“Chizu!” I yelled at my wife through the phone. “How many times do you need me to tell you that that girl has absolutely nothing to do with me?”
“It’s not like I expect you to admit it even when I caught you in the act,” she retorted.
Talking to Chizu was like talking to a wall, every time I spoke to her, something loosened inside my head. “What did you find me doing with her that made you think that something is going on between us?” I asked.
There was a pause on the other end of the line; I could literally feel her brain dig into the little box of torture she had reserved just for me.
A few seconds later I heard, “I saw the way you were looking at her, I haven’t seen you smile at me like that in ages!”
That’s because I only smile when you are asleep, I said in my head. There was something about my wife’s sleeping figure that I found alluring; eyes closed and mouth shut, she was at her most beautiful like that. I am not sure when I became a man like that but that was who I was as a husband.
A friend of mine once suggested that I try zoning out whenever Chizu went into her wild tirades, body present but mind out, except that sort of thing never worked with Chizu.
My wife’s voice was laser sharp and no sound proof system could beat her. With her by my side, I never had to worry about going into a comma; her voice would bring me right back to reality.
“I’m coming over there right away.” I said to her. “I need to put a stop to this before you ruin a young girl’s life.”
I could feel her boiling and ready to explode but I did not give her chance to spill her molten lava into my ears. I cut the line and made my way to her work place.
I was aware of how improper it was for me to go there but I knew my wife and could only imagine the havoc she must have created the moment she came upon Susan.
By embarrassing Susan like that, she had put our marriage on display and there was nothing I could do at that point to reverse the damage she had already caused. The only thing I knew to do was to try and restore the virtue of the innocent girl that had been dragged into our private living hell.
As I drove to Chizu’s place of work, I tried to work out in my head how I was going to explain to my colleague about what was happening to his young sister.
I didn’t even know where to begin.
I found my missing rib outside the gate of her work place, pacing back and forth. Something broke inside me looking at the desperation on her face. When did she turn into that person?
What did I do to turn such a strong confident woman into this insecure and angry villain?
Her eyes lit up the moment she saw me and she rushed to my window. “I can’t believe you actually came here for her!”
“I didn’t come here for her,” I told her. “I came here to undo the damage you’ve caused. What were you thinking exposing your marital problems at work like that?”
“What do you take me for Bashi Daniel?” she asked. “I never said anything to suggest that it was my husband she was sleeping with. I simply passed a comment about how the male-folk here needed to be cautious around her because I knew for a fact that she was a home wrecker.”
“Chizu!” I was shooting her this look I knew she had become immune to by now. I felt helpless.
I already did my research,” Chizu was saying. “Malambo is an only child. He doesn’t have any sister. Why are you still lying to me?”
She was about to start crying again.
I shut my eyes, gripped the steering wheel in front of me and had to mentally stop myself from hitting my head against it, over and over again.
“All I know is that he told me she was his sister.” I was rubbing the sides of my head with my thumbs to calm myself down. “Who knows,” I continued. “She might be a cousin or something. Some cousins consider each other siblings, maybe that’s what he meant when he referred to her as sister.”
“Can you even hear yourself?” She asked me.
I don’t know what I was doing trying to explain to her. Chizu never bought the simple truth that came from my mouth. Thanks to my wife’s distrust, I had become an expert at writing fiction. If my explanation was not CSI or Game of Thrones worthy, it didn’t make the cut.
“I will make sure that girl doesn’t get confirmed for the job in three months’ time,” my wife-turned-nemesis was saying. “I am not going to let some nobody girl from God knows where to come and ruin my marriage.”
“Nobody is ruining your marriage Chizu, you are the one doing this to us by behaving like this.” I said to her. “How will you attacking an innocent girl help you mend this marriage that’s been free-falling for the past four years? Talk to me, don’t go attacking people that have nothing to do with our problems.”
But Chizu was rolling her eyes at me and giving me the are you kidding me kind of look. She didn’t believe a single word I was saying!
