SHIMMER OF HOPE………CHAPTER FIVE…………
Catherine came out of the bathroom after heating a kettle of water and poured in a dish. She’d been getting ready for her usual work days. Checking the calendar, it was Monday and taking a marker, she ticked out the days remaining to the grand business exposition in a few weeks’ time. She had been looking forward to that day for it would mean a change in her life. She walked to the dresser and pulled out among her classiest suits one that she felt would stand out for the day, a grey suit with black and white stilettos. A day like any other, she walked to her bed and laid the neatly pressed suit eying it for a while as she got her shoes shined. In the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse another suit that she hadn’t worn in months. It was among her favourite besides the brown outfit she usually saved for the best of most outstanding events of the month like the grand exposition she, like everyone she worked with, was looking forward to.
That black and white shirted suit was gleaming at her making her have second thoughts of her choice Placing the shoe brush and mutton cloth in hand down, in her open slippers she was, she headed back to the dresser and pulled the ajar door further open and it creaked wide. In its beauty the suit stood out and she reached for the hem and ran her fingers through it till she reached the sleeve and eventually pulled it from its plastic covering and laid it beside the other one wondering whatever she was going to do. Time was ticking and checking her wrist watch she ran her hands in her thick curly hair practically mumbling to herself. What was she to wear? She had her finger to her lip undecided staring at the two outfits till she paused and decided to ask for help calling for Anita.
“Anita!” she bellowed once more and there came light footsteps preceded by a soft knock, “Come in”.
Anita was clad in her school uniform applying Vaseline to her hair as she tied it into a bun and got a ribbon on. She had her bag strapped on one shoulder when she walked in. She looked as usual, dressed like a regular sixteen-year old girl with shining eyes that twinkled as she blinked looking at her mother shaggy curly hair, a loose vest and a towel draped around her body. Shaking rather disapprovingly she pouted, “Yes? You called?”
Her mother was now poking her phone with one hand the other holding the nape of her neck as she walked about the room to pull open the blinds and smiled partially, “Morning sweetheart. How are you?” she said placing the phone down.
Anita took in a deep breath, “I could be better but I’m fine. What’s up?” Catherine had resumed poking her phone and her daughter had to ask again.
“Oh….” Went Catherine placing the phone on the chest, “I’m in need of your help”, she said walking around the bed and pointed at the clothes by the edges, biting her lips, “I can’t seem to decide on what to wear and currently…” she turned her wrist watch to notice that it was past seven, “I’m running late because I can’t seem to decide what I should wear to work today. My water is going cold…”
“Wear whatever compliments your looks”, Anita said looking at her mother that had ever wanted to look classy wherever she went, “Anything will look good on you. You have the looks mum”, she said what she felt she needed to hear.
“Aw”, she smiled, “Now which one?” she asked picking them up, each outfit in one hand showing her each in succession as she pressed them close to her body picturing how she would look in either of them from the mirror, “Which one do you pick? Black or the grey one?”
Anita looked impatient drumming her fingers on the cabinet as she eyed her mother. She always said what she wanted her to hear. Anita always tried to do what she wanted her to see perhaps that way she could hardly set foot in her way. ‘So long as it was enough to appease her then it was good enough,’ she ever thought inwardly. She took two steps forward her mother’s demeanour clearly stating that time was ticking, and she was eying the steaming water in the bathroom. Anita was about to choose when she strayed her eyes to the drawer and like a flash her mood changed.
“You know whatever looks good on you. Don’t act like there is an issue with the clothes. They are just clothes”, Anita blurted with a bitter tone combing her hair with the afro comb she picked up from her mother’s things lying on the cabinet.
“Anita!” snapped her mother startled as she walked to her, “What’s with the sudden attitude?”
“I’m running late too ma. Those suits look pretty much the same if you asked me. Wear whatever appeases you after all it doesn’t matter what outfit you pick they are all classy. It’s practically the same thing every day”, she said rudely and opened the door picking up her bag to walk out.
Catherine looked befuddled, “Anita,” she said fluttering her eyelids, “I try to understand you. I really try. I know that we aren’t close but what’s with this mood of yours?”
Shaking her head as she applied lip gloss, Anita turned, “It’s not like you don’t know…”
Her mother’s face went blank as her brow furrowed, “Huh? What do you mean?”
