TEARS, SHADOW OF MY PAST
Erica walked out of the room clad in a long shiny grey dress with slivery high heeled shoes with her hair partly covering her brow. She had her purse in one hand and phone in the other as she and Bianca stepped out of the bedroom heading downstairs. Bianca, had been clad in a knee high oval dress with curly hair and stylish eyebrows. In her walk she had much to say about her posture as she went down the steps smiling both ends. Erica’s heart was in many places uncertain of everything but the sooner they reached the door than Bianca took her by the hand and stared at her.
“Now listen here, you,” she said looking stern all of a sudden, “Don’t you dare try anything funny by showing any of those gloomy moods of yours,” Erica wanted to speak but she cut her short, “I’m not done talking. Like I said, Terry’s a good, guy, a great guy and I don’t just say that because he’s cute and all but because he’s a friend of Morgan and almost every friend of his whom I’ve met I’ve found myself to the liking. There’s something about him that I think would make him good for you so you better behave, all else I will….”
“Gosh if you like him so much why don’t you marry him and spare me? Man,” Erica said carefree before Bianca gave her sharp stare and she raised her hands in surrender sighing away, “I’m just kidding,” she said taking her phone and began to play Candy Crash smiling away, her friend staring, “Um, open the door, will you?”
Heaving a sigh, shaking her head, Bianca opened the front door and the moment she laid her eyes on the man of her dreams with a bouquet of roses partly hiding his face, her smile reached both ends. Both he and his pal were dressed in fine tuxedos with moccasins on, but what got her attention most was the smell of Morgan’s cologne that got her lost in it. She grinned the moment he handed over the bouquet of roses and she took in the heavily scented flowers.
“They are beautiful,” spoke Bianca.
“So are you,” Morgan said causing her to laugh then she hugged him before breaking away to turn her attention to Terry who was getting off his phone, from a call, and was now poking away, “Ahem,” she said clearing her throat aloud and he paused, chuckling, attention diverted to her.
“Oh, hi there,” he said fine dent portrayed, “Pardon me, work things, wow, might I say you look beautiful?”
“Why, thank you,” Bianca said turning to her friend attention fully on the game she was playing and nudged her as to get her attention and Erica raised her head, smiling, “This is my friend, the one I mentioned, and your date, Erica.”
“Oh….” Went Terry taking a bow and held her hand like a charming man, “I didn’t know that she was this gorgeous, Bianca, you were pretty off on the descriptions, you know,” he said and Bianca giggled with her hand to her mouth, Erica looking startled, “I’m Terry.”
“So, I’ve heard,” spoke Erica gingerly, “Pleased to meet you,” she said resuming the game on her phone Terry already stunned by her.
“Okay,” announced Morgan arm in arm with his date, “Shall we get going now?”
“Sure,” the others replied in unison.
“Where are we going might I ask?” Bianca chirped the moment she was strapped in the front seat with her date who only smiled, igniting the engine.
“Take one big guess,” he said and his eyebrows bounced up and down as Bianca screamed like a child, “Yeah, there.”
“Aw,” Bianca cooed remembering that last time Morgan had promised to take her out to Radisson Blu but for time not being on his hands and with his continuous postponements, she’d long forgotten about it till that night he mentioned that was where they were going. She smiled like a child as Morgan pulled out of the yard and got into the main road.
As Morgan drove, he and Bianca chatted away but the whole time Erica played Candy Crash smiling at the levels scored whilst Terry seated next to her poked away mind fully away. It was as if they were two passengers seated in the back together only enjoying the ride together but clearly minding their own business. After what seemed like a long awkward silence, Terry spoke up.
“How do you even play that game?” he asked looking at her and she paused giving him her attention. Bianca eyed them both in the rear-view mirror before carrying on chatting with Morgan.
“Um, well you have to align the candy together in a pattern and boom they come crashing down earning you some points. It’s fun!”
“I see you like it as much, huh?”
“Uh, yeah. It helps kill the boredom at times.”
“Oh, really?” Terry asked amused and Erica nodded away.
“Yeah,” replied Erica as she put the phone away and indulged in small chat with him seeing how Bianca kept looking at her from the front an indication telling her to put the phone away.
At the hotel, the four found themselves seated at the table and were being attended to by the waiter carrying out their orders. They ordered steak, red wine and some salad with some Ice Cream Sundae as desert. Bianca looking at Morgan questioningly remembering how he always insisted on spoiling her but this time he’d hinted that he and Terry were splitting up the bill. Having known that eased her a little as she leant back in her seat.
