I’m nervous about all this.
I have no problem with the guys, it’s those wives that I’m worried about. From the little that Nkosana has told me about them, they seem to have come from proper homes with normal childhoods. I hope they won’t judge me.
I’m still also trying to work my way around this house. Nkosana left me alone for a few hours yesterday to go buy me stuff I need, but he flatly refused to buy me underwear so I still have to wear the one I used in jail and some ugly dress he came back with.
I’m scared to go out, I don’t know why but I’m not comfortable with it. He said I could go shopping this weekend with Hlomu but I also don’t know her that much, just that encounter we had a couple of years ago when she came to see me, pregnant and looking like she woke up and got in the car. I remember she was staring at me like some psycho.
They’ll all be here in a few hours, but Nkosana didn’t say anything about Sbani and Lwandle coming with them, atleast I’ll see my grandchild for the first time, to him, I’m going to be his grandmother and my past won’t be an issue at all, I hope.
And this family, all of them, they are all I have. I don’t know if I can ever go home, to what? I killed my mother and my father probably never wants to see me again. I don’t want to see him.
Nkosana said they tried to bring him closer after they confronted him about that attack that left Mvelo dead and after they found out that he had nothing to do with it, he even attended that 10-year wedding anniversary. But after they told him I was finally going to be released, he never wanted anything to do with them or my kids. And to be honest, I want nothing to do with him either, not after what he did to me when I was young.
“That looks good on you,” Nkosana says picking up an empty glass from the coffee table and taking it to the kitchen, he spends a few minutes there and I know he’s washing it, wiping it and putting it back in the cupboard, this is the part of him I didn’t miss at all.
“I was going to take it back,” I say when he comes back.
“No, it’s okay, it was leaving a round mark on the table anyway,” he says.
Maybe I must give him sex soon so he can lighten up.
“Have you decided what you’re going to cook?” he asks sitting down next to me.
I raise my eyebrows.
“I could call that chef back, that’s why I’m asking,” he says.
I don’t remember how to cook and I don’t even know now that they are rich and high up there in the social ladder, maybe they’re now into those foods with names I can’t even pronounce.
“I don’t know, I’m not even sure where to start,”I say.
He has this thing of rubbing the palms of his hands together like he’s feeling cold.
“We’ll have a braai then, I’ll call someone to make and deliver salads before everyone gets here,”he says.
That works for me, I hope he hasn’t forgotten that I’m naturally lazy.
“Come here,” he says putting his arm around my shoulders and pulling me close to him.
“The kids are not coming today. I’m trying to get them to come tomorrow so we can all sit and talk, just the four of us,”he says.
I’m dreading that moment. I’m desperate to see them, there hasn’t been a moment in the past two days that I haven’t wished they’d just walk through that door and hug and kiss me and tell me they missed me.
“Are they mad at me? For what I did to my mother?”
“No, they are more angry about us making them grow up believing you abandoned them on purpose. They are angry that we didn’t tell them the truth,” he says.
But we didn’t tell them anything at all.
The door burst open and a brood of little people come whoozing past me and up the stairs.
I hear a number of “hello baba”s as they run past Nkosana on the passage.
“They don’t shock me anymore, you’ll get used to them,” he says.
I see two cars parked outside. They’re here and those are some cars they’re driving!
“Where are they going?” I ask.
“Play centre, it’s two doors away from the office,” he says.
Oh I saw that yesterday.
“Did you see Mvelo amongst them?” he asks
I was about to ask. I can’t believe I didn’t recognise my own grandson, but then again, these people are freaks.
“He’s the smallest one,”he says.
He’s two-years-old now. I’ve seen him in pictures but he looks like the rest of them, like Lwandle the last time I saw him.
The first one walks in, It’s Mqoqi, no it’s not.
He stands still at the door, he doesn’t know what to do or say next, I don’t know either.
“Sambulo,” that’s all I can say.
Nkosana is standing next to me, also quiet.
I don’t know if I’m ready for this. The last time I saw Sambulo he was dropping off the make-up lady at Ngcobo’s house on the morning of what was supposed to be my wedding. He wasn’t even 21 yet.
A lady appears from behind him, she’s almost my height and she has the most beautiful eyes and long eyelashes.
