“Alicia’s life started to change about six years ago.” Stephen told Mwansa. “She fell pregnant for my cousin Nick. She was very young and naive around that time and wasn’t really ready to face something like that but Nicolas was.
“He was excited by the idea of becoming a father and he proposed marriage to her even when she asked him to wait because she didn’t want to feel like he was marrying her out of guilt or responsibility.”
“Wow,” Mwansa said. “What’s wrong with that lady? Does she know how lucky she is to have a guy propose marriage to her after knocking her up? Just like football, no guy will score and then run to the goalkeeper he’s just ran the ball passed to celebrate. They all run off to celebrate in the arms of others. That’s men for you.”
“But Nicolas was different.” Stephen said. “And where did you even get such an analogy?” He laughed.
“I know a lot of my friends who were crazy in-love with each other but the moment the sperm hit the egg, all that love evaporated into the air. I don’t know why some men are like that. After yanking live inside someone’s daughter, what do they expect to come out, peanut butter?”
Stephen laughed. “You sound pissed; did someone you love let you down? You don’t have a child I am not aware of, do you?”
Mwansa busted out laughing. “Unless God considers me to be as pure as Mary, this womb is still virgin territory.” She was touching her belly for effect. “Weren’t we talking about Alicia a few seconds ago? How did my womb come under fire?”
“Because you interrupted me.” Stephen said.
“So did Alicia turn down your cousin when he proposed?”
“She never even got to give him a response.” Stephen answered. “I was told that they were right outside Nick’s home when he proposed and they ended up fighting over him not considering her feelings. She ran out onto the street and disappeared.
“Naturally, Nicolas went after her and when he couldn’t find her, he went back home to get his car and went looking for her. That was when the accident happened.”
Mwansa gasped in disbelief. “Now it makes sense,” she said. “I remember you told me once on the phone that your aunt is very strict about you guys dating because of something that happened with her son. But still, I don’t think it’s fair for her to blame Alicia for what happened. Couples fight, granted, not all fights lead to death…but c’mon….”
“I know.” Stephen said. “But, it’s easier for a mother who’s lost her son prematurely to find someone to blame. I am not saying that it’s right, but at that time Alicia was the easy scapegoat for everything that happened.”
“And what about the person who caused the accident?” Mwansa asked. “That’s the person who should be held responsible for everything.”
“They placed all the blame on Nicolas.” Stephen said.
“What?” Mwansa asked. “Was it really him at fault?”
“Of course not but it’s always easy to blame the dead person because they can’t defend themselves.”
“He died on the spot?”
“No, but he was severely injured and lost consciousness on the spot. He died the next day at the hospital.”
“But how sure are you that it wasn’t him that caused the accident?” Mwansa asked.
“Because of the circumstances surrounding the accident. When the police checked for the owner of the other vehicle involved in the accident, they discovered that it belonged to the wife of some Minister. Apparently the guy that was driving it was a cousin or something to that official who didn’t appear bruised or injured at all from the accident.
“I found it strange that my cousin ended up dying from his injuries while the other guy looked unscratched.”
“You saw him?”
“No, I heard about it from my cousins.”
“But it’s not surprising,” Mwansa said. “It’s usually the case that the person who causes the accident comes off unscratched while the victim…or victims pay the price for his mistake.”
“Very true,” Stephen said. “As expected, they bought the story that that fella sold to them and you know how our system here works; if you are rich or if you are in power, you are above the law. My cousin didn’t stand a chance. Worse, they found empty bottles of alcohol in his car and they assumed he was drinking and driving.”
“He probably must have gone to drink after being rejected by his girlfriend.” Mwansa remarked.
Stephen hit the palm of his right hand against the steering wheel. “That’s the thing!” He yelled. “Nicolas never took alcohol, let alone that much number of bottles they found in his car.”
“Yes, they found about seven empty bottles on the floor of his car. Nicolas avoided beer and places that sold only beer like a plague. He was just not a fan of alcohol. One glass of alcohol and he would be puking all over the place.
“His body and alcohol never saw face to face. I don’t know how those bottles ended up in his car because even if it was his friends drinking, he wouldn’t have allowed them to drink in his car and then leave the bottles hanging around like that.”
“Did the doctors find any alcohol in his system?” Mwansa asked, winning herself a glacial stare from Stephen.
“I just told you, Stephen never drank alcohol.” He said forcefully.
“I know,” Mwansa said. “But people have been known to do strange things after being rejected. You said it yourself, he was deeply in-love with his girlfriend.”
“Do you think it’s possible for someone who never drank alcohol to manage to stop at a store to purchase the beer, get back into his car and drink whilst driving and empty seven whole bottles in just under an hour?”
