The following morning, Martha was excited to prepare Sean for his first day at pre-school while his mother prepared for work.
“Why didn’t you wake me up mum?” Natasha asked her mother when she went down into the kitchen to grab a sandwich.
“You had a tough day at work yesterday, I wanted you to rest a bit, you deserve it.” Martha answered whilst feeding her grandson.
Natasha spotted her well packaged breakfast on the table and put it straight into her bag. She bent down to give her son a big kiss on one cheek. “I really wanted to see him attend his first class here in Zambia.” She lamented to her mother.
“I will record everything so you don’t have to worry about a thing.” Her mother promised.
Natasha ran over to her side and gave her a hug. “Did I ever tell you that you are the best mother in the world?”
Martha chuckled. “Not as many times as I would love to hear.”
“Then you will be hearing it every day from now on!” her daughter said.
“And what about me?” Ben appeared in the kitchen. Natasha ran over to him as well and wrapped her arms around him. “You too dad, you are the best dad in the whole world! I love you,” she kissed him on the cheek and started running out of the room. “Send me the teacher’s number when you get it mum!” She shouted.
“Do you think she’s going to be alright?” Bernard asked his wife.
“She’s our daughter.” Martha said proudly. “An angel,” she added. “God always protects his own.”
An hour later, Martha led little Sean to his first class, all the while recording everything around them as well as Sean’s excitement as they walked towards the school’s administrative block. Having expected him to cry for her for leaving him behind, Martha was surprised to notice that Sean appeared comfortable in his new strange environment and seemed to be getting along well with the boys around him.
Something about his charming smile reminded her of his father Tulani, that evening outside her home in the US when he dropped off Natasha. The two of them had no idea she was watching them. Martha remembered seeing the smile on Tulani’s face and could tell he had fallen in-love with her daughter.
“I bet Tulani was exactly like that when he was that age, a real charmer.” Martha laughed to herself as she recorded Sean from the door. Once she was sure she had gotten enough for the mother, she waved to the teacher and closed the door.
She was just about to step inside her car when something made the hairs at the back of her neck stand up. Martha quickly turned around and scanned the area in sight. Apart from the empty cars in the parking lot, there was nobody else in sight. Shaking her head, she turned and got into the car.
Five hours later, Martha received a call from Sean’s teacher Ms Moyo and instantly regretted having ignored that feeling earlier that day.
“What do you mean someone picked up my grandson?” Martha asked.
Bernard entered the bedroom right at that moment.
“A lady, she said she was the boy’s aunt.” Ms Moyo was saying.
“His aunt?” Martha asked, quickly putting on some shoes and ready to bolt out of the house. Ben followed her downstairs.
“Did something happen to Sean?” He asked her as they ran down the stairs.
Martha stopped to look at her husband. “Someone took him honey. Someone took our boy.”
“What do you…give me that.” He took the phone from her. “Afternoon, this is Mr Chimeko, Sean’s grandfather. Who did you say took my grandson? Couldn’t there be some sort of mix-up? We never sent anyone to pick him up. My wife was just about to head over there right now. Isn’t he supposed to knock off at 2?”
“Yes Sir, that’s right.” The young teacher answered. “However, the lady that came to pick him up said that there was a family emergency and she was sent to collect Sean. She seemed to know a lot about your family…and I happened to know who she was since I’ve seen her in the papers and on TV before. Your grandson even referred to her by name, called her his aunt.”
“Oh dear God.” Ben said, giving his wife a desperate look. “You have the keys?” He asked her.
Martha nodded. “What’s wrong? Has she told you who took him?”
“You won’t believe this,” Bernard said. “Luyando, she’s the one that took him.”
Martha’s heart sunk, her knees almost gave way but Ben held her in time. “Give me the keys,” he told her as he led her to the couch. “I will find Luyando and get back Sean safely.”
Martha snapped her arms and pushed him away. “And you want me to just sit here and wait? I’m coming with you Bernard Chimeko and you better pray that that woman doesn’t harm my grandson or I swear to God I will wring her neck with my bare hands.”
“I would do that to her myself before I let you get your hands dirty.” Bernard said. “Let’s go then.” He grabbed her hand and ran out of the house with her.
“Call Natasha right away.” Bernard instructed his wife as he drove them to Luyando’s new house. “Let her and Tulani think of other places she might have taken him just in case we don’t find her at home.”
“Shouldn’t we also call the police?” Martha asked.
Bernard hesitated to answer.
“What if she intends to take out her anger on him honey?” Martha tried to reason with him. “I understand she is your daughter but you of all people know better than anyone that she needs help. Luyando is not in her right mind.”
“I know, Call them.” He conceded. “And call his other grandparents as well. We need all the help we can get right now.”
Martha punched 911 on her phone but hesitated to press the call button, the defeated look on her husband’s face giving her pause. “Let’s look for them first,” she said and put her phone number. “If we don’t find them in the next hour or two, then we can call the police.”
Bernard heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you honey.” He said.
“Thank me when we find Sean well and safe.” She said, picking up her phone again to call Natasha. Just like she had feared, Natasha was beside herself the moment she heard Luyando had taken her son.
She ran out of her office and headed straight to the boardroom where she knew Tulani was having a board meeting, leaving a trail of wide-eyed people staring after her. She was sobbing and panting when she busted through the doors of the boardroom.
“She has taken my son,” were the words Natasha whispered before falling to the ground in shock. Her adrenaline had finally caught up with her.
Tulani ran over to her and gently picked up her limp body from the floor, all the while calling out her name in despair as the other joined him in lifting her up and carrying her to the nearest chair.
“Luyando has taken Sean.” Natasha said almost in a whisper as tears rolled down her eyes. She tried to stand up from the chair but Tulani held her down. “Everyone leave,” he told the room. “We will continue this meeting another time. Baby,” he turned back to her while the others were walking out.
