After the unexpected confession Alicia made to Kondwani, she made sure she avoided him by all means at work, only showing herself when it was absolutely necessary for the two to be in the same space at the same time. No sooner had the words come out of Alicia’s mouth than she regretted uttering them.
What was I thinking? She kept asking herself. She would shut her eyes for minutes and wince in embarrassment whenever the memory crossed her mind…and it did so with a committed vengeance. Just like before, after their time together at the camping resort, Kondwani too religiously stayed away from Alicia, making sure their paths didn’t cross if they were not attending to the same patients.
Kondwani had had a lot of women profess their love or feelings to him first and unexpectedly many times before, however, it was the very first time in his life that a woman uttered those words and he was moved into action; flight. Like a fool, he had set a bait hoping to trap someone into doing his bidding unconsciously but he ended up trapping himself instead.
Very suddenly, Kondwani was forced to reckon with just how much power Alicia had over him. She was not just the girlfriend to the man whose death haunted him through the night; she was now trying to make her way to his heart. If his mission was to ensure that she’s well taken care of in Nicolas’ stead, then how was he to achieve that knowing how she felt about him? Why did she come out and say out her feelings? Why didn’t she just keep them to herself, wouldn’t that have been the better option…move on with her life pretending she felt nothing?
Why did she confess?
For close to six years Kondwani had managed to live an almost guilty-free life, only thinking about the past and that fateful accident when its anniversary came. Somehow, in his desperation for survival, Kondwani had managed to convince himself that whatever had happened had been an accident. He had blocked out the details and focused only on one thing. He had not set out that day to kill anyone’s son. What happened was simply a misfortune between two people that met at the wrong place at the wrong time.
If anyone at all is to blame for that calamity, Kondwani reasoned, it is the man that allowed the rains to pour with such a vengeance on that particular evening. As for him, he was only human, how was he to control something so natural and keep that unfortunate incident from happening?
According to Kondwani, the only mistake he made was trusting in a supernatural being he had not even seen to have his back, to give him the strength he needed to take care of his family at such a young age, and to shield him from all sorts of harm.
While his mother was breaking her back and risking her life to take care of her children, where was the God that she trusted in the most? In the end, it had been him that took up that responsibility. His mother’s God might have given up a son he fathered by spirit but he, Kondwani reasoned sacrificed his youth, his happiness and even his life to take care of his family.
For his love, he had something to point at? Where could the other guy in his mother’s life point? Apart from the pain, the heartache and disappointment, where was his love?
For years Kondwani had allowed himself to live in that pretence, convincing himself he had no part in the accident. He owed no one anything; after all, didn’t that man’s family accept the money? So why did he have to feel guilty? Given his circumstances, Kondwani truly believed he did what he could to preserve himself and the lives of his loved ones. If God himself had turned His back on them, who else but him only could protect them and give them the kind of life they deserved?
Why should I feel guilty for loving my family and acting responsible towards them? Kondwani always asked himself whenever the guilt threatened to drown him under. It was his only coping mechanism; to detach himself from the event and present it as a necessary evil on his way to success.
Like the saying goes; there is no escape for the man living in sin, the appearance of Alicia before his eyes sent Kondwani’s guilty-free life into absolute chaos. From that day forward, he had not been able to get a good night’s sleep. It was not like he had not known of her existence before she stepped her feet into his hospital and stood before him.
Kondwani stopped pacing to and from in his office, one arm folded across his chest while the other was raised to his chin. His mind went back to that night when he had secretly sneaked into the hospital after the accident to check on how the man at the accident scene was doing.
Did he make it? The then 29 year old doctor had asked himself from behind the wall where he was hiding, scared straight in his boots from fear of being discovered by the man’s relatives camped outside the operating room. Except, he needed to know…no matter the outcome he needed to know. How could he simply walk away?
But he had been standing there for close to twenty minutes and the doctors still hadn’t come out of the ER.
“Just what is going on in there?” Kondwani asked himself, his hands pressed hard together as he held on to his breath. Just then, someone brushed passed him with so much force he was almost pulled out of his hiding place if not for the fact that he was quick enough to grab hold of the pillar he was hiding behind with both hands.
That had been his first encounter with Alicia.
Even for their very first meeting, she had unwittingly tried to force him out of his hiding place so he could be slaughtered by those after his life. She had unconsciously done it then and she was still unconsciously doing it now. Oh fate, thou art cruellest!