“An hour?” Mwansa asked disbelievingly. “All that happened within an hour?”
“See, it’s hard for anyone to belief.” Stephen said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard myself. The accident happened not far from his home. What’s even crazier, the hospital never did any tests and the police never investigated anything.
“The other driver told them that Nicolas was driving like a mad man. It was raining that day and I understand he might have been frantic about finding Alicia since she was pregnant but…. The way I knew Nick, he would have spent,” he added after a pause. “There’s no way he would have stopped somewhere to get himself drunk instead of searching for her.
“It just doesn’t make sense. What convinced me even more that something wasn’t right about the whole accident is why the cops kept on insisting Nick had been drinking and driving. It’s like that sealed the case and they saw no reason to investigate.
“My cousin was at a disadvantage the moment it was discovered who the owner of that vehicle was. Instead of investigating, it was easy for the police to look at the ‘obvious’ evidence and declare my cousin perpetrator.”
Mwansa appeared thoroughly shaken up by the story. “But why didn’t your family conduct its own investigations?” She asked. “I’m sure with a few tests they would have proved your cousin hadn’t been drinking.”
Suddenly, Stephen started laughing. Mwansa kept looking at him quizzically. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I am ashamed to say this but my family, my Aunt Mary to be more specific received a visit from the Minister’s wife who turned out to be the owner of that vehicle and was left a large sum of money as ‘condolences’ money, is what she called it.” He raised one hand to form quotation marks in the air.
“And your aunt accepted the money?” Mwansa asked, shock written all over her face.
“Like I said, I am ashamed.” Stephen said.
“Wooow.” Was all Mwansa could say in return.
“I know.” Stephen said. “My aunt was able to pay the mortgage on that house with that money and also send my cousins and me to some of the best schools in the world.”
“Didn’t she ever wonder why someone would give her such large sums of money if they were not guilty about something?” Mwansa asked.
“I am sure she did.” Stephen answered. “But you have to understand that it had only been about a year since the death of my uncle. She was struggling to raise her children alone and she feared losing the house she had already put so much in.
“So when the Minster’s wife came, Aunt Mary preferred to look at the whole gesture as a miracle from God…some kind of blessing rather than looking at it for what it could have potentially been. And once she did that, she turned all her frustrations and I think her feelings of guilt onto Alicia.”
“So she’s blaming an innocent woman for the death of her own son all so she can ease her own guilty conscious?” Mwansa asked. “That poor woman…I bet she also blames herself for everything. I haven’t met your aunt yet but something about her scares me.”
Stephen chuckled. “She’s not all that bad.” He said.
“And does Alicia know about the money your aunt received?”
“Of course not. No one told her about it. I don’t think my cousins even know about where the money actually came from. We were all told it’s something like a life insurance my uncle had left.”
“So how did you-“
“I overheard my mother and her sister…Aunt Mary talking and of course I haven’t told anyone about it, except you.”
Mwansa’s face turned red from blushing. “Is that a new way of declaring trust to your girlfriend?”
Stephen smiled. “I guess so.”
Mwansa unbuckled her seatbelt, lifted herself from the seat and placed a kiss on his cheek.
“We are at church now you silly girl.” A smiling Stephen said as he waited for the guard to open the gate for them.
Kondwani had just entered his house, threw his bag on the couch, undid the buttons of his shirt and started to get rid of the belt around his waist, ready to head upstairs and drown himself in his tub when he heard someone punch keys into his security system from outside. There was only one person who had his pin and only she would show up in his house unannounced.
“Were you following me?” Kondwani asked a smiling Gwen.
She threw her handbag onto one of the sofas and walked over to Kondwani with her arms stretched wide, ready to wrap them around him. However, Kondwani took a step back, a grave expression on his face.
Disappointed, Gwen dropped her arms and walked passed him towards the stairs.
“Where do you think you are going?” Kondwani asked from where he was standing, his face raised to look up at her.
Gwen came to a stop on the fifth step, a mischievous smile playing on her face. “Why would a grown man ask a lady such a question?” She asked as she slowly started to undo the zipper that ran all the way from her cleavage to where the short black dress she was wearing ended. There were more parts of her legs exposed than covered.
“Is Kayombo too busy for you today?” Kondwani asked sarcastically.
Gwen stopped unzipping herself, leaving most parts of her upper body, all the way down to her lower abdomen exposed. She was not wearing anything under her tight dress.
“Is that you being jealous right now?” She asked.
“I’m too tired for anything today, let’s do this some other time.” He started taking steps up the stairs but Gwen grabbed hold of his arm before he could brush passed her. She placed herself in front of and drew her face closer to his.
