Sunday, December 2, 2018

Natasha the village girl(Traditional Story)

“Why? Don’t you think a mother deserves to know if her son might be in danger?” Ayanda was following her daughter behind who was rushing towards the stairs.
“Dad, I’m leaving now!” she shouted to her father who was now at the top of the stairs.
“Yeah, good night.” He said and disappeared into the bedroom without turning to look at her.
“What’s wrong with him?” Ayanda asked. “It seems his terrible moods are back. Could it be mid-life crisis?”
“Isn’t it a little too late for that mother?” Luyando said as she walked back into the living room to get her handbag.
“Are you going to leave just like that Lulu?” Ayanda was still pleading for more information. “I think I am going to die from curiosity if you leave me hanging like this.”
Luyando laughed and leaned towards her mother to whisper, “I will give you a call to meet me at the usual place tomorrow so we can gossip freely.” She was looking upstairs where her father had disappeared.
“Ah,” her mother quickly caught on. “Good idea. I’ll wait for your call tomorrow, don’t keep me waiting.”
“Good night mother,” she hugged her. “I love you, see you tomorrow.”
“I love you too my baby, give those two brats big kisses for me and pass my regards to Peter.”
“I will mother.” She opened the door and left.
Natasha was busy scalping her mother’s hair when a knock came through the door.
“Nooo, I don’t want to move from here, it’s too comfortable.” Martha complained.
“Let me get Sean to check, Sean!”
The boy came running into the living room from his play room. “Heard it! Will get it!” And he ran to the door.
The first thing Tulani noticed when the door opened were the deep brown eyes of the little boy looking up at him. It was as if he was looking at a younger version of himself.
“You must be Sean,” he said.
Natasha quickly turned her head towards the door the moment she heard the familiar voice.
“Tulani?” She jumped from the couch and sent her mother who was seated on the mat falling to the side.
Tulani lowered himself to the boy’s level, completely paying no heed to his mother.
“Are you mum’s friend?” Sean asked the strange man who looked like he was about to cry.
“Did bad people do something bad to you?” the boy asked.
Tulani laughed and blinked back the tears. Clearing his throat, he asked, “No they didn’t. Why do you ask?”
“Because you have tears in your eyes. Mum, come and see!”
“Sean sweetie, come here.” Natasha called out to him. The boy turned and went to his mother. “Go over there to grandma and tell her to get some ice cream for you from the fridge.”
“I can have ice cream?” The excited four year old was jumping up and down as he ran to his grandmother.
“Mrs Chimeko,” Tulani greeted the woman the moment their eyes met.
“Tulani,” she answered, guilt written all over her face. “Let’s give the adults some privacy Sean.” She took Sean’s arm and let him away.
“What are you doing here?” Natasha said, a nervous smile playing on her face.
“Come out, we need to talk.” He said in a very tight tone that sent chills down her spine.
Natasha knew exactly why he had showed up at her door unannounced.
On his drive to Natasha’s place, Tulani did some mental calculations in his head to determine whether Sean could really be his son. If the child was four years old, then there was no way he could be his since he had only known Tasha for four years and some months.
If indeed the child is mine, shouldn’t he be about three years old or something? He wondered.
Tulani’s doubts about the boy’s paternity were crushed the moment he laid his eyes on him. He knew without a doubt that the boy was his; the eyes, the nose and the general shape of his head all screamed his DNA.
“There’s something I don’t understand,” Tulani told Natasha as they stood outside by his car.
“I don’t need to ask you the obvious question but,” he was nervously rubbing one foot against the paved ground, his mind doing summersaults and not landing straight on anything.
“What is it Tulani?” She asked.
Instead of answering, Tulani raised his head and looked at her with a very puzzled expression on his face. It was as if he was searching for a passage into her soul.
“What is it Tula?” Natasha repeated. “Did something happen?”
“Let me ask you this,” he said. “I know he’s my child,” he pointed towards the house where they had just come from. “…so I won’t ask you something that obvious. What I want to know is; how old is he?”
“He is four years old,” she answered incuriously.
“How come?” He asked, his eyes dancing about in befuddlement. “I have been raking my brain trying to make sense of everything but I haven’t found anything that makes sense. The math doesn’t add up.”
