Mzamo walked into Kholwa’s room, smiling when he saw her lying on the bed. He always smiled, and she always smiled back, but that time, she was unconscious still. He faltered when he got to her bed. He took in a deep breath and then continued walking to the window and looked outside. No city buildings, just trees. What a calming view.
“Zamo,” he heard her speak. She sounded more drained than usual. When he turned to her, she looked confused. “How did I get here? Did you see me naked?”
He chuckled. “Is that what you’re worried about?” He started laughing. She was still fine.
He laughed even more. “I’ll act like I didn’t see anything.”
“This is so embarrassing. We can’t be friends anymore.”
“You’re being dramatic. Are you just upset because you haven’t shaved?”
Kholwa put her hand over her eyes as her face reddened. “I’m disowning you. Let’s never meet again.”
“I’ll buy you cake if you forget about it.” He walked towards her and then removed her hands from her red-tinted face.
“What type?” She asked.
“Whatever you want.”
“Chocolate fudge. I want chocolate fudge cake.”
“Anything else?” He asked.
“August,” she softly smiled, turning away from her friend.
“He’s outside, I can...”
“That was a joke.” She squealed. “Is he really outside?” Mzamo nodded again. “Nope. Never in a million years. He can leave. Tell him to go back to work.”
“He’s really worried, Khokho.”
Kholwa sighed, “he must be.”
August waited outside, even after Mzamo told him that Kholwa was not allowed any visitors that were not her family or guardian. Of course that had been a lie, but Kholwa couldn’t dare to face August. Not when she felt the least confident about herself.
But even after that, August waited, forgetting that he was a designer, and forgetting that he had a plagiarism problem that he still had to solve. He stayed until he fell asleep on the uncomfortable chairs.
A nudge was what made him jump awake.
Her big round eyes were looking at him curiously. Her big child-like smile appeared as soon as his eyes fluttered open. She held a drip right by her side, connected to her inner right elbow.
“Kholwa, are you okay?” He worriedly asked, looking at her, trying to spot anything other than the fact that she looked paler.
“I’m fine,” she suddenly pouted, slapping his shoulder. He looked at her in confusion. “It’s ten at night! Why are you still here?”
“I couldn’t leave without making sure that you’re okay.”
She sighed, the playfulness disappearing. It became more visible just how much strain she seemed to be taking. Her eyes seemed a bit more sullen and her cheekbones seemed to be more defined because of weight loss.
“My love,” the endearing way that she had called his name. A way that she seldom used... A way that she only used a couple of times. It made August feel like she was about to tell him bad news. “You should stop doing this.”
“What do you mean?” He softly asked.
“Missing important things because of me. One of the nurses told me that you’ve been here all day. What about work?”
“You’re more important.”
“No,” she shook her head, holding onto August’s warm hands, August wrapped his big ones around her cold, frailer ones, “I should never be more important than work. I should not be the reason that you stop doing your duties. If I get sick, or if anything happens, Mzamo will always be by my side. You should focus on you more.”
“Are you breaking up with me?”
She smiled, scooting closer to him. “I’m too selfish to even think about that.”
He also smiled.
“I don’t want you to get in trouble anymore. I have my pride too. I don’t want you to associate me with a scolding.”
He nodded. “Okay.”
She put her head against his chest, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Don’t worry much about me, I’m okay.”
“Mmm.” August wrapped his arms around her as well. They sat in silence for a while as she listened to his steady heartbeat. It calmed her. It made her feel happy. She wished she could be in his arms forever, hiding from her painful reality.
“Kholwa,” August spoke up after a while.
“Can you call me like you just did from now on?”
“Mmm?” She sat back and looked at him. “You mean my love?”
He nodded. “August sounds so formal. You might as well call me by my full names and surname.”
She smiled, crossing her legs so that she could look at him easier. “My Love,” she repeated, looking at him as his smile widened, “my love. You should get going, my love.” She sang.
“You like chasing me away,” he still smiled, because anything that this girl did made him just want to stay by her side and protect her over and over again.
She nodded. “I’ll walk you to the door.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll take you back to your room and then I’ll leave.” He nodded.
She agreed. So long as he did not ruin his life for someone as terrible as her.