Looking fleetingly at the dresser again the girl sighed, “You know what never mind! See you in the evening mum”, and with that she left her mother’s room shouting after her, but she didn’t stop to listen.
“ANITA, ANITA!” Catherine continued to yell atop her lungs, “Don’t you dare walk out……on me……” she was walking to the living room, but she heard the door bang and eventually noticed that she was now alone.
Heading back to her room, Catherine wondered whatever could have been causing the rift between her and her only daughter she loved as much. She was trying to get her, wasn’t she? Opening the door with the clothes in both hands she plopped on the bed heaving a deep and heavy sigh with a hand to her eyes. Whatever she was going to do with her child she hadn’t the slightest idea but if it were only a phase she was most certainly going to crack. Work was already draining her and only her determinations was enough to keep her living to appease her employer and feed her only child whom she hardly understood. So long as they were both breathing, alive that was fine. The rest was going to sort it out, eventually. She hoped.
Rising walking to her dresser having finally settled for the black outfit, Catherine had been hanging the other outfit when she stopped, her heart beating slowly and steadily. Her breathing suddenly got loud when she found herself gazing at a slightly crinkled suit, an old one, her purple right on the look brand she ever wore during the time that she was left to fend for her children alone. Her eyes got teary and as her fingers stretched out to touch the tips of the corners– her nails running through the fabric as a tear trickled down her cheeks. She caught it and stared at it before wiping it away. The memory was ever there. Despite the past years and she thought she had moved on, it was still like yesterday…. That fateful day that changed everything about her and possibly her daughter.
The photo frame ever placed with its photo facing down on the cabinet that she never looked at caught her attention; that photo of her own dear son, the photo she had shunned to gaze at because it ever brought her to tears…… Tears that pricked her eyes as she passed her hand through the opening from the buttoned chest of the purple suit and gazed at her finger nails running through it; Nails ever on point, her manicure was all thanks to the salon she ever visited often. She could hear the voices, silent distant sounds that came lightly in her ears increasing by pitch till she could practically visibly recall the whole scenario. With a throbbing heart, Catherine, still with her hand through the fabric, closed her eyes that flashed red with countless tears as she relieved the fateful day…….
SEVEN YEARS BEFORE……
Catherine had had it rough running to and from with papers in her hands from her work place to her car. Eying herself in the makeup kit mirror, she had been more than grateful for the way things had turned out despite having been fired from work months ago for demanding extra pay. Weeks had past of doing little work here and there for part time companies to raise little for food and home keep. She had long given up on full time paying jobs. It had gone on about three to four months or so of not finding a decent one despite dropping application letters almost anywhere she could possibly think of that she had eventually lost count. Almost every full-time paying job that she had applied for turned her down and her spirits went low.
Having to raise at least enough to sustain her home from short time monthly or weekly contracts wasn’t much but the fact that she had been surviving was enough. That Monday, applying makeup and holding her steering wheel, feeling grateful for the day’s pay and conclusion of the contract of one business firm she’d worked for, she only had to look forward to the awaiting job she was due to start the following day. It, unlike the one whose contract with them just ended, was three weeks and not a week’s job. She was more than ready to take it. Amidst her thoughts her phone rang and unknowing who it was she picked it up to find out who.
“Mrs Mwiba?” a gruff and manly voice boomed in the ear piece.
“Yes, it’s I”, she replied.
“Come over tomorrow at nine in the morning if you may,” the caller said curtly.
“Where?” she asked baffled by the invitation.
“Chris-Fold Enterprises within Acacia Park’s location. A job offer awaits you. Be on time. Good day.”
“Um……okay, thank you,” she replied before the man cut the call and she eyed the screen startled for she hardly knew who the man was let alone from which firm she had been called to. She had applied to so many over the past months that she lost track of the names. She had her mind trailing off but she awaited what was in store for her at the firm the next morning.
In the reception she waited for the time to tick past nine am. She was early and before long she was led to an office by the receptionist. She sat on the bench eying the brochure in her hand and the door opened, a young woman passing for an accountant if not secretary asked her in. The office was highly stacked with books, files, papers all sorts of things in an orderly arranged manner that she was impressed. Behind the desk was a woman perusing through files sipping a mug of hot coffee and short bread biscuits on a saucer.
“Morning dear”, the plump woman greeted warmly ushering a seat, “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you”, Catherine replied seeing the woman going through her CV and qualifications.
