After Love – Chapter 7 – The Trouble With Faith

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “What Should Have Been” – Click Here

It’s been three years since I was last here.

Everything looks the same. The sand, the sun. I remember the day we laid Oarabile to rest. I was amazed to see so many people there to celebrate a life that was short lived. He could hardly form sentences yet everyone had so much to say about him and what he meant to them. It felt so fake.

The condolences and smiles, many didn’t want us together as a couple and losing Oarabile was the cement they were happy never dried.

Even though Namisa and I had dated for years, this was the first time our families were really in the same place. We never paid damages for him, scheduling the negotiations was always a problem and so that was the first time our uncle’s met.

He went from being our beacon of hope to someone we mention in memories. His death took everything from me. Her family and mine parted ways, my friends and family distanced themselves from me. Kyle, Tsebo and Nhlanhla didn’t know what to say to me. Then again who was I to judge, I hardly had much to say. I spent most of the day comforting Namisa and doing small talk on her behalf. Now here I was on my own, staring at your tombstone, trying to find words and wondering if you even understood the role I was meant to play in your life.

“Hey OB… It’s me… Your dad. We used to play together. It saddens me to think you are nothing more than a box in the ground, a body that has probably decayed. I don’t know if you heard but you have a little sister now.”

They say the dead should not communicate with the living but I took the whistle of the wind as a sign that he was listening. Maybe he was and maybe I was just that desperate for him to exist somewhere other than my mind. In her healing she gave away all the things we bought Oarabile, so I didn’t have anything to remember him by other than his baby pictures.

I was left with his baby pictures and a deep dislike for Winnie the Pooh. I used to love the cartoon but seeing Winnie on his tombstone made the sight of the teddy bear unbearable.

I was also the one left with all the questions. ‘How did he die?’, ‘Was he ill?’, ‘How is Namisa taking it’, ‘When will you be ready to have another child?’. Namisa got time off school, time off from the world. She had three weeks to rest, and just shut off everything. Her communication was limited to myself and her immediate family. I on the other hand was thrown into the world.

I still had to attend lectures, be social, I had to still be happy for everyone. My mother was falling apart, my cousins were hurt and I had to be there for them all. I had to keep their world together and pretend mine wasn’t falling breaking apart. A man is strong, so the death of my son shouldn’t not have phased me. After all a woman has a natural clock and a man can have a child anytime. A lot of people felt I should have leaned on Namisa but whenever I tried to open up to her, she would burst into tears because I would just bring the pain back for her, so I would put my emotions on hold so that I could comfort her. In the end I realized that their ‘lean on her’ was just their way of saying I should be there for her because this is harder for women than it is for men because they are more connected to he child.

Putting Namisa first, the questions and being forced back into society with no support; I don’t know how I made it through and managed to retain some part of my sanity.

Namisa and society aside, it wasn’t that the questions weren’t valid, it was just that I didn’t have answers myself. She couldn’t tell me what happened. She said something about being at a family friend’s place, that he was fine when she last checked on him and that when she checked again he wasn’t breathing. Some people said maybe her ‘cousin’ rolled over and suffocated him, others suggested he was poisoned and others said it was just God’s will. With all the confusion, an autopsy seemed insensitive. I asked Namisa for one and she asked if I blamed her or her cousin for what happened, that I suspected them of foul play. She brought Oratilwe to me because she didn’t want to leave her with anyone who wasn’t immediate family, I guess a part of her blamed her cousin too.

No one taught me how to parent. They all expected me to just understand. My mother, Namisa’s parents, none of them shared their experience or raising a child or what they learnt. They just felt I should know, maybe because I was once a child. They forgot that they were once children and when I needed guidance, I needed more than “you are a father now”.

Adults think that is enough, in that statement I should understand all my responsibilities and making the right decisions should come naturally. No one said I would be affected more than just financially, more than just my time management would need to change. No one said he would own all of my being or that having a child meant gaining the risk that losing them could crush your soul beyond repair. Everything became about them even things that are not related. No one said you could find yourself at a gravesite talking to yourself.

“I blame God for taking you. Not every couple who wants to, can conceive. He is in control. He lets rapists and murders get to old age but you were a soul without sin and you left us before your first birthday.” I spoke but no wind this time. I wasn’t sure if you disagreed with my sentiments or our heavenly Father silenced your lips.