There was something I didn’t understand about the whole situation; how would her confrontations with Susan help her keep our marriage?
She simply had to look into the mirror and turn her head to the other side of the bed to find the root cause of her problems and only then would she be able to solve them.
I silently resolved that the only way to sort out this issue was to involve my friend Malambo and to seek services of a marriage counsellor for my wife and me. It was either that or divorce. I could not imagine spending the rest of my life like that. Forever seemed too long.
Just like I had feared, the videos of Chizu attacking Susan went viral that same night and they kept people entertained for the week that followed. Susan had become an overnight internet sensation as a husband snatcher, me as the husband in question and Chizu as the poor distraught and betrayed wife.
The following day at work, I was welcomed by punches from Malambo. I was his superior at work but due to what was happening to his sister thanks to my wife, he had earned himself the licence to do whatever he wanted to me.
If the guys at work had not peeled him from off of me, I would be lying six feet under by now.
“How could you do that to my sister? To my family!?” He was kicking and yelling as the others held him back.
All I could do was apologize, over and over again. I had no excuses to give him.
It took Malambo who was such a calm and collected guy on a normal day two hours to finally calm down that day so we could talk privately in his office.
“I will do whatever it takes to make things right with your sister,” I told him. I was standing very close to the door, ready to make an exit in case he turned into Rocky Balboa any second.
“If you can tell me how you will restore my sister’s honour, get her back her fiancé and her job, then I will consider forgiving you.”
“Her fiancé?” I had not calculated for that. Dammit. “She was engaged?”
“Yes she was engaged, emphasis on was,” he said curtly. “Thanks to you and your deranged wife.”
Normally I would stop anyone that called my wife names but this time I couldn’t keep Malambo in check. He had every right to call Chizu whatever he felt like at that moment.
“Who’s the guy?” I asked. “Can you give me his number so I can talk to him and explain everything?”
Malambo scoffed. “Do you think I haven’t tried that already?” He said. “I shouldn’t have let her meet you, I shouldn’t!” he had rolled his hand into a fist and was staring intently at it, ready to launch it on anything.
I backed away a few more inches closer to the door.
“That poor girl has been to hell and back and just when we thought she was finally getting a chance at a good life, you guys went and ruined everything for her.”
“Let me meet her fiancé and explain everything to him,” I offered again. “Maybe it will help if he hears things straight from me.”
“Susan has instructed us not to talk to him and to let him go. She says if he can’t trust her by now, he will never trust her.”
“So she is just going to let him go?” I asked.
Malambo looked like he was about to punch me again. “Just stay out of her business and don’t complicate things further for her.” He warned me.
The thing is, I couldn’t just stay away while her life fell apart. I felt responsible for everything that was happening to her and I needed to do something to fix the broken pieces.
Malambo finally gave me the guy’s number after hours and hours of begging.
I called the guy and arranged to meet him by Rhapsody’s Arcades.
Alan Kasonde was the name of Susan’s fiancé. A tall, light skinned guy that looked like he could use a meal or two.
“I am sorry that we had to meet like this,” I apologized as I shook his hand and we both sat down.
I was surprised by his warm reception. I had expected him to be throwing punches in the air the moment he laid eyes on me but strangely enough, his smile seemed to come easy.
“I am sure you know why I asked to meet you,” I went straight to business. “Those things you might have heard or seen about Susan and I are all lies. It’s just a huge misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion. There is absolutely nothing going on between me and your fiancé.”
Alan was smiling when he said, “I know.”
I looked at him in disbelief, for a moment entertaining the idea that perhaps Malambo had been wrong in his deductions.
“What do you mean you know?” I asked just to be sure.
“I know that nothing is going on between you and Susan. Sue is not that kind of girl.” He confirmed my suspicions.
“So does that mean that you are not cancelling your engagement?” I asked, my face beaming with hope.
“Oh no, there won’t be any wedding. I cancelled the engagement for sure.” The Alan guy crushed my hopes into tiny little pieces.
