This is it.
This is the day I’ve dreamt of all my life.
I want it to be perfect and memorable. I want to be there, present in body and soul and I’m going to make it the happiest day of my life.
I check the mirror for the zillionth time, my face is perfect, my hair is perfect, but I still think I could have done better with the dress, if only I had enough money.
I’ve played the moment over and over in my head, him standing there in a suit and tie, watching me, just me with a big smile on his face…..
“Let’s go, let’s go, everybody up!” that’s Mandisa, she barges in screaming and clapping. She’s just always been a bully. But with her around, I know nothing can go wrong.
She stops and stares at me. Yes, I’m used to it, people have been staring at me since I was a young girl.
“You, you are not human, somebody made you and they made you perfect,” she says with her hands on her hips.
Those jokes of hers, she just always has them ready.
“Come on let’s go, the cars are waiting outside,”.
She picks up the trail of my dress.
“Where’s the baby?” I ask.
I haven’t seen him since the morning. Mandisa has had me confined in this room for hours making sure I don’t lose focus, like I’d lose focus on my own wedding.
“Forget about the baby, he’s fine, let’s go we’re running late already,” she says.
She really does take her maid-of-honor duties seriously.
“Mandisa where’s my bouquet?” I ask, panicking.
Oh, I have it in my hand.
She rolls her eyes.
Mam’Ngcobo stops us just as we head for the door.
“Let’s gather here for a minute,”she says.
Another prayer, the fourth one today.
We all stand in a circle holding hands.
“God father. As we leave this house with this child, I thought I should, again, ask for your blessing and protection from the evils we will meet along the way…….”
Mandisa squeezes my hand. I open my eyes and we both giggle. She’s been saying the same prayer since the morning and we’ve been joking about it.
“May she always know that it was through your will that she made it this far, and that it is your will that will guide and protect her from this moment onwards…….” she continues.
After what seems like decades, we all say ‘amen’ at the same time.
“Stop panicking, you look perfect, everything is perfect, let’s go,” she says lifting the trail up and pushing me out of the bedroom.
I look around the house one last time. This not how I imagined my wedding. I was supposed to be home surrounded by family, there were supposed to be people here singing and women ululating and I was supposed to walk out followed by a kist.
My father was supposed to be walking out with me, holding my hand and my mother was supposed to be here all dressed up and crying because her only daughter was leaving home forever.
But it’s just me, Mandisa and my three friends, some neighbors and Mam’Ngcobo. Oh well, it doesn’t matter, nothing is as important as the fact that I’m marrying the love of my life today.
“Who’s got the rings?” I ask Mandisa.
She takes a deep breath.
“The rings are where they are supposed to be,” she says.
Okay I need to calm down. I haven’t even seen the hall and if the decorations are what I wanted. It’s a little hall just outside Soweto and I hope everybody will fit in it. I told him not to invite the whole taxi rank but he said that was not possible, that he didn’t even have to invite people, they were just going to show up in large numbers anyway.
If we were doing this properly back home it would be easier. But there will be a cow slaughtered and there will be a big celebration somehow, I deserve that much.
“Let’s go makoti, everybody is waiting for you now,” he says patting my back and gently pushing me outside.
My father is not here, but atleast he’s here.
“Thank you Bab’Ngcobo,” I say holding my bouquet close to my chest.
I hold on to his hand, very tight, if only he were my real father instead of that monster. But he is my father today, we share a surname, so he is my father today and he will give me away to the man of my dreams.
I stopped worrying about us doing this without following the proper channels a long time ago, but I know it bothers him. He will never feel like I’m rightfully his until all that needs to be done has been done.
“Stop worrying,” Mandisa says to me squeezing my hand.
We look at each other, smile, and embrace in a tight hug. We’re both sitting on the back seat of the Mercedes, it belongs to my soon-to-be-husband’s boss.
“Ah ah no, don’t do it, don’t mess that make-up now,” she say pointing a finger at me.
I’m emotional, I should be, I’ve been through so much in the past five years and yet I’m here, still standing, still happy.
