“How can I be mad at the love of my life?” Natasha asked her son.
“So can I take him back home?” Tulani asked. “I am after all the one that brought him here. You are making your Zambian debut on air tonight with the evening news right?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that for a minute.” Natasha said.
“I was too upset to think rationally. Let’s continue this conversation after work. I need to go back up now.” And bending down to address Sean, “dad will take you home now honey okay?”
“Aren’t we going to eat lunch together?” Sean was looking from mother to father and back.
Natasha threw Tulani a look that said,
this is what happens when you do random things. “I didn’t know you were coming sweetie so I already eat.”
“How about you and me grabbing some burgers before going home son?” Tulani suggested.
Sean had won the lotto in his father.
Feeling triumphant, Tulani took his sons hand and led him away. “Will be back before you go on air,” he told Natasha.
“Have fun with your father honey but don’t eat too much junk.”
Natasha had just stepped out of the elevator and was about to head to her office when Luyando stepped in front of her.
“Anything I can help you with, ma’am?” She was as sarcastic in her delivery as could be.
“I guess you are on cloud nine celebrating your little victory in there,” she pointed towards the cafeteria. “How does it feel to have everyone know that you have the son to the heir of this empire?”
Natasha laughed. “It’s a feeling you will never get to experience I guess.”
Luyando pursed her lips in derision. “You think you’ve won the lotto don’t you? Let’s see how long your victory is going to last.” And she started to walk away.
“What exactly do you get from chasing away the women in your brother’s life?”
Luyando stopped, but didn’t turn.
“You want him to remain single for the rest of his life just to satisfy your sick desires even though you are married yourself…even if it’s unhapppily. Don’t you think that’s being selfish? Can’t you see how miserable and unhappy you are making him?”
“What are you, Tulani’s spokesperson?” Luyando retorted, turning to face her. “You suddenly think you are a huge part of his life just because your womb landed a big one, don’t you?” She crossed her hands over her chest.
“Well, let me tell you this, no one knows or understands Tula better than me. I have been with him for over twenty years.”
“Yes, as his sister,” Natasha rudely reminded her. “Unless you are planning on making love to him via Bluetooth, I don’t see the two of you working out.” She then shrugged her shoulders and walked away, leaving Luyando reeling in fury behind.
Just as she had feared, Natasha was the centre of attention when she walked into the pool office of her department on her way to her own office. The looks on everyone’s faces told her everything on their minds and she knew from that point on that they would all be looking at her like that for a very long time.
Just one minute in her office and Astridah came pouring in. “Why didn’t you tell us!?”
Why wasn’t she surprised that it was Astridah that came first?
“Tell you what?” Natasha asked, desperately avoiding her colleague’s gossiping antenna.
“That you are the CEO’s secret girlfriend!” Astridah was excited at the prospect of collecting content for her gossip channel. “And…and you have his child! OMG.”
“This is a place of work Astridah,” Natasha cautioned her big eared friend. “I have no reason to talk about my personal life here…and obviously Tu…I mean, Mr Mulenga had no business bringing my…our son here. You should go back to your desk now. I think there’s a pile of scripts there waiting to be edited.”
“Ah, oh yeah,” Astridah said, looking disappointed but Natasha’s commanding tone was enough to send her out of the room immediately.
Unfortunately for Natasha, Astridah was not the only one that day trying to get a scoop into the story of Tulani and Natasha. Different people that had no business being in her office kept coming and going from her room.
At one point during the day, Chef Michael who never left the kitchen came to her office to find out if she had enjoyed her lunch. Even people that had not spoken to her since she joined the company were now acting like they had been the best of buddies.
Tulani made matters worse for Natasha who desperately wanted to keep her private life private when he walked into the news room just as she was concluding and shouted,
“That’s my girl!” the moment she was off the screen.
Natasha sent him her signature disapproving look and immediately after thanking the crew, she walked passed Tulani and headed straight to her office.
He was right behind her.
“Did I do something wrong again?” He asked once they were in her office.
“Do you forget sometimes that you are the boss here?” She asked him.
“What’s that got to do with anything? Are you trying to tell me that I am not allowed to celebrate when the mother of my child has done a good job?”
“You see, that’s the problem right there; here at TMH I am not the mother of your child, I am your employee.”
“Tasha,” Tulani sat down. “Why don’t you just be honest with me….”
“Why really are you doing this?” He asked.
“Rejecting me, every single turn you just keep rejecting me.” Tulani was stressing every word in the sentence as if to emphasize every single pain in his chest. “Nothing I’ve tried to do is good enough. It’s like you’ve already written me off in your heart.”
“Tulani….” Natasha searched for the right words to say in such a situation but couldn’t find any.
Tulani waited for her to finish but when nothing came, he got up. “Just forget it,” he said and walked out of her office.
Alone, Natasha sunk back into her chair, shutting her eyes and rubbing her fingers over them.
Luyando was in her office pacing to and from whilst on the phone and looking like she was about to explode from whatever the person on the other end of the line was telling her.
“Well, tell him to call me when he’s done with his rounds!” She yelled and cut the line. A few seconds later, her cell rang again.
She answered without even looking at the caller id. “Peter!” She yelled.
“It’s me Lulu.”
“Mum, I’m sorry, I thought you were….”
“Peter?” Ayanda laughed. “Too bad love, it’s only…your mother. What’s wrong? Did you fight with your husband?”
“He hasn’t been home in three days and he hasn’t even bothered to call, not even once. He’s never done this before..” Luyando complained.
“Maybe he’s taken on extra shifts. Doesn’t he work part time at that new hospital as well? Have you tried contacting any of his colleagues?”
“I called the secretary at that other private hospital he works but she told me he hasn’t been there this whole week.”
“What about his colleagues from UTH? Don’t you know any of his friends?” Her mother asked.