“Interesting”, the woman pouted closing the papers and smiled, “I like you already,” she noticed Catherine eying her weirdly but she instead stretched her hand, “Congratulations. You are employed. We are in need of your services here so, welcome aboard”.
Catherine felt confused, “Pardon me but when did I apply?”
“Two months ago, but it wasn’t here. It was at our partnering business West Coast Enterprises. They read your files and were impressed. They couldn’t take you in because they had already gotten enough on the team but seeing our need for employees possessing such qualifications they recommended you to us instead.”
Catherine’s face got wet as her eyes began tearing up. Astounded with the news.
“I will see you tomorrow morning?” the woman asked.
“Even today?” Catherine found herself saying.
“If you can do so, yes, but I would prefer that you thoroughly read through our laws, regulations as well as terms and conditions before signing the contract. See you soon,” she said extending her hand.
Elated Catherine was she gladly took it, “Thank you….”
“Mrs Dhumalo,” she introduced herself, “You can call me by that name,” and Catherine nodded.
“Thank you so much,” cried Catherine walking out with some office papers and the contract in hands. She was too excited to believe everything that had happened that words couldn’t describe how truly she felt.
……FOUR YEARS LATER…….
Catherine had still been working for Chris-Fold Enterprises ever since. Her career life had arisen from beneath to the top. From just being a loyal hardworking woman to one of the most respected employees attending various functions, gatherings, auctions and events, her life was simply pleasing. Her wardrobe was filled with all sorts of clothes of various kind with suits from some of the best tailoring businesses in town seeing how formal she ever dressed. She was a stylish hard-working woman who loved her job and to get her company’s name known out there, she did her best to be in the book of records not for show but for personal achievements.
Gone were the days of crying her eyes out for her never coming back husband whose where about had been unknown for four years now. It was like he had merely vanished into thin air or perhaps died. She had long ago shunned her helpless crying for a man whom she had long lost hope of his returning. She was doing her level best to keep her family together and her two children were the most brilliant kids around because of her efforts to have their best upbringing.
Going home one Friday evening, Catherine was exhausted and there was silence at home the moment she got there. Anita had been fetching water but had obviously stepped outside as Catherine had figured the moment she stepped over the threshold walked into the house. The TV in the living room had been on and she had hoped to see Andrew there, but he wasn’t in sight.
“Andrew?” Catherine cooed sweetly from the living room but the boy didn’t respond. She walked about the house looking for him and even checking his room, but he wasn’t there either, “Honey are you here? Where are you sweetie?” she asked turning around the place.
Andrew had been panicking. He had heard his mother’s voice calling from the living room, but he couldn’t move. He had been playing with his toys and accidentally wheeled his car underneath the wardrobe. The whole time his mum had been calling he had been trying to reach for the toy car, but his hand got stuck the moment her voice sounded so close as if she was about to enter the room. His heart was pounding hard as fear took him. His hand had gotten stuck in between the wooden planks and despite effortlessly trying to yank it out, he couldn’t. His fingers had been wrapped around the car if only he could pull his hand out in a hurry before his mother came to the room.
“Andrew?” she called again when she heard noises from her room and smiled. “What are you doing in my room you, silly boy?” she chirped.
Andrew was scared and with one last pull, he finally got free crushing to the floor as the wardrobe came crushing to the floor missing him by inches and the wood splintered as it hit the floor with a loud crash. Clothes were everywhere and in the process his mother’s prized purple suit, one of the last gifts gotten her wedding anniversary by his father got reaped at the corner of the right sleeve. He was frightened when his mother came in rushing to find out what had happened.
“Andrew what is going on in here….” her words trailed off the moment she walked into the room and fixed her eyes on the broken wardrobe and scattered clothes. Her eyes glistening. With anger she glared at the little boy gulping and looking visibly scared of her.
“Mum….” Andrew tried to speak the sooner he got up when he saw her but tripped and fell flat on his belly, his toy car wheeling away from his hand, “I was playing with my toy car, but it went under the wardrobe. I was trying to get it, but the wardrobe fell and…. and….” he mumbled through his words…. “Mum I’m—”
“Andrew!” Catherine blurted out, grabbing his little hand and smacking his face, “Why did you have to be so naughty? All this just for a small useless toy?! Huh?! And what if you got hurt? Then what?”
