Hello. I’ve been MIA. I’m so sorry. I’m back. Sooooo I want to dedicate this chapter to my super awesome editor and the ladies who were reading Nkani and shopping yesterday in shoprite, Manda Hill, Lusaka Zambia. Yes you. You know yourselves. I am so happy to know there are more readers out there. Yayy.
My phone rings just as I am buttoning my shirt. I’m late. Not good. Not good at all.
“I know… I know.. I’m on my way…” I groan.
Time flies so fast when you’re avoiding something. In this case it’s someone. I pick my phone from the bathroom sink and see Ian’s name flash on the screen. Jeez he’s probably here already. I look at my reflection in the mirror in front of me and sigh. My thick messy afro all dark and curly framing a slim dark skinned face; big eyes, a finely shaped small nose and red lips make up the rest of my face. Not beautiful but cute enough I think. I give myself a smile and take a deep breath for preparation. Who knows what will happen this time around. I put my phone in my jeans pocket leaving the bathroom.
Time to face my hell.
I find Ian and his mother sitting in the middle of the huge crowded restaurant. Did they have to choose that table I think as I make my way to their table slowly. What if something happens and everyone starts to stare? I work here. How will I deal with the shame?
“Everything will be okay.” I whisper. “It will be okay.”
I see them laugh at something his mother says. I notice the similarities between them now. They have the same smile, somewhat. Fascinating that he would get something from his racist mother. There I thought it and it’s true. She is racist. To complain about my dark skin like I had a choice in who would give birth to me. What a horrible woman. If she says anything today I’m definitely putting her in her place. She will see. She will learn egy black women are dangerous. She will….
Ian’s mother catches sight of me and all my confidence evaporates in that instant. I watch as the smile on her face fades away to be replaced with a look of distaste.
What did I say I would do again?
This was definitely a bad idea I think. She says something to Ian and he turns. He sees me and he smiles. His smile is reassuring. Always has been. For a second I forget I’m meeting his mother again. I forget she’s sitting next to him. I choose to believe his smile and remind myself that his mother wanted us to meet. To get along like family should. Maybe she finally gets it that I’ll be part of her family whether she likes it not. Maybe she will apologise and love me.
Ian stands up as I approach the table. His smile spreads further. My eyes wander from his eyes to the dark green shirt he has on. I hate the shirt. He knows this. Why does he have to wear it today? Men and testing the waters. He’s forgiven. Just for today. As soon as I am within arms length, he envelopes me into a hug and kisses me.
“Hey gorgeous.” He smiles.
His words bring a smile to my face. I love this man. He’s all mine. No one can change that fact.
“Hey you.” I whisper, my lips close to his neck.
“How are you?”
“I hate this shirt.” I whisper.
“I know. You love me more.”
“That I do.”
“Come. Meet my mother. Again.”
I roll my eyes, turn and face his mother, still sitting, not looking at us because whatever is on her phone is more important. What now? Do we stand till she’s done with her phone? And after she’s done, then what? Do I shake her hand or hug her. Do I call her by her first name or Mrs Graham? This is complicated. I need to be in her food books today. I hold Ian’s hand and squeeze it gently. He faces and shrugs. Oh who cares what I do.
“Mother. Really.” Ian inquires.
Ian’s mother looks up at her son and smiles. Did she deliberately choose to ignore the fact that I was here? This is horrible. What sort of human being does that? She knew I was coming. Why wasn’t she on her phone when she was alone with Ian? This woman….
“Your father sent me a message. Calm down.” She laughs as she places her phone on the table.
She looks at me and flashes me a forced smile. Forced because her smile never reaches her eyes. She’s not happy about this. I can tell.
“Hello.” She says quickly, cutting me off as she raises her eyebrow.
“Hello Mrs Graham.” I respond. “I do hope you are well.”
She scoffs and looks at her phone.
“Mother…” Ian warns.
“What? I read another message.” She says. “Absolutely appalling. I swear your sister is testing me.”
She looks back at me, a fake smile glued to her face.
“So sorry Sonia. Dealing with children is a hustle. I am well. Sit.”
Did this woman just... I look at her then Ian who offers me a sympathetic smile. Did this man just ignore her order to me? This family….
Ian quickly pulls a chair out for me across from him putting me next to his mother. Gosh this is going to be bad. Ian sits down again and silence. None of us say a word. Awkward to say the least. I shouldn’t have agreed to this. I hate this. I should be in the kitchen creating perfection. This is not going to go well. I should just….
