After Love – The In Between – Promises & Key Rings

I walked out of the bathroom with the towel wrapped around my body. For a moment I felt silly, the towel did well at hiding my body but not my shame. I could see Angelo was confused and I knew this wasn’t the right way to bring this up, but was there ever a right way or even a right time?

He looked at me with hurt in his eyes. I wasn’t sure if he felt rejected or unwanted but it wasn’t his fault. We were living together and would share a room, I knew eventually he would want sex but somewhere in my mind I hoped he would wait.

“Before you ask, it’s not you. I find you attractive”, I whispered gently as I moved to sit next to him. “I know it’s not the right way to tell you or the right time but I’m done making excuses in relationships. I had my excuses lined up. Today I would say it’s not possible cause our friends are around or I’m too tired. Tomorrow I was going to lie about my period or something and on and on. I’m tired”.

He was lost. He had this thing he would do when he couldn’t understand something, he would look down and play with his fingers. Normally playing with his hands were fine but now he was scratching his scratching his palm and I knew a half explanation wouldn’t be enough.

“I told you that I couldn’t have kids, I didn’t tell you why.”, she paused. “My uncle… He used to rape me. He raped me. He then taught my cousins… His kids how to please a woman with me as their training doll. He got me pregnant but my mother didn’t want everyone to know her brother and his sons were rapists or that her daughter was now used goods, so she took me for a backdoor abortion. Something went wrong and I lost my womb. Other than the rapes, I have never had sex. I don’t know how to”.

Two days ago he first told me he loves me and today I am telling him my biggest secret. Through his eyes I could see that his soul was leaving his body, there was a spark in them when he was happy but with each word I saw the light fade and all that was left was a brown void begging me to stop, begging me to say it was a lie.

I wondered if he was as afraid as I was. In his mind he probably thought I lied about who I was and that he could never love someone so broken. I on the other hand struggled to let myself be loved but here I am moving in with a man with more demons surrounding him than the devil. Maybe that’s why I fell for him, we were broken in different ways but our brokenness was what we shared.

I felt my throat dry up and my conscience tell me that I shared too much but I wanted a future with this man and laying with him, even if just to please him would be another form of rape. So I needed him to know everything, to understand everything and hopefully he would be patient until I was ready.

“It started off small. He would offer me sweets in exchange for a kiss on the lips. Letting him touch my breast meant he would help me with my chores, so I had more time to spend with my friends. When I sat on his lap, it meant I could watch whatever television show I wanted and letting him give me a bath or help me change into my pjs meant a little extra tuck shop money”.

“I’ll be right back”. I felt his hand move from mine as he spoke. His body followed and before I knew it, he was out the door and rushing down the stairs.

I put my clothes back on and walked to the hallway. I stood at the edge. I struggled to hear what was going on with the music playing but I heard him say to Kyle, ‘I can’t do this’. I knew it, this was too much for him. I walked back to the room and started to pack my things. How could I expect him to love damaged goods?

I walked back to the room and started to pack my things. The least I could do was make it easy for him when he kicked me out. My friends were still here so they would help me carry my things and I could ask Tshepiso to let me stay at her place. I could feel my heart racing and I knew I had to call her, a panic attack was coming and I had to call Lynda.

“Hello Lynda”, I called her, “Lynda, he said he can’t do this”.

I felt my chest tighten and grasping for air felt like too much work. As the room spun around I struggled to hear her pleas for me to calm down. “I told him. I told him. I told him and now… now… He doesn’t want me.”

He doesn’t want me. I should have just let him have his way with me. I have laid and let men who feel nothing for me satisfy themselves with me, so why couldn’t I just quiet my fears and let him love me in that way? If anyone deserves to have me, it’s him.

The room just kept on spinning. I felt my eyes heavy. I felt my soul heavy. I felt the music fade into the background. If this was death calling, then I was ready.

“Loni, Lonwabo. Wake up”. He was shaking me violently. “Lonwabo, wake up. Please wake up”.

“Angelo”, I responded, “I’m awake”.

“Are you sure? Some lady named Lynda called. She said you were having a panic attack”. He asked with a worried look in his eyes.

He was worried about me. I guess that meant some part of him still felt something for me. Lynda must have called him when I passed out. I looked around and we weren’t in the bedroom.

“Angelo, what are we doing here?  What happened to the music? Where did everyone go? How did we get to the living room?”, I asked confused.

