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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

 

ZANAMUHLA

 

When I open my eyes there is a heavy figure opposite my bed.

It's dark outside I've been eating and sleeping as much as I can. I don't know what's more exhausted between my body and soul. Sleep helps me not to think about what happened and I don't deal with the fact that I didn't write my exams.

“Hlahla”

I can't believe my ears.

My brother!

He is the only person who calls me that way.

“Sit up” he orders.

I sit up immediately. He takes a lighter out of his pocket and lights the lamp. I asked him to fix my lightbulb two months ago I guess his Mazwakhe schedule has been too tight. 

“You could've just fixed the light for me and I wouldn't have to live like a khoisan” I snap.

He frowns.

I hate him. He could've fixed my light and saved me from those evil Mthembu brothers. Why did he kill a man if he can't stand up for his shit? Why are men so evil and inconsiderate?

“You are not angry about the light I know you. Look it's not safe for me to be here they took Nkanyiso and they're coming after me. But I had to come see you are you okay?” “Do I look okay?” I ask.

“Attitude!” He warns.

Sigh! This is my brother he is way older than me I shouldn't let anger control me. He is still calm though the Mazwakhe I know would've reprimanded me. I guess a part of him admits that he disappointed me.

“I'm okay they didn't do anything to me” I say. “I knew they wouldn't.” He scratches his beard and sighs heavily. He looks like a caveman I don't know where he hides or if he eats anything. His eyes flickers anger. If I was to put a comb through his hair it would surely breaks into pieces. I don't know why he isn't friendly with the barbers.

“This is temporary Hlahla I will settle this out tomorrow. In the morning pack your bag and go to kwaMalume I'll fetch you once the dust has settled” he says.

Tomorrow the Mthembus are burying their father they can't settle anything with him. I doubt he'd disturb the funeral I mean that's just cruel and inhuman.

“Tomorrow?” I raise my eyebrows.

He nods his head. He's not going to spell this out for me.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask.

Heavy silence.

“Can I get you anything to eat?” I ask.

“No”

My forehead furrows. He has hunger written all over him.

“I'm on a strict initiation I can't eat anything other than what

I'm told to eat.”

“I don't understand” I say.

“I need to be strengthened for tomorrow. It's a war Hlahla I might not come back. The Mthembus only understand one language blood must be spilt before we get equality in this area. I watched my mother die at the side of the road because they closed the road for the stupid farm.”

He might not come back? I can't lose him he knows that he's all that I have.

“No Mazwakhe you don't have to fight. Remember I will get my trade and we'll move away from here. That's why you sent me to school so that we can have better lives” I remind him hoping that it'll put him back to his senses.

He chuckles and gets on his feet.

“You didn't write your final exams they took that away from you remember?”

He just had to remind me that! Eitherway that's on Ngcwethi and him alone. He destroyed my future not the whole Mthembu clan. But he released me I don't know why he did it but a part of me is grateful.

“I have to leave don't forget what I said leave before the sun comes out” he says.

I guess there is no way to stop this. All I can do is pray for his safe return. 

“Please be safe” I say.

He smiles but it doesn't reach his eyes. He has only one arm of the overall on the other sleeve is loose below his arm revealing his muscular arm that has iziphandla around his wrist and a gemstone bracelet that mother made for him. She made me one as well but I can't tell you where it is.

“You take care of yourself and stop being stubborn Hlahla. I mean it stop being stubborn.” He gives me a stare that usually has me agreeing to everything he says. I just shrug my shoulders he sighs and walks out.

I blow off the lamp and struggle with the possibility of never seeing him again.

Tomorrow I'm not going to my uncle's house my brother is going to a war I should be somewhere around waiting for his return.

.

.

THE MTHEMBU HOMESTEAD

After a long service the pastor finally reads a verse to accompany Mthembu to his eternal room. Everyone stand up and allow Busikhaya to lead out the coffin.

He is singing ihubo that calls the attention of his ancestors: “Indlondlo igobile Ihlangabezeni mayine!

Mayin' imvula libalele."

His brothers sing along with him. The piercing scream of their mother rise above ihubo. Busikhaya’s eyes have turned red. He is trying not to break nothing hurts him as seeing his mother in pain. The Ngwanes haven't paid for what they did and that just infuriates him even more.

They walk slowly surround the kraal and finally stop at the end of the yard.

