Chronicles of my Mother: Chapter Two – The Surprising Case of Brenda and Richard

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

*         *         * 

blog profile picIt was three hours past midnight when I heard a pounding on the door. If I had taken any second longer to answer, I am positive my family and I would have been picking up pieces of what used to be our door. By the time I got to the sitting room door from my bedroom, my three children where already waiting in there, looking like a bunch of scared teens hiding from a hungry lion. They were not pleased at all that someone had had the audacity to awaken them form their beautiful sleep with such impunity.

There was a debate amongst them on whether to open or not open the door. Suffice to say, I finally opened the door to let in a very distraught pair of humans; Brenda and Richard.

With time, I had come to treat the two lovebirds like my own children. I was there before they got married and obviously during their five happy years of marriage. Of course I knew Richard the longest because his parents and I were brought up in the same church and our families were very close. Gosh, I was there when he was born! But I only got to meet Brenda when her grandmother moved with her into our neighbourhood. She was just about eight years old then. Both her parents had just died in a road accident and the little girl was left under the care of her grandmother who struggled to make ends meet. It wouldn’t have been easy having such heavy responsibilities when your own health was failing you.

As fate would have it, her grandmother gave way to pneumonia a year later and the kids where left under the care of Brenda’s eldest brother Martin. The poor child only went up to Grade 10 because he had to quit and find work. Brenda was thirteen when she suddenly disappeared from home. The whole community believed she had ran off with a boy because there was no guardian to show her the right path which was not true because she was a member of my congregation and the church made sure that her family never went to bed hungry and that the little ones got an education.

Brenda was to later return to our old neighbourhood fourteen years later as a totally different young woman. By then I had moved my family to another neighbourhood after the death of my husband. Despite the many years that had passed, I still thought about that little girl with the sad little eyes who looked as if she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. I wondered every now and then what had become of her. And so when I heard of her return, I decided to pay her a visit at the home of the friend with whom she was living. It was then that I had learnt that she was looking for an apartment to rent and I ended up recommending one of the flats I had just finished constructing. I was very happy to see the positive change in the young lady and my happiness became even more when she moved closer to my home.

At that time, Richard had been married for two years to a beautiful woman and kind hearted woman. Sadly, due to a very complicated child bearing process, Richard lost his wife but he had also been blessed with a lovely baby girl he named after his dearly departed wife, Thokozile. Raising a baby girl all by himself was not even a possibility in Richard’s mind. And so, after just four months after Thoko’s death, he married Brenda who by this time had become a devout member of our church.

How is it that just after five years of marriage that seemed almost perfect, there they were, out in the cold July night wearing expressions that would give Mr. Bean a run for his money? I did not need to see the flames burning in Brenda’s eyes nor the smoke emanating from Richard’s ears to know that something was very wrong. I quickly opened the door wide and without waiting for my instructions, the two led themselves straight to my office.

“Obviously something is up between you two otherwise you wouldn’t have come all the way here at this ungodly hour.” I said to the couple once we were all sited.

I watched in amazement as the two of them gulped down the glasses of water I had offered them after the usual routine prayer before the start of every session. Despite the weather, Richard seemed to be riding high on some strange summer wave somewhere in the Luangwa Valley.

“What is so bad that it couldn’t wait till morning?”

I waited for one of them to speak but they were still operating on mute, only raising the temperature in my office to an all-time high. Any more of that and we risked losing whatever shred of melanin we had left on our skins.

“I am very sure that I need a divorce but this woman has been refusing to let me go quietly.” Richard was the first to finally break the silence.

Without saying a word in response, I turned around to fully focus on him. I did not want to risk saying anything lest I disturb his chain of thoughts. I could tell he had a lot he needed to get off his chest and so I waited patiently.

“It’s been over three months now. I just need a break before I do something to her I will end up regretting.” I looked over to where Brenda was sited but she had her head and eyes down so I couldn’t tell whether she was crying or sleeping.

It was after all still bed time. But she was definitely listening, I later concluded.

“I take it that something big must have happened between you two…” I stated the obvious, looking from one to the other. “Why don’t you take me through all that happened Richard?”

“It all started about three months ago when we lost Nana,” said Richard.

