The atmosphere in Shadreck Mtonga’s office was icy cold. Gilbert was sweating a storm under his dark blue Armani suit. He wanted to choke the life out of his partner for putting him in such an awkward position. He wished nothing but for the ground to open up and swallow them both. Continue reading Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter Four
It was 2 in the morning when Andy Mwila got into bed after the night out with the boys. Continue reading Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter Three
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
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….”
It didn’t sound like Aunt Rose was going to stop talking any time soon and Andy couldn’t find it in his heart to cut her off. Instead, he turned towards the glass door and rested his forehead against it as his aunt went on and on lecturing him about visiting his mother.
“Are you going to move or not?” Came a voice behind Andy.
He turned and found a surprising figure glaring at him. The girl looked about twenty-five years old, slightly unkempt hair carelessly tied into a bun at the center of her head, obviously a failed attempt at decency for the sake of mankind. The girl looked like she had spent the past two weeks in-doors.
There were heavy bags under her big round eyes…her eyes…. Andy’s heart almost skipped a bit. She had the most brown eyes he had ever seen on a black Zambian girl.
Wait, is she even Zambian? Andy wondered.
Wasn’t that an American accent he had just heard or was that his aunt’s voice screaming at him in his ear.
Oh shit, Aunt Rose! Andy finally remembered he was in the middle of a call.
“Aunt Rose, I have to go now, bye. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He quickly cut the line.
“Are you going to move now?” The girl asked again.
So he had heard right, she was American…and certainly not black American despite her skin colour. She sounded like a white American woman. But who the devil was she and why was she dressed like she was not about to step into the most exclusive VIP Lounge in the country? The girl looked like she was running an errand at the local market in her slippers and loose-fitting maxi dress.
“You do know you need a card to use this entrance right?” Andy asked.
The girl pulled her small handbag from the back and opened it. It was the first time Andy was noticing it. It was an original beige Valentino. The girl took out the card and flashed it across his face.
“Satisfied?” She asked. “I heard this place was fancy but I certainly wouldn’t have imagined the guards would be so impeccably dressed.” She was scanning him from head to toe.
“Guard!?” Andy said, not sure whether to laugh or feel insulted. It certainly was the first time someone had mistaken him for a security guard.
“I am going to be late for a meeting. Are you going to step aside?” The girl asked.
“Meeting?” Andy said. “Wait, are you the one Luke is waiting for?”
“I take it you are a friend of his,” She said. “Are you going to keep asking me questions?” She was very irritated.
“Maybe just one more. What’s your name?”
“Are you kidding me?” The girl said, looking at him like he had just said something out of this world.
“I am actually very serious.” Andy said.
“Then I guess I will just have to give your friend Luke a call and tell him today’s meeting is cancelled.” She threw the card back into her bag and turned to walk away.
“She can’t be serious,” Andy said as he watched her turn her back to him.
He ran after her. “I’m sorry if I offended you,” he said.
The girl stopped and turned back around.
“However, if you are looking for a job with Luke, it might work in favour if we were friends,” Andy said.
She glared at him and shook her head before brushing past him without giving him a response. She took out the card and entered without sparing him a last glance.
Andy was absolutely dumbfounded.
What just happened? He asked himself.
Did I just try to pick up a girl? Since when does Andy Mwila chase after girls…and funny looking ones at that? I think that Canadian cold done froze my brain cells. Who the hell is that girl anyway? And, did she just brush me off? What the hell?
Andy went back inside and joined his friends. He had a bemused expression on his face.
“Who the hell made you smile all the way here?” Sam asked.
Andy sat down. And then he stood up again, almost immediately. He appeared to be in a daze. “Something weird just happened,” he said.
“What?” Ernest asked.
Andy was shaking his head, still trying to comprehend what had just happened. “A girl just blew me off.” He said, more to himself than to his friends.
“Huh?” All three chorused.
“Yeah,” he answered. “History just happened a few minutes ago.”
“She must be New Money, they’re the type that always try to prove a point to everyone. What’s her name?” Dennis asked.
“I don’t know, she wouldn’t tell me.” Andy said.
“The hell?” Dennis said.
