Sequel to Zadzisai.
LOCATION: England, Manchester, 20:45.
Tapfumaneyi looked at the black velvet box and he put it back in his pocket, as he sat back in the restaurant chair and checked his phone. It was now ten minutes past the time he was supposed to have met up with Gamuchirai. He peeped out the window of the restaurant, hoping to see her arrive at the restaurant. It was a snowy January evening, the streets were caked with snow and all one could see were the streets lights and lights which illuminated the restaurant entrances. He checked the time on his wristwatch and realised he would not mind her being late as he needed more time to brace himself for what was to be one of the most important decisions or mistake of his life. He stared out the window again, his body suddenly rigid, skimming through the unfamiliar faces outside, trying to calm himself.
“Excuse me, Sir, are you ready to order?”, the waitress asked, towering over him. She looked right at him waiting for a response but he just shook his head forcing a smile. The waitress walks away leaving him to his thoughts. He took out his phone to see if Gamu had contacted him but he could not get past the wallpaper of him and Gamuchirai. He could not help but notice how happy she looked on the picture. It was from their last holiday in Tenerife, which she had demanded to go to for her birthday. She was all made up, the skin was sun-kissed, spirit free and he thought, as often as he did, what a beautiful woman she was. She wore a yellow summer dress which complimented her complexion as she sat on his lap.
“You are lucky my guy, a woman like that is hard to come about. Educated, smart, ambitious and puts you first. What more can you ask for? She loves you, man, if I were you I would marry her before another mandem steps in.”, Takunda always reminded him every time they met up. He had come to understand that Takunda actually liked Gamu, the way he always insisted on them meeting up at his house rather than anywhere else, knowing fully well that Gamu usually worked from home. He would sacrifice driving from Swindon to London for every match of the Premier League, to watch it at his house. He would always say it was because his TV was bigger and Gamu always made snacks. He was right however, Gamu was the woman of every sensible man’s dream. She cooked for him every night, drew him a bath with special bath bombs she bought from Lush when he had had a bad day at work and most nights she would stay up just to have her dinner with him. She knelt down when she greeted her elders, his Aunt had commented on her manners when he went with her to Zimbabwe. She ticked all the boxes of the ideal woman. It made him feel pompous amongst another man, he had what every other man was scouring for at the bottom of every barrel on dating sites, bars and church. He understood this and he was aware that she loved him, but he did not feel the same way. Over the last year they had courted, he had tried all he could to inflict this feeling of infatuation that left you breathless but not wants to be rescued. To him “soulmate” was more of a myth or a once in a blue moon event which only happened once in a lifetime, if not at all. He had taken all the recommended steps of a gentleman in love, asking her to move in with him and had even started saving money for their children to show and prove to himself that he loved her, at least enough to see a future with her. He knew he was being unfair to her, she had given him everything he wanted and needed, but still, she would never be enough to completely give his heart to.
Tapfuma looked at his wristwatch again and began to get annoyed. He thought about how hard it was for people to keep time when all one had to do was be on time and be time conscious. One memory kept rewinding in his mind, he tried to eliminate it but the words “time conscious” had triggered his memory box.
“Aaah Tapfu, you are too time conscious. I am not even that late shaa”, Zadzisai would always say each time she made him wait. He always had a menacing look on his face and it annoyed him how she was never on time.
“Aaah no Zadzisai, I always tell you kuti being early is being on time and being on time is being late. It is not that late kuita sei kwacho? It’s about principle”. He would rant about and refused to even look at her, but she always had a way to make him come around.
“Sorry Shewe, I am very sorry. I promise to try and be principled like you. You are a very principled man huuuh. Please teach me how to be like you, kurongeka kwakadai.?”.
He enjoyed her sarcasm but he mostly loved how easily she would change his mood, he vowed never to tell her. He always ended up shaking his head with a chuckle, kissing her forehead and saying,
“What can you not get away with?”. He caught himself smiling at himself but he quickly dismissed the memory from his head and talked himself back to reality. He took a deep breath, sat back and looked around the restaurant and was met with unfamiliar faces, except for the waitress.
It was an Indian restaurant that Takunda had recommended, it also came with good reviews too and was named the most amorous and idyllic restaurant in Oxford Street. It was dimly cool, the atmosphere was laced with the aroma of rich spices and conversation. He signalled the waitress and asked for a glass of water.
“She must be very special to have you wait for over an hour”, the waitress said to Tapfumaneyi when she brought the water.
“Excuse me?” he said confused by her statement.
