Because She Loved Me – Part 2

because she loved me

 

After my fateful encounter with Thandiwe, I went back to my car and sat there for close to two hours…just thinking about where to go from there.

Thabo and I had an understanding from the time we got married; that no matter how heated an argument was, none of us was to leave the vicinity of our home – we could leave the bedroom yes, but never the house. For ten years I kept that promise.

But that night as I sat alone wallowing in self pity in the car park of the lodge I had almost committed adultery in just a few minutes ago, that decision couldn’t come to me easily.

That night I was afraid of a lot of things and of all those things, the truth topped the list.

I was not just afraid of what I might do to the woman who had betrayed me like that. I was mostly afraid of finding out the truth and how it might change life as I had known it.

That night I thought about the other two children…the twins; Natasha and Merebeth. I thought about what had happened that morning immediately after my wife had confessed the truth to me.

I was on my way out of the house in a rage when they appeared in front of me out of nowhere, blocking my way with huge grins on their faces absolutely oblivious to whatever had just transpired.

“Daddy look what we made!” Natasha was excitedly showing me something I was not really seeing despite looking at it. To think that the only thought going through my mind during such a proud fatherly moment was… are you even my kids?… makes me feel so much shame in myself right now.

To this day, those two cute innocent smiles still haunt me in my sleep when I think back to the thoughts that went through my mind at that particular moment. Days after my finding out the truth, I would wake up in the middle of the night in bouts of sweat, the fear of what was, what is…and what could have been ripping through my body and breaking it into convulsions that threatened to send me to an early grave.

That night as I sat in my car contemplating my next move…I pondered the question I had been most afraid to ask;

Who was the father?

I thought back to my past and wondered what sins I might have committed for whose price I was only paying then?

How did I get to such a point? Where did I go wrong?

I was not sure whether to thank my wife for revealing the truth to me of her own volition or to be mad at her for rocking a boat that had been sailing smoothily all along.

There was nothing about my son or any of our children that made me question their paternity and there had been no signs of infidelity or suspicious behaviour from my wife. The thought of my own children not being mine had never even crossed my mind before. I mean, what sort of man would I be if I doubted something like that?

Whats worse, almost every single person that met my son said he was a spitting image of me…so why…how…what was going on? Despite everything, there was a huge part of me that felt responsible for how things had turned out.

I was the one who had left a beautiful wife at home for two years and only went back to see her once. How lonely she must have been? If her loneliness was anything compared to mine…then where would I even begin shaming her?

Granted, our lives had become a whole lot better after attaining my second degree. I had been immediately promoted at work and Thabo had finally managed to set up her own business. We could afford to send the children to the best schools in the country and we lived a much comfortable life. We were happier than we had ever been before those two years.

But…

…and what about our families…dear God.

What was I to tell my family?

In a society that heralded a man’s infidelity but scorned a woman’s, just what was going to happen to the woman I had dedicated my whole life to?

I wanted to hate her and I wanted her to hurt as much as I did. I thought about divorcing her the moment she had dropped the bomb on me but the memories of everything we had been through together kept me from thinking rationally.

I wanted to hurt her…but how could I get myself to lay a finger on a woman and still look my mother in the eye?

And what about Chikondi? What was going to happen to our son?

You see, even in those moments, I couldn’t bring myself to think of that handsome little fella as anything else other than my son. He had been my first, and I would have laid down my life for him in teh blink of an eye.

After thirteen good years, three years dating and ten good years married…how did i end up siting in my car in the middle of the night outside some lodge reduced to nothing but tears?

Before that fateful day, I was not a man that easily cried. The last time I had cried was when I saw my wife cry over her mothers grave during her burial…and it had been fie years prior.

“I was lonely…vulnerable…I was so sick and he had been there taking care of me….”

Those words assaulted my ears until I could only hear bells ringing in my head from out of nowhere.
I had finally decided to head back home but I did not enter the house. I stayed outside in the car park and pretended not to see my lovely wife looking out the window from our bedroom every ten seconds.

I cannot remember when I slept but here’s what I remember vividly; waking up in the morning to the sound of a knock on my window only to find Chikondi starring closely at me.

It was the boy that was my son but never my own.

I adjusted the seat back up and rolled down the window.

“Good morning dad?” the eight year old greeted me, concern written all over his face.

Something dropped inside of me…and it hurt real bad.

I could only stare back at him as I prayed to God to not let my emotions show on my face.

“Did you and mum fight?” the boy asked. For an eight year old, he had the maturity of an older person…something I always boasted he took after me.

The irony.

“Why are you crying dad?” Chikondi asked me.

Was I crying?

I quickly checked my face with my hand and for sure, there were tears coursing down my face.

How did i get reduced to the kind of man that cries in front of his child…even if that child wasn’t biologically his?

I quickly wiped away the tears and forced a smile on my face. “I drunk too much last night and your mother wasn’t happy at all. I think this is the hangover at work,” I lied.

“Dad, I think it’s alright for a man to cry once in a while. It only means he’s human, not that he’s weak…as long as he doesn’t do it often.”

Those were my very own words being echoed back at me.

Who the hell was the father to this wise little fella?

I could have given anything to rewind time and stop my wife from revealing the truth to me. I could have paid anything to erase my memory if it meant getting rid of the ache in my chest every time I looked at Chikondi.

And so I got out of the car and did something that would haunt Chikondi for the rest of his life.

I knelt down before him, put my arms around him and cried my heart out. Even though I was crying silently, the convulsions from my body were more than enough to let my son know what was happening.

“What’s wrong dad?” I heard the boy ask.

It took a few more minutes for me to get my balls in order and man up. I slowly released him from my embrace and looked up at him tall frame.

“I was trying to be human,” I told Chikondi, my voice a little hoarse from emasculation. “How about we go inside together so mummy and I can told a bit.”

He only nodded in response. I could see that he was almost tearing up and that only made me feel even worse. I should not have let my emotions get the better of me in front of him.
As if she had been watching us from inside, Thabo opened the door to let us in the moment we reached the house.

Before I could even step the first food into the house, the twins came running towards me and went straight for my legs, each hugging one for herself while my wife looked on in terror.

I leveled myself up to girls height and smiled at them, taking them both into my arms.

“Where did you go dad?” They chorused the moment they were out of my arms.

“I was working,” I cheerfully lied.

“Chikondi, why don’t you take your sisters to the kitchen and have some breakfast?” Thabo instructed and the boy immediately obliged.

Without uttering a single word to her, I headed upstairs to our bedroom and she followed me closely behind.

“You decide, I leave or you leave,” I said once the door was shut behind us, my back to her.

Thabo could only look at me with a deadening look on her face. “No Harry,” she said pleadingly. “Please don’t do this. Let’s talk about it first….”

“Is there anything more you have to say to me Thabo?” I turned to face her, my hands in my pockets.

She started walking towards me but the look in my eyes warned her to keep a distance and she listened.

“I will do anything you want me to do but just don’t ask me to leave Harry.” She begged.

“Then I will be the one leaving,” I said, walking over to the closet to grab some of my clothes.

I don’t know when she moved but Thabo was right behind me, holding on to me as she cried her heart out, imploring me not to leave.

Any other day I would have softened my heart and given in to her but not on that day.

I just stood there with one hand down while the other held on to a shirt hanging on a hanger in the closet while she had her arms around me from behind. “Who is he?” I finally asked the billion dollar question, but I was only able to because I was not looking at her.

I felt her loosen her hold on me and slowly she removed her arms from around me.

“Who is he?” I asked again, still unable to turn around and face her.

Was I being too much of a coward?

I could hear Thabo pacing back and forth from behind. She wasn’t talking.

I went ahead and grabbed a few clothes from off the closet in anger, got a small suitcase from the many that were piled up on top of the wardrobe, threw it on the floor and then threw the clothes inside.

“Jeffrey,” I heard her say amidst my packing tantrum.

I immediately paused.

“Who the hell is Jeffrey?” I had stopped whatever I was doing and was now looking at her shriveling figure in one corner of the bedroom.

With her hands held together, she muttered, “Pastor Jeffrey.”

I cannot even begin to describe the look on my face upon hearing those two words.

Pastor Jeffrey was the Senior Pastor at our local church, a man I respected so much and a man whom I had sought counsel from several times in the past years.

Ten years ago, he had been introduced as a new Pastor at church, a bright looking man with a very welcoming and humble demeanor he had been.

“You mean the same Pastor I know?” I desperately wanted her to say no.

I needed her to say NO.

“Yes, the same one.” Thabo sent my world crumbling down.

Like a leaf that had just been cut off from its branch, my knees gave way and down, I hit the floor.

Thabo quickly ran to me and tried to touch me but i sent her flying back where she had come from. I heard a thump…something must have hit something…probably her head…but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to care.

I quickly picked up the few things I had removed, piled them into the small suitcase and off I went.

I could hear Thabo crying as I stormed off the bedroom but I didn’t want to look at her lest I weakened in my resolve.

I needed to be as far away from her as possible…not because I was leaving her, but because there were kids in that house that still needed their mother.

I had been pushed to the brink of insanity and I did not trust myself enough to keep holding on to the principles I had lived by all my life. I had stuck to them all those years and yet there I was…broken and betrayed by the two people I had believed would help pave the way for me into paradise.

* * *

“Your wife cheated on you, had a baby with another man and she passed on the child as yours and yet you are the one that leaves home?”

It was my best buddy Thomas chastising me for my decision to leave home.

“What kind of man leaves his cheating wife in his fancy mansion while he wallows in pain in his friend’s spare bedroom? You should have sent the bitch packing and….”

“She might be a lot of things Thom but please don’t call her that…she is still my wife and the mother of my children.”

“Your children, you say?” Thomas wasted no time digging into my wounds. “I suggest you get a paternity test before they turn twenty and your wife feels like sharing the truth.

I wanted to scream and say a whole bunch of expletives at him but I resorted to quietly nursing my wounds.
“You do know that you gonna have to send her back to her parents right?” Thomas asked the one question I still wasn’t ready to confront.

“I wanted to send her packing the very moment she revealed the truth to me,” I told Thom. “You know those moments when someone asks you what you would do if something happened and you straight away have a confidence answer of what you would do? Well, I have proved that reality isn’t always black and white. It might seem obvious what I ought to do…but it ain’t so with my heart…or mind. I have absolutely no idea what the right thing to do is.”

“The right thing to do is send her back to her parents,” Thomas emphasized. “She violated the sanctity of your marriage and even had passed on a child that isn’t yours as your own. What more do you think she has to do before you come to your senses?”

“Have you forgotten that I was the one who violated the sanctity of my marriage by leaving my wife alone when our marriage was still so young?”

“Is that why you are acting like this? Because you somehow feel it’s your fault?” Thomas quizzed me in disbelief. “Are you nuts?” He really was going all out. “Before you left for school, didn’t you consult your wife about making such a decision and what it would mean?”

“I did,” I answered.

“Did she or did she not willingly allow you to go?”

“She did…she was actually very proud of me for getting sponsorship. We were both excited because we knew what it would mean once I got the paper.”

“You see where I am going with this now, don’t you?”

I went mute. I couldn’t bring myself to say out loud the words he desperately needed me to say because the moment they were out there, it meant I had to face the truth.

I still wasn’t ready.

The truth of the matter was that despite everything that had happened, despite all the emotions and confusion going on in my head, despite the betrayal…I was still madly and crazily in-love with my wife.

I had reached a point in my life where I could not picture a life without her. Everything I had built…everything we had built together had been structured in such a way that the both of us had to be together in order to enjoy life. And now my friend was asking me to forsake all that and start all over again?

Until that moment, I had no idea how scary the idea of starting all over again could be.

I was petrified.

I was afraid of the things I knew and the things I did not know. And most importantly, I was afraid of the things I needed to know that I still didn’t know.

“You know what else makes me mad?” I said to Thomas. “That I believe her…I believe her when she says it only happened once.” I could see the strange look Thomas was giving me…like I had completely lost my mind, but I chose to ignore it. I needed someone to talk to and he was the only person I knew I could speak to without worrying about the news spreading everywhere.

There was someone else I would have gone to immediately…unfortunately, that person was the reason behind my pain. No matter how wise or holy his counsel might be, I was just too human to keep myself from punching a man holding a Bible in his hands.

“What I can’t accept is the identity of the other man,” I told Thom. “Why did it have to be him of all people? I let that man into our home so many times. I spoke to him about the challenges Thabo and I faced once in a while and he always gave me wise counsel. I trusted him so much that I would have felt comfortable leaving my wife and children under his care if ever i had to travel somewhere far. To think that a man I trusted like that….” I shook my head.

“I guess now we know why your wife had insisted on you guys changing churches right after you returned from your studies….” Thomas pointed out.

Realization finally dawned on me. So that was why.

“I remember now,” I said. “I was so mad at her because she couldn’t give me a good enough reason for us to move churches and I really felt at home in that church. Now that I think about, she never was comfortable with me seeking counsel from him or let alone invite him to our home. But you know what’s even funnier, that he seemed okay with everything!”

“He is either a sociopath or he has a tendency to forgive himself a little too much.” My friend said.

“Do you have any idea the sort of mess this would create if the truth ever gets out?” I asked. “That is one of the biggest churches in the country and the thought of my dirty laundry being aired out to the public like that makes me cringe. I do not want the whole world to know about my weaknesses or my marriage.”

“What do you mean your weaknesses?” Thomas was genuinely puzzled. “How does your wife cheating on you make it your weakness?”

“You know that sometimes you act like you are not married?” I said to Thomas.

“The difference between you and I is that you treat your wife like an equal partner. I always let my wife know who is boss in this marriage and that’s why shit like that will never happen to me.”

“If there’s anything I have learnt from all this, it is that things are not always as they appear.” I said. “Yes, I regret certain things but not the way I treated Thabo. I would still treat her or any other woman I am with like that. Your problem is that you demand respect from Claudia instead of earning it…and you’ve never respected her in any way.

“It’s not only men that ought to be respected in a marriage. If you respect her, she will respect you even more and there would be no point of you demanding it. She is a very beautiful woman…and I know you will say and so are other women out there…but none of those women can put up with you as much as Claudia does. Before you end up like me…or worse, I suggest you start paying more attention to doing what’s right.”

“The guy gets his heart broken once and suddenly he’s become a philosopher,” Thom retorted sarcastically.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Take it or leave it. I am just trying to be a friend.”

“But this isn’t about me!” He said. “We need to find a solution to your current problem. What are you going to do about that pastor?”

“I thought about confronting him when I found out…. I even drove all the way to his house in Olympia but when I saw his wife who opened the gate for me and welcomed me in such an unbelievable manner, I couldn’t bring myself to state my case. The kids where running around the house…everyone seemed so happy and I just couldn’t bring myself to…you know. And besides, the pastor wasn’t even home. He’s traveled to Ndola for some conference. He will only be back after a week.”

Tsk tsk tsk, I heard Thomas say, looking at me pitifully. “That soft heart of yours will be the reason for your undoing. Oh wait, you’ve already been undone!” He laughed.

I gave him a stern look.

“My bad,” he raised his arms slightly in the air as if in surrender. “Bad joke. And how about your wife, you still gonna let her stay in your house after everything she’s done?”

I didn’t respond immediately. I had no idea what I was going to do. The moment I decide to send Thabo back home, everyone was going to know what happened between us. I didn’t want that to happen, just yet.

And most importantly, I didn’t want Chikondi finding out the truth in such a manner. It was going to screw him up forever. He was a very deep kid…and deep kids like that have the potential to have deep psychological issues. I know he wasn’t my real son…but I just couldn’t turn off my parental instincts towards him as if it was some switch I could just press and everything would go away.

