alicia did her best to avoid running into him at all cost. She was always an easy target for anyone in a position of power…or just anyone.

Unfortunately, being the assisting surgical nurse, she had no means of completing staying out of Kondwani’s radar. However, she was fortunate enough to realize that he too was committed to ignoring her as much as she was. Except for those conversations that could not be avoided in the OR, the two of them stayed out of each other’s way, religiously.

The situation remained like that for days, until others like Dr Kayombo started to notice.

“So what’s going on between you and Dr Chileshe?” Samuel asked her one day when they were having lunch with two other interning nurses in the cafeteria.

“Are you planning on sitting with us every day?” A very uncomfortable Alicia asked. “Everyone is staring at us like we stole something from them.” She added as she scanned the room.

“That group of female doctors over there looks like they are ready for a fight.” Nurse Evans chipped in. he was one of the three male intern nurses in Alicia’s group.

“I don’t know, but I’m kind of enjoying all the hate and attention.” Nurse Caroline said.

Caroline had the shortest nursing uniform in the group and always got in trouble with Mrs Miti over her make-up and audacious appearance. The 25 year old had not hidden the fact that she only became a nurse in order to meet a rich old dying man so she could inherit his wealth. She was shameless as she was beautiful.

“Aren’t you going to answer my question?” Kayombo asked, completely ignoring her protests.

“I have no idea-“

“Where is that ungrateful murderer who killed my son?” Alicia heard a familiar voice behind her and froze. She didn’t need to turn to know who had rudely stormed into the cafeteria in such a fit of rage. What she didn’t know was what she could have done to arouse that kind of rage in her.

“Aunty?” Doctor Kondwani was already up on his feet.

Alicia quickly got up and turned in the direction of the pending doom. Before she could even stand up straight, Mrs Kabwe slapped her hard across the face and sent her straight to the floor.

“How can you do this to me?” Mary asked. She threw the pile of papers in her hands at her. Shocked and confused, Alicia picked up one of the papers, one word immediately stood out to her; custody.

She quickly read through the whole document.

“You killed my son and now you want to take away my grandchild?” Mary shouted.

“Aunt Mary,” Kayombo went over to the woman’s side to try and calm her down while Evans and Caroline tried to help Alicia up.

Unfortunately, Mary was not in a calming down mood. She flung at Alicia once again and pulled at her hair. “You are never taking him away from me!” She said as she pulled an unprotesting Alicia left, right and centre.

“How dare you threaten me with fancy lawyers?” Mary shouted. Kayombo and Evans tried to pull the woman away from Alicia but she was way too vicious for them.

“What the hell is going on here?” It was Kondwani, in all his angry glory. Kayombo and Evans immediately let go of Mrs Kabwe and for the first time Alicia made a move to escape the woman’s wrath.

“Doctor Chileshe?” Alicia said, fear written all over her face. She could hear her career run down the sewer drain. It was over for her.

“Don’t you have a mouth?” Kondwani asked. “Can’t you talk to defend yourself?”

Alicia appeared lost and confused.

“Who the hell are you?” Mary turned towards the doctor, completely unfazed by his domineering nature.

“I am the owner of this place…and also the person that hired someone to send you those documents.” He was looking at the papers on the floor.

“What?”

It was not just Alicia and Mary that had asked that question, it was everyone else in the cafeteria, including Gwen who was standing right behind Kondwani.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 6

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 6

“Are you all right doctor?” Alicia asked, still gently massaging his back.

“I’m okay.” Samuel said as he quickly got up to put a distance between them. He drunk some more water and after nursing his chest for a bit with his hand, the choking stopped.

“Does that happen often?” Alicia went back to sit. Samuel remained standing where he was, hands in pockets and eyes fixed ahead on the Buseko playing soccer in the distance.

“No, I don’t know what happened there.” He didn’t turn to look at her. “You have one happy and intelligent boy there Alicia.” He added.

A proud mother’s smile crept onto Alicia’s face. “It’s hard not to fall in-love with him.” She said, her eyes too went in that direction “He reminds me so much of his father.”

This time Kayombo looked at her. “You must have really loved him….” He said and waited to see her reaction.

The bright smile turned bittersweet at the memory of her boyfriend. “For a moment I even loved him more than I loved God.” She said. “Isn’t that why Buseko is here?”

Kayombo laughed. “That’s one way of putting it.”

“What about you doctor?” Alicia asked.

“What about me?” He asked. “And please, can you stop calling me doctor doctor. We are not at work and I think that by now I qualify to be considered your friend. Don’t you think?”

“What would you rather I call you?”

“I do have a name you know.” He said.

“Samuel,” Alicia said and immediately shivered in discomfort. “Owww, it feels so wrong since you are still my boss at work. How about I just call you Mr Kayombo when we are not at work?”

“Hell no!” He said. “That’s even worse! Just call me Sam, that’s what all my friends call me. Try it, it’s not that hard.”

Alicia was smiling shyly, unable to bring herself to say the doctor’s first name.

“You used to call me Sam or Samuel when you were with Nick.” Kayombo reminded her.

“You were not my boss back then and I genuinely wanted to get close to you that time.” She answered.

“And now?”

“Now what?”

“You just said you genuinely wanted to get close to me.” He said. “Does that mean that now your intentions to want to get close to me are not genuine or, that you don’t even want us to become friends?”

“Of course I want us to be friends.” Alicia said. “I just meant that back then I wanted to be close to anyone that was important to my boyfriend.”

“And I am still important to him even today.” Samuel said. “Just because he is no longer here doesn’t mean that our friendship also died. That’s not how it works Alicia.”

Kayombo’s words reminded Alicia of just how much other things had changed simply because Nicolas was no longer there. She dropped her head resignedly.

“Did I say something wrong?” Kayombo could see her state of mind just from watching her body language.

Alicia quickly raised her head to look at him. “No, not at all.” She said, blinking profusely to keep herself from crying. “Can we change the subject?”

“Ahh.” Kayombo caught on quickly. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t-“

“It’s fine,” Alicia got herself up from the mat, her gaze back towards her son Buseko. “You don’t need to apologize. I’m the one who should…don’t know why I still get emotional despite all the years that have passed. I am going to join the kids over there.” She pointed to where her son was and started heading in that direction.

She had just walked a couple of steps when Kayombo grabbed her by the wrist. “Alicia.” He said.

Alicia first turned to look where he was touching her and then slowly raised her head to look at him. “What is it?” She asked, concern written all over her face.

A few seconds ago, Kayombo had made up his mind and was more than ready to get the ball rolling. If he was ever to grab hold of Kondwani’s Achilles heel, Alicia was the only person that could give him directions.

However, something about the innocence in Alicia’s eyes gave Samuel Kayombo pause. From the little he had come to learn about her, ever since Nicolas, Alicia never allowed anyone to get close to her, be they male or female. But he could tell that she had opened up to him easily from the time they met, a natural form of trust stemming from the fact that he was her late boyfriend’s best friend. How could she not trust him?

For the first time since he had made the decision to go after Kondwani in order to win back the love of his life, Kayombo had second thoughts.

He quickly dropped Alicia’s hand like a bag of hot potatoes. “I wanted to say wait for me.” He said and started leading the way towards Buseko and his group of friends.

Alicia laughed and ran to catch up to him.
Alicia got home two hours later and found her mother seated alone in the living room watching TV.

“I’m home.” Alicia announced her presence in a forced tone as she walked into the room and her mother turned to look at her, an unsure smile on her face.

Feeling the awkwardness, Alicia made no effort to engage in small talk with her and she continued her walk upstairs to her bedroom.

“Did you have fun?”

She was just about to lift her leg onto the first step on the staircase when she heard her mother ask. Both surprise and confusion registered on Alicia’s face. It was her mother’s first try at small talk with her.

“Yes.” Alicia answered without turning to look at her. If she saw the tears in her eye, she might misunderstand and think that she still had that much effect on her. Thus, she continued taking the stairs up and not once did she turn to look at her mother.

Downstairs, her daughter’s out-right rejection broke Henrietta’s heart to pieces, the tears running down her face and falling onto the red carpet she was standing on. It had been over two years now since her daughter had completely turned her back on her.

She felt the distance between them more in that moment than any other time.

“I’m sorry Alicia.” Henrietta whispered the painful words towards her daughter but Alicia had already disappeared into her room.

“I am so sorry.” Henrietta cried, holding her hand over her mouth to stifle her sobs.

With the door closed behind her, Alicia fell down to her knees and cried to her heart’s content. How long had it been since her own mother tried to make conversation with her? Did she think things between them would change just like that? Why was she trying to shake her up now when she was just starting to get used to living without needing her love or recognition? Did she miss seeing her beg for her attention like she used to all those years?

Alicia was so absorbed in her sorrow that it took a while for her to hear her phone vibrating from her handbag. She wiped off her tears and opened her bag to get the phone.

“Hello,” she answered without checking the caller id, her voice horse still horse from crying.

“Are you crying?” Alicia immediately recognized the voice on the other end of the line but just to be sure, she removed the phone from her ear and looked at the screen.

Eyes shot wide open. “Dr Chileshe!?” She was almost shouting.

“Alicia, are you okay?” Kondwani asked.

Kondwani’s question and tone of voice sent a chill down Alicia’s spine. Only one man ever voiced such concern towards her.

Alicia cleared her throat and wiped off any remaining traces of tears from her face. “Doctor, I’m fine. I’m I needed at work?” She was trying desperately to steady her voice but she was not much of an actress.

Kondwani had spent most of his younger life listening to the sounds of one woman crying and then pretending not to have been crying in front of her children. Was it not because of those very tears that he had developed an unmatched hunger for success?

Alicia’s act of bravery could not fool him.

