Three days had gone by and I still hadn’t returned home.
Thabo had kept calling me the whole time but I never picked up her calls. She knew there was only one place I could be and thus on the forth day, she came knocking at the gate of my friend’s residence.
I was outside that evening making myself useful by watering Claudia’s small vegetable garden in the front yard when I heard the knock.
I put the hosepipe down and went to close the tap before heading to the gate.
“Are you expecting someone?” Thomas shouted from the door of the living room. He must have heard the knock and come out… and now that I think about it, he must have been expecting the visitor because he had this look about him as he waited for me to open the gate.
I just shrugged my shoulders in response.
Of course I wasn’t expecting anyone…but that didn’t mean no one was going to come looking for me because I found Thabo standing outside when I opened the small pedestrian gate.
“What are you doing here?” I asked angrily, looking around and wondering how come she was on her feet. I immediately spotted her car parked a short distance away on the side of the road.
She was dressed in a long black skirt with a red blouse and had a pair of traditionally crafted slippers on. She looked and smelled like my wife. No other woman on the face of the earth had that scent.
With her Masai braids neatly pulled away from her face and tied into a bun, she looked radiant. Any other day I would have scooped her up into my arms and led her straight into a room somewhere that held the deepest of our secrets.
But not on that day.
On that day she was simply a woman I wished not to see, a woman that had taken my heart and wrenched it to pieces…a woman I wanted to hate.
“You and I need to talk honey,” she said, looking me straight in the eye.
I should have been the one looking her straight in the eye and shaming her to pieces yet somehow our roles seemed reversed; I could not get myself to look her in the eye for fear of what I might see in there.
“I told you I need some time alone to think. What, is it too much for you to wait, again?” I retorted sarcastically. “Just these few days we’ve been apart am sure you must be dying of loneliness? Will it be a daughter this time around?”
It was a low blow and cheap shot on my part but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted her to hurt as much as I was hurting.
My intentionw was to insult her and that I achieved. I could see her mentally calming herself down, one hand knotted into a fist. “I know you Harry, you will keep avoiding this thing for as long as you can because you hate confronting things that require you to make life-changing decisions.”
Dame she knew me so well.
And did she just call me Harry? She never addressed me by name from the time we got married.
“Who is it man?” Thoma shouted from the door.
“It’s no one.” I shouted back, knowing very well the kind of havoc that would arise from telling the truth.
“I can clearly see you talking to someone…don’t tell me it’s….”
I could imagine him coming towards us but just to be sure I turned and indeed there he was rushing towards the gate.
Thomas had never been a fan of my wife mostly because he believed she had turned me into some mushy idiot instead of the macho kind of man he would have liked me to be. Thabo had also made it known on several occassions that the feeling was mutual.
Thabo would have liked it if I had stopped hanging out with Thomas but she had enough sense to not ask me to end a friendship that had lasted as long as ours.
Even though a huge part of me understood why my wife never liked Thomas, there was an even bigger part of me that understood the dynamics of our friendship. I had accepted a long time ago that Thomas was never going to change. He was who he was and despite being a ‘not so good husband’ he was still a very good friend to me. Thabo understood this and I believe it was the only reason that kept her from instructing me to stop hanging out with him.
“I will handle my own affairs Tom,” I said to him when he came towering over me trying to take a peek at my wife. “Just go back into the house and let me take care of my own issues.” I was trying to push him back but I was no match for his giant frame.
“You have guts coming over to my house Thabo,” he was talking from over my head…literally on top of my head.
“You are one to pass judgement,” Thabo fired back. I couldn’t see her face because I had somehow landed my face was in Tom’s potbelly. The guy was both tall and huge. Standing next to him made me feel like a dwarf…and I consider myself tall by average standards.
“What did you just say?” Thomas was desperately trying to push me out of the way so he could give my wife a piece of his mind but I wasn’t going to give him that chance. On many occassions I was called to referee fights between him and his wife and all those times he had proved that nothing could keep him from laying a finger on a woman.
