Without warning, Beatrice rushed into the room and tried to yank the phone from Shadreck’s hand but he managed to swerve around in his spinning chair in time to avoid her sudden attack.
“What are you hiding from me Bashi Mark?” Beatrice was still trying to get her hands on her husband’s phone and he was still holding it away from her.
“What are you getting so worked up for Beatrice?” Shadreck asked, smiling as he played at nonchalance. “You are not the only woman I love in this life,” the sixty-two year old said.
“What did you just say?” Beatrice had paused and was glaring at him with the passion of a hundred angry ancestors behind her eyes.
Shadreck got up from his chair and went to stand in front of his wife, smiling he said, “you really don’t trust me?”
“You bringing up trust only means that there is something you are hiding from me.” She returned.
“You really want to see who I was talking to?” He asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Shadreck held out the phone for her. “There,” he said, showing her his call log.
“Tina?” Beatrice said. “Your sister Tina from Mongu?”
Shadreck was smiling and nodding his head before quickly putting the phone in his pocket.
“I know that you have no family of your own but I can promise you that it’s very normal for a brother to tell his little sister that he loves her.”
Beatrice was gripped with embarrassment from head to toe. She hang her head low and started hitting her forehead softly over and over again before her husband reached out to wrap her in a hug.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “Am so ashamed…I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.”
“It’s okay my love,” he said over her head. “I’m very much flattered that you still get jealous over an old fella like me. So, how about you make it up to me in the other room?”
Beatrice held her upper body away from him with her arms still around his waist. She was smiling seductively at him.
“What if I saved you the trip and created a new memory for you right here in the study?” She had already started working his buttons as she spoke.
“I thought women coming from church were supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit,” he was grinning triumphantly as he moved back to sit on the chair.
Beatrice got down on her knees before him, this time unzipping his pants, slowly and deliberate. “I am everything else but holy,” she was telling him. “Be it Sunday or Friday. How about I show you exactly what I mean Mr Mwangala?”
For a man on the throngs of passion, when the heat inside him seeks an out…when he chases with all his might for that one moment, a moment when time freezes, when his own breath becomes secondary and the need to arrive takes on a life-changing meaning…when he’s gripped by a power so overwhelming that he desperately clings to the wings around him, the wings of his young lover’s hands…deeper and deeper he digs…and deeper and deeper he yearns for an out…and release.
And while Shadreck was lost in Beatrice’s erotic mechanization, she had reached out into the pocket of his trousers now lying on the floor and had managed to check for Tina’s number.
For a woman trained and armed in the art of deceit, Beatrice knew better than to trust the word of another, even if that person was her own husband. The very foundation of her love life was built on manipulation and deceit and to death had she resigned herself to keep reaping the deserving fruits of her unpalatable actions.
Thus, when she told her husband two hours later that she was going to meet a friend for a drink, it was only so she could meet a private investigator who could look into the identity of the owner of that number.
“It’s a Tanzanian line,” Joseph the PI noted upon seeing the number written on the piece of paper he had just been handed.
Beatrice was gripping the steering wheel of her new Jeep with both hands, the only thing around she could take her frustrations out on.
“Yes, is the task out of your jurisdiction” She angrily asked the thirty something year old PI.
“No, of course not,” he quickly supplied, not prepared to lose his number one well-paying client. “Just give me twenty-four hours and I will get back to you with results.”
“Just be careful and keep this clean as always, you understand?”
“Yes madam,” he answered and waited.
Beatrice removed a brown envelop from her hand bag and handed it to him.
“Get to work right away,” she said to the PI as he stepped down from her vehicle.
Back at home, Shadreck was making his own arrangements.
“Get rid of this line right now.” He said to whoever was on the other side of the phone. “I will send someone over with a new line for you to use.” And he cut the call.
Putting down his phone, Shadreck then picked up the picture frame sitting on the other side of his massive table in his study and stared at it for a very long time. It was a portrait of the perfect family any man could ever dream of; two beautiful kids sitting between their proud and happy parents.
