It had been about two months since Ben had moved into her house and Tendai was still not used to his presence. His arrival had created a lot of problems in her schedule as he seemed determined to undermine everything she did with the children and disturb the perfectly messy timetable they had. Since she was dealing children, her timetable was never as strict and ordered as she would have liked but it was their timetable and she could usually handle any new changes, in fact, she anticipated most of them. His interference though was making life really hard for her. It was as if he had to be seen and had to be heard at all times and instead of looking for his own time to interact with the children, he seemed determined to infringe on hers.
At first, Tendai had told herself to be patient with him but it had just gotten so ridiculous and being around him made her so mad she had ended up giving up her time with the children just to avoid being around him. His insistence on being difficult made it hard for her to forgive him and let go of the past, how could she when at every turn and every moment he did something and said something that showed his all-out lack of respect for her? Telling herself every day that the battle was the Lord’s and not hers did not seem to be helping much because even as she was thinking the words, he would do something else stupid and she would get angry at him all over again. Could anger and forgiveness exist together in the same person in the same situation? How do you forgive someone who seemed to be making it his life mission to make you enemy number 1?
A thought would usually come in her head that forgiveness is not about the other person and what they have done to earn that forgiveness, it was just about her making the decision to do so based on God’s love. And while that was a nice and Godly sounding thought, it was kind of unrealistic. No human could do such a thing, which is why she should have been giving it to Jesus but what did she do in the meantime whilst waiting for the forgiveness to take root…or whatever it was supposed to do. What would she do in the mean as she waiting for His peace to reign in her heart and for the anger to just go away, especially when Ben inspired a whole lot of new anger every day? The account that held all her anger towards him was filling up even more instead of depleting, things were getting worse instead of getting better.
One sure example that things were getting worse instead of getting better was that she hardly ever wanted to be in the same room with him, whenever he entered a room, she would leave. She also would not accept passing him by in the corridor, whenever she saw him coming in the way she was going or wanted to go, she would always take a detour, no matter how pressed on time she was. She refused to drive in the same car with him and so had started leaving for church earlier just so she wouldn’t have to be in the same vehicle with him. She knew it was extreme but in her mind, it had to be done. She had also taken to sleeping only the morning when the children had gone to school and Joy was in the house and with her door firmly locked. She couldn’t lock her door at night because what if the children needed her, during the morning she could catch a few hours of sleep.
Obviously, this was playing havoc on her sleeping hours and she was constantly tired because of lack of enough sleep but she could not deny that her business benefited from it. Because most of her clients her international, she was able to spend her nights and early morning hours interacting with them and getting a head start on all her projects while seeking new ones. Looking over the past two months, the one thing that had benefited and grown with the arrival of Ben was her business but everything else was suffering. She was constantly tired and feeling sleepy and she was tense from always being on the lookout for what he was about to do next and how to avoid him. Also if she was, to be honest, all his nasty remarks and every judgment he passed against her was beginning to take a toll on her emotional state.
What she really hated though was that she was no longer spending as much time with the children as she used to before, and when she did spend time with them it was usually tense and awkward as she had taken to snapping at them and so they have started changing how they acted around her so as not to anger her. Tendai could clearly see that things were not going well but she did not know how to fix things and it just caused her more frustration and anger towards him. And if she was, to be honest, it was affecting her fellowship with God too because at times she just did not have the energy to keep up with her quiet time and worship time, and at other times she just felt too ashamed to do it as the guilt and self-condemnation for the way she was behaving got to her.
Her behavior had gotten so ridiculous that she was averse to touching things she knew he had recently touched. How did she expect that to be sustainable when they lived in the same house and used the same doors, same furniture, and the same utensils? Or worse still, how long was she going to go without kissing the children and hugging the children when she was aware that he had just done so himself? How could she hesitate on kissing her children because he had just done it? Tay was pretty ashamed of her behaviour and she hated herself now and that just made her even more mad at him. She was turning herself into this person she hated because of a man, how far had she fallen?
Shaking her head at her own foolishness, Tay shut down her laptop and grabbed her phone. It was Saturday morning and weekends were always the hardest for her because she could only get a couple of hour of sleep in the early morning so she could be up in time to take care of the children. If she was fortunate enough to find another hour or two during the day she would also take advantage of that but she could not sleep during the morning as she would do during the week. Today she had managed to grab four hours of sleep, which was more than she usually got, but she was still feeling pretty tired and beyond checking her emails to see if any of her clients had written to her, she just could not stare at the laptop any longer.
There did not seem to be anything to do anyway since she had finished all the jobs she had way ahead of schedule. Instead of looking for something new and getting a new client right now maybe she needed to take a break and do other things. Maybe instead of spending time looking for more work to do, she could try to figure a way to spend some time with the children where Ben would not be able to interfere. And she also needed to practice and enhance her skills as she had not done a lot of that lately, if at all. She knew the next guaranteed jobs she would be getting would be in two weeks time from some regulars and she could afford to take a week off before she went searching for more work. Maybe if she worked on some personal pieces she could post on Instagram and gain some new followers and maybe even get new clients through there.
