After spending close to an hour in his father’s company, Irvin felt inclined to tell his old man exactly what was on his mind. He had after all stayed up all night playing possible scenarios for this exact moment. “You’re actually a cool dude,” Irvin said. William stopped what he was doing and looked at his son, the comment catching him completely off guard.
They were in his kitchen, a modern state of the art room that gave the impression any food prepared in it would automatically be top notch regardless the qualifications of the cook. Fortunately for the both of them, William appeared to be quite handy in an apron. He pushed the tray of perfectly marinated steak aside to give his son a curious look. Irvin, who was washing asparagus sticks in the sink deliberately kept his back to him. His comment had been an off handed one, but seeing as it had somehow illicited his father’s full attention, he placed the last asparagus on the plate and turned around.
“As opposed to what Irvin?” There was a bemused expression on William’s face now.
Irvin nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders, suddenly feeling self-conscious. “I don’t know,” he said the first words that came to mind. “I just imagined you would be some ogre of some sort…maybe pompous, arrogant, you know, the type that most rich folks are like.”
William laughed. “Last I checked, you’re a rich kid too Irvin,” he said. “Are you trying to tell me that’s how your mother raised you?”
“You have a point,” the teenager said. “However, my mother and I weren’t always rich. We weren’t born into money like you. My mother worked really hard for us to have what we have today.”
“I always knew she would make something big of herself,” William said proudly, a distant look in his eyes. Irvin was watching him. “You still love her, don’t you?” Irvin asked.
Feeling a little exposed, William picked up the tray of beef and walked with it to the fridge. “This needs to sit for a bit,” he said. “Hope you don’t mind the wait, but I promise the actual cooking will be quick. I am a little old-fashioned, as you can see.” He said as he place the tray inside and hesitantly closed the fridge. He was buying himself time to composé himself.
Sensing his father’s discomfort, Irvin picked up his bottle of Heineken, and grabbed his father’s which was sitting on the counter, not far from where he had been standing earlier. He walked with the bottles to the uber-spacious full circular kitchen island that gave the room its magnificent personality. Upon sitting, he placed his father’s beer in front of the seat next to him. William smiled, catching the unspoken invitation in full volume.
“Your mum was right,” William said as he sat down, grabbing his beer and taking it straight to his mouth.
“About what?” Irvin asked.
“She said you’re a smart kid, and that you act too mature for your age.”
“I’m twenty years old dad, I’m not a kid,” Irvin protested, forcing his father to stifle a chuckle.
“I know you’re a man now son, but I hope you know that it’s okay to also just be your mother’s son, right? I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that your mother is one of the strongest women in the world. She’s very much capable of taking care of herself.”
“I happen to think that it’s the women the world thinks are the strongest that need our protection the most,” Irvin said.
William looked at his son in awe. “How does a nine…I mean, à twenty-year old come up with something as profound as that? Are you sure your mother didn’t lie to you about your age?” William chuckled.
“Do you doubt that I’m your son?” Irvin asked, catching his father off-guard, yet again. William had meant his comment as a joke, but it was short-sighted of him to forget the peculiar relationship he shared with his son. Of course the boy had to have his own insecurities. It was only natural.
“Son,” William said, placing his hand on Irvin’s shoulder. “If it so happened that you were older than twenty, that would only serve to show just how much of my son you truly are, beyond reasonable doubt. I trust your mother, so much so that even if you didn’t look like the spitting image of me when I was your age, I would still take her word if she came to me and told me you are my son. That’s how sure I am that you’re mine.”
“How do you know we look alike?” Irvin asked. “Three-quarters of my face is covered in facial hair.”
“Your mother sent me all the pictures and videos of you growing up,” William said. “Besides, your eyes, nose, and lips are early visible even from miles away. It’s a good look you have going by the way.” He pointed to the beard. “I’m sure you leave a trail of broken hearts in your wake,” he laughed.
“I’m not like that dad,” Irvin said shyly.
“I know son, I was only trying to stress a point.”
“I know,” Irvin smiled. “What I said earlier, about strong women….”
“Yeah? Let me guess, à lesson you learnt thanks to your mum?” William asked.
Irvin nodded. “When I was a kid, I used to hear mum cry in her room. Not always. Just once in a while when things got really tough for her. It wasn’t loud or anything. In fact, you couldn’t tell if you weren’t paying attention. For some reason, I could always tell whenever she was in low spirits.
