Promise me Eva, you will not under any circumstance go looking for your mother…promise me, please.
Grandma Melody’s words echoed through Evelyn’s head as she stood in front of the expensive looking golden gate. She raised her hand to ring the bell but paused midway, again.
“This is a very bad idea Eva, a very very bad idea.” She told herself for the umpteenth time.
Her clothes screamed whatever else was going on inside her head; a tight fitting black midi-dress, high heels and with a shawl over her head.
Could there be anyone else out there in the world in such a dark place as she? Evelyn wondered.
What the hell am I doing here? Evelyn asked herself again, gripping her hand on the handle of her suitcase.
“You were right granny, I shouldn’t be doing this.” Evelyn said to herself.
But she wouldn’t be Evelyn if she had kept her promise to her grandmother and stayed away. When it came to acting without thinking or letting emotions control you, she held the world record.
Evelyn was about to turn around and leave when the small pedestrian gate opened and a uniformed and armed security guard appeared.
“How may I help you ma’am?” The guard asked.
Evelyn had heard that her mother had married rich, but how rich could the family be to require the presence of an armed guard?
“Aarh….” Evelyn searched for what to say. I am here to see my mother who wants nothing to do with me but I am here anyway.
Now that would be the quickest way of ensuring she was banned from being anywhere near the premises in the future.
“Are you a relative of the family?” The guard asked, looking at her luggage.
“Er?” Evelyn fumbled for words. Why did all her speech organs go into hibernation whenever she was in desperate need of their services?
“May I see some ID please,” the guard said.
“ID?” Evelyn threw the guard a disconcerting look. What sort of home requires visitors to produce Id’s? Isn’t that a little too extreme?
“The lady of the house does not like letting strangers inside. I am the fourth guard they’ve requested this month, and we are just in the second week of the month.”
He was making her mother sound like such a cruel person…and unfortunately, he was not the first person to do so.
The very first time Evelyn had asked her grandmother about her mother, the old lady had candidly replied, “you might think that I am such a bad person for saying this about my own daughter but your mother not being in your life is the best thing that could have ever happened to you. She is my daughter and I love her…but she was never ready to be a mother when she had you. And she certainly doesn’t deserve to be called a mother, by anyone.”
Evelyn’s response to her grandmother at that time had been, “that was then, what if she has changed now?”
At thirteen years old then, she didn’t want to believe that the woman that had given her life wanted to have absolutely nothing to do with her. Unfortunately, it took two years after that conversation with her grandmother for Evelyn to learn a bit more about the nature of the woman that had brought her into the world.
“Why did you bring her here?” Evelyn had heard the impeccably dressed woman ask her grandmother that hot sunny afternoon. She had remained standing by the cab in the parking lot while her Grandma Melody spoke to the fine lady.
Grandma Melody was obviously not a welcomed visitor, the woman looked furious and kept looking around to see if anyone was in sight.
“This is my place of work. What if people see you here with her?” The woman asked, gripping Grandma Melody’s hand and leading her back towards the cab that had brought them.
Evelyn kept watching from the distance. She was leaning closely to the car to keep herself from open view. This was the first time she was getting a better full view of the woman she had only heard about and suspected to be her mother.
Grandma Melody pulled her hand away from her daughter’s grip and stopped just a few feet away from the car.
“I did not want to bring her but she insisted that she wanted to see you, just this one time.” Grandma Melody said between clenched teeth, her eyes burning with fire.
“She just turned fifteen yesterday and I couldn’t even get her a single present because I just paid her school fees a few days ago with the little money I had. So when she told me that all she needed was to see you even if for just a few seconds, how could I deny her request?”
Evelyn’s heart broke at the sight of her grandmother’s tears. She desperately wanted to understand why her own mother would want nothing to do with her but every time she saw her grandmother like that, she couldn’t help wondering exactly what sort of woman her mother was.
“You should have let me take her to the orphanage when her stupid father rejected her but you insisted on….”
Grandma Melody jumped and put her hand over her daughter’s mouth to shut her up. “Can’t you see that she can hear you?” the old woman whispered whilst looking in Evelyn’s direction.
