Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 12

“Mrs Kabwe.” Joseph greeted the lady of the house, stopping just a few inches away from the door where she was standing.

Belinda, Stephen, and Alicia who was carrying her son in her arms went to stand behind Joseph.

“So the only time you get to visit is when you want to take my son away from me ah?” Mary’s lips were quivering violently and her voice too could not escape the anguish she was feeling inside.

Joseph’s heart reached out to the woman so much that he could no longer look her in the eye. Mary might have mistreated his daughter all these years but in her head she had every right to. To the poor woman, giving the child back to his mother was equivalent to losing her son to the same woman twice.

Joseph quickly shook his head, brushing the thoughts aside. This was no time to feel sympathy. His family had done enough to ease the pain of Nicolas’ death on Mary and her family even though it was clear Alicia was not in any way at responsible for his demise. To keep Buseko from his mother any longer would be an injustice to both mother and son. There were no two ways about it, Joseph thought.

“I would have loved to visit on several occasions but my wife and I still clearly remember your warning and we took it very serious.” Joseph said to lighten up the mood. “Rita especially, she took it to her heart.” He added, and then looking down his pair of trousers he said; “She still needs me in one whole piece you know.” He chuckled.

“Daaaad!” Belinda chided her father and covered her eyes in embarrassment.

Just then Exhildah appeared and stood next to her mother by the doorway. Placing one handaround her mother’s shoulders, she said in a very sombre tone; “Afternoon everyone, please forgive my mother. Today is not one of her best days. Please do come in.” As she said the last part, she pulled her mother to the side to clear the doorway so their guests could enter.

Exhildah had to put aside her work for the day just to come and comfort her mother whom she knew was having a tough time adjusting to the fact that she was no longer Buseko’s legal guardian. She silently thanked God that Stephen had been there through the night to keep her company otherwise only the heaven knew what she would have done had she been left all alone with Buseko.

“Thank you very much Exhildah,” Joseph said and led his daughters into the house.

Immediately she saw them get into the house, Mary finally lost it and broke down in sobs.

“Aunty….” Stephen quickly went over to her but Mary yanked her daughter’s arm from around her shoulder and stormed out of the living room.

Stephen made a move to go after her but Exhildah stopped him. “Leave her be for now. She needs some time alone. This can’t be easy for her.”

“The last time I saw her cry like that was when Nicolas-“ Stephen’s gaze instictively turned towards Alicia as he caught himself in time. “What can I offer you to drink ladies and gentleman?” He asked instead with a loud grin on his face. “I think this house has every possible beverage out there, you just have to name it.”

“Just bring them juice Steve.” Exhildah told her cousin before going to sit down.

Belinda laughed, her mind running back to the time she and Stephen dated…how he would always have a bottle of beer in his backpack every time they met. How was she to know that all that beer was coming from Mary Kabwe’s house? But then again, between her and Stephen, their relationship had been just so destructive they hardly had any time to have a normal conversation. If they were not drinking, they were partying. And if they were neither drinking nor partying, they were fighting.

Belinda sometimes wondered what could have happened to their lives had they continued down that destructive path. Perhaps Stephen’s decision to break up with her after his life turned around had been a blessing in disguise after all. As she watched him walk out of the living room to the kitchen, Belinda couldn’t help noticing just how much change had occurred in her ex-boyfriend’s life after encountering religion.

Even though her parents were not aware of the things that went on in her life a few years ago, Belinda was still grateful that at least there was one person on the world that had noticed the change in her and held her hand all through her struggles and helped her to quickly recover from the hurt and bitterness.

Belinda turned towards Alicia who was sitting next to her and she reached out her hand from down the sofa and squeezed her sister’s hand. Thinking her baby sister was trying to cheer her on, Alicia smiled and gently squeezed her hand in return.

“Congratulations on having your son back Licia.” Exhildah said when she sat down opposite them, crossing one leg over the other under her very long blue dress.

“Do you really mean that?” Belinda asked. Alicia nudged her to keep her from saying anything else but she only forced her to add; “What? I am just being honest.”

Instead of getting upset at Belinda’s bluntness, Exhildah laughed. “I like your attitude…is it Belinda?” Exhildah said and tried to remember the girl’s name. She had only seen her once during Nicolas’ burial but that day had been so crazy she never had the time to get acquainted to any of Alicia’s siblings. The situation during that time made it almost impossible for such a thing to take place.

“You are really very different from Alicia.” Exhildah said. “Whereas you are free to speak your mind, Alicia usually just sits back and lets people control her.”

“Alicia was never like this.” Belinda said a little too loudly that her father had to send her a stern warning look.

“Alicia only worsened after your brother’s death.” Belinda continued. “Yes she might have been humble and soft spoken even before but she never ever allowed people to take advantage of her until she was accused of taking someone’s life. That kind of guilt can force anyone to change.”

Exhildah said nothing in return. She had never really thought about how Alicia’s life changed after Nicolas’ death apart from what was obvious between her and her mother’s relationship.

“How are your mischievous minions Exhildah?” Joseph quickly tried to change the subject. “Gosh, it’s been a while since I saw those two. How are they…and your husband?”

Exhildah laughed. “Those two rascals are doing just fine. They are now even in school. Marcus on the other hand is okay too…apart from making my life difficult. The two of us have such different ways we want to raise our children so we are constantly fighting. I am the tough one…the bad guy and him? …well, he is the cool parent.”

“Mum aren’t we going home now?” Buseko anxiously wiggled about on his mother’s laps.

Er, ba Buseko,” Exhildah said. “You are showing your true colours now that your mother is taking you for good ah?”

“No Exhildah-“ Alicia had started to say but Buseko opened his mouth and spoke over her.

“Mum told me to be a good boy when I am with grandma.” He said to Exhildah and then turned to his mother. “Wasn’t I a good boy mum?” The appeared to be on the verge on crying, obviously misunderstanding Exhildah’s words for the joke they were.

Alicia put her arms around him and drew him closer to comfort him. “Of course you were a good boy my son.” She said. “Mummy is very proud of you, okay?”

Buseko nodded and quickly blinked back the tears.

“See, his already acting like such a mama’s boy.” Exhildah remarked.

Stephen appeared with a tray of orange and lime juice and served the guests. Once he was done, he was about to sit down next to his cousin when something made him pause. “Maybe I should go check on aunty-“

“Yes,” Exhildah agreed. “See if she’s okay and let her know people here are waiting for her.”

“No, no, no…don’t rush her.” Joseph said. “I understand her pain very well. Let her take her time.” Belinda threw her father a disapproving look and uttered something under her breath but her Joseph ignored her.

“She would never have enough time when it comes to Buseko.” Stephen said as he approached the door.

Stephen walked back into the house with Mary thirty minutes later. Mary looked like she had cried a river, her eyes were bloodshot red and puffed up.

“How often will I get to see him?” Mary asked whilst standing. She wouldn’t allow herself to sit down with those people and act civil with them. as far as she was concerned, they were her enemies.

“The same amount of time in a month you allowed Alicia to visit here.” Belinda answered and again she was awarded with a nudge from her sister and a stern look from her father.

“We are even being generous considering you are not even the boy’s mother.” Belinda went on as if she was getting fire from all angles of the room.

Alicia saw in Mary’s eyes a look of utter defeat. She had never before seen the woman look so defenceless. “I will bring him whenever I can Mrs Kabwe.” She assured her. “You don’t need to worry about anything, Buseko is still your grandchild.”

“Thank you.” Mary said, choking back her tears. “I am afraid I won’t be able to see you off, am not feeling so well….” And she turned around and started walking towards the stairs.

“Grandma!” Buseko jumped from his mother’s laps and ran after his grandmother. Mary had just turned when the boy went flying into her arms. “I am going to miss you grandma.” Buseko said.

Finally, the tears came pouring from Mary’s eyes as she held the five year old in her arms. Watching the scene before her, Alicia too couldn’t help shedding tears…and so could her sister Belinda.

“He is indeed your son Alicia.” Belinda remarked whilst wiping away the tears. “Nothing like they changed him at the hospital, he’s your son that one.”

“Indeed he is.” Joseph said.

“Learn from him also Linda.” Stephen said jokingly. “You are still as ferocious as before-“

Stephen could not continue because Belinda was sending him warning signals to zip his mouth up and not say anything revealing in the presence of her father.

But it was already too late; Joseph’s interest had already been piqued. “Are the two of you that close?” The father of four asked.

“Ahhh-“ Stephen tried to search for a safe answer.

“We are both at Unza dad.” Belinda quickly supplied. “Same year but different schools, we once met by chance. I didn’t even know that he was somehow related to me.”

“Okay, I think I feel better now.” Mary said as she put Buseko down. “I was starting to feel like Buseko couldn’t wait to get rid of me but now I am okay.”

“Don’t give my room to Menard grandma.” Buseko warned his grandmother. Menard was Exhildah’s oldest child.

Mary laughed and promised the boy she wouldn’t give the room away. “But,” she added. “If more than two weeks go by and you don’t ask your mother to bring you, then I will give Menard or even Samantha the room!”

Buseko looked horrified. “You are not a nice person grandma, I’m going.” He pouted and went back to his mother.

Laughing, Alicia said to Mary. “I will make sure he keeps his room.”

Without responding, Mary simply turned and went up the stairs.

“I think we better get going now.” Joseph announced and Exhildah and Stephen got up first, followed by Belinda, Joseph and Alicia.
On their way home, Belinda took out her phone and wrote a long WhatsApp text to Stephen;

It was great seeing you after a long time. You look great you know. I love the new changes you’ve obviously made in your life. I made some changes too but I didn’t go all Christiany like I hear you did. Alicia is a great mentor; she helped me rebuild my life without my parents finding out a thing that’s why I kept shushing you in front of my dad. I am not yet ready to tell him about that part of my life. What do you think about us hanging out one of these days?

She kept looking at her phone nonstop for the next ten minutes and when no response came, she started fidgeting so much that Alicia noticed.

“What’s wrong with you?” She asked. “Are you expecting a call? You will drill a hole in your phone if you keep staring at it like that.”

“Can she really do that?” Buseko asked excitedly, looking from his aunt’s hand to the phone.

“I didn’t mean it like that honey.” Alicia said from the front passenger seat where she was seated, her head turned to look at her son and Belinda seated together in the back.

Disappointed, Buseko sat back and continued playing the game he had been playing on his mother’s phone.

Stephen’s reply came right then causing Belinda to almost jump in her seat. Alicia laughed and turned back around, shaking her head slowly in amusement.

Yeah, it was great seeing you too Linda. And thanks, it took a while for me to get here and I am never going back to that lifestyle again. God has given me a second chance and I don’t want to waste it. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with you but I don’t think my girlfriend would be comfortable with that. I am sorry Linda. Take care of yourself.

I don’t think my girlfriend would be comfortable…my girlfriend…he has a girlfriend already!? There was a storm in Belinda’s heart and mind as she kept re-reading that part of the text.

“I am sorry I asked,” Belinda wrote back. “I had no idea you were seeing someone. No pressure.”

A few seconds later, “It’s fine, the relationship is still knew so most people don’t know.” Stephen replied. “I want to do things differently this time around you know. I regret that I led you down that kind of path before and I am still very very sorry. That’s why I was happy to see you looking good.”

“It’s all in the past Steve, and you apologized a gazillion times already.” Belinda wrote back. “I wish you happiness in your relationship.”

“Thanks.” Stephen texted back. “Mwansa reminds me a lot about you…that’s my girlfriend’s name btw. It seems I have a type after all. LOL. If all goes well, I plan on proposing to her right before I graduate. I am only telling you this because I think it’s better if you heard it from me.”

Belinda had to pause so she could pull herself together after reading that text. She hang her head back and forced her tears to go back inside. When she came upright again, it was to reply; “Thanks for telling me personally, really appreciate it. All the best with the proposal. Take care of yourself.”

“Thanks, take care too.” Stephen replied.

All the way home during that ride, Belinda did not say a word to her family. Instead, she leaned back and shut her eyes, pretending to be asleep.

Alicia was not deceived. She could tell right away that something was bothering her sister and so when they reached home and Belinda ran straight to her bedroom and locked hersef in, Alicia went after her.

“It’s me Linda, open the door.” Alicia said.

“Go away!” Belinda shouted. “I just want to be alone.”

“You also know that I won’t leave until you open right?” Alicia said. “So I am just going to stand here and ask you questions about Stephen while dad is seated in the living room and likely to hear whatever words come out of my-“

Belinda flung the door open. “Lock it behind you.” She instructed as she walked back to the bed.

“So what’s going on?” Alicia asked once she was seated on the bed. Belinda had spread herself on the other side of the bed, facing down and with her face buried in her arms.

“Is Stephen the guy you-“

“Yes.” Belinda answered.

Alicia gasped. “No way.”

Belinda sat up and moved to lean her back against the bedpost. “I wish that wasn’t the case as well.”

“Did you tell him about…about…you know?”

“You mean about the abortion?” Belinda provided for her. “Gosh, you can’t even say the word Alicia but you are a nurse.”

“I know right. But does he know?”

“Of course not.” Belinda answered. “If I couldn’t even bring myself to tell you about it when it happened, to you think I could have told him about it?”

“But Linda-“

“Don’t do that Licia.” Belinda pleaded. “I don’t need the lecture right now. I was desperate when I made that decision, Stephen didn’t even know I was pregnant. I thought I could take care of the problem quietly…but today…he told me that he’s seeing someone and he wants to marry her.” Here, she broke down and cried.

“Oh no….” Alicia said and went to put her arms around her sister. “I am so sorry Linda.” She said.

Sobbing, Belinda said; “I just feel so-so useless. I went through all that pain alone because I didn’t want to interfere with his life since he was trying to make a new start. I can’t even ask God for forgiveness because I feel so ashamed and I feel like what I did is too much of a sin to be forgiven and yet….he is so happy.

“He has moved on and he is even talking about marriage. What about me sis? What about me? This is just not fair. Why does he get to be happy after everything he did to me and why do I have to be the only one paying the price? Why is God so unfair? Is it because I am a woman?”

“Oh honey,” Alicia said. “I already told you that there’s no sin too big for God to not forgive.”

“I know you keep saying that but why do I feel so much guilt even after doing all the things you told me to do?” Belinda lamented.

“But Linda, how can you expect God to forgive you when you haven’t even tried to forgive yourself?” Alicia said. “I told you about what I went through when I got pregnant with Buseko. You were there, you know everything so I don’t have to tell you.

“I understand exactly what you must be feeling right now believe me but as long as you keep thinking that it’s impossible to receive forgiveness, you won’t be able to move on. You will have this guilt over you for the rest of your life and that’s no way to live. How about you go and see that lady I asked you to talk to from my church? She’s very good and she helped me a lot.”

“She is just going to look at me and judge me; er her sister got pregnant out of wedlock and now this one has aborted. I know these women talk Alicia, I don’t want to be one of their topics.”

Alicia laughed and released her sister from her embrace. “You are just overthinking things sis.” She said. “But let’s weigh things out for you; if you don’t seek counsel from anyone simply because you are afraid of them judging you…even when you don’t know for sure that they will judge you, then you would rather spend the rest of your life carrying this guilt?

“I have been observing you ever since that happened. You no longer try to do anything productive concerning your future. When schools close, you cook yourself up in your room reading books all day and all night long. You don’t go out, you don’t visit friends, and you don’t come out in the living room to watch TV with the rest of the family. You just want to be alone. Surely, is that how you want to spend the rest of your life Linda?”

“I always feel like people are judging me when they look at me.” Belinda said. “I feel like they can tell what happened just by looking at me and I can’t stand that.” She cried.

“Then go and see Mrs Kasonde.” Alicia said. “She helped me and look at me today-“
Belinda looked up at her sister and started shaking her head. “I don’t think she helped you at all.” She said.

“What do you mean?” Alicia asked.

“You haven’t moved on from the past Alicia.” Belinda said. “You still let the things that happened in the past control you. You never used to be this person that you’ve become. You used to be bright and you were never afraid to speak your mind when a situation rose that required you to defend yourself.

“Yes you were always kind and humble but you were never timid. You still feel responsible for Nicolas’ death and it’s that guilt that keeps you from standing up for yourself. Gosh you haven’t even dared to date anyone ever since and you think we believe you when you give Buseko as an excuse. You have become so used to living miserably that you think any taste of happiness is a betrayal to Nicolas and his family.”

For a moment, Alicia mulled over her sister’s words. “I wasn’t talking about that kind of guilt when I referred you to Mrs Kasonde Linda.” She tried to defend herself. “I was talking about how she helped when I got pregnant so young.”

“And is there a difference?” Belinda asked.

Alicia had to admit to herself; there was no difference between the two cases. They were all about guilt and seeking God’s forgiveness so they could move on. She might have moved on from the guilt that came with getting pregnant out of wedlock, but she had never once forgiven herself for the part she thought she played in Nicolas’ death.

“Perhaps we both need Mrs Kasonde’s help after all.” Alicia admitted.

“I will only go if you also go.” Belinda said.

Alicia chuckled. “Then that’s sorted.” She said. “Here I was thinking I was offering you advise and you just ended up using my own words against me.”

“Isn’t that what sisters are for?” Belinda asked.

“I still feel like you should tell Steve about the baby. I think no matter is going on in his life, he deserves to know what happened. You are hurting right now because you think he’s moved on easily, but that’s only because he has no idea about the things you went through.”

“He is just going to think that I am being a jealous ex if I tell him that right after he told me he is seeing someone.”

“Then think about it some more sis. I am sure that eventually you will do the right thing. Also talk to mum and dad, of course they will be disappointed…and rightly so, but they will still love you. If you really want to move on from all of this, just get down on your knees and talk to God in prayer. Open up your heart and confess everything to him and when you are not sure, tell God you need his direction and he will show you exactly what you need to do.

“I know that I am not the best person to be telling all this since I have issues of my own but it’s the only thing that I did that allowed me to walk around proudly telling everyone I was a mother. If I was still guilt about falling pregnant in such a manner, then I would also be ashamed to be Buseko’s mother. I asked God to forgive me for that and He did.”

“I hear you, but please stop preaching already!” Belinda complained, laughing.

“Just promise me that you will think about what we’ve talked about.”

“I promise.”

***

“Don’t tell me you forgot about our program!” Chilufya said when Kondwani finally picked up her phone.

She had been waiting for him at his home for close to an hour and there was still no sign of him. Even though three of his other cars were parked in the front, his favourite one wasn’t there which meant he wasn’t home. Still, he had rung his bell and there was no life from inside the house.

“Oh shit!” Kondwani said. “We had a program today right?”

“You gotto be kidding me.” Chilufya said. “Where are you right now?”

“I am at the hospital.” Kondwani informed her. “Was in surgery this whole time and I had left my phone in the office. Can’t we postpone to evenings or something?”

“No we can’t.” She said, he voice heavy with disappointment.

