Lusaka, Zambia; December, 2015.
Natasha Thompson drove her brand new Chevy into Tulani Media House which was popularly known as TMH and went searching for a free spot in the parking lot. TMH was the leading independent and private media firm in the country and Natasha was more than excited to start her first day…her first job in Zambia since returning from the States a month ago.
After moving around in circles for close to five minutes without finding a free parking spot, Natasha was about to lose hope when she saw a vehicle move out of a spot a short distance from where she was.
She rushed over there before anyone else got the spot and was just about to get into the spot when she heard someone hooting ruthlessly behind her. She looked back to find the very car that had just moved out and a lady came out, belligerently waving her arms about in the air as she walked towards Natasha.
Wondering what the hell was going on, Natasha waited for the angry lady to come to her, afraid to come out without knowing what had upset her so much.
The lady started banging aggressively on Natasha’s window and fearing that her new car might suffer damage, she rolled down the window to hear what the lady was going on about.
“Is something the matter?” Natasha asked the angry but beautiful lady glaring at her through the window.
“This is a reserved spot,” the lady said. “You can’t park here. Can’t you see the sign over there?” She pointed to the bold sign right on the wall ahead that Natasha seemed to have missed in her hurry to secure the spot.
“Are you the Chief Financial Officer?” Natasha asked.
“Don’t you know who I am?” the lady asked, obviously expecting her identity to be common knowledge.
Natasha shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly in response, an act that seemed to peeve the lady even more.
“What the hell are you doing driving into TMH when you have no idea who the hell I am?”
“Look lady,” Natasha opened the door and came out of the vehicle to properly address the strange woman.
“This is my first day here so forgive me if I cannot remember all the faces I saw online of the high officials here.”
“The accent,” the angry lady remarked. “Did you apply for a job here?”
“I got offered a position here.” Natasha deliberately stressed every word in the sentence.
“My name is Luyando Mulenga,” the lady removed a stash of her business cards and handed one to Natasha. “You might wanna know who I am if you are going to be working here. My family owns this whole place and I am the CFO. You need to remove your vehicle from my spot before it gets towed right away.”
Natasha finally understood the arrogant airs she had detected from the lady the moment she had laid eyes on her.
“Luyando Mulenga….” Natasha said as she examined the business card. “I might not have been raised in Zambia but, isn’t this a weird name combination? Could it be a Tonga mother and a Bemba father…except, I heard your mother is originally Zimbabwean…?”
Luyanda grabbed the card from Natasha. “If you must know, I was named after the nurse that helped my mother deliver me.” She said.
Natasha laughed. “Forgive me, you don’t owe me any explanation whatsoever. I am just happy to meet someone with a complicated family history as I.”
“I was not explaining anything; I was simply stating a fact. I don’t care about your family history and I can assure you that there is nothing complicated about my family. What is your name by the way?”
“Natasha…Natasha Thompson…funny story, I know…but sometimes it isn’t that easy to get rid of your ex’s name. May I go now ma’am? I need to find another parking spot before am late for my meeting with the CEO.”
“Natasha,” Luyando mulled over the name. “I will certainly keep my eye on you.” She pranced back to her car.
Natasha went back into her car and waited for Luyando to drive away before she could move her car.
“Natasha….” Luyando said whilst looking at Natasha through the interior rear view mirror. “Let’s see how long you will last here with that kind of attitude.” And she hit the accelerator and sped out of the parking lot like she owned the whole building.
Natasha walked over to the reception and greeted the young beautiful girl standing behind the front desk.
“Gosh, getting into this place is worse than getting into a military camp site. Is all that security really necessary?” she was looking behind at the two security guards mounted at the third security entry point; the first one being a group of two security guards asking for identification and then grilling questions before subjecting you to a body scan before handing you a visitor’s card to swipe and be let through to the second phase of security once confirmation of appointment was made.
At the second security point, Natasha had to insert the visitors card she had been given before she could be allowed through to the last phase of security where two security guards held the doors open for her and directed her to the reception desk.
“There’s a television station, a newspaper, and a radio station under one roof here,” the receptionist explained. “You have no idea how many people want access to those services and what some of them would be willing to do to be heard. You must be Mrs Thompson.”
Natasha laughed. “Ms actually, divorced.” She raised her hand to show the girl her fingers.
“Mr Mulenga is waiting for you in his office on the fourth floor, East Wing.”
“East Wing?” Natasha asked.
“Those two lifts over there will take you to the East Wing which is where T-Tv is located. The ground floor is for the radio station only and the West Wing is for the Newspaper. Only those in top management have access to all wings of the building.”
“I see,” Natasha said. “Thanks.”
“Mr Mulenga’s office is the only one on the fourth floor so it won’t be hard to find.”
