Okay now I want to sleep my eyes are aching from watching this boring movie. He is watching but I doubt he is enjoying it either. I'm still not sure about the sleeping arrangements that other bedroom is a mess which makes what he said almost 98% believable.
But I can't imagine it. Me and him on the same bed? The thought alone makes my heart race. I've only shared a bed with a guy twice and it was horrible. Not because I didn't want to it just wasn't what I thought it would be. It was nothing close to what we see on porn videos I expected something mindblowing. I gave it another try and well that was it.
Jeez Zanamuhla! He didn't even say that he wants us to go to those lengths. He doesn't have those kind of feelings. What is wrong with me? Since when did I…..
He looks at me and raises an eyebrow.
I hope he didn't hear my thoughts you'd never know with him.
“What?” I ask nervously.
“Nothing.” There is a bit of a smile. Today he looks different a bit comfortable with a touch of normalcy. The few-seconds smiles and random laughs.
“Go sleep” he says.
I yawn and get off the couch like I was waiting for his permission. Is he going to follow me? I want to ask but that would be weird. I'll just sleep on one side and leave a pillow for him.
Usually I sleep wearing only underwear but today I put on my long pant and loose T-shirt. Don't ask me why I don't have pyjamas they're not a thing where I come from we sleep with umswenko.
I keep the light on. I don't want to fall asleep just yet I want to see if he comes to share the bed with me. I want to ensure that he uses a separate blanket and sleeps at least 10cm away from me.
Gosh what if he wants me to repay him sexually? Men do that all the time. I wonder if his girlfriend if he has any knows that he is here.
“Zanamuhla” – The voice comes from the door. I swear my heart stopped beating for a second. I move the blanket and peek out.
He is standing with his hand on the door handle. He has his serious look back on the one I once considered as cruel. This time it has me running out of breath. He doesn't fit in magazine-cover kind of look like Mndeni. He looks much like Busikhaya. The African version of men at its purest.
“Ulale kahle.” He reaches up to the light switch and pushes it down. I hear the door closing and feel his absence. I get mixed feelings a part of me is relieved but there's that worried one. I'm a morning girl not that I have a choice it's an African girly thing to do; wake up early in the morning and your chances of getting married are good.
What do I make for breakfast? I mean for someone who doesn't eat bread. What does he eat in the mornings?
I decide to cook porridge it's the only breakfast I know other than bread and vetkoeks.
I'm not sure what he eats it with so I just put milk along with margarine and honey. He deserves some special treatment after everything he has done for me. I take it to the bedroom I assume he slept in.
“Can I come in?” I can't knock my hands are occupied.
The door opens.
He frowns when he sees a bowl of porridge.
“Breakfast in bed” I explain.
He sits on bed. I don't think it has clicked in his mind yet he just doesn't know what's going on.
“I brought all these so that you can decide on your own. I don't know you pretty well” I say. “Am I supposed to eat now?”- Him.
I don't know how to answer his question. Yes he's supposed to eat now it's breakfast in bed for a reason and nobody eats cold porridge.
“Sorry I'm just….” He scratches his head probably thinking of the best way to reject it without offending me. “I had a bad dream I need to puke and take a bath before I eat anything.” This is the first time I'm trying to be nice to him and this is the disappointment I get. “But thank you” he says.
I fake a smile and leave. I regret the minute I put my thought into this bad idea.
I leave his porridge on the kitchen counter and go back to my bedroom with my plate of food. I wonder how long I'm going to be here. I miss living a normal life with my brother. I miss going to bed without worrying about his life. I don't know if he woke up today. Nothing is guaranteed.
I'm sitting on bed counting my problems when his presence drowns me in breathlessness. I don't want to look at him I keep my eyes fixed on the window.
He stands in front of me and blocks my view. I look up and meet his soul-digging stare.
I'm angry for some reasons and he is one of them but I don't know what he did exactly.
“I didn't mean to disappoint you” he says and I take a huge breath. He is standing too close and I can't breathe properly.
Something about the way he calls me makes my inside freezes. He hasn't taken his eyes off me. His hand comes to the back of my neck not too strong but firm enough to keep my head up. “You have a question and I want to answer it honestly today” he says.
I know that question. He has dodged it sometimes given irrelevant answers. But do I want to ask it now?
“Please ask me again” he says.
I guess I have no choice he is persistent.
“Why are you helping me?” I ask.
His eyes are too soft. They're never like this. The answer he is about to give makes my palms sweat.
“Because I've fallen in love with you.” He exudes a deep breath and I see his chest moving rhythmically. “More than anything. It scares me because I don't know how you feel about it me but
I'd catch a grenade for you.”
Yes he would I have no doubts about that.
