My phone rings and I sigh in irritation. How many times does one have to call before they realise I’m not available? Gosh. This is nonsense. The loud tone goes on. Why can’t I get what I want? Nothing is going right today. It’s one thing after another. I just want out of the day itself already. I groan and pick up the phone.
“Thandiwe. Babe. Are you okay?”
The sound of James’s voice pushes me towards the edge. Why can’t he let me be? When does he ever stop calling? The fifth call this morning and it’s only twelve hours. I can’t do anything in peace anymore. Him calling me is giving the same stress I’m trying to avoid. He’s making everything worse. I absolutely hate this.
Clingy men. Who needs them? Sometimes I wish the man had a backbone. A tough backbone that would simply make him independent. He makes marriage seem like an overdependence of human connection. It was never like this with Mischeck. The man was independent. Never clingy. Never destroying my phone battery with unnecessary calls all day. Never there. Wasn’t that why he took advantage of me and treated me like trash?
“Thandiwe.” James repeats, pulling me out of my trance.
“What!!” I respond, a little too rudely.
I instantly regret my tone. Can this day end already. James does not say a word. Now I’m messing up my relationship with my husband.
“I am sorry James. I am having a bad day.” I tell him.
I take a deep breath, exhaling slowly. I feel bad now. He did not deserve my rudeness. It’s not his fault I’m so hormonal. And after the morning I’ve had I should not be taking things out on innocent people. James needs to stop this one thousand and one calls to check up on me. He already has me as his wife, he can stop pretending and simply just disappear. Like all men do. Like Mischeck did.
“It’s okay babe. I understand.” James responds.
“I sort of understand.” He chuckles. “Sort of. How are you feeling?”
I roll my eyes. I feel the same way I was feeling thirty minutes ago when he called to ask the same question. This man will make me lose it. I sigh.
“James I’m busy. I have to…”
“Come outside.” He says excitedly.
“Come outside.” He says.
“Just come outside Thandiwe.”
“Are you outside?”
“Thandiwe. Stand up and come outside.”
“James I’m busy. I have so much to do right now, this isn’t the time for playing.”
“Come on babe. Work with me here.”
I stand up from my chair in my mini back office and walk out into the boutique. ‘Queening it Right‘ is my little baby, the only thing that puts a genuine smile on my face. Located right in the hustle and bustle of Lusaka town, my boutique stocks the latest in fashion wear and accessories. It is my home away from home. My little piece of heaven that I opened up after I failed to find a job almost a year ago. James helped me open it, it was the least he could do for the woman he loved; he pitched in the funds, made sure I got all my products on time. And as a bonus, he made sure all his friends knew about it.
And the store thrived.
Somehow it stayed open through the year. Customers were always coming through looking for something unique and unique they would find. The profits were good. James was proud of me. Impressed actually. I am the perfect business woman. And with all this, I am hoping I can move the shop to a better area. Maybe a mall. Or expan. Who knows. This year could be my year.
I smile at Mutinta behind the counter as I walk in between the aisles of clothes heading to the store’s front door. James and his surprises. I am so tired and hungry. I have not had anything to eat since I woke up and left home. After James left, I slept through two hours at least before he called me worried. That was when I woke up and took a bath. I thought staying home would be the perfect plan but I got bored minutes later and I left for the boutique.
I needed to keep busy and the boutique was the best place to keep me calm and sane. Besides, I need to keep working so that maybe I can ignore that my morning sickness is actually a day sickness. Except for now because there is nothing to vomit. I walk out of the store, the sun hitting me with the full force of its heat. I close my eyes to hold the nausea threatening to take over me. I manage to notice James’s Gray Audi A6 parked across from my store. He better be here to show me something worth it I think as I head towards his car.
I open the door of the passenger’s side of the car.
“Hey.” I say.
“Hey babe. You’re okay?”
“Kinda. Yes. I’m fine James. Though it’s too hot.”
“I agree.” He says. “Are you getting into the car? I can switch on the a/c.”
