Four brothers rest inside their late father's office. They're tired coming from a wasted gun-fight that lasted for almost two hours. They undermined Mazwakhe with all the resources they have they assumed that getting him would be easy. Yet they haven't figured out where he hides himself he always shows up to attack and disappears unharmed.
Busikhaya keeps rotating on his father's chair anger is evident on his face he hasn't put the gun away.
“You're giving me headache” Mndeni tells him. He is sitting on the floor leaning on the bookcase with his knees up. Mnotho is standing next to him. He is on his phone cancelling a flight to Sheffield. It was their father's will for him to graduate and live a different life. Nothing close to farming or running shops. He wanted his youngest son to be something a doctor or engineer anything to put the Mthembu name on the map. And that was the agreement between Mnotho and him before he passed on. But now things have changed Mnotho realises that leaving the country is not an option when his brothers are at war to keep the family legacy alive.
“Give me the phone” Busikhaya requests.
Mndeni passes him the phone and he makes a call. He wants war not the hide and seek game that Mazwakhe keeps playing. When the phone is answered from the other side he gets off the chair with a pleased look on his face. “Ngwane you won't finish what you started.”
His brothers realise that he's talking to Mazwakhe and they keep their ears sharpened. Well except for Ngcwethi he is only inside that office physically. His mind is on Zanamuhla. He didn't get the chance to go pick her up and drive her to Mission. Something is not settling well with his soul. He keeps having flashbacks of a white car but sees no further than that. His heart is at no rest.
“Ufunanj wena msunu wenja?” -Mazwakhe on the other side.
He is walking to his uncle's house to check if everything is okay.
His uncle left the village with his wife after receiving threats from the Mthembus when they came looking for Zanamuhla. He has taken it upon himself to check on their house and goats just to put his uncle at ease.
“Okanyoko obhejwa uyihlo ezulwini” Busikhaya responds. Mndeni breaks into laughter. Mnotho’s mouth is agape he is still 23 years old for goodness’ sake.
“So you called to menstruate with your mouth?” Mazwakhe asks. The mention of his parents has him trembling with rage. He is torn between proceeding to his uncle's and turning back to the Mthembus to end them.
“I'm giving you a message or should I say a warning?”
Busikhaya walks around the table and leans by the corner of it. “When there's nowhere else to run I'm gonna get you boy and you'll regret the day your father got a boner for your mother.” The second mention of his parents makes Mazwakhe turn back speedily. Anyway it's not that hard to unleash his ruthless side. “Send your location. No weapons. Just you and me man to man.” -Mazwakhe.
Busikhaya cracks a smile. This is what he wanted. He tells him that they'll meet by the river and then takes his jacket off revealing his arms that are half-buried in ink. Their beef goes way back before his father started a farm. It began as just a boys’ quarrel but it has turned into infinite grudges.
“What's going on?” Ngcwethi is suddenly paying attention. He already looks uncomfortable about whatever is about to happen.
“This coward wants a physical fight.” Busikhaya is taking out his wrist-watch clearly pleased by the whole setting.
“Well I don't trust him” -Mndeni opening the drawer and taking out the guns. “Ngcwethi give him isihlungu” he says. Ngcwethi’s eyes widen. If he gives Busikhaya isihlungu anything can happen to Mazwakhe. They know how dangerous that powder is hence he doesn't gives it to anyone randomly.
They all frown.
“I can't give it to you. You have to fight fairly this thing can hurt him or even worse kill him.” He realises how ridiculous he might sound he has no business caring about what happens to Mazwakhe or whatsoever.
They all want him dead aren't they?
“Remember what happened when Mnotho took isihlungu?” he asks and they just keep quiet.
“The poor boy got blind. This thing is dangerous!” He sounds even more ridiculous and he realises it. But he cannot tell them that he doesn't want anything to happen to Mazwakhe because his sister is the love of his life.
“Who cares? The world would be a better place with a blind Mazwakhe” Mnotho says.
