Friday, 27 September 2013
“Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.” Louise said tentatively.
There was silence as James, her boyfriend of eighteen months, paced towards the bar situated in one corner of the living room where they had sat, discussing their plight. He got to the bar and stopped.
“Are you kidding me? Are you willing to bet everything on a darn coin?” His face contorted as he ventured a look at her.
“Well, if we can’t reason this out I reckon we should leave it to fate and in this case the coin will decide what that is.” She insisted.
James’s eyes glazed as he dipped his hands into his pocket. He pulled out a shiny fifty pence coin and made a tight fist.
“Flipping coin. Amazing isn't it?” His fist tightened. “Tell me Lou, how did we end up here? What kind of people have we turned into?”
Louise glided her tiny figure towards the bar where he had perched himself on a stool next to the bar table. “The kind that is terribly confused about life.” She said reaching for his face, sliding her slim fingers tantalizingly along his facial contours. A move that sent a tingle down his spine.
“Not now Lou. This is as serious as it gets.” He grunted.
“Only you look so tense.” Louise said apologetically.
James unclenched his fist to reveal a deep heptagonal groove on his skin. “Shit!” He exclaimed as his brain finally communicated the throb in his palm. “Sorry. I just think it’s a tough call that’s all.”
“You’re telling me.”
“Okay, heads or tails it is. You do it. I can’t.” His voice was resolute.
He threw the coin on the table, peeled his weary body off the stool and walked to the front of the bar. Louise watched him for a while. With all his macho exterior, she’d since realised that he was just as sensitive and weak as she was. He would sooner bury his head in the sand than face life altering decisions.
James shrugged, scanning the shelves inside the bar. Within seconds he had spotted a bottle of brandy. In times like these he needed something, anything to numb his jolting heart. Whichever way he looked at it, somebody was going to get hurt so he poured himself a generous measure in a glass. He gave Louise a glance, sighed and in one nervous gulp he emptied the glass of its contents.
“Aaarghh….brrrr. I am sure.” He said shaking his head as the liquid slid downwards, burning his insides.
“Okay. Here goes.”
Louise flipped the coin with her index finger, tossing it into the air. From the opposite sides of the table they both watched anxiously as the coin spun its way towards the ceiling. For a moment time stood still as they flashed.
Louise had met James in a local bar one night and had fallen in love in an instant. The sequence of events had left no doubt in her mind where she stood with him. If only it were that simple. She had a husband, Martin, a pillar of community in his own right; a dedicated father to their three boys. Since he’d taken office with the local council, spending most of his evenings engaged in meetings, Louise had felt neglected and for months she’d ruminated over their slipping relationship. Martin was no longer the man she’d married and her attempts to mend the holes in their marriage had been futile. Over time she’d simply fallen out of love with him. It had been months since the two had shared a bed. Louise had obliged Martin’s demands not to expose their boys to any kind of dissent between them and the happy family charade had continued until she’d met James. “We've got to end it.” Louise had told her lover during one of their clandestine meetings. As usual James had talked her out of leaving, insisting she was better off without her husband.
James hadn't been spared the worry either. The clause in his father’s will had been precise. He was to marry a baptised Catholic girl if he was to inherit his fortune. The wine fields, his mansion, the fleet of cars as well as the millions tucked away in the bank were to be his as soon as he’d said ‘I do’. There was no chance in hell that his mother, who had been made executor of the will, would approve of Louise, who, among other things, hadn’t set foot inside a church’s door all of her life. “Over my dead body!” James could almost hear his mother barking at him.
The coin spun into the air a few times before it took a tumble, making its way back towards the table.
“Well, come closer then. This is it.” Louise gestured towards James.
There was a clunk as the coin hit the table. It swirled for a few seconds before resting flat on its face.
“At the count of three we both look.” Louise said. James nodded, edging closer to her.
“No regrets right?”
They embraced. Their hearts thrummed as they shifted their necks towards the table. A few moments passed as they absorbed what the coin had revealed. Their hearts still pulsating beneath their chests, they hesitantly tore away from each other to contemplate their sealed fate.
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Deswell Chitewe is the founder of verenga.com and ZimBookshop.com both of which are online bookshops specialising in books by Zimbabwean authors. Also a Certified Accountant by profession. Here's what he had to say:
‘What I really struggled with after reading this book was who to send my coffee bill to! When reading this book I made several cups of coffee to sip on while enjoying this book but they all went cold because I was so engrossed in the topsy-turvy story of our heroine, Sandra. This book is a depiction of a sequence of real life events that occur in Sandra's life which range from broken family, friendship, relationships, death, inheritance, love, suicide, tradition, determination and so on. All these events are topped with sprinkles of light comedy.
Bertha's style of writing is simple yet sophisticated enough to take the reader on an adventurous journey in Sandra's shoes. On top of the themes already highlighted, there is no shortage of characters to help the author elucidate the account of Sandra. What makes the story realistic is that the character of Sandra is someone who one can easily identify with. She, Sandra, can be described as an average girl/woman going through realistic life experiences that many of us will have come across in our own lives. She is far from perfect and the quality that differentiates her from the norm is that she is determined to achieve her goals irrespective of the catalogue of events that steer here off course. Sandra is not super-human as we see her falling pregnant out of wedlock and the scene she gives up on life in the midst of her struggles, among others. However, she bounces back and continues to chase her goals.
The most touching moment from me was when Sandra goes to meet her mother after all the turmoil in her life. The book begins with the mother walking out on her children and alcoholic husband leaving Sandra and her 2 siblings to fend for themselves. Sandra feels abandoned by her mother after the parents split up and throughout her life our heroine struggles to understand the reason why her mother completely cut ties with her family. Sandra never stops searching for an answer and she gets the opportunity to ask her mother the difficult question at the end of the book. Speaking of mothers, I was quite surprised that the author chose to portray Sandra's step mother as an ally in her journey through life. One would have expected the step mother to add to Sandra's misery which makes the reader feel a bit guilty for expecting a step mother to be totally horrible!
This book is not all about sad and serious issues but there is an adequate serving of comic relief. You cannot help but chuckle at the author's portrayal of the bus trips through rural Zimbabwe and how the Bus Conductors treat innocent paying passengers. The father's antics after a drink are also something one can laugh off. If I was a fly on the wall in the lobola scene I would have laughed my wings off at the father's impatience and the “encounter” with the mother who acted like a money-hungry debt collector! The scene where teacher Sandra is summoned to the Headmaster's office to “identify” the love-letter-bearer-boys from her lover was just the funny, and uncomfortable, destruction the story needed.
In my view, the biggest triumph for Sandra was overcoming all the obstacles in her way to achieve her professional qualification as a Teacher, which is the profession that she is passionate about. It was not an easy battle but she managed to turn that spark, her husband's support, into a flame. This teaches us all that as long as we are focused on our goals we can overcome all the obstacles that life throws in front of us. Just like the cover of the book that shows a sunrise to support the theme “Never give up”; because with every passing night there will always be a brighter day.
To order a copy click here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Steered-Bertha-Mukodzani/dp/1452053456