The Life Series, Vol 3: The Secret



A dark cloud loomed over Pangani Village. It was a night to remember, a mystery never to be solved. Who had slain the sons of Pangani’s royal bloodline? Like a thief in the night, a ghost had entered the chief’s residence and took a knife to the throats of the thirteen male descendants of Pangani the Great, including the reigning chief himself, Ganizani Pangani. The attack had been silent, swift, and deadly…until the last born daughter of Ganizani’s twelfth bride spotted the lifeless body of her father as she tried to make her way to the latrine.

Fear gripped the faces of the women, but there was something in the eyes of the men that didn’t sit well with the royal family’s head of security. It would be hours before the local police made their way to the small village, it was thus his duty to get to the bottom of things before it was too late.

Kamwendo instructed his men to gather all the men in the makeshift community hall. They would tell him exactly who was behind the killings before the break of dawn. He had five major suspects in mind. No, six, now that his great nemesis was back in town. These men had not made it a secret that they loathed the chief’s family and it’s supposed shady dealings. But they were wrong, the village had grown bigger and better under Ganizani’s reign. There was more money in the people’s pockets, more wealth. It was only jealous that was eating up these foolish men.

“The five men, you know yourselves. Come to the front right now,” Kamwendo commanded.

There was no movement in the crowd. The men all just stared at him like he was the biggest fool to have ever walked the earth. “The first suspect should be you Kamwendo!” Someone shouted from the back.

“Who said that?” The chief of security asked. No response.

“You’re all cowards!” The officer barked. “How dare you slay your fellow man in his sleep? Why not fight him like real men in broad daylight? You think me a suspect?” He scoffed. “My family has faithfully served the royal family for four generations now, four!”

“It is also known that your family has been after the title for generations.” This time he could see who had spoken up because the young man, about five foot eight, well-toned body, and with an unshakable confidence that could bring most men to their knees was sitting right in the front and glaring at him challengingly. The two young men weren’t strangers to each other. In fact, they were rivals. It was only a few moons ago when the son of Chima the carpenter, one Sanana had gone ahead and married Kamwendo’s betrothed. A war had been declared, and both men were determined to come out victorious.

“Lies! Lies! Lies!” Kamwendo screamed into Sana’s face. The young man never flinched. He held his nemesis’ gaze and dared him to make a wrong move.

Without his power as a royal officer, there was absolutely nothing about Kamwendo that was threatening to the young scholar. Indeed, Sanana was the pride of the village. He was the first man to obtain a degree from the highest institution of learning in the country. Four years ago, he had left behind him a village torn apart. Supporters of the corrupt and abusive royal regime felt that education was a white man’s tool intended to blind the black man so he could forsake his heritage. Those that stood on Sanana’s side, popularly known as the traitors, Sanana’s father and his four other loyal friends argued that education was what the village needed to rid itself of the corruption, abuse, and plunder going on in the chiefdom, spearheaded by the royal family. Sanana was supposed to be the son who would liberate them all from all such vices.

Kamwendo had hoped Sanana’s departure from the chiefdom would be permanent. During that time, he had managed to ingratiate himself to the royal family and won their favor. Thus, at the tender age of twenty-three, he was made head of security. Unlike his predecessors in his family who felt they were the rightful heirs to the throne, Kamwendo never coveted the throne. He had learnt through the futility of his father’s schemes that it was easier to maintain power and control from the back. And now the untimely assassination of the royal family had put a dent in his elaborate plan.

“What reason would I have for killing the royal family when I know I would be the obvious suspect?” He was now standing on the podium, addressing the villagers like a king. “I know what you all think about my family, however, killing chief’s family in such a manner would do more harm than good for us. Everyone will think we are just as wicked. Yes, I’m aware of the propaganda some of you have been spreading in the village.

“You’ve turned the people against the royal family with your nonsense about child abuse, forced marriages, under-age girls, ” he laughed.” If a man thinks a woman ripe, then she is. Period. You speak of corruption and plunder when what the royal family has been doing is managing your resources for you. If not for them, you would have minerals sitting in the ground for centuries to come, never benefitting from them. And you would have land filled with weeds and thorns.”

“But aren’t they guilty of all these things they’ve been accused of?” It was one of the famous five, Akina the shoe maker. If not for Sana, the two men would be in-laws.

“Says who?” Kamwendo asked. “Since when did honoring our culture become a crime in this land? The daughters of Pangani have always been ready for marriage. They’re taken from their mother’s wombs ready to serve their future husbands. It’s always been their purpose. And this land that you claim we’re selling to the government and the Chinese? This is all for the good of this village. We have so much land we don’t know what to do with it. What is wrong with giving it to people willing to give us money so we can feed our families and expand our farms?”

Murmurs rocked the room once again.

“The people have never seen that money!” Sana roared. “Our people are dying from hunger and diseases that can be easily cured. We are not saying don’t sell some of the land. All we are saying is that use that money to make the lives of our people better. We can’t keep relying on herbs to protect our sick. Our women keep dying in child birth, our girls-“

“Didn’t the royal family build you a clinic? What more do you want?” Kamwendo asked.

“That’s true!” A sharp voice echoed through the room. There was silence as everyone turned to look at the speaker. Somewhere in the middle of the seated crowd, a short man rose to his feet, nodding his head proudly and profusely. “Our good man here speaks the truth,” he said, his eyes searching the whole room for undivided attention. But everyone knew who he was so they murmured even more.

“That’s not a clinic, it’s a useless shack, a mortuary!” Someone shouted.

“There are no medicines there so what’s the point of saying we have a clinic!?” Another shouted. “There are no real doctors there. Those fake healers keep killing us!” They went on and on and on.

“Silence!” Kamwendo fired a shot through the tattered tented roof and sent the room into glacial silence.

“Thank you my good man,” the short man nodded appreciatively, ever more profusely.

