Mazwakhe is stopped by a familiar girl. He looks at her carefully as she rushes towards him. He can't remember where he once saw her.
“I'm Mandisa”- The girl.
He is still not sure which Mandisa it is.
“Can I help you?” The sun is scorching and today is not his day. He is patiently waiting for the sun to set and then he will remind the Mthembus that nobody is going to live a lavish life while they have no road.
“Was Zanamuhla found alive?” She stops in front of him. Now that she has mentioned his sister he remembers her. She is a girl who used to visit Hlahla and they would do schoolwork together.
“Found alive?” He is confused.
“I hope Ngcwethi didn't kill my cousin. He might've just given her an innocent lift and ended up accommodating her.” She pulls her braids and sighs. “I really hope they didn't harm Jula. The way they broke inside the house with guns!” Mazwakhe is silent for a moment.
“Are you talking about Hlahla?” None of this makes sense to him.
Mandisa looks a bit confused by the question. Why does Mazwakhe looks so clueless? Zanamuhla must’ve told him about the incident.
“Yes. Ngcwethi claimed that my cousin had kidnapped her after your father's funeral. I don't know where Jula picked her up but Ngcwethi came to me gun-blazing and demanded Jula's address. I haven't heard from any of them and Jula's phone has been off ever since.”
There is only one Ngcwethi in this area and he is Busikhaya's brother. Why did he look for Hlahla? None of this adds up. Fear strikes his bones. He doesn't even know the friend Hlahla lives with. He is a bad brother he has failed to look after Hlahla like promised. What if something bad happened to her? Why did he trust her so much to be on her own during this threatening times.
He takes his phone and try calling her. It goes straight to voicemail. He is trying not to panic but there's a possibility that the Mthembus got Hlahla again.
“Can you please give me your cousin’s address?” The humble side of him is birthed. Mazwakhe doesn't say ‘please’ especially to strangers. Mandisa writes down Jula's address and gives him. He thanks her returns home and takes his father's old van. The security has a lot of questions before they let him in. A man with grey hair asks who he is before he even reaches the door. He is waiting for him on the door-step taking frequent sips from the glass in his hand.
It's a modern double-storey house in the suburb of Limehill.
The man is indisputable rich.
“I'm Jula's friend” Mazwakhe says.
He lets him in and leads him to an open room with a fire place and big leather couch. He notices a slim human lying with a fleece blanket covering him.
“My love your friend is here to see you” -The man says and leaves to give them space. He must be Jula's father that's how they call their fancy kids love.
Jula lifts his head up slowly and looks at the strange man who calls himself his friend. His left eye is still swollen below it there is a stitch and no amount of make-up can bury the scars on his face. He HATES visitors. “Who are you?” He is irritated.
“I'm the brother of a girl you lifted last week. Are you the
‘friend’ she lived with?”
“You're here to finish me off? Didn't her boyfriend punish me enough? I was only trying to help her for fuck's sake!” “Her boyfriend???” -Mazwakhe.
“The one driving a white Madza CX-5.” Talking about this revives traumatic experiences of that day. Jula has been trying to focus on getting better and think less about it. “His brother was hot though I wouldn't mind a make-up session with him.” He still fantasizes about Mndeni though. He is his type of man. Well Daddy is a provider not really his other half.
Mazwakhe is still clueless about his sexuality but it's not something he’d want to dwell on.
“Ngcwethi has my sister?” The question is directed to his inner self but asked loudly and Jula doesn't hesitate to jump in with an answer.
“He nearly killed me for her. I guess he is the guy she was waiting for by the bridge and didn't show up.”
Something fishy is happening. Mazwakhe knows that his sister is not seeing anyone even if she was seeing someone it wouldn't be a Mthembu. As soon as things go back to normal he is going to do umemulo for her. She has taken care of herself excellently and he's proud of her.
There is a knock at the door. I don't know how long I've sat here crying my eyes out. I can't be with Ngcwethi. I didn't know that I loved him this much. The days I spent with him were the best nobody has ever made me feel special the way he did. He's been calling non-stop and I couldn't answer. We are better off apart. I still need to figure out where I'll go tomorrow being here will just remind me of him and I don't think my heart can handle that.
I open the door expecting to find him but to my surprise Mndeni is the one on the step.
“Hi…hello” I stutter and use my hands to wipe my face. It must be puffed up from all the crying. I can feel the heaviness on my eyelids they're probably swollen.
“Zolwandle” -He lets himself inside and leaves the door open. I've grown uncomfortable of opened doors. It makes me feel unsafe but I don't say anything.
“Is everything okay?” I'm pretty sure that he doesn't like me or approve of the situation between me and his brother. He wouldn't be here if it wasn't important.