“I know some of them…well. I’ve met a couple of them before but I don’t remember their names.”
“That’s the problem with you Lulu, you don’t take a lot of interest in your husband. I’ve told you numerous times to take an interest before you are shocked to find out things that should have been obvious.”
Luyando laughed. “Shocking things?” She asked. “Like what mother? Peter doesn’t have the guts or the time to cheat on me. I am the best thing that’s ever happened to him and he would be a fool to risk that. I am special; I am your daughter after all.”
Ayanda chuckled. “Indeed you are, but just do what I am telling you from now on; take an interest in your husband. He is such a generous and humble soul. There are not many men like that these days.”
“I am going to give him a piece of my mind when he comes back on the radar.”
“That temper of yours,” her mother cautioned her. “But doesn’t he tell you when he’s working nights or extra shifts?
“He usually does but he didn’t tell me this time that’s why am worried.”
“Did you fight the last time you saw each other?”
Luyando didn’t answer, her mind going back to that night when he yelled at her for spending all her free time at her parent’s house.
“Luyando?” Ayanda called her out of her reverie.
“I’m here mum. We had a slight misunderstanding but that’s because he wanted me to apologize for something ridiculous. Sometimes he’s such a cry baby that one.”
“Did you apologize?” her mother asked.
Luyando laughed. “Apologize for what? I never did anything wrong! He was just overreacting. He always takes out his stress on me.”
“Luyando,” Her mother chastised her.
“Why did you call mum?” She quickly changed the topic, sensing that her mother was about to venture into nagging territory.
“Oh yeah, I got carried away when I heard you talk about your husband. Actually,” Ayanda lowered her voice. “I called because there’s a lady here who said she wanted to talk to me and your dad about you.”
Luyando stopped pacing. “What did you say?”
“I said,” she was still whispering. “There is a lady in the living room; she’s waiting for your dad to come back home. He went to that PFP party meeting. They will be choosing a successor tomorrow since ….”
“Mum, mum stop blabbering about that dame party! Who is the lady in the living room?”
“She said her name is Martha.”
“Martha who?” Luyando tried to recall her step mother’s name but nothing came to mind. She had not been interested in knowing who her father was worried to.
“She didn’t say.” Her mother said. “But she seems very nice, very soft-spoken.”
“I’m coming home right now mum.” Luyando said.
“I didn’t call you so you could come home.” Ayanda said.
“I know mum, but I still want to hear whatever it is she has to say about me.” She cut the line before her mother could say anything else, grabbed her handbag and bolted out of the office.
Even though she could not remember her father’s new wife, she suspected that it could only be her who had visited her parents.
“I am going to kill that old man!” Luyando kept hitting her steering wheel over and over again in frustration.
“How dare he send his dame wife to fight his battle? Wait until this is over…I am going to get you for this Bernard Chimeko. You just wait.”
Luyando entered her parent’s house and found the three adults siting in the living room.
“Who are you?” Luyando addressed Martha.
“What kind of manners are these? Sit down young lady!” Her father shouted.
Her body, shuddering from both fury and fear, Luyando went to sit next to her mother.
“Did you tell her to come?” Joshua asked his wife. But Ayanda did not respond. It was clear from his tone that he already knew the answer and he was not pleased.
“You must be Luyando.” Martha was smiling at her husband’s daughter, unable to imagine that a beautiful girl like her would have so much hate towards her own father to threaten im in the manner she was doing. “I was just about to introduce myself to your parents.”
“What do you want?” Luyando asked.
“Lulu!” it was her mother’s turn to put her in line.
Martha chuckled nervously. “I think your daughter already knows who I am. That’s why she’s very nervous.”
Both Joshua and Ayanda turned to give their daughter.
“You know who this woman is?” Her father asked.
Luyando was shaking her head emphatically. “Of course I don’t know her. Why would I know her?”
“Ms…what did you say your name was again?” Joshua turned back to Martha.
“Martha, or you can just call me Mrs Chimeko. I am the wife of Bernard Chimeko…who also happens to be your daughter’s biological father.”
Ayanda’s jaw dropped.
Luyando was gripping her mother’s hand and holding on to it as if for dear life. “He actually did it,” she said, shaking and crying in fear.
“Lulu,” Ayanda turned to her daughter, wiping the tears away with her hand. “What’s wrong honey? What do you mean he actually did it?” And then turning back to Martha, “Look, I don’t think you coming here unannounced is such a good idea. Do you have any idea what your husband did to his daughter? Just look at her.” And turning to her husband, “Honey, are you going to let this lady continue sitting there?”
“He…he…he told me that he…that he was…going to…punish me for…for telling on him.” Luyando said in-between sobs.
“What?” Ayanda asked, sending a warning shot in Martha’s direction.
However, Martha appeared to be unfazed by the female Judas performing in their midst.
And so did Joshua.
“He told me that…that he would take me away from this family…that I didn’t deserve to be happy. He sent her here to take me away. I don’t want to go back to him mum.” Luyando cried, hiding her face into her mother’s b—m.
“Why are you here Mrs Chimeko?” Joshua asked the visitor.
“I came here for two reasons,” Martha confidently replied. “To clear my husband’s name and to ask your daughter…who also happens to be my daughter as well…I came to ask her to stop threatening my husband. Bernard has absolutely no intentions of taking you away from this family.”
“If your husband is innocent, why didn’t he come himself? I think he is a coward for sending his wife instead.” Joshua said.
“I never said my husband sent me here,” Martha candidly informed the three. “He doesn’t even know I’m here. I came because I know he would never come, because that’s what Luyando asked him to do.”
“What are you accusing my daughter of?” Ayanda asked.
“I am not accusing her of anything. I am here to give her a chance to let go of the hate so she can live a peaceful life. If even after what I tell you today you still feel like taking my husband to the police, I will not stop you.