Evelyn lowered herself down to the ground with her back against the car as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Do I look like I care about her feelings?” Her mother hissed, rudely shaking off Grandma Melody’s hand from her mouth and almost sending her tumbling to the ground.
With her back turned to them and hunched over by the car, Evelyn could only make out their voices.
“She is your daughter Beatrice!” Grandma Melody shouted the moment she had regained her footing but immediately held her hand to her mouth when she realised she was shouting.
“Sheesh,” her daughter put her finger over her mouth and she searched around for any possible audience they might have in the dark underground parking lot.
“Do you want to announce it to the whole world?” Beatrice said. “That girl has nothing to do with me mother. The moment you decided to stop me from taking her to the orphanage is the moment she became a stranger to me. You begged me to let you keep her and I did, so don’t even think about making me feel guilty for not offering her any support. She was better off growing as far away from me as possible.
“Besides, I have offered to give you money for your upkeep but you insist on wallowing in that filthy neighbourhood and tiny house like a poor person and yet you complain when I refuse to visit you. Not everyone is so comfortable and proud of being poor like you mother. I refuse to live such a pathetic life like you. I am a young beautiful woman who deserves to be pampered like a queen and I found myself a man to do exactly that for me and it kills you..it kills you to see me so successful.
“You would rather have me spend the rest of my life crouched in that stinking place you call a home but I refuse mother, that will never happen. If you are not going to accept my help, then don’t come looking for me at my place of work looking worse than my maid does on a very bad day.”
“How can you talk like that to your own mother?” Grandma Melody asked with eyes filled with tears.
“You said it yourself that you don’t have a daughter like me.” Beatrice retorted. “I also don’t have a mother that looks like you. Just look at yourself,” she looked at her mother fro head to toe disgustingly. “What are you even wearing?” She was pointing at her mother’s cream white lace top and long yellow skirt that Evelyn had picked for her the last time they had gone shopping together at a second hand store.
Evelyn had been excited to discover such great finds in the huge pile of clothes and she couldn’t wait to see the clothes on her grandmother. She had called her a hot grandma when she first saw her wearing the clothes and from that time, the pair had become Grandma Melody’s favourite.
Evelyn’s grandmother fought back the tears as she starred at her daughter in disappointment.
Clearing her throat, she said, “How can I accept your money when I know very well how you’ve earned it?”
“I did not steal or kill anyone mother,” Beatrice fired back. “I just got lucky. I guess the God you worship must have felt pity for you and released me from your little world of poverty. If you think that I am such an evil person, why did you bring that girl to meet someone like me?”
“That is my regret right now,” Grandma melody said is a low and shaking voice.
“That is my regret….” she repeated as she turned around and walked the rest of the short distance to the cab.
The cab driver immediately started the engine the moment Grandma Melody had reached the vehicle. She walked over to the side where Evelyn was now sitting on the ground and silently sobbing with her head buried in her hands.
She helped her up to her feet by her shoulders, opened the back passenger door and helped her in, closed it and walked the other way to sit next to her.
“Take us back home George,” She instructed the driver as she lay her granddaughter’s head on her laps, rubbing her hand through her hair gently to calm her down.
“I see Beatrice hasn’t changed much amai,” the driver commented as he drove out of the parking lot.
“Thank you for the free ride George but please let’s not talk about her right now okay?” She was sending him a look through the rear-view mirror and George nodded his head.
“You helped me out a lot grandma when my wife was sick so giving you a ride is the least I can do to repay your kindness.” Evelyn heard George saying.
But Grandma Melody wasn’t listening to him. Her mind had wondered away at the sight of her grandchild sobbing on her laps.
“I am here to see the lady of the house,” Evelyn pushed back the tears and forced the memories to the back of her head.
“Just tell her that Grandma Melody sent me.” She told the guard. “She will know who I am.”
It must have been Evelyn’s teary eyes that softened the guard’s heart because he moved to the side and gestured for her to get in.
“I might get fired for this,” he said to her. “But you look like you desperately need to see the madam. She is not in right now so if you could sit by the bench over there,” he was pointing towards a purple long bench a short distance from where they were standing.
Evelyn’s breath was taken away by the beauty of the landscape before her. It was as if she had just stepped into a whole new world.
The scene before her was a gallery of sorts, like all forms of green nature from around the world had been gathered and then placed strategically onto this landscape.
