I would have given anything to give this man standing before my heart, my soul and my body.
I would have stopped the hands of time just to capture this moment in my head and replay it for life.
I would have taken a leap of faith and thrown caution to the wind just to hear his heart beat fast against mine.
I would have paid any price to belive every word falling out of his mouth without any inhibitions.
And most of all, I would have laid down my life if he allowed himself to lean on me…
If only…my life was mine to give away.
I still had a ransom to pay.
* * *
“So do you now understand why I also have certain things going on in my life that I don’t feel so comfortable to share with you…yet?” Martin said.
Sibu wasn’t comfortable with that arrangement but she had no right to argue because Martin was right. “I understand…I get you…but are you sick?”
Martin pursed his lips. “Do I look sick to you?” He said in his usual confident tone of voice.
“I heard what you said on the phone….”
“You never heard the whole conversation,” Martin said. “That conversation was not about me.”
Sibu didn’t look convinced. “You are really going to stick to that story no matter how much I press ins’t it?”
Martin tenaciously moved his other arm and put it on top of her hand he was still holding and starred at it for what felt like an eternity. “I just need you to trust me when I say I mean well and that my feels for you are real.”
Sibu hesitated before responding, “I get you,” she said unconvincingly. “But can you let go of my hand now,” she was looking down at the hand intertwined between his hands.
“I will only let you go if you promise to at least think about my proposal.” Martin insisted.
Sibu sighed. “I can’t….”
“I suggest you really think wisely before you respond,” he cut her off before she could finish her response. “Remember, we are out in the middle of nowhere and I am the only one with a car.”
She scoffed. “If that was meant to scare me, then I am sorry to disappoint you. I have seen so much hell in my life that a little darkness doesn’t scare me.” She again tried to free her arm from his grip but he didn’t budge.
“How about just spending the night here,” Martin suggested and won himself a glacial stare from Sibu. “I promise I won’t touch you,” he raise one arm up to swear. “I will take the upstairs bedroom and you can go back to the guest one.”
“I would be a fool to even consider sleeping in the same building with you after what happened before….” she was blushing.
Martin was smirking excitedly. “You still think about that night don’t you?”
Sibu took that moment he was lost in his thoughts to finally release her hand. “Because of those few hours of pleasure, I got pregnant and then lost the baby. Of course I think about that night…but certainly not in the ways you are imagining.”
“And what ways could those be?” He still hadn’t lost his smirk. “The fact that you thought about whatever I could be imagining means that we share the same thoughts, except…you chose to look at them from my point of view, but the same thing.” He shrugged his shoulders in satisfaction.
Sibu brushed him off with a shake of her head and started walking away from him towards the direction they had come from.
Martin immediately gave chase. “Are you seriously thinking about walking out here alone this late in the night? I don’t know whether you are brave or insane Sibu. Wait here and I will go get the keys.”
Martin ran back into the house and came out a few seconds later with keys in hand.
Sibu looked like a very pleased woman.
“You are a very stubborn and cruel woman.” Martin said as he drove them to her place.
Sibu ignored him and started playing with his radio.
A few minutes after dropping off Sibu, Martin was driving himself home when he received a call on his cell. It was a strange number.
“Hello,” he greeted the caller, using one hand to drive while the other attended to the call.
“”Is this Junior Mwewa?” the female caller asked.
Martin was taken aback. It was rare for people to address him like that. It was either Martin Mwewa Junior or just Junior, if not Double M like most of his close buddies preferred to call him. “May I know whose calling,” he answered.
“This is Sibusiswe’s aunt,” the woman revealed.
Martin’s leg hit on the brakes accidentally, extremely surprised by the unexpected call. Did Sibu give her my number? What could she be calling me about? Martin thought before finally responding.
“Aunt Tafadzwa?” He asked, getting his hold
There was a strange laugh on the other end of the line. “So you remember me?” the woman asked.
“Even if I wanted to, there was no way I can forget that scene you put up at my workplace. Is there any particular reason you called?” Martin was cold as ice in his delivery.