I asked her to be my maid-of-honor because nobody fitted that position better than she does, she’s been more than just Mandisa to me, she’s been my sister, my confidante and we have stuck together through difficult times.
It’s been difficult, it really has been but we have survived up to this far.
“Everyone! Get in the cars please,” she shouts.
It’s three BMW’s all belonging to the taxi owners they work for.
He always says that we will not struggle for the rest of our lives, that he is going to make sure that our children have everything they’ll ever wish for and that I have everything I want.
I just laugh. It’s not that I don’t believe in him, it’s just that he makes it sound like that’s the most important thing in life, for him to be successful, but I just want to study and I want him and our kids and a home, that’s what’s important to me.
“I wonder how he is now, do you think he’s nervous?” I ask, I don’t even know why I’m asking this, he never gets nervous.
“You two have been cohabiting for five years, why would any of you be nervous? Just shut up and make it to the altar,” she says.
She doesn’t shock me anymore!
I laugh and she laughs too.
“I’m glad to see you happy, this is the beginning of everything. He kept his word, he loves you, always remember that, okay?” she says stroking my hair.
My eyes are wet again.
“Okay stop now, baba let’s go please,”she says looking at Bab’Ngcobo on the front seat.
The gate opens, the first car drives off but it stops at the gate. We can’t afford further delay.
They reverse, what now?
There’s a car driving in, it’s a police car.
Three police officers jump out, we all look at each other. One has a piece of paper in her hand.
What on earth is going on now?
“Zandile Ngcobo!”they shout as they each inspect all the three cars.
The female one, she looks at me. Our eyes meet. She looks at the piece of paper in her hand, then me again.
“Please step out of the car,” she says.
“Step out of the car please,”she says and pulls my door open.
She ignores Bab’Ngcobo when he asks her what’s going on. She pushes Mandisa aside and pulls me out of the car by my arm.
“You are under arrest for the murder of Khululiwe Ngcobo, you have the right to remain silent…..”
I hear screams and shouting.
My children! I have to see my children!
“Please, I have a one-year-old! Can I see my children first? please! can I see my children….!!” I scream.
Mandisa tries to pull me by my arm but it doesn’t help.
“My children! please! my children!”I scream.
“That won’t be possible….” she says pushing me forward.
I hear the sound of shackles, it draws nearer and nearer……….
“Wake up! Wake up! Do you want to stay here for another year?”
It’s the guard, she’s banging the iron door. I didn’t hear the bell ring, how is that even possible?
“You were in such deep sleep you were talking to yourself. Just pack up and go please, you’re going to have sex tonight, I haven’t gotten any in a year and I’m not even in prison,”she says.
I can’t help smiling. She just always has something to say.
“I had a bad dream that’s all,” I say. That’s the only way to explain it.
I wish it was just that, a dream, but no, it is exactly what happened on the day that was to be the beginning of the end of my life. The day my body was separated from my womb and my heart was separated with its owner.
I hadn’t had the dream in a long time. It’s funny how it never changes, it still happens the exact way it did 17 years ago, only, at that time it was real life, not a dream.
I must have dozed off an hour ago because I stayed up all night, too nervous and too anxious.
“Come, we have to finalise the paper-work. There’s somebody already allocated that cell so the sooner you leave the better,” she says with a smile.
She’s been here since day-one. We were both young when we met behind these walls and at first, our relationship was not that good. But we’ve since become friends.
“I passed him already parked by the gate, at 6am when I arrived,” she says.
I blush and smile.
I take that long walk again through the corridors. I said my goodbyes to everyone yesterday. It was bitter-sweet but anyone who’s ever been in shackles will tell you that anyone being freed is a great feeling, because it creates hope that maybe one of these days you will also be lucky enough.
“Go, and don’t come back here,”she says handing me two gold bangles. They kept these?
I’d forgotten about them. They were the only thing I left on when I took off my wedding outfit.
“Thank you, for everything,” I say.
She’s probably the last person I’m going to speak to inside these walls.
I should have asked someone to bring me better clothes, a shorter dress and maybe some sunglasses. Atleast I got my hair done and I’ve been on a diet.
What if he thinks I’ve aged or doesn’t find me attractive anymore?