I get into his car and close the door. He turns the engine on and switches on the a/c. I turn to face him and he leans in close and gives me a quick kiss on the lips. I close my eyes and take in his scent. Sweat? He smells heavenly enough to me.
“Have you eaten?” He asks.
I lean back and smile.
“Not yet. I will probably get something when I feel the need to not puke every second of the day.”
“It will pass.” He cheers on. “In the mean time I got you this.”
He turns and reaches into the back seat and in his hands I notice a bag with the name Medina on it. Indian food. My tummy does not growl at the thought. My mouth literally waters at the sight of the bag. I am definitely hungry. And Indian food is the perfect choice for me right now. I smile at James, sometimes he is the sweetest ever. How did he know Indian would be the best choice for me? I am impressed at the moment, so impressed I look at him in wonder.
“James. How did you know?”
“Lucky guess. You’re my wife. I should know.”
So nice of him.
“Awww.” I smile.
I feel tears in the back of my eyes. I am going to cry now. This is so sweet of him. Especially today when certain scents just get the worst of me. Totally sweet of him to find the time to bring it all the way here from his work place in woodlands.
“Are you crying?” He asks
I nod my head vigorously. My tears fall down my cheeks. I am so hungry. This baby is making me sick. Today is the worst day ever. Food sucks. Even my perfume is no longer good enough for my nose anymore. I’m less than three months and this baby is already changing my life. I hate it.
“I’m sorry.” I sniff. “I’ve just had a bad day. And you get me lunch. Indian. And I’m so hungry. But I can’t keep food down.”
“Let’s hope the Indian food will stay down.”
“What if it doesn’t?”
“Then we will need to see a doctor. ” He says sadly.
“I don’t know.” I tell him.
“Tomorrow. We can see a doctor.”
“Maybe. But who knows maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better. The nausea comes and goes.”
“Well we have to either way. But I need you eating first.”
He hands me the paper bag and I open it. The smell of spiced chicken masala hits me.
“I’ll definitely enjoy this. I’ll eat this in the office.”
“No. You’re gonna have to eat in the car. I’ll wait.” He says
I don’t need him to tell me twice. I open the packed boxes and dig in.
“Wanna share?” I ask him two spoons in.
“You’re the pregnant one. Eating for two.”
“Well, we are three right now.”
He laughs then and I feed him a spoonful of chicken masala.
Obviously no one is going to talk about the elephant in the room; the elephant being the lady in the white dress. Chinyama’s secretary looks at me apologetically. Pity. That’s pity. I know it when I see it. She is probably wishing the chair she’s on would swallow her whole right this instant. I wish it would swallow her too. I look at Chinyama and his lady friend and smile. Chinyama must think everything is well because he walks to me and kisses my cheek.
“Honey. Mable. I didn’t know you were here.” He says
I look at him and give him my best smile.
“Hmm. Awww I decided to surprise you.” I respond
“An amazing surprise.” He laughs. “Why didn’t you tell me you were here.”
“I honesty forgot I could call you.”
He knows why he didn’t know – because when his secretary had called to tell him he had a visitor all he told her was the visitor could wait till he was done with his meeting. With her. Her. Again. The week just keeps giving. I look at Chinyama and then the woman still standing near his office door.
She looks pretty. Then again she’s always been a pretty woman with the breasts and bum to match. She is a bum. She deserves to be flogged. Looking at her now I can tell she’s uncomfortable. In fact her eyes keep looking around for something. Probably something to defend herself with. I sigh. If this was four years ago she would definitely need that thing to keep me away from her; but now I feel nothing towards her. No hate. No love either.
Well he will get what’s coming to him. I should have known it would be her again. I should have known she would never leave him alone. It’s been four years and I have to deal with the same trash again. This time I will not let this take me over the edge. I will not crumble and create hell. No. I’ll be nice.
“Hello Cyn..thia…” I say slowly.
Her eyes meet mine. I remember the last time I saw those eyes. The time I grabbed her weave and pulled her in for a slap.
