“What did you just say?” Sibusiswe turned around and glared at her cousin. Although the two of them were age mates, Tammy liked to act as if she was older than Sibu, always bossing her around and making crazy demands.
“I think you heard me,” Tammy retorted. “I think mum has done more than enough for you to repay her by marrying the most handsome guy in the whole country…and rich too. I think you are just trying to be difficult just because you want to keep the good fortune all to yourself.”
Sibu was befuddled by the girl’s audacity. “Do you even know exactly what it is that I have to repay aunt for?”
Her cousin snickered. “She already told me that she is the only reason you are still alive. Shouldn’t you try harder then for someone whose the reason you are standing there acting like you are better than us?”
“First of all, I do not owe your mother anything,” Sibu fired back. “The only reason I have allowed her all these years to push me around is because I made a conscious decision to be good to her because she is only a means to an end…not that I owe her anything. I can simply wake up one day and decide to change my mind.
“Secondly, this should be the last time you talk to me like you own me or something. I am the only reason you are even able to utter such long sentences in English so show some respect to your benefactor. Now if you will excuse us, I would like to have a mature conversation with your mother and I would appreciate it if you would leave the house and go as far away from here as possible.”
The eighteen year old pouted and sulked whilst glancing at her mother for help but the woman paid her no attention, afraid to antagonize her niece lest she refused to accept her damed offer.
“Go and take care of the stand at the market.” Aunt Tafadzwa instructed her daughter. They had a stand in the market selling vegetables where Aunt Tafadzwa spent most of her day. It was Sibu who had given her capital to start the small business.
Kicking her legs and throwing her hands in the air in a tantrum, Tammy did as her mother instructed and left the room in a huff.
Sibu went to sit back down. “You were saying that if I marry Martin and did something for you then you would me alone….”
Aunt Tafadzwa took the seat opposite her and with a face beaming of renewed hope, she addressed her niece. “Yes, get Martin to marry you and you can divorce him later…as long as you give me enough money to open up a large store and you send my children to school.”
“I like Martin quite alright aunt but I am not in-love with him and, even if I was, there was no way I would allow myself to be stuck for life with a man like him. All he does sleep around with anything in a skirt and the only reason he is mentioning marriage is because…”
“So he did mention marriage after all.” Her aunt interjected, instantly making Sibu aware of the blunder she created.
“Not to me, he hasn’t,” Sibu replied. “But as I was saying, the only reason he’s mentioning marriage to me is purely because it is the only way he can knows to make me really his property.”
“Isn’t that the reason why everyone marries in the first place?” Her aunt replied matter-of-factly. “This is a golden opportunity for you to make something of yourself Sibu.”
Sibu sneered at her. “There is nothing about this whole arrangement that is for me. Everything is just about you. If you think pushing me to the edge like this is making me pay for what happened in the past, then you are mistaken.
“The more you push me like this, the more you make me feel like I have done enough to free myself of the sins you’ve been capitalizing on.” She stood up. “Keep doing this and one day I will walk away from all this without feeling an ounce of guilt, because you would have made it so.” And she left, leaving behind a befuddled Aunt Tafadzwa.
“You will marry that boy even if it costs you an arm and a leg young lady,” She said as she watched her niece disappear from the yard.
It had been four days since Sibu had heard from Martin. The last their had spoken was when he called her at the hospital and Sibeso had blackmailed her into taking the call before she disappeared out of the room.
“I don’t need you to turn your life around for me Martin,” Sibu had argued with a belligerent Martin who had just informed her of his plans to come back to Zambia. “You are only thinking about yourself right now and not about me.”
“I am doing this for the both of us Sibu,” he had insisted. “Why do you always have to be stubborn about everything?”
“I am being stubborn,” she answered back. “I just happen to know what I want and I know for a fact that I am not yet ready to get married. I am only eighteen for crying out loud.”
“You will be nineteen in a couple of months,” Martin said.
Sibusiswe paused and starred at her phone for a bit before putting it back to her ear. “How would you know that? I have never spoken to you about my birthday before.”
“Because I meant it when I said I loved you and so naturally I took an interest. Now do you see what I mean?”
