On the way to the TV station, Natasha kept calling her mother but the phone kept ringing and ringing.
“She’s still not answering?” Tulani asked.
“No,” Natasha said, looking extremely worried.
“Try your dad.” Tulani suggested.
Natasha called her father and he answered after the forth ring. “Baby, where are you?” He sounded almost out of breath.
“Dad, is everything okay? Where’s mum? I’ve been trying to reach her for a while now.”
“Oooh…your mother…she is…she is…she should be sleeping I think.” Bernard stammered through the lie as he looked down at his wife’s sleeping figure on the couch. Having suffered through many episodes of panic attacks in the past, Bernard had learnt to keep Martha’s meds close by in case of such emergencies.
“She had a slight headache so she’s sleeping it off now.” Bernard said, not wanting to tell his daughter the truth because she would automatically start asking about what caused the attack and insist of coming home instead of going to work.
“Is it very serious?” Natasha asked.
“No, not at all. I think it’s just the heat; she still hasn’t adjusted to the change in weather. Where are you right now?”
“Tulani is driving me to work dad,” she answered, suddenly remembering why she had called in the first place. Her excitement quickly returned. “You won’t believe what happened dad! I have been given the chance to host the biggest program at work today.”
Bernard nervously laughed. “That’s good news baby. Your mother and I are very proud of you.” It was all he could tell her. Soon or later she was going to find out the truth about her father and there was nothing they could do as her parents to keep that from happening.
Instead of shielding her from the pain that the truth might bring her, Bernard reasoned that it would be better if she met her father now and draw her own conclusions based on what she sees. He trusted that the daughter he had raised all these years would be wise and strong enough to deal with such a shocking truth.
Silently, Bernard prayed for everything to be okay.
“Give mum a kiss for me and don’t forget to watch the show! Will call later to check how mum’s doing. Love you, bye dad.”
“What’s wrong with mum?” Tulani asked the moment she was done on the phone.
“She has her usual migraines,” Natasha said. “She’s been getting those since we moved here. I think she’s having trouble readjusting to the weather.”
“We will go straight home once the program is done. What does she like to eat?”
Natasha gave him a look.
“What?” Tulani asked innocently. “She’s also my mother too so what’s wrong with me caring about her?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Natasha laughed.
“Your eyes were loud enough My Lady.”
Natasha continued chuckling.
Despite it being a Sunday, Tulani Media House was a hype of activity as employees readied themselves for the biggest program of the month. With only an hour to go, Natasha went over her lines in Richard’s office for the last time.
“Mr Kaponda is on his way Tasha,” Mr Chanda announced from the door.
She immediately stopped pacing and gaped at her boss in excitement. “How long?”
Mr Chanda laughed. “Thirty minutes.”
“Great!” She said with one hand tied into a fist to warm up her fighting spirit. “I got this.”
“Yes you got this,” Mr Chanda echoed her words with a reassuring smile. “Finish up and head upstairs.”
“Yes boss.” Natasha answered enthusiastically.
The DoP laughed nervously, feeling extremely uncomfortable to have the soon-to-be wife of TMH’s successor enthusiastically refer to him as boss. Given his previous experiences at the hands of Luyando when she was a Mulenga, Mr Chanda had expected the worst from the mother of TMH’s heir. Fortunately, Natasha’s humility was too overwhelming it seemed to catch him off guard every single time.
By the time they reached the station, Nataniel Kaponda had given up trying to reach Martha whose phone was now off. He was led up to the studio blindly, unable to imagine what possibilities that laid ahead. Ever since Marth had told him about Natasha, he had gathered enough information about her to form some kind of composition as to what kind of person she was.
However, the question that haunted him the most was; would he be able to hold himself together in the face of moving vivid reminder of the biggest sin he had ever committed?
Nataniel found the answer ten minutes later when Natasha walked into his designated dressing room where he was having his make-up done with a huge smile on her face. Shaking in his boots, Nataniel stood up from the chair unannounced and surprised the make-up artist whose powder contents went spilling all over the floor…and on Nataniel too.
“I am so sorry,” the nervous wrecked man bent down to pick up the small powder container but Natasha was on it before he could reach it.
“Woah,” Natasha said as she handed it to the trepid artist who appeared about ready to cry, fearing her job might be in danger over the mistake which had not been of her doing. “I had no idea even politicians get nervous.” She laughed and extended her hand over to him.
