Count on the ladies to be late. Okay not all of them. I’m with my sister Muzinga at Meraki at our table already enjoying a cup of hot coffee in my case while Muzinga enjoys a cup of hot chocolate. I feel both tired and refreshed. I woke up an hour ago or so but still made it in time for our lunch date. Muzinga is ranting about some piece of gossip she heard from a friend and I pretend to listen as I look out for the ladies. Then I notice Chibwe and Monde walk through the opening of Meraki. Thank God they are here. Muzinga’s story was getting too weird for my taste. Monde looks radiant in a green wrap dress and gold pumps while Chibwe looks like she just came from the office in her grey office pants, white jacket and black heels. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me she did. Ever the workaholic. I wave at them and they quickly come over to the table.
“Sorry I’m late.” Monde says breathlessly. “Mum kept me busy. I forgot the time.”
“Where is Salome?” Chibwe asks as she takes off her jacket.
I shrug and take a sip of my coffee.
“You know she’s always late.” Monde says
“But I told her to be on time.” Muzinga says.
“As if that even matters.” I say loudly. “I’m hungry.”
“Should we order now or wait for her?” Muzinga asks as she reaches for the menu.
“We can wait for her.” Monde says. “I’m sure she will be here soon.”
“Her phone is off though.” Chibwe says
“Probably ZESCO issues.” I say. “We shall wait.”
“Okay. We wait. How’s your mum by the way?” Muzinga asks Monde.
“Oh you know. The usual. Enjoying herself. I don’t know if it’s her at this age or maybe it’s me. She seems happier than ever.”
I get out of the cab and literally run towards Meraki. I’m so late. I walk through the archway and look around the packed tables and I spot them. They laugh at something Gemima says as I quickly walk towards them while making sure I do not bump into anyone. I’m so tired, angry and sad. I’m so emotional right now. I should be home sleeping but I thought my ladies would help me feel better. After what I’ve been through, I need some girl time.
“Hi. I’m so sorry. I’m so late. Something happened. Terrible. How are you?” I say quickly.
The ladies turn to face me and I smile at all of them as I take the empty seat between Chibwe and Gemima. They are all looking at me. Shit. They are angry with me. It’s not my fault I’m late. And besides I’m only fifteen minutes late. Did I miss anything important I wonder. They keep looking at me, now it’s weird because they are not saying a thing but I can tell from their looks that something is wrong. Are they really that angry that they choose to keep silent on me.
“Hello.” I say slowly. “Are you okay?”
Monde smiles at me while the others keep looking at me straight faced. Is there something on my face. I checked my make up before I left home and it was on point so that must not be it. But what?
“Salome.” Gemima starts. “Why are your eyes swollen?”
Yaba. I couldn’t fix the swelling in time. When I cry my eyes swell up so fast and take their time going back to their normal shape. After the morning drama, crying was all I had left to do. I haven’t even called Mukuka to talk to him about what happened. I just switched off my phone and cried it all out because I was so angry that I was going to go to Mukuka’s workplace and slap him. I deserved to cry though. I destroyed a perfectly good relationship and hurt a good man in the process. I won’t lie but it hurt to see him hurt. He deserved better and he also deserved an apology for my crap.
“Issues.” I respond. “It will sort itself out.”
I’m sure they are finding it weird that I have swollen eyes because I barely cry. A few things make me cry and that is in rare circumstances. I am Miss Strong here and now I am Miss Weak and Vulnerable because I couldn’t decide what I wanted from a man. I notice they are still looking at me. Not with worry as it should be but with something else. Curiousity maybe.
“Salome. Is that a hickey on your neck?” Gemima asks
Oh my gosh. They can see it. I quickly cover the mark with my hand. Shit. I hate him. I knew Mukuka bit me on a spot that even any coat I wore wouldn’t be able to hide the dark mark. I will kill him tonight. That prick. I want to cry again. Gosh I’m not ready for questions that will come from the ladies. But I won’t cry. No I won’t. I smile at them and nod.
“Who gave you a hickey?” Gemima asks
I sigh and shake my head. Really. Is she playing with me? She knows who. I look at her and her eyes widen.
“Oh my gosh. Are you kidding me? Mukuka is now giving hickies?” Gemima says aloud.
I roll my eyes at her and pick up the menu from the table. Concentrating on something else but their faces and judgment will make me forget. Shit. I have to call Tawanda. I need to talk to him.
“But Salome. Surely you must see that this is wrong.” Muzinga says bluntly.
