C2 Two: Betrayed
If the walk of shame after a wild night of sexual shenanigans was humiliating, there were no words to describe how Sinikiwe felt as she packed her personal belongings into the box, waited upon by no less than five security guards or when over a hundred pair of eyes watched her as she was escorted out of the building.
The guards had stood watching with a suspicious hawk eye as she dropped various things in the box, as if afraid she would run away with a stapler.
She could feel their judgement and pity. If a dozen felt sorry for the rest thought she deserved it. Had she not being it girl of the boss? But if only they knew the truth that they could have had him at any time and she wouldn't have cared.
Sinikiwe had no idea how she had caught the eye of Abel. She had always been the inconspicuous office orderly girl in the boring office drape, who worked from the mail department, delivering and collecting emails to the various office secretaries and departments.
Three summers back, a year after Njoloba Holdings had bought the company, she had decided to upgrade her professional papers. She had enrolled at the local trades school in a secretarial course. When she had completed the certificate course she had been lucky when a position for receptionist opened up. She had been the only internal candidate who had applied. And despite her lack of experience, she had been picked.
This had been her official first meeting with Abel. He was charming and cute but she not been impressed. She thought he was nice. A word that had offended many ladies during lunch one day as they teased her about him. It hadn't gone unnoticed that he was seeking her out more than was necessary.
She hadn't really cared much for him. So she was polite and nice to him short of being cold. But the more distant and cold she was, the more he upped his advances.
Abel could have had any woman he had desired in the company, but his ego couldn't stand that any woman could say no to him. As time went by rumours spread that they were already a couple.
"Three months," he had said." Lets date for three months. Give me three months to convince you that we make it. That we can be it couple."
She had reluctantly agreed to hope that it would inspire him into realizing that they were just not compatible. Then George appeared on the scene. He was as handsome as he was mysterious.
Abel must have sensed how attracted to his cousin she was not that she was subtle about it, no, her eyes lit up when he was within her breathing space, she hang onto his every other word and would do anything to see him or have him talk to her, suddenly she had become the willing girlfriend ready to follow Abel anywhere as long as George would be there. Abel never said anything about it nor did he show his disapproval.
He joked about her silly fantasies except what he didn't know was it was not a fantasy to her. She did love, George. In that relationship, there had been three people. Abel, herself and George.
Had she cheated on Abel? Technically no. She had been upfront with him, she didn't love him but he had insisted.
With time, you will learn to love me, he had told her. Time will make our love grow all you need is to give it time.
But that time never came.
Three months and more came and went, she fell in love with George more by the day. She had tried to call things off many times but he had refused to accept that. Of course, how could he? He did the dumping and not the other way round.
Then came that fateful day. It too had begun like today. Full of promises that had made her want to do a little dance.
"Town sister?" a voice called out to her as she sat on the bench at the bus station four blocks from her former place of work.
She looked up at the source of the voice, a call boy stood by his bus calling for passers-by to board the white minibus with the standard orange strip around it.
She shook her head as he asked again. Well even if she wanted to, she couldn't get on the bus. She was broke, jobless and a step away from being homeless.
The sun was already setting as Sinikiwe got home. Her feet hurt from having walked from the CBD under the glaring and unforgiving African sun. Tired and hungry and in dire need of some much-needed sleep, Gloria was the last person she expected to find a home. She could hear her voice from outside the gate as she sang along to the music blasting from her phone.
With nothing to think about but her broken heart and how unfair everything was, her idle mind had taken her thoughts down a dangerous path that had scared her to the core.
She has not wanted to entertain the thought but the more she had thought about it, the more everything had fallen into place.
She pushed open the smaller black gate and walked through. Maybe if she saw her, those dark thoughts would disperse out of shame and leave her be. Gloria was her sister. Her people. The only person she could depend on. There must have been an explanation, one that they could shame her thoughts. Later this evening they would laugh at her silly train of thoughts over popcorns and tea as they pretended to watch a movie on tv.
Pretend yes, cause the two could never get through one movie without breaking into a chat. How many movies had they watched but never really watched?
Gloria sat on the polished veranda on the reed mat chopping beetroots into cubes. Her seven-year-old daughter who had been helping her grate her own pile looked up and her face broke into an adorable smile.
"Mummy," she cried, jumped to her feet and ran to her.
"Hey sweety," she greeted her shifting the box to one side to hug her. Sinikiwe hugged her tightly. It was the hug she had needed all day.
"Mummy, you are back. I missed you," she said looking up at her, her joy reflecting in her muddy brown eyes.
Sinikiwe kissed the top of her head." I missed you too sweety. Have you been back long from your playdate at Chishala's place?"
The girl nodded, her little hands still wrapped tightly around her mother's waist." Aunt Gloria came to pick me up. We went to the supermarket and got some food for Chitontozo. She even took me to the saloon. How do I look?"
Chimwemwe stepped away from her mother and showed off her stylish zig-zag hairstyle adorned with colourful beads at the end.
Sinikiwe looked past her daughter to Gloria as she put the dish of beetroots aside and stood up. She cast her a hesitant smile as she reached for her phone and turned down the music.