“Awushinge Awushinge!” -Mndeni calls out. 

They lift the coffin over their shoulders and run to the cemetery like they're just carrying a box of tomatoes.

Others are chanting back: “Uyashinga umsunu kanina

Uyashinga!”

Dust twirls up women pick up their paces and try to keep up. The whole scene has turned to something else. Everyone's blood is boiling up. It's more than just a loss of the Mthembus the whole community lost an important figure.

In the midst of all the commotion and effusion of emotions Ngcwethi is following behind calmly. He keeps sighing heavily and brushing his shoulders.

They have placed the coffin near the grave. Busikhaya is standing at the top of it facing a crowd of men that are clapping hands and singing after him.

When the pastor arrives they cut the song and give him his place. One woman start a church song it's a normal funeral again.

Maybe not for so long.

“Cut the song!” Ngcwethi shouts out of the blue.

Everyone look at him with confusion.

He takes reedmats and throws them to his uncles.

Busikhaya grabs him and pulls him aside.

“And now?” he asks.

“We need to bury him immediately” -Ngcwethi.

Busikhaya frowns. Now is not the time for his riddles. They're saying goodbye to their father it should be done with dignity and according to tradition.

“It's not safe I can feel it on my shoulders.” -Ngcwethi explains.

Busikhaya still doesn't get it but when it comes to Ngcwethi they go wherever his wind is blowing them. He is always weird and right.

Mthembu's body is taken out of the coffin placed on the reedmat and covered with a blanket and a cow's skin over. Mndeni grabs a spade and starts breaking the coffin into pieces. The pastor has to read his verses as fast as he can. Busikhaya digs sand with a shovel and stands next to the grave. All the Mthembus scoops a bit of it and throw it inside the grave as a sign of goodbye.

Women return back home to feast on the refreshments while men struggle to fill up the grave. As soon as they finish they all go down to the river to bath. Ngcwethi asks his brothers that they use a different river from others.

“I can't believe we had to bury him like that.” -Mnotho.

He is unhappy about how quickly the burial was carried out. Surely their father deserved a little show he was a man amongst men. He could see people whispering behind their hands again they'll be trending in the whole village now for burying their father like a cat.

“It makes no difference he wasn't going to wake up even if we had a funeral scheduled for 12 hours” Busikhaya responds. Mnotho shoots a look at him. Was it really necessary for him to respond like that? He can be very insensitive.

“I'm just surprised about how women hurried back home. Don't they have food at their homes?” Mndeni says shaking his head in disbelief.

“Really now? It's food who cares?” -Busikhaya.

Mndeni shares a look with Mnotho; here we go again.

They get to the river take their clothes off scoops a bit of umswani and bath.

“You heard that?” Ngcwethi asks jumping out of the water.  The bush is quiet only the sound of the birds and running water disturb the peace. His brothers look at him with confusion.

“No let's leave now!” 

They all jump out of the water and put their clothes on and run after him. They didn’t hear anything but when Ngcwethi says run you run.

There is a smoke dancing its way to the sky. It’s coming right from their home. Gunshots follow. It's a bit steep they cannot run fast enough.

As Busikhaya requested when the coffin went out the rain starts pouring. The sun disappears behind a dark cloud a bright lightning keeps flashing every now and then.

Gunshots stops when they are about to get to their home. Kids and women are crying and calling out for help. None of them knows where to start. Who is alive? Who is not? Where are the attackers?

Mazwakhe appears behind the tent

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a bright lightning keeps flashing every now and then.

Gunshots stops when they are about to get to their home. Kids and women are crying and calling out for help. None of them knows where to start. Who is alive? Who is not? Where are the attackers?

Mazwakhe appears behind the tent he looks straight at them. They don't react instead they stand grounded on the same spot like they're electric shocked.

“This is for my sister.” He points at Ngcwethi and pulls the trigger. Only then Busikhaya’s senses crawl in. He takes out his gun and shouts orders to his two standing brothers. But Mazwakhe is gone. He just disappeared in front of their eyes.  Ngcwethi is on the ground groaning like a bull. His brothers are running over the hills calling the Ngwanes out.

.

.

ZANAMUHLA

The guns have finally silenced. I have worn my dress with its inside out. My mother used to say it protects your loved one from going through pain. I have called God with every possible praise.

