Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 20 (Final)

Two weeks had gone by and not a single day that passed did Alicia not replay the last words shared between her and Kondwani at the hospital. She could still smell the coldness in the still air at the hospital lobby where she watched in a corner a safe distance away from Kondwani’s siblings who were anxiously waiting for their brother to appear from the operating room with news about their mother.

Kondwani appeared an hour later looking like a man that was just from fighting giants, the weight of the world on his shoulders. Alicia rushed closer to hear the news just as his siblings moved in on him.

“She’s still in a critical condition,” Kondwani said before any of them could throw questions his way. “She lost a lot of blood and her internal injuries are-“

“Is she going to die?” Mwansa who had been crying for the past hour out of guilt for leaving her mother alone in the car asked.

Chilufya smacked her lightly at the back of her head. “Why would you even think such a stupid thing?” She asked her sister, desperately fighting back her own tears but being the eldest sister, she had to remain strong for her younger siblings Mwansa and Gift.

“Can we see her?” The seventeen year old Gift asked, his eyes as teary as his older sisters’.

“Yeah, you can but just yet.” Kondwani said, his hands in his pockets. “They’re moving her to the ICU at the far end there,” he pointed to the right behind them. “You guys can go sit over there by the chairs a nurse will come and talk to you before sending you in. I need to talk to this lady for a little bit.” He gestured towards Alicia who was standing behind them.

This lady. He just referred to me as this lady. Alicia’s heart started pounding harder and faster than before. She didn’t need to hear whatever he wanted to say to her for her to know the distance that had grown between them since that visit at Aunt Mary’s. in as much as she understood there might be no future between her and Kondwani both from her end and from his, she was still not yet ready to confront that gruesome reality that was threatening her sanity. She had not even gotten to spend time or enjoy Kondwani’s company as her lover so why was life forcing them to separate already? What wrong had she really done to deserve such a cruel fate?

“I think you should go home.” Kondwani said to Alicia once they were alone. As expected, his voice was void of emotion. She had heard him sound like that so many times when he spoke to relatives and friends of patients. Why was he using his doctor voice with her?

The coldness in Kondwani’s voice and his overall glacial demeanour while he stood in front of her instinctively made Alicia aware of their surroundings. She was at work. She might have come in with a patient but the truth of the matter was that the hospital they had come to was also her work place, Kondwani’s too and the two of them were still a hot topic for the grapevine department.

Just as she had suspected, Alicia spotted the number of eyes looking over at her and Kondwani but she quickly brushed them away as she was mostly concerned with what her boyfriend was saying to her, no matter how cold and curt he was in his approach.

“I want to stay, and I am staying.” She replied in a no-nonsense tone that defied his authority over her both personally and professionally.

“I understand why you feel like you have to be here but I am telling you right now that there’s no need.” Kondwani said. “This is my family’s business.”

“Are you trying to tell me that this is none of my business?” Alicia asked.

“I am simply trying my best to be as professional as possible.” Kondwani said, clenching his teeth as if to keep himself from uttering words he might regret.

“Professional?” Alicia asked. “Why should you be acting professional with me?”

“What do you want me to say Alicia!?” Kondwani finally snapped, winning himself the attention of his siblings who were seated a distance away from them and the attention of patients, visitors and staff around.

“You’re the reason my mother is here!” Kondwani shouted.

“What?” Alicia asked, not believing that Kondwani would actually say those words to her. Of course she had been saying those words to herself ever since she heard about the accident but she had not imagined hearing the same accusations from Kondwani’s own lips.

“You are right at the center of everything that’s going wrong in my life right now Alicia.” Kondwani continued. “If I had not met you my mother would have never found out about what really happened that night and she certainly would have not entertained ideas about taking her own life just so I could be happy with you.”

It finally clicked. His anger and bitterness towards her the moment he stepped out of the OR. Was that the reason his mother had given for trying to end her life, so that her son would be happy with the mother to the child whose father had died in that accident?

“Do you get it now?” Kondwani asked, reading from her facial expression as the truth slowly sunk in. “So please, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be here right now…please, leave…just, leave.”

He was literally begging her to get the hell out of his life. How did things get to this point? For a while after learning the truth about Nicolas’ death, Alicia had imagined Kondwani begging her to stay with him and not once had she imagined a scenario where he would instead be begging her to get out of his life.

With only a week to her official confirmation as surgical nurse at the hospital, what was she supposed to do now that Kondwani didn’t want to have anything to do with her? She had already heard from Mrs Miti the supervisor that she and Caroline had made the cut after months of a gruelling internship and she was excited about the idea of finally getting to openly date Kondwani without fear of judgement from their colleagues…but now this?

“I get it,” Alicia answered. “I get exactly what you mean. I’ll get out of your way Kondwani. Give my best to your mum. Goodbye.” And she turned and walked straight to the exit.

Not wanting to watch her retreating figure, Kondwani quickly turned and walked to where his siblings were.

“Why is she leaving?” Gift asked her brother. He had inferred from the little he could see since he came to the hospital that the beautiful lady waiting anxiously with them was her brother’s girlfriend. She was very different from Gwen or the other women he dated before so he had instinctively developed a liking for her. She looked beautiful and smart, an obvious improvement on the previous potential sister in-law he was going to get.

“Did the nurse talk to you?” Kondwani completely ignored the boy’s question.

“Yes,” Chilufya answered. “She said we wait five minutes more, they’re still setting her up to receive visitors.”

“Can she talk?” MWansa asked.

“No, not yet.” Kondwani said. “I’ll go and check and you guys can come in later.” He quickly left as if to run away from further questions. He needed to keep himself busy lest he lost his mind and went off at anybody…or anyone.
Alone in her bedroom and crying, Alicia heard a light knock on the door and before she could respond, the door opened and Belinda appeared with a yellow mug in hand.

“I knew I would find you like this.” Belinda said as she handed the mug to her sister and sat down on the bed next to her.

Taking the mug from her, “What’s this?” Alicia asked.

“It’s honey tea,” she said.

“But I can smell lemon, ginger and cinnamon.” Alicia said as she smelled the contents of the cup.

“Oh yeah, there’s all that too as well.” Belinda laughed.

Alicia laughed too behind her teary-stained face. “Then why did you say it was honey tea?”

“It’s not like I lied. There’s honey in there too. Besides, it was the only way I could get you to stop crying and focus on something else other than your pain.”

Belinda was right, her sister had stopped crying and even smiled during the short time she walked into the room.

“You are too smart for your own good sis.” Alicia said, taking a sip from the tea before putting it down on the bedside table.

“Have you heard any news from the hospital?” Belinda asked.

“She’s still in a comma,” Alicia said.

“I know that,” Belinda said. “Am asking about Kondwani, he didn’t call to ask you to stay at the hospital? It’s almost two weeks now since you asked him to write you a recommendation letter to transfer to another hospital.”

“No he hasn’t.” Alicia said, the pain coming back to her all over again. It was the longest period since meeting Kondwani that the two of them had not spoken and she felt like she was losing her mind by the minute.

“He obviously didn’t hesitate in signing my transfer request so why would he change his mind? I will do as he wants, I will get out of his hair. It’s not like I have no issues with him. He should be lucky that I am even crying over him after what he’s family did to Nicolas.” She was crying all over again.

Belinda put her arms around her crying sister. “I understand how you feel sis but remember he’s also having a tough time. His mother is still in a comma and they’re not sure if she will make it not. I doubt if he’s thinking rationally right now and I can bet you that his feelings for you are the least of his worries…at least not right now. Give him some time.”

“He was so cold to me Linda,” Alicia sobbed. “You should have seen the look in his eyes, he hates me.”

“I know it feels like that right now but just give him time sis.” Belinda comforted her.

Alicia sat up and looked at her sister. “I am living tomorrow morning for Kitwe,” she said. “I know for a fact that once am gone, if he doesn’t make the first move then it will be I who actually erases him from my life forever. He is not the only one having a hard time here you know. I also have to deal with the fact that the man I am in-love wit and his mother are responsible for the death of my boyfriend who happens to be the father of my child.

“I am the one who is having a hard time looking my son in the eye because I feel guilty for being in-love with the man responsible for his father’s death and you know what’s even worse, that I haven’t done anything to make the people involved in that death pay for it.

“The thought of what Nick’s mother did kills me and all I want to do is go over to her place and squeeze her neck till she can’t breathe. I feel so much pain when I think about how badly she treated me all these years, making me feel guilty for her son’s death when she knew very well someone else was. Even after accepting money from those people, she still felt the need to keep me from my son as punishment for six whole years sis. If anyone should be mad here it is I so why does it look like I am the bad guy here? What wrong have I done to these people that they’re treating me like this?”

“I know….” Was all Belinda could say in that situation. She might not be directly involved in what was happening in her sister’s life but she too was affected by the consequences of those revelations.

Belinda had been avoiding Stephens’s call and messages ever since Alicia told her about what Mary Kabwe had done. That night, Belinda had called Stephen in anger and lashed out at him.

“You knew about what your aunt had done and still said nothing?” She had said.

“What did you want me to say babe?” Stephen had asked. “I also wasn’t supposed to know that info and in any case, I wasn’t very sure about it because I never heard the whole story. I only had suspicions and-“

“You saw how your family treated my sister for years!” Belinda shouted. “The least you could have done is tell your aunt to be fair-“

“You know my aunt very well babe,” Stephen said. “Tell me, honestly, do you think she is the type of person that can listen to me? I understand you’re angry with me but I think it’s unfair that you are blaming me for this thing.”

“I am angry at you and at your family. It’s just unfair.” She said. “Frankly, I don’t think I can ever look at you the same way after all this.”

“What’s that supposed to mean Linda?” Stephen asked, sensing right away the danger approaching. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“Fortunately we were not even dating yet so-“

“You gotto be kidding me!”

“I am sorry Steve-“

“Why is it so easy for you to walk away the moment you face a challenge Belinda?” He asked. “We haven’t even properly talked about this and you are already giving up on us. I thought things had changed-“

“Well you thought wrong,” Belinda said, her voice breaking from fighting to keep from crying. “I guess this just shows you and I were never meant to be.” She finally broke down in tears.

There was a long silence on the other end of the line as Stephen listened to her sobbing voice. “You see,” his voice finally came through. “You don’t want to break up with me silly. Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know why am crying but I just feel like crying.” Belinda sulked.

Stephen chuckled. “I still love you despite your craziness so let’s not talk about this over the phone okay?” he said. “I know it’s too early now so am just gonna give you some time but don’t think for a moment that I’ve given up on you or on us. I promise you that’s never gonna happen. Linda? Babe, are you there?”

“I’m here.” Belinda had answered.

“It’s late, you go to bed and we’ll talk tomorrow. I will keep calling and texting everyday even when I know you will be ignoring me. But babe, I’ll be coming over there to bust doors if you keep ignoring me for long. I love you, good night.”

Stephen’s last five words were enough to melt her cold heart towards him. No matter what was going on between his family and his sister, it was not enough to force her to lose or change her feelings for him. She loved him as much as he loved her…if not more.

Belinda silently chastised herself for thinking about her own happiness when her sister was struggling with hers.

“I’m so sorry sis.” Belinda said, coming in to wrap her arms around Alicia again.

“What are you sorry for?” Alicia asked.

“Just, everything.” Belinda said.

****

Alicia’s first day at work in Kitwe was as eventful as her first day at ZADH. The first surprise came during her official meeting with the head in his office when he clarified her job title and description.

“What do you mean am the new CNO?” Alicia asked the fifty-something year old overweight Doctor Manase seated behind his desk. If he was a woman, he would be looking about ready to pop triplets from his bulging front.

