I have been doing a lot of dating lately. A LOT. Am telling ya. I should be ashamed, but am not. LOL. Am 29 years old, a secondary single (I am really trying to avoid using the D-word in this post HAHA). I am swimming in it, backflips and butterfly strokes…you name it. It’s so much fun when you’re dating without the pressure of having to corner some poor bloke to marry you asap hanging over your head. Sheesh. It’s like taking a bite of whatever chocolate type you desire without worrying about putting on weight. Btw, I don’t mean bite literally. K-ching. 😉 Continue reading Dating: For the Woman in her Late Twenties…and Above
picture this; an impeccably dressed young man walks into the boardroom ready to give his address. Let’s give him the name John, i mean, why not?
John is visibly nervous despite having spent the last three months preparing for the topic he’s about to present. He’s got over ten years experience in this field and his audience is made up of his peers, some of whom he went to high school with! So why is he running a storm of sweat under his shirt? He nervously clears his throat for what seems like forever before finally speaking. Continue reading I am not my past…or am I?
By Guest Blogger: Margaret Mwewa
One Saturday morning, while preparing to head for the library to complete an assignment, I was looking discontentedly at my shoe rack, thinking it had been a pretty long time since a new pair had graced it. “I need to give some of these away and replenish my rack with…” My thought process was suddenly cut short by a phone call.
It was from one of my cousins. She was calling to inform me that her brother was getting married in two months time so I needed to pay a K500 contribution towards the nuptials. And she added matter-of-factly, “You can even pay double that amount because you are single so you can afford it.”
I laughed and told her that contrary to public opinion in the family, I was not rich. So no, I was not going to pay double that amount. But I assured her that I would try and come up with the set figure before the deadline. I almost added, “Actually, I would rather channel that K500 towards buying the pair of shoes I have been dreaming about than make that contribution because I think people who wish to marry should save up for the cost of the event and not count on other people to make their dream wedding come true …” But, I stopped myself because I needed to keep my spotless reputation of a cooperative family member intact.
You, see, I have learned, through sharing my experiences of finances and family with other single people that in quite a lot of Zambian families, working single men and single ladies are considered to be better than anyone else financially. For example, when family members, be it cousins, aunties, uncles etcetera borrow money from a single person, they feel that they do not necessarily have to return it because they think that a single person does not really need it or can do without it. Really? Who, in this tough economy, can be okay with never getting back their money, even if it is only a K100?
It seems family members generally like to think that when a person is single and childless, they automatically have lots of money to spare. According to them, single people do not have to buy diapers, clothes or pay school fees for any child therefore, they must have quite a lot of money freely available for others to come and borrow or simply get! The truth however, is very different from perception. As a single person, I cannot rely on anyone else to bail me out financially when I need help, unlike maybe married couples whereby if the husband is stuck, the wife can chip in to help him out and vice versa.
Single people fly solo and have to depend on the kindness of friends when the going gets tough. I do not know about the uber-rich single people out there, but I can speak for the ordinary working class ones that I know about. These single people singlehandedly pay for fuel, insurance, rent and the rest of the bills. So, really, there is no left over money lying around for other people to come and get or borrow.
When a situation that requires financial contributions arises in the family and a single person says they do not have the money to contribute towards the crisis, other family members usually find this hard to believe. They simply like to conclude that that person is stingy or uncooperative towards sorting out family issues. But when a couple declares that they are unable to contribute, people are more sympathetic to them and easily believe that the couple is more likely to be broke than a single person.
Alright, let us assume for a moment that there is indeed, money left in my account after all the bills have been paid, as a single person. Why exactly should my brother, sister uncle etcetera feel entitled to it? It is my money and I should be the one to decide whether to give it away or not. People should not automatically feel entitled to it.
I think what most people in our society do not realise is that money problems are universal. They are not limited to married couples. I believe everyone has money issues, even rich people. For instance, they have to figure out how to remain rich or grow their wealth even larger. So, they need to retain every little ngwee to make that happen.
Therefore, when it comes to finances, I think we all need to cut each other some slack. If you need help financially, ask for it politely. Do not act like you are entitled to it because you assume that the other person can afford to give you whatever amount you need, when you have not seen their budget or bank account statement. And if you do borrow money, be a man or woman of honor and return it even if you got it from a single person because, I am sorry to burst your bubble; single people have money problems too!
The moment George started speaking, Evelyn regretted having insisted on knowing the truth about her parents and her birth. And like a witness watching things unfold right before his eyes, George narrated the story of how a little girl named Evelyn came to be.
* * *
It was a Friday afternoon. The dark grey clouds looming in the skies above were as daunting in their appearance as they were in their promise of new life to be borne from their pouring wonders.
Still with a long distance to cover before reaching home, sixteen year old Beatrice quickened her pace and silently chastised herself for dodging prep, again just so she could hang out with the cute boy that was visiting the family at the main house at home.
“Now am going to be soaking wet by the time I get home and that’s just not so cool!” She complained and quickly graduated her fast walking pace to a jog. She had not even gone far when the heavens cried and quenched the dry thirsty earth with enough pause to give every living thing pause for a moment before running for cover.
For Beatrice, there was nowhere close by to hide apart from the houses on either side of the long dusty road. She stopped for a few seconds to wipe her face with and cover her head with her school bag, to hell with the books inside. No way she was going to let her mother subject her hair to that hot and cruel iron comb again.
She had just resumed running when she heard a car drive up from behind and hoot. She moved to the side, thinking that the driver was urging her away from the centre of the road where she had been but to her surprise, the car stopped right in front of her and she saw the passenger door open.
She recognized the red land Cruiser. It was the only one of that kind in that neighbourhood and it belonged to Mr Chileshe the landlord from the main house. Beatrice ran and got into the vehicle.
“Dear Lord you are soaking wet!” The kind looking thirty year old man said as he reached out to the back of her seat to grab his Jacket hanging there. It was then that he noticed that a third of her very light skinned thighs were screaming at him from where she was seated. He quickly threw the jacket at her and asked her to cover herself up.
“Thank you so much Mr Chileshe,” she said, clearly oblivious to her state of almost-nakedness because she used the jacket to cover her upper body instead.
Mr Chileshe nervously cleared his throat and quickly focused his attention on the road ahead as he drove at a snail’s pace with his hazards turned on. “You should wear your seat belt,” he said without looking at her.
She did as instructed; a smile playing on her face as she tightly hugged herself into the jacket, embracing the warm heat from the car’s AC which he turned on just before she had entered the vehicle.
“Do you think Danny is home this time?” Beatrice asked.
“Danny?” Mr Chileshe asked. “Oh, you mean Daniel my wife’s cousin?”
“Yes, that one,” she said.
“I am not sure. He’s nineteen years old and a student…I don’t suppose he would be at home at this hour unless he is a very good boy…which I doubt. Why do you ask?” No sooner had he finished the question than the answer occurred to him. “Oooh,” he said, looking at the visibly smitten Beatrice. “You have a little crush on him?”
“A little!?” Beatrice exclaimed. “I think I am in-love with him!”
“You are only what, fifteen years old? What do you know about love young one?” Herbert Chileshe asked.
“I am sixteen years old and I will be graduating high school in a couple of years so I am old enough. I have had plenty boyfriends before so I have experience. Arrh…please don’t tell my mother any of this stuff I just said. She will kill me!”
Mr Chileshe laughed. “I think your mother already knows what a naughty child you are. I heard her complain about something you did to my wife the other day.”
“My mother likes to act holy. She thinks she is Mother Theresa. Anyway, do you think I have a chance with Danny?”
Mr Chileshe never dreamt he would be having a conversation like this one with anyone in reality. He had always wished for a sister but his parents could only give him boys for siblings. And when he thought he might get a daughter of his own, he was faced with a whole new challenge.
So this is how it feels like to have a little sister? Herbert thought.
Despite his pleasure at being treated like an older brother, Herbert Chileshe was not sure how to respond to the girl’s enthusiasm and willingness to pour her heart out to him. Being such an introvert, he found socialization more challenging than most things in life and thus he could only thank the stars for giving him such outspoken company. He didn’t need to say much to keep the conversation going with Beatrice. The teenager was a nonstop chatter box!
“I don’t know Danny very well,” Herbert told the girl. “For the five years Nora and I have been married, this is the first time he’s visited us. Our home is very close to his school so he will be spending his vacations with us.”
“I see,” Beatrice replied. “That means I get to see him often. Does he have a type?” She asked.
“Beatrice, Daniel is nineteen years old,” he reminded her. “There is a law somewhere that forbids him to have the kind of relationship you are imagining with him.”
“I don’t care,” Beatrice said nonchalantly. “I heard your wife comes from a very rich family. That means that Danny is rich too isn’t it?”
“I should think so,” he answered. “What has that got to do with anything?”
“I want to get married to a very rich man. I am tired of being labelled poor at church, at school and everywhere I go. My mother doesn’t seem to mind at all so she’s not making any effort to make our lives better. That means it’s up to me to do something if I want to get out of this hell hole.”
“Did you ever consider just working hard at school and then picking a career that would make you a lot of money?”
Beatrice laughed. “That takes a lot of work and a lot of time for me to see the fruits but, if I marry rich, it reduces the time by half.”
“Do all sixteen year olds talk as much as you do?” Herbert wondered out loud.