Natasha laughed. “Maybe it doesn’t add up with you but it does with me.”
“Then help me understand.” He threw his arms in the air.
“You remember when you first came to my company in San Francisco four years ago?” She started to explain. “At your welcome party, you remember you tried to chat me up and I kicked you in your nuts.”
“How can I ever forget that day? You still haven’t told me why you did that when I was just asking for your number.”
“Well, today I will give you the why,” she said. “You didn’t come to San Francisco by chance. There was a lot of planning behind the scenes on my part to finally get my boss to ask your station to partner with us on that heritage project I had come up with.”
“Why? How come?”
Natasha laughed again. “Because I wanted to get to know you better. I wanted to know who the father of the child I had just given birth to really was.”
“Wait, wait,” Tulani raised his hand.
“I know it’s confusing, but wait for me to finish, it will all make sense soon.”
“Okay,” he conceded. “Explain.”
“Do you remember your trip to Dubai in 2010?”
Tulani looked at her in shock. “How did you know about that?”
“Because I was also in Dubai at that time.”
She chuckled, “Yes, that was where you and I met for the first time, at Brandon Parker’s birthday party.”
“Hell no, no way!” He was scratching his head, desperately trying to resurrect the memories of that night. “You can’t be serious. How come I can’t remember seeing you there?”
“It could be because you were drunk, extremely drunk. I was too. The previous day I had just learnt that my husband had impregnated another girl so to cheer me up, the girls took me on a trip to Dubai, they said we should get wasted and forget the drama…and wasted we got.
“We had been moving from club to club when we somehow found ourselves at this house party. I noticed you standing outside the gents when I was on the way to the ladies with my best friend Megan and I made the mistake of commenting on your looks.
“Instead of heading to the loo to take care of our business she nudged me into chatting you up and wouldn’t let me go until I talked to you. So, I approached you and you turned out to be very receptive. After chatting for close to thirty minutes, I learnt you were Zambian and that automatically sealed the deal for me.
“I figured, if I was going to have crazy wild angry sex, or revenge sex…whatever you choose to call it, wouldn’t it be more fun if it was with a stranger from my home country?”
“How come I can’t remember any of that?” Tulani asked.
“How the hell am I supposed to know? I might have been equally drunk that day but I still remember every bit of it…and of course I kind of had no choice since there was a reminder for the nine months that followed…and then for all the years that followed.
“Naturally, I expected you to remember me when my boss introduced us at the office but I could tell you had no idea who I was before that day. When you tried to chat me up later that evening, I couldn’t believe it! I thought, is this guy crazy?”
“I swear Tasha, I have no recollection whatsoever of my meeting with you in Dubai. I only remember partying with the guys like it was the last day of our lives. A friend of ours had just been admitted to the Bar so we had made that trip to Dubai to celebrate.
“I don’t know how we ended up at Brandon’s party but I remember getting there, we were already half way drunk by that time but we still ended up drinking and smoking some stuff I had never allowed in my body before.”
“Drugs?” Natasha asked, searching his face for an honest answer. “That could be why you couldn’t remember anything that happened after. I didn’t know that so I was mad, felt cheap and used….”
“Even though you were the one using me to get revenge on your cheating husband?”
“I never heard you complain that night.”
They both laughed.
“I was alone when I woke up in the morning….” He said.
“That’s because I regretted the whole thing the moment the alcohol left my body. As soon as I saw you lying naked next to me, I quickly dressed up and was out of there in a flash.”
“Then why didn’t you just tell me the truth when we met again in the US?” He asked her.
“How the hell did you expect me to tell the guy I slept with when we were both drunk…and please bear in mind, this guy had no recollection whatsoever of ever meeting me…. how could I tell such a guy that I had just delivered his son two months ago?”
“Well, you have a point there…but still Tasha, despite the amnesia, I was still smitten by you. When you realized my feelings for you, you could have mentioned it to me. I was with you all that time and not once did you mention having a son…and you certainly didn’t look like you had just delivered.
“I only got to hear about your son a year after I left, and I remember you had mentioned him by accident because you immediately changed the topic. I didn’t want to probe because I was jealous that things were going well between you and your husband.”