Although it had not been declared in stone, it was common knowledge that Richard’s new wife felt uncomfortable having to constantly hear the name of her husband’s late wife around the house and everywhere she went and so she decided to give the child another name which they shortened to Nana.

I had just come back from a trip three months ago when I heard about the terrible incident. I could have never imagined something like that happening to these young ones. Anyone looking at the three of us in my very immaculate yet homely office would have known exactly where our minds had drifted to.

*         *         *

Richard was chairing a meeting at his firm when he got the call. He excused himself and went to stand by the window to take it. It was very rare that his wife called especially that she was aware of his weekly meetings at that particular time.

“What do you mean Nana is missing?” He turned around to look at his subordinates, realising that he was almost screaming, he quickly excused himself from the room and headed towards the staircase to get some privacy.

All this while, Brenda was having a cry feast on the other end of the line.

“I was only gone for a short while…maybe just about five minutes,” she sobbed. “…but when I came out of the store…I came out…I looked….”

“You looked and what? What nonsense are you talking about woman?” Richard snapped.

“I couldn’t find her Richard.” She sobbed uncontrollably.

Before he could respond, he rushed back into the boardroom, “Daniel, take care of the rest okay,” and he flew out of there without waiting for a response, leaving the whole room shell-shocked.

He quickly connected his phone to his car the moment he got on and poor Brenda was still sobbing. “Tell me where you are right now and I will come to you,” he instructed.

In-between sobs, she said, “I am here…what is this place called?…Kilimanjaro Shopping Mall. You will find me at the boutique where…”

“But of course that’s where you would be!” He cut her off angrily.

“I am sure you were busy enjoying my hard earned money while my daughter was somewhere desperately looking for you. You wait till I find you.” Brenda had never heard him sound as menacing as he did right then and there had been a lot of times when he had been very unpleasant to her.

One moment Brenda was on the floor sobbing her way into self-pity as everyone around her watched and the next moment she was being yanked rudely from the floor by her arms.

“Tell me what happened and don’t even think about leaving anything out!” Richard yelled.

Brenda could do nothing but cry some more. If looks could kill, her husband had already killed her a thousand times in just those few seconds.

“If you are going to pretend to cry over your missing step-daughter, at least get your make-up in order first. How can a woman who had wailing into my ears not so long ago still have all her make-up in place? You disgust me.”

One of the female security guards who had been standing beside his wife when he entered the boutique decided right then to put a stop to the abuse.

“Your wife is very distressed Sir,” she said. “Why don’t you take this conversation somewhere private. The cops are already on their way and others are still searching the premises for your daughter. The two of you can talk in the changing rooms over there; no one else is in there.”

“Don’t you have any surveillance in here or anywhere around this mall?” Richard remembered seeing them during the times he would come shopping with Brenda and Thoko and he could see a couple of them in the store too.

Quickly shaking her head, the guard leaned in closer to him and in a voice close to a whisper said, “those are not actually real cameras Sir…they are….”

“You gotto be kidding me!” Richard felt like hitting something this time and before he could give in to the urge, he turned around to face the wall, his fist clenched so tight the veins in his hand could be seen through his white sleeve. For a few seconds that feft like hours he remained there, his back to her.

The suddenly, he dragged her by the hand and led her in the direction the guard had pointed earlier. Brenda sank back to the floor the moment they were behind closed doors. It would not be the first time he had laid a hand on her but she was sure that is he did then; it would hurt more than it ever did before.

“What did you do to my daughter? And don’t even think about crying any more I don’t buy any of that. I always knew you didn’t like her but I never thought it would reach this far. Where have you taken my daughter?” He towered over her, every bone in his body wanting to lash out.

The truth was that he had already lost his mind the moment she had announced Thoko had gone missing. He knew, and she knew too and that made her even more scared.

What was he going to do to her? She thought.

After finally calming down a bit, Brenda explained herself to her husband. “Thoko is five now…. She is very intelligent unlike most kids her age so when I went into the dressing room and told her to wait for me for just a bit….”

“Are you trying to make excuses right now, really?” Richard threw his wife a condensating look. She was wise enough to keep quite after that no matter what questions he threw at her.

