The silence is awkward and the tension so thick that you could cut through it with a knife. I can sense that something big happened while we were at the reed dance. But then, a lot happened there. Things I don’t think we can share at this very moment. We need time to process it.
“You are very quiet,” Mbongeni says eventually.
“I’m hungry,” Makhosi says.
Mnqobi laughs. I know he’s about to say something stupid.
“Surely, they put you on a strict diet kaZulu. What did you eat anyway? Grass?”
Mbongeni decides to buy us fried chips. He would do anything for Makhosi; he even got her the jumbo pack! But with the two of them joining in, it will be gone in a few minutes. We park in some garage, apparently waiting for Mzuvele. They came to fetch us in town, not because the bus wasn’t going to our village but because they wanted to spend some time with us before they sent us home. I can hardly face Mnqobi or anyone; I’m as nervous as hell. Mnqobi has loosened up a bit. I think food does that to him. He has been devouring these chips as if he’s the one who ate grass all weekend. We are listening to one of his lame jokes when Mzuvele walks into the taxi followed by a woman. Mzuvele and a woman! And what a woman!
“Aibo,” Mnqobi says, with a mouthful of chips, staring at the poor girl.
She smiles as she follows Mzuvele to the seat behind Mnqobi and I. We are all totally astonished. We didn’t even know Mzu was seeing someone, someone this hot. She is tall, skinny (okay maybe not really skinny but she is small), with huge eyes and a sweet smile. She has a weave, some make up on and red lipstick. She is also very light in complexion. She looks like one of those girls that live in town and only speak English.
“Okay you can shut your mouths now,” Mzuvele says with a smug on his face.
But I’m happy for him. He deserves to finally move on from losing his fiancee; it was just before their wedding. We never thought Mzu could move on from that but look at him now – all smitten with his barbie.
Mnqobi: “Sisi, please don’t say this is your boyfriend.”
The boys laugh, they can be stupid sometimes. I notice Makhosi cannot move her eyes from the doll – me neither. Mzuvele introduces everyone and says Xoli is his future. Heh! Who would’ve predicted Mzuvele’s type? This arranged marriage thing prevents people from being their true selves. I wonder if Mnqobi would’ve chosen me if we were not matched. We sit and chat a little more and then eventually have to accompany Xoli home – she lives around town. She speaks Zulu by the way even though its very mordenised. I can see why Mzu is so in love with her, she is so nice. But I don’t think she would survive a day Emabheleni, not with all those chores and smoke.
We are now driving to our village and I feel the reality waiting for me there drawing closer, and darker. Mzuvele asks something about the reed dance and my stomach turns. I look down and hope Makhosi answers but she doesn’t. I was too fixed on the thoughts about the misery awaiting me back home I didn’t even get the question.
“Ntombikayise,” Mnqobi calls out.
I look up and do not respond.
Mnqobi: “Mzuvele asked how your first time at the reed dance was.”
I force a smile, it doesn’t work. Stupid body language will sell me out, I’m panicking and I don’t know what to say. I know they will keep asking as they suddenly notice I’ve been awfully quiet. Mnqobi starts getting concerned and asking if I’m okay and all that.
“Makhosi,” I say eventually, hoping she gets her cue.
She just bursts out; “The King wants to marry her.”
Mbongeni and Mzuvele exclaim in disbelief. Mnqobi laughs as he re-opens the packet of chips. We have arrived at the village and parked just a stone throw away from home. Mnqobi’s reaction is confusing, it?s like he’s been expecting this. He resumes his devouring of the chips as Mbongeni makes noise about how the King thinks he can claim anything and how they will never allow such to happen. I’m starring at Mnqobi next to me; he keeps smiling and shaking his head. What if he wanted this to happen? What if he doesn’t want to marry me anymore? Maybe he has his Xoli that we don’t know about.
“Ngiyavivinywa heh!” He says eventually as he wipes his fingers with the paper wrap.
Mzuvele: “Bhele, are you okay?”
He has that calming effect, always. Mnqobi nods roughly; “I’m fine”.
“Let’s go home now, the ladies need to rest. Muntuwami, I’ll come see you later,” he says kissing my cheek.
I hear a whistle. I was starting to doubt that Mnqobi would come see me tonight. I finished bathing hours ago, I’ve fallen asleep three times, each time waking up hastily and checking the window. I change into one of my best dresses quickly and go outside. We walk to the bush next to home where we normally hide out. Emabheleni is not so far from home but it’s too dark for him to be walking alone outside. He tells me about how they were attacked and how they made a peaceful agreement with the Emadlangeni guys in just one weekend. How can one weekend be so eventful? He doesn’t mention the reed dance – neither do I.
He suddenly kisses me, passionately. I missed those. He continues with it for a while; while caressing me with his hands. We are intimate; we started ukusoma last year and it is quite safe. I remain a virgin and he gets the intimacy he desired. He pulls my dress up but doesn’t take it off, it just exposes my lower body. He then takes my panties off, while kissing me. He slowly puts his fingers in me; this can’t be right but maybe it’s a new experience. I allow it. He continues and all of a sudden he inserts his manhood. It hurts.
“Ayi!” I exclaim.
I try to push him off but he holds me tighter. He pushes in, I cry out. I try not to be too loud, that might send a wrong message to the villagers. But why is he doing this? The penetration continues for some time and eventually he pulls out. He wipes himself – and me – with the leaves. I think I’m bleeding. I just lie there looking into the sky with tears pouring out uncontrollably. He then pulls on my panties and gently puts them back on. I do not move, nor speak. He lies next to me and holds me as he whispers:-
“I love you.”
Some may call this rape; I didn’t give him consent to do this. I did say, no. But to me this can’t be rape; this is my first time with the love of my life.
Aibo – Zulu exclaiming word
Ngiyavivinywa – I’m being tested
Muntuwami – my person (way of calling your partner)
Ukusoma – a form of intercourse where only the thighs are penetrated
Ayi – informal Zulu for no.
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