Promise in the Dark


In what proved to be the longest drive they had ever taken together, Jackson dropped off Juliet
outside her apartment in Avondale. Before he could get his door open to run round to get hers for
her, Juliet had opened it for herself and was out, banging the door behind her with the force of an
army general. No word had been spoken between them the wh0le way home and the situation
remained like that when she opened her gate, got in,side and locked it behind her while a shellshocked
Jackson watched by the car in dismay.
“So you left the situation hanging just like that?” Jackson’s best friend and housemate Greg asked
when he finally got home and the two sat to watch the Manchester United Vs Chelsea game
showing that night.
Jackson opened his third Castle Lite, spread his leg onto the table and leaned back into the couch.
“I Know Julie,” he said. “She wasn’t going to listen or believe a single thing I said when she’s that
“And you think keeping quiet helped your case!?” Greg was looking at his friend in incredulity,
shaking his head slowly. “Man you really don’t know women do you?”
Jackson gave him a blank look.
“For women, even silence is a response!” Jackson enlightened his unperceptive pal. “You my
friend have already admitted guilt in this case. You’re done.”
“What do you mean?” A deeply perplexed Jackson asked. “Juliet trusts me,” he added but it was
clear not even he was sure of his own words. “There’s no way she would think that I-“ the
disparaging look on Greg brought Jackson’s speech to a halt. “What?” Jackson asked angrily.
Greg put his bottle of beer down and sat up straight to address his friend properly. “You told me
yourself that you liked her older sister when you were kids.”
“So?” Jackson asked. “It’s not like I was in-love with her.”
“Dude, you went to jail for her.” Greg reminded his seemingly forgetful mate.
“I was young and stupid,” Jackson defended himself. “And that happened like what, twenty years
ago? Why is everyone suddenly making everything seem like it happened two weeks ago?”
“Maybe it’s because you’ve fallen in-love with a woman you had no business falling for in the first
Jackson dropped his feet back on the floor and sat up. He had already drained the contents in the
bottle and he put it on the table with the rest of the empty bottles.
“Juliet is the only good thing that came out of my past and she is the only good thing that has ever
happened to me.” He said.
“Coming to think of it,” Greg said. “You never did tell me what actually happened back then…as in
why the two families, yours and Juliet’s hate each other. Did Juliet finally tell her parents about
your relationsh¡p?”
“She did,” Jackson answered. “That’s why she’s been staying alone for the past one month.
“They kicked her out?” Greg asked.
Jackson nodded.
“Wow, you guys are truly the Romeo and Juliet of Zambia…oh wait,” A dubious smile appeared on
Greg’s face. “She is actually Juliet, holy-cannoli this is some crazy shit! Why didn’t I-“
Jackson’s pugnacious glare forced Greg to sober down immediately.
“Apologies,” the thirty year old raised his hands in contrition. “My bad, I shouldn’t be laughing right
now. How about telling me what really happened in the past with you guys?” He asked in a very
staid tone.
“You know I hate going back there so forget it.” Jackson stated dismissively.
“So how do you honestly expect me to help you sort out this mess if I don’t know everything?”
Greg argued. “Or maybe you are already thinking about giving up-“
“Hell NO!” Jackson growled.
“Well then-“ Greg gestured for his pal to start talking.
“It all started some thirty or so years ago….” Jackson narrated.
My father used to work as a diplomat and he was stationed in Kenya for four years. After the
change of government, the family had to return to Zambia and my father bought us a house in
Kabulonga. It was a very posh neighbourhood where only the rich folks lived so we were all very
happy. Unfortunately, buying that house meant dad had to use all his savings and since he was
out of a job, we had no income coming in. He was very hopeful that the new government might
consider him for a position but as it always happens in politics, every leader has his own people.
My father eventually lost hope and he resorted to drinking.
Our relatives eventually got tired of helping us out and advised that my parents sell the house so
we can get something affordable and use the rest of the money to start some kind of business but
my mother, of course refused to sell the house. In the two years we had been in that
neighbourhood she managed to make a reputation for herself and it wasn’t anything admirable.
She refused to leave because she couldn’t stand people laughing at her and so we continued
going to the same expensive schools and living a life beyond our means. For a while we managed

to fool everyone but that could only happen for a while and soon enough everyone discovered how
poor we really were and so the taunting and bullying started.
