Because She Loved Me – Part 5

because she loved me

 

When morning came, I was still awake. I had not slept a wink that night.

I showered, put on some fresh clothes and walked to the restaurant to have my breakfast while I waited for Thandiwe to report for work.

There were a lot of things I was curious about; what had she been up to for the past two years? How did she end up in Ndola? Was she seeing anyone? Who was that Alex guy to her? How was her son doing? And there was another question I dared not say out loud to myself but it was constantly there at the back of my mind;

What did she think of me?

I was not even sure why I cared so much about what she thought about me but the question just kept tagging at me.

I was too embarrassed to entertain that thought consciously but out of everything else, it occupied the most part of my brain. However, even as I kept thinking about another woman like that, I was fully aware of what my thoughts said about the kind of person I had become.

I was busy wondering about how Thandie felt about me when the very act of thinking about her made me a man I knew for a fact she would not be proud of. I could not understand why I was obsessing over her. It didn’t make sense and yet there I was thinking and thinking about a woman I was never going to have.

“Has Thandiwe reported for work already?” I asked the receptionist at the front office. It was a man this time. I hoped the female from last night had gone to take an advanced hospitality course.

“Thandiwe?” The twenty-something year old quizzed me.

“Yes, your boss, the general manager.” I provided.

The point had finally landed home. “Oh, you mean Ms Mwale?” He said.

She really was still Ms Mwale. Hallelujah!

“Good morning Mr Harry,” a voice greeted me from behind. I didn’t need to turn to know who it was.

I smiled and turned around.

“Is there anything you would like me to help you with?” Thandiwe was back in her professional mode and even if her smile reached her eyes, it was not the same smile that had greeted me at one point in Lusaka.

“Can we talk in private?” I asked her.

“Is it something related to your stay here sir?” She asked.

There was only one kind of answer that was correct for the kind of situation I was in. “Yes ma’am,” I lied.

Of course she didn’t buy it. She baptised me in a long cold stare before smiling again. “Let’s talk in my office then,” she motioned towards a door on the other side of the building.

“What do you want?” She had taken off her hospitality cloak the second we were behind closed doors in her articulately designed office.

She had indeed made something of herself. I couldn’t help feeling proud of her as I looked around. Was this the same woman that had asked for 500 bucks from me if I slept with her? She had really come a long way.

“So how did you end up here?” I was getting myself acquainted with her office while she stood closer to the door with her hands crossed over her chest and looking at me like a huge bug she desperately needed to get rid of.

“What happened to you?” Was the question she asked me. To this day I still remember the look on her face when she asked that question.

What happened to you?

She was disgusted with me and somehow that made me feel even more disgusted with myself.

Thandiwe then walked passed me and went to sit behind her desk. “If you have nothing to say to me then I suggest you leave so I can get to work.”

I found myself walking towards her desk and sitting down in front of her. I was embarrassed but somehow I still couldn’t get myself to leave.

“What are you doing?” She had stopped trying to busy herself on the computer and she was looking at me in wonder.

“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head and trying to figure out whatever was going on in my head. “I really don’t know.” I repeated. “Right now I am supposed to be at a workshop but here I am…I also wish I knew why this is happening.”

“That ring on your finger tells me you are married but that woman I met in your room didn’t look like your wife. Would you like to talk about that first?” She asked sarcastically. “When did it become so easy for that gentle and wonderful man that showed me the light at the worst time in my time? How did you become this person?”

It was that look again.

Right there, right then, it occurred to me why I had so desperately wanted to meet her. It was her voice and that look in her eyes.

When Thandiwe spoke, I listened to every word she said. With just those few words she had spoken, I had found the answer to one of the biggest questions I had had;

Why her? Why Thandiwe?

Because she made me want to be a good person.

Because she reminded me of the man I used to be and she made me want to be that man again.

You see, despite all the efforts our mentors had put in to help us restore the honour our marriage had lost, what they never taught me was how to forgive and forget. I had convinced myself that I had forgiven Thabo but not once had I forgotten.

They had taught me how to forgive but they couldn’t teach me how to forget. It was something I had to teach myself to do.

I felt cheated in my life and in my marriage. I blamed God for how things had turned out and I felt that if God was not going to reward me for the good things I had done…for being the best husband I could be to my wife, I felt I had to reward myself.

I did not start cheating on Thabo because I wanted to revenge. I did all that because I wanted to be in control again. Ever since my wife’s confession, I felt as if I had lost control of everything…like there was an external force somewhere pulling strings and leading me into a direction I did not wish to go.

I wanted to get back the control I had had before everything crumbled to pieces… the control I had lost when my wife felt it was okay to be with another man since I was not there, the control I had lost when the son I thought was mine turned out to be another mans, the control I had lost over my heart when I could not get myself to hate or disown a child I knew not to be my own…that kind of control…the kind that made me a man, a husband, and a father.

I knew that I could never gain back that control but somehow, knowing that I could do whatever I wanted to out there without Thabo knowing about me gave me some form of satisfaction I cannot even begin to explain.

Most importantly, cheating made me feel justified…like it was the reward I had earned for myself for sticking to a marriage that should have been broken. I felt like I had a passport…that I could sin as much as I wanted and not get punished for it.

Not once did I feel guilty for my actions because I felt it was not my fault. However, that morning in Thandiwe’s office, I realised why before her I had felt shame and why before my wife I felt no guilt;

Because Thabo was the woman who had given me the passport to sin and Thandiwe was the woman who would remind me of the man I used to be.