“As it happens,” the doctor said. “Our Chief Nursing Officer asked for a transfer to Ndola to join her husband a week before we received your application. You happen to meet the conditions for that position and with the strong recommendation we received from Doctor C, the team decided that you would be the best fit for this position.”

“But I have no-“

“Don’t worry about anything Nurse Daka,” the doctor said. “We have a great support team for you and your predecessor is still here to help you make a smooth transition.”

She was tempted to ask if Kondwani had anything to do with the promotion but she remembered their last encounter and quickly brushed off the crazy idea. No way he would be behind this, she told herself. Or, could this be a way of him making sure I never go back to Lusaka again?

“Nurse Daka, are you okay? You look-“

“I’m fine,” Alicia quickly recovered. I have a son to take care of. I won’t waste my time thinking about a man that doesn’t want me. I will forget him just as he has forgotten me. And she sat up straight. “I am ready to meet everyone now doctor.”

Ten minutes of going in and coming out of people’s offices, Alicia gaped in disbelief at finding herself face to face with Doctor Samuel Kayombo.

“I was told that the two of you know each other so I saved the best introductions for last.” Doctor Manase said.

“What are you doing here?” Alicia asked Kayombo.

“Working, I would hope.” Kayombo laughed. “Good to see you Alicia.” He went in for a hug and got one before she could finish wrapping her head around his presence at the hospital.

“When did you-“ Alicia started to ask.

“Been here a week.” Kayombo answered. “How can leave in such a manner Alicia?”

“Ah,” Doctor Manase said, smiling mischievously. “I think I will leave you two to catch up. I believe you will be in charge of helping her settle in doc?” He asked Kayombo.

“Most definitely doc.” Kayombo said enthusiastically and the doctor excused himself.

“Sit down,” he pointed to the chair in front of his desk as he walked to sit behind the desk. Alicia sat down.

“How did you-“

“Know that you would be coming here?” Kayombo finished for her. “I had gone into Chileshe’s office to report on a case when I accidentally saw the request you had written to him. He was obviously looking at it before I came in and thought he had covered it well but I saw part of it.”

“And you decided to come here as well?” Alicia asked, shock written all over her face.

Kayombo appeared amused by her disbelief. “I wasn’t joking when I told that guy that I would quickly move in the moment he messes up. I knew he would mess up sooner or later.”

“Samuel, are you kidding me right now?” Alicia asked.

“Do I look like am kidding?” he circled his hand in the air around his office.

“What about Gwen, and the baby?”

“They’re okay.”

“They’re okay?” Alicia asked. “Is that all you can say in this situation, they’re okay?”

“What do you want me to say?” Kayombo asked. “I promise to take care of my child when she’s born, I don’t intend to be a dead-beat dad if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“And what about Gwen?” She asked.

“I have already spoken to Gwen about this. She understand my feelings and honestly speaking, she might not be able to grasp that am doing this for her as well right now but she will thank me later in life.”

“She will thank you for leaving her right when she needed you the most? Tell me, how does that work?”

“Would you rather she spends the rest of her life with a man that doesn’t love her or to suffer a broken heart for a couple of months and move on? And do bear in mind that this woman doesn’t even love me. She thinks she does, but am only her fall back plan…something to use to shield herself from shame and to make her ex jealous.”

“I really don’t want to get involved in your drama you people.” Alicia said.

“You people?” Kayombo said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I don’t appreciate you coming all the way here just because I am here.” She clarified. “What do you honestly expect to happen between us Kayombo? First it was Kondwani and Gwen, then you and Kondwani and Gwen, then me and Kondwani, you and Gwen, and now you expect a me and you? Does any of this make sense to you?”

“I really don’t care about sense or what people might say as long as I know my feelings for you are real Alicia.” He said. “I wish you could just stop for a moment just look at me as me and not as someone connected to all those people you’ve mentioned.”

“I am sorry Kayombo,” Alicia got up from the chair. “But nothing has changed with my feelings.” She said. “I hate to admit this even to my own self but I am still very much in-love with Kondwani.”

“How can you still love him after everything?” He asked.

“Real feelings don’t just get erased just because someone has hurt you.” Alicia said. “Don’t think I haven’t tried to forget him but it’s like every time I tell myself to forget, that’s the more I keep thinking about him. I know that he’s someone am not supposed to love or even think about but at the same time I feel like am going to lose my mind if another day goes by and I don’t see him. I wish-”

“Stop.” Kayombo got up. “It’s too early for me to hear or see you cry over another man. Let’s go I show you to your office. We will talk about our personal issues later. My mood is already messed up and I have patients to attend to.”

Later that evening Alicia was about ready to knock off and spend time with her son at home when her phone rang. It was her sister Belinda.

“She’s woken up sis,” Belinda said. Alicia didn’t need to ask who. She knew right away who Belinda was talking about.

“When?” Alicia asked.

“Just now, a few minutes ago.”

“Are you at the hospital Linda?” Alicia asked. She could hear familiar noises in the background.

“Yes, I figured you might want to know what’s going on and since-“

“Thanks sis,” Alicia said, fighting back tears of joy. “You are the best sister in the world. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, I gotto to now sis. Need to-“

Alicia received another call while on the phone with Belinda. “Caroline is calling me,” she said upon checking the phone. “Probably wants to give me the news.”

“Okay that’s great.” Belinda said. “I was even thinking about asking one of the nurses what the situation is like but of Caroline is here, that means she can tell you right?”

“Yes,” Alicia said. “Thank you so much sis. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay sis, sis. Love you.”

“Caroline-“

“Bitch what’s wrong with you?” Caroline cussed the moment Alicia answered her call. “Who the hell keeping your line busy?”

“I see some things never change,” Alicia joked. “I’ve heard, my sister just called me. Mrs Chileshe is awake.”

“Dammit, how did your sister know?” Caroline asked. “I wanted to be the first to share the good news. I hate your sister, tell her that.”

Alicia laughed. “I think she has mutual feelings. What’s the report of her progress?”

“She’ll live,” Caroline said. “but her legs are done and she’ll need help breathing for a while.”

“How bad are her legs?”

“Bad, very bad…as in she’s wheelchair bound but no amputation needed.”

Alicia went quiet.

“Well, considering all things, she’s alive Alicia.” Caroline said.

“I know,” Alicia said, silently crying. “I know. It could have been worse.”

“I’ll keep you posted of any developments, have to go now. My ride is waiting for me outside.”

“Thanks Caroline.” Alicia said and cut the line.

Driving back home in the car provided by the hospital given her new position, Alicia found herself thinking about calling or texting Kondwani but no matter how many times she played around with the words in her head, nothing sounded like the right thing to say to a man that blamed her for the condition his mother was in.

And she neither called nor texted. And she never heard from Kondwani.

Weeks passed and they grew into months and months became a year, Kondwani and Alicia’s relationship had died a natural death. Whatever issues hang between them were left unsolved and the two of them pushed on with their lives hoping for the once beautiful memories to fade away.

Kondwani returned to being the ruthless workaholic he was before Alicia entered his life and he put all his energy into safeguarding the hospital and the position he held there which on several occasions had been attacked directly by Lloyd Miyoba or indirectly through his minions seeking to push the young doctor from his position of power.

There were days when the internal politics at the hospital heightened that for a while Kondwani would forget about Alicia but somehow he would eventually find himself alone and thoughts of her would creep right back to the fore of his mind. Whenever such thoughts threatened to overwhelm him, he would seek the company of desperate woman looking to die him down, have one night stands with them and discard them with his doctor gloves before morning came.

Every day that passed and he didn’t pick up his phone to call alone spelled victory for Kondwani, the kind that didn’t make him really feel like a winner….but the kind that made him like he had won a great battle simply by resisting and not curving in to his urges.

And when the pressure threatened to drown him under, he found rescue in a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Alicia on the other hand dealt with the pain of missing Kondwani by throwing herself into work and when that didn’t work, she gave in to Kayombo’s determined pursuits and gave him a chance after seven months of ruthlessly turning him down. With a new man in her life, Alicia tried to move on from Kondwani, constantly reminding herself that there was no future between them and so she should get over him.

Unfortunately for Alicia, just as she was about to settle into her relationship with Kayombo, Gwen appeared into their lives and was determined more than ever to give her child the perfect family portrait. She forced herself into Kayombo’s house just two weeks after delivering and made sure to mark her territory in no uncertain terms.

Kayombo’s cowardice and procrastination worked thoroughly against him when he failed to inform Alicia about Gwen’s presence in his home until Alicia showed up at his door unannounced with a picnic basket hoping to surprise him with a date that would officially cement their relationships after months of keeping him at bay.

“Look what we have here.” Gwen sarcastically said to Alicia when she opened the door and found her standing on the other side with a basket in hand.

“Gwen?”

“Why do you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” Gwen smugly asked, a triumphant smile playing at the corners of her lips. “What’s so surprising about a wife receiving a visitor in her husband’s home?”

“Is someone at the door?” Alicia could hear Kayombo’s voice in the background. Gwen deliberately stepped away from the door to give Kayombo a full view of Alicia.

“Alicia-“ He quickly rushed to the door. “What are you doing here? I can explain this.”

Gwen was laughing in the sidelines as she watched the show unfold before her, her arms tucked across her chest.

Alicia said nothing in return, simply gave Kayombo a blank look.

“Baby-“

“I brought you some brunch.” Alicia said and laid the basket on the ground before turning to leave. Kayombo grabbed her by the shoulder and stood in front of her.

“This is not what it looks like.” Kayombo insisted. “I know I should have told you about her coming here but I wanted to tell you in person.”

“I understand.” Alicia said, her voice void of any emotions. “I have to take Buseko somewhere, I’ll see you later Kayombo.”

“No, you can’t live like this, Alicia.” Kayombo begged her.

Alicia came to an abrupt stop. “Tell me something,” she told Kayombo. “If the roles were reversed, if you found Kondwani in my house like that, what would you think?”

“I would be upset of course but more importantly, I would trust you.” He answered. “I would trust you Alicia. I know this looks pretty bad but you trust me, right?”

“Of course I trust you,” she said.

Kayombo heaved a sigh of relief.

“But I also know that I do not yet love you enough to tolerate this kind of set up Kayombo.” She said matter-of-factly and immediately wiped off the smile of Kayombo’s face.

“Yet, you said you do not love me enough yet.” He said. “That means you will love me like that someday Alicia.”

“It took a while for me to convince myself to come here today but that in itself says a lot doesn’t it?” Alicia said. “I have to go. You need to spend time with your family.”

The moment Alicia was gone, Kayombo went back into the house and went straight to the bedroom Gwen was using with their child and started throwing her things out.

“What do you think you’re doing Kayombo?” Gwen ran after him to stop him from hailing her clothes and suitcase outside.

“I knew that you coming here would be trouble but I didn’t think this would happen so soon!” Kayombo said, throwing the stuff on the floor in anger as Gwen was holding him back from walking any further.

“Get your stuff and get out of my house Gwen!” he shouted.

Gwen held on tighter to his trousers and went down on her knees crying. “I’m not going anywhere, am staying here with you.”

“Well then you stay and I’ll go. It seems you want to be here more than me so stay.” He kicked her away, grabbed his keys from the living room table and was about to head out of the house when his daughter started crying from the kitchen where Gwen had left her before going to answer the door.

For a moment during the commotion Kayombo had forgotten about their daughter. He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to look at Gwen, suddenly noticing how much she had changed from the floor where she was still kneeling. Since when did the proud Ms Miyoba kneel for anyone?

