HER FORGOTTEN DAUGHTER

Introducing…..

Here’s a synopsis of the story I am currently working on…chapter one to be published over the weekend! I hope you will love it.

Her Forgotten Daughter:

After her grandmother’s death, 24 year old Evelyn embarks on a journey of discovery; to reunite with the mother that had abandoned her when she was just a baby. Unfortunately, what Evelyn discovers is far from anything she could have ever imagined. The pernicious truths surrounding her birth and parentage soon turn Evelyn’s sedated world into a ponderous mess.

Filled with disappointment and bitterness, Evelyn struggles to pick up the pieces of her shuttered world and start anew. But just like a rose rises from a thorned branch, Evelyn finds solace in the arms of the one man she was never supposed to love.

Will history repeat itself or can Evelyn overcome the odds against her and sprout freely like the beautiful flower she was meant to be? Or, will she wither and fall from  the pressures of her weary leaden life?

Will you give Evelyn a chance and accompany me and her on this journey to cheer her on? I certainly hope you do!

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Echoes of the Heart – Part 12

THE CONCLUSION

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

The morning before he was to travel back home, Martin asked to meet Sibusiswe at a restaurant close to Ted’s place.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you and him were now seeing each other?” Was the first question Martin fired at her before she could even sit down.

For a man that usually carried himself like an Emperor of the Universe, Martin was looking a little worse for wear that day. His eyes were sunken deep and had huge circles around them like a man deprived of sleep for too long a time. There had only been one time when Martin had looked like that and that was the day after his surgery.

Something inside Sibu broke. She wanted to reach out across the table and hold his hand but she also knew that doing so would only complicate things further. And so she sat back and opened her ears to listen.

“Why did it have to be Ted Sibu? Of all men in the world…why him? Was I really that bad to you that you would do me like this?” Martin was on the verge of crying but he kept fighting away the urge. The last thing he needed was to appear like a weakling in front of the woman who already thought the worst about him.

“Martin,” Sibu slowly started. “My relationship with Ted has nothing to do with you.”

Martin knotted his hand into a fist upon hearing her words…

My relationship with Ted.

All along he had prayed and hoped that despite everything he had heard and seen…that perhaps it had simply been a bad dream…that nothing was really going on between them and just like she had done in the past, Sibu would tell him that nothing will ever happen between her and Ted.

But the ease with which she delivered the confirmation threatened to tear his insides to pieces. He was suddenly awakened to the reality of just how much power lay in words because in just those few words, Sibu had managed to break his heart and shutter whatever little hope he had desperately clung onto ever since their divorce.

Somehow, Martin had convinced himself that if he truly changed for the better and became the kind of man that would be good enough for Sibu, he thought that without a doubt she would take him back.

For the first time in his life he had made a commitment to become a better man and he had stuck to it. He might not have been perfect, but he had done his very best to make up for all those times he had made an already lonely woman even lonelier. He had worked on his weaknesses and did eventually become a good man so why did things turn out this way?

Why could Sibu not give him a second chance?

“All those times I hurt you,” Martin’s voice was shaking and his lips were quivering. He took a deep breath, raised his hand to cover his mouth but immediately realized it too was shaking and so he quickly lowered it and hid both hands under the table.

Sibu’s eyes too became watery.

“I apologized,” Martin continued, forcing his voice to sound firm but despite his effort, he could not hide the huskiness.

“I have spent the past years doing  everything I can to make up for having been a bad husband to you. I changed for you Sibu…so why…I don’t understand….”

“That’s the problem Martin,” Sibu interjected him. “You changed for me, not for yourself and certainly not because you felt you needed to change. There was never a time I asked you to change. All those times we fought over your wild behavior, it was only because I cared about your health, not about me. It was for your own good.”

Something she had said lit Martin up into full attention. “Was there even a single time you genuinely cared about me Sibu?” He asked her.

“What is that supposed to mean? After everything you and I went through, can you honestly ask me such a question?”

“I said genuinely….” Martin explained himself. “Yes, on the surface it appeared as though you cared but I can count the number of times I felt real genuine care from you. It was during those first few months after our marriage and then you completely gave up on me.”

“Martin,” Sibu had started.

“Let me talk Sibu,” Martin sat up straight in his chair. “All these years I solely accepted responsibility for how things ended between us but you know what Sibu, you are not innocent in all this. It’s like from the moment you agreed to marry me, you had already set a deadline in your head.

“You entered into marriage with such a mindset and you sat and patiently waited for the walls to come crumbling down. And when they finally did, you did not hesitate to raise your white flag. You had already given up on me even before I had started to fail so I never stood a chance with you. I know that you are stronger than the average woman out there but I have never seen a woman embrace pain as well as you did Sibu.”

Sibu looked upset, not because he was throwing accusations at her but because there was truth in what he was saying. She had indeed given up on him even before he had started failing their marriage. But how was she to explain to him that she had a lot going on in her life at that time?

“What, you don’t have anything to say now?” Martin asked sarcastically. “I don’t get you Sibu, I guess I never will. I tried so many times to get you to open up to me but you never gave me a chance. I am intelligent enough to know that a woman does not turn out to be like you just from genes. I was attracted to you because I knew you were different…but whenever I tried to discover just what made you different, you would shut me out completely.”

Sibu slowly raised her eyes to look at him. “Even if I had opened up to you, do you think you would have understood?”

“How about giving me the chance to fail first instead of failing me before giving me the test?” Martin returned. “That was always the problem with you Sibu; you made assumptions about me in your head and you convinced yourself that there was no redemption for me. I trusted you with my life but you on the other hand were more than ready to turn your back on me the moment a chance presented itself to you.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Sibu picked up her hand bag from the floor and was about to get up but Martin gripped her hand and looking up at her he sternly whispered, “If you want to see just how mad a man on the verge of collapse can get, I dare you to walk away from me Sibu.”

Sibu looked around and noticed they had become the center of attention in the sparsely populated restaurant.

“Let go of me Martin, you are hurting me,” she muttered.

“Say you will remain seated until we are done talking that’s when I will let go,” he negotiated.

Sibu put her bag back down and Martin released her hand immediately.

“You still haven’t changed,” he commented once she was settled down again. “Always walking away whenever you are forced to confront your weaknesses. I was the fool for always letting you have your way back then. I thought I was being supportive by not pushing you harder to confide in me. Ted was right, how can I call myself your husband when I hardly even know you? In just these few months you’ve been together, you managed to open up to him more than you ever did all those years we were together.”

“What did Ted tell you exactly?” Sibu asked.

“Are you really worried about me finding out your secrets?” Martin looked even more broken. The disappointment in his eyes ran deeper than the human eye could see. “I am just dying to know, why was it so easy for Ted? What is it about Ted that made you put down your guard and bare out your soul to him?”

Sibu could not come up with a response. She had lowered her gaze and kept her focus on the glass of juice in front of her.

“As someone that was married to you…someone you never gave a chance to at least help heal whatever scars you’ve been carrying all these years, I deserve to know why I never stood a chance.” He implored her.

Instead of answering him, Sibu started crying. The guilt had finally gotten to her.

“Is it that bad?” Martin asked upon seeing the tears streaming down her face. “Did you really think so little of me that the thought of revealing it to me makes you cry?”

“It’s not like that Martin,” she tried to wipe away the tears with the back of her hands.

“Here,” Martin had taken a hanker from his pocket and laid it on the table in front of her.

“I am sorry Martin,” she cried some more, trying hard to keep her voice down so as not to attract attention. She grabbed the hanker and quickly wiped away the tears.

“Sibu,” Martin tentatively reached his hands  across the table but she kept hers to herself, shaking her head slowly .

“I remember,” Sibu was saying. “That time we met at that restaurant in town in Lusaka…you mentioned something about this as well but I just didn’t want to think about it. It was so easy for me to place all the blame on you…on everyone else except myself. I always thought I had a reason for doing things the way I did but not once did I try to explain my reasons to you…or to anyone else.” She lamented.

“You are right,” Sibu continued. “If I had opened up instead of keeping things to myself…if I had given you a chance instead of waiting for you to disappoint me…maybe things would have turned out differently between us. I was so wrapped up in my own world I did not realize that my actions were hurting you in the process.”

“Sibu,” Martin called out her name. Sibu stopped talking and looked at him, her eyes filled with tears.

“What was going on in your life that was so bad you felt I would not understand if you opened up to me?”

Finally, here was a chance to tell him what he had deserved to know all those years ago.

Sibu finally opened up to her ex-husband and told him everything.

Suffice to say, Martin was left befuddled by the information Sibu had poured out to him.

“My gosh Sibu,” Martin said once Sibu was done with the story. “You really have a way of making a man feel like the worst bastard to have ever lived. What sort of man had I been to you to make you believe that I would have not understood if you had opened up to me and told me all of this a long time ago?”

“I am sorry Martin,” Sibu replied, the sincerity in her eyes tore deeper into Martin’s heart. “It was just my fears and insecurities,” she explained. “You have to understand, at that time I didn’t know as much as I know now.”

“And yet you still managed to confide in Ted and had him help you dig out the truth? I too wish I had been given the same chance.”

Every part of Sibu was soaked in guilt. “I know,” she openly admitted. “I know that now. I wish I had a better excuse Martin….”

“Me too Sibu, me too.” Martin echoed her.

“I am very sorry Martin,” Sibu repeated. “I wish I had a better reason to give…but things just happened like that. I don’t know why it was so easy for me to open up to Ted…all I know is that at that time, I couldn’t make sense of why someone like you would be interested in me? Even though it was obvious your feelings were real, I just couldn’t let go of my fears. I kept expecting things to fail I guess that was why I gave up so easily. I was so scared that you might find out what I thought was the truth about me and then leave.

“When you live with a secret like that, you always have to be on your toes…always cautious just in case you get discovered. I didn’t have enough confidence that you would understand. I mean, how could you? I too thought I was guilty of what my aunt told me. I still haven’t recovered my memories from that time and if not for that neighbor whom Ted spoke to that used to be close to my mother and aunt, it would still just be my word against my aunt’s. I am truly sorry Martin…now I know…”

“I wish I could say it’s alright but it isn’t.” Martin replied. “It really is not okay Sibu. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for me right now. It just breaks my heart to know that all that was going on in your life and I had no idea.”

“I am sorry Martin,” Sibu repeated.

“Then again, I guess you could say I never created an environment for you where you could feel free to talk to me about such things.”

“No Martin,” Sibu moved to sit next to him and proceeded to take his hand into her. “This is all my fault. Now I know. I was young and dumb and so insecure back then. I didn’t trust myself enough so how could I trust someone else?”

Martin then fully turned to face her. “What if we could make things right Sibu?” he asked. “Now that we know where we both went wrong, don’t you think we owe it to ourselves to at least work things out?”

“Martin,” Sibu started to protest but Martin could see her message in her eyes before she could even finish.

“Please hear me out,” he pleaded. “I really love you Sibu and I know now that there was a time you loved me enough to worry about losing me. There is no way I am going to let you go now after everything I have heard today. I can only imagine where we would be today if only you had opened up to me and allowed yourself to love me without all those inhibitions.”

“There is no way for us to know how you would have reacted if I told you that I wasn’t the person you thought I was.” Sibu argued.

The disappointment was back in Martin’s eyes. “I see,” he stated painfully. “Even now, you still have so little faith in me.”

“That’s not what I meant Martin and you know it.”

“What do I even know Sibu, what?” he growled. “No matter what I do or say it will never be as good as Ted. Am I lying?”

Sibu sighed heavily.

“Whatever you think about me Sibu, I don’t care and I don’t even want to know.” Martin said sternly, slightly leaning forward to deliver the message close to her face.

“I have spent the past three years trying to make amends for what I did,” Martin was saying. “Now it’s your turn Sibu. You owe it to yourself, to me and to our son. If you think that I am going to leave you and Ted be, then I suggest to give up right now because I am not going anywhere.

“I will do everything in my power to resurrect those feelings you had for me at one point in your life.” And whilst tapping on the table with his car keys he added, “I will try even if it keeps me. I promise you.” He then opened up his wallet, took out a couple of bills and threw them on the table before walking out.

With a heavy heart reflected through her eyes, Sibu watched Martin’s determined back disapear from the restaurant.

When she left him, she had promised Ted that she would cleanly end things between her and Martin, how was she going to explain just how complicated things had gotten? She rested her face into the palm of her hand and sighed heavily.

***

Everything around her had come to a standstill and only Veronica’s high pitched voice echoed though the four walls of the now empty restaurant.

“If your mission was to come here and insult me, you could have at least gotten your wardrobe choice right.” The woman’s bloody lips taking up half of her face and the long fake lashes threatening to drown the rest of it made it even harder for Sibusiswe to look at her.

Was that the kind of beauty they kept talking about these days? Sibu thought.

“All those pearls and fancy clothes make you look pathetic and ridiculous.” Veronica continued her attack.

Sibusiswe could only shake her heard as she took in the insults. There was something about Veronica’s face that made her look as if she had been born naturally drunk and upset. She could literally feel her IQ figures drop in numbers just from listening to the woman run her mouth.

“I find it hard to get offended when classy looking people attack me,” the ghetto born diva continued her attack on Sibusiswe.

“I didn’t ask to meet you so I could attack you,” Sibusiswe said, still maintaining her poise – much to Veronica’s chagrin.

“There you go again,” Veronica was close to snapping now, her long reptile-like nails digging into the beautiful expensive furniture of the high class restaurant. She hated everything about the restaurant her nemesis had picked just to reel her in. “That tone of voice,” her venom-like tongue hissed, “how the hell am I supposed to feel offended when you sound so melodic and corny?”

Sibusiswe couldn’t help laughing. “You seem to be under the impression that I came here for an attack,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever given you any reason to feel like that. If anything, I have been more than civil during all our interactions. You on the other hand have done nothing but antagonize me every step of the way. If anyone was looking at us, they would think I was the other woman.”

Veronica rolled her big round eyes, forcing Sibusiswe to move her drink away lest one of her gigantic eye lashes decided to take a dive in there in protest.

It can’t be easy for the pair to try to make a woman like Veronica look beautiful, Sibu laughed silently.

Those poor lashes… she sympathized.

Perhaps she would have felt a little less offended if her husband had left her for a better woman. She didn’t even have to be good looking. She just had to be easy on the eye and clean. Just how many layers of make-up did the eye have to beat to get to the woman’s actual skin? The make-up was literally wearing her, not the other way round.

“I can hear you thinking awful things about me,” Veronica put her arms across her chest defensively. “It must hurt your pride knowing your husband left you for a woman like me, er?”

Sibusiswe smiled wryly. “As a matter of fact it does, I won’t lie.”

Veronica looked confused, not sure whether to get offended or not. Why did her already tiny IQ shrink every time she was faced with this woman?

“Having said that,” Sibusiswe continued, “I don’t regret the divorce. I only feel bad for….”

Veronica raised her hand to shut her nemesis up. “I am really not a fan of yours Sibu and I would pay any amount of money just to get you to shut up so I can leave. The only reason I agreed to this meeting is because you and I need to come to a conclusion about Jacob. I am not comfortable with this arrangement of my husband constantly having to meet you whenever he is picking up or dropping off Jacob.”

“When are you going to get over your insecurities Veronica?” Sibu asked. “Martin and I have been divorced for over four years now. Apart from Jacob, I have no other business whatsoever with him. Unlike some women, I don’t find married men attractive. They reek of another woman whenever I am talking to them.”

“You might think that but Martin is a very kind man,” Veronica was saying. “He might still have lingering feelings…you are the mother of his child after all.”

“You’ve been with Jacob’s father for eight years now, four of which were during the time he was still married to me…and you are telling me you still don’t know him that well?” Sibu asked.

Veronica shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “What do you mean?” She flapped her lashes at her rival.

“Martin is not a kind man. You can call him anything else…but kind isn’t one of them.” Sibisiswe replied. “Anyway, I didn’t ask to have this meeting with you so we could talk about your husband.” She deliberately stressed the words. “I want us to talk about something you might actually find pleasing.”

“And what is that?”

“From now on wards, I would like it if you were the one responsible for Jacobs welfare…and by that I mean bringing him back to my place after his visits to you. I do not wish to have any more contact with Martin.”

Veronica took a moment to mull over what she had just heard. Again, she wasn’t sure whether to be happy or concerned about such a development. Isn’t that what she had always hoped for? She had been on Martin’s neck the past years trying to get him to let her take charge of that situation but he never relented.

What was really going on here? Something didn’t seem right.

If you even knew half of it, you would be using your fake lashes to hang yourself woman, Sibusiswe thought as she watched Veronica silently battle her demons.

“Is this what they call in the movies psychology reverse?” Veronica asked.

Sibusiswe had to hold her hand to her mouth to keep herself from laughing out loud. “It’s actually….forget it,” she gave up teaching the vixen. It wasn’t her job anyway. “I am being sincere with you Veronica,” Sibu said.

“Martin might still have a soft spot for you but he would never leave me for you. I am not the kind of woman to get her husband stolen by another woman. I always protect what’s mine.”

Sibusiswe scoffed once again. “You know what’s funny,” she said in a very calm yet menacing tone. “That Martin will not be coming back to me by my own doing. With your own tongue, you will beg him to get back with me.”

“Keep on dreaming,” Veronica hissed. “Over my dead body, you get it? Over my dead body.” And then she got up to leave.

“If you say so,” Sibusiswe replied nonchalantly, looking out the window towards the blue Jaguar still parked in the same spot.

Was this war ever going to end? She thought as she got up from her chair.

Or should she put an end to it right there and then?

This would not be the first time she would be getting blood on her hands. Only this time, she would make it worth her while. She picked up her handbag and headed straight to the blue car.

Sibusiswe was so wrapped up in her determination to confront the person that had been following her ever since she returned from South Africa that she did not see Veronica’s car approach from the other side at high speed.

She first head the sound of the engine before turning her head and when she finally did, she saw the naked thirst and determination on Veronica’s face as she dug her heels further onto the accelerator with just a few inches separating Sibu and the car.

Sibusiswe froze in horror, her eyes shut as she awaited her pending doom, unable to move or make any wise judgement as images from her past flashed before her eyes.

As the two worlds from her past and present collided in a  like moment, Sibu felt someone put their arms around her waist and yank her out of the way right before impact…just as it had happened in the past.