“You are just too much of a quite man Mr Chileshe that’s why you think I talk too much. No wonder your mother in-law disrespects you every time she visits.”
Herbert didn’t know how to respond to her sudden revelation. He had no idea that his private business was a matter of public concern.
“You don’t need to feel embarrassed,” Beatrice assured him. “I am always on your side. Rick folks are just like that, always thinking they are better than everyone else. Just by looking at her daughter, I can tell that she is the one unable to give you a child. She looks like she had a wild life before you married her. She looks like the type that had multiple boyfriends wrapped around her well manicured rich girl fingers.”
“Beatrice, that’s my wife you are talking about,” Herbert said sternly. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak about her in such a manner.”
“Cool,” Beatrice said, completely unfazed by his sudden withdraw and seriousness. “I just don’t like that your mother-in-law is constantly disrespecting you like it’s your fault you guys can’t have a child. You are such a good hearted man. If not for you, my mother and I wouldn’t have a place to stay. And, I also just hate your wife. She is too arrogant. I am sorry….” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Thank you for saying that about me…but my wife isn’t a bad person. She was just raised differently than most people but she’s very kind. You guys started off on the wrong foot so…. As for my mother in-law, well, it’s always easier to put the blame on the other side of the family when such problems occur. You are too young to understand matters like this.”
“Most people tell me that I am too mature for my age,” she said. “We are almost home now.” She squinted her eyes trying to look past the heavy rains. “I think that’s your wife waiting by the gate under the umbrella. I know that dress very well.”
“She’s the one,” Herbert confirmed with a proud grin on his face which was quickly replaced by concern. “It’s too cold and wet out there. What the hell does she think she’s doing?”
“I guess she does love you after all,” Beatrice commented.
“What would make you think otherwise?” He sounded a little smug.
Beatrice simply shrugged her shoulders as Herbert turned to drive through the already opened gate. Nora ran towards the car and waited on him right outside his door, ready to cover him up with her umbrella the moment he stepped out.
Nora took her husband’s briefcase from him and just as she was give him a light hug, she saw the door open on the other side and out came Beatrice. Nora made a face at her husband who only shrugged his shoulders before planting a kiss on her cheek.
“Thank you for the ride Mr Chileshe!” Beatrice shouted before running off towards their two room apartment on the other side of the yard.
“What was she doing in your car?” Nora grilled her husband the moment they were inside the house.
“Ummm sweetheart, you don’t need to sound like that,” he said. “I found her getting soaked on her way here and I offered her a ride. Did you expect me to just drive past her when we were both coming to the same place?”
“I just don’t like that girl honey,” Nora whined. “Did you see the length of her skirt?”
Herbert blinked profusely, unable to answer her question and at the same time wondering if it was rhetoric.
“What sixteen year old girl wears a short skirt that only covers her neck while the rest of her body is left to fill in the blanks for all men’s imaginations out there. Just look at you Herb, you look so guilty already. I am sure you had an eyeful didn’t you? It must have been fun getting a front row seat to such a spectacle ah.”
“I don’t know what you expect me to say Nora,” he started walking towards their bedroom. Nora was right behind him. “I am very tired sweetie, can we not fight please.” He had stopped at the door of their bedroom and turned to face her. “If I cared about her state of dress do you even think that I would have so easily entered the yard with her in my car?”
“I guess you have a point,” Nora said, placing her hand on his chest. “However, this should be the last time I see you giving that girl a ride.”
“Yes, I hear you,” he said resignedly.
“Do you know that she was dating a married man and only left him after his wife came to publicly humiliate her here?”
Herbert sighed and turned to open the door. Nora followed him inside.
“I know, you mentioned that to me several times now and I have told you, several times too that I am not like that man.” Her husband said, throwing his jacket on the bed. “There is no need for you to act like this every time you see me talking to her. They are our tenants. We can’t just pass each other whenever we meet as if we are strangers.”
“There is a difference between exchanging pleasantries and stopping to chat.” Nora said. “For a man who doesn’t talk much, I have seen you chat with that girl’s mother longer than you do with other people.”
“She’s a widow, she reminds me of my mother a lot. You know very well how my mother raised us alone without the support of a man. Every time I see Ms Melody, I think about my late mother.”
“But that woman only has one child Herbert. She is nowhere close to being anything like your mother.”
“You wouldn’t understand,” he said. “It’s not like I expect you to.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nora!” her mother called out for her. “Is that husband of yours back now? I thought I heard voices.”
“You should go,” Hebert started unbuttoning his shirt. “Your mother needs you.”
“I’m coming mama!” Nora made a face before turning to leave the room.
Herbert threw his head on the bed and sat down looking like a man that had just been heavily rained on.
The next morning during breakfast, Herbert took the opportunity to talk to Daniel about Beatrice, thinking that if his wife knew her interest in her cousin, perhaps she might stop worrying about his eyes wondering in the teenager’s direction.
“You mean that small girl from the quarter with the big boobs?” Daniel asked Herbert.
Hebert felt as if he had just been asked a trick question because his wife was looking at him sternly, religiously waiting to hear his response.
“I mean the school girl Daniel,” he deliberately avoided giving the obvious answer that would land him flat into a trap.
“Yes, she’s the one I’m talking about. Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed those huge things hanging from her chest? They are the first thing you see when she enters the room or comes out of that tiny house of theirs.” The nineteen year old was completely oblivious to the fact that he was putting his brother-in-law on the spot.
Herbert took the wise way out. “So I take it you like her?” It appeared that he had successfully dodged a trap from the looks on the faces of the two women in sight.
“Hell no!” Daniel said. “I like her boobs quite alright, but my dislike for jail is deeper than the desires of my loins.”
“Danny!” Nora threw her cousin a warning look.
“That’s very wise of you Danny,” Tina commended her nephew. “Some of these girls just exist to give poor unsuspecting men trouble.” She was looking accusingly at her son on-law. “That girl smells like trouble. I could tell the very first time I laid eyes on her so you better steer clear off her, you hear me?”
“Yes aunty,” Daniel said.
“Go for girls your age and the ones with the same background as you. You have seen for yourself the kind of problems your cousin is facing because she married beneath her.”
“Mother!” Nora snapped. “Please don’t talk about my husband like that, and he is sitting here right here with us.”
“I am just trying to educate your cousin here.” Her mother said unapologetically. “I am sure that Herbert understands exactly what I am trying to say, don’t you son in-law?”
“I should leave for work now,” Herbert stood up. “Thank you for breakfast honey. I will see you in the afternoon, mother,” he said to his mother in-law with a forced smile on his face. “Danny, let’s chat another time okay.”
“Fine bro, see you later.”
Herbert walked into the living room where his briefcase was lying on the table and he picked it up to go.
“Are you not even going to kiss me goodbye?” Nora had followed him into the room.
Herbert walked back to her and kissed her lightly on the cheek. “I’ll see you later.” He said and quickly turned to leave.
“Has he left?” Nora’s mother joined her in the living room, walking towards the window to look outside. He saw Herbert get into his car and drive out of the yard.
“You should really stop disrespecting my husband like that mother,” Nora cautioned her mother. She walked over to the display unit and turned on the tele.
Her mother left the window to sit down on the sofa. “I don’t like the looks of him. He looks dumb and I hate that for a man he is so easy to control. What sort of man is so spineless?”
“It’s not that he is spineless mother,” Nora joined her mother on the sofa. “He was just brought up differently from us. His mother taught him to be very respectful towards his mother in-law that’s why he never answers you back. He’s not like that with me you know. He’s always telling me off and doesn’t mince words when he’s upset.
“That’s the problem with quite people, when they finally speak, they explode. He really hates being disrespected and I think that if you keep pushing him like this, one day he might just punch you in the face, or worse.” And then she laughed at the image her imagination had conjured up, much to her mother’s chagrin.
“I dare him to try,” the woman said. “He’s only like that with you because you let him.”
“That’s how a wife ought to be. But of course you wouldn’t know. Growing up abroad must have really messed you up mother. Thank God I went through those lessons before I got married. That funny speaking lady saved my marriage.”
“Ooh I hate that woman so much. I only let her teach you because your grandfather threatened to cut me off from her will if I didn’t let you do it. But seriously, couldn’t you have picked a better man? Why did it have to this one of all people? There were so many men from good families seeking your hand in marriage but you just had to pick one who can’t even give you children.”
“Here we go again,” Nora complained. “My husband doesn’t have a problem having children mother. I have told you several times that we saw a specialist and she told us that we are both fine, it’s just time.”
“Tell that to his relatives, because I have seen them point fingers at you many times.”
“I don’t owe anyone an explanation mother. Let them talk if they want, as if that will make the problems in their own marriages go away. Herbert and I are happy. We will have children whenever God wants us to.”
“So what are you going to do about that girl eyeing our Danny?”
“There is no way in hell I am going to let her get anywhere close to him. I am going to put a stop to her infatuation the moment I see her outside loitering about like she always does.”
As expected, Nora caught Beatrice surveying the house when she went into the kitchen to give instructions to the maid about what to do with the new kitchenware she had bought the previous day.
“That girl, seriously?” She said as she looked out the window.
“You mean Mama Melody’s daughter madam?” her maid asked, also watching Nora through the window. “She is quite a character that one isn’t she?” The elderly woman remarked, laughing at the sight of Beatrice looking around the house with such thirst in her eyes, oblivious to the audience looking at her from inside.
