“She is way too bossy than the CEO himself.” Astridah supplied and under her breath she added, “but we all know she aint no blood relative.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Natasha asked.
Astridah held her hand over her mouth. “You heard that?”
“We all did.” Boyd answered. “You need to watch what falls out of your mouth Astridah. You never learn.”
“I think she’s forgotten about the trouble she was in with Becky from Finance last month.” Nicole chipped in.
“You guys are too much!” Astridah got up in anger, carried her plate and went to join the people on the next table.
“You better watch what you say or do in Astridah’s presence,” Boyd warned Natasha. “Her broadcasting signals are stronger than the frequencies of all the stations in this country, combined.”
Nicole laughed and Natasha smiled uncomfortably, realizing at that moment that she wouldn’t be getting much information from the two remaining. Fortunately for her, she managed to catch Astridah just as she was leaving for work outside the TMH building.
“Need a ride?” She asked the assistant through the window.
“I live in Avondale,” Astridah shouted.
“Hop in, my home’s in Foxdale. I can leave you somewhere along the way.” She reached out and opened the door for her.
“Wow, you are very kind Ms Thompson.” Astridah said as she got into the vehicle. “I always thought that pretty people like you were cold hearted…like someone I know.” She added under her breath and quickly shushed herself.
Natasha laughed. “You are talking about Ms Mulenga right? I take it you are not a fan of hers?”
“I don’t want to say anything,” Astridah said. “You heard what the guys said about me.”
“I saw a ring on her finger, is she married?”
“Yes she is married but she doesn’t talk much about her husband and she rarely appears with him in public. In fact, she prefers to be called Ms Mulenga instead of Mrs Liboma.”
“What does he do for a living?”
“He is a doctor at the University Teaching Hospital. He is not very god looking so I guess that’s why she prefers showing up on the arm of her handsome brother at every public event but I hear he is a very good man, humble and kind-hearted. Why do all the good men end up with such terrible women?”
Something about Astridah’s tone told Natasha that there was more to the story than what the twenty-five year old was letting on.
“What are you trying to say Astridah?” Natasha asked.
Astridah hesitated, but when the pressure of keeping the information to herself, she finally broke down and said; “Promise that you won’t tell anyone that I told you this?”
“I promise,” Natasha said.
“There is a rumour going around that Luyando and the CEO are not biologically related. People say that she was adopted…and that she…she…that she is actually in-love with her brother.”
Natasha busted out laughing. “And you believe that nonsense Astridah?” She asked.
“Yes, I actually think it’s true.” The girl admitted. “You should see the way she treats any girl that tries to get close to him, you would think she was his wife.”
“But that doesn’t mean she’s in-love with him,” Natasha said. “I think I am protective of my kid brother too. I always question the girls I find hanging around him and I investigate some of their activities on social media. He hates that and he’s always threatening to kill me when he catches me doing it.”
Natasha started laughing as an image of her angry nineteen year old brother Alex chasing her around the house with a broom in his hands came to mind.
“I have seen the look in her eyes and am telling you…that’s no sibling love that lies behind those cold dark eyes.” Astridah insisted.
By the time Natasha was dropping Astridah off, she had been brought up to date with all the office gossip and had learnt more about Tulani than she had learnt in the past four years.
Tulani was surprised by a visit from his sister Luyando later that evening.
“Aren’t you supposed to be preparing dinner for your family right now sis? What are you doing here?” He went to sit back on the sofa where he had been resting, catching up on Season 5 of Suits before the interruption.
“What is going on between you and that girl I met in your office Tula?” She asked him, pushing his feet away so she could sit next to him.
Tulani turned to look at her in awe. “Is that why you came to my place this late?”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“That’s because it’s none of your business. You need to go back home before your husband starts to worry.” He got up to get the door for her.
“Is she the one you said you were waiting for all these years?” She asked, getting up from the sofa as well.
Tulani opened the door and held it wide open for her. “I’m serious sis, it’s late. You need to head home now.”
“Why are you avoiding my questions?”
“I told you, it’s none of your business sis. I am a grown man, you don’t need to know every little thing that goes on in my life.”
