You never ask your man if he is cheating without proof. Not only will he deny it and have you believe that you are crazy, he will get better and better at it by hiding his infidelity. Also, do not show him that you are falling apart even if your aim is to make him feel as bad as you do at that particular moment. It will not work because his sense of remorse would have already left him. I broke that rule when I confronted Richard about his affair; I cried in his face in hopes that he would regret his decision to cheat on me and also in hopes that he would come clean. It only made me feel worse because he maintained his innocence even when I handed him the evidence. I don’t know why he cheated. I guess I never will.
Before all of this, there was that particular morning two months ago. I didn’t go to work because I was a little under the weather. When I‘d gathered some strength I decided to do the laundry. While I kept at it, my mind wandered and I thought of how my presence at the rallies would improve Richard’s campaign since I had been absent at the last two. My line of thought was immediately interrupted by a hotel bill that I pulled out of the pocket of the jeans he’d worn over the weekend. There was his name of course and another I didn’t recognize. I ignored what I’d seen and carried on with the rest of the chores that day but momentarily my mind would think of the receipt and the gaping hole in my tummy would grow wider. I checked the bill again, not only did I notice that there was two of everything, but it was his also signature at the bottom of the list. All day I thought of how I’d broach the topic to him, but one hotel bill wasn’t enough evidence so I put the issue to bed. From there on I noticed that he had become distant from me, our bed, including our children. He became more secure with his phone too, but even then, in spite of me dreading what had become of my marriage, I didn’t confront the matter. I needed more. I hired a private investigator.
Some tastes, smells, songs, noises and even places are reminiscent of past events in one’s life. The taste of this particular whiskey, for instance, was reminiscent of the brief time I’d spent with Alice at a hotel in Ndola a few months ago. I promised myself I wouldn’t see her again after our first encounter because I was trying by all means to protect my reputation, but I guess all politicians let money, power, sex and good looks, among the younger ones, to control their decisions. Money is power and power commands your desires to be met. If you’ve ever had any one of your desires met then you can attest to the saying that the heart is deceitful; because once that satisfaction is met, another deeper and more selfish urge creeps up and begins to stroke your weak spots, enticing you to want more. I knew I was treading thin ice, but I did so deftly. I didn’t get caught at my first attempt. Neither at the second, third or fourth. Never did I leave any signs of involvement with another woman. I was strategic; only seeing her after my campaign rallies. I remember how beautiful she looked at the hotel that one night. Our time together was nothing short of amazing. Oddly she sat beside me at our dinner table, contrary to the traditional arrangement of seating on opposite sides. During our flirtatious conversations, I couldn’t help but notice that her dress was split right in the middle, revealing her thick thighs. I couldn’t drive back to Lusaka without having a taste of her. It was going to be decision I’d have lived to regret. After all, I arranged to meet her so I’d terminate our temporary affair, one last time wasn’t going to kill anyone. I called my wife that evening and told her I’d have an early night because I was too tired from the events of the day. She knew how tiring rallies could get. She told me not to worry about her and the kids, after all it was my suggestion that she spent more time at home with our girls than having her at every single rally. Little did she know that it was my clever way of her unknowingly giving me space to tend to my endeavors. I was careful. Or so I thought. How did she find out? I thought to myself as I threw another sip of whiskey behind my throat. When I went to mess around, I cleaned up good, but I guess nothing can be kept secret under the sun. Who are my enemies, I tried to recollect. But no one on the list seemed to have such guts. Maybe Alice had been paid by my opponent Simaata to seduce me and have me sleep with her in hopes that a cheating scandal would break out. If Simaata was the mastermind behind the plan, so as to outwit me, he had done a damn good job. My line of thought was immediately disturbed by Mwiinga’s horrid and drunken voice.
“It only makes sense that your wife hired a private investigator,” Mwiinga said as he swung around in his stool on the bar counter.
“You think so?” I asked with desperation.
“Yup!” He said. “Women know everything. Trust me, she’s known about Alice for months. Now was probably the most opportune moment for her because she just received the evidence.”
