Being home was amazing. Yes I call it home. But unfortunately I have to go back to life. Bab’Maqhawe and his wife are coming with me. They've made it clear that they won't set a foot in my father's house hence I've urged Andiswa to arrange a family dinner in my house. I'm hoping that we'll talk put aside our differences and reach common grounds. We don't have to share beliefs we just have to respect one another. I pray and hope that my father keeps his emotions in check. Bab'Maqhawe has his reservations on Christianity too but he's not as vague as my father is about the ancestors.
The sooner they work towards accepting Ndabuko's proposal and letting Bab'Maqhawe handle things is the sooner I can also focus on my relationship and the pregnancy.
I also have to talk to Ndabuko about what Mam'Jabu said. I don't want any complications and I also want Nhlanzeko to rest in peace. If giving this baby to his name is going to give him peace then so be it. It won't take anything away from us at Home Affairs we'll still be the baby's parents and we'll raise him or her as our own.
Bab’Maqhawe is forced to eat two bananas so that he won't demand us to make “pee" stops along the road. They always argue over stupid things and Mam'Jabu always wins the argument. This man does everything she wants but not without a fight. I can stay with them all day. I wonder how life would've been like if we stayed back in Nyandeni. Maybe we would've turned out differently.
“Are you supposed to drive while pregnant?” Mam’Jabu asks.
“I'm still on the first trimester Ma please don't turn into another Ndabuko” I beg.
“Hhayi-bo we don't want anything bad to happen to our grandchild. That's why we are here and you better not reveal the Sibisi stubbornness to that poor boy” she says.
“Sibisi stubbornness?” Bab’Maqhawe asks with his eyebrow lifted. I'm also curios.
“Don't even start Maqhawe you know yourself” she says.
He mumbles something under his breath and go mute as Mam'Jabu gives him a stare.
I discussed this with Qondani and he told me that the only time his mother apologizes to Bab'Maqhawe for her controlling and dictating behavior is during the late hours of the night. That was enough for my ears I didn't tiptoe to their free-standing bedroom to eavesdrop. But now I think she does all this on purpose; to provoke him so that the “late night” punishment can be severe.
They've never been to my house before let alone my kind of neighbourhood. I can tell by the way Mam’Jabu’s nose is wrinkled up that nope it looks all fancy and modern but she wouldn't give up a day of her life to live here.
“Is it divided into two?” she asks about the house.
“Yes” I say.
“How many bedrooms?”
“For you and Andiswa only?”
“No people do come over.”
She doesn't say anything further. She's just stunned I guess. I don't think I live exaggeratedly. There are bigger houses in this neighbourhood some of them don't live anyone they were just bought because the owners could. Ndabuko is the one I could say is exaggerating this whole life thing his house is ridiculous so are his sport cars.
Andiswa is standing in the middle of the lounge looking confused and lost. She hasn't seen these people since she was a child. I don't think she even remembered their faces.
“Is this Andiswa?” Bab’Maqhawe asks with his arms widely opened. Andiswa hesitantly walks into them and wraps her arms around him.
“You're so grown!”
They're both staring at her in disbelief.
“It's my 21st birthday very soon” she brags as she looks up to Bab'Maqhawe’s face. She has melted in their presence in an instant that's how light their aura is.
“Your father should do umemulo for you” Bab'Maqhawe says.
“Like virgins?” she asks.
Mam'Jabu is going to faint. The word “like” has her eyes bulging out of their sockets.
“Please get us something to drink” I tell Andiswa with a stern look. In these people's eyes she's still 7 years old she's going to make their hearts stop.
“Do you guys want me to show you around or your feet are aching?” I ask them.
The waving hand and clenching of jaws from Mam’Jabu as she slides down on the couch answers me. Bab'Maqhawe is made out of steel insimbi endala he's up for it. I take him to the studio first where Andiswa does all her secret auditions. He's charmed by the guitar we spend almost ten minutes inside with him trying to revive the old guitarist inside him.
“When are they coming?” he asks as we leave the ground floor taking up the stairs.
“Soon. I sent Andiswa a text before we got here. She must've notified them that we've arrived.”
“They're aware that I'm also here?” He's a man he keeps the brave face on but I've got to know him well during the past two days I can tell that he's nervous.
“We didn't go into details with them but I don't think it's a problem since you're in my house and not theirs.”
“I just don't want to bring any noise around you and my grandchild.”
He's sweet beyond my understanding. I know that it's wrong to compare people but he's way better than my father. He's more loving more open-minded and less judgmental.
“Bab'omdala don't stress yourself about those two.” I'm not sure of my advice but stressing about it is not going to help. They'll be here and the confrontations will be done.