All along I had convinced myself that my wife was not aware of the numerous affairs I was having but the truth was, she knew. I knew she knew but I kept telling myself she didn’t.

“Please take care of yourself…and your health,” had become Thabo’s favourite goodbye phrase every time she said goodbye to me whenever I left home. Those were simple caring words from a wife to her husband but for me they were laden with so much more and yet I chose not to look deeper into them….

And yet…every time I met another woman, I remembered to wear protection no matter how much I got carried away in a situation…at the back of my head I cared…because I had heard Thabo’s words.

“Please take care of yourself…and your health,” she would always say with tears welling up in her eyes. Those tears were not sad goodbye tears because her husband was to be gone for a few days. Those tears were tears of regret for the man she had created and they were tears of mourning for the man she once had.

I realized all these things just because Thande had looked at me in a certain way. She just had to stand there and give me that look that sent chills down my spine and I was awakened from my moral slumber.

As I sat there starring at her, I wondered what she would do if she knew she had so much effect on me…if she knew that even without uttering a single word, she had spoken to me in ways that no man had managed to reach out to me simply…

…because she was Thandie.

Like the fool I had become, I started crying right there in her office.

At first I think it was because of the embarrassment, the shame I felt when I saw her look at me so cuttingly. But then the memories of everything bad I had done came flashing before my eyes.

I saw the many different women I had given my soul to…most of them I would have not given the time of day had I still been the kind of man Thandie expected me to be.

I saw all those moments at home I had chosen to pretend not to notice…when my wife would silently cry in the bathroom every time we finished making love.

I saw Thabo coming back into bed to join me with red swollen eyes yet smiling at me, planting a kiss on my forehead before saying goodbye sweetly. I could see the pain hidden there and yet I chose to ignore it.

I saw Chikondi walk on tip-toes around me, scared he might do something that might upset me and maybe force me to send him away to that place he always feared I would send him to.

I saw my little girls, the twins…I heard them telling me they hated me out of nowhere…like they had some divine power to know of everything I had done against their mother…I heard them say loudly in their sweet little innocent voices, “you are a bad man daddy!”

All these things I had seen and heard happen in my home but I could not get myself to listen. I heard it all, saw it all but I never stopped to listen.

But that was until Thandie stood there and looked at me like that.

Just one look and it all came pouring out.

I finally remembered who that man was.

The man Thandie had smiled at and asked, “What woman in her right mind can break the heart of such a kind hearted man?”

How far back would I have to walk to reach to that point in my life when a woman would take one look at me and see something in me that she had not seen in other men?

“Why are you crying?” Thandiwe asked me.

I couldn’t talk; I just kept bawling my eyes out.

This must have been the fourth time I was showing my weakness in front of this woman.

While my head was buried in my hands, I heard her stand up and walk to the door and then I heard a click. I think she had gone to lock the door. Next I heard her walk towards me and she put her arm around my shoulder.

It was like a switch had gone off and I lost control.

It was not my proudest moment. In fact, there was no pride to speak of in the first place. I was shattered. I was ashamed and I was desperate.

“I am so sorry…I am sorry….” I kept repeating while I cried in her lap. The poor woman, I had my arms around her legs and I buried my face in her skirt, sobbing like the greatest fool she would ever come across.

Instead of kicking me off, I felt her soft hand gently stroke the top of my head and she did not say a single word. She just stood there and let me cry like a baby with my arms wrapped around her while I drowned in my tears.

“Are you feeling better now?” Thandie asked me minutes later after that embarrassing moment. She had handed me a bottle of water and she watched me empty the contents from behind her desk where she was now seated.

Despite everything, I saw no judgement whatsoever from her. But I did see pity in her eyes. She had finally given me her full attention and she was most willing to hear my story. I told her about everything I had done and what had become of my life and my family from the time we had parted ways and she listened without interruption.

“So what are planning on doing now?” She asked me once I was done telling.

“I am not even sure where to start,” I told her. “But I have to correct the wrongs I’ve done against my wife and against my children.”

She was smiling. It made me feel good because it gave me hope I could still be a man she could be proud of.

“I thought I had forgiven my wife for everything, I thought we had moved on…. I thought I had done her a favour when I chose reconciliation over divorce but I had the wrong mind set all along. I should have given our marriage a second chance and given my all to make it work but I deceived myself into thinking that I could use her transgressions as some sort of pass to violate our marriage vows.

Ultimately, I ended up becoming the sort of man deserving of the things she had done to me because I felt justified in my sins while she had taken responsibility for hers.

“So now it is your turn to seek her forgiveness,” Thandiwe stated.

I nodded. “Yes, if she will accept me.” I said. “I don’t know if she has already given up on me or if she has simply been feeling like I am making her pay for her mistakes. Now that I think about it, I don’t think she has forgiven herself either…otherwise, why would she let me do all this to her?”

“You are right,” Thandie said. “The good thing is, marriage isn’t just about two people, it’s about God too and because of him we get second chances…even third chances. I don’t think that you are a bad man Mr Harry…I just think that you are a man who had some unfortunate things happen to you and you responded in ways you thought were right. But now that you know, it makes everything a little easier to correct.”

“I have only now realized that I never told you my full name,” I laughed…and she laughed with me.

