Fiction

Borrowdale Wives: An Excerpt from Tambu Kahari

Borrowdale Wives

Pamela rolled over in her bed, stumbled up and ran to the bathroom. She barely made it to the toilet, where she puked her guts out. Her whole body shook with the force of the vomiting.  Tears slid down her cheeks as she heaved and heaved the previous night’s dinner out of her system.

Once done, she sat on the floor and waited for the trembling to subside. She couldn’t deny it any longer. She was very pregnant. She had to do something about it instead of pretending this pregnancy didn’t exist. She had to make an appointment and get rid of it.

“Oh dear Lord up in Heaven, please forgive me,” she muttered to herself. “I can’t have this one. I just can’t.”

That decided, she stood up to brush her teeth and take a shower. She had to go to work. She had breakfast duty today, which meant she had to be there early.

It was a tired and depressed looking Pamela who slid into her Renault and drove to the Sheraton to make breakfast for the tourists who came to Zimbabwe without a care in the world, while her world was crumbling on a daily basis.

###

Rudo hit her alarm clock with an amazing force and tried to get back to sleep. But the job was done. She was awake. She was tired. She couldn’t remember taking a day off in the last few years. It was work, and nothing but work, every day, from 4:30 am to 9 pm. She never got to see her daughter. In fact, the maid was her daughter’s mother. Why did she have to work while the other two sat on their fat bums and squandered the money she sweated for? It wasn’t fair. But Paul didn’t see it that way. He said she had a business degree and she was also a mother of one. Therefore, she had to work. At first, she had been flattered by him calling her intelligent, but she could see now, years later, that he used her. It was a bitter pill to swallow. First, she had to endure being wife number two out of three wives, and then she had to work to support those other two. Paul didn’t love her. He had married her to use her! Of that she was certain. One day, she was going to get her own back!

She got up at the thought of her husband. She had to go and open the salon and the cash register. If she wasn’t there on time, Paul would be furious. He would beat her and she didn’t want that. That was another thing. She was the only wife who got regular beatings for any small thing. The other two were never touched in anger. He would pay for that too, she thought vengefully.

###

Renee was exhausted! She did not want to get up.  Once she woke up, the day would start all over again with a vengeance. There was taking care of everyone and making sure they had eaten before rushing them all to school. She hardly ever had time to curl her hair. She was always at work in the nick of time. Work meant running off her feet and then coming back home to deal with a cold husband and three children who didn’t appreciate her.

Today, she had her mother in law to deal with. How she wished the woman lived in a village, in a hut, far away from here!  Her mother in law was a difficult, demanding woman. She hated Renee with a passion and didn’t bother to hide it. How had she got stuck with that battle ax? The woman lived just a few houses away from her. Why couldn’t Ngoni have bought their house elsewhere? Did it have to be Borrowdale? Once again, she wished she was Isabel, married to Shingi, who didn’t give a shit what his mother said.  Instead, she had Ngoni, the mighty first born, the too educated, the too successful businessman and the too traditional first born.

This was not what she had wanted of her life, let alone her marriage! She thought back to the days when she had dreams of meeting Prince Charming and living happily ever after. How stupid she was then! There was no happily ever after. There was a demanding husband and his mother and three children whom she loved but drove her nuts. There was her job, which she cherished and therefore could not be late.

She eased out of the massive bed and gently walked to the bathroom. This morning she would start with herself. She will take a bath, curl her hair and choose an outfit before waking up Ngoni and the children.  That put a smile to her face.  Today, was about her.

###

PAMELA

Pamela sat across her doctor and didn’t hear a single word he said. Her ears were buzzing. She couldn’t believe it.

“How much?” she asked weakly.

He said it again.

“That’s a lot of money,” she said.

He nodded with a sympathetic smile. “Life has become expensive in Harare.”

“And that is why I can’t afford it,” she said. She was going to howl!

“Perhaps he can help you pay for it,” the doctor suggested. “They usually do.”

