It's the next morning and I've been cleared of any infections. The doctor defined the bleeding as cervical changes and said it's normal at this stage of the pregnancy especially after sex. Yeap he said that in front of everyone. Ndabuko panicked and called every living person he knows. Even my mother and father were here.
Mr Ngidi and his sons are still here so are the Nsele sisters. Now everyone knows that he fu€ked me- I bled- we panicked and rushed here. Khosi has been giving me judgmental eyes all morning. I don't know why they are still here.
“Ndondo is fine. Some of you should be at work don't you think?” That's Mr Ngidi being the CEO he was. The annoying man with a bushy beard and protruding belly- that's how they describe him.
He is looking at Khosi and the twins. Snakho visibly rolls her eyes before picking up her purse. If it wasn't for me Mr Ngidi would've fired this one a long time ago. Maybe two weeks after they started working at Bantwana Holdings. She's not the type that believes in- you don't bite the hand that feeds you- Snakho bites any hand that annoys her.
“Owkaaay” – Snalo stands up and snaps her thumb and middle finger while looking around.
“Your phone is in my purse” Snakho tells her. She knows her sister very well. We all do. The snapping of fingers means she's looking for something.
She claps her hands with relief and leans over me and plants a kiss on my cheek.
“Keep well boss-lady” she says and follows after her twin sister. I know that Khosi just like Ndabuko she won't leave my side until the doctor discharges me.
“Why did she do that?” Mr Ngidi’s question breaks a brief moment of silence.
We all look at him in confusion.
“The one-of-two who just walked out. Why did she do that with her fingers and clapped hands?” He's trying to put us out of misery however we are still just as lost as we were. The fact that he still can't tell them apart is funny even now he still calls the one that he sees “one-of-two.”
“Collecting her memory. Her brains stay in her fingers” Khosi says and we both laugh. That's how Snalo is even if she's not looking for anything she snaps her fingers to process her thoughts.
“Have they said what they want for their birthday?” I ask Khosi.
“A huge birthday celebration. Not their words but mine. I mean it's their 27th. We all know how hard it is for the twins to grow up without any difficulties especially when they have no identity.”
I clear my throat and give her a look. We have unnecessary pairs of ears there's no need to go into all the details.
“What are you getting for them?” I ask.
“Tickets to Lira's upcoming concert” she says.
“Khosi! That's what I was getting for them.” My word! Now I have to think of another gift.
“I've already bought them. VIP section. I also arranged with the manager that they meet her before she goes on stage for pictures and autographs.”
“Did you steal my mind?” I ask in shock. I had something like this in mind. I should've acted on it sooner. I know how much the twins love Lira this would've been my greatest gift of all years.
“Think of something else. I'm also cracking my mind trying to think about Andiswa's gift” she says.
“A tall boy that wears bucket hats that would be her greatest gift ever” I say and we both break into laughter.
“You should invite him to the party whether you like it or not moghel loves her boy.”
“I could give you the same advice.” I lead her to Ndabuko with my eyes and she rolls her eyes.
He's still tucked in the chair with his head buried in his hands. You'd think we all got relieved to find out that my bleeding was normal but him and Ndlalifa still look depressed as they were yesterday.
Maqhinga walks in sipping from a cup of coffee. He stands next to his father and draws loud sips- hlwi hlwi. Mr Ngidi is getting annoyed but it's his last born so he doesn't say anything.
“Where is the combo?” he asks looking around for the twins.
“They left for work” Khosi says.
“Why didn't you tell me? I could've taken them there.”
He mustn't even think about it. They're off limits!
He smirks and looks at Khosi.
“Or I'll just drive the big sister untanga yami” he says.
Khosi is annoyed. Maqhinga has always wanted to worm his way into her bed- into any woman's bed except me. Only because he knew my destiny I guess.
“I have a call to make” Khosi says as she gets off the chair. She throws a look at Maqhinga and walks out with her phone.
He laughs. Idiot!
Ndabuko lifts up his head and looks at me. It breaks my heart to see him this broken. I don't know how the doctor is supposed to convince him that nothing is going to happen to the baby.
“Maqhinga get a sandwich for him” Mr Ngidi says.
The sharp stare answers him and he drags himself out of the room.
Now it's me Ndlalifa and Mr Ngidi. Suddenly the stillness in the room makes me uncomfortable.
“Ndabuko what happened?” I guess they've been waiting for this moment to have some privacy with us.
“They want to give my baby to Nhlanzeko.”