His words resounded through my mind. He was right. She must have known for months but couldn’t present her awareness of Alice to me without showing me evidence. You cannot claim cheater without showing your partner full proof. She waited. She preyed on me. She pounced on me at a time when she thought I’d admit my wrongs but I was too afraid to lose her, the kids and the election so I denied. Even with my face in the picture I lied. Is there any man whose first thought was to admit the truth, I thought.
“In my profession, I’ve seen all kinds of crazy. Women know a lot more about our ‘secrets’ than we think,” Mwiinga continued. He quoted the word secrets with his fingers. This only made me realize that a secret is only one when it is between one person who is alive and the other dead. “In most divorce cases that end because of infidelity, the woman has known about the other woman.”
“I wish she had said something to me immediately she became suspicious,” I said to Mwiinga.
“You would have denied and become more careful,” he said. He was right. That’s probably what she was avoiding. “Look Richard, women stay with their unfaithful husbands for different reasons. Some have never known any other love. Some stay for the sake of the children. Divorce is ugly and women care for their children to put them through it. There are also those that stick around because there is no other way of survival than from the husband’s financial support. Mwape doesn’t need your man. In fact, it is you that needs her money. She funds all of your trips and rallies so her choosing to stay with you has got nothing to do with money. Maybe it’s because she loves you. Maybe it’s for the sake of the children because as far as they are concerned, they have the best father in the world. My advice to you is to tell your wife everything regarding Alice. There’s no point in denying what she already knows.”
His words hit home. I had caused Mwape enough embarrassment. The least I could do was admit the truth then from there we could work on our marriage. I was willing to change. I had betrayed the woman that had seen endless capabilities in me, when no one believed I could ever achieve anything. She built me. I looked around our house. The burgundy kitchen unit, black marble kitchen deck and the white suspended ceilings were all her idea. Our beautiful home meant nothing to me at this point if neither her nor my children were in it. Men. Which part our brains or hearts made us unappreciative of our women in spite of the unconditional love they’d give us. Mwape was a perfect example of someone who loved with her all. I could feel it. I could feel her affection for me in the countless sacrifices she made, in the way she spoke about me with pride and in the way she loved our children, among many things. I needed to right my wrongs. Plus I had missed the kids.
“You can’t bar the kids from seeing their father,” my mother said to me as she handed me a cup of tea. Her remedy for every problem in the world was rapidly boiling hot tea. If only it worked. She sat across from me on the round kitchen table which I had been trying for many years to replace but she was very attached to it because it reminded her of my father. In his glory days he sat here every morning reading the newspaper while sipping tea from his huge mug. The kids were not allowed to use their phones until I had figured out a way out of this mess Richard had put us in. They spent most of their time in the fields; getting acquainted with the beautiful landscape and farm animals; something they weren’t accustomed to at home. He had reached out earlier, asking if he could come by to see the girls and of course to talk things over.
Every time I thought of what he had done, a jab of pain would hit my chest and I would literally feel my heart breaking. I read his text over and over again as though it’d provide the answers to my numerous questions. For example, why did you cheat on me, or why did you do it amidst the election period knowing full well that any bad publicity would put your candidature in jeopardy or do you not love me and our children enough? My stomach clenched and tears filled my eyes. My mother handed me another cup of tea and placed her right hand on top of mine. Knowing that she knew exactly what I was going through gave me some consolation.
“At some point you’re going to have to confront this matter my daughter,” she said. “In your own time, when you’re ready to face him, you and him will have a lot to talk about. But whatever decision you reach do not make the mistakes I made. That’s my biggest fear for you.”
“That what?” I asked.
“That you stay for your children’s sake. I stayed with your father for you and your brothers and sisters and I lived to regret it because he never stopped cheating until his ailing health got the better of him. Still I had to nurse him because I was dutifully bound by our wedding vows,” she said.
“Mummy, I never knew that dad put you through all that,” I said and broke off into a sob. Her grip on my hand tightened.
“He was a good father, like Richard is to his children. He might use them to win you back,” she said.
“Well, for now I’m only allowing him to see the girls. I’m not ready to face him,” I said. I lied. I had been ready. I signed up for this the day I hired a private investigator. I was so worn out from all the drama and tomorrow was going to be even more dramatic with Richard coming over. I had allowed him to visit the girls. The last thing I needed was them hating me for keeping them from seeing their father. I was worn out from all the day’s events. I needed a goodnight’s rest, but in my core I knew that I was going to spend the first few hours tossing and counting sheep. I retired to bed anyway because I just needed to rest my head on a fluffy pillow and cry myself to sleep.