“I know you don’t believe me when I tell you that I love you,” Gwen cried. “But I carried your child, our child for nine whole months in my womb and whether I like or not that changed me. I love the father of my child and I keep hoping that even if you don’t love me back, you can at least love your child.”

Gwen’s innocent plea was the slap Kayombo needed to bring him back to reality. “C’mon, get up.” He said, stretching out his hand to help her up. Gwen took his hand and got up from the floor.

“I just need some time alone to think,” he said. “I’ll be back.” He said and left the room.
Alicia made sure to keep herself busy for the rest of that day, playing with her son until she was beyond exhausted. When they got back home, she bathed him and put him to bed before filling up her own tab and soaking herself in the water till she fell asleep in there, only to be awaked an hour later when the water turned cold.

Before getting into bed, she switched on her phone which she had turned off after leaving Kayombo’s place and found twenty-five missed calls from him and three missed calls from a strange number.

“Does he think am dumb?” She asked herself. “Calling me on a strange line thinking I’ll answer.”

She threw the phone on the other side of the bed and was ready to get under the sheets when the phone rang again. She checked and it was the same number. She let it ring until it could ring no more but still it rang again and again until she answered it out of frustration.

“What do you want Kayombo!?” She snapped.

“Ms Alicia?” It was a female’s voice, not Kayombo.

“Hello, who’s this?” Alicia asked.

“I know you don’t me well, but we met once,” the lady said in a very calm and controlled voice. “My name is Chilufya Chileshe, I am Kondwani’s young sister.”

“Kondwani’s sister?” Alicia sat up straight, her heart suddenly beating fast.

“I am very sorry to call you this late but I think you need to come to the hospital.” Chilufya said, her voice suddenly breaking before she starts to cry.

“Hospital? Why? What’s wrong? Did soething happen to your mum?”

“No, mum is fine,” Chilufya said, desperately trying to hold herself together. “It’s Wani, he was attacked a few hours ago and he’s in the hospital. He’s been asking for you.”

Alicia was up on her feet getting herself ready before Chilufya could finish talking. Despite having a million questions, there was only one thing she needed to know; “how bad is he?”

“He was beat up pretty bad but he put up a fight as well…but they were many. They beat him till he lost consciousness but he’s awake now.”

“I’m on my way right now.” Alicia said, sounding almost out of breath. “I am in Kitwe so it will take a while for me to reach Lusaka but I will see you soon. Please, take care of him.”

“Thank you Alicia.” Chilufya said and cut the line.

Alicia quickly gave instructions to her babysitter before leaving the house, gave her son a kiss and off she drove through the night to Lusaka.

She was in Kondwani’s room by 3 in the morning where she found him and his three siblings sleeping on either side of his bed. Given his position at the hospital, he had the best and the biggest ward a man of his standing could have. Chilufya was the first to awaken when the moment she heard the door open.

“You’re here?” She said, getting up and quickly waking her siblings up. “Wake up guys. Let’s go out for a bit.”

“Hi.” Both Mwansa and Gift greeted Alicia at the same time.

Alicia nervously smiled back and them and approached Kondwani’s bed as the family left the room.

“He was sedated a while ago,” Chilufya announced from the door. “He was in so much pain they had to-“

Alicia smiled at the deeply perturbed sister. “I know, it’s okay. I’ll wait for him to wake up. Do you guys have somewhere to wait?”

“We were given a room, that’s where mum is. They advised her against sitting up all night in here, they had to force her out. Maybe we can all get some rest now that you’re here. Thank you so much for coming.”

“It’s not a problem,” Alicia said. “Thank you for calling me. I really-“ She heard Kondwani shift and turned to check on him. “Kondwani?” Her eyes were lit with excitement as Kondwani slowly opened his eyes.

Chilufya quietly exited the room and closed the door behind her.

“Alicia,” he tried to sit up the moment he recognized her face from behind his very swollen face.

“Is this how ugly you’ve become after chasing me away?” Alicia laughed softly, gently touching his face around the swollen places.

“I want to hug you so bad but I can’t move most parts of my body.” He tried to get up but she held him down.

“Don’t move, are you crazy?”

“Gosh, you look so beautiful. How can you look this good without me in your life?” he asked.

“Who said you ever left my life?” She asked, smiling as she took his hand and kissed it. “Who did this to you?”

“One very stupid short man, a coward and a son of a bit-“ She put her hand over his swollen lips to keep him from cussing.

“Why does Mr Miyoba hate you so much?” Alicia asked.

“Because he is a very foolish incompetent man that got lucky once and thinks luck is all it takes to build empires in this world. I should have dealt with him once and for all when I had the chance. Now he’s left me with no choice.”

“How can you seriously hope to get better when you are already plotting evil before you are healed?” Alicia said.

Kondwani tried to laugh but stopped himself. “You are still my Alicia aren’t you? Always trying to straighten me out. Do you still hate me?”

“Yes.” She said simply.

“Ouch,” Kondwani feigned pain. “Can’t you feel sorry for a brother? I was almost killed a few hours ago you know. Try to be gentle with me.”

“Emotional blackmail won’t work with me Mr. I am still very mad at you. How can you not call me, not even once for seven long months?”

“Because I was too proud to admit I still needed you after chasing you like that. I was ashamed. But also, because I was too proud and kept hoping that you would be the first one to call. I forgot that you’re just as stubborn as I am.”

“Me stubborn?” She said, innocently pointing at herself.

“Why didn’t you call me?” He asked.

“Because I thought you hated me.” She said.

“So, stubborn and stupid,” he remarked jokingly. “I do hope our kids don’t take after you.”

“Better that take after me than you who almost got himself killed yesterday!” Alicia protested.

“I take that as a yes,” Kondwani said. “You better not change your mind.” He took her hand and kissed her ring finger.

Alicia’s jaw dropped, suddenly realizing what had just happened. “You sneaky-“

“Bastard?” Kondwani finished for her, smiling.

“You’re a patient so I’ll be kind, sneaky foolish man who should have called me a long time ago. I will tell our kids about you, you just wait and see.” She kissed him softly on the forehead. “Gosh, you look awful, but I still love you.” she kissed him lightly on his lips this time.

“Ouch!” He said, touching his bruised lips. “Woman, control yourself now, am a patient.

Alicia laughed. “I have been mad at you for such a long time and I always thought about what I would say to you if we ever met but here I am looking at you…and all of that doesn’t matter. I am just thanking God for keeping you alive for me.”

Kondwani wrapped his hands around hers. “I love you Alicia Daka. I promise to give you a proper proposal once am back to being handsome and fit.”

Alicia scowled playfully. “And what if that never happens!?” She asked. “I have to spend the rest of my life with an unfit, ugly and arrogant man? Dear Lord, what have I done to deserve this?”

Kondwani laughed. “You are happy to see me like this aren’t you? Is this your revenge?”

“Yes, it’s your debt to me.” she said. “You should have never let me go in the first place now look what’s happened to you?”

“My debt of love to you right?” He said. “I lived like a stupid man and lost my woman. Now I have to live the rest of my life loving you like you like you deserve to be loved, with my whole life.”

“Why do I feel like you’re complaining?” she asked.

He laughed. “How can I complain when am winning?”

“Winning?” She asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Because I know you’re going to love me back with interest.”

Alicia laughed. “Always a sneaky-“

“Bastard?” He finished for her again.

“I prefer husband.” She said. “My sneaky future husband.”

“Future sounds too far, can we make it tomorrow?” It was Claudia who entered the room, her daughter Chilufya pushing her wheelchair from behind. Mwansa and Gift were nowhere in sight.

“That’s why I love you mum.” Kondwani said proudly. “You always have my back.”

“I’m sorry,” Chilufya looked apologetically at Alicia for intruding on them. “Mum insisted on coming to see you the moment she heard you had arrived. I couldn’t-“

Alicia walked over to the two women. “No, it’s totally fine. I also wanted to see her.” She greeted Kondwani’s mother. “I am sorry I wasn’t able to see you after the accident. I-“

“It’s alright my dear.” Claudia said. “That’s all in the past now. I am just so glad to see here, today.”

“Me too.” Alicia said.

“Do you mind giving me a ride around the hospital?” Claudia asked.

“Of course not.” Chilufya stepped aside and Alicia moved over.

“I haven’t even finished catching up with her where are you taking her mum?” Kondwani sulked.

“Chilufya will keep you company son, I’ll bring back your woman soon.” She laughed and urged Alicia to help her out.

“Do you think they’ll be alright?” Kondwani asked his sister concerning Claudia and Alicia.

“Of course they will be. Why not? Alicia paid for everything when she chose to forgive. No more pain. She paid everyone’s debt, including yours.”

“Um um,” Kondwani shook his head. “Not mine, at least not just yet. I intend to earn it, for the rest of my life.”

“Your debt of love?” Chilufya asked.

“Yes, my debt of love.” He said, smiling as the images of his future with Alicia played in his head.

There’s would not be an ordinary love. It would be a life worth exploring, a life fulfilled….a life worth living.

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Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 19

“She is lying. I promise you.” Stephen said to the one person he needed to hear his words; not his overbearing aunt, not to Mwansa’s frightening brother or scorned mother, and certainly not to his pretentious cousins…but to Alicia, the sister to the only woman who’s heart he needed to win over at all cost.

“Please believe me,” Stephen begged when the suspicion on Alicia’s face appeared unfazed by his reassuring words. He grabbed Alicia’s hand, causing Kondwani to shift uncomfortably where he was now standing next to his mother, but still unable to move completely for fear of blowing wind on the flames already blazing the evening skies.

“But Steve-“ Alicia started to say.

“You know very well that I have changed Licia.” Stephen pressed his case. I have never, not even once gotten intimate with Mwansa. Please believe me.”

Aunt Mary forced Stephen away from Alicia by grabbing at his shoulder. “Why are you explaining yourself to her young man?” Mary hissed. “I am your mother,” She said. “Don’t you think you owe me an explanation?”

All this while, Mwansa kept sobbing silently, her hands covering her face in what Stephen could only assume was shame and embarrassment.

“I lied!” Mwansa spat, finally dropping her hands from her face. Everyone turned to look at her. “I just wanted to scare Steve for a bit but I didn’t think there would be all these people here!” And turning to her brother, “what are you even doing here!?” She asked.

Kondwani appeared taken aback slightly by his sister’s accusing tone but quickly recovered, disappointment registering all over his face. “When will you grow up Mwansa?”

“But son,” Claudia turned to her son. “What are you doing here?” She repeated her daughter’s question.

“I came to pick up Alicia,” he said.

Not sure what to do anymore given the unexpected turn of events, Alicia gave up on her mission to confront her former mother in-law. “Let’s go.” She said to Knodwani and turned to leave.

“Not so fast,” Exhildah grabbed Alicia by the hand, forcing her to turn back around. “You think you can just leave after barging into our home like that Alicia.”

Kondwani sensed the impending danger and quickly walked over to the two ladies staring at each other aggressively. “I don’t think this is the right time to talk about this.” He grabbed Exhildah’s hand that was gripping Alicia’s and forcefully pulled it off of her. “Alicia and I have somewhere to be.” Just as he was turning to lead them away, like a tag team Mwila and Rose blocked his way.

“Your girlfriend here barged into our home and levelled accusations at our mother.” Rose said.

It was now Mary’s turn to do some damage control. “Girls,” she took her daughters by their hands and started pulling them away from Alicia and Kondwani. “Have you forgotten that it’s my birthday today?”

“Aunt is right.” Stephen chipped in. “We can talk about this another time.”