Mndeni nods his head in agreement.
“And he can apply for disability grant. It'll help him take care of his sister maybe even take her to the salon.”
Something flips in Ngcwethi. He turns to Mndeni nd grabs him by his collar. All his face muscles tense he is seething with anger.
“Do not bring her into this!” His lips are trembling as he says this. Mndeni is confused and fighting to break free from the grip. When Ngcwethi's senses crawl back he releases him and steps back.
It's too late for him to counterpoise the situation Busikhaya is staring at him with a look they all understand. Shit is still going to get real but now he needs them to focus.
“Mndeni let him be I don't need a stupid powder to defeat that idiot” he says and walks out.
Mnotho follows but Mndeni remains inside with Ngcwethi.
They stare at each other. Nobody knows Ngcwethi better than Mndeni. They're only two years apart people used to call them twins when they were growing up. Mndeni was always following Ngcwethi behind. He would carry him on his back on their way to school. Things started to change when Ngcwethi started being weird he was around 12 and he would see things that nobody saw. Nevertheless the bond they shared never seems to fade.
“Is it her?” Mndeni asks.
Ngcwethi doesn't say anything. His face is just full of remorse and pain. If only there was something he could do!
“You helped her escape right?” Mndeni asks what he has never imagined not even for once. His brother has fallen in love with an enemy. It was there in his eyes when he grabbed him and he knows that their lives are about to change. Ngcwethi can only love one woman. He has prayed that he'd meet that special woman soon but he had no idea that his brother would find her in the most hopeless place.
“I did. It was the right thing to do” -Ngcwethi.
Mndeni brushes his face and breathes out loud.
“Fuck Ngcwethi fuck!” He is engulfed in frustration. Why would the universe choose Mazwakhe's sister for his brother? Out of all girls. Oh yes there's nothing they can do about it. But only him and Ngcwethi know this. The day he felt incomplete without her was the day she became a part of him. “Life just got great!” Mndeni drags himself to the door. The excitement he had about the fight is all gone.
“There is something else” – Ngcwethi behind.
Mndeni stops and looks at him hopelessly.
“I keep having flashbacks of a white car and I can't reach her on the phone.”
“Oh hell no! This one is beyond me.” Mndeni sighs in defeat. When they walk out Busikhaya and Mnotho are no where in sight. They follow the road that leads down to the river where the fight is going to take place.
Well Mazwakhe brought his brothers as well. When he crosses the river to meet his rival they follow behind and stands a few feet away.
Mndeni keeps throwing shades from the other side he is standing behind Busikhaya as well as the other brothers. “I see you finally grew a pair of balls” Busikhaya directs to Mazwakhe.
He just chuckles and walks closer. For a minute they just exchange hatred with their eyes. Busikhaya is a bit taller but they're both of the same age.
Busikhaya knocks the first punch. It lands on Mazwakhe's left chin. He squints his eyes and his chest starts moving visibly under the T-shirt.
He looks at the side and collects his breath. Then he turns with an elbow and strikes against Busikhaya's neck. The fist that follows sends Busikhaya to the ground. The side of his neck gets swollen within seconds.
Ngcwethi is the first one to jump to the scene. The Ngwanes rush to ensure that he doesn't interfere.
“It was supposed to be a fair fight” Ngcwethi says glaring at Mazwakhe. A part of him is guilty if he gave his brother isihlungu none of this would've happened.
“What do you know about fairness?” Mazwakhe grabs him by clothes and pulls him to his face. “Or you want to stand in for your brother?” Ngcwethi sighs.
“Let me go” he says calmly.
Let him go? After everything they've done to his family! They all deserve bullets between their eyes but today he just wants to show them that they don't scare him in any form. He aims for Ngcwethi's jaw but Ngcwethi blocks him and locks his fist in his hand.
“The beast in me is sleeping not dead. And I don't like people's hands on my face so watch It.” He is still calm but the look on his face has changed. He brushes his left shoulder and turns to his brother.