“Do you want me to tell Claudia about your current mistress from Garden Compound?” I could hear Thabo threatening a very livid Thomas. “I cheap ass even in your taste for women. It’s a miracle an intelligent woman like Claudia manages to tolerate your bullshit but I know she warned you that she would leave your ass if you messed up one more time…want me to get in there and scream the truth to her?”
“Hell no, she didn’t!” In a fit of rage, Thomas had maanged to push me out of the way and while I was trying to keep myself from landing on all fours, he had pounced on Thabo and was pulling her by her blouse.
I quickly steadied myself and went to separate them.
There was malice written all over Thomas’ face and there was defiance on my wife’s face.
“Control yourself man,” I tried to reason with Thomas, gripping his arms so he could let go of her. “You might not like what’s going on between us but she is still my wife. You doing this is as good as disrespecting me.”
That seemed to work because he immediately let go of her and pulled back. “You should watch yourself,” he pointed an accusing finger at Thabo who remained unfazed to the very end.
“I am not answerable to anyone BUT my husband,” she told him. “Try to discipline me the day you get your big head to discipline your small head, cockroach.”
“Thabo,” I threw her a disapproving look and she immediately closed her mouth.
“Whatever you do, don’t let her into my house because we are all going to regret it.” Thomas threatened before retreating into the yard.
“Did you have to be so disrespectful to my friend?” I said Thabo the moment we were alone.
“I have never liked your friend,” she said unrepentantly. “He has fathered kids all over the country and he thinks he can stand here and judge me? I know there is no excuse for what I did but he of all all people shouldn’t throw stones. Whether male or female, it is the same actions that dishonor a marriage.”
“Are you trying to preach to me?” I asked, not sure how to respond to her ramblings. Being a Gender Specialist, Thabo was strong on issues concerning equality and women empowermentand even though she never abandoned her traditional marriage roles in the home, she would never let a learning opportunity like that pass without teaching something.
She sighed. “Can we go somewhere and talk?”
I was looking at her with the most beffundled expression I could master. “How are you able to carry on with such confidence as if you did nothing wrong? Shouldn’t you be groveling and begging me for forgiveness? You coming over here and putting up a fight with my best friend doesnt do you any justice.”
“You think I don’t know that?” She asked. “I tried grovelling and begging before but it didn’t work. I know it’s something I should keep doing because maybe then you will see just how sorry I am. But still, I know that even if I did all that, it won’t change a thing. I sinned against you and against God and the only thing I can do right now is to ask for forgiveness even when I know it won’t come easy.”
“Would you forgive me if the tables were turned Thabo?” I asked her.
“From the top of my head I think I wouldn’t.” She answered honestly. “But deep down…just as I know that what I did was a mistake…there were no feelings whatsoever involved…just a moment of weakness I regretted the moment it was done…. I tried to pretend that nothing happened…” her voice was cracking by now and she was about to start crying right there on the street.
“I don’t want to hear the details,” I said to her.
“I wanted to tell you so many times but when I thought about what might happen to us….” she had continued anyway. “I didn’t want to lose you Harry,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “And so I tried to erase it from my head and pretended nothing ever happened. I told myself it was simply a bad dream and after some years, I had managed to convince myself…until last month when Pastor Jeffrey’s wife innocently passed a comment about Chikondi’s behaviour that resembled her husbands…suddenly, it all came back to me and I couldn’t rest until I was convinced of the truth.”
“And so you had me and Chiko tested behind our backs right?” I said sarcastically.
“When I got the results, I knew then that that night wasn’t going to go away…that it was not a nightmare like I had convinced myself before but that it was something I had to face up to. I could have kept it a secret to the day I die and you probably would have never discovered the truth. But I had to tell you becasue I love you too much to keep something of this magnitude from you.”
