Episode 10 (Last Episode).
On the way to the TV station, Natasha kept calling her mother but the phone kept ringing and ringing.
“She’s still not answering?” Tulani asked.
“No,” Natasha said, looking extremely worried.
“Try your dad.” Tulani suggested.
Natasha called her father and he answered after the forth ring. “Baby, where are you?” He sounded almost out of breath.
“Dad, is everything okay? Where’s mum? I’ve been trying to reach her for a while now.”
“Oooh…your mother…she is…she is…she should be sleeping I think.” Bernard stammered through the lie as he looked down at his wife’s sleeping figure on the couch. Having suffered through many episodes of panic attacks in the past, Bernard had learnt to keep Martha’s meds close by in case of such emergencies.
“She had a slight headache so she’s sleeping it off now.” Bernard said, not wanting to tell his daughter the truth because she would automatically start asking about what caused the attack and insist of coming home instead of going to work.
“Is it very serious?” Natasha asked.
“No, not at all. I think it’s just the heat; she still hasn’t adjusted to the change in weather. Where are you right now?”
“Tulani is driving me to work dad,” she answered, suddenly remembering why she had called in the first place. Her excitement quickly returned. “You won’t believe what happened dad! I have been given the chance to host the biggest program at work today.”
Bernard nervously laughed. “That’s good news baby. Your mother and I are very proud of you.” It was all he could tell her. Soon or later she was going to find out the truth about her father and there was nothing they could do as her parents to keep that from happening.
Instead of shielding her from the pain that the truth might bring her, Bernard reasoned that it would be better if she met her father now and draw her own conclusions based on what she sees. He trusted that the daughter he had raised all these years would be wise and strong enough to deal with such a shocking truth.
Silently, Bernard prayed for everything to be okay.
“Give mum a kiss for me and don’t forget to watch the show! Will call later to check how mum’s doing. Love you, bye dad.”
“What’s wrong with mum?” Tulani asked the moment she was done on the phone.
“She has her usual migraines,” Natasha said. “She’s been getting those since we moved here. I think she’s having trouble readjusting to the weather.”
“We will go straight home once the program is done. What does she like to eat?”
Natasha gave him a look.
“What?” Tulani asked innocently. “She’s also my mother too so what’s wrong with me caring about her?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Natasha laughed.
“Your eyes were loud enough My Lady.”
Natasha continued chuckling.
Despite it being a Sunday, Tulani Media House was a hype of activity as employees readied themselves for the biggest program of the month. With only an hour to go, Natasha went over her lines in Richard’s office for the last time.
“Mr Kaponda is on his way Tasha,” Mr Chanda announced from the door.
She immediately stopped pacing and gaped at her boss in excitement. “How long?”
Mr Chanda laughed. “Thirty minutes.”
“Great!” She said with one hand tied into a fist to warm up her fighting spirit. “I got this.”
“Yes you got this,” Mr Chanda echoed her words with a reassuring smile. “Finish up and head upstairs.”
“Yes boss.” Natasha answered enthusiastically.
The DoP laughed nervously, feeling extremely uncomfortable to have the soon-to-be wife of TMH’s successor enthusiastically refer to him as boss. Given his previous experiences at the hands of Luyando when she was a Mulenga, Mr Chanda had expected the worst from the mother of TMH’s heir. Fortunately, Natasha’s humility was too overwhelming it seemed to catch him off guard every single time.
By the time they reached the station, Nataniel Kaponda had given up trying to reach Martha whose phone was now off. He was led up to the studio blindly, unable to imagine what possibilities that laid ahead. Ever since Marth had told him about Natasha, he had gathered enough information about her to form some kind of composition as to what kind of person she was.
However, the question that haunted him the most was; would he be able to hold himself together in the face of moving vivid reminder of the biggest sin he had ever committed?
Nataniel found the answer ten minutes later when Natasha walked into his designated dressing room where he was having his make-up done with a huge smile on her face. Shaking in his boots, Nataniel stood up from the chair unannounced and surprised the make-up artist whose powder contents went spilling all over the floor…and on Nataniel too.
“I am so sorry,” the nervous wrecked man bent down to pick up the small powder container but Natasha was on it before he could reach it.
“Woah,” Natasha said as she handed it to the trepid artist who appeared about ready to cry, fearing her job might be in danger over the mistake which had not been of her doing. “I had no idea even politicians get nervous.” She laughed and extended her hand over to him.
Patricia, the make-up artist was beside herself now, stifling her sobs upon noticing the large mark of make-up on Mr Kaponda’s trousers. She had just spilled powder on the president of PfP! The man might be the opposition leader but there was no doubt he would be the country’s president in just a few weeks.
“Oh believe me when I tell you that even the most confident of men suffer a bout of nervousness every now and then.” He said as he shook her hand. Just then, a sob escaped Patricia’s tightly closed lips and the two turned to look at her.
“Patricia?” Natasha quickly went over to her, unknowingly giving Nataniel time to compose himself. “Look at you, you are shaking!” She put her arm over her shoulder to help calm her down. “I honestly don’t think Mr Kaponda blames you for the accident.” She was looking at him for affirmation.
“Oh no, not at all.” Nataniel quickly chipped in, rubbing the dirt away. “Just a little rub…and it’s all gone!”