Mazwakhe doesn't waste time he strikes again. This time
Ngcwethi cannot control a sudden rush of blood that goes into his head. He punches Mazwakhe repeatedly until his blood covers his knuckles.
“GIVE ME MY GUN!” Mazwakhe runs to his brothers with blood dropping from his mouth.
Mndeni takes out his weapons as well.
Busikhaya is in no condition to fight but he drags himself up and grabs his gun from Mndeni.
“We can finish this some other day. Both of you agreed to a fist fight now stop being poes.” Ngcwethi stands in the middle of both groups. Mazwakhe unbelievably listens and steps back. “They must go home before funeral salads dry up” Mndeni adds. This infuriates Mazwakhe but he is held back by one of his brothers. They part ways.
Ngcwethi takes out incweba around his neck and squeeze some black powder out of it and gives Busikhaya to swallow. “Now you care?” Busikhaya asks but swallows it anyway. They have unfinished business but it can wait. He needs to teach Mazwakhe a lesson he'll never forget even in his grave. “I didn't think he'd come like that” Ngcwethi says swallowed in guilt. He's guilty of not giving his brother isihlungu and costing him a fight. And he's guilty of what happened at the river. Yes he did tell Zanamuhla that he'll only defend himself against her brother but the way she loves his brother she'd be hurt to find out that Ngcwethi beat him up.
It's going to sound irresponsible but I ended up in Jula's place. I was welcomed by locked doors at my uncle's house and I had no where else to go. I couldn't go back to Mpofana in the middle of gunfight. Jula was still smoking inside his car and saw me stranded and offered to help.
Today he'll be helping me look for a shack to rent. The R900 my brother gave me won’t last me but it can provide me with shelter for a few days.
I turn my head to where the voice came from. An old man dressed up in shiny tuxedo walks towards me. Yes he called me by name and I'm still trying to recall if we've ever met before. “You're indeed beautiful.” That's him again acting casual as if we are new buddies.
“Not to be rude but who are you?” I ask.
He smiles and takes his hat off. He has grey hair. He must be Jula's grandfather or something.
“Call me Daddy” he says.
I just need to breathe in and out” he says.
I just need to breathe in and out collect myself and not disrespect Jula’s walking ancestor.
Oh here he comes.
Oh silly me it's his father.
‘The father’ spanks Jula's butt and does something to his front with the other hand. I swear my eyes are going to pop out.
“You brought a sister-wife?” -the man.
Jula looks at me and sighs.
“We need some cash she has nowhere to go.”
Yes I have nowhere to go but ‘WE’ need some cash???
“Why can't you both crash in here together?” He stares in Jula's eyes and then smiles. “Jealousy does not suit you and I always
tell you this. You are my first aren't you?” That seems to relieve Jula.
“Okay fineee but I still need some cash.” -Him.
The man takes out his wallet and gives him a bank card. They share a brief kiss….an intimate one. Me being a slow learner I'm still trying to put pieces together.
“Come” Jula grabs my hand and leads me to the kitchen. I don't know where the old man disappears to.
“Who is that?” I ask.
He checks behind us and then leans over me.
“Someone who can take care of you. You see the car I was driving? My clothes? This house?” He points around with a proud look on his face. “It's all him” he says.
Oh Dear Lord! The man is a blesser and Jula is GAY.
“What did he mean by saying I'm your sisterwife?” I ask.
“He meant that he can take care of you as well.”
I raise my eyebrows. He needs to explain himself. I've never asked anyone to take care of me.
“You don't need to rent a shack we can both live here and just please Daddy.”
“I just buried my father Jula!”
Is this a joke? I've never even called my own father Daddy to begin with.
“This is not a village Zanamuhla you are in the city and you're safe here. Life doesn't need to be hard we give this man what he wants and he gives us the life we deserve.”
