Bitter Kisses – Thandiwe Mpofu, Thandie

H MIA TWO WEEKS AGO. ello Amy.” Chaos and confusion rock into me as those two words echo in my head like a bad rendition of some sinister horror movie. I can feel my hair blowing with the chilly breeze that has picked up from seemingly out of nowhere as I stand frozen in the doorway of my old home, staring wide-eyed at the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Courtney Fitzgerald and painfully aware of the man standing a few feet behind her, watching me with a hard look in his dark, fathomless, dead eyes, my father. A shiver races down my spine. This is a nightmare. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, dear, are you all right?” Courtney mocks, with a haughty smirk on her beautiful stone-like face. What is Nathan doing here, with her? “No, this can’t be,” I croak, shaking my head in denial. It’s like my brain is misfiring with all sorts of vile scenarios, my chest pounding hard with disbelief. In a daze, I start stepping back, away from the open door to hell. “Why is he… he can’t be here with… why is he here?” I stutter. Courtney laughs. “Oh, sorry! I forgot to tell you. Your father is here as well,” Courtney whispers with a small smirk on her face, like we’re trading secrets. “Bet you didn’t see this one coming, huh?” Mutely, or maybe frozen, I look past Courtney’s shoulder to my father.

“You…” I croak, but he just shrugs and then has the audacity to smile at me. “Amy, my princess,” my father says silently, his hands tucked behind his back, unmoving and seemingly immovable… and I’m all but a shivering mess, feeling like I’m about to pass out. “It’s good to see you.” “What… what is he doing here?” I whisper, looking at Courtney. “Why is he here with you, Courtney?” Why does she look cozy with the man who’s trying to destroy her son’s life? “Oh, come now, princess, you can’t be surprised to see me here,” Nathan says with a smirk. “Surely you must’ve realized something like this was going to happen, right?” Not this. God, I wasn’t expecting this. I came here to ask for Courtney’s help in fighting my father but instead… I find them together. What the fuckery is this? “Are you coming in? Or is this too much of a surprise for you?” Courtney asks, obviously enjoying every bit of my pain. No, surprises make people feel warm inside. This is not that. My insides are knotting together, my blood freezing in my veins as I stare like a dead fish at the two people in front of me. “You two… you’re working together?” I whisper brokenly. “You’re working with him?” “We’ve been waiting for you, Mia,” Courtney says with a perfect smile. “I like your tan, dear.

Europe must’ve been so good to you, you know, what with grieving the loss of a fake mother after the real one lied to you.” “You’re working with him,” I repeat looking from one conniving, manipulative ‘parent’ to the other. “She keeps repeating the obvious like a parrot.” I hear Courtney say, amusement coloring her voice. “Is your daughter in shock?” “Hmm, give her a moment, Courtney. Treachery is one hell of a thing. Especially coming from a mother whose son might rot in hell if I so decide.” “It’s not if you ‘so decide’. We had a deal, Nathan, don’t forget it.” “Of course, how could I forget? Seeing as the next part of our plan and our mutual success rests entirely on my daughter’s shoulders? They talk as if I’m not even there. Like I’m persona non grata to them. I can hear the alarms blaring at the back of my head, my palms are clammy with sweat and I know I’m going to get sick. “Hello, earth to Mia.” Courtney waves her manicured hand in front of my face. “Don’t patronize me,” I mutter.

“There she is! Your daughter isn’t such a basket case after all!” She claps her hands gleefully and I all but die inside. How could she? How could she do this? “I knew she’d get the message.” Get the message? “Like I told you she would.” “Oh Mia, I have to tell you, it’s such a shame you had to come back down to your basic, shitty life and face your unavoidable reality under these… senseless circumstances,” Courtney says. Anger and frustration claw at my insides and I turn to look at Courtney. “Senseless circumstances?” I snap. “You did this!” At that, she throws her head back and starts laughing, clutching the eighteen-carat white gold necklace with emerald stones matching her eyes, her son’s eyes, like a Desperate Housewife extra. “Me? You think I did this?” she laughs, “Oh my dearest Mia, it’s time you grew up and owned up to your mistakes and your distasteful ignorance. Despite your reputation of being a smart girl, you’re really not that smart, are you?” She’s not wrong. If I was smart, if I was careful, if I was at all someone who could protect the ones I love, Julian’s future wouldn’t be so messed up right now. He wouldn’t be getting arrested. It wouldn’t be all over social media and on news outlets like a nasty scandal. But most of all, if I was smart, I’d have told Julian about my father’s call when we were still in Paris. I would’ve been honest with him and maybe, just maybe he’d still believe and trust me… but he doesn’t. Not anymore.

