A Twisted Fate – Part 8

 

Tulani parked his car on the side of the road, a short distance away from his home and called Natasha to ask for her father’s number.

“Have you found Luyando?” She asked him, thinking it could be the only reason he was asking for her father’s contact information a few minutes to midnight.

After hearing about his daughter’s disappearance, Bernard had gone out to search for her wherever his feet would take him. Seeing the desperate state of her husband, Martha had had no choice but to accompany him on his search, afraid he might lose his mind from hopelessness.

“Yes,” Tulani answered. “She’s at my place right now.”

“I thought she might come there,” Natasha said, her voice dropping a few levels lower.

Tulani didn’t miss the change in her tone. “I am not at home right now,” he quickly explained. “I want to talk to your dad first about something concerning Luyando before he goes to pick her up. I don’t think she will be going anywhere else tonight but I think it would be best if he picks her up as soon as possible.”

“Did something happen?” Natasha asked.

Tulani laughed nervously. “Nothing,” he lied. “Why do you ask?”

“You said there was something you wanted to talk to dad about before he picks up Luyando. Don’t lie to me Tula, I can tell that there’s something you’re hiding.”

“Okay, can I talk to you after I am done talking to your dad?” He asked. “Is he at home?”

“No, they both went out to look for Luyando, I mean both mum and dad. They should be waiting at Luyando’s house right now. Dad refuses to leave until he knows she’s safe.”

“Okay, send me his number then, I will meet him over there.”
Tulani found Mr and Mrs Chimeko seated on the veranda outside Luyando and Peter’s home. While Martha had a chitenje wrapper covering her, Bernard braved the coldness of the night with nothing extra to keep him warm, refusing to join his wife under her wrapper.

They both stood up the moment Tulani’s vehicle appeared outside the gate.

“Where’s she?” Bernard was by Tulani’s window before he could even bring the car to a stop.

“How about you jump in while we talk,” Tulani could tell his future mother-in-law was close to freezing. “I will put the heater on and you will be warm in no time.”

Martha didn’t need to be told a second time. Bernard had no choice but to follow his wife.

“Is Luyando okay? Is she at your place? Ben asked. He had already figured out where his daughter was the moment Tulani expressed hesitation in revealing exactly where he had found her over the phone.

“Can we sit down first so we can talk properly? I have the keys to the house.” He showed husband and wife the set of keys he had picked up from the table where Luyando had tossed them.

He drove the vehicle the rest of the way inside and parked in front of the house.

Martha and Bernard followed Tulani inside.

“What is it you want to talk to us about?” Bernard didn’t waste any time.

Shifting nervously in his seat, “It’s about Luyando,” he said.

“What about Luyando, did something bad happen to her?” Martha asked.

“Oh no,” Tulani quickly provided. “I have something to recommend to you…considering that you are her rightful parent…even though my parent’s legally adopted her….”

“Tulani!” Bernard urged him to get straight to the point.

“I hope you don’t get this the wrong way…or find it offending but, I think that Luyando needs help….”

“Help?” Ben appeared confused, however, Martha knew right away what her grandson’s father was talking about and so she silently waited for the bomb to drop.

Tulani kept going over the words to say and rearranging them so they could come out in the most polite way possible. But is there even a polite way to tell a man his beloved daughter is so sick mentally she needs to be institutionalized?

Seeing Tulani’s hesitation, Bernard picked up the direction where the conversation was going.

“Ooh,” he said, hanging his head low.

“I think that she needs professional help,” Tulani finally managed, seeing that they all seemed to be on the same page. “I think that she was terribly disturbed by the death of her mother at such a young age and….” He was nervously looking at Ben before adding whatever thoughts were going through his head.

Bernard slowly raised his head to look at Tula. “And me neglecting her when she needed me the most you mean?” He added, his eyes heavy with guilt.

“I didn’t mean it like that Sir,” Tulani tried to explain himself. It was indeed what he meant…but not in those exact terms.

“I know,” Ben said.

Martha placed her hand over her husband’s lap, unable to find words to use to comfort him.

“I know about everything,” Ben continued. “I know that she’s had to lie all through her life to win people’s affection…just like she deliberately drove her car into another…or fake her amnesia…or,” he paused before adding. “…I also knew about the lies she told in the letter.”

Martha was staring at him wide-eyed. “You knew from the beginning?”

“Of course, how can I not?” he replied. “I felt…I feel responsible for everything that’s happening. She did all those things she did recently because she wanted to gain sympathy. I was the only one who could give it to her without questioning anything because I was responsible for everything.

“You don’t understand,” Bernard went on. “Luyando had the best life when her mother was still alive. She was the centre of our lives. She was like a princess, used to having her way, always.” He then turned his body to face his wife.

“I never told you this before,” Ben said. “But Luyando was born a twin.”

“What?” Martha and Tulani asked at the same time.

“They were fraternal twins,” Bernard explained.

Martha could not hide her shock. For twenty years her husband had not mentioned anything about that. She had been under the impression that there were no secrets between them. Why hadn’t he mentioned anything to her before?

“Tasila had a very troubled pregnancy,” Bernard explained. “She had a very weak immune system so her body easily gave in to a lot of diseases. She was sick most of the time and it seemed to get worse during her pregnancy. Something happened during delivery and we lost Chipego.

“It was a boy. Luyando was a fighter so she came out first…but her brother wasn’t much of a fighter.” He closed his eyes as if to keep the pain of the whole experience shut in the past where it belonged.

“Chipego gave his mother a hard time and by the time he finally came out, it was already too late.”

Martha placed her hand over her mouth while Tulani appeared utterly shocked by the revelations, his mouth wide open. It finally made sense why Luyando ended up with twins of her own.

“We never told Luyando about her brother,” Ben told them. “Instead, Tasila and I showered her with love meant for two people. Our world literally revolved around her. We were not very rich but we were comfortable and Luyando was raised spoiled.

“Anything she wanted, her mother gave it to her….so you can imagine…what she must have felt when it all came to an end so suddenly.”

There was a pregnant silence in the room, each lost in their thoughts. Bernard thought about how he had lost control the moment he had received news of his wife’s death. His whole world had come to an instant world.

Three weeks after Tasila’s death, Bernard had lost his job, home, and everything they had owned…all while his daughter watched on the side lines.

Martha’s mind went back to the time when she and Bernard had their first talk about having a child. She finally understood why he had such strong reservations about starting a family…why he had watched over her like a hawk all through her pregnancy. When Alex was finally born, Ben had gone to the doctor and had a vasectomy done.

She had never understood why but she suspected it might have something to do with the disappearance of his daughter Luyando. All this time, Martha thought that her husband was feeling guilty about starting a new family when he had no idea where his first child was. How was she to know that it was only his fear of the past repeating itself?

Tulani on the other hand was thinking about all the things Luyando had done; from the time she appeared in front of his parent’s vehicle to the sleepless nights when she would keep everyone awake from the thunder’s of her nightmares…and to what happened a few minutes ago in his living room.

He had wanted to hate her for putting him in such a position but after hearing the little bit about her past, Tulani knew that he was incapable of hating or giving up on his sister. She might not know it herself but she was in desperate need of help. Her wounds ran deeper than the scars she had unwittingly let everyone around her see.

“After we lost everything, Luyando became the adult in the family while I kept drowning in alcohol.” Ben’s shame could be heard from his voice and it was spread out loudly and evenly across his face.

“She became the parent of a thirty year old man; picking me up from the tavern, cleaning me up and cleaning after me, cooking, washing…anything you can think of…and she was only ten. I was aware that what I was doing was wrong but each passing day I kept making excuses for myself.

“I thought I was allowed to lose it…to mourn my wife who had died such an untimely death. Luyando had always been a clever child. I thought she could take care of herself. Not once did I stop to consider her pain…I thought she was managing just fine because I never saw her cry….”

As Bernard said those words, his mind flashed back to the time right after they had put Tasila to rest. He had gone into their bedroom, picked up her framed picture and held it against his heart as he gave in to tsunami of tears he had been holding on to all this while. It was not normal for a man to publicly express his emotions like that…even if it was the love of his life that had died.

As far as everyone was concerned, he was a man, a father…he had to be strong. But that day he felt safe to cry in the room he had shared with her for years, the room where they had made life changing decisions together. How could she leave him without talking to him about it first? Didn’t she know that he was not going to like the idea?

Gripped with overwhelming emotions, Bernard had poured his heart out that day, on the cold floor where he sat holding on to the only thing he thought was a memory of her. He had not seen his daughter standing by the door watching him until she walked over to him and put her arms around him.

“I am such a weak man,” Bernard cried.

Martha put her arms around him and cried with him while Tulani watched uncomfortably from the other side of the room.

“I should have known better,” Bernard said. “She never cried, not once did I see her cry. But how could she cry when I was losing it the whole time? One of us needed to be an adult…she did.”

Martha patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t say that Ben. It was a long time ago and….”

“When she came to me a few weeks ago, I knew right away that she needed help,” Bernard said. “But there was nothing I could do for her except to play along with her lies. If I could be the only man standing by her side when everyone else was judging her…I thought that maybe that would show her that I care about her…and that I am sorry.”

“For a while now I have known that Luyando needs help,” Tulani chipped in. “But like you, I thought that maybe giving her the kind of attention she wanted would make her feel loved…but that just made things worse.

“She ended up misunderstanding my actions…and…and…let’s just say that it was the wrong way of doing things. Because we responded to her tantrums and lies the way she wanted us to, she’s grown up thinking that that’s the right way to do things.

“That’s why I came to you today, to tell you that you should get her professional help. She needs to see someone to help her heal her wounds. I don’t think that she is bad person…I think that she just wants people to love her unreservedly like you and her mother did before she passed on.”

“He is right honey,” Martha told her husband. “We need to get her help.”

“Do you know anyone….” Ben started to ask.

“Yes,” Tulani quickly supplied, reaching into his pocket and removing a business card he had purposely carried and handed it over to Ben.

“He’s the leading psychologist in the country,” Tulani said. “I already spoke to him, he will be expecting to hear from you soon.”

“Don’t we need to talk to her husband about this first?” Ben asked. He had not met Peter yet but he had heard from Joshua that he had visited the hospital once. He had wanted to ask why only once but he figured it was not the right time to talk about other issues.

“I will talk to Peter tomorrow morning,” Tulani offered. “According to Luyando, he packed his stuff and that of the children and left the house. the two of them had been having problems way before the truth came out.”

“Dear God what will my daughter do now?” Ben lamented. “Do you think you can get him to change his mind?”

Tulani hesitated in responding. He knew first-hand how much Peter had suffered at the hands of Luyando. She made it no secret that he was not her number one priority and he had been patient with her for far too long. However, her amnesia stunt seemed to have pushed him over the edge and it didn’t look like he had any more reason to hold on to the marriage.

“I will try and talk to him,” it was all he could say to the worried father.

“But is it safe for Luyando to be all alone right now? She is at you place isn’t it?” Martha asked Tulani.

“Yes she’s at my place,” he answered. “She was quite hysterical when I left her so….”

“Is it okay if I go and see her?” Bernard asked.

“Yes, sure. I was thinking about it…but I didn’t know how to….”Tulani left the sentence hanging. “I was planning on spending the night at a friend’s.”

Bernard turned to his wife. “Is it okay with you if….”

“Yes,” Martha answered before he could finish asking the question. “She needs you right now.”

“It’s very late right now,” Ben said. “How about you follow us home first so I can drop off my wife and you can drop me off at your place?”

“I can drive myself home Ben, don’t worry about me.”

“No, let me drive you. I can’t have you driving yourself this late at night. You’ve been running about the whole day helping me search for Lulu. My heart will be at ease knowing you are safe at home.”

“He’s right Mrs Chimeko,” Tulani said.

“You can just call me Martha dear.”

Tulani smiled, thinking how easy he would have it with such a liberal mother in-law.

* * *

Standing at the door of Tulani’s house, Bernard took in the scene of broken glass before him. He didn’t need to enter the house code Tulani had given him since half the door was open. Inside the house, he could see Luyando passed out on the carpet.

The empty glasses of wine and beer around her told him everything he needed to know about her state of mind. It was a good thing Tulani had a tight security system around the house otherwise his daughter would have been in much more trouble than she was already in sleeping like that with the door open for anyone…or anything to enter.

Bernard bent down to fit through the hole in the glass door and carefully stepped on the pieces of broken glass to get to where Luyando was lying.

“Luyando….” He tried shaking her awake. He lifted her upper body up from the floor and carefully shook her, all the while calling out her name.

Finally, Luyando opened her eyes slightly and looked up at him in semi-consciousness.

“Oooooh it’s the man himself,” her slurred words assailed him straight to the heart. “Where’s Tulani? I want Tula….”

Ben tried to get her on her feet but she kept fighting him.

“Let’s get you to bed dear,” he tried reasoning with her.

Luyando suddenly turned and slapped him hard across the face, sending him straight to the floor. Her violent move was very sudden so it took a few seconds for Ben to recover from the shock.

