Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 13

“I…was…just…” Alicia stuttered. The intensity of Kondwani’s gaze making her feel completely exposed to the point of losing strength in her tongue. She lowered her eyes immediately to cut him off from peeking into her soul.

Kondwani grinned. He could feel all of her thoughts in the involuntary movements her body was making against his. “You do know that you are still on my laps right?” He reminded her. 
The moment she heard his words, Alicia jumped and stood away from him, embarrassment written all over her face. “I didn’t….”
“I guess the physical evidence is sufficient for me to draw an answer to my question right?” 
“No!” Alicia quipped.
Kondwani laughed. “What are you saying no to?” He asked, looking bemusedly at her. “Why do you look so guilty?” He asked.
“I need to go-“ She quickly turned and started walking towards the door but Kondwani was already on his feet ready to keep her from leaving.
He pushed back the door she had just tried to open and quickly locked it. Stunned, Alicia tried to turn to confirm what he had just done upon hearing the key but Kondwani pinned her against the door, one arm to her side and other placed just next to her head so that she there was now only one direction her gaze could focus; at him.
“You might have let yourself in here my sweet little Nightingale but you can only leave when I say so.” Kondwani whispered into her ear, his lips deliberately lingering there.


“I am uncomfortable Sir.” Alicia said in a very shaky voice, trying to get away from him. 
“Why are you uncomfortable?” Kondwani asked.
“Because this is wrong?”
“What’s wrong?”
“This,” she said. “You are engaged.” She added.
Kondwani laughed. “Engaged?” He said. “Looks like you are the only one here who hasn’t received the memo.”
Alicia registered questions all over her face.
“Gwen broke up with me.” Kondwani said and resignedly dropped his arms and walked back to his seat.
Astounded, Alicia gaped at the doctor. “I am sorry doctor.” She said, still standing by the door and desperately avoiding his gaze.
Kondwani pulled his chair back and sat down. “Why are you sorry?” He asked.
“That your relationship ended,” she said nonchalantly. “Isn’t that a sad thing?” 
“Is it?” Kondwani asked.
“Is it not?” Alicia asked, wondering why that would even be a matter of discussion.
“You said you like me,” Kondwani reminded her. “Shouldn’t my break-up be a good thing to you?”
Alicia appeared taken aback by his line of reasoning. “Just because I said I like you doesn’t mean that I wished for you to break up or that I want to be with you.”
“So you don’t want me?” He was looking at her squarely, his eyes daring her to give an otherwise response. 
“I need to get back to work.” Alicia quickly said and turned to leave before Kondwani could make it across the room like he had before. 
But Kondwani remained where he was, watching her with the look of bemusement that he seemed to have now every time he was in the company of the nurse. Alicia made a successful escape and closed the door behind her.
“I wish you had said no.” Kondwani said to the door as the smile on his face faded to black. 

Outside, Alicia kept her hand on the door handle as she looked up to the ceiling, sighing deeply in relief for succeeding in getting herself away from Kondwani’s domineering presence. 
“Boss lady.” Alicia heard a familiar voice address her and she lowered her head to find Caroline smiling mischievously at her. 
“Umhu,” Caroline said, tapping her foot and pointing her chin towards the door of Kondwani’s office. “You look like you’ve just been serviced after a ten thousand mile ride.”
Alicia winced in embarrassment, reached out towards her friend and put her hand over her mouth before dragging her away to a secluded area. 
Caroline mumbled something from behind Alicia’s hand but the latter only released her hand once she was sure they were not in earshot of Kondwani or anyone else. 
“Why would you say something like that?” Alicia scolded her friend and colleague.
“What did I say?” Caroline feigned innocence but the smile on her face said the complete opposite. 
“How many times will I tell you that nothing is going on between…us?” Alicia made sure she said the word in a very low register in case of any eavesdroppers. The hospital’s grapevine system was in perfect working order. 
“He’s absolutely very single right now so why are you playing hard to get?” Caroline asked.
“What do you mean why am I playing hard to get?”
“If I didn’t know you had a son, I would think your membrane was still intact.” Caroline said. “You are lucky I don’t go for his type otherwise you wouldn’t stand a chance with him against me at this tortoise pace you seem to be going.”
“He’s the richest doctor in the country,” Alicia remarked. “You said you were looking for a rich husband so-”
“Are you seriously trying to give him to me?” Caroline asked with both her eyebrows raised in disbelief. And then she started shaking her head, a solemn expression on her face. “You need divine intervention my friend.” She said. “It’s obvious you like that man. I don’t understand why-“
“He’s your type too you can have him if you like.” Alicia said. “I told you, I don’t have time for relationships and the like.”
Caroline chuckled. “Do you know how old that guy is?” She asked.
“I don’t know.” Alicia answered. “Mid-thirties, I think. Why do you ask?” 
“Exactly!” Caroline said. “Can you imagine how many years I would have to wait to inherit his money?”
“I have no time for young fit men that look like they are going to live up to 200 years.” Caroline said. “The closer to the expiry date they are, the better for me. One year…or say, two years tops into marriage and they kick the bucket. Two months later, I am in Hawaii partying up a storm with Chris and Trey till the early hours of the morning.”
“Who’s Chris and Trey?” Alicia asked. “Are you actually in-love with someone Caroline?” Alicia’s face was glowing with hope.
Caroline busted out laughing. “I’m talking about Chris Brown and Trey Songz silly.” She said. “I’m already on first name basis with the guys; all that’s remaining is for us to actually meet in person.”
“What?” Alicia laughed. “You never cease to amaze me Carol. You are such a child.”
“Well, at least I know what I want in life and I am preparing myself to receive it.” Caroline said. “Isn’t that the kind of faith you happy-clappy Christian folks are always talking about?”
“It would be nice if that faith was in a guy named Jesus Christ instead of Chris Brown. At least with Jesus, you don’t have to worry about fighting off body guards and what not to meet him.”
“Don’t start with the preaching already.” Caroline protested. “Why does everything have to be about church with you Alicia? Weren’t we just talking about you and Doctor Chileshe just now? How did we-“
“You are the one who brought up the issue of faith.” Alicia argued. “I only responded to what you said.”
“Okay,” Caroline said, raising her hand into the air. “Since I brought it up, I am ending it. Just answer yes or no, don’t you like Doctor Chileshe?”
“Why are you-“
“Yes or No.”
“Why do you care?”
“Because you frustrate me.” Caroline answered. “Why do you have to make everything so complicated? Life’s too short to be living it at such a snail’s pace. So, do you love Doctor-“
Alicia reached over and tried to cover Caroline’s mouth again but she was ready for her this time around. “I will shout out the question if you don’t give me an honest answer in the next five seconds. 1, 2, 3-“
“Yes!” Alicia answered. “Yes I like him.” She confessed, her face cringing in embarrassment at being forced to admit the truth. “But,” she quickly added.
“No buts!” Caroline shouted excitedly. “No buts.” She repeated. “So, what are you going to do?”
“What do you mean what am I going to do?”
Caroline stared at her blankly.
“Why does everyone seem to think that just because you like someone then you have to date them?” Alicia asked.
“So you like people to do what, keep them on a shelf and cry over them at night?” Caroline’s sarcasm screamed from every part of her body. 
“Yes I find the doctor attractive but I have no intentions whatsoever of being with him like that. I also happen to have a type…the kind of man I want to settle down with and Doctor Chileshe is nowhere close to being that type.
“Yes he’s a very good looking man, talented and rich, but that’s not good enough for me. There’s something else that’s very important to me that’s not there.”
“Do I even need to ask what that is?” Caroline said resignedly. “Let’s head back before they notice we are missing.” 
She took her friend’s hand and started leading her towards the hospital’s VIP session where they were to do their final rounds before their shifts ended. 

Mwansa was excited that school had resumed but it was not for reasons that would make her mother proud. The excitement only came because re-opening schools meant she would be seeing Steve on campus whenever she felt like. It had been tough trying to go for dates in and making sure that they got back home on time and even though Stephen did not seem to mind that at all, she minded a lot. 
Stephen Malambo had entered her life and gone all the way into her heart within the shortest period of time and she had absolutely no intentions of letting him go. For the first time in her life, Mwansa had found herself making plans for the future with a man even before he mentioned anything about it.
“When did you become like that?” Her roommate had asked her one afternoon as they sat on her bed after their morning lectures. 
“I don’t know,” Mwansa had said, a love-smitten smile playing on her face. Obviously, it was not anything she was embarrassed about. “In this day and age where boys only want to party and club, there’s this guy whose major interest is church. How can I not go all mushy just thinking about him? Steve is a definite keeper.”
“But you do know that he was exactly that other type before now right?” Febby said.
“He was, was, past tense.” Mwansa retorted. “Why are you trying to rain on my parade?”
“I’m not trying to rain on your parade.” Her friend said. “I am just saying that you should be careful, it’s very easy for guys that have led a certain kind of life to get back to it…especially if they are still in touch with certain people.”
Mwansa sat up straight on the bed and glared at her roommate. “What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked.
Febby let out a short laugh and turned to busy herself in the small fridge at the foot of Mwansa’s bed. “Nothing,” she said. “I was just trying to warn you to be careful that’s all.” 
“You said, especially if they are still in touch with certain people. You are course mates with Steve so what did you see? I know you are dying to tell me so just come out with it.”
“Okay,” Febby closed the door of the fridge and turned to look at her friend, her eyes bulging in excitement at the prospect of finally sharing the news. “Today in class before the lecturer came in, I overheard a conversation between Steve and his friends.”
“Yes?” Mwansa said, anxious for her to get straight to the point. 
“He said that he bumped into Belinda.” Febby let out the news and let it hang there for a little while as Mwansa processed it, her mouth wide open. 
“Belinda his ex?” Mwansa asked the obvious question.
Febby nodded. “But that’s not the big issue here,” She added. “Ask me where they met.”
“At his aunt’s place!” Febby exclaimed, almost jumping at the rhythm of her own excitement.
“What?” Mwansa laughed. “No way,” she said dismissively. “I have heard about his aunt, there’s no way she would allow any girl to visit Steve at her home, especially a wild girl like Steve’s ex. Who doesn’t know about the kind of relationship those two had? That family has seen enough drama to allow another diva to come mess one of theirs up. No way.” 
“But that’s the thing,” Febby said. “It turns out that Belinda is related to the baby mama of Steve’s late cousin. He also only found out so-“
Mwansa was already up on her feet and dialling Steve’s number.
“What are you doing?” Febby asked, getting up to get the phone from her but Mwansa gave her friend her back and continued waiting for Steve to pick up her call. 
“You can’t call him right now.” Febby complained, still trying to get her to cut the line but if the determination on her roommate’s face was anything to go by, she was not going to cut the line. “He is going to know right away that I snitched.”
“You are a snitch Febby,” Mwansa said, the phone still to her ear and ringing. “Who doesn’t know that about you? Everyone in this room knows no information is safe in your hands but still, I am grateful that you told me so I can put a st-“
“Babe,” Stephen finally answered. 
“Where are you?” Mwansa asked in a very tight tone. 
“I was just about to get into the lib.” He answered. “What’s up?” he obviously had not picked up on her piqued tone of voice. He stopped by the entrance of the library to finish with the call. He motioned for his friend to go ahead but the friend preferred waiting for him.
“Wait for me right there.” Mwansa commanded. 
Stephen laughed, thinking she was trying to play lovey-dovey at the most inappropriate time. “Babe, I have a test tod-“
“Just wait for me there if you know what’s good for you. I know about you and Belinda.”
“Oh dame.” The words escaped Stephen’s mouth, winning him a puzzled expression from his friend.
“Mwansa?” He called out her name when he thought he heard the line cut and he immediately confirmed his worst fears. “Febby.” He said between clenched teeth.
“What has Febby done?” Damian asked.
“Get these inside for me and keep me a spot before this place packs up.” Stephen handed his books over to his friend. 
Damian laughed, sensing what could be cooking up in the air. “Good luck man.” He said and left. 
Stephen went to stand as far away from the entrance as possible to avoid an audience for what he anticipated would be a life-threatening confrontation with his short-fused girlfriend. Anywhere far from people was safe if he had to deal with a volatile girlfriend like his. 
He had promised himself that he would never date a short-tempered girl after Belinda but his heart ended up betraying him again. 
“I want to know everything that happened and don’t even think about leaving anything out because I will find out.” Mwansa snapped the moment she showed up, her arms crossed over her chest. 
“It’s nothing like what you think,” Steve tried to explain.
“And what do you think I am thinking Steve?” Mwansa asked.
“Why are you acting so upset when you don’t even know the details? You have already passed judgment before hearing my side of the story.”
“What would you think or do if you heard that my ex-boyfriend visited me at my place Steve?”
“If it bothers me then I would first ask you about it instead of assuming the worst.” He said.
“Well I’m sorry that I am not as cool as you but that’s where you and I are different. You believe in a God you’ve never even seen and I believe in facts and the fact right now is that you met with your ex and you did not bother to tell me about it. How come you never told me that she’s related to the Alicia woman we met that day?”
“I am just going to ignore your comment about my faith and say that I didn’t tell you about it because I didn’t think it was necessary for me to mention it to you. besides, I also found out they were related on the day they came to pick up Buseko.”
“But it was necessary for you to mention it to your friends right?” She asked.
“What are you so upset about Mwansa? That I bumped into my ex accidentally or that I never told you about it? Because I am not sorry that I bumped into her, it wasn’t planned and we were both caught by surprise-“
“We?” She hissed. “Did you just refer to the both of you as a couple?”
“I guess now we know why you didn’t see it necessary to mention the encounter to me.”
“Call her right now and tell her not to ever come to your place or your aunt’s place again.”
“Or would you rather I do it for you?” Mwansa looked Steve over and located his phone in his phone. She dipped her hand into his trousers and brought out the phone.
“What do you think you are doing?” Stephen tried to get the phone from her but Mwansa held him back with one hand while her other hand searched for Belinda’s name in his phone book. 
Stephen managed to overpower her and get the phone from her just as it was about to start ringing.
“What was that I saw?” Mwansa asked, pointing to the phone now in his hands. “The two of you chat?”
“What’s going on with you today Mwansa?” 
“I saw something on the screen just as the phone started dialling.” She said. “I want to see what the two of you talk about. If you have nothing to hide then you will let me see.” 
Just then, Stephen’s phone rang. He checked the screen. “Noo,” he lamented. 
“Who is it?” Mwansa asked. “Did she call you back? Let me see-“ She went for his phone again but Stephen quickly switched it off and put it in his back pocket.
“I don’t have time for this Mwansa.” Stephen said. “I have a test in a few hours and another one tomorrow morning. Let’s talk about this some other time.”
“When a man says that, then there’s no doubt he’s got something to hide!” Mwansa shouted to his back but Stephen did not look back. He walked straight into the Library and headed to the Short Loan section. 
“I know all the tricks in the book Steve,” Mwansa said to herself. “I will get to the bottom of this if it kills me.”
Back in her room, Mwansa went on Facebook and looked up Belinda. 
“What’s her last name?” She asked Febby who had gone back to her side of the room. 
“Who?” Febby asked.
Febby immediately rushed over to her roommate’s side and tried to get the phone from her, “That’s a very bad idea Mwansa.” She tried to caution her. “You never ever call up an ex or another girl. Talk to Steve first and-“
“I know Steve,” Mwansa said. “He won’t tell me anything even if I cried or grovelled. He avoids arguments like no man’s business so I always end up talking to myself whenever we have a misunderstanding.”
“Now I really regret opening my mouth.” Febby said, dropping herself onto the bed. “Me and my big mouth.”
“So you know.” Mwansa said. “What’s the bitch’s last name? You know I will get it from someone else even if you don’t give it to me right so just save us both the time.” 
“Daka,” Febby provided. “Her name is Belinda Daka.”
Mwansa typed the name in the search engine and a number of profiles with that name up. “Which one is she?” She showed her phone screen to Febby.
“Whoever is the prettiest from whatever faces you are looking at.” Febby said as she took the phone from her friend. 
“Here,” She said, pointing to a picture that had two girls on it. 
“There are two girls here,” Mwansa observed. “And they are both pretty. I have met this other one before.”
“Belinda is the one on the left.” Febby explained. “That other girl should be her sister or something. 
“They are both pretty but they don’t look like sisters.” Mwansa commented as she went directly to the profile. “I hate her just looking at her. I knew there was something about that lady that day I met her. She just made me feel weird.”
“Psychologists call that jealousy…or madness.” Febby remarked. “But wait, you met Steve’s ex before?”
“No, her sister.” Mwansa answered. “The one in the picture with her.” And then she got to writing a message to Belinda:
This is Stephen’s girlfriend. I think you and I deserve a meet. Don’t you think?
“Now we wait,” Mwansa said, laying the phone down on the bed, screen up. “Let’s see if she’s a coward or not. Anyway, anyone creeping around with someone else’s boyfriend is the worst kind of coward in the world.”
“What have you done?” Febby asked.
“I just sent her a message asking her to meet…well, maybe asking is the wrong word to use.” Mwansa answered. “More like commanded her.”
“Oh dear.” Febby said. “I don’t see this working in your favour Mwansa. You are assuming that something is going on between the two of them but what are you going to do if that’s not the case?
“You are just going to expose to your boyfriend’s ex that his new relationship is shaky, that there’s no trust and that you are very insecure. I also heard that Belinda isn’t the kind of girl to mess around with. I heard she once left a girl that was chasing after Steve hanging from a chandelier at a club.”
“Well, then she knows exactly what happens to girls that try to mess around with other people’s men.”
He phone beeped. Both ladies jumped to their feet.
“Did she reply?” Febby asked, excitement written all over her face. 
Mwansa slowly picked up her phone from the bed. “Yes, she’s replied.” She confirmed.
Why? Was the only word that came as a reply from Belinda. 
What??” Both girls exclaimed in shock at the same time.
“That’s all?” Febby asked. “Try to reload the messages.” She urged her friend and Mwansa did as advised.
“Nothing.” Mwansa said in disappointment. “This girl…” and she wrote back:
“Are you that much of a coward?” 
A few seconds later, “I think you should talk to Stephen about this, not me,” Belinda’s reply came.
“See what I told you?” Febby said. “Now you’ve just given her wings and something to use against you. She knows you are insecure.”
“Then I will show her exactly who should feel threatened between the two of us.” She got up from the bed and started putting her shoes on. “My name is Mwansa Chileshe, I am not insecure. I am confident, bold and sexy.” 
“Where are you going?” Febby asked.
“I am going to her room. Do you know where her room is?”
“I can see you don’t.” Mwansa said. “Who might know?”
“I don’t think you should do this Mwansa.” Febby advised her. “Try to calm down for now and-“
“I am going to find someone that might know.” Mwansa said and stormed out of the room. 
The moment Mwansa was out of the room, Febby picked up her phone from her bed and sent a text to Stephen;
“Mwansa has gone to look for Belinda. Find her. Right now.” When five minutes passed and she did not hear from Steve, she called his line but discovered his phone was off.
“Oh dear, what have I done?” Febby asked herself, her hands clasped together at the back of her head as she dropped onto her bed. Her bottom had just hit the bed when she bolted right up again, suddenly remembering someone she knew would take care of her roommate’s situation before it got out of hand. 
Chilufya was in the middle of a call at work when her cell phone rang. When she noticed who was calling, she quickly concluded the conversation. Thinking it was Mwansa calling to beg her for talk time, Chilufya answered her phone. 
“How much?” She went straight to the point. 
“It’s me Ms Chileshe.” Febby answered. No matter the number of times she had met Chilufya, Febby had never felt close to her roommate’s sister. Chilufya had a certain seriousness about her that kept people at bay. 
“Febby?” Chilufya said. “How are you?” 
“Not good,” she replied. “Mwansa is about to cause some trouble…if she hasn’t already.”
“Why? What happened? Give her the phone.” Chilufya had immediately created a list of the possible troubles her baby sister might have caused given her rap sheet and was already calculating counter measures for damage control.
“That’s the thing,” Febby said. “She’s not here. She’s gone after Stephen’s ex-girlfriend, right here on campus.”
“What?” Chilufya said. “Why?”
“She thinks that she’s after Stephen but I think it’s all just a misunderstanding-“
“Does Steve know?”
“I don’t think so. I tried to call him to warn him but his phone is off. You know how Mwansa is-“
“I’m on my way there.” Chilufya said. “That girl will give mum a heart attack one of these days. In the meantime try to locate her and let me know where to find her.”
I will.” Febby said.