As he traced his finger around the glass of the picture frame over and over again, the blank yet distant expression on his face made it hard for anyone to guess what was running through Shadreck’s mind.
Mervis had just said goodbye to her son Kelvin after having breakfast when she her cell phone rang.
Lucy, her caller ID announced on the screen.
“You never call me first, is everything okay?” Mervis asked.
“I think there’s a little problem,” Lucy said.
“What is it?” Mervis’ dancing eyes mirrored the agitation quickly building up in her stomach.
“I think his wife has found out about me,” Lucy announced. There was no mistaking the terror in her delivery.
“He just called and asked me to change my number.” Lucy explained.
“How did she find out?” Mervis made a quick recovery and looked about ready to explode into a thousand pieces on bloody human flesh.
“I don’t know,” Lucy was on the very of crying now. “I had spoken to him a few hours ago and everything seemed fine but then he called me just a minute ago and said that I change my number. He didn’t tell me why and I couldn’t get myself to ask. I think that the wife must have walked in on him while he was talking to me.”
“Dammit!” Mervis cussed. “This changes everything I had planned. It means that we have to move our plans forward than initially planned before anyone catches on to our plans.”
Are you saying that you want to end this now?” Lucy asked.
“Yes, that’s what am saying Lucy.” She replied. “Why do you sound disappointed? It’s not like you are the one being inconvenienced here. I hope you were not getting too comfortable playing wife for another woman’s husband were you?”
There was silence for a moment…and then Lucy’s voice finally came through the line. “No ma’am,” she said, her tone low and laden with filtered rage and trepidation.
“Good,” Mervis echoed. “I need you to stay calm and in control so that no one gets suspicious. Do everything Mwangala tells you to do and keep me updated. I will be there to sort out everything tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” The announcement caught Lucy by surprise.
“Yes tomorrow. Do you have a problem with that?” Mervis snapped.
“No, of course not,” Lucy answered.
“You don’t sound very convincing Lucy,” Mervis observed. “Is there something you are keeping from me? You better tell me now or I swear to God I will make you regret the day you ever met me.”
“No ma’am, I swear…I am not keeping anything from you,” she replied in a shaking voice. “It’s just that…things are happening so fast. These are my children….”
“What did you say?” Mervis roared.
“I understand that you have your own plans and all… but these are still my children Madam Mervis.”
Lucy was pacing up and down her living room trying to master whatever courage came with her human default settings. She was never a woman to stand up for herself…wasn’t that the very reason she had found herself in such a predicament in the first place?
She had been battered physically and bruised emotionally when Mervis picked her up from the streets and turned her into the perfect woman for a man she would have never ever dreamt of crossing paths with.
What had presented itself as simply an opportunity to have some level of financial standing in life had turned out to be way more than she had bargained for…and now she was stuck at crossroads facing two powerful figures that had the power to ruin her and leave her in a far worse situation than she had been seven years ago.
“You shut up you ungrateful wench!” Mervis yelled into the phone. “If not for me you wouldn’t have those kids in the first place. Do not think about betraying me even for a second or I swear I will things to you that not even your miserable dead husband could have imagined doing to you.”
By the time Mervis was done with her mouthful of threats and insults, Lucy had been reduced to a bundle of nerves and tears sprawled on the cold floor of her living room.
* * *
Following the unexpected yet memorable turn of events that had transpired between him and Evelyn, Kelvin could not get a good night’s sleep. His head was filled with thoughts of her that he could not seem to shake no matter how much he tried.
There was no question about where his relationship with Evelyn would go. There was could only be one possible end and there was only one person that would suffer the most pain if things came to light. It was only a question of when?
But still, that knowledge was not enough to keep Kelvin from seeking out the only woman to have ever made his heart shake with both fear and grace. Thus, when all his calls and texts went ignored, he followed her to the one place he knew she could not run away from him; her place of work.
