The car stops!
“You are from what??” he asks.
Oh crap! Really Qhawe?
“I’m from a royal family, my father is a chief,” I say.
Okay maybe I should have told him this earlier but I don’t understand why he’s reacting like this.
“And you didn’t tell me? Why?”
“Just drive please?”
“No!,” he snaps.
I’m surprised he didn’t do background checks on me and my family because he would have easily found this out.
“I didn’t think it was important, and besides, my father never wanted to be chief, that’s why we left the village and went to live in Mafikeng. He only took it up seven years ago when he had no choice but to do it,” I explain.
He’s not convinced.
“So what’s going to happen? Some village chief guy is going to come and want to marry you?” he asks.
Well, that happened with my sister but….
I keep quiet.
“Is that a yes? Does your silence mean yes? Naledi please don’t make me lose my mind…..”
“No Chawe, it’s not a yes, I’ll never allow that, you know me better,” I say.
But….it could get complicated if he ever popped the question.
“Good, because I’d shoot him,” he says.
I laugh. He’s crazy.
“So, royalty? Explain to me,” he says starting the car again.
I don’t like talking about this.
“It’s a little complicated, Montsho Montsho, that’s my father. He was the first son, which made him the successor to his father. But his father died when he was very young and his cousin took up the position. There were rifts in the family. My father went away to study, came back with my mother, married her, family didn’t approve, they had four daughters, it got tough, my mother left before I turned one, we lived with my grandmother, she died, my father packed his four daughters and moved to Mafikeng. Fast forward, community started asking questions, they wanted the rightful chief, my father refused, things happened and eventually he had no choice but to respect who he is….”
That’s the story, all of it.
“Mmmmm,” he says.
“And your mother?” he asks.
“Don’t know her, don’t remember her, but there’s a picture. I look like her,” I say.
I gave up the longing a long time ago. I always say that if she wanted to be in our lives she would have come back. She knows exactly where she left us.
“Have you ever tried to find her?” he asks.
“No, my father is too good a father, I never missed her or her presence,”
“You know, if she’s still alive you should try to find her, maybe she has a good explanation,” he says.
I don’t think so. You can’t explain running and leaving your children behind, it’s an unforgivable sin.
“No, she should try finding me, not the other way round. I did think about her when I was young. My two older sisters would talk about her sometimes. They remembered her, I didn’t at all. You know, when you don’t know your mother, you look twice at every woman you see or meet, even if it’s a homeless person you look at them and wonder if maybe they are not her,” I say.
He looks at me briefly.
“I think I’d forgive her if I found that maybe she went crazy or maybe she died or something, but if she’s somewhere living her life right now, I don’t want her,”
He bites his upper lip.
We have an eye-lock moment.
“Chawe,” I say.
I know what he’s thinking.
“Don’t go find her. Don’t do it,” I say.
He looks at the road ahead.
“My parents died when I was ten,” he says.
Oh. I never asked.
“You didn’t find that on Google?”
I smile. This man though!
We’re having a serious conversation here and he’s being himself.
“They were attacked, hacked and burnt to death. We ran. The only thing we came out with was a brown envelope,” he says, he’s serious again.
“A brown envelope?”
“Yes, amid all the chaos, we could hear the angry crowd approaching. My mother gave it to me and said “don’t lose it, run!” and pushed me out,”
I have the picture on my mind and it’s scary.
“What was in the envelope?”
“Our birth certificates,” he says.
Whoah! She must have known she was never going to see them again.
“So, we raised ourselves. Nkosana and Nqoba actually, they raised all of us. Hlomu raised our children, and us in a way,” he says.
I’ve never really asked questions about the wives.
“How? I’m sure they were kids too,”
“Yes they were but where we come from you become a man when you are forced to. Our father raised us that way, to be men and to know and understand our responsibilities. We learned a lot from the way he treated our mother. He loved her, he showed it and he lived it. He always said the greatest thing that can ever happen to a man in life is finding the woman he loves,”
“You do anything, anything to keep her and you love her with everything you have, he used to say that,”
Sounds like he was a great husband and father.
