Thando's Strength

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Vusi sat as a guest opposed to a family member in his office while he waited for her to meet with him. He felt as though he were interviewing for a managerial position at his old company. “That Bastard,” he said to himself, clicking his tongue in disbelief at what Ayanda had done to him. Thando closed the door behind her and Vusi raised his head, his thoughts moving to the back of his mind, giving his sister his undivided attention.

“Look at you, on time. Hmm, impressive.” Thando laughed.

Vusi rolled his eyes, hiding the swear word he wanted to use in response under his tongue. “So?”

“So… so what. I wanted you to come work as I’d said. Sitting at home won’t do you any good. Right now, I need a driver for my deliveries and then we can take it from there.”

“Okay,” he stood up, turning on his heel.

“This is the part where you say thank you?”

“And the part where you needed a driver was the part where you were supposed to say thank you.”

***

Thando was at work when she received a call from the police. Her heart leapt from her heart when the officer investigating her mother’s case told her she’d brought good news and that she should come down to the station as soon as she could. She didn’t need to be told twice and made her way there as fast as was legally possible. She sat with the detective in her office and kept brushing off her small talk. She didn’t care to know how the detective’s day was, how she was doing or whether she wanted coffee or not. She wanted to know who had killed her mother and that’s it. The detective may have just been trying to protect her feelings because it was a delicate subject but she needed to know in order to complete the healing process and she was preventing that from happening.

Thando sighed. “So who is it?”

“It is somebody you know I’m afraid, and that’s why it makes the following situation more delicate.”

Thando furrowed her brow. Someone she knew? Who could it be… Her mother had enemies sure, but so did everybody in the township. But one thing her mother wasn’t was a gangster, who would want to kill an old pensioner with a loudmouth, all her peers were just as loud and annoying as she was and yet, they were still walking. Thando nodded, acknowledging the detective’s words.

“When last were you in contact with the following people?” The detective asked, listing off a couple of names of people she knew ending off with Mandla’s name.

“A few weeks ago, I think,” she shrugged

“Uhm... Miss Dlamini, there’s no easy way to say this but Mr Mthethwa is responsible for the death of your mother.”

“Is this supposedly or…”

“No, we’re certain. He confessed to the crime himself.”

Thando was confused. She didn’t know what to say. What could she say? The man she’d loved had killed her mother and acted as though he knew nothing about it and even went to the extent of giving her blood money to help her get her life back on track. After everything that needed to be done at the police station was complete, Thando sat in her car and wept, cried hard and cried long. Cried and until she couldn’t breathe. When she got home she had decisions to make. She had to decide on what she was going to do. Because deep down despite everything that had happened between them and in her life she still loved him. He was there when she had nobody and he wanted nothing but to see her genuinely happy in return. Not her body, not or anything sinister in return but to make her happy but what she didn’t know is that it would come at such a price.

A few days later, with her emotional state under some sort of control, she asked the detective to let her know when she could talk to him in person to do so and she agreed, even though she was taken aback by her request. And true to her word, The person designated to prove that not all police were corrupt and useless fulfilled Miss Dlamini’s request. When Thando saw him, detained in a jail, looking like a dog waiting to be put down she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him with his head resting against those cold metallic bars.

“Hey”

Mandla looked up, his mouth gaping out of sheer shock at what he was seeing. But then again, he was unsure of what to say, too afraid to ruin the moment. Thando looked on in pity. The man looked exhausted like he hadn’t washed in several days and as if he was high on weed but that was highly unlikely, so chances are he’d been crying. A part of her wanted to give him a hug but another part, a larger part of her wanted to make him swallow his teeth. But that’s not why she was here, she was here for her soul.

“What are you doing here?” He stuttered.

“I see apart from taking my mother’s life these four walls have taken your manners as well.” Thando smiled, leaning against the cell door to get a better look at him.

Mandla winced at Thando’s remark. Part of it was true but it was below the belt. If all she came here to do was torment her then it was best she leave. He got off the floor and made his way to the opposite side of the cell.

“Wait” Thando called out. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to- it’s just that- I wanted to know why you did it.”

