A Twisted Fate – Part 1
Kanua Village, Zambia; January, 1991
There was a murderous glow in the eyes of the ten year old Luyando Chimeko as she stood watch over her drunk and passed out father snoring away on the mat inside the tent that a good Samaritan had lent to them which they had come to regard as their home for the past one week.
Luyando had had enough of living like a destitute at the hands of her vagabond father whose own life seemed to be rotting away ever since the untimely demise of his wife a year ago. On that day, the ten year old had not just lost her mother, she had lost her father as well. The man she was now looking at was only a shell of the man she once called dad…and she had had enough of watching him waste his and her life away like someone who no longer had anything more to live for.
Luyando wiped away her tears with a rage that was beyond her years, her gaze still fixed disapprovingly on her father.
“What about me!” Luyando cried, her hand hitting her chest. “Am I not a good enough reason for you to want to live?”
As if in response, Bernard Chimeko stretched in his sleep and wiped at his drool before turning to face the other way. Luyando took in every piece of his being; the dirty sandals on his feet with enough holes in them that defeated the manufacturers original purpose of production, the tone jeans and the oversized sweater with a colour she was convinced could not be traced on the colour wheel.
“Every single day….” the ten year old cried harder, no sound, just barrels of tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Over here mum!”
Luyando heard a boy shout from outside the tent. She turned away from her father to slightly open the tent so she could peep outside. Not far from their tent was a family of three; father, mother and son.
Right away Luyando could tell they didn’t belong to that compound. It was the first time she was seeing such immaculately dressed people in the market and all the people crowding around them trying to sell things to them told her everything she needed to know about the kind of people they were.
Luyando’s eyes rested on the boy who appeared to be her age as he cheerfully pointed to the things he wanted his parents to buy for him.
“This one too mum…and this one…ooooh look at this dad?” the boy was pointing at items that ranged from foodstuffs to boys wear.
His parents watched on the side as their boy tried on different hats and not seeming to find one that pleased his eye.
What if that was my family? I wouldn’t be suffering here like this. Luyando thought.
If Bernard could see the envy glowing in his daughters eyes, he would have picked himself up and gone out to do whatever it takes to give her the kind of life that she most desires.
Luyando moved to the other side of the tent so she could take a look at what was happening behind and she found exactly what she was looking for; the fancy car of the rich family was parked in the distance under the oak tree on the side of the main road.
Closing the tent, Luyando’s gaze immediately focused on her father who was still snoring away his life, oblivious to whatever was happening around him. With a sudden conviction registering in her eyes, Luyando grabbed her dirty backpack and started throwing some things in there; some of her clothes and a few text books that had been lying on the ground in the corner.
When she was done packing, she started her search for something else that she couldn’t seem to find but just when she thought all hope was lost, her father moved his leg in his sleep and down where his leg had been she saw the knife she had been desperately searching for. Luyando grabbed it and stared at it for close to a minute as she contemplated what to do with it, her eyes shifting from the knife to the figure of her father lying there before her.
Very suddenly, Luyando raised the knife into the air, closed her eyes shut and brought the knife down to her wrist, leaving a deep cut across. She winced in pain and covered the wound with her other hand, quietly jumping up and down in an effort to numb the pain.
And again, she raised the knife and passed it across her skin, this time making another deep cut slightly above the first cut.
Using the blood flowing from her cuts, Luyando rubbed her hand over specific parts of her face leaving red vivid spots there. She then grabbed her bag, put it on her back…all the while wincing in pain and taking one last angry look at her father, she ran out of the tent from the back.
Once their shopping was done, the Mulenga’s settled back into their car and Mr Mulenga was ready to drive off when something…someone…a little girl covered in blood and bruises jumped in front of their vehicle and was waving her arms about to grab their attention.
“It’s a girl dad.” Tulani was peering in-between his parents from the back seat, his eyes staring shockingly at the desperate state of the girl crying in front of their vehicle.
“Stop Bashi Tula,” Mrs Mulenga told her husband and he immediately put the car back in Park mode. “Who has done that to that poor child?” She said as she got out of the vehicle but the girl came panting at her side before she could even step out of the vehicle.
“Please take me away from here before he kills me. I beg you, take me with you and just leave me anywhere far away from here.” Luyando’s face was covered in tears, mud and blood and her desperation was believable since she kept looking around for whoever who was coming after her.
“Who did this to you young lady?” Ayanda Dumisani Mulenga asked.
In a move that caught everyone in the car by surprise, Luyando grasped Mrs Mulenga’s wrist and went down on her knees.
“Please take me away from here, please, please…take me away before he finds me.”
“Who is after you?” Joshua Mulenga asked. “Isn’t there a police station or a hospital around here?” He said, looking at the bruises on her arms and face. “You look like you’ve lost a lot of blood. Whoever did this to you needs to be arrested.”
Luyando was writhing on the dusty ground with her hand still holding on to Mrs Mulenga.
“You can’t take me there!” She cried. “He…he…he….” And she blacked out before she could finish her sentence. She was about to hit her head on the ground when Mrs Mulenga grabbed hold of her arm and raised her.
Mr Mulenga rushed out of the vehicle to help his wife get the collapsed girl into the backseat.
“Go and sit in front,” she instructed her son.
“Put your seatbelt on son.” Mr Mulenga told his son as he got the car back on the road.
“Where are we going?” His wife asked from the back seat, Luyando’s head resting on her laps.
“To the hospital first of course.” He replied.
“You heard what she said; what if whoever did to her comes searching for her? Besides, this is a small town, do they even have any hospitals here?”
“You are right,” he said. “What are we going to do with her then?”
“Why don’t we just take her home with us mum?” Tulani asked.
“What the hell are you talking about young man?” His father said.
“Mum said she wanted a girl and since she can’t have any more children now, why can’t she keep this one? She looks like she’s the same age as me even…maybe this is the miracle Pastor Kennedy was talking about.”
Both parents kept quiet, Mr Mulenga’s eyes fixed on the road ahead while his wife looked at the new hope resting comfortably on her laps, her mind replaying the innocent words of her ten year old son;
Maybe this is the miracle Pastor Kennedy was talking about.
Feeling the soft hand of Mrs Mulenga as she stroked her hair, Luyando moved her toes in excitement, silently thanking the stars for her new kind of fate.
Bernard Chimeko woke up a few minutes passed 10 the next morning only to find no signs of his daughter anywhere. Thinking that she had disappeared on her usual escapades, he dusted himself off and went out drinking again.
When two days had gone by and he had not seen any signs of his daughter, worry and fear started getting to him.
“Did you see my girl anywhere?” He asked everyone he came across in the market but they all said they hadn’t seen her in the past two days.
“You drink too much Chimeko, what if you lost your daughter while you were passed out?” One of the marketeers he used to drink with said.
In a state of panic, Bernard rushed back into his tent and immediately noticed what his eyes in their drunken state had failed to notice the past two days; most of his daughter’s belongings were gone.
“Oh no,” he kept saying as he turned everything in the tent upside down. “What have I done? What have I done to our daughter Tasi?” He then dropped to his knees and started sobbing.
“How can I face you in heaven like this?” Bernard asked the skies later than evening as he stood on top of the hill overlooking the river.
“I am so sorry I lost our daughter my darling Tasila…I lost our little Luyando.” He broke down in tears again.
With an expression that could only mirror the one his daughter had right before she ran away two days ago, Bernard stood up and faced the breathing water below.
Not wanting to give his mind a chance to change, the desperate father leaped forward and went plunging into the river.
Martha Kondwani, a mother of one was drying herself behind a rock after a cold bath in the river when she heard the heavy splash. She quickly put her clothes back on and went to search for the source.
In the two years since Martha had moved to Kanua, there had only been two instances when she caught a group of boys lurking behind the rocks on the hill trying to peep on naked women bathing. Sometimes they just quietly watched and sometimes they threw stones into the water just to make the women uncomfortable.
It was with that mind-set that Martha came out from behind the rock to investigate, expecting to see a huge stone or a group of boys running away. Instead, what she found to her horror was the head of a man peering on the waters of the river.
“Is he dead?” She moved closer to the water to take a closer look at the limp body. She thought she saw him gasp for air and she immediately threw caution to the wind and jumped into the water to rescue the man who appeared to be drowning now.
A few minutes later, Martha came up the waters holding Bernard with one arm and using the other to navigate her way out of the water.
“Let me go!” Bernard had started kicking and throwing his arms about, obviously catching Martha by surprise.
“What do you think you are doing?” Martha yelled. “I am trying to rescue you for God’s sake.”
“Who asked you to do such a dumb thing?” He asked, still kicking to free himself from her grasp but Martha’s strength was no match for his puny malnourished self that had been subjected to only alcohol for the past year. “Let me die in here! I have no right to live…let me go!”
“You stupid man,” Martha snapped, only now realizing that the man was on a suicide mission. The man’s kicking and waving was making it extremely difficult for her to keep moving forward and out of the water.
Martha figured that the only way to safely get them both out of the cold water was if she incapacitated him.
Bernard did not see the punch coming and it landed loud and heavy on the side of his face, knocking him out immediately.
He came to minutes later only to find himself lying on a mat in an unfamiliar room. He tried to get up but his head was still ringing and throbbing from the blow. He was wincing in pain when he felt someone’s soft hands on him as the person slowly helped him up.
“I am sorry about that…punching you I mean.” It was the thirty year old Martha Kondwani whose punch had rendered him unconscious not so long ago.
“What kind of woman has such a strong punch?” The thirty-five year old man asked, still nursing his bruised head and ego. He then noticed he wasn’t wearing the same clothes he had on when he went to the river.
He could tell right away whose clothes he had on and he threw her an angry look.
“What’s this?” He was touching the cream white trousers that barely covered half of his leg and the purple silk blouse that was screaming the desperate situation he had found himself in.
Martha started laughing.
Bernard gave her a stern disapproving look and made a move to take off the blouse but Martha jumped and held his hand.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked him.
“You don’t expect me to keep these on even when am conscious do you?”
She laughed again. “I threw away those things you had on…I don’t even know what to call them because they don’t fall in the category of clothes anymore.”
“Who changed me?” The thought finally occurred to him.
“I did,” Martha answered nonchalantly causing Bernard to almost jump from the mat.
“Calm down,” she told him, getting up to check something in the other room and then coming back to look at him. “I am a nurse.” She added. “A man’s nakedness has no impact on me whatsoever. They are just body parts…nothing special.”
“You are a nurse? You work for that clinic in the next town?”
“Is that where they taught you how to punch like that?”
There was silence, and then, “It’s something I had to learn to protect myself.” She said in a very serious tone.
“You learnt how to fight?”
“Martial arts, not just any kind of fighting. It was out of necessity and not….”
While Martha was talking, something behind her appeared to have caught Bernard’s attention and she turned to check what the man was gaping at.
“Tasha.” Martha rushed to her five year old daughter whose gaze was fixed on the stranger in the room.
“Is he my daddy?” The five year old Natasha asked.
Bernard and Martha stared at each other in disbelief, both of them more than ready to set the record straight.
“Now why were you trying to kill yourself?” Martha later asked Bernard that night after putting Natasha to sleep.
* * *
Lusaka, Zambia; December, 2015.
Natasha Thompson drove her brand new Chevy into Tulani Media House which was popularly known as TMH and went searching for a free spot in the parking lot. TMH was the leading independent and private media firm in the country and Natasha was more than excited to start her first day…her first job in Zambia since returning from the States a month ago.
After moving around in circles for close to five minutes without finding a free parking spot, Natasha was about to lose hope when she saw a vehicle move out of a spot a short distance from where she was.
She rushed over there before anyone else got the spot and was just about to get into the spot when she heard someone hooting ruthlessly behind her. She looked back to find the very car that had just moved out and a lady came out, belligerently waving her arms about in the air as she walked towards Natasha.
Wondering what the hell was going on, Natasha waited for the angry lady to come to her, afraid to come out without knowing what had upset her so much.
The lady started banging aggressively on Natasha’s window and fearing that her new car might suffer damage, she rolled down the window to hear what the lady was going on about.
“Is something the matter?” Natasha asked the angry but beautiful lady glaring at her through the window.
“This is a reserved spot,” the lady said. “You can’t park here. Can’t you see the sign over there?” She pointed to the bold sign right on the wall ahead that Natasha seemed to have missed in her hurry to secure the spot.
“Are you the Chief Financial Officer?” Natasha asked.
“Don’t you know who I am?” the lady asked, obviously expecting her identity to be common knowledge.
Natasha shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly in response, an act that seemed to peeve the lady even more.
“What the hell are you doing driving into TMH when you have no idea who the hell I am?”
“Look lady,” Natasha opened the door and came out of the vehicle to properly address the strange woman.
“This is my first day here so forgive me if I cannot remember all the faces I saw online of the high officials here.”
“The accent,” the angry lady remarked. “Did you apply for a job here?”
“I got offered a position here.” Natasha deliberately stressed every word in the sentence.
“My name is Luyando Mulenga,” the lady removed a stash of her business cards and handed one to Natasha. “You might wanna know who I am if you are going to be working here. My family owns this whole place and I am the CFO. You need to remove your vehicle from my spot before it gets towed right away.”
Natasha finally understood the arrogant airs she had detected from the lady the moment she had laid eyes on her.
“Luyando Mulenga….” Natasha said as she examined the business card. “I might not have been raised in Zambia but, isn’t this a weird name combination? Could it be a Tonga mother and a Bemba father…except, I heard your mother is originally Zimbabwean…?”
Luyanda grabbed the card from Natasha. “If you must know, I was named after the nurse that helped my mother deliver me.” She said.
Natasha laughed. “Forgive me, you don’t owe me any explanation whatsoever. I am just happy to meet someone with a complicated family history as I.”
“I was not explaining anything; I was simply stating a fact. I don’t care about your family history and I can assure you that there is nothing complicated about my family. What is your name by the way?”
“Natasha…Natasha Thompson…funny story, I know…but sometimes it isn’t that easy to get rid of your ex’s name. May I go now ma’am? I need to find another parking spot before am late for my meeting with the CEO.”
“Natasha,” Luyando mulled over the name. “I will certainly keep my eye on you.” She pranced back to her car.
Natasha went back into her car and waited for Luyando to drive away before she could move her car.
“Natasha….” Luyando said whilst looking at Natasha through the interior rear view mirror. “Let’s see how long you will last here with that kind of attitude.” And she hit the accelerator and sped out of the parking lot like she owned the whole building.
Natasha walked over to the reception and greeted the young beautiful girl standing behind the front desk.
“Gosh, getting into this place is worse than getting into a military camp site. Is all that security really necessary?” she was looking behind at the two security guards mounted at the third security entry point; the first one being a group of two security guards asking for identification and then grilling questions before subjecting you to a body scan before handing you a visitor’s card to swipe and be let through to the second phase of security once confirmation of appointment was made.
At the second security point, Natasha had to insert the visitors card she had been given before she could be allowed through to the last phase of security where two security guards held the doors open for her and directed her to the reception desk.
“There’s a television station, a newspaper, and a radio station under one roof here,” the receptionist explained. “You have no idea how many people want access to those services and what some of them would be willing to do to be heard. You must be Mrs Thompson.”
Natasha laughed. “Ms actually, divorced.” She raised her hand to show the girl her fingers.
“Mr Mulenga is waiting for you in his office on the fourth floor, East Wing.”
“East Wing?” Natasha asked.
“Those two lifts over there will take you to the East Wing which is where T-Tv is located. The ground floor is for the radio station only and the West Wing is for the Newspaper. Only those in top management have access to all wings of the building.”
“I see,” Natasha said. “Thanks.”
“Mr Mulenga’s office is the only one on the fourth floor so it won’t be hard to find.”
“Figures,” Natasha said and walked to the lift.
Even though she could not remember much of her childhood days in Zambia, Natasha had heard some things about her mother country from some friends she had made online and none of them had painted the county in bright lights.
But for the one month she had been back, she had seen levels of development far beyond her expectations and she couldn’t help but be impressed. The TMH building was one of those things that had blown her breath away the moment she had laid her eyes on it and feasted on its architectural beauty.
The building was a wonder to behold and it’s expensive quality was not surprising considering that the major shareholders where right at the top of the financial food chain.
“I’m here for Mr Mulenga.” Natasha announced to the CEO’s PA.
“Come through,” she said as she got up to guide her to the office. “He’s expecting you.”
“Ms Thompson is here Sir.” The PA peeped through the door to announce the visitor.
“Let her in,” Natasha heard a man say. She smiled, thinking how he still sounded the same even after four years.
The PA stepped aside and held the door wide open for her to get in.
“Thanks,” Natasha said.
“Look what we have here!” Tulani Mulenga exclaimed the moment he laid eyes on Natasha. “Come here!” He grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Hmm Hmm,” the PA cleared her thought to announce that she was still there. “Coffee, tea or juice for the guest?” She asked.
“Tea please,” Natasha answered, separating herself from Tulani who appeared to be enjoying having his arms around her a little too much.
“The usual for you Sir?”
“Yes Claudia, the usual.”
“You have a lovely office Tula,” Natasha said, walking around the large room and touching things here and there.
“You look way too sexy than the last time I saw you.”
“I think that is considered sexual harassment in this kind of situation don’t you think?” She took one of the seats in front of his desk.
“You haven’t signed the contract yet so I can say whatever I want to say in the meantime.” The thirty-four year old said, a mischievous smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
Natasha laughed. “I see nothing has changed over the years. Last time we spoke on the phone, you sounded a little mature and grounded and I had this hope that perhaps…perhaps you’ve grown a little now.”
Tulani busted out in laughter. “You are the only woman in this world who thinks am childish. Every other woman out there wants to have my child.”
“That could be because you bring out motherly instincts in them.”
“Ouch!” Tulani held his hand to his heart mimicking a heart attack.
“Besides,” Tulani added once he was seated. “I had no choice but to sound all mature the last time we talked since you were crying. I couldn’t say this at that time but I am glad you divorced the bastard. He didn’t deserve you.”
“Wow, thanks Tula, that makes me feel so much better.” She said.
“Sarcasm I see,” he remarked. “I can’t seem to catch a break with you Tasha…could be why I haven’t been able to get you off my mind from the moment I met you. I can’t believe it’s been four years already.”
Tulani’s Personal Assistant came in with the beverages and left after serving them.
Natasha couldn’t help admitting that despite his childishness, there was nothing about Tulani’s physical stature that suggested he was a boy. At thirty-four years old, he was made of stuff found in women’s dreams; tall, well-built, and with looks that broke the hearts of all those that couldn’t be with him. He was a natural charmer and he knew exactly what to say and what not to say to please the ear of a woman.
“Let’s catch up another time Tulani. I am here to talk about work.” She reminded him, her serious tone suggesting that she was not open to any more personal discussions.
“I know what you’re trying to do…but I totally understand.” He said.
“I am not very sure about the position,” she said. “But I figured it’ll be in my field of expertise so….”
“Yes of course the position is right in your alley; Lead News Anchor and you are at liberty to come up with a maximum of two programs to be sponsored by our partners of course…and as usual, the two important words are; relevance and ratings…you know the drill.”
“I do,” she said. “But what about the person who previously held that position, what happened to them?”
“Nalukwi quit a month ago because she had to follow her husband to Ndola. He works for Barclays and you know how those people transfer their stuff. Nalukwi was pregnant so you know…. Don’t think for a moment that you got this job through nepotism.
“To this day I still remember how impressive your work back in the US was and I want that kind of quality for my station. When I heard you would be coming to Zambia, I was ecited like a little boy! It was like a dream come true.”
“Thank you for telling me that Mr Mulenga, I was afraid people might think I am underqualified for whatever position you gave me since I came through the back door.
Tulani was laughing. “Please, whatever you do, don’t ever call me Mr Mulenga. You and I have been friends for over four years now and even the Lord knows we are beyond the friendship zone.” He was smiling mischievously at her.
“But this is work.” Natasha argued. “I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.”
“What ideas?” Tulani asked. “That you and I are more than friends?” He laughed.
“Tulani!” She protested.
“Look how natural my name falls from your lips. I can’t have you calling me Mr Mulenga, that’s just bloody uncomfortable and you know it.”
“Can I see the contract?” She quickly changed the topic.
Tulani opened the top left drawer and removed a folder which he handed to her. Natasha opened it and skimmed through the contents while Tulani made a call to his PA.
“Claudia, get me Tamara in here.”
“Who’s Tamara?” Natasha asked.
“Tamara Banda is the head of broadcasting. You will be reporting to her.” He answered.
“How old is she?”
“Does the age of your boss matter?” Tulani laughed. “She should be in her early fifties.”
“Perfect,” Natasha said. “I would hate to be reporting to someone my age. Women have a way of establishing rivalries that are not even there. That reminds me, I met your sister down in the parking lot earlier. She is as tough as you described her to be.”
“You met Luyando? What did she say? Did you tell her you and I are friends?”
Natasha chuckled. “The circumstances under which we met made it impossible for us to get off on friendly terms. I know she is your sister but she is way too bossy and arrogant. How can siblings be so different?”
“Our parents say she takes after our grandfather, but she’s really a good person. The two of you might actually hit it off once you get to know each other a little more.”
“I doubt that,” Natasha said. “I don’t look like her type…and neither does she.”
“If you are going to be my wife, you will have no choice but to get along with your sister in-law.”
“Try to be serious for once Tulani, why don’t you ever take anything I say seriously? You know very well that marriage is the last thing on my mind. I don’t appreciate that you can joke about it right now.”
Tulani moved from behind his desk to stand in front of her. He pulled her chair back, laid his arms on her sides and pulled her up.
“Did I stammer when I said I wanted to make you my wife?” He asked, looking her straight in the eye.
“The problem is not about what I said Tasha,” he continued. “It’s about what you choose to believe. You know that the moment you start taking me seriously, you will be forced to make a decision and you are afraid to confront your feelings.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Natasha tried to move away from him but he kept her right where he needed her to be.
“Ar ah, don’t look away from me,” he turned her face by the chin and forced her to keep looking at him. “My feelings from four years ago haven’t changed, if anything, they have grown stronger.
“I respected your decision to go back to your husband after your separation but that didn’t mean I had given up on you. I never gave up Tasha. I still love you.”
“What’s going on in here?” A voice asked from the door. Natasha yanked herself away from Tulani and turned to look at the intruder.
It was Luyando, looking as gruesomely angry as ever.
Did she ever smile? Natasha wondered.
“Hey sis,” Tulani greeted her. “I thought you had a meeting in town this morning?” he walked back to his seat behind his desk and sat down.
“The director’s wife suffered a heart attack and his secretary called me to cancel right as I was driving out of here. Do the two of you know each other?” She was looking from Natasha to Tulani.
“Ah, I heard the two of you met,” he said. “But let me make the official introductions,” he got up. “This beautiful lady standing here is Natasha Thompson, our new lead News Anchor. Natasha, this is my sister and the CFO of TMH Television.”
“It’s nice to meet you once again.” Natasha reached out her hand but Luyando only stared at it with a repugnant expression on her face.
“Do you make it a habit to sleep your way to the top Ms Thompson?” Luyando asked and won herself a look of chagrin from her brother.
“Excuse me?” Natasha said, finding it hard to believe what her perfectly working ears had just heard.
“There’s no need for you to be that harsh Lu,” Tulani said. “Natasha and I have been friends for over four years now.”
A knock on the door is exactly what the three of them needed to calm the icy atmosphere in the room.
“Mrs Banda is here sir,” the PA announced.
“Let her in Claudia, let her in.” He said, and then turning to his sister, “is there anything you needed sis? I need to talk to the two about Ms Thompson’s appointment.”
“I will come back later,” she said in an icy tone and left, completely ignoring Tamara’s greeting as they passed each other on the door.
“Mrs Banda, come in.” Tulani said. “Sit down Ms Thompson, you too Tamara.”
Even though Natasha’s first day at work had not gone as bad as she had expected it go, there was something that kept bothering her. She couldn’t seem to get over the cold reception she had received from Tulani’s sister and she kept wondering why the woman was giving her such a cold attitude.
During lunch break with some of her new colleagues, Natasha found an opportunity to probe a little about Luyando and her counterparts where more than glad to update her on the office gossip.
“She is way too bossy than the CEO himself.” Astridah supplied and under her breath she added, “but we all know she aint no blood relative.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Natasha asked.
Astridah held her hand over her mouth. “You heard that?”
“We all did.” Boyd answered. “You need to watch what falls out of your mouth Astridah. You never learn.”
“I think she’s forgotten about the trouble she was in with Becky from Finance last month.” Nicole chipped in.
“You guys are too much!” Astridah got up in anger, carried her plate and went to join the people on the next table.
“You better watch what you say or do in Astridah’s presence,” Boyd warned Natasha. “Her broadcasting signals are stronger than the frequencies of all the stations in this country, combined.”
Nicole laughed and Natasha smiled uncomfortably, realizing at that moment that she wouldn’t be getting much information from the two remaining. Fortunately for her, she managed to catch Astridah just as she was leaving for work outside the TMH building.
“Need a ride?” She asked the assistant through the window.
“I live in Avondale,” Astridah shouted.
“Hop in, my home’s in Foxdale. I can leave you somewhere along the way.” She reached out and opened the door for her.
“Wow, you are very kind Ms Thompson.” Astridah said as she got into the vehicle. “I always thought that pretty people like you were cold hearted…like someone I know.” She added under her breath and quickly shushed herself.
Natasha laughed. “You are talking about Ms Mulenga right? I take it you are not a fan of hers?”
“I don’t want to say anything,” Astridah said. “You heard what the guys said about me.”
“I saw a ring on her finger, is she married?”
“Yes she is married but she doesn’t talk much about her husband and she rarely appears with him in public. In fact, she prefers to be called Ms Mulenga instead of Mrs Liboma.”
“What does he do for a living?”
“He is a doctor at the University Teaching Hospital. He is not very god looking so I guess that’s why she prefers showing up on the arm of her handsome brother at every public event but I hear he is a very good man, humble and kind-hearted. Why do all the good men end up with such terrible women?”
Something about Astridah’s tone told Natasha that there was more to the story than what the twenty-five year old was letting on.
“What are you trying to say Astridah?” Natasha asked.
Astridah hesitated, but when the pressure of keeping the information to herself, she finally broke down and said; “Promise that you won’t tell anyone that I told you this?”
“I promise,” Natasha said.
“There is a rumour going around that Luyando and the CEO are not biologically related. People say that she was adopted…and that she…she…that she is actually in-love with her brother.”
Natasha busted out laughing. “And you believe that nonsense Astridah?” She asked.
“Yes, I actually think it’s true.” The girl admitted. “You should see the way she treats any girl that tries to get close to him, you would think she was his wife.”
“But that doesn’t mean she’s in-love with him,” Natasha said. “I think I am protective of my kid brother too. I always question the girls I find hanging around him and I investigate some of their activities on social media. He hates that and he’s always threatening to kill me when he catches me doing it.”
Natasha started laughing as an image of her angry nineteen year old brother Alex chasing her around the house with a broom in his hands came to mind.
“I have seen the look in her eyes and am telling you…that’s no sibling love that lies behind those cold dark eyes.” Astridah insisted.
By the time Natasha was dropping Astridah off, she had been brought up to date with all the office gossip and had learnt more about Tulani than she had learnt in the past four years.
Tulani was surprised by a visit from his sister Luyando later that evening.
“Aren’t you supposed to be preparing dinner for your family right now sis? What are you doing here?” He went to sit back on the sofa where he had been resting, catching up on Season 5 of Suits before the interruption.
“What is going on between you and that girl I met in your office Tula?” She asked him, pushing his feet away so she could sit next to him.
Tulani turned to look at her in awe. “Is that why you came to my place this late?”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“That’s because it’s none of your business. You need to go back home before your husband starts to worry.” He got up to get the door for her.
“Is she the one you said you were waiting for all these years?” She asked, getting up from the sofa as well.
Tulani opened the door and held it wide open for her. “I’m serious sis, it’s late. You need to head home now.”
“Why are you avoiding my questions?”
“I told you, it’s none of your business sis. I am a grown man, you don’t need to know every little thing that goes on in my life.”
“Why are you pretending like you don’t know why I’m asking you these questions?”
“Because I want to save you some dignity.” He said.
“Dignity?” She asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I am not comfortable having this kind of conversation with you again.”
“Is that what you think my feelings amount to?”
There were tears streaming down her eyes now.
“C’mon sis,” Tulani said upon noticing the tears. “Don’t start this again.” He walked over to her and put his arms around her.
After soothing her for a while, Tulani was about to release his sister from his arms when she suddenly grabbed the sides of his face and drew him closer to her. Before he knew it, she was passionately kissing him.
“Oh no….” Natasha said, holding her hand over her mouth and gaping in disbelief at the two people in front of her locked in each other’s arms and kissing like a pair of lovers.
“Oh shit,” Tulani cussed and quickly reaped himself away from his sister. “This isn’t what it looks like Tasha.” Even as he said the words, he could imagine the thoughts going through Natasha’s mind and he could hear just how ridiculous his own words sounded.
“Oh please, do explain.” Natasha said sarcastically. There was a glint of a smile in her eyes as she looked over at Luyanda who was soaking wet in shame and embarrassment.
[nextpage title=”episode 2″]
– Part 2
“What the hell are you doing at your boss’ house at this time of the night?” Luyando asked Natasha.
“Obviously nothing close to what you are just from doing …to your brother .” She said with a taunting smile on her face. “Relax Tula,” She said to Tulani, inviting herself into the house and patting him on the shoulder.”I totally understand whatever is going on here; it appears your married sister , is in-love with you.”
“I knew I was going to hate you the moment I laid my eyes on you.” Luyando said curtly.
Natasha laughed. “The feeling is mutual Lu…I can call you Lu now since we are not at the office right? You are after all my ex- boyfriend’ssister.”
“Ex-boyfriend?”Luyando looked to her brother for confirmation.
The proud grin on Tulani’s face confirmed her worst fears.
Tulani had not expected Natasha to be the first one to reveal their romantic past, especially in such a bold manner. Hestill had nightmares about their last encounter in San Francesco…thecold and unflinching conviction in her eyes when she told him she wouldn’t be seeing him anymore.
Natasha turned to Luyando. “I would like to have a private conversation with your brother . Do you mind leaving us alone?”
Without uttering another word, Luyando grabbed her purse from the couch and stormed out of the house, banging the glass door on her way out.
With his hands in his pockets, Tulani went to position himself in front of Natasha, and looking into her eyes he said;
“Ex-boyfriend?I didn’t think I counted as an ex. I thought I was just some fling you couldn’t wait to get rid of…something to keep you company while you waited for your husband to set himself straight.”
“That’s unfair Tula,” Natasha said, moving away from him so he could not see her reaction.
“I still remember every single detail of that day Tasha.” He said. “I can even recite the words you said in my sleep.”
He was looking at her back while she looked out the window into the darkness outside.
“I am getting back with my husband, I am very sorry Tula.” She had told him whilst crying.
“You can’t be serious!” Tulani had snapped. “That bastard cheated on you for two years and he is as responsible for your daughter’s death as the man that bashed her outside that school.”
“Stop it Tula!” She had shouted at him. “Stop it!”
“You need to hear this Tasha. It doesn’t make sense that you would go back to the man that hurt you like that. He was s——g another woman while his daughter, your daughter was lying dead on some street somewhere. Your daughter died whilst looking for him on that street Tasha but where was he?”
Unable to bear the pain of his words anymore, Natasha slapped him hard across the face before running out of the restaurant.
“It still stings you know, your slap?” Tulani said to Natasha who still had her back to him. He was caressing his cheek where she had slapped him four years ago.
Natasha slowly turned to face him. “You deserved to be slapped that day you know.”
“I know,” he admitted. “I had gone overboard in my anger…I guess I was just too hurt to think rationally…but there’s no excuse for the awful things I said to you. I am sorry Tasha…I know it’slate but, I apologize.”
“It’sall in the past,” she said, moving towards the sofa and tracing her fingers over the edges as she moved about the room. “You have a beautiful home…as expected.”
“What are you doing here Tasha?” He had walked over to her and held her by the sides of her arms to keep her from moving.
“Do you not want me here Tula?” She asked him, looking straight into his eyes.
“I do, of course I do! Gosh, is that even a question?” He drew her closer to him and wrapped his arms around her.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Natasha said, pushing him away to take a seat on the couch.
“You haven’t stopped with your teasing I see.” Tulani went to sit down next to her. “Something tells me you are here for a reason. The Natasha I know wouldn’t have just popped up at my door unannounced the way you did. Is everything okay?”
Natasha laughed. “Of course everything’s fine. How come you never told me you were once married?”
“Did you just say ooh ?”
“I apologize, again. I didn’t think it mattered. I was married to Cynthia for only about a year when we decided to go our separate ways. I had been single for over two years when I met you in San Francisco.”