“Mum!” Sibu yelled out in a very voice. She could feel someone’s heavy breath next to her but when she tried to open her eyes to see who it was, the shiny rays from the sun blocked her view.

Who was this person holding on to her? She wondered as she struggled to keep her eyes open against the light.

“Mum,” Sibu called out right before she passed out.

* * *

“Mum! Mum! Mum!” Sibu kept crying out in her sleep while Ted kept shaking her to wake her up.

“Nurse!” He called out to the nurse that was passing outside the door. “Sibu love…Sibu, wake up, wake up my love.” He kept repeating.

He sat her up on the bed in her sleep and kept calling out to her. She was fighting him and crying with her eyes still closed but Ted refused to let go of her.

He wrapped his arms around her and then said to the nurse that just stood there looking as clueless as a broken compass, “get the doctor here wont you!” he yelled and sent the poor nurse scampering out of the private ward.

He held her tightly into his arms and kept repeating soothing words to her back whilst stroking her hair gently.

She finally opened her eyes.

“My mother,” she said as Ted slowly removed her from his embrace.

“Did you dream about your mother Sibu?” Ted asked her, getting down on both knees before her and taking her hands into his. “You kept calling out her name….”

“I saw my mother Ted,” Sibu said with a tear laden face. “She rescued me just like she had done many years ago. I saw her Ted.”

Great fear and concern filled Ted’s eye’s. “Sibu,” he tried to tell her.

“I know,” she quickly offered up. “I know that she had died. I remember everything now. It happened just like it did today.”

“Yesterday my love,” Ted corrected her. “You’ve been here since yesterday afternoon. They had to sedate you because it was the only way to keep you under control…to let you calm down a bit. Tell me what happened to you?”

“Our lovely patient is finally up,” the male doctor announced his presence in the room. “Why don’t you wait out at the front Mr Zulu while I examine your fiance? It won’t take too long,” he said to a visibly perturbed Ted.

“I will be right back my love, okay?” He said to Sibu as he slowly stood up. And with his hands still holding on to hers, “I love you,” he said before planting a kiss on her forehead. He then let go of her hands. “I will just be outside there,” he reassured her.

Sibu nodded and Ted reluctantly left the room.
Ted was naturally a very patient person but ever since he met Sibu, he seemed to run out of patience pretty quickly. He kept pacing to and from in the corridor outside Sibu’s room.

He was in the middle of pacing when he suddenly stopped in his tracks. He recalled the conversation he had had with the doctor concerning who had brought Sibu to the hospital the previous day.

“It was a man,” the doctor had told him in his office. “He appeared to be either in his early fifties or it could be late fifties…I really couldn’t tell. I was too busy trying to get to the patient.”

“And what did he tell you happened?” Ted asked.

“That a woman tried to run over your fiance,” the doctor explained. “He even got the number plate….” he opened his drawer and removed a piece of paper from a writing pad. “He left this here,” the doctor handed Ted the place number. “He said it was an attempted hit and run but he got her out of the way in time.”

“And what is this written down here?” Ted asked whilst looking at the paper.

“He said the complete description of the lady driving the car. He even drew a rough sketch, check the paper under.”

Ted’s eyes had widened in disbelief. “I know who this woman is,” he announced.

“You do?” The doctor asked, sitting up straight in his chair.

“That son of a…this is the girlfriend to my fiance’s ex-husband.”

“Woah,” the doctor exclaimed. “Then who was that man that brought her? He looked heavily concerned her about her. He was even the one that booked that room for her. He paid the hospital bill, in cash even before accounts could issue him with one and he said he would come to check on her later.”

“Can you describe the man to me?” Ted asked the good doctor.

“Like I said, I don’t remember much…but come to think of it, he and your girlfriend have   the same eyes.”

It was Ted’s turn to sit up. “What do you mean by that?”

“That deep and commanding gaze, it’s the same, even their eyebrows.”

“Doc, can you do me a favor,” Ted said. “When that doctor comes back, please let me know.” He removed his wallet from his pocket and took out his business card and handed it to the doctor. “Please, do this for me and my fiance. She’s been looking for this man for a very long time now.”

“So you know who he is?” The doctor inquired.

“I suspect I do,” Ted had replied with a far-off expression on his face.

“Ted, where is she?”

Ted was brought back to reality by the familiar sound.

“What the hell are you doing here?” He glared and Martin and went for his color. “How many times did I beg you to leave Sibu alone now look what you’ve caused!” Ted’s grip on Martin was so tight he was almost lifting him off the ground.

“Ted, c’mon man, don’t do this here,” Martin tagged at Ted’s hands which were threatening to chock him. “Everyone’s looking at us.”

“Is that all you care about right now?” Ted snapped and unexpectedly let her of him and sent him into a mini tangle with gravity.

Martin steadied himself and confronted his old friend. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He asked Ted. “How is it my fault that Sibu almost got ran over? Am I the only one in her life whose got enemies? I came here straight from the airport after Vicky told me what happened.”

Ted was dumbfounded. “And what exactly did Vicky tell you happened?”

“She said that Sibu had called her out for a meeting concerning Jacob and after they finished talking, Sibu was on her way to her car when someone tried to run her over but she was saved by someone.”

Ted scoffed. “And you believed her?” He asked whilst shaking his head. “That bitch of yours is the one that tried to kill Sibu!”

“What?” Martin asked, fear registering all over his face. “What do you mean she tried to kill Sibu?”

“She was the one driving,” Ted provided. “There was a witness there. They drew a sketch of her face, wrote down a full description of her and even provided her number plate.”

“That can’t be,” Martin was slowly shaking his head. He desperately wanted to believe that it was a lie but he knew that his baby was crazy. He wouldn’t put something like this passed her. How many times had she threatened to run Sibu over in the past? Had she finally lived up to her threats?

“Didn’t I tell you that your selfishness would only end up hurting Sibu in the process?” Ted asked Martin accusingly. “Now look what you’ve done?”

Ted’s words cut into Martin like a knife. Like a man exhausted from an everlasting fight, Martin went to sit down on one of the chairs lined up along the corridor. Reality had finally hit him like a heavy rock falling from the skies.

“How badly hurt is she?” He asked.

“She was lucky, someone pushed her out of the way in the nick of time. She only passed out because the moment awakened her memories from her past…otherwise she should be fine.”

“She remembered her past?” Martin asked. Not sure how to take the news.

“Yes, thanks to your baby mama’s craziness, the almost accident triggered her memories. That Victoria woman should be put in jail for what she tried to do. Sometimes I just don’t get women; why is she fighting Sibu when it is obvious you are the one that’s chasing after her? Will your heart go to her once she gets Sibu out of the face of the earth? Get your shit straight man and stop forcing Sibu into your drama. She will be my wife in just a couple of months. Show some respect and leave her the hell alone. This is my last warning to you and that crazy woman you are living with.”
From the hospital, Martin went straight home and found Veronica pacing to and from in from of the house. The rest of her body froze while she rubbed her hands against each other in sheer nervousness.

“Did you see her?” Veronica had ran to Martin’s car peered through the window to fire questions at him. “Is she okay? Was she hit? Who was that man that moved her from the road?”

Martin didn’t bother to answer any of her questions. Instead, he flung the door of his vehicle wide open, sending her scampering to the side as he forcefully came out.

“You are hurting me Martin,” Veronica protested as she was being dragged upstairs by the hand.

Martin led her straight up to the spare bedroom where she had been camping with their daughter and he flung her to the floor before opening her closet and throwing her clothes out.

“I need you to get out of here before I kill you,” he roared as he continued to fling her clothes everywhere. “Pack all your staff from this house and I will personally send you back to your parents.”

Veronica started bawling and she went to him and groveled on her knees for his forgiveness.

“I don’t know what got into me Martin,” she begged. “I just lost it for a moment. I didn’t really want to hurt her.”

Martin paused whatever he was doing to glare down at her. “You clearly saw her crossing the road in front you and then you accelerated. What did you hope would happen when your vehicle came into contact with her, give her some magical make-over?” He shouted.

Veronica kept tagging at his leg. “Please forgive me Martin. I am sorry. It won’t ever happen again.”

“Of course it will never happen again,” he said. “Who the hell do you think you are to compete with someone like Sibu? It’s my fault you did that to her. Just because I was a little kind to you you thought I would actually marry you?” he scoffed. “All I need from you is my child, nothing else! I have dragged this thing far enough with your parents and now is the time to set the record straight.”

Martin kicked his leg roughly to shrug her off and off she tumbled to her side while he stormed out of the room.

Left alone on the floor, Veronica bawled her eyes out.
Aunt Tafadzwa felt like her life had been turned into a living hell ever since Sibusiswe returned from South Africa. The silent treatment she was giving her tormented her all through the night and into the early hours of the morning. She had liked it better when she would walk right through her door and speak her mind but she really didn’t know how to handle this new side of her. Just what exactly was she planning to do to her?

As if she didn’t already have enough on her plate, Aunt Tafadzwa received an early morning visitor that day at her shop. It was Mrs Mwewa. She didn’t need to ask to know why the avator-like looking human was standing at her door.

“How dare you?” Mare Mwewa greeted.

Aunt Tafadzwa made a face and uttered something under her breath. “It took you this long ah?” She returned.

“You dame witch,” the Bemba woman cussed. “How dare you lie to me and even collect money from me when you knew very well that the information you were giving me was fake?”

Her temporary-friend-turned-nemesis-again scoffed. “You wanted to take my grandchild away from her mother…my niece, did you really think that I would sell you information that you could use against her?”

Mrs Mwewa looked more than ready to pop, on the face that is. “You really have no shame,” she hissed. “You took money from me!” She hollered.

“I never forced you to give it to me,” Sibu’s aunt contended. “You came all the way here in your fancy car and fancy clothes and threw a few words at me. I wasn’t the one that followed you. I simply saw an opportunity and I embraced it.”

“That’s called stealing!” Mrs Mwewa howled. “We had a deal and you cheated.”

Poteto – potato,” Aunt Tafadzwa said. “You call it stealing, I call it surviving. Now get out of here, I have a business to run.”

“How about we talk some more,” Sibu appeared from nowhere and joined the two women gawking at her in shock. She looked with repulsion from one woman to the other.

“Sibu, what are you doing here?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked, soaking wet in the aftermath of being caught red-handed.

“I am not sure yet,” Sibu said, still looking from one woman to the other. “But I would certainly like to know what sort of information the two of you were trading.”

They both just stared at her.

“I have to go,” Mrs Mwewa soon announced her departure and left before aunt and niece could say anything.

“Oh just quit it already!” Sibu snapped at her aunt who was looking like she was standing in a lion’s den. “I am not here to fight with you. Nothing you do these days surprised me so you can quit putting up that poor woman defenseless front.”

Aunt Tafadzwa immediately recovered from her act. “What do you want?” She asked, turning her back to her as she went back into the shop.

Sibu followed her inside.

“Tell me where I can find my father, ah,” she raised her hand to shush her aunt who was about to open her mouth. “I am done listening to your lies. If you do not tell me where to find my father right now, I can promise you that I will make you and your children pay for everything you put me through all those years. You know me well enough to know I am not bluffing, so speak.”

Aunt Tafadzwa was wise enough to know this was a battle she was never going to win. “He lives in Woodlands,” she said. “He moved here with his family a few months ago.”

“Moved here?” Sibu asked. “From where?”

“He used to live in Botswana but he moved here to be closer to you.”

“So I was right, he knows about me now.” Sibu said, mostly to herself. “When did he find out?” She asked her aunt.

“Last year. He went digging around for information and when he found out, he almost killed me.”

“Am I supposed to feel bad for you?” Sibu asked sarcastically. “Why didn’t he just come to me when he found out the truth instead of following me around like that? What exactly did you tell him?”

Aunt Tafadzwa shrugged her shoulders. “I only told him that you might not accept him easily into your life since you’ve hated him for such a long time.”

“I only hated him because of what you told me about him!” Sibu yelled. “But how can I hate him now when he’s just as much a victim of your schemes as I? You will never change Aunty. Text me the address right now and don’t make me come back here to ask for it again.”

Sibu glared at her aunt in incredulity before storming out of the shop.
Sibu received the address to her phone moments after leaving her aunts shop. She couldn’t help looking through her rear-view mirror for any cars that might be following her even though no one had done so since that day at the restaurant.

When Sibu reached the address of her father’s home, she couldn’t get herself to hoot so they could open the gate for her. Instead, she parked to the side of the road and called Ted.

“I can’t do this alone ted.” She told him. “Can you come?”

“Where are you babe?” Ted asked. “Text me the address and I will be right there.”

And as promised, Ted parked right behind Sibu a few minutes later. She got out of her car and went to meet him.

“What am I going to say to him Ted?” Sibu nervously rubbed her hands together.

Ted put his arm around her. “Don’t think too much about it my love,” he told her. “It’s obvious he also wants to meet you, desperately…so just act natural, be you and let everything pick up from there. Now should we go and press the button?” He pointed to green gate in front of them.

Sibu nodded and so the two walked forward. Ted rang the bell and then they waited.

The gate opened slightly by remote control and a woman standing on the veranda came into view.

“Honey!” She shouted the moment she saw who was at the gate. Her husband quickly came running from the house and joined her.

Lance Hangala stared shell-shocked at the daughter he had been dying to meet for the past year.

“I think we can go in now,” Ted said to Sibu and led her by her hand to her father.

This was the first time Ted was seeing Sibu looking so nervous and at a complete loss for words.

“Good afternoon Ma’am, Sir,” Ted greeted the couple. “My name is Ted, and this is er….”

“I know who she is,” the man nervously said.

And then there was an awkward silence as they all just stared at each other.

“How about we all get inside so we can sit down and chat properly?” Mrs Hangala excitedly announced to the group.

They all followed her inside.

Sibu was more than impressed by the interior of the house. She had seen the outside and had an idea of her father’s financial standing, but the inside spoke volumes about the kind of man he had become.

I bet Aunt Tafadzwa would collapse if she walked into this house right now, Sibu thought as she looked around the huge expensively furnished living room.

Ted kept his hold on her hand as they sat down and only released it when they were saved beverages.

“I can’t believe that you are really here,” her father finally said. “I don’t even know what to say to you.”

His wife joined him by his side once she was done serving. “How about I take you on a tour of the house Mr Ted while these two talk?” Mrs Hangala offered.

Ted turned to Sibu.

“It’s fine love,” Sibu said, “you can go. I will be just fine.”

Ted squeezed her hand tightly before standing up. He followed the friendly woman and the two disappeared from the room.

“So,” Sibu said once she was alone with her father.

“I am very glad you came here Sibu,” her father said.

“Me too.”

“How did you….”

“My aunt,” Sibu supplied. “I didn’t leave her much choice. Why didn’t you just come up to me instead of following me around like that?”

Lance laughed nervously. “I tried, God I tried to so many times but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was so afraid you might reject me and I….”

“I thought you were some crazy stalker,” Sibu laughed. “You pretty much freaked me out but eventually I figured it might be you. That almost accident at the restaurant made things even more obvious.”

“I figured,” he said. “Did you report the lady to the police?”

“No…I couldn’t, it’s just complicated.”

“I see,” he looked disappointed. “I guess there is a lot going on in your life that I don’t know about. I can’t believe it took this long to find out the truth. Sometimes I feel like going over to Tafadzwa and squeezing her neck. I just can’t believe that people can be that wicked.”

“Well, Aunt Tafadzwa is one of a kind.” Sibu said. They both laughed.

That day, Ted and Sibu ended up pending the rest of the at her father’s place and the two of them got to learn about Sibu’s new family. Sibusiswe discovered that she had two step-siblings who were fraternal twins, a boy and a girl aged fifteen. They had remained in boarding school in Botswana and would only be joining their parents in Zambia after graduating high school.

Her father was a retired farmer who had over the years invested most of his money in real estate both in Botswana and Zambia.

“Why are you grinning?” Ted asked Sibu as he drove her home late that night. They had decided to leave her car at her father’s place and he offered to bring it to her place the next day.

“I just can’t believe that I have a father,” Sibu said. “And that he is such a wonderful man. His wife too, she is very kind…you can’t help liking her.”

Ted smiled with her. “You know you really look alike with him….” he said.

“You think?” Sibu asked.

“I know so…except…you are so different from each other, personality-wise. He is so soft-spoken and you are…” you know….” He laughed as he waved his hands in the air.

Sibu threw him a nasty look. “So sleeping over for you tonight,” she threatened him.

“What?” Ted protested. “No way!”

Sibu laughed.

* * *

A week later, Mrs Hangala paid Aunt Tafadzwa a visit at her shop.

“Who are you?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked the petite woman standing in front of her.

“I am Mrs Hangala,” she candidly announced. “Sibu’s mother.”

“Don’t you mean step mother?”

“It doesn’t matter to me,” the woman retorted.

“What do you want here?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked.

“Aren’t you going to offer me a sit?” She asked.

“You are not welcome here, why would I give you a seat.”

“Er,” Mrs Hangala shrugged her shoulders dismissively. “I guess am going to have to deliver my message whilst standing.”

“What message?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked.

“Since my husband and my step-daughter won’t do anything about you, it is up to me to do something in their stead. You have two days to vacate this shop and go as far away from my husband’s daughter as possible.” The petite woman commanded in a very menacing tone.

There was nothing about her demeanor that spoke of the innocence she had displayed in front of Ted and her step daughter.

Right there in front of Aunt Tafadzwa, Mrs Hangala’s little menacing frame was one to be reckoned with.

“Now why would I do something so stupid?” Aunt Tafadzwa said. “Sibu bought this shop for me and I am not going anywhere. You think you can just appear in her life and run it for her however you please? Sibu and I had an agreement, I earned this shop.”

“She might have bought it for you but it is still in her name.” Mrs Hangala smugly corrected the woman.

“What do you mean by that? She told me that it was in my name?”

She laughed. “I guess she’s always been clever that one hasn’t she? The shop was never in your name. I offered to buy the shop from her and she agreed since she no longer wants to have anything to do with you. Right now as we speak, I am the new owner of this cute little place. My husband and I bought this whole section of shops. We intend to build a huge shopping mart for the locals so I suggest that you pack and go.”

“I knew that that girl wouldn’t just let things go. She just had to get back at me and she thinks kicking me out of here will make me fall? Well, she has another thing coming.” Aunt Tafadzwa fumed.

