THE HAPPY WIDOWS

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By Batuke Mwanza

Jasmine and her friend Neliya were looking forward to see their friend Astridah. They last saw each other some 3 years ago while they were both living in Ndola.

They were well aware that Astridah was in Lusaka but didn’t know exactly where. Even when they also relocated to Lusaka, they still did not meet as they lost each other’s contact. However, Neliya met Asstridah in town in Cairo road as she was coming from Shoprite shopping Centre.

Astridah was looking well and classic. She wore expensive clothes and shoes and was driving a fancy Toyota Rav4. Neliya could not believe what she was seeing and what she found out about Astridah, a friend she was sharing a two roomed flat in Ndola’s Pamodzi Township with Jasmine. She was now a rich business woman in Lusaka. “Oh you mean this Rav4?, yes it’s one of my cars” said Astridah when Neliya asked her if the vehicle belonged to her, after being told that she (Astridah) was now a successful business woman. “I have got a boutique in town and 3 houses”. “I was going to take you to my boutique but at the moment am rushing to the airport.”

“I have to rush and collect my goods I ordered from Thailand.” “Here is my business card and something for your talk time”, she said as she handed Neliya a business card and a K100 note. “It’s been a long time and am very happy to see you, and are you in contact with Jasmine? She asked.

When she was told that Jasmine and her were very much in contact and were in fact neighbours, Astridah was pleased. She invited Neliya to visit her with Jasmine. “Kale sana ukantumine phone” (it’s been long you should phone me). Neliya informed Jasmine about her meeting with Astridah and how she was amazed to learn that she had prospered. The following day, they spoke to her on phone and made arrangements to meet on Saturday afternoon at Astridah’s house in Rhodespark. Neliya and Jasmine, since they started living in Lusaka, had to struggle in compounds like Kanyama and Chawama before they started living in Kamwala South, each renting a bed sitter.

It was an upgrade from Kanyama and Chawama but rentals were mainly paid by men, mostly married rich men. Two days later, it was Saturday, the day they had been waiting for and in the afternoon they boarded a mini bus and found their way to Rhodespark after communicating with Astridah. They met at her gate and after hugs, Astridah led them in the yard. Apart from the Rav 4, a Toyota Regius and a BMW X3 were parked in the yard. “Chikashana fyonse ifi, kwena filechitika ayi?” (Girl all this is yours, things are really happening) Jasmine and Neliya complimented and the 3 women laughed together as the entered in the well-furnished house.

Astridah’s niece came in the living room where the 3 women were seated with a tray of some Hunters gold ciders and served them. The 3 old friends started drinking and started talking about their days back in Ndola when they were staying together and sharing a house in Pamodzi. “Lusaka is a town of opportunities girls, you need to be sharp, and otherwise you will remain the same and watch as others are prospering”, said Astridah “You guys should not use your beauty cheaply.” “Look at your big nice bums and shape. Neliya, you shouldn’t be struggling in life.” “And you Jasmine, a beautiful coloured girl like you by this time you should be rich in Lusaka if you are sharp,” said Astridah as she opened another bottle of Hunters Gold.

Astridah, Neliya and Jasmine came a long way together in the business of prostitution. Having dropped out of school early due to difficult challenges, the trio started making money by selling their bodies at night clubs and streets outside hotels at night. They then abandoned their homes later and started renting a room with other prostitutes. They didn’t get along quite well with other hookers and started living the 3 of them in Pamodzi Township, renting a two roomed flat. Astridah, the eldest of the 3 was the ring leader. She was the most organized of them all and knew how to get the “big fish” who paid more money and whenever Neliya and Jasmine fell short of money for rentals which they had to contribute, she would single handedly foot the rentals. Then one day she told Neliya and Jasmine that she was traveling to Lusaka with one of her “big catches”.

Whilst in Lusaka she started going to big Casino houses where she met Mr. Luca Barzini an Old Italian business man. Mr. Barzini wasn’t exactly a clean business man. While he was a legal owner of a super market in Kabulonga, he was involved in Drug dealing and gambling.

Whilst in Zambia, he was desperate for security and protection from the Immigration Department. Although he had a valid passport, a man of his character was vulnerable and feared deportation and imprisonment, so he knew that marrying a Zambian woman would lessen law enforcers from dogging him around. To the public eyes, he was a white Zambian business man who was married to a local Zambian woman, so? That’s how he started cohabiting with Astridah. Although he was 76 years old and Astridah was 35.

Barzini was a widower in Milan in Italy with 4 adult children, some older than Astridah. He had been living in Zambia for almost 10 years, avoiding going back to Italy and face the law because he was a wanted man in Italy for drug related offences.

He and Astridah registered themselves married but just after 2 years and some months later, Barzini died from a heart attack. His family were aware that he was in Zambia and Astridah managed to communicate with his children. They were also aware about Barzini’s marriage to her but they were only interested in getting their father’s body to be buried in Italy and nothing else.

They told her that she was not part of the family and she should remain in Zambia with whatever Barzini left with her, while they got their father’s body. To Astridah, it was very fine with her and good business as that meant she had the houses and cars he left behind including the supermarket. “Sorry about your loss”, said Neliya after Astridah narrated her story. “My loss? Astridah laughed. “To the contrary, it was my gain”. “Look at me now, do I look miserable? “I am a happy widow”. Said Astridah, as the 3 laughed and opened some more bottles of beer.

“I have very little knowledge about trading in groceries, and wasn’t interested in the supermarket business that Mr. Barzini was doing.” “But I was always interested in fashion” “You know how I love clothes and shoes so I had to sell the supermarket.”

“There was this Indian man who was a friend of Mr. Barzini and he was a business man,  I told him that I couldn’t manage the supermarket business and wanted to sell it, he didn’t hesitate, he bought the supermarket in Kabulonga and the money I got is what I used to open my boutique”. “Besides this house, my Barzini left two more houses, one in Ibex Hill and another one in Woodlands.” I have put them on rent and I also have 3 vehicles, the ones you just saw, so you see, I am a very happy widow”, said Astridah. The friends agreed with her and congratulated her. “It’s a great achievement, how I wish I could also be so lucky like you said Jasmine. “It’s very possible my dear”, “Just like I told you guys earlier, you have to be sharp.” Said Astridah.

End of Part One

 

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