“Noooo…don’t do that Chilu…don’t get all emotional on me.” Kondwani pleaded with her but he knew it was already too late.

“I will just go alone, its fine.” The 25 year old sulked and cut the line.

Kondwani tried to call her back three times and on the third try, her phone was off.

That was the last time Kondwani had spoken to his sister. She refused to answer his calls since then and so he was forced to go check on her at home and beg for her forgiveness. However, even though he managed to find her home, Chilufya refused to come out of her room to talk to her brother until he said the magic words;

“How about I go with you the next time your thing happens again?” Kondwani offered. “You can even sleep at my place the night before so you can make sure that I don’t make any other plans…what do you think?”

Chilufya opened the door.

Smiling triumphantly, Kondwani gave her a tight hug and apologized for not keeping his word.

“You are forgiven.” Chilufya said, now acting embarrassed for playing hard to get all this while. Just then, Kondwani’s phone rang.

“Duty calls I guess,” Chilufya said.

Kondwani was looking at his phone and shaking his head. “Actually, no. It’s Gwen.” He said. “I’m going to take this outside.”

“You finally decided to call.” Kondwani answered the phone before he got outside. He was passing through the living room and heading towards the door when his mother made gestures in his direction for his attention.

Kondwani removed the phone from his ear for a second and addressed his mother; “I’m just going to talk on the phone mum, I’ll be coming back.” He said and walked out.

“I am at your place.” Gwen said. “You will find me here when you are done with your business there.”

“I assume you’ve already let yourself in.” Kondwani remembered he had forgotten to change the code.

“Yes, see you soon.” She said.

Kondwani didn’t miss the dismissive tone in her voice and he couldn’t help wondering what decision she had come up with. He quickly went back inside, said his goodbyes to his family and rushed out to meet Gwen.

“I am going to keep the baby.” Gwen candidly informed a shocked Kondwani an hour later.

“What would you decided to do something like that?” He asked.

“Because between you and Kayombo, I stand a better chance to be happy with him knowing he is capable of loving me. Unlike you, he’s genuinely loved me before and can get him to feel that way about me again whereas I can never win your heart even if hell froze over.”

Kondwani scoffed in disbelief. “Haven’t you noticed that Samuel has set his sights on someone else right now?”

“I know.” Gwen said. “But I know he will change his mind the moment I tell him that I am keeping the baby and leaving you. but don’t worry, the thing you are most worried about will not happen.”

“And what am I most worried about Madam Gwen?” Kondwani sarcastically asked.

“My father’s money.” She said. “I spoke to him first before coming here. I told him I am the one at fault so he shouldn’t take it out on you.”

“Now why would you do that?”

“Because I am equally responsible for the way things turned out as much as you are. Most importantly, I realized that I love the idea of being a mother more than anything else in the world…and of course it would so much better if I got to raise my child with the father.”

“What happens if Kayombo isn’t willing to do that with you?” Kondwani asked.

“I will make him willing.” Gwen said confidently. “He loved me once and he can love me again.”

“People change Gwen.” Kondwani cautioned her.

“Not everyone,” Gwen answered. “I could use you as the perfect example.” And then she laughed. “You see, at first I was having these crazy thoughts about you and that nurse…I thought wow, Kondwani has finally fallen in-love with someone. It hurt so bad because I thought it should have been me you fell in-love with but then you went ahead with your plans to marry me despite knowing I was carrying another man’s child.

“That forced me to stop and begin to question our relationship. I was very selfish and too ambitious when I thought I could make you mine. You will never belong to anyone Kondwani. You love yourself too much to give your heart away to anyone. I have already given you my time and my money…but I won’t give you my very first child as well. I am keeping this pregnancy.”

Kondwani wasn’t sure how to react. Gwen’s news was completely far from what he had been expecting to hear. How could he have made another miscalculation in such a short time? Why could he not make any more accurate calculation?

After his meeting with Gwen, Kondwani was not surprised to receive a call from her father Mr Miyoba inviting him for a drink at the private VIP only pub where they met for most of their discussions.

“Now that Gwen is out of the picture,” Miyoba said to Kondwani. “I no longer have direct control over you.”

Kondwani laughed. “You’ve never had any time of control over me Sir.” Kondwani said. “With or without Gwen in my life, I have always been my own boss.”

“You can’t be your own boss when it’s my money that’s paying you.” Miyoba argued.

“It’s not your money Mr Miyoba; it’s our money.” Kondwani corrected him. “Do you want us to talk about the way forward or you would rather argue terminology with me?”

“I heard that you secretly bought shares from some people on the board.”

“I also heard something like that.” Kondwani said.

“Don’t try to patronize me son,” Miyoba sternly warned him. “You are where you are today because I took a chance on you. Always remember that, I took a chance on you when no one else would.”

“I always remember that Sir.” Kondwani said. “How can I forget? You even offered up your own daughter as a sacrificial lamb just so you can get back all the money you invested in and leave me dry. Yes, I was very much aware of your plans with Gwen. She got so drunk one time and revealed everything to me.

“But don’t think about killing her, she really has no idea she said those things and I have never bothered to mention them to her. She still thinks your secret is safe. So you see, the one who betrayed the other first was you and not me. I am also a business man you see. When I hear that someone is threatening my business, I have to run and set up defences to protect myself.

“It might be your money holding this thing together but it is my skills that are keeping it afloat. If I have to win over you, I need to fight you on the same ground as you are; with money. So who knows, maybe those rumours you’ve heard could be true…or they are not but one thing is for sure, I will not let anyone take that hospital from me; not you, not anyone else. However, if you think you can try, go ahead and let’s see who comes out tops.”

With that, he gulped down the contents of his whisky glass and banged the glass on the counter once he was done. He stood up, looked at the man seated before him and said; “See you at the next board morning Sir.” And then he left.

Lloyd Miyoba remained reeling in rage by the bar counter. His hand squeezed tight around the glass of beer. When he could no longer hold his anger, he flung the glass in front of him, almost hitting the bar man that had been watching them from the distance since he had no other patrons to attend to as the whole bar had been reserved by the rich farmer.

After two weeks, Kondwani and Gwen’s break-up had become common knowledge. Gwen had not returned to work after her meeting with Kondwani and Kayombo had picked that very period to travel for a conference abroad. Kondwani on the other hand had buried himself in work and he kept working until he almost made a mistake in the OR. The assisting surgeon was quick to notice Kondwani’s distractedness and she quickly offered to take over from him so he could rest.

Any other day Kondwani would have put up a fit and made everyone in the room feel the weight of his power but that day he quietly stepped back and walked out of the room. As the assisting surgical nurse, Alicia had been there to witness it all and so once the surgery was done, she followed Kondwani to his office.

She knocked twice but no response came from inside. She tried the door and was surprised to see it open. She was half thinking the doctor had left work for home so she never actually expected the door to open. Slowly, she opened it and peered inside. She saw Kondwani sleeping soundly on his huge leather chair that had been reclined, his head hanging uncomfortable to the side.

Alicia went through a moment of debate in her head; to go in and set him comfortably on the chair or to just close the door and pretend she didn’t see anything.

But he’s gonna get one hell of a headache when he wakes up, she thought as the debate went on in her head. What do I care if he gets a headache?

She started closing the door slowly but she paused right before it could touch the frame. Shaking her head, she opened the door again, closed it behind her and went to fix him up properly on the chair. Standing behind the chair, Alicia placed both her hands on either side of Kondwani’s face and slowly moved his head to the centre.

Slowly, she let go off her hands from his face and started to turn so she could leave but she was caught off guard when Kondwani grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her straight onto his laps. Alicia could only open her mouth wide in shock, no words came out.

“Why did you touch me?” Kondwani asked, looking her straight in the eyes. It was as if he not been sleeping soundly just a few seconds ago.

“I thought you were sleeping.” Alicia stuttered.

“You coming in here, what does it mean?” Kondwani asked.

“I don’t know.” Alicia answered.

“You don’t know?”

“Yes, I don’t know.” She said.

“Would you like me to help you with the answer?” Kondwani asked, closely searching her face for a clue.

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Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 11

Using all her strength and might, Alicia managed to break away from Kondwani. Shooting daggers at him through her eyes, she roared. “What do you think you are doing?”

Kondwani was slowly running his thumb over his lips where her lips had just been. “To be honest with you,” he said, his gazed fixed on her lips. “I really don’t know.”

I’m leaving.” Alicia announced, picking up her bag and heading straight for the door. Kondwani grabbed her hand as she tried to walk past him.

“Wait,” he said, turning her so they were facing each other.

“I should have known better than to come here.” Alicia said.

“It was my mistake,” Kondwani admitted. “You were only doing your job and I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you. But honestly Alicia,” he said as he placed both his hands on her shoulders. “Look me in the eye and tell me that you didn’t enjoy the kiss.”

Instead of answering him, Alicia grabbed his wrists and forced his hands from her shoulders. “I am going back to work Sir.” She deliberately turned formal on him.

“I know you won’t admit it but your eyes and your heartbeat can’t lie to me Licia.” Kondwani shouted from behind her.

“The door.” Alicia commanded from where she was standing, not bothering to turn around to look at him. She needed him to key in his security code before she could be let out of the house.

Kondwani walked over to where she was and stopped right behind her, his left hand raised above her head and resting on top of the security code panel where he had to key in the code. She tried to move away from him but Kondwani raised his knee to hold her in place.

“How can you get over your feelings for me if you keep breathing like this every time I come near you?” Kondwani whispered into her ear.

Not trusting her voice, Alicia cleared her throat before she could say something to him. “Please, open the door for me.” She said in a very shaky voice. “I need to get back to work.” She felt helpless standing before him like that when her heart refused to listen to her.

“I will only open the door if you answer my question.” He said. “How do you-“

Without warning, Alicia turned around to face him, their bodies literally stuck together within the short space that Kondwani had created for them.

“Look me in the eye and tell me exactly what you want from me?” She asked him, her eyes glued to his unflinchingly.

It was the third time since he met her that she was catching him off guard. How did she always manage to turn tables on him so suddenly and without warning?

With everyone else, Alicia was a timid little girl that would rather hide in a corner than defend herself and yet every time she stood before him, it was as if she grew secret wings that gave her the strength to face him off.

For the first time in his life, Kondwani was at a loss for words, slowly drowning in Alicia’s big brown eyes. Her gaze had the power to put him in a trance. When she looked at him like that, no amount of air in the world was enough to give him the Oxygen necessary to stabilize his breath. Just where did she get the courage to stare him down like that? Why was he such an easy target for her?

Not even Gwen with her mightier than thou attitude had the nerve to stare him down like that. He had seen Alicia cower before her fellow interns…yet why was she so aggressive with him? Where did all that confidence come from and where did it go when she needed to use it on other people?

Kondwani could feel his lips moving but no sound came out.

“What do you want from me Doctor Chileshe?” Alicia repeated her question, her gaze still fixed on him. She had to raise her head up fully to lock eyes with the taller Kondwani and yet it was he that felt at a disadvantage.

What did he want from her? Kondwani asked himself the same question. The answer came to him right away; he had no idea what he wanted from her. One minute he wanted her gone from his life and the next, she was all he longed for. Seeing her with Kayombo earlier that day had added more years to his already aged young life. He felt like he was losing his mind. Gosh, how he hated things that made him feel out of control. Just why did she appear in his life and make his already complicated life even more complicated? Was she his karma?

Was Alicia his karma? That was the question going through Kondwani’s head as he looked back into Alicia’s fierce eyes.

“If I say that I need you, both of us will end up getting hurt,” He said in a low and controlled tone. “And,” he added, “If I say that I want you out of my life, I think that it’s I that shall suffer even more. Either way…with or without you in my life, I am doomed.”

Even though Alicia appeared more and more confused with every word Kondwani uttered, her heart wouldn’t stop pounding. Fearing it might drop from its place, she peeled herself away from him, putting a decent and safe distance between them.

But still, her eyes never left his. Something magnetizing kept her from looking away. “What do you mean by that?” She asked.

Kondwani chuckled lightly. “I mean that if you don’t want to be hurt by a jerk like me, leave now. I am the worst thing that could ever happen to you Alicia.”

There was something about his tone and the look in his eyes that made Alicia believe every word he said bust instead of sealing her conviction to walk away, it only made her waver in her resolve. What exactly did he mean when he said he would hurt her? Was he talking about his commitment to Gwen? She asked herself. Did he think that she expected him to leave Gwen for her? Is that what he was sorry about?

Not one to grapple over matters of the heart, Alicia gave up trying to understand whatever was going on between her and Kondwani. She had no intentions of taking another woman’s man and she certainly had no desire to pursue an intimate relationship with anyone…even if that man made her heart beat in ways it had never done before. The only person she needed to concern herself with and worry about was Buseko her son. As long as she had him back, her life would be complete.

“Please get the door for me.” Alicia asked of Kondwani. Without arguing, he entered his code and opened the door.

“Goodbye Dr Chileshe,” she said and left. Not once did she turn to look back at the man who was standing by the door watching her retreating figure. The moment she exited the gate, Kondwani closed the door and went upstairs to his room to sleep. He was no longer in the mood to work or think about anything. He just wanted the world to stop spinning so fast and so out of control…if only for a few hours.

That afternoon, or any other afternoon or night after, sleep eluded Kondwani.
***

“Are you ready sis?” Belinda stopped by her elder sister’s door, all dressed up in a black and white bodycon dress.

“Black and white?” Alicia asked from her dressing table where she was styling her braids. “You look like you are going for a business meeting.”

Belinda laughed. “It’s deliberate,” she answered. “Black symbolises Aunt Mary’s demise and white is for the new beginning we are going to have with Buseko.”

“Belinda!” Alicia chided her.

Belinda chuckled. “I’m just saying.” She said, shrugging her shoulders innocently. “Today we all need to look on point, it’s all about business.” She said, coming into the room to stand behind Alicia. She shoved her sister’s hands from her hair and took over styling it.

“Even on a beautiful day like this, why do you want to dress up like a nun?” Belinda asked. “It’s not every day that a woman pulls one over her wicked mother in-law. You need to look hot and classed up as you collect your trophy!”

Alicia smiled and sat back in the chair, leaving Belinda to do as she pleased with her hair and make-up. “I can only imagine what Mrs Kabwe must be feeling right now.”

“There you go again,” Belinda said. “This is no time for you to feel pity for that woman. She’s treated you like scum for over five years now and she took your son from you. Why should you feel guilty about taking him back? Did Buseko come from her womb?”

“He’s all she’s got left of Nicolas Linda.” Alicia said. “I know that she’s done and said some awful stuff but I kind of understand her pain and anger. I am a mother too…I don’t know what I would do if something-“

“This is a happy day Licia, let’s not dampen it with your melancholic sad tales neh.” She finished styling the braids and set Alicia’s head straight before the mirror. “What do you think?” She asked, looking at her sister’s reflection.

Alicia gasped. “How did you do it? This is exactly what I have been trying to do for the past forty minutes.

Belinda laughed. “I like that you are feeling ambitious today sis but some of these things, let us, the professionals do them for you. Turn,” she moved Alicia in her chair so she could face her. “Time for your make-up now.” She said as she pulled the make-up kit on the far end of the dressing table towards them.

“She was about to start attending to Alicia’s eyebrows when she paused. “Are you seriously going to wear that dress Alicia?”

Alicia looked at the African print maxi dress she had on. “What’s wrong with my dress?” She asked.

“Huh??” incredulity gripped Belinda’s face, her hands resting on her waist. “I have seen people displayed for body viewing look better than you do right now.” She then walked over to the wardrobe and started searching for a new outfit for Alicia.

“This one!” She finally settled for a short yellow and white striped flared dress.

“Noo!” Alicia screamed.

“Yesss.” Belinda countered. “Change now, we will be late.” She threw the dress at her.

“You only picked this because you bought it for me.” Alicia said.

Belinda chuckled guiltily. “So you know.” She said.

“Do we really need to go through all this?” Alicia asked as she started changing. “We are only going to pick up my boy, and dad is coming with us so we don’t need to worry about what Mrs Kabwe will do.”

Belinda plopped herself onto the bed. “We need to teach that woman a lesson.” She said. “She thinks this family is scared of her just because we allowed her to raise Buseko without a fight. Unfortunately for her, it seems the God you worship really listens to your prayers.

“Out of nowhere you got this grand lawyer and you have your child back without even having to fight it out in court. And there is nothing the evil witch can do to reverse that.” She then broke out into triumphant laughter.

“You can’t celebrate like that over someone else’s misfortune Linda.” Alicia cautioned her young sister.

“Miss goody two shoes,” Belinda said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t act like you are not happy. I can see all your enzymes partying up a storm inside there through your eyes. Just admit it, you are just as happy and excited as I am…perhaps even more.”

Alicia turned to give Belinda her back, her hand patting her back from over her shoulder so that she could help her zip up. Belinda caught the message fast and went to zip her up.

“Sit down now so I can do your face.” Belinda instructed and Alicia sat down.

“Don’t put too much.” Alicia warned her. “Put that one you put that time you went to that braii.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Belinda laughed. “Nude it is. Rest your head back.”

Alicia did as instructed again, not putting up much of a fight compared to other days when she would not let her sister anywhere near her face with the make-up tools she was holding in her hands.

“When are you planning on telling me about the famous Doctor Chileshe, our hero.” Belinda asked as she attended to Alicia’s eyebrows, her own perfectly arched brows dancing mischievously.

“How did you-“ Alicia started to ask.

“How did I know about him?” Belinda finished for her. “It’s all thanks to your former mother in-law.” She said.

“Buseko’s grandma?” Alicia asked.

“Yes,” Belinda answered. “Didn’t mum tell you about what she said and did when she came here?”

Alicia grabbed Belinda’s hand to stop her from working on her face. She looked up at her with a puzzled expression on her face. “Mrs Kabwe came here?”

Belinda nodded.

“When? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Alicia asked.

“I thought mum told you.”

“That woman doesn’t talk to me unless I talk to her first.” Alicia said.

“Seriously?” Belinda rolled her eyes again, moving to lean her back against the dressing table. She crossed one leg over the other and crossed her arms over her chest. “That woman?” Belinda chided her.

“What do you want me to call her?” Alicia asked. “Anyway, she’s not the point right now. When did Mrs Kabwe come and what exactly did she do and say?”

“You know you are this big staunch Christian 24/7 but when it comes to your own mother-“

“Linda,” Alicia gave her sister a stern look. “If you are also not going to tell me what happened then let’s not bother about it. Finish up my face so we can leave. I’m sure dad is tired of waiting for us.”

Belinda went back to put finishing touches on her face. “Before we change the subject,” she said. “Let me just say one thing; You can’t give up on people you claim to love Licia. For once, try to see things from mum’s point of view and ask yourself what you would do if you were in her position.”

Angry, Alicia stood up abruptly, causing Belinda to spill the concealer in her hands onto her yellow dress. She started walking towards the door but Belinda ran after her and stopped her by blocking the door with her body and spreading her arms apart.

