Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 5

“Alicia’s life started to change about six years ago.” Stephen told Mwansa. “She fell pregnant for my cousin Nick. She was very young and naive around that time and wasn’t really ready to face something like that but Nicolas was.

“He was excited by the idea of becoming a father and he proposed marriage to her even when she asked him to wait because she didn’t want to feel like he was marrying her out of guilt or responsibility.”

“Wow,” Mwansa said. “What’s wrong with that lady? Does she know how lucky she is to have a guy propose marriage to her after knocking her up? Just like football, no guy will score and then run to the goalkeeper he’s just ran the ball passed to celebrate. They all run off to celebrate in the arms of others. That’s men for you.”

“But Nicolas was different.” Stephen said. “And where did you even get such an analogy?” He laughed.

“I know a lot of my friends who were crazy in-love with each other but the moment the sperm hit the egg, all that love evaporated into the air. I don’t know why some men are like that. After yanking live inside someone’s daughter, what do they expect to come out, peanut butter?”

Stephen laughed. “You sound pissed; did someone you love let you down? You don’t have a child I am not aware of, do you?”

Mwansa busted out laughing. “Unless God considers me to be as pure as Mary, this womb is still virgin territory.” She was touching her belly for effect. “Weren’t we talking about Alicia a few seconds ago? How did my womb come under fire?”

“Because you interrupted me.” Stephen said.

“So did Alicia turn down your cousin when he proposed?”

“She never even got to give him a response.” Stephen answered. “I was told that they were right outside Nick’s home when he proposed and they ended up fighting over him not considering her feelings. She ran out onto the street and disappeared.

“Naturally, Nicolas went after her and when he couldn’t find her, he went back home to get his car and went looking for her. That was when the accident happened.”

Mwansa gasped in disbelief. “Now it makes sense,” she said. “I remember you told me once on the phone that your aunt is very strict about you guys dating because of something that happened with her son. But still, I don’t think it’s fair for her to blame Alicia for what happened. Couples fight, granted, not all fights lead to death…but c’mon….”

“I know.” Stephen said. “But, it’s easier for a mother who’s lost her son prematurely to find someone to blame. I am not saying that it’s right, but at that time Alicia was the easy scapegoat for everything that happened.”

“And what about the person who caused the accident?” Mwansa asked. “That’s the person who should be held responsible for everything.”

“They placed all the blame on Nicolas.” Stephen said.

“What?” Mwansa asked. “Was it really him at fault?”

“Of course not but it’s always easy to blame the dead person because they can’t defend themselves.”

“He died on the spot?”

“No, but he was severely injured and lost consciousness on the spot. He died the next day at the hospital.”

“But how sure are you that it wasn’t him that caused the accident?” Mwansa asked.

“Because of the circumstances surrounding the accident. When the police checked for the owner of the other vehicle involved in the accident, they discovered that it belonged to the wife of some Minister. Apparently the guy that was driving it was a cousin or something to that official who didn’t appear bruised or injured at all from the accident.

“I found it strange that my cousin ended up dying from his injuries while the other guy looked unscratched.”

“You saw him?”

“No, I heard about it from my cousins.”

“But it’s not surprising,” Mwansa said. “It’s usually the case that the person who causes the accident comes off unscratched while the victim…or victims pay the price for his mistake.”

“Very true,” Stephen said. “As expected, they bought the story that that fella sold to them and you know how our system here works; if you are rich or if you are in power, you are above the law. My cousin didn’t stand a chance. Worse, they found empty bottles of alcohol in his car and they assumed he was drinking and driving.”

“He probably must have gone to drink after being rejected by his girlfriend.” Mwansa remarked.

Stephen hit the palm of his right hand against the steering wheel. “That’s the thing!” He yelled. “Nicolas never took alcohol, let alone that much number of bottles they found in his car.”

“What?”

“Yes, they found about seven empty bottles on the floor of his car. Nicolas avoided beer and places that sold only beer like a plague. He was just not a fan of alcohol. One glass of alcohol and he would be puking all over the place.

“His body and alcohol never saw face to face. I don’t know how those bottles ended up in his car because even if it was his friends drinking, he wouldn’t have allowed them to drink in his car and then leave the bottles hanging around like that.”

“Did the doctors find any alcohol in his system?” Mwansa asked, winning herself a glacial stare from Stephen.

“I just told you, Stephen never drank alcohol.” He said forcefully.

“I know,” Mwansa said. “But people have been known to do strange things after being rejected. You said it yourself, he was deeply in-love with his girlfriend.”

“Do you think it’s possible for someone who never drank alcohol to manage to stop at a store to purchase the beer, get back into his car and drink whilst driving and empty seven whole bottles in just under an hour?”

“An hour?” Mwansa asked disbelievingly. “All that happened within an hour?”

“See, it’s hard for anyone to belief.” Stephen said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard myself. The accident happened not far from his home. What’s even crazier, the hospital never did any tests and the police never investigated anything.

“The other driver told them that Nicolas was driving like a mad man. It was raining that day and I understand he might have been frantic about finding Alicia since she was pregnant but…. The way I knew Nick, he would have spent,” he added after a pause. “There’s no way he would have stopped somewhere to get himself drunk instead of searching for her.

“It just doesn’t make sense. What convinced me even more that something wasn’t right about the whole accident is why the cops kept on insisting Nick had been drinking and driving. It’s like that sealed the case and they saw no reason to investigate.

“My cousin was at a disadvantage the moment it was discovered who the owner of that vehicle was. Instead of investigating, it was easy for the police to look at the ‘obvious’ evidence and declare my cousin perpetrator.”

Mwansa appeared thoroughly shaken up by the story. “But why didn’t your family conduct its own investigations?” She asked. “I’m sure with a few tests they would have proved your cousin hadn’t been drinking.”

Suddenly, Stephen started laughing. Mwansa kept looking at him quizzically. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I am ashamed to say this but my family, my Aunt Mary to be more specific received a visit from the Minister’s wife who turned out to be the owner of that vehicle and was left a large sum of money as ‘condolences’ money, is what she called it.” He raised one hand to form quotation marks in the air.

“And your aunt accepted the money?” Mwansa asked, shock written all over her face.

“Like I said, I am ashamed.” Stephen said.

“Wooow.” Was all Mwansa could say in return.

“I know.” Stephen said. “My aunt was able to pay the mortgage on that house with that money and also send my cousins and me to some of the best schools in the world.”

“Didn’t she ever wonder why someone would give her such large sums of money if they were not guilty about something?” Mwansa asked.

“I am sure she did.” Stephen answered. “But you have to understand that it had only been about a year since the death of my uncle. She was struggling to raise her children alone and she feared losing the house she had already put so much in.

“So when the Minster’s wife came, Aunt Mary preferred to look at the whole gesture as a miracle from God…some kind of blessing rather than looking at it for what it could have potentially been. And once she did that, she turned all her frustrations and I think her feelings of guilt onto Alicia.”

“So she’s blaming an innocent woman for the death of her own son all so she can ease her own guilty conscious?” Mwansa asked. “That poor woman…I bet she also blames herself for everything. I haven’t met your aunt yet but something about her scares me.”

Stephen chuckled. “She’s not all that bad.” He said.

“And does Alicia know about the money your aunt received?”

“Of course not. No one told her about it. I don’t think my cousins even know about where the money actually came from. We were all told it’s something like a life insurance my uncle had left.”

“So how did you-“

“I overheard my mother and her sister…Aunt Mary talking and of course I haven’t told anyone about it, except you.”

Mwansa’s face turned red from blushing. “Is that a new way of declaring trust to your girlfriend?”

Stephen smiled. “I guess so.”

Mwansa unbuckled her seatbelt, lifted herself from the seat and placed a kiss on his cheek.

“We are at church now you silly girl.” A smiling Stephen said as he waited for the guard to open the gate for them.

***

Kondwani had just entered his house, threw his bag on the couch, undid the buttons of his shirt and started to get rid of the belt around his waist, ready to head upstairs and drown himself in his tub when he heard someone punch keys into his security system from outside. There was only one person who had his pin and only she would show up in his house unannounced.

“Were you following me?” Kondwani asked a smiling Gwen.

She threw her handbag onto one of the sofas and walked over to Kondwani with her arms stretched wide, ready to wrap them around him. However, Kondwani took a step back, a grave expression on his face.

Disappointed, Gwen dropped her arms and walked passed him towards the stairs.

“Where do you think you are going?” Kondwani asked from where he was standing, his face raised to look up at her.

Gwen came to a stop on the fifth step, a mischievous smile playing on her face. “Why would a grown man ask a lady such a question?” She asked as she slowly started to undo the zipper that ran all the way from her cleavage to where the short black dress she was wearing ended. There were more parts of her legs exposed than covered.

“Is Kayombo too busy for you today?” Kondwani asked sarcastically.

Gwen stopped unzipping herself, leaving most parts of her upper body, all the way down to her lower abdomen exposed. She was not wearing anything under her tight dress.

“Is that you being jealous right now?” She asked.

“I’m too tired for anything today, let’s do this some other time.” He started taking steps up the stairs but Gwen grabbed hold of his arm before he could brush passed her. She placed herself in front of and drew her face closer to his.

“I don’t know why but I find the idea of you being jealous such a turn on.” She moved her head slightly to kiss the side of his neck.

Kondwani just stood there motionlessly and looking as emotionless as humanly possible. He had somehow made Gwen’s work easy a few minutes ago when he started reading himself to take his clothes off. With just a white vest covering his chest, Gwen moved her hand inside and started running her hand up and down, deliberately going all the way down and stopping right where his belt was.

She felt him shudder under her touch. It was a power she knew she had over him.

Who the hell did he think he was trying to fight her off?

Sensing no movement on his part to stop her, Gwen expanded her area of conquest, dipping her hand deep into is pants without warning and forcing a reaction from him.

She was smiling triumphantly.

“Gwen!” Kondwani grabbed her attacking hand by the wrist with one hand and used the other to hold her back against the staircase rail. Speaking into her face; “I told you-“

“What?” Gwen cut him off. “You don’t want to be touched by the same hands that were touching another man?” She too spoke straight into his face, their eyes locking in defiance.

Kondwani dropped his hands resignedly and resumed his walk up the stairs.

“You know, he’s in-love with me, Kayombo.” Gwen announced to his back and managed to bring him to an immediate stop.

“He’s loved me unconditionally for years now,” She added smugly. “That’s something I’m never gonna get from you isn’t it?”

Kondwani slowly turned to look at her. “Then why don’t you go to him instead of coming to me?”

Gwen was not the only one surprised by Kondwani’s words. The moment he realized exactly what words had come out of his mouth, he too wondered why all the parts of his body responsible for speech had so quickly worked together and allowed him to vomit out that combination of words in that specific order.

Unfortunately, by the time Kondwani realised what he had just said to his fiancé, she had finished zipping herself up and was running down the stairs, sobbing.

Putting his long legs to good use, Kondwani ran after her and managed to hold her back before she could get to the door.

“I’m sorry baby,” He said as he tried to hold her protesting body into his arms. “I don’t know what came over me, I’m so sorry.”

Kondwani too knew exactly what power he had over her; his arms and the right words at the right time.

In no time, Gwen had stopped trying to fight him off and surrendered herself completely into his arms, sobbing even harder for effect.
Two hours later, Gwen walked into her parent’s home and found her father talking to someone on the phone. Since he had his back to her, she figured she could just walk passed him and head to her bedroom without being noticed but something he said made her stop to listen.

“How many were on his side?” Lloyd asked whoever was on the other end of the line. His back muscles were tensed hard and she could see him breathing heavily.

There was only one person in the whole world capable of making her father’s blood boil like that, Gwen thought. It was the man she was just from sharing a bed with.

