By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:
Home is different from what I’m used to. It has been repainted; fully furnished with a chocolate lounge suit, a new kitchen suit and a new bed in my mom’s bedroom. The lounge used to be a big, empty space where we slept when we had visitors. As we toured around the house I had a realization; this was done with my lobola money. There is no way my mother could afford such revamps especially within such a short time, I had only been away for six months.
This makes me sad; I feel like my mother just sold me off. This is why she didn’t even try to get me out, she benefitted from trading me. I feel so used, it hurts! Nandipha’s face is bright, she cannot hide the excitement she’s feeling. My little sister has never been inside a house like this and now she lives in one. I am happy they now live in a decent home but I cannot believe I was bought and I didn’t even know. The lobola is a common practice in our culture where the groom's family pays the bride's family a certain amount of money which also officially signifies the families have become one. In this case, I am officially Bheki’s wife; this is sad because I don’t even know when I became his wife.
We settle down in the lounge after the tour as Nandipha gives us juice and cakes. She puts down the tray and goes outside to play, that’s how my mother taught us; to never stick around when adults are talking.
“Was this done using the lobola money?” I find myself asking.
My mother’s smile disappears. I didn’t mean for my question to sound so insensitive but this is something I need to get out of the way.
I look at Bheki and ask, “Have you paid lobola for me?”
He nods in agreement.
“I used some of the lobola money for the painting but mkhwenyana got me the bedroom set and lounge suit,” mom explains.
I guess my fantasies of ever escaping being Mrs Ndebele had just vanished. I wondered when the lobola had been paid, probably before Bheki’s birthday. Maybe that’s why his whole family was there to celebrate our ‘engagement’. How can culture violate a person's rights like this?
I suddenly recall how happy my mother and Nandipha were as they showed us the house and how Bheki showed them respect. It seemed as though he had been coming here without me for a while because they seemed very comfortable around each other.
The room is suddenly tense, one could cut the tension with a knife. So I force myself to smile as I say; “Thank you Ndebele, this is really special.”
I ask Nandipha to sit with me and tell me about school. Anything to melt the tension I had just created in the room. We stay for at least two hours after which we leave; Bheki then takes me to his town business as promised. He tells me I’ll manage the internet cafe and this I can accept. I can research a topic for my honours degree and maybe even register. There isn’t much to do when managing a place especially because I’ll be in my office at the back.
My sleeping arrangements have also been changed. I am now in Bheki’s room for the first time. It is the first time I’m sleeping in a man’s room, and therefore, nervous as hell. More and more, Bheki turns out to be a very open person; he tells me we don’t have to be intimate until the actual wedding.
“You had a chance to stay behind but you chose to come with me, thank you.”
“Hmm,” I give him a frown.
He laughs and says, “Whatever your reason for choosing me, thank you”.
“But you didn’t choose me.”
“I did…and I will choose you over and over again.”
I laugh. I have to say I am liking the guy I’m getting to know. I get a message notification on my phone; it's my mother; “Wendy’s home got burnt down. Her mother and sister all died in the fire, she is the only survivor”.
Wendy has been my best friend since I can remember having a friend. We grew up together, shared everything, and she is the first person I contacted when I got a phone after being abducted. We shared fears, joys, thoughts, everything. Our families help each other in everything, you could swear we were related. Her death is horrible news! I feel bad for not going to see her earlier.
To be continued…
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