Pamela didn’t say a word. She couldn’t tell him. He wouldn’t let her go through with it. It was best he didn’t know. Somehow, somewhere, she was going to find the money to get rid of this pregnancy.

“Put me in for Saturday,” she said. She would ask her friends, Brenda and Gavin if necessary. She would ask her parents. She will make up a lie and stick with it. She had to get rid of this pregnancy.

“You know, Pamela, you could always have this baby. It is not as if you are a teenager. You are 32 years old and have a wonderful career and good parents. You can keep it. This may be your only chance.” The doctor said.

“I can’t.” she said. “Put me in for 11:00 am on Saturday. I will be here, with the money.”

He nodded.

She left.

“Shit, shit shit!” she hissed to herself as she walked back to the car. Her life was a mess! She was such a stupid cow! She could never get it together. She never got what she wanted and she was always the one who got into these situations. How she hated her life. How she hated Shingi. How she hated Isabel for stealing her future. How she hated Brenda for not telling her sooner about Shingi and Isabel. Brenda was a traitor, a devil to her life. How had she even believed they were friends?

She called Barbara. She needed to talk and she needed to shake her pockets.

“Sorry Pam, no money,” said Barbara regretfully. “We paid out school fees and we are done for this month. We were not even able to afford DSTV.”

“How can you say that?” Pam asked her disbelievingly. “You have a great job and so does your husband. You can’t even loan me some of it?”

“Ja. We have good jobs. But we have many bills. Don’t forget that my husband supports his family in the rurals. And then, a lot of his money is unaccounted for. You know men. I just get by,” Barbara didn’t want to talk about her husband and his promiscuous ways. “I could loan you some of it.”

She named the amount and Pam shook her head. “Not enough. Forget it.”

“Ask him to pay,” Barbara suggested softly. She was relieved Pamela had not taken the money. She needed it.

“He won’t give it to me. Not for that.” She said.

“He doesn’t have to know. You could make up a story or something.” Barbara said.

“Barbie, he is not stupid! That is why he has so much money. He will know. It is best to just go solo on this one.” She said, frustrated, desperate and angry.

“If he wasn’t married, you would have asked him to marry you,” Barbara said. She didn’t condone Pamela’s behaviour. In her own life, there was a Pamela, draining money from her children’s lives. The fact that Ngoni had so much of it, didn’t mean anything to her. Pamela was still depriving that family of their husband and father.

“Ja well, he is married,” Pamela stated flatly.

“You could ask Brenda,” Barbara suggested, “She has tons of money.  I know she would give it to you.”

“No.”

“You are still angry with her?” Barbara asked. “She isn’t the one who married Shingi you know.”

“She should have told me about them.” Pamela said. The women had had this argument many times before. “By keeping it a secret she aided and abetted.”

Barbara sighed in defeat. This would be the last time she said this, “Shingi didn’t love you. He loves Isabel. You should have moved on with your life. They have. It had nothing to do with Brenda who had her own problems. It had nothing to do with Isabel either. Shingi didn’t love you. Instead of sleeping with his brother for revenge, which is really twisted Pam, because how were you getting revenge by sleeping with Ngoni? Anyway, instead of doing that, you should have cut your ties with that family and found someone else.”

“Don’t you think I know it now?” Pamela said. “I know it now! So what? I am stupid. I get it. I just need to end this pregnancy.”

“You could have it,” Barbara said quietly.

“So, you want me to have a baby out of wedlock while you had an abortion when that happened to you?” Pamela asked. “Why should I be the one to have a baby out of wedlock? Even Brenda had her Coloured in wedlock!”

“Marriage is overrated,” Barbara said.

“So says you, the married woman!”

This conversation was getting them nowhere and they both knew it. Pamela wanted to go home and sleep. She was exhausted. Barbara had to go to a meeting.

“Okay, so can you drive me on Saturday? The doctor said someone should drive me back and forth?” Pam asked.

“Sure. You did it for me, I do it for you. I am always there for you Pam, you know that.”

