Echoes of the Heart – Part 10

Final image - Echoes of the Heart
“May I help you?” Asked the man that had opened the small pedestrian gate of the house Sibu was parked in front of, obviously mistaking her for a guest.

Sibu rolled down her window and said, “Sorry, I think I got the wrong address. The house I am looking for should be a couple of blocks behind…I must have passed…really sorry for the inconvinience.”

She then reversed onto the street and drove back in the direction she had come, all the while keeping check for any vehicle that might be following her.

Later that evening, Martin came to collect Jacob so he could spend the night at his place before he left with his mother the next morning. Sibu had to fight the urge to talk to him about having been followed because she feared Martin would take that as licence to involve himself in the affairs of her life under the guise of protecting her and his son.

Once Martin and Jacob were gone, Sibu called Sibeso to offload.

“I don’t even think today was the first time Sibe,” she told her friend. “You remember that day I went to see my aunt, while I was parked by the roadside watching her store, I had seen that same vehicle parked behind me and when I looked, I found some strange guy looking directly at me. I just brushed it aside, didn’t think much of it although the guy did give me the creeps. When I was done with my aunt, I found himhe still parked there except this time he made himself busy reading a newspaper.”

“Are you sure it was the same vehicle?” Sibeso said from the other end of the line. “It could have just been some random person parked behind you. Who would be following you around really?”

“That’s what I also want to know,” Sibu replied. “I am very sure it was the same blue car. That first time I was able to see the driver’s face through the windscreen but not this time…but I am very positive it is the same car.”

“Maybe it’s Maleficent,” Sibeso suggested. “She is the only species I can think of in your life capable of doing such a crazy thing. Maybe she is trying to dig up some dirt on you so you can get her son full custody of Jake.”

“I thought about that too…she is the only one that came to mind. Aunt Tafadzwa is too money hungry to hire someone with such an expensive ride just to follow me around. Unless I really managed to piss her off when I declared war against her and this is her sick and twisted way of getting revenge.”

Ummm,” Sibeso said. “I doubt its Maxine, that one is the juju voodoo kind of person,” and laughing, she added, “She would rather get a quick fix than waste time following you around, for what?”

Sibu let out an airy laugh. “You are right. But this thing is really making me nervous.”

“You will be out of town by tomorrow so you wont have to deal with Maleficent’s nonsense for some time…unless the stalker decides to follow you to South Africa…then we will know it’s Martin that hired him to spy on you and Ted.”

“Martin is immature but I know for a fact he isn’t capable of such craziness.”

“He did hire a PI to look into you before, didn’t he?” Sibeso reminded her. “Isn’t that the same kind of crazy?”

“Ah,” Sibu sighed. “I just don’t know what to think any more. It’s not like I am some rich person or the daughter of some rich guy and…Sibeso…” she paused in mid-sentence, her voice dropping to a whisper towards the end.

“What is it Sibu?” Sibeso asked, her voice filled with concern. “Did he follow you home? Why have you gone quite? Sibu…should I call the police for you? If you can’t talk just say ‘um’ and I will know. Can you hear me?”

“Sibeso,” Sibu said in a very low register. “Could it be my father?”

“What?” Sibeso was caught by surprise. Sibu’s father was a forbidden topic between them. Sibu had never initiated talk of her father before.

“What if it’s him?” Sibu asked again.

“After all these years Sibu, what could he possibly be looking for? It’s not like you have any more kidneys left to give if he’s looking for a donor. Besides, didn’t your aunt say he was some poor bloke who ran away because he couldn’t afford such a huge responsibility as a child? What would a guy like that be doing driving around a Jaguar?”

“Maybe he has money, it’s been twenty-eight years since.” Sibu said.

Sibeso scoffed. “Yeah right, if he is rich, then I am Jill Gates, Bill’s long lost daughter. Stop killing yourself over who might be following you. If they meant to do you any harm, they would have done so by now. I am sure it’s Maleficent. We all knew that eventually that Botox would launch a war against her brain. She’s finally lost it.”

“I hope you are right,” Sibu said unconvincingly.

“Of course I am right,” Sibeso replied with conviction. “What time should I come to pick you up for the airport tomorrow?”

“Ten,” Sibu replied. “Martin will bring Jacob straight to the airport since he’s spending the night with him.”

“What if he decides to hold him hostage so he can keep you from leaving?” Sibeso asked.

“He wouldn’t do that Sibe. You really sound like an anti-fan these days,” Sibu said. “Aren’t you the same person that used to get excited every time you heard his name?”

“I was a kid then!” Sibeso yelled, obviously embarrassed by the memory. “Blame it on the raging hormones. It was better before I knew him personally. Knocking up that crazy bitch was the last straw for me. I just feel like kicking him in the nuts every time I lay eyes on him so he can never breed again.”

Sibu chuckled. “You are nuts my friend. Go and attend to your hubby before he starts wondering about who’s keeping you busy this late. Goodnight, see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight sweetie. I love you, sweet dreams.”

Sibu laughed. “You are doing that for the benefit of your husband isn’t it?”

Sibeso laughed back. “Kaili…you know,” she said. “He is busy giving me the eye so I had to thicken the plot for his imagination.” She whispered into the phone.

“I give up,” Sibu said laughing. “Goodnight, love you too. I will see you tomorrow.”
“Didn’t think I was just gonna drop Jake off and leave did you?” Martin said to Sibu.

They were standing outside while Sibeso and Jacob remained inside to wait for the check-in call.

Sibu was not surprised by Martin’s behavior. She had expected that much from him. If he would have it his way, he would also move to South Africa for the whole year.

“I will be popping in and out of SA to see you guys. There is no way I am going to let a whole year go by without seeing my son.”

“I know, you have every right to,” she told him.

“For real? You don’t mind?” He had not expected her to agree so easily.

“Why would I mind?” she said. “As long as you stay out of my life and just do what you came to do.” That sobered him up immediately. “What?” Sibu said upon seeing his reaction. “You had other ideas in your head didn’t you?” She called him out.

“I can try to accept the idea of you seeing other men Sibu…but not Ted, please.” He pleaded.

Sibu stifled a scowl. They were back to that topic again. “I already told you that nothing is going on between Ted and I.”

“Yet, nothing is going on yet but I know for a fact that Ted loves you. He told me to my face so many times and he had been waiting all these years for me to screw up so he can make a move. You are not going to date him, are you?” He was searching her face. “I am begging you Sibu…not Ted.”

“Why do you hate Ted so much?” Sibu asked. “You two used to be so close for so long.”

“I hate him because he is a better man than I am,” Martin confessed. “That fact pisses me off real bad. I hate him because I know he can easily take you away from me. If I had played a fair game back then, you would have gone to him and not me. I knew that and so I took you on that trip to Livingstone. He had openly told me how he felt about you the night before we traveled…I couldn’t let him have you.”

