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The Cursed Child

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Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter Two

Andy walked to the back entrance of the Lounge reserved for VIP’s only to make his call  to his aunt in Canada.
“Yes Aunty,  I arrived safely.” He said. “No…am sorry I took long to call…yes, it was alright…no, I haven’t seen her. Listen Aunt Rose, am somewhere with friends right now so I cant stay on the phone for long…yes….no I….” Continue reading Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter Two

Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter One

 

It was business as usual at the Athena VIP Lounge as first-class patrons went about their usual business of shoving their money in each other’s faces. There was nothing common about this lounge.  Continue reading Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter One

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.

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 9

After the unexpected confession Alicia made to Kondwani, she made sure she avoided him by all means at work, only showing herself when it was absolutely necessary for the two to be in the same space at the same time. No sooner had the words come out of Alicia’s mouth than she regretted uttering them.

What was I thinking? She kept asking herself. She would shut her eyes for minutes and wince in embarrassment whenever the memory crossed her mind…and it did so with a committed vengeance. Just like before, after their time together at the camping resort, Kondwani too religiously stayed away from Alicia, making sure their paths didn’t cross if they were not attending to the same patients.

Kondwani had had a lot of women profess their love or feelings to him first and unexpectedly many times before, however, it was the very first time in his life that a woman uttered those words and he was moved into action; flight. Like a fool, he had set a bait hoping to trap someone into doing his bidding unconsciously but he ended up trapping himself instead.

Very suddenly, Kondwani was forced to reckon with just how much power Alicia had over him. She was not just the girlfriend to the man whose death haunted him through the night; she was now trying to make her way to his heart. If his mission was to ensure that she’s well taken care of in Nicolas’ stead, then how was he to achieve that knowing how she felt about him? Why did she come out and say out her feelings? Why didn’t she just keep them to herself, wouldn’t that have been the better option…move on with her life pretending she felt nothing?

Why did she confess?

For close to six years Kondwani had managed to live an almost guilty-free life, only thinking about the past and that fateful accident when its anniversary came. Somehow, in his desperation for survival, Kondwani had managed to convince himself that whatever had happened had been an accident. He had blocked out the details and focused only on one thing. He had not set out that day to kill anyone’s son. What happened was simply a misfortune between two people that met at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If anyone at all is to blame for that calamity, Kondwani reasoned, it is the man that allowed the rains to pour with such a vengeance on that particular evening. As for him, he was only human, how was he to control something so natural and keep that unfortunate incident from happening?

According to Kondwani, the only mistake he made was trusting in a supernatural being he had not even seen to have his back, to give him the strength he needed to take care of his family at such a young age, and to shield him from all sorts of harm.

While his mother was breaking her back and risking her life to take care of her children, where was the God that she trusted in the most? In the end, it had been him that took up that responsibility. His mother’s God might have given up a son he fathered by spirit but he, Kondwani reasoned sacrificed his youth, his happiness and even his life to take care of his family.

For his love, he had something to point at? Where could the other guy in his mother’s life point? Apart from the pain, the heartache and disappointment, where was his love?

For years Kondwani had allowed himself to live in that pretence, convincing himself he had no part in the accident. He owed no one anything; after all, didn’t that man’s family accept the money? So why did he have to feel guilty? Given his circumstances, Kondwani truly believed he did what he could to preserve himself and the lives of his loved ones. If God himself had turned His back on them, who else but him only could protect them and give them the kind of life they deserved?

Why should I feel guilty for loving my family and acting responsible towards them? Kondwani always asked himself whenever the guilt threatened to drown him under. It was his only coping mechanism; to detach himself from the event and present it as a necessary evil on his way to success.

Like the saying goes; there is no escape for the man living in sin, the appearance of Alicia before his eyes sent Kondwani’s guilty-free life into absolute chaos. From that day forward, he had not been able to get a good night’s sleep. It was not like he had not known of her existence before she stepped her feet into his hospital and stood before him.

Kondwani stopped pacing to and from in his office, one arm folded across his chest while the other was raised to his chin. His mind went back to that night when he had secretly sneaked into the hospital after the accident to check on how the man at the accident scene was doing.

Did he make it? The then 29 year old doctor had asked himself from behind the wall where he was hiding, scared straight in his boots from fear of being discovered by the man’s relatives camped outside the operating room. Except, he needed to know…no matter the outcome he needed to know. How could he simply walk away?

But he had been standing there for close to twenty minutes and the doctors still hadn’t come out of the ER.