“Hi, Zandile,” she says giving me a gigantic hug. I return it but this is a bit awkward.
“I’m Xolie. I heard you were pretty but I didn’t know it was this extreme,” she says with the biggest smile on her face and her hands on my shoulders.
She smells nice, like money and her hair is on point, atleast I have something in common with someone in this family.
“So, what are you cooking? Do you need help?” she says moving on to the kitchen table and looking inside the salad bowls. That’s a bit too comfortable of her.
Sambulo has walked on, I think to the porch with Nkosana., now I’m just standing here looking at this woman being all over my kitchen and helping herself to drinks in the fridge.
“So, I was thinking that we could all go to a beauty-spa, just the four of us ladies so we can catch up and then go shopping…” she says looking at my dress.
Is it that bad? I know I don’t like it but I had to wear it because Nkosana bought it but……
“I’ll make some bookings, we could even go away for the whole weekend……”
She’s still talking when I turn around to see someone at the door.
“You haven’t changed a bit,” he says.
“And you…..look like a grown man,” I say.
He’s always been the serious one, a total opposite of his almost-twin.
“Have you been good?” he asks looking at me with what I figure is concern on his face.
“I’m here, I’m going to be good now,” I say.
I can tell just by looking in his eyes that he’s been through so much. I would ask but I don’t know how far he is with dealing with it.
The last time I saw him was about four years ago when he just rocked up to visit me because Nkosana was too busy.
“Everything will be fine, you’ll see,” he says patting my shoulder and walking right along.
“MaMzobe,” he says looking at Xolie and walking off.
She nods. She became quiet and stopped whatever she was doing the moment he walked in, stood with her arms folded and dropped her eyes when he greeted her.
“So, have you been out yet since you came home? For lunch or something?” she asks.
She’s back to being bubbly.
“Not really, I’ve been here in the house the whole time, I’m still trying to get used to being here,” I say.
She flaps her lashes a few times, I’ve noticed she blinks rapidly.
“I like your weave,” she says looking at me like it’s weird that I have a weave on.
“We had a hair-salon in prison, and they did allow weaves in,” I say.
She seems shocked by this, oh! The innocent comfortable ones, they know nothing about the outside world.
“We must go shopping, it’s not negotiable. I’m going upstairs to check on those big-eyed kids,” she says squeezing my arm.
Another car parks outside, I’m beginning to feel like a door lady here. And why am I in the kitchen, alone, when everybody is doing their own thing somewhere all over this house.
It’s a sports car, I don’t know what it is. A lady comes out, she’s alone, she’s wearing high heels and tight jeans, sunglasses and is on her cellphone as she walks up the stairs. Very glamorous.
She pushes the door open and freezes when she sees me.
“Hi,” she says taking off her sunglasses.
I return the greeting, reluctantly, I don’t know who she is but she has a very large diamond glittering on her finger.
“What were they feeding you in there? You are so fresh,” she says trying to touch my cheek. I move my face before her hand reaches me.
“Are you okay? I mean, you’ve been locked up for years and this must be overwhelming for you…..all this,” she says looking around the house.
Is this for real?
“Tell you what, when you get used to freedom and all that, you must tell me all about it, I’ve been watching “Orange is the new Black and I want to know if all that stuff is real and……..”
“Gugu!” a voice says from behind me.
It’s Nkosana, he doesn’t look too happy.
She drops her eyes and scurries off to the lounge. This one too? Okay, I understand with Nkosana, he’s always been the intimidating type but I don’t get why Xolie would be like that with Qhawe.
“She must be Nqoba’s wife,” I say.
“He chooses them very carefully, are you okay? You don’t have to be in the kitchen you know, just come to the porch with us,” he says.
Yes, I must leave this kitchen, it’s not like I’m cooking anyway, or will be cooking anytime soon.
He takes my hand and I follow him out of the kitchen.
There’s already noise in the house but only three of them have arrived so far. They’re laughing and teasing each other. Some things never change!
I sit next to Nkosana on the couch outside in the porch, Sambulo and Qhawe are sitting across us, looking at me.
It becomes quiet. Someone needs to break the ice.
