Echoes of the Heart – Part 9

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

It had indeed been eighteen years since Lance Hangaala had seen Aunt Tafadzwa. It was no secret that she wasn’t a fan of him. He had been nothing but a Taxi driver when he had met and fallen in-love with her sister Miriam.

Not one to keep her thoughts to herself, Tafadzwa had confronted him behind her sister’s back and told him to take a hike because she didn’t want Miriam to languish in poverty. A beautiful and intelligent girl like her deserved a rich man to spoil her for life, Tafadzwa had said. How could he ever forget those piercing words?

However, despite her treatment of him, Lance understood to some extent why Tafadzwa wanted her elder sister to get married to a rich man. He had seen first-hand how Miriam struggled to take care of her sibling and herself from the little money she was making working as a secretary.

And so when Miriam eventually disappeared from his life without a word, he did not resent her. Despite his broken heart, there was still a huge part of him that missed her and kept longing for her. Unlike her sister, Miriam had been a kind and loving woman who always put the interests of others ahead of her own. That was the reason why he had fallen for her. But when she left him in the most cruel manner possible, he had been left with a lot of questions whose answers could only come from her.

When he had begged her to never let him go but to be patient with him while he looked for a better job, she had put her arms around his neck and told him she didn’t care about anything else as long as he remained by her side. That was the kind of woman he knew her to be.

Even when a dear friend of his offered him a job in Botswana with a better pay, he had turned it down, afraid to leave the country just in case Miriam had a change of heart and came looking for him. But when two, three, four years went by and there was no trace of her, he had finally given up and left town.

The news of her demise came to him at the most unexpected time in his life. It was the day before his wedding when he sat down to catch up with some old close friends of his that had traveled the distance to attend the wedding. Curious about her death, Lance had searched high and low for Tafadzwa’s contact information but all efforts to communicate with her proved futile.

“You really look very different now Lance,” Aunt Tafadzwa quickly tried to change the subject. “Life in Botswana must be good for you.”

Lance chuckled. “I guess you could say that,” he said. “It was tough the first couple of years but after a while, new opportunities came by and I tried to make something of my humble life.”

“I really can’t believe you are the same man who had dry and cracked lips with those tone trousers you liked wearing…and those nasty looking sandals you wore with wire supporters.” She was laughing as if she was sharing in a good memory.

The only thing her guest could do was smile awkwardly. It was obviously a part of his past he was not very fond of. It had after all costed him the love of his life. Perhaps if he hadn’t been so poor, Miriam would still be alive. How much had he looked forward to having a little girl that looked exactly like her beautiful mother…big bright eyes with a matching personality? He had believed in that dream but it had come crumbling down even before he had the chance to lay down the first brick.

There was nothing much about the past to make him smile but obviously there was enough to make his former almost sister in-law cackle like that.

It was not that he was ashamed of his past; he was glad he had gone through all those hardships because they had made him the kind of man he had become. However, despite the life lessons that came with those experiences, they had left painful footprints that refused to go away no matter how much wind blow against them.

So how could he possibly look back to those days and laugh so heartily?

“I have wondered all these years about Miriam’s death,” Mr Hangaala said. “That is why I paid you this unexpected visit.”

“You came all the way to Zambia just for that?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked. She was going to do everything possible to avoid answering certain questions.

“No, my wife and I came for some other business but I took the opportunity to look you up and just check up on you.” He said.

“You are married now, that’s wonderful. But why didn’t you come with your wife?”

“I didn’t think it would be appropriate Fadzwa.” He muttered.

“Oh yeah,” she said in feigned embarrassment.

“So are you not going to tell me about how Miriam died?” He had already sensed that she was avoiding every question concerning Miriam.

Aunt Tafadzwa fumbled with the table cloth laying on the arm of the sofa she was sitting on, taking it off the sofa and then laying it back again…and then playing with its edges. “You know…she was my only sister…the only family I had so talking about her death is not very easy for me.”

“I understand,” Lance said, dropping his suspicions a notch. “I am very sorry for making you go through this…but I feel like knowing might help me get some kind of closure.”

“Why do you still think about a dead lover when you are obviously happily married now? Does your wife know about my sister?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked, diverting the topic once more.

“My wife knows,” he answered. “I told her everything before we even started dating. She knows why I am here and she understands.”

“Well, if you must know,” Aunt Tafadzwa said to him. “It was an accident. It was a hit and run so we don’t know much about it. They never caught the culprit.” She was looking at Lance’s face to study his reaction…and probably check if he was buying her tale. Unfortunately, this well-to-do version of him was a difficult man to read. Perhaps if he had been in his usual rags, she would have put him right where she wanted him to be; out of her house.

“Did you ever go back to the police to check if they had made any developments…in terms of catching the culprit?”

Aunt Tafadzwa was visibly surprised by how well Lance Hangaala could articulate himself. Compared to the stammering fool he had been all those years ago, the man looking at her questioningly had the demeanour of a very learned person.

Perhaps…had I made the wrong calculations in keeping the knowledge of his daughter away from him?

But how was I supposed to know that you had finally made something of your sorry self?

But who cares anyway? Aunt Tafadzwa plotted silently. Looking at that cheap Corrolla parked outside, he is not even slightly close to the level of the Mwewa’s. Those are the big fishes I should be worrying about…not this God forsaken rich man wanna be. Dressing a frog in a suit does not make it human. It still is what it is, a frog. She thought as she scanned him from his head to his shoes, her face looking like she had just smelt something rotten.

“This is Zambia we are talking about Lance,” this time she didn’t bother to hide her irritation. “Or perhaps has living in a foreign land made you forget about where you came from?” She asked accusingly.

She had finally succeeded in making him uncomfortable. “I can sense that this is clearly a very sore topic for you and I should apologize for that. I think it’s best for me to get going now.” And he did get up immediately without waiting for her response.

“I also need to wash some vegetables for sale at the market tomorrow. It’s already late as you can see….” Standing up in the process. “So I won’t be able to show you out. You should pass my regards to your family.”

Lance Hangaala got the signal and left the house without uttering another word. Once he was inside his vehicle, he sat down for what felt like minutes and watched Aunt Tafadzwa’s house like it held the answers to all of his questions.

He had this strange look in his eyes when he shook his head and finally drove off.

Aunt Tafadzwa had been looking at him through a crack of the curtain the whole time.

“Was that Sibu’s dad?” Tammy came into the living room in her night dress, a mischievous smile playing on her face.

“What are you still doing up this time?” Her mother snapped at her.

“Does Sibu know that her father is still alive?” Her daughter asked. She was obviously enjoying the moment, watching her mother looking all tensed up and shaken.

Still peeping through the curtain, “Of course she knows that he’s alive,” Aunt Tafadzwa said. “She just prefers telling people that he’s dead to avoid questions because she thinks he abandoned her mother when he discovered she was pregnant.”

“I guess it’s thanks to you she thinks like that isn’t it?” Tammy said to her mother who was now breathing a sigh of relief as the car outside disappeared from view. “You are one evil woman mother,” Tammy proudly said to her mother, delivering it like it was some kind of compliment.

Aunt Tafadzwa gave her a look as she dropped the curtain and went to throw herself on the sofa in relief. “I have never heard you refuse the money that Sibu brings here,” she retorted. “In fact, you whine and demand for more from her.”

“I guess we are both evil…except,” she was talking with her eyes dancing about excitedly. “It’s not my fault, it should be my genes.”

“Shut up and go to bed or keep talking and I tell Sibu to forget about giving you money for college. Your choice.”

That threat was enough to send Tammy straight back into the bedroom.

Her mother grinned in satisfaction and then slowly closed her eyes to sleep.
In the first week of January the following year, Martin Mwewa Junior and Sibusiswe Hangaala were wed.

* * *

The first year of marriage for Martin and Sibusiswe Hangaala was exactly what it was supposed to be, a honeymoon phase. After Martin’s successive surgery, Sibu had put down her guard for a while and allowed herself to busk in marriage bliss. It was as if she had been born again. She could laugh easily and she laughed a lot. Through Martin, she had come to experience the true meaning of love.

Martin had found himself completely enamoured by his new bride. The ease with which she had offered to donate her kidney and sked that it be kept their little secret made him fall even deeper in love with her. Where else could such a woman be found? The times she had relentlessly and happily cared for him after his surgery proved to him that he had been right to go against his mother and stick to his decision to settle down with her. Because of her, he had become a better man.

Unfortunately, like many other marriages, the honeymoon phase eventually came to pass. The new lifestyle that was greatly dependent on drugs as a means of safeguarding his new kidney proved to be too tasking for the wild hearted Martin. Now that he felt strong again and back to normal, he saw no importance in religiously taking pills and that eventually gave rise to a constantly nagging wife.

“I feel just fine Sibu!” had become the bone of contention in the home of the newlyweds.

“That is not the point Martin,” Sibu would argue. “Just because you feel fine does not mean you have to stop taking your meds. We had an agreement and you promised….”

“Yes, we are back to those promises again,” Martin would snap back. “Listen, I am tired. The whole week, if I am not studying, then I am at work. I think I deserve to have the weekend to rest and do whatever I want to unwind.”

“I understand that…I am just saying that you should at least reduce the amount of alcohol you consume and continue taking your medication.”

“I miss the fun-loving and I don’t-give-a-dame Sibu that I married. What happened to you?” Martin would give his wife the most disgusting look. “I can’t recognize this nagging woman you’ve become. I am going to sleep at Conrad’s tonight.” He would then grab his gear and leave the house.

Eventually, sleeping away from home became a habit.

Instead of striving to resolve Martin’s struggles and his change in behavior, Sibu withdrew from the world and from her husband, believing that his behavior was some sort of punishment she was receiving for having deceived herself into choosing happiness and neglecting to pay her debt to her mother.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” She would say to her mother’s tombstone whenever something bad happened.

“What the hell was I thinking…thinking he would change just because he had married me?” She would cry out to her mother. “He never sleeps home, he parties every night and sleeps with any girl he can get his hands on. When I complain he shoves money in my face like that would erase everything.

“Where you mad at me for being so happy while you were lying here in this cold earth mother? I know…I am shameless for constantly disturbing you like this but whether you like it or not, I am still your daughter you know.”

When she was not crying her heart out to her mother, the only other person she could talk to was Sibeso.

“Why don’t you try counselling?” Sibeso had once suggested to her. “You guys are still young to be growing apart like this. The problem is you married too young and Martin was obviously not yet ready for this kind of commitment. I think the fear of death must have deceived him into believing he could handle such a huge responsibility like marriage, but let’s face it….he is still immature. The both of you need to get professional help before it’s too late.

“I think he regrets the marriage Sibe,” Sibu confided in her friend. “Now that he’s alive and well, he must regret marrying in such haste.”

“I don’t think he regrets the marriage…pe se,” Sibeso would said. “I do however, think that he feels emasculated by his reliance on meds and so he is taking it out on women out there…like he’s trying to prove a point or something.”

“You sound like a shrink,” Sibu laughed softly.

“Does his family even know that he was sick?” Sibeso asked.

Sibu nodded. “They do. They were even present during the operation. They just don’t know that the kidney was mine.”

Sibeso gaped at her friend in shock. “Why don’t they know such an important fact?” She asked. “If that mother in-law of yours knew what you sacrificed for her son, she will definitely start treating you with respect. She is also a major reason why Martin is acting like this. She keeps forcing him in the company of these tuma girls from rich families as if he is still a bachelor. What demon resides inside that woman must be very short and an angry one.”

Sibu sighed heavily and said, “I just can’t wait for school to open so I can keep myself busy. If Martin wants to kill himself, let him go ahead and do so. I am done trying to be a hero when he won’t admit he needs saving.”

“You applied under which school?” Sibeso changed the subject. The mood always seemed to go down whenever took of Martin came up those days.

“Humanities and Social Sciences.”

“I thought you wanted to do Law?”

“Ah, I changed my mind. I think it’s time I started moving my life away from Martin. Let him leave his own life and I will leave mine. My aunt is a headache enough on her own. I don’t need all this drama in my life.”

“Speaking of Maxine,” Sibeso laughed, like she always did whenever they called the woman by her nickname. It would take some time to get used to it. Sometimes they would even talk about her in her presence and she would have no clue whatsoever that she was the subject of discussion. “Does she know about the problems between you and Martin?”

Sibu sneered. “Why would she care about that…and why would I even tell her? The only thing that woman cares about is money. Can you believe she wants me to buy her a plot in Meanwood?”

“What?” Sibeso exclaimed.

“Yes, and who is going to build on it once it’s been bought? Me!”

“That woman will never cease to amaze me,” Sibeso said with a disconcerting look on her face. “I bet the devil looks at her every morning and shudders. She is a real contender to his throne that one.”

And in one of those moments that had become rare, Sibu laughed.

* * *

 

 

Winter of July 2015

Martin anxiously waited for Sibusiswe to show up at the restaurant where they had scheduled for their meeting to take place. She had finally called him back after ignoring his calls for two days and asked that they meet at the new restaurant in town, a place Sibu had deliberately picked because it held no memories for the two of them…and also because it would be packed with people so the two of them wont have to get into mellow-dramatic conversations…as it always happened whenever they met.

Martin was anxiously tapping his leg on the floor  wondering if SIbu would show up or not when he looked up and saw her enter the restaurant.

She looked as radiant as ever as evidenced from the many heads of men that had turned to steal glimpses of her. Wanting to make his interests known to the public, he quickly got and waited for Sibu to reach his table. He proceeded to wrap her up in a hug, a move that caught her by surprise but not wanting to draw even more attention to herself, she quickly hugged him back and then sat down.

“What’s this I hear about you traveling to SA?” Martin launched his attack the moment they were both seated.

Sibu chuckled, thinking about how some things never changed. They had been divorced for four years already but he still treated her like she was still his wife.

“Did you just laugh?” Martin asked, his eyebrows going up in confusion.

“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh,” she said. “I wish I had a good reason…but I am just going to be honest with you…I didn’t know how to broach the subject to you. I didn’t want you to think that I was taking advantage of our custody arrangement by taking your son away for such a long time.”

“Ooh,” Martin said, surprised by her quick admission. He had been more than ready to fight it out with her especially since he could smell Ted all over the issue. “And Ted,” he said, his voice had dropped to a much lower register as he relaxed his back against the chair to feign nonchalance, his fingers slowly tapping the table. “Are you two still in contact?”

Sibu could see right through his charade…trying to play it cool when he was obviously dying to know the answers deep down.She had feared he might put two and two together and it hadn’t taken that long after all.

“Yes,” she answered. “We kept in touch over the years.” She knew Martin wanted to hear more but she still kept her response as brief as possible. She didn’t need to ask him what he was thinking, it was written all over his face.

“So are you planning on seeing each other?” He asked.

“Martin,” Sibu put on a serious face. “You do know that we are divorced right? And that you cannot ask me certain personal questions?”

Martin was embarrassed by the questions but he couldn’t help himself. Not knowing what was going on in her life eat at him every night and day. What wouldn’t he give to have her look at him the way she had done during that first year of their marriage? Those memories haunted him every single day.

Like a fool he had allowed his pride to overshadow his love for her and by the time he had realized what he had done, she had walked out of his life and never looked back.

The thing that baffled Martin the most was how easily Sibu had given up on him. It was as if a switch had gone off inside of her. She had stopped talking and had withdrawn into a world he had no access to and even though she had continued attending to him as a wife, her flesh was there but her spirit was not.

She had left him long before she had said those three painful words to him;

Sign these papers.

However, out of everything that had transpired, the question that still haunted Martin was;

Why had it been so easy for her to give up on him?

Looking at her sitting in front of him, she looked happier than she had been when they were married so how could he really bring himself to ask her such a question?

That morning in Kitwe when she found him with another woman in bed had been the tipping point. He had for the first time recognized that things would never be the same between them.

“I understand you hate me now,” Martin had started to say when a waitress came to their table to take down their order. She was smiling loudly at them but they were both too absorbed in their own thoughts to take notice.

they gave her their orders without looking up at her and off she went, disappointment written all over her pretty face.

“I don’t hate you Martin,” Sibu corrected him the moment they were alone again. “You and I…it was a mistake from the beginning.”

“A mistake?” Martin couldn’t hide the disappointment he felt upon hearing those words. “Is that really how you feel Sibu?” He asked, his voice slightly rising and then lowering immediately when everyone turned to look at them.

He was waiting for her response with bated breath.