The truth was, at the back of my head, I kept hoping that there was a mistake somewhere…that Thabo had made a mistake and that Chikondi was actually my son.

If he really wasn’t mine, then why was there such an uncanny resemblance between us? He looked nothing like the man who was supposedly his father.

So was the resemblance a fact or simply something me and everyone else cooked up just because we had accepted the natural and expected things to be like that?

“I need to get some fresh air,” I announced to Thomas, grabbed my coat from the bed that would temporary be mine in the coming days and walked out of the house.
Walking down the clean and clear street of the Phi neighborhood where Thomas and his family lived, I took in the fresh breeze of air and thanked God for the low density of the neighborhood. It meant I could do some thinking I desperately needed without having to worry about people starring strangely at me.

I had been walking for close to twenty minutes with earphones in my head listening to songs that once meant something to my wife and I…and I was busy fighting off the tears threatening to erupt when I felt someone tag me from behind.

I removed the headsets and just when i was about to turn around, she popped up right in front of me and caught me off-guard.

It was Thandiwe.

Yes it was her…except, she didn’t quite look like the woman I had met the night before. She was wearing a chitenge, a red oversize t-shirt on top that reached just above her knees and she had dirty looking

Was fate playing some cruel prank on me?

Why did I have to meet her again?

But there she was standing in front of me with her eyes sparkling as she smiled at me. She was obviously happy to me.

The feeling wasn’t mutual.

She was a reminder of just how bad things had become for me.

“I knew you were that good man that helped me!” She said excitedly. “Do you live in this neighborhood Mr?”

“No,” I replied curtly and automatically wiped the smile from off her face.

She took a step back from me. “You are obviously not happy to see me.”

She was very perceptive. I was forcing me to like her.

I didn’t want to like her.

I only stared back blankly, but she got the point alright.

“I am sorry I rudely interrupted you,” she stepped aside to let me pass.”

“It’s fine,” I lied. “I have to be on my way so goodbye.”

She nodded with her head low, avoiding my eyes. I had embarrassed her.

I hadn’t meant to…but I embarrassed her still.

I walked passed her and put my headsets back on, instructing my brain not to look back at her.

Don’t look back, don’t look back, don’t….I kept chanting but it was as if I was telling myself to look because I finally did!

I had only walked a few steps away from her but when I looked back, she was still where I had left her standing. She was glaring at me so hard it was a wonder I didn’t have any holes in my back.

And then I saw it. Her tears.

I won’t get any break now will I? I said i my head as I walked back to her.

I took out a handkerchief from my pocket and handed it to her. She tentatively reached out and accepted it, slowly wiping away her tears.

“You live in this neighborhood?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Hell no. I would not afford to live in such a neighborhood even if I died and came back again. You live here Mr?” She was looking up at me, her eyes were still dumb from the tears but she had stopped crying. Thank God.

“No…I am just visiting a friend,” I said, touching my forehead instinctively…something I do whenever I am nervous or lying.

“Are you married?” She was looking up at my hand. I quickly dropped it to the side. I didn’t have my ring on but there was a mark on my finger solid enough to scream the fact.

I had removed it the previous day after ten straight years of never taking it off. It was something I had done in anger and I had regretted it immediately. I tried looking for the little thing in my office but it just wouldn’t reveal itself. It was like a bad omen.

I had spent the next two hours looking for it relentlessly but it was as if it had disappeared into some hole in the office I was not even aware of. I only stopped when I was called into a meeting and after that, everything went blank.

I still didn’t know where the little thing was hiding.

“I approached you last night because I thought you were single.” The kind of fear I saw in her eyes mirrored that which I had seen in my wife just after she made that fateful announcement.
“How could you…?” She was visibly shaken by that realization and it made me feel more worse about what had almost happened the other night.

I had been right when I said she wasn’t cut out for that kind of job.

“Calm down,” I made the mistake of reaching out to lay my hand on her shoulder because she flinched in disgust, like I was some leprotic bastard trying to defile her or something.

That chewed down at my pride.

I withdrew my hand immediately. “Yes I am married,” I calmed explained to her. “I admit…what happened last night was something that shouldn’t have happened but…I was having a rough day and I reacted immaturely. I regretted it the moment something was about to happen…I don’t think I did to explain any further…you were there.”

She seemed to calm down a bit. “I understand,” she said. “And who I’m I to judge you anyway? I am not any better…probably worse…it’s Just that…even though I know there are no degrees to sin, I was kind of hoping you would not be a married man. I had checked your finger…and I ended up making assumptions. I guess I should have asked first.”

“It was your first time after all,” I found myself smiling.

She smiled back. “Yes it was. And you were right when you said God doesn’t sleep because…we were both about to make the worst mistakes of our lives.”

“You can say that again,” I said.

“I listened to your advice and found myself an extra job for the weekends,” she proudly stated. “I am working as a nanny and a maid for that house over there.” She pointed to a white and yellow painted house just a few blocks from where we were standing.

“That’s very good. I am happy for you.” I said.

“The pay is obviously not better than what I would be making if I continued…like that. A friend of mine told me people like that make a lot of money on a good night more than people with regular jobs make in a month.”

“Your friend might have been right…but she also never told you everything you needed to know.” I said.

She nodded. “You are right. I did a lot of thinking after meeting you and I thanked God it was you I met instead of someone else.”

“I guess I also ought to thank God that it was you I met and not anybody else…otherwise….”

“Anyway, I have to rush back to my job before they discover I’m missing,” she said. “It was nice to see you again Sir.”

There was something about the way she addressed me that me feel old. I was only in my late thirties and she was about twenty-five…I wanted to tell my name just then but something didn’t seat well with me.

“Take care of yourself Thandie,” I said and resumed my walk while she ran back to her place of work.

It was not going to be the last time I ran into her like that. Like a very bad joke, fate kept pullig us together and forcing me to know more about the girl I almost had an affair with.

To this day, I strongly believe that had it not been for Thandiwe, my journey from the moment I learnt the truth from my wife would not have been so complicated.

Without meaning to, that innocent looking lady would implant herself on my heart and shake me up till I could no longer think rationally.

I was a man on the verge of collapse…because she came to love me more than I could ever fathom.

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Echoes of the Heart – Part 5

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

“Martin won’t stop calling,” Mwiche said to the two women starring at her in astonishment.

“I came home from my extra lessons a few minutes ago and I overheard my mother talking to someone on the phone about what happened to you. Martin asked me to keep our mother away from you…but today was kind of….” the school girl scratched the back of her head as she searched for the right words to say.

Sibusiswe’s phone started ringing again.

Sibeso grabbed it from the table before Sibu could stop her and ran outside to take the call.

Mwiche walked over to the bed, removed her backpack from her back and put it down next to the chair she was now sitting on. With her chin resting on her hands and a grin on her face, Mwiche starred at a very startled Sibu, taking in every inch of her resting frame.

“You are very pretty,” the cheerful teenager commented. “Definitely my brother’s type. You look young, how old are you?”

“Aren’t you a little too young to be meddling in your older brother’s business?” Sibu asked.

“My brother and I are very close,” Mwiche informed Sibu. “I am the only person in the world he trusts 100% and we talk about almost everything. He also told me that you’ve been ignoring his calls ever since he left so he asked me to keep an eye on you.”

“Keep an eye on me?” Sibu asked, her eyebrows raised as she looked at the girl.

Mwiche nodded nonchalantly. “As in stalk you,” she said matter-of-factly. “But if it makes you feel any better, the stalking was only restricted to who you were seen hanging out with…as in if there were any men hanging around you, Martin wanted to be informed…I think that’s why we missed the fact that you were pregnant or that my mother would pay you a visit.”

Sibu couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “We, who’s we?” 

Mwiche laughed. “That’s Clement and me. Don’t worry it’s not some strangers following you around. Clement has been with our family for years now, he’s practically family.”

“Who the hell is Clement?” Sibu asked.

She was completely taken aback by the girl’s shameless behavior. Could it be that she didn’t know how wrong her actions were or could it be that she simply felt entitled to do whatever she liked given her family background?

“Clement is my driver. He’s such a good soul,” the school girl provided.

“Listen Mwiche,” Sibu put on a stern face. “Don’t you know that what you and your brother…and your driver are doing is illegal?”

“Well,” Mwiche sat up and raised her shoulders. “You might choose to look at it that way but I choose to look at it as looking out for my brother’s interests since he’s away. You are the first girlfriend he’s ever had so you can imagine what he must be going through.”

Sibu was dumb folded. “I am not even his girlfriend!” She said.

“But arent you pregnant for him?” Mwiche asked…and immediately put her hand over her mouth the second she realized her blunder. “I am so sorry….I didn’t mean to….”

“Just because I slept with your brother, once, doesn’t make me his girlfriend. If Martin considered every girl he slept with his girlfriend then he would be the world’s worst playa. So what if I got pregnant, that still doesn’t make me his…and besides, there’s no pregnancy any more so there’s no need for you to hang around me anymore.”

“I beg to differ,” the girl confidently answered. “Martin intends to come back to Zambia and marry you.”

Sibu sat up in bed, completely forgetting about the pain for a moment. “What did you say?”

“I said Martin is coming back, I am sure your friend will come and update you…I believe that’s why he called. He is so mad at mum he no longer cares about seeking her permission to come back.”

“You gotto be kidding me,” Sibu sulked.

Outside the hospital, Sibeso answered the call from Martin.

“Sibu are you alright? Is the baby okay?” Martin’s words came crushing down into her ears.

“Martin this is Sibeso, Sibu’s friend.”

“Ah, is Sibu okay…the baby? Where is she? What exactly happened? Where are you right now?”

“Calm down a bit and let me answer one question at a time,” Sibeso answered. “We are at the clinic right now, somewhere close to home. Sibu is fine…but she lost the baby…thanks to your mother.” She deliberately stressed the last four words.

“Shit!” Sibeso could hear something being hit from the other end of the line. “Is it possible for me to talk to Sibu?” Martin’s voice was raw with emotion.

“Not right now,” Sibeso replied. “She is pretty shaken up and…she isn’t yet ready to talk to you.”

“She is mad at me isn’t it? Oh my God…what have I done?” She could hear him pacing to and from. “How could my mother…I can’t believe this is happening….”

“Although I blame your mother for what happened, Sibu doesn’t agree with me. She thinks it was just an accident. And she isn’t mad at you pe se… She is just confused since everything happened so suddenly.”

“I know…it all happened so fast…but i wish she could have at least told me about the pregnancy then I wouldn’t have come here and nothing like this would have happened.”

“That’s exactly why she never told you in the first place.” Sibeso said. “Besides, she didn’t really think you were serious about her given your…er…past.”

There was silence on the other end of the line for a few seconds, and then, “I know,” came Martin’s tired voice. “That’s why I am coming back next week. I just need to sort out everything here first and then come back for good. Sibu has been through a lot already and the last thing I want is to add more to her problems. I won’t let anything like thing happen again, I won’t.”

Sibeso was grinning like a child that had just been handed her favourite candy bar. “I knew you weren’t completely a jerk…oops…I mean…”

Martin laughed, “I know exactly what you mean. Tell Sibu that I will call her again and this time she should pick up, okay? I think I will go crazy if I don’t hear her voice after everything that’s happened.”

“Don’t worry, I will make sure she answers this time.” Sibeso assured him.

“Thanks Sibeso, take care of her for me. Talk to you later.”

“Bye.”

**********

Aunt Tafadzwa had just finished peeling her pile of sweet potatoes and was ready to put them on the brazier when her attention was caught by the Pajero that parked into front of her house.

Living in the backdrops of Kanyama, cars like that could only be seen during funerals and weddings…and there was nothing like that happening in the neighbourhood that fateful morning.

Thus, when a posh looking woman wearing an expression that could only be matched to that of one forced to drop her nose in a pile of cow dang came out of the vehicle and stood outside her grim wired make-shift gate, Aunt Tafadzwa was forced to pause her activities and stare in awe at the scene unfolding before her.

For what felt like an hour, the woman just stood there glaring into the yard from over the short hedge as if the act itself could get the gate to open without her having to lift a finger.

Aunt Tafadzwa could not make out who the woman was given that half of her face was covered by her gigantic sunglasses. 

However, even without the shades, her shiny lips, neatly styled razor cut, DVF gown with well-matched shoes and purse said she was someone from another universe.

As Aunt Tafadzwa looked on from Inside the yard, wondering whether the rude looking woman was going to come in or not, she put her cooking tools down and waited for the woman to make a move.

Mrs Mwewa wondered why the woman staring at her was not coming over to open the gate for her. She tried motioning for her to open the gate but the woman only shrugged her shoulders in response.

Does she expect me to touch this filthy looking thing she considers a gate? Mrs Mwewa thought as she hovered her finger over the said gate, her face ridden with disgust.

Nga tauleingila bwekela eko ufumine,” Aunt Tafadwa shouted from where she was standing, her hands resting on either side of her waist.

She speaks Bemba? Mrs Mwewa said and smiled instinctively as she removed her sunglasses. “Mulishani mayo,” she greeted.

“Are you going to enter or not?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked again, not bothering to mask her irritation. “If you put your hand on the gate and push it forward, it will open.”

Stubborn woman, how can she not be fazed by someone like me? Mrs Mwewa stretched her leg, pushed the gate using her foot and entered the yard.

“How may I help you?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked sternly.

“Are you Bemba by any chance?” Mrs Mwewa asked.

Aunt Tafadzwa threw her an are you serious kind of look.

“You spoke Bemba earlier….” Mrs Mwewa provided.

“Only because I assumed you are Bemba. It’s typical of Bemba women to act the way you did when they visit someone’s home.”

“I find your stereotyping offensive,” Mrs Mwewa shot back.

“Had I not spoken Bemba, would you have entered the yard on your own? You stood there close to five minutes acting like the Queen of England, expecting the whole lot of me to come running to you…. You do know that even the Queen removes her own poop from her ass with her own hands right?”

Okay, I get your point,” Mrs Mwewa said. “I didn’t come here to fight with you…I came all the way here to negotiate with you.”

“Negotiate with me? Do you know me?”

“I got to know about you two weeks ago,” Mrs Mwewa answered. “Is there somewhere we can sit?” She was looking at the Mango tree in the corner of the yard where a mat was laid out below it. 

“Do you have a stool or something? I am not a mat person.”

Aunt Tafadzwa wanted stared at her peevishly, her nose enlarging in the process. She grabbed the stool she had been sitting on whilst preparing her food and carried it to the tree. She placed it down to the side and sat down on the mat.

Mrs Mwewa removed a piece of cloth from her purse and laid it on top of the stool before sitting down as Aunt Tafadzwa looked on discordantly, offended by the woman’s out-right impolite behaviour.

“So how may I help you?” A belligerent Aunt Tafadzwa asked.

“Don’t you know who I am?” Mrs Mwewa arrogantly asked.

Aunt Tafadzwa threw her another peevish look. “I’m I supposed to know who you are?”

Mrs Mwewa was outraged. “I am on television and in the papers almost every week, my family too. Are you telling me you don’t know who Mr Martin Mwewa is?”

“No,” came the curt response.

“We own half of the property in this country. Gosh, don’t you read or watch TV?”

“What do you want from me?” Aunt Tafadzwa completely brushed her off.

“Haven’t you heard anything about me or my family from your niece?” The disappointed woman asked.

“Did Sibu do something against your rich family?” She asked sarcastically.

“As a matter of fact, she did.”

“And so you came to me to complain?” The woman wasn’t moved in the slightest.

Mrs Mwewa’s chagrin grew a few inches wider.  “I take it you and your niece aren’t very close…I thought you were the only family she has.”

“Look here Mrs Mwelya or whatever they call you,” Aunt Tafadzwa snapped. “What exactly brings you here?”