“She actually never wanted to sell this place,” Mrs Hangala explained. “I was the one who approached her and begged her to sell it to me, told her that I would help you get settled somewhere else but she said she didn’t care. I could tell she was lying. She still cares about you despite everything. But I don’t. And I need you gone by Tuesday next week.”

“Who do you think you are to kick me out of here?” Aunt Tafadzwa towered over the petite looking woman who never flinched under her stern gaze.

“I used to be a crazy woman before my husband married me and I can promise you that the crazy still lives inside me so don’t tempt me,” the woman roared. “My husband and his daughter might have forgiven you but I won’t let you off so easily after all the hardships you made him go through.

“A man his age cried himself to sleep for months when he discovered what you had done. No one can do that to my family and get away with it. What gives you the right to mess with other people’s lives like that? If you don’t want to find your stuff gone and no shop standing here, I suggest you leave before that happens.”

Aunt Tafadzwa couldn’t believe what was happening. She wanted to scream and wail but her pride could no let her do that in front of the strange woman.

“You can leave now. I will be out of here this very day.” She said arrogantly and headed back inside.

Mrs Hangala smiled triumphantly before turning to go.

Inside her shop, Aunt Tafadzwa called her daughter Tammy.

“You tell those stupid boys you are always hanging around with, tell them to come here and help me move my stuff home.” She said.

“Move what stuff mum?” Tammy asked from the other end of the line.

“That cousin of yours sold this shop to someone else imagine. They have asked me to move out as soon as possible,”

“Why so soon? You should have asked for more time.”

“I can’t stand being in this place any longer so just get me those boys here immediately.”

“You know that they won’t do it for free,” Tammy said. “I know tight you are when it comes to money so unless you promise to pay them, they won’t come.”

“Just tell them to come you stubborn brat!” She yelled at her daughter before rudely ending the call.

A few hours later, Aunt Tafadzwa had secured transport and she had Tammy’s friends help her move her things from the shop to the vehicle.

“I don’t know this driver very well so I can’t trust him alone to take my stuff home.” Aunt Tafadzwa said to the boy she suspected was the one sleeping with her daughter. “I have to clear out a few things with some people before I leave so I need you to drive with them home. I will come give you and your boys money when I get back home.”

“Tammy said you would give us after we finished the job ma’am,” the boy protested.

“And you haven’t finished the job,” she said. “You are only done half way. You have to unload them and put them into the house. Tammy will be waiting for you at home.”

And with that, she left the bunch of visibly upset boys behind.
Later that night when Aunt Tafadzwa got home, she cried blood when not a single thing of her stock from the shop had been delivered home.

“What did I tell you about those types boys?” She sobbed as she hit her daughter over and over again while her son watched in wonder in a corner.

“You have finished me Tammy…you have finished me you foolish child.” She threw herself on the ground and spread out her legs as she wailed dramatically.

Tammy ran away from her mother and tried to call her boyfriend’s number again but she still couldn’t get through.

“What have you done you son of a bitch,” she said whilst hitting her fingers over her touch screen. She raised her head up to look at her mother who was sprawled over the ground and covered in head.

She just sat there looking straight ahead with a blank look on her face. She looked like a woman whose brain waves had been exhausted.

She was deathly quite for someone that had spent the past thirty minutes wailing and crying her lungs out.

There was fear in Tammy’s eyes as she watched her mother embrace her sudden defeat.

Was this the end for them? Tammy wondered.

* * *

Ted waited in the car while Sibusiswe and Martin talked inside the restaurant where Sibu had almost lost her life. For the three of them, the restaurant had come to mean much more than just an eating place. It was the place where memories had been resurrected and where memories could be buried.

“Congratulations by the way,” Martin said. “I know I should have said this a long time ago but….”

“I know,” Sibu forced a smile. She silently wondered if there would ever come a time when she would look at Martin and not feel so sorry.

“But I really mean it,” Martin fought back the tears. “Ted is a great guy. I hate him, but he’s what you need.” He too forced a smile.

“Martin….” Sibu said.

“Don’t say it,” Martin told her. “Don’t say thanks and don’t say sorry because that will really make me feel shitty. I took a lot for me to finally decide to take a clean break and move on…it doesn’t mean I like it…but I know it’s something I have to do. I wish…I wish….” he desperately forced back the tears. He wasn’t going to cry on this day. That’s not how he wished her to remember him.

Sibu cried.

She wanted to reach out and comfort Martin but she knew she couldn’t. Despite everything they had been through, she would not have been where she was had it not been for Martin.

He was the first person to break down my walls and show me what real love is.  Sibu thought as she watched Martin walk away from her, memories from their past together flashed before her eyes.

Ted walked in at that moment and she ran into his arms.

“I want to see my mother,” she said to him.

Ted drove her to Memorial Park. He listened in silence as Sibu cried the whole way.

He dared not ask what was going through her mind.

He had the rest of his life to find out. This time he was just going to stand by her side and give her a shoulder to cry on if she needed it.

Once at the cemetery, Ted watched from a distance while Sibu chatted with her mother. She was still crying.

“Do you also think that I am a bad person mother?” Sibu addressed her mother.

“I really wanted to love Martin you know,” she sobbed. “I thought I tried my best but…I only ended up hurting him. Why I am always hurting the ones I love? Have you seen that good looking man standing over there,” she looked in Ted’s direction.

He had his eyes fixed on her with a smile on his face.

“I am going to be his wife in a few days,” Sibu said. “Do you think I deserve the kind of love he’s shown me? I am scared…. I have never been this happy in my life before so I am scared that one day I will wake up and it will all be gone.

“I just want to keep on dreaming. I just want to shut out the echoes from my heart and just love…love like there’s not tomorrow. I really want to do that mother.” She wiped at her tears and then smiled at Ted again.

He smiled back and waved at her from where he was standing.

“By the way, I met the love of your life mother…my father. He is quite a catch even for his age. He has never forgotten about you. I smile every time I think about him because I know that there is someone out there that loves me unconditionally…someone I can call my father.”

She had finally stopped crying now and Ted got the cue and came to join her.

“This is Ted mum,” Sibu introduced him to her mother. “Say hi to my mother Ted.”

Ted was all smiles as he lowered his head towards her mother’s tombstone. “I am honored to meet you Ms N’cube.” He said. “And thank you so much for giving birth to such an awesome daughter. I hope you don’t mind that I will be making her my wife…because I really really love her. I am crazy about her.”

Sibu was blushing all through Ted’s mini speech.

They both paid their final respects and headed back to the vehicle.

“Do you think she would have liked me?” Ted asked as he drove them home.

Sibu laughed. “I think so. You look a lot like my father so….”

Ted grinned from ear to ear. “That’s a compliment, right?”

They both laughed.

Sibu watched Ted as he drove. He looked happy.

she too felt happy.

I can’t hear them anymore, Sibu thought, with her gaze still on her soon-to-be husband.

The echoes, I think they’re gone.

She smiled and reached out her hand to him.

 

THE END.

 

 

Echoes of the Heart – Part 11

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

Two weeks had past since Ted and Sibu’s passionate kiss. Ted had expected her to avoid him at all cost after that but Sibu surprised him by doing the opposite; she had become friendlier than usual and talked a lot…she talked about everything except what happened that day.

Fearing that he might scare her away if he pressured her any further, Ted laid back and patiently waited for her. She still had a lot more months remaining of her stay in the country. Eventually, she was going to have to talk to him about it. He hoped that when that time came, it would be by her initiative and that it would be something worth waiting for.

Fortunately for Ted, he didn’t have to wait that long.

Ted had stayed up in his study working on one of the biggest cases he had been assigned that year when he heard little Jake calling out his name. He sounded desperate and Ted suspected he was crying too. That night he had been in a very bad mood so his mother had suggested that they sleep together instead of Ted’s room where they usually slept together.

Ted quickly ran up the stairs and found Jacob standing outside his bedroom.

“What’s wrong little man?” Ted got down on one knee and quizzed the crying boy.

“It’s mum,” he said in between sobs. “She is crying in her sleep and she wont wake up…no matter how much I shake her.”

Ted was up on his feet and running to Sibu’s room.

He found her sweating and turning and tossing in pain in her sleep.

“No…no…no…no,” she kept saying, her whole body convulsing in what appeared to Ted to be either pain or fear.

“Sibu, Sibu,” Ted kept calling out her name whilst shaking her.

She finally jolted up and was wide awake, but still writhing in pain against Ted’s embrace. He tightened his hold around her and kept repeating soothing words to her to calm her down.

“Are you okay mum?” Jacob’s little voice asked. It was only then when her son spoke that Sibu realized he was in the room and immediately, she calmed down. She then moved to hold her son in her arms instead.

“I am okay my love,” she assured him, stroking his hair as she tried to soothe him. “I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just having a bad dream. Don’t be scared, okay? Mummy is very sorry.”

“I am sorry I couldn’t protect you from the monster mummy.” Little Jacob told his mother as he returned her hug.

“You did my son, of course you did,” Sibu said. “I got completely better the moment I laid eyes on you.”

“I did?” he asked with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

“Yes you did.” Sibu released him from the embrace and held him away from her before planting a kiss on his forehead. “I love you so much my baby,” she said and then hugged him again.

“I love you too mum,” Jacob replied.

And holding him slightly away from her she said, “Why don’t you go to Uncle Ted’s room for a little bit while I talk to him about something?”

Jacob turned to look at Ted. “You won’t take long, right?” the five year old asked his potential step-father.

“No I won’t buddy,” Ted stroked his hair playfully.

Both Sibu and Ted watched as Jacob disappeared from the room. Ted got up and went to sit next to her.

“What’s going on with you Sibu?” he asked her. “Jake told me you’ve been having these nightmares quite a lot these past two weeks. What scared you this much and keeps you awake?” Rather than look around the room for something to use, Ted took off his vest instead and used it to wipe away the sweat covering her whole face.

“You asked me last time why I can’t remarry,” Sibu said, her voice a little slowed and pained from the horrors she had just been fighting. “This,” she was pointing to her wet hair. “This is the reason I don’t have the luxury to date anyone.”

Ted looked confused. “What do you mean by that?”

“The nightmares always start whenever I do something that makes me really happy. I saw a shrink once and she told me it’s a psychological issue…that I let my fears take over because of the guilt I’ve been holding on to.”

“What guilt Sibu?” Ted asked.

Sibu had lived with Martin for years but she had never gotten the strength to open up to him. Before, it had been because of his weak health, she had given the excuse that her problems might only add more pressure to him. And then later it was because she feared he would not be able to understand. He was not the type of person to deal with such great emotional issues. He had told her numerous times that he was not a touchy-feely kind of guy so how was he ever going to understand such complex feelings that she too could not understand even though they were happening to her?

But with Ted, she did not need to think twice. She was not sure whether it was the look in his eyes or the warmth of his embrace every time he held her in his arms…but with him she felt safe…she wanted to open up to him. For the first time in her life, Sibu felt like relying on someone, and so she confided in Ted.

“I was about fourteen years old when I lost my mother.” She started. “My aunt says I killed her…. According to her, I used to be very stubborn and wild. She says I gave my mother a lot of pain. I don’t know if it’s true or not since I can’t remember much from around that period of time. I lost my memory immediately after the accident.”

“Accident?” Ted asked.

Sibu nodded, “Yes, I was told that my mother was killed in an accident while she was chasing me with some boy I was fooling around with. My aunt says I was so infatuated with that boy who was older than me that on the day my mother died, we were planning on running away together but she caught us…and…and…” she shut her eyes and sighed heavily, tears welling up in her eyes. Ted moved even closer to her and held her hand while she narrated.

“We were at the bus stop that day with my boyfriend, desperately trying to get away from my mother who was chasing us. I was the the first one to step foot on the bus but before my boyfriend could get on, my mother had caught him and was pulling him and hitting him, trying to keep him from following me.

“In anger, I stormed out of the bus and pushed my mother away from him but there was a car coming from the other direction and it went over my mother, killing her instantly.”

It wasn’t the kind of story Ted had been expecting to hear. When she had first mentioned killing her mother, he had thought it was metaphorical…and not so literal.

He was petrified.

Sibu was watching him the whole time. “You are afraid of me now, aren’t you? Suddenly, I am this strange women you wish you had never met isn’t it?” She was saying the words with a smile on her face but the tears in her eyes told a whole different story.

Wasn’t that the same look she had never wanted to see in Martin’s eyes if he ever discovered the truth? Had he known the truth, she would have never had a chance with him. He had liked her because he thought she was different…innocent, he had told her. There was completely nothing innocent about her life.

Immediately, she regretted having opened up to Ted. Now she was going to lose the one person she thought she could count on without being judged.

With a grim expression on his face, Ted asked, “Did the police ever get involved?”

“They did,” Sibu replied. “My aunt said that she convinced them that it was my boyfriend that had pushed my mother. Many times I tried to get her to tell me which jail he is serving in but she says she has no idea where they took him. She warned me never to go searching because it might draw attention to me and that would be a problem for her because she had lied to protect me. But why do you ask?”

“Because I don’t buy any of it,” Ted spoke with such conviction it caught Sibu by surprise. That was not the reaction she had been expecting.

“You don’t believe it happened like that or you just don’t want to believe that the woman you like killed her own mother so she could run away with her older boyfriend?”

Ted was now up on his feet, Sibu could hear his mind thinking and making mental calculations. He was pacing back and forth, his face slightly tilted with his middle finger tapping the center of his forehead like he always did whenever he was working on a very hard case.

And suddenly, he moved closer to the bed and knelt down before her, taking her hands into his. “Sibu, don’t you know yourself?” he asked her.

“Huh?” Was all Sibu could say in return, wondering where this was going.

“When I first met you, I remember thinking how different you were from girls your age. I was greatly impressed by how well grounded and mature you seemed. I was not the only one in that room that day who had been impressed.”

“What has that got to do with what I just told you Ted?” Sibu asked, visibly confused by what was going on.

Ted was shaking his head slowly, a dampened and irritating look playing on his face. How could Sibu not have seen through something so obvious? He wanted to lash out at her for being so gullible but managed to keep his cool about him. Taking a deep breath, he swallowed hard and heaved heavily;

“I do not think you did any of the things your aunt said you did,” he said.

She flashed him a puzzled look. He had not expected less.

“I am saying that your aunt must have taken advantage of your loss of memory and lied to you about what happened that day,” he explained.

“Why would my aunt make up such a big lie? What would she gain from making me believe that… I had killed my own mother?” Even before she had finished the sentence, she grasped exactly what Ted was trying to say to her.

“No, it can’t be….” she was trying to convince herself more than she needed to convince him. “She can’t be that cruel,” she was slowly shaking her head in horror.

“One time when I was fifteen, she even dragged me to the place where the accident had taken place and dared me to ask anyone working around there about what had transpired. I was so petrified I couldn’t dare ask anyone. I was so afraid of what I might hear. Why would she risk taking me there if she knew those people might tell me the truth if they saw something?”

“Because she knew from the very beginning that you would not ask,” Ted said. “You were young and naive and she played you to your fears. Everything you know about that day is according to what she told you. Do you think that if we go to the police right now they would have records of that accident?”

Sibu was looking at him wearily, every muscle in her body gripped in terror. “Are you saying that there was no accident?” she asked. “I don’t think that’s something she would have made up. I know she is an evil person, but I don’t think she would go to such extremes to lie to me about how my mother died. This is her sister we are talking about after all. I really want to believe everything you are telling me…but this is just too good to be true…it’s just too easy.

“I have lived with this guilt for so many years,” Sibu lamented. “…and not once did I bother to question my aunt because it didn’t seem possible that she could fabricate details of her own sister’s death. You should see her, she really hates me and holds me responsible for what happened. There is no way someone can dislike another person that much based off something they made up…there’s just no way.”

“You never questioned anything because you never spoke to anyone about it,” Ted provided.

“I never did,” Sibu said in a whispered voice, a faraway expression on her face and with tears falling from her eyes.

Why had she never questioned anything? Her thoughts went back to all those times she had had conversations with Aunt Tafadzwa over her mother’s death. Now that she thought about it, her aunt had every reason to lie to her…she just didn’t know why she would feel justified in tormenting her own niece in the most cruel way possible.

Seeing her like that broke Ted’s heart. He brought her into his arms and held her there tightly. He wanted to take the pain away from her and shoulder it in her stead.

As if a sudden thought had occurred to her, Sibu tilted her body away from Ted’s and looked at him with a tear stained face. “If that’s not how my mother died, how then did she die?” she asked.

“That’s what we need to find out. If my suspicions are correct, it means your aunt had something to do with the actual death of your mother and she forced you to take responsibility because she needed to shift the blame from herself. Did you ever find out what sort of people you used to hang out with before the accident?”

“There was no one for me to ask,” Sibu answered. “My aunt moved us to a whole new neighborhood immediately after my mother’s death. I have no recollection whatsoever of who used to be my friend.”

Ted was wrapped up in deep thought as he mulled over what Sibu had just told him. He got up from the bed and went to stand by the window. He pulled the curtain half way and opened the window so he could feel some fresh air over his face.

Sibu remained seated on the bed looking at his back.

“What are you thinking about?” She asked him.

Ted slowly turned to face her. “I want to know the truth Sibu,” he said. “I wont believe for a second that you are capable of doing what your aunt claims you did.”

“What if I had really been that sort of person Ted,” her voice was heavy with worry and fear. “One of the reasons I stopped myself from asking any more questions is because I was scared of finding out the truth…then it would be like experiencing everything all over again. What if I only changed out of guilt for what I had done? Maybe…maybe I subconsciously know what I did and I changed my personality because of regret. I was a teenager…anything is possible.”

Ted was busy shaking his head the whole time she was talking. “No way, that’s not possible.” He insisted. “You mentioned seeing a psychiatrist earlier,”

Sibu nodded. “I saw one behind Martin’s back.”

“Did she ever try to help you regain your memory?”

“She wanted to…but I was too scared to try. I wanted the nightmares to go away so I thought she could help me without me having to remember what happened…but it didn’t work.”

Ted then moved back to the bed and sat on the edge, one leg crossed over the other. “Your nightmares,” he said. “What do you see in your dreams?”