“I wanted to come fetch you, with drum majorettes and a brass-band but Nkosana said no,”
It’s Nqoba. He’s standing at the doorway with his hands in his pockets and is speaking very softly with that hoarse voice of his.
“Are you ever going to change?” I say.
“It’s good to have you home Zandile,” he says, now serious.
He’s starting to get grey hair too.
He sits next to the other two.
I sit and stare at them.
“You all have aged,” I say.
They all laugh out loud at the same time. Nkosana has his arm around my shoulder, he pulls me close to his face, looks at me and smiles.
Just in that moment Gugu struts in with a bucket of ice and a tray full of alcohol. She’s still wearing heels?
But she doesn’t sit with us, she puts everything on the table and leaves after greeting Nqoba. I don’t even know why they arrived separately.
“So who’s going to start the fire?”-Nkosana.
“Noooooo, we’ll wait for the young ones,” Sambulo.
I see they still bully the little ones.
I’m sitting here but all I’m thinking about is my grandson. I want to go hug and kiss him although he doesn’t know who I am.
I think Nkosana can sense that my mind is no longer here.
I turn around when I hear a toddler screaming. She’s stretched her arms out and wants to jump to Nkosana.
He turns around and with the biggest smile on his face he stretches his arms out and takes her.
“Hello my Mthaniya,” he says kissing her cheek.
There, at the doorway is Mqhele, standing and staring at me.
“You look younger than the last time I saw you,” he says.
He was always going to say the most random thing.
“Hello troublemaker,” I say.
If I were to sit and count all the scandals he put us through when he was a teenager, it would take the whole day.
Behind him is a familiar face.
He puts his arm around her shoulder the moment she appears.
“You two already met so no need for introductions,” he says moving along to sit.
He is pulling her by her hand but she pulls away, he turns around to look at her and she gives him what seems like an assuring look.
I’ve seen them together for only two minutes but I can conclude that they’re weird.
He sits next to his brothers. Now four of them are squashed together on a three-seater couch, staring at me with gigantic eyes.
“Are you getting used to the environment?”-Mqhele.
“I think I am. I mean you all have been in jail too,” I say.
They all laugh. I laughed too when Nkosana told me about it although I knew it was serious.
Hlomu has come to sit next to me.
I turn around to look at her. She looks better today, a bit more presentable although I must say that she is too plain for my liking.
“That hairdo offer still stands you know,” I say poking her arm.
She laughs. Damn! She’s gorgeous.
“Come on, you can’t be sitting with these people, for what?” she says standing up and pulling me by the arm.
I might as well go because this man of mine has forgotten all about me, his attention is on this giggling toddler he is holding.
I notice that Mqhele looks at Hlomu from the moment we stand up to when we disappear into the house. His eyes move with her.
I haven’t held a child in years, maybe that’s why I didn’t offer to hold Niya. I hope they didn’t find it strange.
Hlomu is still pulling me by hand. She looks thinner than she did the last time I saw her. Oh she was pregnant by the way.
“Are you good? Is eveything going well, Nkosana was nervous about you coming back,”she says.
Nkosana? Nervous? Noooo.
“I’m serious, I think he was worried about whether you two will be able to connect again,”she says.
I think she doesn’t know that me and and Nkosana have never gone a month without seeing each other in all these years, but from what I’ve heard, she knows everything.
“You made these?” she asks with a look that says she doesn’t think so.
“No, Nkosana had it delivered, I’m not much of a cook,”
“Mnnnnnn,” she says.
“You should have called me, I would have brought salads,”she says.
Mqhele appears from out of nowhere. He goes straight to her and puts his arm around her waist. He whispers something in her ear and she laughs and raises her face to kiss him on the lips. She has to stand on her toes to reach his face, just like I do with Nkosana.
They catch me staring and they let go. He leaves. She’s still smiling to herself when our eyes meet.
“Don’t mind him, you know how he is,”she says.
I can’t say that’s true, I remember how he was before he met her, he wasn’t like this.
Our eyes keep meeting, in a rather awkward way. She knows what I want to talk about but I have a feeling she wants me to raise the subject first.
I want to but I’m scared I might get answers I don’t want.
“When was the last time you spoke to them?” I ask after gathering some strength.
She doesn’t turn to look at me.