In moments later, the waiter came with their food and dished out to them, popping the cork off the wine bottle before pouring into the wine glasses.
“Bon appetite’,” the waiter said mimicking Italian causing the lot of them to laugh as he walked away, tray in hand.
“Well, shall we dig in?” Morgan asked picking up his fork.
“Not after saying grace, right?” chirped Bianca putting her hand on Morgan’s.
He smiled away, “Sure.” And immediately Bianca said a short prayer and they got their forks and knives in place.
“Wow, tasty,” spoke Bianca taking bites of the steak and salad with some wine, “This is very good babe.”
“Really?” went Morgan amused with a glass to his mouth taking a drink of his wine from it, “I’m glad that you love it.”
“Erica, you aren’t eating?” Bianca asked when she saw her friend staring at her plate absent minded she was.
“Oh….” She replied picking her fork and feigned a warm expression, “I’m,” she said but before she could get to eat, she looked over her table to Terry enjoying his meal. Just the way he cut his steak reminded her of Anthony and for a moment she had her mind elsewhere wishing it was him. Trying to get back to the dinner when Terry tried to create small chat she choked on her food startling everyone.
“Are you okay?” Terry asked concerned whilst Bianca patted her back helping her swallow.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Erica said as she stopped coughing and took one more bite of her food before dropping the fork on the plate, “Um, I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Sure,” replied Terry and they all excused her and she hurried to the ladies.
No sooner had she gotten there than she immediately broke down crying heavily unable to push back the tears. She felt like she was about to throw up and lose everything she had just had that night. Rinsing her face, a woman who was tying her hair into a neat bun looked at her wondering what was wrong.
“Are you okay?” she asked hands still working about with the hair ribbon.
“Um, yes, I’m,” Erica replied composing herself closing the tap whilst, someone from the stalls came out to wash up and walked out, two other ladies, chit-chatting coming in. She noticed how the other woman looked at her and added, “Don’t worry I’m really fine.”
“If you say so,” she said picking her hand back, makeup kit on the sink and walked out.
Immediately Erica was alone at the sink, she glanced at the mirror and almost at once broke down into tears.
“My love?” Morgan spoke putting his glass down.
“Yes?” Bianca responded munching on her salad.
“Your friend has been gone a little bit too long don’t you think? Is everything alright?”
“I should think so,” replied Bianca but seeing how the two men looked at her, she added, “Let me go check on her,” she said rising from the table and walked to the loo.
“Nice dinner we are having, hey, both dates aren’t with us, huh?” spoke Terry chuckling.
“You don’t say,” piped up Morgan taking a bite of his steak.
Walking closer to the door, Bianca heard stifled sobs and at once got worried thinking it was Erica and when she walked in, truth be told it was her.
“Oh, my!” Bianca exclaimed looking at the state her friend was in, “What are you doing? Didn’t we agree about this?”
Erica shook her head, “Trust me, I tried. It’s not working. That man only reminds me of Anthony….”
“Because he’s the only one you can ever think of,” Bianca said sighing away, “Girl, face the truth, that man isn’t coming back. And for whatever reason he’s not just know that it’s for your own good. He wasn’t good for you. He lied!”
“I still love him!” Erica spoke softly.
“Get over him already!” her friend chided and silence took over for a moment, people going in and out of the room, some startled, some minding their own business.
“Why did you have to bring me to this place? You knew that this was Anthony’s favourite eating place, didn’t you?”
“How was I supposed to know?” Bianca defended herself.
“I spoke about it nearly all the time!” blurted out Erica irritated.
“Okay, sorry. I guess I forgot but it’s no big deal,” Bianca calmed down and then held her friend by the shoulders, “Look, I know this is hard for you and is most definitely sure not easy to deal with but I’m asking you to try still. With time this will all be a thing of the past, okay?”
“Okay……” replied Erica barely audible.
“Look at you, you’ve even messed up your makeup with this your crying,” Bianca said dramatically trying to make light of the situation and her friend laughed a little in between her sobs, “Come here. Let’s fix this lest Terry knows that you were actually crying here, I mean lest it shows to everyone that you look so terrible,” she said making faces and Erica punched her friend’s shoulder for teasing.
The two returned to the dinner table were Morgan and Terry were conversing and they both smiled upon seeing the return of the two ladies.