“I remember this one time,” Irvin recalled. “The landlord called her outside to give her a last warning about our eviction. I think I was somewhere around ten then. I had been watching TV when he came but I didn’t like the look on his face so when he summoned my mother outside, I went close to the door to eavesdrop.
” He was threatening mum about kicking us out if she didn’t pay the rentals for the previous month. Back then mum was working as an intern at this hospital and she used to braid hair on the side. The money wasn’t much but it was good to get us through, until this guy she dated for a bit stole from her and ran off. Of course she never told me but I overheard her talking with one of her friends.”
“Youre quite the eavesdropper Irvin. I need to be careful what I say in this house, now more than ever.” William joked.
“I had to,” Irvin said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have known what was going on. My mother always used to keep things from me.”
“Because you were a child,” William said.
“I know,” Irvin said. “I just wanted her to talk to me. She didn’t think I knew she was having a hard tough, but I would hear her sniffles through the door. She was having a tough time at her job, and then the boyfriend thing happened, and then the landlord. He made a pass at her to offset the rent and when she turned him down, he said some racist stuff to her and kicked us out immediately. We spent the night at a co-workers house. But I’ll never forget that day because for the first time, I saw mum crying.
“She didn’t think I could see her because she was facing the window as we drove to her friend’s place. But it was so dark out that I could see her reflection on the window. When we arrived at her friend’s place, she was all smiles, as if nothing had happened. She came to read to me before bed, and I wanted to ask her if she was okay but I knew she would lie to me. So I didn’t ask. I just gave her a hug and I told myself I would never let her cry again. I started saving the allowances she would give me so I could buy some snacks to sell at school.
“Fortunately, the hospital she was working at was bought by another company and mum was offered a permanent position. Things weren’t so bad after that, financially that is. But I still kept my promise. I tried everything I could to make mum’s life a little easier. I did my best in school, helped around the house, and I tried not to get in trouble. Mum had completely stopped dating after that stupid boyfriend, but I could tell she was lonely. I tried to be her best friend, you know. I was so committed to the task that I didn’t realize it had become a habit… A sort of lifestyle. I hear it a lot now, people telling me I’m too mature for my age. The grown-ups mean it as a compliment but my friends think I’m weird. I want to be like everyone else, but I don’t know how to be like that anymore. I’m not even sure I wanna be like that. I mean, for what? I like who I am.”
Irvin’s monologue brought to the fore the guilt that William had tried to suppress all these years. It was this guilt that had kept him buried in his work to the point of obsession and exhaustion. It was the same guilt that caused his heart to get locked up in place, serving a self-deprivation sentence in a bid towards penance. Now it all came flooding back. His rejection, the betrayal, and his desire to embrace a lie so quickly if it meant easing the swelled up guilt stuck in his gut. He had done this to Miranda, and inadvertently, his son too. Where would he even begin to make amends for such gruesome sins?
William gulped down the rest of his beer and attacked the fridge for more. He placed a cold one in front of Irvin who was still nursing his old one. “You’re not much of a drinker are you?” He asked his son.
“I try to avoid beer during the week,” Irvin said. “School,” he added in response to his dad’s raised eyebrows.
“Ah, see, I forgot for a moment that you’re still a student,” William said. “In my line of work, whisky is a daily prescription. People think politicians are just a bunch of lazy people mooching off people’s hard earned money. They’re right of course, but there’s also a few of us who actually try to make a difference. And when you do that, the money we are paid is actually way too little.”
“You know, you sound like an ungrateful person right now,” Irvin said, a smile on his face. He knew exactly what his father meant, but he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a jab.
William laughed. “I’m a millionaire today because I care about how I earn and spend money,” he said. “I didn’t join politics for the money, obviously, but if people can complain about politicians being good for nothing people, then us we really work hard are entitled to complain about the salaries. Don’t you think?”
“Fair enough,” Irvin said.
“I think I know what you thought of me,” William said. “Earlier, when you said something about me being a cool dude.” He air-quoted the phrase. “I’m well aware of the impression people who’ve never met me have. But you being my son, and considering what happened between me and your mum, I didn’t think you would have a positive image about me.”
