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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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….”
“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.
“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….”
“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 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.