Having already had her morning shower, she headed to the kitchen scrolling through her Instagram to see what other people had been posting and to see if she could find some inspiration for some personal work. Upon seeing her friends’ pictures, she wished she was still with them and had not moved back home. She immediately dismissed the thought though because while her work Visa could have allowed her to stay longer, uncle Andy’s tenure in the USA had ended and she had opted to return home with him and tete Angie. Sometimes she would wonder what would have happened if they had not moved back, maybe her aunt and uncle would still be alive. She knew though that was just wishful thinking because a car accident could have happened in any country. Maybe moving back home had been God’s way of protecting them from other things that could have happened in the States.
Unlike what she had heard people say before, Tendai did not believe that the accident that had taken their lives was from God. She had heard people say that before and always made sure to teach the children otherwise. She hated that they were gone though, and she occasionally wondered what life would have been like if they had all been able to stay in the States, or at least if they had survived that accident. She often wondered too what would have happened if she had accepted their invitation to go out with them that night? Would she have died too? Or would she have somehow influenced them to miss the time impact so that they would all survive?
Shaking off the thought, Tendai liked a few more pictures before she put her phone away. There was no point in following what her former friends were doing. It was a sad reality that she had lost touch with most of them and her only real friends were the children, who of course she was also now in danger of losing because of her behaviour. She wanted to blame it on Ben, but that was really not how she did things, she had to face the reality that she had made some choices on how to react to Ben and had let him cause her to alienate herself from her only friends. Even though she had been back in Zimbabwe for three years now, she somehow had not made any friends yet. Maybe it was the nature of her job and her clientele or maybe the grief she was experiencing, but whatever the case, she had no close friends.
During her first year back, she had been so focused on helping her aunt with Joseph who had still been a baby then and she just had not had the time to make friends. And afterward, she had been dealing with the loss of two of the most important people in her life; and then with the pain, her marriage had caused. So all this time she had been shouldering so much pain on her own and she was now just so exhausted. All she had was Jesus and she knew that He was enough but somehow she just could not connect with Him. He came to heal the brokenhearted, so why did it feel as if her heart was shattering even more as the days passed? She knew He loved her, so why couldn’t she feel a thing, why was she not feeling the love? How was her heart supposed to heal when it could not even feel a little of His love?
Sighing deeply, Tay finished making her cup of tea and decided to start on breakfast. The children would be up soon and she usually felt better when she had done their meal preparation before she did anything else on Saturdays. She could hear Joy cleaning in the lounge and popped in to say hi before she went back to her meal prepping. When she was about to open the fridge, she saw a sticker she had bought the year-earlier written ‘Worship First.’ She turned and looked at her phone which was right now playing music, just not the worship kind. For a while now she had taken to listening to loud music that would distract her from her normal life and shut down the thoughts in her mind. She had created a playlist of the loudest music she had on her phone and none of it was worship or praise. And instead of listening to the worship playlist she would usually have listened to, she had been playing this mindless loud music since Ben had arrived. Her worship time had suffered as a result.
Deciding to do something she had not done in a while, she began to play worship music on her phone and started praying as she did the preparations. At some point she saw Joy pop her head in and look at her before she disappeared, paying no mind to it, she kept on praying and occasionally singing along to the music that was playing. When Joy popped in again to say she was going to get the children cleaned up, Tay decided that no, she would do it instead. If she going to go back to the way she used to do things, she would also have worship first with the children in the morning as they got cleaned up. She was sure they missed it as much as she did and right now was the time to get back into it, maybe she might get a few more minutes in where she spending time with the children and actually enjoying it.
With most of the meal prepping done, she carried her phone and kept on singing and praying as she went to check on the children. It had been a couple of weeks since she bathed them as she had taken to letting Joy do it after Ben had moved in. This was because she had found them playing with Ben early on a Saturday morning twice in a row and she had felt sidelined and just could not take it. Deciding to go into the bathroom first to set things up, she was surprised to find Chipo and Rumbie already in there waiting for her. She realized at that moment how much she had been depriving them of their time with her as well and made a decision at that moment that no more would she ever do that again.
Smiling at Chipo, she began to sing even louder and the three of them began to have a mini worship jam in the bathroom just enjoying their time together. When she was finished with Rumbie, she had Chipo call in the boys and again she sang with them and they just enjoyed themselves. She felt a little bit like a monster when at first the children seemed hesitant as if they did not want to get her mad but they soon joined her and the morning was rescued. After bath time was over, the party carried on to the kitchen and she got to spend time cooking with the children, something she had not done for over a month now.
Tendai enjoyed herself so much that when Ben entered the room, she ignored him and carried and as she had been doing. She noticed though that while Chipo and Joseph stayed with her and continued on with her, the others went to him and started talking to him. Though she felt a sharp pain in her heart for the loss of her children to her number one enemy, Tendai ignored it all and continued as she was before. She refused to lose this precious time she had with Chipo and Joseph, she was going to make the most of it. They were her children and she was their mother, she needed to start acting like it.