“The problem was, he didn’t love other people that much, he was a warlord and a killer,” he says.
I was curious about that part.
I keep nodding because I don’t know what to say.
We have another eye-lock moment.
“You know, I’ve never talked to anyone about this, about my mother,” I say.
He holds my hand.
“When I have kids, I’ll make sure I never let anything bad happen to them. And I’ll never leave them,” I say.
That’s what I always tell myself, I’ll never let my kids go through what I went through.
“Don’t worry, we are going to be the best parents ever,” he says.
Huh? What did he just say?
He doesn’t notice anything strange about what he just said.
“You can talk to me about anything Naledi,” he says.
I think I can. He listens.
“I’ll do that, you know you can talk to me about anything too right?”
I hope he’s a talker. I can’t stand a man who can’t communicate, they end up being beaters.
“What’s your ultimate thing? What do you want besides love?” I ask.
He squeezes my hand.
“Loyalty,” he says.
I know he means this. The way he says it, I know he means it.
“I need to know that you’ll stand by me, my flaws, my mistakes, all of it, I need to know that you’ll still be here through it all,” he says.
He’s looking ahead at the road as he speaks. I expect him to look me in the eye so he can tell if I’m being sincere, but he’s not.
“Why is loyalty so important?” I ask.
He still doesn’t turn to look at me.
“You’ll understand soon,”
What does he mean?
“I can do that Chawe, I love you enough to give you my word, but I need you some things from you too,” I say.
He turns to look at me.
“Don’t hurt me, don’t break my heart,” I say.
There’s a delay.
I turn away and look out the window.
“What’s the tie-breaker?” he asks.
“Cheating. And I want to know you, don’t shut me out,” I say.
“Trust me, you already know me,” he says.
Wow. He knows?
“Come here,” he says putting an arm around my shoulder.
I rest my head on his shoulder.
“I know that if I cheat, you’ll bring out your ghetto Mafikeng persona,” he whispers.
I laugh. I’m ghetto now?
“I like that you stand up to me, but I need respect Naledi, I want my place as a man,” he says.
The Zulu man in him is always here. I hope he doesn’t expect me to be submissive because I can’t do that.
It’s time to change the subject.
“How did you survive? How did you get to where you are now?” I ask.
It must have been tough growing up like that.
“We worked,” he says.
“We started with one taxi and worked all the way up,” he says.
That must have taken a lot of work.
“So you raised enough money to buy one taxi and then used the money you made from that taxi to buy more?”-me
“No, we stole enough money,” he says.
“Baby sorry, I have to answer this call,” he says.
He’s on the phone.
Why does that last part not feel like it was a joke?
“It’s Nqoba, they keep hounding me about work stuff, I have better things to do right now, including finding that place where we’re going to sleep tonight,” he says.
Seems like we’re past that “stealing” subject.
I hope he was joking.
I know what he’s about to ask, that look on his face, he always has it when he’s about to treat me like a child.
“I’m counting, you said five years, it’s been seven,” he says.
I knew it.
“Let’s add another three, I promise after that I’ll come back,” I say.
He looks at me suspiciously.
“You’re the only one I’m left with you know. I just want you to be closer, and I worry about you, a lot,,” he says.
I know that, sometimes I think he’s paranoid.
“Ntate, I’m not a baby, I can take care of myself, I lived in Cuba for five years remember? And trust me that country has some dodgy rules,”
He’ll never see me as a grown woman, never.
He cried when my two eldest sisters got married. His relationship with Omphi was never good. She was a problem child, rebellious and unruly. He is a strict father. So now he is left with me, his last-born daughter and he is determined to hold on to me.
“I didn’t know you had a new car, when did you buy it?” he asks.
I arrived at night. He’s only seeing the car now and I didn’t really think about how I was going to explain a Maserati to my father. Yes I’m a doctor but I do work for a government hospital. No Maserati can come out of that.
“No it’s a friend’s car, mine has a problem.” I say trying to sound convincing.
He spends his days here, in the village solving community problems and chairing lekgotlas and mediating in all kinds of strange disputes.
