There they were; The sixteen year old Mark who was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie standing between his mother Beatrice and his equally well-dressed father Shadreck. Moola was standing between Kelvin and a woman Evelyn could only assume was Mrs Kangwa given the last conversation she had had with Kelvin.
The first person that caught Evelyn’s attention was Kelvin, and rightly so.
His piercing gaze ripped right through her and sent her blood flowing into the opposite direction.
Evelyn felt her knees weaken, and if not for Lebogang who was holding on to her like a prince in shinning armor, she would have made the most memorable entrance ever at a charity event; fainting in front of everyone upon entering the room.
“Are you okay?” Lebo whispered into her ear, his arm over her shoulder.
She never took her eyes off Kelvin because if she had, she would have seen the blazing looks on Beatrice and Moola’s faces and would have been forced to run for cover.
“Who are those two?” Mervis asked her son and soon to be daughter in-law whilst looking at Evelyn and Lebo. “I think you have competition tonight my dear daughter in-law,” she said to Moola, smiling as if she had just paid her a compliment.
“That girl looks like she can take out every female standing in this room.”
Kelvin could see the smoke coming out of Moola’s ears.
“There’s someone I need to introduce to you mother,” Kelvin put his arm over his mother’s shoulders and quickly led her away, but not before giving Evelyn one glacial stare over his shoulder.
“I hope it’s not one of those people trying to dig into my past and get a scoop for their cheap tabloids.” Mervis said as she allowed her son to lead her away.
Kelvin laughed. “Now why would I enable someone like that? Relax mother, your past is safely burried. Nobody in here knows who the hell you were.”
They both smiled and waved to some people along the way.
“This idea of you being some sort of mystery or enigma is getting out of hand mother.” Kelvin said. “People are starting to come up with very wild theories about why you rarely appear in public.
“If you can avoid certain trouble, why not go all the way to avoid it?” Mervis argued.
“Mum no one from your past can recognize you,” Kelvin countered, leaning in closer to her to deliver the words only to her ears. “Gosh, even I can’t recognize you sometimes and yet I am your only son.”
Mervis was smiling triumphantly. “I guess that surgeon did a good job ah.” She was touching her face everywhere.
“You mean the one from twenty years ago or the one you recently visited in Dubai?”
“Let’s not get into this right now son,” Mervis whispered. “I showed up here didn’t I?”
“Only because I begged you to come with me.” Kelvin said. They had now reached the end of the hall but Kelvin didn’t appear to be stopping.
“Where are you taking me?” Mervis looked up at her son suspiciously.
“We are going outside, into the garden.” Kelvin said, taking his mother’s hand and leading her through the red carpetted passageway leading into the garden before she could protest.
“Then why did you….” Mervis had started to complain.
“Because you seemed to be having such a great time in there making my fiance mad,” he deliberately stressed the two words.
They were now standing outside in the garden.
“Do you want to make it obvious that you don’t like her?” Kelvin asked his mother.
“What? I was only kidding around with her. She couldn’t have taken that seriously did she?” Mervis was clearly making light of a situation she knew would have escalated into something bigger had Kelvin not pulled her away in time.
“Her parents are right there mother,” he said. “Aren’t you the one who’s always telling me to be cautious around them?”
Mervis scowled like a child that just realized the gravity of their mistake. She knew her son was right.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just get so mad sometimes….”
“I know,” Kelvin held both her hands. “I understand very well how you must be feeling.”
“This is exactly why I don’t like appearing in public. I am better off staying behind my desk at home and pulling strings remotely, or better yet, travelling. It’s enough that we are giving these charities large fortunes that are only going to end up in the pockets of selfish nefarious bastards. I don’t understand why they insist on….”
“Mother,” Kelvin was shaking her hands. “Calm down. How about we do this,” he was smiling at her. “You can leave now with my car and I can remain in your stead. I think everyone has seen your face already so they have no business saying or writing nasty things about you.”
Mervis openly welcomed the suggestion. “I can do that right?”
“Yes,” Kelvin smiled reassuringly. “You can leave mother.”
“But how are you going to get home?”
“I will hitch a ride with someone,” Kelvin said. “There are way too many people in there that would jump at an opportunity to help the son of the richest woman in town.”
Mervis was smiling proudly. “In southern Africa baby, richest woman in Southern Africa.” She corrected him.
