Thando's Strength

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6

Ayanda threw himself on the couch and it made a scraping noise on the floor as it slid around. He was waiting for the lecture that would come about him ruining Mandla’s wooden floor but it never came, not even a look of disgust to acknowledge he’d done something wrong. And the fact that his friend still lived in a place with wooden floors and not tiles was not only a sign of how old the place was but an indication that he should move out because this minding how you should sit down as if it were a toilet seat in winter wasn’t doing it for him. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“We’ve been through this and if you ask me that question one more time, I’ll find someone else to help me because you clearly don’t want to.”

“No, man Mandla, it’s not like that. You know it yourself. You know that I’m looking out for you, always.”

“Then?” He asked.

“Nah, it’s nothing, forget it. I’m just being paranoid. I’m just scared I’m going to lose my best friend.”

“I’m sure you are,” Mandla said after a while, looking for something to watch on Netflix. “Look,” he said after a long while. “I’m shitting myself. What if she says no, laughs me off and tells me she’s not ready for marriage, she doesn’t intend on getting married or worse she doesn’t see herself getting married to me?”

“I can see that happening,” Ayanda shrugged.

“So I’ve also got doubts, but I won’t let them consume me and prevent me from living my life. Whatever happens, happens.”

“If you say so.”

“Besides, I don’t see her saying no. I just paid for her mother’s medical bills.”

“You did what!!” Ayanda screamed, choking on his own spit. “Are you insane?”

Mandla shrugged, seeing no problem with his decision, if anything, Ayanda was the one who looked like he needed psychiatric attention.

“Why would you do such a thing?” Ayanda huffed.

“Why not, I love her and sometimes love makes you do irrational things. If you stopped whoring around and settled down, you’d understand what I mean.”

“Because she’s… I… it doesn’t make any financial sense, that’s all.”

Well, Mandla had heard enough and wasn’t prepared to entertain this conversation any further. The rest of their evening went as well as a racist trying to justify slavery. What mattered though was that everything was ready, only one element remained, the missing piece, so beautiful and loving and going through a lot at the moment, but he hoped to change that in time. Thando Dlamini.

***

The Damini family was out to celebrate the fact that their matriarch was out and about, alive and well, despite her objections. The trio sat comfortably at the Oyster Box Hotel, menus in hand, bewildered with choices as they tried to decide on what to eat. Well, two of them did. All these questions of finance kept popping up but Thando was able to swat them away for what they were, flies and a nuisance to her existence. But as Nokuthula’s stomach filled up her nerves relaxed and she began to enjoy herself, begging for pictures of her by the sea, showing off the name of the hotel and her fancy meal so she’d be able to use on WhatsApp and make her friends envious. Her behaviour at times was that of someone two times younger than her but who could judge her, she was enjoying her glory days. As the night progressed Vusi was able to find an opportunity to find some time with his sister alone. Looking out into the ocean while the sunset he joined her.

“What?” She said coldly, not taking her eyes off from her view that could only be described through photoshop. Her hair blew gently in all its fake glory and she combed it back behind her ear careful not to disturb her shades.

“We need to talk?”

“And what is this, practise?”

Vusi shrugged and stopped staring at her sister and joined her in staring at the sunset. They stood there for what must have been 10, 15 minutes. Who was keeping count? Ebony mannequins perched over a terrace, advertising two different lifestyles and the ocean behind them. “He paid for it didn’t he?” Vusi asked, breaking the silence between them, eventually.

“Yup.”

“How?”

“With money, what else? Look if you and Ma had actually given him a chance from the beginning you’d know that he’s an outstanding man with good intentions. He really does love me and would make the world revolve around me if I asked him to, but you just hate him, for what? I do not know. Ma can’t get over his age, that and Sbu has her bewitched, so there’s no getting through to her to make her understand.”

“Yet you’ve been hanging around with him?”

“Where do you get such nonsense?”

“Word on the street, have you forgotten how news travels around back home since you’re never there?” Vusi asked.

Thando clicked her tongue.

“So are you going to tell mom?”

“I’d rather have cocaine injected through my anus. If she knew it would be the end of Mandla. At least I know with her calling him toyboy or whatever name she can think of to belittle him, what comes out of her mouth is genuine. The moment she knows why I’ve never been able to bring him around the house, he’d be nothing but a moving lotto ticket in her eyes. We’re already having problems as it is because none of you want him anywhere near me or the house, that’s the only reason why I’m never at the house.”

The wind blew salty air in the faces. It was humid and sticky but cool and refreshing at the same time, a weather phenomenon that could only be enjoyed on the Durban shoreline. The sun left the sky orange and its temperature set the ideal conditions for a jersey.

“Say something.” Thando turned to face her brother.

“He got me the job as well?”

“No.” She lied

“Hey!” Nokuthula shouted. “Dessert is here. Let’s eat, it’s getting dark, I’m cold, I’m full and I want to leave.”

“It’s desert, Ma”

“Same thing.”

The Dlamini’s finished their meal and went home. Vusi knew her sister wasn’t a gold-digger, but he figured that she only did what she did because she was desperate and backed into a corner. She had no other option, it was that or find their mother on the street and bills they couldn’t afford to pay. Somehow, someway, he’d have to make time to say thank you to him because no ordinary person would do that.

***

Thando’s problems seemed to multiply, everybody back home was looking to her for guidance and leadership, she didn’t enjoy Mandla’s company anymore because whenever they were together she felt like uncomfortable in his space, guilty for lying to him but unable to tell him the truth after everything he’d done for her and asked nothing in return, not even sex. If things had gone the same way with the person she was with now, she’d be no better than a prostitute, or worse… because at least prostitutes had working hours. Mandla getting angry and irritated about it though was normal? He’d want to spend time with his love and she’d avoid him the same way a female avoids a group of men on the street at night. She couldn’t please everyone, she was only human but at Vusi’s request, she arranged for the two most important men in her life to meet one another so that her brother could thank her man for his generosity personally. Mandla was apprehensive at first, which was understandable, wanting to go meet someone who didn’t want you around for the longest time, but it was also contradictory to I want to be accepted by your family message he kept preaching. Well, this was his chance to shoot his shot, besides he had nothing to lose. What Mandla or Vusi didn’t know was that that fateful encounter would breed a healthy friendship only seen in the movies. Which was all good and well because the rift between Ayanda and Mandla grew ever since his offish tendencies became a staple in his behaviour.

As weeks turned into months, it was clear that Mandla had found a new source of happiness. Thando meanwhile, sat on a chair, twirling her thumbs on the table where she caught how much pain she was in manifesting itself off the reflection of the wooden surface. Sbu grabbed her hands firmly into his to stop her, his warmth transferring onto her in an effort to warm a heart in need of love but not moving past her digits.

“Do you love him?”

She nodded, slowly.

The silence between them was so loud even a deaf person could hear it. Sibusiso looked at Thando lovingly, her eyes were fragile, scared and confused. He massaged her arms, softly, with tenderness and delicacy. “Leave him.”

Thando’s eyes opened to their full capacity, but she said nothing.

“I’ll take care of you. Give you the love you deserve. I’ve done it before, I can do it again, because this… this is not love and loving two men isn’t something a woman was created to do. Love me wholeheartedly the same way I do you.”

“I don’t know, I just think-”

“Shh,” placing a finger on her lips. “Don’t think. Do.” He finished before kissing her passionately.

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