“Those ungrateful and disloyal bastards.” Mr Miyoba cussed. “Who do they think put them in the positions they are in right now? Let’s see what will happen to them when I clip off the wings of that fella.”

Gwen felt a chill run down her spine. From where she was standing, she could see her father’s spit hitting against the sheer curtain in front of him from where he stood overlooking the backyard. That was a sheer sign that he had reached boiling point.

“I gave you specific instruction to watch Chileshe’s every move!” Gwen’s father roared. “What have you been doing while he’s been setting up measures for counter-attack? That project should have gained the board’s approval by now.”

Oh Kondwani, what have you done this time around? Gwen thought as she continued to listen in to her father’s one-sided conversation. I warned you dad, you are no match for my man. You should have listened to my advice.

“No! That’s not good enough Phiri!” He yelled. “Are you trying to tell me that he’s smarter than all of you? If that’s the case, then are you are basically telling me that I should fire all your asses and find a whole new team that can take him on like a man?”

There was a long pause as he listened to whatever Mr Phiri was saying. Whatever wa being said, it was obvious Lloyd Miyoba did not agree with it because he kept shaking his head and wanting to interrupt.

Gwen saw her father move slightly and figured he might be turning so she tiptoed her way towards the stairs.

“Gwen!” His voice brought her to a stop in mid step. She turned around with a guilty smile on her face.

“Dad.” She said.

“Let me call you back.” Lloyd Miyoba told Mr Phiri and immediately cut the line. “Where’s Kondwani?” he asked as he walked towards his daughter.

“Dad, just because I am his fiancé doesn’t mean I know where he is every time.” She lied.

“I know you are coming from his place so don’t lie to me young lady.” Miyoba hissed.

“I left him at home. Is something the matter?” Gwen knew better than to tempt her father into pouring all of his wrath at her.

“Haven’t the two of you set a date up to now?” He asked. “What sort of woman can’t even get her man to hurry her down the aisle after a yearlong engagement? It’s because you keep dancing for him that he no longer has anything to look forward to.

“Just look at the way you are dressed.” He pointed his finger up and down her dress. “Why should he marry you when you’ve shown him everything? Just look at you.” He wrinkled his face up like a man smelling something rotten from the kitchen.

“It’s my marriage.” Gwen said from between pouted lips. “I am not worried so why are you bothered like you are the one he will be marrying?

“Are you asking me because you don’t know?” Miyoba asked.

Gwen started to cry. “You made me leave the man I was in-love with, the one who loved me back as much as I loved him to be with someone who loves your money instead of me. I already got him to propose marriage, what more do you want from me dad?”

“Thanks to me you are in-love with Chileshe more than you were with that Kayombo guy.” Her father stated proudly. “You should be happy, why are you complaining?”

“He doesn’t love me back!” Gwen shouted.

“And are you blaming me for that?” He asked. “Was it my job to make him fall in-love with you? I gave you enough money to make him look in your direction, wasn’t that enough?

“Did you want me to also show you directions to his heart? You clearly managed to find your way into his bed without trouble so why are you complaining?”

“Do you honestly think that you will be able to control him if he becomes my husband?” Gwen asked. “You can’t control him now when he’s a free man what more when he marries me and gains direct access to your entire fortune?”

Lloyd snickered. “How did I end up with a daughter who knows nothing about business?” He said. “Your job was just to use your charm to hook him all the way to the end but even that you couldn’t do. You delivered the whole product before the buyer could even sign the cheque. Hasn’t your mother taught you anything?”

“What have I done?” Sandra Miyoba asked her husband from the door. She had two shopping bags in her hands, obviously coming from a trip from the mall. She stepped away from the door to allow the maid to come through with many more shopping bags.

“Doesn’t my happiness count at all to you dad?” Gwen cried and ran upstairs.

Laying down the shopping bags, Mrs Miyoba looked at her husband. “What did you say to her?”

“Sit your daughter down and train her well before she embarrasses you.” Mr Miyoba said.

“When she’s done something unpleasing to you she’s my daughter but when she’s done something good, she’s your daughter.” She muttered and went to sit down in one of the sofas.

“See,” Miyoba pointed at his wife accusingly. “When can she learn when you are talking back to me like that?”

Sandra stood up. “I will bring you your glass of whiskey.” She said to him and started walking towards the kitchen. “Obviously someone put you in a very bad mood today.”

Embarrassed, Lloyd gave up shouting and went to sit down where his wife had been sitting. How well she knew him, he thought as he flipped through the channels.
Alone in her room, Gwen threw herself on the bed and called Kayombo. After four rings, she was about to give up when he finally answered.

“Sam,” she broke down in tears.

“I’m sorry Ms Miyoba, Doctor Kayombo can’t take your call right now.” Gwen sat up. Instead of Kayombo, it was a female’s voice that came through the phone.

“Who’s this?” Gwen asked.

“This is Alicia.” The reply came.

“What are you doing answering Sam’s phone? Where is he? Where are you?”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

“Hello?” Gwen screamed into her phone.

“Gwen.” Finally, it was Samuel Kayombo. “What’s up?” He asked nonchalantly.

“What’s up?” Gwen asked, boiling from his calm response. “Where the hell are you and what’s that nurse doing answering your phone?”

“Is there any particular reason you called?” He asked curtly.

“Kayombo?” Gwen said.

“I’m busy right now if there’s nothing-“

“Kayombo, this is me you are talking to.” Gwen said, her voice shaking from the shock of what was happening.

“I know,” Kayombo said. “I will call you later.” And he cut the line.

Devastated, Gwen threw her phone and it hit against the wall, pieces of it scattering across the room.

Her mother opened the door just then. “Gwen?” She said as her eyes went over the pieces on the floor.

Gwen dropped from the bed to the floor, sobbing her heart out. Sandra rushed over to her daughter and held her in her arms.

“It’s okay my love.” The mother comforted her daughter from the floor. “Who’s making my princess cry like this?” she held on to her tightly. “It’s okay…nooo…c’mon baby.”

It took about ten minutes for Gwen to finally calm down.

“Why is love so complicated mum?” Gwen later asked her mother. They were still seated on the carpeted bedroom floor, their backs leaning against the bed.

“Did you have a fight with Kondwani?” Sandra asked.

“Not necessarily,” She answered. “It’s Kayombo.”

Sandra gave her daughter a look. “Don’t tell me that the two of you are still seeing each other. I thought you were in-love with Kondwani now.”

“I am…it’s complicated.” Gwen said.

“What’s complicated?”

“I guess I was too selfish to expect that Kayombo would have eyes only for me even though I was engaged to someone else.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you know you were being selfish.” Her mother said. “Don’t you think he too deserves to be happy?”

“You are saying it as if I am happy in my relationship.” Gwen said. “I have been waiting patiently for Kondwani…but now am beginning to think that he will never fall in-love with me.”

“It’s not like you didn’t know his feelings before you started dating.” Her mother reminded her. “Instead of luring him in with money, perhaps you should have tried to win him over with love.”

“Tell that to dad.”

Sandra laughed. “No way.”

“I thought that he might like me if I offered him the one thing he was in need of at that time.” Gwen said, tears welling up in her eyes again. “Dad somehow had me convinced that any man would love me knowing the things I could offer but it seems the only thing Kondwani cares about is money. I don’t think he even knows what love is.”

“Maybe that’s the problem.” Sandra said.

Gwen sent her a questioning look.

“Think about it,” she explained. “He’s spent most of his adult life building his career. He’s a very ambitious man, that’s no secret. What time did he ever have to fall in-love?”

Gwen’s face lit up from enlightenment. “You know, you could be right.”

Sandra laughed. “I know I’m right.” She said. “So, instead of trying to conquer him, why don’t you try to genuinely love him and win his heart in the process?”

“How do I do that?” Gwen asked.

“First of all, cut off whatever is going on between you and Kayombo and start afresh with Kondwani. You offered him your father’s money when you first approached him so how about offering him your heart this time around?”

“I told you, I am already in-love with him.” Gwen said.

“Not that kind of love.” Mrs Miyoba said. “I’m talking about genuine real love, the selfless kind of love. I know that you are used to people dotting on you and worshiping you Gwen but that’s not how love works.

“If you truly love Kondwani, then you will have to start considering his feelings as well. Don’t go to him with the attitude of ‘you are nothing without me’ and instead show him that you truly care. Who knows, maybe he might get his mind off making money and focus on other things.”

Gwen mulled over her mother’s words for a while. “I don’t know mum,” She said.

“What don’t you know?” Her mother asked.

“I don’t think I’m capable of being that kind of girl.” She confessed. “I have always despised those kinds of girls so how can I pretend to be one?”

Sandra Miyoba chuckled. “You see, that’s the thing.” She said. “If it’s real love, you won’t have to pretend. It will just come natural. Remember, what you want is his heart, not just his body.”

“I have to sleep over it.” Gwen said.

“Good,” her mother said. “You do that.”

“Why did you make me answer your phone?” Alicia asked Doctor Kayombo.

Samuel finished drying his hands and went to sit down next to Alicia on the picnic mat. They stationed themselves in the perfect position where they could keep watch over Buseko who was playing football a few meters away with his new friends.

“My hands were weight, what did you expect me to do?” He said. “Are you that scared of Gwen?” He laughed.

“That woman almost had me fired!” Alicia said.

“Oh yeah, I remember that.”

“So you also heard about it? Is there anyone at the hospital who didn’t?”

“I doubt that.” Samuel answered. “They all think you are a fame fatale.” He joked.

Alicia looked horrified. “Seriously?”

“I’m just joking.” He said. “Relax. I was just pulling your leg. Everyone knows what a drama queen Gwen is.”

“So they do belief that nothing is going on between Doctor Chileshe and me right?” Alicia was looking at him expectantly.

“They know that you didn’t go after him, but we all agree on one thing; the good doctor pays special attention to you.”

“No!” The word just flew out of Alicia’s mouth. “That’s all a misunderstanding. I don’t know why everyone seems to think that but that man doesn’t like me. You saw for yourself this morning when we met him outside. Didn’t you sense his hostility? Why are you looking at me and shaking your head like that?”

“Apart from Nicolas, did you ever date anyone else Alicia?” Kayombo asked, looking at her in both awe and disbelief.

“No.” She answered simply.

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, I don’t have time for things like feelings and the like. I’m too busy saving money so I can get my son back. I have no time for such things. Why did you suddenly ask me that?”

Kayombo laughed. “No wonder….” He said, shaking his head again. “You wouldn’t know it even if it was staring you right in the face.”

“Know what?” She asked, taking her eyes away from her son for a moment to look at Samuel. “Know what?” She repeated, her face just a few inches away from his.

Her sudden turn caught Kayombo by surprise. For a few seconds he found himself staring straight into her eyes. Before he knew it, he was choking on his own saliva.

Alicia grabbed a bottle of water from the basket of food she had quickly packed on their short stop at home. She opened the bottle and handed it to Kayombo.

While Kayombo was gulping down the contents from the bottle, Alicia moved closer to him and started to gently massage his back, causing the poor fellow to cough out the water he had just consumed.

 

An Untimely Love – Part 1

Bump!

The sound of Alex Saunders head hitting against the library desk echoed through the fully packed library.

She had just been rudely awakened from her sleep by her vibrating phone on the desk. Embarrassed, she pulled her hair from the sides to cover her face and raffled her hand through her bangs to ensure that her face was fully covered.

Alex had spent the last two straight days working on her undergraduate thesis for her Honours in Psychology Degree. After discovering the amount of work required for one to successfully obtain a Psychology Degree, Alex sometimes wondered if taking an honours degree was the best choice instead of simply majoring in Psychology and taking a minor in creative writing. She always felt that the online courses she had taken on creative writing whilst in high school were not enough to turn her into the kind of writer she wanted to be.