“Mum…. I’m ……” he tried to speak but she cut him off again.
“Shut up!” she scolded, “Just keep quiet! Useless boy!” she pinched his cheeks and pushed him to the floor to scold him some more. It was while she pouted warning him about bad behaviour that she noticed the purple suit lying on the floor, reaped from one of its sleeves. Her face flustered, and she looked at the boy questionably, “You, you…” she said bending over and picking up the suit, “You’ve ruined the suit I got as a gift from your father. Andrew….” she said her voice’s pitch getting lower, shaking her head and inspecting the cut it had before she collapsed on the bed, weeping heavily.
“Mummy”, Andrew crawled to hold her knees pleadingly, “I didn’t…. mean to….” He choked on his sob, “I’m sorry,” he finally managed to say.
“Get out of my room!” Catherine yelled rising to her feet, “Hurry up, get out!” the boy didn’t flinch but picking up the fallen shoes from the broken wardrobe, she began throwing them at him that he ran to the door to take cover. Tears spilled from his eyes whilst clutching the door knob but his mother was angry with him. She was distraught and looking at him again she glared, “Just wait till I catch you!” she snapped and rushed towards him.
In fear, Andrew rushed out of the room bolting towards the living room door. He rushed outside bypassing his sister that had been next door chatting with a friend and she wondered whatever had been the matter for him to run like that. His mum had reached the front door bare feet and walked to the gate with a shoe in her hands.
“Come back here Andrew!” she yelled atop her voice, it was getting dark but Andrew didn’t stop running not once did he even think of turning back let alone looking over his shoulder.
Everything happened in a flash and few minutes later Anita came back to the house few minutes past seven pm and found her mother leaning by the table a hand to her face whilst holding her phone. She looked bothered and inching closer Anita spoke in almost a whisper.
“Mama”, she said tapping her shoulder and sighing heavily the woman looked up with pink puffy eyes, “What’s wrong?”
“Where’s your brother?” she asked eying her, “Where’s he?” this time with much more troubled.
“I don’t know”, shook Anita as she tried to understand what was wrong, “I saw him run past me but I didn’t know why. What’s going on? He looked scared”.
Catherine sighed once more, “Go check if he’s outside. It’s late”.
“But what did he do?”
Her mother’s eyes trailed to the living room door, “Go find out for yourself what state my room’s in at the moment”, she said closing her eyes to rest.
Obliging, Anita departed to go check and the moment she got to the room, she was shocked to see what such a mess was before her. The splintered wood of the wardrobe, the fallen clothes and the corner of her eye resting on her mother’s wedding anniversary gift with a slit on its sleeve she felt her mother’s pain. It was the last gift from her father and it was the only thing to keep his memory by and it definitely tore her apart with what Andrew had done. Returning from the room to see her mother settled in a chair she stepped out to go look for him upon apologising for him.
What began as a simple search later resulted into a serious panic and outbreak of cry and dismay. The boy was in no sight! Where he had gone to no one had the slightest clue let alone figured out why he had decided to run away as he did. The hours ticked by and some relatives and neighbours were alerted and together, all night, they searched earnestly for a child who made them only tire away for the search was fruitless. The clock struck past ten pm, heading to eleven. A remorseful Catherine had been sitting on the carpet, unkempt hair, a chitenge wrapper on and her eyes looking horrible and swollen from her constant crying. She had one of her sisters, uncle and brother comforting her. Her good neighbour Mrs. Zulu had been sitting beside her wiping her tears away with a chitenge. Anita, confused, tired and barely hungry looked at her food before her. She could hardly eat at all.
“Mum where’s Andrew?” she cried pushing the plate away and looked at the clock, “Where’s he? It’s late”.
Shaking her head disdainfully Catherine had no proper reply but instead tears rolled down her cheeks in a continuous flow.
That night the house was almost quiet. There wasn’t a trail of laughter in the nearest corner besides distant soft sobbing coming from Catherine’s room. Anita all curled up in bed kept looking over her blanket and sheets at her brother’s empty bed, crying softly. She couldn’t begin to imagine where in the world her brother had ran off to and as to why he wouldn’t have decided to come back. What he did had been terrible but not even in the slightest bit could it compare to running away from home. And to where? only God knew where he’d disappeared to and the fact that he was nowhere to be seen only brought back painful memories of her father whose absence had taken a part of joy from her. Catherine had worked hard to keep the house together, in fact so much that Anita and her brother would only have been grateful. All the scolding and pinching had paid off and made them appreciate their mother’s efforts to see them both well and good, school wise especially. Now, with what had happened earlier, with Andrew’s disappearance, Anita could only hope and pray that word came in sooner about her brother’s whereabout.
