Chapter 1

I always try my best to avoid hosting people in my house. Having Khosi alone for a glass of wine always leaves me with a pile of dishes to wash misplaced cushions and magazines lying on the floors. I can't imagine how it would be like hosting not just her and her crazy twin sisters but the whole Bantwana Holdings staff members. But they insisted; “Ndondo you're now the CEO we're coming to throw you a mother of all parties.” 
Mother of all parties? I see my cups being broken by the ever-so-clumsy Nsele twins dirty floors and lipsticks all over my couches. My kitchen will be turned upside down and I'm getting anxiety just from thinking about it.

“The ice guy is here” Andiswa’s joyful scream comes from the kitchen passage. The only time she gets to drink is during gatherings like these. She's already dressed up and ready to slosh it down. She's been running around like a headless chicken making sure that everything is set accordingly.
I'm not a strict deputy-parent I just make sure that she does what she came in Durban to do; studying. If I see that tall guy she was hugging last week again I won't be responsible for what I'll do. He'll get more than just a glass of water splashing on his face. I don't have a sister who's going to be played by these Durban hood-rats. They inserts themselves under every skirt and plant their seeds everywhere. But when it's time to support they run faster than Caster Semenya running her London Olympics.

I have broken the family curse; I became the first Sibisi graduate the first female to wear the cardinal red gown the first two-seater car driver and the first family member to afford a mansion in Kindlewood estate. Obviously I along with my Christ-covered parents want Andiswa and Bahle to follow up on my footsteps.
“Look up to Ndondo” – is now the chorus everyone in the family sings. My mother's sister always tell anyone who cares to stop and listen that; “The Ndondo who drives fancy cars with no roofs is actually her niece and she used to comb her hair every morning before school.” Of course I don't remember all that softness and pampering. It must've slipped my memory the Aunt Vumile I remember whipped my ass like it was nobody's business.

“Khosi is here!” Andiswa’s scream again.
I bid goodbye to my squeaky-clean kitchen. The first thing Khosi does when she enters is to open my fridge and drop the container of margarine on the floor.
I hate being this employer but…….
“Aunty can you come here with the mop?” I yell loud enough for her the aunty to hear wherever she is.
A woman I've seen around a few times emerges with her cleaning equipment. Before you judge me for not knowing their names just know that I haven't been in the country the last two months and the few weeks that I've been back I've been trying to warm my new CEO seat.
I'm not good at multi-tasking which is why Andiswa is in charge of all the domestic paperwork hiring and firing. Besides the misuse of finances; sometimes she takes the money without telling me and invests it in her obsession of sneakers other than that I think she's doing a good job. For the past two years that she's been here I haven't had any headache regarding my house. Everyone excels on their job. The cook knows what her story with the pots is whoever cleans the house must be a neat-freak herself and that man I've seen a few times on my yard is friendly with the nature.

“I think you should take this organizing thing seriously. Look at these flute glasses!” Khosi tells Andiswa whose lips are stretched to her ears. My sister and compliments!
“How much are they? Where did you get them? They deserve to serve only the best of the bestest.” She's now scanning Dom Perignon into the tulip glass with a grin of satisfaction brimming from her lips. My friend loves flashy things and more than anything she loves drinking and having fun.
Andiswa steals a glance at my face with the corners of her eyes before telling her that she ordered the set from Houston and had it shipped for the party that happened last month in my absence.
“How much were they?” I ask. This child thinks I have a garden of Mandela notes that I harvest from every damn week. Shipping lousy glasses from America for what exactly? And we still have to fill them with our own drinks?
“These are Reed and Barton they're worth every cent I've been on the hunt for them ever since I started breathing. Pass me the ice-cube tray there” Khosi says waving away my rising anger. I clench my teeth in composure and exhale breathily before turning to the freezer.
“She's careless with the money” I imply to the organizing idea she was coming up with. Who’d want the organizer that orders chairs from the Europe? She's fine there in the filming industry. Maybe when she finally goes to Johannesburg the city of so-called gold to pursue her filming career she'll understand the value of money.
“I'm a blessing in your life” she murmurs and moves behind the counter before I can turn to her.
“Blessing?” I let out a brief chuckle and shake my head. A blessing that's going to bankrupt me before I even get my own kids?
“Yes she's a blessing. Look around you and remember how this house looked like before Andiswa came here and did her magic” Khosi jumps into her defense.
Ganging up on me as usual. I roll my eyes and pick the immigrant-glass and pour myself a drink.

