Short Stories, Tale Africa

For the Love of the Game (2)

 

 

By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa

Sibongile walks back to her apartment feeling exhausted, emotionally rather than physically. After the disastrous morning meeting with Njabulo Zulu, she rushed back to her daytime job as a cashier at a local grocery store and had one of her worst days. From complaining customers to being short when cashing up, her day seemed to have been going from bad to worse. She went to her evening job feeling beat up. Sibongile looks forward to this job because it’s only two hours of cleaning the city library, and then she gets to do some of her private work. She did some reading before heading home where she has thrown herself on a couch. Her cellphone rings just as she closes her eyes to get some rest.

“Hello” she answers without checking the caller ID

“Miss Mkhize, how was your first meeting with Zulu?”

It’s the club manager! Sibongile sits up quickly as she snaps; “You really don’t want me to write this book, do you?”

He laughs before responding; “Are you crazy? I’m excited about that book. I want it to be launched at the centenary celebration…”

“Why send Zulu? You know he’s a jerk”

“He’s grandfather and father both played for Cranes, he’s a–”

“Legacy” they say simultaneously.

“Zulu isn’t all bad, you’ll realize this once you get to know him better.” Christopher comforts.

“Will he be the only person working with me on this?” Sibongile asks calmly.

“Yes, he’s out on long term injury so he is all yours.”

“Lucky me,” Sibongile says sarcastically

Christopher laughs and assures her that she’ll eventually get used to Njabulo. They say their goodbyes and Sibongile decides to check if Zitha made any dinner. She finds some leftover pizza in the microwave, digs in and rushes back to the lounge upon hearing her cellphone ring. She’s a hustler looking for a breakthrough, she can’t afford to miss any calls. An unknown number.

“Sibongile hello”

“MaMkhize, are you ready to get some work done?”

“Njabulo?”

“Chris tells me we’re on a tight deadline so we don’t have the luxury of time. We should meet tomorrow morning”

“I’m working, can we–”

“Where?” He interrupts

“Ethilomu”

Njabulo chuckles; “You’re a cashier?”

“Yes, anything wrong?”

“A cashier is supposed to be writing such an important book? A bloody cashier!”

“Listen, you know nothing about me and don’t you dare talk down on me. If you–”

“Okay I’m sorry, I’m sorry okay? Cashiers can write too, fine. Chris wants a chapter by the end of the week.”

“Why do you shorten a person’s surname anyway?” Sibongile is irritated to a point where she thinks even the sound of his voice is annoying.

“How do you know it’s a surname?”

“He is James Christopher” she answers as a matter-of-fact.

“Or Christopher James, it’s two names.”

Sibongile can’t help but laugh, she also finds this name amusing. Njabulo joins in the laughter before saying; “I’m glad I could make you laugh maybe now you could loosen up.”

“Fine, tomorrow at six in the afternoon.”

“I can’t wait that long, Christopher’s voice will be haunting me the whole day.”

“Deal with it!” Sibongile says and hangs up before he could respond. Only now does she wonder about Zitha’s whereabouts. Zitha spends most nights at her boyfriend’s place, or in the local bar with her friends. They get along well despite their different personalities. Zitha is outgoing and loud while Sibongile is reserved and soft spoken. Sibongile spends her days working and nights reading or writing, which is basically her work as a freelance writer. Zitha always invites her to go to parties with her even though she knows the response.

“Zitha” Sibongile calls out as she peeps into Zitha’s room and is shocked to find her sleeping. She checks the time in the clock on the wall, it’s just after 9 pm. She closes the door and goes back to the kitchen to finish her dinner, cold leftover pizza. Sibongile can’t help but wonder why Zitha is asleep so early. Just as she finishes the first slice of pizza she hears a knock on the front door. She takes another slice of pizza and goes to open the door while eating. She’s wondering who it could be at this hour. ‘Probably Zitha’s people’ she thinks as she opens. She is shocked to see a man with a walking cane standing there with a ridiculous grin on his face.

“Njabulo?”

“At your service.” He says pushing his way inside the apartment.

“What…”

“Writers don’t sleep right? Let’s get to work”

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