“You have been sitting here for over an hour, obviously waiting for someone because you keep looking at your watch.”, she said smiling at him. He had not realised he had been sitting there for over an hour now, and Gamu had sent him a text eighteen minutes ago informing him about the snow storm. He smiled and nodded at the waitress hoping for her to leave him to his thoughts. As soon as she left him, his mind wandered again. He began to question if marrying Gamu was right for him. He felt he was ready for marriage and a family at 26 years old. He knew what was expected of him at his age and reassured himself he was content and fulfilled by Gamu. Soon he would be promoted to Sergeant from a Police Officer, he was financially stable, he had investments and he was paying up his mortgage on his 3 bedroomed house with 1 and a half bathrooms. This time he felt he was ready and it was different from his first attempt to marry. Then, he was young and a student when he had to bring himself to plan for a future with a wife and child. He distinctively remembered the day Zadzisai came running to his house with tears in her eyes, terrified. The look on her face narrated everything and without question, he knew he wanted to be with her.
“Zadzisai, what happened? Is someone dead?”,he said as he stood from the tattered leather chair he sat on and walked towards the bed in his room.
“Tapfuma, what are we going to do? I told you to be careful, now hona?”, Zadzisai began to wail louder. Tapfuma walked towards the door to check if anyone was in close proximity to hear their conversation. Mainini Rumbie had gone to kumagrosa with Tanaka, his cousin. He closed the door and began to console Zadzisai who now had her face in her palm, crying.
“Tapfumaneyi, ndine nhumbu.I am pregnant and I have no idea how I am going to tell my parents. You told me you were being careful. What are we going to do because handiskuda kuregedza kuchikoro? I can not stop going to school because of this. I told you to be careful and you agreed,” she said as she walked towards him and tried to punch him. He blocked her hands and pulled her close to hug her, she began to sob again and he held on to her.
“Zee, it’s ok. I am here, I am here”. He towered over her and held her tightly, he leads her to his chair and went out of the room.
Tapfumeyi came back with a glass of water and gave it to Zadzisai. At 21 years Tapfumaneyi was mature for his age, he had taken a year off school to work so he could support his Aunt and cousin. After his parents had died when he was in primary school, Mainini Rumbie had taken him as her own son. She made sure he did not feel like an orphan and after Babamudiki Ngoni left, he became the man of the house. Mainini Rumbie unfailingly reiterated that there was nothing he could not do or solve, even his future she believed was his to build.
Zadzie took a few sips then looked at him, searching his face for any sign of anger or remorse but Tapfumaneyi looked at her and smiled. Zadzisai was confused and it angered her, she sneered and as she stood up to bolt out of the room, Tapfumaneyi stood in front of her.
“Iwe Tapfumaneyi Mhodzi, you are smiling? It’s not a laughing matter. My life is over and it hasn’t even started. I can not keep it, where will I put it and in whose house? And in whose house, you know my father! Maihwee zvangu, my father! What am I goi…”, she began to cry again as it dawned on her that she had to inform her parents. Her war-vet of a father who still wore a red beret to commemorate his lost friends and right arm which he lost in the Chimurenga . Tapfumaneyi looked at her with hurt eyes, he sat searched for her eyes.
“Zadzie, we will make this work. I am so sorry this has happened but please, let us think it through. I am smiling because I am happy the woman I love is carrying my child. I will take care of you both, I do not know how but I will”.
The next morning Tapfumaneyi woke up to go Zadzisai’s house by himself. It was a warm Saturday morning in September and even though it was 9 am in the morning, it felt like 12 pm in the afternoon. He had told Aunt Rumbie the night before, she had not taken it very well but he had explained himself and had promised to take care of Zadzisai and the baby. She had wanted to go with him but he had told her it was better if he had gone by himself. He did not want her to be burdened by his situation and he knew he had disappointed her.
“No Tapfuma, you can not go alone! Hazvina hunhu, do not act as if you come from an ill-mannered household. You already disrespected them by defiling their daughter, now you want to show up at their house by yourself like a grown man? If you do not want to go with me, go with Baba Netsai. You can not go alone, no!”. Baba Netsai was their neighbour who was the only father figure Tapfumaneyi had since his father passed away. As it was a Saturday, Tapfumanei went and told him everything and after what seemed like a couple of hours, Baba Netsai talked briefly with Mainini Rumbie and they were off to Zadzisai’s house.