“No, I wasn’t calling because of work.” Kondwani said. “I was calling for something else but now I think something else is more important. Where are you?” He asked.

“Where am I?” Alicia asked, not sure if she heard the question right.

“Yes, where are you?” Kondwani repeated firmly.

“I’m at home.” Alicia answered as she got up for the floor, her facial expression revealing the absolute state of her confused mind.

“I’m coming over.” Kondwani stated matter-of-factly. Alicia could hear him moving about.

“Huh?” She still wasn’t sure if she was hearing him right. Why would Dr Chileshe be coming over to visit her?

“I’ll be there in thirty minutes, let me find you outside.” He said.

“You mean here? My house? Hello? Sir?” He had already cut the line.

“How does he know where I stay?” Alicia asked herself as she starred at the phone in her hands, then she remembered the pictures she had seen in her supervisors office.

Did people spread more rumours about me and him again? She quickly changed into her slippers and ran downstairs.

She found her mother sitting on the couch with her head bowed down as if in deep thought. Without saying a word, Alicia ran through the living room and was out of the house.

Henrietta lifted her head up in time to find Alicia closing the door behind her. Her face was still drenched in tears.

“What happened?” Joseph asked his wife that evening when he came back from work and found Henrietta sulking in bed.

“She won’t give me a chance.” Henrietta said, her face drained of all life from having cried the whole afternoon.

Joseph didn’t need to ask who the ‘she’ was. He put his laptop bag down and went to sit next to his wife on the bed. “What happened?” He asked again.

Henrietta broke down into tears again. “I tried to have a conversation with her but she shut me out completely.” She cried. “I told you, it’s too late for us.”

Joseph reached over to his wife and gently pulled her into his arms. “I know it’s not easy.” He said. “But you know very well that it’s never too late to make things right with those we love. You love your daughter don’t you?”

Henrietta raised her head to give her husband a scolding look. “How can you ask me something like that?” She said. “Of course I love her.”

Joseph laughed. “Good, then that means I won’t be hearing the words giving up or too late coming out of your mouth.”

“You are such a cunning man Mr Daka.” Henrietta said, smiling through her tears.

“This cunning Mr Daka is famished.” Joseph said as he got up from the bed. “How about rewarding him a bit for his wisdom with a meal?”

His wife laughed, getting right off the bed. “Yes sir,” she said. “You take a shower while I warm up dinner. Everything will be ready by the time you’re done. I’ve already prepared some fresh clothes for you to change into.” She pointed to the well folded clothes resting on the other side of the bed.

“Come downstairs when you’re done.” Henrietta said from the door.

“Where’s Alicia?” Joseph asked. “And the rest also, the house is too quite.”

“Alicia ran out of the house a few minutes after she got in and the rest of them are by the neighbour’s house.” Henrietta replied. “Vivien just came back from Dubai with a new batch of clothes.” Vivien was the name of their next door neighbour who owned a number of boutiques around town.

“Belinda wanted to get ‘first dibs’ at them.” She was smiling as she made quotation marks in the air to mimic her daughter’s exact expression.

“And she took the boys with her?” Her husband asked.

“Vivien sells all kinds of clothes!” Henrietta said. “I got that shirt you are wearing and six others from her.”

Joseph looked at his grey shirt, shrugged his shoulders and went to take his shower.

***

Thirty minutes, just like he had stated, Kondwani showed up outside Alicia’s home and parked in front of the gate where she was standing waiting for him.

Thinking that something big must have happened to get the doctor to come all the way to her place, Alicia ran over to his window before he could even bring his car to a complete stop.

“Doctor Chileshe?” She said through the open window by the passenger’s side.

“Get in.” Kondwani instructed.

“Huh?”

“Get in.” He parked and reached over to open the door for her.

Alicia reluctantly stepped into the vehicle and closed the door. Kondwani backed onto the road and drove off.

“Where are we going?” Alicia nervously asked.

“Somewhere.” Kondwani said curtly and offered no further explanation.

Alicia kept quiet.

For about forty minutes, they drove in pregnant silence.

Kondwani finally drove through an open gate and onto a long driveway. A carport came into view but there was only two vehicles parked there.

Kondwani took the spot right next to them.

“Where are we?” Alicia asked, not making a move to step out while Kondwani unbuckled his seatbelt. “It’s very quiet and deserted….” She added as she scanned the surroundings.

Kondwani paused and looked at her quizzically. “Are you afraid of me Alicia?”

When did you start calling me by my first name? Alicia wondered. “No doctor.” Her lips said but the rest of her body suggested otherwise.

“Where do you think we are?” Kondwani asked, looking very bemused now. “Or rather, what do you think I plan on doing to you?”

Alicia eyes instinctively went towards the door. She literally heaved a sigh of relief when she saw it was unlocked.

Kondwani laughed. “Come out.” He said as he stepped out.

She reluctantly opened the door and stepped down. Kondwani walked over to her, reached out his hand to close the door for her and brushed against her skin as he did so.

Alicia held her breath and froze in place.

Kondwani locked the car remotely and was about to say something to her when he noticed her frozen state. Only then did he realize just how close they were standing.

He laughed again. “My bad,” he said and immediately put a distance between them. “Come,” he took her hand and started leading her towards the beautifully landscaped open space ahead of them.

“Where are we?” Alicia asked, her eyes fixed on the hand that was holding on to her. “Where are we going?”

“Relax, I am not going to do anything to you.” Kondwani said. “There are people over there looking at us.” He pointed behind them to the glass building in front of the parking lot. “If I had evil intentions, I wouldn’t bring you to a place with witnesses. My face is easily recognizable you know.”

“My hand.” She stop suddenly.

Kondwani looked to where their hands were touching and reluctantly released hers.

“This is a new place,” he finally told her where they were. “It’s mostly for camping and picnics. You can have a drink over there or use the pool if you like, it’s right in front of that building.” He pointed to the only building in sight.

“But most people come here for picnics. It’s quiet and peaceful. I thought you and I could talk here in private.”

“Talk about what?” Alicia asked.

“For starters, about why you were crying.” He said and resumed walking.

Alicia had no choice but to run after him. “Why…why do I have to explain that to you, Sir?” She was standing in front of him, blocking him from walking any further.

“How about looking at me while you talk?” Kondwani asked, finding her timidness both amusing and disappointing.

Alicia slowly lifted her head and looked at him with her big round eyes. “It’s just that…you…you-“

“I what Alicia?” Kondwani asked.

“You confuse me.” She blurted out.

“I confuse you, how?”

“I can’t tell if you like me or if you hate me.”

“Huh?” He had not expected her to be that upfront.

“Not like-like.” Alicia quickly explained. “I mean…” she dropped her head again. “One moment you are kind to me and the next…you are rude and you…you belittle me. I am confused.”

Kondwani chuckled. “Oh, that.” He said and started walking again. “Let’s find a spot to sit first. There’s a spot with a beautiful view ahead.”

Alicia first heard the sound of running water before the beautiful spot came into view.

“Look,” Kondwani stopped in front of a narrow stream of clear water running from an unknown source and flowing into the bushes in the distance.

“How?” Alicia asked in awe.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Kondwani said, smiling as he watched the expression on her face. “There’s a small waterfall over there where this water is coming from. The owners made this stream for show. It runs all the way round this picnic area.” He explained.

“Let’s sit over there.” He pointed to a point higher than where they were standing. “We can enjoy the view better from there.”

Alicia followed him and sat down next to him. For sure, they had a better view of the stream and the beautiful scenery around it.

“You said I confuse you.” Kondwani returned to their earlier topic.

Alicia nodded.

“Don’t you think I’m like that with everybody? It’s my job to recommend workers when they do right and to reprimand them when they don’t.”

“I guess so.” Alicia said, obviously unsatisfied with his response but accepting it anyway to avoid antagonizing him.

“You don’t believe me.” Kondwani noted.

“Sir, why did you bring me here?” She asked.

“Because today is the fourth time I heard you cry since you joined my hospital.”

Alicia gaped at him.

“Let’s just say that there’s very little that happens at my hospital that I’m not aware of.” he said. “Naturally, I am curious to know what’s causing the best surgical nurse at my hospital so much pain.”

Alicia’s mind immediately went back to all the times she had cried during the past three months. It was not as if she cried everyday…only when her son’s grandmother decided to exercise her villain rights over her life.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter to Mary where Alicia was when she decided to unleash her verbal vomit.

But, hadn’t she made sure she was alone before breaking down in tears at work? Just how long and how far did the doctor go in investigating her? She always made sure she was alone whenever that happened. The last thing she needed was the other interns discovering a weakness about her and using it against her. They already had enough material to use to make her life difficulty so there was no way she was going to easily hand them something else to use against her.

“Is it something you can’t talk about with me?” Kondwani asked. “Should I set an appointment for you with the hospital psychologist?

Alicia gasped, finally understanding why the doctor was taking such a keen interest in her personal life. “Are you planning on firing me?” She asked.

“What?” Kondwani looked confused.

“Do you think that I am unfit to work for you?” Alicia asked.

“What? How-“

“I knew it!” Alicia got to her feet.

“What are you taking about?” Kondwani stood up as well, confusion written all over his face.

“You think I am not good enough to work for your hospital isn’t it?” She looked about ready to start crying.

“Where did you get that from?” Kondwani asked.

“Why else would you be curious about my personal life?” She answered. “Why would you suggest that I see the hospital shrink? You want them to declare me unfit isn’t it?”

Kondwani finally caught on to her line of thought and couldn’t help laughing. Of all possibilities, how did she wind up jumping to that conclusion?

Misunderstanding his laughter, a very distraught Alicia turned and started walking down towards the stream. Kondwani ran after her and went to block her way.