“It’s so in the open.” Chibwe laughs. “What if Tawanda sees it? Or are planning on avoiding him till your skin heals or maybe concealer will do?”
I bite my lip and shake my head. How do I tell them the truth? Where do I start from? I put the menu down and sigh. They look at me waiting for a reason. In that moment I wish Mukuka all the pain on the planet. I pray for him to break a leg literally. I hate him for putting me in this position to be answerable to people for marks that should be kept a secret. Though it’s not all his fault, it’s mine too. But I didn’t want this. I didn’t call for this mess. Tawanda didn’t deserve what he had to go through today. I feel a migraine coming on. How will I manage today without feeling guilty. I might as well tell them now.
“Tawanda already knows. He came to see me and we are done.” I say.
Wow. Nothing prepares me for the words Salome utters. No wonder her eyes are swollen. She was crying. This is bad. Tawanda knows. Oh my gosh. I look at her closely for any signs of dark skin just in case he hit her. All I see that indicates damaged skin is the hickey on her neck.
Oh my gosh Salome.
Then again maybe I’m wrong and she meant something else.
“Wait. Tawanda knows what?” I ask her as I touch her shoulder.
She looks at me and shakes her head. She looks like she’s about to start crying. She places her left elbow on the table and covers her face with her hand.
“I slept at Mukuka’s last night. I went home in the morning. And then Tawanda came over and let’s say the hickey he saw was in full display.” She says
She puts her hand down and looks down.
“What happened?” Monde asks
“He got angry. I tried to lie. As if that would ever work. It’s a hickey. How does one lie through that.” Salome says. “I’m so foolish.”
“And then?” I ask
“He said stuff. I listened and he dumped me. And we are done.” She says
“He dumped you for cheating?” Muzinga asks.
Is she mocking Salome? Salome looks at her and Muzinga keeps silent. Someone will get slapped here. Oh well.
“Did he hit you?” I ask
She shakes her head.
“I thought he would. But Tawanda isn’t like that. He’s a good man. And I ruined that for a guy who won’t even decide if he loves me or not.” Salome responds.
You can’t help who your heart loves plays on my mind. Salome couldn’t help it. Granted she liked Tawanda or loved some part of him because she did date the guy for a while. But she loved Mukuka at the end of the day and that is what ruled her heart. It’s sad that Tawanda had to find out this way but it’s all for the best I guess. Playing with two men is dangerous anyway.
“But does Tawanda know it’s Mukuka?” Monde asks
Salome shakes her head. Good Lady. If he knew, there would be hell to pay.
“I don’t think so. He asked me who he was. He’s known for months.” Salome says
“Wow. And he stayed? Wow.” Muzinga says slowly. “Definitely a good man there. You messed up bad. Gosh. Poor man.”
“For fuck sake Muzinga if you have nothing to say then shut your mouth.” Salome responds.
I look at Muzinga and shake my head. Muzinga would do well to avoid commenting. She’s making it worse.
“He stayed?” I ask.
“Imagine that.” Salome says. “He stayed probably because he wasn’t sure. He knew about the STI. STI scare. For months. He knew it all.” Salome says.
“He knew about the STI scare? But who told him?” I ask.
“He probably went through my stuff when he was at my house.” Salome says
See why you can’t leave a man to his own devices in your house. Shit. This is worse than I thought. He must think she had an STI when she didn’t.
“Have you tried calling him?” Monde asks asks
“And say what? Hey… So it’s true I was cheating on you for months and I almost got an STI from Mukuka but because I didn’t get sick I didn’t tell you the truth. But I went back to the man who got me sick again because it wasn’t his fault his girlfriend or hule was sleeping around?” Salome whispers. “Do I also add Mukuka did this deliberately so that Tawanda would know?”
Definitely not worth it to call Tawanda. No clean way out of this situation. It’s all bad. How does one apologize for cheating. Sorry I got caught. Sorry I didn’t hide the hickey. Whatever Salome says would mean Tawanda would never trust her. Gosh. I feel so bad for her. Even if what she did was wrong she didn’t deserve to get caught like this. Mukuka and his stupid antics. Some men never grow up I guess.
I feel so bad for Salome.
Gosh this is why I stayed single. To avoid such drama. Gosh it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt and then it’s cry me a river. Salome knew it would come to this. She knew this from the beginning. It’s sad she had to face the end of her relationship. And the man who caused it is probably enjoying his day.
“Have you called Mukuka?”
“No. I’m not in the mood.”
