Andy walked to the back entrance of the Lounge reserved for VIP’s only to make his call to his aunt in Canada.
“Yes Aunty, I arrived safely.” He said. “No…am sorry I took long to call…yes, it was alright…no, I haven’t seen her. Listen Aunt Rose, am somewhere with friends right now so I cant stay on the phone for long…yes….no I….”
It didn’t sound like Aunt Rose was going to stop talking any time soon and Andy couldn’t find it in his heart to cut her off. Instead, he turned towards the glass door and rested his forehead against it as his aunt went on and on lecturing him about visiting his mother.
“Are you going to move or not?” Came a voice behind Andy.
He turned and found a surprising figure glaring at him. The girl looked about twenty-five years old, slightly unkempt hair carelessly tied into a bun at the center of her head, obviously a failed attempt at decency for the sake of mankind. The girl looked like she had spent the past two weeks in-doors.
There were heavy bags under her big round eyes…her eyes…. Andy’s heart almost skipped a bit. She had the most brown eyes he had ever seen on a black Zambian girl.
Wait, is she even Zambian? Andy wondered.
Wasn’t that an American accent he had just heard or was that his aunt’s voice screaming at him in his ear.
Oh shit, Aunt Rose! Andy finally remembered he was in the middle of a call.
“Aunt Rose, I have to go now, bye. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He quickly cut the line.
“Are you going to move now?” The girl asked again.
So he had heard right, she was American…and certainly not black American despite her skin colour. She sounded like a white American woman. But who the devil was she and why was she dressed like she was not about to step into the most exclusive VIP Lounge in the country? The girl looked like she was running an errand at the local market in her slippers and loose-fitting maxi dress.
“You do know you need a card to use this entrance right?” Andy asked.
The girl pulled her small handbag from the back and opened it. It was the first time Andy was noticing it. It was an original beige Valentino. The girl took out the card and flashed it across his face.
“Satisfied?” She asked. “I heard this place was fancy but I certainly wouldn’t have imagined the guards would be so impeccably dressed.” She was scanning him from head to toe.
“Guard!?” Andy said, not sure whether to laugh or feel insulted. It certainly was the first time someone had mistaken him for a security guard.
“I am going to be late for a meeting. Are you going to step aside?” The girl asked.
“Meeting?” Andy said. “Wait, are you the one Luke is waiting for?”
“I take it you are a friend of his,” She said. “Are you going to keep asking me questions?” She was very irritated.
“Maybe just one more. What’s your name?”
“Are you kidding me?” The girl said, looking at him like he had just said something out of this world.
“I am actually very serious.” Andy said.
“Then I guess I will just have to give your friend Luke a call and tell him today’s meeting is cancelled.” She threw the card back into her bag and turned to walk away.
“She can’t be serious,” Andy said as he watched her turn her back to him.
He ran after her. “I’m sorry if I offended you,” he said.
The girl stopped and turned back around.
“However, if you are looking for a job with Luke, it might work in favour if we were friends,” Andy said.
She glared at him and shook her head before brushing past him without giving him a response. She took out the card and entered without sparing him a last glance.
Andy was absolutely dumbfounded.
What just happened? He asked himself.
Did I just try to pick up a girl? Since when does Andy Mwila chase after girls…and funny looking ones at that? I think that Canadian cold done froze my brain cells. Who the hell is that girl anyway? And, did she just brush me off? What the hell?
Andy went back inside and joined his friends. He had a bemused expression on his face.
“Who the hell made you smile all the way here?” Sam asked.
Andy sat down. And then he stood up again, almost immediately. He appeared to be in a daze. “Something weird just happened,” he said.
“What?” Ernest asked.
Andy was shaking his head, still trying to comprehend what had just happened. “A girl just blew me off.” He said, more to himself than to his friends.
“Huh?” All three chorused.
“Yeah,” he answered. “History just happened a few minutes ago.”
“She must be New Money, they’re the type that always try to prove a point to everyone. What’s her name?” Dennis asked.
“I don’t know, she wouldn’t tell me.” Andy said.
“The hell?” Dennis said.