“Everything okay?” Morgan asked Erica as she placed the napkin on her lap.
“Yeah, it’s all good,” she replied picking her fork, Bianca’s face assuring her that everything was alright.
“Okay, good to hear. You almost had us worried,” piped up Terry chuckling and Erica feigned a smile.
“Yeah been gone for long you had been,” added Morgan as he got into conversation with his date.
Erica forced herself to eat and talk as Terry seemed to have been so lively and full of things to talk about that she wondered if she would keep her. However, in between their chat, she felt her eyes water and before she could push the tears back in, without preamble they spilled out of her eyes making two dark lines on each cheek causing everyone at the table to pause and look at her astounded.
“Well, will you look at that!” Commented Terry putting his glass down and the moment Erica looked at Bianca she could see the stiffened face she gave her. She picked her purse and fumbled for a mirror which the moment she eyed made her face ashen.
“Oh, um, um……Sorry—” before Erica could finish the statement she knocked her glass on the table and the wine spilt staining her dress. The others starred at her in utter shock, “I’m so sorry but I think I have to go.”
“What’s wrong?” Morgan asked as Erica rose to her feet.
“I’m sorry for ruining your dinner I shouldn’t have come any way,” Erica said grabbing her purse, taking her leave.
“But girl, you can’t leave just like that….” Bianca was saying but Erica had her mind made.
“I’m sorry lest I spoil the rest of the night for you guys let me go home.” She said.
“Well at least let me drive you home,” spoke Morgan rising to his feet.
“No, thanks, I will take a cab back home,” declined Erica.
“Really, I insist,” Morgan said but Erica still refused and left them.
Awkward silence ensued, neither of them knowing what to say next.
“I think I’ll take my leave,” spoke Bianca pushing her chair back.
“You too?” Terry asked astounded before Morgan shot him daggers and he silenced himself.
“I understand,” Morgan replied looking at her, holding her hand, “Go take care of her.”
“I’m sorry dinner is ruined love,” she said sadly picking up her things.
“It’s fine. We can always have another date. Right?”
Bianca kissed his cheek and smiled, “Thanks for understanding. I will call you.”
“Sure, thing honey.” Morgan piped up and turned to his pal the moment it was just them seated at the table.
“Well, what do you say, it’s just us guys now. What a date this turned out to be Morgan,” whined Terry putting his glass down.
“Oh, come on, there must be a logical explanation to whatever just happened. You’ve got to understand.”
“Yeah, right, take some ladies out for dinner and let them leave you in a blink of an eye. How delightful.”
“Well,” spoke Morgan cleaning his mouth with a napkin, “I’m done.”
“What, not you too?” Terry spoke utterly surprised now.
“Imagine a date without ladies?” Morgan spoke straightening his jacket chuckling away, “Besides I’ve got work to do.”
“It’s a Saturday for crying out loud! Don’t you ever take a break?”
“Well, I do, when needed, come on,” just then his phone beeped and he grinned, “What do you know, as expected duty calls.”
“And what am I supposed to do now that you are all gone? I’ve got nothing to do!” Terry complained.
Morgan pulled his sleeve and checked his watch, “Come on, it’s twenty minutes past eight pm, there’s still time. Go see a movie or something. The night’s still young buddy. Got to go now,” he said and walked away before grumpy Terry could utter another word.
Mrs. Chifuna got off the phone call with her brother and eyed her husband seated, legs crossed into a four whilst he watched the local news, her face as ashen as could be for she’d received such grave news that took her mind away.
“Who was that?” Mr Chifuna asked eyes not leaving the TV screen once.
His wife took time to speak, swallowing before she eventually spoke, “Well that was my brother, Calvin on the other end.”
“Oh, really?” chuckled the man turning to face his wife shortly before turning back to the TV screen, “How’s he doing by the way?”
“He’s fine,” the woman spoke calculating her words and then added, “He just called to inform me that he just spotted Anthony around Inter City.”
A dead silence took over as Mr Chifuna slowly turned his head facing his wife.
“He says that Anthony looked pretty much fine besides last being told that he was gravely ill and had a little more on his hands that led to the current situation at hand….” She said lowly, her husband eying her sternly, uttering no word at all, “I might as well inform Erica that he’s about the city…” and she immediately began dialling away.
“Julia,” spoke the man gruffly rising from the sofa walking to her, eyes cold and full of fury, “Put the phone down, now!”
“But Anthony’s—” he cut her short.