Kondwani watched wide-eyed as the people he assumed where the man’s family immediately launch into attach the moment they spotted the girl that had just brushed passed him, crying. In the next few minutes, he would come to learn about her relationship to the deceased. The doctors had finally appeared before the family and the first one to be hit by the impact of the news was the very girl they kept calling Alicia.
She had clatched her hand over her stomach in pain and went straight for the floor.
Kondwani felt an immediate change in time as everything around him started moving in slow motion. The moment the girl went down, he turned his back away from the grieving family, bracing himself for escape but not so quick as to avoid being pushed to the side by the group of nurses wheeling the girl that had just collapsed passed him. She still had her hand over her stomach even in her passed out state.
He had heard the insults from the man’s feelings. He had an idea of who she was and out of everyone present there, it was the image of her collapsing to the floor that haunted his memories and visited him as nightmares every now and then for the past six years; that and the accident scene itself.
If they can attack someone who wasn’t even there at the scene of the accident and place all the blame on her in such fashion, what would they do if they uncovered the actual culprit behind the crime? With that, Kondwani walked away from that family, never to look back at them.
Until Alicia came and found him.
After their memorable encounter in the locker room, Kondwani spent that evening going over his assessment of Alicia’s personality; how had he miscalculated that move she pulled? For a man that was quick on the uptake and calculated five or ten steps ahead of everyone else, in that single moment, Alicia had crushed his confidence and made him question every decision he had made about getting her out of his life.
“You mean that-that same nurse?” Chilufya asked, disbelief written all over her face.
“That-that timid looking and shy woman confessed her feelings to you?” Chilufya asked for the umpteenth time.
“Why do I get the feeling that you are asking all the wrong questions sis?” Kondwani asked.
“Chill, chill,” Chilufya said, waving her hand at him. “I’m still trying to get over the initial shock.” Her mood was still in the 21st century, the medieval times had not yet called for the day. Kondwani could only be glad.
“Don’t tell me that you haven’t been asking yourself the same question.”
Kondwani said nothing in return, the guilty was written all over his being.
“See,” Chilufya said, pointing at him accusingly. “You like that she confessed to you don’t you?”
“No!” Kondwani answered a little too quickly. “How can you even say that? What sort of man will I be if I dared entertain something like that?”
“That’s beside the point.” Chilu argued. “I just want to know how you felt when she told you how she felt.”
“I don’t know how I felt…really, I can’t say.” He added when his sister gave him a look. “I was just so shocked by the suddenness of it all. I never saw the confession coming!”
“How did she say it?” Chilufya asked.
“She walked up to me, looked me in the eye and said she thinks she’s in-love with me.”
“And then added that she had no intentions of coming after me and that she only informed me in order that I may leave her alone.”
“Yesssss.” Kondwani mimicked his sister’s tone, except, there was disappointment on his face and not disbelief like the one on her face.
“You really like her don’t you?” Chilufya asked.
“Chilu, I’ve told you-“
“No, just be honest with me bro.” Chilufya insisted. “I have never seen you look this disappointed or broken when talking about a girl. You’ve been with Gwen now for a very long time and despite everything she does-“
“I am not disappointed sis.” Kondwani insited.
Chilufya got up from where she was seated and went to sit next to her brother. She took his hand and held on to it as she spoke. “I think sometimes you forget that I used to be your best friend at some point in your life.” She reminded him.
Indeed, the two siblings were inseparable growing up. Of all his siblings, it was Chilufya Kondwani loved the most and it was she he was very close to. Growing up, Kondwani did everything he could to protect his baby sister who was the centre of ridicule amongst her peers due to the outlandish nature of her personality. To protect his sister through her most difficult adolescent age, Kondwani made sure he walked her to school and picked her up in the evenings so they could walk home together despite his busy schedule as a pre-med student.
As long as he stayed by her side and everyone knew who she was in his life, Kondwani felt that they would all look kindly on her if they knew she had a very cute and intelligent brother protecting her all the way; and it worked.
“I remember that day, I think it was in your fifth year when you stopped along the road on our way home and you sat down crying because the girl you had a crush on…I can’t remember what her name was,” Chilufya said. “She beat you in that one exam and broke your record of being the top student.” Chilufya was laughing hard from the memory.
