“Are you okay?” – I ask. My voice is trembling. I swear my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I saw her eyes literally popping when she looked at me. But the expression of pain on her face shockingly gave me hope that she didn’t recognise me and that something else made her jump in shock. She is staring at me not saying a word. Only her eyes are examining me from head to toe. “It can’t be” – she mumbles to herself looking away finally. She looks up at me again and stares. “Uh…I … I think my water just broke” – whaaaat? She’s calm and collected. She’s looking at me waiting for me to react or respond to what she just said. All I can see is babies everywhere suddenly. What does one do when a woman is in labour? I wasn’t there when all my children decided to make an escape announcement. “Sabelo quick help her to the car.” – I say as I prepare to push myself. Leya still looks rather zoned out. She is not phased at all that she is about to go into excruciating labour any time now. Sabelo helps her up and they slowly walk to the car. Her dress has a wet stain and she is moving like a Zombie. Sabelo helps her in and then rails me in next to her. This SUV feels rather too small right now. She’s quiet! Too quiet! “Are you okay?” – I ask she turns her head and looks at me. Her hands are trembling. – “Please don’t be afraid” – I beg. I have no idea what she is thinking and all I am hoping for is for her to not have recognised me. She looks at her hands and then at me again. A tear escapes her left eye. I can see she is struggling to breathe. “I’m in pain”- she whispers. “Sabelo step on it!!” – I yell. “Yes Sir” – She’s not saying a word. This car seems to be travelling so slowly although I am staring outside and I see other cars and houses whooshing passed us. She’s basically zoned out. “Uhm… how how severe is the pain?” – I ask. She looks at me but doesn’t say a word. She goes back to staring out the window. Here I am panicking for the both of us. Her water just broke she’s about to have a baby any minute now she said she is in pan but she is calm and collected. I don’t know! Is this normal? I am literally sweating and panicking inside. Fuck! Can we get to the hospital already?!! She moans. That’s a good sign. I think. She moans again touching her left side of the stomach. The look of agony on her face says it all. She is now literally and heavily in labour. She screams sharply and I am left deaf for a few seconds before I come back to life and I realise that my wife is in labour and I am about to be a father for the fourth time! I never thought I would be here to see her giving birth to hopefully an heir to my throne even though I as the king have gone MIA. “Okay breathe please… just breathe okay…” – I beg her. I am even afraid to touch her. She is tossing and turning and I am in this bloody chair I can’t even get close to her. She screams!! Jesus Christ I don’t know what to do. “Sabelo do you want me to drive this bloody car myself?” – “No sir we are almost there.” – I see the off ramp to the hospital. I turn and look at her. She’s still in pain but she’s staring at me. I can’t read her face but… “What happened to your accent?” – She asks. Fuck!! “Mrs Malinga how is the pain now?” – I ask with the bloody fake accent that I forgot just a minute ago. “What happened to Leya? Or ‘my empress’?” – Bury me now! She knows and she is bloody calm about it. I can’t look at her right now but I can’t lie to her either. I turn and look at her. She is still in pain judging by the expression she keeps painting on her face. She’s still staring at me. The car comes to a halt. Sabelo gets out and run towards the entrance. “She’s in labour! We need some help over!” – I can hear him from afar but my mind is not on him right now. I am staring at her and she is staring at me too. None of us is prepared to say a word; well I don’t know what to say. I have been caught in the act and on top of that my wife is in labour. She is still my wife. Our staring contest is interrupted by nurses rushing towards us with a wheelchair. They help her out she is quiet and staring at me as if it is just us and nobody else. They push her away and Sabelo just stands there watching as they disappear with her inside the hospital. “Sir?” – “Just… just take me home” – “But sir she’s having your baby. She knows and she needs you there!!” – “She needs her husband!!! Not this!! Not this stupid identity”- “She knows!! She knows the man behind this identity…”- “Shut up!! Just shut that pie hole and get me out of this damn car. My wife