Wearing a white tight blouse, a red short skirt and bouncing on high heels, the tall lady with a big butt, plump thighs, trim waist, jutting breasts and long black dreadlocks, strolled into the pub. She stood provocatively with her behind to my view, facing the barman across the gleaming mahogany counter of the spacious room with a marble floor and glass walls clearly lit by numerous bulbs shinning red, green and yellow. Her gorgeous looks plunged me deep into the sweet abyss of infatuation.
I guzzled down Heineken while seated comfortably on a couch near the southern wall. I made sure never to lose sight of the woman. Often, I darted my tongue across my lips.
Fine dance hall music blared from the loud speakers, generating a wave of celebration among the imbibers and fun seekers. Some sat on couches or on high iron stools around the counter. Others stood, occasionally dancing to the tune of the music.
Club Paradise occupied the entire top floor of the Paramount House, a skyscraper in the larger downtown area dotted with taller silvery buildings. Immediately after the perimeter of the downtown, affluent neighbourhoods stretched to middle class suburbs that led out to densely populated slums and squatters and then, villages and forests.
A few people chilled out in Club Paradise, not that many others shunned the place, but they could not afford to drink there. The elegant pub was a haven for the rich and middle class. Patrons paid to enter. Prices for beer and other drinks were three times higher than the prices in most bars in the downtown and in locations. There was also a luxurious restaurant.
The lady wiggled her hips. Her big buttocks shook. The bottom of the short skirt swung up with the rhythmic movement of her buttocks, revealing her thick brown thighs.
With her seductive sexually arousing moves, I got lost in my strong feelings of desire for the woman. I involuntarily gave her an apparent long lustful glance. By the time I regained my senses to realise there were people around, the corner of my right eye caught sight of a man in black clothes near the eastern wall, staring at me hard. I did not care. Everyone needed to mind their own business.
I longed for women of her type. Unfortunately, they were hard to come by.
Now that I had finally spotted one, live at Club Paradise, I vowed to talk to that woman. I would dance with her and feel her.
Club Paradise was my favourite spot for my meals and drinking sprees.
They say life is too short. So, I felt I needed to make merry, enjoy life to the fullest with what I had before this haunting death swept me to the grave, swiftly as it does, without warning. After all, it had not been easy for me, the abandoned child and troubled street roamer, to become the popular newspaper journalist many people revered. Surely, I had to compensate myself.
There were more other attractive ladies in Club Paradise. But, like most of the fellow men, I focused on that woman in red skirt and white blouse.
Then she lowered herself a bit, the knees of her firm legs slightly bent sideways. In that stance, with her hands holding her kneecaps, her waist looked trimmer, her big butt protruded even more and her broad thighs were almost fully out of the skirt.
She broke into spectacular twerking, creating around her an aura of a skillful dancer, a carefree, happy and an unquestionably free woman.
Her buttocks and meaty thighs shook vigorously, pushing the bottom of the skirt further up.
The other men, perhaps ashamedly aroused to join the sexy lady on the dance floor, just stood watching her with their hands put in their trousers pockets.
Donning a white short-sleeve shirt, dark Jean trousers and black sports shoes, I sauntered toward the woman. I danced while skirting her and gazing up at her beautiful face.
She smiled. I held her right arm high. Together, we danced and spun.
We were having even more fun as people watched us. But, that hateful stare from the man in black attire was what I disliked. I led the lady out through the opening on the middle of the southern wall. I wanted us to be alone.
Standing near the barricaded edge of the wide balcony, far from people, I caressed her.
The twinkling stars underneath a clear sky seemed to be too close above us. Deep down under the vast sea of the numerous lit up bulbs, music could be heard, faintly. The bars were alive and active. It was during those months when it is hot and hardly rains. Every night, people came out in large numbers to have fun.
Someone tapped on a table behind me. I turned around. It was the man in black still staring at us, angrier this time.
