The atmosphere in Shadreck Mtonga’s office was icy cold. Gilbert was sweating a storm under his dark blue Armani suit. He wanted to choke the life out of his partner for putting him in such an awkward position. He wished nothing but for the ground to open up and swallow them both. Continue reading
It was 2 in the morning when Andy Mwila got into bed after the night out with the boys. Continue reading
THE INVISIBLE MAN – Introduction by Anishagold Continue reading
The way my mother received Susan’s parents and welcomed them into our home made me realize that she had believed me when I told her nothing was going on between Susan and me. I could see the guilt on my mother’s face as she led the two into the house.
I don’t think I would have survived such a meeting with just the unrepentant Chizu by my side. My wife was still acting like a brat and a part of me couldn’t help but wonder if she was enjoying… perhaps a little too much the idea that I might be cheating on her.
I have heard of women that have caught their spouses red handed in bed with other women but just so they can live with themselves, they resolved to believe that what they had witnessed was simply a bad dream…something that never actually happened.
Or they would rather believe that their husband tripped and landed inside the other woman. Anything else was better than facing the reality of betrayal.
But not my wife.
Chizu would have given anything to believe her illusions as facts and I soon begun to feel like doing the things she was accusing me of doing just to spite her and show her what it really means to have a cheating husband.
“We apologize for dropping by announced,” Malambo’s father spoke first.
“This is the first time I am seeing the family of the mistress visit the home of the married man,” Chizu said. Despite pinching her in the back to shut her up, she went on, “Usually, it’s the wife that visits the mistress first but what the heck, there’s always a first time for everything.”
“Please forgive my daughter in-law,” my mother rushed to restore her family’s honour. “She is bipolar so she tends to overreact and act without thinking…most of the time.”
That in itself was an insult to those people with that actually suffered from that condition. My heart reached out to them.
“Mum!” Chizu protested her defamation of character.
Malambo’s parents were just quiet watching with interest as we embarrassed ourselves.
“As I was saying,” Malambo’s father continued. “This is my wife Tina, and I am Enock, parents to Malambo Mubiana and Susan Mulenga.”
The three of us sent him puzzled expressions.
“Susan is the biological daughter of my sister in-law, Tina’s younger sister but we raised her as our own since she was twelve.”
I was giving Chizu the did you hear that look and she just rolled her eyes like she usually did when feeling guilty but trying not to show it.
“There is something I need to know,” Tina finally spoke. While her husband looked a little receptive, Tina was bleeding anger through her eyes. Given a chance, she would have laid my wife on a table, cut her chest in the middle and yanked her heart out so she could feed it to her cat at home.
The woman made me sit at the edge of the sofa.
“What did you see my daughter doing with your husband that made you treat her the way you did?” She asked Chizu.
“I mean, for you to decide that it’s okay to treat a fellow human like that, a woman for that matter,” Tina went on. “Labels like husband snatcher stick with a woman for the rest of her life. It doesn’t matter whether she is innocent or not, people have no time to collect facts. They only care about headlines.”
Tina’s voice was menacingly calm, sending chills down my spine and making the hairs at the back of my head stand.
“So tell me,” she said. “What was the thing that my daughter did that made you think she deserved to be hurt, humiliated, and scarred for life in such a manner?”
For the first time since the whole Susan fiasco started, I felt Chizu shake in fear beside me. I had wanted so badly for her to reach a point when she would realise just what she had done and it appeared she was on her way there.
We all sat quietly and waited for Chizu to speak.
Her lips were quivering and her hands were shaking, but she still said nothing.
Tina was like the Chizu Vaccine or antidote, she had managed to do what my mother and I had failed to do in years; put Chizu on mute.
I wanted to harvest the woman’s spirit and bottle it up for future use, just sprinkle it in the air whenever Chizu opened her mouth.
My wife realized the hard way that there is a huge difference between thinking something in your head then convincing yourself of it and saying it out loud for others to hear.
As everyone waited in silence, my mind went back to that fateful evening where it had all started.
“I don’t see you anywhere,” I was on the phone standing outside the restaurant just a few blocks from home, searching the area for a tall, dark and slim-figured twenty-five year old lady dressed in a yellow dress.
“I am inside, inside the restaurant,” the cheerful girl replied. I turned towards the entrance of the restaurant and I saw her excitedly waving at me from inside. I cut the line and went inside.
“Hi,” I reached out my hand and we shook hands. “Am James, your brother’s workmate.”
She was smiling. “I’m Susan,” she said. “I got so tired moving around in circles that I had to come inside and order a beverage.” She was fanning herself with her hand as she spoke.
“I am so sorry for making you come all the way,” she said. “I swear I am the worst when it comes to directions.” There was something about her tone of voice and her facial expressions that made her sound funny instead of apologetic as she intended.
I couldn’t help laughing.
“If you tell me to turn left, I have to stop and check the hand I use for eating nshima and that’s when I will know.” She continued. She was clearly a chatterbox.
“And once I know which one is my left or right, I will start worrying about whether it is my left or right I have to turn or the one for the person giving the directions. I don’t know how others do it…or,” she paused and drew her face closer to whisper, “could it be that am dumb?”
She was genuinely looking at me with her big brown eyes and expecting me to give her an answer and that made me laugh even more. She had a certain innocence about her despite her age that I had not seen in a very long time. I had not realized it then, but looking back, she had made me feel at ease without even trying.
I had been having a really bad day that day and I was a little taken aback by how easily I found myself laughing in her presence. Any other person, those words wouldn’t have sounded as funny as they did coming from her.
I was laughing so hard that I must have spooked her because she stopped talking, stood back and started watching me, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
That was the picture my wife found when she spotted us as she was passing by.
Sitting there in that meeting and hearing Tina’s question, I re-examined Susan’s actions and words and found nothing suggestive about them. If anything, she had done enough in that short period of time to turn off any potential interest in me when she looked at me and asked if she was dumb.
I don’t know how many men out there find dumb women attractive…maybe they are for one time use but never for repeated use. They can suck the soul out of your blood cells. I was married to an intelligent woman that enjoyed acting dumb…I was too dumb’ed out to handle the real deal.
I had been too busy laughing to think about anything else in those five minutes with her. I just did not have enough time to entertain other thoughts that might have crossed my wife’s mind when she saw us together.
There was absolutely nothing wrong that went on between my short exchange with Susan. If anything, everything that was wrong was all external to us; time, location, and Chizu’s crazy mind.
Put those three together and you have a nuclear bomb.
“She said she saw them smiling,” my mother supplied on behalf of Chizu.
I was soaked in embarrassment.
“Smiling?” Tina laughed, well, more like scoffed. “You saw your husband smiling with another woman and went crazy like that? What are you going to do when you find him hugging someone? You do know hugging is also a form of greeting don’t you?”
The sincerity with which she asked that question broke my heart. I think Tina was convinced my wife was a delinquent. And who could blame her.
“How I handle issues in my home is none of your business,” Chizu retorted.
“You see,” Tina said. “That’s where you are wrong. If you thought that your husband was cheating and you confronted him about in the privacy of your home, then that’s your business. But if you go beating other people’s daughters hoping to enforce change in your husband, then that’s society’s problem.
“Unfortunately, this time it was my daughter you attacked so that’s my problem. That poor girl you humiliated is such a kind child that even when you attacked and humiliated her like that, she did not come to me, her father or her brother to complain.”
She paused for a while to compose herself. Her voice was shaking and her eyes were teary.
“She kept it all to herself,” Tina swallowed. “…because she did not want to worry us.” When she could no longer hold back the tears, her husband handed her a napkin.
“Susan couldn’t talk to her brother because she feared he might lose his job if he confronted your husband about it.” Tina continued after composing herself. “Because she is that kind of person, all those things she kept to herself finally eat her up and she did the only thing she thought would give her a peace of mind.”
By now Mrs Mubiana was crying, her frail body rocking so hard her husband had to keep his arm around her the whole time to help calm her down.
“You have to understand,” Mr Mubiana took over from his wife. “Susan is a very fragile girl. She has been through a lot in her life. She had come back home for less than twenty-four hours when that incident happened.
“Everything happened so fast and it was all unexpected. For a girl that thought she had left her past behind, being abused and attacked like that brought back all those memories that had almost ended her life twelve years ago.”
I wanted to ask about what they kept referring to;
She has been through a lot, they kept repeating that phrase. I also picked up that she must have suffered abuse before and that it was not the first time she had made an attempt at her life.
I was reeled in and my curiosity grew the more they talked. But I could not bring myself to ask because they had not come to us to talk about Susan’s past; they simply needed us to realize just how much damage we had caused.
“What are you people going to do to give my daughter back what she’s lost?” Tina suddenly asked us.
My mother immediately came to our rescue. She humbled herself in a way I would have never imagined and if I was not present at that particular time and someone else told the story to me, I would probably have not believed them.