This is not what he wanted, it’s just not who he is, but then, he’s always had strong belief in culture and respect for custom.
“You’re always on your phone,” he says.
I arrived here last night, what does he mean I’m always on my phone?
Okay maybe I am…
Qhawe has been stalking me as always. This time he’s whining because we haven’t seen each other in four days. We live in different provinces for crying out loud!
Last weekend he was in Mbuba for the lobola thing. He came to Kimberley on Monday and left on Wednesday. I don’t know when he works because he’s behaving like someone who doesn’t have a job lately.
He wanted me to be in Alberton this weekend, but I couldn’t, I really had to come home, my father was complaining. He became even more whiny when I told him I was going to use the Vryburg route so there was no chance of us seeing each other at all.
I’ve known him for a month but it feels like ten years. I’ve never been happier, even though he is overwhelming sometimes.
He wants to control everything. He wants to control me and my life but I won’t let him, I can’t. It frustrates him but I’ll be even more frustrated if I allow him to be a control freak that he is.
Last week he said to me: “I have a plan, how about we find you another lunatic hospital in Gauteng so you can move this side. I understand what your problem is, you have this obsession with crazy people, you can’t live without them….”
I just looked at him. He doesn’t shock me anymore but sometimes I try to find a diagnosis for him, it’s difficult. I think it’s a cocktail of things, among them rudeness and arrogance and a large amount of not giving a shit.
There’s also a side to him that I’ve recently discovered, the side that gets hurt very easily. He was in a state last Saturday. I could just hear in his voice that something bad had happened that day, during the lobola negotiations. He talked less and laughed less. I think it had something to do with one of his brothers. He’ll tell me when he’s ready. He does that when his family is involved, he doesn’t talk about things right after they happen, he waits until he’s past them before he talks. It’s weird because that’s in conflict with his impulsive personality.
I also think he has a good heart. I think he does because we fight all that time but it never lasts long, he moves on very quickly from things. And when he’s done something to upset me, he apologises sincerely. He acknowledges his wrongs and he apologises. But, I don’t think he’s like that with other people, I don’t think he’d ever apologise to anyone for anything. Maybe the way he is with me has a lot to with the way our relationship started, he’s been making me angry from day-one.
His birthday is coming soon, in two weeks actually and I have no idea what I’m going to do for him.
He’s a Leo, that explains a lot.
“Where is that boy from Limpopo? Your friend, what’s his name again?”-my dad.
“Tsietsi, he’s around”
My father likes him. He thought we were an item, like most people do, but I keep telling him that we are just friends and nothing will ever happen between us. I don’t even have feelings for him.
We haven’t spoken since that night he threw my stuff over the fence. I tried to reach out a few times but I think he blocked my number. He also avoids bumping into me at work at all cost. People have noticed, especially Chelsea and she’s been telling everyone who cares to know about it.
It hurts because I don’t want to lose the friendship, I don’t want to have to choose between him and Qhawe.
“He’s a nice Tswana boy,”-my dad.
Not that again please!
I think it would be better if I brought a Pedi or Sotho man home, but a Zulu? That would be a real problem.
I ignore him. He must get over this little crush he has on Tsietsi on my behalf.
Today there’s a wedding at a nearby village, a chief’s son is marrying a certain Botswana chief’s daughter. It’s going to be one of those where everybody is invited. I’m accompanying my dad as his “date” I think. I’m not looking forward to the whispers and people pointing at me and village BEEs trying to charm me because I could be their ticket to getting tenders. But there’s nothing worse than other chiefs’ daughters who think they are real-life Snow-Whites.
He’s wearing his royal regalia and I’m wearing isishweshwe which is actually Sotho traditional clothing because I couldn’t really wear makgabe(Tswana female traditional clothing) as it covers just your bums and boobs, and ya’ll know these thighs have been around.
“I’m ready ntate,”
“Don’t you want to leave that phone behind?” he asks.
Errrrrrr no! Unless I want Qhawe to drive here and ruin the bloody wedding!
My dad has a driver. It reminds me of the life I live now.