“Oh them”, he responded, “I asked them to leave. I felt we needed to be alone to talk and I didn’t think you’d be comfortable talking in the bedroom. So I got rid of them, so we could talk here. I want you to tell me how you feel, tell me everything. Only if you are ready to.”

He was still here.

He was still here.

I couldn’t believe he was still here. He was still here and he wanted to know more. Whether this was love or pity, I didn’t care, I was just happy someone other than my therapist cared to listen. Someone else was willing to believe me.

“Hmmm… You know I don’t wear make-up right and I tell you that it is because I prefer being natural but the truth is I don’t wear make-up or dress up because I don’t want to look like something someone would want to rape. I don’t want to look attractive but even this, downplaying myself doesn’t feel enough because men find other reasons to justify their actions. So I am scared. I am worried because of something that started over a decade ago”.

He put his hand around me and pulled me closer, placing my head on his chest. As he played with my hair I felt safe, it felt like he was telling me to carry on and that he wasn’t afraid to take all of me.

“It started off small. He would offer me sweets in exchange for a kiss on the lips. Letting him touch my breast meant he would help me with my chores, so I had more time to spend with my friends. When I sat on his lap, it meant I could watch whatever television show I wanted and letting him give me a bath or help me change into my pjs meant a little extra tuck shop money.

The first time he did it, I remember blood. There was blood everywhere but I wasn’t there long enough to memorize the sight. He just picked me up off the ground, kicked sand over it and took me to the park.”

Angelo’s hands around me felt so comforting. I couldn’t see his face but I felt his tear on mine. He was hurting too. I was hurting him. My past was something I carried and only shared with Lynda during our therapy sessions. This was different, I was speaking to someone who wouldn’t detach themselves from the pain and hopefully help me carry the load.

“Do you want a break?”, I asked. “We can stop. I know it’s a lot.”

“N… No”, his voice was breaking. “I’m right here. Keep going if you are comfortable.”

I knew hearing all of this was hard for him and I wasn’t sure if he was just trying to be nice but it felt good to know he was there for me.

“My uncle was always a bad man. A lazy drunk and loud most of the time. He blamed everything on his parents, saying they favoured my mother over him and that’s why his life turned out the way it did.

For most of my childhood he stayed away from me but when I turned 12, I was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. I came home one day while he was fighting with some girl. I think she didn’t want to have sex with him because he was drunk. So he saw me and saw a replacement. At first it was just comments about how I’m the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, then comments about how lucky the man I marry will be to have a woman with a body like mine. The list went on and on until one day he added actions to his words and the touching began.

It was just him at first. I was his property until I turned 14. His sons were celebrating their birthday at our place and my mother was out of town. They were bored and unhappy, so he thought up a fun activity for them to do and teach them how to be men.”

Angelo’s hands tightened around me, it moved from a hold to a grip. He had a sense of what I was going to say. I wanted to stop, maybe I should have but where would I find the courage to open up to him again? I just hoped he would not look at me differently after I everything was said.

“I remember asking myself if I should fight back but how far would I get. He had overpowered me enough times for me to know I had no chance. He took me to his room and forced me to undress. When I refused because his sons were watching, he slapped me and told them that a woman should never talk back to a man. Not only was I about to be violated, but I was also being used to teach misogyny.

He ripped my clothes off me and told me to lay down. I knew what was coming and normally I took it because it was always our little secret, a dirty secret but something I wanted buried. I still remember his sweat, from the moment he started until he finished.

His older son wasn’t having it. He said he saw something on TV and he wanted it that way, that he wanted me to bend over. The look of pride on my uncle’s face sickened me. He was celebrating that his son knew exactly how he wanted to defile me. He was 15 and should have known better but his father was a monster, so I guess the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree.”

I guess that’s where I learnt ‘family’ is just a word people use. If they loved or saw me as their blood, they would have stopped their father or walked away and said they weren’t interested. Instead they took turns using my body. Pleased at earning their father’s approval and becoming men. I spent days praying Angelo was different. I forgot how to pray until Angelo gave me a new reason to pray. Right now in my heart I was praying he would still want me tomorrow and the day after, that I’d still be enough despite all I had to say.

“A few months after I turned 16, he and his sons got me pregnant. I thought my mother would hate me, that she’d think I was busy running around sleeping with men but when I told her the truth she believed me. I used to find comfort in that, the fact that she believed me but all her belief did was fuel her desire to keep their sin within the family and not allow him tarnish the family name any further.