She got down on her knees before the Mubiana’s, bowed her head low and begged for their forgiveness.
That day I heard my mother say words I couldn’t believe where coming out of her mouth even when only her lips were moving in the room.
“It is my fault for not teaching my daughter in-law properly…I should have taught my children well.”
I couldn’t just sit back and watch while my mother took all the blame so I grabbed Chizu by the hand and together we joined my mother on the floor.
I could see that the couple was taken aback by my mother’s sincere apology and it helped soften them up a bit.
“It is not us you need to apologize to,” Tina said to us. “I need this woman,” she was pointing at Chizu. “I need her to kneel before my daughter and beg her for forgiveness.
“You will stay on your knees before my daughter until such a time she decides to forgive you. You will also go back to your bosses and tell them what you did and make sure that they hire her back.
“If that fails, you will have to pay my daughter the equivalent of the salary she was to be paid when she got confirmed at your workplace and you will only stop until she finds another job.
“You will also release a video and make sure it goes as viral as the others did and you will explain to the public that you accused an innocent girl and you will show that you are sorry and regretful. And most importantly, you will not try to negotiate with Susan the terms I have set for you.
“I know my daughter, she has such a forgiving heart but I am her mother and it is my duty to protect my child and ensure nothing like this ever happens again. If you do not comply with any of these things I’ve stated, I will drag this thing to court and take you both for everything you’ve got. Do I make myself clear?”
I knew it; I seriously needed to bottle that woman’s spirit.
Even her own husband was shocked by the conditions she had set for us but he did not dare oppose her or do anything else that might antagonize her.
“We will do it,” my mother announced, still on her knees. Both Chizu and I gave her a look.
“There are consequences for everything we do in life,” my mother said. “Perhaps next time you will think twice before acting or reacting.” She was looking at my wife when she uttered those words.
The Mubiana’s got up, said their final piece and left.
I helped my mother up from the floor and left Chizu there. She deserved the punishment, I just hated that I was equally accountable for her mistakes.
That night I couldn’t sleep, like a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders I kept turning and tossing. However, much to my amazement, I couldn’t help noticing how my better half was soundly sleeping beside me. Her body was sprawled all over the bed like a giant octopus.
How could she sleep so easily and so soundly after everything that had happened?
I had two things keeping me awake; the image of my mother down on her knees, crying and begging for forgiveness for something she was not responsible for, and the image of Susan’s lifeless body in Malambo’s arms.
After the visitors left, my mother had not said anything to either of us. She had gone straight to the guest bedroom and locked herself inside. I stood outside the door for close to five minutes and I heard her desperately try to stifle her sobs.
The guilt I was feeling over these two women eat at me and continued to keep me awake for the coming days. Back when I was a kid and my mother would toil alone from 6 to 6 at the market while my father was away furthering his studies, I would brag to her about how I would take care of her and how she would never have to suffer as long as I was alive.
I broke that promise that morning.
Because of my mistakes and because of some stupid decisions I had made in the past, I brought tears to my mother’s eyes and I forced her to set aside her pride and dignity in front of strangers.
Seeing how Chizu appeared unfazed by everything that was happening despite being the root cause of it all made me grow even more resentful towards her. She refused to approach Susan and beg her for forgiveness and she refused to release a video discrediting the previous versions that had ruined her reputation.
Chizu’s excuse was that she had done enough getting Susan her job back, the job that Susan ended up rejecting because she did not want to work in the same environment as her abuser.
“Why would you insist on forcing your own wife to disgrace herself like that?” Chizu had asked me once after my insistence on her giving Susan a sincere apology.
“That woman sad that she wanted me to get down on my knees and beg?” Chizu was saying. “Why should I do something that humiliating? Did I do anything wrong by trying to protect my marriage?
“If that girl really wanted to kill herself, she should have gone to a place where no one would easily find her and save her. She was just trying to buy pity from everyone just because she was exposed as a husband snatcher.”
At times when my wife sounded like that, I found myself questioning the decision I had made six years ago. I could no longer recognize the devil in my own bed.
Because my wife refused to take full responsibility for her actions against Susan, I felt it was my duty to somehow reach out to her and make amends as best as I could. Unfortunately, Susan refused to have anything to do with either me or my wife.
One Saturday morning I was waiting outside Susan’s home, parked by the side of the road when I spotted her coming through the gate. She had a hood over her head and had headsets in her ears. She must have been playing very loud music because she had not spotted or heard me come out of the vehicle and follow her a decent distance behind.
I don’t know what had gotten into me that day but I found myself following her everywhere she went. It didn’t appear as if she was heading anywhere specific. It was more of a stroll around the neighbourhood.
She stopped twenty minutes later to watch a group of men playing soccer in a wire-fenced football pitch. I saw Susan grip the wires of the fence as she intently watched the game progress. It took a moment for me to realize what was really happening;
Susan was crying.
Even though I could not see her face under the hood with her head hanging low, her convulsing body as she held on to the wire fence was enough for any man that was married to a crying machine for the five years to know what was really going on.
I thought about going over to her but I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to her. She had made it clear she wanted nothing to do withus. I looked around the fence for others watching the game hoping to find a friendly and comforting face so I could ask them to check on her. Unfortunately there were only men around the pitch area, Susan was the only woman.
I resolved to just stay back and watch her at a distance. She finally stopped crying about ten minutes later when she resumed her walk. That day she walked as far as Arcades…or should I say we walked as far as Arcades where Susan bought a ticket for an afternoon movie…to watch alone.
My heart was breaking seeing what that girl was going through. I kept wondering what had happened in her life…apart from the obvious we had done to her to make her feel like she was all alone in the whole world.
That day I ended up watching two movies I had not planned on watching because Susan had gone and bought another ticket for another movie right after the first one had finished.
Watching Susan cry all through those movies made me realize just what sort of person I had become around my wife. With Susan, I found myself crying along with her. I could only imagine the things going on in her head and the realization that I had caused some of that hurt broke my heart even more.
Later I realized I was never like that with Chizu. I had become so accustomed to my wife crying that it no longer had any effect on me. Whenever Chizu went into her crying campaign, I would zone out, thinking about the country’s water and electricity problems and how she could be using her supplies for a worthy cause instead of wasting it on a napkin.
It was then that I realized just how far off our marriage had gone. It seemed after all that the giraffe-necked nincompoop that was now Susan’s ex had been right; there was no more love in my marriage to Susan, what we had between us was two people fulfilling their duties to each other because a certain paper somewhere obliged them to.
When I opened the door to the house, feeling emotionally and physically drained, I found Chizu waiting on the other side, her hands on her waist and her lip ammunition ready to fire.
I closed the door and instead of continuing my journey inside the house, I pressed my back against the door and stood back to take a good look at the woman I had called my wife for the past five years.
“Are you drunk?” I heard her ask, coming in closer to have a good look at my face and probably smell my breath.
I am not a drinking man so I never once came home drunk or smelling of alcohol. I did not need alcohol to get high, Chizu’s lip army and all that air from her mouth blowing at me was enough to knock me out and give me a migraine for hangover.
It took me a while to realize that her yelling was the reason behind the receding of my hairline. All that fire in my face sent the front hairs in my head running for cover. Two more years and I will be as bald as Vin Diesel.
Good thing I already have the complexion to go with it.
“I can’t smell any alcohol,” the commander in-chief bellowed, twisting her nostrils in all directions like an animal looking to mate.
I couldn’t blame her for thinking I was drunk. Everything about the way I looked spelt drunk, except for the missing scent.
As I stood there watching my wife examine me while she straightened her oesophagus in readiness for her linguistic army attack, I couldn’t help thinking;
What is this giant creature with wild horns doing in my home?
And the sad truth is, that’s how I felt whenever I looked at my wife. She was no longer than sweet caring woman that had been willing to sacrifice her best friend just to be with me. Of course during the time I was head over heels in-love, I never realised just what a double edged sword the kind of love Chizu gave me was.
I wondered what she saw when she looked at me. I will be the first to admit that I was not a perfect husband. I might have been deluded for a while that me not cheating on her made me an exceptional husband but I later realized a little too late just how lacking I was.
Unfortunately, at that time, it was easier for me to position myself as a victim since I was obviously being accused of something I had not done. And, instead of focusing on my innocence and busking in my victimization, I should have been asking why my own wife would rather believe the worst about me than convince herself otherwise.
I had spent almost the whole day that day looking at a woman that was the total opposite of the creature now standing before me. And it wasn’t that the creature was an intruder, the creature was something I had created with my own hands and now it had turned its back on me and was more than ready to devour me.
I hated myself at that point. I hated the thoughts running through my head and I hated my whole life.
For the thirty minutes that followed, my darling wife Chizu exercised her right to free speech and expression and ended up saving us two months of gym fees. Her adrenaline was running high and her metabolism was busting through the roof from all the yelling.
My silence really irked her to the bone and she had yet to develop a strategy on how to go about this new curve ball I had thrown her.
