“Happy birthday Tinashe,” Diana and Clara shouted excitedly.
3rd February, 1998, I was celebrating my eighteenth birthday with my two closest friends together with my sister Kasuli. We were at Clara’s place and Clara had big news for us but she said it could wait till they wished me a happy birthday. Their company made me forget the hardships i was going through at the hands of my Uncle and his son.
“Now tell us the big news?” Diana asked Clara curiously after we had eaten the cake made for me by Diana.
I looked at Clara who seemed to be in a good mood ever since we got at her place. She was glowing with excitement.
“I am getting married,” She whispered happily.
Diana and me looked at each other surprised. Not once did Clara told us about any man in her life and she dropped the bomb of getting married from nowhere.
“How?” I asked shocked.
“What do you mean how Tinashe?” Clara looked at me expressionless.I went quiet.
“What she means is we don’t know anything about this, tell us the details,” Diana clarified my question.
Clara told us about the man she was about to get married to. His name was Harold. He was a Teacher in Copperbelt. Her parents arranged the whole thing. At first, she didn’t like him but after spending some time with him, she grew fond of him. She said she was against the idea of her parents arranging the marriage but later, she was grateful to them.
“He’s so mature and responsible,” she said joyfully.
“We are happy for you Clara,” Diana said while I just listened.
The entire time Clara narrated her fairytale , I kept thinking about what my uncle said about me turning eighteen and marriage. After hearing Clara talk about marriage, it then dawned on me that the possibility of an arranged marriage for me was high. I was not ready for marriage. I told myself.
“What is it Tinashe,” Clara asked concerned. “Are you not happy that I will be getting married?”
“Of course I am happy Clara,” I said forcing a smile.
“You were worrying me,” she laughed.
“If you don’t mind, how old is Harold?” I asked
Clara looked at me aback.
“He’s 35,” she answered hesitantly.
Growing up, we were told that a man who was supposed to marry us was supposed to be ten to fifteen years older than us but that didn’t make sense to me. The age gap was too much and which person would choose who to fall in love with and their age. It was tradition and custom, it had to be followed. That’s one of the reasons Clara’s parents thought Harold was the perfect match for their daughter despite the fact that Clara was only 19.
“He’s perfect for you,” I said hiding my astound expression.
I then thought of Marlon who was only three years older than me. I wondered what my uncle and his wife would say about our relationship. I met up with Marlon after parting ways with Clara and Diana. I left Kasuli at Clara’s place. Marlon took me to lunch and we later went to the outskirts of Lusaka. The place was quiet. No one was around the area. The birds and toad sounds were the only thing I could hear.
“Close your eyes Tina,” Marlon said smiling.
“What is it?” I asked him suspiciously.
“Just close them,” He insisted.
I closed my eyes and I heard him move as if getting something from the back seat. I then heard some sounds of plastic bags.
“Open them,” He said with a low tone.
I opened my eyes and Marlon held a wrapped box like parcel and handed it over to me.
“Happy birthday Tinashe,” He smiled.
I was so eager to open it. I looked at him for approval to open it and he nodded his head. I opened it and found a beautiful flared sleeveless pink dress. Just looking at it, I could see that it would fit me perfectly. He knew how much I loved dresses.
“Thank you Marlon,” I hugged him.
“There is more,” he removed a small rectangular brown box from a plastic he held in his other hand.
I stared at him as he opened the box and removed a silver necklace so shiny it made my heart skip a beat.
“It’s beautiful,” I said tears forming in my eyes.
I was emotional because no one had ever being good to me like Marlon since papa died. Not only had he been good to me but also to Kasuli. He would get things for her once in a while. Being in his presence made me feel wanted and loved. Marlon placed the necklace around my neck and it looked beautiful on me. We sat and talked in the car for almost three hours. It was getting late and I was supposed to be going.
“Another 30 minutes Tinashe,” He looked at me.
“Ok just 30 minutes,” I said.
Thirty minutes passed and I was now getting worried. My uncle would be furious with me. It was getting dark and I had to pass through Clara’s place and get Kasuli. I wondered why he didn’t want us to leave.
Still in his seat, he moved himself and started kissing me. We had kissed quiet a number of times since we started dating but not as passionately as this time. He kissed me like his life depended on it. I could feel his steamy breath as he locked lips with me. He let go and looked at me with desire burning in his eyes.
“Let’s go to the back seat,” he said.
“It’s just fine here,” I told him.
His face saddened. I felt bad and agreed. What could be wrong with just kissing in the back seat of the car. I told myself.
We moved to the back seat and continued kissing. Our bodies were now close to each other feeling each other’s fast beating hearts. I felt his hands all over me while I had wrapped my hands around his neck. I kept telling myself that there was no harm in what we were doing. We were just kissing until He started caressing my breasts which made me uncomfortable. I tried to stop him but he was in the moment. He then slid his hand in my dress and reached for my thigh and was about to pull my pant.
“Wait Marlon,” I pushed him back.
“Come on Tinashe,” He leaned forward and reached for my neck.
I pushed him again this time a little hard.
“What?” He snapped.
Before me was another man. His eyes had turned red with furrows formed on his forehead. This was not my Marlon, I thought to myself.
“Tell me Tinashe. What’s wrong with a boyfriend wanting to have sex with his girlfriend?” He shouted furiously.
“But what Tinashe? I have been a good boyfriend to you, haven’t I? I have done a lot for you and you cannot just show me how grateful you are to me.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. This was not the Marlon I knew.
“I have been buying things for you and your sister. Truth be told, I practically adopted you people and you just cannot give yourself to me. I don’t get this thing of waiting; you want to wait till you are married off to an older man? Everyone is doing it but us. My friends are even laughing at me.”
“Marlon please take me home,” I said forcing back tears.
To be continued