TEARS, SHADOW OF MY PAST………
Anthony was in a fix as he watched the one said to have been looking for him slowly approach him his entire world coming crashing back down on him. Everything in that moment had come to a halt, him failing to provide the logical answer as to why things had suddenly turned out as the way they were appearing to be. In a moment of a twinkling of an eye, his past flashed before him; memories he’d once thought were long forgotten came back flooding his mind like it was only yesterday when he had last laid his eyes on who now had been standing towering him. She walked over to his side in her well composed motion, carrying herself in the usual stunning feminine kind of way, ever still flourishing, ever still beautiful. Even after all the past years her fragrance was still the same. She hadn’t changed as much.
She looked slightly older but her taste of fashion and appearances were still undeniably on point, like always, like she had been years back—When it was obvious that she was to become family with Anthony if only had things not turned out the way they did. Her striking resemblance with the woman whose memory reopened old wounds he’d thought to have long left behind immediately caused his stomach to churn. She resembled her twin in so many ways but for having known the visible differences, even for identical twins, from a distance long enough to confuse most in distinguishing who was who between the two, Anthony could tell them apart. The only devastating story behind everything was that the person standing before him, unlike her twin, was able-bodied whilst the other absent was in a state that only brought tears to the eyes.
She smiled a smile that reached his way, she looked extremely joyous to have seen him, to have found him yet he on the other hand was battling within what he couldn’t possibly understand.
“Diane—” Anthony said but she shushed him with a hug, a tight warm hug which only got him all the more befuddled, “Wh-Wh-What are you doing here? How did you find me?” he eyed her with much emotion as hot tears stung his eyes.
She only looked at him wordless, still smiling. She had a glow that he hadn’t seen in years. It was too good a sight to believe who really was standing before him, after all that had happened, after all those years he hadn’t laid his eyes on neither her nor her sister let alone her family. It had seemed to everyone that their ties were forever broken, yet there she was hugging him dearly, sobbing on his shoulders.
“Diane, Diane,” Anthony said lowly trying to break free from the embrace but the woman only choked on her joyful sobs, “How did you find me?”
“He did,” she piped up, staring in the doorway of a man who Anthony knew so well, “Martin did. Bernice’s brother.”
“Oh……but how?” Anthony asked.
“He spotted you sometime in Lusaka but you had been too busy a person to even spare a look at him. You literally walked by him without noticing,” Anthony looked perturbed and the woman merrily continued, “Don’t worry, it’s okay. That was eight months ago when Martin had been here for work basis and you looked to have had your hands full too being the typical Business Arts personnel whom you are. Ever running to and from like always.”
Anthony didn’t know what to say but before he could think of anything Diane went further to speak of what she had been dying to say to him.
“Two months ago, Martin being a legal affairs partner with the lover of my life, Bernice,” she paused right away the moment she took note of the look Anthony gave her and then added, “Yes Bernice and I are finally getting married. He’s my fiancé.”
“Oh……” Anthony said slightly surprised, but he did always know that Bernice always had a thing for her.
“Yes, Bernice sent his brother and I on a work basis here in Southern province two months ago. We had been touring Livingstone, meeting various law associates here when we so happened to have stumbled upon a face we knew; looking so happy, joyous, lively, much like the way I last remember him to have been. It was you Anthony and the woman with whom you had been seemed to give your face a glow that I always hoped you would once again someday have even though you were so in denial before of it happening,” laughed Diane. Martin only spared a little smile but Anthony only looked baffled unable to connect the dots.
“Diane—” he began but she cut him off again.
“We spotted you in Livingstone but we hadn’t gotten the chance to meet you. When I thought that I could at least get to speak with you next thing was that you were out of that place long before we even knew it,” a stray tear escaped her eye, “But fate has its own way of showing things. We were passing through our last town, closest to the Bwena Mwapona village when Bernice finally grew a heart for a change. He knew his brother and I had been working the whole time here to have let ourselves relax and so he decided to let our few days before departure for Kitwe to be spent on touring and visiting a traditional Tonga cultured village nearest to us.”