is in labour!” – His eyes pop he frowns and then smiles. I smile too. He exhales before he rails me out of the car. We are in the maternity ward before I know it. I swear it felt like we were on Grand Prix Wheelchairs season one!! “Nurse!!” – She turns and looks at me. “The woman who just came in?” – I nod. I cannot contain my sudden anxiety. “We need her file. She’s not registered in this hospital.” – “She’s 8 and a-half months pregnant. You do all you can to deliver that baby!!” – I can feel my veins pop. Damn this bloody chair!! She nods and tries to release her collar from my hands. I almost manhandled her. She disappears around the corner and all I hear are screams of women and babies. I should be in there with her. I should be holding her hand and telling her she’ll be fine. I should… I should be there helping her breathe and remain calm. Fuuuuck!!!! “Sir do you need anything?” – “No Sabelo…” – The nurse appears with a distressed look on her face. She had better not tell me any bad news. I am so very ready to murder someone right now. “Mr… uhm your wife she asked for you” – No she didn’t!! Sabelo looks at me and nods. He places his hands on the wheelchair handles. “Has she given birth yet?” – I ask. The nurse shakes her head. “She said she’s not giving birth until she’s sure…” – She wants confirmation. She wants to see me and confirm that it is really me! It’s funny how today I have been staring at Sabelo for some kind of approval. He seems to be a very deep and philosophical young man I wonder how he came about to be in the security industry. Once again I look at him and he nods. Here goes nothing!! A deep breath and a fix of the collar i think I am ready. In the 5 years… ya neh just five years of knowing this beautiful soul and I have hurt her more than she bargained for that’s if she even bargained for this. Alright. Here goes nothing! I am pushing myself towards the ward. I can hear her moaning silently. It’s a private ward. She’s alone. She’s tossing and turning. “My Empress?” – She freezes! Her eyes are about to pop. She swallows hard. – “Leya I am so sorry!” – She prepares to speak but instead her scream deafens my ears. The nurse rushes in. she looks at her then at me. “She’s ready” – I nod and move away from the door as they wheel the bed out. She stretches out her hand; it’s still soft and warm as I remember it. I cannot explain the look on her face but believe when I say it gives me an un-explainable feeling of relief. It’s like she said “I understand” with only her eyes doing the talking. – – It’s been an hour! What the hell is going on? What are they doing to her!! I can’t wait any longer. I need to see them; her and my son. The doctor comes out first and exhales deeply. He removed his mask and gloves. “Congratulations it’s a healthy baby boy!” OoRhadebe Oomthimkhulu ooNdlelentle zobini ooMashwabada ooMafuza afulele njenge lifu lemvula… ooBhungani!! Aaaaaw sukani madoda!! Once again I am a father. To a prince. The number is even; Two sons and two princesses. On top of that my wife has forgiven me. What more can I ask for? I’d rather stay in this wheelchair if it meant to have my family with me. “Can I see her?” – I cannot hide my excitement any more. He shakes his head and tells me about them having a bath and checked and stuff. All I want is my wife and son! Just bring them to me!! “Congratulations Sir” – Sabelo says the doctor is gone and I am left with tears of joy. We shake hands and I wish I could hug him. Now we wait some more until they are moved back to the ward. They wheel her back in without the baby. She looks drained and tired. I can’t begin to imagine. All I know I that I could hear her loud scream piercing through my heart and soul. I follow pushing myself in. I stop and turn to Sabelo. “I’m sure she’s hungry. Please get her some hot chicken strips. I’m sure they are still her favourite.” – He nods leaving me still sitting at the entrance taking a major leap of faith. – – “Leya?” – She turns and looks at me. Her attention is no longer on the silent TV she has been watching for the past 10 minutes since I have been here trying to find the rights words. “I knew you were not dead!! My dreams wouldn’t let me belie you were dead. I mean I saw the car spinning out of control because of the weather but I could see you were still breathing. I just don’t know how I never saw you being taken away…” – she rambling on and on with tears covering her swollen face. I guess hormones are still high. “Wait you saw the accident in your dreams?” – She nods. “I wanted to see your