“Babe, oh my gosh babe, I am so sorry. It’s like people become dumb when driving in snow.”, Gamu said as she walked towards Tapfuma and kissed him on his lips. He had not seen her as he was lost in his own thoughts and had to conjure his mind to the present moment. She stood opposite him with a wide grin on her face, searching his face for a response.
“It’s ok,”, he said as he stood up to pull the chair for her,”…I was just lost in my own thoughts. I was..how..ho…how are you? You look amazing..beautiful.., you look great.”, he said as he sat opposite her, trying to compose himself. It dawned on him that he had not even rehearsed his proposal and had been reminiscing about Zadzie and the baby he was told was stillborn.
“Thank you, baby, you do not look alright. We can go home and I will make you something and draw you a bath. Oh and we might watch The Help ag…”.
“Will you marry me?”, Tapfuma blurted it out without realising it. He had been caught up on his past, the thought of not having Zadzisai or no one at all scared him. He was as shocked as she was by what he had said. She looked at him with tears in her eyes and began to cry and laugh at the same time. Tapfuma wished he had not said it, he tried to take it back by trying to explain but Gamu was already saying yes repeatedly catching the attention of the other diners.
“What I meant to say was, I am grateful and glad you are part of my life bu..”, before he could end his explanation, he was interrupted by the waiting staff who came with a dessert plate written congratulations in chocolate, champagne and the waitress who had served him earlier began to sing a harmonised rendition of Marry me by Bruno Mars.
Gamu was still crying tears of joy and she stood in front of him with her hand stretched out in front of him. He was very bemused he did not even think of the black velvet box in his pocket.
“The ring, man. Show her you mean it.”. A man from the table behind him shouted as the waitress was singing. Everything was happening so fast, he was caught unaware when a bottle of champagne was popped and the waiter poured into the glasses on their table.
“Come on man, do not keep your lady waiting. Ask the question again..with a ring this time”.
Seeing how he had no way out and Gamu was the best thing he had since moving to England, he knelt before her, took the ring from the box and proposed. She said yes again, his time without tears but glee on her face. As he stood up, Gamu hugged him tightly and he retorted by hugging her tighter. Assuring himself that this was the best decision, he was to be promoted and he was in a comfortable place. He kissed her deeply as their audience cheered them on.
“This is beginning of a new life and tomorrow is a new day, what could go wrong?”, Tapfuma said to himself as he raised his glass and gulped it down together with his doubts and his past.
LOCATION: Great Manchester Police,09:25
Tapfumaneyi sat at his desk and looked at the file. He picked it up then put it down again and put his head in his hands. Phones were ringing on every desk, the smell of coffee filled the office. He shuffled in his chair and picked up the phone but he put it down again. He picked up the file again and as he was about to browse through it again for the 12th time. Sergeant Major Finley came to his desk, he was a hefty man who took pride in his job. He was more of a legacy as his father and grandfather had all been part of British law enforcement. He always finished every sentence with “love“. For a brawny man, he was very soft and he always words of wisdom for everyone he saw at the office. Even when the criminals came in for questioning, he took a few minutes to sit down with them and talk to them about Jesus. Many convicts had complained about it, he ended up being given a higher rank where he would have minimum contact with any of the criminals.
“Taps, did you get a chance to look at that file with the kidnapped child. I have Officer Bailey on the case with you and he is doing more research and has gone to the airport to find out when and how she made it back. Gosh, I can not believe someone would travel all the way from here to Africa just to kidnap a kid and come back. And you know those immigration officers actually held her at the airport but it was for her passport, not the kids. Poor little love, hope she is alright.” he said as he sat down opposite Tapfuma with a file in his hands.
Tapfumaneyi still looking at the file mouthed the child’s name then looked at Sergeant Finley. He looked at the picture of the little girl in the pink tutu who had been reported missing 5 days ago in Zimbabwe, he could not explain how or why he was drawn to her, but he was. She was kidnapped by a young woman who was supposed to have been her nanny and supposedly, her biological mother the file stated.
“You know Taps, if I did not know any better I would have thought that was your child. Look at those eyes! I do not want to come off ignorant thinking all black people look the same but ..”, he said opening his eyes wider gesturing for him to look at the picture again.
“If I had a child, I think I would have known. And I m not that type of bloke, I am old fashioned like that”, he said as he swung in his chair, trying to get his mind off the little girl.
“Oh yeah, you are old fashioned like that. Congrats mate, Taku told me the good news last night when he came on his night shift. Gamu is a good one, my Anne said the same when you came over with her last Easter”.