“Just what is going on in there?” Kondwani asked himself, his hands pressed hard together as he held on to his breath. Just then, someone brushed passed him with so much force he was almost pulled out of his hiding place if not for the fact that he was quick enough to grab hold of the pillar he was hiding behind with both hands.

That had been his first encounter with Alicia.

Even for their very first meeting, she had unwittingly tried to force him out of his hiding place so he could be slaughtered by those after his life. She had unconsciously done it then and she was still unconsciously doing it now. Oh fate, thou art cruellest!

Kondwani watched wide-eyed as the people he assumed where the man’s family immediately launch into attach the moment they spotted the girl that had just brushed passed him, crying. In the next few minutes, he would come to learn about her relationship to the deceased. The doctors had finally appeared before the family and the first one to be hit by the impact of the news was the very girl they kept calling Alicia.

She had clatched her hand over her stomach in pain and went straight for the floor.

Kondwani felt an immediate change in time as everything around him started moving in slow motion. The moment the girl went down, he turned his back away from the grieving family, bracing himself for escape but not so quick as to avoid being pushed to the side by the group of nurses wheeling the girl that had just collapsed passed him. She still had her hand over her stomach even in her passed out state.

He had heard the insults from the man’s feelings. He had an idea of who she was and out of everyone present there, it was the image of her collapsing to the floor that haunted his memories and visited him as nightmares every now and then for the past six years; that and the accident scene itself.

If they can attack someone who wasn’t even there at the scene of the accident and place all the blame on her in such fashion, what would they do if they uncovered the actual culprit behind the crime? With that, Kondwani walked away from that family, never to look back at them.

Until Alicia came and found him.

After their memorable encounter in the locker room, Kondwani spent that evening going over his assessment of Alicia’s personality; how had he miscalculated that move she pulled? For a man that was quick on the uptake and calculated five or ten steps ahead of everyone else, in that single moment, Alicia had crushed his confidence and made him question every decision he had made about getting her out of his life.

“You mean that-that same nurse?” Chilufya asked, disbelief written all over her face.

Kondwani nodded.

“That-that timid looking and shy woman confessed her feelings to you?” Chilufya asked for the umpteenth time.

“Why do I get the feeling that you are asking all the wrong questions sis?” Kondwani asked.

“Chill, chill,” Chilufya said, waving her hand at him. “I’m still trying to get over the initial shock.” Her mood was still in the 21st century, the medieval times had not yet called for the day. Kondwani could only be glad.

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t been asking yourself the same question.”

Kondwani said nothing in return, the guilty was written all over his being.

“See,” Chilufya said, pointing at him accusingly. “You like that she confessed to you don’t you?”

“No!” Kondwani answered a little too quickly. “How can you even say that? What sort of man will I be if I dared entertain something like that?”

“That’s beside the point.” Chilu argued. “I just want to know how you felt when she told you how she felt.”

“I don’t know how I felt…really, I can’t say.” He added when his sister gave him a look. “I was just so shocked by the suddenness of it all. I never saw the confession coming!”

“How did she say it?” Chilufya asked.

“She walked up to me, looked me in the eye and said she thinks she’s in-love with me.”

“NOOOOO-“

“And then added that she had no intentions of coming after me and that she only informed me in order that I may leave her alone.”

“Noooooo-“

“Yesssss.” Kondwani mimicked his sister’s tone, except, there was disappointment on his face and not disbelief like the one on her face.

“You really like her don’t you?” Chilufya asked.

“Chilu, I’ve told you-“

“No, just be honest with me bro.” Chilufya insisted. “I have never seen you look this disappointed or broken when talking about a girl. You’ve been with Gwen now for a very long time and despite everything she does-“

“I am not disappointed sis.” Kondwani insited.

Chilufya got up from where she was seated and went to sit next to her brother. She took his hand and held on to it as she spoke. “I think sometimes you forget that I used to be your best friend at some point in your life.” She reminded him.

Indeed, the two siblings were inseparable growing up. Of all his siblings, it was Chilufya Kondwani loved the most and it was she he was very close to. Growing up, Kondwani did everything he could to protect his baby sister who was the centre of ridicule amongst her peers due to the outlandish nature of her personality. To protect his sister through her most difficult adolescent age, Kondwani made sure he walked her to school and picked her up in the evenings so they could walk home together despite his busy schedule as a pre-med student.

As long as he stayed by her side and everyone knew who she was in his life, Kondwani felt that they would all look kindly on her if they knew she had a very cute and intelligent brother protecting her all the way; and it worked.