Alicia turned to the side but there too Kondwani blocked her.

“Alicia, calm down.” He said, placing his hands on her shoulders to keep her from moving.

“For a moment, I entertained other ideas in my head while I waited for you to show up at home.” She said.

It was the first time Kondwani heard her speak without stuttering or sounding timid. There was a burning fire of anger in her eyes as she glared at him.

“For you my job might seem meaningless but it means everything to me.” Alicia’s voice was quivering in anger but she kept talking. “I know that you doctors think you are better than nurses but that’s no way to treat people.

“This isn’t right. You have no idea what I’ve lost and sacrificed over the years to get where I am today. This job means everything to me. I won’t let you get rid of me that easily. What have I ever done to you for you to hate me this much?”

“Alicia-“ Kondwani tried to explain things to her but there was no stopping an angry Alicia.

There was something fierce and commanding in her eyes that he hadn’t seen before. It was as if she had turned into a whole different person. There was absolutely nothing timid or naïve about the woman whose gaze threatened to burn him over.

“I don’t care about the thing’s you’ve heard people say about me…or about us. I am not responsible for that. I have absolutely zero interest in a man like you.” Alicia fired away. “You have no compassion or consideration for others. This job means everything to me. It’s my chance to finally get my son back and I will not allow anyone to stand in my way.”

Having said her peace, Alicia brushed passed Kondwani, panting heavily as if she had just finished first in a marathon.

“I just want to help you!” Kondwani shouted from where he was.

Alicia continued walking for a few seconds, as if she had not heard him but something made her stop. She turned and sent him a questioning look. Kondwani walked to where she was.

“I know that I am not popular for my compassion but, there’s something about you that keeps forcing me to look at you.” Kondwani said.

Alicia looked even more confused now.

“I know it doesn’t make sense,” Kondwani continued. “It’s confusing to me too. There’s something in me that can’t stand seeing a woman cry…and I saw you crying on more than two occasions.”

“Doctor Chileshe-“

“The only reason why I’ve been hot and cold towards you is because I don’t like how I feel when I see you.”

“What do you-“ Alicia started to ask.

“Don’t misunderstand,” Kondwani raised his hand. “I’m not talking about those kind of feelings, no.” He could see Alicia release the breath she had been holding from the moment he mentioned the word feelings.

“I only made the shrink suggestion because I wanted to help you out. I did it out of concern, not because I wanted to use it to try and get rid of you. Why would I want to get rid of you?”

Alicia was soaking in embarrassment now. Just what had she been thinking? How could she lose her temper like that? The last time she had lost it like that was with her mother…three years ago.

“You are embarrassed right now aren’t you?” Kondwani asked, his voice was filled with laughter but he tried to keep a straight face.

The twenty-eight year old covered her face in embarrassment and turned her back to him. Kondwani laughed at her child-like behaviour.

“Can we go back and sit now?” He pointed to where they had been sitting.

Alicia started walking there without uttering a word.

“So, I am not your type.” Kondwani said once they were seated.

Alicia winced in mortification, her eyes shutting as if to erase the memory from her head. “I am so sorry.” She said. “I tend to say awful things when I am upset. I am so sorry.”

“You were like someone else!” Kondwani said. “I thought you were going to punch me or something.”

Alicia chuckled. “Punch you? No way! I love my job too much.”

“At least now I know what ticks you off.” He said.

Alicia sent him a look.

“Your son.” He said.

She laughed. “My father calls me Ark-Ally.”

“Ark Ally?” Kondwani asked.

“It’s a reference to God’s wrath when He asked Noah to build the Ark before flooding the earth. He says that I take time to respond to injustice dealt towards me but when I do, I make sure to leave a flood behind.” She laughed. “I know, it’s embarrassing but I’m working on it.”

“I actually like you angry like that.” Kondwani said. “I know, it’s crazy but you always act timid and shy, you never defend yourself and you let people walk all over you every single time. Today was the first time I saw you stand up for yourself.”

“You talk as if you know me so well.” Alicia said.

“I told you, there’s very little that happens at the hospital that I don’t know about.”

“Are you still stalking people behind their backs?” Alicia regretted the question the moment it came out of her mouth.

Kondwani laughed. “I already found what I was looking for.” He said.

“You did?”

“Let’s change the topic,” he said. “So, you said I am not your type….”

Alicia slapped her mouth and silently chastised it for spouting nonsense. I will never hear the end of this. Did I bruise his ego? She wondered.

“So if I’m not your type, who is? Dr Kayombo?”

“No!” Alicia answered a little too quickly and loudly.

Kondwani laughed. “Wow, I hope the doctor didn’t hear you wherever he is cause that would seriously break his heart.”

“Dr Kayombo and I are just friends. I knew him from way back.”

“I see.”

“Why do you have the WKS syndrome?” She was the one who needed the topic changed this time around.

“WKS?” Kondwani asked.

White Knight Syndrome.” Alicia said. “Or perhaps you know it as KiSAS – Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome. I am not a damsel in distress in need of rescuing Doctor Chileshe.”

“Arh,” Kondwani laughed. “I guess I have just seen enough pain in my life.”

“Well, the medical field does tend to have a lot of damsels in distress.” Alicia said. “You are after all the one in charge of taking that pain away.”

“Not really,” Kondwani said. “That I can handle. It’s other things in my life that might have turned me into someone like this. But just so we are clear, you are the first woman I have actually made a move to interfere…maybe because you cry too much.” He laughed.

“It’s not nice to laugh at people’s pain.” Alicia said.

“You reminded me a lot of someone….” The words escaped Kondwani’s mouth.

“Who? Why?” Alicia asked.

Kondwani quickly gained back his senses. “Only that first time I saw you crying behind the nursing chambers. You do know that people in the top offices can see you through their windows right?”

Alicia covered her face in embarrassment again. So that’s how he saw me. She thought. “I don’t know why I never thought of that.” She admitted.

“Well, at least now you know.” He said.

“Who do I remind you of?” Alicia asked.

“It’s not important.” He brushed it off. “Aren’t you hungry?” he tried to change the topic.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.” Alicia said.

“It’s not that.” Kondwani said. “It’s just something too personal that I’ve never shared with anybody before.”

“Okay,” Alicia said, not wanting to pry any further. It was obvious she was the last person he would want to share something that personal with. Who the hell did she think she was asking him such a personal question in the first place?

“Before,” Kondwani said. “You mentioned something about entertaining other ideas, what did you mean?”

“I said something like that?” Alicia quizzed him, desperately trying to remember everything she had said during her angry tirade.

For a moment, I entertained other ideas in my head while I waited for you to show up at home. Those were your exact words.” Kondwani reminded her. “I’m curious, what ideas where you entertaining?”

Alicia remembered thinking those words except, she didn’t think she had actually said them out loud.

“I’m hungry now, wow!” She quickly stood up. “I forgot that I never had lunch.” She started walking down from where they were.

“You are literally running away from me!” Kondwani went after her.

“What sort of food do they sell here?” She asked him when he came walking beside her. She quickened her pace but she was no match for Kondwani’s long legs.

“Alicia,” Kondwani grabbed her hand and forced her to a stop. “Why are you avoiding my question?”

“What question?” Alicia feigned ignorance. “Oh, you mean…no, I’m not avoiding. I just thought that…that…you know, that you wanted us to be friends.”

She didn’t miss the disappointment on Kondwani’s face.

“What did you think I meant?” Alicia asked.

“Nothing,” Kondwani said. “Isn’t that why I asked?” He then continued walking, leaving her to follow him from behind. Alicia made no effort to catch up to him this time.

Dear Lord, forgive me for lying. She said to herself, her eyes raised to the sky.
Next thing Alicia knew, her body was locked with Kondwani’s, literally. In those few seconds she had spent communicating with the heavens; Kondwani had come to a stop and stood waiting for her.

Alicia had not expected to find anything blocking her way when she continued walking.

“Is it because you are lonely?” Kondwani who was holding her by the shoulders to keep her from falling asked.

“What?” A flustered Alicia asked.

“The reason you cry so often,” Kondwani said. “Is it because you miss him?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Alicia tried to free herself from him but Kondwani surprised her by moving his hands from her shoulders and wrapping them around her waist.

He pulled her towards him and held her tightly. There was no more space left between them.

“What if I said I could help?” He suggested.

“Sir-“ Alicia continued her struggle for freedom.

“Look me in the eye and tell me what it would take to keep you from crying?” He said. “Do you want me to help you get your son back?”

Alicia stopped moving.

“Is that it?” Kondwani asked.

“Why are you doing this to me?” Alicia asked.

“Or do you want me to take your loneliness away?” He tightened his arms around her.

Alicia resumed her fight for freedom. She surprised him by kneeing him right where she knew it would hurt the most.

Kondwani went down immediately, wincing in pain.

“I understand that you have your WKS Doctor Chileshe but I’ve told you I don’t need rescuing.” Alicia said. “I am sure that there are many women out there in desperate need of your services but I am not one of them.”

“Did you really have to hit me in the groin?” Kondwani complained from the ground where he was. The pain was still too much for him to immediately get up.

“I was not comfortable with the way you were holding me.” Alicia said. “Are you alright?” The pain on his face was enough to transfer over to her.

“Do I look like I am fine to you?” Kondwani asked. “Woman, you are cruel.”

“I’m sorry. I thought I didn’t use much force.”

“You thought!?” Kondwani yelled, still wincing in pain. “I think you’ve killed my mother’s dreams of ever holding grandchildren from me.”

Alicia looked horrified. She went over to his side. “Is it that bad?” she asked, looking very concerned and scared now.

“Help me up.” Kondwani raised his hand and Alicia helped him to his feet.

“Should we go to the hospital?” Alicia asked.

