Martha had been watching her husband’s strange behaviour all through dinner. She could tell that some
thing was bothering him and she suspected that whatever it was had something to do with his trip to the mall earlier that day.
“Why aren’t you eating dad?” It appeared Bernard’s sour mood could not escape his daughter either.
Bernard finally gave up pretending to eat and laid his folk down. “I’m sorry, am just not feeling too well.” He then got up and went upstairs. Martha followed him up a few minutes later.
She found him lying on the bed, face up and with eyes closed.
“When are you going to tell me what’s bothering you my husband?” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “What did your daughter say to you?”
Bernard slowly opened his eyes and looked at his wife. “How did you know?”
“Because she is the only person in the world that has this kind of effect on you.”
He sat up. “Martha,” he said.
She said nothing in return, just kept looking at him hoping he would tell her right away.
“I think my daughter is in-love with her brother.”
Martha’s jaw dropped to the ground.
“I think Luyando likes Tulani.” Ben repeated.
Martha still had the same befuddled expression on her face, her lips could not move. Ben was watching her, waiting for her to say something.
“Did she tell you that?” Martha finally managed to separate her Siamese lips.
Ben shook his head. “Not directly, but her actions are suggesting the fact loud enough for a father to know.”
“Maybe you just misunderstood her,” Martha said, willing to consider anything else but. “Maybe she’s just scared that Natasha coming into their lives might expose the lies she told her family.”
“No honey,” Ben insisted. “I might not have raised her, but she’s still my daughter. I know what I’m talking about.”
Martha was back on mute, her mind going over the kind of complications that might arise if something like that came to light. What was going to happen to her daughter? How did that child find herself in such a tangled mess?
“She asked me to convince Natasha to leave Tulani.”
“What?” Martha was looking at her husband like he had already delivered on the betrayal.
“She said that she will tell her family and the police that I threatened to do her harm if she told anyone that I was back in the county.”
“What?” That was the only word at the tip of her tongue.
Ben closed his eyes and tried to hold his breath in an effort to fight back the tears threatening to erupt. He had held it in the whole day but the idea that his own daughter would hate and resent him to such an extent was too strong for him to keep holding it together.
Martha saw the quivering lips of her husband, knowing too well the demons he was fighting. Her decision to move closer and put her arms around him was like the last straw that needed pulling to drive Ben over the wall.
He finally broke down. “What did I turn my daughter into?” He cried.
Gently running her hand through his hair, the determined look in Martha’s eyes suggested she had come to a decision.
Lunch at Tulani Media House was equivalent to a feast at a five star hotel; it was the richest menu Natasha had ever seen at a place of work. If a healthy and delicious lunch menu was part of the motivational package of the company’s HR strategy, then the media company was operating at an all-time high.
Natasha’s head was buried in a plate of delicious pasta when she thought she heard her son’s voice. She paused for a second, pulled her hair behind her ears so she could hear properly and when nothing came, she went back to finishing the business on her plate.
Her three colleagues-turned-friends sitting with her on the table had stopped eating and were all looking at her with bemusement. When she finally cleared her plate, she heaved a sigh of relief, pulled the plate to the side and finally raised her head up.
“I really hate skinny people,” the slightly plump Astridah remarked, shaking her head and looking at Natasha’s empty plate with indignation. “How can you eat so much and still stay that thin? It’s so unfair. Ine I put on weight just from smelling delicious food.”
Natasha, Nicole and Boyd broke out in laughter.
“Every beautiful woman has some deadly flaw hidden somewhere…I think we just uncovered this lady’s flaw today my dear colleagues.” The twenty-six year old Boyd teased his new supervisor.
Natasha finished cleaning her hands and mouth and laid the napkin back on the table before giving each of the three a questioning look. “If you think you’ve just discovered my flaw, wait till you see me naked.” She said in a deliberately stern low key that caused the two other girls to laugh and Boyd to ask;
“Is that an invitation?”
Natasha gave him a blank look.
Boyd laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“Your taste in women is too ambitious Boyd,” Astridah said.
“That’s only because you are the only one in this place outside the bracket of women I would love to date,” Boyd fired back.
“Ouch!” Nicole said.
Astridah dipped the tip of her fingers in her glass of water and sprayed it in Boyd’s face. “You are such an arsehole Boyd,” she said. “And just so you know, you are also not my type.”
“Oooh,” Boyd playfully placed his hand over his heart. “I’m touched.”