“I know,” Pam swallowed a lump of emotion. Barbara was her best friend.

“It’s in the morning, right?” Barbara asked, just making sure.

“Ja, why?”

“It is Claudette’s first birthday and my children are invited to the party.”

“Brenda’s little Coloured is already one!”

“Her name is Claudette. Try to use it. She is not responsible for her mother’s behaviour, whatever it was. She is truly a beautiful little girl. You should see her. Maybe you can come with us on Saturday.”

“No thanks. How is Brenda anyway?”

“Pregnant.”

“Already?”

“Ja. She wants to do it all at once.”

RENEE

Renee was going to see a witchdoctor right after work. She needed to. Something was going on with Ngoni and she didn’t know what it was. Hers had always been a difficult marriage but she was going to be damned if he divorced her. She couldn’t take the humiliation of being divorced, especially after she had spent so many years showing off about her marriage to anyone who cared to listen. She was the envy of her family. She was married into a rich and prominent family. She had a massive house in Borrowdale and her children went to Private schools. She drove a jaguar and went to Europe as often as she liked for shopping sprees.  Her daughter was going to a college in America in a couple of years. She had earned her right to be his wife. She would fight to the death any woman who thought they could take that away from her.

The first step to finding out about this anonymous creature who was giving her husband sex, was to visit her witchdoctor. She had tried to find out who she was the usual way, but failed. Ngoni’s secretary had no idea. His other workers, whom she bribed with goodies to spy on him, had no idea. Why did this particular liaison worry her so much?

Ngoni had always been promiscuous! She’d always known.

The idea, her aunt had told her, was to ignore the girlfriends, pretend they didn’t exist. After all, she was the one who was married! This time around, she was scared. She believed in her instincts. There was something different about this one. Ngoni had changed. He wasn’t the same man anymore. He no longer liked the way she cooked. He had begun to pick on the way she dressed, smelt and even talked. He spent a lot more time out of the house than in the house.  Something was out of sync. No, Renee was not going to be divorced. She would see her witchdoctor and put an end to this whole thing.

She stopped at the salon to pick up Rudo and the two cousins went to their regular traditional healer.

“Tell me again why we are going?” Rudo asked

“I think Ngoni has another woman,” Renee explained.

“He always has women. What is the problem now?” she asked her older cousin.

“There is no sex in the bedroom Rudo! A few months ago, it became about twice a week from every night. A couple of weeks ago, he stopped touching me completely. Ngoni would never go to sleep without some. To him, women were born and made for that, to satisfy his physical urges. He has not touched me.”  Renee explained.

“Perhaps he is getting old Renee. I mean, how old is he?” Rudo wasn’t too concerned about that. She went for months without Paul touching her and she liked it that way. Her cousin was oversexed, that was the problem.

“Don’t make me laugh!” Renee snorted. “Your husband is older than him. Ngoni is only forty four years old. That is nothing! He is relieving himself elsewhere and it must be so good, he won’t sleep with me. He has nothing for me.”

“What I don’t get is why you are so alarmed by it,” Rudo was puzzled. Men were always whoring.

“It is not just the sex. It is the fact that he criticizes the food I cook, he hates my perfume now, even though he bought it for me, he thinks I have one extra love handle, he hates my hair!” she cried.

“Well, I hate your hair. Why do you keep it so natural and short? You should come to the salon and I will do your hair for you!” her cousin offered.

Renee snorted in frustration. Rudo wasn’t getting it. “He has never changed before Rudo. It is the first time. So I think he is in love.”

“If you say so,” said Rudo. “Is it okay if I ask the grandmother if Paul is going to let me build my house in Borrowdale?”

“Sure.” Renee sounded lost. If Rudo didn’t get it, perhaps she was overreacting.

“Renee, don’t listen to me. Listen to your instincts. Paul’s first wife told me that she knew I was in Paul’s life. She said I changed him. And you know what, number three changed him too. She took away a piece of him that I no longer get to have. That was how I knew.” Rudo conceded. “If you say he has changed, you are right.”