Mwansa banged on the door that had the number she had been given by one of Stephen’s close friends as belonging to Belinda. 
“Who’s that?” Chibale asked Belinda.
“I think I have an idea who it might be.” Belinda told her roommate and got up to answer the door. 
“You must be Mwansa, right?” Belinda said upon opening the door and finding a girl breathing fire on the other side.
Mwansa felt like slapping the smile off her rival’s face. How dare she look so unperturbed. “Yes, I am Stephen’s girlfriend.” She said proudly. 
Belinda chuckled and stepped aside. “Come in,” she said.
“Did I say something funny?” Mwansa asked, refusing to enter the room.
“Get in,” Belinda said. “You don’t want the whole block knowing that you have trust issues in your relationship.”
Belinda walked back into the room, leaving the door open for Mwansa to enter if she wanted to. 
Mwansa immediately felt at a loss. What was she thinking following Belinda to her room? She automatically had the home ground advantage. Against her will, she entered and closed the door behind her. 
“Sit.” Belinda pointed to the chair by her study desk from where she was seated on the bed. 
Like an obedient child, Mwansa sat down. That was not how she had imagined the confrontation scene playing out in her head. She had expected to see hands flying about and voices yelling at the very top. 
She’s even prettier in person. Mwansa silently admitted to herself as she took a closer look at Belinda. But so what if she’s more beautiful than me? I am the one dating Stephen right now.
“I am uncomfortable with the fact that you are still in touch with my boyfriend.” Mwansa stated curtly, rediscovering her confidence all over again. 
“Did he tell you that the two of us are in touch?” Belinda asked. 
“He didn’t have to, I saw the messages and I was there when you called him.” 
“Obviously there’s some misunderstanding here.” Belinda said. “Stephen and I are not in touch like that. We met a few days ago by coincidence and we exchanged a few texts afterwards. In fact, I was the one that initiated the conversation via text and I asked him if we could get some drinks together.
“I had no idea he was seeing someone and I wouldn’t have asked him if I was aware. I had not seen in a very long time and I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to hang out and catch up but he respectfully turned me down and told me that he was seeing someone and that it would be improper for us to meet. I still have the messages.” She checked through her phone, found the messages and handed the phone over to Mwansa. 
“Until earlier today when I found a missed call from him, the two of us had not spoken.” Belinda explained while Mwansa went through the phone conversation. “I was very surprised when I saw the missed call, didn’t even hear the phone ring but I called back immediately just in case he thought I was avoiding him.” 
“I guess you must think I am such a big fool.” Mwansa said as she handed the phone back to Belinda. “This is so embarrassing.” She shut her eyes and put her hands over them. “Oh my God, Stephen is sooo going to kill me.”
Belinda laughed. “I doubt that would be the case. It’s only natural to get concerned when you think your boyfriend is still in touch with his ex. I am just sorry that I am the reason for this misunderstanding.”
“Now you are just trying to make sure I fall flat on my face right? Gosh, this is so embarrassing.” Mwansa admitted. 
Mwansa had expected nothing but antagonism from her supposed rival, not someone with the kind of maturity Belinda was exhibiting in the face of what could have been danger. Why did she have to be both beautiful and mature? Even though they were the same age, why did she feel as if she was a babe in front of this woman? How the hell was she supposed to compete with that? Why did she feel worse now despite knowing the truth instead of feeling relieved?
“You know,” Mwansa said when she finally looked up at her rival. “You are very different from what I imagined you would be.”
Belinda laughed. “I guess I don’t have to ask what you imagined.” She said. “People have some ideas about who they think I am and frankly, I don’t blame them. Just like Steve, I too had a phase in my life I am not so proud of…but it’s all in the past now.
“We were young and excited.” She said, a bittersweet smile on her face. “We made some pretty wild decisions and lived dangerously but we learnt the lessons and moved on. Stephen turned to the church for help and I turned to my sister. She’s the best sister in the world.” 
“I met your sister once when I was at Aunt Mary’s house.” Mwansa said.
“Oh, you’ve met his family?” Belinda sked.
Sensing that this could be an opportunity to score a hundred above her, Mwansa went for it. “Yes, he’s introduced me to his family.” She lied. “Aunt Mary is not the easiest woman to please but she was very kind.”
“I am very happy for the both of you.” Belinda said, an obvious sadness filling her eyes. 
“Thanks,” Mwansa smiled proudly. 
“You don’t look anything like your sister but you are both beautiful.” Mwansa commented, still riding high on the wave of her suggestive lie.
Belinda smiled. “Thanks.” She said. “Alicia truly is a beautiful soul.”
Mwansa laughed “Yes she is, but I think you are more beautiful.” And then she winced in embarrassment. “Gosh, I can’t believe I just said that.”
They both laughed. “If it’s a fact, then there’s no need to feel embarrassed about it. However, I should warn you, I might have changed but I am still very short tempered. I only acted cool with you because I don’t wish to disturb Stephen’s new life. Of course I felt a little sad when I discovered he had moved on with someone but I am still happy for him…for the both of you.”
“Do you still like him?” Mwansa asked and immediately regretted opening her mouth. 
Belinda was so startled by the question that she did not respond right away. Fortunately for her, she was saved by a knock at the door. 
“I’ll get it!” Chibale announced from the other side of the room.
Mwansa put her hand over her mouth, then dropped it and asked; “There was someone that side?”
“Yes.” Belinda said. 
“Is there someone called Belinda here?” Mwansa heard a familiar voice ask.
“Chilufya!” She exclaimed and got up from the chair to rush to the door. Chibale quickly stepped aside and watched the reunion at the door in awe. 
“So you are truly here?” Chilufya said.
“What are you doing here? How-“ and then she turned to Febby who was standing next to her sister, realizing right away what she had done. 
“Snitch.” Mwansa said accusingly. 
“Hi.” Belinda popped up from behind Mwansa.
“Are you Belinda?” Chilufya asked. 
“Yes.” She answered. 
“I am so sorry for the trouble that my sister has caused-“
“What trouble?” Belinda asked. “She and I just talked, like adults. There was no trouble at all.”
“Are you sure?” There was disbelief on Chilufya’s face as she looked from Mwansa to Belinda. 
Belinda laughed. “It’s all good.” She said.

Once they were seated in her car under the shade by October Car Park, Chilufya finally said the words that had been eating at her from the moment she had set eyes on Belinda. “She looks very familiar,” she said. “I feel like I’ve met her before.” 
“Umm, I doubt it.” Mwansa said. “But maybe you know her sister, Alicia. She’s a nurse and works at Kondwani’s hospital. What’s wrong with you?” Mwansa stopped talking and starred at her shell-shocked sister.
“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.” Mwansa remarked.
“Those pictures,” Chilufya said. “Can I see them?”
“What’s wrong with you Chilu? Don’t go all crazy on me right now ka. I am at school.”
“Show me the pictures or I will start pulling out my hair.” Chilufya threatened her sister. 
Mwansa went straight to Belinda’s Facebook profile. The moment Chilufya’s eyes landed on Alicia, she gasped.
“What?” Mwansa asked. “You know her?”
“Karma,” Chilufya said the word with a far-off expression of horror on her face. “This is all karma.” She said, shaking her head in petrification.
“What are you going on about sis?” A visibly irritated Mwansa asked. 
“I think that Steve is going to leave you for this girl Mwansa.” Chilufya said, looking earnestly at her sister, her eyes filled with unshed tears. “This family is cursed.” 
“What are you talking about Chilu you are scaring me now!” Mwansa said.
“I need to go.” Chilufya said, quickly blinking back the tears. 
“Just like that?” Mwansa snapped.
“Yes, just like that.” Chilufya said. “Get out, I have to be somewhere right now.”
“Weirdo.” Mwansa said as she stepped out of the car and banged the door behind her. 
Chilufya called her brother right away. “We need to talk.” She said. 
“I’m just leaving the hospital right now.” Kondwani said. “Where are you?”
“I am heading to your place right now.” She said.
“Okay, I’ll find you there.” He said. 


An Untimely Love – Part 6

The next time Alex and Anton met was at the school bar where their crew usually hang after their Friday classes. The two of them had not spoken to each other since their last encounter at the house they shared.

Alex had completely absorbed herself in her school work trying to catch up and meet all her final year requirements before graduation. She had kept her phone off and stayed away from any kind of social media in a bid to keep her sanity.

“What’s up with you?” Anton asked her the moment he joined them at the far end of the bar. “I have been trying to get in touch with you all week. Are you still mad at me?” He grabbed a bottle of beer that had already been ordered for him and took a long sip from it. “Ah,” he heaved a sigh of relief, “I really needed this. This week has been dead crazy.” He said, finally taking a seat next to Alex.

“At least you managed to attend all your classes this week, strangely.” George remarked. The two friends collaborated on most of their school projects. George never complained of Anton’s lack of commitment when it came to attending lectures as he was always willing to cover that part for him knowing he would also require the use of his genius when the time came.

“Shut up George,” Anton told his buddy. “But serious Lexie,” he went back to her. “Are you still mad at me because of what happened last time?”

Alex forced a smile. “why would I be mad at you?”

“You know, about me not telling you about Cathy moving in and all…. I wanted to tell you, but….”

“It’s fine Tony, don’t worry about it,” she said nonchalantly. “It’s your house too after all, you can do whatever you want…I totally don’t mind.”

The two girls Cassey and Paulina were looking at her searchingly the whole time she was talking. The boys might have bought her lies but the girls could see right through it. All week they had tried to get her to talk about it but she had avoided the topic at all cost.

“Oh thank God!” Anton shouted, happy that there was no beef between them. The last person he wanted to upset was Alex. His life somehow always seemed out of sync whenever the two of them fought or had a misunderstanding. He gulped down the rest of the contents of his bottle and grabbed another one. ”I really thought you were never going to speak to me ever again after the way you left.” He said. “Cathy also felt bad when she saw your reaction and offered to come by so the two of you can get to know each other as adults.”

“Are you kidding me?” Cassey was the first to protest. “I thought we promised that this Friday hangout is just for the six of us; no boyfriend or girlfriend is allowed to join.”

“I think it’s cool to make an exception this once,” Duncan said, winning himself scornful stares from the other four. “Cathy is really a freak you girls are gonna love her!” He added excitedly, thinking about the last time the guys had danced and drunk themselves into stupors all through the night thanks to Cathy who kept challenging then and urging them on. She was the first of Anton’s many flames to get along so well and freely with them.

Cassey gave him a contemptious look and shaking her head she said, “You really have no idea, do you?”

“What do you mean by that?” Duncan innocently asked.

Being the most insightful among the men in the group, George pleaded the fifth. “I’m not going to be part of that discussion,” he said, turning his whole body the other way to sip on his beer and watch the game on the screen above.

Anton had this blank expression on his face, obviously without a clue of what was going on.

“I’m going to the bathroom for a bit.” Alex excused herself quickly and walked away. Cassey tried to go after her but Paulina placed a hand on her and motioned for her to sit back down.

The two girls shared a knowing look and turned to Anton. “Tsk tsk tsk,” they said at once.

“Why are you girls giving me that look, seriously?” Anton turned from the girls to the boys. Duncan simply shrugged his shoulders while George got up from his chair, walked over to where Anton was, gave him a smack in the back of head and went back to his seat, his attention back on the tele.

“Ouch!” Anton protested the treatment he had just received whilst nursing the affected area with his hand. “What did I do?” His pleading eyes searched the girls for an answer but Cassey and Paulina just looked at him wryly.

“Just drink your beer silly,” Paulina said, handing him a new bottle.

Anton remained in the dark as to what was going on but he suspected his friends reaction had something to do with the amount of time he seemed to be spending with his new girlfriend instead of them.

He had desperately tried to contact Alex during the week to make it up to her but he could not reach her through her cell or social media. A couple of times he had approached her just after her classes but she had been so busy they could barely hold a serious conversation in the kind of hurry she was in every time.

In the evenings when he thought she would be home, he had called the land line several times but Ben the butler kept telling him she was not around. His father had not been of much help either, refusing to take his son’s calls after instructing him to get his act together and not make life difficult for Alex.

There was no doubt whose side his father was on. Anton was aware of the soft spot that Alex occupied in his father’s heart and he could not blame him for it. There was something about Alex that made any man she encountered want to protect her. It was for that very reason he had vowed to be the big brother she had always hoped to have and to protect her so that she never feels abandoned ever again.

Anton understood very well the implication of Cathy’s presence in his life and the kind of strain it would put on his friendship with Alex. But it was the first time he had ever felt such strong emotions for any girl and he hoped he would never have to be in a position where he had to choose between the two girls; one was his best friend while the other was the woman he hoped to spend the rest of his life with. He hoped that his father would always be by Alex’s side just in case he ever found himself in a position where he had to make a choice.

Alone in the bathroom, Alex leaned over the sink and washed her face. She paused to look at her reflection in the mirror, her hands pressed down on the sink. Despite the water covering her face, there was no missing the teary filled eyes. Using one hand, she tried wiping her eyes but the desperate image of the girl starring back at her from the mirror made her feel even more worse and she succumbed to the tears.

When a group of girls busted into the ladies room, Alex rushed into one of the stalls to get some privacy and save herself some embarrassment. She had been sitting in there for some minutes when she looked around and realised the pathetic situation she was in. For the first time in her life, Alex took a chance and reached out to someone.

She took out her phone and speed dialled the second contact in her phone. “Please,” she said through the phone as she tried to stifle her sobs. She could still hear the girls tending to their looks on the other side. “Can you get me out of here?” She begged the person on the other end of the line.

A few minutes later, Alex joined her group looking all sobered up with a strained smile on her face. “I am sorry guys,” she announced, picking up her coat and handbag from the chair. “I have to go,” she said, speaking slowly and steady to keep her shaky voice from betraying her.

“Why so early?” A concerned Anton asked.

Alex managed a little grin before responding. “Because of the time I took off school, I have a lot of work to catch up on. You guys go ahead and have a good time, don’t mind me. I will see you later, night.” She had already turned her back and was leaving but Paulina ran after her and caught up at the door.

Placing her hands on Alex’s shoulders, Paulina asked her friend, “Are you okay sweetie?” There was no way her little act bravery was going to fool her. Up close, there was no missing the huge bags under her eyes. It was obvious she had been crying.

“I just need to be alone,” Alex sounded desperate. “For now, I beg you, please don’t ask me anything, okay?”

Paulina searched her friend’s face for a moment before nodding and letting her go. “Call me if you are ready to talk, okay? Promise?”

“Um,” Alex replied. “I Promise.” She said, opened the door and walked out into the cool air.

It was already dark outside but Alex braved herself and started off for home. She had just walked a short distance when a car pulled over beside her. It was Oliver.

He was ready to get out of the car to get to her but Alex ran over to the car the moment she recognized it and was already opening the front passenger door before Oliver could fully get out.

“I am sorry for calling you out like this.” Alex apologized the moment she was seated. “For some strange reason you are the only person I could think of whom I could vent on freely. I hope I didn’t disturb you.”

“Of course you didn’t,” Oliver lied. He had been going through the script for the new movie he would be directing in a few weeks when she called him. “You can vent now, take it all out. I am all yours tonight.” He encouraged her.

“I thought I was okay,” Alex started. “I told myself that as long as I try to see things from his point of view and try to understand…I thought,” she paused to steady her shaky voice. “I thought…I thought that I wouldn’t feel the pain anymore. I was wrong.” She sobbed.

“Did something happen?” Oliver asked.

“I feel so stupid,” she said. “I don’t know why the tears just keep coming. I have never been the crying type you know. I am stronger than this.”

“I know,” Oliver placed his hand on her lap, gently patting her. “You just need time to adjust to everything. Did Anton bring his girlfriend to your hangout?”

“He said she will be coming. I just lost it after hearing that. What’s worse is that he really has no clue….” Alex battled to keep it together but something about Oliver’s presence made her feel right at home and free to pour out the hurt that was clogging her up inside.

Oliver parked the car to the side of the road. “Why don’t you just rest for a while,” he said, tilting her seat back to get her comfortable.

He then turned on the stereo and some relaxing music came on. “You can get some sleep while I drive us to a cool place for some fresh air.”

“Don’t you have those weird people following you around tonight?” Alex asked.

Oliver laughed. “I always have weird people following me around Alex. If I keep thinking about them every time I want to do something, then my life will come to an end. Besides, who out there doesn’t know about our relationship? Relax…get some sleep.”

Without saying a word in return, Alex closed her eyes and allowed the music to be the only thing on her mind. Before she knew it, she was fast asleep.

Oliver smiled as he looked over at her whilst driving. He found it amazing how her character would change from that of a child in one minute to that of an adult in the next. There were times when she would act or say something way beyond her years and Oliver would worry about whether her experiences in life had forced her to grow up faster than kids her age. But then there were times like these, when all she could do instead of rebelling or acting out was cry for days on end.