“Good thing it doesn’t stick!” Natasha said, shaking Patricia by her shoulders. “See,” she pointed to where the stain had been. “It’s all gone, relax.”
“I am sorry….” The twenty-six year old make-up artist cried.
“Patricia, you are going to make our guest uncomfortable if you continue acting like this.” Natasha admonished her. “He already said its okay, and the mark is gone so pull yourself together. Do you think you will be able to finish in this state?”
Patricia nodded profusely.
Nataniel Kaponda silently thanked the nervous make-up artist for making the first meeting with his daughter less awkward and less stressful for him…even though it was at her expense. The little mishap had given him time to compose himself and think about what to say now that the ice was broken.
“Can you give us a few seconds to talk in private Ms Patricia?” Nataniel asked. “Oh no, I just need to go over a few things with Ms Chimeko before the interview starts.” He added upon seeing the look of dismay on the young lady’s face.
Nodding, Patricia left the room.
“Is there anything that concerns you about the interview?” Natasha asked the politician. “Please, sit,” she pointed to the chair he to his chair while she sat down on the other one meant for the make-up artists.
Mr Kaponda pulled his chair and sat down, facing her. “Not at all,” he answered. “I just make it a habit to create some kind of rapport with the interviewer before sitting in front of all those cameras.”
“You mean to make us friends so that I don’t ask grilling questions later?” she laughed.
Laughing too, Nataniel said; “Well, partly, yes.” He admitted. “But this time I genuinely want to get to know you a bit. I don’t know if you’ve heard, your future father in-law and I are quite close.”
“Oh yes, Tulani…I mean Mr Mulenga told me and of course I came across that fact as I was going through your information in readiness for this interview.”
“I have met your husband…I hope you don’t mind me addressing him as such…considering the two of you already have a child together….”
“I knew him since he was a young boy. His father and I met by chance but we became close since, enough to consider each other family.”
“Where are you going with all this Mr Kaponda?” Natasha asked, smelling a motive in the air.
Mr Kaponda chuckled. “You are as intelligent as she said you were.”
“Who said?” Natasha asked.
He immediately realized his mistake the moment she asked the question.
“Oh, I meant my wife,” he lied. “She is a fan of yours. She heard you would be the one conducting the interview and she told me a little about you. She loves your accent.”
Natasha blushed. “Ooh, thanks…tell her I said thanks. It’s flattering to know that the First Lady is a fan.”
Mr Kaponda busted out laughing. “Except she isn’t the First Lady! I don’t want to jump the gun and start making assumptions. If there’s one thing I have learnt about elections in this country, it is that the actual results are always unpredictable; it’s anybody’s game.”
“You are very humble Sir, it’s a rare trait to see…in politics.”
“You flatter me Ms Chimeko,” he said.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” she reminded him. “Why are you trying to get close to me? It can’t be because of the interview, I have seen you take on giants before without breaking a sweat so a political amateur like me wouldn’t faze you in the slightest.”
Nataniel Kaponda laughed heartily. “You truly are bold, perhaps even more than all those giants I’ve faced in the past. I like you Ms Chimeko. You remind me so much of….” he let the sentence trail the moment he realised he was about to make a second mistake.
“You mean my mother?” Natasha asked, closely watching his frazzled demeanour. Mr Kaponda almost choked from the shock of her question. She quickly handed him a bottle of mineral water that had been left on the side of the dressing table for him.
Natasha’s question had the exact desired effect she had hoped it would three hours ago when she decided to test a crazy theory that had popped into her mind upon closely examining Mr Kaponda’s perfect family portrait. The dots seemed to connect a little too perfectly for coincidence.
“Your mother?” Nataniel stammered.
“You are my biological father, aren’t you?” She went straight for the jugular, again catching Mr Kaponda by surprise.
Hearing her name fall out of his mouth in that manner confirmed Natasha’s suspicions. “Oh dear,” she said, getting up from the chair and putting her hand on her forehead. “No, no, no…I have to be wrong…I can’t be right.” She was desperately trying to fight off the tears but they came pouring.
Mr Kaponda did the only thing he could do in that situation; try to reach out for her hand but Natasha pulled away from him, a repugnant expression on her face as she shook her head in disbelief.
“What did you do to my mother?” she asked.
Just then, Tulani and Mr Chanda appeared through the door.
“Babe!” Tulani immediately noticed her state and ran over to her.
“I’m fine.” Natasha said forcefully, turning her back to him to wipe away her tears but it was too late, they had already seen them.
“Is everything alright Sir?” Mr Chanda asked Nataniel.
“Everything is fine,” Natasha interrupted the politician. With her face cleaned dry, she turned to face everyone. “I am fine,” she said to Tulani who had his arm around her waist and starring at her intently before giving Mr Kaponda an accusing look.
“What happened uncle?” Tulani asked Mr Kaponda. Due to the nature of the relationship with his parents, the Mulenga children referred to the Kaponda couple as Uncle and Auntie just like the Kaponda girls did to his parents.
“He just said something that made me tear up a little…it wasn’t anything bad.” Natasha assured the two men looking at them quizzically. “I just got emotional a little, I’m totally fine.”
“You sure?” Tulani was still not fully convinced.
Natasha feigned a laugh. “Of course I’m sure!” she said. “I’m going to my dressing room to fix my make-up while Mr Kaponda finishes his as well. We don’t have much time left to broadcast.”