“Put the phone down Julia!” he commanded.
“Julia!” the man stormed atop his voice, Put the phone down now!”
“Now!” he repeated himself and his wife obeyed and cowered as he walked to her, she was a little shaken.
Heaving away as he touched her arm, he spoke in a calmer tone, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell but I had to stop you from calling our daughter,” he noticed that she was sobbing inward but still continued, “Julia, just listen. That man has caused more harm than good to our daughter in these past weeks. His not only hurt her but he’d built a relationship with her based on lies. It’s already been a rough month and half for her knowing that she’s still not over him. She needs to stay away from him. Knowing what’s at stake here, it’s beyond us, it’s beyond love.
That man’s bad and it will be best that her daughter stayed away from him. Yes, we welcomed into our home, he said that he was going to ask our daughter to marry him and we were alright with it but that was then. If what’s in there explains a man of such a kind would you honestly marry off your precious daughter to such one knowing the consequences? No Julia, as far as I’m concerned, whether neither you nor Erica likes it or not I shan’t let that man back into her life let alone be a member of this family. My word stands!” he said looking at the brown envelope that lay on the shelf tucked in between books that Erica had dropped off few weeks ago on her return to the city.
Walking with the company with him, Anthony’s mind was everywhere. He had passed through the motel back in Livingstone to collect his things and though it wasn’t supposed to be to his surprise, Erica’s things were out of sight. Not even a single thing was present. Starting with her clothes and ending with her shoes. All gone. Truth be told indeed she had been there earlier than he and had checked out as was said by the receptionist as Anthony was on his way out paying off the bill. Now, back in Lusaka, he only had one thing in mind, to look for Erica and explain to her that he was alright and that soon all would be fine. The moment he pulled his phone out from his pocket to dial a number Diane stopped him.
“What is it you are doing?” she asked him looking at him questionably.
“I’m calling Erica. As in the whole ride back here you stopped me from doing so but now that I’m here I see no point of not mentioning a thing to her of my arrival.”
“Anthony?” Diane spoke gruffly getting to his side.
“What?” he said now scrolling down his contacts looking for Erica’s number.
“Don’t even think about contacting Erica, just don’t,” she said and the look he gave asked her why, “Just think about it. You get attacked by someone in Livingstone and you end up at some village in Zimbabwe terribly ill. You go seek aid at some Tonga neighbouring village to that very village and along the way you nearly die for being attacked. Now, if that’s not even enough to chew on, when you are back to full health and return to Zimbabwe to that very village you and she were held captive in you learn that she left long ago and is back in the city here? If she really was concerned of you why hasn’t she called? How long has it been? Nearly two months, right?”
“Diane, Erica was obviously scared out of her wits with what has been going on. Anyone would so I would understand….” He spoke looking at her, hand now on his love’s number.
“And you think I’m not scared for you either? For myself? I’m here risking things just to help you clear this mess. Don’t you think that’s not something serious enough?”
“It’s just to let her know that I’m alright. She must have been worried sick about me. Just one call, please,” he asked.
Diane’s face grew sterner, “Worried she must have been but she could’ve called, shouldn’t she have? Whatever reason she’s been silent for that’s up to her but I wouldn’t want to be around a man whose life is a mystery. Neither of us know what’s really going on here. Not Erica, not Martin and certainly not me. Yet here we are risking it all for you. Will you seriously want to endanger the life of the person you love the most not thinking just how things really are or are you still the same person I knew way back?”
Anthon, looking at the screen, eying Erica’s number, froze, whilst Diane carried on speaking.
“Now, if at all you aren’t that man I knew you once were, if at all things have changed then you will prove to me by putting that phone away. For a man that was shot at, nearly killed, not once but twice, the first place you need to be at is at the police station filing in a report. If they tried to kill you back in Southern Province what makes you think that they wouldn’t try it here? That they won’t trace you back to your home and you want to get Erica involved again despite knowing things at stake? No. First things first we are going to the police station. Understood?”
Anthony looked small and put his phone away, “Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
“Okay, so we are heading to the police station now, sure,” piped up Martin pulling his bags.
Diane slipped her hand into Anthony’s arm and looked at him, his mind elsewhere, “I know this is hard for you, all of us since we are all affected but the sooner this is sorted out and you aren’t a walking target you just have to stay away from Erica. You just have to try, for her safety.”
Getting the sense of it, Anthony replied, “Okay,” and they trekked to get a cab on their way to Central Police.