body but I was not allowed to. Mother told me that if a person dies by that accident the body cannot be seen especially by women. I told that was bull because I wanted to confirm that it was you in that casket. But she refused!! I cried! I cried Malinga so much because nobody believed me when I said you were not dead. They all thought I was in denial. Of course I was in denial; you were not dead! You are not dead!!” – She stops talking when I grab her hands. She looks at me like I have just awakened her from a bad dream. “Your hands are so cold!” – She whispers. She’s different weirdly different; like she has lost a part of her. I hope not her sanity but I’m afraid right now she ticks a box of an institutionalised person. “Am I still your wife?” – She asks. “Of course Leya I love you. I’m here in flesh and blood. Sthandwa sam I am not dead! I was never dead. I… a lot happened between us Zamani Zwelonke… everyone! And by the time I realised that I was nothing but poison to you it was already too late…” – “Poison? Mkhululi if you are poison to me then my love for you is the antidote. You made me love you! You are the one who made me love you now why would you pullback? After so many challenges so much pain and happiness? You chose to run away from it all? Were you not the one who promised and owed in front of our families? My father? Your father? Our children Mkhululi!!” – Her palm against my face forces me to raise my head and look at her. She just hit me and I think her anger is slowly calming down. “Leya I am sorry…” – “You should be!!” – She says and folds her arms looking back at the TV screen. – “I have so many things I could say to you that befit your decisions and how much of a disappointment you are to me and our children but I won’t because you are my husband I love you and I respect you!” “Le…” – “I’m not done!!… You left me stranded with Zana and Liso who kept on asking about Dada… families and friends wishing me bloody condolences and where were you? Probably sipping cocktail somewhere under a false name! I have done nothing but love you! I may have betrayed you with Zamani but I’m sure you know that your indiscretions including faking being dead definitely out-weigh what I did. We could have avoided all the drama that followed without you killing Zamani or Zwelonke. But you are Mkhululi Malinga the ordained prince; He who was chosen in birth to rule the people of Ebukhosini I wonder how you will do that as a ghost!” – She’s dishing! And all I can do is sit here and listen. I have no intention of interrupting her again or else I will receive yet another clap. “Where do you live?” – She’s calm once again. “Forest Estate” – I answer. I am waiting for a question that will follow. “Who do you live with who helps you with the chair?” – “I hired a physiotherapist.” – I say looking at her. “And Zothando?” – “I don’t know. She was never pregnant. I told her to disappear…” – I pause when her eyes pop. “No I didn’t kill her.” She exhales silently. “So what now?” – Finally the question I have been dreading. “I don’t know Leya I really don’t know. All I know is that I want to make things right. I want to fix everything.” – I try to take her hands but she yanks them away. “Your hands are cold… by fixing everything do you mean telling the truth?”- She asks. “Yes…” “No!” – What?? “Leya?” – I frown. I’m confused. “You’ll go to jail! The family will hate you. Our children will hate you! Then they’ll hate me because I will be siding with you and I can’t lose Liso because she’s the chosen one I can’t lose my baby…” – “Sshhhh calm down! Breathe… my love please breathe” – I beg. “NOOOOO!! You did this!! This is your entire fault. You lied; manipulated killed… you killed your brothers!!” – She’s screaming crying shouting and yelling in my face. She keeps quiet. “You are not telling any truth at least not now until we figure out what to do and how to do it! Better tell that physiotherapist to hurry up and help you walk.” – I have never been so confused! The door opens and a nurse walks in with our son. I see her mood changing from an angry scorned wife to a mother full of love and warmth. She stretches out her arms for the nurse to give her the baby in crispy new blue clothes. This woman I see before me is not the one I have been with for the past 10 to 15 minutes. The one who indirectly told me that in the eyes of the world I should remain dead and that she will forever be by my side in good and bad. Dearly beloved how the hell did I misunderstand our love? How could I betray this beautiful soul who