“Okay, I will walk you there. Ba Chanda, find Patricia and ask her to finish up her work here.”
Yes boss,” Mr Chanda said and walked ahead of them out of the room.
“See you on the other side Mr Kaponda,” Natasha said before leaving the room, trying to sound as natural as possible.
Nataniel Kaponda hung his head in shame, unable to find the right words to say.
Alone in her dressing room, Tulani grilled Natasha for answers.
“Let’s talk about it when the program is over baby,” she kept telling him. “I am really fine, I promise.”
“I don’t believe you but I will wait till the interview is over.” He said and kissed her on the forehead.
When the time finally came, Natasha carried herself like a pro, only slightly flinching in her chair when time to ask about Nataniel Kaponda’s family came. She blinked copiously, looked down on her writing pad for a second too long before gathering her wits together and asking;
“One of your strengths as a politician has always been your family…you have been devoted to the same woman for over twenty years and…and together…you have two lovely daughters.
“Tell me…tell the millions of viewers watching us right now how you’ve successfully managed to keep such a tight neat family despite your demanding life as a politician?”
It was at that point that Martha and Bernard who had been following the program closely at home knew that their daughter had discovered the truth in that short time. Imagining the sort of conversation she was going to have with her when she returned home, Martha broke down in tears.
Nataniel too shifted nervously in his seat and tried to smile to musk the shame and fear. “That’s a very good question Natasha,” he said. “And the answer I’m going to give you is the same answer I’ve always given people that ask me that question; indeed I have been blessed with a tight neat family however, we are far from perfect.
“Just like families out there, we have our own issues that we try to work out as they come. My career as a politician, having served many years as a Minister of Agriculture and also as the Secretary for the opposition party PfP, life is indeed demanding and time expensive.
“I am going to be honest with you, I am still trying to figure out how to find a balance between my family and my career…I am not sure if there is even such a thing!” he laughed. “Nevertheless, my family is my life so I always strive to be there for them and to be the best husband and father I can be; it’s every man’s responsibility.”
“A very diplomatic response, thank you very much Sir.” Natasha said, feigning a smile for the umpteenth time during the interview.
“I think I should add something though,” Mr Kaponda added before Natasha could chip in the next question. “I think its public knowledge that before I married my wife, I led a very questionable life as a young man. There was a very brief period in my life when my life fell apart.
“Back then as youngsters, our answer to every problem was alcohol and, I am not trying to make excuses here but, I made a lot of mistakes back then…bad decisions that I am not proud of. I turned my life around since and I have learnt from all my mistakes. I think that honestly, that’s why I am able to be a good husband and father.
“All I ask the public is that they give me a chance to contribute on a larger scale to the growth of our beautiful nation, for a new start, for much needed change, and for prosperity.”
A politician indeed you are , Natasha thought as she silently mulled over how calculatingly well he had survived her question.
“Can we talk in private?” Nataniel asked Natasha the moment the interview was over.
She waited for the crew to take away their microphones before leaning in towards him and whispering; “For what, so you can talk your way out of your mistakes? Never gonna happen.”
Tulani was beside her in that moment, watching the two closely and suspiciously. “Thank you for coming all the way uncle,” he shook the man’s hand.
“It was an honour for me to be here son,” he replied. “Besides, it’s the least I could do considering how much I owe your family. You have a very beautiful and intelligent woman here Tulani,” he was looking at Natasha who couldn’t seem to hide her look of disdain any longer. “Take care of her and cherish her the way you would want your own daughter to be cherished by her man.”
“Thank you uncle, I intend to do exactly that.” Tulani said most confidently.
“We should get going now Tula, it’s getting late.” Natasha quickly forced the conversation to an abrupt end. Turning to Mr Kaponda she said; “Thank you for answering all my questions despite my inadequacies in the field of politics. I hope we will have the pleasure of seeing you here again soon after you win the elections.”
“You flatter me Natasha,” he answered reservedly. “Win or lose, I will always have time for you…for TMH.”
“Of course.” She said between clenched teeth before turning to leave.
Tulani closed the windows and locked the doors of his car the moment they were inside and gave Natasha his full attention.
“Aren’t you starting the car?” Natasha asked.
In response, Tulani crossed his arms over his chest defiantly. “We are not going anywhere until you tell what happened between you and my uncle. I know that politicians have their own shade of darkness…did he try something….”
“Hell no!” Natasha yelled before he could even finish his sentence. “It’s nothing like that.” She laughed.
“Then why were you crying?”
“It turns out that man is my father.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“How….” Tulani started to ask.
“That’s a question I don’t ever want answered, ever.” Natasha said sternly.
“But, don’t you want to – “
“I don’t remember much of my childhood but there’s one thing that’s stayed on my mind; my mother’s fears…her panic attacks, the nightmares…and dad telling her that man would never hurt her again. I always wondered who the man was…until today when mum suddenly got sick right before I gave her the news of my interview.
“At first I didn’t make much of it…but then I saw a picture of Mr Kaponda and his family. Those two girls look like me; their eyes, their noses, even their foreheads…it’s all me. After that, everything else fell into place.
“I recalled my mother’s reaction every single time the name Nataniel Kaponda was mentioned on the news in the past few months; her mood would drastically change and she would refuse to eat anything for days. It all made sense today.”
