“We should do dinner.” He says.
“We can meet a few friends. How’s that?”
I frown and pick up a dark blue dress off the bed. Too revealing. I turn around with the dress in front of me as I stare at myself in the mirror. Definitely too revealing, the perfect dress. I smile at my reflection and carefully put the dress back on the bed. Now for the perfect heels. I clap my hands loudly as I giggle to myself.
“Did you hear what I said?” He asks
“Yes. Dinner with your friends.” I respond.
“You don’t want to go?” He asks.
“Just hold on.” I respond.
I make my way to our walk in closet, heading to the section of the wall where my heels call home and pick gold heels off the rack. Yes. Blue and gold should go well together. Or should I wear red heels. Or sandals maybe. Black suede heels would go well with blue, bring out the colour in my legs. Gosh. I’m lost. Colours… Colours…
Gold heels it is. I’m decided.
I walk back into the bedroom humming with a smile on my face.
“Mable? Are you there?”
“So what do you think about dinner with a few of our friends.”
Your friends you mean I think. It’s like the man just get I’m not interested. The save question over and over again. All just for us to save face to his friends that we are still a happy couple. Hell no. Besides, if I agree to his idea it will probably be just them talking while I look lost and uninterested in the topics on the table.
“Jerry and Mercy are hosting something tonight. We can go and relax. Just for a few hours.”
Chinyama is over doing this.
I’m not interested in boring dinners with weird friends, neither am I interested in sitting down with my husband for a drink and dinner. Not tonight. I am not ready. He will have to understand that I’m not ready to just accept everything and move on so easily. No.
“You go.” I start.
“But we were both invited.”
“I know but you go. Go and have fun.”
Fun… The word hangs in the air. We both know what I mean. Why hold him back. It’s his life and he can whatever he pleases. Fine by me.
“So that means you’ll be home late no?”
“Do enjoy. I won’t wait up for you.”
That way he can see his mistress if he wants to. Give him all the freedom to hang himself if he needs to. He does not respond to my answer. He’s probably thinking of a response that will create the least damage. Then again whatever he says will not change a thing. He knows it and I know it. Why pretend.
“If you don’t want to have dinner out we can have dinner at home. Much better?”
Persistent, I wonder why. I am not interested in his new idea either. I do not need to think about what I’ll have to cook for him. No. Thank God the maid cooked everything to perfection.
“Oh. It’s not that Chinyama. I already have plans. Dinner tonight I think.”
“Meeting some ladies for drinks. Dinner.” I tell him quickly.
If only he knew the truth. Then again it’s all his fault I am avoiding him and his plans. It’s not like I will sit down to listen to it through anyway. It will ruin my whole day. I’ve already cried for the day anyway. It’s only been a week and I am still angry if not disappointed in him for not being man enough to hide his infidelity or better yet to tell me the truth. I don’t know if the man wants me to leave him or stay.
Though all indications point to he wants me to stay with him.
He’s been acting too nice. Dinner this, the kids that, shoulder kisses here, unnecessary cuddling there, and my answer is the same. N-O, in kinder words. And he never argues. He knows I know he was with Cynthia when he was supposed to be with me. Cynthia obviously told him I called him. Of course she picked up the call to rub it in. She still had him wrapped around her ugly finger.
And his reaction to all this? Be nice.
I don’t know if by being super nice he believes I will forget what he’s done to me. It’s like reliving a moment that almost ruined me years ago. If only he understood how I felt after I heard her voice; the same voice that answered my husband’s calls at the office; in his hotel room; I can’t believe he would choose her again. Again. This man isn’t afraid of what I might do to him.
It took all I hard not to lock him out when he came home that night. I didn’t say a word to him and he didn’t try to explain. I didn’t force him to. Silent treatment for two days did him in. That was when the nice version came out to play. Not having it. I’ll let him worry about my choice.
“Another day then?” He asks.
“Of course Chinyama.”
How about never I think. I bite my tongue and sigh. He knows this will never happen. He cuts the call seconds later but not before informing me he will be home early. Good for him. I will let him wallow in his guilt for a little while longer, and until I come to terms with everything Cynthia can provide him with everything he needs. I carefully place my heels at the foot of the bed when my phone rings.