“Oh….” Was all that Anthony could say as Diane was still speaking.
“I had always wanted to behold such fine village culture one of the good days when time allowed me and seeing that we were so close to a beautiful village like this, why not explore, huh?” her face was wet with tears, “And as if we were bound to meet again we finally met you!” she choked on her emotion but with a face as horridly dull as it could’ve been, “But not in the best of circumstances did we meet. Anthony, you nearly died! We had heard from the natives here that they had brought in an almost lifeless person here to be nursed.
For out of curiosity I had wished to see him even much to Martin’s disapproval. I was adamant to see who it was, despite not knowing who he was, I was still concerned with how they spoke about how grave his condition was. I’d that If any way possible Martin and I could help, I was willing to lend a hand to save that person, help him get proper treatment at a hospital, to let him live. I had grown a heart for a stranger, a man and I didn’t know, whom the moment I laid my eyes on so happened to have turned out to be you! Do you know how I felt to see the Anthony I knew looking so helpless and wounded?”
At that moment Anthony was shedding tears, too overwhelmed to speak and without asking him, the woman brought his face to her bosom hugging him so dearly like it had been the last time she was embracing him.
“Anthony for a moment we almost lost you! You nearly died! Thanks to these people here that you actually pulled through and came to. Even when we had insisted to take you with us for professional treatment in town at a hospital, chief Nichengela strongly assured me that you would be okay, with high hopes. Though your condition was only slowly getting under control we still had hope!” she brought him to face her at arm length, “Anthony,” Martin now stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder as they both eyed Anthony too tongue tied to utter a word, “We are only glad that you are alive! Whatever you did to have ended yourself in such predicament as this! Whatever you did to have had men after your life! We are dying to know! I want to know! All I wanted was to see you and tell you that everything is alright. That my sister and my family sent their warm greetings to you. But now with what happened to you……” Diane paused to wipe her eyes, a moment to heavy to grasp, “Just what sort of danger have you landed yourself in now??”
Erica cried her heart out in her room staring at every photo that she and Anthony had ever taken splashed all over her bed. She was a dreadful mess with her eye liner washing off along with her tears. Watching her phone screen flashing various videos, photos and messages that she had ever taken with her love shook her a great deal. At that moment nothing in her world made sense! Everything was collapsing. After receiving such horrifying news about a man whom for the past three years she had shared a piece of her welcoming him to her home, her heart, her life she just couldn’t believe if ever there was a truth behind anything that she had once shared with him.
She hated his betrayal. Not once had she ever thought that someone so dear and close to heart would hurt her as he had. It was painful, devastating and she couldn’t force the hot tears back in that kept coming out like an overflowing river. She rolled in the photos, clothes and nearly everything splashed on the bed that reminded her of him—his cologne scent on her sweater each time he hugged her that still remained on her finely laundered clothes even after a good lavender wash was all she could get. Nearly everything in her room spoke and spelt out the name ‘Anthony’ which only made Erica wail out loudly like a woman in grief.
Too lost in her sorrows was Erica to have heard the constant pounding on her doors let alone pay attention to the caller ID on her smartphone that flashed and beeped the entire time it had been half buried in between sheets and blankets. She was too distracted to hear the phone ring several times nor the living room door that was shut followed by the pounding of shoes on the steps of the staircase drawing closer and closer and closer to her room till……
“Erica!!” cried a young woman in a fine purple top, a fringe partly covering her brow and face, a grey office skirt and long back stilettoes as she strode into the room rushing to Erica—who fleetingly raised her tear-stained face messing her pillow to see her friend who just walked into the room before placing it back down drowning her cries. Her face was literally buried in what previously had been a white pillow but for the mascara and eye liner looked darkened from where her head lay.
“Erica talk to me,” spoke Bianca taking a sit beside her and raised the poorly looking face of her best friend, “When did you arrive in the city? What really happened? You didn’t speak clearly on phone the time you called last night.”
“Just this morning,” Erica mumbled in the arms of Bianca, “And that Anthony is a liar! A cheat! We are done! Done!” she sobbed hard.