“Well mother.” Ian starts. “Sonia works here.”
“Hmmm.” She responds. “The atmosphere is absolutely perfect.”
“Exactly. I knew you would like it. Mum, Sonia is an amazing chef. You have to let her cook for you one day.”
“Yes. One say hopefully.”
Hopefully? What does that mean?
“She’s so blessed she ended up here. Plus this is one of the best restaurants in Lusaka if I may add.” Ian says excitedly.
He looks at me as he says the words. Such a sweetheart. Always supportive. I give him a smile.
“Ever the sweetheart you are darling.” I respond. “Thank you.”
“You’re the best.” Ian says.
His mother doesn’t say a word. She gives a weak smile and nods, never turning to look at me. Even my cooking can’t make her smile. Bitter much?
“So Sonia hopes that one day she may become head chef in one of the major Zambian hotels.” Ian continues. “Amazing opportunities in the valleys. Especially Livingstone.”
“Oh.” His mother says
“Plus she hopes she can go abroad. Maybe France. Switzerland maybe. Learn more and then come back to Zambia.” He adds.
His mother looks at him her eyes wide in shock. Oh oh. What now?
“Ian? France? Switzerland?”
“Yes. Go to the best and learn the best.” Ian laughs. “What is it?”
“Does that mean you two will be travelling? Not settling down and making a family?” She asks
Oh my word. Is she also one of those women that are in favour of women staying at home getting pregnant and doing nothing?
“Yeah. I mean Sonia loves to travel. So do I.” He responds.
“But how will you make a family on the plane? Or train? How. You need to have the children first. Don’t make the same mistake your cousin did. Remember Selena? She wanted to travel with her new husband instead of settling?”
“Where is she now? Travelling alone while her husband now ex husband has children with his new wife.”
“Please mother. Selena was cheated on. There is a difference. Travelling didn’t cause it.”
“Well he met that new wife of his in India didn’t he? Travelling caused it. What if it happens to you?”
If what happens to who? I look at Ian and then his mother. Did she just imply I will cheat on her son with a random man and have kids? Is she saying her son will end up like Selena. I hope Ian tells her off for this. I look at him and my eyes widen as he laughs.
“Mother. You worry too much. Sonia loves me. I love her.”
“Well things might happen. Just settle and have a family.”
She looks at me, her eyes meeting mine. She’s angry. With me?
“Believe me. You will be content. Travelling will be forgotten as soon as you pop the baby…..out.”
“Mum, we are young. We can have kids later on.” Ian tells her
“You’re young I get it.” She says as she faces him.
She turns then to face me. Her blue eyes look into mine as if seeking for answers for questions she’s never asked.
“Aren’t you too old to be thinking you’ll have kids later?” She asks. “I mean you’re older than my son right? If you travel and play then doesn’t that mean you’re giving up the chance to have children?”
Wow. The age thing again. She didn’t take her time to settle into anything first. Amazing.
“No.” I respond. “I’m still twenty-nine. There is still time.”
“Ian and I have spoken about this. And besides, God gives children. I’m sure he will give me children when the time is right whether I’m on a plane or train.” I laugh nervously.
She seems to think about my answer and keeps quiet. Back to a silent table. Ian calls for the waiter and makes the orders for everyone. I wish I could have a strong drink but I have to go back to the kitchen after this weird lunch.
“Maybe you two should get married after you’re all settled, with nothing to make you move around the world.” She says as soon as the waiter walks away with our orders.
“Mother.” Ian chides
“I am not being mean here.” She says. “I’m being honest. Maybe you two aren’t ready to be married.” She says
I look at her in wonder. She will never like me. Ever. I need to talk to Ian about this.
“We are ready.” Ian responds.
“And where will you two live? Home in The UK? France? Spain? Here in Zambia. Have you two thought about that?” She asks
“Any country is fine mother. So long as we are together then I’m okay.”
“Are you sure?” She looks at me then. “Where do you want to live Sonia? Since you two have been talking about this, you must have an idea of where you will call home…”
“Zambia of course.” I respond without thought. “My family and friends are here.”
“See.” She says. “Doesn’t that clash with your plans to return to The UK Ian? My goodness this is all a mess. Do you both know what you want? Or will you try long distance?”
“Mother. Home will always be home. Of course I want to return one day of course. But if Sonia wants Zambia then Zambia it is.”