“I like my men strong and healthy. A skinny little fella like you would be crying for his mama if handled by a woman like me. Heeeeeee maaaami musana ine nafa. ” She was taunting her colleague by making more crying sounds.
Natasha and Nicole busted out laughing while Boyd nursed his bruised ego, genuinely appearing offended by Astridah’s taunting remarks.
“I actually think that the two of you like each other,” Nicole commented.
“Hell no!” the two of them answered at once.
Natasha and Nicole shared knowing looks and started laughing again.
Natasha heard it again, but this time her son’s voice sounded closer than before…like he was right behind her. She slowly turned her head to look and behold, there was Sean in Tulani’s arms right behind her.
“Mum?” Boyd asked.
The whole cafeteria had fallen into silence, with only the sound of soft music playing in the background.
“Sean!” Natasha jumped from her chair. She sent Tulani who was grinning widely at her an admonishing look. “What are you doing here…with him?” she added in a whisper.
“I didn’t get to spend enough time with him yesterday so I thought; why not steal him for a bit over lunch?” Tulani spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear. Natasha immediately regretted having asked the question.
“Mum, dad said we could have lunch together!” The four year old shouted, oblivious to everything happening around him.
“Dad?” Boyd and Astridah asked at the same time.
Luyando picked that very moment to appear at the door of the cafeteria.
Spotting Luyando by the door, Natasha took Sean from Tulani’s arms and started walking towards the door.
Instead of following the two right away, beaming, Tulani leaned in towards the table where the three were seated and said, “yes, that’s my boy!” And he ran after Natasha and Sean, leaving the rest of the room behind drowning in shock.
At the door, Natasha had to stop to give Luyando who was standing right at the centre a chance to step away so she could pass through. But it appeared the CFO had no plans of shifting camp.
“Sis,” Tulani said once he caught up with them. “I was going to bring him over to your office but the little gangster insisted on seeing his mother first. Meet my son, Sean Mapalo Mulenga. Son, this is your Aunt. Say his Aunty Luyando….”
“Hi Aunt Yado,” the boy said.
Tulani was laughing so hard his sides started to hurt. “You gotto love the American accent,” he said whilst clutching his stomach with one hand and pointing the other at his son up in his mother’s arms.
He was the only one having a jolly good time…at the expense of the two women glaring at him indignantly.
“Aren’t you going to answer your nephew sis?” Tulani had suddenly sobered up and was standing up straight and giving his sister a daring look.
Luyando searched every inch of her anatomy and finally managed to conjure up a smile. Patting the four year old on the head she said, “Hi Sean. It’s finally nice to meet you.”
Sean smiled back at his aunt, only able to see what was happening with her lips and not with her eyes.
Luyando’s fiery gaze could light up a whole village.
“We need to pass,” Natasha finally spoke.
Luyando gave her nemesis a look of indignation before stepping aside.
Once in the lift, Natasha put Sean down on his feet and pressed for the lobby.
“Tasha….” Tulani tried to talk to her. He could feel her anger filling up the tiny little space and suffocating him to death.
Natasha held out her hand to shush him. “Don’t even try,” she warned him.
Tulani shut his mouth.
He had been punched and kicked twice by her before. It was not an experience he needed repeating. He was a very fast learner.
When they finally reached their destination, Natasha grabbed Sean’s hand and bolted out of the lift without saying a word to Tulani.
“Where are you going?” Tulani ran after them and grabbed Natasha’s hand to stop her from moving.
They stopped before the security check-point.
“I am taking him back home,” she said lividly. “What were you thinking bringing him here? This is a place of work!”
Apart from the two security guards waiting to get the door for them and the receptionist standing behind her desk and watching them like a scene on a Telemundo soapie, there were only two other people seated by the lounge who appeared oblivious to the drama unfolding on the other side.
“Tasha calm down, look, I’m sorry I brought him over without talking to you first but c’mon, he’s my son too. I only met him yesterday and spent just six hours with him. You had the last four years, can’t you just let me off the hook this once?”
“Are you mad at me mummy?” Sean looked about ready to cry with his big brown eyes looking up at his mother apologetically.
Natasha got down and wrapped him in a hug. “Oh no my baby, I am sorry I shouted but am not mad. I love that you came to see me.”
“You do?” Sean asked.
Natasha nodded. “I do,” she kissed him on both cheeks to reassure him.
Tulani was looking at her like he had just discovered the secret to calming down Armageddon’s wrath.
Martha had been watching her husband’s strange behaviour all through dinner. She could tell that some