Rose, who appeared suspicious from the onset pulled her hand away from her mother and stopped in her tracks. “What’s going on here?” She shouted on top of her voice, looking at everyone around before finally settling on Stephen.

“You know what she wanted to say don’t you?” Rose asked Stephen.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Rose.” Stephen feigned ignorance. “I am just trying to remind everyone that it’s Aunt Mary’s birthday today so we should be considerate. Whatever Alicia wanted to say can be said another day.”

“No.” Mwila said defiantly and confronted Alicia again. “What money did mum receive and who is Mrs Mulako? We are going to talk about this once and for all. You were so determined to shame our mother but you suddenly lost your wings when you saw your doctor boyfriend. You’ve already ruined a perfectly good day for everyone so might as well ruin it to the very end.”

“I ruined your day?” Alicia couldn’t hide her disgust. “If you-“

“Alicia,” Kondwani forced a visibly upset Alicia from talking any further, his eyes loudly and sincerely pleading with her.

Alicia kept quiet.

“Did you see that!?” Rose pointed at the two of them. “He just gave her a look and she went quiet. Something is going on here and it somehow involves mum and this handsome doctor.” She smiled for effect as she made reference to Kondwani and looked up at him.

Claudia came to stand next to her son. “What’s going on son?” She asked.

“It’s nothing mother.” Kondwani said sternly. “It’s just a misunderstanding Alicia and I had.”

“What misunderstanding would you have with Alicia that would have the both of you come all the here and make her accuse mum of receiving money?” Exhildah asked. “Wait,” she added as an after thought, turning to face her mother. “Did you pay someone to interfere in Alicia’s love-life?”

“What?” Mary asked in disbelief, such a thought having never once crossed her mind. “What do you take me for?”

“Then what money was she referring to?” Exhildah asked.

“Does this have something to do with Nicolas?” Rose asked, winning herself glacial stares from everyone.

“Nicolas?” Claudia said, her mind deep in thought. First it was the name Mrs Mulako that had peaked her attention and now it was this name Nicolas. What is going on here? She wondered. “Where have I heard that name before?” She looked from Kondwani to Mwansa. Her youngest daughter shrugged her shoulders but the look of horror on Kondwani’s face told a whole different story.

“Who is Nicolas?” Claudia asked Kondwani.

“He isn’t anyone you know mother.” Kondwani said. “I need to take my mother home now-“ Kondwani put his arm over his mother’s shoulder and was ready to lead her away when Exhildah’s voice stopped him.

“I think I know what this is about,” the eldest of the Kabwe offsprings said. “This is about Nicolas’ accident isn’t it?” She looked from her mother to Kondwani for confirmation, and then back to her mother. “What did you do mum?” She asked her mother accusingly.

Mary was shaking all over. “What do you mean what did I do?”

“What accident?” Claudia asked, her eyes exposing the emotions suddenly going on inside her. She finally remembered where she had heard the name Nicolas.

“Who are these people?” Exhildah asked her mother.

“How should I know?” Mary asked. She too didn’t know how Kondwani’s family was connected to hers apart from the connection that came with Alicia but after seeing the doctor’s face, she knew that Alicia must have told him something about what she had heard concerning Nicolas’ accident and the hush money she had received.

“Is this about that accident?” Claudia asked her son, her heart suddenly beating fast for a reason she did not yet know. She could feel the danger coursing through her body harder and harder with every second that passed.

“What do you know about my brother’s accident?” Exhildah confronted the woman.

Kondwani pulled his mother behind him to shield her from Exhildah’s accusing glare. “My mother doesn’t know anything about this so keep her out of this.” And turning to his sister. “Take mum home right now!” He commanded Mwansa, and when she hesitated, “take her right now!” he yelled.

Mwansa rushed over to her mother’s side but Claudia refused to move. “I am not leaving this place until you tell me what’s going on.” She said. “I always knew that there was something you were keeping from me. Is this it?”

The innocence on Claudia’s face and the fear written all over her gave Alicia pause. For a moment everything around her froze in time as she took in the damage she had just caused by lashing out at Mary prematurely. How was she supposed to know that the woman who had caused the death of her beloved would show up right there and then? In as much as she wanted to hate Kondwani’s mother, she knew that doing so would be futile. The woman did not even know that she had killed someone!

But Alicia needed to blame someone for her cold reality and the closest she could blame was Kondwani and Mary. These two knew exactly what had happened that day and for their own selfish reasons had kept the truth to themselves, putting her instead on the chopping board to take on the blame single-handedly.

What wrong had she ever done to anyone that she should be betrayed by the people she cared about in such a cruel manner? And of all people she could have fallen in-love with, why did it have to be with the man who had a hand in her late boyfriend’s death?

Why did it have to be you Kondwani? Alicia asked herself as her eyes narrowed in on Kondwani whose major concern now was his mother. Something about mother and son brought tears to Alicia’s eyes.

Stephen dropped his shoulders resignedly, concluding that they had reached a point of no return now. He walked back and sat on the door steps, behind everyone else, his hands covering his face as he sighed heavily.

“Are these the people that killed Nick?” Rose asked her mother.

Mary could only shake her head in response. “I don’t know these people.” She said absent-mindedly.

“Mrs Mulako used to be my boss.” Claudia announced. “How did you know about her?” She asked Alicia.

Alicia in turn turned to Kondwani, not sure what to say.

“Did someone die in that accident?” Claudia’s question was addressed to everyone standing there. “Who is Nicolas?” She finally settled on her son.

“Nicolas was our brother,” Mwila provided. “He was killed in an accident six years ago.”

“He…he…he…died?” Claudia asked, tears streaming down her eyes. She did not need to ask any more questions. she could infer from many incidences in her own home that the accident being referred to here was the very one she had been involved in.

Mwansa quickly put her arms around her mother. “Mum, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

“Did you know our brother?” Exhildah asked Claudia.

Claudia could not respond to Exhildah question, instead she kept her teary gaze focused on her son.

“What’s going on here?” Exhildah asked when Claudia kept crying, no words coming out of her mouth.

“Let me explain everything to you at home mother.” Kondwani tried to put his arm over his mother’s shoulder but she shoved it away.

To everyone’s surprise, Claudia suddenly dropped to her knees before everyone, sobbing heavily. “I am so sorry,” She said in-between sobs. “I didn’t know…I…I had no-“

Kondwani bent down to force her up on her feet but Claudia wouldn’t barge.

“What is she apologizing for?” Rose asked.

“I was the one who caused that accident that night…the one that killed your brother.” Claudia confessed.

“What?” The three sisters and Mwansa asked all at once.

“Mum what are you talking about?” Mwansa asked her mother.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Kondwani jumped in. “Mum please, get up.”

“Leave me alone!” Claudia shouted. “How could you-“ and then she stopped herself, forced herself back up to her feet and went to where Mary was standing, shock written all over her face.

“Ma’am-“ Claudia started to say to the woman standing in front of her.

Mary’s eyes where blazing fire. “You are the one that killed my son?”

Kondwani was right behind his mother just in case Mary decided to get out of control. He had seen that woman deal mercilessly with Alicia before and there was no way in hell he was going to let her treat his mother like that.

Mary turned her wrath towards Kondwani. “You knew about this and you still dared to go after my son’s woman?” She accused him. “Aren’t you afraid of karma?”

Kondwani scoffed at her. “I should be asking you the same question.” He fired back.

“What?” Mary said.

“You are one to talk.” He said. “Compared to what my mother did, what you did to the memory of your son must have him shaking in his in the grave every single day.”

Mary raised her hand to slap him across the face but Kondwani gripped her by her wrist and forcefully brought her hand down. “My mother might have been the one behind the wheel that night but she did not kill your son.” He explained.

“If I didn’t kill him then why did you keep the truth from me?” Claudia asked.

“Did this woman actually kill our Nicolas?” Rose checked her sister’s for confirmation but they both looked blank, not sure what was really unravelling before them. Stephen remained watching from the side-lines having resolved to let the adults deal with the issue on their own. Perhaps it was about time the truth came out.

Belinda.

Stephen sat up, suddenly alert and alive. What did this new revelation mean for him and Belinda?

“I am ready to face the consequences of my actions.” Claudia said to Mary, still crying.

“What consequences are you talking about mother?” Kondwani roughly shook his mother as if to force her back to her senses. “What consequences are you talking about and who here is going to make you face them?”

Exhildah proudly stepped forward. “If it’s true she’s the one who caused that accident that killed my brother then she has to face the law. There’s no statute of limitation on murder.”

“Murder?” Kondwani spat. “What murder are you talking about? Do you even know what you are talking about? Murder??”

“If it wasn’t, then why did the cops say it was an accident?” Mwila asked. “I heard that you are some rich doctor, you probably paid some corrupt people to-“

“Oh, you want to talk about payments now right?” Kondwani addressed the three sisters itching to deliver some justice for their brother. “Talk to your mother about that.” He pointed at Mary. “This woman here received money not from my family, but from the woman who owned the car that my mother was driving that night. My mother didn’t even know that the man in the other car had died.”

“Mum?” Exhildah looked at her mother. “Is what he’s saying true?”

“Is this the money Alicia was talking about?” Mwila asked.

While her two older sisters waited for answers from their mother, Rose started crying, the implication of Kondwani’s accusations ripping her heart to pieces. While Exhildah and Mwila were giving their mother the benefit of doubt, Rose had already made her own conclusions. She had seen the fear in her mother’s eyes when Alicia brought up the topic and she could still see that same fear…and shame right now.

“Wait,” Exhildah turned to Alicia. “You knew about all this?”

“I also just found out a few hours ago.” Alicia said. “That’s why I came here like that.”

“Mother?” Mwila was still focused on her mother. “Is what they’re accusing you of true?”

“So what if it’s true!?” Mary snapped.

“What?” Exhildah said, taken aback by her mother’s sudden admission of guilt.

“Yes, I accepted the money from the owner of the car.” Mary said. “My son was gone already and there was nothing I could do to bring him back. So what was wrong with me accepting the money if it was going to give a better life to my children who were still alive? I am sure Nicolas didn’t mind me getting that money.”

“Mother!” Exhildah cried in disappointment and sorrow over her brother’s tainted memory. “How could you?”

“Oh don’t judge me!” Mary shouted. “You’ve all lived such glorious lives thanks to that money. There’s nothing wrong with what I did. I did what any mother would have done.”

“You sold your own son’s chance at justice.” Mwila accused her mother. “You allowed the people responsible for his death to go scot-free!”

“I promise you I had no idea someone had died.” Claudia said to Mwila. “I don’t know what my son was thinking keeping that information from me but I am ready to pay for my mistake-“

“You are not going to pay for anything mum, get that into your head.” Kondwani said pointedly. “I was the one who asked you leave the scene and I actively participated in the cover-up. If anyone here is going to pay anything it’s me and this woman here.” He gestured at Mary with his head.

“What do you mean pay together with my mother?” Rose asked.

Stephen took this opportunity to get up and chip in. “If any of you plan on taking this to the police, it’s not just the people that caused the accident that are going to face the wrath of the law, Aunty Mary committed a crime by accepting hush money when she knew a crime had obviously been committed.”

“So you want us to keep quiet and not report these people?” Exhildah asked.

“You can report them if you like,” Stephen said nonchalantly. “That’s up to you. I’m just letting you know the chain events that will naturally result from making such a report.”

“Whose side are you on cous?” Rose asked Stephen.

“Is there anything like sides here?” Stephen asked. “I’m just trying to save you a lot of drama. Yes, I wish someone can pay for Nick’s death but making them face the law will also put Aunt Mary in the line of fire don’t you guys get it?”