The plutocrat representative cleared her throat noisily. “Your niece got pregnant by my son, were you aware?”

Finally, there was real emotion on Aunt Tafadzwa’s face. She was petrified, but only for a few seconds. “Sibu, pregnant?” she scoffed. “I think you have the wrong girl.”

“Sibusiswe Hangaala, eighteen years old, works as a front desk manager for M&M, and the breadwinner of Tafadzwa N’cube’s family. Did I get it right?”

“Sibu is pregnant?” It seemed the truth had finally sunk in. “No wonder she’s been avoiding me like crazy these past few months. I hope your family is ready to pay for damages…like you said, that girl is the breadwinner of this family. I certainly won’t accept some bastard child into the family. Your son will have to take full responsibility.”

As Aunt Tafadzwa was talking, Mrs Mwewa gaped at her in total disbelief. “Is that all you have to say to me?” She asked. “No wonder the child went off and seduced the first rich guy she came across. I can only imagine what it must be like being raised by someone like you.”

Aunt Tafadzwa gawked at her visitor, her arms up on her waist. “If you insist on insulting me, then I will go to the nearest TV station and tell anyone willing to listen that the son of one of the richest people in the country raped my niece and made her pregnant.”

“What?” Mrs Mwewa was up on her feet.

“You heard me,” Aunt Tafadzwa stood up as well and faced off with the stranger. “Didn’t you say that you are some big person and your family owns this and that? If you thought coming here in your fancy clothes and car would intimidate me into ordering my niece to leave your son alone, then you got your calculations all wrong. I had no idea my niece was so talented…” and speaking in a lower register, more to herself than her guest, she added, “she went and caught herself a big fish and thought she could hide everything from me….”

“What did you just say?” Mrs Mwewa asked.

Aunt Tafadzwa blinked, waved her hand across her face and smirked. “Never mind that,did you come here to talk about the marriage?”

“What marriage?” Mrs Mwewa didn’t take well to being deafen at her own game. “You think I am going to let my precious son marry someone like your niece? You must be deluded.”

“Then why are you here…and what do you intend to do about my niece whom your precious son has defiled?”

Mrs Mwewa scoffed. “Defiled?” She muttered. “Anyway, I think you and your niece need to sit down and catch up because that girl had a miscarriage only a few days ago and I am not surprised she chose to keep it a secret from you.”

Aunt Tafadzwa froze.

“I came here to tell you to keep a tight leash on her because if she continues to mess up my son’s life, I will personally see to it that her life becomes more miserable than it already is. No one messes with a Mwewa and gets away with it. Who does she think she is…shaking up my son like that.”

“It is true that Sibu and I have some issues but if there is one thing I know without needing any proof, it is that she wasn’t the one that did the chasing. If anything needs stopping, it should be your son. From all that rich education he’s been getting, did he skip the class on using protection?”

The two women stared at each with enough intensity to charge any dead batteries lying around.

“I heard that you are a marketeer,” Mrs Mwewa relaxed her features a bit. “What if I offered to open up a shop for you in a good location, fully stocked, can you promise to convince your niece to stay away from my Martin?”

There was a sudden glow in Aunt Tafadzwa’s eyes as she mulled over the things she had just heard. 

Mrs Mwewa smirked upon seeing the effect of her words on the shabby looking woman standing before her.

But then Sibu’s aunt suddenly turned serious as she looked up at Mrs Mwewa. “Why don’t you give me some time to think about it first,” she said. “I think I still need to talk to my niece first so I can understand what’s going on.”

“How long do you need to think?” Mrs Mwewa asked. “…because this offer is only open for a very short time.”

“Two days, give me two days tops.” She said.

Mrs Mwewa opened her purse, took out a business card and handed it to Aunt Tafadzwa. “Call me in two days’ time on any of those numbers and I will tell you where we can meet. I don’t see myself coming back here….” she made a face as she looked around the surroundings.

Aunt Tafadzwa examined the business card in her hands. “I will call,” she said as a smile started playing at the corners of her lips.
* * *
“So you got knocked up by some rich bloke and you decide to keep it a secret from me?” Aunt Tafadzwa had summoned Sibusiswe to her house in the early hours of the next morning after her encounter with Mrs Mwewa.

Sibu was taken aback by her aunt’s words. “How did you….” she stuttered.

Her aunt scoffed. “Do you think there’s anything about you I don’t know?” He retorted smugly.

Auntie….” Sibu started to explain.

Aunt Tafadzwa brushed her hand in the air to shut her up. “I already know that you miscarriaged so there’s no need for you to look at me like that.” Leaning forward in her brown tattered couch in her living room that didn’t suit to be anywhere inside a room meant for receiving guests, Aunt Tafadzwa glared at Sibu threateningly. “Did you think that getting rid of the baby would keep me from finding out?” She said in a menacingly low tone.

“Instead of running around like a headless chicken, you should have been more careful. Do you hate me that much that you got rid of such an opportunity that would have propelled my kids and I up the social ladder?”

Sibu was slowly shaking her head, not believing the direction the conversation was taking. “Aunt,  I just lost a child and all you seem to care about is climbing the social ladder?” Sibu angrily rebuked her aunt. “Am I really your niece? Gosh, is this the way to treat the only child of someone you constantly claim you loved with your life?” There were tears welling up her eyes.

Aunt Tafadwa’z eyes danced around in renewed excitement. “How dare you, with that dirty mouth of yours bring my sister into this?” she roared. “If you had not killed my sister in the first place then we wouldn’t be having this kind of conversation.”

Sibusiswe lowered her gaze and starred at the floor guiltily.

Her aunt smirked in satisfaction. “Your future mother in-law paid me a visit,” she suddenly announced.

Sibu looked up at her in disbelief. “Mother in-law?” she quizzed her aunt.

“Yes,” Aunt Tafadzwa replied nonchalantly. “The mother to the father of your child.”

“She is not my future mother in-law auntie,” Sibu corrected her.

“Says who?” The woman curtly responded. “She came here acting all high and mighty, throwing a few figures around like am some sort of fool. But she really underestimated me,” she grinned proudly while her niece looked on with a puzzled look on her face.

“Instead of falling for her short term stupid offer,” Aunt Tafadzwa continued, “I came up with a long term plan that will turn us into billionaires.”

What are you talking about?” Sibu finally asked.

Her aunt had this faraway look on her face as she plotted in her mind. “What is the current status of your relationship with this Martin guy?” She was now looking at her eighteen year old niece expectantly.

“I am not in a relationship with him auntie.” Sibu said between clenched teeth, putting emphasis on every single word.

Aunt Tefadzwa looked like she had just accidently swallowed a bitter pill. “What do you mean you are not in a relationship?” She asked. “Mrs Mwewa already told me everything so don’t even think about lying to me,” she warned sternly. “You are still as selfish as ever. If you think you will keep such a blessing only to yourself while my family languishes in poverty then you have another thing coming.”

Sibu was dumb folded. “Are you even human?” She got up from the sofa that was threatening to swallow her whole bottom and was more than ready to fly out of the room when her aunt’s next words brought her to an immediate halt.

“If you marry Martin even for just a few years and do what I want, I promise to let you go…I will forget everything about the past. You get your freedom…and I get some riches.”

For a moment, Sibu stood there frozen on the spot with her back to her aunt.

Freedom.

The word played around in her head. She had never dared dream of such a thing before….

Freedom, the word echoed in her head.

I think you should do as my mother says,” a voice commanded from behind her. 

Sibu turned around. 

Because She Loved Me – Part 1

because she loved me

 

I had never cheated on my wife before, never.

It was not because I was a perfect husband…there were many times I almost gave in to temptation but I never did because I had a lot of respect for her.

I loved her that much.

I loved Thabo so much she would have asked me to bring down the moon for her and I would have tried…I would have failed of course…but I would have still tried because I was that much crazy in love with her.

But what is a man to do when the wife he has so relentlessly loved for the past thirteen years looked him in the eye and told him that the boy that had called him dad for the past eight years…the boy he had proudly called son and shown off to his family and friends…that that boy was not his?

“It had happened only once,” she had said whilst crying.

It was during the two years I was abroad pursuing my Master’s Degree and she had given in once…only once to a moment of weakness. How was she to know that I would show up at the doorstep the very next day to surprise her? And when she announced the pregnancy, the thought of that child not being mine had not even crossed her mind.

But it happened…and there I was, standing in front of this beautiful 25 year old innocent looking woman;

“Can you pay me 500 bucks if I sleep with you tonight?” The woman had confronted me at the door of the club as I was leaving and whispered the words straight into my ears.

There was nothing about her that suggested she could be a woman of the night. She had on a short pleated dress that hang slightly above her knees exposing just enough leg to make any man want to explore her hidden chambers.

Apart from her seductive and inviting red lips, the rest of the make-up on her face was very light. In fact, if you were not looking close enough as I since her face was now only a few inches away from mine, you could barely see it.

She was by all standards what most people consider a natural beauty, the kind that forces you to smile at them willy-nilly.

As I stood there gaping at her, I wondered what a young beautiful woman like her was doing working the night. There was something in her eyes that told me this was her first time picking up a customer but the courage with which she spoke and carried herself would have put any experienced working woman to shame just looking at her.

God, she was so beautiful I could barely breathe just looking into her big eyes.

For thirteen years I had never looked at another woman other than my wife the way I did that woman who had come out of nowhere.

I wanted to possess this woman whose looks reeked of a certain innocence that did not belong to that tawdry night atmosphere.

I wanted…no, I needed to disappear inside her until everything I had ever believed in for the past thirteen years completely disappeared from my mind.

I wanted her to help me.

I desperately needed her.

“Can you make me forget everything if I paid you a 1000 bucks?” I asked the pretty lady who smelled of scented soap and something else I wanted to drown myself into.

She nervously nodded.

It wasn’t enough to convince me but at that moment I didn’t care. I just needed to do whatever it took to release the frustrations I had been holding on to all day long that day and she had appeared before me like an answer to a man’s desperate prayer.

I booked us into the nearest lodge and I hit the bed the moment we were locked inside while I waited for her to get herself ready since she had asked to use the bathroom.

When ten minutes went by and she still hadn’t appeared from the bathroom, I started to worry.

I had heard a lot of stories from my friends and just people around about hookers that used funny tricks and performed rituals on unsuspecting men; the moment that thought crossed my mind, my heart begun racing.

I quickly checked myself to see if everything was intact; it seemed all was in order.

It was a good thing I still had all my clothes on despite certain parts of my body threatening to pop out on their own.

I slowly got up from the bed and tip-toed to the bathroom. Outside the door, I leaned in and listened. I could hear her voice, she was saying something…whispering, I think…because I couldn’t make out what was being said.

Had she been on the phone all that time? I wondered.

And so I slowly opened the door a crack and there she was in just her red lingerie kneeling down on the floor with her head bowed down. It looked like she was praying…wait….

Was she praying???

Did I just hire myself a praying hooker? What the hell was going on?

My mind was all over the place and for a moment I lost confidence in both my eyes and ears.

And suddenly, there was enough room for me to breathe in the pants that had become so tight during the short drive to the lodge.

That night, I discovered the quickest antidote to losing a hard-on.

I looked again, her hands were shaking…gosh she was shaking all over whilst tightly holding on to what I presumed was a crucifix hanging from her neck.

“Forgive me God…forgive me…forgive me…please forgive me Jesus….” She kept repeating. I had never before witnessed such a heart wrenching scene and I was a man who only that morning had witnessed the woman he loved with all his life bawl her eyes out and grovel incessantly before him begging for his forgiveness.

“I know I have no business asking you this Lord…but please…” the woman continued. “I need the strength…please Jesus…only once, just this once look the other way and forgive my sins. If my son can get live… If you can let him live…I promise to surrender my soul completely to you for the rest of my life…I promise.”

Guessing that she was winding up, I quickly shut the door and ran back to the bed. She came out a few seconds later, a smile on her face that exposed the dimples on her cheeks so deep I wanted to swim my tongue in her mouth in spite of the recent developments.

Unfortunately, her sexy smile was not enough to hide her red puffy eyes.

She had been crying.

I felt a pang in my chest.

I just stood there looking at her as if my worst nightmare had come to life.

“Are you alright?” She asked. It seemed my confusion hadn’t gone unnoticed.

I didn’t know what to say to her…but I knew one thing for sure, I wasn’t going to be doing any forgetting that night. What was worse was that instead of forgetting, I feared I might have picked up a few more memories that would haunt me for life.

“Put your clothes back on,” I said to her, turning to look the other way.

“What?” She asked, sounding very surprised.

Next thing I knew she was kneeling before me by the bed. “Is it that you don’t like the way I look?” There were tears welling up in her eyes.

“Do you see yourself?” I asked, turning to look at her and making sure to focus my gaze only on her face. “You are hot as hell and I can bet you any woman would kill to have a body like yours.”

“Then why…?” she started to ask.

I looked at her, wondering whether to be honest with her or not. “I saw and heard what you did in the bathroom,” I said.

There was trepidation written all over face. “Ooh,” she said in haunted resignation. “I am very sorry….you see…this is my first time…I have never done anything like this before,” she nervously tried to explain. “…but I promise I will do whatever you tell me to do, I promise.”

I could tell she meant every word of it. This woman wore her soul in her eyes. I could see every emotion she was feeling and trying to hide in there.

“Get up,” I held her by the arms and we both got up, I from the bed and she from the floor. I led her back into the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

“Get dressed,” I repeated. “We will talk when you are done.”
She came out a few minutes later looking nervous like my son…my wife’s son did whenever he was caught doing something bad.

Dear Lord, I could not stand to look into her big brown eyes. My heart could not take any more heartbreak.

And so I took out a 1000 grand from my wallet and put it in her hands. “Take this,” I said.

She looked confused, and rightly so. “But I never did anything….” She looked ready to cry.

“Is this money for real…or it’s one of those….”

I laughed. So we had the same fears after all.

“I can assure you I am not that kind,” I tried reassuring her. “I am only giving it to you because I heard what you prayed for in there,” I motioned towards the bathroom. “I know I have my own sins but I think there’s a reason why you of all women picked me of all men out there. I am not forcing you to take my money but I am certainly not sleeping with you…I guess the Lord doesn’t sleep after all….” I said as I started heading to the door.

“I am going to leave now,” I announced with my back to her. “…since I already paid for the room, you can spend the night and order some breakfast tomorrow.” I had reached the door and was about to open it when her voice hit me from behind.

“What is your name?” She asked me, her voice shaking from whatever demons she was fighting inside of her.

I turned back around to look at her. “I don’t think there’s any need for us to exchange names since we won’t be meeting again.” Then I turned back to open the door and was half way through when a thought crossed my mind.

I turned to face her again. “I know it’s none of my business….” I started to say. “But I don’t think you are cut out for this kind of job. Don’t you have any other options…have you tried applying for jobs? You look intelligent…I am sure you’ve been to school….”

“I have a job,” She answered. “I work as a cashier but the pay isn’t much. I only went up to grade 12 so you know…” She shrugged her shoulders.

“I see,” I said. “What’s wrong with your son? I heard you say something about him in there….”

“He is sick…” she said, her face turning grim. “Listen,” She continued, “I don’t feel so good getting your money for free. Isn’t there something I can do for you to pay you back? I can wash and clean and do plenty other stuff.”

I shook my head. “There’s no need for that. You quitting this would be more than enough payment to me. Do you think you can do that?”

She quickly nodded. “I thought I could do it…I had rehearsed it in my mind so many times but when it finally came down to it…I just couldn’t…I am very embarrassed right now, you have no idea. I had been standing outside that club for close to two hours and I couldn’t get myself to pick any of those men…until you came out. There was something about you…” She was now tearing up. “I know…it’s embarrassing….” She closed her eyes and dropped her head.