“Is that a little too selfish Sonia? Ian says all these nice things about you but you’re actually going to keep him here forever?” She says, her eyes meeting mine.
“Ian are you sure you’ve thought long and hard about this?”
I look at Ian and he looks at me. He wants to return home? When? This is news to me. This changes alot of things for me. For us. I wonder why he didn’t tell me before that he wanted to go back. What else has he told his mother that he hasn’t told me yet.
“I thought about it yes. But now I’m not so sure.” He responds.
“You want to move here full time? Work? Family? Us your family?”
“See that’s why we can travel to visit you. Or we can move to another country. Who knows.” He responds.
“You want to change your whole life for a woman?” She asks.
Where the hell is the waiter? I think a strong drink is needed. Things are about to go to hell. I’d like to avoid much of the destruction.
“Yes mother. For a woman I love.”
“You’re too young to know what marriage means. You two need time.”
She looks at me and smiles.
“Don’t you agree Sonia?”
What am I supposed to say now?
“Well…” I start. “There comes the waiter with our drinks. I need to a make a new order.”
Mama’s words stay with me through out the morning and into lunch. Marriage is work. I need to make it work. Make it interesting. Otherwise I’ll lose my husband. Haven’t I heard of marriages that ended because the spark died and they realised they got married for they wrong reasons? Do I want to be like any of those women crying their hearts out?
Mama was right. I have the power to make my marriage work. James loves me. And I can love him too. He’s done everything to make me happy and I’m so adamant that my life is at it’s worst and yet it’s not. Mama’s words have me reaching for my phone and dialing his number before I change my mind. James picks up on the first ring.
“Thandi. Are you okay? How’s the baby?”
Ever the worried man.
“I’m good. Baby is fine. Hi.”
“Are you busy?”
“For you? Never.”
“It’s stressful. The usual. How’s mum? How’s everything?”
“It’s good. Mum’s great.”
“You’re not happy.”
He knows me so well.
“Well you brought her here. She is feeding me things that will reduce the morning sickness.” I tell him.
“To be honest I’m thinking it will add on to it. I might vomit everything including the baby.”
Shit. Why did I say that? A horrible joke. Shit.
“I’m sorry James. That was a bad joke.”
“It’s okay babe. You’re the making the most out of your situation.” He chuckles.
I smile. Ever the good man.
“What is she feeding you?” He asks.
“Green stuff she calls soup. Soup! Green. Horrible. Kaya where she finds these things. She says she took these things too when she was pregnant with me. I dont believe her.”
“Could be the reason why you love the colour green.” James says.
“Well it’s almost lunch time. What do you think she will make for you?” He asks
I gasp and place my hand on my chest.
“Oh my gosh. I forgot about that. She is probably looking for edible tree leaves to use as greens.” I respond.
He laughs even louder this time.
“James it’s not funny.”
“She means well.” He says.
He’s right. She’s my mother. I love her. She does mean well. She wants the best for me and James even if it means coming to live with us. She’s the best there is.
“I know.” I tell him. “It will be fun having her around. Thank you for calling her.”
“Wow. I didn’t expect that one.” James laughs.
“Ah you. Don’t get cocky. Thank you is enough.”
“Anyway I called to check up. Make sure you’re okay.”
“I was gonna call in a few minutes actually. Pleasant surprise baby. Thank you.”
I smile. I never call him during lunch. I don’t think I make time to call him. I need to change that. Make my marriage spicy. Yes.
“You want anything? Cake? Indian?” He asks
My mouth waters instantly. Food. Sensible real food.
“Great. I’ll bring it home.”
“Thank you baby. Though I’m sure mama will say no. You sure you want to piss her off?”
“Hmmm I’m her favourite.”
“Thank you for the call. I’ll call you later.”
“Cool. Have an awesome afternoon.”
The call cuts and the bedroom door opens. Mum walks in with a covered plate in her hand. I won’t be surprised if she mixed guava leaves with onion at this rate. How can I say no to her. I’m so finished.
“Lunch?” I ask her
“What’s for lunch.”
“Soft Nshima. Vishashi and some fish.”
I let go of the breath I’ve been holding onto. Thank God. A normal meal. She walks to the bed quickly.
“Ooohh.” She starts. “I called a friend of mine to bring me a particular tree whose leaves are good for pregnant women.” She says then.