Luyando was fully awake now.

Still, he got up again and tried to go to her but she was waving her arms in front of her to keep him away.

“Don’t you touch me!” She yelled at him.

Ben took a step back, his hands raised in the air.

“Who the hell do you think you are coming here?” Her words were as jiggly as the legs she was standing on. “It’s your fault that all this is happening,” she accused him, unsteadily pointing her finger at him. “It’s your fault that no one wants to love me. How can they love me?” she scoffed. “How can they love me when my own father hates me? You blame me for mum’s death don’t you?”

“No, no, no,” Ben forgot about staying away from her and tried to reach for her hand.

“Don’t!” She shouted.

Bernard stopped. “How can you think something like that?” he asked her. “I never blamed you for your mother’s death.”

“You did! I saw the way you looked at me. I heard what everyone said during the funeral…that mum was never the same after she gave birth to me. They said I made her like that!”

“They were wrong,” Ben tried reassuring her. “They were so wrong Lulu. Your mother, she adored you. Her world revolved around you. She was so proud to be your mother. Don’t you remember that?”

The memories of her time with her mother brought tears to Luyando’s drowsy eyes. Unable to keep her balance any more, she gave up and sat down on the carpeted floor.

“She loved me,” Luyando recalled all the wonderful times she had spent with her mother. “She was the only one that ever loved me…but she’s gone. Why did she have to die!? Why didn’t you die instead?”

Ben had spent the last years of his life asking himself that very question. However, hearing the words from the lips of his daughter tore at his heart and brought tears to his eyes. Indeed, why had it not been him?

“I am so sorry my love,” Bernard said, tears streaming down his face.

“It’s too late now.” Luyando said curtly. “There’s nothing you can do now to fix things. Everything is gone.” She started checking the bottles around her for anything to drink but they were all empty. Disappointed, she picked up one bottle and threw it against the wall in front of her.

She was now sobbing, unable to take on reality with a semi-sober mind. Bernard watched in silence as his daughter battled her demons. He took a risk and slowly approached her. He got down on his knees from her side and carefully placed his hand on her shoulder, partly expecting her to fight him off but instead, she turned and dropped her head into his laps and continued sobbing.

It took a while for Luyando to finally calm down and when she did, she looked up at her father and said, “Help me make Tulani love me dad.” She pleaded. “I promise to stop doing all these crazy things but please, help me. I don’t think I can manage to not have him in my life. I love him so much.”

Bernard remembered the conversation he had had with Tulani. He had been right, Luyando needed serious help. “If I promise to talk to Tulani about it, can you also do me a favour?”

Luyando’s eyes lit up. “Anything!” She answered excitedly.

Bernard sat up and placed his hands over her shoulders. “Lulu, I would like you to see someone.”

“See someone?” She asked. “Who?”

“No one knows or understands better how much you’ve been through except yourself . You’ve been through a lot haven’t you?” he was talking to her as if to the ten year old girl he had seen so many years ago.

Just like the little girl he was picturing in his head, Luyando was nodding her head profusely. “I don’t want anything else, I don’t want his family, and I don’t even want to take you away from your family. I just want to have him…I just want Tula.”

“So how about we get you some help first,” Ben finally suggested.

“Help?”

“Yes, you’ve been through so much Lulu. You need to talk to someone about….”

Luyando had a look of horror on her face as she pulled away from him. “You want me to see a shrink? Are you calling me nutcase?”

“No, that’s not what I meant….”

Luyando staggered to her feet, desperately wanting to get away from him. “Get the hell out of here!” She pointed to the door for him.”

“Lulu please listen to me just this once. I only want what’s best for you.”

“You just want to protect your family! You think am going to hurt them don’t you?”

“You said you wanted to be with Tulani, but he thinks your feelings for him are only because you misinterpreted things. He thinks you only like him because you are transferring your….”

“Oh don’t start with that shrink nonsense with me,” Luyando interjected him. “I spent four years sitting in a Shrink’s office telling him lies and him buying into it like a fool, even coming up with interpretations that made him sound smarter when he knew nothing!

“That stuff doesn’t work and I certainly won’t waste my time talking to some wanna-be doctor while Tula gets closer to that woman.”

“But Tulani really believes that you need to see someone.” Ben pressed on. From the little he had come to know about his daughter, the truth was not going to work with her. If his daughter was to get the help she desperately needed, Bernard didn’t mind twisting the truth just a little.

“Therefore,” he continued. “If you agree to meet this doctor he recommended, it will show Tulani that you are willing to change…and that you are recovering from the past. Don’t you think he will start taking you seriously after that?”

Ben could tell his message was getting to her; she was actually considering it.

Luyando staggered over to the couch and threw herself down, softly hitting her head with her hands as if to sober herself up.

“I can’t think straight right now,” She said to Ben who had joined her on the opposite couch. “I’m going to sleep now,” she stretched herself over the couch to rest. “Talk to me in the morning.” She yawned and fell back into deep sleep.

A few minutes later, Bernard carried her into the bedroom and went back into the living room to watch TV.
Luyando found him sleeping on the couch when she woke up the next morning.

“I am going to do it,” she candidly informed him.

Ben sat up, a smile on his face. “You will?”

“Yes, but only if you promise to help me with Tulani…make him see that I am changing.”

“Lulu, I can’t do that for you, only you can make him see that. I don’t want you to just pretend to change; it would be nice if you made a conscious decision to make certain changes in your life.”

“I don’t think I will have trouble with that; my husband has left me and taken the children, I have probably…no, I have definitely lost my job at TMH…and everyone finally knows for a fact that I am not an original Mulenga.”

“So what do you plan to do with your life from now?” Bernard asked.

“I’ve always wanted to start my own company…I’ve saved enough over the years so maybe it’s a good time to start.”

“What sort of company?”

“Media of course, a newspaper, give the Mulenga’s a run for their money.”

Ben laughed. “Well, it’s a good thing you have a plan in mind. When do you think you can see the doctor? I put his card on the dresser in the bedroom.”

“Yeah, I saw it.” Luyando said. “I will see him today, the sooner the better.”

Ben was smiling proudly, anxious to see his daughter finally get the help she desperately needed. She might have agreed to start therapy for the wrong reasons but with more therapy sessions, perhaps she might come to realize that her obsession with Tulani was gravely misplaced…that the two of them would always be brother and sister…and that there was no future between them.

* * *

Two Months Later

Life for everyone around Luyando seemed to have gotten back to normal. Even though Ayanda made efforts to reach out to her adopted daughter, Luyando refused to have anything to do with the Mulenga family as a daughter. She applied to the government to have her removed as their daughter so she could easily date Tulani when the time comes.

Naturally, Joshua was excited about the idea of getting Luyando off his family register but Ayanda was hesitant, having loved Luyando as her own for about twenty years. Letting go was something Ayanda always struggled with.

Tulani was still relentless in his pursuit of Natasha but she was still driving him around circles until one day when he cornered her and put her in a position where she had to make a decision.

“What do you think you are doing?” Natasha asked, tagging him on the shoulder and urging him to get back up.

The desperation in her eyes wouldn’t have been so loud if not for the fact that they were at a company dinner and everyone was looking at them. It was just like Tulani to make a public spectacle of everything.

“I will only get up if you give me an answer,” Tulani said, holding out the engagement ring to her.

“Right here?” Natasha’s eyes roamed the room and found that they were indeed the centre of attention. “This is embarrassing Tula.” She whispered to him, trying to close the ring box but Tula wouldn’t let up.

Tulani knew he was going to pay dearly for putting Natasha on spot like that but for him it was the only way to get her to finally make up her mind about him. He had no doubt that she felt the same way about but he just didn’t know what was keeping her from expressing her feelings.

Tulani hoped that Natasha would stay true to her character and say yes to his proposal due to pressure and fear of embarrassing him if she turned him down. If she was still the same Natasha he knew four years ago, she was going to say yes just so she could get everyone’s eyes off of them.

For a woman whose career was centred on being in front of a camera for millions to watch, Natasha had issues being the centre of attention when she was not working.

“Natasha Chimeko, mother of my child and apple of my eye,” He spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear.

“Will you do me the honour of being…er….” And then something happened that he had not calculated for, he forgot the words he had been memorizing for the past one week.

Natasha wanted nothing but for the ground to open up and swallow her. She just wanted it to be over so they could move on with their lives.

“…my wife…Can you be my wife? I mean, will you marry me?”

“Yes, I will marry you,” she said, quickly picking up the ring to put it on her finger, a move that made everyone in the room laugh. To everyone, she was a woman who could hardly wait to wear the ring the man of her dreams had presented her, but to Natasha, it was a way of fast forwarding the whole experience.

Tulani laughed and quickly took the ring from her before she could slip it through her finger. “I think I am the one who’s supposed to do this,” he said as he put the ring on her finger, receiving applause from everyone.

Natasha had to endure twenty more minutes of congratulations from those around them before she finally managed to slip out. Tulani was right behind her, ready to receive his punishment.

“Why….” They were in the car park and Natasha had turned angrily to lash out at Tulani when he grabbed her around the waist, pulled her head slightly back and kissed her like she was his source of oxygen.

Natasha was ready to push him off when she felt his tongue heavy inside her, a warm rush of unexplainable pleasure halting her thirst to fight against him immediately. She gasped, her breath caught for a second in the throes of unbridled felicity.

For a few seconds Tulani busked in the realization that at least there was one thing he had control over; her body. Her lips might sprout lies on their own but with his pressed hard against them; they sang a melody that rhymed perfectly with every fibre of his being. Her body never lied.

Her throbbing heart pressed hard against his chest told him of the secrets her tongue was trying to hide…the tongue now dancing to the tune of his evil thoughts. Oh, the things I intend to do to this stubborn little vixen clinging to me as if for dear life.

“So, you were saying…?”

“Shh….” Natasha let the curse word hang over them, not sure whether she was mad that he had pulled away from her so suddenly…or mad that she had lost control in such a short space of time. How did things turn out like that?

The bumptious smirk on Tulani’s face screamed his victory over her.

“Yes, you were saying….” He teased her again.

He had completely thrown her off guard and made her lose her train of thought. Angry and embarrassed by her easy defeat, she opened the door of her car, ready to run for cover. But Tulani held the door open, forcing her to stand back against the car.

“If you leave like this,” Tulani said, slowly tracing the ring on her finger with one hand and using the other to securely lock her in position. “It means you willingly accepted my proposal.”

“So you know that you forced me to say yes in there right?”

Tulani chuckled, “Yes.” He answered nonchalantly.

“Why did you do that?”

“Because I wanted to see you try and take it off.”

“What?”

He took her hand and placed it in front of them. “Take it off,” he told her.

“What?” she asked again.

“I said take it off,” he repeated. “If you don’t want to marry me, take it off and hand it back to me.”

Natasha was obviously perplexed, wondering what trick he was now playing. She touched the ring and started pulling it slowly towards her. She had expected it to get stuck somewhere in the middle, thinking that was the trick Tulani was playing on her but when it moved without much trouble, she paused before pulling it off completely.

“It comes off,” she told him, a puzzled expression on her face.

“Did you think I asked you to take if off because it couldn’t come off?” he asked.

“Yes,” she admitted, and then pushed the ring back in place.

Tulani laughed, his eyes fixed on the ring. “Look at it again.” He said.

Natasha looked back at her finger and realization dawned on her immediately. She couldn’t take off the ring. No, she didn’t want to take it off.

She laughed, not hard or loud, but softly. “How did you know?” She asked Tulani.

“Know what, that you love me or that you want to be my wife?”

She closed her eyes in embarrassment. “Both,” she said, looking down at her feet.

Tulani placed his hand under her chin and lifted her face up. “There are a number of reasons actually; you kept my child and raised him well, you gave me not one, but two chances to be in his life, and here’s my favourite, you blush profusely every time I try to get close to you…like you are doing right now.”

Natasha covered her face with her hands. “It’s just chemistry, it’s not love,” she said.

“I have seen you get so jealous when I talk to other women, last time you refused to talk to me for three days just because some lady openly flirted with me and I smiled back at her.”

Natasha dropped her hands from her face. “That doesn’t mean I love you!” She protested. “You are my ex…and we have a child together. It’s normal for me to feel jealous once in a while. It doesn’t mean I am in-love with you.”

“So you don’t love me?” Tulani asked. “And please, try to look me in the eye while you honestly answer the question.” He deliberately stressed the word honestly.

“Tula, I like you but,”

“But you are scared to get married again after what happened with your ex?” he finished for her. Her eyes told him he was right.

“I don’t think I want to get married again Tula,” she finally admitted. “Can’t we just date and live together, no strings attached? Don’t you think marriage would just ruin everything?”

“I want to make you my wife Tasha, legally and before God too. I don’t want you to just be a housemate. I want us to be a family, a real family; you, me Sean…and the five other kids we will have.”

“Five? Are you insane? I thought you didn’t like kids.”