Exhildah turned accusing eyes at her mother. “Was the money worth it mum?” She asked. “I am ashamed to even look at you and call you my mother.” She said and rushed towards the house.

Rose ran after her.

“I don’t even know what to say to you.” Mwila said to Mary and followed her sisters into the house.

Alicia approached Kondwani. “Are you satisfied?” She asked him, her eyes as cold as ice.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked.

“You managed to protect your family, like you wanted.” She said. “But what about me? What about my son? What do you want me to do? Right now I have nothing to lose. I don’t care much for the woman who made me feel guilty for her son’s death while she kept spending the money she received and made me pay for it by taking my son away from me…so I don’t have any problem reporting her to the police…but what about you and your mother? Is this why you approached me, to make it hard for me to report your crime?”

Kondwani wanted to remind her that he was not the one that approached her in the first place. If anything, he had done his best in the beginning to stay away from her but she had made her feelings for him known and sent his world in disarray. But he could not risk saying that to her. He had done enough damage already so why not just take on the guilt for everything that was happening to them and his family.

“I really had no idea-“ Claudia started to say but Kondwani cut her off.

“Feel free to do whatever you want Alicia,” He said. “But please, I only have one request. I know I have no right to ask this of you but please, keep my mother out of this when you decide to report. I was the one who made the mistake that night. Your son’s father could have lived had I done the right thing so it’s me that should pay the price.”

Kondwani’s words broke Alicia into pieces. She could feel it in his tone that he had already given up on them, a realization that shook her more than she dared admit given the reality surrounding them.

She should be happy that he had given up on her seeing that she could not forgive him for his betrayal but why did she feel like her world had just come to an end with his cold curt words?

“Is that all you have to say to me?” Alicia cried.

“What do you want me to say in this situation Alicia?” Kondwani asked. “Nothing I say will convince you of anything. I broke your trust a long time ago and I-“

“Can’t you even try!?” She cried. “Did you even care about me or was this all about protecting your mother? Can’t you see me breaking apart right here? Don’t you see my pain?”

Kondwani dropped his hands from his mother’s shoulders and moved to go to Alicia but she held out her hand. “Don’t bother.” She said. “Don’t even bother. I get the message.” She said and started running towards the gate.

“Go after her.” Claudia said to her son.

Kondwani felt conflicted for a few seconds but decided it was his mother that needed him the most in that moment. “I will talk to her later,” he said. “I will drive you home and Mwansa can drive your car back.”

“I can’t drive alone,” Mwansa said. “I only got my licence a few weeks ago so I need someone with me in the car. It’s scary-“

“But how did you drive here then?” Kondwani asked.

“Mum was there with me so-“

“See,” Claudia took her son’s hand. “Go after Alicia. I am okay, I am not as weak as you think I am. Of course am a little shaken up but I can take care of myself. Go after your girl and we will talk later at home.”

“Are you sure you can drive?” Kondwani asked his sister.

“As long as there’s someone in the car with me I can even drive all the way to Chipata.” She laughed.

“Since I never drive the car myself she’s been the one driving it mostly.” Claudia said. “We are safe. Go after your girl before it’s too late.

Kondwani planted a kiss on his mother’s forward and then turned to his sister. “Drive safely, and call me when you reach home. I will be there soon.”

“Okay bro.” Mwansa said.

“Please, convince your girlfriend not to go to the police ah.” Mary said to Kondwani before he turned to leave but he simply threw her a blank look and walked away without responding.

Claudia turned to Mary before leaving. “I don’t even know what to say….” The guilt she felt over her role she played in the death of the woman’s son keeping her from looking her in the eyes.

“Just convince that girl to keep her mouth shut and all this will be in the past.” Mary said and went back into the house.

Only Steven remained standing there with them. Mwansa was too embarrassed to look at him so she kept her gaze lowered.

“Get home safely ma’am.” Stephen said to Kondwani’s mother and left.

“Let’s go.” Claudia said to her daughter and led the way back to the car.

Outside Mary Kabwe’s home, Kondwani drove for a few minutes before finally finding Alicia. She was crossing the road to wait at the bus station. He parked in front of the bus station, got out of the car and grabbed her by the hand while she still had her back to the road.

Alicia was surprised to see Kondwani there and before she could take in what was happening, he was fixing the seatbelt over her before walking back to his side and driving off.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked him. “Where are you taking me? I thought you said you had nothing to say to me.”

“There’s obviously a lot we need to talk about.” Kondwani said.

“I think your mother needs you right now more than you need to protect her from me opening my mouth.” She said. “Don’t worry, I am still thinking about whether to report you guys or not but I can assure you that it won’t happen today.”

Angry at her words, Kondwani suddenly drove the car off the road and parked to the side. “Is that why you think I came after you instead of being with my mother right now?” He asked her.

“You are the one who said there was nothing for us to talk about.” She said.

“You made me feel like I needed to choose between you and my mother Alicia so what did you want me to say or do? I am here right now and you are still questioning my motives. That’s why I said nothing I say to you right now will make you change your mind about what you think of me.”

“I didn’t ask you to come after me Kondwani,” she fired back. “You can go back to your mother if you like no one of forcing you to stay.” She started to unbuckle the seatbelt but Kondwani quickly reached out and placed his hand over hers.

“I’m sorry.” He said. “Don’t go.”

Alicia leaned back in her seat.

Five minutes passed and no word was spoken between them. They just sat there in silence, each consumed by their own thoughts.

“I-“ It was Kondwani who had finally decided to break the silence but his phone rang just then. He picked it up and saw Mwansa’s name on the screen.

“You’ve reached home already?” He asked, looking at his wrist watch.

But Mwansa was not talking on the other end of the line, she was crying.

Kondwani sat up and moved the phone to his other ear. “Mwansa, what’s wrong? Why are you crying? Did something happen? Did you get in an accident?”

“No,” his sister answered. “Not me….” and she cried some more.

Kondwani started his engine running. “Where are you right now?”

He waited for her response as she continued crying.

“Mwansa!” He yelled. “Stop crying and tell me what’s bloody going on right now!”

“It’s mum,” She said.

“What about mum?”

“We were passing though these shops here and she asked me to pack and get her some water.”

“Yes.” Kondwani was too anxious to wait for her to finish. “What happened then? Where is she right now?”

Mwansa started sobbing again.

“I didn’t see them pass here that means they went in the opposite direction.” Alicia said and Kondwani quickly turned the car around and started driving in that direction, one hand to his ear.

“I am heading in your direction right now.” Kondwani said. “Where’s mum Mwansa?”

“She’s in the car.” Mwansa said, still crying. Kondwani could hear a lot of noise in the background.

“Why is there so much noise there? Where exactly are you?”

“I was inside the store when I heard the noise.” MWansa said.

“What noise?”

“Mum,” his sister answered. “She got behind the wheel and drove the car into the tree across the road.”

Kondwani dropped the phone and hit the gas. “What have I done?” He kept reapeating as he drove.

“What happened?” Alicia asked. “What’s going on?”

“How can she do this?” Kondwani said to himself. “I should have driven them home.” He said, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Alicia picked up the phone that had fallen to her side of the seat and found the call had already been cut. When she looked up, she saw the commotion in front of them and immediately spotted the familiar car she had just seen packed outside Mary’s house rammed into the tree across the street.

“Dear Lord.” She gasped.

Kondwani parked the car and ran to the scene. Mwansa spotted him approaching and freed herself from the group of men holding her back from going to the car.

“She’s stuck in there and they won’t let me help her.” Mwansa cried into her brother’s hand.

“Take care of her for me,” Kondwani handed her to Alicia and rushed to the car.

Alicia took the sobbing Mwansa into her arms making sure to hide her face away from the scene of her mother’s bleeding body being taken out of the car. Mwansa tried to wiggle free to take a look but Alicia held her down tightly whispering;

“She’s going to be fine,” repeatedly. She might have been saying those words to Mwansa but deep down her heart she needed to say them out loud in order to believe them, not for Mwansa’s sake but for her own sake.

If Kondwani had not come after me, this would not have happened. Alicia thought as she watched a desperate Kondwani go into doctor mode to save his mother’s life.

This is my fault. Just like Nicolas. This is my fault. This is my curse. Why do bad things happen to the people I love?

What have I done again?

A World where Men Change Diapers

I am angry.

Before you call me crazy, let me explain why am angry.

I woke up very early this morning to prepare for a talk I have to give to a group of young women over the weekend when I stopped to take a break and went on Facebook to do a quick browse. A few minutes of me scrolling down my news feed had me looking at adorable pictures posted by a ‘friend’ showing her husband taking care of their infant. I bet you are now wondering what could have possibly upset me from looking at such adorable pictures. They are pictures of a wonderful father taking care of his child and the wife is obviously very proud of that! But here’s the thing, it is not necessarily the pictures that got me angry. Rather, it was the caption!

And please, don’t get me wrong here, even if this case might come off as me being the unrepentant feminist that I am, my anger is in no way a reflection of my personal views but rather, a reflection of what a real family picture should look like.

Oooh proud moment, hubby changing baby’s diaper. #raremoments, #Ihavethebesthubbyintheworld!

That was the caption that got me started.

Hold on now. You have the best whatiii??

I am not trying to be petty here but for me those hashtags meant more than just mere praise or words spoken carelessly by a wife or mother. For me, those words were a representation of what parenting is like in this world that we live in. Hers was not the first post of that nature that I have seen, it is one of the many many many I have come across and ignored on my Newsfeed and unfortunately, hers was the one that managed to finally tip me over.

I am angry about a number of things that seem to put women at a disadvantage in the family picture and I think I am entitled to vent if I wanna see any change take place. I just can’t hold it in any longer.

I am not for the idea of wives/women/mothers lauding their men for doing what they are supposed to do and making it seem like them doing it deserves some sort of medal. Who told you that a man changing his own child’s diaper makes him the husband of the year? I know that many will argue that it’s because not a lot of men do that and yes, you are very right! I totally agree with you and that’s exactly why I am writing this!

Why are there so few men that take on the responsibility of attending to their children’s physical or mental or emotional needs? Why? Who told men that it’s only the mother’s role to feed, clean and change the diapers? Who told you that it’s enough for the father to simply provide the money to buy the child’s clothes, food and provide shelter without taking an active role in raising that child? And women, who told you that you have the best husband in the world simply because he’s doing something that he is supposed to be doing? If he is doing all these things, what you have is a good husband and father to your children, he shouldn’t be the best of those categories because you should expect that the rest of the men out there by default should be doing the same.

And believe me, if he only changes your baby’s diapers/nappies once in a blue moon and you live in the same house, he is far from being the best of anything.

I am not against the idea of praising our partners when they do something great (and in this case I am referring to parenting) however, what I am against is the idea of both men and women assuming that taking care of their children is the sole responsibility of the mother. The danger with this kind of praise is that we make the men feel as if they are going an extra mile or doing something extra-ordinary when in actual sense they are doing something that they should be doing every day and not just when they feel like it! When a man changes his child’s diaper, he is not helping out his wife, NO. He is doing what a father is supposed to be doing! He is not doing anyone a favour.

A man physically taking care of his own child does not make him an exceptional man (although the current reality of the rarity of such men makes him so), it simply makes him a great father attending to his responsibilities which are and should be expected of him every single day.

A man might provide financially for his family but that shouldn’t exclude him from taking care of his own children whether the wife is busy with a day job or if she’s a house wife. No matter how much money you make as a man, taking care of your children is a responsibility of both parents and that includes changing of diapers as well!