As a child, trekking from one library and bookstore to another, Alex’s dream was to become a renowned writer just like the ones she was reading about, to have her work read and revered by many and to gain worldwide recognition from it. Strangely enough, when the time came to pick a field of study to pursue for her undergraduate, after much consideration, Alex discovered that the need for a psychology degree outweighed that of creative writing.

Twenty-three year old Alex picked up her vibrating phone and checked the caller id. Mr C. There could only be one reason why Anton’s father could be calling her at that time of the day.

“Oh shit!” she cussed, suddenly getting up and picking up her books from the desk before running out of the fully packed library.

“I’m going to kill you for this Anton!” Alex said to herself as she unchained her yellow bicycle from the security post. Her phone stopped ringing for a few seconds and then resumed.

“Good morning Mr C!” Alex shouted into her earphone mouthpiece as she rode home.

Smiling bemusedly to himself with his billion dollars white teeth, Oliver Cooper held the phone away from his ear to save himself a trip to the otolaryngologist.

Is there ever a day this girl isn’t excited about something? The 42 year old business mogul thought as he handed his golf club to the caddie before leaving the field to head to his car parked out in the front.

“My little sunshine,” Oliver excitedly greeted his son’s best friend.

For the eleven years Oliver had known Alex, he had come to regard her as his own daughter. There were so many moments in his life when he wished his only son and heir Anton could be half as good a child as Alex was. How happy a father he would be if that ever came to pass.

“I have been trying to get in touch with this fool,” Mr Cooper’s voice poured straight into her ears through the earpieces. “Are you with him?” he asked.

“Not at the moment Mr C.,” Alex said. “I went out to the store to get some juice and left him getting ready for a shower…so, he’s probably in the shower…that’s probably why he couldn’t take your calls.” Alex lied through her teeth. “I am heading back to the house right now so I will get him to call you back.”

I am going to kill you Anton, Alex said in her head as she increased her pace.

“You are covering for him again aren’t you?” Oliver asked. If there was one thing he knew about Alex, it was that she was a very bad liar.

In Oliver’s eyes, Alex Saunders was the ultimate kind of girl; unpretentious, never spoke lies and always spoke her mind…sometimes even when the situation didn’t call for it.  If only his son Anton would get a grip over his life and realize what a gem he had right in front of his eyes instead of chasing skirts everywhere around town. What sort of father wouldn’t want to have Alex as a daughter in-law?

“I am on my way over to your place, tell him to get ready. I need his input on one of my latest projects.” Oliver said.

Alex came to a sudden halt. “You are on your way right now?” She asked, her heart pounding against her oversize sweatshirt.

Oliver paused before getting into his car, holding the door open. “Yes, is there a problem Alex?” He asked, sensing something amiss.

Oliver Cooper did not need a psychic or a private investigator to tell him what mischievousness his son was up to while the two of them where talking on the phone. Even during week days, the boy drunk and partied like a teenager high on hormones. If not for Alex’s perseverance in keeping him in check every now and then, Oliver wondered just what sort of person his son would have turned into by now.

“No, no Mr C.,” Alex reassured him. “There is no problem. You can go ahead and come. You will find Anton ready by the time you get here.”

The gate to the three bedroom house Alex shared with Anton finally came into view. Thanks to Anton’s billionaire father, the two of them could afford to live in such a luxurious house just a few minutes away from campus.

Alex still remembered how excited she had been when Mr Cooper called her to his office and gave her the keys to the house, telling her that she was the one in charge of it and not Anton. The only reason he had relented to his son’s demands for private boarding was because he trusted Alex to be responsible for everything taking place there.

It had now been five years since they moved in together and with only a few more months to their graduation, they had a lot more memories to make…starting with rescuing Anton from the wrath of his father!

“Good,” Oliver stepped into his vehicle. “I will see you in about an hour or less, depending on traffic.” He said before hanging up.

Alex looked at her wrist watch, “One hour!” She shouted before getting back on the bike and cycling like a crazy person to the house. As she got closer to the gate, she pressed a button on her wrist watch and the gate opened. Once inside, she pressed the button again and the gate closed behind her.

Cycling through the long driveway made her feel like she had just been cycling in a marathon. She spotted Anton’s red Ferrari parked in front of the house and breathed a sigh of relief. Jumping off her bike and throwing it to the side, she quickly ran into the house, then up the stairs yelling Anton’s name at the top of her voice.

As she ran up the stairs, she couldn’t help feeling a great sense of relief and pride from the fact that no matter how much Anton partied, he always stuck to their agreement and got back home by 2 in the morning to at least get 4 hours of sleep before class.

As expected, she found him dead asleep on top of his beddings in nothing but his boxers. “Idiot,” she said before pouncing on him. “You are in big trouble Mr!” She warned him. “Wake up right now.” She softly slapped his cheeks left and right but Anton wouldn’t wake up.

There was just one thing she knew would do the trick.

“Mr Oliver is on his way!” Alex said the magic words and stood back to watch Anton respond.

He bolted out of bed at rocket speed.

“How long?” Anton asked, ferociously rubbing his eyes to force himself awake.

“Always works.” Alex laughed triumphantly as she watched him from the side.

“Are you kidding me!?” The twenty-four year old heir protested and tried to get back into bed again but Alex blocked him. She removed her phone from her pocket and showed him her call log. “See,” she pointed at his father’s name. “He said he should find you ready in about forty minutes.”

“The old man will kill me!” Anton sulked. “Where does he want to take me this early in the morning?” Even as he was complaining, he still went to the bathroom to take quickly take a shower.

Laughing, Alex went to the closet to help him find something decent to wear. Knowing the kind of background Anton came from, Alex was well aware of how on point her friend needed to look every time he stepped out of the house. There were always camera’s following the Cooper family around almost everywhere they went.
She picked blue skinny jeans with a white t-shirt for him. “Simple yet stylish,” she praised her fashion sense.

Alex then looked through Anton’s massive shoe collection and picked out some his latest Burgundy canvas for him. “Should I even ask where you were last night?” Alex asked, leaning against the bathroom wall, one leg crossed over the other and her head lingering a few inches away from the open door.

For all the years she had known Anton, she never dared to ask him about the girls or the women in his life. She could handle knowing that there were quite a number of them but she was not interested in knowing who they were unless he talked about them himself.

It had been two years now since she realized she liked him more than just a friend but the idiot was still oblivious to that fact. Alex had fallen in-love with her best friend without meaning to. She figured he would be just as shocked as she had been the day she found out about her own feelings and thus, not wanting to put a strain on their friendship, she had chosen to keep her feelings to herself.

Even if he knew, it’s not like he would ever consider dating me. Alex had reasoned to herself.  She knew the type Anton liked and over the years she had been way too much of a friend for him to see her as he would any other woman.

“The guys and I tried out this new place called The Atlas and it’s the real deal Alex!” Anton shouted from the bathroom. The guys he was referring to where two of their four close friends; George Lee and Duncan Schmidt.

“We should go there together over the weekend. Anton suggested.

“What’s so special about this place?” Alex asked.

“Apart from it being dope, I met this chick there…wait, let me get out of here first and tell you about her.”

It was typical of Anton to shower within five minutes. He never went beyond that, no matter how desperate his body needed a good scrub. Alex always wondered how someone that hated showering still managed to look so good and have all the women he came across pine over him.

She had eventually concluded that the billions he stood to inherit from his father had a lot to do with it…and of course it helped a great deal that he was naturally good looking fella that had nature and good fortune on his side. Alex sometimes couldn’t help wondering if the girls that worshipped him would still feel the same way about him if they got to know him the way she did.

I guess the state of my heart right now pretty much answers that. Alex silently mocked herself.

Alex was laughing at her thoughts when Anton came out of the bathroom, one towel covering the bottom half while the top half remained wet and exposed in its muscled glory.

“Woah.” Alex came to stand in front of him, her eyes gawking in surprise as she ran her hand over his wide muscled chest. Her hand stopped right below his abdomen. “I think these babies have come out more now.” She remarked in awe. “When did you even find the time to hit the gym?”

Anton was looking at her quizzically and in slight disbelief at her careless action, one eyebrow raised. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t seem to get it because her hand was still lingering above his abdomen. He literally had to clear his throat noisely to make her realise what she was doing.

Alex quickly dropped her hand and dried it with the towel in Anton’s hand before stepping away from him.This is exactly why he will never think of you as a woman Lex. She admonished herself for her lack of tact as a woman.

“I think sometimes you forget that I am a hot bloodied man.” Anton complained as he finished drying himself. “What kind of girl touches a man so carelessly?”

Alex blushed, but only for a second. “My bad,” she didn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “It’s not like you’ve ever thought of me as a woman.” She added as an afterthought, silently praying that he disputes her claim.

“And we thank god for that,” Anton said as he passed the towel through his hair. “The day I start looking at you as anything else either than a friend is the day I will pick up my dad’s gun and shoot myself in the head.”

“Ouch,” Alex said. “That’s a bit too harsh Tony.”

“No man wants his woman knowing all that shitty stuff you know about me Lex. I hope we remain friends forever cause you have so much dirt on me you would be my undoing if you ever became my enemy.” And just to prove how unperceptive he was, he went and planted a kiss on her forehead.

Anton could not read anything beyond Alex’s bittersweet smile.

“So where do you think your father is taking you this time?” Alex quickly changed the subject, moving in to put finishing touches on his hair.

“If anyone has a better chance of knowing, you do.” He said, lowering his head slightly so she could reach the back of his head. “Sometimes I think you know more about what’s happening in my father’s life than me. You are like the son he never had.” Anton joked.

Alex finished with his hair and pushed his head away with her finger.  “That’s because I am his number one fan.” She said.

She went to sit on the edge of the bed and innocently watched him put on the clean boxers she had laid out for him on the bed. “Fans always know stuff about the celebrities they like.” She said.

“He might be just a father to you but he is like a god to me…well, not necessarily someone I worship, but someone I look up to.” She moved to sit on the edge of the bed, her mind drifting back to the time when she first met Anton and his father Oliver.
***

Alex was only nine years old when she first heard Oliver’s voice on the radio. The then twenty-seven year old Oliver had just released his seventh album since his debut at age seventeen. The new album was a dedication to his wife and son after taking two years off to spend quality time with them.

As a kid going through a complicated life, Alex found solace is the soothing voice of the man she could only wish was her father. How nice would it be to have a father sing such kind and loving words to her? There were nights when Alex would dream about Oliver barging into the orphanage and rescuing her from a world she felt she didn’t belong…a world she felt a strong desire to escape from.

On the eve of her tenth birthday, Alex dream of escape became a reality when a couple doing some volunteer work at the orphanage fell in-love with her and decided to adopt her. Humphrey and Evelyn Saunders already had four children of their own but they didn’t seem to mind adding a fifth one to the lot. They welcome the little girl into their home and made her feel like she was a part of their family.

For the first time in her life, Alex felt like she finally belonged somewhere. Unfortunately, the dream that had presented itself as reality before Alex’s eyes was soon covered by a dark cloud when the Saunders fell into financial. Humphrey Saunders had made some bad investments over the years thinking they would pen out a huge fortune but he was forced to admit defeat when they turned out to be a huge liability.

In Just over a year of Alex being in her new home, the Saunders declared bankruptcy.

The family had no choice but to move to a much smaller house. Mr Saunders who had been retired for two years was forced to get back into formal employment while his wife continued with her teaching job. For the Saunders, their new kind of life proved to be more challenging than they could have ever imagined. Because they were used to providing a comfortable life for their children most of their lives, the pressure for the Saunders couple to take care of such a large family on such a low income proved overwhelming.