“It’s not like I never tried to tell you Tula,” she said. “I tried to tell you, so many times but then you would pass comments about how much you hated kids and about how some woman tried to trap you with a kid.”
“That was Cynthia my ex-wife I would talk about.” He explained.
“How was I supposed to know?” She said. “All I was hearing was how much you hated being confronted with such kinds of situations. I didn’t want you thinking that I was out to trap you.”
“What about your husband? You told me you were married but on separation when we were working together.”
“That was the truth. Marcus was raised Catholic so his family never believed in divorce…even though they strongly believed in adultery. When I told him about the pregnancy and asked for a divorce, he refused. He said we were now equal-equal, we both had kids with other people so what was the point of divorcing.
“He wanted me to give Sean to my parents to raise once he was born so we could continue living as a happy couple. Of course I didn’t want that but he was firm in his refusal. We eventually agreed to go on separation and during that time none of us tried to contact the other.
“Eventually, whatever little feelings we had for each other fizzled out and we got divorced without drama…although I think it was more to do with the fact that Marcus had fallen in-love with some other woman.”
“When you asked me to meet you at that restaurant close to my place, you told me you were getting back with him. Why did you lie to me?”
Natasha took a deep breath before responding.
“That day was crazy,” she said. “I never set out to break up with you. I started off from home determined to tell you about Sean…I wanted to surprise you, to just show up at your apartment with a photo album of Sean’s growth.
But, when I entered your house, I found a naked girl in your living room wearing nothing but your shirt, a shirt which I had bought for you.”
“Oh s--t,” Tulani said. “Oooooh shiiiiiiiit.”
“You can say that again,” Natasha said.
“You got it all wrong Tasha, dammit! Why hadn’t I thought of it that day? I clearly remember asking Jordan who she had been talking to when I came out of the bedroom because I thought I heard voices. She nonchalantly told me that some girl said she got the wrong apartment and left.”
“So her name is Jordan.” Natasha said between clenched teeth. “At least you still remember her name despite the years that have passed. Some of us weren’t so lucky with your memory.”
“The only reason I still remember her name is because I still talk to her…..”
“I don’t think you are helping the situation Tula.” She said.
“No, you didn’t let me finish. Jordan is married to Henry, you remember Henry right?”
“The crazy guy from the next apartment?” She asked.
“Wasn’t he married to someone called Beverly?”
“He was, but they divorced…because of Jordan.”
“I’m lost,” Natasha said, and she clearly looked confused.
“That day you came, gosh, I didn’t even know it was you that came. That day Henry’s wife had come back home from her parents unannounced. She knew Henry was cheating on her so she wanted to catch him red handed.
“When Henry heard the door opening, he quickly helped Jordan whom he had been in bed with to go over the window and come to my place. Thing is, she appeared on my bedroom window commando so I grabbed the first piece of cloth I could get my hands on and sent her out of my room.
“I was in the bedroom dressing up when I heard voices in the living room. I came in to inquire, I thought perhaps Henry had been found out but it turned out it was just someone who had the wrong apartment. I feel so stupid right now!”
“I can’t believe that’s what was going on that day. I had no idea. I was quick to believe the worst…considering our past.” Natasha said, regretting her quick judgement of him back then.
“I always wondered why you never trusted me, no matter how much I tried. All these years I blamed you for treating me unfairly. I had no idea you felt the same way about me. Does Sean know about me?”
“Of course he does, he knows everything about you…except your face. He is one of the major reasons we came back here; I told him he was going to meet his father.”
“I guess I did after all deserve that kick in my nuts.” Tulani said, laughing.
“How did you find out?” Natasha later asked him.
“I think my sister did some background check on you but it appears it wasn’t as thorough as it was supposed to be. She actually thought I was aware of Sean’s existence and keeping him from my parents because, according to her…I knocked you up while you were still married.”
“Technically, she’s right about knocking me up while I was still married.” She was laughing. “I just modified the sin before it could fully blossom.”
“I want to meet my son Tasha, officially.”
“You don’t mean now do you? Have you seen the time?!?”
“How about tomorrow then?” he suggested.
“Let me talk to my parents first and see what time is convenient for them since we never miss church on Sundays.”