“Mable.” She responds. “You look well.”
“I am well.”
“How are the children? You look amazing.”
“The children are well. You look as amazing as the last time I saw you.”
She knows what I mean. Surely she remembers what happened then. How it all ended. The tears. The threats. Chinyama’s hand touches my elbow. He knows I might lose it and start a war.
“Life has been good to me I guess.” She responds.
She smiles at me. Life has been good? Does that life involve my husband of 11 years. Gosh. She just can’t let him go. She almost ruined my marriage four years ago and she’s back at it. Some women are truly scum. The secretary looks from me to my husband and back at me. I feel bad for putting her in the middle of a telenovela at the office. The whole office will hear about this soon. But this is the new me. I will not be losing it any time soon.
“Why don’t you come into my office Hun. Cynthia was just leaving.” Chinyama says.
He holds my arm and I push his hand away gently. Men are trash.
“Uhhhh no.” I start.
“Mable.” He warns.
“Chinyama, I only came by to see you. And I have. I have a…. Lunch meeting… Uhmmm…”
Chinyama raises an eyebrow.
“Oh? With who?” He asks. “Can’t it wait?”
“I really want to talk to you about something.”
“That can wait honey. I am meeting one of the girls. I just wanted to pass through, bring lunch and say hi.” I laugh.
“Oh.” He responds. “Well you can stay and have lunch with me instead.”
“Not today.” I tell him. “Though now that I’m here, uh… Could you pick up the kids after school.”
He looks at me, and I dare him to say no. I dare him to tell me he will be busy. I dare him with my eyes to say no. He does not. He simply nods.
“Sure.” He adds.
“Awesome.” I say happily. “I’ll take my leave now.”
I brush my lips on his cheek as his hand caresses my back.
“But surely you can stay for a few minutes.” He says
“No. It’s okay.”
He doesn’t say a word. We all keep silent waiting for something to happen. Probably me exploding. Like the last time.
“Well that’s it I guess.” I say aloud. “I should go.”
“Mable.” Chinyama starts.
“Cynthia pleasure meeting you. Again.”
“Pleasure was all mine.” She responds.
I look at my husband and smile at him. Men. What to do with them.
“I will see you later. Hun.”
And before he says anything I walk away from him.
And his mistress.
I will not cry. I will not cry I tell myself over and over again on my way to the elevator. I will be fine. I take my phone from my bag typing furiously at it.
Hey. Wanna meet for lunch. L&L Okay?
“I thought he was done playing around.” Mable says calmly through the phone. “But I was wrong. I do not know what men want anymore.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I ask.
“I’m fine. Stop asking me that.”
Mable sounds too calm for my standards. This scares me. A calm Mable is a dangerous Mable I think. I wonder why she is not acting out crazy and threatening to burn his clothes. Why isn’t she threatening to kill her? Could it be possible she no longer cares about Chinyama and his play thing? Impossible. Mable is too passionate to not care. She would not have called me if she didn’t care.
She will react. I know she will. Hopefully soon.
Mable called me minutes ago and only said one sentence when I picked up.
“He’s seeing that Cynthia woman again.”
My heart broke of course. I have known Mable and Chinyama for as long as I can remember. I have been there through most of their issues including the cheating scandal Chinyama put her through years ago. Having to deal with ‘Cynthia the home wrecker‘ destroyed Mable but somehow, after Chinyama made a promise to never cheat again, the couple seemed to rebuild their life again.
But now this. And with the same woman? Gosh. I wonder how she is really feeling right now. Mable has always been the strong kind of woman, hide your emotions until your nerves snap kind of person. I am afraid that if she keeps her real feelings to herself she will snap and this time there will not be anyone to hold her back from beating Cynthia up. Again. The last time was bad enough. Mable didn’t spare the woman. She showed her who was boss before Chinyama showed up to save the day.
“I should have seen the signs Sampa. I should have seen them.” She says.