“Even though you avoided my question, I can tell you still have feelings for her,” Irvin said. “What I’m not sure of is whether those are genuine feelings of love, or guilt. I don’t even know exactly what happened between you two, my mother refuses to tell me the details. But she does seem to blame your…my grandmother for much of it.”
William would have loved to place all the blame on his mother. She would deserve it, but, he couldn’t look his son in the eye and lie to him like that. He deserved to know the truth about who his father really is…or was.” I’m largely to blame for how things turned out,” William confessed. “My mother of course has something to do with it, but she was not the reason Miranda packed up her bags and left this country. I am not proud of the man I was back then, and if I could go back in time and change something, I would go back to the day I lost your mother.”
“Does my mother know, how sorry you are?” Irvin asked.
William shook his head. “How can she know when she won’t even let me talk about the past? I mean it when I say I don’t blame her for the way she feels. I’ll be the first to admit I was a fool and a coward. She tried for so many years to help me man-up, and in the end I ended up hurting her the most. Now she won’t address the past, but she makes an exception for you. She’s freely talked to me about how you were as a kid, growing up, what you like, don’t like, your personality…and until today, I had no idea just how tough things were for her. That’s not the sort of stuff she’s likely to talk to me about. I’m glad you told me.”
“She will kill me when she finds out about that,” Irvin said, remembering the last fight they had. They were both stubborn, each refusing to extend the conversation beyond the usual good morning, have a good day, and have a good night. He wanted to apologize to her for the lack of understanding, but he also wished she could try and see things from his point of view for once.
“She’s upset with me,” Irvin said. Who better to talk to about his issues with his mother than the man who knew her best? He had tried in the past to talk to his friends about his issues, but none of them had the mental capacity to comprehend the seriousness, let alone acknowledge the relevance of his issues.
According to his friends, he worried too much about nothing, he was a busy body, and he was too deep for someone his age. Now that he had left all his friends in the US, it was even harder attempting to have any meaningful conversation over the phone. He was yet to form any tight bonds at his new school. Everyone appeared to be curious about the new transfer from the US with the strange Caucasian accent, but he doubted any of them really cared deep enough to know if he was doing alright or not. For the girls, he was merely aesthetics.
“Did you guys have a fight?” William asked, wondering if it had something to do with him.
“It’s nothing new,” Irvin said. “We never really go a day without talking to each other, no matter what, we check up on each other. But she’s too stubborn. She insists on treating me like a kid and I hate that.”
William laughed, thinking he will be having the same kind of fights with him soon. Miranda wasn’t kidding when she said the boy acted beyond his years. “Forgive your mother. I’m sure you know she’s doing it out of love.”
“Taking her side already, huh?” Irvin sipped from his drink, smirking on the sides. “I should have known.”
William chuckled as he got up from the chair. “I think our steak is good to go. Lunch should be ready in a bit now.” He carried the steak to the stove and placed the tray in the oven. “I’ll get the pasta ready while we wait for this,” he said to Irvin who had joined him.
“I can make the pasta,” Irvin offered, but when his father corked a brow at him, he was forced to add, “I learnt how to cook when I was ten. By the time I was thirteen, I could pretty much make all the complicated staff. I told you, I wanted to be good for mum. She says I make the best pasta in the world.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out,” William said. “There’s all sorts of pastas in there,” he pointed to the cabinet above where Irvin was standing. “Take your pick and blow my mind away.”
“If I nail this, you’ll owe me 100 bucks, and I mean dollar, not Kwacha,” Irvin said as he looked through the assortment of pastas. He settled for a Sedani Gigati pack.
“And if you don’t?” William asked, laughing.
“Ye of little faith,” his son muttered under his breath, shaking his head slowly.
“How did à guy who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth learn how to cook?” Irvin asked. “I thought rich people have chefs for that sort of thing.”
So Miranda had not told the boy about his childhood, William thought. He wanted to know why, but suspected he might already know.
After lunch, William paid up his dues and the two spent the rest of the day golfing at the mini gold course on William’s estate. After dinner, this time prepared by the resident chef while the men golfed, it was time for Irvin to go. William instead implored him to spend the night. “I know you have school tomorrow, but forgive a father who desperately wants to spend more time with his son.”
“You’re good,” Irvin said, smiling. “I see now why you’re the people’s favorite, emotional blackmail. I already missed a day of school today. I don’t think my tutors will be pleased with me if I missed any more classes. Plus, I’m still trying to adjust to the system at unza which is so different from my Stanford. I’m yet to decide whether that’s a good or bad thing.”