I can’t wait to see you. Plan still on?
I start to type and stop. Biting my lip I wonder what Chinyama would do if he found out I was entertaining another man. Would he leave me or let me stay?
There is no going back after this.
If my mother had been around she would know what to tell me. She would know what to say. Calm me down and make me feel great again; but she’s not here. Instead my second best is here, my mother’s sister, Aunt Leah, the only woman who loves me like her own. If not for her I don’t know how I would have managed dealing with the death of my parents. I don’t know how I would have continued on with anything. Aunt Leah saved me, she did everything for me, no matter how big it was.
I am the daughter she’s never had and through the years all I’ve wanted to do was make her proud of me and she is. I watch her humming in the kitchen as she stirs into a pot of chibwabwa yo sashila*. The scent from her cooking fills the kitchen. The best cook I know. I smile and walk towards her. She turns to face me giving me her motherly smile. The same smile my mother had. The same one I have. Like mother like daughter. Whenever I see Aunt Leah I see my mother, and I’m reminded of where I got my looks from, except for my stubborn afro hair which I got from my father’s side. It was God’s way of making me realise my mother was still around. To this day whenever I stand next to Aunt Leah most people think she is my mother – standing at 5.5 inches, plump, with her dark long hair in a ponytail behind her head which frames her small face. She is the kindest woman I know in my family considering they are a lot and greedy.
“You’re too silent.” Aunt Leah says.
“Shouldn’t you be happy. Ukwatiliwa mwana wanga*.” She puts her cooking stick above the open pot and turns to face me.
“If you and uncle agree of course.” I laugh.
“My child, I already agreed way before he asked you to marry him. Ian is a good man for you.”
“You think so mummy?”
She lifts her hand and touches my cheek.
“Of course. You have me convinced he’s good.” She responds.
“I have a question. Did you think I would be better off with someone else?” I ask.
“We want the best for our children Sonia. Sometimes parents don’t see that the choice a child has made is for the best.”
“So you did think I was better off finding someone else?”
Aunt Leah sighs.
“There are many good men out there Sonia. A lot. You have made your choice.”
“Come on Mummy. Be honest. What do you think?”
“You have not cared about my thoughts on your relationship before.” She responds. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes Mummy. Everything is okay.” I respond. “I’m just thinking about the future.”
“Uh huh. Lying already. Talk to me.”
She covers the pot with a lid and leads me back to the table. She sits down next to me and holds my hand. She always does this when I talk to her. To calm me down I realised and it works. Most times.
“Auntie…Mummy… What if I’m not supposed to marry Ian?”
She looks at me surprised at my question.
“Why would you ask that? What’s wrong? Has he beaten you?”
I laugh as I shake my head. The thought of Ian lifting his hand to strike me is a joke in itself. The man is too good. Too caring. Too easily swayed. That’s why his mother controls him.
“Has he shown you something bad. Is he a bad man?”
I shake my head.
“It’s his family. His mother hates me. I think she hates me.” I respond.
Aunt Leah laughs then. A full hearty laugh. I wonder why.
“My child I thought it was a serious issue.” She says after a few minutes.
“It is mummy. She thinks I’m too black and too old for her son.” I tell her.
“My child. The day you hear a story of a nice mother-in-law do tell me I’d like to greet that woman.”
“His mother is racist. She controls his moves like he’s a child.”
“She’s obviously looking for any reason to hate you since you’re taking her son. Taking over is the right word.”
“But he’s still her son. It’s not like I’m going to take him to Pluto.”
“Sonia, mothers are jealous creatures. She’s jealous he’s all yours. She will change. One day. Don’t worry. She can’t hate you forever. You’re marrying her son anyway.”
“That’s why I’m asking you for advice. Do remember when I introduced you to Ian and you had misgivings about him being white. And younger.” I tell her.
“Well I changed my mind. You convinced me he was a good man. And I figured that out through him too. That’s all I needed. To know him better.”
I smile at her. Aunt Leah is right. She changed her mind about him. She loved him when she got to know him. Is that what will happen to me if I choose to let Ian’s mother get to know me? But what if she hates me forever?