“I know your full name already, Mr Phiri,” she said. “You did use your full name to book into the lodge after all,” she added in response to my puzzled expression.

“Ah!” I exclaimed and laughed. “Then why did you keep calling me Mr Harry?”

“Because Mr Harry is the man I know. I didn’t recognize the Mr Phiri that was booked here. I won’t even ask where you found that rare T-bone steak woman.”

I chuckled. “Please don’t,” I said. “Speaking of which, how did you end up here?” I asked.

“After that episode with you at church, I went in search of another one and I ended up finding one where my son and I felt at home. I love involving myself in a lot of church activities so I ended up being a part of this one programme where I got to learn a lot of things. Through that programme I discovered that I love cooking…and that I was very good at it. One time we had an interdenominational kind of trip and we ended up here in Ndola. During that trip I met someone who was very impressed with my cooking skills and he offered me a job as a cook at his lodge which he had inherited from his mother. After working for close to a year and half, here I am….”

“I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say that the owner of this lodge is that Alex guy?” I said and she smiled, confirming my suspicions. “Are you two dating?” I asked her.

Thandiwe was blushing. “No, of course not. We are just friends.”

“But he likes you isn’t it?”

She didn’t answer.

“I am right!” I said. “Why don’t you like him? He seemed like the kind of man any woman would kill to have.”

“I never said I don’t like him,” she admitted. “He’s only been in this country for four years and I have known him for two. After everything I’ve been through, I have learnt that if something appears too good to be true, then it probably is. I always used to wonder why my ex-husband picked me out of all women. I was not the type of woman a man like that would marry. I was uneducated and the only thing going for me was my face. Whenever he had friends visiting or whenever there was a function somewhere, he preferred me with my mouth shut while he rattled on with his ‘intelligent’ buddies.” She quoted the word with her fingers in the air.

“I was never good enough for him and he took pleasure in reminding me about how lucky I was to be married to a doctor. During the time we dated, he showed no sign of being such a conceited person but it all came pouring out once we were married. And now here’s this young and good looking guy who can have any woman in the world…why would he want to marry someone who’s been divorced and is a single mother? Does that make sense to you?”

I could understand why she was feeling like that but she really had no idea just how wonderful and attractive she was as a woman…and how not being aware of that fact made her even more attractive. Any man would be lucky to have her.

“Your ex-husband was a fool Thandie,” I told her. “It’s just unfortunate that you’ve been exposed to only bad men in your life…your husband, that doctor, and me, but I can assure you that there are a lot of good men out there. Imagine what would have happened if I thought all women were bad just because one woman gave in to a moment of weakness and broke my heart?

“But I met you and you were different…. I have never regretted meeting you. Don’t paint all men with the same cloth just because you’ve had a few bad experiences. Do you intend to live the rest of your life alone, scared that someone might break your heart again?”

She didn’t answer, but I could see she was thinking about what I had said to her.

“Do you think that if we told someone our story…that we were together in a lodge, you half naked…me on the bed yet nothing happened and they would believe us?” I asked her.

“They wouldn’t because it sounds too good to be true…yet it is true! I don’t know who this Alex guy is or where he comes from but I think it’s unfair for you to make him pay for another man’s mistakes when he’s shown you nothing but good intentions. Nothing in life is definite…even in marriage. I am the perfect example. I know for a fact that my wife and I love each other but look at what we’ve been through. Sometimes it’s just about the choices we make when we are faced with certain challenges but that don’t make us bad people.”

Thandiwe was smiling at me in that old usual way that I liked.

“You sound like a very wise man Mr Harry…can’t believe that you are the same man who was crying here just a while ago.”

I winced in embarrassment. “I knew that would come back to haunt me, dammit!” I said.

Thandiwe laughed. “I don’t think that’s something you should be embarrassed about. On second thought…maybe you should, now that I am looking at my skirt.”

I gasped, imagining the damage in my head.

She was still laughing. “Don’t worry about it. In this line of work, it’s only wiser to have plan B and C…and sometimes D.”

“No wonder you got promoted so fast. You’ve always been a smart ass…the kind of natural intelligence you can’t pick up from a book. I am very proud of you Thandie.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Although I think Alex’s feelings had a lot to do with it. And I am proud of you too for recognizing your mistakes instead of blaming them on someone else. It takes a lot of guts to do that.”

“So will you give that Alex guy a chance?”

“We’ll see…I need to think about it some more.”

Her smile was telling me she had already made up her mind.

I was not such a terrible man after all. My conversation with Thandiwe, though unconventional, gave me hope that not all was lost. Even though the mistakes I had made had driven me away from the man I used to be…through Thandie, I had been given a second chance to do things right.

She had been right that first night we met when she said that God does not sleep.

He indeed doesn’t.

Thandie had been brought into my life for a purpose.

* * *

A few days later, Thabo came to pick me up at the airport and when I set my eyes on her, it was as if it was for the first time. I ran to her like a mad man and scooped her up into my arms and kissed her with all my heart.

I guess we must have looked like newlyweds to the people watching us because there were all smiles around…and probably some glares too but I didn’t care much at that time. Thabo was surprised by my behaviour and she kept asking me if everything was okay the whole way she drove us home.

The moment we were in the privacy of our bedroom walls, I put my laptop bag down, got on my knees before her and did something I should have done a long time ago;

I begged for her forgiveness.