“Ummm…..yes.” He is hesitant. He keeps glancing at the door like he's expecting someone.
I'm getting nervous.
What if they're planning something? I'm still an enemy to them. “I brought him over” he says and I follow his eyes to look at the “him" he's talking about.
Ngcwethi comes in and walks past us he goes to MY bedroom. No word or eye-contact. He looks tired physically and emotionally.
He is different not in a good way.
“What happened?” I'm holding back tears.
Mndeni also looks worried but he's trying not to show it.
“He needs to rest. Just be by his side please” he says. I don't ask further questions I leave Mndeni right in the middle of the kitchen and follow Ngcwethi.
He is lying on bed with his eyes closed but I can tell that he's not asleep. I walk closer and stand in front of him. Slowly he opens his eyes they're bloody-red but not from crying.
The loud sigh fills up the room and I step backwards.
“Zano” he calls.
I stop not brave enough to go back to him.
“I love you” he says.
This destroys all my plans. I'm still not sure why Mndeni brought him here. Maybe they knew that I was planning to leave. Maybe Ngcwethi felt it.
“You're not supposed to say that. I'm not the one for you you know that” I say.
He sits up….No he is coming to me. I walk backwards until the wall blocks my reversed trip then I have nowhere to go. He comes and stands in front of me too for me to breathe properly. The sunken eyes are fixed on me.
“You are the one” he says and the feelings I was trying to shut down have overwhelmed me again.
“At first I thought it was guilt that made me want to take care of you but then you became all I ever think about. I started seeing life meaningless without you. I had this gap that only the thoughts of being with you filled.” He exhales and places his hand behind my neck. “Then they showed me everything I needed to know about you. A lot made sense it made you the
piece of a puzzle that had been missing in my life.” “They???” I ask confused.
“The elders. They approved there can't be someone else for me you are the one.”
Butterflies inside my tummy. How charming can one's ancestors be!
“What if I didn't love you?” I ask.
He smiles even though it's a weak one but my heart warms up at the sight of it.
“You love me?” – Him.
“What? No I didn't say that.” I push him aside and try to sneak my way out but his arm blocks me again.
“You love me?” he asks again.
“No I don't.” I try to sound as convincing as I can be. But he's smiling like knows the scarcity of truth in that.
“Your spirit is telling me something else.”
I hate that he can read me spiritually but even so I'm not going to tell him what he wants to hear yet.
“I heard your brother. What is that thing he called me?” I ask. His eyes run away from me. I just know it wasn't something pleasant. They have this thing of using strange terms.
“Does he know that you are here?” I ask.
“And he is okay with it?”
“Not really but he doesn't have a choice.”
“Why?” I ask and realise that I'm making him uncomfortable with these 21 questions.
“Because I love you.” His gaze is back on me and stuck at my lips. “Can I get a kiss before we go to sleep?”
He didn't really need an answer he was just letting me know in a question form. His lips brush mine like a tease. Then he starts being demanding cupping my face and deepening the kiss. There are low moans he makes when he kisses and they make my knees weak.
He stops and stares at me oddly. It's a battle of glances until tears well up in his eyes. I don't want to see him to cry whether in joy or pain. I pull him and initiate another kiss.
He is into me wholeheartedly. I let go of the doubts and fears and give him my all.
“Thank you.” He is barely whispering it's almost inaudible given the nature of his voice.
“For what?” I ask.
“For trusting me again.”
I'm snuggled on his chest feeling his breaths above my head is the best feeling ever. We don't discuss sleeping arrangements I just know that we'll be sharing a bed.
“Separate blankets?” I untangle myself from his embrace and go to the wardrobe.
I get no answer and look back.
“Why are you quiet?”
“I don't want to sleep in a separate blanket.”
Jesus Christ! What am I supposed to do with a sulky adult?
“But we can't sleep together yet” I say.
“Why not? I'm not going to smash the axe-wound.” WTF!!!!
“Axe-wound???” I ask.
I swear he's sleeping on the floor or in that shambolic bedroom. I'm not going to share a bed with someone who refers to my cupcake that way. Axe-wo….Lord I’m going to die!
“I meant the vulvarine.” His eyes are out on stalks. He thinks vulvarine is a better term. Well it's better than axe-wound. “You're never going there anyway” I say climbing on bed. I'm sleeping fully clothed as usual.
“Never?” He asks while taking his T-shirt off. He takes off his yarns and bangles as well. It's such a relief I don't think I would’ve been comfortable if he slept with them on.
“Yes never!” I say.
He laughs and walks out half-naked.
My phone rings the one he gave it to me. Nobody ever calls it except him. It's not his number for a moment I stare at the screen confused.
Well let me just pick up.
“Hello” – The voice is so familiar.
But it can't be him. My heart is pounding
“Is my brother there?” he asks.
