The confrontation between Kelvin and his mother Mervis went exactly as he had expected it to go; emotionally draining and physically exhausting.
“You don’t look so well mother,” Kelvin as he opened the door to let his mother in.
She already looked out of breath, panting and looking at him like he had just pulled off her life support.
“I haven’t slept a wink from the time you called me.” Mervis said as she sat down on the sofa. “I have been telling myself that it was only a bad dream…that I heard you wrong…that my own son wouldn’t betray me like this.”
“I’m going to bring you a glass of water,” Kelvin said and turned to head into the kitchen.
“Do not patronize me Kelvin!” Mervis shouted from behind him. She was up on her feet. “How could you do this to me!”
Kelvin slowly turned back around to look at her.
“What have you done?” Mervis asked.
“Seat down,” Kelvin said, pointing to the sofa where she had been sitting and then he sat on the other chair facing her.
Mervis did as instructed and waited for her son to talk.
“Before I tell you what I did,” Kelvin started. “I need you to know that I did all this for you, because I love and care about you mother.”
“Have you seen me Kelvin?” Mervis asked. “Do I look like someone who’s just been showered by love? How long have you known about Lucy and why did you pretend you didn’t know?”
“Because I wanted you to feel in control,” Kelvin answered. “I needed you to have all the control in this revenge scheme so I could feel some level comfort knowing that you were doing your best to make the people that took your loved ones away pay for their crimes.”
“Then explain this to me,” Mervis said. “why would you go behind my back and do something like this whe you know very well how much this means to me…to us?”
“Not to us mum, to you.” Kelvin calmly corrected her.
“This isn’t just about me young man!” Mervis yelled. “He was your father and she was your sister.”
“I was never up for taking revenge mother. Even as a young boy I understood very well the reperccusions on undertaking such a journey. I never wanted us to go through all the hurt and pain…constantly reminding ourselves of what we lost instead of letting go and allowing those people to rest in peace.”
Mervis could not believe what she was hearing. “Then why did you beg me to let you help if you knew you were going to do something like this?” She asked.
“Because it was the only way I could think of to make you notice me,” he said as tears welled up in his tears. “Ever since the two died, you forgot I existed. We made us move to a foreign country and you left me all alone for days on end while you drunk your life away and fell into depression.”
“I didn’t leave you alone, there were a lot of people taking care of you.”
“I didn’t need strangers taking care of me, I needed my mother. You kept acting like you were the only one who lost something but I lost something as well my mother. I was only ten years old and I saw my own sister die right in front of me. I watched her die mother!” Kelvin cried.
“And that should have been enough to toughen you up but you kept whining for my attention like the little boy you were. You and your pathetic father watched my daughter die and you did nothing to save her. And yet you expected me to take care of you?”
“I know,” Kelvin said. “I have spend the past twenty years or so blaming myself for what happened that evening but you know what mother, I am done. I refuse to keep holding myself responsible for something I had no control over. I went played that day in my head over and over again and I came to the same conclusion; there was no way either of us would have saved her in that situation.”
“That’s just you trying to make yourself feel less guilty. At least your father took his own life when he realised his mistake but here you are still breathing and crying like a baby.”
Kelvin froze for a moment and was staring at his mother wide-eyed. “Did you just say that father committed suicide?”
Mervis scoffed. “Did you actually believe that story of depression?” She said, smiling at him sarcastically. “For days he tried to find excuses to justify his reasons for not running to your sister’s aid when she was obviously in pain.
“But I made him see just what a coward he was and like the big coward he really was, he swallowed some pills and put an end to his miserable life. I can tell you this, that was the only time in his life he acted like a man.”
Kelvin was standing now, shell-shocked with tears poring down his face as he looked down at his mother gloating like she had just said something that deserved praise.
“I never forced you to join me in this revenge because I knew how spineless you were,” Mervis continued. “When you finally offered to help, I was still skepticle but I thought that since you had my blood running in your veins, perhaps you might rise to the occassion and surprise me. I thought you were doing great all these years but I guess the little boy inside you was just dying.”
“You are right, I was never okay from the get-go.” Kelvin said. “I thought that offering my help would eventually make you see me…make you realise that you still had one child, one member of the family still alive. But no matter how much I tried to please you, to do things your way, the two dead people were always more important than me.