“Why are you pretending like you don’t know why I’m asking you these questions?”
“Because I want to save you some dignity.” He said.
“Dignity?” She asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I am not comfortable having this kind of conversation with you again.”
“Is that what you think my feelings amount to?”
There were tears streaming down her eyes now.
“C’mon sis,” Tulani said upon noticing the tears. “Don’t start this again.” He walked over to her and put his arms around her.
After soothing her for a while, Tulani was about to release his sister from his arms when she suddenly grabbed the sides of his face and drew him closer to her. Before he knew it, she was passionately kissing him.
“Oh no….” Natasha said, holding her hand over her mouth and gaping in disbelief at the two people in front of her locked in each other’s arms and kissing like a pair of lovers.
“Oh s–t,” Tulani cussed and quickly reaped himself away from his sister. “This isn’t what it looks like Tasha.” Even as he said the words, he could imagine the thoughts going through Natasha’s mind and he could hear just how ridiculous his own words sounded.
“Oh please, do explain.” Natasha said sarcastically. There was a glint of a smile in her eyes as she looked over at Luyanda who was soaking wet in shame and embarrassment.
What the hell are you doing at your boss’ house at this time of the night?” Luyando asked Natasha.
“Obviously nothing close to what you are just from doing …to your brother .” She said with a taunting smile on her face. “Relax Tula,” She said to Tulani, inviting herself into the house and patting him on the shoulder.”I totally understand whatever is going on here; it appears your married sister , is in-love with you.”
“I knew I was going to hate you the moment I laid my eyes on you.” Luyando said curtly.
Natasha laughed. “The feeling is mutual Lu…I can call you Lu now since we are not at the office right? You are after all my ex- boyfriend’ssister.”
“Ex-boyfriend?”Luyando looked to her brother for confirmation.
The proud grin on Tulani’s face confirmed her worst fears.
Tulani had not expected Natasha to be the first one to reveal their romantic past, especially in such a bold manner. Hestill had nightmares about their last encounter in San Francesco…thecold and unflinching conviction in her eyes when she told him she wouldn’t be seeing him anymore.
Natasha turned to Luyando. “I would like to have a private conversation with your brother . Do you mind leaving us alone?”
Without uttering another word, Luyando grabbed her purse from the couch and stormed out of the house, banging the glass door on her way out.
With his hands in his pockets, Tulani went to position himself in front of Natasha, and looking into her eyes he said;
“Ex-boyfriend?I didn’t think I counted as an ex. I thought I was just some fling you couldn’t wait to get rid of…something to keep you company while you waited for your husband to set himself straight.”
“That’s unfair Tula,” Natasha said, moving away from him so he could not see her reaction.
“I still remember every single detail of that day Tasha.” He said. “I can even recite the words you said in my sleep.”
He was looking at her back while she looked out the window into the darkness outside.
“I am getting back with my husband, I am very sorry Tula.” She had told him whilst crying.
“You can’t be serious!” Tulani had snapped. “That b—–d cheated on you for two years and he is as responsible for your daughter’s death as the man that bashed her outside that school.”
“Stop it Tula!” She had shouted at him. “Stop it!”
“You need to hear this Tasha. It doesn’t make sense that you would go back to the man that hurt you like that. He was s——g another woman while his daughter, your daughter was lying dead on some street somewhere. Your daughter died whilst looking for him on that street Tasha but where was he?”
Unable to bear the pain of his words anymore, Natasha slapped him hard across the face before running out of the restaurant.
“It still stings you know, your slap?” Tulani said to Natasha who still had her back to him. He was caressing his cheek where she had slapped him four years ago.
Natasha slowly turned to face him. “You deserved to be slapped that day you know.”
“I know,” he admitted. “I had gone overboard in my anger…I guess I was just too hurt to think rationally…but there’s no excuse for the awful things I said to you. I am sorry Tasha…I know it’slate but, I apologize.”
“It’sall in the past,” she said, moving towards the sofa and tracing her fingers over the edges as she moved about the room. “You have a beautiful home…as expected.”