“They? Who is “they”?” I'm pissed. He's been crying blood because of what Mam'Jabu suggested? Now he's calling us “they" and making it sound as if we made all this up for fun.
“But that is expected. I believe you knew what you were stepping into. It's either that or you give Nhlanzeko his wife and take yours.”
No this old man got to be joking! Give me to Nhlanzeko and take what? He's not taking any wife while I'm still alive.
“Come on bafo. It's not like he'll take the child away from you it's just the honour to his name” Ndlalifa chirps in.
“That's the thing I always have to do things for Nhlanzeko. I always have to give. I know what happened last night wasn't cervical changes or anything of sort. It was Nhlanzeko he got angry because I…” My eyes are bulging out. We were going to address this in private. He can't tell them!
“What did you do?” Ndlalifa asks.
“I did something in his room. I was angry okay? I'm tired of his demands. This is my first baby I'm the one who fu€k…” I cough uncontrollably.
“It's not what I'm thinking Ndabuko! Because you're not that stupid you can't provoke…” He bites Ndlalifa's head off before he even finishes.
“Exactly! It's always about the Mighty Nhlanzeko- “Ndabuko you can't do this to your brother…you can't speak this way to him”- I'm tired of this!” He pushes back the chair and storms out angrily.
Ndlalifa follows after him. I'm left alone with Mr Ngidi.
I stare at him as he takes out his cellphone and types something. Moments later he pushes the phone back inside his pocket and lifts his eyes to me.
“You both need to apologize to Nhlanzeko. Whatever you two did angered him and unfortunately he communicates differently from the other world. Ndabuko has issues I don't want him to go through another loss.”
I don't like that he describes him as someone who has issues. He also has issues of his own; Where is the mother of his sons? Why is he not married? Why he never smiles?
“Is he ever going to be free from him?” I ask.
“Not when he's with you which could be forever. But he can rest as your village mother said if someone carries his name he'll back off” he says.
I let out a sigh. This is going to be a tough journey. I don't want Ndabuko to ever feel like a shadow when he's with me but in this case I have to be Nhlanzeko's babymama before I become his.
“He will go back to Zamafuze.” I rest my head on the pillow and fight back tears threatening to escape my eyes. With Zamafuze he never had to compete with anyone especially not with Nhlanzeko. But with me he's always going to fight for his role against his dead brother. Something he's been doing since birth. He wants to break free to be his own man but I'm here holding him back.
“Hlasee?” He's back and removing my hands off my face. Now it dawns to me just how much Nhlanzeko complicated my life. Why didn't he let me be? Why did he have to send Ndabuko my way? I was going to find someone else to love so was Ndabuko. He'd be with Zamafuze and living life according to his own rules.
“Sthandwa sami what's wrong?” he asks.
I’m trying to hold back; I wipe off my cheeks but tears keep flooding out like a rainfall.
“I love you Ndabuko but I don't want you to live like this. I don't want to see you in pain.”
He frowns and shakes his head.
“What are you saying?” He's lost and frightened.
“If you're not with me Nhlanzeko won't dictate your life. Find someone who can cut him off I know that some traditional doctors do that. Right Bab’ Ngidi? Please help him. I will deal with Nhlanzeko on my own. Just set Ndabuko free from him” I beg with tears flowing down on my face.
I hold his hand. Why is he frowning at me? I’m making sense right?
“Ndabuko we cannot go on like this” I tell him.
He leaves and comes back with a glass of water. He takes my vitamins and folic acids and hands them to me.
“Here drink your meds” he says.
“Are you seriously going to pretend as if you don't see what is happening? You are not happy your life would've been better with Zamafuze.”
“Ndondo lala mufuna ukulala.” (Sleep if you want to sleep)
I look at Mr Ngidi for support; surely he gets what I'm saying.
“You don't have to rush into making decisions. You and Ndabuko were destined to be together and you can't raise a Mngomezulu child with another man.”
I should've know that he'd side with him. He hasn't been with a woman in years surely he doesn't think clearly.
“I can raise the child alone. Of course Ndabuko will be there whenever we need him. All I'm saying is that…”
“Baba did you manage to contact the minister’s office?” He turns the chair around giving me his back and gets into the taxi conversation with Mr Ngidi. I guess I'm the crazy one here.
The doctor discharges me at 1pm
This one drives me straight to my house. The radio is played loud enough to prevent me from striking any kind of conversation. Who ignores the person that's trying to call off a relationship? Now I don't know who is more unstable between him and Nhlanzeko.