“You never came to my school meetings or other such events. For years I watched with envy other kids who had the privilege of having their parents come watch them at play games and I was always alone like an orphan. You turned me into an orphan even when you are still alive and that hurts even more than losing a parent in death…because when you eventually leave, you would have left me twice.”
Kelvin had raised his two fingers in the air, desperately fighting back the tsunami of tears pouring down.
“You were so obsessed with making money and becoming a billionaire that eventually, I became a pawn on your elaborate chess board. You might not have loudly asked me to take on this revenge with you but your actions forced me to, because that was the only way you were finally able to recognize my presence in your life.”
“How did you expect me to continue living a normal life when the people that had taken away my loved ones where busy living large and acting like nothing ever happened?” Mervis asked.
Kelvin gaped at her in shock. “It is not people mother,” he said to her. “It is only one woman, Beatrice. You don’t need to drag all these innocent people into the picture and punish them for something they have no idea even happened.”
And then a look of realization finally dawned on Mervis’ face. “You have fallen for that girl haven’t you? That’s why you are acting like this.”
Kelvin’s heart dropped. Did she already know about Evelyn?
Mervis was quick to pick on the fear written all over Kelvin’s face.
“I am right,” she said. “You allowed yourself to fall for that Moola girl and that’s why you’ve betrayed me like this.”
Kelvin’s heart went back in place at the mention of Moola’s name, relieved that Evelyn had still not crossed his mother’s radar. It would be nice if things remained that way, Kelvin thought.
“You can think whatever you want mother but I will not let you harm those innocent kids just so you can get your revenge,” Kelvin said.
“Do you actually think that you can pull off something like this against me?” Mervis asked.”You have always been a mama’s boy and you will never be able to break off this ambilical code unless I do it for you.”
“Maybe you are right,” Kelvin said. “I never intended to forsake you when I contacted Lucy. I only did that because I want to put an end to this. You are getting old now yet you’ve never allowed yourself to breathe a moment of peace because you’ve been consumed by revenge.
“You breathe, eat and shit revenge day in and day out. How long do you intend to drag this along? Aren’t you tired? I know I am tired but I can’t walk away and leave you behind to be eaten alive alone. I want us to put an end to this, right now mother.”
“And you think that hiding those kids will change anything?” Mervis asked smugly.
“I hid those kids because I know you. As long as you have access to those kids, you were going to drag this far until you raised them to be pawns in your schemes. This revenge has no way of ending as long as those kids are under your control. Just like you’ve done over the years, you’ll find new ways of inflicting pain on that family.
“At first it was business deals, you managed to take away business from those people over and over again but that still wasn’t enough. You became bored because you had become so good at it you needed something even more challenging. It was no longer revenge for you, at some point it became a hobby, a game you were addicted to and you kept chasing a rise on a level higher than the one before.
“I thought that getting me to marry someone I never loved was as low as you could get but I soon realised that you had much bigger plans in store. That’s how I learnt about Lucy. So I know mother, as long as Beatrice is still breathing, this revenge will never end. The only thing I can do is cut off the roots that are helping you grow, and that includes me, Lucy, those two innocent kids and everyone else I know is helping you run this scheme. I will keep doing that even if it means I die by your hands…something I know you would gladly do.”
“Kelvin!” Mervis snapped. “You might not approve of my ways of doing things but don’t insult me like that. I would have to kill me first before I can kill my own flesh and blood. You might have greatly disappointed me right now but that doesn’t change the fact that you are my son, so watch what you accuse me of.”
“Then tell me mother,” Kelvin walked over to where his mother was and knelt down before her. “What do I need to do to make you stop?” He asked with tears streaming down his face. “Tell me what you want and I will everything within my power to help you but please…let’s put an end to all this hate. I beg of you.”
“Bring those kids to me and I will I just might reconsider removing that fiancé of yours from my top two enemy list. Anyone capable of turning a son against his own mother deserves to be stoned to death. I might not lay my hands on you son,” She said whilst wiping the tears off his face with her bare hands. “I might not kill you but that doesn’t mean I can’t get to those you care about.”
Kelvin was left kneeling on the floor feeling hopeless and defeated as Mervis got up and started walking towards the door.
Once at the door, she stopped and turned to address her son for the last time. “You have forty-eight hours to present those kids in front of me…or watch what I do to the woman you love to see if that’s motivation enough.” And she was gone.
If Kelvin had doubted it before, he was now convinced beyond reasonable doubt that twenty years ago he had lost more than just a father and sister, he had lost his whole family…and that that woman parading as his mother was nothing but a shell of someone he used to know…someone he could no longer recognize.
