“What do you mean I lied to you?” Bernard asked his daughter.
Luyando moved her phone from her right hand and ear and placed it on the other side as she steered the vehicle out of the parking spot.
“Tulani and Natasha are engaged!” she yelled.
Bernard, who had been expecting such a call since the day Tulani approached him and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage calmly stood up from the couch and went to take the call outside.
Seeing the look on her husband’s face, Martha knew right away who was on the other end of the line.
“You promised that you would talk to Tula for me!” Like a mad woman, Luyando pressed hard on the accelerator and headed towards her father’s house.
“I kept that promise to you Lulu,” Bernard said. “I spoke to Tulani about you just as I promised.”
“Then why has he proposed to your step daughter instead of me?”
“I am not responsible for his feelings Lulu,” Bernard said. “I tried to tell him to wait a bit before making a commitment to Natasha but he said he was sure whom he wanted to spend his life with so there was no need of waiting. He – “
“I am coming to you right now, you just wait.” Luyando said and cut the line.
“What’s going on?” Martha was standing by the door behind him.
Bernard sighed heavily and turned towards his wife. “Tulani finally proposed to Natasha and Luyando hasn’t taken the news well.”
Martha moved and went to sit at the bottom step of the veranda leading up to the house. “I was hoping that she would get over that soon.”
Bernard went to sit next to her. “Me too,” he said, looking as weary as he sounded. “I really don’t know what to do about her anymore.”
Luyando indeed appeared before them thirty minutes later, panting and geared to unleash a tantrum. She parked her vehicle in front of them, got out, slammed the door shut and charged at Bernard and Martha.
Mr and Mrs Chimeko were both on their feet, waiting for her to attack.
“How could you do this to me?” Luyando’s face was drenched in tears, her lipstick was smeared and her running mascara made her queen of the Panda kingdom.
“I did what you asked me to do!” She yelled. “I never wanted to see that shrink in the first place but you forced me.”
“Lulu,” Ben took a step towards her. “I asked you to see that doctor because you need help.”
“I don’t need any help!” she shouted.
“Try to listen to your father Lulu,” Martha said.
Luyando turned her fiery glare towards her step-mother. “You stay out of this. This is none of your business.” She said in an icy disparaging tone.
Without saying a word in return, Martha looked at her husband and turned to go back in the house.
“We are all just trying to do what’s best for you Luyando,” Bernard said.
“What’s best for me or what’s best for your precious daughter Natasha?”
“This has nothing to do with Natasha.”
Luyando furrowed her brows and scoffed. “You think this has nothing to do with her? This has got everything to do with that trump!” she raised her voice.
Bernard wanted to ask her to control her tone and get rid of her foul language but he stopped himself, fearing that that might give her another reason to flare up further.
“If that girl wasn’t in the picture, Tulani would have had the time to realize the feelings he has for me are not brotherly. That fake daughter of yours stole him from me but guess what, there is no way in hell I’m going to –“
“Stop it!” Bernard yelled. “Just stop it already!”
Luyando was taken aback by her father’s sudden outburst having expected him to play calm towards her. He had a lot to make up to her so he had no business getting angry at her. He was supposed to spend the rest of his life dancing to her tune, not shouting at her.
“I am sick and tired of listening to you talk about yourself like a victim.” Bernard said sternly. “You are not a victim so stop acting like one! You brought all this on yourself. Yes I messed up as a father but look at you Luyando, you are not a child anymore. You are someone’s wife, and a mother!”
“Are you shouting at me?” Luyando asked in disbelief.
“I am not shouting at you, I am trying to make you face reality. Tulani has never loved you the way you love him. He is in-love with someone else. You cannot force a man to love you just because you have feelings for him. That’s not how it works.
“You had a man that loved you like no other and you even have children with him. Can’t you focus on winning your husband back and bringing your family together again? How long are you going to continue pining for a man that doesn’t even care whether you exist or not?”