What did a woman ever do to you to make you think that it is her sole responsibility to attend to the ‘dirt and the hard stuff’ of parenting while you only pick up the child when he or she is clean and parade them to the rest of the world making yourself seem like such a macho man for having highly functioning sperms? Is that all you really are in that child’s life, a sperm donor? The woman did not make that child alone and like I always tell my friends, chances are that the woman never even ‘came’ during the conception of that child whereas it’s a fact that the man did! So tell me again, who do you think should really be taking care of the poop and attending to all that crying and noise? This nonsense of shoving the kids to their mothers when they’ve soiled their pants or diapers needs to stop because that child is much yours as she is the mother’s.

For many years women have appreciated ‘men that help them out’ with physically taking care of their children and for years men have lived believing that it is none of their business what happens to their children when they poop, cry or whine over something…their job is to simply help out every now and then when the dear wife or mother is busy, sick or working out of town. But who told men that they are only helpers in this aspect of parenting? Isn’t it enough that the woman had to endure nine months of ridiculous cravings and hormonal changes and carrying around another human inside her body everywhere she went and now you want to leave her alone to handle the ‘mess’ that comes after delivery?

I understand that it’s an accepted fact that women are better caregivers but taking care of your children’s needs is the responsibility of both parents. Both mother and father are supposed…and are expected to participate a hundred percent in the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and all round growth of their children. Whether the woman had stayed at home lazing around the whole day while the man worked his brains out at the office the whole day, when he gets home, he still has the responsibility to take care of his child because that’s his child and even if it kills him, he has to spend time and attend to his/her needs (whether it’s to change nappies or tell a bed time story).

I was raised in a home where the only ‘father-daughter’ moments I experienced involved a rod and sobbing. I have no memories of my father putting bandages on my wounds or soothing me from crying. My mother did all of these things. However, I do have memories of my father taking us kids all out for shopping and as far as I was concerned, that was all a father was supposed to do for his children. It was only later when I grew a little older that I realized I had had absolutely no relationship with my father and I cannot even begin to tell you how this affected how I related with men later on in life.

I want to fight for a world where men do not feel like they can get away from their responsibilities simply because of their gender. Not taking care of your children does not in any way make you more of a man than your sperm count ever will. I want to fight for a world where women do not make allowances for their men’s bad behaviour or short-comings but to make them accountable and fight to see change. As much as men expect you to be a good wife and mother to the children, expect and demand the same from them. If you keep quiet simply because you fear losing him to a much complacent and ‘domesticated’ woman, then I am sad to inform you that you married a fool. There is a huge difference between submissiveness and foolishness.

I strongly believe that the only way the above can be achieved is if things were put in perspective right from the onset, before the marriage and more so before the children come into the picture. Even way better is if parents inculcated this inot their children from childhood.

On that very first date, my fellow women, do not simply dress up and put on a persona that will ‘help you win the audition for the role of wife’ and end it there. I am not saying don’t look good when going on dates, am simply saying have the right reasons for looking good! If you are going there to audition to be his wife, be prepared to make him audition for the role of husband in your life as well! Why should you be the only one earning his love, he too should earn your love and trust!

I am so tired of seeing women constantly auditioning to fit into the lives of their potential suitors and neglecting who they really are. They put aside their principles, personalities, and ambitions simply because they want the ring and what we get in the end is a society filled with dull and complacent women married to half-baked and sometimes raw…very very raw men. The man has a thousand expectations from you and yet you have zero expectations from him as a husband or father because for you the fact that you are married is good enough.

How many times have you heard the world or the church preach about the ‘the wife material kind of woman’ and how many times have you heard them preach about the ‘husband material type of man?’ The world keeps teaching women to aspire to marriage and they tease men about losing their freedom once they tie the knot. At the end of the day we have married men still acting like single men and married women religiously holding on to their marriage bands expecting no change from their underperforming and promiscuous husbands.

Today I have a challenge for both men and women;

Men, please step up and earn the good women that you so desperately desire. You can’t have the best of both worlds; whores/side-chicks and good wives. I will be honest with you, one woman is a lot of work, on her own she can bring you to either greatness or great ruin. Now imagine having to physically or emotionally handle two or more of them at the same time? And here’s a quick thought; if you think that a side-chick is good for you, and you are aware that you and your wife are one, then it’s safe to conclude that a side-dude is good for her as well right? Because let’s face it, women too think it’s fun to sleep with all the men they find attractive! My point here is that Sin is not gender based; Adultery does not appear blue when a man commits it and red when a woman does. It’s all the same colour. And dear men, be to your children the kind of father you desire for yourself and be to your wives the kind of husband’s you would want if the genders where reversed.

To my fellow women, please, I beg of you, stop settling for the pathetic and men of low quality that keep appearing with rings in front of you. ‘Shipikishaling’ does not make you a Proverbs 31 woman, don’t lie to yourself. You have the power to prevent a shipikisha kind of marriage even before you go on that first date. Unless you have a thing for foolish men, please, you have the right to expect the best from your partner and you have the right to remind them when they seem to have forgotten (or teach them when they don’t know) that you also deserve breakfast in bed, a massage when you are tired, and a day to just watch tv or hang out with the girls without feeling guilty about it. And most importantly, remind him that you did not make those children alone, they are both your responsibility regardless of what job either of you has.

Together, let’s build better families.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 18

(In Draft form)

The walls narrowed in around Kondwani. Never before had he felt suffocated by his large and well-furnished office. With every word that fell out of Alicia’s mouth, the harder it became for him to breath.

“Please, tell me, what was that I heard?”

Different words put together to form a sentence but all carrying the same meaning, the things spoken by Alicia from the moment Kondwani laid her down on the chair from the lift after she had momentarily passed out.

“Can you leave?” Kondwani addressed Doctor Kayombo who had followed them to the office.

It was obvious he was an unwelcome guest in Kondwani’s office but for some reason he could not get himself to leave. He had been the one to open the cane of worms and more than the pleasure of seeing Kondwani brought to ruin, he was concerned about Alicia’s welfare.

“I need to talk to Alicia, in private.” Kondwani told the unflinching Kayombo whose eyes were glued on Alicia.

Alicia slowly lifted her pounding head up to look at Kondwani. “Sam will only leave if you promise to tell me everything, the whole truth.” She implored him. “No more secrets, no lies, please.”

Kondwani went to kneel before his girlfriend but he could tell just how distant they had become in that short time by the hurt and untrusting look in her eyes…and how her body flinched at his touch the moment he came in contact with her. He could already feel her slipping away.

“I promise.” Was all he could say in that moment. He then turned and motioned Kayombo to leave.

“I’ll be somewhere close by,” Kayombo said. “Just shout if you need me to come and-“

“Samuel!” Kondwani thundered and the doctor quickly left the room.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on now?” Alicia asked, her hands shaking from all the possibilities playing in her head. “What Kayombo said,” she stuttered. “About Nicolas’ accident…how…I mean, how is your mother involved? And you,” she was looking at his hands that where holding hers at this point.

Slowly, she lifted her eyes up to look him in the eyes. “How are you involved?”

Kondwani dropped his head into her hands which were placed on her laps and sighed heavily. This was all so sudden and expected. How was he supposed to explain to her that his own mother had been behind the wheel of the car that killed her fiancé and father of her child? Just how was he supposed to tell her that he had been the one to cover up everything just to protect her? How was he supposed to tell her that despite knowing who she was, he had dared fall for her and accepted her heart?

As far as he was concerned, there were no words in the dictionary he could use to deliver such truths and achieve a different outcome from the one expected. No matter how much he tried to paraphrase or sugar-coat or even make excuses for his actions, there was nothing on the face of the earth that could stop him from paying the ultimate price of losing her.

A minute had gone by and Kondwani’s head was still buried in her laps, the pregnant silence lingering in the air heightening her panic.

A fresh cold streak of tears rolled down her cheeks.

Alicia’s worst nightmare had just come alive.

She slowly but determinedly forced Kondwani from off her laps and removed her hands from his. “What did you do?”

Kondwani could not risk looking at her. He could feel every ouch of her distaste in the air and it was burning him at the tips of his fingers where he had just tried to touch her.

She was now sobbing.

Alicia got up from her chair and started rocking Kondwani from the floor where he was still kneeling, his head dropped in shame, afraid to look up and face her judgement. So this is what the end felt like, he thought as he surrendered to her frustrations. Alicia was gripping his shoulders and shaking him back and force with a vengeance.

“Tell me the truth Kondwani! Tell me!”

Something foreign was happening to him from the floor where he was still kneeling. He had first felt the coldness against his skin and when he looked down at his laps he saw the spot where his tears had just fell.

In seconds Kondwani was transposed from present to future, to a time when he had last cried out of fear, when he knew his life was about to a take a turn of no return…he, a man that never showed his hand or fear to anyone.

“He’s gone,” Kondwani had heard the doctor’s words from behind the wall where he had been hiding.

“He didn’t stand a chance.” The doctor had said to the family of the young man. “He was brought in late…he lost a lot of blood.”

Kondwani’s insides had turned upon hearing those fateful words and before his mouth could give way to whatever was boiling inside him, he had ran, almost bumping into the girl that was now rocking his senses back to reality.

Theirs was a fate delayed and time had come to collect its dues.

There was no escaping this time around, Kondwani reasoned. He grabbed hold of Alicia’s hands to stop her from hitting him any further and slowly he raised himself from the floor.

“I am so so so sorry baby.” He still could not bring himself to look her in the eye and so he kept his head down.

Kondwani put his hands on her shoulders and carefully seated her back on the chair in front of his desk. “I know that I am a son of a bitch, and a coward too…so, am going to stand over there by the window as I tell you everything but please Alicia,” this time around he raised his head to look at her.

“Promise to hear me out all the way to the end.” He said. “Please, don’t walk out until-“

“Just tell me.” Alicia cried. “I feel like I am going to lose my mind waiting. I am so scared my heart’s about to give in!” She was almost jumping in her seat as she said those words.

Kondwani let go of her hands and walked to the window on the other side of his desk, his back to her, hands in pockets and eyes fixed on the ground below where people and cars kept moving about as if the world was not just about to end…at least from where he was standing, the end had just come.

“Eight years ago my mother started working as a housekeeper for this rich family in Makeni.” Kondwani started. “Years back my father had left her, and us, me and my three siblings for another woman. For a while my mother was depressed and she struggled to take care of us. She couldn’t get a job and even when she managed to find one she couldn’t keep it because she was always in and out of hospital.

“It soon became apparent to me that if I don’t step up to save my family, my siblings would have a hard life and worse, we would lose our mother to depression because she kept getting worse by the day. I worked odd jobs here and there, whatever I could get. Years passed and my mother had gotten better and against my will she decided to take up that job in Makeni after a friend of hers convinced her that it was a good family to work for and the pay was good.

“I have to admit, the pay was very good and with it she could sent my two youngest siblings to school.” Kondwani continued. “It lessened the burden on me because I was really struggling with work and school. And that was how my mother started working for the Mulako’s.”

“That’s the name Kayombo had said.” Alicia recalled the conversation she had overheard in the car park.

Kondwani turned to face her, back leaning against the wall. “Yes,” he nodded. “The family of the former Minister of Lands.”

Alicia gawked at him in disbelief.

“That night of the accident,” Kondwani continued, eyes lowered down. “My mother was not supposed to be driving. The last time she had driven was when my father was still around and even then she was still learning.”

Alicia immediately put two and two together and started to shake her head, slowly as she waited for Kondwani to confirm her worst fears.