Sibu sighed and rolled her eyes. “Martin,” she said, sitting up straight and putting her hands together over the table. “We’ve had this conversation so many times before. Why do you keep insisting on going back to the past every time we meet? It’s about time we both moved on with our lives don’t you think?”

“Easy for you to say because there’s always been a man hanging around in your life.” He said and won himself what he had come to call the Sibu shot.

“I am leaving,” she grabbed her bag from the empty chair next to her and as she stood up she said, “This is why I was dreading meeting you. Somehow our conversations always end up the same way.”

Martin quickly stood up and grasped her hand. “Please, I’m sorry Sibu…please…sit down.” He motioned to the chair she had been sitting on.

There were a few people in the room looking at them, thus, not wanting to create a scene, Sibu sat back down. “Let’s talk about Jacob, he is the only reason we are meeting today.” She said.

Martin wasn’t happy about the direction the conversation had taken but he relented. “Cool, let’s do that. How long are you planning on staying over there?”

“So you are you okay with it?” Sibu’s eyes were sparkling with excitement. She had been so worried about him not allowing her to take Jacob with her.

“Do I really have a choice Sibu?” He asked.

Sibu was surprised by his remark.

“It’s not like I can go back in time and change the arrangement we made about Jacob’s custody.” He explained. “Even when I knew it was absolutely stupid, I still went ahead and gave you full custody.”

“So are you saying you have changed your mind now?” She asked, growing very concerned.

Martin was hesitant at first but then he replied, “I am not saying that I have changed my mind,” he was speaking a little slowly, placing emphasis on his words as he spoke. “I am just saying that just because I made that decision back then does not mean I am happy with it. Jacob is my son too so what father wouldn’t want to have custody of his only son?

“I miss that boy every single day and it hurts not being able to see him whenever I want. But I made that decision and I am sticking to it because it’s the only way I felt I could make things up to you and him. You know very well how obsessed my mother is with him. He was her first grandchild and the only Mwewa grandson. To this day she still fights with me over letting you keep him.”

“So why don’t you and Veronica try to have another child? Maybe it will be a son this time around…who knows?” She suggested nonchalantly. “You guys have been together for such a very long time…is it seven or eight years now?”

Martin felt like a dagger had just been plunged into his chest. He could not tell if she was being sarcastic or serious but he was willing to place his money on the latter. How could she so easily speak about another woman in his life without showing any ounce of jealous whatsoever? Why was he the only one feeling like his heart was reaping apart?

“I have told you several times that Veronica and I are not together.” Martin said forcefully. “I know we said we shouldn’t talk about anything else but you brought this one up yourself so I will explain; Veronica and I dated on and off way before you and I even met and I only started seeing her after we started having problems and it was only a couple of times. But that’s all, there was nothing serious going on between us.”

Martin could tell she really wasn’t interested in hearing whatever he had to say but she just sat there silently with a completely blank expression on her face.

“She and I never married.” he continued explaining nonetheless. “She thinks we are married just because we temporarily live together and she had my child, but we are far from being together or let alone married. Her parents just left her and the baby at my door and demanded I take responsibility.”

“I actually wanted to tell you that I changed my mind,” Sibu said when it appeared Martin was done with his monologue.

Sibu’s word’s brought an instant smile on his face but it was a short-lived one.

“Something came up just yesterday so I decided that instead of two years,” Sibu was saying. “I will just be gone for about a year or less.”

That was definitely not what he had been expecting to hear after saying all that to her. He was giving her the are-you-kidding-me-right-now look and she pretended not to notice.

“That means you get to see your son sooner than initially expected!” Sibu announced excitedly.

Unfortunately, she was the only one excited. “Is that the only thing you are going to say to me after everything I just told you?” Martin asked.

Sibu put her hand over her forehead and heaved a long sigh of frustration, deliberately making a whoooooosh sound as she let the air blow out of her mouth. She then proceeded to rub her hand against her eyes, thinking deeply before finally speaking.

“Martin,” her voice sounded heavy and tired. She dropped her hand and rested it against the table. “Is there a part of you that thinks that there’s a chance of us getting back together in future?” She asked him.

“Of course yes,” he answered enthusiastically. “I know I have no right to expect something like that but I have changed Sibu. I stopped drinking and partying like I used to a year after you left and I take my medication religiously. The only thing keeping me busy is work and I only go out once in a while to hang out with my friends. There hasn’t been any woman in my life since you left, I swear to you. I am not asking you to take me back right now…I am willing to wait, to give you time to think…to heal …but I beg you Sibu, don’t shut me out of your life completely, please.”

As Sibu listened and watched Martin speak, she couldn’t help thinking about the days when he had spoken the same sweet words to her and convinced her that the world wasn’t such a crazy place after all.

back then she had looked into his eyes and believed every word he had uttered.

She had put down her guard and allowed herself to be lost in his promises. For the first time in her life she had allowed the past to be were it belonged and she experienced happiness for the very first time in a very long time.

But who would have known that the very heart that had showered her with that kind of love would be the same one that would drown her and then drag her back to the very hell she had been grappling with all those years?

And now he wanted her to give him a second chance? How?

Picking up on her silence, Martin continued talking. “I know that I was the one who messed up big time. I was going through some things and instead of trusting that you would always be my side and that nothing would change, I got scared. I started acting out. I am not trying to make excuses here… I know very well what I did and how much it hurt you and I am going to pay for that for the rest of my life. But Sibu, you are also not blameless when it comes to how things turned out between us.”

“What do you mean by that?” Sibu asked.

So he had her attention after all, Martin thought.

“Sibu, did you even want to get married to me or someone forced you?” He asked her. “There was a time when we had a huuuge fight and you said something in those lines…and it wasn’t just that one time….”

“No one forced me to marry you Martin,” she answered. “I made the decision on my own and we got married right away. Perhaps I said those things out of anger.”

“Then why did you give up on me so easily?” He asked.

There was guilt written all over Sibu’s face.

“You know it too don’t you?” He had read her mind.

Sibu was flustered, but only for a moment. “You never gave me any reason why I should keep trying.” She said. “For a whole year I did nothing but nag and beg. I spent long nights crying alone in bed while you enjoyed yourself in hotel rooms but still I kept trying. One day I woke up and completely hated the person I had become. You too, you hated who I had become. I asked myself why I even bothered when the person I was trying to look out for didn’t even care about what happened to him…or what happened to us. Out of everything, I found giving up the easiest thing to do.”

“It wasn’t because things had turned out the way you had expected them to?” Martin asked.

“I guess so…to some extent. I admit, I had a lot of reservations getting into it and when things started happening like that, I thought…what did you expect Sibu? It was like a self-fufilling prophesy…like an accident waiting to happen.”

“I see,” a visibly hurt Martin responded.

Like an accident waiting to happen…he bitterly mulled over her words.

“You think I never gave you a reason to keep trying but Sibu…from the beginning, you never gave me a chance. Even after we got married you never trusted me enough to talk to me about whatever was going on in your family. Everytime you received a visit from your aunt, you would stay in a foul mood for a whole week and no matter how much I tried, you wouldn’t open up to me. To you I was always the playboy that would one day disappear from your life. So many times you made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for you…like you were just waiting for the walls to come crumbling down so you could pick yourself up and walk out. And you did exactly that.”

Finally, his words seemed to be getting to her.

Were those tears making her eyes shimmer in the day light?

Sibu quickly lowered her gaze when sensed Martin starring at her. She blinked back the tears and then looked back up again. “I am sorry,” she said, her voice a little husky from the unshed tears.

“I didn’t realize you felt like that. I guess I was just so wrapped up in blaming you for everything that was going wrong in our marriage I forgot to look at myself. I didn’t even think you would notice something like that.” Her lips were quivering as she spoke and her hands were shaking slightly.

“Hey, hey….” Martin laid his hand on top of hers to comfort her. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said and he moved to occupy the seat next to her where her handbag was resting. He removed the bag and put it on the table and then he sat down and put his arm around her shoulder.”

For a moment, it felt like it was just the two of them in the room and they stayed like that for about three minutes while Sibu struggled to regain her composure. Martin’s efforts to comfort her only seemed to be making her situation worse; the tears wouldn’t stop coming. He had removed his handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her.

“Sorry for the intrusion.” It was the waitress carrying a try of their food in her hands. They had been so wrapped in their conversation that they did not realize it had taken that long for their food to arrive.

Sibu cleared her throat and slowly sat up. “I will keep this,” she was talking about the hanker in her hands. Martin shrugged his shoulders to tell her he didn’t mind while the waitress placed their food on their table. She was smiling seductively at Martin the whole time she was going about her business but he was too busy watching Sibu to notice.

“Can you be any more obvious?” Sibu snapped at the audacious waitress. She couldn’t believe she still had to deal with the same nonsense she had had to deal with every time she went out on a date with Martin.

The waitress immediately tightened her expression and threw Sibu a contentious look before walking away.

Martin was grinning in his seat.

“What are you smiling about? Did you just cum from all that flirting she was throwing at you?” Sibu directed her anger at him in her stead.

Martin laughed. “You are being unfair Sibu,” he said. “She was the one looking at me. I never even looked at her. You are the one who saw whatever it is you saw. But,” he started smiling again. “I don’t know why your reaction just made me so happy. You are actually jealous.” He stated happily.

Sibu blushed. “No am not!” she protested. “She just caught me at a bad moment and then she was acting like I’m not even here. She almost spilled souce on me.” She pointed to the drop of tomatoe souce on the table just close to the edge.”

“I don’t care what you say I still think you acted out of jealous. For a moment I was scared that you would never give me a chance but this moment is just the one!.” He was very excited.

Sibu was looking at him and slowly shaking her head. “There you go again acting like the world revolves around you.” And she picked up her folk and started eating her food. Martin was already chewing his food loudly and carelessly in celebration of his victory.
Sibusiswe was driving back to her place when she sensed a car following her. It was only 4pm but whoever was behind the wheel of that vehicle appeared intent on following her wherever she went… because even after driving around her neighborhood three times, the car was still behind her every time she looked into her rear view mirror.

This was not the first time she had felt like someone was following her. She had had suspicions before but quickly brushed them off thinking she was just being paranoid.

Who could be following her like that? It wasn’t as if she was a celebrity or political figure. Granted, her marriage to Martin had put her in the spotlight for a certain period of time but it wasn’t to the stalker kind of extent.

And so, she parked her vehicle at the entrace of a random house and waited to see what the driver of the dark blue Jaguar would do.

Sibu’s heart raced as the car slowly drove passed her and then disappeared when it turned at the nearest corner. She could not make out the driver’s face.

All the windows of the expensively polished vehicle had been tinted.

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Because She Loved Me – Part 4

because she loved me

 

“I think my leg is fine now. You can drop me off at the nearest bus station.” Thandiwe told me. Her whole attitude towards me had completely changed.

I could swear she had kissed me back…probably in a moment of weakness which she was now deeply regretting because she was looking at me like I was the devil himself. I could smell the disappointment from every part of her body.

I didn’t like her looking at me like that…it didn’t make me feel so good. She must have been thinking that I let her down because she had had such great expectations of me but what she didn’t know was that more than anything else, I had let myself down.

“I am sorry,” I said to her. I was deeply embarrassed, not only because of what I had done, but because there was still a part of me that felt justified in wanting to do it.

Even as I dropped Thandiwe off at the bus station, I knew it my head that that was not the end.

And thus, because I had told it to myself, I eventually made it so.

I could have easily instructed my brain to stop thinking about her but for some reason, I had convinced myself that the only way to get over what my wife had done to me was if I equalized the equation…but only to some extent; I had to sleep with someone else as well…I needed to sleep with someone else.

There was no way I was going to walk away from a marriage where I had invested so much because it would make me feel like a failure…and I am not a failure. How the hell will my friends and family look at me if they heard my wife cheated on me and had a child with someone else…and a pastor for that matter? I just couldn’t take such a blow.

My pride had already been bruised, no, bruised is subtle…someone had taken my balls and crushed them into pieces and then handed them back to me to chew. You see, despite my faith in God, my pride as a man would not let me take the easy way out. Forgiveness and letting go I had come to learn was just not my cup of tea. It was either I make her pay for what she had done by divorcing her or I get my own kind of revenge.

Unfortunately, divorcing meant I would lose a lot of things as well in the process and I wasn’t willing to let go of some things just yet. Why should I be punished? And so I settled for the next best thing I felt would appease my mind.

By then I had already concluded as you might have surmised that I intended to keep my marriage…but only on my terms. The question that still remained was how I could get passed my wife’s indiscretions and move on with our lives as if nothing had ever happened? I knew for a fact that there was no way in hell I would ever forget that…especially since there would be proof of that affair starring back at me in the form of Chikondi for the rest of my life.

But I had to make Thabo pay somehow and what better way than to do to her what she had done to me. I wanted to protect my weaknesses with everything I had but as you might know, everything has a price in the end.

I just didn’t know yet what price I was going to pay.

And so I kept thinking about Thandiwe every day and night. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I had somehow convinced myself that she was something sent to me by God and that she would the redemption I needed to save my marriage…that she would help me start anew. I know it doesn’t make sense now but it made a lot of sense then.

I looked her up on the internet, on social media and even went to that house in Phi where she worked. She had become my new obsession out of nowhere and for a while I had forgotten about the ache in my heart. By the end of that week, I had learnt a lot of things about Thandie;

For seven years she had been married to some man called Daniel Mukubesa, a doctor by profession who turned out to be an arrogant jerk who had been very abusive towards her. He had moved out of town about a year ago immediately after announcing divorce to her and had married the nurse he had been having an affair with for four years.

Thandie was a gullible woman, well, I don’t know if I should call it that or maybe she was just plain naive. For four years she never suspected her husband was having an affair…at least that’s what I had heard. I could tell she still loved him despite him completely turning his back on her and their son to fully devote himself to his new pregnant wife.

There was something about her pain that spoke to me…like it was something we had in common and I wanted to comfort her. There was a part of me that hoped she would understand my pain as well and had it been any other woman, I would have probably never known just how selfish the goals I had set out for myself in this journey of self-healing were.

But she was Thandiwe…and she did not hesitate to set me straight the next time I accosted her as she made her way to the bus station from her place of work.

“What do you want from me Harry?” She didn’t bother to stop to address me. She spoke as she walked, very very fast and I had to run to catch up to her.

“Stop Thandie,” I grabbed her hand to stop her and she finally turned to look at me in ballooned furry.

“What?” she hollered at me.

“I wanted to apologize for what I did last time,” I said.

“You don’t need to. I must have done something myself to make you think you could act that way. I should be the one apologizing to you.” Her mouth was saying one thing but her eyes were shooting accusing daggers at me.

“Can we go somewhere and talk?” I asked her.

“No, I don’t want to go anywhere with you Mr Harry.” She turned me down, grave determination written all over her face. She really wasn’t going to go anywhere with me. “What more is there to talk about?” She added.

“I just need someone to talk to…and for some reason I think you are the only person that can listen to me without judging me or anything.” I pleaded.

Her features softened a bit but she was still shrouded in doubt. “I really don’t think I am the right person you should be talking to.” She said. “I think what you need is a counselor or someone elderly to help you sort out whatever you and your wife are going through.”

“I already know what those people are going to tell me and I don’t think I want to listen to any of it right now.” I said.

She then put her hand on mine and removed it from grasping her other hand.

“There is only one thing you want from me,” she said as she looked me straight in the eye. “I came into your life in such an unruly manner and so I can understand why you might think I would be down for whatever you have convinced yourself in your head.”

I was shaking my head. “No, that’s not it Thandie, that’s not it at all.”

“Then why are you here?” She asked.

Why was I there? It was a dame good question.

“See,” she said in response to my silence. “You can’t even say it out loud.” She then started walking away.

“If I don’t talk to you, I think I am going to lose my mind.” I said to her back. I don’t know what had come over me but ever since this problem with my wife, I had become such an emotional man. It was as if the experience had forced open the door to the tears I never got to shed all those years.

It was embarrassing and I didn’t know how to stop them, heck I didn’t even know why they came but there they were; tears. I am really not proud of those moments but they are some of the most defining moments in my road to recovery and I just can’t leave them out.

She must have sensed something because she stopped and turned around. I could see this frustrated look in her eyes that she wanted to leave but she couldn’t just walk away. She was after all, Thandiwe.

There was this strange smile on my face as I watched her walk back to me.

“Is that your car parked over there?” She pointed to the car parked on the side of the road behind us close to the house where she worked.

