After Love – Chapter 2 – My Name Is…

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “Hello Again” – Click Here

One tick. 38 messages and one tick for each. My messages weren’t going through. Her phone was still on voicemail.

I knew she hadn’t blocked me, I tried calling her from work. I used my office number and a colleague’s phone but still got “… the number you have dialled, is not available”. How could she send me that text and then switch off her phone, was this all a game to her? She couldn’t resist, she just had to find new ways to make life hell.

I spent all day staring at my phone, waiting for her to respond, to reach out to me. I had questions and she had the answers, or at least I hoped she did. Could Oratilwe be my daughter? Why did she hide her from me? Why would she tell me about her now? Why was Oratilwe in hospital? Was I losing another child?

Three cups of coffee and deadlines made me jumpier than I needed to be. My manager wasn’t my biggest fan, so that meant I couldn’t get out of meetings and asking for a personal day would be a mission on its own. How would I start the conversation, “Oh Hi Xolile, I’m not feeling well, so could I have the afternoon off?… Why, you ask?… Well just yesterday I found out that I might have left my ex-girlfriend pregnant 2 years ago and my maybe daughter might be in hospital, so I need the afternoon off so I can go hospital to hospital trying to find them”.

I had to make it work, make nice and sit through meetings. Fridays were the worst; progress meetings, finalisation of client reports and debates over next week’s planner. As per usual I got the worst assignments.

“Pssst. Pssst”, he whispered trying to get my attention.

I looked over to him, shook my head and mouthed, “What is it Kyle?”

He was as uninterested in Xolile’s presentation as I was. He stood up and moved closer, squeezing his chair between mine and Sam’s.

“You seem distracted bro, excited about tonight?? What’s it now? Date number four?”, he said with a naughty grin and holding out his hand for a fist bump. “Tonight’s the night right?”

I shrugged my shoulders because sex was the last thing on my mind. Actually, a lot had escaped my mind. In all the drama I forgot I had a date with Lonwabo tonight.

“What time are you picking her up?”, he asked.

“Around 8”, I responded looking at my watch, “She knows we have deadlines today and she understands that I have to work late”.

“I really like this girl man, she’s smart and you two look good together, almost as good as Jessica and I do”, he said sarcastically.

Kyle and Jessica met at the company a year ago and have been in love ever since. They are known as ‘Top Deck’ at the office. One would think it was because of their different ethnic backgrounds but I think it’s mainly because they are always on top of one another. In the office they try behave themselves with random shouts of ‘My Venda Queen’ or ‘My Shinning Prince’ but in private, things can get a little awkward. As the token third wheel, I experienced it first-hand multiple times until they felt that they needed to spend more nights in than they needed nights out with the shut-in.

Kyle felt I needed to move on and Jessica felt I was deserving of love. First we tried Tinder. It was okay and just as superficial as I expected, I met a lady named Toni, and she was a doctor. Great conversationalist but too focused on her checklist. She knew everything she wanted in a man but on the second date it was clear she didn’t know herself. Almost every sentence ended with “my mother said that’s what makes a good man” or “I’ve seen how my friends were treated”. She wanted what seemed to meet the definition of perfect but I wondered if she ever asked herself if it would be perfect for her. I asked her if she ever saw herself married to me and her response bordered on that of one who has given up. She said men feared her achievements, that they found her intimidating and that she found me interesting because of my career and that I probably won’t be scared off easily. I understood what she was saying but I wasn’t prepared to spend the rest of my life trying to love who someone needed me to constantly prove to her that she was enough. I wanted love, not a second full time job.

Jessica tried setting me up on a blind date with her friend. Kelly was great, the life of the party but it seemed like she never wanted to leave the party. She was a socialite, always politically correct and ready to charm her way into everyone’s heart. I met her just before the year end Christmas party 4 months ago, so asking her to be my date made sense. She made people feel comfortable, she networked and never failed to mention she was a qualified psychologist. It was a date but my date spent more time talking me up to the room than she did talking to me. She used what she found on Google to make me sound amazing. Had I had political aspirations, then I would have asked to marry me right there and then. She was great but not great for me, I needed someone who wasn’t so good at making things look good but rather someone who wanted to notice me. I had done enough fake smiles with Namisa, sat in rooms filled with loved ones and boasted praises for one another while in the back of our minds we knew we still had to finish the fight we were having in the car.