I knew it. Leaves all day. I’m suffering.
“She told me she has it at the farm. She will bring it over tomorrow. I will boil it and feed you. You will feel better.” She says.
Typical of mama to call her friend. I smile to myself. That surely did not last long. James will find it funny when he gets home.
Is it cheating if I am excited about seeing a man who is not my husband for lunch?
Is it cheating if I take extra care in dressing up for a man who is not my husband?
Is it cheating if I keep laughing at his jokes and kind of enjoy his company?
Is it cheating if I wish my husband acted the way the man sitting across me is acting?
Chinese and wine goes well with amazing conversation. Isaac found the perfect chinese restaurant along Independence Avenue for our lunch. Our little private spot he said earlier. I have been at the restuarant with Issac for close to an hour and so far so good. He is an amazing conversionalist with a great sense of humour and the fact that he does not drink is truly impressive.
Some moments I catch myself imagining Chinyama and I having a random conversation. I know it can’t happen, we are so far gone in the “hey-hope-the-kids-are-good” kind of marriage that we have lost what made us work. Talking to Isaac reminds me that some people just simply connect and the connection is so strong that it takes over everything. We talk about almost everything and nothing under the sun. It feels like having a new best friend who just happens to be one I already kissed.
I feel like I am a special woman being noticed by an attractive man. Gosh and what I am wearing –underneath included– just makes it worse. Issac complimented me when he saw me. I noticed his eyes take in the yellow lace with a navy blue underlining wrap dress that showed off my cleavage and hips.
I might be big but I definitely know what goes well on my body.
I chose the dress because it made me look sexy if not beautiful. I made sure whatever was underneath would match but of course I did not tell him that; I made sure my hair was in a messy bun above my head with a few strands falling around my face. Isaac still can’t stop staring at me and I can’t stop smiling.
“So. I have a question.” He says.
“Ask away.” I tell him as I reach for my glass of wine.
“You told me you went to The University of Zambia if I’m not mistaken right?”
“Why aren’t you working?”
I look at him and shrug. The question borders on parts of my life I do not want to talk about with him. Yet. I am enjoying what we have so far, I do not want to ruin that. Besides, I do not think it is time for him to know everything. Not yet. But soon. I’ll tell him everything. I
It’s so easy to guess what he wants. I know he is dying to ask about my marriage. It must be hard keeping the questions inside. He has never asked about Chinyama or if I have children and I am grateful even though I know any normal man would want to know the truth if a married woman happened to lock lips with him.
But maybe revealing some bits will not mean revealing everything about my life. Revealing my story would mean having to deal with the fact that my husband is still seeing his mistress. And I am not ready for that even if I think revenge would do him some good.
I look at Isaac and sigh.
“I did it for my children.” I respond slowly.
I watch him. He does not look shocked. He nods and smiles as if he understands. Does he?
“Selfless huh?” I ask. “Tell me what a horrible mistake it was.”
“I don’t think it was. You’re a caring human being Mable. I’m not surprised you put your life on hold for your children.”
Tears well up in my eyes. Everyone says this to me every time but coming from him means alot more. His words make my heart dance in joy. He won’t judge me as some lazy women who built her life around her husband and children.
“What you did was a good thing.”
“You think so?”
“Would you have done things differently?”
I shake my head. No. I wanted to do it for my children. For them to have my love wholeheartedly. To never lack or miss a parent’s touch. I love children so much. They are my life.
“I felt it would be better if they had me around.” I continue. “They needed me I guess. I had Samba. Then the twins came along and I forgot the need to work. The kids are work in themselves.”
“I can imagine.” He laughs. “It was a good choice.”
“So yeah, I am a boring stay at home mom.” I laugh.
“How old are they?”
I meet his gaze. He seems interested in knowing the truth. Is it genuine? What if he just wants to know what he’s letting himself into? I’m a mother of three. Carrier of more stretchmarks than I can count. That’s a lot already. Plus I’m a married woman.
“You really want to know?” I ask.
“Definitely. I want to know everything about you. Family life included.”
“Samba is eleven years old. The oldest.” I laugh. “Kazhika and Kakoma are four.”
He lifts his hands.
“How old are you?” He asks. “You look like you’re in your mid twenties and yet you have three kids.”
“Mid twenties? Me? This big?”
“Well yeah. Your weight doesn’t define your age to be honest. So how old are you?”
“Old enough I guess.”