I know I saw him just last weekend but things are going to be different now, I’m going to have to see him every day and there are going to be expectations, what if I don’t meet them?
What if he’s changed?
Oh no! He’s walking towards me, he was supposed to wait there at the gate! he’s running!
“You were walking too slow, I couldn’t wait,” he says wrapping his arms around me, too tight.
I embrace him back. We kiss, a long and passionate one. This is it. This is the beginning, all over again.
We stand like this for minutes. He keeps hugging me, letting me go and hugging me again. This is the longest hug we’ve had in 17 years. The last one was on the night before what was supposed to be our wedding.
“Let me carry that,” he says taking the vanity-case from my hand.
It’s all I have. I don’t even have a handbag. It’s just underwear and all the perfume he kept buying me and make-up.
He’s holding my hand very tight as we walk out the gate and to the car. He opens the door for me and I get in.
I’ve never seen a car like this. The last time I was in a car it was a police van. The last time I was in his car it was a Mazda Sting.
He doesn’t start the car, instead he sits and looks at me as I look around with fascination. The smell of leather and perfume and all this stuff in this car that I don’t recognise.
“Are you going to say anything?” he asks.
I haven’t said anything at all.
“You look nervous,” he says.
He’s right, I am, I thought this would be easier but I’ve been out for five minutes and I already know that the world has changed so much.
“MaFuze,” he says placing his hand over mine. “It’s really happening, we’re here,”
It really is happening.
I couldn’t sleep at all for the past two days. I was worried, I kept thinking they would change their minds or tell me that they had made a mistake, I wasn’t on the list.
I was supposed to be out within three months but it ended up taking nine months.
“Did you tell them?” I ask.
He rubs his chin, and then he starts the car. He’s not going to answer me. I assume it was bad.
I don’t look back as we leave the sign Johannesburg Central Prison behind.
Just outside the gate we meet a police car, it’s full of people in the back, this was me 17 years ago. Yes, they’re here to start what they will soon learn is the worst thing that’s ever happened to them.
I’m leaving this place, and I will never come back.
“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was too excited,” he says.
He still has that twinkle in his eyes that appears only for me, and he still looks at me the way he did when I was 14-years-old and he was just a tall big-eyed boy in the village that every girl had a crush on but wouldn’t dare try to get close to.
He has grey hair now, and strangely it makes him look even more handsome.
I can’t remember the last time I saw so many strangers walking around freely, and so many men too.
“What’s that place?” I ask.
He looks at me and smiles.
“It’s Ntinti’s, it’s a bottle store slash shisanyama slash shebeen,” he says.
I don’t even remember what alcohol tasted like, not that I drank much but Mandisa used to make me, especially when she thought I had “stress to relieve”.
There are cars, all kinds of cars and houses and flats and shops, it’s rowdy and it’s lively. It’s freedom, but these people, they will never know how free they are until they lose it all. That’s how I was, I didn’t realise how great my life was until the day I realised I would never hold my children again.
“Let’s get KFC,” I say when I see a KFC right next to a Total garage.
He looks at me and nods.
I’m not even hungry.
He does a U-turn and we drive into the garage.
“Aren’t we going to park and go inside?” I say when he seems to be driving past it.
“No, we’re going to the drive-thru,” he says.
Whatever that is.
KFC used to be a luxury meal for us back in the day. He would pick up random passengers along the way and when it was time to knock off, he’d give the taxi owner only the money he made through the recorded trips and keep the rest, just so he could buy me Streetwise-Two.
“I’ll have Streetwise Two and a Stoney,” I say.
He looks at me and smiles, I smile back. I think he just remembered that this was my favorite meal.
“We’ll have two Streetwise Two’s and two stoneys,” he says to the lady at the window.
What? R25? It was R12 the last time I bought it.
“So how far are we going?”
“Glenvista, it’s about ten minutes away,” he says.
He’s moved three times since I went away but in my mind I still have the picture of our Riverlea house as home. He told me he extended it into a double-storey, he even brought me pictures but I still couldn’t recognise it. In my head I have a picture of that two bed-roomed house we had just finished building and I was so excited about before I was arrested.