I was very much aware of how disrespectful my silence in those moments was to her but I reasoned that the amount of disrespect she was feeling in those moments was less than the amount she would feel had I dared to open my mouth.
I only needed her to say thank you to my mother for what she had done for us and apologize for all the hurt she had caused an innocent girl.
But she had done none of that.
That night too I never slept, and the night that followed, and the next…just like that. I would have walked past the set of The Walking Dead and their director would have confused me for a cast member…because that’s how much of a Zombie I had become.
The bitterness I was feeling inside had risen to a record high and there was no stopping the man I had become. Every weekend I found myself following…or stalking Susan, wondering if she was feeling suicidal or not. I ended up paying the gossiping housekeeper to keep checking on her every five minutes whenever she was in her room alone.
Eventually, what had started out as fear grew into pity and then later into something else that I had not seen coming.
“Why do you keep following me?” Was the question Susan asked me once when she caught me hanging around her place.
I had been waiting in my usual spot by the side of the road somewhere close to her home waiting for her to come out when I dozed off and she came knocking on my window.
Suffice to say, I was embarrassed to my toes. I rolled down the rest of the window and gave her a half smile half kill me now look.
“Susan,” was all that my diaphragm could conjure up.
It was the first time I was looking at her at such a close range. The first time I met her I never did much looking because when you are married and meeting the young sister of your friend and colleague, you only care about what comes out of their mouth and not what they look like.
But this time around, I found myself looking…well, others might call it looking…but it was more of an x-ray examination on my part. For the first time in my life I was looking at a woman and imagining what her skeleton must look like. Usually my vision just went passed the layer of clothing and stopped there, but not in Susan’s case.
Susan had lost a noticeable amount of weight from that first time I met her. She was wearing white skinny jeans and an oversized purple sweatshirt that did her tiny frame no justice at all.
“Can we talk?” I asked her.
“I told you,” I could smell the no coming so I quickly jumped in.
“Just five minutes.” I said.
“What if your wife followed you and then she misunderstands again. I don’t want to go through that again. You should leave…and please, stop following me around. I see you everywhere I go these days. What do you want from me?”
I could tell she wasn’t going to go anywhere with me that day so I quickly stepped out of the vehicle and went to her. She backed away from me like I was a virus from Congo.
She had this fear in her eyes that I had never before seen in a woman whose eyes gazed upon my handsome face.
What had I done to this child?
I stopped moving towards her, my hands raised in the air as if to tell her I was not armed. But she kept backing away onto the street and ended up almost getting hit by a guy on a bicycle that had not calculated for her unexpected presence on the road.
While the bicycle guy went spilling off his ride, I managed to catch Susan before she landed her bottom on the pavement, a good move on my part since there was nothing much to cushion her fall had she fallen to the ground.
She pushed me off the moment she was steady on her feet and quickly went to apologize to the bicycle man reeling in anger. She removed a K100 note from her purse and handed it to him.
He smiled, thanked her and left.
And then she turned to scowl at me. “Give me back my money,” she said.
I was lost. “What money?” I asked.
“The money I gave that guy,” she said. “If not for you, that accident wouldn’t have happened.”
At first I was shocked and then I started laughing. I totally had not seen that coming. She was saying the most absurd thing and yet she pulled it off with such a straight face that I started to doubt all those lesson on angles I had learnt in my Grade 10 class.
“How about we split 50-50?” I suggested. “You could have easily given that guy a 10 grand and he would have left. Did you have to give him a 100?”
“I felt bad for him,” she said. “Did you see how he spilled off the bike?” she was now holding her hands over her mouth trying to stifle her chuckles.
I couldn’t help laughing…she had said spilled… I had thought the exact same thing when it happened, except in vernacular, which sounded worse. Most people fell off their bikes, but that guy had spilt off his bike.
Both of us laughing like that reminded me of that first time we had met. That time too, she had easily made me laugh.
Sensing the awkwardness and knowing exactly what was going to come out of her mouth next, I took out my wallet and removed a K100 note.
“I don’t have change,” she said, not taking the money I was offering to her.
“You can keep the change,” I said. “Get a cab or something, since I delayed you wherever you are going.”
“Any other guy I would have played modest and refused, but,” she took the money from me. “Since it’s you, you owe me waaay more than 50 bucks for everything you put me through.”
I laughed, again. She must have thought I was a new version of fool. I don’t know why I found myself laughing at everything that came out of her mouth.
“Go home to your wife now,” she said. “Don’t worry about me. I won’t try to kill myself again. I have matured a little since the last time you saw me.”
“I hope you won’t…do…it…again,” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word suicide in front of her. “But if you ever feel down again, please, call me. I can be your punching bag. You can hit me as much as you like until you feel better. I can even chip in my wife for good measure if you need an extra round.”
She chuckled and said, “Goodbye Mr Kaunda.”
And she was gone.
* * *
I never went out to see Susan for the two weeks that followed. But just because she was out of sight did not mean she was out of mind. God gracious that girl stayed on my mind and refused to leave.
I have no idea when it happened or how it started but I found myself longing for her to the point where I felt I would not be able to breathe freely if I did not set my eyes on her.
I was like a mad man. I could feel myself losing it as a husband and as a human being. I needed divine intervention…and fortunately enough, it came in the form of my neighbour Mr Chanda.
That man had been inviting Chizu and me to his church from the time we moved into our house and we always found good reasons to turn him down. However, there was something about that particular evening when I met him driving out of his yard as I was coming from my evening run when he reluctantly suggested that we go together.
Expecting me to say no as usual, he had started to say goodbye when I said, “why not?”
“But do you mind waiting for me while I take a quick shower and change?”
Of course he didn’t mind! The man had been waiting for this day for three years.
“Where are you going?” Chizu asked me when I asked her to prepare some clothes for me as I rushed to the bathroom.
“I’m going to church!” I yelled as I turned on the shower.
She popped up through the door, laughing, and not just any kind of laughing…that deep honest laugh from the belly…like the one Kevin Hart does when he’s laughing at his own joke, right before he tells it. That kind of laugh.
I wasn’t about to go into the truth-lie battle with her at that moment. There was no lie equivalent to the expression I am going to church. I didn’t have enough courage to provide a lie that held the word church in it. I wasn’t yet ready for Gehenna.
“Tell me really, where are you going?” She asked.
“Go outside and ask Mr Chanda. He is waiting for me.” I said.
“You are not serious, are you?” She left and went to check outside.
She appeared five minutes later all sobered out of her laugh. “What’s gotten into you?” She asked me as I changed into fresh clothes.
“What do you mean?” I asked a stupid question.
“Since when did you become a holy freak? Are you suddenly missing your ex?”
There we go again.
I never used to be a fan of churches but Gloria always managed to drag me to one every chance she got whenever I was home. I would spend three quarters of the time re-watching my favourite movies in my head while the pastor preached or I would be mentally and actively correcting his grammar every time he said something.
Chizu too had not escaped Gloria’s church dragging claws during the time they friends.
“At this point in my life,” I told Chizu. “I will do just about anything to regain my sanity.”
“What do you mean by that?” She asked.
Of course she couldn’t understand. That was a husband’s code for; I think I am falling in-love with another woman and if I don’t get help now, I am afraid I am going to rot in hell…and I will drag you down there with me because I would have turned you into a murderer.
“See you later,” I kissed her on the forehead and bolted out of the house.
“Aren’t we late?” I asked Mr Chanda as he drove us to church.
“It will be Praise and Worship time by time we get there. Don’t worry, you will have a good time.”
I think he could sense my nervousness. I hadn’t stepped in a church in a very long time. I bet the devil was mad as hell at my sudden betrayal, he wouldn’t have seen it coming. Well, maybe not mad as hell…since hell is…you know….
Unfortunately for me, it seemed the devil was one foot ahead of me because just two minutes of stepping into church, who but Susan appeared centre stage with a mic in hand ready to sing.
I couldn’t move, Lord I couldn’t even breathe. I was sitting there like a statue and I think I heard Mr Chanda ask if I was okay but I didn’t have the strength to respond. My eyes were fixed on Susan.
All my life I was made to believe that the church was a safe haven. I remember when I was a kid and my parents would drag us all to church…. I would sit there and imagine what would happen if Armageddon decided to happen right there and then.
“You are safe as long as you are in here,” my mother would tell me.
From the moment I heard that, I would postpone all my bad behaviour to an hour right before church and I would deep my hand in the bottle of condensed milk or fill up my mouth with Cowbell Milk meant for school only.
Then I would sit in church and feel saved from eternal damnation.
I was a genius even as a kid. I had discovered the perfect antidote for sin.
But not on that evening.
That evening the devil had followed me into church and stuck to me like latex on Beyonce’s behind.
While everyone around me was crying from being moved by the words sang in the most angelic tone I had ever heard, I was crying at the irony of it all.
Why her? Why did it have to be Susan? I kept asking myself.
