Because She Loved Me – Part 4

because she loved me

 

“I think my leg is fine now. You can drop me off at the nearest bus station.” Thandiwe told me. Her whole attitude towards me had completely changed.

I could swear she had kissed me back…probably in a moment of weakness which she was now deeply regretting because she was looking at me like I was the devil himself. I could smell the disappointment from every part of her body.

I didn’t like her looking at me like that…it didn’t make me feel so good. She must have been thinking that I let her down because she had had such great expectations of me but what she didn’t know was that more than anything else, I had let myself down.

“I am sorry,” I said to her. I was deeply embarrassed, not only because of what I had done, but because there was still a part of me that felt justified in wanting to do it.

Even as I dropped Thandiwe off at the bus station, I knew it my head that that was not the end.

And thus, because I had told it to myself, I eventually made it so.

I could have easily instructed my brain to stop thinking about her but for some reason, I had convinced myself that the only way to get over what my wife had done to me was if I equalized the equation…but only to some extent; I had to sleep with someone else as well…I needed to sleep with someone else.

There was no way I was going to walk away from a marriage where I had invested so much because it would make me feel like a failure…and I am not a failure. How the hell will my friends and family look at me if they heard my wife cheated on me and had a child with someone else…and a pastor for that matter? I just couldn’t take such a blow.

My pride had already been bruised, no, bruised is subtle…someone had taken my balls and crushed them into pieces and then handed them back to me to chew. You see, despite my faith in God, my pride as a man would not let me take the easy way out. Forgiveness and letting go I had come to learn was just not my cup of tea. It was either I make her pay for what she had done by divorcing her or I get my own kind of revenge.

Unfortunately, divorcing meant I would lose a lot of things as well in the process and I wasn’t willing to let go of some things just yet. Why should I be punished? And so I settled for the next best thing I felt would appease my mind.

By then I had already concluded as you might have surmised that I intended to keep my marriage…but only on my terms. The question that still remained was how I could get passed my wife’s indiscretions and move on with our lives as if nothing had ever happened? I knew for a fact that there was no way in hell I would ever forget that…especially since there would be proof of that affair starring back at me in the form of Chikondi for the rest of my life.

But I had to make Thabo pay somehow and what better way than to do to her what she had done to me. I wanted to protect my weaknesses with everything I had but as you might know, everything has a price in the end.

I just didn’t know yet what price I was going to pay.

And so I kept thinking about Thandiwe every day and night. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I had somehow convinced myself that she was something sent to me by God and that she would the redemption I needed to save my marriage…that she would help me start anew. I know it doesn’t make sense now but it made a lot of sense then.

I looked her up on the internet, on social media and even went to that house in Phi where she worked. She had become my new obsession out of nowhere and for a while I had forgotten about the ache in my heart. By the end of that week, I had learnt a lot of things about Thandie;

For seven years she had been married to some man called Daniel Mukubesa, a doctor by profession who turned out to be an arrogant jerk who had been very abusive towards her. He had moved out of town about a year ago immediately after announcing divorce to her and had married the nurse he had been having an affair with for four years.

Thandie was a gullible woman, well, I don’t know if I should call it that or maybe she was just plain naive. For four years she never suspected her husband was having an affair…at least that’s what I had heard. I could tell she still loved him despite him completely turning his back on her and their son to fully devote himself to his new pregnant wife.

There was something about her pain that spoke to me…like it was something we had in common and I wanted to comfort her. There was a part of me that hoped she would understand my pain as well and had it been any other woman, I would have probably never known just how selfish the goals I had set out for myself in this journey of self-healing were.

But she was Thandiwe…and she did not hesitate to set me straight the next time I accosted her as she made her way to the bus station from her place of work.

“What do you want from me Harry?” She didn’t bother to stop to address me. She spoke as she walked, very very fast and I had to run to catch up to her.

“Stop Thandie,” I grabbed her hand to stop her and she finally turned to look at me in ballooned furry.

“What?” she hollered at me.

“I wanted to apologize for what I did last time,” I said.

“You don’t need to. I must have done something myself to make you think you could act that way. I should be the one apologizing to you.” Her mouth was saying one thing but her eyes were shooting accusing daggers at me.

“Can we go somewhere and talk?” I asked her.

“No, I don’t want to go anywhere with you Mr Harry.” She turned me down, grave determination written all over her face. She really wasn’t going to go anywhere with me. “What more is there to talk about?” She added.

“I just need someone to talk to…and for some reason I think you are the only person that can listen to me without judging me or anything.” I pleaded.

Her features softened a bit but she was still shrouded in doubt. “I really don’t think I am the right person you should be talking to.” She said. “I think what you need is a counselor or someone elderly to help you sort out whatever you and your wife are going through.”

“I already know what those people are going to tell me and I don’t think I want to listen to any of it right now.” I said.

She then put her hand on mine and removed it from grasping her other hand.

“There is only one thing you want from me,” she said as she looked me straight in the eye. “I came into your life in such an unruly manner and so I can understand why you might think I would be down for whatever you have convinced yourself in your head.”

I was shaking my head. “No, that’s not it Thandie, that’s not it at all.”

“Then why are you here?” She asked.

Why was I there? It was a dame good question.

“See,” she said in response to my silence. “You can’t even say it out loud.” She then started walking away.

“If I don’t talk to you, I think I am going to lose my mind.” I said to her back. I don’t know what had come over me but ever since this problem with my wife, I had become such an emotional man. It was as if the experience had forced open the door to the tears I never got to shed all those years.

It was embarrassing and I didn’t know how to stop them, heck I didn’t even know why they came but there they were; tears. I am really not proud of those moments but they are some of the most defining moments in my road to recovery and I just can’t leave them out.

She must have sensed something because she stopped and turned around. I could see this frustrated look in her eyes that she wanted to leave but she couldn’t just walk away. She was after all, Thandiwe.

There was this strange smile on my face as I watched her walk back to me.

“Is that your car parked over there?” She pointed to the car parked on the side of the road behind us close to the house where she worked.

“Yes,” I said. I can’t remember when I had cleared away the tears from my eyes and face but my voice was still a little husky. This was the second time I had shown weakness in front of this woman.

“I don’t want my bosses to get any wrong ideas so you go and get the car and you will find me here.” She said.

“Great,” I said and immediately ran back to get the vehicle.