There was a brief pause from the other end of the line. “Is that the way to talk to your future mother in-law young man?” Aunt Tafadzwa roared. “This is what happens when you let maids raise your children.”
Martin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What did you say?” He asked.
“You heard me,” the woman snapped. “Come to my home tomorrow, you and I need to talk. I might not be Sibu’s mother but I am the only guardian she has.”
Guardian my ass. She is your guardian and you are her burden, Martin said in his head as thought about what he had learnt when he had asked someone to investigate Sibu’s background.
“What time do you want me to come?” Is what he said to her instead.
“Come at 9 at my stand in the market.” She said. “I am sure you already know where it is. And don’t tell my niece about this call or the meeting, okay?”
Clenching his teeth tightly and mouthing a few expletives, Martin ended the call without offering a response.
Being a Sunday, there were only a few stands operating the next morning when Martin showed up at the market. In her screaming lime green top, it was easy to spot the naturally angry looking woman from the few women operating their stands.
Aunt Tafadzwa excitedly waved her arms in the air and called out his name the moment she saw him, attracting attention from everyone around. It finally dawned on Martin why she had asked him to meet her at such a place.
Martin curled his face up in irritation and slowly walked towards her.
“Son in-law,” she loudly said and picked up a stool to give to him. Martin looked at the stool in front of him and instead of siting, he looked back at her and said, “what do you want to talk to me about?”
The smile on Aunt Tafadwa’s face quickly faded. “If you really want to have my niece, you will have to develop a new approach with me. I am the only person capable of persuading her to marry you, you know.” She said smugly.
Martin looked at the woman in puzzlement. “What do you mean by that?” He asked. He wanted to wipe the proud grin from off her face.
“That’s all you need to know. I don’t owe you an explanation,” she replied. “For you to make Sibu yield to your wishes, there are piles and piles of layers you would need to peel off and no matter how hard you try, you will never reach the bottom…but, I know just what button to press to get her to agree.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” He quizzed her.
“Because we both have needs and we can help each other out.”
“I heard you are an intelligent man, don’t plat dumb with me.”
“And exactly what would you like to receive in return for this help you are offering?”
Aunt Tafadzwa looked around her to check if anyone was looking at them and then moved closer to Martin and whispered, “I convince Sibu to marry you and you give me ten million Kwacha in cash as a thank you.”
Martin pulled away from her as if he had just been struck by lightening. “Is this some kind of joke?” He shouted and everyone around turned to look at them.
“That is peanuts compared to what that child owes me. She will never be able to pay me back even if she had seven lives.” Aunt Tafadzwa stated,
“What did she do to you that is so back it turned you into this kind of woman? That girl is your own niece. Don’t you feel bad treating the only thing your sister left behind in such a manner? Don’t you have any shame whatsoever?”
Aunt Tafazdwa’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets. “Don’t act smug with me when you have no clue about what’s going on. Did you ever hear Sibusiswe complain about how I treat her?” She paused and waited for Martin to respond but nothing came.
“Shouldn’t the fact that she’s never said anything to you tell you something about the kind of relationship we have?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked.
The first thing that came to Martin’s mind was Sibu’s remark; Marrying you is not enough to buy me the kind of freedom I desire in this world.
What had Sibu meant by that? Martin thought.
“You are intelligent after all,” Aunt Tafadzwa said upon observing Martin’s reaction.
“And you are deluded if you think you can use me to profit from your daughter’s unhappiness,” he replied curtly. I am going to leave this place and pretend this conversation never too place.” And with that, he turned to leave.
* * *
It was late at night.
In a long, dity and narrow dark street, an owl let out the most melancholic cry and could be seen flying off into the night sky there after.
But right there in the middle of the darkened street stood a little girl, about 5 or 6 years old. She had appeared out of nowhere and the fear radiating from every inch of her tiny frame was chilling to the heart.
Alone in the ghastly environment, a black cat appeared from the pile of waste just a few feet away from her. Despite the darkness, she could make out two big shimmering eyes starring at her for a few seconds before turning and disappearing into the night.