“Baby….” Tulani drew her into his arms and she broke down in tears right away.
“I think I know the truth…about what happened,” Natasha said in-between sobs. “But if I ask, it will all become real. I don’t want to know what really happened Tula.”
“Ooh my love….” Tulani tightened his arms around her. He let her cry for a while before finally driving her home.
“Are you sure you are going to be okay in there?” He asked her once they were parked outside her home. “I am sure your parent’s are waiting in there ready for you to fire away.”
“I know.” Natasha took a deep breath, kissed him goodnight and stepped out of the vehicle.
Tulani made sure she was safely inside before driving off. Before opening the door, Natasha turned to wave at him for the last time.
As expected, she found her parents in the living room looking like a pair of wet puppies. Bernard stood up the moment the door opened and ran over to her, his eyes heavy with emotion.
“Woah, did someone die in here?” Natasha asked loudly, a huge grin on her face as she gave her father a hug. “I expected to find a lot of food laid out on the table with loud music playing waiting for me to arrive and celebrate my achievement today.”
Bernard and Martha gave each other knowing looks. They knew exactly what route Natasha had chosen to take. They had considered two possibilities; either she bombards them with questions or she plays it cool, acting like nothing ever happened. She had obviously gone for the latter.
Martha stood up and went to give her daughter a hug, tears streaming down her face. “I am so proud of you baby,” she said. “Thank you for making me so proud…and sorry I couldn’t take your call earlier….”
Natasha fought back her tears. She understood very well what her mother was apologizing for. “I know mum, I know.” She said, her arms still around her.
“Okay, enough hugging!” Bernard clapped his hands and the two women separated. “To celebrate, I prepared your favourite Tasha, and something extra special.”
“Uuuuu, I’m excited!” She said and right away headed towards the kitchen. She avoided looking at both of them as she left the room. Bernard went to put his arm over his wife’s shoulder and led her to the kitchen.
That night Natasha went to bed early. She took a sleeping pill and slept the night away.
She never asked her mother any questions concerning Nataniel Kaponda, not that day…or any other day.
* * *
The following morning, Martha was excited to prepare Sean for his first day at pre-school while his mother prepared for work.
“Why didn’t you wake me up mum?” Natasha asked her mother when she went down into the kitchen to grab a sandwich.
“You had a tough day at work yesterday, I wanted you to rest a bit, you deserve it.” Martha answered whilst feeding her grandson.
Natasha spotted her well packaged breakfast on the table and put it straight into her bag. She bent down to give her son a big kiss on one cheek. “I really wanted to see him attend his first class here in Zambia.” She lamented to her mother.
“I will record everything so you don’t have to worry about a thing.” Her mother promised.
Natasha ran over to her side and gave her a hug. “Did I ever tell you that you are the best mother in the world?”
Martha chuckled. “Not as many times as I would love to hear.”
“Then you will be hearing it every day from now on!” her daughter said.
“And what about me?” Ben appeared in the kitchen. Natasha ran over to him as well and wrapped her arms around him. “You too dad, you are the best dad in the whole world! I love you,” she kissed him on the cheek and started running out of the room. “Send me the teacher’s number when you get it mum!” She shouted.
“Do you think she’s going to be alright?” Bernard asked his wife.
“She’s our daughter.” Martha said proudly. “An angel,” she added. “God always protects his own.”
An hour later, Martha led little Sean to his first class, all the while recording everything around them as well as Sean’s excitement as they walked towards the school’s administrative block. Having expected him to cry for her for leaving him behind, Martha was surprised to notice that Sean appeared comfortable in his new strange environment and seemed to be getting along well with the boys around him.
Something about his charming smile reminded her of his father Tulani, that evening outside her home in the US when he dropped off Natasha. The two of them had no idea she was watching them. Martha remembered seeing the smile on Tulani’s face and could tell he had fallen in-love with her daughter.
“I bet Tulani was exactly like that when he was that age, a real charmer.” Martha laughed to herself as she recorded Sean from the door. Once she was sure she had gotten enough for the mother, she waved to the teacher and closed the door.
She was just about to step inside her car when something made the hairs at the back of her neck stand up. Martha quickly turned around and scanned the area in sight. Apart from the empty cars in the parking lot, there was nobody else in sight. Shaking her head, she turned and got into the car.
Five hours later, Martha received a call from Sean’s teacher Ms Moyo and instantly regretted having ignored that feeling earlier that day.
“What do you mean someone picked up my grandson?” Martha asked.
Bernard entered the bedroom right at that moment.
“A lady, she said she was the boy’s aunt.” Ms Moyo was saying.
“His aunt?” Martha asked, quickly putting on some shoes and ready to bolt out of the house. Ben followed her downstairs.
“Did something happen to Sean?” He asked her as they ran down the stairs.
Martha stopped to look at her husband. “Someone took him honey. Someone took our boy.”
“What do you…give me that.” He took the phone from her. “Afternoon, this is Mr Chimeko, Sean’s grandfather. Who did you say took my grandson? Couldn’t there be some sort of mix-up? We never sent anyone to pick him up. My wife was just about to head over there right now. Isn’t he supposed to knock off at 2?”