“Yes,” I said. I can’t remember when I had cleared away the tears from my eyes and face but my voice was still a little husky. This was the second time I had shown weakness in front of this woman.

“I don’t want my bosses to get any wrong ideas so you go and get the car and you will find me here.” She said.

“Great,” I said and immediately ran back to get the vehicle.

Not a single word was said between us the whole time I drove to Kabulonga to a lodge I knew we would get some privacy. I could feel her glare reaping through me when she realized where I had brought her.

“The restaurant is quite here,” I quickly explained. “We can talk privately in the garden. We won’t have to enter the lodge.”

She heaved a sigh of relief.

“What is it you so desperately want to talk to me about?” She went straight to the point the moment we were seated in the garden.

“I am sorry for what happened last time,” I was saying.

“You already said that,” she reminded me.

“I know,” I said. “But I didn’t finish; I am sorry that I did that to you but I am not sorry for the act itself.”

She was definitely puzzled.

“I don’t see anything wrong with what I did.” I continued. “I have thought long and hard about what I ought to do in order to make myself feel better…something to lessen the weight of it all. I think…no, I know that only if I do this will I be able to look my wife in the eye and somehow forget it all.”

“What exactly did your wife do to you?” She finally asked the million dollar question.

I then explained to her everything that had happened.

By the time I finished telling her my story, she had tears welled up in her eyes and I dared not ask if it was out of pity or empathy.

“I am sorry,” she said to me as she fought back the tears. “I don’t even know what to say to you.” She said with a smile on her face, trying to mask her actual reaction to the whole thing.

“Yeah….” Was all I could manage.

“And now you think that sleeping with another woman would somehow make you feel better and allow you to forgive her?”

“What else am I supposed to do?” I asked. “This thing will haunt me for the rest of my life and this is the only way I have found would make things a little easier.”

“How about just divorcing her? Two wrongs can never make a right Mr Harry.” She tried to reason with me.

“You think I don’t know that already?” I banged my hand on the table, almost scared the hell out of the waiter who had appeared from behind to set drinks on our table.

Thandiwe threw an apologetic look in the waiter’s direction and thanked her for the drinks before she left with the empty tray in hand.

“I don’t want a divorce. I have never believed in divorce and I certainly don’t want to explain to anybody what caused my marriage to fail.”

“If you came to me thinking that I would side with you…then I am afraid am going to have to disappoint you.” she said. “I think that what you are plotting is childish and immature. What you seek is revenge and I can promise you that I won’t change a thing, if anything, it will only make it harder for you and your wife to work things out. In the end the very thing you are trying to avoid is exactly what will happen; you will break up.”

“How would you know that?” I asked.

“Because I tried it,” she said. That was a surprise.

“You cheated on your husband?” I asked, dreading the response.

She laughed softly. “Not in the full sense of the word…just emotionally at most…but I still think it’s called cheating in the Bible sense of definition.”

And then she went on to tell me her story.

“People assumed that I didn’t know that my husband was having an affair for so many years but I knew it from the moment it started. Instead of confronting him about it I tried to turn myself into a better wife thinking that he had strayed because of weaknesses on my part. But no matter how much effort I put into being a good wife, the affair never went away. When I finally confronted him about it, he beat me so bad I was in the hospital for three days. I never spoke of it again but something inside me had died since.

“Instead of the confrontation making things better between us, it somehow made my husband feel he could now flaunt the affair in my face without having to worry about being caught. He would answer her calls late at night when I was sleeping right next to him and I would be forced to listen to every word of their conversations. It killed me.

“The doctor who was in charge of my care at the hospital had taken a liking to me and even after I was discharged he would call to check up on me and slowly we started chatting. While I was getting zero attention from my husband, there was a man giving me all the attention in the world. Despite being a doctor, my husband had failed to recognize that something was wrong with our son but that doctor took one look at him and knew right away. I tried so many times to talk to my husband about it but he just never had time for me, not even for our son.

“I was filled with so much bitterness. I was hurting badly and I wanted to hurt him back. That doctor had offered to get my son to have surgery, for free and out of gratitude I was willing to give in to him. I started giving him attention and began looking forward to my conversations with him. I got so wrapped up in it I no longer cared about what my husband was up to…that was until that good doctor tried to take things a little further and when I turned him down he passed a very crude moment that forced me to wake up.

“Soon after that incident I learnt that my husband’s mistress was pregnant and I knew then that we had reached a point of no return. My husband said he was in-love with her and he had tried to make things work with me but I was just so different from him. He shoved papers in my face and left.

“My point is, no matter how much we try to justify our actions, there will come a time when we regret the decisions we make out of hurt and anger. You can’t make a marriage work on your own and problems don’t just disappear just because you choose to look the other way. The truth is; I had given up on my marriage the moment I chose to look the other way.

“But you on the other hand have a choice to make; you say you don’t want a divorce…that you want to work things out…but, did you stop to ask yourself why you want to work things out? Is it because of your pride…that you don’t want the world to know your dirty laundry or, is it because you love your wife and your family so much you are willing to work things out? If it is the former, I say you should get a divorce, but if it’s the latter, then you need to get the idea of revenge out of your head and do everything you can to see to it that you work things out. Either way, I am not going to sleep with you.”

Thandie’s words hurt like hell.

I had wanted to talk to her out of my own selfishness. I had thought that I would somehow convince her to take pity on me and maybe things between us would…you know…get better. Instead, she had ended up awakening me to some facts I desperately needed to hear. I didn’t want to hear them of course…but I had to.

By the time our conversation had ended, I had come to this realization; that Thandiwe was a remarkable woman and that I was a bloody coward.

I was not sure about the love for my wife at that point in my life but I was sure about the love for my family. That night I drove to the house of a former boss of mine whom I had a lot of respect for. He had been married for over thirty years and he always impressed me with how he treated his wife during the days we were close. I had completely forgotten about him but for some reason after talking to Thandiwe, he came to my mind.

Even though I had not spoken to him in a very long time, Mr Kaunda and his wife welcomed me into their home with open arms. After exchanging a few pleasantries and the drinks were served, his wife excused herself and left us to talk in private. I bet she had sensed the reason I had shown up at their door. I poured my heart out to that man for hours and he just listened and listened.
I had resolved to make my marriage work.

* * *

With guidance from a very well-grounded couple providing us with Godly counsel, my wife and I endeavoured to resurrect our marriage and start anew. We both knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we committed ourselves to doing our best.

Unfortunately, even though I had convinced my mind to work things out, my heart found it hard to adjust. Six months had gone by and Thabo and I hadn’t been intimate. Many times she tried to initiate things but that only seemed to make things even harder. I didn’t want her taking charge of things sexually because it made me feel as if she had forgiven herself too easily.

On the other hand, I couldn’t bring myself to complete the act because I just couldn’t get the image of her with another man out of my head. I tried…dear God I tried.

But It. Just. Wouldn’t. Go. Away.

We tried numerous exercises together, did fun stuff together to build our relationship but when it came down to the bedroom, my body just froze, literally.

So many times I chanted to myself ‘mind over matter…mind over matter…’ but still nothing changed.
The strange thing was, although my relationship with my wife was struggling, my relationship with Chikondi had not changed. I still loved that boy like he was my own. At first I responded to him out of pity because everything in me wanted to hate him but then I would watch his reaction and see how broken he was.

I was ashamed of myself for making a child pay for his parent’s sins. Eventually, that pity developed into love. It was easy to love that boy…because he loved with every inch of his little heart. It was as if he had sensed something was wrong and I can never forget that conversation I had with him that turned things around.

I had come from work and found him sitting alone in the back yard, deep in his thoughts as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. I put my laptop bag down and sat down next to him.

“Do you think you and mum would be happier if I disappeared?” He had asked me.

That question broke my heart into pieces. It was as if he had switched on some button inside me…my heart was thumping so fast I feared I might collapse.

“Why do you say that son?” I asked, fighting back the tears. It was still a sore topic for me…but the tears in Chikondi’s eyes only made things a 120% harder.

“Just because,” he answered, shrugging his shoulders. He was now pulling the grass from the ground piece by piece, avoiding eye contact by all means.

“I know things have been a little difficult lately between me and your mother but I don’t want you to think even for a second that you have anything to do with it, okay?” I said.

“Then why do you hate me?” He asked. He had brought his massacre of the grass to a paused as he waited for my response.

“Where did you get that idea from?” I asked. I knew where he had picked up that idea from. There were moments when I couldn’t control my gaze and I think my thoughts came screaming from my eyes.

“Listen here buddy,” I took his tiny hand into mine. “You mean the world to me. I am sorry that I have been such a bad father to you but nothing…and I mean nothing will ever change between us. You will always be my first born son no matter what happens…you believe me right?”

He was looking up at me with his big teary eyes and then he nodded. “Yes, I believe you,” he said.

I took him into my arms and hugged him so tied I heard me stutter…”I can’t…bre…ath…dad.”

I loosened my hold on him and we both laughed.

That night Thabo and I made love like it was our first time.

It had been nine months since the journey to reconciliation had been launched.

* * *

A year and six months had gone by and I believed that my marriage had survived the biggest hurdle ever. It had taken a lot of doing but we were finally doing alright. We had finally moved into our own house in Ibex Hill and changed churches, I had gotten a new job as country manager for one of the biggest firms in the country and our kids were going to the best schools. We were pretty much happy.

Everything was back to normal.

Or so I thought.

I had travelled for a conference in Algeria when it happened.

I was to be away from home for two weeks. In a strange city surrounded by strangers…let me not start with the excuses. The bottom line is that I accepted an invite for a late night beer from a woman I had met during the conference who was staying at the same hotel as I.

I should have turned her down…I mean, she was extremely beautiful and intelligent. She was a professor, very outspoken and bold in every sense of the word. Heck, she was a very attractive woman who should have come with a warning sign.

She came knocking at the door of my hotel room and suggested we go down to the bar for a drink. We had both had a hectic day and we both deserved to unwind a bit. That could have been why I easily accepted her offer, I think.

I woke up the next morning and found her naked body sleeping next to mine.

Since when had it become so easy for me to cheat on my wife? I don’t know how it had happened…but it had happened.

When I went back home, I made love to my wife like nothing had ever happened. Thing is, I had actually forgotten about that woman in Algeria. My encounter with her had been exactly that, casual.

However, while I should have been proud of myself for easily forgetting about that casual encounter, I should have been asking myself why I felt no guilt whatsoever towards my wife.

Now I can wonder about such things but back then, it didn’t matter as long as my wife never got to learn of it.

And she never did.

Unfortunately, although the Algerian woman was the first, she was not the last. Six months later it happened with another woman, and then another and then…just like that, all casual encounters that ended as fast as they started.

But Thabo and I were still happy. We went on family vacations and did other stuff that couples do. We had moved on from the past and we were proud of ourselves.

But something had changed and we just couldn’t see it.

I was in Ndola for a workshop, staying at some fancy lodge my secretary had booked me in and engaging in what had become my favourite pass time when my partner for the night found dissatisfaction with the food she ordered that had just been brought to our room.

I tried explaining to her why her food was like that but she had a very short temper…probably why she was still single and shagging a married man in some lodge. But who am I to judge?

The wild creature called the reception and demanded that the manager come to our room and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and in walked the lodge manager.

Alas, it was Thandiwe Mwale.

I was resting on the bed in nothing but my boxers while my partner who was covered in nothing but a towel was holding the door open so she could yell properly at the unfortunate manager.

I had been having affairs for over a year and not once did I feel guilt.

But on that particular night as Thandi’s eyes and mine met, I had never felt such shame as I did then. It was as if she had ripped my clothes off and made me stand in front of strangers all wet and exposed.

I was finally embarrassed of the man I had become. It had taken that long.

But I felt shame for the first time in a very long time.

At that moment I could not understand why Thandie brought out such feelings in me, I really couldn’t but I understood the look in her eyes;

It was disdain.

“What is this thing you’ve served me?” My one night stand was wailing, pointing at the food on the table.

Thandiwe blinked profusely and cleared her throat… and I could see her take a deep breath before responding with a smile on her face. “I am very sorry that this has happened but if you tell me what is wrong with the food, I will make sure that everything is well taken care of and a fresh plate will be served as soon as possible.”

“That meat you served me is not cooked!” My promiscuous maiden woman howled.

“If you don’t mind, may I ask what was ordered?” Thandiwe was professional to a fault in her responses.

“I ordered very rare T-bone steak with fries but that meat is so red in the centre I can see blood dripping. What sort of restaurant are you running here?”

I wanted to explain to Thandiwe that I had tried to explain to the woman why her meat was like that but in that instant I had lost function of all my speech organs. My mouth was wide open but no words would come out.

But like I said, Thandiwe was professional to a fault. Anyone else would have laughed at the uneducated wench and put her in her place for her rude behaviour…acting all high class when she was absolutely clueless.

“I am very sorry about that,” Thandie was saying in a very controlled voice. “Perhaps…may I suggest the meat to be well-done this time around? When it’s well-done, it will be cooked inside-out and you won’t see any red on it.” She was talking as if she was explaining something to a five year old but the guest was probably too dumb to pick up on that.

“I am sure there must have been some miscommunication when the restaurant took down your order. Such confusions happen a lot when guests order rare meat which is not supposed to be very cooked and well-done meat which is the one that is very cooked. I am very sorry for this inconvenience.”

She was deliberately placing emphasis on the words of contention.

It wasn’t enough that I had been caught in such an embarrassing situation, but my partner just had to be make things worse. Even though the manager had not called her dumb to her face, the delivery was enough to educate the guest in question.

I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.

“Why didn’t you tell me that that’s what I had ordered?” The woman asked me the moment we were alone. I was sitting there like a statue with a bedsheet now covering my nether area. It was the position I had assumed the moment I had realised who the manager was.

“I tried to tell you,” I said angrily. “But you just. wouldn’t. shut. the. Hell. Up. What did you think rare was, some type of gold meat?”

“I thought it was some special kind of T-bone, you know…like something I’ve never tested before.” She replied without shame.

God is truly fair indeed…because it would be really unfair for a good looking woman like that to also have a well-functioning brain.

Where did I even pick up this species from? I thought to myself.

I was done with her for the night. I kicked her out the moment she had finished her food. But the damage had already been done.

I lay in bed debating whether to go and search for Thandiwe or to wait till morning.

But what if she got off in the morning? I didn’t want to leave things like that between us. I felt like I owed her some kind of explanation. I finally gave up fighting the urge and went out to look for her.

“Your manager, can I see her?” I asked the receptionist.

“Which manager are you looking for Sir?” The pretty lady asked me. “Restaurant, housekeeping, general manager…?”

I wasn’t sure which she was. “The one that had come to room 28 where we had an incident a few hours ago,” I said.

The receptionist chuckled upon hearing that and said, “Ooh that was from your room? I didn’t know.” She had brought her hand to her mouth to muffle her laughter but it was already too late.

“Her name is Thandiwe Mwale,” I said sternly. She got the hint and quickly sobered up.

“Ah, she is the general manager,” the receptionist said. “She had just come back to take care of something when the call came from your room and she offered to attend to you since she was closest.”

“Where is she?” I asked.

“You just missed her,” she said. “She left about two minutes ago. She….”

I couldn’t stick around to the end of that sentence. I ran outside to try and catch up to her. I immediately spotted a car coming towards me from the car park and I stood in the middle of the drive way to block it, waving my arms in the air as the car drew closer.

The driver saw me at the very last second and immediately hit the emergency brakes while I fell backwards in fear of what could have been.

I heard the door open and then, “Are you alright?” I knew that voice.

She knelt down beside me and touched my hand which was covering my eyes from the bright headlights.

“Sir, are you okay?” She repeated, her voice filled with concern.

I slowly dropped my hand and looked up at her and I watched her instinctively pull her upper body away from me like she had seen some infectious bug on my face.

“What do you think you are doing?” She snapped.

It was some deva-vu kind of mess.

She got up in frustration and walked back to her car. I quickly got up and ran after her, pushed her car door shut before she could make a move to get back inside. She turned around to face me, she was furious.

“I need to talk to you,” I said to her.

“You have two minutes, talk.” She looked at her wrist watch and folded her arms across her chest.

“I need more than two minutes Thandi,” I begged. “For crying out loud we haven’t seen each other in over two years.”

“Could it be because you have been too busy these two years, Sir?” She said forcefully. “What is it you want to say to me? It’s very late and I have a family to go to.”