“Thank you, Sir, she really is special”, he said. “Alright then, make it quick with the investigation mate, we have to make the arrest today. The parents of the girl contacted Interpol, so the case was given to us. Problem is, the parents of the little girl did not have a lot of info on the kidnapper. The mother was heart-rendered she could hardly remember much only the name Zazie. Are you familiar with that name? It is a Zimbabwean name.”,he said to Tapfuma. Tapfuma shook his head, he tried to ponder on the name. He presumed it could be a Venda or Nyanja name or another different tribe within Zimbabwe.
“No Sir, I am not familiar with the name,” he said.
“Well, for all we know it could be a fake name. We got a number though but it was registered to someone called …Dhadhirai Moyo. Not sure if that name rings a bell, though I feel I am saying it wrong.”, he said handing Tapfuma the file he had. He scanned through the file and recognised the name, Dadirai Moyo.
“Oh yes, that is a Shona name.”, he said putting the file down.
“Well, better get it moving we do not have much time. Those Southern buggers could not take it because they are swamped with similar cases. Better call your young bride to tell her you will be late because it is going to be a long day”.
An officer came and called Sergeant Major Finley to the holding cell, there was a young man who had been arrested for selling marijuana and was asking if he could give his life to Jesus. He gestured to the officer that he was on his way.
“I do not know if it is the reefer talking or not, but I shall continue to pray for the young man. I hope it is not a scam to be let down easy”, he said walking towards the door. Tapfuma looked at the picture again and weighed up on why he felt drawn to her and could not stop repeating her name.
A few moments later, Officer Bailey came in delirious and almost out of breathing and told Tapfuma they have found the woman’s address and name.
“What is her name?”,he asked almost falling out of his chair.
“File is in the car mate, we need to go now. She is a flight risk.”. They both ran out of the office and headed for the police car. On the way, Tapfuma browsed through the files, ruffling through the pages to find the name of the kidnapper. And there it was highlighted in green: Zadzisai Justine Mwoyo. Tapfuma could hear his heartbeat loud in his ears. He was completely oblivious that they had been driving for over two hours. His mind ran through the course of his courtship with Zadzie, how old the little girl was and how she resembled him. There was white noise in his eyes and he could hardly hear Officer Bailey informing him they had arrived or the sirens of the other two police cars which also parked in front of the house.
“Sir, let us go. She might not be here.”, Officer Bailey said as he stepped out of the car drawing his gun. Tapfuma got out of the car and knocked on the door with four officers behind him with their guns pointing at the door.
After knocking twice, the door slowly open and there was Zadzisai with tears in her eyes. She looked past Tapfuma without recognising him and focused on the officers who had their guns pointed at her.
“Zee…Zadzie..”, Tapfuma whispered to himself but he could not bring himself to his emotions, he had to be professional.
“Are you Zadzisai Justine Mwoyo? he said with his head down staring at the file. She nodded then looked at the person asking her the question.
“Tapfu, is that you? Oh my goodness, it’s me. Tapfu it’s our ba…”, she said opening the door wider for him to see Angelica who was standing behind her.
“Ma’am, you do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something…”, he began to read her rights. Before he finished reading her rights, two officers stepped forward and handcuffed her, walking her to the police car. She began to cry saying it was a misunderstanding, she screamed Tapfumaneyi’s name until they put her in the car and drove off.
“Sir, do you know her?”,Officer Bailey said as he stood next to Tapfuma, who was on one knee peeping inside the house. He looked up at Bailey and told him, he used to know her but not anymore. He opened the door wider and he saw Angelica, holding an Elmo puppet, eyes teary and scared. She stared at both of them and stood still.
“I will go and call the Social Services and inform Sergeant Bailey.”, he said as he walked away.
“Hey sweetheart, are you ok?”, he said smiling at her. Angelina looked at him and asked where they had taken her “auntie”. Can I go with her? I am scared”, she whimpered as tears trickled down her tears. Tapfuma walked towards her and picked her up, wiping her tears.
“Sweetie, you are safe with me ok. Someone will come and get you, they will take care of you. She stared right at him confused. Why can you not take me, you said I am safe with you.”.
Tapfuma simply smiled and walked out of the door with Angelica in his arms. Officer Bailey was on the phone and some of the neighbours were standing by the yard.
“I miss Auntie Zazie.”, Angelica said as she played with her Elmo puppet in Tapfuma’s arms.
“Me too”, he whispered to himself and kissed her on the forehead.
TO BE CONTINUED…