Katelyn sat on the rear balcony to blow off some steam. Tears washed down her cheeks and blurred her vision. Absent-minded, she kept twisting and trying to tear off a loose button on her sweater.
“Oh.” She snapped from her trance when the doorbell rang.
Someone—a maid, probably—answered. Then came footsteps, heading in her direction. And conversation. Martha. Katelyn cringed.
“Oh, no!” She buried her head in both hands.
Couldn’t she just be left alone? No one could console her, least of all Martha, a pretender and a gossiper.
“Hey, please don’t torture yourself.” Martha embraced her. “Katie, dear!”
Katelyn pulled the button free and put it in her pocket. She then moved Martha a chair.
Her lips trembled. “I just want to be alone.
“Sweetheart. Please allow me to be here for you. One needs a friend around at such moments.” Martha kept staring, which annoyed Katelyn even more.
I could be down, but I’ll not allow you to mock me.
But when she saw the look of remorse on Martha’s face, Katelyn believed she was genuinely sorry for her. This softened her and she broke into sobs. “What did I do to deserve this?”
“Honey!” Martha’s voice broke with emotion. “I know it’s tough but try to focus on the positives. Olivia has just passed her university exams with a first class.”
“I’m crushed. I no longer feel a woman. Everything in this house reminds me of her. Him. I—I can’t stop seeing them together. They even discussed me. It’s unfortunate that even Olivia reminds me of
her. She’d become family.” Katelyn wiped her eyes. “I cannot find within me the strength to support me.”
“You need to be strong for the children.”
“I keep hearing that, but… how about me? Yes, I love my kids and I’ll sacrifice everything for them. But how about me? Don’t I deserve to be happy too?”
“Dear, you hurt so much because you hinged your happiness on someone else. Nobody can give you happiness. It must come from within you. You had given him too much power.”
“But what’s marriage for, if not companionship?”
“Katie, you cannot trust men. They’re all the same, and any woman who trusts them is bound to suffer.”
Katelyn remembered Elizabeth’s words, now repeated by Martha. Despite her plight, she had trouble believing every man cheated. There must be good men out there and good marriages.
She hung her head. “So what’s the point of marriage then?”
“People judge me because I left my husband in the village to stay with my kids here. He was worse than Justin.”
“He’d sleep with our house girls. All of ’em.” Martha wiped her eyes carefully lest she smudged her makeup. “But time catches up. He’s now old and can’t lift a finger. D’you expect me to nurse such
a rascal? Hell no! My dear, leave Justin alone and find consolation in your children.”
Rose appeared in the balcony doorway with a bill in her hand. “Sorry ma’am, the milkman’s here.” She held it out to Katelyn. “Should I tell him to wait?”
Such bills would usually fall on Justin’s desk. But now that he wasn’t around, they would be her responsibility. Her sorrow was renewed, and she hated him sevenfold.
Her focus fell on the stool beside Martha. “Just leave it there.”
Rose followed the instruction and turned to leave, but Martha called after her. “Tell him to come back later.”
“He’s humiliated me before everyone—the workers, the kids... How do I look them in the eye? They feel sorry for me and I hate it. My children have become a mockery. It’ll be worse when they go back
Martha raised her eyebrows. “It’s not you who cheated. If anyone’s to be ashamed here it’s him, not you. He’s a coward and can’t take responsibility for his actions. That’s why he’s run away.”
Katelyn ran a finger through her hair. “I’ll make him pay for what he’s done.”
Before Martha could speak, Rose showed up again. “Sorry ma’am, the gardener says… um… he says the cow has just calved, and a veterinarian is needed to--”
“Please go away. Just leave me alone.” Katelyn flinched. “Let them do whatever they want. It’s not my cow. Don’t come back again.”
Katelyn’s chest heaved, and her throat closed. How would she ever manage? Justin had always taken care of everything. She should have paid closer attention to their monthly expenses.
“I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. Olivia keeps blaming herself for what happened. What a friend! A witch. A harlot. My own daughter’s afraid to look at me, and that’s not all...” Katelyn’s voice
“I understand, my dear,” said Martha. “But don’t allow such thoughts to affect how you see your daughter. It’s the devil planting such ideas in your mind. Seek comfort not in anyone, not even in
me… though I can assure you of my friendship. Seek solace in God.” Martha looked heavenwards.
Since when did Martha become spiritual? She must have uttered these words as mere clichés. Regardless, Katelyn got comfort listening to her friend and gratefully, she pressed Martha’s hand.
“You can always count on me. Dan must know a good vet around.” Martha fingered her phone. “Hey, we’ve got an emergency here at Katie’s home and need a vet like yesterday.”
After she finished with the call, Katelyn had slumped back to self-pity and abnegation. “It’s so humiliating. What has he said?”
