Thando's Strength

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9

Nokuthula and Thando were arguing about the benefits of wholewheat bread when Vusi and Mandla walked in laughing like teenagers high on weed. Their entrance was normal albeit loud but it left the individuals originally in the lounge confused what was going on. As Vusi disappeared into his room, he left Mandla in silence and to explain what was going on and more importantly what he was doing here this late. Having brought Vusi home, he’d be on his way, but Nokuthula insisted he stay for supper, after all, they were about to dish up. Thando felt her heart sink into a pit she never knew existed. She ignored her mother’s howling as she refused to dish up for her ex, so much so, her mother dished up for Mandla herself. They sat there as a family, eating supper while they watched the news and exchanged stories about work, and Nokuthula’s health. All Thando could do was remain mute as she watched her family marinade in Mandla’s presence. The same presence they wanted nothing to do with not so long ago.

Thando wanted all of this to end, all she wanted to do as this point was fall into Sbu’s muscular arms and forget this was even happening. But she couldn’t because she was stuck entertaining “guests.” The night ended, Mandla left and she left to go see the person who she was dying to see since his hindrance, leaving her family behind to gloat over him the same way they did her current lover when she first made an appearance. Talk about loyalty.

When she arrived at his mother’s house, she headed straight for the little building built outside at the back of the house. She rammed the door open with her shoulder and it scrapped itself open. Thando hated how she had moved back to the township and to a backroom, no less. But it was temporary, after all, Sibusiso was only in here to find his feet since he’d relocated and came back to look after his sick mother. She rubbed her shoulder as she walked into the empty room. Scanning it, she found application letters, they raised an eyebrow but her mind was on other things that were much more important. She woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of him snoring while in his warm embrace. Thando couldn’t remember when she fell asleep, all she remembered was kicking off her shoes and lying on the bed as she stared at the tiled roof. As she stared around her, she was in her pyjamas.

***

Mandla had it all set up, all that was left was the missing piece. Ayanda gave him the go-ahead and he popped the question to Thando. “Will you marry me?”

All her friends were there, her mother and brother, everybody was taken by surprise as they looked on and waited for her to reply.

“Yes,” She whispered through gritted teeth.

There were cheers and ululations all around them as they made it official with a hug and a kiss.

It was official, Thando was engaged to be married to the man she once loved more than life itself. Now she was here, saying yes to a forced marriage to protect her family’s well being she’d worked so hard to create. As days turned into weeks, Mandla worked his ass to the bone, which made sense given that he was now going to support an entire family and not just chip in here and there to impress them. The news of Thando’s engagement to Mandla sent Sibusiso to hell and back but once her partner had explained what was going on, and convinced him were her true feelings lied, he seemed to accept it much easier than most men would. Matter of fact, too easily, which was disconcerting but what could she do, questioning him would lead to problems and she had enough on her plate as it were.

***

Ayanda was late and not sure about whether he should apologize. His friend was staring out the window, twirling his phone in his hands and ignoring him despite the noise he had made in a rush to show remorse at his inability to keep time.

“You okay?” he whispered, before coughing and trying again.

Mandla hummed, snapping out of his thoughts before paying his visitor some attention. He enjoyed Ayanda’s company... well, tried to despite him talking about Sibusiso like an obsessive ex-girlfriend. He got it, he really understood, Ayanda was trying to make up for what was breaching their bond and the trust they had in one another but this was going overboard. In fact, it was borderline obsessive. Also, him going on about Sbu just angered him, but what sent him over the edge was a picture of his fiance and adversary snuggled up together in his car. The same car Thando had asked to borrow to do a few wedding errands. It took a lot of effort for Mandla’s chest to move up and down but out of sheer emotion, it managed the task.

***

Ayanda made sure that Vusi felt the anger of his best friend even though he didn’t say anything. He could definitely see what his brother-in-law’s sister was doing to him emotionally and mentally. The man had changed, he was no longer the funny, easy-going person he knew. He’d become so morbid and sad. Sure, they’d had a misunderstanding with him keeping knowledge about him knowing about Sbu and Thando from the beginning but ever since they got over that speedbump he’d made sure that he knew everything but now that seemed to be a problem. It made no sense. But if Ayanda couldn’t physically help Mandla, then he would help him from behind the scenes. Vusi would feel Mandla’s wrath even if he did not explicitly say it. And the first-way Ayanda would make that happen was cutting back his shifts. It didn’t break any laws but one thing he knew was that he would feel it, and if it did look suspicious there was always the excuse of the business going through financial issues to lean back on. But Ayanda was taking out his frustrations on somebody who had done nothing wrong, on Mandla’s behalf... it didn’t make sense and what’s worse is that none of the parties involved knew what was going on. Some friend he was.

***

The fat wheels found on the BMW’s version of an SUV Coupe crunched on a pothole-filled tarmac that littered the township of Umlazi as they crept toward a stop in front of the Dlamini household. It’s black exterior and tinted windows hiding everything but the headlights that blinded you if you stared at them. Even with everybody at work, there was still life on the south side of the city. People still smoking at street corners and kids who didn’t go to school littering the street. Mandla left the car and his knocks on the door were as swift as his walk to it. Nokuthula opened it and was surprised to see him there, but she was happy. His presence usually meant money.

“This is a surprise, what are you doing here?” She asked, moving aside to let him in. “Already harassing your mother-in-law with visits complaining about your wife?” She laughed.

Mandla’s face remained stoic. If anything it gave him more reason to do what he came here to do.

“I’m here to check on you and your health. I’ve been getting messages from the medical aid about your medication, so I just came to find out if everything is okay. The last thing I want to do is complain and try to get my money back because you know how they can be... trying to make extra money here and there by double charging people for medication. So I wanted to check everything, if your medication and prescriptions are up to date.”

“Ah thank you, my son. You really are a God sent.” Nokuthula gushed, before dragging her feet across the floor as if her daughter were sweeping outside, to fetch her medication for her and her son-to-be to check.

***

Sbu had been unsuccessful at yet another interview. On the taxi home, he was irritable and almost got his ass handed to him as he picked a fight with the taxi driver about what “After robot!” meant. Had it not been for the intervention of 14 other people, chances are he’d have more than tiger stripes across his body left behind by that whip. What’s worse was that Thando’s patience was begging to run out and she wouldn’t part with her money. Clearly, she’d changed from the last time they’d dated, that... or that black horse looking rich boy she was with taught her how to be stingy. As soon as he got home, Thando and he would have to have a difficult conversation about money. They couldn’t continue to live in a backroom... by choice, if the option not to was there. She was high on fumes! Sbu was tired of walking and almost home but saw Thabo and the others in the distance. If his head wasn’t hung low enough, the sight of the friends he’d turned his back against pretty much dragged it on the floor. As tired as he was, he wasn’t in the mood for them so he took the long way home. A route that would turn his irritation into anger and everything he encountered from that point because of sheer exhaustion and the pain in his feet into hate.

“Well, well, well. Look who’s home early from work.” Thando smiled seeing her love. “Hey love, how was your day?” she asked, embracing Sbu with a hug.

“Fusek,” he said, pushing her away before throwing himself on the bed.

Thando stood there, in the middle of their home, staring from side to side in confusion at what had just happened. Unable to comprehend what she’d done wrong or whether she’d heard him correctly.

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