I had never heard of Glenvista until the day he told be he had bought land there and was going to build a house during one of his visits.
“It tastes different,”I say.
I haven’t had KFC in a long time.
He smiles but doesn’t say anything.
“Why aren’t you eating?”
“I don’t really eat in the car,” he says.
He hasn’t changed a single bit!
His being a neat-freak was always what ticked me off. We fought about it until we could fight no more. Eventually he gave up and would pick up all the stuff I left lying on the floor and put it back in its place.
He used to give me the look, the one he just gave me now for doing stuff like sitting with my feet on the couch.
“I missed that smile,” he says.
And I missed that soft-spoken yet deep voice of his.
“And those dimples,” he adds.
“And I missed your neat-freak self,” I say before taking a sip of my Stoney and almost burping while at it.
He smiles and looks away, I think he’s always been embarrassed about that part part of his personality, but he can’t help it.
In all these years that I’ve been away, he always said the important thing was not to lose each other, he said that we could not be together physically didn’t mean we could not be together at all. He came to see me every second weekend, sometimes all four weekends a month depending on how busy he was.
I kept telling him that I’d prefer it if he focused his attention more on our kids instead of focusing on me, but he never listened.
He sent a cake for my birthday every year without fail. Last year I even had a party, a proper one in jail standards with decorations and tables and chairs, I don’t know how he pulled that off.
“We’re here,” he says as the electric gate in front of us slides open.
I recognise the outside from the photo.
We drive about a kilometer before we reach the actual house.
Is that a traffic circle? with a fountain in it?
He parks right where the stairs to the big double-door start and gets out of the car quickly. He’s at my door, that was quick.
He takes my hand, we climb up the stairs, he has my vanity case on the other. I wanted to stop and look at the house from outside but he seems to be in a rush to get me inside.
“Welcome home, MaFuze,” he says pushing the double-door open.
I freeze at the doorstep, in awe.
How did all this happen? This is not a house…….this is a castle.
I take two steps forward, I don’t know where to start.
“You can start at the kitchen,” he says.
How is it that things have changed so much in just 17 years? That he has so much?
I walk to the left, it’s the lounge.
“Okay, wherever you want to go first,” he says following me.
The walls are high, painted in deep caramel, there are paintings lining them. One is of a woman, it’s a pencil sketch, it’s me.
“You have a picture of me in the house?” I ask, shocked.
The agreement was that we’d hide everything that had to do with me from the kids, incase I never come home.
“Yes, but they don’t know it’s you,” he says.
I hope so.
I look up and above me is a crystal chandelier hanging. This is like a dream.
“You did all this?” I say looking around the house.
I’m just asking but I know the answer, it’s a no.
He shakes his head. “I paid someone to do it,”
I wonder how much you pay someone to decorate your house.
“Are you okay?”I ask, his mood seems to have suddenly changed.
“I’m okay. If you don’t like the house we can always buy another one, one that you’ll like,”he says.
Oh! I forgot how he gets sometimes.
“No, I love the house. it’s just that I’ve lived in a space as big as a bathroom for may years so this is…..” I say.
It’s no use. I walk towards him and wrap my arms around his neck.
“I’m proud of you. Now, let me go check out the rest of my house,” I say before running up the stairs leaving him standing alone.
I’m almost out of breath when I reach the top, this house is three floors. I look down and there he is, still standing looking up at me with a smile on his face,
“I loooooove it,” I shout with my arms raised, there’s an echo.
The first bedroom, it must be Sbani’s judging by the wall-to-wall bookshelf. It’s very standard, a standard bed, a study desk and standard curtains. And there on a small table, a picture of her, a picture of him with Lwandle and Mvelo and a picture of a baby-boy, that must be my grandson.
I’ve lost so much time of my life.
I close the door behind me and move on to the door across. This is Lwandle’s, I just know it is. I haven’t seen him since he was a year old but I knew even then that he would turn out like this.
The closets are a mess. There’s a huge flat-screen TV on the wall and a couch just in front of it. It has a carpet, a dirty carpet, I think he eats in here. He has a picture of her too, one of them together. He must have been about ten-years-old here.