“So I guess I should be thanking you or something instead of acting like this, right?”
“You know that’s not what I mean honey. I am not trying to make excuses…I am just hoping that you would find it in your heart to remember some of my good qualities…that despite this huuuge sin laying between us…I wish you can still see my heart and forgive me. I don’t want to lose you baby.”
And right there was the reason I had been avoiding her. She had a way of making my insides soft but what she had done was inexcusable and I just wasn’t willing to let her off easily. I still wasn’t sure if our marriage would survive.
I just wasn’t sure of anything.
If this situation was happening to someone else and not me, I would have easily told that person to chase the wife and bastard child away but this sitation was happening to me.
I believed Thabo when she said it was a mistake and yet, in as much as I understood whatever circusmstances she might have gone through, it still could not excuse the gravity of her actions. Every decision someone makes has a condequence and I wasn’t yet sure just what consequences we would all face from everything that was happening.
Also, despite my stupid remarks and my dubious thoughts, I didn’t need a paternity test to prove the twins where mine. I just knew they were mine…either that or I was just freaking scared of finding out otherwise in case a test was done.
To think that all those years I had invested into creating the kind of home we had come to have…all the effort she too had put in and all the memories and experiences we had together…to think that all those would come to an end just like that and that I would have to start all over again with someone else I couldn’t gurantee would not end up doing the same thing to me proved even more painful than the idea of my wife getting knocked up by some other fella.
I had considered counselling, divorce and anything else I could think of but I still never came to a conclusion.
Through all this confusion, Thomas’ words kept ringing at the back of my head;
Have you ever heard of a man in Zambia that forgave a wife who cheated on him and had a child with someone else?
Thomas had been right, I had never heard of such a man but I had heard of a lot of men that had done the same thing but still remained married, Thomas was one of those men.
“I need more time to think,” I said to Thabo. “I need to decide what’s the best thing to do for myself and the kids. I will come back home when I am confident of the decision, just don’t push me too much just because you are in a rush to be forgiven.”
I turned and was about to open the gate to go back in when she said, “I understand, you can take all the time you need. I will wait.”
I could smell the resingation in her voice.
A whole other week went by and I still hadn’t made up my mind.
* * *
During the informal separation that my wife and I were going through, I had taken leave from work and made sure to stay away from my family because I did not trust myself to lie or pretend that everything was alright at home without breaking down.
When Pastor Jeffrey returned from his trip and was infromed by his wife of my visit, he called me out to his office at Church. He sounded like the usual holy Man of God he had been for the past eight years and not like a man who had an affair with another man’s wife and even fathered a child with her.
I didn’t know whether to be happy or offended by the fact that Thabo had chosen not to contact him directly to inform him of the recent developments.
I paused to take a deep breath before knocking on the Pastor’s door.
“Come in,” I heard him say.
I found him sitting comfortably behind his huge desk wearing the same pair of reading glasses he wore during sermons and had an open Bible spread out in front of him. If heaven has gatekeepers, this is the man you would picture standing there waiting to welcome you with a smile and open arms.
“Brother Harry,” he removed his glasses, placed them down on the table and stood up to shake my hand.
I hesitated at first but decided to just play it cool since despite everything, we were in the house of God.
I silently shook his hand and sat down.
“My wife told me that you didn’t look so well when you visited…everything okay?” He asked in a voice reeking of heavenly wisdom.
I went straight to the point. The quicker he stopped operating on Holy Spirit mode with me, the better. The hypocrisy didn’t sit well on my throat. I just wanted to burst out and launch a grenade of attacks his direction.
“My wife told me.” I said, looking him straight in the eye.
I deliberately left the statement hanging in order to watch his reaction and when it came, it was exactly what I had expected it to be; fear.
The Pastor cleared his throat noisely before saying, “What did your wife tell you Brother Harry?”
So he was going to play ignorant with me? I wasnt having that.