Renee smiled. She and Rudo had always been close. “How do you do it? Share a man? I could never live like that.”

“You share Ngoni don’t you?” Rudo asked.

“Ja, but not the same way. I am married to him! I have the Chapter 37! They are just temporary toilets. It is not the same!”

“Sharing is sharing Renee. You always want to be the superior one. We don’t get to choose where our hearts go and the lives that we want. Men have all the choices, we don’t. I wanted things for myself and for my daughter. When I got pregnant, what else could I do? Yes we lived in Avondale, but there was nothing but hunger in our house. It was the hunger that made me go out and meet men like Paul. At least I know that when Paul is not with me, he is with number one or number two. I sleep well at night because I cannot be divorced. Why should he? He can just marry another woman, like he is going to do and my daughter and I will still live in luxury!”

“I just know I couldn’t do it,” Renee was adamant. “I will not share my marriage with another woman. I would rather walk.”

Rudo gave a short laugh. “You have forgotten sister dear, how awful the world is outside your Borrowdale. I would rather share. And if these girlfriends didn’t matter to you, why are we going to see grandmother?”

 PAMELA

“I don’t know what to tell you Pamela! If you get rid of this one, like the last two, you may never have a baby again. You might, but the chances will be pretty slim. The uterus is like a computer. Once programmed, it continues to do its job. So, if you have an abortion this time, your uterus will begin to think it should expel babies at nine weeks every time,” her doctor said.

“I need to get rid of this pregnancy,” Pamela insisted to him. She understood what he was saying, but she could not keep this one.

“I am not saying I can’t help you abort. I just want you to know all the facts before we do it.” he said. “In our society, it is hard to maintain a marriage with a dead womb.

“I understand the risks. Now, can I make an appointment for the procedure?” Pamela was calm, on the outside. On the inside, she was screaming!

Her doctor hesitated. He looked up from Pamela’s file which he had been perusing. He was worried about this decision. “Pamela, I am going to speak as your friend, not your doctor. After all, I met you through Shingi. I sort of feel like I have an obligation towards you.”

Pamela’s lips curled. That was a very small link to build an obligation on. After all, Shingi had not married her. He married Isabel and was living happily in South Africa somewhere. She didn’t say it though. She simply sat and waited for him to be done lecturing her. She was not going to change her mind.

“I think you should have it,” the doctor said. “After all, you are 32 years old and you have a good job and parents who would help you. It is not as if you are going to be thrown out onto the streets. I believe that when you meet a man, he will love you and your child. A man loves the child of a woman he loves. You should keep this baby.”

“I already thought of that. I decided that being a single mother would be too humiliating and too awful. This is not how I want to have children,” said Pam.

“You want to get married and then have children?” he asked, although he knew the answer to that. She nodded.

“Marriage and motherhood have nothing to do with one another.”

“Tell that to the whole country,” she said.

The doctor closed Pamela’s file. “I want you to think about this. When you are ready, give me a call. Take your time.”

“I am not going to change my mind,” she said firmly.

“In that case, you can call me on my cell and make an appointment, after you have thought about it.” he insisted.

Pamela lay in her hotel room unable to sleep. Dear God, she was in a tight corner for sure. To abort or not to abort. All day, she had been running the conversation she had with her doctor over and over in her head. If she ever wanted to have a baby with that elusive creature called a husband, she had to keep this baby. If she kept this baby, it would be goodbye to this so called husband. Yes, she knew of many women who had babies and still married. She didn’t think it could happen to her. She did not inspire love and devotion in men. The chances were that she would be a single mother, period.

She did not want that. She wanted what her sister had, what Barbara had, what even Brenda had. She wanted the whole package. She had been groomed for it all her life. She had to graduate in that school of life.

If she did have an abortion and after she married, failed to have a baby, then she would be in trouble too. There was no winning here. The digital alarm clock said it was 3:30 am. She ought to wake him so that he could go home to his wife and children, she thought. After all, she had not invited him here. He just turned up. And she couldn’t say no to him. What was it about him? Why the hell did the maid tell him she would be sleeping here anyway? She was going to have a talk with the maid. How could she think when he was with her?