About sometime past one in the morning, word came in that there was still no sign of the boy they searched for tiredly. Anita could hear her mother talking on phone with her uncle and some police officers that they would continue searching later on in the morning when the sun arose. The feeling inside her was drowning her spirits and as her mother ended the call, Anita slipped out of bed and walked to her mother’s room. Catherine had been sobbing when she heard the door open and her daughter walked in with pyjamas. The sight of her only brought more tears to her eyes.
“Mummy…” Anita began.
“Come here my love,” went Catherine arms stretched out and the girl went over and cuddled her mother tightly who was kissing her forehead, “Your brother’s fine. He will be found. Don’t you worry my child. We shall find him,” she said bringing the girl to her bosom and stroked her hair, “He will be found.”
All the assurance Catherine gave Anita was all that her daughter needed to hear but she was scared inwardly. She wanted to believe her mother but was terribly frightened for not once had her brother ran from home in such a manner let alone not thought of coming back after slipping away from a usual beating. It was so odd and unusual of him that the mere thought of it only bothered Anita weeping inside. Her mother only wiped dried her eyes with the back of her hand whispering whatever form of comforting words she could possibly think of at the moment.
Andrew’s search went for days, which became weeks and finally a month. Anita was dispirited but her mother never lost hope still. A month and half past and there was still nothing. She was a mess. Constantly inquiring from strangers as she drove about town with her daughter in the backseat, handing over papers with Andrew’s face on with her contact details and police information beneath the photo of the missing child, the grieved woman could only hope to get a single word from anyone who was anybody that at least had seen her boy. From the backseat Anita could see her mother walking aimlessly meeting strangers everyway and showing the photo of her son.
The police officers had been searching since the first day the boy went missing but with the futile results from their search, Catherine had decided to take things into her own hands. From the window Anita watched her mother. She unlocked the door and pushed it wide open stepping out into the market place looking from one place to another. She had reached the brink of rendering the situation hopeless. Her mother on the other hand begged to differ.
She was restless and as she turned from the point at which she stood, a batch of papers in her hands, Anita in a knee-high floral dress and hair neatly tied into a ban, eying her mother, a trickle of a tear couldn’t help but escape her eye. Catherine’s heart was shattered. If she had thought of any comforting words to say at her daughter she could hardly utter any as she stood put watching her only daughter weep right before her, her face saying it was time to give up for Andrew was gone.
Slowly the months swooped by and before long it was a year. Home was never the same. Catherine though hardworking had resorted to drinking. Some nights being worse than others with she literally dragging her weak form to the kitchen only to puke out the alcohol contents, to passing out in the car only driven back home by one of her colleagues to talking endlessly in her drunken state and sleep screaming Isaac’s name so loud as if were there. From afar Anita watched it all, gently closing the door to her mother’s room. A loving hardworking woman being reduced to a drunk. It was shocking that the house was still standing. The bills were still being paid and not once did food go short in the house. Everyday was the same. She would literally yell at Anita, cause a racket for no apparent reason sometimes drink herself to sleep and it went on for the past two years till she later on became a full-time workaholic.
Her drinking had reduced, except on sullen and depressing days that Anita dreaded, but mostly, it was as if work was all her mind revolved. The only source of happiness she had. She had at least tried to smile, for her daughter who also put up a face to assure her mother that there was still a family to think of but over time the two had grown apart. Sharing one dining table, creating small talk here and there whenever but they had grown so distant. And it had carried on for three years, the type of life that Anita had grown and come to believe was the one she and her mother led.
……BACK TO THE PRESENT TIME……
The memories from three years before of how Andrew went missing shook Catherine from the core. She collapsed in the dresser with the hanged clothes brushing off her face all worry about being let for work slipping her mind that as her phone ran, she could only but stare at her boss’ caller ID till eventually the phone call ended and it ran again this time she buried her head in her lap and allow the phone to ring the longest before picking up to inform Mrs. Dhumalo that she was coming and had only been held up a little back home.