Sibu didn’t know what to say in response. She already knew that Ted had feelings for her, but only so much as a crush and not anything deep. But listening to Martin, she was for the very first time learning about just how deep his feelings might be.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

“Sibu, did you even hear a single word I said?” Martin called her back from her reverie. “Were you thinking about Ted?”

“No, of course not,” she lied. Fortunately for her, Sibeso appeared right at that moment.

“Time to check in,” she announced.

Just then Jacob too appeared, ran towards his father and wrapped his arms around his long legs.

Martin scooped him up from the ground and poked his nose playfully.

“You will come to visit us daddy, right?” the little boy asked.

“But of course!” Martin replied cheerfully, forgetting for a moment about the fears that had been running through his mind.

“Quickly say goodbye you two, we have to go back inside now.” Sibu said.

Martin put his son down and lowered himself down so they could have a little mano-a-mano while Sibu and Sibeso went back inside to look after their luggage.

“You remember what we talked about last night my son?” Martin said.

“I do!” the boy replied enthusiastically.

Martin motioned for him to take him through it.

“1. I have to protect mum from all men,” he started the list.

Martin was nodding his head proudly as his son said out the list they had entitled ‘duties of a good son’ the previous night.

“2, I have to tell any man that tries to talk to mummy that she is married. 3, I have to give you a weekly update of everything we do, and the last one…I have to take lots and lots of pictures with mum!” he had spread his arms wide to indicate quantity.

Martin clapped the minute he was done. “I am so proud of you little man. Your mother’s brain and mine created a genius. Put it here….” he put out his open palm and Jacob did accordingly before they headed back inside.

“I will call you when we arrive,” Sibu said to him.

“I won’t even get a goodbye hug?” And without waiting for a response, he closed the distance between them and held her tight in an embrace that lasted longer than Sibu would have liked.

“You are going to delay them,” Sibeso roared from the sidelines.

Martin reluctantly loosed his arms around her and Sibu quickly freed herself. “Take care of yourself Martin,” she said and then moved to Sibeso and hugged her tightly. “Let’s chat everyday my love,” she said to her friend.

“I am already missing you.” Sibeso was already tearing up.

“If I didn’t know any better,” Martin commented as he watched them still tied in a hug, upset that she had been fighting to release herself from him the whole time while she seemed to be taking her dear time with Sibeso.

“If you cry then I’m gonna start crying too and then Jacob will as well,” Sibu said whilst fighting back the tears and forcing a smile so that Jacob does pick up what was really going on. Every time he saw his mother upset, he would mirror her emotions.

Sibusiswe proceeded to hold on to her son’s hand with one hand while the other attended to their luggage that consisted of one big suitcase and her handbag.

Martin hugged his son for the last time before finally letting them go.

“Don’t forget to call me!” He shouted to Sibu before they disappeared from view.

Tsk tsk tsk….” it was Sibeso looking Martin up and down with a scowl on her face. “If you loved her that much, why were you such a jerk to her?” She asked him.

“I was young and stupid then,” Martin answered and started his walk back to the parking lot.

Sibeso ran after him and the two of them walked together.

“You really hate me these days don’t you?” He asked her.

“Of course I do,” Sibeso replied honestly.

Martin glared at her and then laughed. “I see you still haven’t turned those lemons in your mouth into lemonade,” he teased her. “I thought motherhood turned all women soft.”

“It actually does the opposite mind you,” she corrected him.

Martin thought about what she had just said for a moment. “You might be right,” he finally said. “Sibu has become a thousand times harder to crack ever since she learnt she was pregnant.”

“Who can blame her,” Sibeso said. “She caught her husband in bed with another woman the very day she went to share the news of the pregnancy with him. You are lucky she didn’t cut off your balls,” she moved her eyes to the area in question and Martin instinctively used his hands to cover the area.

Sibeso laughed. “Relax,” she said blithely. “They are safe…because I am a mother now.” She assured him.

Martin laughed and relaxed a bit.

They had finally reached the car park.

* * *

Sibu had planned on using her stay in SA to work and relax as much as possible since she had left all the sources of her problems behind. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case for in Ted, she found a new source of frustration.

For the first three weeks or so, Ted had not said anything about his feelings to Sibu. At the office, the two of them interacted as colleagues and at home, they got along well as friends. He took them out on tours of the country whenever they were not working and together with Jacob they experienced all sorts of fun.

Jacob had been distant towards Ted for the first couple of weeks but Ted’s friendly personality was hard to ignore after some time. The little boy was forced to finally open up and the two of them became the best of buddies, much to Martin’s chagrin.

“He is a really cool guy dad,” Jacob once said to his father when he called.

“This is what the adults call betrayal Jake,” Martin admonished his son. “It’s first degree betrayal.”

“It’s not like that dad,” the five year old tried to reason with his father. He just takes us out to show us around because there is no one else to show us the city. You understand, right?”

“I don’t,” Martin sulked. “Where’s your mother? Give her back the phone, I need to talk to her.”

“Are you mad at me dad?”

“Yes I am. Let me talk to your mum.”

“Okay,” the little guy looked very disappointed as he walked back into the living room from his playroom to give the phone back to his mother.

“Where’s mum?” Jacob asked Ted who was sitting alone watching TV.

“I think she’s gone to the bathroom,” Ted answered. “Someone wants to talk to her?”

“it’s dad,” Jacob replied, holding the phone out.

Ted got up and went to collect the phone. “I will talk to him while we wait for mum okay,” he had put his hand on the phone to keep whoever was on the other end from listening.

Jacob simply nodded with tears in his eyes and then walked back to his room, his head down like a defeated man.

“Why are you torturing a five year old into being your spy?” Ted said the minute he had the phone to his ear. “Can you imagine the kind of pressure you are putting him under? When will you grow up Martin?”

“Where’s my wife?” Martin voice blasted through the phone. “Why are you answering her phone?”

Ted laughed. “Calm down, she’s slightly indisposed at the moment…but you and I can talk while we wait. I am sure there should be something we can still talk about considering we used to be best friends.”

“I have nothing to say to you Ted. Do you think I don’t know what you are plotting?” Martin growled.

“Oh, so you know,” Ted said sarcastically. “That makes things a little easier for me then. You are right, I am still in-love with Sibu and in case you’ve forgotten, she’s not your wife anymore, she is your ex-wife.”

“Don’t you have any shame man?” Martin asked. “How can you go after my wife when you and I used to be friends? What sort of position will you put Sibu in if at all you succeed in pursuing her….you want her to be the woman that married her ex-husband’s best friend?”

“There’s the difference between you and me right there,” Ted was saying. “You care too much about what people think and I don’t. So what if people argue semantics and give unnecessary opinions? Everyone knows that we were both interested in her from the get-go and we both had fair chances of winning her heart except you cheated and gained the upper hand. God, you almost ruined her life! Bottom line is, I have no qualms whatsoever asking her to be my wife because I don’t owe you a thing. You and I are no longer friends and, if at all you considered me a friend, you would have backed off years ago when you saw that she liked me better than she liked you.”