“How about you move in with me?” William refused to budge.
“You mean live here with you?” Irvin asked.
“I can talk to your mum, I’m sure she’ll understand. I promise I won’t get in your way. This place is too big for us to get in each other’s business,” he smirked, knowing full well his son understood the full implication of his words. “I know it’s a bit of a distance to school compared to where you are-“
“Talk to mum,” Irvin interjected. “If she’s OK with it, then cool. If she’s not, then I won’t.”
“I’m tempted to ask if you always do what your mother says, but I’m not sure how to ask that without sounding like am taking a jab at you.”
“No its cool,” Irvin said. “I don’t always do what she says, but in this case, I think it’s pretty obvious why I would go with her decision.”
“I know. I think I might need to talk to her about this in person,” William said. “It’s late. Are you sure you’re okay to drive? I can call my driver to take you. I had to get rid of him today, together with some other staff because the tend to be too nosy. I suspect my driver is a mole for the NDFP but I don’t have any proof. Anyway, he’s one of the fellas I would urge you to be careful around. There’s a whole list, but we can look at that after you move in.”
“You’re so sure I’ll move in.”
“That’s because I know your mother. She’ll do what’s best for you, not for me or even herself.”
“I’m good to drive, don’t worry about me.”
That Night, instead of driving straight to his apartment, Irvin drove to his mother’s residence instead. He was ready to call a truce. He missed their usual banter, and he was sure she was dying to know how the meeting with his father went.
At Shelly’s residence, the mother of one had just announced to her daughter that she now had a step brother. The fifteen minutes that followed were spent consoling the daughter.
Who is he? How can dad do this to us? How old is he? Is that why dad doesn’t come around often anymore? Does he have a new family? Sonia asked these questions and more while she sobbed. Shelly waited for her to calm down before answering her questions.
“He had the boy before him and I got together,” Shelly said and watched relief flood her daughter’s face. “He didn’t know he had a son with the woman until a few days ago.”
Sonia raised her hand to keep her mother from talking. “Wait,” she said. “Is this the same woman he dumped to be with you?”
“He didn’t dump her Sonia. She left him before he could.”
“What’s the difference!?” Sonia said. “She kept the son a secret all this while, why did she tell dad now? Does she think she will become the first Lady now that dad is standing in the elections? I hope he knows she’s just using him. I hope you’re not planning on letting that filthy greedy pair get away with this mum.”
“Your father insists that there’s nothing going on between them.”
Sonia bolted to her feet in anger. “I know you can’t be that naive mother!” She said. “These people are after our family!” She cried. Shelly went over to her and tried to put her arm around her but Sonia pushed her away. “Do something about this mum!” she yelled. “If anyone deserves to be in that state house with dad, it’s me and you, not some filthy social climbers from God knows where. If you’re not going to do anything about it, I will.” She stormed out of the living room and ran upstairs to her room, locking the door behind her.
A few minutes later, Shelly knocked on the door with a plate of fruit snacks in hand.” Can we talk baby? ” She pleaded.
” Go away, I’m trying to sleep! ” Sonia shouted.
“Okay, I’ll go away,” she said. “But first, your father wanted you to meet the boy.”
“Over my dead body!”
“Don’t you think it would be a good idea for you to meet him so you at least check what sort of person he is?” Shelly suggested. “Maybe if you talked to him…maybe, he will see that we are still your father’s family and there’s no room for them. If he is kind, he can talk to his mother about backing away.”
There was no response from the other side of the door.
“Baby, are you sleeping?” Shelly asked and then put her ear to the door. When she heard movement, she pressed on. “Your dad seems to think the boy is nice, so who knows? You should check him out on your social media. What so you think?” She waited for a response but still, none came. “His name is Irvin. He is only a-”
The door flew open.
“What name did you just say?” Sonia asked.
“Irvin,” Shelly answered. “He uses his mother’s last name, Kamanga.”
Sonia was shaking her head, at first slowly, but then she heard the last name and everything came full circle. “No, it can’t be,” she kept repeating as tears trekked down her face. “You got the name wrong mum. He can’t be Irvin. No-no-no-no-no.” She was swinging her head from side to side so vigorously now that her mother had to put down the plate and hold her face in place. “Sonia, what’s wrong with you?” Shelly asked. “Why are you acting this way? “
Without warning, Sonia sobbered up. She wiped off her tears with her hands, a determined look in her eyes. “I need to go somewhere,” she said just as she turned to get back into her room.