When she told me I had to get an abortion something inside me said I should pack my bags and run but I was a child. I was 16. My focus was finishing and getting out of school. Something went wrong and I lost my womb.”

I sat up and put my hand on my stomach. Had I known that I was going to lose my womb, I would have kept quiet until it was too late for my mother to tell me to abort. Having his bastard child would have been better than never being able to feel the joy of giving birth.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. God was punishing me. Not only could I not have children but the one I love just found out he had a child with the love of his life.

We spoke until sun came up. We spoke about how my cousins and I never saw my uncle again after the abortion and how even though I never saw him in person, I saw him in the new habit he taught his sons. We spoke about how becoming a teacher was my way of trying to protect other kids from getting hurt like I was or how I would be ready if any of them said they need help. We spoke about Namisa, Ora and how I felt about the situation. I said a few hurtful things and he said some things. We carried on until he fell asleep.

I went upstairs to get a blanket for him and as I was about to lay next to him I heard a knock on the door.

I went to open and there was a lady standing there, staring at her watch. She was clearly in a hurry. I was surprised as we didn’t have any guests planned for today but her greeting really caught me off guard. “Hi, my name is Namisa, is Angelo here?”.

Promises & Key Rings – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 3 – This Isn’t Awkward

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “This Isn’t Awkward” – Click Here

Yesterday felt unreal. I was glad that the Khuzwayo’s agreed to a DNA test but that only lessoned the possibility of Oratilwe not being mine. I wondered how Lonwabo would welcome me at the airport this morning, l couldn’t call her last night. I just texted her saying her family agreed to a DNA test and after that we will discuss damages.

I knew I couldn’t tell her that they wanted lobola. Namisa’s family insisted that it wasn’t fair for me to expect Ora to grow up with her parents living in two separate homes but Namisa and I weren’t on that path anymore and I wasn’t sure we would be again. However I’m sure having us stay longer was part of their plan to get Namisa and I to talk but we had to leave, my mother had a wedding to attend today and I had to be home because today’s the day Loni will be moving in.

Our flight was delayed by an hour, so it meant Lonwabo had to wait longer for us to land, she was already nervous about meeting my mother and this delay meant she would miss her doctor’s appointment.

“She’s beautiful, you’ve done well son”. My face turned red. I can’t believe my mom said that. I was red and Lonwabo was blushing. Couldn’t she have started with ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’?

My uncles were going to go to the wedding directly and Kyle was waiting for Jessica so they could get started on moving Loni’s things in, so it was just the three of us in the car. As much as I was happy to see Loni, I was happy my mother was here, it gave me a little time before Loni and I would have to go into detail about what transpired during the negotiations. I packed our bags in her boot and off we went.

This was the second time I introduced someone to my mother. They were opposite personalities. My mother always had her hair done and make up was part of her everyday look, while Lonwabo would have to convince herself an event really required her to put eye shadow on. They both weren’t shy in nature but the car ride was really quiet. My mother was normally bubbly and welcoming but today she locked her tongue away, I wasn’t sure if it was because of the 7AM flight or she was afraid to get too close and adopt another daughter, only to lose her after a few years.

We drove for 20 minutes in silence, my mother adjusting her hair every five minutes and Loni and I giving one another quick looks in the rear view mirror. I reached from the backseat to turn on the radio but my mother quickly hit my hand away. I forgot she never drove with the radio on when there were people in the car. She preferred conversation. In her attempt to end the silence, she asked the wrong question. “So when are you two having kids?”.

It was a joke. I knew it was joke. I’m sure Loni knew it was a joke. It was supposed to be an ice breaker but I felt my body turn cold. I never told her about Loni’s secret, it wasn’t my place to say but had I said it, this could have been avoided. I started to whisper a silent prayer, hoping the heavens swallow me until I heard Loni giggle. “I took your son to work with me one day, it was aftercare and he was doing well until the kids woke up. After five minutes he wanted to run away Ma”, she laughed. “We have Oratilwe Mme. Let’s see how your son handles her before I add five or six more”.

“Five more?”, my mother exclaimed. “Angelo, I like this girl.”

They continued their conversation with seeming completely comfortable and ignoring my existence. One again I found myself invisible in a relationship but this time it was in a good way. My mother made sure to bring up embarrassing childhood memories and Lonwabo made enquiries about how I liked my meals. It was good seeing them get along. We made a stop at Norkem Mall for breakfast then drove my mother to her house in Kempton Park and made our way to the Vaal.