Sibu blinked and blushed, finding the revelation a little fluttering and at the same time reminding herself about how cautious she ought to be when talking to Martin. He had this tendency to throw her off guard every now and then.
“Sibu are you there?” Martin’s voice came through the receiver.
“Yeah, I’m here,” She quickly came back to her senses.
“Are you feeling sick? Are you okay babe?” He was sounding almost out of breath, his reaction again taking Sibu by surprise. From the time she had met Martin, Sibu had trouble figurng out what was truth and what was lie from his mouth.
Placing a finger on either either of her closed eyelids, she answered, “I am fine,” and she sighed heavily. “And please don’t call me that….”
“You gonna have to get used to it from now on,” he replied smugly. “I just feel so shitty because I didn’t even know I was going to be a father and now my child is gone…it’s just so unfair.”
Sibu didn’t know what to say in return.
“Anyway, I should be home either Friday or Saturday so….”
“Martin,” Sibu said in a pleading tone. “Please I beg of you, don’t do this. I am not going to marry you even if you come all the way. I want to go to school, take care of a few things and live my life the way I want. The idea of marriage has never ever crossed my mind even. And most importantly, I am not in-love with you.”
“If you don’t love me, then why did you decide to keep my baby? You could have easily gotten rid of the pregnancy and I would have never found out…but you kept my baby Sibu.”
“I have my own reasons for keeping the pregnancy and it has absolutely nothing to do with you. I did it all for myself…not because I wanted to…but because I had to.”
“What do you mean by that?” Martin inquired, concern arched all over his words.
“This is exactly what I mean when I tell you that we can never be.” She said. “We barely know each other an…. there are things about me that you would hate if you knew of them…I hate myself because of that and I can’t imagine what others might think if they ever discovered that about me…I won’t marry you Martin, I mean it.”
“There is something I haven’t told you…maybe I should just come clean right now,” Martin had said. “I did a background search on you a few days after you joined the company.”
“What?” Sibu exclaimed as fear registered into her eyes. “Background check…you said….” she stuttered.
“Yes…I know, it’s very low of me and I am sorry but Sibu, you don’t have to worry about a thing.” He reassured her. “If you are having reservation about us because of what happened with your parents then I can promise you that you don’t have to worry about something like that with me.”
Sibu sat up in her hospital bed, her heart pounding very fast. “You know about my family?” Sibu asked, tears streaming down her eyes suddenly.
“Yes,” he answered. “I know a bit about what happened between your mother and father and that you don’t know who or where he is.”
Sibu almost missed a heart beat. “Is that all you found out?” She waited.
“Yeah, is there something I missed?” Martin laughed. “That time I did that because I was mostly curious but now that I know you, I don’t even care about all that. I just want to start my life afresh with you Sibu. I must have lived my life the wrong way… I don’t want to die like this….” he let his voice trail off, his somber tone sending chills down Sibu’s spine.
“Why are you talking like that Martin? That’s so unlike you.” She said.
Martin went quite for a moment and then, “It’s nothing babe,” he was trying to come off cool but his shaking voice betrayed him.
“Is something the matter with you?” She asked again. “Are you perhaps sick?”
“No, of course not!” He replied a little too quickly and loudly, masking his voice with a laugh. “Have you forgotten who I am, I am Martin Mwewa…I never get sick. Listen, I need to go now,” he was speaking fast now. “I have a lot of stuff I need to get done before I can leave this place.” And then he paused before adding, “I love you Sibu. Take care of yourself and see you soon.” He cut the call before Sibu could say anything in return.
Sibu was left wondering what had just happened and why Martin had suddenly changed. However, not wanting to consciously think about him, Sibu shook her head and brushed off the nagging feeling that was threatening to engulf her.
She grabbed the medical magazine that was lying on the bedside table and opened to read.
As he had promised, Martin arrived in Lusaka the next Saturday morning.
He collected his car keys from Clement who had been waiting for him at the airport and he drove straight to his work place where he knew Sibu would be working half day.
She was engaged in a call with a client when he walked entered through the doors of the receptionist and walked straight towards her.
With her mouth wide open from Martin’s unexpected entrance, Sibu lost concentration on her call and the female client could be heard from the other end of the line calling out for her.