Would the souls inhabiting these lands exhibit the same kind of paradisiac feeling emanating from these heavenly surroundings? Evelyn asked herself.
“When is she likely to be back?” Evelyn asked the guard.
Just then a car honked by the gate.
“That should be her,” the guard removed a blue coloured remote from his pocket and aimed it at the gate while Evelyn moved to the side and watched a convoy of two vehicles enter the premises, a white Range Rover in front and a black Xtrail following closely behind.
“Who is that?” Kelvin Kangwa asked his fiancé upon seeing the young lady standing by the gate.
Moola looked back and then shrugged her shoulders. “No idea, probably one of those village people claiming to be my father’s relatives. Mum is so lucky she has no family because these people pop up every single day.”
“But she doesn’t look like she’s from the village,” Kelvin said, looking into the rear-view mirror just before turning to park behind the already filled car park. “I don’t think your mother saw her though.”
Mrs Mwangala had just stepped out of her vehicle and was humming a sweet tune, a sign that she was in a very good mood. Kelvin had witnessed his future mother-in-law chase away relatives from the premises, calling them leaches and instructing them to never show up again after throwing some change at them for transport to get them back to wherever they had come from. It was never a pretty sight.
Moola quickly came out of the vehicle and ran to her mother. “We have another one mum,” she pointed towards Evelyn.
Mrs Mwangala slowly took off her shades and glared in that direction. She was about to say something when she recognized the girl.
“You kids go ahead into the house,” she said to her daughter and her fiancé. “I will take care of this.”
“I don’t think I will be staying Mrs Mwangala,” Kelvin said, looking at his wristwatch. “I need to get back to the office now. I only came to drop her off because she was putting up a fit when I insisted on heading back to work. Lunch break is already over.”
“It’s your father’s company, You should enjoy the privileges that come with nepotism. Why do you worry so much?” His future mother-in-law answered, her still fixed on the girl standing by the gate starring back at her.
“Precisely why I worry so much,” Kelvin laughed. He hugged his already pouting fiancé only to have her refuse to let him go as she tightly held on to him.
“How about just having a glass of water before leaving?” Moola pleaded, batting her long lashes at him after he had succeeded in removing her from his body. “You can’t leave just like that after coming all the way. Pleeeeaaase….”
Kelvin knew there was no winning against her. He laughed and followed her into the house. He had not choice, she was holding him by the hand and already dragging him towards the house.
Mrs Mwangala went to talk to her estranged daughter.
By now Evelyn was shaking and sweaty from nervousness. She stood with her back straight and her hands held together in front like a high scholar awaiting inspection from a prefect.
Mrs Mwangala grabbed her daughter by the hand and led her outside through the small gate. Once outside, she banged the gate shut and painfully released her grip as lasers shot from her blazing eyes.
“What are you doing here?” Mrs Mwangala thundered the moment she was convinced they were out of earshot.
“I came to see you,” came Evelyn’s whimpering response.
“I can see that, but the question is why?” Beatrice said.
“I wanted to talk to you during grandma’s funeral… but you only showed up for the burial and left the moment they started lowering her body down so…I couldn’t talk to you.”
“What is it you wish to talk to me about?” Mrs Mwangala asked, her irritation showing all over her face.
“Since Grandma Melody is gone, you are the only family I have.”
Beatrice chortled, holding her hand to her stomach as if she had just heard the funniest thing in the world. Evelyn was taken aback by that kind of response, she watched the woman she desperately needed to love her treat her like a pest she needed to get rid of.
“Is that what your grandmother told you, that I am your family?” She had stopped laughing but she looked like she was more than ready to start all over again.
“You are my mother.” Evelyn said. Until that moment, she had had no idea how painful those few words would sound when said out loud.
Mrs Mwangala’s face suddenly turned grim, leaving no trace of the smirk she had previously been wearing. “I am your what?” The forty-two year old woman spat.
Evelyn could not bring herself to repeat the words. It was obvious this conversation was not going the way she had hoped it would. But what had she expected?
Mrs Mwangala continued to unleash her vermin. “Don’t ever say such nonsense to me or to anyone else out there, you hear me?”
Something broke inside Evelyn and it came pouring out through her eyes.