The drive was loud. We hardly said a word to one another but sang along to our favourite songs. It was how we bonded, road trips and music.

We got to the complex just as the movers were leaving. Loni and I felt that this would be a great opportunity for us to bring our friends together, so it was both her moving-in party and house warming. I invited Vuyo and Mpumi and Loni invited Sthe and Tshepiso. Kyle and Jessica invited themselves, they deemed themselves the matchmakers of our relationship.

We were all assigned tasks. The girls were in charge of unpacking the boxes and the guys had the heavy pleasure of moving Loni’s furniture in. The day went by relatively well with Loni popping in every few minutes to ask if anyone was thirsty or wanted a snack. Her friend Tshepiso was the party-starter, turning up the volume as loud as she could and occasionally sending winks at Kyle. There were a few times Vuyo had to step in and calm Jessica down. She was always that person, the one with a cool head and the one you turn to for support.

When I confessed to Namisa that I had been unfaithful, I never told her with who or that it happened only once. She assumed I had been having an affair and I never corrected her nor did she care to know who I had it with. Vuyo and I knew what we did to Namisa was wrong but we also knew it was something that would never happen again. I had lost my son, she was mourning her father. She had no one and the one I loved said she was done with me, who was I to know that the next day she’d call and say she didn’t mean it when she said we were over?

Maybe I should have known better, it had been two months since we buried our son, so she spoke out of pain but I believed her when she said it was over and I believed Vuyo when she said it was okay for a man to cry.

We finished unpacking the boxes and the girls wanted to drink their cocktails, all the girls except Tshepiso. She joined Kyle, Sthe and I outside. It was clear Jessica didn’t like the idea but she didn’t want to come off as insecure. Instead she gave me the look, clearly it was my job to keep an eye on Tshepiso while she was around Kyle.

We were outside, Kyle had just put the meat on the fire, Sthe was passing around the beers and she came out.

“So what are you boys talking about?”, she said as she sat down.

Sthe and Kyle looked at me and I looked back at them, I let out a sigh and said “Sex. We are talking about sex”. I didn’t want her to get the impression that all men talk about when they get together is sex but recently at work there sexual harassment matter. The matter of consent became an issue at the office and it became clear that more focus was placed on women to protect themselves then it was for men to understand the importance of consent.

“Tshepiso giggled, “Typical. Boys, will be boys”.

“No, it’s not like that Tshepi”, Sthe interrupted, “Angelo was telling us about something at work and I was just saying that girls are allowed to have sex”.

“Allowed?”, she looked at him “Thank you for the permission Sthe”. She said sarcastically.

“What I meant was that things are different now. Women are more expressive, more comfortable in their own skin and some men have adjusted well and others haven’t. So women flirt, women make the first move and some men take that as consent. If I take you out and spend all night buying you drinks and you agree to come home with me, we are definitely having sex.” Sthe took a sip of his drink, waiting for a reaction.

Tshepiso shook her head, “As a woman and someone who sometimes sleeps with women, I would like to say, women want to have the choice to say yes or no. Anything other than that is rape”.

“So what you are saying is we don’t know consent? We just assume it. Do you always get consent from your partner? Do you always get a yes?”, I asked and then turned to Kyle, “Do you always ask Jessica if she wants to have sex before you two have sex?”.

He took a moment to think about it and then shook his head.

“So does that mean you rape Jessica regularly?”, Sthe asked.

Kyle shook his head again. “No, we have a rule. We don’t deny each other sex. She said when I want it, I must take it, even if she’s sleeping.”

Tshepiso blushed, “Oh… So you like surprise attacks. Well, me too”.

“I think you are going off topic Tshepi, I’ll be back now. Let me go get more drinks”. I stood up and went to the kitchen to Lonwabo was standing next to the stove.

“Hey babe, are you okay?”, I asked.

“Yes my angel, I am fine. Just a little tired”, she responded.

I walked over to her and held her hand, kissed her on the forehead and led her to the bedroom. “Babe, rest. I will entertain everyone. You just take a quick nap”.

She smiled and said, “Wait, don’t leave yet. Come lay with me”.

I walked over to the right side over the bed and then lay with her, I put my arms around her and pulled her closer. In all the drama going on, it was clear she wasn’t okay. Finding out she now has to play be a step-mother to a two year could not have been easy for her.

