The weeks that followed the small get-together at Zuba’s house where eventful to say the least. She spent more and more time with Mr.Gihu and less effort in hiding their situationship whether it was at work or outside. It did not come as a shock to many employees at the BNetwork. Butoyi called Zuba out on the reckless behavior,
“What exactly are you trying to achieve in advertising your little escapades? His house is on fire right now and everyone is talking,” Butoyi said.
“Since when do you care what people think or say. I am not advertising shit B, it’s not my fault that some people have nothing better to do than minding other people’s business?”
“Well, you sure as hell ain’t trying to conceal nothing.”
When Zuba avoided meeting up with Butoyi, giving special instructions to the housekeeper to not let anyone inside the house; the next call came from Kwezi with a similar message,
“Sis, you are moving too fast and you’ll end up hurt. The man is married, and he isn’t leaving his wife for you.”
“Can’t y’all just let me be. When you have something else to talk to me about, let me know”
“Also, just so you know, Mr.Gihu has been talking all sort of shit behind your back claiming he basically made you who you are today and used other not so nice words to describe you.”
Zuba shut everyone out and spent her week days at work and weekends alone or with Mr.Gihu. What no one knew was that she would go home every night and drink herself to sleep grieving her grandmother who had been sick around the same time a few years back prior to her passing. There was only one way to cope with such times and for Zuba it was rejecting anything that looked or felt like family and having her close friends see her in such a vulnerable state was not going to happen.
When Mr.Gihu started cancelling plans with Zuba last minute, she was forced to realize how deep she had dug her own hole with the affair. One Thursday night when Zuba was on her third glass of wine, she booked a Bujumbura-Kigali flight for the following day. When Friday came, and she realized what she had done the night before, she called off work and packed for the weekend. She made a reservation at the Hotel Beau Sejour in the morning and got her hair and nails done.
A few hours later, Zuba was aboard Rwandair and the flight attendant was serving a light dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes. She announced landing in twenty minutes and Zuba stared through the window at the billion lights anxious of what this trip would do to her. She had left Bujumbura without notifying anyone and so no pep talk could appease her nerves at this moment. With her Rwandan passport and her Burundian accent, Zuba was questioned by the immigration officer on her last visit to Rwanda. Her passport was full of other East African countries stamps but her native country.
“When was the last time you set foot on this soil?” The immigration officer asked.
“Been a while for sure.” Zuba replied.
The officer then looked to his colleague and said, “Let’s see how long she stays in her home country. This new generation is always posting about how proud they are to be Rwandan and yet are tweeting from outside of the country. What a mess!”
Zuba tried to not show her irritation and finally made it to the taxi that drove her to her hotel. A lot had changed since the early 2000s such as the well-built roads and solar powered street lights. It was surely a country to be proud of and she regretted missing its milestones. She guessed It missed her little achievements too such as her high school and college graduations, the reunion with her father, the inheritance after he passed away, her first job out of school (BNetwork president being her father’s bestfriend and Mr.Gihu’s uncle), her first love, and more. Zuba hoped the two days in Kigali would be enough to catch-up with the now-vibrant city.
Zuba checked-in her hotel room and started prepping for the following afternoon visit at her mother’s. What was she going to say? Would she be happy to see her? What if she’s forgotten about her? What if she’s not at home, or out of the country for that matter? Zuba knew how important it was for people to plan visits at her own house as she hated impromptu guests. She set the pair of sneakers, jeans, and a tee on the bedside chair while rehearsing in front of the mirror. The last thing she wanted was for her mother to think she came unprepared.
After little to no sleep, Zuba got out of bed Saturday morning and had breakfast. She tried watching Tv in vain, browsed through a few books; all the while wishing for the clock to tick a little faster so today could end and all this situation would be in the past. After pacing throughout the room, Zuba finally decided to start getting ready as she planned on being there at 3pm sharp. A few hours later, she hopped on a cab in the direction of Gikondo. She still remembered vividly her step father’s house, if she could even call him that.
When the car drove through the narrow street that led to her mother’s house, Zuba’s heart raced faster as she felt close to a truth she did not want to unleash. She got out of the car and asked the nearby shop owner if Mrs. Muzima still lives there, to which the answer was yes but that she would probably be back from church in a few hours. The perks of living in a community was that everyone seemed to know everyone’s schedule, how they make money, what they ate for dinner, or even what previous night’s argument was about. Zuba couldn’t have survived here.