With the lady crouched behind me, I watched the man advance closer. I pushed him away so hard that he wobbled backward and stumbled against the neatly arranged plastic chairs. He fell on his back on top of the chairs that now lay disorderly on the ground.
I went after him. With both hands, I squeezed his neck and pulled him up. I slapped his right cheek and threw him back on the chairs.
At the far-right side of the balcony, jolted drunkards sprung up to their feet, eager to stagger in our direction. Three male workers materialised. Before they even asked what had gone wrong and before more people flocked to us, the woman and I hurried into one of the lifts to the left.
A worker frantically waved us back. The lift gates shut before his furious face. We travelled quickly down to the ground floor and stepped out onto a courtyard strewn with posh cars. We drove away in the lady's Mercedes-Benz 450 GL into the thick of the downtown, far from Club Paradise and the gigantic Paramount House.
I thought she was a top-notch sex worker, living in such splendour by seducing gullible generous tycoons with her irresistible looks. I was wrong. The woman I came to know only as Suzie told me she was actually a wealthy business magnate herself, owning filling stations, shops and mansions.
We turned south, leaving a tarmac road that headed west. A huge metal gate slid open, showing a white mansion forty metres ahead. We drove in and parked the Mercedes-Benz in the open garage which directly faced the gate.
We walked to the verandah along the two large windows on the right side of the northern wall. Suzie opened the main door. We entered the wide sitting room with a black carpet on the floor, a big plasma television on the eastern wall and a classy green sofa along the western wall.
The house was eerily quiet. We turned right into a long corridor. Shuffling on the black carpet, we passed two doors on the left. Bath-rooms and toilets on the right. Our destination was the door on the far right just before the end of the corridor.
The self-contained master bed room was as big as the living room. Its floor was also covered with a black carpet. A king size bed, draped in white sheets and blankets, dominated the centre of the tidy room. There was a white couch along the western wall.
Suzie and I held tightly for a while, looking in each other's face and smiling. We kissed.
"I've liked you, woman," I told her.
My manhood rose of itself with the prospect that I was just about to shag such an attractive lady.
Suzie nodded and replied, "I'm as well overwhelmed with strong feelings of desire for you to make me happy".
I was excited with her open desire for me. So, all that shaking and twisting of her enormous knockout body in Club Paradise was meant for me to see?
Standing glued to Suzie in her bedroom, recalling my reaction towards her in the pub, I concluded that we must have been, probably, unsuspecting beneficiaries of love at first sight. We needed each other naturally.
I stroked her dreadlocks. My groping hands then went slowly down her trunk and settled on her hips. I pressed her harder against me.
Then I heard her story…
"I must have sex with her to make ourselves rich," the man told his wife for the umpteenth time, pointing at a little girl curled up in the southwest corner.
In the tiny sitting room of a single bedroom shack, dimly lit by a rusty paraffin lamp hanging from a nail on the western wall, the atmosphere tensed up among the three. Unwashed utensils and buckets lay scattered around a charcoal burner at the centre.
In the northeast corner was a quarter bag of maize flour. An almost empty bag of charcoal lay in the northwest corner and in the southeast one stood a wooden trolley packed with plastic cups and plates that had accumulated dust.
"Look, I don't need to repeat. You're too old to sleep with her. Leave her alone to make her own future."
"It's the witchdoctor who said I must have sex with that virgin to get rich. Are you happy that we are poor?"
"Aren't you ashamed? To hell with your witchdoctor. I insist, you'll not sleep with her."
"You see, it's just courtesy that I asked for your opinion. Otherwise, I'm the head in this house and whatever I say, is final."
"Work hard man or father your own girl to be doing that to her."
The man rose from the low stool fashioned out of a tree stump. His fingers pulled down the zip in front of his trousers.
"Just wait. I'll do it now while you're watching," he said, shifting toward the girl.
"No!" the wife protested vehemently, stepping between her husband and the frightened girl.
She pressed her hands against the two walls, shielding her daughter in the corner from her approaching predator.