That night none of them slept. After searching in all the places he could think of the rest of that day, he had come back home in the early hours of the morning, exhausted and looking as if he was ready to be taken into the other world. He had walked passed his wife who had been waiting for him in the living room…well, mostly, sleeping on the couch while she waited to ensure that he came back home safely.

“I have never seen you look so at peace in your sleep before.” His tone was very low but the coldness with which it was delivered was enough to burn her into consciousness. She found his huge and masculine stature towering over her again.

“I was very worried and waited for you to come home.” She could not look him in the eye.

He uttered something under his breath, pointed at her accusingly and walked to the bedroom. She had followed him behind but was not quick enough to enter the room before he banged and locked it right in her face. Back to sobbing, something she had learnt she was very good at that day, Brenda cried herself to sleep on the floor right outside their bedroom door.

When she awoke the next day, it was to the sound of her husband again.

“Only you would have the nerve to sleep when a child who called you mother for five years has gone missing out of your own carelessness. Ungrateful wench.” He spit and walked away again. Brenda could do nothing but drop her head into her hands.

*         *         * 

“It’s been three months now since we last spoke and I can see that nothing has changed between you two.” And who could blame them, their daughter had been missing for those months and nothing about that tragic event had changed.

“Last time we spoke I suggested that you could see someone….”

“There is no need for us to see some kind of therapist,” Richard cut me off.

“This is Zambia and that crap doesn’t work here. Besides, how often do you hear of children getting lost at the mall? I had my own suspicions before but after confirming everything, I know that I want no part of this charade you call marriage. I need this woman to bring my daughter back.”

I had known for a while that he suspected his wife had a hand in the child’s disappearance but I thought the two of them had worked things out and decided to face this tragedy together.

Everyone in the neighbourhood knew that Thoko was not her real child but they also knew she treated the child as if she was her own. I always thought I was good at reading people because I got my readings right most of the time. I truly knew Brenda to be a very good woman.

Unbeknownst to her, I had watched Brenda with little Thoko and not even for a second did it appear as if the two were not blood related. I did not care what Richard’s family thought but this girl had done everything possible any mother would do to care and love that child, a child who was the daughter of the woman her husband was still in love with. Richard had been unfair on Brenda, vehemently suspecting her throughout the tedious ordeal.

Something from what Richard had said earlier had piqued my interest and I needed it to get out of the way.

“Richard, what do you mean you had your suspicions?” I asked.

“Did something happen that I don’t know about?” I could see Brenda getting extremely uncomfortable all of a sudden. Her head down and her hands furiously playing at her skirts.

“Brenda my dear….please look at me for a bit.” The 32 year old finally looked up at me, reluctantly. Her face was drained of any life. Where once her cheeks stood and glowed with youthfulness, in there stead were two hollow holes threatening to turn her whole face into its framework form.

“I want it to go away,” Brenda said. I found it amazing that she still had any form of liquid left  in her system after all that crying she had faithfully committed herself to. I poured her another glass of water for her.

Oooh, the poor soul.

“Nalema,” she buried her face in her palms again. “Nalema amai…” she said, slowly raising her head to look up at me.

“If she says she’s tired, what do you think I am feeling after going through all this?” Richard asked. I could see him clearly fighting off the tears threating to pour. Now here was a true representation of his species.

“I just need her to tell me where she took my child.”

“Why do you insist she has something to do with it my dear?”

“Because just a while ago at home I overheard her conversation on the phone with some guy…” Richard waved his hand in the air, as if to illustrate the insignificance of the guy in question.

“I grabbed the phone from her and there was a man on the line. He was saying something that made me confirm my suspicions that she truly knows what happened to my child. I am not accusing her of killing my child. I just think that she either sold my daughter to get rid of her from our lives or she is keeping her somewhere and starving her to death. I need to know the truth about where my daughter is and what she has done to her. I took her to the police two days ago and they questioned her but she vehemently denied having anything to do with my Thoko’s disappearance. Everyone at the police station seemed to sympathise with her and they made me look like an uncaring spouse.”

“You went to the police?” I asked.

We live in a small town where everyone knows everybody’s business so I was surprised that I had not heard about Richard taking his wife to the police because that would have made gossiping headlines.

“The police said that they would look into it but you know how these people work. I figured the only way to get her to talk was if I brought her here because you are the one person I know who can get her to open up and tell me the truth.”

