Doctor Mwaka stood by Peter’s bed, rousing him gently. She pulled a chair close to the bed as he slowly opened his eyes.
“Hey Peter. How are you feeling?”
Peter smiled at seeing her. “I have a headache and my body is still feeling funny.”
“That is expected after the accident. But it will go away with time ” she responded, squeezing his hand gently. “So, are you able to recall anything new?”
The smile on Peter’s face faded. “No. It’s still foggy. And Making my headache worse each time I try.”
“Hey, don’t feel bad ok. And dont push yourself to remember. It will come back on it’s own in time. Ok?”
He nodded in agreement.
“Good. Anyway, I have some good news for you. We found your dad! Or should I say he found you.”
“Really?” Peter sat up excited with the news.
“Yes. Would you like me to bring him in?”
Doctor Mwaka went to the door, motioning for someone to come in. She then stepped aside to allow them in.
“Oh God Peter! Thank God you are ok!” Lwipa rushed in, taking Peter in his arms.
Peter looked up at him, seemingly confused.
“Peter, are you ok?” Doctor Mwaka asked, coming back to stand by his side.
“I dont know him.”he responded with tears in his eyes.
“Oh son, it’s ok. Don’t cry. Doc told me about your having a hard time remembering. Its ok. Dont force it. I’m here for you.” Lwipa reassured him, squeezing on shoulder gently.
“Like I said, dont force it. Ok? So I will discharge you with a referral to UTH for follow up care. You being back home will do you good.”
Lwipa went out with Doctor Mwaka. “Doc, is this memory loss permanent?”
Doctor Mwaka looked straight at him. “To be honest, its hard to tell if this is temporal or permanent. I will advise that a CT scan is done to determine if there is any damage to the brain other than the swelling. The doctors will be able to advise further from there.”
“Thank you so much doc for saving my son’s life.”
Lwipa went back into the ward to Peter’s side. He could not believe how fate was working on his side. After searching every point he could think of, Nyembezi had given him the idea of searching police stations and hospitals. That is how he had learnt of an accident that occurred on the day Peter went missing. And what better luck for him than to find Peter with amnesia? He intended to use it to it’s full advantage. Permanent amnesia would be best so that he could have free rein over him.
Mwamba walked out of the yard immediately after parking the car. They had just arrived back home after waiting the whole day for Lwipa to come home. Seeing that it was getting late, Amos suggested they leave and return the next day with the police if Lwipa failed to present Peter at the court. Mwamba could not believe how the werk seemed to be dragging along. A full week without seeing his son and not knowing where he was, nor how safe he was. The more the days that passed, the more he despised his wife.
“Where are you going?” Naomi rushed to the gate in the hopes of stopping him from leaving.
“I need some air.” He called back, picking up the pace so that she doesn’t catch up to him.
Naomi knew that trying to follow him would be futile, so she turned back slowly. Mwamba only returned past midnight, with no explanation as to where he had been. Neither did he touch the food she had left for him.
The next morning, they were at the court by 7am. Amos found them waiting when he arrived at a quarter to 8.
“I spoke to Lwipa’s lawyer. He assured me that Peter is being brought today.”
Naomi sighed in relief but Mwamba sat, still tense.
“I’ll only believe it when I see him.”
At about half past 8, the three moved from the carpark to the court room where the case was being heard. As they took their seats, Lwipa appeared through the door, holding onto Peter’s hand who walked slowly behind him.
“Oh my God, Peter!” Naomi rushed to hug him.
Seeing this, Peter cowered back, hiding behind Lwipa.
“Peter what’s wrong?” She asked.
Mwamba pushed past Naomi to get to him. “My boy.” Mwamba smiled trying to hug his as well.
“Hi.” Peter whispered, seemingly confused.
“Its me, Peter. Your dad.” Mwamba attempted to explain, seeing the blank stare he received from Peter.
“Who?” Peter looked back at Lwipa. “Dad, who are these people?”
“Silence in court. All rise for our worship.” The court aid called out.
Lwipa pulled Peter to one of the benches as Mwamba and Naomi watched on in confusion. Why was Peter acting like he had never seen them before in his life?
“Good morning. I see everyone is here today. I’m hoping the boy seated there is Peter.”
“Yes it is.” Nyembezi responded.
“Good. Without, wasting any more time, I will speak with him in my chambers. All the parents to remain behind. I will conduct the interview with Mrs Somali, the social worker stationed here. She has not been in court to follow the proceedings so she will be able to give an independent opinion on the matter.”
Mrs Somali, a middle aged woman, with graying hair tied into a ponytail and wearing thick lens glasses stood up as she was being introduced by the judge.
Nyembezi took Peter and handed him over to Mrs Somali. Her smiled seemed to calm Peter’s nerves.