“What is she searching for?” The maid asked.
“Just wash the dishes bamake Joe and stop looking for gossip.” Nora answered. “But if you must know, she seems to be interested in Danny but I am going to put a stop to this right away.”
When Nora opened the door, Beatrice almost jumped at her unexpected appearance. She had been looking forward to seeing someone else. Nora walked to where she was and joined her under the huge Mango tree that separated the two houses.
“What do you think you are doing there?” Nora asked her.
“I am just standing,” Beatrice answered smugly. “Is there a law against me standing here?”
“What?” Nora couldn’t believe the girl’s insolence. “What did you just say to me?”
“I thought rich people unwaxed their ears with expensive formulas, I guess that was only a rumour.” Beatrice snickered.
“You are a stubborn little thing aren’t you?” Nora retorted. “I knew there was a reason why I didn’t like you the first time I saw you.”
“I am only like this because you looked down on us when my mother begged you to let us live here. It’s not like you even need the little money that comes from this house so I am not going to pretend that I like you. I really despise you and I will never forget how you treated me and my mother.”
“How did a kind woman like your mother end up with a twerp like you?” Nora asked.
“What did you call me?”
“Look it up in a dictionary,” Nora said. “Of course I am assuming that that third rate school of yours has a library since it’s obvious you don’t own one.”
“What do you want from me?” Beatrice asked. “You obviously didn’t come all the way here from your Sugar Candy Mountain to put a smile on my face.”
“I heard that you are interested in my brother,” Nora scoffed.
“I thought he was your cousin.” Beatrice said.
“Cousins are also considered siblings, didn’t your mother teach you that?”
“I don’t have siblings or cousins so how the hell am I supposed to know something like that? Why are you concerning yourself with my feelings? Whatever I feel is between Danny and me, it’s none of your business.”
Nora broke down in laughter. “Did you just say none of my business?” She clapped her hands. “You really are clueless. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since they don’t teach common sense in schools. Do you actually think that my family would let you anywhere near my cousin? Do you even know who his father is?”
“I didn’t say that I want to get married to him. I just like him. Is there anything wrong with that?”
“Why don’t you try boys your age? Danny is clearly way out of your league. You are just a kid. You should concentrate on school instead of chasing after older men. Besides, Danny doesn’t even like you. He thinks you are just a kid and has never thought of you any other way. Don’t let those mountains in your chest fool you.
“I suggest that you stick to boys your age and stop trying to reach for things way above you. You still reek of your mother’s breast milk and you think you can cheat your way into my family. Wake up and smell the coffee you stinking little brat.”
“If you had seen the way your husband reacted when he got a glimpse of my legs, you wouldn’t be calling me a little girl right now.” Beatrice said vaingloriously.
Nora smacked her hard across the face but instead of wincing in pain, Beatrice only touched the assaulted area as she smiled defiantly at the woman who had just declared war against her.
“The truth hurts doesn’t it?” Beatrice said. “Do you want me to prove to you just how much of a child I am not?” She threatened.
Nora scoffed. “Do you think that my husband would give you his time of day?” He confidently asked. “Herbert is the most honourable man you will ever meet in your sorry life. He is different from all those men you’ve been playing around with.”
“If he is so honourable, why are you trembling?” Beatrice asked, looking down at Nora’s shaking hands which she immediately knotted into fists.
“There is something about these twins that leaves any red-blooded man powerless,” She was pointing at her chest. “You said it yourself, poor people have no pride whatsoever…isn’t that what you said to my mother when she was grovelling before you begging you to let her stay in that tiny house of yours with the little change she had on her?
“You were so damn right Nora, I will hand you that. Someone should have really told you that there is power in what we speak…because you are about to find out just how powerful your words are.”
“You better stay away from my husband or I will make sure that you regret the day you were born.” Nora was reeling with anger.
“I already regret being born from parents like mine, think about something else to threaten me with,” came Beatrice’s conceited reply before she turned and left Nora convulsing from rage.
“Can you believe that girl mother?” Nora stormed into her mother’s bedroom and interrupted her call.
“Mummy will call you back again in a little bit, okay my love?” her mother said to whoever she had been speaking to on the phone before putting the receiver down.
“Was that little V?” Nora asked. “I also wanted to talk to him. Gosh I miss him so much.” For a moment, Nora had forgotten about her rage. Her little brother had a way of making her feel like the happiest person alive. He was the one thing she terribly missed about leaving her parent’s home; she didn’t get to see him as often as she would have loved.
“You barged in here like a tornado, what the hell is going on?” Her mother asked.
“That, that stupid girl,” she was pointing in the direction of Beatrice’s house. “She threatened me, can you believe that?”
“What do you mean she threatened you?” Tina asked her daughter.
“I told her to stay away from Danny and she ended up threatening to go after my husband instead.”
“What?” Her mother got up from the bed. “I should have handled this myself. We need to put a stop to this and send that woman with her Jezebel daughter away from here.” She started walking towards the door but her daughter’s next words halted her.
“I might have said something to make her threaten me like that.” Nora shut her eyes in regret.
“There is nothing that you might have said that would make it okay for anyone to threaten your marriage child.” Her mother assured her. “Wait here, I am going to take care of this before it gets out of hand.” And she bolted out of the room and headed straight to Beatrice’s house.
Nora followed her behind.
Tina busted into the house unannounced and found Beatrice buttering her bread in their make-shift kitchen.
“What are you doing?” Beatrice asked the pair. “So you went and cried to mummy,” she teased Nora who was standing behind her mother.
Tina moved forward and smacked Beatrice hard across the face, the same spot her daughter had earlier targeted except this time around, Beatrice felt the world spin around as she placed her hand the injured area, shutting her eyes to keep the world from spinning so fat. Her eyes had turned red as tears welled up inside.
Tina then went about grabbing things from the house, whatever she could get her hands on and she went throwing them outside while Beatrice watched in dismay.
“Shouldn’t we wait for her mother to come back before kicking them out?” Nora asked her mother who continued to throw things out with the kind of commitment that she wished could only be rivalled by the bond holding her daughter’s marriage. She might not be a fan of Herbert, but any man was better if it meant avoiding divorce.
She pushed the shell-shocked Beatrice to the side and sent her falling to the floor, turning the small bucket of water lying there to the side and drowning her bottom in its spilled contents. She remained on the floor as Tina went about her business and it was in that position that her mother found her when she finally came back from buying a few groceries from the shops nearby.
“What is going on here?” Melody asked.
Tina finally stopped whatever she was doing and went outside to lash out at her daughter’s tenant.
“I am doing something that should have been done a long time ago. If you cannot control your own daughter, then you should be ready to face the consequences of your sins.” She lashed out at the visibly confused woman.
“What did my daughter do this time?” Melody asked.
“She threatened my daughter’s marriage!” Tina shouted. “You of all people should know exactly what that means since you claim to be such a good Christian.”
“Beatrice,” Melody turned to her daughter. “Is what she’s saying true?”
“Are you suggesting that I would lie to you about such a thing?” Tina hissed.
“Beatrice, what did you do?” Melody asked her daughter.
Beatrice finally decided to get up from the floor and she did so in the most calm way possible. “I told you that we should move out of this place but you insisted on staying and being treated like garbage by these people. I don’t regret anything I said to her mother. After what they’ve just done, I am more determined than ever to teach this spoilt woman a lesson. I will help you throw some things out,” she was now addressing Nora’s mother.
“You seem out of breath just handling these few things. You must be growing old. Is your husband still alive? Maybe I should hitch a ride from him as well. I hear the old fellas really like them young and fresh.” And she went about moving the rest of the remaining stuff outside.
“Can you hear your daughter?” Tina was fuming from ear to ear.
“I am very sorry Ma’am,” Melody bowed her head down continuously. “It is my sin that my daughter turned out this way. Please forgive me. I beg of you. We will move out of here as soon as possible.”
“I need you out of here this very moment!” Tina thundered.
“I understand,” Melody said resignedly. “Just give me time to pack everything and we will be out of here.”
“Good,” Tina said and turned to leave. “What are you still doing in there Nora?” She shouted to her daughter who was still standing inside the house watching the scene between the two mothers.
Nora quickly ran to catch up to her mother.
“Did you really have to do that?” Nora asked her mother once she had caught up to her.
“You will thank me later in future for that,” Tina told her daughter.
“But that was not how things turned out,” George told a shell-shocked Evelyn.
“What happened to my grandmother and… you know, Beatrice?” Evelyn asked.
“They left that house that very day,” George said.
“Where did they go?”
“On the streets, where else would they go? Your grandmother grew up on the streets before she was rescued by some missionaries so she knew where she could find a safe place to spend the night with her daughter. She was too embarrassed to go to any of her church friends because then she would have to tell them what had happened.
“She was never one to tell a lie. No one would have welcomed them into their home with that. That single night they spent out on the streets was the day Beatrice lost whatever little innocence she had left in her. She was filled with so much bitterness and a need for revenge and she went after Mr Chileshe with a vengeance.”
“Tell me something,” Evelyn made George pause his narrative for a moment. “Is he my father? Mr Chileshe, was he my father?”
George hesitated but eventually nodded. “Yes,” he said.
“Dear Lord,” Evelyn gasped. “So she finally succeeded in seducing him.”