“Shut your cheap dirty mouth Kachepa,” it was another of the famous five, Miyanda the Maize farmer. He was sitting just a few feet away from the man of the moment. “We all know why you worship the royal family like that. It’s those eight fat cows in your backyard. We have no time to listen to sell-outs here. Let real men talk before we stick you in the ass of one of your fat animals. It wouldn’t be a long way after all.”

“Did you hear that! He insulted me!” Kachepa cried excitedly to Kamwendo.

“We are diverting from the real issue here,” Kamwendo said. “We are here to find out who wiped away the entire royal family, leaving the chiefdom without a single heir.”

“Who says there’s no heir?” Sana Asked. “The royal family has more than thirty daughters and the late chief had more than twenty wives during his very short tenure as a chief.”
Murmurs in the room.

Kamwendo was laughing. “Here we go again, with all this talk about women. You’re a married man now, why are you still so obsessed with women?”

“It’s because I’m married now that this issue has become even more important to me,” Sana said.

“So you think just because you left the village for a bit and learnt how to read and talk like a muzungu that now you know better than all of us?”

“I never said that, that’s your own inferiority complex speaking,” Sana retorted. “And leave my wife out of this. She’s none of your concern, has never been.”

“My info-what?”

Sana chuckled. “My point is, in as much as we need to find the killers of the royal family, we need to ask ourselves why someone…or some people felt justified in wiping out an entire family in the first place, specifically the sons. People are angry Kamwendo. They want to see change. When people have fought monsters for so long, they too risk turning into monsters.”

“Should I take that as a confession Sana?” Kamwendo asked.

“You can if you have the balls,” the young man fired back.

Kamwendo furiously rubbed his hand against his forehead in a bid to control calm his escalating emotions. He didn’t need to give Sana any more reason to think he was the better man. “So, you think slaying the royal family will fix that?” He asked. “Because of such foolishness, a succession dispute looms over us. Who is going to rule us now? We have killers in our midst right now, meaning no one is safe.”

“The only people that aren’t safe are the ones who insist of going against the people,” Sana’s father said.

“Is that a threat?” Kamwendo asked.

“Do you feel threatened Kamwendo? Have you ever acted against the will of the people?” He asked.

Kamwendo appeared tongue-tied.

“I would also like to say something.” A grey haired man seated on the far left in the third row raised his hand, his head bowed to the ground. Everyone in Pangani, young and old could recognize that strong enchanting voice in their sleep.

“Ah, Bakuyi, speak our wise one.” Kamwendo stepped down from the podium to sit on one of the high chairs. The room fell silent as everyone waited for the old man to speak.

Bakuyi was revered and feared by both men and kings within Pangani village and beyond. He was a man of a few words, but whenever he spoke, his words were gripping and memorable. Two chiefs who had disregarded his role in the chiefdom had died the most painful death and left behind embarrassing legacies that would haunt the royal family forever. And now the whole male blood line had been wiped out because they refused to heed his warning against incurring the wrath of the people. Pangani village accredited all its bountiful years of prosperity to the wisdom of the old man, and rightly so.

From his sitting position, Bakuyi raised his head to look at the young man in front. “A single bracelet does not jingle,” slowly but surely, he stated. “Listen, not with your ears, but your eyes.” He paused, slowly turning his head to look from left to right, then back at Kamwendo. “When the Shepard comes home in peace, the milk is sweet,” he continued. “There is no secret in a village, unless the village itself is the secret.” He proceeded to thump his wooden handstaff three times against the ground before lowering his head again.

If Kamwendo had hoped to find answers, he had finally succeeded.
The assembly had officially come to an end. Pangani Village was never to be the same again. The dark cloud above shifted as the heavens set dawn into motion.

The End.

The Life Series, Vol 2: The Neighbor

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any semblance to any real life persons, places, or events is coincidental.

I recognized the name the moment I saw it on the cover of the resume that my assistant had just printed out. It had been five years since my last encounter with her, but here she was. How can I ever forget the name that haunted me day and night and kept me awake into the early hours of the morning? That one year was the worst experience of my life. And I had been through hell before.

I didn’t have much to my name. I was fresh from varsity and had just gotten my very first job with a small private firm as a receptionist. It was a job way below my qualifications, but it was still a job anyway, and it came with a salary. I used to think that if I placed my mind over matter, everything would work out in the end. I was wrong. Working as a receptionist was not easy at all. At first I thought, ‘what could be challenging about picking up calls, welcoming clients, and scheduling meetings for my bosses?’ I had just spent four years at the University of Zambia pursuing a humanities degree, and I thought my first job would be as a Human Resource personnel. The front desk job to me was something most suited to school leavers or diploma holders. However, after sending out more than a thousand applications and receiving absolutely no response, I settled for the first offer that came my way. Within a short time, I learnt that ‘clients’ came in different forms, and not all of them were human. The ones I classified as human are the ones who came smiling and treated me with respect despite the menial salary attached to my position.

And then there were the beasts, the ones who never bothered with pleasantries. They were either born naturally angry or the world had somehow screwed up so thoroughly they forgot all things relating to human decency. These ones screamed, demanded, commanded, and every now and then there would be that attempt at physical attacks if a response was not in their favor. It was then I learnt that the front desk was not as friendly or as easy-going as I imagined it to be. It was more like a war zone and I was in the frontline. My job was to filter the evil from the good and ensure that anything that went past the front desk would not be a threat to the very important people working in safe cubicles and high offices with expensive leather and great window views. At the end of the day, I had to purge myself of all this evil I had consumed and hope that tomorrow would be a better day. I longed for that long bubble bath in my very tiny bath tab in my very tiny bedsitter apartment in Mass Media. A glass of wine as I watched a few episodes of CSI Miami on my laptop and I would be good for bed, ready to take on the world the next day. I wish.