All along I had thought that our journey to reconciliation had started two years ago…but that mid-morning after my trip from Ndola, that was when both Thabo and I decided to really make things work.

Unlike before, we promised each other to forgive and forget. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but because this time we would be doing it together, we had faith that we would succeed.

Nine months later I was going through my emails at work when I saw one from Thandiwe. We had not spoken or seen each other since that morning at the lodge and I had had no idea she had my email address.
“Dear Mr Harry,” her letter read;

You must be surprised to receive an email from me. Your address was in your contact details when you checked in at the lodge and I apologize for using that information for personal purposes.

I hope you and your family are doing well now.

I have some great news that I really wanted to share with you because you played a big part in helping me come to this decision: Alex and I will be getting married next month.

I followed your advice and gave Alex a chance. He really is a great guy. We travelled together last month to see where he grew up. I discovered that his parents divorced when he was little and his mother sent him to London to live with her sister. He was an only child between his mother and father but he has four step siblings, two from his mother’s remarriage, and two from his father’s remarriage.

His two cousins from London are very nice and they treat Alex like a big brother. Melissa, that’s his oldest cousin, she is thirty-two years old and has three kids. She wants my son to go visiting since we had left him home this time around.

His father died five years ago and left him the lodge were we both work. The two of them were never close but before he died, he regretted not having been in his life and the lodge was some sort of way to make up for not having been there.

His mother lives in Lusaka with her new family, I met them a couple of months ago and they were kind of nice. They are not very close to Alex and his relationship with his mother is very strained so they just get along out of politeness. I don’t think they will be very much involved in our lives either. At first I was nervous that they might not like me since I am divorced and with a son but they didn’t seem to mind at all…either that or they just don’t care. Hahaha

Oh, by the way, my ex-husband heard that I was getting married and he came looking for me at my workplace. Fortunately, Alex put him in his place and he went away a very pissed off man. I must admit it felt so good watching him beg me for a second chance. It turns out, his wife was seeing another man and apparently he is the father of that same child that made him leave me for her. She left him last year to be with him. He was so mad because she left him for a nobody, his words, not mine.

Although I felt some form of vindication seeing him looking so pathetic, there was a part of me that felt sorry for him.

We set November 9th as the date for the wedding and both Alex and I would be happy to have you and your wife there…especially me, it would mean a lot to me. I know its short notice…but I still hope you can make it.

I hope to see you soon and do take care of yourself.

Your Friend,

Thandiwe.

I was very happy for Thandie. She finally found her own happiness and that good for nothing ex-husband of hers finally realised he had lost a good thing.

I would have been like that man too but I was fortunate enough to be rescued at the right now. I had seen the opportunity and I had gone running after it even if at that point I did not understand why I was so desperate.

Since then, although my life has not been perfect, it’s been filled with so much happiness.

I learnt a lot of things since that morning my wife had woken me up from my sleep and told me that she had something she needed to get off her chest.

I learnt that it is easy to notice the sins of others and judge them accordingly yet for our own sins, we tend to find justifications;

I lashed out because you upset me, I stole because I was desperate, I lied because I didn’t want to hurt you…or I cheated because you made me to.

At some point in each of our lives, we’ve made these and many other excuses for our actions.

However, the thing about life is, for every act we do, every decision we make, we do so whilst consciously being aware of the likely consequences to follow…and even when we consciously know that we are doing something bad, we prepare our defence and we manufacture whatever excuses we can to lessen our guilt.

Although my wife had defiled the sanctity of our home when she lay in bed with another man, I was the one that had betrayed her on a much grander scale because I had deceived her into believing that I had forgiven her. Instead, I used every opportunity I got to hurt her…thinking I was justified in my actions simply because she had done something wrong to me first.

Unlike her who had recognized her mistakes and taken responsibility for them, I had been a coward, hiding behind her while I slowly worked to permanently destroy our marriage.

It was I that made the decision to cheat, not my wife. She had given me the opportunity to walk away and I didn’t. The moment I had chosen to stay, everything that had happened before was to be erased so we could start afresh. Instead, I let myself get swept up in delusions that threatened to tear my family apart.

No one had held a gun to my head and forced me to do all those things I did. And for that, I paid the price…I stepped foot on an already cracked foundation and deliberately rubbed my foot in there and made it crumble to the ground.

In order to restore what had been and built what could be, Thabo and I had to start from the very beginning, together.

She had given me a second chance, not because she felt guilty for what she had done in the past….

But because she loved me.

I had sought her forgiveness…not because I thought I deserved it…

But because I loved her.

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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.

Because She Loved Me – Part 2

because she loved me

 

After my fateful encounter with Thandiwe, I went back to my car and sat there for close to two hours…just thinking about where to go from there.

Thabo and I had an understanding from the time we got married; that no matter how heated an argument was, none of us was to leave the vicinity of our home – we could leave the bedroom yes, but never the house. For ten years I kept that promise.

But that night as I sat alone wallowing in self pity in the car park of the lodge I had almost committed adultery in just a few minutes ago, that decision couldn’t come to me easily.

That night I was afraid of a lot of things and of all those things, the truth topped the list.

I was not just afraid of what I might do to the woman who had betrayed me like that. I was mostly afraid of finding out the truth and how it might change life as I had known it.

That night I thought about the other two children…the twins; Natasha and Merebeth. I thought about what had happened that morning immediately after my wife had confessed the truth to me.