I had given up on the pursuit but I promised them I would give it three attempts before I locked myself back in my apartment. I had never tried speed dating but it was one of the things on my bucket list, so I had to give it a try. It went quickly, almost like a school cafeteria lunch line and the women formed part of the stationary. The men took turns moving from seat to seat with only 10 minutes to make a connection. The 1st six ladies I met were either too shy or too hyped, it was clear they were either forced to do this or were on the lookout for new sex partners.

It felt like I was wasting time, I could have been binge watching The Blacklist or catching up on work but here I was making pointless small talk about the weather. I was fed up and wanted to leave, I got up and walked to the door and there she was. The last to arrive. She said she was caught up at a parent-teacher meeting but Jessica the romantic, says it was destiny.

“Hello, my name is Lonwabo Zwane, but my friends call me Loni. Am I too late?”. Her smile caught my attention and her eyes told me she was a truthful soul, I wanted to tell her the truth but I knew if I did, she might end up with someone else. There was something about her, something I needed to have. “Hi Loni, I’m Angelo… Angelo Blake. The event is almost done but I wasn’t successful in matching up with anyone and you just arrived. Maybe you’ll let me take you on a date? Give this guy who struck out a chance to redeem himself?”.

She blushed at my attempt at humour and agreed to go out with me. It was late, so options weren’t many and the closest eatery was McDonalds. She didn’t seem to mind though. We had both previously been in long term relationships, so starting afresh was challenging for us. Namisa and I were on and off for six years, she and her ex were together for four years, after admitting that we didn’t know what was considered appropriate first date conversation, we just went with the flow. We spoke at length, debates on the country’s education system, jokes about where we thought we would be in life and I threw in a few compliments every time she smiled at me.

She was a primary school teacher. Her love for children was emphasised by the way her eyes would light up when she spoke of her students.  “Enough about me, you know I teach grade 2 and grade 3 students. What about you? What do you do?”, she asked in her gentle voice.

“I’m an accountant. Trainee accountant. I just finished my third year at Pukke and I’m doing my BCom Honours through UNISA while working at King & Associates. I work at the Vaal branch”. The words came out and I felt so stupid. All she wanted to know was what I did for a living and I basically gave her my CV. Despite the nerves I was glad Kyle made me do it, in the 8 years I’d known him this was the best idea he had ever had.

In hindsight though, it feels like I started our relationship with a lie. I wonder if I would answer differently now. When asked if I had any kids, ‘No’ was my immediate response but now technically I am nothing but an absent father. Loni was a week away from moving in with me and the thought of telling her about Oratilwe never crossed my mind. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was unsure if Ora was mine or if I was fearful of how she would react to it.

When she first asked if I had any children, I remember saying no and seeing the disappointment on her face. At first I thought it was because a lot of men my age have at least one child, so maybe she thought I was impotent. In time she confessed she hoped I had one, so I wouldn’t expect it from her. She got ill a few years ago and had to undergo an operation that required the removal of her womb.

I had to figure out what I would say to her. I don’t think she would believe me if I told her I had a secret daughter I knew nothing about and I wonder how she would take that I met another woman a week before she was supposed to move in, she would probably think that I was having cold feet.

I looked up at the clock and it was 7PM. I had to leave or I would be late for my date. Kyle offered to finish off the Vanessa Costa report for me, so if I left immediately I would just make it for my date. As I was packing, Jessica came rushing in, “Hey Angelo, your ex-girlfriend is on the phone. She says it’s urgent”.

“Ex-girlfriend?”, I looked at her confused. No one but Loni and my mother had my office phone number. Then I remembered in one of my 38 messages, I included my office number just in case Namisa wanted to call again. I ran to pick up the phone. “Hello, Namisa is that you?”.

“Hey Angelo, I’m sorry I disappeared last night. I’m still at the hospital and my battery died. My grandmother brought me a charger a few minutes ago. I didn’t want you to find out this way but yes, Ora is your daughter… Ummm… We are at Life Groenkloof hospital, in Pretoria. Would you please come? I think seeing you would make her feel better and it would also give me a chance to explain everything”. She spoke clearly but I could hear the fear in her voice, it was shaky. The accident must have been worse than I thought.

The words “Ora is your daughter” kept ringing in my head. I had a daughter and she was in hospital. I had to see my daughter, I knew Loni was important but right now Ora needed me. I couldn’t tell her the truth, I wouldn’t know where to begin because I myself had more questions than answers, so I texted her and told her I was working late, that Xolile needed me to stay longer. Kyle and Jessica agreed to cover for me, I couldn’t tell them what was going on but they knew I wouldn’t lie to Loni if it wasn’t important.