I think the worst part of it all was that I was the one left without faith. They say God doesn’t choose favourites but Namisa healed faster than I did and she said it was because of Him. Three years later and I am still stuck in the mind of a man who refuses to accept that the first person he ever buried was his son.

“I blame GOD”. I cried. “I blame you. I am mad at her for not seeing I was in pain, I am mad at my family for demanding that I be okay but I am mad at you most. I was a good son to you but you took mine from me. I blame you for letting me love him, I blame you for letting him breathe and I blame you for taking him from me without giving me a chance to say goodbye.”

Some would call it blasphemy, I wonder if it makes me a sinner for questioning His choices or more of a believer because like any son, I can admit I feel betrayed by my Father?

My Father took everything from me. My friends didn’t know what to say or how to relate. I was the first to have a child, I was the first to lose a child. They were still processing the former, how would they now comfort me through the latter?

My relationship with my mother suffered. I remember the look on her face when I told her Namisa was pregnant. She was angry, she said things she could never take back and things I am yet to forgive. She had all that anger over something that didn’t last that long.

“I know she misses you too.”, I said with a smile on my face. “She hasn’t asked to see Ora, she wants to wait until she is sure Ora is mine. She doesn’t want another grandchild taken away from her.” I hoped knowing that he couldn’t be replaced would make him smile, that the fact that my mother and I still missed him would give him some sort of comfort and maybe he would forgive us for never visiting.

“I passed by the way. Your father is almost CA. I work at this great accounting firm in the Vaal. I wrote my last exam and I am waiting for my results. I believe I made it. I only saw you on weekends, so I have no choice but to have made it right.

I told you I was mad at God, I am mad at my family and my friends but Oarabile, I am also mad at you. You took away the love of my life. I am sure she told you that we don’t talk much anymore. We didn’t until she told me about your sister. She was in the hospital and she needed blood and… I’m sure she told you all about it. She told me she visits you every chance she gets.”

Namisa was always stronger than me. She hid Oratilwe from me but maybe it’s because I wasn’t as strong as she needed me to be. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I ran to another for comfort and gave them more than I was allowed to give. Vuyo had been my best friend for so long that it made sense to talk to her. We shared everything. She was comfortable enough to tell me when she was on her period and needed me to get her pads and she was the first I told when I found out Namisa was pregnant. I don’t know who took advantage of whom, was it I who was mourning my son or her who had just fought with her partner. We both needed comfort, we just found it in the wrong way. We agreed never to speak about it and the next time we spoke, she and her ex-boyfriend were pregnant and expecting their first child. I was hurt that she hid that she was pregnant from me and I couldn’t think up any reason I told myself that she was still giving me time to recover from losing Oarabile. Maybe she was just protecting Oratilwe from having a weak father in her life. A father who still held on, a father who couldn’t forgive his creator.

I stood there in silence for a few minutes. The sun was setting and I still had so much to say but words would not leave my lips and my heart was just as silent. Being there felt like both an accomplishment and a moment of disappointment. This was the first time I was here but it took me so long to get here. I knew I couldn’t stand there forever and wallow in my thoughts, I still had to drive to Vuyo’s place. She and I hadn’t really spoken since the night Loni moved in and she said she was worried about me, so I said I would pay her a visit before I went home after seeing Oarabile. She didn’t really give me much of a choice. She said she knew I would be a wreck after going to the cemetery and so I promised I would see her before driving home.

God gives and God takes. Losing him taught me that God does things and doesn’t give reasons, I learnt to feel God is unfair and chooses tests for His children based on how well He thinks they will cope. Despite the anger and my feelings, in all this, my biggest struggle was with myself because I still held on to Him. I stopped praying, I stopped spreading His word and going to church was a thing of the past but I knew He was still there, just watching me suffer. Whether He was rooting for me to recover or not, I just knew He was watching with the son He took from me next to him.

God broke me, took all I have and even though I didn’t believe in His love anymore, I still believed in him. I suppose that is the trouble with faith. Some take misfortune as a sign of God’s non-existence but I took it as a sign that He doesn’t love me.

