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It was sixteen minutes past midnight and Shelly had just said goodbye to her boyfriend Dumisani in front of the house when her daughter’s driver pulled up and parked in the spot that had just been vacated.
A livid Shelly approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and hit her hand against the window repeatedly. The driver finally rolled it down. “I thought I told you to bring her back three hours ago!” She yelled at him.
She was covered in a purple fluffy robe, and underneath it was a little lace number of the same color. The whole set had been Dumisani’s gift to her on her 37th birthday.
The elderly man, appearing to be in his mid sixties stepped out of the vehicle to address his madam. On the other side, Sonia exited from the back passenger seat, staggering on her feet. Shelly looked around her before running to her daughter’s side. It was a natural reflex since her family was ver hounded by the tabloids. Her house was fully secured, but one could not be sure of the length these people would be willing to go to get a scoop. A drunk sixteen year old child could be the undoing of her father’s political career.
Just how many people out there had seen her like this? Shelly couldn’t help but wonder. She could only hope that William’s people hired to secretly guard her were on sight to take care of any potential problems.
Shelly put her arm around her daughter’s shoulders and quickly led her into the house. All the while, Sonia was trying to look up at her mother, laughing as if amused by her actions.
Once in the safety of the house, Shelly caressly threw her daughter onto the couch, her handbag slipping from her hand and dropping to the floor. The teenager laughed again, whether it was at her mother or at the situation was a matter for debate. Shelly turned to face the driver who was nervously waiting for official reprimand at the door.
“Mr man, you’re fired!” She said to him.
“His name is Ronald!” Sonia shouted from behind her. “Ronald Mbewe,” she finished. She was now sitting up straight, looking way too sober for someone who could barely drag her own weight a few seconds ago. “The man has been working for you for over ten years and you still don’t have the decency to know his name. You’re so unbelievable mum.”
“Sonia, shut up this minute before I make you.” And turning back to Ronald. “What are you still doing here?” She asked.
“I just wanted to inform you that you can’t fire me,” Ronald finally spoke. He had a certain calmness to his voice that was soothing and very elderly-like. He looked like the sort of man who had a lot of stories and wisdom to share from his many years on earth. “I’m under the employment of Mr Mwanza,” Ronald continued. “He put me in charge of Miss Sonia’s transport needs and safety. I am not her time keeper.”
“She is sixteen years old and she’s drunk!” Shelly argued. “Does she look safe to you?”
“I have seen her drink from this house before. I thought it was something she’s allowed to do,” Ronald countered.
“Well you thought wrong you moron!” Shelly said.
“I am sorry about that ma’am, it won’t happen again.”
“Get out of my sight you buffoon!” She yelled.
Ronald tipped his head and said goodbye to Sonia before leaving.
“Wow,” Sonia commented upon her driver’s exit. “You just can’t help being a nasty human being can you? And you wonder why for all those years, you couldn’t win the affections of a man you claim to love. Not even after you succeeded in making him your husband.”
Shelly looked like she had just been doused in cold water. This is what had become of her relationship with her daughter since the divorce. Without knowing the facts, Sonia blamed her for breaking up her family. According to her sixteen year old daughter, she was too nagging, too entitled, and she was an awful human being who couldn’t get her own husband to fall in-love with her. That is what Shelly’s world and life looked like in the eyes of her daughter. A tragedy.
Shelly closed the distance between herself and her daughter. “You think I enjoy being like this?” She asked. She was now towering over the teenager’s sitting figure.
“I don’t know. You’re the one who’s always yelling at people. You’re so selfish! You think everything is about you!” Sonia cried.
Shelly wanted to tell her daughter that she did not yell because she enjoyed it. She wanted her to know that all those times she raised her voice in her matrimonial home was not because she enjoyed the sound of her own voice. She was merely trying to get the attention of the man she loved, a man she was willing and ready to lay down her life for yet he would never ever give her the time of day…unless it was at his convinience. She wanted to tell her daughter that all that yelling and screaming, and the constant fights were all for love. That was all she ever needed, love.
Shelly had hoped that William would miss her in her absence and perhaps reconsider the divorce. But the years had gone by and he had not changed his mind. He was never going to fall in-love with her, not when he already had someone else in his heart. Twenty years ago she thought her dream had finally come true when she got engaged to the man of her dreams. She had expected a happily ever after, but someone should have told her that fairytales only exist in children’s books.
