Thando's Strength

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4

Thando woke up and wiped the spit off her mouth before stretching. Sleeping on your partner’s chest wasn’t as romantic as it seemed, but Mandla was still asleep. He wasn’t the snorer, but it must have been the position he was sleeping in to accommodate her that was making him sound like a piece of farming equipment. She got up and went to the bathroom. On her return, her phone had 14 missed calls from none other than her brother and messages from her family. For once it was good news. Vusi had got a job, it was cause for celebration, her boyfriend had finally pulled through for her and good on his promise. She jumped on top of him, startling him awake, before kissing him all over and thanking him for helping Vusi out. He groaned in pain, but it came off as a man who was still coming around from a nap. She finally did it. She managed to get her brother a job. Vusi’s job wasn’t anything spectacular or anything to marvel at, just a general worker at Ayanda’s recycling business he was trying to get certified. After an afternoon of lovemaking to celebrating, Mandla suggested they go out as a family to celebrate. After some much hesitation, Thando agreed and informed her family to get ready, they’d come around to pick them up around 6 for dinner.

This was it, this was Mandla’s chance to get into the Dlamini’s good graces and let his intentions be known on what his intentions were with their daughter going forward, showing them he had a future planned and wasn’t merely just passing time. As the time to leave approached, Nokuthula couldn’t stop calling her daughter so much so she even called Mandla, who answered out of sheer panic.

“What’s going on, what’s the holdup which one of you is coming to fetch us?” Nokuthula demanded.

“Don’t worry ma, we’ll send an Uber.”

“Exactly, that’s what I’m asking. Who’s coming to fetch us?”

“No Ma, it’s a taxi.”

“Look outside, there are no taxis going to town at this time.”

“No.. Ma it’s a-” Mandla tried to explain Nokuthula dropped the phone on his ear in frustration, not before hearing how she didn’t want her to date toddlers in the first place. “What was wrong with S-”

Having introduced Nokuthula to an Uber, it was time for dinner. The meal went well, as well as it could have. Mandla paid, of course, but it had served its purpose and changed the family’s perception of him, which would bode well for him in the future.

***

Being unemployed for such a long time, Vusi had forgotten how laborious working was, only to come back to the unnecessary complaining from his mother. My blood pressure this, my blood pressure that, she had her medication what more did she want? He finally understood why Thando always had a short temper when they kept asking her for things, but that didn’t mean he’d stop. He was working but didn’t mean he could support himself, let alone two people on what he earned, one of which was a woman who enjoyed the perks of a pension. As if life in the township couldn’t be more of a burden, Thabo was pining over him not hanging out with him and his old friends anymore since he had a job. How he didn’t bother to make time for them and thought he was better than them. Well, he was right about one thing, he was better than them. All they did was sit on the street corner and smoke cigarettes instead of being proactive and making something of themselves. All the jobs they could do for money were beneath them and those that bothered to do them happened to be foreign nationals and excelled at them, growing in those industries and creating self-sustaining industries that resulted in “They’re taking our jobs,” talks at the same corner of the street he left them in. Only for the unthinkable to happen. He was at work when the call came, not allowed to use their phones during working hours, naturally, ignored it but when he got around to answering it, he wished he’d done so sooner. Nothing created a bigger hole than hearing your mother had been admitted to hospital and not know why. Fortunately for him, he had an employer with a heart who let him leave early to be with his sickly mother.

“Ma. What-”

“Don’t ask me what happened, how many times have I been told about my blood pressure?”

“But you had your pills, I made sure they didn’t run out like last time?”

“If I may,” the doctor interjected, before placing her patient’s heart at ease before it became weaker than it already was. “Your mother suffered a heart attack”

“A what now?”

“A heart attack, you can’t neglect me and then pretend as if you are hard of hearing,” Nokuthula shouted.

“Mrs Dlamini please,”

“How? She takes all of her medication and her blood pressure was fine since the last time she was here and we’ve cut down on all sugar, as recommended. In fact, more than what was asked, so I don’t understand.”