Bernard had had it up to his neck walking on egg shells around his daughter. He had come to learn that all his efforts in shielding her from pain and all his desires to make up for lost time were only worsening her situation instead of helping her become a better person.
Instead of being a better parent to her, his soft approach was fuelling her bad behaviour, making her feel justified in doing whatever she wanted to do. It was about time he taught his daughter that life doesn’t always have to go her way. She couldn’t keep blaming everyone around her for the things going wrong in her life. As long as Luyando could not come to the conclusion that she needed help on her own, there was no way she was going to change.
“What was I thinking coming here?” Luyando turned to leave in fury and walked back to her. She was just about to open the door when she spotted Tulani’s vehicle come through the gate, her eyes rolling at the sight of Natasha seated comfortably beside him. She immediately changed her mind about leaving and waited for them to park.
“What is she doing here?” Natasha asked Tulani upon noticing Luyando.
“Maybe she came to see your dad about something.” He said.
Natasha was the first to step out of the vehicle and walk towards Luyando who had not taken her eyes off of her.
“Tasha,” Ben intercepted the face-off between his two daughters by placing himself between them. “Is the party over already?” he asked, unable to think of anything else to say in such a situation.
Immediately sensing what her father was up to, Natasha stopped in her tracks, leaving a reasonable distance between her and Luyando. “Yes dad,” she answered. “Is everything okay?” her eyes were fixed on Luyando who was now walking towards them with a huge frown on her face.
“I guess congratulations are in order,” Luyando remarked sarcastically, her eyes narrowing in on Natasha’s engagement ring.
“Sister,” Natasha matched her rival’s tone but with a smile that barely reached her nose. “How nice of you, thank you very much.”
“Luyando came to see me about something…she was just leaving.” Bernard was still trying to avoid a confrontation between the two.
“Why are you trying to get rid of me so fast, dad?” Luyando puckered her lips at her father like a little girl. “Are you afraid Natasha might find out about the deal the two of us made?”
“What deal?” Tulani asked upon joining them. “Luyando, it’s been a while. I see you nothing much has changed.”
“I was just telling your girlfriend, oh wait, its fiancé now isn’t it?” She faked a chuckle. “I was just about to tell her about the deal that –“
“Luyando,” Ben interrupted her. “I beg of you do not cause any more trouble.”
Luyando laughed, enjoying the fact that she had the upper hand. “What’s wrong dad? Don’t you think your daughter deserves to know the truth?”
“What truth is she talking about dad?” Natasha asked Ben.
“It’s nothing important,” Ben answered nervously. “Why don’t you two go inside while your sister and I talk for a bit?”
Natasha took Tulani’s hand and was about to lead him away when Luyando stopped them.
“Not so fast you two,” she told them. “Don’t you want to know what your father here promised me in exchange for seeing a shrink?”
“You mean what he said about talking to Tulani on your behalf?” Natasha asked smugly.
Luyando’s heart almost skipped a beat. “How did you –“
Natasha laughed. “About two months ago dad followed me to my room looking nervous and all and talking about things that didn’t make sense at all. However, I could tell the whole time that he was apologizing for something he did…something he couldn’t bring himself to say.
“I knew right away that it had something to do with you and Tula. A bit of pressure on my mother and she spilled everything. Have I answered your question?”
The frown on Luyando’s face darkened. She was looking at her father as if to burn him down with her fiery disdain-filled eyes.
“I never told her anything,” Bernard defended himself against his daughter’s accusing eyes.
Without saying a word, Luyando turned around and walked back to her car. She angrily opened her door, got in and slammed it shut and sped off.
“What’s her problem?” Tulani asked.
His hands placed in his pockets and his gaze following Luyando’s disappearing vehicle, Bernard answered, “Everything,” and started walking towards the house. Tulani and Natasha followed him closely behind.
