Tag Archives: love

I Deserve Better!

Not so long ago, I had someone that used to be so close to me tell me these words:

Yeah, go ahead and do whatever you like because you’re so good at leaving people.

I would have loved to stick it back to her in a place where the sun don’t shine but guess what, she was so right. As it so happens, in the past six months or so, I’ve had about three to four people tell me the exact thing about myself. Naturally, this led me to some soul searching moments that left me feeling like ‘you know what, I am okay with the person I have become…yeah maybe I could do with some adjustments here and there but really, I kinda love this version of me.’ Continue reading I Deserve Better!

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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.

Because She Loved Me – Part 3

because she loved me

 

Three days had gone by and I still hadn’t returned home.

Thabo had kept calling me the whole time but I never picked up her calls. She knew there was only one place I could be and thus on the forth day, she came knocking at the gate of my friend’s residence.

I was outside that evening making myself useful by watering Claudia’s small vegetable garden in the front yard when I heard the knock.

I put the hosepipe down and went to close the tap before heading to the gate.

“Are you expecting someone?” Thomas shouted from the door of the living room. He must have heard the knock and come out… and now that I think about it, he must have been expecting the visitor because he had this look about him as he waited for me to open the gate.

I just shrugged my shoulders in response.

Of course I wasn’t expecting anyone…but that didn’t mean no one was going to come looking for me because I found Thabo standing outside when I opened the small pedestrian gate.

“What are you doing here?” I asked angrily, looking around and wondering how come she was on her feet. I immediately spotted her car parked a short distance away on the side of the road.

She was dressed in a long black skirt with a red blouse and had a pair of traditionally crafted slippers on. She looked and smelled like my wife. No other woman on the face of the earth had that scent.

With her Masai braids neatly pulled away from her face and tied into a bun, she looked radiant. Any other day I would have scooped her up into my arms and led her straight into a room somewhere that held the deepest of our secrets.

But not on that day.

On that day she was simply a woman I wished not to see, a woman that had taken my heart and wrenched it to pieces…a woman I wanted to hate.

“You and I need to talk honey,” she said, looking me straight in the eye.

I should have been the one looking her straight in the eye and shaming her to pieces yet somehow our roles seemed reversed; I could not get myself to look her in the eye for fear of what I might see in there.

“I told you I need some time alone to think. What, is it too much for you to wait, again?” I retorted sarcastically. “Just these few days we’ve been apart am sure you must be dying of loneliness? Will it be a daughter this time around?”

It was a low blow and cheap shot on my part but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted her to hurt as much as I was hurting.

My intentionw was to insult her and that I achieved. I could see her mentally calming herself down, one hand knotted into a fist. “I know you Harry, you will keep avoiding this thing for as long as you can because you hate confronting things that require you to make life-changing decisions.”

Dame she knew me so well.

And did she just call me Harry? She never addressed me by name from the time we got married.

“Who is it man?” Thoma shouted from the door.

“It’s no one.” I shouted back, knowing very well the kind of havoc that would arise from telling the truth.

“I can clearly see you talking to someone…don’t tell me it’s….”

I could imagine him coming towards us but just to be sure I turned and indeed there he was rushing towards the gate.

Thomas had never been a fan of my wife mostly because he believed she had turned me into some mushy idiot instead of the macho kind of man he would have liked me to be. Thabo had also made it known on several occassions that the feeling was mutual.

Thabo would have liked it if I had stopped hanging out with Thomas but she had enough sense to not ask me to end a friendship that had lasted as long as ours.

Even though a huge part of me understood why my wife never liked Thomas, there was an even bigger part of me that understood the dynamics of our friendship. I had accepted a long time ago that Thomas was never going to change. He was who he was and despite being a ‘not so good husband’ he was still a very good friend to me. Thabo understood this and I believe it was the only reason that kept her from instructing me to stop hanging out with him.

“I will handle my own affairs Tom,” I said to him when he came towering over me trying to take a peek at my wife. “Just go back into the house and let me take care of my own issues.” I was trying to push him back but I was no match for his giant frame.

“You have guts coming over to my house Thabo,” he was talking from over my head…literally on top of my head.