The picture of me in my graduation gown welcomes us as we enter the study room. He stands in front of it.
“Qondani heard about this and he told me. I was so proud of you” he says in a mix of emotions.
“I wish you were there to slaughter a cow for me” I tease.
He tenses up and reaches up to it. He unhooks the frame and takes the picture down. He goes around the desk and lounges himself on my chair. He's staring at the picture like a piece of treasure. I guess this is another room we're going to spend an hour in.
“Time flies. The day you were born still feels like yesterday. I can't believe you've grown into this beautiful intelligent young woman.”
I walk around the desk stand behind him and wrap my arms around his shoulders. He lifts up one hand and touches my arm with iziphandla around his wrists brushing tenderly against my flesh.
The door bursts open and my mother stands in the middle of the doorway.
Oh hell she's angry.
“Mama I thought you were…” I pause and follow her fire-blazing eyes.
“Maqhawe let go of my daughter!”
I'm the one holding Bab'omdala’s shoulders and he's just holding my picture.
Without saying anything he puts the picture on the desk and gets off the chair.
“Mama! I was just showing Bab'omdala around.” I'm so embarrassed. “Baba I haven't shown you my bedroom please don't leave” I say.
He has this thing of listening to women. It's cute with Mam’Jabu but I don't understand it with my mother. Why would he just follow the word of a woman he hasn't seen over a decade?
“Go and greet your father downstairs.” Now she's ordering me. Her hands are on the waist and she's ready for war.
Bab'Maqhawe passes next to her. Their shoulders touch and they share one deep stare.
“Leave Maqhawe” she says slowly as she finally tears her eyes away from his.
“One day pray for you heart.” With that said he walks out of the room and disappears.
It must've touched the nerve she's blinking timelessly.
“Why do you hate him?” I ask.
“Hate? I don't hate anyone. I said go and greet your father downstairs.” She turns around and leaves. Very weird!
I already know that the family dinner won't go well. Maybe I should've just called my father alone and he would've sorted this with his brother privately. Bringing my mother into this was the worst decision ever. I can tell that Mam'Jabu has gotten uncomfortable and my mother is doing her best to make her feel unwelcome.
“I'm the one who asked you all to come here so I guess I’ll speak.” I need a sip of water. This; their piercing eyes my father's silence and the side eyes between Mam’Jabu and my mother it all unsettles me. Even though she has already chosen her side I wish Aunt Vumile was here to neutralize the situation with her holy jokes.
“Baba I already know where you stand as far as my relationship with the father of my child is concerned. I'm not going to ask you to make sacrifices for me or to disregard your beliefs to do things for me. All I'm here to ask is that you allow Bab'omdala to be in charge of all the rituals and ceremonies that should take place. I love Ndabuko and I'm not going to break up with him or ask God for forgiveness because I fell in love with someone who is not perfect in your eyes.”
He directs his eyes to Bab’Bab'Maqhawe
“You put her up to this? You turned my daughter against me Maqhawe?” he asks.
“I went to Nyandeni myself please don't shift this to Bab'omdala” I jump in before Bab'omdala can breathe a word. I knew this was going to happen. He's always been a bad guy in their eyes. A devil himself.
“Right? You went to Nyandeni and you suddenly talk back to your father?” my mother asks and she's met by fierce stare from Mam'Jabu.
“Nomagugu let men talk. Ungumfazi stay out of it.”
“Yey wena sqhaza!”
Owkaaaay! Andiswa needs to go to her room. This is war.
“Take your food and leave” I whisper to her.
She pouts her lips and folds her arms while resting back on the chair. Now we have to argue just like these people?
“Leave!” I hiss through my teeth.
She doesn't budge. The noise is bursting the roof. Mam'Jabu and my mother are just seconds away from scratching each other's face. I've never witnessed such a childish bickering between old people.
“She is my daughter!” Bab’Maqhawe’s voice rises above everyone else's and brings the room into a standstill.
“Maqhawe!” my mother warns in a trembling whisper.
I'm not sure what's going on. Why is everyone suddenly so quiet and not looking at me?
“I did everything I was asked to do. You married Nomagugu because you were a better man than I was. A better son. I let you two marry to take my daughter and play a perfect family behind the Bible. I had to start afresh. At 28 I had to start as a little boy! From the ground with nothing to my name.” His voice tones down. He leans forward the table and stares at my mother with the corners of his eyes dropping tears.
