He doesn't even ask he just grabs her hand and pulls her aside. Right now he's not thinking straight. He doesn't see all the people watching him. Thalente’s answer doesn't matter for a moment. The only thing that matters is his mother's name- Magcina. It could be a namesake or coincidence but he won't rest until he knows.
“Who is Magcina?” he asks.
Phumzile is this thrown back by the level of disrespect. It's one of those boys who were smoking in Ndondo's house the other day. This one didn't even greet her or show any kind of remorse. And now he just grabbed her hand like that? As if she's his age-mate.
“Do you know Magcina Ngomane? She was dark maybe two shades lighter than me with a stud nose and a scar behind her neck.” He sounds desperate. He's been looking since he was 16. This is the first time he's had two dots connecting; 27 years and the name Magcina. The first time he's ever felt close to the truth. He needs her to agree- to say ‘yes she knows his mother.’ Then he'll take it from there. His mother loved him she loved her kids she wouldn't have left just like that. Something happened he knows this because he remembers exactly what he witnessed the other day. He knows how cruel his father can be he's seen it in his taxi rivalries. He was not named Ngonyama for massaging people's feet.
Phumzile is staring at him capturing every part of his face silently.
“Ma is everything alright?” It's Khosi. She's daring Ndlalifa with her eyes; if he does anything to her mother he'll have her to deal with. She's always been protective of all those in her life. Being a big sister runs in her bones that's why she didn't hesitate to befriend Ndondo and put her under her wings.
Surprisingly Phumzile glances at her once and nods her head. Ndlalifa is still staring at Khosi. Really who does she think she is? Mike Tyson? She's always threatening and glaring at people with those extra large eyes of hers. Mother Hen!
The hand grabbing his arm breaks his eyes from Khosi. He's being pulled by the woman that owes him answers she's pulling him out of the venue. All eyes are on them. People are wondering what the secret conversations are all about. But it only takes one song to get them back to the party.
She lets go of his arm and steps back to have a good look at him. They're standing by the rails leading down to the parking area.
“Why are you asking about Magcina? Our mother didn't marry legally so next time just say Magcina Nsele not Ngomane.”
His chest bounces as he consumes a heavy breath. His armpits are moist and itching. Something about his mother at last!
“She's my mother.” Pain and relief lace up his eyes as he says this. There's a lot going through his mind right now. Fear joy pain and mostly relief.
“You're Magcina’s son?!” Her hands are over her head. Is she going to cry again? No.
His head is pulled against a full-packed chest. The hug is too warm to resist and he loves hugs. His mother used to hug him exactly like this woman. She was an affectionate woman kissing hugging and cuddling. Every morning he'd wake up and dash to his parents’ bedroom and snuggle himself on his mother. He was older and faster Maqhinga would always sit on the floor and stare at them as they cuddled and played on bed. He’d only get a hugging partner if their father was not at work. Maybe that's why he connected more to Ngidi they have that strong bond the one Ndlalifa broke years ago. Ngidi is his father because he raised him they share blood and work together. But that's it. It ends with business discussions and a sour dinner together forced by Maqhinga or Ndabuko once in a full moon.
“She didn't say anything about you. Magcina disappeared for 10 years and came back with a huge stomach. We didn't reconnect we didn't talk about anything the sisterly bond wasn't there. It was never there but we were good before she left. A few days after her arrival she gave birth to the twins and died shortly after delivering.” She's crying again. Not because Magcina died and not because Msawenkosi was found rotten in the bushes a month after Magcina’s passing but because they didn't get the chance to talk. There were things she wanted to confess to her things she could only talk about to a sister. Now she has to raise the kids alone with a heavy baggage in her heart.
“I've been looking for her she left when I was eight.” That's all he manages to say. He's trying to swallow back the lump rising up in his throat. He's 35 he can't cry over his mother in a party.
“Was she hurt when she came home?” he asks what has been bothering him for years. Yes he thought his father hurt his mother and buried her somewhere to hide the evidence.
Phumzile frowns in confusion.
“Not physically” she says.
He's relieved but not wholly. His mother wouldn't have left them just like that. His father knows something.
“I'm Phumzile your aunt.” They hug again tighter this time. Her sister had a son and he's not just a boy but a fully grown man. Maybe there's a way; she can get something now. Where did Magcina live in that decade she was away from home? Who did she live with? The girls who's their father? Why did she leave and why did she come back?
But she can't ask all these question to a child. He looks clueless there must be someone who have the information she needs.
“Who did she leave you with?” she asks with a soft stare glazing in Ndlalifa's pained eyes. Behind these upturned eyes is a thousand drops of tears held back.
“With dad” he says.
“Is he still alive?”
Ndlalifa nods his head. He never imagined finding out about his mother this way. Dead left behind twin daughters that have been under his nose for years. They work in the production department in the company his father ran for years wearing blue overalls and boots like everyone else and sweating from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm.
