Half a Loaf Jestina Faith Mseka

Feb 13, 2024 | 2023 Competition, Main Prize, Short Story Competition | 0 comments

Of all the craziest things I would have ever expected to hear, telling me I would be suing my sister does not even make it to the top three. My eyes flew across the courtroom and came to an abrupt stop as they spotted their target. Even with clear lines of exhaustion marring her features, she looked stunning. I scolded myself for feeling sorry for her; she had brought this upon herself. No amount of remorse from her end could convince me otherwise. I would have burnt the world to the ground for her, but instead of being grateful, she spat that loyalty back in my face.

“All rise for Justice Solomon Phiri” commanded the bailiff. Shuffling filled the courtroom as we all got to our feet to pay respect to the judge.

“Please be seated. This is a continuation of case 456; of the murder of Mr.

James Chisale. Counselor, please begin.”

“Thank you, your honor” said my lawyer. “Without further ado, I call upon Mrs. Linda Chisale to the stand.”

That was my cue. I confidently made my way to the witness stand, molding myself into the grieving wife persona. I looked straight at my sister as I prepared myself to make her pay for what she had done.

“Please tell the court who you are and how you are related to the victim,” my lawyer instigated.

“I’m Mrs. Linda Chisale nee Tembo and I was the victim’s first wife.”

“Please provide an accurate account of the events that led up to your husband’s death.”

“It was my wedding day…” I shifted in my seat as I began to recall the series of unfortunate events that had transpired in the past three years.

The residents of Dandi village ate, drunk and danced jubilantly. You would think they had won a war, but it was nothing but the celebration of my matrimony. My body gyrated to the beat of the drums as I danced the night away. The ache in my cheeks was a result of the smile I had been displaying all day.

“You did it!” screamed my sister Tamu as she threw her hands around me after she had practically dragged me from the dance floor.

“I did it!” I mirrored her tone as I melted into her embrace. Fulfillment washed over my entire being as it finally started to sink it that I was halfway to the finish line. I was now officially a wife, and I would soon be a mother. My whole life was narrowed down to these two events. I had completed one task today; I got married to the man of my dreams. Every young lady in the village looked at me with admiration because I had really hit the jackpot with my husband James. He was obscenely rich and had come to his home village to seek a wife. Fate led us to each other and we fell in love.

“I’m so jealous that you get to leave this god-forsaken village and live happily ever after with your husband in the city,” said Tamu sadly, knocking me out of my reverie.

“Do not fret sis, you will get your happily ever after soon too.”

“Please take care of my sister,” Tamu said to James after the wedding. Her eyes lingered on him a second too long before they quickly moved to the ground. A warning light immediately went on in my head, but I dismissed the thought because I wanted to savor all the happiness I was feeling. I had worked so hard to get here. While every girl in the village fell for one of the local boys, I never once spared them a second glance, in hopes that a man from the city would come and sweep me off my feet. I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t settling for less until I got it. I had sacrificed my writing dream after my parents pulled me from my last year in secondary school to prepare and groom me for marriage and motherhood. I had my eyes set on the prize and I would kill for it; metaphorically speaking of course.

We left for the city the same night. The prospect of the great things that awaited me made me so giddy with excitement. Nothing could ruin this for me. Or so I thought…

My body went cold as I stared at the small stain of crimson on my shorts. I got my period. The irony smell clouded my head that I didn’t even register the impact as I fell to the ground. James immediately rushed into our bathroom after he heard the commotion. He didn’t even have to ask what the problem was because he already knew. We had been going through the same thing every month for almost a year now. He held me as violent sobs overcame my whole body.

“I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry” I cried into his shirt; trying to make up for the fact that my body could not do the one thing it was supposed to do. It had biologically failed me.

His rough fingers caressed the skin on my back as he attempted to provide me with some form of comfort, but I saw right through it. The act felt foreign, like he was doing it out of duty, with lack of emotion. Immense panic caused my heart to work overtime.

“We can keep trying,” I assured him as I tried to compose myself.

He sighed as he got up from the floor. “We have been trying for a year now Linda…” His countenance showcased his disappointment clearly and it struck me like a blow to the chest. I needed to do something about this, and fast.

“Maybe we should seek professional help” I suggested desperately as a feeble attempt to will and plead with him not to lose hope. “We are probably doing something wrong.”

It didn’t take much to convince him; we went to one of the prestigious hospitals in the city the next day. My insides were uncomfortably poked and probed by someone called a gynecologist, after which I received the news that altered my entire existence.

“You have condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome,” began the doctor. “It is an ailment that affects how your ovaries work, therefore lessening your chances of getting pregnant. Conception is still a possibility though….” I stopped listening after that. Time ceased to exist and my brain short circuited as I tried to process what I had just heard. I was the problem? I could possibly never have children? No, it couldn’t be true; there must have been a mistake or something. I would never get to experience the joys of motherhood? I lost consciousness.