The three of them found Martha in the living room watching TV with Sean on her laps. The four year old jumped the moment he saw his father and ran straight into his arms. Bernard silently disappeared upstairs.
“I just want to see the ring,” Martha said, getting up to take a look at her daughter’s hand. “Oh wow,” she gasped. “This is beautiful Tulani. Just a few hours and Natasha’s hand already looks thinner than the rest. It’s one heavy stone you have here sweetie.”
Natasha laughed while Tulani appeared disturbed.
“Should I change it for a smaller stone?” He asked the two women.
Martha and Natasha looked at each for a second before bursting out in laugher at the look of genuine concern on Tulani’s face.
“What did I say?” Tulani asked Sean but the blank expression on his face told him that he too was just as confused as he was.
“That was a joke Tula,” Natasha put his mind at ease. “Mum meant to say that the stone looks extremely expensive.”
“Oooh,” he blushed in embarrassment.
“Congratulations to the both of you.” Martha hugged her daughter.
“Don’t I get a hug too?” Tulani shot pleading eyes at his future mother in-law. He put Sean down and waited for her to come over to him.
Laughing, Martha went and gave him a hug. “Congratulations,” she said.
“Thank you mum,” Tulani said, winking at Natasha who was gaping at him in disbelief.
“Gosh I have always wanted to say that!” He exclaimed excitedly.
“C’mon Sean,” Martha called out to her grandson. “Let’s go do some reading upstairs….”
“Martha,” Ben called out to his wife from the bottom of the stairs. He appeared frozen in petrification.
“Honey,” Martha slowly put down Sean and looked up at her husband.
“You need to come see something upstairs,” he said.
“Dad, is everything okay?” Natasha asked, walking over to him. Martha followed.
“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” Martha said, going to stand by his side.
“Is everything okay Sir?” Tulani asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ben said. “I just broke something that Tasha’s mum treasures.”
“You broke something?” Martha asked in a sharp tone.
“Just come and check for a second.” Ben took her hand and quickly led her upstairs.
Natasha and Tulani shared a look.
“I think he’s in real trouble,” Tulani said.
“Can you read to me dad?” Sean asked his father.
“Most definitely son!” He lifted him up and carried him upstairs.
“I will get some snacks ready,” Natasha shouted after them.
“What did u break?” Martha asked by the door. Bernard stepped aside and positioned Martha in front of the TV. He locked the door behind them.
Right away she knew why her husband had looked like he had just seen a ghost when he came to fetch her.
Her hand went straight to her mouth when she saw the face splashed out on the TV screen and heard the report;
So it appears the nation finally has a favourite for the upcoming presidential elections. New opposition party leader for PfP Nataniel Kaponda is leading in the latest polls by a margin never seen before!
Martha was shaking like a leaf and her knees were about to give in when Bernard ran to her and put his arms around her and led her to sit down on the bed. After setting her down, he picked up the remote control on the other side of the bed and turned off the TV.
“How can…how can someone like him –“ Martha was shaking her head, the fear in her eyes aging her way beyond her years.
Ben quickly went to stand in front of her and pulled her into his arms.
“Why is this happening?” Martha sobbed in her husband’s arms. “Why is this happening now?”
“It’s going to be alright my love,” he comforted her. “You don’t have anything to worry about. I’m here with you now…there’s nothing to worry about. There is nothing he can do to you now…you’re safe.”
Suddenly, Martha lifted her head up to look at him. There was a new determination behind her eyes. “What if we just go back to the US?”
“Martha….” He sat down next to her and held her hand. “What are you afraid of? It’s been thirty years since….”
“And he’s way more powerful now than he was then!” Martha cried. “What if he discovers I’m in the city? What about Natasha? Oooh, my poor baby….”
Ben pulled her into his arms again. “Given the kind of spotlight he’s under right now I don’t think he can do anything stupid. Why don’t you just trust me? I will make sure nothing happens to you or Natasha.