suddenly looks like a baby herself? “He doesn’t have a name” – The nurse says looking at me as she also notices that Leya has fallen deeply in love with the bundle of joy in her arms. Leya raises her head and looks at the nurse before looking at me. She’s communicating but I don’t understand. “Malinga just name the baby for Christ’s sake!” – The nurse laughs but I am suddenly intimidated. “Uhm… I don’t know how the hell did I misunderstand our love? How could I betray this beautiful soul who suddenly looks like a baby herself? “He doesn’t have a name” – The nurse says looking at me as she also notices that Leya has fallen deeply in love with the bundle of joy in her arms. Leya raises her head and looks at the nurse before looking at me. She’s communicating but I don’t understand. “Malinga just name the baby for Christ’s sake!” – The nurse laughs but I am suddenly intimidated. “Uhm… I don’t know Junior?” – “Couldn’t you think of a more meaningful name than that?” – She looks at the nurse before I can answer. “We’ll call him Junior for now. Until his father comes up with something special and less cliché!” – The nurse smiles nervously and nods walking away. I am not going to say a word until she speaks first. She might just bit my head completely off. “Do you want to hold him?” – She asks. I nod without even thinking twice. “Careful…” – He looks like her; those tiny ears that nose his little hands and… he looks just like his mother. I do not see any single feature of me in him. Everything of him resembles Leya. “Thank You” – That Is all I can say as I look at her. She comes closer to me and wipes away my tears giggling. “Hey baby you are so beautiful. Mommy and daddy love you okay. We promise never to hurt each other again.” – She’s the one talking to him. I can’t even open my mouth right now. She looks at me. “I need to call mother and let her know. The nurse… she needs to be taken care of.” – She says. “I’ll talk to her.” – I say in hopes of bribing her for her silence. “Good!” – She says and stretches out her arms. – “I need to feed him.” The door opens again the nurse walks in with a Nando’s bag. “The gentleman outside asked me to bring this.” – She says placing it next to Leya who turns and looks at me communicating with her eyes. I swear she has probably been studying Eye Language or something. I clear my throat and prepare to threaten the life out of this nurse if she even utters a single word about my appearance today. “Nurse could you please call the gentleman outside?” – She smiles and calls Sabelo in I tell her she should stay too. “Sabelo how much money do you have on you right now?” – I ask looking at the nurse who seems uncomfortably confused. “No cash. Just the emergency card sir.” – He takes it out and hands it to me. “Give it to her” – the nurse hesitates but takes it out of fear. “That’s a black platinum card; Untraceable no need for a pin. I’m sure there’s about Thirty Thousand American dollars if not more. Convert that into Rands and I’m sure it would cover your salary for a year. Now I’m not saying quit your job but I’m buying your silence. You do not know me you have never seen me or this gentleman before and my wife was brought by a taxi here. She was alone through this whole ordeal. I was never here… do you understand what I am saying?” – She nods rapidly. Fear written all over her face. “Good now if it so happens that you let a single detail of today slip… this man here will break every single bone on your body slowly and painfully until you beg him to kill you! Do you understand?” – She’s now in tears. I believe I’m done. She runs out sobbing. “You know what to do” –Sabelo nods and follows her. I turn and look at Leya. “Culo left… she packed her shit and left. Things between us were so bad. She blamed me for Zwelonke’s death. She left Lang behind and refused to mourn. She told the elders that she will not mourn for a man who did not love her…” – No wonder I didn’t see her at ‘my’ funeral. I was buried first and Zwelonke was buried the following week. “I think you need to leave now. Mother might arrive soon.” – She’s not even looking at me. Her behaviour today has been quite questionable. She has been changing moods and expressions like a music box. I guess maybe her hormones are still heightened. “Can I call you tonight?” – She nods. I turn around to leave. She calls out to me. “I missed you”- the crooked smile on my face is my only response to that. I am tongue tied or even sliced. I have no words to say to her. I barely said a word to day. All I did was listen to