( A little heads up before you read for all those who are not Zimbabwean, in our culture, your mother’s sister is considered to be your mother and her husband you dad. Equally on the other had your father’s brother would be a father as well. Amari and her brothers do not know who their biological father is but they live with their uncle Dave, who was their mother’s sister’s husband. Their mother’s sister died before they were born but they consider Maka, their uncle’s daughter a sister and Maka considers their mother as her own mother.)
“I don’t wanna!” Amari screamed throwing her bowl of cereal in the across the room before running out of the room.
“Amari Tatenda, come here right now,” her mother screamed back.
Dave took a deep breath and put a hand on Jess’s shoulder when it looked like she was about to go after her.
“Hey, let me go talk to her,” he suggested.
He hoped he wasn’t overstepping and Jess would let him go because things had been getting a lot out of hand recently.
“ She being so freaking difficult, she said she wanted this cereal and Simon bought it for her, you know this box is costing over $15 right now, $15 for a box of cereal, and now she doesn’t want to eat it?” Jess questioned as she slumped into an empty chair at the kitchen table.
“Jess…” Dave tried to comfort her.
“It’s fine, you can go, I feel a headache coming anyway. She has depleted all my reserves of strength for the day, I can’t take anymore.”
Nodding, Dave watched her slump over the table and bury her face in her hands. He was still failing her so bad and he didn’t know what to do to help her. Making a quiet prayer for wisdom and strength, Dave quietly cleaned up the mess that Amari had made in the kitchen before he made a new bowl of cereal, this time choosing instead the Cerevita he had bought. When he had heard the kids missed having cereal he had bought a couple of boxes even knowing that prices were more than just a little bit high and everything was overpriced.
Like every other family in Zimbabwe who was not super rich, they had cut off buying certain things for a little bit to make sure they had enough money to get the essentials in the past few months but now Dave wondered if that had been the wrong choice a little bit. Maybe the should have cut off some but not everything. Deciding that he would have to trust God for provision, he had splurged a little on the Cerevita and some liquid milk, knowing it was one thing they all loved eating as a family. He was glad also at that moment that Amari preferred cold milk because he didn’t want to disturb Jess by switching on the microwave.
Leaving the kitchen, he passed through the dining room to check if the boys were done with their cereal and found the room empty. Even Maka, his ten-year-old daughter was not sitting at the table anymore. Frowning, Dave wondered where they all were and made his way towards the bedrooms but found them all empty. Getting a little worried, he decided to check if Amari was in her favorite corner in their mother’s art studio.
He was relieved when he heard several voices as he drew closer to the room but that relief quickly fled when he heard the tone that the boys were using.
“…not nice. Stop being a bully and making mommy cry,” Johnny snapped
“I am not a bully, I don’t want the cereal that stupid Simon bought, and I want my daddy!”
“Hey, stop calling Simon stupid, don’t let dad or mama Jess hear you call him that,” Maka intervened. “Look, Amari, Simon is a nice guy and you need to stop talking about him like that. At some point, he and mama Jess are going to be married and you can’t treat him or talk about him like you are doing. And the boys are right, you should not be throwing things around.”
“You always pick their side and never mine,” Amari shouted.
“Liar liar, she is always on your side because you are girls, but right now she on mommy’s side, not yours, stop being so mean!”
“I am not mean!”
“You are too!” both boys shouted.
“Hey guys, stop shouting before dad or someone comes here. And Amari, you say you are not being mean but you are not being nice either. You need to be nicer to mom, she is the only mother we have right now who loves us,” Maka tried to calm the situation down.
“ No! If she loved us…”
Having heard enough, Dave knocked on the door and opened it, “What is going on here? Why do I hear shouting?”
Everyone went quiet and all four faces looked up at him with a mixture of fear and guilt. After a moment of silence, everyone was surprised when it was Amari who apologized first.
“Sorry dad, we won’t do it again.”
Dave could see that the shock that must have been reflecting on his face was also on the other’s face. He nodded in acceptance though and did the same when everyone else apologized as well.
“Okay, its good to apologize and your apologies are accepted but is someone going to tell me what is going on?”
When no one responded, he rolled his eyes in mock frustration even though he had known no one would answer him and this got a few giggles out of the group.
“Okay, since you will not talk to me, I need you three to give and Amari a moment. You guys can go finish off your cereal and clear the table, your mom better not have to do it for you,” he pointed at the boys and at his daughter. When he and Amari were alone and motioned her from the room to his own office and handed her the bowl of cereal knowing that in spite of her stubbornness she was hungry. He waited patiently for her to finish eating before he started asking questions.
“So, want to tell what that was in the kitchen?”
“I’m sorry,” she replied bowing her head down in obvious shame.
The drastic change in her attitude was still a little shocking but Dave was not going to deterred.
“I am not the one you should be apologizing to, you need to apologize to your mother. And Amari, that behavior is not acceptable at all, I expect more from you than that. What is going on? This is not like you.”