“I remember that day, I think it was in your fifth year when you stopped along the road on our way home and you sat down crying because the girl you had a crush on…I can’t remember what her name was,” Chilufya said. “She beat you in that one exam and broke your record of being the top student.” Chilufya was laughing hard from the memory.

“Sylvia!” Kondwani shouted as he slowly shook his head with a smile on his face before embarrassment crept in. “Her name was Sylvia; I hear she’s married to some Arab guy who forced to quit work. She even wears those ninja outfits those people wear.”

Chilufya laughed. “It’s called a hijab Wani.” She corrected him.

“I don’t care what they are called.” Kondwani said. “Don’t you just find it sad that she has those brains and she spent all those years studying only to be cooked up at home covered in that thing attending to twenty children?”

“That’s the con of being a woman.” Chilufya said. “Anyway, who are we to judge? I am sure she was aware of everything before she married the guy; her choice, her life.”

“But why did you bring that up Chilu?” Kondwani asked.

“Because that was the last time you and I were that close.” She answered. “After that you changed, completely.”

“Chilu,” Kondwani looked his sister in the eye. “It wasn’t because-“

“I know,” she interjected him, her face suddenly turned serious. “I know it wasn’t because of that. A lot was happening around that time but!” She brightened up again. “I just wanted to remind you that you still have a friend in me…that you can talk to me and that you don’t have to hide your feelings with me.

“I know that you don’t have anyone you can truly call a friend. Most of the people around you are only there because they serve some sort of purpose in your very ambitious lifestyle. Before, you used to talk to mum and me about things going on in your life but after the accident…everything changed.”

Kondwani squeezed his sister’s hand as a bitter-sweet smile appeared on his face. He got up from the sofa to stand by the window, his back to her. He didn’t need her to remind him of how much he had changed. Every morning he looked in the mirror, the stranger looking back at him yelled out the change in him. And every day he walked the corridors of the hospital or attended to a patient on the verge of death, he felt that difference.

How many more lives would he need to save to atone for his sins? Could someone like him have any portion of happiness in this lifetime? Kondwani wondered. It had been years now since he had given up on certain dreams that men his age busked in. Things like love and happiness were not even a possibility in his life. He could not afford the luxury of such pursuits and even if by chance they came his way, his greatest fear was that he did not deserve such good fortune.

Kondwani’s purpose on earth was to simply exist and survive each passing day as he waited for judgement day to come, if there was ever such a thing. His life as he knew it ended that day on that rainy empty street where two cars embraced, everything else torn apart.

“Did I cross the line?” Chilufya was standing next to him, she too looking out into the lit backyard through the sheer curtains.

In response, Kondwani stretched out his arm and placed it over her shoulders, drawing her in closer from the side. “How could I have changed this much while you remained the same?” He asked. “Can’t you rub off some of that sweetness onto me?”

Chilufya chuckled. “Instead of just rubbing off some of it on you, how about I share the whole lot of it with you?” She was looking up at him expectantly.

“What are you talking about?” Kondwani laughed.

“Free your Wednesday evening next week, I want to take you to some place somewhere where dreams come true.” She offered.

“Huh?”

Chilufya laughed at the puzzled expression on her brother’s face. “I won’t give any more explanations, just promise me that you will be home early on Wednesday and I will come to pick you up.

“And don’t talk to me about patients, emergencies and what not.” She added. “Someone else can save those people for a few hours. It’s not even your job to actively attend to patients.”

“I didn’t spend all those late nights in school just to sit in some office looking at papers and a computer screen.” Kondwani said.

“You deserve a break.” His sister argued. “While you are busy saving others, who’s saving you? This is not a request bro,” she was looking up at him as she said this. “I am telling you that you have a date with me this Wednesday and if you still consider me a friend, you will honour that date.”

“Emotionally blackmailing your own brother sure,” Kondwan said. “Have you no shame young lady?” He pulled her head closer and playfully raffled up her short weave while she protested under.

“So what are you going to do about Alicia the nurse?” Chilufya later asked Kondwani when they sat down for dinner that she had prepared for them.

“What do you mean what am I going to do?” Kondwani asked. “I was the one that made the mistake of playing around with her emotions expecting a different kind of outcome so now I just need to treat her strictly professionally and stay out of her personal business.

“Anthony says that he will have no trouble getting her back her son so my responsibilities towards her end there; that’s all I can do for her. This business of chasing her around and begging her to let me take care of her stops now…and you know something funny?”

“What?” Chilufya asked.

“I actually thought that I could help her…physically you know….”