“Quit all this brother bullshit with me and throw whatever excuse you can at me for doing what you did?”
“I understand you might be upset but we are still in the house of the Lord and such language…well….”
“Are you seriously going to argue semantics with me Pastor?” I snapped. “If you cared too much about what happens in the House of the Lord then you should have known better than to defile another man’s wife. I trusted you…how could you do something like this?”
He was flustered all over and within those few seconds he had already started sweating. “I have no excuse for my actions….” he was panting like a dog on heat. I bet he looked like that when he nutted in my wife. Bloody bastard.
It turned out he was an easy man to crack. He was shaking as he fumbled for a hanker in the drawers. “I tried so many times to come clean but I somehow convinced myself that confessing only to God was enough. I saw how well you and Sister Thabo were getting along….”
I scoffed. “Sister Thabo? Do you sleep with your sisters Pastor and then father children with them? Isn’t there a verse in the Bible condemning that sort of thing?” I asked.
It was indeed the first time he was hearing the news of a child. If I had been in the mood and if the circumstances allowed, I would have snaped a pic of his reaction just so I could look at it whenever I was having a very bad day.
“What do you mean father children?” Came his stuttering response. “We only did it once…just once.” He was sweating profusely by now and looked like he was about to cry.
“I take it you were absent from school when they taught on reproduction,” I said. “Those few moments of pleasure you had with my wife produced a son. It turns out you have very active swimmers…Chikondi is yours.”
He was up on his feet, a decision he immediately regretted as his wombly legs forced him to sit back down.
“No, it can’t be true.” He was shaking his head as if to convince himself of his claims. “It can’t…” he kept repeating.
Looking at him like that, I was convinced of one thing; I was the greatest fool in the world…because… why else would I feel pity for the man responsibility for turning my world upside down?
He looked pathetic sitting there in front of me. I couldn’t believe that I had spent years listening to him and looking up to him like a respectable man of God.
“What will happen to the church? My family?” The pastor was running his hand up and down his hair in anxiety. “What have I done? It was just one stupid mistake, one night…I was young and stupid back then but I knew what I had done was wrong and I spent days, months after that begging God for forgiveness…I never thought that things would actually get to this.”
“Don’t you always tell us in church that just because God forgives our sins does not mean we wont have to face the consequences of our actions?” I reminded the Man of God.
He just looked at me with a blank expression on his face.
“You can only imagine the things I want to do to you Pastor,” I said to him. “If it was someone else, I would have easily screamed my grievances on top of my lungs but this is my family we are talking about. In as much as I want the both of you to pay for what you did, I don’t want the whole community knowing about my business. Therefore, I expect you to do the right thing and step down from church, quietly, without dragging my name or that of my wife in the open. You will come clean to your wife and then you will call me on your own to seek my forgiveness for what you have done.
“I did not come here today to listen to your excuses or hear you beg for forgiveness. I came to let you know that I know what you did and I will be expecting you to take full responsibility.” And then I got up and was about to leave when the Pastor came at me and got threw himself down on his knees before me.
“I am very sorry…please…please…we can talk about this….”
I did not hear the rest of his mumblings. I wasn’t interested.
Looking at him from above, I did what I had seriously been yearning to do the moment his name had come out of my wife’s mouth; I punched him hard in the face and sent him falling to the side and I walked out of there without looking back.
The punch felt good.
But my heart was still as broken as before. I had received no healing.
I was busy nursing my knuckles after that punch when I almost bumped into someone.
Her hands were resting on my chest now since she had reached out to keep me from walking into her. She quickly dropped them when she recognized me.
“You!” she was pointing at me excitedly.
I looked up to the sky and silently said to God; are you having fun?
I have never been a believer of fate, destiny or things like soulmates. I believed that the circumstances surrounding us were a result of concious decisions we make instead of some force somewhere pushing us in the direction that it had pre-determined for us.