“Yes, yes, am here.” Sibu blinked and got back to the call. “I am sorry about that ma’am,” she quickly apologized. “I will ask Attorney Williams to get back to you as soon as he gets out of the meeting. My sincere apologies for the inconvenience…yes…” she nodded as she listened to whatever was been said into her ears. “Yes…I will do that. Thank you Ma’am. Have a lovely day.” And she hang up.
When she finally looked up to check where Martin had gone, she found him standing right in front of the reception desk looking directly into her eyes with a huge smile on his face.
Sibu looked around the hall area if there were any employees around and she saw a group of four siting by the lounge area that appeared to be in some kind of meeting except they had put whatever business they had at hand to stare closely at her and Martin.
For the past month or so Sibu had done her best to dull down the rumors about her relationship with Martin, insisting incessantly that there were just friends and that nothing was going on. Most of the ladies had done enough to inform her willy-nilly that if anything at all was going on, she was nothing but a pawn in Martin’s extensive collection of women.
“What do you think you are doing?” Sibu leaned in and whispered to the smitten looking Martin. His elbows were now resting on top of the desk while his face was perfectly positioned in the palm of his hands with his eyes dancing wildly like a child begging a parent for candy.
Completely taking her by surprise, Martin put both hands on the desk and raised his feet from the ground to lean in and plant a wet one on the lips of the unsuspecting Sibu who was now up on her feet.
By the time she thought of pulling away, the damage had already been done and their audience looked more than entertained.
“You had no idea how much I had missed you!” Martin said the moment his feet landed back on the carpeted floor.
Sibu silently prayed for the ground to open up and swallow her as she stood there looking all flustered from head to toe. She had her hands to her mouth as she looked in the direction on the onlookers; while the two gentlemen were grinning, the two ladies were looking at her with extremely sour expressions.
Martin had just made her the target of envy, jealous and gossip that was going to rock the office for the coming weeks and months.
“I really hate you,” Sibu muttered.
Martin smirked. “I know, but I love you enough for the both of us.” He declared. He then moved one of the landlines closer to him and dialed a number.
“What are you doing?” A worried Sibu asked.
“Calling Peggy so she can come and take over from you while….”
Sibu tried to reach out and grab the phone from him but Martin moved back so she couldn’t reach where he was.
“Peggy it’s me, Martin.” He said the moment Peggy answered.
“Boss?” Peggy was definitely surprised.
“Come to the reception right now and take over Sibu’s shift. She and I have some important business to take care of.”
“Huh?” Came the reply.
“Right now Peggy!” Martin said sternly and ended the call.
“Are you trying to get me ostracized in this place?” Sibu asked.
Martin went round the table, grabbed her handbag from under the desk, took her by the arm and led her towards the exit.
“The more you resist the more attention you draw to yourself,” Martin warned, and for sure they were still the center of attention. Sibu winced in embarrassment as she sunk her head low and allowed herself to be led away silently.
Martin’s car was parked right outside instead of the parking lot. He opened the front passenger door for her, helped her safely inside and went around to his seat.
“Where are we going?” Sibu asked as they got in motion.
“To the hospital,” Martin announced. “I need to make sure for myself that everything is okay with you.”
“There’s no need for that….”
“Yes, I already know you are going to say but it’s not like I asked for your permission.” He replied.
Sibu made a face. “That’s the problem with you, always want things done your way and when they don’t you sulk like a little boy.”
Martin stared at her, a serious expression on his face. “Name one positive thing you know about me Sibu.” He said.
She was surprised by the question. “Now why would I do that? I am sure there are plenty of girls out there willing to stroke your ego at the bat of an eye.”
Martin was shaking his head. “That’s not what I meant…I mean, you carried my child in your stomach, don’t you have even a single positive thing to say about me? Every time we talk, there’s always something negative you say about me. I’m I really that terrible kind of human being in your eyes?”
Sibu was mute, her eyes wondering about as if searching for a network signal.
It didn’t look like Martin was going to give up so easily. He parked to the side of the road and then turned to her. “I am serious Sibu. You and I really need to have a serious talk. Sometime’s you act like I forced you to sleep with me in Livingstone yet I had stopped so many times to ask if you were alright…I wanted to give you a chance to change your mind but you never did. I have never done anything like that before…I have never cared about such things before.”