“Send me a picture, I want to see you in traditional clothing” -SMS
He must have about 100 pictures of me on his phone. He takes my photos every chance he gets. When we were on that road trip that other weekend that’s all he did, take pictures of me randomly.
I’ll send him one when I find someone to take it.
It’s already full, like I expected. We are VIPs so we are escorted to the white tent the moment we arrive. It’s beautiful.
There are people sitting on an open veld not too far, I assume they are here with the bride.
Me and other “mafetwa” as they insultingly call us unmarried women, we are going to spend all day being judged by elderly career-wives because apparently we have difficulty meeting the requirements of getting a ring.
There he is, I remember him from high school. He was a boarder and one of those wannabe intellectuals. The fact that he was a chief-in-waiting was important to him, so it was well known.
He sits on the front row with my father and all the other VIP men. I’m at the back with the other snobs. I know some of them, but I didn’t grow up here so I don’t really consider them friends.
“I hear you live in Joburg,”
And so starts the small talk.
“No in Kimberley actually, I lived in Joburg for a couple of years,” I say.
She’s tiny and light skinned, typical Tswana features.
“Oh, I heard you were a doctor?”
Heard from whom?
“I’m a qualified accountant but I’m in business now. It was never really my thing but my father wanted a degree,” she says laughing.
The wedding is starting judging by the singing and the large number of people walking to the open veld.
Women are ululating and the traditional dancing has started again. I stand up and follow the rest of the snobs out of the tent. There are people here, a lot of people. There are young girls wearing makgabe, singing and dancing.
A group of people, also singing is approaching with the bride, she has a blanket over her head.
It’s July, but it’s hot here, that blanket must be torturous.
I notice a few people looking at me. It’s those types that I was telling you about.
You see, in rural areas, traditional leaders are very powerful. They have influence and are respected by people they rule over.
Everything that happens goes through them. If the government wants to do a construction on tribal land, they have to consult with the chief. The rules are always clear, if you are going to do something on our land, even if it’s for our own benefit, you use the services of our people, from the sweeper to the manager.
And so we, the daughters of the influential are seen as tender contracts.
The wedding is nice, but the dust and the heat are not.
I’m happy that it’s time to eat. If my father wants to stay longer I’m just gonna leave him here. All I want now is to lock myself in my room and talk to Qhawe. I miss him so much.
Our table gets full very quickly. The accountant turned business-lady is my partner for the day seeing as my dad has technically deserted me.
There’s one empty chair on my right, I hope it stays empty. No, it doesn’t.
“Hi, can I sit here?” he asks already pulling the chair.
I hope he’s not a talker.
“I’m Letsoalo Letsoalo,” he says.
He’s a talker.
He’s a chief’s son, they’re named like that mostly.
“With an “o” or a “w”?”-my new partner asks.
“With a w,” he says.
“Originally from Lesotho but I’m based in Gauteng,” he says.
He smells nice.
Lately I pay attention to how people smell because I’m used to Qhawe smelling nice. He has a thing for perfume. I must buy him some.
“So, Naledi, how are you doing?” he asks.
He knows my name now?
“Of course I know your name, I went to school with your cousins,”
He’s well spoken. He sounds like the over-educated type.
I’m not sure which cousins he’s talking about.
“I was at your sister’s wedding remember? I greeted you but you just walked past me,” he says
I’m not sure which sister he’s referring to.
“I’m sorry but I don’t remember you at all,” I say.
He’s not bad looking, but he’s definitely not my type so I hope he’s not about to ask me out because…..
“I could drive you home after this because I can see your father is still partying,” he says.
Where is that old man by the way?
“No don’t worry I’ll be fine,”
He doesn’t seem like the type that would say “okay” and leave.
“Okay, how about I come and see you tomorrow then? When you’re not tired and dusty,”
Oh I’m dusty now?
“Look, I’m…….no thank you,” I say.
I want to leave now, this guy is starting to bore me.
My partner is gone, in fact everyone has left the table. It’s just the two of us now.
“By the way, my mother likes you, she thinks you’ll make a great daughter-in-law. There she is there” he says pointing at some woman wearing isishweshwe.