“What are you doing here Tasha?” He had walked over to her and held her by the sides of her arms to keep her from moving.
“Do you not want me here Tula?” She asked him, looking straight into his eyes.
“I do, of course I do! Gosh, is that even a question?” He drew her closer to him and wrapped his arms around her.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Natasha said, pushing him away to take a seat on the couch.
“You haven’t stopped with your teasing I see.” Tulani went to sit down next to her. “Something tells me you are here for a reason. The Natasha I know wouldn’t have just popped up at my door unannounced the way you did. Is everything okay?”
Natasha laughed. “Of course everything’s fine. How come you never told me you were once married?”
“Did you just say ooh ?”
“I apologize, again. I didn’t think it mattered. I was married to Cynthia for only about a year when we decided to go our separate ways. I had been single for over two years when I met you in San Francisco.”
Tulani turned to fully look at her. “You came to my house at this hour to ask about my marriage?”
“You know how I am already,” she answered. “If somethingis bothering me, I can’t sleep till I get it out or solve it.”
“So you were bothered by it?” He asked. “Do you even know the meaning of your words Tasha?” There was a huge grin on his face as he watched the flashed expression on her face.
He lifted her chin up so she could not avoid his gaze. “When are you going to stop fighting your feelings and just admit that you love me too?”
She tried to get away from him again but he tightened his grip on her arms.
“I only came here to ask a question and since you answered it, I better be on my way now.” She tried to get up, again….but she failed, again.
“Askme anything you are curious about and I will answer it as honestly as possible.” He said.
“Why did you break up with your wife?” She asked.
“You went straight for the big one!” He said and laughed. “I guess I asked for it. Cynthia and I were at two different points in our lives. I was very young when we got married…just like you and your ex- husband.
“She wanted us to start a family right after the wedding but I was only twenty-three then and certainly not ready to start a family yet. But Cynthia was very determined and wouldn’t stop pressuring me throughout our marriage. I snapped one day and asked her for a divorce.”
“Andshe gave you one just like that?” Natasha asked.
“Of course not,” he replied. “She fought me all the way to court, said she wanted half my property and that’s when I realized she never really loved me. She was too quick to bring up the money the moment I mentioned divorce.
Most women would beg for a second chance to try and work things out but not Cynthia. She looked me in the eye and told me she was gonna get me for every penny I owned.”
Tulani laughed. “Of course not, I didn’t have anything to my name at that time. Everything I had belonged to my parents; the money, the cars, and the houses. Oooh…she was not pleased.” He broke out in laughter.
“She attacked me at the club once and threatened to chop my manhood into pieces, said I had deceived her into believing I was rich. I did no such thing. She naturally assumed my parent’smoney was as good as mine but she was dead wrong.”
“So what are your thoughts on kids now? Do you still feel like you are not ready?” Natasha held her breath as she waited to hear his response.
“I don’t know,”he answered. “I have never really thought about it. Do you want kids Tasha? Because if you do, then I am open to start considering it.”
“Start considering it?”
“You seem dissatisfied with my answer,” he said. “I promisedto be as honest as possible with you. Would you have rather I lied?”
“Of course not.” Natasha stood up. “I am happy you answered me honestly.”
“Your tongue is saying something else but your eyes are telling me something else….”
Natasha chuckled nervously.“You are thinking too much Tula. I need to leave now, my parents will be worried if am home late on the first day of work.” she started walking towards the door.
Tulani got up and rushed to the door before she reached it. “I have a feeling I just shot myself in the leg but I am not yet sure why that could be the case.” He was standing against the door to keep her from leaving before he was ready to let her go.
“I told you, you think too much. I guess am just tired. It’sbeen a while since I worked… two months I think. My brain must be in shock since it was stretched too much today.” And to distract him from asking any more questions, she planted a light kiss on his cheek and said goodnight.
“You know exactly what to do to get your way with me Tasha.” He moved away to allow her to pass. “You are the only woman who has such a power over me you know that?” He said as he walked her to her car.
“There’sreally no need for you to escort me, I can take care of myself.”Natasha said.
