The Unexpected

Anatole closed his eyes as he allowed himself to remember the past–the days leading up to the moment when his whole world was turned upside down.

A week had passed since Dena and he had gone to the beach and had ended up making love at his place. After they had dinner, he gave her a ride home. Before they parted ways, they made plans to see each other the following day. When the day came and he didn’t hear from her, he called her cell but there was no answer. He left messages but she didn’t return any of his calls. He texted her several times but she didn’t answer any of his texts.

What was wrong? It wasn’t like her not to call or text him back. Very puzzled and deeply concerned, he went to the playground where they first met and hung around there for a while, hoping to see her but she never showed up.

Then, one afternoon when he changing a tire on his car, a man he had never seen before showed up. He was in his late fifties. “Mr. Anatole Camus?” he asked as he slowly approached.

“Yes, I’m Anatole Camus. Who’s asking?”

“Mr. Sibanda, Dena’s father.”

Anatole straightened up after leaning the tire against the ladder. “So, you’re Dena’s father. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand to shake hands but Mr. Sibanda didn’t extend his. “Why are you here, Mr. Sibanda? Is it Dena? Is she all right?”

“My daughter is fine. Mr. Camus, I know that you have been seeing her for a while now and I want that to end right now.”

“Is that why she isn’t returning any of my calls or answering my texts?”

“Yes. I found out about you and told her to stop seeing you immediately.”

“Why don’t you want her to stop seeing me, Mr. Sibanda? Is it because I’m not Zimbabwean?”

“No, Mr. Camus. That isn’t the reason.”

“Then, what is?”

“Dena’s age.”

“She’s eighteen.”

“You’re mistaken, Mr. Camus. Dena isn’t eighteen.”

“That’s what she told me.”

“She lied.”

“How old is she?”

Sixteen.”

The color drained from Anatole’s face. “Sixteen?”

“Yes, Mr. Camus. All this time you have been having relations with a minor. Do you know what that means?”

Anatole leaned against the ladder. He felt as if he had been kicked hard in the stomach. “Yes, I do.” Having sex with an underaged girl meant he could be arrested and charged with statutory rape. He could end up in jail for ten years. Dena. He couldn’t believe that she had lied to him about her age.

“Leave Zimbabwe, Mr. Camus and I won’t press any charges against you.”

“What about Dena?”

“I told her that if she ever contacted you again, I would have you arrested.”

“Does she know that you’re here?”

“Yes. And, there’s nothing she can do about it. I’m her father and I’m doing what’s best for her. She’s only sixteen years old and should be concentrating on her education instead of being in a relationship with a man who is more than twice her age.”

“I didn’t know that she was only sixteen. If I had, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with her.”

“A man your age shouldn’t be in a relationship with a teenage girl in the first place.”

Anatole sighed. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have gotten involved with your daughter.” He didn’t tell him that he had fallen hopelessly in love with her and had planned to propose to her after she graduated from university. “I’ll leave Zimbabwe as soon as possible and Dena will never hear from nor see me again.”

“A wise decision, Mr. Camus. Consider yourself lucky that I came here to see you instead of going to the police.”

Anatole didn’t answer. He was reeling from the shock that Dena had lied to him about her age and how her father could have charged her with statutory rape. When he was alone, he sank to the ground and buried his pale face in his hands.

Several weeks later, he was on a plane heading for London where he hoped to start a new life and to forget about his past. That was six years ago and here he was now, thinking about the past. And Dena was here in London, turning his life upside down. He was in turmoil because he was still in love with her. He had never stopped loving her although he had tried really hard to get over her.

He got up now and left the study. Instead of sitting there reliving the past, he would go and spend the rest of the afternoon in the garage tinkering with his antique car.