“Bernard is not afraid of anything. If he really is guilty of the things your daughter accused him of doing, I will see to it myself that he’s locked up. But you see, the truth of the matter is that Luyando was never raped. The only sin my husband committed against her was neglecting her at the time when she needed him the most.”
“What do you know?” Luyando snapped at her step-mother. “You were not there! You don’t know anything!”
“Don’t you think it’s time you told your family the truth Luyando?” Martha asked her.
“We’ve been through all this before,” Ayanda said. “Why would you want to put her through such a terrible ordeal again? Don’t you have kids? Don’t you have a heart? Can’t you see what this is doing to her?”
“As a matter of fact, I am here because I am a mother.” Martha answered. “I am here because somehow, thanks to Luyando, this whole situation has affected my own daughter’s life. Has she told you that she and my daughter…who isn’t Bernard’s biology daughter by the way…has your daughter told you that they work together, and that she is the mother of your grandson?”
Joshua and Ayanda gaped at her.
“My daughter Natasha is the mother of Sean. Tulani is the father.”
Ayanda couldn’t believe her ears. “No, it can’t be,” she kept repeating.
“Apart from Luyando here, none of the others are aware of this ridiculous entanglement.”
“Did you just say ridiculous entanglement?” Ayanda asked. “Your husband raped his own daughter. That’s not ridiculous, it’s a sin!”
“I understand why you would believe that,” Martha said. “I also understand that there is no way of proving my husband’s innocence to you, however,”
“There is a way.” Joshua interjected, three pairs of eyes were on him.
“There is a way?” Martha asked, looking extremely curious.
“Joshua!” Ayanda couldn’t believe her husband.
“I heard it from Luyando herself,” Joshua informed the women.
“What are you talking about dad?” Luyando asked her father. She had never spoken to him about the past. She mostly spoke to her mother and to Tulani.
“I kept quiet all these years because I wanted peace in my home.” Joshua said. “Your diary,” he was addressing his daughter. “You remember the diary that you lost?”
Luyando was visibly horrified. That diary. She had wondered when it was going to appear and bite her in the a-s. It appeared the time had finally come. Why had she written in that dame thing?
“Are you talking about the diary that Dr Lucas gave her?” His wife asked. “The one that was lost during our move from Kitwe to Lusaka?”
“Yes that same one,” he answered.
“We looked for it everywhere,” Ayanda said. “There were Lulu’s private thoughts in there. The doctor had asked her to write down all her thoughts as a form of healing that’s why we were so worried someone might have picked it up and read everything. Did you find that diary honey?”
“It was never lost,” Joshua said nonchalantly.
Luyando finally sat up straight. “What do you mean it was never lost?”
“I was carrying your stuff from your bedroom at our old home to take to the truck when the diary dropped.” He informed his daughter. “I was going to close it right away but something on that opened page caught my eye.”
“You read my diary?” Luyando was up on her feet. “Those were my private thoughts, how could you?”
“Luyando don’t talk to your father like that. Sit down.” Her mother instructed.
“I can’t sit here and listen to this anymore.” She picked up her handbag. “I always knew you never liked me,” she told her father. “But how could you do this to me?” she started walking towards the door but her mother ran after her and stopped her.
“Don’t leave like this honey, your father is only upset….” Ayanda tried to reason with her daughter.
“Just look at all you looking at me like am some kind of criminal. If the man that gave me life rejected me, what can I expect from you people?” She pushed her mother’s hand away and stormed out of the house.
Ayanda tried to go after her but her husband menacingly yelled at her to stop. “Come and sit down!” he said, and she did as she was told.
“What will happen if she tries to take her own life? She tried it so many times before. Why are you suddenly doing this Bashi Tula?” Ayanda cried to her husband. “I know she is not your blood but she is our daughter. Would you be doing this if she was your own blood?”
“Don’t raise your voice at me Ayanda,” Joshua thundered. “The only reason that child came into this family was because I felt guilty…. Guilty that I was not around when you suffered a miscarriage and ended up losing your womb. Allowing that girl into the family was the least I could do to show you that I was sorry.”
“But you never even tried to love her, not even once!” his wife accused.
“How can I love her when I knew she was lying? If she could accuse her own father of harming her in the way she said he did, what do you think she would have said about me…or about Tula if something happened to her whilst under our care? That girl is no ordinary girl. She is dangerous.”
“Just what did you read in that diary that’s making you talk like this?” Ayanda asked.
All the while, Martha was seated quietly, listening to their conversation and saying nothing as if she was not even there.
“She wrote everything in that book,” Joshua said. “How she approached us, those cuts and wounds on her body. She did all that to herself.”
“Nooo….” Ayanda cried.
“I still have the diary in my safe. You can read it from page to page if you don’t believe. Her father was a drunk quite alright but he never touched her. All those things were lies to gain sympathy from us. It was the only way she knew to get away from the life of poverty her father was subjecting to, no offence to you madam of course.”
Martha laughed. “The truth is the truth,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” Ayanda asked her husband.
“You were so into the girl the moment you laid eyes on her. I knew the truth would break your heart.”
“Oh my God how can this be happening?”
“I think I should leave and come back some other time.” Martha reminded them of her presence.
“I think that’s a very good idea Mrs Chimeko. Apologies for the way things turned out. If you don’t mind leaving me your husband’s contact information, I would love to have a man to man conversation with him.”
“Are you planning on giving Luyando back to him?” Ayanda asked, crying at the prospect of losing the child she had come to regard as her own for the past twenty years.
“I never said anything like that,” Joshua said sternly. “It is just proper that he and I meet.”
“I agree,” Martha said.
Martha was driving back home thirty minutes later when she received a call from her husband.
“I am on the road heading home Ben. I can’t talk right now.”