“I only have one daughter in this world and she is on the other side of this fence as we speak,” she was pointing to the high maroon wall fence surrounding the big yard. “I don’t have any other daughter and don’t intend on adopting one either. I don’t care what my mother might have told you but whatever she said, it is obvious she lied to you.
“Now, if I see you loitering around here again, I will have you arrested for trespassing on private property and if you ever repeat the words you just said to me to another soul, I will sue you for defamation of character.”
“Why do you hate me so much?” Evelyn asked broken heartedly. “It is a fact I am your daughter…so why…why do you hate me so much?”
Mrs Mwangala scoffed. “Hate you?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest. “I don’t even care whether you are dead or alive. Until today I had never spoken to you so what makes you think that I would have any feelings whatsoever towards you? As far as I’m concerned, you don’t exist. You were my mother’s little orphan child, not mine.”
Evelyn was at a loss for words. She could only stare at the angry woman glaring down at her in her six inch heels.
“You better get the hell away from here before I ask the guard to do something about you.” And she turned to leave. She had just opened the gate when right there on the other side she found Kelvin standing with a gift box in his hands.
“I asked Patrick where you were and he told me you were outside,” Kelvin explained, pointing at the guard who was now standing inside his guard room.
“How long have you been standing here?” Mrs Mwangala asked with a guilty stricken face.
“Not so long, I just got here,” Kelvin said nonchalantly. “Here,” he held out the gift box to her. “I forgot to give this to you. It’s from my mother. She said she was sorry she couldn’t give it to you on your actual birthday.”
Beatrice accepted the gift, hesitantly. “Are you sure you….”
Kelvin smiled to ease her mind. “I swear,” he raised his arms slightly in the air. “I didn’t hear a thing. I was just about to open the gate when you opened it. Has your visitor gone?”
Mrs Beatrice Mwangala relaxed a bit. “She should be gone by now,” she waved her hand dismissively and then turned her attention to the gift box in her hand. Smiling, she said, “Your mother is such a kind woman. She didn’t have to, but I can guess that I will love whatever is inside. She has the best taste, you take after her.”
Kelvin appeared flattered. “You are too kind,” he said. “She picked that up from Malaysia.” He was pointing at the gift box. “It was one of her usual charity related trips but she always manages to find time to shop for everyone back home. I don’t know what is inside so I hope you like it. I should get going now,” he looked at his watch.
“Oh yeah,” Mrs Mwangala said. “I knew that Moola would delay you. She is so crazy about you. Three months seems like such a long time for her. She can’t wait to be Mrs Kangwa.”
Kelvin was grinning. “Me too, I can’t wait.” He said, and started heading back towards his car. Mrs Mwangala followed him behind.
“See you for the rehearsals over the weekend Mrs M.” Kelvin said as he got into his vehicle.
“How many times have I told you to stop calling me Mrs Mrs…call me mum. We are as good as family now.”
“Yes mum,” Kelvin laughed and closed the door.
Mrs Mwangala watched him drive away with a proud smile on her face.
Kelvin was watching her through his rear-view mirror, a blank expression on his face.
“He is so handsome, isn’t he mum?” Moola appeared from behind her mother, her hand waving excitedly at her fiancé.
Beatrice put her arm around her daughter’s waist and walked with her back into the house once Kelvin’s car had disappeared and the gate closed.
“Who was it this time?” Moola asked her mother as they walked towards the house, putting her arm around her mother in return. “How did you get rid of her?”
Beatrice chuckled. “The usual,” she said. “Threw her some cash for transport to travel back to the village and told her that we have special guests at home so we can’t accommodate her. I don’t think she will ever show up here again.”
Moola laughed. “I bet dad will hear about it soon,” she said. “They always call him to complain.”
“It’s not like he ever listens to them,” her mother said. “He loves me too much to doubt me. Only problem is that he tolerates them too much. He thinks he is a charity organization or something. He should thank God he has a woman like me to control affairs for him.”
“You are his trophy wife mum! Of course he is still crazy about you.” Moola said excitedly.
“I am not that young any more you know,” her mother returned, but still managing a grin.
“Yeah right,” her daughter said.
They had reached the house.
