8pm, Shaniz Corner Lodge, read the message from Mr John Mbulo.
It was 5 in the morning and the idiot was already thinking about meeting another woman while his wife was probably preparing his breakfast in the kitchen.
“Dream on you son of a bitch!” I threw the iPhone 6 Plus that he had just gotten me a couple of days ago on the bed and rushed to the bathroom.
I was just about to turn on the shower when I remembered something. I went back into the bedroom and picked up my phone.
“He says he wants to meet me tonight at 8,” I informed the mysterious woman that had hired me to go after Mr Mbulo.
* * *
It had been three months since the strange woman dressed in a maxi floral dress, with a thick fringe peering from under her huge brown hat approached me at the mall and asked to speak to me in private.
With most of her face covered by the fringe, the hat and the huge sun glasses, I could not make the identity of the woman with the mysterious aura that was making me and my three friends uncomfortable.
“We can sit over there where your friends can see you if you are worried about my intentions.” The woman was pointing to a table by the Indian restaurant just a few feet from where we were standing.
“You girls don’t mind if I borrow your friend for a moment, do you?” She was smiling as she looked expectantly at my friends through her dark shades.
Valarie my best friend stepped up from the group and came to stand right in front of the woman, leaving just a few inches between them as she stared her up and down.
“What do you want with her?” Valarie asked, coming off as threatening as her imagination would allow. But we all knew she didn’t need to try that hard. There was something about Valarie’s looks that brought fear down the spine of anyone whose gaze fell upon her. She was the protector of the group and one whose mere presence made the rest of us feel more beautiful physically than we actually were.
Thick virgin eyebrows that had not been touched by any tweezers or razers since the beginning of time, slim fitting glasses that added fifteen years to her natural age, Blue Seal moistened lips, an unflattering loose-fitting long dress she had picked up from Sally’s Boutique a few days ago and wearing the same flip flops she used for bathing in the communal bathrooms at the boarding house made Valarie the least kempt of the group.
It was like she went out of her way to wade men…or any other form of living creature off. Even a nun would come off sexy standing next to my friend.
We had nicknamed Valarie the Natural Beauty of the group…natural because there was really nothing much any man made beauty enhancement products like make-up or hair extensions could do to enhance our friend’s natural beauty.
She scratched her scalp like a Herpes patient whenever she had any hair extensions on her head and any efforts to beautify Valarie left the rest of us looking and feeling uncomfortable as we had to be subjected to hours of her blinking profusely and rubbing at her eyes complaining about the weight of the make-up forcing her eyelids shut.
And on those rare occasions, we would be forced to watch our dear friend topple up and down like someone who had a score to settle with gravity in heels of just about 2 to 3 inches high.
“I just need to ask her for a favour,” the mysterious woman replied, unfazed by Valarie’s domineering look.
She stepped away from Valarie and came back to stand in front of me. “I heard you are quite good with your hands….” She was looking down at my hands as she spoke.
There was something about the mischievous smile playing on her face as she looked at my hands that made me hide them behind like a little kid. The woman was making the four times recycled Brazilian hair at the back of my head stand up.
“I have an event coming up and I need a manicure,” she said.
“Ooh,” I said, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Why don’t we talk over there,” she pointed to the Indian restaurant again. “I am not much of a sun person.” She touched the brim of her huge hat that was covering three quarters of her face.
“You guys order some pizza and wait for me here while she and I talk,” I told my friends but was mostly looking at Valarie who looked about ready to attack. I squeezed her shoulder to assure her that I would be okay before following the strange lady to the restaurant.
Apart from the servers…and us, there were no other patrons at the restaurant.
“You are very beautiful you know that,” the woman said once she had sent the waiter away for an order of water and Pine juice.
“What do you want from me?” I asked her. Looking at her closely, despite the coverings, I could tell she wasn’t anything older than forty. Everything on her body appeared tight and in place and the little skin I could see on her face was radiant and young. She could have been thirty-five at most.
Despite her simple sense of fashion, she was carrying an original Victoria Beckham handbag and her nails were perfectly manicured, not too colourful or too long, but a natural shade only common amongst women who knew what class they belonged to without needing validation from others.
“I knew you were clever,” she said. “You didn’t believe me when I said I was interested in your work did you?”
“Of course I didn’t,” I answered. “You seemed determined to talk to me in private and now I’m curious to hear what it is you want to talk to me about.”