“Oh yeah, I remember the kick you landed on my balls when I tried to chat you up at my welcome party in SanFran. Gosh, where did you learn to kick like that?”
They had reached her car by now but she stopped to answer his question before opening the door.
“My mother, she made me take martial arts classes and all other types of defensive classes to protect myself. Mymother believes that a woman does not need a man to make her feel secure. She says sometimes the very people we trust to protect us are the ones that might end up hurting us.”
“Your mother is a very wise woman…but tell her to lighten up a bit.” Tulani said.
Natasha laughed. “That’s exactly what I always tell her.” She then opened her door and sat behind the wheel.
Rolling down her window, she said, “I forgot to ask you something….”
“What is it?” Tulani said.
“Do your parents know….aboutyour sister’s feelings?”
“Oh no…they have no idea and,” he came to stand closer to her, his body leaning against the car with his head tilted forward into the car. Natasha had to draw her head away to keep his from bumping into her.
“…if you were anyone else,” Tulani continued. “I would ask that you don’t tell anyone about what you heard and saw today.”
Natasha chuckled. “You trust me that much?”
“I do. I guess you’ve already heard the rumours concerning Lu and me….”
“That you are not biologically related?”
“Yes,” he said. “That may be the case but that doesn’t change her position in my family and in our hearts. I love her like I would a blood sister. I don’t care what biology dictates, Luyando will always be my sister.”
“I don’t think the issue has got anything to do with biology Tula. If anything, I think Luyando would like it better if you didn’t love her like that.”
“Luyando isn’t in-love with me,” Tulani said with a sombre expression on his face. “Somewhere along the way she started to confuse my kindness for something else… and who can blame her?
“Before she came into our lives, she had lived a very sorry and bitter life and she had no idea what kind of love or care she could receive from people she considered family since she had been emotionally and physically abused by her father.”
“Her father abused her?” Natasha asked. “What kind of abuse?”
“Everything you can think of, that girl went through.” Tulani answered. “Child abuse, violence, rape….”
“Rape!?” Natasha gasped. “Her own father did that to her?”
“Yes. After my parents officially adopted her, she had to undergo years of counselling because of the nightmares she would have about her father.Up until she was about thirteen years old was when my mother stopped sleeping in her room. She would wake up crying and screaming in the middle of the night.
“I know it sounds crazy now but…there were moments when I thought my parents cared more about her than they did me but I later understood that she needed all the care she could get in the world. So when you see her acting out or being nasty, try to understand her.She’sbeen through a lot.”
“I really had no idea….” Natasha said.
“No one knows that’s why it’s easy for them to spread rumours. I told you about it because I intend to make you a part of my family, soon.”
“Good night Tula. See you tomorrow at work…and thank you for telling me.”
“Good night my love, see you tomorrow and say hi to your parents for me.”
Natasha made a throaty sound and rolled up the window before driving off.
Tulani remained standing on spot waving at her until her vehicle disappeared from sight.
“I’m home!” Natasha announced the moment she opened the door and entered the house.
“Mum is home!” shouted the four year old boy as he ran towards his mother. Before Natasha could put down her handbag, her son had wrapped his little arms around her legs in excitement and almost made her lose her balance.
“Oh my God you are soaking wet Sean!” She said, bending down to lift him up into her arms. “What were you doing?”
“I was setting up the laundry in the basement when your mother called me for something upstairs….”Bernard appeared from where Sean had come from. “When I went back, I found this little man here had put his hands where they didn’t belong.”
“That’s because grandpa doesn’t want to teach me how to use the machine so I can do my own laundry,” Sean complained.
“Look at you complaining like someone infringed on your rights,” Natasha laughed and put him back down. Sean was out of the room and back into the basement the moment his feet landed on the ground.
“That boy will be the death of me dad,” she said. “Now lookwhat he’sdone to my clothes.” She was pointing at the stains Sean had left on her white blouse.
Bernard laughed. “He is the light of our lives but he can be quite a handful sometimes. How was your first day at work honey?” He sat down on the couch and turned down the volume on the tele so he could have a good conversation with his daughter.