As I got into the car and made my way to the hospital, I could feel the tears roll down my face. I was scared. I was praying. I didn’t even know of her existence until 24 hours ago, so I wasn’t ready to lose another child.

My Name Is… – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 1 – Hello Again

“Did you love her?”, the words rang clear over the sound of glasses hitting tables and forks meeting plates.

I didn’t think she would start with that; no ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’.

I got there first, I picked a table in the corner so we could have some privacy and if she yelled it would be muffled by the noise from the kitchen. It had been nearly three years since we last shared the same space, let alone looked in one another’s direction.

My nerves normally got the best of me but this time curiosity won the fight and I needed to know why she called.

I was about to order my drink when she walked up to me, her glare scared the waitress off. “Hi, I’m Thembi and I will be your waitress today, would you like to hear any of our Spur specials or can I get you something to drink?”.

She shook her head gently then sat down. Thembi could tell it wasn’t a date and excused herself in the most polite way she could think of, “Would you like 5 more minutes to decide? Sure”. We sat in silence with seconds feeling like hours, taking turns to look at our phones or stare at anyone who walked past the entrance. She let out a sigh and then led with her question. I knew better than to make her wait but I didn’t have enough time to plan my response and “I didn’t love her, I loved how she made me feel” slipped out.

“How did I make you feel?” she asked. This time I paused, I wouldn’t rush it and say something she would find fault with. “She looked at me like I had worth, you just noticed that I was there”.

“That wasn’t what I asked”, she quickly responded.

“You made me feel alone”. She sat and stared at me, her response was the look of disbelief on her face. She never took to my pain well. Whenever I was hurting or not okay, she saw it as a test of strength. Maybe I was at fault for feeling like I always needed to be strong or that my character made it seem like I could handle anything but the problem this time was that I never expected to feel this kind of pain.

“You were alone Angelo? You were the one alone? We had just buried our son and while we were mourning you found comfort in your mistress, I was alone. You… You were happy”. The sarcasm in her voice was a reminder of why communication was our biggest struggle. She couldn’t acknowledge anything other than “I love you” or “Yes, whatever you want” but this time I wasn’t hung up on making her happy but saying what I have been keeping in.

“I was in pain. Pain you chose to ignore. I needed someone who didn’t make their pain feel more important than mine and while I was finding ways to deal with the pain, I hurt you and I am sorry for that. I apologized for it and you said you forgave me. I thought you forgave me”. It came out. It was my truth, I just wasn’t sure if it was enough for her but it was my truth.

“No. I said what I knew you wanted to hear. How do you forgive someone who finds new ways to hurt you while you are struggling to heal? I told you I still loved you and that only had meaning for you after she was done with you. When she was done, it was my bed you ran to and because I needed to feel something other than the pain, I let you in”.

“Namisa, I am not justifying what I did to you, I am telling you what happened. Someone else had to deal with the problem you chose to ignore. You chose to overlook that I wasn’t okay because you needed me to be there for you. You needed me to be perfect, she wanted all the broken pieces. So she took them, so I could be who you needed”.

I could see the anger building in her eyes but before she could let out a slew of insults, she was interrupted. “Hi guys, is everything okay? Would you like to order now”, Thembi arrived with her best smile on. She could feel the tension but she knew she had a job to do and that Namisa wanted her gone. “I will have a passion fruit and lemonade, he will have an Appletizer please. No ice for both of us”, she said. Thembi looked at me for approval, I nodded but she looked on for a second longer, almost as if she was waiting for a hint or sign from me asking for help to escape or if this was really okay.

Old habits die hard. As Thembi walked away, we once again sat in silence. She seemed upset she still knew what my favourite drink was. After dating for six years, we had been on enough dates to know what the other likes. I wasn’t sure if she was upset or rather embarrassed. She was quiet when Thembi returned and asked what we would like to eat. I felt the need to make her feel like she wasn’t alone in this, that the memories were still clear in my mind, so I ordered on her behalf. A steak fillet with extra onion rings for her and a full portion of ribs for myself.

“I love you. Those were your words”, she whispered. “You said them first Angelo, you broke down my walls. How could you have done that to me? To us? I admit that I could have done more, been there more but did I deserve that pain? I haven’t been able to let anyone else in since you left”, she continued. She looked down at her plate. Took a deep breath and asked, “Do you regret it?”.

I had never thought of it or asked myself that question. “Do I regret it?” I asked, “Is that why you are here? Are you here for closure?”. She shook her head. “If not closure, then why are you here Namisa?”.