“Embarrassment is a good thing,” I said, trying to sound like a wise man. “You should get worried the moment you stop feeling embarrassed.” Not trusting myself to stick to the decision I made, I quickly said goodnight to her.

“It was nice meeting you….”

“Thandiwe Mwale,” she provided her name.

In that moment, I started to regret.

I wish she had never told me her name.

I wish I had just walked out of there without asking any questions.

Because I could not forget her name, I became the kind of man that deserved the sins his wife had committed against him.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 4

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

 I loved my life before I was made aware of things I lacked.
I looked forward to each day knowing I was drawing closer to the end.
I lived only for her forgiveness
And I vowed to do everything in my power to earn it
Day after day, I wished…no, I hoped the price of life I owed was reducing
But perhaps that was my sin….

I should have been content with just breathing.
I thought I was content…and I believed it too.
However, how was I to know that the one time…
The very first time I found myself in a cloudy storm that I lose my way?
They told me that love was a good thing
Yet all it did for me was push me to the brink of death.

The moment I tasted it, I wanted more…and more…and more.
I developed expectations…
I discovered feelings in certain parts of my body I never knew existed
And before I knew it,
All the debt I had paid before went obsolete.
Suddenly, there were two things I longed to have;
Her forgiveness…and my freedom.

Was I asking for too much?

*         *         *

 

Summer 2004

“So where’s Junior taking you tomorrow?” Sibeso had just arrived from work. After banging through the door like a thief on the run, she dropped her handbag on the floor of their tiny living room and rushed to the kitchen where she could hear Sibusiswe preparing supper.

Sibu who was trying to thoroughly mix mealie-meal with the slightly heated water in a small pot rolled her eyes in consternation and sarcastically answered, “Oh yeah, my day has been gre-a-t thank you for asking dear friend of mine. How was yours?”

Sibeso waved her hand in the air dismissively as she sat down on the one of the two chairs by their small kitchen table that also served as a dining table. “Yeah yeah yeah whatever…. If you truly cared about me you wouldn’t have called me in the middle of the day, tell me that one of the coolest guys in the country asked you out on a date and then ask me to wait for the rest of the details…now that’s just wicked, it’s pure evil Sibu and you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Can’t you see how much weight I have lost in just these few hours trying to keep myself from going insane? My metabolism is having a field day!”

Sibu laughed so hard she had to hold her hand to her stomach as she tried to get her breath in order. “You are such a drama queen Sibe. Calm down,” she said, putting a lid over the pot and resting the cooking stick on top before joining her friend at the table.

“I am sorry I left you hanging like that but I had to attend to some clients that came during lunch so I couldn’t stay on the phone.”

Sibeso was frantically nodding her head, urging her to get straight to the point. “Umhu, yeah, yeah, so what happened with Martin, what did you tell him when he asked you out? How did he even ask you out?”

Sibu grinned, “You know that guy,” she said. “He is so full of himself so he just shamelessly came over to the table where Peggy and I were having lunch and asked if I had any plans for the long weekend. I told him I did of course and….”
“Hold up,” Sibeso held her hand out and gawked at her friend. “You told him what?”

“I told him I already have plans. You and I both know what he wants from me and I am never gonna give it to him. You think I am the only girl he’s asked out in that company…and outside? He has slept with almost everything that gets wet between the legs and he thinks he can add me to his long list. No way.”

Sibeso’s incredulity at her best friend’s words could not be hidden from her face. “What if he is serious this time?” She asked.

Sibu scoffed. “Can you hear yourself? You should really stop watching those dramas, they are messing up your reality Sibeso.”

Sibeso turned her chair around so she could look at her friend directly. “Tell me, from the time he started asking you out or showing interest in you, have you seen him with any other girl?”

Sibu thought for a moment. “Well…now that you mention it….”

“Exactly!” Sibeso hit her hand on the table causing Sibu to almost jump from her chair.

Sibu was shaking her head slowly. “You are really bent on dating Junior vicariously through me, aren’t you?”

Sibeso nodded unabashedly. “You dating him is as close to reality for me as it will ever be and I won’t allow you to take this away from me!”

Sibu laughed and shaking her head she said, “You truly have no shame my friend…no shame. But if you must know, Martin didn’t buy that I have plans….”

There was a glimmer of hope radiating through Sibeso’s eyes.

“After I told him I already have plans, he blatantly told me to cancel them,” Sibu continued, “Can you imagine that? …said I still owed him for last week when he took me for a drive after that Aunt Tafadzwa incident.”

“He is right you know,” Sibeso opined. “Last week was the first time I saw you come back home smiling after such an episode with your aunt. You should have seen yourself Sibu, you were glowing. You can keep denying it for all I care but I think you have already fallen for Martin.”

“I haven’t fallen for him at all,” Sibu countered. “That day I was just feeling a little grateful because of what he did…there is nothing more to it. It wouldn’t have mattered whether it was Martin or someone else, I would feel the same kind of gratitude.”

Sibeso jeered at her friend, shaking her head and letting her tongue hang out. “Keep lying to yourself and let those cobwebs from between your legs multiply till they keep you from walking. Just go out on one date with the guy even if it’s just to say thank you…and let’s see how thing go from there. The problem with you is, you will say no now but then keep beating yourself up about it whilst wallowing in self-pity…it’s like you take pleasure in being miserable. You and my mother must have been sisters in your previous lives…you are both allergic to good things.”

That night, Martin was all Sibusiswe could think about as she kept pondering what to do about his offer…or rather, his demand for a date.

 

“I didn’t bath today and even though I brushed my teeth, I chewed a lot of garlic so don’t even think about doing something funny with me,” Sibu warned Martin when he came to pick her up at the flats the next morning.

Martin snickered as he held the door open for her to get in. “You are something else Sibu, you know that?” He had leaned in to address her before closing the door. “I guess I should have warned you that I love the smell of garlic on a woman…” he smirked, pulled back and closed the door while Sibu reeled in her seat, her face hanging like that of someone about to cry.

Outside, Martin grinned in delectation as he walked back to the driver’s seat.

Martin had just gotten back on the highway when he turned to Sibu and saw the manner in which she was seated. He couldn’t help laughing.

“You need to relax Sibu,” he said.

Sibu had her legs closed tied together and her handbag deliberately positioned on her laps, with her hands resting on top.

“You do know that it’s hard for me to try and do something to you whilst I’m driving and keep us both alive, right? Although…” his eyes went to where her bag was resting. “…although I have been told that I work perfectly well even with one hand….” he playfully stretched his hand out in her direction and thus sent Sibu wailing in protest as she rolled her body into a ball, fear written all over her face.

Martin bust out laughing, taking his hand back onto the steering wheel.

“I will scream and jump out of this vehicle if you continue acting like this Martin.” Sibu warned.

“C’mon Sibu, seat back down comfortably…you are making me feel bad now. What kind of monster do you think I am?” Martin’s face suddenly turned grim and sober.

Sibu was looking over at him contritely…had she perhaps overreacted?

She sat back down properly.

“Do you really think that I am sort of sex maniac or something?” Martin asked.

“Well, you haven’t really done much to reprobate the rumours,” she answered.

“Up until now,” Martin said. “I didn’t mind such rumours…actually thought they made me look cool. Such rumours saved me from having to explain myself to girls about why I never bothered to call them the next day…but when I see you constantly push me away, there’s a pang in my chest I just can’t explain…and there you go again,” he pointed at her. “I can literally see your thoughts on your face! You are thinking I bet he tells all girl’s that…aren’t you?”

Sibu’s face flashed red. “You caught me,” she admitted and smiled shyly.

“Wow, I will never be able to win your trust will I?” There was something about that realization that tore at Martin.

When Sibu looked over at Martin, she felt the disappointment radiating from every part of his body. For a moment she entertained the idea of getting to know him on her own terms instead of what she had heard about him. What could be wrong with getting to know a friend better? She silently reasoned.

“So where are you taking me today?” Sibu asked after they had been driving for a while, with Usher’s Confessions playing in the background.

“We are going to Livingstone….”

Sibu jolted in her seat in astonishment. “What?” she asked. “You are kidding, right?”

Martin shook his head. “No chance,” he replied. “I knew that if I told you in advance, you would refuse to come along…and don’t bother about the doors, they won’t open even if you try.”

Sibu sat back in exasperation. “It is foolishness on my part to have trusted you,” she said curtly. “I am coming back today whether you like it or not, with or without you…I will find my way back. Don’t even dream about us spending the night there.”

“I was actually hoping to spend the long weekend there,” Martin said nonchalantly.

Sibu looked at him peevishly. “You can stick to your plans; I will stick to mine too.”

“What scares you the most about spending time with me Sibu,” Martin asked. “That I might be using you for my own selfish reasons or that you might actually end up falling for me?”

“You really don’t expect me to answer that do you?” Sibu asked.

“It’s a rhetoric question…but I wouldn’t mind getting an answer.”

“Well you won’t. I just wish for once you could stop being so self-centred and think about other people’s feelings as well.”

“I did think about your feelings Sibu, I did,” Martin asserted. “But during these few months I’ve known you, I have learnt that you are not in the slightest interested in dating anyone, not me, not anyone else. You will do anything to avoid getting attached to anyone. If I told you what my plans were, you wouldn’t have even given it any thought. I like you, a lot…and I intend to do everything possible to make you start considering me.”

“Considering you for what Martin, us dating? Do you even think that’s possible? You only have a few more days left till you go back to the UK and you expect me to believe that your intentions with me are honourable?”

“I won’t go back to the UK if you don’t want me to…or we could go back together. I will do anything you want.” Martin announced.

Sibu gapped at him in disbelief. “You are really going all out in your mission aren’t you? Is this how hard you work to get women in bed…or is it just me that’s thrown you off your game?”

“I am not playing games with you,” Martin said. “If you like, you can just agree to be my girl…we don’t have to sleep together…although I wish we could kiss or something…” Sibu threw him a disdainful look before he continued, “…and when the time comes for me to leave, let’s see if I will go or not…and if you are impressed, then you can think about whether to go with me or continue being my girl while I finish school right here. What do you say?”

Martin’s words seemed to move Sibu into slight perturbation. “Why would you make such radical decisions just to be with someone you hardly know? Would you believe yourself if the tables were turned?” She asked.

Martin laughed softly and shaking his head he said, “I too wouldn’t believe…I can’t even believe that I just said those words to you but they just came out. That’s how desperate my heart is to have you. Ever since I met you there hasn’t been a moment that has gone by that you haven’t crossed my mind. Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy…like I am losing my mind. Many times I have talked myself out of it thinking it’s just an obsession because you’ve been rejecting me…which could be true because it’s the first time I have been so out-rightly rejected by anyone. You broke my pride…so at the beginning I guess it was a matter of restoring my injured pride but after that day at work…with you and your aunt…it became something else…something more…and I feel like I am going to lose my mind if I don’t possess you.”

“Possess me?” Sibu asked. “Do you even hear yourself? Who uses such words to win over a woman? Do you think I am some kind of property?”

“I am trying to be honest with you, that’s how I feel and I know it doesn’t sound nice but that’s the most overpowering feeling I keep having. I can’t tell you its love or that I have fallen head over heels in-love with you…I have never been in-love before and I don’t plan to. All I know is that I feel for you more than I have ever felt for anyone, ever. I have never used flowery words before and if I tried now, you definitely wouldn’t believe any of it.”

Sibu was at a loss for words and wondered what to say or feel in response.

Should I be upset?

Should I feel insulted?

What would I have preferred to hear?

And just why do I feel so confused?

She could barely do any form of thinking since her mind was running out of control. She could not tell whether Martin was being honest or just playing his cards well. She had no way of knowing unless she threw caution to the wind and dared to try. Up until then, she had not even considered being in a relationship with Martin. She was not looking for a relationship and she did not want or need one.

But what was that feeling in her heart threatening to crush her to pieces if she didn’t stop to listen?

Sibu hit her hand over her chest as if to force her heart to do her bidding.

She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she did not hear her phone ring from her bag.

“Check your phone,” Martin tagged her.

Sibu immediately recovered and removed her phone from the bag. When she flipped it open, she found it was Ted calling.

“Hi Ted,” she said the moment she had the phone to her ear.

Martin tensed up in his seat, gripping the steering wheel angrily.

“Hi Sibu,” Ted said from the other end of the line. “What are you up to?” he asked.

Sibu looked at Martin before responding. “I am heading out of town right now. What’s up?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I see,” sounded the resignation in Ted’s voice. “Are you with Martin?” He finally asked.

After a pause, “yes,” was all Sibu could manage for a reply.

“I see,” came Ted’s response. “How long will you be gone for?”

Another pause, then, “hopefully today,” Sibu said winning herself a look of excoriation from Martin.

“Is that Ted?” Martin asked and without waiting for confirmation, he grabbed the phone from Sibu and held it to his ear. “Hi Ted,” he said.

“Martin,” Ted said between clenched teeth.

“Sorry I couldn’t hang with you guys this long weekend,” Martin said. “I am desperately trying to win the heart of the owner of this phone so I’m pulling all the stops necessary. Wish me luck buddy!”

There was a long silence from the other end.

“Ted, are you still there?” Martin asked.

All along, Sibu was staring at him in incredulity.

“Yeah, I’m here,” came Ted’s snippy reply. “You guys have fun,” he sounded unconvincing. “I have to go now.” And he ended the call before Martin could give a response.

With a smirk on his face, he handed the phone back to Sibu.

“That was very childish,” Sibu immediately chastised him after getting her phone back. “Did you have to do that?”

Martin’s features suddenly hardened. “I know it was childish, but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stand you talking to another man while I am right next to you.”

“Ted is not another man; he is your friend…and also my friend. You deliberately made it so that he can have some sort of misunderstanding, I don’t appreciate that Martin.”

Martin glared at her. “Why do you care what Ted thinks is going on between us?”

Sibu didn’t answer immediately, but when she eventually did, it was to say, “I happen to like Ted…I just don’t want him misunderstanding me or thinking I am some type of woman.”

“So being with me makes you some type of woman?” Martin queried her.

Sibu  shook her head. “That’s not what I meant,” she tried to redeem herself.

“Then why do you openly lead Ted on while you shut me out completely any opportunity you get?”

Sibu couldn’t provide an immediate response.

“I guess because it’s easy for me to trust Ted….” She finally managed.

“I will make it so I earn your trust Sibu…I promise,” Martin declared with such conviction it gave Sibu pause.

*         *         *

Two months had gone by since Sibusiswe had last seen Martin.

The mood at home between Sibeso and Sibusiswe one Sunday afternoon had gone sour after the two girls had engaged in a heated argument about Sibu’s choices concerning Martin.

Sibu was seated on the railing of the balcony, her back resting against the wall and her feet hanging from either side of the railing as she sulked in the aftermath of the exchange. Sibeso on the other hand was lying down on mat, her legs raised and her feet resting against the outside wall of their living room.

For Sibu and Sibeso, the balcony was the best part of the house. The girls had been excited when they discovered that their apartment had access to one of the four balconies in the building.

Five minutes had gone by without a word being shared between the two. For a moment Sibu focused her gaze on the activities happening down below while Sibeso kept tapping one foot against the wall, du du du pa pa pa as if sounding off whatever melody was playing in her head.

Frustrated from the unending silence, Sibeso suddenly dropped her feet to the floor and jolted her back up, glaring at Sibu who had also turned to look at her.

“Are you seriously going to keep avoiding the topic like this?” Sibeso finally snapped.

“I don’t like how you rate every decision I make childish,” Sibu fired back. “Just because you are a few years older than me doesn’t make you wise. I think I am old enough to know what is best for myself.”