Who knew that her happily ever after involved being divorced and raising a teenage daughter who hated her guts? Shelly sat down next to her daughter on the couch. Sonia moved away, putting a distance between them.
“I know you blame me for divorcing your dad,” Shelly said. “But I didn’t do it because I wanted to. I did it because I needed to. I thought it was the only way to fix what was broken with our marriage.”
“How does divorcing your husband and breaking your family apart help you mend it?” Sonia asked.
Let me ask you something Sonia, ” Shelly said.” When we were living in your father’s house, were you happy? What was the relationship like with your father? “
Sonia blinked back tears as memories of her life in her father’s house played through her mind. “He loved me,”she said in a cracked voice. “He was always happy to see me. When I was a kid, he would play with me, and when I became older, he would sit down with me and talk to me about stuff, all kinds of stuff. We went to movies together and even traveled together.” She was smiling at the memories.
It had been a while since she had spent time like that with her father. Lately, the only things they did together was chat about her school life for a few minutes and he would be gone. They never went anywhere together. He had not even bothered to show up in the past week.
“And how often did that happen?” Shelly asked.
Sonia stomped to her feet. “Does it matter!?” She asked. To her, all that mattered was that she ws happy for whatever moments she got to spend with her father. Anything was better than being stuck at home with her overbearing mother.
Shelly followed her. “Yes it does Sonia. How many times in a week did you spend with your father? Since you refuse to answer, let me tell you, twice every week, and that was only after I ‘yelled’ as you so candidly put it. The rest of the time he was buried in work far away from home. Far away from us!”
“He was staying away from you! You!” Sonia cried. “You are the reason he didn’t want to come home because everytime he did you were yelling at him.”
Shelly blinked back her own tears. “I was not yelling at him,” she said in a broken voice. “I was begging him to spend more time at home, with us, me and you.”
“I am tired. I’m going to bed.” Sonia grabbed her little handbag from the floor and made her way towards the set of stairs leading to her room.
“Just so you know, you’re grounded!” Shelly shouted from behind.
Sonia stopped midway through the staircase and turned to face her mother. “Why?” She boldly asked.
“You know why,” Shelly said. “You blantantly disobeyed me when I gave you a clearly stipulated time to return home. You broke your curfew so now you have to face the consequences. No more after school activities for two months!”
“That’s unfair!” Sonia protested.
“My word is final,” Shelly stated sternly. “Let’s see you try to do this nonsense in your father’s house. I dare you.
“And who gets to police you for bringing young men to the house, huh?” The defiant teenager asked.
“Did you think I did not see you sneaking away your boy toy? “
Shelly moved from where she was to stand at the bottom of the stairs, her daughter just à few steps ahead. “Listen to me young lady and listen good,” she said. “I’m the adult here. That means I get to do whatever I want, whenever I please. I have earned that privilege. You’re my daughter, in my custody, and under my roof. That means you get to do whatever I tell you. You want freedom and independence? Grow up and earn it. Do I make myself clear? ”
“I want to live with daddy!” Sonia sobbed. “Why won’t you let me live with him?”
Because he doesn’t want you to. Because he has no time for you. Because he is too busy attending to more important issues.
She could easily yell all this at her daughter and break her little rebellious heart to pièces. However, this was not her daughter’s war to fight, it was hers. She was the mother. It was her responsibility to protect her daughter even if said daughter did not have the state of mind to comprehend the actions of her loving mother.
“Go to bed Sonia,” Shelly said in response.
“Do you actually think that man you sneak around with loves you?” Shelly asked, trying to hurt her mother the same way she was hurting inside.
“First of all, I did not sneak anyone out of this house. It was time to leave so he left. Period. Secondly, I will have no more of this discussion with you Sonia, so go to your room!”
“He doesn’t love you! He is using you! Who do you think gives the tabloids intimate details about this family?”
You think I don’t know that? Shelly thought. But I am lonely. I have been for many many years. You wouldn’t understand. I need Dumisani. He is the only person in this whole world who’s on my side. He might not be perfect, but at least he doesn’t hide his intentions from me.
“Don’t make me repeat myself,” Shelly warned.
“Fine! Have it your way,” Sonia retorted. “At least I’m not the one between us who’ll be spending the rest of the night crying on her pillow.” She noisely stumped her way through the remaining steps on the stairs to her room.
Down the stairs, Shelly wiped away a stubborn tear that had escaped the safety of her eyelids. She went back into the living room and picked up her phone, determined to fix whatever was wrong and give her daughter the family she deserves. William was her first speed dial.
