I want to throw the bloody thing out the window.
Thirty minutes! That’s all I need just thirty minutes of sleep!
But Tshedi, she’s been calling and calling…….
And that vampire of a man! We left Kimberley at 3am (yes that’s how rough it is).
I tried to sleep on the way but he kept waking me up.
We arrived here just after 8am and what does he do? He showers, gets dressed and leaves! He’s like a flipping ghost!
He said something about going to shisanyama with the brothers. I don’t know, I wasn’t listening, I just wanted him to leave so I could sleep.
Now I’m annoyed by Tshedi and I’m hungry. It’s just after 11am. I don’t know why she’s rushing me.
I’ll eat whatever I find in the fridge and go get ready. I want to drive my car today, it’s been parked here for two months. But then, Tshedi will kill me if I show up in a 1-Series when God has shown her so many times that she deserves far better.
The car is parked outside? That means he’s back. But the house is quiet, too quiet.
He could be outside, but I don’t see him through the glass walls.
I’m going to look for him, he must think I’m still sleeping.
I smile walking past the porch and thinking about that first morning we had breakfast out here. When I showed him who rules the roost.
But, where is he though?
“Don’t step on those……” he says behind me.
Where did he come from?
“Whew! I’ve been looking for you…….” I say rushing to hug…
Oh shit!!! I stop before my arms reach him.
“He freaks out when we step on his trees and flowers and all this green shit he has all over here,” he says puffing out smoke.
I’m frozen. I can’t even utter a single word.
“So, how are you MaMontsho?” he asks.
I want to speak, but I can’t, so I nod.
“Qhawe tells me you hang around lunatics all day,”- he says.
I clear my throat.
“They’re my patients,” I manage to say.
I’m freaked out by a lot of things. First is the fact that I almost hugged him, second is the fact that there’s something very dark……….I can’t explain it…..about him, and four is I cannot get used to how much he looks like Qhawe.
“I see,” he says, puffing the smoke.
So he is as arrogant as his brother I see.
I don’t know whether I should continue standing here, or ask to be excused and run to lock myself in the bedroom or if I should……
Where is Qhawe anyway?
“I’m hungry,” he says
He’s standing there looking at me.
I can’t even look him in the eye.
“What should I make you, is there anything specific….?”-me
What kind of stupid question is this…..?
I’m really trying to act normal.
So he’s hungry but he doesn’t know what he wants to eat?
He’s not Qhawe Naledi, he just called his herbs ‘stupid green shit’……..
I have to get out of here before I lose my mind…….
I walk inside the house and literally run up the stairs to the bedroom. I’m on a robe! I just spoke to my boyfriend’s brother on a robe! And worse at first I thought he was Qhawe! What if I can’t tell them apart one day and I end up……! No!
And where the heck is Qhawe???
I jump in the shower quickly, put on a dress and comb my hair. Some lipstick, at least.
I’m going to make something quick so he can eat and go.
Oh! Qhawe is here now? They’re both sitting watching TV. I wonder where he was.
“That was quick,” he says when he sees me coming down the stairs.
He has a nerve to say that after he abandoned me here and left me with his scary brother.
“I’ll make you something quick if that’s okay,” I say
They both nod.
I wish I could make them Noodles but that would be a sin before the lord.
I’ll make them some seriously thick sandwiches.
“By the way baby, I called Tshedi and told them to come pick you up from here,”-Qhawe
Called Tshedi? Where did he get Tshedi’s numbers?
Oh so that’s why Tshedi has stopped calling.
He doesn’t even look at me and that’s because he knows I will give him the look.
Sigh. He has my family’s phone numbers now?
How does he do these things?
I almost forgot the tray. That would have been a disaster.
I put the food in front of them, and then wonder what I should do next.
Omphi’s car is parking outside. I was hoping he was joking.
Tshedi is the first to walk in……
Please please please don’t embarrass me, not in front of his brother.
“Hiiiiii” she says, loud, wide smile, face that says “I’m about to embarrass the shit out of my little sister”.
She stops and leans on the kitchen counter, looks at them, me, and them again.
Good! She doesn’t know which one is Qhawe.
Omphi is standing next to her. She’s just…cold.
They both stand up and walk towards us.
“Ladies, we have to go, but enjoy hanging out. Baby, you’ll call me if you need me, don’t forget to lock the front door,” -Qhawe says kissing me on the lips.
“Nice to see you again, ladies,” he says looking at both my sisters.
He’s met both of them before, by the way.
“MaMontsho, we hope to see you soon, don’t stay in Kimberley for too long,”-Mqhele.
“Don’t worry, I don’t have a life, you’ll probably see me sooner,” I say looking at Qhawe.
He doesn’t say anything but I know in his mind he’s saying: “Mnx!”
Tshedi looks at me from head to toe.
“What is wrong with you? Are you trying to embarrass me? Did you even shower?”-
“I had to make them food and I didn’t even know the brother was here. And how is this embarrassing you?”
She rolls her eyes and leaves me standing there……
“Is that a….?” she’s walking out the sliding door.
“They call you MaMontsho? What are you an illiterate woman from some village?”-Omphi
What’s her problem?
Tshedi is back in the house and she’s running all over.
“Is this you Ledi?” she shouts from wherever she is.
She’s at that family photos passage.
She’s looking at a picture, the largest one.
It’s me. It’s a picture of me, in the main bedroom, I look fast asleep.
She’s gone. Finally.
I didn’t see this when we arrived.
I think I’m going to cry.
He really is mine.
I have to call him now.
An SMS comes in just as I dial.
It’s from the bank.
“Here is R50 000, go buy yourself a life,”
I’m going to murder him!!!
“What’s wrong Ledi? What’s that look on your face?”-Tshedi
She must think it has something to do with the picture.
“Chawe! He’s so………”- I don’t even know how to explain it.
They’re both looking at me waiting for an explanation.