Kelvin laughed. So typical of his mother to brag in such a situation.
“I just need to say goodbye to….”
“You don’t need to do that,” Kelvin quickly provided. “I know how you hate acting nice,” he laughed. “I will just tell them that you weren’t feeling so well, jetlag…they all know you had travelled so they’ll understand.”
Mervis held put her hand behind her son’s head and pulled it down to her level. She planted a kiss on his forehead and said, “you really are the best son in the world you know that?”
Kelvin’s smile never reached his eyes. He quickly put his arm aroud her shoulders and said, “let me escort you to the car my queen. There’s a way right here.”
Mervis happily allowed her son to lead her to the parking lot, oblivious to the mysterious expression on his face.
Back in the hall, Lebo was looking at Evelyn with such great concern.
“Are you okay Evelyn?” He asked her again.
Evelyn was shaking all over, her eyes fixed on the entrance of the passageway on the other ide of the room where Kelvin had just disapeared with his mother.
“You don’t look so good Eva,” Lebo was saying. “Do you want us to leave?” He was almost turning her around so they could leave but Evelyn put her hand on his arm to stop him.
“No, we don’t need to leave,” she told him, her eyes now on Beatrice and her glowing brood. Her husband Shadreck was nowhere in sight.
“Are you sure Eva?” Lebo asked.
Evelyn slowly removed his arm from her shoulder and held on to his hand. “I am fine now,” she was smiling endearingly at him. “I am sorry I got like that…this is my first time being in such a place so….”
Lebo was smiling at her. “It’s fine, you don’t need to apologize. I understand, but, if you feel like getting some fresh air outside first before coming back in here to greet a few people and mingle, we can do that. Besides, I don’t know anybody here.” He laughed. “Sibu asked me to greet a few certain people and give them her apologies….”
“We don’t need to go outside lebo,” Evelyn tried to put more life into her smile to reassure the visibly concerned Lebogang. “I am really fine now.”
“Hi,” came a female’s voice from behind Lebo.
He turned around and found a woman smiling at them. She appeared to be in her mid-forties, impeccably dressed just like everyone else in the room.
“You must be Lebogang and Evelyn right?” The woman asked, her genuine smile made Evelyn feel very welcome.
“Yes,” Lebo smiled back. “You must be Mrs Richards, the organizer of this wonderful event.”
“Yes I am, but you can just call me Prisca,” she said as she shook their hands. “Wow,” she said as she looked at Evelyn. “You truly are a beautiful young lady Miss Evelyn. You had everyone’s head turn the moment you stepped into the hall. I am so glad Michael isn’t here tonight,” and leaning forward to whisper into Evelyn’s ear she said, “My husband has a weakness for pretty girls you see.”
Evelyn was blushing all over. “Thank you Mrs…Prisca,” she corrected herself in time.
Lebo and Prisca laughed at her little mishap.
“I think am the luckiest man in this room tonight,” Lebo said proudly, moving his arm from over her shoulder to put it around her waist.
Evelyn looked up at him, nervously smiled and then looked around the room for any possible audience.
Lebogang felt her tense against him. He squeezed her a bit hoping to relax her but something in her eyes made him think that there was more going on with her than just nervousness.
Evelyn was able to breath a bit when she saw no signs of Kelvin anywhere in the room. On the other hand, Beatrice and her family appeared to be deeply engaged in a conversation with other guests, but she could still feel her disapproving eye on her every now and then.
“The two of you make such a wonderful couple.” Mrs Richards was beaming from ear to ear just looking at the two of them. “You remind me a lot of my husband and I when we were young.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Kelvin appeared from behind Evelyn, his hands in his pockets and a forbidding expression on his face that was coupled with a smile that could not even reach his upper lip.
“The two of you really make such a great couple,” he was stressing every word in the sentence like someone with a score to settle with the grammar police.
“Fancy seeing you here, Eva.” Kelvin came to stand right in front of Evelyn, taking in every inch of her and sent shivers down her spine with his molesting eyes.
On the other side of the room, Moola was looking over at them like an eagle guarding its nest. She was one in two places.
“Kelvin,” Mrs Richards smiled at the son of one of her biggest sponsors. “You two know each other?” She asked.
“You know him?” Lebo too asked Evelyn.
All the while, Kelvin had not taken his eyes off her.