“You really have some nerve Ted,” Martin burst out. “She will never be your wife as long as I am alive.”

“Good,” Ted retorted. “With your health history and lifestyle, that won’t be such a problem for me.”

“hmm hmm,” Sibu deliberately cleared her throat to announce her presence in the room. She had already heard more than enough.

Ted quickly turned around and found Sibu awkwardly smiling at him. “Is that Martin?” she asked.

“Son of a bitch,” Ted could hear Martin cuss before rudely ending the call.

Ted looked shaken. “How long were you standing there?” he asked.

“Not long enough,” Sibu lied. “I just came in and heard you talk about health history. From your tone of voice and from the color of that phone you are holding, I figured it could only be Martin.” She was forcing herself to smile in order to hide her tired and weary looking eyes.

He removed the purple covered phone from his ear and held it out to her. “I think he’s already cut though….”

“It’s fine, as long as he talked to Jake.” She took the phone from him. “I am going to go upstairs to lie down for a bit. We had quite a crazy day today.”

“I know,” Ted nervously smiled back at her. He was not convinced she had only heard the last part of the conversation. “You should rest,” he said. “I have some work I need to look at also, so….”

“Yeah, let’s chat later then.” And she turned and headed upstairs to her room.

Ted knotted his fingers into a fist. That was not how he had wanted her to learn about his feelings. Dame that Martin, he silently cussed as he watched Sibu’s figure disappear up the stairs.
Ted confirmed his suspicions the very next day when Sibu’s attitude towards him changed. She had become distant and avoided being anywhere were they would be just the two of them. This went on for over a week until he decided he couldn’t take the pressure any more. He accosted her at lunch time at work and took her somewhere where they could talk in private.

They found the perfect spot at the rooftop of their office building. There was a bench there that was strategically placed for anyone sitting there to view the city uninterrupted.

They both sat down.

“You know what I want us to talk about, right?” Ted said.

“I do,” Sibu admitted.

“Your behavior since that evening,” Ted was saying. “Should I take it as some sort of response?”

“What response?” Sibu asked.

“My feelings,” he said. “I know you heard what I told Martin. I am still in-love with you Sibu.” He had turned his body to face her.

“I know,” she said, her face still facing forward and her shadowed gaze fixed on the buildings in the distance.

“I need to know how you feel about me,” Ted pressed on. “I know a lot has happened over the years but not once did my feelings change. If anything, they have grown stronger. I know there was a time when I thought I had a chance with you but I am not so sure about now. The moment you heard about my feelings, you went mute on me and started acting distant.”

“That’s because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings Ted. All these years I only thought of you as a friend…nothing more.”

“I know, that’s why I am willing to give you time to start thinking about me as something more than just a friend…like a man who’s interested in you, a man who has feelings for you.”

Ted….” she had started to protest but he wouldn’t give her a chance.

“I don’t think that evening was the first time you learned about my feelings for you Sibu,” Ted said. “There were so many times in the past when I tried to tell you…I think I told you enough for you to have picked up on what I meant. You just chose to ignore it. I have seen how awkward you got whenever our eyes meet ever since you arrived here. You act nervous or uncomfortable whenever we find ourselves in an intimate situation. You knew all along and I think that the only reason you kept avoiding confronting the truth was because you knew that there is a possibility you might like me too.”

“It’s not like that Ted….”

“Then what is it about Sibu?”

She was silent, her gaze still shadowed by whatever thoughts running through her head.

Ted waited, keeping his gaze closely on her.

“I don’t know Ted,” Sibu finally spoke. “My life is just a complete mess and I just don’t have the time to think about dating right now.”

“I think you are just making excuses,” he told her. “You’ve had enough time to date from the time you came here.”

“I don’t think that constitutes dating,” she argued.

“Apart from calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, everything we’ve done from the time you came is what lover’s do. If you had time to do all that, then you have time to date Sibu.”

He could tell he had cornered her.

“I thought I was done dealing with lawyers,” she said.

“What do you mean?” Ted obviously missed her point.

“I always feel like I am on the stand.” She said.

Ted laughed. “Well, I think you can hold your ground quite alright. Is that why you don’t want to date me…because I remind you of your ex-husband?”

“No,” Sibu replied a little too quickly. She had taken the bait.

“What do you mean No?” Ted asked, his face wrinkling into a smile. “Then you just don’t like me?”

“No, I mean….” she was clearly flustered. “You know what I mean Ted. Why are you trying to be difficulty?”

He was grinning triumphantly. “Because I want to know what you mean,” he insisted.

“I know what you are doing,” she called him out. “Stop treating me like a defendant.”

“Sibu, look at me,” he said.

She turned only once to look at him and then turned back. Ted placed his hand under her chin and slowly turned her face to look at him. He kept his hand there while he talked.

“Look me in my eyes and tell me that you absolutely have no feelings for me. Tell me that you don’t like me and I promise you…I will not mention my feelings to you ever again.”

“I am not going to play Tom and Jerry with you,” she tried to get up but Ted placed both his hands on her shoulders and kept her down.

“Um um,” he was smiling and shaking his head. “You are not getting out of this one so easily.

“What do you want me to say Ted?” she asked. “Nothing between us will change even if I tell you that I like you. Even though you are no longer close with Jacob’s father, you two used to be friends. What sort of woman would that make me if I dated you? I have enough drama in my life to add more to it.”

“I don’t think that’s such a big deal Sibu.” He countered. “All our friends know that Martin is the one that went after you despite knowing how I felt about you. If anyone should be shamed, it’s neither you or me, it’s him. If you say yes, and if it bothers you that much, we can continue living here where nobody knows about our past and you wont have to go back to that place. Unless you tell me that you are still in-love with Martin, because I am not buying all these excuses you are giving.”

“I am not in-love with Martin and I can promise you that we are never ever getting back together. He thinks he’s still in-love with me but that’s just Martin being Martin. When someone tells him he can’t have something, that’s when he wants it more. Now more than ever, I am convinced that’s the only reason he married me.”

“Then if you know that, why do you care so much about his feelings?”

“Because he is the father of my child.”

“And that will change if you marry me?” he asked sarcastically.

She scowled at him.

“Sibu,” he took her hands into his. “You like me, don’t you?” he asked. “Look at me…no, don’t look away.”

“Yes, I like you Ted,” she finally admitted. “You are a great guy, any woman would be lucky to have you….”

“But,” he added for her.

“But I don’t plan on ever remarrying. I just want to raise my son in peace.”

“Jacob will grow up and set up a family of his own,” Ted said. “What will happen to you then? Grow old and die alone? Do you have any idea how lonely it can get being alone? Ask me, I can testify. I have spent the past seven years waiting for a woman whom I know likes me but doesn’t have the guts to admit it.”

“I just admitted it,” Sibu said. “I like you but I just don’t want to remarry.”