Mandla knew this day would come, this question would come, but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon. He wanted to lie, he really did but he’d tried and look where it had gotten him. It was time he set himself free and let the chips lie where they lie. With a heavy sigh, he turned around, his back, weighing him down before raising his head to look Thando in the eye.

“Because…”

***

Vusi had found his job of fetching and delivering cake and confessionaries to be a piece of cake and his way with clients worked well for his sister’s bottom line, which was also profitable for him, (pun intended). He hated making deliveries to Sweet treats & Chocolate Feet because of their owner, Lebogang, but what could he do… they needed the money and she was bringing it in bucketloads. All that woman did was talk and talk causing him to be late for his other deliveries so he’d decided to make her last, even though she’d specifically asked for a lunch-time delivery, she’d get one at five. It’s not like she’d know he was lying if he told her they were busy. 16:45, 15 minutes before they closed up shop, Vusi strolled in with his delivery and his lie, and understandably, Lebogang was pissed but Vusi’s plan for an easy in, easy out delivery wasn’t meant to be. Punishment for being late, as Lebo talked his ear off for another 30 minutes.

Tired, irritable and hungry, all Vusi wanted to do was go home, and he did just that, but not before grabbing something to eat first. Which was ironic, considering he worked for a bakery and yet, there were no leftover baked goods he could grab to suppress his appetite until he got home. Stuck at a KFC, he had one of two decisions to make, join a drive-thru line that looked painted more than it did like a functioning piece of engineering, or park the van and go inside. With his mind made up, Vusi parked the van and joined the line inside. It seemed he wasn’t the only person with this bright idea as Ayanda called out to him, using him as a tactic to join him at the front of the line.

“Hey?” Vusi answered in confusion.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Ayanda said with a pat on the back.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Vusi raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, you know, with the economy and all. Besides, business is going through hell since there are fewer people around. It’s a catch 22 actually. Less money means less product, less product means less product, less product means less staff, less staff means less money.” Ayanda sighed.

“I know how economics work.”

“That’s great, keep it that way. Speaking of which. I could really use you back at the company”

“Is this a job offer for me to come back?”

“If you want to put it that way, sure” Ayanda shrugged as they inched forward in the line.

“Did you fire what’s his face… uhm?” Vusi snapped his fingers trying to remember.

“Yes, I fired what’s his face,” Ayanda said, cutting him off.

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

“What, why?”

“I think I’m good where I am. I enjoy working in a company where I’m valued and won’t be fired on the fly.”

“But I didn’t fire you,” Ayanda whined. “Mandla did. To get back at your sister because they were breaking up or had relationship problems, I don’t know” he shrugged. “I was just following orders.”

“Thanks again, but no thanks,” Vusi said, slapping him on the back, before leaving him in the line and going to order.

***

Mandla looked at Thando and she stared at him back, waiting for an answer. He had teased her with one but refused to give her one, frustrating her, and the only thing protecting him from her forcing one out him was the safety of these bars he was in.

“Because?”

“Because I did what I did out of love. I know it may not sound like it but it is the honest truth. One thing led to another and things just led out of control. She caused you nothing but anguish and pain and I couldn’t bear to stand that and hear you complain about it over and over despite all the multiple attempts to make things better. Moreover, she forced you to choose Sbu over me and that broke me. It didn’t motivate me but it did have a role to play. If I could take it all back, I would given how things played out but I can’t and I hope that one day, you’ll find it in your heart, whether I’m dead or alive to forgive me.”

“So you thought you were going to kill my mother and get away with it?” She asked, crossing her arms.

“Yes,” he said coldly. “And I would’ve gotten away with it too.”

“Oh wow”

“I just couldn’t bear to see you in pain any longer knowing I was the one who put you in that predicament in the first place.”

“And the money? Was that blood money you used to shut me up?”

Mandla laughed, unable to hold himself. “You must think I’m some kind of mafia kingpin, don’t you? The only sin I committed besides letting you go is the one that ended me up here. I only gave you that money cause you asked for it. I told you not to contact me ever again because I didn’t want Zama to find out about it and I was trying to build my life anew because you were no more.”