The Trouble With Faith – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 6 – What Should Have Been

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “Memorable Amnesia” – Click Here

She looked at me. I looked at her. We looked at each other and the noise began. I was out of faces to make and she was just beginning to make her presence known.

“Loni. Loni”, I called to her hoping she hadn’t run away. “Where’s the milk? Are you done?”.

She rushed in, “Angelo. Give me a second. The video is still buffering. I told you to get faster WiFi… Do I put sugar in the milk?”.

My mother wasn’t answering, none of our friends had children and Loni’s Mother was the last person we would call. This was more challenging than I thought.

With Oarabile, Namisa and I had a system. She would breastfeed him or prepare the bottles in advance, I just had to warm them in the microwave.

“No, don’t put milk…. No, I mean sugar… I used to taste OB’s milk, there was never any sugar. Don’t make it too hot.” I picked up Ora, “She won’t stop crying. Let me try my mother again, while I walk around with her”.

I wanted to spend time with Oratilwe and looked forward to the day I would introduce her to Loni but this was not how I expected it to happen. This must have been difficult for her, being stuck with two strangers for the weekend.

Namisa got a call from her office that she had to travel to Cape Town for the week, her family were still in Durban and she didn’t trust any of her friends to watch Oratilwe but after what happened to Oarabile, I couldn’t blame her. I also wouldn’t trust anyone who wasn’t family with my child.

I appreciate her trusting me and bringing our daughter here but this was so mistimed. Loni had just opened up to me and I wanted to show her that Namisa would not cause any conflict for us. Unannounced visits from an ex definitely lead to conflict.

At least she brought a baby bag with all of Oratilwe’s things and gave us a break down of her favourite blanket, which teddy she slept with, which toy she bathed with and what she was allergic to but she didn’t tell us what to do between now and bedtime.

I walked her to the guest room and back. Up the stairs, down the stairs and out to the patio but Oratilwe would not stop crying.

Loni finished making milk and that didn’t help. She continued crying.

“Angelo. Did you check her nappy?”, Loni asked.

“No. Namisa dropped her off like an hour ago. She must have a clean nappy.”, I responded.

“Your mom just texted. She said we should check her nappy”, she took Oratilwe from my hands, lay her down and began undressing her.

“Ummm… Loni… Do you need to do that?”, I asked.

“Yes. How will we know if her nappy needs changing or not?”, she responded.

“Checking her nappy, I agree but do you have to take off her beanie, jacket and everything. You could have just lifted up her dress”. I looked at her and she looked at Oratilwe and then we both started laughing.

We were both thrown in the deep end here.

Other than her students, she hardly engaged with children and my experience of parenting involved a child who was always ready for playtime. I was studying and we had the support of both of parents when it came to Oarabile. He lived with Namisa’s parents and I was staying at the university residence. I saw him on weekends or holidays but I never had to do much. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be more involved but they said Namisa and I still had to be children and so they took care of his expenses, doctors’ visits and made sure he never lacked. Namisa’s involvement was limited to playing and feeding.

Looking back, I guess we should have insisted we do more but then again it was her father who made the rules despite objection from my mother and his wife but now he was no more, that meant Namisa had been doing more for Oratilwe by herself. For the past two years she was probably parenting on her own.

“Her nappy is wet.”, Loni said almost relieved.

“Okay. I will go get one of the nappies from her bag.” I started to make my way to the living room and heard Loni screaming behind me.

“Don’t worry about YouTube this time. Your mom sent instructions. I think it was a joke but I’m grateful anyway”, she giggled.

I went and got the nappies, read the instructions while Loni changed her nappy and then dressed her up again.

Finally the crying stopped and the house was quiet. At first it was good to have peace and quiet but the silence quickly became cause for alarm. Growing up I was always told about the ‘Terrible Twos’ but Oratilwe was quiet, almost mute. Loni said maybe it’s because she wasn’t used to us, that’s why she wasn’t talking to us or saying anything.

We carried her to the living room and sat her down. I tried surfing through DSTV to find something but all the shows we found seemed to be mature content in cartoon format and so we settled on Captain Underpants on Netflix. Oratilwe continued with her silence but now she was watching television, occasionally pulling a face to show that cartoon had her attention.

