Thursday, December 6, 2018

the apostles of sin in my church

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 b-----d 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?”
“Oooh,”he said.
“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.”
“I see.”
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.”
“Anddid she?”
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.”
“Luyando!”Bernard shouted.
“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.
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?”
“She wasn’t.”
“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?”
Tulani froze.
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.

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