“Please honey, don’t cry…just trust me. I know I haven’t been much of a protector to my family but I have finally learnt how to be a better husband and a better father so, trust me.”
Martha wanted to trust him, to believe that no harm would come to her or her daughter but even after so many years, the memories still had the power to scare her to death just like they did thirty years ago. She had hoped that time would heal her completely but seeing the face of the man who had shattered her life to pieces on television and hearing the praises being thrown at him like he was some kind of saint made her feel even worse.
So many years had passed and she had thought she had changed…how can it be that she hadn’t and he looked like he had? The face she had just seen on the screen might have been the same one she had known all those years back but still, there was something about his eyes…his demeanour that had changed tremendously.
The piercing evil eyes and the angry face that had towered over her and made her wish for nothing but death…that face had been replaced by the soft and relaxed features of the nation’s political hero; a humble looking but well-spoken man of honour he had been called. How in heaven could that have happened? In Martha’s eyes, Nataniel Kaponda was the perfect portrayal of the clichéd politician; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“Right now is not the time for us to get worried or run.” Ben was saying. “If you go back to the US it means he still wins. He doesn’t deserve to win. If you think about it, we are the ones with the upper hand.”
Martha gave him a puzzled expression.
“We know something about him that might instantly kill his political career if revealed.” He explained.
“With the kind of power he now has he can easily do something to silence us. We don’t stand a chance against a man like him.” Martha said.
Ben laughed. “That’s where you are wrong my love,” he said. “I did my research on him immediately after you told me about the news you had heard months ago. Do you know who the major corporate sponsor of PfP is?”
“TMH, Joshua Mulenga.”
“What!?” Martha jumped from the bed.
Ben was smiling like a man that had suddenly won the lotto. “Yes my love. Do you see where I am going with this? Right now Mulenga is our in-law; our daughter and his son will be getting married soon and let’s not forget, between us there’s Sean. What do you think Kaponda will do when he discovers this?”
There was hope finally glowing on Martha’s face. She walked over to her husband who was still seated on the bed, pulled his head back and planted a kiss on his lips. “Genius!” She said, sitting down beside him. “Sometimes I forget that I married a genius. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?”
Ben was grinning from ear to ear. “Don’t kill me but I have a suggestion.” He looked at her nervously. “I know it’s going to sound ridiculous…and possibly even risky but you know what they say; sometimes offence is the best kind of defence.”
Martha looked disturbed. “What do you mean?”
* * *
With the election date slowly drawing closer, there was a hype of activity all over the nation’s capital. It was no secret that Zambians thrived on political drama; the idea that a government that had been in power for over ten years would finally be rid of was as thrilling as a plot from a Shakespearean tragedy.
Martha’s sudden realization that she had the power to push a button and shift the prevailing political tides in a whole differnt direction gave her the strength to confidently walk into Joshua Mulenga’s home office in the company of her husband and make a life-changing request to him.
She was never going to forget the look of horror on her in-law’s face when he heard the news.
Two Days Later
“Are you sure about this honey?” Bernard asked his wife. They were at the headquarters of the leading opposition party PfP, seated in their car in the parking lot.
“Yes,” she said, breathing heavily. “But that doesn’t mean I am not nervous. Ooooh I think am going to have a heart attack.” She placed her hand over her heart.
“Maybe I should come with you,” Ben suggested for the umpteenth time.
Martha gave him the same response she had given him all those times. “I want him to believe…to see that I am not afraid of him…that I can take care of myself. If I go in there with you, it will just make me feel powerless before him…like in the past.”
“What if we just cancel everything?” He was the one now acting nervous. “Maybe if we just lay low he won’t ever discover that you are back.”
Martha couldn’t help laughing at how the tables had quickly turned. Just a few seconds ago she was the one whimpering in fear.
“We have a daughter who’s a news anchor, she’s about to get married to the only son of one…if not the richest man in the country who just so happens to be the man behind Nataniel Kaponda’s political career. The phrase lying low shouldn’t even exist in our vocabulary.”
