The pastor nodded as Changu narrated her story. The last time he saw her in church was two years ago when she asked for help for her wayward husband. Apparently she wasn’t happy with his advice because she stopped coming to church. As she spoke he studied her eyes and body language. She seemed to be hiding something but he waited for her to finish her tale.
He left on thursday and hasn’t been back home for two days, Changu clasped her hands in front of her face. Pastor, I know I haven’t been to church for sometime but I have nowhere else to go. Please help me, Changu cried.
He waited for her sobs to subside before he spoke.
Mrs Banda, why did your husband leave home, he leaned forward in his chair. Was there a quarrel before he left home, he asked.
Changu was silent.
She wasn’t going to tell the pastor the circumstances surrounding her present crisis. How could she tell him that an ng’anga gave her a broom with a powerful muti to bring her husband under her control, the muti worked as promised but now the broom was missing and so was her husband. Would this pastor understand her predicament, would he be able to relate with the fear she had to contend with, the fear that drove her to consult with an ng’anga in the first place. He would never understand her, how could he, she asked herself. She regarded him with disdain sitting on his revolving chair, clothed in his black robe and white collar, looking pious, like a man who had conquered his desire to sin, a man who could do no wrong. She looked at the floor and shook her head in bitterness. If she hadn’t followed her friend to consult the ng’anga she wouldn’t find herself in this position.
Why did your husband leave home, the pastor asked again.
Changu lifted her face. The rays of the sun bounced off the window on her face forming a soft glow. She exhaled deeply. The pastor moved closer to the woman before him looking contrite, expecting a confession from her.
I don’t know why he left home. Our marriage has never been better, Changu said.
The pastor reached for a glass of water before him.
Changu thought she caught a slight smirk on his face as he drank from the glass. He couldn’t possibly be mocking her, eating up her misery like a hungry motor-park tout downing mouthfuls of hot nshima, Changu thought. It was probably her guilt making her read negative meaning to his facial expression.
I don’t know why he left home, Changu said.
Let us pray, the pastor bowed his head.
Twenty minutes after Mrs Banda had left the church, the pastor was still in deep thought. He sensed a darkness surrounding Changu. It seemed like her husband was bound by some wicked entity. He couldn’t shake off the feeling that Changu was lying to him. For all he knew she could be responsible for her husband’s disappearance. He got down on his knees and yielded to the strong urge within him pushing him to pray for Mulenga Banda.
Changu regarded the phone ringing beside her. It was her friend Lucy. She ignored it, walked towards the open window and gazed aimlessly into the sky. Her visit to the parish priest had been a disaster. The man seemed to look through her soul. Somehow he knew she was lying but she couldn’t bring herself to tell him the truth about her husband and the broom. He prayed with her and adviced her to inform the police.
She picked up the phone and dialled her mom.
Changu, is everything okay, the older woman asked.
Mom, everything is not okay. Mulenga has not returned home since Thursday. I called his office, called all his friends but no one seems to know where he is. This has never happened before. I don’t know what to do, Changu said.
You know your husband likes visiting some bars in Olympia. Have you made inquiries in any of those places, her mother asked.
Changu exhaled. Mom, I don’t know all the bars he visits. Since we got married the only place I’ve been with him is club One at Arcades.
This is such a mystery. Have you considered the possibility that he went out of town to visit a lover, mama asked.
Changu was silent. Mulenga couldn’t do that. The power in the broom blinded him to the beauty of other women. Surely this couldn’t happen, or could it, she wondered.
She ended the call to her mother and sat down thinking. Something bothered her about the way her mom spoke on the phone. She seemed detached and unwilling to help. Was her mother hiding something from her, she wondered. There was only one way to find out. She got up and called the house help. The girl came and stood by the door.
We are going to see my mother. You and the baby are coming with me, Changu said.
Yes ma, the girl said with trepidation on her face.