Oliver drove them to the lake side on the other side of the mansion.

It was the place he came to whenever he needed to do some thinking. Alex was the second woman after his wife that Oliver had brought along to his secret hiding place. He loved the cool breeze and the sound of the waves from the small lake.
Oliver parked and stepped out of the vehicle, he walked over to Alex’s side, opened her door to allow the cool air to wash over her “Alex,” he whispered her name. She shifted slightly but her eyes remained closed. “We are here.” He said, gently shaking her to force her awake. Alex mumbled some words under her breath with her eyes still closed and turned to her side, away from Oliver and continued sleeping.

Oliver laughed. She must really be drink. He thought as he moved over her to unbuckle her from the other side. Alex shifted slightly and when she felt him over her and quickly turned and opened her eyes only to find her face a few inches away from Oliver’s.

With eyes wide open, Alex froze and the tears that had accumulated in her eyes right before she fell asleep came pouring out. Not sure what to do, Oliver too froze in his position, one hand touching the buckle of the seatbelt.

“Your eyes….” Alex said absent-mindedly looking into Oliver’s eyes. “They are so blue.”

As if suddenly struck by lightning, Oliver raised his head away from her only to hit himself hard against the roof of the car.

“Ouch.” He cried, touching his head and carefully leading his upper body out of the car.

Alex found the whole thing amusing. “Are you alright?” She asked, her voice full of laugher despite the tears on her face.

“I think that sometimes you forget that I am a man young lady.” Oliver complained, still nursing his head.

“I think so too.” Alex said as she unbuckled herself and stepped out. “The lake?” She asked when she saw the water in front of them.

“Yes, I thought you could use some fresh air.” Oliver said.

Alex’s smile did not reach her eyes when she thanked him and turned her back from the water to look at him instead. Oliver did not miss the sadness in her eyes.

“I always knew you were a good looking man but I have never bothered to look at you closely…until now.” She said, locking her gaze with Oliver’s now shifty eyes.

“How I wish I had fallen for you instead of that stupid son of yours.” Alex said.

Oliver Laughed. “I am old enough to be your father.” He said and quickly moved to lean his back against the car, his gaze back on the water ahead.

Alex closed the distance between them, her back still to the water and she stopped right in front of him. Oliver was blinking hard now, not sure what to do or what to think of Alex’s strange behaviour.

“They say that love is not limited by age, so who knows?” Alex said. “Besides, you look nothing like any of the father’s to girls my age out there. You and Anton look more like brothers instead of father and son.”

“That’s cause Sophia and I had him very young. But wait, are you trying to pick me up Alex?” He was looking daringly at her.

Alex blushed profusely before him, her hands moving quickly to cover her shocked face. “Oh my God I’ve been found out!” She said, and laughing, she turned and ran towards the lake before Oliver could react.

Seeing that he had just been played, Oliver laughed. “This kid,” he said, shaking his head and running after her. “Wait right there!” He shouted but Alex was already gone, her arms waving wildly in the air and laughing all the way into the way.

“What?” Oliver stopped and gaped at her in disbelief. “That water is freezing cold! Alex!”

As if possessed, Alex swam deeper into the water, paying no heed to Oliver’s protests.

Oliver watched in awe as Alex’s body disappeared under the water and when two minutes passed and she wasn’t coming up, panic gripped him. For some strange reason, his mind replayed the moment right before she turned to run. Where those tears he had seen in her eyes?

“Dammit!” Oliver cussed and ran after her into the lake. How could he have forgotten Alex’s water phobia? From the time he knew her, Alex steered clear of swimming pools and other such large bodies of water like a plague. Wasn’t it only recently when he discovered the reason behind her fear? How could he have forgotten that? Oliver chastised himself as he breathlessly searched for Alex’s body deep into the water.

What was he thinking bringing her here? Oliver spotted her limp body a few meters away and he swam like a mad man towards her. Seconds later, he came up with her in his arms. He laid her flat on the cold ground and desperately did everything possible to resuscitate her.

When Alex finally came to, Oliver dropped on his back next to her, laughing like the mad man he turned into. Realizing that he had left Alex on the ground, he quickly got up and slowly lifted her up into a seating position. He got up and then helped her to her feet as well.

“Let’s take you inside the car and warm you up quickly.” Oliver said as he led her towards the car.

“Why did you jump in?” Alex asked him.

“Let’s not even talk about what you just tried to do right now Alex.” Oliver said sternly. “I am the one that made the mistake of bringing you hear so I won’t even get mad at you. I am mad at myself for being such a fool. How could I-“

Alex yanked herself away from him. “You should have just left me in there!” She cried. “Why did you come after me? Why bother saving me when you will end up abandoning me just like everyone else!? Why did you stop me? Why?”

Oliver could do nothing but put his arms around her and let her cry on his shoulder. Tell me,” he said. “What should I do to make you believe that I am never going to leave your side? Tell me and I will do it.”

For a moment, Alex stopped crying. She leaned slightly away from him to look at his face and said; “Don’t ever get married.” She said.

“What?” Oliver asked bemusedly.

“See, you laugh.” She tried to pull herself away form him but Oliver pulled her back into his arms.

“I have never had plans of remarrying Alex.” He said. “I thought you knew that already.”

This time, Alex did not pull away from him immediately, but she did after a minute. “People change, like Anton.” She said. “He also thought he might never fall in-love but look at him now.

“When another woman enters your life Mr C, you too will forget about me and I will completely have no family in this world. I know that I am being selfish when I ask something like this of you…but I can’t help it.” She was about to start crying again.

“C’mon,” Oliver took her by the hand. “Let’s get you warm.”
An hour later, Alex was lying in bed after a warm bath and Oliver came to check on her before retiring to bed.

“How are you feeling now?” He asked, sitting down on the bed to closely examine her. “I can some colour is back now.”

“I am sorry I did what I did back there.” Alex said. “I don’t know what came over me there but….I must have stopped thinking for a moment and just gave in to some strange voice in me. You know very well that I have never been a suicidal person, right?” She was searching Oliver’s face to read the truth about what he thought of her in his eyes and not from the words he was going to say.

Alex saw both fear and disappointment in his eyes.

“You are disappointed in me aren’t you?” She asked him.

“I am not disappointed in you Alex.” Oliver lied. “It’s just that-“

“It’s just that what?” She asked.

“I don’t know…I really don’t know.” He said.

Minutes went by and the two of them just sat there, each lost in his or her own thoughts.

“Just promise me that you will never try something like that again.” Oliver said as he looked her in the eye. “Promise me Alex.”

“I promise.” Alex said.

“What you did back there,” Oliver paused and shut his eyes. “You have no idea how much you scared me out there.” When he opened his eyes again, there were tears welled up in them.

“Mr C.” Alex said, a little taken aback by Oliver’s show of emotion. When he was not acting in front of a camera, Oliver was a man that guarded his emotions very well.

Oliver got up and announced his goodnight. He needed to make an escape before he lost it in front of her. He was very upset with her but he knew he could not lash out at her right then when her emotions were still raw. There was no excuse for what she just tried to do and he wished for nothing but to never have a repeat of such a situation.

“It’s late now. You should sleep.” He said with his back half turned to her. “Goodnight.” He turned and walked towards the door.

Out of nowhere, he felt Alex’s arms around him from behind. Oliver froze.

“If you won’t marry any other woman, then marry me.” Alex said to his back.

Oliver quickly turned to look at her, incredulity written all over his face. “What did you just say?”

Alex starred squarely at him, her eyes filled with tears. “Just marry me, please.” She begged him.

“Alex,” Oliver reached out to feel her temperature on her forehead. “I think you are coming up with a fever.” He said resolutely. “I will go downstairs and bring you some-“

“I am not saying this because I am sick.” She forced him to come to a stop just as he was about to open the door. She moved to stand in front of him, he back pressed against the door due to lack of space.

“I know you think that I don’t know what am talking about but I have thought about it long and hard.” She said.

“You thought about it long and hard, when?” Oliver asked.

“When I was in the shower.” She answered.

Oliver scoffed. “If you are not sick, then I want to believe that you are still drunk. Where is all this coming from Alex?”

“I have already lost Alex Mr Oliver; I don’t want to lose you as well.” Alex cried. “I know you think that you will never marry again but a woman will come along and move your heart and you won’t see reason any more.

“So instead of waiting for such a time to come, why don’t you just marry me? I promise you that I will love you enough for the both of us and I will be a good wife. I promise.”

“Alex,” Oliver placed his hands on her shoulders. “Are you in-love with me?”

There was no response on Alex’s end for a few seconds and then, “No.” she answered. “I am not yet in-love with you but I am sure I will once I put my mind to it. I already like you and you are a very handsome man Mr C so-“

“Just listen to yourself.” Oliver said, dropping his hands from her shoulders resignedly. “I understand very well what your fears are but this…this is madness Alex.”

“I thought you said that you would do anything I asked. It was just a few minutes ago and you are already changing your mind. See what I mean.”

Oliver laughed, but not in a humour kind of sense…but in a ‘Lord how did I get myself into this mess’ kind of sense.

“Why are you giving up on yourself so quickly?” Oliver asked her. “You are so young and yet somehow you’ve made yourself believe that there’s no possibility of you finding a man that will love you like crazy and you will also fall in-love with him the same way.

“Just because Anton broke your heart doesn’t mean that’s how all men will turn out. I love you Alex, but only as a daughter and I believe your feelings for me are in those lines as well. Don’t ruin your life but settling for less simply because you are afraid of the unknown future. For your information, no one out there knows what the future holds.

“We all take risks and work and pray that it all turns out fine. Just because you’ve had a tougher life than most of us doesn’t mean you are different. We all love and fear the same way. Don’t let the past and the wrongs committed against you dictate how you live the rest of your life. If anything, why not show those people that have treated you thus that you are stronger and better than them. Make your parents, or whoever it was that gave birth to you regret giving you up. Show them exactly what you are made of, don’t settle for less.”

“I don’t think me getting married to you would be settling for less.” Alex countered. “You are extremely handsome, super rich, talented, and you are a very kind man. Why would anyone think that I settled for less?”

“They might all believe that you did well but deep down your heart, you will know that you settled. Marriage is way more than just what’s on display for the world to see. The bottom line is; do you love the person you are married to?”

“I think I can fall in-love with you easily.” She said.

“And that’s not the right answer to give.” Oliver said. “You might love the person you think I am but that’s very different from actually being in-love with me. I want you to think long and hard…no wait, In fact, I don’t want you to think about this anymore.

“Just focus on finishing yours studies for now and forget about Anton and that Cathy girl, forget also all those crazy ideas you have about us. It’s never gonna happen because I love you too much to let you go down a path you will live to regret the rest of your life. Sleep tight and sweet dreams.” He kissed her on the forehead and quickly left the room.

Just two minutes after entering his room, Oliver had taken off his t-shirt and was about to take off his pair of trousers to get ready for bed when Alex came bursting through the door.


Before he could finish, Alex was standing on her toes, she put her arms around his neck and pulled him towards her, her lips landing squarely on his as she forced her tongue deep inside him.

Oliver struggled to peel her off of him for a while as her determination proved stronger than expected. Fortunately, she was no match for his level of determination to protect her even from herself and so he managed to separate them in time.

He held her by the side of her arms, lifted her from the floor and threw her on the bed. He proceeded to push her back onto the bed and he positioned himself on top of her, his eyes burning sulphur and titanium.

“Is this what you want?” He thundered from on top of her, his naked broad chest exposed openly to her. She could see his heart beating fast and the drops of sweat on his forehead made him appear even more menacing than she had ever imagined him to be.

The moment he saw the fear in her eyes, Oliver removed himself from above her. He managed to drive his point home. “Go back to your room.” He commanded her.

Like an obedient child, Alex picked herself up from the bed and made for the door.

“This thing,” Oliver said to her. “It never happened.”

Alex stopped by the door.

“Tonight you were simply drunk and high on a fever.” Oliver said. “You will make me breakfast in the morning as usual, we will eat together, chat, and laugh, you will go to school and I will go for work as usual. Tonight never happened, is that clear?”

With tears streaming down her eyes, Alex said; “Yes.” And she opened the door and left.

Alone in his room, Oliver rushed to lock the door behind her and he dropped to the floor in helplessness, his hand placed over his fast beating heart.

“Does this child think I’m made of marble?” He asked himself. “Jesus Christ, almost gave me a heart attack.”

When morning came, Alex did exactly as Oliver had instructed her. She was back to her usual chirpier self so much that Oliver begun to question his own sanity and his experience in acting. Alex was too natural about her activities that there was no awkwardness at all.

Even though he was the one that had given the instruction, he had not for the life of him forgotten about the events of the previous night. In fact, he had not slept a wink at all because the feel of Alex’s lips against his could not leave him be.

He had tried to convince himself that the only reason he was thinking about it was because it had been too long a dame time since he had been physical with a woman but seeing how well Alex had gotten over everything, he started to question whether there could be more to his failure to get over a random kiss from a girl he had considered his daughter all those years.

Am I a pervert? Oliver asked himself as he watched Alex clear away the table after breakfast and humming a song whose tune he could not catch no matter how hard he tried to listen.

“Just leave those for Bernard to take care of.” Oliver said. “If you continue at this pace, you will put both the chef and the butler out of employment.

Alex laughed. “I guess you are right.” She said. “I never really thought about it like that.”

“Do you want me to drop you off at school or you will use your car?” Oliver asked.

“I’ll use my car.” She said. “I have a few errands I need to run during the day so I need to be very much mobile. You can drop me off tomorrow. I have to go now.” She rushed into the kitchen to get her backpack.

“Be careful on the road,” Oliver said and followed her into the lounge as she rushed to the door.

When she got to the door, Alex paused and starred for a very long time at the wet shoes they had left by the door in the night.

“Bernard should have gotten rid of those by now.” Oliver said from where he was standing. “Just where is that man when you need him?”

“These are my shoes, isn’t it?” Alex pointed to the white and yellow sneakers she had been wearing the previous day.

Oliver laughed. “Of course they are. Are they that dirty that you can’t recognize them?”

“How did they get like this?” Alex had turned and was now looking at him for answers. “Did it rain last night? Did we get soaked? How? Didn’t you pick me up in your car from the club last night?”

“Alex, what are you talking about?” Oliver asked. “It didn’t rain-“ And then he stopped himself from speaking any further, great fear sweeping over him so suddenly.

No way. Oliver debated within himself. “Alex,” he walked to where she was and stood in front of her. “What do you remember about last night, I mean, after I picked you up from the club?”

“You picked me up, I cried over Anton, then I slept and I found myself in bed this morning. Did you change my clothes?” She was smiling at him mischievously. “You do know I am not a little girl anymore right?”

“Alex-“ Oliver wanted to shake her up and tell her that she didn’t need to pretend to forget to such extremes but something about her eyes and her whole demeanour told him that she wasn’t pretending at all. From the moment they met that morning, there had not been any form of pretence or acting on her part. He should have known, Alex was a terrible actor. He once tried to memorize lines with her and she had sucked all the way. Alex could not act to save her soul from eternal damnation.

In a strange turn of events, he had been the one doing all the acting all through their interaction.

“I have to go Mr C, am going to be late for class!” She jumped to plant a kiss on his cheek and just like that she bolted out of the house.

“No way.” Oliver remained talking to himself. “No way,” he kept repeating as he walked across the room to make a call to Dr Sanjay.

“I need to see you, right now.” He said.

An Untimely Love – Part 5

(This one is for those who said they couldn’t access the story on the first website it was posted.) Enjoy!

“The Russell’s only have one child, Cathy,” Gilbert reported once he was seated. “She is indeed the child that gone missing and was found all those years ago. Their records indicate that they had adopted a child after the disappearance of their daughter but that they had to return the child because they were no longer financially able to take care of two children after their daughter returned.”

“Is that the only reason they gave?” Oliver asked, looking very disappointed.

“On paper yes, but not on word of mouth,” Gilbert said. “We interviewed most of their neighbours from that first house where the incident took place as well as the second home they moved to after…. Their close friends are aware of some traumatic incident Cathy underwent other than her disappearance which required her to have therapy most of her childhood but none of them know the actual details. It’s like the Russell’s really wanted to keep that part of their life connected to Alex a secret.”

“Did that daughter of theirs approach my son deliberately?” Oliver asked.

“I highly doubt that,” Gilbert replied. “I do not even think that family had any idea who Alex was despite her public association with your family until that day the professor met her on campus. And besides, your son and the girl had met before Alex’s encounter with the professor. If she had not reacted the way she did that day, they probably would have never found out.”

“Except now they do.” Oliver countered.

Gilbert nodded, sadly. “Chances are that they will try to refute any claims Alex has against them in a bit to get in your good graces since their daughter appears to be …obsessed…if I may say so… about your son.”

During his investigations, Gilbert couldn’t help noticing the frequency with which Cathy updating her social media feeds with everything concerning her relationship with the young heir.

Oliver was up on his feet again. With his hands in his pockets, he went to stand by the window, staring blankly at the landscaper busy at work and oblivious to the fact that he now had an audience.

“If that girl is now aware of her connection to Alex and us,” Oliver was saying, his back to Gilbert. “Shouldn’t she have left Anton knowing his relationship with Alex?”

Gilbert laughed, “You are assuming that the family took responsibility for whatever happened that fateful day day…what if you are wrong?” he asked. “If according to what you told me last time, they really did what your girl claimed they did, then they aren’t the type to admit to anyone that they committed such an atrocious crime against a child. That girl Cathy leaving your son would mean she feels some sort of guilt towards Alex but as you can see, she is still very much in the picture and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon.”

Oliver pondered the PI’s words for a while. He had to admit the old man might be right. No matter how this story was to turn out, there was only going to be one person getting hurt; Alex. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

“Did you find out anything that might help corroborate Alex’s story?” Oliver had turned around, his demeanour reeked of new conviction. There has to be something or someone out there that would help in finding out the story. He didn’t care what anybody else said, everything that Alex told him was the truth. She had no reason to lie to him or anyone. She could have easily made excuses for her actions back then and would still have gotten away with it because she was just a kid desperate to find herself a place to call home. And most importantly, she would never lie to him.

“We have a very promising lead,” Gilbert said proudly. “I sent Felix to look into it and am hoping to hear from him soon.”

“What kind of lead is it?” Oliver asked, very interested.