“They're my sisters?” He's mumbling to himself but he's audible enough to be heard by Phumzile.
“They're your mother's daughters. I'm not sure about the father your mother and I didn’t talk. It would be better if you take me to your father I need to talk to him.” She's been looking forward to this day for years. She won't be able to sleep before talking to someone who knew Magcina during the last years of her life.
“Is he around?” she asks.
Hesitantly he nods his head. He wants to see the twins and talk to them. Not even in his wild dreams has he ever imagined himself having not just one but two sisters. They look alike he can't tell them apart not that he's ever bothered to try. Their names confuse him as well.
“Please take me to your father” she persists. Right now nothing matters more than cracking her sister's past. There are many possibilities but her instincts tell her that before this day ends she'll know the identity of her nieces.
Ndlalifa came with someone and he knows that she's going to be mad at him for this. But this is important he'll have to make it up to her. He sends Ndabuko a text asking that him and Ndondo take care of Thalente.
Phumzile makes a call and alerts Khosi that she is leaving.
BHEKI “NGONYAMA" NGIDI
It's not everyday that his first son comes to his house. So he's shocked when he sees Ndlalifa walking in. Not alone but with an old woman behind him. Luckily his housekeeper has gone to her room. It would've been a disaster if they found her in the house probably still in that lacy short thing she was wearing. He is not that man who sleeps with girls two years younger than his son but she kept throwing herself at him and she didn't want anything more than what stays in his pants and wallet. She knows how to separate work and personal matters. The last thing he needs is for his sons to think that he replaced their mother mostly Ndlalifa. He's the one who refuses to let go. The one that he fears one day might take a gun and pull the trigger at him.
“Ngidi” Ndlalifa says to him and points the woman on the couch.
Whatever this is about it's not good. His mind quickly races to Maqhinga. He's a troublemaker drama follows him everywhere and he always let him get away with everything.
“What's going on?” he asks eyeing the woman who's been staring at him since she walked in.
“This is Phumzile Nsele my aunt.”
“Your aunt?” He lifts up his eyebrow in question.
“My mother's sister and she's here to ask about her sister. What happened to her?” That's his question. It comes from him and not from his aunt. It's accompanied by hatred. His bloodshot eyes are piercing through Ngidi and crushing every last piece of his heart.
He looks at the woman the so-called aunt and waits for her to speak.
“You had a child with Magcina my sister?” she asks calmer than he expected.
“Children. Two sons
She frowns and turns her eyes to Ndlalifa. Did they not talk?
“He wasn't at the party. Ndondo asked him not to come because of what happened the other day” Ndlalifa says.
She looks even more confused.
“What happened the other day?” she asks.
“You fainted when you saw him and said he looked like your late brother” he says.
It clicks immediately in Ngidi’s head. This is the sister he heard about once if not twice. It confuses him how such an ordinary person can be so hard to find.
“Phumzile?” he asks.
“Yes. She talked about me?”
“A few times.”
There's a moment of silence as they stare at each other differently. Both of them have so much to say so many questions to ask but there's Ndlalifa in presence. Some things just can't be discussed in front of children no matter how old they are.
“I hear she left here already pregnant. Why did she leave?” Phumzile breaks the short moment of silence.
Ngidi turns his eyes to Ndlalifa.
“Son please go to the kitchen and make something for your aunt.”
Ndlalifa lets out a chuckle in disbelief and leans back on the couch. This man thinks he can keep him from the truth. At 35 really?
“Answer the question Hlomuka” he says relaxed back on the couch. He's not going anywhere.
“Did you have a fight?” Phumzile asks as she realizes how hard it is for Ngidi to speak out.
“No we didn't have a fight. The reason you fainted is the same reason why she left.” He keeps his eyes away from Ndlalifa. He didn't want him to know. Not like this. Why is he so stubborn?
Phumzile fights back tears. She swallows the lump in her throat. She hides her trembling hands. But nothing works.
“That boy is your son?” she asks between the sobs.
She gets it. There's no need for explanations. It's the guilt that eats up her conscious more than anything.
“Yes he's my son” Ngidi says.
“And the girls?” she asks.
He frowns. Which girls now?
“Snakho and Snalo the twins she was pregnant with when she left” she explains when she reads the confusion on his face.
“Are those….” He turns his creased face to Ndlalifa. “Identical girls from Bantwana Holdings?”
“They’re not just identical girls from Bantwana Holdings those are your daughters. You need to explain what's going on here? What has Maqhinga got do with mom's disappearance?”
“I didn't kill your mother she left because she didn't want to be here anymore. That's all you need to know” Ngidi says and looks at Phumzile “Where is she?”
“She passed on just a few minutes after delivering the second girl.”
He nods his head. This he'll deal with it some other day if he ever does. He pushes it to the pile at the back of his head. He's not going to break down in front of his son.