I was gaping at him like a fool. “You know that she is innocent but you are still going to cancel the engagement?”
He nodded. “I love Sue….” He said. “Even when I knew that my parents would object to me marrying someone who’s not from our church, I still went ahead and proposed marriage to her. That’s how much I loved her.”
“So what’s changed?” I asked.
“Everything,” he said. “My parents are Elders at church. They might have curved a little over the church denomination thing because they believed she would join me at my church once we got married but this scandal is completely something else. There is no way they would allow me to marry her after all this.”
I wanted to reach across the table and shove a bugger down his reptile-like skinny neck. Perhaps he would put on some weight whilst choking to death.
“What do you mean after all this?” I asked. “Do you parents think that she is capable of something like that?”
“Oh no,” he quickly answered. “They too believe she’s innocent and that it’s just a big misunderstanding. But still, not everyone believes that. My parents care too much about their reputation to allow their son to marry a girl whose reputation has been tainted like this.”
“Marry a girl? So she is now just a girl to you?”
Alan chuckled. “Listen, I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said nonchalantly. “Sue should have known better than to find herself in such a situation when she knew the wedding was only a couple of months away.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I did not think it was possible for anybody to be that deep a shade of jerk. “Did you even love her?” I couldn’t help asking the douche.
“You are a married man Sir,” he answered. “I am sure you know that sometimes love is just not enough to run a relationship. There must be another reason other than love why you are still married to that crazy woman I saw in the video. What sort of wife can humiliate her own husband like that?”
I finally snapped and landed one hard across his skinny face and sent him spilling off his chair, backwards.
I stopped the waiter that was passing behind me, removed some cash from my wallet and handed it to him. “Prepare anything heavy for this fool worth that amount and make sure he eats every bit of it. I have seen ten year olds with stronger stamina than him. Susan is lucky not to have to spend the rest of her life with someone like you.”
I started walking away when the waiter called out to me. “Sir,” he said, a puzzled expression on his face as he looked at the money in his hands.
“You can keep the money if he refuses to eat. Today might be your lucky day.”
I didn’t have a piece of mind after leaving Rhapsody’s. There was something gnawing at me and it kept bothering me until I finally caved and called Malambo.
I needed to check on Susan and apologize for everything in person but there was no way of doing that on my own without earning the wrath of my better half.
And so, I called Malambo.
I picked up Malambo from his home and we drove to his parent’s place where Susan was staying. I remained in the car while Malambo went inside to call his sister.
A few minutes later, I saw Malambo rushing out of the house carrying someone in his arms, his parents following closely behind.
Even from a distance, I could tell it was Susan lying limply in Malambo’s arms. His father rushed to get the door and Malambo who then placed his sister in the back and waited for his mother to get in before closing the door.
“What happened?” I asked Malambo through the window of his father’s car.
“Aren’t you….” I think his father must have recognized me but Malambo started saying something before he could finish his sentence.
“She overdosed on pills,” he informed me as he backed away from the garage. “We are heading to the hospital now.”
I felt like I had just been hit in the stomach. I had gotten a short glimpse of Susan and she did not look like she had any life in her.
Did I do that to her?
Did my wife and I just kill someone?
My head was throbbing and everything started spinning around me.
“Are you okay Mr?” I heard someone ask from behind. I turned and found a middle-aged woman I assumed was the housekeeper.
“What happened?” I asked the woman. I was zoning in and out of my senses, unable to consume what I had just witnessed.
“That poor Miss,” the woman said, sounding like an announcer at a funeral parlour. “I told the madam that she would try it again but she said she was grown up now, that she wouldn’t try something like that again…now look what has happened.”
“Try what again?” I asked.
The woman held her hand to her mouth. “I shouldn’t have said that,” she said. “We are not allowed to talk about what happened. I will lose my job if they hear that I opened my mouth.”
And she left me standing there alone.
Then why did you open your trap if you knew you were not going to provide the details? I angrily thought to myself.