“I’m so sorry my love. Tawanda will talk to you soon. Don’t cry.” I whisper.
She sniffs and nods. Gosh this is a mess. When she had both men she had to make a choice but she didn’t. She kept playing the lion and in the end, her choice was made for her? And just like Salome I also have a choice to make. To be with Patrick or not.
But now is not the time.
Salome looks bad.
I have no words for her situation but I do know she will be okay. Granted it looks bad right now but one day she will be happy he left her because she was playing a dangerous game. She looks like she will break down any moment now but I can tell she’s holding it together. She’s trying. She will make it. She’s a strong one.
“I deserve this.” Salome says. “It’s my fault. Tawanda deserves better. I just wish I can apologise for it.”
“You can.” Chibwe says slowly. “Not today. But you will. When he calms down. Maybe he will come back.”
“I don’t think so. He’s done with me. For good. He tried and I failed him.” Salome says
Gosh this is hard. To see one of my girls go through this is hard. It’s sad. She might have done the wrong thing but she doesn’t deserve this mess.
“Anyway…” Salome starts. “It’s done. I will be fine. I won’t die. I’m here.”
I nod at her statement. She will be okay. It will pass and we shall laugh about it one day. Salome smiles at us and she picks up her menu again and looks at it. She doesn’t want to talk about it further and I understand.
We all pick up our menus and even though I can see what’s on it, my mind keeps going back to Salome and how her situation is so similar to mine. What if Noah is cheating on me and he gets sick? Will I have the guts to walk away then? Like Tawanda has done now. Will I say I know you are cheating on me and I’m done because you got me sick. Will he tell me the truth or will he hide her from me.
Relationships are complicated indeed. I heard what my mother had to say about the topic and she was right. I had to talk to my husband about this mess and get it over and done with because it is causing me stress and I am a pregnant woman now. Tonight I will do it. No choice.
I know I told Gemima about the mess and I’m yet to tell the others about my marriage. Should I tell them now. Since we are on a trip of be honest and live with the consequences. I close my eyes, put my menu back on the table and take a deep breath.
“I think Noah is cheating on me.” I say aloud.
“Oh my gosh.” I hear Chibwe say.
Oh my gosh.
What the hell is going on today?
Salome is single. And now Monde thinks Noah is cheating. How is that even possible. Noah loves Monde everyone knows that. He married the love of his life. Why would be cheat on her now. That’s so wrong. I look at her open her eyes and she smiles. How long has she known this? This is bad, very bad.
“Are you sure?” Muzinga asks
“I’m not sure. That’s why I said I think he is.” Monde answers.
How is she still standing so strong through it all. Plus she’s pregnant.
“Then how do you know?” Salome asks
“Well, I had his phone and he got a message from Plumber. And she had fun when they met and she loves him.”
“Plumber?” Salome asks. “He named her Plumber?”
Monde laughs then. What is she laughing at. What is so funny. She is laughing alone. Who can laugh with her? Her revelation is huge. Noah and Monde are the settled couple, the make it couple, the look at them I want to be just like them couple. So this doesn’t make sense to me.
“I know right.” Monde says. “You would think my husband would be smart enough to name her something else. Like stiletto.”
Huh? Does that even make sense? Stiletto? Who names their mistress stiletto in their phone book. Monde is in joke mode. Then again what other mode would one be in except denial and jokes. Wow. Im speechless. What does one even say to a friend in such a predicament.
“Have you talked to him yet?” Gemima asks
“No. I’ll do it. I thought I could catch him or get her details or something but nothing. He deleted all record of her.”
“Wow. Monde.” Salome says.
Double wow. Cheating husband? How do you get through that?
“When will you do it?”
“Tonight. When he gets home. I won’t argue.” Monde says. “Just talk. I can’t leave Noah. I love him. Plus I’m pregnant so I can’t leave my marriage. Cheating isn’t a basis to divorce a man.”
Then what is I wonder. Should he get an STI first. HIV/AIDS maybe. Gosh is this what marriage means. Staying with a cheating spouse. Shipikisha club. I never thought I’d see it among my friends. But here is it right now making it’s way known to us all. Then again I understand what Monde is saying. She has a child with Noah. They have a life together. So many things they have done together and to walk away from that because of a cheating spouse is pretty much silly. Partners change right. Look at Patrick? He says he’s a changed man or is he lying to me. Wouldn’t be the first time. Do all men lie because they want you to stay so they tell you what you want to hear. Or maybe they just hide their sins till the right moment.