I've heard about the twisted life of the city but I didn't imagine anything close to this. Now I'm supposed to share an old man with a guy in order to survive? No I'm better off dodging bullets in Mpofana.
“Can you take me to the rank?” I ask.
His eyes widen.
“I want to leave.” He bursts into laughter.
“And you think Daddy will just let you go? Aybo girl you slept in his house ate his food and showered with his water. There is nothing for free here no girl!”
My heart starts beating like a drum. What have I gotten myself into? I need my phone….
“Did you charge my phone?” I ask.
“No you'll use a new one” he says.
“Am I kidnapped here? You said you'll not do any harm to me. I trusted you Julani!” “You will thank me one day.” Thank him my foot!
“What are you doing?” He fights my hands off his neck. I knock him with a knee and pin him against the cupboards.
“Give me my phone” I say.
I pick a knife from the sink and place it against his neck. I've never used a knife before I'm just scaring him.
“DADDY!” He yells and pushes me off. I run after him and catch him before he makes it to the door.
But the old man rushes in and pulls me away. He takes me to one of the bedrooms and locks me inside. I scream until I can scream no more.
Jula came in and gave me a drink. My throat was too dry I gulped it down at one go. My eyelids grew heavy as soon as I finished it. I started seeing double of everything and I passed out. I don't know what he put inside the drink I have a mother of all headaches when I wake up. My eyes are too heavy I can't even open them. But I realise that I'm in a moving vehicle. “Please” I manage to spit the word out. I don't know where they're taking me or what I did to deserve this but I'll beg if I need to. They'll be my God and I'll pray to them.
“Jula I'll do anything you want please stop him.” My eyes are still closed. A hand holds me and I inhale a familiar cologne. “You're safe now” -the voice is wounded but it's still the same scratchy one that I've longed to hear. I'm convinced that it's the spiked drink playing tricks on me until I open my eyes.
It's him sitting with me at the back.
Mndeni is driving and focused on the road.
“Ngcwethi?” A river of tears cover my face. I had no way out I really thought it was over.
“Please rest” he says.
“I can't….my head is pounding.”
Mndeni glances at us through the rear-view mirror. He's not himself otherwise he would've said something by now. “Is there any doctor you know around here?” Ngcwethi directs to him.
“I didn't even know we had a house in Mission how will I know fuckin’ doctors?” – Mndeni.
I hear him sigh heavily. He places his hand over my head to check my temperature I guess and exhales when he feels how hot I am.
He takes one of his weird bangles out and brings it close to my nose. I'm disgusted by the smell I don't know whether it was made out of a dead rat or fish.
I shake my head and signal for him to stop the car. He doesn't get it. I try to hold in but it shoots right out of my mouth and goes onto his chest.
The car swerves to the right and skids to a halt. I'm enveloped in embarrassment looking at Ngcwethi’s T-shirt that is soaked in vomit. I don't think he knows what to do. Mndeni passes a towel to him.
“Have some fresh air” he tells me.
I open the door and stands by the car. Mndeni climbs out as well. He mills around still too quiet for my understanding. After a while Ngcwethi leans out the door and tells me to get inside the car. He has taken off his T-shirt. I'm astounded by the number of colourful yarns worn across his chest. He is not normal and that I've always suspected but I thought he was just a bit of an oddity.
He has cleaned the seats and that makes me feel guilty.
“How are you feeling?” he asks.
Embarrassed guilty anxious and….Oh Lord I had a headache right? Well it's gone.
“I'm okay.” Well I'm hungry but he is not Mazwakhe I cannot inconvenience him with my 100 problems.
Mndeni gets inside the car and turns on the aircons. All the front windows are are rolled down to weary the vomit smell I guess. Ngcwethi is freezing next to me you know him and cold don't mix. But he's not saying anything to Mndeni maybe he feels like he contributed to the mishap.
I pull my bag under the seat. I don't know how they got it either. I open it and take out my cardigan and gives it to him.