Tulani turned to fully look at her. “You came to my house at this hour to ask about my marriage?”
“You know how I am already,” she answered. “If somethingis bothering me, I can’t sleep till I get it out or solve it.”
“So you were bothered by it?” He asked. “Do you even know the meaning of your words Tasha?” There was a huge grin on his face as he watched the flashed expression on her face.
He lifted her chin up so she could not avoid his gaze. “When are you going to stop fighting your feelings and just admit that you love me too?”
She tried to get away from him again but he tightened his grip on her arms.
“I only came here to ask a question and since you answered it, I better be on my way now.” She tried to get up, again….but she failed, again.
“Askme anything you are curious about and I will answer it as honestly as possible.” He said.
“Why did you break up with your wife?” She asked.
“You went straight for the big one!” He said and laughed. “I guess I asked for it. Cynthia and I were at two different points in our lives. I was very young when we got married…just like you and your ex- husband.
“She wanted us to start a family right after the wedding but I was only twenty-three then and certainly not ready to start a family yet. But Cynthia was very determined and wouldn’t stop pressuring me throughout our marriage. I snapped one day and asked her for a divorce.”
“Andshe gave you one just like that?” Natasha asked.
“Of course not,” he replied. “She fought me all the way to court, said she wanted half my property and that’s when I realized she never really loved me. She was too quick to bring up the money the moment I mentioned divorce.
Most women would beg for a second chance to try and work things out but not Cynthia. She looked me in the eye and told me she was gonna get me for every penny I owned.”
Tulani laughed. “Of course not, I didn’t have anything to my name at that time. Everything I had belonged to my parents; the money, the cars, and the houses. Oooh…she was not pleased.” He broke out in laughter.
“She attacked me at the club once and threatened to chop my manhood into pieces, said I had deceived her into believing I was rich. I did no such thing. She naturally assumed my parent’smoney was as good as mine but she was dead wrong.”
“So what are your thoughts on kids now? Do you still feel like you are not ready?” Natasha held her breath as she waited to hear his response.
“I don’t know,”he answered. “I have never really thought about it. Do you want kids Tasha? Because if you do, then I am open to start considering it.”
“Start considering it?”
“You seem dissatisfied with my answer,” he said. “I promisedto be as honest as possible with you. Would you have rather I lied?”
“Of course not.” Natasha stood up. “I am happy you answered me honestly.”
“Your tongue is saying something else but your eyes are telling me something else….”
Natasha chuckled nervously.“You are thinking too much Tula. I need to leave now, my parents will be worried if am home late on the first day of work.” she started walking towards the door.
Tulani got up and rushed to the door before she reached it. “I have a feeling I just shot myself in the leg but I am not yet sure why that could be the case.” He was standing against the door to keep her from leaving before he was ready to let her go.
“I told you, you think too much. I guess am just tired. It’sbeen a while since I worked… two months I think. My brain must be in shock since it was stretched too much today.” And to distract him from asking any more questions, she planted a light kiss on his cheek and said goodnight.
“You know exactly what to do to get your way with me Tasha.” He moved away to allow her to pass. “You are the only woman who has such a power over me you know that?” He said as he walked her to her car.
“There’sreally no need for you to escort me, I can take care of myself.”Natasha said.
“Oh yeah, I remember the kick you landed on my balls when I tried to chat you up at my welcome party in SanFran. Gosh, where did you learn to kick like that?”
They had reached her car by now but she stopped to answer his question before opening the door.
“My mother, she made me take martial arts classes and all other types of defensive classes to protect myself. Mymother believes that a woman does not need a man to make her feel secure. She says sometimes the very people we trust to protect us are the ones that might end up hurting us.”
“Your mother is a very wise woman…but tell her to lighten up a bit.” Tulani said.
Natasha laughed. “That’s exactly what I always tell her.” She then opened her door and sat behind the wheel.
Rolling down her window, she said, “I forgot to ask you something….”
“What is it?” Tulani said.
“Do your parents know….aboutyour sister’s feelings?”
“Oh no…they have no idea and,” he came to stand closer to her, his body leaning against the car with his head tilted forward into the car. Natasha had to draw her head away to keep his from bumping into her.
“…if you were anyone else,” Tulani continued. “I would ask that you don’t tell anyone about what you heard and saw today.”
Natasha chuckled. “You trust me that much?”
“I do. I guess you’ve already heard the rumours concerning Lu and me….”
“That you are not biologically related?”
“Yes,” he said. “That may be the case but that doesn’t change her position in my family and in our hearts. I love her like I would a blood sister. I don’t care what biology dictates, Luyando will always be my sister.”
“I don’t think the issue has got anything to do with biology Tula. If anything, I think Luyando would like it better if you didn’t love her like that.”
“Luyando isn’t in-love with me,” Tulani said with a sombre expression on his face. “Somewhere along the way she started to confuse my kindness for something else… and who can blame her?
“Before she came into our lives, she had lived a very sorry and bitter life and she had no idea what kind of love or care she could receive from people she considered family since she had been emotionally and physically abused by her father.”
“Her father abused her?” Natasha asked. “What kind of abuse?”
“Everything you can think of, that girl went through.” Tulani answered. “Child abuse, violence, rape….”
“Rape!?” Natasha gasped. “Her own father did that to her?”
“Yes. After my parents officially adopted her, she had to undergo years of counselling because of the nightmares she would have about her father.Up until she was about thirteen years old was when my mother stopped sleeping in her room. She would wake up crying and screaming in the middle of the night.
“I know it sounds crazy now but…there were moments when I thought my parents cared more about her than they did me but I later understood that she needed all the care she could get in the world. So when you see her acting out or being nasty, try to understand her.She’sbeen through a lot.”
“I really had no idea….” Natasha said.
“No one knows that’s why it’s easy for them to spread rumours. I told you about it because I intend to make you a part of my family, soon.”
“Good night Tula. See you tomorrow at work…and thank you for telling me.”
“Good night my love, see you tomorrow and say hi to your parents for me.”
Natasha made a throaty sound and rolled up the window before driving off.
Tulani remained standing on spot waving at her until her vehicle disappeared from sight.
“I’m home!” Natasha announced the moment she opened the door and entered the house.
“Mum is home!” shouted the four year old boy as he ran towards his mother. Before Natasha could put down her handbag, her son had wrapped his little arms around her legs in excitement and almost made her lose her balance.
“Oh my God you are soaking wet Sean!” She said, bending down to lift him up into her arms. “What were you doing?”
“I was setting up the laundry in the basement when your mother called me for something upstairs….”Bernard appeared from where Sean had come from. “When I went back, I found this little man here had put his hands where they didn’t belong.”
“That’s because grandpa doesn’t want to teach me how to use the machine so I can do my own laundry,” Sean complained.
“Look at you complaining like someone infringed on your rights,” Natasha laughed and put him back down. Sean was out of the room and back into the basement the moment his feet landed on the ground.
“That boy will be the death of me dad,” she said. “Now lookwhat he’sdone to my clothes.” She was pointing at the stains Sean had left on her white blouse.
Bernard laughed. “He is the light of our lives but he can be quite a handful sometimes. How was your first day at work honey?” He sat down on the couch and turned down the volume on the tele so he could have a good conversation with his daughter.
Natasha went to sit down next to him. She grabbed a small cushion from the sofa, laid it on his laps and resting her head there, stretching her long legs forward.
“Look at the two of you,” Martha came down the stairs bearing a huge smile on her face as she looked at her husband and daughter cosying up on the sofa.
“Sit over there mother,” Natasha pointed to the couch across from them. “Dad is mine for now. He’s helping me de-stress, I had such a rough day at work.” Her father was massaging the sides of her forehead.
“Already?” Martha asked, ignoring her daughter’s words and going to take a seat on the same sofa. Shelifted her daughter’s legs up, sat down and put them back on her laps, massaging them a little, up and down.
“When I tell my friends that I have the best parents in the world, they think I’m lying. Oooh that feels so good. I think I am going to sleep here tonight.” She closed her eyes to enjoy the massage. “Alex would feel so jealous if he walked in here and saw this. He is such a mama’s boy.”
“Andyou are such a papa’sgirl,” her mother said. “Did you talk to your brother today?”
“Not yet,” Natasha said. “I will call him before going to bed. God knows what he’s up to alone over there. Remind him about using condoms again dad. That boy is too excited for nothing.”
Bernard laughed. “All boys are like that at that age sweetie. He will calm down with time.”
“What if it’s too late?” Natasha asked. “He’sso obsessed with older women that child. At least if they were younger, we wouldn’t have to worry about them ovulating nd turning their eggs into relatives of ours.”
Bernard lightly patted her forehead and forced her to sit up. “Get up and tell us about your day and stop making trouble for your brother.”
Not happy that her relaxation therapy was cut short, Natasha mumbled something under her breath in protest and sat up between her parents. “It wasn’t that bad actually,” she said.
“I thought that it wouldn’t be as busy as it was in San Francisco but its crazy busy as well. I think people in this country care more about political drama than anything else. Eighty-nine percent of the news content is just politics, politics, politics. I am yet to decide if that’s a good thing or not….”
“How about your co-workers,were they friendly?” Her mother asked.
“Yes, everyone was friendly,” She lied. Natasha knew that telling her mother about the antagonistic and villain-like Luyando would only make her have unnecessary worries. “I know it’s just the first day but I think people aren’t as scheming as they were back home.”
“So when are you going on air?” Bernard asked.
“Next week, I still have to get inducted into the system and see how everything works before I can go live.”
“Do you think you will like it here?” Martha asked. “Aren’t you going to regret leaving your life behind?”
Natasha took her mother’s hand and kept holding it until she finished talking. “You worry too much mother. I am going to be just fine. You are the one who always told me that if I had to suffer or die, it was better to be amongst my people…but I am not suffering anymore and I didn’tleave my life behind, I came with it here.
“I have made some wild and childish decisions in the past but I want to give my son the life that he deserves. I am done being a coward.”
“So when do you plan on….”
Natasha stood up and held her hand up to keep her father from finishing his sentence. “I know what you want to ask but, not just yet…but soon.”
“We trust you Tasha,” he said. “We know you are going to do the right thing.”
“We do,” her mother agreed.
“I am hungry now, is there anything to eat?” She started walking towards the kitchen. “I swear I could smell something delicious…something Chinese when I walked into the house.” She started opening pots.
Bernard got up and followed his daughter into the kitchen.
“Dad you didn’t!” She finally spotted an already served dish covered at the far end of the table, removed the cover and carried it to her nose to take in the aroma.
“I thought you deserved a treat of your favourite after your first day at work.” Bernard said, looking with such pride in his eyes at his daughter salivating over the meal he had prepared for her.
“Beef and Black Bean Ho Fun, you rock dad!” She put the plate back down and went to kiss him on the forehead. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Smiling, Bernard pulled his daughter away and said, “go upstairs and freshen up while I warm this up for you.”
“What about you guys?” She asked.
“Did you even see what time it is?” Her mother had joined them in the kitchen.
“Oh yeah!” Natasha remembered the unexpected stop she had made to Tulani’s house.
“Go take a shower and I will take care of Sean before he catches a cold.” Martha said.
Natasha went to her mother and repeated the very things she had done to her father. “I love you, I love you, I love you!”
“You are leaving saliva all over me,” Martha protested with a smile on her face as she pushed her daughter away. “Go and take a shower.”
“I think she’s happy,” Bernard commented after Natasha left the room. “Do you think she’s happy?”
Martha was shaking her head slowly.“I think something is bothering her…but you are right, she is a lot happier than she was a few months ago.”
Alone in the bathroom, Natasha was happily humming an old tune and enjoying her shower when she suddenly stopped and stood still. With only the sound of the shower running, Natasha bent down her head under the shower and allowed the water to fall straight onto the centre of her head, sending her hair falling on all side of her face.
She stood like that for close to five minutes, neither humming nor moving. When she finally lifted her head up, it was to tilt it back, away from the water.
Her tears had become one with the water cascading down her cheeks.
* * *
On her drive to work the next morning, Natasha’s mind went back to the conversation she had had with Tulani about Luyando. She was still thinking about it when she ran into her in the corridor at work.
“Good morning Mrs Liboma,” Natasha greeted the CFO.
“What did you call me?” Luyando came to stand right in front of Natasha, her much taller frame towering over her and her glare raining down on her in bundles of intimidation.
Unfortunately, Natasha appeared unfazed by her boss’ domineering presence. “I don’t know about the culture here in Zambia but where I come from, it’s disrespectful to address a married woman as a Ms especially when it’s common knowledge that she’s married…with a child.”
“You think that just because you grabbed hold of my Achilles heel then you can talk to me whichever way you want?” Luyando asked.
Natasha snickered and raised her head to look up at her.“Between you and me, who do you think is treating the other in the manner you just described?”
“If you want to keep your job here you need to keep your mouth shut and you need to stay away from my brother.”
“If you are referring to the things I heard last night, you don’t have to worry about that. Tulani already explained to me what’s going on and I care a lot about him to dish out his family secrets to the public.
“Secondly, no, I will not stay away from Tulani. No threat is enough to defeat the forces of nature that bind him and I, forever.See you around Mrs Liboma.”
Back in her office, Natasha opened her bag to get the flash drive containing the documents she had been working on at night but she couldn’t find it. She searched through her laptop bag, and every inch of her desk but there was still no sign of it.
“Don’t tell me I left it at home.” She said to herself, picking up the phone to call home.
“Mum, it’sme. Can you do me a favour?”
“What is it honey?” her mother asked.
“Go into my room and check on my desk if I left a blueish flash drive?”
“Okay, hold on.” Natasha waited while her mother walked upstairs.
“Is it the one with the bird key holder attached to it?” Martha asked.
“Yes, yes that’s the one! Oh, thank God, I thought I lost it. Listen mum, can you bring it here for me? I really need those files in there for a very important meeting this afternoon.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line.
“Mum!” Natasha yelled, thinking her mother was not paying attention.
“I’m sorry baby I was thinking.”She said. “You know I have to take Sean to the hospital today before that cold gets worse. Why don’t I ask your dad to bring it for you? He’s busy working on one of his many personal projects in the back yard. He could sure use some fresh air.”
Natasha couldn’t help feeling a little envious of her parents who were both retired and living their lives at ease doing all the things they dreamt about doing when they used to work. Now they no longer had to worry about deadlines and responsibilities.
Martha and Bernard’s dream in Lusaka was to set up a small furniture shop where Bernard would sell the pieces of furniture he made as a hobby and Martha would sell some home decorating items she enjoyed making in her free time….which shehad a lot of now.
The two of them planned on having a life different from the hectic one they had had in America when all they cared about was saving enough and giving their children the very best.
After talking to her mother, Natasha remembered the strenuous security procedure she had been subjected to the previous day and called security to inform them of her father’s visit.
She got a call an hour later and took the lift down to meet him by the reception lounge.
On the second floor, another person in the form of Luyando joined her in the lift.
“Which floor?” Natasha asked her.
Luyando looked at the numbers on the lift and noticed that they were headed the same way, and so, she remained quiet.
Natasha pursed her lips in response to the arrogance of her counterpart. There was an awkward glacial silence in the lift during the short trip down that ended up feeling like the longest trip of their lives. When the elevator door finally opened, Natasha ran out and went in search of her father in the lobby.
“Dad!” She shouted the moment she spotted him a few feet away even though he had his back to her.
Bernard turned the moment he heard his daughter’s voice and smiled in her direction, waving the flash drive in his hands.
Curious about the sort of family her nemesis came from, Luyando stopped midway before she could get to the security point on her way out to take a look at the family show taking place on the other side of the lobby.
However, the moment Luyando’seyes landed on Bernard, she froze in horror for a second before quickly turning around and going to hide behind a wall.
With only the receptionist and the two guards waiting by the entrance in the lobby, Luyando was lucky enough not to have an audience in her moment of weakness. She was shaking and panting, almost out of breath.
“It can’t be,” Luyando kept repeating as she watched the two from behind the wall.
“This is one hell of a building Tasha,” Bernard was saying, his eyes taking in every corner of the place.
“I knew you would love it dad,” Natasha said excitedly. “Only you would understand the beauty of such a place. Don’t you miss this kind of world?”
“Of course I do,” he said. “But I don’t regret retiring. I enjoyed my work as an architect and I still feel the same way when I see the buildings I designed and helped build still standing firm and beautiful. It’slike I haven’t really left that world.”
“How about you build something even more beautiful than this building here in your homeland dad?” She locked her arm into his and the two of them stood starring at a picture of the building they were standing in plastered on the wall ahead.
“You think so?” Bernard asked, excitement filling his eyes. “Do you think your mother would let me?”
“Of course she will! She always said you looked most dashing and handsome when you were working in your studio.”
“How about I build the home where you can live with your husband and….”
Natasha moved to put her hand over her father’smouth. “Dad!” She whispered. “What if someone hears you? I haven’t told anyone…youknow….”
“Oh yeah,” Bernard said. “My bad, sorry sweetie.”
“I wish I could take you on a tour of the place but I also don’t know the place well enough yet. How about we arrange a date for the future?”
“I’m cool with that,” Bernard said. “Get back to work now.” He placed a kiss on her forehead.
“Do you think you can find your way out?” Natasha was looking at the security point.
Bernard laughed. “That’s nothing,” he said. “I have designed tighter security points than what you have here. Don’t worry about it, go.”
“Thanks for bringing this dad, I love you, bye!” She waved to him and ran back to the elevator. She waved at him again before the doors of the lift closed.
Bernard waved back and turned to leave.
Natasha’s father was walking back to the visitors car park where he had left his car when he felt someone grab his arm and pull him to the side.
“Who are you?” Bernard asked the unruly lady who was glaring at him.“Luyando?”He said, immediately recognizing the icy cold and deadly look in her eyes.
“It’syou my daughter right?” Bernard asked, tears welling up in his eyes.
“Shut the hell up!” Luyando yelled. “Who’s your daughter?”
“It’syou,” Bernard said, pointing at her, unable to believe his eyes and ears. “Do you have any idea how long I have been searching for you? My God, look at you, all grown.”
“Why would you search for me?” Luyando snapped. “What are you even doing here? I thought you had died from alcohol poisoning or something, but instead you got married and you have a family now? Wow, don’t you have any shame?”
“Shut up! Don’t call me that. I don’t know who you are and you don’t know me. As far as am concerned you don’t exist. Do not look for me and do not tell a soul, not even your daughter about me. If you even as much as show up in front of me, I will call the police.”
“You don’t need to say all those things Luyando,” Bernard said. “I knowthat I was a terrible father, I let you down. You have every right to hate me but please, don’t ask me to pretend not to know you when I have found you after so many years. Please, give me a chance to make things right.”
“Areyou kidding me?” Luyando yelled. “Make things right? What things do you want to make right? I have my own family, a mother, father and brother who adore me and they think that you are an abusive father who beat and raped me whenever you pleased so you better not show up to me or them because they will have no mercy on you.”
“Abuseyou? Did you say rape?”
“What’s the difference?” Luyando asked. “You were never a good father to me. You treated me like I didn’t exist and that’s worse than all the things I told those people you did to me.”
“Luyando, abuse you?” Bernard still couldn’t believe his own daughter would accuse him of such things. “How can you accuse your own father of doing such terrible things?”
“That’s the thing, if you stay away from me, no one will ever know that you are the man who did those things to me. I don’t want you anywhere near me and don’t even think about coming to this place again.
“If you want to meet that precious daughter of yours, meet her elsewhere. I don’t ever want to see you again. You hear me. If you are sorry for how badly you treated me after mum died, then you will leave me the hell alone, pretend I don’t exist.
“Just imagine the kind of shame and embarrassment your new family will be subjected to when it comes out that you used to rape your own daughter? Do you think they will accept you back once they find out about your past?”
“I admit I was a bad father, I should not have allowed the grief to get to me like that, I should have never drunk like that…I should have paid more attention to you, taken care of you…but Luyando, I never touched a single hair on your body.
“How could you say those things about me? If those people really loved you, you could have told them the truth…that I had neglected you and they would have still helped you. You didn’t have to turn your father into such a demon for you to receive love from them.”
“If I told them that then they would have just given me some money and they would have left!” She yelled. “I wanted to have the kind of life they could offer and there was no way I could get that if I stayed with you. I had to get rid of you the best way I could. I swear if I could, I would have killed you.”
“Yes! I would have killed you. You didn’t care about me so why should I care about you? If you had any sense of shame and guilt, you would walk to the nearest store after this meeting, buy some rat poison and do the world some service for the first time in your life.
“I promise you, if my family finds out about you, I will do to you what I couldn’t bring myself to do twenty years ago. I promise you.”
She then turned her back and walked away from her father, hoping to never see him again.
Luyando’sout-right rejection sent Bernard back into a world he thought he had escaped twenty years ago. It was a cold dark lonely world that held no hope for him. Even though her words were harsh, they were true; he didn’t deserve to be called anyone’sfather.
If you had any sense of shame and guilt, you would walk to the nearest store after this meeting, buy some rat poison and do the world some service for the first time in your life.
The words kept ringing in his head as he drove out of the parking lot.
In the other parking lot, Luyando locked herself inside the car and after making sure all the windows were closed, she gripped the steering wheel and yelled with all her might,
“Aaaaarggggggggggh!” She shouted, hitting her head against the steering wheel over and over again.
“What now?” she asked herself, tears streaming down her face.
Natasha was winding up work in her office when she received a call from her mother.
“Did you meet your father?”
“Yes, around 10, what’s wrong, he isn’t home yet?”
“Yes,” Martha said. “I have been trying to get him on phone but it’sbeen turned off for hours now. Do you think something happened to him? I just have this bad feeling….”
“Mum, mum, calm yourself down.” Natasha knew her mother to be the kind of person that always considered the worst case scenario in every situation. For her, hope was always the last thing to cross her mind….sometimes it never even did.
“I am sure his battery died or something, or maybe he lost his phone. Whatever the case I know there’sa good explanation and he will come tell us when he comes back home. Who knows, maybe he bumped into some old friends and lost track of time.
“Stop worrying and try to keep yourself busy.Is Sean still sleeping?”
“Yes, I mean no, he woke up a few minutes ago.” Nothing her daughter said made any sense to her.
“Areyou knocking off late today as well?”
“No, am actually parking up right now. I’ll be home soon mum, try to relax. Dad will be home soon.”
Even though she had tried to be as brave as possible with her mother, Natasha couldn’t help wondering what could have happened to her father after he left her place of work. He was not the type of man to just disappear and go off the radar without warning.
If indeed his phone had gone off, he would have found whatever means possible to contact his wife or daughter and he would have told them if he was running late. It was very unlike him to go quite like that.
Natasha tried calling his line but it was still off.
“Where the hell are you dad?” She asked herself.
[nextpage title=”episode 3″]
A Twisted Fate – Part 3
Natasha found her mother out on the street outside their home pacing to and from as she waiting for her husband to appear. Natasha quickly parked to the side and ran after her. The first thing she noticed where the tears in her eyes.
“Mum,” she held her tightly in her arms.
“I am scared Tasha,” Martha cried.
“It’s okay mum, it’s okay…I trust that dad is okay. You know how my heart paces when something bad is about to happen? Well, feel it,” she took her mother’s hand and placed it over her heart.
“It’s calm right?” Natasha said.
“What if something happened? What if the past…what if….”
Natasha slowly released her mother from the embrace and instead held both her hands. “Mum,” she said. “Dad won’t ever do that again.”
Martha gave her daughter a puzzled expression.
“I know,” Natasha said. “I know you and dad didn’t want us kids to know about what happened but there was that one time when I was in high school, you thought I wasn’t at home but I had dodged class to attend a concert. I overheard you and dad talking about how you met.”
Martha stood petrified to the core. “How much did you hear?”
“Not much really, I just heard you telling him not to try anything like that ever again. Your actual words where; no matter how bad you feel things are, nothing is worth taking your own life.
“You have me and the kids now, you are not alone any more. You told dad that if the past comes up again, he should talk to you first and no matter how bad things may seem, you would stick by his side.”
“You remember all that?” Martha asked.
“It was the first time I saw dad cry, of course I remember every single word.”
“I remember that day,” Martha said. “You came home that evening and read out a poem you had written for him. It was the first time you read out anything you had written. Before you would spend hours and hours in your room writing but you never allowed us to see what you were writing. You made your dad cry that day….”
The memory itself was enough to bring tears to the two women.
“Look mum!” Natasha pointed in the distance. “There’s dad’s car!”
Martha quickly turned to check. “Oh my God, that’s him baby.” She was shaking in relief. Natasha moved behind her and placed her arms around her from behind.
“I told you, he would be back home.” She said.
“You did,” Martha said, kissing her daughter’s hand.
Bernard went to park right next to his daughter’s vehicle and the two women ran to his side before he could even step out of the vehicle.
“I am so sorry my love,” Bernard said to his wife as he got out of the car.
“What happened?” Martha asked, taking his hand.
Natasha closed the door for him to give the two a chance to hug it out.
“Where were you dad? You got us very worried.”
Bernard moved from his wife to give his daughter a hug as well. “I am so sorry honey, I swear it won’t happen again.”
“I’ll move my car and you can follow. I guess the two of you have some catching up to do.” She turned and walked to car.
“But dad,” Natasha paused before opening her door. “Don’t ever do something like this again, okay?”
“I promise,” Bernard said.
“What happened, Ben?” Martha asked her husband the moment they were in the privacy of their bedroom.
Bernard sat down on the edge of the bed and hung his head down. Martha joined him by his side.
“I met her Martha.”
Instantly, Martha knew who he was referring to. “Where?”
“Outside Tasha’s place of work…she works there too.”
“I know, some strange fate.”
“Who recognized who first? What did she say when she saw you? What did you say to her? How is she? What does she look like? Where has she been? Is she okay? Did she grow up well?” Martha was excited to hear the good news.
Ben had not given up on the search for his daughter despite the many years that had passed. She was relieved that he could finally get some peace of mind now and experience happiness without feeling guilty every time he smiled.
“Everything happened just like I feared honey,” Ben informed his wife.
Suddenly perturbed, Martha gave her husband a questioning look. “She wasn’t happy to see you?”
“Oh no…but don’t look so beat my love,” she took his hand. “We expected something like this to happen didn’t we? It’s not like you parted on good terms. The two of you just need to sit down and talk so you can properly apologize and beg her for forgiveness.”
“I wish it was that easy,” he said. “But she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“That’s because she is still mad honey, the two of you just reconnected. It will take some time before she can start thinking of you kindly. Just be patient with her for now and keep going to her and do your best no matter how bad she treats you.”
Bernard sighed heavily. “Nothing like that will ever happen.” Tears had welled up in his eyes.
“Why do you say that honey?” Martha asked. “You are scaring me now. What did she say to you?”
Bernard fully turned his body around to look at his wife. “Honey,” he said in a very low voice.
“What is it Ben?” she asked.
He took a deep breath before speaking. “Luyando,” he began. “She arh…she….”
“She said some things….” He continued. “Some pretty awful things about me to her new parents.”
“So she was adopted? Wow, that’s even better. We always feared something bad might have happened to her or that she might have been taken by some bad people.”
“Did you even hear what I said?”
“I’m sorry honey,” she said. “I was just so relieved when I heard adopted. What did she tell her parents? It can’t be that bad. Did she tell them about your drinking?”
“She told them more than that.” Ben was looking down now, unable to repeat the words that his daughter had said to him. How was a man to tell his wife that his own daughter had accused him of violence and rape?
What did she say?” Martha probed her husband.
“The worst things baby, she said the worst things. She accused me of doing some terrible things to her.”
“Honey, look at me,” Martha put her hand under his chin and lifted his head up. “What’s going on? What did she accuse you of?”
The tears Ben had desperately been fighting back since he came home came pouring out. Like the typical man he was, he tried to hide his pain but Martha knew him too well. She moved closer and embraced him.
“Whatever it is, you can talk to me about it honey.” She told him.
Martha waited for him to calm down and when he finally did, he looked her in the eye and finally told her.
“Rape!?” Martha was in deep shock. “She accused you of rape?”
“I never did anything like that to her Martha. I would never touch my daughter like that. Please, please…you have to believe me. No matter how drunk I got, such thoughts never even crossed my mind. I promise you Martha….please, say something.”
Ben, Ben,” she put her hand over his lap. “Relax, I wasn’t quite because I doubt you. Rape? You?” she laughed. “I was just shocked that she would accuse you of something like that. Why did she do that?”
Ben looked relieved upon confirming his wife’s trust in him. “She said it was the only way to ensure they adopted her instead of just leaving her some money and sending her back to me. She wanted to have the kind of life they gave their son.”
“Wow,” was all Martha could manage.
“I don’t know what to do Martha. What am I supposed to do in a situation like this?” He got up from the bed. “My own daughter accused me of rape and physically abusing her because she didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore.
“If before I didn’t know just how terrible a father I was, now I am more than convinced that I deserved to die instead of Tasila.”
Martha got up and went to stand in front of him. “Don’t say that honey, not even as a joke. Luyando was in a messed up situation but she had no right to accuse you of those things, no matter how upset or hurt she was.”
“She threatened me, said that if I tried to contact her or her parents, she will spread the news that I am a rapist.”
“But we both know that’s not true.” Martha said.
“It’s my word against hers,” he said. “And who can doubt the word of a ten year old? What will happen to Tasha and Alex if Luyando goes through with her threats? I don’t want my children to live through the stigma of having a rapist for a father. Society is very cruel Martha. No one will care about the truth or even bother to search for it.”
“What if I try to talk to her? Do you think she would agree to meet with me?”
“I doubt it,” Bernard said. “She was so upset by the fact that I have a family now. I was not a good father to her and she most probably dislikes it that I managed to turn my life around after she was gone. She would have preferred it if I died or if I was still languishing in the gutter.”
“Don’t say that Ben. Don’t beat yourself over the things she said or did not say. Let’s just think about it for a while and hopefully we can come up with a plan. Right now she’s angry that you’ve reappeared and she probably thinks your presence might endanger her position and security in this new life of hers. Should we tell Tasha about this?”
Ben looked petrified. “I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “Luyando said not to tell her. I am just worried that this may affect Tasha’s opposition at work. What if Luyando gets her fired? I know she is my daughter and I shouldn’t say this about her but, something in her eyes made the hairs at the back of my neck stand out.
“Her mother’s death didn’t just change me, it changed her too. She had become introvert and rarely spoke unless spoken to. She became haughty, short-tempered and she would easily get into fights with others.
“Perhaps, if I had paid a little more attention to her, she wouldn’t have turned out this way. I let her down at the point in her life when she desperately needed me. If after so many years I haven’t been able to forgive myself, I can only imagine what goes on in her mind when she thinks about me. She hates me…and the sad thing is, she has every right to.”
Martha put her arms around him again. “She might have every right to hate you, but she doesn’t have the right to accuse you of things you never did. Let’s just wait for a while, maybe she will come around.
“I will try and talk to her…tell her that we don’t want to get her away from her new family…that you just want to be closer to her as you try to make amends for the past. You just need to do your best to remind her of the kind of father you were before you got trapped in depression. What do you think?”
Bernard placed his hands on her shoulders and held her away from him so he could look at her properly. “I really don’t want to do anything that would make her life difficult. If she is happy there, then I should be happy for her. I am more than grateful that those people gave her the kind of life that I couldn’t.
“Even now, I couldn’t give her the kind of life she’s used to. I looked into who those people that adopted her are and it made me shake in my boots.”
“Oh dear,” Martha said, the pieces of the puzzle finally falling into place in her mind.
“Yes,” Bernard confirmed. “They are one of the few richest folks in the country…say in Africa at large. Mr Mulenga, her father….inherited his father’s newspaper company and turned it into an empire after partnering up with some very influential people. Now they own the country’s leading media brand. I am nothing but a speck of dust next to such a man.”
“You seem to be missing the point Ben,” Martha reminded him. “Being a good parent doesn’t mean you have to be the richest person in the country or the world. You just need to be there for your kids when they need you, protect them, love them and guide them in life every now and then even when they feel they are ready to take on the world on their own.”
“And I never did any of that for her.” Bernard cried.
“Not always, yeah, but you did your best when you could. So what if you lost your way somewhere along the way? The good thing is that you picked yourself up and you are ready to take responsibility for the mistakes you made in the past. I say you are one hell of a father and I am so proud of you.”
Martha drew his head down towards her and kissed him on the lips. “We’re going to get through this,” she assured him. “I don’t care what Luyando told those people but I have watched you with our kids for twenty years and I have never seen you lay a finger on them.
“You are always the one they run to when they’re in trouble and I don’t think children can do something like that when they don’t feel secure around you. Between us, I am the tough loving one and you are the softie. Anyone who can’t see that can take a dive for all I care.”
“What can I ever do without you my darling?” He kissed her on the forehead and hugged her tightly.