“I know you are right,” Ben said resignedly. “I guess now that we are here, I am a little scared…well, maybe not just a little…I am not comfortable with you being alone with him. What if he tries to hurt you again?”
“I don’t think he would try anything like that right now, not when he’s under public scrutiny. He might be the scum of the earth but he’s got a fully functioning brain too. Besides,” Martha laid her hand on Ben’s knee. “He’s expecting a reporter in there, not the girl he raped thirty years ago.”
“I am not sure how to respond to that.” Ben said.
Martha opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle. Leaning in from outside, she told her husband; “I was nervous a few minutes ago but now I’m not.” She was smiling. “I know what you just did so…thank you for being the best husband in the world.”
Ben came out and walked around to give her a hug before letting her go.
“I will be right here,” he said. “I am not going anywhere. Now go and let that son of a bitch know who’s in charge.”
Martha chuckled nervously and waved at him.
Nataniel Kaponda was going through the speech his secretary had just prepared for that evening’s fundraising event when the secretary walked in to announce his appointment for 10am.
“Send her right in,” the presidential hopeful cheerfully said, ready to ingratiate himself to the press. With the speech files in his hands, he stood up and readied himself to welcome the reporter sent by the man he owed his whole political career to.
The young secretary stepped aside and Martha came into view.
The small folder in Nataniel’s hand dropped to his desk.
The proud smirk on Martha’s face upon seeing the frightened look on his face was unmistakable.
Martha made sure to close the door behind the secretary before going to sit. “Nataniel,” she said in a calm but playful tone. “This is a beautiful office you have here.” Her eyes roamed the expensively furnished office. “Looks like you’ve done pretty well for yourself compared to where you should be, if life was fair.”
She pulled one back of the two chairs in front his desk and served herself a seat before he could make the offer. “Why don’t you sit?” She pointed to his huge leather seat. “You look like you are about to faint.”
Like an obedient child, Nataniel sat down. “How….”
“How come I am the one here and not some reporter?” She finished for him.
“Yes.” He said.
“It could be because your saviour and I have a special kind of relationship.” She said suggestively and immediately got the reaction she had been hoping for from him.
“Relax, I would never be anybody’s mistress.”
He seemed to relax a little.
“He is my in-law,” she clarified. “My daughter and his son are engaged…and we share a grandson.”
Nataniel looked like he had just had a bucket of cold water poured on him. Only yesterday he had called Joshua to congratulate him on his son’s engagement after reading front page reports about it on all forms of media available in the country.
“That anchor is your daughter?” He asked.
“Yes,” Martha answered matter-of-factly. “And she is the reason I am here.”
“She is?” He looked surprised. “I thought you came for…” he left the sentence hanging, unable to bring himself to say the life-threatening words.
“Who said there’s a difference? To me it’s one and the same thing.”
True to his character, Nataniel picked up on her meaning immediately. He couldn’t remember when he got up from the chair but he was now standing. Martha’s disparaging glare made the world around him spin even faster.
“Nooo,” he said, shaking his head slowly.
“Sit down Nataniel, you look like a fool. What happened to that over-confident bastard that pinned me down and drained the life out of me?”
He sat back down again. “My life is over,” he said with a distant look in his eyes, obviously imagining all the fame and money slipping away. ”I knew this day would come but I just didn’t –“
“I didn’t come here to blackmail you or anything, if that’s what you are moaning about. You should know me better than that. The devil might have bruised me, but I never turned into one.”
Confused, Nataniel asked, “then why did you come here, especially now? Did someone ask you to do this? To force me to pull out of the race?”
Martha laughed. “Don’t flatter yourself Mr President.”
Very suddenly and unexpectedly, he got up from his chair and dropped to his knees before her.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Martha tried to pull away from him but he was holding on to her legs and sobbing like a child.
