It has been ten years since Shamiso last saw Kuda, but she still closes her eyes from time to time to relive how safe she always felt in his arms. It’s a sunny Wednesday morning in September, the air is dry and she can hear the noise of the kombis and car hooting from her fifth-floor apartment. Shamiso sprays the Cantu detangler in her afro, she looks at herself in the mirror, takes a deep breath and cinches her bathrobe tighter. Ever since Rutendo told her about the Ten Year Reunion, she began to have breakouts on her face. It has been ten years since she last set foot at Tynwald High School and the thought of that made her giddy. She sits on the bathtub and begins to massage her scalp and to distract herself, she decides to turn on the radio in her bathroom. DJ Scott is on, she always likes his taste in music and his voice makes it even better. On top of the world by Dj Kent featuring Liquideep is playing on the radio, Shamiso smiles and looks at the mirror again. Memories of her and Kuda debating on who was better Liquideep or Mi Casa begin to flood in her conscience. Kuda always thought Mi Casa was too Eurocentric for him, as to Liquideep which had a more African rhythm to it. They would argue over it, tease each other until they had to listen to both albums all over again.
She combs through her hair and puts on her favourite navy pantsuit. She stands in front of the mirror thinking of what to say to Kuda when she sees at the Reunion. She looked at the mirror, turns from side to side and smiles.
“Oh my goodness, hello Kuda. Its been a long time, how is America? Are you married yet?.”, she looks at herself and grimaced, knowing she can come up with something better than that.
“Hie Kuda, how are you? Oh me? I am very single and successful, thank you very much.” She smiles at her reflection satisfied with her act. Her phone rings as she is touching up on her makeup.”Yes Rutendo, I will email him again to make sure he comes to the Reunion. His sister said he will be in Zimbabwe the weekend of the Reunion. I will do it as soon as I get to work.”, she says as she grabs for her keys-looking at the mirror again and bolting out the door.
The last time Shamiso communicated with Kuda was a year ago. She had heard about his engagement from Rutendo her best friend of ten years, the only person who bothered to keep in touch with everyone from High School. The day Rutendo called to tell her, she had been promoted to CFO at Chiriseri and Associates-but hearing about Kuda’s engagement sent her home early from her celebration. Imagining him at his wedding left her feeling gloomy, but a faint gloominess. To reassure herself that she was unbothered and happy for him, she wrote an email to congratulate him on his newfound happiness.
” Wish you all the best and congratulations on your engagement. God speed bro.”
That Wednesday evening after work, Shamiso stares at her high school photo album in her bedroom as she sits on her bed. She begins to reminisce a year ago when she sat on the same spot talking to Rutendo after sending the email. She vividly remembers as she has on the same bed covers as on that day.
A year ago after she sent Kuda the email, she called Rutendo. She was panicking and instantly regretted sending the email. Finishing off the email with “bro” was her way of proving she was over him but Rutendo was always the voice of reason, so to be at peace she called her.
“Aah iwe Shamiso, you are telling me you emailed your ex of over six years to congratulate him on his engagement and called him ‘bro’?”, Rutendo chuckled from the other end of the lines, Shamiso was quiet on the other end of the line. “Shamie, I do not think he will mind or even think about it. It has been a very long time since you guys broke up and that was in High School. Takurashaa, and I am sure no one still thinks of High School romances. Do you still love or like Kuda because iiih askana it has been a while.”Shamiso exhaled, “Iiiiih shaa, who stays hung over their ex for such a long time. I just wanted to show him support and be happy for him. What happened in High School is in the past. I am focusing on me now and you know I have been talking with Ngoni. He seems to be a nice guy.” she reassured herself, waiting for Rutendo to say something that would confirm her newfound happiness for Kuda, the love of her life as their classmates used to tell her. “Shamie, he is engaged now and you know how he is very committed. The guy still uses the same number he had in high school. You are the CFO of a prestigious firm and you have Ngoni. You are both happy and over the past”, Rutendo said and Shamiso wondered if she was just saying it because she also liked Kuda in high school. Kuda always told her that he was never comfortable around her and how she always passed in front of him and rubbed her bottom on him. Shamiso always said it was because she was friendly but he was not the first of her boyfriends to say that, even Simba who cheated with anything that moved had said it.