“Did you get married?” I asked.

“That’s none of your business.” She answered curtly.

My eyes went straight to her fingers. There was no ring in sight.

She saw the direction of my eyes and quickly hid her fingers but I had already seen what I wanted to see.

I was grinning like a fool. “How’s your son doing? Did you manage to get him the surgery? When did you move here?” I just kept firing at her, I couldn’t stop. I was curious about so many things.

“Hey Thandie, is everything okay?” A voice came from behind us.

The accent and the masculine tone of his voice was enough to drive me insane even before I set my eyes on him. He was black, tall, well-built, seemed to be either in his late twenties or early thirties. Even in that partially lit drive way, his smooth skin and accent screamed of his origins…he was definitely a foreigner.

My obvious guess was that he was British…or at least he grew up in those areas. I hated him already.

He looked like the kind of man that women, whether young or old wanted to sleep with. Just looking at him pissed me off…very very very much.

I felt invisible standing next to him.

“Alex, what are you doing here?” A very concerned Thandie addressed him.

“I was up in my room when I saw what happened here.” He was pointing up towards the top floors of the lodge. “I saw the outline of the vehicle and thought it might be you so I came to check it out.”

He could tell the outline of her vehicle from that far? Mambala uyu….

“No you didn’t have to. I was just heading out and this man appeared out of nowhere…almost bashed him but as you can see, he’s totally fine. I am sorry that you had to come all the way.”

This man?? Did she just call me this man?

“Oh no, it’s not a problem. I am glad everything is okay.” The foreigner was saying.

Dame his bloody accent. Just listening to it can make any woman fall pregnant. There should be a law against letting such men into our country. It should be a matter of Natural Law…they can fit in a clause or two about such cases.

“I have to go now, it’s getting very late,” Thandi was saying. “You should go back to your room Alex…I will see you in the morning.”

I wanted to wipe the smile off of his face. It is very unmanly for a man to be that good looking. Put lipstick on his lips and you wouldn’t tell him apart from a female.

Handsome my foot. Tsk.

“Sure, see you in the morning love,” he moved to give her a hug and she hesitantly hugged him back. It was as if I wasn’t even there. The two of them said goodbye and went their separate ways, leaving me standing in there alone like a fool.

“What time does the general manger report for work tomorrow?” I asked the receptionist before heading back to my room.

“eight,” she replied.

“Thanks,” I said and went back to my room.

That night I couldn’t sleep.

Who was that Alex guy?

What was he to Thandie?

What did Thandie think of me?

These and many such thoughts kept dancing in my head and kept me awake.

And then one question finally came to my mind that made me seat up in bed;

Why was I feeling like this all of a sudden?

I had not seen Thandie for two years and I never thought much about her. Well, maybe once in a while she would pop up in my head but that’s it. However, meeting her the way I did brought out feelings in me that I had not even been aware existed and I found myself questioning a lot of other things about my life.

Why did it take another woman who was not even my wife to make me realize I had been living such a rotten and shameful life? What had happened to me? How did I reach such a point?

And most importantly, why Thandiwe?

I realized just then exactly what price I had paid to keep my marriage.

Me.

I had sacrificed the man I used to be.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 5

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

“Martin won’t stop calling,” Mwiche said to the two women starring at her in astonishment.

“I came home from my extra lessons a few minutes ago and I overheard my mother talking to someone on the phone about what happened to you. Martin asked me to keep our mother away from you…but today was kind of….” the school girl scratched the back of her head as she searched for the right words to say.

Sibusiswe’s phone started ringing again.

Sibeso grabbed it from the table before Sibu could stop her and ran outside to take the call.

Mwiche walked over to the bed, removed her backpack from her back and put it down next to the chair she was now sitting on. With her chin resting on her hands and a grin on her face, Mwiche starred at a very startled Sibu, taking in every inch of her resting frame.

“You are very pretty,” the cheerful teenager commented. “Definitely my brother’s type. You look young, how old are you?”

“Aren’t you a little too young to be meddling in your older brother’s business?” Sibu asked.

“My brother and I are very close,” Mwiche informed Sibu. “I am the only person in the world he trusts 100% and we talk about almost everything. He also told me that you’ve been ignoring his calls ever since he left so he asked me to keep an eye on you.”

“Keep an eye on me?” Sibu asked, her eyebrows raised as she looked at the girl.

Mwiche nodded nonchalantly. “As in stalk you,” she said matter-of-factly. “But if it makes you feel any better, the stalking was only restricted to who you were seen hanging out with…as in if there were any men hanging around you, Martin wanted to be informed…I think that’s why we missed the fact that you were pregnant or that my mother would pay you a visit.”

Sibu couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “We, who’s we?” 

Mwiche laughed. “That’s Clement and me. Don’t worry it’s not some strangers following you around. Clement has been with our family for years now, he’s practically family.”

“Who the hell is Clement?” Sibu asked.

She was completely taken aback by the girl’s shameless behavior. Could it be that she didn’t know how wrong her actions were or could it be that she simply felt entitled to do whatever she liked given her family background?

“Clement is my driver. He’s such a good soul,” the school girl provided.

“Listen Mwiche,” Sibu put on a stern face. “Don’t you know that what you and your brother…and your driver are doing is illegal?”

“Well,” Mwiche sat up and raised her shoulders. “You might choose to look at it that way but I choose to look at it as looking out for my brother’s interests since he’s away. You are the first girlfriend he’s ever had so you can imagine what he must be going through.”

Sibu was dumb folded. “I am not even his girlfriend!” She said.

“But arent you pregnant for him?” Mwiche asked…and immediately put her hand over her mouth the second she realized her blunder. “I am so sorry….I didn’t mean to….”

“Just because I slept with your brother, once, doesn’t make me his girlfriend. If Martin considered every girl he slept with his girlfriend then he would be the world’s worst playa. So what if I got pregnant, that still doesn’t make me his…and besides, there’s no pregnancy any more so there’s no need for you to hang around me anymore.”

“I beg to differ,” the girl confidently answered. “Martin intends to come back to Zambia and marry you.”

Sibu sat up in bed, completely forgetting about the pain for a moment. “What did you say?”

“I said Martin is coming back, I am sure your friend will come and update you…I believe that’s why he called. He is so mad at mum he no longer cares about seeking her permission to come back.”

“You gotto be kidding me,” Sibu sulked.

Outside the hospital, Sibeso answered the call from Martin.

“Sibu are you alright? Is the baby okay?” Martin’s words came crushing down into her ears.

“Martin this is Sibeso, Sibu’s friend.”

“Ah, is Sibu okay…the baby? Where is she? What exactly happened? Where are you right now?”

“Calm down a bit and let me answer one question at a time,” Sibeso answered. “We are at the clinic right now, somewhere close to home. Sibu is fine…but she lost the baby…thanks to your mother.” She deliberately stressed the last four words.

“Shit!” Sibeso could hear something being hit from the other end of the line. “Is it possible for me to talk to Sibu?” Martin’s voice was raw with emotion.

“Not right now,” Sibeso replied. “She is pretty shaken up and…she isn’t yet ready to talk to you.”

“She is mad at me isn’t it? Oh my God…what have I done?” She could hear him pacing to and from. “How could my mother…I can’t believe this is happening….”

“Although I blame your mother for what happened, Sibu doesn’t agree with me. She thinks it was just an accident. And she isn’t mad at you pe se… She is just confused since everything happened so suddenly.”

“I know…it all happened so fast…but i wish she could have at least told me about the pregnancy then I wouldn’t have come here and nothing like this would have happened.”

“That’s exactly why she never told you in the first place.” Sibeso said. “Besides, she didn’t really think you were serious about her given your…er…past.”

There was silence on the other end of the line for a few seconds, and then, “I know,” came Martin’s tired voice. “That’s why I am coming back next week. I just need to sort out everything here first and then come back for good. Sibu has been through a lot already and the last thing I want is to add more to her problems. I won’t let anything like thing happen again, I won’t.”

Sibeso was grinning like a child that had just been handed her favourite candy bar. “I knew you weren’t completely a jerk…oops…I mean…”

Martin laughed, “I know exactly what you mean. Tell Sibu that I will call her again and this time she should pick up, okay? I think I will go crazy if I don’t hear her voice after everything that’s happened.”

“Don’t worry, I will make sure she answers this time.” Sibeso assured him.

“Thanks Sibeso, take care of her for me. Talk to you later.”

“Bye.”

**********

Aunt Tafadzwa had just finished peeling her pile of sweet potatoes and was ready to put them on the brazier when her attention was caught by the Pajero that parked into front of her house.

Living in the backdrops of Kanyama, cars like that could only be seen during funerals and weddings…and there was nothing like that happening in the neighbourhood that fateful morning.

Thus, when a posh looking woman wearing an expression that could only be matched to that of one forced to drop her nose in a pile of cow dang came out of the vehicle and stood outside her grim wired make-shift gate, Aunt Tafadzwa was forced to pause her activities and stare in awe at the scene unfolding before her.

For what felt like an hour, the woman just stood there glaring into the yard from over the short hedge as if the act itself could get the gate to open without her having to lift a finger.

Aunt Tafadzwa could not make out who the woman was given that half of her face was covered by her gigantic sunglasses. 

However, even without the shades, her shiny lips, neatly styled razor cut, DVF gown with well-matched shoes and purse said she was someone from another universe.

As Aunt Tafadzwa looked on from Inside the yard, wondering whether the rude looking woman was going to come in or not, she put her cooking tools down and waited for the woman to make a move.

Mrs Mwewa wondered why the woman staring at her was not coming over to open the gate for her. She tried motioning for her to open the gate but the woman only shrugged her shoulders in response.

Does she expect me to touch this filthy looking thing she considers a gate? Mrs Mwewa thought as she hovered her finger over the said gate, her face ridden with disgust.

Nga tauleingila bwekela eko ufumine,” Aunt Tafadwa shouted from where she was standing, her hands resting on either side of her waist.

She speaks Bemba? Mrs Mwewa said and smiled instinctively as she removed her sunglasses. “Mulishani mayo,” she greeted.

“Are you going to enter or not?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked again, not bothering to mask her irritation. “If you put your hand on the gate and push it forward, it will open.”

Stubborn woman, how can she not be fazed by someone like me? Mrs Mwewa stretched her leg, pushed the gate using her foot and entered the yard.

“How may I help you?” Aunt Tafadzwa asked sternly.

“Are you Bemba by any chance?” Mrs Mwewa asked.

Aunt Tafadzwa threw her an are you serious kind of look.

“You spoke Bemba earlier….” Mrs Mwewa provided.

“Only because I assumed you are Bemba. It’s typical of Bemba women to act the way you did when they visit someone’s home.”

“I find your stereotyping offensive,” Mrs Mwewa shot back.

“Had I not spoken Bemba, would you have entered the yard on your own? You stood there close to five minutes acting like the Queen of England, expecting the whole lot of me to come running to you…. You do know that even the Queen removes her own poop from her ass with her own hands right?”

Okay, I get your point,” Mrs Mwewa said. “I didn’t come here to fight with you…I came all the way here to negotiate with you.”

“Negotiate with me? Do you know me?”

“I got to know about you two weeks ago,” Mrs Mwewa answered. “Is there somewhere we can sit?” She was looking at the Mango tree in the corner of the yard where a mat was laid out below it. 

“Do you have a stool or something? I am not a mat person.”

Aunt Tafadzwa wanted stared at her peevishly, her nose enlarging in the process. She grabbed the stool she had been sitting on whilst preparing her food and carried it to the tree. She placed it down to the side and sat down on the mat.

Mrs Mwewa removed a piece of cloth from her purse and laid it on top of the stool before sitting down as Aunt Tafadzwa looked on discordantly, offended by the woman’s out-right impolite behaviour.

“So how may I help you?” A belligerent Aunt Tafadzwa asked.

“Don’t you know who I am?” Mrs Mwewa arrogantly asked.

Aunt Tafadzwa threw her another peevish look. “I’m I supposed to know who you are?”

Mrs Mwewa was outraged. “I am on television and in the papers almost every week, my family too. Are you telling me you don’t know who Mr Martin Mwewa is?”

“No,” came the curt response.

“We own half of the property in this country. Gosh, don’t you read or watch TV?”

“What do you want from me?” Aunt Tafadzwa completely brushed her off.

“Haven’t you heard anything about me or my family from your niece?” The disappointed woman asked.

“Did Sibu do something against your rich family?” She asked sarcastically.

“As a matter of fact, she did.”

“And so you came to me to complain?” The woman wasn’t moved in the slightest.

Mrs Mwewa’s chagrin grew a few inches wider.  “I take it you and your niece aren’t very close…I thought you were the only family she has.”

“Look here Mrs Mwelya or whatever they call you,” Aunt Tafadzwa snapped. “What exactly brings you here?”

The plutocrat representative cleared her throat noisily. “Your niece got pregnant by my son, were you aware?”

Finally, there was real emotion on Aunt Tafadzwa’s face. She was petrified, but only for a few seconds. “Sibu, pregnant?” she scoffed. “I think you have the wrong girl.”

“Sibusiswe Hangaala, eighteen years old, works as a front desk manager for M&M, and the breadwinner of Tafadzwa N’cube’s family. Did I get it right?”

“Sibu is pregnant?” It seemed the truth had finally sunk in. “No wonder she’s been avoiding me like crazy these past few months. I hope your family is ready to pay for damages…like you said, that girl is the breadwinner of this family. I certainly won’t accept some bastard child into the family. Your son will have to take full responsibility.”

As Aunt Tafadzwa was talking, Mrs Mwewa gaped at her in total disbelief. “Is that all you have to say to me?” She asked. “No wonder the child went off and seduced the first rich guy she came across. I can only imagine what it must be like being raised by someone like you.”

Aunt Tafadzwa gawked at her visitor, her arms up on her waist. “If you insist on insulting me, then I will go to the nearest TV station and tell anyone willing to listen that the son of one of the richest people in the country raped my niece and made her pregnant.”

“What?” Mrs Mwewa was up on her feet.

“You heard me,” Aunt Tafadzwa stood up as well and faced off with the stranger. “Didn’t you say that you are some big person and your family owns this and that? If you thought coming here in your fancy clothes and car would intimidate me into ordering my niece to leave your son alone, then you got your calculations all wrong. I had no idea my niece was so talented…” and speaking in a lower register, more to herself than her guest, she added, “she went and caught herself a big fish and thought she could hide everything from me….”

“What did you just say?” Mrs Mwewa asked.

Aunt Tafadzwa blinked, waved her hand across her face and smirked. “Never mind that,did you come here to talk about the marriage?”

“What marriage?” Mrs Mwewa didn’t take well to being deafen at her own game. “You think I am going to let my precious son marry someone like your niece? You must be deluded.”

“Then why are you here…and what do you intend to do about my niece whom your precious son has defiled?”

Mrs Mwewa scoffed. “Defiled?” She muttered. “Anyway, I think you and your niece need to sit down and catch up because that girl had a miscarriage only a few days ago and I am not surprised she chose to keep it a secret from you.”

Aunt Tafadzwa froze.

“I came here to tell you to keep a tight leash on her because if she continues to mess up my son’s life, I will personally see to it that her life becomes more miserable than it already is. No one messes with a Mwewa and gets away with it. Who does she think she is…shaking up my son like that.”

“It is true that Sibu and I have some issues but if there is one thing I know without needing any proof, it is that she wasn’t the one that did the chasing. If anything needs stopping, it should be your son. From all that rich education he’s been getting, did he skip the class on using protection?”

The two women stared at each with enough intensity to charge any dead batteries lying around.

“I heard that you are a marketeer,” Mrs Mwewa relaxed her features a bit. “What if I offered to open up a shop for you in a good location, fully stocked, can you promise to convince your niece to stay away from my Martin?”

There was a sudden glow in Aunt Tafadzwa’s eyes as she mulled over the things she had just heard. 

Mrs Mwewa smirked upon seeing the effect of her words on the shabby looking woman standing before her.

But then Sibu’s aunt suddenly turned serious as she looked up at Mrs Mwewa. “Why don’t you give me some time to think about it first,” she said. “I think I still need to talk to my niece first so I can understand what’s going on.”

“How long do you need to think?” Mrs Mwewa asked. “…because this offer is only open for a very short time.”

“Two days, give me two days tops.” She said.