“Why don’t you want to get married again?” Ted asked. “You said that you have enough drama in your life, could it be something to do with your aunt?”

Sibu gaped at him, wondering what and how he knew about her aunt.

“I heard about what your aunt did at the office years back when I was in Zambia and then I remembered something you had said during the interview. There was something about what you said that has bothered me all these years. I know you wont say it directly…but you constantly refer to it, unconsciously in conversations. I want to know what that is Sibu…what is controlling your life so much that you would feel you don’t deserve or need anyone’s sympathy?”

This was the first time someone was directly confronting her about her past. For years Martin had tried to get her to open up about her past but he had no clue exactly which part of her past affected her so much? However, from just one sentence she had unconsciously uttered seven years ago, Ted had managed to pick up something specific to query her about.

“Sibu, I know you heard me,” Ted called out to her.

“I need to go back to work now, lunch break is almost over.” Sibu said, completely avoiding eye contact as she quickly turned to leave. Ted ran after her and caught her before she stepped through the door. He held her by the shoulders and had her back pressed against the wall.

“What are you doing?” She tried to turn her face away but Ted’s face was so close, only a few inches away from hers and with his arms on either side of her pinning her back, there was no room for escape.

Ted kept his gaze on her quivering lips. His thoughts were written all over his face and Sibu could smell his intentions from every part of his body.

“I am very different from Martin,” Ted leaned in further and whispered the rest of his words close to her ear.

“I won’t let you walk away from me when I can obviously tell that something is up. I am not trying to compare us…I just need you to know that if you are going to try to get rid of me, you will have to develop a few new tricks. Sibu, I don’t care about whatever drama lies in your past or in your life. I don’t care if you had an affair, if you don’t get along well with your family…or if you killed someone…. All I care about is the woman standing right here in front of me, right now.” he deliberately brushed his lips against the edges of her ear, causing her to wince in bridled pleasure.

Even though she knew that Ted was just saying things for the sake of it, his words gave her some kind of comfort, hope…for a moment, he gave her hope.

It was as if she was meeting him for the very first time. She desperately wanted to believe every word he was saying despite the hard lessons she had learnt from her past.

She wanted to look him in the eye and see what lay behind them. Would she the see the truth if she dared?

Slowly, very so slowly, Sibu raised her head to look into Ted’s eyes. He was smiling down at her reassuringly. he was begging her to believe him…and she wanted to…if only for a moment.

How long had she waited for someone to say those words to her?

“You are thinking about kissing me…” Ted teased her, drawing his face closer to hers and brushing his lips against hers.

Sibu tried to move her face away but she almost ended up locking her lips against him, again.

“I don’t know what you are talking about…” she said with her eyes flickering up and down his face. “Doesn’t this sort of thing constitute sexual harassment Mr Attorney?” She nervously tried to make light of the moment.

Ted was grinning. “I’m sure it does,” his masculine voice drawled closer to her skin. “But I am also sure that there’s a law somewhere that would explain the meaning of you constantly wetting your lips like that…I think it’s called the Law of Attraction.”

Sibu’s face turned red. She tried to look down, away from his eyes but her eyes landed on his lips instead. Until then, she had had no idea he had such deep brown eyes or that his lips were so thick and smooth. How could she keep her senses about her when looking at him so closely made her feel so dizzy.

Before she knew it, his lips were hard on hers.

With one hand cupping the back of her head and the other grabbing her waist, Ted tilted her head back and drew her towards him by her waist, sealing whatever distance had been separating them.

Although she kept trying to fight him off, Sibu could feel her resolve slowly slipping away as Ted brought her straight into his world through his lips.

He had started hard, his lips working fast against hers but when he felt her fight him, he paused and pulled her head slightly back to look into her eyes.

Her eyes told him a different story.

Sibu couldn’t  hide her disappointment when Ted pulled away. When was the last time she had felt a man’s breath hard against her? When was the last time her heart had throbbed like this? For how long had she yearned for the kind of warmth that was radiating from Ted’s embrace?

Ted didn’t need any more persuasion. Placing his hand back at the back of her head, deliberately gliding his fingers deep through her mane of hair, he drew her head towards him and laid his lips against hers, his movements slow and deliberate this time.

As he slid his tongue slowly through her warm and inviting lips, Ted felt her body quiver underneath him and as if driven by a force unknown, he drunk from her and she from him.

She placed her arms over his shoulders and with her hands she held on to his head and locked him in position.

A bolt of lightening reaped through Sibu’s body, melting her insides as Ted quenched his yearning thirst from her and she from him.

If Ted had not moved his arm from around her waist to drive her further deep against him, she probably would have not known just how much her hunger rivaled his.

That realization bolted her right back to reality.

Quickly unlocking her arms from around his neck, Sibu stepped back and away from Ted, the sudden realization of her response to him almost freezing her in horror.

“I should really get back to work,” she stuttered before running off, leaving Ted dazed and confused.

The only thing Ted could think about at that moment was, she kissed me back…she kissed me back!
That night, Sibusiswe’s nightmares returned with full force after two long years. and they continued for nights that followed.

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Echoes of the Heart – Part 9

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh yeah,” she said in feigned embarrassment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually, sleeping away from home became a habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Humanities and Social Sciences.”

“I thought you wanted to do Law?”

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

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

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

“What?” Sibeso exclaimed.

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

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

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

* * *

 

 

Winter of July 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign these papers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was waiting for her response with bated breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sibu was surprised by his remark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So he had her attention after all, Martin thought.

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

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

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

There was guilt written all over Sibu’s face.

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

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

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

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

“I see,” a visibly hurt Martin responded.

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

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

Finally, his words seemed to be getting to her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin was grinning in his seat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Echoes of the Heart – Part 6

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

“What did you just say?” Sibusiswe turned around and glared at her cousin. Although the two of them were age mates, Tammy liked to act as if she was older than Sibu, always bossing her around and making crazy demands.

“I think you heard me,” Tammy retorted. “I think mum has done more than enough for you to repay her by marrying the most handsome guy in the whole country…and rich too. I think you are just trying to be difficult just because you want to keep the good fortune all to yourself.”

Sibu was befuddled by the girl’s audacity. “Do you even know exactly what it is that I have to repay aunt for?”

Her cousin snickered. “She already told me that she is the only reason you are still alive. Shouldn’t you try harder then for someone whose the reason you are standing there acting like you are better than us?”

“First of all, I do not owe your mother anything,” Sibu fired back. “The only reason I have allowed her all these years to push me around is because I made a conscious decision to be good to her because she is only a means to an end…not that I owe her anything. I can simply wake up one day and decide to change my mind.

“Secondly, this should be the last time you talk to me like you own me or something. I am the only reason you are even able to utter such long sentences in English so show some respect to your benefactor. Now if you will excuse us, I would like to have a mature conversation with your mother and I would appreciate it if you would leave the house and go as far away from here as possible.”