I turn around and he’s standing at the door.
“Come here,” he says stretching his arm out.
I do as he says.
“You’ll get to know them again, with time everything will work out right, you’ll see,”he says.
I hope so.
“Do you want to see your bedroom now?”
I do. So I follow him all the way across the passage to the far end of the house. It has a double-door too.
This is even better than I imagined.
“You painted it white?”
“Yes, you always said you wanted a lily white bedroom,” he says.
Everything is white, even the fluffy carpet.
I walk on to sit on the bed. It bounces, I haven’t slept on a bed that bounces in years.
“Is it new?” I ask.
He nods. “It arrived yesterday”.
I walk on to the bathroom, and an empty walk-in closet.
“You must fill that up,”he says.
I look at this dress I’m wearing. It’s not something I’d pick at a store. It was bought for me by Hlomu, I’ve met her only once but I already know our tastes are totally different.
“No, that one is not bad, but I mean, you still have to dress up, in different clothes every day for the rest of your life,”he says.
Nkosana hasn’t changed a bit! It’s unbelievable.
“I’m not sure about going to malls yet I mean, I still have to get used to seeing people, strangers……”I say.
He moves forward, very quickly and takes my hand.
“You don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with, we can stay inside this house forever if you want, I’ll stay with you if it makes you happy. I can hire someone to go buy you clothes and anything else you need,”he says.
That’s a bit impractical.
But the truth is I have nothing to wear, not even a night-dress or pyjamas.
He sits on the bed while I wander around and open the sliding door to the balcony.
“That’s a big pool,”I say.
He stands up and walks to join me.
“You have all the time in the world, this is your house, our home,” he says.
I know what he means by this, I follow him back inside the bedroom.
He sits on the floor with his back leaning on the bed, I move to sit sit next to him but he pulls me by my arm and makes me sit in between his legs, on the floor. My back is on his chest and he has his arms around me, his chin is on the top of my head. My body tingles, I haven’t been this close to him in a long time.
We’re both quiet waiting for the other to speak first. I do.
“What did they say?”
He rubs his palms together.
“They stood up and left,”he says.
My heart sinks. But why? I should have known it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Sbani went back to the Eastern Cape and Lwandle went to Mqhele’s last night. I begged them to stay and wait but I don’t think they’re ready,” he says.
Will they ever be ready? I’m not even sure if I am ready.
“The thing Zazah is that they have had to deal with so much in the past few years and I lost them there along the way, I don’t know how to get through to them anymore,”he says.
They really are grown men I suppose, otherwise he would have slapped the attitude out of them.
“I told everyone to give us atleast two days alone, just so you can settle. They’ll come over on Saturday,” he says.
I’d appreciate that too. They all came to visit me once in a while but the truth is, it’s been too long and I really don’t know them that much anymore. There is also the wives, I’ve met only one of them, the other two didn’t even know I was alive until recently.
“Maybe we made a mistake Nkosana, maybe we should have told them the truth from the beginning,”I say. This thought has crossed my mind every single day.
I think he thinks so too because he doesn’t answer me, he just squeezes my hand.
There’s a sound coming from downstairs.
I turn to look at him.
“It’s the chef,” he says.
“The chef who is making us dinner for tonight,” he says.
What the heck?
“I don’t want a stranger cooking in my kitchen,” I say. What is wrong with him?
“I forgot how feisty you can be,”he says shaking his head.
“But don’t worry, it’s only for tonight, dinner just for the two of us,”he says.
It’s clear I am going to have that dinner naked because I have absolutely nothing to wear.
“I’m gonna go check on him in the kitchen,”he says standing up. He stops when he realises I’m not following him.
“I’m going to take a bubble bath,”I say.
He hesitates a little before walking out the door.
I’m going to use his facecloth, I don’t have one.
This bath-tub is bigger than my jail cell.
He’s back in five-minutes, just as I sit back and my whole body disappears under the white foam. I get a little uncomfortable, he hasn’t seen me naked since I was in my early 20s.
“I had that installed just for you a couple of months ago, I’ve never used it,” he says, I assume he’s referring to the gigantic bathtub. That was thoughtful of him, I’m not getting in a shower again for as long as I live.