The man was infuriated beyond measure.
"What's your problem?" he asked.
"Just try to do it to her. You'll see," the wife shot back.
Her heart beat fast and harder. She was panting with fury.
"But you can't deny me my right to acquire wealth just like that!" her husband shouted, pushing her away.
Commotion ensued. The two scuffled and dragged this way and that. They threw plates and cups at each other.
The girl sprinted to the door on the eastern wall. But it had been fastened in its shaky frame.
In Tinkho, people never intervened in such fights. They said couples sorted out their own family issues that way and later reconciled, sometimes, in a manner that would leave the interveners embarrassed.
The man grabbed his wife's neck with his left hand while slapping her cheeks using his right palm. He hoisted her up against a wall and repeatedly banged her head to it.
She fell down.
He pounded her further until she became unconscious, her limp body lying in a pool of blood. The girl wept. After flooring her mother, the stepfather, now had the freedom to defile her.
"Come here!" his deep voice shrilled out to the girl.
He brandished a knife.
With her back pushing against the quacking door, the girl pleaded with her charging stepfather.
"I'll cut your throat if you run."
The loose door finally broke open as the girl pushed it harder. She ran, her monstrous stepfather hurtling after her.
"Stop!" he shouted.
The girl screamed.
In the dark, through shacks and huts, the cat and mouse chase went on. The girl disappeared in a nearby bush, leaving her defeated stepfather fuming with anger.
Sitting naked on the bed, leaning against the cushioned headboard, Suzie narrated to me that heart aching story of her troubled childhood. She smiled.
"There is nothing pleasing about this," I told her.
"Why should I keep grieving over what occurred more than twenty-two years ago? My mother died fighting for my bright future and I'm glad I made it."
"She died?" I asked.
"I just assume so because I never returned home since that night. And my efforts to trace her whereabouts, sometime later, proved futile."
Suzie continued, "my stepfather was evil. He ill-treated us. He always came home drunk and rarely bought food. Mom sold doughnuts for us to survive."
I felt sorry for Suzie that she had gone through all that.
"By the way, how did you manage to come this far?" I asked, anxiously.
"Running away from my stepfather, I ended up in this huge city, loitering."
"What happened next?"
"One day, a British woman, I later knew as Sister Suzie Johnston of St Adam's Parish, took me to her place..."
"So, she christened her first name to you, Suzie is not your real name?" I cut her.
"Sure, my real childhood name is Baleke," she said.
She resumed, "I stayed under Sister Suzie's care in an orphanage in the parish. I went to primary and secondary schools right there. She later sponsored my economics degree and Master’s program in the United Kingdom."
"What a selfless white woman!" I exclaimed.
"A selfless woman indeed. I owe everything I've to her."
I nodded again.
"Just imagine," Suzie went on, "I've never looked for a job anywhere. Now back in the United Kingdom, Sister Suzie and her friends continue to support me with money to ran all the businesses I've started"
I congratulated Suzie for being lucky enough when hope seemed to have completely faded for her. When I told her my own story, she sobbed.
"That was too painful. At least, I was supported. You made it singlehandedly through all those hardships," she said, wiping her tears with a bed sheet.
"Have you ever had a husband before?" I asked her in a whisper, smiling.
"Seeing the horror my mother went through in marriage, I resolved that it's useless to have a husband. I love living like this, alone and free."
I chuckled at the matter of fact manner she had responded to my question. I tickled her. She laughed hard, twitching on the bed. We embarked on another session of touching and kissing.
At mid-morning, the Mercedes-Benz rumbled out of the gate. We turned right, cruising past brick and wire fences, trimmed hedges and flowers and Jacaranda trees surrounding great mansions.
Having moved two kilometres, we branched to the left. We travelled another two kilometres, reaching a four-lane road that headed east to the city centre.
Cars, big and small, sped to and from the downtown, honking and overtaking each other. It took us twenty minutes to reach the main six-lane highway which cut through the city centre from the north to the south.