Oh no there is another one!

“Oh Nkosi!” I hear someone exclaim behind me. I look back it's Nkanyiso's mother the third wife. She fell down on her knees with tears running down.

“Leso sihlale enyameni.” -Mamkhulu says. She is the expert of everything but I didn't know analyzing gunshots was one of them.

After that gunshot it’s quiet again. I remember that my exclassmate lives close to the Mthembus. I scroll down my contacts looking for her number.

Oh fuck! Who's calling me now?

“Please call me later I'm in the middle of……” I don't finish the sentence my lecturer’s voice comes to the speaker.

“Zanamuhla I hope you're well. I was worried when I found out that you missed all your final examinations.”

I've been trying to forget this. There's so much to deal with at the moment confronting the fact that I might not have a future is the last thing I need.

“But I just received the most exciting news you've been chosen for ICEBO FUND. You can write your examination again next year your fees will be covered as well as accommodation.”

I've never heard of ICEBO FUND before but who cares? This has made my whole sour day better. “Oh My God! I don't know what to say.”

“That's not all……”

There is more? Free transport maybe?

“They'll find a job for you as soon as you obtain your qualification and you won't pay a cent back” she says. I'm lost for words. I thought God didn't listen to my prayers whereas He's been waiting for the perfect timing.

Pity I can't share the news with anyone and I can't rejoice as much as I would've loved to.

Oh I was calling Mandisa.

She answers just when I'm about to drop.

“Geliza.” That's how she calls everyone. I don't like it but I'm a snob anyway and she doesn't care. “Who got shot?” I go straight to the point.

“OMG Zanamuhla! Do you see that Mthembu brother with a

weird voice and sea-brown eyes?” What on earth? There is a brown sea?

“No they can't be sea-brown that doesn't exist. Just tell me if it's Mazwakhe who got shot” I say impatiently.

“Mazwakhe was there?” Shock and curiosity has her voice rising up. I have to lower the phone's volume.

“Mandisa just tell me” I say.

“Well I said it's Ngcwethi who died.”

My hands shake I almost lose the grip of my phone.

“He died?” I ask silently praying that I didn't hear correctly.

“Obviously I mean it was gun not a slingshot” she says.

I drop the call and hold onto the wall.

Ngcwethi died? He was cruel but he saved me. In fact scratch that he wasn't cruel I made it up in my head. Yes he set my mother's rondavel on fire but destroying my mother’s memory was beyond his intentions. He was sorry I saw it in his eyes. “Was it Mazwakhe?” Mamkhulu asks very randomly. I can't even trace sympathy in her voice. It sounds like deep down it's what she's hoping for. “No it was Ngcwethi” I say.

She doesn't know who that is but she shows remorse anyway because it wasn't Mazwakhe. We are one family but there is a huge distinction regarding whose child this is. Mazwakhe is not liked because he's the heir of the family and I guess I'm not liked for just being his sister.

Mazwakhe doesn't come home. It’s been four days since they attacked the Mthembus and everyone has come back except him. But I know that he's okay wherever he is I just wish I can see him.

We haven't heard anything about Ngcwethi’s funeral. I keep thinking about him. My heart is sore. He was different from others. He didn't talk or smile much but there was a genuine human inside of him.

There is a meeting today. Now that things are tense induna has seen the need to call everyone together. I don't think the Mthembus are ready to talk neither are my brothers. Things might turn even more ugly in that meeting which is why I'm packing my bags and leaving as Mazwakhe asked.

I don't know how long I'm going to be at my uncles hopefully it'll be for a few weeks. I don't say goodbye nobody cares anyway. I walk through the forest and join the main road that's going to take me over the bridge that serves as a border between Mpofana and Osindisweni where my uncle resides.

“Zolwandleee”

My ears got to be deceiving me.

I turn around as the car stops a few feet away from me.

“Zihlabathi zolwandle what a pleasure meeting you again.” Yes it's Mndeni Mthembu. He is sitting with Mnotho at the front. My eyes nearly pop to the ground when they meet a man who's supposed to be dead.

Ngcwethi is alive? Don't get me wrong I trust Mandisa's gossip skills but this is some twisted misleading news ever.

“Don't look so scared” Mnotho says cheekily.

They kidnapped me once they might do it again. I hug my bag on the chest and take a few steps back.