Suddenly, Kondwani stood up straight and stopped wincing. “You said you were hungry….” He appeared perfectly fine as he walked towards the building where there was a bar and restaurant.

Alicia stood gaping at him in disbelief. Was that all an act? She asked herself.

 

“Can’t you let me help you?” Kondwani later asked her once they were seated in the restaurant waiting for their meal to be served.

“Are we back to that again?” Alicia said.

“I just want to help, no strings attached.” He said.

“Why?”

“Because I can.”

“That’s not good enough.” Alicia said. “If there’s anything I’ve come to learn about humans, men mostly, it is that nothing they give is for free. Why are you doing this Doctor Chileshe?”

Kondwani thought about his response for a few minutes.

And then, “What if I told you that I am trying to pay back a debt?” He asked.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 5

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 5

“Alicia’s life started to change about six years ago.” Stephen told Mwansa. “She fell pregnant for my cousin Nick. She was very young and naive around that time and wasn’t really ready to face something like that but Nicolas was.

“He was excited by the idea of becoming a father and he proposed marriage to her even when she asked him to wait because she didn’t want to feel like he was marrying her out of guilt or responsibility.”

“Wow,” Mwansa said. “What’s wrong with that lady? Does she know how lucky she is to have a guy propose marriage to her after knocking her up? Just like football, no guy will score and then run to the goalkeeper he’s just ran the ball passed to celebrate. They all run off to celebrate in the arms of others. That’s men for you.”

“But Nicolas was different.” Stephen said. “And where did you even get such an analogy?” He laughed.

“I know a lot of my friends who were crazy in-love with each other but the moment the sperm hit the egg, all that love evaporated into the air. I don’t know why some men are like that. After yanking live inside someone’s daughter, what do they expect to come out, peanut butter?”

Stephen laughed. “You sound pissed; did someone you love let you down? You don’t have a child I am not aware of, do you?”

Mwansa busted out laughing. “Unless God considers me to be as pure as Mary, this womb is still virgin territory.” She was touching her belly for effect. “Weren’t we talking about Alicia a few seconds ago? How did my womb come under fire?”

“Because you interrupted me.” Stephen said.

“So did Alicia turn down your cousin when he proposed?”

“She never even got to give him a response.” Stephen answered. “I was told that they were right outside Nick’s home when he proposed and they ended up fighting over him not considering her feelings. She ran out onto the street and disappeared.

“Naturally, Nicolas went after her and when he couldn’t find her, he went back home to get his car and went looking for her. That was when the accident happened.”

Mwansa gasped in disbelief. “Now it makes sense,” she said. “I remember you told me once on the phone that your aunt is very strict about you guys dating because of something that happened with her son. But still, I don’t think it’s fair for her to blame Alicia for what happened. Couples fight, granted, not all fights lead to death…but c’mon….”

“I know.” Stephen said. “But, it’s easier for a mother who’s lost her son prematurely to find someone to blame. I am not saying that it’s right, but at that time Alicia was the easy scapegoat for everything that happened.”

“And what about the person who caused the accident?” Mwansa asked. “That’s the person who should be held responsible for everything.”

“They placed all the blame on Nicolas.” Stephen said.

“What?” Mwansa asked. “Was it really him at fault?”

“Of course not but it’s always easy to blame the dead person because they can’t defend themselves.”

“He died on the spot?”

“No, but he was severely injured and lost consciousness on the spot. He died the next day at the hospital.”

“But how sure are you that it wasn’t him that caused the accident?” Mwansa asked.

“Because of the circumstances surrounding the accident. When the police checked for the owner of the other vehicle involved in the accident, they discovered that it belonged to the wife of some Minister. Apparently the guy that was driving it was a cousin or something to that official who didn’t appear bruised or injured at all from the accident.

“I found it strange that my cousin ended up dying from his injuries while the other guy looked unscratched.”

“You saw him?”

“No, I heard about it from my cousins.”

“But it’s not surprising,” Mwansa said. “It’s usually the case that the person who causes the accident comes off unscratched while the victim…or victims pay the price for his mistake.”

“Very true,” Stephen said. “As expected, they bought the story that that fella sold to them and you know how our system here works; if you are rich or if you are in power, you are above the law. My cousin didn’t stand a chance. Worse, they found empty bottles of alcohol in his car and they assumed he was drinking and driving.”

“He probably must have gone to drink after being rejected by his girlfriend.” Mwansa remarked.

Stephen hit the palm of his right hand against the steering wheel. “That’s the thing!” He yelled. “Nicolas never took alcohol, let alone that much number of bottles they found in his car.”

“What?”

“Yes, they found about seven empty bottles on the floor of his car. Nicolas avoided beer and places that sold only beer like a plague. He was just not a fan of alcohol. One glass of alcohol and he would be puking all over the place.

“His body and alcohol never saw face to face. I don’t know how those bottles ended up in his car because even if it was his friends drinking, he wouldn’t have allowed them to drink in his car and then leave the bottles hanging around like that.”

“Did the doctors find any alcohol in his system?” Mwansa asked, winning herself a glacial stare from Stephen.

“I just told you, Stephen never drank alcohol.” He said forcefully.

“I know,” Mwansa said. “But people have been known to do strange things after being rejected. You said it yourself, he was deeply in-love with his girlfriend.”

“Do you think it’s possible for someone who never drank alcohol to manage to stop at a store to purchase the beer, get back into his car and drink whilst driving and empty seven whole bottles in just under an hour?”

“An hour?” Mwansa asked disbelievingly. “All that happened within an hour?”

“See, it’s hard for anyone to belief.” Stephen said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard myself. The accident happened not far from his home. What’s even crazier, the hospital never did any tests and the police never investigated anything.

“The other driver told them that Nicolas was driving like a mad man. It was raining that day and I understand he might have been frantic about finding Alicia since she was pregnant but…. The way I knew Nick, he would have spent,” he added after a pause. “There’s no way he would have stopped somewhere to get himself drunk instead of searching for her.

“It just doesn’t make sense. What convinced me even more that something wasn’t right about the whole accident is why the cops kept on insisting Nick had been drinking and driving. It’s like that sealed the case and they saw no reason to investigate.

“My cousin was at a disadvantage the moment it was discovered who the owner of that vehicle was. Instead of investigating, it was easy for the police to look at the ‘obvious’ evidence and declare my cousin perpetrator.”

Mwansa appeared thoroughly shaken up by the story. “But why didn’t your family conduct its own investigations?” She asked. “I’m sure with a few tests they would have proved your cousin hadn’t been drinking.”

Suddenly, Stephen started laughing. Mwansa kept looking at him quizzically. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I am ashamed to say this but my family, my Aunt Mary to be more specific received a visit from the Minister’s wife who turned out to be the owner of that vehicle and was left a large sum of money as ‘condolences’ money, is what she called it.” He raised one hand to form quotation marks in the air.

“And your aunt accepted the money?” Mwansa asked, shock written all over her face.

“Like I said, I am ashamed.” Stephen said.

“Wooow.” Was all Mwansa could say in return.

“I know.” Stephen said. “My aunt was able to pay the mortgage on that house with that money and also send my cousins and me to some of the best schools in the world.”

“Didn’t she ever wonder why someone would give her such large sums of money if they were not guilty about something?” Mwansa asked.

“I am sure she did.” Stephen answered. “But you have to understand that it had only been about a year since the death of my uncle. She was struggling to raise her children alone and she feared losing the house she had already put so much in.

“So when the Minster’s wife came, Aunt Mary preferred to look at the whole gesture as a miracle from God…some kind of blessing rather than looking at it for what it could have potentially been. And once she did that, she turned all her frustrations and I think her feelings of guilt onto Alicia.”

“So she’s blaming an innocent woman for the death of her own son all so she can ease her own guilty conscious?” Mwansa asked. “That poor woman…I bet she also blames herself for everything. I haven’t met your aunt yet but something about her scares me.”

Stephen chuckled. “She’s not all that bad.” He said.

“And does Alicia know about the money your aunt received?”

“Of course not. No one told her about it. I don’t think my cousins even know about where the money actually came from. We were all told it’s something like a life insurance my uncle had left.”

“So how did you-“

“I overheard my mother and her sister…Aunt Mary talking and of course I haven’t told anyone about it, except you.”

Mwansa’s face turned red from blushing. “Is that a new way of declaring trust to your girlfriend?”

Stephen smiled. “I guess so.”

Mwansa unbuckled her seatbelt, lifted herself from the seat and placed a kiss on his cheek.

“We are at church now you silly girl.” A smiling Stephen said as he waited for the guard to open the gate for them.

***

Kondwani had just entered his house, threw his bag on the couch, undid the buttons of his shirt and started to get rid of the belt around his waist, ready to head upstairs and drown himself in his tub when he heard someone punch keys into his security system from outside. There was only one person who had his pin and only she would show up in his house unannounced.

“Were you following me?” Kondwani asked a smiling Gwen.

She threw her handbag onto one of the sofas and walked over to Kondwani with her arms stretched wide, ready to wrap them around him. However, Kondwani took a step back, a grave expression on his face.

Disappointed, Gwen dropped her arms and walked passed him towards the stairs.

“Where do you think you are going?” Kondwani asked from where he was standing, his face raised to look up at her.

Gwen came to a stop on the fifth step, a mischievous smile playing on her face. “Why would a grown man ask a lady such a question?” She asked as she slowly started to undo the zipper that ran all the way from her cleavage to where the short black dress she was wearing ended. There were more parts of her legs exposed than covered.

“Is Kayombo too busy for you today?” Kondwani asked sarcastically.

Gwen stopped unzipping herself, leaving most parts of her upper body, all the way down to her lower abdomen exposed. She was not wearing anything under her tight dress.

