“She is my daughter too,” William said. He had expected this meeting to be tough, but he had not expected his ex-wife to be this unnecessarily difficult.
“Only when it’s convenient for you!” Shelly cried. “When was the last time you saw her? In fact, you wouldn’t even be here if not for this bombshell you just dropped on me. All these years you’ve been insisting that you’re not like your father, that you’re different. But you know what Will, you’re exactly like your father.”
William wanted to defend himself but he didn’t have the confidence to carry on such an argument convincingly. After all, he too had spent the past hours after his meeting with Crispin asking himself the same question; how different was he from his father? A flashback of his conversation with Crispin the flashed through his head:
– I’ve never ever given her false hope – William.
– Maybe that’s the problem. You should have at least given her a chance, before deciding that she wasn’t worth surrendering your heart to.Crispin Habeenzu
How was what he did to Miranda and Shelly different from what his father Victor had done to his mother? His father had broken the law and had sex with an underage girl. To avoid jail, they falsified the girl’s birth records and had him marry her to prevent a Scandal. And then he made the girls life a living hell after that. The insults, the physical and verbal abuse, the constant shaming and embarrassment, and the manipulation. His disgust of her was so much that his hurt and hate spilled onto his son.
William might not have followed the same path as his father, but after the recent events, he was starting to suspect otherwise. He had given up on his love in order to secure his political ambitions. He had married a woman he had no feelings for for that exact reason. He had proceeded to deprive that woman and their child the attention and care they deserve because he was punishing himself for the selfish decisions he had made in the past. Instead, he buried himself in his political career.
In the end, that was all it would take to turn him into the very man he was trying to run away from. He had curved before him a path different from the one taken by his father, but what he didn’t know then, but knew now thanks to a simple question from his mentor Crispin was that he was heading towards the same goal.
“Cat got your tongue, huh?” Shelly said sarcastically. She was now standing just a few inches away from William, her arms folded across her chest. She had known the effect her words would have on her ex husband, but this was the first time he was not rushing to take offense and defend himself.
William nervously cleared his throat and looked at his ex wife. “I won’t stand here and make excuses for myself,” he said. “You’re right, maybe I’m not so different from my father, but here’s the difference Shelly, I’m trying my best to do things right, right now. That is something Victor Mwanza never even attempted to do. I am trying to do the best I can and the least you can do is be supportive.”
“And you expect me to believe that?” Shelly retorted. “And even if that were the case, did you expect the world to just step aside and let you do things your way just because you want to make things right? Guess what Will, it doesn’t work like that! Why now? Why now of all times? I gave you over twenty years of my life.
“I loved you, I took care of you and our child, I became your right hand woman so you could excel in your politics. I did all that. And what did I get in return? Rejection. Constant rejection. You didn’t even want to pretend you cared about me behind closed doors. I was so desperate for your love and affection that I would have even welcomed a lie. “
“I never wanted to give you false hope!” William echoed the words he had said to Crispin. “You knew from the day we met that I never loved you. You knew this even on the day you agreed to get married to me. I never lied to you. I looked you in the eyes and asked you if you were okay with never having the heart of your husband and you said you didn’t care as long as I was your husband. You agreed Shelly! So why am I the only bad guy in this? “
The memory of the night in question played through Shelly’s mind and instantly brought tears her eyes. Back then she had hope. She couldn’t say the same for this moment in time. “Because you’re the only one who never got to lose anything,” she said in a cracked voice. “Because you’re the only one who benefitted from such an arrangement. You made the rules and called the shots. All I had to do was bid my time and hope that maybe one day you would stop and look at what you were doing to us, to me, and to our child.
“And now you come here, telling me about having another child with your ex lover, talking about the kids being friends, about you changing into a better man. Why? Why now? What is so great about this son of yours that you would want to become a better father now? What does he have that our daughter doesn’t? What does Miranda have that I don’t have? How come my heart and my sacrifices were never enough? Why? ” Shelly sobbed.
