Short Stories, Tale Africa

The Maiden and The Bear (11)

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By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:

It is a few hours before Ntombi’s memulo. I’ve been here for the whole week, cooped up in one room the entire time it’s called ukugonqa. It’s been so much fun though. These two girls are crazy; we talk and laugh so loud sometimes that Ntombi’s aunt tells us to cool it. The first day was an adventure for me. I was excited to actually be in a village and experience the life. Mzuvele dropped me off at night and the next morning we fetched wood, water and I made a fire. Makhosi and Ntombi laughed at me but the excitement was real, it is real. There is no electricity in the whole area, only the Hadebes and the Mbheles have generators. At first I thought life would be difficult but it isn’t. Instead we get to communicate more, sit around the fire and just talk. I gave my phone to Mzuvele to charge but decided not to take it back. Besides I’ll be the only person staring at a phone anyway. Makhosi has a phone too but never uses it. She says she will only use it once she moves to their new home. But if it wasn’t for that man I would still be stuck in those suburbs bored stiff. It is funny how one person can totally change your life.

“Xoli,” Makhosi calls out

I might be staring into space again, I do that whenever Mzuvele visits my mind. I look at her and they both just laugh at me. I think I missed something.

Ntombi: “What are you thinking?”

Makhosi: “I know; it’s tall, muscularand dark with big eyes and a deep voice.”

We all laugh. That’s my man!

Ntombi: “We need to go bath by the river.”

“Huh?” I pop my eyes out.

***

They were not joking; we are walking in darkness now headed for the river. It is a bit cold, I can only imagine how cold the water is. There are more girls from the village who have been teaching us songs for the ceremony. The sister in-laws are here as well – all four of them. Confession: I still don’t know all the brother in-laws, I doubt I ever will. I stand and watch as they all get into the water. I don’t think I can do this. It’s amazing how these girls are comfortable in their bodies. They are all walking around naked and pouring water like its warm or something, they are even singing.

Zethu: “Sisi, aren’t you bathing?”

Damn this girl! Everyone was busy, no one was noticing me now they are all looking at me. I smile. I’m a selfie master, my smile is already ready no matter the situation.

Ntombi: “You will get used to the water once you get in. Come on.”

I don’t like the attention I’m getting right now. I walk into the water still wrapped with a towel and slowly start washing my face. By the time I finish bathing the other girls are singing and dancing as they put on their traditional attire. I get dressed quickly, I can’t dance anyway. I sit on a rock and watch until eventually breakfast comes, pap and tripe. We eat by the river. The ceremony seems be taking place here until, after what feels like a lifetime, they come fetch us. Now the celebration begins.

***

As if we are not exhausted enough, today we are accompanying Makhosi to her new home. The princess wanted to leave after Ntombi’s memulo, so here we are. There is another ceremony going in – welcoming the prodigal son. I don’t know what is going on here but Makhosi’s mother isn’t happy. We are now sitting in the princess’s hut waiting for warm water and food. I think I like it here, we don’t do anything. There are a lot of maids that do everything Makhosi tells them to. Makhosi doesn’t seem to get how cool all this is, she also doesn’t want to be here. They had a family meeting earlier and she came back very upset. Before we could start eating, Makhosi receives a call and we have to hurry out – sneak out. Mbongeni is outside with Mnqobi, my Mzu and Nqobizitha. They came in Mzuvele’s car and we won’t fit in the car. He drives a white golf, old little thing. I don’t know why they didn’t come in Mbongeni’s taxi. I was so impressed when I heard he owns that taxi. He saved all the money he made as a taxi driver and bought his own taxi.

We walk around the car and follow them into the nearby bush. Mnqobi is already whispering something to Ntombi and they are giggling. Nqobizitha seems irritated, but then again he hardly smiles. He only breaks into a loud laughter when he is teasing someone. I know he enjoys inflicting pain on other people. Mbongeni looks at Makhosi like she is a diamond, I can’t explain it, he hardly moves his eyes from her. He does everything for her, I like it. Mzuvele is quiet, he is just not the talking type even with me. It was awkward in the beginning because I’m also quiet but eventually I got used to it. I enjoy our long silent conversations.

Mnqobi: “Your father sends greetings.” He says poking Ntombi. That one is a little rough, with everyone.

Ntombi: “Please! Does he even know my name? Besides he would never speak to you.”

Nqobizitha: “Like any sane father would like this one, or even trust him with his daughter.”

Everybody laughs except Mnqobi. Maybe he really wants the father’s blessing. He also seems to have issues with his father. Mzu mentioned how they always argue, Mnqobi and their father.

Mbongeni: “At least Khosi’s father likes me.” He is holding her by the way.

Mnqobi: “That one likes whatever the princess likes.”

And it’s true. I’ve noticed how Makhosi’s parents spoil her and she still remains humble. If you didn’t know she was rich, you would not guess it. She is just a bubbly child.

Makhosi: “Keep quiet fool.” She turns to me; “Xoli how is your dad? You hardly talk about him.”

Me: “I don’t really know him.”

Ntombi: “Don’t say he left for the city like that man my mother married.”

I really don’t like talking about my father because I don’t even have a memory of him.

Me: “He died apparently in a stick fight.”

The guys exchange looks.

Ntombi: “I didn’t know they stick fight in town!”

I giggle as I reply; “No man. We used to live in a village called Emadlangeni. My mother moved to town with me and my sisters after our father died but all my brothers remained there. They only visit us in town.”

Everybody suddenly get tense. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me, this is why I’d rather not mention my father

Mzuvele: “We need to go.”

Ntombi and Makhosi look as puzzled as I am. The guys leave us and rush back to car. It seems as if something is chasing them.

Makhosi: “And then?”

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