My rental was a flat, semi-detached to be specific. A bedsitter with a decent kitchen space and bathroom. There were a total of six houses in the yard, far-spaced from each other, and mine was the only one attached to another. The rest of the homes were independent and had these make-shift fences around them that gave them privacy from the rest of the tenants in the yard. I shared my privacy with the other tenant attached to my flat. Her flat was two-bedroomed, thus making mine the cheapest in the yard, and also somehow giving my neighbor the upper hand in terms of shared yard space and manners.

I saw the first sign of trouble the very first time the agent took me to view the house. I saw her peeping through her window when the agent opened the small gate that led to the attached apartments. Next thing I saw, the door opened and this tall, very angry slim figure stepped out. She was shooting daggers at us through her eyes. She looked like she was on the eighteenth day of her period.

“Who are you people and who let you in?” The tall figure asked. She was dressed in a pair of short-shorts and I was sure if she turned around, we would see the bottom half of her ass acquainting itself with the heavy atmosphere. As for her top, it truly was a top because it only covered the top part of her body, her shoulders, and her boobs. I had to give it to her, she had the sexiest stomach I had ever seen on a human. I remember thinking that perhaps it wasn’t such bad luck after all that I couldn’t afford an ironing board. I had one right next door.

She had what appeared to be thirty-something inches of Brazilian hair, and at that time it was just getting popular so it was extremely expensive. Everything about her, including her attitude and demeanor looked expensive. The agent made the introductions and the tollo said, “I wish the landlord had told me that there were people coming today.”

“Do the apartments share access?” I had to ask. I could clearly see the door to what could be my apartment on the far side of the building, away from her door but she was acting as if we needed her permission to view the other apartment. She gave me a severe look that sent chills down my spine.

“Of course not, why would they?” She retorted.

“Then if you don’t mind, I would like to see the place right away.”

“Why would I mind?” She asked. I was being rhetorical. She was being an ass.

“I don’t know,” I replied sarcastically, giving her a sweeping look. She stepped back into her apartment and slammed the door shut.

“What was that about?” I asked the agent.

He shrugged his shoulders and led the rest of the way to the apartment to let me in. For the amount it was going for, it was more than beautiful and comfortable. I guess God hadn’t completely turned his back on me after all. I desperately needed this place. It was close to work, but that wasn’t the only reason I needed it. For the past four or so years, I had been living with my aunt, my late mum’s younger sister. It was not the most ideal living situation but since I was not accommodated on campus and could not afford a boarding house, Aunt Alice and her family were my only option. She reluctantly agreed to let me sleep in the living room provided I cleaned the whole house, minus the bedrooms because they would all be sleeping every morning before I left for school. I also had to do all the other house chores, including laundry for the family of five. She had fired the maid a week before I moved in, so it only made sense that I replace her. She asked me to move out the day I wrote my last exam paper. That’s why I had been searching heaven and earth for a job. To pay for this particular apartment, I had to borrow money from a friend, a former course mate.

“Why is the rent so cheap for such a place, and in such an area?” I remember asking the real estate agent.

“The landlord is just a generous man,” he said, averting eye contact. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to his behavior.

“That landlord must not be Zambian,” I joked.

“He is,” he answered. “He has a lot of businesses so he doesn’t depend on these houses.”

“Makes sense,” I said, convinced I won the jackpot and silently rendering reverence to God. I would soon discover the real reason why the place was so cheap.

I moved into the apartment that same evening. I only had a mattress and a two plate cooker so it was an easy move. I planned on buying a few plates and some toiletries in the coming days. But it felt great to finally have my own space. This was only the beginning. There was only one way from here given that I was right at the bottom.

The second sign of trouble came two hours into my moving. Music. Very loud music that shook my walls and made the ceiling vibrate. It was so loud I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts. The sound was definitely coming from a great sound system and clearly, the owner was very proud to show it off. I thought about going to knock on the door and asking her to reduce the volume but I convinced myself to sit patiently and hope she would remember she now had a neighbor.

The noise came to a stop at 3 in the morning. I finally managed to slept at 5 and woke up thirty minutes later to prepare for my first day at work. On my way out, I stopped at my neighbor’s door and knocked.

“Who is it?” She asked from the other side of it.

“It’s me, Sandra, your neighbor.”

“What do you want?”

I hesitated. I didn’t think it was the type of conversation we could have like that. “Do you mind opening the door so we can talk?” I asked.

“I mind. What do you want?”

I hesitated, then stammered, but finally managed with, “the music… I wanted to ask if you could turn it down a bit since I moved in last night. I thought maybe you didn’t know I had moved in. Thought I let you know.”


“Huh?” I heard her, I just couldn’t believe the response. There was no response from the other side of the door.

“Miss, are you there?” I realized I didn’t even know her name. Still no response. I simply laughed and left.

The excitement that comes with a new job died by the third hour at work. The place was very busy and chaotic. I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising considering it was a tech company offering an array of services at the cheapest prices on the market. The phone never stopped ringing and I had absolutely no time for a bathroom or lunch break. Seeing as I was new, I couldn’t find anyone to man my spot while I attended to urgent personal needs. And so I held it all in; the urine, the hunger, and the anger. I smiled, I laughed, I answered calls, continued smiling at people hailing insults at me for problems they started facing way before I joined the company. I received commands and demands from certificate and diploma holders working in the marketing and sales department who treated me like I breathed sub-standard Oxygen. Even the low-level secretaries and drivers who had never seen the walls of a lecture theatre acted like my superiors. In fact, they all were. It didn’t matter that I had a Degree with a Distinction on it bearing my name somewhere in my cheap handbag. As far as everyone was concerned, I was their slave, hired to do everyone’s bidding. And so I tucked in my pride, checked my tongue and put on my best fake smile as I counted the ticks on the wall clock, desperately waiting for the hand to hit 5 so I could go home.