“Wherever you are turn around and start coming to Thurston Hospital. I just received a call from someone informing me that Luyando is undergoing surgery.”
“What?” the first thought that crossed Martha’s mind were the last words that Luyando said to them before storming out of the house.
“I am almost at the hospital, you will find me there.” A very frantic Bernard said. Martha had never heard such desperation in his voice before.
“Did they tell you what happened?”
“Accident,” Ben said. “The man who called me said that she tried to commit suicide.”
Martha’s heart dropped. Did I do that ? She thought. Did my visit push her to try and kill herself? She quickly made a U-turn and started driving towards the hospital.
“I am on my way there,” she said.
Ben cut the line.
Thirty minutes later, Martha spotted her husband standing in the hospital lobby reading a note in his hands. She did not see Mr and Mrs Mulenga seated on a bench on the other side of the room.
“Ben,” she called out to him before she could even reach where he was.
Ben slowly lifted his eyes from the piece of paper and looked at his wife in a way he had never done before.
“What have you done?” Martha heard him ask.
“What is it Ben?” she had reached where he was.
Ben handed her the suicide note written by his daughter.
Martha was crying and shaking her head in disbelief as she read the contents of the note.
Two days had gone by and Bernard had not returned home. He had stayed by his daughter’s bed side and refused to take a break so he could go home and freshen up. Martha, sensing that her husband would not be coming home any time soon, she woke up early on a Wednesday morning and prepared to visit the hospital.
“I am coming with you,” Natasha told her mother when she walked into the kitchen.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” Martha was leaning against the kitchen island while she waited for her coffee to be ready.
Natasha sat down on the stool closest to her mother. She still had her night gown on and the weave in her head appeared to have a voice of it’s on, an angry one at that.
“I don’t have much to do this morning,” Natasha informed her mother. “I haven’t been able to sleep these past few days so I’ve spent my nights working on proposals for a show I have to pitch to management next week.”
“Do you think I need protection from your father and Luyando?” Martha asked her daughter. She understood very well why Natasha was offering to accompany her. Even though she had not said a word about her father’s behaviour since Luyando’s suicide attempt, Martha knew that Bernard had lost favour in the eyes of his adopted daughter.
Natasha had a tendency to love hard and to hate as much as she loved. In Natasha’s world, you either loved someone, or you hated someone; there was no middle ground. Those who loved did their best to win and protect the ones they claimed to love and those who didn’t love hurt others.
Bernard had lost points in Natasha’s heart the moment he decided to trust his daughter’s words over the integrity of the woman that had loved and devoted herself to him for the past twenty years.
“I don’t think dad is the kind of person you need to be protected from,” Natasha said. “Of course I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t called us since that incident but…I sort of understand what he’s going through.”
“Then why are your eyes telling me something else?” Her mother asked.
Natasha chuckled. “I trust dad, it’s Luyando I don’t trust. Who knows if her amnesia is real or not? I have never met a conniving person like her in my life. I don’t trust her a bit.”
“How can she lie about that when it might alienate her further from her adoptive family?” Martha asked. “She clearly prefers them over your dad so….”
Natasha scoffed. “You really don’t know her do you? Anyway, I am going with you because I want to check for myself if she really has amnesia.”
Martha walked over to the coffee maker and asked her daughter “You want some?” before pouring some into a mug.
“I will need to fully awake when I see that woman,” Natasha opened the cabinet next to where her mother was standing and took out a huge coffee mug.
Martha laughed as she took the cup from her daughter.
Natasha stopped laughing and was now looking at her mother with a grave expression on her face.
“What is it?” Martha asked, looking extremely perturbed.
“I am just happy to finally see you smile,” her daughter said. “You’ve been so out of it for the past few days that I was starting to think you had fallen back into depression.”
Instead of cheering her up, Natasha’s words seemed to have an opposite effect on Martha. It was as if the wound that had numbed down a bit was awakened again.
Feeling herself slipping back into dangerous territory, Martha blinked away the memories from her past and forced her mind to focus on what was most important at that time; her family.
The mother and daughter pair found Bernard seated in the lobby while Luyando was being attended to by the doctor.
He stood up nervously and could barely look at his family when he saw them approaching.
“Martha…Tasha….” Was all he could say as he tucked his hands into his back pockets.
Natasha surprised him by closing the distance between them and hugging him. “You smell like s–t dad, but I missed you.”
Bernard laughed, thinking how typical of his daughter to not hold a grudge for long. “I’m sorry my love.” He said.
Martha was smiling on the side, silently thanking her daughter for breaking the ice and making what could have been one of the most painful confrontations of her life turn sweet.
“Are you sorry for the smell or for not calling us?” Natasha boldly asked, pulling away from him so she could look him in the eye.
“Both.” Bernard looked like he had lost all life in him in the few days he had been away from home.
It was hard for Martha to look at her husband like that and not want to cry. “How is she?” She asked whilst surreptitiously pushing back the tears.
“She’s much better today,” Ben answered. “She had been refusing to eat for the past days and kept asking for her late mother…but last evening, she eat some of the food the Mulenga’s brought for her.”
“How about you two remain talking while I go in to check on her?” Natasha said with a smile on her face. “I just saw the doctor pass over there, I think they are done with her now.”
“Go ahead, I will join you in a bit,” Martha said, handing her the bag containing breakfast she had prepared for Luyando. “Don’t tell her I prepared that!” Martha shouted after her daughter.
“She doesn’t know who you are right now….” Ben reminded his wife.
“I figured as much,” Martha said, her complexion suddenly turning a shade pale. “What’s your plan going forward? You know you’re gonna have to come home soon…unless of course you….”
“I will come back home Martha,” Ben assured her. He knew what she was about to say and he couldn’t blame her for having doubt in him. It had not taken him long to know he had hurt her real bad the last time they had spoken.
