Changu hesitated at the entrance then she bent low and looked at the ng’anga who sat before a fire fuelled by small sticks, muttering some incantations, looking around the hut as if having conversations with some invisible visitors. Changu entered the hut with trepidation. The old man looked into the small fire that burnt before him. The burning sticks made crackling noises and small sparks jumped out of the conflagration like insects.
Why are you here, the witch doctor asked in an angry tone. He lifted his head and her heart jumped as she looked into his bloodshot eyes. She felt her legs buckling under her and she fell on her knees. The broom has disappeared, she cried. I kept it well hidden but I don’t know how it was stolen from my house.
You say the broom was stolen, the ng’anga asked. Are you sure that was what happened, the man inquired looking sternly at the woman. The broom must be found and brought to this shrine for the muti to be done on it again.
Baba, how will I find it? I’ve looked everywhere in my home but it is not there. If I ask my friends about it they may discover my secret and hate me because of it. Please help me. What should I do to find the broom, she asked.
The witch doctor made some incantations while Changu looked on. He stopped and raised his head. You must find the broom in the next three days. If you don’t find it and return it to me in three days something terrible will happen, the man said, shaking his head.
A cold chill descended on her as she listened to the witch doctor.
Long after after Changu had left his lair, the ng’anga was still looking into the burning embers of the small fire before him lost in thought.
Where did you keep the red box you took from my wardrobe, Changu asked her friend Lucy as she searched her wardrobe like an FBI agent searching for incriminating evidence in the home of a Mexican drug lord. Shoe boxes were strewn around the bedroom. Lucy stood in shock wondering what had happened to her friend. Changu, I didn’t take any red box. These are all the shoes I took. I made sure your maid counted the boxes before I took them away. If I had taken a red box don’t you think your maid would have seen it, she asked her friend.
Changu stopped rummaging and turned to Lucy. I don’t know what you want from me. I give you my friendship, I help you whenever I can, I buy you clothes and shoes when I travel, isn’t that enough to show that I care about you, Changu asked breathing hard like a pregnant hyena. But you entered my wardrobe and took what didn’t belong to you. Wherever you hid this box, you must bring it out or our friendship will be over, Changu threatened her childhood friend.
Lucy tried to get through to her friend. Changu, you are acting very strange. Is everything okay, she asked. I am grateful for your friendship but I don’t like the way you are acting. You are scaring me, Lucy said looking at her friend.
Just then Changu raised the mattress and looked under the bed. She put the mattress down and turned to her friend. So after all I have done for you and your family, is this how you repay me, she asked. I beg you Lucy, please tell me where the red box is and I will forget that this never happened. I will forget that you entered my home and stole something precious from me. Where is the broom, she asked with outstretched arms. If you refuse to give it to me I will have you arrested for stealing from me, maybe then you will bring out the red box from wherever you hid it, Changu threatened her friend.
Tears fell from Lucy’s face as she felt the relentless barrage of Changu’s tongue. She went down on her knees crying. Changu you hurt me deeply with your accusations. I only took shoes from your room, nothing more, Lucy said. She wiped the tears from her eyes and lifted her head. Changu, what’s in this red box that you are so afraid that I took it, Lucy asked her friend. What are you hiding in that red box.
Changu was silent. If she told Lucy what was in the red box she will never trust her again and their friendship would be over.
Answer me, Lucy raised her voice. You are not leaving my house until you tell me what you hid in that red box.
Changu said nothing.
Mama placed the red box on a table before her. The maid she brought from the village had done well, mama thought. She knew something wasn’t right when her daughter’s husband Mulenga stopped drinking and started coming back home early. Not that she wasn’t happy for her daughter but the transformation was too sudden, too fast, too easy. No man can change his ways that easily unless a muti was involved. She told the house help to spy on her daughter in her home and report back to her. One day the house help found Chungu returning the red box to the wardrobe and reported it to mama. The house help waited for an opportunity to steal the box. As soon as Lucy left, she entered the room, searched for the red box, put it in a bag and dropped it at a nearby shop where mama picked it up.
Mama looked at the red box and sighed deeply.
She suspected that whatever was hidden in the red box was the secret behind her daughter’s new found power over her husband. What was it that could subdue a man like Mulenga Banda and make him stay at home instead of wandering from one bar to another at night, she mused. Since her husband died five years ago from a heart attack her home had lost its vibrancy, her bed had become cold. She had not felt the fingers of a man gently caress her skin and stir up emotions in her. She yearned for companionship and what was in this box could be the solution to her problems.
She removed the cover of the box, gasped and stepped back. What was that, she wondered. She reached inside the box and found a broom wrapped with a red cloth. As she touched the broom a strange feeling overwhelmed her. She shut her eyes and savoured the emotions surging through her body. Time passed. She opened her eyes. Looked around the room and saw the broom in her hand. She tried to return the broom to its place in the red box but it wouldn’t leave her hand. She shook her hand vigorously but it seemed stuck to her hand. Her eyes had a strange glow like a child unwrapping her birthday gift. Suddenly she held up the broom and started laughing. She laughed from the insides of her belly which made her belly bounce up and down. She laughed like a woman who just witnessed the downfall of her arch nemesis. She laughed until her sides hurt and tears fell from her eyes. Her laughter was uncontrollable like a woman who had gone completely crazy at noonday in the centre of the marketplace. She laughed until she was spent and sat down on the floor. After a few minutes she dropped the broom on the floor, looked around the room, found her phone and called Mulenga her son in-law.
Hello mama, Mulenga answered.
Mama spoke slowly and deliberately. You are mine. You belong to me. You will pack your belongings and leave that house immediately. Your place is not with that woman. Your place is with me.
But Changu is my wife, your daughter. I can’t leave her, Mulenga protested.
Mama ignored his protest. You are mine. You will love me until the day I die. You shall never desire another woman but me. And from this day onward you shall do as I say, mama said in a commanding tone.
To be continued.