He was the best man that ever happened to her. It scared her to death, because he was also very married and happily so. He never pretended otherwise. He loved his wife and his daughters. She knew that. But, she couldn’t help the way he made her feel. Sure, this thing had started for revenge, but now, it was her very life. Yes, there was a 13 year difference between them, but it didn’t matter. They fit well.

Ngoni was good to her. He was kind to her, something none of her lovers and boyfriends had ever been. He cared about her. He was also handsome, classy and rich. He suited her well. Besides, the bedroom was always on fire with him. He knew the right places to touch and feel her. But, that may change if she told him she was pregnant.  He would probably react the same way his little brother had done, drag her off to the doctor to get rid of it. She knew that would happen. It happened to her twice before!

Despite what Barbara told her this afternoon, she was not going to tell him. On Saturday, she was going to have an abortion and no one will be the wiser. She could only hope that later in life, she would have a baby.

She nudged him, hard. “You should go home Ngoni.”

He didn’t move. She shook him really hard. “Go home!”

She knew he was awake from his breathing. “You should get up and go home.” she said with a smile.

“No,” he said sleepily. “I like it here.”

“Here is a hotel room. You should go.” she said again, shaking her head slightly. He sounded like a little boy, refusing to give up his sweets.

“No.” he was firm. “I thought you had to get up early?”

“I am up early. I am going to take a shower and head downstairs. I have to make breakfast for six am.”

“In that case, go. I will leave later.” He snuggled down under the covers.

Pamela decided to leave it alone. “It’s your fault if something nasty happens,” she said, walking to the bathroom. A part of her was thrilled that he wasn’t going home. This was progress indeed. She didn’t think about Renee and how good and kind she had been to Pamela. All she knew was that it was every woman for herself and God for them all. If Isabel could take her man, she could take Renee’s  husband.

RUDO

Rudo’s beeper went off for the third time. She shut it off.  She was not going to answer it. She would not go home so that Paul could have sex with her! It made her feel like a prostitute, the way he paged her for sex. She was his wife, for God’s sake and he had to respect that. Why had he paid dowry for her in the first place?

She was angry, with him, with her situation and with the whole world. Her footsteps did not falter as she went about, mixing Dark and Lovely for her client.

“Are you not going?” asked Minerva, one of the hairdressers. Usually, Rudo would rush out after the pager went off. They all knew it was Paul. They all knew what he wanted. They could have all traded places with this beautiful woman any day and any time. They envied her beyond measure. Paul was a handsome man, rich, fit, young and he married his women. What could be better?

“After I am done with her hair,” Rudo replied.

“Won’t he be mad at you?” Minnerva was curious.

“So what?” Rudo was nonchalant. “He has other wives to satisfy him. Why should I be the only one who gets called in the middle of the afternoon?”

She continued to do hair gracefully. The pager rang five more times, but there was no one to hear it. Rudo had turned it off.

A couple of hours later, she switched it on again, and it was buzzing. Paul had paged her more than forty times. He was angry. She was afraid. She was regretting her decision to ignore him.  He was going to beat her! There was no doubt.

“You should go,” Minnerva whispered. She cared for Rudo. Rudo was a good boss, hassle free and very professional. It was because she had all those degrees, Minnerva supposed. She didn’t want to see Rudo with a black eye, as that very often happened.

“No,” Rudo stood her ground, even though she was frightened by her own stubbornness.

“Why are you being so stubborn? He is your husband. Just go and perform your duty to him,” Minnerva insisted. This wasn’t like Rudo.

“That is just the point,” Rudo whispered to Minnerva. “He treats me like a prostitute. When he wants my body, he calls. I go running every time. No wonder he has no respect for me.”

“This is not the way to get it,” Minnerva kept her common sense. “You know you will be in trouble. Just go.”