“You’re kidding, right?” Ernest said.
“I wish,” Andy said and sat back down. He grabbed a beer and downed the contents in one long gulp.
“She really got to you didn’t she?” Dennis said.
Andy said nothing. He had a contemplative look in his eyes.
“Maia, it’s so good to see you!” Luke hugged his guest and offer her a seat. “Anything to drink?” He asked.
“Oh no, am very fine thanks,” Maia said. “What I need right now, more than anything, is sleep.”
Luke laughed. “You do look like you could use some sleep for sure. “Am I allowed to ask what’s been keeping you up?”
Maia laughed. “No you’re not,” she said and removed a file of papers from her bag. “Everything is ready. Now it’s all up to you.”
“I already made up my mind.” Luke said. “I’m all in Maia!”
“You are? For real?”
“Yes, I already told you this over the phone but you still insisted on coming here anyway.”
“I just thought that…you know, I didn’t want you accepting my offer simply because it’s me. This is business and not friendship we are talking about.”
“I know, but I trust you, both as a friend and as a business woman,” he said.
“You flatter me Luke. Are you okay with 40% though?” She asked.
“It’s more than what I would have expected to be honest with you. I am just providing you with management. You’re the one providing the finances, talent, design and just about everything.”
“It’s been a while since I was here so I have no idea how things are done in this country these days. And, you know the taste of local consumers so yeah, I desperately need you.”
“Theatre is obviously a new concept in this country and just in my circles, I cannot tell you how many folks would kill for a change of scene.” Luke said.
“Everyone is dying for an alternative to the usual cinema experience,” he continued. “The point is to sell the idea to both the regular and medium spenders because the other 1% is already sold. They are defined by such luxuries. I have no doubt we will own this because we are offering them high class entertainment on a low budget. That should make everyone happy.”
Maia laughed. “I love your optimism Luke. However, I need you to go through those so you can get a feel of exactly what I have in mind for the general set-up.”
“Not a problem.” He said.
“Do you think two months will be enough to get everything ready for open night?” Maia asked.
“Yes, no doubt.”
“Then we’re sorted. I better be on my way now.”
“I’ll walk you out.”
Once they were outside, Luke asked, “Did you drive here?”
“No, I walked. Home is just a few minutes from here.”
“What?” She chuckled upon seeing the look on his face. “Stop acting like a grandpa Luke. I’m a big girl; I can take care of myself. This cool breeze is calling out to me.” She stretched out her hands and allowed the fresh air to wash over her face.
“It’s close to midnight Maia,” Luke said. “Everyone knows what type of neighbourhood this is so it’s a high target for criminals. There’s no way am letting you walk alone at this hour. Wait for me I get my-“
Before he could finish, Luke spotted Shadreck driving towards them and moved towards the road, waving him down.
“Mr Luke,” Shadreck came to a stop in front of them. “Is everything okay?”
“Are you in a hurry?” Luke asked.
“Great, do you mind giving my business partner here a ride to her place?” He asked.
Shadreck looked at the girl standing next to the businessman. Even if you’re meeting your sugar daddy, can’t you try to dress up a little woman? He thought to himself.
“Yeah, sure, no problem.” He said. “Where are you going Ms?”
“I live just a few blocks from here.” She opened the door and stepped inside.
Fresh flowers, was the first thought that crossed Shadreck’s mind when her fragrance filled the air in his car.
She smells of freshly scented flowers…like she’s just from taking a shower in a garden of flowers. Well, at least she bathed.
“Let’s go. I’ll tell you where to stop.” Maia said. She then turned to Luke. “Thank you Luke. Pass my love to Yvonne and the kids.” She said.
So she’s not a side chick. Talk about being judgemental. Shadreck felt ashamed of himself for jumping to conclusions.
“Will do, have a goodnight kiddo.” The forty-five year old said.
Maia laughed and waved at him as Shadreck resumed driving.
“Thank you Shadreck, you have a good night too.” Luke said.
“You too sir.” Shadreck said.
“He insists on calling me kiddo when his wife is not that older than me.” Maia said. “My name is Maia by the way. What’s yours?”