Mrs Mwewa opened her purse, took out a business card and handed it to Aunt Tafadzwa. “Call me in two days’ time on any of those numbers and I will tell you where we can meet. I don’t see myself coming back here….” she made a face as she looked around the surroundings.

Aunt Tafadzwa examined the business card in her hands. “I will call,” she said as a smile started playing at the corners of her lips.
* * *
“So you got knocked up by some rich bloke and you decide to keep it a secret from me?” Aunt Tafadzwa had summoned Sibusiswe to her house in the early hours of the next morning after her encounter with Mrs Mwewa.

Sibu was taken aback by her aunt’s words. “How did you….” she stuttered.

Her aunt scoffed. “Do you think there’s anything about you I don’t know?” He retorted smugly.

Auntie….” Sibu started to explain.

Aunt Tafadzwa brushed her hand in the air to shut her up. “I already know that you miscarriaged so there’s no need for you to look at me like that.” Leaning forward in her brown tattered couch in her living room that didn’t suit to be anywhere inside a room meant for receiving guests, Aunt Tafadzwa glared at Sibu threateningly. “Did you think that getting rid of the baby would keep me from finding out?” She said in a menacingly low tone.

“Instead of running around like a headless chicken, you should have been more careful. Do you hate me that much that you got rid of such an opportunity that would have propelled my kids and I up the social ladder?”

Sibu was slowly shaking her head, not believing the direction the conversation was taking. “Aunt,  I just lost a child and all you seem to care about is climbing the social ladder?” Sibu angrily rebuked her aunt. “Am I really your niece? Gosh, is this the way to treat the only child of someone you constantly claim you loved with your life?” There were tears welling up her eyes.

Aunt Tafadwa’z eyes danced around in renewed excitement. “How dare you, with that dirty mouth of yours bring my sister into this?” she roared. “If you had not killed my sister in the first place then we wouldn’t be having this kind of conversation.”

Sibusiswe lowered her gaze and starred at the floor guiltily.

Her aunt smirked in satisfaction. “Your future mother in-law paid me a visit,” she suddenly announced.

Sibu looked up at her in disbelief. “Mother in-law?” she quizzed her aunt.

“Yes,” Aunt Tafadzwa replied nonchalantly. “The mother to the father of your child.”

“She is not my future mother in-law auntie,” Sibu corrected her.

“Says who?” The woman curtly responded. “She came here acting all high and mighty, throwing a few figures around like am some sort of fool. But she really underestimated me,” she grinned proudly while her niece looked on with a puzzled look on her face.

“Instead of falling for her short term stupid offer,” Aunt Tafadzwa continued, “I came up with a long term plan that will turn us into billionaires.”

What are you talking about?” Sibu finally asked.

Her aunt had this faraway look on her face as she plotted in her mind. “What is the current status of your relationship with this Martin guy?” She was now looking at her eighteen year old niece expectantly.

“I am not in a relationship with him auntie.” Sibu said between clenched teeth, putting emphasis on every single word.

Aunt Tefadzwa looked like she had just accidently swallowed a bitter pill. “What do you mean you are not in a relationship?” She asked. “Mrs Mwewa already told me everything so don’t even think about lying to me,” she warned sternly. “You are still as selfish as ever. If you think you will keep such a blessing only to yourself while my family languishes in poverty then you have another thing coming.”

Sibu was dumb folded. “Are you even human?” She got up from the sofa that was threatening to swallow her whole bottom and was more than ready to fly out of the room when her aunt’s next words brought her to an immediate halt.

“If you marry Martin even for just a few years and do what I want, I promise to let you go…I will forget everything about the past. You get your freedom…and I get some riches.”

For a moment, Sibu stood there frozen on the spot with her back to her aunt.

Freedom.

The word played around in her head. She had never dared dream of such a thing before….

Freedom, the word echoed in her head.

I think you should do as my mother says,” a voice commanded from behind her. 

Sibu turned around. 

Because She Loved Me – Part 1

because she loved me

 

I had never cheated on my wife before, never.

It was not because I was a perfect husband…there were many times I almost gave in to temptation but I never did because I had a lot of respect for her.

I loved her that much.

I loved Thabo so much she would have asked me to bring down the moon for her and I would have tried…I would have failed of course…but I would have still tried because I was that much crazy in love with her.

But what is a man to do when the wife he has so relentlessly loved for the past thirteen years looked him in the eye and told him that the boy that had called him dad for the past eight years…the boy he had proudly called son and shown off to his family and friends…that that boy was not his?

“It had happened only once,” she had said whilst crying.

It was during the two years I was abroad pursuing my Master’s Degree and she had given in once…only once to a moment of weakness. How was she to know that I would show up at the doorstep the very next day to surprise her? And when she announced the pregnancy, the thought of that child not being mine had not even crossed her mind.

But it happened…and there I was, standing in front of this beautiful 25 year old innocent looking woman;

“Can you pay me 500 bucks if I sleep with you tonight?” The woman had confronted me at the door of the club as I was leaving and whispered the words straight into my ears.

There was nothing about her that suggested she could be a woman of the night. She had on a short pleated dress that hang slightly above her knees exposing just enough leg to make any man want to explore her hidden chambers.

Apart from her seductive and inviting red lips, the rest of the make-up on her face was very light. In fact, if you were not looking close enough as I since her face was now only a few inches away from mine, you could barely see it.

She was by all standards what most people consider a natural beauty, the kind that forces you to smile at them willy-nilly.

As I stood there gaping at her, I wondered what a young beautiful woman like her was doing working the night. There was something in her eyes that told me this was her first time picking up a customer but the courage with which she spoke and carried herself would have put any experienced working woman to shame just looking at her.

God, she was so beautiful I could barely breathe just looking into her big eyes.

For thirteen years I had never looked at another woman other than my wife the way I did that woman who had come out of nowhere.

I wanted to possess this woman whose looks reeked of a certain innocence that did not belong to that tawdry night atmosphere.

I wanted…no, I needed to disappear inside her until everything I had ever believed in for the past thirteen years completely disappeared from my mind.

I wanted her to help me.

I desperately needed her.

“Can you make me forget everything if I paid you a 1000 bucks?” I asked the pretty lady who smelled of scented soap and something else I wanted to drown myself into.

She nervously nodded.

It wasn’t enough to convince me but at that moment I didn’t care. I just needed to do whatever it took to release the frustrations I had been holding on to all day long that day and she had appeared before me like an answer to a man’s desperate prayer.

I booked us into the nearest lodge and I hit the bed the moment we were locked inside while I waited for her to get herself ready since she had asked to use the bathroom.

When ten minutes went by and she still hadn’t appeared from the bathroom, I started to worry.

I had heard a lot of stories from my friends and just people around about hookers that used funny tricks and performed rituals on unsuspecting men; the moment that thought crossed my mind, my heart begun racing.

I quickly checked myself to see if everything was intact; it seemed all was in order.

It was a good thing I still had all my clothes on despite certain parts of my body threatening to pop out on their own.

I slowly got up from the bed and tip-toed to the bathroom. Outside the door, I leaned in and listened. I could hear her voice, she was saying something…whispering, I think…because I couldn’t make out what was being said.

Had she been on the phone all that time? I wondered.

And so I slowly opened the door a crack and there she was in just her red lingerie kneeling down on the floor with her head bowed down. It looked like she was praying…wait….

Was she praying???

Did I just hire myself a praying hooker? What the hell was going on?

My mind was all over the place and for a moment I lost confidence in both my eyes and ears.

And suddenly, there was enough room for me to breathe in the pants that had become so tight during the short drive to the lodge.

That night, I discovered the quickest antidote to losing a hard-on.

I looked again, her hands were shaking…gosh she was shaking all over whilst tightly holding on to what I presumed was a crucifix hanging from her neck.

“Forgive me God…forgive me…forgive me…please forgive me Jesus….” She kept repeating. I had never before witnessed such a heart wrenching scene and I was a man who only that morning had witnessed the woman he loved with all his life bawl her eyes out and grovel incessantly before him begging for his forgiveness.

“I know I have no business asking you this Lord…but please…” the woman continued. “I need the strength…please Jesus…only once, just this once look the other way and forgive my sins. If my son can get live… If you can let him live…I promise to surrender my soul completely to you for the rest of my life…I promise.”

Guessing that she was winding up, I quickly shut the door and ran back to the bed. She came out a few seconds later, a smile on her face that exposed the dimples on her cheeks so deep I wanted to swim my tongue in her mouth in spite of the recent developments.

Unfortunately, her sexy smile was not enough to hide her red puffy eyes.

She had been crying.

I felt a pang in my chest.

I just stood there looking at her as if my worst nightmare had come to life.

“Are you alright?” She asked. It seemed my confusion hadn’t gone unnoticed.

I didn’t know what to say to her…but I knew one thing for sure, I wasn’t going to be doing any forgetting that night. What was worse was that instead of forgetting, I feared I might have picked up a few more memories that would haunt me for life.

“Put your clothes back on,” I said to her, turning to look the other way.

“What?” She asked, sounding very surprised.

Next thing I knew she was kneeling before me by the bed. “Is it that you don’t like the way I look?” There were tears welling up in her eyes.

“Do you see yourself?” I asked, turning to look at her and making sure to focus my gaze only on her face. “You are hot as hell and I can bet you any woman would kill to have a body like yours.”

“Then why…?” she started to ask.

I looked at her, wondering whether to be honest with her or not. “I saw and heard what you did in the bathroom,” I said.

There was trepidation written all over face. “Ooh,” she said in haunted resignation. “I am very sorry….you see…this is my first time…I have never done anything like this before,” she nervously tried to explain. “…but I promise I will do whatever you tell me to do, I promise.”

I could tell she meant every word of it. This woman wore her soul in her eyes. I could see every emotion she was feeling and trying to hide in there.

“Get up,” I held her by the arms and we both got up, I from the bed and she from the floor. I led her back into the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

“Get dressed,” I repeated. “We will talk when you are done.”
She came out a few minutes later looking nervous like my son…my wife’s son did whenever he was caught doing something bad.

Dear Lord, I could not stand to look into her big brown eyes. My heart could not take any more heartbreak.

And so I took out a 1000 grand from my wallet and put it in her hands. “Take this,” I said.

She looked confused, and rightly so. “But I never did anything….” She looked ready to cry.

“Is this money for real…or it’s one of those….”

I laughed. So we had the same fears after all.

“I can assure you I am not that kind,” I tried reassuring her. “I am only giving it to you because I heard what you prayed for in there,” I motioned towards the bathroom. “I know I have my own sins but I think there’s a reason why you of all women picked me of all men out there. I am not forcing you to take my money but I am certainly not sleeping with you…I guess the Lord doesn’t sleep after all….” I said as I started heading to the door.

“I am going to leave now,” I announced with my back to her. “…since I already paid for the room, you can spend the night and order some breakfast tomorrow.” I had reached the door and was about to open it when her voice hit me from behind.

“What is your name?” She asked me, her voice shaking from whatever demons she was fighting inside of her.

I turned back around to look at her. “I don’t think there’s any need for us to exchange names since we won’t be meeting again.” Then I turned back to open the door and was half way through when a thought crossed my mind.

I turned to face her again. “I know it’s none of my business….” I started to say. “But I don’t think you are cut out for this kind of job. Don’t you have any other options…have you tried applying for jobs? You look intelligent…I am sure you’ve been to school….”

“I have a job,” She answered. “I work as a cashier but the pay isn’t much. I only went up to grade 12 so you know…” She shrugged her shoulders.

“I see,” I said. “What’s wrong with your son? I heard you say something about him in there….”

“He is sick…” she said, her face turning grim. “Listen,” She continued, “I don’t feel so good getting your money for free. Isn’t there something I can do for you to pay you back? I can wash and clean and do plenty other stuff.”

I shook my head. “There’s no need for that. You quitting this would be more than enough payment to me. Do you think you can do that?”

She quickly nodded. “I thought I could do it…I had rehearsed it in my mind so many times but when it finally came down to it…I just couldn’t…I am very embarrassed right now, you have no idea. I had been standing outside that club for close to two hours and I couldn’t get myself to pick any of those men…until you came out. There was something about you…” She was now tearing up. “I know…it’s embarrassing….” She closed her eyes and dropped her head.

“Embarrassment is a good thing,” I said, trying to sound like a wise man. “You should get worried the moment you stop feeling embarrassed.” Not trusting myself to stick to the decision I made, I quickly said goodnight to her.

“It was nice meeting you….”

“Thandiwe Mwale,” she provided her name.

In that moment, I started to regret.

I wish she had never told me her name.

I wish I had just walked out of there without asking any questions.

Because I could not forget her name, I became the kind of man that deserved the sins his wife had committed against him.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 4

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

 I loved my life before I was made aware of things I lacked.
I looked forward to each day knowing I was drawing closer to the end.
I lived only for her forgiveness
And I vowed to do everything in my power to earn it
Day after day, I wished…no, I hoped the price of life I owed was reducing
But perhaps that was my sin….

I should have been content with just breathing.
I thought I was content…and I believed it too.
However, how was I to know that the one time…
The very first time I found myself in a cloudy storm that I lose my way?
They told me that love was a good thing
Yet all it did for me was push me to the brink of death.

The moment I tasted it, I wanted more…and more…and more.
I developed expectations…
I discovered feelings in certain parts of my body I never knew existed
And before I knew it,
All the debt I had paid before went obsolete.
Suddenly, there were two things I longed to have;
Her forgiveness…and my freedom.

Was I asking for too much?

*         *         *

 

Summer 2004

“So where’s Junior taking you tomorrow?” Sibeso had just arrived from work. After banging through the door like a thief on the run, she dropped her handbag on the floor of their tiny living room and rushed to the kitchen where she could hear Sibusiswe preparing supper.

Sibu who was trying to thoroughly mix mealie-meal with the slightly heated water in a small pot rolled her eyes in consternation and sarcastically answered, “Oh yeah, my day has been gre-a-t thank you for asking dear friend of mine. How was yours?”

Sibeso waved her hand in the air dismissively as she sat down on the one of the two chairs by their small kitchen table that also served as a dining table. “Yeah yeah yeah whatever…. If you truly cared about me you wouldn’t have called me in the middle of the day, tell me that one of the coolest guys in the country asked you out on a date and then ask me to wait for the rest of the details…now that’s just wicked, it’s pure evil Sibu and you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Can’t you see how much weight I have lost in just these few hours trying to keep myself from going insane? My metabolism is having a field day!”

Sibu laughed so hard she had to hold her hand to her stomach as she tried to get her breath in order. “You are such a drama queen Sibe. Calm down,” she said, putting a lid over the pot and resting the cooking stick on top before joining her friend at the table.

“I am sorry I left you hanging like that but I had to attend to some clients that came during lunch so I couldn’t stay on the phone.”

Sibeso was frantically nodding her head, urging her to get straight to the point. “Umhu, yeah, yeah, so what happened with Martin, what did you tell him when he asked you out? How did he even ask you out?”

Sibu grinned, “You know that guy,” she said. “He is so full of himself so he just shamelessly came over to the table where Peggy and I were having lunch and asked if I had any plans for the long weekend. I told him I did of course and….”
“Hold up,” Sibeso held her hand out and gawked at her friend. “You told him what?”

“I told him I already have plans. You and I both know what he wants from me and I am never gonna give it to him. You think I am the only girl he’s asked out in that company…and outside? He has slept with almost everything that gets wet between the legs and he thinks he can add me to his long list. No way.”

Sibeso’s incredulity at her best friend’s words could not be hidden from her face. “What if he is serious this time?” She asked.

Sibu scoffed. “Can you hear yourself? You should really stop watching those dramas, they are messing up your reality Sibeso.”

Sibeso turned her chair around so she could look at her friend directly. “Tell me, from the time he started asking you out or showing interest in you, have you seen him with any other girl?”

Sibu thought for a moment. “Well…now that you mention it….”

“Exactly!” Sibeso hit her hand on the table causing Sibu to almost jump from her chair.

Sibu was shaking her head slowly. “You are really bent on dating Junior vicariously through me, aren’t you?”

Sibeso nodded unabashedly. “You dating him is as close to reality for me as it will ever be and I won’t allow you to take this away from me!”

Sibu laughed and shaking her head she said, “You truly have no shame my friend…no shame. But if you must know, Martin didn’t buy that I have plans….”

There was a glimmer of hope radiating through Sibeso’s eyes.

“After I told him I already have plans, he blatantly told me to cancel them,” Sibu continued, “Can you imagine that? …said I still owed him for last week when he took me for a drive after that Aunt Tafadzwa incident.”