* * *
Luyando was welcomed by the smell of freshly cooked dry beans and vegetables when she entered her parent’s home.
“Mum I’m home!” she shouted as she took off her heels by the door.
Clad in a blue and red apron, Ayanda appeared from the kitchen. “I hope you’re hungry because I’ve cooked up a storm in there.” She said as she walked towards her daughter. “It’s not every day that I have my children over for dinner. Come here,” she stretched her arms and Luyando went in for a hug.
“Oooh, you smell of spices and shampoo.” Luyando commented.
“I washed my hair just before I started cooking,” her mother said. “Come, am not yet done with the gravy.”
Luyando followed her mother into the kitchen. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Everything’s all done, just the gravy but it’ll be done in a minute. Go and set the table. Your father and brother should be here soon.”
“Gosh, I missed your meals mum!” Luyando shouted as she carried some plates to the dining room.
Ayanda laughed. “At least you are here once or twice every week unlike your brother. That boy will only visit when I tell him am sick…and I can be sick only so much in a week.”
Luyando appeared back in the kitchen. “I guess there must be something keeping him busy these days.”
“What’s that?” Her mother asked.
A mysterious smile appeared on Luyando’s face, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “let’s wait, maybe we will find out during dinner.”
Ayanda stopped stirring the gravy and turned to look at her daughter quizzically. “Is there some big announcement he will be making?” Her eyes were dancing excitedly at the thought of her son finally settling down. “Did he meet a girl?”
“Mum we’re home!” Tulani’s voice came through the kitchen from the living room.
“They’re here,” Ayanda said, grinning from ear to ear. She removed the pot from the hot plate, laid it on the side and turned off the stove.
“Put this on a plate and take it to the dining room. Let me go and welcome the boys home.” She grabbed a towel from the rail, quickly rubbed her hands and ran into the living room.
“There’s the light of my life,” Tulani said the moment he saw his mother appear through the door. He rushed to give her a hug while his father watched on the side with a smile on his face.
“I missed this scent, you smell like my son.” Ayanda said.
“And I missed whatever is in the air tonight. What’s cooking mum?”
“Go to the dining room and find out. Your sister is setting up the table.”
“I am just going to sit here with dad until she finishes setting up everything.” Tulani went to join his father on the sofa. “I am too hungry and tired to help her out and knowing her, she might bully me into doing everything.”
“Are you talking about me behind my back Tula?” Luyando was towering over him from behind before moving to greet her father.
“I missed you dad,” she said, leaning her head against him and locking her arm into his.
“Why didn’t you invite your husband over as well?” Her father asked. “I called him to ask if he could bring those tools he told me about last time but he told me he wasn’t aware of any dinner plans here.”
“Oh,” Luyando said, thinking about the response she was going to give. She had not expected that her father would talk to Peter. “I didn’t want to bother him since he’s still working on that research paper.”
“Don’t always exclude him, he might start feeling like he’s not part of the family. Isn’t dinner ready yet?”
“It is,” Luyando said, smiling uncomfortably. “We can head to the dining room now.”
Tulani was the first one up. “I’m famished!” He said, rubbing his flat stomach as he walked to the dining room.
“Luyando said that there was something you wanted to tell us son,” Ayanda said to her son at some point during dinner.
“Me?” Tulani threw his sister a puzzled look. “What is mum talking about? I don’t have anything to announce.”
“Are you sure?” Luyando asked, clearly avoiding his gaze as she focused on the food on her plate.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Tulani asked. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Luyando laughed. “You see, that’s exactly what I thought when I first found out about it.”
“Found out about what?” Ayanda asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
“Why don’t you tell them about the love of your life bro?” She was looking at him now, taunting him with her eyes.
“I knew there was a woman involved!” Ayanda couldn’t hide her excitement. “Who is she son? Do I know her?”
Tulani wasn’t listening to what his mother was saying, he was too busy glaring at Luyando to concentrate on anything else. Did she have to go that far? He thought.
He obviously planned on telling his parents about Natasha but he first needed to get her to agree to date him first before telling his parents about it like some excited teenager.
“Aren’t you going to answer mum’s question Tula?” Luyando asked him.
Tulani put down the ball of nshima in his hands and looked at his mother, suddenly losing his appetite. “What was your question mum?”
“She asked about your girl,” Luyando provided. “Who is she?”
“First of all, she is not yet my girl,” he answered curtly. “And secondly, I will tell you guys about her when the time is right, not when my sister feels like it.”
“So you won’t even tell us her name?” Ayanda asked.
“Yes,” he answered. “Because nothing is definite yet. There’s a time for everything mother. Do you want me to come running here to make announcements every time I meet someone I like even before dating them?”
“Does it make a difference if am the one who tells them instead?” Luyando asked her brother.
While Ayanda was looking at her expectantly, Tulani was giving her an evil eye that threatened to burn the food on her plate.
“Should I tell her bro?”
“Do whatever pleases you Lu,” Tulani said, angrily getting up from the table. “You always do whatever you want in the end right?”
“Don’t you think your own parents deserve to know that they have a four year old grandson?”
Their father, who had been quite throughout finally said, “A grandson?”
“A grandson?” Tulani and Ayanda chorused.
“Don’t give me that look Tula, acting like you don’t know what am talking about. For years you’ve been with that woman, even when she was married and you’ve hidden that life from us, your family.
Any woman capable of cheating on her husband and fathering a child with another man is obviously okay with you not introducing your son to the family. But I knew I had to tell mum and dad about her the moment I learnt the truth.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Tulani asked her. “That child isn’t mine, and Natasha never cheated on anybody. Look at me, why am I even explaining myself to you people?” He pushed his chair back and was ready to bolt out of there when Luyando’s next words stopped him.
“If you are not the father, why did she list you as the father on that boy’s birth certificate?”
Tulani turned back around. “What?”
“That boy’s name is Sean Mulenga, you can stop playing dumb now Tula. She ended her marriage with her husband about five years ago, that was around the time you travelled to the US. Not long after, the two of them divorced and nine months later she delivered a bouncing baby boy that looks exactly like you.”
“You should shut up if you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tulani snapped at his sister. “Natasha divorced her husband about a year ago. She had turned me down to get back with him after they had been separated for over a year. That was the time she and I were together but she later dumped me to start again with him.”
Hearing Tulani’s explanation, Luyando realized in that moment what she had done.
“So he didn’t know?”
“Didn’t know what?” Tulani asked.
Luyando who was in a daze did not realize that she was saying her words out loud. “That that boy is your son? He looks so much like you…how can you not know?”
“That’s because I have never seen the boy before and I have never bothered to ask about him. She never posts anything about him on social media and she never talks about him with me.”
“So you mean to tell me you have a son that you didn’t even know about?” Ayanda asked.
Joshua abruptly stood up. “In the living room, everyone.” He commanded his family and led the way there.
Tulani appeared to be in a trance as he followed them into the living room.
“Sit down Tula,” his father said sternly.
“I gotto go,” Tulani announced in his daze-like state. “I need to find out something for myself.” He grabbed his keys from the sofa and ran out of the house.
“What’s going on here?” Ayanda asked the two remaining in the room.
“That woman is a conniving little vixen who has Tula wrapped around her puny little fingers.” Luyando told her parents. “Can you imagine that despite lying to him, she asked him for a job and he hired her as the lead news anchor at the station?”
“How did my son end up with such a woman? How can she not tell him that he’s the father of the child? What’s her motive?” Ayanda asked.
“Who knows? Such girls always wait for the right opportunity so they can pounce on you and blackmail you into giving them a lot of money.”
“Can we not jump to conclusions?” Joshua cautioned the women. “None of us in this room is in any position to know what’s really going on so let’s avoid making wild speculations. Let’s wait for Tula to sort out his business and he will tell us what’s going on the moment he sets his affairs in order.” And he got up to head upstairs.
“What do you know about the girl Lulu?” Ayanda asked her daughter.
Ayanda was about to open her mouth when she felt her father’s burning look and she looked up to find him glaring at her from the bottom of the stairs.
“Well, aren’t you going to tell me?” her mother probed.
“Mum, I think I should leave now,” she got up, her eyes still fixed on her father’s retreating figure.
“Why? Don’t you think a mother deserves to know if her son might be in danger?” Ayanda was following her daughter behind who was rushing towards the stairs.
“Dad, I’m leaving now!” she shouted to her father who was now at the top of the stairs.
“Yeah, good night.” He said and disappeared into the bedroom without turning to look at her.
“What’s wrong with him?” Ayanda asked. “It seems his terrible moods are back. Could it be mid-life crisis?”
“Isn’t it a little too late for that mother?” Luyando said as she walked back into the living room to get her handbag.
“Are you going to leave just like that Lulu?” Ayanda was still pleading for more information. “I think I am going to die from curiosity if you leave me hanging like this.”
Luyando laughed and leaned towards her mother to whisper, “I will give you a call to meet me at the usual place tomorrow so we can gossip freely.” She was looking upstairs where her father had disappeared.
“Ah,” her mother quickly caught on. “Good idea. I’ll wait for your call tomorrow, don’t keep me waiting.”
“Good night mother,” she hugged her. “I love you, see you tomorrow.”
“I love you too my baby, give those two brats big kisses for me and pass my regards to Peter.”
“I will mother.” She opened the door and left.
Natasha was busy scalping her mother’s hair when a knock came through the door.
“Nooo, I don’t want to move from here, it’s too comfortable.” Martha complained.
“Let me get Sean to check, Sean!”
The boy came running into the living room from his play room. “Heard it! Will get it!” And he ran to the door.
The first thing Tulani noticed when the door opened were the deep brown eyes of the little boy looking up at him. It was as if he was looking at a younger version of himself.
“You must be Sean,” he said.
Natasha quickly turned her head towards the door the moment she heard the familiar voice.
“Tulani?” She jumped from the couch and sent her mother who was seated on the mat falling to the side.
Tulani lowered himself to the boy’s level, completely paying no heed to his mother.
“Are you mum’s friend?” Sean asked the strange man who looked like he was about to cry.
“Did bad people do something bad to you?” the boy asked.
Tulani laughed and blinked back the tears. Clearing his throat, he asked, “No they didn’t. Why do you ask?”
“Because you have tears in your eyes. Mum, come and see!”
“Sean sweetie, come here.” Natasha called out to him. The boy turned and went to his mother. “Go over there to grandma and tell her to get some ice cream for you from the fridge.”
“I can have ice cream?” The excited four year old was jumping up and down as he ran to his grandmother.
“Mrs Chimeko,” Tulani greeted the woman the moment their eyes met.
“Tulani,” she answered, guilt written all over her face. “Let’s give the adults some privacy Sean.” She took Sean’s arm and let him away.
“What are you doing here?” Natasha said, a nervous smile playing on her face.
“Come out, we need to talk.” He said in a very tight tone that sent chills down her spine.
Natasha knew exactly why he had showed up at her door unannounced.
[nextpage title=”episode 4″]
Martha was studying her husband’s reaction surreptitiously, her daughter’s careless words drowning her under a wave of guilt upon seeing the pain in Ben’s eyes.
“I have just remembered,” Martha quickly came to her husband’s rescue. “I almost forgot; your father and I have somewhere to be tomorrow.”
“Mum!” Natasha yelled. “You just said he could come tomorrow.”
“I am not saying that he shouldn’t come….”
“Then what are you saying?”
“He can come tomorrow and meet Sean and he can meet us another time.”
“Are you sure?” Both Bernard and Natasha asked at the same time.
“Yes I’m sure,” she said.
“I don’t know why I never made the connection before Martha.” Bernard and Martha had carried that conversation into the bedroom that night. Sitting hopelessly on their bed, each facing away from the other, they looked like a pair of soulless humans whose spirits had been drained from their ears.
“How were we supposed to know that Sean’s father was the successor of such a billion dollar empire or that he was the brother to Natasha’s sister? What are we going to do honey?” This time, she turned around to face her husband and Ben too turned towards her.
“I caused all this to happen. If I hadn’t been such a terrible father to Luyando, none of these things would be happening.”
“Don’t start with the regrets again Ben.” She put her hand over her husband’s shoulder. “We’ve all made some terrible decisions at some point in our lives but that shouldn’t keep us from living happy lives.
“The idea is to learn from our mistakes, use them to build ourselves up and become better people, and you my husband, you’ve done exactly that. All these things are happening simply because of fate…just life taking its course.”
“Shouldn’t this be considered incest or something?”
Ben’s serious tone when he asked the question made Martha laugh even harder. “Tulani and Luyando…and even Natasha might be siblings of some sort but there’s no blood involved. I know the whole thing is crazy but it’s already happened.”
Ben was giving her a strange look. “I hope you know that you don’t sound like yourself right now…and that freaking me out.”
She laughed again. “I know, I am always the negative one but this time is different. I want to be the pillar of hope for you, and the kids. If we keep focusing on the absurdity of the situation then we won’t be able to move forward.”
“You’re right,” he said. “But still, what are we going to do? Its obvious Natasha loves Tulani and I think he might still be in-love with her too. My worry is, the Mulenga’s might oppose their relationship…and Luyando too.
“Tulani’s relationship with Natasha will inevitably bring out the truth that Luyando is desperately trying to hide. Whichever way this goes, a lot of people are bound to get hurt Martha…and it hurts so much to know that I will be the one at the centre of all the hurting.”
“I didn’t think that far,” Martha said, taking in all the things Ben had said. “What’s going to happen to my poor baby? I haven’t seen her as happy as she’s been in the few weeks since she joined that company.
“I missed that, I missed seeing her laugh so carelessly and look so bright. The past five years were too draining for her…I just want her to be happy.” And she broke down in tears.
“I am so sorry honey,” was all Ben could say, the guilt shredding him to pieces. As he held his wife in his arms, he begun to feel the helplessness of the situation and he started to question himself…his role as a man…as a husband, and as a father.”
* * *
Tulani received a call from his mother the next morning summoning him home. When he entered the house, he found the whole gang sitting in the living room and he could tell right away that his mother and sister were up to no good.
“Good morning,” he greeted them and went to sit down.
“Good morning son,” his father answered. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”
“Its 10am Bashi Tula, what early are you talking about?” his wife said. “Can’t a son visit his mother on a Sunday morning when he’s not working?”
“I am not a fool woman,” Joshua retorted. “I know the two of you are up to something. Didn’t I tell you to stay out of his business? And you Luyando,” he turned to his daughter.
“Don’t you have a family to take care of? How can you be at your mother’s house at this hour? And you were here last night too. Doesn’t that husband of yours have any backbone? Letting his wife out of the wife anyhow she pleases. What are you teaching your daughter Ayanda?”
There was a sudden chill in the room and the silence that followed their father’s outburst froze the room into silence. Luyando had her hands tied on her laps, her lips quivering from the unshed tear threatening to erupt. Ayanda on the other side of her could only gape in disbelief at her husband’s accusations.
Over the years, Luyando had held on to the hope that eventually, her father might come to accept her as his own even though he had only adopted her due to pressure from his wife. It was Ayanda’s obsession for a girl that allowed Luyando to easily secure her position as a member of the Mulenga clan.
However, Luyando had not been deceived for once into believing that Joshua would love her as much as his wife and son did. Even though he gave in to his wife’s wiles every now and then, Joshua was a very resolute man who rarely changed his mind once it was made up. but still, Luyando hoped that over time, he might come to accept the fact that she was legally a member of his family and that she wasn’t going anywhere.
“Why did you ask me to come mum?” Tulani finally broke the silence.
Ayanda first looked at her husband before responding but his focus was fixed on some program on the Discovery channel that seemed to have piqued his interest.
“I heard some very disturbing things about the mother of your child,” she said after sensing the course was clear for take-off. “I am very uncomfortable with letting my grandson be raised by someone like that.”
Tulani was looking at his mother incredulously. “Someone like that?” He asked her. “Just what did Luyando tell you?”
Luyando nervously shifted in her seat.
“I never mentioned Luyando’s name.”
“If that’s the reason you called me here, then am leaving.” He got up.
“Son,” Ayanda got up and went to block his way at the door. “I am telling you this because I care about you. I know that your feelings for her are getting in the way of your good judgement but….”
“You should hear yourself,” Tulani said, shaking his head at his mother’s gullibility. “Your ignorance breaks my heart mother. You shouldn’t believe everything bad you hear about people.”
“Your sister cares too much to let you make the biggest mistake of your life,” his mother said.
“Maybe that’s the problem right there mother, she cares too dame much!” He shot his sister a piercing look. “Haven’t you ever wondered why every woman I ever dated is never good enough in her eyes?”
“Tula!” Luyando got up and went to join them by the door.
Meanwhile, Joshua had not taken his eyes off the TV.
“Yes, I don’t like this girl in particular but I have very valid reasons.” Luyando told her brother.
“Valid reasons?” He asked her. “And what reasons are those? That she was seeing me behind her husband’s back? That she lied to me about my son? Well guess what sis, Natasha never cheated on her husband.
“She was separated from him when we first met after she found out that he had impregnated his mistress.”
“What?” Ayanda asked.
Joshua turned down the volume and slightly turned his head to listen in.
“Yes mother,” Tulani said. “Her husband was a scumbag who cheated on her every chance he got. Their three year old daughter was killed in front of her preschool whilst waiting for her father who was in bed with some skunk to come pick her up. She heard a vehicle coming, let go of her teacher’s hand and ran onto the street, but it wasn’t him. He was too busy s——g his mistress to remember he had a daughter.”
“Watch your language son,” his father cautioned him.
“Dear Lord!” His mother gasped.
“Don’t pass out just yet mother,” Tulani said sarcastically. “You haven’t even heard half of it yet. Hold yourself together.”
“How do you know if that’s the truth?” Luyando asked. “Maybe she just wanted to gain your sympathy and find justification for her actions.”
“I was there,” Tulani said. “I saw her husband in action, a lot of times. Besides, it wasn’t Natasha who told me about the child, it was someone else. Natasha did try to tell me about Sean so many times but I never gave her the chance. She explained everything to me and if you took the time to do better and proper investigations, you would discover that I was the fool who made some wild stupid decisions that made me miss out on four years of my son’s life.
“But guess what, even when she knew I had messed up, she still brought him here so I could meet him. That’s the kind of girl she is. If you had not jumped the gun and yapped your mouth, Natasha would have still told me at the right time. But maybe I should be thanking you for fast forwarding the process and buying me more time to get to know my son because, who knows what I would have said or done during this period to ruin my chances of ever meeting him?”
“Son,” His mother reached out and tried to hold his hand.
“I don’t want to hear it mother,” he said sternly. “I hope this is the last time the two of you will be interfering in my affairs. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure the three of us become a real family and I will not have mercy on anyone that tries to get in my way.”
He was looking at his sister as he said those words before storming out of the house.
Joshua got up from the couch and turned to look at the two women cowering by the door. His hands in his pockets and his legs spread apart, he said, “It would be nice if you cared about your husband’s affairs as much as you care about your brothers.” And he left the room.
Neither Ayanda nor Luyando said anything in return; each was lost in her own thoughts.
Bernard Chimeko was in the middle of polishing a piece of furniture for his grandson’s playroom when his phone rang.
“Hello,” he said.
“I am going to text you an address; meet me there in ten minutes.”
“Who’s this?” Bernard asked.
“Luyando.” She said and cut the line.
Bernard remained staring at the phone for minutes before shaking off the trepidation and running to his car. On the way, he sent a message to his wife who was next door chatting with one of her new friends.
Going to store, will be back shortly honey. The message read.
“I want you to convince your daughter to leave Tulani alone.” It was the first thing Luyando said to her father when he joined her at the small restaurant not far from home.
For a moment, Bernard had been excited by the thought that she had reached out to him first but his hopes were immediately crushed the moment she opened her mouth.
“You said you wanted to make things right between us,” she interrupted him. “I am giving you a chance. Do this for me and I will agree to meet with you as father and daughter at least once every month…and as a bonus, I can let you meet your granddaughters as well. I have twins.”
Bernard knew he was stuck between a rock and a hard place the moment he learnt exactly who Tulani was but hearing his own daughter talk like that, he knew that there was no hope for him as a human on this earth.
“Are you asking me to break my daughter’s heart and keep my grandson from being raised by both his parents? How can you ask me to do such a cruel thing?”
“Cruel?” Luyando said. “You think that’s cruel? Then what do you call a father who neglects his own daughter by drowning himself in alcohol every single day and every single hour and yet he has the guts to move on with his life as if nothing ever?
“You lost your ten year old daughter and yet you are living happily with your new family like I never even existed. Did you even bother to look for me or where you too happy to worry about some child who didn’t even matter to you since the woman who birthed her is no longer there?”
Bernard shut his eyes, her words piercing his already broken heart into tiny pieces.
“If you loved mum as much as you claimed you did, you wouldn’t have done those things you did.”
“I loved you both,” Bernard said.
“I find that hard to believe.” She said. “Because if you did, you wouldn’t think me asking you to do this for me is cruel. Besides, Natasha is not even your real daughter, I am! I am giving you a chance to act like a father to me, for once. Don’t turn your back on me, dad.”
Bernard opened his eyes and looked at her, unable to believe that she had just called him dad. Luyando was smiling at him, busking in the results of her charming act.
Sighing heavily, Bernard dropped his head in resignation and said, “I am sorry Lulu, I can’t do that.”
Her father’s firm refusal caught her by surprise. Had she misread the desperation she had seen in his eyes that first time they met at the car park? “What do you mean you can’t do it? I am giving you the chance you begged me for! Don’t you want to be my father again?”
“Of course I would love that,” he said. “I have waited for an opportunity to do something for you that would show how sorry I am but…but this is not it Luyando. I love Natasha as much as I love you. The both of you are my daughters and I would never hurt one to please the other. I am sorry.”
“You coward!” Luyando finally snapped, leaving no trace of the charming smile she had been wearing a few seconds ago.
“You are still as much a coward as you were twenty years ago. You were not the first man to lose his wife and yet you allowed something as little as grief to take over your life. Like a pathetic fool you cried yourself to sleep every single night.
“I thought that maybe time might have turned you into a man but I guess I was wrong. You are still that old pathetic loser. I bet mum turns in her grave every time her spirit bumps into you. Does your new wife know how much of a coward you are?”
An image of Martha dragging him out of the river when he attempted to take his own life twenty years ago crossed Bernard’s mind and made him shudder in shame.
His daughter’s words were as cutting as the look of disappointment in her eyes but all he could say in response was; “I am very sorry my daughter…I am sorry.”
“I guess I was mistaken,” Luyando said in a very low and controlled voice. “I thought you were sorry to me and would be willing to do anything possible to make things right between us. I was wrong. You never cared about me back then and you still don’t.”
“Please, don’t say that Luyando.” Bernard pleaded.
“Back then it was mum that was more important and now it’s this new family of yours that’s more important than me.” She started to cry. “When will I ever have your heart dad? How come I’ve never been your first? Am I even your real daughter?”
“Of course you are my daughter.” Bernard said, reaching across the table to hold her hands. She easily allowed him to touch her without fighting him off. “Just because I made a mistake in the past doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
“Then prove it to me,” Luyando said. “For once in your life show me that I can also be number one in your heart.”
Bernard said nothing.
“Why are you quite?” she asked, withdrawing her hands.
Bernard removed his hands from the table and dropped them to his laps. “I don’t want to lie to you Luyando. It’s a fact that I want to earn your trust and love again…but, at this point in my life, my loyalty doesn’t just belong to you.”
Luyando bolted up from her chair. “Then I guess you leave me no choice.” She told him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bernard asked.
“I am going to tell everyone that I bumped into you and you threatened to kill me if I told anyone that you are back in town.”
“There’s a group of people at home who believe that you used to abuse me, how can they not? They saw the evidence with their own eyes. You probably saw the blood marks I left in the tent, I had cut myself up, hit myself against some wall and rubbed my face with dirt.
“I was a mess when I ran to the Mulenga’s crying for help. For three years I had nightmares of you sexually abusing me so I had to sleep with Ayanda till I was normal again. My mother will never forget my cries in the middle of the night begging you to leave me alone.”
Bernard somehow found himself on his feet too, glaring at his daughter in total disbelief.
“If I even as so much as point them in your direction, can you imagine what they might do to you? Let’s not even talk about the police. In this country, anyone with money can tune the law to their favour.
“I was only ten when I planted evidence against you; imagine what I am capable of in my 30’s. I am going to give you a week to think about my offer. If you are not decided by then, do not blame me for what happens, at least I gave you a chance to make things right.”
“Why are you doing this?” Bernard asked.
“Because I can,” his daughter answered smugly.
Luyando grabbed her handbag from the arm of the chair and walked out of the restaurant, a triumphant smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
[nextpage title=”episode 5″]
Martha had been watching her husband’s strange behaviour all through dinner. She could tell that some
thing was bothering him and she suspected that whatever it was had something to do with his trip to the mall earlier that day.
“Why aren’t you eating dad?” It appeared Bernard’s sour mood could not escape his daughter either.
Bernard finally gave up pretending to eat and laid his folk down. “I’m sorry, am just not feeling too well.” He then got up and went upstairs. Martha followed him up a few minutes later.
She found him lying on the bed, face up and with eyes closed.
“When are you going to tell me what’s bothering you my husband?” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “What did your daughter say to you?”
Bernard slowly opened his eyes and looked at his wife. “How did you know?”
“Because she is the only person in the world that has this kind of effect on you.”
He sat up. “Martha,” he said.
She said nothing in return, just kept looking at him hoping he would tell her right away.
“I think my daughter is in-love with her brother.”
Martha’s jaw dropped to the ground.
“I think Luyando likes Tulani.” Ben repeated.
Martha still had the same befuddled expression on her face, her lips could not move. Ben was watching her, waiting for her to say something.
“Did she tell you that?” Martha finally managed to separate her Siamese lips.
Ben shook his head. “Not directly, but her actions are suggesting the fact loud enough for a father to know.”
“Maybe you just misunderstood her,” Martha said, willing to consider anything else but. “Maybe she’s just scared that Natasha coming into their lives might expose the lies she told her family.”
“No honey,” Ben insisted. “I might not have raised her, but she’s still my daughter. I know what I’m talking about.”
Martha was back on mute, her mind going over the kind of complications that might arise if something like that came to light. What was going to happen to her daughter? How did that child find herself in such a tangled mess?
“She asked me to convince Natasha to leave Tulani.”
“What?” Martha was looking at her husband like he had already delivered on the betrayal.
“She said that she will tell her family and the police that I threatened to do her harm if she told anyone that I was back in the county.”
“What?” That was the only word at the tip of her tongue.
Ben closed his eyes and tried to hold his breath in an effort to fight back the tears threatening to erupt. He had held it in the whole day but the idea that his own daughter would hate and resent him to such an extent was too strong for him to keep holding it together.
Martha saw the quivering lips of her husband, knowing too well the demons he was fighting. Her decision to move closer and put her arms around him was like the last straw that needed pulling to drive Ben over the wall.
He finally broke down. “What did I turn my daughter into?” He cried.
Gently running her hand through his hair, the determined look in Martha’s eyes suggested she had come to a decision.
Lunch at Tulani Media House was equivalent to a feast at a five star hotel; it was the richest menu Natasha had ever seen at a place of work. If a healthy and delicious lunch menu was part of the motivational package of the company’s HR strategy, then the media company was operating at an all-time high.
Natasha’s head was buried in a plate of delicious pasta when she thought she heard her son’s voice. She paused for a second, pulled her hair behind her ears so she could hear properly and when nothing came, she went back to finishing the business on her plate.
Her three colleagues-turned-friends sitting with her on the table had stopped eating and were all looking at her with bemusement. When she finally cleared her plate, she heaved a sigh of relief, pulled the plate to the side and finally raised her head up.
“I really hate skinny people,” the slightly plump Astridah remarked, shaking her head and looking at Natasha’s empty plate with indignation. “How can you eat so much and still stay that thin? It’s so unfair. Ine I put on weight just from smelling delicious food.”
Natasha, Nicole and Boyd broke out in laughter.
“Every beautiful woman has some deadly flaw hidden somewhere…I think we just uncovered this lady’s flaw today my dear colleagues.” The twenty-six year old Boyd teased his new supervisor.
Natasha finished cleaning her hands and mouth and laid the napkin back on the table before giving each of the three a questioning look. “If you think you’ve just discovered my flaw, wait till you see me naked.” She said in a deliberately stern low key that caused the two other girls to laugh and Boyd to ask;
“Is that an invitation?”
Natasha gave him a blank look.
Boyd laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“Your taste in women is too ambitious Boyd,” Astridah said.
“That’s only because you are the only one in this place outside the bracket of women I would love to date,” Boyd fired back.
“Ouch!” Nicole said.
Astridah dipped the tip of her fingers in her glass of water and sprayed it in Boyd’s face. “You are such an arsehole Boyd,” she said. “And just so you know, you are also not my type.”
“Oooh,” Boyd playfully placed his hand over his heart. “I’m touched.”
“I like my men strong and healthy. A skinny little fella like you would be crying for his mama if handled by a woman like me. Heeeeeee maaaami musana ine nafa. ” She was taunting her colleague by making more crying sounds.
Natasha and Nicole busted out laughing while Boyd nursed his bruised ego, genuinely appearing offended by Astridah’s taunting remarks.
“I actually think that the two of you like each other,” Nicole commented.
“Hell no!” the two of them answered at once.
Natasha and Nicole shared knowing looks and started laughing again.
Natasha heard it again, but this time her son’s voice sounded closer than before…like he was right behind her. She slowly turned her head to look and behold, there was Sean in Tulani’s arms right behind her.
“Mum?” Boyd asked.
The whole cafeteria had fallen into silence, with only the sound of soft music playing in the background.
“Sean!” Natasha jumped from her chair. She sent Tulani who was grinning widely at her an admonishing look. “What are you doing here…with him?” she added in a whisper.
“I didn’t get to spend enough time with him yesterday so I thought; why not steal him for a bit over lunch?” Tulani spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear. Natasha immediately regretted having asked the question.
“Mum, dad said we could have lunch together!” The four year old shouted, oblivious to everything happening around him.
“Dad?” Boyd and Astridah asked at the same time.
Luyando picked that very moment to appear at the door of the cafeteria.
Spotting Luyando by the door, Natasha took Sean from Tulani’s arms and started walking towards the door.
Instead of following the two right away, beaming, Tulani leaned in towards the table where the three were seated and said, “yes, that’s my boy!” And he ran after Natasha and Sean, leaving the rest of the room behind drowning in shock.
At the door, Natasha had to stop to give Luyando who was standing right at the centre a chance to step away so she could pass through. But it appeared the CFO had no plans of shifting camp.
“Sis,” Tulani said once he caught up with them. “I was going to bring him over to your office but the little gangster insisted on seeing his mother first. Meet my son, Sean Mapalo Mulenga. Son, this is your Aunt. Say his Aunty Luyando….”
“Hi Aunt Yado,” the boy said.
Tulani was laughing so hard his sides started to hurt. “You gotto love the American accent,” he said whilst clutching his stomach with one hand and pointing the other at his son up in his mother’s arms.
He was the only one having a jolly good time…at the expense of the two women glaring at him indignantly.
“Aren’t you going to answer your nephew sis?” Tulani had suddenly sobered up and was standing up straight and giving his sister a daring look.
Luyando searched every inch of her anatomy and finally managed to conjure up a smile. Patting the four year old on the head she said, “Hi Sean. It’s finally nice to meet you.”
Sean smiled back at his aunt, only able to see what was happening with her lips and not with her eyes.
Luyando’s fiery gaze could light up a whole village.
“We need to pass,” Natasha finally spoke.
Luyando gave her nemesis a look of indignation before stepping aside.
Once in the lift, Natasha put Sean down on his feet and pressed for the lobby.
“Tasha….” Tulani tried to talk to her. He could feel her anger filling up the tiny little space and suffocating him to death.
Natasha held out her hand to shush him. “Don’t even try,” she warned him.
Tulani shut his mouth.
He had been punched and kicked twice by her before. It was not an experience he needed repeating. He was a very fast learner.
When they finally reached their destination, Natasha grabbed Sean’s hand and bolted out of the lift without saying a word to Tulani.
“Where are you going?” Tulani ran after them and grabbed Natasha’s hand to stop her from moving.
They stopped before the security check-point.
“I am taking him back home,” she said lividly. “What were you thinking bringing him here? This is a place of work!”
Apart from the two security guards waiting to get the door for them and the receptionist standing behind her desk and watching them like a scene on a Telemundo soapie, there were only two other people seated by the lounge who appeared oblivious to the drama unfolding on the other side.
“Tasha calm down, look, I’m sorry I brought him over without talking to you first but c’mon, he’s my son too. I only met him yesterday and spent just six hours with him. You had the last four years, can’t you just let me off the hook this once?”
“Are you mad at me mummy?” Sean looked about ready to cry with his big brown eyes looking up at his mother apologetically.