Zuba decided to wait outside of the gate but closer to the shop to not raise suspicions.
Just as she was ready to scroll through her social media feeds to kill time, the gates opened, and four young children ran out with a soccer ball. Three little boys and one little girl started playing but no one seemed to pass the ball to the little girl, so she stood in the middle of the three boys and shouted, “This is not fun. I want to play too!” The boy in his Barcelona jersey then walked up to her, “You know mum says girls don’t play soccer. You should go inside.”
It took a minute for Zuba to believe that she was hearing such things from kids in 2018. When she took a closer look, the boy and the girl looked so much like her mother. She had heard that she had given birth a long time ago but had never met them. Deep down, she wished she’d have been present in their lives because this would have never happen. Instead of focusing on the past, Zuba decided that when she gets a second chance, she would make up for all the years she’d missed. She would teach both her step-brother and step-sister all the things she’d learn about life and make sure the girl grows up to be a strong and independent woman, the boy a decent loving humanist with a not so fragile masculinity.
In the end, the three boys gave in and agreed to play with the little girl. An hour later, Zuba heard a familiar voice talking to the shopkeeper. When she turned to her right, she saw her mother in her Kitenge outfit with grocery bags in her hand. Time froze and the only thought in her mind was that this [moment] could be where her life begins or ends. She tried to keep her cool until the woman walked in the direction of her house. They stared at each other for a minute until she asked,
“Is there anything I can help you with young lady?”
For a moment Zuba focused on the smooth and calm voice she had missed all these years. She then felt a lump in her throat and before she could utter a word, the woman walked past her and called out the kids,
“Mugisha! Mwiza! It’s time to go inside the house.”
Zuba stood and watched the three silhouettes disappear through the gate to their house. A single tear slid down her cheek as she tried to figure out what was sadder, the fact that her mother did not recognize her (or worse ignored her) or that the little family her mother had built was okay without her. People passed by the streets and no one payed attention to the commotion except for the shopkeeper who looked just as confused. He probably would put one and two together sooner or later.
Zuba took a motorcycle ride on her way back to her hotel so that way she could feel herself leaving the memory of Gikondo behind as the speed represented a fast transition. She packed her bags and went straight to the airport to have her ticket changed. She ended up paying extra to leave that same night, but it did not matter. She had used the money her father had left in her emergency account before he passed away. Unfortunately, the same immigration officer as the night before was on duty and as she walked past him, he commented to his colleague,
“She couldn’t even last a weekend!” They both laughed.
How sad it was the people could watch you come and go without knowing the whys and assuming all sorts of things without knowing you would give up everything to stay. Not everyone leaves for adventure, to some it’s for survival purposes and Zuba wished she had the courage to explain herself but now, even carrying her suitcase seemed to be a complicated gym workout.
She landed safely in Bujumbura at around 10pm and called a taxi. In the safety of her home, Zuba took a long bath and tried to erase what had happened earlier. She sobbed all night as she felt her body weaken, only then was she able to fall asleep.
Early in the morning, she heard someone knock on her door and ignored it, but the sound persisted. She opened and found her housekeeper standing there embarrassed to have woken up his boss,
“I am really sorry Ma’am but there’s this lady that does not want to leave until she speaks to you. She came last night, and I was able to send her back. She’s been waiting outside since 6AM and it’s cold…and I thought you’d want to know.”
“Who is she?” Zuba asked.
“She says she’s Mrs. Gihu and that…” the housekeeper stopped himself from repeating Mrs. Gihu’s accusations.
“Kill me now!” Zuba cursed.
She then walked with the housekeeper to meet Mrs. Gihu but she had let herself in already.
“You whore! Home wrecker!” Mrs. Gihu shouted.
Zuba looked indifferent to the woman’s anger when Mrs.Gihu tried to throw a fist but was stopped by the housekeeper.
“I don’t know what you came here to do, and I honestly could care less. I have never set foot in your home so do not come threatening me in my own house.” Zuba said as her head started aching from all the mess. Mrs. Gihu tried to compose herself.
“Now, if you have something important to tell me in a polite manner go for it otherwise, I have to ask you to leave,” Zuba added.
“Stay away from my husband!” she shouted.
