EPISODE TWO (FEBRUARY)
On her ninth birthday, Claire had wished her dad could be present on her tenth. She had grown so fond of him. A father daughter relationship that grew stronger during the prison visits. She saw him past the court’s conviction. She saw her father and She loved him.
It was as though her grandma had been in her mind, eavesdropping, because she had been working in line with Claire’s wish. She had been arranging for Mike to attend his little girl’s party.
The funny thing of it all was it seemed Mike was the first rich man justice had happened to. Initially, his lawyers thought they could pull it off, but when more than three quarters of his property had been seized by the state, they knew a politically motivated case was far from being won.
Peter and Gary, the oldest of the three had come through from Chingola and Kitwe respectively. Every one little Claire loved was here except her dad and of course her beloved mother her eyes had never set on.
“Now put on that smile birthday girl. Who frowns on their day? ”, her grandma Mary said, knowing the little girl just wanted to see her father.
Mike should have been here at 2pm, but it was now a quarter past 3. She cursed them so hard in her heart, but then instantly remembered Pastor Ben’s Patience is holy sermon.
It was almost 4 when Mike showed up at the gate with two casually dressed cops beside him. The cops had insisted to attend the party as part of the arrangement-a party of a little girl they barely knew. Anything for the love of food could be anyone’s guess. However, Mary could care less, her son was home.
“Daddy”, little Claire screamed while running with open arms to her father.
“Hello Princess, nice party you have going on here, come here, I got you something”, Mike smiled.
“Missed you dad”, Peter embraced his dad.
“Wow, you grow bigger every time I see you, I wonder what kind of food your aunt is feeding you on the copper belt” Mike said with a chuckle then suddenly with a worried face added , “Where is your older brother?”
As though programmed, they turned to look at Gary in unison who in turn looked back at his father with a furious face and walked away.
“Come here princess, let me show you something” he smiled at Claire
He gave her his wife’s silver necklace.
“This is for you princess, your mother would be so proud of you, Happy birthday, Daddy loves you”
As she ran to her friends to show off her new gift, Mike wished his wife was here, he wished everything was normal. His heart burned, but he wasn’t going to let melancholy prevail, today was his little girl’s day.
The party had been going well so far, except of course the funny questions and stares some of his relatives tossed him and a growing fear that his son may have been turned against him by his wife’s sister. He had also noticed another thing wrong with Gary; he had a scar on his lower lip as though it was sliced by a knife. He knew his son had been fighting and possibly drinking. He never thought Lusaka would look this different.
“Okay, everyone gather around”, shouted Grandma Mary
This time Claire wished her dad would be released as she blew over her cake.
“She keeps transforming into her mother by the years”, grandma Mary said as she and Max watched her
“It’s magical”, he said with a smile. “Listen mum, I am very grateful for what you have been doing for my daughter, I..”
“Son, they told me they may be releasing you in a year and a half depending on the Judge’s decision and I want you to come and be there for your children. I am dying, Michael. This cancer doesn’t seem to leave. I am good for a year plus according to the doctor, but I may go. I want you to inherit my house and build a home again with your children|”
“But,.. but,, why did you not tell me all this time mum? Why?”, he said with watery eyes.
“You have enough problems as it is, Michael so I want you to be strong. Gary has been a problem. Esther told me he has joined the Jerahbos. He’s barely 16 and it will be you to shape him when you get released. You have more problems than to worry about me.”
Michael had never felt this vulnerable. His mother was dying, his son was a mess, and he was still in prison. Maybe melancholy would prevail after all. He wished his day would not have to end this way as the cops drove him back to the prison.