She had not bothered to take off her shades or her hat and so I said to her, “Can I at least see the face of the person I am talking to? You are freaking me out.”
She was chuckling. “With the kind of business I want to talk to you about, it’s best if you don’t know who I am.”
“What sort of business are you talking about?”
She opened her small handbag which was on her laps, took out a picture and laid it down on the table in front of me. “Do you know that man?” She asked me.
I picked up the picture and examined it closely. I had no idea who the obese man in the picture was. I had never seen him in my life. “I don’t know who this man is,” I answered truthfully, thinking in my head that it must be one of those desperate women hunting down their husband’s suspected mistresses.
“Great,” the mysterious lady said, catching me by surprise. It seemed the puzzled expression on my face gave her some sort of amusement.
“I want you to get to know that man very well,” she informed me.
“Er?” I said, gaping at her in disbelief.
“I want you to get to know that man well,” she repeated.
I was waving my hand and shaking my head at the same time. “Wait,” I said. “I heard you the first time.”
“Then why did you act like you didn’t hear?” She asked.
I was dumbfounded. “That’s because I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.” I reached my hand down to my bag and was about ready to bolt out of there when she laid her hand over mine and asked me to sit down.
“I will give you five thousand upfront and you get to keep half of whatever this man gives you.” She announced.
“Are you insane? What are you talking about?” I was playing innocent, but I understood slightly what she was driving at. She must be a scorned wife or woman trying to get back at either her lover or husband, I reasoned.
Because she had mentioned money, I was forced to sit back down to listen to the rest of her offer. I love money too much to walk away without getting the full details. With still a year to go at varsity, I was in desperate need of money.
Just then the server appeared with our beverages. I got the water and she got the juice.
“I just need you to keep this man busy for about three months. You won’t need to sleep with him. You just need to do enough to keep him interested for that period of time.” The lady said nonchalantly.
“Why did you come to me for something like this?” I asked.
She laughed. “Let’s just say that I got to know more about you through one of my many connections…and I know for a fact that you can’t pass up an opportunity like this one. Your name is Tiffany Ng’andu, twenty-five years old and a fourth year Humanities student at the University of Zambia. Your parents died two years ago and you still haven’t heard from the Bursaries Committee for sponsorship despite applying for two years.
“You work three part time jobs which leaves you with very little time to study or attend to school work and just six weeks ago, to save yourself from getting a fail in one of your courses, you started sleeping with your tutor, a very happily married man whose wife just had a baby girl. Shila, that’s what they call the child. How am I doing so far?”
“Who the hell are you?” I was in shock. A part of me wanted to get up and run as far away as possible and another part of me was too scared, too petrified to get up and leave.
I looked over at my friends to check if it was possible for the wind to be blowing our conversation in their direction but they all seemed too engrossed in their chatting to pay attention to me…well, except for Valarie who kept looking over at us.
“I am the lady who’s going to save your miserable little existence.” The woman replied. “Why should a beautiful young girl like you languish in poverty when God designed you to live a life of glory?”
When I dropped my gaze, it was to land on the picture of the obese and heavily pot-bellied man smiling up at me like he had just swallowed a frog. I hated the general look of him; short, obese and drowning in his ill-fitting suit which on its own probably costed tonnes of money but on him, it appeared as if more than four zero’s had been wiped off the original amount the moment the fabric grazed his body.
I certainly didn’t need a microscope to see the cavities dancing on his teeth which were made of stuff found in an architect’s nightmare; sharp-edged, loose, and decaying. I would have most probably liked the man if I met him as the father of someone I knew but the fact that this strange woman was asking me to get close to him made him even more so repulsive.
I was too busy getting grossed out by his looks that it took a while for me to notice the Benz he was leaning against. And then everything finally made sense.
Everything about the man’s demeanour spoke of New Money…the new generation of millionaires and billionaires that did not grow up with money but somehow ended up with a lot of it and they pretty much didn’t know what to use it for except to accumulate all the things they ever dreamt about since they were kids even if they had no use for such things any more.
“Is he your husband?” I asked the lady?
In response, she busted out laughing. She picked up the photo and continued to laugh whilst starring at it.
And then very so suddenly, she dropped it on the table and sobered up, even her own face was unprepared for the sudden change in emotion.
“I like my men alive and breathing when I do them.” She said. “Do you think a man like this can survive someone like me?”
“And yet you expect me to sleep with him?” I remarked.
“I never asked you to sleep with him. I only need you to make him fall hard for you, make him trust you and make him shower you with as much money as possible.”