There must be an explanation, she thought as her dark thoughts returned.
Sinikiwe patted the girls head," You look, beautiful honey. Here, take this inside, I need to talk to your aunt Gloria."
Chimwemwe got the box from her and headed into the house. Gloria stepped off the veranda and joined her on the paved ground barefooted.
"Ba Sinikiwe," she said in greeting, adding the honorific used to address adults.
"Gloria," Sinikiwe replied flatly folding her hands over her chest.
"I hope you don't mind," Gloria said uneasily." I saw there was nothing much to eat in the fridge, so I went ahead and did some shopping."
Sinikiwe dragged her eyes from the teenager's feet to her hair. She wore a floor-length, halter neck peach dress that matched perfectly with her Brazillian off black pixie weave. Diamond chandelier earrings hung around her ears matching with the necklace around her neck. On her wrist, she had an equally expensive gold bracelet.
She looked very beautiful and expensive. There was nothing strange about that, Gloria was always fashion conscious. Her dream was to be a runway model. She had done a number of local beauty pageants and fashion shows. It was the expensive part that was scaring her. The dark and scarily thoughts that had been with her on the way home, surfacing to the top.
"You came back."
"I...I can explain."
"Really?" she asked in disbelief." What are you going to explain Gloria? That the one time, the one time I needed you, you sold me out? "
"It really wasn't like that."
"No? Ok fine. Go on, give me your version of events. Go on and lie to my face!!"
Gloria looked down, wriggling
"Don't, Sis me. You ceased to be my sister the day that you turned your back on me."
"Sorry? Sorry? What good is it to me? To my son? To Chimwemwe? What good will it do to my daughter who has been scarred for life? How do I undo what has been done already? " Sinikiwe yelled at her. "Tell me. That," she continued and nodded to the food on the mat," And all this," she waved a hand up and down the girl's body." Is it all part of the payoff? Are you now feeding us with your payoff money?"
Tears filled the beautiful teenager's eyes. She didn't have the courage to look her sister in the eyes because every accusation that Sinikiwe had against her was true.
Sinikiwe's heart broke to see her sister in tears and confused, after all, she was more than a sister to her. Even though there was only an age difference of six years between them, Sinikiwe had always been the girl's deputy parent. And that was not by choice either. Her heart broke but her betrayal felt like a knife slowly being twisted in her chest.
"Did you for a moment stop to think about me? How can you still have the audacity to call yourself my sister after what you did."
"Oh, sis forgive me. I just thought... I just thought that since the two of were already lovers. What happened was consensual," she said looking up.
Sinikiwe stumbled back in shock." What did you just say?" She asked in a strangled voice.
Gloria rushed over to her and grabbed her hand." Forgive me BaSinikiwe. I'm sorry I shouldn't have said that," she spoke with urgency.
Sinikiwe wrung her hands free from her hold and stepped back. Hearing the words for herself shredded her heart.
"He raped me, Gloria. He raped me right in front of my daughter. How can you say... how could that be...I think you better leave."
Gloria cried shaking her head and fell to her knees. She reached for her sister's legs and held them as she tried to walk past her." Ba Sinikiwe am sorry. I will return everything. I will make things right...,"
Sinikiwe pushed her away roughly." You should go, Gloria. Pack your things and leave my house."
Gloria stood up and ran after her and hugged her from behind in tears." No BaSinikiwe. I'm sorry. I will make things right, forgive me this once please sis."
Sinikiwe loosened the girl's tight arms around her. She turned to face her. Tears rolled down her smooth face. Growing up, all Gloria had to do was shed a few tears and Sinikiwe would succumb to do her bidding. She had hated to see her in tears or sad. To her younger self, Gloria had been the light that lit up her sad and dark life.
But today, genuine as the tears were, she felt nothing but hatred for her.
"Abel raped me, Gloria. How could that be consensual?" She asked in tears." You were the one who took me to the hospital. You saw the bruises and pain he inflicted on me. Was your love for money so great that you forgot all that?"
Gloria had been her pillar of support on that night and the days that had followed. It had not been easy more especially when the Njolomba's started to harass her. Then all of a sudden, Gloria, her pillar and strength had disappeared. No one in the family would tell her where she was.
"Why do you want to find her?" Ruth Gwaba, her step-mother had asked her." Do you want to tarnish her reputation just like you did yours? Don't drag my daughter into your sordid affairs."
No amount of pleading on her part could convince them otherwise. To them, she had brought it on herself and had probably deserved it. At some point she had begun to doubt herself, wondering if perhaps, there was some truth to it after all.
Had she not been dating one man while lusting after the other? And what was worse was they were brothers.
Gloria shook her head vigorously, looking down.
"You can take your tears to God knows where Gloria. Just stay away from me and my family," she told her as tears filled her eyes and rolled down. She wiped them away, took a deep breath and walked past her to open the gate.
Gloria fell to her knees in tears." I'm sorry. Forgive me."
Sinikiwe scoffed at her as she walked back into the house.