“You mean having sex with her to fill her loneliness?” She asked sarcastically.

Kondwani cringed in embarrassment.

“Yeah, you already told me about it.” Chilufya reminded him.

“I actually thought that something like that was possible without any of us getting emotionally attached but Alicia is just too naïve and innocent she spooked me.”

Chilufya laid her folk down and stared at her brother. “It’s not just Alicia bro,” she said. “All humans, especially women are like that. You are the strange one in this.”

“How so?” Kondwani asked. “There are women out there who parade themselves on the streets to lure men into sleeping with them for money. They get what they want and they leave, it’s that easy. Why do people need to complicate things so much? It’s just sex, not a life sentence.”

Chilufya laughed at her brother’s ignorance in matters of the heart. “Fall in-love first and let’s see if you will utter those words.”

Kondwani busted out laughing. “The day I come to you talking about falling in-love, shoot me.”

Chilufya’s heart ached for her brother and it showed on her face. Was there no hope for him? She wondered silently. Was he so far gone that there was no turning around anywhere in the future?

“Stop looking at me like that and eat your food.” Kondwani said, his head was busy on the food down on his plate.

“How did you-“

“I don’t have to look at you to see that look on your face. I can literally feel it piercing into my sculp.” He still hadn’t raised his head to look at her, he just kept shoving food into his mouth.

“Mwansa has a boyfriend now.” Chilufya quickly changed the subject.

Finally, Kondwani raised his head from the plate. “How is that news?” He asked. “That girl has been dating from the moment she could tell the difference between girl and boy.”

Chilufya laughed, hard. “That’s true though.” She agreed. “But this time it’s different. She seems to truly love this new guy.”

“Shouldn’t she be concentrating on school right now instead of some boy? Who’s this boy anyway?”

“His name’s Stephen Malambo, I think. He should be a student as well, I’m not sure, I never really asked.

“Malambo?” Kondwani said. “Where have I heard that name? I feel like I know someone with that name. I just hope she’s not dating some old guy. That kid has no fear. She is too bold for her own good.”

Chilufya laughed. “Let’s hope not.” She said. “She comes into my room to chatter about him all night long. She doesn’t really care whether I’m listening or not. She’s even talking about being a born again Christian now.”

Kondwani raised his eyebrows at his sister. “Another one in the family, gone. May her sould rest in peace.” he said disappointedly. “Mum must be so proud.”

“Stop being so sarcastic, there’s nothing wrong with Christianity.”

“Yeah, when you are five and everything in the world is black and white.” He finished the food on his plate and sat back in his chair. “I don’t understand how grown ass men, and women too can obsess over two beings they’ve never actually seen.”

“You used to believe in those two beings yourself.” Chilufya reminded him. “Up until the…accident.” She immediately regretted bringing up the accident again. Why did everything somehow always end up with the accident? But the damage was already done so she went ahead with her argument;

“You still believe in hell and in judgment though…so why don’t you believe that there’s a God somewhere?” She asked him.

“Just because I talk about hell and judgement doesn’t mean I believe in them. And this is the issue I have with your faith; mum pounded those things on us, sometimes even with force that we can’t be rid of them easily even if we wanted to.

“When I believed,” He put the word in quotation marks. “It wasn’t by free will; it was only because mum did. But then that night happened and everything became so clear to me. In this world, whether you do good or bad, the end is the same for everyone. What’s wrong with you now?”

Chilufya had tears in her eyes as she listened to her brother talk and when Kondwani asked the question, they came streaming down her cheeks. “You know,” she said, wiping away the tears as she did so. “For years I used to wonder why God made me the way He did. I remember how mum would proudly tell us; we were all made in the image of God!”

She was smiling despite the tears welled up in her eyes. “I believed in that statement as much as mum believed it until…until I discovered I was different from everyone else. I asked myself; if we were all created in the image of God, then why do I have this disorder?”

“And your answer?” Kondwani asked.

Chilufya wiped away all her tears with her hands and left her face dry. Smiling again, she looked up at her brother. “You know how I am, when something bothers me, I will search for answers until I find them. You were right when you said we all believed because mum did but when I took a personal interest, I discovered certain things about God and Jesus Christ that I could not learn through simply following mum.

“You look at me now and you think it’s the meds that are helping me heal; it’s not just the meds Wani, there’s something else that’s helped a lot.”

“Don’t tell me, don’t tell me, its God right!?” Kondwani teased her, laughing.

Chilufya laughed softly with him, shaking her head. “I know it sounds funny to you right now but at the right time, you will get it…I know you will.”

