Thando's Strength

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8

It was a late Friday afternoon Vusi had a beer in one hand, waiting for meat he’d ordered from a braai stand and watched soccer to pass the time while he waited patiently. He wasn’t alone, as it would look plain weird but accompanied by his sister’s boyfriend, Mandla. Matter of fact, it was his treat, he’s the one who picked him up after work and took him to a barbecue for them to blow off some steam and get rid of the bullshit that built up throughout the week. The longer they sat there, the guiltier he felt for the way he’d treated him prior to giving him a chance even when his sister told him countless times what kind of person he was. Maybe it was because they were similar in age or that stupid BMW that made him seem like he was better than everybody else. He sure was a trade up from Sbu, even if he was younger.

“Ek se, watch the match and stop daydreaming,” Mandla said, after snapping his fingers and looking behind him trying to figure out what Vusi was staring at with so much focus.

Vusi snapped out from his thoughts and just in time as their meat arrived with his refill of beer. They enjoyed what was left of the soccer and he answered the stupid jabs Mandla kept making about how his sister’s exes wouldn’t do this with him. Although he was right, he wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing it because he wouldn’t let him live it down anytime they did something.

“Relax Mafikizolo, you’re not the first person my sister with pockets.”

“Bullshit.”

“Always want to deny things, even stuff you know nothing about.” Vusi rolled his eyes. “Ask about Sibusiso.”

“Do you hear the words coming out your mouth? If I told you to ask your girlfriend about their ex, what do you think would happen?”

Vusi kept quiet. The alcohol had kicked in, but Mandla made sense. If he was dating and his boyfriend approached him asking about his ex, shit would hit the fan. He clicked his tongue. ”I don’t know anybody as troublesome as you.” he said, pulling out his phone. “I doubt I have a photo of him, but let’s hope for your sake, he’s in here somewhere.” scrolling through his gallery.

The noise of life around them in a barbecue filled the space between them as they sat together in silence while Vusi filled through his phone looking for a photo that might have a photo of Thando’s ex. “Here!”

Vusi shouted so suddenly he almost spilt Mandla’s beer, who’d left his seat to come stand over him to watch him scroll. Law and behold, it was the same person Ayanda had shown him. Mandla finally could place a name to the face that had haunted him for the past several days.

“As I said, you are not the first.” Although this was a blatant lie, it seemed to do the trick because it shut him up. “Whether you’re the last, it remains to be seen.”

Mandla sat back down in his seat, staring at the tv and then at his empty bottle.

“Want a refill?” Vusi asked.

***

Thando spent the entire day with the person she loved, just to take her mind off everything that was happening back home, even if he was part of the reason things were like this. Sbu wasn’t meant to come back into her life, who could she blame, her mother for bringing him back into her life, him for relocating back from Jo’burg or herself because she allowed herself to fall back in love with him even though she’d happily moved onto bigger and better things she now risked fucking up. The sound of keys dancing in a metal brought her back to her reality. Mandla had returned sooner than she’d expected. She hadn’t finished packing yet. Oh well, it saved her the hassle of writing a letter.

“And then this?” Mandla asked as he leaned against the door.

“I’m leaving.” She said, swinging her duffel bag over her shoulder and placing it on top of her suitcase.

Mandla watched her in silence as she tilted her suitcase handle and began rolling it towards him and the exit. Thando didn’t expect Mandla to make way for her to go through and a part of her wanted to stop and scream “Stop me dammit” as their eyes crossed paths while she passed. Nothing happened, but the flat was filled with echoes from the sound of the suitcase as its wheels rolled on the tiles. They stopped, and with it, their owner turned around to face her lover. Ex-lover. Who leaned against the door frame, twirling his keys and stared at her as she left. Thando opened her mouth to say something but had nothing to say. There was nothing to say, and she wasn’t going to force it because of an awkward ending. She wasn’t 16.

“I thought you loved me.”

“I do.”

“Then what is all of this?” Mandla asked.

“Please don’t. This is not the time to guilt-trip me. I’ve made up my mind, I’m sorry.”

“I’m not trying to guilt-trip you into anything. I’m just trying to get us to tell the truth, even if it’s all bad.”

“Okay, what do you want to hear?”

“The truth,” Mandla said, grabbing his keys.

“Okay.” Thando looked at him in the eye. “I don’t love you anymore.”

There was discomfort as the recipient of those words let them sink in. “You’ll learn to love me.”

Thando shook her head.

“Where was this, I don’t love you mentality when I got your brother a job? Where was it when I paid for your mother’s medical bills? Silence… my point exactly. Well, I love you, doesn’t that count for something?”

“I’ll pay you back, I promise.”

“Okay, no need to overreact.” He said taking a step forward and causing his ex to take a step back, keeping the distance between them very much alive. “This is what’s going to happen. You’ve ruined the surprise I’ve been planning for you. All that hard work, gone. Because you couldn’t keep it in your pants and stay faithful.” Mandla sighed.

“Excuse me. Listen here, I know-”

“I’m going to propose next week and you’re going to say yes.” Mandla cut her off.

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