Natasha got down and wrapped him in a hug. “Oh no my baby, I am sorry I shouted but am not mad. I love that you came to see me.”
“You do?” Sean asked.
Natasha nodded. “I do,” she kissed him on both cheeks to reassure him.
Tulani was looking at her like he had just discovered the secret to calming down Armageddon’s wrath.
“How can I be mad at the love of my life?” Natasha asked her son.
“So can I take him back home?” Tulani asked. “I am after all the one that brought him here. You are making your Zambian debut on air tonight with the evening news right?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that for a minute.” Natasha said.
“I was too upset to think rationally. Let’s continue this conversation after work. I need to go back up now.” And bending down to address Sean, “dad will take you home now honey okay?”
“Aren’t we going to eat lunch together?” Sean was looking from mother to father and back.
Natasha threw Tulani a look that said,
this is what happens when you do random things. “I didn’t know you were coming sweetie so I already eat.”
“How about you and me grabbing some burgers before going home son?” Tulani suggested.
Sean had won the lotto in his father.
Feeling triumphant, Tulani took his sons hand and led him away. “Will be back before you go on air,” he told Natasha.
“Have fun with your father honey but don’t eat too much junk.”
Natasha had just stepped out of the elevator and was about to head to her office when Luyando stepped in front of her.
“Anything I can help you with, ma’am?” She was as sarcastic in her delivery as could be.
“I guess you are on cloud nine celebrating your little victory in there,” she pointed towards the cafeteria. “How does it feel to have everyone know that you have the son to the heir of this empire?”
Natasha laughed. “It’s a feeling you will never get to experience I guess.”
Luyando pursed her lips in derision. “You think you’ve won the lotto don’t you? Let’s see how long your victory is going to last.” And she started to walk away.
“What exactly do you get from chasing away the women in your brother’s life?”
Luyando stopped, but didn’t turn.
“You want him to remain single for the rest of his life just to satisfy your sick desires even though you are married yourself…even if it’s unhapppily. Don’t you think that’s being selfish? Can’t you see how miserable and unhappy you are making him?”
“What are you, Tulani’s spokesperson?” Luyando retorted, turning to face her. “You suddenly think you are a huge part of his life just because your womb landed a big one, don’t you?” She crossed her hands over her chest.
“Well, let me tell you this, no one knows or understands Tula better than me. I have been with him for over twenty years.”
“Yes, as his sister,” Natasha rudely reminded her. “Unless you are planning on making love to him via Bluetooth, I don’t see the two of you working out.” She then shrugged her shoulders and walked away, leaving Luyando reeling in fury behind.
Just as she had feared, Natasha was the centre of attention when she walked into the pool office of her department on her way to her own office. The looks on everyone’s faces told her everything on their minds and she knew from that point on that they would all be looking at her like that for a very long time.
Just one minute in her office and Astridah came pouring in. “Why didn’t you tell us!?”
Why wasn’t she surprised that it was Astridah that came first?
“Tell you what?” Natasha asked, desperately avoiding her colleague’s gossiping antenna.
“That you are the CEO’s secret girlfriend!” Astridah was excited at the prospect of collecting content for her gossip channel. “And…and you have his child! OMG.”
“This is a place of work Astridah,” Natasha cautioned her big eared friend. “I have no reason to talk about my personal life here…and obviously Tu…I mean, Mr Mulenga had no business bringing my…our son here. You should go back to your desk now. I think there’s a pile of scripts there waiting to be edited.”
“Ah, oh yeah,” Astridah said, looking disappointed but Natasha’s commanding tone was enough to send her out of the room immediately.
Unfortunately for Natasha, Astridah was not the only one that day trying to get a scoop into the story of Tulani and Natasha. Different people that had no business being in her office kept coming and going from her room.
At one point during the day, Chef Michael who never left the kitchen came to her office to find out if she had enjoyed her lunch. Even people that had not spoken to her since she joined the company were now acting like they had been the best of buddies.
Tulani made matters worse for Natasha who desperately wanted to keep her private life private when he walked into the news room just as she was concluding and shouted,
“That’s my girl!” the moment she was off the screen.
Natasha sent him her signature disapproving look and immediately after thanking the crew, she walked passed Tulani and headed straight to her office.
He was right behind her.
“Did I do something wrong again?” He asked once they were in her office.
“Do you forget sometimes that you are the boss here?” She asked him.
“What’s that got to do with anything? Are you trying to tell me that I am not allowed to celebrate when the mother of my child has done a good job?”
“You see, that’s the problem right there; here at TMH I am not the mother of your child, I am your employee.”
“Tasha,” Tulani sat down. “Why don’t you just be honest with me….”
“Why really are you doing this?” He asked.
“Rejecting me, every single turn you just keep rejecting me.” Tulani was stressing every word in the sentence as if to emphasize every single pain in his chest. “Nothing I’ve tried to do is good enough. It’s like you’ve already written me off in your heart.”
“Tulani….” Natasha searched for the right words to say in such a situation but couldn’t find any.
Tulani waited for her to finish but when nothing came, he got up. “Just forget it,” he said and walked out of her office.
Alone, Natasha sunk back into her chair, shutting her eyes and rubbing her fingers over them.
Luyando was in her office pacing to and from whilst on the phone and looking like she was about to explode from whatever the person on the other end of the line was telling her.
“Well, tell him to call me when he’s done with his rounds!” She yelled and cut the line. A few seconds later, her cell rang again.
She answered without even looking at the caller id. “Peter!” She yelled.
“It’s me Lulu.”
“Mum, I’m sorry, I thought you were….”
“Peter?” Ayanda laughed. “Too bad love, it’s only…your mother. What’s wrong? Did you fight with your husband?”
“He hasn’t been home in three days and he hasn’t even bothered to call, not even once. He’s never done this before..” Luyando complained.
“Maybe he’s taken on extra shifts. Doesn’t he work part time at that new hospital as well? Have you tried contacting any of his colleagues?”
“I called the secretary at that other private hospital he works but she told me he hasn’t been there this whole week.”
“What about his colleagues from UTH? Don’t you know any of his friends?” Her mother asked.
“I know some of them…well. I’ve met a couple of them before but I don’t remember their names.”
“That’s the problem with you Lulu, you don’t take a lot of interest in your husband. I’ve told you numerous times to take an interest before you are shocked to find out things that should have been obvious.”
Luyando laughed. “Shocking things?” She asked. “Like what mother? Peter doesn’t have the guts or the time to cheat on me. I am the best thing that’s ever happened to him and he would be a fool to risk that. I am special; I am your daughter after all.”
Ayanda chuckled. “Indeed you are, but just do what I am telling you from now on; take an interest in your husband. He is such a generous and humble soul. There are not many men like that these days.”
“I am going to give him a piece of my mind when he comes back on the radar.”
“That temper of yours,” her mother cautioned her. “But doesn’t he tell you when he’s working nights or extra shifts?
“He usually does but he didn’t tell me this time that’s why am worried.”
“Did you fight the last time you saw each other?”
Luyando didn’t answer, her mind going back to that night when he yelled at her for spending all her free time at her parent’s house.
“Luyando?” Ayanda called her out of her reverie.
“I’m here mum. We had a slight misunderstanding but that’s because he wanted me to apologize for something ridiculous. Sometimes he’s such a cry baby that one.”
“Did you apologize?” her mother asked.
Luyando laughed. “Apologize for what? I never did anything wrong! He was just overreacting. He always takes out his stress on me.”
“Luyando,” Her mother chastised her.
“Why did you call mum?” She quickly changed the topic, sensing that her mother was about to venture into nagging territory.
“Oh yeah, I got carried away when I heard you talk about your husband. Actually,” Ayanda lowered her voice. “I called because there’s a lady here who said she wanted to talk to me and your dad about you.”
Luyando stopped pacing. “What did you say?”
“I said,” she was still whispering. “There is a lady in the living room; she’s waiting for your dad to come back home. He went to that PFP party meeting. They will be choosing a successor tomorrow since ….”
“Mum, mum stop blabbering about that dame party! Who is the lady in the living room?”
“She said her name is Martha.”
“Martha who?” Luyando tried to recall her step mother’s name but nothing came to mind. She had not been interested in knowing who her father was worried to.
“She didn’t say.” Her mother said. “But she seems very nice, very soft-spoken.”
“I’m coming home right now mum.” Luyando said.
“I didn’t call you so you could come home.” Ayanda said.
“I know mum, but I still want to hear whatever it is she has to say about me.” She cut the line before her mother could say anything else, grabbed her handbag and bolted out of the office.
Even though she could not remember her father’s new wife, she suspected that it could only be her who had visited her parents.
“I am going to kill that old man!” Luyando kept hitting her steering wheel over and over again in frustration.
“How dare he send his dame wife to fight his battle? Wait until this is over…I am going to get you for this Bernard Chimeko. You just wait.”
Luyando entered her parent’s house and found the three adults siting in the living room.
“Who are you?” Luyando addressed Martha.
“What kind of manners are these? Sit down young lady!” Her father shouted.
Her body, shuddering from both fury and fear, Luyando went to sit next to her mother.
“Did you tell her to come?” Joshua asked his wife. But Ayanda did not respond. It was clear from his tone that he already knew the answer and he was not pleased.
“You must be Luyando.” Martha was smiling at her husband’s daughter, unable to imagine that a beautiful girl like her would have so much hate towards her own father to threaten im in the manner she was doing. “I was just about to introduce myself to your parents.”
“What do you want?” Luyando asked.
“Lulu!” it was her mother’s turn to put her in line.
Martha chuckled nervously. “I think your daughter already knows who I am. That’s why she’s very nervous.”
Both Joshua and Ayanda turned to give their daughter.
“You know who this woman is?” Her father asked.
Luyando was shaking her head emphatically. “Of course I don’t know her. Why would I know her?”
“Ms…what did you say your name was again?” Joshua turned back to Martha.
“Martha, or you can just call me Mrs Chimeko. I am the wife of Bernard Chimeko…who also happens to be your daughter’s biological father.”
Ayanda’s jaw dropped.
Luyando was gripping her mother’s hand and holding on to it as if for dear life. “He actually did it,” she said, shaking and crying in fear.
“Lulu,” Ayanda turned to her daughter, wiping the tears away with her hand. “What’s wrong honey? What do you mean he actually did it?” And then turning back to Martha, “Look, I don’t think you coming here unannounced is such a good idea. Do you have any idea what your husband did to his daughter? Just look at her.” And turning to her husband, “Honey, are you going to let this lady continue sitting there?”
“He…he…he told me that he…that he was…going to…punish me for…for telling on him.” Luyando said in-between sobs.
“What?” Ayanda asked, sending a warning shot in Martha’s direction.
However, Martha appeared to be unfazed by the female Judas performing in their midst.
And so did Joshua.
“He told me that…that he would take me away from this family…that I didn’t deserve to be happy. He sent her here to take me away. I don’t want to go back to him mum.” Luyando cried, hiding her face into her mother’s bosom.
“Why are you here Mrs Chimeko?” Joshua asked the visitor.
“I came here for two reasons,” Martha confidently replied. “To clear my husband’s name and to ask your daughter…who also happens to be my daughter as well…I came to ask her to stop threatening my husband. Bernard has absolutely no intentions of taking you away from this family.”
“If your husband is innocent, why didn’t he come himself? I think he is a coward for sending his wife instead.” Joshua said.
“I never said my husband sent me here,” Martha candidly informed the three. “He doesn’t even know I’m here. I came because I know he would never come, because that’s what Luyando asked him to do.”
“What are you accusing my daughter of?” Ayanda asked.
“I am not accusing her of anything. I am here to give her a chance to let go of the hate so she can live a peaceful life. If even after what I tell you today you still feel like taking my husband to the police, I will not stop you.
“Bernard is not afraid of anything. If he really is guilty of the things your daughter accused him of doing, I will see to it myself that he’s locked up. But you see, the truth of the matter is that Luyando was never raped. The only sin my husband committed against her was neglecting her at the time when she needed him the most.”
“What do you know?” Luyando snapped at her step-mother. “You were not there! You don’t know anything!”
“Don’t you think it’s time you told your family the truth Luyando?” Martha asked her.
“We’ve been through all this before,” Ayanda said. “Why would you want to put her through such a terrible ordeal again? Don’t you have kids? Don’t you have a heart? Can’t you see what this is doing to her?”
“As a matter of fact, I am here because I am a mother.” Martha answered. “I am here because somehow, thanks to Luyando, this whole situation has affected my own daughter’s life. Has she told you that she and my daughter…who isn’t Bernard’s biology daughter by the way…has your daughter told you that they work together, and that she is the mother of your grandson?”
Joshua and Ayanda gaped at her.
“My daughter Natasha is the mother of Sean. Tulani is the father.”
Ayanda couldn’t believe her ears. “No, it can’t be,” she kept repeating.
“Apart from Luyando here, none of the others are aware of this ridiculous entanglement.”
“Did you just say ridiculous entanglement?” Ayanda asked. “Your husband raped his own daughter. That’s not ridiculous, it’s a sin!”
“I understand why you would believe that,” Martha said. “I also understand that there is no way of proving my husband’s innocence to you, however,”
“There is a way.” Joshua interjected, three pairs of eyes were on him.
“There is a way?” Martha asked, looking extremely curious.
“Joshua!” Ayanda couldn’t believe her husband.
“I heard it from Luyando herself,” Joshua informed the women.
“What are you talking about dad?” Luyando asked her father. She had never spoken to him about the past. She mostly spoke to her mother and to Tulani.
“I kept quiet all these years because I wanted peace in my home.” Joshua said. “Your diary,” he was addressing his daughter. “You remember the diary that you lost?”
Luyando was visibly horrified. That diary. She had wondered when it was going to appear and bite her in the ass. It appeared the time had finally come. Why had she written in that dame thing?
“Are you talking about the diary that Dr Lucas gave her?” His wife asked. “The one that was lost during our move from Kitwe to Lusaka?”
“Yes that same one,” he answered.
“We looked for it everywhere,” Ayanda said. “There were Lulu’s private thoughts in there. The doctor had asked her to write down all her thoughts as a form of healing that’s why we were so worried someone might have picked it up and read everything. Did you find that diary honey?”
“It was never lost,” Joshua said nonchalantly.
Luyando finally sat up straight. “What do you mean it was never lost?”
“I was carrying your stuff from your bedroom at our old home to take to the truck when the diary dropped.” He informed his daughter. “I was going to close it right away but something on that opened page caught my eye.”
“You read my diary?” Luyando was up on her feet. “Those were my private thoughts, how could you?”
“Luyando don’t talk to your father like that. Sit down.” Her mother instructed.
“I can’t sit here and listen to this anymore.” She picked up her handbag. “I always knew you never liked me,” she told her father. “But how could you do this to me?” she started walking towards the door but her mother ran after her and stopped her.
“Don’t leave like this honey, your father is only upset….” Ayanda tried to reason with her daughter.
“Just look at all you looking at me like am some kind of criminal. If the man that gave me life rejected me, what can I expect from you people?” She pushed her mother’s hand away and stormed out of the house.
Ayanda tried to go after her but her husband menacingly yelled at her to stop. “Come and sit down!” he said, and she did as she was told.
“What will happen if she tries to take her own life? She tried it so many times before. Why are you suddenly doing this Bashi Tula?” Ayanda cried to her husband. “I know she is not your blood but she is our daughter. Would you be doing this if she was your own blood?”
“Don’t raise your voice at me Ayanda,” Joshua thundered. “The only reason that child came into this family was because I felt guilty…. Guilty that I was not around when you suffered a miscarriage and ended up losing your womb. Allowing that girl into the family was the least I could do to show you that I was sorry.”
“But you never even tried to love her, not even once!” his wife accused.
“How can I love her when I knew she was lying? If she could accuse her own father of harming her in the way she said he did, what do you think she would have said about me…or about Tula if something happened to her whilst under our care? That girl is no ordinary girl. She is dangerous.”
“Just what did you read in that diary that’s making you talk like this?” Ayanda asked.
All the while, Martha was seated quietly, listening to their conversation and saying nothing as if she was not even there.
“She wrote everything in that book,” Joshua said. “How she approached us, those cuts and wounds on her body. She did all that to herself.”
“Nooo….” Ayanda cried.
“I still have the diary in my safe. You can read it from page to page if you don’t believe. Her father was a drunk quite alright but he never touched her. All those things were lies to gain sympathy from us. It was the only way she knew to get away from the life of poverty her father was subjecting to, no offence to you madam of course.”
Martha laughed. “The truth is the truth,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” Ayanda asked her husband.
“You were so into the girl the moment you laid eyes on her. I knew the truth would break your heart.”
“Oh my God how can this be happening?”
“I think I should leave and come back some other time.” Martha reminded them of her presence.
“I think that’s a very good idea Mrs Chimeko. Apologies for the way things turned out. If you don’t mind leaving me your husband’s contact information, I would love to have a man to man conversation with him.”
“Are you planning on giving Luyando back to him?” Ayanda asked, crying at the prospect of losing the child she had come to regard as her own for the past twenty years.
“I never said anything like that,” Joshua said sternly. “It is just proper that he and I meet.”
“I agree,” Martha said.
Martha was driving back home thirty minutes later when she received a call from her husband.
“I am on the road heading home Ben. I can’t talk right now.”
“Wherever you are turn around and start coming to Thurston Hospital. I just received a call from someone informing me that Luyando is undergoing surgery.”
“What?” the first thought that crossed Martha’s mind were the last words that Luyando said to them before storming out of the house.
“I am almost at the hospital, you will find me there.” A very frantic Bernard said. Martha had never heard such desperation in his voice before.
“Did they tell you what happened?”
“Accident,” Ben said. “The man who called me said that she tried to commit suicide.”
Martha’s heart dropped. Did I do that ? She thought. Did my visit push her to try and kill herself? She quickly made a U-turn and started driving towards the hospital.
“I am on my way there,” she said.
Ben cut the line.
Thirty minutes later, Martha spotted her husband standing in the hospital lobby reading a note in his hands. She did not see Mr and Mrs Mulenga seated on a bench on the other side of the room.
“Ben,” she called out to him before she could even reach where he was.
Ben slowly lifted his eyes from the piece of paper and looked at his wife in a way he had never done before.
“What have you done?” Martha heard him ask.
“What is it Ben?” she had reached where he was.
Ben handed her the suicide note written by his daughter.
Martha was crying and shaking her head in disbelief as she read the contents of the note
[nextpage title=”episode 6″]
Martha felt the world around her spin as she read the heart wrenching words that her husband’s daughter had intended to leave as her last thoughts.
I am sorry to write such a letter to you.
I am tired of feeling like no one truly loves me in this world and this is the only thing I thought would give me the peace I need.
Your wife Martha made it clear that the family you’ve created with her is more important to you and that I have no more room in your heart after all the things I’ve done. I am sorry that I accused you of all those things I told the Mulengas dad. But still, how could you not just think of it as actions of a little girl in desperate need of love and attention?
Why did you have to let me down for the second time?
Because of what your wife told my parents, I am no longer welcome in the family I have considered as my own all these years when I had no one else. I love my mother and I respect dad even though he does not trust me. After everything’s said and done, the fact still remains that they are still my family…even if they’ve rejected me.
Please tell them that I am sorry for everything I put them through.
And Tulani that I loved him to my last breath.
I am sorry that I could not get along with your wife…. Maybe we would have gotten along in time but…I am feeling like this right now because of the things she said to me…so how can I forgive her?
She has already taken you away from me, why did she have to take away the Mulenga’s as well? I didn’t mean all those things I said to you, I just wanted to see if you still cared about me even if you have a whole new family.
How can I continue living in this world like this? I am tired. I want to go to the only place I know I will be welcomed. I know that my mother is waiting for me with open arms. She is the only one in this world who ever loved me for who I am.
So dad, if there is any part of you that still thinks of me as your daughter, then please, take care of my children for me and tell them that I am sorry…and that I love them.
I love you dad…and I am sorry.
Unable to take the shock anymore, Martha sat down on the bench in front of her and looked up at her husband.
“You don’t honestly believe I did the things she’s accusing me of do you?”
“I don’t know what to believe any more,” Ben said, clearly avoiding her gaze.
“I see,” she said and got up again. “Then I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“Martha!” Ben was about to follow her but the doctor chose that moment to appear from the operating room.
Hearing Ben’s name called, Martha stopped and waited at a distance to hear the news he was bearing.
Mr and Mrs Mulenga ran over to where Ben was standing with the doctor to hear the news.
“How….” Ben had started to ask when the doctor went straight into explaining.
“She’s okay,” he said. “The injuries were very minor. Apart from a few broken ribs and scratches here and there, everything else is intact.”
The four of them heaved long sighs of relief.
“Can we see her now?” Ayanda asked.
“They have to move her to a ward first so let’s wait about ten…fifteen minutes while the nurses get her ready for visitors.”
Satisfied that Luyando was okay, Martha turned and quietly walked out of the hospital.
While they waited for Luyando to be moved, Ben took the opportunity to ask the Mulenga’s the questions he had been dying to ask but couldn’t get a chance to when he arrived at the hospital.
“Where did you get my contact information?”
“Your wife gave my husband your number. She was at our home a few hours ago.” Ayanda said.
So Luyando was right, Ben thought. Martha did talk to her.
“Man to man,” Joshua said. “You should apologize to your wife for the way you treated her. If not for her, you wouldn’t be here right now.”
“You are right on that last part,” Ben said. “She went to see you people behind my back now look where we are? She should have trusted me to handle it. What was she thinking telling you people all those things?”
“Don’t forget we all read the letter,” Joshua replied. “And we were also there when your wife spoke to Luyando. After the things your daughter accused you of, how can you so easily believe the accusations she’s levelled against your wife?”
“These words were meant to be her last,” Bernard argued. “How can she possibly lie?”
“You are assuming that she actually meant to take her own life.” Joshua said.
“Bashi Tula,” Ayanda sent him a warning shot. “How can you say something like that?”
“She’s tried this before so many times and it was always to get attention and sympathy. What makes you think it’s different this time around?”
“What?” A shocked Ben asked.
“She drove her vehicle into another car, on the highway!” Ayanda yelled. “How serious can it get?”
“And she just happened to swerve last minute and only got hit on the side?” Joshua asked. “You heard what the cops said, if that third driver hadn’t decided to run a red light right at that moment, Luyando and the driver she hit would have walked away with just a few scratches.”
Ayanda was burning with anger. “I get it that you don’t trust her but….”
“Mum! Dad!” Tulani ran towards them.
“What happened to Lulu? I got here as quickly as I could, the traffic was….” It was then that he spotted Natasha’s father next to his parents looking dazed and paralyzed in what he could only conclude to be fear or anxiety.
“Son,” Ayanda grabbed her son’s hand and started sobbing. There was a puzzling expression on his face which almost mirrored the look of horror in Ben’s eyes. Thinking the worst had happened, he started to ask, “Did…did something…bad….” He couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.
Tulani now had his mother in his arms, comforting her from whatever pains he was yet to be informed about.
“Your mother is just overreacting,” Joshua said, moving away from them to sit on the nearest bench.
“So you mean Lu is okay?” Tulani shouted to his father.
“Yes, we are waiting for them to move her to a ward. She just had surgery.”
Ayanda sobbed some more in her son’s arms, wrapping her arms tightly around him.
“She broke a few ribs and she had a few scratches but that’s all.” Joshua explained.
Tulani finally released the breath he had been holding. “Mum, she’s going to be alright so why are you still crying? We will be seeing her real soon.”
Ayanda stepped away from him and looking up at him she said, “I’m going to the bathroom for a bit.” And she left her son standing alone with Bernard.
Tulani turned to the man standing next to him. “I don’t know if you remember me….” he started to introduce himself.
“I know who you are,” Ben said, still looking out of it. “You are my grandson’s father, Tulani Mulenga.”
For a moment, Tulani forgot about his sister lying sick in a bed somewhere and grinned from ear to ear, happy to hear that his future father in-law still remembered him.
“But,” he stopped smiling and looked quizzically at the man. “Do you know my parents?”
“Turns out that your father in-law is an old acquaintance of mine.” Joshua joined the men, saving Ben the trouble of explaining the complicated and messy relationship they were all tangled in. Something like that required its own time and place. He knew the truth might shock his son.
They had had enough shocking for a day.
Ben sent Joshua a gratitude-filled gaze but he’s mind was going over the fact that he had referred to him as Tulani’s father in-law. Nothing about the man made any sense from the moment he met him.
“Wow, it’s a small world indeed!” an excited Tulani exclaimed.
“We were somewhere close to this place catching up when we received the news about your sister.” Joshua explained.
“What’s this I heard on the news in the car, on my way here, they said that she tried to commit suicide? Why would Lu try to take her own life at this point in her life? What gave reporters that idea?”
Joshua shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, his hands in his pockets. “You work in the media industry; you know how these things work. Anyway, it’s a long story, I am sure we will find out from Luyando what happened once she works up.”
“What’s with your tone dad?” Tulani asked.
“Tell him Joshua,” Ayanda said from behind them.
“This is neither the time nor the place for this woman,” he curtly told his wife.
Just then a nurse appeared to tell them they could see Luyando. “But we only allow two visitors at a time,” she said to the whole bunch that had started following her.
Joshua turned to Ben. “I think she would want to see you first before she sees any of us.”
“Heh?” Tulani was looking at his father in disbelief.
“You can go in with my wife while I have a talk with my son.”
“What’s going on here?” a very puzzled Tulani asked the three.
Ayanda continued following the nurse while the men tried to work it out with Tulani.
“Thank you very much sir,” Bernard said and followed Ayanda and the nurse.
“Dad?” Tulani quizzed his father.
“Let’s talk outside,” Joshua said started leading them towards the door.
Back in Luyando’s ward, there was silence for ten minutes as Ayanda and Bernard nervously waited for Luyando to wake up.
“Why isn’t she waking up?” Ayanda had grabbed the hand of the nurse passing back and brought her to Luyando’s bed side. “The doctor said she would be up by now? Is something wrong with my daughter? What if….”
“Try to relax ma’am,” the nurse was smiling as she spoke, trying to reassure the anxious parent. “The surgery went very well so there is nothing to worry about. The patient is most probably sleeping…relaxing…considering the nature of the accident, she could still be in shock and just trying to sleep it off.”
While Ayanda was nagging the poor nurse, Ben was seated by his daughter’s bedside, holding her hand with his gaze fixed resolutely upon her face while his mind went back to the contents of her suicide note.
Shutting his eyes briefly, Ben replayed the words in his head;
I didn’t mean all those things I said to you, I just wanted to see if you still cared about me even if you have a whole new family.
Ben froze for a second before looking up to find Luyando’s eyes open.
“Baby!” Ayanda ran to her side. “Oh thank God, you are up now.”
There was a puzzled expression on Luyando’s face as she looked up at her mother. Slowly turning her gaze towards her father, “dad, who is this lady?” she asked.
Looking very concerned, Ben called the nurse. “Lulu, don’t you know who this lady is?” he asked.
Luyando tried to sit up but winced in pain from the surgery. Ben quickly held her down. “Don’t move just yet honey,” he told her.
“I’m going to get the doctor,” the nurse said and quickly left the room.
“You look so old dad,” Luyando said, touching her father’s rough beard. “Where are we?”
Ayanda and Bernard shared a look of horror.
“What’s happening?” Ayanda asked. “Sweetie,” she leaned in towards her daughter. “Don’t you recognize your mother?”
Luyando’s scowled at her. “You are not my mother!” she yelled and tried to move away from her.
Two drops of tears fell from Ayanda’s eyes.
“Dad, where’s mum? Who’s this lady?” Luyando was growing anxious and agitated now.
The doctor rushed in and asked the two to leave immediately so he could examine his patient.
Ayanda could hear her daughter crying for her late mother as Ben led her out of the room.
“What is happening to her? Did she lose her memory? They said it was a simple surgery….”
Joshua and Tulani appeared.
“What’s going on?” Joshua asked.
“Why are you crying mum?” Tulani rushed to her side and put his arm around her.
“It appears Luyando has lost all her memories for the past twenty years,” Ben explained.
Ayanda broke out in full-out sobs upon hearing the words she had been dreading to hear.
“What?” Tulani asked.
“The doctor is examining her right now. He will tell us more, I am just speculating from what happened while we were with her.”
“What happened?” Joshua asked.
“She couldn’t recognize me!” Ayanda cried. “She looked at me straight in the eye and asked me who I was? She thinks her real mother is still alive! She’s forgotten about all of us….”
When the doctor finally came out and asked to speak to Luyando’s guardian, the whole team went and crowded in his office, all wanting to hear the problem at the same time.
“The patient has what we call Dissociative amnesia,” the doctor confirmed everyone’s worst nightmare.
“You said that the surgery went just fine!” Ayanda yelled at him.
“Yes, the surgery went perfectly well ma’am and what your daughter is suffering from right now is not a result of the surgery.”
The blank looks on the faces of the three people looking back at him told the doctor that he had not yet won his audience.
“I am not sure what she has been through since I have not seen her previous medical records,” he continued. “However, it appears your daughter has blocked out certain information, experiences from her past…could be traumatizing events such as abuse, or even an accident. It could also be that something traumatic happened to her very recently and her memories have been blocked as a mechanism of dealing with, or getting rid of the stress.”
Their faces were now telling him that he had them fully on board.
“I will need to examine her further to determine a proper diagnosis and only then will I be able to give you a prognosis.”
“Whatever the cost will be, please examine her doctor,” Ayanda said. “I will bring her medical files tomorrow…please, just do whatever it takes to make sure she recovers her memories,” she cried. “Money isn’t a problem so please…give her whatever treatment and medication is necessary….”
“There’s no medication for this kind of condition,” the doctor informed them. “However, psychotherapy and cognitive rehabilitation have been known to treat such conditions. But let’s see how the patient does in the meantime before we jump to conclusions.”
* * *
On her drive back home, Martha turned on the car stereo to keep her mind from thinking and thinking nonstop.
“The opposition party People For Progress
is scheduled to vote for their successor tomorrow morning.” A female radio presenter said.
Martha was about to change the channel when she remembered Natasha’s comments about politics in the country.
Might as well get informed so I can have something to talk about with my new local friends, she thought.
“My money is on the Party’s General Secretary Nataniel Kaponda,” the presenter went on.
Martha’s eyes opened wide and she found herself hitting her breaks and putting her car to stop right in the middle of the road. The driver behind her who was caught off-guard honked continuously at her, lowered down his window and hailed insults at her before turning his car and driving off.
Martha moved her vehicle and parked it on the side of the road.
“He’s been very vocal in the past year and he appears to be a favourite among party supporters.” The presenter was saying.
Martha turned up the volume and listened in petrified horror, both her legs and arms shaking.
“I don’t agree with you Stef,” her male colleague said. “I actually think that the Vice president would take this one. Isn’t it only natural that the second in command takes over after the demise of the leader?”
“The PfP have a very special constitution Arthur so let’s not forget that. The president in power is the one who picks his vice, and not the party members. That’s why they are voting tomorrow, only the person favoured by most…the one they feel can win them next year’s general elections can take over the party and only, and I mean only Nataniel Kaponda has the qualities necessary to fill in the shoes of the late president.
“He is suave, intelligent, he can articulate himself well, he’s well educated, rich…very rich as a matter of fact and, he is also good looking despite his age.”
Arthur laughed. “That’s the problem with women; everything somehow always goes back to looks. Politics are way more complicated than that Stef.”
“Out of everything I said about the man, you only heard the good looking part?” Stefani argued. “Just look at David the Vice President, the man talks slow…
extreeemely slow and in a very low tone. I always have to turn up the volume when he comes on air and just watching him talk is too painful for my young soul.
“He’s also been involved in numerous scandals in the past, the many women in his life, say, if he becomes president, which of his six wives will become First Lady?” she busted out laughing.
Martha reached out and turned off the radio.
“Noooo….” She cried. “Dear God no.” she was crying and shaking her head at the same time.
Two hours later, with puffed up eyes, Martha opened the gate to their home and drove in to find Natasha waiting outside.
Natasha ran over to her before she could even park. “Mum!” she called out to her.
“Martha stopped the car midway and rolled down her window.
“Mum!” Her mother’s physical state instantly freaked her out. “Mum, are you okay? What happened to you? Did something happen?”
Martha tried to smile, but her tear-stained face was not helping her case. “I’m fine,” she said, avoiding her daughter’s gaze. “Is your father back?” She was looking at the spot where Ben usually parked his car and she got her answer right away.
“I thought you were together,” Natasha said. “I came home and found none of your cars parked, I kept calling your phones but they are both off. I have been worried sick mum. Did something happen?”
Martha slowly raised her eyes to look at her daughter. She could not keep the tears at bay anymore and so they came pouring out.
“Mum,” Natasha’s eyes instantly became watery. She opened the door and reached out to her mother, pulling her into her arms.
“What happened?” She asked.