My little sister Happy was only ten years old then and you can’t imagine the days and nights she
spend crying, wishing she could just quit school and disappear to a place where no one knew her.
I was fourteen at that time and I was wishing the same thing too. Unfortunately for me, unlike my
baby sister, I had two majot things working against me; my family and my hormones. That’s where
Juliet’s family comes in.
When we just moved into that neighbourhood, I didn’t even notice Juliet. The person I noticed was
her elder sister Alice. She was sixteen years old, a queen in the neighbourhood and a queen at
school. Everyone treated her like royalty and every boy wanted her. She was the daughter of
some top government official…although no one knew exactly what position her father held or who
he was. No one ever saw him in the neighbourhood but everyone knew the wife. She was very
vocal and she always made sure her weight was felt everywhere she went, especially during the
Parent-Teacher meetings. It was during one of those very PTA meetings that things started going
south. I am not very sure what exactly happened there but this is what I heard took place:
“There is no way we can have the same person chairing these meetings for the past four years,
change has to take place, this isn’t a dictatorsh¡p.” My mother said.
She had been eyeing that position from the moment Happy and I joined that school and she had
vowed to do everything possible to remove Mrs Astridah Mwansa from the position she had
monopolized for herself.
Mrs Mwansa laughed. “Calm down Beauty,” she said in her usual calm, controlled and elegant
tone. “Ask everyone here if there’s ever been a day I commanded them to vote for me. Ask.”
Of course my mother couldn’t ask because it was the truth that Mrs Mwansa never asked or
commanded anyone to vote for her. If anything, people always put her name down while she sat
back and watched. Everyone needed her to hold that position of power for their own selfish
reasons. Being a rich woman, she made a lot of donations and always offered to pay for things
needed by the school. During inter-school events, she always made sure the teachers and parents
from our school had the best seats at the events and they all wanted that to go on forever. There
was no way they were going to let some nobody take over from her and my mother despised them
for that. She knew all that and still she pushed to the very end.
“See, you can’t ask because you know the truth.” Mrs Mwansa said proudly. “However, to be fair, I
also don’t like it if the people am supposed to be leading do not like me so I think Mrs Chibamba
here is right,” the elegant woman addressed the meeting. “I will decline your offer to have my
name up there and I will not serve as the chair this year. Let us give Mrs Chibamba a chance. She
is a new parent and she has obviously shown great enthusiasm to represent us so why not give
her the chance?”
It was clear for everyone that my mother was being set up for a fall but she refused to see things
for what they really were. She actually thought Mrs Mwansa had stepped down out of fear of her
and she was very proud of herself for standing up to her. From that time on, life for Happy and I
got from bad to worse. Everyone hated us at school, the teachers picked on us and they couldn’t
pass up a chance to punish us. I spent most of my high school days digging pits than in class
learning. And to make matters worse, I fell for Alice.
I knew she was way out of my league but I was a very ambitious boy. I didn’t want to let the status
of my family or the drama between our parents get in the way and so one day after class I pulled
Alice to the side and told her how I felt. I guess there was still a part of me that thought I was that
rich and confident kid everyone knew me to be back in Kenya but I didn’t realize just how quick
things had changed back here in Zambia. Back then, most kids confessed to the girls they liked
via letters but I was bold enough to tell her my feelings to her face.
Alice had this puzzled expression on her face when she heard my confession. I wasn’t quite sure
what to think of it until she spoke.
“Wow, I don’t know whether to laugh at you or applaud you for your audacity.” She said. “You are
either very confident…maybe a little too over-confident, or you are stupid, very very stupid.”
“You can just say yes or no.” I said boldly.
She chuckled, her hand over her mouth. At that point I could tell she didn’t hate me that much
because she was smiling like she did when she was in the company of some good looking boys
within her class.
“You are special,” she said, scanning me from head to toe. “Poor, but special. You know you can’t
just tell me you like me and expect us to date right?”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Aarh, you catch on quick too. I like you already.” She said. “There are a lot of guys at this school
and everywhere else that want me so what makes you think I should choose you out of all of
them? You are not even my type and I’m way out of your league.”
It stung to hear those words from her but somehow I had expected to hear them and I had
prepared myself mentally. I didn’t let them get to me. “I will prove to you that I am the one that
loves you best.” I said confidently.
She laughed. “Can you do anything I ask you to?” She asked.