“I’m sorry.” Belinda apologized. “I didn’t mean to spoil the mood, I just hate seeing the way things are between you and mum. Can we go back to sit so I can finish on the other eye?”

“Promise you won’t bring up that kind of topic again?” Alicia said.

“I promise.” Belinda said and took her hand to lead her back to the dressing table. Alicia sat back down.

“Does that doctor like you?” Belinda quickly returned to their previous conversation.

“So you are not going to tell me what happened with Mrs Kabwe?” Alicia said, looking very disappointed.

Belinda wanted to tell her sister that she too was not there when the woman visited, that she only heard the story from her mother…but she stopped herself. If Alicia knew that their mother talked to her about a matter that concerned her and her son and kept that information to Alicia herself, she might just end up feeling justified in her anger and resentment towards their mother.

“I also wasn’t there when she came.” Belinda answered. “I just heard the story from the maid.” She lied. “That woman came to make noise for mum and dad but she only managed to find mum when she came.

“She made threats and said something about you being an ungrateful something…that you are finally showing your true colours now that you have a bit of money. She asked mum to raise you right instead of allowing you to be sleeping with a man who’s committed to someone else.”

“What?” Alicia asked. “Did mum believe her?”

Belinda smiled, silently observing the fact that Alicia had just addressed their mother as mum and that she cared about what the woman she claimed hated her thought about her.

“Of course she didn’t.” Belinda replied. “She told Mrs Kabwe off to her face, said she could say whatever she wanted to say about you but she should leave out questioning your moral standards.”

“So she didn’t believe her?”

“What did I just say?” Belinda said.

“What else happened?” Alicia asked.

“You also know how mum is, she doesn’t talk much.” Belinda said. “She just told her a few things in return and Mrs Kabwe was the only one shouting on top of her voice most of the time. I can only imagine what went down.

“Fighting a war of words with mum is like digging a deep hole hopping to bury your enemy only to realize that you’ve dug your own self deeper and only she can pull you back up. She doesn’t talk much but the look she gives you when you are done running your mouth is enough to make you regret all the past years of your life.”

“Why wouldn’t she tell me about something so important?” Alicia wondered.

“What difference was it going to make?” Belinda asked. “I’m sure she thought there was no need for you to know. It would have only worried you…just like you are doing right now. Anyway, after I heard the story I went and googled the doctor since Mrs Kabwe indicated he was a very rich guy and boy is he appetizing! How come you never said you have such a hot boss?”

“I naturally assumed you knew of him since he’s well known.” Alicia answered.

“So you admit that he’s good looking right!?” Belinda asked, her eyes dancing about excitedly.

“My eyes are working perfectly fine Linda.” Alicia said. “I know he is good looking but I didn’t see any reason why I should mention that particular fact to you, so that you do what?”

Belinda was shaking her head and looking at her sister with a pitiful look on her face. “Tsk tsk tsk,” she said. “Talking to you about boys is like talking to a donkey and expecting it to give you milk. Do you even have any lipstick in this room?” Her eyes were already searching the table.

“Linda,” Alicia sighed heavily. “I am just going to pick up my son. What do I need lipstick for?”

“We are already past the point of you complaining,” Belinda said. “Let’s go to my room I pick out a dress for you as well, this one is-“ she looked at the stained spot and simply shook her head.

The moment the two girls came out of the bedroom, their father appeared. “Can we go now?” Mr Daka asked, anxiously looking at his wrist watch.

Alicia had a look of surprise on her face when she saw him also dressed up in a suit with very polished shoes on. “Even you dad?” She asked.

Joseph Daka laughed. “Belinda prepared this for me yesterday.” He said. “You know very well that when this one sets her mind to something, no one can escape her machinations.”

“Five more minutes dad.” Belinda grabbed Alicia’s hand and quickly led her away.

Joseph remained smiling as he watched them disappear. He went back to his own room. “You should see our girls Rita,” He proudly told his wife. “They both look so beautiful…I can’t remember the last time I saw Alicia all dressed up like that.”

“So she too didn’t escape Linda’s clatches?” Henrietta chuckled. “I’m going to take a picture of the three of you before you leave.” She opened the top drawer to the left side of the dressing table and took out the camera. “This will be a very memorable day in our lives. Perhaps now Alicia can start living her life freely.”

Joseph approached the bed and carefully sat down so as not to wrinkle his perfectly laundered suit. “That’s exactly what I was thinking about.” He said.

Henrietta too sat down on the chair by the dressing table. “You know,” she said. “I have been thinking about that man Mary kept mentioning when she came here.”

“The doctor that made all this possible?” Joseph asked. “I have also been asking myself questions but if there’s anything I am sure about, it is that nothing is going on between him and our Licia. I know my daughter well enough to know she wouldn’t go after another woman’s man. You are with me on this one, right?”

Henrietta gave her husband a chiding look. “Bashi Linda sure?” She said. “I know that she and I are not close but she is still my daughter you know.”

“Still, I am curious about this fella honey.” He said. “Why would he interfere in Alicia’s life like this? I know the schemes these men play; he probably saw how innocent she is and he thinks he can fool her into being his mistress or something. Even though I am grateful for what he’s done, I am still going to talk to him.”

Henrietta stared at him wide-eyed. “What are you going to say to him?” She asked.

“I am going to ask him what sort of payment he wants.” Joseph replied. “There’s no way he can do something like this and not expect any form of payment. The way I know Alicia, she might feel obliged to do his bidding if he asks it of her simply because she’s grateful. She’s a good girl and all but her personality can work against her this time around.”

“I know what you mean.” Henrietta said. “But honey,” she added. “Try to keep your cool when you talk to him. Remember he’s her boss and she’s still not confirmed at work. I looked the doctor up on the internet and he seems very influential. We don’t want to rub him off the wrong way.”

“I know.” Joseph agreed. “While I’m at it, I will look around the hospital to see if there are any potential suitors for her. With her kind of job, she has no time to have a social life so we can’t expect a man to come by easily…might as well help her find one at the place where she spends most her time.”

“And he better be a real Christian.” Henrietta chipped in.

Joseph laughed. “Definitely.” He said. “At times like these, I wish Alicia could see the look in your eyes when you worry about her.”

“Maybe it’s too late for her and me,” Henrietta said. “But I can’t help myself worrying about her life. Nicolas’ death made the situation between us even worse. She completely closed off and-“

“I know we both made grave mistakes with her but,” Joseph said. “It’s never too late with family. Just look at us today,” he looked at his reflection on the mirror again. “Who knew that a day like this would come so soon?

“I kept myself from interfering with Buseko’s situation all these years because I felt that that’s what Alicia wanted; to feel the pain of losing her own child as a way of easing her guilt over Nicolas’ death. But, I don’t think she ever imagined the pain of losing her own child would be greater than the guilt she was feeling inside.”

“It took everything in me not to pour hot water on that woman when she came here making all that noise.” Henrietta said, referring to Mary’s visit a couple of days ago. “I can hear movement out there. I think the girls are done.”

They both got up. “Finally,” Joseph said. And then looking at his wife; “Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

“Just go.” Henrietta started pushing her husband out of the room. “You will find a feast prepared in celebration by the time you get back.”

“You do know that if you want to mend your relationship with Alicia you are going to have to do things that are uncomfortable for you right?” Joseph asked, forcing them both to come to a stop by the door. He then turned around to look at his wife.

“You can’t keep avoiding being in the same space with her Rita, she is your daughter. What are you so afraid of?”

Henrietta dropped her head in regret. “It’s the look in her eyes.” She stated simply.

“And as long as you keep avoiding her, that look will always be there.” He said. “Think about what I’ve just said while we are gone. I want the two of you to sit opposite each other at the table today so you can’t avoid looking at each other.”

“Bashi Linda!” Henrietta protested.

“You heard what I said woman. Just do it.” Joseph said and opened the door to leave.

Joseph Daka capitalized on the one hour drive to Mary’s house by using it as an opportunity to quiz Alicia about Doctor Chileshe.

“Why would you ask me that dad?” Alicia asked. “Don’t tell me-“

Joseph laughed. “Not at all, you are my daughter after all, and I want to believe that I raised you right. I am just curious about our generous benefactor. Since you work with him, I figured you might have gotten to know him a little.”

“I am dying to know about him as well!” Belinda shouted from the back seat of the car. “But this girl refuses to divulge any info.”

“Has he shown any sort of interest…other than work in you?” Joseph was not a man to beat around the bush.

Alicia blushed and looked out the side of her window to avoid being discovered.

“I take it he has.” Joseph concluded upon observation.

“OMG!” Belinda exclaimed. “I knew it! Does he plan on leaving his fiancé?”

“Linda!” Joseph chastised his daughter. “You can’t wish something like that on another person and expect to find happiness. What did you tell him?” He asked Alicia.

“You’ve both misunderstood something,” Alicia turned to look at her father and sibling. “He is not the one interested in me.” She stated.

“What?” Belinda asked, coming through the space between the front two seats so she could take a closer look at her sister. Joseph too had the same expression on his face.

“I am the one that likes him.” Alicia confessed.

“Oh dear.” The words escaped Joseph’s lips.

“Calm down,” Alicia said. “I am not after him.” She quickly assured them. “I just like him. I don’t know why I like him…or when I started liking him…but I just do. However, I have no intentions whatsoever of being with him, not just because he is committed to someone else, but because I understand perfectly well what my feelings towards him are.”

“And what are your feelings Alicia?” Joseph asked.

“He just surprised me, that’s all.” Alicia answered nonchalantly. “One minute he’s hot and the next he’s cold. I unconsciously found myself wanting to please him…to be noticed by him as my boss. He has a superiority complex and he rubbed me off the wrong way from the moment we met.”

“You?” Belinda asked. “Someone rubbed you Alicia the wrong way? How is that even possible? You always chicken in front of people and you’ve never cared about what anyone thinks as long as your conscience is clear.” She quoted her sister’s word.

“I know,” Alicia admitted. “But a lot stuff happened and it somehow led to that.”

“Does he know how you feel about him?” Joseph asked.

“Yes, I told him.” She innocently revealed the truth.

“Oh dear.” Joseph said again.

“OMG.” An excited Belinda said. “I never imagined a day would come when I would derive pleasure from listening to events in your life sis.”

“What?” Alicia looked at the both of them, confused by their reactions. “Did I do something wrong?”

“You can’t tell a man your feelings just like that Licia, worse, one who’s already taken.” Joseph educated his naïve girl.

“But I wanted to warn him to stay away from me. I ended up liking him even when he never did anything to impress me. I wanted him to be careful around me just in case…you know. I Know that I am inexperienced in this love thing but I only told him because I was looking out for him.

“I thought that if I warned him, he would stop approaching me so carelessly because sometimes his actions confuse me. I was simply looking out for him. Did I do something wrong.”

“Technically, no.” Joseph said. “Your intentions were honourable but that’s not how things work in this world Alicia.”

Belinda was looking at her elder sister in awe, slowly shaking her head. “I think I need to sit you down my dear sister and educate you some about the wicked ways of men these days.”

“You are just a child,” Joseph said. “What can you tell her?”

“I have more experience in this field dad so obviously I am older than her in that respect.” Belinda argued.

“More experience?” Joseph gave her a look. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Belinda realized a little too late that she set herself up for a thorough scolding. As far as her parents were concerned, she was a baby trying to make it through her third year at university; she was too young for boys and she certainly didn’t have time for them. Now why did she have to open her mouth and blow her own cover like that?

“I just meant that I have read enough books and watched enough movies to know certain things.” Belinda quickly ran for damage control.

“Oh,” Joseph heaved a sigh of relief. “But still, you can’t learn about love from those things.”

“What did you think I was talking about dad?” Belinda feigned innocence.

“Was I wrong in cautioning him to stay away from me?” Alicia drove them back to the point at hand. She was visibly shaken by the revelations her family had awakened her to.

“I think you and I need to have one of our long talks Alicia.” Joseph said. “Let’s chat about this tonight after all the celebrations are done.”

“How can we stop talking about this now when you’ve already made me feel like this?” Alicia complained. “How am I supposed to face the doctor from now on?” She covered her face in embarrassment and kicked her legs in frustration.

Both Joseph and Belinda laughed as they watched her.

Thirty minutes later, they had arrived at Mary Kabwe’s house. Alicia stepped down first to get the gate but Belinda came out as well.

“I will get it,” Alicia told her sister as she walked to the gate.

“That crazy woman might be waiting for you on the other side with a panga.” Belinda said and rushed ahead of her to pull the gate open. Alicia laughed and stood back to watch her open it instead. The moment the gate came open, Buseko came running from the house after his mother.

“Mum!” He shouted as he ran to her. Alicia ran towards the boy and met him half-way into the yard. She scooped him up into her arms and laid kisses on him, tears filling her eyes. She felt it in every muscle in her body; this was a reunion different from the ones in the past. He was completely hers now. She finally had him back.

“You little rascal!” Stephen said when he came out of the house, walking towards the guests and pointing an accusing finger at Buseko.

“Steve?” Belinda stared wide-eyed at the guy approaching them.

“Linda?” Stephen said, mirroring her shocked expression. “What are you doing here?” He asked.

“I should be asking you the same question.” Belinda said.

“You guys know each other?” Alicia asked.

Stephen laughed. “Know each other?” He said. “She is my ex.”

Belinda rushed to cover Stephen’s mouth, her eyes going straight towards her father who was driving in to check if he had heard anything. She released her breath when she realised the windows were still closed.

“Whaat?” An amused Stephen asked as he removed her hand from covering his mouth.

“The two of you?” Alicia pointed from one to the other in disbelief. “How?”

Belinda ran to her sister’s side and whispered, “It’s a long story. Let’s talk about it some other time shall we? The General is approaching.” She pointed to their father who had just stepped down from the car.

Just then, Mary Kabwe appeared by the door, looking like an army commander ready for battle. Alicia felt a cold chill run down her spine, her eyes instinctively going towards her father, silently begging him to come to their rescue.

Joseph looked over at his daughter and smiled, his eyes literally telling her; it will all be fine my child.

Her father’s smile was all Alicia needed to stop her legs from shaking so much. In that single moment, she came to understand why he had insisted on coming with them the previous night.

Silently, she said a prayer to the heavens; “Thank you Jehovah.”

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 8

The thing with Alicia was that when it was required of her lips to say something, they chose to tighten, tightly so. Like a comatose person, while they can hear some of the things going on around them, they can do nothing to engage or respond, except slightly twitch their fingers. That was the kind of personality Alicia had.

From up his office window, Kondwani had accidently seen Mary storm into the building and immediately recognized her as Nicolas’s mother and Buseko’s grandmother. He had done enough research by now on that family to even chant their names involuntarily in his sleep. Despite everything that had happened, why did his sympathies lie with the girlfriend of the deceased and not the woman that had given him life?

Perhaps, had the woman not sold her conscience for a thousand bucks, would Kondwani have something else other than malice in his eyes when he confronted her in the cafeteria? But who was he to judge? If heaven and hell existed, the two of them would probably end up on the same ride anyway. Kondwani thought.

“This is a hospital,” Kondwani told the woman fuming in fury. “We are in the business of taking care of people and not bringing them harm. What do you think you are doing bringing your personal issues here? Have you no shame or class?”

Mary tried to spit something back at him but her lips refused to budge. Instead, she was looking up at him with the mouth wide open. She had never been that disrespected in her life. Who the hell did this young man think he was embarrassing her like that?

Oooh, it seems you’ve made a few friends for yourself now Alicia haven’t you? Mary sent a chilling look in Alicia’s direction. Alicia shrivelled up behind Kayombo who had moved in-between the two women.

Kondwani was glaring at Mary as if daring her to say something or do something else stupid. “This is my ship and these are my people. I run things around here so please leave while you still have your head held high.”

Alicia almost jumped at Kondwani’s unexpected thunder as she watched her former mother in-law cower before him. She had never seen the woman at a loss for words before. Mary Kabwe was always the woman in charge wherever she went. People cowered in her presence and not the other way round.

When Mary finally made her move to leave, Alicia knew just how much she was going to pay for everything that had transpired in those five minutes.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Kondwani thundered down on everyone in the cafeteria and sent them scampering in all directions.

“Not you,” he said to Alicia whose face was drenched in tears from imaging the kind of wrath that awaited her when she got off from work. “In my office.” Kondwani commanded and Alicia ran to walk behind him, she was no match for his angry long strides.

When they were finally in the privacy of his office, Alicia frantically tried to wipe her tears with her hands. Kondwani stopped before sitting down to give her a disapproving look. How many times in a day did this woman cry? He thought to himself as he threw a pack of paper napkins at her.

“Sit.” He said and Alicia did as instructed. She took a couple of towels and rubbed her face but the fear of the pending doom and the realization of what had just transpired was too overwhelming that her body was rocking in the chair from all the effort she was putting in not to cry out loud.

“Kond-“ Gwen stormed into the room, looking about ready for a fight in whatever form a fight would present itself. She stopped when she saw Alicia crying in her seat, her face bowed down.

“Ms Miyoba, what gives you the right to storm into my office in such fashion?” Kondwani’s tone was a stern reminder that he was in no mood to be personal with her. Even without him saying it, Gwen could hear him say; I am not your fiancé at work and I owe you no explanation so disappear from my presence right now.

Remembering the last conversation she had had with her mother, Gwen threw Alicia a look and left the room in the same manner she had come.

Kondwani sighed frustratingly and walked over to Alicia who was bawling her eyes out now. He roughly grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her up from the chair. Alicia braced herself for more tongue lashing but Kondwani surprised her by pulling her towards him and wrapping her into a tight embrace.

He rested her head on his shoulder and told her something he never imagined he would ever tell any woman to do. “Cry, just let it all out.”

The sudden and unexpected words uttered by those lips and in their soothing tone caught Alicia by surprise and before she knew it, she succumbed to the moment and sobbed in Kondwani’s arms. As her body rocketed in anguish, Kondwani tightened his arms around her and said nothing.

She had a lot of questions to ask Kondwani, the most important being, why? Why was he doing the things he was doing and why was he being so kind to her? The more questions she passed through her head, the more she cried, the uncertainty and confusion of it all making her feel even more helpless.

She would have sold her own soul if it could get her back her son so why should she be mad at him for interfering and setting her up in the cross-hairs of her son’s grandmother? Since Nicolas, no one had gone out of their way to give her something she so desperately desired.

In that moment, in his arms, it did not matter to Alicia what Kondwani’s motives for helping her or the consequences of his actions on her against her former mother in-law were. She was just happy to know that at least there was one more person in the world on her side.

When he felt her start to calm down in his arms, Kondwani held her by the shoulders and pulled her slightly away from him. “Are you feeling a little better now?” He asked, his eyes closely searching her face.

Alicia froze. She had never seen Doctor Chileshe’s face that up close. She felt something move in her stomach and she could feel her eyelids move ferociously against her will.