Natasha went to sit down next to him. She grabbed a small cushion from the sofa, laid it on his laps and resting her head there, stretching her long legs forward.
“Look at the two of you,” Martha came down the stairs bearing a huge smile on her face as she looked at her husband and daughter cosying up on the sofa.
“Sit over there mother,” Natasha pointed to the couch across from them. “Dad is mine for now. He’s helping me de-stress, I had such a rough day at work.” Her father was massaging the sides of her forehead.
“Already?” Martha asked, ignoring her daughter’s words and going to take a seat on the same sofa. Shelifted her daughter’s legs up, sat down and put them back on her laps, massaging them a little, up and down.
“When I tell my friends that I have the best parents in the world, they think I’m lying. Oooh that feels so good. I think I am going to sleep here tonight.” She closed her eyes to enjoy the massage. “Alex would feel so jealous if he walked in here and saw this. He is such a mama’s boy.”
“Andyou are such a papa’sgirl,” her mother said. “Did you talk to your brother today?”
“Not yet,” Natasha said. “I will call him before going to bed. God knows what he’s up to alone over there. Remind him about using condoms again dad. That boy is too excited for nothing.”
Bernard laughed. “All boys are like that at that age sweetie. He will calm down with time.”
“What if it’s too late?” Natasha asked. “He’sso obsessed with older women that child. At least if they were younger, we wouldn’t have to worry about them ovulating nd turning their eggs into relatives of ours.”
Bernard lightly patted her forehead and forced her to sit up. “Get up and tell us about your day and stop making trouble for your brother.”
Not happy that her relaxation therapy was cut short, Natasha mumbled something under her breath in protest and sat up between her parents. “It wasn’t that bad actually,” she said.
“I thought that it wouldn’t be as busy as it was in San Francisco but its crazy busy as well. I think people in this country care more about political drama than anything else. Eighty-nine percent of the news content is just politics, politics, politics. I am yet to decide if that’s a good thing or not….”
“How about your co-workers,were they friendly?” Her mother asked.
“Yes, everyone was friendly,” She lied. Natasha knew that telling her mother about the antagonistic and villain-like Luyando would only make her have unnecessary worries. “I know it’s just the first day but I think people aren’t as scheming as they were back home.”
“So when are you going on air?” Bernard asked.
“Next week, I still have to get inducted into the system and see how everything works before I can go live.”
“Do you think you will like it here?” Martha asked. “Aren’t you going to regret leaving your life behind?”
Natasha took her mother’s hand and kept holding it until she finished talking. “You worry too much mother. I am going to be just fine. You are the one who always told me that if I had to suffer or die, it was better to be amongst my people…but I am not suffering anymore and I didn’tleave my life behind, I came with it here.
“I have made some wild and childish decisions in the past but I want to give my son the life that he deserves. I am done being a coward.”
“So when do you plan on….”
Natasha stood up and held her hand up to keep her father from finishing his sentence. “I know what you want to ask but, not just yet…but soon.”
“We trust you Tasha,” he said. “We know you are going to do the right thing.”
“We do,” her mother agreed.
“I am hungry now, is there anything to eat?” She started walking towards the kitchen. “I swear I could smell something delicious…something Chinese when I walked into the house.” She started opening pots.
Bernard got up and followed his daughter into the kitchen.
“Dad you didn’t!” She finally spotted an already served dish covered at the far end of the table, removed the cover and carried it to her nose to take in the aroma.
“I thought you deserved a treat of your favourite after your first day at work.” Bernard said, looking with such pride in his eyes at his daughter salivating over the meal he had prepared for her.
“Beef and Black Bean Ho Fun, you rock dad!” She put the plate back down and went to kiss him on the forehead. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Smiling, Bernard pulled his daughter away and said, “go upstairs and freshen up while I warm this up for you.”
“What about you guys?” She asked.
“Did you even see what time it is?” Her mother had joined them in the kitchen.
“Oh yeah!” Natasha remembered the unexpected stop she had made to Tulani’s house.
“Go take a shower and I will take care of Sean before he catches a cold.” Martha said.