Not a single word was said between us the whole time I drove to Kabulonga to a lodge I knew we would get some privacy. I could feel her glare reaping through me when she realized where I had brought her.

“The restaurant is quite here,” I quickly explained. “We can talk privately in the garden. We won’t have to enter the lodge.”

She heaved a sigh of relief.

“What is it you so desperately want to talk to me about?” She went straight to the point the moment we were seated in the garden.

“I am sorry for what happened last time,” I was saying.

“You already said that,” she reminded me.

“I know,” I said. “But I didn’t finish; I am sorry that I did that to you but I am not sorry for the act itself.”

She was definitely puzzled.

“I don’t see anything wrong with what I did.” I continued. “I have thought long and hard about what I ought to do in order to make myself feel better…something to lessen the weight of it all. I think…no, I know that only if I do this will I be able to look my wife in the eye and somehow forget it all.”

“What exactly did your wife do to you?” She finally asked the million dollar question.

I then explained to her everything that had happened.

By the time I finished telling her my story, she had tears welled up in her eyes and I dared not ask if it was out of pity or empathy.

“I am sorry,” she said to me as she fought back the tears. “I don’t even know what to say to you.” She said with a smile on her face, trying to mask her actual reaction to the whole thing.

“Yeah….” Was all I could manage.

“And now you think that sleeping with another woman would somehow make you feel better and allow you to forgive her?”

“What else am I supposed to do?” I asked. “This thing will haunt me for the rest of my life and this is the only way I have found would make things a little easier.”

“How about just divorcing her? Two wrongs can never make a right Mr Harry.” She tried to reason with me.

“You think I don’t know that already?” I banged my hand on the table, almost scared the hell out of the waiter who had appeared from behind to set drinks on our table.

Thandiwe threw an apologetic look in the waiter’s direction and thanked her for the drinks before she left with the empty tray in hand.

“I don’t want a divorce. I have never believed in divorce and I certainly don’t want to explain to anybody what caused my marriage to fail.”

“If you came to me thinking that I would side with you…then I am afraid am going to have to disappoint you.” she said. “I think that what you are plotting is childish and immature. What you seek is revenge and I can promise you that I won’t change a thing, if anything, it will only make it harder for you and your wife to work things out. In the end the very thing you are trying to avoid is exactly what will happen; you will break up.”

“How would you know that?” I asked.

“Because I tried it,” she said. That was a surprise.

“You cheated on your husband?” I asked, dreading the response.

She laughed softly. “Not in the full sense of the word…just emotionally at most…but I still think it’s called cheating in the Bible sense of definition.”

And then she went on to tell me her story.

“People assumed that I didn’t know that my husband was having an affair for so many years but I knew it from the moment it started. Instead of confronting him about it I tried to turn myself into a better wife thinking that he had strayed because of weaknesses on my part. But no matter how much effort I put into being a good wife, the affair never went away. When I finally confronted him about it, he beat me so bad I was in the hospital for three days. I never spoke of it again but something inside me had died since.

“Instead of the confrontation making things better between us, it somehow made my husband feel he could now flaunt the affair in my face without having to worry about being caught. He would answer her calls late at night when I was sleeping right next to him and I would be forced to listen to every word of their conversations. It killed me.

“The doctor who was in charge of my care at the hospital had taken a liking to me and even after I was discharged he would call to check up on me and slowly we started chatting. While I was getting zero attention from my husband, there was a man giving me all the attention in the world. Despite being a doctor, my husband had failed to recognize that something was wrong with our son but that doctor took one look at him and knew right away. I tried so many times to talk to my husband about it but he just never had time for me, not even for our son.

“I was filled with so much bitterness. I was hurting badly and I wanted to hurt him back. That doctor had offered to get my son to have surgery, for free and out of gratitude I was willing to give in to him. I started giving him attention and began looking forward to my conversations with him. I got so wrapped up in it I no longer cared about what my husband was up to…that was until that good doctor tried to take things a little further and when I turned him down he passed a very crude moment that forced me to wake up.

“Soon after that incident I learnt that my husband’s mistress was pregnant and I knew then that we had reached a point of no return. My husband said he was in-love with her and he had tried to make things work with me but I was just so different from him. He shoved papers in my face and left.

“My point is, no matter how much we try to justify our actions, there will come a time when we regret the decisions we make out of hurt and anger. You can’t make a marriage work on your own and problems don’t just disappear just because you choose to look the other way. The truth is; I had given up on my marriage the moment I chose to look the other way.

“But you on the other hand have a choice to make; you say you don’t want a divorce…that you want to work things out…but, did you stop to ask yourself why you want to work things out? Is it because of your pride…that you don’t want the world to know your dirty laundry or, is it because you love your wife and your family so much you are willing to work things out? If it is the former, I say you should get a divorce, but if it’s the latter, then you need to get the idea of revenge out of your head and do everything you can to see to it that you work things out. Either way, I am not going to sleep with you.”

Thandie’s words hurt like hell.

I had wanted to talk to her out of my own selfishness. I had thought that I would somehow convince her to take pity on me and maybe things between us would…you know…get better. Instead, she had ended up awakening me to some facts I desperately needed to hear. I didn’t want to hear them of course…but I had to.

By the time our conversation had ended, I had come to this realization; that Thandiwe was a remarkable woman and that I was a bloody coward.

I was not sure about the love for my wife at that point in my life but I was sure about the love for my family. That night I drove to the house of a former boss of mine whom I had a lot of respect for. He had been married for over thirty years and he always impressed me with how he treated his wife during the days we were close. I had completely forgotten about him but for some reason after talking to Thandiwe, he came to my mind.

Even though I had not spoken to him in a very long time, Mr Kaunda and his wife welcomed me into their home with open arms. After exchanging a few pleasantries and the drinks were served, his wife excused herself and left us to talk in private. I bet she had sensed the reason I had shown up at their door. I poured my heart out to that man for hours and he just listened and listened.
I had resolved to make my marriage work.

* * *

With guidance from a very well-grounded couple providing us with Godly counsel, my wife and I endeavoured to resurrect our marriage and start anew. We both knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we committed ourselves to doing our best.

Unfortunately, even though I had convinced my mind to work things out, my heart found it hard to adjust. Six months had gone by and Thabo and I hadn’t been intimate. Many times she tried to initiate things but that only seemed to make things even harder. I didn’t want her taking charge of things sexually because it made me feel as if she had forgiven herself too easily.