“Angelo, the truth is I just wanted us to talk”, she said calmly. Her body language and demeanour had changed. Her face had a serious expression. “We need to talk about everything that occurred between us and what happened afterwards because …”.

Before she could finish the thought, her phone rang.

She stared at it for a moment, contemplating whether to answer or not. “Sorry Angelo, it’s my grandmother. She has been texting me all day. Her calling means it must be something serious, if you will excuse me”. She stood up and went to the bathroom. I sat playing with my food, while waiting for her. I couldn’t understand the purpose of our meeting, if all she wanted to do was rehash the past then this served no purpose, we had both moved on. She got a new job, moved out of the Vaal and I had just started working.

“Angelo, I am sorry. I have to go”, she said out of breath as she rushed to take her handbag. “I am sorry, I have to go”.

“Wait. What? Is everything okay Namisa?”, I asked a little concerned.

“Yes”, she responded. “It’s just something I need to deal with at home. I will call you and we can meet some other time. I am so sorry. I have to go”.

Her phone rang again.

“Hello. Yes, this is Namisa Khuzwayo speaking. Yes, Oratilwe is my daughter. Yes… Yes… My grandmother just called me. I am on my way to the hospital right now”. She took her car keys and rushed out without giving me a second look.

At first I thought she was rude but I understood that it was a family emergency and that her daughter needed her. I called Thembi over and told her to pack away the food and bring the bill. I drove home. Poured myself a drink, thinking of our past together and how we always thought that our love would last forever.

It hurt to think that her life had moved on without me. Namisa and I both wanted to have children. We both wanted to big family and now she had Oratilwe, a name we chose for the daughter we would have one day.

“Hi. Angelo. I know it’s late and I am sorry I had to leave like that. Oratilwe was in an accident and I am currently in the hospital. She keeps crying saying she wants you. So if you have time, please come. Her full name is Oratilwe Jasmie Khuzwayo.”, I read the text a few times confused as to why would her daughter want to see me. I felt my heart begin to race the moment I realized that her middle name was the same as my mother’s. She had my mother’s name. Without a second thought I texted her back asking for her location, I needed to go, I needed to see for myself, I had to know if what she was trying to tell me earlier was that she was pregnant when our relationship ended.

Hello Again – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

I was lost. How could she start a conversation with how she was confused and didn’t know what to do? She could see I was not interested in what she was saying, so once again I asked her what was for dinner but she avoided my question and responded with praises of what a wonderful man I was, I didn’t understand what was her inspiration behind those words and I just didn’t care. We had a system, work and then dinner and then sex, sometimes a little small talk or a few jokes in between but there was never any need for anything mushy or sentimental. We had a system and now she was ruining. “Baby, you are the best man any girl could ask for”, she said with a smile on her face. Normally I would engage because I always enjoyed being the reason behind her smile but today I was in a hurry, I didn’t have time. 

“Samantha, did you not cook? Is that what’s going on?” She giggled and replied, “No silly, I made plenty of food, enough to feed a village, you’ll see, I just want to praise my husband. Jay, can’t I do that? I haven’t done it in so long. Let me praise you before we leave, now come let us hurry”. I was surprised and baffled, where were we going but before I could voice my inquiry; I felt the grip of her hand wrap itself around mine and the bulk of her strength pulling me down the driveway and into the living room. “Sam, why is the house dark? Switch on the lights; I don’t have time for games… Sam? Lights please”.

 

Her grip on me loosened and I was alone. Standing in the middle of my living room with the lights off and annoyed, as I went to reach for the light switch, I felt someone place their hand on my shoulder and heard them whisper “Hello son” and a second later the room was illuminated with lights and brought to life by recurring shouts of “Surprise”. I looked around the room and saw my family and friends had nestled themselves in my living room, some on the floor, some behind the curtains and others on the foyer. Everyone now rushing to hug me, to congratulate me, to tell me how proud they are of me and aspire to be like me.

 

“Wait… Sam… What is going on?”, I asked her bewildered, she giggled, “I’m sorry I ruined the surprise but during my lunch hour your secretary called and said she managed to change the flight dates from next week to tonight. At first I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I rushed home and went to your study because I know you keep all your documents there. I found the plane tickets but the place was a bit of a mess and so I did a bit of cleaning but that’s when I found the receipts for the rings.” She paused, a smile forming on her face once again, her hand making its way to my cheek until finally her lips connected with mine. “I know what a romantic you are; you wanted us to go to Mozambique so we could renew our vows right? The surprise plane tickets? The secret rings? It’s why you are always hiding your phone from me nowadays, it’s because you didn’t want me to find out too soon but I did, so I invited everyone here so we could do it here before we leave. Our priest said he couldn’t come without explanation but I asked the one from our sister church and he is on his way. I can’t wait to say I do again, I love…”.