“Yes Sir, that’s right.” The young teacher answered. “However, the lady that came to pick him up said that there was a family emergency and she was sent to collect Sean. She seemed to know a lot about your family…and I happened to know who she was since I’ve seen her in the papers and on TV before. Your grandson even referred to her by name, called her his aunt.”
“Oh dear God.” Ben said, giving his wife a desperate look. “You have the keys?” He asked her.
Martha nodded. “What’s wrong? Has she told you who took him?”
“You won’t believe this,” Bernard said. “Luyando, she’s the one that took him.”
Martha’s heart sunk, her knees almost gave way but Ben held her in time. “Give me the keys,” he told her as he led her to the couch. “I will find Luyando and get back Sean safely.”
Martha snapped her arms and pushed him away. “And you want me to just sit here and wait? I’m coming with you Bernard Chimeko and you better pray that that woman doesn’t harm my grandson or I swear to God I will wring her neck with my bare hands.”
“I would do that to her myself before I let you get your hands dirty.” Bernard said. “Let’s go then.” He grabbed her hand and ran out of the house with her.
“Call Natasha right away.” Bernard instructed his wife as he drove them to Luyando’s new house. “Let her and Tulani think of other places she might have taken him just in case we don’t find her at home.”
“Shouldn’t we also call the police?” Martha asked.
Bernard hesitated to answer.
“What if she intends to take out her anger on him honey?” Martha tried to reason with him. “I understand she is your daughter but you of all people know better than anyone that she needs help. Luyando is not in her right mind.”
“I know, Call them.” He conceded. “And call his other grandparents as well. We need all the help we can get right now.”
Martha punched 911 on her phone but hesitated to press the call button, the defeated look on her husband’s face giving her pause. “Let’s look for them first,” she said and put her phone number. “If we don’t find them in the next hour or two, then we can call the police.”
Bernard heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you honey.” He said.
“Thank me when we find Sean well and safe.” She said, picking up her phone again to call Natasha. Just like she had feared, Natasha was beside herself the moment she heard Luyando had taken her son.
She ran out of her office and headed straight to the boardroom where she knew Tulani was having a board meeting, leaving a trail of wide-eyed people staring after her. She was sobbing and panting when she busted through the doors of the boardroom.
“She has taken my son,” were the words Natasha whispered before falling to the ground in shock. Her adrenaline had finally caught up with her.
Tulani ran over to her and gently picked up her limp body from the floor, all the while calling out her name in despair as the other joined him in lifting her up and carrying her to the nearest chair.
“Luyando has taken Sean.” Natasha said almost in a whisper as tears rolled down her eyes. She tried to stand up from the chair but Tulani held her down. “Everyone leave,” he told the room. “We will continue this meeting another time. Baby,” he turned back to her while the others were walking out.
“We need to go,” she tried to get up again.
“I know,” Tulani said, desperately trying to control his rage and be the pillar she could lean on. He didn’t need to ask her more questions to know what was going on. He knew very well what Luyando was capable of. He just didn’t know how far she would go to get her way.
“I want you to try and catch your breath for now. I need you to breathe in and out…take deep breaths and we will walk out of here to look for Sean. He is going to be just fine baby.”
Natasha did as she was told and the two of them were out of there in no time.
“Where are we going?” Natasha asked Tulani on the drive out of TMH.
Before he could answer, Tulani’s phone rang. “That’s dad, I’m sure your parents have told them. Pick up the call for me, phone’s in my side pocket.”
Natasha took out the phone and answered.
“It’s me Mr Mulenga,” Natasha announced herself immediately. “Tulani is driving right now.”
“Your mother called us about Sean, where are you going to look? Tell Tulani to head to the Chongwe house, his mother says Luyando never returned the keys to that house. She might have gone there with the boy.”
“He says we head to Chongwe,” Natasha told Tulani.
“I know, that’s where we are going.” Tulani said.
“That’s where we are going Sir.” She relayed the message.
“Good.” Mr Mulenga said. “Ayanda and I were look at some lodges Luyando loved to frequent. Sean is going to be okay Natasha.” Joshua reassured his daughter in-law. “Luyando might be crazy, but she is not downright evil. She wouldn’t harm a child.”
She slashed herself when she was a kid! Natasha thought. God knows what she is doing to my son right now. As the thought crossed her mind, the tears started rolling again.
“Thank you Mr Mulenga.” She said and cut the line.
Tulani reached over to her and grasped her hand. “He is going to be just fine Tasha.” He said. He needed to believe those words as much as he needed her to.
Standing in the middle of the living room and looking down at the four year old boy smiling up at her with his big brown innocent eyes, Luyando felt like she had finally reached her breaking point.
“Are you mad at me aunty?” Sean asked her.
Luyando blinked away her tears. “Why do you ask that?”
“Because you don’t look so happy.” He answered.
“Why do you think I don’t look happy?”
“Because you are sad.” The four year old answered. “Mummy said you are sick. She said you need love only. What did she mean?”
Luyando’s fight against her tears intensified. “Your mother, she said that?”
“Um,” the boy nodded. “Grandma, granddad, mummy too, they always hug me and tell me they love me. Do you want me to give you a hug Auntie Yando?”
Luyando cried, finally.
“Why are you crying Auntie Yando?” Sean asked.