As she closed her eyes, all I thought to myself was that I was blessed to have such a wonderful woman in my life. I kissed her forehead once again then she placed her hand on my cheek and slowly we started to kiss. After our conversation on consent, I knew I had to take it slow and listen to whatever her body was telling me but we had never had sex before, so I wasn’t sure what her body was saying but her hands were pulling me closer and I believe she wanted me.

Our bodies moved closer and closer to one another, her biting my lips, me kissing her on the neck. Her pulling me on top and my hand sliding up her top.

“Wait… I haven’t done this in a really long time. Can we take it slow?… I would like to undress myself.” She said it with her eyes closed and her hands on my waist.

I moved back a bit to give her room to undress. She started pulling off her top and then said “Wait Angelo, what if someone walks in? We are still hosting our friends”.

I laughed, “I think they are too drunk to notice we aren’t even there”.

She laughed back and continued undressing. I waited until she was finished. It was our first time and I knew I had to go slow. I placed my hand on her cheek and worked my way down, moving from her lips to waist and finally placing it between her thighs. I kissed her lips one more time and as I started to place my finger in, she jumped up. “I can’t do this. I’m sorry. I can’t.”

“You can’t? Why?”, I asked. “Is it me?”.

She shook her head and let out a great sigh. She opened her suitcase, took a towel and wrapped herself with it and ran to the bathroom. She locked the door and stayed in the bathroom for about five minutes. I was scared. I thought I had maybe rushed her. I was worried she might say I tried to rape her. I never asked if she wanted me to touch her, I just assumed she did.

She came out with water on her face, I could tell she had been crying and she thought washing her face would hide it from me. She moved from the bathroom and came to sit next to me.

“Before you ask, it’s not you. I find you attractive”, she said in a gentle whisper. “I know it’s not the right way to tell you or the right time but I’m done making excuses in relationships. I had my excuses lined up. Today I would say it’s not possible cause our friends are around or I’m too tired. Tomorrow I was going to lie about my period or something and on and on. I’m tired”.

I look at her shook, I was confused and couldn’t understand what she was on about.

“I told you that I couldn’t have kids, I didn’t tell you why.”, she paused. “My uncle… He used to rape me. He raped me. He then taught my cousins… His kids how to please a woman with me as their training doll. He got me pregnant but my mother didn’t want everyone to know her brother and his sons were rapists or that her daughter was now used goods, so she took me for a backdoor abortion. Something went wrong and I lost my womb. Other than the rapes, I have never had sex. I don’t know how to”.

I was lost for words. I always thought we hadn’t had sex because she wanted to take things slow or she wanted to wait until we were both ready but now it’s clear that is deeper than that. She doesn’t know how it feels to have sex as a choice. I was glad she told me the truth. I was happy she trusted me enough to be open with me but now I had a new dilemma in front of me, I didn’t know how to love someone who had been hurt in that way, where would I even start?

Girls Need Love – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 3 – This Isn’t Awkward

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “My Name Is…” – Click Here

And so it began, the ‘Your son got our daughter pregnant’.

Followed by ‘Your daughter hid the child from our son’.

Which led to ‘Your son broke our daughters heart, she was just protecting herself’ and ending off in ‘Well, if she knew what protection was we wouldn’t be here, would we?’.

My mother could never hold her tongue and now we were at war. However the biggest battle she faced today was in her heart, the person she saw as her daughter hid her grandchild from her. Her words expressed her anger, they expressed her sorrow but they couldn’t express the betrayal she felt.

I looked at Namisa, looking back at me, wondering what was going through her mind. Did she feel the guilt I felt? Our families used to get along. Our mothers used to be best friends but now they attend different mass services to avoid one another at church. Before her father passed, he was like a father to me and losing our son broke his heart. Even though Namisa and I had dated for six years, we first met in primary school, so he knew me from childhood and even helped me fill out university application forms. He was sad that his children grew up too soon but happy that we went against our instincts to abort and came clean.

Namisa’s mother, MaKhuzwayo was happy her only child was giving her a grandchild and my mother was more worried about Namisa than she was me. Even though I was her son, she shared Namisa’s fears, that a man’s life moves on after a child but a woman has to adjust. As a single mother, I couldn’t blame her. My father died when I was two years old, one of his mistresses had a jealous boyfriend who would kill for what was his. So my mother had to learn to parent on her own and although she tried to find love with other men after him, it was Namisa’s father who filled the role of a father in my life.