“Why do you want to do something like this to him?” I asked.
“Because he messed up one of my friends and I need to punish him for it. Will you do it or not?” She asked.
“What if I say no?” I asked.
“What if I told you that you have no choice but to say yes?” She fired back at me.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
The lady went back into her handbag and removed another photo.
I almost jumped out of the chair when I saw who was in the picture.
Someone had taken a picture of me and my tutor naked and lying in each other’s arms like a pair of lovers.
The two of us had been more than careful in keeping our affair private so it came as a shock to see myself on such a picture which must have been taken from inside the room.
I grabbed the picture and tore it into tiny little pieces whilst my companion laughed to her heart’s content.
“I have plenty of those in soft and hard copy,” she told me. “Why are you playing hard to get when you have already proved how easily you can get in bed with a married man?”
I wanted to tell her that Gerrard my tutor was different. For starters, he was only thirty years old and even if he had a pot-belly growing, he could still see his feet whether seated or standing and he had a reasonable weight I could handle…and he was definitely easy on the eye. Besides, I did not get with him intentionally. I did what I had to do to survive.
“This man is old enough to be my father,” is what I told her instead.
She scoffed. “Even better, since you can use all the paternal love you can get seeing how you don’t have a father. John can give you all that.”
I learnt that day that the man’s name was John Mbulo, a rich Lusaka business man married to one Catherine Mbulo with whom he had three children. He also happened to have two children with two other women…results of his numerous extra-marital affairs.
“John is extremely generous to his mistresses but not so much to his wife.” The mysterious lady informed me. “She has been with him since the time he had absolutely nothing to his name but now that he’s rolling in dough, he seems to have forgotten everything about his humble beginnings, including her.”
“For someone you are not directly related to, you seem to know so much about him.” I commented at some point in our conversation.
“Considering the things I know about you so far, would it be fine for anyone to consider us sisters then?” She asked me.
She had a point. Whatever connections she had, they were good at digging up info on people.
“That man almost made me lose a dear friend when he forced her to get an abortion at some cheap and dirty useless clinic when he could have easily taken her somewhere more appropriate and health friendly.”
“Is that why you are after his money?” I asked.
“His life is what I’m after,” she sternly informed me. “But I am too sexy to get pig’s blood on my hands or conscience, so instead am going after the one thing I know he cares about the most; his money.”
“How can you be so sure that he will give me the kind of money that might satisfy you?” I asked.
She was touching her sunglasses, as if to take them off but she changed her mind and dropped her hand.
“I don’t expect him to give you everything in cash,” she said. “I just need you to put yourself in a position where he can trust you enough to become careless with his money. No man of his type and age can resist losing his brains over a gorgeous girl like you.”
“But he will have expectations of me…sexual expectations,” I clarified. “I don’t care if you expose me or not but there is nothing in this world threatening enough to force me to sleep with this kind of man.”
The lady was anxiously taping the table with her nails. “I told you,” she said between clenched teeth. “You won’t ever have to sleep with him. You are not a teenager Tiff,” it appeared we were already on friendly terms…enough to call each other by our nick names and making us sound like we were the best of buddies.
“There are so many ways to keep a man at bay long enough till you get everything you need from him.”
“If I knew anything about that, do you think I would be getting blackmailed right now for sleeping with my tutor?”
She laughed. “You have a point there. But these two instances are different; with your tutor, someone else was in control from the very beginning…but with this case, you have the upper hand from the get-go. If you agree to work with me, I can teach you a few tricks on how to succeed without having to open your legs.”
“Do I look like I have a choice?” I asked.
She laughed again. “I know right,” she said and continued laughing.
Gosh, I hated the sound of her laugh.
* * *
“You promised me that I wouldn’t need to do anything with him but he’s been insisting on us meeting at hotels and lodges for the past two months. I have officially run out of excuses now and I am certain he has run out of patience as well.” I complained to my sponsor.
“You said I only had to do this for three months,” I said. “It’s been three months already.”
She was making some noise with her throat…something I had come to learn was her way of chuckling when under pressure. It irked me to the core.
“It’s been two months and sixteen days to be precise,” she corrected me. “You have fourteen more days to go young lady so hang in there and do what you are being paid to do.”
I felt like crying. “I have given you more than twenty thousand in the last two months, isn’t that more than enough?”
