We take a turn off the tarmac to a dust road that leads to a cluster of mud-brick houses. They sit like an island in the middle of acres of dry grass. Purple hills lie beyond. Idyllic like photos of Eden in Sunday school books.
‘Are you sure we are not lost?’ I ask Shupiwe as she navigates craters on the road caused by erosion.
She stares at me, her face darkened by a Don King-style blond afro. ‘I was here last weekend,’ she says and turns her attention back to the road, ‘do you think I would forget so soon?’
I swallow and stare ahead as the houses start to appear bigger and a little spaced out.
‘Remember, no phones, watch or jewellery of any kind,’ she adds.
‘But…’ I begin.
‘Those are the rules.’
I look the other way, roll down the window and stick out my head. Fresh air cools my face as the smell of firewood and lavender floats in the air. I inhale. Hold it. Then exhale. I move further out of the car, my hand waving against the wind. I draw back as bits of dust fill my eyes and I rub with the back of my hand.
‘Can he do this?’ I ask Shupiwe.
She smiles, ‘You love Hector don’t you?’
‘Baba can bring back lost lovers,’ she says, ‘Andrew called me last night.’
I sit up.
‘He can’t live without me,’ she smirks.
I stare at the sky. White clouds thin out and disappear leaving a clear blue hue. A warm bubble circles my heart. Hector and I had slept on the grass at Monkey Pools licking chocolate ice cream as we stared at the sky, taking turns to guess which cloud would disappear next. We had met two Sundays earlier at Lusaka Ice Cream. He supplied milk as I bought a tin of chocolate ice cream. He asked me out and I fell in love.
‘How soon do you think Hector will return to me?’ I ask turning to Shupiwe.
She laughs, ‘even today,’ she says.
I close my eyes and lean on the headrest. Hector, tall and lean in a grey suit stands facing me. My hands are in his as he repeats the words the pPriest instructs. I hold back tears from messing my makeup and staining the white dress that envelops me. The priest turns to me. I try to speak but a scoop of chocolate ice cream forms in my mouth, melting sweetness on the tongue. I smile at the priest and at Hector. Chocolate Ice Cream always brings something good for me. Money and gifts, debts paid, debts recovered. Meeting Hector.
He places a ring on my fourthforth finger and I admire the gold band and diamond that sparkles on top of it.
‘Jane,’ a voice calls, low like a drum beating in a distance.
‘Jane,’ the voice is louder and a hand is shaking my shoulder.
I turn to Shupiwe.
‘When we get inside the hut,’ she says, ‘take off your shoes and put Ten Kwacha in the basket.’ She points ahead to a lone house that sits behind the others, ‘we are here,’ she says as she kills the engine, unbuckles and gets out of the car.
I take a deep breath breathe and sit back. Do I love Hector this much? My knees numb. But two blue ticks on WhatsApp flash before my eyes. Hector never responded. Never called back. Vanished like clouds disappearing in thin air. My heart sinks. I pull the handle and get out of the car. The mid-morning sun burns my skin. I take one step in front of the other and stop. Shupiwe waves me over from the door of the house.
I walk faster. The hem of my skirt blowing in the wind. I pull it down and tuck between my thighs as I slouch and enter the house.
The stench of foul eggs stings my nose. I squint in the room darkened by African masks and goat heads. Red and yellow beads lie scattered on the floor. A little boy sits in the middle, a wrapper around his waist, red face paint round one eye, white paint on the other.
Shupiwe kneels and instructs me to do the same.
‘This is Baba,’ she says as the boy looks at us, his lips pursed.
I swallow and stare at him and then at Shupiwe. I bite my lower lip and tug at a braid. It slips off my hair. I circle the strand with my forefinger. Maybe, I begin to think, I should have just had some chocolate ice cream instead.
Emily Pensulo is a Zambian Writer also masquerading as a banker during her weekdays. She holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Economic Policy Management. She has served as a contributing writer to several local magazines in Zambia and was longlisted for the Kalemba Prize for her short story, ‘Dowry.’ Currently she is writing a biography on a local Conservationist as well as working on a film with a BAFTA nominated Director.
The second issue of drr, Ritual is out August 10th. Place your order here.