“Are you trying to brag to me about the many women you’ve conquered?” Sibu glared at him. “I hate the fact that you think of me in the same breath as those other girls you’ve bedded. Every time I think about that night I feel like killing myself.” She pushed back the tear.
“I am sorry you feel that way Sibu and it was my mistake mentioning it in the first place. But you of all people should know that ever since I met you I haven’t been with anybody else; not here not abroad so why are you still giving me a hard time?”
“I know my past with women is not very impressive and I understand why you might be skeptical about my intentions. But people change Sibu…sometimes you encounter something along the way that forces you to reevaluate your life. You came into my life just around the time something like that was happening in my life and for some reason you became the rock I desperately want to cling to.”
Sibu was now looking at him with concern in her eyes. “What exactly is going on with you Martin,” she said. “You said something mysterious and in those lines even the last time we spoke on the phone. Do you perhaps have some strange disease?”
It was his turn to operate on mute.
Sibu suddenly straightened her back and looked at Martin as fear registered onto her face. “It’s not AIDS right?” She asked.
Martin frantically waved his hands about. “Hell no it’s nothing like that! Why would you even…oooh,” he said as realization dawned on him. “I guess I kind of deserve that. But I have always been careful….”
She threw him a look that immediately made him change the direction of his speech. “That night with you was the only time I was reckless.” He explained. “I swear!” He added in response to her intense gaze. “And just to be sure I get tested every now and then but you can’t be 100% sure even with protection. If you don’t believe me, we can go together for a test and you can see for yourself. I haven’t been with anyone else except you since the last test I took.”
“You are assuming that I am negative,” Sibu said.
That seemed to shake Martin up.
She laughed as she looked at the expression on his face. “I am kidding, relax. I had a test done just after discovering I was pregnant and just to make sure, I had another one done just recently.”
“I think it’s gonna take a while for you to trust me, you have no idea how much that hurts.” He said in a very low voice.
“So you are not going to tell me what’s going on with you?” Sibu asked, getting back to their previous topic.
“Just like you never wanted to talk to me about your relationship with your aunt…I wish we would not talk about it…for now…but I will tell you everything when I’m ready.”
His bit about her aunt really got to her and so she conceded. “I wont ask…I will wait for you to tell me.”
“Thanks,” Martin responded before starting the engine and getting back on the road.
Martin took her to his family’s doctor in Longacres and had her undergo a thorough check up, sticking to her side to every room she entered except to the bathroom where she had to supply samples for tests to be done.
After being told to come back the next day for some of the results, the two of them were about to leave before the doctor stopped Martin.
“You and I still need to talk,” the doctor had said to him. “I got the report from….”
“I know doc, I know, I will call you to make a plan.” Martin deliberately cut her off and continued leading Sibu away.
He drove them to his secret hideaway which was no longer a secret any more. This time instead of looking at nature, they entered the cabin to relax in the expensively furnished but small living room.
Martin threw himself on the sofa the moment they entered and patted the space next to him for Sibu to join him. Instead, she threw him a look and took up space on the single seater right opposite him.
Not one to be so easily discouraged, Martin got up and went to squeeze himself right next to her on the small couch, holding to to her to keep her in position as she desperately tried to get away from him.
“Keep rubbing your body against mine like this and we will be talking baby number two very soon,” he warned her, looking into her eyes and forcing her to blush profusely as the meaning of his words sunk in.
Like a switch being turned off, she stopped writhing against him and sat up straight but only to have Martin scope her up, fill up the whole seat with his body and then lay her onto his laps, tightly wrapping his arms around her waist from the behind so she could make no movement.
“Wow…I think we could have twins in this position,” he commented deliberately and himself a new bout of protest from an embarrassed Sibu.
“There you go again,” he admonished her. “You really have no idea the kind of fire you are starting with your seductive moves Ms Hangaala.”
“You have such a dirty mind Martin. Can’t for once take your mind off the gutter?” Sibu said, putting her movements to another immediate stop.