“I am sorry for my behaviour the other day…I don’t even any excuse.” He said.
“How about we go over there and sit for a bit?” Martha pointed to the bench outside on the other side of the hospital, away from the entrance.
“What do you plan on doing about Luyando’s situation?” Martha asked once they were seated outside. “I hear it can take longer, years sometimes for someone to retrieve the memories they have suppressed.”
Bernard sighed. “I have done a lot of thinking for the past days and until last evening, I found a solution to all this.”
Martha’s eyes filled with fear as she waited for her husband to tell her what decision he had made. She could only think of one thing Ben would do in such a situation…and that was to ask for a divorce or separation so he could bond with his daughter who seemed to have lost her memory.
Bernard’s heart broke when he read the fear in his wife’s eyes. What had he done to bring such unhappiness to his family?
Inside the hospital, Natasha paused outside Luyando’s private ward before finally knocking.
“Come in,” she heard someone say.
Natasha slowly opened the door and entered.
Luyando’s eyes opened wide in surprise when she saw who it was but she quickly required from the shock and relaxed her features. “Who are you?” She asked Natasha.
Natasha had not missed a bit. She had seen the look on Luyando’s face the moment she had laid eyes on her and she had also seen the quick recovery.
If you want to play this game, let’s both give it our best shot. She thought as she smiled at her nemesis. Natasha put down the flowers she had bought for her at the store outside the hospital and she opened the bad to remove the packed food in there.
“My name is Natasha,” she said, unpacked the contents from the bag onto the table. When she was done laying out the food, she put the bag down, pulled the chair that was by the wall and sat down closer to the bed.
“I am Tulani’s girlfriend,” she added, closely watching Luyando as windows to her soul contracted into little beady holes of horror. “I heard he’s been here to see you a couple of times already.”
“He never said anything about having a girlfriend,” came Luyando’s icy tone. “Are you sure you not just one of the billions with a crush on him? He did seem like such a charming man, I wouldn’t balme you if you had a little crush on him.”
“For someone who’s lost their memory, you seem to know quite a lot about Tulani whom you never met before…according to the state of your brain right now.”
Luyando shot daggers at her. “He mentioned something about his life in passing when we talked last evening. Do I sense some hostility from you?”
Natasha snickered. “I doubt it. I have absolutely no reason to be hostile with you. I mean, I hardly even know you. You are just someone my boyfriend considers a sister and yours and his family have been close for years I hear…so it doesn’t make sense that I would not like you.
“I just so bad for you that you’ve lost most of your memories. I can’t be easy looking at your own children and not being able to recognize them. I don’t know what I would do if I was ever in a position where I could not recognize my own son.
Oh yeah, I have a son,” Natasha added deliberately. “He’s name is Sean. Tulani is the father. The three of us….”
“I have a slight headache,” Luyando shifted in her bed and closed her eyes. “I don’t feel like eating so you can go back with that food you came with.”
“Do you need me to call the doctor?” There was a mischievous grin on Natasha’s face as she towered over Luyando in feigned concern.
“NO.” Luyando opened her eyes to find Natasha’s face hovering over her. “You should leave, I want to get some sleep.”
Natasha straightened up and folded her hands across her chest. “Tsk tsk tsk,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “I guess it can’t be easy being in-love with your own brother.” Her words were delivered in a whispering tone, as if she was talking to herself but she knew Luyando could hear her.
“Tulani was right when he said you were crazy.”
Luyando opened her eyes wide open. “Tulani would never say something like that about me!” for a person that had been looking broken and unable to move much a few seconds ago, she suddenly looked like she had too much life in her sitting up in bed like that.
“How would you know that?” Natasha asked. “You don’t even know who he is. He told me that he hated having you in his family. How you appeared from nowhere and tried to take his parents away from him.”
“You lying b—h!” Luyando shouted. “Tula would never say that!”
“Oh but he did!” Natasha shouted. “You think he liked having you in their house but it was just pity. You keep holding on to the idea that he might one day tell you that he loves you…because how can he not when he accepted you into his life so easily? But that was never love. It was pity!”
“Tulani loves me!” Luyando shouted back. “He just doesn’t want to admit it because he knows it would break his mother’s heart.”
“Because in his mother’s eyes you two are siblings right?” Natasha said, leaning her head towards Luyando to deliver the point right into her face. “So why not just give up? Why keep waiting for him when he’s never gonna break his mother’s heart for you?”
Luyando scoffed. “I don’t think that’s a problem anymore,” she proudly stated. “He and I are no longer siblings. As of three days ago, I am Bernard’s daughter.”
“You conniving evil vixen,” Natasha cussed. “I knew you were faking it.”
Luyando laughed again. “It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it.” she said smugly. “It’s your word against mine…and who’s going to believe the word of the step-daughter of the man whose real daughter has reappeared after twenty years?
“To everyone, your words will just be those of jealous little thing afraid to lose daddy’s love. I have seen the look in that man’s eyes. He would be willing to eat faeces if I asked him to. I am his number one priority right now. You and your sad little family should prepare to say bye now because I am taking back my father.”
Natasha’s heart went out to her mother. Luyando was right, she silently reasoned. No one would believe her if she told them that Luyando was faking it. Who would believe that a mother of two would go to such lengths just to win the heart of the man she loved…especially when that man happened to be her brother?
Everyone was going to think her petty, jealous and insecure. Natasha had seen first hand how protective of Luyando Tulani was. There was no way he would think her capable of such evil. To him, she was simply a pitiful girl in desperate need of love and attention.
Somehow, Luyando had successfully managed to turn a situation that was dangerously against her and turned it around to work for her.