“You are one to pass judgement,” Thabo fired back. I couldn’t see her face because I had somehow landed my face was in Tom’s potbelly. The guy was both tall and huge. Standing next to him made me feel like a dwarf…and I consider myself tall by average standards.

“What did you just say?” Thomas was desperately trying to push me out of the way so he could give my wife a piece of his mind but I wasn’t going to give him that chance. On many occassions I was called to referee fights between him and his wife and all those times he had proved that nothing could keep him from laying a finger on a woman.

“Do you want me to tell Claudia about your current mistress from Garden Compound?” I could hear Thabo threatening a very livid Thomas. “I cheap ass even in your taste for women. It’s a miracle an intelligent woman like Claudia manages to tolerate your bullshit but I know she warned you that she would leave your ass if you messed up one more time…want me to get in there and scream the truth to her?”

“Hell no, she didn’t!” In a fit of rage, Thomas had maanged to push me out of the way and while I was trying to keep myself from landing on all fours, he had pounced on Thabo and was pulling her by her blouse.

I quickly steadied myself and went to separate them.

There was malice written all over Thomas’ face and there was defiance on my wife’s face.

“Control yourself man,” I tried to reason with Thomas, gripping his arms so he could let go of her. “You might not like what’s going on between us but she is still my wife. You doing this is as good as disrespecting me.”

That seemed to work because he immediately let go of her and pulled back. “You should watch yourself,” he pointed an accusing finger at Thabo who remained unfazed to the very end.

“I am not answerable to anyone BUT my husband,” she told him. “Try to discipline me the day you get your big head to discipline your small head, cockroach.”

“Thabo,” I threw her a disapproving look and she immediately closed her mouth.

“Whatever you do, don’t let her into my house because we are all going to regret it.” Thomas threatened before retreating into the yard.

“Did you have to be so disrespectful to my friend?” I said Thabo the moment we were alone.

“I have never liked your friend,” she said unrepentantly. “He has fathered kids all over the country and he thinks he can stand here and judge me? I know there is no excuse for what I did but he of all all people shouldn’t throw stones. Whether male or female, it is the same actions that dishonor a marriage.”

“Are you trying to preach to me?” I asked, not sure how to respond to her ramblings. Being a Gender Specialist, Thabo was strong on issues concerning equality and women empowermentand even though she never abandoned her traditional marriage roles in the home, she would never let a learning opportunity like that pass without teaching something.

She sighed. “Can we go somewhere and talk?”

I was looking at her with the most beffundled expression I could master. “How are you able to carry on with such confidence as if you did nothing wrong? Shouldn’t you be groveling and begging me for forgiveness? You coming over here and putting up a fight with my best friend doesnt do you any justice.”

“You think I don’t know that?” She asked. “I tried grovelling and begging before but it didn’t work. I know it’s something I should keep doing because maybe then you will see just how sorry I am. But still, I know that even if I did all that, it won’t change a thing. I sinned against you and against God and the only thing I can do right now is to ask for forgiveness even when I know it won’t come easy.”

“Would you forgive me if the tables were turned Thabo?” I asked her.

“From the top of my head I think I wouldn’t.” She answered honestly. “But deep down…just as I know that what I did was a mistake…there were no feelings whatsoever involved…just a moment of weakness I regretted the moment it was done…. I tried to pretend that nothing happened…” her voice was cracking by now and she was about to start crying right there on the street.

“I don’t want to hear the details,” I said to her.

“I wanted to tell you so many times but when I thought about what might happen to us….” she had continued anyway. “I didn’t want to lose you Harry,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “And so I tried to erase it from my head and pretended nothing ever happened. I told myself it was simply a bad dream and after some years, I had managed to convince myself…until last month when Pastor Jeffrey’s wife innocently passed a comment about Chikondi’s behaviour that resembled her husbands…suddenly, it all came back to me and I couldn’t rest until I was convinced of the truth.”

“And so you had me and Chiko tested behind our backs right?” I said sarcastically.

“When I got the results, I knew then that that night wasn’t going to go away…that it was not a nightmare like I had convinced myself before but that it was something I had to face up to. I could have kept it a secret to the day I die and you probably would have never discovered the truth. But I had to tell you becasue I love you too much to keep something of this magnitude from you.”

