That was the feeling gnawing at Evelyn when she laid her eyes upon Lebo’s smiling and welcoming face and a flash of that steamy evening with Kelvin ran through her mind.
“Lebo.” She said in a very low voice, not sure what else to say to him.
In response, Lebo got up from the sofa and went to hug her. “You look like you could use a hug,” he said whilst holding her. “Tough day at work?”
Evelyn dropped her arms and slowly pulled back from his embrace before responding.
“It was a crazy day today,” she said, avoiding meeting his gaze, something that Thando easily picked on.
“I’m gonna go out for a walk,” Thando announced. “See you again soon Lebo., and have a good night.”
“Thanks Thando, you too, have a good night.”
Evelyn threw her bag down on the sofa and then herself.
“You don’t look so good,” Lebo said, taking up a seat opposite her. “Is everything okay Eva?”
“Yes Kelvin, I am okay…I guess am just tired.” She said.
“Kelvin?” Lebo asked his tightening hard as he starred at Evelyn in disbelief.
Evelyn threw him a questioning look. “Why did you bring up that name?”
“I didn’t, you did.” Lebo said.
“I did? When?” She asked, absolutely unaware of her blunder.
“You just called me Kelvin Eva.” He stated.
Evelyn gaped at him and covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh no,” she said. “I am so sorry Lebo…I don’t know what to say.”
“How about you honestly tell me what’s really going on?” Lebo said. “Your reaction when you saw me sitting here spoke volumes and it took everything in me to not think much of it…but then…you said his name.”
“Lebo….” Evelyn searched for the right words to say to make it up to him.
“Are you in-love with him?” He asked.
“I just happened to have a long day at work and he was the last person I spoke to,” Evelyn lied. “I made a mistake, I admit, but that’s about it.”
“But you still haven’t answered my question,” he said.
Evelyn sighed heavily. “I don’t understand why you would ask me such a question when you know that he has a fiancé. They will be getting married in less than two weeks.”
Lebogang was watching her closely and listening intently. “You are still avoiding my question Eva. Are you in-love with him? Just be honest with me, I beg of you. I think it would be better for me to know exactly what am dealing with from the get-go because…because I think I have fallen for you. So tell me, do I have a chance with you or should I just give up?”
Evelyn sighed heavily again, drowning her face into her hand.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know what my feelings are,” she finally managed to say. “I have been so busy and occupied by much heavier issues to allow myself to feel anything or let alone think about dating.”
“So it’s safe to say that you have some feelings for Kelvin….” Lebo noted.
“I already told you,” Evelyn started to say.
“I am not dumb Eva, I can see it in your eyes. I am just begging you to be honest with me because if you keep doing this, you are giving me hope…that I have a chance because you haven’t out rightly told me that you are already in-love with someone else. Do I have a chance with you?”
Evelyn slowly raised her head to take a good look at him. By all physical standards of beauty he was just as good looking as Kelvin except…except for the eyes…he didn’t have Kelvin’s deep brown eyes.
And why am I making such comparisons? Evelyn silently rebuked herself.
Then she consciously looked back at Lebo with a fresh mind. The desperation visibly evident in his eyes while he sat there anxiously waiting to hear her response sent a chill down her spine.
She wanted to reach out and lay her hand on his, or better yet, to hold him in her arms. She remembered the warmth of his embrace from that night at the hotel…how he had comforted her and made her feel like she was safest only in his arms.
That had been the first time in her life when she had felt most safe and needed. Lebo had made her feel like that.
But at what point did her feelings get so muddled in such a web of extreme complexity? Just what was she feeling in her heart and how was she to know which feelings constituted love when she had never experienced anything of that magnitude before?
“I like you,” Evelyn said. “I really like you and that’s why am going to be honest with you.”
“Please,” Lebo said.
“I have these feelings…in my heart…I don’t know when they started and I don’t know how to stop them. I don’t even know what they mean…. All I know is that they make me both happy and scared at the same time. That night at the charity event, you made me happier than I had ever been; happy and safe. For some reason, I wanted more…I found myself longing for more.”
“Then what’s the problem Eva?” Lebo asked.
“My feelings,” she said. “My feelings confuse me, I don’t understand them,” Evelyn lamented. “Recently, things became way too complicated in my life. My mother, her past, our present…they all just collided and I was left sprawled on the ground, alone. Right in the middle of it all was Kelvin.
