Among the drivers I salute and trust wholeheartedly, is Zulu. He is one person whom one would entrust with a vehicle, and he would surely take care of it as though it was just his own.
I sat on the front passenger’s seat while my father and my mother sat on the rear seats. Off, Zulu drove to the court premises. A lot of issues came in my mind inevitably. I started recalling my youth days, those days when I was still single. I vividly remembered how I met Maggie that day in town at the market; how she tried to turn down my love proposal which was coming purely from the bottom of my heart. Further, I remembered the cheerful and remarkable moments we had together before she was finally pronounced Mrs. Muloongo. Lastly, I could not forget how my parents had rejected Maggie at first sight. It took my courage and the love I had for her to convince them to accept her as my wife. Let me be precise here for once; my mother never wholeheartedly accepted her as her daughter-in-law for all the years I spent with her. I think my father only persuaded her to play it low but I have so much evidence she never regarded her the way she did to other daughters-in-law she had.
The thoughts of why my mother had not acknowledged Maggie as her daughter-in-law for over seventeen years gave me a lot of deep thinking. I was only told that we were actually at the court premises, yet I did not see most of the prominent structures before it. Before disembarking, I offered a short but well co-ordinated prayer to the Almighty Father in heaven.
My lawyer, Edah, welcomed us and led the way in the court. Hey! It was my very first time to step my feet in a court of law from the time I left my mother’s womb. Nonetheless, Edah was more of a walking and guiding stick to me.
When the jury walked in, we were all compelled to show solidarity by simply standing up and sitting down later. At least I was familiar with this protocol. Less than five cases were heard before mine was. Gradually, it was my turn to be heard. And it was at this moment in time when I saw or faced Maggie face to face from that day I beat the hell out of her. Seeing her together with Benjamin, sent down adrenaline and I felt like fighting them again. Immediately, Edah looked at me and gave me that talking and warning look. I knew she was warning me to take my time.
The case was recorded accordingly; each party was given time to report what they had. Edah was an exceptional lawyer; just the way she registered the whole case though at the preliminary stage, was enough to tell she was an iron lady. I could see how the jury paid particular attention to her lips. Benjamin and Maggie had no lawyer. They had themselves against me and my lawyer – a situation which comforted me.
Having registered the case successfully and of course being interrogated a few questions; the jury had to study the whole case closely. Therefore, it was to be heard the following week on Thursday mid-morning.
Outside the court premises, I saw Maggie heading towards mum. Little did she know how she never acknowledged her as her daughter-in-law. She stopped her and they started talking while the rest of us were watching them from the car. To me, that was a share waste of time. So, I commanded Zulu to hoot or we would leave mum there with her. He started the engine, and mum came running leaving Maggie with words in her mouth. She made an X cross on her head signifying how troubled and unsatisfied she was. She still had a lot to talk about to mum but who cared?
My mother reported to me how she really wanted to talk to me together with my family so that the case could be withdrawn because she had accepted everything and she pleaded guilty to me. I calmly asked her what her further intentions were if she was heard at a family meeting. My mother only said she needed forgiveness. At that pronouncement, I felt like someone had scrapped some layer from my heart… I needed the law to take its due course. Those crocodile tears she was shedding do not matter at all to me. Let her keep them so that she sheds them beautifully the day divorce would be granted. I equally warned my mother not to be sympathizing with her.
At home, my mother pleaded with me that I do not skip my lunch as I did to my breakfast. I had no appetite but seeing how troubled my mother appeared for me not eating, I gathered the appetite and forcefully ate just to please her.
I changed my attire to a casual one; a pair of black and white stripped sneakers, a pair of socks which went only slightly above my ankles; a kirk short from Pep stores which gave me an incredible admirable look like that of a sportsman; I wore a golf T-shirt which revealed my muscular and well-built chest with six packs. By then I was not yet a potbellied man. I packed my travel bag and went in the living room to say bye to my parents. I told them it was time to go to the gym for aerobics as well as work outs. They unanimously allowed me to go. I then called Zulu to come and pick me up to the gym.
My friends had really missed my company at the gym. They warmly welcomed me. For once, I felt at home and I had a sigh of relief. The issue of Maggie and Benjamin slipped out of my mind and I had the energy to do the work outs. That day I did more of barbell push-ups; inclined barbell push-ups etc. I could not spare the tread mill together with the punching bag. Spending two hours of serious training in the gym was more comforting than staying at home bearing all the memories of Maggie and her wicked deeds. It was so annoying being in house because it was more like wherever I set my eyes on, I saw her. Talk about the hanging portraits in the house, but for all those photos and portraits which were in the bedroom, I succeeded in pulling them down and disposing them of instantly. Pulling down those which were seen by my children would give an altogether wrong impression to them. As such, I ignored tampering with them.
It was exactly 17:00 hours by my wrist watch when I logged out from the gym. Zulu was patiently waiting for me in the car. In spite of having sweated too much in the gym, I ordered him to take me out to a certain lodge where there was some quiet place and cold beer most of the times. I was craving for some cold beer due to the thirst from the gym. He drove there as I gave him the directions. He was amazed the time we reached there because that was his first time to be at that beautifully furnished lodge. He could not hold his peace to ask how I came to know such a quiet place in the city. With a smirk, I told him I knew the city more than did most of the taxi drivers. He argued that a soldier like me would have no chance to get to know most of the places in the city. Wait! I then recalled Zulu did not know my other job. It was evident he only knew about my first job. Anyway, that was awesome because that was enough to know for a common and ordinary person like him.