“Why don’t you go and ask him to do that instead? I am not begging a grown man to get in bed with me. It’s not that deep!” Zuba replied.
“It is THAT deep. If you stopped replying to his calls, texting him, spreading your legs for him, I bet he would not try hard to stay with you.”
“Again Mrs. Gihu, I suggest you take it up with him. Now if you can please get out of my house, I’d really appreciate it.”
“I don’t know what you young ladies think when you mess with a whole family. All I want is for my kids to stop asking where their father is and myself being pregnant with our third child, I need him to be around more than ever. The baby needs to feel the love from both parents.”
“Mrs. Gihu we all go through life and I am not insensitive, but I am not trying to take your husband. I’ll stop seeing him but trust me he’ll find someone else. I am not the problem.”
On that note, Mrs. Gihu left and Zuba had a quick breakfast and showered before heading to Bukuru’s. The old man would surely know what to prescribe for her to get through the day without collapsing.
“Hey Zu, where have you been? We were all worried about you!” Bukuru said as she gave Zuba a warm embrace.
“Rwanda, Kigali to be precise,” Zuba replied.
She then went on to explain everything from before she even decided to fly to Kigali until the part where Mrs. Gihu showed up at her house.
“So that’s why I need something strong. Where’s the good Kush at?” Zuba asked.
“Yeah, you don’t need that right now Zu…” Bukuru replied, surprising them both.
He then left the living room and came back with a blanket to cover Zuba who was laying on the sofa the whole time in a fetal position.
“Go on an take a nap. I’ll make lunch and you can stay here as long as you want.”
“Thanks. Sorry I’ve been selfish. How are you? When is the fam coming?” Zuba asked.
“They’re not. Their mother wants to spend Christmas with her new husband she cannot send the kids alone.” Bukuru replied with his voice slightly cracking with emotions.
“BULLSHIT! That woman is the devil’s little sister I swear.”
“Don’t say that Zu, I get you’re upset for me but it’s not necessary. I’ll be fine.”
“Oh, you are not giving up without fighting! Not under my watch! You’re going to apply for a visa first thing tomorrow and you finna pull up on that B*tch. Sorry, the mother of your kids.”
“I am okay Zu. Please take a nap, you look tired.”
“Yes, but as soon as I am up, we are talking about this.”
Zuba dozed off until she heard some voices and realized it was Kwezi and Butoyi. They showed up at Bukuru’s with bottles of champagne. They all acted as though she had not disappeared for weeks and hugged her because real friends don’t need to know why you did what you did when you were hurting but are glad to have you back whether in pieces or whole.
Zuba then went on and told them about her trip, Mrs.Gihu, and her decision to stop seeing her boss and perhaps quit her job.
“Good to have you back.” Butoyi said.
“My mother texted me this week. I haven’t replied, it’s weird…” Kwezi said.
“What!? What did she say?” Zuba was curious and happy for Kwezi at the same time.
“She just texted < hi >.”
“Hey, it’s a start!” Zuba said.
“Yes, I guess we might do your show and make you some money hunayy!” Kwezi added.
“Nah. I just hope you guys figure things out. The holidays have a way of bringing families together.”
“I broke up with the girl,” Butoyi interrupted with a serious tone.
“Couldn’t keep the woman happy for a minute B? Really?” Zuba dissed him.
“No unlike you I care about other people’s feelings and I just thought about how I was probably holding her back from being with someone who’d give her the life she wanted that I couldn’t give her myself.”
“Lookatchu growin up and shyt!” Zuba said.
“Oh, shut up!”
Zuba then joined Bukuru in the kitchen to help set the table.
“You know this whole Mr. Gihu situation might be a sign that it’s time for you to stop ignoring the love that’s closer to you.”
“What you mean?”
“Butoyi really cares about you. I am just saying.”
“Yes, and he’s also my best friend who we both know cannot keep a woman.”
“…but with you it’d be different.”
“Look, I am tired of loosing people. With friendship I can trust that we’ll be together forever but in a relationship we could not last and there’s no going back after that so thank you, next.”
The lunch was set, and they ate and drank like any regular Burundian family on a Sunday afternoon. These were the moments she wanted to fill her mind with. Family was indeed everything and although Zuba felt like her world was falling apart, she was reminded that she’s got a whole tribe ready to jump and save her at any time. And that was worth living for!
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* Chapter Seven *