Thando's Strength

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16

Thabo and Vusi sat outside his home on camp chairs watching the sunset as they shared beers. In Hollywood yes, that would be the case but this was South Africa. The two men were just sitting on camp chairs outside Vusi’s home enjoying beers as men do. Thabo burped, getting Vusi’s attention.

“Ek se, does that guy with the x6 still come around this side?”

“No, why do you ask?”

“Nothing, I’ve just been thinking that’s all.” He said, putting his beer down on the floor. “This guy used to visit you all the time and even more so just before your mom died and now, poof. Nix, nothing. Don’t you find that a little suspicious?”

“It is what it is.” Vusi shrugged.

“So he dropped you like a piece of shit and you’re okay with it?”

“Yup”

“But why” Thabo shouted, almost spilling his beer.

“Why not? Entlekm why does he bother you so much, does he owe you money or something. You guys have a fling I don’t know about?”

Thabo sighed and took a long sip out of his beer, sitting back in his camp chair and allowed it to let out a bunch of air that sounded as defeated as he was. Something didn’t add up, he just didn’t know what. He couldn’t prove it, but he’d been around long enough to tell if things looked out of place. Maybe Vusi knew the truth but didn’t want to accept it. Maybe they paid him off or he went on all fours for him to live the life he was living and his silence was the only thing he could do to sustain it. But hey, what were friends for… and with that, he got to his feet, stumbled to the side of the house to have a piss, wiped his hands at the back of his jeans and returned back to where the action was. “How far did the police get with finding out what happened to Mam’Dlamini?”

“Hmm,”

“When last did you go to the police about your mother?”

Vusi focused his attention on a lady walking down the street in a dress that wrapped around her body tighter than cellophane, causing her ass to jiggle with each step and draw attention to how big it was.

“Vusi?”

Even when he was trying to ignore him Thabo wouldn’t take the hint. What was this man’s problem and sudden obsession with Mandla and his mother? “You really know how to ruin a good time,” He said, kicking over an empty beer bottle as he stood up and left.

“Ah Vus’man, don’t be like that.”

“Why couldn’t you just sit down and drink your alcohol in peace if you had nothing constructive to say?” he said, slamming the front door behind him.

Thabo sat alongside an empty camp chair and unfinished beer bottles, his own needing his attention to join them. To anybody passing by he looked like he’d just been dumped and was having a really tough time adjusting to the news. “Friends, Ya neh?” bringing his bottle to his lips.

***

Internet banking was such a magical thing. It was able to move money from one place to another extremely quickly without the intervention of a teller. Even though, Mandla had given away half of his net worth to a woman who wouldn’t think twice of stepping over him if he had an asthma attack in her presence and the pump was just out of his reach, he kept going back to check his account like he was waiting for more lives on Candy Crush. Whether it was out of disbelief or the belief that if he checked his account enough times his money would return, the numbers didn’t like. R175 000 was gone. And it was something he ought to tell Zama at some point soon. But he couldn’t, Thando’s return brought with it problems. Problems, he’d convinced himself to forget. There was only one way to fix them and if it meant that she’d have to follow in her mother’s footsteps, God bless her soul, then so be it. But first… He picked up his phone and started dialling. As it rang, the silence that surrounded him made the ringing echo in his skull. There was a click and a voice as somebody answered. He hesitated, he was having second thoughts about this… what the hell was he doing?

“Hello?” The voice repeated.

“Ey, Vusi”

“Hey, Mandla. What are the odds? We were just talking about you.”

“We?” Mandla asked in surprise.

“Yeah, me and a buddy of mine.”

“Yeah well, I hope it wasn’t anything bad.”

“Ag, you know how it is, township gossip and shit. So what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Oh, uhm. Well…”

***

Zama looked Thando in the eye and awaited her big news. News that Thando kept to herself due to cold feet contributed to Zama’s confusion. There should be, no must, something she could do to protect her from Mandla, give her a warning without her coming across as something she was not. That night she came tired and the house empty. Her phone was flat, Vusi hadn’t cooked and worst of all, he didn’t even bother to turn on the geyser. She grabbed a bucket and boiled some water, stuck her phone on the charger and as soon as it took its first gulp of electricity it let her know that Vusi said he’d come home late. It was decent of him to let her know that she’d be alone but c’mon, couldn’t he at least have left the geyser on she growled.

As the days went on, Vusi began his disappearing shit, which was odd because all of his unemployment buddies were still at the street corner being a nuisance to women despite them saying no. But she did what they all did and took no notice of them and ignored them as much as humanly possible when they approached. And today seemed to be her turn to get harassed as one of them approached. She was prepared to give them hell when he surprised her with a pleasant and respectful greeting opposed to “Hello Mabebeza” she was so accustomed to hearing come out of people like him’s mouths. It must’ve been a new tactic and it worked shame at taking down her guards, for just a second or two. “What do you want?” She spat.

“Hi, Thando. My name is Thabo. I’m a friend of your brothers. I’m not sure if you still remember me” Taking off his bucket hat. “I used to come over and teach your brother Geography back in high school”

“I’m sorry, I can’t…”

“You guys used to steal your mom’s Romany creams then blame it on me” running a hand over his head.

“Oh yes Thabo. Long time, how have you been?”

“Not good, as you can see, but complaining won’t get you anywhere.”

“True that. Can you walk and talk?” Thando finished her question already in the direction headed home. To be honest she felt uncomfortable around him but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a friend of her brothers and the whole township practically knew who he was in case he tried to do anything fishy. She listened to him as he told her what his friend had refused to listen to. Even though parts of his story didn’t make sense here and there, they did raise some questions. She wasn’t there when she heard her mother had passed on and the first person she heard the news from was the last person she’d expected to hear it from. The police hadn’t said anything either, it was worth a follow-up, even if it didn’t amount to anything. Just for that peace of mind.

Being in the house with Vusi felt like spending a night with Sbu after catching him trying to move out. There was so much to be said but no one wanted to say anything, why would they? But how old was she, 6? Being the bigger person wasn’t always the easiest thing to do but if it meant that it always kept the ball rolling then somebody had to do it.

“So where have you been spending all of your time of late, you seem pretty busy?”

“Why?”

“Just asking, can’t an older sister be concerned?” “Yes they can, but not you,” Vusi said dully.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Thando cocked her head back as the words slapped her.

“What do you want?”

“I just want to know where you disappear off to these days. I’m really worried about you, that’s all.”

“Well don’t be. I’m fine.”

And that was the end of that.

Well, it should have been but it gnawed at the back of everybody who was concerned mind except the person causing all the gnawing. And so much stress only led to one thing for Thando. Cleaning. She cleaned and cleaned, did some washing and cleaned some more, the only thing that was left for her to do was to paint the house if she could. But the cleaning had done its job. It had relieved her of her stress and relieved her of her anxiety and toxic emotions she kept bottled up. While she was taking down dry clothes off the washing line a distinct and unmistakable car pulled up outside her home. It’s kidney grille, smokey eye headlights disappearing from her line of sight in order to make way for the black outline of an X6 to fill her entire line of sight. Her soul became as dark as its tinted windows and her cleaning ritual was all in vain as her little brother clambered out of the passenger side. The car took off as quickly as it had arrived, ignoring her as if she wasn’t there, Vusi stared at her as he made his way into the house and she at him but said nothing.

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