I Blame It On My Father

A story about Petal, a young blue headed woman working through her family drama and most importantly dealing with her "daddy issues" which have affected her life and relationships so much. On her journey, she struggles with forgiveness, her mother's mental illness and vulnerability in relationships. She did not know that a broken relationship with a father could have such dire consequences. Things become worse, much worse before they become better. A story about hope, love, patience and forgiveness.

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13. Chapter 13

Malik was in a presentation room assisting with connecting the laptop to the overhead and connecting the sound. He was giving the presenter a quick run through on how to work the equipment when his portable work phone rang. It was reception. A young woman who did not want to give her name was looking for him and the receptionists wanted to know if he should tell her to leave. Malik said that he would be down in a minute.

Petal stood anxiously. She did not know what she would say when she actually saw him face to face. What if he did not want to talk to her? Well, she would just have to roll with the punches, just as a little birdie told her. He came down the carpeted stairs in a navy shirt and denim jeans. Petal stood up and their eyes met. Malik nodded at the receptionist who was now busy with a man who was there to fix a printer on the third floor. Petal felt her heartbeat accelerate.

"Hi." That was all she managed to say when Malik reached her.

"Hi" Malik responded. He did not sound angry or annoyed. "Let's go somewhere private."

He led her out of the building, on the parking lot and to the street vendors across the street.

"Hey Joe my man. Err... give me a sparkling water and a...?" "Orange juice." Petal answered.

They got their beverages and started to walk on the pavement.

"I did not call or anything... figured you needed space since... you know, the last time we saw each other. You kind of chased me away. How is your mother?" It was good to hear that he was not angry. It would be so much easier to talk to him.

"I am not sure. They need more time with her. It could go either way. But I did not come here to talk about my mother Malik." Petal stopped walking and faced Malik who stopped walking too.

"I am here because I feel so bad about the way that I treated you. I am very sorry. Please just listen to me until I am done O.K. I... I, goodness this is harder than I thought, can we sit down somewhere?"

Malik said that there should be a bench near the mall entrance on the other side and they went there.

"Malik, I am very sorry about the way that I treated you. You do not deserve to be treated like that because of my issues and fears and whatever. (She looked at her hands on her lap) I am scared of...." Petal got up and turned her back to Malik with her hands pressing her head in frustration. She turned back quickly to talk before he did. "O.K so I will admit that I have some issues and I realise that those issues are making me a bad girlfriend, but I want to fix them Malik. I am so scared of losing myself and being open and vulnerable and letting you into my messed up personal space and into my heart..." She was waving her hands all over the place and her voice was starting to shake when Malik held her hands in his. All the anger and disappointment he had felt while driving around the entire night had faded away. When he saw her like this. He loved her and he could see that she loved him too.

"Calm down Petal. We will work through this. I am glad that you can admit your faults and I forgive you." He pulled her close for a hug. "Please forgive me too." Malik asked.

"For what?"

"For wanting to give up on us."

"I cannot blame you."

They hugged for a while longer and then Malik kissed Petal on the forehead. "I am almost done here, stay for a little bit and then we can leave together."

"Alright. I will just walk around in the mall."

The newly wed Jasmine and her husband were only two hours away from landing. They were both so excited for David to see her family. David's family had been wonderful to Jasmine. Even though they were initially sceptical, they were very welcoming and supportive. A tall flight attendant came around to offer them water and crackers, this was the last snack of the 12 hour flight.

"Just a couple of hours now." She flashed a big white smile at her husband who was holding her hand for most of the flight.

"Wow! Cannot wait."

Petal walked out of the mall and stood outside entrance 6 when she got Malik's text. She was looking around for him when his silver vehicle stopped right next to her and she jumped in.

"I was thinking of going to the church ladies' meeting that mommy goes to. They should be done in about thirty minutes. I just want to tell them that she is in hospital, and maybe put in a prayer request for her."

"Of course, no problem. Where is it?"

Petal searched the address of the Christ's Mission Church in Section C on her smartphone and read out the GPS coordinates to Malik. Malik looked over at Petal and saw that she was lost in thought, her face looking subdued.

"Hey, I am here for you."

"Huh?" Petal came back from her thoughts.

"I am here for you."

She gave him a tired smile. "Thank you, I appreciate that."

They continued to drive around in silence.

"I was a hot mess in my Sunday best..." Malik's phone invaded the silence.

"Number unknown... Hello?"

"Hi big brother!"