“There’s one main one that comes every now and then,” she explained. “But then every once in a while I have one that’s so confusing. My age changes in these nightmares, sometimes I am young, about five, sometimes ten, and sometimes I am fourteen years old. One minute I am standing alone on this dirty street in the middle of nowhere…it’s like a neighborhood somewhere but it’s so dark I can’t see clearly,”

she had her eyes shut as she tried to recall the elements of her dreams.

“There are these funny sounds around, they are scary but every time I turn to look I find nothing. I always feel like something huge and heavy is coming to grab on to me and right before it does, a woman appears out of nowhere and holds me by the hand. The scary thing instantly disappears and I am not scared anymore.

“I cannot make out the woman’s face. I am looking up and trying to see her face but there is so much light from somewhere out of nowhere that I can’t make out her face. But just as I am starting to feel comfortable and safe, the woman suddenly disappears and I find myself standing in a whole different street.

“Unlike the street before, this one is clean but instead of a neighborhood, this one is on a highway. Cars are moving in all directions. Next thing I know one moment, they all suddenly disappear and the day changes into night and I am still standing all alone in that same spot rooted to the ground. I cannot move, literally. There’s a car heading towards me with a full beam on and the driver accelerates the closer he gets…or she gets to me. I can feel the ground below me suddenly start to crack but I cannot move because I am scared….”

Sibu is writhing in fear as she talks and there’s sweat on her forehead now. Ted reaches out to her and places his hands on her shoulders.

“I am here with you Sibu,” he says to her softly, pressing his hands deeper into her skin so she can feel his presence. “You are safe,” he assures her. “I am right here.”

Sibu managed to calm down and she continues, “The ground is about to open wide open and I am trying to reach out for something but there is nothing there. I am crying and praying for someone to help me but no one comes. Just as the car is about to run me over, I wake up.” And she opened her eyes in stark relief, her breathing high and heavy.

Ted moved his hands so he can hold hers and then he says to her, “And you always wake up just before the car hits you?”

“Yes…when there is no one there to wake me up, I struggle in that same spot for a long time and the car somehow never hits me until I succeed in waking myself up right before it comes.”

“What did your shrink say could be the meaning of the dream?”

“Fear…she said there is something I must be scared of in my life…or that it might have something to do with what I cannot remember. I never told her about the accident so I figured she must be right. It has something to do with the accident. She couldn’t give me a proper diagnosis because I wouldn’t open up to her about everything.”

“What do you think about trying again?” Ted suggested.

“Therapy?” Sibu asked. “You want me to remember what happened that day?” There was fear in her eyes. “I don’t know Ted….”

“I understand why you might be scared Sibu,” Ted was saying. “But I am here with you now. You are not alone. And I told you before, I don’t care what you think you did in your past. I promise I wont let you get hurt while we try to find out what really happened. I need you to trust me. Can you do that for me…for us Sibu?” he pleaded.

Sibu reluctantly nodded.

“Thank you,” Ted said, grabbing her into a hug. “I am going to be with you throughout this ordeal. Just trust me and let me take care of everything.”

“What are you planning to do” Sibu was suddenly feeling hopeful.

“I am going to get a few days off work and travel to Lusaka.”

“Shouldn’t we go together?”

“I don’t think it’s necessary right now. I just want to confirm with the police first if there’s any record of that accident and then I will go to that bus station and your old neighborhood as well. I am sure there will be one person there who at least remembers something.”

“How are you going to manage to do all that alone?” She asked.

Ted was smiling at her bemusedly. “Are you that worried about me?” he asked. “Now you are not afraid to show your feelings ey. I have a couple of people I trust that can take care of certain things. Don’t worry about it.”

In response, Sibu wrapped her arms around him from behind.

That gesture on her part almost brought tears to Ted’s eyes. He patted her hand lightly before resting his head on her arms from the front.

They stayed like that for a while.

* * *

Ted stood back in his perfectly fitting grey Armani suit outside Aunt tafadzwa’s shop while the woman baptized him in a full body scan, her eyes excitedly dancing about in their sockets.

“How may I help you young man?” She put on her angelic smile reserved only for such moments. She was making mental calculations of her daughter’s wedding theme. The potential groom looked more than ready to wait for her daughter on the other end of the aisle.

“I would like to have a word with you in private ma’am,” Ted said to the under dressed woman. She might have lost weight everywhere else but her stomach still seemed to be having issues against her. Ted had to consciously do everything possible to keep his gaze from looking down at the layers of stretch marks popping out from under her tight blouse.

With her hopes still high, Aunt Tafadzwa smiled and said, “let us go in and talk,” she gestured towards the inside of her shop.

Ted followed her behind.

“Are you here about my daughter Tammy?” She finally blurted out once they were inside, unable to keep the excitement to herself any longer. She had always wanted her daughter to find a good and intelligent looking man like this one instead of those vagabonds she kept hanging out with.

“Your daughter?” Ted asked, “I am afraid I do not know your daughter ma’am.”

Aunt Tafadzwa’s face expanded. “If you are not here about my daughter, then why are you here?” She quizzed him.

“I am here to talk to you about your niece, Sibusiswe,” he informed her nonchalantly.

Aunt tafadzwa stood up in a huff. “Sibu is not here,” she hissed. “She traveled to South Africa. You should leave now, I am a very busy woman.” She went to stand by the door to see him off.

Unfortunately for her, Ted remained seated, a smirk on his face. “I already know where Sibu is,” he told the angry woman. “As a matter of fact, I left her at my house in Cape Town.”

“Then why are you here?” She roared.

“I thought it would be polite for me to talk to the only guardian of the woman I intend to marry…I thought we could get to know each other slowly.”

Aunt Tafadzwa folded her arms and glared at Ted in disbelief. “You want to marry Sibu? Are you kidding me? Why would a fine young man like you want to get married to a divorcee with a child?”

“Is there a law somewhere against that?” Ted asked. “I thought she was your niece, shouldn’t you be a little more supportive?”

“I see what’s going on here?” Aunt Tafadzwa was saying. “So she told you a few lies about me that’s why you came her with such an attitude isn’t it? If you have nothing better to talk to me about, I suggest you leave right now.”

“Something better?” Ted pretended to be mulling over her words. “How about we talk about the supposed accident that killed Sibu’s mother? Does that sound like a better topic?”

Aunt Tafadzwa was a ball of fear. She was stiff from fear. “Why would you want to talk about something like that?” Her voice was shaking terribly.

Ted got up and buried his hands in his pocket, a bemused smile on his face. “I just told you, I am her fiance. I intend to know every little thing about my future wife, especially the things that keep her awake at night.”

“If you don’t leave….”

“Why are you suddenly getting all worked up?” Ted said as he watched the woman break into a sweat. “Sibu told me everything about what you told her…about how her mother died.”

Aunt Tafadzwa froze.

“She told you? Sibu told you?” She didn’t believe him. “There is no way Sibu could have talked to you about something like that.”

“Oh my, but she did,” Ted said with a grin on his face. “She told me about the boyfriend she was with while she supposedly pushed her mother to her death. She told me about how you dragged her to the place of the accident and how you kept her from talking to anyone about it.”

Aunt Tafadzwa could feel the walls around her crumbling. She was shaking from her very roots.

“I think you should sit down,” Ted advised, using his leg to point towards the chair she had been sitting on.

“I need you to leave,” she said for the umpteenth time. “I am not feeling so well.” She was holding her hand to her forehead. “I always get like this whenever talk of my sister is brought up. Why cant you let the poor soul rest in peace?”

Ted wanted to laugh out loud at her audacity and her little performance but instead he said, “I am not leaving this place until I tell you what I came here for. For years Sibu has killed herself over the guilt of what you made her believe was the truth.”

“I did not make her believe anything, I told her the truth!” she yelled. “She is just an ungrateful selfish wench out to make me seem like a bad person just because I made her pay for what she did to my sister.”

“And what exactly did she do?” Ted asked. “Give up this act because I already know the truth. I came all the way here to find out the truth and I did. There is nothing you can say that will ever convince anyone that Sibu had anything to do with her mother’s death.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” was what Aut Tafadzwa said with her mouth but her body was shaking so badly she had to seat down.

Ted was looking down at her with a frown on his face. “You should be ashamed of yourself for using your fourteen year old niece like that,” he rebuked her. “Don’t you have no soul? How can you be so wicked towards your own sister’s daughter? You killed your sister due to your own selfishness and pinned the death on her only daughter. Are you even human?”

“I never meant to kill her!” Aunt Tafadzwa yelled. “It was that brat…I wanted to get rid of that brat but Miriam was so foolish she jumped in and sacrificed herself.” She cried. “My sister was beautiful and smart. A lot of men wanted to marry her but she kept turning them down because of that stupid girl. I just wanted her to get married to a rich man so that the family can get out of poverty.

“I was a single mother with two children that were starving and yet my own sister could not sacrifice herself to marry a man willing to take care of all of us because she needed to set a good example for her precious daughter. The man was not even that old, a twenty-seven years age different isn’t such a big deal when a man has so much money as Mr Ngulube did. I had to do something about it! It was the only way for us all to survive.”

Ted couldn’t believe what he was hearing. After all these years, there was no sign of remorse from Sibu’s aunt.

He was baffled. “And you thought pushing her daughter in front of a car was the right thing to do to force her to marry some rich old man just so you and your children can live in comfort? Don’t you see anything wrong with that kind of reasoning?”

Aunt Tafadzwa was growling under her breath. “I knew what I was doing was wrong but what could a mother do? I had to look out for my own children’s interests. That bastard child of hers wasn’t even supposed to be born. I tried so many times to get Miriam to abort but she just wouldn’t listen. At least my children were born in marriage even though their father turned out to be a useless man. That father of Sibu was a nobody back then. He is busy prancing around like a rich man these days after ruining my sister’s life. He will die not knowing he had a daughter. That’s what he deserves for ruining my sisters life.”

“Sibu’s father is alive?” Ted asked in disbelief.

Aunt Tafadzwa froze when she realized her blunder. She had been so wrapped up in her hate that she let that information slip.

“No…you heard wrong, that’s not what I said.” She stammered. “Since we don’t know where he is, I was just talking hypothetically.”

“Sibu thinks that her father is dead!” Ted shouted.

“That’s what she tells people because she doesn’t want to admit that he didn’t want her. She knows very well that he is alive somewhere.”

“You just said that he will die not knowing he had a daughter because that’s what he deserves for ruining your sister’s life…yes, I remember everything,” Ted said upon seeing the shocked expression on her face. “It’s a weakness of mine…others think its a gift but I tend to remember everything I hear and see. You made Sibu believe that her father had rejected her when he has no idea she even exists?”

“It was the only way to keep her from searching for him. She had to keep working to feed my family. It was her fault after all that the sister who was supposed to be taking care of me died trying to save her. Well, she saved her and so she had to take my sister’s place. I had to make her useful. I couldn’t afford to have her running around the country searching for a useless man.”

“And when you discovered he was doing fine now, why didn’t you tell Sibu or him? I don’t doubt Sibu could have left you to suffer while she lived in luxury with her father?”

The woman scoffed. “That might might have risen from the flames but he is not all that. Martin’s family had way more money than anyone else.”

“So you forced her to get married to Martin for money?” That was a revelation Ted had not been expecting to hear.

Aunt Tafadzwa had a triumphant smirk on her face. “Umhu,” she said. “You thought your future wife was some innocent woman being abused, right? But she married Martin out of greed, I never forced her. In exchange for a few certain monetary benefits, she agreed to Marry Martin and when she was done with him, she dumped him like a hot potato.”

“You are sick,” Ted was looking her disgustingly. “You are kidding yourself if you think I am going to believe the crap coming out of your mouth.”

“Ask her yourself. Since she tells you everything, I don’t doubt she will tell you the truth.”

“I didn’t come here to listen to you badmouth my woman,” Ted snapped. “Before I tell you why I came here, I need you to tell me where to find Sibu’s father.”

“And why would I do such a foolish thing? How am I possibly to benefit from giving away such vital information?”

“Because at some point in that twisted mind of your, you are going to have to face the fact that you are an evil person that needs to repent. Sibu did not ask to be born. She was just a kid that was unfortunate enough to have you as an aunt. Just because your children were not born out of wedlock does not make them better than those that weren’t. What gives you the right to decide something like that?”

“I am not guilty of anything because I did everything in my power to ensure that my children were well taken care of. that’s what a mother does.”

“You bring shame to every woman out there who’s a mother. You took that same right from your own sister when you decided it was okay to throw her only daughter in front of a moving car. You should pray that nothing like that ever happens to your own children. Whether you don’t tell me or not, I will find out where Sibu’s father is and I will let him decide what happens to you.”

“Are you going to tell Sibu about what we talked about?” She called out to him from behind.

Ted stopped and with his back still to her he said, “Of course I will. She deserves to know the truth. It’s been a long time coming.”

Aunt Tafadzwa’s face was riddled with fear for the first time that day. She might have managed to manipulate her niece all those years but it was only because she had allowed her out of guilty, but now that the truth was out in the open, she shuddered at the thought of what she might do to her and her children to exert her revenge.

Sibu was the kind of person to do exactly that.

 

When Ted returned to Cape Town, he sat Sibu down and told her everything he had discovered back home. He had never before seen a woman break down in tears and cry as much as Sibu did that day.

To watch the woman he had come to consider as one of the strongest women break down and crumble right in front of him, Ted failed to hold back his own tears. He would have paid any price to transfer her pain to himself. That’s how much he loved her.

While Jacob was sleeping alone in Ted’s room, Ted held Sibu in his arms until she finally cried herself to sleep. Not wanting to leave her side, he stayed with her all through the night until Jacob came to join them in the early hours of the morning. Ted motioned for him to stay quite, moved to the side and called the little man to sleep between him and his mother.

“Is mum not feeling well?” Jacob whispered in Ted’s ear.

“Yes, but she will feel better when she wakes up in the morning so don’t disturb her. Let’s all sleep quietly.

“Are you going to sleep here with us?” Jacob asked.

“You don’t want me to?” he asked the five year old.

“I want you to sleep here,” Jacob whispered back. “You are the only one who can chase away the monsters when they attack mum in her sleep. I don’t want you to go.”

Ted smiled and ruffled his hand through Jake’s hair. “That’s my boy,” he said.

 

Six months later, little Jacob was to open the door to his father while his mother and Ted were cuddled up on the sofa watching TV.

“Mum, dad is here!” Jacob announced excitedly to the room.

At first Martin could not see anyone is sight since the two of them were hidden by the back of the huge sofa they were sleeping on until they both looked up when the announcement was made.

“What the hell?” Martin said upon seeing the two of them appearing cozy from behind the sofa. “Are the two of you….” his face was turning green from furry but before he could burst out, Sibu got up from the sofa and ran towards her son who was laboring with the bundles of toys his father had brought for him.

“How about we move these to your play room my love so you can play with them while your father and I talk?” She picked up most of them and carried them to the playroom with an excited Jacob closely following her behind, oblivious to the storm brewing between the two men engaged in a face off behind them.

“I see you haven’t forgotten where my house is,” Ted greeted his old friend. “It would have been nice if you had called first instead of popping up unannounced. You could have saved yourself a lot of embarrassment.”

Martin walked over to where Ted was now standing. “What did you do to convince a level-headed woman like Sibu to do something this crazy?”

“I would think that I was old enough to make my own decisions,” Sibu said when she joined them. “Aren’t you going to sit down?” She nonchalantly asked Martin as she sat down herself.

Martin sat down without incident, choosing to sit as far away from Ted as possible.

“Are the two of you cuddling and making out in front of my son?” Martin asked.

“Jacob is old enough to understand what’s going on so don’t drag him into this,” Sibu said.

“I shouldn’t drag him when the two of you are busy doing God knows what right in front of him? I thought you were smarter than that Sibu.” He snapped.

“Spare me the insults Martin. I did not do anything morally questionable in front of my son. Why don’t you just tell us what’s really making you upset instead of using Jacob so shamelessly.”

“I asked you Sibu…I begged you not to….” Martin lamented.

Sibu could tell he was really hurting from the discovery. She never wanted him to find out in such a manner. She had planned on telling him everything once they returned home. How was she to know he would just pop up at the door unannounced like that?

“I am sorry Martin,” Sibu said.

“Why should you apologize to him Sibu?” Ted shouted from where he was seated. “You don’t need to explain anything to your ex-husband about who you are dating when he has already set up home with some skunk from God knows where.”

“Hey you better watch your language man,” Martin warned from his other end. “Veronica might be a lot of things but she is still the mother of my second child.”

“Set your priorities straight man,” Ted said and got up to head upstairs.

“Where do you think you are running to?” Martin had run after him and pulled him back by the collar.

“What do you want me to do?” Martin asked Ted who was now facing him. “Tell me what you want from me so that you can leave my wife alone Ted.” He said in a pleading tone. “I know things between us haven’t been good in a very long time but you and I used to be friends man. How could you do this to me?”

“I did not do anything to you Martin,” Ted countered. “When will you get it through your head that Sibu is not your wife anymore and that you are never getting back together?”

Sibu remained seated in spot while the two men exchanged words. She had her head hanging between her legs and kept rocking her body back and forth as if to shut out their voices.

“You might think that you’ve won now just because she’s living under your roof but I can promise you that I will get her back no matter what it takes.”

Sibu could not take it anymore. She got up and quietly walked out of the house, the two men oblivious to the fact that she was no longer in the room.

“Do you even love Sibu or you just want her back just to fulfill some idea in your head because you failed to make her stay the first time around?”

Martin landed a punch across Ted’s face. Instead of retaliating, Ted had this smirk on his face. “If there was no child in the house, I would have taken you out right now but I have an example to set for my son.”

“Your son?” Martin was burning in rage. “How about having your own children instead of claiming another mans. Or is that too hard for you to do Ted? Is that why you’ve remained a bachelor all these years?”

“Don’t flatter yourself Martin,” Ted fired back. “I can easily make arrangements to make a baby right now because there is a woman in this room that wants me. That’s more than can be said for you?” Ted was looking to where Sibu had been seated but his eyes widened in surprise when he couldn’t find her.

“Where did she go?” Ted said, mostly to himself than to Martin.

“How should I know,” Martin muttered. “Isn’t this supposed to be your house?” His eyes searched around the place.

“If you are going to behave like this every time you come here, I hope today will be the last time you will show up at my house,” Ted said sternly.