And the fault game begins. Why isn’t she crying I wonder. My thoughts wander to the first time she told me she found out Chinyama was cheating. How she went through his phone and found the incriminating pictures and messages. She broke his phone. She cried. She screamed. She drank. She beat his mistress. She got his mistress fired. She clearly went on a bender. And now she’s reacting differently to everything. Am I missing something?
“How didn’t I see them? Huh? How?” She asks.
“But.” I start. “Maybe nothing is going on.”
“Then why would he let her visit him? Chinyama has been acting weird for a while now. You know this.” Mable responds. “He works odd hours. He comes home late. Random trips to nowhere. Sex on a calender.”
“What if he really is working late. Work pressure love.”
“It is the same woman Sampa.”
“I know.” I say. “But maybe she just visited him. You never know. Did you at least talk to him.”
Gosh Mable can be so difficult sometimes.
“Did you talk to him about Cynthia? Did you sit down after?”
“No. I left. We all just stood there looking stupid in front of his stupid secretary. I left. I wasn’t rude to anyone. I walked away.”
I frown, that’s a very hard to believe story. Mable is crazy. I know this. Her walking away is an impossible move.
“You could have waited Mable.” I tell her.
“Why? To have him lie to me. No. I’m sorry but no thank you. I will be fine. He can play all he wants.”
“You don’t mean that Mable.”
“I do. In fact I will let him do whatever he wants. Seems he thinks as a man he is free to roam his D around then I might as well do the same.”
There is the Mable I know. The impulsive decision maker.
I am not surprised that this is her response to the situation. But I know her too well. She would never do anything to jeopardise her marriage. She loves her husband too much for that.
“Calm down Mable.” I chuckle
“No. Chinyama is foolish if he thinks this time I will lose it and cry. He can go to hell for all I care. I will drink to his choice.”
“You need to go home and rest. Think things through.”
“Sampa, I am fine mami.”
“Are you sure? I’m worried.”
“Don’t worry. Anyway I have to go. Lunch meeting.”
“With who? Where?”
She laughs then. What is funny? What is she up to?
“I am at L&L. And I am just meeting a friend.”
“Mable I am your friend. Which other friend are you meeting? The other ladies?”
“I will tell you. Later. Call you later. And please don’t tell the others about Chinyama.”
“So it’s not the ladies. Who are you meeting?”
“I’ll tell you. Later. Keep our conversation a secret.”
“Your secret is safe with me. Call me Mable. We have to talk. Sangu and other things.
“I will. I won’t forget. Love you.”
“Love you more.”
Mable cuts the line then and I sit back in my chair. It is situations like these that make me wonder if marriage is worth it. Cheating creates ripples that go on for months if not years. Even after Chinyama told Mable he would never do it again, she still didn’t trust him. She checked his phone whenever he left it in her presence for months; she checked his clothes whenever he was out. She told me she thought he lied to her and had gotten better at hiding things from her. Ripples of one simple act.
I just hope it all works out for her in the end. I know Chinyama would not want to end what he has with Mable. They have children. Them fighting will affect their children. They have to fix this. So maybe he is not cheating on her. But if he is then I pray he gets ready for the hell Mable will put him through.
No regrets. None. I’m doing this. No one can stop me. Turn around now. Don’t do this.
I notice him through the open doors leading outside to the pool area. He sees me and gets up from his seat with a huge smile plastered on his face. Gosh he is attractive. I take in his grey suit and white shirt to match. He is definitely dashing.
I am sort of late if such a thing exists. It’s either I am on time or late, but talking to Sampa meant I spent more time in the car park than actually walking into L&L. I needed someone to convince me walking in would be a bad thing. In the end it did not matter. I left the car and walked into the cool building.
“Hey.” says Isaac when I am within earshot. “You look amazing.”
He gives a half sided hug. He smells so nice, manly and fresh.
“Hey.” I respond. “Uhm thank you. Sorry I am late. Had a call.”
“No worries. Better late than not at all.”