“Which hospital have they taken her?” I called out to her.
She stopped and turned to look at me. “Over there,” she was pointing to the right behind me. “Just go straight, it’s about five minutes or so drive. You will find a hospital before the end of the road.”
“Thanks,” I said, got into my vehicle and drove off.
I found Malambo and his parents waiting in the lobby while Susan was being attended to.
Malambo’s mother charged at me the moment she recognized me. She was hitting me on my chest with her fragile little hands and I just stood back and took it all in.
Her husband came to get her but before leading her away, he turned to his son and said, “get him away from here won’t you?”
“Follow me,” Malambo said and I followed him outside.
“What do you think you are doing here?” He asked me the moment we were outside.
“You seriously didn’t expect me to leave after what I saw. Is she going to be okay?”
“I don’t know!” Malambo snapped. “How the hell am I supposed to know? How can she do this to us again?” He lamented, and then turning to me, “I swear, if something happens to her, I will kill that wife of yours with my bare hands.”
I could only stare down at the ground, unable to say anything in response. We remained silent like that for a while.
“I can’t believe she did this again,” Malambo said under his breath. There was anger written all over his face. “I shouldn’t have let her meet you that evening, I shouldn’t.”
For the first time since I had known him two years ago, I saw tears in Malambo’s eyes. But no sooner had they appeared than he blinked them back.
I was not the only one blaming himself for what was happening. Who would have imagined that such a simple errand would bring with it such deadly consequences?
I was busy thinking about how miserable my life was when something Malambo said replayed itself in my head.
I can’t believe she did this again.
He too, like the housekeeper was implying that it was not the first time Susan had attempted suicide. Or was I making wrong assumptions?
“Did Susan try something like this before?” I asked Malambo. The look that he sent me immediately reminded me that I had not eaten anything the whole day.
“What are you still doing here?” He asked. It was as if he had forgotten for a moment that I had been standing there with him the whole time.
“You should leave James,” he said. “You being here doesn’t sit well with my parents, or me.”
“I understand,” I said and headed to my car while Malambo went back inside.
But I never left. I couldn’t leave without knowing if Susan was alright. I got back into the car to wait and found my phone still ringing.
Chizu had finally succeeded in draining the life out of my battery. Soon it would be my heart…. I thought as I looked at the phone’s screen that had turned black.
I saw Malambo come out of the hospital two hours later and I caught him just before he got into his car.
“How did it go?” I asked.
Malambo turned and was surprised to see me standing there. “You are still here?” He asked.
I simply shrugged my shoulders.
“She’s going to be fine,” he said. “They managed to pump her stomach….it appeared this time she had meant serious business.”
“What?” I asked, a little confused by the words he had added under his breath.
“I’m going home to get her some clothes. She will be here for a couple of days. You should go home now. We don’t want to see your wife coming to cause another commotion here at the hospital.”
I understood his point. “Thanks for letting me know how she’s doing,” I said.
“It’s not you I hate man, it’s your wife. Go home and sort out your issues before she actually kills someone.”
I went home and found my wife waiting for me in the living room, heavily armed and ready to attack.
Where the hell where you?
Do you have any idea what time it is?
Who were you with?
Did you go to comfort your disgraced little mistress?
Are you just going to keep ignoring me?
I had entered the room and went to sit down on the sofa. There were no two-ways about it; whether in the living room or toilet, Chizu was going to follow me until she unloaded all the arsenal from her mouth.
Instead of making things hard for her, I surrendered myself for slaughter and sat back while she shot on target.
Unfortunately, she did not take well to my picture no sound strategy and so she regrouped her arsenal and launched the strategy she knew worked best for her.
She started crying.
To this day, I am still baffled by the amount of liquid that can come out of a single person’s eyes. Chizu’s water works could supply this country with a lifetime of electricity.
I was busy calculating the value of her tears and going over the patenting process in my head before we could supply to the Kariba when I heard; “is this how you are going to disrespect me now? Don’t you think you owe me an explanation for coming home so late?