But if I tell them, especially Omphi, they might get the wrong impression about him.
“Never mind, we have to go it’s getting late,”-me
Tshedi wants to see the whole house.
I have to go to the bedroom and get ready.
Qhawe though, just when I think he can’t shock me anymore, he does. This must be about that R50 I gave him to buy a life, yes, he’s been waiting for this moment for a long time.
But why am I smiling?
He seriously drives me crazy.
I won’t call him. I want him to worry and think I’m not talking to him.
I have to put a weave on this head, this plain and natural thing is hard work and besides, my face looks too big with thin hair. I can’t be walking around with plumpy cheeks and plumpy hips.
Another plumpy face is Hlomu. She’s not even big, although she’s not thin either, she’s just really really cute. I have to do some more internet research so I can know more about them, well, at least all that has been said about them.
“Is this the main bedroom?” Tshedi walks in and asks.
She’s opening bathroom doors and….
“A walk-in closet? You must put your clothes and shoes all over here,” she says.
This gold-digger though!
“I don’t live here Tshedi,”-me
But it feels like I do, some of my clothes are here too.
Omphi is in the balcony.
“So the ex is history?”-Tshedi says in a low voice.
“Looks like it, we haven’t talked about it though, I don’t even know when he put that picture up,”-me
I’m not complaining though.
“He must have a lot of money,”-Omphi walks back in and says.
Tshedi and I look at each other.
She’s just so cold, I don’t know what her problem is.
“I’m ready, let’s go,”-me
We’re going wherever Omphi thinks is proper. I only lived in Gauteng briefly and I was still a struggling intern working in Tembisa, I shopped at Boulders in Midrand.
“Is that your car Ledi?”-Omphi
I almost forgot, I have to close the garage door too.
“You drove here?”
I hadn’t really briefed her about my new transport mode because she’s been acting all funny since the day of the baby shower.
“No it’s been parked here for two months, she uses the Maserati now,”-Tshedi
The way she says it!
“Oh,” she says with a frown.
We’re going to Melrose Arch. I’ve only been there once.
I haven’t spoken to Qhawe since that SMS and I know that wherever he is he thinks I’m angry and won’t even touch the money.
Well, I’m going to shock him today.
“Let’s choose a restaurant where we can sit outside, we’re only here for lunch anyway so we might as well sit outside and gossip about people passing by,”-Tshedi
We do that sometimes, especially the two of us.
“No, we’re here for shopping too,”-me
They look surprised. I never offer shopping sprees and it’s still a week before payday.
“Nope, I’m broke,” -Tshedi
Omphi is never broke. She’s just that kind of person and no, she will never offer you money even if it’s rolling in her bank account.
“My treat, I have R50 000 to spend, today,”-me
They raise their eyebrows.
They must think I’m joking.
“So where do we start?”-me
“There!”- Tshedi says pointing at a shoe shop.
“No wait, R50 000 for shopping?”-Omphi
“Yes Omphi, I have R50 000 for shopping, I’ve been saving. I did some private jobs and saved money, and today, I feel like spoiling myself, and my sisters,”-me
Now I’m forced to lie because I don’t know what the heck her problem is.
Tshedi is already rushing us to go to the shop.
“Ledi, your boyfriend is rich, not you, you can’t be spending money carelessly just because you are taken care of now. What if the relationship doesn’t work out….?”
“The relationship is going to work out Omphi whether the guy is rich or not, they love each other and that’s it. And Ledi makes her own money, she doesn’t need a man to do that for her,”-Tshedi.
She’s getting annoyed by all the negativity. I am too.
I see the first pair I like the moment we walk in. Tshedi, she likes all of them. I don’t care what Omphi wants.
“Are you sure about this?”-Tshedi asks when we are alone.
She looks at me suspiciously.
“Okay, okay….Chawe gave me the money. I didn’t ask him for it, he just put it in my account and said I must go buy a life. I think he gave it to me because you guys are here and he wants us to spend it…”
“R50 000? Just like that? That’s Sello’s monthly earnings,” she says.
Okay, I didn’t need to know that. The guy is a successful business consultant, I thought he made more.
I don’t like him but I do respect his business skills, he pays himself a salary every month, he doesn’t go out and spend money he should be using to sustain his business, I guess that’s why he’s doing so well.
And also, he takes care of his family financially. His children go to the best schools and my sister gets everything she wants, although she has a good job too.
“Yeah, it’s like five-cents to him. The guy has so much money it’s scary sometimes. Normally I’d say no but he gets offended every time I do,”- me
I don’t want to appear as a gold-digger. But last night he said he was going to “wife my crazy ass” so maybe I should start getting used to it.
“And you say no because? The guy is chowing your vagina and every time he does it loses some value. I want those shoes and that bag….”she says.
She’s back! I love her so much!
“Do you even need that stuff?”-Omphi says when Tshedi buys a travel bag.
She’s really spoiling this trip.
Anywho, we decide to move along to Sandton City because there aren’t enough shops here.
“Looks like I’ve been dumped”-SMS from Qhawe.
“I miss you”- another one
“Ledi, it’s Chawe,”-Tshedi
This is just wrong, totally wrong, it’s stalking actually.
“Hi, I was about to hang myself,”-him
“Wow, who stopped you?”-me
“The thought of never shagging you again,”-him
Oh crap! I’m laughing…………….
“What are you up to?”-him
“I’m buying myself a life,”-me
“Really? You are using the money?”
“Yes, are you happy now?”-me
“I’m happy, and you deserve all this after last night, did you bring those handcuffs……?
Oh my God!
“Bye Chawe, I’ll call you later,”
What is wrong with him? I know he’s still with Mqhele wherever he is. Does he want his family to think I’m a retired stripper or something?
“Ledi, where did he get my numbers?”-Tshedi.
I wish I knew.