Shelly followed behind. “Where are you planning to go at this hour? Your driver isn’t even here?”
“I’m almost seventeen years old mum,” Sonia said, ramaging through her closet. “I can drive better than you. The only thing I don’t have is a license.” She settled for a pair of white short-shorts and a light blue t-shirt. She took off her tiny night gown and put her clothes on in full display of her mother.
“There’s no way I’m letting you drive alone at this time of night. Have you lost your mind?” Shelly croaked.
Sonia waited till her head popped through the top before responding. “You said you wanted me to befriend Irvin not so?” It was a rhetoric question. “Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” she grabbed her phone from the bed and ran out of the room. She knew exactly where her mother’s keys where, in the fruit basket on the kitchen counter. On her way out, Shelly blocked her path at the door. Sonia unapologetically shoved her aside and ran out of the house. By the time Shelly was recovering from the fall, her daughter had driven off.
Thanks to her sources at Unza, Sonia had uncovered Irvin’s address the morning after the night he had blocked her number on calls, texts, Whatsapp and all his social media. It was the night she had sent him a nude picture of herself. Now everything made sense. His out-right rejection of her. He knew all along who she was.
After hooting at the gate for close to twenty minutes, awaking all the neighborhood dogs and angering the neighbors, Sonia stepped out of the car to check if she could somehow open the gate to let herself in. She had just stepped out of her vehicle when she spotted lights in the distance. A car was heading in her direction. Thinking it was armed robbers or other criminals, she rushed back into the vehicle, locked the doors and hit the ignition. She was about to turn the steering wheel when she recognized the car. She had seen the car at Noah’s party over the weekend. She spotted Irvin behind the wheel before he could identify her.
Irvin was about to reach for the taser gun in his glove compartment when Sonia stepped out of her car and started waving her arms at him. Bloody hell, he cursed under his breath, parking the car and stepping out.
“You are my brother!” Sonia yelled. “You knew didn’t you!?”
“Half-brother Sonia. What the hell are you doing here at this hour?” Irvin asked.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She cried, more at the confirmation than the withholding of information.
“It wasn’t my place to tell you,” Irvin said, his eyes searching their surrounding. “It’s very dangerous to be out here like this. You need to go home. Did you drive yourself here?” He went over to her car to look inside. “Jesus Christ Sonia, are you out of your mind? Where are your car keys?” Before she could answer, he looked inside her car, reached inside and yanked them off the ignition. He locked her car and walked over to her, grabbing her by the wrist and leading her to his car.
” What are you doing? ” Sonia protested.
” I’m your big brother, so just behave yourself and do as I say.” Irvin opened his front passenger door and tried as gently as possible to shove her in the seat. He got behind the wheel, pressed something on his phone and the gate flew open. Without saying another word to Sonia, he drove in, parked his car in front of his house and walked around to where his half-sister was. He yanked the door open. “Get out,” he said.
Sonia got out without protest. Irvin yet again grabbed her by the wrist and led her back to her car “What are you doing?” Sonia asked as the gate closed behind them.
“Driving you back home,” Irvin said. He opened the passenger’s side and this time Sonia settled herself in. “How will you get back?” Sonia asked.
“I’ll call my cabbie,” Irvin answered as he searched the GPS of her car for her address. When he found it, he entered it and drove off.
Sonia smiled. “You know, you look even hotter when you’re angry and acting all bossy.”
Irvin threw her a reprobative glance. “You can’t say shit like that to your brother Sonia,” Irvin warned.
“You said yourself, half-brother.”
“I take it you just found out about me?”
“And you thought it such a good idea to confront me about it this late? What did you hope to achieve?”
“I wanted to check if my feelings would go away now that I know who you are,” Sonia said.
Irvin kept his eyes steady on the road as he asked, “what’s the prognosis?”
Rather than answer, Sonia started crying.
Irvin looked confused. “What? Did I say something?”
Sonia shook her head. “I just don’t have to acknowledge you as my brother.”
“Now I know more than ever that I’m in-love with you!” Sonia sobbed.
Irvin brought the car to a screeching halt.