“I am sorry,” I finally conceded defeat. “It won’t happen again.
“Is that it?” she roared.
“I am tired Chizu, can we talk about this in the morning?” I got up to leave but she came and blocked my way.
“Put yourself in my shoes, would you let me go straight to bed without giving you an explanation if I was the one that came home this late?”
She had a point.
“I didn’t go anywhere,” I said. “I had parked right outside the gate and waited for it to get late. I was hoping to find you asleep so we could avoid something like this. I am not in the mood to fight with you tonight. I just want to get into bed and sleep.” I lied through my teeth.
Strangely enough, I saw her features start to relax a little. Because it was a lie, she had easily accepted it. It’s like she was allergic to the truth. Anything close to the truth and she would have been dancing on top of my head nagging until her lips moved no more.
But one single lie and she went on mute.
I was about to start calculating how much I would earn if I donated her brain to Science upon her passing when she said, “You could have told me that all this while instead of letting me get upset like this.”
You would not have believed me if it came that easy. I said in my head. But to her I said, “Can I go to bed now?”
She was now all smiles, she locked her arm with mine and together we went to bed, sleeping like North and South Korea.
We were awakened the next morning by a knock on the door. I opened the door and found a not so surprising visitor standing there.
“What are you doing here mum?” Was the mistake I said to her when I opened my mouth.
I could hear the sound of her heart breaking. I took her handbag from her and stepped aside to let her in.
“Good morning to you too,” she said sarcastically.
“Welcome mother,” I said a little too late.
“Umhu,” she said, pursing her lips as she took in the new decor in the house.
Chizu had a habit of changing the house decor per season, something that irked my mother to the core. “I am about to cry from all the love I can feel in the air.” Sarcasm again.
Chizu chose that particular moment to walk into the living room.
“Mum,” she said, wearing the special painful smile she reserved only for my mother. It was a combination of 20% smile and 80% pain. “It’s good to have you here. Do you still have that phone I got you three months ago?”
That was code for; you should have called before coming.
My wife and mother were like the sun and moon of my life; while both of them brought some form of light into my world, it was imperative that they not appear anywhere at the same time. The two of them reminded me of that African proverb; when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In this case, I was the grass.
My mother’s smile mirrored that of her daughter in-law except for the little difference in ratios; hers was 10% smile and 90% disdain. Mum disliked Chizu because she had been a fan of Gloria my ex-girlfriend.
There were many times when people at church and in the neighbourhood back home in Ndola mistook the two for mother and daughter, which was why she had been devastated when she heard news of my break-up with Gloria. My whole family had mourned the separation for months, going as far as boycotting my wedding to Chizu.
Thus, because my mother still got along with my ex-girlfriend more than she did her own daughter in-law, Chizu harboured her own flavour of resentment. None of them was willing to bend to accommodate the other.
“When I insisted on you seeing alangizi, your husband here said you didn’t need all that nonsense. Now look how you have embarrassed yourself and your husband?” The fight had already started before she could even sit down.
“Mother,” I held her by the shoulders and led her to sit down.
“Instead of beating girls, why don’t you lock the doors here and beat your husband until he stops sleeping around?” My mother went on.
“Mum!” I yelled at her. “Did you come here to make things worse for me?” I asked.
“I just don’t understand what business she has going around beating people when she stole you from a decent girl herself.”
“Why are you bringing up the past?” Chizu asked from where she was standing.
“Just look at her glaring at me like she can beat me. When you were busy stealing your best friend’s fiancé, did you think that you could keep him forever? Is your pee made out of milk or do you shit honey?”
That there was the reason I dreaded my mother’s visits. While the rest of us humans spoke words, my mother purged and vomited a combination of vowels and consonants that gained whole new meanings the moment they passed through her lips.
“And you,” she turned her fangs on me. “Do you think cheating is for everyone?” I could not tell whether the question was rhetoric or not but I stuck to my guts; I stayed quiet.