“Sylvia!” Kondwani shouted as he slowly shook his head with a smile on his face before embarrassment crept in. “Her name was Sylvia; I hear she’s married to some Arab guy who forced to quit work. She even wears those ninja outfits those people wear.”
Chilufya laughed. “It’s called a hijab Wani.” She corrected him.
“I don’t care what they are called.” Kondwani said. “Don’t you just find it sad that she has those brains and she spent all those years studying only to be cooked up at home covered in that thing attending to twenty children?”
“That’s the con of being a woman.” Chilufya said. “Anyway, who are we to judge? I am sure she was aware of everything before she married the guy; her choice, her life.”
“But why did you bring that up Chilu?” Kondwani asked.
“Because that was the last time you and I were that close.” She answered. “After that you changed, completely.”
“Chilu,” Kondwani looked his sister in the eye. “It wasn’t because-“
“I know,” she interjected him, her face suddenly turned serious. “I know it wasn’t because of that. A lot was happening around that time but!” She brightened up again. “I just wanted to remind you that you still have a friend in me…that you can talk to me and that you don’t have to hide your feelings with me.
“I know that you don’t have anyone you can truly call a friend. Most of the people around you are only there because they serve some sort of purpose in your very ambitious lifestyle. Before, you used to talk to mum and me about things going on in your life but after the accident…everything changed.”
Kondwani squeezed his sister’s hand as a bitter-sweet smile appeared on his face. He got up from the sofa to stand by the window, his back to her. He didn’t need her to remind him of how much he had changed. Every morning he looked in the mirror, the stranger looking back at him yelled out the change in him. And every day he walked the corridors of the hospital or attended to a patient on the verge of death, he felt that difference.
How many more lives would he need to save to atone for his sins? Could someone like him have any portion of happiness in this lifetime? Kondwani wondered. It had been years now since he had given up on certain dreams that men his age busked in. Things like love and happiness were not even a possibility in his life. He could not afford the luxury of such pursuits and even if by chance they came his way, his greatest fear was that he did not deserve such good fortune.
Kondwani’s purpose on earth was to simply exist and survive each passing day as he waited for judgement day to come, if there was ever such a thing. His life as he knew it ended that day on that rainy empty street where two cars embraced, everything else torn apart.
“Did I cross the line?” Chilufya was standing next to him, she too looking out into the lit backyard through the sheer curtains.
In response, Kondwani stretched out his arm and placed it over her shoulders, drawing her in closer from the side. “How could I have changed this much while you remained the same?” He asked. “Can’t you rub off some of that sweetness onto me?”
Chilufya chuckled. “Instead of just rubbing off some of it on you, how about I share the whole lot of it with you?” She was looking up at him expectantly.
“What are you talking about?” Kondwani laughed.
“Free your Wednesday evening next week, I want to take you to some place somewhere where dreams come true.” She offered.
Chilufya laughed at the puzzled expression on her brother’s face. “I won’t give any more explanations, just promise me that you will be home early on Wednesday and I will come to pick you up.
“And don’t talk to me about patients, emergencies and what not.” She added. “Someone else can save those people for a few hours. It’s not even your job to actively attend to patients.”
“I didn’t spend all those late nights in school just to sit in some office looking at papers and a computer screen.” Kondwani said.
“You deserve a break.” His sister argued. “While you are busy saving others, who’s saving you? This is not a request bro,” she was looking up at him as she said this. “I am telling you that you have a date with me this Wednesday and if you still consider me a friend, you will honour that date.”
“Emotionally blackmailing your own brother sure,” Kondwan said. “Have you no shame young lady?” He pulled her head closer and playfully raffled up her short weave while she protested under.
“So what are you going to do about Alicia the nurse?” Chilufya later asked Kondwani when they sat down for dinner that she had prepared for them.
“What do you mean what am I going to do?” Kondwani asked. “I was the one that made the mistake of playing around with her emotions expecting a different kind of outcome so now I just need to treat her strictly professionally and stay out of her personal business.
“Anthony says that he will have no trouble getting her back her son so my responsibilities towards her end there; that’s all I can do for her. This business of chasing her around and begging her to let me take care of her stops now…and you know something funny?”
“What?” Chilufya asked.
“I actually thought that I could help her…physically you know….”
“You mean having sex with her to fill her loneliness?” She asked sarcastically.
Kondwani cringed in embarrassment.
“Yeah, you already told me about it.” Chilufya reminded him.
“I actually thought that something like that was possible without any of us getting emotionally attached but Alicia is just too naïve and innocent she spooked me.”