The little girl froze in horror, her head pounding so hard and her heart beating loudly. Just then, a foreboding sound from behind her could be heard and it went – pong, once and stopped. She quickly turned in that direction only to find nothing but darkness glaring back at her.
She had just turned back around when the noise immediately started again. It went pong, pong, pong this time around. Each pong sounded closer than the previous one. She gasped and then froze again, afraid to look back.
As the noise slowly kept getting closer, the little girl held her breath in, shut her eyes and waited for the inevitable. But just when she thought her world was coming to an end, a woman dressed in a long white gown appeared right next to her and took placed her arm over her shoulders from behind.
The noise immediately came to a stop.
Looking up at the familiar face, the girl instinctively smiled back.
However, no sooner had the feeling of safety crept through her tiny little frame than it disappeared. As if transposed into time unknown, the scene before her completely changed and the woman was nowhere in sight.
For a second, the child who now appeared slightly older than before found herself standing in the middle of a whole new street. For a moment she just stood there trying to make out her bearings. Unlike the grisly scene she had earlier been confronted with, the long wide street she was now standing in was lit with lights everywhere and was filled with cars coming from all direction.
She was standing right at the intersection of it all.
As if suddenly awakening from a delirium, she sensed the danger around her and could now hear the screams and cusses from drivers and pedestrians alike. She tried to move out of the road but her feet were stuck on the tarred ground.
She could not move.
She tried to open her mouth to scream and wail for help but her mouth wouldn’t open. Moving her arms around erratically to catch someone’s attention, she felt the ground below her crack.
She stopped moving, looked down and realized she had very little time before the ground opened up and swallowed her into the abyss.
And suddenly, the bright day had turned into night.
Bright lights from an oncoming vehicle approached her from the distance at record speed. She could see nothing else except those headlights shining at her into blindness and she could hear nothing but the incessant hooting from whoever was behind the wheel. Shaking all over in fear of the impending doom, she shut her eyes and waited for the end to come, again.
“Sibu!” A voice called out to her but she could not risk opening her eyes.
“Sibu! Sibu! Get out right now!” Came the desperate plea from whoever was calling out to her. She could feel someone shaking her rapidly and fearing that the ground might open up, she immediately opened her eyes.
“It’s that dream again isn’t it?” Sibeso asked Sibusiswe who was lying in bed and soaked in sweat. She removed the bedding’s covering her friend and went to open the window. “When did they start?” Sibeso asked when she turned around from opening the window. She grabbed a face towel from where it was hang to dry and used it to wipe the sweat off her best friend’s face and neck.
There was nothing but horror written on Sibu’s face.
“You are burning too much,” Sibeso noted, placing her hand on Sibu’s forehead to get a good feel of her temperature. “Let me get you a glass of water first….” she was getting up to go to the kitchen when Sibu grabbed her by her arm.
“Don’t leave me alone,” she implored Sibeso in a deeply shaken up voice. Sibeso complied and sat back down, starring at her friend in unrestrained commiseration.
“Why are the nightmares back Sibu? What happened to you to bring them back when they havent bothered you in the past five months or so? Which one was it this time?”
Sibu swallowed hard before responding, her throat was dry from her nightmarish struggles. Despite the dehydration, she could not risk even for a second being alone while Sibeso went to bring her water.
“I think I have an idea as to why the dreams are back,” Sibu said. “I lost track of things and became selfish again.”
“What do you mean you became selfish?” Sibeso asked. “Don’t tell me you think this is about your relationship with Martin? I don’t know what happened between you and your mother Sibu since you’ve never told me the whole story…but, I do know that no mother would want to see her child suffering the way you’ve been all these years.
“Every time something good happens in your life, you pull back in fear and out og guilt. How sure are you even that things happened the way your aunt told you they did? That evil woman could have cooked up lies just so she can turn you into her slave for life…and it’s worked. You still haven’t remembered anything from that day?”
Sibu shook her head. “I haven’t,” she said solemnly. “I have tried so many times to force myself to recover the memories but I’m still blank. I have no choice but to believe her. I know she is not a very good person…but she can’t be so evil as to lie about something like this…at least I hope.”