Eventually, it was Alex who suffered the wrath of their stress.

In their moments of stress, the family could not help but lament about the mistake they had made in bringing someone into the family, and they would do so in Alex’s presence. Fearing feared that the incident that had happened five years ago might happen again; Alex started to mentally prepare herself to be taken back to the orphanage.

Alex could not run away from the fact that she was a burden on her new family. When meals became scarce, she was always the last one to be served after Mrs Saunders made sure that all her biological children had enough food on their plates. When everyone else was sharing beds in the bedrooms, Alex was made to sleep in the living room where she had to wake up two hours earlier than the other kids because the house was too small and Mrs Saunders needed enough space to move about while she did her morning chores.

At twelve years old, Alex was the only member of the family not enrolled in school. Although Mrs Saunders had promised to home school her, the most she ever did was leave her a bunch of books to go through on her own and Alex did just that. Whilst her siblings went to school, Alex would spend that time reading books in the local library, a period in time when she developed a passion for writing.

To kill time and stay out the way of her new family’s activities, Alex visited libraries and book stores and spent time there reading until they closed. It was during one of her book store tours that she met Oliver Cooper who was conducting a book signing for his third book compiling the adventures of his career.

Having made an arrangement with the store owner, Alex was given the keys to open the store very early in the morning, put the books in order and read to her hearts content whatever she wanted.

“Just stay away from adult books.” Mrs Davies store owner had sternly warned her, pointing to the CCTV above them.

That fateful morning, Alex had woken up at 4 and took the short walk to the book store. The streets where quiet and there was barely a soul in sight apart from the cars that passed by every now and then. Sometimes Alex wondered if her family even noticed her absence. She concluded they never did since they never asked her any questions about where she was or what she had been upto.

It seemed no one was missing her.

Alex had spent about an hour arranging the books in order and by the time it was five, she was wrapped up in a corner covered by a shawl given to her by Mrs Davis to her to keep her warm. The sixty year old woman was the kindest woman little Alex had met in a very long time.

By the time Mrs Davis reported for work, she found Alex soundly asleep, her head resting on the pile of books she had obviously been going through that morning. Although the girl had never been tested, Mrs Davis figured she had the mind of a genius. Her ability to read and understand so many books in such a short time was astounding. She even read books that most kids would shun away from. She had gone through almost all the encyclopaedias in the store and had read most of the sciences ranging from psychology to chemistry.

“She’s sleeping so soundly,” Belinda the store assistant said when she came in. “Should I wake her up? There are already people lining up outside for the book signing in a few hours.”

“Oh no, please let her rest,” Mrs Davis said. “The poor child deserves all the rest she can get away from her cruel reality. I will wake her up before Mr Cooper gets here.”

“I heard that he is bringing his son along,” Belinda said. “The boy is as handsome as his father. They really look alike.”

“Of course they should look alike since they have the same DNA,” Mrs Davis joked, clearing the table where Oliver Cooper was expected to sit. “Besides, I am the one that asked him to bring the boy along. I figured he might rub off some of his good fortune on our little friend here.”

Belinda gave the old lady a knowing smile. “You are very cunning Mrs Davies. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because I am wiser than you,” she said, her voice full of laughter. “Please check the microphone and make sure everything else is working perfectly over there.” She pointed to the area where authors normally stood to read excerpts of their books to their fans.

When Oliver was finally ushered into the store amidst the media and fan frenzy outside, Mrs Davies welcomed him and called Alex over to greet her role model.

“I thought the young man might enjoy the company of our book store’s most loyal customer while you attend to your duties Mr Cooper.” The old lady was holding Alex by her shoulders from behind, introducing her to the pair.

Alex immediately fell in-love with her role model’s smile. It was genuine and sincere. She had been right to like him. “You are even more handsome in person Sir,” the little girl quipped causing Oliver to laugh out loud.

“I have heard that plenty of times but never from a lady as beautiful as you Ms….”

“Alex, my name is Alex Saunders.” She answered cheerfully.

“And a beautiful name it is Alex. This is my son Anton, say hi to your new friend Anton.” Oliver presently his son before Alex.

After shaking hands, “you are not bad yourself,” Alex told the twelve year old, surprising both him and the adults in the room. “Do you want me to show you where to find cool books?” Without waiting for his response, she grabbed him by the hand and led him away.

Alex had gone half way through the store when she suddenly paused and looked back. She released her grasp on Anton’s hand, ran towards the front desk, grabbed a book from there and ran towards Oliver. “Here,” she handed him the book. “I almost forgot, I should be the first to get your signature!”

“Have you read my book young lady?” Oliver asked.

“Of course!” Her sharp voice echoed through the library. “I had been waiting for it all this time and when it finally came to the store, I sat down for three hours and refused to move until I read every single word.”

“Are you telling me you read the whole book in three hours?” Oliver asked.

“Yes, what’s wrong? Did I take too long?” The girl clearly had no idea what was going on. “I knew I shouldn’t have kept on re-reading pages 35 to 70 but I couldn’t believe that there was someone in this world who treasured his family as much as you did.”

“You think three hours is too long?” Anton had come back to join them and he was visibly shocked by the girl’s non-stop chatter and her oblivion to the fact that she could be a genius.

From that day forward, the two of them had become inseparable and thanks to Oliver Cooper’s generosity, he came to provide Alex with a new hiding place that was neither a library nor a book store.

He gave her a home.
***
“He’s a cool guy, but I kind of like his money more,” Anton joked, forcing his best friend out her reverie and back to reality.

“You are such a fool Tony,” Alex said, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at him only to miss as Anton dodged in time.

“Ah,” Anton remembered what he had wanted to share with her earlier. “I met someone at Club Atlas last night.” He said excitedly whilst putting on his shoes.

Alex braced herself for another one of his women adventures.

“Don’t give me that look,” Anton didn’t miss her look of disinterest. “It’s different this time,” he said enthusiastically. “I am really serious!” He shouted from behind as Alex started walking out of the bedroom.

“I am going to make some breakfast. There are only a few minutes till your dad gets here.” Alex shouted as she walked away.

Anton quickly finished tying his shoe laces and ran after her. “Aren’t you curious about who she is?” He sat on one of the chairs behind the Kitchen counter and watched Alex as she cooked up an omelette for him.

“Since when have I ever been interested in your women stories Tony?” Alex asked, her eyes fixed on the food she was making, desperately wishing for a change of subject. “I only listen because my ears are in perfect working order. You always say ‘this one is different’ about every girl you meet. What’s so different about this one this time around?” She asked.

“She is actually new in town,” Anton said. “Her father got a job with our university, he is a professor. Her mother is a philanthropist…apparently she runs a number of charities across the country.” He proudly said. “Unlike some people I know, she is sexy, classy as well as beautiful. We only chatted for a little bit but it felt like we’ve known each other for years!”

“Good for you,” Alex said sarcastically, her face as straight as an arrow. “I guess you are ready to settle down now. We should tell your father about this new development. I am sure he will be as excited as I am.”

“Tell me what?” A voice from behind them asked. It was Anton’s father. “What’s going to make me as excited as my little sunshine is?” He was mocking Alex because there was nothing about her attitude and demeanour that looked anything close to excitement.

With a knife in one hand and a tomato in the other, Alex walked over to Oliver and stood in front of him. She spread out her arms and he took her in for a hug, releasing her in time for her to rush back to the stove.

Oliver took a seat next to his son.

“I see you are ready.” It was all the greeting he would give his.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Anton replied smugly but was immediately awarded with a reprimanding look from his housemate.

“How was golfing this morning?” Alex directed her attention to her mentor. “For a forty something year old, you must make all the twenty-something year olds reel with envy,” she was looking at Anton as she delivered the last part.

For a forty-two year old man, Oliver Cooper indeed looked like a man in just his early thirties. His boyish looks and infallible charm made women his age appear older. Alex thought it was such a shame that ever since his wife’s death; he had not been with another woman on a long term basis. Oliver Cooper rarely dated and when he did, it was either just a fling or a three months old relationship, which was the longest he ever reached.

“What’s wrong with how I look?” Anton looked at himself.

Alex shrugged her shoulders and didn’t even bother to hide the grin playing on her face. “Nothing,” she said unconvincingly.

“If I worked out as much as dad does no woman would be able to resist me. I am not trying so hard because I am considerate of less attractive men out there. Imagine the kind of attention I would be getting if that were the case? I can’t have all the women to myself you know.”

“You wish,” Alex muttered under her breath. “Can I make something for you as well Mr C.?” She asked Oliver.

“Oh no, I am not a breakfast person these days. Besides, we don’t have much time left.” He looked at his wrist watch. “There are some people waiting for us somewhere. I need to show this boy a certain piece of land I want to invest in…thought I could use his good architectural eye.”

Architecture was one of the very few things Anton excelled at. Even at a young age, he had helped his father who had a passion in real estate investment design some of the famous buildings around the world. Thus, it had come as no surprise when Anton finally decided to study Architecture at university after wasting a year of possible college time trying to follow his father’s footsteps in acting.

Oliver had been against his son entering showbiz because he felt he lacked the talent and drive it took to excel in that industry. However, Anton had been so adamant until his father finally allowed him to pursue his dreams for a year on the grounds that he couldn’t succeed; he would quit and get into university.

Without his father’s backing, Anton had tried auditioning for a few roles here and there which did not end the way he thought they would. Watching his father all those years living his dream, performing on numerous stages in front of large crowds, making his music videos and later on acting and directing his own movies, Anton wanted that kind of life for himself. There was nowhere his father went he wasn’t welcome or recognized.

Oliver Cooper was revered by many, especially women and his son Anton wanted to have exactly that kind of life when he grew up. Unfortunately, it did not take long for Anton to realise that he had no real passion or talent for acting. He had finally and happily given up his dream of stardom and settled for becoming a star in a whole other different world; the world of architecture.

Being in his fifth and final year, Anton could boast of having successfully designed and contributed to three major historical landmarks in the country. He was indeed a young designer on the rise and his future in the industry looked absolutely promising.

The only time Alex thought her best friend looked human was when he committed himself to finishing a project. It was after all during one of those times that she had found herself strangely attracted to him. Despite his playful nature, Anton never took his studies for granted. Although he missed lectures most of the time, he was one of the best students in his field and architecture was something that came naturally to him.

“How much is in it for me this time?” Anton asked. His father was about to smack him in the head but he dodged in time again.

“Before I forget,” Alex said. “Any plans for your birthday Mr C.?”

Oliver found himself smiling. There was something about Alex that reminded him of his wife. She always remembered his birthday no matter how busy she was.

“Dad, it’s your birthday today?” Anton asked. This time the smack landed right on his head.

Alex scowled at him and shaking her head said, “tsk, tsk, tsk,” pointing a spatula at him accusingly. “I would kill myself if I had a son like you. His birthday is on Monday…you have three days to prepare a present.”

“I’m still gonna use his money to buy it, so what’s the big deal?” Anton retorted.

Alex was still shaking her head. “I will not even qualify that statement with a response. How busy are you on Sunday?” She turned her attention to Oliver.

“What, you have something planned for me?” He asked excitedly, like a child looking forward to opening his presents on Christmas.

Alex couldn’t help smiling at Oliver’s play at enthusiasm. This was one of those rare moments when his child-like behaviour came out. Sometimes she secretly wondered if he had not lied about his age. There was nothing 42 about the man. If anything, the son and father seated next to each other looked more like a pair of siblings.

“It’s a surprise; just don’t leave home on Sunday morning okay?” Alex said. She put the breakfast in front of Anton and he got into it right away.

“I definitely won’t,” Oliver said. “Suddenly, I don’t mind growing a year older.” He added.

“I am included in that program as well, right?” Anton asked. “It will be like a present from the both is us….”