On the other hand, I couldn’t bring myself to complete the act because I just couldn’t get the image of her with another man out of my head. I tried…dear God I tried.

But It. Just. Wouldn’t. Go. Away.

We tried numerous exercises together, did fun stuff together to build our relationship but when it came down to the bedroom, my body just froze, literally.

So many times I chanted to myself ‘mind over matter…mind over matter…’ but still nothing changed.
The strange thing was, although my relationship with my wife was struggling, my relationship with Chikondi had not changed. I still loved that boy like he was my own. At first I responded to him out of pity because everything in me wanted to hate him but then I would watch his reaction and see how broken he was.

I was ashamed of myself for making a child pay for his parent’s sins. Eventually, that pity developed into love. It was easy to love that boy…because he loved with every inch of his little heart. It was as if he had sensed something was wrong and I can never forget that conversation I had with him that turned things around.

I had come from work and found him sitting alone in the back yard, deep in his thoughts as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. I put my laptop bag down and sat down next to him.

“Do you think you and mum would be happier if I disappeared?” He had asked me.

That question broke my heart into pieces. It was as if he had switched on some button inside me…my heart was thumping so fast I feared I might collapse.

“Why do you say that son?” I asked, fighting back the tears. It was still a sore topic for me…but the tears in Chikondi’s eyes only made things a 120% harder.

“Just because,” he answered, shrugging his shoulders. He was now pulling the grass from the ground piece by piece, avoiding eye contact by all means.

“I know things have been a little difficult lately between me and your mother but I don’t want you to think even for a second that you have anything to do with it, okay?” I said.

“Then why do you hate me?” He asked. He had brought his massacre of the grass to a paused as he waited for my response.

“Where did you get that idea from?” I asked. I knew where he had picked up that idea from. There were moments when I couldn’t control my gaze and I think my thoughts came screaming from my eyes.

“Listen here buddy,” I took his tiny hand into mine. “You mean the world to me. I am sorry that I have been such a bad father to you but nothing…and I mean nothing will ever change between us. You will always be my first born son no matter what happens…you believe me right?”

He was looking up at me with his big teary eyes and then he nodded. “Yes, I believe you,” he said.

I took him into my arms and hugged him so tied I heard me stutter…”I can’t…bre…ath…dad.”

I loosened my hold on him and we both laughed.

That night Thabo and I made love like it was our first time.

It had been nine months since the journey to reconciliation had been launched.

* * *

A year and six months had gone by and I believed that my marriage had survived the biggest hurdle ever. It had taken a lot of doing but we were finally doing alright. We had finally moved into our own house in Ibex Hill and changed churches, I had gotten a new job as country manager for one of the biggest firms in the country and our kids were going to the best schools. We were pretty much happy.

Everything was back to normal.

Or so I thought.

I had travelled for a conference in Algeria when it happened.

I was to be away from home for two weeks. In a strange city surrounded by strangers…let me not start with the excuses. The bottom line is that I accepted an invite for a late night beer from a woman I had met during the conference who was staying at the same hotel as I.

I should have turned her down…I mean, she was extremely beautiful and intelligent. She was a professor, very outspoken and bold in every sense of the word. Heck, she was a very attractive woman who should have come with a warning sign.

She came knocking at the door of my hotel room and suggested we go down to the bar for a drink. We had both had a hectic day and we both deserved to unwind a bit. That could have been why I easily accepted her offer, I think.

I woke up the next morning and found her naked body sleeping next to mine.

Since when had it become so easy for me to cheat on my wife? I don’t know how it had happened…but it had happened.

When I went back home, I made love to my wife like nothing had ever happened. Thing is, I had actually forgotten about that woman in Algeria. My encounter with her had been exactly that, casual.

However, while I should have been proud of myself for easily forgetting about that casual encounter, I should have been asking myself why I felt no guilt whatsoever towards my wife.

Now I can wonder about such things but back then, it didn’t matter as long as my wife never got to learn of it.

And she never did.

Unfortunately, although the Algerian woman was the first, she was not the last. Six months later it happened with another woman, and then another and then…just like that, all casual encounters that ended as fast as they started.

But Thabo and I were still happy. We went on family vacations and did other stuff that couples do. We had moved on from the past and we were proud of ourselves.

But something had changed and we just couldn’t see it.

I was in Ndola for a workshop, staying at some fancy lodge my secretary had booked me in and engaging in what had become my favourite pass time when my partner for the night found dissatisfaction with the food she ordered that had just been brought to our room.

I tried explaining to her why her food was like that but she had a very short temper…probably why she was still single and shagging a married man in some lodge. But who am I to judge?

The wild creature called the reception and demanded that the manager come to our room and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and in walked the lodge manager.

Alas, it was Thandiwe Mwale.

I was resting on the bed in nothing but my boxers while my partner who was covered in nothing but a towel was holding the door open so she could yell properly at the unfortunate manager.

I had been having affairs for over a year and not once did I feel guilt.

But on that particular night as Thandi’s eyes and mine met, I had never felt such shame as I did then. It was as if she had ripped my clothes off and made me stand in front of strangers all wet and exposed.

I was finally embarrassed of the man I had become. It had taken that long.

But I felt shame for the first time in a very long time.

At that moment I could not understand why Thandie brought out such feelings in me, I really couldn’t but I understood the look in her eyes;

It was disdain.

“What is this thing you’ve served me?” My one night stand was wailing, pointing at the food on the table.

Thandiwe blinked profusely and cleared her throat… and I could see her take a deep breath before responding with a smile on her face. “I am very sorry that this has happened but if you tell me what is wrong with the food, I will make sure that everything is well taken care of and a fresh plate will be served as soon as possible.”

“That meat you served me is not cooked!” My promiscuous maiden woman howled.

“If you don’t mind, may I ask what was ordered?” Thandiwe was professional to a fault in her responses.

“I ordered very rare T-bone steak with fries but that meat is so red in the centre I can see blood dripping. What sort of restaurant are you running here?”

I wanted to explain to Thandiwe that I had tried to explain to the woman why her meat was like that but in that instant I had lost function of all my speech organs. My mouth was wide open but no words would come out.

But like I said, Thandiwe was professional to a fault. Anyone else would have laughed at the uneducated wench and put her in her place for her rude behaviour…acting all high class when she was absolutely clueless.