“I can’t put anything past that woman. I’m telling you, something is not right. You don’t look so good, let’s go get some water from the kitchen.” Sibeso got up and extended her arm to her friend which she took and was helped out of bed.
Sibusiswe was on her lunch break with Peggy at work when her phone rang. It was a foreign number. The only person that ever called her with a number like that was Martin…and Martin was back in town already.
“Who is it?” Peggy asked upon seeing the puzzled expression on her colleagues face.
“I don’t know,” Sibu replied. “It’s a foreign number, London.”
Peggy’s eyes immediately sparkled with excitement. “Could it be Ted?”
Sibu had not spoken to Ted ever since their last conversation the day before he left for school. It had been one of those exchanges that implied they would never speak to each other again. He had been disappointed, and she had had her dignity shattered.
“It can’t be him,” Sibu said with a far-away look on her face, her mind going back to that last exchange that left her feeling like she would never be able to look him in the eye ever again.
“Is it true what Martin told me?” Ted had called her outside the office and confronted her about the night she had had with Martin.
“What did Martin tell you?” Sibu had asked.
“That you guys slept together,” he spat out the words like a bitter pill he didn’t want to taste.
Sibu was caught off-guard by his bluntness but she was even more hurt by the fact that Martin had already told people about that night when she had not told a soul. But what had she expected? To him she must simply be a new name added to his list he couldn’t wait to brag to his friends about.
“When did Martin tell you that?” Sibu fought back the tears, her voice coming off like a whisper.
“So it’s true,” Ted said disdainfully. “How could you?”
Sibu could hardly look him in the eye. He was reeking of contempt from every part of his body and the hurt in his eyes was so heartbreaking for her to handle.
In as much as she wanted to think of that night with Martin as a mistake, it was something she had consciously allowed herself to be a part of. Yes, it had been a weakness on her part. She knew very well what Martin was capable of and what being with him would imply. She had known all that and still allowed him to control both her body and mind. It was not a moment she was proud of…and it certainly hurt even more hearing someone else’s opinion so directly.
“Since when did you become so weak?” Ted continued his attack on her virtue. “These days you can cry just as easily as you can open your legs.” He said curtly.
Sibu looked at him with tear-filled eyes. She couldn’t believe it was the same Ted talking to her like that. “Ted?” She said as two drops of thick tears rolled down her cheeks. “I know very well what I did…it’s my life. But what right do you have to talk to me like this?”
“You are asking me what right I have?” He had snapped. “I seriously thought that you and I had…that we had….” he searched for the right words to say. “Anyway, all that doesn’t matter anymore. I guess I am just disappointed that you turned out to be just like everyone other girl out there. You are nothing special.”
Sibu wiped away the tears with her hands in unhinged furry. “I don’t know what you thought you and I had going on but I never did anything to suggest something like that was going on. I thought you were my friend and I treated as such. But I guess now we both know what we really think of each other. Have a good life Ted.” And with thatm she turned and walked away.
“Sibu….” She had heard him call out her name from behind but she never bothered to stop or look back.
Sibusiswe was convinced from that point on that the two of them would never speak again. So could he really be the one calling her?
“Well, aren’t you gonna answer it?” Peggy asked Sibu again.
Sibu finally answered the call. “Hello,” she said hesitatingly.
“Sibu, It’s me…Ted.”
She was indeed surprised.
“Yes Ted,” she said, her voice turning ice cold. “What do you want?”
“I guess I deserve that,” Ted said. “I was a real douche.”
“Why did you call?” Sibu asked.
There was a somewhat long pause from the other end of the line. “I wanted to apologize for the nasty things I said to you before I left.” His reply finally came.
When no response came from Sibu’s end, Ted went on. “I had no right to come at you like that…I guess I was just mad…I was jealous that you picked him over me. I had really thought that I had a chance with you.”
Sibu could hear him clearing his throat, fighting to get the words out without breaking down. It was clear he was still hurting from what he felt was a betrayal on her part.
“Ted….” she said.