her telling me the pain I have caused her and yet she still loves me unconditionally. I used to believe in the quote “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” but after today I don’t anymore. I do not remember the times I have hurt and broken Cataleya but in all those times she forgave and loved me unconditionally. How could I have been so blind? _ _ “You whaaaat!!” – “Anna calm down okay… all is well. She understands the circumstances and she’s playing along until we figure out a way forward” – “And you think that’s okay Mal what if she tells your family? You will go to jail!” – “She won’t!! She’s the one who refused to tell the truth!” – “And you just trusted her just like that?” – “She’s my wife Annabelle.” – “Pssss whatever. This will backfire but then again what am I? Just an overpaid physiotherapist .” – She kicks the table and disappears down the passage. She comes back a few minutes later and finds me still in the position she left me. “It’s time for your exercise and massage.” –she says. “Can I eat first?” – She nods comes to me and pushes me to the kitchen. “So did you tell her about me?” – She asks going through the fridge. “I told her I hired a physiotherapist.” – “Yep and that’s all I am.” – She mumbles as she prepares a fruit salad. _ I’m eating and she’s watching. “How did she react?” – “Her water broke I’m sure that was enough reaction.” – “But I bet she almost gave birth right there and then…” – “Her water broke and she did give birth… to my son” – “Congratulations!” – Her face says the exact opposite. I’m done eating now let’s exercise. – We are in the mini spa I wait for her to switch off the light but she doesn’t; instead she comes to me and attempts to remove my shirt. “The lights Anna…” – I say. “Come on! I know your body. Who helps you get dressed after a bath? Hmm?” – My shirt is unbuttoned. Her voice today is different. Her hands on my chest today are softer and warmer. The shirt is hanging on my shoulder. “Mal?” – “Hmm?” – I open my eyes. She’s not looking at me but down. I follow her eyes. Shit!! She giggles. I cover myself with the shirt. “So it does work?” – I will not answer that. I am already embarrassed. Why this organ had to have a mind of its own puzzles me! “Don’t fight it. Let’s just go with the flow. Please…” – she begs. “Anna I am not going to sle…” – she smashes her lips into mine. Strawberry glossy taste on soft lips… Leya? “No!!” – I push her away. The way Leya haunts me sometimes scares the shit out of me. I used to see her a lot when I was with Zothando. Most times I wouldn’t kiss her because all I saw was Leya. “What?” – She asks sitting on top of my lap… “Aaaaaw!” – I groan. “What’s wrong?” – She asks getting off. Nothing I just need you to get off me. “I felt something… here” – I know I’m lying but at least this will make her and me forget about what just happened. “Are you sure?” – I nod faking an expression of pain holding on to my thigh as if I am in the most excruciating pain ever. “Mal do you know what this means? Oh my God! You’re going to walk again.” – She’s excited. I’m not because I can’t feel my legs at all. Even though I am holding my thigh right now I still don’t feel like I’m holding it. “Can you take me to bed please I need to sleep.” – “Hey don’t despair. You will walk again. Even though it hurts me to say this but you will be with your wife again.” – I need my bed right now!! – – As difficult and annoying it is she helps me out of my clothes and tucks me in. I am no longer humiliated by the erection I suddenly have again. All I want is the lights to be off and I can think in peace about the fact that I saw my son today and that I have my feisty wife back. – I don’t know how long it has been but I am in severe pain. I am no longer faking it. I can feel my legs and the pain. It’s like I have needles stuck on my skin. My bones and joints feel like they are being snapped repeatedly. “Annaaaaa!! Annabelle!!!!” – The lights go on. She’s standing before me sleepy. “What’s wrong… oh my God you don’t looks good.” – She says removing the covers. I am covered in sweat from head to toe. “Annabelle call the ambulance now!! Fuuuuck!! My legs aaaarg!!” – Wait… I can feel them. I can feel my legs. I can… I can wiggle my toes!! Hahahaha First leg second leg… I am on my feet. “Annabelle!!!” – I scream. I am still wiggly but I am almost at end of the bed. I can walk!!! _ _ _ _ _ _ SNIPPET [The Orchid Antidote] BOoK 3 _ Sigh! Home; haven’t been here in a while. Well that’s if four months can be considered a while. But I’m here driving