Tendai then realized something she had forgotten over the last two month, Chipo and her siblings were the only children she was ever going to have. Her tete Angie had fertility issues and it had taken her years to have her children, and even then it had been through IVF. The IVF itself had not been a walk in the park either, it had taken so many rounds of IVF before her family had been formed. Tendai remembered her aunt telling her that taking her in was not an act of charity, it was an act of selfishness, not just by keeping a piece of her brother, but also because it gave her a chance to be a mother, even if for a just a little while. She had never thought she would ever get the chance to be a mother for real.
It was within the first year of her staying with her aunt and uncle that auntie Angie got pregnant with Chipo and did not lose the pregnancy. Against the Doctor’s advice, because of her advanced age, she also had two more round of IVF and did not lose any of those babies either; Tino and Rumbie had been born one after the other. Joseph though had been a surprise, their true miracle baby, one conceived and born naturally, again, against the advice of medical practitioners. For her aunt, getting rid of the baby had not been an option after she had lost so many before. And she always used to say being a mother was making her younger and younger with each child.
She had also instilled in Tendai the responsibility of being a mother to the four children and Tendai realized that if she kept on down the path she was going, she would not live up to the promise she had made to her aunt. She had been a mother to these children from the day they were born, and she going to continue to be that until the day she died. It was the unspoken and unwritten agreement she and her aunt had lived by, in the beginning, it became their way. Yes, her uncle and aunt had taken care of her as they would have a daughter, but to the children, she had always been a second mother and not a cousin. And when she had realized that her aunt also wanted it that way, she had poured all her heart into that role because she had just been so thankful for what they had done for her.
So while she was probably never going to have any children of her own, these four were hers and they were enough. She was not as brave as her aunt had been to got through IVF so she wasn’t even going to try it. It was expensive anyway and she would rather spend her money on her four children than to try and try again until something caught on. Fertility issues ran in all the females of her family and she had gotten tested before to see if there was a chance it might have missed her but results had shown she was even worse than her aunt had been. So she had settled it in her heart that the closest she would ever come to become a mother unless she adopted, was through her tete’s children. What she had not realized though, was that it would be her tete children that she would be adopting. She had not been prepared for that one at all.
Looking at Ben from the corner of her eye, she wondered what Ben would do if he found out that he had been tricked into marrying a woman who could not give him children?
The moment that thought registered, Tendai had a striking realization and she stood still in the middle of the kitchen and even stopped singing. What she hadn’t anticipated though was that she would let go of the cup that was in her hand and the sound of the breaking cup was not enough to snap her out of her shock. With shaky hands, she knelt down on the ground and started to pick up the pieces but immediately cut herself and she lifted up her hand and just stared at, it still in shock. In took her a moment to realize that someone was speaking but the sight of her blood, which was also beginning to make her dizzy as she did not handle the sight of blood well, had her captivated. She wondered why she couldn’t feel the pain.
In another moment, she noticed that Ben was in front of her saying something but she couldn’t hear a word. In her mind, all she could think was that she had lied to him. She had been so angry at him all this time to try and hide the fact that she and her family had lied to him. Sure he did not want her or love her in any way, but what would happen if he realized that she could not give him any children. If he already felt trapped into marrying her before, what would he think when he realized that she was incapable of giving him a son or daughter of his own? Sure they already had children that came with their marriage but would he not want at least one of his own? Did not most men want their own child?
All this time, all the hate, all the animosity towards him, it had not just been because of how he acted, it had also been because she was a failure. Suddenly her mind was filled with all the mean words that had been said about her when her mother and father died. While some had wanted her to get a job at 17, other had suggested she get married. She had been too young for marriage but even after she had turned 18 the suggestion had still been made. There been one thing stopping them though from making the decision, they suspected she would not be able to conceive, so what man would want to marry her? Suggestions had been made to marry her off to an older man who had no need for more children or that they would just refrain from telling her future husband that she useless and could not give him a family.
She had even heard whispers on the day of her wedding that the only reason Ben must be marrying was that she had not told him the truth…and they were right, she hadn’t. No man would ever marry her or really love her because she could never give them family. Being a modern day woman, Tendai knew she was overreacting and that was not, in fact, true but years of slurs from people and whispered statements of pity for her not being a ‘true woman‘ had left their mark. That moment, in her state of shock, she let all the words and feelings she had bottled up and ignored flood her mind and all she could think was that she was not enough, she would never be enough, who could blame Ben for the way he treated her?
Maybe that is why her family hated her, maybe that is why he hated her. What other reason could there be for their cruel treatment? It had to be the fact that she was, as she had heard people call her, incomplete. Someone at the wedding or maybe after it must have told them it was probably why he had left her soon after without even telling her. Ben knew that he had been lied to, and she did not blame him for hating her. Or maybe they had told him after he had left? She remembered that comment the first night in the house when he had asked her if she was trying to replace tete Angie, she should have known then that he probably knew. Otherwise, why would he ask that?
Why had she been so blind to it all?
‘Forgive me,’ she thought.
With that last thought, everything went blank.