When Nakho and Nalo arrive the party officially starts. No party begins before these two birds of the same feather make their grand entrance. It's always been like that they bring the glam and the vibe. As soon as they entered in their matching glittering black outfits and blonde-dyed dreadlocks Snakho demanded the DJ to change his playlist to something more-Ndondo like.
I had my uptight ass on the chair the whole time before they arrived and I was mentally judging every movement the guests were making but when the DJ turned up Patoranking my feet carried me to the dance floor and I found myself dancing and twerking.
“Yes Boss-Lady” Snalo screams with the bottle of champagne in the air. Everyone starts chanting my name she pops the bottle and orders me to open my mouth. I do party from time to time but I don't do these crazy things.
Maybe I can do it this one time to get them off my back because they won't stop chanting my name if I don't.
DJ Neptune bursts through the speakers and I find myself dancing in the arms of my least favourite associate the arrogant Xolani Mavimbela who thinks the world is his oyster.
I should take a break before the wine leads me into doing things I'll regret later.

I sit with Khosi and few other ladies from the production department. We are catching up in the kitchen leaving the rest party-animals to their noise in the backyard.
“Do you still remember that you owe those Tinder guys their dates?” Khosi really has no timing. Now she's discussing my personal affairs in front of my employees? Hhayi khona.
“Senzo from Transnet has been pestering and begging me to tell him when you're going to be free” she continues and everyone's ears are sharpened up.
“Not now Khosi” I say hoping that she'll get the hint. But she's Khosi and the tipsy Khosi has no stoppers.
“We don't want to have a salty boss who'll snap at us over minor mistakes. You need to get laid” she says.
They want to laugh she's their Trevor Noah but my icy stare has them sipping on their glasses with silent grins stretching from their lips.
Someone walks in. Thank God their attention is turned to him for a moment.
“Sanibonani” he greets and looks at me. It's the yard man I'm not familiar with their faces I'm hardly home. Even when I am here their boss is technically Andiswa she deals with them and I deal with real work.
“I think the pipe outside is blocked the tap hasn't been working the whole day. Can I wash my hands inside and….” Oh Andiswa needs to attend to this matter tomorrow morning.
“There's a bathroom at the end of this passage” I say and turn my attention to the ladies on the table who look awe-stricken for some reasons.
“He cleans your yard?” Betty asks pointing where the man disappeared with her thumb.
“Yes” I nod my head and fill my glass. Oh shucks we've ran out of the ice-cubes. 
“What's his name?”
I look up and find them staring at me curiously.
“I don't know his name” I say and shrug my shoulders.
Eyes widen!
They shouldn't look at me like that. I can't know every human being there is under the sun. It's a not compulsory.
“He cleans your yard and you don't know his name?” Khosi. Now she wants to be Judge Judy more than anyone on this table she knows how crazy my schedule can be. She's the one who arranges it duh.
“I'm hardly home” I say and give her a stern look.
The man walks back with his gloves folded in his hand and we cut the conversation like church-gossips. He looks around uncomfortably and then his eyes land on me.
“Thank you Hlasekazi” he says bows his head slightly and walks out the door.
The atmosphere is light again after his exit. He has saved me from the “get-a-boyfriend” talk. We are now gossiping about Xolani who thought his presence would have everyone falling down on his feet. His father is a shareholder at Bantwana and I'll see more of his arrogant ass from now going forward. He's one of those who thought I didn't stand a chance at this position and now he's here to celebrate my victory. That's the reality of life; everyone wants to rise with you even those who stepped on you when you were down.