“In the old neighbourhood where they lived, we found out that one of the neighbours had relocated not long after the Russell’s did. His name is Donald Wartburg. He should have been twenty-five at that time. He was known in the neighbourhood as a perv because he loved walking around with his camera everywhere he went and got pictures of things that interested him…most of these things where women and children. One of the neighbours believes he had a telescope and god knows what else in his house which he used to spy on people mostly instead of stars. The neighbour thinks that Donald might have witnessed whatever went on in the Russell household.”

“And his whereabouts?” Oliver asked.

“That’s what we are still working on. One place seemed more promising and that’s where Felix is as we speak.”

The moment Gilbert had left, Oliver had rushed to Alex’s bedroom. He found her still working on her research paper.

“Come over here,” Oliver patted the space next to him on Alex’s bed. “There’s something important I need to talk to you about.”

Alex was perturbed. “You are scaring me Mr C.,” she had stopped whatever she was doing and was now looking at Oliver from across the room.

Oliver patted the spot again and Alex moved to sit next to him. “Did something happen?” she anxiously asked. “You don’t look so good Mr Cooper,” she stated. “Did something happen to Anton?”

For a moment, all that Oliver could do was stare at her, hoping and praying that she could not read any of the fears on his mind. Then he took her hand into his. “Alex,” he said softly.

Alex blinked, three times.

“I am going to tell you something,” Oliver continued, “you might not like it…but promise me that you will trust me to take care of everything for you? Can you promise me that?” he was looking her in the eyes.

Alex nodded profusely, completely scared by now and not trusting that her voice was still functioning.

Oliver could feel her whole body tense through her hand. Did she really need to know the truth this time? He silently tried to talk himself out of it.

“It’s about your sister…I mean, the daughter to the first couple that had adopted you….”

“What about them…what about her?” Alex asked, her voice shaking.

“What would you say if I told you that she is the same Cathy that is dating Anton?” Oliver shut his eyes for a second before opening them to watch her reaction, his whole face twisting in anticipation of the worst.

Alex pulled her hand away from his grasp and stood up from the bed. She did not know the full name of the girl Anton was dating but he had mentioned she was Cathy. How can she forget? She had only recently discovered why she had initially hated hearing the name. at first she had thought it was only jealous but now….

“You can’t mean that they are actually the same person can you? Maybe it’s just the name….” Alex desperately hoped Oliver would set her heart at ease and tell her what she wanted to hear.

Oliver got up and tried to approach her but Alex held her hand out to keep him at bay. “Don’t,” she warned.  “Please don’t,” she repeated. “Just tell me it’s just the name.”

Oliver was shaking his head, feeling sorry he couldn’t tell her what she wanted to hear. “I am so sorry Lex….”

The tears started pouring the moment she heard his apologetic tone. Why was this happening to her?

She was crying and almost falling to the floor when Oliver jumped in to hold her up. He helped her up and held her in his arms while she continued crying. For close to five minutes he let her cry in his arms and Oliver couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so helpless.

But then suddenly, she yanked herself out of the embrace and threw him a very puzzled look. “Does Anton know?” she asked. “Does he know who she is?” She asked again.

Oliver was not sure what Anton knew and did not know. As far as he knew he had not spoken to him about Alex’s recovered memory and neither had Alex.

“Only if she told him herself,” Oliver answered honestly. “I also only found about the connection a few minutes ago.”

“I need to know,” Alex grabbed her bag and brushed past Oliver as she ran out of the room.

“Where are you going Alex?” Oliver ran after her down the stairs. “Alex!” he called out but she never stopped.

She was running so fast that she tripped on the last three stairs and fell to the floor. She tried to get up immediately but the instant pain warned her of some internal damage the fall must have caused.

“Are you alright?” Oliver was by her side in no time, frantically checking her legs for any possible damages. “I think you twisted it a bit,” he said as he visually examined her ankle. “Can you get up?”

Alex nodded, “I think I can now,” she said, holding on to him as she tried to get up.

“C’mon, let’s get to the hospital and….”

“I am going to my place to see Anton Mr C.,” Alex tried to wiggle herself free from Oliver but he wasn’t going to let her go that easily. “You know very well how stubborn I am so don’t even try to talk me out of it, it wont work,” she insisted.

“Okay, how about I get you some ice in the meantime so you can nurse it while I drive you there…and then we can pass through the hospital from there?” Oliver tried to negotiate.

“Yeah,” Alex answered, non-committedly. “Let’s go,” she started to lead the way, limping with one hand holding on to Oliver for support.

There was silence in the car during the ride to Anton and Alex’s residence, each consumed in their own thoughts.
The presence of Anton’s car and another one immediately informed them that he had a guest. It was not a familiar car to either of them and they immediately knew which guest was keeping him company.

“Please don’t come in Mr C.,” Alex told Oliver who was almost getting out of the car.

Oliver paused, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go in there alone Alex,” he tried to reason with her.

“Let me take care of this one on my own,” Alex pleaded. “You have done more than enough to shield me from getting hurt…I think this is a kind of pain I have to confront myself.”

“But your leg…” Oliver started to say.

“It feels a lot better now after the ice. I can make it to the house don’t worry.”

Without waiting for a response, she limped away towards the house.

Oliver watched her from a distance, debating whether to follow her or not.

Alex slowly opened the door and had to pause when she heard laughter coming from the lounge. She didn’t need to see it to know exactly what was going on. She entered and quietly closed the door behind her.

“Stop it…don’t do that babe….” Alex could see the back of a blonde haired woman from the top of the couch. She could hear Anton’s voice but couldn’t see him, she figured he was exactly where she wanted him to be, under her.

“hmm hmmm,” Alex deliberately cleared her throat to get their attention. The girl was the first one to see her before Anton’s head popped up the sofa.

“Alex,” Anton said, quickly moving his guest from his laps and getting up on his feet. “What are you doing here?” he said as he walked over to where she was.  “What happened?” HE was looking at her feet, her weight resting on one leg. “Did you hurt yourself?” he was down on his knees trying to check her leg but Alex surprised him when she pulled away from him.

“I knew this day would eventually come,” said the blonde in her tight little bum shorts and a braless, small but loose top hanging from her boobs.  “Karla McKenzie…or is it Alex? I hear that’s what they call you these days?” by the time she had finished talking, she was standing a few feet away from Alex, giving her a sweeping look from head to toe.

Alex took in the image of the conniving little girl she had met all those years ago. Despite the years, nothing much seemed to have changed on the part of her nemesis. She still had the same bob haircut and the same attitude except all that was packaged in a grown woman this time around.

“Cathy,” Anton shot her a warning look. It was all Alex needed to know what she had come all the way to find out.

Upon hearing the name, Alex turned from Cathy to Anton, “you knew?” she asked, tears welling up in her eyes.

“About what happened between you guys when you were kids?” Anton asked. “Of course I know, Cathy already told me.” he said nonchalantly.

Alex could barely hide the shock. “You knew?” she repeated. “And you didn’t feel the need to talk to me about it?”

“Hey, c’mon Lexie,” he didn’t look like someone who was on the same page as her. Alex wasn’t sure what she found more upsetting, his nonchalant demeanour or the fact that he had found out something about her and never bothered to talk to her about it. “Why you getting all serious? That stuff happened when you were little. Cathy said her family has already forgiven you and moved on.”

“Forgiven me?” Alex looked from Anton to Cathy. “Forgiven me?” She was addressing Cathy this time. “Your family forgave me, for what?” Alex asked.

Cathy simply shrugged her shoulders. “For what you tried to do to me,” she replied impudently.

“Just what exactly did she tell you I did that requires forgiveness, from her?” Alex asked Anton, her hands crossed over her chest.

“Are you sure you wanna talk about this right now?” Anton asked.

“Yes,” Alex answered defiantly.

During the whole exchange, Cathy had moved to Anton’s side and put her arm in his with a smirk playing on her lips as she looked Alex down from head to toe.

Anton had to look at Cathy before responding as if to seek her permission before uttering anything concerning the incident under discussion. Cathy simply shrugged her shoulders to give him a go-ahead. Clearly, she didn’t care much about it anymore.

“Cathy told me about how you…about how you guys…you know?” Anton stuttered.

“About how I what?” Alex insisted on asking. She needed to know exactly what he had been told even though it already looked like the odds weren’t in her favour either way.

Anton brushed his hand against his hair in frustration, afraid to say the words knowing how much his friend would be hurt from being reminded of such a cruel past.

“The drowning….” Anton finally said. “I heard about how you tried to drown Cathy when you were kids. I don’t want you to feel bad about it Lex….”

“Stop it!” Anton was speaking so fast that Alex had to shout to get him to stop taking. “Stop it,” Alex repeated, waving her hand in the air in surrender. “I don’t need to hear any more.”

“Alex….” Anton tried to go to her but Cathy held him back.

Alex never missed the small but loud move by Cathy. With tears in her eyes, she looked at their hands held together so tightly. She was the odd one out. Even if she tried to reason with Anton, would he even listen to her?”

“Did you ever think that her version of events might not be what actually happened?” Alex asked, letting the tears fall without interruption.
“What are you trying to say Alex?” Anton asked.

Alex could see no such thoughts had crossed his mind in the first place. She had never felt so disappointed in anyone than in Anton at that particular moment.

“It’s fine,” Alex said dismissingly. Really, what was the point in trying? “I only asked because I wanted to know where we stood as friends…I can see it’s already too late.” She wiped the tears from her face with both hands before turning around to go.

This time, Anton removed Cathy’s hold on his arm using his free hand before running to block Alex from opening the door.

Alex stopped and looked at her best friend from childhood. With so much tears welling up in her eyes, she could barely recognize him.

“What do you mean it’s too late?” Anton asked, trying to hold her hand but Alex flinched, forcing him to withdraw his hands. “I know that stuff happened a long time ago,” he said. “I am sure you had your own reasons for doing what you did but I know for a fact you are not like that anymore.”

Alex could only scoff, not believing her own ears.

“I know it might be a little awkward for the two of you in the beginning,” Anton continued, “but since Cathy doesn’t seem to mind so much, we can all just get along and forget about the past. What do you think?” he was looking from Alex to Cathy seeking both women’s sign of approval but getting none in return.

Alex sighed heavily. “I just have one more question to ask and I will leave,” she addressed Anton.

“Um,” Anton replied.

“After Cathy told you about our relationship, why didn’t you come to me to hear my side as well? After all, we have been friends for a much longer time than your relationship with her.”

“I didn’t think Cathy or her mother had any reason to lie to me,” Anton answered.

“Her mother?” Alex asked, surprised.

“Yes,” Anton replied nonchalantly. “I had gone to pick up Cathy from her place and I met her. Even though Cathy doesn’t remember all the details, her mother does. She even asked me to invite you over to their house whenever you have time. The only reason why I didn’t want to tell you about it yet was because of everything that’s been going on lately with you. I thought you needed to get some rest before I could talk to you about all this. I know that my relationship with Cathy would have surprised you…I didn’t want to stress you any further.”

“I see,” Alex muttered. “I have to go now,” and she made a move to open the door before Cathy’s words brought her to a pause;

“I hope we can all get along fine,” she shouted from behind, her hands proudly crossed over her chest. “We will be living together after all.”

Alex turned around and looked at Anton questioningly. “What does she mean?” she asked.

“Oh my, you never told her babe?” Cathy walked over to where a visibly astonished Anton was standing. He could only scratch his head in response.

“I moved in here a few days ago,” Cathy was more than eager to share the news. “You don’t mind, do you?”

It was not so much a question as it was a challenge, Alex observed. “I will see you later,” was all Alex could manage to say in response before opening the door and walking out.

“Did you see the look on her face when I told her the news?” Cathy asked Anton who had his hands in his pockets and feeling a little perturbed by Alex’s behaviour. “She looked like a jilted lover!” Cathy said, looking like she had just unlocked a thousand year old puzzle.

“What do you mean by that?” Anton asked.

Cathy was looking at him and shaking her head in disappointment. “You really have no clue don’t you?” she said. “I told you that she doesn’t just think of you as a friend. I am a woman…I know what goes on in the mind of women and that girl over there is seriously in-love with you.”

“You don’t know her like I do so don’t say such things, okay?” again, he removed her hand and headed upstairs. “I need to lie down for a bit,” he said with his back to her as he approached the stairs.

As he walked away, he missed the triumphant look in Cathy’s eye with her lips pursed tightly.
Outside the door, Alex held on to her knees as gravity threatened to pull her under. She could not move. It was in that position that Oliver looked up from where he had been standing anxiously waiting for her. He quickly ran to her and pulled her up gently, taking her into his arms as she silently sobbed against his lean chest.

“What happened in there Alex?” he was stroking her hair gently. “I should go in there and deal with this boy….” He was almost turning around to open the door when Alex put her arms around his waist to keep him where he was.

“Don’t,” she whispered, her head still buried in his chest.

Knowing his son too well, Oliver could only imagine what must have taken place inside. With those thoughts running through his mind, he drew Alex even closer to him, holding her tightly in his embrace. They remained like that for close to three minutes until Alex calmed down and broke away from him, leading the way back to the car.

Oliver had driven for a couple of minutes when Alex started laughing. She started slowly but gradually developed into full blown hysterics.
Not sure what to do or say, Oliver could only look at her surreptitiously and in bewilderment.

“What did I expect, honestly?” Alex made a 360 degrees turn. She was sombre and resolute in whatever conclusions she had come up with in her head.

“What do you….” Oliver was asking.

“I mean, I always knew at the back of my head that I would never be anything more than a friend to him,” Alex had cut him off. “I just didn’t…I didn’t….” she desperately tried to push back the tears back they came pouring out. “Just drive, don’t stop…don’t even look at me.” She warned Oliver who had almost slowed down to a stop while motioning for him to keep forward.

Oliver removed some tissue from the car and handed them to her, trying hard not to look at her whilst doing so. Alex took the tissue and cleared both her face and nose, pretending to be oblivious to Oliver who had to stifle a chuckle at the level of comfort Alex seemed to be despite his presence. She was the only woman to dare pull off something like that and still get that kind of reaction from him.

A part of Oliver was forced to recognize the possibility that Alex’s behaviour around his son had a lot to do with why he never thought of her as anything more than friends. She was too comfortable around the both of them and treated them like her family. There had never been a time she had actively portrayed any of intimate emotion towards Anton…well, at least not around him. Who knew what happened between them at the house?

“I need to find a place to stay,” Alex said, as if she had read Oliver’s line of thought.

“Did Anton ask you to move out?” Oliver asked, sounding like a man ready to pounce on something.

“Of course he didn’t….”

“Then why would you say something like that?” he asked. “Have you forgotten that the only reason Anton is able to live in that house is because of you?”

“I know,” Alex answered. “Which is why I don’t want you to threaten him into moving back to the mansion. The two of them have been living together since I left. Even though I Anton might be okay with me living there, it’s only because he doesn’t really know the truth. Besides, even if I have to live out on the streets, there is no way I am going to live under the same roof as that girl. You would think that seventeen years is enough to change a person but she is still the same; very smug and thinks the world revolves around her.”

“I also do not expect the two of you to live together and in my house.” Oliver said sternly. “Anton will just have to do as I say and if he doesn’t, he can move out and continue his dating elsewhere. I will not let you move out of that house Alex, never.”

“You see, that’s what I don’t want,” Alex said. “The last thing I need is coming between the two of you. How will people look at me when they find out that I am the reason behind you two fighting?”

“There is no one out there who doesn’t know about Anton’s antics,” Oliver countered. “And there is no way in hell will I let that manipulative girl into my son’s life….”

With her face completely devoid of tears except for her swollen eyes, Alex sat straight up in the passenger seat and turned to look at Oliver. “I also don’t like the fact that Anton is with that girl Mr C.,” she tried to reason with now visibly upset Oliver. “However, if there is something I know about Anton and people around that age in general, it is that the telling them not to do something has the direct opposite effect of the outcome you desire.”

Oliver removed his eyes from the road for a few seconds to look at Alex. “Are you asking me to just seat back and watch my son ruin his life?” Then he looked back to the road ahead, shaking his head.

“Anton is a big boy Mr C. he can take care of himself. He is not as irresponsible as you think him to be. Even when he is doing something wrong, he knows very well at the back of his mind exactly what the repercussions will be. Let’s just…for now…give him the space he needs. Right now even if I tried to tell him my side of the story, he will just push me aside because it is better for him to believe the woman he loves than someone who is just a friend.”

Oliver seemed to have calmed down a bit somewhere in-between Alex’s speech.

“I guess you are right,” he relented. “But only because I trust you and not all that stuff you said about Tony. It’s amazing how you are still able to defend him even in this instance.” He slowly managed a grin.

“I have always been good at accepting certain outcomes,” Alex replied. “Growing up the way I did, I somehow trained my brain to always expect and prepare myself for the worst case scenario. My relationship with you and Oliver has been the longest blessing ever in my life…so I am not surprised that eventually something like this is happening…I somehow knew it was bound to happen, just didn’t think it would take this long.”

“Just so you know, I will always take your side no matter what girl Anton introduces to me,” they both chuckled. “I mean it,” Oliver insisted.

“I have never been Anton’s girl before Mr C.,” Alex corrected him. “I have only been his closest buddy. And now that this has happened, I have to get over him real quick.” She put both her hands over her thighs and moved them up and down as if to comfort herself.

Another awkward silence filled the car for the rest of the way to Oliver’s mansion.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 12

“Mrs Kabwe.” Joseph greeted the lady of the house, stopping just a few inches away from the door where she was standing.

Belinda, Stephen, and Alicia who was carrying her son in her arms went to stand behind Joseph.

“So the only time you get to visit is when you want to take my son away from me ah?” Mary’s lips were quivering violently and her voice too could not escape the anguish she was feeling inside.

Joseph’s heart reached out to the woman so much that he could no longer look her in the eye. Mary might have mistreated his daughter all these years but in her head she had every right to. To the poor woman, giving the child back to his mother was equivalent to losing her son to the same woman twice.

Joseph quickly shook his head, brushing the thoughts aside. This was no time to feel sympathy. His family had done enough to ease the pain of Nicolas’ death on Mary and her family even though it was clear Alicia was not in any way at responsible for his demise. To keep Buseko from his mother any longer would be an injustice to both mother and son. There were no two ways about it, Joseph thought.

“I would have loved to visit on several occasions but my wife and I still clearly remember your warning and we took it very serious.” Joseph said to lighten up the mood. “Rita especially, she took it to her heart.” He added, and then looking down his pair of trousers he said; “She still needs me in one whole piece you know.” He chuckled.

“Daaaad!” Belinda chided her father and covered her eyes in embarrassment.

Just then Exhildah appeared and stood next to her mother by the doorway. Placing one handaround her mother’s shoulders, she said in a very sombre tone; “Afternoon everyone, please forgive my mother. Today is not one of her best days. Please do come in.” As she said the last part, she pulled her mother to the side to clear the doorway so their guests could enter.