“That she did, yes…but not so easily.” George said. “Mr Chileshe knew exactly what she was up to so he avoided her. Unfortunately, he had so much going on in his marriage and the devil somehow found a space to squeeze himself in. Beatrice was so determined to ruin that family that she never relented in her pursuit, not even for a second despite being rejected over and over again.
“Nora’s mother even had her arrested once but Beatrice turned things around at the police station, claimed the woman was only bitter because her daughter’s husband was chasing after her. She threatened Tina and Nora that if they didn’t have her released; she would accuse Herbert of molesting her while they lived at their house. She was a very good actress, they would have believed her without a doubt.”
“It reached that far?” Evelyn asked.
“Oh dear, it was worse than that,” George said. “Beatrice’s determination shook Herbert to his very roots so much that he begun to see her as a woman and not as the child she was. There is something about confessed feelings that makes people weaken inside and Beatrice went beyond just confessing her love to him.
“But, it still took two years before Beatrice would have her way. He finally gave in to her after a heated argument with his mother in-law. It was something he had done out of anger, out of spite and he regretted it the moment the deed was done but that was all Beatrice needed to push her agenda forward. And that is how you were conceived.”
“I feel like I just heard a story that was happening to someone else and it has nothing to do with me,” Evelyn said with a distant expression on her face. “I cannot believe that something like that…something so scary and unbelievable has so much to do with me. I guess now I can understand why Grandma Melody never wanted to speak to me about it.”
“She didn’t feel it was something you needed to know…and she was right.” George said.
“But, you said my mother killed my father…how did things turn out like that? Did she really kill him?”
“I said she had something to do with his death. I never said that she actually killed him.”
“What is the difference?” Evelyn asked.
“Perhaps I should tell you the rest of the story so you can understand what I mean.”
* * *
“I just need you to tell me what’s wrong with you.” Sibusiswe implored him. “I know now for a fact that you are sick but I don’t understand why you won’t tell me what you are suffering from. Is it that bad?”
Martin walked over to her, took her hand into his and led them to sit down. “Sibu, Sibu, Sibu….” he said whilst playing with her hand over the table. “There’s that look in your eyes…one minute I can swear on my life that you love me…and the next minute, you treat me like a plague you wanna avoid for life.”
“Stop trying to change the topic Martin,” Sibu said forcefully.
For a moment, Martin paused whatever he was doing with her hand and just held on to it like that, starring hard at their hands entangled together and yet it was so clear his mind was somewhere else.
“If you don’t tell me, I know someone somewhere who would be willing to tell me if I begged him properly.” She threatened him.
And then very slowly, he led her hand to the table, carefully placed it down and withdrew his hands under the table. “Yes I am sick Sibu,” he finally admitted, suddenly sitting up straight and delivering the devastating news in the most casual tone he could cook up. “I have a kidney problem and the doctors think getting a transplant is the best thing for me.”
Despite her implorations, she never really expected him to come out with the truth right away, but looking at Martin standing there, there was an unsettling feeling that had crept up on her and she couldn’t get rid of it.
“You are serious, right?” She was studying him closely.
Martin was looking at her bemusedly. “You need to learn to trust me, Sibu. Why would I lie to you about something like this?”
“Then why do you look like that?” She was gesturing towards his whole demeanour.
“What, you want me to be all sad and feeling sorry for myself just because I have a terminal disease?” He asked.
“Not exactly,” she replied. “But you don’t look sick at all and you act like there is nothing serious going on with your health.”
“It’s not that serious, yet…” he answered nonchalantly. “And I have been doing enough to keep things under control.”
“You mean like partying and drinking?” She said sarcastically.
Martin only laughed in response.
And then a thought crossed Sibu’s mind. “Your conversation with the doctor that night…and what Ted just said…does it mean you don’t want to have surgery?” The expression on her face had suddenly turned serious.
Martin had dreaded this moment but it had finally come. “I told you about the disease Sibu but that’s all I’m gonna say.”
“Why won’t you have surgery when it will help you live? I just don’t understand that. Is it because you haven’t found a donor?” She asked.
“Tell me something Sibusiswe,” Martin leaned his back against his chair. “Why are you so concerned about my health or my wellbeing in general?”
The question was so unexpected and Sibu struggled to give a response right away.
“Because we are friends,” she had finally managed. “I am just concerned about you as Ted is.”
“There we go again, Ted.” Martin bleated. “What’s up with you and Ted? Are you sure nothing happened between you two? Why does he feel the need to call you all the way from there and then talk about me?”
“He didn’t call to talk about you, don’t be so conceited.” She replied. “And just like the way you and I are, he too is a friend.” She was now up on her feet and ready to go.
Martin got up as well. “So does that mean you slept with him too?” he asked.
If looks could kill, Martin Mwewa had just been turned into a fossil.
“You said just like us,” he shrugged his shoulders innocently. “Okay,” he moved closer to her and closed the distance between them. “It was a bad joke,” he placed his hands on her shoulders and much to his surprise; she did not flinch or protest like she normally did whenever he initiated physical contact. She was just looking at him with the same murderous expression on her face.
It was Martin’s turn to feel uncomfortable. He dropped his hands from her shoulders and put some distance between them. He was looking at her suspiciously.
“You were not planning on hitting me in the balls were you?” He asked, looking down at her foot which was busy tapping the floor.
“I am going back to work,” Sibu said to him before turning to leave.
“I met your aunt over the weekend,” Martin’s announcement brought her to a complete stop.
Sibu immediately turned back around and walked back to where Martin was standing, his hands back in his pockets as a satisfied grin appeared on his face. “Figured that would get your attention,” he said.
“Are you kidding me?” An angry Sibu shouted.
“Oh no, I wasn’t lying about your aunt. I really met her on Sunday. She called and said there was something she needed to talk to me about. Tell me, is that woman your real aunt?” Martin asked, for the umpteenth time.
“What did she say to you?” Sibu’s voice was husky and shaky.
“There, that look again.” Martin was pointing at her face. “You always get like this whenever your aunt comes up. You act like she is more of a nemesis than aunt.”
“What did my aunt say to you Martin?” She repeated the question, this time placing emphasis on every single word.
“Nothing important, she said she was curious about me and just wanted to know me better.” He lied and she wasn’t buying.
“You lying to me means that she said something worse,” Sibu muttered. “Why won’t you tell me what she said to you?”
Martin had somehow successfully landed himself into a hole. “Because it’s not that important Sibu,” he said. “She just wanted to know how far our relationship has gone and she said something about being on my side and looking out for me if you give me a hard time.”
Sibu still looked unconvinced. “I know my aunt and I know for a fact that that does not sound like anything she would say…well, maybe she might have said something in those lines but I know there is something else she said to you that you are not telling me.”
“Sibu….” He tentatively reached out for her hand.
“Never mind,” she said dismissively. “Even if you don’t tell me, I will find out.” And with that, she turned and walked away.
Left behind, Martin brushed his hand through his hair in frustration.
“How did that happen?” He scolded himsef.
Just like she had promised Martin, Sibusiswe went directly to her aunt’s house that evening after knocking off from work.
“I knew you would bring yourself home soon,” Aunt Tafadzwa passed the snide remark the moment she opened the door for her. That phrase had unconsciously become her welcoming remark to Sibu.
“Why did you ask to meet Martin aunt and what did you tell him?” Sibu had offered herself a seat and she went straight to the point the moment she was settled down.
“Typical Bemba man,” Aunt Tafadzwa said as she too sat down to face her angry niece. “They all talk too much.”
“Aunt,” Sibu called out to her, a grave expression on her face. “For how long do you intend to run my life like this? What do I have to do that will satisfy you and make you leave me the hell alone?”
“I am glad you asked that question my dear,” her aunt replied. “You claim to have done enough for me yet here I am still languishing in poverty. My friends at the market are busy upgrading and they now own shop yet all I have is that small stand which isn’t even mine to begin with.”
“And how is that my fought?” Sibu asked. “I gave you money to start the business; did you also want me to take care of every little thing for you?”
“Have you forgotten that you are the reason my family is this poor?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked. “If not for you…and if not for all the hospital bills I had to pay for your recovery, my children and I wouldn’t have to depend on you for anything.”
She always knew when to bring up those words in a conversation and after so many years of using them, she had come to master their exact effect.
Sibu sighed heavily and let her head fall back on the sofa. She had no more fight left in her. Every conversation she had with her aunt somehow always led to this particular conversation.
How was she supposed to win an argument when she was disadvantaged from the get-go? There was only one person who knew what happened that day and that person was bent on using that information against her till the day she died.
“You said that if I marry him,” Sibu sat up straight and had a new kind of resolve in her eyes. “That if I send my cousins to school and set up a business for you then you will let me go, right?”
Aunt Tafadzwa was grinning from ear to ear. “Yes, yes, you’ve thought wisely my dear.” She was nodding her head excitedly as she spoke. “Marrying a man like him will set you up for life.”
More like set you up for life, Sibu thought to herself but loudly said. “I will marry him,” she announced to her very delighted aunt. “But only I get to decide how much money you get from that family,” she added before her aunt could say anything. She could tell she was itching to give her five cents on the topic.
“You will not under any circumstances make any financial demands from Martin or any member of his family,” She went on. “If I hear that you contacted any one of them behind my back, I will cancel this arrangement and disappear from your life, to hell with the past and all that talk about penance. Have I made myself clear aunty?”