“So I guess I should be thanking you or something instead of acting like this, right?”

“You know that’s not what I mean honey. I am not trying to make excuses…I am just hoping that you would find it in your heart to remember some of my good qualities…that despite this huuuge sin laying between us…I wish you can still see my heart and forgive me. I don’t want to lose you baby.”

And right there was the reason I had been avoiding her. She had a way of making my insides soft but what she had done was inexcusable and I just wasn’t willing to let her off easily. I still wasn’t sure if our marriage would survive.

I just wasn’t sure of anything.

If this situation was happening to someone else and not me, I would have easily told that person to chase the wife and bastard child away but this sitation was happening to me.

I believed Thabo when she said it was a mistake and yet, in as much as I understood whatever circusmstances she might have gone through, it still could not excuse the gravity of her actions. Every decision someone makes has a condequence and I wasn’t yet sure just what consequences we would all face from everything that was happening.

Also, despite my stupid remarks and my dubious thoughts, I didn’t need a paternity test to prove the twins where mine. I just knew they were mine…either that or I was just freaking scared of finding out otherwise in case a test was done.

To think that all those years I had invested into creating the kind of home we had come to have…all the effort she too had put in and all the memories and experiences we had together…to think that all those would come to an end just like that and that I would have to start all over again with someone else I couldn’t gurantee would not end up doing the same thing to me proved even more painful than the idea of my wife getting knocked up by some other fella.

I had considered counselling, divorce and anything else I could think of but I still never came to a conclusion.

Through all this confusion, Thomas’ words kept ringing at the back of my head;

Have you ever heard of a man in Zambia that forgave a wife who cheated on him and had a child with someone else?

Thomas had been right, I had never heard of such a man but I had heard of a lot of men that had done the same thing but still remained married, Thomas was one of those men.

“I need more time to think,” I said to Thabo. “I need to decide what’s the best thing to do for myself and the kids. I will come back home when I am confident of the decision, just don’t push me too much just because you are in a rush to be forgiven.”

I turned and was about to open the gate to go back in when she said, “I understand, you can take all the time you need. I will wait.”

I could smell the resingation in her voice.
A whole other week went by and I still hadn’t made up my mind.

* * *

During the informal separation that my wife and I were going through, I had taken leave from work and made sure to stay away from my family because I did not trust myself to lie or pretend that everything was alright at home without breaking down.

When Pastor Jeffrey returned from his trip and was infromed by his wife of my visit, he called me out to his office at Church. He sounded like the usual holy Man of God he had been for the past eight years and not like a man who had an affair with another man’s wife and even fathered a child with her.

I didn’t know whether to be happy or offended by the fact that Thabo had chosen not to contact him directly to inform him of the recent developments.

I paused to take a deep breath before knocking on the Pastor’s door.

“Come in,” I heard him say.

I found him sitting comfortably behind his huge desk wearing the same pair of reading glasses he wore during sermons and had an open Bible spread out in front of him. If heaven has gatekeepers, this is the man you would picture standing there waiting to welcome you with a smile and open arms.

“Brother Harry,” he removed his glasses, placed them down on the table and stood up to shake my hand.

I hesitated at first but decided to just play it cool since despite everything, we were in the house of God.

I silently shook his hand and sat down.

“My wife told me that you didn’t look so well when you visited…everything okay?” He asked in a voice reeking of heavenly wisdom.

I went straight to the point. The quicker he stopped operating on Holy Spirit mode with me, the better. The hypocrisy didn’t sit well on my throat. I just wanted to burst out and launch a grenade of attacks his direction.

“My wife told me.” I said, looking him straight in the eye.

I deliberately left the statement hanging in order to watch his reaction and when it came, it was exactly what I had expected it to be; fear.

The Pastor cleared his throat noisely before saying, “What did your wife tell you Brother Harry?”

So he was going to play ignorant with me? I wasnt having that.

“Quit all this brother bullshit with me and throw whatever excuse you can at me for doing what you did?”

“I understand you might be upset but we are still in the house of the Lord and such language…well….”