They honor my request everyone leaves before 19h00 and they don't leave too much mess behind. Xolani invites them to his house for another round of drinks. It's just a show-off I heard that his father recently brought him a mansion. I had to drag Andiswa out of his car back inside the house. I know men like him the type that pops expensive bottles and make girls twerk for them.
“I'm twenty-one not fifteen.” She throws her hands up and sinks on the couch angrily.
“There's no need for you to go there” I say.
“I want to have fun like everybody else.”
“Andiswa!” My tone sends a warning.
She exhales and picks an almost-empty bottle from the floor and deliberately empties it into her mouth.
“The yard man said the pipe outside is blocked. Can you attend to it before Monday? Tomorrow I'm going to see Aunt Vumile” I say.
“Why would you go there on a Sunday? She'll drag you to church and put you on the spotlight.” She's right but I have memorized my escape strategy. I have nothing against God in fact I pray to him every chance that I get my problem is the pastor who thinks that his son and I are a match-made from heaven. Everytime I go to that church they start treating me like a daughter-in-law and their son's ego builds up into mountains. Just like any other girl he expects me to jump and twerk at the idea of being married to a surgeon. The shock on his face everytime I turn down his extravagant lunch invites!
“Did Mngomezulu complain about anything else beside the blocked pipe?” she asks.
“Mngomezulu?” I'm lost.
“The yard man” she says.
“Oh! It was only that. I should get some sleep.” I get off the couch and drag myself to the bedroom. Monday I have a board meeting there are a lot of expectations to be met some had their eyes on the position and they'll be keeping tabs on my progress like hawks. I won't be long at my aunt's house I'm only delivering her medications and grabbing a cup of tea to avoid looking like a rich-snobbish cousin then I'm coming back to start drafting my Monday proposals.

When I wake up Andiswa is sleeping on the couch. Empty bottles are lying all over the floor. This is why I don't want her to drink once she starts she doesn't stop. The cleaner is off today I clear everything with the broom and dust the furniture. She'll do the rest when she wakes up.
I'm not big in the kitchen I cook for the stomach not the tastebuds. I know Andiswa won’t eat this food I'm leaving for her she'll order in or go eat out. It doesn't bother me

she'll order in or go eat out. It doesn't bother me you can't be good at everything at least I know how to bake scones.

My timing is perfect the family is still watching some gospel show by the time they ready themselves for church I'll be long gone.
You'd swear that Aunt Vumile was born in Bethlehem next to Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that she forced her husband and kids to sit and watch this show. I'm sure she even dreams of the almighty son in her sleep.
“Is this my Ndondo?” She rises from the couch with her smile widened and arms stretched. You'd think that just because she's a die-hard Christian she walks around wearing long robes with “Hallelujah” boldly written on the back but that's not the case with Maria's cousin here. She's a huge fan of skirt-suits and pantyhose. I'm not saying her wigs are still in the game but when she puts those curls on wears her pantyhose and black pumps she immediately throws all the women in the house out of the game.
“Didn't you hear me drive in?” I ask while hugging her. Oh Lord her body sprays! This woman is going to be the Beyonce of heaven when she dies. The likes of Maria will be running to her for fashion advices when they want to charm the likes of Davids and Holy Spirit.
“Is it not your uncle who has a hearing problem? We have to turn the volume to maximum for him to hear. But I told the pastor about it and he'll pray for him.”
Yeah right. I was also prayed for so many times. 
“I brought your medication. You have an appointment next Tuesday I'll fetch you during the day.”
She takes the package thanks God and disappears into her bedroom. I settle on the couch and glue my eyes on the screen while thinking about my upcoming meeting.
A cup of coffee and scones disturb me. No matter what your dietician said when she gives you her scones and creamy coffee you eat like there's no tomorrow. Baking delicious scones must be a skill acquired from church because all these church-obsessed women in my family can play with the flour.
“You're so thin. You're paying those people enough money they should cook you real food” she complains while plaiting knots on her head; for the church's hat to fit perfectly.
“You always say that aunty.” I must excuse myself immediately before ideas of taking me to church for the pastor to pray for my weight start filling her head.
“That's because you're always thin. I will pack potatoes for you you need to eat real food. Do you have maize meal in that mansion of yours?”
“Aunty I can afford to buy…..” She slides into her flip-flops and heads towards the kitchen. She's throwing her hands up and mumbling her complaints about ‘the educated youth that don't even know how to do a proper grocery all they know is buying pizzas and Facebook.’