“You didn't fight for me. You were happy to marry my brother despite all the promises we made to each other. But I understood because I was always the rebellious one. The one with no promising future. You had to do what was best for yourself. Please tell me how I became the bad guy? How did I become the devil to both of you? I stayed away I didn't want to confuse my daughter and I respected all the conditions that were given to me. She came looking for me not the other way around. Because the herder and the father will always be different even if they're playing the same role.”
A cold liquid flows down my face snapping me back to the world I wasn't even aware that I had left. Andiswa has me in her arms and everyone is standing around me.
I didn't faint I'm still sitting on the chair but my whole body feels like an empty sack.
“Baba you married your brother's pregnant girlfriend?” Andiswa asks with me in her arms.
“Shhhh!” someone shushes and I lift my head up. I want the truth. What the hell is going on here?
“Ndondo please….” I shake my head before she even starts. She lied to me for twenty six years!
“Mama who is my father and who is my uncle between these two men?”
My fingers ball into a fist and crash on the jug of juice put next to the stack of plates. Andiswa holds back my arms and strains me back on the chair.
“Speak Nomagugu” Mam'Jabu says and the awkwardness multiplies like rabbits.
“Dumisani is your father baby he raised you.” She finally manages to get the words out.
Maybe I need to reconstruct my question.
“Who made you pregnant?” I ask.
Gasps! What did they expect me to say? This woman seems to be answering things I didn't ask.
“Maqhawe did but your father had more qualities of being a good father and a husband than Maqhawe was. We were in the same church and…” My ears cannot hear more of this. He had more qualities according to whose standards? The church people? And he agreed to betray his brother and hid behind the name of God?
“Mama is this what you wanted for me as well? To break up with Ndabuko and marry someone from your church so that we can play a perfect family? You really think this is okay. Lying to me my whole life and keeping me from my father?” I ask.
“I'm your father Ndondo.”
I don't have words for him at the moment. I don't know what to say. He sees nothing wrong with what they've done to me and Bab’Maqhawe.
“I thought we were going to be civil about this but as usual you two treated me like a piece of shit. This is not how I wanted her to find out but you left me with no choice.” Bab'Maqhawe gets off the chair and rests his hands on the table. “Now I want to perform ceremonies for my daughter. I don't care if you take her bride price but you're not going to let this fake Christianity of yours stand on the way of her happiness. Go and get Vumile and your church members to gang up on me I don't care.”
I cannot believe this is happening to me. I watch Utatakho everytime it airs and I’ve never imagined myself being caught in the same situation. I'm angry both at my father who just turned out to be my uncle and my mother. I don't know how I feel about Bab'Maqhawe being my biological father. I haven't processed my emotions yet.
I slept on it and I was hoping that when I wake up everything will make sense. But I'm still in shock and confused as I was yesterday. I don't know what would've happened if Andiswa had left the room as I instructed. Even today she's the one who woke up and took care of Bab'Maqhawe and Mam'Jabu. I haven't wrapped my head around him being Baba and not Bab’omdala.
I don't know if I'm ready to have a conversation with them yet. I grab my car keys and leave using the backdoor.
Khosi's text comes through as I settle behind the wheel. I don’t bother checking because I know it's about upcoming birthday parties. She loves organizing events more than she loves her job. All themes and ideas are ran past me and I just have a lot of personal problems to deal with. Andiswa is turning 21 and the twins Snakho and Snalo are turning 27. Their birthdays are just two days apart. With them the twins we always try to make them feel special around the day. The most painful thing to happen to any mother would be to take the last breath as your babies open their eyes for the first time. The day brings different emotions to them; they celebrate adding another year to their lives and also mourn the death of their mother who never got the chance to hold them.
It's unfortunate that she died just a few days after returning home from God knows where. Her sister Khosi's mother says she was gone for 10 years. Nobody knows where she was she didn't reach out to anyone until the day she showed up in her house with a huge stomach and nothing but her purse.
She was well looked after; her skin was glowing and the clothes she came wearing were those of expensive designs- Khosi's mother recalls. But something was missing in her; the happy girl that left home ten years ago.
She wasn't the same. She was emotionally drained and empty at heart. She found the colourful life she was chasing but there she lost herself.
Two days later she went into labor. They never got to know of the life she left home for death claimed her sooner than anyone had expected.
Behind she left two identical daughters Snakho and Snalo. As years went by the whole Ngomane family had to switch back to the Nsele surname. It happens almost everyday. People give birth and gift their children any surname they see fit and in the long run it comes back to bite them. The ancestors don't work at Home Affairs when the time comes they claim those that belong to them regardless of what the Home Affairs paper says.
Khosi’s mother and her siblings were claimed back by their rightful ancestors those of their mother. And they switched back to Nsele together with their offsprings.
That's another reason why I'm here fighting for my child to have a true identity.