“You really think you are all that don’t you?” Martin glared at his former best friend. “I was once married to that woman before and I can make it happen again. We have a child together for that matter. Even you should know that there are just certain bonds that cannot be broken.”

Ted scoffed at him. “If that bond was that strong, the two of you should have never divorced in the first place…and she certainly wouldn’t have told me that I am the only man to have ever made her feel safe and happy.”

That seemed to soak Martin up wet. “Sibu told you that?” He regretted the question the moment it came out.

“Did you even know the woman you had married? You had a woman like that right next to you yet you never even noticed the scars on her heart. And you keep calling yourself her husband…I would be ashamed if I were you.” And with that, he stormed off to his room.

“You can play in Jacob’s room for as long as you like,” Ted shouted as he took the stairs to his room.

Martin could not get himself to move. He remained where Ted had left him and drifted off in his thoughts as Ted’s words echoed from every corner of his mind.

You had a woman like that right next to you yet you never even noticed the scars on her heart. And yet you keep calling yourself her husband…I would be ashamed if I were you.

What did he mean by that? Martin wondered.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 10

Final image - Echoes of the Heart
“May I help you?” Asked the man that had opened the small pedestrian gate of the house Sibu was parked in front of, obviously mistaking her for a guest.

Sibu rolled down her window and said, “Sorry, I think I got the wrong address. The house I am looking for should be a couple of blocks behind…I must have passed…really sorry for the inconvinience.”

She then reversed onto the street and drove back in the direction she had come, all the while keeping check for any vehicle that might be following her.

Later that evening, Martin came to collect Jacob so he could spend the night at his place before he left with his mother the next morning. Sibu had to fight the urge to talk to him about having been followed because she feared Martin would take that as licence to involve himself in the affairs of her life under the guise of protecting her and his son.

Once Martin and Jacob were gone, Sibu called Sibeso to offload.

“I don’t even think today was the first time Sibe,” she told her friend. “You remember that day I went to see my aunt, while I was parked by the roadside watching her store, I had seen that same vehicle parked behind me and when I looked, I found some strange guy looking directly at me. I just brushed it aside, didn’t think much of it although the guy did give me the creeps. When I was done with my aunt, I found himhe still parked there except this time he made himself busy reading a newspaper.”

“Are you sure it was the same vehicle?” Sibeso said from the other end of the line. “It could have just been some random person parked behind you. Who would be following you around really?”

“That’s what I also want to know,” Sibu replied. “I am very sure it was the same blue car. That first time I was able to see the driver’s face through the windscreen but not this time…but I am very positive it is the same car.”

“Maybe it’s Maleficent,” Sibeso suggested. “She is the only species I can think of in your life capable of doing such a crazy thing. Maybe she is trying to dig up some dirt on you so you can get her son full custody of Jake.”

“I thought about that too…she is the only one that came to mind. Aunt Tafadzwa is too money hungry to hire someone with such an expensive ride just to follow me around. Unless I really managed to piss her off when I declared war against her and this is her sick and twisted way of getting revenge.”

Ummm,” Sibeso said. “I doubt its Maxine, that one is the juju voodoo kind of person,” and laughing, she added, “She would rather get a quick fix than waste time following you around, for what?”

Sibu let out an airy laugh. “You are right. But this thing is really making me nervous.”

“You will be out of town by tomorrow so you wont have to deal with Maleficent’s nonsense for some time…unless the stalker decides to follow you to South Africa…then we will know it’s Martin that hired him to spy on you and Ted.”

“Martin is immature but I know for a fact he isn’t capable of such craziness.”

“He did hire a PI to look into you before, didn’t he?” Sibeso reminded her. “Isn’t that the same kind of crazy?”

“Ah,” Sibu sighed. “I just don’t know what to think any more. It’s not like I am some rich person or the daughter of some rich guy and…Sibeso…” she paused in mid-sentence, her voice dropping to a whisper towards the end.

“What is it Sibu?” Sibeso asked, her voice filled with concern. “Did he follow you home? Why have you gone quite? Sibu…should I call the police for you? If you can’t talk just say ‘um’ and I will know. Can you hear me?”

“Sibeso,” Sibu said in a very low register. “Could it be my father?”

“What?” Sibeso was caught by surprise. Sibu’s father was a forbidden topic between them. Sibu had never initiated talk of her father before.

“What if it’s him?” Sibu asked again.

“After all these years Sibu, what could he possibly be looking for? It’s not like you have any more kidneys left to give if he’s looking for a donor. Besides, didn’t your aunt say he was some poor bloke who ran away because he couldn’t afford such a huge responsibility as a child? What would a guy like that be doing driving around a Jaguar?”

“Maybe he has money, it’s been twenty-eight years since.” Sibu said.

Sibeso scoffed. “Yeah right, if he is rich, then I am Jill Gates, Bill’s long lost daughter. Stop killing yourself over who might be following you. If they meant to do you any harm, they would have done so by now. I am sure it’s Maleficent. We all knew that eventually that Botox would launch a war against her brain. She’s finally lost it.”

“I hope you are right,” Sibu said unconvincingly.

“Of course I am right,” Sibeso replied with conviction. “What time should I come to pick you up for the airport tomorrow?”

“Ten,” Sibu replied. “Martin will bring Jacob straight to the airport since he’s spending the night with him.”

“What if he decides to hold him hostage so he can keep you from leaving?” Sibeso asked.

“He wouldn’t do that Sibe. You really sound like an anti-fan these days,” Sibu said. “Aren’t you the same person that used to get excited every time you heard his name?”

“I was a kid then!” Sibeso yelled, obviously embarrassed by the memory. “Blame it on the raging hormones. It was better before I knew him personally. Knocking up that crazy bitch was the last straw for me. I just feel like kicking him in the nuts every time I lay eyes on him so he can never breed again.”

Sibu chuckled. “You are nuts my friend. Go and attend to your hubby before he starts wondering about who’s keeping you busy this late. Goodnight, see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight sweetie. I love you, sweet dreams.”

Sibu laughed. “You are doing that for the benefit of your husband isn’t it?”

Sibeso laughed back. “Kaili…you know,” she said. “He is busy giving me the eye so I had to thicken the plot for his imagination.” She whispered into the phone.

“I give up,” Sibu said laughing. “Goodnight, love you too. I will see you tomorrow.”
“Didn’t think I was just gonna drop Jake off and leave did you?” Martin said to Sibu.

They were standing outside while Sibeso and Jacob remained inside to wait for the check-in call.

Sibu was not surprised by Martin’s behavior. She had expected that much from him. If he would have it his way, he would also move to South Africa for the whole year.

“I will be popping in and out of SA to see you guys. There is no way I am going to let a whole year go by without seeing my son.”

“I know, you have every right to,” she told him.

“For real? You don’t mind?” He had not expected her to agree so easily.

“Why would I mind?” she said. “As long as you stay out of my life and just do what you came to do.” That sobered him up immediately. “What?” Sibu said upon seeing his reaction. “You had other ideas in your head didn’t you?” She called him out.

“I can try to accept the idea of you seeing other men Sibu…but not Ted, please.” He pleaded.

Sibu stifled a scowl. They were back to that topic again. “I already told you that nothing is going on between Ted and I.”

“Yet, nothing is going on yet but I know for a fact that Ted loves you. He told me to my face so many times and he had been waiting all these years for me to screw up so he can make a move. You are not going to date him, are you?” He was searching her face. “I am begging you Sibu…not Ted.”

“Why do you hate Ted so much?” Sibu asked. “You two used to be so close for so long.”

“I hate him because he is a better man than I am,” Martin confessed. “That fact pisses me off real bad. I hate him because I know he can easily take you away from me. If I had played a fair game back then, you would have gone to him and not me. I knew that and so I took you on that trip to Livingstone. He had openly told me how he felt about you the night before we traveled…I couldn’t let him have you.”

Sibu didn’t know what to say in response. She already knew that Ted had feelings for her, but only so much as a crush and not anything deep. But listening to Martin, she was for the very first time learning about just how deep his feelings might be.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

“Sibu, did you even hear a single word I said?” Martin called her back from her reverie. “Were you thinking about Ted?”

“No, of course not,” she lied. Fortunately for her, Sibeso appeared right at that moment.

“Time to check in,” she announced.

Just then Jacob too appeared, ran towards his father and wrapped his arms around his long legs.

Martin scooped him up from the ground and poked his nose playfully.

“You will come to visit us daddy, right?” the little boy asked.

“But of course!” Martin replied cheerfully, forgetting for a moment about the fears that had been running through his mind.

“Quickly say goodbye you two, we have to go back inside now.” Sibu said.

Martin put his son down and lowered himself down so they could have a little mano-a-mano while Sibu and Sibeso went back inside to look after their luggage.

“You remember what we talked about last night my son?” Martin said.

“I do!” the boy replied enthusiastically.

Martin motioned for him to take him through it.

“1. I have to protect mum from all men,” he started the list.

Martin was nodding his head proudly as his son said out the list they had entitled ‘duties of a good son’ the previous night.

“2, I have to tell any man that tries to talk to mummy that she is married. 3, I have to give you a weekly update of everything we do, and the last one…I have to take lots and lots of pictures with mum!” he had spread his arms wide to indicate quantity.

Martin clapped the minute he was done. “I am so proud of you little man. Your mother’s brain and mine created a genius. Put it here….” he put out his open palm and Jacob did accordingly before they headed back inside.

“I will call you when we arrive,” Sibu said to him.

“I won’t even get a goodbye hug?” And without waiting for a response, he closed the distance between them and held her tight in an embrace that lasted longer than Sibu would have liked.

“You are going to delay them,” Sibeso roared from the sidelines.

Martin reluctantly loosed his arms around her and Sibu quickly freed herself. “Take care of yourself Martin,” she said and then moved to Sibeso and hugged her tightly. “Let’s chat everyday my love,” she said to her friend.

“I am already missing you.” Sibeso was already tearing up.

“If I didn’t know any better,” Martin commented as he watched them still tied in a hug, upset that she had been fighting to release herself from him the whole time while she seemed to be taking her dear time with Sibeso.

“If you cry then I’m gonna start crying too and then Jacob will as well,” Sibu said whilst fighting back the tears and forcing a smile so that Jacob does pick up what was really going on. Every time he saw his mother upset, he would mirror her emotions.

Sibusiswe proceeded to hold on to her son’s hand with one hand while the other attended to their luggage that consisted of one big suitcase and her handbag.

Martin hugged his son for the last time before finally letting them go.

“Don’t forget to call me!” He shouted to Sibu before they disappeared from view.

Tsk tsk tsk….” it was Sibeso looking Martin up and down with a scowl on her face. “If you loved her that much, why were you such a jerk to her?” She asked him.

“I was young and stupid then,” Martin answered and started his walk back to the parking lot.

Sibeso ran after him and the two of them walked together.

“You really hate me these days don’t you?” He asked her.

“Of course I do,” Sibeso replied honestly.

Martin glared at her and then laughed. “I see you still haven’t turned those lemons in your mouth into lemonade,” he teased her. “I thought motherhood turned all women soft.”

“It actually does the opposite mind you,” she corrected him.

Martin thought about what she had just said for a moment. “You might be right,” he finally said. “Sibu has become a thousand times harder to crack ever since she learnt she was pregnant.”

“Who can blame her,” Sibeso said. “She caught her husband in bed with another woman the very day she went to share the news of the pregnancy with him. You are lucky she didn’t cut off your balls,” she moved her eyes to the area in question and Martin instinctively used his hands to cover the area.

Sibeso laughed. “Relax,” she said blithely. “They are safe…because I am a mother now.” She assured him.

Martin laughed and relaxed a bit.

They had finally reached the car park.

* * *

Sibu had planned on using her stay in SA to work and relax as much as possible since she had left all the sources of her problems behind. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case for in Ted, she found a new source of frustration.

For the first three weeks or so, Ted had not said anything about his feelings to Sibu. At the office, the two of them interacted as colleagues and at home, they got along well as friends. He took them out on tours of the country whenever they were not working and together with Jacob they experienced all sorts of fun.

Jacob had been distant towards Ted for the first couple of weeks but Ted’s friendly personality was hard to ignore after some time. The little boy was forced to finally open up and the two of them became the best of buddies, much to Martin’s chagrin.

“He is a really cool guy dad,” Jacob once said to his father when he called.

“This is what the adults call betrayal Jake,” Martin admonished his son. “It’s first degree betrayal.”

“It’s not like that dad,” the five year old tried to reason with his father. He just takes us out to show us around because there is no one else to show us the city. You understand, right?”

“I don’t,” Martin sulked. “Where’s your mother? Give her back the phone, I need to talk to her.”

“Are you mad at me dad?”

“Yes I am. Let me talk to your mum.”

“Okay,” the little guy looked very disappointed as he walked back into the living room from his playroom to give the phone back to his mother.

“Where’s mum?” Jacob asked Ted who was sitting alone watching TV.

“I think she’s gone to the bathroom,” Ted answered. “Someone wants to talk to her?”

“it’s dad,” Jacob replied, holding the phone out.

Ted got up and went to collect the phone. “I will talk to him while we wait for mum okay,” he had put his hand on the phone to keep whoever was on the other end from listening.

Jacob simply nodded with tears in his eyes and then walked back to his room, his head down like a defeated man.

“Why are you torturing a five year old into being your spy?” Ted said the minute he had the phone to his ear. “Can you imagine the kind of pressure you are putting him under? When will you grow up Martin?”

“Where’s my wife?” Martin voice blasted through the phone. “Why are you answering her phone?”

Ted laughed. “Calm down, she’s slightly indisposed at the moment…but you and I can talk while we wait. I am sure there should be something we can still talk about considering we used to be best friends.”

“I have nothing to say to you Ted. Do you think I don’t know what you are plotting?” Martin growled.

“Oh, so you know,” Ted said sarcastically. “That makes things a little easier for me then. You are right, I am still in-love with Sibu and in case you’ve forgotten, she’s not your wife anymore, she is your ex-wife.”

“Don’t you have any shame man?” Martin asked. “How can you go after my wife when you and I used to be friends? What sort of position will you put Sibu in if at all you succeed in pursuing her….you want her to be the woman that married her ex-husband’s best friend?”

“There’s the difference between you and me right there,” Ted was saying. “You care too much about what people think and I don’t. So what if people argue semantics and give unnecessary opinions? Everyone knows that we were both interested in her from the get-go and we both had fair chances of winning her heart except you cheated and gained the upper hand. God, you almost ruined her life! Bottom line is, I have no qualms whatsoever asking her to be my wife because I don’t owe you a thing. You and I are no longer friends and, if at all you considered me a friend, you would have backed off years ago when you saw that she liked me better than she liked you.”

“You really have some nerve Ted,” Martin burst out. “She will never be your wife as long as I am alive.”

“Good,” Ted retorted. “With your health history and lifestyle, that won’t be such a problem for me.”

“hmm hmm,” Sibu deliberately cleared her throat to announce her presence in the room. She had already heard more than enough.

Ted quickly turned around and found Sibu awkwardly smiling at him. “Is that Martin?” she asked.

“Son of a bitch,” Ted could hear Martin cuss before rudely ending the call.

Ted looked shaken. “How long were you standing there?” he asked.

“Not long enough,” Sibu lied. “I just came in and heard you talk about health history. From your tone of voice and from the color of that phone you are holding, I figured it could only be Martin.” She was forcing herself to smile in order to hide her tired and weary looking eyes.

He removed the purple covered phone from his ear and held it out to her. “I think he’s already cut though….”

“It’s fine, as long as he talked to Jake.” She took the phone from him. “I am going to go upstairs to lie down for a bit. We had quite a crazy day today.”

“I know,” Ted nervously smiled back at her. He was not convinced she had only heard the last part of the conversation. “You should rest,” he said. “I have some work I need to look at also, so….”

“Yeah, let’s chat later then.” And she turned and headed upstairs to her room.

Ted knotted his fingers into a fist. That was not how he had wanted her to learn about his feelings. Dame that Martin, he silently cussed as he watched Sibu’s figure disappear up the stairs.
Ted confirmed his suspicions the very next day when Sibu’s attitude towards him changed. She had become distant and avoided being anywhere were they would be just the two of them. This went on for over a week until he decided he couldn’t take the pressure any more. He accosted her at lunch time at work and took her somewhere where they could talk in private.

They found the perfect spot at the rooftop of their office building. There was a bench there that was strategically placed for anyone sitting there to view the city uninterrupted.

They both sat down.

“You know what I want us to talk about, right?” Ted said.

“I do,” Sibu admitted.

“Your behavior since that evening,” Ted was saying. “Should I take it as some sort of response?”

“What response?” Sibu asked.

“My feelings,” he said. “I know you heard what I told Martin. I am still in-love with you Sibu.” He had turned his body to face her.

“I know,” she said, her face still facing forward and her shadowed gaze fixed on the buildings in the distance.

“I need to know how you feel about me,” Ted pressed on. “I know a lot has happened over the years but not once did my feelings change. If anything, they have grown stronger. I know there was a time when I thought I had a chance with you but I am not so sure about now. The moment you heard about my feelings, you went mute on me and started acting distant.”

“That’s because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings Ted. All these years I only thought of you as a friend…nothing more.”

“I know, that’s why I am willing to give you time to start thinking about me as something more than just a friend…like a man who’s interested in you, a man who has feelings for you.”

Ted….” she had started to protest but he wouldn’t give her a chance.

“I don’t think that evening was the first time you learned about my feelings for you Sibu,” Ted said. “There were so many times in the past when I tried to tell you…I think I told you enough for you to have picked up on what I meant. You just chose to ignore it. I have seen how awkward you got whenever our eyes meet ever since you arrived here. You act nervous or uncomfortable whenever we find ourselves in an intimate situation. You knew all along and I think that the only reason you kept avoiding confronting the truth was because you knew that there is a possibility you might like me too.”

“It’s not like that Ted….”

“Then what is it about Sibu?”

She was silent, her gaze still shadowed by whatever thoughts running through her head.

Ted waited, keeping his gaze closely on her.

“I don’t know Ted,” Sibu finally spoke. “My life is just a complete mess and I just don’t have the time to think about dating right now.”

“I think you are just making excuses,” he told her. “You’ve had enough time to date from the time you came here.”

“I don’t think that constitutes dating,” she argued.

“Apart from calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, everything we’ve done from the time you came is what lover’s do. If you had time to do all that, then you have time to date Sibu.”