Whaaaat? Hell no!
She’s watching us and smiling.
This must not get to the elders….
I’m not giving up my life like my sister to….
“I don’t think so..” I say trying to stand up.
I feel a grip on arm. He pulls me back to the chair. He’s smiling but that hurt.
“We’re still talking. Where are you rushing off to?” he asks.
Oh I see, he’s one of those that are used to getting any woman they want because of who they are.
“Look, I don’t want to be your mother’s daughter-in-law,”
He’s not smiling now.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk,” he says.
I feel his hand tightening around my wrist.
He’s starting to piss me off.
“Listen, Le-tswa-lo. I have a man, he is a crazy thug turned taxi owner from KwaZulu-Natal, touch me and he’ll…………….”
That scent coming from behind me…..
The heavy feeling on my shoulders.
I turn around….
He’s not looking at me. He’s looking at him.
I quickly try pulling my hand away from his but he’s holding my wrist tight.
The tension here…..
“Let me go!” I snap.
I stand up.
Silence. He’s still looking at him. I know this face, I saw it that morning he found Tsietsi in my house.
“Chawe, let’s go,” I say.
He looks at me for the first time.
“I don’t know him,” I say
Why am I so scared right now?
The guy stands up.
They look at each other for seconds, and then he walks away.
He takes my hand. I follow him, I’m not about to negotiate.
“Get in the car,” he says.
I hope my father didn’t see me being pulled by hand all the way out the gate by a man he doesn’t know.
“When did you get here?” I ask.
He starts the car.
Why do I feel like I’m about to be punished for a sin I didn’t commit?
“Chawe, I swear I don’t know that guy. He just came and sat next to me, he wouldn’t let go of my hand,” I say.
I’m explaining because he’s scaring me right now.
I give up when he doesn’t respond. I don’t know, maybe my talking makes him more angry. He looks like he’s about to lose it.
And how could he just come here without telling me? He’s driving straight to my father’s house. How does he know my father’s house?
“Go get your stuff we’re leaving,” he says.
“I can’t just leave, my dad will……”
The look he gives me!
“Chawe I can’t just leave. What am I going to do with your car? Leave it here?”
I don’t think he cares about that. But also, he can’t just order me to go with him.
“Can we at least talk about this? You’re scaring me Chawe?”
He’s still not talking. I’m going to sit here until he does.
“What’s his name?” he asks.
“I don’t know, he’s just some guy that knows my family, but I don’t know him,”
He looks at me, he thinks I’m lying I can just tell.
He looks at me until I give in and look away.
“What’s his name Naledi?”
“Chawe, what you saw there was nothing, the guy came and sat next to me and started talking…….”
“I don’t want you talking to men,” he says.
Here we go again!
I fold my hands and look out the window.
Qhawe is crazy! He’s crazy and he can’t help it! I’ve lost my best friend because of him! And now I can’t talk to people?
He starts the car.
“Where are we going? My dad will be back anytime now,”
“I’ll bring you back,” he snaps.
I’ve seen many sides of him but I’ve never seen him this angry before.
He’s going to beat me! I know he will! What have I gotten myself into? Please not this! Not this again!
My ex sometimes did this when he was about to hit me. He drove to a secluded place where no one would see us….
It’s all coming back. All those times he bashed me, it’s all coming back like a wave….
“Why are you crying?”
“I want to go home Chawe, please take me home..” I beg.
He looks confused.
“I said I’ll bring you back,”
“You’re going to hit me…”
“Hit you??? What? Naledi!!”
He stops the car.
“Hit you? You think I’d hit you?? Naledi!”
So where is he taking me then?
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to the guesthouse where I’m staying. I wanted to surprise you, that’s why I came here,” he says.
He looks serious, and worried. I want to change the subject now. I’m a bit embarrassed.
“When did you arrive?” I ask.
We’re still parked on the roadside. He looks worried, hurt a little.
“Naledi you think I’d hit you? Is that how little you think of me?”
“No, it’s just that you scared me,”
Now I’m really embarrassed.
“I will never hit you. I know I have my moments but hit you? I’ll never do that,” he says.