“It will be fine. If this is what is stressing you out then please stop worrying. Ian loves you. Wants to marry you. So calm down.”
“But what if…”
She cuts me off by patting her hand over mine.
“That man is here to discuss your future. Next week we shall meet him and his people and he will meet ours. He wants you as his wife. And I know you love him. Just pray and you’ll see. It will be alright.”
She gives me a reassuring smile. And I smile back.
“You’re right. See why I needed your advice. You’re amazing.”
“It will all work out. His mother, well that’s typical mothers-in-law. She will love you. You’ll see.”
I hear voices outside the kitchen laughing loud. Ian and uncle obviously.
“See. The men are laughing. Stop stressing.” Aunt Leah says happily. “Come, let me teach how to cook chibwabwa better.”
“Ndipo ndinwe wa chimpwena.*” Thandiwe says.
I laugh a little too loud.
“Iwe ala. Don’t judge me. I called you because you wouldn’t judge me.”
“Excuse me. You called me because we are the same size.” She retorts.
“Well, there is that, but mami you’re pregnant. You will be big soon enough. Lemme make the most of your clothes. Besides if Mr Forty is gonna be there then I have to show him what he’s missing.”
“So both your bosses will be around?”
“Yes.” I respond.
“And you’re comfortable with the whole thing?”
I know where she is going with this. She will not guilt trip me from having fun tonight. Not tonight.
“Yes.” I respond.
“But you just said your other boss is handsome too. Who are you trying to impress kansi. One man or two men?”
“Both, maybe.” I respond. “My immediate boss is single. Mr Forty, well he loves it when I look extra nice. Now make my day and tell me you’ll drive over with a red dress and killer heels to match.”
Thandiwe laughs and I join her. She’s the only person I can ask for a sensible fashionable dress at this time. She’s the fashionista in my group of friends. Plus I won’t have time to go home and change so I gotta make the dress come to me instead. And the solution? Thandiwe. If she agrees. I know she will.
“Fine. I’ll be there in two hours. You owe me madam.” She responds. “I think payment is an introduction to the immediate boss guy.”
“So that I can gauge him and see if he’s really handsome wei.” Thandiwe laughs.
“What kind of a friend are you?”
“A good one. Imagine a lace dress hugging your body. Imagine. Sexy.”
“Fine. I’ll see what I can do.” I respond. “So red ka.”
“Awei. Black is better.”
“Are you sure? Lace something. High heels please.”
“What else? Condoms?” She asks. “Morning pills?”
“If you have extra sure.” I respond.
She laughs. I know she’s off that bandwagon of condoms in the car and purse for good measure. But me? Not yet. Who knows.
“Okay. I’ll be there my love. No worries. I’ll pick something utterly beautiful for you.” She responds.
“Awesome. Thank you love.”
“I swear these men better be worth it.”
“They are.” I respond.
I turn and I see Masulani standing at his door talking to one of the agents. He points at something on the papers in his hand. Gosh the man certainly is attractive. Even when he does not have his jacket on the man looks ridiculously hot. Such a crime of a man. I bite my bottom lip and look away, looking at the paperwork on desk and pretending to concentrate.
“Are you okay though?” I ask Thandiwe. “You sound better today. How’s the morning sickness?
“It’s still morning sickness, but I’m good I guess. Mum giving me grief as always.”
“What’s up. What is she doing?”
“Ahhh you these women from different eras. Don’t go to work. Don’t dress like that. Do this. Do that. I swear you’d think I’ve had miscarriages all my life and yet this is my first pregnancy.”
“Awww don’t be too hard on her. That’s her first grandchild ka.”
“You’re even supporting her. Ala Yoli. She’s irritating me.”
“Calm down che.”
“She’s acting like I’m still in her house ayi. I’m a married woman.”
“Who is loved by all. How’s the hubby?”
“He is good. Gone for work. He’s also stressing over my morning sickness. I swear James is pregnant too.”
“You’re so wrong iwe.” I tell her. “Pregnancy is for the both of you.”
“I’m suffering alone. I’m telling you. He’s so irritating. My gosh.”
“You’re so lucky he cares.”
“Maybe. Ahhh I don’t know.”