“Is that you being jealous right now?” She asked.

“I’m too tired for anything today, let’s do this some other time.” He started taking steps up the stairs but Gwen grabbed hold of his arm before he could brush passed her. She placed herself in front of and drew her face closer to his.

“I don’t know why but I find the idea of you being jealous such a turn on.” She moved her head slightly to kiss the side of his neck.

Kondwani just stood there motionlessly and looking as emotionless as humanly possible. He had somehow made Gwen’s work easy a few minutes ago when he started reading himself to take his clothes off. With just a white vest covering his chest, Gwen moved her hand inside and started running her hand up and down, deliberately going all the way down and stopping right where his belt was.

She felt him shudder under her touch. It was a power she knew she had over him.

Who the hell did he think he was trying to fight her off?

Sensing no movement on his part to stop her, Gwen expanded her area of conquest, dipping her hand deep into is pants without warning and forcing a reaction from him.

She was smiling triumphantly.

“Gwen!” Kondwani grabbed her attacking hand by the wrist with one hand and used the other to hold her back against the staircase rail. Speaking into her face; “I told you-“

“What?” Gwen cut him off. “You don’t want to be touched by the same hands that were touching another man?” She too spoke straight into his face, their eyes locking in defiance.

Kondwani dropped his hands resignedly and resumed his walk up the stairs.

“You know, he’s in-love with me, Kayombo.” Gwen announced to his back and managed to bring him to an immediate stop.

“He’s loved me unconditionally for years now,” She added smugly. “That’s something I’m never gonna get from you isn’t it?”

Kondwani slowly turned to look at her. “Then why don’t you go to him instead of coming to me?”

Gwen was not the only one surprised by Kondwani’s words. The moment he realized exactly what words had come out of his mouth, he too wondered why all the parts of his body responsible for speech had so quickly worked together and allowed him to vomit out that combination of words in that specific order.

Unfortunately, by the time Kondwani realised what he had just said to his fiancé, she had finished zipping herself up and was running down the stairs, sobbing.

Putting his long legs to good use, Kondwani ran after her and managed to hold her back before she could get to the door.

“I’m sorry baby,” He said as he tried to hold her protesting body into his arms. “I don’t know what came over me, I’m so sorry.”

Kondwani too knew exactly what power he had over her; his arms and the right words at the right time.

In no time, Gwen had stopped trying to fight him off and surrendered herself completely into his arms, sobbing even harder for effect.
Two hours later, Gwen walked into her parent’s home and found her father talking to someone on the phone. Since he had his back to her, she figured she could just walk passed him and head to her bedroom without being noticed but something he said made her stop to listen.

“How many were on his side?” Lloyd asked whoever was on the other end of the line. His back muscles were tensed hard and she could see him breathing heavily.

There was only one person in the whole world capable of making her father’s blood boil like that, Gwen thought. It was the man she was just from sharing a bed with.

“Those ungrateful and disloyal bastards.” Mr Miyoba cussed. “Who do they think put them in the positions they are in right now? Let’s see what will happen to them when I clip off the wings of that fella.”

Gwen felt a chill run down her spine. From where she was standing, she could see her father’s spit hitting against the sheer curtain in front of him from where he stood overlooking the backyard. That was a sheer sign that he had reached boiling point.

“I gave you specific instruction to watch Chileshe’s every move!” Gwen’s father roared. “What have you been doing while he’s been setting up measures for counter-attack? That project should have gained the board’s approval by now.”

Oh Kondwani, what have you done this time around? Gwen thought as she continued to listen in to her father’s one-sided conversation. I warned you dad, you are no match for my man. You should have listened to my advice.

“No! That’s not good enough Phiri!” He yelled. “Are you trying to tell me that he’s smarter than all of you? If that’s the case, then are you are basically telling me that I should fire all your asses and find a whole new team that can take him on like a man?”

There was a long pause as he listened to whatever Mr Phiri was saying. Whatever wa being said, it was obvious Lloyd Miyoba did not agree with it because he kept shaking his head and wanting to interrupt.

Gwen saw her father move slightly and figured he might be turning so she tiptoed her way towards the stairs.

“Gwen!” His voice brought her to a stop in mid step. She turned around with a guilty smile on her face.

“Dad.” She said.

“Let me call you back.” Lloyd Miyoba told Mr Phiri and immediately cut the line. “Where’s Kondwani?” he asked as he walked towards his daughter.

“Dad, just because I am his fiancé doesn’t mean I know where he is every time.” She lied.

“I know you are coming from his place so don’t lie to me young lady.” Miyoba hissed.

“I left him at home. Is something the matter?” Gwen knew better than to tempt her father into pouring all of his wrath at her.

“Haven’t the two of you set a date up to now?” He asked. “What sort of woman can’t even get her man to hurry her down the aisle after a yearlong engagement? It’s because you keep dancing for him that he no longer has anything to look forward to.

“Just look at the way you are dressed.” He pointed his finger up and down her dress. “Why should he marry you when you’ve shown him everything? Just look at you.” He wrinkled his face up like a man smelling something rotten from the kitchen.

“It’s my marriage.” Gwen said from between pouted lips. “I am not worried so why are you bothered like you are the one he will be marrying?

“Are you asking me because you don’t know?” Miyoba asked.

Gwen started to cry. “You made me leave the man I was in-love with, the one who loved me back as much as I loved him to be with someone who loves your money instead of me. I already got him to propose marriage, what more do you want from me dad?”

“Thanks to me you are in-love with Chileshe more than you were with that Kayombo guy.” Her father stated proudly. “You should be happy, why are you complaining?”

“He doesn’t love me back!” Gwen shouted.

“And are you blaming me for that?” He asked. “Was it my job to make him fall in-love with you? I gave you enough money to make him look in your direction, wasn’t that enough?

“Did you want me to also show you directions to his heart? You clearly managed to find your way into his bed without trouble so why are you complaining?”

“Do you honestly think that you will be able to control him if he becomes my husband?” Gwen asked. “You can’t control him now when he’s a free man what more when he marries me and gains direct access to your entire fortune?”

Lloyd snickered. “How did I end up with a daughter who knows nothing about business?” He said. “Your job was just to use your charm to hook him all the way to the end but even that you couldn’t do. You delivered the whole product before the buyer could even sign the cheque. Hasn’t your mother taught you anything?”

“What have I done?” Sandra Miyoba asked her husband from the door. She had two shopping bags in her hands, obviously coming from a trip from the mall. She stepped away from the door to allow the maid to come through with many more shopping bags.

“Doesn’t my happiness count at all to you dad?” Gwen cried and ran upstairs.

Laying down the shopping bags, Mrs Miyoba looked at her husband. “What did you say to her?”

“Sit your daughter down and train her well before she embarrasses you.” Mr Miyoba said.

“When she’s done something unpleasing to you she’s my daughter but when she’s done something good, she’s your daughter.” She muttered and went to sit down in one of the sofas.

“See,” Miyoba pointed at his wife accusingly. “When can she learn when you are talking back to me like that?”

Sandra stood up. “I will bring you your glass of whiskey.” She said to him and started walking towards the kitchen. “Obviously someone put you in a very bad mood today.”

Embarrassed, Lloyd gave up shouting and went to sit down where his wife had been sitting. How well she knew him, he thought as he flipped through the channels.
Alone in her room, Gwen threw herself on the bed and called Kayombo. After four rings, she was about to give up when he finally answered.

“Sam,” she broke down in tears.

“I’m sorry Ms Miyoba, Doctor Kayombo can’t take your call right now.” Gwen sat up. Instead of Kayombo, it was a female’s voice that came through the phone.

“Who’s this?” Gwen asked.

“This is Alicia.” The reply came.

“What are you doing answering Sam’s phone? Where is he? Where are you?”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

“Hello?” Gwen screamed into her phone.

“Gwen.” Finally, it was Samuel Kayombo. “What’s up?” He asked nonchalantly.

“What’s up?” Gwen asked, boiling from his calm response. “Where the hell are you and what’s that nurse doing answering your phone?”

“Is there any particular reason you called?” He asked curtly.

“Kayombo?” Gwen said.

“I’m busy right now if there’s nothing-“

“Kayombo, this is me you are talking to.” Gwen said, her voice shaking from the shock of what was happening.

“I know,” Kayombo said. “I will call you later.” And he cut the line.

Devastated, Gwen threw her phone and it hit against the wall, pieces of it scattering across the room.

Her mother opened the door just then. “Gwen?” She said as her eyes went over the pieces on the floor.

Gwen dropped from the bed to the floor, sobbing her heart out. Sandra rushed over to her daughter and held her in her arms.

“It’s okay my love.” The mother comforted her daughter from the floor. “Who’s making my princess cry like this?” she held on to her tightly. “It’s okay…nooo…c’mon baby.”

It took about ten minutes for Gwen to finally calm down.

“Why is love so complicated mum?” Gwen later asked her mother. They were still seated on the carpeted bedroom floor, their backs leaning against the bed.

“Did you have a fight with Kondwani?” Sandra asked.

“Not necessarily,” She answered. “It’s Kayombo.”

Sandra gave her daughter a look. “Don’t tell me that the two of you are still seeing each other. I thought you were in-love with Kondwani now.”

“I am…it’s complicated.” Gwen said.

“What’s complicated?”

“I guess I was too selfish to expect that Kayombo would have eyes only for me even though I was engaged to someone else.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you know you were being selfish.” Her mother said. “Don’t you think he too deserves to be happy?”

“You are saying it as if I am happy in my relationship.” Gwen said. “I have been waiting patiently for Kondwani…but now am beginning to think that he will never fall in-love with me.”

“It’s not like you didn’t know his feelings before you started dating.” Her mother reminded her. “Instead of luring him in with money, perhaps you should have tried to win him over with love.”