I quickly nodded. “Yes, anything.” I said.
From that day forward I was the one doing her homework and doing her punishments at school
whenever she got in trouble. I was like her slave and I didn’t mind because I had her attention. We
were neighbours back at home and she would run to my place every now and then whenever she
got in trouble with her parents and I would hide her. I would have done anything for her and she
knew it. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for her mother to find out that the two of us were hanging
out together and her idea of sorting me out was to come to the school in broad daylight and drag
me out of my Chemistry class by my ear.
“You should stay away from my daughter you filthy rag!” She was yelling and kicking me in all
directions while the entire school watched.
One of the teachers couldn’t take the sight any longer so she rushed over and tried to pull away
Mrs Mwansa. “This is enough.” The teacher said sternly. She was very new at the school so she
didn’t care much about Mrs Mwansa’s influence over everyone.
Alice’s mother turned on her. “Who the hell are you? Don’t you know who I am?”
“My name is Ms Pumulo and I know exactly who you are but that doesn’t give you the right to beat
up someone’s son like this.” The teacher said defiantly, grabbing my hand and pulling me up from
the ground.
“This someone’s son you say stole something from my home.” She said. “Is that what you’re
teaching the kids here these days, to steal?”
“I didn’t steal anything from your home! I would never steal, I am not a thief!” I protested. I was
looking over at Alice who was watching everything from the side lines with a bemused look on her
face and I knew then that she wasn’t going to come to my rescue.
She had followed me to my place two nights ago and said we could hang at her place because her
parents were out of town. It was something she had never done before and rather than question
her motives, I just thought we were making progress. But it all finally made sense.
“The watch that my husband bought for me for our anniversary is missing!” Mrs Mwansa yelled.
“Alice said you sneaked into our house a few nights ago while we were away to try and talk to her
and you must have seen the watch on my dresser because the door to my bedroom was open.”
She was right, I had seen the watch but it wasn’t from her bedroom that I saw it, it was in Alice’s
bedroom, on her dresser. In fact, I wouldn’t even have seen the watch had she not picked it up
herself and showed it to me.
“Isn’t this a beauty?” Is what she had asked me when she held it up for me to see.
“It is,” I said dismissively. Honestly, I didn’t care about the watch, I just wanted us to get straight
into business. Wasn’t that why she had called me over?
“How much do you think it costed?” She had asked.
“I don’t know, it was probably very expensive.” I had said.
“Okay,” she said and got up from the bed. “I’m bored, let’s go back to your place and eat your
mother’s tomatoes.”
“What?” I asked. It wasn’t that I couldn’t believe what she had just said, well, maybe a little
because I had certain hopes in mind that came crushing down unceremoniously. However, I knew
that she loved eating fresh tomatoes and she had gotten us into a habit of harvesting the ones my
mother had planted in the back yard before their time and eating them with salt. I didn’t like doing it
but since she seemed to enjoy it so much, I started to look forward to it as well. Of course it made
my mother ballistic, trying to figure out who was stealing her crop but she never suspected any of
us so we continued eating them.
Alice had grabbed my hand and ran out of the house with me. I had not touched the watch.
“Answer me boy, didn’t you see my watch when you sneaked into my house?” Mrs Mwansa was
towering over me like a hungry lion.
“I did,” I said resignedly. I was done for. There was nothing I was going to say in that moment or
ever that could have proven my innocence. Alice had set me up and when it came down to her
word against mine, I didn’t stand a chance.
I could see the confidence that was in Ms Pumulo’s eyes a few minutes ago disappear. “Jackson,
did you take the woman’s watch?” She asked.
I couldn’t answer. The fool that I was still wanted to protect Alice because I knew she had sold that
watch. I had promised her that I would do anything for her and she was expecting me to prove it.
Saying no would make me lose her favour and saying yes would make me a thief before the entire
“I took the watch.” A small voice said from behind me. I quickly turned to look. It was a familiar
face, I couldn’t immediately remember exactly where I had seen it but as she spoke further, I
“I ran out of my allowance money and I wanted to buy a birthday present for a friend so I took the
watch mum. It’s old and you haven’t worn it in ages so…I am sorry.” The little girl confessed, very
boldly so.
“Juliet!” Her mother went at her.
The look on Alice’s face told me she too had not expected this twist in her well-orchestrated plot.
To be continued… 
NEXT (episode 3)                                                               
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