He drops me off and leaves. He doesn't even walk me to the door or walk in to greet Bab'Maqhawe and Mam’Jabu.
As expected of her Mam’Jabu has a blanket waiting for me she gets me from the door and pulls me to the lounge. I'm put on the couch and covered with a blanket.
“But Ma I'm not sick.”
Who am I talking to? She's gone and dishes are colliding in the kitchen.
“See why I can't stand her? She blows everything out of proportion.” I don't know where this one came from. He's throwing a shade at his wife as usual.
“You should tell her that I'm not sick. The doctor said it was nothing to worry about the baby is fine” I tell him.
“Don't they know everything?” He shakes his head and sits opposite me.
“Well it was the medical advice and in his world he's correct.”
He waves me off with his hand; whatever the doctor said was useless.
“You need to talk to that boy of yours and do what you're supposed to do” he says.
“He refused to give the baby to his brother and told me to sleep when I suggested that we break things off.”
He's laughing? This is not funny.
“It's Nhlanzeko's way or no way. And that stands as long as we are together” I say in frustration.
“Letting go of someone who is carrying your seed is the biggest mistake ever. I'm proud of him you should sleep if you're tired.”
“Was letting go of my mother hard?” I don't know why I'm asking this but he doesn't seem to mind talking about that part of his past.
“I was the best man at their wedding it was compulsory because I was his brother. She was carrying my princess and I stood there and listened as they exchanged vows. That year is when I realized that men are not big beasts with stone hearts.”
“You cried?” I ask.
“Oh yes I did. But not in front of people. I wasn't crying for your mother because there was no way I was ever going to touch her or look at her the same way. I was crying for my child that I was forced to give up before birth.”
My heart melts. I don't want him to ever leave but his life is not here and he's leaving tomorrow afternoon.
“How was your relationship with my father before his marriage?” I see his jaw twitching as I refer to Dumisani as “my father” but he quickly pulls his face into place. Well I've known him as “my father” ever since I was born I can't just switch and call him differently.
“Perfect and imperfect brothers. It wasn't great but we didn't mess each other's lives.”
“My mother messed your lives?” I ask.
He keeps quiet. Mam'Jabu interrupts with a tray of food. Since when she's the cook here? Someone must leave before she gets into trouble.
Ndabuko refused to break up with me. We went back to his home to perform the ritual two days after I got discharged. He actually didn't even refuse he shut down the topic and acted as if it was never raised. Nhlanzeko seems to be hard-headed than I had imagined. We had to slaughter a chicken to apologize for disrespecting him. Imagine! Sadly I can't ask more details about him because it will unsettle my beloved boyfriend. I do have wonders of what kind of a person he was what else did he love beside boiled eggs and fighting. Oh well and me.
Bab'Maqhawe left. Him and Aunt Vumile had a private conversation before leaving and seemingly the hatred between siblings is worse than before. The most difficult part is that I still need my mother's blessing her husband’s as well before Bab’Maqhawe can take the ropes. So I'll beg and beg and beg. But for now we have to play the perfect family as we've always done; it's Andiswa's 21st birthday.
I'm in my bedroom locked in there because I don't want to answer church members’ questions about my visible baby bump. The parents are already ashamed of me I choose not to create any drama on Andiswa's big day. I'll celebrate with her at the real party later in my house. Right now it's all about prayers and gifts.
Who's at my door now? I thought everyone was busy. I close the bag of chips I've been stuffing myself with and drag myself to the door.
My mom. Sigh!
What does she want now?
I leave the door open for her and get back on bed.
“I brought you a slice of cake.”
I lie still. Why is she being nice? A slice of cake won’t change that she lied to me and hurt Bab’Maqhawe.
“I know that you don't like me at the moment but I did what was best for me at that time. Maqhawe wasn't what you see now.”
“But you dated him mom! You loved him right?”
She glances behind her shoulder clicks her tongue and pushes the door close.
“Who are you yelling at?” She has the nerve to dictate how loud I speak while addressing this!
“Why did you hurt him? Couldn't you marry another man at least? Someone from a different family” I ask.
“You're too young to understand. I did what I did and God knows that my intentions were pure.”
“Would you please stop using God? You're honestly disrespecting what Christianity stands for.”
“Who are you to judge me?”
Oh that's so rich coming from Judge Judy herself.
“You declared Ndabuko as a sinner yet you don't know him. But now I don't need your approval; you don't have to like him. All I need from you is for you to talk to your husband and make him agree to let Bab'Maqhawe take the ropes. He is my father and I want him to perform the ceremonies that are necessary for me.”