"Jasmine? Hi! What's up rascal?"

"Haha. You need to stop calling me that because I am a grown woman now. Anyway... are you like super busy because I wanted to surprise you all which is why I came without notifying anyone. I am at the airport can you pick me up? Please!"

"What you mean that you are here right now?"

"Yes, terminal B."

"Err, hold on a sec. Petal that is my sister, the one that I told you was living overseas...."

"The artist?"

"Yes. Well she is at the airport right now and she needs me to pick her up."

"Oh, well.... You can drop me off anywhere and I will just take public transport to the church and you can take the next off ramp and head to the airport."

"No, I don't want to ditch you in the middle of nowhere, I can take you to the church and then I can get her, she will just have to wait a bit."

"You don't have to do that, it will be too much driving around for you...."

"Hello... hey big bro?" Malik had forgotten that he had kept his little sister holding.

"Oh, right. Listen Jasmine you will have to wait for a bit O.K."

"Sure, we will just run around the airport taking selfies or something. Bye."

"We?" Malik inquired but Jasmine had hung up before he could say more.

"Everything fine?" Petal asked. "Yes. Just that she said we, you know, like there was somebody else there with her."

"Maybe it's a friend. But I still think that you should have just let me go to the church and you go and meet your sister. She must be tired and I am sure you miss each other."

"Sure but you need me right now."

Petal looked at him sideways, "For support not to be my personal chauffeur."

Malik widened his eyes. That was ouch. Petal noticed his reaction and realised that he took what she said the wrong way.

"Hey, I did not mean that in a rude way. I just mean that you have things to do as well and you have your life and I am not an obligation."

"I never thought you were an obligation. (He slammed his hands against the steering wheel and Petal widened her eyes) Why is it that when I try to help you, you shut me down? I get it you are a strong person but I am just being nice, that's all."

"You know what (Petal shook her head as she spoke), I think we have a big problem here. You want to be the hero, always needed and you need to understand that sometimes I can handle things on my own. I know my faults and I admitted them and you need to admit that you want to be the hero all the time. You are looking for a needy damsel not a girlfriend!"

Malik swerved the car and stopped it abruptly on the side of the road, making them both lean forward as it stopped.

"And now you are trying to kill us? What was that Malik?"

Malik unfastened his seat belt and turned to face Petal.

"A man needs to feel needed Petal. I am not looking for a damn damsel, I know lots of damsels if I wanted a damsel I would have one by now. I get it, you are strong you are resilient, you have been through shit. But who said you cannot let a man be nice to you and do some nice things for you. You modern women can be so tough that it can be very unattractive. Let me be a man."

She had never seen Malik look so serious. His tone was so stern. He had actually even raised his voice at her. Memories of Blunt reprimanding her came to mind. She had flashbacks of mommy and Blunt arguing and fighting. She remembered how he always said that he was a man, the man of the house, he wore the pants. She began to hyperventilate. When Malik reached out to touch her she ducked and let out a cry. He frowned and backed away.

"Petal are you alright, what's wrong? I am not going to hurt you."

Petal was still hyperventilating when she quickly unfastened her seat belt and opened the door and began to run away from the car and Malik. When she heard Malik's door open and heard him yell behind him she broke into a sprint.

"Petal, wait!" Damn, she was fast.

Malik continued to sprint after her for about a minute and then she began to slow down and he was grateful. Petal finally stopped. She bent over and put her hands above her knees, panting hard. Malik stopped behind her panting as well.

"Petal, (gasp), I didn't mean to scare you or upset you." He walked towards her.

"No." Petal tried to sound stern but she was too out of breath. She stood up, threw her hands behind her head and walked away. Malik walked over to her and held onto her arm and turned her so that she was facing him.

"Malik no!" She closed her eyes in an effort to stop herself from crying but she could not.

"Petal can we please just go back to the car. Let's not fight in the middle of the road."

Petal kept her eyes closed as she shook her head. Finally she opened them and looked at Malik.

"I cannot do this." She broke into tears and pulled out of his grip. Other drivers were staring as they drove by. Malik stood looking at her sorrowfully. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. "Can we talk about it in the car, or not talk about it. Let me get you out of here then."

This was all such a mess. They had only known each other for a few months and they seemed to have had more misunderstandings than understandings, at least that was what it felt like to Petal. She was in no mood to go to a church right now. They had been driving in silence.