We keep silent for some minutes. Out of words or conversation. Just for some minutes.
“Yoli. I need to ask you something.” She says.
She keeps silent and I hear her take a deep breath.
“Do you know any abortion clinics?”
I frown and sit upright. I wonder if Thandiwe is alright.
“Are you alright love?” I ask her.
“Yes. I am just fine..” She answers quickly. “Wait. Oh my. No… It’s not for me.” She says.
“You know abortion is illegal ka.”
“Uh huh. My employee, the girl from the shop wants one hey.”
“She’s pregnant? You’re both pregnant?”
“Imagine the odds. Says she’s not ready for a child. Plus she has two others already.”
“Damn. That sucks.” I respond. “Well I have to ask around hey. I’ll let you know. By the time you get here I’ll have names.”
“See why I love you. Thank you love.”
“You’re welcome.” I laugh nervously.
And for the first time since I made the call I feel scared.
Thandiwe is up to something. I’m certain of it.
“We understand your situation Mr Banda.” I start. “However we need more documentation on the claim.”
“I have given you everything but it seems as if you just don’t want to pay for the damage to my building.” Mr Banda responds angrily
“We have not declined to pay the claim. We need the building to be assessed a little further, more procedures to be done.”
“May I speak to your manager?”
“I am the claims manager.”
“All you’re doing now is ensuring I do not insure my company with you again.”
“Mr Banda….” I start.
“No. I will be coming in to discuss this with your bosses. Good day madam.”
And he cuts the line. I stare at the phone for a few seconds before I exhale. Today will be a long day. I stand up from my seat, grabbing a few papers from my desk and I leave the my office. Insurance has its days. The good days and the worst days when the claims come in. Clients like Mr Banda calling everyday to have claims paid are a never ending pain in my back. I head to the underwriting manager’s office by-passing the underwriters desks across the huge open plan design that sits in the middle on the first floor building. I walk into his office without knocking and I find Mr Mvula sitting behind his desk.
“Mr Mvula.” I say quickly, taking the only available seat across him.
“Sampa. Good afternoon.”
The man does not look up from his desk. I frown at his greying hair wondering why the man still works for the company when we need fresh minds today. “His expertise is of importance” Human Resource normally says when our departments clash – usually when he makes a blunder in his department that affects my department. All in all I don’t think he cares that I’m in his office at this very moment.
“I need the underwriting file for Precious Cargo Industrial.” I tell him
“Why?” He asks, still looking at his desk.
Son of a pig.
“Claim. I need all files on the insured immediately.”
“They will be sent to you. I’ll inform the underwriters.”
I stare all the him shocked. Surely calling one of his underwriters now for the file shouldn’t be bad enough.
He looks up then. Spectacles perched on his nose, his drooping eyes look at me as if I’m wasting his time. His tells a story of life in the post colonial days, filled with spots that indicate some sort of organ damage. Possibly. His suit looks passable today, a dark brown oversized suit over his frail body. It’s as if he wants to punish everyone for his misdeeds. I stand up and place the papers in my hands on his desk right on top of his work.
“I need all this urgently. Everything on the list. Thank you.”
I walk out before he says a thing. I swear I can feel his eyes burning through my back is with all the insults he can think of. I really don’t care and if he wants to try me today he will get the shock of his life. I’m not in the mood.
I find a ringing phone on my desk as I walk into my office. Yolanda. I answer the phone.
“Sampa. Hey.” She says
“What’s up? You okay?”
“Awesome. Girl I need you to do me a favour.”
“Anything. What’s wrong?” I ask as I close the door to my office.
“Uhm…. Thandiwe trusts you a lot. Gosh she loves to talk to you. You need to talk to her.”
“Why? Did you two argue?”
“No. Nothing. Well, issue is she asked me about abortion clinics.” She says. “And I don’t want to worry. Maybe it means nothing but we know Thandiwe has had issues with her situation. What if she wants to… You know.”
“You think Thandiwe wants to have an abortion?”
I shake my head. Thandiwe would never do that. Never. Or would she? I would know if she had serious issues with her pregnancy.
“I don’t think Thandiwe would abort. Come on. Miss Diva? Abort. No.” I argue.