“I am very sorry about that,” Thandie was saying in a very controlled voice. “Perhaps…may I suggest the meat to be well-done this time around? When it’s well-done, it will be cooked inside-out and you won’t see any red on it.” She was talking as if she was explaining something to a five year old but the guest was probably too dumb to pick up on that.

“I am sure there must have been some miscommunication when the restaurant took down your order. Such confusions happen a lot when guests order rare meat which is not supposed to be very cooked and well-done meat which is the one that is very cooked. I am very sorry for this inconvenience.”

She was deliberately placing emphasis on the words of contention.

It wasn’t enough that I had been caught in such an embarrassing situation, but my partner just had to be make things worse. Even though the manager had not called her dumb to her face, the delivery was enough to educate the guest in question.

I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.

“Why didn’t you tell me that that’s what I had ordered?” The woman asked me the moment we were alone. I was sitting there like a statue with a bedsheet now covering my nether area. It was the position I had assumed the moment I had realised who the manager was.

“I tried to tell you,” I said angrily. “But you just. wouldn’t. shut. the. Hell. Up. What did you think rare was, some type of gold meat?”

“I thought it was some special kind of T-bone, you know…like something I’ve never tested before.” She replied without shame.

God is truly fair indeed…because it would be really unfair for a good looking woman like that to also have a well-functioning brain.

Where did I even pick up this species from? I thought to myself.

I was done with her for the night. I kicked her out the moment she had finished her food. But the damage had already been done.

I lay in bed debating whether to go and search for Thandiwe or to wait till morning.

But what if she got off in the morning? I didn’t want to leave things like that between us. I felt like I owed her some kind of explanation. I finally gave up fighting the urge and went out to look for her.

“Your manager, can I see her?” I asked the receptionist.

“Which manager are you looking for Sir?” The pretty lady asked me. “Restaurant, housekeeping, general manager…?”

I wasn’t sure which she was. “The one that had come to room 28 where we had an incident a few hours ago,” I said.

The receptionist chuckled upon hearing that and said, “Ooh that was from your room? I didn’t know.” She had brought her hand to her mouth to muffle her laughter but it was already too late.

“Her name is Thandiwe Mwale,” I said sternly. She got the hint and quickly sobered up.

“Ah, she is the general manager,” the receptionist said. “She had just come back to take care of something when the call came from your room and she offered to attend to you since she was closest.”

“Where is she?” I asked.

“You just missed her,” she said. “She left about two minutes ago. She….”

I couldn’t stick around to the end of that sentence. I ran outside to try and catch up to her. I immediately spotted a car coming towards me from the car park and I stood in the middle of the drive way to block it, waving my arms in the air as the car drew closer.

The driver saw me at the very last second and immediately hit the emergency brakes while I fell backwards in fear of what could have been.

I heard the door open and then, “Are you alright?” I knew that voice.

She knelt down beside me and touched my hand which was covering my eyes from the bright headlights.

“Sir, are you okay?” She repeated, her voice filled with concern.

I slowly dropped my hand and looked up at her and I watched her instinctively pull her upper body away from me like she had seen some infectious bug on my face.

“What do you think you are doing?” She snapped.

It was some deva-vu kind of mess.

She got up in frustration and walked back to her car. I quickly got up and ran after her, pushed her car door shut before she could make a move to get back inside. She turned around to face me, she was furious.

“I need to talk to you,” I said to her.

“You have two minutes, talk.” She looked at her wrist watch and folded her arms across her chest.

“I need more than two minutes Thandi,” I begged. “For crying out loud we haven’t seen each other in over two years.”

“Could it be because you have been too busy these two years, Sir?” She said forcefully. “What is it you want to say to me? It’s very late and I have a family to go to.”

“Did you get married?” I asked.

“That’s none of your business.” She answered curtly.

My eyes went straight to her fingers. There was no ring in sight.

She saw the direction of my eyes and quickly hid her fingers but I had already seen what I wanted to see.

I was grinning like a fool. “How’s your son doing? Did you manage to get him the surgery? When did you move here?” I just kept firing at her, I couldn’t stop. I was curious about so many things.

“Hey Thandie, is everything okay?” A voice came from behind us.

The accent and the masculine tone of his voice was enough to drive me insane even before I set my eyes on him. He was black, tall, well-built, seemed to be either in his late twenties or early thirties. Even in that partially lit drive way, his smooth skin and accent screamed of his origins…he was definitely a foreigner.

My obvious guess was that he was British…or at least he grew up in those areas. I hated him already.

He looked like the kind of man that women, whether young or old wanted to sleep with. Just looking at him pissed me off…very very very much.

I felt invisible standing next to him.

“Alex, what are you doing here?” A very concerned Thandie addressed him.

“I was up in my room when I saw what happened here.” He was pointing up towards the top floors of the lodge. “I saw the outline of the vehicle and thought it might be you so I came to check it out.”

He could tell the outline of her vehicle from that far? Mambala uyu….

“No you didn’t have to. I was just heading out and this man appeared out of nowhere…almost bashed him but as you can see, he’s totally fine. I am sorry that you had to come all the way.”

This man?? Did she just call me this man?

“Oh no, it’s not a problem. I am glad everything is okay.” The foreigner was saying.

Dame his bloody accent. Just listening to it can make any woman fall pregnant. There should be a law against letting such men into our country. It should be a matter of Natural Law…they can fit in a clause or two about such cases.

“I have to go now, it’s getting very late,” Thandi was saying. “You should go back to your room Alex…I will see you in the morning.”

I wanted to wipe the smile off of his face. It is very unmanly for a man to be that good looking. Put lipstick on his lips and you wouldn’t tell him apart from a female.

Handsome my foot. Tsk.

“Sure, see you in the morning love,” he moved to give her a hug and she hesitantly hugged him back. It was as if I wasn’t even there. The two of them said goodbye and went their separate ways, leaving me standing in there alone like a fool.

“What time does the general manger report for work tomorrow?” I asked the receptionist before heading back to my room.

“eight,” she replied.

“Thanks,” I said and went back to my room.

That night I couldn’t sleep.

Who was that Alex guy?

What was he to Thandie?

What did Thandie think of me?

These and many such thoughts kept dancing in my head and kept me awake.

And then one question finally came to my mind that made me seat up in bed;

Why was I feeling like this all of a sudden?

I had not seen Thandie for two years and I never thought much about her. Well, maybe once in a while she would pop up in my head but that’s it. However, meeting her the way I did brought out feelings in me that I had not even been aware existed and I found myself questioning a lot of other things about my life.