“He both hates and loves me…at least that’s what he’s told me and that’s what I’ve seen. The problem is that he has every right to hate me because of who I am and unfortunately, I am not allowed to divulge those reasons to anyone else no matter.”
“Says who?” Lebo asked.
“There are just certain issues surrounding my birth that are not easy for me or anyone else involved to talk about. You see, I was born from a union of sin…and union that brought a lot of hurt to some families and my birth was sealed the fate for some of those people, in the cruellest way possible.”
“I don’t understand,” Lebo interrupted her. “How does Kelvin come in all of this?”
“I wish I could tell you exactly what you want to know…but I can’t. I am sorry Lebo.”
“Me too Eva,” Lebo said resignedly. “How about you just tell me what I need to know?”
“Kelvin’s initial intentions where to hurt me,” Evelyn revealed. “Naturally, I hated him. But during those gruesome moments we spent together, something changed. Somehow, the hate turned to something else. At first I was very determined to just walk away, to ignore him and forget he ever existed but….”
“But you also fell for him.” Lebo finished for her.
“I don’t know if what I feel for him is love or something else. I don’t know what it means or feels like to be in-love and it’s something I am not willing or anxious to discover…at least not right now.
“All I am sure of is that everything between him and I changed the moment he told me that he loved me. He might have done certain things to hurt me in the past but I have seen that he is not such a bad person.
“He is simply a man that needs love and attention from those he cares about and when he made his feelings known to me, there was a huge part of me that wanted to believe him…to believe that he was not the monster he had made me believe he was before.”
“I think you already know what you feel for him Eva,” Lebo said. “You just don’t want to admit it to yourself…or you are just too scared to confront your feelings. But here’s what I don’t understand, why is Kelvin confessing his feelings for you when he is engaged to someone else? Does he plan on leaving her just two weeks before their wedding?”
“I don’t know Lebo,” Evelyn replied. “I don’t know what Kelvin is thinking or planning and I don’t wish to find out. If there’s one thing I am sure of, it is that him and I will never be…unless I am willing and ready to lose my life.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lebo asked.
“Just something like that.” She answered.
“Oh yeah, another thing you can’t talk to me about,” he said sarcastically.
Evelyn could only look at him apologetically.
“The good news is,” Lebo said, standing up and walking to kneel on the floor before her. “I think I have heard enough to help me make a decision. Unlike Kelvin who has a lot of issues going on with him, I stand a better chance of winning your heart.
“I understand that the two of you might have grown fond of each other during the times you spent together, but I intend to start spending more time with you from now on…as long as you allow me.
“However,” Lebo continued. “If you tell me that you are willing to be with Kelvin despite the fact that he is with someone else or that you might die…your words, not mine, then all you need to do is tell me and I will never bother you again.”
“That’s the thing Lebo,” Evelyn said, looking into his eyes. “It’s not just Kelvin I am hesitant about. It’s also you or any other man out there that might be interested in me. I am very flattered that a good looking and gentleman like you is showing interest in me but, there are just so many things going on in my life that make me feel less confident about being in a serious and meaningful relationship.
“I am afraid of giving someone my heart and allowing myself to feel all those things only to be left alone when my past comes to light. I don’t think I can live with any more rejection in my life Lebo.” There were tears welled up in her eyes.
Lebogang moved closer to her and took her hands into his. “I would never do such a thing to you Eva, never, I promise you. Just give me a chance to prove it to you, please.”
“You are not even from here Lebo,” Evelyn stood up and went to stand by the window, her back to him as she looked out the window to their small front yard.
Lebo got up from the floor and went to stand behind her, his hands in his pockets.
“I don’t even know how long you plan on being in this country. You have your whole life in Botswana and I don’t expect you to just abandon everything and live here.
“I don’t even know what kind of life you live over there. We both know nothing about each other so we are not in any position to make promises to each other.What will happen to me when one day you wake up and feel like going back home because you can’t handle everything that’s going on?
“I am not going to lie to you, my life is a total mess and anyone that’s close to me is bound to feel the heat at some point. You might be willing to go through all that with me but I will not allow anyone I care about to suffer because of my weaknesses. I just can’t.”
“All I can hear is that you care about me.” Lebo was smiling behind her.
“I am serious Lebo,” She turned around to face him, an expression on her face that matched her words.