But there was no home. Only hell.
I called the landlord on the third day and demanded an audience with him. He was a very good man, in his early forties, perfectly groomed that he could pass for thirty-five, medium height, a fair complexion, and the thing that stood out for me was the gray Alexis he was driving. Not the color, but the car itself. I kind of expected him to be driving a Hammer or Lamborghini, like most wealthy men I knew. I could tell he was not the usual Jack or Jim. His name was Augustine Lungu. I insisted on calling him Mr Lungu despite his invitation for a first name basis because he was older, and my landlord. I was only 22 years old then.

“I wondered what took you long to call,” was the first thing he said to me when I greeted him at the door.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He motioned his head towards my neighbor’s flat.

“Ah,” realization dawned. It was then I looked past him to the car he was driving. I blinked twice, maybe twice. It could have been twelve times. I looked at him, and then back at the car. Then back at him again. Perhaps if it was not so beat-down, I wouldn’t be so shocked. It looked like it would come apart if four people sat in it.

“Is that your-“

“Yes, that’s my car Ms Khumalo.” The bemused expression on his face told me he had read my mind.

“Wow, definitely not what I was expecting. You must be a humble man.” My very friendly neighbor drove the latest Range Rover on the market. And she didn’t even have a job.

He chuckled. “I wish,” he said. “My car is at the garage. I was involved in an accident. My wife is using her much fancier car, and this happens to be our back-up ride.” He would later show up at my door step in a Ford Ranger. I thought it fitted him perfectly.

“Most people would feign humility, but you sound determined to prove me wrong.” He opened the door for me and I sat on one bum, careful not to put too much pressure on the fossil. I reached out and opened his door before he could get to it.

“Thanks,” he said.

“I take it you already know what my grievances are,” I said.

“Unfortunately, I do.”

“So?” Clearly, my neighbor’s behavior wasn’t news to him.

“I’ll talk to Lulu and ask her to dull down the noise.”

So her name was Lulu, but short for what, Luyando? Lungowe? She certainly didn’t look like a Luyando. The Luyando’s I knew were as fragile as a flower. The closest to a plant this Lulu woman was, could be the Aloe Vera plant, and not the one with the healing powers. I concluded she was a Lungowe. They tend to be tough in nature these Lungowes.

“Ask her? You’re the landlord. Can’t you evict her? Clearly, she’s been tormenting all your tenants. You should have gotten rid of her a long time ago instead of lowering the rent.”

“Ah, you picked up on that. You’re very intelligent Ms Khumalo.”

“Sandra, my name is Sandra.” He was making me sound so old.

“I thought we already established we can’t be on first-name basis.” I thought he was being smug using my own words against me, but he looked serious. “Works both ways ma’am,” he added. Now he was just being patronizing.

“Why can’t you kick her out?” I asked.

“Lungowe is someone related to my elder brother.” That was code for mistress. His tone was quite telling. And I was right, she was a Lungowe.

“I’m sure you’ll meet him soon. He’s a regular here. She’s been living here for the past two years, rent free. It makes things easier for my brother…for obvious reasons.”

“I bet he does the same favors for you. I just don’t understand why I have to pay the price for it,” I said.

“That’s why I reduced the rent,” he said. I could tell he wanted to address my accusing tone but he managed to stop himself. Good for him, because I was not in the mood.

“I can’t get rid of Lulu, she threatens to ruin my brother’s life every time I ask her to behave or leave. I owe my brother a lot, my life. This is the only thing he has ever asked of me. Lulu is headstrong and likes to have her way, always, so dealing with her isn’t the easiest thing in the world. She can be quite challenging. She is selfish and stubborn.” He was being very kind. I had seen serpents on the National Geographic Channel that were less poisonous. I wondered why any man would find such a woman attractive, but then I remembered her body.

“So are you telling me that I have to contend with that noise for as long as I live here?” I asked.

“I’ll still talk to her, see if we can come to an understanding.” Either the man was naïve, and a coward, or an angel sent from heaven.

“And if nothing changes? You know I can easily report her to the police right?”

“I know you can but I wish you wouldn’t do that. That would cause a lot of problems for my brother. How about we do this; You don’t pay rent for the next two months while I figure out what to do with our friend here without incurring her wrath? I promise to make it worth your while.”

“She really has that much control over you people, huh?” I thought it was laughable that these seemingly powerful and wealthy men were at the mercy of one simple woman. Whatever she had on the brother must have been very damning.

It would be two years later when I would learn the truth about the nature of Lulu’s relationship with my landlord’s brother. A sex tape. I was forced to move out a year later after finding a job as a Human Resource Officer, this time at a prestigious private firm which had two front desk managers and an appropriately qualified sales and marketing team. Even the PA’s had degree’s as a minimum qualification. I was promoted to manager two years later, and another two years I was heading the department.

I waited for my PA to staple the papers together and I walked into my private office holding Lungowe’s resume in one hand, and a cup of coffee in another. It appeared Lungowe had given up the life of mistressing three years ago, at least according to her resume. She had obtained a diploma in secretarial studies at some private institution and was hoping to fill a vacancy in the administrative team. Given my tough journey to employment after obtaining my first degree, I wasn’t touch on experience for certain roles provided someone demonstrated enough promise to deliver to expectation. Lungowe however would prove to be my first ethical challenge as a Human Resource Practitioner.

That evening after work, I invited the MD to dinner. We had somehow become the best of friends after working closely for such a long time. Mutinta was thirty-six years old, married to a lawyer, and together they had three kids. I had only been married for a year and half and was just getting started on the family front. I explained to her that I had an ethical situation on my desk and I needed her unbiased opinion on the matter. I deliberately held back telling her my history with Lulu until after I heard her verdict.

“Well, show me the cv.”

I pulled out the envelope containing the cv from my bag and handed it to her. She quickly skimmed through it, and there really wasn’t much to see there given Lulu’s lack of experience and minimal educational background.

“Why would anyone like this even consider working for us? Underqualified is an understatement,” Mutinta said. “She needs to at least qualify for something, before she can be underqualified.” She carelessly threw the cv on the table. That in itself told me everything I needed to know. I picked it up, placed in back in the envelope and then back into my bag. So what’s this whole situation that’s bringing about the potential for bias?” She asked.