“Just hold me like this for a little while, don’t talk.” Martha said.
“I won’t,” Natasha said.
“I am so sorry,” Martha cried.
Natasha wanted to ask her what she was sorry about but she kept her promise not to talk.
Ten minutes later, mother and daughter were sitting in the kitchen.
“Sean?” Martha asked.
“Sleeping,” her daughter answered. “Aren’t you going to tell me what made you cry like that? I haven’t seen you shaken up like that since I was a kid. And where’s dad?”
Knowing she could not tell her daughter about the actual pain that had made her cry, Martha was forced to talk about Luyando instead.
By the time Martha was done telling her everything, Natasha was laughing and clutching her stomach, except, it was not the normal kind of laughter; it was a detached kind of laughter, painful to experience and painful to watch.
“Tasha….” Martha was filled with worry. Did her daughter just lose her mind? And who could blame her? It’s not always that one is told that the sister of the man she loves, who also happens to be the father of her child…that that woman is also her sister…on top her being in-love with her brother. And now the said sister was accusing her step-mother of driving her to suicide…after first accusing her own father of rape and physical abuse?
“And dad believes her?” Natasha asked once she was done laughing.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Martha said. “But when I looked into his eyes earlier today, I saw doubt in there…towards me.”
“How can dad believe that woman after everything she’s done and said in the past?”
“He desperately wants to win her trust so he will believe anything she says or does right now.” Martha told her daughter.
“Well, that’s just disappointing. I expected better from him.
Martha could hear the disappointment in her daughter’s voice loud and clear and it broke her heart. Even though she didn’t want to put her husband in a position to choose between his daughter and his family, Martha had hoped that at the very least, he could have trusted her enough to hear her side of story.
“Should we tell Alex about this?” Natasha asked.
“Oh no,” Martha said. “You know how he allows things to get to him. Let him write his exams first…otherwise he will be acting out and misbehaving again.”
“Who are you?”
Luyando had suddenly opened her eyes and found Tulani’s face above her, closely searching her face for something.
“Oh you are awake,” he stepped away from her. “How are you feeling?”
“Who are you?” She asked again, her face showing no signs of recognition.
“I am a friend of yours…but you probably don’t remember,” he lied. “My name’s Tulani.”
Luyando smiled shyly “Are you my boyfriend?” She asked. “You are very good looking.”
Tulani nervously laughed. “You and I are close enough to be considered siblings. My mother even calls you her daughter.”
“Ah, so that woman who was in here earlier is your mother….”
“And you and I weren’t dating?”
“No, I have a girlfriend and we have a child together….”
The smile on her face disappeared instantly.
“And you, you are married to a very wonderful man and you have beautiful twins together, a boy and a girl. The kids are with my mother right now and your husband….well, we haven’t been able to get through to him, yet.”
“Why?” She asked.
“He could be in the operating room or attending to patients…he’s a doctor.”
“I am married to a doctor?” She appeared excited by the thought.
Tulani laughed. “I am sure he will be here as soon as he finds out about what’s happened. He….” He was cut short by his phone ringing from his pockets. “Excuse me,” he said as he took out his phone.
Tulani smiled the moment he saw who was calling. “I have to take this,” he said and left the room.
Luyando watched his retreating figure with a bitter-sweet smile on her face.
“Did you dial my number by accident or what? Please tell me it wasn’t by accident…please, please.”
Natasha laughed. “I meant to call you.”
“Thank God!” Tulani said as he walked into the lobby. Just then, he spotted Peter entering the hospital and saw his mother go after him. To avoid the drama, he turned around and went in the opposite direction.
He could only imagine the amount of tongue lashing Luyando’s husband was going to be subjected to.
“What are you laughing at?” Natasha asked him.
“Nothing, just saw something funny. I take it your mother has told you….”
“So you’ve been told too.”
“Isn’t this whole thing crazy?”
“Did you read her note?” Natasha asked.
There was a pause first before Tulani’s voice came through. “I did. I think she was just upset when she wrote it…probably felt she had to get back at your mother for exposing her secret.”
“So you know she was lying right?”
Tulani laughed. “I know so relax. Is that why you called me? For a moment I thought it was because you missed me….”
“How can you have the heart to think about other things with all that’s happening right now?”
“What’s gonna change if I act sad and pitiful?” he asked.
“What’s happened has happened. There is nothing we can do or say that will change anything. Right now the only thing we can do is hope for the best.”
“I had forgotten what a happy-go-lucky fella you are,” Natasha laughed. “You sound like you are still at the hospital, how’s Luyando doing? Is she up now?”
“Yes she’s up but….”
“There’s something you need to know….”
“Now you are scaring me Tula.”
“Thing is…Luyando…she’s lost her memory, well, some of her memories.”
“You mean as in amnesia? She has amnesia? Mum said the accident wasn’t that bad and that the injuries were….”
“The doctor said the memory loss is probably a way Luyando’s brain has thought to deal with the trauma and stress in her life. All her secrets have been revealed and her whole life was falling to pieces. The only safe place she knew she could run to was to a time when her mother was still alive.”
“So she’s forgotten everything that’s happened from the time her mother died?”
“Pretty much,” Tulani said.
“Dear Lord, it just keeps getting stranger and stranger.”
“You can say that again.”
“So what’s going to happen now? I mean…with your parents…and with mine?”
“I really don’t know Tasha…but, I won’t let whatever is happening with Luyando and our parents get in our way. I meant it when I said I want to marry you and nothing is going to change that.
“I know that I sound like a jerk right now for bringing this up but…I just need you to remember that. I know you…and I know that you’ve probably already killed off any possibilities between us…but….”
“Let’s talk about this later Tula,” she cut him off.
“I have to go now. I need to inform mum about this situation. Wait, I almost forgot…my dad, how is he?”
“He’s hanging in there.”
Natasha sat down on her bed. “He’s not fine is he?”
“Well, considering what’s happening, I think it’s understandable that he’s confused.”
“Is he planning on spending the night there?”
“I should think so,” he said.
“Can you do me a favour then?”
“Sure, anything. What is it?”
“Can you make sure he’s warm at night? He gets really cold in the night…if….”
“Don’t worry about it Tasha, I will take care of him.”
Fighting back tears, Natasha said, “Thank you Tula. Thanks.”
Tulani could hear the cracks in her voice. “I love you Tasha, have a good night.” And he cut the line before she could say anything in return.
Natasha kept the phone to her ear even after Tulani had cut the line. She closed her eyes, sighed heavily and slowly removed the phone from her ear.
“I love you too.” She said, looking at the phone in her hand.
“I love you too Tulani.” She repeated.
Back at the hospital, Tulani was too busy celebrating in his head the minor victory he had scored with Natasha as he walked towards the lobby that he did not see Luyando’s figure peering at him from behind the wall.
Luyando’s menacing gaze followed Tulani until he disappeared from her sight. Wincing in pain and clutching her stomach, she leaned her back against the wall to lessen the pain.
“I almost died today but you are here romancing that b—h like nothing’s happened?” she bit down her lower lip and winced in pain again.
“I will teach all of you a lesson you will never forget.” She added as tears streamed down her cheeks.
[nextpage title=”episode 7″]
Two days had gone by and Bernard had not returned home. He had stayed by his daughter’s bed side and refused to take a break so he could go home and freshen up. Martha, sensing that her husband would not be coming home any time soon, she woke up early on a Wednesday morning and prepared to visit the hospital.
“I am coming with you,” Natasha told her mother when she walked into the kitchen.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” Martha was leaning against the kitchen island while she waited for her coffee to be ready.
Natasha sat down on the stool closest to her mother. She still had her night gown on and the weave in her head appeared to have a voice of it’s on, an angry one at that.
“I don’t have much to do this morning,” Natasha informed her mother. “I haven’t been able to sleep these past few days so I’ve spent my nights working on proposals for a show I have to pitch to management next week.”
“Do you think I need protection from your father and Luyando?” Martha asked her daughter. She understood very well why Natasha was offering to accompany her. Even though she had not said a word about her father’s behaviour since Luyando’s suicide attempt, Martha knew that Bernard had lost favour in the eyes of his adopted daughter.
Natasha had a tendency to love hard and to hate as much as she loved. In Natasha’s world, you either loved someone, or you hated someone; there was no middle ground. Those who loved did their best to win and protect the ones they claimed to love and those who didn’t love hurt others.
Bernard had lost points in Natasha’s heart the moment he decided to trust his daughter’s words over the integrity of the woman that had loved and devoted herself to him for the past twenty years.
“I don’t think dad is the kind of person you need to be protected from,” Natasha said. “Of course I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t called us since that incident but…I sort of understand what he’s going through.”
“Then why are your eyes telling me something else?” Her mother asked.
Natasha chuckled. “I trust dad, it’s Luyando I don’t trust. Who knows if her amnesia is real or not? I have never met a conniving person like her in my life. I don’t trust her a bit.”
“How can she lie about that when it might alienate her further from her adoptive family?” Martha asked. “She clearly prefers them over your dad so….”
Natasha scoffed. “You really don’t know her do you? Anyway, I am going with you because I want to check for myself if she really has amnesia.”
Martha walked over to the coffee maker and asked her daughter “You want some?” before pouring some into a mug.
“I will need to fully awake when I see that woman,” Natasha opened the cabinet next to where her mother was standing and took out a huge coffee mug.
Martha laughed as she took the cup from her daughter.
Natasha stopped laughing and was now looking at her mother with a grave expression on her face.
“What is it?” Martha asked, looking extremely perturbed.
“I am just happy to finally see you smile,” her daughter said. “You’ve been so out of it for the past few days that I was starting to think you had fallen back into depression.”
Instead of cheering her up, Natasha’s words seemed to have an opposite effect on Martha. It was as if the wound that had numbed down a bit was awakened again.
Feeling herself slipping back into dangerous territory, Martha blinked away the memories from her past and forced her mind to focus on what was most important at that time; her family.
The mother and daughter pair found Bernard seated in the lobby while Luyando was being attended to by the doctor.
He stood up nervously and could barely look at his family when he saw them approaching.
“Martha…Tasha….” Was all he could say as he tucked his hands into his back pockets.
Natasha surprised him by closing the distance between them and hugging him. “You smell like shit dad, but I missed you.”
Bernard laughed, thinking how typical of his daughter to not hold a grudge for long. “I’m sorry my love.” He said.
Martha was smiling on the side, silently thanking her daughter for breaking the ice and making what could have been one of the most painful confrontations of her life turn sweet.
“Are you sorry for the smell or for not calling us?” Natasha boldly asked, pulling away from him so she could look him in the eye.
“Both.” Bernard looked like he had lost all life in him in the few days he had been away from home.
It was hard for Martha to look at her husband like that and not want to cry. “How is she?” She asked whilst surreptitiously pushing back the tears.
“She’s much better today,” Ben answered. “She had been refusing to eat for the past days and kept asking for her late mother…but last evening, she eat some of the food the Mulenga’s brought for her.”
“How about you two remain talking while I go in to check on her?” Natasha said with a smile on her face. “I just saw the doctor pass over there, I think they are done with her now.”
“Go ahead, I will join you in a bit,” Martha said, handing her the bag containing breakfast she had prepared for Luyando. “Don’t tell her I prepared that!” Martha shouted after her daughter.
“She doesn’t know who you are right now….” Ben reminded his wife.
“I figured as much,” Martha said, her complexion suddenly turning a shade pale. “What’s your plan going forward? You know you’re gonna have to come home soon…unless of course you….”
“I will come back home Martha,” Ben assured her. He knew what she was about to say and he couldn’t blame her for having doubt in him. It had not taken him long to know he had hurt her real bad the last time they had spoken.
“I am sorry for my behaviour the other day…I don’t even any excuse.” He said.
“How about we go over there and sit for a bit?” Martha pointed to the bench outside on the other side of the hospital, away from the entrance.
“What do you plan on doing about Luyando’s situation?” Martha asked once they were seated outside. “I hear it can take longer, years sometimes for someone to retrieve the memories they have suppressed.”
Bernard sighed. “I have done a lot of thinking for the past days and until last evening, I found a solution to all this.”
Martha’s eyes filled with fear as she waited for her husband to tell her what decision he had made. She could only think of one thing Ben would do in such a situation…and that was to ask for a divorce or separation so he could bond with his daughter who seemed to have lost her memory.
Bernard’s heart broke when he read the fear in his wife’s eyes. What had he done to bring such unhappiness to his family?
Inside the hospital, Natasha paused outside Luyando’s private ward before finally knocking.
“Come in,” she heard someone say.
Natasha slowly opened the door and entered.
Luyando’s eyes opened wide in surprise when she saw who it was but she quickly required from the shock and relaxed her features. “Who are you?” She asked Natasha.
Natasha had not missed a bit. She had seen the look on Luyando’s face the moment she had laid eyes on her and she had also seen the quick recovery.
If you want to play this game, let’s both give it our best shot. She thought as she smiled at her nemesis. Natasha put down the flowers she had bought for her at the store outside the hospital and she opened the bad to remove the packed food in there.
“My name is Natasha,” she said, unpacked the contents from the bag onto the table. When she was done laying out the food, she put the bag down, pulled the chair that was by the wall and sat down closer to the bed.
“I am Tulani’s girlfriend,” she added, closely watching Luyando as windows to her soul contracted into little beady holes of horror. “I heard he’s been here to see you a couple of times already.”
“He never said anything about having a girlfriend,” came Luyando’s icy tone. “Are you sure you not just one of the billions with a crush on him? He did seem like such a charming man, I wouldn’t balme you if you had a little crush on him.”
“For someone who’s lost their memory, you seem to know quite a lot about Tulani whom you never met before…according to the state of your brain right now.”
Luyando shot daggers at her. “He mentioned something about his life in passing when we talked last evening. Do I sense some hostility from you?”
Natasha snickered. “I doubt it. I have absolutely no reason to be hostile with you. I mean, I hardly even know you. You are just someone my boyfriend considers a sister and yours and his family have been close for years I hear…so it doesn’t make sense that I would not like you.
“I just so bad for you that you’ve lost most of your memories. I can’t be easy looking at your own children and not being able to recognize them. I don’t know what I would do if I was ever in a position where I could not recognize my own son.
Oh yeah, I have a son,” Natasha added deliberately. “He’s name is Sean. Tulani is the father. The three of us….”
“I have a slight headache,” Luyando shifted in her bed and closed her eyes. “I don’t feel like eating so you can go back with that food you came with.”
“Do you need me to call the doctor?” There was a mischievous grin on Natasha’s face as she towered over Luyando in feigned concern.
“NO.” Luyando opened her eyes to find Natasha’s face hovering over her. “You should leave, I want to get some sleep.”
Natasha straightened up and folded her hands across her chest. “Tsk tsk tsk,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “I guess it can’t be easy being in-love with your own brother.” Her words were delivered in a whispering tone, as if she was talking to herself but she knew Luyando could hear her.
“Tulani was right when he said you were crazy.”
Luyando opened her eyes wide open. “Tulani would never say something like that about me!” for a person that had been looking broken and unable to move much a few seconds ago, she suddenly looked like she had too much life in her sitting up in bed like that.
“How would you know that?” Natasha asked. “You don’t even know who he is. He told me that he hated having you in his family. How you appeared from nowhere and tried to take his parents away from him.”
“You lying b—h!” Luyando shouted. “Tula would never say that!”
“Oh but he did!” Natasha shouted. “You think he liked having you in their house but it was just pity. You keep holding on to the idea that he might one day tell you that he loves you…because how can he not when he accepted you into his life so easily? But that was never love. It was pity!”
“Tulani loves me!” Luyando shouted back. “He just doesn’t want to admit it because he knows it would break his mother’s heart.”
“Because in his mother’s eyes you two are siblings right?” Natasha said, leaning her head towards Luyando to deliver the point right into her face. “So why not just give up? Why keep waiting for him when he’s never gonna break his mother’s heart for you?”
Luyando scoffed. “I don’t think that’s a problem anymore,” she proudly stated. “He and I are no longer siblings. As of three days ago, I am Bernard’s daughter.”
“You conniving evil vixen,” Natasha cussed. “I knew you were faking it.”
Luyando laughed again. “It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it.” she said smugly. “It’s your word against mine…and who’s going to believe the word of the step-daughter of the man whose real daughter has reappeared after twenty years?
“To everyone, your words will just be those of jealous little thing afraid to lose daddy’s love. I have seen the look in that man’s eyes. He would be willing to eat faeces if I asked him to. I am his number one priority right now. You and your sad little family should prepare to say bye now because I am taking back my father.”
Natasha’s heart went out to her mother. Luyando was right, she silently reasoned. No one would believe her if she told them that Luyando was faking it. Who would believe that a mother of two would go to such lengths just to win the heart of the man she loved…especially when that man happened to be her brother?
Everyone was going to think her petty, jealous and insecure. Natasha had seen first hand how protective of Luyando Tulani was. There was no way he would think her capable of such evil. To him, she was simply a pitiful girl in desperate need of love and attention.
Somehow, Luyando had successfully managed to turn a situation that was dangerously against her and turned it around to work for her.
“I can see you are slowly coming to terms with the new reality….” Luyando said with a smirk on her face. She relaxed her back a bit and rested her head on the pillow. “I invested half my life to get where I am today. I did not spill my own blood twenty years ago for nothing. Don’t think you can just pop up from God knows where and think you can take over my show.”
“You are a married woman,” Natasha said, her eyes filled with disbelief. “For God’s sake you have two children! You are going to pretend you don’t know who they are just so you can be with a man whose been your brother for the past twenty years?”
“Tulani was never my brother!” Luyando replied. “I never thought of him as a brother, not even once. As for the kids, Peter can take care of those brats, they are his kids. He tricked me into getting pregnant. I never wanted to have his children.
“I know that it might take a while for Tulani to adjust but I know that once his mother comes to grip with the new reality, she will have no trouble accepting me as her daughter in-law because she will never accept losing me as a daughter.”
“No,” said a voice from behind them.
Natasha and Luyando turned to find Ayanda standing by the door.
“Mum,” Luyando tried to sit up but she had moved too fast she ended up disturbing her surgery wound. She winced in pain and stopped moving.
Ayanda walked into the room, the tears that had welled up in her eyes for the past three minutes since she had been standing by the door finally rolled down her cheeks but not once did she shift her gaze from Luyando.
“How…how could you?” Ayanda asked.
“Mum…it’s only a misunderstanding…please….” Luyando stuttered. “It’s not…it’s not…what it you….” she reached out her hand and tried to touch her mother who was now standing next to Natasha but Ayanda flinched and stepped back, away from her.
The heart wrenching look on Ayanda’s face told Luyando that it was all over for her. Unable to move, the only thing she could do was cry.
“I am sooorrrry,” Luyando cried, one hand clasping the side of her stomach. “I am so sorry mum.”
“Don’t call me that,” Ayanda said sternly. “I could forgive the lies about your father but this…this is something else. How can you do this to your own children? To your husband? To us?”
Luyando was crying so hard and desperately clasping her side in pain that the machine on the other side of the bed started beeping.
A minute later, the doctor was in the room and Natasha was leading Ayanda out, her arm over her shoulder to steadily lead her to the nearest seat, a bench towards the far end of the corridor.
Ayanda sat down and hang her head in resignation. Natasha rushed to the end of the hallway and poured some water for Ayanda from the dispenser. She rushed back and handed the shaken up woman the cup.
Ayanda gulped down the contents at once and sighed heavily.
“What’s going on here?” It was Martha who had asked. She was in the company of Joshua, Ben and Tulani.
“Tasha?” an astound Tulani said before going over to his mother. “Are you feeling sick mother?”
Looking up at her son, Ayanda broke down in tears again. She wrapped her arms around his legs and sobbed.
Tulani sent a puzzling look in Natasha’s direction.
Natasha could not bring herself to explain what had just happened. She wasn’t even sure how much Ayanda had heard.
So, she shrugged her shoulders.
“She hasn’t been able to sleep since the accident. Could be the stress is finally getting to her.” Joshua commented.
“How could that girl do this to us?” Ayanda said in-between sobs. She had removed her head from Tulani’s legs and was now looking up at her son.
“She said she’s in-love with you!”
“What?” Tulani asked, shocked by the unexpected development. He was looking at Natasha again but she was shaking her head profusely to declare her innocence in the matter. Clearly, his mother wasn’t talking about her.
“Who’s in-love with…oooh.” Martha stopped herself in time.
Ayanda suddenly stood up. “She’s not sick! She hasn’t lost her memories!” She wailed, pointing towards Luyando’s room.
Bernard and Martha shared knowing looks while Joshua looked appeared unfazed by the shocking news. Tulani was the only one who appeared to have received the news for the first time.
“You all knew?” Ayanda eyes searched the face of each person standing before her, disgusted by the sudden realization that she might have been the only person who had no idea the woman she called her daughter for the past twenty years was deceiving her to such an extent.
“How could you not tell me she was faking it?” Ayanda cried.
“I only found out last evening,” Bernard said.
“And he is just from telling me.” Martha chipped in.
“I knew it from the very beginning.” Joshua remarked unapologetically. “How did you find out?”
“I heard her telling this young lady here….” She was pointing at Natasha. “Are you my grandson’s mother?” Ayanda finally realized who Natasha was.
“Are you saying that Luyando faked her amnesia?” Tulani asked.
Just then the doctor appeared from Luyando’s room. He spotted the family standing in the distance and started walking towards them.
“She was too stressed so I gave her a sedative to calm her down. She’s sleeping now. In future, it would be better if….”
“What happened?” A very concerned Ben asked the doctor.
“She must have been agitated by something,” Doctor Soko answered, looking accusingly at Ayanda and Natasha.
“I’m going back home.” Ayanda announced and left the group in stunned silence.
“I have the car keys,” Joshua said, glad to have an excuse to leave as well. He had been dragged to the hospital against his will.
“I will go in and see her,” Ben said, leaving before anyone could say anything. Martha quietly followed him behind, leaving a visibly shocked Tulani and a worried Natasha behind.
“Are you okay?” Natasha asked Tulani, guiding him back to the bench behind them.
Tulani sat down. “What happened Tasha? How did mum find out about Lulu’s feelings? And what’s this about her faking the amnesia? I don’t understand.”
Natasha sat down. “Your mother overheard Luyando and I talking. We both had no idea she had been listening.” She explained. “I knew Lulu was faking the amnesia the moment I walked into the room and we locked eyes.
“For someone who had never seen me before, the intensity of her hostility towards me was too much for someone who has never seen me before. Of course she tried to pretend but I provoked her into losing her cool and she ended up spilling everything.
“She didn’t mind telling me the truth because she thought no one would believe me. it would be my word against hers and naturally people would be inclined to believe the patient over the accuser. Unfortunately, I was not her only audience…your mother had heard the whole thing, well, at least most of it I think. I am not sure how long she had been standing there.”
“What exactly did Lulu say that made mum so upset?” Tulani asked.
“She talked about how she spilt her own blood to get into your family and how she wasn’t going to let me take you or anything else away from her. She said in no uncertain terms that she was in-love with you. I think that’s what shocked your mother more than the realization that Luyando was faking everything.
“She was probably shocked that Luyando was doing all these things…even risking losing her own children just so she could be with you. I don’t think your mother had any idea Luyando might feel that way about you but it appeared your dad knew all along.”
“How could my mother know?” Tulani asked. “She was too busy getting excited about the idea of having a daughter that loved her like the whole world revolved around her to notice what was happening on the sides.
“Luyando was also careful not to let anything slip especially when we were at home. Mum took her over concern in my personal life as simply an elder sister looking out for her little brother. If at all the thought occurred to mum, she probably brushed it off as ludicrous.”
“And your dad, how did he know?” Natasha asked.
“My father became a rich man at a very tender age so he’s learnt over the years that people are not always what they seem. He’s had to be protective of who surrounds him and the family and he always questions everyone that tries to get close.
“He had always been suspicious of Luyando…he said the timing when she approached us was just too perfect for coincidence,” he laughed. “Unfortunately, by the time he found the diary, mum had already grown attached to Luyando.”
“What about you? You never suspected that she could have lied about her father? We never got to talk about your reaction when your dad revealed that he had read her diary.”
“I never suspected anything of course,” he answered. “I was just as shocked as my mother that day. but after knowing Lulu for so many years, I think both my mother and I looked at the whole thing as simply Luyando’s desperation to be loved by someone.
“She’s been a part of us all these years and I genuinely loved her like a sister, I still do. Just because these things have come out does not mean I have to turn my back on her. I know most people won’t understand…but I wish you would. Do you think you can?”
“I think you are forgetting one thing Tula; Luyando is my sister too.” She reminded him.
“Ah!” Tulani said. “I forgot about that. This whole thing is crazy eish. I hope it won’t affect our marriage, no, I won’t let it affect us. I refuse to let it get in our way. If our parents try to give us a hard time, what do you think about eloping? After we already have a child, there’s no escaping this. It’s just a matter of signing a piece of paper.”
Tulani was too deep making mental calculations concerning the future that when he finally turned to look at Natasha for a response, he found her gaping at him in incredulity.
“What?” Tulani asked.
“Did you even hear yourself?” She asked him.
“I heard myself loud and clear.” Tulani was as unapologetic in his delivery as he was in his love for her. “Go out on a date with me Tasha, please. We haven’t sat down to talk just the two of us since you came. Aren’t you scared that another girl might steal me away from you?”
“Human beings don’t get stolen Tula; they leave on their own.”
“But you will still go out with me right?”
The look that Natasha was sending him was clearly asking him; have you no shame? But Tulani did not look like he was ashamed of the fact that he was shameless.
“What do you think is going to happen to Luyando?” Natasha changed the topic. “Where’s her husband by the way?”
“Peter,” Tulani said. “He was here a few days ago and hasn’t been since. He thinks that Lu’s suicide attempt was selfish…that a mother shouldn’t be so self-centred. It was the first time I was him upset. He’s such a soft-spoken guy. But I think he’s also mad that Luyando had erased him and the kids from her memory like they were not that important.”
“He’s a medical doctor,” Natasha said. “What if it was real amnesia? I don’t think amnesia is something that occurs just because someone instructs their brain to forget. Doesn’t the brain do that on its own as a coping mechanism?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. I think that the two of them were having problems way before this thing happened. I wonder what will happen now if…when he finds out the reason why she faked amnesia.”
After Martha, Natasha and the Mulenga’s left the hospital, Bernard remained behind to stay with his daughter when she wakes up. Two hours had passed and Luyando had not woken up.
Worried that something might be happening to his daughter, Ben went out to get the doctor and when he came back, he found Luyando gone.
For the second time, his daughter had run away from him.
* * *
Tulani had just finished talking on the phone with his son and was getting ready for bed when he heard a knock on the door. He dressed up again and went to check who might be visiting at such an ungodly hour.
He was half-way though the living room when he realized it might be Luyando. He quickly rushed to the door and the video intercom by the side immediately confirmed his suspicions before he even opened the door.
Tulani opened the door to a dishevelled and disoriented looking Luyando.
“Where the hell have you been?” Tulani asked her right away. “We’ve been looking for you the whole day. Thought you went and did something crazy again.”
“Aren’t you going to let me in?” Luyando asked, sounding too calm for someone as headstrong as her.
Tulani stepped aside to let her in.
“Can you give me something warm to wear? I’m feeling very cold?” She went and sat down on the sofa. She was clearly shaking from the coldness of the night.
“Let me get you something,” He said, turning to leave and then stopping suddenly. “The remote for the AC is over there,” he pointed to the sofa next to the one she was sitting on.
Two minutes later, he appeared with a thick coat and a small blanket in his arms and handed it to her.
“Where the hell where you?” Tulani had sat on the arm of the other sofa, facing her. “Your father has been searching everywhere for you. He’s worried sick, we all were.”
“That man doesn’t care about me,” Luyando said when she was done putting on the coat. “He’ll probably be happier when I’m gone. It’s only guilt that’s making him act like that.”
“You shouldn’t be here Lu, your husband is probably waiting for you to come home right now. Your kids haven’t seen you for days.”
“I Just came from home right now,” she told him, a strange smile on her face. “I found Peter packed all his stuff and that of the children. They’re all gone. Left a note with just one line; I hope your brother makes you happy.”
“Is that why you decided to come here instead? shouldn’t you be out there looking for your family?”
Luyando laughed. “Good riddance to bad rubbish. I was gonna leave him anyway.”
“And what about the kids? Don’t you at least care about them?” At this point in time, Tulani had been forced to come a deep understanding of how his sister’s mind worked. If it wasn’t going her way, it wasn’t worth being in her life. But he still hoped that that wouldn’t be the case with her children.
“They are better off being with their father. you and I both know I was a terrible mother. Those kids don’t like me. They cry whenever I hold them in my arms and they go quite when held by the nanny. Being with their father is the best thing that can happen to them.”
Tulani was almost tempted to conquer with her. He had seen her with her children; it was the first time in his life he had seen children reject the affections of their own mother. At first he had reasoned that it could be because Luyando was always at work and rarely had tie to bond with them, but after everything that had happened, it had become distinctively clear that there had never been a bond between them to begin with.
“So is your plan to spend the night here instead?” Tulani asked her in a very serious tone.
“Where else can I go? My parents don’t want to have anything to do with me, my father’s family won’t even think about taking me in and frankly I wouldn’t even go to them if the world was crushing down on me.
“I couldn’t stay alone in that big house…and am still sick…so, you were the only person I know would welcome me. You know very well that I have no friends. You’ve always been my only friend.”
Tulani again had to accept that that was the hard truth; he was Luyando’s only friend. If he kicked her out right then, only God knew what she was likely to do.
“Alright,” Tulani made his decision. “You can sleep in the guest room.”
It was the best news Luyando had heard that day. “I can’t believe I finally get to sleep at your place. I guess something good had to happen out of all this drama.” There was a triumphant smile on her face, like a marathon running successfully crossing over the white line.
“I’ll be back in a bit,” Tulani said and left the room to go upstairs.
Luyando was beaming with happiness. She was finally getting rewarded for all the hardwork and pain she had had to suffer through. It Tulani thought that he could resist her even when she stood naked in front of him, then he had another thing coming.
“Tonight I seize to be your sister…little brother.” She whispered to Tulani’s back as he walked up the stairs.
Luyando made herself comfortable on the couch, stretching her legs out and covering herself with the blanket Tulani had brought for her. She turned on the TV as she waited for him to come back downstairs, a wide grin on her face.
Five minutes later, Tulani appeared.
Luyando sat up the moment she saw him. “Are you feeling that cold too?” Tulani was now wearing a coat over his t-shirt.
“I’m going out,” he announced.
“What do you mean you are going out?” Luyando asked. It was then that she noticed his shoes. He hadn’t been wearing shoes when he opened the door.
“I am not a child Lu, I know very well why you are here.” Tulani said.
“What are you talking about?” Luyando feigned innocence.
“There’s everything in the house, I think.” Tulani said. “I am going to sleep at Kendrick’s place. It would be foolish for the both of us to sleep under the same roof…after everything that’s happened.”
And he turned to leave.
Luyando jumped from the chair and ran after him. He placed herself in front of the door to block him from leaving. “You are not going anywhere,” she said, almost sounding out of breath.
“Move out of my way Lu,” Tulani deliberately hardened his voice.
“No, I am not going to let you leave this house Tula. Why are you running away from me? Are you scared that you might not be able to fight me now that you have me here in your house, at this hour?”
Tulani was looking at her like he would a child begging him for change on the streets of Lusaka.
“You are not in your right mind Lu, I think you should just go to bed.”
“I have never been as clear headed as I am right now!” She yelled. “Tula,” she placed her hands over his chest but he immediately peeled them off and gently pushed her to the side.
He had just opened the door to leave when he heard something rip behind him. He quickly turned to check.
The coat she had been wearing was lying on the ground and her dress was ripped apart from the middle.
Luyando’s body was completely exposed in the front…and she had not been wearing anything under her dress.
“Do you think your neighbours would hear me if I screamed loud enough?” she asked Tulani.
Tulani could not believe what was happening in his own house. If before he had doubts about Luyando’s state of mind, he was now convinced beyond reasonable doubt that she was in desperate need of psychological help.
“I wonder what will happen to TMH’s stock on the market when it’s revealed that the CEO tried to rape his own sister?”
Something broke inside Tulani and he felt a tear run down his face.
He walked over to where Luyando was standing, bent down to pick up her coat and wrapped it around her.
“What do you think you are doing?” Luyando asked bemusedly. “I must look like a joke to you. Do you think I am bluffing?”
Tulani zipped her up in his coat and took a step back from her. “I don’t think you are bluffing,” he said. “I truly believe that you are going to scream loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear.”
“Are you patronizing me?” Luyando asked, her pride down on the ground. Without warning, she started screaming.