But she seems to pulling through strong. Then again she has always been the strong woman. If anyone can make it through this mess then it’s Monde.
Though this makes me wonder if relationships are worth it. Are they necessary if the only thing that comes out of them is pain.
“Noah loves you alot. And if it’s true he’s cheating then I’m sure he can change. He loves you and Suwi too much to lose you today.” Gemima says.
“Exactly. Maybe it’s just some stalker.” Salome says quickly. “Noah is handsome. He must get stalkers from the office. But he loves you.”
“Or maybe he is cheating and he is the same as other Zambian men.” Monde argues
“I really don’t think so. This is Noah we are talking about. The man who never fails to show you off to the world.” Gemima says quickly. “He loves you alot.”
Then why didn’t he keep loving her and stay faithful then. Gosh we as women we find excuses for our men twenty-four seven. He might have cheated because I don’t cook his kapenta right. Or maybe I don’t dance well in bed. What if he is just an ass and he cheated on you and doesn’t deserve you. I’m not someone to ask for advice. I’ll stay out of this one I think.
But to be honest. Are these relationships really worth it?
And I thought I had it bad with my Mukuka situation. Monde’s situation is worse. She is pregnant and she is dealing with uncertainty about her marriage. What would I do if I was in her shoes. Probably cry my heart out and stalk him. Not bath too. But look at Monde, she looks amazing. Her hair looks amazing. Her outfit is perfection. Look at me. I just got dumped for cheating and I look like a mess in my vest, ripped jeans and heels. My face looks just as bad with swollen eyes. And yet Monde who is dealing with more looks beautiful. How does she do it? Though I think she’s being paranoid because Noah loves her to bits. He adores Monde and would never want to hurt her in that manner. Cheating is so not like him. And to call her Plumber. That’s not like him either. Noah is a smart man and I believe he wouldn’t leave his phone lying around if he was cheating on Monde knowing she would go through it.
What does one even tell their friend in such a situation. Don’t worry? All will be revealed soon. Or maybe he will change. Maybe it’s a phase after all you got married too early? I don’t know what to say that will make her feel better.
“You need to talk to him.” Gemima says
Wow. I wonder how that will go. How do you ask the love of your life if he’s cheating on you without him losing his anger. Is there ever a right way of asking such a thing.
“And if he denies it?” Monde asks
“Marriage is a job. I would know I’m also in it.” Muzinga says. “But it’s also a ship with two captains and children as passengers. So if the captains don’t discuss what’s wrong with the ship then they won’t notice the cracks in the hull. So you gotta talk about this with your husband. Find a way. Be gentle about it. And it will okay.”
“Then maybe he’s not cheating. There should be an explanation Monde.” Gemima responds.
What explanation? What explanation would make it okay for him to cheat. Is he dying? Not that I know. But there is no excuse for cheating, I would know because I was the cheater in my relationship.
But maybe Gemima is right. This is Noah we are talking about. The man is a saint.
Gosh relationships are just complicated.
“You know what. I’ll be fine. I’ll talk to him and it will be fine. Whatever the outcome. Noah and I can fix this.” Monde says confidently.
That’s the Monde I know. The confident one. She smiles at all of us hiding the pain I know she’s feeling. It’s eating her up inside. Knowing, no, thinking that the love of your life is cheating on you. The man you sleep next to, the father of your kids, the man who has been your best friend for years is cheating on you. Gosh just me seeing Samantha at my engagement party talking to Kachiza days ago was damaging to my spirit and it affected me more than I cared to admit. It felt like knowing he was still attached to her even though he said he was over her. But it still hurt bad. And I am only dealing with this while I’m engaged. What more in marriage with kids involved.
“It will be fine.” Salome says.
Salome smiles at Monde and Monde smiles back at her. Yes it will be fine. I know it will be fine. Noah is a good man. Counselling would work for them if they chose it. They are a strong couple and they have been through too much to let this silly Plumber woman come in between them.
“Well I’ll tell you what mummy told me yesterday. Very wise advice.” I tell the ladies. “Pray for your relationship. Pray for your marriage. Every day and night.”
“I do. I pray for my marriage. I pray for my husband everyday. I love Noah. Maybe I’m overthinking things. I don’t know. But I don’t forget to pray.” Monde says.
“Good. God will make a way out of this mess. I just know it.” I say.
“Your mother is so weird.” Salome says.
And we laugh. So true. But she actually says the best things as a mother. Now I see her advice applies to not just me but to each one of my friends. Especially Salome and her destructive nature in relationships. I hope her situations goes better.