However, after meeting Thandiwe, I started to question my theories.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
She was smiling in her usual chirpier style. “It’s a church,” she reminded me.
“Ooh,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed.
“I was at work last week and was asking one of the kids there if they knew of any Pentecostal churches my son and I would go to in the new neighborhood were we recently moved and it turned out that family is cose friend’s with the Senior Pastor here and they recommended this church to me. So today I came to meet the Pastor just to find out a few things before coming for tomorrow’s service. Do you go here as well?”
I suddenly felt very tired and defeated.
“Mr, are you okay?” She was closely examining my face.
“Yes, I am fine…but I don’t think the Pastor can’t see you right….” Before I could even finish the sentence, Pastor Jeffrey came staggering out of his office and was heading towards us in such haste.
“Is that the Pastor?” Thandiwe asked.
“Um,” I replied as thoughts of what was about to take place filled my head.
“Brother Harry,” the Pastor called out to me from a short distance away, seeing as how I was about to leave. “Please don’t go just yet,” He begged.
Apart from Thandiwe, there was no one else in sight. The last thing I needed was Thandie knowing about my dirty business.
“Broth-er Ha-rry…we…need….” The Pastor was almost out of breath by the time he reached where we were. The past years had not been kind to him. He was now twice the size he had been when he joined our congregation.
“Are you Pastor Jeffrey?” Thandiwe asked, oblivious to whatever was going on.
It seemed the Pastor could not even see her because he went straight ahead with his business despite being addressed by a prospective congregant. He was now kneeling down and holding my arm to keep me from leaving.
It finally dawned on the twenty-five year old that there was something serious business going on between the Pastor and I…and it certainly didn’t sell the church well to her.
“What is going on?” She was looking up at me searching for an answer.
“I asked you to do only one thing for me,” I said sternly. “That you keep everything quite but what are you doing right now? Can’t you see that there are people around?”
It was then that the Pastor recognized Thandiwe’s presence and thus, he slowly got up on his feet and with pleading eyes he implored me further. “I wish you could spare me some time just so I can….”
“I already told you what is to be done and if you truly are a man of God, you would know that it is the best thing, the right thing to do for everyone involved and if word of it gets out, I will sue you for everything you’ve got.” I was looking at Thandie while saying the last part, trying to drive a point across to the both of them.
“Why are are you looking at me like that?” the young lady protested. “I have no idea whatever is going on between the two of you.”
“And it shall remain like that,” I said and left the two of them standing there.
I had just gotten into my car and was about to drive off in haste when I was forced to hit the emergency break; Thandie had come running out of nowhere and was standing in front of my car with her arms open wide.
Next thing I knew, she was nowhere in sight. Did I hit her? I panicked as I got out of the car.
I found her sitting on the ground with her hand over her ankle, nursing it slowly.
“Did I hit you?” I was down on one knee checking out the affected area. She winced in pain when I touched her.
“What were you thinking running in front of a vehicle like that? Are you a kid?” I yelled at her. “Are you able to stand?”
She nodded and so I slowly helped her up. “We need to take you to the hospital,” I said.
“No, that’s not necessary,” she answered a little too quickly. “You didn’t even hit me. I must have dislocated my ankle in fear.”
I led her to the front passenger seat and helped her get seated.
“I really don’t think it’s that bad,” she insisted before I could close the door. “I just need something to tie it up and I think it will get back to normal in no time.”
“I thought you were a maid and not a doctor,” I said sarcastically and closed the door.
“If you are acting like that because you think you have to pay the hospital bill then you can relax. I have insurance.” I said the moment I got back behind the wheel.
She was now smiling. “You read my mind.” She confessed. “I can afford unneccessary bills right now.”
“How’s your son doing now?” I remembered her saying smething about him the other night.
“Still the same,” she replied. “Three more months and I’ll have enough for the surgery.”
“Yes, he has a Cleft Palate…it’s a speech problem.”
“I see, and how old is he?” I asked.