Chilufya laid her folk down and stared at her brother. “It’s not just Alicia bro,” she said. “All humans, especially women are like that. You are the strange one in this.”
“How so?” Kondwani asked. “There are women out there who parade themselves on the streets to lure men into sleeping with them for money. They get what they want and they leave, it’s that easy. Why do people need to complicate things so much? It’s just sex, not a life sentence.”
Chilufya laughed at her brother’s ignorance in matters of the heart. “Fall in-love first and let’s see if you will utter those words.”
Kondwani busted out laughing. “The day I come to you talking about falling in-love, shoot me.”
Chilufya’s heart ached for her brother and it showed on her face. Was there no hope for him? She wondered silently. Was he so far gone that there was no turning around anywhere in the future?
“Stop looking at me like that and eat your food.” Kondwani said, his head was busy on the food down on his plate.
“How did you-“
“I don’t have to look at you to see that look on your face. I can literally feel it piercing into my sculp.” He still hadn’t raised his head to look at her, he just kept shoving food into his mouth.
“Mwansa has a boyfriend now.” Chilufya quickly changed the subject.
Finally, Kondwani raised his head from the plate. “How is that news?” He asked. “That girl has been dating from the moment she could tell the difference between girl and boy.”
Chilufya laughed, hard. “That’s true though.” She agreed. “But this time it’s different. She seems to truly love this new guy.”
“Shouldn’t she be concentrating on school right now instead of some boy? Who’s this boy anyway?”
“His name’s Stephen Malambo, I think. He should be a student as well, I’m not sure, I never really asked.
“Malambo?” Kondwani said. “Where have I heard that name? I feel like I know someone with that name. I just hope she’s not dating some old guy. That kid has no fear. She is too bold for her own good.”
Chilufya laughed. “Let’s hope not.” She said. “She comes into my room to chatter about him all night long. She doesn’t really care whether I’m listening or not. She’s even talking about being a born again Christian now.”
Kondwani raised his eyebrows at his sister. “Another one in the family, gone. May her sould rest in peace.” he said disappointedly. “Mum must be so proud.”
“Stop being so sarcastic, there’s nothing wrong with Christianity.”
“Yeah, when you are five and everything in the world is black and white.” He finished the food on his plate and sat back in his chair. “I don’t understand how grown ass men, and women too can obsess over two beings they’ve never actually seen.”
“You used to believe in those two beings yourself.” Chilufya reminded him. “Up until the…accident.” She immediately regretted bringing up the accident again. Why did everything somehow always end up with the accident? But the damage was already done so she went ahead with her argument;
“You still believe in hell and in judgment though…so why don’t you believe that there’s a God somewhere?” She asked him.
“Just because I talk about hell and judgement doesn’t mean I believe in them. And this is the issue I have with your faith; mum pounded those things on us, sometimes even with force that we can’t be rid of them easily even if we wanted to.
“When I believed,” He put the word in quotation marks. “It wasn’t by free will; it was only because mum did. But then that night happened and everything became so clear to me. In this world, whether you do good or bad, the end is the same for everyone. What’s wrong with you now?”
Chilufya had tears in her eyes as she listened to her brother talk and when Kondwani asked the question, they came streaming down her cheeks. “You know,” she said, wiping away the tears as she did so. “For years I used to wonder why God made me the way He did. I remember how mum would proudly tell us; we were all made in the image of God!”
She was smiling despite the tears welled up in her eyes. “I believed in that statement as much as mum believed it until…until I discovered I was different from everyone else. I asked myself; if we were all created in the image of God, then why do I have this disorder?”
“And your answer?” Kondwani asked.
Chilufya wiped away all her tears with her hands and left her face dry. Smiling again, she looked up at her brother. “You know how I am, when something bothers me, I will search for answers until I find them. You were right when you said we all believed because mum did but when I took a personal interest, I discovered certain things about God and Jesus Christ that I could not learn through simply following mum.
“You look at me now and you think it’s the meds that are helping me heal; it’s not just the meds Wani, there’s something else that’s helped a lot.”
“Don’t tell me, don’t tell me, its God right!?” Kondwani teased her, laughing.
Chilufya laughed softly with him, shaking her head. “I know it sounds funny to you right now but at the right time, you will get it…I know you will.”
“So are you telling me that I should take you off the meds now?” Kondwani asked.