“But what exactly did he do? You were due to be married to him. Just where did things go wrong with the two of you?”
Erica pulled out of her best friend’s hold and with her mascara lining her cheeks with more tears flowing, she spoke, “That man, that so-called Anthony whoever he is, I want nothing to do with my life! I want him gone for good! I’m done! Do you hear me! Done! I want nothing to do with Anthony Bianca. I just want him to leave the same way he came and let me live my life whilst I still can.”
“But what is it that he did which you aren’t telling me?” Bianca was dying to know.
“In due time, I will.” Erica said sniffled wiping her face dry with a tissue as she overturned the picture frame on her cabinet which had Anthony’s picture on it. Bianca fazed by everything only nodded trying to stitch up the torn patches. A moment of silence ensued whilst Erica sobbed and wiped her eyes dry, Bianca patting her back and telling that everything was going to be alright then Erica spoke, “Can I have a glass of water, if you don’t mind?”
Nodding away Bianca stood up, “Okay, I will be back in a jiffy. Try not to cry as much, okay?”
“Okay,” piped up Erica burying her head into her hands as her friend stepped out to get some water downstairs in the kitchen.
No sooner had Bianca left than Erica stood up and walked to the bathroom in her room and eyed herself in the mirror. She looked hideous for the make up with the lining on her cheeks wasn’t a pleasant sight. Her hair Brazilian weave was not a sight to behold it being all frizzled and almost everywhere in her face. A stray tear escaped when she tried to remember all the forever made promises of a man that was meant to sweep her off her feet, promise her the world, be the man that she was to someday wakeup from in the morning and serve breakfast for in bed. All the lies, deceit and betrayal, was too much a baggage to bear nor keep that she hit the sink above which was the mirror in frustration. She had had it. Instantly she rushed back to her room and scattered her bed drawers in search of a pair of scissors which upon stumbling upon she held firmly whilst glaring at the photos of Anthony and her lying on the bed.
“This is how you chose to be, to let me see a man who had a mask on all this time. A man whom I was too blinded by love to read in between the lines?? Anthony,” she said fixing her hands on a photo that she’d once left with under her pillow, “Why did you lie to me? Why did you hide the truth from me?” she questioned the photo as if expecting to speak to her, “Why Anthony? Why????”
Feeling frustrated and angry, Erica brought the edges of the pair of scissors and spoke out so coldly, “You are dead to me Anthony!” she huffed as she cut Anthony’s photo in half, “Do you hear me? You are dead!” having said that she cut off every photo of Anthony and in the one she featured with him, she cut him out and left hers. She’d carried on with the scissors till the time that Bianca returned to the room with a glass of water in hand only to be befuddled to witness the flying snips of photos lying almost everywhere was to land and there was Erica sited on the bed and heaving the moment she saw her friend looking speechless.
“But, but, but?” Bianca wanted to speak but was at a loss of words.
“Anthony’s dead to me Bianca! He’s dead! That’s what he is!” Erica said biting her lip whilst tears continue to spill from her eyes in an uncontrollable flow.
………A COUPLE DAYS LATER………
Anthony’s wounds had healed much more with time and he was now able to sit up straight though with a little difficulty. During the attack at the river, a couple bullets had scrapped his back and whilst one had lodged into his rib, the other into his tibia—both which had been tended to on the first day he bad been brought to the Tonga village. Despite not being able to walk with the absence of the crutches made of wooden poles, he was getting somewhere. Now, days with days past, he was with Diane sited in the coolness of a shade of a tree making small talk with her. The plump woman who’d been his aid since the first day at Bwena Mwapona village, mbuya Hamuba, had offered her services to him according to the order of the chief himself. So, coming to think of it, with a little help, Anthony was able to do things that otherwise he would’ve unable to do on his own. Now, in over five days since the time he was bed-ridden, he was finally seated outside with Diane, watching the cattle being driven to and from the cattle kraals by herdsmen and boys.
“Diane?” Anthony asked as the two beheld and took joy in witnessing the Tonga way of living.
