“What were you like growing up?” I asked. The bot match ended early because one of the bots that was supposed to be part of the match had technical issues. Me and Kuleza just ended up walking until we reached Ufulu park. These last two months I had been to several bot matches because I finally someone to go with.
“I was spoilt. My parents were rich and absent. So they gave me everything I wanted and then some.” Kuleza replied, his eyes glued to the wet grass. It had rained the day before.
“Were?” I glanced up at him. I thought his eyes were on the grass but they had moved to me. Our eyes met. He had beautiful rosewood eyes. I looked at the grass beneath the bench.
“My parents ran a range of clothes boutiques. They were very successful because they used to launder money for a pillemotion dealer. They got caught when I was 18.”
“That must have been rough.”
“It was a switch. Our life changed from having everything to struggling to survive. I had to work through college to pay for essentials.” He cracked his knuckles. “My parents had left an account the government wasn’t able to find, so that paid for me and my sister’s education. But I used my earnings to pay for everything else.”
“What did you work as?”
“Me and Xo would build smart house software.”
“Where are your parents now?”
“They got out a few years back.” He paused then said. “We have a relationship but it’s not the same. And that’s not because I haven’t forgiven them for leading dishonest lives.”
I titled my head and our eyes met again. “Then what is it?”
He held my gaze. “I have gotten used to playing parent to my little sister. It’s hard to relinquish that role. And when they got out I had to help them on their feet. So we haven’t reversed roles yet. Plus I am too old to need parents now.”
“Nobody is too old for parents.”
My alarm went off.
“I have to go. Ipyana has just arrived from the funeral. I just wanna be there to hug her. She lost a lot of friends and her bestie.” I jumped off the bench.
I cradled Ipy in my arms, her head was resting on my shoulder.
“Her body was obliterated. There was no body. She was destroyed into nothingness. ” Ipyana sniffed. “I really wanted to see her face, so I can know for sure she is gone because it still feels like she is buried in rubble somewhere waiting to be found.”
I stroked her back with gentle motions.
“We’ve all lost someone. There was a sea of mourners and this loud crying.” She continued, her voice taut with agony and shock.
“They did a mass funeral?”
She lifted and dropped her head. “Yes. There was this mother who lost both her daughters. She was wailing throughout. Just wailing, no words just tears and moans.” She detangled herself from my embrace and rested her head on the couch. “I just don’t understand why they would want to hurt us like this.”
“They are animals.”
Her tears seeped out of her closed eyelids. “Everyone is so scared. Some are thinking of leaving Kaulimi. I guess that’s what they wanted. We were a haven, Naledi, a haven for the nation and now we are ashes and debris.”
“Kaulimi is strong. It will heal from this.” I said slowly. “How is Talilo’s mother?”
“Broken. Confused. Angry.” She drew her breath in. “Kaulimi is there one place. Naledi there one place we were safe.”
“We will find who is behind this.” I looked upto the clock we had on our wall. “It’s almost 7. Let’s go get dinner. Your favourite place.”
“No I don’t feel like going out.”
“Hey, you had a rough weekend. You deserve something good. Let’s go out. I am not taking no for an answer.”
Reluctantly, she pulled herself from the couch. She stood up. “I am going to wash my face.”
I watched her slowly exit the living room and enter our bathroom.
Ipyana only agreed to take-away. We were just about to exit the restaurant when we sat Akuzike entering. We embraced each other and exchanged greetings.
“It’s been three years.” I cajoled pulling away from the embrace.
We ended up sitting at the restaurant’s veranda and eating there.
“Police officers. I would have never thought.” Akuzike said.
I opened my take away meal. “What about you? What are you doing?”
“I am still with Aka-Rebel and I volunteer part time at a clinic in Chibavi.” He told us that he studied Orthopaedics. “As much as I love the work I do with Aka-Rebel I know one day I will return to medicine just pure medicine.”
“What’s it like being a pygmy doctor?” Ipy asked.
“Different. I have had patients refuse to be operated by me.”
“Really?” Ipy said. She told him about our experience on the job.
I took a quick sip of my mango smoothie. “The first week on the job a sergeant told us that they only let us be police was because of our computer skills.”
“People are rude. I try to block it out. I keep getting patients who think I am playing dress up.” He complained.
“Us too. We don’t wear uniform so when we go out into the field. People think we are clowning even after we show them the badge.” I sighed.
It was beginning to rain so we moved from the veranda to inside the restaurant.
“Unlike Nale, I was not told I was pygmy by my mother. I found out one day when a classmate told me I was always going to be short. So I went home and asked my mother and she said it was true.” Ipy said.
“I wasn’t told either. People used to stare at me and call me names. My parents told me it was because I was special. Then one day I asked them why my little sister was so much taller than me. And why the kids at school called me Akafula. That’s when they told.” Akuzike said.
The restaurant started to close. The rain had stopped so we walked towards our pods in the parking lot.
“My sister was visiting my aunt in Kaviti. She died in the attack.” Akuzike said.
“I lost my best-friend and many friends.”
“I just want to know who was behind this and make sure justice is served.” Akuzike grunted.
“You can help us.” I told him, in brief, what we had been investigating and what we knew about Ulalo so far. “Aka-Rebel is such an effective intelligence gathering organisation. Could you give us a sneak peek on what you have on Waranda and Ulalo?”
“I could get in trouble.” He said.
“Only if you get caught. I used to send my mother and sister information all the time when I worked for Aka-Rebel. I can teach you how do it so you don’t get caught.” Ipy said.