Feeling like a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, there was only one place Kelvin could think of going to lay down his heavy load.
* * *
With her best friend out of town again, Evelyn found herself dreading the long night ahead alone in the house. Ever since she could remember, she never liked sleeping alone.
Having always lived in tiny apartments, Evelyn had become accustomed to sharing a bed with her grandmother. It was only when she moved in with Thando who was constantly on the move that she was forced to adjust to sleeping alone in bed.
Unfortunately for Thando, it meant that on days she was at home, she had to contend with Evelyn waking up from her bed in the middle of the night to join her in hers.
Once she was sure all doors and windows where closed, Evelyn got into her pyjama shorts and t-shirt and was about to get into bed when she heard a knock on the door.
“Who could it be this time?” She wondered out loud, waiting for a few more seconds to check if the person would knock again…and again.
They did, persistently.
Evelyn pulled out a chitenge wrapper from her washing basket in the corner of her room and wrapped it around herself before going to answer the door.
“Who is it?” She asked before opening the door.
“It’s me Eva,” came a male’s voice.
She didn’t need to ask who again to know who it was. That voice haunted her even in her sleep. She quickly unlocked the door.
“Kelvin?” Evelyn gasped when she saw the state he was in; drenched in sweat, feet and slippers drowning in dust, and looking like a man on the verge of collapse.
“Water,” Kelvin said, sounding out of breathe as he pushed passed her and fell to the floor the moment he was safely inside.
“Close the door,” he said to a visibly shocked Evelyn who was still holding the door wide open and gaping at him like she had just seen a mad man for the first time in her life.
But she still closed the door the moment she heard his request.
“Is someone chasing you?” Evelyn asked. “Where’s your car…or cars?”
“Water,” Kelvin begged again.
“Oh yeah,” Evelyn said and quickly ran to the kitchen, appearing seconds later with a glass in hand. She handed to him and watched him ferociously gulp down the contents.
“It’s at home,” Kelvin answered the moment he was done quenching his thirst.
“Is your friend around?” he asked her.
“No, she travelled for work. She will be back next week.” She answered.
Slowly getting up from the floor, he said, “show me where the bathroom is and give me your towel.”
“Is it this side?” He was pointing and moving in that direction.
Evelyn rushed in time to stop him by the door. “This is the kitchen,” she said, blocking his way in. “You just saw me enter and come out with a glass of water. Did you think I gave you water from the bathroom?”
“It’s been known to happen,” Kelvin said, his play at nonchalance gnawing at Evelyn more than the pain in his eyes.
“Here,” she was saying as she led him to through the door on the left. She had a billion question running through her mind but she knew better than to press a man that looked like he had just lost the battle between angels and demons.
“You will find my towel hanging somewhere in there,” she said and closed the door behind him.
She was expecting him to have a quick retort for her but instead he simply said, “thank you Eva, and turned on the shower.
Evelyn remained standing outside the door, something she could not understand kept holding her back from moving away…and then she heard Kelvin stifle his sobs against the running water.
Her heart sunk and her eyes followed in kind.
What had happened? Evelyn wondered as she silently walked towards her bedroom to prepare some dry clothes for him.
It took about twenty minutes for Kelvin to come out of the shower, looking like a brand new man with the forced smile on his face as he stood outstand Evelyn’s bedroom with just a towel wrapped around his waist , waiting for her to welcome him inside.
Evelyn blinked and blushed profusely at the sight of his exposed buff chest, stuck between starring in awe and looking away in embarrassment and ending up doing both simultaneously.
Kelvin was smirking at her expense.
“Wait here, I will bring some clothes for you,” Evelyn gushed and quickly turned to walk back inside but Kelvin was right behind her.
“It’s looks particularly clean,” he commented as he looked around her room.
“I didn’t say you could come in,” Evelyn was looking at him despondently, at a loss for what to do to or about him.
“I always suspected there was something peculiar about you, turns out you are a neat freak,” he looking at her severely arranged room with each time exactly where it was supposed to be.
“You know OCD is an actual disease ka.” he asked.
Evelyn was laughing. “It’s not a disease, it’s a disorder. And look who’s talking? Have you seen your house?”
“That’s exactly why I made an accurate diagnosis,” he was smugly shrugging his shoulders. “I was speaking from experience.”