 

“Sam,” I interrupted her, “Can we talk? Please? In private”. She shook her head, “Don’t worry baby, we will have plenty of time to talk on our honeymoon”. I held her hand, guiding her to go upstairs, “Please Sam, can we go to our room and talk. I need to tell you something”. She shook her head once again, “Jade, you know I don’t like being late. Say what you want to say or leave it till after. Go change, the priest will be here soon, let’s get married, eat and then we will go to the airport and we can talk then. I didn’t put request emergency leave for nothing, so we will talk. Go change.”

 

There she was doing it again, micromanaging everything. She didn’t ruin the system, she just adjusted it. “I’m leaving you”. The words slipped out just as the music paused to change to the next song and everyone just stared. We were all in shock, the spectators shocked their role model was retiring from his role, her that I could say it without any remorse and I that I wasn’t afraid to let everyone know I was in love with Maira. Like a broken tap my thoughts became words and everything started to just pour out, “Her name is Miara. I love her and I am going to be with her. The rings are for her, the ticket, everything. I am leaving you for her”. I walked over to my mother and gave her a hug, she couldn’t say anything but I could feel she was relieved that I found the courage to escape a marriage that didn’t make me happy. I walked over to the front door, “Thank you everyone for coming, you are free to eat, drink and once you are ready, you may leave. Enjoy the rest of your evening”.

 

I made my way across the living room, I walked slowly up the stairs and as I entered our loveless bedroom I let out a sigh of relief, this was the last time I would be here. I packed the last of my things quickly, I just wanted to get out of there. As I closed my suitcase, I heard the door slam and turned to see Sam with a bottle in her hand, she slowly started to make her way towards me. “You’re not leaving me, you’re not leaving me for any bitch. After everything I’ve done for you? I lost weight, I was always there for you, I swallowed, I even let you fuck me in the ass. I did what my mother said good wives should do and you are going to leave me for some Maria bitch? Saint Maria. Am I not beautiful enough? Smart enough?”. “Sam, her name is Maira, not Maria. Now get out of my way, I am going to be late for my plane”

 

She dropped the bottle and pinned me against the wall, “Okay. I know what this is, you just want more sex right? Okay. What do you want now? I will give it to you.”, she undid her blouse and began to undress, pulling me closer, kissing me, trying to wrap my arms around her, her body longing to be held and all I could do was pull away, pull even further away. She needed to understand that I meant it.

 

“Jade, you can’t leave me” she yelled, “everyone is downstairs waiting on us, tell them you are lying, tell them that we are okay… Jade, why are you doing this? What have I done to deserve this? I thought you had my back, why were you pretending? Why were you pretending to be there for me while you were busy screwing someone else. I thought you wanted to make us work. You bought me new lingerie last month, was that a way of easing your guilt? You can’t buy me you asshole. What does she have that I don’t?”

 

“She listens… Samantha, she is there for me, she listens, she cares.” I could see the words had no effect on her, she couldn’t understand, she didn’t get it and it just made me feel better about the decision I made. “Okay Jade, I see”, she said sarcastically, “It’s the family thing right? You want a child? Okay, I will give you a child. I will put my career on hold and give you a child. Is that what she promised you?”

 

“Fuck it Sam, this isn’t about a child, I don’t want you to stop your career, it’s the only thing you have going for you anyway. It’s the only thing we talk about, how you are going to move from this position to that. My career is also progressing but I never let it overshadow what we have but you did, follow you career but let me be happy. My path to happiness is not with you. Not with you anymore”, I moved towards her, holding her in my arms for the last time, “I am tired of living a lie. I see her when I kiss you and I wish it was her screaming my name when you climax, I long for her touch and I want her to bear my name and no longer you.”

 

I kissed her on her forehead and as I felt the life slip out of her eyes, leaving her body soulless, I shed a tear. I shed a tear not because I was leaving but because once upon a time, the love was genuine and the only thing we have in common now, was that we existed in the same tax bracket. I walked to my car and put my bags in the trunk and called Maira, “Baby, I told her everything. I am on my way. Pack everything quick, hurry before James gets home”

Jade Novelist © 2017

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