Few minutes before 21:00 hours, my father called to check on me whether I was still at the gym or not. Oh my goodness, I sincerely apologized to him for being overdue. We emptied all the bottles and drove back home. We found the officer on duty already at the gate. He saluted me and I saluted back even as we pulled in.
My father was still seated in the sofa watching National Geography. I explained to him that after the training I thought of quenching my throat hence coming back home late. That was fine with him. He bade good night to me and I did the same. My supper was reserved for the following day in the morning because the heavy intake of liquor I had could hardly let me eat nsima.
A day before I appeared in the court for the second hearing of the case, in the evening, my mother invited me in the living room where she was relaxing with my father. Memory and all the kids were busy in the kitchen preparing supper. The way she called me, I was able to tell no matter what, there was something they had been discussing and it was high time I was informed about it. I joined them there and I was all ears. She did not waste time to beat about the bush but went straight to the point: she was wondering if by any chance I had rescinded the idea of proceeding to a divorce after proving Benjamin guilty of adultery. There was no way I could have rescinded that idea. Living with Maggie in the same house would be so toxic. In fact, that was the least thing I would ever think of. It would have been better if she committed adultery when I was far away, let us say like those days when I was studying abroad unlike committing it in my presence. The sympathy for the children that they would suffer at the expense of a stepmother was nothing to me. If anything, even spending the rest of my life unmarried was not a problem.
Dad concluded the discussion by sidelining with me and urging mum that my children would not be the first ones to be tendered by a stepmother. Furthermore, he sternly urged me to take my time and find a well nurtured woman who would love me together with my children without hard feelings. I thanked my parents sincerely for having been the best parents in the world. I promised them I would not go against their will anymore.
As usual, early in the morning, Zulu came and drove us to the court. This time around I was in high spirit; at least I was comforted by my personal lawyer and I knew what I needed at the end of it all.
A while later after our arrival at the court, Edah joined us. I felt even more relieved. That day our case was the second one to be heard. I could not wait to declare my intention of divorcing Maggie. I wished the magistrate could just hit a nail on its head rather than asking further unnecessary questions on how it all happened.
Some of these magistrates we have in the courts of law are so educated and know how to apply psychology critically. It was so interesting how Benjamin was fixed that morning. I pity all those who wasted their precious time escorting him thinking he would triumph in that case. His argument was that he never knew Maggie was a married woman hence he freely fell in love with her. The magistrate asked Maggie if it was true she did not disclose to him her true marital status. Foolishly, she agreed with Benjamin’s lie. The magistrate fired her about four tough questions which eventually turned her into a stammer. Her failure to respond to the questions made the seating magistrate to turn to Benjamin and fire him with more tricky and difficulty questions. I visibly saw him shake.
When he was told to ask for leniency, he smiled and pleaded that if only he knew Maggie was a married woman he would not have been tempted to lie in bed with her. I saw the magistrate nodding with a seemingly genuine grin. It seemed he was he was becoming lenient with him. He asked him one more question; how long he had been having carnal knowledge with Maggie. The question seemed a bit tough as we all saw Benjamin being sent into silence. Later on, he blubbered and cheated it was only for close to three weeks. The day I caught them at the lodge was actually their second time of knowing each other. Maggie affirmed to this as the true reflection of what had actually conspired.
I was given chance to ask Maggie some questions before the magistrate’s ruling of the matter. I knew Edah would not spare her by asking her tricky questions. She asked her what really motivated her to leave me and opt to commit adultery. She gave no convincing reason apart from citing and accusing the devil had purely played his role on her. She shed tears and pleaded for leniency from me citing she would never dare committing such a scandal for she had learnt her lesson. She had not even completed her plea when the magistrate interrupted and warned her to observe instructions so as not to be cited for contempt of court.
I wondered whether it was true she had only met Benjamin twice but something crossed my mind and gave me a flashback of me knowing him way back in Kabwe. Moreover, it was Maggie who introduced me to him that day we met him in Kabwe Shoprite. This gave me a conviction the two were lying, and therefore deserved not my leniency. I saw mum holding her face in her palms sorrowfully. My guess was she was expecting me to forgive Maggie.
Edah finished interrogating Maggie and handed the case back to the magistrate with due respect. The magistrate asked Maggie to plead for leniency just as he did to Benjamin. I never knew Maggie could be that strong and speak so courageously like she had not wronged anyone. She was a woman of few words but alas, that day she spoke and her words really pierced my heart. She talked about the young children we had together, the amazing love she had been sourcing freely and unconditionally from me, she categorically mentioned that I was not only taking care of her but also her entire family depended on me, she was utterly sorry that the devil tempted her to jeopardize the best Godly given man who loved, cared and understood her. No other man would ever be compared with me. She ended her plea with kind of sincere tears.
I had already told Edah that I needed no compensation from Benjamin. Not even a penny! So when she was asked about what my intentions were, she stated the plain truth as I had already fed her. The response from my lawyer was quite deafening. Everyone went quiet and only darted eyes on me. Had it not been in a court of law, I would be dressed with terrible insults immediately. I am very certain they all expected a good response from my lawyer especially going by Maggie’s seemingly heartfelt apologetic plea.
The magistrate could not grant divorce there and then. Instead, he decided to give me some time to go and think about it further. We were told to appear again in court after fourteen days for the final judgment.
What do you think will happen next?