Outside the gate, Kelvin saw Evelyn standing by the road side a few feet away. She looked like she was crying and for a moment he contemplated stopping or not. He was almost driving past her when his foot suddenly hit the brakes and he came to a stop right in front of her.
“Dammit,” he cussed and lowered his window. “Hi, you okay?” he asked her.
Evelyn used her hand to wipe at her tears before giving Kelvin a suspicious look. “I am okay,” she lied, sounding a little irritated by his intrusion. “You don’t need to mind me, just go.”
“Okay,” Kelvin said and immediately drove off.
Despite pushing him away, Evelyn had not expected that he would actually leave right away. She was starring after him in disbelief when his car came to a sudden stop again.
He reversed to where she was, got out of his vehicle and went to grab her suitcase which had her handbag resting against the handle. He opened the back passenger door and put the suitcase inside while Evelyn looked on in disbelief.
“What do you think you are doing?” She had followed him to the vehicle and tried to get her bags out but Kelvin closed the door before she could reach for them.
Without saying a word, he grabbed her hand, opened the front passenger seat and forced her inside before shutting the door.
“Tell me where to drop you off,” he said to her once he was back in the drivers spot. He started the engine and put the vehicle back on the road before she could offer him a reply.
“Let’s just say that I hate seeing women cry…especially on the side of the road.” He said. “Seatbelt please,” he added.
Evelyn put her seatbelt on. “Drop me off at the nearest bus stop,” she said and faced forward to avoid any possible conversation between them.
“Why didn’t you ask her about your father?” Kelvin asked, deliberately ignoring her cue for silence.
Evelyn threw him a questioning look. “How did you….”
“I overheard your conversation, accidentally.” Kelvin confessed.
“That’s very rude,” she told him.
Kelvin shrugged his shoulders. “It couldn’t be helped,” he said matter-of-factly. “I asked you a question, why didn’t you ask her about your father?”
“What’s it to you what I talked about with her?” Evelyn asked.
Kelvin laughed. “Well, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
And then there was silence in the vehicle for the next five minutes or so.
“I think you just passed the bus stop,” Evelyn said whilst looking out the window.
“I know,” Kelvin said, not showing any signs of stopping.
Evelyn sat up in her seat. “Where are you taking me? Are you some sort of pervert? I heard it’s the innocent looking ones that hide horrible secrets.”
Kelvin chuckled. “Then I guess we are both hiding horrible secrets.”
“You can stop the vehicle now,” Evelyn was clearly perturbed now.
“Relax,” Kelvin said. “There’s a driver I know that parks by Longacres. It’s on my way to my work place so I can leave you there and he can take you wherever it is you are going…. Don’t worry about the fare, he’s a good buddy of mine.”
Evelyn relaxed again.
And then another bolt of silence followed.
“I wanted to ask her about him,” Evelyn finally answered Kelvin’s earlier question out of nowhere.
“Um?” he said, taken aback by her words.
“My father,” she supplied. “I wanted to ask …that woman about him but she never gave me a chance.”
“I see…I can understand.” He said.
As if something had suddenly occurred to her, she turned her body around to look at him. “Why do you care so much what she and I talked about? I know that she only has one child, so….”
“I am Moola’s fiancé. She and I will be getting married in three months time. I guess I am just curious because I did not wake up today expecting to hear the things I heard today…kind of makes me wonder about certain things.”
“Well, you heard what she said,” Evelyn said. “I won’t be a problem to her any more so you don’t have to worry about me or others finding out about your future wife’s family secrets.”
“So you are just going to give up just like that?” Kelvin asked.
“What do you expect me to do? Force her to love me when she doesn’t even want to recognize the fact that I am her daughter?”
“You are not much of a fighter are you?” Kelvin asked.
Evelyn did not qualify his question with a response.
When Kelvin dropped her off at the taxi rank and gave his driver instructions, Evelyn thanked him and quickly got into the vehicle without waiting for his response.
“Take me to Olympia, Chainama road,” she instructed the driver.
“Yes boss,” the driver enthusiastically replied.
* * *
“What brings you over to my humble aboard?” George asked Evelyn, gesturing for her to sit down on the sofa opposite him.
“Is your wife around?” Evelyn asked as she looked around the small living room of the one bedroomed apartment. She sat down.