I was on my way out of the house in a rage when they appeared in front of me out of nowhere, blocking my way with huge grins on their faces absolutely oblivious to whatever had just transpired.

“Daddy look what we made!” Natasha was excitedly showing me something I was not really seeing despite looking at it. To think that the only thought going through my mind during such a proud fatherly moment was… are you even my kids?… makes me feel so much shame in myself right now.

To this day, those two cute innocent smiles still haunt me in my sleep when I think back to the thoughts that went through my mind at that particular moment. Days after my finding out the truth, I would wake up in the middle of the night in bouts of sweat, the fear of what was, what is…and what could have been ripping through my body and breaking it into convulsions that threatened to send me to an early grave.

That night as I sat in my car contemplating my next move…I pondered the question I had been most afraid to ask;

Who was the father?

I thought back to my past and wondered what sins I might have committed for whose price I was only paying then?

How did I get to such a point? Where did I go wrong?

I was not sure whether to thank my wife for revealing the truth to me of her own volition or to be mad at her for rocking a boat that had been sailing smoothily all along.

There was nothing about my son or any of our children that made me question their paternity and there had been no signs of infidelity or suspicious behaviour from my wife. The thought of my own children not being mine had never even crossed my mind before. I mean, what sort of man would I be if I doubted something like that?

Whats worse, almost every single person that met my son said he was a spitting image of me…so why…how…what was going on? Despite everything, there was a huge part of me that felt responsible for how things had turned out.

I was the one who had left a beautiful wife at home for two years and only went back to see her once. How lonely she must have been? If her loneliness was anything compared to mine…then where would I even begin shaming her?

Granted, our lives had become a whole lot better after attaining my second degree. I had been immediately promoted at work and Thabo had finally managed to set up her own business. We could afford to send the children to the best schools in the country and we lived a much comfortable life. We were happier than we had ever been before those two years.

But…

…and what about our families…dear God.

What was I to tell my family?

In a society that heralded a man’s infidelity but scorned a woman’s, just what was going to happen to the woman I had dedicated my whole life to?

I wanted to hate her and I wanted her to hurt as much as I did. I thought about divorcing her the moment she had dropped the bomb on me but the memories of everything we had been through together kept me from thinking rationally.

I wanted to hurt her…but how could I get myself to lay a finger on a woman and still look my mother in the eye?

And what about Chikondi? What was going to happen to our son?

You see, even in those moments, I couldn’t bring myself to think of that handsome little fella as anything else other than my son. He had been my first, and I would have laid down my life for him in teh blink of an eye.

After thirteen good years, three years dating and ten good years married…how did i end up siting in my car in the middle of the night outside some lodge reduced to nothing but tears?

Before that fateful day, I was not a man that easily cried. The last time I had cried was when I saw my wife cry over her mothers grave during her burial…and it had been fie years prior.

“I was lonely…vulnerable…I was so sick and he had been there taking care of me….”

Those words assaulted my ears until I could only hear bells ringing in my head from out of nowhere.
I had finally decided to head back home but I did not enter the house. I stayed outside in the car park and pretended not to see my lovely wife looking out the window from our bedroom every ten seconds.

I cannot remember when I slept but here’s what I remember vividly; waking up in the morning to the sound of a knock on my window only to find Chikondi starring closely at me.

It was the boy that was my son but never my own.

I adjusted the seat back up and rolled down the window.

“Good morning dad?” the eight year old greeted me, concern written all over his face.

Something dropped inside of me…and it hurt real bad.

I could only stare back at him as I prayed to God to not let my emotions show on my face.

“Did you and mum fight?” the boy asked. For an eight year old, he had the maturity of an older person…something I always boasted he took after me.

The irony.

“Why are you crying dad?” Chikondi asked me.

Was I crying?

I quickly checked my face with my hand and for sure, there were tears coursing down my face.

How did i get reduced to the kind of man that cries in front of his child…even if that child wasn’t biologically his?

I quickly wiped away the tears and forced a smile on my face. “I drunk too much last night and your mother wasn’t happy at all. I think this is the hangover at work,” I lied.

“Dad, I think it’s alright for a man to cry once in a while. It only means he’s human, not that he’s weak…as long as he doesn’t do it often.”

Those were my very own words being echoed back at me.

Who the hell was the father to this wise little fella?

I could have given anything to rewind time and stop my wife from revealing the truth to me. I could have paid anything to erase my memory if it meant getting rid of the ache in my chest every time I looked at Chikondi.

And so I got out of the car and did something that would haunt Chikondi for the rest of his life.

I knelt down before him, put my arms around him and cried my heart out. Even though I was crying silently, the convulsions from my body were more than enough to let my son know what was happening.

“What’s wrong dad?” I heard the boy ask.

It took a few more minutes for me to get my balls in order and man up. I slowly released him from my embrace and looked up at him tall frame.

“I was trying to be human,” I told Chikondi, my voice a little hoarse from emasculation. “How about we go inside together so mummy and I can told a bit.”

He only nodded in response. I could see that he was almost tearing up and that only made me feel even worse. I should not have let my emotions get the better of me in front of him.
As if she had been watching us from inside, Thabo opened the door to let us in the moment we reached the house.

Before I could even step the first food into the house, the twins came running towards me and went straight for my legs, each hugging one for herself while my wife looked on in terror.