I was touched by too many things all at once; my past, my present, my faltering convictions, her voice…Susan’s voice…and the words she was singing.
Two weeks later, I went down on my knees before my wife and cried like the fool I had become.
I could see the past threatening to repeat itself and that was a road I had vowed never to travel again.
“Help me,” I told Chizu as I wrapped my arms around her legs. I don’t know when I had gotten on my knees but there I was in our bedroom, on the floor, holding on to my wife and crying like a child.
“What is wrong honey?” I had never seen Chizu look so scared before. She knelt down in front of me and lifted my head up to look at me.
“Did something happen?” She asked me, great fear shooting through her eyes.
“I think I am in-love with someone else.” I told her after a while.
“I don’t know how it happened…I promise, it wasn’t intentional. Help me…I don’t want to feel like this.”
I felt Chizu’s hands leave my body. She stepped away from me and stood looking down at me. I couldn’t look up at her. I was too ashamed.
And then I felt two warm drops of something hit my hands that were now planted on the floor, a drop on each hand.
That day I felt the pain behind my wife’s tears and I listened to nothing else but her sobs the rest of the night.
She neither yelled nor nagged. That night she only cried…and believed every tear and every sound.
I had just been shaken.
“Are you telling me that my mother will never walk again?” Kelvin had followed the doctor to his office after his mother’s operation.
I didn’t say that sir,” the doctor said. “I said that she may not walk again, may not…which means that there’s still a possibility that she might walk.”
Kelvin made no effort to hide his frustrations. “You are a doctor sir, not an English Professor so don’t play semantics with me. That’s not why am sitting here. Just tell me what’s wrong with my mother.”
The doctor pulled the chart behind him to show Kelvin exactly which areas of his mother’s spinal code was affected.
“This is the affected area from the impact of the accident,” he said “As I was explaining to you earlier, the spinal code is made of nerve cells that are responsible for the transfer of sensory data to the brain as well as motor commands from the brain to the peripheral nerve roots, from here to there for sensory and from over there to there for motor commands.”
Kelvin couldn’t sit any longer in the doctor’s Biology class. He got up from the chair and pushed it to the side in anger. “Just tell me, is she paralysed or not and if she is what do I need to do to make sure she walks again?”
Unfazed by Kelvin’s anger, the doctor answered, “Fortunately for her, she didn’t suffer complete damage to the nerves. She’s lost sensation in the lower part of her body…this area here,” he pointed to the chart again. “Her legs, to be precise,” the doctor added. “She will not be able to walk…at least for a while, unless she undergoes intense rehabilitation and….”
“How long will that take?” Kelvin cut him off.
“There’s no definite time,” the doctor answered. “Recovery usually depends on a person’s will to get better. Despite her age, I noticed that your mother is no stranger to physical exercise which is a very good thing in this case. I have a number of recommendations that might help for a quick recovery but some of them are expensive and….”
“Forget about the cost,” Kelvin said. “Just tell me what I need to know and I will take care of the rest. I just need my mother to get better soon.”
Once Kelvin was done in the doctor’s office, he went to see Evelyn who was anxiously waiting for him in her ward.
Without saying a word, the look on her face told Kelvin everything she was thinking.
He walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Is it bad news?” Evelyn asked.
Kelvin could feel her shaking against him. He released her and held her away from him, looking straight into her eyes.
“She’s alive,” he told her.
Evelyn heaved a huge sigh of relief. “Seriously?” She said. “Oooh, thank God.” She said whilst unconsciously rubbing her stomach.
Kelvin’s eyes went straight to her hands. “Are you…safe?” He asked.
Evelyn could tell he was talking about the baby. “We are,” she said.
There was relief in Kelvin’s eyes. “Thank God,” he said.
“I am so sorry Kelvin,” Evelyn said, the unshed tears making her eyes glow in pain.
Kelvin took both her hands and brought them to his mouth. He too was shaking from the fear of what could have been just a few minutes ago. Because he felt he needed to be a man for both his mother and his woman, he held everything inside.
Evelyn felt the coldness in her husband’s hands and she felt him fight back the pain threatening to rip him into pieces.
“What are you saying sorry for?” Kelvin asked, his head bowed and his chin resting on her hands. “You didn’t do anything wrong, someone else did. I am just glad everyone is fine.” And he kissed her hands, pressing his lips hard and staying like that for a while…with his eyes still shut.
Feeling every bit of the pain he was desperately trying to stifle, Evelyn took his hands instead and squeezed them tightly, as if to tell him, I’m here.
She watched him in silence, two cold streaks of tears rolling down her cheeks.
Evelyn had a lot of questions to ask about Beatrice but she didn’t dare ask Kelvin in that moment. In that moment she hated her fate; how in the world had she found herself in such a position?
Her own mother, the woman that had given birth to her wanted to kill her.
Her mother in law, the woman that wanted her life had just saved her by risking her own life.
And her husband, the man that loved her like no other ever did was stuck between loving the love of his life and hating the woman that had given her life.
Consumed by all these emotions, Evelyn was caught off guard when she felt something warm drop onto her hands;
Her husband’s silent tears.
A few hours later, Thando busted into Evelyn’s room at the hospital. Without saying a word, Thando threw her arms around her best friend and sobbed without restraint.
“Did you break your legs?” She had suddenly stopped crying and was now examining Evelyn’s knees where she was bandaged.
Evelyn laughed. “I had landed on my knees when Mervis pushed me out of the way. I landed hard and bruised myself, made things worse by crawling over to her when I realized I was in too much pain to try and stand.”
“I still can’t believe that woman saved you. Yoh.” Thando said, pulling the chair closer to the bed and sitting down.
“I know,” Evelyn said. “I also still can’t believe it. I am both sorry and grateful at the same time.”
“I can only imagine what your husband is must be going through. Your mother just tried to kill you and his baby but she ended up almost killing his mother. What a world we live in.”
Evelyn’s guilt at being the centre of all this misfortune froze her tongue in silence.
“How I wish that bitch died in that accident,” Thando said. “I feel like walking over to her room right now and pulling out her life support.”
“Are you talking about Beatrice?” Evelyn asked, her eyes lighting up at finally getting some information.
“Yes,” Thando answered. “Who else can I be talking about? I saw her children standing outside her ward. Wanted to grab them and whip them till their buttocks turned red …but they looked so pitiful so I just let them be.”
“Beatrice is on life support?” Evelyn asked.
“Yes, seems her brain has finally caught up with her heart; they are both dead now. I guess when you have such a hard heart, even the grim reaper has a hard time grabbing you into his realm.” Thando said.
“What about the man in the truck?” Evelyn asked.
“He’s fine, just a few broken bones here and there but he will live.”
Evelyn sighed in relief. “What do you think is going to happen to Beatrice?”
“You mean if she lives?” Thando said. “If she lives, she’s going to regret living and she will kill herself right away. And if she dies, which is the most probable case, she is going to regret dying like an animal and wish she had killed herself while she still looked good.”
“I am serious Thando,” Evelyn told her friend.
“So am I,” Thando said, stifling a laugh in the process.
“What did they say her chances are?”
“What are the chances for a brain dead person sweetie?” Thando asked. “Anyway, I’m not sure, I wasn’t paying attention when Kelvin was telling me. I was too busy celebrating in my head when I heard she was on life support. Of course I would have been happier if she didn’t exist any more but….” she shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly.
Evelyn sent her friend a disapproving look. “It’s not good to wish anyone dead no matter how bad they are Thando.”
“That’s why I said existed,” Thando defended herself. “I didn’t say die. There’s a difference.”
Evelyn could only gape at her friend in disbelief. sometimes Thando completely forgot the fact that Beatrice was her friends mother…that no matter how evil she was, she was the woman that gave birth to Evelyn.
Three Days Later
Evelyn watched from behind the curtain as Kelvin stood starring at Beatrice for over five minutes, his teary eyes moving back and forth from her face to the machine above her.
She had seen that look in his eyes before; the deep burning and deathly look that had reaped through her and made her blood turn the opposite direction.
And when he reached out his shaking over and placed it over the machine, Evelyn froze, her hand over her mouth.
She knew she needed to stop him from making the kind of mistake that he could not live with but instead, she just stood there, rooted to the floor and unable to move.
If she could, would she stop him from pulling the plug? She wondered.
Did she want to stop him?
Stuck in a dilemma, all Evelyn could do was cry silently as she watched her man struggle with his conflicted emotions.
Consumed by emotions he could not understand, Kelvin finally gave in and broke down in tears. Releasing his hand from the machine and letting it drop to his hand.
With one hand still holding on to the rail of the bed Beatrice was sleeping on, Kelvin’s knees gave in and he sat on the floor, sobbing, his whole body convulsing from all the pain he had been stifling for the past week.
Evelyn ran over to Kelvin’s crouched sobbing body and she wrapped her arms around him.