“Aarh….” Evelyn thought about the right thing to say in such a sitaution. Kelvin wasn’t doing much to help and he didn’t look like he was even trying.
But what did she expect from him? He was after all the one who had put her in that predicarment in the first place.
Why did he have to come here? Evelyn kicked herself in her head.
Why did I come here even?
“Work,” Evelyn finally thought of what to say. “I know him from work.” She lied.
“My name is Lebogang,” Evelyn’s tall and handsome date reached one hand out to Kelvin while his other hand kept holding on to Evelyn’s waist, tightly, and marking his territory with just one look in his eyes.
“Evelyn’s boyfriend,” Lebo finished his introduction. He could feel Evelyn tense behind his touch again.
“Boyfriend?” Kelvin said as he shook Lebo’s hand, summoning all the forces of his ancestors behind his grip as a cold and calculated smirk graced his handsome face.
If the two of them were not so obviously standing on two opposite ends, anyone could have easily confused them for brothers. They were both tall, fair complexion, both dressed in black Jaguar suits and with the kind of hair that was known to grace the cover of black men’s fashion magazines.
Two suns stood and sized each other up while the moon watched from the side, praying every prayer in the Holy Book in the hopes of avoiding an eclipse.
“How about you kids catch up while I go say hi to the arriving guests,” Mrs Richards was looking at a group of poeople that had just entered the hall. “I’ll come back to you Lebogang and Evelyn, Sibu asked me to introduce you both to some very important people here.”
“Thank you Prisca,” Lebo said with a feigned smile on his face.
“Thank you Mrs Richards,” Evelyn said, but only as loud as a whisper.
“Boyfriend?” Kelvin repeated himself once the organizer was gone.
“What’s going on here?”
“Moola,” Kelvin said to his fiance who had finally managed to make an escape from her parents to come and man her territory.
“Don’t I know you?” Moola was looking at Evelyn contemptiously.
“Is this how you guys in Zambia welcome guests?” Lebo remarked. “I’m starting to feel like I am going to get upset from soon.” He added sarcastically.
“Let’s go out for some fresh air Lebo,” Evelyn said to her date. “Don’t mind these people, they are not important.” She took him by the hand and led him back out where they had come.
Without thinking, Kelvin started to follow them but Moola grabbed his hand and gave him the coldest look possible. “What do you think you are doing?” She asked him, looking at him accusingly. “Have you lost your mind?”
“Am sorry,” Kelvin apologized. “That guy just pissed me off.”
“Are you sure it’s the guy you have a problem with?” Moola grilled him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked.
“You know very well what I mean,” she said. “You think I didn’t see the way you were looking at that girl?”
“Don’t start with your drama Moola,” Kelvin said. “This isn’t the place for that.”
“What’s going on here?” Shadreck joined the pair.
“I don’t know dad, you ask Kelvin.” Moola said and stormed off with her glass of wine in hand to join a group of girls chatting by the corner.
“Kelvin?” Shadreck gave his son in-law an admonishing look
Outside the hotel, Lebo and Evelyn found a spot where they could chat in private and Lebo turned to her.
“What was all that about Eva?”
Evelyn couldn’t remember when Lebogang had started calling her like that but she loved the sound of her name from his lips. Unfortunately, that realization only made her feel even more guilty over what had just transpired.
“I know that I have no business asking you this since we just met but, I thought this was going to be our first date so naturally, I had certain expectations. So am gonna ask you, what’s going on between you and that Kelvin guy?”
Evelyn hang her head low, unable to look Lebo in the eye.
“Look at me Eva,” he placed his hand on her forehead and gently lifted her head up. “Tell me whatever is going on, I swear I won’t get mad but please, just don’t lie to me. I already feel so stupid not knowing what’s going on with you or why you are acting like this….”
“I don’t even know where to start Lebo,” she was on the verge of crying. “I don’t know what to say to you…it’s all so very complicated.”
“Then give me the summary,” he said.
Evelyn sighed, heavily.
“Eva?” Lebo urged her on.
Feeling like she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, Evelyn forgot for a moment about where she was and tried to sit down on the grass but Lebo caught her on time.
She just wanted to lie down and sleep her troubles away. Was that too much to ask?
“What do you think you doing? You are going to ruin your dress.” Lebogang rushed to hold her.
But Evelyn just hang limply there, with Lebo’s grip on her the only thing keeping her on her feet.