“I can’t remember the last time I stepped into a church. I bet God would be shocked to see me enter his house after such a long time.”
“I can promise you, he’s been expecting you all along. I will invite you to a service after we have all the introductions out of the way. Mum and dad have been anxious to meet you. They only met you once but strangely enough, they still remember you. I guess it can’t be helped since they have to look at your prototype every single day.”
“I am going to call Henry from here and give him a piece of my mind. He costed me four years of my child’s life! Wait, it’s not even four years…I missed all the kicks and the cravings for nine months.”
Natasha was laughing at him. “Henry didn’t do anything. Those drugs you took in Dubai are responsible for the way things turned out.”
“I should be the poster boy for the Drug Enforcement Commission. I am living proof of the dangers and consequences of drugs and alcohol abuse.”
“You were a kid, who can blame you?”
“Try telling that to my son.”
They both laughed.
* * *
When Natasha went back into the house and told her parents about Tulani wanting to visit, they excitedly agreed that he come the very next day. Unfortunately, everything seemed to take a whole different dark turn when she told him a bit about Tulani’s background.
“Before, I had told you that he was a manager at the station….” Natasha had started. “Well, that was a half-truth and half-lie.”
“What do you mean by that?” Her mother had asked.
“Is he some manual worker or something?” Bernard asked.
Natasha laughed. “No, dad, far from it. he is the CEO of TMH.”
Both parents gaped at her.
“What do you mean CEO?” Her father asked, great fear registering in his eyes.
“Is there any other type of CEO dad?” Natasha was taking the whole thing lightly, completely oblivious to the tsunami blowing in her parent’s heads. “He is the Chief Executive Officer. TMH is owned by his parents. Why do the both of you look like you’ve just discovered the colour of death?”
Martha and Bernard were giving each other terrified knowing looks.
“How could this be?” Martha asked. She was mostly speaking to herself than anyone else in the room.
“Are you that shocked that he’s that rich or are you thinking about what the hell took me so long to tell you this bit of information?”
“Probably both,” Bernard said. “How well do you know his family? Have you met any of them?”
“I have met his sister Luyando, couldn’t be helped since she’s my boss. We didn’t start of on the right note. She hates my guts for some unknown reason but I can’t afford to hate her since she’s my son’s aunt.”
“Why do you believe she hates you?” Bernard was curious to know.
Natasha couldn’t tell them the truth so she stretched the truth a little. “She’s just a naturally sad and grumpy person who probably wasn’t hugged enough as a child and now she’s taking it out on the whole world.”
Martha was studying her husband’s reaction surreptitiously, her daughter’s careless words drowning her under a wave of guilt upon seeing the pain in Ben’s eyes.
“I have just remembered,” Martha quickly came to her husband’s rescue. “I almost forgot; your father and I have somewhere to be tomorrow.”
“Mum!” Natasha yelled. “You just said he could come tomorrow.”
“I am not saying that he shouldn’t come….”
“Then what are you saying?”
“He can come tomorrow and meet Sean and he can meet us another time.”
“Are you sure?” Both Bernard and Natasha asked at the same time.
“Yes I’m sure,” she said.
“I don’t know why I never made the connection before Martha.” Bernard and Martha had carried that conversation into the bedroom that night. Sitting hopelessly on their bed, each facing away from the other, they looked like a pair of soulless humans whose spirits had been drained from their ears.
“How were we supposed to know that Sean’s father was the successor of such a billion dollar empire or that he was the brother to Natasha’s sister? What are we going to do honey?” This time, she turned around to face her husband and Ben too turned towards her.
“I caused all this to happen. If I hadn’t been such a terrible father to Luyando, none of these things would be happening.”
“Don’t start with the regrets again Ben.” She put her hand over her husband’s shoulder. “We’ve all made some terrible decisions at some point in our lives but that shouldn’t keep us from living happy lives.
“The idea is to learn from our mistakes, use them to build ourselves up and become better people, and you my husband, you’ve done exactly that. All these things are happening simply because of fate…just life taking its course.”
“Shouldn’t this be considered incest or something?”
Ben’s serious tone when he asked the question made Martha laugh even harder. “Tulani and Luyando…and even Natasha might be siblings of some sort but there’s no blood involved. I know the whole thing is crazy but it’s already happened.”