When a sudden smile appeared across Kondwani’s face, Alicia felt her knees weaken and the doctor had to place his arm around her waist again to steady her. “Are you okay?” He was examining her in his usual doctor-patient manner.

Alicia nodded and batted her eyelids a thousand times in a second and pulled herself away from him. “I’m fine,” She said, and then placing her hand over her forehead she added, “Just a slight headache. I haven’t cried this much in a long time.”

Kondwani raised an eyebrow. “In a long time?” He laughed. “I seriously doubt that.” He then went back behind his desk and sat down.

“Do you think we can talk now?” He asked, pointing to the chair in front for her to sit down. “I think you and I-“ His phone rang and he knew it could only mean one thing. He got up, took his phone from his pocket and just as he was about to check, Alicia’s phone rang as well. While Kondwani grabbed his coat, Alicia excused herself and ran out of his office. Kondwani rushed out of his office behind her, following the direction she had taken.

A few hours later, Alicia was freshening up in the bathroom by the nursing department when she was accosted by Gwen. With Alicia’s colleagues watching, she slammed her back hard against the wall and slapped her on either side of her face in rapid succession. The other four interns watched in horror as their friend got raffled up, afraid to move or say anything that might anger the hospital’s first lady. They had a gruelling internship to survive; they dared not risk their chances by interfering in business that was none of their concern.

“Didn’t I warn you?” Gwen spat in Alicia’s face, her complexion working completely against her. Gwen’s fingers were visibly imprinted in red on either side of her face.

“I-I-I….” Alicia’s tongue froze as tears streamed down her face. She remembered those few minutes she spent crying in Kondwani’s arms and the guilt could not allow her to look Gwen in the eye. She lowered her gaze.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!” Gwen yanked Alicia’s face up. she was about to land another slap when Caroline entered in her usual jovial mood only to freeze when she realized what was going on in the bathroom. Unlike the others, she did not remain frozen for long, she rushed over to her friend and pulled Gwen away from her.

She was so rough in her movements that Gwen fell straight on her bottom. A very embarrassed Gwen glared at Caroline. “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?” She said as she lifted herself back up. She walked over to Caroline and yanked her name tag off her uniform and stormed out of the bathroom.

“Nooo!” Alicia tried to run after her to get back her friend’s nametag but Caroline pulled her back.

“It’s fine,” Caroline said nonchalantly. “Let her keep it if she wants.”

“But-“

Caroline laughed. “Relax Ms Keys,” she put her arm over Alicia’s shoulders. “Her old man and I have history,” she whispered. “How else do you think someone like me got into this kind of place?”

Alicia held her hand over her mouth in shock. She looked around the room to see if the others had heard her friend’s confession.

“I’m sure they all heard.” Caroline said, turning to face the other four in the room. “Yes, I sleep with men to get what I want? Does anyone of you have a problem with that?”

The four cowards said nothing.

“My moral campus might be grey but at least I still have a conscience.” Caroline shamed the girls. “You people have no heart at all and I will make sure to sleep with whoever is in charge of making the final grade just to make sure none of you fools make the cut. Scram!”

The four immediately scrammed out of the room.

“I will even collect packets full of condoms just for their benefit, bloody cowards.” Caroline threatened. “Come,” She took Alicia’s hand and started leading her out of the bathroom. “I have something in my locker we can use to hide those things on your face.”

On the other side of the hospital, Gwen found Kondwani in the one place she knew he would be after a full day’s work. He was standing at the very far end of the rooftop, his legs spread apart and his hands in his pockets.

Kondwani was so deep in his thoughts that he did not hear Gwen approach.

“Thinking about her?” Gwen said and Kondwani turned.

“Don’t tell me you are still mad over what happened in the morning?” Kondwani said.

“Do you even hear yourself Kondwani?”

“What have I said? I simply-“

“How would you feel if I embarrassed you like that in front of a stranger?” Gwen asked.

“Do you honestly think you have the right to ask me such a question Gwen?” Kondwani asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.

“Just forget it.” Kondwani said and started walking away from her.

Gwen ran after him and stood in front of him, stretching her hands out to block him from moving further. “What do you mean right to ask such a question.”

“I don’t want to talk about this here.” Kondwani tried to move passed her but she followed him still.

“No, we are going to talk about this now!” Gwen shouted. “That’s the problem with you, you always shut me out whenever I try to have a conversation with you and you never say what you feel no matter how much something bothers you.”

“Then if you know it bothers me, why keep doing it?” Kondwani yelled.

“Because it’s the only way I know to get your attention.” Gwen answered.

Kondwani stared incredulously at her. “Sleeping with my junior at work is your idea of getting my attention?”

“Would it be different if he was not working under you?”

“What?”

“I knew Samuel even before he came to this hospital.”

“Somehow that makes things better?” Kondwani asked sarcastically. He pushed her to the side and walked the remaining distance towards the stairs.

“I beat her up good you know.” Gwen shouted from behind him.

Kondwani stopped. It took a few seconds for him to grasp the meaning of her words and the moment he did, he flung at her. “What are you talking about?” He was grasping her by the sides of her arms, shaking her for an answer.

Gwen scoffed. “Just look at you,” she said, looking into his burning eyes. “Look at the way you are acting because of her. Even when you discovered something was up with me and Kayombo, you never had such a look in your eyes.”

“What did you do to her?” Kondwani asked.

“You are hurting me!” Gwen pushed him away and stormed passed him without giving him a response.

“If you think I’m going to tell you then you truly must take me for a fool Kondwani.” Gwen said to herself as she silently cried. When she reached the corridor, she quickly wiped her tears and put on a brave face.

After searching everywhere for her, Kondwani finally found Alicia by the nurses locker rooms. She was seated on a stool while her friend towered over her, doing something to her face he couldn’t see clearly.

Just how much damage had Gwen done? Kondwani ran towards them, his heart almost falling out of his chest in horror.

“Alicia?” He pushed Caroline aside to take a closer look at Alicia’s face.

Caroline watched the doctor in amusement, shaking her head slightly before leaving the two of them alone. Once at the door, she removed the lock from the door and then locked the door from outside.

Alicia and Kondwani stared shocked at the door when they heard the key turn and the next thing they saw was a key pushed from under the door towards them.

“That girl.” Kondwani laughed. And then turning back to Alicia, “are you alright? Gwen told-“

Alicia got up from the stool to avoid him seeing the glowing part of her cheek that Caroline had not yet attended to. It was the same side Mary had assaulted earlier that day.

“I’m fine,” Alicia said with her back to him, her hand covering the area.

Kondwani went to stand in front of her. He touched her arms and removed her hand from her face. He winced in pain when he saw it, instinctively, his hand reaching out to touch her face. Alicia pulled herself away from him and in the process almost tripped over the stool she had been sitting on.

Kondwani grabbed her by the waist and pulled her towards him. “What I’m I to do with you?” He asked in helplessness. This time he managed to place his hand over the red area of her mildly swelling face.

“Doctor-“

“I know.” Kondwani said resignedly and released her, putting a safe distance between them. “I’m sorry about that.” He pointed to her face. “I wish I had something better to say-“

“It’s not your fault doctor,” she said. “I think I would misunderstand things too if I were in her position.”

“That’s no excuse to get physical with someone.” Kondwani said. “I hope you report her to HR. Gwen needs to learn that she can’t mix business with her personal issues.”

“There’s no need for me to make a report.” Alicia said. “My conscience will not allow me to do something like that to her.”

“Your conscience?” Kondwani asked.

“I deserve what happened to me.” Alicia said, turning away from him to stand in front of her locker. She opened it but Kondwani closed it right way, pinning her back against the locker, one arm passing over her head and pressed against the locker while the other locked her in place from the side.

“Why do you think you deserve what she did to you?” Kondwani asked her, his face just a few inches away from her. Alicia’s eyes instinctively went towards the door.

“No one is going to come in here.” Kondwani reminded her, his eyes pointing to the keys on the floor just a few feet away from where they were.

Alicia’s heart was racing and pounding loudly in ways it had never done before. She tried to move away from Kondwani but he placed his other hand to the other side, now completely locking her in.

“I am very uncomfortable right now Sir.” She nervously told him, lowering her gaze to look at his shoes.

“Why?” Kondwani seemed to be enjoying putting her on edge a little too much.

Alicia suddenly raised her head and looked straight into his eyes. “I think that I might be in-love with you.” She said.

Kondwani coughed and dropped his arms right away. “What?” He said as he tried to catch his breath. Her confession was so unexpected that it completely threw him off guard. Even as he deliberately pushed the boundaries with her, he knew without doubt that she had the power to push him away which made teasing her more fun for him.

However, he had failed to be comprehensive in his assessment of her. In his calculations, he had forgotten to account for her inexperience in matters in the heart, thinking that she would keep pushing him away if not threaten him with a report of harassment.

If he could get her to leave the hospital on her own free will, Kondwani thought his life would get back to normal then. He would make sure she got into a new good hospital where she wouldn’t have to worry about losing her job. If she was somewhere he could not see her cry or witness her hardships, would his life get back to normal then?

Kondwani only intended to push her slightly towards that decision without arousing unnecessary feelings between them. Knowing the kind of person she was, He figured that instead of confronting her feelings, she would simply run away without revealing them to him. How was he to know that she would come right out with her feelings the very first moment an opportunity presented itself?

Whereas more experienced women employed tact in their pursuance of men, inexperienced ones simply went with the flow. That was something Kondwani had not accounted for in his rush calculations to free himself from the sorrowful widow.

“I think that-“

“No, I heard.” Kondwani said, putting his arm forward to keep her from talking and at the same time, taking steps away from her.

“Doctor-“ Alicia tried to say something but Kondwani started shaking his head.

“I know, this is all me.” He stopped at the door. “This one is on me,” he repeated. “I think I overstepped my bounds and –“

Alicia laughed.

Kondwani looked puzzled.

Alicia walked forward and picked up the keys Kondwani had stepped on as he made his way towards the door backwards. She picked them up and covered the distance between them.

Alicia stopped right in front of him. In just a few seconds, their roles had shifted; she the aggressor and he the subdued one.

“My heart beats so fast whenever you and I stand this close and I feel butterflies in my stomach.” Alicia said. “I want to do things with you that only Nicolas and I used to do and yet…there is something else I keep feeling when I think about you that I’ve never felt before.”

Kondwani lost his tongue; he could only stare at her in shock and amazement. Something about Alicia’s personality reminded him of his sister Chilufya. They both had a way of surprising him in the most profound ways possible.

“I am not coming after you.” Alicia candidly informed the doctor, a playful smile showing slightly at the corners of her face. “I am telling you this to warn you to keep a safe distance from me. I have neither the time nor the luxury to feel feelings or act out a hospital’s sad love romance where I’m the woman who stole another man’s fiancé.”

She then lifted the keys up and handed them to him. Kondwani quickly turned around and opened the door. He was ready to bolt out when he heard her say;

“Ah, please text me the number of the lawyer you hired. I think it’s only right that I meet with the man who intends to help me get my son back. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” Kondwani said. “I will send…I mean, I will text it.”

Alicia smiled. “Thanks.” She said and closed the door.

After walking for a few steps, Kondwani suddenly came to a stop. He turned to look back where he had just come from and he sighed heavily. “Did I just get played?” He asked himself.

Back in the locker room, Alicia closed the door and leaned against it, heavily breathing in and out before collapsing to the floor, her hand over her chest as she willed her heart to settle down.

A few minutes later, Kondwani texted Alicia the number of the lawyer.

“Can I meet you at 6 after work?” Alicia asked Mr Silavwe after exchanging a few pleasantries with him.

“Yes, sure.” He said. “You know where our offices are?”

“No, but I will find my way there.” She said.
Immediately after ending the call with Alicia, Anthony Silavwe called Kondwani.

“She just called.” He reported.

“What did she say?” Kondwani asked.

“She asked to meet at 8 this evening.”

Kondwani looked at his wristwatch. “That’s about an hour from now.” He said.

“Yes.”

“Don’t forget to brief me after.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Great.”
***

Once her meeting with her lawyer was done, Alicia braced herself and took the bus to Mary’s house. When Mrs Kabwe opened the door and found her on the other side of it, she let go of the door and went back to sit down.

“I knew you would bring yourself here.” She said.

Alicia let herself in and went straight to kneel before the woman who could have been her mother in-law. “I am very sorry Mrs Kabwe.” Alicia hung her head low before the woman.

“So now I am Mrs Kabwe when you want to drag me to court ah.” Mary said. “C’mon get up and get out of my house. Stop wasting my time.”

“He is my son.” Alicia cried. “I just want-“

“That child is not your son!” Mary yelled. “He is my child, left to me by the son you took away from me. Have you no heart Alicia? How can you do this to me after everything that you’ve done? How can you?”

“You’ve had him since he was born, can’t I have him now?” Alicia begged. “He is the only one I have-“

“The only one?” Mary scoffed. “What about that rich doctor of yours that hired you the lawyer? The both of you are still young, can’t you just start a family of your own and forget about my Buseko?”

“There’s nothing going on between me and the doctor.” Alicia said. “He’s simply helping me out-“

Mary laughed. “Is that what you people call it these days, helping out?” She scoffed again. “I always wondered when your true colours would show and here we are. You got a bit of education and now you think that you are all that. Do you think that such men are interested in damaged goods like you Alicia?”

Alicia did not respond.

“As the woman who gave life to my grandson, let me give you some free advice.” Mary said. “He is just using you. I am sure he could see how naïve and timid you are and he jumped right at the opportunity. Does he even know that you drove your boyfriend to his death? Does he?”

Alicia still remained quiet.

“Did you come here to gloat about the new fancy lawyer your rich boyfriend has hired for you? Do you think that someone like Mary Kabwe can be intimidated but such trivialities? I have already hired the best lawyer in town as well. There’s no way I’m going to let you take away another one of my family members.”

“I don’t have any intentions of taking anyone away from you.” Alicia tried to reason with her. “Buseko is still going to be your grandson and he will keep coming here whenever you wish to see him.”

“That’s not up to you to decide.” Mary snapped.

“My lawyer says that I have every right to have my son back this time.” Alicia said.

“That’s what he thinks.” Mary retorted. “You will have to kill me first before you can take that boy away from me.”

“Mum-“

“I’m not your mother!” Mary snapped. She got up from the sofa and glared down at Alicia. “Get the hell out of my house Alicia!”

Alicia quickly got up and walked out of the house.

She was waiting for a bus to come through when Kayombo stopped in front of her. “Are you coming from where I think you are-“

“Yes,” Alicia said, going over to his window. “Is that where you are going?”

“That’s where I was headed until I saw you. Hop in.” He opened the door for her from inside.

“I’m going this way.” She pointed in the opposite direction.

“Yes, I’m taking you home.” Samuel said.

“I thought-“

“Just get in Alicia.” He insisted. She obliged him.

“Why have you changed your mind about going there?” Alicia asked as they got onto the road.

“I was going there to try and calm her down about the custody issue because she scared the hell out of me today. I have never seen her lose it like that before.”

“Me too.” Alicia said. “She’s really not taking this well. I wish I had given her more time to prepare herself. I was also caught off-guard by everything.”

Kayombo gave her a suspicious look. “Why did Kondwani do something like this for you…and without even telling you about it? Is there really nothing going on between you two?”

“How can you ask me that again Kayombo?” Alicia said. “I expect people that don’t know me to think me capable of seeing an engaged man but you…you’ve spent time with me and you’ve known me for a longer period of time despite having only met recently.”

“C’mon Alicia,” Kayombo said. “You have to admit yourself that everything seems suspicious. I have known that guy Kondwani for about five years now and I have never ever seen him show interest in anyone, not even his own fiancé.”

Alicia mulled over Kayombo’s words, her mind going back to that moment in the locker room.

“I will be honest with you since you are my friend.” Alicia said. “I like Doctor Chileshe.”

Kayombo parked the car by the road side. Slowly, he turned towards Alicia. “You what?”
“Yes,” Alicia said. “I like him but nothing is going on between us. I didn’t even know I had such feelings until…anyway, it doesn’t even matter because nothing is ever going to happen between us. I already told you, I am not interested in dating anyone, especially someone who isn’t even available.”

“And does Kondwani know about your feelings?” Kayombo asked.

“Yes he does.” Alicia answered simply. “I told him and if you must know, he isn’t interested in me like that.”

“Is that what he told you or that’s what you think?”

“He told me straight to my face.”

Kayombo shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense at all.” He said.

“What doesn’t?” She asked.

“Nothing,” Samuel answered absent-mindedly and got back on the road.

“Are you okay Doctor…Samuel?” Alicia asked after ten minutes passed and Kayombo had not said a word to her.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just thinking about something. How’s your sister Belinda?” He quickly changed the subject.

On the other side of town, Kondwani opened the door and Chilufya walked right in.

“What’s so important you needed me to come all the way to your house Wani?” She threw herself onto the sofa and made herself comfortable.

“No go ahead, feel right at home Ms Chileshe.” He said sarcastically as he sat down.

Chilufya laughed and sat up. “What’s eating you up?” She asked him.

“She said that she thinks she might be in-love with me.” Kondwani said.

Chilufya’s face beamed with hope and excitement. “A girl confessed to you? Who is she? Is she a doctor too?”

“Chill out young lady.” He said. “Yes she works at the hospital but she’s a nurse…and you know her.”

“I don’t know any nurse at your hospital.” Chilufya answered quickly. However, no sooner had the words escaped her lips than realization crept in. “NO!” she said, eyes wide open.

“Yes.” Kondwani said. “The girlfriend to the man I killed says she’s in-love with me. Tell me again sis, which seat next to the devil shall I occupy in hell; left or right?”

Chilufya gasped.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 7

“Pay back a debt?” Alicia asked.

The server chose that particular moment to appear with their food.

“Thanks,” they said at once.

“Is there anything-“

“No thanks, we are fine.” Alicia quickly answered, anxious for her to leave so she could hear Dr Chileshe’s explanation.

The twenty something year old server got her cue to leave and immediately left them alone.

“You were saying….” Alicia prompted him again.

Kondwani laughed. “Relax,” he said. “I just meant that I owe you for the way I treated you when you first joined the hospital.”

“Ooh.” She said, her features suddenly relaxing.

“What did you think I meant?” There was still laughter in Kondwani’s voice.

Alicia shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I was just curious because of the way you phrased your statement.”

“I see.” Kondwani said. “Can I ask you something though…a personal question?” He was looking at her cautiously, wondering how she was going to take his line of questioning.

Alicia raised an eyebrow at him. “You are not going to talk about rescuing me again are you?”

Kondwani chuckled. “No,” he said. “I think you’ve made your point very clear on that one.”

“Good.” She said. “What did you want to ask me?”

“Have you ever been with anyone else apart from your late boyfriend?” Kondwani asked.

Alicia gawked at him in wonder, a whole lot of questions flashing across her face.