The following months after were my personal version of hell. I was grieving; grieving for something I never even had to lose in the first place. I dreaded waking up in the morning. I had become a shell version of my old self; food became a tasteless occupant in my mouth. Even my marriage was in shambles; James and I grew apart instead of closer during this period. He spent longer nights at work and came back home when I had already fallen asleep. Some nights he didn’t come to home at all. My marriage was falling apart right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

Tamu was the only person I had told about my adversity and she came to stay with us for a while for emotional support. The only time the house was lively was when her and James conversed, I rarely joined in unless I was talked to. I was envious of how they were both able to laugh while laughter had become a completely foreign concept to me.

“I’m getting a second wife.” I was not shocked when James finally said the words to me, I had seen it coming from miles away but nothing would’ve prepared me for what he said next.

“It’s Tamu. The wedding preparations are already underway and she’s two months pregnant so please to do not even bother trying to change my mind. Whether you choose to stay here or return to the village is entirely up to you. I couldn’t care less.”

If words could kill, I would have been six feet under. The shock of the betrayal was enough to leave me breathless. My eyes drifted to the entrance of the room as the devil herself walked in. Stabbing pain spread like venom through my veins as she came into full view; adorning a diamond ring that could pass as an exact replica of the one I was wearing on my ring finger. But the finishing blow was how she lightly placed her hand on her belly. I tried to scream and shout and display my heartache, but nothing came out. Tamu stood beside my husband looking indifferent like she hadn’t just killed me. I looked at them both expecting someone to pop out with a camera and tell me it was a sick joke. It wasn’t a sick joke.

They got married and had a traditional wedding in the village too. I did not attend. I locked myself in the guest wing with tears as my only companion until they returned. On some days I would pathetically find myself standing outside my old bedroom door listening in on their conversations; stolen conversations that were supposed to be mine.

“You want to have more kids after this one?” I heard my sister’s silky voice through the wood.

“I want six more,” responded James.

“So they can run around the house and make so much noise you would think it’s a playground.”

That sounded painfully familiar. He had said those exact words to me two years ago.

I left for Dandi the next morning without telling anyone. I couldn’t bear the heartache anymore. I would take the scornful looks and whispers back in the village over watching my sister live my life.

“She is the woman that can’t have babies.”

“What a disgrace to womanhood.”

They didn’t even try to be discreet about it. Their words drew blood like a sharp blade. Even my mother and father considered me as an outcast. They didn’t have to say it; I saw how my father didn’t even look in my direction when I got home and my mother told me to not go out of the house and cause her further embarrassment.

I got the news of my husband’s death exactly two months later. He had been killed in cold blood by armed robbers that raided our old house. People said he was stabbed seven times in the chest. I cried like an absolute child; I don’t think I had ever cried as hard in my entire life. Despite everything he put me through I loved him, because that’s the thing about love. No matter how much you tried, it never fully fades.

I attended his funeral; that was where I saw Tamu for the first time since I left. She was now swollen with the pregnancy. Obnoxiously green envy filtered through every cell of my body; THAT SHOULD BE ME. I watched her like a hawk throughout the entire funeral and she didn’t shed a single tear. That is when I knew something amiss. I vowed to bring justice to whoever was the perpetrator; whether it was Tamu or the armed robbers, someone would eventually pay for my husband’s untimely demise.

Tamu was questioned and she stuck to her story of walking into their bedroom and finding James already dead and the robbers long gone but it didn’t make sense. She was the only one in the house with him that day; how come the robbers didn’t kill her too?


“… And that is exactly what has brought me here because I’m suing her for the murder of my husband. My sister had been gunning for my husband and his fortune from the beginning. It didn’t take much to seduce him after I was diagnosed with my condition.  It made it easier for her to get me out of the equation and deal solely with James and inherit his wealth after his death,” I finished telling the court.


“Thank you so much Mrs. Chisale. No further questions or queries your honor,” closed my lawyer.

A few tedious months later the case was finally closed. The evidence against Tamu was undeniable and she was sentenced to life imprisonment. I sat at my desk in what used to be me and James’ house as I finished going through his financial records. I was in charge of all of his assets now. A serene wave overcame me as I remembered my dusty old journal that I stopped using after I had married James. A new entry was long overdue. I felt an invisible weight lift as I poured out my thoughts and feelings on the familiar sandy paper.

13 JULY 2023

It’s been months since I flawlessly executed killing my husband; he died by exactly seven stabs to the chest, it was almost poetic. Each stab for each of the children he promised to have with me. Tamu would have met the same fate; but death was an easy mercy I couldn’t grant to her after everything she had put me through. Besides I needed a scapegoat for killing James. But my greatest gift from this mess; is my daughter Aria. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever set my eyes on. Tamu gave birth to Aria one month after her incarceration and as the stable older sister; I managed to convince the judge to award me full custody of the sweetest baby in the world. She belonged to me as much as I belonged to her.

A baby’s soft cry erupted through the room.

Ah, speak of the devil. I have to go, the princess demands to be fed. A few parting words though, I had an epiphany the other day about the saying ‘’half a loaf being better than none.’’ I might have not gotten the happy marriage, but at least I got my half loaf, and I promise to love her forever. Even if I have to murder and frame another person for it; I would do it again. For my Aria, always for her.




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