Aunt Tafadzwa didn’t look pleased at all with the terms that came with it. “The way you sound…and the way you are looking at me, who can tell that you are my niece? Tsk.”
Sibu stood up. “After draining me of my blood and sweat, do you still think that there could ever be such a relationship between us?” She said. “To me you will always be the person that put a price on my mother’s life and made me pay every cent of it using my blood.” She then picked up her handbag and left the house.
During the time Sibbusiswe walked from her aunt’s house to the bus stop, she had made two major decisions in her head and she committed to delivering on one of them right away.
At the bus stop, instead of getting on a bus, she took a cab and told the driver, “Longacres please, Mirabell Hospital.”
“Why did you ask me to come to your house doc?” Martin asked Dr Sanjay once they were sited in his living room. “It’s so quiet today,” he noted. “Where’s everyone else?”
“My husband and the kids are at the other house.” She was gesturing towards the back of the house where they had built three more houses for their extended family. “His parents are visiting so everyone seems to be spending more time there.”
“I see,” Martin said. “So, what was so important it couldn’t wait till morning?”
“We found you a donor,” the doctor said.
Martin grumbled and stood up in frustration. “I knew it.” He said. “What was I expecting?” And he started walking towards the door.
“You need to ask me who the donor is,” the doctor said to his retreating figure.
“I really don’t care,” Martin responding without looking back.
“But I think you should care,” Dr Sanjay insisted. “You know who the donor is.”
Martin paused and then slowly turned to look at the doctor. The question was written all over his face.
“Your girlfriend, Sibusiswe Hangaala.” She provided.
Martin gaped at his doctor in response. “What do you mean by that?” He knew what he had heard, but he hoped he had heard wrong.
Unfortunately, Doctor Sanjay wasn’t privy to his heart’s desires and so she repeated, “Sibusiswe came to see me at the hospital just as I was knocking off and demanded that I have tests done on her to see if she can be your donor…thing is, I already knew she was a match….” the doctor nervously added the last part.
“Did you push her into….”
Doctor Sanjay waved her hand in the air to deny the incoming accusation. “We ran a lot of tests on her the last time you came with her…I just happened to check and…. I never told anyone about it, not even you or her until today. It was just a by-the-way thing before but now it’s turned out like this.”
Nothing was making sense to Martin. Why would Sibu do that?
“Isn’t she your girlfriend?” The Doctor asked.
“What?” Martin asked, looking extremely disturbed.
“You asked why she would do that?” Dr Sanjay answered.
“Oh,” he said, “I thought I said it in my head.”
“Why don’t you sit down?”
Without protesting, Martin went back to sit.
“She never mentioned whether she wanted to keep the donation private or not…I assume she would have preferred the former but since I know you, I figured you would want to know lest you threaten to shut down my practice again.”
Martin stood up again. “This is very confusing…it doesn’t add up,” he said. “I have to talk to Sibu first. I think this is some sort of bad joke. I hope you didn’t get her to sign anything.”
Doctor Sanjay winced in embarrassment.
“What?” Martin asked upon seeing the doctor’s reaction.
“She forced me to get her to sign the papers and threatened to inject herself with anything she could lay her hands on in the hospital if I refused to do what she wanted. I asked her if you knew she was going to be your donor and immediately sensed she hadn’t since she couldn’t give me a straight answer. I suggested talking to you first and that’s when she went berserk. I really believed her when she said she would inject herself. Her eyes were searching my office for any weapons. She is one scary girl.”
“Are you even a doctor?” Martin yelled at her. “How can an eighteen year old make you do something like that?”
“She might be eighteen but her mind is older and wiser than the both of us put together.” The doctor could recall the spine—chilling moment Sibu had looked into her eyes and made the threat. She had never before seen such determination in a teenager’s eyes. “Do you even know what her IQ is?”
Martin huffed and left the house in furry.
* * *
Not wanting to disturb Sibusiswe who was now sleeping in the bedroom after coming in from work in a very bad mood, Sibeso had finished preparing supper and had just dropped her body on the sofa with a plate in hand when someone knocked at the door.
It was not one of those subtle and respectful knocks that people usually get on their doors. This one was loud, irritating and was so powerful it would have knocked the door right off its hinges if it continued any longer.
Sibeso put her plate down on the table and got up to check on the rude visitor in frustration. She could hear Sibu tossing and turning in her sleep from the noise and so when she opened the door, it was not with a welcoming smile.
For a second, Sibeso’s huge frown almost made Martin forget why he had come there in the first place.
“I need to talk to Sibu,” Martin said the moment he recovered and shoved himself passed Sibeso and entered the house.
“What are you doing here?” The noise had obviously awakened Sibu.
“What have you done?” He fired at her right away.
“What do you….”
“Doctor Sanjay, she told me!” He yelled.
“You do know we live in a flat, right?” Sibeso reminded Martin. “These walls have ears so I suggest you tone it down or we gonna have to print tickets next time you visit to accommodate the large audience.” She then picked up her plate from the table and headed to the balcony, closing the door behind her to give them some privacy.
Sibu’s attitude seemed to raise Martin’s blood pressure even more. She simply shrugged her shoulders and went to occupy the same spot her friend had been in.
“Is that the only reaction I am going to get from you?” Martin asked, sitting down as well.
“What do you want me to say?” Sibu said nonchalantly. “I have no plans of becoming a widow just after a year of marriage. What sort of fool do you take me for?”
“How the hell do you expect me to…wait,” that’s how long it took for her words to sink in. “What did you just say? Did I hear correctly?” A smile slowly crept onto his face. “I’m I really….” Martin was up on his feet, one hand pressed on his mouth in disbelief.
Sibu instinctively smiled back at him, but unlike his pure genuine smile, hers was riddled with joy and something mysterious. “Yes, I will marry you…but only if you agree to have the surgery.” She said.
…because that’s the only way I can lessen my guilt towards you and some else. She added silently.
And then suddenly, his smile mirrored hers before completely faded into oblivion.
“What are you so afraid of Martin?” Sibu got up and walked over to him. Martin avoided her gaze, looking down at his feet with both his hands now in his pockets.
“The doctor said you don’t want to have surgery because you don’t want to live like a patient for the rest of your life; forever taking meds despite having a new kidney…and so you would rather die. Is that correct?”
“Would you live such a life yourself Sibu?” Martin asked.
The question startled her. “For me death is a luxury I cannot afford,” she said in a very solemn tone, quickly turning her back to him to avoid eye contact. “But we are not talking about me,” she said, sitting in the same spot as before. “I think you are just being a coward.”
“What?” Martin was incandescent in his delivery. There was something else she had said he wanted to address because he had heard it before but her last remark made everything else seem less important.
“I am a coward?” He hissed. “How does getting to decide how or when I die make me a coward? Do you have any idea what it’s like living a life dependent on drugs? Every little thing I do, every decision I make, I have to consider my health first. You’ve seen how I’ve lived my life so far, do you think someone like me can survive such a restrictive lifestyle? It’s as good as being dead!”
“I knew you were a spoilt brat before…I just didn’t know it was to such an extent,” Sibu chastised him, much to his chagrin. “Do you have any idea how many people out there would kill to have the same opportunities as you but here you are taking everything for granted.”
“I never asked anyone to donate their kidney to me,” Martin stated. “And I most certainly never imagined receiving one from you. Look at me, do I look sick to you?”
“That’s beside the point,” Sibu argued. “I don’t even think you did any research to find out how your life will change after surgery. You just heard a few lines from the doctor, you didn’t like the sound of them and then you made your decision. Have you even tried reaching out to people that have had such transplants before? You are even lucky you got the diagnosis on time so you’ve had enough time to adjust your lifestyle and live a much healthier life. Who says your life has to change dramatically just because you have to take meds every now and then? It only takes a few seconds to drink medicine and if you have someone by your side, you won’t even think of it as such a hustle.”
Martin said nothing in response. Everything she had said was right. They were the same words Doctor Sanjay had tried telling him but she never gave her the chance to finish. However, there was something about those very words coming from Sibu’s mouth that made him want to listen. There was something in her voice that gave him hope that life wouldn’t be so bad after all.
From the moment he had been diagnosed, he had done everything possible to erase any memory of it…to go on with life and pretend as if nothing was wrong. Even in those moments when the pain came, all he had to do was get a quick fix for pain and sleep everything away. Tomorrow was always a brand new day and thanks to Sibu who had appeared in his life like an accident; his days had become even brighter.
“What made you change your mind about marrying me?” was what Martin asked when he finally spoke. “What happened to all those reasons you gave, love, school and what not?”
“I can easily change my mind again if you like,” she threatened him.
“No, no, no,” Martin pleaded. “Please don’t.”
Sibu laughed. “I am a woman, changing my mind is a major part of my operating system. You should get used to it.”
He too laughed. “But seriously, what made you change your mind?” He asked again.
“My aunt did everything in her power to convince me,” she said jokingly.
“She didn’t threaten you, did she?” Martin asked.
Sibu laughed. “Even if she did, it’s not like I would tell you…because that would just defeat the whole purpose.”
“Oh wow, that hurts real badly,” he held his hand to his heart, feigning pain but smiling at the same time. “Your aunt really scares me. She is like a villain in a soap opera. Instead of Aunt Tafadzwa, you should be calling her Aunt Maxine…the female version of Max from No One But You.”