Tulani watched in stunned horror as she unzipped the coat and dropped it back on the floor. She ruffled her hair with her hands, bending up and down to make sure her screams were coming out as loud as possible and like a mad woman she started throwing things around the house, anything she could get her hands on.
The neighbourhood dogs were now barking in full force and ready for attack.
It appeared Luyando had succeeded in waking up the whole neighbourhood.
All the while, Tulani watched in silence, his arms crossed over his chest. “I’m leaving now.” He announced nonchalantly. “You can tell the neighbours whatever you wish to say.” He started walking to the door and just before exiting; he stopped and turned to look at her.
“Ah,” he said. “I forgot to mention, don’t forget to smile for the camera.” He pointed to the huge chandelier hanging above her. “Dad’s idea,” he said, smiling and shrugging his shoulders at the same time.
“Arhhhuhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” Luyando screamed and threw a flower vase at him.
But Tulani had already left the house.
As the flower vase and Tulani’s glass door became one in pieces, Luyando broke down to the floor and cried her heart out.
Like the broken glass on the floor in front of her, Luyando’s world had crushed into tiny pieces that could never be mended
[nextpage title=”episode 8″]
Tulani parked his car on the side of the road, a short distance away from his home and called Natasha to ask for her father’s number.
“Have you found Luyando?” She asked him, thinking it could be the only reason he was asking for her father’s contact information a few minutes to midnight.
After hearing about his daughter’s disappearance, Bernard had gone out to search for her wherever his feet would take him. Seeing the desperate state of her husband, Martha had had no choice but to accompany him on his search, afraid he might lose his mind from hopelessness.
“Yes,” Tulani answered. “She’s at my place right now.”
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“I thought she might come there,” Natasha said, her voice dropping a few levels lower.
Tulani didn’t miss the change in her tone. “I am not at home right now,” he quickly explained. “I want to talk to your dad first about something concerning Luyando before he goes to pick her up. I don’t think she will be going anywhere else tonight but I think it would be best if he picks her up as soon as possible.”
“Did something happen?” Natasha asked.
Tulani laughed nervously. “Nothing,” he lied. “Why do you ask?”
“You said there was something you wanted to talk to dad about before he picks up Luyando. Don’t lie to me Tula, I can tell that there’s something you’re hiding.”
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“Okay, can I talk to you after I am done talking to your dad?” He asked. “Is he at home?”
“No, they both went out to look for Luyando, I mean both mum and dad. They should be waiting at Luyando’s house right now. Dad refuses to leave until he knows she’s safe.”
“Okay, send me his number then, I will meet him over there.”
Tulani found Mr and Mrs Chimeko seated on the veranda outside Luyando and Peter’s home. While Martha had a chitenje wrapper covering her, Bernard braved the coldness of the night with nothing extra to keep him warm, refusing to join his wife under her wrapper.
They both stood up the moment Tulani’s vehicle appeared outside the gate.
“Where’s she?” Bernard was by Tulani’s window before he could even bring the car to a stop.
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“How about you jump in while we talk,” Tulani could tell his future mother-in-law was close to freezing. “I will put the heater on and you will be warm in no time.”
Martha didn’t need to be told a second time. Bernard had no choice but to follow his wife.
“Is Luyando okay? Is she at your place? Ben asked. He had already figured out where his daughter was the moment Tulani expressed hesitation in revealing exactly where he had found her over the phone.
“Can we sit down first so we can talk properly? I have the keys to the house.” He showed husband and wife the set of keys he had picked up from the table where Luyando had tossed them.
He drove the vehicle the rest of the way inside and parked in front of the house.
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Martha and Bernard followed Tulani inside.
“What is it you want to talk to us about?” Bernard didn’t waste any time.
Shifting nervously in his seat, “It’s about Luyando,” he said.
“What about Luyando, did something bad happen to her?” Martha asked.
“Oh no,” Tulani quickly provided. “I have something to recommend to you…considering that you are her rightful parent…even though my parent’s legally adopted her….”
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“Tulani!” Bernard urged him to get straight to the point.
“I hope you don’t get this the wrong way…or find it offending but, I think that Luyando needs help….”
“Help?” Ben appeared confused, however, Martha knew right away what her grandson’s father was talking about and so she silently waited for the bomb to drop.
Tulani kept going over the words to say and rearranging them so they could come out in the most polite way possible. But is there even a polite way to tell a man his beloved daughter is so sick mentally she needs to be institutionalized?
Seeing Tulani’s hesitation, Bernard picked up the direction where the conversation was going.
“Ooh,” he said, hanging his head low.
“I think that she needs professional help,” Tulani finally managed, seeing that they all seemed to be on the same page. “I think that she was terribly disturbed by the death of her mother at such a young age and….” He was nervously looking at Ben before adding whatever thoughts were going through his head.
Bernard slowly raised his head to look at Tula. “And me neglecting her when she needed me the most you mean?” He added, his eyes heavy with guilt.
“I didn’t mean it like that Sir,” Tulani tried to explain himself. It was indeed what he meant…but not in those exact terms.
“I know,” Ben said.
Martha placed her hand over her husband’s lap, unable to find words to use to comfort him.
“I know about everything,” Ben continued. “I know that she’s had to lie all through her life to win people’s affection…just like she deliberately drove her car into another…or fake her amnesia…or,” he paused before adding. “…I also knew about the lies she told in the letter.”
Martha was staring at him wide-eyed. “You knew from the beginning?”
“Of course, how can I not?” he replied. “I felt…I feel responsible for everything that’s happening. She did all those things she did recently because she wanted to gain sympathy. I was the only one who could give it to her without questioning anything because I was responsible for everything.
“You don’t understand,” Bernard went on. “Luyando had the best life when her mother was still alive. She was the centre of our lives. She was like a princess, used to having her way, always.” He then turned his body to face his wife.
“I never told you this before,” Ben said. “But Luyando was born a twin.”
“What?” Martha and Tulani asked at the same time.
“They were fraternal twins,” Bernard explained.
Martha could not hide her shock. For twenty years her husband had not mentioned anything about that. She had been under the impression that there were no secrets between them. Why hadn’t he mentioned anything to her before?
“Tasila had a very troubled pregnancy,” Bernard explained. “She had a very weak immune system so her body easily gave in to a lot of diseases. She was sick most of the time and it seemed to get worse during her pregnancy. Something happened during delivery and we lost Chipego.
“It was a boy. Luyando was a fighter so she came out first…but her brother wasn’t much of a fighter.” He closed his eyes as if to keep the pain of the whole experience shut in the past where it belonged.
“Chipego gave his mother a hard time and by the time he finally came out, it was already too late.”
Martha placed her hand over her mouth while Tulani appeared utterly shocked by the revelations, his mouth wide open. It finally made sense why Luyando ended up with twins of her own.
“We never told Luyando about her brother,” Ben told them. “Instead, Tasila and I showered her with love meant for two people. Our world literally revolved around her. We were not very rich but we were comfortable and Luyando was raised spoiled.
“Anything she wanted, her mother gave it to her….so you can imagine…what she must have felt when it all came to an end so suddenly.”
There was a pregnant silence in the room, each lost in their thoughts. Bernard thought about how he had lost control the moment he had received news of his wife’s death. His whole world had come to an instant world.
Three weeks after Tasila’s death, Bernard had lost his job, home, and everything they had owned…all while his daughter watched on the side lines.
Martha’s mind went back to the time when she and Bernard had their first talk about having a child. She finally understood why he had such strong reservations about starting a family…why he had watched over her like a hawk all through her pregnancy. When Alex was finally born, Ben had gone to the doctor and had a vasectomy done.
She had never understood why but she suspected it might have something to do with the disappearance of his daughter Luyando. All this time, Martha thought that her husband was feeling guilty about starting a new family when he had no idea where his first child was. How was she to know that it was only his fear of the past repeating itself?
Tulani on the other hand was thinking about all the things Luyando had done; from the time she appeared in front of his parent’s vehicle to the sleepless nights when she would keep everyone awake from the thunder’s of her nightmares…and to what happened a few minutes ago in his living room.
He had wanted to hate her for putting him in such a position but after hearing the little bit about her past, Tulani knew that he was incapable of hating or giving up on his sister. She might not know it herself but she was in desperate need of help. Her wounds ran deeper than the scars she had unwittingly let everyone around her see.
“After we lost everything, Luyando became the adult in the family while I kept drowning in alcohol.” Ben’s shame could be heard from his voice and it was spread out loudly and evenly across his face.
“She became the parent of a thirty year old man; picking me up from the tavern, cleaning me up and cleaning after me, cooking, washing…anything you can think of…and she was only ten. I was aware that what I was doing was wrong but each passing day I kept making excuses for myself.
“I thought I was allowed to lose it…to mourn my wife who had died such an untimely death. Luyando had always been a clever child. I thought she could take care of herself. Not once did I stop to consider her pain…I thought she was managing just fine because I never saw her cry….”
As Bernard said those words, his mind flashed back to the time right after they had put Tasila to rest. He had gone into their bedroom, picked up her framed picture and held it against his heart as he gave in to tsunami of tears he had been holding on to all this while. It was not normal for a man to publicly express his emotions like that…even if it was the love of his life that had died.
As far as everyone was concerned, he was a man, a father…he had to be strong. But that day he felt safe to cry in the room he had shared with her for years, the room where they had made life changing decisions together. How could she leave him without talking to him about it first? Didn’t she know that he was not going to like the idea?
Gripped with overwhelming emotions, Bernard had poured his heart out that day, on the cold floor where he sat holding on to the only thing he thought was a memory of her. He had not seen his daughter standing by the door watching him until she walked over to him and put her arms around him.
“I am such a weak man,” Bernard cried.
Martha put her arms around him and cried with him while Tulani watched uncomfortably from the other side of the room.
“I should have known better,” Bernard said. “She never cried, not once did I see her cry. But how could she cry when I was losing it the whole time? One of us needed to be an adult…she did.”
Martha patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t say that Ben. It was a long time ago and….”
“When she came to me a few weeks ago, I knew right away that she needed help,” Bernard said. “But there was nothing I could do for her except to play along with her lies. If I could be the only man standing by her side when everyone else was judging her…I thought that maybe that would show her that I care about her…and that I am sorry.”
“For a while now I have known that Luyando needs help,” Tulani chipped in. “But like you, I thought that maybe giving her the kind of attention she wanted would make her feel loved…but that just made things worse.
“She ended up misunderstanding my actions…and…and…let’s just say that it was the wrong way of doing things. Because we responded to her tantrums and lies the way she wanted us to, she’s grown up thinking that that’s the right way to do things.
“That’s why I came to you today, to tell you that you should get her professional help. She needs to see someone to help her heal her wounds. I don’t think that she is bad person…I think that she just wants people to love her unreservedly like you and her mother did before she passed on.”
“He is right honey,” Martha told her husband. “We need to get her help.”
“Do you know anyone….” Ben started to ask.
“Yes,” Tulani quickly supplied, reaching into his pocket and removing a business card he had purposely carried and handed it over to Ben.
“He’s the leading psychologist in the country,” Tulani said. “I already spoke to him, he will be expecting to hear from you soon.”
“Don’t we need to talk to her husband about this first?” Ben asked. He had not met Peter yet but he had heard from Joshua that he had visited the hospital once. He had wanted to ask why only once but he figured it was not the right time to talk about other issues.
“I will talk to Peter tomorrow morning,” Tulani offered. “According to Luyando, he packed his stuff and that of the children and left the house. the two of them had been having problems way before the truth came out.”
“Dear God what will my daughter do now?” Ben lamented. “Do you think you can get him to change his mind?”
Tulani hesitated in responding. He knew first-hand how much Peter had suffered at the hands of Luyando. She made it no secret that he was not her number one priority and he had been patient with her for far too long. However, her amnesia stunt seemed to have pushed him over the edge and it didn’t look like he had any more reason to hold on to the marriage.
“I will try and talk to him,” it was all he could say to the worried father.
“But is it safe for Luyando to be all alone right now? She is at you place isn’t it?” Martha asked Tulani.
“Yes she’s at my place,” he answered. “She was quite hysterical when I left her so….”
“Is it okay if I go and see her?” Bernard asked.
“Yes, sure. I was thinking about it…but I didn’t know how to….”Tulani left the sentence hanging. “I was planning on spending the night at a friend’s.”
Bernard turned to his wife. “Is it okay with you if….”
“Yes,” Martha answered before he could finish asking the question. “She needs you right now.”
“It’s very late right now,” Ben said. “How about you follow us home first so I can drop off my wife and you can drop me off at your place?”
“I can drive myself home Ben, don’t worry about me.”
“No, let me drive you. I can’t have you driving yourself this late at night. You’ve been running about the whole day helping me search for Lulu. My heart will be at ease knowing you are safe at home.”
“He’s right Mrs Chimeko,” Tulani said.
“You can just call me Martha dear.”
Tulani smiled, thinking how easy he would have it with such a liberal mother in-law.
* * *
Standing at the door of Tulani’s house, Bernard took in the scene of broken glass before him. He didn’t need to enter the house code Tulani had given him since half the door was open. Inside the house, he could see Luyando passed out on the carpet.
The empty glasses of wine and beer around her told him everything he needed to know about her state of mind. It was a good thing Tulani had a tight security system around the house otherwise his daughter would have been in much more trouble than she was already in sleeping like that with the door open for anyone…or anything to enter.
Bernard bent down to fit through the hole in the glass door and carefully stepped on the pieces of broken glass to get to where Luyando was lying.
“Luyando….” He tried shaking her awake. He lifted her upper body up from the floor and carefully shook her, all the while calling out her name.
Finally, Luyando opened her eyes slightly and looked up at him in semi-consciousness.
“Oooooh it’s the man himself,” her slurred words assailed him straight to the heart. “Where’s Tulani? I want Tula….”
Ben tried to get her on her feet but she kept fighting him.
“Let’s get you to bed dear,” he tried reasoning with her.
Luyando suddenly turned and slapped him hard across the face, sending him straight to the floor. Her violent move was very sudden so it took a few seconds for Ben to recover from the shock.
Luyando was fully awake now.
Still, he got up again and tried to go to her but she was waving her arms in front of her to keep him away.
“Don’t you touch me!” She yelled at him.
Ben took a step back, his hands raised in the air.
“Who the hell do you think you are coming here?” Her words were as jiggly as the legs she was standing on. “It’s your fault that all this is happening,” she accused him, unsteadily pointing her finger at him. “It’s your fault that no one wants to love me. How can they love me?” she scoffed. “How can they love me when my own father hates me? You blame me for mum’s death don’t you?”
“No, no, no,” Ben forgot about staying away from her and tried to reach for her hand.
“Don’t!” She shouted.
Bernard stopped. “How can you think something like that?” he asked her. “I never blamed you for your mother’s death.”
“You did! I saw the way you looked at me. I heard what everyone said during the funeral…that mum was never the same after she gave birth to me. They said I made her like that!”
“They were wrong,” Ben tried reassuring her. “They were so wrong Lulu. Your mother, she adored you. Her world revolved around you. She was so proud to be your mother. Don’t you remember that?”
The memories of her time with her mother brought tears to Luyando’s drowsy eyes. Unable to keep her balance any more, she gave up and sat down on the carpeted floor.
“She loved me,” Luyando recalled all the wonderful times she had spent with her mother. “She was the only one that ever loved me…but she’s gone. Why did she have to die!? Why didn’t you die instead?”
Ben had spent the last years of his life asking himself that very question. However, hearing the words from the lips of his daughter tore at his heart and brought tears to his eyes. Indeed, why had it not been him?
“I am so sorry my love,” Bernard said, tears streaming down his face.
“It’s too late now.” Luyando said curtly. “There’s nothing you can do now to fix things. Everything is gone.” She started checking the bottles around her for anything to drink but they were all empty. Disappointed, she picked up one bottle and threw it against the wall in front of her.
She was now sobbing, unable to take on reality with a semi-sober mind. Bernard watched in silence as his daughter battled her demons. He took a risk and slowly approached her. He got down on his knees from her side and carefully placed his hand on her shoulder, partly expecting her to fight him off but instead, she turned and dropped her head into his laps and continued sobbing.
It took a while for Luyando to finally calm down and when she did, she looked up at her father and said, “Help me make Tulani love me dad.” She pleaded. “I promise to stop doing all these crazy things but please, help me. I don’t think I can manage to not have him in my life. I love him so much.”
Bernard remembered the conversation he had had with Tulani. He had been right, Luyando needed serious help. “If I promise to talk to Tulani about it, can you also do me a favour?”
Luyando’s eyes lit up. “Anything!” She answered excitedly.
Bernard sat up and placed his hands over her shoulders. “Lulu, I would like you to see someone.”
“See someone?” She asked. “Who?”
“No one knows or understands better how much you’ve been through except yourself . You’ve been through a lot haven’t you?” he was talking to her as if to the ten year old girl he had seen so many years ago.
Just like the little girl he was picturing in his head, Luyando was nodding her head profusely. “I don’t want anything else, I don’t want his family, and I don’t even want to take you away from your family. I just want to have him…I just want Tula.”
“So how about we get you some help first,” Ben finally suggested.
“Yes, you’ve been through so much Lulu. You need to talk to someone about….”
Luyando had a look of horror on her face as she pulled away from him. “You want me to see a shrink? Are you calling me nutcase?”
“No, that’s not what I meant….”
Luyando staggered to her feet, desperately wanting to get away from him. “Get the hell out of here!” She pointed to the door for him.”
“Lulu please listen to me just this once. I only want what’s best for you.”
“You just want to protect your family! You think am going to hurt them don’t you?”
“You said you wanted to be with Tulani, but he thinks your feelings for him are only because you misinterpreted things. He thinks you only like him because you are transferring your….”
“Oh don’t start with that shrink nonsense with me,” Luyando interjected him. “I spent four years sitting in a Shrink’s office telling him lies and him buying into it like a fool, even coming up with interpretations that made him sound smarter when he knew nothing!
“That stuff doesn’t work and I certainly won’t waste my time talking to some wanna-be doctor while Tula gets closer to that woman.”
“But Tulani really believes that you need to see someone.” Ben pressed on. From the little he had come to know about his daughter, the truth was not going to work with her. If his daughter was to get the help she desperately needed, Bernard didn’t mind twisting the truth just a little.
“Therefore,” he continued. “If you agree to meet this doctor he recommended, it will show Tulani that you are willing to change…and that you are recovering from the past. Don’t you think he will start taking you seriously after that?”
Ben could tell his message was getting to her; she was actually considering it.
Luyando staggered over to the couch and threw herself down, softly hitting her head with her hands as if to sober herself up.
“I can’t think straight right now,” She said to Ben who had joined her on the opposite couch. “I’m going to sleep now,” she stretched herself over the couch to rest. “Talk to me in the morning.” She yawned and fell back into deep sleep.
A few minutes later, Bernard carried her into the bedroom and went back into the living room to watch TV.
Luyando found him sleeping on the couch when she woke up the next morning.
“I am going to do it,” she candidly informed him.
Ben sat up, a smile on his face. “You will?”
“Yes, but only if you promise to help me with Tulani…make him see that I am changing.”
“Lulu, I can’t do that for you, only you can make him see that. I don’t want you to just pretend to change; it would be nice if you made a conscious decision to make certain changes in your life.”
“I don’t think I will have trouble with that; my husband has left me and taken the children, I have probably…no, I have definitely lost my job at TMH…and everyone finally knows for a fact that I am not an original Mulenga.”
“So what do you plan to do with your life from now?” Bernard asked.
“I’ve always wanted to start my own company…I’ve saved enough over the years so maybe it’s a good time to start.”
“What sort of company?”
“Media of course, a newspaper, give the Mulenga’s a run for their money.”
Ben laughed. “Well, it’s a good thing you have a plan in mind. When do you think you can see the doctor? I put his card on the dresser in the bedroom.”
“Yeah, I saw it.” Luyando said. “I will see him today, the sooner the better.”
Ben was smiling proudly, anxious to see his daughter finally get the help she desperately needed. She might have agreed to start therapy for the wrong reasons but with more therapy sessions, perhaps she might come to realize that her obsession with Tulani was gravely misplaced…that the two of them would always be brother and sister…and that there was no future between them.
* * *
Two Months Later
Life for everyone around Luyando seemed to have gotten back to normal. Even though Ayanda made efforts to reach out to her adopted daughter, Luyando refused to have anything to do with the Mulenga family as a daughter. She applied to the government to have her removed as their daughter so she could easily date Tulani when the time comes.
Naturally, Joshua was excited about the idea of getting Luyando off his family register but Ayanda was hesitant, having loved Luyando as her own for about twenty years. Letting go was something Ayanda always struggled with.
Tulani was still relentless in his pursuit of Natasha but she was still driving him around circles until one day when he cornered her and put her in a position where she had to make a decision.
“What do you think you are doing?” Natasha asked, tagging him on the shoulder and urging him to get back up.
The desperation in her eyes wouldn’t have been so loud if not for the fact that they were at a company dinner and everyone was looking at them. It was just like Tulani to make a public spectacle of everything.
“I will only get up if you give me an answer,” Tulani said, holding out the engagement ring to her.
“Right here?” Natasha’s eyes roamed the room and found that they were indeed the centre of attention. “This is embarrassing Tula.” She whispered to him, trying to close the ring box but Tula wouldn’t let up.
Tulani knew he was going to pay dearly for putting Natasha on spot like that but for him it was the only way to get her to finally make up her mind about him. He had no doubt that she felt the same way about but he just didn’t know what was keeping her from expressing her feelings.
Tulani hoped that Natasha would stay true to her character and say yes to his proposal due to pressure and fear of embarrassing him if she turned him down. If she was still the same Natasha he knew four years ago, she was going to say yes just so she could get everyone’s eyes off of them.
For a woman whose career was centred on being in front of a camera for millions to watch, Natasha had issues being the centre of attention when she was not working.
“Natasha Chimeko, mother of my child and apple of my eye,” He spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear.
“Will you do me the honour of being…er….” And then something happened that he had not calculated for, he forgot the words he had been memorizing for the past one week.
Natasha wanted nothing but for the ground to open up and swallow her. She just wanted it to be over so they could move on with their lives.
“…my wife…Can you be my wife? I mean, will you marry me?”
“Yes, I will marry you,” she said, quickly picking up the ring to put it on her finger, a move that made everyone in the room laugh. To everyone, she was a woman who could hardly wait to wear the ring the man of her dreams had presented her, but to Natasha, it was a way of fast forwarding the whole experience.
Tulani laughed and quickly took the ring from her before she could slip it through her finger. “I think I am the one who’s supposed to do this,” he said as he put the ring on her finger, receiving applause from everyone.
Natasha had to endure twenty more minutes of congratulations from those around them before she finally managed to slip out. Tulani was right behind her, ready to receive his punishment.
“Why….” They were in the car park and Natasha had turned angrily to lash out at Tulani when he grabbed her around the waist, pulled her head slightly back and kissed her like she was his source of oxygen.
Natasha was ready to push him off when she felt his tongue heavy inside her, a warm rush of unexplainable pleasure halting her thirst to fight against him immediately. She gasped, her breath caught for a second in the throes of unbridled felicity.
For a few seconds Tulani busked in the realization that at least there was one thing he had control over; her body. Her lips might sprout lies on their own but with his pressed hard against them; they sang a melody that rhymed perfectly with every fibre of his being. Her body never lied.
Her throbbing heart pressed hard against his chest told him of the secrets her tongue was trying to hide…the tongue now dancing to the tune of his evil thoughts. Oh, the things I intend to do to this stubborn little vixen clinging to me as if for dear life.
“So, you were saying…?”
“Shh….” Natasha let the curse word hang over them, not sure whether she was mad that he had pulled away from her so suddenly…or mad that she had lost control in such a short space of time. How did things turn out like that?
The bumptious smirk on Tulani’s face screamed his victory over her.
“Yes, you were saying….” He teased her again.
He had completely thrown her off guard and made her lose her train of thought. Angry and embarrassed by her easy defeat, she opened the door of her car, ready to run for cover. But Tulani held the door open, forcing her to stand back against the car.
“If you leave like this,” Tulani said, slowly tracing the ring on her finger with one hand and using the other to securely lock her in position. “It means you willingly accepted my proposal.”
“So you know that you forced me to say yes in there right?”
Tulani chuckled, “Yes.” He answered nonchalantly.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because I wanted to see you try and take it off.”
He took her hand and placed it in front of them. “Take it off,” he told her.
“What?” she asked again.
“I said take it off,” he repeated. “If you don’t want to marry me, take it off and hand it back to me.”
Natasha was obviously perplexed, wondering what trick he was now playing. She touched the ring and started pulling it slowly towards her. She had expected it to get stuck somewhere in the middle, thinking that was the trick Tulani was playing on her but when it moved without much trouble, she paused before pulling it off completely.
“It comes off,” she told him, a puzzled expression on her face.
“Did you think I asked you to take if off because it couldn’t come off?” he asked.
“Yes,” she admitted, and then pushed the ring back in place.
Tulani laughed, his eyes fixed on the ring. “Look at it again.” He said.
Natasha looked back at her finger and realization dawned on her immediately. She couldn’t take off the ring. No, she didn’t want to take it off.
She laughed, not hard or loud, but softly. “How did you know?” She asked Tulani.
“Know what, that you love me or that you want to be my wife?”
She closed her eyes in embarrassment. “Both,” she said, looking down at her feet.
Tulani placed his hand under her chin and lifted her face up. “There are a number of reasons actually; you kept my child and raised him well, you gave me not one, but two chances to be in his life, and here’s my favourite, you blush profusely every time I try to get close to you…like you are doing right now.”
Natasha covered her face with her hands. “It’s just chemistry, it’s not love,” she said.
“I have seen you get so jealous when I talk to other women, last time you refused to talk to me for three days just because some lady openly flirted with me and I smiled back at her.”
Natasha dropped her hands from her face. “That doesn’t mean I love you!” She protested. “You are my ex…and we have a child together. It’s normal for me to feel jealous once in a while. It doesn’t mean I am in-love with you.”
“So you don’t love me?” Tulani asked. “And please, try to look me in the eye while you honestly answer the question.” He deliberately stressed the word honestly.
“Tula, I like you but,”
“But you are scared to get married again after what happened with your ex?” he finished for her. Her eyes told him he was right.
“I don’t think I want to get married again Tula,” she finally admitted. “Can’t we just date and live together, no strings attached? Don’t you think marriage would just ruin everything?”
“I want to make you my wife Tasha, legally and before God too. I don’t want you to just be a housemate. I want us to be a family, a real family; you, me Sean…and the five other kids we will have.”
“Five? Are you insane? I thought you didn’t like kids.”
“That was before I found out I was a father and got to spend time with my son. My biggest regret right now is that I missed four years of his life. Now I want to have a whole bundle of them running around the house…yours and my products.”
“Products?” Natasha laughed. “I don’t want to have so many children Tula, just one more…but I am willing to reconsider and add another, for your sake.”
“See, I knew you wanted to be my wife,” Tulani proudly noted. “Now I just have to convince you that marriage to me would be the best thing that ever happened to you.”
“Keep up with the arrogance and there will not be an engagement to start with.”
Tulani laughed and drew her close to him for a kiss.
Luyando was standing in line at the ATM at the mall, browsing through her social media feed to kill time when she came across news of Tulani and Natasha’s engagement.
“No. No. No.” She kept repeating whilst shaking her head. Everyone around had turned to look at her.
“It’s a lie,” she said as she turned and started running towards her car. By the time she was settling behind the wheel, her phone had gone through to her father.
“You lied to me!” She yelled at him before he could even say hello. “You lied to me!”
[nextpage title=”episode 9″]
“What do you mean I lied to you?” Bernard asked his daughter.
Luyando moved her phone from her right hand and ear and placed it on the other side as she steered the vehicle out of the parking spot.
“Tulani and Natasha are engaged!” she yelled.
Bernard, who had been expecting such a call since the day Tulani approached him and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage calmly stood up from the couch and went to take the call outside.
Seeing the look on her husband’s face, Martha knew right away who was on the other end of the line.
“You promised that you would talk to Tula for me!” Like a mad woman, Luyando pressed hard on the accelerator and headed towards her father’s house.
“I kept that promise to you Lulu,” Bernard said. “I spoke to Tulani about you just as I promised.”
“Then why has he proposed to your step daughter instead of me?”
“I am not responsible for his feelings Lulu,” Bernard said. “I tried to tell him to wait a bit before making a commitment to Natasha but he said he was sure whom he wanted to spend his life with so there was no need of waiting. He – “
“I am coming to you right now, you just wait.” Luyando said and cut the line.
“What’s going on?” Martha was standing by the door behind him.
Bernard sighed heavily and turned towards his wife. “Tulani finally proposed to Natasha and Luyando hasn’t taken the news well.”
Martha moved and went to sit at the bottom step of the veranda leading up to the house. “I was hoping that she would get over that soon.”
Bernard went to sit next to her. “Me too,” he said, looking as weary as he sounded. “I really don’t know what to do about her anymore.”
Luyando indeed appeared before them thirty minutes later, panting and geared to unleash a tantrum. She parked her vehicle in front of them, got out, slammed the door shut and charged at Bernard and Martha.
Mr and Mrs Chimeko were both on their feet, waiting for her to attack.
“How could you do this to me?” Luyando’s face was drenched in tears, her lipstick was smeared and her running mascara made her queen of the Panda kingdom.
“I did what you asked me to do!” She yelled. “I never wanted to see that shrink in the first place but you forced me.”
“Lulu,” Ben took a step towards her. “I asked you to see that doctor because you need help.”
“I don’t need any help!” she shouted.
“Try to listen to your father Lulu,” Martha said.
Luyando turned her fiery glare towards her step-mother. “You stay out of this. This is none of your business.” She said in an icy disparaging tone.
Without saying a word in return, Martha looked at her husband and turned to go back in the house.
“We are all just trying to do what’s best for you Luyando,” Bernard said.
“What’s best for me or what’s best for your precious daughter Natasha?”
“This has nothing to do with Natasha.”
Luyando furrowed her brows and scoffed. “You think this has nothing to do with her? This has got everything to do with that trump!” she raised her voice.
Bernard wanted to ask her to control her tone and get rid of her foul language but he stopped himself, fearing that that might give her another reason to flare up further.
“If that girl wasn’t in the picture, Tulani would have had the time to realize the feelings he has for me are not brotherly. That fake daughter of yours stole him from me but guess what, there is no way in hell I’m going to –“
“Stop it!” Bernard yelled. “Just stop it already!”
Luyando was taken aback by her father’s sudden outburst having expected him to play calm towards her. He had a lot to make up to her so he had no business getting angry at her. He was supposed to spend the rest of his life dancing to her tune, not shouting at her.
“I am sick and tired of listening to you talk about yourself like a victim.” Bernard said sternly. “You are not a victim so stop acting like one! You brought all this on yourself. Yes I messed up as a father but look at you Luyando, you are not a child anymore. You are someone’s wife, and a mother!”
“Are you shouting at me?” Luyando asked in disbelief.
“I am not shouting at you, I am trying to make you face reality. Tulani has never loved you the way you love him. He is in-love with someone else. You cannot force a man to love you just because you have feelings for him. That’s not how it works.
“You had a man that loved you like no other and you even have children with him. Can’t you focus on winning your husband back and bringing your family together again? How long are you going to continue pining for a man that doesn’t even care whether you exist or not?”
Bernard had had it up to his neck walking on egg shells around his daughter. He had come to learn that all his efforts in shielding her from pain and all his desires to make up for lost time were only worsening her situation instead of helping her become a better person.
Instead of being a better parent to her, his soft approach was fuelling her bad behaviour, making her feel justified in doing whatever she wanted to do. It was about time he taught his daughter that life doesn’t always have to go her way. She couldn’t keep blaming everyone around her for the things going wrong in her life. As long as Luyando could not come to the conclusion that she needed help on her own, there was no way she was going to change.
“What was I thinking coming here?” Luyando turned to leave in fury and walked back to her. She was just about to open the door when she spotted Tulani’s vehicle come through the gate, her eyes rolling at the sight of Natasha seated comfortably beside him. She immediately changed her mind about leaving and waited for them to park.
“What is she doing here?” Natasha asked Tulani upon noticing Luyando.
“Maybe she came to see your dad about something.” He said.
Natasha was the first to step out of the vehicle and walk towards Luyando who had not taken her eyes off of her.
“Tasha,” Ben intercepted the face-off between his two daughters by placing himself between them. “Is the party over already?” he asked, unable to think of anything else to say in such a situation.
Immediately sensing what her father was up to, Natasha stopped in her tracks, leaving a reasonable distance between her and Luyando. “Yes dad,” she answered. “Is everything okay?” her eyes were fixed on Luyando who was now walking towards them with a huge frown on her face.
“I guess congratulations are in order,” Luyando remarked sarcastically, her eyes narrowing in on Natasha’s engagement ring.