“I understand that she is not much of a wife, but did you have to cheat on her at a place so close to your home?”
I was looking at Chizu who seemed to be battling the two evils my mother had presented us, wondering which was the lesser evil and whether to take offence or not. I too could not tell whether my mother was speaking in favour of my wife or against her.
“You rushed into this marriage like two mad dogs and you are already cheating on each other,” my mother continued spilling her vermin, not caring where it landed or who it poisoned.
“Are your needs that heavy son?” She asked me. “Are you going to cheat on all the women in your life? Gloria was not good enough for you, this Chizu is also not enough for you. Have you tried using your hands for a change?
“If no woman will satisfy your needs, try your own hands because that’s out of God’s hands son. You know those things aren’t just for directing food to your mouth, use them. Didn’t we have this kind of talk before?”
I wished for the ground to open up and swallow me.
That talk, how could I ever forget it? My dad had travelled for school and had been gone for two years when I turned thirteen. While other mothers would have directed their teenage sons to have ‘the talk’ with their uncles, my mother felt it was her duty as a parent to talk to me.
Had my kid sister not entered the living room that day, my mother would have literally taken off my pants and demonstrated exactly how to put on a condom. Even at thirty-eight years old, she still talked to me like that thirteen year old boy.
“Nothing is going on between that girl and me,” I repeated the statement that had become my slogan in the past few days. “If my own mother cannot believe me, do you think my wife will?” I asked her.
“If nothing is going on, then what were you doing with her at that restaurant and at that hour?” My mother asked.
Chizu eyes were screaming the same question at me.
I explained to my mother how that scenario had come about and the question she asked me was; “Why didn’t you explain that to your wife before she embarrassed you like that?”
“You know Chizu, do you think she would have listened to me?” I said. “She came and slapped that girl before asking any questions. She was convinced in her head that I was cheating on her and nothing I said was going to change that.
“Even when I explained to her what was going on, she still went ahead and humiliated the girl at her workplace and now she’s lost her job and her fiancé. Only last evening, she tried to commit suicide but was found in time by her brother who rushed her to the hospital.”
“So that’s why you came home late last night?” Chizu was looking at me like a convicted man. “You had gone to see that girl in the hospital didn’t you?” she was now towering over me where I was seated.
“Didn’t you hear what your husband just said?” My mother shouted at Chizu. “The girl you accused of sleeping with your husband just tried to kill herself. Haven’t you considered for a minute the possibility that you might be wrong and you just tried to kill an innocent girl for nothing?”
“I know he is your son but you know very well that a woman can always tell when her husband is cheating.”
“I suppose somebody made you believe that you were a woman Chizu,” my mother retorted.
“What am I if I am not a woman?” My wife had lost the battle the moment she asked that question.
“Not everyone that has breasts and a fat behind is a woman,” my mother answered. “You Chizu stopped being a woman the moment you went after your best friend’s man. And now you want to end the life of an innocent girl simply because you are scared someone might do to you what you did to someone else?”
“Are you going to let her keep talking to me like that?” Chizu turned to me, the water works ready to explode.
My mother was about to pass a snide remark when we heard someone hoot by the gate.
“Are you expecting anyone?” I asked Chizu.
“No,” she shook her head.
I went to stand by the door to confirm if the person was hooting at us or at the neighbours.
It was us.
“The keys,” I told Chizu and she came out to open the gate.
I immediately recognized the car the moment the gate came open.
“You know who they are?” Chizu asked.
“I do,” I answered.
“Who are they?” My mother had come to join us outside.
“They are the parents of the girl that tried to commit suicide, my alleged mistress.”
“Well, well, well,” Chizu said smugly, glaring at the two as they stepped out of their vehicle, a huge smirk playing at the corners of her lips.
Had my wife known just how much our lives would change from that unexpected visit, she would have humbled herself and got down on her knees to beg for forgiveness for all the pain she had caused that family.
We were about to find out the hard way just how rotten our marriage had become.