I sit down across from him. A waiter appears within seconds of us sitting placing menus in front of us. Isaac orders for apple juice while I order for a glass of red wine. He frowns at me when the waiter disappears.
“What?” I ask
“Wine for lunch?”
“Yes. I think it’s a beautiful day. I deserve said wine.” I tell him. “Red.”
He laughs, exposing his chipped tooth. All the more attractive I guess. The flaws are beautiful.
“I did not expect you to ask me to lunch so soon.” He says. “Did something happen?”
I shake my head.
“I figured I could surprise you.” I respond. “Did I do it right?”
I smile at him. The waiter returns with our drinks and we order our meals – steak and mash for him and chicken and a salad for me. And more wine.
“How are the friends?” He asks after I take my first sip of the sweet wine.
“They are fine. Very well actually. Drama here and there but well. Thank you for asking. Surprised you remembered them.”
He shrugs in response.
“In my defence I only met… Sonia. Am I right?”
“I’m sure if I had the seen the rest they would have killed me on the spot.”
I laugh. They certainly would have. I have no idea how I have managed to keep the secret about the kiss from that night. I should have told them already. They would have probably slapped me senseless. No need to tell them.
“What they don’t know won’t get you killed.” I laugh.
“I never got to ask you what you were doing there that night.”
“Ahhh the One Kwacha question. I was passing by to be honest then I found the party.” He says. “Gate crasher. I guess they thought I was a guest and let me in.”
“Well thank you for coming. Granted you didn’t meet the birthday girl herself. But you saved me from making a fool of myself. Even though I managed to do that later on.”
“You’re welcome.” He grins.
I look at him. I catch him staring at me. And to be honest it makes me feel really good. I didn’t look beautiful for nothing. I think about the kiss then and I get goosebumps just being in his presence. Feels like I’m playing a game that no one will walk away from unscathed. But who cares right? I decide to go all in and test the waters.
“And I’m sorry I kissed you. So inappropriate. And rude. I’m so sorry.” I say slowly. “I don’t go around kissing strangers.”
He smiles then. He opens his mouth to say something but closes it again as if deciding what to say. Clenching his hand into a fist he looks at me. He doesn’t blink as he looks at me. It’s unnerving being under his gaze.
“I would be worried if you went around kissing random strange men alot.” He says.
I laugh. He has humour. I take a sip of wine and bite my lip.
“And…. I’m not sorry you kissed me. Or I kissed back. I actually quite enjoyed it.” He says.
“Really now?” I ask.
“What would I gain from lying to you Mable?”
“I don’t know.” I whisper.
“I don’t regret the kiss. I enjoyed it and I want to get to know you better… What do you say Mable?”
I’m so nervous.
I feel like I’m going to get sick.
I’m so scared of meeting his parents
If you want I can meet them on your behalf and you can work extra hours at my office with Mr Angry and sad.
Sonia. Everything will be okay.
What are you wearing?
A white dress. That flared one we got from fashion express. The one you liked but you found no size. And black heels. Gonna let my afro tell it’s own story tonight.
I’m sure you look pretty
You will be okay.
Maybe you should have worn red.
You know strike them with dangerous color…
LOL. Very funny Mable.
Gosh I don’t know what I’m gonna do
I’m sweating through my fingers!
You will be fine.
It will go well.
Imwe we need to link up this weekend ka.
To discuss this
Give me tuma pointers so.
Actually I had a plan. Friday or Saturday.
Dance maybe? I have a chi story. I need advice!
I need some help with something
That dinner is needed this week.
Soon. And wine.
I’ll have to get back to you on that one Sampa.
James and I might go for a short trip.
Not sure yet.
Aren’t you the lucky ones mami.
Good for you weh.
You should go
But even if Thandi doesn’t make it we can still meet up. Besides ba Thandiwe can’t even drink. Probably has curfew too.
Fuseki iwe naiwe. Ala. Lol.
My husband encourages me to have a healthy social life.