“I can’t get through to Paul any other way,” she said.

“Are you on strike?” Minnerva asked.

“I guess I must be.”

“You will die.”

“He won’t kill me,” she said. She wasn’t sure about that.

“Ja. He will. Just go please?” Minnerva was pleading with her.

Rudo knew she had no choice. She had to go. But she didn’t want to. How she hated her life. Her life was not hers. It belonged to Paul. Surrendering to reality, she went to get the keys to her Land cruiser. As she walked out, a couple of fellow hairdressers wished they were in her place. How had Rudo, managed to be so lucky and landed a catch like Paul? What they would not give for her life! They would sell their first born children for what she had! That was for sure.

The woman with all the envy in the world, parked outside her house, trembling. Paul’s Mercedez was outside. He was waiting for her. He did more than that. He walked out of the house through the kitchen and slowly advanced on the car. He seemed unconcerned, with his hands in his pocket.  Rudo knew otherwise. She knew this man. Since she was 15. She knew he was angry as hell with her. She knew it. So, she stayed in the car, debating on what was safer, stepping out or remaining locked up. She decided very quickly that stepping out was better. She could out run Paul. If she stayed in the car, he would smash it to get to her. She removed her high heels and got out. The hood separated husband and wife as the animosity entwined them in a dance they had done so many times.

He put his hands on the still hot hood and surveyed his beautiful second wife. “Where were you?” he asked quietly.

“Working,” she replied calmly. Deep inside, she was screaming!

“I paged you, many times,” he said.

“I am sorry,” was all she could say.

“Rudo, you are a very stubborn woman. How many times have I told you that when I page you, you put everything down and you come home?” he was still calm.

“Many times,” she replied. He was going to beat her, whatever she said. She might as well not get an extra beating for telling lies.

“You have no regard for me your husband? I took you from that poverty stricken home of your father’s. I gave you everything you are standing on right now. Your family gets groceries from me every month and you have only given me one daughter. A daughter. Am I a bad husband?” He was soft in speech when he was really furious.

“You are a good husband. I am very lucky,” she said.

“Do you not live in luxury?”

“I do,” she said, respectfully lowering her head.

“Do you think you could have married a better man than me?”

“There is no better man,” she said.

“So, what’s the problem? Why do you make me remind you all the time of your place? Don’t you learn?”

She said nothing, preparing to dash.

“I said don’t you learn? Can you hear me?”

“Ja,” she said, “I learn.”

“Then what is the problem?”

Usually, this is when she said she had no problem. But not today. She wanted her freedom. “I hate being paged for sex like a two bit whore. I am your wife. I deserve respect too!”

He did not like that. He started to move from his side of the hood to her, “I think you are getting too cocky. All this luxury is going to your head.”

She began to move backwards, step by step. “You treat me like a whore!” she screamed and broke the impasse. He lunged for her. She dodged him and made good her escape. She was going to run to the pool and throw herself in there. Paul couldn’t swim. He wouldn’t come after her. She started screaming for her daughter as her father breathed angrily behind her and tried to grab her, “Chiedza! Chiedza!”

He grabbed her blouse and ripped it, because she kept on running. “Chiedza!” she screamed.

She went head first into the pool and thanked her ancestors for saving her. If she could only stay in there until her four year old daughter came out of the house! If only she could stay in there until Paul had calmed down. She would be fine.

“Get out of that pool!” he ordered.

“No!” she yelled back, making sure she was in the middle. “Chiedza!”

Paul laughed. “You think she is going to save you? I am going to kill you today Rudo, because you are a problem to me. I will discipline you today or my ancestors will disown me!”

“Chiedza!” she screamed desperately. Her daughter had to come out! She had to. Rudo began to cry just as the sliding doors slid open and pretty Chiedza, fresh from a nap, ran out to her mother.

Upon seeing her father standing by the pool, she changed direction, because she loved her daddy more than her mother.