“Sister,” Natasha matched her rival’s tone but with a smile that barely reached her nose. “How nice of you, thank you very much.”
“Luyando came to see me about something…she was just leaving.” Bernard was still trying to avoid a confrontation between the two.
“Why are you trying to get rid of me so fast, dad?” Luyando puckered her lips at her father like a little girl. “Are you afraid Natasha might find out about the deal the two of us made?”
“What deal?” Tulani asked upon joining them. “Luyando, it’s been a while. I see you nothing much has changed.”
“I was just telling your girlfriend, oh wait, its fiancé now isn’t it?” She faked a chuckle. “I was just about to tell her about the deal that –“
“Luyando,” Ben interrupted her. “I beg of you do not cause any more trouble.”
Luyando laughed, enjoying the fact that she had the upper hand. “What’s wrong dad? Don’t you think your daughter deserves to know the truth?”
“What truth is she talking about dad?” Natasha asked Ben.
“It’s nothing important,” Ben answered nervously. “Why don’t you two go inside while your sister and I talk for a bit?”
Natasha took Tulani’s hand and was about to lead him away when Luyando stopped them.
“Not so fast you two,” she told them. “Don’t you want to know what your father here promised me in exchange for seeing a shrink?”
“You mean what he said about talking to Tulani on your behalf?” Natasha asked smugly.
Luyando’s heart almost skipped a beat. “How did you –“
Natasha laughed. “About two months ago dad followed me to my room looking nervous and all and talking about things that didn’t make sense at all. However, I could tell the whole time that he was apologizing for something he did…something he couldn’t bring himself to say.
“I knew right away that it had something to do with you and Tula. A bit of pressure on my mother and she spilled everything. Have I answered your question?”
The frown on Luyando’s face darkened. She was looking at her father as if to burn him down with her fiery disdain-filled eyes.
“I never told her anything,” Bernard defended himself against his daughter’s accusing eyes.
Without saying a word, Luyando turned around and walked back to her car. She angrily opened her door, got in and slammed it shut and sped off.
“What’s her problem?” Tulani asked.
His hands placed in his pockets and his gaze following Luyando’s disappearing vehicle, Bernard answered, “Everything,” and started walking towards the house. Tulani and Natasha followed him closely behind.
The three of them found Martha in the living room watching TV with Sean on her laps. The four year old jumped the moment he saw his father and ran straight into his arms. Bernard silently disappeared upstairs.
“I just want to see the ring,” Martha said, getting up to take a look at her daughter’s hand. “Oh wow,” she gasped. “This is beautiful Tulani. Just a few hours and Natasha’s hand already looks thinner than the rest. It’s one heavy stone you have here sweetie.”
Natasha laughed while Tulani appeared disturbed.
“Should I change it for a smaller stone?” He asked the two women.
Martha and Natasha looked at each for a second before bursting out in laugher at the look of genuine concern on Tulani’s face.
“What did I say?” Tulani asked Sean but the blank expression on his face told him that he too was just as confused as he was.
“That was a joke Tula,” Natasha put his mind at ease. “Mum meant to say that the stone looks extremely expensive.”
“Oooh,” he blushed in embarrassment.
“Congratulations to the both of you.” Martha hugged her daughter.
“Don’t I get a hug too?” Tulani shot pleading eyes at his future mother in-law. He put Sean down and waited for her to come over to him.
Laughing, Martha went and gave him a hug. “Congratulations,” she said.
“Thank you mum,” Tulani said, winking at Natasha who was gaping at him in disbelief.
“Gosh I have always wanted to say that!” He exclaimed excitedly.
“C’mon Sean,” Martha called out to her grandson. “Let’s go do some reading upstairs….”
“Martha,” Ben called out to his wife from the bottom of the stairs. He appeared frozen in petrification.
“Honey,” Martha slowly put down Sean and looked up at her husband.
“You need to come see something upstairs,” he said.
“Dad, is everything okay?” Natasha asked, walking over to him. Martha followed.
“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” Martha said, going to stand by his side.
“Is everything okay Sir?” Tulani asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ben said. “I just broke something that Tasha’s mum treasures.”
“You broke something?” Martha asked in a sharp tone.
“Just come and check for a second.” Ben took her hand and quickly led her upstairs.
Natasha and Tulani shared a look.
“I think he’s in real trouble,” Tulani said.
“Can you read to me dad?” Sean asked his father.
“Most definitely son!” He lifted him up and carried him upstairs.
“I will get some snacks ready,” Natasha shouted after them.
“What did u break?” Martha asked by the door. Bernard stepped aside and positioned Martha in front of the TV. He locked the door behind them.
Right away she knew why her husband had looked like he had just seen a ghost when he came to fetch her.
Her hand went straight to her mouth when she saw the face splashed out on the TV screen and heard the report;
So it appears the nation finally has a favourite for the upcoming presidential elections. New opposition party leader for PfP Nataniel Kaponda is leading in the latest polls by a margin never seen before!
Martha was shaking like a leaf and her knees were about to give in when Bernard ran to her and put his arms around her and led her to sit down on the bed. After setting her down, he picked up the remote control on the other side of the bed and turned off the TV.
“How can…how can someone like him –“ Martha was shaking her head, the fear in her eyes aging her way beyond her years.
Ben quickly went to stand in front of her and pulled her into his arms.
“Why is this happening?” Martha sobbed in her husband’s arms. “Why is this happening now?”
“It’s going to be alright my love,” he comforted her. “You don’t have anything to worry about. I’m here with you now…there’s nothing to worry about. There is nothing he can do to you now…you’re safe.”
Suddenly, Martha lifted her head up to look at him. There was a new determination behind her eyes. “What if we just go back to the US?”
“Martha….” He sat down next to her and held her hand. “What are you afraid of? It’s been thirty years since….”
“And he’s way more powerful now than he was then!” Martha cried. “What if he discovers I’m in the city? What about Natasha? Oooh, my poor baby….”
Ben pulled her into his arms again. “Given the kind of spotlight he’s under right now I don’t think he can do anything stupid. Why don’t you just trust me? I will make sure nothing happens to you or Natasha.
“Please honey, don’t cry…just trust me. I know I haven’t been much of a protector to my family but I have finally learnt how to be a better husband and a better father so, trust me.”
Martha wanted to trust him, to believe that no harm would come to her or her daughter but even after so many years, the memories still had the power to scare her to death just like they did thirty years ago. She had hoped that time would heal her completely but seeing the face of the man who had shattered her life to pieces on television and hearing the praises being thrown at him like he was some kind of saint made her feel even worse.
So many years had passed and she had thought she had changed…how can it be that she hadn’t and he looked like he had? The face she had just seen on the screen might have been the same one she had known all those years back but still, there was something about his eyes…his demeanour that had changed tremendously.
The piercing evil eyes and the angry face that had towered over her and made her wish for nothing but death…that face had been replaced by the soft and relaxed features of the nation’s political hero; a humble looking but well-spoken man of honour he had been called. How in heaven could that have happened? In Martha’s eyes, Nataniel Kaponda was the perfect portrayal of the clichéd politician; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“Right now is not the time for us to get worried or run.” Ben was saying. “If you go back to the US it means he still wins. He doesn’t deserve to win. If you think about it, we are the ones with the upper hand.”
Martha gave him a puzzled expression.
“We know something about him that might instantly kill his political career if revealed.” He explained.
“With the kind of power he now has he can easily do something to silence us. We don’t stand a chance against a man like him.” Martha said.
Ben laughed. “That’s where you are wrong my love,” he said. “I did my research on him immediately after you told me about the news you had heard months ago. Do you know who the major corporate sponsor of PfP is?”
“TMH, Joshua Mulenga.”
“What!?” Martha jumped from the bed.
Ben was smiling like a man that had suddenly won the lotto. “Yes my love. Do you see where I am going with this? Right now Mulenga is our in-law; our daughter and his son will be getting married soon and let’s not forget, between us there’s Sean. What do you think Kaponda will do when he discovers this?”
There was hope finally glowing on Martha’s face. She walked over to her husband who was still seated on the bed, pulled his head back and planted a kiss on his lips. “Genius!” She said, sitting down beside him. “Sometimes I forget that I married a genius. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?”
Ben was grinning from ear to ear. “Don’t kill me but I have a suggestion.” He looked at her nervously. “I know it’s going to sound ridiculous…and possibly even risky but you know what they say; sometimes offence is the best kind of defence.”
Martha looked disturbed. “What do you mean?”
* * *
With the election date slowly drawing closer, there was a hype of activity all over the nation’s capital. It was no secret that Zambians thrived on political drama; the idea that a government that had been in power for over ten years would finally be rid of was as thrilling as a plot from a Shakespearean tragedy.
Martha’s sudden realization that she had the power to push a button and shift the prevailing political tides in a whole differnt direction gave her the strength to confidently walk into Joshua Mulenga’s home office in the company of her husband and make a life-changing request to him.
She was never going to forget the look of horror on her in-law’s face when he heard the news.
Two Days Later
“Are you sure about this honey?” Bernard asked his wife. They were at the headquarters of the leading opposition party PfP, seated in their car in the parking lot.
“Yes,” she said, breathing heavily. “But that doesn’t mean I am not nervous. Ooooh I think am going to have a heart attack.” She placed her hand over her heart.
“Maybe I should come with you,” Ben suggested for the umpteenth time.
Martha gave him the same response she had given him all those times. “I want him to believe…to see that I am not afraid of him…that I can take care of myself. If I go in there with you, it will just make me feel powerless before him…like in the past.”
“What if we just cancel everything?” He was the one now acting nervous. “Maybe if we just lay low he won’t ever discover that you are back.”
Martha couldn’t help laughing at how the tables had quickly turned. Just a few seconds ago she was the one whimpering in fear.
“We have a daughter who’s a news anchor, she’s about to get married to the only son of one…if not the richest man in the country who just so happens to be the man behind Nataniel Kaponda’s political career. The phrase lying low shouldn’t even exist in our vocabulary.”
“I know you are right,” Ben said resignedly. “I guess now that we are here, I am a little scared…well, maybe not just a little…I am not comfortable with you being alone with him. What if he tries to hurt you again?”
“I don’t think he would try anything like that right now, not when he’s under public scrutiny. He might be the scum of the earth but he’s got a fully functioning brain too. Besides,” Martha laid her hand on Ben’s knee. “He’s expecting a reporter in there, not the girl he raped thirty years ago.”
“I am not sure how to respond to that.” Ben said.
Martha opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle. Leaning in from outside, she told her husband; “I was nervous a few minutes ago but now I’m not.” She was smiling. “I know what you just did so…thank you for being the best husband in the world.”
Ben came out and walked around to give her a hug before letting her go.
“I will be right here,” he said. “I am not going anywhere. Now go and let that son of a b—h know who’s in charge.”
Martha chuckled nervously and waved at him.
Nataniel Kaponda was going through the speech his secretary had just prepared for that evening’s fundraising event when the secretary walked in to announce his appointment for 10am.
“Send her right in,” the presidential hopeful cheerfully said, ready to ingratiate himself to the press. With the speech files in his hands, he stood up and readied himself to welcome the reporter sent by the man he owed his whole political career to.
The young secretary stepped aside and Martha came into view.
The small folder in Nataniel’s hand dropped to his desk.
The proud smirk on Martha’s face upon seeing the frightened look on his face was unmistakable.
Martha made sure to close the door behind the secretary before going to sit. “Nataniel,” she said in a calm but playful tone. “This is a beautiful office you have here.” Her eyes roamed the expensively furnished office. “Looks like you’ve done pretty well for yourself compared to where you should be, if life was fair.”
She pulled one back of the two chairs in front his desk and served herself a seat before he could make the offer. “Why don’t you sit?” She pointed to his huge leather seat. “You look like you are about to faint.”
Like an obedient child, Nataniel sat down. “How….”
“How come I am the one here and not some reporter?” She finished for him.
“Yes.” He said.
“It could be because your saviour and I have a special kind of relationship.” She said suggestively and immediately got the reaction she had been hoping for from him.
“Relax, I would never be anybody’s mistress.”
He seemed to relax a little.
“He is my in-law,” she clarified. “My daughter and his son are engaged…and we share a grandson.”
Nataniel looked like he had just had a bucket of cold water poured on him. Only yesterday he had called Joshua to congratulate him on his son’s engagement after reading front page reports about it on all forms of media available in the country.
“That anchor is your daughter?” He asked.
“Yes,” Martha answered matter-of-factly. “And she is the reason I am here.”
“She is?” He looked surprised. “I thought you came for…” he left the sentence hanging, unable to bring himself to say the life-threatening words.
“Who said there’s a difference? To me it’s one and the same thing.”
True to his character, Nataniel picked up on her meaning immediately. He couldn’t remember when he got up from the chair but he was now standing. Martha’s disparaging glare made the world around him spin even faster.
“Nooo,” he said, shaking his head slowly.
“Sit down Nataniel, you look like a fool. What happened to that over-confident bastard that pinned me down and drained the life out of me?”
He sat back down again. “My life is over,” he said with a distant look in his eyes, obviously imagining all the fame and money slipping away. ”I knew this day would come but I just didn’t –“
“I didn’t come here to blackmail you or anything, if that’s what you are moaning about. You should know me better than that. The devil might have bruised me, but I never turned into one.”
Confused, Nataniel asked, “then why did you come here, especially now? Did someone ask you to do this? To force me to pull out of the race?”
Martha laughed. “Don’t flatter yourself Mr President.”
Very suddenly and unexpectedly, he got up from his chair and dropped to his knees before her.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Martha tried to pull away from him but he was holding on to her legs and sobbing like a child.
“I know I have no right to ask this of you –“
“Oh don’t be so predictable!” She said scornfully. “I am not one of those people that buy into your political manipulations. I don’t care how far deep you are in pretending to be an outstanding man, I know who you are. I know the real you you miserable bastard.”
“It’s not like that Martha,” he pleaded.
“Get off of me!” Martha kicked him away and sent him falling on his back.
Nataniel slowly picked himself up and knelt down where he was, away from her. With his head bowed down, he continued pleading.
“I don’t expect you to believe that I am a different man now,” he said. “I don’t even blame you for thinking the worst of me because I deserve it. But Martha,” he looked up at her. “I have truly changed. I was going through a lot back then and I lost control, once. I have never done anything like that to anyone else.”
“Wow, then I guess I am the lucky one! I was raped by the mighty Nataniel Kaponda, someone, please, give me a medal.” There were tears in her eyes as she said the sarcastic words. Nataniel’s presence before her had vividly brought back to life the memories she had been trying to forget for the past thirty years.
“I know there’s nothing I can say right now that you will believe but please…I am truly sorry for what I did to you. I was drunk that day, my dad had just put me aside in favour of my step-brother…I know these are all excuses but I am not that man who took out his frustrations on an innocent girl any more.
“There’s absolutely no justification for what I did. I have regretted that night to this day. I have never forgotten, not once. I searched everywhere for you after I woke up the next day and found the blood stained sheets. Everything that had happened in the night came back to me in full force. I was ashamed of myself…of what I had done. I wanted to apologize, to do whatever possible to show I was sorry.
“I even prepared myself to go to jail. I thought you reported me. I was scared. I wanted to take myself to the police but my father refused to let me, said we have to wait for you to press charges instead of serving myself to the police just like that.”
Martha bolted from her chair in anger. “You sent people after me!” She yelled.
“A man entered my dorm at the nursing school in the middle of the night and tried to strangle me! He would have killed me if the girl from the next room hadn’t heard my screams and come to my rescue.”
“I swear that wasn’t me! I never sent anyone…” he then remembered his father’s words the day he had run to him for help.
“Don’t do anything stupid like reporting yourself to the police. I will take care of things. The last thing I need is the likes of you running my name through mud.” His father had said.
“You actually expect me to believe that?” Martha asked.
“I swear Martha, it was my father. I only got to find out about it when he kept insisting that I leave the country. I thought it was because he wanted me completely out of his life but then he told me that it was because he had sent someone after you but you managed to escape. He never meant to hurt you, he just wanted to scare you.
“I went looking for you but I couldn’t find you anywhere. There were crazy thoughts on my mind…I thought I made you do something stupid…like kill yourself. You were such a proud and fearless person and what I did to you was the worst that could happen to anyone. I knew I had ruined your life…and I desperately wanted to make things right.”
“I didn’t come here to hear your excuses,” Martha said sternly. “I might have forgiven you for what you did to me but that doesn’t mean you can’t face the consequences.”
“I know,” Nataniel said, his head hanging low. “I really had no idea my father was planning something like that. If you want me to step down or if you want to tell the world about what I did…you can do that.”
“What?” Martha asked.
“I don’t want you to,” he answered honestly. “And I am willing to do whatever possible to beg you not to but, if it’s something you feel you have to do, I cannot stop you.”
“Do you honestly mean that?”
“Martha,” he said in a calm and collected tone. “You knew me before that night. Those few months I resorted to drinking where just days of me acting out after my father’s rejection, God rest his soul. I made a mistake once, a very grave mistake and I will never forget it.
“That night,” Nataniel shut his eyes closed, as if to block the memory from his mind. “In a moment of rage I lost control. People think that I do all these charity works around the community and go to church every Sunday because I am a good person but that’s not it. Everything I have done since that night has been my way of making out for what I did to you.
“Even my political career, I thought if I can make a difference in the world, that if I keep doing good things, I thought it might help me feel better about myself. I haven’t forgiven myself for the past, I don’t deserve anyone’s forgiveness so I won’t even dare ask for it.”
“Then why did you do that to me? I trusted you!” Martha cried.
“I don’t know,” he was shaking his head in regret. “I really don’t know. I just remember being so mad that day. I guess I was just selfish, only focused on my pain. I didn’t understand why you couldn’t sleep with me that night when you claimed to love me.
“I was young, it didn’t make sense then but I know better now. I have two daughters. I think God gave me daughters only as a way of punishing me…to make me see just what I had done to someone else’s daughter. I didn’t even know I had a third daughter.”
“Well, she is actually your first, not third.” Martha corrected him.
“Does she know about me?” Nataniel asked.
“Of course not. What did you want me to tell her, you are a product of rape?”
“Martha?” He dropped his head low in shame again.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But for the past thirty years I have only thought of you as a villain in my life. I couldn’t remember the person you were before that night.”
“Does Mr Mulenga know? Is that why he helped you set up this meeting?”
“Yes he knows. My husband and I decided it was the best thing to do. I didn’t know it was your father that sent someone after me so….”
“So you thought I might try to harm you again if I discovered you were around?”
“I guess I deserve that.”
“Can I sit up now?” He winced in pain. “My knees are killing me. I am not young anymore.”
“I never asked you to kneel.” She said. “You went down on your own.”
Nataniel got up from the floor and nervously went to stand behind his desk. “So what do you plan on doing with me Martha? I am at your mercy right now.”
“It’s a good thing you know that,” Martha said.
“Whatever you decide, can I just ask one thing?”
Martha threw him a look.
“I know, I’m shameless right now but, about Natasha….”
“What about Natasha?”
“Can I talk to her first before the truth gets out?”
“Apart from your father, did you tell anyone else about what happened that night?”
“No, just my wife.”
“What? You told your wife? Who tells his wife that he raped someone? Are you still married to her?”
“I told her before we got married. There was no way I was going to ask her to marry me with something like that weighing down on my neck.”
“And she still agreed to marry you?”
“Not right away,” he said. “She dumped me right after I told her but later on I think she felt pity for me and forgave me. Said she was glad I told her about it first.”
“Well aren’t you lucky with women Nataniel?” Martha said sarcastically.
“It’s a miracle,” he said. “You mentioned your husband earlier…I take it he knows?”
“He knows. He’s downstairs right now as we speak.”
Nataniel straightened his back. “What? He’s here with you?”
“There are no secrets between us.” she said. “I had come here to make a few threats but it appears I have to change my script.”
“What did you want to say?” He asked.
“I am sure by now you’ve realized the position we are both in. Apart from the fear of my daughter discovering exactly how she was conceived, there is nothing else that would keep me from telling everyone what you did.
“I can’t tell right now if what you told me is the truth or not…and frankly, I don’t want to know. I just don’t want you to try anything against my family thinking we are here to ruin your political career. You are lucky that you have such loyal supporters like Mr Mulenga.
“Even though he was sorry about what happened to me, it was clear he has a lot of faith in you. He said you once told him that you have a deep regret in your life and only when I told him my story did he connect the dots of whatever it is you had talked about.
“However, there is something else in his life that’s more important than his political ambitions and that’s his family. I want you to stay away from my daughter –“
“Martha, she is my child too,” Nataniel tried to reason with her. “How can I –“
Martha raised her hand. “Don’t even go there,” she warned him. “You should know better than anyone else; there are consequences to every decision we make in life. It should be enough for you knowing you have a daughter but don’t even dream about coming into her life.
“As far as she knows, you don’t exist. Unless you want to break her heart or give up on your political career, you will stay away from her. Am I making myself clear?”
“I understand,” he answered resignedly.
“Keep your promise and you will have a smooth sail towards State House. Try something funny and it’s goodbye to everything you’ve worked so hard for all these years. Don’t even try to get your wife to get close to my daughter. I will ruin you.
“Natasha picks up on things quickly. The moment she senses something, she will ask me about it and I don’t think I have the strength to look her in the eye and lie to her. I think she’s aware that my relationship with her biological father wasn’t good so she’s never asked me about him.
“I have seen the need in her to know but somehow, she always manages to keep quiet for fear of breaking my heart.” Pushing back tears she added, “She’s about to get married…I don’t want her discovering the truth. It will break her.”
Nataniel Kaponda was at a loss. He understood very well Martha’s terms and was more than appreciative of the mercy she had shown him, however, he had reservations about going on with life pretending he didn’t have another child. How was he going to survive something like that? It had been hard enough living with the guilt over his past but this?
“I hear you,” he told Martha after a while, his voice heavy with emotion. “I won’t tell her anything. I promise.”
Martha heaved a sigh of relief.
* * *
One Week Later
Natasha was out on a picnic date with Tulani when she received a call from the Program Director. Wondering why he might be calling her on her day off, Natasha answered the call.
“Oh thank God you picked up!” The fifty year old said. “Where are you right now?”
Natasha laughed. “Boss, its Sunday today. Have you forgotten?”
Is that Chanda? Tulani mouthed the question to her. Natasha nodded.
“Bring the phone here,” he grabbed it from her before she could protest.
“Ba Chanda, why are you interrupting my date? Do you want to lose your job?”
“Sorry boss,” Mr Chanda quickly apologized. “But we have an emergency. You know that we are supposed to have Mr Kaponda as a guest on Richard’s show tonight right?”
“How can I forget? Everyone in this country is impatiently waiting for tonight’s episode. The elections are just in two weeks.”
“That’s exactly why I called Sir. Richard was involved in an accident on his way to the station.”
Tulani sat up. “What happened? Is he alright? How….”
“I’m told his injuries aren’t fatal but he’s certainly in no condition to appear on TV or let alone open his mouth. We need someone to take his spot but we can’t get through to Morris or Towela. I understand that Natasha is still a stranger to Zambian politics but she’s our only hope right now.
“We have four more hours till the interview. The script is ready already and I have assembled a group to gather some relevant information she might need to know to sail through smoothly.”
Tulani was looking at Natasha with furrowed brows, wondering if she was ready to take on such a challenge so soon.
“What’s wrong?” Natasha asked.
“They want you to take Richard’s spot on his program tonight.”
Natasha’s eyes lit up. “For real?” She asked. And then realization struck her. “What happened to Richard? He was looking forward to tonight with bated breath.”
“He was involved in an accident,” Tulani answered, his phone still by his ear.
“Is he okay?” there was a look of horror on Natasha’s face.
“He’s going to live, but he can’t come for work just yet. Do you think you can fill in for him? And no, Morris and Towela are missing.” He had read the next question on her face.
“Of course I can do it!” She answered confidently. “I have been reading up on local politics since I came. The new show am working on has a political component to it so – “
“She says she’ll do it,” Tulani told Mr Chanda on the phone before Natasha could finish. “I will be dropping her off in about thirty minutes. Make sure you have everything ready. Also, don’t forget to inform Mr Kaponda about the change. Those people hate it when they are caught off-guard.”
“Yes Sir, thank you very much!” The director said before hanging up.
“Looks like my woman is about to become even more famous now.” Tulani said as he got up. “Let’s go,” he reached out his hand to Natasha and helped her up.
“Let me even call mum before we get to the station. She will be in shock!”
Martha was in the kitchen cooking when she received a call from a strange number.
“Hello,” she said.
“Martha this is Nata, sorry to call you out of the blue but we have a huge problem.”
“I thought I asked you….”
Bernard, who had been watching TV in the next room thought his wife was talking to him so he rushed over to her. He arrived in time to keep her from hitting her head on the floor.
Martha had passed out.
[nextpage title=”episode 10″]
(Note: This part is still in draft form…to be edited later.)
On the way to the TV station, Natasha kept calling her mother but the phone kept ringing and ringing.
“She’s still not answering?” Tulani asked.
“No,” Natasha said, looking extremely worried.
“Try your dad.” Tulani suggested.
Natasha called her father and he answered after the forth ring. “Baby, where are you?” He sounded almost out of breath.
“Dad, is everything okay? Where’s mum? I’ve been trying to reach her for a while now.”
“Oooh…your mother…she is…she is…she should be sleeping I think.” Bernard stammered through the lie as he looked down at his wife’s sleeping figure on the couch. Having suffered through many episodes of panic attacks in the past, Bernard had learnt to keep Martha’s meds close by in case of such emergencies.
“She had a slight headache so she’s sleeping it off now.” Bernard said, not wanting to tell his daughter the truth because she would automatically start asking about what caused the attack and insist of coming home instead of going to work.
“Is it very serious?” Natasha asked.
“No, not at all. I think it’s just the heat; she still hasn’t adjusted to the change in weather. Where are you right now?”
“Tulani is driving me to work dad,” she answered, suddenly remembering why she had called in the first place. Her excitement quickly returned. “You won’t believe what happened dad! I have been given the chance to host the biggest program at work today.”
Bernard nervously laughed. “That’s good news baby. Your mother and I are very proud of you.” It was all he could tell her. Soon or later she was going to find out the truth about her father and there was nothing they could do as her parents to keep that from happening.
Instead of shielding her from the pain that the truth might bring her, Bernard reasoned that it would be better if she met her father now and draw her own conclusions based on what she sees. He trusted that the daughter he had raised all these years would be wise and strong enough to deal with such a shocking truth.
Silently, Bernard prayed for everything to be okay.
“Give mum a kiss for me and don’t forget to watch the show! Will call later to check how mum’s doing. Love you, bye dad.”
“What’s wrong with mum?” Tulani asked the moment she was done on the phone.
“She has her usual migraines,” Natasha said. “She’s been getting those since we moved here. I think she’s having trouble readjusting to the weather.”
“We will go straight home once the program is done. What does she like to eat?”
Natasha gave him a look.
“What?” Tulani asked innocently. “She’s also my mother too so what’s wrong with me caring about her?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Natasha laughed.
“Your eyes were loud enough My Lady.”
Natasha continued chuckling.
Despite it being a Sunday, Tulani Media House was a hype of activity as employees readied themselves for the biggest program of the month. With only an hour to go, Natasha went over her lines in Richard’s office for the last time.
“Mr Kaponda is on his way Tasha,” Mr Chanda announced from the door.
She immediately stopped pacing and gaped at her boss in excitement. “How long?”
Mr Chanda laughed. “Thirty minutes.”
“Great!” She said with one hand tied into a fist to warm up her fighting spirit. “I got this.”
“Yes you got this,” Mr Chanda echoed her words with a reassuring smile. “Finish up and head upstairs.”
“Yes boss.” Natasha answered enthusiastically.
The DoP laughed nervously, feeling extremely uncomfortable to have the soon-to-be wife of TMH’s successor enthusiastically refer to him as boss. Given his previous experiences at the hands of Luyando when she was a Mulenga, Mr Chanda had expected the worst from the mother of TMH’s heir. Fortunately, Natasha’s humility was too overwhelming it seemed to catch him off guard every single time.
By the time they reached the station, Nataniel Kaponda had given up trying to reach Martha whose phone was now off. He was led up to the studio blindly, unable to imagine what possibilities that laid ahead. Ever since Marth had told him about Natasha, he had gathered enough information about her to form some kind of composition as to what kind of person she was.
However, the question that haunted him the most was; would he be able to hold himself together in the face of moving vivid reminder of the biggest sin he had ever committed?
Nataniel found the answer ten minutes later when Natasha walked into his designated dressing room where he was having his make-up done with a huge smile on her face. Shaking in his boots, Nataniel stood up from the chair unannounced and surprised the make-up artist whose powder contents went spilling all over the floor…and on Nataniel too.
“I am so sorry,” the nervous wrecked man bent down to pick up the small powder container but Natasha was on it before he could reach it.
“Woah,” Natasha said as she handed it to the trepid artist who appeared about ready to cry, fearing her job might be in danger over the mistake which had not been of her doing. “I had no idea even politicians get nervous.” She laughed and extended her hand over to him.
Patricia, the make-up artist was beside herself now, stifling her sobs upon noticing the large mark of make-up on Mr Kaponda’s trousers. She had just spilled powder on the president of PfP! The man might be the opposition leader but there was no doubt he would be the country’s president in just a few weeks.
“Oh believe me when I tell you that even the most confident of men suffer a bout of nervousness every now and then.” He said as he shook her hand. Just then, a sob escaped Patricia’s tightly closed lips and the two turned to look at her.
“Patricia?” Natasha quickly went over to her, unknowingly giving Nataniel time to compose himself. “Look at you, you are shaking!” She put her arm over her shoulder to help calm her down. “I honestly don’t think Mr Kaponda blames you for the accident.” She was looking at him for affirmation.
“Oh no, not at all.” Nataniel quickly chipped in, rubbing the dirt away. “Just a little rub…and it’s all gone!”
“Good thing it doesn’t stick!” Natasha said, shaking Patricia by her shoulders. “See,” she pointed to where the stain had been. “It’s all gone, relax.”
“I am sorry….” The twenty-six year old make-up artist cried.
“Patricia, you are going to make our guest uncomfortable if you continue acting like this.” Natasha admonished her. “He already said its okay, and the mark is gone so pull yourself together. Do you think you will be able to finish in this state?”
Patricia nodded profusely.
Nataniel Kaponda silently thanked the nervous make-up artist for making the first meeting with his daughter less awkward and less stressful for him…even though it was at her expense. The little mishap had given him time to compose himself and think about what to say now that the ice was broken.
“Can you give us a few seconds to talk in private Ms Patricia?” Nataniel asked. “Oh no, I just need to go over a few things with Ms Chimeko before the interview starts.” He added upon seeing the look of dismay on the young lady’s face.
Nodding, Patricia left the room.
“Is there anything that concerns you about the interview?” Natasha asked the politician. “Please, sit,” she pointed to the chair he to his chair while she sat down on the other one meant for the make-up artists.
Mr Kaponda pulled his chair and sat down, facing her. “Not at all,” he answered. “I just make it a habit to create some kind of rapport with the interviewer before sitting in front of all those cameras.”
“You mean to make us friends so that I don’t ask grilling questions later?” she laughed.
Laughing too, Nataniel said; “Well, partly, yes.” He admitted. “But this time I genuinely want to get to know you a bit. I don’t know if you’ve heard, your future father in-law and I are quite close.”
“Oh yes, Tulani…I mean Mr Mulenga told me and of course I came across that fact as I was going through your information in readiness for this interview.”
“I have met your husband…I hope you don’t mind me addressing him as such…considering the two of you already have a child together….”
“I knew him since he was a young boy. His father and I met by chance but we became close since, enough to consider each other family.”
“Where are you going with all this Mr Kaponda?” Natasha asked, smelling a motive in the air.
Mr Kaponda chuckled. “You are as intelligent as she said you were.”
“Who said?” Natasha asked.
He immediately realized his mistake the moment she asked the question.
“Oh, I meant my wife,” he lied. “She is a fan of yours. She heard you would be the one conducting the interview and she told me a little about you. She loves your accent.”
Natasha blushed. “Ooh, thanks…tell her I said thanks. It’s flattering to know that the First Lady is a fan.”
Mr Kaponda busted out laughing. “Except she isn’t the First Lady! I don’t want to jump the gun and start making assumptions. If there’s one thing I have learnt about elections in this country, it is that the actual results are always unpredictable; it’s anybody’s game.”
“You are very humble Sir, it’s a rare trait to see…in politics.”
“You flatter me Ms Chimeko,” he said.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” she reminded him. “Why are you trying to get close to me? It can’t be because of the interview, I have seen you take on giants before without breaking a sweat so a political amateur like me wouldn’t faze you in the slightest.”
Nataniel Kaponda laughed heartily. “You truly are bold, perhaps even more than all those giants I’ve faced in the past. I like you Ms Chimeko. You remind me so much of….” he let the sentence trail the moment he realised he was about to make a second mistake.