I can’t look at him, not after I accused him of being a potential abuser.
“Hey, look at me,” he says touching my chin.
“Nobody is going to ever hit you, not as long as I’m alive,” he says.
I wish I could believe him. Just like that.
“But I’m going to hurt that guy, he doesn’t know me!”
He needs to get over that.
My phone. It’s my dad.
“Where are you?”
“I’m around ntate, I left the wedding, I’ll be home just now,” I say.
He says okay and hangs up.
I know he didn’t see that little incident otherwise it would have been the first thing he asked. He doesn’t hold back, naturally.
“My dad is home,”
I hope he will understand that this means he has to take me home.
“Do you want to go back home?” he asks.
He’s softened a little.
He has this puppy look on his face. He doesn’t want me to go and honestly I don’t want to go either, but my dad…..
“I have to go baby, my dad is……he’s very strict and he’s going to go crazy if he doesn’t know where I am,”
He definitely doesn’t want me to go, and I feel bad.
“Okay, tell you what, let me go home now, you come back when it’s dark, I’ll SMS you when my dad is sleeping. I’ll sneak out through the window,”
“Okay,” he says. He looks excited. I was joking about the window part.
“What’s that smile on your face? What do you want to do to me Chawe?”
The hand goes to my thigh.
“The problem is, you think I’ve done something to you already, I haven’t done anything to you so far?”
“I’m going to fuck you until your knees break tonight,” her whispers.
The way he says it!
That’s it! I’m getting out of this car…
I’ll have to find a way to sneak out.
I feel really bad. He came all the way here to surprise me and the next thing there’s drama.
He watches me until I get inside the house.
We were fighting not so long ago and now it’s like nothing happened.
It’s crazy because the reality is I have no friends now, which means I have nobody to talk to about my weird relationship. Do other women go through this? Do they have men who just show up everywhere? Do they have hectic fights that last for 15 minutes? An intense 15 minutes?
I think we are more similar than we know. We both let things go easily after we lose our cool over them.
“Where were you?”
“I got a lift with some girls ntate, they were at the wedding,”
He never knows when I’m lying to him. He trusts me too much.
“Oh, you have to cook because we have guests tonight. I’ve told Dikeledi not to bother, I think you should cook tonight,” he says.
Why? He never asks me to cook. Besides, there are enough domestic workers in this household to cook for a village wedding.
“We have guests coming over tonight,” he says.
I am in no mood to entertain village people! No mood!
“Who are they?”
“Old family friends, they asked to sleep over here because they don’t want to drive at night,” he says and leaves, just like that.
My dad is known for being generous, everybody knows that about him and they take advantage of his kindness. That’s why there are always people all over his house.
And those people are from the wedding, why do they need food now?
“How many are they?” I shout. He’s in the other room.
“Four I think,” he shouts back.
At least it’s not the whole village.
Pap and grilled meat and gravy, that’s as far as I can go. I cooked the same thing for Qhawe the other day. I was worried, but he ate it and was seemingly impressed.
I can’t wait for tonight, I just want to be with him.
“Look who is home…”
What?? Oh My!
“I didn’t know you were coming,”
“We weren’t but we heard you were home and that you brought a new car. How are you?”
I’m not interested in her. I’m interested in the hugs and kisses from my nieces.
“They’re so grown!” I say.
I haven’t seen her or them in three months. They live in the Free State.
“That’s one posh car you have there,” she says.
Should I lie to her too?
“What’s going on?” she asks.
She’s too good.
“Actually the car is not mine, I’m just using it for now….?”
She’s still asking, her eyes say so.
“Whose car is it?” she asks.
Where do I start?
“Who is that?”
I keep quiet.
“New boyfriend?” she asks.
“Let’s go to the bedroom,” I say.
I don’t want my dad to hear.
She closes the door and stands behind it. I know what that means.
“Okay, I met him a month ago and things just escalated…….”
“Escalated to a point where he gives you a car like that?” she asks.
Not her too…..
“Yes but……a lot of things have happened in one month,” I say.
She wants an explanation.
