“Yes tell us Tinashe,” Diana added curiously.
Thinking about how Fumbani embarrassed me did me no good. From the time I talked to him, I didn’t enjoy anything that was happening at our school. I kept thinking of my approach. I didn’t know what I expected from him but his response was unpredictable. I knew he liked me and I didn’t expect him to agree to stop pursuing me. Being a young proud woman, i decided to stop thinking about it my friends wanted the details.
“Well, I told him that he had to stop playing his foolish games with me. This is 1997, he should stop playing,” I said.
“Don’t tell me Tinashe. Why would you do that?” Diana asked surprised.
“I don’t want him, that’s it.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing,” Clara said.
“What do you mean a good thing?” Diana asked and went on. “Fumbani is every girl’s dream and you are saying rejecting him is a good thing?”
Clara was silent for a while and said, “Yes it is. Rumour has it that Fumbani is leaving town. His grandfather owns a farm in the outskirts of Lusaka and he’s needed there. I think this is the last we will hear from him.”
This is when it dawned on me that Fumbani only agreed to stop pursuing me because he was leaving town. To think of it, that was very noble of him. With the economy, letters were expensive to send from different towns and they took time to reach the designated place. Either way, I was disappointed.
“Forgetting Fumbani, have you noticed the way Marlon has been eyeing you?” Diana asked.
“Whose Marlon?” Me and Clara asked at the same time.
Diana’s eyes were wide open in disbelief. For some reason’s best known to herself, we were supposed to know Marlon.
“The guy that was in Grade 9B?” She responded.
“The light skinned one? The shy one?” Clara asked.
“Exactly! Yes. That’s the one”.
I still didn’t know who they were talking about. I didn’t know a lot of boys at our school especially that year because of the exams and all. I was worried about my future. My friends said their parents couldn’t afford paying for them to go to Grade 10. Most of them thought about marriage after Grade 9 but papa didn’t care about all that. He wanted me to finish my school.
“I don’t care about your Marlon,” I laughed. “Let’s talk about something else not boys.”
We changed the topic and started talking about how reaching the year 2000 will be epic for all of us. There were so many assumptions about the year 2000. Many people said it would be the end of the world. Other’s said the earth would disappear into thin air. We were so anxious about 2000.
Leaving the girls, I got home and found Kasuli and Gary sited on the lawn. Usually, when they were on the lawn they would be playing and fighting but this time, their stillness made me afraid. They looked at me and didn’t smile at all.
“What’s wrong beauties?” I asked concerned.
“It’s papa Tinashe, he’s been crying since he got home,” Gary said.
I rushed in the house straight to his bedroom and found him on the floor with a photograph of Mom in his right hand and a piece of paper on his left. He saw me and tried to hide the photograph from me. I knelt on the floor and looked at him. I felt a lump of anger forming on my throat. I didn’t know how to be strong, I broke down and cried as if my legs were being run over by a truck. Looking at papa like that made me feel weak. I wrapped my hands around him and for the first time, papa cried without hiding it from me. I could hear him silently screaming, suffocating with each breathe he took holding on to his pride.
“Today was supposed to be our anniversary,” He wiped his tears. “I loved your mother very much Tinashe. I still do.”
I always thought moving on was not a hard thing to do. From 1994 to 1997, papa still longed for his wife. He tried so hard to hide it from us but I could tell that he missed her so much. We all did but thinking about what she did to us, made it easier for me personally to not think about her too much. On the other hand, papa still had difficulties forgetting her despite the fact that she left us for a man and we had never heard anything from her for three years.
“Up to now, I still don’t understand why your mom left,” Papa sobbed. “You were too young to understand the situation but I know you remember, don’t you?”
It all started like any other day where mom would wake us up for school and prepare everything for us. I was fourteen by then and Kasuli and Gary were 7 and 10 respectively. My father got up for work and left. Momma took us to school and said goodbye. Little did we know that, that was the final goodbye. We got home after school and didn’t find her. We assumed she went to the market. Hours flew by and papa came back from work. We waited for momma but she never came back. Papa’s friends tried to tell him to report the matter to the police station but he was hesitant. Days later, I found out about the letter momma had left papa. I never knew a mother could stoop so low. From that moment on, I hated her.
“Have you eaten papa?” I asked him standing up.
“I don’t have appetite Tinashe,” He looked at me.
“You have to eat papa. Let me prepare something for you,” I hurriedly left his bedroom.
I went to the kitchen and stood motionless. Memories of momma were all over the kitchen. It was her most prized place in the whole house. It was difficult to flash her memories out because everything in the kitchen reminded us of her. Without realizing it, I felt a salty watery substance that rolled through my cheek and found its way to the tip of the mouth. How can someone be so cold? leaving three young children that she birthed on her own like that?
“Tinashe you are crying too?” Kasuli cried.
“Don’t cry Tina,” Gary hugged me.
I looked at them and held them tightly. They were my responsibility. I practically became their mother when momma left. They had so many questions that neither me nor Papa could answer. Realizing that we could not answer their questions about momma, they stopped asking but I knew they missed her so much.
“It’s the onion my sweetness. It’s the one that’s making me cry”, I lied.
“Onion’s make people cry?” Kasuli asked wiping her tears.
“Yes it does. Now get up. Go and sit at the dining table I prepare something for you to eat.”
“I will beat the onion if it makes you cry again Tina,” Gary said walking to the dining room.
Gary and Kasuli were the light in the darkness. Their innocence was so beautiful that it made everything that happened to us seem so basic. I knew papa also saw them as such. Hence the reason of going with Gary every weekend to his workplace. I prepared a quick meal of stewed beef with carrots and potatoes and nshima. We called papa and ate together. We said grace and all ate quietly. I looked at all of them and was thankful that I was strong enough for them.
To be continued