“Tell that to dad.”

Sandra laughed. “No way.”

“I thought that he might like me if I offered him the one thing he was in need of at that time.” Gwen said, tears welling up in her eyes again. “Dad somehow had me convinced that any man would love me knowing the things I could offer but it seems the only thing Kondwani cares about is money. I don’t think he even knows what love is.”

“Maybe that’s the problem.” Sandra said.

Gwen sent her a questioning look.

“Think about it,” she explained. “He’s spent most of his adult life building his career. He’s a very ambitious man, that’s no secret. What time did he ever have to fall in-love?”

Gwen’s face lit up from enlightenment. “You know, you could be right.”

Sandra laughed. “I know I’m right.” She said. “So, instead of trying to conquer him, why don’t you try to genuinely love him and win his heart in the process?”

“How do I do that?” Gwen asked.

“First of all, cut off whatever is going on between you and Kayombo and start afresh with Kondwani. You offered him your father’s money when you first approached him so how about offering him your heart this time around?”

“I told you, I am already in-love with him.” Gwen said.

“Not that kind of love.” Mrs Miyoba said. “I’m talking about genuine real love, the selfless kind of love. I know that you are used to people dotting on you and worshiping you Gwen but that’s not how love works.

“If you truly love Kondwani, then you will have to start considering his feelings as well. Don’t go to him with the attitude of ‘you are nothing without me’ and instead show him that you truly care. Who knows, maybe he might get his mind off making money and focus on other things.”

Gwen mulled over her mother’s words for a while. “I don’t know mum,” She said.

“What don’t you know?” Her mother asked.

“I don’t think I’m capable of being that kind of girl.” She confessed. “I have always despised those kinds of girls so how can I pretend to be one?”

Sandra Miyoba chuckled. “You see, that’s the thing.” She said. “If it’s real love, you won’t have to pretend. It will just come natural. Remember, what you want is his heart, not just his body.”

“I have to sleep over it.” Gwen said.

“Good,” her mother said. “You do that.”

“Why did you make me answer your phone?” Alicia asked Doctor Kayombo.

Samuel finished drying his hands and went to sit down next to Alicia on the picnic mat. They stationed themselves in the perfect position where they could keep watch over Buseko who was playing football a few meters away with his new friends.

“My hands were weight, what did you expect me to do?” He said. “Are you that scared of Gwen?” He laughed.

“That woman almost had me fired!” Alicia said.

“Oh yeah, I remember that.”

“So you also heard about it? Is there anyone at the hospital who didn’t?”

“I doubt that.” Samuel answered. “They all think you are a fame fatale.” He joked.

Alicia looked horrified. “Seriously?”

“I’m just joking.” He said. “Relax. I was just pulling your leg. Everyone knows what a drama queen Gwen is.”

“So they do belief that nothing is going on between Doctor Chileshe and me right?” Alicia was looking at him expectantly.

“They know that you didn’t go after him, but we all agree on one thing; the good doctor pays special attention to you.”

“No!” The word just flew out of Alicia’s mouth. “That’s all a misunderstanding. I don’t know why everyone seems to think that but that man doesn’t like me. You saw for yourself this morning when we met him outside. Didn’t you sense his hostility? Why are you looking at me and shaking your head like that?”

“Apart from Nicolas, did you ever date anyone else Alicia?” Kayombo asked, looking at her in both awe and disbelief.

“No.” She answered simply.

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, I don’t have time for things like feelings and the like. I’m too busy saving money so I can get my son back. I have no time for such things. Why did you suddenly ask me that?”

Kayombo laughed. “No wonder….” He said, shaking his head again. “You wouldn’t know it even if it was staring you right in the face.”

“Know what?” She asked, taking her eyes away from her son for a moment to look at Samuel. “Know what?” She repeated, her face just a few inches away from his.

Her sudden turn caught Kayombo by surprise. For a few seconds he found himself staring straight into her eyes. Before he knew it, he was choking on his own saliva.

Alicia grabbed a bottle of water from the basket of food she had quickly packed on their short stop at home. She opened the bottle and handed it to Kayombo.

While Kayombo was gulping down the contents from the bottle, Alicia moved closer to him and started to gently massage his back, causing the poor fellow to cough out the water he had just consumed.

 

An Untimely Love – Part 1

An Untimely Love – Part 1

Bump!

The sound of Alex Saunders head hitting against the library desk echoed through the fully packed library.

She had just been rudely awakened from her sleep by her vibrating phone on the desk. Embarrassed, she pulled her hair from the sides to cover her face and raffled her hand through her bangs to ensure that her face was fully covered.

Alex had spent the last two straight days working on her undergraduate thesis for her Honours in Psychology Degree. After discovering the amount of work required for one to successfully obtain a Psychology Degree, Alex sometimes wondered if taking an honours degree was the best choice instead of simply majoring in Psychology and taking a minor in creative writing. She always felt that the online courses she had taken on creative writing whilst in high school were not enough to turn her into the kind of writer she wanted to be.

As a child, trekking from one library and bookstore to another, Alex’s dream was to become a renowned writer just like the ones she was reading about, to have her work read and revered by many and to gain worldwide recognition from it. Strangely enough, when the time came to pick a field of study to pursue for her undergraduate, after much consideration, Alex discovered that the need for a psychology degree outweighed that of creative writing.

Twenty-three year old Alex picked up her vibrating phone and checked the caller id. Mr C. There could only be one reason why Anton’s father could be calling her at that time of the day.

“Oh shit!” she cussed, suddenly getting up and picking up her books from the desk before running out of the fully packed library.

“I’m going to kill you for this Anton!” Alex said to herself as she unchained her yellow bicycle from the security post. Her phone stopped ringing for a few seconds and then resumed.

“Good morning Mr C!” Alex shouted into her earphone mouthpiece as she rode home.

Smiling bemusedly to himself with his billion dollars white teeth, Oliver Cooper held the phone away from his ear to save himself a trip to the otolaryngologist.

Is there ever a day this girl isn’t excited about something? The 42 year old business mogul thought as he handed his golf club to the caddie before leaving the field to head to his car parked out in the front.

“My little sunshine,” Oliver excitedly greeted his son’s best friend.

For the eleven years Oliver had known Alex, he had come to regard her as his own daughter. There were so many moments in his life when he wished his only son and heir Anton could be half as good a child as Alex was. How happy a father he would be if that ever came to pass.

“I have been trying to get in touch with this fool,” Mr Cooper’s voice poured straight into her ears through the earpieces. “Are you with him?” he asked.

“Not at the moment Mr C.,” Alex said. “I went out to the store to get some juice and left him getting ready for a shower…so, he’s probably in the shower…that’s probably why he couldn’t take your calls.” Alex lied through her teeth. “I am heading back to the house right now so I will get him to call you back.”

I am going to kill you Anton, Alex said in her head as she increased her pace.

“You are covering for him again aren’t you?” Oliver asked. If there was one thing he knew about Alex, it was that she was a very bad liar.

In Oliver’s eyes, Alex Saunders was the ultimate kind of girl; unpretentious, never spoke lies and always spoke her mind…sometimes even when the situation didn’t call for it.  If only his son Anton would get a grip over his life and realize what a gem he had right in front of his eyes instead of chasing skirts everywhere around town. What sort of father wouldn’t want to have Alex as a daughter in-law?

“I am on my way over to your place, tell him to get ready. I need his input on one of my latest projects.” Oliver said.

Alex came to a sudden halt. “You are on your way right now?” She asked, her heart pounding against her oversize sweatshirt.

Oliver paused before getting into his car, holding the door open. “Yes, is there a problem Alex?” He asked, sensing something amiss.

Oliver Cooper did not need a psychic or a private investigator to tell him what mischievousness his son was up to while the two of them where talking on the phone. Even during week days, the boy drunk and partied like a teenager high on hormones. If not for Alex’s perseverance in keeping him in check every now and then, Oliver wondered just what sort of person his son would have turned into by now.

“No, no Mr C.,” Alex reassured him. “There is no problem. You can go ahead and come. You will find Anton ready by the time you get here.”

The gate to the three bedroom house Alex shared with Anton finally came into view. Thanks to Anton’s billionaire father, the two of them could afford to live in such a luxurious house just a few minutes away from campus.

Alex still remembered how excited she had been when Mr Cooper called her to his office and gave her the keys to the house, telling her that she was the one in charge of it and not Anton. The only reason he had relented to his son’s demands for private boarding was because he trusted Alex to be responsible for everything taking place there.

It had now been five years since they moved in together and with only a few more months to their graduation, they had a lot more memories to make…starting with rescuing Anton from the wrath of his father!

“Good,” Oliver stepped into his vehicle. “I will see you in about an hour or less, depending on traffic.” He said before hanging up.

Alex looked at her wrist watch, “One hour!” She shouted before getting back on the bike and cycling like a crazy person to the house. As she got closer to the gate, she pressed a button on her wrist watch and the gate opened. Once inside, she pressed the button again and the gate closed behind her.

Cycling through the long driveway made her feel like she had just been cycling in a marathon. She spotted Anton’s red Ferrari parked in front of the house and breathed a sigh of relief. Jumping off her bike and throwing it to the side, she quickly ran into the house, then up the stairs yelling Anton’s name at the top of her voice.

As she ran up the stairs, she couldn’t help feeling a great sense of relief and pride from the fact that no matter how much Anton partied, he always stuck to their agreement and got back home by 2 in the morning to at least get 4 hours of sleep before class.

As expected, she found him dead asleep on top of his beddings in nothing but his boxers. “Idiot,” she said before pouncing on him. “You are in big trouble Mr!” She warned him. “Wake up right now.” She softly slapped his cheeks left and right but Anton wouldn’t wake up.