“Thank you, Sthuli’skaNdaba,” I say, smiling.
He blushes. I used to call him that when I wanted to soften him or when he was mad at me for whatever reason.
He walks on to sit on top of the toilet. Why now? He’s supposed to leave me alone to my bath.
His phone rings, thank you! He goes out.
When I come out of the bathroom, wrapped in just a bath-towel, I find a dress on the bed. It’s a long maroon satin flowing dress, with a dropped back-line. I have no idea what’s going on.
I’m going to use his body lotion because I don’t know where he put my vanity bag. It’s quiet inside the house so he must be outside or somewhere on the far end of this ridiculously large house.
I drop the bath-towel on the floor. My skin has always been soft and spotless.
This lotion smells nice, masculine but nice. I apply it from the feet all the way to my……
He’s standing at the doorstep with his mouth open and eyes popped, with my vanity-case under his arm.
I quickly pick up the bath-towel and cover myself. He doesn’t seem too impressed by that.
“I brought this,” he says handing me the vanity-case.
“Let’s meet downstairs in 20 minutes,”he says and walks out the door.
He’s wearing black formal pants and a white shirt. I thought we were not going anywhere, now why is he formal and why must I wear this dress?
It’s a nice dress though and it fits me perfectly, the only thing wrong with this outfit is that I’m wearing jail-underwear under it.
My weave is on-point, I’m made up and I’m ready for whatever it is that I’m going downstairs for.
I see him, standing down there at the bottom of the stairs with his hands behind his back, he’s looking at me, he’s wearing a suit.
I take the first step. I have to hold on to the rails as I walk because I don’t know how to walk in high-heels anymore.
He doesn’t take his eyes off me, even when all he can see is my back because the stairs go…round… he keeps staring.
He stretches his arm when I’m on the third step from the last, I take it, he pulls me all the way down.
This is deep, but I don’t cry, I never do.
“Walk with me,” he says putting my hand on his elbow.
I do as he says.
He leads me to an opened sliding door and outside to a porch.
Wow! This is where we’re having dinner?
There are flowers all over, a set table for two people with candles and the works. He really took his time organising this.
“Sit,” he says pulling out a chair for me.
He moves to sit across me.
That suit goes really well with that grey hair. When I’m done being fascinated, I will take time to admire how dreamy and breathtaking this man of mine is. He matures like fine wine.
“Wine?” he asks, already opening the bottle.
I nod, I hope it’s nothing heavy because I don’t know if my body can handle alcohol at all.
He pours himself a glass too.
The last time I checked he drank Heineken, from a bottle. What is this now?
The chef appears, young boy, he could be Sbani’s age.
He places two big plates in front of us with something as big as my finger and a green salad next to it.
What on earth? Nkosana must not overwhelm me like this, atleast not today.
“We can ask for something else if you don’t like it,”he says.
“Let me try it first,” I say.
It’s just a strip of chicken. I eat it all at once. He eats the chicken and leaves the salad.
“So how are the brothers?” I ask as we wait for the next serving. I’ve stopped drinking the wine, I took two sips and my knees started feeling funny.
“They’re exactly the way you left them, except for that they are grown, they are still very much the same,”he says.
“How is Qhawe holding up?” I ask.
I can imagine how painful it was losing someone you love like that.
He rubs his palms together.
“He will live,”he says, looks down and goes back to his wine.
I’ll ask him myself when I see him.
The food is here. It’s lamb chops and vegetables, I’m glad it’s something simple because I was going to be confused, again.
“The food is nice, I love it,” I say before he starts thinking I don’t like it.
He hasn’t been eating much, and I know he loves his food.
“How is the crazy one?” I ask.
He smiles. He knows who I’m talking about.
“He’s fine, still crazy but you know, he’s perfect just the way he is,” he says.
Of all of them, he was the most interesting.
“I hope having a daughter has tamed him a bit,”I say.
His face lightens up as I mention ‘daughter’. I think this girl is his second love after me, the third is Orlando Pirates and Jimmy Dludlu.