“That was before I found out I was a father and got to spend time with my son. My biggest regret right now is that I missed four years of his life. Now I want to have a whole bundle of them running around the house…yours and my products.”

“Products?” Natasha laughed. “I don’t want to have so many children Tula, just one more…but I am willing to reconsider and add another, for your sake.”

“See, I knew you wanted to be my wife,” Tulani proudly noted. “Now I just have to convince you that marriage to me would be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

“Keep up with the arrogance and there will not be an engagement to start with.”

Tulani laughed and drew her close to him for a kiss.

Luyando was standing in line at the ATM at the mall, browsing through her social media feed to kill time when she came across news of Tulani and Natasha’s engagement.

“No. No. No.” She kept repeating whilst shaking her head. Everyone around had turned to look at her.

“It’s a lie,” she said as she turned and started running towards her car. By the time she was settling behind the wheel, her phone had gone through to her father.

“You lied to me!” She yelled at him before he could even say hello. “You lied to me!”

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A Twisted Fate – Part 7

Two days had gone by and Bernard had not returned home. He had stayed by his daughter’s bed side and refused to take a break so he could go home and freshen up. Martha, sensing that her husband would not be coming home any time soon, she woke up early on a Wednesday morning and prepared to visit the hospital.

“I am coming with you,” Natasha told her mother when she walked into the kitchen.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” Martha was leaning against the kitchen island while she waited for her coffee to be ready.

Natasha sat down on the stool closest to her mother. She still had her night gown on and the weave in her head appeared to have a voice of it’s on, an angry one at that.

“I don’t have much to do this morning,” Natasha informed her mother. “I haven’t been able to sleep these past few days so I’ve spent my nights working on proposals for a show I have to pitch to management next week.”

“Do you think I need protection from your father and Luyando?” Martha asked her daughter. She understood very well why Natasha was offering to accompany her. Even though she had not said a word about her father’s behaviour since Luyando’s suicide attempt, Martha knew that Bernard had lost favour in the eyes of his adopted daughter.

Natasha had a tendency to love hard and to hate as much as she loved. In Natasha’s world, you either loved someone, or you hated someone; there was no middle ground. Those who loved did their best to win and protect the ones they claimed to love and those who didn’t love hurt others.

Bernard had lost points in Natasha’s heart the moment he decided to trust his daughter’s words over the integrity of the woman that had loved and devoted herself to him for the past twenty years.

“I don’t think dad is the kind of person you need to be protected from,” Natasha said. “Of course I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t called us since that incident but…I sort of understand what he’s going through.”

“Then why are your eyes telling me something else?” Her mother asked.

Natasha chuckled. “I trust dad, it’s Luyando I don’t trust. Who knows if her amnesia is real or not? I have never met a conniving person like her in my life. I don’t trust her a bit.”

“How can she lie about that when it might alienate her further from her adoptive family?” Martha asked. “She clearly prefers them over your dad so….”

Natasha scoffed. “You really don’t know her do you? Anyway, I am going with you because I want to check for myself if she really has amnesia.”

Martha walked over to the coffee maker and asked her daughter “You want some?” before pouring some into a mug.

“I will need to fully awake when I see that woman,” Natasha opened the cabinet next to where her mother was standing and took out a huge coffee mug.

Martha laughed as she took the cup from her daughter.

Natasha stopped laughing and was now looking at her mother with a grave expression on her face.

“What is it?” Martha asked, looking extremely perturbed.

“I am just happy to finally see you smile,” her daughter said. “You’ve been so out of it for the past few days that I was starting to think you had fallen back into depression.”

Instead of cheering her up, Natasha’s words seemed to have an opposite effect on Martha. It was as if the wound that had numbed down a bit was awakened again.

Feeling herself slipping back into dangerous territory, Martha blinked away the memories from her past and forced her mind to focus on what was most important at that time; her family.

The mother and daughter pair found Bernard seated in the lobby while Luyando was being attended to by the doctor.

He stood up nervously and could barely look at his family when he saw them approaching.

“Martha…Tasha….” Was all he could say as he tucked his hands into his back pockets.

Natasha surprised him by closing the distance between them and hugging him. “You smell like shit dad, but I missed you.”

Bernard laughed, thinking how typical of his daughter to not hold a grudge for long. “I’m sorry my love.” He said.

Martha was smiling on the side, silently thanking her daughter for breaking the ice and making what could have been one of the most painful confrontations of her life turn sweet.

“Are you sorry for the smell or for not calling us?” Natasha boldly asked, pulling away from him so she could look him in the eye.

“Both.” Bernard looked like he had lost all life in him in the few days he had been away from home.

It was hard for Martha to look at her husband like that and not want to cry. “How is she?” She asked whilst surreptitiously pushing back the tears.

“She’s much better today,” Ben answered. “She had been refusing to eat for the past days and kept asking for her late mother…but last evening, she eat some of the food the Mulenga’s brought for her.”

“How about you two remain talking while I go in to check on her?” Natasha said with a smile on her face. “I just saw the doctor pass over there, I think they are done with her now.”

“Go ahead, I will join you in a bit,” Martha said, handing her the bag containing breakfast she had prepared for Luyando. “Don’t tell her I prepared that!” Martha shouted after her daughter.

“She doesn’t know who you are right now….” Ben reminded his wife.

“I figured as much,” Martha said, her complexion suddenly turning a shade pale. “What’s your plan going forward? You know you’re gonna have to come home soon…unless of course you….”

“I will come back home Martha,” Ben assured her. He knew what she was about to say and he couldn’t blame her for having doubt in him. It had not taken him long to know he had hurt her real bad the last time they had spoken.

“I am sorry for my behaviour the other day…I don’t even any excuse.” He said.

“How about we go over there and sit for a bit?” Martha pointed to the bench outside on the other side of the hospital, away from the entrance.

“What do you plan on doing about Luyando’s situation?” Martha asked once they were seated outside. “I hear it can take longer, years sometimes for someone to retrieve the memories they have suppressed.”

Bernard sighed. “I have done a lot of thinking for the past days and until last evening, I found a solution to all this.”

Martha’s eyes filled with fear as she waited for her husband to tell her what decision he had made. She could only think of one thing Ben would do in such a situation…and that was to ask for a divorce or separation so he could bond with his daughter who seemed to have lost her memory.

Bernard’s heart broke when he read the fear in his wife’s eyes. What had he done to bring such unhappiness to his family?

Inside the hospital, Natasha paused outside Luyando’s private ward before finally knocking.

“Come in,” she heard someone say.

Natasha slowly opened the door and entered.

Luyando’s eyes opened wide in surprise when she saw who it was but she quickly required from the shock and relaxed her features. “Who are you?” She asked Natasha.

Natasha had not missed a bit. She had seen the look on Luyando’s face the moment she had laid eyes on her and she had also seen the quick recovery.

If you want to play this game, let’s both give it our best shot. She thought as she smiled at her nemesis. Natasha put down the flowers she had bought for her at the store outside the hospital and she opened the bad to remove the packed food in there.

“My name is Natasha,” she said, unpacked the contents from the bag onto the table. When she was done laying out the food, she put the bag down, pulled the chair that was by the wall and sat down closer to the bed.

“I am Tulani’s girlfriend,” she added, closely watching Luyando as windows to her soul contracted into little beady holes of horror. “I heard he’s been here to see you a couple of times already.”

“He never said anything about having a girlfriend,” came Luyando’s icy tone. “Are you sure you not just one of the billions with a crush on him? He did seem like such a charming man, I wouldn’t balme you if you had a little crush on him.”

“For someone who’s lost their memory, you seem to know quite a lot about Tulani whom you never met before…according to the state of your brain right now.”

Luyando shot daggers at her. “He mentioned something about his life in passing when we talked last evening. Do I sense some hostility from you?”

Natasha snickered. “I doubt it. I have absolutely no reason to be hostile with you. I mean, I hardly even know you. You are just someone my boyfriend considers a sister and yours and his family have been close for years I hear…so it doesn’t make sense that I would not like you.

“I just so bad for you that you’ve lost most of your memories. I can’t be easy looking at your own children and not being able to recognize them. I don’t know what I would do if I was ever in a position where I could not recognize my own son.

Oh yeah, I have a son,” Natasha added deliberately. “He’s name is Sean. Tulani is the father. The three of us….”

“I have a slight headache,” Luyando shifted in her bed and closed her eyes. “I don’t feel like eating so you can go back with that food you came with.”

“Do you need me to call the doctor?” There was a mischievous grin on Natasha’s face as she towered over Luyando in feigned concern.

“NO.” Luyando opened her eyes to find Natasha’s face hovering over her. “You should leave, I want to get some sleep.”

Natasha straightened up and folded her hands across her chest. “Tsk tsk tsk,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “I guess it can’t be easy being in-love with your own brother.” Her words were delivered in a whispering tone, as if she was talking to herself but she knew Luyando could hear her.

“Tulani was right when he said you were crazy.”

Luyando opened her eyes wide open. “Tulani would never say something like that about me!” for a person that had been looking broken and unable to move much a few seconds ago, she suddenly looked like she had too much life in her sitting up in bed like that.

“How would you know that?” Natasha asked. “You don’t even know who he is. He told me that he hated having you in his family. How you appeared from nowhere and tried to take his parents away from him.”

“You lying bitch!” Luyando shouted. “Tula would never say that!”

“Oh but he did!” Natasha shouted. “You think he liked having you in their house but it was just pity. You keep holding on to the idea that he might one day tell you that he loves you…because how can he not when he accepted you into his life so easily? But that was never love. It was pity!”

“Tulani loves me!” Luyando shouted back. “He just doesn’t want to admit it because he knows it would break his mother’s heart.”

“Because in his mother’s eyes you two are siblings right?” Natasha said, leaning her head towards Luyando to deliver the point right into her face. “So why not just give up? Why keep waiting for him when he’s never gonna break his mother’s heart for you?”

Luyando scoffed. “I don’t think that’s a problem anymore,” she proudly stated. “He and I are no longer siblings. As of three days ago, I am Bernard’s daughter.”

“You conniving evil vixen,” Natasha cussed. “I knew you were faking it.”

Luyando laughed again. “It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it.” she said smugly. “It’s your word against mine…and who’s going to believe the word of the step-daughter of the man whose real daughter has reappeared after twenty years?

“To everyone, your words will just be those of jealous little thing afraid to lose daddy’s love. I have seen the look in that man’s eyes. He would be willing to eat faeces if I asked him to. I am his number one priority right now. You and your sad little family should prepare to say bye now because I am taking back my father.”

Natasha’s heart went out to her mother. Luyando was right, she silently reasoned. No one would believe her if she told them that Luyando was faking it. Who would believe that a mother of two would go to such lengths just to win the heart of the man she loved…especially when that man happened to be her brother?

Everyone was going to think her petty, jealous and insecure. Natasha had seen first hand how protective of Luyando Tulani was. There was no way he would think her capable of such evil. To him, she was simply a pitiful girl in desperate need of love and attention.

Somehow, Luyando had successfully managed to turn a situation that was dangerously against her and turned it around to work for her.

“I can see you are slowly coming to terms with the new reality….” Luyando said with a smirk on her face. She relaxed her back a bit and rested her head on the pillow. “I invested half my life to get where I am today. I did not spill my own blood twenty years ago for nothing. Don’t think you can just pop up from God knows where and think you can take over my show.”

“You are a married woman,” Natasha said, her eyes filled with disbelief. “For God’s sake you have two children! You are going to pretend you don’t know who they are just so you can be with a man whose been your brother for the past twenty years?”

“Tulani was never my brother!” Luyando replied. “I never thought of him as a brother, not even once. As for the kids, Peter can take care of those brats, they are his kids. He tricked me into getting pregnant. I never wanted to have his children.

“I know that it might take a while for Tulani to adjust but I know that once his mother comes to grip with the new reality, she will have no trouble accepting me as her daughter in-law because she will never accept losing me as a daughter.”

“No,” said a voice from behind them.

Natasha and Luyando turned to find Ayanda standing by the door.

“Mum,” Luyando tried to sit up but she had moved too fast she ended up disturbing her surgery wound. She winced in pain and stopped moving.

Ayanda walked into the room, the tears that had welled up in her eyes for the past three minutes since she had been standing by the door finally rolled down her cheeks but not once did she shift her gaze from Luyando.

“How…how could you?” Ayanda asked.

“Mum…it’s only a misunderstanding…please….” Luyando stuttered. “It’s not…it’s not…what it you….” she reached out her hand and tried to touch her mother who was now standing next to Natasha but Ayanda flinched and stepped back, away from her.

The heart wrenching look on Ayanda’s face told Luyando that it was all over for her.  Unable to move, the only thing she could do was cry.

“I am sooorrrry,” Luyando cried, one hand clasping the side of her stomach. “I am so sorry mum.”

“Don’t call me that,” Ayanda said sternly. “I could forgive the lies about your father but this…this is something else. How can you do this to your own children? To your husband? To us?”

Luyando was crying so hard and desperately clasping her side in pain that the machine on the other side of the bed started beeping.