The eighteen year old pouted and sulked whilst glancing at her mother for help but the woman paid her no attention, afraid to antagonize her niece lest she refused to accept her damed offer.

“Go and take care of the stand at the market.” Aunt Tafadzwa instructed her daughter. They had a stand in the market selling vegetables where Aunt Tafadzwa spent most of her day. It was Sibu who had given her capital to start the small business.

Kicking her legs and throwing her hands in the air in a tantrum, Tammy did as her mother instructed and left the room in a huff.

Sibu went to sit back down. “You were saying that if I marry Martin and did something for you then you would me alone….”

Aunt Tafadzwa took the seat opposite her and with a face beaming of renewed hope, she addressed her niece. “Yes, get Martin to marry you and you can divorce him later…as long as you give me enough money to open up a large store and you send my children to school.”

“I like Martin quite alright aunt but I am not in-love with him and, even if I was, there was no way I would allow myself to be stuck for life with a man like him. All he does sleep around with anything in a skirt and the only reason he is mentioning marriage is because…”

“So he did mention marriage after all.” Her aunt interjected, instantly making Sibu aware of the blunder she created.

“Not to me, he hasn’t,” Sibu replied. “But as I was saying, the only reason he’s mentioning marriage to me is purely because it is the only way he can knows to make me really his property.”

“Isn’t that the reason why everyone marries in the first place?” Her aunt replied matter-of-factly. “This is a golden opportunity for you to make something of yourself Sibu.”

Sibu sneered at her. “There is nothing about this whole arrangement that is for me. Everything is just about you. If you think pushing me to the edge like this is making me pay for what happened in the past, then you are mistaken.

“The more you push me like this, the more you make me feel like I have done enough to free myself of the  sins you’ve been capitalizing on.” She stood up. “Keep doing this and one day I will walk away from all this without feeling an ounce of guilt, because you would have made it so.” And she left, leaving behind a befuddled Aunt Tafadzwa.

“You will marry that boy even if it costs you an arm and a leg young lady,” She said as she watched her niece disappear from the yard.

 

It had been four days since Sibu had heard from Martin. The last their had spoken was when he called her at the hospital and Sibeso had blackmailed her into taking the call before she disappeared out of the room.

“I don’t need you to turn your life around for me Martin,” Sibu had argued with a belligerent Martin who had just informed her of his plans to come back to Zambia. “You are only thinking about yourself right now and not about me.”

“I am doing this for the both of us Sibu,” he had insisted. “Why do you always have to be stubborn about everything?”

“I am being stubborn,” she answered back. “I just happen to know what I want and I know for a fact that I am not yet ready to get married. I am only eighteen for crying out loud.”

“You will be nineteen in a couple of months,” Martin said.

Sibusiswe paused and starred at her phone for a bit before putting it back to her ear. “How would you know that? I have never spoken to you about my birthday before.”

“Because I meant it when I said I loved you and so naturally I took an interest. Now do you see what I mean?”

Sibu blinked and blushed, finding the revelation a little fluttering and at the same time reminding herself about how cautious she ought to be when talking to Martin. He had this tendency to throw her off guard every now and then.

“Sibu are you there?” Martin’s voice came through the receiver.

“Yeah, I’m here,” She quickly came back to her senses.

“Are you feeling sick? Are you okay babe?” He was sounding almost out of breath, his reaction again taking Sibu by surprise. From the time she had met Martin, Sibu had trouble figurng out what was truth and what was lie from his mouth.

Placing a finger on either either of her closed eyelids, she answered, “I am fine,” and she sighed heavily. “And please don’t call me that….”

“You gonna have to get used to it from now on,” he replied smugly. “I just feel so shitty because I didn’t even know I was going to be a father and now my child is gone…it’s just so unfair.”

Sibu didn’t know what to say in return.

“Anyway, I should be home either Friday or Saturday so….”

“Martin,” Sibu said in a pleading tone. “Please I beg of you, don’t do this. I am not going to marry you even if you come all the way. I want to go to school, take care of a few things and live my life the way I want. The idea of marriage has never ever crossed my mind even. And most importantly, I am not in-love with you.”

“If you don’t love me, then why did you decide to keep my baby? You could have easily gotten rid of the pregnancy and I would have never found out…but you kept my baby Sibu.”

“I have my own reasons for keeping the pregnancy and it has absolutely nothing to do with you. I did it all for myself…not because I wanted to…but because I had to.”

“What do you mean by that?” Martin inquired, concern arched all over his words.

“This is exactly what I mean when I tell you that we can never be.” She said. “We barely know each other an…. there are things about me that you would hate if you knew of them…I hate myself because of that and I can’t imagine what others might think if they ever discovered that about me…I won’t marry you Martin, I mean it.”

“There is something I haven’t told you…maybe I should just come clean right now,” Martin had said. “I did a background search on you a few days after you joined the company.”

“What?” Sibu exclaimed as fear registered into her eyes. “Background check…you said….” she stuttered.

“Yes…I know, it’s very low of me and I am sorry but Sibu, you don’t have to worry about a thing.” He reassured her. “If you are having reservation about us because of what happened with your parents then I can promise you that you don’t have to worry about something like that with me.”

Sibu sat up in her hospital bed, her heart pounding very fast. “You know about my family?” Sibu asked, tears streaming down her eyes suddenly.

“Yes,” he answered. “I know a bit about what happened between your mother and father and that you don’t know who or where he is.”

Sibu almost missed a heart beat. “Is that all you found out?” She waited.

“Yeah, is there something I missed?” Martin laughed. “That time I did that because I was mostly curious but now that I know you, I don’t even care about all that. I just want to start my life afresh with you Sibu. I must have lived my life the wrong way… I don’t want to die like this….” he let his voice trail off, his somber tone sending chills down Sibu’s spine.

“Why are you talking like that Martin? That’s so unlike you.” She said.

Martin went quite for a moment and then, “It’s nothing babe,” he was trying to come off cool but his shaking voice betrayed him.

“Is something the matter with you?” She asked again. “Are you perhaps sick?”

“No, of course not!” He replied a little too quickly and loudly, masking his voice with a laugh. “Have you forgotten who I am, I am Martin Mwewa…I never get sick. Listen, I need to go now,” he was speaking fast now. “I have a lot of stuff I need to get done before I can leave this place.” And then he paused before adding, “I love you Sibu. Take care of yourself and see you soon.” He cut the call before Sibu could say anything in return.

Sibu was left wondering what had just happened and why Martin had suddenly changed. However, not wanting to consciously think about him, Sibu shook her head and brushed off the nagging feeling that was threatening to engulf her.

She grabbed the medical magazine that was lying on the bedside table and opened to read.

 

***

As he had promised, Martin arrived in Lusaka the next Saturday morning.

He collected his car keys from Clement who had been waiting for him at the airport and he drove straight to his work place where he knew Sibu would be working half day.

She was engaged in a call with a client when he walked entered through the doors of the receptionist and walked straight towards her.