“I know, I know.” Ted cut in. “I was the one who had his hopes up and I might have misconstrued your behavior…but, I didn’t call you to talk about my feelings. I just wanted to apologize to you because I didn’t like how were we left things off. I think you are a good girl who didn’t deserve to be treated like that. I was a jerk for a moment…but that’s not who I am. I hope you can forgive me for everything and allow me to be your friend again. Do you think you can do that?”
Sibu did not respond immediately.
“I am asking for the impossible aren’t I?” Ted interpreted her silence.
“No, it’s not impossible,” Sibu finally replied. “I was just thinking…you really said pretty soucy things to me and it’s ….”
Ted sighed heavily from the other end of the line.
“I had told myself never to speak to you again,” Sibu continued. “But your apology really means a lot. I can’t promise that things between us will get back to the way they used to be…but I am going to try to forget the past and get to you know all over again.”
“Oh, thank you so much Sibu.” Ted could finally breath a sigh of a relief. “I promise to make it up to you.”
“You don’t have to….”
“By the way, I am sorry about what happened…Martin told me about the baby. I had no idea….”
“Thanks,” Sibu said. “It all happened so fast. Any way, enough talk about the past.”
“How’s Martin doing?” Ted quickly changed the topic.
“Why are you asking me about Martin. Aren’t you his best friend? Don’t you guys talk?”
“Him and I aren’t so close any more…you know.”
“Oh,” Sibu said, sensing she was the reason behind the tension. “I am sorry Ted….”
No, no…it’s not your fault.” Ted replied. “I guess we are both a little immature. He didn’t even tell me he was leaving. I only heard about what happened to you through a mutual friend of ours from over here.
“I am not sure who withdrew from the other first; it could be me…it could be him but we are not cool anymore. At first I thought you had made a terrible mistake picking him…but even I have to admit that he’s different ever since he met you. I just hope that you can convince him to have the surgery….”
“Surgery?” Sibu asked, unconsciously getting up from her chair. “What are you talking about?”
“Shit,” Ted cussed. “He hasn’t told you about that yet?”
“Told me about what Ted?” A deeply perturbed Sibu asked.
“Are you talking to Ted?” Martin’s voice came from behind Sibu.
Sensing danger, Peggy slowly stood up. Looking around only to find that their table was the centre of attention in the cafeteria.
Sibu turned and found a visibly upset Martin glaring at her. “Give me that phone,” Martin said and snatched the phone from her hands before she could put up an protest.
“What surgery is he talking about Martin?” It was all Sibu could think about.
Martin was shocked by the question and wondered just how much Ted had told her.
“Are you for real Ted? Is this how far you wanna go? What did you tell Sibu?” Martin was yelling into the phone.
“Hey Martin, calm down,” Ted tried to reason with him. “It’s not what you think. You need to calm down man.”
“You want me to calm down after catching you calling my fiance behind my back?” Martin snapped.
Sibu moved closer to him and in a low voice said, “you are causing a scene Martin. You need to calm down.”
Martin looked around and saw what she was talking about. “Isn’t lunch break over by now?” He shouted to the room and sent them all scampering out, including Peggy.
“It’s not like that man,” Ted voice came through the phone. “I only called her to apologize for something that happened before I left.”
“What happened between you and Ted?” Martin was looking at Sibu accusingly.
Instead of answering, Sibu grabbed the phone from him and put it to her ear. “Let’s talk another time Ted.” And she cut the call. Martin was looking at her like she had just punched him in the face.
“What did Ted mean when he said something happened between you two?” Martin asked sternly.
“That’s not important right now.” Sibu snapped back. “Ted said something about me convincing you to have surgery…he thought I was privy to such information and when he realized I wasn’t, he refused to divulge anything more.”
That bit of information seemed to sit well with Martin. He finally relaxed his taut features. “Is that all he said to you?”
“Yes,” Sibu answered. “What is going on Martin? You are sick aren’t you?”
“I came to show you something,” Martin feigned nonchalance. He took Sibu by the hand with the intention of leading her outside but she refused to budge.
“I am not moving from here until you tell me what’s going on.” She removed her hand from his grasp and crossed both her arms over her chest.
With his back to her, Martin sighed heavily, put his hands in his pockets and slowly turned to face her.