Evelyn picked up the clothes she had laid for him on the bed and handed them over to him.
“I think the show is over now. The audience is pleased so you can dress up,” she told him.
Kelvin was smiling innocently. “I have no idea what you are talking about.” And he put on the white t-shirt she had given him.
“Are you sure you weren’t expecting me over tonight?” He asked. “This t-shirt is too much of a perfect fit to be a coincidence.”
Evelyn was aware that all the happy conversation was a façade he was putting on to avoid talking about the real reason why he had shown up at her doorstep but she still played along just fine.
Once he was done dressing up, he threw himself on the bed, back first as he sprawled his legs.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Evelyn asked.
“You are not planning on sending me to Thando’s room right?” Kelvin asked nonchalantly.
“What do you mean send you to Thando’s room? Are you planning on sleeping here?”
“Yes,” he answered simply.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I want to spend the night with you.”
“With whose permission?”
“Mine of course.”
“That’s not how it works Kelvin.”
He then sat up, a serious expression suddenly appearing on his face as he looked at her. “Let me sleep here tonight,” he said pleadingly. “I promise I won’t try anything funny. If you want, I can even sleep on the couch in the living room, I don’t mind. Just don’t kick me out, please.”
“What’s going on Kelvin?” Evelyn finally asked.
“I had a fight with my mum, that’s all I can tell you for now.” He said.
“Is that why you came here looking like someone was chasing you?”
Kelvin fell back on the bed, using his arms as a second pillow. “I needed to make sure that no one followed me here so I circled around for a while before finally knocking at your door.
“Who could have been following you this late at night?” Evelyn asked.
“I’m tired Eva,” Kelvin complained. “Can’t we just forget about it…for today?”
Evelyn went to sit on the bed, looking over at his sleeping figure. “Wake up Kelvin,” she told him, and tried to make him sit up by pulling his hand.
A very reluctant Kelvin eventually sat up and moved to sit next to her, both their feet hanging by the bed.
“I can feel a nagging sermon approaching,” he said sarcastically.
“I have never had a man sleep on my mind before and if I am to allow you to do that, I think I deserve to hear an explanation as to why I should extend that charity.”
“Wow, I am now a charity case!” and he let out a heart breaking laugh, hanging his head low over his chest.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Evelyn quickly tried to explain herself. “In any case, you are here and you obviously need my help…” she hesitated for some time before adding, “I don’t think I will be able to sleep knowing that something is obviously wrong with you.”
Kelvin raised his head up and slowly turned to look at her, a huge grin playing on his face. “You have totally fallen for me haven’t you?”
Evelyn scoffed and made a face at him. “Can you try to be serious for just a moment? Stop trying to change the topic…and no, I haven’t fallen for you. I am just being a concerned neighbour.”
The disappointment of Kelvin’s face was too vivid to ignore. Evelyn quickly looked away from him.
“I had a huge fight with my mum…it didn’t end so well.” He finally told her.
“Did she find out about me?!” The kind of fear that Kelvin saw in her eyes made him realise yet again just how much of a stranger his mother had become. Since when did the mere mention of her name bring such fear in people’s lives.
Is she really my mother? Kelvin wondered.
And if she is not, then who is that woman I have called mother for all these years…and what did she do to my sweet kind-hearted mother?
“No she didn’t, relax.” He said and he could hear her breath a huge sigh of relief.
“Then what happened?” Evelyn asked. “What was so mad that you came here looking the way you did? Did she disown you or something?”
Kelvin looked straight into her eyes and with tears welled up in his eyes he asked her, “You really think the worst of my mother, right?”
Evelyn didn’t know what to say in response. The pained look in his eyes was enough to freeze all her mental faculties.
Just what had happened to have broken this ever brazen and bold man to this extent? Evelyn wondered.
“Kelvin….” Evelyn was still at a loss for words.
“She really is a horrible person isn’t it?” Kelvin asked.
Evelyn was now wondering whether Kelvin was really looking for answers or if he was in desperate need of someone to tell him a lie…anything different from the truth he already knew.
In the end, she could only stare at him blankly.
She had heard about how the little boy at the orphanage that had been mistaken for her had been ruthlessly killed. The things surrounding his death all pointed to one person and anyone capable of doing something like that to an innocent child was someone to be hated and feared.
But how could she look Kelvin in his deep brown eyes and tell him that his mother was a monster?