Mulenga Banda laid back in bed. Yesterday was a blur. He didn’t remember what happened the last two nights. He remembered seeing a woman get up from the bed. He didn’t know who she was, where they met and why he was in her home. He heard her talking on the phone in the adjacent room.
The door opened and a light skinned woman entered the room. From his position on the bed the short black dress she wore revealed her long legs. She sat beside him on the bed and caressed his head. She smiled at him but her eyes were emotionless. How are you, she asked.
What is your name, Mulenga asked the beautiful woman.
She ignored his question. What do you want for lunch, she asked.
Mulenga wasn’t hungry. He wanted to know where he was, how he got here and most importantly, who this beautiful woman was sitting beside him on the bed.
The woman stood up and walked towards the door. Let me prepare something for you to eat, she said.
His eyes followed the swing of her hips as she left the room. He shut his eyes and slept off. He woke up to the smell of beef stew and rice. He sat up in bed and reached for the glass of juice on the tray beside the bed but his hands never made it to the glass. A strange sensation assailed his senses and his hand was suspended in motion. He turned towards the woman standing before him.
Mama, is that you, Mulenga asked as a force broke through the strange mist that held his mind captive. He shook his head vigorously to disentangle himself from the cobwebs of confusion. The woman was blurring before his eyes, becoming mama. He shook his head again and the apparition faded away. This couldn’t be happening, he thought. He was in Changu’s family home with her mother. He was in mama’s bed. What had he done with her, what happened in her bed, he wondered as a wave of nausea swept over him, making his mouth bitter.
Mama saw the look on Mulenga’s face and took a step backwards. Something was wrong. The two nights Mulenga slept in her bed he regarded her as a goddess. There had been a look of awe in his eyes as his hands roamed lustfully over her half a century old body. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever been with, he confessed to her. He serenaded her in song, calling her an enchanting flower. He had touched her in places she had forgotten even existed on her body.
Gone was the look of unbridled pleasure on his face when he touched her body last night. That look had been replaced by one of total revulsion. She watched in disbelief as he staggered out of bed, fell on his knees and vomited on the carpet.
Mama ran out of the room in panic. She had to get the broom.
The gateman opened the gate and Changu drove into the compound. She got out of the car, and entered the house. She heard some movement in the kitchen and walked in that direction. She got closer and heard her mother’s voice speaking in a strange manner.
Mulenga you are mine, to love me for the rest of my life, mama was saying.
She pushed the door to the kitchen with her right hand and it swung open slowly revealing her worst fears. Her mother stood in the centre of the kitchen waving the broom over her head like a juju priest presiding over a ritual. Her eyes stared wildly around her, not seeing Changu observing her.
Mulenga, you are mine and you shall obey me, mama invoked the demonic essence of the broom as she waved it over her head.
Changu recognised the broom and her feet became like lead, weighed down on the spot where she stood.
Mulenga rushed in behind his wife and bumped into her. She lost her balance, staggered into the kitchen and bumped into her mother. As Changu hit her, the broom flew out of mama’s hands and went out of the window. The elderly woman was carried by the momentum, hit her head against a kitchen cupboard and lost consciousness. Changu ignored her mother who was sprawled out senseless on the kitchen floor and ran out of the back door of the kitchen to retrieve the broom.
Mulenga still wondering what was going on went after his wife and found her standing with her hands folded on her head like a woman in mourning. He followed the direction of her gaze and saw the broom burning in a brazier left open at the back of the kitchen. There was crackling in the brazier as tongues of fire sprung up devouring the broom.
Changu shrieked, tore at her blouse, ripping it to bits like a WWF wrestler putting up a show. Then she ran. She ran past the brazier with the broom still burning in it. She ran past the house help carrying her baby. She ran past the car she parked a few minutes earlier. She ran past the gateman whose mouth hung open in utter bewilderment at the strange sight of her tattered blouse and partially exposed breasts. Then she ran out through the gate into the street.
Somebody stop her, Mulenga yelled, then he ran after his wife.
To be continued.