“Did I offend you?” Kondwani asked.

“I am trying to figure out whether it’s mere coincident or not….” Alicia said.

“What?” A confused Kondwani asked.

“You are not the first person to ask me that question today.” She said.

“I’m not?” No sooner had he asked than the answer came to him. “Kayombo?”

Alicia chuckled shyly. “How did you-?”

“I don’t believe that nothing is going on between the two of you.” He said. “I have seen the way he looks at you.”

“I think you and Dr Kayombo should really think about becoming best friends. He said the same thing about you.” Immediately the words came out, Alicia regretted having uttered them without thinking. She put her hand over her mouth but it was already too late.

Kondwani was looking at her suspiciously, a new kind of interest glowing in his eyes. “Dr Kayombo said something like that about me?”

Alicia grabbed her glass of water and gulped down the contents. How did their conversation get to that point? She wondered.

Kondwani was watching her closely. He could tell she was going to try and avoid his question but he had no intention whatsoever of letting her get away with it.

“Do you think these people would tell us if we asked them what sauce they used for the beef?” Alicia had put down her glass of water and was now forking her meat. “It’s very nice, never tasted anything like it before.”

Kondwani said nothing in return, he just kept staring at her and he could tell she could feel his eyes on her because she dared not raise her head or her eyes from whatever was going on on her plate.

Alicia was now fatuously trying to cut a piece off her steak but it appeared neither the meat nor the cutlery were in corporation mood.

“I’m still waiting.” Kondwani said, now knotting his hands together over the table and feigning a look of determined patience on his face.

Feeling cornered, Alicia laid down the knife and fork angrily, dipped the tip of her fingers in the bowl of water and went at her meat with her bare hands. “God put me in charge of the meat and not the other way round.” She said between clenched teeth as she tore a large piece and dropped it into her mouth.

Kondwani watched in amazement as she shameless chewed at her meat. “Are you kidding me?” He asked, looking both shocked and amazed at her behaviour.

Alicia tried to mouth the word ‘what’ at him but her mouth was too full for her to utter anything comprehensible.

“What do you see when you look at me Alicia?” Kondwani asked. He appeared to genuinely be in need of finding out the answer to his question. He was seriously examining his companion’s facial expressions. How could she not even try a play at cuteness around him?

Glad that she had managed to circumvent the other topic, Alicia quickly chewed her meat and swallowed hard. “I see a doctor.” Her answer finally came.

“Is that all you see?” He asked disappointedly.

“Is there something else I’m supposed to see?” She asked.

Kondwani felt a chunk off his pride drop to the floor. “Sometimes I wonder if you are putting on a perfect act of naivety or if you are simply just plain naïve. Isn’t there a part of you that finds me attractive as a man?”

The fork in Alicia’s hand dropped onto her plate causing the few heads in the restaurant to turn in their direction. Some of the sauce from her beef steak went splashing all over the front of her top. The bluntness of Doctor Chileshe’s question had completely caught her off guard and she wasn’t quite sure how she was supposed to respond.

It was a well-known fact that he was a very good looking man. There was no woman that looked at Kondwani Chileshe and failed to silently recognize that fact in her head. However, it was a whole other matter for one to be forced to utter that fact to the man’s face without wishing for the ground to open up and swallow them.

Kondwani appeared completely pleased by her reaction and the proud smirk on his face showed just how flattered he was by Alicia’s admission even though she had not uttered a single word in reply. Her glowing cheeks and blushing eyes were literally screaming her response at him.

“I am going to go to the bathroom!” Alicia’s was suddenly on her feet and off towards the direction of the toilets.

Kondwani literally laughed out loud. “I seriously think she lied about her age.” He said to himself.

The beautiful server that was in charge of their table tried to intercept Alicia along her way to the bathroom but Alicia was too embarrassed to stop and talk to her. She just shook her head and pointed towards the bathroom in urgency. Instead, the server went to Kondwani who was still busking in the aftermath of Alicia’s unintended confession.

It was not as if he was not aware of the fact that women find him good looking so why did he find himself utterly flattered by Alicia’s silent admission? He was a man used to having women throw themselves at him and do everything in their power to get his attention. So why did the silent confession of a simple-looking, naïve but beautiful nurse cause him to feel like he had just won gold at the Olympics?

“Is everything all right sir?” The concerned server asked Kondwani.

Kondwani lifted his head to look up at her, he was grinning from ear to ear. “Everything is absolutely fine!” He was almost shouting the words. “My day had started off on a crappy note but it’s suddenly brightened up. How about you give me the best wine you have in the house? The very best.”

Smiling, “yes sir,” replied the server before leaving for the bar.

By the time Alicia came out of the bathroom, the wine had already been served. She found two empty glasses set on the table and it appeared as if Doctor Chileshe was waiting for her before he could pour it into the glasses.

Kondwani looked at her and immediately realized she had utilized her time out very wisely. The sauce stains on her blouse were completely gone. “Sit,” he pointed to where she had been seated earlier.

“What’s this about?” She pointed to the red wine and the two glasses.

“We are going to celebrate the fact that you like me Alicia.” Kondwani said. Alicia’s eyes immediately went searching across the room to see if anyone had overheard his words. She wanted to reach out from across the table and put her hand over his smirking mouth.

She sat down and leaned towards him to whisper; “I never said I liked you.” She emphasized every word in the sentence. “Just because a woman thinks you are good looking does not mean that she likes you.”

Kondwani grinned some more. “Finally, she actually says the words.”

Right away, Alicia realized she had fallen flat into his trap.

Kondwani opened the bottle of wine and poured half a glass for her before pouring for himself.

“I don’t drink.” Alicia announced just as Kondwani set the glass before her.

He gaped at her. “You gotto be kidding me.” he said disappointedly.

“It’s getting dark outside,” she made a point of actually looking outside. “I still live with my parent’s so I need to get back home on time.”

“Why does a twenty-eight year old woman with a fully-functioning career still live with her parents?” Kondwani asked.

“Because this 28 year old woman needs to save money for something more important than her own life or freedom.”

“You mean your son?”

She nodded.

“What if I find you a good lawyer to help you get your son back?” Kondwani offered.

“Now why would you do that?” Alicia asked.

“I told you, I have a debt to pay.” He answered.

“I can’t afford that kind of lawyer right now and I think I would really feel uncomfortable receiving that kind of help from you. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything for the way you treated me when we first met.

“You were just doing your job and I understand. You don’t need to do these kinds of things,” she was looking at the table set before them as she said the words. “You really don’t owe me anything…but thank you for offering anyway, it means a lot.”

“I thought you said you would do anything to get your son back.” Kondwani’s tone was suddenly serious. “If getting your son back is your prerogative, then isn’t a little discomfort on your part a small price to pay to achieving your goal?”

“Why are you doing this doctor?” For the first time since they sat down, she was looking directly at him. “Why do you care so much about what goes on in my life? It can’t just be because you feel bad about how rude you were to me. You are rude and smug with everyone at work, it’s not just me so…or do you follow up the others as well and offer to do them favours?”

“Why are you acting like I asked to bed you when all I want to do is help you get your son back?” Kondwani asked. “If you don’t want my help then fine!” He got up and walked over to the bar where their server was standing.

“The bill please.” He said.

She handed it to him., he quickly signed it and returned it to her. When he was done, he headed right out of the building instead of back to the table where Alicia was seated watching him walk out in disbelief.

She quickly got up, waved to the server and ran out after Doctor Chileshe.

She wanted to ask him what was wrong with him but something about his demeanour sent her straight into silence. She waited for him to get into the car and when she noticed he didn’t drive off without her but instead waited for her to get in; she quickly rushed to get in.

“I thought you were going to leave me behind.” She said but Kondwani said nothing in response. All the way to her place, there were no words exchanged between them. Alicia had no idea when it happened, but she found herself being gently shaken by Kondwani and she opened her eyes to find them parked in front of her gate.

“How-“

“I figured you were tired, didn’t want to wake you.” Kondwani said. He was awkwardly avoiding looking at her.

“When did we get here?” Alicia asked, realizing from his words that they hadn’t just arrived.

“Does it matter?” Kondwani said flatly.

Alicia checked her wrist watch for the time and her mouth fell wide open. She went straight for the door so as not to keep him any longer but Kondwani surprised her by grabbing her hand.

“Wait,” he said, his voice soft and controlled.

Alicia’s gaze went straight to where their hands were touching before she sat back. Kondwani immediately released his hold on her.

“You like me, don’t you?” He asked.

“Huh?” Alicia said. Was it his mission to shock her to death with his random questions?

“Let me rephrase,” he said. “I know that you like me.”

“Is this some kind of joke or test?” Alicia asked.

“Maybe, you hate me?” He was now looking straight into her eyes.

“I don’t hate you, but neither do I like you.” Alicia stated matter-of-factly. “Where is all this coming from? I thought I told you-“

“Then why are you refusing my help?” Kondwani asked. “If you have no feelings whatsoever for me, why not just accept my help as something coming from a colleague who wants to be your friend?”

Alicia scoffed. “A friend?” She asked. “You and me?” She scoffed again. “You and I live in two different worlds Doctor Chileshe. You live in a castle and I live in my parent’s spare bedroom.

“We might work in the same hospital but the only reason I exist there is just so I can pass tools to you so you can effectively do your life-changing job. Only a fool would expect more from this kind of relationship. Besides, I almost lost my job because your fiancé misunderstood something between us so the last thing I-“

“So is it because of her?” Kondwani asked. “Is it because you think your job will be threatened that’s why you keep refusing my help?”

Alicia couldn’t believe Doctor Chileshe’s persistence. “I told you-“

“What if I ended my relationship with her?”

“What!?” Alicia couldn’t believe her ears. “Is something wrong with you Doctor?” She was genuinely examining him for symptoms of disorientation.

“Nothing is wrong with me.” He said. “I am perfectly fine so stop looking at me like that. I simply just what to help-“

“Why do you care so much?” Alicia asked.

“Does it really matter?” Kondwani asked. “Can’t you just accept my help, say thank you like a normal person would so that we can both continue with our lives?”

Alicia was glaring at him in disbelief. Why was he getting upset with her? She should be the one getting upset with him. “I told you, I don’t need your help.” She said sternly and stepped down from the vehicle.

Kondwani quickly stepped out as well. “Then you shouldn’t have allowed me to see you cry like a fool everywhere I went!” He shouted at her before she could open the gate.

Alicia turned to look at him in fury. His brutal reminder of those painful moments of vulnerability when she thought no one was watching brought tears straight into her eyes. “What, do I need permission from you to even cry?” She snapped. “I can cry whenever I feel like it but that doesn’t mean I need anyone to rescue me.” As she said the words, the tears streamed down her face, as if to prove a point to him.

“You are not asking to help me because you care,” She added. “You simply want to fulfil some private dark desire just so you can make yourself feel better. Yes, you are a good looking man I will give you that but don’t go around thinking every woman is out to get your heart or attention. I am not one of them.”

With that, she opened the gate, entered and flung it shut behind her with a bang.

“That didn’t go anywhere close to plan.” Kondwani said to himself. He got back into the car and called the person responsible for putting him in that kind of situation.

“Bro,” Chilufya answered his call.

“Meet me by Rhapsody’s in 30.” He said.
“It’s not working.” Kondwani complained to his twenty-five year old sister about an hour later.

“What’s not working?” Chilufya asked.

“What you asked me to do.” He said.

“What I asked you to do?” Chilufya appeared clueless. “I don’t remember-“

“That girl won’t give me the time of day.” Kondwani said. “I have tried everything possible to try and get close to her so I can help to make her life easy but she just won’t give me a chance.”

“What girl-“

“She keeps asking me questions and frankly I have run out of lies. I have never had any problems telling a lie before but somehow…with this woman, nothing seems to work out. Every single time I look at her, the guilt just eats me up and-“

“Ooooh.” Chilufya finally got on the same page as her brother. “You are talking about the nurse, Ms Daka.”

“Of course,” Kondwani said. “Who else could I be talking about? What’s wrong with you today?”

“Hey, hey, don’t take your anger out on me.” Chilufya warned him. “I am not the one responsible for your current state of mind.”

“Do you think I would be feeling this frustrated if you hadn’t ask me that stupid question last time we talked?”

Chilufya laughed. “Since when have you ever listened to me…or to anyone for that matter?”

“This case is different.” Kondwani said.

“So what did you try to do for her?” Chilufya asked.

That question forced Kondwani to revisit his past and recent interaction with Alicia. He couldn’t help wincing in embarrassment.

“What? What happened?” Chilufya had never seen her brother look so abashed.

“Oooh, it’s too embarrassing. I can’t believe I did or said some of those things.” He covered his face with the palm of his hands. “I wish I could just drop dead to save myself from this embarrassment.”

“What did you do?” Chilufya was now dying from curiosity. She had never seen her brother look so mortified.

“Anyway!” Kondwani dropped his hands from his face. “I am done with all this drama.” He said. “I did what I could, I reached out to her, I offered to help and she flat out turned me down.”

“You offered her help? How?” Chilufya asked.

“I asked her if she wanted help getting her son back and she said she didn’t need my help. I even offered to get her the best lawyer in town. She still said no.”

“Oh my God, you didn’t.” Chilufya’s jaw dropped.

“What?” Kondwani asked.

“Are you and that woman friends?” she asked.

“Of course not, I’m her boss. She’s interning at my hospital.”

“Exactly!” Chilufya hit her hand against the table. “How can you offer someone you have no close relationship with that kind of help? Did you expect her to jump up in joy and wrap her arms around you in gratitude?”

“I also offered to be her companion…you know-“

“Her what?” Chilufya hang her head in shock and embarrassment. “You offered to be her what?” She slowly repeated her question.

“She cries quite a lot and very so easily,” Kondwani explained himself. “I thought, obviously it’s because she hasn’t gotten over her boyfriend so…you know….”

For the first time in her life, Chilufya realized just how human her big brother was. She had grown up believing that there was nothing her big brother could not do in the whole world. He was her hero, her mentor and she literally worshiped the ground he walked on. However, in that moment, looking at him and hearing him talk, she realized for the very first time that he was not perfect, and that there were certain things in the world that no amount of money or intelligence could buy.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Kondwani asked his sister. He could read disappointment…and something else…could it be pity he was seeing in her eyes? No way.

And then suddenly, he saw tears.

Shocked by the sudden turn of events, Kondwani grabbed a napkin from the table and passed it to her. “Chilu, what’s wrong with you?” He asked, concern and shock written all over his face.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, his sister started sobbing, loud enough to attract the attention of everyone in the restaurant. And instead of hiding her face for dignity’s sake, Chilufya opened sobbed and sobbed with her mouth wide open.

“Shit.” Kondwani cussed under his breath as he went to sit next to her. “Woman, what’s all this about? Can’t you see everyone is looking at us?”

In response, Chilufya turned her body to fully face her brother. She lifted both her hands and rested them on either side of his face, all the while sobbing and shaking her head at the same time. “What have we done to you?” She cried.

“What do you mean what have you done to me?” He grabbed her hand and laid them down gently. “Here,” he took some more napkins brought to their table by a male server and handed it to her. When the server remained standing there, Kondwani felt the need to explain the situation to him…and everyone else looking at them strangely.

“She’s my baby sister,” he said. “She’s going through some issues so….”

The server nodded his head, apologized and quickly gave them the privacy they needed.

“See now people are looking at me strangely and thinking I have done some injustice to you.” Kondwani told his sister.

Chilufya dried her tears and after calming down, she took her brothers hand and held on to it for the duration of her speech.

“On behalf of mum and my siblings,” she started. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize to you for what we’ve done.” As she spoke, a fresh bolt of tears came streaming down her cheeks.

Kondwani could only stare at her blankly, completely lost from whatever was going on in her head. It was not as if he was not aware of his young sister’s bipolar personality. Chilufya’s moods shifted between night and day in a split second and sometimes it was hard to tell whether she was female or not since she woke up on certain days talking, walking and dressing like a boy and on other days she appeared as immaculate and impeccably dressed as a 15th century European medieval woman.

With Chilufya, there was just no knowing which side of the bed she would wake up on. She had the potential to shock even the most holy of men. Their mother had already gone through all the possible powerful pastors she could afford and all she could do now was wait upon new ones and new churches to be born so she could try them as well.

But as a medical doctor, Kondwani knew for a fact that what his sister needed was not holy water or holy blankets. As long as she continued with her medication and therapy, she would eventually get better. In fact, he was already seeing the change in her…even though she still wasn’t quite there yet.

“You were so busy taking care of us that you missed out on a lot of things.” Chilufya cried.

Kondwani finally understood where the water works were coming from and why. He simply laughed and wrapped his arms around his sister.

“I promise you I’m going to help you find a woman that you will truly truly love.” Chilufya promised, her arms too tightly wrapped around her brother.

“How can I desire any other woman when I have a baby sister that loves me like this?” Kondwani joked.

Chilufya suddenly let go of him. “I’m serious!” She sulked.

Kondwani laughed. “I know, so please, stop crying.” She picked up another napkin and this time around he wiped her tears himself. “Whatever man will win your heart will be the luckiest fella in the whole world, you know that right?”

Chilufya blushed, smiled, and nodded. “And my brother might not be perfect, but he is the best brother and doctor this country has ever seen!” She said.

“And for that, you deserve the best and most expensive meal on this menu.” Kondwani said, standing up to go back to his seat. He handed Chilufya the menu.

“So I can order everything I want here right?” She was beaming with excitement, her finger going over every item on the page she was closely scrutinizing.

Kondwani laughed. “Yes,” he said, silently thanking the heavens that she wasn’t a royal lady of the court that day worried about appearances and her weight. The silent Y chromosome in her was fully in charge for the moment.

He put down his menu and sat watching his sister give the server a list of items she wanted to eat, a bittersweet smile playing on his face as he desperately fought back tears.
***

That evening after Kondwani dropped her off at home, Alicia went straight to bed, turning down her father’s offer to join the family for dinner with the excuse of having eaten already. She had not told a lie but both her parents thought she was still upset over what had happened with her mother during the day.

Alicia’s mind was anywhere but home. Despite her high IQ, at the age of 28, she still had trouble discerning matters of the heart. Why was Doctor Chileshe acting like that with her? She kept asking herself but each time she couldn’t seem to come up with a concrete answer.

It can’t be because he likes me, she reasoned. He had said so himself. It has to be pity…that…that white knight syndrome. But why me? Why does he care so much?

But the time she realized it, it was thirty minutes passed midnight and she had the early morning shift. She switched off her bedside lamp and drowned into her beddings, forcefully willing her mind to focus on sleep only.

The next morning at work, Doctor Chileshe was back to being his old self; cold, rude, dismissive and disrespectful. It was as if the previous day had not happened. In her shelved nature, Alicia did her best to avoid running into him at all cost. She was always an easy target for anyone in a position of power…or just anyone.