“I wish I knew. I don’t know where he got MY numbers or my name and where I work and stay. I mean, he showed up at that wedding in the village and from there drove me straight home…….I don’t ask anymore,” -me
“Sounds a little creepy don’t you think?”-Omphi
I cannot for the life of me!
I have more stuff that I want to buy, for the house, or “our house” as he always calls it.
I noticed he keeps the pasta in packets so I’m going to buy those silver containers. I need about three glass-jars too, those fancy towel holders for the bathrooms and some ice buckets. Oh and door-mats too.
Omphi is…still Omphi but she couldn’t resist buying expensive make-up with the money she said I was using carelessly.
“Pots? You’re buying pots with my boyfriend’s money?”-
“They’re nice, and besides, he owes me for training you to become the woman that you are,”
Omphi is on the phone.
“By the way, I told Sello about your new boyfriend, guess what happened?”
Urgh I don’t think they’re going to click at all.
“He’s pestering me to introduce them,” she says.
I can’t say I’m surprised. It must be about business more than anything.
“Where is he by the way?”-me
“Where he always is when he’s not home with me,”
Oh shit! Nothing breaks my heart more than this. That woman has been around for years now.
“But Tshedi, it looks like you have just accepted it, that’s not good,”-me
She doesn’t look bothered at all.
“Ledi, you will learn when you are older that some battles are not worth fighting. He made his choice that he wants to have an official mistress, but he gets suicidal when I suggest we divorce so he can go and be with her. He claims he loves me and wants to stay with me, but also, he can’t stay away from her. I tried everything, everything I could Ledi. So, eventually I decided that I’m going to live my life the way I want to, I’m just going to let him be and I’m going to sacrifice my happiness just to make sure that my children see their father before they go to sleep and when they wake up in the morning. You may not understand it but I know what I’m doing. I’m not saying it’s going to be like this forever, one day I will be strong enough to go where my heart wants to be,”
I guess that’s Maradona’s arms.
“And Maradona the bus driver? What the heck Tshedi?”
“The bus driver who loves me. He always has, from when we were teenagers,” she says.
I don’t get it.
“And besides, he’ll get his degree soon,” she says.
“Studying where? When? How?”
She rolls her eyes.
“Studying at Unisa, with Sello’s money,” she says and picks a magazine rack.
What the fuck??
“I like this, I think it will look nice in my lounge. Come one, let’s go pay,” she says and leaves me standing there.
Does she understand what she’s just told me? This woman! Her husband is a chief in waiting and she’s busy investing in another man? Does she even realise how dangerous this is?
I had to go inside the bank to increase my swiping limit. Tshedi bought more stuff than all of us. I bought Qhawe two perfumes too, I hope he likes them.
“I met the family last night, all of them,” I say as we finally drive back to Alberton.
I can’t believe I hadn’t told them that.
I wish Omphi would drop us off and leave. She’s made this trip very awkward.
“Things are getting serious aren’t they?”-Omphi
“What do you think dad is going to say?”- her again.
Again, she has no clue what’s been happening.
And I won’t tell her, I’ve had enough judgment for one day.
“They’re nice people, very humble,”-me
“I can tell by the way Chawe is,”-Tshedi
I’m not sure about Qhawe being humble, he has his “rich guy” moments.
The house is dark, which means he’s still wherever he is with his twin. He didn’t stalk me much today. I assume he didn’t want my sisters to think he is a possessive psycho, which he is.
I brought food too, in case he comes home hungry.
Tshedi is still going on about how big and nice the house is.
“Guys, before you go I have something to tell you,”-me
I’ve been battling the thoughts of whether I should tell them or not all day. I’m not sure how I feel about the subject myself.
And why do they look like they’re expecting the worst?
I tell them to sit in the lounge. This might just spoil the mood.
“Chawe….I told Chawe about mom and what happened,”-me
“His parents died when he was ten so he kind of relates to our story,”
Tshedi nods. Omphi is blank.
“Long story short, he did what I asked him not to do. He made calls,”
They look confused.
“He tried to find her, and he made some progress……”
“Omphi sit down!”-Tshedi.
“No Tshedi! Who gave him the right to do that? Who does he think he is? If we wanted her back in our lives we would have looked for her…….!”- Omphi
What is she shouting for?
“He didn’t find her, well, he can find her if I give him the go ahead but he said it was up to me,” -me
“Up to you? Up to you Ledi? If he brings that woman back in your life he’s bringing her back into our lives too! Back into ntate’s life after she left him with four children!!! And you see nothing wrong with that….?”
“He was just trying to help…..”-me
“Help who? Just because he has money he thinks he can come here and fix our family? What does he know about us? You sleep with him for two months and he thinks this is Khumbulekhaya……”
She’s still standing and shouting!
“No Tshedi! I will not allow this. Naledi I don’t want that woman back in my life!”
“She’s still our mother,”-Tshedi
“Our mother? She got to be your mother, she got to be Lesedi’s mother, and when the time came for her to be my mother, she had Naledi, and then she left. So there I was, two years old and somewhere in-between my two older sisters and baby Naledi who needed to be taken care of. Who was taking care of me?”
She must not blame us for our mother’s sins!
“No Tshedi! Nobody has ever cared about me! It was always about her! Always about Naledi and what she needed and how everybody needed to pay attention to her and baby her like the world revolved around her! No wonder she ended up with a man who beat her……”
“Omphi! I’ve had with you. I’m not going to sit here and listen to you blame me for your problems. You’ve always been mean and cold and trouble so you can’t go around blaming people for not being there for you…….”
She’s standing in-front of me.
“What? You’re judging me? So now that you’re sleeping with some rich idiot you think you’re better than me? He’s going to fuck you and leave you like every other man…….”
“No! Ledi!”-Tshedi shouts and stands up.
Omphi is still standing in front of me with her hand on her cheek. I didn’t mean to slap her but she had it coming!