Ben was giving her a strange look. “I hope you know that you don’t sound like yourself right now…and that freaking me out.”
She laughed again. “I know, I am always the negative one but this time is different. I want to be the pillar of hope for you, and the kids. If we keep focusing on the absurdity of the situation then we won’t be able to move forward.”
“You’re right,” he said. “But still, what are we going to do? Its obvious Natasha loves Tulani and I think he might still be in-love with her too. My worry is, the Mulenga’s might oppose their relationship…and Luyando too.
“Tulani’s relationship with Natasha will inevitably bring out the truth that Luyando is desperately trying to hide. Whichever way this goes, a lot of people are bound to get hurt Martha…and it hurts so much to know that I will be the one at the centre of all the hurting.”
“I didn’t think that far,” Martha said, taking in all the things Ben had said. “What’s going to happen to my poor baby? I haven’t seen her as happy as she’s been in the few weeks since she joined that company.
“I missed that, I missed seeing her laugh so carelessly and look so bright. The past five years were too draining for her…I just want her to be happy.” And she broke down in tears.
“I am so sorry honey,” was all Ben could say, the guilt shredding him to pieces. As he held his wife in his arms, he begun to feel the helplessness of the situation and he started to question himself…his role as a man…as a husband, and as a father.”
* * *
Tulani received a call from his mother the next morning summoning him home. When he entered the house, he found the whole gang sitting in the living room and he could tell right away that his mother and sister were up to no good.
“Good morning,” he greeted them and went to sit down.
“Good morning son,” his father answered. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”
“Its 10am Bashi Tula, what early are you talking about?” his wife said. “Can’t a son visit his mother on a Sunday morning when he’s not working?”
“I am not a fool woman,” Joshua retorted. “I know the two of you are up to something. Didn’t I tell you to stay out of his business? And you Luyando,” he turned to his daughter.
“Don’t you have a family to take care of? How can you be at your mother’s house at this hour? And you were here last night too. Doesn’t that husband of yours have any backbone? Letting his wife out of the wife anyhow she pleases. What are you teaching your daughter Ayanda?”
There was a sudden chill in the room and the silence that followed their father’s outburst froze the room into silence. Luyando had her hands tied on her laps, her lips quivering from the unshed tear threatening to erupt. Ayanda on the other side of her could only gape in disbelief at her husband’s accusations.
Over the years, Luyando had held on to the hope that eventually, her father might come to accept her as his own even though he had only adopted her due to pressure from his wife. It was Ayanda’s obsession for a girl that allowed Luyando to easily secure her position as a member of the Mulenga clan.
However, Luyando had not been deceived for once into believing that Joshua would love her as much as his wife and son did. Even though he gave in to his wife’s wiles every now and then, Joshua was a very resolute man who rarely changed his mind once it was made up. but still, Luyando hoped that over time, he might come to accept the fact that she was legally a member of his family and that she wasn’t going anywhere.
“Why did you ask me to come mum?” Tulani finally broke the silence.
Ayanda first looked at her husband before responding but his focus was fixed on some program on the Discovery channel that seemed to have piqued his interest.
“I heard some very disturbing things about the mother of your child,” she said after sensing the course was clear for take-off. “I am very uncomfortable with letting my grandson be raised by someone like that.”
Tulani was looking at his mother incredulously. “Someone like that?” He asked her. “Just what did Luyando tell you?”
Luyando nervously shifted in her seat.
“I never mentioned Luyando’s name.”
“If that’s the reason you called me here, then am leaving.” He got up.
“Son,” Ayanda got up and went to block his way at the door. “I am telling you this because I care about you. I know that your feelings for her are getting in the way of your good judgement but….”
“You should hear yourself,” Tulani said, shaking his head at his mother’s gullibility. “Your ignorance breaks my heart mother. You shouldn’t believe everything bad you hear about people.”
“Your sister cares too much to let you make the biggest mistake of your life,” his mother said.
“Maybe that’s the problem right there mother, she cares too dame much!” He shot his sister a piercing look. “Haven’t you ever wondered why every woman I ever dated is never good enough in her eyes?”
“Tula!” Luyando got up and went to join them by the door.