“What did the man on the phone say that made you come to such gruesome conclusions?” I asked.

Richard was suddenly very keen on sharing. “At first it was something she said. I heard her say something like ‘a part of me gets pissed every time I see him depressed over our child…and a part of me wants to grill the real picture into his thick scalp.

“When I heard those words I got curious. Ever since Thoko went missing, I am suspicious of everyone around me. So I grabbed the phone from her without warning her and quickly ran to the bedroom before I could give her time to scream and alert the person she was talking to. I locked the door behind me and kept the phone to my ear. The guy had continued talking of course and by the time I had the phone to my ear. He was saying… ‘I don’t think it’s the right time to tell him the truth right now babe. I am still not convinced he has suffered enough and learnt his lesson. If he even as so much as dares to threaten you with physical violence again, I will kill him myself.’”

A huge part of me hoped to hear Brenda deny everything her husband had just said but oh no, she just sat there looking like a wet stray puppy. How could this be…certainly not my Brenda…not the little girl I had watched blossom from an awkward introvert teenager to a beautiful woman full of life. Like a fool, I still needed to be sure.

“Is that true?” Even as I sat there looking at her in what seemed like complete attentiveness, part of my mind was fighting the urge to shield itself from the truth.

But Brenda was not going to give me a break. “He is right,” She confirmed.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, “…but this isn’t my fault at all. It is his!” Brenda shouted, pointing a finger at her husband.

Richard looked like he was just about ready to blow into flames. “What do you mean this is my fault? You kidnapped my daughter! God knows what you are doing to her and you have the audacity to place blame on me? Are you nuts?”

Naturally, I expected them to get into another verbal battle but again, Brenda put herself back on mute. She just sat there with a faraway look in her eyes, staring blankly at the wall ahead. It was as if a switch had suddenly gone off in her head.

A sudden chill went through my body, that strange feeling you get when you had been expecting bad news and then someone goes ahead and confirms it. What was going on in her head? I wondered. For the next few minutes, there was complete silence in the room except for the sound of Brenda’s tears falling onto her chitenge material. I moved closer to her and put some tissue in her hand but she did not use it, and neither did she flinch. The tears just kept pouring, undisturbed.

As if waiting for forever to come, we all sat there in total silence. When Brenda next spoke, it was to rudely awaken me to the fact that even at my age, there were still people that could surprise me. I had heard of life being cruel to others but that was not the case for these two. Life had swallowed them up, chewed them up and then regurgitated pieces of their wonderful memories together into something none of us in the room could recognize.

Looking at them looking at me, their eyes filled with expectation, I feared I was not the right person to give them the miracle that they were hoping for. I am after all only human. Every part of my body wanted to jump up and tear at something but there I sat, smiling at them as if I had the password to opening heaven’s doors.

“Do you remember, Richard?” Brenda finally broke the silence.

“…19 years ago. How old where you then?” Brenda’s tone and demeanour had taken a 360 degrees turn.

Her eyes where suddenly dry and fixed on her husband. There was something about them…about the way she looked that made everything else in the room seem frozen.

Unperturbed by his wife’s sudden change in demeanour, Richard replied, “I am 40 years old now meaning I was…let’s see….”

He did some mental calculations and then – he finally found a reason to be nervous. I could see it written all over his face. I am not sure when it happened but when I next looked at him, he was on his feet, glaring at his wife in utter disbelief.

Something must have happened nineteen years ago and something serious if it could cause such a reaction after so many years. I knew we were making progress.

“Richard was 21 then,” I volunteered the information, wanting to move the conversation along. The silence was starting to creep me out and the curiosity was killing me.

Brenda let out a cryptic laugh, her lips pursing as if she had just smelt something rotten.

“How old do you think I was then Amai?” Although her question was directed at me, her eyes had not left her husband who was now standing away from the two us but closer to the window, his back against the wall.

“You must have been 13 years old then,” I answered, wondering where all this was leading to. “Did something happen 19 years ago?” I asked.

Brenda had still not taken her eyes off of Richard. “Why don’t you answer that Richard?” She said. “You are the one who insisted on finding out what happened to your daughter. Here’s your chance. The only way I’m gonna open my mouth to talk about Thoko is if you tell Amai here what happened so many years ago because that’s the key to unlocking this mystery.”