I brought her up to speed.

“I see what your concern is now,” Mutinta said. “However, you were right in your judgement. She’s clearly not qualified.”

“But we’ve given people with less qualifications before a chance to work with us, and they turned out alright,” I said. “If I don’t give her a chance, it’ll just seem like I’m being vindictive.”

“Seem vindictive to who? Yes we’ve taken chances in people before but you didn’t know those people personally,” Mutinta said. “You know this Lungowe person and she’s not a good fit for such a role given her personality. Her interview started way before this position was created, and unfortunately for her, she failed then, and she’s failed now. There’s no need for you to question your integrity here. Chuck that thing into the bin and forget it ever crossed your path.”


“What?” Mutinta was a no-nonsense type of woman. She said what was on her mind and she meant every word of it, consequences be damned. “Look,” she continued. “You’re the best at what you do. One of the reasons why you were promoted so quickly through the ranks is because of your integrity and the way you deal with people. You’re very patient and always objective, no matter how stressful a situation is.” I had that horrible receptionist job and Lungowe as a neighbor to thank for that. I was well trained, but of course I couldn’t say that. Mutinta was still my boss after all.

“You are the only HR person I know who somehow still manages to remain friends with the people you fired,” she said. She was right. Firing people was the worst part of my job, but fortunately for me, I only ever had to get rid of two employees during my five years of practice.

“I feel like it would be unfair for me to make a decision based on my past experience with her,” I told Mutinta. “What if she changed over the years? We are all not the same people we were five years ago.”

“We’ve gotten better, yes. But some people don’t change. In fact, they become worse.” She said.

“How about we put her to a test then, see how she fares,” I suggested.

“What type of test?”
“I’m thinking… putting her in a situation where she has to interact with others when she thinks she’s not being observed.”

“Is that ethical?” Mutinta asked.

“It is,” I said. “The interview starts the moment she walks into the building. For others it even starts before, when we review their online and offline activities. If Lulu is still the same person she was back then, there is only one way she would respond in these types of situations.”

“And if she pretends? You know people are desperate for jobs these days. They’ll become whatever they need to be just to be picked.”

“There’s no law against pretending to be good at a job. Who knows, the other candidates that I don’t know might be pretending too. As long as they show the right attitude and prove that they’re the perfect fit for the job, my job is to trust that and hire them. I mean, for how long do you think someone can pretend? That’s why we have probation periods and contract reviews. People have to keep proving themselves whether they like it or not. And it works in our favor if they keep pretending they’re that good at their jobs.”

Two weeks later, I got home and had a story to tell my husband. “Guess who will be starting work as an administrative assistant in my department next week?”

“Don’t tell me you gave her the job.” My husband looked like he had just been doused in water.

“She doesn’t have the experience but she did better than everyone in the interviews,” I said. “My team said she has a lot of potential to excel.”

“You and Lulu, working together? You, her boss?” He laughed. “I guess it’s true what they say about karma. Does she know you work there?”

“I recused myself from those interviews but she saw me walking from the boardroom back to my office. She was in the waiting room right across my office. I waved to her and she reluctantly waved back. I think she wasn’t sure who I was. I look like a pig now you know.”

My husband went straight into husband mode and drew me into his arms. “Don’t ever say such things about my wife,” he said, planting kisses all over my chubby face. At six months pregnant, I was a little heavier than my usual 54kg’s, and my legs were getting swollen by the day. I felt like the fattest woman on earth even though my doctor kept insisting I needed to put on more weight for the baby. My husband agreed, meaning I had no choice but to agree also. This was my first child, but it would be my husband’s third. He was way more concerned about my health and that of our baby given that he lost his previous wife in child birth. This child was like a second chance for him. But he was my everything.

The first news I received when I walked into the office the following Monday morning was, “she turned down the job ma’am.” I gave my assistant Brenda a quizzical look before it dawned on me who she was referring to. I should have seen it coming.

“Did she give any reason?” I asked.

“She said over her dead body would she work here.” Brenda was holding back a chuckle.

I couldn’t help but laugh. So nothing much had changed about Lungowe after all.

My team had told me about her emotional display during the interview. She desperately needed the job to support her three kids. It had been four years since her relationship with my brother in-law ended. I had heard through the grapevine that Henry was fired from his top government position for some shady dealings, and thanks to his philandering ways, he had not made any notable investments he could fall back on after his dismissal. No one could employ him given his track record, so it didn’t take long for him to become destitute. His wife had taken the kids and whatever little savings they had and went back to her family in Ethiopia.

Without Henry’s financial support, Lulu was left to take care of their twins alone. According to my husband, she had managed to secure herself another sugar daddy after Henry but he bounced the moment she fell pregnant for him. Her plot to trap him with a child backfired on her when the man refused to leave his wife for her.

I could have easily moved on from her rejection of the job offer we had made to her. It’s not like she was the first to ever do so. We had potential employees in the past turn down offers because better offers had come along since the interviews. However, I knew the case wasn’t the same for Lulu. Given her qualifications, it would not be easy for her to find a job. That day I did something unorthodox by looking up her address on her cv and then driving to her place. Aside from the professional connection, she was still somehow related to me through her kids. I couldn’t just let her throw away an opportunity like that just because of pride.

Suffice to say, she was shocked to see me standing at her door. That apartment was very different from the one in Mass Media. Back then she only had me as her closest neighbor. Now she had way more neighbors than I cared to count, living in the same house. If the place was somewhere close to Unza or Evelyn Hone, I would have assumed it was a student boarding house. But it was in Kamwala, and there were way too many noisy babies in sight.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” She greeted me in her usual friendly tone.

“Can we talk somewhere private?” I asked. It was just too crowded and noisy.