“Yes?” she replied arms folded on her laps smiling at the traditional dances of the young men showing more hospitality and warm greetings with each passing day.
“How’s Vera?” Anthony asked. He’d not known how to bring her up before but he finally did.
Silence ensued for a while as Diane studied his face then later on replied as she looked over at the locked in cattle in the kraal.
“Vera’s fine,” replied Diane gingerly.
“What of mum?” Anthony questioned eying her well.
“She too. They are all good really.”
“Are you sure they are?” he questioned doubting what Diane had told him.
Diane’s face grew firm, “Anthony it’s been five years since we last saw you. Five years since the day everything happened that has probably kept you away as expected. Life goes on. People move on. I’m pretty sure you must have thought that we would someday be okay, right?”
Anthony was silent unsure of what to say next.
“It’s been too long for us to talk about whatever you are worried about. Trust me all is okay.”
Anthony sighed, “I just have a feeling it’s not as you put it.”
“Why?” the woman asked studying his face.
“I just think things couldn’t ever be the same again. Seeing you here after all this time only reminds me of the past. A past I didn’t want to look back to.”
“A past you have to learn from. Have you accepted it? Learnt from it?” Diane asked him.
Looking her in the eye, Anthony replied, “I don’t know……I’m not sure if I have.”
There were a couple screams from the villagers interrupting them as female dancers came over to put up a performance for the chief who waved at Anthony and Diane sited in the shade. He himself had been on his throne with his royal guards by his side in the shelter of an open hut. He was amused by the traditional dances going on and smiled at the visitors the moment he met eyes with them. He beckoned at his men asking for them to bring Anthony, Martin and Diane to him and at once they did as they’d been ordered.
“The chief wishes to speak with you,” spoke the chief’s translator, Mubine, accompanied by the chief’s royal guards, “Shall we go?”
Diane grinned as she rose to her feet, looking at Anthony still sited on the dry grassy grounds, “Come on, let’s go,” she said gingerly and Anthony obliged.
The chief ushered the two to a seat in the shelter with him and his family and spoke boldly about the proceedings of the day set before them.
“You see what more we have to offer you, our visitors? First the demonstration of our herdsmen and boys driving cattle into the kraal, then our finest female dancers treating you with their dance and later in the evening, some more dancing in the crackling fire light as you get even more entertained here”, he said kindly, “Feel free to speak to me of anything you need. What creates comradeship and harmony amongst us and the tourers of our village is the right attitude of which we show to them. When you have guests, treat them as they are and ought to be.” Chief Nichengela said extending his hand to gesture at his maids who served Diane, Martin, who also joined them and Anthony some traditionally made drink which they all took gracefully.
“Thank you, your highness,” spoke Anthony looking at Diane who kept smiling at him then at Martin who sipped away from his cup. In a moment, despite the dilemma in which he had found himself in, he felt at ease as if all had gone back to normal and he wished that for sure things would stay that way.
Days later, almost a week and half, Erica was at the table reading scriptures on forgiveness in the Bible. Her heart was in many places but she tried as much as could to forgive Anthony. She loved him. She had not known how much till faced with a situation that had made her have to decide what was to happen next. She couldn’t face Anthony let alone speak to him. She hadn’t heard from him since she left the Southern Province for the city. It had been for her safety she’d been told and warned by those after Anthony’s life. She dared not to have desired to get cross with them seeing just what kind of men they were. In the midst of the storm, all the frustration, confusion she wished that she would get to hear him come out clean on what he’d hid from her for so long.
Turning her night lamp off, she snuggled back into the blankets in her PJs and looked out through the window, into the cold dark night. Memories of him still coming back and she sniffed in between her sheets.
“Anthony where are you now? Why did you have to lie to me? How can I forgive you?” tears poured out some more and she turned away from the window as she laid on her pillow, facing the upside-down frame which she took and gazed at his photo in pitch black, “I know I’m not to hate you, it’s wrong, for me to do so but I want clear answers as to why you chose to make me live and believe in a lie. Why, if truly you ever did love me and that your feelings were real, why did you lie to me about who you really are?”