A minute later, the doctor was in the room and Natasha was leading Ayanda out, her arm over her shoulder to steadily lead her to the nearest seat, a bench towards the far end of the corridor.

Ayanda sat down and hang her head in resignation. Natasha rushed to the end of the hallway and poured some water for Ayanda from the dispenser. She rushed back and handed the shaken up woman the cup.

Ayanda gulped down the contents at once and sighed heavily.

“What’s going on here?” It was Martha who had asked. She was in the company of Joshua, Ben and Tulani.

“Tasha?” an astound Tulani said before going over to his mother. “Are you feeling sick mother?”

Looking up at her son, Ayanda broke down in tears again. She wrapped her arms around his legs and sobbed.

Tulani sent a puzzling look in Natasha’s direction.

Natasha could not bring herself to explain what had just happened. She wasn’t even sure how much Ayanda had heard.

So, she shrugged her shoulders.

“She hasn’t been able to sleep since the accident. Could be the stress is finally getting to her.” Joshua commented.

“How could that girl do this to us?” Ayanda said in-between sobs. She had removed her head from Tulani’s legs and was now looking up at her son.

“She said she’s in-love with you!”

“What?” Tulani asked, shocked by the unexpected development. He was looking at Natasha again but she was shaking her head profusely to declare her innocence in the matter. Clearly, his mother wasn’t talking about her.

“Who’s in-love with…oooh.” Martha stopped herself in time.

Ayanda suddenly stood up. “She’s not sick! She hasn’t lost her memories!” She wailed, pointing towards Luyando’s room.

Bernard and Martha shared knowing looks while Joshua looked appeared unfazed by the shocking news. Tulani was the only one who appeared to have received the news for the first time.

“You all knew?” Ayanda eyes searched the face of each person standing before her, disgusted by the sudden realization that she might have been the only person who had no idea the woman she called her daughter for the past twenty years was deceiving her to such an extent.

“How could you not tell me she was faking it?” Ayanda cried.

“I only found out last evening,” Bernard said.

“And he is just from telling me.” Martha chipped in.

“I knew it from the very beginning.” Joshua remarked unapologetically. “How did you find out?”

“I heard her telling this young lady here….” She was pointing at Natasha. “Are you my grandson’s mother?” Ayanda finally realized who Natasha was.

Natasha nodded.

“Are you saying that Luyando faked her amnesia?” Tulani asked.

Just then the doctor appeared from Luyando’s room. He spotted the family standing in the distance and started walking towards them.

“She was too stressed so I gave her a sedative to calm her down. She’s sleeping now. In future, it would be better if….”

“What happened?” A very concerned Ben asked the doctor.

“She must have been agitated by something,” Doctor Soko answered, looking accusingly at Ayanda and Natasha.

“I’m going back home.” Ayanda announced and left the group in stunned silence.

“I have the car keys,” Joshua said, glad to have an excuse to leave as well. He had been dragged to the hospital against his will.

“I will go in and see her,” Ben said, leaving before anyone could say anything. Martha quietly followed him behind, leaving a visibly shocked Tulani and a worried Natasha behind.

“Are you okay?” Natasha asked Tulani, guiding him back to the bench behind them.

Tulani sat down. “What happened Tasha? How did mum find out about Lulu’s feelings? And what’s this about her faking the amnesia? I don’t understand.”

Natasha sat down. “Your mother overheard Luyando and I talking. We both had no idea she had been listening.” She explained. “I knew Lulu was faking the amnesia the moment I walked into the room and we locked eyes.

“For someone who had never seen me before, the intensity of her hostility towards me was too much for someone who has never seen me before. Of course she tried to pretend but I provoked her into losing her cool and she ended up spilling everything.

“She didn’t mind telling me the truth because she thought no one would believe me. it would be my word against hers and naturally people would be inclined to believe the patient over the accuser. Unfortunately, I was not her only audience…your mother had heard the whole thing, well, at least most of it I think. I am not sure how long she had been standing there.”

“What exactly did Lulu say that made mum so upset?” Tulani asked.

“She talked about how she spilt her own blood to get into your family and how she wasn’t going to let me take you or anything else away from her. She said in no uncertain terms that she was in-love with you. I think that’s what shocked your mother more than the realization that Luyando was faking everything.

“She was probably shocked that Luyando was doing all these things…even risking losing her own children just so she could be with you. I don’t think your mother had any idea Luyando might feel that way about you but it appeared your dad knew all along.”

“How could my mother know?” Tulani asked. “She was too busy getting excited about the idea of having a daughter that loved her like the whole world revolved around her to notice what was happening on the sides.

“Luyando was also careful not to let anything slip especially when we were at home. Mum took her over concern in my personal life as simply an elder sister looking out for her little brother. If at all the thought occurred to mum, she probably brushed it off as ludicrous.”

“And your dad, how did he know?” Natasha asked.

“My father became a rich man at a very tender age so he’s learnt over the years that people are not always what they seem. He’s had to be protective of who surrounds him and the family and he always questions everyone that tries to get close.

“He had always been suspicious of Luyando…he said the timing when she approached us was just too perfect for coincidence,” he laughed. “Unfortunately, by the time he found the diary, mum had already grown attached to Luyando.”

“What about you? You never suspected that she could have lied about her father? We never got to talk about your reaction when your dad revealed that he had read her diary.”

“I never suspected anything of course,” he answered. “I was just as shocked as my mother that day. but after knowing Lulu for so many years, I think both my mother and I looked at the whole thing as simply Luyando’s desperation to be loved by someone.

“She’s been a part of us all these years and I genuinely loved her like a sister, I still do. Just because these things have come out does not mean I have to turn my back on her. I know most people won’t understand…but I wish you would. Do you think you can?”

“I think you are forgetting one thing Tula; Luyando is my sister too.” She reminded him.

“Ah!” Tulani said. “I forgot about that. This whole thing is crazy eish. I hope it won’t affect our marriage, no, I won’t let it affect us. I refuse to let it get in our way. If our parents try to give us a hard time, what do you think about eloping? After we already have a child, there’s no escaping this. It’s just a matter of signing a piece of paper.”

Tulani was too deep making mental calculations concerning the future that when he finally turned to look at Natasha for a response, he found her gaping at him in incredulity.

“What?” Tulani asked.

“Did you even hear yourself?” She asked him.

“I heard myself loud and clear.” Tulani was as unapologetic in his delivery as he was in his love for her. “Go out on a date with me Tasha, please. We haven’t sat down to talk just the two of us since you came. Aren’t you scared that another girl might steal me away from you?”

“Human beings don’t get stolen Tula; they leave on their own.”

“But you will still go out with me right?”

The look that Natasha was sending him was clearly asking him; have you no shame? But Tulani did not look like he was ashamed of the fact that he was shameless.

“What do you think is going to happen to Luyando?” Natasha changed the topic. “Where’s her husband by the way?”

“Peter,” Tulani said. “He was here a few days ago and hasn’t been since. He thinks that Lu’s suicide attempt was selfish…that a mother shouldn’t be so self-centred. It was the first time I was him upset. He’s such a soft-spoken guy. But I think he’s also mad that Luyando had erased him and the kids from her memory like they were not that important.”

“He’s a medical doctor,” Natasha said. “What if it was real amnesia? I don’t think amnesia is something that occurs just because someone instructs their brain to forget. Doesn’t the brain do that on its own as a coping mechanism?”

“Honestly, I have no idea. I think that the two of them were having problems way before this thing happened. I wonder what will happen now if…when he finds out the reason why she faked amnesia.”

After Martha, Natasha and the Mulenga’s left the hospital, Bernard remained behind to stay with his daughter when she wakes up. Two hours had passed and Luyando had not woken up.

Worried that something might be happening to his daughter, Ben went out to get the doctor and when he came back, he found Luyando gone.

For the second time, his daughter had run away from him.

* * *

Tulani had just finished talking on the phone with his son and was getting ready for bed when he heard a knock on the door. He dressed up again and went to check who might be visiting at such an ungodly hour.

He was half-way though the living room when he realized it might be Luyando. He quickly rushed to the door and the video intercom by the side immediately confirmed his suspicions before he even opened the door.

Tulani opened the door to a dishevelled and disoriented looking Luyando.

“Where the hell have you been?” Tulani asked her right away. “We’ve been looking for you the whole day. Thought you went and did something crazy again.”

“Aren’t you going to let me in?” Luyando asked, sounding too calm for someone as headstrong as her.

Tulani stepped aside to let her in.

“Can you give me something warm to wear? I’m feeling very cold?” She went and sat down on the sofa. She was clearly shaking from the coldness of the night.

“Let me get you something,” He said, turning to leave and then stopping suddenly. “The remote for the AC is over there,” he pointed to the sofa next to the one she was sitting on.

Two minutes later, he appeared with a thick coat and a small blanket in his arms and handed it to her.

“Where the hell where you?” Tulani had sat on the arm of the other sofa, facing her. “Your father has been searching everywhere for you. He’s worried sick, we all were.”

“That man doesn’t care about me,” Luyando said when she was done putting on the coat. “He’ll probably be happier when I’m gone. It’s only guilt that’s making him act like that.”

“You shouldn’t be here Lu, your husband is probably waiting for you to come home right now. Your kids haven’t seen you for days.”

“I Just came from home right now,” she told him, a strange smile on her face. “I found Peter packed all his stuff and that of the children. They’re all gone. Left a note with just one line; I hope your brother makes you happy.”

“Is that why you decided to come here instead? shouldn’t you be out there looking for your family?”

Luyando laughed. “Good riddance to bad rubbish. I was gonna leave him anyway.”

“And what about the kids? Don’t you at least care about them?” At this point in time, Tulani had been forced to come a deep understanding of how his sister’s mind worked. If it wasn’t going her way, it wasn’t worth being in her life. But he still hoped that that wouldn’t be the case with her children.

“They are better off being with their father. you and I both know I was a terrible mother. Those kids don’t like me. They cry whenever I hold them in my arms and they go quite when held by the nanny. Being with their father is the best thing that can happen to them.”

Tulani was almost tempted to conquer with her. He had seen her with her children; it was the first time in his life he had seen children reject the affections of their own mother. At first he had reasoned that it could be because Luyando was always at work and rarely had tie to bond with them, but after everything that had happened, it had become distinctively clear that there had never been a bond between them to begin with.

“So is your plan to spend the night here instead?” Tulani asked her in a very serious tone.

“Where else can I go? My parents don’t want to have anything to do with me, my father’s family won’t even think about taking me in and frankly I wouldn’t even go to them if the world was crushing down on me.

“I couldn’t stay alone in that big house…and am still sick…so, you were the only person I know would welcome me. You know very well that I have no friends. You’ve always been my only friend.”

Tulani again had to accept that that was the hard truth; he was Luyando’s only friend. If he kicked her out right then, only God knew what she was likely to do.

“Alright,” Tulani made his decision. “You can sleep in the guest room.”

It was the best news Luyando had heard that day. “I can’t believe I finally get to sleep at your place. I guess something good had to happen out of all this drama.” There was a triumphant smile on her face, like a marathon running successfully crossing over the white line.

“I’ll be back in a bit,” Tulani said and left the room to go upstairs.

Luyando was beaming with happiness. She was finally getting rewarded for all the hardwork and pain she had had to suffer through. It Tulani thought that he could resist her even when she stood naked in front of him, then he had another thing coming.

“Tonight I seize to be your sister…little brother.” She whispered to Tulani’s back as he walked up the stairs.

Luyando made herself comfortable on the couch, stretching her legs out and covering herself with the blanket Tulani had brought for her. She turned on the TV as she waited for him to come back downstairs, a wide grin on her face. 

Five minutes later, Tulani appeared.

Luyando sat up the moment she saw him. “Are you feeling that cold too?” Tulani was now wearing a coat over his t-shirt.

“I’m going out,” he announced.

“What do you mean you are going out?” Luyando asked. It was then that she noticed his shoes. He hadn’t been wearing shoes when he opened the door.

“I am not a child Lu, I know very well why you are here.” Tulani said.

“What are you talking about?” Luyando feigned innocence.

“There’s everything in the house, I think.” Tulani said. “I am going to sleep at Kendrick’s place. It would be foolish for the both of us to sleep under the same roof…after everything that’s happened.”

And he turned to leave.

Luyando jumped from the chair and ran after him. He placed herself in front of the door to block him from leaving. “You are not going anywhere,” she said, almost sounding out of breath.

“Move out of my way Lu,” Tulani deliberately hardened his voice. 

“No, I am not going to let you leave this house Tula. Why are you running away from me? Are you scared that you might not be able to fight me now that you have me here in your house, at this hour?”

Tulani was looking at her like he would a child begging him for change on the streets of Lusaka.

“You are not in your right mind Lu, I think you should just go to bed.”

“I have never been as clear headed as I am right now!” She yelled. “Tula,” she placed her hands over his chest but he immediately peeled them off and gently pushed her to the side.