“He is right you know,” Sibeso opined. “Last week was the first time I saw you come back home smiling after such an episode with your aunt. You should have seen yourself Sibu, you were glowing. You can keep denying it for all I care but I think you have already fallen for Martin.”

“I haven’t fallen for him at all,” Sibu countered. “That day I was just feeling a little grateful because of what he did…there is nothing more to it. It wouldn’t have mattered whether it was Martin or someone else, I would feel the same kind of gratitude.”

Sibeso jeered at her friend, shaking her head and letting her tongue hang out. “Keep lying to yourself and let those cobwebs from between your legs multiply till they keep you from walking. Just go out on one date with the guy even if it’s just to say thank you…and let’s see how thing go from there. The problem with you is, you will say no now but then keep beating yourself up about it whilst wallowing in self-pity…it’s like you take pleasure in being miserable. You and my mother must have been sisters in your previous lives…you are both allergic to good things.”

That night, Martin was all Sibusiswe could think about as she kept pondering what to do about his offer…or rather, his demand for a date.

 

“I didn’t bath today and even though I brushed my teeth, I chewed a lot of garlic so don’t even think about doing something funny with me,” Sibu warned Martin when he came to pick her up at the flats the next morning.

Martin snickered as he held the door open for her to get in. “You are something else Sibu, you know that?” He had leaned in to address her before closing the door. “I guess I should have warned you that I love the smell of garlic on a woman…” he smirked, pulled back and closed the door while Sibu reeled in her seat, her face hanging like that of someone about to cry.

Outside, Martin grinned in delectation as he walked back to the driver’s seat.

Martin had just gotten back on the highway when he turned to Sibu and saw the manner in which she was seated. He couldn’t help laughing.

“You need to relax Sibu,” he said.

Sibu had her legs closed tied together and her handbag deliberately positioned on her laps, with her hands resting on top.

“You do know that it’s hard for me to try and do something to you whilst I’m driving and keep us both alive, right? Although…” his eyes went to where her bag was resting. “…although I have been told that I work perfectly well even with one hand….” he playfully stretched his hand out in her direction and thus sent Sibu wailing in protest as she rolled her body into a ball, fear written all over her face.

Martin bust out laughing, taking his hand back onto the steering wheel.

“I will scream and jump out of this vehicle if you continue acting like this Martin.” Sibu warned.

“C’mon Sibu, seat back down comfortably…you are making me feel bad now. What kind of monster do you think I am?” Martin’s face suddenly turned grim and sober.

Sibu was looking over at him contritely…had she perhaps overreacted?

She sat back down properly.

“Do you really think that I am sort of sex maniac or something?” Martin asked.

“Well, you haven’t really done much to reprobate the rumours,” she answered.

“Up until now,” Martin said. “I didn’t mind such rumours…actually thought they made me look cool. Such rumours saved me from having to explain myself to girls about why I never bothered to call them the next day…but when I see you constantly push me away, there’s a pang in my chest I just can’t explain…and there you go again,” he pointed at her. “I can literally see your thoughts on your face! You are thinking I bet he tells all girl’s that…aren’t you?”

Sibu’s face flashed red. “You caught me,” she admitted and smiled shyly.

“Wow, I will never be able to win your trust will I?” There was something about that realization that tore at Martin.

When Sibu looked over at Martin, she felt the disappointment radiating from every part of his body. For a moment she entertained the idea of getting to know him on her own terms instead of what she had heard about him. What could be wrong with getting to know a friend better? She silently reasoned.

“So where are you taking me today?” Sibu asked after they had been driving for a while, with Usher’s Confessions playing in the background.

“We are going to Livingstone….”

Sibu jolted in her seat in astonishment. “What?” she asked. “You are kidding, right?”

Martin shook his head. “No chance,” he replied. “I knew that if I told you in advance, you would refuse to come along…and don’t bother about the doors, they won’t open even if you try.”

Sibu sat back in exasperation. “It is foolishness on my part to have trusted you,” she said curtly. “I am coming back today whether you like it or not, with or without you…I will find my way back. Don’t even dream about us spending the night there.”

“I was actually hoping to spend the long weekend there,” Martin said nonchalantly.

Sibu looked at him peevishly. “You can stick to your plans; I will stick to mine too.”

“What scares you the most about spending time with me Sibu,” Martin asked. “That I might be using you for my own selfish reasons or that you might actually end up falling for me?”

“You really don’t expect me to answer that do you?” Sibu asked.

“It’s a rhetoric question…but I wouldn’t mind getting an answer.”

“Well you won’t. I just wish for once you could stop being so self-centred and think about other people’s feelings as well.”

“I did think about your feelings Sibu, I did,” Martin asserted. “But during these few months I’ve known you, I have learnt that you are not in the slightest interested in dating anyone, not me, not anyone else. You will do anything to avoid getting attached to anyone. If I told you what my plans were, you wouldn’t have even given it any thought. I like you, a lot…and I intend to do everything possible to make you start considering me.”

“Considering you for what Martin, us dating? Do you even think that’s possible? You only have a few more days left till you go back to the UK and you expect me to believe that your intentions with me are honourable?”

“I won’t go back to the UK if you don’t want me to…or we could go back together. I will do anything you want.” Martin announced.

Sibu gapped at him in disbelief. “You are really going all out in your mission aren’t you? Is this how hard you work to get women in bed…or is it just me that’s thrown you off your game?”

“I am not playing games with you,” Martin said. “If you like, you can just agree to be my girl…we don’t have to sleep together…although I wish we could kiss or something…” Sibu threw him a disdainful look before he continued, “…and when the time comes for me to leave, let’s see if I will go or not…and if you are impressed, then you can think about whether to go with me or continue being my girl while I finish school right here. What do you say?”

Martin’s words seemed to move Sibu into slight perturbation. “Why would you make such radical decisions just to be with someone you hardly know? Would you believe yourself if the tables were turned?” She asked.

Martin laughed softly and shaking his head he said, “I too wouldn’t believe…I can’t even believe that I just said those words to you but they just came out. That’s how desperate my heart is to have you. Ever since I met you there hasn’t been a moment that has gone by that you haven’t crossed my mind. Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy…like I am losing my mind. Many times I have talked myself out of it thinking it’s just an obsession because you’ve been rejecting me…which could be true because it’s the first time I have been so out-rightly rejected by anyone. You broke my pride…so at the beginning I guess it was a matter of restoring my injured pride but after that day at work…with you and your aunt…it became something else…something more…and I feel like I am going to lose my mind if I don’t possess you.”

“Possess me?” Sibu asked. “Do you even hear yourself? Who uses such words to win over a woman? Do you think I am some kind of property?”

“I am trying to be honest with you, that’s how I feel and I know it doesn’t sound nice but that’s the most overpowering feeling I keep having. I can’t tell you its love or that I have fallen head over heels in-love with you…I have never been in-love before and I don’t plan to. All I know is that I feel for you more than I have ever felt for anyone, ever. I have never used flowery words before and if I tried now, you definitely wouldn’t believe any of it.”

Sibu was at a loss for words and wondered what to say or feel in response.

Should I be upset?

Should I feel insulted?

What would I have preferred to hear?

And just why do I feel so confused?

She could barely do any form of thinking since her mind was running out of control. She could not tell whether Martin was being honest or just playing his cards well. She had no way of knowing unless she threw caution to the wind and dared to try. Up until then, she had not even considered being in a relationship with Martin. She was not looking for a relationship and she did not want or need one.

But what was that feeling in her heart threatening to crush her to pieces if she didn’t stop to listen?

Sibu hit her hand over her chest as if to force her heart to do her bidding.

She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she did not hear her phone ring from her bag.

“Check your phone,” Martin tagged her.

Sibu immediately recovered and removed her phone from the bag. When she flipped it open, she found it was Ted calling.

“Hi Ted,” she said the moment she had the phone to her ear.

Martin tensed up in his seat, gripping the steering wheel angrily.

“Hi Sibu,” Ted said from the other end of the line. “What are you up to?” he asked.

Sibu looked at Martin before responding. “I am heading out of town right now. What’s up?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I see,” sounded the resignation in Ted’s voice. “Are you with Martin?” He finally asked.

After a pause, “yes,” was all Sibu could manage for a reply.

“I see,” came Ted’s response. “How long will you be gone for?”

Another pause, then, “hopefully today,” Sibu said winning herself a look of excoriation from Martin.

“Is that Ted?” Martin asked and without waiting for confirmation, he grabbed the phone from Sibu and held it to his ear. “Hi Ted,” he said.

“Martin,” Ted said between clenched teeth.

“Sorry I couldn’t hang with you guys this long weekend,” Martin said. “I am desperately trying to win the heart of the owner of this phone so I’m pulling all the stops necessary. Wish me luck buddy!”

There was a long silence from the other end.

“Ted, are you still there?” Martin asked.

All along, Sibu was staring at him in incredulity.

“Yeah, I’m here,” came Ted’s snippy reply. “You guys have fun,” he sounded unconvincing. “I have to go now.” And he ended the call before Martin could give a response.

With a smirk on his face, he handed the phone back to Sibu.

“That was very childish,” Sibu immediately chastised him after getting her phone back. “Did you have to do that?”

Martin’s features suddenly hardened. “I know it was childish, but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stand you talking to another man while I am right next to you.”

“Ted is not another man; he is your friend…and also my friend. You deliberately made it so that he can have some sort of misunderstanding, I don’t appreciate that Martin.”

Martin glared at her. “Why do you care what Ted thinks is going on between us?”

Sibu didn’t answer immediately, but when she eventually did, it was to say, “I happen to like Ted…I just don’t want him misunderstanding me or thinking I am some type of woman.”

“So being with me makes you some type of woman?” Martin queried her.

Sibu  shook her head. “That’s not what I meant,” she tried to redeem herself.

“Then why do you openly lead Ted on while you shut me out completely any opportunity you get?”

Sibu couldn’t provide an immediate response.

“I guess because it’s easy for me to trust Ted….” She finally managed.

“I will make it so I earn your trust Sibu…I promise,” Martin declared with such conviction it gave Sibu pause.

*         *         *

Two months had gone by since Sibusiswe had last seen Martin.

The mood at home between Sibeso and Sibusiswe one Sunday afternoon had gone sour after the two girls had engaged in a heated argument about Sibu’s choices concerning Martin.

Sibu was seated on the railing of the balcony, her back resting against the wall and her feet hanging from either side of the railing as she sulked in the aftermath of the exchange. Sibeso on the other hand was lying down on mat, her legs raised and her feet resting against the outside wall of their living room.

For Sibu and Sibeso, the balcony was the best part of the house. The girls had been excited when they discovered that their apartment had access to one of the four balconies in the building.

Five minutes had gone by without a word being shared between the two. For a moment Sibu focused her gaze on the activities happening down below while Sibeso kept tapping one foot against the wall, du du du pa pa pa as if sounding off whatever melody was playing in her head.

Frustrated from the unending silence, Sibeso suddenly dropped her feet to the floor and jolted her back up, glaring at Sibu who had also turned to look at her.

“Are you seriously going to keep avoiding the topic like this?” Sibeso finally snapped.

“I don’t like how you rate every decision I make childish,” Sibu fired back. “Just because you are a few years older than me doesn’t make you wise. I think I am old enough to know what is best for myself.”

Sibeso got up from the mat and went to sit on the other end of the balcony railing, and after mimicking Sibu’s sitting position she said, “I did not say all those things because I thought I was wiser than you Sibu,” Sibeso tried reasoning with her visibly agitated friend.

“I am just trying to look out for you,” she continued. “You are just too young to raise this child on your own. You need to let Martin know and I am sure he will gladly take responsibility for the both of you. Had you not insisted that he leave for the country, he would have stayed here with you.”

Sibu pulled her head back against the wall, brought her hand to her forehead and sighed heavily as she mulled over Sibeso’s words. “What if he thinks I am trying to trap him or something?” Sibu’s tone was riddled with emotion. “That night in Livingstone…” she shut her eyes and curled her face all up wishing to drive the past into oblivion. “I don’t know what happened…or how it happened…and ever since, I have wanted nothing but to kill myself except…except, I can’t even afford such luxury. I guess this pregnancy is the punishment I get for throwing caution to the wind and giving in to urges I had absolutely no idea I was capable of feeling.”

Sibeso dragged herself forward and reduced the distance between them. She reached out and took Sibu’s hands into hers. “So what if you made a mistake?” Sibeso said. “The problem with you Sibu is that you always only focus the negative. You are assuming Martin won’t want the baby, but….”

With her arms still locked into Sibeso’s, Sibu shook her head, two heavy drops of tears slid down her cheeks. “He knew all along that I would give in and I did…he got what he wanted and I know Martin…I can bet he has already forgotten I exist so…how do you expect me to drop him a bomb as big as this one? What I’m I even supposed to say, hey Martin, remember that night…that one night you had your way with me…well, now I am pregnant! Does that sound as melodic to you as I does to me?” Sibu asked sarcastically.

Sibeso reached out her hand and used the back of it to wipe the tears from Sibu’s face, one hand still holding on to the other hand.

“You are pregnant for Martin?” A voice came from the entrance leading to the balcony and sent both girls scampering to their feet.

They didn’t need to ask to know who the overly dressed woman in a royal blue suit with a matching fedora hat so huge it threatened to swallow up the whole place she was standing in was. Her pink spool heels felt right at home with the pink blouse peeping through the jacket and the pick feathers on top of her blue hat.

The girls could easily picture bees having a jolly good time inside her pink and blue designer handbag. She was glowing in pollination bliss.

“Mrs Mwewa…” Sibu and Sibeso said at once.

“Did you just say that you were pregnant for my son?” The woman asked sternly.

“Wait,” Sibeso suddenly regained her composure. “How did you get in here? Did you just enter someone’s house without permission?”

Sibu tried to nudge her friend but Sibeso wouldn’t have any of it. She could tell from the woman’s demeanour that she wasn’t there for a friendly visit and she certainly didn’t look like a Jehovah’s Witness coming to deliver good news to them.  The loud stench of her overpriced costume was enough to announce her intentions without having her open her mouth.

“I kept knocking but there was no response and when I tried to open the door, it actually opened and so….” Mrs Mwewa shamelessly tried to explain her presence at the balcony.

“What are you doing here ma’am?” A very nervous Sibu asked.

“You must be our dear heroine,” Mrs Mwewa said scathingly. “So your pregnancy is the reason my son has been insisting on coming back to this god-forsaken country to finish his studies?”

Sibu was shaking her head frantically. “No…no…Martin doesn’t know….”

“Why are you here Mrs Mwewa?” Sibeso asked curtly.

Mrs Mwewa glared in Sibeso’s direction, unimpressed by the girl’s rudeness. “Who are you by the way?” she aimed her sharp edged eyebrows at her.

“I am Sibu’s elder sister and I am the owner of this little house you just broke into.” Sibeso retorted.

Mrs Mwewa scoffed. “Broke into?” Her vampire flamed lips gashed. “Anyway, apologies for entering your fortress in such a manner but the only reason I came here today was to speak to the young lady here who happens to be your sister.” She turned to Sibu. “Is what I heard correct; are you pregnant for my son?”

Sibu kept her mouth shut, not sure if telling the truth was the right thing to do in that situation.

“Yes she is but your son doesn’t know yet,” Sibeso had no time to think.

“Then that’s great,” the over-groomed woman surprised both girls with her response. Unfortunately, the feeling was immediately brought to a murderous end by the woman’s next words, “we will get rid of that baby today and Martin is never to find out about it, do you understand me?”

Instinctively, Sibeso moved to stand in front of Sibu, shielding her from Martin’s mother as if her presence in itself was a danger to the unborn child. “How typical,” Sibeso said. “And just what makes you think you can throw a few words around and we would do your bidding just like that?”

“Because there is no way in hell I’m letting my son have a child with a Tonga woman and dent the whole Mwewa clan. I did not raise my son just so he can be the reason I fail to hold my head up in public. No grandchild of mine will have Tonga blood and whatever other strange blood flows through this girl. Your aunt told me that your father knocked up your mother and then ran away from his responsibilities,” Mrs Mwewa deliberately raised her voice for the sake of Sibu who was still hidden behind Sibeso. “Don’t you think that if she had done the right thing and gotten rid of such a man’s child then we all wouldn’t be here having this kind of conversation?”

Sibeso could feel Sibusiswe tense up behind her. That breathing told her that her friend was about to lose control.