“Its alright. No need to worry about anything ok? We just want to have a little chat with you for a few minutes then you can go back to your dad.” Mrs. Somali explained to Peter. The two then followed the judge to her chamber.
Mwamba glanced towards where Lwipa sat. He did not like the smirk that sat on his face. For a second Lwipa looked at Mwamba and winked. This made Mwamba more uncomfortable.
An hour went by before Mrs Somali emerged with Peter. The judge followed soon after, speaking only after everyone had taken their seats.
“We have spoken to Peter. He is a very clever boy, and well mannered. Well done in that. I asked him, after our chat where he feels he wants to stay.” She paused for a minute making sure everyone was attentive. “He says he wants to live with his father Lwipa Kalunga.”
A gasp escaped Naomi’s mouth, at the same time Mwamba felt his knees go weak. He held onto his seat, as his heart pounded hard within his chest. Did Peter just choose to go with Lwipa? A man he barely knew?
Lwipa on the other side smiled broadly. Peter would be his to raise any which way he saw fit. Having him would definitely wipe away the shame of being in a childless marriage.
“But we all should understand that the decision is not as easy as asking him his preference. Both the Chiti and Kalunga homes will be evaluated. This will include interviews by the social worker with both families. We will also interview one or two extended family members. We need to ensure a stable home for Peter. Once that is done, we will decide on who gets primary custody. I want this case concluded within this week. It’s not good to drag child cases as this has a negative impact on the child.”
Mrs Somali stood up, turning to face everyone. “I will be coming through with a colleague to conduct the assessments starting tomorrow morning. We’ll start with the Chiti’s, then on Wednesday we’ll visit the Kalunga’s.”
“Your worship. If I may?”
“Yes Mr Kalunga?”
“Are these assessments really necessary? They will just delay the courts time. We are all present today. The social workers can interview us right now.”
“And where is your wife Mr Kalunga? ”
Lwipa fidgeted with his jacket. “She’s been feeling unwell.”
“Too bad. And that is why a home assessment is critical, dont you think?” The judge looked down reading a paper that had just been handed to them. “Peter will be admitted at Lusaka Children’s Hospital UTH for further investigation over his head injury. ”
Mwamba stood up immediately. “What head injury?”
The judge looked up at him. “You were not informed? Mr Kalunga was involved in a car accident with his son on Saturday when a car lost control on the highway, resulting in the other cars losing control as well in a quest to avoid being hit. He says the car spun around violently before coming to a full stop off road, nearly hitting into a pole. Peter hit his head on the window causing a concussion.”
Mwamba’s heart raced within his chest as his gaze fell upon Lwipa. Lwipa on the other hand felt vexed that the accident was being discussed. He had told Peter not to tell anyone about it. As a precaution, Lwipa had given Peter an account of what had happened during the accident so that he could tell the story from Lwipa’s point of view instead of what had actually occurred. He had tried to avoid the overall discussion but it seemed the judge had decided to do the opposite of what had been agreed upon.
“What accident?” Naomi felt her knees go weak as she rushed to Peter’s side, who sat next to Mrs Somali. “Oh God, are you ok?” Naomi pulled Peter into her arms, afraid of the possibility of almost losing to forever.
“He is fine.” Lwipa snapped at her.
“Both parents are allowed to visit him in hospital with the supervision of the social worker. If either of you try to manipulate Peter into saying or doing anything, your chances of gaining custody will be immediately revoked. Are we clear?”
“Yes your honor.” They responded together.
Mrs Somali looked around the livingroom as Wezi brought out some juice for her. Setting it down on the small stool she had earlier placed by her side, Wezi knelt down clasping her hands together.
“Please enjoy the juice madam.”
“Thank you Mrs Kalunga.” Mrs Somali smiled cheerfully.
Wezi stood up and sat next to her husband.
“Tell me about yourselves. How did you meet? When did you get married?”
Lwipa laughed out. “How is that necessary?”
“I just want to get to know you as a couple.” Mrs Somali responded. She opened her bag, pulling out a note book and pen.
“Well, we meet on the road. A bus she was on broke down and I happen to be driving by. So I offered her a lift and the rest is history.” Lwipa cleared his throat, clearly wanting it all over and done with.
“How long have you been married?”
“4 years.” Lwipa responded proudly.
“Any children?” Mrs Somali looked put from her note book.
“Unfortunately none yet! But we’re leaving it all in Gods hands.” Lwipa squeezed his wife’s hand as he spoke. Wezi instinctively pulled away from him, a gesture Mrs Somali noticed.
“Mrs Kalunga, when did you find out about Peter?”
Wezi looked taken aback by the question. “Eh… A few months ago.” She fidgeted with the hem of her dress.
“And what was your initial feeling about it?”
Lwipa shot Wezi a stern look. A look that told her to say the right things to the social worker or suffer the consequences.
