There are times when life catches up with you and you think of ways to get through it with the least amount of collateral damage. This is not one of those moments. I do not know what to do or say at this moment. Tawanda’s hand is still on my neck touching the tender spot. Why did I not check myself in the mirror to see how bad the mark was. Why did I not wear my makeup after I finished bathing I ask myself. If I had worn makeup I would have used my concealer to hide the visible spots. I should have remembered to use it when Tawanda said he was outside. But then for how long was I going to keep him waiting outside my door while I hid marks that Mukuka saw fit to bless me with. How visible were the marks? His words, I’m marking you play on my mind. He bit me hard last night. He bit me just as hard the other night too. He did this deliberately. Did he know Tawanda was coming to see me today? Highly unlikely. Dis he want me to get caught? Maybe. And now that I think about it, Mukuka bit me on my neck, thighs and breasts. I remember he did. He left his marks on my skin in places people would easily spot them – that’s if I decide to wear the wrong clothes. Why did I not complain last night when he made them on my skin. Pleasure! That’s why!
“Salome. Is this a hickey?” Tawanda asks
I turn around and laugh as I look into his eyes.
“A hickey? People still get hickies today?” I respond. “Besides who the hell would give me a hickey? Must be a bug. A really big bug that bit me in bed. Is it really that bad?”
He looks at me and laughs. It’s not a oh-I’m-glad-you-said-that kind of laugh. No. It’s more of a bitter bordering on angry laugh. A do you take me for a fool kind of laugh. Shit, Mukuka bit me that hard. Is it as bad as Tawanda sees? I gently push his hand away and I walk past him heading to the bedroom. I stand in front of the rectangular mirror near my window and I see the dark maroon mark on the side of my neck; a mark so dark against my light skin that anyone will be able to see it clearly no matter what I wear. Shit. Mukuka did this on purpose. It definitely looks like a hickey to me and probably to anyone who knows what hickies look like; but if your boyfriend did not give it to you then a bug did. A kissing bug. A very big kissing hickey giving bug. Period. Who goes around admitting they cheated and got free hickies as a price?
“Who gave you the hickey?”
I gasp when I hear his voice behind me. From the mirror I see Tawanda leaning against the door his arms folded across his chest looking at me.
“It’s not a hickey.” I respond. “It’s a bug bite. Didn’t know it was this bad.”
He raises his eyebrow and shakes his head.
“Are you kidding me?” He asks
“Tawanda. It’s a bug bite. What else can it be? Are you accusing me of something?”
He keeps silent and looks at me. I watch him approach me in the reflection of the mirror till he stands behind me.
“You have bugs? In this house?” He asks.
“Maybe. Who knows. Is there something you want to tell me?”
His eyes meet mine in the reflection and I tell he’s angry. He’s very angry. But I will not admit to the hickey. Kufwa Na no is the motto. No other way out of this. What do I do? What if he hits me for cheating? I can’t believe I let Mukuka bite me and leave marks as proof of the passion well made. Shit.
“You must take me for a fool.” Tawanda says. “Is it because I’m silent. Is it because I let you get away with most of the shit you put me through?”
“Why aren’t you answering me? Huh Salome. Who gave you the hickey? Cause it’s obviously not me since you and I don’t have sex right. I don’t remember biting you. So who else has access to your body?”
I’m silent. I can’t say a word. His hands touch my shoulders and I take a deep breath waiting for something. Tawanda has never laid a hand on me. He’s a gentle soul. But what if a gentle soul can turn bad. I’ve watched all those crime channels were good men turned killers when loved ones pushed them to the limit. What if this is Tawanda’s limit.
“Tawanda I can explain.” I start
“You can?” He asks
I bite my lip and turn around to face him. I see the look of disgust on his face. He must know there was someone else. For crying out loud I didn’t mean to cheat on him. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I didn’t mean to do any of this to him. I was going to change. For him I would have. Because let’s be honest, Mukuka will never love me or want me for a wife unless he changes his view of me. Take a look at how he made the hickies on my body. A deliberate move. Only a jerk would do this.
“Who is it?” He asks.
I open my mouth but I close it again. Kufwa Na no. I can’t tell him it’s Mukuka. He will kill me if I tell him.
“Is it the same person you’ve had for months now?”
Months? He’s known for months? Months!!! And he’s been watching me cheat. But how? I was careful. And why? He could have dumped me months ago.
“Months?” I ask him.
“Yes months. You suck at hiding things Salome. It’s one thing to keep me on hold. It’s another to see you, a cranky when sex starved woman, happy every week. I had my suspicions but I had no proof. But this!!”
“My gosh Tawanda. Aren’t you paranoid? There is no one. I told you I can explain.” I start. “What happened was…..”