She lifts her hand up dismissively.
“That's not happening. That's not how we do things Ndondo.”
“You and your husband. I'm not you!”
She clicks her tongue and takes the slice of cake she came with. I was going to eat it but it's what it is.
“I never thought that one day my children would turn their backs on me. A few days with Maqhawe and he has turned you against us.” She talks all the way to the door and leaves with her piece of cake.
I thought she'd be sorry but no Maqhawe is still to blame in all this.
It's the official 21st birthday party; there are no parents and pastors. Only Khosi's mother will be in the house we have prepared a room for her upstairs where she won't be disturbed by any noise. The twins’ birthday is in two days and she's here as the only mother figure that they have.
As we park in front of the house I realize that we have more guests than Andiswa told us. The backyard is buzzing with music and girls are screaming above it.
“Is this a tavern now?” The village mother in her asks.
We didn't think it was going to be this too much otherwise we would've booked her into the hotel.
“They'll leave before 19h00. Andiswa's boyfriend has something set up for her in Zeros. They'll be at it the whole night it's her 21st” Khosi says.
I snap my brows and look at her. Why wasn't I told about this?
“21st meaning she's now an adult” she says with her eye narrowed at me.
I swallow back my thoughts and help her mother with the bags.
The elder girls are in the kitchen engaging in gossips with a bottle of wine on the table.
“Ma!” Snakho screams as she jumps off the chair and rushes into her aunt’s arms.
“Babies I missed you.” She hugs both of them and judgmentally scans their bodies.
“Did you pierce your nose Snakhokonke?” Oh Lord if she finds out where Snalolonke pierced herself she'll go crazy.
“You know what I'll fix you a cup of tea.” That's Snakho trying to neutralize the moment. She dashes to the kettle before more questions are asked.
Ndabuko is here Andiswa insisted on having him in her party. He brought his partners in crime.
I didn't tell them there is an elder coming when we walk in with Khosi's mother they nearly drop dead on the floor.
I don't understand why they're smoking inside the house. I've addressed this with Ndabuko before.
I allocate Khosi's mother on the couch opposite them purposely. Ndabuko instantly clears the beer bottles on the table and asks Ndlalifa to step outside with his cigarette.
“Your house is now a hostel?” she asks as soon as they leave the room.
Khosi is laughing at Ndabuko obviously.
“It's a party Ma. I'm sorry I didn't know it was going to be this chaotic” I say.
“Maybe you should take me to the bedroom so that I can rest.”
Snakho walks in with a cup of tea before we can leave the lounge. She has to sit and drink her tea first.
“Thank you baby. Your lipstick is too red don't you think? But what am I saying you have a role model who dresses up like a hooker.” She's staring at Khosi's tight legging as she sips her tea. We are all used to her she complains about everything. The sun the air the rain and all.
I guess Maqhinga wasn't alerted of the new guest. He walks in with a cider in his hand.
“Khosi baby….” He stops.
His eyes pop out as they land on the unfamiliar face.
He clears his throat and stands by the door scratching his head.
“Oh sanibonani” he says.
I'm ready to mock him just waiting for Khosi's mother to snap at him and put him in his place. Khosi baby- to whose daughter?
The cup leaves her hand spills the tea on her thighs and cracks on the floor.
Khosi screams as I scream; “Mah!”
Maqhinga is still standing by the door confused AF. Who wouldn't be? A woman he doesn't know just fainted at the sight of him.
“Maqhinga help!” Khosi calls and only then it registers to him he rushes towards us.
“Get a jug of water now!”
Snakho dashes out of the room and comes back with a bottle of icy water. All of it goes onto Khosi's mother's face and causes her to move her head and cough.
“I will leave I don't want to scare her again” Maqhinga says slowly steps backwards and leaves the room.
She finally opens her eyes and slowly scans around the room. The frightened look is still plastered on her face.
“What's wrong Ma?” Khosi asks.
We are all kneeling around her shaking in our boots.
“Who is that boy?” she asks after a moment.
“Maqhinga?” I ask.
“The one who was standing by the door” she says.
We all look at each other. What did Maqhinga do to her?
“Did he scare you?” Khosi asks.
“He looks like Msawenkosi my late brother. So much like him even the height and lean body. I thought my brother has come back. I thought…I thought…my brother!” She wails out.
None of us know what to do at this moment. Khosi holds her in her arms and we watch as she cries her eyeballs out.
Maybe Maqhinga should leave. This isn't good.