I have fresh potatoes in my house and I have no space to store her crinkly-skinned ones. I was taught important life lessons growing up one of them being grateful for everything that you have. Many people go to bed on hungry stomachs everyday and my mother always advised us against throwing away food. But who's going to take ugly potatoes like these? It would look like an insult people are very sensitive out there.
I leave them on the counter and collect the bin bag from the storage room. I stumble on a piece of paper neatly folded and placed next to the lime hand-gloves on top of an old washing machine. Out of curiosity I unfold the paper and run my eyes over the words written inside: “HOPE =Hold-On-Pain-Ends.”

I copy these words on my notebook and make a mental note to have them printed so that I can put them somewhere in my study room for when the going gets tough.
The most impossible thing to do is working while Andiswa is playing music loud and horribly singing along to it.
I need to find a peaceful spot outside where I can work without any disturbances. I take my notepad and laptop and head out.
Behind the house hiding on the left side of the bed of asters is a tree stump. Of course I've never seen it before it's painted blue on the bottom and curved with a STAR sign on its top. Where has this spot been my whole life? It's like a little world of tranquility. The fresh scents from the garden and chirping sounds of the birds isolate my mind from everything and absorb me into self.
I'm not a heavy sleeper I've never been one not even in varsity. In Zulu they say “ayikho inkomo yobuthongo" and that's been my motto ever since I started hunting down success. But today I woke up just seconds away from 7h35 and I ran to the bathroom like a madwoman. At nine sharp I have a group of grey-haired men who've invested their last cents into the company and I need to assure them that the company is on the right direction. I can't be late. If it was any other day I would've asked Aunty to iron my grey suit instead of this pencil white dress. To put a more professional look I cover my shoulders with a formal black blazer.
I straighten my weave and brush my eyebrows there's no time for make-up. Chop-chop! I'm out with my bags and running to the car.
“Hlase…” Not today! They know who to talk to when they have problems. I can't be late for my meeting because of domestic issues. And what makes him call me this way? Not that I hate it it's just a bit off however I prefer it over “madam.” That one makes me feel like a white woman of the Apartheid era.
“Take it to Andiswa” I say and silence him with a hand. I unlock the car throw my bags at the back and hop on my seat and drive out.

Khosi has a cup of coffee and a muffin ready for me in the office. I don't know what I'd do without her. Mr Ngidi was reluctant about her but I insisted. I wanted the girl of deadlocks who against the rules of every company in the world carried out her interview in Zulu. She answered every damn question in Zulu and her reason was that the whole interview panel were Zulus so she didn’t see the need to use a foreign language to communicate. 
Mr Ngidi the former CEO worried that she was going to mess up my schedules and turn my office upside down. But if I was going to get a PA it was going to be her nobody else! I liked her something about her confidence and steadiness drew me to her.
Six months later her twin sisters Snakho and Snalo were here and working in the production department. I swear it wasn't me who she bribed for them to get the jobs.
“How did you know that I skipped breakfast?” I ask and bite a huge chunk of the muffin. Delicious!
“Because I know how you become if you have an early meeting. You look gorgeous without make-up by the way. Japan treated your skin well” she says.
I doubt my skin can be flawless as hers no matter where in the world I go. I remember back in the days I'd go to her house and steal her facial skin products so that I can have a skin beautiful as hers. But she's a natural chestnut and she only does those skin scrubbing routines once in a while.
“Forget about my skin that Senzo guy dm’ed me. Did you tell him to?’ I ask.
“Yes” she says boldly.
She's unbelievable!
“Khosi! I can't go out on dates right now. I just got promoted my whole attention should be on taking this company to another level not men.”
“Nobody is asking you to go out during the office hours. You need to chill and live your life Ndondo. Soon you'll be 30 and single.”
“And what's wrong with that?’ I ask.
She picks her iPad and sways her hips towards the door.
“Saturday evening. Snakho will do your make-up and I will bring the outfit.” She strides out before I can object. Do I really have no say in my own life? And why is this Senzo not going after the girls in his area? I bet they're tired of him. Cookie-chaser.