We turned left. Through the windscreen, we could see the dominant Paramount House almost prickling the blue sky at the far northern horizon. It sparkled under the hot glare of the full morning sun.
We passed police, immigration and prison office complexes on the right. Four bank towers on the left.
Then we branched to the east. Magnificent shopping malls and restaurants lined the street. The government headquarters was further east after a roundabout.
Suzie wanted to drive me around so I could appreciate her businesses. We turned left and parked the Benz in front of Aunt Suzie’s Food and Drink. We alighted. Suzie, dressed respectably, walked ahead of me.
Suddenly, we stopped. The man we had an altercation with, in Club Paradise the previous night, stood on the balcony, glaring at us. He was still in his black clothes.
He strode closer, eying me down judgmentally as if I were the worst sinner on earth. I gestured at Suzie to stand behind me.
"Who are you?" I asked, pushing him away.
"Stupid boy," he pointed his forefinger at me.
He swaggered back to me, snarling like a beast. I whipped him down with my legs.
Workers and customers from the restaurants and passers-by watched the unfolding fracas excitedly.
The man tried to raise himself up. I kept pushing him down.
I knelt over him and grabbed the front of his shirt with my left hand. Using my clenched right fist, I pummeled his mouth. Suzie held me back.
"Leave him!" she pleaded.
The man sat up, looking up at me accusingly, breathing with difficultly and groaning. Blood gushed out of the corners of his partially open mouth, spilling down to his bearded chin. I turned away.
As Suzie and I edged our way back to the Merc through the noisy crowd, we heard the man just call out three times amid his loud sobs.
"Young man...young man...young man!"
After touring Suzie's enterprises the whole day and treating ourselves to a sumptuous dinner, we decided to spend the coming night at another pub, not Club Paradise. The night promised even more fun. Actually, during the season of outings, the lit streets were littered with night mongers. There used to be open air live-band performances. Bars stayed open overnight. Hooting cars, ferrying people from one place to another, zigzagged on the highways.
We circled a roundabout at the centre of the northern stretch of the main highway and turned west. There were Five Star hotels on both sides of the road. We branched to the right, moving along the eastern edge of a golf course. Far west, after the golf course, the white Presidential Palace loomed in the Cypress-pines.
Beer Garden was another top class drinking joint. We disembarked. The man in black was there with his swollen mouth, his eyes fixed on us. We retreated into the Mercedes-Benz.
Did he not have enough of my beating? We decided to avoid him. Back to the roundabout, we crossed to the eastern side of the highway.
Suzie drove slowly. We talked and laughed. There were five telecommunication buildings on the right. Then we passed two filling stations on the left and reached the Independence Square on the right, adorned with statues of national heroes.
After the square, we branched to the left, driving down along a compound of Indian and Chinese shops. Ahead, Devils Street welcomed us with a cacophony of music being played in several night clubs.
There was Paris, Little Havana, Stereo and Till Dawn on the left. City Hive, Casablanca, Money Talks and Real Fun on the right. Everywhere, men and half naked sex workers stood or busily walked in and out of the beer holes like ants. Cars were parked carelessly, leaving a narrow strip of the road to pass through.
We leaned against the Benz, just watching. The man in black attire emerged. He rushed through the spaces between cars, peering through the windows and on people's faces, apparently looking for us. He proceeded further north. From where we stood, we spotted him enter and come out of every pub. We left Devils Street.
Why was the man stalking us? What did he want?
He was much older, compared to Suzie and me, maybe in his mid-fifties. He was not good looking, seemingly, and probably was like that from his childhood. I very much doubted if Suzie might have been in a love relationship with the man at some point in the past for him to act so jealously towards us. In fact, Suzie denied having dealings with him or knowing him in any way.
Suzie and I agreed to stay away from the man by spending the next two nights at home. We would come out again on Friday night.