“Oh yeah, he said your name before,” she said, looking embarrassed to have forgotten so soon. “You are not much of a talker are you?”
“And you are obviously not Zambian.”
“Are you xenophobic perhaps?”
Shadreck laughed. “Not really. You’re the first female I have seen at a club like that one dressed like that. Zambian girls your age would never be caught dead out in public looking like that. That, and your accent of course gave you away.”
“I am not quite sure if you are insulting me or trying to get to know me.” Maia said. “Your face looks familiar by the way. Are you someone famous perhaps?”
“I wouldn’t consider myself famous but I co-owner Apollo, the entertainment company. Ever heard of it?”
“Now that makes sense,” she said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That I have remembered where I know you from. I am a huge fan of yours. You have the best artists and creatives in the region.”
“Thank you. What are you into, music, comics, art, movies?” He asked.
“Everything.” She said. “Oh, slow down here, we are almost there. Do you also live in this neighbourhood?”
“No, I live in Northmead.”
“We’re here,” she announced.
Shadreck starred at the mansion in disbelief. “You live here?”
“Yeah, anything wrong?”
“No, no, it’s just that…it’s huge. You live with your parents?”
“How old do you think I am Mr Shadreck?”
She burst out laughing. “I’m flattered but you need to add a few…no, not few…a lot of years to that. I live with my kids.”
“I said kids, how did you get to married?” She laughed.
“I am a traditional guy.”
“I hear a lot of people are like that here,” she said. “I live with three kids. There’s a paper somewhere that says they’re my babies but I didn’t exactly birth them, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do.”
Maia stepped down from the vehicle.
“Thank you so much for the ride Shadreck. Get home safely.”
“I’ll wait until you get inside safely. I don’t want to be summoned by the police tomorrow with accusations of abductions and the like. You filthy rich folks can be a problem sometimes.” He laughed.
“There are guards looking at us through those windows right now.” She pointed to the two guard houses on either side of the gate. “The gate will open the moment I get closer and two armed men will appear, watch.”
She moved closer to the gate and just like she had said the gate opened and two guards appeared. Maia smiled and waved at Shadreck.
Is this woman trying to enchant me or what? Shadreck thought as he drove away. She had the most beautiful smile he had ever seen on anyone.
Why does she need two armed security guards? Anyway, rich people’s problems. He shook his head and dialled his mother’s line to get all his random thoughts out of his head.
“Son, what are you still doing up this late?” A very sleepy voice came through the line.
“Did I wake you?” Shadreck asked.
“It’s midnight Shadreck, of course you woke me up but that’s okay. Where are you going at this time of the night young man? You sound like you are on the road.”
Shadreck closed the open window immediately. “I had some business to attend to but am heading home now.”
“Is what why you sound so stressed?” His mother asked. “You’ve never called me first before. I’m always the ome calling you. You sound tired.”
“I always call you mum. Don’t make me feel bad now.”
“I’m sorry son, I didn’t mean to. I am very happy you called.”
“Anyway I gotto go. I just wanted to check up on you. You can go back to sleep now. I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“Are you sure you are okay son? You don’t sound well.”
“I am, don’t think too much. I might pass through tomorrow after you come from church so we can have lunch together. The food you packed for me last time finished.”
“Not to worry, I will have enough prepared for you tomorrow,” his mother said.
You just have to mother, you owe me that much for all those years you neglected me and my siblings. Shadreck said in his head.
But to her he said; “Have a good night.” And cut the line.
A few seconds after the call with her son ended, Martha’s phone rang again. She answered without checking the caller.
“Yes son, did you forget something?”
“It’s me mother.” A different voice came through.
“Andy?” Martha sat up again. “I was just from talking to Shadreck. How come you kids are calling me one after the other? That child that never calls his mother called me today in the middle of the night. Did something happen?”
“We bumped into each other a few hours ago,” Andy informed her.
“That explains why,” Martha said, her voice suddenly turning grey.
“I just miss you so much mum,” Andy said. “Shadreck still doesn’t like me much you know. I felt it today again when we met.”
“Was he rude to you?” Martha asked.