With her mouth wide open from Martin’s unexpected entrance, Sibu lost concentration on her call and the female client could be heard from the other end of the line calling out for her.
“Yes, yes, am here.” Sibu blinked and got back to the call. “I am sorry about that ma’am,” she quickly apologized. “I will ask Attorney Williams to get back to you as soon as he gets out of the meeting. My sincere apologies for the inconvenience…yes…” she nodded as she listened to whatever was been said into her ears. “Yes…I will do that. Thank you Ma’am. Have a lovely day.” And she hang up.

When she finally looked up to check where Martin had gone, she found him standing right in front of the reception desk looking directly into her eyes with a huge smile on his face.

Sibu looked around the hall area if there were any employees around and she saw a group of four siting by the lounge area that appeared to be in some kind of meeting except they had put whatever business they had at hand to stare closely at her and Martin.

For the past month or so Sibu had done her best to dull down the rumors about her relationship with Martin, insisting incessantly that there were just friends and that nothing was going on. Most of the ladies had done enough to inform her willy-nilly that if anything at all was going on, she was nothing but a pawn in Martin’s extensive collection of women.

“What do you think you are doing?” Sibu leaned in and whispered to the smitten looking Martin. His elbows were now resting on top of the desk while his face was perfectly positioned in the palm of his hands with his eyes dancing wildly like a child begging a parent for candy.

Completely taking her by surprise, Martin put both hands on the desk and raised his feet from the ground to lean in and plant a wet one on the lips of the unsuspecting Sibu who was now up on her feet.

By the time she thought of pulling away, the damage had already been done and their audience looked more than entertained.

“You had no idea how much I had missed you!” Martin said the moment his feet landed back on the carpeted floor.

Sibu silently prayed for the ground to open up and swallow her as she stood there looking all flustered from head to toe. She had her hands to her mouth as she looked in the direction on the onlookers; while the two gentlemen were grinning, the two ladies were looking at her with extremely sour expressions.

Martin had just made her the target of envy, jealous and gossip that was going to rock the office for the coming weeks and months.

“I really hate you,” Sibu muttered.

Martin smirked. “I know, but I love you enough for the both of us.” He declared. He then moved one of the landlines closer to him and dialed a number.

“What are you doing?” A worried Sibu asked.
“Calling Peggy so she can come and take over from you while….”

Sibu tried to reach out and grab the phone from him but Martin moved back so she couldn’t reach where he was.

“Peggy it’s me, Martin.” He said the moment Peggy answered.

“Boss?” Peggy was definitely surprised.

“Come to the reception right now and take over Sibu’s shift. She and I have some important business to take care of.”

“Huh?” Came the reply.

“Right now Peggy!” Martin said sternly and ended the call.

“Are you trying to get me ostracized in this place?” Sibu asked.

Martin went round the table, grabbed her handbag from under the desk, took her by the arm and led her towards the exit.

“The more you resist the more attention you draw to yourself,” Martin warned, and for sure they were still the center of attention. Sibu winced in embarrassment as she sunk her head low and allowed herself to be led away silently.

 

Martin’s car was parked right outside instead of the parking lot. He opened the front passenger door for her, helped her safely inside and went around to his seat.

“Where are we going?” Sibu asked as they got in motion.

“To the hospital,” Martin announced. “I need to make sure for myself that everything is okay with you.”

“There’s no need for that….”

“Yes, I already know you are going to say but it’s not like I asked for your permission.” He replied.

Sibu made a face. “That’s the problem with you, always want things done your way and when they don’t you sulk like a little boy.”

Martin stared at her, a serious expression on his face. “Name one positive thing you know about me Sibu.” He said.

She was surprised by the question. “Now why would I do that? I am sure there are plenty of girls out there willing to stroke your ego at the bat of an eye.”

Martin was shaking his head. “That’s not what I meant…I mean, you carried my child in your stomach, don’t you have even a single positive thing to say about me? Every time we talk, there’s always something negative you say about me. I’m I really that terrible kind of human being in your eyes?”

Sibu was mute, her eyes wondering about as if searching for a network signal.

It didn’t look like Martin was going to give up so easily. He parked to the side of the road and then turned to her. “I am serious Sibu. You and I really need to have a serious talk. Sometime’s you act like I forced you to sleep with me in Livingstone yet I had stopped so many times to ask if you were alright…I wanted to give you a chance to change your mind but you never did. I have never done anything like that before…I have never cared about such things before.”

“Are you trying to brag to me about the many women you’ve conquered?” Sibu glared at him. “I hate the fact that you think of me in the same breath as those other girls you’ve bedded. Every time I think about that night I feel like killing myself.” She pushed back the tear.

“I am sorry you feel that way Sibu and it was my mistake mentioning it in the first place. But you of all people should know that ever since I met you I haven’t been with anybody else; not here not abroad so why are you still giving me a hard time?”

Silence again.

“I know my past with women is not very impressive and I understand why you might be skeptical about my intentions. But people change Sibu…sometimes you encounter something along the way that forces you to reevaluate your life. You came into my life just around the time something like that was happening in my life and for some reason you became the rock I desperately want to cling to.”

Sibu was now looking at him with concern in her eyes. “What exactly is going on with you Martin,” she said. “You said something mysterious and in those lines even the last time we spoke on the phone. Do you perhaps have some strange disease?”

It was his turn to operate on mute.

Sibu suddenly straightened her back and looked at Martin as fear registered onto her face. “It’s not AIDS right?” She asked.

Martin frantically waved his hands about. “Hell no it’s nothing like that! Why would you even…oooh,” he said as realization dawned on him. “I guess I kind of deserve that. But I have always been careful….”

She threw him a look that immediately made him change the direction of his speech. “That night with you was the only time I was reckless.” He explained. “I swear!” He added in response to her intense gaze. “And just to be sure I get tested every now and then but you can’t be 100% sure even with protection. If you don’t believe me, we can go together for a test and you can see for yourself. I haven’t been with anyone else except you since the last test I took.”

“You are assuming that I am negative,” Sibu said.
That seemed to shake Martin up.

She laughed as she looked at the expression on his face. “I am kidding, relax. I had a test done just after discovering I was pregnant and just to make sure, I had another one done just recently.”

“I think it’s gonna take a while for you to trust me, you have no idea how much that hurts.” He said in a very low voice.

“So you are not going to tell me what’s going on with you?” Sibu asked, getting back to their previous topic.

“Just like you never wanted to talk to me about your relationship with your aunt…I wish we would not talk about it…for now…but I will tell you everything when I’m ready.”

His bit about her aunt really got to her and so she conceded. “I wont ask…I will wait for you to tell me.”

“Thanks,” Martin responded before starting the engine and getting back on the road.

Martin took her to his family’s doctor in Longacres and had her undergo a thorough check up, sticking to her side to every room she entered except to the bathroom where she had to supply samples for tests to be done.

