The family had dispersed after the reading of the will. It was pretty clear a few had left brimming with discontent. Some thought they had been bequeathed more than expected, and others couldn't understand why Tanaka had left them nothing, yet, he had led them to believe they had been close. The one remaining child Chipo and the grieving widow Marya were well provided for, from the vast wealth accumulated over years of wheeling and dealing.
As the cars and their occupants were leaving the courtyard, since nothing was left to discuss, Marya noticed one battered Citreon still parked under the shade of a giant rubber tree. The occupant could be seen through the dusty and rain-splattered windows, peering out as if trying to work out whether to leave or come out.
Marya was exhausted even though everything had gone smoothly. Tanaka had been given a memorable sendoff. All that was left was to draw a line under the day as she approached the remaining car.
"Can I help you?"
The young woman behind the wheel wound up a window and opened the back door where Marya could now see a car seat with a sleeping child. Lifting the child out of the back seat, the young woman approached Marya tentatively.
"I am so sorry for your loss. I have been hoping to meet with you alone. Now that people have left, please may I come in and speak with you? I won't take too much of your time."
"I am drained after today's events. However, please come in and bring the baby. You can't leave it in the car in this heat. Is it a boy or a girl?"
"It's a boy and just turning nine months. By the way, I'm Sarah, and this is Josh."
The two women entered the lounge as Marya offered a drink that was more for her own benefit.
"So much has gone on today! I don't need to tell you since you were probably among the crowd. I don’t recall your face. How can I help you?" said Marya.
"It's a long story, and I don't know how much you know already, but I will be brief. I knew your husband Tanaka, and sleeping in my arms is his son Josh. I also knew about you, but you probably don't know anything about me. I live in a suburb some way out of town, and it was Tanaka's wish that we should not meet. I know the timing is not great, but I thought you should know that he had another child apart from your son Chipo."
Marya interrupted, "I don't know why you thought it was a good idea to come today. I suppose it was the will that drew you out of your hiding. I'm not that naïve to take you at your word and am too exhausted to start arguing about parentage. I am sorry, I suggest you leave."
"But what am I going to do? Tanaka was the provider. He paid my rent and gave me an allowance to maintain our lifestyle. What about my baby?" Sarah repositioned the sleeping child in her arms and hesitantly started to get up before she slid back into the chair in despair.
"As I said, today is not the day to start such a conversation."
Marya got up and opened the front door as Sarah wrapped a blanket around her baby and proceeded to the car, glancing back now and again. As soon as the old vehicle passed through the gate, Marya closed the door, her stoic exterior fading as she slowly slid to the floor, eyes brimming with tears.
Three days later, Tanaka's friend Doug, the family solicitor, came in time for a mid-morning coffee. As he entered, he could see that Marya was reserved and going through the motions of being hospitable.
"I just came to find out how you are getting on. It can't be easy since you were close, the perfect couple," said Doug pouring his tea.
"It's not easy, especially when the veneer starts peeling off. You know the Shona saying 'chakafukidza dzimba matenga' – what covers the home is the roof or every home has its secrets. Well, the secrets are already tumbling out. As a close friend of Tanaka, you probably knew his confidences, especially since you grew up together. You knew, didn't you?"
"Sorry, about what?"
"Don't play games with me. As you were reading the will, you hesitated at some point. It was your body language that gave you away. You were surprised at the content, weren’t you? You thought that Tanaka would include Josh at least, in the will!"
"How did you find out about Josh?"
"Your pretence of innocence doesn’t fool me, Doug; we have known each other for too long. You probably visited Sarah together, or at least you were the excuse Tanaka used to cover the clandestine affair. Am I wrong?'
"I feel guilty since you have virtually been a sister to me. I tried to talk him out of the affair, but he was adamant that he knew what he was doing and it was his life. I'm so sorry. Did Sarah come here?"
"As the people were leaving, she accosted me outside with her baby, and I let them in the house. You had already left, and in hindsight, I am now beginning to think that it was a strategy to leave early so you would not have to deal with the situation. Knowing Tanaka's obsession with appearances, he probably told Sarah not to come while his relatives were still around, the ones he bankrolled for so long. He didn't want to tarnish his wonderboy image. Well, he has left a real mess, which you have to help me sort out."
"I don't know how many times I have to apologise, although in my case, it is guilt by association."
"She came out with a pathetic story about having no means to support the baby and that Tanaka had left no provision for her. I feel betrayed but, at the same time, know that Josh is not at fault. He should not pay for the sins of his father."
"But Marya, are you telling me you didn't know? Seriously?"
"I know the man I married. He was always a philanderer, but I thought he had grown out of it. He was fifty, for goodness sake and Sarah. How old is she, in her late twenties? What was Tanaka thinking?"
"Marya, he was my friend. I will not even attempt to speculate what he was thinking. Perhaps he was going through a mid-life crisis?"
"If it was a mid-life crisis, why not buy a fancy car like others? Or change jobs and follow unfulfilled dreams? Not produce another child and leave me with the responsibility!”
"Perhaps Josh was fulfilling a dream, another child. We will never know." Doug sensed he had touched a raw nerve as Marya continued.
"I am not going to spend time speculating about what his intentions were. All I know is that it was irresponsible, considering he knew he had a terminal illness. I can't even count the number of conversations we had, going through 'what if' scenarios regarding Chipo’s future. Yet all along, he knew he had other responsibilities."
"What are you going to do?"
"Do I have a choice?" said Marya looking deflated. "I shall have to adjust our lives to accommodate Sarah and Josh once I confirm Josh is Tanaka’s child. Your penance is to help me set them up somewhere and, in the future, explain to Chipo the legal implications. But I swear, I will never forgive Tanaka for this betrayal."