Natasha went to her mother and repeated the very things she had done to her father. “I love you, I love you, I love you!”
“You are leaving saliva all over me,” Martha protested with a smile on her face as she pushed her daughter away. “Go and take a shower.”
“I think she’s happy,” Bernard commented after Natasha left the room. “Do you think she’s happy?”
Martha was shaking her head slowly.“I think something is bothering her…but you are right, she is a lot happier than she was a few months ago.”
Alone in the bathroom, Natasha was happily humming an old tune and enjoying her shower when she suddenly stopped and stood still. With only the sound of the shower running, Natasha bent down her head under the shower and allowed the water to fall straight onto the centre of her head, sending her hair falling on all side of her face.
She stood like that for close to five minutes, neither humming nor moving. When she finally lifted her head up, it was to tilt it back, away from the water.
Her tears had become one with the water cascading down her cheeks.
* * *
On her drive to work the next morning, Natasha’s mind went back to the conversation she had had with Tulani about Luyando. She was still thinking about it when she ran into her in the corridor at work.
“Good morning Mrs Liboma,” Natasha greeted the CFO.
“What did you call me?” Luyando came to stand right in front of Natasha, her much taller frame towering over her and her glare raining down on her in bundles of intimidation.
Unfortunately, Natasha appeared unfazed by her boss’ domineering presence. “I don’t know about the culture here in Zambia but where I come from, it’s disrespectful to address a married woman as a Ms especially when it’s common knowledge that she’s married…with a child.”
“You think that just because you grabbed hold of my Achilles heel then you can talk to me whichever way you want?” Luyando asked.
Natasha snickered and raised her head to look up at her.“Between you and me, who do you think is treating the other in the manner you just described?”
“If you want to keep your job here you need to keep your mouth shut and you need to stay away from my brother.”
“If you are referring to the things I heard last night, you don’t have to worry about that. Tulani already explained to me what’s going on and I care a lot about him to dish out his family secrets to the public.
“Secondly, no, I will not stay away from Tulani. No threat is enough to defeat the forces of nature that bind him and I, forever.See you around Mrs Liboma.”
Back in her office, Natasha opened her bag to get the flash drive containing the documents she had been working on at night but she couldn’t find it. She searched through her laptop bag, and every inch of her desk but there was still no sign of it.
“Don’t tell me I left it at home.” She said to herself, picking up the phone to call home.
“Mum, it’sme. Can you do me a favour?”
“What is it honey?” her mother asked.
“Go into my room and check on my desk if I left a blueish flash drive?”
“Okay, hold on.” Natasha waited while her mother walked upstairs.
“Is it the one with the bird key holder attached to it?” Martha asked.
“Yes, yes that’s the one! Oh, thank God, I thought I lost it. Listen mum, can you bring it here for me? I really need those files in there for a very important meeting this afternoon.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line.
“Mum!” Natasha yelled, thinking her mother was not paying attention.
“I’m sorry baby I was thinking.”She said. “You know I have to take Sean to the hospital today before that cold gets worse. Why don’t I ask your dad to bring it for you? He’s busy working on one of his many personal projects in the back yard. He could sure use some fresh air.”
Natasha couldn’t help feeling a little envious of her parents who were both retired and living their lives at ease doing all the things they dreamt about doing when they used to work. Now they no longer had to worry about deadlines and responsibilities.
Martha and Bernard’s dream in Lusaka was to set up a small furniture shop where Bernard would sell the pieces of furniture he made as a hobby and Martha would sell some home decorating items she enjoyed making in her free time….which shehad a lot of now.
The two of them planned on having a life different from the hectic one they had had in America when all they cared about was saving enough and giving their children the very best.
After talking to her mother, Natasha remembered the strenuous security procedure she had been subjected to the previous day and called security to inform them of her father’s visit.
She got a call an hour later and took the lift down to meet him by the reception lounge.
On the second floor, another person in the form of Luyando joined her in the lift.
“Which floor?” Natasha asked her.
Luyando looked at the numbers on the lift and noticed that they were headed the same way, and so, she remained quiet.