“Figures,” Natasha said and walked to the lift.
Even though she could not remember much of her childhood days in Zambia, Natasha had heard some things about her mother country from some friends she had made online and none of them had painted the county in bright lights.
But for the one month she had been back, she had seen levels of development far beyond her expectations and she couldn’t help but be impressed. The TMH building was one of those things that had blown her breath away the moment she had laid her eyes on it and feasted on its architectural beauty.
The building was a wonder to behold and it’s expensive quality was not surprising considering that the major shareholders where right at the top of the financial food chain.
“I’m here for Mr Mulenga.” Natasha announced to the CEO’s PA.
“Come through,” she said as she got up to guide her to the office. “He’s expecting you.”
“Ms Thompson is here Sir.” The PA peeped through the door to announce the visitor.
“Let her in,” Natasha heard a man say. She smiled, thinking how he still sounded the same even after four years.
The PA stepped aside and held the door wide open for her to get in.
“Thanks,” Natasha said.
“Look what we have here!” Tulani Mulenga exclaimed the moment he laid eyes on Natasha. “Come here!” He grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Hmm Hmm,” the PA cleared her thought to announce that she was still there. “Coffee, tea or juice for the guest?” She asked.
“Tea please,” Natasha answered, separating herself from Tulani who appeared to be enjoying having his arms around her a little too much.
“The usual for you Sir?”
“Yes Claudia, the usual.”
“You have a lovely office Tula,” Natasha said, walking around the large room and touching things here and there.
“You look way too sexy than the last time I saw you.”
“I think that is considered sexual harassment in this kind of situation don’t you think?” She took one of the seats in front of his desk.
“You haven’t signed the contract yet so I can say whatever I want to say in the meantime.” The thirty-four year old said, a mischievous smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
Natasha laughed. “I see nothing has changed over the years. Last time we spoke on the phone, you sounded a little mature and grounded and I had this hope that perhaps…perhaps you’ve grown a little now.”
Tulani busted out in laughter. “You are the only woman in this world who thinks am childish. Every other woman out there wants to have my child.”
“That could be because you bring out motherly instincts in them.”
“Ouch!” Tulani held his hand to his heart mimicking a heart attack.
“Besides,” Tulani added once he was seated. “I had no choice but to sound all mature the last time we talked since you were crying. I couldn’t say this at that time but I am glad you divorced the b—–d. He didn’t deserve you.”
“Wow, thanks Tula, that makes me feel so much better.” She said.
“Sarcasm I see,” he remarked. “I can’t seem to catch a break with you Tasha…could be why I haven’t been able to get you off my mind from the moment I met you. I can’t believe it’s been four years already.”
Tulani’s Personal Assistant came in with the beverages and left after serving them.
Natasha couldn’t help admitting that despite his childishness, there was nothing about Tulani’s physical stature that suggested he was a boy. At thirty-four years old, he was made of stuff found in women’s dreams; tall, well-built, and with looks that broke the hearts of all those that couldn’t be with him. He was a natural charmer and he knew exactly what to say and what not to say to please the ear of a woman.
“Let’s catch up another time Tulani. I am here to talk about work.” She reminded him, her serious tone suggesting that she was not open to any more personal discussions.
“I know what you’re trying to do…but I totally understand.” He said.
“I am not very sure about the position,” she said. “But I figured it’ll be in my field of expertise so….”
“Yes of course the position is right in your alley; Lead News Anchor and you are at liberty to come up with a maximum of two programs to be sponsored by our partners of course…and as usual, the two important words are; relevance and ratings…you know the drill.”
“I do,” she said. “But what about the person who previously held that position, what happened to them?”
“Nalukwi quit a month ago because she had to follow her husband to Ndola. He works for Barclays and you know how those people transfer their stuff. Nalukwi was pregnant so you know…. Don’t think for a moment that you got this job through nepotism.
“To this day I still remember how impressive your work back in the US was and I want that kind of quality for my station. When I heard you would be coming to Zambia, I was ecited like a little boy! It was like a dream come true.”
“Thank you for telling me that Mr Mulenga, I was afraid people might think I am underqualified for whatever position you gave me since I came through the back door.
Tulani was laughing. “Please, whatever you do, don’t ever call me Mr Mulenga. You and I have been friends for over four years now and even the Lord knows we are beyond the friendship zone.” He was smiling mischievously at her.
“But this is work.” Natasha argued. “I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.”
“What ideas?” Tulani asked. “That you and I are more than friends?” He laughed.
“Tulani!” She protested.
“Look how natural my name falls from your lips. I can’t have you calling me Mr Mulenga, that’s just bloody uncomfortable and you know it.”
“Can I see the contract?” She quickly changed the topic.