And then he felt her tears fall on his shoe and he immediately looked down.
There it was, one thick drop.
“Evelyn?” He tried to make her stand up straight but she didn’t seem willing to win her war against gravity.
Sensing her sense of powerlessness, Lebo wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly while she gave way to the stream of tears she had been keeping at bay.
“I am tired…I am so tired of all this,” Evelyn cried into his chest.
Lebo only held her tighter. “I’m right here with you, I’m here….” he soothingly said to her over her head.
And Evelyn let herself go, finally allowed herself to cry in the arms of this stranger that had appeared in her life out of nowhere.
She cried over her cursed existence, her unrighteous fate, and she cried over her current situation…at the loss of yet another person that had just walked into her life with a smile but was now going to leave all because she had been born from two people that were never supposed to be together in the first place.
In Lebo’s arms, Evelyn cried over everything in her life that had gone wrong, everything that was going wrong…and everything that was yet to go wrong.
For close to ten minutes, she stayed in his arms and allowed herself to feel the warmth of his body and soothing hands…if only for a while.
And then Lebo’s phone vibrated from his pocket.
Evelyn tried to raise her head but Lebo said, “just ignore it. It’s probably just Sibu trying to check up on us.”
“It could be important,” Evelyn unglued herself from his embrace.
Lebo took out a hanker from his pocket and handed it her. “I think you’ve runied your make-up.” He said smiling.
Evelyn found herself smiling back. It was something about his tone and the look in his eyes when he was talking to her that made her heart break even more.
Lebo’s phone kept vibrating.
“Maybe you should just check who it is,” she said, pointing to his pocket.
Lebo took out his phone from his and checked. “My mother?” he said, his forehead wrinking up in surprise as he held the screen up for Evelyn to see.
“You should answer it,” Evelyn told him. “You are far from home so she might get very worried if you don’t pick her calls. I am going to go back and look for a bathroom,” she pointed to her face that had smudged make-up.
“Good thing you used waterproof mascara,” Lebo teased her.
Evelyn laughed. “I won’t even ask how you know that.” She said.
“Blame this woman that had a boy right in the middle of girls.” He was shaking the phone in his hand.
“Talk to her, I will be back soon.” Evelyn said and left him to head to the bathrooms inside.
She was almost at the entrance of the hotel when someone grabbed her by the arm and dragged her away to the other side of the hotel.
It was Beatrice, looking furious and fuming like the devil’s first cousin.
“Let me go, you are hurting me!” Evelyn tried to free her hand but Beatrice wouldn’t stop until she was sure she had dragged her far away enough from any prying eyes.
“Just look at you!” Beatrice was referring to her daughter’s messed up make-up, a disgusted look on her face.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She barked at her. “Didn’t I tell you to stay as far away from me and my family as possible?”
“If you think that I came here just to be close to you then you are more deluded that I imagined you to be. I have as much right to be here as you and your family.” She tried to walk away from her but Beatrice grabbed her hand again and pulled her back.
“Who gave you an invitation? I need to talk to the organizers of this event so they can deal with whatever embacile allowed the likes of you access to such an exclusive event.”
“This is a charity event,” Evelyn reminded her.
“Yes, which means you are supposed to be on the other side of it, not inside where all the money is made.”
“Can you even hear youself?” Evelyn asked. “I am your daughter! You gave birth to me whether you like it or not. The more you insult me, the more ashamed of yourself you should be. I never asked you to give birth to me!”
“Why do you think I hate the sight of you?” Beatrice hollered. “It’s because I am ashamed for allowing myself to give birth to something like you. You were the biggest mistake of my life, a huge business deal that went wrong. I wish you would just disappear from the face of the earth and leave me and my family the hell alone.”
Evelyn could only respond with tears, unable to master any strength to respond. She had had enough for one night.
She tried to walk away again, but Beatrice pulled her back.
“How much do you need me to give you so you can disapear? Tell me, what do you need; a house? A car? A visa to travel abroad? Tell me, I will give it to you.”
“I just want you to leave me alone,” Evelyn said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Good, it seems we agree on one thing at least.” Beatrice pressed on. “How much do you need?”
“I don’t need anything from you!” Evelyn finally snapped. “I don’t need you, I don’t need your money, I don’t need your family and I sure as hell don’t need you as a mother. There’s nothing I hate more in this world than knowing that I came from someone like you.