“You think you’re going to bring home that uneducated taxi owner who probably stole and killed his way to the top to make his money? Dad will never allow that…….”
The bitch doesn’t know me!
“Ledi! Ledi!”-Tshedi is screaming and trying to pull me away.
Omphi has messed with me for the last time! The last time!
The bitch is pulling my hair and ripping my dress!
The arms pulling me are bigger and stronger now!!
He pulls me once and I can’t move!
He’s holding me tight from the back!
Oh my God!!
Tshedi is holding Omphi from behind! She’s still screaming and cursing!
“What is going on?”-Qhawe
Oh my God!!
“Naledi!” he says.
I can’t stop myself from crying. It’s anger more than anything.
Nobody speaks. Qhawe’s eyes are on me and I have no idea what to say to him.
I have to get out of here!
What did I just make him witness? How did that happen? How did I not see him?
I hear a car start. It must be them leaving.
How am I even going to explain this to Qhawe? In his house?
He walks in. I should have run to the spare bedroom, I don’t deserve to be here.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
I don’t answer.
I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if I’m okay.
“What’s going on Naledi? What was that?” he asks.
That was family.
“Are they gone?”-me
“Yes, but Tshedi is downstairs, she left her here,”
I was hoping they both left. I want to sleep and forget all about that. I just want a minute, a minute of escape.
“I’m going to tell her to take my car and go,” me
He doesn’t think that’s a good idea, but he follows me out of the bedroom anyway.
I don’t know whether I should be embarrassed or angry or sad about all this. Imagine Qhawe having to witness that, all the noise and chaos in his house!
Tshedi is sitting on the couch. The same one that was a boxing ring just minutes ago.
“Are you okay?” that’s the first thing she asks.
I’m okay. I really am. I’m calm now.
“You can use my car…….”
“No you can stay here Tshedi, it’s fine,”-Qhawe
I’m not sure.
“It’s fine Chawe, you’re here with Ledi so she’ll be fine, someone has to be with Omphi,” she says.
Yes she’s right.
“Okay, use the GPS so you don’t get lost,” he says handing her car keys.
Now I’m left alone with him.
This is going to be the worst night of my life.
“Are you hungry?”-me
He’s shocked by my question.
He doesn’t answer.
“I bought you perfume,” I say looking at the shopping bags still sitting on the dining room table.
“Naledi, talk to me,” he says
I’m going to start crying again.
I don’t want to talk to him about this. I don’t want him to know the hidden imperfections of my family. It’s too personal.
“I brought you take-aways…….your favourite,”
He pulls me by my arm before I reach the kitchen.
“I don’t want food, I want to know what’s going on,” he says.
He’s that “him” again. That firm and commanding him.
“Come on, let’s sit,” he says pulling me to the lounge.
I don’t want to talk about it.
“Chawe will you be okay with it if I said I didn’t want to talk about this?” -me
I really don’t want to.
“No,” he says.
He can’t do this.
“Why? It’s how I feel,”-me
“Because we are in a relationship, and it’s a permanent one. So if something happens we talk about it. If you are not okay, I’m not okay, and I’m not going to lie next to you in bed and listen to you cry all night,” he says.
He clearly doesn’t understand how bad things are. I’ve never gotten physical with any of my sisters before. Yes, we have our fights as a family, that’s why Lesedi is estranged but it has never gotten this far. Omphi has always been mean to everyone but nobody has ever hit her. And, she’s older than me, I shouldn’t have done that. What will ntate say?
“I’m going to sit here and wait until you’re ready to talk,” he says.
I know him, he won’t let it go.
I stand up.
“I’m going to get something to drink,” I say when he stands with me.
There are always bottles of water in the fridge. I don’t think he drinks tap water at all.
I come back and sit next to him. But he stands up and sits on the coffee-table, facing me.
Where did it start? Let me see……
I’m just going to start where there was calm before the storm…..
“I told them about the possibility of finding our mother…..”
He doesn’t get me.
“I told them about you asking around and that there is a possibility that you might find her……”
He drops his eyes.
I hope he doesn’t start thinking all this was his fault, because it’s far deeper than that.
“And then Omphi started going crazy, saying she doesn’t want her in her life and that you had no right to interfere and that nobody has ever cared about her or taken care of her it was always about me…….” I stop.
The look on his face is……..I think he’s feeling a bit awkward. I think he doesn’t want to know the details of my family drama now.
“So she doesn’t want to see her mother again?” he asks.
“I also don’t want to see her again. Our lives are fine, her coming back will just take us back….”
“Naledi, what I saw when I walked in here did not say your lives are fine. I could hear noise from the driveway…”
“That was not us at all Chawe, that’s not who we are. I don’t know what happened but I just lost it. Omphi had been picking on me all day and I just…..I got pushed to the limit,”
He’s looking at me like he’s trying to read my thoughts.
“What pushed you to the limit?”-him
“The things she said,”-me
“What did she say?”-him
“She said something about my ex-boyfriend. She said no wonder I ended up with a man who beat me,”
He closes his eyes as I say this, like he’s in pain.
“Is that what the fight was about? Is that when things started getting physical….?” he asks.
I open my mouth but……
I close it.
I’m not going to tell him what she said about him, I can’t.
“To be honest, I’m not sure when it started. Voices got high and it just turned chaotic…”- I stop.
Whew! I don’t know how the fuck I’m going to fix this.
“I’m not like that Chawe. I swear that wasn’t me. And I’m sorry you had to see that. I didn’t mean to disrespect your house like that……”
He’s quiet. Why is he so quiet?
“I didn’t like what I saw Naledi,” he says.
“You don’t solve problems with violence. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about, especially not with your siblings,” he says
“I know baby I’m sorry,”
I am so ashamed of myself right now.
“Are you going to make things right with your sister?”-him
It’s a bit too early to suggest that, I need to sleep on it.
“You have to,” he says.