Richard seemed to have regained his composer. He put his hands into his pockets and looked his wife straight in the eye.

“You said it yourself; it happened so many years ago so how do you expect me to remember?” He said.

I could tell that Richard had a vivid memory of whatever had happened years ago but he was not willing to make it known.

“Did the two of you perhaps know each other 19 years ago?” The answer was obvious, but I still had to ask.

I had never thought of the possibility of the two knowing each other before their meeting at church but Brenda was quick to put things into perspective. “I know about that girl that used to work in your house as a maid 19 years ago Richard. I know everything about what you used to do to her.”

Richard still played ignorant. “What has that girl got to do with my daughter’s disappearance?”

There was no missing the smirk on Brenda’s face. “I see your memory is back in functioning mode now,” she responded, sarcastically. “Do you remember her name?” She asked.

“How the hell am I supposed to remember? So what? We dated for a couple of weeks before she stopped working at our house. I still don’t see how….”

“You dated? The two of you dated?” Brenda looked like she had just been slapped in the face.

There was fear in Richard’s eyes. I had questions I was dying to ask but I didn’t want to disrupt their conversation. “I don’t know what you are trying to achieve by bringing up the past,” Richard went on defence.  “I don’t even remember that girl’s name or how she looks li….” He suddenly stopped, realisation finally dawning on him. “Does she have something to do with my daughter’s disappearance?”

“Isn’t that what I have been trying to tell you all along?” Brenda replied nonchalantly.

Before she knew it, Richard was on her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her up from her chair.

“What has she done to my daughter?” He was screaming at the top of his voice and I am suspected the kids were seated somewhere trying to listen in on the conversation.

I was also up on my feet and quickly tried to separate the two before cautioning Richard to tone it down a bit. Brenda was back in her seat but Richard refused to be sucked in.  He was back by the window, one leg resting against the wall while did everything possible to avoid eye contact.

“What happened 19 years ago, Brenda?” I asked again.

Now afraid of getting a heart stroke from all the suspense, I pushed a little further, “Did the two of you know each other back then or perhaps you had a friend in common?”

Richard should have been in college by then and that was around the time Brenda had disappeared from home. But then something occurred to me.

I turned to Richard, “the girl you said worked at your house, could it be….”

I was now looking at Brenda who still had this mysterious look about her. She seemed to be enjoying every bit of whatever was transpiring. Unlike his spouse, Richard looked like a man who had just been confronted with a past he would have rather forgotten. It made me even more curious.

“I told you, I really don’t remember much,” He reiterated.

“All I know is that there used to be a girl who worked in our house. I was young then…I didn’t know better. We had an intimate relationship but it only lasted a couple of weeks.” If Richard was still trying a go at nonchalance, he was failing terribly.

“I had to go back to school and that was how we lost contact. When I came back home, I was told she disappeared. I haven’t heard anything from her since so I don’t understand why Brenda is bringing her up.” He shrugged his shoulders, as if the act itself would erase whatever happened from that past.

I wanted to believe Richard. He seemed sincere yet the look on Brenda’s face had now grown a dark shade deeper the more Richard spoke about the past.

“I sense that you disagree with your husband Brenda. How well did you know the girl in question? Was she your friend?” I asked.

“Friend you say?” Brenda scoffed. “That girl this man took advantage of…the girl he made fake promises to…promises of a better life and taking care of her family when he graduated…that girl was not my friend. She is me.”

Somewhere, I could hear a pin drop. Both his feet were now on the floor. The look of bewilderment on Richard’s face equalled mine.

“Hell no,” I heard him say. “No way….”

I honestly think that he covered all the phrases and words synonymous to his feelings and even without saying one more word, his wife’s gaze assured him of the facts.

“There is no way you still expected me to look like that rugged little girl your whole family looked down upon and treated like trash. You of all people should have known what kind of person I would become. My personality could not allow me to continue living like that. I had to get myself up and prove to you and your snotty rich family exactly what I am capable of.”

For a while Richard stayed on the floor, his face down in shame. Then suddenly, as if he had just been struck by a bolt of lightning, he was up and back to shaking Brenda.