“You’re kidding, right?” Ernest said.
“I wish,” Andy said and sat back down. He grabbed a beer and downed the contents in one long gulp.
“She really got to you didn’t she?” Dennis said.
Andy said nothing. He had a contemplative look in his eyes.
“Maia, it’s so good to see you!” Luke hugged his guest and offer her a seat. “Anything to drink?” He asked.
“Oh no, am very fine thanks,” Maia said. “What I need right now, more than anything, is sleep.”
Luke laughed. “You do look like you could use some sleep for sure. “Am I allowed to ask what’s been keeping you up?”
Maia laughed. “No you’re not,” she said and removed a file of papers from her bag. “Everything is ready. Now it’s all up to you.”
“I already made up my mind.” Luke said. “I’m all in Maia!”
“You are? For real?”
“Yes, I already told you this over the phone but you still insisted on coming here anyway.”
“I just thought that…you know, I didn’t want you accepting my offer simply because it’s me. This is business and not friendship we are talking about.”
“I know, but I trust you, both as a friend and as a business woman,” he said.
“You flatter me Luke. Are you okay with 40% though?” She asked.
“It’s more than what I would have expected to be honest with you. I am just providing you with management. You’re the one providing the finances, talent, design and just about everything.”
“It’s been a while since I was here so I have no idea how things are done in this country these days. And, you know the taste of local consumers so yeah, I desperately need you.”
“Theatre is obviously a new concept in this country and just in my circles, I cannot tell you how many folks would kill for a change of scene.” Luke said.
“Everyone is dying for an alternative to the usual cinema experience,” he continued. “The point is to sell the idea to both the regular and medium spenders because the other 1% is already sold. They are defined by such luxuries. I have no doubt we will own this because we are offering them high class entertainment on a low budget. That should make everyone happy.”
Maia laughed. “I love your optimism Luke. However, I need you to go through those so you can get a feel of exactly what I have in mind for the general set-up.”
“Not a problem.” He said.
“Do you think two months will be enough to get everything ready for open night?” Maia asked.
“Yes, no doubt.”
“Then we’re sorted. I better be on my way now.”
“I’ll walk you out.”
Once they were outside, Luke asked, “Did you drive here?”
“No, I walked. Home is just a few minutes from here.”
“What?” She chuckled upon seeing the look on his face. “Stop acting like a grandpa Luke. I’m a big girl; I can take care of myself. This cool breeze is calling out to me.” She stretched out her hands and allowed the fresh air to wash over her face.
“It’s close to midnight Maia,” Luke said. “Everyone knows what type of neighbourhood this is so it’s a high target for criminals. There’s no way am letting you walk alone at this hour. Wait for me I get my-“
Before he could finish, Luke spotted Shadreck driving towards them and moved towards the road, waving him down.
“Mr Luke,” Shadreck came to a stop in front of them. “Is everything okay?”
“Are you in a hurry?” Luke asked.
“Great, do you mind giving my business partner here a ride to her place?” He asked.
Shadreck looked at the girl standing next to the businessman. Even if you’re meeting your sugar daddy, can’t you try to dress up a little woman? He thought to himself.
“Yeah, sure, no problem.” He said. “Where are you going Ms?”
“I live just a few blocks from here.” She opened the door and stepped inside.
Fresh flowers, was the first thought that crossed Shadreck’s mind when her fragrance filled the air in his car.
She smells of freshly scented flowers…like she’s just from taking a shower in a garden of flowers. Well, at least she bathed.
“Let’s go. I’ll tell you where to stop.” Maia said. She then turned to Luke. “Thank you Luke. Pass my love to Yvonne and the kids.” She said.
So she’s not a side chick. Talk about being judgemental. Shadreck felt ashamed of himself for jumping to conclusions.
“Will do, have a goodnight kiddo.” The forty-five year old said.
Maia laughed and waved at him as Shadreck resumed driving.
“Thank you Shadreck, you have a good night too.” Luke said.
“You too sir.” Shadreck said.
“He insists on calling me kiddo when his wife is not that older than me.” Maia said. “My name is Maia by the way. What’s yours?”