Both Alex and Oliver laughed at his shameless audacity. “You just want to avoid the hustle of looking for a present isn’t it?” Alex grabbed a chair and sat facing the men.

“Dame woman you know me too well!” Anton said in resignation, pointing his folk at her playfully. “That’s why I tell people who make wild remarks about us to take a hike. You are like the coolest dude I’ve ever met!”

Anton moved from where he was and went to put his arm around Alex’s neck.

Oliver did not miss the hurt in Alex’s eyes. She was slowly shaking his head in disapproval as he watched his son’s childish play with a girl that was obviously in-love with him.

Tsk tsk tsk,” Oliver continued shaking his head. “What a bloody fool.” He muttered under his breath.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 4

 

Alicia pulled her son away from Kondwani who was visibly uncomfortable with the boy’s line of inquiry.

“He is just my boss at work honey,” Alicia told her son. “He didn’t know your father, only Uncle Kayombo knew him.” The disappointment on Buseko’s face heart breaking to watch.

Alicia had done her best to talk to her son about his father. The only thing she had not told him were the exact details surrounding his death. How could she make a child of that age understand the complications surrounding Nicolas’ death when she the adult was still struggling to find answers?

“I should be on my way now.” Kondwani quickly announced.

“Oh year, sorry sir for keeping you.” Alicia apologized and together with her son she stepped aside to give the doctor enough room to pass.

“See you at work tomorrow.” Kondwani said and quickly headed towards the counter to pay for his clothes, completely oblivious to the shock on Alicia’s face as she watched his retreating back.

See you at work tomorrow was not a phrase she would have conjured up even in her wildest dreams as coming from Dr Chileshe. The Kondwani she had just spoken to and the one she usually met at work were two different people that could have come from parallel universes.

Why did he appear so shaken up and why was he acting so polite? Alicia wondered.
Out in the parking standing by his car, Kondwani took out his phone from his pocket and called his mother.

“Are you home?” He asked.

“Yes I’m home!” Claudia who had not been expecting a call from her son so soon answered excitedly.

“I’m on my way.” He said and cut the line.

In her excitement, Claudia had missed the seriousness in Kondwani’s voice. She rushed to the kitchen to get started on lunch before he showed up at the door. She was in her happy mood, humming and singing as she tended to the stove when her second last Mwansa came to stand by the kitchen door.

“I’m going to see Charlene mother.” The 22 year old said.

“Your brother is coming for lunch,” Claudia answered without turning around to look at her daughter, her eyes fixed on whatever she steering in a pot. “We rarely have meals together as a family so go back to your room and postpone whatever plans you had till your brother leaves.”

“This isn’t fair mum!” Mwansa sulked. “You are the one who wants to have lunch with your precious son so why do we all get to suffer? I’m leaving.” And she turned to leave.

“Stop right there young lady.” Claudia stopped whatever she was doing and turned to look at her, a threatening expression on her face. For someone as stubborn and as free-spirited as her daughter, Claudia had learnt to be strong in her approach if she was ever to get through to her. Mwansa was not the type of daughter a mother with a weak heart could handle. She had the power to drive anyone that had the misfortune of talking to her to suicide with her antagonistic attitude.

“You are staying for lunch and that’s it.” Claudia declared sternly. “And what’s that you are wearing?” She finally noticed her daughters outfit.

Mwansa looked at herself in surprise and then back at her mother. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” She asked innocently.

“Where’s the rest of that top?” Claudia asked, clearly remembering that when she had bought that blouse for her, it had been way longer than it appeared now.

Mwansa laughed. “It’s called a crop top mother.” She was looking at her mother like she would a fossil at an archaeological site.

“A crop what?”

“A crop top.” Mwansa said the words slowly, as if her mother’s hearing was the issue at hand. . “It was too big and outdated when I tried on so I had it cut and redesigned into something modern and cool.”

“So is it going to grow longer by the time you get to wherever you are going?” Claudia asked.

“Huh?” Mwansa wondered if her mother’s menopause had reached an all-time high. What is she going on about?

“You said it’s a crop top.” Claudia explained herself. “Aren’t crops supposed to grow? Or are you going to paste on the rest of that top at some point? Your whole stomach is outside and-”

“What’s going on in here?” Chilufya rudely brushed passed her sister and went to check on what was cooking on the stove. “Pasta?” disappointment crossed her face. “I was really craving nshima.”

“Your brother is coming over and you know he hates nshima.” Claudia informed her daughter.

“Kondwani is coming?” The disappointment was quickly replaced with excitement.

“Are you pregnant sis?” Mwansa asked and shocked both her mother and elder sister.

“What!?” Chilufya asked in disbelief.

“You’ve been wanting to talk to bro for over a week now. One can only assume you got knocked up and you want him to help with some abortion pills.”

Chilufya walked over to where her young sister was standing and smacked her at the back of her head.

“Ouch!” Mwansa cried out as she moved away from her sister to hide behind their mother.

“Do you just use your head to make yourself look taller?” Chilufya snapped. “Why does everything that comes out of your mouth stink?” She then stormed out of the kitchen.

“Are you just going to let her hit me like that mum?” Mwansa looked at her mother pleadingly, one hand softly nursing the back of her head.

“You had it coming.” Claudia said and went to get vegetable from the fridge.

“Why don’t you ever support me?” Mwansa started to cry. “I am forever the black sheep of this family.” It was her turn now to storm out of the kitchen and off to wherever she had plans of going.

Claudia remained shaking her head in incredulity.

Outside the house, Mwansa stopped to wipe her tears off with the back of her hands. “Thank you for your timely provocation dear sister of mine.” She said to herself, a mischievous smile playing at the corners of her lips. “Now I can go about my business without feeling guilty about skipping lunch with His Majesty.”

Mwansa took out her phone from her handbag and called someone.

“I’m starting off from home, where are you?” She asked whoever was on the other end of the line.

“I’m at my aunt’s place in Woodlands,” said a whispering male’s voice. “I’m trying to sweet talk her into letting me use her car for the day.”

Mwansa laughed. “Send me the address; will get on a cab and meet you outside.”

“Alright babe.”

Thirty minutes later, Kondwani found his mother in the kitchen finishing up on lunch. Without announcing himself, he stood by the door and watched her hum her way through her activities. She was obviously in a very happy mood.

How do you expect me to talk to you about my problems when you are this happy? Kondwani thought. One sentence from my mouth and your perfect little world will be turned upside down. What would you have me do, mother?

“Why are you the one cooking?” Kondwani finally made his presence known. His mother quickly turned upon hearing his voice, a huge smile on her face.

“Where are the kids?” Kondwani asked as he made his way into the kitchen to sit down. “Why are you the one cooking?”

Claudia chuckled. “Only Chilufya knows how to cook in this house.” She said as she cleared the pots off the stove so she could join him by the table. “She wanted to cook nshima but when I heard you were coming-“

“You didn’t have to do that.” Knodwani interjected her. “I said I don’t like eating nshima every day, not that I hate it.”

“You said you hated it because it reminded you of those days we would line up just to receive a sack of mealie-meal from Red Cross.” She reminded him.

“And you just had to bring it up.” Kondwani complained. “Where’s Chilufya?” He got up to leave. Whenever his mother brought up the past, his whole mood would be spoiled for the day. He already had his fair share of disparagement from Alicia, he didn’t need his own mother to tip over an already sinking boat.

“Bro, you’re here.” Chilufya entered the kitchen in time.

“Mum said you wanted to talk to me-“

“Yeah,” she said. “I was going to come to the hospital but, I thought you might be very busy.”

“Come, let’s talk in the living room.” He led the way and sat down.

Chilufya appeared reluctant to sit down, twisting her fingers nervously.

“Aren’t you going to sit?” Kondwani asked.

“How about we talk outside, by those garden chairs outside.”

Kondwani threw her a suspicious look but instead of asking, he got up and led them outside into the garden.

“What is it you want to talk to me about that you don’t want mum knowing?” Kondwani asked his baby sister once they were seated outside.

“It is not that I don’t want her to know.” Chilufya said. “I think that you are the one who wouldn’t want her knowing.”

“What do you mean?”

Chilufya hesitated.

“You do know that I am a very busy man right?” Kondwani reminded his sister.

“It’s about the accident.” Chilufya announced very so suddenly.

Kondwani tensed up. “What accident?” He feigned ignorance.

“You know the one am talking about.” Chilufya stated matter-of-factly.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Kondwani said, his voice slightly shaking.

“About six years ago,” Chilufya said. “I overheard a conversation between you and mum.” She was watching her brother’s every reaction. Kondwani looked like he had just been drenched in a cold bucket of water.

“You…what did you-“

“I heard most of it.” Chilufya answered.

“Why didn’t you say anything all this while?” He asked. “Why choose to talk about it now?”

“Because I recently discovered something that’s made me have sleepless nights since.”

Kondwani sat up, his eyes widening in deep terror. “What did you-“

“When I heard the two of you talking about the accident, I got curious.” Chilufya explained. “I looked up the family of the man that died…I don’t know why I did something like that but, there was something you said to mum that night that kept bothering me.”

“What did I say?” Kondwani asked.

“All I know is that after I heard everything, I wanted to know who the man that was involved in the accident. You know me, when I am curious about something, I won’t stop till I find answers. The next morning, I went to that hospital and I saw the fiancé of the man who died.”

“Why are you telling me all this sis?” Kondwani asked.

“Because I know that that man’s fiancé now works at your hospital and I know that you know who she is.”

“It was an accident Chilu,” Kondwani said. “It happened six years ago so I don’t see any point as to why we are even talking about it.”

“If it was just an accident, then why did you to the police?” Chilufya asked.

“I never lied to the police. What are you talking about?”

“Did you know that that man’s fiancé was pregnant?” she asked.

“How did you-“

“I told you, something about the whole thing didn’t sit well in my heart. I followed that woman around until a year later when she disappeared. I was on Facebook a couple of months ago when I saw a familiar name on a friend’s wall.

“I clicked on it and for sure it was her. Like a stalker, I went through her profile and that’s how I discovered she was interning at your hospital. I didn’t know about the child until a few weeks ago when I saw her with the child outside her home.”

“You even followed her to her place?” Kondwani asked.

“You are one to judge.” Chilufya fired back at him accusingly. “There is something about that woman’s pain when I saw her crying at the hospital that I haven’t been able to forget to this day. I even hear her crying in my sleep.”

“I hope you haven’t mentioned any of this to mum.” Kondwani said.

“Don’t you think that mum deserves to know the truth?”

Kondwani jumped up from his seat, eyes blazing at his sister. “You will do no such thing!” He commanded her.

Chilufya got up as well. “Bro-“

“What I’ve said is final Chilu and I hope you don’t try to second guess my decision.” Kondwani said sternly. “Nothing good will come out of telling mum the truth. Do you think that the thought of telling her hasn’t crossed my mind? I drove all the way here today with the intention of telling her everything.

“I had somehow managed to convince myself during the drive here that she needed to know but my confidence and resolve waned the moment I laid eyes on her. There’s no way in hell I will be the reason she loses that smile on her face after everything that she’s already been through. I refuse to do that to her. I won’t.”

“It’s not like don’t understand you Kondwani,” Chilufya tried to reason with him. “But do you honestly think that you can keep everything from her all the way to the end? The truth always has a funny way of coming out.”

“So far there’s just us three who know about that night….”

“You mean two?” Chilufya corrected him.

“Whatever the case maybe, I intend to do everything in my power to shield mum from the truth. If she ever knows that that accident resulted in death, then it won’t just be that man’s death we would have to contend with.”

Chilufya sighed heavily, her brother’s words finally sinking into her. “What about that lady nurse?” she asked.

