C4 Four: Long time no see...
Miracles did happen, after all, Sinikiwe thought as she trekked up the long driveway from the entrance gates of the enormous farm. After struggling for so long with her finances and living on the blink of poverty, this lucrative job had landed her way.
There was nothing great about being a housemaid but there was no shame in it either she thought. For five years, she had not been able to find steady and formal employment.
All efforts to get a job had been blocked. At first, she had thought that she was just unlucky but with time, she had come to realize she had been screwed. George Njolomba and his company had to be true to their word.
But she had braved it all, struggled through it all knowing she needed to be strong. If it had being all about her, it really wouldn't have mattered. What odd job had she not done? If she could put it all down on a resume, it would be a pretty little rich one, she mused. She had collected garbage, done laundry, washed cars and fetched water in the compounds where water supply was erratic. Her latest stint had been as a cashier at a small mini-mart till she had run into Mrs Elizabeth Njolomba. She had to be happy at her job. It was the one job after a long time that paid well.
Even if she knew that she was down and out, she was merciless as she humiliated her. The owner, two hours later even though she knew how much the job meant for her, even if she had been one of the best employees, even if she had given the job more than herself, she had gone ahead and fired her with no compensation. She had been counting on that money for the never-ending hospital bills.
The painful memories caused her to hurry up the path that was covered in tiny quarry stones, on the left was a forest as the right housed an enclosure for a race track and sports field. She slowed down to watch a lone racer on an impressive black stallion race around the field in concentration. Marvelling how in sync they both were with each other.
She turned away and hurried up at least she should be late. Soon enough, the land cleared to reveal a beautiful work of art. The mansion made mostly of glass was surrounded by a lovely garden. An amazing fountain stood in the middle, a spray of water rose and fell in a dozen synchronized steps. An elderly man tending to the landscape turned as she approached.
'Good morning young lady, how can I be of help?'
Sinikiwe smiled at the kind old man. She introduced herself and informed him she was from MaDalitso maid centre.
'Oh, Sinikiwe Gwaba? Mrs Mulenga is my wife. She is the head maid here, she has been expecting you. Just go around the house you will find her there.'
'Thank you. I will go ahead.'
The man nodded and got back to his work. Sinikiwe went around the house and found Mrs Mulenga, who turned out to be quite chatty and friendly.
Mrs Mulenga stood in the doorway as Sinikiwe had a look around the empty house. The two-bedroomed house with one bath, a kitchen and a living area, stood almost a kilometre from the main house.
"It's nice thank you. The kids will love it," she told the elderly woman, which was no lie at all. After having been living in the women's shelter for so long they could finally have a place to call home. Tears filled her eyes but she quickly blinked them away.
Life had tried and tested her. It was only a few months back when they had been homeless and spent chilly and rainy nights for a whole week under the bridge. It had been the very time that Chitontozo's disease had resurfaced. The stress and below par living conditions had sent her son to the hospital.
Unless, they found a donor, unless he got a transplant he was going to die. There was nothing more the hospital could do for him. They had wanted to discharge him two days ago but she had begged for a little time.
She couldn't bring him to the shelter. She had been at wit's end then this miracle had happened. The job came with the house. The house that would be the kids and Chitontozo's last place he could ever call home.
"Well am glad you love it," Mrs Mulenga told her," All that remains is for you to sign the contract. You can start work on Monday. Is that too soon for you?"
"No, it's fine."
Monday was three days away. It was enough time for her to put everything in place. She planned to move in by the end of the day. It wasn't like she had a lot of household furniture. She had sold nearly all she had to cover the hospital bills. All that they had were the clothes and maybe one or two electrical items.
"How old are your kids?"
"Fourteen and seven."
"Can't wait to meet them," she replied as they headed up the house. Mrs Mulenga handed her the contract to sign in the kitchen. Plus a salary advance of half her salary then sat to discuss her working conditions and introduced her to the rest of the staff. It was already noon when they were done. Sinikiwe bid the old lady goodbye and promised to see her later in the evening.
Sinikiwe went back to her new house aiming to do some clean up before she brought the kids over. She had earlier asked Mrs Mulenga if she could lend her a broom and mop. The kind elderly lady had promised her she would find them at the house once they were done with the paperwork.
And true to her word she had come through for her. There was a bucket with all the cleaning products and agents she needed in the middle of the living room.
She was halfway through her cleaning when there was a soft tap on the door.
"It's open," she called out over her shoulder as she knelt on the wooden tiled floor of the lounge.
"It is you after all." A familiar deep baritone voice said from behind her.
Sinikiwe froze. Fear gripped her heart like never before. A lot of things scared the daylights out of her. But none compared to this moment. Slowly she stood and turned, squeezing the mop tightly.
George Njolomba stood in the doorway casually leaning against the doorframe.
In the silence that ensued, Sinikiwe could only hear the deafening beat of her heart against her chest and the steady drip of water from the mop she held in her hands.
"Sir George," she finally whispered out. He had not changed one bit. He was as handsome as when she had last seen him if not more handsome. He looked down at her with cold resentment.
"Sinikiwe Gwaba. Fancy me meeting you here," he said dryly in the deep baritone voice that once liquefied her bones.
But seven years was a long time. She waited for her knees to weaken and her heart to do the flip flop as they did before but she felt neither, only fear. If George was here, so was his family. Unshed tears glistened in her eyes as a lump settled in her throat, choking her. She cleared her throat to speak hoping he didn't notice how scared she was.
"Sir George, what are you doing here?"
"That's my line. But to answer you; I live here. I own the place."
Hopelessness filled Sinikiwe. She wrung the mop even tighter. Water dripped at her feet as she stared at George in disbelief, the tears threatening to spill.
She wanted to yell out to whoever the hell was in charge of her life. Why offer her the olive branch only to pull the rug under her.
Sinikiwe felt a tightening in her chest. She looked around unable to stop the tears that finally rolled down her face. She needed to get out of here. She needed to breathe. There wasn't enough air despite that she had earlier opened the wide windows.
She backed away, rubbing at her heart and shaking her head. How could this be? How could she have almost brought her children to the lion's den?
"So are you now working as a maid?" he asked her amused," It kind of suits you."
The hatred in his voice was unmistakable and he made sure she knew it. Sinikiwe wanted to laugh more out of frustration than jubilation. Don't bother trying to show me how much you hate me. I have known that every day for the past seven years. I too abhor you as much maybe even more. See that love I thought I felt had turned to resentment. Her courageous alta ego wanted to yell at him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked her his voice taking on a threatening tone.
She thought of her kids Chimwemwe, Chitontozo and Mapalo. Her guilt of how she had almost put them in harm's way brought fresh tears to her eyes.
"How did you end up here?" George continued slightly puzzled by her reaction.
"I...I ..." she began but words failed her. She frantically looked around for her bag but her mind was in a mess for her to remember where she had left it. It didn't matter, she needed to get away. She could always get another one. She could always replace the material property but not her children's peace of mind.
She turned and headed to the kitchen and hurried out of the door which she had left open to let in the fresh air as she cleaned.
She didn't know the grounds too well but took a calculated guess as to which direction she ought to go.