“I don’t know why but I find the idea of you being jealous such a turn on.” She moved her head slightly to kiss the side of his neck.
Kondwani just stood there motionlessly and looking as emotionless as humanly possible. He had somehow made Gwen’s work easy a few minutes ago when he started reading himself to take his clothes off. With just a white vest covering his chest, Gwen moved her hand inside and started running her hand up and down, deliberately going all the way down and stopping right where his belt was.
She felt him shudder under her touch. It was a power she knew she had over him.
Who the hell did he think he was trying to fight her off?
Sensing no movement on his part to stop her, Gwen expanded her area of conquest, dipping her hand deep into is pants without warning and forcing a reaction from him.
She was smiling triumphantly.
“Gwen!” Kondwani grabbed her attacking hand by the wrist with one hand and used the other to hold her back against the staircase rail. Speaking into her face; “I told you-“
“What?” Gwen cut him off. “You don’t want to be touched by the same hands that were touching another man?” She too spoke straight into his face, their eyes locking in defiance.
Kondwani dropped his hands resignedly and resumed his walk up the stairs.
“You know, he’s in-love with me, Kayombo.” Gwen announced to his back and managed to bring him to an immediate stop.
“He’s loved me unconditionally for years now,” She added smugly. “That’s something I’m never gonna get from you isn’t it?”
Kondwani slowly turned to look at her. “Then why don’t you go to him instead of coming to me?”
Gwen was not the only one surprised by Kondwani’s words. The moment he realized exactly what words had come out of his mouth, he too wondered why all the parts of his body responsible for speech had so quickly worked together and allowed him to vomit out that combination of words in that specific order.
Unfortunately, by the time Kondwani realised what he had just said to his fiancé, she had finished zipping herself up and was running down the stairs, sobbing.
Putting his long legs to good use, Kondwani ran after her and managed to hold her back before she could get to the door.
“I’m sorry baby,” He said as he tried to hold her protesting body into his arms. “I don’t know what came over me, I’m so sorry.”
Kondwani too knew exactly what power he had over her; his arms and the right words at the right time.
In no time, Gwen had stopped trying to fight him off and surrendered herself completely into his arms, sobbing even harder for effect.
Two hours later, Gwen walked into her parent’s home and found her father talking to someone on the phone. Since he had his back to her, she figured she could just walk passed him and head to her bedroom without being noticed but something he said made her stop to listen.
“How many were on his side?” Lloyd asked whoever was on the other end of the line. His back muscles were tensed hard and she could see him breathing heavily.
There was only one person in the whole world capable of making her father’s blood boil like that, Gwen thought. It was the man she was just from sharing a bed with.
“Those ungrateful and disloyal bastards.” Mr Miyoba cussed. “Who do they think put them in the positions they are in right now? Let’s see what will happen to them when I clip off the wings of that fella.”
Gwen felt a chill run down her spine. From where she was standing, she could see her father’s spit hitting against the sheer curtain in front of him from where he stood overlooking the backyard. That was a sheer sign that he had reached boiling point.
“I gave you specific instruction to watch Chileshe’s every move!” Gwen’s father roared. “What have you been doing while he’s been setting up measures for counter-attack? That project should have gained the board’s approval by now.”
Oh Kondwani, what have you done this time around? Gwen thought as she continued to listen in to her father’s one-sided conversation. I warned you dad, you are no match for my man. You should have listened to my advice.
“No! That’s not good enough Phiri!” He yelled. “Are you trying to tell me that he’s smarter than all of you? If that’s the case, then are you are basically telling me that I should fire all your asses and find a whole new team that can take him on like a man?”
There was a long pause as he listened to whatever Mr Phiri was saying. Whatever wa being said, it was obvious Lloyd Miyoba did not agree with it because he kept shaking his head and wanting to interrupt.
Gwen saw her father move slightly and figured he might be turning so she tiptoed her way towards the stairs.
“Gwen!” His voice brought her to a stop in mid step. She turned around with a guilty smile on her face.
“Dad.” She said.
“Let me call you back.” Lloyd Miyoba told Mr Phiri and immediately cut the line. “Where’s Kondwani?” he asked as he walked towards his daughter.
“Dad, just because I am his fiancé doesn’t mean I know where he is every time.” She lied.
“I know you are coming from his place so don’t lie to me young lady.” Miyoba hissed.
“I left him at home. Is something the matter?” Gwen knew better than to tempt her father into pouring all of his wrath at her.
“Haven’t the two of you set a date up to now?” He asked. “What sort of woman can’t even get her man to hurry her down the aisle after a yearlong engagement? It’s because you keep dancing for him that he no longer has anything to look forward to.