“I’m so sorry,” Kelvin was clasping on to her arms and shaking from the realization of what he had almost done.
“It’s okay,” Evelyn told him, repeatedly stroking her hand through his hair and drawing his head deep against her.
“It’s okay,” she kept repeating.
Minutes later, Evelyn walked over to Kelvin who was seated on a bench under a shade outside the hospital carrying two canes of Liquifruit. She handed him and sat down next to him.
“Thanks,” he said as he accepted the drink.
Kelvin opened his cane of juice, took a sip from it and turned to look at her. “I really meant to turn off that thing,” he said to her.
“I know,” Evelyn said, avoiding his gaze.
“You know?” Kelvin asked.
“I do,” she answered. “But I also know that you wouldn’t have.”
“What make you think that?” He asked. “I really wanted to do it Eva. I felt it in my blood…I wanted to see her stop breathing…to go quite forever so that she can’t try to hurt my family again. In my head I killed her a hundred times over. In my head she had already died.”
Evelyn put her drink down and fully turned also to look at him. “Thinking about doing something and actually doing it are two different things.” She said. “Do you think that you are the only one who thought about pulling the plug?”
Kelvin threw her a questioning look.
She laughed softly. “Yes,” she said. “I thought about it. Every time I walked passed her room the thought crossed my mind. How can anyone be so cruel?” Evelyn’s cried. “Was I really her daughter? How can you hate me so much? What did I ever do to her?”
Kelvin held his wife in his arms and waited for her pull herself together.
“You don’t need to think about such things,” he told her.
Thirty minutes later when Kelvin and Evelyn walked hand in hand through the corridors of the hospital heading to Mervis’ room, Mark almost bumped into them as he came running and crying from his mother’s room.
Kelvin and Evelyn looked at each other and as if reading each other’s mind, they rushed to Beatrice’s room and found Moola sobbing over her mother’s limb body.
All the machines in the room had been turned off.
Moola looked up at the two intruders and sobbed even harder. She looked over at Evelyn angrily before storming out of the room.
“She just pulled the plug,” the doctor informed them. “It’s the hardest thing anyone can ever do for their loved one.”
Looking over at Beatrice’s body, Evelyn realised that the last thing her mother ever did for her was to try and kill her.
She broke down in tears and fell to the ground, crying for all the love she never received and all the apologies she would never hear.
Evelyn felt her heart burn over the lost hope she had desperately held on to, believing that one day her mother would realize her mistake in holding her responsible for the past and love her like she did her other children.
Pounding the floor over and over again in anger and pain, Evelyn kept asking herself;
Kelvin knelt down beside his wife and held her tightly in his arms, grabbing her hands so she could stop hitting the cold floor.
* * *
2 Years Later
Evelyn rushed into the supermarket, grabbed a trolley and went about grabbing a few last minute items for the house warming party she and her husband would be hosting that evening.
She had asked Kelvin to get the groceries but as usual, he got some and forgot others.
She was paying on the till when her phone rang.
It was Kelvin.
“How far are you?” He asked. “The guests have already started arriving.”
“I’m coming honey,” she said. “Just give me five minutes. I hope you’ve turned off the oven.”
“Oh yeah, that.” Evelyn heard him running.
“Bashi Mapalo seriously!” She said.
“I’m sorry babe, I was setting up the sound system. There, it’s off now.”
“Haven’t they burnt?”
“No, I don’t see any smoke.”
“Check honey don’t just look for smoke. They could still be burning inside.”
“Okay, but hurry up. I’m losing my head over here.”
“I know. I’m hanging up, I need to pay now.” Evelyn smiled apologetically at the cashier waiting and handed her the money.
Evelyn was shocked to find so many vehicles parked outside their house when she opened the door and drove in.
Did they all decide to come at the same time? She asked herself.
She found a free spot to park and quickly got out of the vehicle with her plastic bags.
She used the back door into the kitchen to avoid meeting everyone when she wasn’t so ready. She opened the kitchen door and was shocked to find the room dark when she clearly remembered leaving the lights on before she left.
“Did something happen to the chandelier?” She asked as she put down her plastic bags.
She was just about to find the switch when the lights suddenly came on and she found her two year old son standing on top of the kitchen Island clad in a suit and bowtie and wearing very shiny shoes holding an iPad in his hands
Evelyn suddenly had an idea why her husband had been acting mysterious the past few days.
“Mapalo,” she said, smiling and walking towards her smiling son. “How did you get up there?” She asked.
“I have something to show you,” the two year old hunk managed to say.
“What? Show me then,” she said.
Mapala clumsily pressed something on the ipad and raised the screen up for his mother to see.
Evelyn gasped in delight when she saw the slide dancing on the screen;
WILL YOU MARRY MY DAD, AGAIN?
IF YES, PICK ME UP
AND TAKE ME TO THE
LIVING ROOM WITH YOU.
“Why are you crying mum?” Mapalo looked concerned over his mother’s reaction.
“Where they bad words?” he asked. “Dad told me they would make you smile.”
Not wasting any more time, Evelyn picked up her son, took the ipad from him and walked with him to the living room.
Evelyn laughed when she found all her friends and her husband’s friends all waiting for her in the living room.
She was pointing an accusing finger from Thando to Sibusiswe. “You guys knew about this and couldn’t even hint to your friend?”
Thando shrugged and busted out laughing.
“Well,” Sibu said. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if you knew about it.”
“Says the woman who absolutely hates surprises.” Evelyn fired back.
“But this isn’t my party young lady,” Sibu said and walked over to her to get Mapalo.
A smiling Kelvin walked over to his wife and went down on his knees.
Everyone in the room jeered.
“Why are you doing this?” Evelyn asked as he took her hand.
“Because I never did it right the first time.” He said.
“I told you, I didn’t mind. I meant it when I said I was okay with it.”
“I know you did,” Kelvin said. “But I still I still want you to have the kind of proposal that you deserve…and I wanted to do it with someone blessings as well.”
“Someone’s blessings?” Evelyn asked.
And Mervis appeared from behind everyone.
“Oh no,” Evelyn gasped. “Mum?” She said. “And you are walking!” she added when she saw Mervis walk over to them, dressed in a form-fitting long blue dress and looking ten years younger.
“When did this happen?” Evelyn asked. The last time Evelyn had seen her mother in-law was eight months ago when they had travelled to Dubai where she was undergoing rehabilation so the whole family could spend the holidays together.
She had been using clutces then.
“A few months ago,” Mervis said, her radiant smile warming Evelyn’s nervous heart. The two of them might have gotten closer ever since the accident, but Evelyn still felt some level of responsibility for everything that had gone wrong in the Kangwa family.
Evelyn couldn’t stop the tears from pouring.
She knew that all was forgotten and forgiven, but seeing Mervis smiling brightly at her made her feel a little guilty…wondering if she deserved that kind of happiness.
Seeing the conflicting emotions written all over Evelyn’s face, Mervis reached out and held her hands. “This is a happy moment for you today.” She said. “Forget everything else that’s happened in the past and celebrate this moment. Every woman remembers her wedding day for the rest of her life…so you better be the happiest when you experience it.”
Evelyn threw mother and son a questioning look. “Wedding day?” She asked Kelvin.
Kelvin was shaking his head and smiling. “If you say yes, and with my mother’s blessings, we are getting married today. Everything is all set up. You just need to get into your dress and let the ladies fix your make-up because we will be taking a lot of photos.”
Evelyn looked over at Sibu and Thando and they were both looking suspiciously guilty despite the huge grins on their faces.
“I will deal with you two later,” she told them. And then looking back at her husband. “YES, I will marry you over and over and over again.”
Without saying a word, Kelvin pulled her towards him and kissed her.
Embarrased, Evelyn pulled herself from him. “Mum is right here honey,” she told him, hitting him on the chest.
Kelvin grabbed Evelyn’s hand and together they got down on their knees before Mervis.
“Look kindly on us mother and give us your blessings,” Kelvin said.
Thinking about how far they had all come, Mervis couldn’t help shedding tears.
In her heels and expensive designer gown, Mervis went down on her knees in front of the two and put her arms around them.
“Of course you have my blessings,” she told them.
Mervis’ words were received by applause the friends of the couple.
Two hours later, Evelyn stood in front of the mirror and starred at her reflection, unable to recognize herself in her new goddess form.
“Why pink?” She asked the two who were busy admiring the result of their work.
“We thought about white,” Thando said. “But white is too normal…and we all know that this isn’t any normal union. We settled for pink because you are not such a girly-girl and we wanted you to feel like a girl on your special day.”
“It’s perfect,” Evelyn said. “I absolutely love it.”
“You look like a princess,” Sibu said, moving closer to fix her veil. “Are you ready to walk down the aisle now?” She asked.
“I am,” Evelyn confidently stated. “But wait,” she turned to look at the ladies. “Who’s going to walk me down the aisle?” she asked.
“Me,” Mervis said from the door.