Qhawe doesn’t know how hectic Omphi is, she’ll probably spit on my face when I try to apologise. And she’s the one who should apologise to me for saying all those hurtful things.
“I need to cool off, I’m sure we will talk eventually,”-me
I’m done with this. I want to stop talking now.
“So she said nobody cares about her?”-him
“She said everyone cared about me because I was the baby of the family and that nobody paid attention to her and a whole lot of other things. And the thing is I don’t remember her ever caring about me, she doesn’t care about anyone but herself…..”
He clears his throat.
“So you’ve never been close?”-him
I don’t think so.
“Not as close as I am to Tshedi. I can actually count the times where Omphi and I did stuff together when we were younger,”-me
“Okay, count them,” he says.
Let me see…..
“She used to pleat my hair when I was in primary school, every weekend we would sit on the veranda and she would pleat it because naturally it’s very coarse so the teachers used to shout at me all the time when it locked and looked untidy,”
“When I started high school, she was two classes ahead of me, I used to spend breaks and lunches with her and her friends. She never allowed me to make my own friends, I was always forced to be with her and to follow her around, all the time,”
He raises his eyebrows.
“Why do you think she did that?”-him
“I don’t know, because she wanted to control me, like she still does now,”-me
He narrows his eyes.
“You know, me and my brothers were like that too. Nkosana always made sure we were where he could see us,”
“He did that so everyone would know that we were his brothers and they couldn’t bully us,” he says.
I was bullied at primary school after Omphi left but I was never bullied in high school.
“Tell me more,”-him
“She left to go to university later and then she started being really wild. She gave my dad a hard time. She came back home only in June and December. We heard stories about her from people studying with her in Pretoria,”
That was a difficult time for my dad. I think that’s when he really realised the difficulty of being a man trying to raise four women.
“But, she came back for my matric dance. She brought me a nice dress, the one my dad had bought me looked like a nun’s costume. Dad dropped me off at the venue, minutes later Omphi appeared and pulled me to the ladies room, made me take off that hideous dress and put on the one she had brought. She tied my braids neatly and made me wear earrings. I looked really good, I felt really good,”
That story. I still laugh when I think about what a nerd I was in high school.
“You must show me pictures of that matric dance,” he says with a slight smile on his face.
I’m not smiling, I’m not there yet.
“Was that where it ended?”-him
“I…I passed matric, with flying colours too, but I had not applied for a bursary because I knew my dad could afford to take me to university. I went to Rhodes and enrolled for a Science Degree. The modules included Entomology, Microbiology, Zoology……..”
“What is that?” he asks like I just swore at him.
“I have no idea, all I know is I failed and had to come back to Mafikeng to work at Wimpy because my dad said he wasn’t going to pay my fees any more, that was my punishment for failing dismally for the first time in my life,”
He looks at me, and then laughs.
“You’re laughing at me Chawe? I mean, I had no idea what I was doing there, I was totally lost. The only reason I was accepted to that course was because I had gotten six As and that included in Maths and Physics,”
He’s still laughing. Okay let me just wait for him to finish.
“Continue,” he says when he’s done being an idiot.
“At Wimpy I met……..” I stop.
I should skip this part, he won’t like it.
“You met who? Your ex?” he asks.
Yah no that look on his face says I should have skipped this part.
“Yes, he was still a good person then…..”
This is rather awkward.
“Omphi never liked him, from the beginning she was just hostile towards him. She could drive then so she would come to fetch me every night after I finished my shift so I wouldn’t end up lying to dad about not having transport and end up sleeping at the ex’s place,”
She’s always been hell-bent on controlling my life.
“Oh and she went shopping with me before I left for Cuba. She researched the country on the internet and gave me a piece of paper with a list of things I shouldn’t do when I got there if I didn’t want to end up in jail,”
“Did the list help?”-he asks.
“Yes it did actually, trust me, that country is weird,”
He smiles slightly, and then gets serious again.
“Naledi, I’m listening to you…..and I’m trying to find that place where Omphi only cares about herself. But I can’t,” he says.
What does he mean?
“All I’m seeing is a sister who has always had your back. She pleated your hair because she didn’t want you looking like a raccoon and other kids laughing at you. She hoarded you in high school because she didn’t want you to be bullied. She made you look good for your matric dance so you’d have great memories about your teenage years and she took her time picking you up from work so some scum-bag wouldn’t take advantage of you and make you pregnant before you even turned 20,” he says.
Huh? No, he doesn’t know Omphi.
“Listen to me, hate anyone but not your siblings. You have your father now, he is the glue that is sticking all of you together now but once he dies, all you’re going to have are your siblings, and those are the people who will always have your back, no matter what,” he says.
I get what he’s saying. I may have hit Omphi tonight but I’ll never let anyone touch her, never. But also, Qhawe doesn’t know that it’s not that easy, the person responsible for this is somewhere in this world and we don’t want to meet or know her.
“I’m going to try,”-me
I’m tired of talking about this.
“Just so we’re clear……I’m not going to be a victim of domestic violence am I? Because you have some serious punches Dr Montsho I almost…….”
I can’t believe I’m laughing at his crazy…….
“I’ll put them here, next to the bread bin,”
“Do you like them there?” he asks.
“Yes I think they look nice here,”
“Okay,” he says.
Now for these glass jars. I’ve filled one with sweets, the other with dried fruit and the last one with biscuits.
“They bring colour,” he says.
“I’ll put them……here,” I say placing all three of them against the wall where the kitchen counter starts.
He likes them, I can tell.
I’ve already placed the bathroom stuff and given him his perfume, which he loved and appreciated.
We went to bed last night without unpacking the shopping. We’re only doing it now in the morning, in pyjamas while we wait for breakfast to be delivered.
I must start doing the breakfast in bed thing. I know he’ll appreciate it. He likes it when I treat him like a man. You should have seen his face when I showed him the things I bought for “our house”. Forget that I used his money.