If one wanted to see Sibu reach the peak of her anger, all they had to do was say something bad about her parents, especially her mother. Although Sibu rarely shared information about her parents, Sibeso knew enough to know that they were a forbidden topic and only one looking to receive her wrath would dare provoke her in such deliberate fashion.

Mrs Mwewa was fishing for trouble.

“I think you should leave,” Sibeso warned the woman.

Mrs Mwewa sneered, busking in the effects of her verbal diarrhoea. “Did I say anything wrong?” She raised her shoulders. “Perhaps if the mother was not so dumb and the father so stupid, the daughter wouldn’t have a hard time making obvious decisions.”

“I think you should leave my parents out of this,” Sibu appeared from behind Sibeso, her face beaming with furry. “There is nothing you can say that’s going to make me get rid of this pregnancy so you can just leave,” she showed her soon-to-be nemesis the door.

Mrs Mwewa scoffed once again. “There is a reason I am known as the iron lady around town. If you think I am leaving this place without making sure that baby doesn’t exist anymore, then you are about to have a very long day,” she said and moved back into the living room where she offered herself a seat.

Sibu and Sibeso remained behind gaping at each other in total disbelief.

Sibu rushed into the house and Sibeso followed her closely behind. “If you are staying, then I will be the one leaving,” Sibu announced to the woman comfortably siting on their red cushioned straw armchair as she headed towards the door. She slipped into Sibeso’s slippers that were by the door and quickly bolted out of the house.

The sudden announcement brought Mrs Mwewa up on her feet. “Where do you think you are going young lady?” She followed Sibu who was now rushing through the corridor leading to the staircase at the far end.

“Stop right there Ms Hangaala,” Martin’s mother shouted as she gave chase, her slim frame playing to her advantage. “I am not yet done talking here.”

“Sibu!” Sibeso had followed the two women outside, angst written all over her face.

Standing at the top of the stairs, Sibu waited for a group of boys and girls that lived in one of the apartments on their floor to pass before she could rush down.

Unfortunately, Mrs Mwewa took this opportunity to catch up to her. She grabbed Sibu by the hand to keep her from running. In her haste to free herself and run down the stairs the moment the staircase was free, Sibu twisted her left leg and missed the top step, her slipper slid off her leg and it was at that moment Mrs Mwewa decided to let go of her hand, sending her tumbling down the stairs like a ball.

“What have you done?” Sibeso pushed a very shaken Mrs Mwewa aside and ran down the stairs to check on her friend who lay lifeless at the bottom, her whole body facing down.

The first thing Sibeso saw was a deep cut at the corner of Sibu’s forehead where blood was coming out.

“Sibu! Sibu! Can you hear me?” Sibeso held Sibu by the head and tentatively checked if she was breathing all the while shouting for help. “Call an ambulance or something. She is pregnant for God’s sake!” Sibeso shouted at the group of teenagers who were coming down the stairs after hearing her screams.

Mrs Mwewa remained rooted to the spot at the top of the stairs as she hugged her handbag like a box of Oxygen, looking down at the scene below as if from another dimension. She started shaking her head in horror as reality of what had just happened slowly begun to dawn on her.

Sibeso was looking up at Mrs Mwewa with eyes filled with so much abhorrence that the latter’s knees turned into jelly and before she knew it, her legs gave way.

 

“No!!” A tear stained  Sibusiswe struggled with Sibeso to get the phone from her. “I am begging you Sibeso don’t tell him a thing, please….” Feeling the effects of the surgery, Sibu gave up the fight, dropped her hands to her sides, and slid back into bed, her hand clutching her stomach as she grimaced in pain.

“Fighting with me in your condition is not a good idea Sibu,” Sibeso said as she helped her friend get comfortable in bed. She dropped the phone on the bedside table and sat down in her chair in resignation. “I won’t call him now, but I will call him later no matter what you say. There is no way in hell I’m letting his mother get away with this!” Sibeso roared.

“But it wasn’t her fault,” Sibu argued, her voice weak from pain.

“Are you kidding me!” Sibeso snapped. “I saw that woman push you down the stairs. I saw it with my two eyes.”

Sibu was frantically shaking her head. “No she didn’t,” she insisted. “I was the one trying to free my hand from her grasp…just that she let it go right at the moment when I needed her to keep holding on.”

“And you think that wasn’t deliberate?” Sibeso countered. “That woman was chasing after you to get you to abort and you think she would let an opportunity to get her way pass just like that?”

“I don’t care anymore Sibeso,” Sibu said as tears welled up her eyes. “I don’t care…all of this…everything that’s happening…it’s all happening because I broke a promise. This is my punishment. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking…it’s just that…for a while, I thought that maybe…just maybe….”

Her phone rang just then and both girls turned to look at it. Sibeso quickly flipped it to see who was calling while Sibu looked on wide-eyed.

“It’s Martin,” Sibeso announced.

Sibu immediately started shaking her head. “No…no, don’t answer it Sibe,” she desperately pleaded. “Why is he calling right now? Did you….” She threw her friend a suspicious look.

“I swear, I haven’t called him yet!” Sibeso raised her hand to pledge her innocence.

“I am the one that called him,” said a voice from behind them. “You don’t know me…but I know you,” the young girl announced, her hands in the pockets of her jumper and a smile playing on her face.

“My name is Mwiche, I am Martin’s sister.” The school girl candidly announced.

 

*         *         *

Echoes of the Heart – Part 3

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

Pain.

If you had the power to keep yourself from feeling it, would you embrace it?

They say that pain is a mechanism our brain employs to protect us from impending danger; that despite its unpleasantness, its aim is a positive one. But what happens when you become so accustomed to pain that you become immune to it?

Living in my self-imposed prison, pain to me had become a familiarity, a feeling I desperately clung to and pined for as if for dear life. While others existed for the ultimate goal of attaining happiness, for me, such a thought in itself was a sentence to eternal damnation.

I was so engrossed in my pursuit of penance and delusion of safety promised to me by the haven I had created for myself behind the walls of my prison that I was completely unaware of the power of love and what it could do to this hell I had perfectly crafted for myself.

Thus, when the walls came tumbling down, I was neither prepared nor willing to accept the changes that came with this thing called love. But as you might already know, when love comes, it does not knock and it does not seek permission.

But how was I to know that?

 

*         *         *

 

After running her errands in preparation for her upcoming trip, Sibusiswe decided to pass through Sibeso’s home in Chelstone, off Palm Drive. It was the only place she could think of where she could get the thoughts that had been troubling her the whole day out of her mind.

“Is your husband home?” Sibusiswe asked as Sibeso ushered her into the house.

The pile of mens and children’s shoes by the side of the passageway leading to the living room reminded Sibu of a time when such a scene spelled home for her. The loud aroma of freshly cooked Okra that filled the air seduced Sibu’s senses and made her stomach growl in expectation.

“Whenever you ask about my hubby’s presence, I know that you have some pent up awful things to say about your former mother in-law,” Sibeso remarked as she sat on the arm of the red leather sofa that Sibusiswe had just thrown herself on.

“Fortunately for you, he isn’t home.” Sibeso said. “He left with the kids just after having supper, said he’s going to get some ice cream for them since we ran out…but I know he has other plans in mind.” And whilst standing up she added, “I have some food that remained from dinner, want me to warm it up for you? I know how much you love okra.”

Sibusiswe shook her head. “If I let you get to the kitchen then you and I won’t get to talk before your husband and the kids get back. Just get me a glass of juice, the usual.” She then reached forward and grabbed the remote control from the table and switched from Disney Junior to Discovery ID.

“How is Maleficent?” Sibeso shouted from the dining room.

Maleficent was the nickname the two women had secretly given Martin’s mother thanks to her make-up style and mannerisms that mirrored those of Angelina Jolie in her iconic role as the villain in the Disney film.

“How did you know that I had seen her today?” Sibu shouted back.

Sibeso appeared just then with a glass on juice on a small tray and laid it before her friend. “Because I am your best friend and I know that she is the only species capable of draining the life out of you…apart from Martin of course,” she said and went to seat on the single seater couch adjacent to the one Sibu was seated on.

“You said something about your hubby having other plans,” Sibu said, fully turning her body around to look at her friend as she sipped from her glass of juice. “He is not cheating on you, is he?”

Sibeso cackled. “Of course not silly,” she said. “At least to the best of my knowledge, he isn’t. But, even if he was, taking Mapalo with him would be a dumb move on his part.” She chuckled some more. “That girl is a parrot and a human PVR, even DSTV has nothing on her. She will come and offload everything she sees and hears before I even ask.”

The two women enjoyed a hearty laugh as Sibeso went on to gush about her adventures as a house wife and mother to a five year old girl and four year old boy.

“So what happened with Maleficent today?” Sibeso finally asked. “She didn’t come to pressure you about Jacob’s custody issue did she?”

“Not today,” Sibu replied.

“One of these days you should tell her off or I will. If not for you she would have no precious son to boast about. I would love to see the look on her naturally pissed off face when she learns the truth. That should shut her up for the next fifteen years.

“I know right,” Sibu snickered. “But still, that’s the one thing about my life I like to remain private. So, about my day today…the most unbelievable thing happened that made my blood turn black.”

Sibeso looked at Sibu expectantly. “What happened?” she asked.

“I had just finished declaring war with my aunt and was ready to bounce back to my car when right outside the shop, I bumped into Maleficent.”

Sibeso gasped. “What the hell?”

“I am telling you!” Sibu answered. “What could the two women who hate me the most in this world be possibly plotting…suddenly acting like the best of friends hugging and laughing as if they were never at logger heads before. That whole episode today made me really nervous. I feel like there is a war being plotted out there and I am the only one unarmed. Do you think I’m being paranoid?”

Sibeso shook her head. “I don’t think you are being paranoid sweetie; I also think something is off with those two. They hated each other so why are they suddenly being Twilight with each other?!”

“How can I find out what’s going on before it’s too late?” Sibu asked. “Knowing my aunt, she must be the reason behind this kind of development.”

“How about asking Mwiche?” Sibeso suggested. “You two still talk, right?”

“Yes we do, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.” Sibu answered. “She had called me last night just to check up on me…and I even made a blunder, imagine.”

“What kind of blunder?” A wide-eyed Sibeso asked.

“I accidently mentioned my trip to SA while we were talking…thing is, I have not yet told Martin about it. She must have called him the moment she got off the phone with me because he has been calling me incessantly since.”

“And why haven’t you told him yet?” Sibeso asked.

“Because I kind of feel bad about taking away his son even if it’s only for a short while,” Sibu replied.

Sibeso scoffed. “You think two years without seeing your son in a short while?”

Sibu was momentarily at a loss for words. “Now that you’ve put it like that…” Sibu raised her shoulders. “But this is an opportunity I can’t afford to miss Sibe. You know very well how the past years have been for me in terms of career advancements. I really need to do this.”

“Pass me that remote,” Sibeso asked Sibusiswe.

Sibu was about to hand it over when she changed her mind. “What do you want to do? It better not be because you want to change the channel.”

“I don’t know why you are so addicted to these crime channels,” Sibeso remarked. “Only people that want to commit the perfect crime get hooked on such shows. If it’s Maleficent you are plotting to kill, please count me in,” she joked.

Sibu grabbed a cushion and playfully threw it at Sibeso who caught it in time to avoid being hit.

“Will you tell Martin who you will be staying with in South Africa?” Sibeso asked, a mischievous grin playing on her face.

“Whatever evil thoughts are going through that head of yours, stop,” Sibu warned. “There is nothing going on between Ted and I. We’ve always been good friends and Martin knows it…not that I care about what he thinks. We are way passed the point of interfering in each other’s lives.”

“Do you think Ted feels the same way?” Sibeso asked.

“What do you mean?” Sibu asked.

Sibeso sat up straight to drive her point across. “Tell me Sibu, why would a guy that good-looking, rich, well educated, smart, a great career, and has everything going well for him still be single up to now?” She asked.

“What has that got to do with me?” Sibu retorted dismissively. “Maybe he just hasn’t found the right woman yet but that doesn’t mean that woman is me. Ted and I sorted out our issues a long time ago. He made it very clear what his feeling were…are towards me so stop trying to dress up an innocent friendship into something perverse and unfitting.”

“If you say so,” Sibeso shrugged her shoulders, not convinced in the slightest by her friends monologue.

As Sibusiswe drove back to her place that evening, her mind wondered back to the past, to the moment in time when her world had slowly started spinning out of control.

If she could go back in time, would she be able to see the signs and stick to her resolve to safely guard the walls around her? If she had that chance, would she still make the same decisions?

 

 

“You look like shit,” Conrad noted the moment Martin joined them at the bar.

For a man who cared about appearances as much as the air he breathed, Martin was looking a little worse for wear in his ill-fitting grey t-shirt and suit pants which he must have obviously forgotten to take off after knocking off from work. He never ever wore anything casual on a suit pant. Being an extremist in most areas of his life, Martin’s wardrobe consisted of full on office wear which were mostly suits and full on casual wear which comprised mostly jeans and t-shirts …and these two categories never ever crossed borders, until that Friday evening at the bar.

“I think he killed someone and kept the t-shirt as a trophy,” Nelson Chanda teased his boss. Nelson had joined M&M just two years ago and managed to successfully ingratiate himself into Martin’s social cycle.

“I am kind of forced to agree…” Kondwani Musaba chipped in. Being the only one in the group not a lawyer, Kondwani was the least outspoken of the four friends.

Martin rolled his eyes dismissively at his three friends. “Go on, take jabs at your boss now. This is the only time you get to have your revenge.”

Conrad handed Martin an already opened bottle of Castle Lite. “But serious man, what happened to you?” He asked, looking down at Martin’s muddy slippers.

Martin ran his hand through his head and sighed heavily. “My ex-wife happened,” he said and took a sip of his beer before laying the bottle back on the counter with a thud.

“What happened with Sibu? Did she finally ask for child support? Knowing her, it should be a tag so high even you wouldn’t afford it.” Nelson joked and won himself disapproving looks from everyone. “My bad,” he raised his hands in the air. “What did she do?”

“It would be nice if she asked for some money, any amount that way I would feel less guilty towards her.” Martin was saying. “But Sibu being Sibu, she still refuses to accept any form of financial assistance from me, even for my own son. But that’s not why I am upset….”

“The Sibu- effect,” Conrad said before Martin could finish what he was saying.

“Sibu-effect?” Kondwani asked, looking from one friend to the other. From all their expressions, it was obvious he was the only one in the dark.

Conrad and Nelson were now laughing to their hearts content, much to Martin’s chagrin.

“Can you two behave?” Martin warned.

“Sorry man,” Conrad patted his friend on the shoulder as he tried to control himself. “You must be the only guy at the office who doesn’t know about the Sibu effect,” Conrad had turned his attention to Kondwani.

“Is that a good or a bad thing?” The innocent looking and soft spoken Accountant asked.

“It depends,” Nelson laughed but immediately froze the moment Martin threw a stern look in his direction.

“Let me tell you about the Sibu-effect my dear friend,” Conrad said to Kondwani, excitement written all over his face.

 

*         *         *

  

February, 2010

Sibusiswe felt the world spin around her as she came out of the doctor’s office. The distance from the office to the waiting area seemed very long. She struggled to get her bearings correct, her head throbbing from the news she had just received.

Holding on to the nearest wall, Sibusiswe shut her eyes and waited for the world to stop spinning.

“Are you alright Mrs Mwewa?” Doctor Sanjay had come out of her office and found her patient in that position.

Holding her by the shoulders to steady her, the doctor said, “This is the first time I have informed a married woman that she’s pregnant and seen her react in such a manner.” She slowly helped Sibu walk through the waiting area filled with people and led her outside to where her car was parked.

“I think I am fine now,” Sibusiswe rubbed her hand over her eyes and was more than glad to regain her stable relationship with gravity.

“Is this something you need me to keep from your husband?” The doctor gave Sibu a knowing look. “I have been a family doctor for the Mwewa’s for over seven years now and….”

For a moment, Sibu wondered about the meaning of the doctor’s words until she caught on. “Oh no doctor,” she started shaking her head but stopped when the dizziness threatened to return.

“It’s not what you are thinking,” she quickly corrected whatever conclusions the doctor might have arrived at. “This is definitely my husband’s child, definitely,” she repeated. “It’s just that…apart from some personal issues….I am currently a student…and I was kind of hoping to wait a little before starting a family.”