“I would say the same about your mother,” Sibu said. “How are you going to convince your parents to let you marry me? I am not exactly the kind of woman you introduce to a family like yours. Your mother has already made her feelings known…explicitly.”
That part hadn’t crossed his mind yet; his father was not a problem…it was his mother he had to worry about.
He had not spoken to his mother ever since the nasty exchange they had had after he returned from abroad which ended with him being kicked out of the house. Mrs Mwewa never thought her son would actually leave which was why she was more shocked than anyone else when he actually did.
Coming from a very poor family background, Martin’s mother operated under the assumption that anyone poor that had sights on her son did so with ulterior motives. Being ten years younger than her husband, everyone naturally assumed she had married him for his money; something Martin had come to learn was a fact when she had gotten drunk during his fifteenth birthday celebrations and told him that she would have not been attracted to Martin Senior in the first place if not for his money but that didn’t mean she never loved him as a man…only that the money made her look in his direction.
With a background like that, Mrs Mwewa was suspicious of any girl that tried to get close to her son.
“By the way,” Sibu was now resting her head on Martin’s lap as the two of them made themselves comfortable on the biggest chair in the room. “Why does your mum hate Tonga’s so much?”
Martin giggled. “Oh that,” he said whilst playing with her hair. “It’s a long story…but the short version is; her mother died when she was twelve and her dad remarried another woman just two months later who ended up mistreating my mother and her siblings. That woman was Tonga by tribe.”
“Oooh,” was all Sibu could say in response, finally making sense of the things she had heard.
“How about your name, it doesn’t sound Tonga.” Martin said.
“It’s actually Ndebele…well, it’s also found in the Eastern province, but it has the same meaning in any language.”
“What does it mean?” Martin asked.
“It means blessing. The original name is actually Sibusisiwe… but when I was in pre-school I had a teacher who insisted on calling me Sibusiswe and ended up putting it on all my school documents and here we are….”
“I kind of like Sibusiswe better, the other one is too long,” Martin laughed.
And just like that, the two of them chatted all the way to midnight when Sibeso finally gave up braving the mosquitos outside and crushed their party to go to bed.
That following weekend, Martin decided to visit his parent’s home to talk to them about his marriage. His mother was excited to have him home thinking he had decided to come back. However, her hopes where shattered during dinner when Martin finally launched his marriage campaign.
“I have decided to get married,” Martin had announced to the unsuspecting audience consisting of his parents and young sister Mwiche.
“Marriage? You?” Martin Senior scoffed. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“Junior,” his mother was giving him a warning look to shut up.
Mwiche was the only one responding in excitement. “Is it who I think it is?” she asked her brother.
Martin was all smiles when he replied, “of course it is. She finally said yes!”
Mwiche clapped her hands excitedly. “I am going to be your flower girl ka?”
Martin laughed. “Have you ever seen a flower girl as old as you?”
Mwiche’s excitement dulled down to a zero as she dropped her shoulders and head in disappointment.
“You are serious?” His father finally gave him his full attention.
“Yes dad, I am serious.” Martin answered confidently.
“Is it that girl at the reception?” Martin senior asked.
Three faces gaped at him in astonishment.
“How did you….” Martin was asking.
His father smirked. “Is there anything I don’t know,” he answered smugly. “I see you take after your old man,” he was smiling proudly. “She is young, fresh, and beautiful…and quite intelligent I hear.”
His wife was glaring at him in disapprobation, making their two children bust out in laughter.
“I don’t like her,” Mrs Mwewa vomited.
“Have you ever liked anyone honey?” her husband asked.
“Honey!” his wife complained, the thick foundation on her face almost melting from anger.
Martin and Mwiche chuckled surreptitiously.
“What about school, are you really going to drop out?” His father asked.
“Of course not,” Martin answered. “I will continue from here.”
“Why are you suddenly in such a rush to get married?” His mother asked.
Before it was because he thought he was going to die but after the recent developments, he only had one thing in mind;
“Because I love her and I want to marry her before any man beats me to it.” He was as assertive as could be in his response.
His father was smiling at him proudly. “That’s my boy,” he said as he raised his glass to him and the two of them toasted, earning themselves a glacial stare from one woman and a smile from another.
“Doesn’t she need to college? I am not very comfortable marrying my son off to a high school graduate. And I don’t like where she comes from.” Mrs Mwewa pressed her case.
Martin had been waiting for that. “We already talked about that mother,” he said. “She will apply for the 2010 intake. We will try to find a house close to campus so she can easily move to and from home. And as for where she comes from…you can’t seriously blame her for being of a certain tribe just because you had a bad experience with one person of that tribe. That’s just unfair; she did not chose to be born of her parents just as I never chose to have a tribalist mother.”
“Martin, watch your tone with me,” his mother roared, it was the only thing she could hit him with since he was coming off as a wise-ass. “This is exactly why I don’t like that girl. In just a few months she’s changed you to this person I can no longer recognize.”
“I actually like who he’s become now,” his father chipped in.
His wife gaze was enough to freeze anyone it landed on but after so many years, Martin senior had developed immunity against it.
“Ever since that girl came into his life he’s matured.” He continued as if there was no lightening close to him threatening to light up the whole house. “He doesn’t party like he used to and he’s finally stopped being such a mama’s boy. I was worried you would turn him into a sisy with all your whining and meddling. You are forgetting that if I hadn’t disobeyed my parents, you and I would not be having this conversation right now. Leave the boy be.” And with that declaration, he got up and went upstairs.
His wife went after him to continue their war behind closed doors.
“He’s in big trouble,” Mwiche said with a mischievous grin on her face.
“I know,” Martin said, looking up the stairs from the top of his wine glass.
That same evening at the N’cube’s residence in Kanyama, Aunt Tafadzwa welcomed into her home a visitor that appeared to be in his mid-fifties. He was well groomed and smartly dressed, definitely not anyone in Aunt Tafadzwa’s circles.
“You still look as radiant as ever Tafadzwa.” The man was obviously trying to ingratiate himself into her favour. “How long has it been?”
Aunt Tafadzwa was wearing her usual visitor smile. “Eighteen years I think.” She replied.
“It’s been that long isn’t it?” The soft-spoken man said.
“What brings you here so unexpectedly? I thought you would have forgotten us by now.” Aunt Tafadzwa said.
“How can I ever forget you my dear? If anything, I thought you were the one that forgot about me. Every time I tried to get in touch with you, you would either cut my calls or ignore them altogether. I use to send letter before but when I noticed you weren’t writing back, I gave up.”
The woman was blushing in embarrassment like someone who had been caught doing something bad red-handed. “Well, I thought it was a prank call and sometimes when you called I was probably busy and couldn’t attend to the phone.”
“I see,” the man said, obviously unconvinced by her words. “One time a girl answered the phone and said she was your niece…I didn’t know you had a niece.”
Aunt Tafadzwa looked like she had just swallowed something bigger than her oesophagus could handle. “My niece…? When was that? I don’t have any niece.”
“Yes, that’s what I thought,” the man replied. “As far as I know…Mi..riam….” he struggled to say the name. “…she was…your only sister…and she never had children…as far as I know.”
The frog in Aunt Tafadzwa’s mouth was growing bigger by the minute. Any longer and hell would break loose in her mouth. Her face was starting to change colour.
“Yeah…you are right…she…she…never…had any…any children,” she was stuttering and laughing nervously. “I think you of all people would know if she had any children. You were her fiancé after all.”
By now, it had become apparent to the man that something was not right. He was searching Aunt Tafadzwa’s face intently.
He’s not suspecting me, is he? Aunt Tafadzwa thought. Calm down Fadzwa or the wonderful future you just earned for yourself will blow up in your face before you even get to smell the dollars.
I would have given anything to give this man standing before my heart, my soul and my body.
I would have stopped the hands of time just to capture this moment in my head and replay it for life.
I would have taken a leap of faith and thrown caution to the wind just to hear his heart beat fast against mine.
I would have paid any price to belive every word falling out of his mouth without any inhibitions.
And most of all, I would have laid down my life if he allowed himself to lean on me…
If only…my life was mine to give away.
I still had a ransom to pay.
* * *
“So do you now understand why I also have certain things going on in my life that I don’t feel so comfortable to share with you…yet?” Martin said.
Sibu wasn’t comfortable with that arrangement but she had no right to argue because Martin was right. “I understand…I get you…but are you sick?”
Martin pursed his lips. “Do I look sick to you?” He said in his usual confident tone of voice.
“I heard what you said on the phone….”
“You never heard the whole conversation,” Martin said. “That conversation was not about me.”
Sibu didn’t look convinced. “You are really going to stick to that story no matter how much I press ins’t it?”
Martin tenaciously moved his other arm and put it on top of her hand he was still holding and starred at it for what felt like an eternity. “I just need you to trust me when I say I mean well and that my feels for you are real.”
Sibu hesitated before responding, “I get you,” she said unconvincingly. “But can you let go of my hand now,” she was looking down at the hand intertwined between his hands.
“I will only let you go if you promise to at least think about my proposal.” Martin insisted.
Sibu sighed. “I can’t….”
“I suggest you really think wisely before you respond,” he cut her off before she could finish her response. “Remember, we are out in the middle of nowhere and I am the only one with a car.”