I leveled myself up to girls height and smiled at them, taking them both into my arms.

“Where did you go dad?” They chorused the moment they were out of my arms.

“I was working,” I cheerfully lied.

“Chikondi, why don’t you take your sisters to the kitchen and have some breakfast?” Thabo instructed and the boy immediately obliged.

Without uttering a single word to her, I headed upstairs to our bedroom and she followed me closely behind.

“You decide, I leave or you leave,” I said once the door was shut behind us, my back to her.

Thabo could only look at me with a deadening look on her face. “No Harry,” she said pleadingly. “Please don’t do this. Let’s talk about it first….”

“Is there anything more you have to say to me Thabo?” I turned to face her, my hands in my pockets.

She started walking towards me but the look in my eyes warned her to keep a distance and she listened.

“I will do anything you want me to do but just don’t ask me to leave Harry.” She begged.

“Then I will be the one leaving,” I said, walking over to the closet to grab some of my clothes.

I don’t know when she moved but Thabo was right behind me, holding on to me as she cried her heart out, imploring me not to leave.

Any other day I would have softened my heart and given in to her but not on that day.

I just stood there with one hand down while the other held on to a shirt hanging on a hanger in the closet while she had her arms around me from behind. “Who is he?” I finally asked the billion dollar question, but I was only able to because I was not looking at her.

I felt her loosen her hold on me and slowly she removed her arms from around me.

“Who is he?” I asked again, still unable to turn around and face her.

Was I being too much of a coward?

I could hear Thabo pacing back and forth from behind. She wasn’t talking.

I went ahead and grabbed a few clothes from off the closet in anger, got a small suitcase from the many that were piled up on top of the wardrobe, threw it on the floor and then threw the clothes inside.

“Jeffrey,” I heard her say amidst my packing tantrum.

I immediately paused.

“Who the hell is Jeffrey?” I had stopped whatever I was doing and was now looking at her shriveling figure in one corner of the bedroom.

With her hands held together, she muttered, “Pastor Jeffrey.”

I cannot even begin to describe the look on my face upon hearing those two words.

Pastor Jeffrey was the Senior Pastor at our local church, a man I respected so much and a man whom I had sought counsel from several times in the past years.

Ten years ago, he had been introduced as a new Pastor at church, a bright looking man with a very welcoming and humble demeanor he had been.

“You mean the same Pastor I know?” I desperately wanted her to say no.

I needed her to say NO.

“Yes, the same one.” Thabo sent my world crumbling down.

Like a leaf that had just been cut off from its branch, my knees gave way and down, I hit the floor.

Thabo quickly ran to me and tried to touch me but i sent her flying back where she had come from. I heard a thump…something must have hit something…probably her head…but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to care.

I quickly picked up the few things I had removed, piled them into the small suitcase and off I went.

I could hear Thabo crying as I stormed off the bedroom but I didn’t want to look at her lest I weakened in my resolve.

I needed to be as far away from her as possible…not because I was leaving her, but because there were kids in that house that still needed their mother.

I had been pushed to the brink of insanity and I did not trust myself enough to keep holding on to the principles I had lived by all my life. I had stuck to them all those years and yet there I was…broken and betrayed by the two people I had believed would help pave the way for me into paradise.

* * *

“Your wife cheated on you, had a baby with another man and she passed on the child as yours and yet you are the one that leaves home?”

It was my best buddy Thomas chastising me for my decision to leave home.

“What kind of man leaves his cheating wife in his fancy mansion while he wallows in pain in his friend’s spare bedroom? You should have sent the bitch packing and….”

“She might be a lot of things Thom but please don’t call her that…she is still my wife and the mother of my children.”

“Your children, you say?” Thomas wasted no time digging into my wounds. “I suggest you get a paternity test before they turn twenty and your wife feels like sharing the truth.

I wanted to scream and say a whole bunch of expletives at him but I resorted to quietly nursing my wounds.
“You do know that you gonna have to send her back to her parents right?” Thomas asked the one question I still wasn’t ready to confront.

“I wanted to send her packing the very moment she revealed the truth to me,” I told Thom. “You know those moments when someone asks you what you would do if something happened and you straight away have a confidence answer of what you would do? Well, I have proved that reality isn’t always black and white. It might seem obvious what I ought to do…but it ain’t so with my heart…or mind. I have absolutely no idea what the right thing to do is.”

“The right thing to do is send her back to her parents,” Thomas emphasized. “She violated the sanctity of your marriage and even had passed on a child that isn’t yours as your own. What more do you think she has to do before you come to your senses?”

“Have you forgotten that I was the one who violated the sanctity of my marriage by leaving my wife alone when our marriage was still so young?”

“Is that why you are acting like this? Because you somehow feel it’s your fault?” Thomas quizzed me in disbelief. “Are you nuts?” He really was going all out. “Before you left for school, didn’t you consult your wife about making such a decision and what it would mean?”

“I did,” I answered.

“Did she or did she not willingly allow you to go?”

“She did…she was actually very proud of me for getting sponsorship. We were both excited because we knew what it would mean once I got the paper.”

“You see where I am going with this now, don’t you?”

I went mute. I couldn’t bring myself to say out loud the words he desperately needed me to say because the moment they were out there, it meant I had to face the truth.

I still wasn’t ready.