Unfortunately, being the assisting surgical nurse, she had no means of completing staying out of Kondwani’s radar. However, she was fortunate enough to realize that he too was committed to ignoring her as much as she was. Except for those conversations that could not be avoided in the OR, the two of them stayed out of each other’s way, religiously.

The situation remained like that for days, until others like Dr Kayombo started to notice.

“So what’s going on between you and Dr Chileshe?” Samuel asked her one day when they were having lunch with two other interning nurses in the cafeteria.

“Are you planning on sitting with us every day?” A very uncomfortable Alicia asked. “Everyone is staring at us like we stole something from them.” She added as she scanned the room.

“That group of female doctors over there looks like they are ready for a fight.” Nurse Evans chipped in. he was one of the three male intern nurses in Alicia’s group.

“I don’t know, but I’m kind of enjoying all the hate and attention.” Nurse Caroline said.

Caroline had the shortest nursing uniform in the group and always got in trouble with Mrs Miti over her make-up and audacious appearance. The 25 year old had not hidden the fact that she only became a nurse in order to meet a rich old dying man so she could inherit his wealth. She was shameless as she was beautiful.

“Aren’t you going to answer my question?” Kayombo asked, completely ignoring her protests.

“I have no idea-“

“Where is that ungrateful murderer who killed my son?” Alicia heard a familiar voice behind her and froze. She didn’t need to turn to know who had rudely stormed into the cafeteria in such a fit of rage. What she didn’t know was what she could have done to arouse that kind of rage in her.

“Aunty?” Doctor Kondwani was already up on his feet.

Alicia quickly got up and turned in the direction of the pending doom. Before she could even stand up straight, Mrs Kabwe slapped her hard across the face and sent her straight to the floor.

“How can you do this to me?” Mary asked. She threw the pile of papers in her hands at her. Shocked and confused, Alicia picked up one of the papers, one word immediately stood out to her; custody.

She quickly read through the whole document.

“You killed my son and now you want to take away my grandchild?” Mary shouted.

“Aunt Mary,” Kayombo went over to the woman’s side to try and calm her down while Evans and Caroline tried to help Alicia up.

Unfortunately, Mary was not in a calming down mood. She flung at Alicia once again and pulled at her hair. “You are never taking him away from me!” She said as she pulled an unprotesting Alicia left, right and centre.

“How dare you threaten me with fancy lawyers?” Mary shouted. Kayombo and Evans tried to pull the woman away from Alicia but she was way too vicious for them.

“What the hell is going on here?” It was Kondwani, in all his angry glory. Kayombo and Evans immediately let go of Mrs Kabwe and for the first time Alicia made a move to escape the woman’s wrath.

“Doctor Chileshe?” Alicia said, fear written all over her face. She could hear her career run down the sewer drain. It was over for her.

“Don’t you have a mouth?” Kondwani asked. “Can’t you talk to defend yourself?”

Alicia appeared lost and confused.

“Who the hell are you?” Mary turned towards the doctor, completely unfazed by his domineering nature.

“I am the owner of this place…and also the person that hired someone to send you those documents.” He was looking at the papers on the floor.

“What?”

It was not just Alicia and Mary that had asked that question, it was everyone else in the cafeteria, including Gwen who was standing right behind Kondwani.

A Twisted Fate – Part 8

 

Tulani parked his car on the side of the road, a short distance away from his home and called Natasha to ask for her father’s number.

“Have you found Luyando?” She asked him, thinking it could be the only reason he was asking for her father’s contact information a few minutes to midnight.

After hearing about his daughter’s disappearance, Bernard had gone out to search for her wherever his feet would take him. Seeing the desperate state of her husband, Martha had had no choice but to accompany him on his search, afraid he might lose his mind from hopelessness.

“Yes,” Tulani answered. “She’s at my place right now.”

“I thought she might come there,” Natasha said, her voice dropping a few levels lower.

Tulani didn’t miss the change in her tone. “I am not at home right now,” he quickly explained. “I want to talk to your dad first about something concerning Luyando before he goes to pick her up. I don’t think she will be going anywhere else tonight but I think it would be best if he picks her up as soon as possible.”

“Did something happen?” Natasha asked.

Tulani laughed nervously. “Nothing,” he lied. “Why do you ask?”

“You said there was something you wanted to talk to dad about before he picks up Luyando. Don’t lie to me Tula, I can tell that there’s something you’re hiding.”

“Okay, can I talk to you after I am done talking to your dad?” He asked. “Is he at home?”

“No, they both went out to look for Luyando, I mean both mum and dad. They should be waiting at Luyando’s house right now. Dad refuses to leave until he knows she’s safe.”

“Okay, send me his number then, I will meet him over there.”
Tulani found Mr and Mrs Chimeko seated on the veranda outside Luyando and Peter’s home. While Martha had a chitenje wrapper covering her, Bernard braved the coldness of the night with nothing extra to keep him warm, refusing to join his wife under her wrapper.

They both stood up the moment Tulani’s vehicle appeared outside the gate.

“Where’s she?” Bernard was by Tulani’s window before he could even bring the car to a stop.

“How about you jump in while we talk,” Tulani could tell his future mother-in-law was close to freezing. “I will put the heater on and you will be warm in no time.”

Martha didn’t need to be told a second time. Bernard had no choice but to follow his wife.

“Is Luyando okay? Is she at your place? Ben asked. He had already figured out where his daughter was the moment Tulani expressed hesitation in revealing exactly where he had found her over the phone.

“Can we sit down first so we can talk properly? I have the keys to the house.” He showed husband and wife the set of keys he had picked up from the table where Luyando had tossed them.

He drove the vehicle the rest of the way inside and parked in front of the house.

Martha and Bernard followed Tulani inside.

“What is it you want to talk to us about?” Bernard didn’t waste any time.

Shifting nervously in his seat, “It’s about Luyando,” he said.

“What about Luyando, did something bad happen to her?” Martha asked.

“Oh no,” Tulani quickly provided. “I have something to recommend to you…considering that you are her rightful parent…even though my parent’s legally adopted her….”

“Tulani!” Bernard urged him to get straight to the point.

“I hope you don’t get this the wrong way…or find it offending but, I think that Luyando needs help….”

“Help?” Ben appeared confused, however, Martha knew right away what her grandson’s father was talking about and so she silently waited for the bomb to drop.

Tulani kept going over the words to say and rearranging them so they could come out in the most polite way possible. But is there even a polite way to tell a man his beloved daughter is so sick mentally she needs to be institutionalized?

Seeing Tulani’s hesitation, Bernard picked up the direction where the conversation was going.

“Ooh,” he said, hanging his head low.

“I think that she needs professional help,” Tulani finally managed, seeing that they all seemed to be on the same page. “I think that she was terribly disturbed by the death of her mother at such a young age and….” He was nervously looking at Ben before adding whatever thoughts were going through his head.

Bernard slowly raised his head to look at Tula. “And me neglecting her when she needed me the most you mean?” He added, his eyes heavy with guilt.

“I didn’t mean it like that Sir,” Tulani tried to explain himself. It was indeed what he meant…but not in those exact terms.

“I know,” Ben said.

Martha placed her hand over her husband’s lap, unable to find words to use to comfort him.

“I know about everything,” Ben continued. “I know that she’s had to lie all through her life to win people’s affection…just like she deliberately drove her car into another…or fake her amnesia…or,” he paused before adding. “…I also knew about the lies she told in the letter.”

Martha was staring at him wide-eyed. “You knew from the beginning?”

“Of course, how can I not?” he replied. “I felt…I feel responsible for everything that’s happening. She did all those things she did recently because she wanted to gain sympathy. I was the only one who could give it to her without questioning anything because I was responsible for everything.

“You don’t understand,” Bernard went on. “Luyando had the best life when her mother was still alive. She was the centre of our lives. She was like a princess, used to having her way, always.” He then turned his body to face his wife.

“I never told you this before,” Ben said. “But Luyando was born a twin.”

“What?” Martha and Tulani asked at the same time.

“They were fraternal twins,” Bernard explained.

Martha could not hide her shock. For twenty years her husband had not mentioned anything about that. She had been under the impression that there were no secrets between them. Why hadn’t he mentioned anything to her before?

“Tasila had a very troubled pregnancy,” Bernard explained. “She had a very weak immune system so her body easily gave in to a lot of diseases. She was sick most of the time and it seemed to get worse during her pregnancy. Something happened during delivery and we lost Chipego.

“It was a boy. Luyando was a fighter so she came out first…but her brother wasn’t much of a fighter.” He closed his eyes as if to keep the pain of the whole experience shut in the past where it belonged.

“Chipego gave his mother a hard time and by the time he finally came out, it was already too late.”

Martha placed her hand over her mouth while Tulani appeared utterly shocked by the revelations, his mouth wide open. It finally made sense why Luyando ended up with twins of her own.

“We never told Luyando about her brother,” Ben told them. “Instead, Tasila and I showered her with love meant for two people. Our world literally revolved around her. We were not very rich but we were comfortable and Luyando was raised spoiled.

“Anything she wanted, her mother gave it to her….so you can imagine…what she must have felt when it all came to an end so suddenly.”

There was a pregnant silence in the room, each lost in their thoughts. Bernard thought about how he had lost control the moment he had received news of his wife’s death. His whole world had come to an instant world.

Three weeks after Tasila’s death, Bernard had lost his job, home, and everything they had owned…all while his daughter watched on the side lines.

Martha’s mind went back to the time when she and Bernard had their first talk about having a child. She finally understood why he had such strong reservations about starting a family…why he had watched over her like a hawk all through her pregnancy. When Alex was finally born, Ben had gone to the doctor and had a vasectomy done.

She had never understood why but she suspected it might have something to do with the disappearance of his daughter Luyando. All this time, Martha thought that her husband was feeling guilty about starting a new family when he had no idea where his first child was. How was she to know that it was only his fear of the past repeating itself?

Tulani on the other hand was thinking about all the things Luyando had done; from the time she appeared in front of his parent’s vehicle to the sleepless nights when she would keep everyone awake from the thunder’s of her nightmares…and to what happened a few minutes ago in his living room.

He had wanted to hate her for putting him in such a position but after hearing the little bit about her past, Tulani knew that he was incapable of hating or giving up on his sister. She might not know it herself but she was in desperate need of help. Her wounds ran deeper than the scars she had unwittingly let everyone around her see.

“After we lost everything, Luyando became the adult in the family while I kept drowning in alcohol.” Ben’s shame could be heard from his voice and it was spread out loudly and evenly across his face.

“She became the parent of a thirty year old man; picking me up from the tavern, cleaning me up and cleaning after me, cooking, washing…anything you can think of…and she was only ten. I was aware that what I was doing was wrong but each passing day I kept making excuses for myself.

“I thought I was allowed to lose it…to mourn my wife who had died such an untimely death. Luyando had always been a clever child. I thought she could take care of herself. Not once did I stop to consider her pain…I thought she was managing just fine because I never saw her cry….”

As Bernard said those words, his mind flashed back to the time right after they had put Tasila to rest. He had gone into their bedroom, picked up her framed picture and held it against his heart as he gave in to tsunami of tears he had been holding on to all this while. It was not normal for a man to publicly express his emotions like that…even if it was the love of his life that had died.

As far as everyone was concerned, he was a man, a father…he had to be strong. But that day he felt safe to cry in the room he had shared with her for years, the room where they had made life changing decisions together. How could she leave him without talking to him about it first? Didn’t she know that he was not going to like the idea?

Gripped with overwhelming emotions, Bernard had poured his heart out that day, on the cold floor where he sat holding on to the only thing he thought was a memory of her. He had not seen his daughter standing by the door watching him until she walked over to him and put her arms around him.

“I am such a weak man,” Bernard cried.

Martha put her arms around him and cried with him while Tulani watched uncomfortably from the other side of the room.

“I should have known better,” Bernard said. “She never cried, not once did I see her cry. But how could she cry when I was losing it the whole time? One of us needed to be an adult…she did.”

Martha patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t say that Ben. It was a long time ago and….”

“When she came to me a few weeks ago, I knew right away that she needed help,” Bernard said. “But there was nothing I could do for her except to play along with her lies. If I could be the only man standing by her side when everyone else was judging her…I thought that maybe that would show her that I care about her…and that I am sorry.”

“For a while now I have known that Luyando needs help,” Tulani chipped in. “But like you, I thought that maybe giving her the kind of attention she wanted would make her feel loved…but that just made things worse.

“She ended up misunderstanding my actions…and…and…let’s just say that it was the wrong way of doing things. Because we responded to her tantrums and lies the way she wanted us to, she’s grown up thinking that that’s the right way to do things.

“That’s why I came to you today, to tell you that you should get her professional help. She needs to see someone to help her heal her wounds. I don’t think that she is bad person…I think that she just wants people to love her unreservedly like you and her mother did before she passed on.”

“He is right honey,” Martha told her husband. “We need to get her help.”

“Do you know anyone….” Ben started to ask.

“Yes,” Tulani quickly supplied, reaching into his pocket and removing a business card he had purposely carried and handed it over to Ben.

“He’s the leading psychologist in the country,” Tulani said. “I already spoke to him, he will be expecting to hear from you soon.”

“Don’t we need to talk to her husband about this first?” Ben asked. He had not met Peter yet but he had heard from Joshua that he had visited the hospital once. He had wanted to ask why only once but he figured it was not the right time to talk about other issues.

“I will talk to Peter tomorrow morning,” Tulani offered. “According to Luyando, he packed his stuff and that of the children and left the house. the two of them had been having problems way before the truth came out.”

“Dear God what will my daughter do now?” Ben lamented. “Do you think you can get him to change his mind?”

Tulani hesitated in responding. He knew first-hand how much Peter had suffered at the hands of Luyando. She made it no secret that he was not her number one priority and he had been patient with her for far too long. However, her amnesia stunt seemed to have pushed him over the edge and it didn’t look like he had any more reason to hold on to the marriage.

“I will try and talk to him,” it was all he could say to the worried father.

“But is it safe for Luyando to be all alone right now? She is at you place isn’t it?” Martha asked Tulani.

“Yes she’s at my place,” he answered. “She was quite hysterical when I left her so….”

“Is it okay if I go and see her?” Bernard asked.

“Yes, sure. I was thinking about it…but I didn’t know how to….”Tulani left the sentence hanging. “I was planning on spending the night at a friend’s.”

Bernard turned to his wife. “Is it okay with you if….”

“Yes,” Martha answered before he could finish asking the question. “She needs you right now.”

“It’s very late right now,” Ben said. “How about you follow us home first so I can drop off my wife and you can drop me off at your place?”

“I can drive myself home Ben, don’t worry about me.”

“No, let me drive you. I can’t have you driving yourself this late at night. You’ve been running about the whole day helping me search for Lulu. My heart will be at ease knowing you are safe at home.”

“He’s right Mrs Chimeko,” Tulani said.

“You can just call me Martha dear.”

Tulani smiled, thinking how easy he would have it with such a liberal mother in-law.

* * *

Standing at the door of Tulani’s house, Bernard took in the scene of broken glass before him. He didn’t need to enter the house code Tulani had given him since half the door was open. Inside the house, he could see Luyando passed out on the carpet.

The empty glasses of wine and beer around her told him everything he needed to know about her state of mind. It was a good thing Tulani had a tight security system around the house otherwise his daughter would have been in much more trouble than she was already in sleeping like that with the door open for anyone…or anything to enter.

Bernard bent down to fit through the hole in the glass door and carefully stepped on the pieces of broken glass to get to where Luyando was lying.

“Luyando….” He tried shaking her awake. He lifted her upper body up from the floor and carefully shook her, all the while calling out her name.

Finally, Luyando opened her eyes slightly and looked up at him in semi-consciousness.

“Oooooh it’s the man himself,” her slurred words assailed him straight to the heart. “Where’s Tulani? I want Tula….”

Ben tried to get her on her feet but she kept fighting him.

“Let’s get you to bed dear,” he tried reasoning with her.

Luyando suddenly turned and slapped him hard across the face, sending him straight to the floor. Her violent move was very sudden so it took a few seconds for Ben to recover from the shock.

Luyando was fully awake now.

Still, he got up again and tried to go to her but she was waving her arms in front of her to keep him away.

“Don’t you touch me!” She yelled at him.

Ben took a step back, his hands raised in the air.

“Who the hell do you think you are coming here?” Her words were as jiggly as the legs she was standing on. “It’s your fault that all this is happening,” she accused him, unsteadily pointing her finger at him. “It’s your fault that no one wants to love me. How can they love me?” she scoffed. “How can they love me when my own father hates me? You blame me for mum’s death don’t you?”

“No, no, no,” Ben forgot about staying away from her and tried to reach for her hand.

“Don’t!” She shouted.

Bernard stopped. “How can you think something like that?” he asked her. “I never blamed you for your mother’s death.”

“You did! I saw the way you looked at me. I heard what everyone said during the funeral…that mum was never the same after she gave birth to me. They said I made her like that!”

“They were wrong,” Ben tried reassuring her. “They were so wrong Lulu. Your mother, she adored you. Her world revolved around you. She was so proud to be your mother. Don’t you remember that?”

The memories of her time with her mother brought tears to Luyando’s drowsy eyes. Unable to keep her balance any more, she gave up and sat down on the carpeted floor.

“She loved me,” Luyando recalled all the wonderful times she had spent with her mother. “She was the only one that ever loved me…but she’s gone. Why did she have to die!? Why didn’t you die instead?”

Ben had spent the last years of his life asking himself that very question. However, hearing the words from the lips of his daughter tore at his heart and brought tears to his eyes. Indeed, why had it not been him?

“I am so sorry my love,” Bernard said, tears streaming down his face.

“It’s too late now.” Luyando said curtly. “There’s nothing you can do now to fix things. Everything is gone.” She started checking the bottles around her for anything to drink but they were all empty. Disappointed, she picked up one bottle and threw it against the wall in front of her.

She was now sobbing, unable to take on reality with a semi-sober mind. Bernard watched in silence as his daughter battled her demons. He took a risk and slowly approached her. He got down on his knees from her side and carefully placed his hand on her shoulder, partly expecting her to fight him off but instead, she turned and dropped her head into his laps and continued sobbing.

It took a while for Luyando to finally calm down and when she did, she looked up at her father and said, “Help me make Tulani love me dad.” She pleaded. “I promise to stop doing all these crazy things but please, help me. I don’t think I can manage to not have him in my life. I love him so much.”

Bernard remembered the conversation he had had with Tulani. He had been right, Luyando needed serious help. “If I promise to talk to Tulani about it, can you also do me a favour?”

Luyando’s eyes lit up. “Anything!” She answered excitedly.

Bernard sat up and placed his hands over her shoulders. “Lulu, I would like you to see someone.”

“See someone?” She asked. “Who?”

“No one knows or understands better how much you’ve been through except yourself . You’ve been through a lot haven’t you?” he was talking to her as if to the ten year old girl he had seen so many years ago.