“What do you want?” She was shouting at me, maybe not deliberately. There was too much noise around and the baby in her arms was now wailing. She looked like she could use a bath, maybe even four, desperately.

I had no choice but to scream back. “The job, you need to take it. Don’t turn it down because of me.”

“What makes you think it has anything to do with you?”

“I know you Lulu. I lived next door to you for a year.”

“You know nothing about me.”

“I can have you transferred to another department.”

I saw her consider the offer for a few seconds but her words betrayed her. “I got a better offer elsewhere. I don’t need that job anymore.”

“How much are they paying you?” I asked.

“It’s none of your fucking business. Can you leave, I need to feed this stupid baby.”

“What would it take for you to reconsider?”

She gave me a curious look. “Why are you doing this? I know you hate my guts.”

“I hate your guts, that’s a fact. You have no idea how many times I dreamt about choking you to death back then. However, I don’t want you making a stupid mistake all because of what happened back then.”

“I know what I’m doing. I don’t need your pity.” She slammed the door in my face.

The truth is, I knew what the outcome of that meeting would be, but I still wanted to try. I won’t lie and say it didn’t feel good seeing her at my mercy like that. It was like finally getting the revenge I had desperately longed for five years ago. Who knew that one day I would come to own the very place she had turned into hell for me? How many times had she called me a peasant for living in a bedsitter? I still vividly remember all those nights I went to bed crying over the desperate situation I was in. After moving out of my aunt’s place, I thought I had finally found solace in my own place, no matter how tiny it was. But Lulu turned my sanctuary into a living hell. She was unapologetic in her bullying just as she was unrelenting in her torment. Never before had I felt so abused, alone, vulnerable, and at someone’s mercy.

I wanted Lungowe to suffer as much as I did, maybe even more. I wanted her to learn about hard work and kindness, just like the rest of us trying to survive out there. However, seeing her experiencing all those bad things I wished her didn’t give me any peace. There was a part of me that felt guilty, that perhaps I had cursed her too much, or that I was a terrible person for entertaining some form of triumph upon seeing her like that. That was why I went to her house, to relieve myself of the guilt. To do the right thing even if I could live without having done so.
But I did my part, and I’m proud of myself. The rest was up to the universe.

The End.

The Life Series, Vol 1: The Passenger

(Short stories – light non-complex reads- I write in between major writing projects to entertain my loyal readers. Enjoy the first story in this series.)


With only a few minutes to 11 o’clock, Mrs Mwansa managed to secure a seat on the Power Tools Bus headed for Ndola from Lusaka. Just a couple of hours before, she had just been through what she had come to conclude the worst experience of her life. A lot of things could have gone wrong, worst of all, her death. Fortunately for her, it had only ended as a robbery, a gruesome and very violent one. Never before had she appreciated the ability to breath in and out so easily without any form of restraint.

Life for the 52 year old had taken on a whole new meaning. Being alive and being able to board a bus that would take her back to the safety of her home was the perfect utopia she could ever wish for herself. Nothing else matters, not even the disheveled look on her, the dirty torn clothes and the smell of what she could only describe as pig’s vomit emitting from every pore in her skin. She most certainly could use a bath and a change of clothes, but that could wait.

Mrs Mwansa smiled as she walked the aisle of the bus, apologizing along the way for her state of dress and foul scent. It was clear on all the passenger’s faces that they did not appreciate her presence on the bus. More than her foul scent, which she gathered wasn’t that unbearable, it was her appearance that appeared to unnerve everyone. She couldn’t blame them. If homelessness and crazy had a face, she would most certainly be it. When the conductor leading her finally came to a stop, just a few feet away from the back end of the bus, he motioned to the right just as he turned to talk to the young girl occupying the window seat, her visibly expensive Louis Vinton bag resting comfortably on the seat next to her.

The man spoke in Bemba to her. “Sorry Miss, but do you mind giving this seat to your aunty here? She-“
The girl, appearing to be in her early twenties raised her hand to the conductor’s face to shush him, her sparkly eyes now turned razor sharp, accentuated to perfection by long eyelashes and perfectly arched brows scanned the unwelcome passenger from head to toe. If before Mrs Mwansa thought she smelled like pig’s vomit, she could have sworn she now smelled like the bio-end products of six fattened pigs ready for slaughter. It was not a look Mrs Mwansa was accustomed to but it was one she could understand. If she had more time in her hands, she could have easily avoided this, but her daughter needed her today. She needed to get home in time. All she could do for now was smile apologetically in return and hoped the girl would be kind enough to give up the seat she had especially reserved for her handbag.

“I told you I didn’t want any weirdos sitting next to me!” The young lady barked at the conductor in flawless English that couldn’t have sounded better flowing from the lips of a native speaker with curly blonde locks. Except, she sounded American, more American than Tiffany Hardish or three Melania Trumps put together. American like one of those rich black female characters in Taylor Perry movies who went to Ivy League schools and used the right knife on a fine dining table. Mrs Mwansa watched quietly and in awe as the two continued their exchange, turning bitter by the second, each unshaken in their resolve, one speaking in flawless unrepentant Bemba, and the other in impeccable tasteful English. The smile never left the woman’s face. If she thought her life couldn’t get any more dramatic, she had just been proved wrong. Not even Twilight’s Alice could have seen this one coming.

The argument between the two got so heated that the rest of the passengers, now completely frustrated by the delay decided to voice their feelings over the matter. To Mrs Mwansa’s surprise, the tide appeared to be in the favor of the “desperate old woman who had just survived a gruesome attack and needed to get home urgently.” The surmarised version of her ordeal sounded ten times more gruesome in Bemba. With all passengers hailing insults and judgement in her direction, the twenty-two year old finally relented, ever so reluctantly and moved her bag to give Mrs Mwansa a seat.

“Don’t even think about leaning on me or touching me,” the girl hissed.

“I’m really sorry for putting you in this position, I know it’s not easy. Thank you for giving the seat to me.”