Patricia, the make-up artist was beside herself now, stifling her sobs upon noticing the large mark of make-up on Mr Kaponda’s trousers. She had just spilled powder on the president of PfP! The man might be the opposition leader but there was no doubt he would be the country’s president in just a few weeks.
“Oh believe me when I tell you that even the most confident of men suffer a bout of nervousness every now and then.” He said as he shook her hand. Just then, a sob escaped Patricia’s tightly closed lips and the two turned to look at her.
“Patricia?” Natasha quickly went over to her, unknowingly giving Nataniel time to compose himself. “Look at you, you are shaking!” She put her arm over her shoulder to help calm her down. “I honestly don’t think Mr Kaponda blames you for the accident.” She was looking at him for affirmation.
“Oh no, not at all.” Nataniel quickly chipped in, rubbing the dirt away. “Just a little rub…and it’s all gone!”
“Good thing it doesn’t stick!” Natasha said, shaking Patricia by her shoulders. “See,” she pointed to where the stain had been. “It’s all gone, relax.”
“I am sorry….” The twenty-six year old make-up artist cried.
“Patricia, you are going to make our guest uncomfortable if you continue acting like this.” Natasha admonished her. “He already said its okay, and the mark is gone so pull yourself together. Do you think you will be able to finish in this state?”
Patricia nodded profusely.
Nataniel Kaponda silently thanked the nervous make-up artist for making the first meeting with his daughter less awkward and less stressful for him…even though it was at her expense. The little mishap had given him time to compose himself and think about what to say now that the ice was broken.
“Can you give us a few seconds to talk in private Ms Patricia?” Nataniel asked. “Oh no, I just need to go over a few things with Ms Chimeko before the interview starts.” He added upon seeing the look of dismay on the young lady’s face.
Nodding, Patricia left the room.
“Is there anything that concerns you about the interview?” Natasha asked the politician. “Please, sit,” she pointed to the chair he to his chair while she sat down on the other one meant for the make-up artists.
Mr Kaponda pulled his chair and sat down, facing her. “Not at all,” he answered. “I just make it a habit to create some kind of rapport with the interviewer before sitting in front of all those cameras.”
“You mean to make us friends so that I don’t ask grilling questions later?” she laughed.
Laughing too, Nataniel said; “Well, partly, yes.” He admitted. “But this time I genuinely want to get to know you a bit. I don’t know if you’ve heard, your future father in-law and I are quite close.”
“Oh yes, Tulani…I mean Mr Mulenga told me and of course I came across that fact as I was going through your information in readiness for this interview.”
“I have met your husband…I hope you don’t mind me addressing him as such…considering the two of you already have a child together….”
“I knew him since he was a young boy. His father and I met by chance but we became close since, enough to consider each other family.”
“Where are you going with all this Mr Kaponda?” Natasha asked, smelling a motive in the air.
Mr Kaponda chuckled. “You are as intelligent as she said you were.”
“Who said?” Natasha asked.
He immediately realized his mistake the moment she asked the question.
“Oh, I meant my wife,” he lied. “She is a fan of yours. She heard you would be the one conducting the interview and she told me a little about you. She loves your accent.”
Natasha blushed. “Ooh, thanks…tell her I said thanks. It’s flattering to know that the First Lady is a fan.”
Mr Kaponda busted out laughing. “Except she isn’t the First Lady! I don’t want to jump the gun and start making assumptions. If there’s one thing I have learnt about elections in this country, it is that the actual results are always unpredictable; it’s anybody’s game.”
“You are very humble Sir, it’s a rare trait to see…in politics.”
“You flatter me Ms Chimeko,” he said.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” she reminded him. “Why are you trying to get close to me? It can’t be because of the interview, I have seen you take on giants before without breaking a sweat so a political amateur like me wouldn’t faze you in the slightest.”
Nataniel Kaponda laughed heartily. “You truly are bold, perhaps even more than all those giants I’ve faced in the past. I like you Ms Chimeko. You remind me so much of….” he let the sentence trail the moment he realised he was about to make a second mistake.
“You mean my mother?” Natasha asked, closely watching his frazzled demeanour. Mr Kaponda almost choked from the shock of her question. She quickly handed him a bottle of mineral water that had been left on the side of the dressing table for him.
Natasha’s question had the exact desired effect she had hoped it would three hours ago when she decided to test a crazy theory that had popped into her mind upon closely examining Mr Kaponda’s perfect family portrait. The dots seemed to connect a little too perfectly for coincidence.
“Your mother?” Nataniel stammered.
“You are my biological father, aren’t you?” She went straight for the jugular, again catching Mr Kaponda by surprise.