Just like the little girl he was picturing in his head, Luyando was nodding her head profusely. “I don’t want anything else, I don’t want his family, and I don’t even want to take you away from your family. I just want to have him…I just want Tula.”

“So how about we get you some help first,” Ben finally suggested.

“Help?”

“Yes, you’ve been through so much Lulu. You need to talk to someone about….”

Luyando had a look of horror on her face as she pulled away from him. “You want me to see a shrink? Are you calling me nutcase?”

“No, that’s not what I meant….”

Luyando staggered to her feet, desperately wanting to get away from him. “Get the hell out of here!” She pointed to the door for him.”

“Lulu please listen to me just this once. I only want what’s best for you.”

“You just want to protect your family! You think am going to hurt them don’t you?”

“You said you wanted to be with Tulani, but he thinks your feelings for him are only because you misinterpreted things. He thinks you only like him because you are transferring your….”

“Oh don’t start with that shrink nonsense with me,” Luyando interjected him. “I spent four years sitting in a Shrink’s office telling him lies and him buying into it like a fool, even coming up with interpretations that made him sound smarter when he knew nothing!

“That stuff doesn’t work and I certainly won’t waste my time talking to some wanna-be doctor while Tula gets closer to that woman.”

“But Tulani really believes that you need to see someone.” Ben pressed on. From the little he had come to know about his daughter, the truth was not going to work with her. If his daughter was to get the help she desperately needed, Bernard didn’t mind twisting the truth just a little.

“Therefore,” he continued. “If you agree to meet this doctor he recommended, it will show Tulani that you are willing to change…and that you are recovering from the past. Don’t you think he will start taking you seriously after that?”

Ben could tell his message was getting to her; she was actually considering it.

Luyando staggered over to the couch and threw herself down, softly hitting her head with her hands as if to sober herself up.

“I can’t think straight right now,” She said to Ben who had joined her on the opposite couch. “I’m going to sleep now,” she stretched herself over the couch to rest. “Talk to me in the morning.” She yawned and fell back into deep sleep.

A few minutes later, Bernard carried her into the bedroom and went back into the living room to watch TV.
Luyando found him sleeping on the couch when she woke up the next morning.

“I am going to do it,” she candidly informed him.

Ben sat up, a smile on his face. “You will?”

“Yes, but only if you promise to help me with Tulani…make him see that I am changing.”

“Lulu, I can’t do that for you, only you can make him see that. I don’t want you to just pretend to change; it would be nice if you made a conscious decision to make certain changes in your life.”

“I don’t think I will have trouble with that; my husband has left me and taken the children, I have probably…no, I have definitely lost my job at TMH…and everyone finally knows for a fact that I am not an original Mulenga.”

“So what do you plan to do with your life from now?” Bernard asked.

“I’ve always wanted to start my own company…I’ve saved enough over the years so maybe it’s a good time to start.”

“What sort of company?”

“Media of course, a newspaper, give the Mulenga’s a run for their money.”

Ben laughed. “Well, it’s a good thing you have a plan in mind. When do you think you can see the doctor? I put his card on the dresser in the bedroom.”

“Yeah, I saw it.” Luyando said. “I will see him today, the sooner the better.”

Ben was smiling proudly, anxious to see his daughter finally get the help she desperately needed. She might have agreed to start therapy for the wrong reasons but with more therapy sessions, perhaps she might come to realize that her obsession with Tulani was gravely misplaced…that the two of them would always be brother and sister…and that there was no future between them.

* * *

Two Months Later

Life for everyone around Luyando seemed to have gotten back to normal. Even though Ayanda made efforts to reach out to her adopted daughter, Luyando refused to have anything to do with the Mulenga family as a daughter. She applied to the government to have her removed as their daughter so she could easily date Tulani when the time comes.

Naturally, Joshua was excited about the idea of getting Luyando off his family register but Ayanda was hesitant, having loved Luyando as her own for about twenty years. Letting go was something Ayanda always struggled with.

Tulani was still relentless in his pursuit of Natasha but she was still driving him around circles until one day when he cornered her and put her in a position where she had to make a decision.

“What do you think you are doing?” Natasha asked, tagging him on the shoulder and urging him to get back up.

The desperation in her eyes wouldn’t have been so loud if not for the fact that they were at a company dinner and everyone was looking at them. It was just like Tulani to make a public spectacle of everything.

“I will only get up if you give me an answer,” Tulani said, holding out the engagement ring to her.

“Right here?” Natasha’s eyes roamed the room and found that they were indeed the centre of attention. “This is embarrassing Tula.” She whispered to him, trying to close the ring box but Tula wouldn’t let up.

Tulani knew he was going to pay dearly for putting Natasha on spot like that but for him it was the only way to get her to finally make up her mind about him. He had no doubt that she felt the same way about but he just didn’t know what was keeping her from expressing her feelings.

Tulani hoped that Natasha would stay true to her character and say yes to his proposal due to pressure and fear of embarrassing him if she turned him down. If she was still the same Natasha he knew four years ago, she was going to say yes just so she could get everyone’s eyes off of them.

For a woman whose career was centred on being in front of a camera for millions to watch, Natasha had issues being the centre of attention when she was not working.

“Natasha Chimeko, mother of my child and apple of my eye,” He spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear.

“Will you do me the honour of being…er….” And then something happened that he had not calculated for, he forgot the words he had been memorizing for the past one week.

Natasha wanted nothing but for the ground to open up and swallow her. She just wanted it to be over so they could move on with their lives.

“…my wife…Can you be my wife? I mean, will you marry me?”

“Yes, I will marry you,” she said, quickly picking up the ring to put it on her finger, a move that made everyone in the room laugh. To everyone, she was a woman who could hardly wait to wear the ring the man of her dreams had presented her, but to Natasha, it was a way of fast forwarding the whole experience.

Tulani laughed and quickly took the ring from her before she could slip it through her finger. “I think I am the one who’s supposed to do this,” he said as he put the ring on her finger, receiving applause from everyone.

Natasha had to endure twenty more minutes of congratulations from those around them before she finally managed to slip out. Tulani was right behind her, ready to receive his punishment.

“Why….” They were in the car park and Natasha had turned angrily to lash out at Tulani when he grabbed her around the waist, pulled her head slightly back and kissed her like she was his source of oxygen.

Natasha was ready to push him off when she felt his tongue heavy inside her, a warm rush of unexplainable pleasure halting her thirst to fight against him immediately. She gasped, her breath caught for a second in the throes of unbridled felicity.

For a few seconds Tulani busked in the realization that at least there was one thing he had control over; her body. Her lips might sprout lies on their own but with his pressed hard against them; they sang a melody that rhymed perfectly with every fibre of his being. Her body never lied.

Her throbbing heart pressed hard against his chest told him of the secrets her tongue was trying to hide…the tongue now dancing to the tune of his evil thoughts. Oh, the things I intend to do to this stubborn little vixen clinging to me as if for dear life.

“So, you were saying…?”

“Shh….” Natasha let the curse word hang over them, not sure whether she was mad that he had pulled away from her so suddenly…or mad that she had lost control in such a short space of time. How did things turn out like that?

The bumptious smirk on Tulani’s face screamed his victory over her.

“Yes, you were saying….” He teased her again.

He had completely thrown her off guard and made her lose her train of thought. Angry and embarrassed by her easy defeat, she opened the door of her car, ready to run for cover. But Tulani held the door open, forcing her to stand back against the car.

“If you leave like this,” Tulani said, slowly tracing the ring on her finger with one hand and using the other to securely lock her in position. “It means you willingly accepted my proposal.”

“So you know that you forced me to say yes in there right?”

Tulani chuckled, “Yes.” He answered nonchalantly.

“Why did you do that?”

“Because I wanted to see you try and take it off.”

“What?”

He took her hand and placed it in front of them. “Take it off,” he told her.

“What?” she asked again.

“I said take it off,” he repeated. “If you don’t want to marry me, take it off and hand it back to me.”

Natasha was obviously perplexed, wondering what trick he was now playing. She touched the ring and started pulling it slowly towards her. She had expected it to get stuck somewhere in the middle, thinking that was the trick Tulani was playing on her but when it moved without much trouble, she paused before pulling it off completely.

“It comes off,” she told him, a puzzled expression on her face.

“Did you think I asked you to take if off because it couldn’t come off?” he asked.

“Yes,” she admitted, and then pushed the ring back in place.

Tulani laughed, his eyes fixed on the ring. “Look at it again.” He said.

Natasha looked back at her finger and realization dawned on her immediately. She couldn’t take off the ring. No, she didn’t want to take it off.

She laughed, not hard or loud, but softly. “How did you know?” She asked Tulani.

“Know what, that you love me or that you want to be my wife?”

She closed her eyes in embarrassment. “Both,” she said, looking down at her feet.

Tulani placed his hand under her chin and lifted her face up. “There are a number of reasons actually; you kept my child and raised him well, you gave me not one, but two chances to be in his life, and here’s my favourite, you blush profusely every time I try to get close to you…like you are doing right now.”

Natasha covered her face with her hands. “It’s just chemistry, it’s not love,” she said.

“I have seen you get so jealous when I talk to other women, last time you refused to talk to me for three days just because some lady openly flirted with me and I smiled back at her.”

Natasha dropped her hands from her face. “That doesn’t mean I love you!” She protested. “You are my ex…and we have a child together. It’s normal for me to feel jealous once in a while. It doesn’t mean I am in-love with you.”

“So you don’t love me?” Tulani asked. “And please, try to look me in the eye while you honestly answer the question.” He deliberately stressed the word honestly.

“Tula, I like you but,”

“But you are scared to get married again after what happened with your ex?” he finished for her. Her eyes told him he was right.

“I don’t think I want to get married again Tula,” she finally admitted. “Can’t we just date and live together, no strings attached? Don’t you think marriage would just ruin everything?”

“I want to make you my wife Tasha, legally and before God too. I don’t want you to just be a housemate. I want us to be a family, a real family; you, me Sean…and the five other kids we will have.”

“Five? Are you insane? I thought you didn’t like kids.”

“That was before I found out I was a father and got to spend time with my son. My biggest regret right now is that I missed four years of his life. Now I want to have a whole bundle of them running around the house…yours and my products.”

“Products?” Natasha laughed. “I don’t want to have so many children Tula, just one more…but I am willing to reconsider and add another, for your sake.”

“See, I knew you wanted to be my wife,” Tulani proudly noted. “Now I just have to convince you that marriage to me would be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

“Keep up with the arrogance and there will not be an engagement to start with.”

Tulani laughed and drew her close to him for a kiss.

Luyando was standing in line at the ATM at the mall, browsing through her social media feed to kill time when she came across news of Tulani and Natasha’s engagement.

“No. No. No.” She kept repeating whilst shaking her head. Everyone around had turned to look at her.

“It’s a lie,” she said as she turned and started running towards her car. By the time she was settling behind the wheel, her phone had gone through to her father.

“You lied to me!” She yelled at him before he could even say hello. “You lied to me!”

A Twisted Fate – Part 5

image

Martha had been watching her husband’s strange behaviour all through dinner. She could tell that some
thing was bothering him and she suspected that whatever it was had something to do with his trip to the mall earlier that day.

“Why aren’t you eating dad?” It appeared Bernard’s sour mood could not escape his daughter either.

Bernard finally gave up pretending to eat and laid his folk down. “I’m sorry, am just not feeling too well.” He then got up and went upstairs. Martha followed him up a few minutes later.

She found him lying on the bed, face up and with eyes closed.

“When are you going to tell me what’s bothering you my husband?” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “What did your daughter say to you?”

Bernard slowly opened his eyes and looked at his wife. “How did you know?”

“Because she is the only person in the world that has this kind of effect on you.”

He sat up. “Martha,” he said.

She said nothing in return, just kept looking at him hoping he would tell her right away.

“I think my daughter is in-love with her brother.”

Martha’s jaw dropped to the ground.

“I think Luyando likes Tulani.” Ben repeated.

Martha still had the same befuddled expression on her face, her lips could not move. Ben was watching her, waiting for her to say something.

“Did she tell you that?” Martha finally managed to separate her Siamese lips.

Ben shook his head. “Not directly, but her actions are suggesting the fact loud enough for a father to know.”

“Maybe you just misunderstood her,” Martha said, willing to consider anything else but. “Maybe she’s just scared that Natasha coming into their lives might expose the lies she told her family.”

“No honey,” Ben insisted. “I might not have raised her, but she’s still my daughter. I know what I’m talking about.”

Martha was back on mute, her mind going over the kind of complications that might arise if something like that came to light. What was going to happen to her daughter? How did that child find herself in such a tangled mess?

“She asked me to convince Natasha to leave Tulani.”

“What?” Martha was looking at her husband like he had already delivered on the betrayal.

“She said that she will tell her family and the police that I threatened to do her harm if she told anyone that I was back in the county.”

“What?” That was the only word at the tip of her tongue.

Ben closed his eyes and tried to hold his breath in an effort to fight back the tears threatening to erupt. He had held it in the whole day but the idea that his own daughter would hate and resent him to such an extent was too strong for him to keep holding it together. 

Martha saw the quivering lips of her husband, knowing too well the demons he was fighting. Her decision to move closer and put her arms around him was like the last straw that needed pulling to drive Ben over the wall.

He finally broke down. “What did I turn my daughter into?” He cried.

Gently running her hand through his hair, the determined look in Martha’s eyes suggested she had come to a decision.

***

Lunch at Tulani Media House was equivalent to a feast at a five star hotel; it was the richest menu Natasha had ever seen at a place of work. If a healthy and delicious lunch menu was part of the motivational package of the company’s HR strategy, then the media company was operating at an all-time high.

Natasha’s head was buried in a plate of delicious pasta when she thought she heard her son’s voice. She paused for a second, pulled her hair behind her ears so she could hear properly and when nothing came, she went back to finishing the business on her plate.

Her three colleagues-turned-friends sitting with her on the table had stopped eating and were all looking at her with bemusement. When she finally cleared her plate, she heaved a sigh of relief, pulled the plate to the side and finally raised her head up.

“I really hate skinny people,” the slightly plump Astridah remarked, shaking her head and looking at Natasha’s empty plate with indignation. “How can you eat so much and still stay that thin? It’s so unfair. Ine I put on weight just from smelling delicious food.”

Natasha, Nicole and Boyd broke out in laughter.

“Every beautiful woman has some deadly flaw hidden somewhere…I think we just uncovered this lady’s flaw today my dear colleagues.” The twenty-six year old Boyd teased his new supervisor.

Natasha finished cleaning her hands and mouth and laid the napkin back on the table before giving each of the three a questioning look. “If you think you’ve just discovered my flaw, wait till you see me naked.” She said in a deliberately stern low key that caused the two other girls to laugh and Boyd to ask;

“Is that an invitation?”

Natasha gave him a blank look.

Boyd laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“Your taste in women is too ambitious Boyd,” Astridah said.

“That’s only because you are the only one in this place outside the bracket of women I would love to date,” Boyd fired back.

“Ouch!” Nicole said.

Astridah dipped the tip of her fingers in her glass of water and sprayed it in Boyd’s face. “You are such an arsehole Boyd,” she said. “And just so you know, you are also not my type.”

“Oooh,” Boyd playfully placed his hand over his heart. “I’m touched.”

“I like my men strong and healthy. A skinny little fella like you would be crying for his mama if handled by a woman like me. Heeeeeee maaaami musana ine nafa.” She was taunting her colleague by making more crying sounds.

Natasha and Nicole busted out laughing while Boyd nursed his bruised ego, genuinely appearing offended by Astridah’s taunting remarks.

“I actually think that the two of you like each other,” Nicole commented.

“Hell no!” the two of them answered at once.

Natasha and Nicole shared knowing looks and started laughing again.

“Mum!”

Natasha heard it again, but this time her son’s voice sounded closer than before…like he was right behind her. She slowly turned her head to look and behold, there was Sean in Tulani’s arms right behind her.

“Mum?” Boyd asked.

The whole cafeteria had fallen into silence, with only the sound of soft music playing in the background.

“Sean!” Natasha jumped from her chair. She sent Tulani who was grinning widely at her an admonishing look. “What are you doing here…with him?” she added in a whisper.

“I didn’t get to spend enough time with him yesterday so I thought; why not steal him for a bit over lunch?” Tulani spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear. Natasha immediately regretted having asked the question.

“Mum, dad said we could have lunch together!” The four year old shouted, oblivious to everything happening around him.

“Dad?” Boyd and Astridah asked at the same time.

Luyando picked that very moment to appear at the door of the cafeteria.

Spotting Luyando by the door, Natasha took Sean from Tulani’s arms and started walking towards the door.

Instead of following the two right away, beaming, Tulani leaned in towards the table where the three were seated and said, “yes, that’s my boy!” And he ran after Natasha and Sean, leaving the rest of the room behind drowning in shock.

At the door, Natasha had to stop to give Luyando who was standing right at the centre a chance to step away so she could pass through. But it appeared the CFO had no plans of shifting camp.

“Sis,” Tulani said once he caught up with them. “I was going to bring him over to your office but the little gangster insisted on seeing his mother first. Meet my son, Sean Mapalo Mulenga. Son, this is your Aunt. Say his Aunty Luyando….”

“Hi Aunt Yado,” the boy said.

Tulani was laughing so hard his sides started to hurt. “You gotto love the American accent,” he said whilst clutching his stomach with one hand and pointing the other at his son up in his mother’s arms.

He was the only one having a jolly good time…at the expense of the two women glaring at him indignantly.

“Aren’t you going to answer your nephew sis?” Tulani had suddenly sobered up and was standing up straight and giving his sister a daring look.

Luyando searched every inch of her anatomy and finally managed to conjure up a smile. Patting the four year old on the head she said, “Hi Sean. It’s finally nice to meet you.”

Sean smiled back at his aunt, only able to see what was happening with her lips and not with her eyes.

Luyando’s fiery gaze could light up a whole village.

“We need to pass,” Natasha finally spoke.

Luyando gave her nemesis a look of indignation before stepping aside.

Once in the lift, Natasha put Sean down on his feet and pressed for the lobby.

“Tasha….” Tulani tried to talk to her. He could feel her anger filling up the tiny little space and suffocating him to death.

Natasha held out her hand to shush him. “Don’t even try,” she warned him.

Tulani shut his mouth.

He had been punched and kicked twice by her before. It was not an experience he needed repeating. He was a very fast learner.

When they finally reached their destination, Natasha grabbed Sean’s hand and bolted out of the lift without saying a word to Tulani.

“Where are you going?” Tulani ran after them and grabbed Natasha’s hand to stop her from moving.

They stopped before the security check-point.

“I am taking him back home,” she said lividly. “What were you thinking bringing him here? This is a place of work!”

Apart from the two security guards waiting to get the door for them and the receptionist standing behind her desk and watching them like a scene on a Telemundo soapie, there were only two other people seated by the lounge who appeared oblivious to the drama unfolding on the other side.

