I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For the three years that I had been married, I hadn’t visited my wife’s workplace even once, even though it was just a fifteen minutes’ drive from Rhodespark where I worked to her office block on Thabo Mbeki Road. All because of my busy schedule, of course. So when I finally got an opening and braved through the unpredictable Lusaka lunch hour traffic to take her food, I wasn’t too surprised to find that I was a stranger at her office. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was to be told that she hadn’t worked there in weeks.
“There has to be some mistake, ummm……Thandi,” I said, after looking at the receptionist’s desk nameplate. She seemed like she didn’t want to be bothered, and she made it evident by the way she tossed her long, thick curls back as she looked up at me.
“There’s no mistake; she had been absent from the office for weeks without an explanation. She only returned about two weeks ago and got into a heated argument with management, and before they could let her go, she quit. Haven’t seen her since,” she said, before returning to her work, or more accurately, from what I could see from the reflection off her glasses, her social media.
“Would you at least know-”
“I don’t have the slightest clue,” she replied, without even looking at me this time. So she’s not gonna be any help, I thought, as I turned around and then left the office block. I was baffled, to say the least, but I knew there was something I was missing, and Tamara was the only one who could help me make sense of it. I called her as I walked through the unforgiving October sun back to my car.
“Hey, Tamara, I forgot something important at home…..are you at work?” I asked.
‘Oh, hi Miles. Yes, I am; it’s kinda crazy here, I’d love to help out but I’m a little tied up…..see you later at dinner?”
“Yeah, sure.” I sighed deeply. Not only had she withheld information, but she had lied to me as well. She had never needed to lie to me about anything in the past, so that got me wondering.
As I wiped my forehead and got into my car, I had to begin to face the reality that something was seriously off. I had so many questions, swarming my mind like a frenzy of starving locusts. If she lied about this, what else has she been lying about? And where had she been spending her time before she left her job? And furthermore, where was she spending it now? Was she working somewhere else? No, she would have told me. Or maybe she’s embarrassed about where she works. Or that she doesn’t have a job. But why would she keep it a secret? All of this had me thinking about what Tamara did with her free time; outside work and when she was with me, I didn’t really know. She didn’t keep too many friends, and apart from Mulenga, a church mate, I didn’t know much about the others. I didn’t keep tabs on her or her movements because I didn’t want to come off as prying, so I had always simply minded my own business and gave her the leeway to spread her wings. And now, I had begun to regret that decision.
I needed answers, and she was the only one who could give them to me. I decided that I was going to confront her when she came home for dinner, but for the time being, I had to figure out how I was going to confront her about it.
It was six thirty. I was anxious as hell, and I had even started getting dinner ready to keep myself busy. I hadn’t cooked in years. I remained going over lines in my head, wondering how I was going to start the interrogation because the last thing I would want would be to falsely accuse her of anything before getting her side of the story.
Even though it had been years since I whipped anything up in a kitchen, I was still at least a novice in my own books. That night, everything I did was a mess. I got more nervous as the minutes went by and I botched all the dishes I was trying to prepare. This was a woman who hadn’t failed to be home even a minute later than seven in months.
It was now eight-thirty.
What could be keeping her?
When I simply got fed up of waiting, I decided to call her, tapping the kitchen counter repeatedly as I listened to the dialing tone.
No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t get through. I tried calling all her friends, and they all said they hadn’t seen her in days. Weeks for some. That’s it, my last resort was the police.
“Hello, this is the police. May you state your emergency?”
“Good evening, this is Miles Lumba, I want to report a missing pers-“
Before I could say another word, I felt a cloth going over my mouth. My eyes widened as I realized what was going on, and what was going into my nose.
Despite my struggling, I blacked out in seconds.