After being told to come back the next day for some of the results, the two of them were about to leave before the doctor stopped Martin.

“You and I still need to talk,” the doctor had said to him. “I got the report from….”

“I know doc, I know, I will call you to make a plan.” Martin deliberately cut her off and continued leading Sibu away.

 

He drove them to his secret hideaway which was no longer a secret any more. This time instead of looking at nature, they entered the cabin to relax in the expensively furnished but small living room.

Martin threw himself on the sofa the moment they entered and patted the space next to him for Sibu to join him. Instead, she threw him a look and took up space on the single seater right opposite him.

Not one to be so easily discouraged, Martin got up and went to squeeze himself right next to her on the small couch, holding to to her to keep her in position as she desperately tried to get away from him.

“Keep rubbing your body against mine like this and we will be talking baby number two very soon,” he warned her, looking into her eyes and forcing her to blush profusely as the meaning of his words sunk in.

Like a switch being turned off, she stopped writhing against him and sat up straight but only to have Martin scope her up, fill up the whole seat with his body and then lay her onto his laps, tightly wrapping his arms around her waist from the behind so she could make no movement.

“Wow…I think we could have twins in this position,” he commented deliberately and himself a new bout of protest from an embarrassed Sibu.

“There you go again,” he admonished her. “You really have no idea the kind of fire you are starting with your seductive moves Ms Hangaala.”

“You have such a dirty mind Martin. Can’t for once take your mind off the gutter?” Sibu said, putting her movements to another immediate stop.

“Let’s make a deal,” he said. “I will stop being a jerk if you promise not to say anything bad about me today…how about that?”

She contemplated his suggestion for a moment and then said, “Sounds doable.”

Martin then reached out to the tiny tea table right next to the couch and grabbed the remote control, turned on the tele and settled for a music channel.

“They play old music here,” Sibu commented. “First it was classical music and now it’s this…I think there is an old man living inside you.”

“Since you made a promise, I will choose to take your comment lightly and say that I am actually wiser than most fellas my age,” he proudly said. “But I find this kind of music more meaningful than the rubbish they sing these days.”

“I kind of agree,” she said and with that they went on to talk about many other things and before they knew it, it was dark outside.

Somewhere during their long chat, Sibu had dozed off and Martin had carried her to the guest bedroom on the ground floor, scared he might wake her up if he tried to carry her upstairs to his room.

Sibusiswe woke up hours later and jolted up in bed. The room was dark and she had no idea for a second where she was. She searched around her for her phone and found it on the bedside table, flipped it to check the time.

It was 9PM.

What the hell? She thought as she rushed out of bed towards the door. She stopped when she reached the door because she could hear Martin’s voice, sounded like he had company. Not wanting to come out and reveal herself, she stood by the door and waited.

“I heard what you said last time doc and I wont have it. That’s like a death sentence on it’s own and I might as well settle for something I have control over. I won’t the surgery, I won’t look for a donor and I certainly won’t be subjecting myself to all those medicines. Give them to someone else who doesn’t mind being a prisoner for life. I just need two years tops, you told me I can have that…you promised me…no, no, no…listen doc…I know what you mean quite alright but…no, I never agreed with your suggestions, you said a transplant was the best option and I just kept quite. That doesn’t mean I agreed with you….”

A transplant? Sibu froze. What kind of disease required him to get a transplant?

“Your threats don’t work with me doc,” Martin continued after a long pause. By now Sibu was aware he was talking to someone on the phone and she sufficed it was the doctor that had attended to her a few hours ago, the one he had promised to call back.

“If you even dare as much as tell my mother I will sue that goddamn place for billions of money and then get your licence.” She heard him say from the other side of the door. “I am sure you don’t want that to happen. I will come to your home tomorrow but only to talk about what I need to do in the meantime…not about that transplant thing. Have a good night doc.”
“How sick are you?”

Martin quickly turned around to find Sibusiswe standing behind him. He had not heard her come out of the bedroom and he didn’t like the look on her face.

Pity.

That was the last thing he needed from her.

“When did you…how long were you….” he fumbled for words, completely taken aback by her presence in the room.

“I think I heard all the important bits,” Sibu supplied. “I just want to know what disease you have that’s so bad it’s requires a transplant…and why you are refusing it.”

“Sibu,” Martin said her name pleadingly.

Sibu put her hand out. “If you are not going to tell me then I am leaving.” She walked passed him and grabbed her hand bag which was now lying on the arm of the sofa they had been siting on.

She was about to open the door when Martin’s voice made her pause.

“If I tell you, will you agree to marry me then?” he said.

Sibu turned back around and gaped at him. “Is this some kind of joke to you? Do you think marriage is something you can talk about in this situation?”

“Spending the rest of my life with me means everything to me Sibu,” he remarked.

“And how long is the rest of your life Martin, two years?” She asked austerely. “All the way to the end you think of only yourself. I am going.” She opened the door and walked out but Martin was quick behind her and he held on to her hand.

“You think I haven’t thought about you?” He asked her. “I have seen you suffer at the hands of your aunt and I thought marriage with me would free you from her clutches and allow you to live your life how ever you want…even if I am not here.”

“Marrying you is not enough to buy me the kind of freedom I desire in this world Martin,” she lamented. “You have absolutely no idea….”

“Then let me know what I need to know Sibu, let me know!” he tagged at her hand.

For a moment Sibu just stood there starring at him.

Never before had she seen such desperate in his ever confident eyes.

But her truth was not the kind a man like him could handle, especially now given his circumstances.

“So you still won’t tell me?” Martin could see the firm decision in her eyes.

Sibu nodded her head slowly. “I can’t,” she said.

For the first time in his life, Martin felt defeated.

Echoes of the Heart – Part 5

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

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

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

Sibusiswe’s phone started ringing again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who the hell is Clement?” Sibu asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You gotto be kidding me,” Sibu sulked.

Outside the hospital, Sibeso answered the call from Martin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bye.”

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Negotiate with me? Do you know me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No,” came the curt response.

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

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

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

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

“As a matter of fact, she did.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Mrs Mwewa was up on her feet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aunt Tafadzwa froze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auntie….” Sibu started to explain.

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

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

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

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

Sibusiswe lowered her gaze and starred at the floor guiltily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you talking about?” Sibu finally asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom.

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

Freedom, the word echoed in her head.

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

Sibu turned around. 

Echoes of the Heart – Part 4

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

 

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

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

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

Was I asking for too much?

*         *         *

 

Summer 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

“You need to relax Sibu,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She sat back down properly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are going to Livingstone….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I be upset?

Should I feel insulted?

What would I have preferred to hear?

And just why do I feel so confused?

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

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

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

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

“Check your phone,” Martin tagged her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Martin,” Ted said between clenched teeth.

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

There was a long silence from the other end.

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

All along, Sibu was staring at him in incredulity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sibu couldn’t provide an immediate response.

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

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

*         *         *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Mwewa was fishing for trouble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s Martin,” Sibeso announced.