“Shut your lying mouth. Is it the same person who gave you an STI? Is it the same man Salome? Or are there more. Knowing you I wouldn’t be surprised!!”
Oh shit. Oh my gosh, this keeps getting worse.
“You’re not answering me.” He says
My heart is racing at this point. I can’t believe he knows about the STI. I thought got an STI months ago. How did he find out? I never slept with Tawanda without protection. And I’ve only slept with him once. Of course with Mukuka I broke the rules but with Tawanda never. How did he find out? How can I even explain myself now? He will kill me if I lie.
“Who is it? I thought you would get over this person. I thought you were through with him whoever he is. I was so sure he was an old story. But obviously he’s not so who is he?”
I will never admit the truth. Never.
“There is no one Tawanda. You’re being paranoid. And what STI are you talking about?”
“The meds I found in your house. You got an STI. I saw your meds Salome.”
“They weren’t mine Tawanda.”
And I was being honest. Kinda. They were not mine. Kinda. I brought them for me after Mukuka had a scare from his other hules. He slept with a lady who later told him she had an STI, and I got the meds without going to a doctor. He thought I needed to know about his hole problem. But in the end, I didn’t have the infection. I got checked. I was clean. But shit I must have left them lying around the house when Tawanda came by. Do I tell him the truth?
“You know what. You lie a lot. You don’t even know when to stop lying. Who is he?”
“There is no one!!” I shout.
“Do I know him? Have I seen him before?”
I know if I fail to keep my stance then he will know it’s Mukuka. I can’t look away.
“Do I know him? Is he a friend? Tell me. And I will forgive you.”
“There is no one Tawanda. I swear there is no one.”
“Should we call your best friend? Mukuka? Would he know who it is? He must know. He’s your best friend. Or your ladies. Let’s call them instead!”
“Tawanda I’m not lying to you. There is no one. You just don’t trust me. The meds weren’t mine. Please calm down.”
It happens so fast. You never realise you’re in danger till that which tries to harm you is up close and it’s too late. I see him raise his hand suddenly, his palm open and I flinch away from him waiting for his slap. Nothing happens. I look up at him, he lays his hand on my cheek and he looks at me.
“You need to figure out what you want.” He whispers.
Is he going to cry?
“Tawanda…” I start. “I’m …….”
“Shut up. I was going to hit you. I was. And I’m not that man. You obviously are so lost in your head you’re willing to destroy what we have. So figure out what you want. And until you do. We are done Salome. I’m done. I’ve tried. I’ve done everything for you. But it obviously wasn’t enough. So go and do you and be happy. Be a whore if you want. But I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Tawanda wait. Lemme talk to you. Please. Calm down.”
“About what? How you won’t sleep with me? How you tolerate me but don’t love me? Do you even love me?” He asks
“I do. You’re a good man Tawanda.”
“Exactly. I’m a good man with a woman like you. Undecided. Who do you love more?”
“So you’re admitting there is someone else right. Yes or no?”
“When did you become this person Salome? You have so much good in you but you love fucking shit up for fun. Who are you? When did you become this person?
I am so confused. What the hell is happening? I reach out to touch his arm and he slaps my hands away. And he walks away. I watch him walk out of my bedroom. I hear the door to the flat open and close and I run to the door. He’s gone. Should I follow him and explain my side. Will he even listen to me? Or should I let him calm down before I call him. Can I even call him? I lock the door and head to the kitchen. I can’t eat anymore. For the first time I want to cry and hit something.
He made this mess and he should pay for it but it’s also my fault. Where did I go wrong? I just messed up my relationship.m
When did I become this person?
Was it when Mutale Mateyo decided it was okay to cheat on me with my roommate in UNZA?
Or was it when Chrispin Mwewa slapped me around every chance he got only for me to find out he was dating another girl.
Maybe it was after I got pregnant after a one night stand and Mukuka helped me get an abortion.
Or maybe it was after I went off the bender of guilt for killing my child, sleeping with Mukuka and any man who got my attention. After all, it was how I realised Mukuka only came to me whenever another woman broke his heart. How I was always second best and never good enough for him. With me for a while before he found another.
Maybe that changed me into the person I am today. Maybe I got so damaged that I had to ruin everything else around me. Maybe I felt so used then that I needed to feel like I’m worth it by having two men in my life. Maybe I was just a bad person, to hurt Tawanda the way I did proved it. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I never thought about getting caught.
And now I broke a heart with my actions. What should i do now?
How will I fix this?
“So what do you think is the way forward?” She asks.
“I don’t know.”
“What is the plan? You must have one.”