“You mean my mother?” Natasha asked, closely watching his frazzled demeanour. Mr Kaponda almost choked from the shock of her question. She quickly handed him a bottle of mineral water that had been left on the side of the dressing table for him.
Natasha’s question had the exact desired effect she had hoped it would three hours ago when she decided to test a crazy theory that had popped into her mind upon closely examining Mr Kaponda’s perfect family portrait. The dots seemed to connect a little too perfectly for coincidence.
“Your mother?” Nataniel stammered.
“You are my biological father, aren’t you?” She went straight for the jugular, again catching Mr Kaponda by surprise.
Hearing her name fall out of his mouth in that manner confirmed Natasha’s suspicions. “Oh dear,” she said, getting up from the chair and putting her hand on her forehead. “No, no, no…I have to be wrong…I can’t be right.” She was desperately trying to fight off the tears but they came pouring.
Mr Kaponda did the only thing he could do in that situation; try to reach out for her hand but Natasha pulled away from him, a repugnant expression on her face as she shook her head in disbelief.
“What did you do to my mother?” she asked.
Just then, Tulani and Mr Chanda appeared through the door.
“Babe!” Tulani immediately noticed her state and ran over to her.
“I’m fine.” Natasha said forcefully, turning her back to him to wipe away her tears but it was too late, they had already seen them.
“Is everything alright Sir?” Mr Chanda asked Nataniel.
“Everything is fine,” Natasha interrupted the politician. With her face cleaned dry, she turned to face everyone. “I am fine,” she said to Tulani who had his arm around her waist and starring at her intently before giving Mr Kaponda an accusing look.
“What happened uncle?” Tulani asked Mr Kaponda. Due to the nature of the relationship with his parents, the Mulenga children referred to the Kaponda couple as Uncle and Auntie just like the Kaponda girls did to his parents.
“He just said something that made me tear up a little…it wasn’t anything bad.” Natasha assured the two men looking at them quizzically. “I just got emotional a little, I’m totally fine.”
“You sure?” Tulani was still not fully convinced.
Natasha feigned a laugh. “Of course I’m sure!” she said. “I’m going to my dressing room to fix my make-up while Mr Kaponda finishes his as well. We don’t have much time left to broadcast.”
“Okay, I will walk you there. Ba Chanda, find Patricia and ask her to finish up her work here.”
Yes boss,” Mr Chanda said and walked ahead of them out of the room.
“See you on the other side Mr Kaponda,” Natasha said before leaving the room, trying to sound as natural as possible.
Nataniel Kaponda hung his head in shame, unable to find the right words to say.
Alone in her dressing room, Tulani grilled Natasha for answers.
“Let’s talk about it when the program is over baby,” she kept telling him. “I am really fine, I promise.”
“I don’t believe you but I will wait till the interview is over.” He said and kissed her on the forehead.
When the time finally came, Natasha carried herself like a pro, only slightly flinching in her chair when time to ask about Nataniel Kaponda’s family came. She blinked copiously, looked down on her writing pad for a second too long before gathering her wits together and asking;
“One of your strengths as a politician has always been your family…you have been devoted to the same woman for over twenty years and…and together…you have two lovely daughters.
“Tell me…tell the millions of viewers watching us right now how you’ve successfully managed to keep such a tight neat family despite your demanding life as a politician?”
It was at that point that Martha and Bernard who had been following the program closely at home knew that their daughter had discovered the truth in that short time. Imagining the sort of conversation she was going to have with her when she returned home, Martha broke down in tears.
Nataniel too shifted nervously in his seat and tried to smile to musk the shame and fear. “That’s a very good question Natasha,” he said. “And the answer I’m going to give you is the same answer I’ve always given people that ask me that question; indeed I have been blessed with a tight neat family however, we are far from perfect.
“Just like families out there, we have our own issues that we try to work out as they come. My career as a politician, having served many years as a Minister of Agriculture and also as the Secretary for the opposition party PfP, life is indeed demanding and time expensive.
“I am going to be honest with you, I am still trying to figure out how to find a balance between my family and my career…I am not sure if there is even such a thing!” he laughed. “Nevertheless, my family is my life so I always strive to be there for them and to be the best husband and father I can be; it’s every man’s responsibility.”
“A very diplomatic response, thank you very much Sir.” Natasha said, feigning a smile for the umpteenth time during the interview.
“I think I should add something though,” Mr Kaponda added before Natasha could chip in the next question. “I think its public knowledge that before I married my wife, I led a very questionable life as a young man. There was a very brief period in my life when my life fell apart.
“Back then as youngsters, our answer to every problem was alcohol and, I am not trying to make excuses here but, I made a lot of mistakes back then…bad decisions that I am not proud of. I turned my life around since and I have learnt from all my mistakes. I think that honestly, that’s why I am able to be a good husband and father.
“All I ask the public is that they give me a chance to contribute on a larger scale to the growth of our beautiful nation, for a new start, for much needed change, and for prosperity.”
A politician indeed you are , Natasha thought as she silently mulled over how calculatingly well he had survived her question.
“Can we talk in private?” Nataniel asked Natasha the moment the interview was over.
She waited for the crew to take away their microphones before leaning in towards him and whispering; “For what, so you can talk your way out of your mistakes? Never gonna happen.”
Tulani was beside her in that moment, watching the two closely and suspiciously. “Thank you for coming all the way uncle,” he shook the man’s hand.
“It was an honour for me to be here son,” he replied. “Besides, it’s the least I could do considering how much I owe your family. You have a very beautiful and intelligent woman here Tulani,” he was looking at Natasha who couldn’t seem to hide her look of disdain any longer. “Take care of her and cherish her the way you would want your own daughter to be cherished by her man.”
“Thank you uncle, I intend to do exactly that.” Tulani said most confidently.
“We should get going now Tula, it’s getting late.” Natasha quickly forced the conversation to an abrupt end. Turning to Mr Kaponda she said; “Thank you for answering all my questions despite my inadequacies in the field of politics. I hope we will have the pleasure of seeing you here again soon after you win the elections.”
“You flatter me Natasha,” he answered reservedly. “Win or lose, I will always have time for you…for TMH.”
“Of course.” She said between clenched teeth before turning to leave.
Tulani closed the windows and locked the doors of his car the moment they were inside and gave Natasha his full attention.
“Aren’t you starting the car?” Natasha asked.
In response, Tulani crossed his arms over his chest defiantly. “We are not going anywhere until you tell what happened between you and my uncle. I know that politicians have their own shade of darkness…did he try something….”
“Hell no!” Natasha yelled before he could even finish his sentence. “It’s nothing like that.” She laughed.
“Then why were you crying?”
“It turns out that man is my father.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“How….” Tulani started to ask.
“That’s a question I don’t ever want answered, ever.” Natasha said sternly.
“But, don’t you want to – “
“I don’t remember much of my childhood but there’s one thing that’s stayed on my mind; my mother’s fears…her panic attacks, the nightmares…and dad telling her that man would never hurt her again. I always wondered who the man was…until today when mum suddenly got sick right before I gave her the news of my interview.
“At first I didn’t make much of it…but then I saw a picture of Mr Kaponda and his family. Those two girls look like me; their eyes, their noses, even their foreheads…it’s all me. After that, everything else fell into place.
“I recalled my mother’s reaction every single time the name Nataniel Kaponda was mentioned on the news in the past few months; her mood would drastically change and she would refuse to eat anything for days. It all made sense today.”
“Baby….” Tulani drew her into his arms and she broke down in tears right away.
“I think I know the truth…about what happened,” Natasha said in-between sobs. “But if I ask, it will all become real. I don’t want to know what really happened Tula.”
“Ooh my love….” Tulani tightened his arms around her. He let her cry for a while before finally driving her home.
“Are you sure you are going to be okay in there?” He asked her once they were parked outside her home. “I am sure your parent’s are waiting in there ready for you to fire away.”
“I know.” Natasha took a deep breath, kissed him goodnight and stepped out of the vehicle.
Tulani made sure she was safely inside before driving off. Before opening the door, Natasha turned to wave at him for the last time.
As expected, she found her parents in the living room looking like a pair of wet puppies. Bernard stood up the moment the door opened and ran over to her, his eyes heavy with emotion.
“Woah, did someone die in here?” Natasha asked loudly, a huge grin on her face as she gave her father a hug. “I expected to find a lot of food laid out on the table with loud music playing waiting for me to arrive and celebrate my achievement today.”
Bernard and Martha gave each other knowing looks. They knew exactly what route Natasha had chosen to take. They had considered two possibilities; either she bombards them with questions or she plays it cool, acting like nothing ever happened. She had obviously gone for the latter.
Martha stood up and went to give her daughter a hug, tears streaming down her face. “I am so proud of you baby,” she said. “Thank you for making me so proud…and sorry I couldn’t take your call earlier….”
Natasha fought back her tears. She understood very well what her mother was apologizing for. “I know mum, I know.” She said, her arms still around her.
“Okay, enough hugging!” Bernard clapped his hands and the two women separated. “To celebrate, I prepared your favourite Tasha, and something extra special.”
“Uuuuu, I’m excited!” She said and right away headed towards the kitchen. She avoided looking at both of them as she left the room. Bernard went to put his arm over his wife’s shoulder and led her to the kitchen.
That night Natasha went to bed early. She took a sleeping pill and slept the night away.
She never asked her mother any questions concerning Nataniel Kaponda, not that day…or any other day.
* * *
The following morning, Martha was excited to prepare Sean for his first day at pre-school while his mother prepared for work.
“Why didn’t you wake me up mum?” Natasha asked her mother when she went down into the kitchen to grab a sandwich.
“You had a tough day at work yesterday, I wanted you to rest a bit, you deserve it.” Martha answered whilst feeding her grandson.
Natasha spotted her well packaged breakfast on the table and put it straight into her bag. She bent down to give her son a big kiss on one cheek. “I really wanted to see him attend his first class here in Zambia.” She lamented to her mother.
“I will record everything so you don’t have to worry about a thing.” Her mother promised.
Natasha ran over to her side and gave her a hug. “Did I ever tell you that you are the best mother in the world?”
Martha chuckled. “Not as many times as I would love to hear.”
“Then you will be hearing it every day from now on!” her daughter said.
“And what about me?” Ben appeared in the kitchen. Natasha ran over to him as well and wrapped her arms around him. “You too dad, you are the best dad in the whole world! I love you,” she kissed him on the cheek and started running out of the room. “Send me the teacher’s number when you get it mum!” She shouted.
“Do you think she’s going to be alright?” Bernard asked his wife.
“She’s our daughter.” Martha said proudly. “An angel,” she added. “God always protects his own.”
An hour later, Martha led little Sean to his first class, all the while recording everything around them as well as Sean’s excitement as they walked towards the school’s administrative block. Having expected him to cry for her for leaving him behind, Martha was surprised to notice that Sean appeared comfortable in his new strange environment and seemed to be getting along well with the boys around him.
Something about his charming smile reminded her of his father Tulani, that evening outside her home in the US when he dropped off Natasha. The two of them had no idea she was watching them. Martha remembered seeing the smile on Tulani’s face and could tell he had fallen in-love with her daughter.
“I bet Tulani was exactly like that when he was that age, a real charmer.” Martha laughed to herself as she recorded Sean from the door. Once she was sure she had gotten enough for the mother, she waved to the teacher and closed the door.
She was just about to step inside her car when something made the hairs at the back of her neck stand up. Martha quickly turned around and scanned the area in sight. Apart from the empty cars in the parking lot, there was nobody else in sight. Shaking her head, she turned and got into the car.
Five hours later, Martha received a call from Sean’s teacher Ms Moyo and instantly regretted having ignored that feeling earlier that day.
“What do you mean someone picked up my grandson?” Martha asked.
Bernard entered the bedroom right at that moment.
“A lady, she said she was the boy’s aunt.” Ms Moyo was saying.
“His aunt?” Martha asked, quickly putting on some shoes and ready to bolt out of the house. Ben followed her downstairs.
“Did something happen to Sean?” He asked her as they ran down the stairs.
Martha stopped to look at her husband. “Someone took him honey. Someone took our boy.”
“What do you…give me that.” He took the phone from her. “Afternoon, this is Mr Chimeko, Sean’s grandfather. Who did you say took my grandson? Couldn’t there be some sort of mix-up? We never sent anyone to pick him up. My wife was just about to head over there right now. Isn’t he supposed to knock off at 2?”
“Yes Sir, that’s right.” The young teacher answered. “However, the lady that came to pick him up said that there was a family emergency and she was sent to collect Sean. She seemed to know a lot about your family…and I happened to know who she was since I’ve seen her in the papers and on TV before. Your grandson even referred to her by name, called her his aunt.”
“Oh dear God.” Ben said, giving his wife a desperate look. “You have the keys?” He asked her.
Martha nodded. “What’s wrong? Has she told you who took him?”
“You won’t believe this,” Bernard said. “Luyando, she’s the one that took him.”
Martha’s heart sunk, her knees almost gave way but Ben held her in time. “Give me the keys,” he told her as he led her to the couch. “I will find Luyando and get back Sean safely.”
Martha snapped her arms and pushed him away. “And you want me to just sit here and wait? I’m coming with you Bernard Chimeko and you better pray that that woman doesn’t harm my grandson or I swear to God I will wring her neck with my bare hands.”
“I would do that to her myself before I let you get your hands dirty.” Bernard said. “Let’s go then.” He grabbed her hand and ran out of the house with her.
“Call Natasha right away.” Bernard instructed his wife as he drove them to Luyando’s new house. “Let her and Tulani think of other places she might have taken him just in case we don’t find her at home.”
“Shouldn’t we also call the police?” Martha asked.
Bernard hesitated to answer.
“What if she intends to take out her anger on him honey?” Martha tried to reason with him. “I understand she is your daughter but you of all people know better than anyone that she needs help. Luyando is not in her right mind.”
“I know, Call them.” He conceded. “And call his other grandparents as well. We need all the help we can get right now.”
Martha punched 911 on her phone but hesitated to press the call button, the defeated look on her husband’s face giving her pause. “Let’s look for them first,” she said and put her phone number. “If we don’t find them in the next hour or two, then we can call the police.”
Bernard heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you honey.” He said.
“Thank me when we find Sean well and safe.” She said, picking up her phone again to call Natasha. Just like she had feared, Natasha was beside herself the moment she heard Luyando had taken her son.
She ran out of her office and headed straight to the boardroom where she knew Tulani was having a board meeting, leaving a trail of wide-eyed people staring after her. She was sobbing and panting when she busted through the doors of the boardroom.
“She has taken my son,” were the words Natasha whispered before falling to the ground in shock. Her adrenaline had finally caught up with her.
Tulani ran over to her and gently picked up her limp body from the floor, all the while calling out her name in despair as the other joined him in lifting her up and carrying her to the nearest chair.
“Luyando has taken Sean.” Natasha said almost in a whisper as tears rolled down her eyes. She tried to stand up from the chair but Tulani held her down. “Everyone leave,” he told the room. “We will continue this meeting another time. Baby,” he turned back to her while the others were walking out.
“We need to go,” she tried to get up again.
“I know,” Tulani said, desperately trying to control his rage and be the pillar she could lean on. He didn’t need to ask her more questions to know what was going on. He knew very well what Luyando was capable of. He just didn’t know how far she would go to get her way.
“I want you to try and catch your breath for now. I need you to breathe in and out…take deep breaths and we will walk out of here to look for Sean. He is going to be just fine baby.”
Natasha did as she was told and the two of them were out of there in no time.
“Where are we going?” Natasha asked Tulani on the drive out of TMH.
Before he could answer, Tulani’s phone rang. “That’s dad, I’m sure your parents have told them. Pick up the call for me, phone’s in my side pocket.”
Natasha took out the phone and answered.
“It’s me Mr Mulenga,” Natasha announced herself immediately. “Tulani is driving right now.”
“Your mother called us about Sean, where are you going to look? Tell Tulani to head to the Chongwe house, his mother says Luyando never returned the keys to that house. She might have gone there with the boy.”
“He says we head to Chongwe,” Natasha told Tulani.
“I know, that’s where we are going.” Tulani said.
“That’s where we are going Sir.” She relayed the message.
“Good.” Mr Mulenga said. “Ayanda and I were look at some lodges Luyando loved to frequent. Sean is going to be okay Natasha.” Joshua reassured his daughter in-law. “Luyando might be crazy, but she is not downright evil. She wouldn’t harm a child.”
She slashed herself when she was a kid! Natasha thought. God knows what she is doing to my son right now. As the thought crossed her mind, the tears started rolling again.
“Thank you Mr Mulenga.” She said and cut the line.
Tulani reached over to her and grasped her hand. “He is going to be just fine Tasha.” He said. He needed to believe those words as much as he needed her to.
Standing in the middle of the living room and looking down at the four year old boy smiling up at her with his big brown innocent eyes, Luyando felt like she had finally reached her breaking point.
“Are you mad at me aunty?” Sean asked her.
Luyando blinked away her tears. “Why do you ask that?”
“Because you don’t look so happy.” He answered.
“Why do you think I don’t look happy?”
“Because you are sad.” The four year old answered. “Mummy said you are sick. She said you need love only. What did she mean?”
Luyando’s fight against her tears intensified. “Your mother, she said that?”
“Um,” the boy nodded. “Grandma, granddad, mummy too, they always hug me and tell me they love me. Do you want me to give you a hug Auntie Yando?”
Luyando cried, finally.
“Why are you crying Auntie Yando?” Sean asked.
Luyando had spent the last hour listening to the boy talk like there was no danger lurking before him. Not once had he looked at her and cried in fear. He had not even asked about his parents, trusting that he was safe in the hands of the woman he believed to be her aunt.
She did not even have a plan. She had just woken up one day and decided that the best way to punish the woman that had taken everything from her was to take the one thing she cared about the most. She had not thought far enough to know what she would do with the boy once she had him in her custody.
The innocence in Sean’s eyes reminded her greatly of her own children. Looking into Sean’s eyes, Luyando remembered all those days and nights her children had cried for her attention, when she could not see them except for her desires to win over the heart of a man that never thought of her as a woman but only as a sister.
If Sean could see sadness in her eyes, what did her twins see when they looked at her? Luyando wondered. She had been willing to give up everything, including her own life for one man, but what had she received in return? She was now holding hostage someone who had no clue as to what was going on and the only thing he knew to do was trust…trust that he was not in any sort of danger. When was the last time she had trusted someone like that? Had there ever been anyone like that in her life…someone she could trust to take care of her against all odds?
An image of Peter immediately crossed her mind. How come she had never seen it before? He had stayed with her and loved her for years despite knowing she had another man on her heart. He had loved her and he loved their children like no other had ever done, not even her own father.
Before she knew it, Luyando hit the floor on her knees and broke out in sobs. Confused by whatever was going on, Sean did the one thing he had seen his grandmother do to his mother whenever she was feeling down; he wrapped his tiny arms around Luyando.
Sean’s innocent act of tenderness finally pushed Luyando over the edge and sobbed some more, wrapping her arms tightly around him as she did so.
“I c-an’t bre-a-th-e.” Sean complained under his breath but Luyando was too wrapped up in her sorrow to hear him…or hear Tulani’s car pull up in front of the house. It was only when Natasha yanked her son from her arms and pushed her away that she regained her senses.
“Mum!” Sean shouted upon seeing his mother.
“Baby, mummy is here.” Natasha said as she examined her son everywhere. “Are you alright baby? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“No,” the boy answered nonchalantly.
Once he was convinced Sean was fine from watching him with his mother, Tulani walked over to Luyando and reached out his hand to help her up.
Luyando rejected his hand and tried to push herself up, except, she kept failing miserably. The more she tried and failed, the more shame and embarrassment she felt. Is this how pathetic I have become? Luyando cried as she slammed herself back on the carpeted floor. She buried her head into her hands and sobbed.
“Mummy can you give auntie a hug?” Sean asked his mother. “She is very sad.” Natasha turned to look at Luyando’s desperate state.
“Sean, why don’t you and I go out and take a look at the beautiful orchard behind the house?” Tulani took his son’s hand and led him out of the room.
“What is an orchard dad?” Sean asked.
“It is a garden of fruits son.”
“Woooow. Are there apples there?” the four year old asked excitedly.
Inside, Natasha watched Luyando from where she was standing without moving. Five minutes went by and no word had been said between the two…except from the fading sobs of Luyando whose face was still buried in her hands.
When she couldn’t take the tension any longer, Natasha went to sit down on the floor next to Luyando. Luyando felt her beside her and lifted up her head.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Luyando had stopped crying and was not glaring at Natasha.
“You look like you could use a shoulder to cry on.” Natasha said.
Luyando scoffed. “From you?”
“Why not?” Natasha asked. “Think about it Lu, have I ever been your enemy?”
Luyando tried to get up but her head was spinning from crying so much that she was forced to sit back down. “Just leave me the hell alone or call the police on me for kidnapping.”
“As much as I would love to do that, I can’t do it…because whether I like it or not, you are my sister…which means you are also Sean’s aunt. I just don’t appreciate you taking him away without informing us.”
Luyando was looking at her like she would a crazy person. “Is that how you want to play this?” She asked. “How kind of you.” she said sarcastically. “Are you doing this just to look good in your fiancé’s eyes? Or, is this some ploy to show you Bernard what a better daughter you are compared to me?”
“Why do you always assume the worst of people?” Natasha asked. “I have never once tried to take anything away you; not Tula, not my father and not anything your mind has cooked up.”
“Easy for you to say since you’ve grown up receiving the love that should have been mine from in the first place.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’ve never ever received love of your own all your life?” Natasha asked. “I am sorry to have to surprise you Luyando but you too grow up with plenty of love, you were just too dame selfish to notice it.
“Dad might have made a mistake with you back then but he never once forgot about you. You were fortunate enough to be adopted into a good family and be loved by a mother that loved you probably more than she did her own biological son.
“Even knowing that, Tulani still loved you. instead of lashing out at you for taking his mother’s love away, she tried to understand your situation and he loved you like a sister nevertheless. And let’s not forget about your devoted husband Peter. You are where you are today Luyando not because the world has been unfair to you; you are here crying on the floor after kidnapping an innocent child because you do not love yourself enough.
“How do you expect people to love you when you can’t love yourself? You had plenty of chances to make something of your life, to live happily but you blew all that away due to your selfishness. It’s not like Tulani ever gave you hope. You knew from the beginning what his feelings were yet you kept pursuing the hope of you two being together.
“I’m going to be honest with you; I don’t pity you at all. In fact, I don’t think you even need therapy. You know very well what your problem is and the sooner you face the facts, the better for everyone, especially yourself. You have two beautiful women that are going to end up being raised by another woman simply because their mother was too wrapped up in making some man fall in-love with her.
“Imagine the kind of hate you felt towards dad when he neglected you, what do you think your kids will feel when they find out why their own mother abandoned them? I don’t think you are a bad person. If you were, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now having this conversation. I just think that you are a very disturbed person with misplaced priorities. Take a long walk back into your life and see who your enemy really is.”
A minute went by and Luyando said nothing in response.
“Luyando?” Natasha called out to her.
“You talk too dame much.” Luyando finally spoke.
Natasha laughed. “So I hear,” she said. “Is that a smile I’m seeing at the corners of your mouth?”
Luyando quickly straightened her face. “What smile?” She asked. “How can I be smiling in this situation?”
“Well, I wouldn’t hurt to try.” Natasha said.
“You must think that I am a nutcase, right?”
“I never said that.” Natasha said. “Well, to be honest, a little.”
Luyando kept quiet for a few seconds before busting out in laughter. “I knew I would never win Tulani the moment I met you.”
“Do I take that as you conceding defeat?”
“Definitely,” Luyando answered. “Only a fool can keep pursuing a man even after kidnapping his child. I hate that things had to reach this far…that he saw sides of me he should have never seen. I wish the ground would just open up and swallow me. It’s embarrassing.” She shut her eyes and hung her head as she ended the sentence.
“I Can’t say I am not happy to hear you say that.” Natasha admitted.
“I know,” Luyando replied.
“What do you plan on doing now?”
“Those things you said about me…those many many things, you are right. And you know what the funny thing is; I thought the exact thing when I looked at your son today. It took a four year old to finally make me realize exactly what’s wrong with me. Gosh, a four year old!”
Natasha laughed. “If it makes you feel any better, the doctors said he is way too intelligent and mature for kids his age.”
“At least he didn’t take after his father in that department.” Luyando said.
They both laughed.
“See, you are finally laughing.” Natasha remarked.
“Imagine that,” Luyando said. “I never thought a day like this would ever come. I guess a lot changes when one changes their perspective. I wonder what would have happened had I realized certain things sooner.”
“No one can tell what the future will be like.” Natasha said. “You can try, but you can never be 100% sure. We just to deal with whatever situations we are dealt the best way possible.”
“It’s obvious who your son takes after,” Luyando commented sarcastically.
Natasha laughed. “It’s obvious indeed.” She said.
“I am going to look for Peter.” Luyando announced.
Natasha gaped at her in disbelief before smiling. “You will?” She asked. “That’s fantastic Lu!”
“I am too proud to beg him to take me back…but I am hoping he does. But if we can’t work out, I will be happy to have my kids back. It took long I know, but I finally realized they are the best thing that ever happened to me. I will take my kids, or just one of them since I know for a fact Peter wouldn’t let me leave the country with both.
“I might not have been a great mother to them…but I still loved them…I still do. Never once wanted any sort of harm to come to them…like I felt with Sean earlier. With my kids, I was just too preoccupied by other things to appreciate them more.”
“You’ve made the right decision Luyando.” Natasha said.
“I want to say something smug, a clever retort of some sort but I don’t want to do that anymore.”
“Did we perhaps enter the wrong room?” Tulani asked the two ladies seated on the floor.
* * *
Four Months Later
After years of waiting and begging for her heart, Tulani finally got his wish when he wedded Natasha. In Tulani style, it was an extravagant ceremony, a page out of a fairy-tale. At thirty years old, divorced and with a child, Natasha would have never imagined herself being the centre of attention at such a profligate event. But it was exactly what Tulani wanted; a loud statement proclaiming his undying love for the woman of his dreams.
A few minutes before the bride and groom were to make an entrance at the reception that evening, Nataniel Kaponda begged to have a private audience with them in their room.
“That should be him,” Natasha got up from the bed, shaking and almost breaking in a sweat. Tulani went over to her, pushed the train of her second wedding dress for the day to the side and pulled her towards him.
“You’re gonna be just fine Mrs Mulenga.” Tulani said. “However, he is the president of this country. We can’t possibly keep him waiting by the door any longer.”
“Ooh…why did he come?” Natasha whined.
“He was invited!” Tulani laughed.
“We never really expected him to accept the invitation. Has he no shame?”
Tulani chuckled. “He’s a politician love, shame is a rare emotion for them to feel. Besides, he is your biological father. whatever happened between him and your mother in the past is just that; past. He obviously wants to have a relationship with you. Should I open the door for him now?”
“Okay, let him in.” Natasha went to position herself on the edge of the bed while Tulani went to open the door.
“Your Excellency,” Tulani shook the president’s arm.
Mr Kaponda laughed. “I asked you to continue calling me uncle, not this excellency nonsense between family. This is a private event with family and friends. I would like to feel like I am a part of your family…at least.” He was looking at Natasha from the door as he said the last part.
“Come in,” Tulani stepped aside to let him in. “Except I don’t think all these men will fit in the small room….”
“Wait here gentlemen,” Nataniel said to his bodyguards. “I won’t be long.”
Natasha found herself up on her feet again. “Mr President,” she greeted the man she now knew to be her father.
“Sit Tasha,” Nataniel said as he pulled a chair from the dresser to sit in front of her.
“I’ll be out here getting to know your security team uncle while you two chat.” Tulani said and closed the door behind him.
“Why did you come, to both the wedding and the reception?” Natasha asked.
“How can I miss your wedding Natasha?” Nataniel asked.
“Stop.” Natasha held out her hand. “Just stop it. I will never acknowledge who you are to me even if you are the most powerful man in the country.”
“I know that Natasha and I understand. I am not trying to force my way into your life, I promised your mother I wouldn’t…and I intend to keep that promise. As for coming here, I beg that you forgive me.
“It was very selfish of me, I know…but I couldn’t help myself. I have absolutely no right to be here or to expect anything…but, I just had to come and witness the beginning of your new life here. This will be the first and last time. But Tasha, if you ever need to….”
“No, it’s never going to happen.” She cut him off, turning her back to him to fight off the tears.
Looking defeated, Nataniel was forced to agree with her. “I know,” he said. “I am very sorry Natasha…for everything.”
“I know, just leave.” She said with her back still to him.
Nataniel got up but before he could open the door, he stopped and looked back at her. “Congratulations on your marriage Natasha.” Then he opened the door and left the room.
Natasha dropped to the floor and gave in to the flood of tears. Tulani rushed over to her and put his arms around her.
Twenty minutes later, the two of them entered the reception hall with the dance of their lives, all smiles like nothing dramatic had happened just a few minutes ago.
“I think I should teach brother in-law a few moves after the honeymoon.” Natasha’s younger brother Alex told his parents. “What the hell does he think he is doing?” the twenty year old was laughing as he watched Tulani dance.
“Not everyone spends their time parting and clubbing son.” Martha said with a huge smile on her face, her gaze fixed on the dancing pair. “Let my son in-law enjoy himself. This is one of the best days of his life.”
“Is it safe for Tasha to be dancing that much?” Bernard had concern written all over his face.
“She’s only a month old pregnant honey, relax. Other women have done worse things. A little exercise doesn’t hurt.”
“Tasha is pregnant!?” Alex yelled right at the moment when the song was ending and Tulani and Natasha were about to sit at the high table. The whole room had heard him, including Tulani who like all the guests appeared to be hearing the news for the very first time.
“You’re pregnant?” Tulani asked Natasha.
“I wanted to surprise you later tonight but – “ she sent her kid brother a stern look. Alex simply shrugged his shoulders innocently.
Taking everyone by surprise, Tulani put his arm around Natasha’s waist, tilted her back and laid kissed her passionately on the lips, winning himself applause from the guests.
Natasha managed to separate herself from him and hitting him on the chest she said; “Our parent’s are here!”
“So what?” Tulani asked, laughing before taking her hand and leading her in a bow towards the guests before sitting down. The MC immediately sounded off.
Natasha was looking at the guests as they sat down on their seats when she thought she saw someone familiar disappear through the door.
“Isn’t that Luyando?” Natasha asked her husband.
Tulani turned in the direction of his wife’s gaze and caught the last glimpse of a female’s back. “I know that walk very well.” He said. “It’s really her. I thought she had left the country….”
“She’s still fighting for custody of the children with Peter. I heard from mum that his new wife doesn’t want him to have any dealings with her. She thinks Luyando is trying to use the kids to get back with Peter.”
“She is not even his legal wife, what’s her problem?” Tulani asked.
“They’ve been living together ever since he moved out of the house with Luyando and she’s nine months pregnant with his child.”
Luyando ran to her vehicle the moment her feet stepped out of the hall and locked the doors, panting and sweating, she dropped her head onto her steering wheel and cried.
Unbeknownst to her, Alex had seen her enter the hall and followed her out thinking she was out to cause again. He had heard all about her crazy antics from Joshua, his sister’s new father in-law and he had made sure to stay alert during the ceremony and reception to protect his sister.
However, the picture of Luyando crying alone in her car was not the image he had imagined her to be. After five minutes trying to compose herself, Luyando stepped out of her vehicle again and sent Alex hiding behind a car.
He followed her quietly behind and watched her hand an envelope to one of the door bouncers at the door and walked back to her car. Once he was sure she was out of the premises, Alex ran over to the bouncer who had received the envelope and got it from him.
“The lady said to give it to the bride and groom.” The well-built man said in a thick masculine voice.
“I know,” Alex said. “The bride is my sister.” He then opened the enveloped with utmost care and found a cheque and a note inside. “$1000! Is she nuts!?” Alex almost lost it. “Who the hell gives this much as a wedding present?”
None of the bouncers answered him.
Alex opened the note;
I hope you do not take this as me trying to buy your forgiveness. I know that no amount of money can ever make up for all the things I put you two through.
However, this is the only thing I could think of doing. I started at $300, but it seemed so little so I raised it to 500, then 700…and finally settled for 1000. It’s my way of saying congratulations on your marriage…and that I wish you nothing but the best.
I hope that if we ever meet in future, it will be on good terms so we can start all over again. I hope the two of you and the rest of the family can think of everything that’s happened in the past as simply; a twisted fate.
Congratulations Mr and Mrs Mulenga!
Luyando Mulenga Chimeko.
“Wow,” Alex said upon finishing. He folded the note in half again and put it back in the envelope. “A twisted fate indeed.” He said and walked back into the hall.