What would you do if you had a myriad of financial woes, including looming eviction from a rented house and your friend’s wife dangled K1,000 cash to help her investigate your friend’s alleged infidelity? This was the dilemma JAMES SHIMWITWA found himself in: to accept the money and betray his friend or reject it and suffer eviction and, less still, lose the prospect of marrying his fiancé. Here’s what happened…
I SAT on a bar stool at the National Union for mine workers bar in Kitwe’s second class area. The sun was beginning to disappear, but I wasn’t in a hurry to rush home and experience the tormenting loneliness of bachelorhood.
My mind was occupied with the impending visit of my fiancé. I needed money to prepare big for her. But my pockets were empty and it was the middle of the month. Since I met her, I had vowed to impress her in all ways so that she would eventually become my wife.
Just when I took a long sip at my glass of rhino dark lager, a feminine hand softly shook my shoulder. My heart gave a little lurch as I turned.
A stranger stood behind me. She was a pretty brown lady in a yellow blouse and a hip-showing black skirt. She didn’t look like one of those hunters of men found in bars. And when she gave me a formal smile, her white teeth exposed a narrow gap. She approached like somebody who knew me.
“How are you, Mr Shimwitwa?”
“Very well, and thank you, madam.” I tried to search my memory for hints. I didn’t know her.
“I am Mrs Koni, wife of your friend Justine Koni.”
“Okay. Glad to meet you, I don’t think we’ve met before. Sorry I haven’t had time to visit your home.” I was alarmed, how had she identified me? What had a married woman come to do in a bar?
“I hope I haven’t startled you, but I have a problem and I want you to help me,” she said.
I didn’t say anything; I waited for her to start. She pulled a bar seat and sank on it. Her hand immediately sank into a brown leather handbag. She fished out a photograph and handed it to me. In the picture was a pretty girl in her late teens or early twenties. Her face was one of those pretty faces capable of stimulating that mysterious chemistry in most men.
“Have you ever seen this girl before?” she asked
I sensed trouble; the hard note in her voice manifested it all.
“No, Mulamu, I don’t know her. Who is she?”
“I also don’t know. But I found this picture concealed in one of the personal files of my husband. I want to dig more information on her before I confront him. That is why I have come to you.”
I scrutinised the beautiful face in the photo for many seconds, “Honestly, madam, her face doesn’t ring a bell.”
She looked at me suspiciously, “Okay, maybe you don’t know her, but at least you can find out from my husband about this bitch who, I am certain, is his girlfriend.”
I thought about this suggestion. Even if there was infidelity on the part of my friend, spying on him would be treacherous.
“It will be difficult Mulamu; why don’t you just ask him directly since you have an exhibit?” “It won’t be difficult.”
Her hand disappeared again into the leather handbag. She produced a bunch of K10,000 notes (in those days) which amounted to one million Kwacha. “This money can help you sort out one or two problems. But you have to help me on this problem as well.” She stretched out the arm with money towards me.
The money shone in my eyes, that was exactly what I needed to prepare for my fiancé’s visit. I grabbed it instinctively. My heart became split. Should I sell my friend in order to impress my fiancé?I shook my head. “Let me think about it, Mulamu. I will tell you what I will do about the matter by tomorrow.”
“Okay, that is fine. You can keep the money. Let’s meet here tomorrow this time.” She bought another Rhino lager for me and left.
I wrestled with this problem the whole night. The idea of meeting my friend’s wife to strategise to betray him did not seem morally correct. But I needed the reward; it would cement my ties with my fiancé.
What compounded my situation was the eviction notice I found home from my landlord. If I didn’t settle rentals within two days, I would be booted out of the house. That was going to be a bombshell dropped on my potential marriage. My fiancé would think that a man incapable of settling rentals wouldn’t manage to keep a woman.
The next day, I would have avoided meeting Mrs Koni had I not made the mistake of accepting her money. I found her waiting for me at the same venue.
“So, what did you decide?” She asked impatiently.
“This is a sensitive matter, Mulamu. I want to help, but I don’t think…”
Her hand rushed into her handbag. I thought she was going to unleash more money, but instead she produced another picture which she showed me without giving it to me.
“Yesterday, I went to search my husband’s file hoping to exhume more photos. This is was what I found.”
The picture showed me kissing an indecently dressed sex worker who had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. My friend Justine was in the background. It was taken inside Cinderella night club way back before even Justine married.
“I know that you have someone you intend to marry. If you are unwilling to assist me to find this bitch interfering with my marriage, I will find the girl you intend to marry and show her this wicked picture so that she knows what type of man you really are. Scratch my back and I will scratch yours.”
At first I felt hot blood surge through my veins. Why had Justine archived such an obscene photograph? It could destroy both his relationship and mine.
After digesting things in my head, I gathered a little wisdom. I could turn this episode to test my own relationship. This was an opportunity to establish just how much my fiancé was committed to marrying me.
Would she throw in the towel after a stranger walked to her doorstep, gave her a picture showing my adventures of what took place many years back?
“With all due respect, Mrs Koni, I will care less what you do with that picture.
My suggestion is that you sit down with your husband and find out from him who that girl is. If you will not be happy about his answers seek advice from members of your families,” I found myself saying. I retrieved the one million from my pocket and gave it back to her.
She gave me in a long hateful gaze. She thrust the picture and the cash in her leather handbag and briskly walked out.
A few days later, I learnt from Justine that the girl in the picture was his beloved first cousin who died years before he married.
Justine loaned me some money and I successfully prepared for my fiancé’s visit. I am now happily married with four lovely children.
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