She scoffed. “If that was meant to scare me, then I am sorry to disappoint you. I have seen so much hell in my life that a little darkness doesn’t scare me.” She again tried to free her arm from his grip but he didn’t budge.
“How about just spending the night here,” Martin suggested and won himself a glacial stare from Sibu. “I promise I won’t touch you,” he raise one arm up to swear. “I will take the upstairs bedroom and you can go back to the guest one.”
“I would be a fool to even consider sleeping in the same building with you after what happened before….” she was blushing.
Martin was smirking excitedly. “You still think about that night don’t you?”
Sibu took that moment he was lost in his thoughts to finally release her hand. “Because of those few hours of pleasure, I got pregnant and then lost the baby. Of course I think about that night…but certainly not in the ways you are imagining.”
“And what ways could those be?” He still hadn’t lost his smirk. “The fact that you thought about whatever I could be imagining means that we share the same thoughts, except…you chose to look at them from my point of view, but the same thing.” He shrugged his shoulders in satisfaction.
Sibu brushed him off with a shake of her head and started walking away from him towards the direction they had come from.
Martin immediately gave chase. “Are you seriously thinking about walking out here alone this late in the night? I don’t know whether you are brave or insane Sibu. Wait here and I will go get the keys.”
Martin ran back into the house and came out a few seconds later with keys in hand.
Sibu looked like a very pleased woman.
“You are a very stubborn and cruel woman.” Martin said as he drove them to her place.
Sibu ignored him and started playing with his radio.
A few minutes after dropping off Sibu, Martin was driving himself home when he received a call on his cell. It was a strange number.
“Hello,” he greeted the caller, using one hand to drive while the other attended to the call.
“”Is this Junior Mwewa?” the female caller asked.
Martin was taken aback. It was rare for people to address him like that. It was either Martin Mwewa Junior or just Junior, if not Double M like most of his close buddies preferred to call him. “May I know whose calling,” he answered.
“This is Sibusiswe’s aunt,” the woman revealed.
Martin’s leg hit on the brakes accidentally, extremely surprised by the unexpected call. Did Sibu give her my number? What could she be calling me about? Martin thought before finally responding.
“Aunt Tafadzwa?” He asked, getting his hold
There was a strange laugh on the other end of the line. “So you remember me?” the woman asked.
“Even if I wanted to, there was no way I can forget that scene you put up at my workplace. Is there any particular reason you called?” Martin was cold as ice in his delivery.
There was a brief pause from the other end of the line. “Is that the way to talk to your future mother in-law young man?” Aunt Tafadzwa roared. “This is what happens when you let maids raise your children.”
Martin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What did you say?” He asked.
“You heard me,” the woman snapped. “Come to my home tomorrow, you and I need to talk. I might not be Sibu’s mother but I am the only guardian she has.”
Guardian my ass. She is your guardian and you are her burden, Martin said in his head as thought about what he had learnt when he had asked someone to investigate Sibu’s background.
“What time do you want me to come?” Is what he said to her instead.
“Come at 9 at my stand in the market.” She said. “I am sure you already know where it is. And don’t tell my niece about this call or the meeting, okay?”
Clenching his teeth tightly and mouthing a few expletives, Martin ended the call without offering a response.
Being a Sunday, there were only a few stands operating the next morning when Martin showed up at the market. In her screaming lime green top, it was easy to spot the naturally angry looking woman from the few women operating their stands.
Aunt Tafadzwa excitedly waved her arms in the air and called out his name the moment she saw him, attracting attention from everyone around. It finally dawned on Martin why she had asked him to meet her at such a place.
Martin curled his face up in irritation and slowly walked towards her.
“Son in-law,” she loudly said and picked up a stool to give to him. Martin looked at the stool in front of him and instead of siting, he looked back at her and said, “what do you want to talk to me about?”
The smile on Aunt Tafadwa’s face quickly faded. “If you really want to have my niece, you will have to develop a new approach with me. I am the only person capable of persuading her to marry you, you know.” She said smugly.
Martin looked at the woman in puzzlement. “What do you mean by that?” He asked. He wanted to wipe the proud grin from off her face.
“That’s all you need to know. I don’t owe you an explanation,” she replied. “For you to make Sibu yield to your wishes, there are piles and piles of layers you would need to peel off and no matter how hard you try, you will never reach the bottom…but, I know just what button to press to get her to agree.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” He quizzed her.
“Because we both have needs and we can help each other out.”
“I heard you are an intelligent man, don’t plat dumb with me.”
“And exactly what would you like to receive in return for this help you are offering?”
Aunt Tafadzwa looked around her to check if anyone was looking at them and then moved closer to Martin and whispered, “I convince Sibu to marry you and you give me ten million Kwacha in cash as a thank you.”
Martin pulled away from her as if he had just been struck by lightening. “Is this some kind of joke?” He shouted and everyone around turned to look at them.
“That is peanuts compared to what that child owes me. She will never be able to pay me back even if she had seven lives.” Aunt Tafadzwa stated,
“What did she do to you that is so back it turned you into this kind of woman? That girl is your own niece. Don’t you feel bad treating the only thing your sister left behind in such a manner? Don’t you have any shame whatsoever?”
Aunt Tafazdwa’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets. “Don’t act smug with me when you have no clue about what’s going on. Did you ever hear Sibusiswe complain about how I treat her?” She paused and waited for Martin to respond but nothing came.
“Shouldn’t the fact that she’s never said anything to you tell you something about the kind of relationship we have?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked.
The first thing that came to Martin’s mind was Sibu’s remark; Marrying you is not enough to buy me the kind of freedom I desire in this world.
What had Sibu meant by that? Martin thought.
“You are intelligent after all,” Aunt Tafadzwa said upon observing Martin’s reaction.
“And you are deluded if you think you can use me to profit from your daughter’s unhappiness,” he replied curtly. I am going to leave this place and pretend this conversation never too place.” And with that, he turned to leave.
* * *
It was late at night.
In a long, dity and narrow dark street, an owl let out the most melancholic cry and could be seen flying off into the night sky there after.
But right there in the middle of the darkened street stood a little girl, about 5 or 6 years old. She had appeared out of nowhere and the fear radiating from every inch of her tiny frame was chilling to the heart.
Alone in the ghastly environment, a black cat appeared from the pile of waste just a few feet away from her. Despite the darkness, she could make out two big shimmering eyes starring at her for a few seconds before turning and disappearing into the night.
The little girl froze in horror, her head pounding so hard and her heart beating loudly. Just then, a foreboding sound from behind her could be heard and it went – pong, once and stopped. She quickly turned in that direction only to find nothing but darkness glaring back at her.
She had just turned back around when the noise immediately started again. It went pong, pong, pong this time around. Each pong sounded closer than the previous one. She gasped and then froze again, afraid to look back.
As the noise slowly kept getting closer, the little girl held her breath in, shut her eyes and waited for the inevitable. But just when she thought her world was coming to an end, a woman dressed in a long white gown appeared right next to her and took placed her arm over her shoulders from behind.
The noise immediately came to a stop.
Looking up at the familiar face, the girl instinctively smiled back.
However, no sooner had the feeling of safety crept through her tiny little frame than it disappeared. As if transposed into time unknown, the scene before her completely changed and the woman was nowhere in sight.
For a second, the child who now appeared slightly older than before found herself standing in the middle of a whole new street. For a moment she just stood there trying to make out her bearings. Unlike the grisly scene she had earlier been confronted with, the long wide street she was now standing in was lit with lights everywhere and was filled with cars coming from all direction.
She was standing right at the intersection of it all.
As if suddenly awakening from a delirium, she sensed the danger around her and could now hear the screams and cusses from drivers and pedestrians alike. She tried to move out of the road but her feet were stuck on the tarred ground.
She could not move.
She tried to open her mouth to scream and wail for help but her mouth wouldn’t open. Moving her arms around erratically to catch someone’s attention, she felt the ground below her crack.
She stopped moving, looked down and realized she had very little time before the ground opened up and swallowed her into the abyss.
And suddenly, the bright day had turned into night.
Bright lights from an oncoming vehicle approached her from the distance at record speed. She could see nothing else except those headlights shining at her into blindness and she could hear nothing but the incessant hooting from whoever was behind the wheel. Shaking all over in fear of the impending doom, she shut her eyes and waited for the end to come, again.
“Sibu!” A voice called out to her but she could not risk opening her eyes.
“Sibu! Sibu! Get out right now!” Came the desperate plea from whoever was calling out to her. She could feel someone shaking her rapidly and fearing that the ground might open up, she immediately opened her eyes.
“It’s that dream again isn’t it?” Sibeso asked Sibusiswe who was lying in bed and soaked in sweat. She removed the bedding’s covering her friend and went to open the window. “When did they start?” Sibeso asked when she turned around from opening the window. She grabbed a face towel from where it was hang to dry and used it to wipe the sweat off her best friend’s face and neck.
There was nothing but horror written on Sibu’s face.
“You are burning too much,” Sibeso noted, placing her hand on Sibu’s forehead to get a good feel of her temperature. “Let me get you a glass of water first….” she was getting up to go to the kitchen when Sibu grabbed her by her arm.
“Don’t leave me alone,” she implored Sibeso in a deeply shaken up voice. Sibeso complied and sat back down, starring at her friend in unrestrained commiseration.