“Eh..” Wezi stammered. “I, eh.. I was initially confused about it. But we spoke about it and he explained how he been accused of making a girl pregnant while in second school but lost touch with the girl. Only to meet years later and told he had a son. Peter is a wonderful boy and we get along quite well.”
“Are you ready to raise another women’s child? Knowing well the issues that come up with such arrangements?”
“Eh, yes.” Wezi stood up. “Please excuse me. I need to check on what’s the stove.”
“Ok. I think I have everything I need.” Mrs Somali smiled at her. “Thank you both for your time.”
“That’s it?” Lwipa asked, looking confused.
“Yes. I’ll be on my way.”
Mwamba slowly took his seat next to Naomi after allowing Mrs Somali to sit. He felt resigned, knowing he would need to adapt to whatever the assessment would bring.
“How are you both doing?” Mrs Somali asked, smiling cheerfully.
“Anxious.” Mwamba responded.
“Scared.” Naomi said, trying to keep from crying.
“I know. This is not the best of situations.”
“How is Peter?” Mwamba asked.
“He is doing ok. The doctors have scheduled a CT scan for the brain tomorrow morning.”
“Are we able to see him today?” Naomi asked, her voice strained with worry.
“Of course. It can be done after the assessment.”
“So, tell me. How did you two meet?”
Mwamba’s eyes brightened briefly at the memory. “She was walking home from school, it was love at first sight for me. Even before I heard her speak I knew I wanted to know her better. But she played hard to get.”
Naomi laughed too for the first time in a while. “I was in grade 12, already delayed after getting pregnant and having to stop school. Boys were the furthest thing on my mind. I tried to push him off, but he had guts. Imagine him coming to my house uninvited to meet my parents!”
“Wow, sounds like an interesting start. So, when did you find out about Peter?”
“She told me about him when I just started perusing her. I thought she was joking until I met the boy myself. And to be honest, I knew I wanted to raise him like my own from the moment I saw him. He was barely a year old.”
Mrs Somali jotted down notes, nodding as she listened to them speak.
“How is your relationship?” Mrs Somali looked at them both, from one to the other.
Naomi bit her lip, as Mwamba shifted uncomfortably on the couch.
“I’m sure you have noticed that it is strained.” Mwamba said bluntly. “I am hurt and feel betrayed. There is a possibility I might lose my son and that is terrifying me.”
“I made a huge mistake in trusting Lwipa again. I lied to my husband because I knew he would not agree with letting Lwipa back into our lives and I’m feeling the consequences of those actions. I want my family back to the way it was.”
“Do you think the current dynamic is a good one to raise Peter in?”
“Madam, I may not have fathered Peter, but to me he is my blood. My first born. I love him without any conditions. However the case will end, Peter will always be my son.”
“Ok. Thank you. I think we are done.”
“In all honesty, do you think Peter has a chance of coming back home to us?” Naomi inquired?
“I’m sorry, I cannot discuss the case until the judge has gone through my reports.” Mrs Somali sympathized. “But we can visit the hospital together now if you are ready.”
An hour later the three were seated in a consultation room at UTH. Doctor Mbilu straightened his coat as he sat down opposite them.
“Mrs Somali, good to see you back so soon.”
“Yes doc. I’m here with Peter’s mother and step father.”
The introduction made Mwamba wince. Never in his lifetime did he ever think he’d be referred to as the step father.
“Nice to meet you both.”
“Same” Mwamba mumbled under his breath.
“Ok, so I have some good news, and not so good news for you.”
“What happened?” Naomi stood up, panicking.
“Peter had an accident this morning. He fell when coming out of the toilet. He seemed to have experienced a blackout. The good news is that the fall seemed to have, em, how can I say this. Somehow he recalibrated himself.”
“Recalibrated?” Mrs Somali askes, equally anxious about the news.
“Yes. He regained his memory. I was actually about to fail your number Mrs Somali at the time that you called as you were coming to the hospital.”
“Are you serious?” Mwamba was now on his feet as well.
“Yes sir. We can see him now because I know how anxious you all are. Then we can discuss his treatment afterwards.”
The walk to the ward felt longer for Mwamba and Naomi. Unsure of the state they would find Peter in, Naomi found Mwamba’s hand, holding it tightly for support. To her surprise, Mwamba held her back firmly.
“Daddy!” Peter squealed in excited.
Mwamba quick let go of Naomi’s hand and rushed to hug his son.
“Peter my boy”
“Daddy please don’t let me go back!” Peter pleaded as he held on to him tightly. “Mummy please.”
Naomi’s heart thudded hard as she was overwhelmed with emotion. She joined Mwamba and Peter in their embrace, praying that the judge would rule in their favor.
Truth of the heart episode 34 & 35