Exhildah had to put aside her work for the day just to come and comfort her mother whom she knew was having a tough time adjusting to the fact that she was no longer Buseko’s legal guardian. She silently thanked God that Stephen had been there through the night to keep her company otherwise only the heaven knew what she would have done had she been left all alone with Buseko.

“Thank you very much Exhildah,” Joseph said and led his daughters into the house.

Immediately she saw them get into the house, Mary finally lost it and broke down in sobs.

“Aunty….” Stephen quickly went over to her but Mary yanked her daughter’s arm from around her shoulder and stormed out of the living room.

Stephen made a move to go after her but Exhildah stopped him. “Leave her be for now. She needs some time alone. This can’t be easy for her.”

“The last time I saw her cry like that was when Nicolas-“ Stephen’s gaze instictively turned towards Alicia as he caught himself in time. “What can I offer you to drink ladies and gentleman?” He asked instead with a loud grin on his face. “I think this house has every possible beverage out there, you just have to name it.”

“Just bring them juice Steve.” Exhildah told her cousin before going to sit down.

Belinda laughed, her mind running back to the time she and Stephen dated…how he would always have a bottle of beer in his backpack every time they met. How was she to know that all that beer was coming from Mary Kabwe’s house? But then again, between her and Stephen, their relationship had been just so destructive they hardly had any time to have a normal conversation. If they were not drinking, they were partying. And if they were neither drinking nor partying, they were fighting.

Belinda sometimes wondered what could have happened to their lives had they continued down that destructive path. Perhaps Stephen’s decision to break up with her after his life turned around had been a blessing in disguise after all. As she watched him walk out of the living room to the kitchen, Belinda couldn’t help noticing just how much change had occurred in her ex-boyfriend’s life after encountering religion.

Even though her parents were not aware of the things that went on in her life a few years ago, Belinda was still grateful that at least there was one person on the world that had noticed the change in her and held her hand all through her struggles and helped her to quickly recover from the hurt and bitterness.

Belinda turned towards Alicia who was sitting next to her and she reached out her hand from down the sofa and squeezed her sister’s hand. Thinking her baby sister was trying to cheer her on, Alicia smiled and gently squeezed her hand in return.

“Congratulations on having your son back Licia.” Exhildah said when she sat down opposite them, crossing one leg over the other under her very long blue dress.

“Do you really mean that?” Belinda asked. Alicia nudged her to keep her from saying anything else but she only forced her to add; “What? I am just being honest.”

Instead of getting upset at Belinda’s bluntness, Exhildah laughed. “I like your attitude…is it Belinda?” Exhildah said and tried to remember the girl’s name. She had only seen her once during Nicolas’ burial but that day had been so crazy she never had the time to get acquainted to any of Alicia’s siblings. The situation during that time made it almost impossible for such a thing to take place.

“You are really very different from Alicia.” Exhildah said. “Whereas you are free to speak your mind, Alicia usually just sits back and lets people control her.”

“Alicia was never like this.” Belinda said a little too loudly that her father had to send her a stern warning look.

“Alicia only worsened after your brother’s death.” Belinda continued. “Yes she might have been humble and soft spoken even before but she never ever allowed people to take advantage of her until she was accused of taking someone’s life. That kind of guilt can force anyone to change.”

Exhildah said nothing in return. She had never really thought about how Alicia’s life changed after Nicolas’ death apart from what was obvious between her and her mother’s relationship.

“How are your mischievous minions Exhildah?” Joseph quickly tried to change the subject. “Gosh, it’s been a while since I saw those two. How are they…and your husband?”

Exhildah laughed. “Those two rascals are doing just fine. They are now even in school. Marcus on the other hand is okay too…apart from making my life difficult. The two of us have such different ways we want to raise our children so we are constantly fighting. I am the tough one…the bad guy and him? …well, he is the cool parent.”

“Mum aren’t we going home now?” Buseko anxiously wiggled about on his mother’s laps.

Er, ba Buseko,” Exhildah said. “You are showing your true colours now that your mother is taking you for good ah?”

“No Exhildah-“ Alicia had started to say but Buseko opened his mouth and spoke over her.

“Mum told me to be a good boy when I am with grandma.” He said to Exhildah and then turned to his mother. “Wasn’t I a good boy mum?” The appeared to be on the verge on crying, obviously misunderstanding Exhildah’s words for the joke they were.

Alicia put her arms around him and drew him closer to comfort him. “Of course you were a good boy my son.” She said. “Mummy is very proud of you, okay?”

Buseko nodded and quickly blinked back the tears.

“See, his already acting like such a mama’s boy.” Exhildah remarked.

Stephen appeared with a tray of orange and lime juice and served the guests. Once he was done, he was about to sit down next to his cousin when something made him pause. “Maybe I should go check on aunty-“

“Yes,” Exhildah agreed. “See if she’s okay and let her know people here are waiting for her.”

“No, no, no…don’t rush her.” Joseph said. “I understand her pain very well. Let her take her time.” Belinda threw her father a disapproving look and uttered something under her breath but her Joseph ignored her.

“She would never have enough time when it comes to Buseko.” Stephen said as he approached the door.

Stephen walked back into the house with Mary thirty minutes later. Mary looked like she had cried a river, her eyes were bloodshot red and puffed up.

“How often will I get to see him?” Mary asked whilst standing. She wouldn’t allow herself to sit down with those people and act civil with them. as far as she was concerned, they were her enemies.

“The same amount of time in a month you allowed Alicia to visit here.” Belinda answered and again she was awarded with a nudge from her sister and a stern look from her father.

“We are even being generous considering you are not even the boy’s mother.” Belinda went on as if she was getting fire from all angles of the room.

Alicia saw in Mary’s eyes a look of utter defeat. She had never before seen the woman look so defenceless. “I will bring him whenever I can Mrs Kabwe.” She assured her. “You don’t need to worry about anything, Buseko is still your grandchild.”

“Thank you.” Mary said, choking back her tears. “I am afraid I won’t be able to see you off, am not feeling so well….” And she turned around and started walking towards the stairs.

“Grandma!” Buseko jumped from his mother’s laps and ran after his grandmother. Mary had just turned when the boy went flying into her arms. “I am going to miss you grandma.” Buseko said.

Finally, the tears came pouring from Mary’s eyes as she held the five year old in her arms. Watching the scene before her, Alicia too couldn’t help shedding tears…and so could her sister Belinda.

“He is indeed your son Alicia.” Belinda remarked whilst wiping away the tears. “Nothing like they changed him at the hospital, he’s your son that one.”

“Indeed he is.” Joseph said.

“Learn from him also Linda.” Stephen said jokingly. “You are still as ferocious as before-“

Stephen could not continue because Belinda was sending him warning signals to zip his mouth up and not say anything revealing in the presence of her father.

But it was already too late; Joseph’s interest had already been piqued. “Are the two of you that close?” The father of four asked.

“Ahhh-“ Stephen tried to search for a safe answer.

“We are both at Unza dad.” Belinda quickly supplied. “Same year but different schools, we once met by chance. I didn’t even know that he was somehow related to me.”

“Okay, I think I feel better now.” Mary said as she put Buseko down. “I was starting to feel like Buseko couldn’t wait to get rid of me but now I am okay.”

“Don’t give my room to Menard grandma.” Buseko warned his grandmother. Menard was Exhildah’s oldest child.

Mary laughed and promised the boy she wouldn’t give the room away. “But,” she added. “If more than two weeks go by and you don’t ask your mother to bring you, then I will give Menard or even Samantha the room!”

Buseko looked horrified. “You are not a nice person grandma, I’m going.” He pouted and went back to his mother.

Laughing, Alicia said to Mary. “I will make sure he keeps his room.”

Without responding, Mary simply turned and went up the stairs.

“I think we better get going now.” Joseph announced and Exhildah and Stephen got up first, followed by Belinda, Joseph and Alicia.
On their way home, Belinda took out her phone and wrote a long WhatsApp text to Stephen;

It was great seeing you after a long time. You look great you know. I love the new changes you’ve obviously made in your life. I made some changes too but I didn’t go all Christiany like I hear you did. Alicia is a great mentor; she helped me rebuild my life without my parents finding out a thing that’s why I kept shushing you in front of my dad. I am not yet ready to tell him about that part of my life. What do you think about us hanging out one of these days?

She kept looking at her phone nonstop for the next ten minutes and when no response came, she started fidgeting so much that Alicia noticed.

“What’s wrong with you?” She asked. “Are you expecting a call? You will drill a hole in your phone if you keep staring at it like that.”

“Can she really do that?” Buseko asked excitedly, looking from his aunt’s hand to the phone.

“I didn’t mean it like that honey.” Alicia said from the front passenger seat where she was seated, her head turned to look at her son and Belinda seated together in the back.

Disappointed, Buseko sat back and continued playing the game he had been playing on his mother’s phone.

Stephen’s reply came right then causing Belinda to almost jump in her seat. Alicia laughed and turned back around, shaking her head slowly in amusement.

Yeah, it was great seeing you too Linda. And thanks, it took a while for me to get here and I am never going back to that lifestyle again. God has given me a second chance and I don’t want to waste it. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with you but I don’t think my girlfriend would be comfortable with that. I am sorry Linda. Take care of yourself.

I don’t think my girlfriend would be comfortable…my girlfriend…he has a girlfriend already!? There was a storm in Belinda’s heart and mind as she kept re-reading that part of the text.

“I am sorry I asked,” Belinda wrote back. “I had no idea you were seeing someone. No pressure.”

A few seconds later, “It’s fine, the relationship is still knew so most people don’t know.” Stephen replied. “I want to do things differently this time around you know. I regret that I led you down that kind of path before and I am still very very sorry. That’s why I was happy to see you looking good.”

“It’s all in the past Steve, and you apologized a gazillion times already.” Belinda wrote back. “I wish you happiness in your relationship.”

“Thanks.” Stephen texted back. “Mwansa reminds me a lot about you…that’s my girlfriend’s name btw. It seems I have a type after all. LOL. If all goes well, I plan on proposing to her right before I graduate. I am only telling you this because I think it’s better if you heard it from me.”

Belinda had to pause so she could pull herself together after reading that text. She hang her head back and forced her tears to go back inside. When she came upright again, it was to reply; “Thanks for telling me personally, really appreciate it. All the best with the proposal. Take care of yourself.”

“Thanks, take care too.” Stephen replied.

All the way home during that ride, Belinda did not say a word to her family. Instead, she leaned back and shut her eyes, pretending to be asleep.

Alicia was not deceived. She could tell right away that something was bothering her sister and so when they reached home and Belinda ran straight to her bedroom and locked hersef in, Alicia went after her.

“It’s me Linda, open the door.” Alicia said.

“Go away!” Belinda shouted. “I just want to be alone.”

“You also know that I won’t leave until you open right?” Alicia said. “So I am just going to stand here and ask you questions about Stephen while dad is seated in the living room and likely to hear whatever words come out of my-“

Belinda flung the door open. “Lock it behind you.” She instructed as she walked back to the bed.

“So what’s going on?” Alicia asked once she was seated on the bed. Belinda had spread herself on the other side of the bed, facing down and with her face buried in her arms.

“Is Stephen the guy you-“

“Yes.” Belinda answered.

Alicia gasped. “No way.”

Belinda sat up and moved to lean her back against the bedpost. “I wish that wasn’t the case as well.”

“Did you tell him about…about…you know?”

“You mean about the abortion?” Belinda provided for her. “Gosh, you can’t even say the word Alicia but you are a nurse.”

“I know right. But does he know?”

“Of course not.” Belinda answered. “If I couldn’t even bring myself to tell you about it when it happened, to you think I could have told him about it?”

“But Linda-“

“Don’t do that Licia.” Belinda pleaded. “I don’t need the lecture right now. I was desperate when I made that decision, Stephen didn’t even know I was pregnant. I thought I could take care of the problem quietly…but today…he told me that he’s seeing someone and he wants to marry her.” Here, she broke down and cried.

“Oh no….” Alicia said and went to put her arms around her sister. “I am so sorry Linda.” She said.

Sobbing, Belinda said; “I just feel so-so useless. I went through all that pain alone because I didn’t want to interfere with his life since he was trying to make a new start. I can’t even ask God for forgiveness because I feel so ashamed and I feel like what I did is too much of a sin to be forgiven and yet….he is so happy.

“He has moved on and he is even talking about marriage. What about me sis? What about me? This is just not fair. Why does he get to be happy after everything he did to me and why do I have to be the only one paying the price? Why is God so unfair? Is it because I am a woman?”

“Oh honey,” Alicia said. “I already told you that there’s no sin too big for God to not forgive.”

“I know you keep saying that but why do I feel so much guilt even after doing all the things you told me to do?” Belinda lamented.

“But Linda, how can you expect God to forgive you when you haven’t even tried to forgive yourself?” Alicia said. “I told you about what I went through when I got pregnant with Buseko. You were there, you know everything so I don’t have to tell you.

“I understand exactly what you must be feeling right now believe me but as long as you keep thinking that it’s impossible to receive forgiveness, you won’t be able to move on. You will have this guilt over you for the rest of your life and that’s no way to live. How about you go and see that lady I asked you to talk to from my church? She’s very good and she helped me a lot.”

“She is just going to look at me and judge me; er her sister got pregnant out of wedlock and now this one has aborted. I know these women talk Alicia, I don’t want to be one of their topics.”

Alicia laughed and released her sister from her embrace. “You are just overthinking things sis.” She said. “But let’s weigh things out for you; if you don’t seek counsel from anyone simply because you are afraid of them judging you…even when you don’t know for sure that they will judge you, then you would rather spend the rest of your life carrying this guilt?

“I have been observing you ever since that happened. You no longer try to do anything productive concerning your future. When schools close, you cook yourself up in your room reading books all day and all night long. You don’t go out, you don’t visit friends, and you don’t come out in the living room to watch TV with the rest of the family. You just want to be alone. Surely, is that how you want to spend the rest of your life Linda?”

“I always feel like people are judging me when they look at me.” Belinda said. “I feel like they can tell what happened just by looking at me and I can’t stand that.” She cried.

“Then go and see Mrs Kasonde.” Alicia said. “She helped me and look at me today-“
Belinda looked up at her sister and started shaking her head. “I don’t think she helped you at all.” She said.

“What do you mean?” Alicia asked.

“You haven’t moved on from the past Alicia.” Belinda said. “You still let the things that happened in the past control you. You never used to be this person that you’ve become. You used to be bright and you were never afraid to speak your mind when a situation rose that required you to defend yourself.

“Yes you were always kind and humble but you were never timid. You still feel responsible for Nicolas’ death and it’s that guilt that keeps you from standing up for yourself. Gosh you haven’t even dared to date anyone ever since and you think we believe you when you give Buseko as an excuse. You have become so used to living miserably that you think any taste of happiness is a betrayal to Nicolas and his family.”

For a moment, Alicia mulled over her sister’s words. “I wasn’t talking about that kind of guilt when I referred you to Mrs Kasonde Linda.” She tried to defend herself. “I was talking about how she helped when I got pregnant so young.”

“And is there a difference?” Belinda asked.

Alicia had to admit to herself; there was no difference between the two cases. They were all about guilt and seeking God’s forgiveness so they could move on. She might have moved on from the guilt that came with getting pregnant out of wedlock, but she had never once forgiven herself for the part she thought she played in Nicolas’ death.

“Perhaps we both need Mrs Kasonde’s help after all.” Alicia admitted.

“I will only go if you also go.” Belinda said.

Alicia chuckled. “Then that’s sorted.” She said. “Here I was thinking I was offering you advise and you just ended up using my own words against me.”

“Isn’t that what sisters are for?” Belinda asked.

“I still feel like you should tell Steve about the baby. I think no matter is going on in his life, he deserves to know what happened. You are hurting right now because you think he’s moved on easily, but that’s only because he has no idea about the things you went through.”

“He is just going to think that I am being a jealous ex if I tell him that right after he told me he is seeing someone.”

“Then think about it some more sis. I am sure that eventually you will do the right thing. Also talk to mum and dad, of course they will be disappointed…and rightly so, but they will still love you. If you really want to move on from all of this, just get down on your knees and talk to God in prayer. Open up your heart and confess everything to him and when you are not sure, tell God you need his direction and he will show you exactly what you need to do.

“I know that I am not the best person to be telling all this since I have issues of my own but it’s the only thing that I did that allowed me to walk around proudly telling everyone I was a mother. If I was still guilt about falling pregnant in such a manner, then I would also be ashamed to be Buseko’s mother. I asked God to forgive me for that and He did.”

“I hear you, but please stop preaching already!” Belinda complained, laughing.

“Just promise me that you will think about what we’ve talked about.”

“I promise.”


“Don’t tell me you forgot about our program!” Chilufya said when Kondwani finally picked up her phone.

She had been waiting for him at his home for close to an hour and there was still no sign of him. Even though three of his other cars were parked in the front, his favourite one wasn’t there which meant he wasn’t home. Still, he had rung his bell and there was no life from inside the house.

“Oh shit!” Kondwani said. “We had a program today right?”

“You gotto be kidding me.” Chilufya said. “Where are you right now?”

“I am at the hospital.” Kondwani informed her. “Was in surgery this whole time and I had left my phone in the office. Can’t we postpone to evenings or something?”

“No we can’t.” She said, he voice heavy with disappointment.

“Noooo…don’t do that Chilu…don’t get all emotional on me.” Kondwani pleaded with her but he knew it was already too late.

“I will just go alone, its fine.” The 25 year old sulked and cut the line.

Kondwani tried to call her back three times and on the third try, her phone was off.

That was the last time Kondwani had spoken to his sister. She refused to answer his calls since then and so he was forced to go check on her at home and beg for her forgiveness. However, even though he managed to find her home, Chilufya refused to come out of her room to talk to her brother until he said the magic words;

“How about I go with you the next time your thing happens again?” Kondwani offered. “You can even sleep at my place the night before so you can make sure that I don’t make any other plans…what do you think?”

Chilufya opened the door.

Smiling triumphantly, Kondwani gave her a tight hug and apologized for not keeping his word.

“You are forgiven.” Chilufya said, now acting embarrassed for playing hard to get all this while. Just then, Kondwani’s phone rang.

“Duty calls I guess,” Chilufya said.

Kondwani was looking at his phone and shaking his head. “Actually, no. It’s Gwen.” He said. “I’m going to take this outside.”

“You finally decided to call.” Kondwani answered the phone before he got outside. He was passing through the living room and heading towards the door when his mother made gestures in his direction for his attention.