“She has big eyes and looks exactly like all of us, atleast she got her mother’s complexion otherwise she’d look like a boy,” he says with a smile on his face, he loves that little girl, I can just tell.
My plate is almost empty.
“Does it taste better than Streetwise Two?” he asks.
I raise my eyes. We lock, and we both laugh out loud. He pulls something out of his jacket pocket.
“Here,” he says stretching his hand.
It’s a ring. I remember it.
“You kept this?”
“Yes, I kept you, us,” he says.
I know that look on his face, it’s the deep and hostile him.
“I love you,” I say.
He looks into my eyes. I know he loves me too.
I push the ring down my finger.
“No wait,” he says standing up and walking to me.
He takes the ring from my hand, looks into my eyes and puts it on my finger.
I have all kinds of emotions taking me over, but I don’t have tears to show.
“Where is yours?” I ask.
He takes it out of his pocket and hands it to me. I put it on his finger. He walks back to his chair.
“I’ll buy you a better one soon,” he says.
I keep looking at my finger. I remember that day very well, I was so looking forward to this moment.
We bought these rings at some jewelery store in Joburg. Mine was only R400, his was even cheaper. I’ve never wanted to hear the details of that day, as in what happened after I was thrown in that police car handcuffed. But when Mandisa came to see me soon after, she cried as she described how when everybody sat in church waiting for a bride in a white dress to walk in, Ngcobo walked in instead and walked straight to Nkosana at the front. He ran out of the church with his brothers following him. That was the end of it. All Ngcobo announced to the guest was “the wedding has been canceled”, he gave no explanation whatsoever.
“You’re thinking about that day aren’t you?” he says, bringing me back to this present moment.
“I was worried about you the whole time,” I say.
He puts his hand over mine.
“We’re here now, no need to worry anymore,” he says.
Dessert is here. Oh wow, he remembered my favorite, custard and pudding.
“Here you go mam,” the chef says putting the bowl in front of me.
“You remembered,” I say looking at Nkosana.
“I never forgot,” he says. I like that little smile on his face.
He’s not having dessert.
“You want more?” he asks after I wipe the bowl clean.
I shake my head.
If I eat anymore food tonight I’ll wake up five times heavier tomorrow.
He stands up and stretches his hand. I take it and follow him to wherever we’re going. I haven’t seen the rest of the house, I wanted to do it before I go to sleep, but it’s 9pm already and we are heading up the stairs.
“What is that?” I say pointing at the door at the end of the passage.
“The office,” he says.
I want to go there but he holds me by the waist and pulls me to the opposite direction.
“You have all the time in the world for that,” he says.
He leads me to our bedroom and closes the door behind him.
“Don’t close the door!” I panic.
He stops and stares. And then seems to have remembered something. He pulls one half of the door open.
I walk on to sit on the bed and take my shoes off, leaving them there on the floor. He walks to me, picks the shoes up and put them somewhere in the closet.
I just sit there, he takes off his jacket and stands by the closet looking at me.
I’m nervous now.
And then he walks towards me.
“Let me help you out of that,” he says.
I stand up. I’m really nervous now.
He stands behind me, pulls the side-zip down and the dress drops to my ankles. Eish…..this underwear.
I feel his lips touch my shoulder and his hands going down my arms.
“You’re beautiful Zandile,” he says, softly.
I’m standing still, I don’t know what to do, it’s been too long since I’ve been touched like this.
He undoes my bra, drops it to the floor and cups both my breasts in his hands.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he says kissing the back of my neck.
His hands move downwards to my waist, my stomach, I put my hand over his, his skin is still as soft as it was.
I turn around to face him, he’s still fully dressed. He starts unbuttoning his shirt.
I raise my eyes, they meet his.
“Nkosana,” I say.
“Mnnnnnnn” he says still unbuttoning his shirt.
“ I don’t know…..there’s been women,” I say.
He keeps unbuttoning with one hand and another caressing my back.
“They didn’t matter Zandile,” he says.
I’m still not sure. I’m not sure if I’m ready to go that far yet. But this is Nkosana, he gets what he wants, when he wants it.
But he shocks me.