“Surprisingly, he was very polite. Maybe just a little too polite.” Andy said.
“See, maybe he doesn’t hate you as much as you think.”
“No, he still hates my guts but you know what’s funny, I understand exactly why he feels like that. I don’t blame him. If the roles were turned, I am sure even you know that I would feel exactly the same.”
“Did you visit your mother or at least let her know that you’re back in town?” Martha asked.
Andy hesitated in responding but a few seconds later said, “I didn’t.”
“I know, I’ll call her tomorrow. As long as I called you when I landed and you know that am back and safe, that’s all that matters. You are more of a mother to me than that woman will ever be.”
“Show some respect young man. No matter what faults you find in her she is still your mother.”
“You’re the only mother I have ever known.” Andy said. “Unless you don’t want me as a son anymore-”
“Don’t be funny young man. Besides, I was paid to act like a mother to you. I was your nanny. Your mother will always be your mother. No one can ever replace her.”
“She might have paid you to take care of me but I know that you would have taken care of me even if she had stopped paying you. Anyway, I have to go mum, I’ll pass through home to see you tomorrow.”
“Ah, tomorrow?” Martha remembered the phone call with Shadreck.
“Yes, is something the matter? You wont be around?” Andy asked.
“It’s not that,” Martha was searching for the right words to say so as not to worry him.
“It’s Shadreck isn’t it?” Andy surmised. “Is he coming to see you?”
“Yes. I’m so sorry Andy-“ Martha hated being stuck between the two boys.
Shadreck resented her for neglecting him and his siblings to take care of Andy. Andy loved her for taking care of him when his own mother neglected him. It was an endless chain of misplaced love and hate but Martha was forced to come to the conclusion that the fault was all hers.
She was the reason behind the friction between the two and there was nothing she was ever going to do that would make up for her mistakes.
“Oh no, you don’t need to apologize. It’s fine, I understand,” Andy said. “I guess I will just have to see you another day. It’s a good thing that Shadreck is coming to you and you are not the one following him and begging him to see you.”
He needs to eat, that’s why he comes here, Martha thought to herself.
“You should go to bed now, it’s late.
“Have a good night mum. I love you.”
“Love you too son, good night.”
“Are the kids sleeping?” Maia asked Rashida the nanny when she entered the house and found the fifty-five year old waiting for her in the living room.
Maia laughed at the sight of the middle aged woman looking as worried as ever over her safety. She waited for her to finish yawning to get a response. “Why did you wait up for me Idah?” She asked.
Rashida had been Maia’s nanny from the time she went to America with her adoptive parents. The two of them had gotten close over the years so much so that Rashida who had had no kids of her own in her marriage until the death of her husband eight years ago considered the little girl as her own.
When Rashida heard about Maia’s plans to return to her native country, she offered to follow her so she could help out with the kids she intended to adopt there. According to her, it was better to be in the company of people she dearly loved than to remain in the states where she had no loved ones of her own.
Maia had over the years become Rashida’s only family. She was the daughter she could never carry in her womb. She always wondered what would have become of her after the death of her husband had Maia not been by her side. Rashida could not bear the thought of being separated from her.
“The kids finally slept about an hour ago,” Rashida said. “They’re the most inquisitive bunch I have ever come across.” She laughed. “Did you really have to go to that place this late at night child?”
Maia threw herself onto the sofa and Rashida settled down next to her. Maia took the opportunity to rest her head on the woman’s laps.
“Luke was out of town during the day and he is always busy so tonight was the best time to go. Besides, I needed some fresh air.”
“That’s because you’ve been keeping yourself in the study day in and day out with your writing that you hardly ever see the sun rise or set. It’s not very good for your health Maia.”
“Are you nagging me right now Idah?” Maia pretended to yawn loudly and shut her eyes.
“You should go upstairs and sleep in your bed.”
“Nooo.” Maia said, half asleep and half awake. “I like sleeping here better. And I have to check in on the kids before I-“ her words trailed off and sleep came over her.
Rashida chuckled to herself. “Poor thing, she must be exhausted,” she said, undoing the bun on her head and tying her long silky hair into a ponytail.
“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?”
“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.”
“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.