Sibeso got up from the mat and went to sit on the other end of the balcony railing, and after mimicking Sibu’s sitting position she said, “I did not say all those things because I thought I was wiser than you Sibu,” Sibeso tried reasoning with her visibly agitated friend.

“I am just trying to look out for you,” she continued. “You are just too young to raise this child on your own. You need to let Martin know and I am sure he will gladly take responsibility for the both of you. Had you not insisted that he leave for the country, he would have stayed here with you.”

Sibu pulled her head back against the wall, brought her hand to her forehead and sighed heavily as she mulled over Sibeso’s words. “What if he thinks I am trying to trap him or something?” Sibu’s tone was riddled with emotion. “That night in Livingstone…” she shut her eyes and curled her face all up wishing to drive the past into oblivion. “I don’t know what happened…or how it happened…and ever since, I have wanted nothing but to kill myself except…except, I can’t even afford such luxury. I guess this pregnancy is the punishment I get for throwing caution to the wind and giving in to urges I had absolutely no idea I was capable of feeling.”

Sibeso dragged herself forward and reduced the distance between them. She reached out and took Sibu’s hands into hers. “So what if you made a mistake?” Sibeso said. “The problem with you Sibu is that you always only focus the negative. You are assuming Martin won’t want the baby, but….”

With her arms still locked into Sibeso’s, Sibu shook her head, two heavy drops of tears slid down her cheeks. “He knew all along that I would give in and I did…he got what he wanted and I know Martin…I can bet he has already forgotten I exist so…how do you expect me to drop him a bomb as big as this one? What I’m I even supposed to say, hey Martin, remember that night…that one night you had your way with me…well, now I am pregnant! Does that sound as melodic to you as I does to me?” Sibu asked sarcastically.

Sibeso reached out her hand and used the back of it to wipe the tears from Sibu’s face, one hand still holding on to the other hand.

“You are pregnant for Martin?” A voice came from the entrance leading to the balcony and sent both girls scampering to their feet.

They didn’t need to ask to know who the overly dressed woman in a royal blue suit with a matching fedora hat so huge it threatened to swallow up the whole place she was standing in was. Her pink spool heels felt right at home with the pink blouse peeping through the jacket and the pick feathers on top of her blue hat.

The girls could easily picture bees having a jolly good time inside her pink and blue designer handbag. She was glowing in pollination bliss.

“Mrs Mwewa…” Sibu and Sibeso said at once.

“Did you just say that you were pregnant for my son?” The woman asked sternly.

“Wait,” Sibeso suddenly regained her composure. “How did you get in here? Did you just enter someone’s house without permission?”

Sibu tried to nudge her friend but Sibeso wouldn’t have any of it. She could tell from the woman’s demeanour that she wasn’t there for a friendly visit and she certainly didn’t look like a Jehovah’s Witness coming to deliver good news to them.  The loud stench of her overpriced costume was enough to announce her intentions without having her open her mouth.

“I kept knocking but there was no response and when I tried to open the door, it actually opened and so….” Mrs Mwewa shamelessly tried to explain her presence at the balcony.

“What are you doing here ma’am?” A very nervous Sibu asked.

“You must be our dear heroine,” Mrs Mwewa said scathingly. “So your pregnancy is the reason my son has been insisting on coming back to this god-forsaken country to finish his studies?”

Sibu was shaking her head frantically. “No…no…Martin doesn’t know….”

“Why are you here Mrs Mwewa?” Sibeso asked curtly.

Mrs Mwewa glared in Sibeso’s direction, unimpressed by the girl’s rudeness. “Who are you by the way?” she aimed her sharp edged eyebrows at her.

“I am Sibu’s elder sister and I am the owner of this little house you just broke into.” Sibeso retorted.

Mrs Mwewa scoffed. “Broke into?” Her vampire flamed lips gashed. “Anyway, apologies for entering your fortress in such a manner but the only reason I came here today was to speak to the young lady here who happens to be your sister.” She turned to Sibu. “Is what I heard correct; are you pregnant for my son?”

Sibu kept her mouth shut, not sure if telling the truth was the right thing to do in that situation.

“Yes she is but your son doesn’t know yet,” Sibeso had no time to think.

“Then that’s great,” the over-groomed woman surprised both girls with her response. Unfortunately, the feeling was immediately brought to a murderous end by the woman’s next words, “we will get rid of that baby today and Martin is never to find out about it, do you understand me?”

Instinctively, Sibeso moved to stand in front of Sibu, shielding her from Martin’s mother as if her presence in itself was a danger to the unborn child. “How typical,” Sibeso said. “And just what makes you think you can throw a few words around and we would do your bidding just like that?”

“Because there is no way in hell I’m letting my son have a child with a Tonga woman and dent the whole Mwewa clan. I did not raise my son just so he can be the reason I fail to hold my head up in public. No grandchild of mine will have Tonga blood and whatever other strange blood flows through this girl. Your aunt told me that your father knocked up your mother and then ran away from his responsibilities,” Mrs Mwewa deliberately raised her voice for the sake of Sibu who was still hidden behind Sibeso. “Don’t you think that if she had done the right thing and gotten rid of such a man’s child then we all wouldn’t be here having this kind of conversation?”

Sibeso could feel Sibusiswe tense up behind her. That breathing told her that her friend was about to lose control.

If one wanted to see Sibu reach the peak of her anger, all they had to do was say something bad about her parents, especially her mother. Although Sibu rarely shared information about her parents, Sibeso knew enough to know that they were a forbidden topic and only one looking to receive her wrath would dare provoke her in such deliberate fashion.

Mrs Mwewa was fishing for trouble.

“I think you should leave,” Sibeso warned the woman.

Mrs Mwewa sneered, busking in the effects of her verbal diarrhoea. “Did I say anything wrong?” She raised her shoulders. “Perhaps if the mother was not so dumb and the father so stupid, the daughter wouldn’t have a hard time making obvious decisions.”

“I think you should leave my parents out of this,” Sibu appeared from behind Sibeso, her face beaming with furry. “There is nothing you can say that’s going to make me get rid of this pregnancy so you can just leave,” she showed her soon-to-be nemesis the door.

Mrs Mwewa scoffed once again. “There is a reason I am known as the iron lady around town. If you think I am leaving this place without making sure that baby doesn’t exist anymore, then you are about to have a very long day,” she said and moved back into the living room where she offered herself a seat.

Sibu and Sibeso remained behind gaping at each other in total disbelief.

Sibu rushed into the house and Sibeso followed her closely behind. “If you are staying, then I will be the one leaving,” Sibu announced to the woman comfortably siting on their red cushioned straw armchair as she headed towards the door. She slipped into Sibeso’s slippers that were by the door and quickly bolted out of the house.

The sudden announcement brought Mrs Mwewa up on her feet. “Where do you think you are going young lady?” She followed Sibu who was now rushing through the corridor leading to the staircase at the far end.

“Stop right there Ms Hangaala,” Martin’s mother shouted as she gave chase, her slim frame playing to her advantage. “I am not yet done talking here.”

“Sibu!” Sibeso had followed the two women outside, angst written all over her face.

Standing at the top of the stairs, Sibu waited for a group of boys and girls that lived in one of the apartments on their floor to pass before she could rush down.

Unfortunately, Mrs Mwewa took this opportunity to catch up to her. She grabbed Sibu by the hand to keep her from running. In her haste to free herself and run down the stairs the moment the staircase was free, Sibu twisted her left leg and missed the top step, her slipper slid off her leg and it was at that moment Mrs Mwewa decided to let go of her hand, sending her tumbling down the stairs like a ball.

“What have you done?” Sibeso pushed a very shaken Mrs Mwewa aside and ran down the stairs to check on her friend who lay lifeless at the bottom, her whole body facing down.

The first thing Sibeso saw was a deep cut at the corner of Sibu’s forehead where blood was coming out.

“Sibu! Sibu! Can you hear me?” Sibeso held Sibu by the head and tentatively checked if she was breathing all the while shouting for help. “Call an ambulance or something. She is pregnant for God’s sake!” Sibeso shouted at the group of teenagers who were coming down the stairs after hearing her screams.

Mrs Mwewa remained rooted to the spot at the top of the stairs as she hugged her handbag like a box of Oxygen, looking down at the scene below as if from another dimension. She started shaking her head in horror as reality of what had just happened slowly begun to dawn on her.

Sibeso was looking up at Mrs Mwewa with eyes filled with so much abhorrence that the latter’s knees turned into jelly and before she knew it, her legs gave way.

 

“No!!” A tear stained  Sibusiswe struggled with Sibeso to get the phone from her. “I am begging you Sibeso don’t tell him a thing, please….” Feeling the effects of the surgery, Sibu gave up the fight, dropped her hands to her sides, and slid back into bed, her hand clutching her stomach as she grimaced in pain.

“Fighting with me in your condition is not a good idea Sibu,” Sibeso said as she helped her friend get comfortable in bed. She dropped the phone on the bedside table and sat down in her chair in resignation. “I won’t call him now, but I will call him later no matter what you say. There is no way in hell I’m letting his mother get away with this!” Sibeso roared.

“But it wasn’t her fault,” Sibu argued, her voice weak from pain.

“Are you kidding me!” Sibeso snapped. “I saw that woman push you down the stairs. I saw it with my two eyes.”

Sibu was frantically shaking her head. “No she didn’t,” she insisted. “I was the one trying to free my hand from her grasp…just that she let it go right at the moment when I needed her to keep holding on.”

“And you think that wasn’t deliberate?” Sibeso countered. “That woman was chasing after you to get you to abort and you think she would let an opportunity to get her way pass just like that?”

“I don’t care anymore Sibeso,” Sibu said as tears welled up her eyes. “I don’t care…all of this…everything that’s happening…it’s all happening because I broke a promise. This is my punishment. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking…it’s just that…for a while, I thought that maybe…just maybe….”

Her phone rang just then and both girls turned to look at it. Sibeso quickly flipped it to see who was calling while Sibu looked on wide-eyed.

“It’s Martin,” Sibeso announced.

Sibu immediately started shaking her head. “No…no, don’t answer it Sibe,” she desperately pleaded. “Why is he calling right now? Did you….” She threw her friend a suspicious look.

“I swear, I haven’t called him yet!” Sibeso raised her hand to pledge her innocence.

“I am the one that called him,” said a voice from behind them. “You don’t know me…but I know you,” the young girl announced, her hands in the pockets of her jumper and a smile playing on her face.

“My name is Mwiche, I am Martin’s sister.” The school girl candidly announced.

 

*         *         *

Echoes of the Heart – Part 3

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

Pain.

If you had the power to keep yourself from feeling it, would you embrace it?

They say that pain is a mechanism our brain employs to protect us from impending danger; that despite its unpleasantness, its aim is a positive one. But what happens when you become so accustomed to pain that you become immune to it?

Living in my self-imposed prison, pain to me had become a familiarity, a feeling I desperately clung to and pined for as if for dear life. While others existed for the ultimate goal of attaining happiness, for me, such a thought in itself was a sentence to eternal damnation.

I was so engrossed in my pursuit of penance and delusion of safety promised to me by the haven I had created for myself behind the walls of my prison that I was completely unaware of the power of love and what it could do to this hell I had perfectly crafted for myself.

Thus, when the walls came tumbling down, I was neither prepared nor willing to accept the changes that came with this thing called love. But as you might already know, when love comes, it does not knock and it does not seek permission.

But how was I to know that?

 

*         *         *

 

After running her errands in preparation for her upcoming trip, Sibusiswe decided to pass through Sibeso’s home in Chelstone, off Palm Drive. It was the only place she could think of where she could get the thoughts that had been troubling her the whole day out of her mind.

“Is your husband home?” Sibusiswe asked as Sibeso ushered her into the house.

The pile of mens and children’s shoes by the side of the passageway leading to the living room reminded Sibu of a time when such a scene spelled home for her. The loud aroma of freshly cooked Okra that filled the air seduced Sibu’s senses and made her stomach growl in expectation.

“Whenever you ask about my hubby’s presence, I know that you have some pent up awful things to say about your former mother in-law,” Sibeso remarked as she sat on the arm of the red leather sofa that Sibusiswe had just thrown herself on.

“Fortunately for you, he isn’t home.” Sibeso said. “He left with the kids just after having supper, said he’s going to get some ice cream for them since we ran out…but I know he has other plans in mind.” And whilst standing up she added, “I have some food that remained from dinner, want me to warm it up for you? I know how much you love okra.”

Sibusiswe shook her head. “If I let you get to the kitchen then you and I won’t get to talk before your husband and the kids get back. Just get me a glass of juice, the usual.” She then reached forward and grabbed the remote control from the table and switched from Disney Junior to Discovery ID.

“How is Maleficent?” Sibeso shouted from the dining room.

Maleficent was the nickname the two women had secretly given Martin’s mother thanks to her make-up style and mannerisms that mirrored those of Angelina Jolie in her iconic role as the villain in the Disney film.

“How did you know that I had seen her today?” Sibu shouted back.

Sibeso appeared just then with a glass on juice on a small tray and laid it before her friend. “Because I am your best friend and I know that she is the only species capable of draining the life out of you…apart from Martin of course,” she said and went to seat on the single seater couch adjacent to the one Sibu was seated on.

“You said something about your hubby having other plans,” Sibu said, fully turning her body around to look at her friend as she sipped from her glass of juice. “He is not cheating on you, is he?”

Sibeso cackled. “Of course not silly,” she said. “At least to the best of my knowledge, he isn’t. But, even if he was, taking Mapalo with him would be a dumb move on his part.” She chuckled some more. “That girl is a parrot and a human PVR, even DSTV has nothing on her. She will come and offload everything she sees and hears before I even ask.”

The two women enjoyed a hearty laugh as Sibeso went on to gush about her adventures as a house wife and mother to a five year old girl and four year old boy.

“So what happened with Maleficent today?” Sibeso finally asked. “She didn’t come to pressure you about Jacob’s custody issue did she?”

“Not today,” Sibu replied.

“One of these days you should tell her off or I will. If not for you she would have no precious son to boast about. I would love to see the look on her naturally pissed off face when she learns the truth. That should shut her up for the next fifteen years.

“I know right,” Sibu snickered. “But still, that’s the one thing about my life I like to remain private. So, about my day today…the most unbelievable thing happened that made my blood turn black.”

Sibeso looked at Sibu expectantly. “What happened?” she asked.

“I had just finished declaring war with my aunt and was ready to bounce back to my car when right outside the shop, I bumped into Maleficent.”

Sibeso gasped. “What the hell?”

“I am telling you!” Sibu answered. “What could the two women who hate me the most in this world be possibly plotting…suddenly acting like the best of friends hugging and laughing as if they were never at logger heads before. That whole episode today made me really nervous. I feel like there is a war being plotted out there and I am the only one unarmed. Do you think I’m being paranoid?”

Sibeso shook her head. “I don’t think you are being paranoid sweetie; I also think something is off with those two. They hated each other so why are they suddenly being Twilight with each other?!”

“How can I find out what’s going on before it’s too late?” Sibu asked. “Knowing my aunt, she must be the reason behind this kind of development.”

“How about asking Mwiche?” Sibeso suggested. “You two still talk, right?”

“Yes we do, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.” Sibu answered. “She had called me last night just to check up on me…and I even made a blunder, imagine.”

“What kind of blunder?” A wide-eyed Sibeso asked.

“I accidently mentioned my trip to SA while we were talking…thing is, I have not yet told Martin about it. She must have called him the moment she got off the phone with me because he has been calling me incessantly since.”

“And why haven’t you told him yet?” Sibeso asked.

“Because I kind of feel bad about taking away his son even if it’s only for a short while,” Sibu replied.