“You see, Mia, you did this. I don’t mean to taunt you or kick you while you’re down but we’re here because of you,” she says, gesturing at my father and to herself. “You made the decision to ignore everything I told you, all my warnings.” “And you didn’t listen to me when I called,” Nathan cuts in. “Oh yes, there’s that too!” Courtney says joyfully. “This is a nightmare of your own making. We’ve all just… simply adjusted to your poorly executed plan of escape and directed the course that has led you right where I want you, begging for my mercy.” “Begging for mercy?” I croak, breathless and in pain. “He’s your son.” At that, the smug smile fades away, but her eyes only harden. “He’s your son and you’ve teamed up with him to what? Conspire to put your own son behind bars under false allegations?” “Charges, princess,” my father chimes in. “At this point, he has been charged. Remember that.” “Well excuse my terminology, father,” I say, putting as much mockery in that moniker. Nathan tilts his head to the left, studying me.

A frisson of fear runs down my spine, so I quickly look at Courtney, focusing on her. “How could you?” “Well, in hard times, some mothers are called upon to make hard decisions. Decisions that save their families, save their children from unwanted… parasites.” “Excuse me?” I seethe. “So, let me fucking guess, I’m the parasite in that little narrative of yours, huh?” “Well of course,” she says, as if it’s pretty obvious. God, my hate for this woman seems unending, like a boiling, violent volcano about to erupt. “I had to make some hard calls and trust me, both Julian and Liam will thank me for all of this later on down the line.” “You think so?” I whisper brokenly. “You think they’ll thank you for how you treated Aiden? You think they’ll thank you for ruthlessly destroying their futures, taking away their ability to make their own decisions, you think they’ll thank you for that.” “Please, they’re both young,” she says dismissively. “They don’t know what they want, which is why they need me to make the tough calls.” “Julian and Liam have never needed you!” I cry out. “When they needed you, you were busy torturing and starving a sweet child with down syndrome who’s only fault was he was John’s love child. You didn’t matter to them then. You weren’t there for them! Julian raised his brothers.

He took care of them, protected them. He never once asked you for anything, you self-involved, money hungry witch!” I can feel the tears running down my cheeks, but I’m too heartbroken and livid to care. “You’ve managed to disappoint him, hurt him and you’ve attempted to break him at every turn. And now, you’ve…” I trail off. She’s succeeded. “I did what had to be done.” “Oh, I got that memo all right,” I whisper, quickly wiping away my tears. “But my God, Courtney, you didn’t have to make up all that stuff about rape, kidnapping and assault! Now, it’s going to stick to him, no matter what happens from this point on.” Courtney just stares at me, not saying a word until my father clears his throat, stepping forward. “My dear, princess,” my father says, stepping in now. “That’s the whole idea.” “What?” I whisper. “What do you mean?” Nathan steps forward again, a look of pure enjoyment on his face. “You see, Mia, if one has a less than stellar rep-sheet, one is likely to stick to the… well, the guidelines, of what they should do and what they shouldn’t do. Isn’t that right, Court?” “Court? So, you give each other nicknames in your Scorned Spouses Insufferables Club?” I mock.

“Tell me, when are the meetings? Every Wednesday at five? Is that when you decided to control what Julian can and can’t do?” “Well, if you want to find humor in that, maybe you should start with how you’ve been nothing but a puppet all your life before you go pointing fingers and me,” Courtney says. My heart seems to stop beating. Courtney gives me a Cheshire grin and from the corner of my eye, I think my father grows still but I don’t look away from Courtney. “What does that mean?” I question as dread sinks its sharp claws into me. “Why don’t you come in dear,” Courtney says with a smile, opening the door wider. “We have much to discuss.”


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Updated: 17 August 2021 — 04:28

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