“What about her?” Kondwani asked.

“Don’t you think we need to do something about her?” Chilufya suggested. “She lost custody of her son because her former mother in-law blames her for her son’s death. For the life of me I can’t seem to get a good night sleep from the time I discovered she was a mother…knowing very well who’s responsible for putting her in a position where she can’t raise or see her child as she pleases.”

“I already told you,” Kondwani said defensively. “It was an accident. It’s not like someone set out to end that man’s life. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Can you confidently look that woman in the eye or that man’s family and tell them that?”

“Why not?”

“I would love to see you try.”

“What’s all this about?” Kondwani asked. “Whose side are you on sis?”

“I am not on anyone’s side. I just wish you could be a little more sympathetic that’s all.”

“You think I don’t have any compassion?” Kondwani asked. “From the moment Alicia walked through the doors of my hospital, my life hasn’t been the same. Like a mad man I keep following her around, wondering what sort of life she’s living and if I can be of any help to her without exposing myself in the process.”

“All I can see is a man desperate to burry a crime in order to protect his family.” Chilufya remarked.

Kondwani put his hands in his pockets and moved his head slightly towards her, his eyes searching her eyes. “Okay, tell me Chilufya,” he said. “What would you have me do?”

“What sort of life do you think that woman would be living right now if her fiancé was still alive?” Chilufya asked.

“What are you asking me to do Chilu?” Kondwani gaped at her in shock.

“I don’t think you need me to explain that to you.” Chilufya said tightly. “You figure it out, you are after all the brains of this family.” She then left him standing there to mull over her words.

Kondwani was too dumbfounded to move.

***

Mwansa found her boyfriend Stephen waiting for her outside his aunt’s place, his back proudly leaning against the car he had successfully managed to borrow. She quickly paid the taxi driver and excitedly ran after Stephen.

She was about to throw her arms around him but he grabbed them instead, his eyes searching the surroundings for an audience. “My aunt is very strict when it comes to dating,” Stephen warned his girlfriend of two weeks. “She will castrate me right here if she discovers I borrowed the car for dating purposes.”

Mwansa laughed. “I think she and my mother would get along very well. They sound like twins.”

Stephen opened the door for her like a gallant prince and Mwansa stepped into the vehicle like royalty, blushing at the thought of being treated like a princess by the 24 year old. Stephen was the first guy she had met that made her feel special with every act he made towards her and every word he said to her. It was the first time since she started dating that she was seeing only one guy at a time.

After going out on her first date with Stephen who had taken her to a respectable restaurant instead of a nightclub two weeks ago, Mwansa had locked herself in her room and dialled every boy’s number she had been seeing on and off and told them she was seeing someone officially.

“So where are we going?” Mwansa asked her boyfriend as he got them onto the road.

“You’ll see.” Stephen said smiling.

“Oooh, I’m so excited!” Mwansa danced excitedly in her seat.

“By the way, do you think you can talk your mum into letting you leave home early this coming weekend?” Stephen asked.

“Leaving early and not getting home late?” Mwansa asked, confused by the timing in his question. Her past dating experience was consumed by her worrying about getting home before curfew and never about leaving home early.

Stephen laughed. “There’s some youth activities going on at church this Saturday, thought it might be fun if we went together.”

“So you also think that I need Jesus?” Mwansa sounded disappointed, her head falling back onto the head rest with a thud.

Stephen chuckled. “Why would I think that?” He asked. “Besides, isn’t it a fact that all humans need Jesus in their lives?”

“My mum and sister are always telling me and my kid brother that we need Jesus. Frankly, I think Chilufya needs him more than me. That girl is a wierdo.”

“So do you think she will let you?” Stephen later asked.

“Of course!” Mwansa answered. “If anything, she might even offer to drive me there herself.”

“I already asked my aunt if I can use her car then, said I can pick it up in the morning. Will come and pick you up from home.”

Mwansa almost jumped in her seat. “Hell no!” She shouted. “You can’t come to pick me up.”

“Why not?” Stephen asked.

“My mother would never believe that I had plans at church if she saw a guy picking me up that early in the morning. Unlike your aunt, my mother has no life. Her life revolves around her children so she’s ever meddling in our affairs.

“My mother is the kind of person that can follow you outside the yard just so she can see which direction you are going or who you are going with. She has that much time on her hands.”

Stephen laughed. “So what should we do?”

“Like today, will get a cab and meet you outside…provided your aunt doesn’t see me as well.”

“Oh no, that won’t be an issue with her. She knows that I have activities at church most Saturdays. If she sees you on that day, she will just think am giving you a ride to church.”

“Thank God.” Mwansa heaved a sigh of relief. Stephen laughed.

*** 

After a three hour long heated discussion with the hospital board concerning the expansion of health services to be provided by ZADH, Kondwani couldn’t wait to get out of the board room and lock himself up in his office for a quick nap.

Fridays were one of the busiest days at the hospital due to people’s carelessness in celebrating a weekend that they might never even get to see as a result of their behaviour. The last thing Kondwani needed was to be depressed by a bunch of power hungry old billionaires trying to milk every dime from the pockets of unsuspecting patients suffering from incurable diseases.

Unfortunately for Dr Chileshe, he could not get that much needed rest in the office because Alicia had picked that very moment he stepped out to approach him.

“Traffic accident, Great East Road, eight badly injured, one DOA.” Alicia the interning nurse was almost out of breath from running up the stairs.

“And they brought them here?” The Medical Director asked.

“We were the closest.” Alicia explained.

“Dr Kayombo and Makani?”

“The AP is in the OR right now and Dr Makani is at the conference-“

“Since when did ZADH become understaffed?” The Medical Director asked. They had finally reached the chaotic ER where the residents and nurses where running about attending to patients.

“It’s the conference sir.” Alicia explained but Kondwani was no longer listening to her. He was taking in the chaos unfolding before him, deeply regretting the timing of that medical conference where half of his staff had gone.

By midnight, the atmosphere at ZAD hospital had calmed down a little. Exhausted, Alicia who was working the night shift took the stairs to the rooftop of the building to take in some fresh air.

She had just landed her feet on the top step when she spotted Kondwani standing with his back to her, his legs spread apart and his hands in his pockets, a position she had come to know as his regular pose. Not wanting to disturb him, Alicia slowly and quietly turned around to go back.

“Alicia.” She heard him call out to her.

“I am so sorry,” she turned to apologize. “I had no idea-“

Looking at the tired expression on her face, Kondwani couldn’t help recalling his sister’s words;

What sort of life do you think that woman would be living right now if her fiancé was still alive?

Do you always have to look like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders every time I see you? Kondwani silently asked Alicia.

“How did you know about this place?” Kondwani asked, moving to lean his back against the wall, one leg stretched forward and the foot of the other resting against the wall.

Alicia remained standing where she was, not sure whether to join him where he was or to just answer his question and retreat.

“Dr Kayombo told me about it.” She answered.

“I take it that you and him are very close?” Kondwani said.

“We know each other through a mutual friend.” Alicia replied. “I will leave you-“

“What, you don’t like talking to me?” Kondwani asked just before she could turn back around. “Are you afraid someone might see us together and spread more rumours?”

“No Sir, I would never-“

“Or could it be that you were the one spreading those rumours to make your peers jealous?” Kondwani asked.

“What?” Alicia asked in disbelief.

Kondwani nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders, a smirk appearing on his face. “It’s been known to happen; a male doctor gives a chance to a promising nurse or intern and she picks up other ideas from his professional gesture.”

The accusation he was throwing immediately brought tears to the eyes of the introvert nurse. Alicia had not imagined that something so wicked and calculating could be said about her character in such a very short time.

Was that the kind of person Dr Chileshe thought she was every time he looked at her? The embarrassment was too much to handle whilst standing there in front of him. Instead of defending herself, Alicia opted for the only route she knew would shield her from further embarrassment; escape.

Her crying and running away from him like that was not the direction Kondwani had expected that conversation to go. He quickly ran after her and caught up to her right in the middle of the stairs.

Alicia first heard him run down the stairs and then felt him grab hold of her hand.

“Alicia, that was a joke.” Kondwani said once he managed to get her to come to a stop. “Don’t you have a sense of humour?”

“I am just tired,” She lied, consciously avoiding lifting her head to look at him. “I need to go back and check on a few patients.” She wiped her tears with her other free hand, Kondwani was still holding on to the other one.

“I am sorry,” he quickly apologized. “I guess it was a very bad joke. But do you cry this easily when you hear something unpleasing to your ear?”

“My hand.” Alicia was looking at her hand and moving it to free herself from his grasp.

“I said I’m sorry.” Kondwani apologized again, still not letting go of her hand.

“I will file this in as sexual harassment.”

Alicia’s threat had an immediate desired effect as Kondwani who let go of her hand. Without saying another word, she walked down the rest of the stairs.

Kondwani remained where he was, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Her reaction towards him had completely caught him off guard. He didn’t know whether to feel insulted by it or to be impressed by her uniqueness. Either way, he found the whole experience amusing.

When Alicia’s shift ended the next morning, she found Kayombo waiting for her in the hospital lobby. His casual and relaxed attire announced the fact that his shift too had ended.

“I thought you had already left.” Alicia said when she stopped where he was.

“Was waiting for you.” Kayombo said and started walking towards the exit.

Alicia ran after him. “You were waiting for me?” She asked.

“I am passing through the Kabwe’s, thought you might want to see Buseko for a bit.”

“Are you serious?” Alicia couldn’t hide her excitement.

Kayombo was grinning proudly. “I told you that I would help you out whenever I can.” He said. “I figured that you might not have the freedom to see your son whenever you want and since am welcome in that household 24/7, I can help make things a little easier for you.”

Lost in her excitement, Alicia almost reached out to grab Kayombo’s hand but Kondwani’s presence in front of them as they walked out of the hospital brought the both of them to a stop. He was glaring at the two of them suspiciously, one hand in his pocket while the other carried his bag.

“You look like a detective standing there like that.” Kayombo commented. “You are going to scare the patients leaving the hospital and send them back into the ER.”

“I was about to head to the car park when I remembered something I forgot to pack in my office.” Kondwani said. He was obviously not in the same joking mood as his colleague. “Are the two of you leaving together?” He asked.

“Yes,” Kayombo answered, a little too loudly. He offered no further explanations.

“Try to watch your conduct the two of you around the hospital.” Kondwani warned them sternly. “The last thing we need is an administrative scandal between a physician and a nursing intern. I think we’ve had enough of that with this batch of interns already.” He was looking at Alicia piercingly as he said the last part.

Alicia could only lower her gaze in defeat. There was nothing she was ever going to do that was going to fix her ruined reputation around the hospital.

“Don’t mind him.” Kayombo later said as he drove them to Mrs Kabwe’s house. “That guy hates anybody that has a life because he has no life of his own.”

“Isn’t he engaged to the PR manager?” Alicia asked.

“That’s not an engagement, it’s a sham.” Kayombo answered without thinking.

“What?”

He realized his error a little too late. “My bad.” He said, quickly shrugging off his careless remarks. “Enough talk about the MD, what are your plans for your off days?”

The rest of the way, the two of them talked about everything else except work or anyone related to their work. Kayombo stopped his vehicle a couple of blocks from Mrs Kabwe’s house.

“I will pick up Buseko and we will find you here.” He said.

Alicia paused before opening the door. “Won’t his grandmother suspect anything?”

Kayombo laughed. “I already told her that I will be hanging out with him for the day so you have nothing to worry about.”

Alicia nodded and stepped down from the vehicle.

About ten minutes later, Kayombo parked on the other side of the road and motioned for Alicia to cross over. Buseko started waving at her excitedly the moment he spotted her. With her eyes focused on her son, Alicia briefly lost caution of her surroundings and could have been hit by an oncoming vehicle had it not been for the alert driver who came to a stop in time.