“No, no, no, no….” Thando rushed to hold Evelyn’s head. “No more crying woman, hell no. Make-up is perfect the first time around. I won’t be fixing it again.”
That alone was enough to drive Evelyn’s tears away.
With Mervis by her arm, Evelyn stood by the door and looked at her husband standing at the end of the aisle, looking like an improved version of James Bond. He was smiling and softly tapping his leg, like he always did when he was nervous.
To his side was Mapalo, his son, her son…their son.
That’s my family standing there, Evelyn thought and smiled.
They are mine.
This is my family, she said as she squeezed Mervis’ arm.
“Maybe because you look so different now, I forgot you were my daughter…Nora…. I forgot.” Mervis whispered as she looked deeply into Evelyn’s eyes before walking her down the aisle.
“Mum?” Evelyn was looking at her mother in-law with deep concern. “Are you okay?” She asked, thinking that perhaps the accident had done something to her brain that the doctors had not yet detected.
Mervis laughed. “Relax,” she said. “I know you are not my Nora. I’m just saying…thank you for letting me be your mother.”
Evelyn smiled and blinked back the tears, remembering Thando’s threat early.
Even if I am to be your forgotten daughter, I don’t mind. Evelyn said to herself whilst looking at her mother in-law.
As long as you call me your daughter…I don’t care whether I’m forgotten or not.
“Come on my daughter,” Mervis said, as if she had read her mind. “Let’s take you to your husband now.”
Evelyn looked at Mervis’ arm where hers was locked and then she looked up in front where her husband and son were standing, then she looked at the smiling faces of all their friends seated in their back garden….
Home, she thought. I am home.
Breathing deeply, Evelyn straightened her neck and faced forward. Smiling, she said to Mervis;
“Take me to my family mother.”
Beatrice staggered out of the bank like a drunk woman, her mind replaying those moments with Shadreck when she should have questioned things instead of blindly putting her trust in the love of a sixty year old man over his much younger wife.
Beatrice’s confidence that age was enough to keep her man had made her so shallow that she could not imagine Shadreck betraying her or leaving her for another woman. In her head, he was the lucky one for having found himself such a beautiful young wife who could love him as much as she showed him she did.
She was aware of Shadreck’s wondering eyes once in a while but what man wasn’t like that? She had given him a home and a family that he so desperately wanted and she had faith that these things together where enough to seal their fate together until such a time when he died and she would start afresh with a much younger man.
Not once had she pictured that scenario playing the other way round.
The foul taste of the betrayal and the shock lingered in her mouth and made her stomach churn in disquietude. She clutched her stomach as she started walking towards the parking lot, stopping once in a while to find something to hold on and to catch her breath.
Her heart was racing, fast and loud, blocking out all other sounds around her. One of the shoppers at the mall, a gentleman in his early thirties approached her and placed a hand on her to help steady her.
“Are you okay madam?” the young man asked the emotionally and physically drained Beatrice who was holding on to a wall, anxiously waiting for her vision to become steady so she could cross the road leading to the parking lot.
Beatrice slowly lifted her head up to look at the man holding her and she shrugged his hand away.
“Get away from me!” She yelled at him, drawing the attention of everyone in sight.
“Calm down, am just trying to help.” The gentleman said. “You look a little disoriented. I am a doctor….”
“I have my own personal physician,” she snapped. “I don’t need some random stranger touching me and trying to take advantage of me. Leave me the hell alone.”
The poor man raised his hands in surrender and walked away from her.
Beatrice rushed across the road and was almost bashed by an oncoming vehicle. The driver went at his hooter with all his might and Beatrice stopped to shout at him.
“Run me over if you dare you jerk!” She shouted.
The man simply gaped at her in absolute disbelief and waited for her to cross over to the car park.
She got into her car and drove like a mad woman to her house, all the while desperately trying to get hold of Shadreck on his cell.
I lost my phone in the process and didn’t bother to get a new one since I knew I would be home soon. His words echoed through her head and she sent her phone flying in the air.
Finally at home, Beatrice busted into her house screaming her husband’s name but no response came.
“Mum,” Mark was standing at the bottom of the stairs calling out to his mother who was busy banging doors and shouting upstairs.
“Where is your father?” Beatrice shouted from the top of the stairs.
“How the hell am I supposed to know?” the teenager answered. “I got here just a few minutes ago.”
“And your sister, is she back yet?” Beatrice asked. “Moola!” She yelled out.
“Mum!” Mark yelled back. “You are going to break all the bulbs with your screams. Calm down. Did something happen? Is this about Moola’s wedding?”
“It’s none of your business young man,” Beatrice turned and walked to her bedroom.
Down the stairs, Mark was shaking his head slowly. “Tsk tsk tsk…menopause,” he said and went into the living room to watch TV.
Beatrice was on her computer furiously and desperately trying to log in to her bank account online but her password kept getting rejected. She was about to throw the laptop down when she heard the door downstairs open.
She ran out of the bedroom and peered down the stairs and saw Moola enter the house.
“What’s wrong with you too?” the oblivious Mark asked his sulking sister.
“Don’t talk to me today if you want to live.” Moola said and started heading towards the stairs.
Beatrice met her at the bottom of the stairs. “Why is your phone off!” She asked her daughter.
“I have been trying to get hold of you for hours now. Did you talk to your father? I saw that you were the last person he called from the landline. Do you know where he is?”
Moola’s eyes as she looked at her mouth were packed with contempt and scorn.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Beatrice asked.
Moola started shaking her head slowly. “You disgust me.” She told her mother and tried to walk past her to get on the stairs.
But Beatrice grabbed her hand and pulled her back. “How dare you talk to me like that young lady!? So what if you were dumped? That doesn’t give you the right to be this disrespectful to your mother. Are you the first person in the world to be jilted?”
“Respect?” Moola pursed her lips at her. “Did I just hear you talk about respect, mother?” She deliberately stressed the last word and then scoffed. “You are one to talk.”
“Why are you talking to me like this?” Beatrice demanded to know.
Meanwhile, Mark was watching the two women in amusement, saying out scores depending on whom he felt gave the most astounding retort.
“I should have been recording this…if only my battery wasn’t low.” He said to himself, looking at his phone to see his battery life marked in red.
“I’m too tired and depressed to fight with you right now. I’m going to take a nap.” Moola said and started stepped away from her mother to get on the stairs but again, Beatrice grabbed her back.
“What do you mean I am one to talk?” Beatrice asked.
Moola looked down at the part of her hand where her mother was gripping. “You are hurting me,” she said.
“I won’t let go until you tell me why you are being such a brat!” Beatrice yelled.
“You want to know?” Moola asked. “Okay, am going to tell you. Dad is gone and it’s all your fault!”
The smile on Mark’s face disappeared within the blink of an eye.
“What do you mean your dad is gone?” Beatrice asked.
“He is gone! He has left us!” Moola shouted. “He got so tired of your lies that caused him to lose all of our money and he just couldn’t deal with all the misfortunes you’ve brought this family.”
“What are you talking about?” Beatrice asked, shaking all over and her eyes dancing in confusion.
“What are you talking about sis?” Mark had joined them at the bottom of the stairs to echo his mother’s words. “What do you mean dad is gone?”
Moola turned towards her younger brother, the puzzled look on his face immediately brought tears to her eyes.
“What’s wrong Moola? Did something happen to dad?” Mark asked again, his voice too shaking from the imaginations running through his mind.
“Answer your brother!” Beatrice shouted and started shaking her daughter. “Where is your father?”
Moola pushed her mother away with so much force and sent her tumbling backwards.
She then turned to her brother. “Go to your room right now and park all your stuff. We are leaving this house today.” And she ran up the stairs living her brother and mother in shock.
Beatrice quickly got up to her feet and ran after her daughter, catching her right outside her bedroom.
“Why are you behaving like this?” Beatrice asked. “What did your father tell you?”
“He told me everything mother!” Moola said. “About the lies you’ve told us all these years, your dirty secrets, how you seduced someone else’s husband, had a daughter with him and when he refused to marry you, you abandoned that child.
“I know that that child is that Evelyn girl who it turns out is now married to Kelvin, the man I was scheduled to marry tomorrow, the man who it turns out is the brother to the woman whose husband you seduced twenty something years ago.
“That woman died right outside your place and her father committed suicide a few days later because he could not live with the guilt of watching his daughter die right in front of him and not being able to protect her.”
The shock of Moola’s words sent Beatrice reaching for the top rails of the stairs. However, Moola was not, even for a second touched by her mother’s desperate and unfortunate state. She was not in the mood to be taken in by her manipulation.
She followed her where she was, crouched and desperately gripping the rail for support.
“How did you…how….” Beatrice’s quivering lips were keeping her from uttering anything sensible. She stammered her way through her sentences and Moola could only shake her head in disappointment at watching her mother crumble down so easily.
Unaware of Mark’s presence who was still standing at the bottom of the stairs, Moola went at her mother again.