Meanwhile, Joshua had not taken his eyes off the TV.
“Yes, I don’t like this girl in particular but I have very valid reasons.” Luyando told her brother.
“Valid reasons?” He asked her. “And what reasons are those? That she was seeing me behind her husband’s back? That she lied to me about my son? Well guess what sis, Natasha never cheated on her husband.
“She was separated from him when we first met after she found out that he had impregnated his mistress.”
“What?” Ayanda asked.
Joshua turned down the volume and slightly turned his head to listen in.
“Yes mother,” Tulani said. “Her husband was a scumbag who cheated on her every chance he got. Their three year old daughter was killed in front of her preschool whilst waiting for her father who was in bed with some skunk to come pick her up. She heard a vehicle coming, let go of her teacher’s hand and ran onto the street, but it wasn’t him. He was too busy s------g his mistress to remember he had a daughter.”
“Watch your language son,” his father cautioned him.
“Dear Lord!” His mother gasped.
“Don’t pass out just yet mother,” Tulani said sarcastically. “You haven’t even heard half of it yet. Hold yourself together.”
“How do you know if that’s the truth?” Luyando asked. “Maybe she just wanted to gain your sympathy and find justification for her actions.”
“I was there,” Tulani said. “I saw her husband in action, a lot of times. Besides, it wasn’t Natasha who told me about the child, it was someone else. Natasha did try to tell me about Sean so many times but I never gave her the chance. She explained everything to me and if you took the time to do better and proper investigations, you would discover that I was the fool who made some wild stupid decisions that made me miss out on four years of my son’s life.
“But guess what, even when she knew I had messed up, she still brought him here so I could meet him. That’s the kind of girl she is. If you had not jumped the gun and yapped your mouth, Natasha would have still told me at the right time. But maybe I should be thanking you for fast forwarding the process and buying me more time to get to know my son because, who knows what I would have said or done during this period to ruin my chances of ever meeting him?”
“Son,” His mother reached out and tried to hold his hand.
“I don’t want to hear it mother,” he said sternly. “I hope this is the last time the two of you will be interfering in my affairs. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure the three of us become a real family and I will not have mercy on anyone that tries to get in my way.”
He was looking at his sister as he said those words before storming out of the house.
Joshua got up from the couch and turned to look at the two women cowering by the door. His hands in his pockets and his legs spread apart, he said, “It would be nice if you cared about your husband’s affairs as much as you care about your brothers.” And he left the room.
Neither Ayanda nor Luyando said anything in return; each was lost in her own thoughts.
Bernard Chimeko was in the middle of polishing a piece of furniture for his grandson’s playroom when his phone rang.
“Hello,” he said.
“I am going to text you an address; meet me there in ten minutes.”
“Who’s this?” Bernard asked.
“Luyando.” She said and cut the line.
Bernard remained staring at the phone for minutes before shaking off the trepidation and running to his car. On the way, he sent a message to his wife who was next door chatting with one of her new friends.
Going to store, will be back shortly honey. The message read.
“I want you to convince your daughter to leave Tulani alone.” It was the first thing Luyando said to her father when he joined her at the small restaurant not far from home.
For a moment, Bernard had been excited by the thought that she had reached out to him first but his hopes were immediately crushed the moment she opened her mouth.
“You said you wanted to make things right between us,” she interrupted him. “I am giving you a chance. Do this for me and I will agree to meet with you as father and daughter at least once every month…and as a bonus, I can let you meet your granddaughters as well. I have twins.”
Bernard knew he was stuck between a rock and a hard place the moment he learnt exactly who Tulani was but hearing his own daughter talk like that, he knew that there was no hope for him as a human on this earth.
“Are you asking me to break my daughter’s heart and keep my grandson from being raised by both his parents? How can you ask me to do such a cruel thing?”
“Cruel?” Luyando said. “You think that’s cruel? Then what do you call a father who neglects his own daughter by drowning himself in alcohol every single day and every single hour and yet he has the guts to move on with his life as if nothing ever?
“You lost your ten year old daughter and yet you are living happily with your new family like I never even existed. Did you even bother to look for me or where you too happy to worry about some child who didn’t even matter to you since the woman who birthed her is no longer there?”