“I thought so too. But then it hit me that she’s been going on and on about not being happy with James.”
True. But to abort is so not her. She would never hurt another human being. Granted she married James to move on from another man but she married a good man. The right man to humble her down. I know she’s been having a hard time accepting her life has changed but I also know she has been trying to make her marriage more fun. Whatever fun means.
Maybe I should sit her down and talk to her. What is it about God blessing people who don’t want children with lots of babies while choose who desperately need a child get nothing? If this the stance that Thandiwe wants to take then she’s being selfish.
“So you think I should let it go?” Yolanda asks.
“Just let her be. She’s fine. I’m sure she has a reason for asking.”
“The girl at the boutique is pregnant. That’s what she said.”
“Both of them are pregnant? Wow.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to her. No worries. But I’m sure you’re over thinking it.”
“I hope so. Because you know as well as I know that when Thandiwe gets something into her mind then she will keep at it till its done.”
An hour later and I’m still panicking about what I’ve done. Sometimes I can be quite dumb.
I’m so foolish. How can I ask Yolanda about the abortion clinic? I couldn’t even for the life of me find a better lie than using my employee. Utterly foolish. I stand up from my bed, head to the bedroom walk in closet. I‘m so dumb. This pregnancy is making me dumber. I pull the closet door open a little too hard cursing under my breath. What if Yoli comes over one day and asks the employee if she got the abortion? Yolanda would do that just to know the truth. What if Yolanda asks me again if I’m the one interested in the abortion? What if she thinks I don’t want the baby? Shit.
I am weighing my options.
That’s what I’m calling this.
Simply weighing my options. I don’t know if I want a baby. I don’t know if I am ready to be a mother but I also don’t know if I can kill my child either. What if I am the wrong person for my own child. What if I turn out to be a bad mother? So many questions.
An abortion would fix a lot of things for me. I would go on with my life without worrying about one more person. I would still look good in my clothes. No weight gain. Just plain me. Beautiful. And I would get pregnant again at the right time.
“Why did I have to lie?” I ask aloud.
I pull out the first black dress I see, lifting it by the hanger in front of me. The silk shimmers in the light. I soon won’t be able to fit the size twenty-eight dresses in my wardrobe. I will have to give everything away if I don’t get back my shape. I feel the soft fabric against my skin. I remember the first time I wore the dress. I smile at the memory of James touching my back as we walked, danced, more like every time he wanted to. It was a beautiful night. I know Yoli will look amazing in this dress if she wants it.
I pull out another black dress, with a silk top that falls off one shoulder, and a lace bottom. One of my favourite dresses. So many memories. Each dress holds a story. I look at the rest of the dresses in my closet and for a second I feel sad and content at the same time. So I get to lose my shape and not wear my most beautiful dresses any time soon. Maybe this is God’s way of telling me I need to start something new.
Like maternity wear.
I smile and sigh. This is my only way out. I’m in this and I might as well act the part of an expectant mother. Abortion is out of the way. Besides if James found out he would kill me and if my mother found out she would probably try and push me back into her womb for good measure. I need to stop wallowing in this stupid mood and get over my problems.
I need to take it one step at a time and accept my predicament. James and I will be parents. That’s final. Might as well start preparing for the baby. Baby fashion and maternity wear could be something I could venture into. James will be thrilled. I have been the worst wife in the past weeks. I’ll just make this work.
I lift my t-shirt and pat my stomach.
“Hey little fella.” I whisper.
I have no choice.
“You and I are partners.”
Bad mother or not I will make this work.
I look back at the wardrobe and pull another black dress out. I smile, knowing Yolanda she will probably pick the lace short dress as appropriate for her thing with her bosses. I know her too well. Yolanda, the bold one who takes life with all the guts she has. Surprising we are friends sometimes. In as much as we agree on most things like which men are the best, though we disagree on some things. Yolanda might be crazy but she is a woman with a nice heart. I sigh and carry the dresses to the bedroom. I look at the three dresses and smile.
Time to move forward.
To be continued…
*Pumpkin leaves in pounded groundnuts
*You are getting married my child
*But you like to stare/ You are so inquisitive