“I can see you are slowly coming to terms with the new reality….” Luyando said with a smirk on her face. She relaxed her back a bit and rested her head on the pillow. “I invested half my life to get where I am today. I did not spill my own blood twenty years ago for nothing. Don’t think you can just pop up from God knows where and think you can take over my show.”
“You are a married woman,” Natasha said, her eyes filled with disbelief. “For God’s sake you have two children! You are going to pretend you don’t know who they are just so you can be with a man whose been your brother for the past twenty years?”
“Tulani was never my brother!” Luyando replied. “I never thought of him as a brother, not even once. As for the kids, Peter can take care of those brats, they are his kids. He tricked me into getting pregnant. I never wanted to have his children.
“I know that it might take a while for Tulani to adjust but I know that once his mother comes to grip with the new reality, she will have no trouble accepting me as her daughter in-law because she will never accept losing me as a daughter.”
“No,” said a voice from behind them.
Natasha and Luyando turned to find Ayanda standing by the door.
“Mum,” Luyando tried to sit up but she had moved too fast she ended up disturbing her surgery wound. She winced in pain and stopped moving.
Ayanda walked into the room, the tears that had welled up in her eyes for the past three minutes since she had been standing by the door finally rolled down her cheeks but not once did she shift her gaze from Luyando.
“How…how could you?” Ayanda asked.
“Mum…it’s only a misunderstanding…please….” Luyando stuttered. “It’s not…it’s not…what it you….” she reached out her hand and tried to touch her mother who was now standing next to Natasha but Ayanda flinched and stepped back, away from her.
The heart wrenching look on Ayanda’s face told Luyando that it was all over for her. Unable to move, the only thing she could do was cry.
“I am sooorrrry,” Luyando cried, one hand clasping the side of her stomach. “I am so sorry mum.”
“Don’t call me that,” Ayanda said sternly. “I could forgive the lies about your father but this…this is something else. How can you do this to your own children? To your husband? To us?”
Luyando was crying so hard and desperately clasping her side in pain that the machine on the other side of the bed started beeping.
A minute later, the doctor was in the room and Natasha was leading Ayanda out, her arm over her shoulder to steadily lead her to the nearest seat, a bench towards the far end of the corridor.
Ayanda sat down and hang her head in resignation. Natasha rushed to the end of the hallway and poured some water for Ayanda from the dispenser. She rushed back and handed the shaken up woman the cup.
Ayanda gulped down the contents at once and sighed heavily.
“What’s going on here?” It was Martha who had asked. She was in the company of Joshua, Ben and Tulani.
“Tasha?” an astound Tulani said before going over to his mother. “Are you feeling sick mother?”
Looking up at her son, Ayanda broke down in tears again. She wrapped her arms around his legs and sobbed.
Tulani sent a puzzling look in Natasha’s direction.
Natasha could not bring herself to explain what had just happened. She wasn’t even sure how much Ayanda had heard.
So, she shrugged her shoulders.
“She hasn’t been able to sleep since the accident. Could be the stress is finally getting to her.” Joshua commented.
“How could that girl do this to us?” Ayanda said in-between sobs. She had removed her head from Tulani’s legs and was now looking up at her son.
“She said she’s in-love with you!”
“What?” Tulani asked, shocked by the unexpected development. He was looking at Natasha again but she was shaking her head profusely to declare her innocence in the matter. Clearly, his mother wasn’t talking about her.
“Who’s in-love with…oooh.” Martha stopped herself in time.
Ayanda suddenly stood up. “She’s not sick! She hasn’t lost her memories!” She wailed, pointing towards Luyando’s room.
Bernard and Martha shared knowing looks while Joshua looked appeared unfazed by the shocking news. Tulani was the only one who appeared to have received the news for the first time.
“You all knew?” Ayanda eyes searched the face of each person standing before her, disgusted by the sudden realization that she might have been the only person who had no idea the woman she called her daughter for the past twenty years was deceiving her to such an extent.
“How could you not tell me she was faking it?” Ayanda cried.
“I only found out last evening,” Bernard said.
“And he is just from telling me.” Martha chipped in.
“I knew it from the very beginning.” Joshua remarked unapologetically. “How did you find out?”
“I heard her telling this young lady here….” She was pointing at Natasha. “Are you my grandson’s mother?” Ayanda finally realized who Natasha was.
“Are you saying that Luyando faked her amnesia?” Tulani asked.
Just then the doctor appeared from Luyando’s room. He spotted the family standing in the distance and started walking towards them.
“She was too stressed so I gave her a sedative to calm her down. She’s sleeping now. In future, it would be better if….”
“What happened?” A very concerned Ben asked the doctor.
“She must have been agitated by something,” Doctor Soko answered, looking accusingly at Ayanda and Natasha.
“I’m going back home.” Ayanda announced and left the group in stunned silence.
“I have the car keys,” Joshua said, glad to have an excuse to leave as well. He had been dragged to the hospital against his will.
“I will go in and see her,” Ben said, leaving before anyone could say anything. Martha quietly followed him behind, leaving a visibly shocked Tulani and a worried Natasha behind.
“Are you okay?” Natasha asked Tulani, guiding him back to the bench behind them.
Tulani sat down. “What happened Tasha? How did mum find out about Lulu’s feelings? And what’s this about her faking the amnesia? I don’t understand.”
Natasha sat down. “Your mother overheard Luyando and I talking. We both had no idea she had been listening.” She explained. “I knew Lulu was faking the amnesia the moment I walked into the room and we locked eyes.
“For someone who had never seen me before, the intensity of her hostility towards me was too much for someone who has never seen me before. Of course she tried to pretend but I provoked her into losing her cool and she ended up spilling everything.
“She didn’t mind telling me the truth because she thought no one would believe me. it would be my word against hers and naturally people would be inclined to believe the patient over the accuser. Unfortunately, I was not her only audience…your mother had heard the whole thing, well, at least most of it I think. I am not sure how long she had been standing there.”