“Why are the nightmares back Sibu? What happened to you to bring them back when they havent bothered you in the past five months or so? Which one was it this time?”
Sibu swallowed hard before responding, her throat was dry from her nightmarish struggles. Despite the dehydration, she could not risk even for a second being alone while Sibeso went to bring her water.
“I think I have an idea as to why the dreams are back,” Sibu said. “I lost track of things and became selfish again.”
“What do you mean you became selfish?” Sibeso asked. “Don’t tell me you think this is about your relationship with Martin? I don’t know what happened between you and your mother Sibu since you’ve never told me the whole story…but, I do know that no mother would want to see her child suffering the way you’ve been all these years.
“Every time something good happens in your life, you pull back in fear and out og guilt. How sure are you even that things happened the way your aunt told you they did? That evil woman could have cooked up lies just so she can turn you into her slave for life…and it’s worked. You still haven’t remembered anything from that day?”
Sibu shook her head. “I haven’t,” she said solemnly. “I have tried so many times to force myself to recover the memories but I’m still blank. I have no choice but to believe her. I know she is not a very good person…but she can’t be so evil as to lie about something like this…at least I hope.”
“I can’t put anything past that woman. I’m telling you, something is not right. You don’t look so good, let’s go get some water from the kitchen.” Sibeso got up and extended her arm to her friend which she took and was helped out of bed.
Sibusiswe was on her lunch break with Peggy at work when her phone rang. It was a foreign number. The only person that ever called her with a number like that was Martin…and Martin was back in town already.
“Who is it?” Peggy asked upon seeing the puzzled expression on her colleagues face.
“I don’t know,” Sibu replied. “It’s a foreign number, London.”
Peggy’s eyes immediately sparkled with excitement. “Could it be Ted?”
Sibu had not spoken to Ted ever since their last conversation the day before he left for school. It had been one of those exchanges that implied they would never speak to each other again. He had been disappointed, and she had had her dignity shattered.
“It can’t be him,” Sibu said with a far-away look on her face, her mind going back to that last exchange that left her feeling like she would never be able to look him in the eye ever again.
“Is it true what Martin told me?” Ted had called her outside the office and confronted her about the night she had had with Martin.
“What did Martin tell you?” Sibu had asked.
“That you guys slept together,” he spat out the words like a bitter pill he didn’t want to taste.
Sibu was caught off-guard by his bluntness but she was even more hurt by the fact that Martin had already told people about that night when she had not told a soul. But what had she expected? To him she must simply be a new name added to his list he couldn’t wait to brag to his friends about.
“When did Martin tell you that?” Sibu fought back the tears, her voice coming off like a whisper.
“So it’s true,” Ted said disdainfully. “How could you?”
Sibu could hardly look him in the eye. He was reeking of contempt from every part of his body and the hurt in his eyes was so heartbreaking for her to handle.
In as much as she wanted to think of that night with Martin as a mistake, it was something she had consciously allowed herself to be a part of. Yes, it had been a weakness on her part. She knew very well what Martin was capable of and what being with him would imply. She had known all that and still allowed him to control both her body and mind. It was not a moment she was proud of…and it certainly hurt even more hearing someone else’s opinion so directly.
“Since when did you become so weak?” Ted continued his attack on her virtue. “These days you can cry just as easily as you can open your legs.” He said curtly.
Sibu looked at him with tear-filled eyes. She couldn’t believe it was the same Ted talking to her like that. “Ted?” She said as two drops of thick tears rolled down her cheeks. “I know very well what I did…it’s my life. But what right do you have to talk to me like this?”
“You are asking me what right I have?” He had snapped. “I seriously thought that you and I had…that we had….” he searched for the right words to say. “Anyway, all that doesn’t matter anymore. I guess I am just disappointed that you turned out to be just like everyone other girl out there. You are nothing special.”
Sibu wiped away the tears with her hands in unhinged furry. “I don’t know what you thought you and I had going on but I never did anything to suggest something like that was going on. I thought you were my friend and I treated as such. But I guess now we both know what we really think of each other. Have a good life Ted.” And with thatm she turned and walked away.
“Sibu….” She had heard him call out her name from behind but she never bothered to stop or look back.
Sibusiswe was convinced from that point on that the two of them would never speak again. So could he really be the one calling her?
“Well, aren’t you gonna answer it?” Peggy asked Sibu again.
Sibu finally answered the call. “Hello,” she said hesitatingly.
“Sibu, It’s me…Ted.”
She was indeed surprised.
“Yes Ted,” she said, her voice turning ice cold. “What do you want?”
“I guess I deserve that,” Ted said. “I was a real douche.”
“Why did you call?” Sibu asked.
There was a somewhat long pause from the other end of the line. “I wanted to apologize for the nasty things I said to you before I left.” His reply finally came.
When no response came from Sibu’s end, Ted went on. “I had no right to come at you like that…I guess I was just mad…I was jealous that you picked him over me. I had really thought that I had a chance with you.”
Sibu could hear him clearing his throat, fighting to get the words out without breaking down. It was clear he was still hurting from what he felt was a betrayal on her part.
“Ted….” she said.
“I know, I know.” Ted cut in. “I was the one who had his hopes up and I might have misconstrued your behavior…but, I didn’t call you to talk about my feelings. I just wanted to apologize to you because I didn’t like how were we left things off. I think you are a good girl who didn’t deserve to be treated like that. I was a jerk for a moment…but that’s not who I am. I hope you can forgive me for everything and allow me to be your friend again. Do you think you can do that?”
Sibu did not respond immediately.
“I am asking for the impossible aren’t I?” Ted interpreted her silence.
“No, it’s not impossible,” Sibu finally replied. “I was just thinking…you really said pretty soucy things to me and it’s ….”
Ted sighed heavily from the other end of the line.
“I had told myself never to speak to you again,” Sibu continued. “But your apology really means a lot. I can’t promise that things between us will get back to the way they used to be…but I am going to try to forget the past and get to you know all over again.”
“Oh, thank you so much Sibu.” Ted could finally breath a sigh of a relief. “I promise to make it up to you.”
“You don’t have to….”
“By the way, I am sorry about what happened…Martin told me about the baby. I had no idea….”
“Thanks,” Sibu said. “It all happened so fast. Any way, enough talk about the past.”
“How’s Martin doing?” Ted quickly changed the topic.
“Why are you asking me about Martin. Aren’t you his best friend? Don’t you guys talk?”
“Him and I aren’t so close any more…you know.”
“Oh,” Sibu said, sensing she was the reason behind the tension. “I am sorry Ted….”
No, no…it’s not your fault.” Ted replied. “I guess we are both a little immature. He didn’t even tell me he was leaving. I only heard about what happened to you through a mutual friend of ours from over here.
“I am not sure who withdrew from the other first; it could be me…it could be him but we are not cool anymore. At first I thought you had made a terrible mistake picking him…but even I have to admit that he’s different ever since he met you. I just hope that you can convince him to have the surgery….”
“Surgery?” Sibu asked, unconsciously getting up from her chair. “What are you talking about?”
“Shit,” Ted cussed. “He hasn’t told you about that yet?”
“Told me about what Ted?” A deeply perturbed Sibu asked.
“Are you talking to Ted?” Martin’s voice came from behind Sibu.
Sensing danger, Peggy slowly stood up. Looking around only to find that their table was the centre of attention in the cafeteria.
Sibu turned and found a visibly upset Martin glaring at her. “Give me that phone,” Martin said and snatched the phone from her hands before she could put up an protest.
“What surgery is he talking about Martin?” It was all Sibu could think about.
Martin was shocked by the question and wondered just how much Ted had told her.
“Are you for real Ted? Is this how far you wanna go? What did you tell Sibu?” Martin was yelling into the phone.
“Hey Martin, calm down,” Ted tried to reason with him. “It’s not what you think. You need to calm down man.”
“You want me to calm down after catching you calling my fiance behind my back?” Martin snapped.
Sibu moved closer to him and in a low voice said, “you are causing a scene Martin. You need to calm down.”
Martin looked around and saw what she was talking about. “Isn’t lunch break over by now?” He shouted to the room and sent them all scampering out, including Peggy.
“It’s not like that man,” Ted voice came through the phone. “I only called her to apologize for something that happened before I left.”
“What happened between you and Ted?” Martin was looking at Sibu accusingly.
Instead of answering, Sibu grabbed the phone from him and put it to her ear. “Let’s talk another time Ted.” And she cut the call. Martin was looking at her like she had just punched him in the face.
“What did Ted mean when he said something happened between you two?” Martin asked sternly.
“That’s not important right now.” Sibu snapped back. “Ted said something about me convincing you to have surgery…he thought I was privy to such information and when he realized I wasn’t, he refused to divulge anything more.”
That bit of information seemed to sit well with Martin. He finally relaxed his taut features. “Is that all he said to you?”
“Yes,” Sibu answered. “What is going on Martin? You are sick aren’t you?”
“I came to show you something,” Martin feigned nonchalance. He took Sibu by the hand with the intention of leading her outside but she refused to budge.
“I am not moving from here until you tell me what’s going on.” She removed her hand from his grasp and crossed both her arms over her chest.
With his back to her, Martin sighed heavily, put his hands in his pockets and slowly turned to face her.