He had just opened the door to leave when he heard something rip behind him. He quickly turned to check.

The coat she had been wearing was lying on the ground and her dress was ripped apart from the middle.

Luyando’s body was completely exposed in the front…and she had not been wearing anything under her dress.

“Do you think your neighbours would hear me if I screamed loud enough?” she asked Tulani.

Tulani could not believe what was happening in his own house. If before he had doubts about Luyando’s state of mind, he was now convinced beyond reasonable doubt that she was in desperate need of psychological help.

“I wonder what will happen to TMH’s stock on the market when it’s revealed that the CEO tried to rape his own sister?”

Something broke inside Tulani and he felt a tear run down his face.
He walked over to where Luyando was standing, bent down to pick up her coat and wrapped it around her.

“What do you think you are doing?” Luyando asked bemusedly. “I must look like a joke to you. Do you think I am bluffing?”

Tulani zipped her up in his coat and took a step back from her. “I don’t think you are bluffing,” he said. “I truly believe that you are going to scream loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear.”

“Are you patronizing me?” Luyando asked, her pride down on the ground. Without warning, she started screaming.

Tulani watched in stunned horror as she unzipped the coat and dropped it back on the floor. She ruffled her hair with her hands, bending up and down to make sure her screams were coming out as loud as possible and like a mad woman she started throwing things around the house, anything she could get her hands on.

The neighbourhood dogs were now barking in full force and ready for attack.

It appeared Luyando had succeeded in waking up the whole neighbourhood.

All the while, Tulani watched in silence, his arms crossed over his chest. “I’m leaving now.” He announced nonchalantly. “You can tell the neighbours whatever you wish to say.” He started walking to the door and just before exiting; he stopped and turned to look at her.

“Ah,” he said. “I forgot to mention, don’t forget to smile for the camera.” He pointed to the huge chandelier hanging above her. “Dad’s idea,” he said, smiling and shrugging his shoulders at the same time.

“Arhhhuhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” Luyando screamed and threw a flower vase at him.

But Tulani had already left the house.

As the flower vase and Tulani’s glass door became one in pieces, Luyando broke down to the floor and cried her heart out.

Like the broken glass on the floor in front of her, Luyando’s world had crushed into tiny pieces that could never be mended.  

A Twisted Fate – Part 6

Martha felt the world around her spin as she read the heart wrenching words that her husband’s daughter had intended to leave as her last thoughts.

Dear Dad,

I am sorry to write such a letter to you.
I am tired of feeling like no one truly loves me in this world and this is the only thing I thought would give me the peace I need.

Your wife Martha made it clear that the family you’ve created with her is more important to you and that I have no more room in your heart after all the things I’ve done. I am sorry that I accused you of all those things I told the Mulengas dad. But still, how could you not just think of it as actions of a little girl in desperate need of love and attention?

Why did you have to let me down for the second time?

Because of what your wife told my parents, I am no longer welcome in the family I have considered as my own all these years when I had no one else. I love my mother and I respect dad even though he does not trust me. After everything’s said and done, the fact still remains that they are still my family…even if they’ve rejected me.

Please tell them that I am sorry for everything I put them through.

And Tulani that I loved him to my last breath.

I am sorry that I could not get along with your wife…. Maybe we would have gotten along in time but…I am feeling like this right now because of the things she said to me…so how can I forgive her?

She has already taken you away from me, why did she have to take away the Mulenga’s as well? I didn’t mean all those things I said to you, I just wanted to see if you still cared about me even if you have a whole new family.

How can I continue living in this world like this? I am tired. I want to go to the only place I know I will be welcomed. I know that my mother is waiting for me with open arms. She is the only one in this world who ever loved me for who I am.

So dad, if there is any part of you that still thinks of me as your daughter, then please, take care of my children for me and tell them that I am sorry…and that I love them.

I love you dad…and I am sorry.

Your daughter,

Luyando.

Unable to take the shock anymore, Martha sat down on the bench in front of her and looked up at her husband.

“You don’t honestly believe I did the things she’s accusing me of do you?”

“I don’t know what to believe any more,” Ben said, clearly avoiding her gaze.

“I see,” she said and got up again. “Then I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

“Martha!” Ben was about to follow her but the doctor chose that moment to appear from the operating room.

Hearing Ben’s name called, Martha stopped and waited at a distance to hear the news he was bearing.

Mr and Mrs Mulenga ran over to where Ben was standing with the doctor to hear the news.

“How….” Ben had started to ask when the doctor went straight into explaining.

“She’s okay,” he said. “The injuries were very minor. Apart from a few broken ribs and scratches here and there, everything else is intact.”

The four of them heaved long sighs of relief.

“Can we see her now?” Ayanda asked.

“They have to move her to a ward first so let’s wait about ten…fifteen minutes while the nurses get her ready for visitors.”

Satisfied that Luyando was okay, Martha turned and quietly walked out of the hospital.

While they waited for Luyando to be moved, Ben took the opportunity to ask the Mulenga’s the questions he had been dying to ask but couldn’t get a chance to when he arrived at the hospital.

“Where did you get my contact information?”

“Your wife gave my husband your number. She was at our home a few hours ago.” Ayanda said.

So Luyando was right, Ben thought. Martha did talk to her.

“Man to man,” Joshua said. “You should apologize to your wife for the way you treated her. If not for her, you wouldn’t be here right now.”

“You are right on that last part,” Ben said. “She went to see you people behind my back now look where we are? She should have trusted me to handle it. What was she thinking telling you people all those things?”

“Don’t forget we all read the letter,” Joshua replied. “And we were also there when your wife spoke to Luyando. After the things your daughter accused you of, how can you so easily believe the accusations she’s levelled against your wife?”

“These words were meant to be her last,” Bernard argued. “How can she possibly lie?”

“You are assuming that she actually meant to take her own life.” Joshua said.

“Bashi Tula,” Ayanda sent him a warning shot. “How can you say something like that?”

“She’s tried this before so many times and it was always to get attention and sympathy. What makes you think it’s different this time around?”

“What?” A shocked Ben asked.

“She drove her vehicle into another car, on the highway!” Ayanda yelled. “How serious can it get?”

“And she just happened to swerve last minute and only got hit on the side?” Joshua asked. “You heard what the cops said, if that third driver hadn’t decided to run a red light right at that moment, Luyando and the driver she hit would have walked away with just a few scratches.”

Ayanda was burning with anger. “I get it that you don’t trust her but….”

“Mum! Dad!” Tulani ran towards them.

“What happened to Lulu? I got here as quickly as I could, the traffic was….” It was then that he spotted Natasha’s father next to his parents looking dazed and paralyzed in what he could only conclude to be fear or anxiety.

“Son,” Ayanda grabbed her son’s hand and started sobbing. There was a puzzling expression on his face which almost mirrored the look of horror in Ben’s eyes. Thinking the worst had happened, he started to ask, “Did…did something…bad….” He couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.

Tulani now had his mother in his arms, comforting her from whatever pains he was yet to be informed about.

“Your mother is just overreacting,” Joshua said, moving away from them to sit on the nearest bench.

“So you mean Lu is okay?” Tulani shouted to his father.

“Yes, we are waiting for them to move her to a ward. She just had surgery.”

“Surgery?”

Ayanda sobbed some more in her son’s arms, wrapping her arms tightly around him.

“She broke a few ribs and she had a few scratches but that’s all.” Joshua explained.

Tulani finally released the breath he had been holding. “Mum, she’s going to be alright so why are you still crying? We will be seeing her real soon.”

Ayanda stepped away from him and looking up at him she said, “I’m going to the bathroom for a bit.” And she left her son standing alone with Bernard.

Tulani turned to the man standing next to him. “I don’t know if you remember me….” he started to introduce himself.

“I know who you are,” Ben said, still looking out of it. “You are my grandson’s father, Tulani Mulenga.”

For a moment, Tulani forgot about his sister lying sick in a bed somewhere and grinned from ear to ear, happy to hear that his future father in-law still remembered him.

“But,” he stopped smiling and looked quizzically at the man. “Do you know my parents?”

“Turns out that your father in-law is an old acquaintance of mine.” Joshua joined the men, saving Ben the trouble of explaining the complicated and messy relationship they were all tangled in. Something like that required its own time and place. He knew the truth might shock his son.

They had had enough shocking for a day.

Ben sent Joshua a gratitude-filled gaze but he’s mind was going over the fact that he had referred to him as Tulani’s father in-law. Nothing about the man made any sense from the moment he met him.

“Wow, it’s a small world indeed!” an excited Tulani exclaimed.

“We were somewhere close to this place catching up when we received the news about your sister.” Joshua explained.

“What’s this I heard on the news in the car, on my way here, they said that she tried to commit suicide? Why would Lu try to take her own life at this point in her life? What gave reporters that idea?”

Joshua shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, his hands in his pockets. “You work in the media industry; you know how these things work. Anyway, it’s a long story, I am sure we will find out from Luyando what happened once she works up.”

“What’s with your tone dad?” Tulani asked.

“Tell him Joshua,” Ayanda said from behind them.

“This is neither the time nor the place for this woman,” he curtly told his wife.

Just then a nurse appeared to tell them they could see Luyando. “But we only allow two visitors at a time,” she said to the whole bunch that had started following her.

Joshua turned to Ben. “I think she would want to see you first before she sees any of us.”

“Heh?” Tulani was looking at his father in disbelief.

“You can go in with my wife while I have a talk with my son.”

“What’s going on here?” a very puzzled Tulani asked the three.

Ayanda continued following the nurse while the men tried to work it out with Tulani.

“Thank you very much sir,” Bernard said and followed Ayanda and the nurse.

“Dad?” Tulani quizzed his father.

“Let’s talk outside,” Joshua said started leading them towards the door.

Back in Luyando’s ward, there was silence for ten minutes as Ayanda and Bernard nervously waited for Luyando to wake up.

“Why isn’t she waking up?” Ayanda had grabbed the hand of the nurse passing back and brought her to Luyando’s bed side. “The doctor said she would be up by now? Is something wrong with my daughter? What if….”

“Try to relax ma’am,” the nurse was smiling as she spoke, trying to reassure the anxious parent. “The surgery went very well so there is nothing to worry about. The patient is most probably sleeping…relaxing…considering the nature of the accident, she could still be in shock and just trying to sleep it off.”

While Ayanda was nagging the poor nurse, Ben was seated by his daughter’s bedside, holding her hand with his gaze fixed resolutely upon her face while his mind went back to the contents of her suicide note.

Shutting his eyes briefly, Ben replayed the words in his head;

I didn’t mean all those things I said to you, I just wanted to see if you still cared about me even if you have a whole new family.

“Dad….”

Ben froze for a second before looking up to find Luyando’s eyes open.

“Baby!” Ayanda ran to her side. “Oh thank God, you are up now.”

There was a puzzled expression on Luyando’s face as she looked up at her mother. Slowly turning her gaze towards her father, “dad, who is this lady?” she asked.

Ayanda gasped.

Looking very concerned, Ben called the nurse. “Lulu, don’t you know who this lady is?” he asked.

Luyando tried to sit up but winced in pain from the surgery. Ben quickly held her down. “Don’t move just yet honey,” he told her.

“I’m going to get the doctor,” the nurse said and quickly left the room.

“You look so old dad,” Luyando said, touching her father’s rough beard. “Where are we?”

Ayanda and Bernard shared a look of horror.

“What’s happening?” Ayanda asked. “Sweetie,” she leaned in towards her daughter. “Don’t you recognize your mother?”

Luyando’s scowled at her. “You are not my mother!” she yelled and tried to move away from her.

Two drops of tears fell from Ayanda’s eyes.

“Dad, where’s mum? Who’s this lady?” Luyando was growing anxious and agitated now.
The doctor rushed in and asked the two to leave immediately so he could examine his patient.

Ayanda could hear her daughter crying for her late mother as Ben led her out of the room.

“What is happening to her? Did she lose her memory? They said it was a simple surgery….”

Joshua and Tulani appeared.

“What’s going on?” Joshua asked.

“Why are you crying mum?” Tulani rushed to her side and put his arm around her.

“It appears Luyando has lost all her memories for the past twenty years,” Ben explained.

Ayanda broke out in full-out sobs upon hearing the words she had been dreading to hear.

“What?” Tulani asked.

“The doctor is examining her right now. He will tell us more, I am just speculating from what happened while we were with her.”

“What happened?” Joshua asked.

“She couldn’t recognize me!” Ayanda cried. “She looked at me straight in the eye and asked me who I was? She thinks her real mother is still alive! She’s forgotten about all of us….”

When the doctor finally came out and asked to speak to Luyando’s guardian, the whole team went and crowded in his office, all wanting to hear the problem at the same time.

“The patient has what we call Dissociative amnesia,” the doctor confirmed everyone’s worst nightmare.

“You said that the surgery went just fine!” Ayanda yelled at him.

“Yes, the surgery went perfectly well ma’am and what your daughter is suffering from right now is not a result of the surgery.”