“So are you telling me that I should take you off the meds now?” Kondwani asked.

“I never said that.” Chilufya said. “Me taking those meds in also a way of God helping me. Who do you think gave the person that came up with that drug the intelligence to come up with it?”

Kondwani laughed. “Have you ever seen some of these scientists in person?” He asked. “They are the worst kind in the whole world. Some of them go as far as to create the disease and then provide the antidote just so they can make billions and billions of money.”

“Intelligence, talents, or gifts, whatever you call them where given to every human being by God.” Chilufya preached. “Both good and bad people, that’s just how God works; it doesn’t matter who you are or what the world thinks you are, God loves us all the same, enough to give us-“

“His only begotten son, yeah, yeah, yeah, I still remember the lessons kiddo.” Kondwani sarcastically finished for her. Then he got up. “Finish up and bring the dishes.” He said as he picked up his. “I’m going to put this one and the others in the kitchen in the washer.”

“I thought you had a maid?”

“I do, what’s that got to do with me putting the dishes I used into a machine that will do the work for me?”

Chilufya laughed, she finished whatever was remaining on her plate and stood up as well. She picked up the rest of the dishes on the table with Kondwani’s help and they carried them into the kitchen.

“I feel pity for the woman who’s going to end up as your wife,” Chilufya teased her brother. “You are such a perfectionist and a clean freak. Women like clean and smart guys, but even to that, there’s a limit and you are way over it.”

“How I wish Gwen could take care of her home the way she takes care of her face.” Kondwani said. “I have been in her room, once, I never went back in there.”

Chilufya paused whatever she was doing. “Are you still marrying that woman Kondwani?” The disappointment in her tone was as clear as day.

“What do you mean I’m I still marrying that woman?” He laughed. “Was there ever a time I said I wasn’t?”

“Don’t you even envy people around you that are happily in-love?” Chilufya asked.

Kondwani laughed. “Let’s not go there Chilu, let’s not even go there.”

“There’s just no winning with you.” Chilufya laughed and went back to packing the left overs into bowls to be put in the fridge for Kondwani to heat up later.

“And you keep trying.” Kondwani said once he was done placing the plates in the dish washer.

Chilufya laughed.

***

Samuel Kayombo could never find any sleep that night after Alicia told him about her feelings for Kondwani.

Why was is it that every woman he was falling for ended up loving that man instead? Kayombo wondered. What was it about Kondwani the made all the women pick him instead?

For a moment, Kayombo had entertained the idea of using Alicia to discover Kondwani’s weakness but after spending so much time with her in the past weeks, he had changed his mind. What normal man would spend an hour or less in the company of the beautiful but well-grounded woman like Alicia and not fall for her?

Her timidness, though unattractive brought out the man in him; the need inside him to protect her and shield her from the world kept growing each passing day.

Kondwani glared at the white ceiling of his bedroom as he lay on the bed, an angry expression on his face as if disappointed that it could not provide him the answers he was seeking. He placed his hands on the pillow and laid his head over them, his legs stretched forward, one over the other.

Despite her beauty and intelligence, Alicia was not the type that Samuel went after. He liked his women, tough, confident and always dressed to kill. Gwen was the perfect representation of that group of women. When he started looking at Alicia as more than just his late friend’s girlfriend, Kayombo didn’t know. The feelings had just crept up on him and took him by surprise.

Hearing her talk about her feelings for another man made him realize just how deep his own feelings for her were. Unfortunately, while he was busy battling his conscience, Alicia’s eyes had landed on Kondwani.

However, it was not just Alicia’s feelings Kayombo seemed to be fighting against, it was also what she revealed about Kondwani’s feelings.

“No way,” Samuel said to himself. Something is definitely going on with that guy. He thought. But why did he tell her he didn’t reciprocate her feelings? It can’t be that he’s really fallen for Gwen…no, that’s not even a possibility. We all know what he’s after with Gwen.

Is his ambition so grand that he is willing to push away a woman he likes just to achieve that? Kayombo kept asking himself.

When two hours passed and he still couldn’t find any sleep, he gave in and called Alicia.

“Sam?” Alicia answered, half-asleep. “Are we needed?” She asked, used to always being called randomly since interns were basically slaves that needed to appear even if their own worlds were crumbling down.

“No, it’s not work.” Kayombo said. “Can I see you?”

Alicia forced herself up. “Now? You mean now?” She asked.

“Yes.” Kayombo said. “I’m on my way to your house.”

Alicia came fully awake.