Tulani opened the top left drawer and removed a folder which he handed to her. Natasha opened it and skimmed through the contents while Tulani made a call to his PA.
“Claudia, get me Tamara in here.”
“Who’s Tamara?” Natasha asked.
“Tamara Banda is the head of broadcasting. You will be reporting to her.” He answered.
“How old is she?”
“Does the age of your boss matter?” Tulani laughed. “She should be in her early fifties.”
“Perfect,” Natasha said. “I would hate to be reporting to someone my age. Women have a way of establishing rivalries that are not even there. That reminds me, I met your sister down in the parking lot earlier. She is as tough as you described her to be.”
“You met Luyando? What did she say? Did you tell her you and I are friends?”
Natasha chuckled. “The circumstances under which we met made it impossible for us to get off on friendly terms. I know she is your sister but she is way too bossy and arrogant. How can siblings be so different?”
“Our parents say she takes after our grandfather, but she’s really a good person. The two of you might actually hit it off once you get to know each other a little more.”
“I doubt that,” Natasha said. “I don’t look like her type…and neither does she.”
“If you are going to be my wife, you will have no choice but to get along with your sister in-law.”
“Try to be serious for once Tulani, why don’t you ever take anything I say seriously? You know very well that marriage is the last thing on my mind. I don’t appreciate that you can joke about it right now.”
Tulani moved from behind his desk to stand in front of her. He pulled her chair back, laid his arms on her sides and pulled her up.
“Did I stammer when I said I wanted to make you my wife?” He asked, looking her straight in the eye.
“The problem is not about what I said Tasha,” he continued. “It’s about what you choose to believe. You know that the moment you start taking me seriously, you will be forced to make a decision and you are afraid to confront your feelings.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Natasha tried to move away from him but he kept her right where he needed her to be.
“Ar ah, don’t look away from me,” he turned her face by the chin and forced her to keep looking at him. “My feelings from four years ago haven’t changed, if anything, they have grown stronger.
“I respected your decision to go back to your husband after your separation but that didn’t mean I had given up on you. I never gave up Tasha. I still love you.”
“What’s going on in here?” A voice asked from the door. Natasha yanked herself away from Tulani and turned to look at the intruder.
It was Luyando, looking as gruesomely angry as ever.
Did she ever smile? Natasha wondered.
“Hey sis,” Tulani greeted her. “I thought you had a meeting in town this morning?” he walked back to his seat behind his desk and sat down.
“The director’s wife suffered a heart attack and his secretary called me to cancel right as I was driving out of here. Do the two of you know each other?” She was looking from Natasha to Tulani.
“Ah, I heard the two of you met,” he said. “But let me make the official introductions,” he got up. “This beautiful lady standing here is Natasha Thompson, our new lead News Anchor. Natasha, this is my sister and the CFO of TMH Television.”
“It’s nice to meet you once again.” Natasha reached out her hand but Luyando only stared at it with a repugnant expression on her face.
“Do you make it a habit to sleep your way to the top Ms Thompson?” Luyando asked and won herself a look of chagrin from her brother.
“Excuse me?” Natasha said, finding it hard to believe what her perfectly working ears had just heard.
“There’s no need for you to be that harsh Lu,” Tulani said. “Natasha and I have been friends for over four years now.”
A knock on the door is exactly what the three of them needed to calm the icy atmosphere in the room.
“Mrs Banda is here sir,” the PA announced.
“Let her in Claudia, let her in.” He said, and then turning to his sister, “is there anything you needed sis? I need to talk to the two about Ms Thompson’s appointment.”
“I will come back later,” she said in an icy tone and left, completely ignoring Tamara’s greeting as they passed each other on the door.
“Mrs Banda, come in.” Tulani said. “Sit down Ms Thompson, you too Tamara.”
Even though Natasha’s first day at work had not gone as bad as she had expected it go, there was something that kept bothering her. She couldn’t seem to get over the cold reception she had received from Tulani’s sister and she kept wondering why the woman was giving her such a cold attitude.
During lunch break with some of her new colleagues, Natasha found an opportunity to probe a little about Luyando and her counterparts where more than glad to update her on the office gossip.
“She is way too bossy than the CEO himself.” Astridah supplied and under her breath she added, “but we all know she aint no blood relative.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Natasha asked.
Astridah held her hand over her mouth. “You heard that?”
“We all did.” Boyd answered. “You need to watch what falls out of your mouth Astridah. You never learn.”
“I think she’s forgotten about the trouble she was in with Becky from Finance last month.” Nicole chipped in.
“You guys are too much!” Astridah got up in anger, carried her plate and went to join the people on the next table.