“It’s not like I had a choice,” the girl said briskly.” They were threatening to kick me out of the bus! And why do you keep smiling like that? Apart from the way you look, is something else funny?” she blocked her nose with her perfectly manicured nails to keep protect herself against the woman’s unpleasnt odor.

Mrs Mwansa chuckled. “I actually think this whole situation is funny, but that’s not why I was smiling.”

“Not like I care,” the girl said, dismissively so. “Just don’t bother talking to me.” Before Mrs Mwansa could give a response, the young lady shoved her headsets into her ears and faced the window, her eyes shut.

Two minutes later, she opened her eyes and started typing away on her phone. A few minutes later, her phone rang. Mrs Mwansa was quick to notice it was the latest iPhone because she had only recently bought one for her daughter.

“I’m telling you, it’s that bad!” The girl said to whoever was on the other end of the line. “I can’t believe I have to endure this for the next five hours…yeah, I think it takes that long. This is public transport love. I sooo miss my Jeep you have no idea. I can’t believe I have to be subjected to this hell…. I don’t care if she can hear me. It’s not like I’m telling lies. She really smells like shit hun.”

Mrs Mwansa made uncomfortable throaty sounds, she looked up and smiled at the lady on the other side of the aisle just a few feet ahead of her who was giving her a pitiful look. The conductor might not have screamed out the full details of her attack, but it was enough to get everyone…well, almost everyone on the bus on her side. Now they were all looking at her like a clown at the circus, a pitiful one at that. But things could be worse, she mused to herself, rested her head back and closed her eyes, doing everything she could to shut off the whiny little voice of the girl insulting her as if she was not right there. This too shall come to pass, Mrs Mwansa thought.

It was quarter to 5 when the bus finally arrived in Ndola. Mrs Mwansa had just 2 hours before her daughter was to arrive from Johannesburg. She hadn’t seen her in two years since she went to school in London. If not for the parcels she needed to pick up from her aunt in South Africa, she would have picked a direct flight to Lusaka that would have seen her arriving a few hours earlier. But maybe it all happened for a good reason, considering the events that had just transpired.

Mrs Mwansa spotted her driver Richard just as she stepped down from the bus. He had an anxious look about him, obviously shaken by what his boss had told him over the phone right after the attack. Richard had worked for Mrs Mwansa for over fifteen years. He managed her home grounds, was in charge of her farms, and every now and then, he acted as cheuffeur when the need arose. There was never a day his boss had treated him as a servant. They were family, which is why he had taken her attack so personally.


“I’m alright Richard, don’t look at me like that. Where are you parked?”

Richard led the way to the light blue Range Rover packed in the distance. “I couldn’t find any spot closer-“

“That’s alright. I could use a bit of walking after sitting for so long. Did Kabwe call?”

“Yes she did, she’s very worried about you.”

“I hope you didn’t tell her the gory details of my attack. I don’t want her worrying unnecessarily.”

“I couldn’t,” Richard said. “I only told her that you encountered some unfortunate people and something happened but you have taken care of it.”

“You’re a good man Richard. How’s Betty and the kids? I hope I won’t find them waiting at the gate looking like they’re waiting to receive a funeral.” She laughed, because that was exactly the scene that awaited her. Richard’s stammering only proved she couldn’t be far from the truth.

She had just settled into her seat when she spotted the girl from the bus looking around aimlessly at the taxi rank.

“Is something the matter Madam?” Richard followed her gaze. “Someone you know?”

Mrs Mwansa smiled. “As a matter of fact, yes. Take us to where she is. We are heading in the same direction.”

Mrs Mwansa rolled down her window as the car came to a stop next to the girl. “Get in,” she said.

“It’s you.” There was still that look of disgust in her eyes, but it soon started fading as realization slowly kicked in. “I see what’s going on here,” the girl fully turned to look at Mrs Mwansa, her shoulders squared in defiance. “Trying to prove to me that you’re some rich old lady and I should be sorry for treating you the way I did?”

Mrs Mwansa looked amused. “Do you think I worked my ass off the past thirty plus years just to prove a point to a disrespectful twit like you? Get in the car and stop wasting my time.”

“Thanks but no thanks. I’m waiting for my ride. She will be here soon.”

“You mean the lady you’re trying to call whose phone is off?”

The girl gaped at her. “How-“

“I’m Kabwe’s mother. I am the lady who agreed to give you a home to stay after your mother kicked you out of her house because you fell pregnant for her boyfriend.”

For a few moments, the two women starred at each other, no words spoken. But they didn’t need words to communicate anymore.

“Help her with her bags Richard.” Mrs Mwansa said. “Get in the car Natasha.” She said to her.

There was silence in the car as Richard drove them home, except for the few whimpering sounds that escaped Natasha as she tried to hide her shame. Mrs Mwansa opened her glove compartment and handed her some tissues.

“Why are you crying?” She asked the girl.

“This is just so embarrassing,” Natasha said.

“Well, we all have our stories.”

“I wasn’t having an affair with him.”


“Chimuka, my mother’s boyfriend. He raped me. I know no one believes me but-“

“Kabwe believes you.”

“She told you what happened?”

“She did. Why else would I agree to let you stay with us?”

“So you believe me too?”

Mrs Mwansa could feel the desperation in the girls voice. Who better than her could understand the desperate need of wanting to be believed in such a situation?

“What does it matter what I think?” Mrs Mwansa feigned nonchalance.

“I know I can be a bitch sometimes.”

“You don’t say!?”

“Sarcastic much huh. I deserve that. I’m not a very nice person. You’ve seen that for yourself. Most of my friends talk shit behind my back-“

One reprobative look from the fifty-two year old and Natasha re-evaluated her vocabulary.

“I’m sorry, I meant…my friends say à lot of bad things about my mother and me, and they smile in my face like everything is all good. Only Kabwe is honest with me. She says things as they are and I’ve never had anyone like that in my life, not even my mother. She couldn’t even spare me a second to explain to her that I would never do something like that. She forgave her boyfriend for his ‘mistake’ but she won’t give me the time of day.”