There's a knock at the door. I let out a sigh and put away the document I was trying to review. The meeting starts in the next thirty minutes I really need this time to myself.
It's Bab’ Mbambo the security guard.
“Ndondo yegolide”
A smile spread from my face. This is how he calls me. He has a warm aura. He has always treated me like a daughter. From the first day I stepped on the grounds of this company as nothing more than just a marketing officer he'd playfully tell me that I'll go far in life; “Wena ngane yakwaSibisi uzoya kude nempilo.”
When I got that call from Mr Ngidi saying that he was stepping down and he needed me to catch the first flight back in the country his words rang in my ears like a prophecy.
“Baba” I say and step aside for him to get in. But he doesn’t walk in. He stands with a freckled smile and stares at me for a few seconds.
“You look very beautiful today you remind me of my late daughter” he says.
I know that his daughter is a heavy subject so I don't dig much about her. I just listen to those bits that he's willing to share and celebrate her memory with him.
“We should hang out this weekend. You've never really hung out with the CEO” I say.
He chuckles and nods his head. Look at me making other plans about my life! Khosi will kill me.
“There's a boy looking for you at the reception area” he says.
Gosh not now. Who's that boy anyway? I don't entertain boys in my workplace.
“Tell him to leave” I say.
“He said it’s urgent and trust me he looks like someone who jumped out of the hole and ran here.”
“What's his name?” I ask.
He frowns and clicks his fingers a numerous times. Sometimes I worry about him he should be sitting at home and enjoying his marriage. He's too old to be guarding gates. But his type is stubborn. He brushes off the subject everytime I suggest that he retires.
“Ndabuko….yeah I think that's what he said” he says and nods his head to verify his thoughts.
I don't know anyone by that name. I pull the door behind me and follow him to the reception area. Precious is late again she's still not on her desk. I'm getting tired of talking to her about one thing there are so many people who'd like to have this job.
“There he is” Bab’ Mbambo says pointing at…the yard man from my house?
He’s wearing the same dungaree and boots. My mind quickly runs to Andiswa and fear creeps up to my bones.
“Did anything happen?” I ask before he can shift his eyes from Bab’ Mbambo who's staring at him as if he's daring him to do something stupid.
“No you dropped this. I tried to stop you but you were in a hurry.” 
My flash drive! What was I going to present in the meeting? Everything is stored here. My Gosh!
“Thank you so much. I don't know how this happened I lost track of time and I was….fuck!” I cannot believe this. I didn't even check when I got here.
“It's okay I'm glad you got it on time. I have to get back to work.” He glances at Bab’ Mbambo’s now melted face and then gives me a nod of goodbye.
He makes his way out as Precious runs in with a fake apologetic look on her face.
“My boyfriend's car broke…..” I really don’t have ears to listen to her excuses today. I leave her explaining to Bab’ Mbambo.

Khosi is in the office applying polish on her nails. Trust her to do this twenty minutes before the meeting.
“I was wondering where you disappeared to” she says.
I sink on my chair and let out a deep sigh.
“You won't believe what happened. I dropped the flash drive at the yard and the yard man came to bring it. I don't know what I would've done” I say.
She blows on her right hand to dry up the nail polish and then lends me her unbothered attention.
“And this yard man of yours doesn't have a name?” 
I can't believe this is what she caught from all this. I left a bloody flash drive with all our hard work at home hello!
“His name is Ndabuko. Andiswa calls him Mngomezulu so I guess he's Ndabuko Mngomezulu in full. Anything else Miss-Know-Them-All?”
“Yes. How did he get here and how is he getting back to the house?” She stares at me. My mouth is hanging open. How did Ndabuko get here? And most importantly how is he getting back to the house? It's about 20 minutes away from here.
“Call him and tell him to wait for the car by the road. He just saved your ass the least you could do is provide him with transport back to the house. In fact you should've given him a day off. The poor guy must've walked all the way here to save the boss who hardly ever talks to him.”
I'm not the kindest person on earth sometimes I think less about others especially if I have no personal relationship with them. Right now I feel like the Devil's PA. He shouldn't have come here after the way I spoke and silenced him when he tried to speak to me earlier. It baffles me how he was able to ignore my unkind gestures and came here.

My hope of getting his contact details dies when Andiswa’s phone rings unanswered.
“I'm cruel aren’t I?” I sigh and lean back on the chair hopelessly.
“No you're self-absorbed” she says with a mocking smirk on her face.
“Sounds better you're a good friend” I say.
She rolls her eyes and blows her left hand’s nails.
“Now stop saying you don't know the poor guy. He’s Ndabuko your yardner."


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