Kondwani removed the phone from his ear for a second and addressed his mother; “I’m just going to talk on the phone mum, I’ll be coming back.” He said and walked out.

“I am at your place.” Gwen said. “You will find me here when you are done with your business there.”

“I assume you’ve already let yourself in.” Kondwani remembered he had forgotten to change the code.

“Yes, see you soon.” She said.

Kondwani didn’t miss the dismissive tone in her voice and he couldn’t help wondering what decision she had come up with. He quickly went back inside, said his goodbyes to his family and rushed out to meet Gwen.

“I am going to keep the baby.” Gwen candidly informed a shocked Kondwani an hour later.

“What would you decided to do something like that?” He asked.

“Because between you and Kayombo, I stand a better chance to be happy with him knowing he is capable of loving me. Unlike you, he’s genuinely loved me before and can get him to feel that way about me again whereas I can never win your heart even if hell froze over.”

Kondwani scoffed in disbelief. “Haven’t you noticed that Samuel has set his sights on someone else right now?”

“I know.” Gwen said. “But I know he will change his mind the moment I tell him that I am keeping the baby and leaving you. but don’t worry, the thing you are most worried about will not happen.”

“And what am I most worried about Madam Gwen?” Kondwani sarcastically asked.

“My father’s money.” She said. “I spoke to him first before coming here. I told him I am the one at fault so he shouldn’t take it out on you.”

“Now why would you do that?”

“Because I am equally responsible for the way things turned out as much as you are. Most importantly, I realized that I love the idea of being a mother more than anything else in the world…and of course it would so much better if I got to raise my child with the father.”

“What happens if Kayombo isn’t willing to do that with you?” Kondwani asked.

“I will make him willing.” Gwen said confidently. “He loved me once and he can love me again.”

“People change Gwen.” Kondwani cautioned her.

“Not everyone,” Gwen answered. “I could use you as the perfect example.” And then she laughed. “You see, at first I was having these crazy thoughts about you and that nurse…I thought wow, Kondwani has finally fallen in-love with someone. It hurt so bad because I thought it should have been me you fell in-love with but then you went ahead with your plans to marry me despite knowing I was carrying another man’s child.

“That forced me to stop and begin to question our relationship. I was very selfish and too ambitious when I thought I could make you mine. You will never belong to anyone Kondwani. You love yourself too much to give your heart away to anyone. I have already given you my time and my money…but I won’t give you my very first child as well. I am keeping this pregnancy.”

Kondwani wasn’t sure how to react. Gwen’s news was completely far from what he had been expecting to hear. How could he have made another miscalculation in such a short time? Why could he not make any more accurate calculation?

After his meeting with Gwen, Kondwani was not surprised to receive a call from her father Mr Miyoba inviting him for a drink at the private VIP only pub where they met for most of their discussions.

“Now that Gwen is out of the picture,” Miyoba said to Kondwani. “I no longer have direct control over you.”

Kondwani laughed. “You’ve never had any time of control over me Sir.” Kondwani said. “With or without Gwen in my life, I have always been my own boss.”

“You can’t be your own boss when it’s my money that’s paying you.” Miyoba argued.

“It’s not your money Mr Miyoba; it’s our money.” Kondwani corrected him. “Do you want us to talk about the way forward or you would rather argue terminology with me?”

“I heard that you secretly bought shares from some people on the board.”

“I also heard something like that.” Kondwani said.

“Don’t try to patronize me son,” Miyoba sternly warned him. “You are where you are today because I took a chance on you. Always remember that, I took a chance on you when no one else would.”

“I always remember that Sir.” Kondwani said. “How can I forget? You even offered up your own daughter as a sacrificial lamb just so you can get back all the money you invested in and leave me dry. Yes, I was very much aware of your plans with Gwen. She got so drunk one time and revealed everything to me.

“But don’t think about killing her, she really has no idea she said those things and I have never bothered to mention them to her. She still thinks your secret is safe. So you see, the one who betrayed the other first was you and not me. I am also a business man you see. When I hear that someone is threatening my business, I have to run and set up defences to protect myself.

“It might be your money holding this thing together but it is my skills that are keeping it afloat. If I have to win over you, I need to fight you on the same ground as you are; with money. So who knows, maybe those rumours you’ve heard could be true…or they are not but one thing is for sure, I will not let anyone take that hospital from me; not you, not anyone else. However, if you think you can try, go ahead and let’s see who comes out tops.”

With that, he gulped down the contents of his whisky glass and banged the glass on the counter once he was done. He stood up, looked at the man seated before him and said; “See you at the next board morning Sir.” And then he left.

Lloyd Miyoba remained reeling in rage by the bar counter. His hand squeezed tight around the glass of beer. When he could no longer hold his anger, he flung the glass in front of him, almost hitting the bar man that had been watching them from the distance since he had no other patrons to attend to as the whole bar had been reserved by the rich farmer.

After two weeks, Kondwani and Gwen’s break-up had become common knowledge. Gwen had not returned to work after her meeting with Kondwani and Kayombo had picked that very period to travel for a conference abroad. Kondwani on the other hand had buried himself in work and he kept working until he almost made a mistake in the OR. The assisting surgeon was quick to notice Kondwani’s distractedness and she quickly offered to take over from him so he could rest.

Any other day Kondwani would have put up a fit and made everyone in the room feel the weight of his power but that day he quietly stepped back and walked out of the room. As the assisting surgical nurse, Alicia had been there to witness it all and so once the surgery was done, she followed Kondwani to his office.

She knocked twice but no response came from inside. She tried the door and was surprised to see it open. She was half thinking the doctor had left work for home so she never actually expected the door to open. Slowly, she opened it and peered inside. She saw Kondwani sleeping soundly on his huge leather chair that had been reclined, his head hanging uncomfortable to the side.

Alicia went through a moment of debate in her head; to go in and set him comfortably on the chair or to just close the door and pretend she didn’t see anything.

But he’s gonna get one hell of a headache when he wakes up, she thought as the debate went on in her head. What do I care if he gets a headache?

She started closing the door slowly but she paused right before it could touch the frame. Shaking her head, she opened the door again, closed it behind her and went to fix him up properly on the chair. Standing behind the chair, Alicia placed both her hands on either side of Kondwani’s face and slowly moved his head to the centre.

Slowly, she let go off her hands from his face and started to turn so she could leave but she was caught off guard when Kondwani grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her straight onto his laps. Alicia could only open her mouth wide in shock, no words came out.

“Why did you touch me?” Kondwani asked, looking her straight in the eyes. It was as if he not been sleeping soundly just a few seconds ago.

“I thought you were sleeping.” Alicia stuttered.

“You coming in here, what does it mean?” Kondwani asked.

“I don’t know.” Alicia answered.

“You don’t know?”

“Yes, I don’t know.” She said.

“Would you like me to help you with the answer?” Kondwani asked, closely searching her face for a clue.

An Untimely Love – Part 4

After Alex was discharged from the hospital, Oliver could not risk taking her out of his sight. He called the dean directly and got two weeks of rest for her. He then instructed Anton to pack some of his and her clothes and move to the mansion. He was not going to rest until he got to the bottom of it all.

That first night after the university incident, Oliver could not get any sleep. He called the two PI’s that had done the initial background check on Alex and asked them for a new favour;

“Look into a drowning incident that happened in the Russel household seventeen years ago. Turn everything upside down and inside out.” He instructed them. “Talk to the neighbours and if they moved, find them. Check for any CCTV footage, black boxes and things like that. One week, you have only one week to do this.”
Early the next morning, Oliver drove to Doctor Sanjay’s house, the doctor in charge of Alex’s therapy since she was thirteen years old. Therapy was something Oliver had sensed Alex needed just after a few interactions with her after their first meeting at the book store. If she was to grow up as a normal child, she needed to have all the damage done to her as a kid completely fixed lest it developed to interfere with her adult life.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from the world’s most eligible bachelor at this hour of the day?” Doctor Sanjay greeted Oliver at the door.

“Are you going to let me in or should I just start talking from here?” Oliver croaked.

The doctor immediately moved aside. “I see we are in a very good mood this morning,” she said sarcastically as she closed the door behind Oliver.

Oliver showed himself to the living room and offered himself a seat. “Sit,” he told the doctor.

“Oh well, thank you very much. I thought I would have to stand the whole day…in my own house.” The doctor was on a sarcastic roll that morning.

“During the therapy sessions you had with Alex years ago,” Oliver went straight into business. “Did she ever talk about a drowning incident?”

“No,” Doctor Sanjay replied. “I remember Alex’s case very well. She never mentioned anything of that sort. However, Alex has what we psychologists love to call dissociative amnesia. I think I’ve had this conversation with you a hundred times before.”

“Just take me through it again,” Oliver said. “Humour me.”

And the doctor did just that. “Like I mentioned before, Alex’s case is a peculiar one. In as much as I would have loved to simply diagnose her case as repression, I had very little case evidence as well as scientific evidence to satisfy that case. Despite the many efforts I made during therapy to help her try and recover the memories…except for hypnosis of course which you wouldn’t let me perform on her,” Doctor Sanjay added, deliberately throwing shade at Oliver.

“She was still completely blocked.” The good doctor explained. “However, rather than selective dissociative amnesia, the symptoms Alex exhibited indicated she had localized dissociative amnesia. While she could remember most of the things that transpired in the Russell household, she was missing a particular period of time in that house, months at most and she completely has no idea what might have happened during that time frame.

“I had concluded that perhaps a stressor…something from her past could help her recover the memories and after a series of other tests, I was confident she had dissociative amnesia. Afterwards, I tried to look for the parents that had returned her to the orphanage hoping they could help fill in the blanks that might help her to recover but they had disappeared without leaving a single trace behind.”

“Did you ever consider the possible traumas she might have gone through?” Oliver asked.

“Of course I did,” said the doctor. “During our sessions, Alex had mentioned to me that she was afraid of large bodies of water like rivers, lakes, swimming pools, Jacuzzi’s, and even a bath tab filled with water. That is why I suspect that water has a high chance to do with her trauma. Did something happen with Alex?”

Sighing heavily and completely ignoring his question, Oliver asked, “What are the chances of a recovered memory turning out to either be a false memory or a distorted one?”

“Chances are fifty-fifty,” the doctor answered. “Studies are still being conducted to show whether it is possible or not to distinguish false memories from recovered memories and that is where the need for corroborative evidence comes in. You also need to rule out the possibility that such a memory could have been a product of a therapist’s suggestion…perhaps he or she said something that planted an idea on the patients mind…which I never tried to do. ” he added for Oliver’s benefit.

Oliver pondered the doctor’s words. Alex’s memory recall had not been induced by a therapist. It was Professor Saunders that had triggered it and it was definitely not possible for Alex to have come up with such a heavy story. Her fear was real, that he was sure of beyond reasonable doubt. He just needed to get to the bottom of it all and deal with whoever was responsible for inflicting such pain on her.

If the Russell’s were truly responsible for doing that to a child, then there was no telling what they might try to do to her now to keep her from revealing the truth.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, “and how or where can you find this corroborative evidence?” Oliver asked.

“By analysing the credibility of the source of information,” she answered. “You can do that by looking into both the lives of the accuser, if it’s a case of abuse, and that of the accused. There could be witnesses as well if you are lucky, things like police reports, trips to the ER, calls to the emergency services, neighbours, friends, pastors, and so on. Did Alex recover her memories Oliver?” Doctor Sanjay asked again.

“It seems all that money I have been paying you all these years has been worth it doc,” Oliver said. “You were right; the trauma does have something to do with water, a swimming pool to be more specific.”

The doctor sat up, looking very interested. “Did Alex tell you what she remembers?”

Oliver nodded. “She encountered someone yesterday morning that triggered her memory. She ended up fainting, twice, in the process and had to be hospitalized for a couple of hours. That’s why I am here doc.”

Oliver went on to tell Doctor Sanjay what had happened.

“I couldn’t pressure her into telling more,” Oliver later said. “She was so shaken up by the recovery…I was afraid something more terrible might happen to her if I pushed her. That’s why I came to see you. Perhaps it would be better if she was in a more controlled environment.

“I wanted to help her through it all but I just wasn’t sure…I don’t know the right things to say to her in such a situation and I think it would be better if she was able to remember other things that happened prior to the drowning incident.”

Oliver paused to scratch his scalp a bit, knowing very well the things he was about to say might surprise the doctor. “She needs to know, I need to know too…why anyone would do such a thing to her. And that is why… I need you to…to hypnotize her.” He finally managed to say the magic words.

Doctor Sanjay was smiling at Oliver triumphantly. It’s been a long time coming, is what she was thinking. She had always wanted to put Alex under hypnosis to help recover her memory but Oliver had always been against it. She was glad he was the one finally suggesting it.

“So when do we start?” The doctor asked enthusiastically.

For the next week that followed, Oliver drove Alex to and from Doctor Sanjay’s hospital. Alex had not yet had the opportunity to inform Anton about what was happening in her life because he was too busy dating and attending classes whenever he remembered.

“So when do you plan on telling Anton about what’s going on?” Oliver had asked her once while he drove them back to his place.

He was no fool, he could tell how desperately Alex wanted her best friend around but it seemed this new girl of his was really taking up all of his time. The girl sure did choose the right time to come into his son’s life. And who the hell was she anyway? He should remember to ask Gilbert or Felix to do some digging for him when he gets home. He thought.

“I don’t want to disturb his studies,” Alex answered, looking down at her hands. “He’s got projects coming up and all….”

“When was the last time you checked your social media or watched television Alex?” Oliver asked.

Alex tried to remember. “It’s been over a week now I think,” she said. “I have had a lot on my mind lately and focusing on my research is the only thing I can do right now to forget about…certain things. However, I won’t lie to you…Anton is one of the reasons I have stayed away from any kind of news.

“I think the girl this time is different. He is serious about her…serious enough to not notice on his own what’s going on with me. Men tend to do that when they fall in-love.” She was smiling nervously, not wanting to look disappointed or heartbroken.

Oliver could only imagine what she must have been going through. She was gaining her memories of the most traumatic event of her life and at the same time losing the person she was in-love with.

Oliver was not sure about whether to applaud or scold Alex for trying so hard to look jovial and act like her usual chirpier self when she was obviously hurting deeply. How long has she silently suffered like this? Where those memories creeping up on her in the night and keeping her from sleeping? Who did she turn to when that happened while Anton was out having a good time?

He reached out and held her hand. It was all he could think of doing in that moment. Despite being a musician, Oliver had never been good with words; even his wife had come to accept that about him. Fortunately, he was always there to take care of the ones he loved.

Alex looked at their locked hands and smiled. She was glad that at least one person was there to hold her hand through it all. “Do you want me to tell you what I have remembered so far?” She asked. She knew he had been dying for days to know what was going on but she also knew he was a man of great self-restraint.

“Only if you are ready to talk about it Alex,” Oliver said. “I don’t want you to feel obliged to….”

Alex gave his hand a little squeeze before letting go. “I know,” she said softly. “I want to tell you.”

Once they were home, Oliver asked all the workers to leave the house for a while. He wanted all the privacy he could get with Alex.

“Did you manage to recover all the memories you had lost or just some of it?” Oliver asked once they were seated in the living room on the second floor.

“I remember most of it, just not all the details.” Alex answered. “After hearing my story, Doctor Sanjay went in search of some of the people I could remember from around that time, including some of the Russell’s friends to corroborate a few things. So, I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened seventeen years.”

When Alex started speaking, Oliver listened intently without interrupting her

“I was five years old when they adopted me.” Alex was saying. “I was excited to finally have a place I could call home and people to call mum and dad.” Alex recalled the feeling of walking into the well-furnished house as if it had happened only yesterday. She remembered the clean paint on the walls, the curved stairs leading to the second storey; she even remembered the smell of fresh bread from the small bakery across the street when she opened the back window of her bedroom.

How many times had she dreamt about living in such a fancy house? Even as she went from room to room touching the walls and feeling everything around, she couldn’t help imagining the possibility of losing it. As she talked, Alex would close and open her eyes at will. One moment she would be right there in the past experiencing everything as it happened and the next she would be looking at Oliver, narrating to him her feelings and whatever was going on in that period in time.

“It was the first time ever that something good was happening to me,” Alex said to Oliver. “But I can remember the fear…you know that thing you get when you’ve had too many bad things happen to you and then suddenly something good happens?” she was looking at Oliver expectantly but he was just staring at her blankly.

“Oh,” Alex murmured. “I forgot for a second who I was talking to.” she laughed.

Oliver shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I have had bad…no, terrible things happen to me before Alex,” he quickly defended himself. “I haven’t always lived a luxurious life and my life certainly hasn’t been pain-free.”

“Oh yeah….” Oliver’s late wife came to Alex’s mind. “Anyway, you know what I meant Mr C.” she said.

Oliver nodded. “I do.” He said.

“Sadly,” Alex went on narrating “No sooner had I resigned myself to living my new life than I was awakened to a harsh reality. I learnt that I had only been brought into the house as a replacement for their child who had been missing for three years. Her name was Cathy…Cathy Russell.

“I had seen from her pictures on almost every wall in the house that she was a very beautiful girl. She was very elegant even for her age unlike the way I looked back then.” Alex smiled bitter-sweetly. “Well,” she added, giving herself a visual scan. “I am still no hottie but I can be as sexy as hell if I chose to. I just happen to have other priorities.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Oliver said. “I think that you are a very attractive woman…not just physically, intellectually too. I happen to find intelligent women more beautiful than any other kind of women.”

Alex’s face flushed red. There was a strange and awkward silence that followed Oliver’s remarks. Alex had never before seen the look that was in Oliver’s eyes as he said the words to her. She was not sure what she was supposed to feel or say. All she knew was that there was a part of her that loved hearing him talk to her like that.

“I can literally see you thinking about what I just said.” Oliver chuckled. “Learn to take a compliment Miss Saunders; it makes a woman even more attractive. Now, you were saying….” He prompted her to continue.

Alex blinked profusely, a little embarrassed by her reaction. Could it be because it was the first time Oliver had actually called her a woman? She had always been his little sunshine and never a woman. She suddenly understood why almost the whole world craved him as the most eligible bachelor they would love to have…even if for just a few hours.

Immediately after that realisation, Alex had to admit to herself that she had never before looked at Oliver as anything more than her best friend’s father, mentor and guardian. He too was a man, a very good looking one at that.

“For the first few months, “Alex quickly tried to clear away her strange thoughts. “Mrs Russell was convinced that I was the daughter she had lost. She wouldn’t let me leave her sight. There were also days when she would hold my hand, or when we were bathing when she would notice my rough skin and scars and hold me so tight in her arms, crying over the abuse I must have gone through while she wasn’t by my side.