The truth of the matter was that despite everything that had happened, despite all the emotions and confusion going on in my head, despite the betrayal…I was still madly and crazily in-love with my wife.

I had reached a point in my life where I could not picture a life without her. Everything I had built…everything we had built together had been structured in such a way that the both of us had to be together in order to enjoy life. And now my friend was asking me to forsake all that and start all over again?

Until that moment, I had no idea how scary the idea of starting all over again could be.

I was petrified.

I was afraid of the things I knew and the things I did not know. And most importantly, I was afraid of the things I needed to know that I still didn’t know.

“You know what else makes me mad?” I said to Thomas. “That I believe her…I believe her when she says it only happened once.” I could see the strange look Thomas was giving me…like I had completely lost my mind, but I chose to ignore it. I needed someone to talk to and he was the only person I knew I could speak to without worrying about the news spreading everywhere.

There was someone else I would have gone to immediately…unfortunately, that person was the reason behind my pain. No matter how wise or holy his counsel might be, I was just too human to keep myself from punching a man holding a Bible in his hands.

“What I can’t accept is the identity of the other man,” I told Thom. “Why did it have to be him of all people? I let that man into our home so many times. I spoke to him about the challenges Thabo and I faced once in a while and he always gave me wise counsel. I trusted him so much that I would have felt comfortable leaving my wife and children under his care if ever i had to travel somewhere far. To think that a man I trusted like that….” I shook my head.

“I guess now we know why your wife had insisted on you guys changing churches right after you returned from your studies….” Thomas pointed out.

Realization finally dawned on me. So that was why.

“I remember now,” I said. “I was so mad at her because she couldn’t give me a good enough reason for us to move churches and I really felt at home in that church. Now that I think about, she never was comfortable with me seeking counsel from him or let alone invite him to our home. But you know what’s even funnier, that he seemed okay with everything!”

“He is either a sociopath or he has a tendency to forgive himself a little too much.” My friend said.

“Do you have any idea the sort of mess this would create if the truth ever gets out?” I asked. “That is one of the biggest churches in the country and the thought of my dirty laundry being aired out to the public like that makes me cringe. I do not want the whole world to know about my weaknesses or my marriage.”

“What do you mean your weaknesses?” Thomas was genuinely puzzled. “How does your wife cheating on you make it your weakness?”

“You know that sometimes you act like you are not married?” I said to Thomas.

“The difference between you and I is that you treat your wife like an equal partner. I always let my wife know who is boss in this marriage and that’s why shit like that will never happen to me.”

“If there’s anything I have learnt from all this, it is that things are not always as they appear.” I said. “Yes, I regret certain things but not the way I treated Thabo. I would still treat her or any other woman I am with like that. Your problem is that you demand respect from Claudia instead of earning it…and you’ve never respected her in any way.

“It’s not only men that ought to be respected in a marriage. If you respect her, she will respect you even more and there would be no point of you demanding it. She is a very beautiful woman…and I know you will say and so are other women out there…but none of those women can put up with you as much as Claudia does. Before you end up like me…or worse, I suggest you start paying more attention to doing what’s right.”

“The guy gets his heart broken once and suddenly he’s become a philosopher,” Thom retorted sarcastically.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Take it or leave it. I am just trying to be a friend.”

“But this isn’t about me!” He said. “We need to find a solution to your current problem. What are you going to do about that pastor?”

“I thought about confronting him when I found out…. I even drove all the way to his house in Olympia but when I saw his wife who opened the gate for me and welcomed me in such an unbelievable manner, I couldn’t bring myself to state my case. The kids where running around the house…everyone seemed so happy and I just couldn’t bring myself to…you know. And besides, the pastor wasn’t even home. He’s traveled to Ndola for some conference. He will only be back after a week.”

Tsk tsk tsk, I heard Thomas say, looking at me pitifully. “That soft heart of yours will be the reason for your undoing. Oh wait, you’ve already been undone!” He laughed.

I gave him a stern look.

“My bad,” he raised his arms slightly in the air as if in surrender. “Bad joke. And how about your wife, you still gonna let her stay in your house after everything she’s done?”

I didn’t respond immediately. I had no idea what I was going to do. The moment I decide to send Thabo back home, everyone was going to know what happened between us. I didn’t want that to happen, just yet.

And most importantly, I didn’t want Chikondi finding out the truth in such a manner. It was going to screw him up forever. He was a very deep kid…and deep kids like that have the potential to have deep psychological issues. I know he wasn’t my real son…but I just couldn’t turn off my parental instincts towards him as if it was some switch I could just press and everything would go away.

The truth was, at the back of my head, I kept hoping that there was a mistake somewhere…that Thabo had made a mistake and that Chikondi was actually my son.

If he really wasn’t mine, then why was there such an uncanny resemblance between us? He looked nothing like the man who was supposedly his father.

So was the resemblance a fact or simply something me and everyone else cooked up just because we had accepted the natural and expected things to be like that?

“I need to get some fresh air,” I announced to Thomas, grabbed my coat from the bed that would temporary be mine in the coming days and walked out of the house.
Walking down the clean and clear street of the Phi neighborhood where Thomas and his family lived, I took in the fresh breeze of air and thanked God for the low density of the neighborhood. It meant I could do some thinking I desperately needed without having to worry about people starring strangely at me.

I had been walking for close to twenty minutes with earphones in my head listening to songs that once meant something to my wife and I…and I was busy fighting off the tears threatening to erupt when I felt someone tag me from behind.