“But I’m happy. He’s different, but I’m happy. And he loves me Tshedi, he really does. He treats me like a queen and he cares, he really cares about me,” “Sit down and tell me all about it,” she says.
I don’t even know where to start.
She’s the eldest, married to some stick-up guy who thinks the world revolves around him. She told me that sometimes she and the kids go for weeks without seeing him because he travels a lot.
I don’t think she loves him, or that she ever did. I think she married him because the family approved. My father liked him from the start although he’s not type that chooses men for us. I know there will be some terms and conditions when I bring a man home but he won’t go out and find one for me. In fact, I don’t think he wants me to get married, I’ll always be his baby.
With my sister, her husband’s family found her for him. She was not aware. She only found out after they managed to worm their way into our family and earned my father’s trust. There was no turning back after that.
I’ve never trusted him. There was just something that was odd about him from the beginning. He has a close relationship with my father, I think that’s why my sister lies about being happy in her marriage, just so she doesn’t frustrate dad.
“So just like that, he wanted to put you in another house without telling you?” she asks.
“But he apologised and I moved back to my house,”
“He sounds like an interesting character, I don’t think you’ll ever get bored with him,” she says.
I didn’t expect this reaction. I expected her to say things are moving too fast and that I have to be careful.
“Omphi didn’t seem to like him,”
“Omphi doesn’t like anyone. Besides, you know how she gets when things go well for one of us, she’s never happy for us,” she says.
I don’t believe that. They always say that about her.
“So, he’s here, he said he wanted to surprise me because…..
“Here in the village, he’s going to come and see me later. I’m going to have to sneak out because ntante will never allow me to go out,”
She looks excited.
“Shame you’re in love. I think I’m going to like him, he’s stupid, stupid men are fun,” she says laughing.
And she knows that how?
“I have to finish cooking, ntate invited some people over…”
“Urgh, not again,” she says following me back to the kitchen.
She’s a better cook than I am, so she takes over and I sit and watch. Well actually I’m on the phone updating Qhawe about what I’m doing.
“They’re here,”-my dad.
I hope they’ll want to go to sleep early so I can get out of here.
He goes outside.
“Do you know who they are?”-Tshedi
“Not really, let’s just put everything in serving bowls and leave it on the table, they will dish up for themselves,” I say.
It makes things easier. Besides, we have no plans of sitting with them, they’re probably old people who’ll bore us with their stories.
“He said four but let’s put six plates just in case,” -me.
The door opens and they walk in. It’s two women and two men. We direct them to the table. The sooner they all settle down the better.
I hear my dad laughing outside. He walks in with……
Really?? This?? I can’t believe this!
They walk in and join the others at the table.
The idiot smiles at me. I bet you this was his idea.
“And then? You look upset all of a sudden,”-Tshedi.
I don’t even want to start…..
We greet and leave everything on the table.
“Where are you going? Aren’t you joining us?”-my dad.
“No we’re going to…..”-
“No, sit down. Naledi!”-dad
We sit on the two empty chairs next to the idiot.
I make sure Tshedi sits next to him and not me.
“Nailed, go put your phone in the kitchen, it’s rude to always be on your phone when you’re sitting with people,”-dad.
I don’t want to, Qhawe will be here soon. But I don’t want to disrespect my dad in front of people, so I do as he says. But I will ask to be excused from this table as soon as I can.
I’ve just realised that one of the two women is the idiot’s mother.
“Naledi, I haven’t seen you since you were a little girl,” she says.
I’ve never seen you in my life.
“She’s grown hasn’t she? She looks exactly like her mother,” the other one.
I hear that a lot. My mother has been gone for almost 30 years and they still remember her?
“This is my son Letswalo, I understand you two have already met,” the mother. She has this creepy smile on her face.
“Yes, we met at the wedding,” he says looking at me and smiling.
Tshedi looks at me, and then the mother. She knows exactly what’s going on here, this is exactly how it happened with her.
“This is a lovely house ntate, and thank you very much for accommodating us. I see there has been so much development in the community since you took over,” the idiot says to my father.