All his life William had never known how to handle a sobbing woman. The best he had ever done was stand there with them and wait until they calmed down. However, this day was different for the forty year old. He did something he had never ever done before. He closed the distance between them and put his arms around her. Shelly leaned into him and sobbed even more, for how could she not be moved by this sudden change in the man she loved unreservedly?
And so she sobbed some more; for his rejection all those years ago and now, for his indifference to her pain and loneliness, for the man he was choosing to become now yet would never be for her, and for all the could have been and might be moments that will never come to pass. Shelly cried.
William held on to her for what felt like forever. He couldn’t let go of her. The guilt was too consuming… too overwhelming. He had done this to her. An apology was not enough to fix the hurt he had caused her. All those years he had thought that keeping his distance from her was what he needed to do to protect her. He could never ever pretend to love her. He couldn’t do that to her. He thought that they had both gotten what they wanted from their arrangement; he had given her his loyalty and his name, and in return she had given him the political advantage he needed. They didn’t have to be happy in the arrangement, that had been a given. But at least they each got something they desired. Or so he thought.
Shelly had wanted more. It was no longer enough just to be recognized by law and everyone else as his woman. She wanted to possess him, his name, his life, and his heart. And yet when William had agreed to their union, he had fully accepted his losses. He had lost the love and trust of the woman he loved, and he had made a deal with the devil in order to achieve his selfless political ambitions. He was different from his father. He had to be. Otherwise what was the point of all that pain and loss?
For a moment, William could see things from Shelly’s point of view. He was almost achieving his ultimate dream. After his announcement of Miranda’s return, he had confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that Shelly’s dream would never come to pass. So how could he fault her for her demonic perception of him? He was truly Victor’s son, through and through.
When Sonia returned from school, she found her parents in that position, Shelly cozied up on his chest as if it was her second home, her sobs slowly fading , and William with his arms tightly wrapped around her. From a teenager’s point of view, they looked like the picture perfect couple.
“Dad!” Sonia screamed, throwing her backpack to the side and running towards her father. William had to let go of Shelly to welcome his energetic daughter. While Shelly quickly wiped away the rest of her tears, William turned towards his daughter, put on his best smile and scooped her into his arms. “You came! You came!” Sonia cried out in joy.
Is this what Shelly was talking about? William thought. Things didn’t have to be like this. His own daughter didn’t need to be so surprised at his presence in her home. Just how deep had he fallen in his self-absorption hell hole? He said he wanted to become a better man, but for whom?
It was true Miranda’s return had given him a new lease on life. He wanted her love back, her trust, honor and respect. He was even willing to wait on that, to do things the right way. For years he had thought he had no chance, but then she returned and stood before him, bearing news of a son they shared together. In that moment, everything had changed. He had not thought about Shelly or Sonia. No. He had thought about himself, about his own happiness. The only time Shelly and Sonia came to mind was when he was considering his politics. Shelly was right, he was a selfish bastard. He was undeserving of her unwavering love, just as he was of Miranda’s forgiveness.
You’re exactly like your father!Shelly Manase.
Shelly’s words rang through William’s mind as he drove home that evening. The time he had spent with his daughter was not enough to rid him of the thoughts that had been weighing him down since the emotional conversation with his ex wife. Shelly had withdrawn to her room for the rest of the evening, leaving William and Sonia alone to cook her favorite pasta, play monopoly and chat about her teenage issues.
It had been a while since the daddy- daughter duo had spent such a great time together. Sonia was a big girl now, a smile crept on Williams face as he drove through the night, thinking back to the last conversation he had just had with daughter.
“I’m in-love with a boy dad,” Sonia had announced while they played monopoly.
William laughed. “That could explain why you made such bad investments tonight,” he pointed to her side of the board that had only one house. There were at least two houses on each of the states on his side. “Who’s is this boy that has my daughter’s head all worked up? Are you in the same class? “
Sonia thought about her response before giving it. Her father would not take well to her dating an older boy. And Irvin looked way older than his actual age, meaning that would make things even harder. Her father would kill this relationship before it even started. “He’s not at my school dad,” he said instead. It wasn’t a lie. Irvin was not a pupil at her school. He was a student at the University of Zambia.