“You disgust me, you and your fancy lifestyle. You think that will last forever? You think there is no God out there? No,” she was shaking her head. “There is a God out there and he is still warming up the hell that he will throw you in when the time comes and that time will be soon. All your money and everything that you hold dear will not be enough to save your stinking soul.”
Beatrice was laughing, laughing hard to the point of breaking while Evelyn watched in despair, amazed by the show her mother was putting on.
“You sound just like your grandmother,” Beatrice said, sobering up at the blink of an eye. “She was all about that Jesus and that holy crap and she died poor. Judge me all you want but at least I will not be heading to hell in tattered clothes and stinking feet. You should have learnt something from your pathetic grandmother. All the faith but look how she died?”
“You mean your mother?” Evelyn said. “She was not just my grandmother, she was your mother.”
“That woman was never a mother to me,” Beatrice said. “Any person that took so much pride in being poor cannot and will never be related to me. I suffered living under that woman’s roof. No mother should put her child through such hell.”
“You are one to talk,” Evelyn retorted. “How I wish the people in there would hear you speak right now.” Evelyn was pointing towards the hall where everyone was gathered.
Beatrice snickered. “All those people in there are just as bad as me, they are all acting like they give a dame about the underprivileged when all they want to do is show off to the world that they have money.”
“I guess you were right when you said I shouldn’t have come here.” Evelyn said.
“I am always right.”
“No you are not,” Evelyn said matter-of-factly.
“What did you just say?” Beatrice took a step towards her daughter.
Evelyn did not flinch. “You do not scare me,” she was looking her straight in the eye. “If anyone should be scared here, it’s you.”
Beatrice scoffed. “Now why would I be scared of a nobody like you?”
“Because I am the only one that knows exactly who you and because I am the only one paying the price for all the sins you’ve accumulated over time. Eventually, I am going to have to collect my dues…and you will pay me back every cent.”
“Are you trying to threaten me?” Beatrice laughed.
Evelyn started shaking her head, leaning in towards Beatrice as if to mock her and smiling she said, “Oh no, I am not good with threats. I am making you a promise.”
“You little….” Beatrice was about to slap her across the face when Lebo appeared from the side and grabbed her raised arm.
“What do you think you are doing?” He thudered down at her menacingly, his hand gripping hers with such force.
Beatrice tried to push him off but Lebo kept her in check, holding her hand without breaking a sweat.
“Did you find yourself a rich boyfriend?” Beatrice looked from Evelyn and then to Lebo who was still gripping her hand.
“So it’s true what they say about genes isn’t it?” She was looking at her daughter with a nasty smile on her face, like there was a secret in the air that only the two of them were aware of.
“I will never be anything like you!” Evelyn said sternly. “Let her go Lebo. She is not someone you should be touching. She is Satan’s vernim, let’s go.” She took his hand and led him away, leaving Beatrice reeling in anger as she nursed the part where Lebo had been gripping her.
“Eva stop,” Lebogang stopped before they could reach the entrance of the hotel.
Behind them, Evelyn saw Beatrice use the back way into the garden to go back inside.
“Honestly, I think I have had enough for a day,” Lebogang said, folding his arms over his chest.
“Either you tell me what’s going on or we go our separate ways, right now, right here.” He said.
“I knew this was going to happen,” Evelyn said resignedly.
“I knew…I knew the moment I stepped into that hall and laid my eyes on that bunch.”
“So are you going to tell me what’s going on or you would like me to leave? Don’t worry, I will call a cab for you. I am not in the habit of leaving women stranded at night.”
“Do you really want to leave?” Evelyn asked. her eyes were begging him not to leave.
“Yes Eva, I want to get out of here.”
“Do you mind taking me with you?”
“If you let me, I will take you away from this place right now.”
Evelyn smiled and reached out her hand to him.
Lebo took it and led her towards the parking lot.
The whole exchange between the two had been heard and witnessed by Kelvin who had been standing behind one of the walls leading to the hotel entrance.
Kelvin came out of hiding when he heard them walk away, one hand knotted tightly into a fist as he watched Evelyn and Lebo walk hand in hand a short distance away.
While Kelvin kept watch over the two, he did not notice that he too had an audience of his own.
Moola was watching him through the glass doors of the hotel entrance, her perfectly decorated face looked just about ready to explode.