For the next ten minutes, Rutendo talked about the married guy she was seeing, how last weekend they had gone to Ibiza and had told his wife he was going there to see if the hotels were suitable for their upcoming anniversary. Shamiso clucked and sighed loudly at the appropriate times. She did not remind Rutendo that the last time she went away with someone’s husband, the wife disguised herself as a taxi driver and drove them to her house where she dragged her by her weave and snatched her edges. Shamiso chuckled at the memory, coincidentally laughed with Rutendo who had said something funny. Finally, before she hung up, she promised to tell her if Kuda replies -a promise she knew she would not keep.
She smiles to herself as she thinks about that day. She walks into her kitchen, pours a glass of water, and leaves it on the table, untouched. Back in her bedroom, she stares at her high school photo album, the maroon cover reminded her of the school colours, the school blazer- her school blazer which she exchanged with Kuda when he went to America.
“Shamie, Kuda is engaged. He is taken and you need to understand that, wazvinzwa! He is happy with his girlfriend..no fianceè. He will bring her to the reunion.”, she says. She goes to her desk, opens her laptop to check Kuda’s Facebook Profile. She never bothered to check his profile, but because she could not remember his fianceè’s name- she had to check his profile. As she types in his name, she receives an email, it’s Kuda.
“Hey Shamiso, oh wow it been a while hey. I just received your email about the Reunion. Rutendo had already invited me and told me about Simba. Heard you two are happy together. Congrats”
“Simba?!”, Shamiso shrills and jumps from her chair, almost falling to the floor. “What does he mean Simba? I was with Simba for less than six months after he found someone who did not have too many technicalities”, she says as she paces in her bedroom. She decides to reply to him, it takes her half an hour to find the right words. Not too upfront but subtle enough for him to reveal his source.
“I see you have been checking on me. Its a long story but with Simba it was never as serious as you are portraying it to be? So what is new with you?”
She waits for his reply but after almost forty-five minutes, it occurs to her that there is a nine-hour time difference. She decides to retire to bed, but as soon as she is in her bed, she can not stop thinking about what Kuda would reply. She thinks of calling Rutendo but she knows she will not answer her phone at this hour. She holds her covers to her chin and secures her bonnet.”He will reply.”, she says as she drifts off to sleep.
Three months passed, Kuda did not reply, Shamiso wanted to send another email but she thought it would seem desperate. She told herself he was busy, and with her being CFO there was more work and she had better things to worry about. She wondered if she had said something offensive, she reread the email almost every day but could not find anything offensive. She even made Kudzai her assistant to read the email and asked him if he would reply if he were Kuda. Nine months passed and there was still no reply from Kuda, she decided to concentrate on her work and before she knew it, she no longer thought of Kuda. Business trips and aiming to be the CEO made it quite hard to think of Kuda, but mostly she avoided it because she knew he was engaged. He was taken.
As she was busy viewing her calendar for her next business trip, Shamiso received an email. She ignored it the first time but she received two more emails. The email tone bothered her and she had told Kudzai to change it but he would say, the fact that it bothered her meant she would react to the emails quicker. He always had new theories and facts about something every day, it was the main reason she hired him. The day he came in for the interview, he appeared to be shy and introverted, Shamiso was put off by him before he opened his mouth. Just as she was about to finish off the interview, he commented on her Dyson Cool AM06 Desk Fan. Her colleagues had thought it was too extravagant but Shamiso liked how simple it was and how cool it looked. “Excuse me ma’am”, Kudzai said as he shuffled in his chair, “Do you know the Dyson Cool AM06 draws air in by a compressor in the base and then directs it into the ring? It comes out of a slit around the ring and passes over a shape like that of an aircraft?.”Excuse me?”,Shamiso said as she raised her eyebrows not understanding and not interested. “Your fan, it is a Dys..”, Shamiso cuts him off. “I know but what is your point? she said putting her files in her bag getting ready to go home. “I think it is pretty cool”, he said as he sat back in his seat. And just like that, she knew she liked him.