Mndeni breaks into laughter.

“Running is a habit to you. Come on get in the car we'll drop you at your uncle's” he says.

My heart almost stops beating. How did he know where I am going? And Ngcwethi’s calm face isn't he supposed to be in pain or something? He got shot it wasn't a slingshot. The Mndeni idiot hits the hooter. This is drawing me attention of the mountains.

“Come on Hlahla” -Mndeni.

Him and Mnotho bump fists and laugh.

Even if I run they'll catch me. I swallow my fears and go to the car. Ngcwethi opens the door and shifts to the other seat.

“Who do you like? Rihanna?” -Mndeni.

He always has something to say. I honestly didn't think our paths would cross so soon.

He turns music up before starting the car. It's Beyonce not Rihanna. I don't care anyway.

Are they really going to drop me at my uncle's? If so do I still call it a hiding? It seems like they're on the loop about everything.

Indeed the car stops below my uncle's house.

“Sweet home!” 

That's Mndeni obviously.

“Ummm thank you for the lift” I say.

“You're welcome” -Him again.

Ngcwethi’s arm passes in front of me his body leans against mine as he reaches to the door to open for me. His cologne fills my nostrils I try not to be distracted by it.

I feel something dropping inside my jacket pocket. When I turn my head to look at him he has this stone cold face. I can't even ask what he did his face alone murders me.

The car drives off. I jump up and take the jacket off. Remember he threw a petrol bomb to the house who knows what he could've slid into my pocket. 

A cellphone falls to the ground as the jacket flies in the air. Why did he give me a cellphone? It looks like a cellphone that has been owned for a while. It's locked and there's a pattern.

This is strange. Do I throw it away or keep it?

“Zanamuhla it's you!” Malume says joyfully and comes to help me with the bag. Now there's no time to decide about the phone I pick it up and put it back inside the jacket.

“You're grown” he says what every relative tells you after they haven't seen you in a few months.

“Mazwakhe told us you’d come 5 days ago. Your aunt slaughtered a chicken and rolled dumplings thinking you were coming.”

I force a smile.

“Aunt always blow things out of proportion. Something delayed me” I say.

“It's okay you are here now.”

He takes me to the room I'm going to use during my stay. It belonged to my late cousin she was their only child when she died everything changed. My aunt was a big-boned woman but now you can blow her with a hairdryer.

“Pack your stuff inside the cupboard and come to the kitchen to see your aunt” he says and leaves.

I start packing my clothes and toiletries. I thought I'd feel safe once I get here but it's even more unsafe than back home. The phone rings. I don't recognize the ringing tone. I don't receive calls with a maskandi song.

Oh snap! I have Ngcwethi’s phone.

I take it and look at the screen the number is not saved.

Do I answer? 

It keeps ringing the person won't give up.

I slide the green button and lift the phone to my ear.

“It's Ngcwethi.” -the scratchy voice.

Shock me again!

He gives me his phone and then calls it.

“It's Zanamuhla” I say.

“I know” he says and stays quiet for a few seconds. I can feel the uncomfortableness in his silence. “Please don't sleep there tonight” he says.

My chest start beating drums.

“Why?” I ask.

“It's not safe for you there. Can you trust me with something?”

I nod my head without thinking. I have no reason to trust any Mthembu but I've made up Ngcwethi to be different. I'm that person who swims with her own thoughts.

“Zano???”

Oh snap he can't see me nodding my head this is not a video call I have to open my mouth. “Yes…yes I can trust you” I say.

“When I call later take your bag and sneak out to the road. I will take you to a safer place.” “Safer place?” I ask. “You said you can trust me.” Oh well.

“Aren't you supposed to be dead?” I didn't put much thought to that question. I can be a weirdo as well.

“No.”

Mndeni would've broke it down for me. But I don't question further we are not friends.

“What if other people call?” I ask. I wouldn't like to pick Busikhaya's call. He's the last person I wish to have a conversation with on earth despite our families rivalry he is not my piece of company.

“They won't.” Again he doesn't explain anything he just gives me that and I should trust his word as promised.

He ends the call.

I look at the packed cupboard. So much work for nothing!

I'm about to run away with a man I hardly know. This makes me question the safety of my family. It's obvious that the meeting won't solve anything. The Mthembu brothers didn't attend neither did Mazwakhe.

 

 

 

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