“No, she’s at her mother’s place, together with the kids. They will be back in two days time.”
“You were so close to my grandmother, she considered you family,” Evelyn said.
“Yes, she really was like family,” George answered, his face turning sombre at the mention of the old lady he had come to depend on for so many years.
“I know that she talked to you a lot…about her issues…her family.”
George nodded. “Not everything, but I knew some things. I think I know now why you are here.”
“I want to know who my father is George,” Evelyn said. “For years I tried to get my grandmother to reveal the information to me but she refused to tell me. Why is there so much secrecy surrounding my birth?”
Listen, Eva,” George leaned forward in his seat and nervously rubbed his hands against each other. “Grandma Melody made me promise to never say anything to you about your parents.” The thirty-five year old revealed.
“You think I don’t know that?” Evelyn asked. “But she is gone now…and I feel like if I don’t find out anything about my parents…I will lose my mind.” Her voice was already shaking. “I am just tired…tired of everything…tired of not knowing…tired of being rejected….”
“Your grandmother knew that you would come to me even after her passing and she made me promise….”
“Why does everyone feel the need to keep the truth from me?” Evelyn snapped. “Why should I feel so pathetic and alone in this world when I have people that brought me into this world out there living their lives as if they do not know of my existence. I might as well just kill myself and follow my grandmother….”
“Please don’t talk like that Eva,” George said, her threat reaping through him like a bolt of lightning.
“What do I have to live for?” she sobbed. “The only person I ever cared about…the only person that ever cared about me is gone…leaving me all alone. How do you expect me to continue living as if everything is okay when all I want to do is to follow my grandma so we can both keep each other company?”
“I don’t think that I am the right person to talk to you about that kind of information Eva.”
“And who do you think is the right person to talk to me about it?”
George had no answer for her.
“You see,” Evelyn picked up from his lack of response. “I cannot stand the idea of living in this life with all these questions…knowing that I have parents that gave birth to me yet not being able to see them. I understand, my mother does not want me…but, but what about my father George? And why does my own mother hate me so much?”
For a moment, George remained quiet as he contemplated what to do. He was clearly conflicted and Evelyn watched him in silence as he battled with his conscious.
He finally sat up and looked at her. “Your father,” he said with a heavy heart. “He is dead Eva…I am so sorry.”
“What?” Evelyn asked, she could hear her heart pounding louder and louder as George’s words rang through her head.
“I am very sorry Eva…this is not easy for me….”
“When, when did he…die?”
“Not too long after you were born,” George answered.
“How did he die George?” She asked sternly.
George was hesitant. He was not sure how to react or handle Evelyn. Sometimes she came off as naive and a little timid and sometimes she looked like she would light up the whole place with just a look from her eyes.
“I can’t….” he was shaking his head slowly.
“Goddammit George!” Evelyn snapped, getting up from the sofa. “I am not living this place until you tell me everything or your wife will hear about how a young woman spent a night at her house while she was away recuperating at her mothers.” She folded her arms across her chest and leaned against the wall in defiance.
“Your mother,” George finally said. “They said your mother had something to do with your fathers death.”
Evelyn dropped her arms to her sides and gaped at George.
* * *
Kelvin had just parked his car at his usual spot at his workplace and was walking to the office when his phone rang.
“Am I under surveillance or what?” Kelvin said with a smile on his face.
“You the only one I trust in this whole world,” a female voice said from the other end of the line. “You are the only one I have…if I don’t trust you then I have no business living in this God forsaken world.”
“I know,” Kelvin said, instantly replacing his smile with a serious expression.
“How did it go?” The woman asked.
“How else would it have gone?” Kelvin replied. “What can we expect from someone like her?”
“She wasn’t suspicious or anything….”
“Of course not. I thought you trusted me.”
The woman chuckled. “I do…it’s just that…you know…I know this can’t be easy on you and…sometimes I fear that you might be holding back certain things from me because you are worried about how it might affect me. You are not keeping anything from me, are you?”
Kelvin held the phone away from his ear, put his other hand over his mouth, looked up into the sky and sighed heavily before holding the phone back to his ear.
“Of course not, mother.” He said, his gaze looking heavy and tired.