I was starting work at Levy Mwanawasa on Monday. I woke feeling off and I had to go to the tailor to collect my scrubs and my lab coat which I had taken for adjusting. After cleaning up my room I went into the laundry to help my mom with her ironing.
I found her already ironing, I was about to be inconspicuous and retreat unnoticed but she saw me.
"Is this the time you're getting out of bed Lindilani?" she asked. She only ever used my full name if I displeased her. Lately, I felt like it was every day.
"I woke up earlier, I was cleaning my room," I said.
She didn't look up. Continued folding dad's golf shirts and I figured the conversation had ended, I reached for the already ironed shirts.
"Why didn't you tell me that Achindikwe Muyinda is the father to Thulani? We asked you over and over," she said her voice sounded mournful and I had to take a moment.
"He was not around to take responsibility, I thought it would be more shameful."
"I am glad you realise the shame we have had to live with due to what you did. For God's sake I congregate with his mother! She is the Zanase chairperson! Do you know how embarrassing this news is now?"
"Mom, " I began. But she cut me off.
"So he just wants the child," mom said.
"That is the only thing he is entitled to," I replied.
"What if he wants to settle down and marry you so you can all be a family?"
"I dont want to marry him," I said firmly meaning every word. There was a time I wanted to be married but not anymore.
Mom looked at me as if she wanted to pick up her slipper and smack some sense into me.
"You better change your mind or your son will be raised by another woman."
"This is not 1950, we will have joint custody, or he can forget his son ever existed."
"You will deny Thulani the chance of being raised in a family? Because your pride is unchecked?"
"My pride?" I was momentarily blinded by my anger.
"Mom, where was Achi when Thulani needed him?"
"In the dark, because you didn't tell him," she replied sassily. This woman was undefeated, I swear.
It was useless having this conversation with her and for the many times I have had it, I was tired.
"Do you know why I wanted to know the name of the boy that impregnated you? I was going to go there myself! I was going to demand he takes responsibility! His parents are coming over today and imagine how that conversation will go, you have embarrassed us by keeping this a secret up until now! We will not be in a position to make any demands," she said.
Achi's parents were coming? I wanted to ask who invited them but am sure that would become another lecture on my poor choices. I would have kept the secret of Thulani's paternity until my grave. The only reason I broke was because in a family that supported me, I was outnumbered.
I found dad outside sitting on a garden chair and reading the newspaper but he looked up at me and I knew he had heard everything mom had said.
"Grab a chair Lindi," he said putting the newspaper away. My dad preferred hard-copy papers but he also liked scrolling the internet.
I took a chair from the laundry and sat down. Leaning back knowing another lecture ensued.
"Your mother and I love you very much, like any good parents we would have loved you to have a good and comfortable life. Parenting is not designed to be a one-man show, your son will need both his parents if it is possible. Knowing who his father is will give him a sense of identity, we are not doing this to punish you," he said.
"I know," I replied. Biting down the bitterness mom had left in me.
"Achi's father and I met during my National service, we know each other quite well. Last night he called and said they were coming over today, they were not asking and we are not in a position to deny them the chance to meet their grandchild," he explained.
"Thulani will be thrilled," I commented dryly.
"Your mom cares about you," he tried.
"She is ashamed of me, I disappointed her, I know. Anyway, will I be needed for the meeting?"
" I think it's better you're there. They would appreciate your presence," dad smiled.
I stood up and walked around the house, I sat on the stairs at the back and the tears I had been holding in talking to dad just spilt over. I felt so alone. Why did I come back here? I wondered. I should have stayed in Cuba.
Achi and his parents arrived after lunch. I watched my parents welcome them from the kitchen window, Thulani was with my mom following her around. When they all settled in the living room I walked in and greeted them. Dad introduced me and Achi's parents looked pleased when he mentioned I was a medical doctor.
I sat on the carpet, stretching my chitenge-covered legs in front of me and bowing my head. Thulani immediately came and sat on my lap his small hands playing with my face. I knew there was a look of disapproval on my mother's face and I didn't bother to check.
"Thank you for letting us come over," the General spoke, Achi's dad was still serving in the military on a special contract from what my dad said, he also mentioned they were a very influential family. Well, he sounded authoritative alright.
"Just by the sight of him, he is one of ours," he said smiling. "We accept any charges your family wish to levy on us, for damages. Since it has been some time since these two saw each other we can discuss the next steps later. For now we just wanted to come and see the boy," he said.
"You are welcome, we sincerely apologise for the manner in which...."
"No need for apologies, we are family now. Let's move forward," the General smiled.
Dad called Thulani, sat him on his lap and quietly explained who our visitors were. Then he told him he could go and greet them. Thulani was usually not very gregarious but he was so excited to greet his guests. When he stopped in front of Achi, he looked at me.
"That's your daddy," I heard my dad say. Thulani looked at Achi, and then he smiled. Achi lifted him and put him on his lap.
"Do you have a car?" Thulani asked.
Achi didn't have a chance to respond.
"My friend's daddies have big cars and they bring them to school. Let us go you show me your car."
Father and son walked outside, mom poked me asking me to follow them. I hurried to my feet and excused myself. However, when I reached outside, Thulani was admiring the Hilux that the Muyinda's had come with. he was talking animatedly to Achi and I did not have the heart to intervene.
Once or twice Achi looked over at me and I just smiled.
"I want you to take me to school in your car, so I can show Joshua and Caleb," Thulani announced.
"Okay, we can ask mommy, if she says yes I will take you to school on Monday and pick you up," Achi offered looking at me.
"Do you know am going to be 5 this year? Lindi said its big years so she will buy me something big," he said.
"Big years?" Achi laughed.
"Yes, I want a Spider man cake for home and a Marvel cake for school."
"You want two cakes?" Achi asked.
This time they had settled in the trailer and Thulani was all over the back. he had no fears whatsoever. Guilt wormed its way in me, some of the things he told Achi, I only ever heard them when I asked. I felt so bad. Tears stung my eyes, how could I ever make it up to them?