Hearing her name fall out of his mouth in that manner confirmed Natasha’s suspicions. “Oh dear,” she said, getting up from the chair and putting her hand on her forehead. “No, no, no…I have to be wrong…I can’t be right.” She was desperately trying to fight off the tears but they came pouring.
Mr Kaponda did the only thing he could do in that situation; try to reach out for her hand but Natasha pulled away from him, a repugnant expression on her face as she shook her head in disbelief.
“What did you do to my mother?” she asked.
Just then, Tulani and Mr Chanda appeared through the door.
“Babe!” Tulani immediately noticed her state and ran over to her.
“I’m fine.” Natasha said forcefully, turning her back to him to wipe away her tears but it was too late, they had already seen them.
“Is everything alright Sir?” Mr Chanda asked Nataniel.
“Everything is fine,” Natasha interrupted the politician. With her face cleaned dry, she turned to face everyone. “I am fine,” she said to Tulani who had his arm around her waist and starring at her intently before giving Mr Kaponda an accusing look.
“What happened uncle?” Tulani asked Mr Kaponda. Due to the nature of the relationship with his parents, the Mulenga children referred to the Kaponda couple as Uncle and Auntie just like the Kaponda girls did to his parents.
“He just said something that made me tear up a little…it wasn’t anything bad.” Natasha assured the two men looking at them quizzically. “I just got emotional a little, I’m totally fine.”
“You sure?” Tulani was still not fully convinced.
Natasha feigned a laugh. “Of course I’m sure!” she said. “I’m going to my dressing room to fix my make-up while Mr Kaponda finishes his as well. We don’t have much time left to broadcast.”
“Okay, I will walk you there. Ba Chanda, find Patricia and ask her to finish up her work here.”
Yes boss,” Mr Chanda said and walked ahead of them out of the room.
“See you on the other side Mr Kaponda,” Natasha said before leaving the room, trying to sound as natural as possible.
Nataniel Kaponda hung his head in shame, unable to find the right words to say.
Alone in her dressing room, Tulani grilled Natasha for answers.
“Let’s talk about it when the program is over baby,” she kept telling him. “I am really fine, I promise.”
“I don’t believe you but I will wait till the interview is over.” He said and kissed her on the forehead.
When the time finally came, Natasha carried herself like a pro, only slightly flinching in her chair when time to ask about Nataniel Kaponda’s family came. She blinked copiously, looked down on her writing pad for a second too long before gathering her wits together and asking;
“One of your strengths as a politician has always been your family…you have been devoted to the same woman for over twenty years and…and together…you have two lovely daughters.
“Tell me…tell the millions of viewers watching us right now how you’ve successfully managed to keep such a tight neat family despite your demanding life as a politician?”
It was at that point that Martha and Bernard who had been following the program closely at home knew that their daughter had discovered the truth in that short time. Imagining the sort of conversation she was going to have with her when she returned home, Martha broke down in tears.
Nataniel too shifted nervously in his seat and tried to smile to musk the shame and fear. “That’s a very good question Natasha,” he said. “And the answer I’m going to give you is the same answer I’ve always given people that ask me that question; indeed I have been blessed with a tight neat family however, we are far from perfect.
“Just like families out there, we have our own issues that we try to work out as they come. My career as a politician, having served many years as a Minister of Agriculture and also as the Secretary for the opposition party PfP, life is indeed demanding and time expensive.
“I am going to be honest with you, I am still trying to figure out how to find a balance between my family and my career…I am not sure if there is even such a thing!” he laughed. “Nevertheless, my family is my life so I always strive to be there for them and to be the best husband and father I can be; it’s every man’s responsibility.”
“A very diplomatic response, thank you very much Sir.” Natasha said, feigning a smile for the umpteenth time during the interview.
“I think I should add something though,” Mr Kaponda added before Natasha could chip in the next question. “I think its public knowledge that before I married my wife, I led a very questionable life as a young man. There was a very brief period in my life when my life fell apart.
“Back then as youngsters, our answer to every problem was alcohol and, I am not trying to make excuses here but, I made a lot of mistakes back then…bad decisions that I am not proud of. I turned my life around since and I have learnt from all my mistakes. I think that honestly, that’s why I am able to be a good husband and father.
“All I ask the public is that they give me a chance to contribute on a larger scale to the growth of our beautiful nation, for a new start, for much needed change, and for prosperity.”
A politician indeed you are , Natasha thought as she silently mulled over how calculatingly well he had survived her question.