“I should be going to bed now Mummy,” I said to my mother and pecked her on the cheek. Some more consolation was felt in that mere contact between us. There’s something about a mother’s presence that’s soothing. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I watched Richard from a distance while he run around the loan throwing a Frisbee with the kids. My husband. The father of my two beautiful children. Mweembe inherited her rebellious streak from him. From what I heard from his parents, he was always up to mischief in school. I smiled to myself when I thought of that. And Paula, even at 10 years old, I could see a passion for leadership in her. Always wanting to lead her elder sister, just like her father pushed his elder brothers around. My grin grew wider involuntarily. Why was I was smiling when I was mad at him. And hurt.
He whispered something in Paula’s ears and she ran to the fields. Mweembe followed in her trail. He paced the loan for a brief moment and begun to walk my way when he caught sight of me. Gosh. There wasn’t any alcohol in the house for this. I should have bought some, I thought. My heart begun to race and my stomach clenched as I saw him walk toward me. My throat dried up. Why was I nervous. Before I knew it, he sat beside me on the swing on the veranda.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I replied.
“I asked them to pluck me some corn from the field,” Richard said regarding the kids.
“I figured. They missed you.” I said, trying to keep away from one word answers. I placed my hands on my laps and stared at the floor wondering what he was going to say next. He pushed the swing back and it swayed back and forth. We giggled.
“I’m sorry,” Richard said.
“For what?” I asked. Of all the questions I had lined up for him, that was all I could ask. That was all that my tongue could roll out. I needed more strength to corner him. Or some wine.
“For everything,” he said.
“What is everything Richard?” I begun. “Why? What do I tell Mweembe and Paula? I haven’t got answers to their questions. Who’s she?”
“I had an affair with another woman. I’m sorry I betrayed you. Please forgive me,” he said.
His words echoed so loud like a siren had just gone off in my ears. I had known but him admitting it broke me in ways I didn’t anticipate. I fell apart the first and second time we had this conversation, but I wasn’t go to show him this time. I had learnt the hard way. I kept my composure even though my tears were begging to pour out of my eyes. He curled his lips to utter something but I interrupted him.
“You’re going to win this election Richard,’ I said. “We’re going to finish what we started. You’re the man fit for the job. Not Simaata. We dug up some dirt on him. He fathered a child 15 years ago that he has not claimed and we’re going to leak that tit bit of information to the media. You and him will have equally bad publicity.”
He looked at me in dismay as if I had spoken in a language he didn’t understand.
“You look shocked. That is the plan Mwiinga meant. Didn’t he tell you?” I said, feeling very proud of myself at that moment. He curled his lips again but I gave him no chance to speak.
“People are gullible Richard, I’m not sure if Simaata really fathered that child, but our informant believes so and so will the people. We just need to make them promises we know we won’t fulfill. You know the drill. Roads. Clinics. Schools. And throw cheap party regalia every rally. Alcohol too. I will stand by you Richard. You will issue a statement and I will be by your side. Our children need their mother and father together.”
“Thank you baby,” he said. “I won’t ever do it again, I promise.”
“You will do it again. When you’ve won and when all is forgotten I will move back here with Paula and Mweembe. They will hate me for taking them away from their father but when they are as old as I am now they will understand what cheating is.”
It was as if all of the blood on his face had vanished because he looked pale. “I am not going to make the same mistake my mother made Richard. I have thought about this at great lengths and it’ll be best for us to go our separation after you’re sworn in as MP. We’ll try and reach a divorce settlement after”
“Sweetheart don’t do this. Let’s talk about this. Look at how happy the kids are,” he said but it all fell on deaf ears. My mind was made up. I stood up and fastened my rob and called the girls to say bye to Richard.
“Girls, say bye to your father,” I said. I watched him hug them so tight, like his life depended on it. My heart was shred to pieces by my own bear hands. I walked back into the kitchen. I didn’t want tea or anything. I just wanted my mother and when I saw her seated at our usual table I broke off into an endless series of sobs. She held me in her bosom and I gave in to all of her love and sweet embraces.