Amari shrugged and he could now see tears rolling down her face.
Instead of answering, she threw herself into his arms and the tears turned into sobs. Dave was so confused and did not know what to do. He let her cry, whispering words of encouragement in her ear and tried to comfort her as best as he could. Before long she had quieted down and fell asleep in his arms. Dave sighed deeply and leaned back into a more comfortable position, he wasn’t going to disturb for at least 30minutes.
With nothing else to do, he started to think about what he had overheard. So Amari wanted her father, she wanted to know who her real dad was. He had always known that there would come a day when having just him as a dad would not be enough but he had hadn’t thought it would come so soon. He had been concentrating more on the possibility that he was going to lose them anyway soon enough to Simon. He knew Simon was an awesome guy, but the reality was Simon and everyone else was a bit wary of his relationship with Dave.
Dave knew that it wasn’t that they thought there was anything going on between them, more than they thought he was enabling her. Also, his refusal to pressure her into setting a date had definitely not worked in his advantage. They thought that his refusal was because he was using her as a crutch as well and he didn’t want her to get married. The worst part is that they were mostly right, he did depend on her and he didn’t want to get married, not yet anyway.
And definitely not to Simon, but not because Simon was a bad guy, not Simon was perfect. There was the problem, Simon was just too perfect and he didn’t want that for Jess. He didn’t think Simon could ever understand what Jess was going through and what she had gone through. Dave felt that Jess needed someone who had gone through something, someone who had their own struggle to tell. Someone who would need Jess for something because Jess was a carer. She always needed to be needed by someone.
He was sure if it was an exactly healthy attribute but he also knew that Jess was in a relationship where she wasn’t needed in that way, she would always look at herself as inferior and less than. It was this attribute about her that had them forming the bond they have to begin with. He had been still been slightly new in their church and had decided to serve at the youth ministry. Being a quiet guy, he hadn’t been able to make a lot of friend in the church and somehow she had noticed and decided to make him her project. She had something about how she could see the waves of hurt coming off of him and that she wanted to let him know that God loved him.
When Dave thought back to that time now, he was always in awe of how bold that 13-year-old girl had been and he wished he could have her back. He missed her so much and it hurt to think that the girl he knew first was cowering somewhere inside her crying out for help with no one to hear her. He had to someone do something to bring her back out, and maybe then the relationship with Simon wouldn’t feel so disastrous. Of course, this wasn’t anything he could explain to others around them because no one would understand.
He wished then that Tatenda, his wife, was still alive. There was no one else who had understood Jess as he and Tatenda did, well maybe Jonathan but he had no say in what happened in Jess’ life. Even if he understands her, he wasn’t the one who needed to understand. Looking down at Amari Tatenda, Dave smiled at how Jess had named all her kids after someone she loves or loved, Amari Tatenda after his wife who had been Tatenda, Johnny Jonathan after her best friend Jonathan and Nathaniel David after him.
At that moment he then decided that he would enlist Jonathan’s help to get Jess back on the right track. He might not be able to ask Tate for help anymore but he knew Jonathan would have his back. Again he wished for second that Jonathan was the one she had fallen in love with, but he brushed the thought away.
‘Lord, you know the plans you have for Jess, plans to prosper her and not to harm her, plans to give her a hope and a future. Help her Lord to find her former childhood self and love her into wholeness. And help J and me to be there for her in the way she needs Lord, and Ruth too. Amen.’
Checking the time, Dave noticed that the 30minutes had come and gone and he decided it was time to wake Amari up. He planned a full Saturday for his whole family, including Ruth, her son, Joseph, and Jonathan. If he didn’t get going, they would all be late. He just had to trust that God would be working behind the scenes and making everything work together for him and his whole family. He had to trust God to take care of it all.
As he thought of Joseph, he had to acknowledge what he hadn’t wanted to acknowledge for a long time, Amari looked a lot like his little brother. He had to be the father, and Jess was for some reason trying to protect Joseph. Only the fact that he was the one who had encouraged their friendship all those years back was stopping from going at Joseph. It was his fault all this had happened to begin with. Joseph had already been a little bit too fond of the bottle back then, and he couldn’t think of any other possibility than that they got drunk and made a mistake. Well, he could but he didn’t want to consider such possibilities.
Jess didn’t really drink though, so maybe it was something else? He hated to think of the possibility that some type of drugs had been involved. Joseph was a triplet and he knew during that time, Jack and Jennifer, the other two who make up the set of triplets had been involved in drugs. Dave feared that they might have drugged both Jess and Joseph to prove some point. Their relationship had been tense then as it was now, he wouldn’t put it by them to have done something like that.
He really prayed though that he was wrong, he had to be wrong because for something like that to have happened to Jess…or even Joseph, but more Jess because now she would have a constant reminder of what would have had to be the worst night of her life.
Shaking his head, Dave dismissed the thoughts. He was just pessimistic being, as usual, thinking of the worst case scenario. He would wait to find out what really happened and stop borrowing trouble.