“Just look at the way you are dressed.” He pointed his finger up and down her dress. “Why should he marry you when you’ve shown him everything? Just look at you.” He wrinkled his face up like a man smelling something rotten from the kitchen.
“It’s my marriage.” Gwen said from between pouted lips. “I am not worried so why are you bothered like you are the one he will be marrying?
“Are you asking me because you don’t know?” Miyoba asked.
Gwen started to cry. “You made me leave the man I was in-love with, the one who loved me back as much as I loved him to be with someone who loves your money instead of me. I already got him to propose marriage, what more do you want from me dad?”
“Thanks to me you are in-love with Chileshe more than you were with that Kayombo guy.” Her father stated proudly. “You should be happy, why are you complaining?”
“He doesn’t love me back!” Gwen shouted.
“And are you blaming me for that?” He asked. “Was it my job to make him fall in-love with you? I gave you enough money to make him look in your direction, wasn’t that enough?
“Did you want me to also show you directions to his heart? You clearly managed to find your way into his bed without trouble so why are you complaining?”
“Do you honestly think that you will be able to control him if he becomes my husband?” Gwen asked. “You can’t control him now when he’s a free man what more when he marries me and gains direct access to your entire fortune?”
Lloyd snickered. “How did I end up with a daughter who knows nothing about business?” He said. “Your job was just to use your charm to hook him all the way to the end but even that you couldn’t do. You delivered the whole product before the buyer could even sign the cheque. Hasn’t your mother taught you anything?”
“What have I done?” Sandra Miyoba asked her husband from the door. She had two shopping bags in her hands, obviously coming from a trip from the mall. She stepped away from the door to allow the maid to come through with many more shopping bags.
“Doesn’t my happiness count at all to you dad?” Gwen cried and ran upstairs.
Laying down the shopping bags, Mrs Miyoba looked at her husband. “What did you say to her?”
“Sit your daughter down and train her well before she embarrasses you.” Mr Miyoba said.
“When she’s done something unpleasing to you she’s my daughter but when she’s done something good, she’s your daughter.” She muttered and went to sit down in one of the sofas.
“See,” Miyoba pointed at his wife accusingly. “When can she learn when you are talking back to me like that?”
Sandra stood up. “I will bring you your glass of whiskey.” She said to him and started walking towards the kitchen. “Obviously someone put you in a very bad mood today.”
Embarrassed, Lloyd gave up shouting and went to sit down where his wife had been sitting. How well she knew him, he thought as he flipped through the channels.
Alone in her room, Gwen threw herself on the bed and called Kayombo. After four rings, she was about to give up when he finally answered.
“Sam,” she broke down in tears.
“I’m sorry Ms Miyoba, Doctor Kayombo can’t take your call right now.” Gwen sat up. Instead of Kayombo, it was a female’s voice that came through the phone.
“Who’s this?” Gwen asked.
“This is Alicia.” The reply came.
“What are you doing answering Sam’s phone? Where is he? Where are you?”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” Gwen screamed into her phone.
“Gwen.” Finally, it was Samuel Kayombo. “What’s up?” He asked nonchalantly.
“What’s up?” Gwen asked, boiling from his calm response. “Where the hell are you and what’s that nurse doing answering your phone?”
“Is there any particular reason you called?” He asked curtly.
“Kayombo?” Gwen said.
“I’m busy right now if there’s nothing-“
“Kayombo, this is me you are talking to.” Gwen said, her voice shaking from the shock of what was happening.
“I know,” Kayombo said. “I will call you later.” And he cut the line.
Devastated, Gwen threw her phone and it hit against the wall, pieces of it scattering across the room.
Her mother opened the door just then. “Gwen?” She said as her eyes went over the pieces on the floor.
Gwen dropped from the bed to the floor, sobbing her heart out. Sandra rushed over to her daughter and held her in her arms.
“It’s okay my love.” The mother comforted her daughter from the floor. “Who’s making my princess cry like this?” she held on to her tightly. “It’s okay…nooo…c’mon baby.”
It took about ten minutes for Gwen to finally calm down.
“Why is love so complicated mum?” Gwen later asked her mother. They were still seated on the carpeted bedroom floor, their backs leaning against the bed.
“Did you have a fight with Kondwani?” Sandra asked.
“Not necessarily,” She answered. “It’s Kayombo.”
Sandra gave her daughter a look. “Don’t tell me that the two of you are still seeing each other. I thought you were in-love with Kondwani now.”
“I am…it’s complicated.” Gwen said.
“I guess I was too selfish to expect that Kayombo would have eyes only for me even though I was engaged to someone else.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you know you were being selfish.” Her mother said. “Don’t you think he too deserves to be happy?”