“Oh yeah, he said your name before,” she said, looking embarrassed to have forgotten so soon. “You are not much of a talker are you?”
“And you are obviously not Zambian.”
“Are you xenophobic perhaps?”
Shadreck laughed. “Not really. You’re the first female I have seen at a club like that one dressed like that. Zambian girls your age would never be caught dead out in public looking like that. That, and your accent of course gave you away.”
“I am not quite sure if you are insulting me or trying to get to know me.” Maia said. “Your face looks familiar by the way. Are you someone famous perhaps?”
“I wouldn’t consider myself famous but I co-owner Apollo, the entertainment company. Ever heard of it?”
“Now that makes sense,” she said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That I have remembered where I know you from. I am a huge fan of yours. You have the best artists and creatives in the region.”
“Thank you. What are you into, music, comics, art, movies?” He asked.
“Everything.” She said. “Oh, slow down here, we are almost there. Do you also live in this neighbourhood?”
“No, I live in Northmead.”
“We’re here,” she announced.
Shadreck starred at the mansion in disbelief. “You live here?”
“Yeah, anything wrong?”
“No, no, it’s just that…it’s huge. You live with your parents?”
“How old do you think I am Mr Shadreck?”
She burst out laughing. “I’m flattered but you need to add a few…no, not few…a lot of years to that. I live with my kids.”
“I said kids, how did you get to married?” She laughed.
“I am a traditional guy.”
“I hear a lot of people are like that here,” she said. “I live with three kids. There’s a paper somewhere that says they’re my babies but I didn’t exactly birth them, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do.”
Maia stepped down from the vehicle.
“Thank you so much for the ride Shadreck. Get home safely.”
“I’ll wait until you get inside safely. I don’t want to be summoned by the police tomorrow with accusations of abductions and the like. You filthy rich folks can be a problem sometimes.” He laughed.
“There are guards looking at us through those windows right now.” She pointed to the two guard houses on either side of the gate. “The gate will open the moment I get closer and two armed men will appear, watch.”
She moved closer to the gate and just like she had said the gate opened and two guards appeared. Maia smiled and waved at Shadreck.
Is this woman trying to enchant me or what? Shadreck thought as he drove away. She had the most beautiful smile he had ever seen on anyone.
Why does she need two armed security guards? Anyway, rich people’s problems. He shook his head and dialled his mother’s line to get all his random thoughts out of his head.
“Son, what are you still doing up this late?” A very sleepy voice came through the line.
“Did I wake you?” Shadreck asked.
“It’s midnight Shadreck, of course you woke me up but that’s okay. Where are you going at this time of the night young man? You sound like you are on the road.”
Shadreck closed the open window immediately. “I had some business to attend to but am heading home now.”
“Is what why you sound so stressed?” His mother asked. “You’ve never called me first before. I’m always the ome calling you. You sound tired.”
“I always call you mum. Don’t make me feel bad now.”
“I’m sorry son, I didn’t mean to. I am very happy you called.”
“Anyway I gotto go. I just wanted to check up on you. You can go back to sleep now. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“Are you sure you are okay son? You don’t sound well.”
“I am, don’t think too much. I might pass through tomorrow after you come from church so we can have lunch together. The food you packed for me last time finished.”
“Not to worry, I will have enough prepared for you tomorrow,” his mother said.
You just have to mother, you owe me that much for all those years you neglected me and my siblings. Shadreck said in his head.
But to her he said; “Have a good night.” And cut the line.
A few seconds after the call with her son ended, Martha’s phone rang again. She answered without checking the caller.
“Yes son, did you forget something?”
“It’s me mother.” A different voice came through.
“Andy?” Martha sat up again. “I was just from talking to Shadreck. How come you kids are calling me one after the other? That child that never calls his mother called me today in the middle of the night. Did something happen?”
“We bumped into each other a few hours ago,” Andy informed her.
“That explains why,” Martha said, her voice suddenly turning grey.
“I just miss you so much mum,” Andy said. “Shadreck still doesn’t like me much you know. I felt it today again when we met.”
“Was he rude to you?” Martha asked.