Sibeso scoffed. “You think two years without seeing your son in a short while?”

Sibu was momentarily at a loss for words. “Now that you’ve put it like that…” Sibu raised her shoulders. “But this is an opportunity I can’t afford to miss Sibe. You know very well how the past years have been for me in terms of career advancements. I really need to do this.”

“Pass me that remote,” Sibeso asked Sibusiswe.

Sibu was about to hand it over when she changed her mind. “What do you want to do? It better not be because you want to change the channel.”

“I don’t know why you are so addicted to these crime channels,” Sibeso remarked. “Only people that want to commit the perfect crime get hooked on such shows. If it’s Maleficent you are plotting to kill, please count me in,” she joked.

Sibu grabbed a cushion and playfully threw it at Sibeso who caught it in time to avoid being hit.

“Will you tell Martin who you will be staying with in South Africa?” Sibeso asked, a mischievous grin playing on her face.

“Whatever evil thoughts are going through that head of yours, stop,” Sibu warned. “There is nothing going on between Ted and I. We’ve always been good friends and Martin knows it…not that I care about what he thinks. We are way passed the point of interfering in each other’s lives.”

“Do you think Ted feels the same way?” Sibeso asked.

“What do you mean?” Sibu asked.

Sibeso sat up straight to drive her point across. “Tell me Sibu, why would a guy that good-looking, rich, well educated, smart, a great career, and has everything going well for him still be single up to now?” She asked.

“What has that got to do with me?” Sibu retorted dismissively. “Maybe he just hasn’t found the right woman yet but that doesn’t mean that woman is me. Ted and I sorted out our issues a long time ago. He made it very clear what his feeling were…are towards me so stop trying to dress up an innocent friendship into something perverse and unfitting.”

“If you say so,” Sibeso shrugged her shoulders, not convinced in the slightest by her friends monologue.

As Sibusiswe drove back to her place that evening, her mind wondered back to the past, to the moment in time when her world had slowly started spinning out of control.

If she could go back in time, would she be able to see the signs and stick to her resolve to safely guard the walls around her? If she had that chance, would she still make the same decisions?

 

 

“You look like shit,” Conrad noted the moment Martin joined them at the bar.

For a man who cared about appearances as much as the air he breathed, Martin was looking a little worse for wear in his ill-fitting grey t-shirt and suit pants which he must have obviously forgotten to take off after knocking off from work. He never ever wore anything casual on a suit pant. Being an extremist in most areas of his life, Martin’s wardrobe consisted of full on office wear which were mostly suits and full on casual wear which comprised mostly jeans and t-shirts …and these two categories never ever crossed borders, until that Friday evening at the bar.

“I think he killed someone and kept the t-shirt as a trophy,” Nelson Chanda teased his boss. Nelson had joined M&M just two years ago and managed to successfully ingratiate himself into Martin’s social cycle.

“I am kind of forced to agree…” Kondwani Musaba chipped in. Being the only one in the group not a lawyer, Kondwani was the least outspoken of the four friends.

Martin rolled his eyes dismissively at his three friends. “Go on, take jabs at your boss now. This is the only time you get to have your revenge.”

Conrad handed Martin an already opened bottle of Castle Lite. “But serious man, what happened to you?” He asked, looking down at Martin’s muddy slippers.

Martin ran his hand through his head and sighed heavily. “My ex-wife happened,” he said and took a sip of his beer before laying the bottle back on the counter with a thud.

“What happened with Sibu? Did she finally ask for child support? Knowing her, it should be a tag so high even you wouldn’t afford it.” Nelson joked and won himself disapproving looks from everyone. “My bad,” he raised his hands in the air. “What did she do?”

“It would be nice if she asked for some money, any amount that way I would feel less guilty towards her.” Martin was saying. “But Sibu being Sibu, she still refuses to accept any form of financial assistance from me, even for my own son. But that’s not why I am upset….”

“The Sibu- effect,” Conrad said before Martin could finish what he was saying.

“Sibu-effect?” Kondwani asked, looking from one friend to the other. From all their expressions, it was obvious he was the only one in the dark.

Conrad and Nelson were now laughing to their hearts content, much to Martin’s chagrin.

“Can you two behave?” Martin warned.

“Sorry man,” Conrad patted his friend on the shoulder as he tried to control himself. “You must be the only guy at the office who doesn’t know about the Sibu effect,” Conrad had turned his attention to Kondwani.

“Is that a good or a bad thing?” The innocent looking and soft spoken Accountant asked.

“It depends,” Nelson laughed but immediately froze the moment Martin threw a stern look in his direction.

“Let me tell you about the Sibu-effect my dear friend,” Conrad said to Kondwani, excitement written all over his face.

 

*         *         *

  

February, 2010

Sibusiswe felt the world spin around her as she came out of the doctor’s office. The distance from the office to the waiting area seemed very long. She struggled to get her bearings correct, her head throbbing from the news she had just received.

Holding on to the nearest wall, Sibusiswe shut her eyes and waited for the world to stop spinning.

“Are you alright Mrs Mwewa?” Doctor Sanjay had come out of her office and found her patient in that position.

Holding her by the shoulders to steady her, the doctor said, “This is the first time I have informed a married woman that she’s pregnant and seen her react in such a manner.” She slowly helped Sibu walk through the waiting area filled with people and led her outside to where her car was parked.

“I think I am fine now,” Sibusiswe rubbed her hand over her eyes and was more than glad to regain her stable relationship with gravity.

“Is this something you need me to keep from your husband?” The doctor gave Sibu a knowing look. “I have been a family doctor for the Mwewa’s for over seven years now and….”

For a moment, Sibu wondered about the meaning of the doctor’s words until she caught on. “Oh no doctor,” she started shaking her head but stopped when the dizziness threatened to return.

“It’s not what you are thinking,” she quickly corrected whatever conclusions the doctor might have arrived at. “This is definitely my husband’s child, definitely,” she repeated. “It’s just that…apart from some personal issues….I am currently a student…and I was kind of hoping to wait a little before starting a family.”

I actually don’t want a child right now…not right now. This will complicate everything. Sibu lamented.

As Sibusiswe drove back home, she wondered about the next step to take and settled on talking to her husband first before making any decision…although she already knew what his reaction would be.

She parked to the side of the road and picked up her phone to call Martin. However, upon looking at her call logs, she changed her mind. “Isn’t it better to tell him in person?” She said to herself. Throwing her phone on the passenger seat and getting back on the road, a mischievous grin playing on her face.

By the time Sibusiswe was arriving in Kitwe to see her husband who for the past two weeks had been living in their Kitwe vacation home whilst overseeing their latest building projects, it was already past midnight.

Martin’s car parked in the car park just in front of the two story house told her that he was at home. She would have not been surprised if she didn’t find him home since he was a man that loved the night scenery of any town he visited.

She grabbed her phone and bag and headed to the house. Opening the door with her spare key, she encoutered a half awake – half asleep fifteen year old Charles. Charles was Martin’s cousin from his father’s side.

Martin had asked the boy’s father to take care of the house when there was no one visiting from Lusaka. They had built the house as a cheaper alternative to constantly living in hotels and lodges since the family was constantly travelling to Kitwe to take care of the many businesses they had there.

Charles was petrified to see Sibu standing there before him that for close to a minute, he just stood there gaping at her.

“What’s wrong with you?” Sibu looked bemused. “You look like you have just seen a ghost.”

Unconsciously, the fifteen year old looked at Sibu and then towards the stairs leading to the master bedroom where Martin was supposed to be sleeping. Then he slowly started shaking his head in horror.

Sibu didn’t need to ask to know. “It’s fine Charles,” she reassured him, keeping her voice steady. “Where’s uncle?” She asked the boy who was now sweating profusely despite the cool weather from the showers outside.

“He…he…he is..in…Ndola,” Charles stuttered. “He…went to see mum,” he gushed the words out.

“Okay, you can go back to bed now.” Sibu placed a hand on his shoulder to let him know he wasn’t the one in trouble. “Sorry I disturbed your sleep. I will take care of everything here.” She forced a smile as she headed upstairs, leaving a petrified Charles rooted on the spot.

Sibusiswe took a deep breath before opening the door, bracing herself for whatever awaited her on the other side.

She carefully opened the door and was immediately greeted by two completely naked bodies sleeping soundly on the bed she had once lain in.

Because Martin liked sleeping with the lights on, the room was properly lit to reveal everything in sight. She could see two used condoms posing on the floor in their wrinkled glory. The bed was surrounded by littered pieces of his and her clothes, a pile of beddings was tossed at the foot of the bed, with Martin’s shoes on one side, and the woman’s on the other.

The scene before her was a portrait of sordid Babylonian encounters brought to life. It was a milieu of quenched lust and lasciviousness, the ambiance of which lashed at Sibu’s insides with ferocious vengeance.

She didn’t need to check to confirm if it was her husband lying there and snoring like there was no tomorrow. The body language of the two screamed of diddled romance as each lay on further ends of the bed facing away from each other, a pillow deliberately placed on the woman’s face. She was just another addition to his long list of flavours.

Sibusiswe moved closer to the bed and slowly lifted the pillow off the woman’s face. It wasn’t anyone she knew. The woman appeared to be in her early thirties, beautiful with intelligent looking features, just his usual style.

She does look like me ten years from now, Sibusiswe thought as she put the pillow back over the woman’s face and walked to the side of her husband.

Martin, oh Martin, she slowly shook her head whilst taking in her husband’s naked frame.

Pushing back the tears, Sibusiswe walked over to the wardrobe, opened it and took out a duvet.

She walked to the other side of the room where a huge white two-sitter couch lay in front of a 32 inch smart TV. She removed the three layered colourful cushions from the sofa,  and posing herself as if for body viewing, she closed her eyes to sleep.

A hot tear came out of the side of her closed left eye.

 

When Martin woke up the next morning, it was to the smell of familiar scents and aromas. He slowly sat up and found his partner from the previous night enjoying some breakfast on a well laid out tray.

“Did you just make yourself breakfast in my house?” Martin glared at her disdainfully. “You needed to be out of here before my cousin wakes up.” He grabbed his wrist watch from the side of the bed and checked the time.

“It’s now 8 o’clock and you are still seated here acting like a madam. I told you I am a married man.” He got out of bed and and was about to reach for his clothes on the floor when he found nothing.

only then did he notice the changes in the room.

Apart from the bed, everything else in the room was in immaculate order, way better than it had been for the past two weeks.

“Did you clean this room?” Martin asked before spotting a pile of fresh clothes laid out on the arm of the sofa on the other side of the room.

He scoffed. “If you are campaigning for marriage, you are barking at the wrong guy…what did you say your name was again?”

“Gloria,” the woman answered as Martin went to put on the fresh clothes anyway.

“I think you are being rude and making a lot of wrong assumptions,” Gloria said from the other side of the room. She put her tray down on the bed and glared at Martin. “I didn’t make this breakfast and I didn’t touch anything in this room apart from my clothes,” she said. “When I woke up I found a lady cleaning the room, she told me she was your cousin or something. I was about to leave but she insisted that I have breakfast first because she would be in trouble if you discovered that she let a guest leave without eating.”

With one leg into his pant and the other half-way through, Martin paused and turned around. “A lady?” he threw a questioning look at Gloria. “There are no women that live in this house, only my uncle and his son. What lady are you talking about?”

It was Gloria’s turn to look puzzled. “She looked young, tall, and very beautiful with very long hair. At first I thought she was one of your women but she was very kind to me.”

“Oh shit!” Martin forgot about his state of undress and tried to move but went crushing down to the floor, face first.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” he repeated as he struggled to put his leg back into his trousers. “You need to get out of here right now if you want to live.”

He finally succeeded with the trousers and was now rushing towards the door.

“What’s going on here?” A very confused Gloria asked from behind him.

Martin paused for a second at the door. “That kind woman that served you breakfast is my wife.” He said between clenched teeth as the woman responded in frightened countenance.

“If I were you, I would be rushing to the nearest hospital to get an antidote for whatever you just eat. You need to leave, now!” he said and bolted out of the door, taking the stairs two at a time.

He found a bamboozled Charles down the stairs. “Where’s my wife?” Martin asked.

Charles pointed towards the kitchen where sounds of plates clicking against each other could be heard.  “I thought you were dead,” He was visibly shaken by how things had turned out.

“Why do you think I am in shock right now?” Martin said as he ran towards the kitchen. For the first time ever, he was frustrated by the size of the house.

Charles went weak at the knees when he saw the woman his cousin had brought home when he thought he was fast asleep. She was carefully walking  down the stairs so as not to be heard, her shoes in her hands. “You are still here?” Charles whispered at the woman.

“Is it safe?” Gloria mouthed the words as she looked around the house.

Charles nodded and she quickly took the rest of the stairs down.

Martin’s cousin  helped her to the door and quickly closed it behind her, taking a deep breath and rested his back against the very door in relief.

What the hell was going on? He thought as he tip-toed back to his room, making sure to lock his door behind him.

“Sibu,” Martin nervously called his wife’s name from the entrance of the kitchen. He needed an early exit in case something came flying in his direction.

Sibusiswe put down the plate she was washing and turned off the water in the sink before turning around to face her husband. “Martin,” was all she managed as a response.

She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the sink, waiting to hear whatever Martin had to say. She certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for him.

This is not how I expected things to go, Martin lamented to himself. What the hell I’m I supposed to say? Why isn’t she saying anything? Why isn’t she throwing things? What I’m I supposed to do?

Next thing he knew, he was down on his knees, and with his hands raised above his head as if in prayer, he begged her forgiveness. “I am sorry Sibu…I am sorry babe…I will never do it again….” He went on like that for close to two minutes while Sibu remained rooted to her spot, watching his performance with a blank expression on her face.

She was indeed a tough audience to impress.

“Don’t even think about giving that oh the devil made me do it kind of nonsense.” Sibu finally snapped. “This time I can vouch for the devil because while you were busy dejuicing someone’s daughter, I had engaged the devil in a  little tete-a-tete. I needed to know why he’s so bent on messing me up all the time…” her voice started to shake a bit from stifling her tears.

“…otherwise, why would I be six weeks pregnant for someone like you?” Saying those words out was like a trigger that opened the floodgates she had been desperately tying to keep shut. How many more tears did she have to waste on him?

Never before had Martin been so conflicted.

The stellar announcement made him pause with his hands in the air as he starred at his wife in both anguish and euphoria. Not sure which emotion to settle for and still on his knees, Martin lowered his head further down as he begged his wife for forgiveness in absolute obeisance.

But Sibu was not fazed in the slightest. She was looking down at him like a bundle of poop that she needed to get away from as fast as possible. “Clean up your shit before you even think of talking to me,” she commanded in clear cut vociferation. “You reek of condoms and recycled vagina.”

She then grabbed a towel from the rack, dried her hands and threw it down to the floor before walking away, deliberately bumping into Martin and sending him falling off to the side as she squeezed herself out of the kitchen.

It was then that Martin realized he had forgotten to put on a shirt.

Martin managed to get up from the floor with some difficult but by the time he was outside, Sibusiswe had already driven off.

 

*         *         *

 

“And that my friend is what is known as the Sibu-effect,” Conrad proudly announced. He was now on his feet, standing next to an astound Kondwani with his arm resting over his shoulder.

“It is a phenomenon or a type of reactivity that occurs when a man has been caught naked in bed with another woman by his wife and the said wife then proceeds to make the two breakfast in bed, thus putting the man in a state of confusion and trepidation…with a slight hint of pee on his pants as he grovels in despair begging for retribution.” Conrad drollery summarized for his mates as Martin looked on in disquietude.

Kondwani gasped. “You peed on yourself?” he asked Martin.