“They call me everyday, it’s the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning,” she says.
Why does that hurt me a little?
“Is there wine in this house?” she asks opening the top cupboards.
I’ve noticed that they are all too comfortable in this house. They go about as if it’s their house or a second home maybe.
She finds it somewhere and pulls out a corkscrew from the drawer, a wine glass in another cupboard but she puts it back immediately and pulls out a coffee mug from another cupboard.
She knows exactly where everything is.
“I forgot we’re in this house, we have to drink smart,” she says pouring the wine in the mug.
She offers me some but I refuse it. She shrugs.
“Soon you’ll be drinking trust me, the drama of this family will drive you to it,”she says and laughs.
I can’t believe I’m standing here with the woman who raised my children. I always pictured her hugging them and taking them to school and laughing with them in moments that were supposed to be mine.
“So have you seen Mvelo?” she asks randomly.
I shake my head. She raises her eyebrows.
“He doesn’t exactly know who I am,” I say.
“Don’t worry, he’s two, he doesn’t know who he is either,” she says.
The door swings open.
It’s Mqoqi, with a girl, he’s on the phone.
“I’ll call you back,” he says and hangs up.
He takes a few steps towards me but stops just before he’s too close. I thought a hug was coming but then that would be unusual.
“Sis Zah,” he says.
He looks different, he used to be the scruffy one.
“I hear you’re running around in motorbikes, you’re still addicted to danger I see,” I say.
He’s too serious right now.
He blushes and looks away.
“No, it’s Joburg traffic I have a problem with,” he says.
His face softens.
“Mami,”he says looking at Hlomu.
He calls her ‘mami’too?
The girl behind him has been standing there like a statue. She looks scared.
“I’m glad you’re home,”he says and walks on leaving all three of us standing in the kitchen.
This Hlomu woman is gulping wine like she’s drinking plain water. She’s pouring the second cup already.
“Oh, this is Amanda, Mqoqi’s other half,”she says smiling at her.
The girl still looks scared. She looks at me and says a reserved hello. I wonder what this is all about.
“I need to use the loo,”-Amanda.
She’s gone. I’m confused.
“Ah, don’t worry, she’s a bit shy. I don’t even know why she’s so scared of me,” she says.
I’m also confused.
“I’m going upstairs, I haven’t seen the twins since Sambulo came and collected them last night. I’ll come back with your grandson,” she says and leaves just like that with the mug still in her hand.
I think I’m going to have my hands full here, these people are not normal.
Another car, I hope it’s the last one.
I wait for the door to open.
There’s two of them.
The first one in looks at me and says “hi”, It’s Ntsika, he was very young the last time I saw him. He doesn’t know what to say to me.
“Hi, they’re all out there in the porch,”I say.
This is a rather uncomfortable moment.
I smile and hush him to walk on. He hesitates a little but walks on eventually. He seems a bit different from all of them.
I turn around and there he is, his hands behind his back. He looks exactly like Nkosana looked before I left.
“Boy, boy,” I say.
I expected a smile but it’s not there. He’s biting his lower lip, I know this scene very well.
“Don’t do that, you’re a grown man now,” I say, but I can’t stop him.
I walk to him. He’s standing still.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” I say patting his back. He’s too tall, just like all of them.
It’s a while before he loosens up and returns the hug.
The dress I’m wearing is wet on the shoulder, he’s still crying.
“Mpande don’t do this,” I say pushing him off and looking in his eyes.
He cries more.
I have no choice but to put his head back on my shoulder and wait for him to compose himself.
Nqoba appears and dissappears immediately when he sees us.
He lets go when we hear noise coming down the stairs, it’s the kids.
“I’m not a boy-boy anymore,”he says.
I laugh. He laughs.
“Have you been behaving?” I ask.
That naughty smile of his appears.
“I could say that, whatever you heard about me was exaggerated by people who don’t like me,” he says.
I laugh out loud. When I look at him again, his face has changed to serious, his eyes intense, I swear I just saw Nkosana there in him.
“I thought you were never coming back……” he says.
The brood comes racing in and there’s immediate chaos. The kids of this family seem to have no order at all, I think they’ve been spoiling them.