“Do you think she knows who I am yet?”, she asked.

“What do you mean?”, I responded.

“That I’m the reason her parents aren’t together. That I’m the home wrecker?”, she said.

I shook my head. “You’re not a home wrecker… Her mother and I separated before she was born and I have no plans of getting back with her”.

She gave me a look, “Her mother still has a thing for you. I saw the way she looked at you… Look, I’m not asking if you still have feelings for her. I don’t think I’m ready to hear that. If you say yes I will be hurt, if you say no and I don’t believe you, I will be stuck with the paranoia. Please just be sure this is what you want.”

She stood up and fixed her blouse, “Why don’t you try putting on music or something and I will go start preparing for lunch”.

I went to pick up the remote to change the program and Oratilwe was staring at me. I wasn’t sure if she was threatening me or trying to signal she knew what she wanted to watch. If ever I needed an ice breaker, it had to be now.

I was about to put the remote down when my phone started ringing. I went to pick it up but I saw Oratilwe was kicking her feet. She must have liked my ringtone. I rejected the call and connected my phone to the speaker, turned up the volume and started playing the song Banomoya by Prince Kaybee. It was Saturday and the office could wait.

The song got her feet moving but I knew it wasn’t enough. If acting like a fool was what I needed to connect with my daughter, then a fool I is what I was going to be. I started with the move I first mastered growing up, the robot.

From the robot I moved on to the dougie and worked my way through every house dance move I knew. Oratilwe must have not been impressed because she got up and started showing off moves of her own. Quickly our stare off turned into a dance off and eventually became a dance party.

Loni heard the music and came in to check on what was going on and then the three of us started a dance battle. The day carried on with us trying different things. Dancing, playing PlayStation and watching movies.

Her shyness slowly faded away and quickly she reminded me of her older brother. Her smile and the way she laughed. I could tell Loni was having a good time and just like I was thinking about Oarabile, she was probably thinking of her child but we had to be strong and be in the moment.

It was finally bed time and I was tasked with giving her a bath while Loni prepared the blow up mattress in the bedroom. We agreed that she couldn’t sleep in the guest room on her own but we also weren’t both ready to share a bed with her.

I dried her up and put on a nappy, put on her pyjamas and lay next to her and Loni.

“Do you want a bed time story princess?”, I asked.

Both ladies nodded their heads. Loni seemed happy to see me in a new element, either that or she was just happy that for once she wasn’t the one telling a children’s story.

“This is a story that was co-written by two authors. Sapphire and Jane Novelist, or Jake or… Umm… It was Jay something… You make me so nervous…”, I found myself stuttering over my words and Loni was laughing.

“Anyway… Once upon a time, there was a young king who fell in love with a queen of a neighbouring kingdom. The king and queen eventually got married and their bond resulted in their two kingdoms being united and forming one kingdom under their rule as king and queen.

On the third month after the union of the kingdoms, the king and queen given a gift by a fairy. It was something they never thought they could ever have.”, I looked to Loni and kissed her on the forehead. She held my hand and then held Oratilwe’s.

“The gift was a baby girl, who would become the princess of the kingdom and she would bring joy to the two kingdoms. This princess had all sort of magical powers. She had the voice of an angel, the dance moves of a goddess and the site of her smile brought happiness to those around her”.

Oratilwe yawned. She was finally getting sleepy. Loni nodded her head signalling that I should continue the story.

“You see this princess was very special and very loved but also very needed to cure the hearts of many, so the king and queen could not keep her to themselves because there was another kingdom that needed her. So the kingdoms agreed that they would raise the princess together and love her equally putting her happiness first”.

She yawned once again and closed her eyes.

“Hey”, I whispered. “You stay with her and make sure she stays asleep. I will go make sure all the doors are locked and come back”.

I got up and made my way downstairs. The memory of her falling asleep in my arms heavily engraved in my mind. She was beautiful, my wingless angel on earth.

Seeing her smile made it clear to me that I would do anything to keep her smiling. I wanted to give her all of me but in order for me to love her properly and give her more of me, there was something I had to do.

I still held on to a brother I wasn’t sure she even knew. I knew he wasn’t coming back but the pain was still there and in order for me to love her completely, I had to go see my son, I had to say the things I’ve been holding back and face the demons I’ve been running away from all these years.