“I know I have no right to ask this of you –“
“Oh don’t be so predictable!” She said scornfully. “I am not one of those people that buy into your political manipulations. I don’t care how far deep you are in pretending to be an outstanding man, I know who you are. I know the real you you miserable bastard.”
“It’s not like that Martha,” he pleaded.
“Get off of me!” Martha kicked him away and sent him falling on his back.
Nataniel slowly picked himself up and knelt down where he was, away from her. With his head bowed down, he continued pleading.
“I don’t expect you to believe that I am a different man now,” he said. “I don’t even blame you for thinking the worst of me because I deserve it. But Martha,” he looked up at her. “I have truly changed. I was going through a lot back then and I lost control, once. I have never done anything like that to anyone else.”
“Wow, then I guess I am the lucky one! I was raped by the mighty Nataniel Kaponda, someone, please, give me a medal.” There were tears in her eyes as she said the sarcastic words. Nataniel’s presence before her had vividly brought back to life the memories she had been trying to forget for the past thirty years.
“I know there’s nothing I can say right now that you will believe but please…I am truly sorry for what I did to you. I was drunk that day, my dad had just put me aside in favour of my step-brother…I know these are all excuses but I am not that man who took out his frustrations on an innocent girl any more.
“There’s absolutely no justification for what I did. I have regretted that night to this day. I have never forgotten, not once. I searched everywhere for you after I woke up the next day and found the blood stained sheets. Everything that had happened in the night came back to me in full force. I was ashamed of myself…of what I had done. I wanted to apologize, to do whatever possible to show I was sorry.
“I even prepared myself to go to jail. I thought you reported me. I was scared. I wanted to take myself to the police but my father refused to let me, said we have to wait for you to press charges instead of serving myself to the police just like that.”
Martha bolted from her chair in anger. “You sent people after me!” She yelled.
“A man entered my dorm at the nursing school in the middle of the night and tried to strangle me! He would have killed me if the girl from the next room hadn’t heard my screams and come to my rescue.”
“I swear that wasn’t me! I never sent anyone…” he then remembered his father’s words the day he had run to him for help.
“Don’t do anything stupid like reporting yourself to the police. I will take care of things. The last thing I need is the likes of you running my name through mud.” His father had said.
“You actually expect me to believe that?” Martha asked.
“I swear Martha, it was my father. I only got to find out about it when he kept insisting that I leave the country. I thought it was because he wanted me completely out of his life but then he told me that it was because he had sent someone after you but you managed to escape. He never meant to hurt you, he just wanted to scare you.
“I went looking for you but I couldn’t find you anywhere. There were crazy thoughts on my mind…I thought I made you do something stupid…like kill yourself. You were such a proud and fearless person and what I did to you was the worst that could happen to anyone. I knew I had ruined your life…and I desperately wanted to make things right.”
“I didn’t come here to hear your excuses,” Martha said sternly. “I might have forgiven you for what you did to me but that doesn’t mean you can’t face the consequences.”
“I know,” Nataniel said, his head hanging low. “I really had no idea my father was planning something like that. If you want me to step down or if you want to tell the world about what I did…you can do that.”
“What?” Martha asked.
“I don’t want you to,” he answered honestly. “And I am willing to do whatever possible to beg you not to but, if it’s something you feel you have to do, I cannot stop you.”
“Do you honestly mean that?”
“Martha,” he said in a calm and collected tone. “You knew me before that night. Those few months I resorted to drinking where just days of me acting out after my father’s rejection, God rest his soul. I made a mistake once, a very grave mistake and I will never forget it.
“That night,” Nataniel shut his eyes closed, as if to block the memory from his mind. “In a moment of rage I lost control. People think that I do all these charity works around the community and go to church every Sunday because I am a good person but that’s not it. Everything I have done since that night has been my way of making out for what I did to you.