Alicia gaped at the driver in shock and guilt, ready to apologize for her carelessness when she recognized the person behind the wheel.

“Alicia?” Stephen called out to her in surprise.

“You know her?” Mwansa who was seated beside him asked.

“Yes,” Stephen said as he opened the door. “She is Buseko’s mother, you know, the boy I told you about.”

“Ooh,” Mwansa said as she recalled one of their past conversations on the phone. So this is the woman responsible for making your aunt have tough dating restrictions? Mwansa thought as she looked at the visibly pale and shaken up woman.

“Are you okay?” Stephen asked as he walked over to Alicia.

“Alicia,” Kayombo came to join them.

“Uncle Kayombo?” Stephen turned to him. “What are you doing here?” He looked over to his car where he had come from and spotted Buseko looking out the window, a knowing expression suddenly crossing his face.

“Better not tell your aunty about this.” Kayombo warned the young man, realizing that their secret arrangement had just been compromised.

Stephen laughed. “I thought about doing the same thing as well but I was too scared to risk getting into Aunt Mary’s bad books.”

“Thank you Steve.” Alicia said.

“Not a problem,” the 24 year old said. “Just remember to look left and right and then left again before crossing the road next time.” He teased her.

Kayombo moved to smack him in the head but Stephen quickly ran back to the car, laughing.

Kayombo took Alicia’s hand and moved her away from the road so Stephen could pass. The two of them waved as he drove passed them.

“Do you think our secret is safe with him?” Alicia asked.

“Yes,” Kayombo answered easily. “I would bet my life on it.”

“What about that girl in the car?”

“I have never seen her before but whoever she is, she looks like she would do about anything Stephen asked her to do.”

Alicia scoffed. “Men.” She shook her head and started walking towards his car. “They think the world revolves around them.” She mumbled under her breath.

“I heard that.” Kayombo said from behind her.

Alicia laughed.
“You’ve suddenly gone quite.” Stephen said to Mwansa when he realized he had been talking to himself for a while. “Did that close accident scare you that much?” he laughed. “I didn’t page you for a scaredy cat.”

“Something about that woman’s eyes,” Mwansa said. “She has the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. I just can’t seem to get over it.”

“If I told you her life story, you would understand that look in her eyes.” Stephen said.

“What’s her story?” Mwansa asked.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 3

For a few seconds, Alicia stood by the door, wondering why Samuel was looking at her like that. Just then, Samuel waved to her with a huge grin on the face and started walking towards her. Confused, Alicia shook her head, opened the door and entered the house.
“I guess it must still be hard for you to enter this house.” Mary commented the moment Alicia appeared through the door. “We could see your feet through the glass, below the curtain.” She pointed to the curtained glass door.
“No, it’s not that.” Alicia started to explain.
“Which is a good thing,” Mary continued, acting like she hadn’t heard Alicia say a single word. “I would be surprised if you walked into this yard without feeling an ounce of guilt for what you did.”
“Mum!” Exhildah shouted at her mother and got up to offer Alicia a hug.
“Hi Hildah,” Alicia greeted her former sister in-law as they hugged. 
“You have lost weight.” Exhildah noted, giving Alicia a full body scan. 
Just then, Samuel came through the door.
“Where have you been?” Mary asked from the sofa where she was seated. She had not bothered to move an inch even when Alicia had walked in. 
“I was on the phone mum.” Samuel answered, not sure why he felt the need to give a half-truth. 
“I was just about to introduce the two of you but then I remembered that you work together! Exhildah said. “You’ve met her before right?”
Samuel smiled at Alicia. “I actually only found out today that she is the Alicia.” He stressed the word deliberately. 
Alicia gave him a look and continued standing awkwardly, not sure whether to offer herself a seat or wait for one to be offered. 
“Aren’t you going to sit down?” Samuel asked Alicia as he threw himself down on the two seater couch opposite Mary. It was as if he had read her mind. He patted the space next to him for her to sit. 
Alicia first looked at Mary for approval and found the woman looking at her sternly. 
“You are not really waiting for mum to actually say the words ‘sit’ are you?” Samuelasked, squinting his eyebrows for her benefit. 
“She still thinks she’s my daughter in-law this one.” Mary remarked.
Very so quietly, Alicia went to sit down next to Samuel.
“Juice or wine?” Exhildah asked the two guests.
“Don’t worry about me,” Samuel answered. “I already served myself half of the contents of every wine bottle in your cellar.”
Exhildah laughed. “I thought being a doctor would turn you into someone normal.” She said. “And you Alicia?” She turned to her.
“Nothing for me,” Alicia said in a very low voice. “I am not staying. I’m only waiting for Bubu to get ready. Thanks.”
“I somehow expected that response.” Exhildah went to sit down next to her mother. “Buseko will be here in a minute. He’s gone to get his bag; mum already packed everything for him.”
“Thank you m-“ Alicia stopped herself in time before Mary could shoot the fiery daggers in her eyes at her. Buseko chose that particular moment to come running into the room to save his mother from his grandmother.
“Let’s go mum!” They boy announced excitedly, dragging his bag and leading walking towards the door. 
Alicia quickly got up, happy to escape from the home she knew she was never going to be welcomed. “We are off now.” She announced, her gaze moving from Mary to Exhildah.
“You are not going to say bye to me?” Samuel asked. “I thought you said you wanted us to get along fine.”
Alicia’s eyes flipped wide open as she glared at him in disbelief and embarrassment. “When did I say that?” She asked, nervously looking at Mary and praying that she doesn’t misunderstand Samuel’s bad joke. 
Something about her uncomfortable reaction amused Samuel. “You should see your face right now!” He was laughing and pointing at her.
“Don’t mind this guy Alicia” Exhildah said. “I don’t know how he behaves at work but at home he is as childish as the sixth baby my husband will force me to have two years from now. Don’t mind him.”
Alicia relaxed a bit, happy that no one was taking Samuel’s words seriously. 
“Yeah right.” Samuel said to Mary. “Says the woman who had a crush on me all through high school.”
“Let’s go I say bye to you outside my grandson.” Mary stood up and led her grandson out of the house. Alicia remained standing between the two seated across from each other, not sure whether to follow her former mother in-law outside or to give her a chance to say bye to her grandson in private. She felt awkward being in the middle of Samuel and Exhildah who were busy firing verbal shots at each other.
“You said it yourself, high school.” Exhildah was quick on defence. “You can’t blame me for what my hormones made me do when I was a teenager. Thanks to you, I know the difference between a man and a boy.”
Samuel gave Exhildah a mocking blank look, his lips hanging opening as if in owe and then shaking his head slowly. “Other women search for a Proverbs 31 man but you my dear u settled for a Genesis 9:7 man. Your womb will talk to you one of these days. Tell your husband that that scripture wasn’t directed at him alone.
“Every year you guys are producing kids faster than Samsung upgrades their phones. Tell Marcus to get a vasectomy and tell him I’m offering to do the operation for free, it’s on the house. Who the hell does he think he is, Gideon?”
“I think I should leave now.” Alicia could no longer bear the direction their conversation seemed to take. She started walking towards the door.
“So you are going to pretend you don’t remember begging me to get along with you?” Samuel’s words immediately brought Alicia to a stop. 
Alicia turned back around in frustration. “I never said such words to you Doctor Kayombo.”
“I thought you said you were very good at telling the truth.” He reminded her of her own words from their conversation outside. “The last time we talked on the phone, Nick insisted that I talk to you and when I did, you told me-“
“Oh you mean from the past?” Alicia placed the palm of her hand over her forehead, finally understanding Samuel’s words. “I thought you meant today.” She said. “Gosh, it’s been like how many years? How did you expect me to remember what I said six years ago?” 
“But I do.” Samuel said. 
“There’s a reason why you are the doctor and I am the nurse.” Alicia replied. 
“Given the opportunity, you would be a far much better doctor than me.” He said. “I heard about your achievements from the matron. Sometime people are not where they are simply because of their intelligence. You will make one hell of a doctor someday Alicia.”
Alicia blushed from head to toe. 
“Are the two of you flirting right here in front of me?” Exhildah looked from one to the other. 
Samuel laughed. “If I was flirting, the both of you would be pregnant with twins right now.” He said smugly. “I am that good.”
Exhildah picked up a cushion and flung it at him. Samuel dodged in time, sticking out his tongue at her and laughing.
Alicia took that moment to quietly walk out of the room. 
“I think you made her blush.” Exhildah laughed, holding her hand over her mouth to keep from being heard outside. 
“What do you think mum would say if I told her that I like her?” Samuel asked. 
“Like who?” Exhildah asked. 
“Alicia of course.”
Exhildah sat up straight, her eyes piercing into his soul. “You are kidding me.” She said. 
“I am looking for a rebound and the poor girl just happened to cross my path at the right time.” he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “And she has one hell of a birth machine. That’s a handsome nephew you have there.”
“You can’t be serious.” Exhildah said. 
“Why not?” 
“Are you really asking me that?”
“Yeah.”
“Grow up Samuel. Leave that girl alone. She’s been through enough already. She deserves her own happily ever after and the only kind of happy you are capable of giving her is by leaving her the hell alone.”
“What makes you think I’m incapable of giving her real happiness?” Samuel’s tone had suddenly turned serious.
“You just said so yourself!” Exhildah said. “You said she’s a rebound!” She reminded him. “Gosh, do you even hear yourself when you talk? I bet you don’t cause if you did, you would have stopped talking a long time ago.” 
“Jealous much aren’t we?” Samuel said.
Exhildah laughed. “Over you?” She scoffed. “I don’t know what chemicals they use to wash your white coats but whatever it is, they need to stop. The day I feel attracted to you Samuel will be the day my husband succeeds in impregnating himself so he can cut off the middle man…or woman.  Anyway, what’s all this about a rebound? Did you and that fiery princess finally call it quits?”
“I broke up with her.” Samuel said.
“Woooow. You did?” Exhildah said. “What happened to finally make you see sense?”
“Arh, I guess I just got tired.”
“And her fiancé, he didn’t find out did he?”
“How should I know?” Samuel answered. “That guy is too busy adding zeros to his bank account to notice anything happening around him.” A picture of Kondwani driving past Exhildah’s home flashed through Samuel’s mind in that moment. 
“But still, he’s your boss Samuel.” Exhildah reminded him. “Can you imagine the kind of trouble you would get into if word of it got out?”
Instead of feeling afraid, Samuel had this smirk on his face. “Not if I have something to bargain with when trouble comes.”
“What do you mean by that?” Exhildah asked.
“Let’s just say that my life is about to become even more so interesting than usual. Hehehe.”
“Why did I even bother to ask?” Exhildah got up and left the room for the kitchen. “I take it you are staying for lunch?” She asked from over there.
“Why not?” Samuel asked and went to stretch himself across the three-seater couch Exhildah had been seated on, a mischievous grin playing on his face. 