“What exactly did Lulu say that made mum so upset?” Tulani asked.
“She talked about how she spilt her own blood to get into your family and how she wasn’t going to let me take you or anything else away from her. She said in no uncertain terms that she was in-love with you. I think that’s what shocked your mother more than the realization that Luyando was faking everything.
“She was probably shocked that Luyando was doing all these things…even risking losing her own children just so she could be with you. I don’t think your mother had any idea Luyando might feel that way about you but it appeared your dad knew all along.”
“How could my mother know?” Tulani asked. “She was too busy getting excited about the idea of having a daughter that loved her like the whole world revolved around her to notice what was happening on the sides.
“Luyando was also careful not to let anything slip especially when we were at home. Mum took her over concern in my personal life as simply an elder sister looking out for her little brother. If at all the thought occurred to mum, she probably brushed it off as ludicrous.”
“And your dad, how did he know?” Natasha asked.
“My father became a rich man at a very tender age so he’s learnt over the years that people are not always what they seem. He’s had to be protective of who surrounds him and the family and he always questions everyone that tries to get close.
“He had always been suspicious of Luyando…he said the timing when she approached us was just too perfect for coincidence,” he laughed. “Unfortunately, by the time he found the diary, mum had already grown attached to Luyando.”
“What about you? You never suspected that she could have lied about her father? We never got to talk about your reaction when your dad revealed that he had read her diary.”
“I never suspected anything of course,” he answered. “I was just as shocked as my mother that day. but after knowing Lulu for so many years, I think both my mother and I looked at the whole thing as simply Luyando’s desperation to be loved by someone.
“She’s been a part of us all these years and I genuinely loved her like a sister, I still do. Just because these things have come out does not mean I have to turn my back on her. I know most people won’t understand…but I wish you would. Do you think you can?”
“I think you are forgetting one thing Tula; Luyando is my sister too.” She reminded him.
“Ah!” Tulani said. “I forgot about that. This whole thing is crazy eish. I hope it won’t affect our marriage, no, I won’t let it affect us. I refuse to let it get in our way. If our parents try to give us a hard time, what do you think about eloping? After we already have a child, there’s no escaping this. It’s just a matter of signing a piece of paper.”
Tulani was too deep making mental calculations concerning the future that when he finally turned to look at Natasha for a response, he found her gaping at him in incredulity.
“What?” Tulani asked.
“Did you even hear yourself?” She asked him.
“I heard myself loud and clear.” Tulani was as unapologetic in his delivery as he was in his love for her. “Go out on a date with me Tasha, please. We haven’t sat down to talk just the two of us since you came. Aren’t you scared that another girl might steal me away from you?”
“Human beings don’t get stolen Tula; they leave on their own.”
“But you will still go out with me right?”
The look that Natasha was sending him was clearly asking him; have you no shame? But Tulani did not look like he was ashamed of the fact that he was shameless.
“What do you think is going to happen to Luyando?” Natasha changed the topic. “Where’s her husband by the way?”
“Peter,” Tulani said. “He was here a few days ago and hasn’t been since. He thinks that Lu’s suicide attempt was selfish…that a mother shouldn’t be so self-centred. It was the first time I was him upset. He’s such a soft-spoken guy. But I think he’s also mad that Luyando had erased him and the kids from her memory like they were not that important.”
“He’s a medical doctor,” Natasha said. “What if it was real amnesia? I don’t think amnesia is something that occurs just because someone instructs their brain to forget. Doesn’t the brain do that on its own as a coping mechanism?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. I think that the two of them were having problems way before this thing happened. I wonder what will happen now if…when he finds out the reason why she faked amnesia.”
After Martha, Natasha and the Mulenga’s left the hospital, Bernard remained behind to stay with his daughter when she wakes up. Two hours had passed and Luyando had not woken up.
Worried that something might be happening to his daughter, Ben went out to get the doctor and when he came back, he found Luyando gone.
For the second time, his daughter had run away from him.
* * *
Tulani had just finished talking on the phone with his son and was getting ready for bed when he heard a knock on the door. He dressed up again and went to check who might be visiting at such an ungodly hour.
He was half-way though the living room when he realized it might be Luyando. He quickly rushed to the door and the video intercom by the side immediately confirmed his suspicions before he even opened the door.
Tulani opened the door to a dishevelled and disoriented looking Luyando.
“Where the hell have you been?” Tulani asked her right away. “We’ve been looking for you the whole day. Thought you went and did something crazy again.”
“Aren’t you going to let me in?” Luyando asked, sounding too calm for someone as headstrong as her.
Tulani stepped aside to let her in.
“Can you give me something warm to wear? I’m feeling very cold?” She went and sat down on the sofa. She was clearly shaking from the coldness of the night.
“Let me get you something,” He said, turning to leave and then stopping suddenly. “The remote for the AC is over there,” he pointed to the sofa next to the one she was sitting on.
Two minutes later, he appeared with a thick coat and a small blanket in his arms and handed it to her.
“Where the hell where you?” Tulani had sat on the arm of the other sofa, facing her. “Your father has been searching everywhere for you. He’s worried sick, we all were.”
“That man doesn’t care about me,” Luyando said when she was done putting on the coat. “He’ll probably be happier when I’m gone. It’s only guilt that’s making him act like that.”
“You shouldn’t be here Lu, your husband is probably waiting for you to come home right now. Your kids haven’t seen you for days.”
“I Just came from home right now,” she told him, a strange smile on her face. “I found Peter packed all his stuff and that of the children. They’re all gone. Left a note with just one line; I hope your brother makes you happy.”
“Is that why you decided to come here instead? shouldn’t you be out there looking for your family?”