“Surprisingly, he was very polite. Maybe just a little too polite.” Andy said.
“See, maybe he doesn’t hate you as much as you think.”
“No, he still hates my guts but you know what’s funny, I understand exactly why he feels like that. I don’t blame him. If the roles were turned, I am sure even you know that I would feel exactly the same.”
“Did you visit your mother or at least let her know that you’re back in town?” Martha asked.
Andy hesitated in responding but a few seconds later said, “I didn’t.”
“I know, I’ll call her tomorrow. As long as I called you when I landed and you know that am back and safe, that’s all that matters. You are more of a mother to me than that woman will ever be.”
“Show some respect young man. No matter what faults you find in her she is still your mother.”
“You’re the only mother I have ever known.” Andy said. “Unless you don’t want me as a son anymore-”
“Don’t be funny young man. Besides, I was paid to act like a mother to you. I was your nanny. Your mother will always be your mother. No one can ever replace her.”
“She might have paid you to take care of me but I know that you would have taken care of me even if she had stopped paying you. Anyway, I have to go mum, I’ll pass through home to see you tomorrow.”
“Ah, tomorrow?” Martha remembered the phone call with Shadreck.
“Yes, is something the matter? You wont be around?” Andy asked.
“It’s not that,” Martha was searching for the right words to say so as not to worry him.
“It’s Shadreck isn’t it?” Andy surmised. “Is he coming to see you?”
“Yes. I’m so sorry Andy-“ Martha hated being stuck between the two boys.
Shadreck resented her for neglecting him and his siblings to take care of Andy. Andy loved her for taking care of him when his own mother neglected him. It was an endless chain of misplaced love and hate but Martha was forced to come to the conclusion that the fault was all hers.
She was the reason behind the friction between the two and there was nothing she was ever going to do that would make up for her mistakes.
“Oh no, you don’t need to apologize. It’s fine, I understand,” Andy said. “I guess I will just have to see you another day. It’s a good thing that Shadreck is coming to you and you are not the one following him and begging him to see you.”
He needs to eat, that’s why he comes here, Martha thought to herself.
“You should go to bed now, it’s late.
“Have a good night mum. I love you.”
“Love you too son, good night.”
“Are the kids sleeping?” Maia asked Rashida the nanny when she entered the house and found the fifty-five year old waiting for her in the living room.
Maia laughed at the sight of the middle aged woman looking as worried as ever over her safety. She waited for her to finish yawning to get a response. “Why did you wait up for me Idah?” She asked.
Rashida had been Maia’s nanny from the time she went to America with her adoptive parents. The two of them had gotten close over the years so much so that Rashida who had had no kids of her own in her marriage until the death of her husband eight years ago considered the little girl as her own.
When Rashida heard about Maia’s plans to return to her native country, she offered to follow her so she could help out with the kids she intended to adopt there. According to her, it was better to be in the company of people she dearly loved than to remain in the states where she had no loved ones of her own.
Maia had over the years become Rashida’s only family. She was the daughter she could never carry in her womb. She always wondered what would have become of her after the death of her husband had Maia not been by her side. Rashida could not bear the thought of being separated from her.
“The kids finally slept about an hour ago,” Rashida said. “They’re the most inquisitive bunch I have ever come across.” She laughed. “Did you really have to go to that place this late at night child?”
Maia threw herself onto the sofa and Rashida settled down next to her. Maia took the opportunity to rest her head on the woman’s laps.
“Luke was out of town during the day and he is always busy so tonight was the best time to go. Besides, I needed some fresh air.”
“That’s because you’ve been keeping yourself in the study day in and day out with your writing that you hardly ever see the sun rise or set. It’s not very good for your health Maia.”
“Are you nagging me right now Idah?” Maia pretended to yawn loudly and shut her eyes.
“You should go upstairs and sleep in your bed.”
“Nooo.” Maia said, half asleep and half awake. “I like sleeping here better. And I have to check in on the kids before I-“ her words trailed off and sleep came over her.
Rashida chuckled to herself. “Poor thing, she must be exhausted,” she said, undoing the bun on her head and tying her long silky hair into a ponytail.