Why did it take another woman who was not even my wife to make me realize I had been living such a rotten and shameful life? What had happened to me? How did I reach such a point?

And most importantly, why Thandiwe?

I realized just then exactly what price I had paid to keep my marriage.

Me.

I had sacrificed the man I used to be.

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Echoes of the Heart – Part 8

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

“I just need you to tell me what’s wrong with you.” Sibusiswe implored him. “I know now for a fact that you are sick but I don’t understand why you won’t tell me what you are suffering from. Is it that bad?”

Martin walked over to her, took her hand into his and led them to sit down. “Sibu, Sibu, Sibu….” he said whilst playing with her hand over the table. “There’s that look in your eyes…one minute I can swear on my life that you love me…and the next minute, you treat me like a plague you wanna avoid for life.”

“Stop trying to change the topic Martin,” Sibu said forcefully.

For a moment, Martin paused whatever he was doing with her hand and just held on to it like that, starring hard at their hands entangled together and yet it was so clear his mind was somewhere else.

“If you don’t tell me, I know someone somewhere who would be willing to tell me if I begged him properly.” She threatened him.

And then very slowly, he led her hand to the table, carefully placed it down and withdrew his hands under the table. “Yes I am sick Sibu,” he finally admitted, suddenly sitting up straight and delivering the devastating news in the most casual tone he could cook up. “I have a kidney problem and the doctors think getting a transplant is the best thing for me.”

Despite her implorations, she never really expected him to come out with the truth right away, but looking at Martin standing there, there was an unsettling feeling that had crept up on her and she couldn’t get rid of it.

“You are serious, right?” She was studying him closely.

Martin was looking at her bemusedly. “You need to learn to trust me, Sibu. Why would I lie to you about something like this?”

“Then why do you look like that?” She was gesturing towards his whole demeanour.

“What, you want me to be all sad and feeling sorry for myself just because I have a terminal disease?” He asked.

“Not exactly,” she replied. “But you don’t look sick at all and you act like there is nothing serious going on with your health.”

“It’s not that serious, yet…” he answered nonchalantly. “And I have been doing enough to keep things under control.”

“You mean like partying and drinking?” She said sarcastically.

Martin only laughed in response.

And then a thought crossed Sibu’s mind. “Your conversation with the doctor that night…and what Ted just said…does it mean you don’t want to have surgery?” The expression on her face had suddenly turned serious.

Martin had dreaded this moment but it had finally come. “I told you about the disease Sibu but that’s all I’m gonna say.”

“Why won’t you have surgery when it will help you live? I just don’t understand that. Is it because you haven’t found a donor?” She asked.

“Tell me something Sibusiswe,” Martin leaned his back against his chair. “Why are you so concerned about my health or my wellbeing in general?”

The question was so unexpected and Sibu struggled to give a response right away.

“Because we are friends,” she had finally managed. “I am just concerned about you as Ted is.”

“There we go again, Ted.” Martin bleated. “What’s up with you and Ted? Are you sure nothing happened between you two? Why does he feel the need to call you all the way from there and then talk about me?”

“He didn’t call to talk about you, don’t be so conceited.” She replied. “And just like the way you and I are, he too is a friend.” She was now up on her feet and ready to go.

Martin got up as well. “So does that mean you slept with him too?” he asked.

If looks could kill, Martin Mwewa had just been turned into a fossil.

“You said just like us,” he shrugged his shoulders innocently. “Okay,” he moved closer to her and closed the distance between them. “It was a bad joke,” he placed his hands on her shoulders and much to his surprise; she did not flinch or protest like she normally did whenever he initiated physical contact. She was just looking at him with the same murderous expression on her face.

It was Martin’s turn to feel uncomfortable. He dropped his hands from her shoulders and put some distance between them. He was looking at her suspiciously.

“You were not planning on hitting me in the balls were you?” He asked, looking down at her foot which was busy tapping the floor.

“I am going back to work,” Sibu said to him before turning to leave.

“I met your aunt over the weekend,” Martin’s announcement brought her to a complete stop.

Sibu immediately turned back around and walked back to where Martin was standing, his hands back in his pockets as a satisfied grin appeared on his face. “Figured that would get your attention,” he said.

“Are you kidding me?” An angry Sibu shouted.

“Oh no, I wasn’t lying about your aunt. I really met her on Sunday. She called and said there was something she needed to talk to me about. Tell me, is that woman your real aunt?” Martin asked, for the umpteenth time.

“What did she say to you?” Sibu’s voice was husky and shaky.

“There, that look again.” Martin was pointing at her face. “You always get like this whenever your aunt comes up. You act like she is more of a nemesis than aunt.”

“What did my aunt say to you Martin?” She repeated the question, this time placing emphasis on every single word.

“Nothing important, she said she was curious about me and just wanted to know me better.” He lied and she wasn’t buying.

“You lying to me means that she said something worse,” Sibu muttered. “Why won’t you tell me what she said to you?”

Martin had somehow successfully landed himself into a hole. “Because it’s not that important Sibu,” he said. “She just wanted to know how far our relationship has gone and she said something about being on my side and looking out for me if you give me a hard time.”

Sibu still looked unconvinced. “I know my aunt and I know for a fact that that does not sound like anything she would say…well, maybe she might have said something in those lines but I know there is something else she said to you that you are not telling me.”

“Sibu….” He tentatively reached out for her hand.

“Never mind,” she said dismissively. “Even if you don’t tell me, I will find out.” And with that, she turned and walked away.

Left behind, Martin brushed his hand through his hair in frustration.

“How did that happen?” He scolded himsef.

Just like she had promised Martin, Sibusiswe went directly to her aunt’s house that evening after knocking off from work.

“I knew you would bring yourself home soon,” Aunt Tafadzwa passed the snide remark the moment she opened the door for her. That phrase had unconsciously become her welcoming remark to Sibu.

“Why did you ask to meet Martin aunt and what did you tell him?” Sibu had offered herself a seat and she went straight to the point the moment she was settled down.

“Typical Bemba man,” Aunt Tafadzwa said as she too sat down to face her angry niece. “They all talk too much.”

“Aunt,” Sibu called out to her, a grave expression on her face. “For how long do you intend to run my life like this? What do I have to do that will satisfy you and make you leave me the hell alone?”