“I never said that.” Chilufya said. “Me taking those meds in also a way of God helping me. Who do you think gave the person that came up with that drug the intelligence to come up with it?”
Kondwani laughed. “Have you ever seen some of these scientists in person?” He asked. “They are the worst kind in the whole world. Some of them go as far as to create the disease and then provide the antidote just so they can make billions and billions of money.”
“Intelligence, talents, or gifts, whatever you call them where given to every human being by God.” Chilufya preached. “Both good and bad people, that’s just how God works; it doesn’t matter who you are or what the world thinks you are, God loves us all the same, enough to give us-“
“His only begotten son, yeah, yeah, yeah, I still remember the lessons kiddo.” Kondwani sarcastically finished for her. Then he got up. “Finish up and bring the dishes.” He said as he picked up his. “I’m going to put this one and the others in the kitchen in the washer.”
“I thought you had a maid?”
“I do, what’s that got to do with me putting the dishes I used into a machine that will do the work for me?”
Chilufya laughed, she finished whatever was remaining on her plate and stood up as well. She picked up the rest of the dishes on the table with Kondwani’s help and they carried them into the kitchen.
“I feel pity for the woman who’s going to end up as your wife,” Chilufya teased her brother. “You are such a perfectionist and a clean freak. Women like clean and smart guys, but even to that, there’s a limit and you are way over it.”
“How I wish Gwen could take care of her home the way she takes care of her face.” Kondwani said. “I have been in her room, once, I never went back in there.”
Chilufya paused whatever she was doing. “Are you still marrying that woman Kondwani?” The disappointment in her tone was as clear as day.
“What do you mean I’m I still marrying that woman?” He laughed. “Was there ever a time I said I wasn’t?”
“Don’t you even envy people around you that are happily in-love?” Chilufya asked.
Kondwani laughed. “Let’s not go there Chilu, let’s not even go there.”
“There’s just no winning with you.” Chilufya laughed and went back to packing the left overs into bowls to be put in the fridge for Kondwani to heat up later.
“And you keep trying.” Kondwani said once he was done placing the plates in the dish washer.
Samuel Kayombo could never find any sleep that night after Alicia told him about her feelings for Kondwani.
Why was is it that every woman he was falling for ended up loving that man instead? Kayombo wondered. What was it about Kondwani the made all the women pick him instead?
For a moment, Kayombo had entertained the idea of using Alicia to discover Kondwani’s weakness but after spending so much time with her in the past weeks, he had changed his mind. What normal man would spend an hour or less in the company of the beautiful but well-grounded woman like Alicia and not fall for her?
Her timidness, though unattractive brought out the man in him; the need inside him to protect her and shield her from the world kept growing each passing day.
Kondwani glared at the white ceiling of his bedroom as he lay on the bed, an angry expression on his face as if disappointed that it could not provide him the answers he was seeking. He placed his hands on the pillow and laid his head over them, his legs stretched forward, one over the other.
Despite her beauty and intelligence, Alicia was not the type that Samuel went after. He liked his women, tough, confident and always dressed to kill. Gwen was the perfect representation of that group of women. When he started looking at Alicia as more than just his late friend’s girlfriend, Kayombo didn’t know. The feelings had just crept up on him and took him by surprise.
Hearing her talk about her feelings for another man made him realize just how deep his own feelings for her were. Unfortunately, while he was busy battling his conscience, Alicia’s eyes had landed on Kondwani.
However, it was not just Alicia’s feelings Kayombo seemed to be fighting against, it was also what she revealed about Kondwani’s feelings.
“No way,” Samuel said to himself. Something is definitely going on with that guy. He thought. But why did he tell her he didn’t reciprocate her feelings? It can’t be that he’s really fallen for Gwen…no, that’s not even a possibility. We all know what he’s after with Gwen.
Is his ambition so grand that he is willing to push away a woman he likes just to achieve that? Kayombo kept asking himself.
When two hours passed and he still couldn’t find any sleep, he gave in and called Alicia.
“Sam?” Alicia answered, half-asleep. “Are we needed?” She asked, used to always being called randomly since interns were basically slaves that needed to appear even if their own worlds were crumbling down.
“No, it’s not work.” Kayombo said. “Can I see you?”
Alicia forced herself up. “Now? You mean now?” She asked.
“Yes.” Kayombo said. “I’m on my way to your house.”
Alicia came fully awake.