“Then again there were also days when she would notice the same things but instead she would push me away, harder, yelling that I was an imposter. I remember thinking that something was wrong with her. Mr Russell thought the same thing sometimes.

“Mr Russel would give her some pills to calm her down. She would sleep and when she woke up the next day, I was her daughter again. These episodes kept happening every now and then for about a year and when the unexpected happened, I was not prepared. None of us in the house were.”

Alex closed her eyes again and took herself back in time. “I answered the doorbell one day and found Cathy on the other side.” She narrated.

Alex could picture a girl slightly taller than her with long blonde hair tied in three pigtails sticking out from all sides of her head. Despite the years, there was no mistaking who she was.

“She had this confused and scared look in her eyes.” Alex recalled. “Mrs Russell was half-way through the stairs coming down from her bedroom when she saw Cathy standing outside by the door. She ran to the door, pushed me out of the way and stood in front of Cathy. I think Cathy immediately recognized her mother because she started sobbing. Mrs Russell collapsed from the shock of it before the hand she was reaching out even touched her daughter.

“It was later discovered that a woman who had lost both her husband and daughter in an accident had ended up taking Cathy while her mother was picking out groceries at the neighbourhood store and had taken her eyes off her daughter for just a few seconds. When the woman’s mother finally located her daughter from where she was hiding, she had recognized Cathy from all the leaflets and television coverage. So she brought Cathy back to her parents.

“My new parents were ecstatic.” Alex opened her eyes and pressed on, tears from the memory soaking her face wet. Oliver reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief.

“They finally had their daughter back but then there was me.” Alex cried. “I remember very well staying awake because I was scared someone might come into the bedroom to say they were taking me away. They didn’t have any more use for me. I don’t think Cathy liked me either. Or maybe I was the one that didn’t like her….” Alex thought for a moment as images flashed through her mind.

“I can only remember us fighting, sometimes she is the one crying, sometimes I am the one crying…but most of the times I am alone crying in my room.” She said.

“One day, I am not sure when it actually happened,” Alex continued, “but I remember hearing the Russel’s talking about taking me back to the orphanage but Mr Russell always refused, insisting that it was unfair to do that to me because I was also their child and not a commodity they could just return to the store. Return to the store…” Alex repeated the words and scoffed.

“I remember those words very clearly,” she said. “I might have been a kid but I cried for almost the whole day that day because my feelings were hurt. I didn’t like the feeling that I wasn’t their child like Cathy was.”

“Mrs Russell was not happy of course.” Alex cleared her nose. “Unfortunately, an opportunity finally presented itself to Mrs Russell to finally get rid of me…. I think it was months later after Cathy’s return. I was in the bedroom reading Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I remember because I had read that book so many times but always found it disappointing. Most of the kids my age seemed to love it but I never did, I still don’t. There was something about Snow White that never made sense to me. How can a princess be so dumb?”

Oliver could imagine the puzzled and bemused reaction Alex must have had seventeen years ago because she was looking exactly like that right then.

“I was busy screaming at Snow White not to listen to her evil step mother again when I heard someone screaming from outside.” Alex was saying. “I looked out the window and saw Cathy almost drowning in the pool. I saw Mrs Russell sitting by the pool side.”

Alex closed her eyes again, the memories in her head playing themselves in real time. “At first I thought it was a game they were playing because Mrs Russel didn’t look worried. But then I noticed that she had these huge headsets in her ears with a book lying on her chest. She must have dozed off whilst reading I think. Before running out of the house, I kept banging on the window loudly to get her attention but she still couldn’t hear me.”

She opened her eyes and continued, “I had learnt how to swim from that stream at the orphanage so I trusted my excellent swimming skills. Unfortunately, I had miscalculated my own strength.” Alex said.

“Cathy was way down the water and I didn’t have the strength to pull her out of the pool on my own. And so, with one hand holding on to her to keep her above water, I kept screaming and splashing water at Mrs Russel hoping to wake her up but she was far from where we were and the water getting to her was more like showers. Fortunately, she woke up after a few seconds of my screaming and splashing and immediately jumped into the pool the moment she saw the state her daughter was in. Mrs Russell was desperately giving Cathy mouth-to-mouth and screaming at me to call 911 when Mr Russell came to the pool.

“I was very scared watching the two of them desperately trying to bring Cathy back to life…I thought she was going to die. Then I heard the sirens in the distance and just then Cathy coughed. Once Mrs Russell’s excitement over Cathy’s resuscitation had dulled down a bit, she said something to Cathy and I saw Cathy pointing at me. And then I heard Mr Russell saying, ‘I should have listened to you and gotten rid of her before all this happened.’”

Alex could see the angry face starring hard at her. She had never felt so afraid in her life. As a cold rush went through her veins, she could tell she was in very deep trouble. She just didn’t know why. But she didn’t have long to wait before she found out. Mrs Russell came running at her and before she knew it, she was being hit from left, right and centre.

She was desperately trying to block the hits and screaming for help from Mr Russell, but the man just stood there, holding on to his daughter and shielding her from the damage that her mother was inflicting on her adopted sister.

“The next thing I remember is Mrs Russell dragging me into the pool and forcing me under the water while I begged her incessantly to let me go. All those times when Mrs Russell would abuse me after Cathy’s return, it was Mr Russell that always came to my rescue. On some days, he would secretly take me out for ice-cream and made me promise not to tell anyone.

“He was like the father I had always dreamt of having…but that day…that day he was someone I could not recognize…someone I never wanted to know. He just stood there watching the whole thing and despite my begging and panting, he never lifted a finger to help me. I am still not sure if he is the reason I could not remember anything related to that day or if it was because of the actual drowning incident by his wife. Doctor Sanjay is still trying to work that out with me. I hope I won’t have to spend the rest of my life in therapy,” Alex sighed.

Oliver tentatively put his hand on her. “No you won’t,” he murmured. “You will get better soon…I know you will.” He patted her hand.

Oliver’s show of concern for her reminded her of Anton. Back when they were kids, he was always the one by her side whenever she was crying over the treatment she was receiving from the Saunders’s family or whenever someone tried to bully her at school…he was always the one promising her that things would get better and she always believed him because they did.

As she looked down at Oliver’s strong hand trying to comfort her, she did not notice the tears streaming down her eyes until she saw them drop onto his hand. She quickly removed her hand from his and wiped the tears away.

“I am sorry….” Alex started to say but Oliver surprised her by taking both her hands from her face and holding on to them with one hand. He used his other hand to wipe away her tears instead. The moment her face was clear, he stood up, removed another handkerchief from his back pocket and placed it in her hand. “I always carry these around since I deal with actors 24/7.” He said and turned to leave the room to give her some privacy.

“Thank you,” Alex said out of the blue from behind him, taking Oliver by surprise.

He slowly turned back around. “For what?” he asked.

Instead of words, Alex stood up and put her arms around Oliver, again, catching him by surprise. She was crying, although not loudly, but he could feel it. not sure what to do, he simply hugged her back, tightly.

“From the moment we met,” Alex spoke in a shaky voice. “You have always been there for me Mr C. I know you think of yourself as my guardian…like the father I have never had…but most of the times you are like a big brother. I can talk to you about things I know no daughter out there would dare tell her father. Instead of treating me like some kid you picked off the streets, you’ve always made me feel special, wanted…like I’m part of the family.”

Oliver held her by the shoulders away from him and looking into her eyes he said, “You are part of this family silly,” he assured her. “Besides, your uncanny resemblance to Sophia my wife…late wife,” he quickly corrected himself. “…sometimes makes me believe that we were truly fated to meet…like the daughter she and I never got to have.” He said.

Alex smiled, her arms limply resting on either side of her body with the back slightly tilted back, away from Oliver. If Oliver released her unexpectedly, she was going to fall flat on her back standing like that.

“Maybe you and I should get married so I can become Anton’s mother and drive away all those filthy girls attaching themselves to him.” She was laughing so heartily from the imagination that she did not feel herself tilting further back. Oliver made strengthened his grip and forced her straight on her feet.

He flicked her forehead and let go of her. Smiling, he said, “I can smell the old chirpier Alex from somewhere inside that laughter. Glad to have you back my Sunshine,” he said before heading upstairs to his room.

Alex smiled as she watched his retreating figure. She was grateful to him beyond words. How was she ever going to repay him for his kindness?
Oliver could hear the sound of his bedside phone ringing even before he opened the door.

“Yes,” was his usual telephone greeting.

“We need to talk, in person.” Said a throaty and masculine voice said. It was Gilbert, one of his PI’s.

“I have a lot of work to do Gilbert, why don’t you come through to my home instead?” Oliver suggested. He hadn’t had a lot of work done for the past week because he was too concerned about Alex’s to fully focus on anything. Seeing that she was slowly recovering, he hoped he would get a move on the latest production he was planning on investing in.

Oliver had three major business interests; music, real estate, and very recently he had added movie production to his resume. The first movie he had tried his hand at directing had become a box office hit. Although many people had expected him to excel in the movie industry given his experience in the music industry, Oliver was still taken by surprise when his first movie did so well than he had expected. It was amazing how he was still unfamiliar with the power of his own name as a brand.

It had been three years now since and the offers to direct and produce new movies were too many for Oliver to comprehend. Before he knew it, he had added successful film director and producer to his already long resume.

After retiring as a performer at age thirty, Oliver had fully taken over the music production company he had started when he was twenty-five years old. He had managed to successfully set himself up as the leading music producer in the industry and had a long list of successful clients signed with him. For all those wishing to become musicians, their first choice of producer was always Oliver.
“I think we have a little problem on our hands boss,” Gilbert had finally found his way to Oliver’s mansion. For a man with such a firm and masculine tone of voice, his small and thin stature made everyone that looked at him once look at him a second time…and third. Sitting on the other side of the table in Oliver’s home office upstairs, Gilbert waited for the business mogul to finish typing whatever he was working on.

“And why would we have a little problem my good friend?” Oliver asked the sixty year old PI. Gilbert Matthews was well known and respected in his line of work and had been working for Oliver for more than twenty years. Over the years, Oliver had found the man, together with his assistant Felix Hamilton to be trustworthy and reliable.

Gilbert opened his bag and took out an envelope. He placed it on the table in front of Oliver and the latter proceeded to open it. Inside, he found a bunch of pictures taken of Anton and his latest girlfriend Cathy.

“We did the usual background check on the girl as you instructed, followed her and her family around to know what kind of folks they are….”

“I see you are just as prompt as always,” Oliver said whilst flipping through the images. “I will give it to her, she is very beautiful” Oliver was saying while looking at a picture taken of Cathy alone while she was smiling. “But that’s her only good quality,” he added. “For some strange reason, there is something about her I don’t like…I just can’t put my finger on it.” He was shaking his head, this way and that way as he tried to understand his scepticism.

Oliver flipped through more pictures and paused when he came across one of Cathy with her parents. “I presume these are her parents,” he showed the picture to Gilbert who in return nodded.

“Earlier, you had asked us to investigate Professor Russell,” Gilbert was saying. “At first I didn’t want to make any reports until we found something solid in connection to the drowning incident….”

“Yes, you told me that,” Oliver noted.

“Well, it turns out that that first assignment is directly connected to this one Oliver,” the PI announced.

Oliver looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“Those two parents in that photo are Mr and Mrs Russell…and Cathy, who is currently dating your son, is their daughter,”

“That’s absurd,” Oliver scoffed. “How can that be?” He asked dismissively as he quickly flipped through the rest of the photos. He stopped when he found one of Professor Russell standing outside the university hospital. “This can’t be….” He said, more to himself than anyone else.

“Does Anton know about this?” Oliver asked, and then something suddenly dawned on him, “Alex…oh my gosh, Alex….” He was up on his feet ready to run to Alex’s room but Gilbert quickly got up and blocked his way.

“What are you going to tell that girl if you rush to her in this state?” Gilbert tried to reason with his client. “Calm down and hear the rest of what I have to tell you and then you can decide on what to do next after you’ve been thoroughly informed.”

After slight hesitation, Oliver sat back down.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 11

Using all her strength and might, Alicia managed to break away from Kondwani. Shooting daggers at him through her eyes, she roared. “What do you think you are doing?”

Kondwani was slowly running his thumb over his lips where her lips had just been. “To be honest with you,” he said, his gazed fixed on her lips. “I really don’t know.”

I’m leaving.” Alicia announced, picking up her bag and heading straight for the door. Kondwani grabbed her hand as she tried to walk past him.

“Wait,” he said, turning her so they were facing each other.

“I should have known better than to come here.” Alicia said.

“It was my mistake,” Kondwani admitted. “You were only doing your job and I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you. But honestly Alicia,” he said as he placed both his hands on her shoulders. “Look me in the eye and tell me that you didn’t enjoy the kiss.”

Instead of answering him, Alicia grabbed his wrists and forced his hands from her shoulders. “I am going back to work Sir.” She deliberately turned formal on him.

“I know you won’t admit it but your eyes and your heartbeat can’t lie to me Licia.” Kondwani shouted from behind her.

“The door.” Alicia commanded from where she was standing, not bothering to turn around to look at him. She needed him to key in his security code before she could be let out of the house.

Kondwani walked over to where she was and stopped right behind her, his left hand raised above her head and resting on top of the security code panel where he had to key in the code. She tried to move away from him but Kondwani raised his knee to hold her in place.

“How can you get over your feelings for me if you keep breathing like this every time I come near you?” Kondwani whispered into her ear.

Not trusting her voice, Alicia cleared her throat before she could say something to him. “Please, open the door for me.” She said in a very shaky voice. “I need to get back to work.” She felt helpless standing before him like that when her heart refused to listen to her.

“I will only open the door if you answer my question.” He said. “How do you-“

Without warning, Alicia turned around to face him, their bodies literally stuck together within the short space that Kondwani had created for them.

“Look me in the eye and tell me exactly what you want from me?” She asked him, her eyes glued to his unflinchingly.

It was the third time since he met her that she was catching him off guard. How did she always manage to turn tables on him so suddenly and without warning?

With everyone else, Alicia was a timid little girl that would rather hide in a corner than defend herself and yet every time she stood before him, it was as if she grew secret wings that gave her the strength to face him off.

For the first time in his life, Kondwani was at a loss for words, slowly drowning in Alicia’s big brown eyes. Her gaze had the power to put him in a trance. When she looked at him like that, no amount of air in the world was enough to give him the Oxygen necessary to stabilize his breath. Just where did she get the courage to stare him down like that? Why was he such an easy target for her?

Not even Gwen with her mightier than thou attitude had the nerve to stare him down like that. He had seen Alicia cower before her fellow interns…yet why was she so aggressive with him? Where did all that confidence come from and where did it go when she needed to use it on other people?

Kondwani could feel his lips moving but no sound came out.

“What do you want from me Doctor Chileshe?” Alicia repeated her question, her gaze still fixed on him. She had to raise her head up fully to lock eyes with the taller Kondwani and yet it was he that felt at a disadvantage.

What did he want from her? Kondwani asked himself the same question. The answer came to him right away; he had no idea what he wanted from her. One minute he wanted her gone from his life and the next, she was all he longed for. Seeing her with Kayombo earlier that day had added more years to his already aged young life. He felt like he was losing his mind. Gosh, how he hated things that made him feel out of control. Just why did she appear in his life and make his already complicated life even more complicated? Was she his karma?

Was Alicia his karma? That was the question going through Kondwani’s head as he looked back into Alicia’s fierce eyes.

“If I say that I need you, both of us will end up getting hurt,” He said in a low and controlled tone. “And,” he added, “If I say that I want you out of my life, I think that it’s I that shall suffer even more. Either way…with or without you in my life, I am doomed.”

Even though Alicia appeared more and more confused with every word Kondwani uttered, her heart wouldn’t stop pounding. Fearing it might drop from its place, she peeled herself away from him, putting a decent and safe distance between them.

But still, her eyes never left his. Something magnetizing kept her from looking away. “What do you mean by that?” She asked.

Kondwani chuckled lightly. “I mean that if you don’t want to be hurt by a jerk like me, leave now. I am the worst thing that could ever happen to you Alicia.”

There was something about his tone and the look in his eyes that made Alicia believe every word he said bust instead of sealing her conviction to walk away, it only made her waver in her resolve. What exactly did he mean when he said he would hurt her? Was he talking about his commitment to Gwen? She asked herself. Did he think that she expected him to leave Gwen for her? Is that what he was sorry about?

Not one to grapple over matters of the heart, Alicia gave up trying to understand whatever was going on between her and Kondwani. She had no intentions of taking another woman’s man and she certainly had no desire to pursue an intimate relationship with anyone…even if that man made her heart beat in ways it had never done before. The only person she needed to concern herself with and worry about was Buseko her son. As long as she had him back, her life would be complete.

“Please get the door for me.” Alicia asked of Kondwani. Without arguing, he entered his code and opened the door.

“Goodbye Dr Chileshe,” she said and left. Not once did she turn to look back at the man who was standing by the door watching her retreating figure. The moment she exited the gate, Kondwani closed the door and went upstairs to his room to sleep. He was no longer in the mood to work or think about anything. He just wanted the world to stop spinning so fast and so out of control…if only for a few hours.

That afternoon, or any other afternoon or night after, sleep eluded Kondwani.

“Are you ready sis?” Belinda stopped by her elder sister’s door, all dressed up in a black and white bodycon dress.

“Black and white?” Alicia asked from her dressing table where she was styling her braids. “You look like you are going for a business meeting.”

Belinda laughed. “It’s deliberate,” she answered. “Black symbolises Aunt Mary’s demise and white is for the new beginning we are going to have with Buseko.”

“Belinda!” Alicia chided her.

Belinda chuckled. “I’m just saying.” She said, shrugging her shoulders innocently. “Today we all need to look on point, it’s all about business.” She said, coming into the room to stand behind Alicia. She shoved her sister’s hands from her hair and took over styling it.

“Even on a beautiful day like this, why do you want to dress up like a nun?” Belinda asked. “It’s not every day that a woman pulls one over her wicked mother in-law. You need to look hot and classed up as you collect your trophy!”

Alicia smiled and sat back in the chair, leaving Belinda to do as she pleased with her hair and make-up. “I can only imagine what Mrs Kabwe must be feeling right now.”

“There you go again,” Belinda said. “This is no time for you to feel pity for that woman. She’s treated you like scum for over five years now and she took your son from you. Why should you feel guilty about taking him back? Did Buseko come from her womb?”