“She had been so desperate to get that job that she lied to Mrs Mulako and said she could drive.” Kondwani said. “My mother was about to knock off from work when the rich madam made a request to her; she had to pick up some item for her in Chilenje. The place was far and it was late but my mother would have probably managed if not for the fact that it started raining.”

Alicia got up from her seat, still shaking her head in disbelief. “Nooo-“ she kept repeating as tears cascaded down her face.

“My mother might have caused that accident that night Alicia but she didn’t kill your boyfriend.” Kondwani quickly added. The trepidation on Alicia’s face was enough to send anyone running from the room.

“What do you mean she didn’t kill Nicolas?” Alicia asked. “My Nicolas died because of that accident so how can you look at me and tell me that his death isn’t your mother’s fault? Wasn’t she the one behind the wheel!?” Alicia’s voice kept rising as she talked.

Kondwani could sense the direction the conversation was going to take and so he moved to stand by the door. He wanted to ask her to calm down but he knew better than to aggravate her any further. Alicia looked about ready to explode.

“I’m sorry babe, that’s not what I meant.” Kondwani said.

“Then what did you-“

“I meant that even thought my mother caused the accident, she was not responsible for his death because…because…someone else was.”
“Someone else?” Alicia asked. “Who?”

Kondwani took a deep breath before speaking with his eyes closed he said, “Me.”

Alicia’s heart was racing and the pounding was threatening to drown all other sounds in the room. “What do you mean you? No.”

Kondwani put his hands in his head in sheer helplessness and opening his eyes slowly, he faced the woman he was about to lose for forever. “I am the reason Nicolas could not be saved.”

It was as if she had been waiting for the words to completely come out because the moment Kondwani finished his sentence, Alicia broke out in sobs, her hand quickly going over her mouth to stifle her cries.

Kondwani went over to her but as expected she kept him off, backing away from him until she could move no more; she had reached his desk.

“You killed my Nicolas?” Alicia sobbed. “And I, I…” the rest of her words were caught up in her throat. She put her hand over her mouth and was about to throw up on it Kondwani placed his bin in her hand. Alicia went down on her knees, coughing and throwing up into the bin.

Kondwani tried to get closer to her again but she shoved him like a plague. “Don’t touch me!” She yelled.

Despite her rejection, Kondwani passed her a box of tissue and then a bottle of water before putting a ‘safe’ distance between them.

Not trusting her own legs to hold her up, Alicia gave in and slumped her body on the floor, crying and coughing at the same time. All Kondwani could do was watching her closely and uncomfortably from the side, afraid to take a step closer lest she threw something at him.

“What did you do?” Alicia asked when she cleared her throat a little bit.

Kondwani put his hands together and coiled slightly on the face before he could bring out the words that could never ever be taken back.

“I know that back then I might have felt justified in doing what I did,” he stated. “But right now I can’t even bring myself to give you those reasons, the excuses….”

Because how does my need to protect my family, my mother…the woman who had already seen the worst of the world…how does it triumph over what you lost Licia? Six years ago it did, even then I knew it shouldn’t have…but…but I needed my actions to make sense. Kondwani thought to himself. I even hated you for showing up in front of me and forcing me to face the reality of what I had done. I thought you were my karma but gosh, you are more of a victim here than my mother ever was, than any of us ever were because at the end of the day, a man’s life was lost and no one took responsibility for it.

I am that man that should have been responsible but instead, I went straight for heart, drew you in and ended up doing the same thing I did to your man six years ago.

And worst of all, I killed us Alicia. I killed us.

“I was still chasing my medical ambitions the evening I received a call from my mother six years ago.” Kondwani said instead to her. “She was crying and she informed me that she had caused an accident. It was her first time driving after years so you can imagine her state of mind.

“The streets were dark and it was raining heavily. She was frozen behind the wheel, shaking.” Kondwani continued. “She couldn’t move. I am ashamed to say this to you but in that moment I didn’t care about anything else but my mother and I won’t lie to you and pretend that the doctor instinct in me should have worried about the well-being of the other driver.

“I never became a doctor because of some calling or spiritual need.” Kondwani said. “I became a doctor for very selfish reasons; the profession was prestigious and I knew a way of making more money out of it so yeah, I don’t have the natural doctor heart.”

“Just get to the point.” Alicia told him.

“My point is,” Kondwani said. “I was a fool. I asked my mother to get away from the scene and I rushed over there to make sure nothing could point back to her. She had already told me that the driver in the other car had not moved and I could count the possibilities in my head.”

“I spoke to your mother earlier,” Alicia remembered her meeting with Mrs Chileshe, how fragile and soft-spoken she had appeared. To think that that woman….

“How can she talk to me in such a manner when-“

“My mother doesn’t know who you are and she also has no idea that someone died that night as a result of that collision.” Kondwani explained.

Alicia’s jaw dropped to the ground. “What do you mean she doesn’t know?”

“I told you, I had to protect her.” He answered. “She was still recovering from years of depression and I was afraid we would really lose her this time around if she discovered what had actually happened. It was very selfish of me, I know.”

“How was it so easy for you people to manipulate everything to your will?” Alicia asked.

“On my way to the scene I called the Mulako woman to let her know about the situation because I knew that she wouldn’t want the public knowing that the poor woman she was overworking had killed someone behind the wheel of a car she had no business driving during a late night errand she was not even going to be paid overtime for. In short, I blackmailed her and true to her nature she sorted out everything.”

“Did she pay the cops? Because they said Nicolas was the one at fault and-“

“Mrs Mulako did more than pay the cops,” Kondwani informed her. “She also paid a huge sum of money to the mother of the victim’s mother under the guise of condolence offering but they both knew it was hush money, something to ensure the family didn’t-“

“Wait a minute,” Alicia said. “When you say the victim’s mother-“

“Yes, I mean your child’s grandmother.” Kondwani confirmed. “She was given enough money to last her a life time. I am sure you have heard for yourself how loaded the Mulako’s are.”

“Before we get to that,” Alicia said, waving her hand in the air and shaking her head as if to steady its spinning. “You said that you’re responsible for Nick’s death; what did you mean by that? Nick didn’t die on the spot, he died at the hospital.”

“I know that,” Kondwani said, eyes filled with unshed tears. “But that wouldn’t have been the case if I had called the paramedics earlier.”

He waited for her reaction and it was nothing short of expectation. Alicia fell backwards into the chair, her hand over her mouth.

“Everything was happening so fast that night and my major concern was to make sure my poor mother didn’t get into any trouble so-“

“So you sacrificed Nicola’s life right!?” Alicia shouted and started crying. But then she suddenly stopped crying and looked up at him. “When did you know who I was?” She asked him.

Kondwani had been waiting for that question to come. The petrified look in Alicia’s eyes was literally begging him to say that whatever she was thinking was not true but at the same time every part of her body was begging him to tell her the truth.

“The very first day we met.” Kondwani stated simply. Two thick drops of tears fell from Alicia’s eyes.

“Licia-“ Kondwani tried to move closer to her but Alicia abruptly stood up.

“You knew and yet you still allowed us to happen?” She asked.

“I tried Alicia,” Kondwani said. “I tried desperately to keep things from progressing between us but with each passing day it became harder and harder to stay away from you.”

“Well then you should have tried harder or better yet fire me!” She snapped. “I would have preferred anything else to the…the disgusting thing…whatever this thing that happened between us was.”

“Nothing about us was disgusting.” Kondwani said with a face set in stoic. “Yes there’s no excuse for what I did and I recognize that allowing things to happen was too low of me but don’t for a second be mistaken into labelling our romance otherwise. I genuinely love you Alicia and I know for a fact that just because I am a bastard and you feel like killing me right now, I know that your feelings for me where genuine.”

“How can you talk about feelings in this moment?” Alicia asked, a repugnant expression on her face.

Kondwani sighed deeply. “I know nothing I say in this situation is ever going to win me credits.” He said under his breath but looking up at her he said loudly; “All am saying is that my love for you is real, yes please, don’t look at me like that.” He added in response to her raised eyebrows.

“If what you did to me despite knowing the truth is called love, then I would love to see what you do to those you hate.” Alicia’s tone was filled with sarcasm.

“You can question everything about me but please, don’t question my love.” Kondwani stated in an icy tone. “Yes, I lied to you when I kept the truth from you but in my own selfish way I thought that was the only way I could get to keep you.”

“You say you love me!?” Alicia pointed a finger to her chest, her whole demeanour confronting Kondwani in all possible ways. “Did you ever stop to think about the position you were putting me in when you were busy showering me with love?”

I never even got to shower you with anything, Kondwani thought to himself. “I thought about you, always.” He said. “Gosh, there’s no single day that went by that I didn’t question what I was doing. I kept telling myself, one more day, just one more day…until today happened.”

“So how do you expect me to face my son or Nic’s family after what I know today?” Alicia asked. “How do I tell my son that I am in-love with the man that killed his father?” she sobbed.

“Alicia-“ Was all Kondwani could say having been sternly warned to keep from touching her earlier.

“How can you do this to me?” Alicia cried. “What does this make me?”

“Licia-“

“What, was it pity?” She asked. “Did I look that pitiful or desperate to you? Was it guilt?”

“No!” Kondwani said.

“Did you think you could absolve yourself of your sins by taking care of the widow?” She asked.

“No!” Kondwani repeated. “Alicia, far from it.”

“I remember this one time,” she said. “We were at that restaurant where you took me after we spoke on the phone. I had been crying and you said you wanted to cheer me up. You looked at me and said something about paying back a debt. Is that it? Is that what you’ve been trying to do with me all while? AM I some guilt project to you?”

“Oh my God Alicia!” Kondwani could not fathom how clueless she was sounding. Didn’t she know how much she meant to him? Hadn’t she seen all the change she had brought in him as a man? Didn’t she know how much he longed to be with her every second? Didn’t she know how much he had risked just to be with her? How can she not know something so obvious?

“My falling for you had completely nothing to do with your connection to Nicolas.” Kondwani told her. “Yes, maybe at the beginning I felt guilty every time I looked at you. and yes, it was my guilt that drove me into helping you get your son back. At some point I even thought I marrying you would be one way of me lessening my guilt BUT,” he quickly added when he saw her breathing heavily and looking about ready to throw something heavy at his face.

“But it all changed somewhere along the way,” he said. “I don’t know when it changed…but I remember this one time vividly in my head when I knew without doubt that it was more than just guilt. It was in the changing room,” he recalled. “You looked at me shyly and said you think you might be in-love with me.

“It was very sudden and unexpected.” He continued. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined you saying those words to me first. The sincerity in your voice caught me by surprise and shook me all over again. I knew right then that things between us would never be the same again.”

“So I short I brought this on myself right? That’s what you’re trying to tell me isn’t it?” Alicia asked.

“Oh my gosh no Alicia!” Kondwani said in frustration.

“Then what is it?” She asked. “If I hadn’t said those words to you we wouldn’t be sitting here right now and I would have never discovered the things you and your family did.”

“I highly doubt that.” He said. “If you had not said it, I most probably would have said it to you myself in due time.”

Alicia hung her head hopelessly and rubbed at her eyes. “How do I tell my son…my family…God what have I done?”

“I think the only person you should be worrying about is your son.” Kondwani said. “Your former in-laws on the other end owe you an apology, especially your mother in-law that Mary lady.”

Kondwani’s mention of Mary’s name reminded Alicia of their confrontation at the hospital when Kondwani humiliated the woman and asked security to drive her out. How was she supposed to know that there had been more going on there than she could ever imagine?

“I just don’t understand why Aunt Mary would do such a thing.” Alicia said. “All these years, she’s treated me like her nemesis when in actual sense she…no, it just doesn’t make sense.”