“We need to go,” she tried to get up again.
“I know,” Tulani said, desperately trying to control his rage and be the pillar she could lean on. He didn’t need to ask her more questions to know what was going on. He knew very well what Luyando was capable of. He just didn’t know how far she would go to get her way.
“I want you to try and catch your breath for now. I need you to breathe in and out…take deep breaths and we will walk out of here to look for Sean. He is going to be just fine baby.”
Natasha did as she was told and the two of them were out of there in no time.
“Where are we going?” Natasha asked Tulani on the drive out of TMH.
Before he could answer, Tulani’s phone rang. “That’s dad, I’m sure your parents have told them. Pick up the call for me, phone’s in my side pocket.”
Natasha took out the phone and answered.
“It’s me Mr Mulenga,” Natasha announced herself immediately. “Tulani is driving right now.”
“Your mother called us about Sean, where are you going to look? Tell Tulani to head to the Chongwe house, his mother says Luyando never returned the keys to that house. She might have gone there with the boy.”
“He says we head to Chongwe,” Natasha told Tulani.
“I know, that’s where we are going.” Tulani said.
“That’s where we are going Sir.” She relayed the message.
“Good.” Mr Mulenga said. “Ayanda and I were look at some lodges Luyando loved to frequent. Sean is going to be okay Natasha.” Joshua reassured his daughter in-law. “Luyando might be crazy, but she is not downright evil. She wouldn’t harm a child.”
She slashed herself when she was a kid! Natasha thought. God knows what she is doing to my son right now. As the thought crossed her mind, the tears started rolling again.
“Thank you Mr Mulenga.” She said and cut the line.
Tulani reached over to her and grasped her hand. “He is going to be just fine Tasha.” He said. He needed to believe those words as much as he needed her to.
Standing in the middle of the living room and looking down at the four year old boy smiling up at her with his big brown innocent eyes, Luyando felt like she had finally reached her breaking point.
“Are you mad at me aunty?” Sean asked her.
Luyando blinked away her tears. “Why do you ask that?”
“Because you don’t look so happy.” He answered.
“Why do you think I don’t look happy?”
“Because you are sad.” The four year old answered. “Mummy said you are sick. She said you need love only. What did she mean?”
Luyando’s fight against her tears intensified. “Your mother, she said that?”
“Um,” the boy nodded. “Grandma, granddad, mummy too, they always hug me and tell me they love me. Do you want me to give you a hug Auntie Yando?”
Luyando cried, finally.
“Why are you crying Auntie Yando?” Sean asked.
Luyando had spent the last hour listening to the boy talk like there was no danger lurking before him. Not once had he looked at her and cried in fear. He had not even asked about his parents, trusting that he was safe in the hands of the woman he believed to be her aunt.
She did not even have a plan. She had just woken up one day and decided that the best way to punish the woman that had taken everything from her was to take the one thing she cared about the most. She had not thought far enough to know what she would do with the boy once she had him in her custody.
The innocence in Sean’s eyes reminded her greatly of her own children. Looking into Sean’s eyes, Luyando remembered all those days and nights her children had cried for her attention, when she could not see them except for her desires to win over the heart of a man that never thought of her as a woman but only as a sister.
If Sean could see sadness in her eyes, what did her twins see when they looked at her? Luyando wondered. She had been willing to give up everything, including her own life for one man, but what had she received in return? She was now holding hostage someone who had no clue as to what was going on and the only thing he knew to do was trust…trust that he was not in any sort of danger. When was the last time she had trusted someone like that? Had there ever been anyone like that in her life…someone she could trust to take care of her against all odds?
An image of Peter immediately crossed her mind. How come she had never seen it before? He had stayed with her and loved her for years despite knowing she had another man on her heart. He had loved her and he loved their children like no other had ever done, not even her own father.
Before she knew it, Luyando hit the floor on her knees and broke out in sobs. Confused by whatever was going on, Sean did the one thing he had seen his grandmother do to his mother whenever she was feeling down; he wrapped his tiny arms around Luyando.
Sean’s innocent act of tenderness finally pushed Luyando over the edge and sobbed some more, wrapping her arms tightly around him as she did so.
“I c-an’t bre-a-th-e.” Sean complained under his breath but Luyando was too wrapped up in her sorrow to hear him…or hear Tulani’s car pull up in front of the house. It was only when Natasha yanked her son from her arms and pushed her away that she regained her senses.
“Mum!” Sean shouted upon seeing his mother.
“Baby, mummy is here.” Natasha said as she examined her son everywhere. “Are you alright baby? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“No,” the boy answered nonchalantly.
Once he was convinced Sean was fine from watching him with his mother, Tulani walked over to Luyando and reached out his hand to help her up.
Luyando rejected his hand and tried to push herself up, except, she kept failing miserably. The more she tried and failed, the more shame and embarrassment she felt. Is this how pathetic I have become? Luyando cried as she slammed herself back on the carpeted floor. She buried her head into her hands and sobbed.
“Mummy can you give auntie a hug?” Sean asked his mother. “She is very sad.” Natasha turned to look at Luyando’s desperate state.
“Sean, why don’t you and I go out and take a look at the beautiful orchard behind the house?” Tulani took his son’s hand and led him out of the room.
“What is an orchard dad?” Sean asked.
“It is a garden of fruits son.”
“Woooow. Are there apples there?” the four year old asked excitedly.
Inside, Natasha watched Luyando from where she was standing without moving. Five minutes went by and no word had been said between the two…except from the fading sobs of Luyando whose face was still buried in her hands.
When she couldn’t take the tension any longer, Natasha went to sit down on the floor next to Luyando. Luyando felt her beside her and lifted up her head.
TO BE CONTINUED…