“Say hello to mama,” Xolie shouts to all of them. There’s immediate silence, all of them looking up at me with those eyes. I smile, it’s not helping.
“I saw you,” one says.
He’s looking up at me. His front teeth are missing.
“You saw me….?”
“Yes, I saw you there,” he says pointing at the sketch hanging on the wall.
Strange that the kid was able to figure that out.
“Oh wow! It really is you, that sketch has been around forever. It’s been at every house Nkosana has lived in,”-Hlomu.
I look down and the toothless one has gone back to causing chaos with the others.
“Outside!” Hlomu screams. They all head for the door at once but one is on her hip.
She hands him to me when the kitchen is quiet again. I don’t know what happened to Mpande, he just disappeared.
He smells of baby Vaseline, it reminds me of Lwandle’s smell. I hold him tighter and try to put his head on my shoulder but he resists, he wants to look at my face instead. He is sucking on his two fingers, Sbani used to suck on the same fingers when he was a baby, I had to put chillies on them so he could stop. I remember how angry Nkosana was when I did that.
“Say hello gogo,”Hlomu says brushing his back.
He looks at her, and then me, and then he smiles and touches my face.
Inside I’m crying but tears are not coming out, I finished them all years ago.
My knees get weak, I have to sit. I slide down all the way until I’m butt-flat on the kitchen floor, still holding my grandson tight to my chest.
Hlomu rushes out. I hear her shouting: “Nkosana!”
They all come running in at once. Nkosana sees me on the floor and raises his hand. They all disappear at once.
He comes and sits on the floor next to me, but doesn’t say anything.
“It feels like I’m holding Lwandle,” I say to him.
He says nothing.
We sit here until little Mvelo starts fidgeting , he must be bored and wondering why we are hogging him.
I let him go and he walks to stand next to the door, he can’t reach the handle and he can’t speak yet.
His eyes start wandering all over the place, he’s frustrated. I’ve seen this too many times, this is one heck of a family.
We both stand up, Nkosana opens the door for him and he runs off. We take that walk back to the porch.
“You still haven’t started the fire?”he says to all of them. They’re just sitting here drinking beer.
I don’t see Niya anymore, she’s probably sleeping.
Their wives are sitting at the dining table drinking things from coffee-mugs, except for that other one who still looks scared.
I might as well join them.
“There will be no braai, we might as well call Meet&Grill,”-Xolie.
“What are we ordering?” Hlomu says scrolling her cellphone.
“Everything, salads are here already, add more chicken Phakeme doesn’t eat red meat remember?”-Xolie.
“And rolls too, I’m not cooking pap,”-Gugu
“They don’t sell rolls,”-Xolie
“Well, they’re gonna have to go find them somewhere because we need them,”-Hlomu, she’s typing on her phone.
“So when you say done, you mean the meat issue is sorted?” I ask.
They all raise their eyes to look at me, like I’ve just asked them a stupid question.
“What is Meet&Grill?” I ask.
Amanda looks at me. She probably doesn’t know the story.
“It’s a restaurant,”-Xolie.
“So they’re going to deliver food for 19 people?”- I ask, I have to, I don’t understand this.
That look again.
“But you didn’t call them,” I say.
“I SMSd the owner,”-Hlomu.
I give up!
“You’re quiet,” Nkosana says as we climb the stairs up to the bedroom.
The house is spotless. They cleaned up before they left, atleast there’s something they can still so with their hands other than typing SMSs to order food for their husbands.
“I’m just trying to digest today and everything that happened. It’s going to take a while before I get used to this kind of life,” I say taking my shoes off, leaving them on the floor.
He gives me the look. I pick them up and put them in the closet.
“When you say this kind of life you mean?”
“I mean the life of ordering food through SMS, straight from the restaurant owner, and the cars and everything,” I say.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to get used to it.
“Don’t look at it in a bad way. The truth is we work hard and give the women we love everything, they make home and take care of our children. At the end of the day, no matter what crazy things we get to do or they get to do because they have too much money, we know that when shit hits the fan, they will be here. So if they want to order food through SMS or go to beauty spas all day, it doesn’t bother us, if they’re happy we are happy,” he says.
Now that’s a long speech. I still don’t get it though.
“And you, MaFuze, you must go buy clothes,” he says.