“I am glad you asked that question my dear,” her aunt replied. “You claim to have done enough for me yet here I am still languishing in poverty. My friends at the market are busy upgrading and they now own shop yet all I have is that small stand which isn’t even mine to begin with.”

“And how is that my fought?” Sibu asked. “I gave you money to start the business; did you also want me to take care of every little thing for you?”

“Have you forgotten that you are the reason my family is this poor?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked. “If not for you…and if not for all the hospital bills I had to pay for your recovery, my children and I wouldn’t have to depend on you for anything.”

She always knew when to bring up those words in a conversation and after so many years of using them, she had come to master their exact effect.

Sibu sighed heavily and let her head fall back on the sofa. She had no more fight left in her. Every conversation she had with her aunt somehow always led to this particular conversation.

How was she supposed to win an argument when she was disadvantaged from the get-go? There was only one person who knew what happened that day and that person was bent on using that information against her till the day she died.

“You said that if I marry him,” Sibu sat up straight and had a new kind of resolve in her eyes. “That if I send my cousins to school and set up a business for you then you will let me go, right?”

Aunt Tafadzwa was grinning from ear to ear. “Yes, yes, you’ve thought wisely my dear.” She was nodding her head excitedly as she spoke. “Marrying a man like him will set you up for life.”

More like set you up for life, Sibu thought to herself but loudly said. “I will marry him,” she announced to her very delighted aunt. “But only I get to decide how much money you get from that family,” she added before her aunt could say anything. She could tell she was itching to give her five cents on the topic.

“You will not under any circumstances make any financial demands from Martin or any member of his family,” She went on. “If I hear that you contacted any one of them behind my back, I will cancel this arrangement and disappear from your life, to hell with the past and all that talk about penance. Have I made myself clear aunty?”

Aunt Tafadzwa didn’t look pleased at all with the terms that came with it. “The way you sound…and the way you are looking at me, who can tell that you are my niece? Tsk.”

Sibu stood up. “After draining me of my blood and sweat, do you still think that there could ever be such a relationship between us?” She said. “To me you will always be the person that put a price on my mother’s life and made me pay every cent of it using my blood.” She then picked up her handbag and left the house.

During the time Sibbusiswe walked from her aunt’s house to the bus stop, she had made two major decisions in her head and she committed to delivering on one of them right away.

At the bus stop, instead of getting on a bus, she took a cab and told the driver, “Longacres please, Mirabell Hospital.”

“Why did you ask me to come to your house doc?” Martin asked Dr Sanjay once they were sited in his living room. “It’s so quiet today,” he noted. “Where’s everyone else?”

“My husband and the kids are at the other house.” She was gesturing towards the back of the house where they had built three more houses for their extended family. “His parents are visiting so everyone seems to be spending more time there.”

“I see,” Martin said. “So, what was so important it couldn’t wait till morning?”

“We found you a donor,” the doctor said.

Martin grumbled and stood up in frustration. “I knew it.” He said. “What was I expecting?” And he started walking towards the door.

“You need to ask me who the donor is,” the doctor said to his retreating figure.

“I really don’t care,” Martin responding without looking back.

“But I think you should care,” Dr Sanjay insisted. “You know who the donor is.”

Martin paused and then slowly turned to look at the doctor. The question was written all over his face.

“Your girlfriend, Sibusiswe Hangaala.” She provided.

Martin gaped at his doctor in response. “What do you mean by that?” He knew what he had heard, but he hoped he had heard wrong.

Unfortunately, Doctor Sanjay wasn’t privy to his heart’s desires and so she repeated, “Sibusiswe came to see me at the hospital just as I was knocking off and demanded that I have tests done on her to see if she can be your donor…thing is, I already knew she was a match….” the doctor nervously added the last part.

“Did you push her into….”

Doctor Sanjay waved her hand in the air to deny the incoming accusation. “We ran a lot of tests on her the last time you came with her…I just happened to check and…. I never told anyone about it, not even you or her until today. It was just a by-the-way thing before but now it’s turned out like this.”

Nothing was making sense to Martin. Why would Sibu do that?

“Isn’t she your girlfriend?” The Doctor asked.

“What?” Martin asked, looking extremely disturbed.

“You asked why she would do that?” Dr Sanjay answered.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought I said it in my head.”

“Why don’t you sit down?”

Without protesting, Martin went back to sit.

“She never mentioned whether she wanted to keep the donation private or not…I assume she would have preferred the former but since I know you, I figured you would want to know lest you threaten to shut down my practice again.”

Martin stood up again. “This is very confusing…it doesn’t add up,” he said. “I have to talk to Sibu first. I think this is some sort of bad joke. I hope you didn’t get her to sign anything.”

Doctor Sanjay winced in embarrassment.

“What?” Martin asked upon seeing the doctor’s reaction.

“She forced me to get her to sign the papers and threatened to inject herself with anything she could lay her hands on in the hospital if I refused to do what she wanted. I asked her if you knew she was going to be your donor and immediately sensed she hadn’t since she couldn’t give me a straight answer. I suggested talking to you first and that’s when she went berserk. I really believed her when she said she would inject herself. Her eyes were searching my office for any weapons. She is one scary girl.”

“Are you even a doctor?” Martin yelled at her. “How can an eighteen year old make you do something like that?”

“She might be eighteen but her mind is older and wiser than the both of us put together.” The doctor could recall the spine—chilling moment Sibu had looked into her eyes and made the threat. She had never before seen such determination in a teenager’s eyes. “Do you even know what her IQ is?”

Martin huffed and left the house in furry.

* * *

Not wanting to disturb Sibusiswe who was now sleeping in the bedroom after coming in from work in a very bad mood, Sibeso had finished preparing supper and had just dropped her body on the sofa with a plate in hand when someone knocked at the door.

It was not one of those subtle and respectful knocks that people usually get on their doors. This one was loud, irritating and was so powerful it would have knocked the door right off its hinges if it continued any longer.

Sibeso put her plate down on the table and got up to check on the rude visitor in frustration. She could hear Sibu tossing and turning in her sleep from the noise and so when she opened the door, it was not with a welcoming smile.

For a second, Sibeso’s huge frown almost made Martin forget why he had come there in the first place.

“I need to talk to Sibu,” Martin said the moment he recovered and shoved himself passed Sibeso and entered the house.

“What are you doing here?” The noise had obviously awakened Sibu.

“What have you done?” He fired at her right away.