“Yes.” My voice is shaky. Why is he calling me? Ngcwethi said nobody would call this phone except him.
“Why are you with him?” – Him.
“I love him” I say without any hesitation. I'm surprised at myself. I wasn't confessing my feelings so soon that's what I said mos.
There's some silence.
“If you love him as much as you claim then you'll do the right thing. Go home tell your sisters that you are in love and they'll come here to manifest that.” “Come where?” I ask.
“To your future in-laws the Mthembus.”
He can't be serious! They'll disown me at home and my brother will hate me.
“That hanky-panky you're doing over there is not how a future Mthembu empress carries herself” he adds.
My tongue is tied. I keep the phone on my ear because I can't be rude and drop him. “That's all keep well.” Call ended.
I haven't been able to sleep a wink. All I think about is my phonecall with Busikhaya. I haven't told Ngcwethi about it I don't even think I want him to know.
I feel something touching my boobs and almost scream. Fuck I'm sleeping with a man.
“What's wrong Zano?” He sounds like someone who just woke up from deep sleep but he's been turning and tossing for the past two hours.
“I just can't sleep” I lie.
He moves closer. I can feel his manhood jammed firmly against my butt his arms cradles me warmly.
Busikhaya's phone has been ringing for a moment. As he steps out of the bathroom Qophelo hands it to him.
“Who is this so early in the morning?” He looks at the screen and sees that it's Mazwakhe calling.
He grins as wonders race his mind.
“Check if Sango is ready.” He tells Qophelo and he runs out to the main house to check his sister. When the room clears he answers.
“What a bad way to start a day!”
“Busikhaya I want my sister” -Mazwakhe.
He sounds frustrated. Busikhaya’s lips stretch into a smile. “I don't remember you hiring me to look after your sister. Not that you could've afforded to.”
“I know that your brother has her. I'm humbly asking that you don't harm her and bring her back. She has nothing to do with this. She is innocent.”
Mazwakhe doesn't have any idea about the arrangements between Zanamuhla and Ngcwethi. He is under the impression that they've kidnapped her again. Jula must've got it all wrong the boyfriend stuff it can never be his sister.
Busikhaya pours a shot of whiskey and a dash of lime juice. This calls for a little celebration even though it's too early for drinks.
“What makes you think I'd care?” he asks.
Mazwakhe is out of options. He's muscular dangerous and could kill you with just a flick of his wrist. He is dark not just in skin tone but his character is even more darker. But he'd minimize himself to any size for his sister. He'd praise any fool for her life. She matters more than anything in his life.
“What do you want?” He's willing to do anything. Even letting go of the road issue only if he can have his sister back. “You can't wake my father up. Ungangibuzi amasimba!” Busikhaya says angrily.
“Neither can you wake my parents. Now you want to kill an innocent girl. Why are you not coming for me?”
“Having your sister is more interesting ngingakwenzani wena namasende akuhlaza?”- Busikhaya.
That drives Mazwakhe crazy. He starts swearing and threatening that if Busikhaya touches his sister he'll come for everything that's related to him even the cats and dogs of his family.
“When you're a good boy you'll call me and arrange a proper meeting where you'll come and apologise.” Busikhaya drops the call. He likes the impression Mazwakhe has of the situation. Maybe Ngcwethi keeping the girl is not a bad thing after all he'll use this to punish Mazwakhe. Now he knows his weakness. Ngcwethi pitches up for work. He's still not himself. This time he's bothered by the state he left Zano in. She was not okay but it got nothing to do with him. It's a personal battle and only Zanamuhla can help herself. Ngcwethi has been cracking his mind trying to figure out what it must be. Things were okay before he left the room they kissed and he felt her spirit that had drifted away reconnecting with him. But when he came back she was different. She hardly slept at night.
“You don't look like someone who had an amazing night” Busikhaya.
He's in a good mood today.
Ngcwethi says nothing he takes the truck keys and leaves.
Mnotho arrives as Ngcwethi drives out. He looks at Busikhaya with a questioning eye.
“What happened to him?” he asks.
“He must've inherited the Ngwane attitude he's sleeping with one of them.”
Mnotho takes a seat with a frown on his face.
“So this thing is serious?”
“Sadly yes but we can use this opportunity to get that dog on his knees. He doesn't know that his sister is fucking an enemy. He thinks we kidnapped her and he's willing to do anything for us to release her.”
“Anything?” Mnotho’s lips curve into a smile. Their day just brightened up.
“He'll sign an agreement to let go of the road issue and stay away from this family. A failure to obey that agreement will put him behind bars for a long time.”
“But he killed father that's not enough.” -Mnotho. Busikhaya sighs. He'd like to take it further to punish Mazwakhe severely but he has kids to think of.