“Mrs Kangwa?” Moola continued. “You remember don’t you?” She asked. “Of course she looks different now but that only goes to show just how determined she was to make you pay for what you did to her family.
“Because you were so greedy for other people’s things, things you did not deserve, you dragged us all down with you and now look where we are; I was engaged and then jilted by a man that didn’t even love me, dad’s businesses kept hitting stumbling blocks because there were people out there punishing him for the wrongs that you committed.
“He lost all of his fortune due to a trap that Kelvin’s mother set up for him and now we have nothing. Thanks to you, some woman was sent into dad’s path to seduce him and take him away from you and now he would rather be with that family instead of us. That’s how much he detests you mother.”
Beatrice appeared almost out of breath. She was gasping for air, hitting her chest with one hand and using the other to steady herself against the rail of the staircase.
“It can’t be…that’s…that’s…not…true….” Beatrice was whispering, her hand softly hitting her chest in her desperation to calm her racing heart.
Slowly, the walls around her started drawing closer and closer, threatening to squeeze her into oblivion.
When everything else around started fading, Beatrice could no longer make out her daughter’s screaming words. She could see her mouth move when she tried to look up at her but she could not hear her.
Tasting for the last time the saltiness of all her sins now painted in liquid onto her face;
Beatrice hit the ground and right before losing consciousness, she heard her two children call out to her from a distance.
* * *
Somewhere in Zanzibar
Evelyn was awakened by the smell of bacon in the room. She opened her eyes and found a smiling Kelvin holding a tray of breakfast over her sleeping figure. She slowly sat up and rubbing her eyes said;
“That smells sooo good.”
“I know,” Kelvin said, laying the tray on her laps.
However, no sooner had Evelyn come in close contact with the food than she rushed out of bed and into the bathroom to throw up.
But nothing came out.
Kelvin was right behind her, watching her struggle to vomit with a proud grin on his face.
Evelyn raised her head to look at him in disapproval. “How can you smile like that when I am close to vomiting?”
“I told you,” Kelvin was saying, leaning the side of his body against the door frame and crossing his arms over his chest. “You are pregnant.” He said, still smiling.
“I am not!” Evelyn said. “It’s that shrimp you made me eat last night. I felt like vomiting the moment I put it in my mouth. I told you, am really not a fun of sea food.”
Evelyn spat, flashed and walked over to the sink to wash her face.
Kelvin went to stand behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind.
She smiled and stopped whatever she doing. “What do you think you are doing?” She asked him.
Kelvin laughed. “Hugging my wife good morning.” He proudly stated.
“It still feels so surreal,” She told him, raising her hand to look at her ring. “Are we really married?” she asked.
“Of course we are,” Kelvin said. “And you could be carrying a Minnie-me or Minnie-you in here.” He was gently rubbing her tummy.
Evelyn grabbed his arms and pushed him away. “I told you, I am not pregnant. You can even iron something on my stomach without hitting any bumps.” She grabbed a towel from the rail, dried her face and walked passed Kelvin back to their room.
Kelvin followed her and grabbed her by the hand. He turned her to face him and with a serious expression on his face, he asked, “is it that you don’t want to carry my baby?”
Evelyn chuckled at the absurdity of his unexpected question. “Why would you think that?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” Kelvin shrugged his shoulders. “It’s just that…that first time I suggested lying to my mother about you being pregnant, you freaked out…and every time I ask you to get a pregnancy test, you insist that you are not. I was kind of hoping that you would be as excited as I am at the possibility of….”
Evelyn put a finger on his lips. “Shhh,” she said.
Kelvin stopped talking.
She put her hands on both sides of his face and pulled him down towards her, gave him a long deep kiss and then released him.
Satisfied by the sudden turn of events, but still confused by the meaning of it, Kelvin was smiling and giving his new bride a questioning look at the same time.
“I’m scared,” Evelyn said, this time wrapping her arms around his waist.
“What are you scared of?” Kevin asked.
“What if we take a test and it turns out I am not pregnant?” She said. “I really want to be pregnant with your child but I also don’t want to jinx it by hoping. The only reason I am safe and alive is because we told your mother that I was carrying her grandchild. What if it takes a while for us to….”
Before she could finish, Kelvin grabbed her by the back of her head and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“I know you are pregnant,” he said with so much conviction.
“How can you be so sure? Have you ever made a woman pregnant?”
Kelvin laughed. “Hell no, you are definitely and most certainly my first womb.”
She laughed. “Then how can you be so sure?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just feel it.” and then he walked over to the dressing table, opened the top drawer and removed a pregnancy testing kit from a box.
“What?” Evelyn said in surprise. “When did you buy that?” She walked over to him and took the tester from him. “Unbelievable,” she said.
“I got it this morning while you were sleeping. There’s a pharmacy right outside the hotel. Go in there and try,” he was pointing to the bathroom.
“I am just from peeing!” Evelyn reminded him.
“Dammit!” he said.
“Can’t you force it?” Kelvin asked. “There’s always that bit that remains after….”
“Kelvin!” She threw him a disconcerting look.
Embarrassed, Kelvin turned and disappeared into the other room of their suite.
Evelyn followed him and went to sit on his lap, blocking his view of the TV. She held his head in place and told him, “I pee every five minutes, have you forgotten?”
Kelvin’s face completely lit up. He scooped her up in the air and started spinning around.
“I think I am going to vomit now,” Evelyn protested and he immediately put her down.
“I think breakfast might hasten things up,” She suggested. “What do you think?”
Without saying another word, Kelvin rushed back into the bedroom and came out with the tray they had left on the bed.
Thirty minutes later, Evelyn came out of the bathroom with a blank expression on her face and handed the stick to Kelvin who had been anxiously waiting, pacing around the bedroom.
“Two red lines, do they mean what I think they mean?” He asked as he examined the stipe.
“Umhu,” Evelyn replied and watched her husband lose control.
“We’ve been gone for more than a month now,” Evelyn said to Kelvin as they drove around the Island in their rented car a few hours later. “Isn’t it time to go back now?” She asked.
“I don’t have any motivation whatsoever to go back,” Kelvin answered honestly. “If I could have it my way, we would stay here forever.”
“Do you still think am not safe?” She asked.
“No,” he quickly answered. “It might take a while for my mother to get close to you but I know that she will eventually.” He assured her. “Before this revenge thing, she was a good person, strong willed, but still a good person.”
“I don’t expect you to say otherwise about your mother,” Evelyn said.
Kelvin chuckled. “Not my mother,” he said. “I have been through enough with her to know she is no saint. She has done enough things that could put her behind bars for many years but she’s been too careful in her plotting to attract the attention of law enforcers.”
“And what about you?”
Kelvin gave her a puzzled look. “What about me?” he asked.
Evelyn thought for a moment before opening her mouth. “How far did you go…as in terms of breaking the law to get revenge?”
Kelvin chuckled again. “You are asking if I killed anyone aren’t you?”
Evelyn looked away and gave no response, holding her breath as she waited for his answer
“I didn’t go that far Eva,” he told her. “I never took anyone’s life.”
Evelyn let out a sigh of relief.
“Ah,” Kelvin said upon seeing her release the breath she had been holding. “Did you actually think that I….”
“I don’t know!” Evelyn covered her face with her hands in guilt and shame for having doubted him, even if for a second. “You kidnapped me, stripped me naked and tried to rape me a couple of times. There was so much anger in your eyes I feared you might kill me.”
Kelvin shut his eyes for a few seconds as if to block out the horrible memories that made him feel the kind of shame he had never ever felt before in his life.
“Not my proudest moments,” he said, almost whispering the words. “I promised to make it up to you for the rest of my life and I intend to keep that promise. Do you believe me?” He was looking at her to hear her response.
“I believe you,” Evelyn answered.
Kelvin smiled. “Thank you.” he said and fixed his attention back on the road ahead.
“When did you tell your mother that we would be going back?” Evelyn asked.
“I told her next week,” Kelvin said. “She keeps calling everyday whining about the baby and how you should be under the guidance of an adult since you don’t have parents and what not.”
“Don’t tell me…”
“Yeah, exactly what you are thinking,” Kelvin confirmed her fears. “I told you, her bloodline is her weakness. She was raised at an orphanage for a while and she doesn’t know who her real parents are.
“My mother’s worst fear is dying and leaving no one behind to carry her legacy….like she dies and that’s the end; no one to carry her blood or to stay by her bedside holding her hand as the life slowly slips out of her. Her words,” Kelvin quickly added. “Not mine!”
Evelyn was quite for a while, but later she said, “I think I understand her fears.”
Kelvin turned to look at her, her heavy tone giving him extra concern.
“You know that you don’t ever have to feel like that anymore right?” He asked her.
Evelyn laughed softly. “I know,” she said, unconsciously rubbing her flat stomach.
Kelvin looked at her hands and smiled before turning his attention back on the road.