“What do you….”

“Doctor Sanjay, she told me!” He yelled.

“You do know we live in a flat, right?” Sibeso reminded Martin. “These walls have ears so I suggest you tone it down or we gonna have to print tickets next time you visit to accommodate the large audience.” She then picked up her plate from the table and headed to the balcony, closing the door behind her to give them some privacy.

Sibu’s attitude seemed to raise Martin’s blood pressure even more. She simply shrugged her shoulders and went to occupy the same spot her friend had been in.

“Is that the only reaction I am going to get from you?” Martin asked, sitting down as well.

“What do you want me to say?” Sibu said nonchalantly. “I have no plans of becoming a widow just after a year of marriage. What sort of fool do you take me for?”

“How the hell do you expect me to…wait,” that’s how long it took for her words to sink in. “What did you just say? Did I hear correctly?” A smile slowly crept onto his face. “I’m I really….” Martin was up on his feet, one hand pressed on his mouth in disbelief.

Sibu instinctively smiled back at him, but unlike his pure genuine smile, hers was riddled with joy and something mysterious. “Yes, I will marry you…but only if you agree to have the surgery.” She said.

…because that’s the only way I can lessen my guilt towards you and some else. She added silently.

And then suddenly, his smile mirrored hers before completely faded into oblivion.

“What are you so afraid of Martin?” Sibu got up and walked over to him. Martin avoided her gaze, looking down at his feet with both his hands now in his pockets.

“The doctor said you don’t want to have surgery because you don’t want to live like a patient for the rest of your life; forever taking meds despite having a new kidney…and so you would rather die. Is that correct?”

“Would you live such a life yourself Sibu?” Martin asked.

The question startled her. “For me death is a luxury I cannot afford,” she said in a very solemn tone, quickly turning her back to him to avoid eye contact. “But we are not talking about me,” she said, sitting in the same spot as before. “I think you are just being a coward.”

“What?” Martin was incandescent in his delivery. There was something else she had said he wanted to address because he had heard it before but her last remark made everything else seem less important.

“I am a coward?” He hissed. “How does getting to decide how or when I die make me a coward? Do you have any idea what it’s like living a life dependent on drugs? Every little thing I do, every decision I make, I have to consider my health first. You’ve seen how I’ve lived my life so far, do you think someone like me can survive such a restrictive lifestyle? It’s as good as being dead!”

“I knew you were a spoilt brat before…I just didn’t know it was to such an extent,” Sibu chastised him, much to his chagrin. “Do you have any idea how many people out there would kill to have the same opportunities as you but here you are taking everything for granted.”

“I never asked anyone to donate their kidney to me,” Martin stated. “And I most certainly never imagined receiving one from you. Look at me, do I look sick to you?”

“That’s beside the point,” Sibu argued. “I don’t even think you did any research to find out how your life will change after surgery. You just heard a few lines from the doctor, you didn’t like the sound of them and then you made your decision. Have you even tried reaching out to people that have had such transplants before? You are even lucky you got the diagnosis on time so you’ve had enough time to adjust your lifestyle and live a much healthier life. Who says your life has to change dramatically just because you have to take meds every now and then? It only takes a few seconds to drink medicine and if you have someone by your side, you won’t even think of it as such a hustle.”

Martin said nothing in response. Everything she had said was right. They were the same words Doctor Sanjay had tried telling him but she never gave her the chance to finish. However, there was something about those very words coming from Sibu’s mouth that made him want to listen. There was something in her voice that gave him hope that life wouldn’t be so bad after all.

From the moment he had been diagnosed, he had done everything possible to erase any memory of it…to go on with life and pretend as if nothing was wrong. Even in those moments when the pain came, all he had to do was get a quick fix for pain and sleep everything away. Tomorrow was always a brand new day and thanks to Sibu who had appeared in his life like an accident; his days had become even brighter.

“What made you change your mind about marrying me?” was what Martin asked when he finally spoke. “What happened to all those reasons you gave, love, school and what not?”

“I can easily change my mind again if you like,” she threatened him.

“No, no, no,” Martin pleaded. “Please don’t.”

Sibu laughed. “I am a woman, changing my mind is a major part of my operating system. You should get used to it.”

He too laughed. “But seriously, what made you change your mind?” He asked again.

“My aunt did everything in her power to convince me,” she said jokingly.

“She didn’t threaten you, did she?” Martin asked.

Sibu laughed. “Even if she did, it’s not like I would tell you…because that would just defeat the whole purpose.”

“Oh wow, that hurts real badly,” he held his hand to his heart, feigning pain but smiling at the same time. “Your aunt really scares me. She is like a villain in a soap opera. Instead of Aunt Tafadzwa, you should be calling her Aunt Maxine…the female version of Max from No One But You.”

“I would say the same about your mother,” Sibu said. “How are you going to convince your parents to let you marry me? I am not exactly the kind of woman you introduce to a family like yours. Your mother has already made her feelings known…explicitly.”

That part hadn’t crossed his mind yet; his father was not a problem…it was his mother he had to worry about.

He had not spoken to his mother ever since the nasty exchange they had had after he returned from abroad which ended with him being kicked out of the house. Mrs Mwewa never thought her son would actually leave which was why she was more shocked than anyone else when he actually did.

Coming from a very poor family background, Martin’s mother operated under the assumption that anyone poor that had sights on her son did so with ulterior motives. Being ten years younger than her husband, everyone naturally assumed she had married him for his money; something Martin had come to learn was a fact when she had gotten drunk during his fifteenth birthday celebrations and told him that she would have not been attracted to Martin Senior in the first place if not for his money but that didn’t mean she never loved him as a man…only that the money made her look in his direction.

With a background like that, Mrs Mwewa was suspicious of any girl that tried to get close to her son.

“By the way,” Sibu was now resting her head on Martin’s lap as the two of them made themselves comfortable on the biggest chair in the room. “Why does your mum hate Tonga’s so much?”

Martin giggled. “Oh that,” he said whilst playing with her hair. “It’s a long story…but the short version is; her mother died when she was twelve and her dad remarried another woman just two months later who ended up mistreating my mother and her siblings. That woman was Tonga by tribe.”

“Oooh,” was all Sibu could say in response, finally making sense of the things she had heard.

“How about your name, it doesn’t sound Tonga.” Martin said.

“It’s actually Ndebele…well, it’s also found in the Eastern province, but it has the same meaning in any language.”