Jabulani Khuzwayo said he would always be there to hold the family together but he joined his grandson a few weeks later and that is when our worlds started to fall apart. Our break up forced everyone to pick a side.

Today, the family he held together was tearing at the seams. The Khuzwayo’s sat on one side of the table and the Motaung’s on the other. It had been two weeks since I found out about Oratilwe and five days since she got discharged from the hospital.

In between the screams and shouts I recalled the conversation with Namisa. “Angelo, I didn’t mean to hide this from you and I’m not sure if you believe me but Oratilwe is your daughter. She is our daughter”. She put her hands on my shoulder as she said those words. We stood over her incubator, the sight of all the tubes broke my heart. The doctors said she would be okay but still I feared I was days away from attending another funeral. I was going through my wardrobe in my mind, looking for a black suit and wondering who I would invite to say goodbye to someone we didn’t even know existed 24 hours ago.

I always felt we messed up the first time. I had just turned 20 and in three months Namisa and I would be the same age again. I don’t know what made it worse, that we had just started university when Namisa got pregnant with our son or how we fought to spend time with him. We recorded everything; Oarabile’s birth, his smile and his cry. We praised him when he crawled and our parents made sure he lacked nothing. It takes a village to raise a child and we were a happy village.

Despite the fact that Namisa and I tried to keep the relationship going for a year after his death, I hadn’t spoken to the other half of my village since his funeral and now here we were sitting face to face to discuss how I abandoned their daughter. In their eyes I got her pregnant, she lost a child and my life moved on.

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Ummm… Are we allowed to do that?… Can I go to the bathroom?”. His question broke my concentration and silenced the room.

Namisa laughed, “Yeah, sure Kyle. I’ll show you the way”. She was grateful for the silence. They were discussing how our lives would proceed but we were expected to just sit and listen to whatever decision they made. She got up and led Kyle to the bathroom.

Malume Ntando was not impressed with Kyle, “What is that white boy doing here?”, he asked. As Bab’Khuzwayo’s younger brother, he was the new head of the family. “He should not be here. In fact, what are the women and children doing here? This is a matter for the men.”

My uncles, Tsebo and Nhlanhla agreed with him or at least for a moment they did until their eyes met my mother’s gaze. “This is not a matter for men, it is a family matter involving our children”.  Nokukhanya Jasmine Motaung was a woman many would rather avoid than deal with, her sharp tongue and quick mind made her a dangerous opponent.

“But Khanya, this is not in our culture.”, Lungelo spoke calmly in support of his older brother, “Women are not normally part of this, let alone the children”.

“But hiding children is part of your culture, right?”. My mother responded with no hesitation.

The room went quiet again.

MaKhuzwayo stood up and called to her friend, “Jasmine”.

My mother looked at her, “Yes, Nomthandazo.”

“Come. Let’s go to the living room. I want to show you this new dress I bought yesterday morning when we got here”. She held out her hand, uncertain if my mother would take it. MaKhuzwayo was the total opposite of my mother. She preferred to avoid conflict and always tried to calm the situation down. I was surprised when I saw her in the room when we arrived and I thought she would excuse herself after greetings had been exchanged but a big part of me felt she stayed because she missed her friend, her sister. They stood staring awkwardly at one under until he walked back into the room.

“So what did I miss? Is it going to be a goat or cow?”, Kyle always had bad timing but today his timing was at its worst.

My uncle Tsebo burst into laughter and Nhlanhla put his hand on his forehead. Malume Ntando clicked his tongue, he was annoyed and his words only echoed his mood. “What are you doing here? What do you want here?”.

“Well. I’m dating this girl and I want to marry her, so I’m trying to understand as much about your culture as possible.” He knew he put his foot in it, after the last word his face cringed. I admit even I was a little offended, we were meeting to discuss my daughters future and Kyle had his own agenda. I needed moral support and he was using us as guinea pigs.

Malume Ntando stood to say something but my mother rushed in, grabbing MaKhuzwayo’s hand and then Kyle’s. “Noma… Friend… That dress. I would love to see it. Come on Kyle, maybe you’ll find something for Jessica.”. She led the way laughing.