“And you have half that amount in your bank account, you drive a Bima and you live in a four bedroom house that is a thousand times bigger than that bed space you used to sleep on. Why are you complaining? You will meet John today and you will get me access to his bank accounts by morning. Do this and you will have your freedom.”
I didn’t trust a word she was saying. Every time I gave her money she would say 5 thousand more and we are done…every single time. There was no satisfying that woman.
I had done my own research but could not find out a single thing about her. I knew for a fact she was not John’s wife because I had seen the wife and the two were polar opposites.
Because John’s infidelity was common knowledge to anyone that knew him and his family, it was easy to find out who his mistresses were. The insufferable obese little man paraded his affairs like a World Cup trophy.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone that had been abandoned and forced to abort his child. If anything, all of his mistresses and former mistresses seemed to be doing quite well for themselves and were more than willing to offer their wombs to him.
Thanks to my mysterious rich backer, my relationship with John was kept well under the radar of the public’s eyes. She had given me a list of places to go with him where we would get the needed privacy and for the past two months I had managed to keep him off sex by giving exams, periods, migraines, and anything else I could think of as excuses.
And now he was very determined to be paid for services rendered and he wasn’t taking no for an answer.
What am I going to do now? I wondered after hanging up the call, pacing around the room like a headless chicken.
I had already used up every plausible excuse and even recycled some of them…just what was I going to tell him this time around?
Do this and you will have your freedom. The woman’s words echoed in my head over and over again.
I wanted my freedom back.
That day after my last class I ran back home, spread some tomato sauce on my white panties and pulled some skinny jeans on.
I found him waiting in the room at the lodge with a huge grin on his face, looking like a man on the throngs of ecstasy when I had not even touched him.
“I was hoping that you would come in one of those small skirts you liked wearing when we first met.” He said as he visually raped me over and over again.
“How was your day?” I went to sit on the bed, sighing heavily and putting on a very tired look. I had become a pro at this is just less than three months. I deserved an Oscar for my performances.
Unfortunately, my delivery didn’t seem to have the same effect that particular evening.
He followed me to the bed and sat next to me. “You look gorgeous as usual,” he said. I was wearing make-up that deliberately made me look sick and tired. My lips were dry and cracked but the fool was grinning at me like he had caught a glimpse of heaven.
“I don’t feel so good today.” I lied.
He got up from the bed in frustration. “I won’t have any of your excuses today Tiffany.” He roared. “For someone who claims to love me, you sure have a way of avoiding getting intimate with me. Is it just my money you are after?”
“How can you say that to me?” I feigned anger. “I have never asked you for a single penny ever since we started dating. You are the one who’s always forcing me to take your money saying you don’t want your girl living like a poor person.”
“I know, I know,” he took my hands and got down on his knees before me. Where most men would lightly kiss your hands, John was literally licking every ounce of lotion I had ever applied on my hands.
He was running his thick wet tongue over the back of my hand and leaving a trail of saliva everywhere his tongue passed. I knew I had no right to awaken the Virgin Mary in that situation but I couldn’t help saying a few Hail Mary’s just to keep myself from throwing up.
I hated the look on his face the most. He truly believed he knew what he was doing and thought was doing a dame good job the whole time. My hands were soaking in his saliva…and whatever else he had just had for supper.
Next thing I felt was him on the button of my trousers, then my zipper and gwiiiiii…I was unzipped.
I knew there was no getting out of this one so I acted corporative. I got up and took off my trousers while his tiny eyes twinkled in excitement. He got up from the floor and sat on the bed, his eyes fixed on me like I was to lead him to Kingdom Come.
I deliberately kept my white panties on and went to lay on the bed, spreading my legs apart to reveal the red stain I had planted. I saw him open his mouth to say something but he closed it immediately and came pouncing on me like he had seen nothing.
He was just going to pretend everything was okay!
I was reeling in anger while his tongue assaulted every inch of my face.
Fortunately for me, my stomach grumbled very loudly right at that moment. I am not sure whether it was because I had not eaten the whole day or because I was disgusted…but I didn’t care for the reason at that moment.
I took that opportunity to pretend to take control as I pushed him off of me and came to sit on top of him.
Now positioned on top of him, I slowly and seductively started taking off my pant while he frantically undid his shirt buttons and then I gasped at the site of the red stain on my panties and jumped off from him and the bed.
“On no, not now….” I lamented while he starred at me with a look that reminded me a lot of Rose in Titanic when she realised Jack would not be getting on the boat with her.