Thando was left speechless. Mandla’s words seem to immobilize her, the more he spoke, the more she felt like what he did made sense but she wasn’t on drugs so clearly not. “I’m sorry I can’t do this anymore.” and with that. She left. She had all the answers she had come for. Her soul was at peace.

A few months past and everything that could go right did go right. Thando Dlamini was now a successful woman with a bakery business known all over the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Vusimusi Dlamini had started from humble driver to branching off and starting his own fleet of long-distance taxis that travelled from Durban to Johannesburg and Thabo had begun his own security company, with his boys of course. Thanks to a loan from a private investor… and their first client was Miss Dlamini. No one had a reason to complain, let alone be intimidated, even by men in suits.

It was a wet day, gloomy and grey but not to be diturbed by the weather like a bad filter. Thando decided to purposefully wear something that would stand out. Get her recognised and show off her mood. Blue was too close to the weather, lime was screaming for attention and pink was a bit too much, she thought, throwing item after item on her bed. “Ooh” she purred, pulling out a red dress. “Yes,” She said getting ready for work, accompanying her outfit with the same coloured pair of stockings. Work was business as usual. Well, it was until a visit from the man in the suit happened again, but this time she came prepared. Not long after his arrival she sat with her legal representative and a man who had introduced himself as Mandla’s legal representative on what was to be their second meeting. And the news she heard from him was confusing, spurring up a whole host of emotions.

“He’s what?”

“Dead.”

“I heard you the first time but why are you telling me this, or better yet, couldn’t you have done this over the phone so I could hang up?” Thando asked.

“Because my client has asked me to leave his assets with you.”

“Assets? Wait woah, this is all moving a little too fast. How did he die?”

“I’m not sure if I’m afraid to disclose the details of the nature of his death but the cause of death was suicide.”

“Suicide?”

“That’s correct ma’am”

Thando sat there with a dumb look on her face. She didn’t know what to say or do until Mandla’s lawyer brought her back to reality.

“This is a list of the assets my client has left to you.” He said passing her a sealed envelope. “Can you please sign here to acknowledge you’ve received this legal document.

Thando looked at her lawyer who gave the document a once over before giving it to her and giving her the go-ahead. Listed were stocks, bonds, a funeral policy, some of the debt owing from the money and partial loans he’d taken out to give Thando the money to save her from living on the street. The title deed to his flat and his car. She sat there, spell-bound that everything the man owned was on a piece of A4 paper no more than 11 pages long.

She couldn’t believe that Mandla was dead. That he’d killed himself, she knew why, deep down in her soul but didn’t want to come to face reality. The least she could do was see the tenant in her new building and make her aware of what had happened, that’s if she didn’t know already. And if things did turn sour she could always kick her out. Yes, that’s what she was going to do with the building, rent it out, furniture and all, she couldn’t sell it, it was just too sentimental. She parked her Mercedes CLA in the nearest empty parking spot she could find, even though it was illegal. Her black designer umbrella in toe, protecting her newly down hairstyle she was off to Mandla’s, sorry, Her flat, legally, for the first time, to see Zama. Why? She didn’t know herself but they’d shared a lot and this man had put them through a lot emotionally and psychologically. Knowing that he was no more was his way of breaking the camel’s back and pulling the last straw. It didn’t matter anymore who was what to whom, even if all they did was have a cup of coffee, all Thando needed right now, was someone to talk to, someone who would understand what she was going through, or at the very least have some sort of idea.

She walked past Mandla’s car, parked outside covered in traces of the elements that had battered it as its black colour blended in with the mood. She stood in the centre, staring at it and it seemed to look back at her like a scared puppy. Her black umbrella-covered her face, her emotions, her thought processes as her red dress did the complete opposite standing slap bang in the middle of it. This… all of this, the house, the car, the money was hers. Be it out of guilt or love but Mandla had given it to her without a single explanation, the longer she stared at the car, the quicker the realisation of what had just happened settled in. And she’d come way too far and worked way too hard for it to be undone by a rumour that couldn’t even be proven wrong.

Fin

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