“Daddy!” she spread out her arms. He always picked her up and twirled her in the air. She would laugh joyously as he teased her, telling her she was his beautiful baby girl and one day she would be trouble.

Today was no exception. Paul cleared his expression of all anger and he had nothing but love for his daughter.  He went through his ritual with her and then carried her into the house. He would deal with Rudo later. He didn’t want any of his girl babies to see his violent side.  That was just for their mothers, not his seed.

Rudo remained in the pool until Paul drove off with Chiedza in the backseat. She didn’t care where they were going. She just knew her daughter had saved her as always.

The maid rushed to her with a towel. She thanked her absently and said, “Thanks for waking up Chiedza!”

The maid smiled. She knew her job. She had to save this impossibly beautiful woman from a possessive and angry husband.

Rudo rushed into her bedroom, dragged a suitcase out and started throwing her clothes in it. She was leaving. As soon as the driver brought back Chiedza, she was taking her daughter and leaving this man. She had a degree. She would get by. She could do hair. That would keep her in some money. Maybe not a lot of money, but enough for her and Chiedza’s needs.

She heard the maid talking to her sister Renee, and she rolled her eyes in frustration. Now, Renee will drive over like a mad woman and try to stop her. She couldn’t live with Paul. She didn’t want to be owned. She was shaking as she stuffed clothes into the suitcase. She threw make up, perfumes, heaps of shoes, all at once.

After this she would go to Chiedza’s room and empty it. They were out of here.

Renee arrived when she was dragging her suitcases to the car.  Her cousin immediately rushed to grab the suitcase. “Have you gone mad Rudo? What do you think you are doing? You are walking out on your home so that some other woman can have it?”

“I am saving myself,” she hissed as she fought for her clothes from Renee. “Let go sisi Renee. I am leaving this man right now!”

“Nonsense, you are not going anywhere! This is your home and this man is your husband. You are not leaving. Over my dead body,” she fought her younger cousin until she wrestled the suitcase from her. She started dragging it back into the house. “You have lost your mind, my uncle’s daughter. Where do you think you are going?”

“I don’t care!” Rudo yelled. “I will not stay here and be beaten for nothing!”

Renee stopped for a moment, huffing. She put her hands on her waistline and looked down at her little cousin. “How will you survive? How will you feed Chiedza? Do you think there is something better out there?”

“There has got to be,” Rudo said with conviction. She started to cry. “I have to leave this monster!”

Renee laughed, joylessly and clapped her hands together, “Today he is a monster, yet yesterday, you gave him a child. You think your little business degree is going to help you? Do you not see what has happened to Robert’s Zimbabwe? You are not free dear sister. If you want that daughter of yours to eat, you will make this marriage work.”

“I can work. I am a hard worker. I can create a life for myself and my daughter!” she protested. She would not let Renee talk her out of leaving.

Renee laughed some more. It sounded ugly, even to her. “Have you forgotten where we came from? Have you forgotten how we pretended to live in the stands when we went to bed hungry! Have you forgotten how our fathers went around looking for sons and impregnating everything that came their way? Have you forgotten?”

“No sisi Renee, I have not forgotten. But I will not live like my mother. I will not. I want more out of this life,” she said.

Renee laughed again. What could she do? “Ja. You have forgotten because you eat and fill your belly with Paul’s food. You drive that land cruiser, and you talk on your cell phone and you don’t know what it is like out there. What about your sisters? What will happen to them when food from Paul no longer goes there? What about their school fees? The electricity bill? Your mother’s health. What are you going to do with all those responsibilities? I can’t take them on. I have too many as it is.”

“I will not prostitute myself sisi Renee. This marriage, it is fake. I am tired of being beaten and forced into having sex! I can’t do it anymore!”

“And you think that every woman in Borrowdale or even here, is happy in her marriage? You think we are all twirling with joy just because we smile? I was also a battered woman. Ngoni didn’t want to marry me. He said I was too dark for him. Do you remember? He beat me at every opportunity until a few years ago. Everything comes to an end. Paul will stop beating you too one day. It will happen. Come, my father’s daughter, let us go into your home.”