Evelyn came out of the gate and was ready to head towards the bus stop when Kelvin intercepted her.
She shut her eyes and hang her head in protest and resignation.
“You’ve been avoiding my calls and texts,” Kelvin pressed her immediately.
“What do you want from me Kelvin?” She could finally look at him.
“I missed you,” he said simply.
The confession was fast and unexpected. Evelyn appeared to be at a loss for words. The look in his eyes and the sound of his voice as he said those words to her did something made her blood feel warm against the cold winter atmosphere.
“Let’s go, I’ll give you a ride.” He offered, pointing to his vehicle parked just behind them on the side of the wall fence of her office building.
“Why are you still doing this?” Evelyn asked, not taking the hand he was offering. “I thought we already talked about this. You coming here like this only makes things even harder for me. What if your mother finds out that you were here? There are so many people around here that might know her. Did you even think about that or where you just too busy being selfish caring only about your feelings?”
Her words ripped through Kelvin to his very core. He knew very well the risk he was putting her in and he had fought hard to keep himself from showing up before her but here he was…he had no excuse whatsoever apart from the fact that any moment that went by without setting his sights upon her made him feel like a dead man walking.
Yet that was still not a god enough reason to put her life in danger.
“I can’t,” Kelvin said, looking down at his feet in shame.
“You can’t what?” Evelyn asked, looking around to see if anyone was watching them.
“I can’t go on without seeing you Eva,” he confessed.
Evelyn stopped whatever she was doing and looked at the man standing in front of her. Just what was she to believe; his past or his words?
“I need some time Kelvin,” she told him. “I need to think. I am so confused right now and apart from the fact that there’s a huge part of you that hates me, nothing else seems to make sense. I am both terrified and enamoured by you. I don’t know whether to run from you or to run into your arms and the fact that you know I have this weakness scares me even more.”
“I know that I am the last person you would want to trust especially with your heart, but Eva, I beg of you, please trust me just this once.”
“And what happens after I trust you Kelvin? Now you have only two weeks left to your wedding. Do you still plan on keeping me as your mistress? I refuse in the name of everything holy to be anybody’s mistress.
“The fact that you still insist on shaking up my feelings only proves to me that you are still out for revenge…because if you cared about me as much as you say you do, you wouldn’t be asking this of me.”
“I tried to…” but Kelvin was forced to stop talking when a group of workers came through the gate. “Let’s talk somewhere else, please.” He sent her a pleading look before taking her hand and leading her to his car.
He held the door open for her and waited for her to get settled inside before closing it and walking over to the other side to take his seat behind the wheel.
“I tried to talk to my mother about hastening her revenge but she would not hear a word of it.” Kelvin said as he drove them to whatever place he had in mind.
“Did you actually think that she would listen to you?” Evelyn asked. “I guess you just as naïve as you are calculative.”
Kelvin threw her a side eye but quickly put his focus back on the road. “I had to try…just to check what exactly I was dealing with and it didn’t look so good.”
“And yet you still showed up at my work place. Where are you taking me anyway? I hope it’s not to my place. There are spies planted there. I really hate that kind of drama.”
Kelvin laughed. “Relax, we are just going to drive around and then I will get a cab to take you home later.”
“Someone could still see us in the same car and it’s just as bad as all other possible scenarios.”
“You think too much Eva, relax.”
“How can I relax? Your fiancé is crazy! I already feel like a side chick riding around in your vehicle like this.”
“You can’t be the side chick when you are the one I love,” Kelvin stated matter-of-factly.
“Is that supposed to make me feel special?” Evelyn scoffed. “You really know nothing about love or women.”
“I will find a way for us to be together Eva…and I promise not to defile your virtue in the process. Can you trust me on that one, please?”
“Make it so that your mother does not make me pay for my mother’s sins and I promise to give my life to you.” She said with a sombre expression on her face.