Luyando had spent the last hour listening to the boy talk like there was no danger lurking before him. Not once had he looked at her and cried in fear. He had not even asked about his parents, trusting that he was safe in the hands of the woman he believed to be her aunt.
She did not even have a plan. She had just woken up one day and decided that the best way to punish the woman that had taken everything from her was to take the one thing she cared about the most. She had not thought far enough to know what she would do with the boy once she had him in her custody.
The innocence in Sean’s eyes reminded her greatly of her own children. Looking into Sean’s eyes, Luyando remembered all those days and nights her children had cried for her attention, when she could not see them except for her desires to win over the heart of a man that never thought of her as a woman but only as a sister.
If Sean could see sadness in her eyes, what did her twins see when they looked at her? Luyando wondered. She had been willing to give up everything, including her own life for one man, but what had she received in return? She was now holding hostage someone who had no clue as to what was going on and the only thing he knew to do was trust…trust that he was not in any sort of danger. When was the last time she had trusted someone like that? Had there ever been anyone like that in her life…someone she could trust to take care of her against all odds?
An image of Peter immediately crossed her mind. How come she had never seen it before? He had stayed with her and loved her for years despite knowing she had another man on her heart. He had loved her and he loved their children like no other had ever done, not even her own father.
Before she knew it, Luyando hit the floor on her knees and broke out in sobs. Confused by whatever was going on, Sean did the one thing he had seen his grandmother do to his mother whenever she was feeling down; he wrapped his tiny arms around Luyando.
Sean’s innocent act of tenderness finally pushed Luyando over the edge and sobbed some more, wrapping her arms tightly around him as she did so.
“I c-an’t bre-a-th-e.” Sean complained under his breath but Luyando was too wrapped up in her sorrow to hear him…or hear Tulani’s car pull up in front of the house. It was only when Natasha yanked her son from her arms and pushed her away that she regained her senses.
“Mum!” Sean shouted upon seeing his mother.
“Baby, mummy is here.” Natasha said as she examined her son everywhere. “Are you alright baby? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“No,” the boy answered nonchalantly.
Once he was convinced Sean was fine from watching him with his mother, Tulani walked over to Luyando and reached out his hand to help her up.
Luyando rejected his hand and tried to push herself up, except, she kept failing miserably. The more she tried and failed, the more shame and embarrassment she felt. Is this how pathetic I have become? Luyando cried as she slammed herself back on the carpeted floor. She buried her head into her hands and sobbed.
“Mummy can you give auntie a hug?” Sean asked his mother. “She is very sad.” Natasha turned to look at Luyando’s desperate state.
“Sean, why don’t you and I go out and take a look at the beautiful orchard behind the house?” Tulani took his son’s hand and led him out of the room.
“What is an orchard dad?” Sean asked.
“It is a garden of fruits son.”
“Woooow. Are there apples there?” the four year old asked excitedly.
Inside, Natasha watched Luyando from where she was standing without moving. Five minutes went by and no word had been said between the two…except from the fading sobs of Luyando whose face was still buried in her hands.
When she couldn’t take the tension any longer, Natasha went to sit down on the floor next to Luyando. Luyando felt her beside her and lifted up her head.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Luyando had stopped crying and was not glaring at Natasha.
“You look like you could use a shoulder to cry on.” Natasha said.
Luyando scoffed. “From you?”
“Why not?” Natasha asked. “Think about it Lu, have I ever been your enemy?”
Luyando tried to get up but her head was spinning from crying so much that she was forced to sit back down. “Just leave me the hell alone or call the police on me for kidnapping.”
“As much as I would love to do that, I can’t do it…because whether I like it or not, you are my sister…which means you are also Sean’s aunt. I just don’t appreciate you taking him away without informing us.”
Luyando was looking at her like she would a crazy person. “Is that how you want to play this?” She asked. “How kind of you.” she said sarcastically. “Are you doing this just to look good in your fiancé’s eyes? Or, is this some ploy to show you Bernard what a better daughter you are compared to me?”
“Why do you always assume the worst of people?” Natasha asked. “I have never once tried to take anything away you; not Tula, not my father and not anything your mind has cooked up.”
“Easy for you to say since you’ve grown up receiving the love that should have been mine from in the first place.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’ve never ever received love of your own all your life?” Natasha asked. “I am sorry to have to surprise you Luyando but you too grow up with plenty of love, you were just too dame selfish to notice it.
“Dad might have made a mistake with you back then but he never once forgot about you. You were fortunate enough to be adopted into a good family and be loved by a mother that loved you probably more than she did her own biological son.
“Even knowing that, Tulani still loved you. instead of lashing out at you for taking his mother’s love away, she tried to understand your situation and he loved you like a sister nevertheless. And let’s not forget about your devoted husband Peter. You are where you are today Luyando not because the world has been unfair to you; you are here crying on the floor after kidnapping an innocent child because you do not love yourself enough.
“How do you expect people to love you when you can’t love yourself? You had plenty of chances to make something of your life, to live happily but you blew all that away due to your selfishness. It’s not like Tulani ever gave you hope. You knew from the beginning what his feelings were yet you kept pursuing the hope of you two being together.
“I’m going to be honest with you; I don’t pity you at all. In fact, I don’t think you even need therapy. You know very well what your problem is and the sooner you face the facts, the better for everyone, especially yourself. You have two beautiful women that are going to end up being raised by another woman simply because their mother was too wrapped up in making some man fall in-love with her.