“Are you seriously going to argue semantics with me Pastor?” I snapped. “If you cared too much about what happens in the House of the Lord then you should have known better than to defile another man’s wife. I trusted you…how could you do something like this?”

He was flustered all over and within those few seconds he had already started sweating. “I have no excuse for my actions….” he was panting like a dog on heat. I bet he looked like that when he nutted in my wife. Bloody bastard.

It turned out he was an easy man to crack. He was shaking as he fumbled for a hanker in the drawers. “I tried so many times to come clean but I somehow convinced myself that confessing only to God was enough. I saw how well you and Sister Thabo were getting along….”

I scoffed. “Sister Thabo? Do you sleep with your sisters Pastor and then father children with them? Isn’t there a verse in the Bible condemning that sort of thing?” I asked.

It was indeed the first time he was hearing the news of a child. If I had been in the mood and if the circumstances allowed, I would have snaped a pic of his reaction just so I could look at it whenever I was having a very bad day.

“What do you mean father children?” Came his stuttering response. “We only did it once…just once.” He was sweating profusely by now and looked like he was about to cry.

“I take it you were absent from school when they taught on reproduction,” I said. “Those few moments of pleasure you had with my wife produced a son. It turns out you have very active swimmers…Chikondi is yours.”

He was up on his feet, a decision he immediately regretted as his wombly legs forced him to sit back down.

“No, it can’t be true.” He was shaking his head as if to convince himself of his claims. “It can’t…” he kept repeating.

Looking at him like that, I was convinced of one thing; I was the greatest fool in the world…because… why else would I feel pity for the man responsibility for turning my world upside down?

He looked pathetic sitting there in front of me. I couldn’t believe that I had spent years listening to him and looking up to him like a respectable man of God.

“What will happen to the church? My family?” The pastor was running his hand up and down his hair in anxiety. “What have I done? It was just one stupid mistake, one night…I was young and stupid back then but I knew what I had done was wrong and I spent days, months after that begging God for forgiveness…I never thought that things would actually get to this.”

“Don’t you always tell us in church that just because God forgives our sins does not mean we wont have to face the consequences of our actions?” I reminded the Man of God.

He just looked at me with a blank expression on his face.

“You can only imagine the things I want to do to you Pastor,” I said to him. “If it was someone else, I would have easily screamed my grievances on top of my lungs but this is my family we are talking about. In as much as I want the both of you to pay for what you did, I don’t want the whole community knowing about my business. Therefore, I expect you to do the right thing and step down from church, quietly, without dragging my name or that of my wife in the open. You will come clean to your wife and then you will call me on your own to seek my forgiveness for what you have done.

“I did not come here today to listen to your excuses or hear you beg for forgiveness. I came to let you know that I know what you did and I will be expecting you to take full responsibility.” And then I got up and was about to leave when the Pastor came at me and got threw himself down on his knees before me.

“I am very sorry…please…please…we can talk about this….”

I did not hear the rest of his mumblings. I wasn’t interested.

Looking at him from above, I did what I had seriously been yearning to do the moment his name had come out of my wife’s mouth; I punched him hard in the face and sent him falling to the side and I walked out of there without looking back.

The punch felt good.

But my heart was still as broken as before. I had received no healing.

I was busy nursing my knuckles after that punch when I almost bumped into someone.

Thandiwe.

Her hands were resting on my chest now since she had reached out to keep me from walking into her. She quickly dropped them when she recognized me.

“You!” she was pointing at me excitedly.

I looked up to the sky and silently said to God; are you having fun?

I have never been a believer of fate, destiny or things like soulmates. I believed that the circumstances surrounding us were a result of concious decisions we make instead of some force somewhere pushing us in the direction that it had pre-determined for us.

However, after meeting Thandiwe, I started to question my theories.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

She was smiling in her usual chirpier style. “It’s a church,” she reminded me.

“Ooh,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed.

“I was at work last week and was asking one of the kids there if they knew of any Pentecostal churches my son and I would go to in the new neighborhood were we recently moved and it turned out that family is cose friend’s with the Senior Pastor here and they recommended this church to me. So today I came to meet the Pastor just to find out a few things before coming for tomorrow’s service. Do you go here as well?”