You seem too excited ba Yoli. Is there a new man we don’t know about?
Iwe. My boyfriend just broke up with me. You’ve forgotten pamene apa. There is no one.
Okay Sampa will tell us the details about the dinner and drinks thing.
She will decide and we better show up.
Except Thandiwe. She’s busy. If she’s not then she’s coming.
Awesome. Can’t wait. Plan fast Sampa
Okay so the dinner. Gosh guys imwe. What if something bad happens.
Pray about it.
But I’m sure it will be perfect.
No one can hate you mami.
Thandiwe being all positive and shit. Damn. Girl please let the hormones rule you. Forever.
Really Yoli. Ata.
Okay ladies wish me luck.
Off to meet my future in laws
Ian says we are having dinner at The Grand Master Hotel.
Good luck. Call me later.
Mable you owe me a call Ala.
I smile and place my phone in my clutch as I look at image in the mirror stuck to my wardrobe door. I look nice. Nice enough to go for dinner with my future in laws. I am so nervous I do not know how I managed to get through the day and be a good chef too.
Time moves so fast when you’re nervous about something. It passed me by and the next thing I knew it was time for me to knock off and head home to change. Ian called me twice during the day to tell me about his parents enjoying Lusaka already. He was excited and he told me he couldn’t wait to introduce me to them. And now the time is almost upon us.
I smack my lips spreading the scarlet lipstick evenly across my lips and smile at my image. My smile is so bright against my dark skin. I take a deep breath and head out. The drive to The Grand Master Hotel has me sweating through my fingers. I can’t grip the steering wheel right. Do I hug them or shake their hands? Do I kiss their cheeks or just smile at them. I am so nervous I feel I might end up kneeling before them and greeting them in my own mother tongue. I have never been this nervous before. Not even for my exams. Gosh this just sucks. What happens if I get shiki? Oh my. Do I take alcohol or not. What did Ian tell me about them again? I don’t know if I can do this. No going back now.
I park my car in the Hotel car park and walk the expanse and to the restuarant. I notice the restaurant is almost packed what with guests around most of the tables. I walk slowly up the restuarant stairs looking for a familiar face and I spot Ian sitting with four other people, engrossed in some conversation. I take a deep breath and walk towards the table all the while saying a short prayer to God to protect me from shiki and other things I do not know that might make me look bad in front of my future in laws.
I play with my engagement ring as I take the short steps to the rest of my life. Some of the men turn to stare at me as I walk passed them, my eyes only on Ian. Ian spots me walking towards him and he stands up from his seat and he heads my way. He kisses my cheek.
“You look beautiful.” He tells me.
“Thank you.” I tell him.
“No. Do I have a choice?”
“No. Let’s meet the family. Our family. ”
I smile as he takes my hand and leads me to the table.
I know the two older people around the table are his parents, he looks nothing like his mother who has grey eyes, blond hair and a skin so pale she almost looks sick. But his father is like an older version of Ian, though he has pepper hair greying in the sides; his green eyes sparkle in amusement as he leans his head towards his wife who does not smile at what he says. She has her eyes on us and I can almost feel her rejection coming up. The other two people around the table look younger, especially the lady with the long brown hair tied up in a lose bun who has her eyes glued to her phone while the other man looks slightly older than the younger girl. His siblings I surmise when I notice the young man has eyes as green as Ian’s.
We get to the table and everyone stands up. Ian puts his arm around my shoulders, smiles at me and looks at his family. I give them my best welcome to Zambia I am your future family member smile.
“Guys. I would like you to meet Sonia.” Ian says happily. “Mum, dad meet Sonia, my fiance. Sonia meet my family.”
Ian’s places his hand on my back. It reassures me everything will be great. Nothing can go wrong.
There is a moment of silence around the table. Ian’s sister waves at me with a kind smile on her face. Ian brother raises an eyebrow, his green eyes looking at me clearly amused. Ian’s father stretches his hand towards me before I hear the words.
“Oh my… You’re really dark…. You’re really black….”