He could tell he had cornered her.

“I thought I was done dealing with lawyers,” she said.

“What do you mean?” Ted obviously missed her point.

“I always feel like I am on the stand.” She said.

Ted laughed. “Well, I think you can hold your ground quite alright. Is that why you don’t want to date me…because I remind you of your ex-husband?”

“No,” Sibu replied a little too quickly. She had taken the bait.

“What do you mean No?” Ted asked, his face wrinkling into a smile. “Then you just don’t like me?”

“No, I mean….” she was clearly flustered. “You know what I mean Ted. Why are you trying to be difficulty?”

He was grinning triumphantly. “Because I want to know what you mean,” he insisted.

“I know what you are doing,” she called him out. “Stop treating me like a defendant.”

“Sibu, look at me,” he said.

She turned only once to look at him and then turned back. Ted placed his hand under her chin and slowly turned her face to look at him. He kept his hand there while he talked.

“Look me in my eyes and tell me that you absolutely have no feelings for me. Tell me that you don’t like me and I promise you…I will not mention my feelings to you ever again.”

“I am not going to play Tom and Jerry with you,” she tried to get up but Ted placed both his hands on her shoulders and kept her down.

“Um um,” he was smiling and shaking his head. “You are not getting out of this one so easily.

“What do you want me to say Ted?” she asked. “Nothing between us will change even if I tell you that I like you. Even though you are no longer close with Jacob’s father, you two used to be friends. What sort of woman would that make me if I dated you? I have enough drama in my life to add more to it.”

“I don’t think that’s such a big deal Sibu.” He countered. “All our friends know that Martin is the one that went after you despite knowing how I felt about you. If anyone should be shamed, it’s neither you or me, it’s him. If you say yes, and if it bothers you that much, we can continue living here where nobody knows about our past and you wont have to go back to that place. Unless you tell me that you are still in-love with Martin, because I am not buying all these excuses you are giving.”

“I am not in-love with Martin and I can promise you that we are never ever getting back together. He thinks he’s still in-love with me but that’s just Martin being Martin. When someone tells him he can’t have something, that’s when he wants it more. Now more than ever, I am convinced that’s the only reason he married me.”

“Then if you know that, why do you care so much about his feelings?”

“Because he is the father of my child.”

“And that will change if you marry me?” he asked sarcastically.

She scowled at him.

“Sibu,” he took her hands into his. “You like me, don’t you?” he asked. “Look at me…no, don’t look away.”

“Yes, I like you Ted,” she finally admitted. “You are a great guy, any woman would be lucky to have you….”

“But,” he added for her.

“But I don’t plan on ever remarrying. I just want to raise my son in peace.”

“Jacob will grow up and set up a family of his own,” Ted said. “What will happen to you then? Grow old and die alone? Do you have any idea how lonely it can get being alone? Ask me, I can testify. I have spent the past seven years waiting for a woman whom I know likes me but doesn’t have the guts to admit it.”

“I just admitted it,” Sibu said. “I like you but I just don’t want to remarry.”

“Why don’t you want to get married again?” Ted asked. “You said that you have enough drama in your life, could it be something to do with your aunt?”

Sibu gaped at him, wondering what and how he knew about her aunt.

“I heard about what your aunt did at the office years back when I was in Zambia and then I remembered something you had said during the interview. There was something about what you said that has bothered me all these years. I know you wont say it directly…but you constantly refer to it, unconsciously in conversations. I want to know what that is Sibu…what is controlling your life so much that you would feel you don’t deserve or need anyone’s sympathy?”

This was the first time someone was directly confronting her about her past. For years Martin had tried to get her to open up about her past but he had no clue exactly which part of her past affected her so much? However, from just one sentence she had unconsciously uttered seven years ago, Ted had managed to pick up something specific to query her about.

“Sibu, I know you heard me,” Ted called out to her.

“I need to go back to work now, lunch break is almost over.” Sibu said, completely avoiding eye contact as she quickly turned to leave. Ted ran after her and caught her before she stepped through the door. He held her by the shoulders and had her back pressed against the wall.

“What are you doing?” She tried to turn her face away but Ted’s face was so close, only a few inches away from hers and with his arms on either side of her pinning her back, there was no room for escape.

Ted kept his gaze on her quivering lips. His thoughts were written all over his face and Sibu could smell his intentions from every part of his body.

“I am very different from Martin,” Ted leaned in further and whispered the rest of his words close to her ear.

“I won’t let you walk away from me when I can obviously tell that something is up. I am not trying to compare us…I just need you to know that if you are going to try to get rid of me, you will have to develop a few new tricks. Sibu, I don’t care about whatever drama lies in your past or in your life. I don’t care if you had an affair, if you don’t get along well with your family…or if you killed someone…. All I care about is the woman standing right here in front of me, right now.” he deliberately brushed his lips against the edges of her ear, causing her to wince in bridled pleasure.

Even though she knew that Ted was just saying things for the sake of it, his words gave her some kind of comfort, hope…for a moment, he gave her hope.

It was as if she was meeting him for the very first time. She desperately wanted to believe every word he was saying despite the hard lessons she had learnt from her past.

She wanted to look him in the eye and see what lay behind them. Would she the see the truth if she dared?

Slowly, very so slowly, Sibu raised her head to look into Ted’s eyes. He was smiling down at her reassuringly. he was begging her to believe him…and she wanted to…if only for a moment.

How long had she waited for someone to say those words to her?

“You are thinking about kissing me…” Ted teased her, drawing his face closer to hers and brushing his lips against hers.

Sibu tried to move her face away but she almost ended up locking her lips against him, again.

“I don’t know what you are talking about…” she said with her eyes flickering up and down his face. “Doesn’t this sort of thing constitute sexual harassment Mr Attorney?” She nervously tried to make light of the moment.

Ted was grinning. “I’m sure it does,” his masculine voice drawled closer to her skin. “But I am also sure that there’s a law somewhere that would explain the meaning of you constantly wetting your lips like that…I think it’s called the Law of Attraction.”

Sibu’s face turned red. She tried to look down, away from his eyes but her eyes landed on his lips instead. Until then, she had had no idea he had such deep brown eyes or that his lips were so thick and smooth. How could she keep her senses about her when looking at him so closely made her feel so dizzy.

Before she knew it, his lips were hard on hers.

With one hand cupping the back of her head and the other grabbing her waist, Ted tilted her head back and drew her towards him by her waist, sealing whatever distance had been separating them.

Although she kept trying to fight him off, Sibu could feel her resolve slowly slipping away as Ted brought her straight into his world through his lips.

He had started hard, his lips working fast against hers but when he felt her fight him, he paused and pulled her head slightly back to look into her eyes.

Her eyes told him a different story.

Sibu couldn’t  hide her disappointment when Ted pulled away. When was the last time she had felt a man’s breath hard against her? When was the last time her heart had throbbed like this? For how long had she yearned for the kind of warmth that was radiating from Ted’s embrace?

Ted didn’t need any more persuasion. Placing his hand back at the back of her head, deliberately gliding his fingers deep through her mane of hair, he drew her head towards him and laid his lips against hers, his movements slow and deliberate this time.

As he slid his tongue slowly through her warm and inviting lips, Ted felt her body quiver underneath him and as if driven by a force unknown, he drunk from her and she from him.

She placed her arms over his shoulders and with her hands she held on to his head and locked him in position.

A bolt of lightening reaped through Sibu’s body, melting her insides as Ted quenched his yearning thirst from her and she from him.

If Ted had not moved his arm from around her waist to drive her further deep against him, she probably would have not known just how much her hunger rivaled his.

That realization bolted her right back to reality.

Quickly unlocking her arms from around his neck, Sibu stepped back and away from Ted, the sudden realization of her response to him almost freezing her in horror.

“I should really get back to work,” she stuttered before running off, leaving Ted dazed and confused.

The only thing Ted could think about at that moment was, she kissed me back…she kissed me back!
That night, Sibusiswe’s nightmares returned with full force after two long years. and they continued for nights that followed.

Because She Loved Me – Part 5

because she loved me

 

When morning came, I was still awake. I had not slept a wink that night.

I showered, put on some fresh clothes and walked to the restaurant to have my breakfast while I waited for Thandiwe to report for work.

There were a lot of things I was curious about; what had she been up to for the past two years? How did she end up in Ndola? Was she seeing anyone? Who was that Alex guy to her? How was her son doing? And there was another question I dared not say out loud to myself but it was constantly there at the back of my mind;

What did she think of me?

I was not even sure why I cared so much about what she thought about me but the question just kept tagging at me.

I was too embarrassed to entertain that thought consciously but out of everything else, it occupied the most part of my brain. However, even as I kept thinking about another woman like that, I was fully aware of what my thoughts said about the kind of person I had become.

I was busy wondering about how Thandie felt about me when the very act of thinking about her made me a man I knew for a fact she would not be proud of. I could not understand why I was obsessing over her. It didn’t make sense and yet there I was thinking and thinking about a woman I was never going to have.

“Has Thandiwe reported for work already?” I asked the receptionist at the front office. It was a man this time. I hoped the female from last night had gone to take an advanced hospitality course.

“Thandiwe?” The twenty-something year old quizzed me.

“Yes, your boss, the general manager.” I provided.

The point had finally landed home. “Oh, you mean Ms Mwale?” He said.

She really was still Ms Mwale. Hallelujah!

“Good morning Mr Harry,” a voice greeted me from behind. I didn’t need to turn to know who it was.

I smiled and turned around.

“Is there anything you would like me to help you with?” Thandiwe was back in her professional mode and even if her smile reached her eyes, it was not the same smile that had greeted me at one point in Lusaka.

“Can we talk in private?” I asked her.

“Is it something related to your stay here sir?” She asked.

There was only one kind of answer that was correct for the kind of situation I was in. “Yes ma’am,” I lied.

Of course she didn’t buy it. She baptised me in a long cold stare before smiling again. “Let’s talk in my office then,” she motioned towards a door on the other side of the building.

“What do you want?” She had taken off her hospitality cloak the second we were behind closed doors in her articulately designed office.

She had indeed made something of herself. I couldn’t help feeling proud of her as I looked around. Was this the same woman that had asked for 500 bucks from me if I slept with her? She had really come a long way.

“So how did you end up here?” I was getting myself acquainted with her office while she stood closer to the door with her hands crossed over her chest and looking at me like a huge bug she desperately needed to get rid of.

“What happened to you?” Was the question she asked me. To this day I still remember the look on her face when she asked that question.

What happened to you?

She was disgusted with me and somehow that made me feel even more disgusted with myself.

Thandiwe then walked passed me and went to sit behind her desk. “If you have nothing to say to me then I suggest you leave so I can get to work.”

I found myself walking towards her desk and sitting down in front of her. I was embarrassed but somehow I still couldn’t get myself to leave.

“What are you doing?” She had stopped trying to busy herself on the computer and she was looking at me in wonder.

“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head and trying to figure out whatever was going on in my head. “I really don’t know.” I repeated. “Right now I am supposed to be at a workshop but here I am…I also wish I knew why this is happening.”

“That ring on your finger tells me you are married but that woman I met in your room didn’t look like your wife. Would you like to talk about that first?” She asked sarcastically. “When did it become so easy for that gentle and wonderful man that showed me the light at the worst time in my time? How did you become this person?”

It was that look again.

Right there, right then, it occurred to me why I had so desperately wanted to meet her. It was her voice and that look in her eyes.

When Thandiwe spoke, I listened to every word she said. With just those few words she had spoken, I had found the answer to one of the biggest questions I had had;

Why her? Why Thandiwe?

Because she made me want to be a good person.

Because she reminded me of the man I used to be and she made me want to be that man again.

You see, despite all the efforts our mentors had put in to help us restore the honour our marriage had lost, what they never taught me was how to forgive and forget. I had convinced myself that I had forgiven Thabo but not once had I forgotten.

They had taught me how to forgive but they couldn’t teach me how to forget. It was something I had to teach myself to do.

I felt cheated in my life and in my marriage. I blamed God for how things had turned out and I felt that if God was not going to reward me for the good things I had done…for being the best husband I could be to my wife, I felt I had to reward myself.

I did not start cheating on Thabo because I wanted to revenge. I did all that because I wanted to be in control again. Ever since my wife’s confession, I felt as if I had lost control of everything…like there was an external force somewhere pulling strings and leading me into a direction I did not wish to go.

I wanted to get back the control I had had before everything crumbled to pieces… the control I had lost when my wife felt it was okay to be with another man since I was not there, the control I had lost when the son I thought was mine turned out to be another mans, the control I had lost over my heart when I could not get myself to hate or disown a child I knew not to be my own…that kind of control…the kind that made me a man, a husband, and a father.

I knew that I could never gain back that control but somehow, knowing that I could do whatever I wanted to out there without Thabo knowing about me gave me some form of satisfaction I cannot even begin to explain.

Most importantly, cheating made me feel justified…like it was the reward I had earned for myself for sticking to a marriage that should have been broken. I felt like I had a passport…that I could sin as much as I wanted and not get punished for it.

Not once did I feel guilty for my actions because I felt it was not my fault. However, that morning in Thandiwe’s office, I realised why before her I had felt shame and why before my wife I felt no guilt;

Because Thabo was the woman who had given me the passport to sin and Thandiwe was the woman who would remind me of the man I used to be.

All along I had convinced myself that my wife was not aware of the numerous affairs I was having but the truth was, she knew. I knew she knew but I kept telling myself she didn’t.

“Please take care of yourself…and your health,” had become Thabo’s favourite goodbye phrase every time she said goodbye to me whenever I left home. Those were simple caring words from a wife to her husband but for me they were laden with so much more and yet I chose not to look deeper into them….

And yet…every time I met another woman, I remembered to wear protection no matter how much I got carried away in a situation…at the back of my head I cared…because I had heard Thabo’s words.

“Please take care of yourself…and your health,” she would always say with tears welling up in her eyes. Those tears were not sad goodbye tears because her husband was to be gone for a few days. Those tears were tears of regret for the man she had created and they were tears of mourning for the man she once had.

I realized all these things just because Thande had looked at me in a certain way. She just had to stand there and give me that look that sent chills down my spine and I was awakened from my moral slumber.

As I sat there starring at her, I wondered what she would do if she knew she had so much effect on me…if she knew that even without uttering a single word, she had spoken to me in ways that no man had managed to reach out to me simply…

…because she was Thandie.

Like the fool I had become, I started crying right there in her office.

At first I think it was because of the embarrassment, the shame I felt when I saw her look at me so cuttingly. But then the memories of everything bad I had done came flashing before my eyes.

I saw the many different women I had given my soul to…most of them I would have not given the time of day had I still been the kind of man Thandie expected me to be.

I saw all those moments at home I had chosen to pretend not to notice…when my wife would silently cry in the bathroom every time we finished making love.

I saw Thabo coming back into bed to join me with red swollen eyes yet smiling at me, planting a kiss on my forehead before saying goodbye sweetly. I could see the pain hidden there and yet I chose to ignore it.

I saw Chikondi walk on tip-toes around me, scared he might do something that might upset me and maybe force me to send him away to that place he always feared I would send him to.

I saw my little girls, the twins…I heard them telling me they hated me out of nowhere…like they had some divine power to know of everything I had done against their mother…I heard them say loudly in their sweet little innocent voices, “you are a bad man daddy!”

All these things I had seen and heard happen in my home but I could not get myself to listen. I heard it all, saw it all but I never stopped to listen.

But that was until Thandie stood there and looked at me like that.

Just one look and it all came pouring out.

I finally remembered who that man was.

The man Thandie had smiled at and asked, “What woman in her right mind can break the heart of such a kind hearted man?”

How far back would I have to walk to reach to that point in my life when a woman would take one look at me and see something in me that she had not seen in other men?

“Why are you crying?” Thandiwe asked me.

I couldn’t talk; I just kept bawling my eyes out.

This must have been the fourth time I was showing my weakness in front of this woman.

While my head was buried in my hands, I heard her stand up and walk to the door and then I heard a click. I think she had gone to lock the door. Next I heard her walk towards me and she put her arm around my shoulder.

It was like a switch had gone off and I lost control.

It was not my proudest moment. In fact, there was no pride to speak of in the first place. I was shattered. I was ashamed and I was desperate.

“I am so sorry…I am sorry….” I kept repeating while I cried in her lap. The poor woman, I had my arms around her legs and I buried my face in her skirt, sobbing like the greatest fool she would ever come across.

Instead of kicking me off, I felt her soft hand gently stroke the top of my head and she did not say a single word. She just stood there and let me cry like a baby with my arms wrapped around her while I drowned in my tears.

“Are you feeling better now?” Thandie asked me minutes later after that embarrassing moment. She had handed me a bottle of water and she watched me empty the contents from behind her desk where she was now seated.

Despite everything, I saw no judgement whatsoever from her. But I did see pity in her eyes. She had finally given me her full attention and she was most willing to hear my story. I told her about everything I had done and what had become of my life and my family from the time we had parted ways and she listened without interruption.

“So what are planning on doing now?” She asked me once I was done telling.

“I am not even sure where to start,” I told her. “But I have to correct the wrongs I’ve done against my wife and against my children.”

She was smiling. It made me feel good because it gave me hope I could still be a man she could be proud of.

“I thought I had forgiven my wife for everything, I thought we had moved on…. I thought I had done her a favour when I chose reconciliation over divorce but I had the wrong mind set all along. I should have given our marriage a second chance and given my all to make it work but I deceived myself into thinking that I could use her transgressions as some sort of pass to violate our marriage vows.

Ultimately, I ended up becoming the sort of man deserving of the things she had done to me because I felt justified in my sins while she had taken responsibility for hers.

“So now it is your turn to seek her forgiveness,” Thandiwe stated.

I nodded. “Yes, if she will accept me.” I said. “I don’t know if she has already given up on me or if she has simply been feeling like I am making her pay for her mistakes. Now that I think about it, I don’t think she has forgiven herself either…otherwise, why would she let me do all this to her?”

“You are right,” Thandie said. “The good thing is, marriage isn’t just about two people, it’s about God too and because of him we get second chances…even third chances. I don’t think that you are a bad man Mr Harry…I just think that you are a man who had some unfortunate things happen to you and you responded in ways you thought were right. But now that you know, it makes everything a little easier to correct.”