I suddenly felt very tired and defeated.

“Mr, are you okay?” She was closely examining my face.

“Yes, I am fine…but I don’t think the Pastor can’t see you right….” Before I could even finish the sentence, Pastor Jeffrey came staggering out of his office and was heading towards us in such haste.

“Is that the Pastor?” Thandiwe asked.

“Um,” I replied as thoughts of what was about to take place filled my head.

“Brother Harry,” the Pastor called out to me from a short distance away, seeing as how I was about to leave. “Please don’t go just yet,” He begged.

Apart from Thandiwe, there was no one else in sight. The last thing I needed was Thandie knowing about my dirty business.

“Broth-er Ha-rry…we…need….” The Pastor was almost out of breath by the time he reached where we were. The past years had not been kind to him. He was now twice the size he had been when he joined our congregation.

“Are you Pastor Jeffrey?” Thandiwe asked, oblivious to whatever was going on.

It seemed the Pastor could not even see her because he went straight ahead with his business despite being addressed by a prospective congregant. He was now kneeling down and holding my arm to keep me from leaving.

It finally dawned on the twenty-five year old that there was something serious business going on between the Pastor and I…and it certainly didn’t sell the church well to her.

“What is going on?” She was looking up at me searching for an answer.

“I asked you to do only one thing for me,” I said sternly. “That you keep everything quite but what are you doing right now? Can’t you see that there are people around?”

It was then that the Pastor recognized Thandiwe’s presence and thus, he slowly got up on his feet and with pleading eyes he implored me further. “I wish you could spare me some time just so I can….”

“I already told you what is to be done and if you truly are a man of God, you would know that it is the best thing, the right thing to do for everyone involved and if word of it gets out, I will sue you for everything you’ve got.” I was looking at Thandie while saying the last part, trying to drive a point across to the both of them.

“Why are are you looking at me like that?” the young lady protested. “I have no idea whatever is going on between the two of you.”

“And it shall remain like that,” I said and left the two of them standing there.

I had just gotten into my car and was about to drive off in haste when I was forced to hit the emergency break; Thandie had come running out of nowhere and was standing in front of my car with her arms open wide.

Next thing I knew, she was nowhere in sight. Did I hit her? I panicked as I got out of the car.

I found her sitting on the ground with her hand over her ankle, nursing it slowly.

“Did I hit you?” I was down on one knee checking out the affected area. She winced in pain when I touched her.

“What were you thinking running in front of a vehicle like that? Are you a kid?” I yelled at her. “Are you able to stand?”

She nodded and so I slowly helped her up. “We need to take you to the hospital,” I said.

“No, that’s not necessary,” she answered a little too quickly. “You didn’t even hit me. I must have dislocated my ankle in fear.”

I led her to the front passenger seat and helped her get seated.

“I really don’t think it’s that bad,” she insisted before I could close the door. “I just need something to tie it up and I think it will get back to normal in no time.”

“I thought you were a maid and not a doctor,” I said sarcastically and closed the door.

“If you are acting like that because you think you have to pay the hospital bill then you can relax. I have insurance.” I said the moment I got back behind the wheel.

She was now smiling. “You read my mind.” She confessed. “I can afford unneccessary bills right now.”

“How’s your son doing now?” I remembered her saying smething about him the other night.

“Still the same,” she replied. “Three more months and I’ll have enough for the surgery.”

“Surgery?”

“Yes, he has a Cleft Palate…it’s a speech problem.”

“I see, and how old is he?” I asked.

“He turned six two months ago. He had been put on therapy but there was very little improvement so the doctor finally recommended surgery. Do you have any children Mr Harry?” She asked.

I turned to look at her in suprise. “How did you know my name?” I was spooked. I had never told her my name.

“The man from before called you Brother Harry,” she explained.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “Yes I have children.”

“How many?”

“Three,” the answer had come naturally but I stopped myself from talking further the moment that number escaped my lips.

“What’s wrong?” Thandiwe was studying my face. She was quick on picking up my facial reactions.