“Desperate people do desperate thing, especially when it comes to money.” Kondwani said. “But Alicia,” he lowered his voice a notch. “I know that you’ll probably hate me more for saying what am about to say but, I need to ask you a favour.”

“What?” She asked.

“If you’re going to report the accident,” Kondwani said. “Is it okay if you put me behind the wheel instead of my mother?”

“What?” Alicia asked in disbelieve.

“Am saying,” Kondwani took a deep breath. “No, I am begging you, please, leave my mother out of it and put everything on me.”

“So you actually expect me to report this to the police?”

Kondwani looked surprised by her question. “I thought you-“

“Do you think that’s what’s important right now?” Alicia cried in disappointment. “You care so much about your mother, I get it, she means everything to you…but, but…what about me?”

Kondwani looked confused, not sure what to say. It was true his mother was his major concern but it didn’t take his concern for Alicia any less.

“Fine.” Alicia said and stormed out of the office.

By the time Kondwani realized what had just happened, Alicia had disappeared from sight and he had to spend the next thirty minutes searching for her around the hospital.

“Where’s she?” Kondwani had stormed into Kayombo’s office all hell and thurnder in is approach.

Kayombo got up from his chair. “What do you mean where’s she?” HE asked. “I left her in your office a while ago. What did you do you son of a-“

Kondwani went after him and glared him down. “Say what?” He dared him straight in the face.

Kayombo back away from him.

“Yeah, I thought so.” Kondwani said arrogantly and left the room the same way he came in.

Kayombo grabbed his jacket from the rack, grabbed his keys and dialled Alicia’s line as he ran out of the room. Her phone kept ringing until it could ring no more. he tried calling her again but this time it was off.
***
Mary Kabwe was watching TV with her three daughters, two of her nephews Stephen and the six year old Billy after a huge dinner prepared by her children for her birthday when Alicia unceremoniously joined their company.

“Alicia,” Exhildah guiltily addressed her late brother’s girlfriend.

“I see your hands are empty,” Mary sarcastically remarked, oblivious to the fury burning from every inch of Alicia’s face as she glared at her. “If you were going to invite yourself to my birthday, the least you could have done is bring my grandson along.”

“I want to talk to you, outside.” Alicia said, not bothering with pleasantries. She had never before spoken to her former mother in-law or her sister’s in-law in such a manner and the shock was written all over their face.

“Is everything okay Alicia?” Stephen had stood up and gone to stand by her side, his eyes closely searching her face. “You don’t look so good.” He observed. “Did something happen?”

“I just need to talk to your aunt here then maybe I might be fine if she makes me understand the things she’s done.” Her eyes were filled with tears just thinking about the betrayal and the suffering she had had to endure at the hands of the woman who sold away her own son’s life for a quick buck.

Alicia had always wondered where exactly Mary’s wealth had come from but she never bothered to pursue answers thinking it was none of her business. Now that she knew the truth, everything made so much sense.

“What’s wrong with this girl?” Rose, the youngest of the sister’s stood up to confront the disrespectful girl in their midst. “You’ve suddenly grown wings now that you’re sleeping with your doctor bosses ah?”

“Rose!” Exhildah went to pull her young sister away. “Don’t mind her, she’s still the brat that she was from the moment she came out of mum’s womb.”

“What brings you here Alicia?” Mwila, the mysterious, soft spoken first born of the Kabwe family asked her from where she was seated, next to their mother.

“I am so sorry to burge in like that but I really need to talk to your mother in private.” Alicia provided.

“Don’t you know what today is?” Mwila asked.

“I had forgotten but I think it’s very clear right now.” She was looking at the cake pieces on a tray on the table.

“Why am I not surprised?” Mary said in her usual sarcastic tone. “And since when do you talk to me like that? Sowing your true colours now that got your rich boyfriend to get your son back?”

“Should we just talk here or we go outside?” Alicia said. “I think it’s better to talk in private out-“

“Can’t you am with my children right now?” Mary asked. “You can say whatever you want to say right here. It’s not every day I get to have my whole family here with me. I can’t lose time by going outside to talk to you of all people. I thought you knew me better than that young lady.”

“Why did you accept their money?” Alicia went straight to the point, not wishing to spend any more time than expected in that kind of company.

“What are you talking about?” Mary’s gaze was still fixed on the whatever movie was showing on the tele, not giving Alicia her time of day.

However, Stephen had already picked up the meaning behind Alicia’s words and quickly jumped in for damage control. “Aunty,” he went to sit next to his aunt on the couch and taking her hand into his said; “I think you should go out and talk to Alicia in private, right now.”

But Mary refused to budge. Whatever Alicia wanted to say to her, she was gonna have to say it on her terms. Mary patted her daughter Mwila on her back in a motion to move her from where she was seated and the moment she was up, she stretched out her legs in front of her and got comfortable.

“Alicia-“ Stephen quickly went in for more control.

“If she wants me to talk here then I’ll talk.” Alicia stated defiantly. “I am talking about the money you got from Mrs Mulako.” She said and watched with satisfaction as she worn a desperate reaction from the woman.

Mary jumped up and went straight at Alicia, grabbed her hand to lead her out of the room but Alicia remained rooted to the spot. It was her turn to refuse to budge now.

“Let’s talk about this outside.” Mary’s guilty and pleading eyes said to her.

“You are the one who insisted on us talking here so let’s talk.” She said defiantly. “Let’s talk about the hush money you received from the people responsible for your son’s death and how you’ve spent the last six years blaming me for everything when you knew very well that-“

“Wait,” Mwila went to stand between the two women. “What hush money are you talking about? Mum? Alicia?” She was looking to and from the other. “Mum?”

It was Stephen’s turn to rush in. “Ladies, ladies,” he said. “How about the two of you talk outside in private.” He started pushing them away.

“Steve,” Exhildah called out to her cousin. “Do you know what’s going on here?”

“What hush money is she talking about?” Rose too chipped in.

“And what about Nicolas’ death? What’s that about?” Mwila asked, her gaze fixed on Alicia. “Is there some development in his case? Did they finally find out that he wasn’t responsible for the accident?”

“I think your mother here knows exactly what am talking about.”

“Mum,” Mwila turned back to her mother. “What is Alicia talking about?”

“I don’t know what she’s talking about, obviously she’s confused about something or misunderstood something.” Mary quickly dismissed her. “Let’s talk outside.”

“No,” Alicia stated simply. “I have changed my mind; I want to talk about this right here with everyone around. Maybe this is exactly what I need to finally move on with my life.”

Mary nervously started looking around the room at the faces of her family. There was no missing the suspicion and curiosity in them.

“What is everyone doing!?” Mary shouted. “Get this girl out of my house right now!” And she put her hand over her forehead to feign a fainting spell.

Exhildah pointed to her cousin Stephen who was standing very close to her mother, “Help her sit down.” She said and Stephen did as instructed.

“And you’re going to tell us about this thing Alicia is accusing you of mum.” Exhildah added once her mother was safely seated.

Mary sat up in the sofa, shocked that her fainting spell had no effect on the eager ears of her children. I am going to kill you Alicia Daka for this one, she thought to herself.

Mary was about to open her mouth to say something when a knock came on the door. She turned to Exhildah. “Is anyone else coming?” She asked. “I thought you said your husband-“

Before she could finish her sentence, the door swung open and there on the other side stood a visibly upset Claudia Chileshe standing next to a now loudly sobbing Mwansa.

“Who the hell are you?” Rose asked the two intruders, scanning them from head to toe with a disdainful look on her face.

“Mrs Chileshe?” Alicia gaped at the woman.

“Mwansa?” Stephen said at the same time as Alicia. “What’s going on here?” he walked towards the two women standing by the door. Mwansa however, said nothing in return, she just kept crying.

“Alicia, what are you doing here?” Kondwani’s mother asked, obviously surprised to see her there. “Do you know these people?”

“Mwansa, what are you doing here?” Stephen asked again.

Claudia turned to look at the young man addressing her daughter. “You must be the famous Steve right?”

Stephen threw Mwansa a questioning look but the twenty-two year old kept her gaze lowered.

“We went to your house but your mother said we would find you here.” Mary provided.
Mary slowly raised herself from the sofa and approached the people at the door. “Who are you people?” She asked. “You know them baby?” She asked Stephen.

“I know her,” he gestured towards Mwansa. “She is my ex-girlfriend and am guessing that this is her mother.”

“What is your ex-girlfriend and her mother doing at our house at this hour?” Rose asked Stephen.

“How do you know these people Alicia?” Claudia asked Alicia.

On Alicia’s face where all shades of confusion ever registered on a human’s face since the birth of Christ. For the first time since hearing the truth about Nicola’s death, Alicia found herself engaged in an eternal battle that would force her to make a decision against her own conscious. In that room were two groups of people; the ones responsible for Nicolas’ death one hand and the ones who suffered as a result of that death on the other hand. Unfortunately for Alicia, both groups of people fit into either category perfectly.

In as much as she was dying to call out Claudia for her role in Nicolas’ death, how could she do so knowing very well that the woman had absolutely no idea just how much damage she had caused and if she heard the truth in such an environment, just what might happen to her as a result of the shock?

Kondwani’s words kept ringing in her head;

…I had to protect her. She was still recovering from years of depression and I was afraid we would really lose her this time around if she discovered what had actually happened.

But what do I care if she lives or dies? Alicia wondered silently. Because of her I lost Nicolas and my child will never meet his father. Because of this woman I have spent the past six months paying a price for a wrong I did not commit.

And she turned to the woman in the room with whom she had another score to settle; Mary Kabwe. Just what wouldn’t she give up to make the nefarious woman face the consequences of her sins right in front of her whole family? For years she had embarrassed and tortured her any chance she got over her son’s death when the actual truth would shock to the core her very own children.

The desperate and curious faces around her told her that she had the power; she was the only one in the room who knew the connection between the two families and she was the only one with the power in her mouth to speak out and shutter to pieces their perfectly manicured million-dollar lives.

“Mum?” Someone called out to Claudia from behind her.

Alicia could recognize that voice even in her sleep. But what was he doing there?

“Wani?” Claudia starred wide-eyed at her son. “What are you doing here?”

“What is this now, a family reunion?” Rose remarked sarcastically.

Alicia walked passed Claudia and Mwansa standing by the door and stepped out to address Kondwani. “What are you doing here?”

“I figured this was the only place you could have come.” He said but quickly turned to his mother and sister. “What the hell are the two of you doing here? And why’s she crying?” He pointed at Mwansa.

“This foolish girl came home crying, saying some boy had impregnated her and then dumped her.”

“What!?” Stephen asked, pushing passed his cousins to confront Mwansa who still couldn’t bring herself to look up at him or anyone else. “I impregnated you?” he scoffed. “I impregnated you?” He kept stressing the word.

“Did you just laugh?” Claudia asked the tall young man.

“Stephen?” Alicia called to him, her mind going straight to her sister Belinda. As far as she knew, Stephen was in the process of fixing his relationship with her so what was he doing here with…someone none other than Kondwani’s sister?

Just how twisted were their loves entangled together?

“You’re pregnant!?” Kondwani roared at his sister and then turned accusing eyes at Stephen.

Stephen raised his shoulders in innocence. “I didn’t!” he quickly defended himself. “I never even slept with her!”

“What’s going on here Stephen?” Mary asked.

“Are you related to these people Alicia?” Claudia asked the beautiful nurse.

Kondwani turned petrified eyes in Alicia’s direction, the look on her face a clear reflection of everything that was going through his own mind.

How did this happen?