I turn around and look at my mother and sigh. Full of wisdom and advice I look at the woman from who I got my looks from. Her natural brown hair is all the way down to her shoulders, a slim face with big brown eyes, smooth skin – I wish I had that – and red lips. My mother is the very word beautiful and I hope I look like her when I’m her age. She is sitting at the kitchen table with her cup of green tea, ever the healthy junky. I lean against the sink and shrug.
“You need to talk about this with him Monde. I don’t know where you got your stubbornness from but it won’t do you any good. Talk to your husband. Sit him down.”
“And then.. How do I go about it? Are you cheating on me. How will he respond? Yes? Mama. These men are fools. They cheat twenty-four seven. He will find an excuse.”
“Monde. That is your husband. He will not lie to you. He will explain. He will listen.”
“But mummy, where do I even start from? No matter how I say it, Bashi Suwilanji are you cheating on me? Bashi Suwilanji who is she? Bashi Suwilanji tell me about her, Noah will get angry.”
“Then keep it in to yourself. Since you don’t want to ask him. You’re a woman after all. It’s what we do best. Hide secrets and pretend we are okay.”
“But what if he gets sick. What if he leaves me for her?”
“Will you make a choice then?”
I should have gone grocery shopping but instead I started cleaning the kitchen. I realised the maid had not been doing a good job of it so I put her to the task of making sure everything was spotless as I showed her how it was supposed to be done. And with that time moved so fast I didn’t notice over three hours had passed. Mum found me in the kitchen finishing up and when she sat down to have her tea I finally told her everything. I needed advice. I was tired of keeping it in. I needed a way forward with my predicament. I cant keep living like this.
“Monde you’re a grown up woman. Don’t act like a child. Talk to him. Make a decision and stick to it.”
“Is marriage always like this. Cheating. Suspicions twenty-four seven. Mama. Seriously. How did you manage?”
“Well all men cheat. Some just have the decency to claim your fears by hiding the other woman. Otherwise all men cheat. You have to accept it and pray he never gives you a disease you can’t handle.”
“But our vows mummy. Why get married if you think you need more women in your life.”
“Iwe. You forget your lessons so quickly. What did the elders teach you? This is a man’s world. Men are the head. And heads make decisions. The head turns where it sees nice things lurking. But never forget you are the neck. If you think the head will sin then make sure you hold on strong and turn the head away from temptation.”
“Mummy I can’t control what Noah does when he is away from me. What kind of neck is that?”
“If it means you have to change your dress code then do just that. Become what he wants you to be. Imagine if his mistress wears tight skirts and you wear flared skirts everyday what happens? He goes to the tight skirts so you also buy tight skirts.”
“Mama. I’m the married one. Tight skirts futi. I don’t even know who she is. I don’t even know if he is cheating on me.”
“Tell him your fears wei. Why should you die in silence. Tell him tonight. Cook him a good meal. Ask him. That’s what marriage is about.”
I look at her and sigh.
“While you’re at it pray for him. Tell God your fears and he will watch over your husband. You’re never alone Monde. You feel that way because you’re carrying this problem alone. Give up the burden.”
“Don’t be stubborn Monde. Talk to him and that’s final. Why do you want to ruin your marriage over something silly. Make him his favourite food tonight and talk to him. It will be okay.”
She’s scolding me like a child who won’t listen. I smile at her and she smiles back at me. She knows she’s gotten through to me. She knows I’ll do what she says. I’ll ask Noah tonight. Whatever he says I will listen to him.
Why is marriage so complicated.
I wish I didn’t have to do this.
I could be the queen of petty and pretend Patrick never said all the words he did last night. I could claim alcohol made me hear words I wanted to hear. Haven’t I used alcohol as an excuse before. It made me do things I didn’t want to do. I could do that and maybe get away with having to deal with all the emotional mess Patrick is trying to invoke from me. Why use the family factor on me when clearly he knows I want to have a family one day. Clearly he knows finding the right man who will love me and Samuel and as a package is hard in Zambia. So why use that on me. To get my attention? To show me that we can still work? Surely he cannot think I will fall back into his arms just like that. Just because he said sorry then the ice around my heart will melt and I will be all rosey and happy again. I should be avoiding him. Then why am I parked outside his parent’s farm gate right now. I shouldn’t be here but I need to get stuff off my chest.
I could park the car, open the gate and walk to the main house and ask for Patrick. Or I could drive in. I can see the main house through their electric fence; the trees that surround the house, the variety of vegetables in the garden, the servants quarters and other homes further away from the main house. But I don’t want to drive in because well I never do drive in whenever I come here. I always leave Samuel with his Grandmother at the gate and drive away before she says something that will upset me or just make me mad. I’ve been here for two minutes deciding if I should call him or drive home and ignore the whole issue.
I knew it wouldn’t be able to do anything at the office. My thoughts kept straying back to Patrick and his words. Shit he was ruining my day with his stupid words. I hate him. I should tell him off once and for all and move on as a single mother. I get my phone and dial his number.