“Nothing,” I brushed away the crazy thoughts. “What about the father of your child, isn’t he helping with the bills?” I quickly moved to change the topic.

“Can we change the topic?” She suggested, obviously uncomfortable with my line of questioning. “What was going on between you and that man from the church? Isn’t he the pastor there?”

She had succeeded in bringing the topic back to me. “I would also like to change this particular subject,” I borrowed her words.

She laughed. “Okay, I understand. What do you do for a living Mr Harry?” She asked.

“I don’t think you and I getting to know each other is a good idea,” I tried to be honest with her. “We almost slept together. I have seen you naked and you have seen me at my worst. I would like it to end at that without adding meat to it. Things are already complicated enough….”

“But you asked about my son and even my husband?” She countered.

“That was because I was trying to be polite since you had mentioned he was sick before…and about your husband, that was just out of curiosity and besides, you didn’t give me an answer. Why are you looking at me like that?” I had not realised until later that she had been starring at me the whole time I was talking.

“What woman in her right mind can a break the heart of such a kindhearted man?” She said, catching me completely off-guard. Her words had come off almost like a whisper and I had been unfortunate enough to catch every word of it.

“What did you say?” I asked, thinking I had heard wrong.

She quickly looked away from me, “nothing,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I have never been to this part of the neighborhood before,” she said looking out the windscreen.

There wasnt much going on outside.

I couldn’t let it go and so I parked to the side of the road and turned to her. “You said something about breaking my heart, where did you get that from?”

“From you,” she quipped.

“From me?”

“Today, and even that time in Phi…and that night at the lodge you had this look in your eyes…I have seen that look before so I am very familiar with it. You don’t look like the type to pick up strange women at night but that night you did and the first chance you got, you backed out. I might not be very educated but I have a sharp mind so I can easily pick up on things. That night, your ring, and what happened today….”

I had my hands gripping the steering wheel and was hitting my head against it in frustration, the hooter going on and off with my movements when I felt her small hands on either side of my head as she held me back from hitting the sterring wheel.

“I didn’t think it showed,” I said mostly to myself than to her. I wasn’t sure what made me so emotional all of a sudden; that I had been discovered by her or that she was feeling she had that look in her eyes as she looked down at me.

I realized then that we had crossed a physical boundary that should have never been crossed given our past together. She was leaning against me with her arms around my head. I could feel her bosom pressed against the back of my head and I could hear her breathing slowly begin to change when she realised I was looking at her through the mirror.

It was broad daylight and we were parked on the side of the road and even though it wasnt a busy road, there were still a few cars and pedestrians passing by. But somehow, all that didn’t seem to matter to me in that instant.

Before I could get hold of my senses, I took off the seatbelt, grabbed her by her tiny waist and started kissing her like a man starved of a century of intimacy.

At first she was hesitant but she soon responded to me and like a pair of hungry lovers, we went at other with unrestrained passion…but that was until she suddenly pulled back and fell back into her seat.

“This is crazy…and wrong,” she muttered.

I had to agree with her. It was crazy, it was wrong… and yet there was something about it that didn’t feel so wrong in my head.

There was a part of me that felt like I had to have her and only then would I get the answers I was in desperate search of. I knew she wanted me. Gosh, I wanted her too.

What did I stand to lose if I gave in this one time? I had lived an honorable life as someone’s partner for thriteen years and yet I was left with nothing to show for it.

What more was left to be lost?

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.

Because She Loved Me – Part 2

because she loved me

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was the father?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But…

…and what about our families…dear God.

What was I to tell my family?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The irony.

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

Was I crying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was working,” I cheerfully lied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was I being too much of a coward?

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

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

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

I immediately paused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I needed her to say NO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I did,” I answered.

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

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

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

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

I still wasn’t ready.

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

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

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

I was petrified.

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

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

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

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

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

Realization finally dawned on me. So that was why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gave him a stern look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was Thandiwe.

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

Was fate playing some cruel prank on me?

Why did I have to meet her again?

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

The feeling wasn’t mutual.

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t want to like her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I saw it. Her tears.

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

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

“You live in this neighborhood?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That chewed down at my pride.

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

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

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

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

“You can say that again,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

*         *         *