“I have only now realized that I never told you my full name,” I laughed…and she laughed with me.

“I know your full name already, Mr Phiri,” she said. “You did use your full name to book into the lodge after all,” she added in response to my puzzled expression.

“Ah!” I exclaimed and laughed. “Then why did you keep calling me Mr Harry?”

“Because Mr Harry is the man I know. I didn’t recognize the Mr Phiri that was booked here. I won’t even ask where you found that rare T-bone steak woman.”

I chuckled. “Please don’t,” I said. “Speaking of which, how did you end up here?” I asked.

“After that episode with you at church, I went in search of another one and I ended up finding one where my son and I felt at home. I love involving myself in a lot of church activities so I ended up being a part of this one programme where I got to learn a lot of things. Through that programme I discovered that I love cooking…and that I was very good at it. One time we had an interdenominational kind of trip and we ended up here in Ndola. During that trip I met someone who was very impressed with my cooking skills and he offered me a job as a cook at his lodge which he had inherited from his mother. After working for close to a year and half, here I am….”

“I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say that the owner of this lodge is that Alex guy?” I said and she smiled, confirming my suspicions. “Are you two dating?” I asked her.

Thandiwe was blushing. “No, of course not. We are just friends.”

“But he likes you isn’t it?”

She didn’t answer.

“I am right!” I said. “Why don’t you like him? He seemed like the kind of man any woman would kill to have.”

“I never said I don’t like him,” she admitted. “He’s only been in this country for four years and I have known him for two. After everything I’ve been through, I have learnt that if something appears too good to be true, then it probably is. I always used to wonder why my ex-husband picked me out of all women. I was not the type of woman a man like that would marry. I was uneducated and the only thing going for me was my face. Whenever he had friends visiting or whenever there was a function somewhere, he preferred me with my mouth shut while he rattled on with his ‘intelligent’ buddies.” She quoted the word with her fingers in the air.

“I was never good enough for him and he took pleasure in reminding me about how lucky I was to be married to a doctor. During the time we dated, he showed no sign of being such a conceited person but it all came pouring out once we were married. And now here’s this young and good looking guy who can have any woman in the world…why would he want to marry someone who’s been divorced and is a single mother? Does that make sense to you?”

I could understand why she was feeling like that but she really had no idea just how wonderful and attractive she was as a woman…and how not being aware of that fact made her even more attractive. Any man would be lucky to have her.

“Your ex-husband was a fool Thandie,” I told her. “It’s just unfortunate that you’ve been exposed to only bad men in your life…your husband, that doctor, and me, but I can assure you that there are a lot of good men out there. Imagine what would have happened if I thought all women were bad just because one woman gave in to a moment of weakness and broke my heart?

“But I met you and you were different…. I have never regretted meeting you. Don’t paint all men with the same cloth just because you’ve had a few bad experiences. Do you intend to live the rest of your life alone, scared that someone might break your heart again?”

She didn’t answer, but I could see she was thinking about what I had said to her.

“Do you think that if we told someone our story…that we were together in a lodge, you half naked…me on the bed yet nothing happened and they would believe us?” I asked her.

“They wouldn’t because it sounds too good to be true…yet it is true! I don’t know who this Alex guy is or where he comes from but I think it’s unfair for you to make him pay for another man’s mistakes when he’s shown you nothing but good intentions. Nothing in life is definite…even in marriage. I am the perfect example. I know for a fact that my wife and I love each other but look at what we’ve been through. Sometimes it’s just about the choices we make when we are faced with certain challenges but that don’t make us bad people.”

Thandiwe was smiling at me in that old usual way that I liked.

“You sound like a very wise man Mr Harry…can’t believe that you are the same man who was crying here just a while ago.”

I winced in embarrassment. “I knew that would come back to haunt me, dammit!” I said.

Thandiwe laughed. “I don’t think that’s something you should be embarrassed about. On second thought…maybe you should, now that I am looking at my skirt.”

I gasped, imagining the damage in my head.

She was still laughing. “Don’t worry about it. In this line of work, it’s only wiser to have plan B and C…and sometimes D.”

“No wonder you got promoted so fast. You’ve always been a smart ass…the kind of natural intelligence you can’t pick up from a book. I am very proud of you Thandie.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Although I think Alex’s feelings had a lot to do with it. And I am proud of you too for recognizing your mistakes instead of blaming them on someone else. It takes a lot of guts to do that.”

“So will you give that Alex guy a chance?”

“We’ll see…I need to think about it some more.”

Her smile was telling me she had already made up her mind.

I was not such a terrible man after all. My conversation with Thandiwe, though unconventional, gave me hope that not all was lost. Even though the mistakes I had made had driven me away from the man I used to be…through Thandie, I had been given a second chance to do things right.

She had been right that first night we met when she said that God does not sleep.

He indeed doesn’t.

Thandie had been brought into my life for a purpose.

* * *

A few days later, Thabo came to pick me up at the airport and when I set my eyes on her, it was as if it was for the first time. I ran to her like a mad man and scooped her up into my arms and kissed her with all my heart.

I guess we must have looked like newlyweds to the people watching us because there were all smiles around…and probably some glares too but I didn’t care much at that time. Thabo was surprised by my behaviour and she kept asking me if everything was okay the whole way she drove us home.

The moment we were in the privacy of our bedroom walls, I put my laptop bag down, got on my knees before her and did something I should have done a long time ago;

I begged for her forgiveness.

All along I had thought that our journey to reconciliation had started two years ago…but that mid-morning after my trip from Ndola, that was when both Thabo and I decided to really make things work.

Unlike before, we promised each other to forgive and forget. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but because this time we would be doing it together, we had faith that we would succeed.

Nine months later I was going through my emails at work when I saw one from Thandiwe. We had not spoken or seen each other since that morning at the lodge and I had had no idea she had my email address.
“Dear Mr Harry,” her letter read;

You must be surprised to receive an email from me. Your address was in your contact details when you checked in at the lodge and I apologize for using that information for personal purposes.

I hope you and your family are doing well now.

I have some great news that I really wanted to share with you because you played a big part in helping me come to this decision: Alex and I will be getting married next month.

I followed your advice and gave Alex a chance. He really is a great guy. We travelled together last month to see where he grew up. I discovered that his parents divorced when he was little and his mother sent him to London to live with her sister. He was an only child between his mother and father but he has four step siblings, two from his mother’s remarriage, and two from his father’s remarriage.

His two cousins from London are very nice and they treat Alex like a big brother. Melissa, that’s his oldest cousin, she is thirty-two years old and has three kids. She wants my son to go visiting since we had left him home this time around.

His father died five years ago and left him the lodge were we both work. The two of them were never close but before he died, he regretted not having been in his life and the lodge was some sort of way to make up for not having been there.

His mother lives in Lusaka with her new family, I met them a couple of months ago and they were kind of nice. They are not very close to Alex and his relationship with his mother is very strained so they just get along out of politeness. I don’t think they will be very much involved in our lives either. At first I was nervous that they might not like me since I am divorced and with a son but they didn’t seem to mind at all…either that or they just don’t care. Hahaha

Oh, by the way, my ex-husband heard that I was getting married and he came looking for me at my workplace. Fortunately, Alex put him in his place and he went away a very pissed off man. I must admit it felt so good watching him beg me for a second chance. It turns out, his wife was seeing another man and apparently he is the father of that same child that made him leave me for her. She left him last year to be with him. He was so mad because she left him for a nobody, his words, not mine.

Although I felt some form of vindication seeing him looking so pathetic, there was a part of me that felt sorry for him.

We set November 9th as the date for the wedding and both Alex and I would be happy to have you and your wife there…especially me, it would mean a lot to me. I know its short notice…but I still hope you can make it.

I hope to see you soon and do take care of yourself.

Your Friend,

Thandiwe.

I was very happy for Thandie. She finally found her own happiness and that good for nothing ex-husband of hers finally realised he had lost a good thing.

I would have been like that man too but I was fortunate enough to be rescued at the right now. I had seen the opportunity and I had gone running after it even if at that point I did not understand why I was so desperate.

Since then, although my life has not been perfect, it’s been filled with so much happiness.

I learnt a lot of things since that morning my wife had woken me up from my sleep and told me that she had something she needed to get off her chest.

I learnt that it is easy to notice the sins of others and judge them accordingly yet for our own sins, we tend to find justifications;

I lashed out because you upset me, I stole because I was desperate, I lied because I didn’t want to hurt you…or I cheated because you made me to.

At some point in each of our lives, we’ve made these and many other excuses for our actions.

However, the thing about life is, for every act we do, every decision we make, we do so whilst consciously being aware of the likely consequences to follow…and even when we consciously know that we are doing something bad, we prepare our defence and we manufacture whatever excuses we can to lessen our guilt.

Although my wife had defiled the sanctity of our home when she lay in bed with another man, I was the one that had betrayed her on a much grander scale because I had deceived her into believing that I had forgiven her. Instead, I used every opportunity I got to hurt her…thinking I was justified in my actions simply because she had done something wrong to me first.

Unlike her who had recognized her mistakes and taken responsibility for them, I had been a coward, hiding behind her while I slowly worked to permanently destroy our marriage.

It was I that made the decision to cheat, not my wife. She had given me the opportunity to walk away and I didn’t. The moment I had chosen to stay, everything that had happened before was to be erased so we could start afresh. Instead, I let myself get swept up in delusions that threatened to tear my family apart.

No one had held a gun to my head and forced me to do all those things I did. And for that, I paid the price…I stepped foot on an already cracked foundation and deliberately rubbed my foot in there and made it crumble to the ground.

In order to restore what had been and built what could be, Thabo and I had to start from the very beginning, together.

She had given me a second chance, not because she felt guilty for what she had done in the past….

But because she loved me.

I had sought her forgiveness…not because I thought I deserved it…

But because I loved her.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 9

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

It had indeed been eighteen years since Lance Hangaala had seen Aunt Tafadzwa. It was no secret that she wasn’t a fan of him. He had been nothing but a Taxi driver when he had met and fallen in-love with her sister Miriam.

Not one to keep her thoughts to herself, Tafadzwa had confronted him behind her sister’s back and told him to take a hike because she didn’t want Miriam to languish in poverty. A beautiful and intelligent girl like her deserved a rich man to spoil her for life, Tafadzwa had said. How could he ever forget those piercing words?

However, despite her treatment of him, Lance understood to some extent why Tafadzwa wanted her elder sister to get married to a rich man. He had seen first-hand how Miriam struggled to take care of her sibling and herself from the little money she was making working as a secretary.

And so when Miriam eventually disappeared from his life without a word, he did not resent her. Despite his broken heart, there was still a huge part of him that missed her and kept longing for her. Unlike her sister, Miriam had been a kind and loving woman who always put the interests of others ahead of her own. That was the reason why he had fallen for her. But when she left him in the most cruel manner possible, he had been left with a lot of questions whose answers could only come from her.

When he had begged her to never let him go but to be patient with him while he looked for a better job, she had put her arms around his neck and told him she didn’t care about anything else as long as he remained by her side. That was the kind of woman he knew her to be.

Even when a dear friend of his offered him a job in Botswana with a better pay, he had turned it down, afraid to leave the country just in case Miriam had a change of heart and came looking for him. But when two, three, four years went by and there was no trace of her, he had finally given up and left town.

The news of her demise came to him at the most unexpected time in his life. It was the day before his wedding when he sat down to catch up with some old close friends of his that had traveled the distance to attend the wedding. Curious about her death, Lance had searched high and low for Tafadzwa’s contact information but all efforts to communicate with her proved futile.

“You really look very different now Lance,” Aunt Tafadzwa quickly tried to change the subject. “Life in Botswana must be good for you.”

Lance chuckled. “I guess you could say that,” he said. “It was tough the first couple of years but after a while, new opportunities came by and I tried to make something of my humble life.”

“I really can’t believe you are the same man who had dry and cracked lips with those tone trousers you liked wearing…and those nasty looking sandals you wore with wire supporters.” She was laughing as if she was sharing in a good memory.

The only thing her guest could do was smile awkwardly. It was obviously a part of his past he was not very fond of. It had after all costed him the love of his life. Perhaps if he hadn’t been so poor, Miriam would still be alive. How much had he looked forward to having a little girl that looked exactly like her beautiful mother…big bright eyes with a matching personality? He had believed in that dream but it had come crumbling down even before he had the chance to lay down the first brick.

There was nothing much about the past to make him smile but obviously there was enough to make his former almost sister in-law cackle like that.

It was not that he was ashamed of his past; he was glad he had gone through all those hardships because they had made him the kind of man he had become. However, despite the life lessons that came with those experiences, they had left painful footprints that refused to go away no matter how much wind blow against them.

So how could he possibly look back to those days and laugh so heartily?

“I have wondered all these years about Miriam’s death,” Mr Hangaala said. “That is why I paid you this unexpected visit.”

“You came all the way to Zambia just for that?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked. She was going to do everything possible to avoid answering certain questions.

“No, my wife and I came for some other business but I took the opportunity to look you up and just check up on you.” He said.

“You are married now, that’s wonderful. But why didn’t you come with your wife?”

“I didn’t think it would be appropriate Fadzwa.” He muttered.

“Oh yeah,” she said in feigned embarrassment.

“So are you not going to tell me about how Miriam died?” He had already sensed that she was avoiding every question concerning Miriam.

Aunt Tafadzwa fumbled with the table cloth laying on the arm of the sofa she was sitting on, taking it off the sofa and then laying it back again…and then playing with its edges. “You know…she was my only sister…the only family I had so talking about her death is not very easy for me.”

“I understand,” Lance said, dropping his suspicions a notch. “I am very sorry for making you go through this…but I feel like knowing might help me get some kind of closure.”

“Why do you still think about a dead lover when you are obviously happily married now? Does your wife know about my sister?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked, diverting the topic once more.

“My wife knows,” he answered. “I told her everything before we even started dating. She knows why I am here and she understands.”

“Well, if you must know,” Aunt Tafadzwa said to him. “It was an accident. It was a hit and run so we don’t know much about it. They never caught the culprit.” She was looking at Lance’s face to study his reaction…and probably check if he was buying her tale. Unfortunately, this well-to-do version of him was a difficult man to read. Perhaps if he had been in his usual rags, she would have put him right where she wanted him to be; out of her house.

“Did you ever go back to the police to check if they had made any developments…in terms of catching the culprit?”

Aunt Tafadzwa was visibly surprised by how well Lance Hangaala could articulate himself. Compared to the stammering fool he had been all those years ago, the man looking at her questioningly had the demeanour of a very learned person.

Perhaps…had I made the wrong calculations in keeping the knowledge of his daughter away from him?

But how was I supposed to know that you had finally made something of your sorry self?

But who cares anyway? Aunt Tafadzwa plotted silently. Looking at that cheap Corrolla parked outside, he is not even slightly close to the level of the Mwewa’s. Those are the big fishes I should be worrying about…not this God forsaken rich man wanna be. Dressing a frog in a suit does not make it human. It still is what it is, a frog. She thought as she scanned him from his head to his shoes, her face looking like she had just smelt something rotten.

“This is Zambia we are talking about Lance,” this time she didn’t bother to hide her irritation. “Or perhaps has living in a foreign land made you forget about where you came from?” She asked accusingly.

She had finally succeeded in making him uncomfortable. “I can sense that this is clearly a very sore topic for you and I should apologize for that. I think it’s best for me to get going now.” And he did get up immediately without waiting for her response.

“I also need to wash some vegetables for sale at the market tomorrow. It’s already late as you can see….” Standing up in the process. “So I won’t be able to show you out. You should pass my regards to your family.”

Lance Hangaala got the signal and left the house without uttering another word. Once he was inside his vehicle, he sat down for what felt like minutes and watched Aunt Tafadzwa’s house like it held the answers to all of his questions.

He had this strange look in his eyes when he shook his head and finally drove off.

Aunt Tafadzwa had been looking at him through a crack of the curtain the whole time.

“Was that Sibu’s dad?” Tammy came into the living room in her night dress, a mischievous smile playing on her face.

“What are you still doing up this time?” Her mother snapped at her.

“Does Sibu know that her father is still alive?” Her daughter asked. She was obviously enjoying the moment, watching her mother looking all tensed up and shaken.

Still peeping through the curtain, “Of course she knows that he’s alive,” Aunt Tafadzwa said. “She just prefers telling people that he’s dead to avoid questions because she thinks he abandoned her mother when he discovered she was pregnant.”

“I guess it’s thanks to you she thinks like that isn’t it?” Tammy said to her mother who was now breathing a sigh of relief as the car outside disappeared from view. “You are one evil woman mother,” Tammy proudly said to her mother, delivering it like it was some kind of compliment.

Aunt Tafadzwa gave her a look as she dropped the curtain and went to throw herself on the sofa in relief. “I have never heard you refuse the money that Sibu brings here,” she retorted. “In fact, you whine and demand for more from her.”

“I guess we are both evil…except,” she was talking with her eyes dancing about excitedly. “It’s not my fault, it should be my genes.”

“Shut up and go to bed or keep talking and I tell Sibu to forget about giving you money for college. Your choice.”

That threat was enough to send Tammy straight back into the bedroom.

Her mother grinned in satisfaction and then slowly closed her eyes to sleep.
In the first week of January the following year, Martin Mwewa Junior and Sibusiswe Hangaala were wed.

* * *

The first year of marriage for Martin and Sibusiswe Hangaala was exactly what it was supposed to be, a honeymoon phase. After Martin’s successive surgery, Sibu had put down her guard for a while and allowed herself to busk in marriage bliss. It was as if she had been born again. She could laugh easily and she laughed a lot. Through Martin, she had come to experience the true meaning of love.

Martin had found himself completely enamoured by his new bride. The ease with which she had offered to donate her kidney and sked that it be kept their little secret made him fall even deeper in love with her. Where else could such a woman be found? The times she had relentlessly and happily cared for him after his surgery proved to him that he had been right to go against his mother and stick to his decision to settle down with her. Because of her, he had become a better man.

Unfortunately, like many other marriages, the honeymoon phase eventually came to pass. The new lifestyle that was greatly dependent on drugs as a means of safeguarding his new kidney proved to be too tasking for the wild hearted Martin. Now that he felt strong again and back to normal, he saw no importance in religiously taking pills and that eventually gave rise to a constantly nagging wife.