“Tasha calm down, look, I’m sorry I brought him over without talking to you first but c’mon, he’s my son too. I only met him yesterday and spent just six hours with him. You had the last four years, can’t you just let me off the hook this once?”

“Are you mad at me mummy?” Sean looked about ready to cry with his big brown eyes looking up at his mother apologetically.

Natasha got down and wrapped him in a hug. “Oh no my baby, I am sorry I shouted but am not mad. I love that you came to see me.”

“You do?” Sean asked.

Natasha nodded. “I do,” she kissed him on both cheeks to reassure him.

Tulani was looking at her like he had just discovered the secret to calming down Armageddon’s wrath.

“How can I be mad at the love of my life?” Natasha asked her son.

“So can I take him back home?” Tulani asked. “I am after all the one that brought him here. You are making your Zambian debut on air tonight with the evening news right?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that for a minute.” Natasha said.

“You forgot?”

“I was too upset to think rationally. Let’s continue this conversation after work. I need to go back up now.” And bending down to address Sean, “dad will take you home now honey okay?”

“Aren’t we going to eat lunch together?” Sean was looking from mother to father and back.

Natasha threw Tulani a look that said, this is what happens when you do random things. “I didn’t know you were coming sweetie so I already eat.”

“How about you and me grabbing some burgers before going home son?” Tulani suggested.

Sean had won the lotto in his father. 

Feeling triumphant, Tulani took his sons hand and led him away. “Will be back before you go on air,” he told Natasha.

“Have fun with your father honey but don’t eat too much junk.”

Natasha had just stepped out of the elevator and was about to head to her office when Luyando stepped in front of her.

“Anything I can help you with, ma’am?” She was as sarcastic in her delivery as could be.

“I guess you are on cloud nine celebrating your little victory in there,” she pointed towards the cafeteria. “How does it feel to have everyone know that you have the son to the heir of this empire?”

Natasha laughed. “It’s a feeling you will never get to experience I guess.”

Luyando pursed her lips in derision. “You think you’ve won the lotto don’t you? Let’s see how long your victory is going to last.” And she started to walk away.

“What exactly do you get from chasing away the women in your brother’s life?”

Luyando stopped, but didn’t turn.

“You want him to remain single for the rest of his life just to satisfy your sick desires even though you are married yourself…even if it’s unhapppily. Don’t you think that’s being selfish? Can’t you see how miserable and unhappy you are making him?”

“What are you, Tulani’s spokesperson?” Luyando retorted, turning to face her. “You suddenly think you are a huge part of his life just because your womb landed a big one, don’t you?” She crossed her hands over her chest.

“Well, let me tell you this, no one knows or understands Tula better than me. I have been with him for over twenty years.”

“Yes, as his sister,” Natasha rudely reminded her. “Unless you are planning on making love to him via Bluetooth, I don’t see the two of you working out.” She then shrugged her shoulders and walked away, leaving Luyando reeling in fury behind.

Just as she had feared, Natasha was the centre of attention when she walked into the pool office of her department on her way to her own office. The looks on everyone’s faces told her everything on their minds and she knew from that point on that they would all be looking at her like that for a very long time.

Just one minute in her office and Astridah came pouring in. “Why didn’t you tell us!?”

Why wasn’t she surprised that it was Astridah that came first?

“Tell you what?” Natasha asked, desperately avoiding her colleague’s gossiping antenna.

“That you are the CEO’s secret girlfriend!” Astridah was excited at the prospect of collecting content for her gossip channel. “And…and you have his child! OMG.” 

“This is a place of work Astridah,” Natasha cautioned her big eared friend. “I have no reason to talk about my personal life here…and obviously Tu…I mean, Mr Mulenga had no business bringing my…our son here. You should go back to your desk now. I think there’s a pile of scripts there waiting to be edited.”

“Ah, oh yeah,” Astridah said, looking disappointed but Natasha’s commanding tone was enough to send her out of the room immediately.

Unfortunately for Natasha, Astridah was not the only one that day trying to get a scoop into the story of Tulani and Natasha. Different people that had no business being in her office kept coming and going from her room.

At one point during the day, Chef Michael who never left the kitchen came to her office to find out if she had enjoyed her lunch. Even people that had not spoken to her since she joined the company were now acting like they had been the best of buddies.

Tulani made matters worse for Natasha who desperately wanted to keep her private life private when he walked into the news room just as she was concluding and shouted,
“That’s my girl!” the moment she was off the screen.

Natasha sent him her signature disapproving look and immediately after thanking the crew, she walked passed Tulani and headed straight to her office.

He was right behind her.

“Did I do something wrong again?” He asked once they were in her office.

“Do you forget sometimes that you are the boss here?” She asked him.

“What’s that got to do with anything? Are you trying to tell me that I am not allowed to celebrate when the mother of my child has done a good job?”

“You see, that’s the problem right there; here at TMH I am not the mother of your child, I am your employee.”

“Tasha,” Tulani sat down. “Why don’t you just be honest with me….”

“Honest?”

“Why really are you doing this?” He asked.

“Doing what?”

“Rejecting me, every single turn you just keep rejecting me.” Tulani was stressing every word in the sentence as if to emphasize every single pain in his chest. “Nothing I’ve tried to do is good enough. It’s like you’ve already written me off in your heart.”

“Tulani….” Natasha searched for the right words to say in such a situation but couldn’t find any.

Tulani waited for her to finish but when nothing came, he got up. “Just forget it,” he said and walked out of her office.

Alone, Natasha sunk back into her chair, shutting her eyes and rubbing her fingers over them.

Luyando was in her office pacing to and from whilst on the phone and looking like she was about to explode from whatever the person on the other end of the line was telling her.

“Well, tell him to call me when he’s done with his rounds!” She yelled and cut the line. A few seconds later, her cell rang again.

She answered without even looking at the caller id. “Peter!” She yelled.

“It’s me Lulu.”

“Mum, I’m sorry, I thought you were….”

“Peter?” Ayanda laughed. “Too bad love, it’s only…your mother. What’s wrong? Did you fight with your husband?”

“He hasn’t been home in three days and he hasn’t even bothered to call, not even once. He’s never done this before..” Luyando complained.

“Maybe he’s taken on extra shifts. Doesn’t he work part time at that new hospital as well? Have you tried contacting any of his colleagues?”

“I called the secretary at that other private hospital he works but she told me he hasn’t been there this whole week.”

“What about his colleagues from UTH? Don’t you know any of his friends?” Her mother asked.

“I know some of them…well. I’ve met a couple of them before but I don’t remember their names.”

“That’s the problem with you Lulu, you don’t take a lot of interest in your husband. I’ve told you numerous times to take an interest before you are shocked to find out things that should have been obvious.”

Luyando laughed. “Shocking things?” She asked. “Like what mother? Peter doesn’t have the guts or the time to cheat on me. I am the best thing that’s ever happened to him and he would be a fool to risk that. I am special; I am your daughter after all.”

Ayanda chuckled. “Indeed you are, but just do what I am telling you from now on; take an interest in your husband. He is such a generous and humble soul. There are not many men like that these days.”

“I am going to give him a piece of my mind when he comes back on the radar.”

“That temper of yours,” her mother cautioned her. “But doesn’t he tell you when he’s working nights or extra shifts?

“He usually does but he didn’t tell me this time that’s why am worried.”

“Did you fight the last time you saw each other?”

Luyando didn’t answer, her mind going back to that night when he yelled at her for spending all her free time at her parent’s house.

“Luyando?” Ayanda called her out of her reverie.

“I’m here mum. We had a slight misunderstanding but that’s because he wanted me to apologize for something ridiculous. Sometimes he’s such a cry baby that one.”

“Did you apologize?” her mother asked.

Luyando laughed. “Apologize for what? I never did anything wrong! He was just overreacting. He always takes out his stress on me.”

“Luyando,” Her mother chastised her.

“Why did you call mum?” She quickly changed the topic, sensing that her mother was about to venture into nagging territory.

“Oh yeah, I got carried away when I heard you talk about your husband. Actually,” Ayanda lowered her voice. “I called because there’s a lady here who said she wanted to talk to me and your dad about you.”

Luyando stopped pacing. “What did you say?”

“I said,” she was still whispering. “There is a lady in the living room; she’s waiting for your dad to come back home. He went to that PFP party meeting. They will be choosing a successor tomorrow since ….”

“Mum, mum stop blabbering about that dame party! Who is the lady in the living room?”

“She said her name is Martha.”

“Martha who?” Luyando tried to recall her step mother’s name but nothing came to mind. She had not been interested in knowing who her father was worried to.

“She didn’t say.” Her mother said. “But she seems very nice, very soft-spoken.”

“I’m coming home right now mum.” Luyando said.

“I didn’t call you so you could come home.” Ayanda said.

“I know mum, but I still want to hear whatever it is she has to say about me.” She cut the line before her mother could say anything else, grabbed her handbag and bolted out of the office.

Even though she could not remember her father’s new wife, she suspected that it could only be her who had visited her parents.

“I am going to kill that old man!” Luyando kept hitting her steering wheel over and over again in frustration.

“How dare he send his dame wife to fight his battle? Wait until this is over…I am going to get you for this Bernard Chimeko. You just wait.”

Luyando entered her parent’s house and found the three adults siting in the living room.

“Who are you?” Luyando addressed Martha.

“What kind of manners are these? Sit down young lady!” Her father shouted.

Her body, shuddering from both fury and fear, Luyando went to sit next to her mother.

“Did you tell her to come?” Joshua asked his wife. But Ayanda did not respond. It was clear from his tone that he already knew the answer and he was not pleased.

“You must be Luyando.” Martha was smiling at her husband’s daughter, unable to imagine that a beautiful girl like her would have so much hate towards her own father to threaten im in the manner she was doing. “I was just about to introduce myself to your parents.”

“What do you want?” Luyando asked.

“Lulu!” it was her mother’s turn to put her in line.

Martha chuckled nervously. “I think your daughter already knows who I am. That’s why she’s very nervous.”

Both Joshua and Ayanda turned to give their daughter.

“You know who this woman is?” Her father asked.

Luyando was shaking her head emphatically. “Of course I don’t know her. Why would I know her?”

“Ms…what did you say your name was again?” Joshua turned back to Martha.

“Martha, or you can just call me Mrs Chimeko. I am the wife of Bernard Chimeko…who also happens to be your daughter’s biological father.”

Ayanda’s jaw dropped.

Luyando was gripping her mother’s hand and holding on to it as if for dear life. “He actually did it,” she said, shaking and crying in fear.

“Lulu,” Ayanda turned to her daughter, wiping the tears away with her hand. “What’s wrong honey? What do you mean he actually did it?” And then turning back to Martha, “Look, I don’t think you coming here unannounced is such a good idea. Do you have any idea what your husband did to his daughter? Just look at her.” And turning to her husband, “Honey, are you going to let this lady continue sitting there?”

“He…he…he told me that he…that he was…going to…punish me for…for telling on him.” Luyando said in-between sobs.

“What?” Ayanda asked, sending a warning shot in Martha’s direction.

However, Martha appeared to be unfazed by the female Judas performing in their midst.

And so did Joshua.

“He told me that…that he would take me away from this family…that I didn’t deserve to be happy. He sent her here to take me away. I don’t want to go back to him mum.” Luyando cried, hiding her face into her mother’s bosom.

“Why are you here Mrs Chimeko?” Joshua asked the visitor.

“I came here for two reasons,” Martha confidently replied. “To clear my husband’s name and to ask your daughter…who also happens to be my daughter as well…I came to ask her to stop threatening my husband. Bernard has absolutely no intentions of taking you away from this family.”

“If your husband is innocent, why didn’t he come himself? I think he is a coward for sending his wife instead.” Joshua said.

“I never said my husband sent me here,” Martha candidly informed the three. “He doesn’t even know I’m here. I came because I know he would never come, because that’s what Luyando asked him to do.”

“What are you accusing my daughter of?” Ayanda asked.

“I am not accusing her of anything. I am here to give her a chance to let go of the hate so she can live a peaceful life. If even after what I tell you today you still feel like taking my husband to the police, I will not stop you.

“Bernard is not afraid of anything. If he really is guilty of the things your daughter accused him of doing, I will see to it myself that he’s locked up. But you see, the truth of the matter is that Luyando was never raped. The only sin my husband committed against her was neglecting her at the time when she needed him the most.”

“What do you know?” Luyando snapped at her step-mother. “You were not there! You don’t know anything!”

“Don’t you think it’s time you told your family the truth Luyando?” Martha asked her.

“We’ve been through all this before,” Ayanda said. “Why would you want to put her through such a terrible ordeal again? Don’t you have kids? Don’t you have a heart? Can’t you see what this is doing to her?”

“As a matter of fact, I am here because I am a mother.” Martha answered. “I am here because somehow, thanks to Luyando, this whole situation has affected my own daughter’s life. Has she told you that she and my daughter…who isn’t Bernard’s biology daughter by the way…has your daughter told you that they work together, and that she is the mother of your grandson?”

Joshua and Ayanda gaped at her.

“My daughter Natasha is the mother of Sean. Tulani is the father.”

Ayanda couldn’t believe her ears. “No, it can’t be,” she kept repeating.

“Apart from Luyando here, none of the others are aware of this ridiculous entanglement.”

“Did you just say ridiculous entanglement?” Ayanda asked. “Your husband raped his own daughter. That’s not ridiculous, it’s a sin!”

“I understand why you would believe that,” Martha said. “I also understand that there is no way of proving my husband’s innocence to you, however,”

“There is a way.” Joshua interjected, three pairs of eyes were on him.

“There is a way?” Martha asked, looking extremely curious.

“Joshua!” Ayanda couldn’t believe her husband.

“I heard it from Luyando herself,” Joshua informed the women.

“What are you talking about dad?” Luyando asked her father. She had never spoken to him about the past. She mostly spoke to her mother and to Tulani.

“I kept quiet all these years because I wanted peace in my home.” Joshua said. “Your diary,” he was addressing his daughter. “You remember the diary that you lost?”

Luyando was visibly horrified. That diary. She had wondered when it was going to appear and bite her in the ass. It appeared the time had finally come. Why had she written in that dame thing?

“Are you talking about the diary that Dr Lucas gave her?” His wife asked. “The one that was lost during our move from Kitwe to Lusaka?”

“Yes that same one,” he answered.

“We looked for it everywhere,” Ayanda said. “There were Lulu’s private thoughts in there. The doctor had asked her to write down all her thoughts as a form of healing that’s why we were so worried someone might have picked it up and read everything. Did you find that diary honey?”

“It was never lost,” Joshua said nonchalantly.

Luyando finally sat up straight. “What do you mean it was never lost?”

“I was carrying your stuff from your bedroom at our old home to take to the truck when the diary dropped.” He informed his daughter. “I was going to close it right away but something on that opened page caught my eye.”

“You read my diary?” Luyando was up on her feet. “Those were my private thoughts, how could you?”

“Luyando don’t talk to your father like that. Sit down.” Her mother instructed.

“I can’t sit here and listen to this anymore.” She picked up her handbag. “I always knew you never liked me,” she told her father. “But how could you do this to me?” she started walking towards the door but her mother ran after her and stopped her.

“Don’t leave like this honey, your father is only upset….” Ayanda tried to reason with her daughter.

“Just look at all you looking at me like am some kind of criminal. If the man that gave me life rejected me, what can I expect from you people?” She pushed her mother’s hand away and stormed out of the house.

Ayanda tried to go after her but her husband menacingly yelled at her to stop. “Come and sit down!” he said, and she did as she was told.

“What will happen if she tries to take her own life? She tried it so many times before. Why are you suddenly doing this Bashi Tula?” Ayanda cried to her husband. “I know she is not your blood but she is our daughter. Would you be doing this if she was your own blood?”

“Don’t raise your voice at me Ayanda,” Joshua thundered. “The only reason that child came into this family was because I felt guilty…. Guilty that I was not around when you suffered a miscarriage and ended up losing your womb. Allowing that girl into the family was the least I could do to show you that I was sorry.”

“But you never even tried to love her, not even once!” his wife accused.

“How can I love her when I knew she was lying? If she could accuse her own father of harming her in the way she said he did, what do you think she would have said about me…or about Tula if something happened to her whilst under our care? That girl is no ordinary girl. She is dangerous.”

“Just what did you read in that diary that’s making you talk like this?” Ayanda asked.

All the while, Martha was seated quietly, listening to their conversation and saying nothing as if she was not even there.

“She wrote everything in that book,” Joshua said. “How she approached us, those cuts and wounds on her body. She did all that to herself.”

“Nooo….” Ayanda cried.

“I still have the diary in my safe. You can read it from page to page if you don’t believe. Her father was a drunk quite alright but he never touched her. All those things were lies to gain sympathy from us. It was the only way she knew to get away from the life of poverty her father was subjecting to, no offence to you madam of course.”

Martha laughed. “The truth is the truth,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.

“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” Ayanda asked her husband.

“You were so into the girl the moment you laid eyes on her. I knew the truth would break your heart.”

“Oh my God how can this be happening?”

“I think I should leave and come back some other time.” Martha reminded them of her presence.

“I think that’s a very good idea Mrs Chimeko. Apologies for the way things turned out. If you don’t mind leaving me your husband’s contact information, I would love to have a man to man conversation with him.”

“Are you planning on giving Luyando back to him?” Ayanda asked, crying at the prospect of losing the child she had come to regard as her own for the past twenty years.

“I never said anything like that,” Joshua said sternly. “It is just proper that he and I meet.”

“I agree,” Martha said.

Martha was driving back home thirty minutes later when she received a call from her husband.

“I am on the road heading home Ben. I can’t talk right now.”

“Wherever you are turn around and start coming to Thurston Hospital. I just received a call from someone informing me that Luyando is undergoing surgery.”

“What?” the first thought that crossed Martha’s mind were the last words that Luyando said to them before storming out of the house.

“I am almost at the hospital, you will find me there.” A very frantic Bernard said. Martha had never heard such desperation in his voice before.

“Did they tell you what happened?”

“Accident,” Ben said. “The man who called me said that she tried to commit suicide.”

Martha’s heart dropped. Did I do that? She thought. Did my visit push her to try and kill herself? She quickly made a U-turn and started driving towards the hospital.

“I am on my way there,” she said.

Ben cut the line.

Thirty minutes later, Martha spotted her husband standing in the hospital lobby reading a note in his hands. She did not see Mr and Mrs Mulenga seated on a bench on the other side of the room.

“Ben,” she called out to him before she could even reach where he was.

Ben slowly lifted his eyes from the piece of paper and looked at his wife in a way he had never done before.

“What have you done?” Martha heard him ask.

“What is it Ben?” she had reached where he was.

Ben handed her the suicide note written by his daughter.

Martha was crying and shaking her head in disbelief as she read the contents of the note.