“I hope you keep your word,” he said, mirroring her expression as he fixed his gaze on the road ahead.
Early the next morning just before her flight, Mervis had scheduled a meeting at the airport with one of her suppliers.
He was a very short man with a pot-belly that proved a little overwhelming for his short frame but the stride in his step spoke of a man with an even fatter bank account.
Mervis came out of the vehicle when she saw him pull up next to her in the car park.
The man stepped out of his vehicle carrying an A4 envelope in his hands.
Smiling with a great sense of familiarity, he shook Mervis’ hand and handed her the envelope.
“All the documents are in there,” the short and round forty-something year old man said. There was no mistaking his heavy foreign accent, and the rare and authentic African print design he was wearing screamed his Nigerian origins even before he opened his mouth.
“Did he sign all of them?” Mervis asked.
“Yes he did,” the man answered.
“He wasn’t suspicious?”
“Of course not, why would he be?” he said smugly. “The man made a lot of enemies before he left Nigeria and all those people have a bone to chew with him. It wasn’t very difficult coming up with a phony company and getting those contacts to sign on it.
“We left no room for speculation…and of course it helped that you offered us seventy percent of the stakes and only took thirty for yourself. That in itself was enough to motivate the interested parties.”
“That’s because I don’t need his money Mr Chukwu. I already have enough to last me four lifetimes. I just need to leave them broke and desperate.”
“And that they will be,” the man said chirpily. “He made no hesitation investing eighty percent of his wealth into the business. He thinks he’s going to be Africa’s Bill Gates.”
Mervis laughed heartily. “That man is way too ambitious, that’s his biggest weakness.” She remarked.
“I guess he picked the wrong woman to be his enemy,” Mr Chukwu commented. “I would certainly hate to be your enemy Madam Mervis. You are one hell of a business woman.”
“Mwangala is not my enemy actually,” Mervis corrected her business partner. “He just happened to be in the same bed as my worst enemy. You know what they say; a friend to my enemy is also my enemy.”
“I thought it was an enemy of my enemy is my friend?” Mr Chukwu said, laughing.
“It’s one and the same thing Mr Chukwu…one and the same….” Mervis said as she flipped the papers inside the envelope with her thumb.
And now I have to get my hands on that remaining twenty per cent, Beatrice was saying in her head.
* * *
Beatrice was in a very terrible mood the following evening when she returned home from work and found her husband happily watching a game between Man City and his new favourite team Leicester City.
She stormed into the living room and threw her handbag on the floor. She was soaked in rage and her lips were quivering from all the pent up anger she had been waiting to release from the moment she learnt what her husband had done behind her back.
“You are back home early today,” Shadreck greeted his wife without paying much attention to her since his attention was on the game on tv. It might not have been live but Beatrice had walked in at a very crucial moment that he couldn’t risk looking away for too long.
Noticing his lack of attention, Beatrice went for the remote control on the sofa beside him and turned off the tv unceremoniously.
“What did you do to our businesses Shadreck?”
Mr Mwangala immediately weighed the kind of trouble he was in. she only called him by his first name when she was extremely mad…and this was one of those times.
“You found out already?” He said, sitting up straight to brace himself for the oncoming verbal torture.
“You found out already?” Beatrice spat. “Is that all you are going to tell me in this situation Bashi Moola? Have you lost your mind? You sold off all our shares without consulting me and all you can say is; you found out already?”
“Calm down honey,” Shadreck said. “Sit down and let’s talk about this like civilized people. I might have done something like this behind your back but I had very good reasons…and I am still your husband.”
His tone alone was enough to make Beatrice sit down. The man might be crazy in-love with her, but he never allowed those feelings to interfere with the kind of respect he felt he deserved from his wife.
“Just explain to me, what did you do with all our money?” Beatrice asked, visibly controlling her tone and expression to come off as calm as possible.
“I was going to tell you later on,” Shadreck was saying. “I wanted it to be a surprise for our anniversary.”