Natasha pursed her lips in response to the arrogance of her counterpart. There was an awkward glacial silence in the lift during the short trip down that ended up feeling like the longest trip of their lives. When the elevator door finally opened, Natasha ran out and went in search of her father in the lobby.
“Dad!” She shouted the moment she spotted him a few feet away even though he had his back to her.
Bernard turned the moment he heard his daughter’s voice and smiled in her direction, waving the flash drive in his hands.
Curious about the sort of family her nemesis came from, Luyando stopped midway before she could get to the security point on her way out to take a look at the family show taking place on the other side of the lobby.
However, the moment Luyando’seyes landed on Bernard, she froze in horror for a second before quickly turning around and going to hide behind a wall.
With only the receptionist and the two guards waiting by the entrance in the lobby, Luyando was lucky enough not to have an audience in her moment of weakness. She was shaking and panting, almost out of breath.
“It can’t be,” Luyando kept repeating as she watched the two from behind the wall.
“This is one hell of a building Tasha,” Bernard was saying, his eyes taking in every corner of the place.
“I knew you would love it dad,” Natasha said excitedly. “Only you would understand the beauty of such a place. Don’t you miss this kind of world?”
“Of course I do,” he said. “But I don’t regret retiring. I enjoyed my work as an architect and I still feel the same way when I see the buildings I designed and helped build still standing firm and beautiful. It’slike I haven’t really left that world.”
“How about you build something even more beautiful than this building here in your homeland dad?” She locked her arm into his and the two of them stood starring at a picture of the building they were standing in plastered on the wall ahead.
“You think so?” Bernard asked, excitement filling his eyes. “Do you think your mother would let me?”
“Of course she will! She always said you looked most dashing and handsome when you were working in your studio.”
“How about I build the home where you can live with your husband and….”
Natasha moved to put her hand over her father’smouth. “Dad!” She whispered. “What if someone hears you? I haven’t told anyone…youknow….”
“Oh yeah,” Bernard said. “My bad, sorry sweetie.”
“I wish I could take you on a tour of the place but I also don’t know the place well enough yet. How about we arrange a date for the future?”
“I’m cool with that,” Bernard said. “Get back to work now.” He placed a kiss on her forehead.
“Do you think you can find your way out?” Natasha was looking at the security point.
Bernard laughed. “That’s nothing,” he said. “I have designed tighter security points than what you have here. Don’t worry about it, go.”
“Thanks for bringing this dad, I love you, bye!” She waved to him and ran back to the elevator. She waved at him again before the doors of the lift closed.
Bernard waved back and turned to leave.
Natasha’s father was walking back to the visitors car park where he had left his car when he felt someone grab his arm and pull him to the side.
“Who are you?” Bernard asked the unruly lady who was glaring at him.“Luyando?”He said, immediately recognizing the icy cold and deadly look in her eyes.
“It’syou my daughter right?” Bernard asked, tears welling up in his eyes.
“Shut the hell up!” Luyando yelled. “Who’s your daughter?”
“It’syou,” Bernard said, pointing at her, unable to believe his eyes and ears. “Do you have any idea how long I have been searching for you? My God, look at you, all grown.”
“Why would you search for me?” Luyando snapped. “What are you even doing here? I thought you had died from alcohol poisoning or something, but instead you got married and you have a family now? Wow, don’t you have any shame?”
“Shut up! Don’t call me that. I don’t know who you are and you don’t know me. As far as am concerned you don’t exist. Do not look for me and do not tell a soul, not even your daughter about me. If you even as much as show up in front of me, I will call the police.”
“You don’t need to say all those things Luyando,” Bernard said. “I knowthat I was a terrible father, I let you down. You have every right to hate me but please, don’t ask me to pretend not to know you when I have found you after so many years. Please, give me a chance to make things right.”
“Areyou kidding me?” Luyando yelled. “Make things right? What things do you want to make right? I have my own family, a mother, father and brother who adore me and they think that you are an abusive father who beat and raped me whenever you pleased so you better not show up to me or them because they will have no mercy on you.”