Martin stretched his hand and smacked the back of Conrad’s head. After his friendship with Ted had faltered years back, Conrad had somehow taken over the spot as Martin’s close friend, a development that did neither of the former friends imagined possible.

“Of course I didn’t!” Martin defended his honor. “Yes, maybe I did think about it but it never happened. However, to this day, thinking about that incident makes the hairs at the back of my neck stand.”

“Whatever happened to the woman she caught you in bed with?” Nelson inquired. “I have always wondered about that.”

“Oh yeah, me too,” Conrad too chipped in.

“She lived, if that’s what you are all insinuating with your questions.” Martin retorted. “But I had to ask my secretary to anonymously keep calling the woman just to check if she was still alive before I could finally start eating food from home.”

“And she never divorced you even after finding you like that?” Kondwani asked, looking a little overwhelmed by all the information he had just heard.

“Before I could even commerce project beg until no shred of pride is left in you when I reached home, she looked me in the eye and told me that she was only staying because she needed my money and she wanted to give our child a proper family so there was no need for me to grovel before her. She was curt and brutal…up to now I still don’t know what i was most sorry about; that I had done something like that to my wife and let her catch me in such a state, or that I had put her through so much pain that she no longer gave a dame about my indiscretions. either way, it hurts like hell,” he hit his hand against his chest repeatedly as a somber expression materialized on his face.

“I don’t know whether I should give your wife…ex-wife a medal or get a restraining order against her just so I can protect myself from ever meeting her.” Kondwani the accountant lamented. “I respect her a lot…but at the same time I am very afraid of her.”

“Me too my friend,” Martin said with a far-off expression on his face. “Me too,” he repeated.

“Your ex-wife is hard core,” Nelson remarked. “She got a self-proclaimed bachelor to marry her in the shortest space of time and then she went ahead and dumped him at a time when he least expected it. There should be a superhero named after her somewhere in the world or even a word should be added in the dictionary in her honour,” and after pausing for a bit he added, “Sibu: the act of not giving a dame when a man repeatedly cheats on you; when used in a sentence, Martin was Sibu’d by his ex-wife…or, Most women of the 21’st century practice sibulity.”

Three men gaped at Nelson as they shook their heads in shared incredulity.

“You know what has always bothered me,” Conrad brushed Nelson off. “How is it that a woman that claimed to have married you for your money refused to take even a single penny of your money in alimony?”

“You think I have never asked myself that?” Martin said. “That’s what pisses me off the most, that despite being married to her for five years, I know nothing about her. I know without doubt that something is going on with her but I have no idea what it is. Last night Mwiche told me that she spoke to Sibu and that she accidentally let on that she will be leaving the country in a few days. We have a child together yet she hasn’t even bothered to inform me. I have been trying to call her since last night but she won’t take my calls.”

“Is that why you left the house looking like that?” Nelson asked.

“I got home and found my mother waiting for me,” Martin replied. “As usual she wanted to start talking trash about Sibu but I just wasn’t in the mood. I grabbed the nearest thing I could find and bolted out of there.”

“Why does your mother hate your ex-wife so much?” Kondwani asked.

The three of them looked at him snippily.

“His mother hates any woman that gets close to her son,” Conrad supplied. “But it was worse for Sibu because of two reason; one, she was Tonga, and two, Martin was crazy in-love with her.”

“Oh,” was all Kondwani could say in response. He knew someone exactly like that.

“So where is Sibu going? Are you going to let her go with your son?” Nelson asked.

“She is going to SA…and yes, if she is going then I will have no choice but to let her go with him…that was the agreement we made. She has full custody…because it was my way of thanking her and apologizing for everything I did to her…and of course because I trusted her to know she would let me see Jacob whenever I wanted. Both her parents are late, so she is a sucker for family. I had to give her full custody to protect her from my mother…just in case of any eventualities.”

“But what were you thanking her for…you said something about thanking her? We all know why you needed to apologize…but thanking her…” Nelson quipped. “…for allowing your sorry ass to cheat on her while you were still married to her?

Nelson once again won himself disconcerting looks from his buddies.

Martin looked at Nelson in indignation. “You do know I stopped carrying a gun around with me the day after you joined the company, right?” He said. “Don’t tempt me right now,” he cautioned him.

Kondwani and Conrad enjoyed a hearty laugh at the expense of their friend.

“Isn’t Ted also in South Africa?” Conrad later asked as realization dawned on him. “That’s why you are this worked up, isn’t it?” He starred at his friend in apprehension.

The look of trepidation on Martin’s face confirmed Conrad’s suspicions.

“Are you talking about Ted, the one whose father is…” Kondwani was saying.

“Yes, that same one,” Nelson cut in. “When I joined the company I heard rumors about you guys fighting over Sibusiswe. Apparently you betrayed him and stole her from him.”

Martin starred lividly at the imprudent Nelson. “You know, for a lawyer you lack tact Nelson, sometimes I wonder if you are a friend or foe.” He said.

Nelson snickered. “I just say it as it is,” he said without the slightest hint of mortification. “So it is true about what went down between the two of you?” He pressed on unashamedly, again winning himself austere countenance  from everyone.

“I don’t know about what you heard and frankly I don’t give a dame. However, if you must know; yes it is a fact that both Ted and I were in-love with Sibu but it is also a fact that she was always in-love with me and never with him.”

“So why are you nervous about the possibility of the two of them meeting in SA?” Nelson persisted.

Martin glared at him, completely befuddled by his lack of  savoir faire, “I never said I was nervous,” Martin lied. “This is the first time I am going to be very far from my son and that worries me, a lot. Is that information enough for you Mr Nasty?”

Nelson only chuckled in response, pleased with the fact that he had managed to get under Martin’s skin.

“You know, sometimes you talk as if you only have one child. I wonder what Veronica feels about that.” Conrad said.

Martin scoffed. “Veronica is an opportunistic bitch who thinks that just because her parents forced her on me then that makes her my wife. There is no woman on the face of this earth that will ever take Sibu’s place in my heart.I have made that point clear to her every single day but she still ain’t leaving.”

Kondwani thought about asking Martin an obvious question but reasoned that he needed some liquid courage first before daring to ask his boss such a bold question. He knew everyone else was dying to know as well and so he put his trust in the bottle.

“If you loved your wife that much,” Kondwani started after gulping down the contents of his bottle. “If you loved her so much, why did you treat her like that?”

Conrad and Nelson shared a knowing looks, both impressed by Kondwani’s courage despite it’s liquid nature to ask the question they had all dared not ask.

As his friends waited for his response, Martin starred at the contents of the bottle in front of him, his mind taking him back to the time when all the plans he had laid out for himself started falling to the ground…a time when his heart had developed a mind of its own and forced him to acknowledge some truths he was not yet ready to confront.

If he could go back in time, would he do things differently?

Echoes of the Heart – Part 2

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

In a battle of the mind and the heart, it is the part that’s more vulnerable that concedes first. For Sibusiswe, it was never a question of which part won over the other for if she had to live, the two parts had to exist in harmony. But when love comes, it neither knocks nor seeks permission, and it certainly knows no boundaries.

Sibusiswe had clocked a month at M&M Law firm and she took delight in having survived without much event. Apart from the constant game of hide and seek she played with Martin and Ted, Sibu stay at the firm was free of drama.

You were born unlucky and you will die unlucky. The very blood flowing through your veins is the curse that will live with you till the day you die. How could she ever forget her aunt’s ominous words that haunted her through the night and day?

Despite being the only family she had, Aunt Tafadzwa treated Sibu like her greatest nemesis. Months would go by without the two talking to each other unless there was something the thirty-eight year old woman needed from her; then she would call to shamelessly announce her demands, like she did one Friday afternoon.

Sibusiswe was attending to a client on the work line when the first call from her aunt came and so she ignored the call. Only twenty minutes remained to lunch tie, I will call her then, she had reasoned as she did her best to ignore the vibrations.

Unfortunately Aunt Tafadzwa went on to give her fifteen more missed calls before she could finally run outside to take the sixteenth call. She could only imagine the rage rising up her aunt’s oesophagus, ready to explode the moment she answered the call.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Do you have any idea how long I have been trying to get in touch with you?” Sibusiswe had to slightly pull the phone away from her ear to keep the enraged woman from blasting her eardrums.

“How can you change jobs without telling me? Do you think you can run away from me just like that?” her aunt unleashed her fury, sparing Sibu no chance to return the favour. “Where the hell are you? Come to the gate right now. These idiots won’t let me in unless I tell them I have an appointment.”

The idiots in question being the two security guards stationed at the gate who worked under strict instructions to only let into the building identifiable people and those with appointments. Aunt Tafadzwa definitely did not fall into either category.

Sibu’s eyes widened in surprise and trepidation, “You are here?” She asked the obvious question, taking a few steps forward to get a clear view of the gate in the distance but since the massive gates were closed, she could not see anything apart from the two guards seated in their booth.

A loud bang on the gate sent her running in that direction. When she got closer to the gate, she gestured an apology towards the visibly upset pair of men in uniform before removing the card which was hanging around her neck, holding it to the machine and waiting for the small gate to open.

The moment she stepped outside the building, she was met by a woman glowing in rage. Sibu was not sure if the red stamps all over her face where a result of the cold or the effects of the skin lightening creams eating away at her melanin.

Dressed in a chitenge wrapper with a matching top swallowing her whole upper body, Aunt Tafadzwa grabbed Sibu by the ears and dragged her to the side, away from the gate.

Reasoning that protesting would only get her in more trouble, Sibu could only lower her head to cushion the pain if only just slightly as she was being dragged. She lost her footing for a moment and a shoe came off her foot in the process.

When her aunt finally came to a stop, Sibu almost breathed a sigh of relief but her joy was short-lived because upon releasing her ear, she was slapped hard across the face with such force that she went tumbling to the ground.

Wide-eyes, she reached out her hand to touch the assaulted area, slowly rising up from the ground in embarrassment. Apart from the guards and a car parked on the other side of the gate, there were no people in sight.

What would happen if any of her colleagues saw her like that?

“That is for making me wait out here in the cold and subjecting me to that kind of treatment by your guards.” The angry woman snapped, fuming from ear to ear and daring the guards with her eyes to try and interfere in her business.

“Is that a new watch you are wearing?” Aunt Tafadzwa roughly grabbed Sibu’s hand to examine the wrist watch.

With tears welling up her eyes, Sibu struggled to keep her mind working against the ringing sound coming from her ears. Everything was happening so fast.

“What the hell is going on here?” Someone grabbed Sibu’s hand from her aunt’s painful grasp.

It was Martin. He had her shoe in his hand.

Where the hell did he come from? Sibu thought. “Martin,” was all she could manage as she wished for the ground to open up and swallow her whole.

“Who the hell are you and why are you causing a scene in front of my father’s firm?” Martin fired at the woman with vengeance. “Guards!” he turned towards the two guards who had been watching the scene wide-eyed through the glass screen of their booth.

They quickly fumbled out of the little room the moment they were summoned.

“What the hell are you doing while an employee is being physically abused right in front of you?” Martin snapped, his hand still holding on to Sibu’s.

“Martin please,” Sibu pleaded, desperately trying to free her hand from his grasp but Martin would not let go.

“Who do you think you are to interfere with how I choose to discipline my niece?” Aunt Tafadzwa retorted, sizing him up with her lips curled tightly.

“She is your aunt?” Martin turned his gaze twowards Sibu.

She nodded. “Yes she is so please don’t interfere and let me handle this myself. It is none of your business. Please…just pretend you did not see anything, I am begging you…please.” The pleading look in her eyes tore at Martin’s insides. What was really going on?

Martin searched her face and all he could see was fear written all over her features. He wanted to take her into his arms if only to keep her from trembling so much. He could feel the dread coursing through her body from her hand.

Is this the same woman that had defiantly rejected him numerous times?

Sibu took advantage of Martin’s befuddled state to free her hand from his grasp, stealthily moving away from him to stand in front of her aunt. “I am very sorry aunty,” she put her hands together and raising them up as if in prayer, she rubbed them up and down with her head shoulders hunched forward as she begged her aunt for forgiveness.

Martin could not believe what he was witnessing. “What do you think you are doing?” He was eyeing her contemptuously.

He reached out to grab her hands and stop her demonstration but she quickly tossed his hand away, continuing her show of obeisance to her aunt.

The guards seemed at a loss for both words and actions. They just stood at attention with only their eyes moving from Sibu to Martin.

“If your family wants to put up a show, I suggest you move it far away from these premises,” Martin warned, his face tightening to the point of uniting his perfectly shaped eyebrows into one straight line.

Without saying a word, Aunt Tafadzwa pranced angrily to the other side of the road with a nervous Sibu following closely behind.

 

Martin was shaking his head slowly in disbelief as he watched the pair cross the road. And just when he thought he had seen enough drama, Sibu went straight down on her knees the moment they were out of the road. She remained in that position with her head bowed down as her aunt went on a tirade; poking Sibu’s head every now and then as she continued talking. He could not make out what was actually being said but the body language was enough to cause indignation to rise up his spine.

“What’s up with those two?” A girl in a school uniform joined Martin by his side. She was watching the scene unfolding across the road with lividity. “Shouldn’t that woman be arrested or something for abuse?” the teenager asked. “How can something like this be happening in front of a law firm?”

“Don’t look at them Mwiche,” Martin put his hands on the girls shoulders and turned her around. “Watching them will only make her feel even more like a victim. It’s their family matter, there’s nothing we can do. You need to go home now. Mum will have a fit if she discovers you didn’t go straight home from school.”

Mwiche chuckled. “That’s exactly what Clement said a minute ago.” She said, waving her hand at the driver waiting in the car just a few feet away.

Martin looked around to see if there were any other people in sight apart from them and the guards. He felt some form of relief when he couldn’t spot a soul in sight apart from the vehicles passing through the road.

“But are you really going to let that girl get treated like that?” They both turned to look across the road. Sibu was now up on her feet, slightly bending to wipe the dirt off her jeans where she had been kneeling. She then straightened her back, removed something from her jacket and handed it to her aunt.

“Did she just give her money?” Martin’s little sister asked, looking very shell-shocked.

“I don’t know what’s going on there but whatever it is, it’s very twisted.” Martin was shaking his head. “Let me escort you to the car, I can’t look at that shit anymore.” He took his sister’s hand and led her back to the car.

After saying goodbye to Mwiche, Martin went back inside only to appear a few minutes later in his car. He parked on the spot where Clement had been parked and he waited for Sibu to finish her case with the mad aunt.

Martin didn’t need to wait for long because after receiving the money and delivering a bit more of her onslaught verbal diarrhoea, Sibu’s aunt had turned around and walked away, leaving Sibu alone to nurse her wounded pride.

Martin could hardly recognize the eighteen year old girl standing across the street looking so dejected and defeated like a leaf on a hot summer’s day.

That girl was not the feisty young girl that always stared down at him and challenged his manhood every chance she got. That withered looking girl made his heart ache to a point of no return. Instead of envisaging holding her naked body all through the night like he always did, the girl in front of him made him want to hold her tightly in his arms and drive her pain away.

 

When five minutes had gone by and Sibusiswe had not moved from the spot her aunt had left her, Martin got out of the vehicle and walked to where she was.

Sibusiswe kept her eyes glued on her aunt’s retreating figure as a storm of tears poured down her eyes. She was fixed on the task at hand that she did not hear Martin approach because the next thing she knew, he was grabbing her hand and leading her towards his vehicle.

“Don’t even try to fight me,” Martin warned her sternly as he quickly got them across the road. He opened the front passenger door and shoved Sibu inside before she could further protest. “Belt,” he instructed before banging the door and moving to his side of the vehicle.