“Oh, a boy friend from a different school,” William said. “That should be interesting. So when do I get to meet him?”
“After my graduation,” Sonia said matter-of-factly. We decided to take things slow…focus on school,” she lied. What was one more year of waiting? She figured she needed that much time to convince a guy like Irvin to date her. She would be seventeen by that time. Nothing would keep them apart. She would be free to make her own decisions then.
William stopped focusing on the board for a moment and looked at his daughter. “That’s very mature of you Sonia,” he said. “That’s the sort of thing a father likes to hear.” He had agreed with Shelly to give their daughter enough freedom due to a teen, but with responsibility and accountability. So far it seemed to be working, but William couldn’t help wondering how long the peace would last. Sonia was at that delicate age.
The voices of the two carried all the way into Shelly’s bedroom. She was sitting on her bed, her back against the headboard and her feet stretched straight together in front of her. She grabbed some more tissue from the roll on the bedside table and furiously wiped at the tears that wouldn’t stop coming.
When William arrived home, he took a quick shower and went into his study to prepare for his meeting with the director of Eris-Harmonia the next day. However, his thoughts could not let him focus on his work. He gave up after a few minutes, picked up his phone and called Miranda. She answered after the second ring.
“Hey Stupid, why are you calling me at this ungodly hour? ” She said as a greeting. William laughed, looking at his watch. It was only 10pm. However, he couldn’t help thinking, some things never change.
“I don’t think that’s the sort of nickname you can give to the future président of the country Ms Kamanga. What are you doing?” He asked. He could hear erratic movements and noises on her end of the line.
“I was just winding down my work-out session. You called me two minutes before the clock,” She said.
“Since when did you become such a stickler for rules?” William asked. “Would it have killed you to skip the two minutes to talk to the father of your son?”
It was Miranda’s turn to laugh. “Look at you jumping at all the privileges already. And to answer your earlier question, I’ll never stop calling you Stupid. It’s a term of endearment. Tell that to your press aide. Now tell me what’s bugging you.”
“Who said something is bugging me?” William said. “Maybe I’m just calling to check on how you’re doing.”
“Fine, I’m nervous about meeting Irvin tomorrow. We spoke a bit via messages on Whatsapp, but it felt so short and formal. I have never been that unsure of what to say to a person before, and a young boy at that.”
Miranda chuckled. “Well, I can’t wait to hear what you have to say after you meet him in person.” She said.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Are you trying to make me feel better or worse?” William whined.
“No, I wouldn’t do that to you,” she said. “I just want you to remember that Irvin isn’t like most kids his age. He likes to think himself a man, you can guess why. He dresses and acts too maturely for his age. Most parents would feel blessed I guess, but for someone, it makes me feel guilty. I just want him to be a boy.
Do you know that I literally have to beg him to attend parties and all these events that young people seem to enjoy? The only thing that boy has ever done that’s something most parents would disapprove of was start smoking at the age of sixteen. Even then, I wanted to beg him to stop but couldn’t bring myself to do it. That’s how special your son is William.”
William caught himself smiling, busking in the knowledge of how naturally she had referred to him as Irvin’s father. Shelly might question the boys paternity but William knew beyond reasonable doubt, even without meeting the boy that he was indeed his. There might be a lot of things in his life he is not sure of, but Miranda’s love for him back then, and her trust in him the day they had conceived Irvin, there was a truth to that that no one could ever make him doubt, not even Miranda herself. She might not want him now, but she had given him her life back then.
“I was nothing like him at that age,” William said, thinking back to their time together. How could he forget?
“I like to think you’re exactly the same,” Miranda said. “Back then you were trying to prove yourself a man to your father. Irvin is trying to prove himself to me. He actually calls himself the man of the house,” she laughed.
“No way!” William joined her in laughing.
“You’ll see for yourself tomorrow. You’re meeting in the morning right?”
“Yeah, right after my 8 o’clock meeting. Should I get him anything? Like a present or something?”
“He’s your son William, not a citizen you’re wooing for a vote,” she said. “Just be yourself, you’ll do just fine.”