“What must I say?” Honestly I have no idea even though my heart knew what he was going to say I'm still in shock. “Don't say anything. Just allow me to…..” He closes the space between us and pulls my head to meet his halfway. I don't think I'm still breathing. “To taste the coffee from you” he adds and locks his lips on me. He places his other knee on top of bed my head lies on the V of his arm while the other arm supports my waist. He wants to taste every bit of me slowly and passionately. He doesn't unlock the eye contact our worlds connect in this special moment.
He stops goes up to my forehead and plants a kiss. It completes everything. The parts of me I didn't know were missing reconcile. I look at him like it's the first time I'm setting my eyes on him and I just know that my life will never be the same.
“Do they know?” I ask.
“Mndeni knows.” He doesn't go further so I guess the other two don't know. No matter which angle I look at this from Busikhaya would never accept me and Mazwakhe would die before he allows a Mthembu to date his sister.
“It won't work you know that right?” -Me.
“I'm not going to stop loving you Zano.” He holds my hand and the gesture alone makes everything feel okay. “Comes hell high water or both of them I will love and protect you like you're the socket of my eye.”
I'm trying not tear up. What has my heart gotten me into? God knows I put him in my prayers along my brother. Why a Mthembu out of all people!
We sit in the living room watching soccer. No he is watching soccer and I'm just sitting in front of the TV. He hasn't said anything about going home I don't want to spoil things by asking either. But I don't think it's wise for him to be here they run businesses and have to protect each other just in case something happens.
“I can record and watch it later” – Him.
For a moment I have no idea what he is talking about. He reaches to the remote and I get it.
“No it's fine I don't care about TV” I say.
“Really why?” he asks.
I shrug my shoulders. Some things just don't need reasons. “How do you keep up with what's happening around the world?” The interest grows in his eyes.
“I don't” -Me.
He looks surprised.
“You are weird.”
I roll my eyes. He is the last person in the world to talk about weird people.
“Jesus!” He is still looking at me like I'm some sort of alien and it's starting to irritate me. I take a cushion and throw it at him. He catches it. I feel cheated on he was supposed to let it hit him.
“WeZanamahla.” His tone is playful and it reminds me of my father. In his few days of fatherhood he'd call me like that. The only difference is the voice my father had a deep voice like Mazwakhe and he didn't come to my face to say something. “Indoda ayishawa uyezwa?” He is trying to sound serious but his eyes are displaying something else and he is stroking my hair while at it.
“Really? I didn't know.” My voice is getting softer. I'm getting lost in his eyes and loving the way he smells.
“Now you know. If I make you angry in any way lock me outside in the cold or don't give me food. That's what my mother did it's called punishment. But when you hit me you're not just doing it to me the elders get angry as well.” This is unexpectedly getting deeper than I thought.
“It was just a pillow
“This is not about it. It's about us. The do's and dont's going forward.”
My eyes widen. He is getting carried away. Just because we are here together after a kiss it doesn't mean that I said we can be in a relationship.
“I didn't say I love you” -Me.
“And that's because you are still collecting points for making me wait.”
WTF! I hate him….I mean he is irritating.
“I hope they help you in the long run like shopping with a smart card you earn points and claim later.” He has his Mndeni side. This makes me feel like a dumb 1985 virgin but I'm not confessing my feelings so soon. I will lose points.
“Go outside!” I say.
Gosh the smirk on his face!
“Because you're making me angry” I say.
He laughs really hard and I find myself joining in. It's hard to even think I once hated him and promised to pray for his life to be miserable.
THE MTHEMBU HOMESTEAD
Busikhaya is puffing a smoke and watching a Madza CX-5 that belongs to his brother drives in. Ngcwethi hasn't been home for three days. He skipped his shift and Mndeni had to cover for him. None of them has ever left with no word especially during working days.
There's so much work to do their father is gone now they need to hold each other's hands and keep the legacy growing.
On top of that they have enemies. They should be protecting one another and standing together.
“Qophelo” he calls his son and he comes out of the house running.
“Baba” -He stands in front of him and looks at him. They are grown. His daughter Sangelihle will be turning 7 in two months and Qophelo is almost 12 years. It's been hard without Nombuso but he knows that she is watching over them and has been giving him strength for the past 7 years.
“Call Ngcwethi tell him to see me immediately.” -Busikhaya. His little duplicate runs down to Ngcwethi's three-room house that consists of one bedroom living room and his privacy room. He knocks at the door and Ngcwethi permits him to come inside.
“Sawubona baba” -He looks like his father but he's everything that Busikhaya is not. Qophelo respects everything that is living. He is a prefect in his class and has been receiving awards for the highest achiever and neatness from the first grade. He took after Nombuso his mother. She died two weeks away from her graduation while delivering her little duplicate Sangelihle. That one looks exactly like her mother but Busikhaya dominates in her. Everyone is living under her mercy. She is the only person in the world who can make Busikhaya kiss her feet.