Rudo hesitated. She would not go back there. She didn’t care what Renee said. “I can’t. I can’t.”

“Rubbish. Even the Mundawarara wives are battered.  Phyllis tells me she sees them running in the dead of the night to get to their mother in law’s house for safety.  The Makoni wives are beaten, but do they leave?  You will stay. You will be strong for your daughter. What are you going to do with your daughter? She will be abused out there. You will stay with your husband.”

She reached out for her cousin’s hand.

“He doesn’t need me sisi Renee. He has two other wives,” she couldn’t do it. Not anymore.

“Nonsense. You are the woman who is going to bury him. Forget about those two. Does he not live with you?”

‘Ja. But that is because he will not buy me my own house. That is why I live here,” she explained.

“Rubbish. You live here because he loves you the most! He visits the other two. You are his wife, the one he wants. You will die here.”

“Ja! Like tomorrow!”

“Rubbish! When I married Ngoni, people didn’t think I would last. He cheated. He beat me, he kicked me out many times, but look now, I have a house in Borrowdale and three daughters with that man. It has been 16 years and he is old now! Where is he going to go? These marriages, they require strength!” Renee was mighty proud of her strength.” Come my little sister, give me your hand. Let us go back into your house. The maid can bring the rest of your stuff. Just because a wall in your home has been broken does not mean you leave! You stay and you build it up. If you leave, Harare’s girls will say, “amen.” and move in. You can never come back.”

“Sisi Renee, you don’t understand because yours is a different marriage,” she said tiredly, taking her cousin’s hand and walking back into her prison. “Your marriage is better!”

Renee stopped and laughed mercilessly. “What nonsense. You are living in a dream! Ngoni has not touched me for months upon months! Last night he did not come home, for the first time in 16 years.  Right now I am thinking I should go to auntie in Kambuzuma, you know the witchdoctor and ask what is going on. There is no good marriage my sister. We just persevere and pretend to smile. My neighbour is living with her husband’s girlfriend right now. The girl is pregnant and will not leave! But if you see her, she is smiling and showing off about being married and living in Borrowdale. I know women whose husbands beat them and leave them naked on the streets, who are still with those men. Being a wife is hard. It takes the tough and the hardy. Where are you going to go? As for me, God gave me three little whores. What am I to do with my whores? I can only educate them and hope for the best. No. You are going back into your house. Thank God your maid adores you and called me.  You are going to take a bath, take some panadol and go to bed. When your husband comes back, you are going to smile and be nice. You will thank me one day!”

Renee helped Rudo to unpack and put the bedroom in order. When Rudo was done with her bath, she sat on the bed and asked her closest relative about her home. “Did you say Ngoni didn’t come home last night?”

“He didn’t come home,” Renee crumbled on her sister’s bed.  She was exhausted. “I don’t know what to do my father’s daughter.  I have felt for some time that things were not good. No sex, nothing is happening in the bedroom. He ignores me. He looks right through me. I don’t know what to do.”

It was good to share.

“Since when?” Rudo asked.  The adrenalin was gone and she wanted to sleep. But, she had to be there for her older cousin. Renee was always there for her.

“Since his brother got married. Things were never really good, but we ambled along. But now, it is a marriage in name only.” confessed Renee. Saying it out loud, made it real!

“Do you think there is another woman?” Rudo asked. She could not imagine educated, urbane looking Ngoni, her cousin’s dreadfully handsome and sophisticated husband cheating on someone as wonderful as Renee.

“Obviously! That is why I am going to auntie. Perhaps you can come too and we can ask about these beatings that don’t want to stop.”

“Perhaps!” she was tired and depressed.

Renee could see it. She would leave now. She had stopped her cousin from doing a terrible harm to her life. Men were difficult. It was the job of a woman to face the difficulties until they ended. Rudo was too pretty. She got things in life too easily. Therefore, she was ready to give up on a man like Paul. There were not enough of them in this world

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