“You are saying it as if I am happy in my relationship.” Gwen said. “I have been waiting patiently for Kondwani…but now am beginning to think that he will never fall in-love with me.”
“It’s not like you didn’t know his feelings before you started dating.” Her mother reminded her. “Instead of luring him in with money, perhaps you should have tried to win him over with love.”
“Tell that to dad.”
Sandra laughed. “No way.”
“I thought that he might like me if I offered him the one thing he was in need of at that time.” Gwen said, tears welling up in her eyes again. “Dad somehow had me convinced that any man would love me knowing the things I could offer but it seems the only thing Kondwani cares about is money. I don’t think he even knows what love is.”
“Maybe that’s the problem.” Sandra said.
Gwen sent her a questioning look.
“Think about it,” she explained. “He’s spent most of his adult life building his career. He’s a very ambitious man, that’s no secret. What time did he ever have to fall in-love?”
Gwen’s face lit up from enlightenment. “You know, you could be right.”
Sandra laughed. “I know I’m right.” She said. “So, instead of trying to conquer him, why don’t you try to genuinely love him and win his heart in the process?”
“How do I do that?” Gwen asked.
“First of all, cut off whatever is going on between you and Kayombo and start afresh with Kondwani. You offered him your father’s money when you first approached him so how about offering him your heart this time around?”
“I told you, I am already in-love with him.” Gwen said.
“Not that kind of love.” Mrs Miyoba said. “I’m talking about genuine real love, the selfless kind of love. I know that you are used to people dotting on you and worshiping you Gwen but that’s not how love works.
“If you truly love Kondwani, then you will have to start considering his feelings as well. Don’t go to him with the attitude of ‘you are nothing without me’ and instead show him that you truly care. Who knows, maybe he might get his mind off making money and focus on other things.”
Gwen mulled over her mother’s words for a while. “I don’t know mum,” She said.
“What don’t you know?” Her mother asked.
“I don’t think I’m capable of being that kind of girl.” She confessed. “I have always despised those kinds of girls so how can I pretend to be one?”
Sandra Miyoba chuckled. “You see, that’s the thing.” She said. “If it’s real love, you won’t have to pretend. It will just come natural. Remember, what you want is his heart, not just his body.”
“I have to sleep over it.” Gwen said.
“Good,” her mother said. “You do that.”
“Why did you make me answer your phone?” Alicia asked Doctor Kayombo.
Samuel finished drying his hands and went to sit down next to Alicia on the picnic mat. They stationed themselves in the perfect position where they could keep watch over Buseko who was playing football a few meters away with his new friends.
“My hands were weight, what did you expect me to do?” He said. “Are you that scared of Gwen?” He laughed.
“That woman almost had me fired!” Alicia said.
“Oh yeah, I remember that.”
“So you also heard about it? Is there anyone at the hospital who didn’t?”
“I doubt that.” Samuel answered. “They all think you are a fame fatale.” He joked.
Alicia looked horrified. “Seriously?”
“I’m just joking.” He said. “Relax. I was just pulling your leg. Everyone knows what a drama queen Gwen is.”
“So they do belief that nothing is going on between Doctor Chileshe and me right?” Alicia was looking at him expectantly.
“They know that you didn’t go after him, but we all agree on one thing; the good doctor pays special attention to you.”
“No!” The word just flew out of Alicia’s mouth. “That’s all a misunderstanding. I don’t know why everyone seems to think that but that man doesn’t like me. You saw for yourself this morning when we met him outside. Didn’t you sense his hostility? Why are you looking at me and shaking your head like that?”
“Apart from Nicolas, did you ever date anyone else Alicia?” Kayombo asked, looking at her in both awe and disbelief.
“No.” She answered simply.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I don’t have time for things like feelings and the like. I’m too busy saving money so I can get my son back. I have no time for such things. Why did you suddenly ask me that?”
Kayombo laughed. “No wonder….” He said, shaking his head again. “You wouldn’t know it even if it was staring you right in the face.”
“Know what?” She asked, taking her eyes away from her son for a moment to look at Samuel. “Know what?” She repeated, her face just a few inches away from his.
Her sudden turn caught Kayombo by surprise. For a few seconds he found himself staring straight into her eyes. Before he knew it, he was choking on his own saliva.
Alicia grabbed a bottle of water from the basket of food she had quickly packed on their short stop at home. She opened the bottle and handed it to Kayombo.
While Kayombo was gulping down the contents from the bottle, Alicia moved closer to him and started to gently massage his back, causing the poor fellow to cough out the water he had just consumed.