“Imagine the kind of hate you felt towards dad when he neglected you, what do you think your kids will feel when they find out why their own mother abandoned them? I don’t think you are a bad person. If you were, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now having this conversation. I just think that you are a very disturbed person with misplaced priorities. Take a long walk back into your life and see who your enemy really is.”
A minute went by and Luyando said nothing in response.
“Luyando?” Natasha called out to her.
“You talk too dame much.” Luyando finally spoke.
Natasha laughed. “So I hear,” she said. “Is that a smile I’m seeing at the corners of your mouth?”
Luyando quickly straightened her face. “What smile?” She asked. “How can I be smiling in this situation?”
“Well, I wouldn’t hurt to try.” Natasha said.
“You must think that I am a nutcase, right?”
“I never said that.” Natasha said. “Well, to be honest, a little.”
Luyando kept quiet for a few seconds before busting out in laughter. “I knew I would never win Tulani the moment I met you.”
“Do I take that as you conceding defeat?”
“Definitely,” Luyando answered. “Only a fool can keep pursuing a man even after kidnapping his child. I hate that things had to reach this far…that he saw sides of me he should have never seen. I wish the ground would just open up and swallow me. It’s embarrassing.” She shut her eyes and hung her head as she ended the sentence.
“I Can’t say I am not happy to hear you say that.” Natasha admitted.
“I know,” Luyando replied.
“What do you plan on doing now?”
“Those things you said about me…those many many things, you are right. And you know what the funny thing is; I thought the exact thing when I looked at your son today. It took a four year old to finally make me realize exactly what’s wrong with me. Gosh, a four year old!”
Natasha laughed. “If it makes you feel any better, the doctors said he is way too intelligent and mature for kids his age.”
“At least he didn’t take after his father in that department.” Luyando said.
They both laughed.
“See, you are finally laughing.” Natasha remarked.
“Imagine that,” Luyando said. “I never thought a day like this would ever come. I guess a lot changes when one changes their perspective. I wonder what would have happened had I realized certain things sooner.”
“No one can tell what the future will be like.” Natasha said. “You can try, but you can never be 100% sure. We just to deal with whatever situations we are dealt the best way possible.”
“It’s obvious who your son takes after,” Luyando commented sarcastically.
Natasha laughed. “It’s obvious indeed.” She said.
“I am going to look for Peter.” Luyando announced.
Natasha gaped at her in disbelief before smiling. “You will?” She asked. “That’s fantastic Lu!”
“I am too proud to beg him to take me back…but I am hoping he does. But if we can’t work out, I will be happy to have my kids back. It took long I know, but I finally realized they are the best thing that ever happened to me. I will take my kids, or just one of them since I know for a fact Peter wouldn’t let me leave the country with both.
“I might not have been a great mother to them…but I still loved them…I still do. Never once wanted any sort of harm to come to them…like I felt with Sean earlier. With my kids, I was just too preoccupied by other things to appreciate them more.”
“You’ve made the right decision Luyando.” Natasha said.
“I want to say something smug, a clever retort of some sort but I don’t want to do that anymore.”
“Did we perhaps enter the wrong room?” Tulani asked the two ladies seated on the floor.
* * *
Four Months Later
After years of waiting and begging for her heart, Tulani finally got his wish when he wedded Natasha. In Tulani style, it was an extravagant ceremony, a page out of a fairy-tale. At thirty years old, divorced and with a child, Natasha would have never imagined herself being the centre of attention at such a profligate event. But it was exactly what Tulani wanted; a loud statement proclaiming his undying love for the woman of his dreams.
A few minutes before the bride and groom were to make an entrance at the reception that evening, Nataniel Kaponda begged to have a private audience with them in their room.
“That should be him,” Natasha got up from the bed, shaking and almost breaking in a sweat. Tulani went over to her, pushed the train of her second wedding dress for the day to the side and pulled her towards him.
“You’re gonna be just fine Mrs Mulenga.” Tulani said. “However, he is the president of this country. We can’t possibly keep him waiting by the door any longer.”
“Ooh…why did he come?” Natasha whined.
“He was invited!” Tulani laughed.
“We never really expected him to accept the invitation. Has he no shame?”
Tulani chuckled. “He’s a politician love, shame is a rare emotion for them to feel. Besides, he is your biological father. whatever happened between him and your mother in the past is just that; past. He obviously wants to have a relationship with you. Should I open the door for him now?”
“Okay, let him in.” Natasha went to position herself on the edge of the bed while Tulani went to open the door.
“Your Excellency,” Tulani shook the president’s arm.
Mr Kaponda laughed. “I asked you to continue calling me uncle, not this excellency nonsense between family. This is a private event with family and friends. I would like to feel like I am a part of your family…at least.” He was looking at Natasha from the door as he said the last part.
“Come in,” Tulani stepped aside to let him in. “Except I don’t think all these men will fit in the small room….”
“Wait here gentlemen,” Nataniel said to his bodyguards. “I won’t be long.”
Natasha found herself up on her feet again. “Mr President,” she greeted the man she now knew to be her father.
“Sit Tasha,” Nataniel said as he pulled a chair from the dresser to sit in front of her.