“What the hell have you done to my child you miserable woman?” He was shaking her so hard yet she let him, laughing at him the whole time.

“If you want to know where your child is,” her tone was calm but menacing. “I suggest you behave yourself and start asking the right questions. Thoko is safe wherever she is so you can stop worrying about that.”

“How do you honestly expect me to trust your words? You heard her yourself aunty,” he turned to me. “She confessed that she has my child. If I go to the police right now, you can be my witness.”

“I won’t stop you from going to the police Mr Hotshot,” his wife replied, still in the same tone. “But if you do, please note that no matter what you do or what the police do to me, I will never tell you where the child is. That child isn’t even yours to begin with.”

“What are you talking about?” I wanted to ask the same question too. He had finally let her go but he still remained towering over her seated figure.

“I think it would be best if you sat for this one my dear husband,” she was as sarcastic as could be. She was now the one standing while her husband, like a man truly held at ransom, silently obeyed her command.

Her arms crossed over her chest, she walked around the room in circles as she took us back to the past.

“I was only 13 years old when I discovered I was pregnant by you.” Brenda announced.

That announcement was greeted with shock by Richard. He had no idea at all, I inferred.

“When you first approached me that night when I slept over at your place because I couldn’t travel back the long distance to my family…I believed every word you said to me.” She continued.

“It flattered me to know that I was being fancied by the son of one of the richest families in town. Unfortunately, I was naïve just as I was poor. I was simply nothing but a moment of pleasure for you…something to keep you busy as you waited for school to open again. You didn’t care about me. I was just a bag of dirt that should have been happy and content from the mere fact that a handsome boy like you had given me the time of my life…your words, not mine.” She threw him another accusing look.

“When I realised I was pregnant, you had already gone back to school. I remember working different jobs just so I could make enough money to meet you at campus and ask you to take responsibility but you still refused to see me. You said you didn’t know who the hell I was and made me a laughing stock of your rich friends. You remember that day, don’t you?”

Richard couldn’t look up at her. But the shame was written all over his body.

“I had hoped you would give me money to travel back home but nothing like that happened. I was stranded in a big city where I knew nobody. I was young, pregnant, and broke. I couldn’t go back to my family. At first it was because I didn’t have enough money but then as my belly grew, I was ashamed to go back and have everyone judge me. I also figured that it would be less of a burden for my brother if one person was out of the picture. There was no way I was going to impose another human being on him. It was going to be unfair. And so I stayed. My baby girl was only three months old when she died because…I mean, what child would survive the kind of life I led back then?

“Many times I had thought about abortion but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I figured she would be my new family since I had already lost my family. Sadly, your inhumane treatment of me and your refusal to accept responsibility for your actions is what led to my baby dying. I could never forgive you for that. I had to find a way to make you pay. It wasn’t enough that you had taken my innocence away, my family and whatever little pride I had left, but you also took my baby away.”

“How was I supposed to know you were pregnant? Don’t you think I would have done something if I knew?” Richard finally spoke.

I was still seated by the side watching the two of them at it. I could now see the light coming through the curtains. I guessed we had entered the early hours of morning. It occurred to me that we had been in that room for a very long time and it didn’t look like we would be finished any time soon. Had I known, I would have brought some popcorn in before the session started. I should remember to do that during my next appointment.

“You have finally asked a very good question, Richard.” It was the first time I had heard Brenda refer to her husband by his name. It was a sign that there was no turning back between them. I shuddered.

“It is because I know…I knew that despite you being a jerk, you would have taken responsibility if you had known I was pregnant.” She replied. “But you had not given yourself the chance to find out because you were too ashamed to admit to your pals that you knew someone like me. It was that decision you made that made me lose my child.”

“So what…I made you lose your child so you kidnap mine to get your revenge? What sort of woman are you?” An agitated Richard could now face his wife, total disdain registering on his face.

Surprising enough, Brenda still had her composure about her. “Ah,” she said. “That’s another thing you need an update on.” She let out a short dry laugh. “That child you keep calling my daughter, my child…” she mimicked his masculine voice. “That child isn’t yours Mr Chilufya.”

She had earlier alluded to this claim but I thought she was referring to something else instead. Unfortunately, it seemed she wanted us to take her words literally. Richard was once again shaken, and so was I.