Namisa stood up and walked towards me, “Angelo, can I talk to you?”, she whispered. I had nothing to say. I tried to justify her in my mind and always fell short of feeling like I deserved this. I stood up and started to make my way to the front door with Namisa shortly behind. As I reached for the door handle, I heard Malume Ntando shout out, “Don’t make a third one”. Her face turned red, she always found him embarrassing. If he wasn’t drinking, he was busy chasing a new skirt.

I stood on the patio and stared at the street. This was the second time I had been to her family home. It had lost everything that made it feel welcoming.

“So what’s her name?”, she asked.

“What are you talking about?”, I knew playing dumb wouldn’t work but what right did she have to information about my life?

“I know you.”, she said. “Since we exchanged numbers I can see your Whatsapp statuses, I know how you post when you are in love. So what’s her name?”.

“Lonwabo. Her name is Lonwabo”.

She smiled, “Lonwabo, that is a beautiful name. Have you told her about us?”

“Us?”. I asked surprised.

“I mean Oratilwe and I. Not… Ummm… I am talking about Oratilwe and I”. Her words came out almost like a stutter. “Angelo, I know no words will ever excuse what I did but I was figuring things out.”

‘Figuring things out’, would I be able to accept that? Was that reason enough? I lost 2 years of my daughter’s life and her reason was that she was figuring things out. “Well, have you figured them out now?”, I asked.

She shook her head and I let out a sigh.

She moved closer, “I am happy that you could find love again. I have been thinking what you said that day at the restaurant. I didn’t know that I was hurting you. I really thought everything was okay. I hope you will forgive me some day”.

Her lips were moving and she said the things I waited a long time to hear but there was no emotion in it. It sounded like she was saying what she thought I wanted to hear and if she couldn’t be honest, one of us had to lay it all on the table. “Namisa, I want to unlearn all the bad habits loving you taught me. You made me feel small for wanting to have a career, every opportunity I had to be greater, you feared it was an excuse for me to leave you behind. Our relationship was toxic and I learnt to be comfortable in that.”

“Toxic???”, she exclaimed. “No, not toxic, we had our issues but we weren’t toxic. I made you happy. You were happy. I did the best I could, so I deserved a man who would keep his promises.”

“And I deserved to be in my daughter’s life but I guess we don’t always get what we deserve do we now Namisa?”. I was annoyed. I was so annoyed. Here I was telling her that we had so much to work through and all she cared about was what she deserved. She was the victim again.

“We played pretend, I acted like the things you did didn’t hurt. When I spoke and you didn’t listen or when you apologized and your ‘I’m sorry’ carried more weight than mine. I would need to beg you for forgiveness and you’d question my love for you if I didn’t forgive you immediately. You had to…”

“That’s not true”, she interrupted, “We were fine. After he died, we were fine. We still laughed together, we still spoke”.

I shook my head, “I made jokes because the awkward silence was too much for me. I had to make conversation, if I didn’t call or text you wouldn’t make an effort and then you would be upset and say that I got too busy for you. You were mourning our son. I was mourning our relationship. I couldn’t deal with you noticing me anymore. I wanted to be seen. Talking to someone who doesn’t listen is the same as being invisible. Our relationship was toxic. You acknowledged that I was using words but they never reached your heart. You only remember the painful words. You could always tell me how I made you feel but could never acknowledge how you made me feel. You stopped being the person I was in love with.”

“I can change”. She moved closer and put her hand on mine, “I can change. I can do better. Don’t we owe it to Ora to do better”. I couldn’t believe it. She was using our daughter. I moved away. Being near her was making me sick.

I felt the phone in my pocket start to vibrate. I looked at her and she understand she needed to give me some space. “Hey Loni… Yeah… We will be spending another night in Durban. My mother wants to go visit her sister. So you only need to fetch me at the airport tomorrow. Okay… Bye… I love… you”. I don’t know what made the call more awkward. This was the first time that I had ever said I love someone else in front of the mother of my child who I once thought was the love of my life but this was also the first time I had ever told Loni I love her.

Namisa and I just sat outside quiet, occasionally looking at one another with nothing to say. Just silence. 15 minutes of silence until Kyle came to get us, it was lunch time and he was excited to try African food. We went in and said grace, we knew this was a short break before the conflict would start again. At least this time, we would argue over Ora’s future on full stomachs. Namisa went to sit in her corner and I sat in mine. If we had anything more to say to one another, it would remain unsaid for today, we were parents again, we had bigger priorities.

This Isn’t Awkward – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018