“I feel just fine Sibu!” had become the bone of contention in the home of the newlyweds.

“That is not the point Martin,” Sibu would argue. “Just because you feel fine does not mean you have to stop taking your meds. We had an agreement and you promised….”

“Yes, we are back to those promises again,” Martin would snap back. “Listen, I am tired. The whole week, if I am not studying, then I am at work. I think I deserve to have the weekend to rest and do whatever I want to unwind.”

“I understand that…I am just saying that you should at least reduce the amount of alcohol you consume and continue taking your medication.”

“I miss the fun-loving and I don’t-give-a-dame Sibu that I married. What happened to you?” Martin would give his wife the most disgusting look. “I can’t recognize this nagging woman you’ve become. I am going to sleep at Conrad’s tonight.” He would then grab his gear and leave the house.

Eventually, sleeping away from home became a habit.

Instead of striving to resolve Martin’s struggles and his change in behavior, Sibu withdrew from the world and from her husband, believing that his behavior was some sort of punishment she was receiving for having deceived herself into choosing happiness and neglecting to pay her debt to her mother.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” She would say to her mother’s tombstone whenever something bad happened.

“What the hell was I thinking…thinking he would change just because he had married me?” She would cry out to her mother. “He never sleeps home, he parties every night and sleeps with any girl he can get his hands on. When I complain he shoves money in my face like that would erase everything.

“Where you mad at me for being so happy while you were lying here in this cold earth mother? I know…I am shameless for constantly disturbing you like this but whether you like it or not, I am still your daughter you know.”

When she was not crying her heart out to her mother, the only other person she could talk to was Sibeso.

“Why don’t you try counselling?” Sibeso had once suggested to her. “You guys are still young to be growing apart like this. The problem is you married too young and Martin was obviously not yet ready for this kind of commitment. I think the fear of death must have deceived him into believing he could handle such a huge responsibility like marriage, but let’s face it….he is still immature. The both of you need to get professional help before it’s too late.

“I think he regrets the marriage Sibe,” Sibu confided in her friend. “Now that he’s alive and well, he must regret marrying in such haste.”

“I don’t think he regrets the marriage…pe se,” Sibeso would said. “I do however, think that he feels emasculated by his reliance on meds and so he is taking it out on women out there…like he’s trying to prove a point or something.”

“You sound like a shrink,” Sibu laughed softly.

“Does his family even know that he was sick?” Sibeso asked.

Sibu nodded. “They do. They were even present during the operation. They just don’t know that the kidney was mine.”

Sibeso gaped at her friend in shock. “Why don’t they know such an important fact?” She asked. “If that mother in-law of yours knew what you sacrificed for her son, she will definitely start treating you with respect. She is also a major reason why Martin is acting like this. She keeps forcing him in the company of these tuma girls from rich families as if he is still a bachelor. What demon resides inside that woman must be very short and an angry one.”

Sibu sighed heavily and said, “I just can’t wait for school to open so I can keep myself busy. If Martin wants to kill himself, let him go ahead and do so. I am done trying to be a hero when he won’t admit he needs saving.”

“You applied under which school?” Sibeso changed the subject. The mood always seemed to go down whenever took of Martin came up those days.

“Humanities and Social Sciences.”

“I thought you wanted to do Law?”

“Ah, I changed my mind. I think it’s time I started moving my life away from Martin. Let him leave his own life and I will leave mine. My aunt is a headache enough on her own. I don’t need all this drama in my life.”

“Speaking of Maxine,” Sibeso laughed, like she always did whenever they called the woman by her nickname. It would take some time to get used to it. Sometimes they would even talk about her in her presence and she would have no clue whatsoever that she was the subject of discussion. “Does she know about the problems between you and Martin?”

Sibu sneered. “Why would she care about that…and why would I even tell her? The only thing that woman cares about is money. Can you believe she wants me to buy her a plot in Meanwood?”

“What?” Sibeso exclaimed.

“Yes, and who is going to build on it once it’s been bought? Me!”

“That woman will never cease to amaze me,” Sibeso said with a disconcerting look on her face. “I bet the devil looks at her every morning and shudders. She is a real contender to his throne that one.”

And in one of those moments that had become rare, Sibu laughed.

* * *

 

 

Winter of July 2015

Martin anxiously waited for Sibusiswe to show up at the restaurant where they had scheduled for their meeting to take place. She had finally called him back after ignoring his calls for two days and asked that they meet at the new restaurant in town, a place Sibu had deliberately picked because it held no memories for the two of them…and also because it would be packed with people so the two of them wont have to get into mellow-dramatic conversations…as it always happened whenever they met.

Martin was anxiously tapping his leg on the floor  wondering if SIbu would show up or not when he looked up and saw her enter the restaurant.

She looked as radiant as ever as evidenced from the many heads of men that had turned to steal glimpses of her. Wanting to make his interests known to the public, he quickly got and waited for Sibu to reach his table. He proceeded to wrap her up in a hug, a move that caught her by surprise but not wanting to draw even more attention to herself, she quickly hugged him back and then sat down.

“What’s this I hear about you traveling to SA?” Martin launched his attack the moment they were both seated.

Sibu chuckled, thinking about how some things never changed. They had been divorced for four years already but he still treated her like she was still his wife.

“Did you just laugh?” Martin asked, his eyebrows going up in confusion.

“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh,” she said. “I wish I had a good reason…but I am just going to be honest with you…I didn’t know how to broach the subject to you. I didn’t want you to think that I was taking advantage of our custody arrangement by taking your son away for such a long time.”

“Ooh,” Martin said, surprised by her quick admission. He had been more than ready to fight it out with her especially since he could smell Ted all over the issue. “And Ted,” he said, his voice had dropped to a much lower register as he relaxed his back against the chair to feign nonchalance, his fingers slowly tapping the table. “Are you two still in contact?”

Sibu could see right through his charade…trying to play it cool when he was obviously dying to know the answers deep down.She had feared he might put two and two together and it hadn’t taken that long after all.

“Yes,” she answered. “We kept in touch over the years.” She knew Martin wanted to hear more but she still kept her response as brief as possible. She didn’t need to ask him what he was thinking, it was written all over his face.

“So are you planning on seeing each other?” He asked.

“Martin,” Sibu put on a serious face. “You do know that we are divorced right? And that you cannot ask me certain personal questions?”

Martin was embarrassed by the questions but he couldn’t help himself. Not knowing what was going on in her life eat at him every night and day. What wouldn’t he give to have her look at him the way she had done during that first year of their marriage? Those memories haunted him every single day.

Like a fool he had allowed his pride to overshadow his love for her and by the time he had realized what he had done, she had walked out of his life and never looked back.

The thing that baffled Martin the most was how easily Sibu had given up on him. It was as if a switch had gone off inside of her. She had stopped talking and had withdrawn into a world he had no access to and even though she had continued attending to him as a wife, her flesh was there but her spirit was not.

She had left him long before she had said those three painful words to him;

Sign these papers.

However, out of everything that had transpired, the question that still haunted Martin was;

Why had it been so easy for her to give up on him?

Looking at her sitting in front of him, she looked happier than she had been when they were married so how could he really bring himself to ask her such a question?

That morning in Kitwe when she found him with another woman in bed had been the tipping point. He had for the first time recognized that things would never be the same between them.

“I understand you hate me now,” Martin had started to say when a waitress came to their table to take down their order. She was smiling loudly at them but they were both too absorbed in their own thoughts to take notice.

they gave her their orders without looking up at her and off she went, disappointment written all over her pretty face.

“I don’t hate you Martin,” Sibu corrected him the moment they were alone again. “You and I…it was a mistake from the beginning.”

“A mistake?” Martin couldn’t hide the disappointment he felt upon hearing those words. “Is that really how you feel Sibu?” He asked, his voice slightly rising and then lowering immediately when everyone turned to look at them.

He was waiting for her response with bated breath.

Sibu sighed and rolled her eyes. “Martin,” she said, sitting up straight and putting her hands together over the table. “We’ve had this conversation so many times before. Why do you keep insisting on going back to the past every time we meet? It’s about time we both moved on with our lives don’t you think?”

“Easy for you to say because there’s always been a man hanging around in your life.” He said and won himself what he had come to call the Sibu shot.

“I am leaving,” she grabbed her bag from the empty chair next to her and as she stood up she said, “This is why I was dreading meeting you. Somehow our conversations always end up the same way.”

Martin quickly stood up and grasped her hand. “Please, I’m sorry Sibu…please…sit down.” He motioned to the chair she had been sitting on.

There were a few people in the room looking at them, thus, not wanting to create a scene, Sibu sat back down. “Let’s talk about Jacob, he is the only reason we are meeting today.” She said.

Martin wasn’t happy about the direction the conversation had taken but he relented. “Cool, let’s do that. How long are you planning on staying over there?”

“So you are you okay with it?” Sibu’s eyes were sparkling with excitement. She had been so worried about him not allowing her to take Jacob with her.

“Do I really have a choice Sibu?” He asked.

Sibu was surprised by his remark.

“It’s not like I can go back in time and change the arrangement we made about Jacob’s custody.” He explained. “Even when I knew it was absolutely stupid, I still went ahead and gave you full custody.”

“So are you saying you have changed your mind now?” She asked, growing very concerned.

Martin was hesitant at first but then he replied, “I am not saying that I have changed my mind,” he was speaking a little slowly, placing emphasis on his words as he spoke. “I am just saying that just because I made that decision back then does not mean I am happy with it. Jacob is my son too so what father wouldn’t want to have custody of his only son?

“I miss that boy every single day and it hurts not being able to see him whenever I want. But I made that decision and I am sticking to it because it’s the only way I felt I could make things up to you and him. You know very well how obsessed my mother is with him. He was her first grandchild and the only Mwewa grandson. To this day she still fights with me over letting you keep him.”

“So why don’t you and Veronica try to have another child? Maybe it will be a son this time around…who knows?” She suggested nonchalantly. “You guys have been together for such a very long time…is it seven or eight years now?”

Martin felt like a dagger had just been plunged into his chest. He could not tell if she was being sarcastic or serious but he was willing to place his money on the latter. How could she so easily speak about another woman in his life without showing any ounce of jealous whatsoever? Why was he the only one feeling like his heart was reaping apart?

“I have told you several times that Veronica and I are not together.” Martin said forcefully. “I know we said we shouldn’t talk about anything else but you brought this one up yourself so I will explain; Veronica and I dated on and off way before you and I even met and I only started seeing her after we started having problems and it was only a couple of times. But that’s all, there was nothing serious going on between us.”

Martin could tell she really wasn’t interested in hearing whatever he had to say but she just sat there silently with a completely blank expression on her face.

“She and I never married.” he continued explaining nonetheless. “She thinks we are married just because we temporarily live together and she had my child, but we are far from being together or let alone married. Her parents just left her and the baby at my door and demanded I take responsibility.”

“I actually wanted to tell you that I changed my mind,” Sibu said when it appeared Martin was done with his monologue.

Sibu’s word’s brought an instant smile on his face but it was a short-lived one.

“Something came up just yesterday so I decided that instead of two years,” Sibu was saying. “I will just be gone for about a year or less.”

That was definitely not what he had been expecting to hear after saying all that to her. He was giving her the are-you-kidding-me-right-now look and she pretended not to notice.

“That means you get to see your son sooner than initially expected!” Sibu announced excitedly.

Unfortunately, she was the only one excited. “Is that the only thing you are going to say to me after everything I just told you?” Martin asked.

Sibu put her hand over her forehead and heaved a long sigh of frustration, deliberately making a whoooooosh sound as she let the air blow out of her mouth. She then proceeded to rub her hand against her eyes, thinking deeply before finally speaking.

“Martin,” her voice sounded heavy and tired. She dropped her hand and rested it against the table. “Is there a part of you that thinks that there’s a chance of us getting back together in future?” She asked him.

“Of course yes,” he answered enthusiastically. “I know I have no right to expect something like that but I have changed Sibu. I stopped drinking and partying like I used to a year after you left and I take my medication religiously. The only thing keeping me busy is work and I only go out once in a while to hang out with my friends. There hasn’t been any woman in my life since you left, I swear to you. I am not asking you to take me back right now…I am willing to wait, to give you time to think…to heal …but I beg you Sibu, don’t shut me out of your life completely, please.”

As Sibu listened and watched Martin speak, she couldn’t help thinking about the days when he had spoken the same sweet words to her and convinced her that the world wasn’t such a crazy place after all.

back then she had looked into his eyes and believed every word he had uttered.

She had put down her guard and allowed herself to be lost in his promises. For the first time in her life she had allowed the past to be were it belonged and she experienced happiness for the very first time in a very long time.

But who would have known that the very heart that had showered her with that kind of love would be the same one that would drown her and then drag her back to the very hell she had been grappling with all those years?

And now he wanted her to give him a second chance? How?

Picking up on her silence, Martin continued talking. “I know that I was the one who messed up big time. I was going through some things and instead of trusting that you would always be my side and that nothing would change, I got scared. I started acting out. I am not trying to make excuses here… I know very well what I did and how much it hurt you and I am going to pay for that for the rest of my life. But Sibu, you are also not blameless when it comes to how things turned out between us.”

“What do you mean by that?” Sibu asked.

So he had her attention after all, Martin thought.

“Sibu, did you even want to get married to me or someone forced you?” He asked her. “There was a time when we had a huuuge fight and you said something in those lines…and it wasn’t just that one time….”

“No one forced me to marry you Martin,” she answered. “I made the decision on my own and we got married right away. Perhaps I said those things out of anger.”

“Then why did you give up on me so easily?” He asked.

There was guilt written all over Sibu’s face.

“You know it too don’t you?” He had read her mind.

Sibu was flustered, but only for a moment. “You never gave me any reason why I should keep trying.” She said. “For a whole year I did nothing but nag and beg. I spent long nights crying alone in bed while you enjoyed yourself in hotel rooms but still I kept trying. One day I woke up and completely hated the person I had become. You too, you hated who I had become. I asked myself why I even bothered when the person I was trying to look out for didn’t even care about what happened to him…or what happened to us. Out of everything, I found giving up the easiest thing to do.”

“It wasn’t because things had turned out the way you had expected them to?” Martin asked.

“I guess so…to some extent. I admit, I had a lot of reservations getting into it and when things started happening like that, I thought…what did you expect Sibu? It was like a self-fufilling prophesy…like an accident waiting to happen.”

“I see,” a visibly hurt Martin responded.

Like an accident waiting to happen…he bitterly mulled over her words.

“You think I never gave you a reason to keep trying but Sibu…from the beginning, you never gave me a chance. Even after we got married you never trusted me enough to talk to me about whatever was going on in your family. Everytime you received a visit from your aunt, you would stay in a foul mood for a whole week and no matter how much I tried, you wouldn’t open up to me. To you I was always the playboy that would one day disappear from your life. So many times you made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for you…like you were just waiting for the walls to come crumbling down so you could pick yourself up and walk out. And you did exactly that.”

Finally, his words seemed to be getting to her.

Were those tears making her eyes shimmer in the day light?

Sibu quickly lowered her gaze when sensed Martin starring at her. She blinked back the tears and then looked back up again. “I am sorry,” she said, her voice a little husky from the unshed tears.

“I didn’t realize you felt like that. I guess I was just so wrapped up in blaming you for everything that was going wrong in our marriage I forgot to look at myself. I didn’t even think you would notice something like that.” Her lips were quivering as she spoke and her hands were shaking slightly.

“Hey, hey….” Martin laid his hand on top of hers to comfort her. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said and he moved to occupy the seat next to her where her handbag was resting. He removed the bag and put it on the table and then he sat down and put his arm around her shoulder.”

For a moment, it felt like it was just the two of them in the room and they stayed like that for about three minutes while Sibu struggled to regain her composure. Martin’s efforts to comfort her only seemed to be making her situation worse; the tears wouldn’t stop coming. He had removed his handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her.

“Sorry for the intrusion.” It was the waitress carrying a try of their food in her hands. They had been so wrapped in their conversation that they did not realize it had taken that long for their food to arrive.

Sibu cleared her throat and slowly sat up. “I will keep this,” she was talking about the hanker in her hands. Martin shrugged his shoulders to tell her he didn’t mind while the waitress placed their food on their table. She was smiling seductively at Martin the whole time she was going about her business but he was too busy watching Sibu to notice.

“Can you be any more obvious?” Sibu snapped at the audacious waitress. She couldn’t believe she still had to deal with the same nonsense she had had to deal with every time she went out on a date with Martin.

The waitress immediately tightened her expression and threw Sibu a contentious look before walking away.

Martin was grinning in his seat.

“What are you smiling about? Did you just cum from all that flirting she was throwing at you?” Sibu directed her anger at him in her stead.

Martin laughed. “You are being unfair Sibu,” he said. “She was the one looking at me. I never even looked at her. You are the one who saw whatever it is you saw. But,” he started smiling again. “I don’t know why your reaction just made me so happy. You are actually jealous.” He stated happily.

Sibu blushed. “No am not!” she protested. “She just caught me at a bad moment and then she was acting like I’m not even here. She almost spilled souce on me.” She pointed to the drop of tomatoe souce on the table just close to the edge.”

“I don’t care what you say I still think you acted out of jealous. For a moment I was scared that you would never give me a chance but this moment is just the one!.” He was very excited.

Sibu was looking at him and slowly shaking her head. “There you go again acting like the world revolves around you.” And she picked up her folk and started eating her food. Martin was already chewing his food loudly and carelessly in celebration of his victory.
Sibusiswe was driving back to her place when she sensed a car following her. It was only 4pm but whoever was behind the wheel of that vehicle appeared intent on following her wherever she went… because even after driving around her neighborhood three times, the car was still behind her every time she looked into her rear view mirror.

This was not the first time she had felt like someone was following her. She had had suspicions before but quickly brushed them off thinking she was just being paranoid.

Who could be following her like that? It wasn’t as if she was a celebrity or political figure. Granted, her marriage to Martin had put her in the spotlight for a certain period of time but it wasn’t to the stalker kind of extent.

And so, she parked her vehicle at the entrace of a random house and waited to see what the driver of the dark blue Jaguar would do.

Sibu’s heart raced as the car slowly drove passed her and then disappeared when it turned at the nearest corner. She could not make out the driver’s face.

All the windows of the expensively polished vehicle had been tinted.