“What do you mean she is not my child? If you think you can feed me fables about my wife – God rest her soul…sleeping with another man and passing off the child as mine, then you are more demented than I thought.”

Richard was sure about the paternity of that child as he was sure he was a male. He always thought that he did not deserve a woman as angelic as Thokozile. There was no way she could be capable of whatever evil this woman was cooking up.

However, the sarcastic smile playing on Brenda’s face threatened to cast doubt on the one foundation he thought he had lain right.

“I really pity you,” she was pointing at him, her finger moving up and down. “Unfortunately, that woman you have been holding in such high esteem and always comparing me to…if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t even have met her.

“And did you just say God rest her soul?” She burst out laughing.

She was laughing so hard she had her hand on her stomach and slowly bending down as if to calm herself down. Still, I could tell her laughter was forced. It was mostly a show she was putting on for her unfortunate audience.

“Your wife is alive as all of us in this room are.”

“What do you mean by that?” I was almost jumping out of my seat and didn’t even realise I had said those words out loud.

“What do you mean my wife is alive? We buried Thoko….” Richard looked over at me for support.

“I was there,” I said. “Of course we buried her. I saw her body…Christ I even touched her. What are you talking about my dear?”

Brenda sat back into her chair for this one. She faced her husband and I.

“Just a bit of research on Google and you will discover how to make someone appear dead and even bury them alive. Fortunately, I have a few friends in the medical field that helped me pull everything off. Thokozile is still very much alive and she was never pregnant. Thanks to an ever absent husband, she successfully managed to carry a fake pregnancy for nine months and even deliver a bouncing baby girl. That girl she presented to you was my child. I carried her nine whole months and paid Thokozile a large sum of money to work for me and then disappear. If you don’t believe me, you can do your own DNA tests.” Then she added, “And of course, you can meet your wife if you like. Lately, she has been troubling me about wanting to atone for her sins against you because it seems she had truly come to love you. Sad…isn’t it?”

Disbelieve…that’s what filled the room after Brenda’s revelations. I could not recognize the woman that was sitting in from of me and looking as if she had no care in the world when she had just informed the two people that trusted her in the world that she had been lying to them. I have always treated Brenda as if she was my own child and after her revelations, I wondered if there was any other way I should have reacted instead of just sitting there in disbelief.

My tongue couldn’t seem to move and my lips, though wide open, could not produce any sound. I looked over at Richard. It didn’t look like anything his wife had just poured out had sunk in yet. He was in disbelief for sure, but only because he thought his wife was spilling fables out of hate. Fortunately, I had enough sense at that time to believe every word she had said. The only thing I could not get myself to accept was the idea that it was possible for someone I knew and trusted to orchestrate such an elaborate evil plan all in the name of revenge. A part of me couldn’t help feeling like I had just been made part of a very bad joke.

“How could you…” I had started to ask when Brenda cut me off.

“How could I be so evil?” She finished for me.

I had wanted to ask her how she could do such a thing but it seemed she was very much aware of the classification of her deeds.

“I hated the fact that he had moved on with his life as if nothing had ever happened.” She answered herself. “I hated the fact that he had ruined my life. He had taken advantage of me at the most trying time of my life. He had everything going for him so why did he have to play with my body and my feelings like that? He could have had any woman he preferred but he still chose to add me to that list. Why?”

“Don’t you know you could get arrested for what you’ve done?” I tried to reason with her.

“I am well aware of the law in this matter,” she replied nonchalantly.

“However, I do not think Mr Chilufya over here will be pursuing this that far because you see, despite what the law says, any claims of him raping someone will not sit well with his rich family and his brilliant career. A scandal as massive as this one will not only shake him and his business, it will ruin his reputation…the one thing he would rather die than see fall to pieces. Besides, once he confirms paternity of that child, he won’t want to have anything to do with her. I know this man very well. I have spent most of my life being his shadow.”

Initially, I had thought that what the two of them needed was time; time to heal all wounds and probably work at their marriage. As it turned out, there was no marriage to speak of between them. There was no possibility of reconciliation between them and there certainly had never been any love.

The kind of help they needed wasn’t going to come from me.

And most importantly, what they needed most was a new start.

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