“The clothes are nice,” he says.
It’s dresses mostly.
“So you didn’t buy any lace things with sexy socks…..?”
He’s starting isn’t he?
“That Mageba, is reserved for special occasions,” I say rubbing his back.
He smiles. He must be surprised by the “Mageba” situation. I Googled it.
“How about we make this moment a special occasion?” he says pushing me against the wall.
It must be breakfast.
“Hi,”-Tshedi is the first to speak.
Omphi walks in with her hands folded across her chest.
Why is she here?
Really really awkward.
Qhawe looks at me. I have no idea what to do next. And how did they come inside the gate without calling? Oh, Tshedi had Qhawe’s car, the gate remote must have been in it.
“I’m going to give you ladies some privacy,” he says raising his eyebrows at me.
I know it’s not negotiable.
Just as he is halfway through the stairs, Omphi speaks.
“Can you really find her Qhawe?”
And where did she learn to pronounce “Qha”?
He turns around.
“Can you?” she asks again.
She doesn’t seem like herself at all. She seems, I don’t know, emotionally drained.
“I can make a phone call. But it has to be Naledi’s call, I won’t do it unless she wants me to,” he says and continues walking.
Now it’s just the three of us. Where do we even begin?
I wish Lesedi was here, she’d definitely know how to deal with this.
Breakfast is here.
“Please set it up outside,” I say to the two guys wearing chef uniform.
It’s different guys every time but they all come from the same place. I don’t even know where that place is, I just know their food is divine.
I don’t want to go near Omphi and she doesn’t want to come near me. We are avoiding eye-contact at all cost. I don’t know how she feels right now.
Tshedi is also not her usual crazy self. I’m surprised she hasn’t sat us down and shouted at us like we’re kids.
“Let’s go outside,” I say when the chef guys leave.
It’s a buffet breakfast, I’m used to it now. In the many times that we’ve had breakfast like this, when we’re done eating, Qhawe instructs me to go inside the house, and then calls the construction workers to come and eat. He continues eating with them too so it doesn’t feel like we’re giving them leftovers.
There are always construction workers here in this estate. They’ve just started building another house there across the lake.
Why is she looking at me like that? What have I done now?
“You’re just going to sit here and eat?”
I shrug. I’m lost.
“Dish up on a plate and take food to him upstairs. Use a tray and cover the plate,” she says.
Oh! I was just gonna sit here and……
I do as she says.
It looks like he was expecting me when I walk in with a tray.
He also seems to be expecting me to tell him something, I don’t know what.
“I won’t do it unless you want me to,” he says.
“We haven’t started talking,”-me
“Naledi…” he says just as I’m about to walk out the door.
I turn around.
“I love you,” he says and picks up a fork.
“I love you too Chawe,” I say and walk out.
These two are already eating. The elephant in the room is still standing tall.
I dish up and go to sit next to Tshedi.
It’s Sunday, I have to go back to Kimberley later today. Tshedi has to go back to Bloemfontein. Life has to continue after this.
“Omphi, I’m sorry,” I say. I’m thinking out loud gain.
She looks at me briefly and continues eating.
“I shouldn’t have gotten violent, it’s just that the things you said….”
“It’s fine Naledi,” she says.
I have a feeling that is all she’s going to say. She won’t apologise for the hurtful things she said to me and for insulting my boyfriend.
“Ledi when you say Chawe made some progress….how far is that progress,” Tshedi.
“He found her last address and her last place of work,”-me
“I don’t know, I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know,”-me
I think more than anything, it is fear that makes us not want to take the risk. She could bring us more problems than we already have.
“I think that if we decide that we want to find her, we must tell ntate first. I don’t want him to think we went behind his back,”- Omphi.
Wow. It speaks.
She seems to have had a change of heart.
“But it’s your decision Ledi,”-Omphi.
There seems to be more to that statement than meets the eye.
“We have to speak to Lesedi as well,” -Tshedi.
It’s funny how Qhawe being in our lives, for just two months, has forced us to confront the part of our lives we’ve always pretended doesn’t exist. We’ve never sat like this and talked about our mother. Everyone suffered in silence, alone. I think much of it was to protect ntate’s feelings. We don’t want him to think there is a void, not after he tried so hard to fill it.
“I don’t think ntate will be happy that Chawe is involved in this, they’ve already had an interesting introduction,”-me
“Tshedi told me about that last night,”
I guess then that they talked, like we did with Qhawe.
Oh, he’s here.
He smiles briefly. He’s probably glad he doesn’t have to break off another fist fight.
“Baby, I’m going to eat skop with the guys, I’ll be back in two hours or so. You ladies feel at home,” he says.
Skop? Didn’t he just have breakfast?
“By the way, Hlomu and Mqhele are coming over tonight, I think Nqoba too, I’m not sure yet,” he says and leaves.
“Yes, once a taxi driver, always a taxi driver,” -me
We all laugh.
“Tonight? Don’t you have to work tomorrow?”
“I do. I know I’ll make it to work. He always makes a plan. Chances are I’ll be flown to Kimberley early in the morning,”-me
About the coming visitors, what the heck am I supposed to do now?
“Ledi, go get ready, we’re going,”-Tshedi.
Why do I have to push the trolley?
“No, not lettuce, salad leaves,”-Tshedi.
I hope she’s going to cook all this stuff because some of these things she’s throwing in the trolley I have never seen before in my life.
I also don’t understand why we had to come all the way to Centurion, surely there’s a Foodlovers Market somewhere near Alberton.
“Do they eat pork?”-she asks.
“Okay, was just checking, they could be members of the Shembe church you know,”
“Tshedi not all Zulu people go to the Shembe church, just like not all people from Limpopo go to ZCC,”- Omphi.
Thank you sister for that lesson in generalization.
The number of salads she plans to make is frustrating. She claims I have to cook a feast so that I can impress. I don’t know, maybe she’s right, she’s been dealing with in-laws for years.