I removed the headsets and just when i was about to turn around, she popped up right in front of me and caught me off-guard.

It was Thandiwe.

Yes it was her…except, she didn’t quite look like the woman I had met the night before. She was wearing a chitenge, a red oversize t-shirt on top that reached just above her knees and she had dirty looking

Was fate playing some cruel prank on me?

Why did I have to meet her again?

But there she was standing in front of me with her eyes sparkling as she smiled at me. She was obviously happy to me.

The feeling wasn’t mutual.

She was a reminder of just how bad things had become for me.

“I knew you were that good man that helped me!” She said excitedly. “Do you live in this neighborhood Mr?”

“No,” I replied curtly and automatically wiped the smile from off her face.

She took a step back from me. “You are obviously not happy to see me.”

She was very perceptive. I was forcing me to like her.

I didn’t want to like her.

I only stared back blankly, but she got the point alright.

“I am sorry I rudely interrupted you,” she stepped aside to let me pass.”

“It’s fine,” I lied. “I have to be on my way so goodbye.”

She nodded with her head low, avoiding my eyes. I had embarrassed her.

I hadn’t meant to…but I embarrassed her still.

I walked passed her and put my headsets back on, instructing my brain not to look back at her.

Don’t look back, don’t look back, don’t….I kept chanting but it was as if I was telling myself to look because I finally did!

I had only walked a few steps away from her but when I looked back, she was still where I had left her standing. She was glaring at me so hard it was a wonder I didn’t have any holes in my back.

And then I saw it. Her tears.

I won’t get any break now will I? I said i my head as I walked back to her.

I took out a handkerchief from my pocket and handed it to her. She tentatively reached out and accepted it, slowly wiping away her tears.

“You live in this neighborhood?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Hell no. I would not afford to live in such a neighborhood even if I died and came back again. You live here Mr?” She was looking up at me, her eyes were still dumb from the tears but she had stopped crying. Thank God.

“No…I am just visiting a friend,” I said, touching my forehead instinctively…something I do whenever I am nervous or lying.

“Are you married?” She was looking up at my hand. I quickly dropped it to the side. I didn’t have my ring on but there was a mark on my finger solid enough to scream the fact.

I had removed it the previous day after ten straight years of never taking it off. It was something I had done in anger and I had regretted it immediately. I tried looking for the little thing in my office but it just wouldn’t reveal itself. It was like a bad omen.

I had spent the next two hours looking for it relentlessly but it was as if it had disappeared into some hole in the office I was not even aware of. I only stopped when I was called into a meeting and after that, everything went blank.

I still didn’t know where the little thing was hiding.

“I approached you last night because I thought you were single.” The kind of fear I saw in her eyes mirrored that which I had seen in my wife just after she made that fateful announcement.
“How could you…?” She was visibly shaken by that realization and it made me feel more worse about what had almost happened the other night.

I had been right when I said she wasn’t cut out for that kind of job.

“Calm down,” I made the mistake of reaching out to lay my hand on her shoulder because she flinched in disgust, like I was some leprotic bastard trying to defile her or something.

That chewed down at my pride.

I withdrew my hand immediately. “Yes I am married,” I calmed explained to her. “I admit…what happened last night was something that shouldn’t have happened but…I was having a rough day and I reacted immaturely. I regretted it the moment something was about to happen…I don’t think I did to explain any further…you were there.”

She seemed to calm down a bit. “I understand,” she said. “And who I’m I to judge you anyway? I am not any better…probably worse…it’s Just that…even though I know there are no degrees to sin, I was kind of hoping you would not be a married man. I had checked your finger…and I ended up making assumptions. I guess I should have asked first.”

“It was your first time after all,” I found myself smiling.

She smiled back. “Yes it was. And you were right when you said God doesn’t sleep because…we were both about to make the worst mistakes of our lives.”

“You can say that again,” I said.

“I listened to your advice and found myself an extra job for the weekends,” she proudly stated. “I am working as a nanny and a maid for that house over there.” She pointed to a white and yellow painted house just a few blocks from where we were standing.

“That’s very good. I am happy for you.” I said.

“The pay is obviously not better than what I would be making if I continued…like that. A friend of mine told me people like that make a lot of money on a good night more than people with regular jobs make in a month.”

“Your friend might have been right…but she also never told you everything you needed to know.” I said.

She nodded. “You are right. I did a lot of thinking after meeting you and I thanked God it was you I met instead of someone else.”

“I guess I also ought to thank God that it was you I met and not anybody else…otherwise….”

“Anyway, I have to rush back to my job before they discover I’m missing,” she said. “It was nice to see you again Sir.”

There was something about the way she addressed me that me feel old. I was only in my late thirties and she was about twenty-five…I wanted to tell my name just then but something didn’t seat well with me.

“Take care of yourself Thandie,” I said and resumed my walk while she ran back to her place of work.

It was not going to be the last time I ran into her like that. Like a very bad joke, fate kept pullig us together and forcing me to know more about the girl I almost had an affair with.

To this day, I strongly believe that had it not been for Thandiwe, my journey from the moment I learnt the truth from my wife would not have been so complicated.

Without meaning to, that innocent looking lady would implant herself on my heart and shake me up till I could no longer think rationally.

I was a man on the verge of collapse…because she came to love me more than I could ever fathom.

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.