“I know,” Lebo quickly sobered up, pulling her closer to him and then turning her so that her back was now against him as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Bu I am not going back to Botswana just yet.” He told her. “Winning your heart has suddenly become way too important for me than anything else out there.”
“What about your job? And your family?” Evelyn asked.
“I run my own company so I can stay away as long as I deem fit.” He said. “Besides, in this modern age of technology, you can still run a business even from space. I don’t want to go back without you.”
Evelyn immediately tried to turn around to look at him but he forced her to stay in place with his arms.
“You want me to live with you in Botswana?” She asked in shock. “Who told you that I want to leave my peaceful country to live in a foreign land Lebo?”
“Zambia isn’t that peaceful anymore Eva,” Lebo remarked. “You guys are slowly becoming a mix of Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria.”
“If that’s your way of winning my heart then you need a new strategy,” she tried to get away from him again but he still managed to keep her in position.
Laughing, he hugged her even tighter. “I am kidding me,” he said, planting a kiss on top of her head. “But on a serious note, don’t you think that getting away from this country would be the best way to avoid some of the problems you are facing right now or in future?”
Evelyn thought about his statement for a while.
“I did a bit of research on your mother’s family, very rich folks,” he was saying. “With the kind of reputation they’ve managed to establish for themselves over the years, I doubt they would want it known to the public that the mighty philanthropist Beatrice Mwangala had a daughter out of wedlock.
“I can only speculate about how you came to be born and if what you’ve hinted at is anything to go by, I would understand why that family would feel the need to continue keeping your presence a secret. The more you keep bumping into them like you did at that charity, the more desperate they will get in trying to keep you hidden, forever.”
Evelyn sighed heavily upon hearing things from another’s point of view. Lebo didn’t even know the half of it and yet he was able to calculate the kind of danger she might be in if her presence was discovered.
And even though she had little to worry about from the public…since that was more of a concern for her mother’s side, it was Kelvin’s side learning about her that roused such great fear in her.
She had witnessed for herself the kind of control Mervis had on her own son and she had an idea of what she was planning to do to Beatrice’s family to avenge her daughter’s death.
Evelyn could only imagine the kind of vermin Mervis would unleash on the direct offspring of the affair that reaped her family apart. It was only a matter of time before she learnt of her existence and Kelvin’s feelings and erratic behaviour only brought that eventuality even more possible than ever.
“Wouldn’t it hurt your feelings knowing that the only reason I would be following you to Botswana would be only because I need an escape? That is the same as using you for my own gain… and I don’t like how that makes me look or feel.” Evelyn asked the man who still had his arms wrapped around her waist.
“I wouldn’t think of it as you using me,” he said confidently. “I would think of it as you trusting me to take care of you.”
“A very optimistic way of looking at things,” Evelyn was smiling as she mulled over his words and weighed her options in her head.
“That’s because I am such an optimistic guy.” Lebo returned.
“I used to think that I was optimistic too, but recent events have turned me into a person I can hardly recognize. One moment I might be smiling, feeling happy, next moment I would be feeling a sense of great shame, embarrassment, fear, stuck at a crossroad…and crying…a lot of crying. That’s the kind of person I have become.”
“Life can do that to you sometimes,” Lebo said. “You could choose to let your circumstances define you or you could rise above them, show them who’s in charge and live your life according to the direction you wish it to go. Eventually, everything will fall back in place.”
“Wise and good looking,” Evelyn commented under her breath. And then loudly she added, “I didn’t know that was possible.”
“Me neither.” He said and they both laughed.
* * *
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Mervis looked like a wounded buffalo ready to pounce on any unsuspecting victim that was unfortunate enough to set themselves in her path when she pounded hard on Lucy’s new address where they had arranged to meet that morning.
She had tried relentlessly for the past twenty-four hours to get in touch with Lucy but the woman’s phone was still off. There could only be one explanation as to why things had turned out this way.
“What the hell where you doing while she was running away with two children Rafael?” Mervis verbally pounced on the man she had left I charge of Lucy.
“I am very sorry ma’am,” Rafael could hardly look at her when answering.
Without warning, Mervis walked over to where he was standing and slapped him hard across the face. The thirty-one year old man staggered backwards as he tried to nurse his bruised cheek with his hand.
“Do you think saying sorry will make her appear before me?” Mervis yelled. “Why have I been paying you when you can’t even do such a simple job?”