“Is this all?” -me
We couldn’t finish the “buy a life” allowance yesterday, so it’s coming in handy now.
“Can we close the top? It’s actually cold….”
“Ledi don’t mess with me please, not today. You should have worn a trench coat if you were cold. I’m not driving a Maserati with the top closed. What if I bump into someone I went to school with? They have to see this,”-Tshedi.
The struggle was not for this. This is not what we voted for in 1994.
It seems I’m not needed here because, apparently, I can’t cook.
So I sit and watch.
There’s even dessert!
It’s been four hours and Qhawe is still not back. He sent an SMS saying he was at Hlomu’s house, something about having not seen the kids in a while.
Omphi is cooking………….uphuthu???
“I once dated a Zulu man, I had to cook for him every night and the fool wasn’t even planning on making me his wife. The next thing I heard he had paid lobola for some woman back in his Durban township,” she says.
“I should have poisoned his ass,” she says laughing.
We can also laugh now.
There really is a feast on the kitchen counter when they’re done. Tshedi is really good at this. She’s like a career wife.
“How is Hlomu?”-Omphi
That’s a bit random.
“She’s cool I think, I’ve only met her once, on Friday,”-me
“She’s my favourite Zulu wife,” she says.
They have favourites? Am I the only one in this world that didn’t know these people at all?
“We should go to her restaurant one of these days, they have very nice food,”
She has a restaurant?
Qhawe did say they made their own money.
Tshedi mentions that it’s getting late and she still has to drive to Bloemfontein. I’m going to miss her, a lot.
I can’t say the same about Omphi but that trip to Foodlovers and this coking session we’ve just had was something to write home about.
The issue of finding my mother is not raised until they leave.
Now I have to freshen up and look good for my second encounter with the Zulus. It’s the bun again, I really have to put a weave on this head.
I feel the heavy presence and turn around.
I turn the water off.
“Stick to your day job,” he says.
Ghra! I don’t know how long he’s been standing here.
“I’m sure I sing far better than you. How long have you been here?”
I step out of the shower.
“Long enough to damage my eardrums,”
He just never stops.
“They’re downstairs, I see you cooked,” he says.
“Yes, Tshedi and Omphi helped me cook,”
“See, that is sisterhood,”
I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or a sarcastic comment.
He leaves me alone finally.
I’m going to wear one of the dresses I bought yesterday. I could wear pants but Tshedi told me wearing pants when your boyfriend’s family is around is disrespectful.
So here I am.
“Hello pretty girl,” she shouts as I walk down the stairs.
She is sooooo pretty with that smile of hers.
I smile back.
She’s wearing a dress too. It’s a bit short but it’s a dress. Maybe Tshedi was right after all.
I’m nervous all over again.
Mqhele is outside, smoking. Qhawe is with him.
“Did you have a great day? You look good. I like your dress,” she says.
Okay. I like her dress too. And her, I think she’s my favourite Zulu wife too.
They walk in.
Is he really going to call me that all the time?
I smile and say hello.
And now I’m just standing here because I don’t know what to do next.
“Did you tell the security guard we broke into your house? He refused to let us in at first,”
Oh, it’s the double trouble!
They don’t knock. They don’t greet. They walk in already talking.
“Who invited you?”-Mqhele.
“Is this your house?”-one of them.
“Hello mami,” they both say at once.
And then they look at me.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hello. How’s your father?”-one of them asks.
I’m trying to hold back a smile.
“He’s fine, he hasn’t beaten anyone up lately,”-me
They all laugh.
They’ll never let this go.
This is where I should tell them to sit down and serve them food.
“I’ll help you with that,”-Hlomu
She knows where everything is.
“Wow this is lovely,” she says.
I smile and nod, simply because I don’t know what it is and how it’s made, but it looks like a pot-pie, and it smells nice.
“You should come with me to the spa tomorrow, it’s really nice,” she says.
Tomorrow is Monday. People go to spas on Monday?
“I’m going to work,”-me
She smiles and rolls her eyes.
“I forgot. But you should definitely come, it’s like a “little Zulu sanctuary”, they bought it for us as a present,” she says, picks a serving bowl and walks to the table.
A spa as a present? Where the fuck am I?
I sit next to Qhawe. I can feel all their eyes on me and I’m trying very hard to relax.
The two monkeys who broke in here and drank my man’s whiskey are eating like they’re street kids sharing bread. Why don’t they have wives anyway?
Qhawe holds my hand under the table. I think it’s a sign that he is impressed. The problem is, I think this impressing business is hard work, I’m not gonna be cooking dinners and wearing dresses all the time.
But Tshedi says I have to do my part, go the extra mile to show him that I care and want to make him happy.
To be honest, Qhawe deserves all that, he goes the extra mile to make me happy too.
I love him.
The conversation gets idiotic now and again, no surprises there, boys will always be boys.
Hlomu and I keep stealing looks.
“Naledi, come on, let’s take a walk outside,” -Hlomu
Qhawe looks at me and nods.
I’m suddenly nervous. But she’s so warm and accommodating, I want to take the walk with her.
They watch us in silence as we walk out the sliding door.
She puts her arm around my elbow.
She smells really nice.
“That was some really good food,” she says.
I must learn to cook fancy food. Fast.
“I try,” I smile and say.
I’ve just lied.
“So, how is he?” she asks.
There’s some intensity in her voice now.
I keep quiet.
She looks at me.
“You’re doing well with him. I mean, the past four years have been hell. We lost him, totally lost him. It was like he wasn’t alive anymore,”
“And then boom! He starts smiling to himself and laughing more and….I don’t know…..he just came alive. I knew it had to be something great,” she says.
I’m blushing, did I really do that for him?