“Chibwe. Hey. Are you okay?” His voice says as soon as he picks up.
Was he waiting for me to call him?
“Are you home? Are your parents home?” I ask
“I’m outside the gate.”
“Should I tell someone to open the gate for you?” He asks
“No!” I say a little to sharply. “Come outside. I’d rather you come outside.”
“Be there soon.”
The line cuts and I’m left staring at the phone. He hung up on me. I see him from the corner of the main house walking through the lawn towards the gate. Never the farm boy I think as I notice his dark brown pants and check shirt with loafers on. He opens the gate and he walks up to my side of the car. He looks at me and smiles.
“Good Morning.” He says
“Morning Patrick.” I say.
What’s so good about the morning. I’m so tired.
“You don’t want to drive in?”
“No. I don’t want to see your parents. How are they?” I ask. Out of respect I guess.
“They are good. Mom is such a bother sometimes. Fussing over me like I’ve been starved all this time I’ve been away. I can’t wait till I move out. Just waiting for a few things to be sorted and that’s it.”
I’ve never asked him where he was going to stay. I know he was building a house somewhere and I got this bit of information from Samuel but I never asked because who would have thought Patrick would come back to Zambia to stay. I have no idea if he has some job lined up in Zambia, Or if he is applying for something new now? I am so out of touch with the father of my child that I basically know nothing about him. And now he wants us to get back together.
“Well, that’s what happens when you stay with parents. Anyway I’m here for you. We need to talk.”
Where else? Yes right here.
“You can sit in the car or stand.” I say
He walks around the car to the passengers side and gets in the car. His scent hits me instantly. Not too strong thank God because then that would mean I have to sneeze my words through. He moves the seat back, stretches out his long legs in front of him and sits back comfortably and looks at me.
“What’s up?” He says
“We need to talk about last night.” I say
“What about it?”
“The honesty in your words.”
“I meant everything I said last night Chibwe. I meant it all. What is it that’s stressing you out? Aren’t you happy I’m back. Aren’t you happy that I’ve learnt my lesson and I’ve come back to you finally.”
“Patrick.. I went through alot over the years. Hate. Anger. Disgust. Pain. I carried all that inside of me. It was heavy but I got through it all. But you are making it seem like it was a joke. An experiment gone bad.”
“I am sorry. I truly am sorry Chibwe. But I’m here. So do your worst to me. I’ll take it. After you’re done just take me back.”
“You surely cannot expect me to just fall for you again so easily Patrick.” I argue
“Who knows. Why don’t we take it slow. Start from scratch.”
“From scratch. So we forget everything happened? Do we give Samuel up for that to happen?”
“You making this difficult for no reason Chibwe.”
“Am I now?”
“Look I know I’m pushing you. And I’m sorry. But I’ve messed up and I’m trying to fix everything I’ve done. I’m trying at least.”
“Give me a chance to show you I’m the man I was always supposed to be.”
“Really. Fine. So this getting to know each other from scratch idea. How would that work. Hi I’m Chibwe. I’m a mother to a boy named Samuel. About eight years old. And you say hi I’m Patrick father to said son.”
He laughs. He’s laughing at me. I look at him angrily and I see he’s clearly amused which infuriates me more. His laugh is a deep laugh that comes from down below, so deep not forced and his face just lights up when he laughs. I can’t help but smile and laugh with him.
“I swear you haven’t changed much Chibwe.” He says happily
“It’s not funny Patrick. This is a serious matter.”
“You make things so complicated.”
“I don’t. You making this complicated. We had a system. We were fine apart. Why change the system?”
“Because the system is flawed. We can be happy together. Imagine it.”
“See you’re making it complicated. I’m not asking to sleep with you right now. I’m not asking you to love me again today. I’m not asking you move in with me. I’m asking you to give me a chance to make it right. It will take time. Fine. I have time.”
“Listen.” He starts. “I told you I love you. I want you back. I want you in my life and I want us to be a family with Samuel. I told you this because that’s how I feel.”
“I know you don’t trust me any more. I ruined us. I ruined a whole lot of things. But I’m different now. And you need to decide if you want that with me. If you can forgive me. I can’t force you. I can’t. And I won’t. If you say no then I’ll understand. Either way you and I will always be in each other’s lives.”
His hand touches my hand and he brings it to his lips and kisses my knuckles.
“You need to decide if you want me in or out for good. I’m still here. You’re angry. I get it. Get over your anger and I’ll still be here. We can make this work.” He says.
I look at my hand in his and I look at his face. He’s serious about this. Is he lying to me?
Why do his words sound so good to be true.
“So what will it be mother of said son?” He asks.
To be continued…