“Jama are you not supposed to be in school?” Ngcwethi asks referring to him by the clan-name as usual.
“It's a holiday Baba.”- He chuckles at his uncle's cluelessness. Ngcwethi was trying to get some rest but he realises that the sooner he deals with Busikhaya the better. He changes his clothes and follows after Qophelo.
It doesn't take much to tell that Busikhaya is breathing fire. This goes back to isihlungu issue they didn't resolve it and now he'll interrogate him about his disappearance.
“Where have you been?” He goes straight to the point before Ngcwethi even sit.
“It was a personal visit” -Ngcwethi.
“So you left without telling anyone?”
“I didn't need anyone's permission.”
Busikhaya stands up and comes to where Ngcwethi is sitting.
He is shaking with anger.
“Who is supposed to work for you?” he asks.
“Bafo I know this isn't the problem you're angry at me for isihlungu and I’m sorry that happened.”
Busikhaya chuckles and shakes his head. Ngcwethi is used to everyone listening to him without questioning. He is used in having his way because he is a ‘special child.’ Well not anymore. They're all going to work as equals. Nobody's opinion is going to matter above everyone else's.
“The cattle need to be fetched” he says.
Ngcwethi raises his eyebrow.
“Where are the boys?” He is referring to the herdboys whose duty is to look after the cattle and make sure that it's home on time.
“They took an early day” -Busikhaya.
“With whose permission?”
Ngcwethi grasps where this is going and decides to obey. “They need to be sprayed as well” Busikhaya adds before Ngcwethi walks out.
“Anything else?” – Ngcwethi unbothered.
“You're working on deliveries this week not in the office.” That doesn't seem to bother Ngcwethi a bit. He's never had a problem with working from time to time he has joined the field workers and lifted a hoe. Managing the trucks and sorting deliveries isn't something he'd consider as a punishment. “Watch out for your brother-in-law. We are not looking forward to another funeral” he says and Ngcwethi stops. He looks scared not by the mention of Mazwakhe but because his brother knows.
“Your dick your rules. But please respect us and keep it there in your skomplazi. I don't even want a Ngwane puppy inside my father's premises” -Busikhaya.
There is nothing he can say. Busikhaya is now their father's voice and Ngcwethi clearly understands where he comes from. But he's not going to let go of Zanamuhla and she will become his rightful woman.
The little boys see him gathering the cattle and offer to help. 16 cows and 5 calves are no child's play but he would've done it alone if needed to be. He gives them R20 after they helped him close the kraal.
Mndeni is waiting for him inside the house. Ngcwethi hasn't thanked him for covering up for him at work.
“She finally let you go?” He doesn't like what's happening but he cannot control the situation. And his brother is glowing for the first time maybe Zanamuhla isn't so bad after all.
“Take your feet off my table” Ngcwethi says.
“Not after everything I've done for you khanda lakho.”
Ngcwethi chuckles and they shake hands. He is about to repay Mndeni with everything he has. He will always remind him of the favours he did and manipulates his way over.
“Busikhaya knows” – Mndeni.
“Yeah and he doesn't want her.” “So what's the plan?” -Mndeni.
Ngcwethi shrugs his shoulders. He has a future with Zanamuhla but he doesn't know how they'll get to it.
“Tell me how is she? She looks kind of innocent and boring to me.” -Mndeni.
“I'm not sleeping with her bloody swine.” Ngcwethi kicks Mndeni’s feet off the table. “She is not comfortable around me yet and besides we are not in a rush we have a whole lifetime together.”
Mndeni yawns and grabs a can of beer and sips. Alcohol is not allowed inside Ngcwethi's house but Mndeni is his Savior he can't say anything.
“3 days and nights and you're telling me that you don't know how she feels like?” – Mndeni.
“I'm not you Mndeni and Zanamuhla is not a snack.” Something occurs in his mind and he smiles. “But you should've seen her face when I told her I'm going to share a bed with her the first night. It was priceless!”
“Oh Bawo! That confirms my suspicions. She doesn't know anything and boring when it comes to intimacy.”
Ngcwethi shoots a dead look at him. He is not supposed to think about Zano in that way. What's up with the motherfucker and sizing people's sexual skills?
“You are no expert either otherwise your sharmouta wouldn't have left” Ngcwethi says.
That doesn't sit well with Mndeni. You don’t talk like that to someone who keeps saving your ass Ngcwethi is ungrateful. “Wait until you start your night episodes. She might leave you before you even tap the cookie jar.” He picks his can and walks out. Ngcwethi hisses angrily. Zanamuhla still has a lot to discover about him the last thing he needs is someone to enfeeble him with negativity. He takes out his phone and calls.