Luyando laughed. “Good riddance to bad rubbish. I was gonna leave him anyway.”
“And what about the kids? Don’t you at least care about them?” At this point in time, Tulani had been forced to come a deep understanding of how his sister’s mind worked. If it wasn’t going her way, it wasn’t worth being in her life. But he still hoped that that wouldn’t be the case with her children.
“They are better off being with their father. you and I both know I was a terrible mother. Those kids don’t like me. They cry whenever I hold them in my arms and they go quite when held by the nanny. Being with their father is the best thing that can happen to them.”
Tulani was almost tempted to conquer with her. He had seen her with her children; it was the first time in his life he had seen children reject the affections of their own mother. At first he had reasoned that it could be because Luyando was always at work and rarely had tie to bond with them, but after everything that had happened, it had become distinctively clear that there had never been a bond between them to begin with.
“So is your plan to spend the night here instead?” Tulani asked her in a very serious tone.
“Where else can I go? My parents don’t want to have anything to do with me, my father’s family won’t even think about taking me in and frankly I wouldn’t even go to them if the world was crushing down on me.
“I couldn’t stay alone in that big house…and am still sick…so, you were the only person I know would welcome me. You know very well that I have no friends. You’ve always been my only friend.”
Tulani again had to accept that that was the hard truth; he was Luyando’s only friend. If he kicked her out right then, only God knew what she was likely to do.
“Alright,” Tulani made his decision. “You can sleep in the guest room.”
It was the best news Luyando had heard that day. “I can’t believe I finally get to sleep at your place. I guess something good had to happen out of all this drama.” There was a triumphant smile on her face, like a marathon running successfully crossing over the white line.
“I’ll be back in a bit,” Tulani said and left the room to go upstairs.
Luyando was beaming with happiness. She was finally getting rewarded for all the hardwork and pain she had had to suffer through. It Tulani thought that he could resist her even when she stood naked in front of him, then he had another thing coming.
“Tonight I seize to be your sister…little brother.” She whispered to Tulani’s back as he walked up the stairs.
Luyando made herself comfortable on the couch, stretching her legs out and covering herself with the blanket Tulani had brought for her. She turned on the TV as she waited for him to come back downstairs, a wide grin on her face.
Five minutes later, Tulani appeared.
Luyando sat up the moment she saw him. “Are you feeling that cold too?” Tulani was now wearing a coat over his t-shirt.
“I’m going out,” he announced.
“What do you mean you are going out?” Luyando asked. It was then that she noticed his shoes. He hadn’t been wearing shoes when he opened the door.
“I am not a child Lu, I know very well why you are here.” Tulani said.
“What are you talking about?” Luyando feigned innocence.
“There’s everything in the house, I think.” Tulani said. “I am going to sleep at Kendrick’s place. It would be foolish for the both of us to sleep under the same roof…after everything that’s happened.”
And he turned to leave.
Luyando jumped from the chair and ran after him. He placed herself in front of the door to block him from leaving. “You are not going anywhere,” she said, almost sounding out of breath.
“Move out of my way Lu,” Tulani deliberately hardened his voice.
“No, I am not going to let you leave this house Tula. Why are you running away from me? Are you scared that you might not be able to fight me now that you have me here in your house, at this hour?”
Tulani was looking at her like he would a child begging him for change on the streets of Lusaka.
“You are not in your right mind Lu, I think you should just go to bed.”
“I have never been as clear headed as I am right now!” She yelled. “Tula,” she placed her hands over his chest but he immediately peeled them off and gently pushed her to the side.
He had just opened the door to leave when he heard something rip behind him. He quickly turned to check.
The coat she had been wearing was lying on the ground and her dress was ripped apart from the middle.
Luyando’s body was completely exposed in the front…and she had not been wearing anything under her dress.
“Do you think your neighbours would hear me if I screamed loud enough?” she asked Tulani.
Tulani could not believe what was happening in his own house. If before he had doubts about Luyando’s state of mind, he was now convinced beyond reasonable doubt that she was in desperate need of psychological help.
“I wonder what will happen to TMH’s stock on the market when it’s revealed that the CEO tried to rape his own sister?”
Something broke inside Tulani and he felt a tear run down his face.
He walked over to where Luyando was standing, bent down to pick up her coat and wrapped it around her.
“What do you think you are doing?” Luyando asked bemusedly. “I must look like a joke to you. Do you think I am bluffing?”
Tulani zipped her up in his coat and took a step back from her. “I don’t think you are bluffing,” he said. “I truly believe that you are going to scream loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear.”
“Are you patronizing me?” Luyando asked, her pride down on the ground. Without warning, she started screaming.
Tulani watched in stunned horror as she unzipped the coat and dropped it back on the floor. She ruffled her hair with her hands, bending up and down to make sure her screams were coming out as loud as possible and like a mad woman she started throwing things around the house, anything she could get her hands on.
The neighbourhood dogs were now barking in full force and ready for attack.
It appeared Luyando had succeeded in waking up the whole neighbourhood.
All the while, Tulani watched in silence, his arms crossed over his chest. “I’m leaving now.” He announced nonchalantly. “You can tell the neighbours whatever you wish to say.” He started walking to the door and just before exiting; he stopped and turned to look at her.
“Ah,” he said. “I forgot to mention, don’t forget to smile for the camera.” He pointed to the huge chandelier hanging above her. “Dad’s idea,” he said, smiling and shrugging his shoulders at the same time.
“Arhhhuhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” Luyando screamed and threw a flower vase at him.
But Tulani had already left the house.
As the flower vase and Tulani’s glass door became one in pieces, Luyando broke down to the floor and cried her heart out.
Like the broken glass on the floor in front of her, Luyando’s world had crushed into tiny pieces that could never be mended
“How can I be mad at the love of my life?” Natasha asked her son.