He struggled to get himself out of bed and the desperation on his face almost made me feel bad for him.
“Oh no, this isn’t such a big deal,” he was tagging at my hand. “It looks like you just started so it shouldn’t be a big deal. I have seen women make love even when they are heavy…this shouldn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves my darling.”
I gave him a disgruntled look. “How can I enjoy myself when am in such pain? Didn’t you hear my stomach? I am having crumps right now.”
When I started putting my jeans back on, I could hear the sound of his heart breaking, I saw his pot-belly reduce a few inches and I heard his ancestors sigh in disappointment.
“I thought you were attending just a weeks ago,” he said, looking at me suspiciously.
“I told you that my pee’s become irregular and inconsistent when am under pressure. I just finished writing my exams recently.”
His features seemed to relax a bit…and then suddenly I saw his whole face light up.
“Who says we should let the night go to waste?” He was unbuttoning his pair of trousers and looking about ready to take it all off.
“What do you think you are doing?” I asked.
“What else can a man do in such a situation baby?” He said, dropping his pants to the floor and stepping out of them before laying his heavy back on the bed and lifting his legs up… and apart.
No matter how hard I tried that night, there was no unseeing what I had just seen. That image before me would stand the test of time on my mind in ways that no Rembrandt or Da vinci ever had…or ever will.
“Let me feel those lustrous lips of yours on me.”
I must have vomited in my mouth…because why else was my mouth tasting so vile and bitter?
I had calculated for this development as a last resort but it appeared I had more mouth on me than material to work with.
Is that all of it? I was tempted to ask but I managed to keep my mouth shut. I could only stare down at him in disbelief.
He must have read my mind because the next words that came out of his mouth were; “the AC was on when I came into the room.” He was pointing to the roof and desperately avoiding meeting my eyes.
The amount of cool that was in the room was not enough to make things hard for him.
For the first time since I met Mr Mbulo, my heart went out to his wife.
“What are you waiting for?” He smugly asked me, rubbing his tummy and then running his hand all the way down as if he was baiting me to go after some hidden treasure.
Whatever treasures he was hiding, he was hiding them quite well since there was no trace of them to the naked eye.
I was still playing hesitant and instructing my mind to black out when his phone rang. He moved to pick it up from the bedside table and he gasped upon seeing the identity of whoever was calling him.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, silently thanking whoever was calling for a timely rescue.
“It’s my sister in-law. She never calls me first unless it’s to….” and then he answered the call before he could finish talking to me, putting his fat finger on his mouth to shush me.
“Bana Bupe,” he greeted his sister in-law.
The next thing I heard him say was “What? Here?” before getting up to check something through the window.
Illustration by @ChristopherChivweta
“Yes, I can see your vehicle…I can see you also,” Mr Mbulo was shaking all over and panting like a guilty dog.
I couldn’t look at him in all his nakedness without feeling like I was losing whatever little blessings I had accumulated for myself over the years. So I picked up his pair of trousers and threw it at him.
“I came here for a short meeting,” he was saying. “I will meet you downstairs in a bit.”
He cut the line and frantically went at his clothes.
“Your sister in-law is here?” I asked. “What is she doing here?”
“She said her group from church is lodging here and she called me after seeing my car parked outside. What the hell is she doing here of all places? You need to dress up and disappear from here the moment you see me outside. Keep looking through the window but make sure no one from outside can see you.”
I was fully dressed by the time he was leaving the room. I removed my emergency wig from my handbag and put it on before leaving the room.
I confidently walked passed Mr Mbulo who was talking to his sister in-law by the entrance and got into my vehicle.
Illustration by @ChristopherChivweta
I was just about to drive out when something about the woman caught my attention. Even though I could not see her face since she was facing away from me, there was something familiar about her back that gave me pause.
I had seen that woman somewhere before. I was busy trying to get a good look at her that I did not notice I was blocking the way for another vehicle backing out of the car park until the driver honked at me.
I saw the woman turn at the sound just as I was turning my head and I could swear I saw her look straight at me and wink.
I continued driving back into my spot to allow the other driver to go first and when I looked back at the two of them talking, the woman was no longer looking at me.
By now my hands were shaking and my feet trembling and it took a while for me to realize something my body seemed to have already registered.
I saw the woman bend down her head as she laughed and I found myself opening the window to listen.
I immediately recognized the laugh.
Mr Mbulo’s sister in-law was the mysterious woman that had hired me to go after him.