“He’s sending someone.” Martha took a deep breath. “Don’t be ashamed of a mother’s highest aspiration—to be there for her children. This is what you’re doing and should be proud of yourself.”
Katelyn had known Martha to be fake with no depth but at this bitter moment, she hung on each of her friend’s words and didn’t want her to stop talking. She even dreaded the moment of Martha’s
“Thank you for everything,” she said, holding Martha’s hand.
Martha’s phone dinged, and she answered.
“Hello… you got one, Oh, thanks, my dear. I’ll see you tonight… the same place? K. Ciao.” She put her phone on the stool. “The vet is here.”
“Lemme tell Rose,” said Katelyn, rising to her feet.
“No. I’ll talk to her.” She gently pressed Katelyn’s shoulder back into the seat.
Left alone, Katelyn ruminated on Martha’s words. She liked what she’d said about forgetting him and concentrating on the kids. She must get a divorce. Then, make him suffer. Transfer the kids to
the most expensive schools. Triple the household expenses and live large. Basically, make child support fees as expensive as hell so he’d be left with peanuts to spend on Gisela.
“Oh, turns out… the vet wasn’t needed. The calf is jumping up and down.” She straightened her mini-skirt as she sat back.
Katelyn was about to speak when Martha jerked and turned as Olivia joined them.
She extended her hand to Olivia. “How are you, girl? You look gorgeous.”
“I’m good…” Olivia buried her thin hand in Martha’s palm. “Thanks for the compliment.”
It’s when she saw her daughter’s reluctance to speak that Katelyn remembered Olivia had mentioned her boyfriend was visiting.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetheart. Has he come?”
“Yeah,’’ said Olivia, blushing from ear to ear.
“K. Give us a few minutes.”
After Olivia had left, Katelyn pulled her seat close to Martha. “Justin’s the one who should’ve talked to this boy. What I’m I supposed to tell him?”
Martha took a tube of lipstick from her purse and glossed on the color over her lips. “Which boy?”
“Ryan. Ever since Justin left, he’s been Olivia’s comforter. But I wasn’t happy with her going to meet him out there. I hear he doesn’t even have a place of his own, so I don’t know where they’re
meeting.” Katelyn brushed a strand of hair off Martha’s sleeveless bodice. “God forbid… I pray she doesn’t get pregnant.”
“Ah, it’s good you brought it up. Though I’ve known him from his childhood, I don’t trust him. He was born out of wedlock and the mum died of HIV when he was still a small boy. You need to warn
Martha discriminated against Ryan for a fault not his own, something he couldn’t do anything about, and this softened Katelyn towards him. Soon, her children might face an almost-similar
fate—broken marriage. They too would be discriminated against. All the same, she too had reservations about Olivia dating such a guy.
“I’ll talk to her, but there’s only so much I can do. Matters of the heart are tricky. Justin has put me in an awful position. Wherever he is, does he even think of his children?”
“Forget ‘bout that asshole.’’ Martha leaned forward. “I should mention this, so you don’t hear it from somewhere else and wonder why I didn’t tell you.”
Katelyn’s eyes widened. “What is it?”
“Ryan has been meeting Olivia at my house… um… I’m afraid they’re getting so close.”
“’Oh, no.’’ Katelyn sighed. ‘’All this wasn’t happening when her dad was around… err… but I know my girl. She wouldn’t do anything stupid.”
“’I know, but, ah… she’s vulnerable at the moment and a boy like Ryan, with poor upbringing, can take advantage of her.”
Everything was turning topsy-turvy and Katelyn just couldn’t cope. She missed and hated Justin in equal measure.
But she had her misgivings. Why did Martha hate Ryan that much? Perhaps she had some beef with his dead mother or his dad. There was no way she could be so negative about such a young boy.
Furthermore, he was her son’s best friend.
“What was Ryan’s mum like?”
“Oh, such a bit**h… thought she was God’s gift to men.”
Now it all made sense. Martha must have been jealous of Ryan’s mother. But why extend the beef to an innocent boy? Katelyn didn’t have the luxury to probe further.
Katelyn followed Martha, whose stilettos clicked across the tile floor.
“Oh, Kenny, you’re also here,’’ said Martha, entering the sitting room and hugging her son.
When they had all settled down at the table, Olivia assisted Rose in serving tea, then sat next to Ryan and held his hand.
“I’m glad to meet you.” Katelyn forced a smile. “Of course we’ve met… but... um... not officially… you know what I mean.”
“Just call me Katie.”
After taking tea, Olivia pulled Katelyn aside.
“Mum, I have a request… but please say yes…”
“What is it?”
“Promise you’ll say yes?”
“Can’t promise before I know what it is.”
“Ryan has requested I go out with him tonight. I may come back late. Maybe past midnight?”
Katelyn swallowed hard and struggled to speak. She couldn’t help but think of Justin. Things would be different if he had been around.
© Copyright 2020 reaganwyatt. All rights reserved.