“I’ll be out here getting to know your security team uncle while you two chat.” Tulani said and closed the door behind him.
“Why did you come, to both the wedding and the reception?” Natasha asked.
“How can I miss your wedding Natasha?” Nataniel asked.
“Stop.” Natasha held out her hand. “Just stop it. I will never acknowledge who you are to me even if you are the most powerful man in the country.”
“I know that Natasha and I understand. I am not trying to force my way into your life, I promised your mother I wouldn’t…and I intend to keep that promise. As for coming here, I beg that you forgive me.
“It was very selfish of me, I know…but I couldn’t help myself. I have absolutely no right to be here or to expect anything…but, I just had to come and witness the beginning of your new life here. This will be the first and last time. But Tasha, if you ever need to….”
“No, it’s never going to happen.” She cut him off, turning her back to him to fight off the tears.
Looking defeated, Nataniel was forced to agree with her. “I know,” he said. “I am very sorry Natasha…for everything.”
“I know, just leave.” She said with her back still to him.
Nataniel got up but before he could open the door, he stopped and looked back at her. “Congratulations on your marriage Natasha.” Then he opened the door and left the room.
Natasha dropped to the floor and gave in to the flood of tears. Tulani rushed over to her and put his arms around her.
Twenty minutes later, the two of them entered the reception hall with the dance of their lives, all smiles like nothing dramatic had happened just a few minutes ago.
“I think I should teach brother in-law a few moves after the honeymoon.” Natasha’s younger brother Alex told his parents. “What the hell does he think he is doing?” the twenty year old was laughing as he watched Tulani dance.
“Not everyone spends their time parting and clubbing son.” Martha said with a huge smile on her face, her gaze fixed on the dancing pair. “Let my son in-law enjoy himself. This is one of the best days of his life.”
“Is it safe for Tasha to be dancing that much?” Bernard had concern written all over his face.
“She’s only a month old pregnant honey, relax. Other women have done worse things. A little exercise doesn’t hurt.”
“Tasha is pregnant!?” Alex yelled right at the moment when the song was ending and Tulani and Natasha were about to sit at the high table. The whole room had heard him, including Tulani who like all the guests appeared to be hearing the news for the very first time.
“You’re pregnant?” Tulani asked Natasha.
“I wanted to surprise you later tonight but – “ she sent her kid brother a stern look. Alex simply shrugged his shoulders innocently.
Taking everyone by surprise, Tulani put his arm around Natasha’s waist, tilted her back and laid kissed her passionately on the lips, winning himself applause from the guests.
Natasha managed to separate herself from him and hitting him on the chest she said; “Our parent’s are here!”
“So what?” Tulani asked, laughing before taking her hand and leading her in a bow towards the guests before sitting down. The MC immediately sounded off.
Natasha was looking at the guests as they sat down on their seats when she thought she saw someone familiar disappear through the door.
“Isn’t that Luyando?” Natasha asked her husband.
Tulani turned in the direction of his wife’s gaze and caught the last glimpse of a female’s back. “I know that walk very well.” He said. “It’s really her. I thought she had left the country….”
“She’s still fighting for custody of the children with Peter. I heard from mum that his new wife doesn’t want him to have any dealings with her. She thinks Luyando is trying to use the kids to get back with Peter.”
“She is not even his legal wife, what’s her problem?” Tulani asked.
“They’ve been living together ever since he moved out of the house with Luyando and she’s nine months pregnant with his child.”
Luyando ran to her vehicle the moment her feet stepped out of the hall and locked the doors, panting and sweating, she dropped her head onto her steering wheel and cried.
Unbeknownst to her, Alex had seen her enter the hall and followed her out thinking she was out to cause again. He had heard all about her crazy antics from Joshua, his sister’s new father in-law and he had made sure to stay alert during the ceremony and reception to protect his sister.
However, the picture of Luyando crying alone in her car was not the image he had imagined her to be. After five minutes trying to compose herself, Luyando stepped out of her vehicle again and sent Alex hiding behind a car.
He followed her quietly behind and watched her hand an envelope to one of the door bouncers at the door and walked back to her car. Once he was sure she was out of the premises, Alex ran over to the bouncer who had received the envelope and got it from him.
“The lady said to give it to the bride and groom.” The well-built man said in a thick masculine voice.
“I know,” Alex said. “The bride is my sister.” He then opened the enveloped with utmost care and found a cheque and a note inside. “$1000! Is she nuts!?” Alex almost lost it. “Who the hell gives this much as a wedding present?”
None of the bouncers answered him.
Alex opened the note;
I hope you do not take this as me trying to buy your forgiveness. I know that no amount of money can ever make up for all the things I put you two through.
However, this is the only thing I could think of doing. I started at $300, but it seemed so little so I raised it to 500, then 700…and finally settled for 1000. It’s my way of saying congratulations on your marriage…and that I wish you nothing but the best.
I hope that if we ever meet in future, it will be on good terms so we can start all over again. I hope the two of you and the rest of the family can think of everything that’s happened in the past as simply; a twisted fate.
Congratulations Mr and Mrs Mulenga!
Luyando Mulenga Chimeko.
“Wow,” Alex said upon finishing. He folded the note in half again and put it back in the envelope. “A twisted fate indeed.” He said and walked back into the hall.
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