“We will go back home soon and I will build us a nice home for our family.” He was mostly talking to himself than to her.
Evelyn turned to look at his serious expression as he spoke.
“You will never be alone,” Kelvin said, his eyes still fixed on the road ahead. “I will protect you and my child with my very last breath.”
They drove in silence for a while, taking in the beautiful scenes of nature around them. This was the first time Evelyn had travelled outside Zambia and she ensured that she utilized every moment away from home to live the fairy-tale kind of life Kelvin had shown her in the past month…the kind of life that always seemed surreal even when she was right in the middle of it, experiencing every moment.
The kind of happiness she was experiencing was beyond anything she had ever dreamt for herself and that reality only heightened the fears and insecurities in her; that she might wake up one day and discover that it had all been a dream.
Thus, every night before she fell asleep, she prayed for the dream to last one more day….
And so far, it always did.
“What about Beatrice?” Evelyn later asked Kelvin as they drove to the nearest beach. “I know you don’t like me knowing about what’s going on back home but I overheard your conversation on the phone once when you thought I was sleeping. How is she doing now?”
Kelvin clenched his teeth at the mention of Beatrice’s name and tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
“What is it?” Evelyn could feel her husband tense up and wondered if there was something going on back home that she wasn’t aware of. “Is there something you are not telling me?” She asked.
Kelvin nervously smiled at her. “Of course not,” he said, turning to look at her for a few seconds.
“I just don’t like thinking about the woman, that’s all.” Kelvin said. “I know that despite everything that’s happened, she is still your mother….”
“I have never thought of her as my mother Kelvin,” Evelyn said. “I don’t expect you to feel bad or guilty about your feelings towards her. You are free to hate or loathe her as much as you want.”
Kelvin reached across to her and held her hand. “I am sorry Eva,” was all he could say in response.
* * *
Beatrice kept turning and tossing in bed, much to her daughter Moola’s chagrin who was sleeping next to her in their newly bought two-bedroomed apartment.
Moola sat up in frustration and woke her mother up. “Why did you insist on Mark taking that whole room to himself if you knew you would make it impossible for me to get any sleep?”
Beatrice sighed heavily and sat up as well. “Over my dead body will I let my only son sleep on the sofa in that tiny living room.”
Moola got out of bed and went to turn on the light.
This new bedroom was a far cry from the humongous master bedroom Beatrice had shared with Shadreck at their old mansion which the latter had sold behind her back.
It was only when Beatrice received an envelope with money in it that she learnt her now ex-husband had sold their home and split the money between them in half. She used that money to buy her children another house that was unfortunately twenty ties smaller than the house they were raised in.
She didn’t know whether to thank Shadreck for his consideration in leaving her half the money from the sale of their home or sue him for his betrayal. In the end, she had no choice but to move on since she could do neither as she had no idea where her husband was hiding.
Shadreck had secretly met with his children Moola and Mark the evening before he disappeared and made no efforts whatsoever to contact the woman he had spent the past twenty something years with except through his lawyers that came to hand Beatrice already signed divorce papers.
Moola went back to sit on the bed. “What do you think the people that did this to us are doing right now?” She asked her mother.
Beatrice grimaced and rolled her hands into fists at the thought of the people response for her fall from grace.
“Whatever they are doing, they better pray I don’t get my hands on them. This isn’t over.” She said sternly. “I will make every one of them pay for everything they’ve put us through.”
Moola scoffed. “How are you going to do that?” She asked. “We are broke. Apart from the money dad left Mark and I for school, we have nothing, absolutely nothing. So how do you plan on fighting giants when the only kind if ammunition you had was taken away from you?”
“Who says I need money to make them pay? I only need to touch one person and the rest of them will come crumbling down in pain.”
“What are you planning mum?” Moola asked, instantly growing perturbed. “You are not planning on hurting Kelvin are you?” She asked.
Beatrice threw her daughter a reprobating look. “He used you, dumped you and humiliated you. Why do you still care about him?”
Moola pouted. “I loved him for so many years,” she said. “My feelings can’t change just like that simply because I discovered he never loved me. He might have hated my family, but I still think that there was a part of him that cared about me. Dad even said that Kelvin begged his mother not to do me and Mark any harm.”
Beatrice felt like smacking some sense into her daughter. “Sometimes I wonder if maybe they switched you at the hospital.” She said.
“Maybe you should consider getting your other daughter back,” Moola suggested. “She managed to seduce another woman’s fiancé and even married him…. I say there’s no doubt she, is your daughter.”
Beatrice grabbed a pillow and smacked Moola at the back of her head.
“Ouch,” Moola said as she nursed the assaulted part.
“That’s for spouting nonsense,” Beatrice said and put the pillow back down. “That girl is no daughter of mine.” She added. “She is the worst mistake I ever made in my life. I should have gotten rid of her when I had the chance.”
Moola shivered at the sight of her mother’s deathly glow. “Stop looking like that, you are scaring me.”
Beatrice got out of bed and stood to the side, a new kind of conviction registering in her eyes. “To get rid of a problem, you must remove the root of the problem,” She said.
“What are you plotting to do mum?” Moola asked.
“You just wait and see,” Beatrice said. “You wait and see….”
A cold streak ran down Moola’s spine as she looked up at her mother. This was the first time since their father left that she had seen such conviction in her eyes.
Two Weeks Later
Kelvin parked to the side of the road outside the antenatal clinic when he saw his mother waiting for them by the gate.
“I am so nervous,” Evelyn said, tilting her chair back to avoid being seen by her mother in-law.
Kelvin laughed. “Even if you avoid seeing her now, you are still going to meet her the moment you get out of this vehicle.” He said. “I know it’s crazy that your first meeting is like this but what can we do? She insisted on taking you for your first visit and I am still feeling guilty about how I treated her so I couldn’t say no.”
“I know,” Evelyn said. “You did the right now. Who knows, maybe seeing the baby inside me will soften her up a little.”
Kelvin laughed. “That’s exactly what am hoping for. She’s seen us, she’s waving at me.”
Evelyn raised her seat up and nervously waved back at Mervis. “Ooh she looks pissed.” She said between clenched teeth so the woman wouldn’t be able to read her lips from the distance. “Is that your phone vibrating?” Evelyn searched for her husband’s phone.
“I threw it in the laptop in the back seat,” Kelvin said as he waved back at his mother standing on the other side of the road. He opened the door and came out.
“We are coming mother!” Kelvin shouted.
“I am tired of standing here waiting for you people to show up!” Mervis shouted back. “I thought you were not coming.”
“Go back inside mum,” Kelvin said, but his voice was muffled by the sound of a vehicle passing by. “We will meet you inside.”
“What did you say?” Mervis shouted back.
Kelvin laughed. “She’s not hearing me.” Kelvin said to his wife.
“It’s a call from work honey,” Evelyn said whilst looking at his phone.
“Oh shit!” Kelvin cussed and quickly took the phone from her. “I forgot to tell Nzila that I would be late for today’s meeting. “Go inside, I will meet you guys there. I need to take this.”
Before Evelyn could protest, Kelvin had already answered the phone. Evelyn looked across the street to the entrance of the clinic where Mervis was standing and the hairs at the back of her head stood up.
She slowly got out of the car, grabbed her handbag from the back, checked both sides of the road for oncoming traffic and seeing no vehicle in sight, she slowly started walking towards her fierce mother in-law.
Breathe Eva, breath, she kept telling herself as she crossed the road.
Evelyn was too busy coaching her heart to calm down that she did not notice Beatrice parked on the other side of the road just a short distance away from the entrance of the clinic where Mervis was standing, shielded from sensing Beatrice’s presence by the mango tree looming over the wall fence.
The moment Evelyn stepped her feet onto the tarmac, Beatrice hit the gas and went at her with every cent she had lost.
Evelyn was still mustering her courage when she heard someone shout her name from across the street. She opened her eyes to find Mervis running after her.
The first thing Kelvin heard where tires screeching hard against the tarmac.
It was a deja-vu moment that made his blood turn.
The smell of burning tires and spilled oil…he recognized the smell of doom.
Gripped by a sudden overpowering fear, the phone slipped from Kelvin’s hand and the screen shuttered into pieces the moment it hit the ground.
He turned towards the sound of the vehicle and the then next thing he saw was his mother’s bleeding body rolling out of the road while Evelyn was on the other side, crouched on all fours with a look of horror on her face as realization of what had just happened slowly sunk in.
Kelvin had started running towards his mother when he heard the bang and found himself transposed back into time.
More familiar sounds of metal against metal, tires screeching and glass breaking.
Beatrice’s vehicle had become one with an oncoming truck.
Kelvin remained rooted to the ground, paralyzed by time when the past and the present collided, resulting in a single moment that was suffocating the life out of him.
Just before the darkness could completely envelop him, Kelvin caught a glimpse of Evelyn sobbing as she crawled towards his mother in agony.