They allowed the artifices of the human hand to take them in as they beheld the flowers that welcomed them not to the city they knew so well

By Nhamo Muchagumisa

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Martha did not attend her sister’s funeral. She was not only full with Tichada’s baby, but also in a critical condition. The prospect of her leaving hospital alive was almost zero. Tichada did not allow his thoughts to over dwell on his pending loss because in Whitney he had already lost someone who had meant everything to him.

Whitney had been the only certainty in Tichada’s life until the tricks of a mad romance, hatched from ployful scheming, found him taking Martha as his wife instead of Whitney.

Hardly had he started training his heart to treasure the sweet compromise he had been forced to make had Whitney succumbed to acute complications caused by her long battle with anaemia .

Tichada’s tears kept flowing. Fellow mourners,who did not know the story behind Whitney and Tichada’s story, started whispering among themselves, how the death of a sister-in-law would affect him so deeply.

He shed the silent tears of genuine pain, no sobbing, unless he was responding to someone passing a condolence, no wailing at all. The darkness that sat on his face was louder than the occasional wailing of fellow mourners each time a close relative joined the mourning crowd.

 

 

The flood of mourners that overwhelmed Mr and Mrs Tarwiwa’s yard was nothing in magnitude compared to the agony Tichada suffered. The remains of the other half of the life he had hoped to live was cold in the casket, awaiting the hearse that would ferry it to the proverbial resting place.

Tichada had had a long relationship with Whitney which would have passed for a classical romance. It had all started when Whitney had visited Tichada’s workplace as part of the technical team dispatched by her employer, Netpack, to install cyber equipment at his workplace.

The young CEO had been impressed by Whitney’s knowledge of the e-world, as Tichada loved to call electronically driven communication systems. Since their offices were in the same proximity, Tichada and Whitney started meeting for lunch and let the warmth of each other’s company clear their minds of the routine worries of the modern world.

On several weekends, they would just meet for a soft drink at Meikle’s Park. It was on one such meeting that Tichada heard himself saying the first sincere love word he had ever said to a woman, followed by the sudden tightness of the skin on his face as Whitney turned to look him straight in the eye.

Tichada had never felt how the two had been sitting so close to each other on the park bench. Her face, so close to his, turned into a dictionary of rejection words before slowly relaxing into a smile that seemed to ask Tichada to say more.

It was a great relief to Tichada when Whitney finally said something. “You will soon realise that you loved me more before you said the word. I..,” Whitney said, her smile slowly fading away.

“How, my Dear? If I keep the word to myself, how would you know that you are so treasured?” Tichada interrupted her.

“Have we not sat side by side on this bench on several occasions? Have we not toured the streets of Mutare, just for the delight of each other’s company? Do we not sleep after midnight, exchanging messages on WhatsApp? Then if I were to ask myself what treasure I have, my answer would be ‘a heart that desires the attention of another heart, in fine weather, in drizzly weather or in stormy weather.’ “

 

 

“You sound too poetic and evasive too. All I want to hear is you saying ‘love you too’.” Tichada said placing the palm of his hand in hers.

“Love you too,” she said, freeing her hand of his.

“Forever?” he asked.

“Forever,” she echoed, placing the palm of her hand in his as he had done a moment before.

Clumsy parting words followed these romantic exchanges. Tichada’s horizons began to shrink as his thoughts revolved around his relationship with Whitney, the long Whatsapp chats, her much desired company, the long hugs, the occasional silence that made sweetness sweeter when broken. The hotel rooms and the warm nights in each other’s arms.

“I do not want to start a thing I will regret my Dear,” Tichada said one day as they sat in the back seat of a taxi, driving up Christmas Pass.

“Then do not do it,” Whitney said teasingly.

“But I am already deep in it. We have been together for a year now, but I dread the moment you will say goodbye,” Tichada maintained his serious tone.

“You speak not the words. Your madness speaks out for you. Why would I say goodbye?” Whitney said light-heartedly.

“Then let us marry,” Tichada said.

 

 

They came to a decorated place upon which flowers had been planted to spell “WELCOME TO MUTARE”.

They alighted from the taxi and the driver drove back to MUTARE. They allowed the artifices of the human hand to take them in as they beheld the flowers that welcomed them not to the city they knew so well, but to the new world of their consenting hearts.

Tichada and Whitney exchanged their vows upon the mountain. The confessions of constant hearts were made airborne, away from the crowd of witnesses that characterised the old tradition.

“Are we not husband and wife now?” Whitney asked.

“We are, but what is left is the involvement of our parents.”

The great day came and Whitney was presented to Tichada, clad in a white cloud of foaming lace. But when it came to the signing of the nuptials, Whitney presented herself as Martha Tarwiwa, and her identity card said the same.

 

 

It was the first small surprise in their relationship and Tichada did not want to make a big issue out of it. He had asked for the formalisation of their relationship so why worry now?

Whitney and Tichada did not drive in the same vehicle to the five star hotel for their honeymoon. His in-laws had insisted that the separate journeys were symbolic of the life to come. Husband and wife do not always share the same space, but there was always a fixed meeting point.

When Tichada came to the hotel, he was ushered to his hotel room by a charming young hotel attendant. When he got into the room a woman leapt into his arms, as exquisitely composed as Whitney, but a little taller and lighter in complexion.

At first Tichada thought that it was the red and purple glow of the lights of the room that were deceiving him. But the scent her body exuded was not Whitney’s. He freed his body from her embrace and turned on the normal lights and the red and purple lights automatically switched off.

 

 

Once again the Whitney-like woman locked him into her embrace. “I know you are surprised, shocked even, “ Tichada’s real wife finally spoke, “I am Whitney’s younger…”

“Martha,” Tichada interrupted. “This is a scandal. I will take court action.”

“You need to listen a little sweetheart. Whitney is terminally ill. She is anemic and her red cell count often drops drastically. She goes for blood transfusion every four months,” Martha explained.

“But that is no reason for you to snatch her husband, “ Tichada said angrily.

“When you proposed marriage to her, she immediately told me that she had found a good man for me. We are very close and hide nothing from each other. She never wanted the man she loved so much to become a widower within a year or two,” Martha explained, the wetness in her voice betraying the pain she felt for her sister.

“How about the things I did with her?” Tichada asked not sure if he was feeling sorry for Martha or Whitney.

 

 

“You will do with me,” Martha said. “In this country, there was a tradition, now defunct, of giving away the wife’s younger sister to her brother in-law when her sister passed on. My sister has done that in anticipation, with my parents’ blessing.”

Tichada did not need to ask “how about mine”. He went back to the switch and turned on the red and purple lights. If he truly loved Whitney, he needed to acknowledge her gift. After all his experience was different from that of Jacob with Leah. Martha was her sister’s twin beauty.

Back to the funeral, Whitney was transported from her parents’ Darlington residence to Yeovil Cemetery in the late afternoon. Tichada had visited Martha in hospital before the convoy of cars left Darlington for Yeovil. Her condition was much better.

A few hours after Whitney’s burial, Tichada received a call from the hospital. His marriage had been blessed with a baby girl.

“Call her Whitney,” he replied.

 

Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263771271478 Email him at: muchagumisan@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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