What Should Have Been – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018

After Love – Chapter 5 – Memorable Amnesia

For The Previous Chapter of After Love, “Girls Need Love” – Click Here

I didn’t know what hurt me more, the fact that she carried all this pain or that she felt the need to hide it from me. I always knew she was a strong woman but hearing about how her uncle and cousins used to rape her, my heart sank.

A part of me wished she had not said anything, I could feel my hate and anger build for people I’d never met. How could family do that to their own? I could hear the pain in her voice, she spoke the words calmly but she wasn’t okay,

“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 said the words and knew what I had to do. I moved my hand from hers and ran out the room. I had to get everyone to leave. Loni was opening up to me and this music, the guests it had to stop. I wanted her to tell me everything and I needed her to feel safe.

I always knew Loni didn’t get along with her family but she never told me why. I respected her privacy because my own family dynamics weren’t something I was always proud to share. It was beyond me that a mother could protect her daughter’s rapist merely because they were blood.

Each group needed their own reason to leave. So I told Loni’s friends that she was tired and wanted to call it a night. They understood because Loni always arrived early for events, so she could leave early. I never asked myself why but maybe it was because she never felt safe enough to be out late. Tshepiso felt it was too early even for Loni but Jessica, tired of her advances at Kyle agreed it was time to leave.

Kyle pulled me to the side, he said he wanted to talk. He had on his naughtiest grin but as he was about to speak, Jessica gave him a look and his demeanour changed. “Dude”, he said, “You can’t clean this all up by yourselves. Don’t you need help?”.

“Yeah Kyle”, I responded, “I can’t do this… but… but Vuyo will help me. Yeah she’ll help me. So I won’t be alone”. I knew Vuyo hated cleaning up but if anyone would understand I need everyone to leave without asking questions it would be her.

He smiled and as he shook my hand goodbye, he slipped me a condom. Seems the only reason he wanted to offer help was so that Loni and I could consummate her moving in much sooner. If only he knew that sex was the last thing on my mind.

One by one the guests started to make their way out until it was only Vuyo and I left down stairs.

“Angelo, I don’t know what’s going on and I can tell you are nervous. You’ll explain when you are ready. I hope you haven’t killed someone’s daughter. Also you owe me big time”. She said her peace and helped me clean up. Once she was done doing the dishes she hugged me goodbye and left.

We were alone. Finally. I could go back and check on Loni.

As I made my way up the stairs, my phone started to ring. It was a number I didn’t have stored on my phone, so I assumed it was one of Loni’s friends, maybe they forgot something and needed to come back for it.

“Hello… Is this Angelo Blake?… My name is Dr Lynda Tsdira and I am Lonwabo’s psychologist… I was on the phone with her earlier and I believe she was having a panic attack… Would you kindl….”

I put the phone in my pocket and ran up the stairs. Loni was on the floor. I picked her up and carried her down the stairs. I lay her on the couch and tried to wake her.

“Loni, Lonwabo. Wake up”. I was panicking, I wasn’t sure if I held back or used all my strength but I was shaking her, hoping she’d wake up. “Lonwabo, wake up. Please wake up”.

“Angelo”, she responded, “I’m awake”.

“Are you sure? Some lady named Lynda called. She said you were having a panic attack”. I pulled her close to me. She was awake. She was fine. In this moment she was fine.

She told me about how it started at the age of 12. Her uncle used to rape her whenever her mother wasn’t around. He felt he could do whatever he wanted with her because they had no place to go. Her grandparents left the house in his name and her mother couldn’t afford to pay rent for the both of them, so they lived with him for free.

He treated her as his sole property until she turned 14. Then he taught his sons to rape her as well. It became their bonding ritual. Whenever they would visit they would take turns raping her. It continued until they got her pregnant and she told her mother. Her mother was infuriated but forced her to have an abortion and forced her brother out of the house. She threatened to report him to the family elders if he didn’t leave.

My emotions went on a rollercoaster. I hated them, I admired her courage and wished things could be different. She was still dealing with her past and here I was bringing more drama into her life.

“Loni, her family asked me to pay lobola”. She had been honest with me, I needed to start being open with her.