“I understand Mr Dlamini, and I’m sure this must be unsettling since you’ve done everything to help your mother recover from her heart issues but her condition seems to be deteriorating and not improving.”

“Ah Doctor, I swear on my mother’s life. I can’t tell you why that is.” Vusi said with nothing but worry on his face.

“Yeyi wena, don’t go around making bets on my life. This is probably why I’m in this mess.”

“Ma please.”

The doctor tried her best to remain professional but couldn’t help but stifle a laugh.

***

The boardroom was small, either that or a massive office, either way, it felt uncomfortable. In most companies, management was spoken of like mythical creatures or seen doing something and nothing at the same time but whatever that was it gave off the impression that I’m making money to pay for your paycheck so stop watching me and get back to work feeling. The feeling was no different here. For people who valued time so much, being late was a trait they had developed when dealing with their employees.

“Sorry, I was on a call, China, you know how it is.”

“No, I don’t, actually.”

“Well. Let’s get started then.” The manager said, rubbing his hands after an awkward silence. “I don’t want to be the one to say this but I also don’t want to be the one who’s going to lie to you. We’re not doing well as a company and we’re forced to let some of our best employees go.”

“So you’re firing me?”

“We will pay you for the days worked, but please understand the position we are in.”

“Fuck you,” He said, tearing up his contract and leaving.

A few days later and an email of apology was accepted. They signed a letter to finally let go of its most loyal employee. The news didn’t go well with Sibusiso, it was a hard blow, but what could he do? There was no use crying over spilt milk. As a man, he needed to make a plan and find a way to sustain himself and his needs, by any means necessary. Any, no matter desperate he got, as long as it served its purpose until he was able to get back on his feet.

***

“Ma, what happened, I came as soon as I got the news?” Thando sighed.

“Yeyi, how many times do I need to keep telling you people that I’m fine. Doctor, tell them.”

“She’s fine, everything is okay.”

“Thank you” She heaved, her chest jumping up and down.

“I think it’s best we give her some time to rest.” She said, ushering Nokuthula’s children towards the entrance of the ward. “Excuse me, Miss and Mr Dlamini can talk to you for a minute?”

“Yes doctor, what is it?” Thando’s voice filled with nothing but concern and fear answered before her doctor had the chance to finish her question.

The doctor paused, trying to find a polite way to move on with her discussion. “I won’t be able to discharge your mother anytime in the foreseeable future due to the severity of her condition and as a precautionary measure to ensure, given her age, her unstable blood pressure. Another heart attack like this could lead to another heart attack or stroke, which may present us with neurological dementia.”

“What does all of this mean?” Vusi asked with mild irritation.

“It’s possible to look out for this but we can’t guarantee it won’t happen. However, since you’ll be paying cash for her stay, we need to discuss the issue of payment.” The doctor said playing with her clipboard.

The two siblings looked at each other as though a parent had asked them who had broken a vase and neither of them said it was them.

“I may not know your financial situation but what I do know is that you brought your mother here because we’re the best hospital in the city, and I’m prepared to do my best in ensuring she gets back to her family fit and healthy. But we can’t do it with prayers and faith alone.”

“We understand. we’ll sort it out at reception. Thank you.” Thando nodded and gave the doctor a polite smile before they went their separate ways.

“What do you mean, we’ll sort it out at reception? I know we both work now but none of us make nearly enough money to keep Ma here long enough. No way, her medical aid will cover for her to stay as long as this doctor is scamming us too. I say we discharge Ma Friday and take our chances.”

“I’ve got a plan.”

“And what happens if your plan doesn’t work out, what then? Hmm? Have you thought about that or are you, as the doctor put it, working on faith and prayers as well?” Vusi demanded, as they got to reception, where they found a nurse they could talk to about the finances regarding their mother’s stay.

“The last plan I had got you a job, didn’t it?”

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