After the maid, Lister, and I had exchanged blows, of which I had come out much the worse, and from which I strongly feared Bookie junior, my two-year-old son had been injured, a neighbour had called my sister Maimbolwa and told her we had been fighting. She had promised to come home straight away.
There was so much to worry about for sure. Junior wouldn’t stop crying. I was now nursing a swollen eye, a cut inside the upper lip, which was equally swollen, and a bad headache. Yet I was more worried about what would happen once Maimbo got home. What would I tell her?
Why did I fight Lister? What would Lister tell my sister?
Ever since I came into this home 15 months ago, this was a place that was so full of peace and joy. There appeared to be perfect equilibrium, with everything well positioned, well planned and executed disputes were almost unheard of. There was balance in the relationship of husband, wife and children as well as family and house helper or maid.
I had fitted in very well until a few days ago when I had allowed my brother-in-law to have sex with me. Surely this was the trigger for possible disequilibrium, the loss of the balance I had found. Not only was there danger that Maimbo and Sir Jack would lose the balance that held together their marriage so perfectly you had no doubt this was a matrimony sealed in Heaven, but even the balance which made the maid fit into the family set-up so well was at risk. I myself was now in danger of tilting towards the title of marriage breaker, the one that caused utter chaos in the peaceful home of my sister, which sister’s only mistake was to rescue me from my own abusive marriage on the Copperbelt.
I was so full of hatred for Lister, not just because she had for long cheated on my sister, but because I still felt this angry possessiveness over Mr Jackson Alexander Lukhalo, aka Sir Jack, just as I was now nursing such stinging pain inflicted on me by her.
She had so disfigured my face it would be difficult for me to venture outside for a while. Yet I needed to swallow this pride, this hatred, anger and bitterness and agree with Lister how to deal with this problem so that it didn’t create even more problems.
It was not easy to start the chat but it had to happen before Maimbo arrived. When I approached her, we stared at each other for a while, our anger and disapproval of each other obvious in the way we held each other’s eyes.
“We have to agree on what to tell bana Junior,” I started. In the home, both Maimbo and I were called bana Junior because our first sons were named after their fathers. “We can’t tell her the truth.”
She still stared at me and said nothing.
“Did you hear what I said, Lister?” I pushed. “We have to fake a reason as to why we fought. I don’t want to destroy my sister’s marriage, do you hear?” “I’ve already told Sir Jack,” she disclosed narrowing her eyes.
“What have you told him? Why? What were you thinking…?” I had so many questions, angry ones. Here was this little idiot causing so much trouble in the house and rushing to report herself and obviously give biased accounts that favoured her! I felt like slapping her but in spite of my anger, I quickly remembered what had happened earlier and restrained myself knowing I could never win a fight against her.
“I told him you had attacked me. I told him I had defended myself and that the neighbours had called his wife. I told him why you attacked me. He had to know before bana Junior.” She was so shameless I wondered what type of upbringing this hitherto innocent looking creature had had. She seemed so much at ease with this impropriety.
“Why didn’t you tell me before you told him? You lied to him, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t. I told him exactly the way things had happened here. I gave every detail. He is on his way.”
“He isn’t important! He isn’t our worry just now. It’s his wife I am concerned about!”
I was sweating profusely. This little clown! If she hadn’t called Sir Jack! Even if we agreed to keep quiet about the real reasons for our fight, there was a possibility Sir Jack could arrive at almost the same time as his wife and in the confusion, the truth would come out.
“You shouldn’t have called Sir Jack without telling me,” I repeated angrily. “Anyway, both you and I stand to lose out badly if bana Junior finds out. Are you ready to be fired? Or even to be taken to court for adultery? Or even worse, she can throw acid in your face! Are you prepared for that?”
When I started asking her these questions she appeared defiant, ready to carry on with the suspense. But when I mentioned the court and acid in the face, she suddenly froze to attention, obviously realising for the first time that the solution to this mess, on her part, would not necessarily lie in her instant dismissal and then getting another job elsewhere.
Women tended to get very hurt when they discovered lesser mortals had been bedding their husbands they sometimes became very brutal. I could see the fear of acid do the trick instantly.
“So what do we tell her?” she asked unsure of herself. “I’ll tell her I lost my temper and insulted you,” I suggested. “Lost your temper over what?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. We had to think quickly enough.
“You lost your temper, insulted me and slapped me,” she counter suggested. “That I dropped Junior…”
“Er … yeah,” I started. “That you handled him carelessly and he fell on the floor…?”
“Something like that, maybe,” I said agreeing.
Maimbo arrived earlier than her husband, listened to our made-up story and had very strong words for both of us. Because I admitted to insulting and physically attacking Lister, and Lister for her part admitted to having been a bit careless in the way she had handled the child, and because both of us readily admitted we had each committed an offence and were willing to apologise to each other, all that was left for Maimbo was to give us a long tongue lashing.
She blasted us for the better part of 20 minutes, reminding us that hers was a home of peace where people shared only love and happiness, nothing else and where she didn’t expect physical exchanges of blows to be the solution to any disputes.
She said we had succumbed to the devil who was now hell bent on bringing misunderstandings in her house.
She said I probably had a personality problem, a superiority complex over Lister because she was a maid but that Lister was a good person who had worked in her house for years without exhibiting any form of bad behaviour.
She said I wouldn’t convince her, Maimbo that is, that Lister could suddenly become such a beast that would unleash so much violence as would lead to me looking so swollen unless she had truly been badly provoked beyond what she could stand.
Lister was, however, reminded that I was a part of Maimbo, that as her younger sister, I was also her boss of sorts and Lister must respect me. She couldn’t get away with assaulting family members of the woman who employed her so, as punishment, she would withhold some of the bonuses she often gave her on weekends.
When Sir Jack arrived, looking sweaty and restless, his wife advised him to calm down because there was nothing to be unduly worried about. She calmly repeated our lies as to why we had fought, that we had both accepted we were both at fault, and that we had apologised to each other.
“It’s ok, honey,” she assured him. “All is well. Maybe you just need to sit them down and counsel them. This kind of thing should not happen again. Talk to them, will you, honey!”
I gave some pain killer to my baby and he seemed at peace after a while. I took some myself though I accepted to myself that it would take time for the swellings to go. Maimbo returned to her office when she had convinced herself that all was well. Sir Jack told Lister to go to the kitchen because he wanted to talk to me alone. With Lister out, he wanted to know what I had told Lister and what evidence I had.
I told him point blank of what had happened, that I was 100 per cent sure he was sleeping with Lister, that Lister had accepted it, and that that was the reason we fought.
He appeared uncomfortable, even ashamed I thought. He said nothing about it, not denying it, not saying what next but just shook his head and told me to go away.
In the days that followed, it was clear he was avoiding both me and Lister. Suddenly, he was leaving very early for work and returning late.
He seemed to have decided he would no longer take turns sleeping with us. My own strong admiration for him seemed to have started to wane significantly. I slowly started loathing the thought of having any intimate relations with him, the realisation he had no feelings for me stabbing me square in the epicentre of my feminine pride. He had used me. That was all.
There was a little twist, though, which was now preoccupying my mind. It was now five days past my normal menstrual date. If my periods were late, this would be the first time because mine appeared to be so timed for a particular date that had now passed.
Was I pregnant by my sister’s unfaithful husband? God forbid, God have mercy…