True, It’s been three days.
“I miss him already,” I say.
At first he looks confused.
“Mvelo, I miss holding him,”
He walks from his side of the bed until he is standing behind me in front of the huge wall mirror. He runs his hands from the top of my shoulders down my arms, and kisses the back of my neck.
I put my hands over his but doesn’t let go this time. He slips his hands under my dress, they are warm, they caress me all the way up to my hips, my waist, my back until he pulls my dress over my head and leaves me completely exposed.
I wrap my arms around me.
He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t stop.
I feel his fingers between my skin and the helm of my panties, he pulls them down once and they drop to my ankles.
I take a deep breath.
“It’s me Zandile, remember me,” he whispers behind my neck. Our eyes have been locked on the mirror throughout this.
I’m standing here frozen. He pulls my arms apart and looks at me in the mirror in front of us.
“You’re still beautiful,” he says.
He tries to turn me around to face him but my body is stiff.
“Let me in…..please,” he says.
I want to let him in, but I can’t break this wall I’ve kept around me all these years.
This is the man you love Zandile, let him love you….
I can’t, I don’t remember him…
The hands go up to my breasts as these thoughts battle each other on my mind. He undoes the bra and throws it on the floor. I am fully exposed in front of the mirror with him behind me, still fully dressed.
I quickly put my hand over the scar on the left of my stomach.
“No, don’t, you gave me my children through that,” he says removing my hand.
I got the scar from Lwandle’s caesarian.
Our eyes meet on the mirror again.
He moves to stand in front of me, I can see his back on the mirror, he’s facing me now.
Our lips meet but he stops just as I return the kiss reluctantly. He kisses my neck….my shoulders….my chest…my breasts… my tummy..my hips and all the way until he is down on his knees. He stands up and turns me around before he kisses the back of my neck all the way down to the back of my thighs. And then he turns me around to face him again.
I’m standing here like a frozen chicken. I look down and our eyes meet again. He puts one hand between my thighs to separate them. I feel his lips first before his tongue coming in. I make the first sound since all this started. His hands are on my bums, he pushes his tongue deeper and before I can stop myself my hand is brushing his head.
My knees are shaking.
He stands up again and kisses me on the lips.
He cups my breasts, they fill up his hand. I remember this, he used to love doing it.
He tries to pull me but I still don’t move, and so he lifts me and puts me on the bed, on my back.
“Don’t move,”he whispers.
I do as he says.
He lies on top of me, careful not to let his body loose. He again kisses me from the neck down, all the way to my thighs. He opens my legs wide and I feel his tongue coming in, I almost sit up.
“Don’t move,” he says.
I can’t help it.
He restrains me by holding both my arms down with his hands. His shoulders are over my thighs, I can’t move them.
He’s back up on my face just as I struggle to control myself.
“I need you Zazah,” he whispers, his face is on my shoulder, I can feel his lips touching my ear as he whispers.
I keep quiet. I need him too, but……my body is tense.
“Let me in, please,”he whispers again as I feel the pressure of him coming in.
He struggles wit the three first pushes and then I feel him, all of him inside me.
He moves in and out about three times and whispers again.
“Please, let me in, please,”
He’s inside me already. He wants me to let him into my heart, mind and soul.
He moves again, I can’t fight the feeling anymore.
I wrap my arms around his back, he pushes harder.
“Please baby, be with me, please” he begs.
Slowly I feel my body letting loose. The more he moves the less the strength I have to fight him……
He feels it too.
“I love you,” he whispers before he starts moving really fast and holding me very tight.
I can’t speak.
“Nkosana….I missed you,” I manage to whisper.
He holds me tighter and moves faster. I hold him tighter, too tight. I remember him.
He pulls out just as my moaning grows louder.
He turns me to lie on my side, he lies on his side too, facing me while pulling my leg up and slips in again. He slips one arm under my neck and pulls my face close to his.
“Look at me,” he says, still moving inside me, slower now.
I do as he says.
“I love you,” he whispers before kissing my lips.
I tighten my arms around him. He moves faster and my body gives in. He waits for it stop trembling. He pulls out and hold me tighter.
I try to pull him back in.
“No, this was for you,” he whispers.