Shamiso smiled as she reminisced about that day, she did not bother to check her emails until she was at home getting ready to go to bed. She saw two notifications from Kuda, it had been a little over nine months and now he was replying to tell her he was back in Zimbabwe and wanted to meet up with her before the reunion. She thought of how long she had waited for his reply but she was very conscious of how much she wanted to see him. She was hopeful he had come to talk things out, leave his fiancee and realise she was the one after all. She agreed to meet him the next day as it was a Saturday and told him where it was more convenient for them to meet.
As Shamiso drove into the Cafè Nush parking lot, she saw Kuda sitting by the window table. She stared at him from her car-he had not changed much it was easy to recognise him. His beard was well oiled and well-trimmed, he smiled at the waiter as he brought him a drink. She smiled at herself as she remembered how she used to tease him about how his smile made girls weak in the knees. “Why do you think Ma’am Jeka never gives you detention, it is your hypnotising smile. Why do you think I agreed to be your girlfriend? Its the smile I fell for not iwe”, she would say and he would chase her-forcing her to say he loved her. She always gave in and kissed him before freeing herself and running to her friends who were in class. Leaving him behind the classes smiling and making funny faces at her.
“Hey, Shamie.Are you almost here? Which drink would you like so you do not have to wait longer when you get here”
She saw him put the phone down, looking around but he did not look in her direction. She was prepared to hide if he were to turn her direction. She took a deep breath and walked out of her car towards the Cafè. The aroma of coffee and cinnamon hit her, the aircon’s fresh breeze helped her breath again. She trembled as she walked towards him, he had his back at her. She tapped his shoulder, once,twice-he looked back and smiled. That smile that got him out of detention-that smile that made her weak in the knees-still made her weak in the knees.
“Kudakwashe Mugota!Long-time!Look at you, you haven’t changed!”, she was flustered as she reached to give him an emotionless hug, but he pulled her so slightly close to him-her nose touched the nape of his neck. He looked at her, intensely and then smiled. She could not hold his gaze, her fingers were shaking involuntarily, which was bad enough. She did not need to look into his eyes, she would never forget his eyes. “It’s so good to see you, Sham, you look great”, he said as he pulled the chair for her. He was calm. She had forgotten how calm a person he was. He still had his boyish traits which she always clung on to when she thought of him. He still had the charm, a trace of his teenage history; the one which made the boys want to be like him and the girls be with him. “You have a beard”, she said. He laughed and stroked his beard, “Yeah,ndebvu dzaAaron“.They both laughed out loud as the waiter came to ask if they were ready to order. He had filled out, from the skinny boy of their high school days to a fleshier, muscular man-he looked taller now. With her high heels, she was shoulder length to him. America had not changed him, he was still as simple as she remembered-he wore a pair of chinos, a Polo shirt and Taft boots. He still had that confidence that demanded recognition without asking.
“Let us order”, he said as he looks through the menu. Shamiso would peep over the menu to get a glimpse of him, she looked at his left hand searching for the wedding rich.No ring, she smiled to herself and pretended to look through her menu. The Cafè was dimly cool, its air heavy with fresh coffee grounds and the atmosphere was eclectically complimenting the music. The waiter came back again to take their orders, Shamiso ordered a salad and pink lemonade. He looked at her as she ordered, she had not changed. Her natural hair which she styled into a French Braid enhanced her features. Her eyes looked bigger and her lips fuller, she still looked directly into people’s eyes, he always hated it as it made it impossible to hide anything from her.