“He’s…..great. At first he was a bit intense, very controlling and too protective. He even tried to move me to another house, a mansion because he believed I wasn’t safe in my house. I didn’t understand until he told me about what happened to Oleta,”-me
She raises her eyebrows.
“He told you about Oleta?”
“Yes, he did,”-me
“I see the picture has been replaced,” she says smiling.
I’m happy about that too. But we still haven’t talked about it.
“You have to be patient with him Naledi. They can be overwhelming sometimes but we’ve all learned to live with them and their extravagant gifts and stalking and all the madness you’re going to see along the way…”
Trust me I’ve seen enough.
“I know exactly what you’re talking about. But I love him, I love him so much Hlomu,”
“And he loves you. I’ve seen the way he looks at you. He smiles and blushes every time your name is mentioned. You should see him, he’s like a little boy…” she says and laughs.
I did say she was warm.
“Oh and by the way, spend his money. It makes them happy,” she says.
I laugh thinking about that R50 000 I’m still blowing.
But she’s not smiling now.
“You’re going to stick around right? When the going gets tough, you’re going to be here right?” she asks.
That question, it keeps coming up.
“I will,” I say.
“Good, because sometimes it gets really tough and we have to step up, they’d crumble and fall without us, they know that. That’s why they’ll do anything to keep us happy,” she says.
I’m a bit scared now, it sounds like life here is not so rosy after all.
“He said he wanted loyalty, how do I know if I’m loyal Hlomu? I try but……”
“Don’t worry about that, you proved your loyalty a long time ago,” she says
But how? When?
I give her an inquiring look.
“The day you walked out of your father’s house with him. That was loyalty….”
That is what that was about?
“No no no it wasn’t planned. That was just him being impulsive. You know, he’s not usually like that, he’s the proper type, it’s just that you…you drive him crazy and I think it’s working well for him,” she says.
I’m still stuck on that loyalty thing. It wasn’t planned on my side too. Does this mean I love him that much? So much that I’d choose him over anything?
“He is funny and crazy, I like him like that,”-me
This conversation is fun. I’m talking about Qhawe with someone who really knows him.
“Hlomu, why were you crying when I gave him the present? On Friday night,”-me
There’s a slight smile on her face.
“Because he was happy. I’ve been with them for almost 14 years, we’ve had ups and downs, some we thought we’d never get through but we did,” she says.
Statements like this scare me, a lot.
“You know, I knew Oleta. She came when nobody expected her, just like you. She was lovely and she was a good person, and when she died…….” she stops.
“I think that wherever she is, she’s happy that he found you,” she says.
I don’t believe in ghosts but I think Oleta is a good one.
“So…” she says holding my arm tighter.
“We must go on a girls’ night out, all five of us. And you must meet the kids, they’re all bugs like their fathers,”
LOL is that what she calls the eyes?
“They have double-lenses,” -me
She laughs out loud.
“How long do you plan on staying in Kimberley?”
“A few more years I think, I like my job,” I say.
That look she’s giving me is suspicious.
“Mmmmmmmmm,” she says.
Is this a family thing?
“You know you’re in a relationship with all of them right?”
“With the whole family actually. We’re going to call you and show up at your house and……basically we’re going to smoulder you,”
“But the important thing is, he loves you, which means you’re top priority now, which means you just have to make one phone-call for everybody to jump. It also means there are going to be some sacrifices on your side if you want this to work…”
Here we go again.
“What kind of sacrifices Hlomu?”
“Sacrifices that one makes when they love a person and want to build a life with them. Don’t worry, I trust you. Qhawe trusts you. They know how to spot the ones who have good intentions…..”
Didn’t his brother almost get killed by the other brother’s girlfriend recently?
I smile and say nothing.
“My sister says you’re her favourite Zulu wife,”
Did I just say that out loud?
She smiles and shakes her head.
“That’s all we are to people, the Zulu wives. They think we shop and do our hair and nails for a living. Some think we are with these men for their money. But they don’t know us. Our family is very closed Naledi, it’s to protect our kids. Things are said about us sometimes, hurtful things but we’ve learned to live with it,” she says and turns to look at me.
“You’re about to find out. As soon as you appear out there, floodgates will open and you will be the talk of the town. To think that we got famous because I was hijacked…”
“Yes, a long time ago. It’s a long story,” she says.
It doesn’t look like Google has helped me much.
“But, were you hurt? Who hijacked you? Were they arrested?”
“No, I wasn’t hurt. I was highly pregnant but luckily the twins survived. The people who hijacked me…..I never heard anything about them after their first court appearance. They probably killed them all…….”
Whoah!!! Is she serious?
“Come on we have to go back inside before they start thinking we’ve left them,” she says.
LOL, are they all that paranoid?
She stops just before we enter.
“Okay, follow my lead. Let’s pretend we’re angry and we’re not talking to each other, like something happened between us out here,”
“Trust me,” she says.
She walks in.
Qhawe’s eyes are the first to rise.
He looks at me, and then her, and then me……
The look on his face! It’s like he’s facing death.
I walk to sit next to him. Hlomu sits next to Mqhele.
The atmosphere here!
Hlomu and I are not looking at each other at all but I know we both look very angry.
No-one has spoken since we came in but they all look very worried.
I swear I can hear Qhawe breathing fast next to me.
“We need your credit cards, we’re going for lunch in Cape Town on Saturday,” Hlomu
They all have “huh?” looks on their faces.
“And we’re going to go shopping while at it, for a holiday beach house,”-me
Hlomu raises her hand, I raise mine. We do a “hi-5”. And then we laugh.
“Fuck!”- Qhawe says next to me. He has his face in his hands.
We’re still laughing.
The others laugh too. Mqhele is tickling Hlomu. They’re like kids.
“I need a beer. No, actually I’m going to have whiskey, skoen,”- Qhawe says as he stands up and walks somewhere.
That was fun.
I’ve never seen him squirm like that before.
But wait, does this mean Hlomu’s approval is THAT important?