“Abuseyou? Did you say rape?”
“What’s the difference?” Luyando asked. “You were never a good father to me. You treated me like I didn’t exist and that’s worse than all the things I told those people you did to me.”
“Luyando, abuse you?” Bernard still couldn’t believe his own daughter would accuse him of such things. “How can you accuse your own father of doing such terrible things?”
“That’s the thing, if you stay away from me, no one will ever know that you are the man who did those things to me. I don’t want you anywhere near me and don’t even think about coming to this place again.
“If you want to meet that precious daughter of yours, meet her elsewhere. I don’t ever want to see you again. You hear me. If you are sorry for how badly you treated me after mum died, then you will leave me the hell alone, pretend I don’t exist.
“Just imagine the kind of shame and embarrassment your new family will be subjected to when it comes out that you used to rape your own daughter? Do you think they will accept you back once they find out about your past?”
“I admit I was a bad father, I should not have allowed the grief to get to me like that, I should have never drunk like that…I should have paid more attention to you, taken care of you…but Luyando, I never touched a single hair on your body.
“How could you say those things about me? If those people really loved you, you could have told them the truth…that I had neglected you and they would have still helped you. You didn’t have to turn your father into such a demon for you to receive love from them.”
“If I told them that then they would have just given me some money and they would have left!” She yelled. “I wanted to have the kind of life they could offer and there was no way I could get that if I stayed with you. I had to get rid of you the best way I could. I swear if I could, I would have killed you.”
“Yes! I would have killed you. You didn’t care about me so why should I care about you? If you had any sense of shame and guilt, you would walk to the nearest store after this meeting, buy some rat poison and do the world some service for the first time in your life.
“I promise you, if my family finds out about you, I will do to you what I couldn’t bring myself to do twenty years ago. I promise you.”
She then turned her back and walked away from her father, hoping to never see him again.
Luyando’sout-right rejection sent Bernard back into a world he thought he had escaped twenty years ago. It was a cold dark lonely world that held no hope for him. Even though her words were harsh, they were true; he didn’t deserve to be called anyone’sfather.
If you had any sense of shame and guilt, you would walk to the nearest store after this meeting, buy some rat poison and do the world some service for the first time in your life.
The words kept ringing in his head as he drove out of the parking lot.
In the other parking lot, Luyando locked herself inside the car and after making sure all the windows were closed, she gripped the steering wheel and yelled with all her might,
“Aaaaarggggggggggh!” She shouted, hitting her head against the steering wheel over and over again.
“What now?” she asked herself, tears streaming down her face.
Natasha was winding up work in her office when she received a call from her mother.
“Did you meet your father?”
“Yes, around 10, what’s wrong, he isn’t home yet?”
“Yes,” Martha said. “I have been trying to get him on phone but it’sbeen turned off for hours now. Do you think something happened to him? I just have this bad feeling….”
“Mum, mum, calm yourself down.” Natasha knew her mother to be the kind of person that always considered the worst case scenario in every situation. For her, hope was always the last thing to cross her mind….sometimes it never even did.
“I am sure his battery died or something, or maybe he lost his phone. Whatever the case I know there’sa good explanation and he will come tell us when he comes back home. Who knows, maybe he bumped into some old friends and lost track of time.
“Stop worrying and try to keep yourself busy.Is Sean still sleeping?”
“Yes, I mean no, he woke up a few minutes ago.” Nothing her daughter said made any sense to her.
“Areyou knocking off late today as well?”
“No, am actually parking up right now. I’ll be home soon mum, try to relax. Dad will be home soon.”
Even though she had tried to be as brave as possible with her mother, Natasha couldn’t help wondering what could have happened to her father after he left her place of work. He was not the type of man to just disappear and go off the radar without warning.
If indeed his phone had gone off, he would have found whatever means possible to contact his wife or daughter and he would have told them if he was running late. It was very unlike him to go quite like that.
Natasha tried calling his line but it was still off.
“Where the hell are you dad?” She asked herself.
“She is way too bossy than the CEO himself.” Astridah supplied and under her breath she added, “but we all know she aint no blood relative.”