“So how is America? With Trump as President, I heard there is a division in the country. Almost like here with Zanu and MDC. I also have heard that Trum…”, she stopped talking as she saw him staring at her. “Still the researcher I see, you haven’t changed a bit Shamiso”, he said. He reached for the menu again and started flipping through it, grimacing and smiling at the different dishes. He looked up and smiled at her.”Sham, how are you? How have you been?”, he put the menu down and focused on her. Her nervousness was melting away and they had raced past the moments of awkwardness. “I am good, great actually,uhm I have been the CFO for almost three years now and aiming for the CEO position.”, she said sipping on her pink lemonade. “I know and congratulations on that but I meant your personal life, are you married or seeing someone.”, he said gazing into her eyes. Shamiso was taken back by how forward he was, she found it rude and too intrusive. “Excuse me?”, she said as she folded her arms against her chest. “Shamiso Moyo, are you single, taken or married?”, he said looking at her and not flinching. “Kuda we just met after ten years, don’t you think that’s a bit too forward? Aaah you do not see me asking about mukadzi wako. I do not see a ring, obviously, you are not married or still engaged. That was too forward”, she said, trying to calm herself taking the menu again and stared at it annoyed. “I am sorry, Shamiso. That was uncalled for, I am sorry. I just needed to know.”, he said. Sitting back in his chair, he saw how annoyed she was. He began rummaging through the menu to fill the silence which was screaming louder than the music in the Cafè.
“So, are you still engaged or you just do not like wearing your wedding ring? Are you one of those men who hide that they are married?”, she said. He looked up to her not knowing if she was serious or teasing him. “We decided to break it off, she wasn’t the one I wanted. Shamiso it has always been you and it will always be you. I know the way we broke things off was childish and I am sorry for hurting you. I just thought the long distance would never work for us. I know you do not have anyone, come on, of course, I have been keeping track of you. I love you Shamiso. I am only forward because I now know what I want and that is you. Give us a chance.”, he said as he stood walking towards her. The waiter was behind her holding flowers, everyone in the Cafè stood up and started clapping. She stood up with tears in her eyes, hands shaking and speechless from what Kuda had said. Suddenly her phone began to ring but it was not the usual tone. She looked down at her phone and realised it was her alarm.
Shamiso woke up with a start, it was a dream. It was all a dream. The Cafè, Kuda confessing his love, the waiter and all the people. As she turned off her alarm, there it was, a reply from Kuda. It had not been two years or nine months or three months, it was only last night she sent the email. She sat up in her bed, palms sweaty and opened the email.
“Rutendo told me about Simba, she said you guys were pretty serious and planning on getting married. I am happy for you. I am sending you an invitation, the wedding is next weekend. I know it is short notice but we just could not wait. I think I will have to skip the Reunion. Cheers
Shamiso read the email again and still could not understand. She could not move from her bed, she held her phone to her face for a good twenty minutes. She decided to call Kudzai and told him to cancel all her meetings as she had the flu. She thought of calling Rutendo but she knew she was too angry to talk to her. She then decided to call the wife of the husband Rutendo was planning to go to Ibiza with. She still remembered her name from when Rutendo was stalking her on Facebook. She called her with an unknown number and told her where to find her husband and were the girl lived. She hung up before the woman could ask her a lot of questions.
She laid in her bed and looked up at the ceiling, she could not sleep and she could not distract herself. She began to think of going to America and disrupting the wedding. To confess her love for Kuda and not be ashamed. She watched the world outside, she could hear cars passing by from her fifth-floor window. She was bloodless, detached and motionless. Rutendo called her many times but she did not answer her phone. She deleted Kuda’s emails, blocked his Instagram and unfriended him on Facebook. She turned off her phone and coiled herself into a foetal position. She felt herself sinking, sinking quickly and unable to pull herself up. She turned on her radio to try and distract herself, Welcome aboard by Liquideep was playing. She abruptly pulled the radio cable from the plug, laid on her bed and cried herself to sleep.