I smile. A lady never tells her age.
“Your children must be beautiful.”
“They are. All three of them. My little diamonds.”
I pick up my glass of wine and bring it to my lips as I watch him. What is it about him that just puts me at ease. I’m so comfortable with him. I feel so happy when I’m around him. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel beautiful. He just makes me feel worthy again.
“I’m jealous.” He says.
“Your children get to see you everyday and laugh with you. I get stolen moments with you.”
I laugh. That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. This man is so sweet.
“Being a parent is hard. It’s not always laughter. It’s school work and tears. Fights and clearing up everything after them.”
“Must be beautiful. You being a mother. I wish I could watch you.”
“Ha. Quite the disappointment. Believe me. It’s slippers, ruined t-shirts and leggings for me all day.”
“Still a beautiful picture. I can imagine it right now. Quite the sight.” He chuckles.
“Do you have children?”
“What are you waiting for?”
“The right woman.”
Our eyes meet and I shiver. Why do I feel like he’s talking about me? It’s so sexy. Gosh this so wrong but I like it.
Isaac clears his throat.
“So back to the topic, you never want to work ever?” He asks.
Gosh isn’t that chance gone for me? I used to think I would work but Chinyama was against it. Sampa needed a mother. And then the twins came along and they needed me too. Chinyama was more than willig to provide me with everything I needed. I simply went along with him. He let me attain my degree and that was it.
After Chinyama cheated; when I thought I would lose him to “her,” it hit me. He could leave me with nothing to my name. It hit me hard knowing he kept me home just so that I would be dependent on him. What if he leaves me now? Cynthia is still around. What if this time he leaves? What will I have? Nothing. No job. No experience. No money. I did not think things through properly. I take a gulp of my wine.
“Don’t get me wrong.” I start. “I would love to work but maybe it’s too late for me. Who would want to hire me now. Inexperienced. Gosh I’m better off at home I think.”
“You have a degree. You can get a job. Or you could do something for yourself.” He responds.
Hand over my mouth I laugh. Fashion? Me? I mean I love looking great but I do not think I am a fashionista.
“No. Not me. I might look good but it’s not enough to pick my interest.” I respond.
“I think you underestimate yourself.”
“I mean it. Have you looked in the mirror lately. You look beautiful. Amazing actually.”
“That dress. I think I just found my favourite colours.” He laughs
The look on his face tells me he means it and I smile. At least someone appreciates how I look. Even if it’s not my husband.
And I must say it is a beautiful feeling.
Tell me again, is it cheating if a man flirts with you and you allow it? I smile happily. Definitely a great day. We stay at the restaurant a little while longer, no one wants to get up and leave but I have to pick the children up from school and I know Isaac has to get back to the office.
“Before the company crumbles down without me.” He said.
It’s a bittersweet moment knowing I have to go back home and he has to get back to his life. Reality check, that’s we both need. Isaac pays for the bill and we walk slowly to the car park where goodbye awaits. He places his hand on my back as we walk, and I imagine him wrapping his arms around me and kissing me senselessly into submission.
We walk in silence each in their thoughts, mine stuck on how I’m supposed to pretend that I didn’t have an amazing day with a good man. Having to deal with Chinyama again just makes me almost sad. We get to my car and he opens the door for me like the gentleman he is, helping me into the driver’s seat. When was the last time Chinyama opened the door for me? Or even held my hand just to hold it?
“We should meet again this week. Dinner next time.” He says. “Or the weekend. My place. I can cook.”
He stands by the door looking at me, a huge smile plastered on his face.
“Already inviting me to your place? Damn that’s fast.” I respond.
“Oh you want me to take my time?” He asks. “I figured it’s better to be fast forward about some things.”
I feign shock and place my index finger on my lips.
“Like what?” I ask
He looks at me, silent as if deciding if my question is worth answering. I bite my lip in anticipation. Waiting. He leans in closer to me, his face close to mine, I can feel his breath on my face.
“Well.” He starts. “I like you. You’re an interesting person. I would love to get to know you.”
“You already know me.”
“More than what I already know.”
“Isaac…” I whisper.
“You’re married I know. But I still want to get to know you. I think you’re fun. You’re just amazing. Maybe I’m moving too fast but why beat around the bush.”
And then he kisses me.
Tell me, is it cheating if a man I find attractive kisses me and I kiss him back?
To be continued….
©The Nkani Chick 2018