The blank looks on the faces of the three people looking back at him told the doctor that he had not yet won his audience.

“I am not sure what she has been through since I have not seen her previous medical records,” he continued. “However, it appears your daughter has blocked out certain information, experiences from her past…could be traumatizing events such as abuse, or even an accident. It could also be that something traumatic happened to her very recently and her memories have been blocked as a mechanism of dealing with, or getting rid of the stress.”

Their faces were now telling him that he had them fully on board.

“I will need to examine her further to determine a proper diagnosis and only then will I be able to give you a prognosis.”

“Whatever the cost will be, please examine her doctor,” Ayanda said. “I will bring her medical files tomorrow…please, just do whatever it takes to make sure she recovers her memories,” she cried. “Money isn’t a problem so please…give her whatever treatment and medication is necessary….”

“There’s no medication for this kind of condition,” the doctor informed them. “However, psychotherapy and cognitive rehabilitation have been known to treat such conditions. But let’s see how the patient does in the meantime before we jump to conclusions.”

* * *

On her drive back home, Martha turned on the car stereo to keep her mind from thinking and thinking nonstop.

“The opposition party People For Progress is scheduled to vote for their successor tomorrow morning.” A female radio presenter said.

Martha was about to change the channel when she remembered Natasha’s comments about politics in the country. Might as well get informed so I can have something to talk about with my new local friends, she thought.

“My money is on the Party’s General Secretary Nataniel Kaponda,” the presenter went on.

Martha’s eyes opened wide and she found herself hitting her breaks and putting her car to stop right in the middle of the road. The driver behind her who was caught off-guard honked continuously at her, lowered down his window and hailed insults at her before turning his car and driving off.

Martha moved her vehicle and parked it on the side of the road.

“He’s been very vocal in the past year and he appears to be a favourite among party supporters.” The presenter was saying.

Martha turned up the volume and listened in petrified horror, both her legs and arms shaking.

“I don’t agree with you Stef,” her male colleague said. “I actually think that the Vice president would take this one. Isn’t it only natural that the second in command takes over after the demise of the leader?”

“The PfP have a very special constitution Arthur so let’s not forget that. The president in power is the one who picks his vice, and not the party members. That’s why they are voting tomorrow, only the person favoured by most…the one they feel can win them next year’s general elections can take over the party and only, and I mean only Nataniel Kaponda has the qualities necessary to fill in the shoes of the late president.

“He is suave, intelligent, he can articulate himself well, he’s well educated, rich…very rich as a matter of fact and, he is also good looking despite his age.”

Arthur laughed. “That’s the problem with women; everything somehow always goes back to looks. Politics are way more complicated than that Stef.”

“Out of everything I said about the man, you only heard the good looking part?” Stefani argued. “Just look at David the Vice President, the man talks slow…extreeemely slow and in a very low tone. I always have to turn up the volume when he comes on air and just watching him talk is too painful for my young soul.

“He’s also been involved in numerous scandals in the past, the many women in his life, say, if he becomes president, which of his six wives will become First Lady?” she busted out laughing.

Martha reached out and turned off the radio.

“Noooo….” She cried. “Dear God no.” she was crying and shaking her head at the same time.

Two hours later, with puffed up eyes, Martha opened the gate to their home and drove in to find Natasha waiting outside.

Natasha ran over to her before she could even park. “Mum!” she called out to her.

“Martha stopped the car midway and rolled down her window.

“Mum!” Her mother’s physical state instantly freaked her out. “Mum, are you okay? What happened to you? Did something happen?”

Martha tried to smile, but her tear-stained face was not helping her case. “I’m fine,” she said, avoiding her daughter’s gaze. “Is your father back?” She was looking at the spot where Ben usually parked his car and she got her answer right away.

“I thought you were together,” Natasha said. “I came home and found none of your cars parked, I kept calling your phones but they are both off. I have been worried sick mum. Did something happen?”

Martha slowly raised her eyes to look at her daughter. She could not keep the tears at bay anymore and so they came pouring out.

“Mum,” Natasha’s eyes instantly became watery. She opened the door and reached out to her mother, pulling her into her arms.

“What happened?” She asked.

“Just hold me like this for a little while, don’t talk.” Martha said.

“I won’t,” Natasha said.

“I am so sorry,” Martha cried.

Natasha wanted to ask her what she was sorry about but she kept her promise not to talk.

Ten minutes later, mother and daughter were sitting in the kitchen.

“Sean?” Martha asked.

“Sleeping,” her daughter answered. “Aren’t you going to tell me what made you cry like that? I haven’t seen you shaken up like that since I was a kid. And where’s dad?”

Knowing she could not tell her daughter about the actual pain that had made her cry, Martha was forced to talk about Luyando instead.

By the time Martha was done telling her everything, Natasha was laughing and clutching her stomach, except, it was not the normal kind of laughter; it was a detached kind of  laughter, painful to experience and painful to watch.

“Tasha….” Martha was filled with worry. Did her daughter just lose her mind? And who could blame her? It’s not always that one is told that the sister of the man she loves, who also happens to be the father of her child…that that woman is also her sister…on top her being in-love with her brother. And now the said sister was accusing her step-mother of driving her to suicide…after first accusing her own father of rape and physical abuse?

“And dad believes her?” Natasha asked once she was done laughing.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Martha said. “But when I looked into his eyes earlier today, I saw doubt in there…towards me.”

“How can dad believe that woman after everything she’s done and said in the past?”

“He desperately wants to win her trust so he will believe anything she says or does right now.” Martha told her daughter.

“Well, that’s just disappointing. I expected better from him.

Martha could hear the disappointment in her daughter’s voice loud and clear and it broke her heart. Even though she didn’t want to put her husband in a position to choose between his daughter and his family, Martha had hoped that at the very least, he could have trusted her enough to hear her side of story.

“Should we tell Alex about this?” Natasha asked.

“Oh no,” Martha said. “You know how he allows things to get to him. Let him write his exams first…otherwise he will be acting out and misbehaving again.”

“Who are you?”

Luyando had suddenly opened her eyes and found Tulani’s face above her, closely searching her face for something.

“Oh you are awake,” he stepped away from her. “How are you feeling?”

“Who are you?” She asked again, her face showing no signs of recognition.

“I am a friend of yours…but you probably don’t remember,” he lied. “My name’s Tulani.”

Luyando smiled shyly “Are you my boyfriend?” She asked. “You are very good looking.”

Tulani nervously laughed. “You and I are close enough to be considered siblings. My mother even calls you her daughter.”

“Ah, so that woman who was in here earlier is your mother….”

“Yes.”

“And you and I weren’t dating?”

“No, I have a girlfriend and we have a child together….”

The smile on her face disappeared instantly.

“And you, you are married to a very wonderful man and you have beautiful twins together, a boy and a girl. The kids are with my mother right now and your husband….well, we haven’t been able to get through to him, yet.”

“Why?” She asked.

“He could be in the operating room or attending to patients…he’s a doctor.”

“I am married to a doctor?” She appeared excited by the thought.

Tulani laughed. “I am sure he will be here as soon as he finds out about what’s happened. He….” He was cut short by his phone ringing from his pockets. “Excuse me,” he said as he took out his phone.

Tulani smiled the moment he saw who was calling. “I have to take this,” he said and left the room.

Luyando watched his retreating figure with a bitter-sweet smile on her face.

“Did you dial my number by accident or what? Please tell me it wasn’t by accident…please, please.”

Natasha laughed. “I meant to call you.”

“Thank God!” Tulani said as he walked into the lobby. Just then, he spotted Peter entering the hospital and saw his mother go after him. To avoid the drama, he turned around and went in the opposite direction.

He could only imagine the amount of tongue lashing Luyando’s husband was going to be subjected to.

“What are you laughing at?” Natasha asked him.

“Nothing, just saw something funny. I take it your mother has told you….”

“So you’ve been told too.”

“Isn’t this whole thing crazy?”

“Did you read her note?” Natasha asked.

There was a pause first before Tulani’s voice came through. “I did. I think she was just upset when she wrote it…probably felt she had to get back at your mother for exposing her secret.”

“So you know she was lying right?”

Tulani laughed. “I know so relax. Is that why you called me? For a moment I thought it was because you missed me….”

“How can you have the heart to think about other things with all that’s happening right now?”

“What’s gonna change if I act sad and pitiful?” he asked.

“Huh?”

“What’s happened has happened. There is nothing we can do or say that will change anything. Right now the only thing we can do is hope for the best.”

“I had forgotten what a happy-go-lucky fella you are,” Natasha laughed. “You sound like you are still at the hospital, how’s Luyando doing? Is she up now?”

“Yes she’s up but….”

“But what?”

“There’s something you need to know….”

“Now you are scaring me Tula.”

“Thing is…Luyando…she’s lost her memory, well, some of her memories.”

“You mean as in amnesia? She has amnesia? Mum said the accident wasn’t that bad and that the injuries were….”

“The doctor said the memory loss is probably a way Luyando’s brain has thought to deal with the trauma and stress in her life. All her secrets have been revealed and her whole life was falling to pieces. The only safe place she knew she could run to was to a time when her mother was still alive.”

“So she’s forgotten everything that’s happened from the time her mother died?”

“Pretty much,” Tulani said.

“Dear Lord, it just keeps getting stranger and stranger.”

“You can say that again.”

“So what’s going to happen now? I mean…with your parents…and with mine?”

“I really don’t know Tasha…but, I won’t let whatever is happening with Luyando and our parents get in our way. I meant it when I said I want to marry you and nothing is going to change that.

“I know that I sound like a jerk right now for bringing this up but…I just need you to remember that. I know you…and I know that you’ve probably already killed off any possibilities between us…but….”

“Let’s talk about this later Tula,” she cut him off.

“I know….”

“I have to go now. I need to inform mum about this situation. Wait, I almost forgot…my dad, how is he?”

“He’s hanging in there.”

Natasha sat down on her bed. “He’s not fine is he?”

“Well, considering what’s happening, I think it’s understandable that he’s confused.”

“Is he planning on spending the night there?”

“I should think so,” he said.

“Can you do me a favour then?”

“Sure, anything. What is it?”

“Can you make sure he’s warm at night? He gets really cold in the night…if….”

“Don’t worry about it Tasha, I will take care of him.”

Fighting back tears, Natasha said, “Thank you Tula. Thanks.”

Tulani could hear the cracks in her voice. “I love you Tasha, have a good night.” And he cut the line before she could say anything in return.

Natasha kept the phone to her ear even after Tulani had cut the line. She closed her eyes, sighed heavily and slowly removed the phone from her ear.

“I love you too.” She said, looking at the phone in her hand.

“I love you too Tulani.” She repeated.

Back at the hospital, Tulani was too busy celebrating in his head the minor victory he had scored with Natasha as he walked towards the lobby that he did not see Luyando’s figure peering at him from behind the wall.

Luyando’s menacing gaze followed Tulani until he disappeared from her sight. Wincing in pain and clutching her stomach, she leaned her back against the wall to lessen the pain.

“I almost died today but you are here romancing that bitch like nothing’s happened?” she bit down her lower lip and winced in pain again.

“I will teach all of you a lesson you will never forget.” She added as tears streamed down her cheeks.  

Escape from Love

He’s a gem of a man, behold!
Arrogant but shy
Charming by the day
But a devil in the night

He’s fluent in the languages of love, lust, loneliness and heartbreak
His lips whisper promises of ectasy and boundless liquid pleasure

Reality he grapples with
Fantasy he embraces
Time he hates

His world is a facade of castles and kingdoms
With marble walls and glass doors
A mirage of sorts;
He the king and I his queen

His mind is a dome of complexity
It speaks of love in the morning
And lust in the evenings

But love I’ve had and want no more
A prisoner of lust am bound by choice
I seek no more and I desire not his heart
….Or anyone else’s

Escape is my precedence
And he…a fortunate accident
But wait,
Did i just stutter?
😊😊😊

A Twisted Fate – Part 5

image

Martha had been watching her husband’s strange behaviour all through dinner. She could tell that some
thing was bothering him and she suspected that whatever it was had something to do with his trip to the mall earlier that day.

“Why aren’t you eating dad?” It appeared Bernard’s sour mood could not escape his daughter either.

Bernard finally gave up pretending to eat and laid his folk down. “I’m sorry, am just not feeling too well.” He then got up and went upstairs. Martha followed him up a few minutes later.

She found him lying on the bed, face up and with eyes closed.

“When are you going to tell me what’s bothering you my husband?” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “What did your daughter say to you?”

Bernard slowly opened his eyes and looked at his wife. “How did you know?”

“Because she is the only person in the world that has this kind of effect on you.”

He sat up. “Martha,” he said.

She said nothing in return, just kept looking at him hoping he would tell her right away.

“I think my daughter is in-love with her brother.”

Martha’s jaw dropped to the ground.

“I think Luyando likes Tulani.” Ben repeated.

Martha still had the same befuddled expression on her face, her lips could not move. Ben was watching her, waiting for her to say something.