“I’ll understand if you’re not ready yet. I can wait,” he says leaving his shirt half-buttoned.
I think he’s waited for this moment for years. I dreamt about it too, a lot in the early years.
But now, I want to know him again, I want to know more.
I quickly pick up a bath towel neatly folded on the couch next to the bed and cover myself. He doesn’t like this but he doesn’t say anything.
I pull him by hand to the bed. He lies down. I lie next to him with half my upper body on top of his chest, my hand on my cheek, and I look at him.
He laughs and looks away for a second.
“Do you remember how scared you were the first time we made love. And then, when we were done, you lay like this, exactly like you are now and looked at me. And you didn’t want to go home,” he says.
“I was 14-years-old Nkosana, and you tricked me, you were such a naughty boy,” I say.
“You drove me crazy. I had to beg you for days to sneak out with me,” he says.
I was so young and so in-love. He was 17 but looked like a grown man. That day, we both sneaked out of school and went to his home. I don’t know how he convinced me to do that, he was such a charmer. I think I agreed because I was worried that if I said no, another girl would say yes. Every girl at school and the village was mesmerized by him, with all the Zulu boys. But, we all knew they were a no-go area, the whole community hated and feared that family. But I’ve always been a risk taker so I broke all the rules.
“And then, your mother came back home early and I had to sneak out through the window,” I say. We both laugh. But his smile disappears very quick. I know what just crossed his mind.
“I’m not going back. Never,” I say.
I don’t want to go back, that place, those people, they are the reason my life turned out the way it did. I’m never going back there.
“Hey hey, come here,” he says pulling me up until my head is on his shoulder.
“Don’t think about it too much, your life and family is here, with me and our kids. And you are a grandmother now so you have more important things to worry about,” he says.
I smile and shake my head.
“Do I look like a grandmother?”
“No, you’re far too sexy,” he says.
He’s always been a charmer.
This is nice, today has been great, but eventually when we get used to being with each other, we’re going to start a relationship and that’s going to be hard. I’m going to try to put my family together again, just the four of us and our grandchild.
He’s been fidgeting and seemingly uncomfortable with this cuddling thing since we got into bed, but he’s still holding me tight.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“I’ll be fine. I don’t want to fall asleep,” he says.
I don’t want to fall asleep either, I might just wake up tomorrow to find that this is all a dream.
“I’ll still be here in the morning Nkosana,”
He brushes my back.
“I thought about you every day before I fell asleep. I wished you were here, lying next to me like this, even when I was with……..”
He stops talking.
“How many were there?” I ask.
I thought I wasn’t going to go there, not on my first night out of jail but the sooner we get through these things the better.
“I doesn’t matter Zandile, none of them mattered,”he says.
I’m not letting this go that easily.
“Why did Mvelo’s mother leave?” I ask.
“I couldn’t touch her,” he says.
“What do you mean you couldn’t touch her? you had a child together,”
He runs his hand up my back all the way to the back of my head.
“I couldn’t, not like this, I couldn’t lie in bed like this with her or do things with her that I used to do with you and wish I was doing with you right now……” he says.
I thought he said he could wait.
But that must have been a hard relationship.
“I tried, I really tried, but in the end she realised it was all a waste of time, and so she left, tried to take my child with her but I told her not to test me, that was the last day she ever cared about him, or saw him until the funeral,”he says.
To be honest, I resented her for being in his life.
“How many others?” I insist.
His hand moves again, downwards this time.
“I don’t know?”
He lost count? Were they that many?
“Do we have to talk about this Zah? Tonight?” he asks.
It’s funny how he is always so calm, calm but commanding.
“No, I know, I’m sorry,” I say.
He’s still fidgeting, I know what it is, he’s fighting the urge to make love to me, but I can’t help him, not now.
“You still have this scar?” I ask brushing the left side of his chest with my hand. I thought he was going to die the day he got it.
“Yeah, it’s not going to go away,”he says.
I remember screaming and trying to pull him away from it all, he kept pushing me behind him with his arm. He was still fighting, even when he was injured and bleeding.
Had things ended differently on that day, I would be Mrs Ngqulunga today.