“Why do you think no one believes you were raped Tasha?” Mrs Mwansa asked.

“I don’t know… I guess my lifestyle. But you don’t understand, I have no need to lie about being raped. In fact, I would rather people believed I stole my mother’s boyfriend and fell pregnant for him because that would be more in my nature. However, I refuse to admit to something I didn’t do. I hate that son of…that man.”

Mrs Mwansa silently applauded her for the vocabulary adjustment.

“He treats my mother like a maid and uses her like an atm machine. On top of it, he beats her whenever he feels like it. She is his punching bag for his bruised useless ego and she just let’s him because she thinks no man can ever love her. Even if he was the most handsome man in the world I would not spare him a glance. Deep down her heart my mother knows he hurt me. He forced himself on me but she is so afraid of being alone that she would rather lose me instead of him. I was drunk. I came home late one night, he heard me enter. I wasn’t expecting him home that night because my mother had traveled. He never sleeps home when she’s not around, but that night I found him. I was so drunk I could barely stand, let alone fight him, but I remember putting up a good fight. I was still no match for him.”

“Why didn’t you tell your mother when she came back?”

Natasha laughed. “You think she would have believed me just because it came from me? It wouldn’t have made a difference to her. Besides, it was my fault for being so drunk. Maybe if I was sober, he wouldn’t have had the courage to even think about touching me like that. I figured it would all just die down and no one need know about it, not like I was a virgin anyway, but then this happened.” She was touching her belly.

“How far along are you?”

“Two months and some weeks.”

“You know, it’s not your fault that you got raped,” Mrs Mwansa said. “It’s true that your defenses were down due to the alcohol but believe me, a sober you wouldn’t have stopped a man like Chimuka from taking advantage of you. He’s been doing that to your mother all these years and from what I hear, she’s a tough cookie. Men like him don’t need any motivation to cause harm. It’s in their nature, and women to them are mère pièces of property that can be controlled and dealt with whichever way they feel. So don’t ever blame yourself.”

“I can see where Kabwe takes her personality,” Natasha said, smiling.

“Kabwe is too nice for her own good, but I’m not. In as much as it’s not your fault that you were raped, you’re a snob. And you treat people horribly. That’s why no one appears to be on your side. Try to treat people better and you’ll see a lot of things start to change for the better in your life.”

“You mean like not getting raped?”

“Who said good people don’t get raped?” Mrs Mwansa said. “whether good or bad, no one deserves to be raped. I’m talking about you growing up and being responsible for that child growing inside you right now. You can’t continue acting wild and living irresponsibly as if you don’t care whether you live or die.”

“I don’t. And I don’t want to keep this baby. This is a bad seed. No way in hell I’m bringing that monster’s child into this world.”

“I see,” Mrs Mwansa said, choking back tears. “We’re finally home,” she announced a few seconds later, this time a little more enthusiastically.

“This will be your room,” Mrs Mwansa later said to Natasha.

“You’re a very kind woman Mrs Mwansa,” Natasha said. “I can’t believe that I thought someone who lives in a mansion like this one was the scum of the earth. I guess not everything is as it seems. I think I’ve learnt my lesson. You don’t need to lecture me about it.”

“I like that you’re ready to admit when you’re wrong. There are not a lot of young people like that.”

“Guess I’m not so bad after all, huh.”

Mrs Mwansa laughed. “We all have our strengths and weaknesses. See, the same way people think it’s not possible for a wild girl like you to get raped, it’s the same thing that happened to me when I got onto that bus today. The way we treat people, no matter how different they are from us, or how different their beliefs tells us more about who we are than who or what those people are. We respond and react to people based on our values, not theirs, otherwise we are all the same.”

“And I thought I could avoid the lecture. I deserve that,” Natasha joked.

“Yes you do.” Mrs Mwansa was ready to leave but somehow changed her mind at the door. “Natasha,” she said hesitantly.

“Yes Mrs Mwansa,” the twenty-two year old answered.

“Please, call me Aunt Trisha. What you said about Kabwe in the car, that she’s a good person….”

“Yes, please don’t tell me you’re going to ask me to stop hanging out with her? She’s the only good thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Mrs Mwansa laughed. “I trust Kabwe to pick her own friends. If she’s friends with you, then she must have seen something in you. Besides, the two of you have been friends since high school and miraculously, your bad girl behaviour has not rubbed off on her.”

“She’s not perfect either you know,” Natasha said. “She smokes. I don’t.”

“I know, but she’s an angel, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I would actually. She’s too good for this world.”

“That baby in your belly, he or she could be Kabwe.”

“No way! Not with a father like that wild boar.”

“I’m not going to dictate to you what to do, but I wish for you to take some time to think about it so that you have no regrets in future.”

“I can’t regret something that wasn’t even supposed to be in the first place.”

“And yet here it is,” Mrs Mwansa said. “There is no gurantee that the children we bear will turn out to be exactly like us. Before Kabwe, I was not the woman you see standing here. I became better and stronger because of her. She was a child who was never meant to be, just like the one you have in there. But look at her.”

“Are you telling me that…that Kabwe is…was…that you….” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words. She could only point at the woman she had come to regard in the past few minutes as the humblest, and most elegant woman she had ever met. How was it possible that a woman like her could have suffered the same fate as her? And Kabwe….it just wasn’t possible.

“It’s life my dear. We don’t always choose the things that happen to us. But we can choose how we respond to them. I’ll be in my room taking a long hot bath if you need me. In the meantime, you can find Betty in the kitchen getting dinner ready. Feel at home Tasha. And welcome to our home.”

Mrs Mwansa smiled and gently closed the door behind her.

The End.

Coming up next in The Life Series Vol 2: The Neighbor. Be on the look out. 😊