“I told him Irvin,” Miranda said to her son as she handed him a tall glass of Mango juice. It was his favorite.
They were standing in her living room, a very spacious room with minimal decor in sight, which couldn’t have been accidental given the well blended fusion of modern colors on the walls that told their own story. The biggest piece in the room hang on the western wall, a huge portrait of mother and son that appeared to have been painted very recently. The painting was placed right at the center of the wall, begging to be recognized and revered by anyone who entered the house.
“Let’s sit over there,” she pointed to the dining area with her free hand, the other holding a plate of well cut fresh fruits.
Irvin took the plate from her and led the way into the dining room. Unlike the living room, there were no portraits on the walls, just a futuristic wall clock covering a small part of the northern wall. Irvin placed both glass of juice and fruit plate on the table and moved a chair for his mother at the head of the table.
“Thank you son,” Miranda said, sming proudly. She grabbed a piece of apple from the plate while Irvin took a seat on her right. “You know, I can give you a beer if you want,” Miranda offered when her son took a reluctant sip off his drink. “Your Heineken is still untouched in the fridge.” It would not be the first time the two would be sharing a drink at home.
“No mum, I’m okay. I have tests to cram for,” Irvin said, placing the glass down. “I’m sorry for lashing out at you when I called earlier.”
Miranda laughed. “It’s okay, and you didn’t lash out. I can only imagine what it must have been like…I mean, having such a conversation with your sister.”
“Half-sister,” Irvin corrected. “And it wasnt so bad, just…uncomfortable. Not the talking to her part, just some things she said, you know.” He was intently looking at the contents of the glass in front of him, avoiding his mother’s gaze.
Miranda smiled. “You know, you don’t have to be embarrassed by what happened,” she said. “I mean, I was also spooked a little when you mentioned it to me, but then I thought about it and realized, it was an innocent mistake on her part. She doesn’t know who you are, and you are actually a good looking boy,”, she chuckled. “I have seen the way girls look at you. If I was a little girl, and definitely not your mother, you would be exactly my type too.”
“Mum!” Now the poor boy was completely embarrassed, his reaction making his mother burst out in laughter.
“Fine, fine, I’ve stopped,” Miranda raised her arms in mock surrender. “I’m just trying to make light of a pretty awkward situation. But, like I said, I spoke to your father about you.”
Irvin raised nervous expectant eyes at his mother. “How did he take it?”
Miranda wanted to reach out and hug him. She could only imagine the thoughts running through his mind, the fears, the possible rejection. Not once had she ever told the boy a bad thing about his father. Call it a mother’s intuition if you like, but after what she had just uncovered today, Miranda was glad she had told her son that the reason his father was not involved in his life was because he didn’t know about him. According to the story Mirander had chosen to tell him, she had to keep the boy’s existence a secret in order to protect him from his grandmother who had threatened to cause both mother and son harm if William knew of his existence. It was not a far-fetched tale, but it was the closest to the truth she could get without causing her son hurt from the supposed rejection of his father.
Miranda had witnessed first hand the type of damage that happened to a son living with the reality of his own father’s rejection. She did not want her son growing up to become another Victor…or William. She had always hoped that one day William would come to his senses and look for them. He never did. Her decision to come back to Zambia was one driven by love for her son.
Irvin needed to meet his father. Nineteen years was a tough period for anyone, especially a boy in search of his identity. Miranda had hoped to surprise her son with the trip for his 20th birthday, but a knock on the door at their California home changed all that. She was not about to let anyone ruin her son’s life by spinning tales about his parentage even before the boy got to meet his father.
Miranda reached across the table and took her son’s hand. “C’mon, you don’t have to look so terrified,” she squeezed his hand in reassurance. Irvin placed his other hand over hers for a few seconds and withdrew it again. She gave his hand a last squeeze before leaning back in her chair.
“The whole day I couldn’t think straight,” Irvin said. “I couldn’t read or focus on anything at home, just kept pacing around the apartment.”
Miranda laughed. “That’s why I told you to go to that party to get your mind off things!”
“You didn’t call me,” Irvin accused. “You said you would call after the meeting but you never did. I kept looking at my phone and when the call didn’t come, I knew something bad must have happened.”
“No baby, nothing bad happened!” Miranda said. “I was going to call you, but you just happened to call me first. The meeting took longer than I expected, but not for the reasons you imagine,” she added quickly. “I had just arrived home and was freshening up when you called. I figured I could let you enjoy yourself for a bit, you know. But after what happened at the party, there was no delaying things.”
“So what did he say?”
“Of course he was excited to learn he had a son!” Miranda merrily announced.
Irvin was on his feet. “You’re not saying that just to make me feel good right?”
She got up and walked over to him, wrapping her arms around him as tears cascaded down her cheeks. “No baby, I’m not lying to you,” she said. “He was really happy to find out about you. He wants to meet you as soon as possible.”
Irvin broke free from the embrace. “How about tomorrow?” His face was beaming with expectation.
Miranda laughed. “You truly are father and son. That’s exactly what he said as well.”
“Yes,” Miranda said. “Sit down, there’s a few things we need to discuss first, one of them being your half sister, Sonia.”
They both sat down.
In her meeting with William, Miranda had suggested that they not inform the boy about the rational or otherwise irrational events that led to their separation. She had promised to give her son an edited but honest explanation about his parents past relationship so that if anything malicious was ever made public, he would be fully aware of the truth.
And so she did exactly that.
“So does this mean the woman…I mean, my grandmother, does it mean she still doesn’t like you, or me?” Irvin asked.