“He’s all she’s got left of Nicolas Linda.” Alicia said. “I know that she’s done and said some awful stuff but I kind of understand her pain and anger. I am a mother too…I don’t know what I would do if something-“

“This is a happy day Licia, let’s not dampen it with your melancholic sad tales neh.” She finished styling the braids and set Alicia’s head straight before the mirror. “What do you think?” She asked, looking at her sister’s reflection.

Alicia gasped. “How did you do it? This is exactly what I have been trying to do for the past forty minutes.

Belinda laughed. “I like that you are feeling ambitious today sis but some of these things, let us, the professionals do them for you. Turn,” she moved Alicia in her chair so she could face her. “Time for your make-up now.” She said as she pulled the make-up kit on the far end of the dressing table towards them.

“She was about to start attending to Alicia’s eyebrows when she paused. “Are you seriously going to wear that dress Alicia?”

Alicia looked at the African print maxi dress she had on. “What’s wrong with my dress?” She asked.

“Huh??” incredulity gripped Belinda’s face, her hands resting on her waist. “I have seen people displayed for body viewing look better than you do right now.” She then walked over to the wardrobe and started searching for a new outfit for Alicia.

“This one!” She finally settled for a short yellow and white striped flared dress.

“Noo!” Alicia screamed.

“Yesss.” Belinda countered. “Change now, we will be late.” She threw the dress at her.

“You only picked this because you bought it for me.” Alicia said.

Belinda chuckled guiltily. “So you know.” She said.

“Do we really need to go through all this?” Alicia asked as she started changing. “We are only going to pick up my boy, and dad is coming with us so we don’t need to worry about what Mrs Kabwe will do.”

Belinda plopped herself onto the bed. “We need to teach that woman a lesson.” She said. “She thinks this family is scared of her just because we allowed her to raise Buseko without a fight. Unfortunately for her, it seems the God you worship really listens to your prayers.

“Out of nowhere you got this grand lawyer and you have your child back without even having to fight it out in court. And there is nothing the evil witch can do to reverse that.” She then broke out into triumphant laughter.

“You can’t celebrate like that over someone else’s misfortune Linda.” Alicia cautioned her young sister.

“Miss goody two shoes,” Belinda said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t act like you are not happy. I can see all your enzymes partying up a storm inside there through your eyes. Just admit it, you are just as happy and excited as I am…perhaps even more.”

Alicia turned to give Belinda her back, her hand patting her back from over her shoulder so that she could help her zip up. Belinda caught the message fast and went to zip her up.

“Sit down now so I can do your face.” Belinda instructed and Alicia sat down.

“Don’t put too much.” Alicia warned her. “Put that one you put that time you went to that braii.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Belinda laughed. “Nude it is. Rest your head back.”

Alicia did as instructed again, not putting up much of a fight compared to other days when she would not let her sister anywhere near her face with the make-up tools she was holding in her hands.

“When are you planning on telling me about the famous Doctor Chileshe, our hero.” Belinda asked as she attended to Alicia’s eyebrows, her own perfectly arched brows dancing mischievously.

“How did you-“ Alicia started to ask.

“How did I know about him?” Belinda finished for her. “It’s all thanks to your former mother in-law.” She said.

“Buseko’s grandma?” Alicia asked.

“Yes,” Belinda answered. “Didn’t mum tell you about what she said and did when she came here?”

Alicia grabbed Belinda’s hand to stop her from working on her face. She looked up at her with a puzzled expression on her face. “Mrs Kabwe came here?”

Belinda nodded.

“When? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Alicia asked.

“I thought mum told you.”

“That woman doesn’t talk to me unless I talk to her first.” Alicia said.

“Seriously?” Belinda rolled her eyes again, moving to lean her back against the dressing table. She crossed one leg over the other and crossed her arms over her chest. “That woman?” Belinda chided her.

“What do you want me to call her?” Alicia asked. “Anyway, she’s not the point right now. When did Mrs Kabwe come and what exactly did she do and say?”

“You know you are this big staunch Christian 24/7 but when it comes to your own mother-“

“Linda,” Alicia gave her sister a stern look. “If you are also not going to tell me what happened then let’s not bother about it. Finish up my face so we can leave. I’m sure dad is tired of waiting for us.”

Belinda went back to put finishing touches on her face. “Before we change the subject,” she said. “Let me just say one thing; You can’t give up on people you claim to love Licia. For once, try to see things from mum’s point of view and ask yourself what you would do if you were in her position.”

Angry, Alicia stood up abruptly, causing Belinda to spill the concealer in her hands onto her yellow dress. She started walking towards the door but Belinda ran after her and stopped her by blocking the door with her body and spreading her arms apart.

“I’m sorry.” Belinda apologized. “I didn’t mean to spoil the mood, I just hate seeing the way things are between you and mum. Can we go back to sit so I can finish on the other eye?”

“Promise you won’t bring up that kind of topic again?” Alicia said.

“I promise.” Belinda said and took her hand to lead her back to the dressing table. Alicia sat back down.

“Does that doctor like you?” Belinda quickly returned to their previous conversation.

“So you are not going to tell me what happened with Mrs Kabwe?” Alicia said, looking very disappointed.

Belinda wanted to tell her sister that she too was not there when the woman visited, that she only heard the story from her mother…but she stopped herself. If Alicia knew that their mother talked to her about a matter that concerned her and her son and kept that information to Alicia herself, she might just end up feeling justified in her anger and resentment towards their mother.

“I also wasn’t there when she came.” Belinda answered. “I just heard the story from the maid.” She lied. “That woman came to make noise for mum and dad but she only managed to find mum when she came.

“She made threats and said something about you being an ungrateful something…that you are finally showing your true colours now that you have a bit of money. She asked mum to raise you right instead of allowing you to be sleeping with a man who’s committed to someone else.”

“What?” Alicia asked. “Did mum believe her?”

Belinda smiled, silently observing the fact that Alicia had just addressed their mother as mum and that she cared about what the woman she claimed hated her thought about her.

“Of course she didn’t.” Belinda replied. “She told Mrs Kabwe off to her face, said she could say whatever she wanted to say about you but she should leave out questioning your moral standards.”

“So she didn’t believe her?”

“What did I just say?” Belinda said.

“What else happened?” Alicia asked.

“You also know how mum is, she doesn’t talk much.” Belinda said. “She just told her a few things in return and Mrs Kabwe was the only one shouting on top of her voice most of the time. I can only imagine what went down.

“Fighting a war of words with mum is like digging a deep hole hopping to bury your enemy only to realize that you’ve dug your own self deeper and only she can pull you back up. She doesn’t talk much but the look she gives you when you are done running your mouth is enough to make you regret all the past years of your life.”

“Why wouldn’t she tell me about something so important?” Alicia wondered.

“What difference was it going to make?” Belinda asked. “I’m sure she thought there was no need for you to know. It would have only worried you…just like you are doing right now. Anyway, after I heard the story I went and googled the doctor since Mrs Kabwe indicated he was a very rich guy and boy is he appetizing! How come you never said you have such a hot boss?”

“I naturally assumed you knew of him since he’s well known.” Alicia answered.

“So you admit that he’s good looking right!?” Belinda asked, her eyes dancing about excitedly.

“My eyes are working perfectly fine Linda.” Alicia said. “I know he is good looking but I didn’t see any reason why I should mention that particular fact to you, so that you do what?”

Belinda was shaking her head and looking at her sister with a pitiful look on her face. “Tsk tsk tsk,” she said. “Talking to you about boys is like talking to a donkey and expecting it to give you milk. Do you even have any lipstick in this room?” Her eyes were already searching the table.

“Linda,” Alicia sighed heavily. “I am just going to pick up my son. What do I need lipstick for?”

“We are already past the point of you complaining,” Belinda said. “Let’s go to my room I pick out a dress for you as well, this one is-“ she looked at the stained spot and simply shook her head.

The moment the two girls came out of the bedroom, their father appeared. “Can we go now?” Mr Daka asked, anxiously looking at his wrist watch.

Alicia had a look of surprise on her face when she saw him also dressed up in a suit with very polished shoes on. “Even you dad?” She asked.

Joseph Daka laughed. “Belinda prepared this for me yesterday.” He said. “You know very well that when this one sets her mind to something, no one can escape her machinations.”

“Five more minutes dad.” Belinda grabbed Alicia’s hand and quickly led her away.

Joseph remained smiling as he watched them disappear. He went back to his own room. “You should see our girls Rita,” He proudly told his wife. “They both look so beautiful…I can’t remember the last time I saw Alicia all dressed up like that.”

“So she too didn’t escape Linda’s clatches?” Henrietta chuckled. “I’m going to take a picture of the three of you before you leave.” She opened the top drawer to the left side of the dressing table and took out the camera. “This will be a very memorable day in our lives. Perhaps now Alicia can start living her life freely.”

Joseph approached the bed and carefully sat down so as not to wrinkle his perfectly laundered suit. “That’s exactly what I was thinking about.” He said.

Henrietta too sat down on the chair by the dressing table. “You know,” she said. “I have been thinking about that man Mary kept mentioning when she came here.”

“The doctor that made all this possible?” Joseph asked. “I have also been asking myself questions but if there’s anything I am sure about, it is that nothing is going on between him and our Licia. I know my daughter well enough to know she wouldn’t go after another woman’s man. You are with me on this one, right?”

Henrietta gave her husband a chiding look. “Bashi Linda sure?” She said. “I know that she and I are not close but she is still my daughter you know.”

“Still, I am curious about this fella honey.” He said. “Why would he interfere in Alicia’s life like this? I know the schemes these men play; he probably saw how innocent she is and he thinks he can fool her into being his mistress or something. Even though I am grateful for what he’s done, I am still going to talk to him.”

Henrietta stared at him wide-eyed. “What are you going to say to him?” She asked.

“I am going to ask him what sort of payment he wants.” Joseph replied. “There’s no way he can do something like this and not expect any form of payment. The way I know Alicia, she might feel obliged to do his bidding if he asks it of her simply because she’s grateful. She’s a good girl and all but her personality can work against her this time around.”

“I know what you mean.” Henrietta said. “But honey,” she added. “Try to keep your cool when you talk to him. Remember he’s her boss and she’s still not confirmed at work. I looked the doctor up on the internet and he seems very influential. We don’t want to rub him off the wrong way.”

“I know.” Joseph agreed. “While I’m at it, I will look around the hospital to see if there are any potential suitors for her. With her kind of job, she has no time to have a social life so we can’t expect a man to come by easily…might as well help her find one at the place where she spends most her time.”

“And he better be a real Christian.” Henrietta chipped in.

Joseph laughed. “Definitely.” He said. “At times like these, I wish Alicia could see the look in your eyes when you worry about her.”

“Maybe it’s too late for her and me,” Henrietta said. “But I can’t help myself worrying about her life. Nicolas’ death made the situation between us even worse. She completely closed off and-“

“I know we both made grave mistakes with her but,” Joseph said. “It’s never too late with family. Just look at us today,” he looked at his reflection on the mirror again. “Who knew that a day like this would come so soon?

“I kept myself from interfering with Buseko’s situation all these years because I felt that that’s what Alicia wanted; to feel the pain of losing her own child as a way of easing her guilt over Nicolas’ death. But, I don’t think she ever imagined the pain of losing her own child would be greater than the guilt she was feeling inside.”

“It took everything in me not to pour hot water on that woman when she came here making all that noise.” Henrietta said, referring to Mary’s visit a couple of days ago. “I can hear movement out there. I think the girls are done.”

They both got up. “Finally,” Joseph said. And then looking at his wife; “Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

“Just go.” Henrietta started pushing her husband out of the room. “You will find a feast prepared in celebration by the time you get back.”

“You do know that if you want to mend your relationship with Alicia you are going to have to do things that are uncomfortable for you right?” Joseph asked, forcing them both to come to a stop by the door. He then turned around to look at his wife.

“You can’t keep avoiding being in the same space with her Rita, she is your daughter. What are you so afraid of?”

Henrietta dropped her head in regret. “It’s the look in her eyes.” She stated simply.

“And as long as you keep avoiding her, that look will always be there.” He said. “Think about what I’ve just said while we are gone. I want the two of you to sit opposite each other at the table today so you can’t avoid looking at each other.”

“Bashi Linda!” Henrietta protested.

“You heard what I said woman. Just do it.” Joseph said and opened the door to leave.

Joseph Daka capitalized on the one hour drive to Mary’s house by using it as an opportunity to quiz Alicia about Doctor Chileshe.

“Why would you ask me that dad?” Alicia asked. “Don’t tell me-“

Joseph laughed. “Not at all, you are my daughter after all, and I want to believe that I raised you right. I am just curious about our generous benefactor. Since you work with him, I figured you might have gotten to know him a little.”

“I am dying to know about him as well!” Belinda shouted from the back seat of the car. “But this girl refuses to divulge any info.”

“Has he shown any sort of interest…other than work in you?” Joseph was not a man to beat around the bush.

Alicia blushed and looked out the side of her window to avoid being discovered.

“I take it he has.” Joseph concluded upon observation.

“OMG!” Belinda exclaimed. “I knew it! Does he plan on leaving his fiancé?”

“Linda!” Joseph chastised his daughter. “You can’t wish something like that on another person and expect to find happiness. What did you tell him?” He asked Alicia.

“You’ve both misunderstood something,” Alicia turned to look at her father and sibling. “He is not the one interested in me.” She stated.

“What?” Belinda asked, coming through the space between the front two seats so she could take a closer look at her sister. Joseph too had the same expression on his face.

“I am the one that likes him.” Alicia confessed.

“Oh dear.” The words escaped Joseph’s lips.

“Calm down,” Alicia said. “I am not after him.” She quickly assured them. “I just like him. I don’t know why I like him…or when I started liking him…but I just do. However, I have no intentions whatsoever of being with him, not just because he is committed to someone else, but because I understand perfectly well what my feelings towards him are.”

“And what are your feelings Alicia?” Joseph asked.

“He just surprised me, that’s all.” Alicia answered nonchalantly. “One minute he’s hot and the next he’s cold. I unconsciously found myself wanting to please him…to be noticed by him as my boss. He has a superiority complex and he rubbed me off the wrong way from the moment we met.”

“You?” Belinda asked. “Someone rubbed you Alicia the wrong way? How is that even possible? You always chicken in front of people and you’ve never cared about what anyone thinks as long as your conscience is clear.” She quoted her sister’s word.

“I know,” Alicia admitted. “But a lot stuff happened and it somehow led to that.”

“Does he know how you feel about him?” Joseph asked.

“Yes, I told him.” She innocently revealed the truth.

“Oh dear.” Joseph said again.

“OMG.” An excited Belinda said. “I never imagined a day would come when I would derive pleasure from listening to events in your life sis.”

“What?” Alicia looked at the both of them, confused by their reactions. “Did I do something wrong?”

“You can’t tell a man your feelings just like that Licia, worse, one who’s already taken.” Joseph educated his naïve girl.

“But I wanted to warn him to stay away from me. I ended up liking him even when he never did anything to impress me. I wanted him to be careful around me just in case…you know. I Know that I am inexperienced in this love thing but I only told him because I was looking out for him.

“I thought that if I warned him, he would stop approaching me so carelessly because sometimes his actions confuse me. I was simply looking out for him. Did I do something wrong.”

“Technically, no.” Joseph said. “Your intentions were honourable but that’s not how things work in this world Alicia.”

Belinda was looking at her elder sister in awe, slowly shaking her head. “I think I need to sit you down my dear sister and educate you some about the wicked ways of men these days.”

“You are just a child,” Joseph said. “What can you tell her?”

“I have more experience in this field dad so obviously I am older than her in that respect.” Belinda argued.

“More experience?” Joseph gave her a look. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Belinda realized a little too late that she set herself up for a thorough scolding. As far as her parents were concerned, she was a baby trying to make it through her third year at university; she was too young for boys and she certainly didn’t have time for them. Now why did she have to open her mouth and blow her own cover like that?

“I just meant that I have read enough books and watched enough movies to know certain things.” Belinda quickly ran for damage control.

“Oh,” Joseph heaved a sigh of relief. “But still, you can’t learn about love from those things.”

“What did you think I was talking about dad?” Belinda feigned innocence.

“Was I wrong in cautioning him to stay away from me?” Alicia drove them back to the point at hand. She was visibly shaken by the revelations her family had awakened her to.

“I think you and I need to have one of our long talks Alicia.” Joseph said. “Let’s chat about this tonight after all the celebrations are done.”

“How can we stop talking about this now when you’ve already made me feel like this?” Alicia complained. “How am I supposed to face the doctor from now on?” She covered her face in embarrassment and kicked her legs in frustration.

Both Joseph and Belinda laughed as they watched her.

Thirty minutes later, they had arrived at Mary Kabwe’s house. Alicia stepped down first to get the gate but Belinda came out as well.

“I will get it,” Alicia told her sister as she walked to the gate.

“That crazy woman might be waiting for you on the other side with a panga.” Belinda said and rushed ahead of her to pull the gate open. Alicia laughed and stood back to watch her open it instead. The moment the gate came open, Buseko came running from the house after his mother.

“Mum!” He shouted as he ran to her. Alicia ran towards the boy and met him half-way into the yard. She scooped him up into her arms and laid kisses on him, tears filling her eyes. She felt it in every muscle in her body; this was a reunion different from the ones in the past. He was completely hers now. She finally had him back.

“You little rascal!” Stephen said when he came out of the house, walking towards the guests and pointing an accusing finger at Buseko.

“Steve?” Belinda stared wide-eyed at the guy approaching them.

“Linda?” Stephen said, mirroring her shocked expression. “What are you doing here?” He asked.

“I should be asking you the same question.” Belinda said.

“You guys know each other?” Alicia asked.

Stephen laughed. “Know each other?” He said. “She is my ex.”

Belinda rushed to cover Stephen’s mouth, her eyes going straight towards her father who was driving in to check if he had heard anything. She released her breath when she realised the windows were still closed.

“Whaat?” An amused Stephen asked as he removed her hand from covering his mouth.

“The two of you?” Alicia pointed from one to the other in disbelief. “How?”

Belinda ran to her sister’s side and whispered, “It’s a long story. Let’s talk about it some other time shall we? The General is approaching.” She pointed to their father who had just stepped down from the car.

Just then, Mary Kabwe appeared by the door, looking like an army commander ready for battle. Alicia felt a cold chill run down her spine, her eyes instinctively going towards her father, silently begging him to come to their rescue.

Joseph looked over at his daughter and smiled, his eyes literally telling her; it will all be fine my child.

Her father’s smile was all Alicia needed to stop her legs from shaking so much. In that single moment, she came to understand why he had insisted on coming with them the previous night.

Silently, she said a prayer to the heavens; “Thank you Jehovah.”