It doesn't annoy me today I tell him to put it on.
“It won't fit me.” He chuckles and lift it up and checks the label. “I bought it from JET it has no name.” He frowns again.
“It's not a brand of any sort” I clarify.
“But it has a size and that's what I'm checking.”
Oh my forward left brain thought he was looking for the brand name. I should look for something a bit larger maybe my Tshirt.
“Try this one” I say.
He tries it on. It’s small but he can survive a few hours in it. I bought it last year driven by the Mzansi pressure. It's one of those white ones written: SEBENZA GIRL.
Being back in Mission feels like home. I haven't asked Ngcwethi how they found me. I'm just grateful that nothing happened. I hear the car leaving Ngcwethi walks in and closes the door. How is he going back to Mpofana if Mndeni is leaving with the car? I hope he's not in trouble Mndeni didn't look pleased by my presence.
“I'm going to take a quick shower.” He disappears in one of the rooms and walks out after a while carrying some clothes. I hear the shower running and contemplate on what to do.
Make food? Cry and question God? Or just sit here and wait for my turn to freshen up.
He returns from the shower and joins me in the living room. I have a lot of questions regarding my dilemma and who he is.
But I will ask when the time is right.
“Is my brother still alive?” I ask.
He clears his throat. In my head I know him well and this is strange of him.
“Yes.” He nods his head but his tone doesn't give me the assurance that I need. “How did you find me?”
“I tracked down the white car someone knew who drove it and led us to that….that Japanese macaque.”
“I was in Japan?” I sound very stupid. There's no way I was in Japan I didn't even leave the country to begin with.
“No” he says and I know that he's not going to explain. I go to the bathroom and take a shower. I wonder if he's going to sleep here. I have not wanted him to leave but now that there's a possibility of him not leaving my insides are getting cold.
Oh he went out and bought food takeaways.
“I hope you eat….” Something strikes his mind before he finishes the sentence and he curses.
“Is everything okay?” -Me.
“I bought beef.”
This is not happening when I'm so hungry!
“Don't worry I will change it.” He picks it up and heads to the door.
This sounds so familiar.
“You also assumed that I don't eat beef?” I ask before he exits the door.
“I know a lot of things Zanamuhla and you're a part of my life now” he says and closes the door behind.
I’m a part of his life? Fine I get how he came up with that but the part of assuming unerring things about me confuses the hell out of me.
He comes back with chicken curry. I waste no time and dig in.
He is eating but I can tell that his attention is not on the food. “It used to make me sick as well” he says. I guess he's referring to the beef.
“Me too but the allergy waned when I was 15 or 16.” “16.” He jumps in.
Oh??? I raise my eyebrow.
“I accepted my gift when I was 20 that was eight years ago and you must've been 16.” I think it's supposed to be some of explanation except that it causes more confusion that the first statement.
“Where is the gift?” I ask.
He frowns and then bursts into laughter. I cannot get used to his laugh.
“Didn't you say you got a gift when you…...” Oh fuck
Zanamuhla. What level of doltishness is this! He doesn't mean a wrapped gift or anything like that.
“You are a sangoma?” I ask.
“What are you?”
“A connected individual…Do you drink Coke? They only had it in stock.”
Really now? From connected individual to Coke!
I have more questions but I can see that he's not willing to take it any further. He pours the drink without waiting for my response. “Thank you” I say.
“You're welcome.” He thinks that I'm referring to the drink and food.
“I mean for everything you've done for me. I don't know how I'll ever thank you” I say.
“It's my duty and pleasure.” He sips his drink. He's starting to be normal and comfortable around me. “So where are you going to sleep?” I ask.
He nearly chokes to death. One of the reasons why I respect Coke once it chokes you breathe acid with your nose.
“Are you kicking me out?” he asks.
“No curiosity is just getting better of me.”
“I will sleep on bed with you” he says and it's my turn to choke.
Am I ‘you’?
He's grinning like an idiot.