“Did she tell you that?” Martha finally managed to separate her Siamese lips.

Ben shook his head. “Not directly, but her actions are suggesting the fact loud enough for a father to know.”

“Maybe you just misunderstood her,” Martha said, willing to consider anything else but. “Maybe she’s just scared that Natasha coming into their lives might expose the lies she told her family.”

“No honey,” Ben insisted. “I might not have raised her, but she’s still my daughter. I know what I’m talking about.”

Martha was back on mute, her mind going over the kind of complications that might arise if something like that came to light. What was going to happen to her daughter? How did that child find herself in such a tangled mess?

“She asked me to convince Natasha to leave Tulani.”

“What?” Martha was looking at her husband like he had already delivered on the betrayal.

“She said that she will tell her family and the police that I threatened to do her harm if she told anyone that I was back in the county.”

“What?” That was the only word at the tip of her tongue.

Ben closed his eyes and tried to hold his breath in an effort to fight back the tears threatening to erupt. He had held it in the whole day but the idea that his own daughter would hate and resent him to such an extent was too strong for him to keep holding it together. 

Martha saw the quivering lips of her husband, knowing too well the demons he was fighting. Her decision to move closer and put her arms around him was like the last straw that needed pulling to drive Ben over the wall.

He finally broke down. “What did I turn my daughter into?” He cried.

Gently running her hand through his hair, the determined look in Martha’s eyes suggested she had come to a decision.

***

Lunch at Tulani Media House was equivalent to a feast at a five star hotel; it was the richest menu Natasha had ever seen at a place of work. If a healthy and delicious lunch menu was part of the motivational package of the company’s HR strategy, then the media company was operating at an all-time high.

Natasha’s head was buried in a plate of delicious pasta when she thought she heard her son’s voice. She paused for a second, pulled her hair behind her ears so she could hear properly and when nothing came, she went back to finishing the business on her plate.

Her three colleagues-turned-friends sitting with her on the table had stopped eating and were all looking at her with bemusement. When she finally cleared her plate, she heaved a sigh of relief, pulled the plate to the side and finally raised her head up.

“I really hate skinny people,” the slightly plump Astridah remarked, shaking her head and looking at Natasha’s empty plate with indignation. “How can you eat so much and still stay that thin? It’s so unfair. Ine I put on weight just from smelling delicious food.”

Natasha, Nicole and Boyd broke out in laughter.

“Every beautiful woman has some deadly flaw hidden somewhere…I think we just uncovered this lady’s flaw today my dear colleagues.” The twenty-six year old Boyd teased his new supervisor.

Natasha finished cleaning her hands and mouth and laid the napkin back on the table before giving each of the three a questioning look. “If you think you’ve just discovered my flaw, wait till you see me naked.” She said in a deliberately stern low key that caused the two other girls to laugh and Boyd to ask;

“Is that an invitation?”

Natasha gave him a blank look.

Boyd laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“Your taste in women is too ambitious Boyd,” Astridah said.

“That’s only because you are the only one in this place outside the bracket of women I would love to date,” Boyd fired back.

“Ouch!” Nicole said.

Astridah dipped the tip of her fingers in her glass of water and sprayed it in Boyd’s face. “You are such an arsehole Boyd,” she said. “And just so you know, you are also not my type.”

“Oooh,” Boyd playfully placed his hand over his heart. “I’m touched.”

“I like my men strong and healthy. A skinny little fella like you would be crying for his mama if handled by a woman like me. Heeeeeee maaaami musana ine nafa.” She was taunting her colleague by making more crying sounds.

Natasha and Nicole busted out laughing while Boyd nursed his bruised ego, genuinely appearing offended by Astridah’s taunting remarks.

“I actually think that the two of you like each other,” Nicole commented.

“Hell no!” the two of them answered at once.

Natasha and Nicole shared knowing looks and started laughing again.

“Mum!”

Natasha heard it again, but this time her son’s voice sounded closer than before…like he was right behind her. She slowly turned her head to look and behold, there was Sean in Tulani’s arms right behind her.

“Mum?” Boyd asked.

The whole cafeteria had fallen into silence, with only the sound of soft music playing in the background.

“Sean!” Natasha jumped from her chair. She sent Tulani who was grinning widely at her an admonishing look. “What are you doing here…with him?” she added in a whisper.

“I didn’t get to spend enough time with him yesterday so I thought; why not steal him for a bit over lunch?” Tulani spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear. Natasha immediately regretted having asked the question.

“Mum, dad said we could have lunch together!” The four year old shouted, oblivious to everything happening around him.

“Dad?” Boyd and Astridah asked at the same time.

Luyando picked that very moment to appear at the door of the cafeteria.

Spotting Luyando by the door, Natasha took Sean from Tulani’s arms and started walking towards the door.

Instead of following the two right away, beaming, Tulani leaned in towards the table where the three were seated and said, “yes, that’s my boy!” And he ran after Natasha and Sean, leaving the rest of the room behind drowning in shock.

At the door, Natasha had to stop to give Luyando who was standing right at the centre a chance to step away so she could pass through. But it appeared the CFO had no plans of shifting camp.

“Sis,” Tulani said once he caught up with them. “I was going to bring him over to your office but the little gangster insisted on seeing his mother first. Meet my son, Sean Mapalo Mulenga. Son, this is your Aunt. Say his Aunty Luyando….”

“Hi Aunt Yado,” the boy said.

Tulani was laughing so hard his sides started to hurt. “You gotto love the American accent,” he said whilst clutching his stomach with one hand and pointing the other at his son up in his mother’s arms.

He was the only one having a jolly good time…at the expense of the two women glaring at him indignantly.

“Aren’t you going to answer your nephew sis?” Tulani had suddenly sobered up and was standing up straight and giving his sister a daring look.

Luyando searched every inch of her anatomy and finally managed to conjure up a smile. Patting the four year old on the head she said, “Hi Sean. It’s finally nice to meet you.”

Sean smiled back at his aunt, only able to see what was happening with her lips and not with her eyes.

Luyando’s fiery gaze could light up a whole village.

“We need to pass,” Natasha finally spoke.

Luyando gave her nemesis a look of indignation before stepping aside.

Once in the lift, Natasha put Sean down on his feet and pressed for the lobby.

“Tasha….” Tulani tried to talk to her. He could feel her anger filling up the tiny little space and suffocating him to death.

Natasha held out her hand to shush him. “Don’t even try,” she warned him.

Tulani shut his mouth.

He had been punched and kicked twice by her before. It was not an experience he needed repeating. He was a very fast learner.

When they finally reached their destination, Natasha grabbed Sean’s hand and bolted out of the lift without saying a word to Tulani.

“Where are you going?” Tulani ran after them and grabbed Natasha’s hand to stop her from moving.

They stopped before the security check-point.

“I am taking him back home,” she said lividly. “What were you thinking bringing him here? This is a place of work!”

Apart from the two security guards waiting to get the door for them and the receptionist standing behind her desk and watching them like a scene on a Telemundo soapie, there were only two other people seated by the lounge who appeared oblivious to the drama unfolding on the other side.

“Tasha calm down, look, I’m sorry I brought him over without talking to you first but c’mon, he’s my son too. I only met him yesterday and spent just six hours with him. You had the last four years, can’t you just let me off the hook this once?”

“Are you mad at me mummy?” Sean looked about ready to cry with his big brown eyes looking up at his mother apologetically.

Natasha got down and wrapped him in a hug. “Oh no my baby, I am sorry I shouted but am not mad. I love that you came to see me.”

“You do?” Sean asked.

Natasha nodded. “I do,” she kissed him on both cheeks to reassure him.

Tulani was looking at her like he had just discovered the secret to calming down Armageddon’s wrath.

“How can I be mad at the love of my life?” Natasha asked her son.

“So can I take him back home?” Tulani asked. “I am after all the one that brought him here. You are making your Zambian debut on air tonight with the evening news right?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that for a minute.” Natasha said.

“You forgot?”

“I was too upset to think rationally. Let’s continue this conversation after work. I need to go back up now.” And bending down to address Sean, “dad will take you home now honey okay?”

“Aren’t we going to eat lunch together?” Sean was looking from mother to father and back.

Natasha threw Tulani a look that said, this is what happens when you do random things. “I didn’t know you were coming sweetie so I already eat.”

“How about you and me grabbing some burgers before going home son?” Tulani suggested.

Sean had won the lotto in his father. 

Feeling triumphant, Tulani took his sons hand and led him away. “Will be back before you go on air,” he told Natasha.

“Have fun with your father honey but don’t eat too much junk.”

Natasha had just stepped out of the elevator and was about to head to her office when Luyando stepped in front of her.

“Anything I can help you with, ma’am?” She was as sarcastic in her delivery as could be.

“I guess you are on cloud nine celebrating your little victory in there,” she pointed towards the cafeteria. “How does it feel to have everyone know that you have the son to the heir of this empire?”

Natasha laughed. “It’s a feeling you will never get to experience I guess.”

Luyando pursed her lips in derision. “You think you’ve won the lotto don’t you? Let’s see how long your victory is going to last.” And she started to walk away.

“What exactly do you get from chasing away the women in your brother’s life?”

Luyando stopped, but didn’t turn.

“You want him to remain single for the rest of his life just to satisfy your sick desires even though you are married yourself…even if it’s unhapppily. Don’t you think that’s being selfish? Can’t you see how miserable and unhappy you are making him?”

“What are you, Tulani’s spokesperson?” Luyando retorted, turning to face her. “You suddenly think you are a huge part of his life just because your womb landed a big one, don’t you?” She crossed her hands over her chest.

“Well, let me tell you this, no one knows or understands Tula better than me. I have been with him for over twenty years.”

“Yes, as his sister,” Natasha rudely reminded her. “Unless you are planning on making love to him via Bluetooth, I don’t see the two of you working out.” She then shrugged her shoulders and walked away, leaving Luyando reeling in fury behind.

Just as she had feared, Natasha was the centre of attention when she walked into the pool office of her department on her way to her own office. The looks on everyone’s faces told her everything on their minds and she knew from that point on that they would all be looking at her like that for a very long time.

Just one minute in her office and Astridah came pouring in. “Why didn’t you tell us!?”

Why wasn’t she surprised that it was Astridah that came first?

“Tell you what?” Natasha asked, desperately avoiding her colleague’s gossiping antenna.

“That you are the CEO’s secret girlfriend!” Astridah was excited at the prospect of collecting content for her gossip channel. “And…and you have his child! OMG.” 

“This is a place of work Astridah,” Natasha cautioned her big eared friend. “I have no reason to talk about my personal life here…and obviously Tu…I mean, Mr Mulenga had no business bringing my…our son here. You should go back to your desk now. I think there’s a pile of scripts there waiting to be edited.”

“Ah, oh yeah,” Astridah said, looking disappointed but Natasha’s commanding tone was enough to send her out of the room immediately.

Unfortunately for Natasha, Astridah was not the only one that day trying to get a scoop into the story of Tulani and Natasha. Different people that had no business being in her office kept coming and going from her room.

At one point during the day, Chef Michael who never left the kitchen came to her office to find out if she had enjoyed her lunch. Even people that had not spoken to her since she joined the company were now acting like they had been the best of buddies.

Tulani made matters worse for Natasha who desperately wanted to keep her private life private when he walked into the news room just as she was concluding and shouted,
“That’s my girl!” the moment she was off the screen.

Natasha sent him her signature disapproving look and immediately after thanking the crew, she walked passed Tulani and headed straight to her office.

He was right behind her.

“Did I do something wrong again?” He asked once they were in her office.

“Do you forget sometimes that you are the boss here?” She asked him.

“What’s that got to do with anything? Are you trying to tell me that I am not allowed to celebrate when the mother of my child has done a good job?”

“You see, that’s the problem right there; here at TMH I am not the mother of your child, I am your employee.”

“Tasha,” Tulani sat down. “Why don’t you just be honest with me….”

“Honest?”

“Why really are you doing this?” He asked.

“Doing what?”

“Rejecting me, every single turn you just keep rejecting me.” Tulani was stressing every word in the sentence as if to emphasize every single pain in his chest. “Nothing I’ve tried to do is good enough. It’s like you’ve already written me off in your heart.”

“Tulani….” Natasha searched for the right words to say in such a situation but couldn’t find any.

Tulani waited for her to finish but when nothing came, he got up. “Just forget it,” he said and walked out of her office.

Alone, Natasha sunk back into her chair, shutting her eyes and rubbing her fingers over them.

Luyando was in her office pacing to and from whilst on the phone and looking like she was about to explode from whatever the person on the other end of the line was telling her.

“Well, tell him to call me when he’s done with his rounds!” She yelled and cut the line. A few seconds later, her cell rang again.

She answered without even looking at the caller id. “Peter!” She yelled.

“It’s me Lulu.”

“Mum, I’m sorry, I thought you were….”

“Peter?” Ayanda laughed. “Too bad love, it’s only…your mother. What’s wrong? Did you fight with your husband?”