Bernard shut his eyes, her words piercing his already broken heart into tiny pieces.
“If you loved mum as much as you claimed you did, you wouldn’t have done those things you did.”
“I loved you both,” Bernard said.
“I find that hard to believe.” She said. “Because if you did, you wouldn’t think me asking you to do this for me is cruel. Besides, Natasha is not even your real daughter, I am! I am giving you a chance to act like a father to me, for once. Don’t turn your back on me, dad.”
Bernard opened his eyes and looked at her, unable to believe that she had just called him dad. Luyando was smiling at him, busking in the results of her charming act.
Sighing heavily, Bernard dropped his head in resignation and said, “I am sorry Lulu, I can’t do that.”
Her father’s firm refusal caught her by surprise. Had she misread the desperation she had seen in his eyes that first time they met at the car park? “What do you mean you can’t do it? I am giving you the chance you begged me for! Don’t you want to be my father again?”
“Of course I would love that,” he said. “I have waited for an opportunity to do something for you that would show how sorry I am but…but this is not it Luyando. I love Natasha as much as I love you. The both of you are my daughters and I would never hurt one to please the other. I am sorry.”
“You coward!” Luyando finally snapped, leaving no trace of the charming smile she had been wearing a few seconds ago.
“You are still as much a coward as you were twenty years ago. You were not the first man to lose his wife and yet you allowed something as little as grief to take over your life. Like a pathetic fool you cried yourself to sleep every single night.
“I thought that maybe time might have turned you into a man but I guess I was wrong. You are still that old pathetic loser. I bet mum turns in her grave every time her spirit bumps into you. Does your new wife know how much of a coward you are?”
An image of Martha dragging him out of the river when he attempted to take his own life twenty years ago crossed Bernard’s mind and made him shudder in shame.
His daughter’s words were as cutting as the look of disappointment in her eyes but all he could say in response was; “I am very sorry my daughter…I am sorry.”
“I guess I was mistaken,” Luyando said in a very low and controlled voice. “I thought you were sorry to me and would be willing to do anything possible to make things right between us. I was wrong. You never cared about me back then and you still don’t.”
“Please, don’t say that Luyando.” Bernard pleaded.
“Back then it was mum that was more important and now it’s this new family of yours that’s more important than me.” She started to cry. “When will I ever have your heart dad? How come I’ve never been your first? Am I even your real daughter?”
“Of course you are my daughter.” Bernard said, reaching across the table to hold her hands. She easily allowed him to touch her without fighting him off. “Just because I made a mistake in the past doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
“Then prove it to me,” Luyando said. “For once in your life show me that I can also be number one in your heart.”
Bernard said nothing.
“Why are you quite?” she asked, withdrawing her hands.
Bernard removed his hands from the table and dropped them to his laps. “I don’t want to lie to you Luyando. It’s a fact that I want to earn your trust and love again…but, at this point in my life, my loyalty doesn’t just belong to you.”
Luyando bolted up from her chair. “Then I guess you leave me no choice.” She told him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bernard asked.
“I am going to tell everyone that I bumped into you and you threatened to kill me if I told anyone that you are back in town.”
“There’s a group of people at home who believe that you used to abuse me, how can they not? They saw the evidence with their own eyes. You probably saw the blood marks I left in the tent, I had cut myself up, hit myself against some wall and rubbed my face with dirt.
“I was a mess when I ran to the Mulenga’s crying for help. For three years I had nightmares of you sexually abusing me so I had to sleep with Ayanda till I was normal again. My mother will never forget my cries in the middle of the night begging you to leave me alone.”
Bernard somehow found himself on his feet too, glaring at his daughter in total disbelief.
“If I even as so much as point them in your direction, can you imagine what they might do to you? Let’s not even talk about the police. In this country, anyone with money can tune the law to their favour.
“I was only ten when I planted evidence against you; imagine what I am capable of in my 30’s. I am going to give you a week to think about my offer. If you are not decided by then, do not blame me for what happens, at least I gave you a chance to make things right.”
“Why are you doing this?” Bernard asked.
“Because I can,” his daughter answered smugly.
Luyando grabbed her handbag from the arm of the chair and walked out of the restaurant, a triumphant smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

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