Morgan had been on his phone when he heard a knock at his door, it was his secretary.
“Yes, come in.” spoke Morgan getting off the phone.
“Sir, a client wants to see you.” She announced. And like each day was, Morgan just grinned upon hearing the news. He was working with a car Insurance company and so proud of his job was he. He lived getting the best out of it.
“Okay send him in,” he said taking up the telephone receiver the moment it rang and excused himself, “Yes this is Morgan Chulu of Grand Times Car Insurance Services, the best in town, how may I help you? Oh, your car broke down, has a fault? Oh, is no good anymore, okay. It’s beyond repair, I got that part, yes, just send me your address on the office phone number and I will send someone to your aid. Please do that immediately, thank you.” He said getting off the line and placed the receiver down, “Yes Georgia?”
“I will send him down here sir,” his secretary spoke before walking out.
Few minutes later there was a knock on the door and his secretary came in.
“Sir, someone wants to see you.”
“Oh, another client?”
“Not really,” the secretary said ushering the person in and immediately Morgan made a face, “It’s Mr Hastings sir.” She said walking away whilst Terry walked in and exchanged pleasantries with his friend.
“So, what brings you to my office this fine morning when you ought to be in yours?” Morgan piped up scribbling away.
“Well, it’s a lovely office I must say and even though I’ve been here enough times not to say the same thing, it still manages to amaze me. And, oh, I have a day off.”
“Explains why you chose to spend the free time disturbing others who hardly have time to spare I see,” Morgan spoke hint of sarcasm in his speech.
“Not exactly, well,” Terry spun in his chair as he thought of how to come out, “It’s about dinner last week….”
“Man, will you get over that incident already?”
“No, it’s not about the dinner, it’s about that woman….”
“Oh, not about dinner but about my girlfriend’s friend, humour me Terry,” piped up Morgan taking things jokingly.
“Well……” just then the phone rang interrupting Terry and Morgan cut him short.
“Excuse me Terry but this is more important,” he said picking up the phone receiver, “Yes, this is Morgan Chulu of Grand Times car Insurance services how may I help you? Oh, you want to see me personally? Ask the receptionist to guide you to my office and my secretary will attend to you. Yes, my office is on the third floor. You can’t miss it. Thank you.” He said dropping the line and turned to Terry, “Yes continue.”
“Um, yes, just everything about that night got me thinking. As in why would a woman looking so finely composed earlier, so emotion free, suddenly turn out be to be an emotional wreck shortly after we reach the hotel and settle for dinner?”
“Aren’t we all dying to know?” Morgan spoke with a chuckle turning on his computer.
“As in, she looked fine earlier, no one could tell that anything was the matter but seeing just how she was only made me worry. I just can’t help but wonder. Do you think that everything’s okay?”
“I don’t know buddy but…….” Morgan was saying but the telephone rang once more and with his index finger raised, he piped up, “One moment Terry, I need to take this,” he said the spoke into the mouth piece, “Hello, this is Morgan Chulu of Grand Times car insurance, how may I help you? Oh, you are the one that wishes to see me? Do come right in,” he diverted his attention back to his friend. “Look, I understand that you are worried about her but ladies are good with the emotional stuff. Trust me whatever it may have been that must have made her act the way she did I can ascertain you that she’s probably over it by now.”
“Really? Are you sure?” Terry asked questionably staring at him.
“I’m sure. But if you are that much concerned why don’t you call her or perhaps go see her,” the client walked in, “I’ve got work to do. That’s all I can do for you. You know where to find her so go see her if you must.”
Terry grinned and shook his friend’s hand, “Yeah. I will go see her, thanks.”
Morgan only shook his head, “Sure,” he said and when Terry walked out, he immediately exchanged pleasantries with the client before they both sat down in their seats, “Yes, sir, how may I help you?”
“I came here for car insurance registration, sir,” the man spoke plainly.
“Well, you have come to the right place for that,” Morgan said placing his hands together as the two got to business.
That evening, Terry drove to Erica’s flats in Woodlands Extension. She had just gotten back from her office and it being a Monday she most definitely wasn’t expecting anyone, not at around six pm at least. Walking past her living still in her office clothes but bare feet, she heard a knock at the door and was startled. She paused glancing at the clock wondering who it was for Bianca hadn’t mentioned her coming that evening. The knock came again and she walked to the door. Opening it there stood on the threshold Terry, hands in his pocket smiling broadly.