“We have to eat. Gosh we have had bad news. Can we order while we still can.” Muzinga says.
And I wholeheartedly agree with her.
“So Patrick says we should get back together.” Chibwe says.
Salome laughs out loud in that moment.
“What’s funny?” Chibwe asks Salome.
“Well we all have issues with our Zambian men. All of us. Not surprising though.” Salome responds.
True. I have my cheating drama with Noah. Salome is dealing with Mukuka and Tawanda. Gemima is dealing with Kachiza and Samantha drama and now Chibwe is dealing with her own, Patrick baby daddy unnecessary drama issues. Gosh we all have issues with our men. So typical though. Zambian men know how to put us through our paces.
“Well what does he want? What did he say?” Salome asks Chibwe.
“He apologised for real this time. I think he meant it. I realised I was holding onto the pain and the hurt he caused me that I couldn’t see past it and forgive him.” Chibwe says slowly.
“Well he did dump you when you got pregnant. And he said alot of crap about it. Long time coming if you ask me.” I say
“Exactly. He hurt me. But it was over five years ago and I held onto the pain for what. I could have met someone else by now.” Chibwe argues
“But you loved him.” Gemima adds.
“Even after all he’s done. I can’t forget I loved him. He said stuff last night and I just couldn’t hold the grudge anymore.” Chibwe says.
“So what are you gonna do?” Salome asks. “Will you take him back? Or will you be friends and be cool without him in your life?”
“That’s the thing. I don’t know. Maybe I still love him. Or maybe I need closure. All I know is Samuel needs to be with his Dad around.” Chibwe answers.
“Look Chibwe. I won’t judge you for whatever decision you make. I’ll support you through it. Even if it means you will get back with Patrick.” I tell her. “If your happiness lies there and you believe Patrick is a changed man then awesome.”
“And how do I find out if he’s changed?” She asks.
“Only you know Patrick.” Salome says. “In more ways than one.”
“Salome my gosh.” I say
“Look it’s the truth. Chibwe you know Patrick. Very well. You’ve been through the bad and good before. So you will know if he’s a better man or not.” Gemima says
“And Oh my gosh he’s so hot.” Chibwe says. “Like seriously you’d think age will take everything away but he’s still got it.”
“Enough to open legs?” Salome asks.
I look at Salome and shake my head at her while she smiles at me. Well she’s back to her normal self emotionally.
“And we know you didn’t kiss the man last night. Cause if you had you would have told us.” Salome says
“Of course I didn’t.” Chibwe says. “Not kissing him until I’m sure about what I want. Not leading a man on.”
“Buzz kill.” Salome utters.
“Salome. He’s the father of my son. Who dumped me when I was pregnant. You were there remember. I just can’t go sleeping with him just because he said sorry. What about action.” Chibwe says
“Exactly. I agree with Chibwe.” Gemima says.
“Me too.” I say.
“Don’t get me wrong. I agree with you Chibwe but let’s say you decide you are really done with him. Don’t you think you gotta try the goods before you return them.” Salome says
“I know my size. I don’t need a return policy to know if I’m making the right decision.” Chibwe responds.
Count on Salome to see only sex as the solution to most problems.
“Look I’ll think about it. I’ll talk to him later on maybe.” Chibwe says
“Wow. Later on huh?” Salome says.
“Calm down Salome. Nothing will happen. I’ll make sure of it.”
I shake my head and laugh.
“Please how many times has each of us said nothing will happen and something happens either way.” I ask.
“Plenty.” Gemima answers.
“Let’s just say whatever happens, happens.” I say. “Entangled limbs and all things sweaty.”
We all laugh.
“We have to eat now. Please if you have any more drama wait till we order and eat.” Muzinga says.
“I need me a drink. I deserve it.” Salome says as she lifts her hand to signal to a waitress.
“Me too.” Gemima says. “A glass of wine maybe.”
“Seriously. You were drinking last night.” Muzinga says to Gemima.
“So. I want to drink. I deserve it. We all deserve it. Except Monde of course. But it’s necessary.” Gemima says.
“I agree.” Salome starts. “I feel so much better. Thank you ladies for helping me.”
I feel much better too. Way much better. Talking to my ladies always makes me put things in perspective. Now I know what I want to do. I have a baby on the way. My girls are here with me. I will talk to Noah and save my marriage. I have a good life.
What in the hell could possibly go wrong…
P.S This chapter is dedicated to the birthday girl, Nnena. Kisses.