Rafael remained quiet, his feeling of remorse quickly replaced by shame.
“You better find Lucy or be ready to say goodbye to your family today.”
In what appeared to be well-times miracle, there was a disturbance at the gate and then Lucy appeared.
“You!” Mervis approached her while she was still at the gate looking both timid and determined in whatever resolve she had reached on her way to meeting her boss.
Mervis grabbed her by the ear and pulled her aside. “Open that door so we can talk properly inside. I have more than a lot to say and I don’t need an audience for that.”
Lucy quickly ran and opened the door, she then stepped back and allowed Mervis to go in first.
“What is this?” Was the first question Mervis asked when her eyes landed on the room empty room she was now standing in. “Where is all your stuff?” She turned around to look at Lucy who had also entered behind her.
“Wait,” it suddenly appeared to Mervis that something bigger than the empty house was missing. “Where are the kids Lucy?” She asked.
“They are gone,” Lucy answered.
“What do you mean they are gone?” Mervis asked.
“I took them far away to a place you can never find them.” She said.
Mervis laughed, thinking someone was playing a very bad joke on her. “This is not the time to joke with me Lucy. I have no time for this kind of nonsense. Tell me right now, where have you taken the kids?”
“They are my kids!” Lucy snapped and cried at the same time. “I already told you, they are mine. I gave birth to them. I won’t allow you to take them away from me.”
“Come here,” Mervis tried to grab her by the head but Lucy moved to the side defiantly.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve just done to yourself and to those kids?” Mervis roared.
“I don’t care what you do to me but at least I know my children will be safe as long as they are far away from you.” Lucy said with such conviction in her voice that caught Mervis by surprise.
“Who got to you?” Mervis asked. “Did you confess to Shadreck and he made you a better offer than mine?”
“No one got to me,” Lucy said. “And Mr Shadreck doesn’t know anything about you or our arrangement. I am willing to let you use me to break up that home but I don’t want you dragging my children into this. If my children do not die by your hands, they will die in that woman’s hands.”
“If I thought that Shadreck telling his wife that he was leaving simply because he fell in-love with another woman was enough, then I wouldn’t have gone this far with you!” Mervis shouted.
“I could have picked a much younger and very sophisticated woman to sway his heart but I needed one that had the potential to be both wife-like and a mother. You had so many years to make him leave his evil wife and you still couldn’t make him stay with you. How pathetic of you to stand there and act like you run the show.”
Mervis was feeling like she was losing her mind.
She had not calculated for such a development because she never thought Lucy had the balls to stand up to her and betray her like this. The question she needed answered the most was; who was behind all this?
Was it just a matter of courage borne from blind love or could it be that Shadreck had caught on to something and was now using her to get to her?
The worst possibility running through Mervis’ mind was; had Beatrice discovered who Lucy was and managed to get to her?
“I love him!” Lucy announced in a very shaky voice.
“I knew it!” Mervis said and scoffed. “And do you think that he loves you back?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. I just didn’t want to win his heart using the tricks you taught me. I wanted him to come to me by his own will. The only reason why I have not told him the truth is because I still feel some level of loyalty towards you and I am willing to let you continue using me because I want this thing to end as soon as possible. I am tired.” Lucy lamented.
“I should have known that picking a desperate whore from off the streets was a bad idea.” Mervis was saying.
“You can insult me all you want but I am never telling you where my children are. They are only babies. They have no idea what’s going and I would like to keep it that way. You can punish me all you want, you can even kill me, I don’t care. I deserve everything because I am the one who signed such an evil pact.
“I just want this thing to end. Yes, I admit, I am no good. I failed to make him leave his wife despite having two of his children and I can promise you that no matter how many years you wait, he will never leave his wife, at least not for me. You can use me in whatever manner you like but please, leave my kids out of this.”
Mervis was glaring at her like she was the worst human species she had ever come across. “Your kids?” she scoffed. “Do you even know how much those kids are worth? Millions!” Mervis said, thinking about the twenty percent still untouched from the Mwangala’s fortune.
More than the eight percent she had already managed to get her hands on, it was the twenty percent that meant everything to her simply because it was exclusively owned by Beatrice.
With enough persuasion, Shadreck would have convinced his wife to surrender her money if it meant getting back the children Mervis had intended to hold hostage.
But now Lucy had thrown her this curveball.
“I am very sorry that it came to this but….” Lucy was saying from the corner of the room where she was cowering.