“We had our revenge Mnotho and I don't want things to get messier. This has taken too much of our time remember we have clients to deliver to and the community look up to us. Sooner or later we have to respect what Ndaba stood for helping the community and leading by example.”
Mazwakhe calls again. His world has come crushing before him.
He is at the mercy of the Mthembus.
“Busikhaya I'm outside your offices” he says. “Oh you're ready to talk like a good boy?” “Yes” Mazwakhe sighs heavily.
Busikhaya rise up from the chair with a pleased smile on his face. He informs everyone that their guest has arrived. There are two police officers feasting on the roasted chicken
Mndeni bought for them. Beside them sits Mr Mtambo the Mthembu family lawyer he has drafted the contract that binds Mazwakhe into an agreement.
Ngcwethi is not included. He's up and down managing trucks coming in and out of the farm. He didn't even take lunch-break he's only looking forward to the end of the day so that he can go and see Zanamuhla. He didn't want to be pain in the arse but he just can't leave her alone especially when something is not okay.
“What's going on here?” -Mazwakhe looking at the police officers. One of them was in his father's funeral and that makes him hates the Mthembus even more.
“Didn't you say you want your sister unharmed?” Busikhaya asks.
“Oh so you kidnapped her and these floozies know about it?” Mazwakhe.
“Don't call us floozies we are still gathering evidence to put you in jail for murder.” The police officer says cracking chicken bones like a cheetah. There is a 2L of cold drink in front of them. The other one cannot even speak his whole attention is on the meat in front of him.
“You've caused enough havoc sign this agreement and you'll have your sister.” Busikhaya pushes a piece of paper and pen to him.
“How do I trust that you'll let Hlahla go?”
“They're here for that.” Mnotho points at the police officers.
Mazwakhe clicks his tongue in annoyance. “Ungangitshela ngale msunu ekhotha izinqa zenu!” “Hey watch it!” The police officer warns.
They've just lost all the respect Mazwakhe had for their department.
“So what is it going to be?” -Busikhaya.
Mazwakhe clenches his jaws and picks the pen. He fills up his names and signs the agreement. He is giving it all up for his mother's only daughter. He vowed to protect her with his everything he has.
“Should you violate this agreement we'll have a right to lock you up” – The police officer.
Mazwakhe clicks his tongue.
“If my sister is not home by the end of the day you are going to lock me up for violating this piece of paper and wiping out the Mthembu dogs.” He walks out.
Ngcwethi has bent every rule to be with me I have to do the same for him. I know that I'm embarking on a hard journey but lapho kukhona uthando nendlela ikhona.
He walks in and looks at the bag next to me. I like him in that working blue overall. A hard-working man is everything. “Zano” He sits next to me and puts his arms around my shoulders. “What's going on? Why have you packed?” “I'm leaving Ngcwethi. It's time I go back home and live the reality.”
I have to explain.
“We have to do things the right way there is no justification for this arrangement. I hate lying to my brother and I want everyone to know the truth.” “What do you mean?” he asks.
“I'll tell my family about us. I love you and I want us to be together. We have to do things by the book that way everyone can accept us.”
“You love me?” He is smiling.
Well it's pointless to keep him waiting.
“Yes I love you Ngcwethi Mthembu.”
He is not convinced about my decision but he's chosen to trust me. In the past few days I've learnt a lot about him. There is more to learn but I don't have any doubts that he's what I need. We finally reached his returning spot. “When am I going to see you again?” “Soon” I say.
He takes off one of his wrist strings and hands it to me.
“It will protect you against bad spirits” he says.
“We don't have bad spirits at home.”
“Sometimes I go through amathunzi amnyama you're a part of me and I don't want anything to affect you.”
If he puts it that way I guess I have no choice. He pulls me for a long tight embrace. I'm going to miss him a lot. But the hanky-panky as Busikhaya puts it has to end. Mazwakhe is sitting on the chair. He is caged into some deep thoughts.
“You're home?” I ask.
He looks up surprised.
“Hlahla they let you go?” He envelopes me in what I'll call the biggest brotherly hug he has ever given me. He looks like he hasn't rested in days.
“I didn't trust them.” He hugs me again “Oh Hlahla I'm so sorry I let you down twice.” Now I'm confused.
“Are you alright?” I ask.
“Now that you're here in one piece.” He really looks relieved.
“I'm just not looking forward to hearing gunshots” I say. “Well it's over they got me.” “They got you?” I ask.
“Don't worry about it. Are you not hungry? We will go to a restaurant if the shops haven't closed you'll do your summer shopping.”
Okay I need to drop this bag inside the house immediately. He has never done shopping with me my day is about to end on a high note.
Oh and the restaurant food! I didn't know he likes it as well. Did Ngcwethi give me a string of luck?