“He hasn’t been home in three days and he hasn’t even bothered to call, not even once. He’s never done this before..” Luyando complained.

“Maybe he’s taken on extra shifts. Doesn’t he work part time at that new hospital as well? Have you tried contacting any of his colleagues?”

“I called the secretary at that other private hospital he works but she told me he hasn’t been there this whole week.”

“What about his colleagues from UTH? Don’t you know any of his friends?” Her mother asked.

“I know some of them…well. I’ve met a couple of them before but I don’t remember their names.”

“That’s the problem with you Lulu, you don’t take a lot of interest in your husband. I’ve told you numerous times to take an interest before you are shocked to find out things that should have been obvious.”

Luyando laughed. “Shocking things?” She asked. “Like what mother? Peter doesn’t have the guts or the time to cheat on me. I am the best thing that’s ever happened to him and he would be a fool to risk that. I am special; I am your daughter after all.”

Ayanda chuckled. “Indeed you are, but just do what I am telling you from now on; take an interest in your husband. He is such a generous and humble soul. There are not many men like that these days.”

“I am going to give him a piece of my mind when he comes back on the radar.”

“That temper of yours,” her mother cautioned her. “But doesn’t he tell you when he’s working nights or extra shifts?

“He usually does but he didn’t tell me this time that’s why am worried.”

“Did you fight the last time you saw each other?”

Luyando didn’t answer, her mind going back to that night when he yelled at her for spending all her free time at her parent’s house.

“Luyando?” Ayanda called her out of her reverie.

“I’m here mum. We had a slight misunderstanding but that’s because he wanted me to apologize for something ridiculous. Sometimes he’s such a cry baby that one.”

“Did you apologize?” her mother asked.

Luyando laughed. “Apologize for what? I never did anything wrong! He was just overreacting. He always takes out his stress on me.”

“Luyando,” Her mother chastised her.

“Why did you call mum?” She quickly changed the topic, sensing that her mother was about to venture into nagging territory.

“Oh yeah, I got carried away when I heard you talk about your husband. Actually,” Ayanda lowered her voice. “I called because there’s a lady here who said she wanted to talk to me and your dad about you.”

Luyando stopped pacing. “What did you say?”

“I said,” she was still whispering. “There is a lady in the living room; she’s waiting for your dad to come back home. He went to that PFP party meeting. They will be choosing a successor tomorrow since ….”

“Mum, mum stop blabbering about that dame party! Who is the lady in the living room?”

“She said her name is Martha.”

“Martha who?” Luyando tried to recall her step mother’s name but nothing came to mind. She had not been interested in knowing who her father was worried to.

“She didn’t say.” Her mother said. “But she seems very nice, very soft-spoken.”

“I’m coming home right now mum.” Luyando said.

“I didn’t call you so you could come home.” Ayanda said.

“I know mum, but I still want to hear whatever it is she has to say about me.” She cut the line before her mother could say anything else, grabbed her handbag and bolted out of the office.

Even though she could not remember her father’s new wife, she suspected that it could only be her who had visited her parents.

“I am going to kill that old man!” Luyando kept hitting her steering wheel over and over again in frustration.

“How dare he send his dame wife to fight his battle? Wait until this is over…I am going to get you for this Bernard Chimeko. You just wait.”

Luyando entered her parent’s house and found the three adults siting in the living room.

“Who are you?” Luyando addressed Martha.

“What kind of manners are these? Sit down young lady!” Her father shouted.

Her body, shuddering from both fury and fear, Luyando went to sit next to her mother.

“Did you tell her to come?” Joshua asked his wife. But Ayanda did not respond. It was clear from his tone that he already knew the answer and he was not pleased.

“You must be Luyando.” Martha was smiling at her husband’s daughter, unable to imagine that a beautiful girl like her would have so much hate towards her own father to threaten im in the manner she was doing. “I was just about to introduce myself to your parents.”

“What do you want?” Luyando asked.

“Lulu!” it was her mother’s turn to put her in line.

Martha chuckled nervously. “I think your daughter already knows who I am. That’s why she’s very nervous.”

Both Joshua and Ayanda turned to give their daughter.

“You know who this woman is?” Her father asked.

Luyando was shaking her head emphatically. “Of course I don’t know her. Why would I know her?”

“Ms…what did you say your name was again?” Joshua turned back to Martha.

“Martha, or you can just call me Mrs Chimeko. I am the wife of Bernard Chimeko…who also happens to be your daughter’s biological father.”

Ayanda’s jaw dropped.

Luyando was gripping her mother’s hand and holding on to it as if for dear life. “He actually did it,” she said, shaking and crying in fear.

“Lulu,” Ayanda turned to her daughter, wiping the tears away with her hand. “What’s wrong honey? What do you mean he actually did it?” And then turning back to Martha, “Look, I don’t think you coming here unannounced is such a good idea. Do you have any idea what your husband did to his daughter? Just look at her.” And turning to her husband, “Honey, are you going to let this lady continue sitting there?”

“He…he…he told me that he…that he was…going to…punish me for…for telling on him.” Luyando said in-between sobs.

“What?” Ayanda asked, sending a warning shot in Martha’s direction.

However, Martha appeared to be unfazed by the female Judas performing in their midst.

And so did Joshua.

“He told me that…that he would take me away from this family…that I didn’t deserve to be happy. He sent her here to take me away. I don’t want to go back to him mum.” Luyando cried, hiding her face into her mother’s bosom.

“Why are you here Mrs Chimeko?” Joshua asked the visitor.

“I came here for two reasons,” Martha confidently replied. “To clear my husband’s name and to ask your daughter…who also happens to be my daughter as well…I came to ask her to stop threatening my husband. Bernard has absolutely no intentions of taking you away from this family.”

“If your husband is innocent, why didn’t he come himself? I think he is a coward for sending his wife instead.” Joshua said.

“I never said my husband sent me here,” Martha candidly informed the three. “He doesn’t even know I’m here. I came because I know he would never come, because that’s what Luyando asked him to do.”

“What are you accusing my daughter of?” Ayanda asked.

“I am not accusing her of anything. I am here to give her a chance to let go of the hate so she can live a peaceful life. If even after what I tell you today you still feel like taking my husband to the police, I will not stop you.

“Bernard is not afraid of anything. If he really is guilty of the things your daughter accused him of doing, I will see to it myself that he’s locked up. But you see, the truth of the matter is that Luyando was never raped. The only sin my husband committed against her was neglecting her at the time when she needed him the most.”

“What do you know?” Luyando snapped at her step-mother. “You were not there! You don’t know anything!”

“Don’t you think it’s time you told your family the truth Luyando?” Martha asked her.

“We’ve been through all this before,” Ayanda said. “Why would you want to put her through such a terrible ordeal again? Don’t you have kids? Don’t you have a heart? Can’t you see what this is doing to her?”

“As a matter of fact, I am here because I am a mother.” Martha answered. “I am here because somehow, thanks to Luyando, this whole situation has affected my own daughter’s life. Has she told you that she and my daughter…who isn’t Bernard’s biology daughter by the way…has your daughter told you that they work together, and that she is the mother of your grandson?”

Joshua and Ayanda gaped at her.

“My daughter Natasha is the mother of Sean. Tulani is the father.”

Ayanda couldn’t believe her ears. “No, it can’t be,” she kept repeating.

“Apart from Luyando here, none of the others are aware of this ridiculous entanglement.”

“Did you just say ridiculous entanglement?” Ayanda asked. “Your husband raped his own daughter. That’s not ridiculous, it’s a sin!”

“I understand why you would believe that,” Martha said. “I also understand that there is no way of proving my husband’s innocence to you, however,”

“There is a way.” Joshua interjected, three pairs of eyes were on him.

“There is a way?” Martha asked, looking extremely curious.

“Joshua!” Ayanda couldn’t believe her husband.

“I heard it from Luyando herself,” Joshua informed the women.

“What are you talking about dad?” Luyando asked her father. She had never spoken to him about the past. She mostly spoke to her mother and to Tulani.

“I kept quiet all these years because I wanted peace in my home.” Joshua said. “Your diary,” he was addressing his daughter. “You remember the diary that you lost?”

Luyando was visibly horrified. That diary. She had wondered when it was going to appear and bite her in the ass. It appeared the time had finally come. Why had she written in that dame thing?

“Are you talking about the diary that Dr Lucas gave her?” His wife asked. “The one that was lost during our move from Kitwe to Lusaka?”

“Yes that same one,” he answered.

“We looked for it everywhere,” Ayanda said. “There were Lulu’s private thoughts in there. The doctor had asked her to write down all her thoughts as a form of healing that’s why we were so worried someone might have picked it up and read everything. Did you find that diary honey?”

“It was never lost,” Joshua said nonchalantly.

Luyando finally sat up straight. “What do you mean it was never lost?”

“I was carrying your stuff from your bedroom at our old home to take to the truck when the diary dropped.” He informed his daughter. “I was going to close it right away but something on that opened page caught my eye.”

“You read my diary?” Luyando was up on her feet. “Those were my private thoughts, how could you?”

“Luyando don’t talk to your father like that. Sit down.” Her mother instructed.

“I can’t sit here and listen to this anymore.” She picked up her handbag. “I always knew you never liked me,” she told her father. “But how could you do this to me?” she started walking towards the door but her mother ran after her and stopped her.

“Don’t leave like this honey, your father is only upset….” Ayanda tried to reason with her daughter.

“Just look at all you looking at me like am some kind of criminal. If the man that gave me life rejected me, what can I expect from you people?” She pushed her mother’s hand away and stormed out of the house.

Ayanda tried to go after her but her husband menacingly yelled at her to stop. “Come and sit down!” he said, and she did as she was told.

“What will happen if she tries to take her own life? She tried it so many times before. Why are you suddenly doing this Bashi Tula?” Ayanda cried to her husband. “I know she is not your blood but she is our daughter. Would you be doing this if she was your own blood?”

“Don’t raise your voice at me Ayanda,” Joshua thundered. “The only reason that child came into this family was because I felt guilty…. Guilty that I was not around when you suffered a miscarriage and ended up losing your womb. Allowing that girl into the family was the least I could do to show you that I was sorry.”

“But you never even tried to love her, not even once!” his wife accused.

“How can I love her when I knew she was lying? If she could accuse her own father of harming her in the way she said he did, what do you think she would have said about me…or about Tula if something happened to her whilst under our care? That girl is no ordinary girl. She is dangerous.”

“Just what did you read in that diary that’s making you talk like this?” Ayanda asked.

All the while, Martha was seated quietly, listening to their conversation and saying nothing as if she was not even there.

“She wrote everything in that book,” Joshua said. “How she approached us, those cuts and wounds on her body. She did all that to herself.”

“Nooo….” Ayanda cried.

“I still have the diary in my safe. You can read it from page to page if you don’t believe. Her father was a drunk quite alright but he never touched her. All those things were lies to gain sympathy from us. It was the only way she knew to get away from the life of poverty her father was subjecting to, no offence to you madam of course.”

Martha laughed. “The truth is the truth,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.

“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” Ayanda asked her husband.

“You were so into the girl the moment you laid eyes on her. I knew the truth would break your heart.”

“Oh my God how can this be happening?”

“I think I should leave and come back some other time.” Martha reminded them of her presence.

“I think that’s a very good idea Mrs Chimeko. Apologies for the way things turned out. If you don’t mind leaving me your husband’s contact information, I would love to have a man to man conversation with him.”

“Are you planning on giving Luyando back to him?” Ayanda asked, crying at the prospect of losing the child she had come to regard as her own for the past twenty years.

“I never said anything like that,” Joshua said sternly. “It is just proper that he and I meet.”

“I agree,” Martha said.

Martha was driving back home thirty minutes later when she received a call from her husband.

“I am on the road heading home Ben. I can’t talk right now.”

“Wherever you are turn around and start coming to Thurston Hospital. I just received a call from someone informing me that Luyando is undergoing surgery.”

“What?” the first thought that crossed Martha’s mind were the last words that Luyando said to them before storming out of the house.

“I am almost at the hospital, you will find me there.” A very frantic Bernard said. Martha had never heard such desperation in his voice before.

“Did they tell you what happened?”

“Accident,” Ben said. “The man who called me said that she tried to commit suicide.”

Martha’s heart dropped. Did I do that? She thought. Did my visit push her to try and kill herself? She quickly made a U-turn and started driving towards the hospital.

“I am on my way there,” she said.

Ben cut the line.

Thirty minutes later, Martha spotted her husband standing in the hospital lobby reading a note in his hands. She did not see Mr and Mrs Mulenga seated on a bench on the other side of the room.

“Ben,” she called out to him before she could even reach where he was.

Ben slowly lifted his eyes from the piece of paper and looked at his wife in a way he had never done before.

“What have you done?” Martha heard him ask.

“What is it Ben?” she had reached where he was.

Ben handed her the suicide note written by his daughter.

Martha was crying and shaking her head in disbelief as she read the contents of the note.