There was just one thing she knew would do the trick.

“Mr Oliver is on his way!” Alex said the magic words and stood back to watch Anton respond.

He bolted out of bed at rocket speed.

“How long?” Anton asked, ferociously rubbing his eyes to force himself awake.

“Always works.” Alex laughed triumphantly as she watched him from the side.

“Are you kidding me!?” The twenty-four year old heir protested and tried to get back into bed again but Alex blocked him. She removed her phone from her pocket and showed him her call log. “See,” she pointed at his father’s name. “He said he should find you ready in about forty minutes.”

“The old man will kill me!” Anton sulked. “Where does he want to take me this early in the morning?” Even as he was complaining, he still went to the bathroom to take quickly take a shower.

Laughing, Alex went to the closet to help him find something decent to wear. Knowing the kind of background Anton came from, Alex was well aware of how on point her friend needed to look every time he stepped out of the house. There were always camera’s following the Cooper family around almost everywhere they went.
She picked blue skinny jeans with a white t-shirt for him. “Simple yet stylish,” she praised her fashion sense.

Alex then looked through Anton’s massive shoe collection and picked out some his latest Burgundy canvas for him. “Should I even ask where you were last night?” Alex asked, leaning against the bathroom wall, one leg crossed over the other and her head lingering a few inches away from the open door.

For all the years she had known Anton, she never dared to ask him about the girls or the women in his life. She could handle knowing that there were quite a number of them but she was not interested in knowing who they were unless he talked about them himself.

It had been two years now since she realized she liked him more than just a friend but the idiot was still oblivious to that fact. Alex had fallen in-love with her best friend without meaning to. She figured he would be just as shocked as she had been the day she found out about her own feelings and thus, not wanting to put a strain on their friendship, she had chosen to keep her feelings to herself.

Even if he knew, it’s not like he would ever consider dating me. Alex had reasoned to herself.  She knew the type Anton liked and over the years she had been way too much of a friend for him to see her as he would any other woman.

“The guys and I tried out this new place called The Atlas and it’s the real deal Alex!” Anton shouted from the bathroom. The guys he was referring to where two of their four close friends; George Lee and Duncan Schmidt.

“We should go there together over the weekend. Anton suggested.

“What’s so special about this place?” Alex asked.

“Apart from it being dope, I met this chick there…wait, let me get out of here first and tell you about her.”

It was typical of Anton to shower within five minutes. He never went beyond that, no matter how desperate his body needed a good scrub. Alex always wondered how someone that hated showering still managed to look so good and have all the women he came across pine over him.

She had eventually concluded that the billions he stood to inherit from his father had a lot to do with it…and of course it helped a great deal that he was naturally good looking fella that had nature and good fortune on his side. Alex sometimes couldn’t help wondering if the girls that worshipped him would still feel the same way about him if they got to know him the way she did.

I guess the state of my heart right now pretty much answers that. Alex silently mocked herself.

Alex was laughing at her thoughts when Anton came out of the bathroom, one towel covering the bottom half while the top half remained wet and exposed in its muscled glory.

“Woah.” Alex came to stand in front of him, her eyes gawking in surprise as she ran her hand over his wide muscled chest. Her hand stopped right below his abdomen. “I think these babies have come out more now.” She remarked in awe. “When did you even find the time to hit the gym?”

Anton was looking at her quizzically and in slight disbelief at her careless action, one eyebrow raised. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t seem to get it because her hand was still lingering above his abdomen. He literally had to clear his throat noisely to make her realise what she was doing.

Alex quickly dropped her hand and dried it with the towel in Anton’s hand before stepping away from him.This is exactly why he will never think of you as a woman Lex. She admonished herself for her lack of tact as a woman.

“I think sometimes you forget that I am a hot bloodied man.” Anton complained as he finished drying himself. “What kind of girl touches a man so carelessly?”

Alex blushed, but only for a second. “My bad,” she didn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “It’s not like you’ve ever thought of me as a woman.” She added as an afterthought, silently praying that he disputes her claim.

“And we thank god for that,” Anton said as he passed the towel through his hair. “The day I start looking at you as anything else either than a friend is the day I will pick up my dad’s gun and shoot myself in the head.”

“Ouch,” Alex said. “That’s a bit too harsh Tony.”

“No man wants his woman knowing all that shitty stuff you know about me Lex. I hope we remain friends forever cause you have so much dirt on me you would be my undoing if you ever became my enemy.” And just to prove how unperceptive he was, he went and planted a kiss on her forehead.

Anton could not read anything beyond Alex’s bittersweet smile.

“So where do you think your father is taking you this time?” Alex quickly changed the subject, moving in to put finishing touches on his hair.

“If anyone has a better chance of knowing, you do.” He said, lowering his head slightly so she could reach the back of his head. “Sometimes I think you know more about what’s happening in my father’s life than me. You are like the son he never had.” Anton joked.

Alex finished with his hair and pushed his head away with her finger.  “That’s because I am his number one fan.” She said.

She went to sit on the edge of the bed and innocently watched him put on the clean boxers she had laid out for him on the bed. “Fans always know stuff about the celebrities they like.” She said.

“He might be just a father to you but he is like a god to me…well, not necessarily someone I worship, but someone I look up to.” She moved to sit on the edge of the bed, her mind drifting back to the time when she first met Anton and his father Oliver.
***

Alex was only nine years old when she first heard Oliver’s voice on the radio. The then twenty-seven year old Oliver had just released his seventh album since his debut at age seventeen. The new album was a dedication to his wife and son after taking two years off to spend quality time with them.

As a kid going through a complicated life, Alex found solace is the soothing voice of the man she could only wish was her father. How nice would it be to have a father sing such kind and loving words to her? There were nights when Alex would dream about Oliver barging into the orphanage and rescuing her from a world she felt she didn’t belong…a world she felt a strong desire to escape from.

On the eve of her tenth birthday, Alex dream of escape became a reality when a couple doing some volunteer work at the orphanage fell in-love with her and decided to adopt her. Humphrey and Evelyn Saunders already had four children of their own but they didn’t seem to mind adding a fifth one to the lot. They welcome the little girl into their home and made her feel like she was a part of their family.

For the first time in her life, Alex felt like she finally belonged somewhere. Unfortunately, the dream that had presented itself as reality before Alex’s eyes was soon covered by a dark cloud when the Saunders fell into financial. Humphrey Saunders had made some bad investments over the years thinking they would pen out a huge fortune but he was forced to admit defeat when they turned out to be a huge liability.

In Just over a year of Alex being in her new home, the Saunders declared bankruptcy.

The family had no choice but to move to a much smaller house. Mr Saunders who had been retired for two years was forced to get back into formal employment while his wife continued with her teaching job. For the Saunders, their new kind of life proved to be more challenging than they could have ever imagined. Because they were used to providing a comfortable life for their children most of their lives, the pressure for the Saunders couple to take care of such a large family on such a low income proved overwhelming.

Eventually, it was Alex who suffered the wrath of their stress.

In their moments of stress, the family could not help but lament about the mistake they had made in bringing someone into the family, and they would do so in Alex’s presence. Fearing feared that the incident that had happened five years ago might happen again; Alex started to mentally prepare herself to be taken back to the orphanage.

Alex could not run away from the fact that she was a burden on her new family. When meals became scarce, she was always the last one to be served after Mrs Saunders made sure that all her biological children had enough food on their plates. When everyone else was sharing beds in the bedrooms, Alex was made to sleep in the living room where she had to wake up two hours earlier than the other kids because the house was too small and Mrs Saunders needed enough space to move about while she did her morning chores.

At twelve years old, Alex was the only member of the family not enrolled in school. Although Mrs Saunders had promised to home school her, the most she ever did was leave her a bunch of books to go through on her own and Alex did just that. Whilst her siblings went to school, Alex would spend that time reading books in the local library, a period in time when she developed a passion for writing.

To kill time and stay out the way of her new family’s activities, Alex visited libraries and book stores and spent time there reading until they closed. It was during one of her book store tours that she met Oliver Cooper who was conducting a book signing for his third book compiling the adventures of his career.

Having made an arrangement with the store owner, Alex was given the keys to open the store very early in the morning, put the books in order and read to her hearts content whatever she wanted.

“Just stay away from adult books.” Mrs Davies store owner had sternly warned her, pointing to the CCTV above them.

That fateful morning, Alex had woken up at 4 and took the short walk to the book store. The streets where quiet and there was barely a soul in sight apart from the cars that passed by every now and then. Sometimes Alex wondered if her family even noticed her absence. She concluded they never did since they never asked her any questions about where she was or what she had been upto.

It seemed no one was missing her.

Alex had spent about an hour arranging the books in order and by the time it was five, she was wrapped up in a corner covered by a shawl given to her by Mrs Davis to her to keep her warm. The sixty year old woman was the kindest woman little Alex had met in a very long time.

By the time Mrs Davis reported for work, she found Alex soundly asleep, her head resting on the pile of books she had obviously been going through that morning. Although the girl had never been tested, Mrs Davis figured she had the mind of a genius. Her ability to read and understand so many books in such a short time was astounding. She even read books that most kids would shun away from. She had gone through almost all the encyclopaedias in the store and had read most of the sciences ranging from psychology to chemistry.

“She’s sleeping so soundly,” Belinda the store assistant said when she came in. “Should I wake her up? There are already people lining up outside for the book signing in a few hours.”

“Oh no, please let her rest,” Mrs Davis said. “The poor child deserves all the rest she can get away from her cruel reality. I will wake her up before Mr Cooper gets here.”

“I heard that he is bringing his son along,” Belinda said. “The boy is as handsome as his father. They really look alike.”