I actually don’t want a child right now…not right now. This will complicate everything. Sibu lamented.

As Sibusiswe drove back home, she wondered about the next step to take and settled on talking to her husband first before making any decision…although she already knew what his reaction would be.

She parked to the side of the road and picked up her phone to call Martin. However, upon looking at her call logs, she changed her mind. “Isn’t it better to tell him in person?” She said to herself. Throwing her phone on the passenger seat and getting back on the road, a mischievous grin playing on her face.

By the time Sibusiswe was arriving in Kitwe to see her husband who for the past two weeks had been living in their Kitwe vacation home whilst overseeing their latest building projects, it was already past midnight.

Martin’s car parked in the car park just in front of the two story house told her that he was at home. She would have not been surprised if she didn’t find him home since he was a man that loved the night scenery of any town he visited.

She grabbed her phone and bag and headed to the house. Opening the door with her spare key, she encoutered a half awake – half asleep fifteen year old Charles. Charles was Martin’s cousin from his father’s side.

Martin had asked the boy’s father to take care of the house when there was no one visiting from Lusaka. They had built the house as a cheaper alternative to constantly living in hotels and lodges since the family was constantly travelling to Kitwe to take care of the many businesses they had there.

Charles was petrified to see Sibu standing there before him that for close to a minute, he just stood there gaping at her.

“What’s wrong with you?” Sibu looked bemused. “You look like you have just seen a ghost.”

Unconsciously, the fifteen year old looked at Sibu and then towards the stairs leading to the master bedroom where Martin was supposed to be sleeping. Then he slowly started shaking his head in horror.

Sibu didn’t need to ask to know. “It’s fine Charles,” she reassured him, keeping her voice steady. “Where’s uncle?” She asked the boy who was now sweating profusely despite the cool weather from the showers outside.

“He…he…he is..in…Ndola,” Charles stuttered. “He…went to see mum,” he gushed the words out.

“Okay, you can go back to bed now.” Sibu placed a hand on his shoulder to let him know he wasn’t the one in trouble. “Sorry I disturbed your sleep. I will take care of everything here.” She forced a smile as she headed upstairs, leaving a petrified Charles rooted on the spot.

Sibusiswe took a deep breath before opening the door, bracing herself for whatever awaited her on the other side.

She carefully opened the door and was immediately greeted by two completely naked bodies sleeping soundly on the bed she had once lain in.

Because Martin liked sleeping with the lights on, the room was properly lit to reveal everything in sight. She could see two used condoms posing on the floor in their wrinkled glory. The bed was surrounded by littered pieces of his and her clothes, a pile of beddings was tossed at the foot of the bed, with Martin’s shoes on one side, and the woman’s on the other.

The scene before her was a portrait of sordid Babylonian encounters brought to life. It was a milieu of quenched lust and lasciviousness, the ambiance of which lashed at Sibu’s insides with ferocious vengeance.

She didn’t need to check to confirm if it was her husband lying there and snoring like there was no tomorrow. The body language of the two screamed of diddled romance as each lay on further ends of the bed facing away from each other, a pillow deliberately placed on the woman’s face. She was just another addition to his long list of flavours.

Sibusiswe moved closer to the bed and slowly lifted the pillow off the woman’s face. It wasn’t anyone she knew. The woman appeared to be in her early thirties, beautiful with intelligent looking features, just his usual style.

She does look like me ten years from now, Sibusiswe thought as she put the pillow back over the woman’s face and walked to the side of her husband.

Martin, oh Martin, she slowly shook her head whilst taking in her husband’s naked frame.

Pushing back the tears, Sibusiswe walked over to the wardrobe, opened it and took out a duvet.

She walked to the other side of the room where a huge white two-sitter couch lay in front of a 32 inch smart TV. She removed the three layered colourful cushions from the sofa,  and posing herself as if for body viewing, she closed her eyes to sleep.

A hot tear came out of the side of her closed left eye.

 

When Martin woke up the next morning, it was to the smell of familiar scents and aromas. He slowly sat up and found his partner from the previous night enjoying some breakfast on a well laid out tray.

“Did you just make yourself breakfast in my house?” Martin glared at her disdainfully. “You needed to be out of here before my cousin wakes up.” He grabbed his wrist watch from the side of the bed and checked the time.

“It’s now 8 o’clock and you are still seated here acting like a madam. I told you I am a married man.” He got out of bed and and was about to reach for his clothes on the floor when he found nothing.

only then did he notice the changes in the room.

Apart from the bed, everything else in the room was in immaculate order, way better than it had been for the past two weeks.

“Did you clean this room?” Martin asked before spotting a pile of fresh clothes laid out on the arm of the sofa on the other side of the room.

He scoffed. “If you are campaigning for marriage, you are barking at the wrong guy…what did you say your name was again?”

“Gloria,” the woman answered as Martin went to put on the fresh clothes anyway.

“I think you are being rude and making a lot of wrong assumptions,” Gloria said from the other side of the room. She put her tray down on the bed and glared at Martin. “I didn’t make this breakfast and I didn’t touch anything in this room apart from my clothes,” she said. “When I woke up I found a lady cleaning the room, she told me she was your cousin or something. I was about to leave but she insisted that I have breakfast first because she would be in trouble if you discovered that she let a guest leave without eating.”

With one leg into his pant and the other half-way through, Martin paused and turned around. “A lady?” he threw a questioning look at Gloria. “There are no women that live in this house, only my uncle and his son. What lady are you talking about?”

It was Gloria’s turn to look puzzled. “She looked young, tall, and very beautiful with very long hair. At first I thought she was one of your women but she was very kind to me.”

“Oh shit!” Martin forgot about his state of undress and tried to move but went crushing down to the floor, face first.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” he repeated as he struggled to put his leg back into his trousers. “You need to get out of here right now if you want to live.”

He finally succeeded with the trousers and was now rushing towards the door.

“What’s going on here?” A very confused Gloria asked from behind him.

Martin paused for a second at the door. “That kind woman that served you breakfast is my wife.” He said between clenched teeth as the woman responded in frightened countenance.

“If I were you, I would be rushing to the nearest hospital to get an antidote for whatever you just eat. You need to leave, now!” he said and bolted out of the door, taking the stairs two at a time.

He found a bamboozled Charles down the stairs. “Where’s my wife?” Martin asked.

Charles pointed towards the kitchen where sounds of plates clicking against each other could be heard.  “I thought you were dead,” He was visibly shaken by how things had turned out.

“Why do you think I am in shock right now?” Martin said as he ran towards the kitchen. For the first time ever, he was frustrated by the size of the house.

Charles went weak at the knees when he saw the woman his cousin had brought home when he thought he was fast asleep. She was carefully walking  down the stairs so as not to be heard, her shoes in her hands. “You are still here?” Charles whispered at the woman.

“Is it safe?” Gloria mouthed the words as she looked around the house.

Charles nodded and she quickly took the rest of the stairs down.

Martin’s cousin  helped her to the door and quickly closed it behind her, taking a deep breath and rested his back against the very door in relief.

What the hell was going on? He thought as he tip-toed back to his room, making sure to lock his door behind him.

“Sibu,” Martin nervously called his wife’s name from the entrance of the kitchen. He needed an early exit in case something came flying in his direction.

Sibusiswe put down the plate she was washing and turned off the water in the sink before turning around to face her husband. “Martin,” was all she managed as a response.

She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the sink, waiting to hear whatever Martin had to say. She certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for him.

This is not how I expected things to go, Martin lamented to himself. What the hell I’m I supposed to say? Why isn’t she saying anything? Why isn’t she throwing things? What I’m I supposed to do?

Next thing he knew, he was down on his knees, and with his hands raised above his head as if in prayer, he begged her forgiveness. “I am sorry Sibu…I am sorry babe…I will never do it again….” He went on like that for close to two minutes while Sibu remained rooted to her spot, watching his performance with a blank expression on her face.

She was indeed a tough audience to impress.

“Don’t even think about giving that oh the devil made me do it kind of nonsense.” Sibu finally snapped. “This time I can vouch for the devil because while you were busy dejuicing someone’s daughter, I had engaged the devil in a  little tete-a-tete. I needed to know why he’s so bent on messing me up all the time…” her voice started to shake a bit from stifling her tears.

“…otherwise, why would I be six weeks pregnant for someone like you?” Saying those words out was like a trigger that opened the floodgates she had been desperately tying to keep shut. How many more tears did she have to waste on him?

Never before had Martin been so conflicted.

The stellar announcement made him pause with his hands in the air as he starred at his wife in both anguish and euphoria. Not sure which emotion to settle for and still on his knees, Martin lowered his head further down as he begged his wife for forgiveness in absolute obeisance.

But Sibu was not fazed in the slightest. She was looking down at him like a bundle of poop that she needed to get away from as fast as possible. “Clean up your shit before you even think of talking to me,” she commanded in clear cut vociferation. “You reek of condoms and recycled vagina.”

She then grabbed a towel from the rack, dried her hands and threw it down to the floor before walking away, deliberately bumping into Martin and sending him falling off to the side as she squeezed herself out of the kitchen.

It was then that Martin realized he had forgotten to put on a shirt.

Martin managed to get up from the floor with some difficult but by the time he was outside, Sibusiswe had already driven off.

 

*         *         *

 

“And that my friend is what is known as the Sibu-effect,” Conrad proudly announced. He was now on his feet, standing next to an astound Kondwani with his arm resting over his shoulder.

“It is a phenomenon or a type of reactivity that occurs when a man has been caught naked in bed with another woman by his wife and the said wife then proceeds to make the two breakfast in bed, thus putting the man in a state of confusion and trepidation…with a slight hint of pee on his pants as he grovels in despair begging for retribution.” Conrad drollery summarized for his mates as Martin looked on in disquietude.

Kondwani gasped. “You peed on yourself?” he asked Martin.

Martin stretched his hand and smacked the back of Conrad’s head. After his friendship with Ted had faltered years back, Conrad had somehow taken over the spot as Martin’s close friend, a development that did neither of the former friends imagined possible.

“Of course I didn’t!” Martin defended his honor. “Yes, maybe I did think about it but it never happened. However, to this day, thinking about that incident makes the hairs at the back of my neck stand.”

“Whatever happened to the woman she caught you in bed with?” Nelson inquired. “I have always wondered about that.”

“Oh yeah, me too,” Conrad too chipped in.

“She lived, if that’s what you are all insinuating with your questions.” Martin retorted. “But I had to ask my secretary to anonymously keep calling the woman just to check if she was still alive before I could finally start eating food from home.”

“And she never divorced you even after finding you like that?” Kondwani asked, looking a little overwhelmed by all the information he had just heard.

“Before I could even commerce project beg until no shred of pride is left in you when I reached home, she looked me in the eye and told me that she was only staying because she needed my money and she wanted to give our child a proper family so there was no need for me to grovel before her. She was curt and brutal…up to now I still don’t know what i was most sorry about; that I had done something like that to my wife and let her catch me in such a state, or that I had put her through so much pain that she no longer gave a dame about my indiscretions. either way, it hurts like hell,” he hit his hand against his chest repeatedly as a somber expression materialized on his face.

“I don’t know whether I should give your wife…ex-wife a medal or get a restraining order against her just so I can protect myself from ever meeting her.” Kondwani the accountant lamented. “I respect her a lot…but at the same time I am very afraid of her.”

“Me too my friend,” Martin said with a far-off expression on his face. “Me too,” he repeated.

“Your ex-wife is hard core,” Nelson remarked. “She got a self-proclaimed bachelor to marry her in the shortest space of time and then she went ahead and dumped him at a time when he least expected it. There should be a superhero named after her somewhere in the world or even a word should be added in the dictionary in her honour,” and after pausing for a bit he added, “Sibu: the act of not giving a dame when a man repeatedly cheats on you; when used in a sentence, Martin was Sibu’d by his ex-wife…or, Most women of the 21’st century practice sibulity.”

Three men gaped at Nelson as they shook their heads in shared incredulity.

“You know what has always bothered me,” Conrad brushed Nelson off. “How is it that a woman that claimed to have married you for your money refused to take even a single penny of your money in alimony?”

“You think I have never asked myself that?” Martin said. “That’s what pisses me off the most, that despite being married to her for five years, I know nothing about her. I know without doubt that something is going on with her but I have no idea what it is. Last night Mwiche told me that she spoke to Sibu and that she accidentally let on that she will be leaving the country in a few days. We have a child together yet she hasn’t even bothered to inform me. I have been trying to call her since last night but she won’t take my calls.”

“Is that why you left the house looking like that?” Nelson asked.

“I got home and found my mother waiting for me,” Martin replied. “As usual she wanted to start talking trash about Sibu but I just wasn’t in the mood. I grabbed the nearest thing I could find and bolted out of there.”

“Why does your mother hate your ex-wife so much?” Kondwani asked.

The three of them looked at him snippily.

“His mother hates any woman that gets close to her son,” Conrad supplied. “But it was worse for Sibu because of two reason; one, she was Tonga, and two, Martin was crazy in-love with her.”

“Oh,” was all Kondwani could say in response. He knew someone exactly like that.

“So where is Sibu going? Are you going to let her go with your son?” Nelson asked.

“She is going to SA…and yes, if she is going then I will have no choice but to let her go with him…that was the agreement we made. She has full custody…because it was my way of thanking her and apologizing for everything I did to her…and of course because I trusted her to know she would let me see Jacob whenever I wanted. Both her parents are late, so she is a sucker for family. I had to give her full custody to protect her from my mother…just in case of any eventualities.”

“But what were you thanking her for…you said something about thanking her? We all know why you needed to apologize…but thanking her…” Nelson quipped. “…for allowing your sorry ass to cheat on her while you were still married to her?

Nelson once again won himself disconcerting looks from his buddies.

Martin looked at Nelson in indignation. “You do know I stopped carrying a gun around with me the day after you joined the company, right?” He said. “Don’t tempt me right now,” he cautioned him.

Kondwani and Conrad enjoyed a hearty laugh at the expense of their friend.

“Isn’t Ted also in South Africa?” Conrad later asked as realization dawned on him. “That’s why you are this worked up, isn’t it?” He starred at his friend in apprehension.

The look of trepidation on Martin’s face confirmed Conrad’s suspicions.

“Are you talking about Ted, the one whose father is…” Kondwani was saying.

“Yes, that same one,” Nelson cut in. “When I joined the company I heard rumors about you guys fighting over Sibusiswe. Apparently you betrayed him and stole her from him.”

Martin starred lividly at the imprudent Nelson. “You know, for a lawyer you lack tact Nelson, sometimes I wonder if you are a friend or foe.” He said.

Nelson snickered. “I just say it as it is,” he said without the slightest hint of mortification. “So it is true about what went down between the two of you?” He pressed on unashamedly, again winning himself austere countenance  from everyone.

“I don’t know about what you heard and frankly I don’t give a dame. However, if you must know; yes it is a fact that both Ted and I were in-love with Sibu but it is also a fact that she was always in-love with me and never with him.”

“So why are you nervous about the possibility of the two of them meeting in SA?” Nelson persisted.

Martin glared at him, completely befuddled by his lack of  savoir faire, “I never said I was nervous,” Martin lied. “This is the first time I am going to be very far from my son and that worries me, a lot. Is that information enough for you Mr Nasty?”

Nelson only chuckled in response, pleased with the fact that he had managed to get under Martin’s skin.

“You know, sometimes you talk as if you only have one child. I wonder what Veronica feels about that.” Conrad said.

Martin scoffed. “Veronica is an opportunistic bitch who thinks that just because her parents forced her on me then that makes her my wife. There is no woman on the face of this earth that will ever take Sibu’s place in my heart.I have made that point clear to her every single day but she still ain’t leaving.”

Kondwani thought about asking Martin an obvious question but reasoned that he needed some liquid courage first before daring to ask his boss such a bold question. He knew everyone else was dying to know as well and so he put his trust in the bottle.

“If you loved your wife that much,” Kondwani started after gulping down the contents of his bottle. “If you loved her so much, why did you treat her like that?”

Conrad and Nelson shared a knowing looks, both impressed by Kondwani’s courage despite it’s liquid nature to ask the question they had all dared not ask.

As his friends waited for his response, Martin starred at the contents of the bottle in front of him, his mind taking him back to the time when all the plans he had laid out for himself started falling to the ground…a time when his heart had developed a mind of its own and forced him to acknowledge some truths he was not yet ready to confront.

If he could go back in time, would he do things differently?