Short Stories, Tale Africa

For the Love of the Game (7)

 

By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa

“I’ve been submitting full chapters to the editors so that the work goes faster. They will handle the order in which they will appear in the book, and the book layout is up to the publisher.”

“How many chapters left on your side?”

“About three”

“Do you still need Zulu?”

“Not really. I know he’s back I’m training and he has already organised for me to meet his father personally. We’ve met quite a number of former players as well, even from the Brigadier era.”

“I’m impressed. I honestly thought you wouldn’t be able to handle such a big project in the little time you had.”

Sibongile smiles confidently, she likes it when she proves people wrong. She has been working tirelessly on this project, while trying to keep up with the PR work as well. The amount of work at the Cranes caused her to resign at the city library as well, plus the pay is more than triple what she made at both the grocery store and the library. She now understands how the players live such luxurious lives; the pay in football is super generous. Yes she’s getting paid for both PR and writing the book, but she doubts all writers earn this much.

“Let me know keep you then, let me know if you need anything.” Christopher says and exits the PR office.

Sibongile goes back to work immediately, ignoring the noise made by her coworkers. With the centenary celebration drawing closer, pressure is mounting up. Her affair with Njabulo is not making things any easier either. Since that silly kiss on a silly afternoon, they’ve had more silly moments hidden behind working on the book. Even though there is regret, Sibongile can’t seem to let go of their stolen moment, or maybe she just doesn’t want to. They’ve been very discrete but guilt will make every innocent look suspicious, like the beholder knows her secret and is dying to gossip about it. Her thoughts are disturbed by Njabulo’s SMS asking her to meet him in his car. She quickly packs away her stuff and heads for the door. The team never asks about her comings and goings because the book project demands her to be out of the office quite often.

“So you’re still denying sleeping with him?” Kevin whispers as Sibongile dashes out of the PR office.

She frowns as she eyes him from toes to the head. “What’s your problem?”

“Consider this a friendly warning; stop whatever you’re doing with Njabulo.”

“Kevin, what is it with you heh? Did you want to be working on the book instead of Njabulo?”

“He has slept with almost all those ladies at PR and at HR, he–”

“Do you wish to sleep with him too?”

“Sibongile–”

“Leave me alone Kevin, okay? Geez!” Sibongile pushes past Kevin.

She enters the car fuming. She bangs the door and roughly places her handbag on her lap. “Let’s go”

Njabulo raises one eyebrow as he asks; “You’ll meet my dad with that attitude? If you thought I was arrogant, then my dad–”

“Kevin”

Njabulo frowns. “What did he do?”

“Did something happen between the two of you?”

“What did he do Sibongile?”

“Told me you’ve slept with every skirt at Cranes.”

Njabulo unties his seatbelts as he says; “Gha I’ll show him.”

Sibongile holds his left hand and says; “Are you going to meet your father with that attitude? Let’s just go.”

“I’ll deal with him when we come back.” He and starts the engine. “You know what? He’s not even worth it.” He adds.

But Sibongile wonders how true these allegations could be. She did have a feeling of hostility between Njabulo and Kevin since the celebration night but chose to ignore it. She admits that she cannot ignore it anymore, she’ll get to the bottom of it.

“He hates me,” Njabulo says out of the blue.

They’ve been driving silently for what seems to be a lifetime for Sibongile who doesn’t even know where they are headed.

“Why?”

“He was the leading striker at Cranes before I arrived and took the position from him, he is a sub for me now. At Badimo he left two seasons after his arrival because he felt like he wasn’t given game time. He found me at Badimo so it wasn’t an issue to move, so imagine me arriving at what he thought was his turf.”

“And the women?”

Njabulo smiles and steals a look at Sibongile who is comfortably seated on his passenger seat. “There was this one girl neh…” He laughs

“And when was this?” Sibongile isn’t amused by all this, a little jealous maybe.

“A while back. He wanted the girl, the girl wanted me – it was that simple. Unfortunately I wasn’t into her at all. Kevin has issues.”

“Have we arrived?” Sibongile asks noticing that they are entering a compound that looks like the Nigerian houses in Nollywood movies.

“Yes, the nasty old man resides here. Get ready.”

Nerves shot up. Sibongile is now literally shaking. Forget Njabulo Zulu, do you know Jabulane ‘The Rock’ Zulu? As an old football fan Sibongile has heard/read quite a lot of The Rock, enough to be intimidated and turn into a nervous wreck. Sibongile’s father was a football fanatic. The type that has the house painted with the colours of their favourite soccer team, travels for games, and has a membership card for the team’s fan club. He wasn’t just a member of the club, he was the long serving president. He would take Sibongile to some games and the little girl fell in love with the sport at an early age. She even played during her school years and in tertiary decided to focus on school but her love for the sport never stopped. She still attends soccer games, which always make her the odd one out among her female friends. When her father died he was buried by the soccer team he supported all his life, buried like a true legend of the sport.

“Ready?” Njabulo asks as they stand outside his parents’ house.

“Let’s do this” Sibongile replies gathering all her courage. This is a big moment for her. Not only is she meeting her father’s idol, she’s meeting her secret boyfriend’s parents.

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