"Malik, I do not think we are going to work." Petal said softly. "I cannot do this." She continued.

Malik did not like to have serious discussions while he was driving. He preferred to discuss issues face to face without any distractions.

"Petal, the only reason I get so worked up about you is because I love you. I am not just saying this because it sounds good. I love you and I want to try to sort us out."

As they drove Petal received a call from the hospital. She was the next of kin and they needed to talk to her regarding her mother. They were on their way to pick up Jasmine when Petal received the phone call. So after that they needed to get to the hospital straight away, Jasmine would just have to tag along.

Terminal B was packed with people and luggage and taxi drivers holding up signs of people's names. Malik had his neck craned as he scanned the busy terminal to spot his little sister.

"Big bro!" A skinny girl with short black hair waved at them and ran in their direction. She jumped at Malik and gave him a big squeeze.

"Jasmine, this is Petal. Petal this is Jasmine."

Petal shook hands with the rosy cheeked, baby faced and big brown eyed Jasmine. Malik had told her before that his younger sister was in her early twenties but this young lady who stood before her looked young enough to be seventeen. The oversized hoodie and loose jeans did not help either.

"I have somebody that I want you to meet too." She was so giddy. She turned around and gestured for David to come over. A tall blonde came over with the luggage. He smiled shyly.

"This is David." David reached out a hand and shook hands with both Malik and Petal.

Jasmine and David glanced at each other mischievously. Malik saw that and raised his brow.

"What's... going on?"

"We have a surprise (Jasmine jumped around on the spot), we are married!"

Malik's jaw dropped in shock. There was a long silence as the others waited expectantly for him to say something. He eventually found his voice.

"You eloped? Have you told mom and dad?"

Jasmine bit her lower lip. "We did not even tell David's parents until like, a week ago."

"Although, they really love her and they have been great about it." David added.

"So when are planning on telling them, tonight when you knock at their door with a husband on your arm? I am sorry David if you think I am being rude but Jasmine has only been away for 4 months and she only just turned 24.... I mean this is all a lot to take in. Did you two go for some type of marriage counselling before all this?"

Petal's phone rang and she moved away to answer it. When she returned Malik was helping David with the luggage and Jasmine was a bit upset. Malik looked over at Petal and she spoke.

"The hospital called again. They are waiting for me."

"O.K, let us not keep them waiting too long."

After struggling with paying for parking they were on their way to the hospital. Petal sat with Jasmine in the back and David sat next to Malik where he could be grilled about their choice to marry so hastily.

Petal asked Jasmine about her travels and the type of art that she did. She was not really in the mood for small talk – her mind was thinking about what news she would receive in the next few minutes. She was only being polite.

"So why are we going to a hospital anyway?" Jasmine yelled so Malik could hear her.

Petal answered, "My mother was admitted there last night and the doctor, or somebody, wants to talk to me."

"Oh jeez, that does not sound very good. If they want to talk to you as in now? Hope everything is O.K." Jasmine had mentioned what Petal was afraid to think about. It was alarming that they wanted to talk to her so urgently and in person even.

"Do you know what will not sound very good? When you tell your parents that you got married without letting them know." Malik said as he looked at Jasmine through his rear view mirror.

Petal rushed out of the car as soon as it parked at the hospital parking. Malik jumped out after her.

"I am coming with you." He insisted.

He instructed Jasmine and David to remain in the car. They almost ran to the reception where a middle aged receptionist directed them to Dr Pillay's office. They had to sit on the maroon chairs outside his office because he was not there. A few minutes later, the greying man appeared with some files in his hand. When he saw Petal sitting outside his office he quickened his steps.

"Miss Nyoni?"

"Yes Doctor?"

"Oh my dear, step into my office, I need to speak to you privately." He nodded at Malik and Malik acknowledged him and sat back down. This seemed serious.

They entered the small office and Doctor Pillay offered Petal a seat as he sat at the opposite end of the document filled desk. He grabbed a file and opened it, flipped a page and skimmed through it.

"Petal Nyoni, you are the daughter of Nomusa Nyoni... correct." He did not lift his gaze from the document.

"Yes." Petal replied. Her heart started thumping in her chest.

Doctor Pillay put the file down and rubbed his eyes. He sat up and rested his arms on the desk, interlacing his fingers. He looked at Petal

"Miss Nyoni, is there another next of kin besides yourself, a Mr Nyoni perhaps?"

"My parents divorced thirteen years ago and I chose to have my mother's last name. My father is not involved in my mother's life so no, there is no other person."