“I don’t know.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“Please. It’s for the greater good.” Ipy implored.
“Fine.” He conceded.
“You trust him?” Ipy said.
“I told you he changed.” I assured her. I knocked, we entered. Luntha, who was wearing a military uniform stood up. “Kamlepo in the flesh.” I swung my hand forward. He did not meet it instead he moved from behind his desk to where we were. “C’mon now,” he insisted on a hug from both of us. He returned behind his desk, while we sat down in front of his desk. I told him about Ulalo.
“Lindiwe told me that too.” He said. He told us he worked as a consultant for Aka-Rebel from time to time. I showed him a photo of Yatuta and told him what he did.
“Are they others you suspect of being Ulalo?” Ipy asked.
“I will have to sniff around.” He was still starring at the photo of Msukwa. “If they have him on their side. They have access to weapons that could really bring harm.”
“Atuweni has been trying to take me out to lunch to discuss our situation. I refuse each time. But today, Naledi abandoned me.” Ipy said, hurling herself on the couch in front of me.
I turned to face Ipy. “Hey! Mwase requested my help. I could not refuse. He is a D.I.”
“I bet he did that so his partner could get some alone time with me. You should have said no.”
“To a Detective Inspector. I don’t think so. Besides it’s not my fault you are too afraid to confront Ntawale about the way he has been behaving.” I retorted.
Ipyana! She knew that Mwase actually needed me for a good reason. He wanted me to interview a former sex slave who might have witnessed a murder.
“What did he say when you were alone?” Orehla asked. I resumed plaiting Orehla’s hair.
“He tells me that he realises I need a little space to think and decide. He hopes I realise what I mean to him. That he has strong feelings for me. And he is aware that stepping into a relationship can mess up the balance of the unit and that’s probably why I have been distant because I am considering all this. Then he tells me that I am probably worried about us having kids since he is a colossus and I am a pygmy.”
I stopped plaiting Orehla’s kinks. “What?? He talked about kids?”
Ipyana’s head was cupped in her palm, her body facing me and Orelha. “I know right. I haven’t even said yes and he is already going that far. I just listened as he explained that there is technology to ensure I have a proper delivery. That our height difference is nothing to worry about. ‘After all your parents had a big height difference between them and it worked out’. I tell him that I just see him as a friend. And I would appreciate if we could just return to being friends. He just looks at me and nods. I thought he got it but this morning he sent me a message saying he could not sleep he just kept thinking about me. And he wants to know why I just see him as a friend and what he can do to prove he is worthy of my heart. He tells me that I don’t let people in, maybe because I lost my parents at a young age but he is okay with wiping tears that were there before he arrived.”
“Hero complex much!” Orehla remarked.
“I know right. I didn’t know he is like this.” I said.
“Oh he is! He sees me as a damsel locked up in her own mind. But it’s like I am like this because I don’t like you. If the man I like comes I will gladly give him the keys to my heart. I didn’t answer his message asking me my plans for the weekend. Or there one where he said we suit because both our parents were both mzati.” Ipy paused to yawn. She sunk her head into a pillow on the couch.
“Why are you tired?” I asked.
“I slept late. Walking Akuzike through the favour we asked him to do. And talking.”
“Talking about what?” My lips were stretched out into a smirk. Akuzike and Ipyana liked each other three years ago. I don’t know what happened then. I was certain they would date. But I guess Ipy was going through a lot trying to find where her parents were buried and making sense of her discoveries.
“About the attack and how we miss the people we lost. He was very close to his sister.”
“Ipyana, last night you also slept late talking to Akuzike.” My eyes narrowed.
Ipyana partially covered her mouth with her fingers.
Orelha raised her head to face Ipy which made it impossible for me to continue plaiting her hair. “Do you like this guy?”
I pushed Oreha’s head back down.
“No. I used to but that was ages ago. Plus after what I have seen with Atuweni I just want to be cautious with men.”
“It’s crazy. The things that Ntawale is doing, from the right guy would be romantic but because you don’t like him back they are creepy and intrusive.” I pointed out.
“No some of them would still be annoying like the cake thing.” Ipy said.
“I think you need to explain to him why you will never like him.” Orelha suggested. “He wants to hear that.”
“I can’t do that. It will crush him.”
“Yes but he will move on.” Orehla retorted. I was finished plaiting her hair into intricate cornrows. She got up and ran to the mirror on the wall to see what she looked like. “I like it.”
Ipy drew her breath in. “I can’t. I can’t hurt him like that.” Her phone buzzed. “Orehla, now that your hair is done, you can start writing your essay on Levi Mumba’s role in independence of Malawi.”
Ipy answered the phone. Orehla walked out after saying hello to Xo and Sali’s hologram. Xo added Ntawale and Mwase to the call. “Come at our house. We have something important to share.”
“I used the information from your source in Aka-Rebel. This is what I found.” Salifya announced, her right hand pointing at the monitor behind her. “Xo confirmed it’s a storage device with war bots.” Sali swiped the image on the monitor away. In its place were images of a man. One image had him in Aka-rebel uniform and the rest in suits. “The files also show this operative for Ulalo. They don’t know his identity but we do. It’s Thandizo Kalulu. Ama confirmed he is working for Ulalo. He is an ex-ZUA agent. Ama thinks he went rogue to join Ulalo. Like Lwando he too infiltrated Aka-Rebel.”
We ran raid sims together till four pm, then me and Ipyana pulled out to go cook for the dinner we were going to have with Sali and Ipy’s cousin Tumpale.
Please comment or like this chapter. I really want to know what you think.