On Friday, the glittering buildings along the main highway seemed to hurl behind as the Mercedes-Benz tore through the orange glow of street lights. That very nigh, a dance competition was underway at Superior Arena in the south of downtown.
We reached the airport field which was on the left, stretching to the far east. Superior Arena was to the right, a hundred metres from the highway. We could see the main entrance and hear the noise of patrons cheering inside.
We left the Merc among the other cars, paid our entry fee and went in. Suzie, on high heels, looked stunning in her green short skirt and white tight blouse.
The arena was an oval architecture with covered slanting stands. People sat on the yellow chairs fixed to the floor, gazing down at the decorated busy stage at the centre.
Walking side by side down an aisle, people turned to look in awe at Suzie's superb body structure. Her exposed well-built thighs left most of the men grappling with lust. Envy registered on their faces, particularly, when they saw me holding the hand of a lady endowed with such appealing attractiveness.
We found space on the front row. We sat relaxed, enjoying ourselves.
On the stage, scantily dressed ladies of different heights and shapes, with their male counterparts, rigorously bent and moved their flexible bodies to the loud music. Fans ululated, whistled and clapped.
Suzie wanted to visit the toilet. I led her through an opening on the left and then into a long hallway to the right. On our return, the man in black stood before us, defiant.
I pushed him off. He came back, blocking our way. I thrust my right fist to punch in his face. He ducked. I wanted to slash him down. He jumped, my right leg swooping under his feet.
That aggravated my anger. I would bludgeon the man to death. I looked around. There was not even a single plank.
I pounced on him. Our arms interlocked. We wrestled. I held his neck, dragged him to the wall and pressed him hard against it. Suzie slapped the man while I insulted him at the top of my voice.
I hit his head against the wall, once. He shrieked in pain and lifted his arms in surrender.
"Cool down young man, lest you kill an innocent soul who matters to you," he begged.
I loosened my grip. For the first time, I pitied him.
"Why are you following us?" I demanded loudly.
"I thought you could be patient, keen, observant and wise enough to understand my actions."
"But just two mannerless creatures, blindly obsessed with satisfying your insatiable lusts."
Suzie and I listened. We let the man speak.
"I forgive you, for you are little children acting out of utter ignorance."
"Meaning?" I asked, irritated by his winding speeches.
"Moses and Baleke, you've let me down," the man said, bitterly.
"How did you know our childhood names?" Suzie and I chorused, startled.
"Thirty years is indeed a long period. I'm not surprised you've grown up like this," he spoke in a low voice, sizing us up.
"Who are you?" I screamed.
He laughed, sarcastically.
"You're my own children."
"It can't be!" we protested.
"My father abandoned..."
"I'm your father. Listen to me!" he cut me.
"Yes, I abandoned you when you were a two-year-old boy. I impregnated your mother before I left."
"I met your mother again some months later without you when she gave birth to Baleke. Sadly, I dumped her again with the baby girl."
Suzie and I shook our heads in self-denial.
"I must apologise for the misery I inflicted upon you. I reunited with your mother years later, after her neighbours saved her from dying at the hands of a cruel man. She will be filled with joy to see her live and healthy children."
Suzie cried. I did not know how to react.
Faint memories of my earliest childhood playing with my father came to my mind, but I found it hard to believe he was that man facing me. Perhaps, after so many years, he might have inevitably changed.
Where was he all that time? Why, in the first place, did he present himself to us in a violent manner?
I turned left, quickly passed along the gents’ toilets and burst out through the back exit. A watchman yelled. Suzie run after me, weeping.
Wanangwa Zondani Mtawali is a Malawian journalist and short story writer. A product of the Malawi Institute of Journalism, he works for Joy Media Group as a staff reporter based in Mzuzu. He has had short stories published in Malawi's main weekend newspapers, The Weekend Nation and The Sunday Times. His stories also appear on authorme.com and africanwriter.com. Wanangwa enjoys writing, reading and taking walks.