“He turned six two months ago. He had been put on therapy but there was very little improvement so the doctor finally recommended surgery. Do you have any children Mr Harry?” She asked.
I turned to look at her in suprise. “How did you know my name?” I was spooked. I had never told her my name.
“The man from before called you Brother Harry,” she explained.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Yes I have children.”
“Three,” the answer had come naturally but I stopped myself from talking further the moment that number escaped my lips.
“What’s wrong?” Thandiwe was studying my face. She was quick on picking up my facial reactions.
“Nothing,” I brushed away the crazy thoughts. “What about the father of your child, isn’t he helping with the bills?” I quickly moved to change the topic.
“Can we change the topic?” She suggested, obviously uncomfortable with my line of questioning. “What was going on between you and that man from the church? Isn’t he the pastor there?”
She had succeeded in bringing the topic back to me. “I would also like to change this particular subject,” I borrowed her words.
She laughed. “Okay, I understand. What do you do for a living Mr Harry?” She asked.
“I don’t think you and I getting to know each other is a good idea,” I tried to be honest with her. “We almost slept together. I have seen you naked and you have seen me at my worst. I would like it to end at that without adding meat to it. Things are already complicated enough….”
“But you asked about my son and even my husband?” She countered.
“That was because I was trying to be polite since you had mentioned he was sick before…and about your husband, that was just out of curiosity and besides, you didn’t give me an answer. Why are you looking at me like that?” I had not realised until later that she had been starring at me the whole time I was talking.
“What woman in her right mind can a break the heart of such a kindhearted man?” She said, catching me completely off-guard. Her words had come off almost like a whisper and I had been unfortunate enough to catch every word of it.
“What did you say?” I asked, thinking I had heard wrong.
She quickly looked away from me, “nothing,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I have never been to this part of the neighborhood before,” she said looking out the windscreen.
There wasnt much going on outside.
I couldn’t let it go and so I parked to the side of the road and turned to her. “You said something about breaking my heart, where did you get that from?”
“From you,” she quipped.
“Today, and even that time in Phi…and that night at the lodge you had this look in your eyes…I have seen that look before so I am very familiar with it. You don’t look like the type to pick up strange women at night but that night you did and the first chance you got, you backed out. I might not be very educated but I have a sharp mind so I can easily pick up on things. That night, your ring, and what happened today….”
I had my hands gripping the steering wheel and was hitting my head against it in frustration, the hooter going on and off with my movements when I felt her small hands on either side of my head as she held me back from hitting the sterring wheel.
“I didn’t think it showed,” I said mostly to myself than to her. I wasn’t sure what made me so emotional all of a sudden; that I had been discovered by her or that she was feeling she had that look in her eyes as she looked down at me.
I realized then that we had crossed a physical boundary that should have never been crossed given our past together. She was leaning against me with her arms around my head. I could feel her bosom pressed against the back of my head and I could hear her breathing slowly begin to change when she realised I was looking at her through the mirror.
It was broad daylight and we were parked on the side of the road and even though it wasnt a busy road, there were still a few cars and pedestrians passing by. But somehow, all that didn’t seem to matter to me in that instant.
Before I could get hold of my senses, I took off the seatbelt, grabbed her by her tiny waist and started kissing her like a man starved of a century of intimacy.
At first she was hesitant but she soon responded to me and like a pair of hungry lovers, we went at other with unrestrained passion…but that was until she suddenly pulled back and fell back into her seat.
“This is crazy…and wrong,” she muttered.
I had to agree with her. It was crazy, it was wrong… and yet there was something about it that didn’t feel so wrong in my head.
There was a part of me that felt like I had to have her and only then would I get the answers I was in desperate search of. I knew she wanted me. Gosh, I wanted her too.
What did I stand to lose if I gave in this one time? I had lived an honorable life as someone’s partner for thriteen years and yet I was left with nothing to show for it.
What more was left to be lost?