“You better watch what you say or do in Astridah’s presence,” Boyd warned Natasha. “Her broadcasting signals are stronger than the frequencies of all the stations in this country, combined.”
Nicole laughed and Natasha smiled uncomfortably, realizing at that moment that she wouldn’t be getting much information from the two remaining. Fortunately for her, she managed to catch Astridah just as she was leaving for work outside the TMH building.
“Need a ride?” She asked the assistant through the window.
“I live in Avondale,” Astridah shouted.
“Hop in, my home’s in Foxdale. I can leave you somewhere along the way.” She reached out and opened the door for her.
“Wow, you are very kind Ms Thompson.” Astridah said as she got into the vehicle. “I always thought that pretty people like you were cold hearted…like someone I know.” She added under her breath and quickly shushed herself.
Natasha laughed. “You are talking about Ms Mulenga right? I take it you are not a fan of hers?”
“I don’t want to say anything,” Astridah said. “You heard what the guys said about me.”
“I saw a ring on her finger, is she married?”
“Yes she is married but she doesn’t talk much about her husband and she rarely appears with him in public. In fact, she prefers to be called Ms Mulenga instead of Mrs Liboma.”
“What does he do for a living?”
“He is a doctor at the University Teaching Hospital. He is not very god looking so I guess that’s why she prefers showing up on the arm of her handsome brother at every public event but I hear he is a very good man, humble and kind-hearted. Why do all the good men end up with such terrible women?”
Something about Astridah’s tone told Natasha that there was more to the story than what the twenty-five year old was letting on.
“What are you trying to say Astridah?” Natasha asked.
Astridah hesitated, but when the pressure of keeping the information to herself, she finally broke down and said; “Promise that you won’t tell anyone that I told you this?”
“I promise,” Natasha said.
“There is a rumour going around that Luyando and the CEO are not biologically related. People say that she was adopted…and that she…she…that she is actually in-love with her brother.”
Natasha busted out laughing. “And you believe that nonsense Astridah?” She asked.
“Yes, I actually think it’s true.” The girl admitted. “You should see the way she treats any girl that tries to get close to him, you would think she was his wife.”
“But that doesn’t mean she’s in-love with him,” Natasha said. “I think I am protective of my kid brother too. I always question the girls I find hanging around him and I investigate some of their activities on social media. He hates that and he’s always threatening to kill me when he catches me doing it.”
Natasha started laughing as an image of her angry nineteen year old brother Alex chasing her around the house with a broom in his hands came to mind.
“I have seen the look in her eyes and am telling you…that’s no sibling love that lies behind those cold dark eyes.” Astridah insisted.
By the time Natasha was dropping Astridah off, she had been brought up to date with all the office gossip and had learnt more about Tulani than she had learnt in the past four years.
Tulani was surprised by a visit from his sister Luyando later that evening.
“Aren’t you supposed to be preparing dinner for your family right now sis? What are you doing here?” He went to sit back on the sofa where he had been resting, catching up on Season 5 of Suits before the interruption.
“What is going on between you and that girl I met in your office Tula?” She asked him, pushing his feet away so she could sit next to him.
Tulani turned to look at her in awe. “Is that why you came to my place this late?”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“That’s because it’s none of your business. You need to go back home before your husband starts to worry.” He got up to get the door for her.
“Is she the one you said you were waiting for all these years?” She asked, getting up from the sofa as well.
Tulani opened the door and held it wide open for her. “I’m serious sis, it’s late. You need to head home now.”
“Why are you avoiding my questions?”
“I told you, it’s none of your business sis. I am a grown man, you don’t need to know every little thing that goes on in my life.”
“Why are you pretending like you don’t know why I’m asking you these questions?”
“Because I want to save you some dignity.” He said.
“Dignity?” She asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I am not comfortable having this kind of conversation with you again.”
“Is that what you think my feelings amount to?”
There were tears streaming down her eyes now.
“C’mon sis,” Tulani said upon noticing the tears. “Don’t start this again.” He walked over to her and put his arms around her.
After soothing her for a while, Tulani was about to release his sister from his arms when she suddenly grabbed the sides of his face and drew him closer to her. Before he knew it, she was passionately kissing him.
“Oh no….” Natasha said, holding her hand over her mouth and gaping in disbelief at the two people in front of her locked in each other’s arms and kissing like a pair of lovers.
“Oh s–t,” Tulani cussed and quickly reaped himself away from his sister. “This isn’t what it looks like Tasha.” Even as he said the words, he could imagine the thoughts going through Natasha’s mind and he could hear just how ridiculous his own words sounded.
“Oh please, do explain.” Natasha said sarcastically. There was a glint of a smile in her eyes as she looked over at Luyanda who was soaking wet in shame and embarrassment.
TO BE CONTINUED…