“What does it mean?” Martin asked.

“It means blessing. The original name is actually Sibusisiwe… but when I was in pre-school I had a teacher who insisted on calling me Sibusiswe and ended up putting it on all my school documents and here we are….”

“I kind of like Sibusiswe better, the other one is too long,” Martin laughed.

And just like that, the two of them chatted all the way to midnight when Sibeso finally gave up braving the mosquitos outside and crushed their party to go to bed.
That following weekend, Martin decided to visit his parent’s home to talk to them about his marriage. His mother was excited to have him home thinking he had decided to come back. However, her hopes where shattered during dinner when Martin finally launched his marriage campaign.

“I have decided to get married,” Martin had announced to the unsuspecting audience consisting of his parents and young sister Mwiche.

“Marriage? You?” Martin Senior scoffed. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“Junior,” his mother was giving him a warning look to shut up.

Mwiche was the only one responding in excitement. “Is it who I think it is?” she asked her brother.

Martin was all smiles when he replied, “of course it is. She finally said yes!”

Mwiche clapped her hands excitedly. “I am going to be your flower girl ka?

Martin laughed. “Have you ever seen a flower girl as old as you?”

Mwiche’s excitement dulled down to a zero as she dropped her shoulders and head in disappointment.

“You are serious?” His father finally gave him his full attention.

“Yes dad, I am serious.” Martin answered confidently.

“Is it that girl at the reception?” Martin senior asked.

Three faces gaped at him in astonishment.

“How did you….” Martin was asking.

His father smirked. “Is there anything I don’t know,” he answered smugly. “I see you take after your old man,” he was smiling proudly. “She is young, fresh, and beautiful…and quite intelligent I hear.”

His wife was glaring at him in disapprobation, making their two children bust out in laughter.

“I don’t like her,” Mrs Mwewa vomited.

“Have you ever liked anyone honey?” her husband asked.

“Honey!” his wife complained, the thick foundation on her face almost melting from anger.

Martin and Mwiche chuckled surreptitiously.

“What about school, are you really going to drop out?” His father asked.

“Of course not,” Martin answered. “I will continue from here.”

“Why are you suddenly in such a rush to get married?” His mother asked.

Before it was because he thought he was going to die but after the recent developments, he only had one thing in mind;

“Because I love her and I want to marry her before any man beats me to it.” He was as assertive as could be in his response.

His father was smiling at him proudly. “That’s my boy,” he said as he raised his glass to him and the two of them toasted, earning themselves a glacial stare from one woman and a smile from another.

“Doesn’t she need to college? I am not very comfortable marrying my son off to a high school graduate. And I don’t like where she comes from.” Mrs Mwewa pressed her case.

Martin had been waiting for that. “We already talked about that mother,” he said. “She will apply for the 2010 intake. We will try to find a house close to campus so she can easily move to and from home. And as for where she comes from…you can’t seriously blame her for being of a certain tribe just because you had a bad experience with one person of that tribe. That’s just unfair; she did not chose to be born of her parents just as I never chose to have a tribalist mother.”

“Martin, watch your tone with me,” his mother roared, it was the only thing she could hit him with since he was coming off as a wise-ass. “This is exactly why I don’t like that girl. In just a few months she’s changed you to this person I can no longer recognize.”

“I actually like who he’s become now,” his father chipped in.

His wife gaze was enough to freeze anyone it landed on but after so many years, Martin senior had developed immunity against it.

“Ever since that girl came into his life he’s matured.” He continued as if there was no lightening close to him threatening to light up the whole house. “He doesn’t party like he used to and he’s finally stopped being such a mama’s boy. I was worried you would turn him into a sisy with all your whining and meddling. You are forgetting that if I hadn’t disobeyed my parents, you and I would not be having this conversation right now. Leave the boy be.” And with that declaration, he got up and went upstairs.

His wife went after him to continue their war behind closed doors.

“He’s in big trouble,” Mwiche said with a mischievous grin on her face.

“I know,” Martin said, looking up the stairs from the top of his wine glass.
That same evening at the N’cube’s residence in Kanyama, Aunt Tafadzwa welcomed into her home a visitor that appeared to be in his mid-fifties. He was well groomed and smartly dressed, definitely not anyone in Aunt Tafadzwa’s circles.

“You still look as radiant as ever Tafadzwa.” The man was obviously trying to ingratiate himself into her favour. “How long has it been?”

Aunt Tafadzwa was wearing her usual visitor smile. “Eighteen years I think.” She replied.

“It’s been that long isn’t it?” The soft-spoken man said.

“What brings you here so unexpectedly? I thought you would have forgotten us by now.” Aunt Tafadzwa said.

“How can I ever forget you my dear? If anything, I thought you were the one that forgot about me. Every time I tried to get in touch with you, you would either cut my calls or ignore them altogether. I use to send letter before but when I noticed you weren’t writing back, I gave up.”

The woman was blushing in embarrassment like someone who had been caught doing something bad red-handed. “Well, I thought it was a prank call and sometimes when you called I was probably busy and couldn’t attend to the phone.”

“I see,” the man said, obviously unconvinced by her words. “One time a girl answered the phone and said she was your niece…I didn’t know you had a niece.”

Aunt Tafadzwa looked like she had just swallowed something bigger than her oesophagus could handle. “My niece…? When was that? I don’t have any niece.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought,” the man replied. “As far as I know…Mi..riam….” he struggled to say the name. “…she was…your only sister…and she never had children…as far as I know.”

The frog in Aunt Tafadzwa’s mouth was growing bigger by the minute. Any longer and hell would break loose in her mouth. Her face was starting to change colour.

“Yeah…you are right…she…she…never…had any…any children,” she was stuttering and laughing nervously. “I think you of all people would know if she had any children. You were her fiancé after all.”

By now, it had become apparent to the man that something was not right. He was searching Aunt Tafadzwa’s face intently.

He’s not suspecting me, is he? Aunt Tafadzwa thought. Calm down Fadzwa or the wonderful future you just earned for yourself will blow up in your face before you even get to smell the dollars.

Because She Loved Me – Part 3

because she loved me

 

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.

Thandiwe.

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.”

“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.”

“How many?”

“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.

“From me?”

“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?

Echoes of the Heart – Part 7

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

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….

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.”

“Huh?”

“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.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 6

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

“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?”

Silence again.

“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.

Pity.

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.