“Why didn't she want to be here with us her kids?” Ndlalifa persists with his questions. He's not letting go until he gets his answers.
“I'm not her she's the only person who can answer your question.”
His response gets Ndlalifa on his feet. Just in case he hasn't noticed he's taller than him and he'd squash him on that couch with one foot.
You can exchange insults argue and defy your parent all you want. But in Zululand or South Africa as whole the biggest sin found on page 2600 in How To Be A Good Child book is calling your parent by name. You just don't. It ends badly unless if you're a Sandton child.
“Sit down wena nja. You want the truth right? Get your black ass back on the couch and hear it. But if you dare my boy if you dare tell Maqhinga this you'll see who Ngonyama is.”
Okay they should calm down before Phumzile releases that pee she's pressing on the couch.
Ndlalifa sits down and looks at his father. He's just seconds away from the truth something he's always wanted but he's feeling uneasy. He wants to run away before he even hears it.
“Your brother looks like your uncle your mother's brother. You heard that right? That motherfu€ker was the reason why your mother ended up in the streets of Tongaat. He raped her from the age of 14 to the day when she decided to run away from home. I didn't know all that we didn't talk about her past until Maqhinga was born. As you've heard Maqhinga looks like your brother from head to toe and for that reason your mother hated him. She wanted me to kill him. To kill my own son. I refused. She suggested adoption I still refused. So she took her purse and left.”
Ngidi has told him the truth he was protecting him from. He's 35 and taller than anyone in this family that makes him a man enough to force people to talk right?
Ndlalifa stares up at the ceiling blinks back his tears and blows out. This is not what he expected to hear. His chest is dry and aching. He can't get a single word out. His childhood memories are still clear in his head.
It was treat. Their mother loved them or rather him. He didn't notice anything even though there were strange things happening at their father's absence. The unreasonable scolding towards Maqhinga the way she never touched him or lift him up when he cried. Those goodies he ate in his mother's bedroom while Maqhinga was left with the nanny in the lounge. He was seven and in his mind the thin baby was his competitor.
His head drops to his chest and the sniff escapes his nose. He gathers himself up taking no single glance at his father and aunt and leaves the room with tears running down his cheeks. He has a bedroom in every house that his father buys he just never sleep in them. This one has his pictures lining the wall. He has never seen some of them he doesn't even know when they were taken.
He throws himself on the bed and brings the pillow up against his face.
Ngonyama is scared. He's quaking in his boots. He wants them to set another day maybe the following one. In his mind it was another boy the doctor didn't tell them it was the twins. Was he even there? That was the pregnancy he regretted more than anything. There was a lot going on and he still wanted to give his attention to his neglected son. Finding out that he is a father to two girls. 27 years old and he's known them for two years. He's threatened to fire one of them he's not sure which one it was. It scares him.
But Phumzile is not going to sleep with these exciting news. She's going back to that party with the greatest gift ever; their father. Maybe Magcina will forgive her for not being able to protect her she has united her daughters with their father. Her sons will come home and see her grave. That's something right?
Her fear of men is at rest as she climbs inside Ngidi's car and fastens her seatbelt. All that matters is seeing the smile on her babies faces.
She can't wait. But Ngidi is not driving yet.
“When did she arrive home?” he asks.
“16 August” she says.
That's confusing. Didn't she go straight home from Ngidi's house? Magcina never made any friends not even with his friends' wives.
“She left here our house on 10th of August” Ngidi says in deep thoughts.
“Maybe she started in Lamontville where Msawenkosi lived.”
He looks at her with a frown. Her face remains the same. One plus one equals two. Ngidi releases a sigh and starts the car.
It was bad wasn't it? He failed Magcina dismally.
The night is still young it seems like more people came after Phumzile left. As she steps out of the car she bumps into Ndondo. Ngidi is standing behind her and popping his fingers. His biggest fear is that they'll reject him. They're 27 for crying out loud they've made it this far with him present but without his help.
“Call Snakho and Snalo. I can't push through this crowd” Phumzile says to Ndondo.
Ndondo clears her throat and looks away from her.
“Only Snakho is here” she says.
Phumzile frowns. They were both here when she left. It's their fancy party and supposedly all their drunkard friends are here.
“Where's Snalo?” she asks.
“She went somewhere. Don't worry about her Ma she's safe” Ndondo says.
“Where is somewhere? I need her there's something I want to tell both of them.”
Ndondo glances at Ngidi and rubs her hands together. There's a thick annoyed girl coming their way when she sees Ngidi she stops dead on her tracks with her eyes bulging out. Owkaaay.
“Ndondo!” Phumzile snaps.
“Snalo left Maqhinga came to fetch her. Please Ma she's 27 and it's her birthday today. Let her be." Her words fall on deaf ears as both Ngidi and Phumzile rush back to the parking area as if the world behind them is on fire.