“First of all,” Miranda said. “I don’t want you to worry about her. Her feelings, beliefs, or whatever thoughts she has have nothing to do with us. They’re merely a reflection of the kind of person she is. I don’t want you spending not even a second entertaining thoughts about her. You hear me? “
“I do,” he answered. “Have you decided when it would be a good time to talk to Sonia? I think it’s better for her to know the truth now before her infatuation grows. I got the sense she’s been looking into me for a while now.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing serious, just a teenager’s infatuation,” Miranda said dismissively. “William said he will talk to his ex-wife after the two of you meet. He wanted me to ask you where you would be most comfortable meeting. I suggested his place, thought it might give you the privacy, also you can get to know more about his personality, work, and so on from seeing where he lives. “
Miranda couldn’t help but wonder how the other woman in William’s life was going to take news of him having a grown son with someone else…and that someone else being none other than Miranda, her sworn nemesis. Miranda had never considered Shelly a rival, however, she could not say the same about the latter. There was never a question in the past as to who had William’s heart. The question was always about who he would end up with, and in their world, the world where the rich kids played, the answer was obvious from the beginning. In that regard, Shelly had won, and had William been a better man, Miranda needed not have lost in the other regard.
“He doesn’t mind?” Irvin asked, forcing his mother out of her reverie.
“He was thrilled,” Miranda said. “So his house it is then?”
“Definitely,” Irvin answered enthusiastically.
“Great, I’ll let him know right away so he can get himself ready.” Miranda went to grab her phone from the kitchen counter and returned with it in hand, typing the message as she walked. When she was done, she placed the phone on the table and sat down, then she felt her son’s burning eyes on her. She looked up. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?” She asked.
Irvin hesitated a bit before speaking. “You and dad….” he left the sentence hanging.
“Oh my God Irvin Kamanga!” Miranda chided her son. “Don’t start getting any ideas in your head. Your father and I were done centuries ago young man.”
“Why not?” Irvin asked. “You’re single, I heard he’s single too.”
“Where did you hear that from?”
“Mum, he’s like the most popular dude in the whole country. Not a single day goes by without a mention of his name in the papers, all of them, online and offline.”
He was right, that’s the life William was accustomed to, the constant scrutiny and the ever present spotlight. The man knew no other life. No matter how supportive of his career Miranda was, life in the spotlight could never be her portion. She loved her privacy, the freedom to be herself, to love and express herself freely, to be accountable only to the ones she loved rather than the opinions of a million strangers. It’s the sort of life she wanted for her son too. However, she understood that with the recent developments, both she and her son would have to make compromises. She just hoped those compromises didn’t involve selling their freedoms.
“I don’t want you getting your hopes up baby,” Miranda said. “Your father and I? It will never happen. He has his own life now and I have mine. I would like to keep it that way.”
“I thought you said you loved him. You couldn’t be together before but now you’re both adults, free to make your own decisions. Unless of course there’s something you’re not telling me.”
Irvin stood, dragged his chair to the side and put a good distance between them. “There is, isn’t it?” The hope that had been in his eyes à few seconds ago was quickly dwindled into sadness. “You’re keeping secrets from me. I thought we agreed, no more secrets mum.”
Miranda thought back to the last time one of them had decided to keep a very important secret from the other. It had almost landed her in jail.
“I don’t want to lie to you,” Miranda said, looking up at him from where she was seated. The boy was as tall as his father. “There are some things that happened between your father and I that I can’t talk to you about.”
“Let me guess, they’re grown up things, right?”
Miranda buried her face in her hands in exasperation. The last thing she needed right now was have a fight with Irvin. How was she supposed to make him understand that she couldn’t just tell him everything? Or that the reason she was keeping certain things from him was because of his own protection? How do other single mothers to boys manage to get through to their over intelligent and overly inquisitive sons?
Irvin was a good boy, the perfect son any mother could ever ask for. But, Irvin was also not an average boy. He was too intelligent and too mature for his age. Growing up in a fatherless home had inadvertently built him into a macho protective figure in his mother’s life. When he was going through his rebellious phase at fifteen, he had looked his mother in the eye and told her that he was the man of the house. Why? Because she wanted to go on a date with a man Irvin did not approve of.
Miranda finally looked up at her son. “Irvin,” she said in a calm and controlled tone. “I know you think yourself à man, and yes, you are, à young man. But baby, you need to let yourself be a child for once. You can’t go through life wanting to know everything and fighting to protect the ones you love.”
“It’s only ever been you mum,” Irvin said.
“The one I love. You’re the only family I’ve ever known.”
“Oh, Irvin-” Miranda got up to go to him.
“Just forget about it. I’m leaving.” And he turned to walk away before she should reach him.
“IK!” Miranda called after him. He stopped at the door, hesitated a moment before turning around. “Please, forgive your mother,” Miranda begged, not daring to close the distance between them. A part of her understood he needed the space, but still, a huge part of her was a mother desperate to be in her son’s good graces. “Don’t go like this,” she implored him. “Stay the night. You can go to your apartment tomorrow.”
“I can’t, I have an early morning class tomorrow.”
That never stopped him before. But Miranda got the message loud and clear. “I understand,” she said, blinking back tears.
Irvin opened the door to leave, but once again he hesitated. He held the door open for a few seconds longer before turning back around. He pecked her on the forehead, “I Love you,” he said as he gave her a quick hug and turned to leave before she could say anything in return.
“Lock the door mum,” he called out before disappearing into the night.