alone through this gravel road even though grandma hates it. She hates that I drive alone all the way from Johannesburg to the village. But I love it; it gives me time to think peacefully. This is it; the off into my village. Lord the beauty of this place is magnificent. It always gives me butterflies and Goosebumps. This is home! One day when I retire will retire here. As if I have a choice to retire somewhere else. This is where my destiny and fate are headed; a crown on the top of my head and 9 villages to rule. I am not exactly excited but I have no choice. If I want to live peacefully and healthy I need to obey the ancestors or else they will unleash their wrath upon me. They have done so in the past so many times I can barely count anymore. But I know I was once blind because I witnessed a gruesome event I was once so sick that 15 doctors couldn’t diagnose what was wrong with me and that was only because I crossed the border into another country without letting ‘my’ ancestors know. But how could i? I was young and besides I was abducted. Grandma knows I’m coming and I guess that’s why the yard is so busy with men sitting in circles with Umqombothi and women walking up and down with plates of food and pots. I hate this part of my life well not really but having to hold a ceremony every time I am arriving or departing. It’s exhausting. “She’s here!! The princess is here!!” – I hear someone scream as I park in front of the gate and get out of the car. My uncle has to come out and welcome me. He is regent King until time for me to rule comes. All eyes are on me as he walks towards the gate dressed in semi traditional attire. I see my beaded crown in his hands. He smiles. “Yangena Yangen’ intombi kwadidek’ abafana.. kwakhal’ amakhwelo!! Yeeh ntomb’ ungowakwabani wenaaa!” – [Here she enters and all suitors go crazy. Beautiful maiden who is your father?] The young men begin singing and one of them opens the gate to my uncle’s request. He lets out his hand I let out mine and he pulls me towards him. The goat skin mat is laid before me to kneel on. The crown is placed on my scruffy afro; I inherited it from my mom. Apparently she was a very untidy painter. My uncle helps me up and attacks me with a hug as the gate is opened wider and one of the guards drives the car in. Next thing; the tires will be removed and it will stand on bricks until I leave again. It will be covered in goat fat. My poor car. “Welcome home Lili. We missed you.” – Uncle says as we head to the royal house. He bows before me and guides me to sit on the throne. Gosh! That rock gives me overwhelming creeps. But’s it’s mine and I have to occupy it all the time when I am here. Mine you I am wearing military green shorts with a matching oversized shirt a white crop top underneath and white chuck taylors. Grandma is going to have a heart attack if she sees me dressed like this and sitting on the throne. But uncle understands and he lets me be me any chance I get. He once told me that once I am queen there will be no chance for me to be ME. I will no longer be the simple Actress Painter and Doctor that I am but I will be a selfless Queen; who puts her people first. He basically told me I have no choice. “My God child what are you wearing?”- Told Ya! “Granny!!” – I get up and attack her with a hug and a massive kiss in attempt to change the subject. “Child you know how you are supposed to get dressed. Your husband is here how do you expect him to react when he sees your flesh all exposed.” – “He is not my husband yet granny!!” – “According to the elder’s decision he is! Or is a white wedding and bouquets the only way a person could be someone’s husband?” – She raises her eyebrow. “No Granny” – “Now my beautiful princess go and change. You can’t be wearing a sacred bead with your thighs exposed!” – And by that I am dismissed!! Mini? She’s already dismantled and standing on bricks near the kraal. By sunset she will be smeared with goat fat. These people do not care whether it’s a state of the art mini-cooper with LV creamy seats; all they care about is some damn custom and ceremony. When I get back to JHB I am going to book a special treatment for her. My poor baby! “Hey Hope you arrived safe. Call me. Love you!” Gosh. I really need to tell him the truth before he thinks about marriage and stuff. He thinks I’m a normal multi-talented woman; whom he loves. How do I tell him that I am a princess ordained to be queen and on top of that I am engaged to an ego maniac uneducated well up to my standard village boy!! Aaaarg!! I hate my life!!