“But you are going to make things right Lucy,” Mervis’ smile was threatening enough to freeze a waterfall. “You created this mess so naturally, you will fix it. You said it yourself, you owe me. If you think that death is the only way to punish you, then you must not know me by now.
“I never make things easy for my enemies…especially those that have declared war to my face. Killing you would be letting you off too easily.” Mervis’ tone was calm and controlled and yet as menacing in its delivery as possible.
“I am going to make things so painful for you that you will be begging me to hear the location of where you’re hiding those little bastards. Rafael!” She shouted for her Lucy’s handler who was outstanding outside.
Eager to redeem himself, Rafael rushed into the room and stood at attention before his madam.
“Put her in the vehicle,” Mervis instructed him. “There’s a special place she needs to go that might help her refresh her mind a little bit.” She was looking menacingly at Lucy with a smirk on her face that spoke of every possible evil she had in store for her.
Lucy was wailing and kicking as Rafael dragged her to the car parked in front of the house.
Later that evening, Kelvin received a call from Rafael.
“Things are not looking that good over here Mr Kelvin,” Rafael reported.
“What happened?” Kelvin asked as he punched in the password to his newly installed home security system. The door opened and he entered the house.
He walked over to the fridge, took a bottle of water from there and walked with it to his guest lounge where he threw himself onto the sofa.
“Your mother is losing it!” Rafael was saying. “She is keeping Madam Lucy in some room somewhere and two men spent the whole day torturing her. This is not what you promised us Sir. You said that you would keep us safe.” The poor man was on the verge of crying.
“Calm down Rafael,” Kelvin said. “Tell me everything that happened first.”
And then Rafael walked him through the events of that day, step by step.
“But you didn’t expect my mother to take all this laying down Rafael, did you?” Kelvin said.
“Of course not Sir but….”
“I spoke to Lucy about my mother retaliating…but, I never imagined she would take things this far.”
“I also never imagined such things happening in real life but your mother is something else Mr Kelvin. You really need to do something soon or Madam Lucy will die in there.”
“I know,” Kelvin said. “I know. I will get to it right away. And please ask Lucy to hang in there. I will do everything I can to ensure that no more harm is done to her, okay?”
“Yes sir, we are counting on you.” Rafael said.
Immediately that call was done, Kelvin speed dialled his mother and waited for her to answer the call.
“My son,” came Mervis’ usual greeting to him.
“Hi mum,” Kelvin said, his voice heavy with emotion.
Kelvin was about to cross a point in his life he had never dreamt of ever crossing and only God knew just where his feet would land.
“Where are you?” Kelvin asked.
Mervis chuckled before responding. “Why are you asking where I am? I thought I told you that I was in SA doing some shopping. Are you asking where I am right now? I am at a friend’s house in KZN. Is anything the matter? Why do you sound so serious?”
“I know where you are mum, please don’t lie to me. This has to stop, right now.” Kelvin said sternly.
“What’s going on son? You are starting to scare me now. What are you talking about?” Mervis asked, a strange feeling nagging at her heart as she waited to hear her son’s response.
“I know that you are in Tanzania,” Kelvin said, standing up to face the wall, his hand placed over his forehead as he bent his head down and sighed heavily.
He raised his head again. “I have always known where you go whenever you leave home. Come back home now, I have what you are looking for.” He announced.
Mervis jumped from the hotel bed she had been lying on. “What do you mean you have what I’m looking for Kelvin?” she could hardly hear her own thoughts over her loudly beating heart.
“The kids,” Kelvin said after a moment’s hesitation. “I have Lucy’s kids.”
Mervis’ knees immediately gave way and she found herself kneeling on the carpeted floor of her hotel room.
“Mother, are you alright?” Kelvin asked, the silence on the other side of the line creeping him out.
“No…not you Kelvin…not you my son….”
His mother’s words ripped through his veins and he felt every bit and piece of her broken heart weigh him down to the ground.
Still sobbing, Kelvin later said to her, “I am very sorry mother…I am so sorry.” He was crying so hard Mervis could hardly make out the rest of his words.
Broken and alone on the floor, Kelvin told his mother, “come home, I will explain everything when you get here.”
And he let the phone fall from his hand to the floor as he surrendered his body to the emotions threatening to rip him apart.
There was no shelter strong enough to protect him from the storm he had just brewed.
There was no going back.