“We need to talk, urgently.” She said the moment her call was answered.
“Did something happen with Sonia? Is she alright?” William asked. Typical of him to be only concerned about his daughter. What about her, the one raising his only child? Didn’t he care about how she was doing? What if something happened to her, then who was going to take care of his daughter? Certainly not him. She would only be a burden. And most certainly not his alcoholic mother. They would fight each other to the death.
Both Shelly’s parents were late. Her mother had been the first to go, and her father followed a few years later. She had been an only child, but Shelly was not all alone in the world. She had relatives, a lot of them. Some she didn’t even know, but they all knew her. Her parents’ fortune, which now belonged to her, Sonia, and William was a huge magnet that drew relatives and friends from far and wide. With that sort of money, it was not easy separating friend from foe.
In the end, Shelly had decided to keep a small circle of people around her and her daughter. And yet the one person she needed the most did not care about how close or far he was from them. So who else did her daughter have? For Shelly, there was only one option: to get William to see that only she and Sonia were his only center. He needed them, especially now that the elections were just around the corner.
“She misses you William,” Shelly said. “This whole week you haven’t been to see her. I understand that you have important things to see to, but Will, she is important too. She needs her father.”
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line, and then, “I know,” William said. “I was actually planning on calling you earlier today but I lost track of time.”
Shelly’s face broke into a huge smile, hope glistening in her eyes. “You were going to call?” She said.
“Yes,” William answered. “I need to talk to you about something important. How busy are you on Tuesday?”
“I won’t be busy, I’ll have time,” she said excitedly. “What is it you want to talk about? Can you at least tell me a bit so I know what to expect?”
“It’s about our family Shelly, Sonia especially, ” William said.
Shelly was grinning from ear to ear. “Okay, that sounds right. Should I come to your place or you’ll come here?”
“What time does Sonia get back from school?”
“She’s usually home by half past 5.”
“Then I’ll be there at 4, give us some time to talk privately. Then I can spend some time with her after. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes, yes, that’s perfectly fine with me.”
“Great,” William said. “I’m guessing she’s fast asleep now right?”
“She actually just went to bed a few minutes ago,” Shelly said. “We actually had a bit of some drama. She came home very late, I grounded her, and she had some choice words to say to me.”
“Oh my, I’m sorry you’re doing all this by yourself Shelly. I know I should do better as her dad. I have no excuses, but I’m gonna try harder now to become a better dad to my kids.”
“Kids?” Shelly laughed. “We have only one kid Will. Although I understand, Sonia can be quite a handful sometimes.” Deep down, Shelly was wondering, does he want to expand the family…have another baby? She was beeming with so much happiness she could hardly contain herself.
“Yeah, that,” William said, more to himself than to her. “So Tuesday, let’s talk. And I’ll talk to Sonia about her issues. This can’t go on any longer. I’ve told her many times that you aren’t to blame for what happened, that I’m the bad guy. She never listens. Give her a goodnight kiss for me and tell her when she wakes up that I’ll be seeing her tomo…actually, it’s already today. I’ll see her today. Before I hang up, you wanted to talk to me about something right? Isn’t that why you called? “
“I just wanted to talk about us. I was worried because you didn’t come this week.”
“I know, I’m really sorry. But everything is going to change now Shelly. I promise I’ll do better as a dad from now on.”
“Now you’re making me curious,” Shelly said. “Did something happen to bring about this change?” She suspected it had something to do with the campaign, but if it involved them becoming a family again, she didn’t care what the motivé was.
“We’ll talk later today. Have a good rest Shelly.”
“You too Will.”
Alone in her room, Sonia locked the door and took off all her clothes. She checked her reflection in the mirror, smoothed her hair into place, and once she was satisfied, she reached for her phone and posed for a selfie.
Grinning mischievously, she opened her Whatsapp, searched for Irvin’s name whose number she had managed to coax out of Noah thanks to a little flirting, and hit the Send button.
On the other side of town, Irvin was in the middle of his studies when his phone vibrated with a notification. It was a strange number. Lately a lot of strange numbers had been messaging him. Most of them girls. He reluctantly opened the message, only to drop his phone a few seconds later as if he had just been burnt by it. He jumped out of his chair, putting a distance between himself and his phone.
For the first time in his life, Irvin felt like a little boy caught between two headless monsters.
He was terrified.