“Are you going to answer the door? Whoever it is, is being very persistent.” Vincent continued lounging on the sofa engrossed in watching a cricket match, with no intention of getting up.
“I’ll go. I am not expecting anyone this afternoon,” said Zodwa. “Are you?”
“No, it’s my day off. I was expecting peace and quiet. Find out who it is.”
Zodwa returned to the lounge, escorting a young woman clutching a designer handbag to her chest. She was of average height, youthful, dressed in a loose-fitting top and jeans. Her Brazilian shoulder-length black extensions were accompanied by a tight-lipped smile and immaculate makeup. Zodwa felt frumpy next to the stranger who was in her late twenties. Zodwa took control and led the way into the lounge,
“ Take a seat. Vincent, we have a visitor. Can you try and extract yourself from the test match for a few minutes?”
With apparent reluctance, Vincent raised his eyes from the TV screen and did a double-take; first looking at his wife and then the guest.
“Beauty, what are you doing here?”
“So you know each other?” Zodwa said, taken aback.
“Never mind that. Beauty, I said what are you doing here and how did you find out where I live?”
Zodwa sensing the situation was getting out of control, said,
“Vincent, aren't you going to introduce me? Beauty, please take a seat.”
“She is not invited to sit down. She’s not staying,” said Vincent belligerently.
Beauty who had initially walked in confidently, now dissolved into tears as she stood transfixed, cowering by the door.
“Beauty. Why the tears? Don’t take any notice of Vincent. I don’t know what’s got into him.”
Vincent looked increasingly uncomfortable as Zodwa continued to press her advantage with offers of hospitality.
“I don’t think we have met Beauty. You appear to know my husband. I'm his wife, Zodwa. How do you two know each other?”
Eyes darted between the couple, as Beauty sat tense, on the edge of her seat. She replied in a more confident voice,
“I know Vincent from the St George's Tennis Club. I work there, and since he is a member, we have met on many occasions.”
“ I see,” said Zodwa, “ Not to sound impertinent, but has something happened at the club which concerns Vincent? I am just wondering why are you here and how you found out where we live?”
“That wasn’t difficult,” said Beauty. “ Working in the front office, I have access to the members’ register. I just looked up his details. I know it's not allowed, data protection and all that. But I needed to see Vincent on some urgent personal business.”
Zodwa persisted, “I am still not clear why you are here? Is it normal to make house calls on your club members? I must be missing something.”
“It is Mrs Dombo, isn’t it? Vincent never mentioned he had a wife.”
“Sorry? So, when I opened the front door, who did you think I was?"
Beauty responded, “ I just assumed you are a relative or his housekeeper. Now that I am looking around your lounge, I can see beautiful wedding photos of you both. You are also wearing a wedding ring, and so I am putting two and two together. You have a lovely, large home, so tastefully decorated."
Vincent, who had been subdued all along, rose from his chair and made his way to the door.
“Vincent, where are you going? Beauty hasn’t come to see me. Whatever she has to say to you, I want to hear it. I am not going anywhere. We have no secrets from each other, do we? So please sit and let us entertain our guest together. Beauty, a cup of tea?”
“No, thank you. I am not staying long. What I have to say is not going to take time, now that I know who you are.”
Returning to his seat and trying to look disengaged, Vincent sat with his hands clasped tight like a vice grip, while his eyes bored through Beauty who threw caution to the wind; sat straight as a rod and continued,
“Mrs Dombo, there is no other way to say this. Since you don't know who I am, Vincent apparently does have secrets from you. He and I have been having an affair. In fact, it’s been going on for some years, and as always, the wife is the last to know. I never intended to invade your space by coming into your home. But of late, he has been deliberately avoiding me. He hasn’t been coming to the club for a while and is ignoring my calls. I was left with no option but to come here because I am carrying his baby. I am four months pregnant.”
A deafening silence shrouded the room as Beauty composed herself and continued,
“Vincent told me he had no children and that the most wonderful experience would be for him to become a father. I honestly didn't know he had a wife, otherwise I would not have been so bold as to turn up at your doorstep.” Beauty sank back in the sofa with a sense of relief while stroking her stomach.
Zodwa still in shock, looked at Vincent, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Vincent, are you not going to say something? Can’t you even deny the story? At least dignify me with a response. Say something!”
Vincent, a shrivelled shell of his former self, was now looking even more desperate to leave and go anywhere.