“Of course they should look alike since they have the same DNA,” Mrs Davis joked, clearing the table where Oliver Cooper was expected to sit. “Besides, I am the one that asked him to bring the boy along. I figured he might rub off some of his good fortune on our little friend here.”

Belinda gave the old lady a knowing smile. “You are very cunning Mrs Davies. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because I am wiser than you,” she said, her voice full of laughter. “Please check the microphone and make sure everything else is working perfectly over there.” She pointed to the area where authors normally stood to read excerpts of their books to their fans.

When Oliver was finally ushered into the store amidst the media and fan frenzy outside, Mrs Davies welcomed him and called Alex over to greet her role model.

“I thought the young man might enjoy the company of our book store’s most loyal customer while you attend to your duties Mr Cooper.” The old lady was holding Alex by her shoulders from behind, introducing her to the pair.

Alex immediately fell in-love with her role model’s smile. It was genuine and sincere. She had been right to like him. “You are even more handsome in person Sir,” the little girl quipped causing Oliver to laugh out loud.

“I have heard that plenty of times but never from a lady as beautiful as you Ms….”

“Alex, my name is Alex Saunders.” She answered cheerfully.

“And a beautiful name it is Alex. This is my son Anton, say hi to your new friend Anton.” Oliver presently his son before Alex.

After shaking hands, “you are not bad yourself,” Alex told the twelve year old, surprising both him and the adults in the room. “Do you want me to show you where to find cool books?” Without waiting for his response, she grabbed him by the hand and led him away.

Alex had gone half way through the store when she suddenly paused and looked back. She released her grasp on Anton’s hand, ran towards the front desk, grabbed a book from there and ran towards Oliver. “Here,” she handed him the book. “I almost forgot, I should be the first to get your signature!”

“Have you read my book young lady?” Oliver asked.

“Of course!” Her sharp voice echoed through the library. “I had been waiting for it all this time and when it finally came to the store, I sat down for three hours and refused to move until I read every single word.”

“Are you telling me you read the whole book in three hours?” Oliver asked.

“Yes, what’s wrong? Did I take too long?” The girl clearly had no idea what was going on. “I knew I shouldn’t have kept on re-reading pages 35 to 70 but I couldn’t believe that there was someone in this world who treasured his family as much as you did.”

“You think three hours is too long?” Anton had come back to join them and he was visibly shocked by the girl’s non-stop chatter and her oblivion to the fact that she could be a genius.

From that day forward, the two of them had become inseparable and thanks to Oliver Cooper’s generosity, he came to provide Alex with a new hiding place that was neither a library nor a book store.

He gave her a home.
***
“He’s a cool guy, but I kind of like his money more,” Anton joked, forcing his best friend out her reverie and back to reality.

“You are such a fool Tony,” Alex said, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at him only to miss as Anton dodged in time.

“Ah,” Anton remembered what he had wanted to share with her earlier. “I met someone at Club Atlas last night.” He said excitedly whilst putting on his shoes.

Alex braced herself for another one of his women adventures.

“Don’t give me that look,” Anton didn’t miss her look of disinterest. “It’s different this time,” he said enthusiastically. “I am really serious!” He shouted from behind as Alex started walking out of the bedroom.

“I am going to make some breakfast. There are only a few minutes till your dad gets here.” Alex shouted as she walked away.

Anton quickly finished tying his shoe laces and ran after her. “Aren’t you curious about who she is?” He sat on one of the chairs behind the Kitchen counter and watched Alex as she cooked up an omelette for him.

“Since when have I ever been interested in your women stories Tony?” Alex asked, her eyes fixed on the food she was making, desperately wishing for a change of subject. “I only listen because my ears are in perfect working order. You always say ‘this one is different’ about every girl you meet. What’s so different about this one this time around?” She asked.

“She is actually new in town,” Anton said. “Her father got a job with our university, he is a professor. Her mother is a philanthropist…apparently she runs a number of charities across the country.” He proudly said. “Unlike some people I know, she is sexy, classy as well as beautiful. We only chatted for a little bit but it felt like we’ve known each other for years!”

“Good for you,” Alex said sarcastically, her face as straight as an arrow. “I guess you are ready to settle down now. We should tell your father about this new development. I am sure he will be as excited as I am.”

“Tell me what?” A voice from behind them asked. It was Anton’s father. “What’s going to make me as excited as my little sunshine is?” He was mocking Alex because there was nothing about her attitude and demeanour that looked anything close to excitement.

With a knife in one hand and a tomato in the other, Alex walked over to Oliver and stood in front of him. She spread out her arms and he took her in for a hug, releasing her in time for her to rush back to the stove.

Oliver took a seat next to his son.

“I see you are ready.” It was all the greeting he would give his.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Anton replied smugly but was immediately awarded with a reprimanding look from his housemate.

“How was golfing this morning?” Alex directed her attention to her mentor. “For a forty something year old, you must make all the twenty-something year olds reel with envy,” she was looking at Anton as she delivered the last part.

For a forty-two year old man, Oliver Cooper indeed looked like a man in just his early thirties. His boyish looks and infallible charm made women his age appear older. Alex thought it was such a shame that ever since his wife’s death; he had not been with another woman on a long term basis. Oliver Cooper rarely dated and when he did, it was either just a fling or a three months old relationship, which was the longest he ever reached.

“What’s wrong with how I look?” Anton looked at himself.

Alex shrugged her shoulders and didn’t even bother to hide the grin playing on her face. “Nothing,” she said unconvincingly.

“If I worked out as much as dad does no woman would be able to resist me. I am not trying so hard because I am considerate of less attractive men out there. Imagine the kind of attention I would be getting if that were the case? I can’t have all the women to myself you know.”

“You wish,” Alex muttered under her breath. “Can I make something for you as well Mr C.?” She asked Oliver.

“Oh no, I am not a breakfast person these days. Besides, we don’t have much time left.” He looked at his wrist watch. “There are some people waiting for us somewhere. I need to show this boy a certain piece of land I want to invest in…thought I could use his good architectural eye.”

Architecture was one of the very few things Anton excelled at. Even at a young age, he had helped his father who had a passion in real estate investment design some of the famous buildings around the world. Thus, it had come as no surprise when Anton finally decided to study Architecture at university after wasting a year of possible college time trying to follow his father’s footsteps in acting.

Oliver had been against his son entering showbiz because he felt he lacked the talent and drive it took to excel in that industry. However, Anton had been so adamant until his father finally allowed him to pursue his dreams for a year on the grounds that he couldn’t succeed; he would quit and get into university.

Without his father’s backing, Anton had tried auditioning for a few roles here and there which did not end the way he thought they would. Watching his father all those years living his dream, performing on numerous stages in front of large crowds, making his music videos and later on acting and directing his own movies, Anton wanted that kind of life for himself. There was nowhere his father went he wasn’t welcome or recognized.

Oliver Cooper was revered by many, especially women and his son Anton wanted to have exactly that kind of life when he grew up. Unfortunately, it did not take long for Anton to realise that he had no real passion or talent for acting. He had finally and happily given up his dream of stardom and settled for becoming a star in a whole other different world; the world of architecture.

Being in his fifth and final year, Anton could boast of having successfully designed and contributed to three major historical landmarks in the country. He was indeed a young designer on the rise and his future in the industry looked absolutely promising.

The only time Alex thought her best friend looked human was when he committed himself to finishing a project. It was after all during one of those times that she had found herself strangely attracted to him. Despite his playful nature, Anton never took his studies for granted. Although he missed lectures most of the time, he was one of the best students in his field and architecture was something that came naturally to him.

“How much is in it for me this time?” Anton asked. His father was about to smack him in the head but he dodged in time again.

“Before I forget,” Alex said. “Any plans for your birthday Mr C.?”

Oliver found himself smiling. There was something about Alex that reminded him of his wife. She always remembered his birthday no matter how busy she was.

“Dad, it’s your birthday today?” Anton asked. This time the smack landed right on his head.

Alex scowled at him and shaking her head said, “tsk, tsk, tsk,” pointing a spatula at him accusingly. “I would kill myself if I had a son like you. His birthday is on Monday…you have three days to prepare a present.”

“I’m still gonna use his money to buy it, so what’s the big deal?” Anton retorted.

Alex was still shaking her head. “I will not even qualify that statement with a response. How busy are you on Sunday?” She turned her attention to Oliver.

“What, you have something planned for me?” He asked excitedly, like a child looking forward to opening his presents on Christmas.

Alex couldn’t help smiling at Oliver’s play at enthusiasm. This was one of those rare moments when his child-like behaviour came out. Sometimes she secretly wondered if he had not lied about his age. There was nothing 42 about the man. If anything, the son and father seated next to each other looked more like a pair of siblings.

“It’s a surprise; just don’t leave home on Sunday morning okay?” Alex said. She put the breakfast in front of Anton and he got into it right away.

“I definitely won’t,” Oliver said. “Suddenly, I don’t mind growing a year older.” He added.

“I am included in that program as well, right?” Anton asked. “It will be like a present from the both is us….”

Both Alex and Oliver laughed at his shameless audacity. “You just want to avoid the hustle of looking for a present isn’t it?” Alex grabbed a chair and sat facing the men.

“Dame woman you know me too well!” Anton said in resignation, pointing his folk at her playfully. “That’s why I tell people who make wild remarks about us to take a hike. You are like the coolest dude I’ve ever met!”

Anton moved from where he was and went to put his arm around Alex’s neck.

Oliver did not miss the hurt in Alex’s eyes. She was slowly shaking his head in disapproval as he watched his son’s childish play with a girl that was obviously in-love with him.

Tsk tsk tsk,” Oliver continued shaking his head. “What a bloody fool.” He muttered under his breath.