"Your mother did not make it. She died shortly after you left. There was a lot of irreversible damage. If you would like to see our trauma counsellor we can make an appointment, but, you will have to handle all of your mother's affairs. I am truly sorry." He sounded genuinely sorry.

The rock in Petal's chest made it hard to breathe. Her mind stopped and she became immobile. The room became big and dark, making her feel like a lost and abandoned child. Those few seconds before she wept felt like the longest seconds in the history of time. Now this was what real loneliness felt like. Her mother was all she had really lived for. All she wanted was to see her mother free and happy again and for them to enjoy her success together. She was the reason Petal had worked hard in school, she was the reason that Petal picked herself up when she felt like a failure because she knew that her mother needed her. Mommy was the one person that Petal loved completely and unconditionally – there was nothing that mommy could have done to stop Petal from loving her. The only person that she truly loved was gone!

And where was God in all of this? What about all that things working out rubbish?

It was as if everything had disappeared. Petal felt utterly alone.

Doctor Pillay passed her a box of tissues and said some things but everything was such a blur and his speech was jumbled. Petal could not focus her mind on anything but the great feeling of loss that she felt. Doctor Pillay accompanied her to the door and gave her a card with a name and a phone number as well as a pamphlet on some type of treatment. When Petal appeared from out of the doctor's office, she was in a trance like state. Malik stood up and went to her. He could see from her wet face that it was not good news.

"She – she died." Petal covered her face with her hands and leaned against the wall and wept.

Malik did not know what to do. He wanted to give her some space and let her weep. Petal slid down to sit on the floor and screamed uncontrollably. Malik rushed next to her and put his arms around her in an effort to comfort her. Petal continued to weep hysterically until Malik had to drag her upright and walk her out of the hospital to the car. Jasmine and David were surprised when they saw Malik holding Petal and assisting her to walk as if she were a wounded soldier.

"Uh oh." David got out of his seat and walked around to open the back seat door as Jasmine scooted over.

Petal was assisted into the car. She had stopped the loud crying. Now tears would stream down her face intermittently as they drove to Malik's place. It had turned out to be a dramatic evening and they did not need any more drama for the evening. Malik had decided to take everyone to his place to calm down and then he would call a taxi to take his sister and her husband to a hotel. They would have to deal with mom and dad later. As for Petal, there was no way she could be alone when she was in such a morose state. When they got to Malik's apartment, Petal went to the bathroom and locked herself in there.

"Babes I think we should just get out of here, our timing clearly sucks." David whispered to Jasmine when Malik had disappeared into the bedroom. When he walked out again Jasmine jumped up from the sofa. "Hey big bro, forget the food and whatever.... Our timing is kind of off so we will just go straight to the hotel. You can call a taxi now."

"Huh, I am so sorry. You are right. I just wanted you to at least get a proper welcome but...."

"It is fine you will make it up to me, and you and David can get to know each other better later on. We are planning on staying for a month."

After Jasmine and David had gone Malik went to knock on the bathroom door. He spoke softly and tactfully.

"Petal you cannot lock yourself in there forever. I understand that you want to be alone. I will give you some space but when you are ready to come out you will find your dinner in the microwave and I can take you home or to Hunn or wherever you want to go. But I really think that you should not be alone tonight."

No answer.

Malik waited at the door and listened. Petal was trying to make sense of it all, to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Why had it all turned out like this? What would happen now? What about Fana and Blunt and the house? Where was God in all this? She wished she had gone straight home last night. If she had been there with her mother then maybe she would still be alive. Instead she had been here with Malik just wasting time. This could have all been prevented. She did not blame him though, she blamed herself. She had a headache.

She unlocked the bathroom door and slowly opened it. Malik had been sitting against it the whole time and he looked up as she opened it. She looked at him without saying a word. She closed the bathroom door and sat down next to Malik, both leaning against the bathroom door. He was here, and he was caught in the middle of her drama; she might as well tell him everything. She began to tell him about Blunt and Fana and mommy. She told him about growing up in her home and the fear she had for Blunt. She told him about mommy freeing herself and how she unfortunately ended up losing her mind. He listened, not interrupting and not judging. She was finally opening up to him and he was not going to hurt her or take her for granted.

"All I wanted all my life was to be free from all the pain and negativity caused by my father. I wanted to see my mother free."

"She is free Petal, now you have to set yourself free."

 

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