“Even my political career, I thought if I can make a difference in the world, that if I keep doing good things, I thought it might help me feel better about myself. I haven’t forgiven myself for the past, I don’t deserve anyone’s forgiveness so I won’t even dare ask for it.”
“Then why did you do that to me? I trusted you!” Martha cried.
“I don’t know,” he was shaking his head in regret. “I really don’t know. I just remember being so mad that day. I guess I was just selfish, only focused on my pain. I didn’t understand why you couldn’t sleep with me that night when you claimed to love me.
“I was young, it didn’t make sense then but I know better now. I have two daughters. I think God gave me daughters only as a way of punishing me…to make me see just what I had done to someone else’s daughter. I didn’t even know I had a third daughter.”
“Well, she is actually your first, not third.” Martha corrected him.
“Does she know about me?” Nataniel asked.
“Of course not. What did you want me to tell her, you are a product of rape?”
“Martha?” He dropped his head low in shame again.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But for the past thirty years I have only thought of you as a villain in my life. I couldn’t remember the person you were before that night.”
“Does Mr Mulenga know? Is that why he helped you set up this meeting?”
“Yes he knows. My husband and I decided it was the best thing to do. I didn’t know it was your father that sent someone after me so….”
“So you thought I might try to harm you again if I discovered you were around?”
“I guess I deserve that.”
“Can I sit up now?” He winced in pain. “My knees are killing me. I am not young anymore.”
“I never asked you to kneel.” She said. “You went down on your own.”
Nataniel got up from the floor and nervously went to stand behind his desk. “So what do you plan on doing with me Martha? I am at your mercy right now.”
“It’s a good thing you know that,” Martha said.
“Whatever you decide, can I just ask one thing?”
Martha threw him a look.
“I know, I’m shameless right now but, about Natasha….”
“What about Natasha?”
“Can I talk to her first before the truth gets out?”
“Apart from your father, did you tell anyone else about what happened that night?”
“No, just my wife.”
“What? You told your wife? Who tells his wife that he raped someone? Are you still married to her?”
“I told her before we got married. There was no way I was going to ask her to marry me with something like that weighing down on my neck.”
“And she still agreed to marry you?”
“Not right away,” he said. “She dumped me right after I told her but later on I think she felt pity for me and forgave me. Said she was glad I told her about it first.”
“Well aren’t you lucky with women Nataniel?” Martha said sarcastically.
“It’s a miracle,” he said. “You mentioned your husband earlier…I take it he knows?”
“He knows. He’s downstairs right now as we speak.”
Nataniel straightened his back. “What? He’s here with you?”
“There are no secrets between us.” she said. “I had come here to make a few threats but it appears I have to change my script.”
“What did you want to say?” He asked.
“I am sure by now you’ve realized the position we are both in. Apart from the fear of my daughter discovering exactly how she was conceived, there is nothing else that would keep me from telling everyone what you did.
“I can’t tell right now if what you told me is the truth or not…and frankly, I don’t want to know. I just don’t want you to try anything against my family thinking we are here to ruin your political career. You are lucky that you have such loyal supporters like Mr Mulenga.
“Even though he was sorry about what happened to me, it was clear he has a lot of faith in you. He said you once told him that you have a deep regret in your life and only when I told him my story did he connect the dots of whatever it is you had talked about.
“However, there is something else in his life that’s more important than his political ambitions and that’s his family. I want you to stay away from my daughter –“
“Martha, she is my child too,” Nataniel tried to reason with her. “How can I –“
Martha raised her hand. “Don’t even go there,” she warned him. “You should know better than anyone else; there are consequences to every decision we make in life. It should be enough for you knowing you have a daughter but don’t even dream about coming into her life.
“As far as she knows, you don’t exist. Unless you want to break her heart or give up on your political career, you will stay away from her. Am I making myself clear?”
“I understand,” he answered resignedly.
“Keep your promise and you will have a smooth sail towards State House. Try something funny and it’s goodbye to everything you’ve worked so hard for all these years. Don’t even try to get your wife to get close to my daughter. I will ruin you.