“ Beauty, you shouldn't have come and Zodwa I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am. This isn’t the way you were supposed to find out. You deserve better than being confronted like this. My relationship with Beauty, if you can call it that, was nothing. Just a bit of fun! I never planned to leave you. As for being a father, I thought she was taking protection. I am just as shocked and surprised to hear the news as you are.”
Beauty fired back, “I hope you are not suggesting that it’s all my fault? You forget that you were the one courting me, hounding me relentlessly about your desire for a meaningful relationship and a family. You led me to believe you were still single, saying you hadn’t found the right woman. How naïve I must have appeared to you! I even introduced you to my family, and my parents thought of you as a prospective son in law."
Vincent interjected, "Beauty, is all this...?"
"I haven't finished yet! You now have the audacity to say, ‘It was a bit of fun!’ You used me! But I still have some dignity and don’t need to put up with any further humiliation!"
Turning to Mrs Dombo, Beauty continued, “I know I have disrupted your life. I don't have anything else to say except sorry and will leave you with your lying and cheating husband!” Beauty picked up her bag and after a cursory glance at Vincent, flounced out of the front door.
The couple sat in an exhausted silence, each with their own thoughts about a life which had spectacularly unravelled. Zodwa, in her despondency, broke the lull,
"I can't believe you would do this to me. After what I have heard, is there anything worth salvaging from our marriage? You have cheated on me and abused my trust,, and it's clear you have been living a double life all along, making plans without me."
She left, heading to their bedroom where she hastily began throwing her personal effects into a holdall. Vincent hesitated and continued gazing at the blank TV screen before he left to join his wife.
Standing by the bedroom door, Vincent said,
“Zodwa, come darling and let’s sit and talk. You can’t throw away nine years of marriage based on this one incident. Doesn’t our history together mean anything to you?”
“On top of the humiliation I have just suffered, you are now taking me for a fool? I'm struggling to understand how I didn't read the signs while you were carrying on behind my back for so long. You're good. I'll give you that! I should never have believed you when you started your obsession with keeping fit. Tell me, what is a middle-aged man like you doing with a woman half your age? Is this your version of a midlife crisis?”
Sitting on the bed, Zodwa continued, “It still hasn't sunk in, that a total stranger has just walked into my home and insulted me while rubbing my face in my barrenness. I thought we had concluded the whole discussion about having children and accepted who we are. Heaven knows, we tried to have a baby,, and I was just as frustrated as you were when we didn't suceed! We both went through rigorous fertility tests, and you were there when the doctors said there was nothing wrong with both of us. All those numerous and expensive IVF costs for nothing! I don’t think you even begin to understand the trauma I have been through; never mind the snide remarks from your family. They will have a field day at my expense! Now with Beauty’s pregnancy, everyone will conclude it is all my fault. I can’t give you what you want.”
“Zodwa, all our efforts to conceive were worth it, weren't they? I'm so sorry about Beauty. I don't know how many times I have to apologise about the affair before you believe me. Apart from this unfortunate incident, I have been faithful to you all through our marriage. I have made just this one big mistake.”
"Mistake? How can you say it was a mistake when you got what you wanted? I went along with plans for adoption, early in our marriage. We went through home assessments, suitability tests, the lot. I had finally accepted that it was not meant to be. Deep down,,, I knew you were never taken by the idea of adoption. All you ever wanted was a child of your own, your own flesh and blood. Now you can thank Beauty for that.”
“Can't we work something out? I could pay maintenance and establish visiting rights for the baby. Beauty is not very well off, and so she would need support. I can’t imagine she wants to keep the baby. We could offer her a place to live till she comes to full term and then adopt the baby.”
“You don't get it, do you? You seriously expect me to live with your ‘small house’ and watch you swooning over her pregnancy and the baby? Even I have limits to my tolerance! If the only way to keep you is by having a baby, then it’s clear there's no hope for me.”
“I am sorry you feel like that. I was just trying to salvage something out of a complicated situation. What’s your solution?”
“I need time to think. I can't do that here. I am going to stay with my parents, for as long as it takes.”
“ Do you need to take such a drastic measure? Why run away from your own home? Isn’t it better for us to talk this through?”
Zodwa ignored the comments and continued packing while Vincent sat on the bed,, watching her every move. Neither had the energy for more aggravation.
As Zodwa’s car drove out of the gate, Vincent returned to the lounge where he had left his cell phone and started pacing while speed dialling.
“Hie, where are you, honey? You can come back now. It worked! Yes, she’s just left! You deserve an Oscar for your performance. But seriously, are you really pregnant?”