He was already a man on the verge of destruction. Ant slight push and he would come crumbling down. He had set aside his pride and ego walked all the way to her place and here he was desperately trying to push away his tears because he still needed to be a man in front of her.
Seeing the desperation in his eyes, Evelyn did the only thing she could think of that would help him keep his pride. She got onto the bed, positioned herself behind him and before he could ask any question, she wrapped her arms around him from behind, her chin resting on top of his head.
Even if you can’t bring yourself to cry in my presence, could you at least let it all out when I am not looking at you? Evelyn thought as she fought back her own tears, pressing her upper body tight against him.
As if answering her question, Kelvin finally broke down…and even though Evelyn could not hear him, she could feel his body convulsing against her as he tightly gripped with both hands the part of her arm resting just below his face.
When Kelvin finally told her everything that had transpired between him and his mother, Evelyn could finally understand why he looked like a man whose wings had just been clipped off.
“So are you going to hand over the kids to her?” Evelyn asked him later while they sat in bed watching tv, each on his or her own pillow.
Between them was an aisle of much three pillow separating them; the Isle of Virtue, as Evelyn had coolly coined it.
“No way!” Kelvin said determinedly.
“Do you actually think that she would harm them in any way?” Evelyn asked. “It’s not like they are Beatrice’s children.”
Kelvin laughed. “You don’t know my mother,” he said. “There’s nothing in this world she can’t do. Those might not be Beatrice’s children but they are children of the man Beatrice is in-love with and that, that on its own is a sin against my mother on Shadreck’s part.”
“Now you are really scaring me Kelvin,” Evelyn said.
“It also pains me to know that I am capable of saying such awful things about my own mother. I keep wishing that this whole revenge thing is just a bad dream, that I will wake up one day and it would have all been just a nightmare.”
“She is going to hurt Moola if you don’t give her the kids…you are aware of that? Evelyn asked.
“Of course, how can I not?” he said, almost whispering the words. “I might not love her but I wouldn’t live with myself if something happened to her because of me. I have already hurt her enough all these years…dragging her along and making her think that I was in-love with her.”
“Are you still going to marry her?” Evelyn asked, shutting her eyes tight as she waited for him to respond.
Kelvin could feel her tense on the other side of the bed and so he moved his head over the pillow to peep at her.
Kelvin laughed upon finding her in that position. “You really don’t want me to marry her.” He said to her.
Evelyn opened her eyes only to find Kelvin’s head looking down on her. Feeling embarrassed at having been found out, she pushed him back to his side and put the pillow back where it had been.
“When did you realize you were in-love with me?” Kelvin asked, his serious tone catching her by surprise.
“If you want to talk about feelings then I suggest you grab a few blankets from there,” she was pointing to the wardrobe on the side of the wall where he was.
“You should know by now that I keep my promises no matter,” Kelvin said. “I said I wouldn’t try anything with you tonight and I meant it.”
“I know,” Evelyn said, remembering that day in his bedroom when Moola came knocking at the window and she begged Kelvin to hide her in the basement where he had previously held her captive.
“Aren’t you going t answer my question?” Kelvin said.
“Does it matter?” Evelyn tried to brush him off.
“Yes it does,” he said. “Maybe that’s the kind of motivation I need to get through this.”
“This evening,” Evelyn said.
“What about this evening?” Kelvin asked.
“I realised I am in-love with you when I found you standing by the door outside.” She said.
There was no response from Kelvin and the room was filled with silence for about a minute or so.
“Kelvin?” Evelyn called and leaned over the pillow to look at him.
The stern expression on his face scared her to death.
“Did I say something wrong?” she asked him.
“I am not going to marry Moola,” he announced.
“Is that why you look like that after what I just told you?” Evelyn sounded disappointed. She had expected him to be jumping up and down.
“Knowing that you love me too means that I now have no choice but to break my mother’s heart,” he said.
Evelyn finally understood and slowly dropped back to her sleeping position but Kelvin’s head popped up above her immediately. This time he was wearing the smile she had been longing to see a few seconds ago.
“I love you Eva, daughter of Beatrice.” He said.
“You really don’t know how to be romantic, eish!” But she was smiling and hiding his face with her hands so that he would not see her blushing cheeks.
Kelvin slowly removed her hands from his face and planted a kiss on her forehead before returning to his side of the bed.
“From now on,” Kelvin said after a while. “I am going to love my mother the best way I can.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Evelyn had asked him.
“I will break her heart first, and then give her a brand new one.”