Short Stories, Tale Africa

For the Love of the Game (9)

 

 

By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa

Thabo Madlala, popularly known as Tee, is what you’d call a real play boy. He is easy going and bubbly–an absolute pleasure to have around. Zitha recently discovered this and they’ve been the best of buddies lately – if you can put it that way. Tee and Zitha met at the club celebration where Zitha had attended as Sibongile’s date, and they’ve been going out ever since. They get along like a house on fire. Apart from the partying, there is one thing that brought them closer together: hating their jobs.

“Not every soccer player likes soccer” Tee would say. “I just happened to be good at the sport, a hobby, that’s all it was. I should’ve tried rugby, maybe it would be more interesting”

“Tee you’re an entertainer, people watch you to forget their problems.” Zitha would try to comfort him.

“I would’ve been a therapist if I wanted that”

“Or a pharmacist” Zitha rolls her eyes.

“And risk being unhappy like you? No thank you”

“The smell of pills everyday…”

From complaining about work to dancing up a storm, that’s what their union was about. Tee has a problem of being heavy on the bottle but Zitha manages to make him stop drinking if he has training the next day, or is scheduled to play. Despite his own intoxication, Tee also manages to stop Zitha when she starts to sniff excessively. Both battling addictions, both denying this fact, but both trying to help each other so they don’t drown in these addictions. A weird pair, one could say, but these two understand each other more than anyone has ever understood them. Zitha soon forgot about her usual crew and boyfriend, and started spending all her free time with Tee. Texts all day, long phone calls, endless conversations, karaoke nights, hot intimate sessions…they’ve even invented a day they call ‘Shut The World Out Day’ where they lock themselves indoors, switch off their mobile phones, and just enjoy each other’s company.

“Maybe we can try out new careers” Zitha suggests during their usual ‘vent about work’ sessions.

“I’m 30 years old Zitha, that’s old for a sportsman. Soccer is all I know”

“Yes but you’ve played for more than 15 years, you don’t need to play anymore. You can do other things within your field, heck you can even start a business.”

Tee looks at Zitha admiringly before saying; “Zitha I’m not educated, I’m not like you”

“So?” Zitha asks indifferently.

“You can do a lot of things, you can even study further or start a new course away from medicine. I don’t have that luxury”

“Thabo, who said you cannot do that?” She keeps stealing looks at him as she is focused on the road she’s driving on.

“I never even finished matric, my head is like cement”

“I know a lot of people who are successful without qualifications, you’re one of them. You can start or buy your own team, do some mentoring.Come on; there is a lot you could do besides playing soccer. You have amazing talent and years of experience, nobody can take that away from you.”

Tee looks at Zitha long and hard. He cannot believe how lucky he is for meeting her. Fate does work in mysterious ways, he thinks. They are on their way to a party hosted by one of Tee’s friends. Zitha came from work and picked Tee from training. She’s driving his car because she ‘needs to experience driving sports cars in this lifetime, let me prosper please’.

Tee’s crew is famous for throwing wild parties and being unapologetic about them. They once attempted to throw an orgy but that didn’t go so well, needless to say they are a brave bunch. A crew of six soccer players neatly distributed amoung the country’s top football teams. They met when they first made it to professional footballing as teammates, and made a name for themselves as the bad boys of the premiere league. Their choice of lifestyle always put them in trouble with coaches but their talent somehow atones for it all. Zitha was welcomed with open arms into the crew, even by the ‘divas’ (their partners). This party is one of their ‘chillas moments’ but nothing is ever chilled with this group. There are already big bottles of expensive alcohol out, some green and powdered stuff to be smoked, some beautiful company to be bought, and loud music to dance to.

Zitha and Tee are expecting Njabulo and Sibongile to join them at the party. They are aware that they left earlier to have an interview with Njabulo’s father so their lateness is excused. Festivities continue but Tee is starting to worry about Njabulo being a no show. He also realizes that it’s been a while since he’s spoken to Zitha, she seems to have disappeared. He begins to casually look for her around the house – at the lower level where all the festivities are taking place. She’s not here. He starts going up the stairs to look for her on the first floor of the three-story house. ‘Why do they build houses so big?’ He mumbles to himself as he checks every room on the first floor. No sign of Zitha. He is getting worried now, where could she be? He starts going up to the next floor but decides to go back to the party level halfway the stairs. ‘Why would she go so far?’ He reasons as he quickly goes down and starts asking people if they’ve seen her.

“She was with the divas in the kitchen”

“Probably relieving herself relax man”

“Uh come to think of it, I haven’t seen her either”

“Try the pool house”

Tee likes the last answer and hates himself for not thinking of it sooner. The pool house is like the drug room; perfectly situated far from the main house so that it’s not easily accessible should, for any reason, the police come raid the house. Tee has been begging Zitha to stop doing drugs but she keeps saying it’s under control. He runs to the pool house and find Zitha lying on the floor silently. He panics. The first thought that comes to his mind is to call Sibongile. Voicemail. He tries Njabulo with no luck so he picks Zitha up and races to his car. He cannot risk calling the ambulance, not with so much drugs lying around, so he decides to drive her to the hospital himself. He tries calling Sibongile and Njabulo again but both their phones are off. He curses. He doesn’t know that they’ve just had a car accident and are, at that very moment, hanging on a cliffside- about to fall to their deaths.

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