“Is that what you want?”, she asked.

I shook my head and kissed her forehead. “You’re what I want baby. I’m happy with you”.

She smiled a temporary smile and said, “I’m afraid you’ll pick her over me.”

“I told you that I wouldn’t do that to you. Ora won’t come between us”. I held her hand and pulled her closer.

“Ora’s not the problem”. She pulled away. “Since the rapes I’ve become paranoid, I’m depressed. So many people thought I was an ungrateful child or I was seeking attention because I was reserved but it’s the voices in my head. They made want to be alone. They told me nobody cares about me and no one would pick me. My own mother picked a house over getting justice for me and now they tell me she’s the problem and the fact that they want lobola just made them louder”.

“Loni, why didn’t you tell me? I told you if you wanted to talk, would could talk. You know how much communication means to me”.

She looked at me and rolled her eyes. “If communication meant a lot to you, you would have told me that her family wanted lobola or better yet that you met with her in the first place instead of involving Jessica and Kyle in your lie. You and your decisions feed my anxiety.

And you want us to talk? Talk about what Angelo? How she is giving you everything I wish I could? You think I don’t want a child?”. She looked down and shed a tear. Everything inside me wanted to hold her. Everything inside me wanted to tell her it’s going to be okay but everything inside me told me this is my fault and that I couldn’t expect her to trust in the one hurting her to comfort her.

“Lonwabo, I am sorry.”

She just looked at me. I could see she didn’t know what to do with those words, she still had her fears.

“Do you want space Loni? Do you want me to move to the guest room, just for tonight?”. I knew it was the wrong thing to ask and the timing was off but after what she’d told me and expressing how she feels, expecting us to share a bed and pretend like everything is fine would do more damage than good. I also didn’t want to force her to tell me how she felt about everything.

She shook her head. “The last thing I want is to be alone. I’ve done that for so long and felt like I need to hide from the world. I want you. I want you to have all of me and that won’t happen if we start things off that way.”

I knew she was right. Distancing one another wasn’t wise.

“I don’t want to marry her. I just want my daughter. I want to make up for the time I lost”.

“And where do I fit in?”, she asked.

“She’s our daughter. Loni, I gave up on having children and just like how you didn’t give birth to her, I didn’t know I fathered her.” Jokingly I said, “For the most part I see Namisa as a surrogate.”

She laughed, “A surrogate. Come on, your surrogate wants to marry you”.

“That’s between her and her family Loni. You and I are trying to build a family. We always thought it would just be us but now we have Ora too. Come on, sit next to me”, I tapped the couch inviting her over.

“Can we please have some rules?”, she asked firmly. “I don’t want her disrespecting me or her feeling like I’m disrespecting her. The sooner we set boundaries the better.”

I nodded. “Yes, we can do that”. I yawned. “I’m sleepy, can I sleep babe? We still have unpacking to do today and I want to rest”.

She smiled and nodded. She lay my head on her lap. Today was more than I bargained for but I learnt to appreciate Lonwabo in a whole different way. We still had a lot to work through but we were going to get through this together. It felt good being in a relationship where I had someone who would go through things with me and not someone who would put me through things.

I managed to sleep for about 15 minutes until I heard the doorbell ring. I sat up to find myself wrapped up in a blanket. I guess Lonwabo must have fetched a blanket for me. I sat up to see where she was. As I was about to call out for her, I heard a voice that sounded far too familiar at the door.

““Hi, my name is Namisa, is Angelo here?”.

It was Namisa, I couldn’t believe she was here. This was the last thing I needed. Loni had just confessed how she felt about Namisa and her arriving unannounced was not going to help at all.

I walked to the door, a walk that felt like a fast trod. “Namisa, what are you doing here?” , I asked.

“Hey. Sorry to come like this but I really need your help. Can you watch Ora for me for a few hours?”.

Her request left Loni and I speechless. How could someone who hid a child from me for two years just give her to me so willingly. I wanted to say no because this was the disrespect that Loni wanted to avoid this was also the first time I could spend quality time with my daughter. I was conflicted, do I please the one I love or get a chance to show my daughter I want to be a part of her life?

Memorable Amnesia – PDF

Jade Novelist ©️ 2018