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

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

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

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

 

*         *         *

Echoes of the Heart – Part 3

Final image - Echoes of the Heart

Pain.

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

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

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

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

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

But how was I to know that?

 

*         *         *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not today,” Sibu replied.

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

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

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

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

Sibeso gasped. “What the hell?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pass me that remote,” Sibeso asked Sibusiswe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?” Sibu asked.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can you two behave?” Martin warned.

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

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

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

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

 

*         *         *

  

February, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

only then did he notice the changes in the room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was indeed a tough audience to impress.

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

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

Never before had Martin been so conflicted.

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

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

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

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

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

 

*         *         *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She lived, if that’s what you are all insinuating with your questions.” Martin retorted. “But I had to ask my secretary to anonymously keep calling the woman just to check if she was still alive before I could finally start eating food from home.”

“And she never divorced you even after finding you like that?” Kondwani asked, looking a little overwhelmed by all the information he had just heard.

“Before I could even commerce project beg until no shred of pride is left in you when I reached home, she looked me in the eye and told me that she was only staying because she needed my money and she wanted to give our child a proper family so there was no need for me to grovel before her. She was curt and brutal…up to now I still don’t know what i was most sorry about; that I had done something like that to my wife and let her catch me in such a state, or that I had put her through so much pain that she no longer gave a dame about my indiscretions. either way, it hurts like hell,” he hit his hand against his chest repeatedly as a somber expression materialized on his face.

“I don’t know whether I should give your wife…ex-wife a medal or get a restraining order against her just so I can protect myself from ever meeting her.” Kondwani the accountant lamented. “I respect her a lot…but at the same time I am very afraid of her.”

“Me too my friend,” Martin said with a far-off expression on his face. “Me too,” he repeated.

“Your ex-wife is hard core,” Nelson remarked. “She got a self-proclaimed bachelor to marry her in the shortest space of time and then she went ahead and dumped him at a time when he least expected it. There should be a superhero named after her somewhere in the world or even a word should be added in the dictionary in her honour,” and after pausing for a bit he added, “Sibu: the act of not giving a dame when a man repeatedly cheats on you; when used in a sentence, Martin was Sibu’d by his ex-wife…or, Most women of the 21’st century practice sibulity.”

Three men gaped at Nelson as they shook their heads in shared incredulity.

“You know what has always bothered me,” Conrad brushed Nelson off. “How is it that a woman that claimed to have married you for your money refused to take even a single penny of your money in alimony?”

“You think I have never asked myself that?” Martin said. “That’s what pisses me off the most, that despite being married to her for five years, I know nothing about her. I know without doubt that something is going on with her but I have no idea what it is. Last night Mwiche told me that she spoke to Sibu and that she accidentally let on that she will be leaving the country in a few days. We have a child together yet she hasn’t even bothered to inform me. I have been trying to call her since last night but she won’t take my calls.”

“Is that why you left the house looking like that?” Nelson asked.

“I got home and found my mother waiting for me,” Martin replied. “As usual she wanted to start talking trash about Sibu but I just wasn’t in the mood. I grabbed the nearest thing I could find and bolted out of there.”

“Why does your mother hate your ex-wife so much?” Kondwani asked.

The three of them looked at him snippily.

“His mother hates any woman that gets close to her son,” Conrad supplied. “But it was worse for Sibu because of two reason; one, she was Tonga, and two, Martin was crazy in-love with her.”

“Oh,” was all Kondwani could say in response. He knew someone exactly like that.

“So where is Sibu going? Are you going to let her go with your son?” Nelson asked.

“She is going to SA…and yes, if she is going then I will have no choice but to let her go with him…that was the agreement we made. She has full custody…because it was my way of thanking her and apologizing for everything I did to her…and of course because I trusted her to know she would let me see Jacob whenever I wanted. Both her parents are late, so she is a sucker for family. I had to give her full custody to protect her from my mother…just in case of any eventualities.”

“But what were you thanking her for…you said something about thanking her? We all know why you needed to apologize…but thanking her…” Nelson quipped. “…for allowing your sorry ass to cheat on her while you were still married to her?

Nelson once again won himself disconcerting looks from his buddies.

Martin looked at Nelson in indignation. “You do know I stopped carrying a gun around with me the day after you joined the company, right?” He said. “Don’t tempt me right now,” he cautioned him.

Kondwani and Conrad enjoyed a hearty laugh at the expense of their friend.

“Isn’t Ted also in South Africa?” Conrad later asked as realization dawned on him. “That’s why you are this worked up, isn’t it?” He starred at his friend in apprehension.

The look of trepidation on Martin’s face confirmed Conrad’s suspicions.

“Are you talking about Ted, the one whose father is…” Kondwani was saying.

“Yes, that same one,” Nelson cut in. “When I joined the company I heard rumors about you guys fighting over Sibusiswe. Apparently you betrayed him and stole her from him.”

Martin starred lividly at the imprudent Nelson. “You know, for a lawyer you lack tact Nelson, sometimes I wonder if you are a friend or foe.” He said.

Nelson snickered. “I just say it as it is,” he said without the slightest hint of mortification. “So it is true about what went down between the two of you?” He pressed on unashamedly, again winning himself austere countenance  from everyone.

“I don’t know about what you heard and frankly I don’t give a dame. However, if you must know; yes it is a fact that both Ted and I were in-love with Sibu but it is also a fact that she was always in-love with me and never with him.”

“So why are you nervous about the possibility of the two of them meeting in SA?” Nelson persisted.

Martin glared at him, completely befuddled by his lack of  savoir faire, “I never said I was nervous,” Martin lied. “This is the first time I am going to be very far from my son and that worries me, a lot. Is that information enough for you Mr Nasty?”

Nelson only chuckled in response, pleased with the fact that he had managed to get under Martin’s skin.

“You know, sometimes you talk as if you only have one child. I wonder what Veronica feels about that.” Conrad said.

Martin scoffed. “Veronica is an opportunistic bitch who thinks that just because her parents forced her on me then that makes her my wife. There is no woman on the face of this earth that will ever take Sibu’s place in my heart.I have made that point clear to her every single day but she still ain’t leaving.”

Kondwani thought about asking Martin an obvious question but reasoned that he needed some liquid courage first before daring to ask his boss such a bold question. He knew everyone else was dying to know as well and so he put his trust in the bottle.

“If you loved your wife that much,” Kondwani started after gulping down the contents of his bottle. “If you loved her so much, why did you treat her like that?”

Conrad and Nelson shared a knowing looks, both impressed by Kondwani’s courage despite it’s liquid nature to ask the question they had all dared not ask.

As his friends waited for his response, Martin starred at the contents of the bottle in front of him, his mind taking him back to the time when all the plans he had laid out for himself started falling to the ground…a time when his heart had developed a mind of its own and forced him to acknowledge some truths he was not yet ready to confront.

If he could go back in time, would he do things differently?