“Selling off our shares and making us lose control of our businesses sounds like an anniversary gift to you? Why am I not jumping up in joy right now? Could there be something wrong with me?”
“Why don’t you let me finish explaining at least,” he said.
“Explain,” Beatrice said, folding her arms over her chest.
“You remember that business deal I was working on over the weekend?” He asked her.
“You know very well that I had been chasing that deal for so many years. Those guys only agreed to let me in when I offered to raise the amount. At first I was a bit sceptical since we were dealing with a lot of money but then I spoke to my contact in Nigeria who told me that that area was a haven for oil, that we had to move in fast before the government and other stake holders realised the value of that area.
“I spent two weeks doing some research during my trip two months ago and I found out that everything was true. I knew that if I came to you and told you about my plans, you would not agree to take such a risk. You are way too cautious but sometimes business requires that you take certain risks.”
“By risking our life savings you mean?” Beatrice hissed.
“I invested them Beatrice. I have made well calculated business moves in the past and I would expect that you would trust me this time again. Have I ever failed you before?”
“You have never risked our entire fortune before Shadreck,” she said. “And you deceived me into signing documents that gave away everything I own.”
“Not everything my dear,” he said, getting up and walking over to sit next to her. “I never touched the two businesses you control. Those are completely under your control. I know that in every business deal there’s a risk that it might not go as expected, so…just in case something like that happens…at least you would still have something to lean on.”
“Is that supposed to comfort me?” Beatrice asked.
Shadreck tried to hold her hand but she was not in the mood to entertain him.
“I am sorry honey,” Shadreck said, looking extremely apologetic. “But I promise I won’t let you down once this thing comes through. I promise.”
Beatrice didn’t seem moved at all. “I am not comfortable with all this. How can you even trust those people after everything that happened in the past? You took off with their money when and left them to fend for themselves. I can bet you all my life savings that they never forgot about that. People never forget the wrongs they’ve been dealt in life. I know I wouldn’t.”
“They are businessmen Beatrice,” he tried to reassure her. “Besides, I never took their money. I took what was rightfully mine and left to grown my small fortune where I saw an opportunity. It was all business and they said they understood. They wouldn’t be where they are today if they didn’t understand such a simple fact.”
“That’s what you think, but humans are scary by nature.” She said. “How much are you expecting from this deal?”
“If I told you that you might be the Oprah Winfrey of Africa, would that help remove that frown on your face?” Shadreck said, smiling at his lovely young wife.
Beatrice was looking at her husband like she had just swallowed a happy pill, forgetting for a moment about another issue of concern she had against her husband.
Just who was the woman he was keeping in Tanzania?
Those kids she had heard him mention on the phone, where they his? How many were they?
And why couldn’t she find any information about the identity of that woman?
What was Shadreck hiding from her?
She wanted to ask him all this and many other questions…but the issue of money had crept up on her very suddenly and overshadowed all the worries that had been keeping her busy all week.
At Evelyn’s home front that evening, she opened the door to the house after a long day at work and found her house mate and best friend Thando enjoying a hearty laugh with Lebo.
Lebo could not explain the look he saw in her eyes when their eyes met.
As Lebogang continued smiling at her as if she was the source of his Oxygen, Evelyn could not help wondering, what was that nagging feeling she was feeling in her heart?
That same evening, Kelvin was alone in his room, pacing back and forth with his phone in his hands as Evelyn’s words echoed through his mind;
Make it so that your mother does not make me pay for my mother’s sins and I promise to give my life to you.
For the first time in his life, Kelvin had found a purpose for living, a fight of his own and not one decided for him by someone else.
But just how was he to balance his love and loyalty between the woman he had loved all his life and the woman he wanted to love for the rest of his life?
Looking down at his phone for the last night, Kelvin’s mind was made up.
He dialled a number and raised the phone to his ear.
“Ms Lucy?” Kelvin said.