Oh he’s good. He knows exactly what to do to win him over. And my dad has no idea what’s going on here.
His mother keeps looking at me and smiling. I’m getting really irritated by her. Tshedi is angry.
We’re done eating but my dad still won’t let is leave the table.
I’m anxious now, really anxious. I know Qhawe has been sending messages. He said he’d SMS before he leaves the guesthouse and it’s not even far.
“There’s a car outside,” Tshedi whispers to me.
Yes but what am I going to do?
“Naledi, how is it being a doctor, have you thought about coming back here to open a surgery or help out at the local clinic?”- the mother.
“I’ve been asking her to do that for years,” my dad.
“I think it’s a perfect idea. I mean there’s not much money to be made but helping people in need gives you more satisfaction. I do a lot of cases for free, especially for rural communities. I also believe in the importance of family and culture,” the idiot.
I figure he’s a lawyer.
My dad keeps nodding.
They are talking but I’m not listening. I keep checking the clock on the wall, it’s been 30 minutes since he arrived. I know he’ll wait but I know he’ll keep getting more and more anxious and paranoid when I don’t respond to his messages.
Dikeledi has cleared the table. She’s washing the dishes now. These people are still talking but my sister and I are sitting here looking bored. The creepy mother keeps asking me questions and I want to slap her fucking face.
It’s been an hour, I need to come up with a plan.
“May I be excused, I just need to make a call outside,” the idiot says, stands up and goes outside.
This could be my chance.
“No, where are you going? Let’s wait for him to come back, say a prayer, and then we can all go to sleep,”-dad.
They’d better pray very fast or I’m going to leave this house while their eyes are still closed. Jesus will just have to forgive me, he’s the one who sent me a crazy man.
“I was talking to………”
Oh crap! Can we just pray and leave this table!!!
My phone rings. He’s calling now, this is not good.
“Naledi that can wait. Let us pray,”- my dad.
One of the men talks about a verse in the bible. I have no idea which one. I’m not listening.
“Let us close our eyes,”-dad.
Whew! We’re almost there!
The women are praying, I’m not sure if my dad is but everybody has their eyes closed including the idiot, I just want to stab him with this fork.
I close my eyes, maybe this will go quicker if I do.
I feel the heaviness on my shoulders, the tension, the presence….
All eyes open……
The look on everyone’s faces. Shock and confusion….
How and when did he come in?
“Can we help you?” my dad asks in SeTswana.
He looks at all of us. He’s standing at the end of the table with his hands in his pockets.
He stares at Letswalo longer.
I cannot believe this!
“Good evening,” he says at last. In Zulu.
I push my chair.
“Can I help you young man?”-dad.
“Yes, I’m here to see Naledi,”- he says in some very deep Zulu.
Now all attention turns to me. He’s still standing. It’s disrespectful to stand like this in a man’s house. Let alone a chief’s house.
“I’m here to see Naledi,” he repeats.
How am I going to explain this?
“And you are?”-dad
“I’m Qhawe,” that’s all he says.
“Please leave my house. You’re not going to come in here and demand my daughter. Not in my house!” dad. He’s raising his voice now.
Qhawe stands still.
“ I said leave!” -dad
He stands still.
“Naledi what is this about? Do you know this man?”-dad
I keep quiet.
I look at him. Can he just leave please…
He stands still.
How can he do this to me?
“She’s not going anywhere with you,”- dad.
Tshedi nudges me with her elbow.
I’m still sitting.
“Do you love him?” she whispers.
“Go,” she says.
I look at her.
She raises her eyebrows.
I stand up.
“Naledi!!” my dad.
I keep walking, pick up my phone from the kitchen table and go to stand next to Qhawe.
“Naledi sit down!”-dad
“Thank you,”-Qhawe says, puts one hand on my back and we walk out the door.
I feel a bit funny as we walk to the gate. My body feels heavy, my head light.
What did I just do?
“What have I done???” I ask when he starts the car.
I’m coming back to my senses.
What did I just do to my father??
He makes a call.
“Bafo, I just fucked up big time. I just did something really stupid. Call me,” he says and hangs up.
What have I done?