“Can we talk in private?” Nataniel asked Natasha the moment the interview was over.
She waited for the crew to take away their microphones before leaning in towards him and whispering; “For what, so you can talk your way out of your mistakes? Never gonna happen.”
Tulani was beside her in that moment, watching the two closely and suspiciously. “Thank you for coming all the way uncle,” he shook the man’s hand.
“It was an honour for me to be here son,” he replied. “Besides, it’s the least I could do considering how much I owe your family. You have a very beautiful and intelligent woman here Tulani,” he was looking at Natasha who couldn’t seem to hide her look of disdain any longer. “Take care of her and cherish her the way you would want your own daughter to be cherished by her man.”
“Thank you uncle, I intend to do exactly that.” Tulani said most confidently.
“We should get going now Tula, it’s getting late.” Natasha quickly forced the conversation to an abrupt end. Turning to Mr Kaponda she said; “Thank you for answering all my questions despite my inadequacies in the field of politics. I hope we will have the pleasure of seeing you here again soon after you win the elections.”
“You flatter me Natasha,” he answered reservedly. “Win or lose, I will always have time for you…for TMH.”
“Of course.” She said between clenched teeth before turning to leave.
Tulani closed the windows and locked the doors of his car the moment they were inside and gave Natasha his full attention.
“Aren’t you starting the car?” Natasha asked.
In response, Tulani crossed his arms over his chest defiantly. “We are not going anywhere until you tell what happened between you and my uncle. I know that politicians have their own shade of darkness…did he try something….”
“Hell no!” Natasha yelled before he could even finish his sentence. “It’s nothing like that.” She laughed.
“Then why were you crying?”
“It turns out that man is my father.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“How….” Tulani started to ask.
“That’s a question I don’t ever want answered, ever.” Natasha said sternly.
“But, don’t you want to – “
“I don’t remember much of my childhood but there’s one thing that’s stayed on my mind; my mother’s fears…her panic attacks, the nightmares…and dad telling her that man would never hurt her again. I always wondered who the man was…until today when mum suddenly got sick right before I gave her the news of my interview.
“At first I didn’t make much of it…but then I saw a picture of Mr Kaponda and his family. Those two girls look like me; their eyes, their noses, even their foreheads…it’s all me. After that, everything else fell into place.
“I recalled my mother’s reaction every single time the name Nataniel Kaponda was mentioned on the news in the past few months; her mood would drastically change and she would refuse to eat anything for days. It all made sense today.”
“Baby….” Tulani drew her into his arms and she broke down in tears right away.
“I think I know the truth…about what happened,” Natasha said in-between sobs. “But if I ask, it will all become real. I don’t want to know what really happened Tula.”
“Ooh my love….” Tulani tightened his arms around her. He let her cry for a while before finally driving her home.
“Are you sure you are going to be okay in there?” He asked her once they were parked outside her home. “I am sure your parent’s are waiting in there ready for you to fire away.”
“I know.” Natasha took a deep breath, kissed him goodnight and stepped out of the vehicle.
Tulani made sure she was safely inside before driving off. Before opening the door, Natasha turned to wave at him for the last time.
As expected, she found her parents in the living room looking like a pair of wet puppies. Bernard stood up the moment the door opened and ran over to her, his eyes heavy with emotion.
“Woah, did someone die in here?” Natasha asked loudly, a huge grin on her face as she gave her father a hug. “I expected to find a lot of food laid out on the table with loud music playing waiting for me to arrive and celebrate my achievement today.”
Bernard and Martha gave each other knowing looks. They knew exactly what route Natasha had chosen to take. They had considered two possibilities; either she bombards them with questions or she plays it cool, acting like nothing ever happened. She had obviously gone for the latter.
Martha stood up and went to give her daughter a hug, tears streaming down her face. “I am so proud of you baby,” she said. “Thank you for making me so proud…and sorry I couldn’t take your call earlier….”
Natasha fought back her tears. She understood very well what her mother was apologizing for. “I know mum, I know.” She said, her arms still around her.
“Okay, enough hugging!” Bernard clapped his hands and the two women separated. “To celebrate, I prepared your favourite Tasha, and something extra special.”
“Uuuuu, I’m excited!” She said and right away headed towards the kitchen. She avoided looking at both of them as she left the room. Bernard went to put his arm over his wife’s shoulder and led her to the kitchen.
That night Natasha went to bed early. She took a sleeping pill and slept the night away.
She never asked her mother any questions concerning Nataniel Kaponda, not that day…or any other day.
TO BE CONTINUED…