By now Sibu had stopped crying and was starring wide-eyed at Martin.

“Where are you taking me?” She asked, finally resigning to put her seat belt on since Martin had already set the car in motion.

“I am taking you to a place I know you will love,” he replied nonchalantly.

Sibu bolted up in her seat. “Have you lost your mind? I have a job to attend to Martin!” she yelled at him.

“Calm down, I already asked Peggy to take care of it while you are gone.”

“What?” He was impossible.

“I told her that my father sent you on an errand so you don’t have to worry about anything. I can tell what’s going through that mind of yours.” He chuckled lightly. “Relax,” he reassured her.

Martin put on some music and Mozart’s Requiem in D minor filled the car.

Sibu reclined her seat and tried to relax. “Wake me up when we reach wherever we are going.” She laid back and closed her eyes as the music filled the air.

Martin got her cue and raised the volume slightly.

 

 

After driving for a few minutes, Martin watched Sibu take off her pumps and raise her feet from the floor of the vehicle only to curl them up on her seat. Before she could completely hunch herself into a ball, Martin noticed the tears.

Had she been silently crying all along? He wondered, not sure if he should say something or remain quite. He was not very good with touchy-feely things. The only time women ever cried in front of him was when they were either cussing him for breaking their hearts or begging him to take them back. In both instances, he never cared much about how they felt. He was sure of his feelings so he didn’t need to know or understand theirs.

But what was this situation? How the hell was he expected to respond?

Despite all the confusion going on in his head, there was one feeling Martin could neither deny nor suppress; the ache in his heart upon seeing Sibu in such a state.

What exactly was this feeling? He placed his hand over his chest as a sombre and troubled expression played on his face.

He curled his hand into a fist and repeatedly, yet softly hit it against his chest as if to stop his heart from feeling whatever it was threatening to feel.

If there was one thing Martin was most afraid in life, it was feelings. Sentimental feelings and Martin existed in two parallel universies.

Putting both his hands back on the steering wheel, Martin blinked profusely as if to

wake himself up from whatever spirit was threatening to overpower him.  He didn’t need to look in Sibusiswe’s direction to imagine what she was going through. The force she was using to try and keep her pain under wraps was causing her body to shudder almost violently against the seat. He too could feel the pressure from where he was seated.

Martin took a deep breath and kept his eyes right ahead, his hands tightly holding on to the steering wheel as if to keep it from slipping away. With just classical music playing in the background and no words spoken between them, Martin drove like that the rest of the way.

 

 

Martin had driven for close to an hour when he finally brought the car to a stop. He got out of the vehicle and stood outside to give Sibu chance to compose herself.

Inside the car, Sibu slowly opened her eyes which were now swollen from crying for such a long time. When she looked out through the windscreen, she was impressed by the scenery around them. It almot took her breath away.

“What’s this place?” She was now standing behind him.

Martin had both his arms tucked in his pockets with his legs spread apart as if in deliberate pose.

As she took in his frame, Sibu wondered what time he had taken off his jacket. There was something a little safe with his jacket on and something completely unsafe with it off.

With his now exposed light blue shirt clinging to his broad shoulders and compact upper body, and his well-fitting dark blue pair of trousers whispering promises of long chiseled legs, Sibusiswe struggled to maintain focus of her surroundings.

There should be a law against being that good looking, Sibu mussed to herself.

“Where are we?” She asked as she came to stand next to him.

Martin turned in her direction, his hands still in his pockets.

Sibu blushed and immediately looked away at the sight of his buffed up chest threatening to reap through the tight white vest under his shirt where he had left the top buttons undone.

“It’s my secret hideaway.” Martin cheerfully announced, loving the reaction on Sibu’s face. “It’s the first piece of land my father put in my name. I always come here whenever I need to clear my mind. What do you think?”

A few meters from where they were standing were beautiful young palm trees lined up into a narrow aisle that went on as far as the eye could see. To the right of the hedge was a thirst provoking orchard with bounty fruits yelling a near harvest.

To the left where ready to harvest vegetables that seemed to be doing surprisingly well in spite of the weather. About six yards away from the cabbages was a small but beautifully designed two story cabin towering over everything else that caught Sibu’s attention.

“Are there people that live here?” Sibusiswe asked.

“Yes, the caretaker,” Martin supplied. “It’s refreshing isn’t it?” He had his arms stretched out with his head pulled slightly back to allow the fresh air to reach most parts of his body.

Sibu mimicked his actions. “It’s very beautiful,” she said. “Who would have thought that there’s such a place in Lusaka? I guess there really are perks to being friends with rich folks.”

Martin was more than glad to see her smiling. His plan to cheer her up had worked after all.

“I can only imagine what it would be like watching the sun set in over such a beautiful scenery.” Sibu muttered. “Thank you for bringing me here Martin. I don’t care what your intentions are for bringing me here but…I needed to see something like this to remind me that there are still beautiful forms of life on this earth…kind of makes you want to live again.”

Martin grinned proudly, completely missing edge to her tone during her last remark. “If I didn’t know any better, I would think you were looking forward to spending more time with me,” he teased.

“I was wondering when the douche in you would wake up,” she teased back, not daring to look in his direction. “You never disappoint.”

They both laughed.

 

“So are you going to tell me what that was all about?” Martin asked after a while.

The smile on Sibu’s face disapeared immediately.

Noting the hesitation, Martin tried again. “What did you do that was so bad that you let your aunt treat you like that?”

“I wish I could tell you everything…but today is just not the day. I just want to take in this scenery and forget about everything that happened today.”

Not one to pressure any woman into divulging personal information that might cause his heart to betray him, Martin only nodded and quickly changed the subject.

Perhaps the less he knew about her the better. The last thing he needed was getting attached and messing up his already laid out plans for the future. Women were just too complicated for his brain cells. He already had enough on his plate memorizing all those statutes.

As Sibusiswe allowed herself to get lost in the scenery before her, she couldn’t help feeling a great sense of respect and gratitude towards Martin who had made it possible for her to forget about her sorrows even if just for a little bit.

It was the first time anyone had ever taken the time to do something for her. Although she suspected that he might have ulterior motives for appearing as her knight in shinning armor, she resolved to only focus on the good part of the experience because her mind had had enough misery for a day.

When Sibu finally came back to reality, it was to find Martin behind her, his back resting against the car with both hands back in his pockets. The manner in which he was smiling at her gave Sibu pause. for the first time she could see sincerity in his eyes.

Since when did he start looking at her like that? She blushed profusely, debating whether to take her eyes away from him or maintain eye contact. If she broke contact, he would know he had some effect on her, and if she kept looking at him, her eyes might betray her.

With her heart nearly leaping out of her chest, unconsciously, Sibusiswe brought her hand to her chest. It was her inert defensive mechanism shielding her from harm…. How else could she stop her heart from feeling things it was not supposed to?

Just in those few seconds she had lost herself in the embers of his smile, Sibusiswe’s heart sent her mind to slumber. Never before had she felt so vulnerable.

And still, Martin kept smiling.

He was silently taking pleasure in watching the mixed emotions playing on Sibu’s face. However, just as he was about to climax from the rewards of his well laid out plans, something in Sibu’s eyes sent shivers running down his spine.

Was that fear he had just seen in her eyes?

And just why did that make him uncomfortable?

 

*         *         *

 

July, 2015

Saturday mornings were always a hype of activity at Chilenje market. Both shoppers and marketeers went about their business in committed shrew.

The perversely undecided winter sun relentlessly assaulted Sibusiswe’s windscreen and crushed onto her forehead, forcing her to drop the sun visor in frustration.

Parked by the side of the road overlooking an array of shops on the other side of the road, Sibusiswe straightened her back in her seat and kept her focus on one specific store where an unsuspecting woman fortuitously attended to her vegetable stand in front of her fully stocked shop.

It was Aunt Tafadzwa.

In tight fitting blue skinny jeans and a tight red top, Aunt Tafadzwa put most women her age to shame. Her forty-nine year old form was very different from the slightly overweight woman with a passion for oversized clothes she had been eleven years ago. It seemed time had somehow awakened a sense of fashion in her and given her a flair of youth that had eluded her all those years. Now that she was just a whisper away from the fifties, she was intent on negotiating her case with time and nature till they succumbed to her wiles.

How unfair could life be? Sibusiswe thought as she watched her aunt enjoy a hearty laugh with two of her customers.

Gripping her hands around the steering wheel as the contempt boiling up in her  stomach threatened to overwhelm her, Sibusiswe shut her eyes and curled her faced to half its size.

She finally stepped out of her vehicle and walked towards the store.

Aunt Tafadzwa’s smiling features graduated into a frown in record breaking time the moment she laid eyes on Sibu.

The make-up on her face was perfectly on point, as if done by a professional.

I wouldnt put it past her to use a professional make-up artist every single day, Sibu thought as she glared at her aunt.

Aunt Tafadzwa handed over the plastic bag of vegetables to her customers and reluctantly said goodbye to them, taking her time as if there was no one waiting for her.

“You have never visited me on your own volition. Who has died?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked whilst walking back into the store.

Sibu followed her inside and offered herself a stool while her aunt sat on the one behind the counter glaring at her.

“You still carry yourself like a rich madam despite being divorced,” her aunt commented sarcastically looking at her immaculately attired niece.

Sibusiswe was dressed in a long white dress that contoured around her body in eye catching fashion despite the mid-length fur-collared red coat she had on top.

“I guess some things are hard to get rid of…” Sibu replied, looking down at her red and white striped stilettoes for a second before looking up at her aunt. “…like your attitude towards me despite all the years I’ve spent slaving for you.” She fired back, her eyes unflinching against her aunt’s disdainful glare.

“I never asked you to do anything you didn’t think you needed to do,” Aunt Tafadzwa retorted. “Don’t you think it’s about time you stopped playing the victim card?”

Sibusiswe scoffed. “Victim you say?” She said a few expletives under her breath.

“I never forced you to marry Martin,” Aunt Tafadzwa growled. “You had fallen head over heels in-love with him even before I suggested marriage to you. Now, just because your marriage failed miserably, you want to blame me?”

Sibu could feel the rage rising up inside. She silently willed herself into calming down. “It is true I was in-love with Martin but I never wanted to get married to him. I would have easily taken care of my feelings and walked away but your threats forced me to marry a man I knew for a fact wasn’t good for me. Having feelings for someone does not mean you have to marry them. But because of you, I had to get married to him.”

Aunt Tafadzwa came down from her stool and stood resting her hands on her waist defiantly. “I never forced you to marry Martin!” she yelled, pointing an accusing finger at her twenty-nine year old niece. “I made you a proposition and you made the choice yourself. You could have refused and we could have gone on with our lives.”

Sibusiswe couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “You call it a proposition I call it a threat,” she thundered. “But I am not here to argue semantics with you. What  happened, happened…nothing can ever change the past…but I certainly intend to change the future.” She laid it thick for her aunt.

“What do you mean by that?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked.

Putting her white fur clutch on her laps, Sibu leaned back against the shelves behind her, not caring for a second abbout the products she was probably crushing. She crossed her arms over her chest and crossed one leg over the other.

“I am done catering to your every whim and demand aunty,” Sibu barked. “The deal we made was that if I marry Martin, I get to see Henry through high school and Tammy through college. I did that. I kept my end of the deal and now it’s time for you to keep yours. You promised you would leave me the hell alone and stop making crazy demands if I sent your children to school. But that text you sent me last night and the manner in which you commanded me to prepare funds for Henry’s college fees infuriated me.”

“Do you think you have any right to get upset?” her aunt asked.

“Stop it!” Sibu got up from the stool so fast she dropped her clutch to the floor. “This is exactly what I am talking about,” she remarked. “…you guilting me into making decisions every chance you get. The only reason I went through that tumultuous marriage was to free myself from your malice. Yes it was a decision i made but only because you left me no choice! I understand you are mad about what happened to your sister but I am done paying the price for something I had no control over. Every day and night I beat myself over it…I don’t need you to constantly remind me of my sins. You claim my mother would have taken care of you and your children if she were alive but do you think she would have wanted you abusing her only child in this manner?”

“Abusing you?” Aunt Tafadzwa’s small eyes danced in furry. “You call marrying a handsome and impossibly rich man like Martin abuse?” She laughed bemusedly.

“Yes, making a fourteen year old do all those things you made me do for your family is what the law calls child abuse. And there’s a word they use to describe forcing someone to marry someone they didn’t want to just so it can benefit you.”

“You act as if you didn’t benefit from the marriage,” her aunt fired back. “Just look at you,” she said, running her and up and down in Sibu’s direction. “…looking all high and mighty like you are better than everybody else. If I told Martin what you did, do you think he would have insisted on marrying you in the first place? Thanks to me you got to enjoy such a high class life and married the most sought after man in the country. Any normal person would be grateful, but not you. You have always been a selfish ungrateful wench ever since you were little. And thanks to that selfishness of yours, my sister is now six feet under!” She was furiously pointing and digging at the floor with her feet.”

“Do not bring my mother into this,” Sibusiswe told her aunt. “I promised myself that I will not let your emotional blackmail get to me today. I did what I promised to do; I sent your children to school. Tammy is the same age as me and she is now working. It is now her time to send her brother to college. I will be leaving the country in a few days and there is nothing you will say to me that will stop me. I just don’t care anymore…I just don’t give a dame any more. Seek a witch doctor to deal with me like you’ve always threatened to do or kill me yourself with your bare hands, I don’t care. I know that as long as I am alive, there is no getting out of this hell I set up for myself and you polished for my comfort. But I am done with you…so either you let me go in peace or I drag you down into this hell with me.”

“You think it’s easy to just walk away from your family just like that?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked, seeming much unperturbed by her niece’s threats.

Sibu scoffed. “Has there ever been a time you considered or treated me like family? If what you and your children are to me is family, then I will gladly embrace being alone in this world.” She bent down to pick up her clutch, and taking a deep breath she said, “I came here to say goodbye, not to fight. My walking away from you does not mean I have forgotten about my sins. I just think I have paid you enough and I would like to battle my own demons on my own terms. You take care of yourself and your family.” And with that, she turned to leave.

“You think running away will absolute you from everything? What do you think your husband’s family will do when they find out that you only married into their family for money?” Her aunt’s voice roared from behind.

Sibu stopped. “I never said I was running away,” she said with her back still turned. “I am simply removing some weeds from my hell. It is my hell after all, only I get to decide the company I keep while I await my pending doom,” and turning around, “you no longer get to call the shots.” She declared. “You are done. You and I are over. You can say whatever you want to Martin’s family, see if I care.” With that, she walked out of the shop, leaving her aunt reeling in bridled rage.

Putting on her invisible triumphant shoulder pads, Sibusiswe walked out of the store with her head held high. She was busy busking in her glory over putting her aunt in her place when something blocked her path right outside the store.

It was her former mother-in-law, Mrs Temwani Mwewa.

To say she was looking unpleased would be an understatement. With her brows arched upwards going all the way and stopping only a few inches short of her hairline, and with her lips parsed into a long thin line, the fifty-five year old woman was a vision only found in children’s nightmares.

“Fancy finding you here Sibu,” Mrs Mwewa said, arching one eyebrow further into her hair.

All Sibu could do in that instant was stare in disbelief at the woman who had made it her hobby to make her marriage life unbearable.

Why did she have to be there at that particular moment? And how much of the conversation with her aunt did she hear?

“Bana Martin, mwaiseni!” A very cheerful Aunt Tafadzwa came out of the store to gleefully welcome her former in-law and seemingly good friend.

Since when did the two become so close? Sibusiswe wondered as the two women shared a hug.

A cold streak of chagrin ran down Sibusiswe’s spine as flashes from her past threatened to crush her head into little pieces.