“Natasha picks up on things quickly. The moment she senses something, she will ask me about it and I don’t think I have the strength to look her in the eye and lie to her. I think she’s aware that my relationship with her biological father wasn’t good so she’s never asked me about him.
“I have seen the need in her to know but somehow, she always manages to keep quiet for fear of breaking my heart.” Pushing back tears she added, “She’s about to get married…I don’t want her discovering the truth. It will break her.”
Nataniel Kaponda was at a loss. He understood very well Martha’s terms and was more than appreciative of the mercy she had shown him, however, he had reservations about going on with life pretending he didn’t have another child. How was he going to survive something like that? It had been hard enough living with the guilt over his past but this?
“I hear you,” he told Martha after a while, his voice heavy with emotion. “I won’t tell her anything. I promise.”
Martha heaved a sigh of relief.
* * *
One Week Later
Natasha was out on a picnic date with Tulani when she received a call from the Program Director. Wondering why he might be calling her on her day off, Natasha answered the call.
“Oh thank God you picked up!” The fifty year old said. “Where are you right now?”
Natasha laughed. “Boss, its Sunday today. Have you forgotten?”
Is that Chanda? Tulani mouthed the question to her. Natasha nodded.
“Bring the phone here,” he grabbed it from her before she could protest.
“Ba Chanda, why are you interrupting my date? Do you want to lose your job?”
“Sorry boss,” Mr Chanda quickly apologized. “But we have an emergency. You know that we are supposed to have Mr Kaponda as a guest on Richard’s show tonight right?”
“How can I forget? Everyone in this country is impatiently waiting for tonight’s episode. The elections are just in two weeks.”
“That’s exactly why I called Sir. Richard was involved in an accident on his way to the station.”
Tulani sat up. “What happened? Is he alright? How….”
“I’m told his injuries aren’t fatal but he’s certainly in no condition to appear on TV or let alone open his mouth. We need someone to take his spot but we can’t get through to Morris or Towela. I understand that Natasha is still a stranger to Zambian politics but she’s our only hope right now.
“We have four more hours till the interview. The script is ready already and I have assembled a group to gather some relevant information she might need to know to sail through smoothly.”
Tulani was looking at Natasha with furrowed brows, wondering if she was ready to take on such a challenge so soon.
“What’s wrong?” Natasha asked.
“They want you to take Richard’s spot on his program tonight.”
Natasha’s eyes lit up. “For real?” She asked. And then realization struck her. “What happened to Richard? He was looking forward to tonight with bated breath.”
“He was involved in an accident,” Tulani answered, his phone still by his ear.
“Is he okay?” there was a look of horror on Natasha’s face.
“He’s going to live, but he can’t come for work just yet. Do you think you can fill in for him? And no, Morris and Towela are missing.” He had read the next question on her face.
“Of course I can do it!” She answered confidently. “I have been reading up on local politics since I came. The new show am working on has a political component to it so – “
“She says she’ll do it,” Tulani told Mr Chanda on the phone before Natasha could finish. “I will be dropping her off in about thirty minutes. Make sure you have everything ready. Also, don’t forget to inform Mr Kaponda about the change. Those people hate it when they are caught off-guard.”
“Yes Sir, thank you very much!” The director said before hanging up.
“Looks like my woman is about to become even more famous now.” Tulani said as he got up. “Let’s go,” he reached out his hand to Natasha and helped her up.
“Let me even call mum before we get to the station. She will be in shock!”
Martha was in the kitchen cooking when she received a call from a strange number.
“Hello,” she said.
“Martha this is Nata, sorry to call you out of the blue but we have a huge problem.”
“I thought I asked you….”
Bernard, who had been watching TV in the next room thought his wife was talking to him so he rushed over to her. He arrived in time to keep her from hitting her head on the floor.
Martha had passed out.