“Let’s make a deal,” he said. “I will stop being a jerk if you promise not to say anything bad about me today…how about that?”
She contemplated his suggestion for a moment and then said, “Sounds doable.”
Martin then reached out to the tiny tea table right next to the couch and grabbed the remote control, turned on the tele and settled for a music channel.
“They play old music here,” Sibu commented. “First it was classical music and now it’s this…I think there is an old man living inside you.”
“Since you made a promise, I will choose to take your comment lightly and say that I am actually wiser than most fellas my age,” he proudly said. “But I find this kind of music more meaningful than the rubbish they sing these days.”
“I kind of agree,” she said and with that they went on to talk about many other things and before they knew it, it was dark outside.
Somewhere during their long chat, Sibu had dozed off and Martin had carried her to the guest bedroom on the ground floor, scared he might wake her up if he tried to carry her upstairs to his room.
Sibusiswe woke up hours later and jolted up in bed. The room was dark and she had no idea for a second where she was. She searched around her for her phone and found it on the bedside table, flipped it to check the time.
It was 9PM.
What the hell? She thought as she rushed out of bed towards the door. She stopped when she reached the door because she could hear Martin’s voice, sounded like he had company. Not wanting to come out and reveal herself, she stood by the door and waited.
“I heard what you said last time doc and I wont have it. That’s like a death sentence on it’s own and I might as well settle for something I have control over. I won’t the surgery, I won’t look for a donor and I certainly won’t be subjecting myself to all those medicines. Give them to someone else who doesn’t mind being a prisoner for life. I just need two years tops, you told me I can have that…you promised me…no, no, no…listen doc…I know what you mean quite alright but…no, I never agreed with your suggestions, you said a transplant was the best option and I just kept quite. That doesn’t mean I agreed with you….”
A transplant? Sibu froze. What kind of disease required him to get a transplant?
“Your threats don’t work with me doc,” Martin continued after a long pause. By now Sibu was aware he was talking to someone on the phone and she sufficed it was the doctor that had attended to her a few hours ago, the one he had promised to call back.
“If you even dare as much as tell my mother I will sue that goddamn place for billions of money and then get your licence.” She heard him say from the other side of the door. “I am sure you don’t want that to happen. I will come to your home tomorrow but only to talk about what I need to do in the meantime…not about that transplant thing. Have a good night doc.”
“How sick are you?”
Martin quickly turned around to find Sibusiswe standing behind him. He had not heard her come out of the bedroom and he didn’t like the look on her face.
That was the last thing he needed from her.
“When did you…how long were you….” he fumbled for words, completely taken aback by her presence in the room.
“I think I heard all the important bits,” Sibu supplied. “I just want to know what disease you have that’s so bad it’s requires a transplant…and why you are refusing it.”
“Sibu,” Martin said her name pleadingly.
Sibu put her hand out. “If you are not going to tell me then I am leaving.” She walked passed him and grabbed her hand bag which was now lying on the arm of the sofa they had been siting on.
She was about to open the door when Martin’s voice made her pause.
“If I tell you, will you agree to marry me then?” he said.
Sibu turned back around and gaped at him. “Is this some kind of joke to you? Do you think marriage is something you can talk about in this situation?”
“Spending the rest of my life with me means everything to me Sibu,” he remarked.
“And how long is the rest of your life Martin, two years?” She asked austerely. “All the way to the end you think of only yourself. I am going.” She opened the door and walked out but Martin was quick behind her and he held on to her hand.
“You think I haven’t thought about you?” He asked her. “I have seen you suffer at the hands of your aunt and I thought marriage with me would free you from her clutches and allow you to live your life how ever you want…even if I am not here.”
“Marrying you is not enough to buy me the kind of freedom I desire in this world Martin,” she lamented. “You have absolutely no idea….”
“Then let me know what I need to know Sibu, let me know!” he tagged at her hand.
For a moment Sibu just stood there starring at him.
Never before had she seen such desperate in his ever confident eyes.
But her truth was not the kind a man like him could handle, especially now given his circumstances.
“So you still won’t tell me?” Martin could see the firm decision in her eyes.
Sibu nodded her head slowly. “I can’t,” she said.
For the first time in his life, Martin felt defeated.