“I was about to drive there” he says when Zanamuhla finally answers. He is just teasing her.
“I have things to do Ngcwethi I don't wait on the phone to jump up when you call” -Zanamuhla.
Ngcwethi smiles. He likes it when little things annoy her. He'd push all her buttons if he didn't have fears about their future. “I'm sorry for not calling you as soon as I got home. I had a safe journey but I have a lot of work to do” he says.
Zanamuhla sighs out in relief anger vanishes.
“Did they not interrogate about your whereabouts?” Ngcwethi exhales. He wishes Zanamuhla would let go of these questions. Why focus on things you have no control over? “No” he says.
“That's not how you say your ‘no.’ You are lying Ngcwethi.
What did they do?”
Not how he says -his no? He has a way of saying no? But he always talk the same way.
“Don't frown on me!” She yells.
Ngcwethi almost jumps. He pulls his face immediately and exhales.
“Busikhaya did interrogate me but it's nothing for you to worry about” he says.
The door opens and Busikhaya enters. He doesn’t look pleased.
Now they're discussing his name!
“Get my name out of your mouth and that sharmouta of yours” he says.
“Don't call her that!” Ngcwethi removes the phone from his ear and stands up to face his brother.
“Or what Ngcwethi? What are you going to do?” Busikhaya throws documents on his chest and they scatter all over the floor.
“Pick that up before it gets dirty. Mother has announced dinner.” He walks out leaving Ngcwethi in high dudgeon. Zanamuhla is still on the line. She heard everything and her heart has sunk. Ngcwethi is hiding the truth from her things are not going well between him and his brothers and it's all because of her.
Ngcwethi picks the papers from the floor and catches a glimpse of the forgotten ongoing call on the screen of his phone. “Zano???” His heart skips a beat when he realises that she must've heard everything.
“You don't have to go through all that because of me” Zanamuhla.
“What do you mean? I love you and will face any storm that comes my way. Please don’t take what
The call was long dropped.
He tries to call her a number of times but she is no longer answering. He feels the disconnection and his heart wrenches.
The pain is sharper than anything he has ever felt before. “Ngcwethi” -His mother's voice calls outside the door. He drags his empty self up and opens.
She walks in with a plate of food and puts it on top of the coffee-table.
“You don't eat my food now?” She looks better now. Mnotho always make sure that she takes her medication. He was supposed to be a girl the doctor told her she was having a baby girl but a fourth boy followed. She was a bit disappointed as her wish was to have at least one daughter but her tears were wiped by the birth of her granddaughter. And Mnotho is everything she thought having a daughter would be like. He is her pillar of strength.
“What's bothering you?” She hasn't seen much of Ngcwethi lately and she can see through his eyes that something is not right.
“You know you can always take impepho and talk to your grandfathers.” She knows that her son doesn't easily open up to the living. He always turns to abadala for guidance.
“It's matters of the heart I'm in love MaMbonambi” -Ngcwethi. The corners of his mother's lips lift up into a smile. She has waited for this day with anticipation. It's a pity that Madoda won't be here to witness his sons finding their other halves. Busikhaya hasn't brought anyone home he is focused on raising his children and growing the family business. From time to time she has received complaints about Mndeni messing with people’s daughters. Mnotho is still young he hasn't figured out much in life.
“Who is she?”- MaMbonambi.
The question gags Ngcwethi. He cannot tell her that he is in love with the sister of her husband's killer. It's too soon.
“You will know her when the time is right” he says.
She chooses not to make her son more uncomfortable and let it go. But she asks him to return the plate to the kitchen without a single grain of rice.
Ngcwethi feels the disconnection between him and Zanamuhla. Not the wire communication but their spirits drift apart and he has the incompleteness he had before her. A heavy burden sit on his shoulders. When his elders have no place in his heart and mind they settle on his shoulders until he clears space for them. “Noooooooooooooo!” The scream fills up the yard and his brothers sprint out of the kitchen followed by their mother who has impepho on the lid.
They find him on his knees groaning and shaking his shoulders like he's trying to get something off. They have witnessed this in the past it just doesn't happen frequently and they can never get used to it.
Mndeni starts helping him by hitting his shoulders and that seems to calm him down a bit.
“Don't overthink breathe.” – Mndeni. He takes the lid from his mother and lights impepho and brings it to Ngcwethi’s face. “You have to clear your head and soul. Please bafo yehlisa umoya.”
Busikhaya stands in the shadow of regret. He is slammed by the realization of how truly his brother has fallen in love with a Ngwane girl. If something affects Ngcwethi spiritually it means real business.