“How about we go to Kafue for a boat cruise?” Alicia’s father asked a few minutes after she had walked in with her son. The idea of being a grandfather seemed to excite Joseph Daka more than words could describe. He quickly turned towards his wife who was preparing lunch in the kitchen for approval. “What do you think honey?” He shouted from the living room. 
“You guys can go.” She shouted back. “I have a committee meeting for Natalie’s bridal shower to chair here at 15. Have you forgotten?”
Joseph looked up at his step-daughter from the floor where he had been setting up a makeshift pilgrim with Buseko and he didn’t miss how quickly the excitement that had been in Alicia’s eyes faded upon hearing her mother’s decline. 
“Oh yeah,” Joseph muttered. “I had totally forgotten about that. “So what do you think about the six of us driving over there?”
“Count me out?” Belinda said as she walked down the stairs with her younger brothers following closely behind her, rushing to welcome their nephew home. 
“I thought you were done reading Game of Thrones?” Alicia remarked.
“Yeah,” her sister replied. “I have a date with Patrick this evening.”
“Who’s Patrick?” Her father asked, getting up from the floor to give the two boys a chance to play with their nephew. “Relax dad, he’s a great guy.” Belinda assured her father.
“The last guy you described as great had a funny hairstyle and came knocking at my door with a cigarette in his mouth.” Joseph reminded her. “Where do you even find these men when you are buried in your books most of the time?” 
“There’s this good book called Facebook dad,” Belinda candidly informed her father. “Unlike other books, this one allows you to actually chat in real time with the characters.”
Alicia laughed at the blank look on her father’s face. “This Facebook is messing up you people’s lives. I should sue the guy that came up with such a grand plan of destruction.” Joseph said. “Alicia,” he turned to his eldest daughter. “Get the kids ready so we can go immediately after lunch.”
“Yes dad.” Alicia replied. 
“Daddy’s little girl….” Belinda mocked her sister as she walked passed, flashing her tongue out and wiggling her behind in a mocking fashion.
“Grow up Linda!” Alicia said and followed her dad upstairs. “Go and help mum in the kitchen!” She shouted before reaching the top of the stairs.
“Can I do the veggies mum?” Belinda asked when she joined her mother in the kitchen.
“They are done already.” Henrietta answered. “I’m almost done.” She added as she removed the pot of nshima from the stove and settled it down on the kitchen island for serving. “Pass me that plate over there?” She pointed to the big plate on the other side of the table in front of Belinda. 
Belinda passed it over and moved a chair to sit down. “You know you could have easily agreed to go with them to Kafue when dad offered.” She told her mother. “It’s not like that committee can’t function with you.” 
“I don’t think Alicia would have liked me going there.” Henrietta said. 
“Are you kidding me?” Belinda asked. “How can you not know your own daughter mum? You should have seen the look in her eyes when you said you weren’t going. She wanted you to be there.” 
Henrietta stopped whatever she was doing and looked at her step-daughter. “You think so?” she asked. 
“I think so?” Belinda scoffed. “You are just unbelievable mum.” She said. 
“Your sister kind of scares me.” the mother of four confessed. “I think it’s too late for me to fix things between us.”
“Maybe you should try fixing them first before you can claim failure.” Belinda said and got up to leave. “I’m going to take a dump first so I can clear my stomach for the trotters I just smelled in here.”
“Lindah!” Henrietta scolded the back of her daughter as she ran out of the room.
The twenty-two year old laughed and disappeared from the room leaving Henrietta shaking her head in incredulity. 

When Joseph and the kids finally got on the road to Kafue, he took the opportunity to intercede on behalf of his wife with his daughter who was seated with him in the front of the mini-bus while the younger ones played in the back.
“You know your mum is trying to get close to you right?” Joseph said. “She’s just not sure how to go about it.”
“You don’t need to speak on her behalf dad.” Alicia told her father. 
“I know.” He said. “Just like I know that you gave up on her a long time ago.”
“What did you expect me to do dad?” Alicia said, blinking profusely to draw back her tears. Every topic about her mother threatened to break her down to pieces. She was done trying to force her own mother to give her something that should have been given to her naturally. That’s not how a mother’s love worked. 
“I know that her approach has been somewhat wrong, and I’m the one to blame for that.” Joseph said. “I should have stopped her before it was too late…but I guess I cared more about filling the void in my own daughter’s life without realizing what that was taking from you.” 
Her father’s words echoed Belinda’s words to her from the previous day. The reality of it went straight to her heart as two drops of tears cascaded down her cheeks. Her mind replayed all the moments she could remember from the time Joseph and Belinda came into their lives and how quickly her mother had started to change. Having lost her husband at a very young age, Henrietta was more than determined to make her second marriage work.
The widow at that time wanted to prove to her gossiping family and friends that she could rise again despite losing her husband at such a young age. Back then marriage was the greatest achievement any woman could ever attain and Henrietta was hell bent on succeeding for the second time. 
“I don’t think God destined me to receive love in this world.” Alicia said, wiping at her eyes with the palm of her hands. 
“How can you say that?” her father asked.
“Come one dad, think about it.” Alicia said, more tears flowing from her eyes. “I lost my father when I was just a kid and just two years later you and Belinda came along and I lost my mother. Then I met Nicolas….” Alicia cried. 
“I thought, finally.” She lowered her voice to avoid being heard by the kids. “Nicolas made me feel like I could be loved too.” Alicia sobbed. “He made me feel special in ways no one else ever did, not even my mother. But guess what, I lost him too. Why does everyone around me seem to be receiving love and all I keep doing is losing it?
“My mother lost one husband and soon gained another. Belinda lost her mother but she gained mine. And what about me?”
“There’s some tissue in that glove compartment.” Joseph said, pointing to the compartment in front of Alicia. 
“What I need is not tissue.” Alicia fussed. “I need God to see me cry, to see my tears so he can do something about it.” Just then Buseko laughed at something in the back, his childish laughter filled the car and brought a fresh bolt of tears to his mother’s eyes.
“Just look at my son,” Alicia lamented. “The fruit of Nicolas’ love for me. He too, I lost him to the woman that blames me for her son’s death. What wrong did I ever do to God for him to keep punishing me like this? What did I do dad?” 
Joseph reached his hand across and squeezed his daughter hand. “I understand your pain love.” He said. “You have the right to cry and complain but, it was never God’s plan for you to face this kind of pain at such a young age.
“We all face challenges in our lives. I know that right now you might think that you are the only one facing hardships…and that you might question God once in a while. However, if you really think about it, don’t you think that there are also many good things that have happened in your life despite the hardships?” 
He was watching her as he waited for her response. He could see her thinking about his question.
Joseph put his focus back on the road ahead when Alicia remained quiet. “Think about it.” He said. “Take your time out today on the water to think about some of the good things that have happened in your life and let’s continue this conversation afterwards. Is that okay?”
Alicia turned to look at him. “Is that why you suggested this trip?” she asked. “Did you know I was going to lose it like this?”
Joseph laughed. “I simply wanted to spend some time with my children and grandchild. Don’t you think the weather is just beyond beautiful today?” Joseph rolled down his window and allowed the cool breeze to wash over his face. 
He exhaled deeply and then rolled the window back up. 
Alicia smiled through her tears as she watched her father. 
She had just found the first two answers to his question. She reached across and opened the glove compartment, still smiling as she removed some tissue to dry her eyes. 
Once she was done wiping away her tears, Alicia rolled down her window and did exactly as her father had done. Joseph smiled as he watched her. 
Alicia turned to look out her window and took in the beautiful mountains around them. She stretched her hand out and allowed the air to brush against it. 
“Mum!” Alicia heard her son call out to her from the back and she turned to look at him. “Can I do that as well?”
Alicia’s first instinct was to shout NO! But she saw the excited look in his eyes and her heart softened. She turned to David the oldest. “Open that window David.” She pointed to it. “Just slightly, not too much.” She instructed the ten year old. “Don’t move him from the seatbelt. Hold him for just two minutes as he looks out and then get back to your seats.”
Once David finished doing as instructed, Alicia faced forward and started laughing, softly.
Her father couldn’t help smiling despite not knowing what she was laughing about. “What’s gotten into you?” He asked.
“The answers,” Alicia said. “They just keep coming.”
“What answers?” Joseph asked. 
“You asked me if there are any good things that have happened in my life despite the things I’ve lost.” 
“Ooh!” Joseph remembered. “Do you think we can continue that conversation once we arrive?” 
“Certainly.” Alicia answered.

***
The following day, Alicia was out shopping for some clothes with her son when she bumped into Kondwani in one of the men’s boutiques. He had a couple of shirts and slacks hanging over his shoulder while she had some shoes and shorts for Buseke in a shopping basket.
“Are you still following me?” Were the first words that came out of her mouth the moment she saw him standing in front of her.
Kondwani laughed. “Hello.” He said arrogantly, looking around the store to remind her of where they were. 
“Oh.” Alicia cringed in embarrassment. 
“Mum we found it!” Buseke came rushing towards her with a t-shirt in his hands, the store assistant tagging behind him with a smile on her face. 
Kondwani froze.
“He refused to leave the storeroom until we found it.” The store assistant said. “If there’s anything else you’ll need, I’ll be over there helping those customers.” She pointed to a group of men standing a few feet away from them struggling with which choice of shirt print to pick from the collection before them. 
“Yes, thank you very much…Dyness.” Alicia read out her name from the tag on her shirt. “I will see you before we leave, thanks.” 
“You are welcome.” The girl said and went away. 
Alicia turned back to Kondwani and found him staring at Buseko who was also staring back at him defiantly. 
“Are you two in a staring competition?” She asked them, laughing.
The sound of Alicia’s voice so close by brought Kondwani back to reality. 
“Mummy, who is this man?” Buseko asked.
Alicia laughed. “This man is my boss at my new job honey.”
“Is he a doctor?” Buseko’s eyes widened in expectation. 
“Yes he is.” Alicia answered.
“Wow.” He boy said, suddenly looking at Kondwani as if he was a God. “When I become an adult, I want to be a doctor also, like you and Uncle Samuel.”
Alicia was looking at Kondwani and expecting him to say something nice to encourage her son but instead, Kondwani remained silent. He face looked pale, like he had just seen a ghost. 
“Doctor Chileshe.” Alicia called out to him. “Sir, are you okay? Your face, it’s suddenly turned pale.”
Kondwani blinked copiously to force himself out of the scary world he had fallen into. “Yeah, I mean no…I mean yes, I am okay. Is he, is he your son?” 
“Your eyes,” Alicia pointed to them, completely ignoring his question.
“What about my eyes?” Kondwani continued blinking profusely.
“They’ve turned red.” She said. “Sir?” She was now looking at him suspiciously. She moved closer to him and whispered into his ear; “are you on drugs?”
The unexpectedness of her question caused Kondwani to choke on his saliva. “What are you talking about?”
“Bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils….” Alicia explained.
“Out of all the conditions associated with those symptoms, you just had to settle on that?”
“I am sorry if I offended you.” Alicia quickly apologized. “I was just worried-“
“I am not on any kind of drugs.” Kondwani provided sternly. “Is this your son?” His gaze went back to the boy looking up at him in awe. 
“Yes.” Alicia answered. “His name’s Buseko. Bubu, say hi to this gentleman. His name is Doctor Chileshe.”
“Hi Dr Chileshe.” The boy greeted him. 
“Nice to meet you Buseko.” Kondwani said. 
“My pleasure sir!”
Both Kondwani and Alicia stared at the five year old in disbelief.
“Who taught you how to say that?” Alicia asked. 
“Uncle Sam.” Buseko answered proudly. “He said he is going to teach me how to become a man.”
Alicia laughed.
“I didn’t know that you and Doctor Kayombo_”
“He used to be best friends with Buseko’s dad.” Alicia explained.
Kondwani nervously cleared his throat. “Used to be?”
“He’s late.” Alicia said in a whisper whilst watching her son to make sure he had not heard her. Fortunately, Buseko was too busy taking in the magnificent presence of the god before him to pay attention to anything else. 
“I am sorry to hear about that.” Kondwani said, his eyes quickly searching the room to look for an exit. And then he felt someone hold his hand. It was Buseko.
“Did you also know my father?” Buseko was looking straight into Kondwani’s eyes, smiling as he anxiously waited for a response in the affirmative. 
“What?” It was all Kondwani could come up with at such short notice. How had he missed the fact that Nicolas’ fiancé was pregnant six years ago?