I read the message from Sifiso again and the knots in my stomach threaten to strangle every other organ. I take tilt my head up and feel the headrest of my seat, I exhale, I want to cry but what good would that do? I take in a deep breath, gather myself and get out of the car. I drag myself up the stairs to Thobi’s apartment, she is standing at the door with a glass of wine. I can see her eyes shining, no doubt in anticipation of what happened on the date.
“Chomi!” she yells, as I approach.
“Hey,” I say dryly.
She cocks her head to the side and her shining eyes darken with concern. “And then?” she says and hands me the glass of wine. I shrug.
“Come, come in,” she says and moves aside to let me in through the door. “What happened Chomz?”
I find Amahle hunched over the dinner table, crayons and paper splayed all about her, she doesn’t notice me or is too consumed to look up. The dying sun filters through the dinning room window and splits Amahle in half, light and shadow. Her hair has changed, Thobi must have declared it a hair day, I smile, only Thobi would see what needs to be done and just do it I think.
“Chomi, what happened, I tho—”
I hold up my free hand and shake my head, I gulp the wine and then hand Thobi the glass to top it up. I circle to the message on my phone, what was the point of the date? I wonder and why did he not lead with the pregnancy? Is this why we didn’t end up in the hotel room? Is Sifiso back with his wife?
“Okay you’re going to have to tell me what is going,” says Thobi as she hands me the topped up glass. She swings the bar stool at the kitchen table and motions for me to take a seat, she takes the one opposite me. I place the wine on the kitchen counter and head over to Amahle.
“Unjani nana?” I ask and a wry smile creeps in. I stroke the lines between her cornrows as she tells me she is fine. “Okay carry on with your beautiful pictures, I just need to chat to aunty T, okay?” She nods. I drag myself to the round black bar stool with more cushioning than most bar stools are made of, it looks like it is ready to wrap me around its comfort as I tell Thobi the mess I have just been dealt.
“His wife or ex-wife, I don’t know…” my breath catches and I take a sip of wine.
“It’s ex-wife chomi, you know this, they got a divorce so it’s ex-wife.”
“Well, whatever, she’s pregnant.” A tear finds its way down my one cheek, “how could I have been so foolish Thobs?”
Thobi exhales and takes a sip of her wine, her eyes don’t leave mine and I can see she is also trying to process.
“But,” she begins and cocks her head to one side then turns the other way, she then looks at Amahle, “let’s go to the balcony choms.” She leaps from the stool and grabs her glass and then leads the way to the balcony. “I don’t want her to hear us.” She smiles.
We sit on opposite sides on the couches, my dress rides up and I am annoyed by how I ran around like a headless chicken earlier trying to find the perfect dress for Sifiso to rip off!
“So tell me, why did he want to see you?”
“I don’t know T.” I shrug. A hadeda takes flight from a roof nearby and the shrill of its haa-haa-haa-de-dah temporarily absorbs the sound of my strained heartbeat. “I thought…this time it would be…I don’t know…different, I guess.” I bring my wine glass up to my lips while balancing my elbows on my thighs. “It’s just the path seemed clear and now…this.”
“So he called you after all this time to tell you about his pregnant wife, I mean ex?” Thobi folds her arms over her breast and leans back into the couch, the last splinter of sunlight dance tiredly on the one side of her face. She shakes her head and muddles the light, “it doesn’t add up chomi, like how did he tell you? And what is his reason for telling you?”
Another hadeda takes flight and squawks accompanied by a white Golf GTI revving it’s engine in the street below. Two guys come out of the white car dancing to some House music, I am not a fan so I can’t recognise the song. The one guy, the driver, runs to the boot and takes out a red cooler box, braai I think. I turn back to Thobi who looks like she is still trying to work out what Abigail being pregnant means.
“He didn’t tell me, he sent me a text!”
“I’m sorry what?”
“Hayi maan chomi, kanti…so you guys had a cool date then he texts you this rubbish?” asks Thobi with her face clouded with confusion.
“I know,” I say and shake my head.
“Let me see this message, like uthini?”
I open my messages and hand Thobi the phone, she reads the one line, scrolls up and down as if there is more information to help make the one-liner make sense. “What?” she says and looks at me, I just shrug. “Like I am failing to understand friend.” My phone rings while in Thobi’s hand, she looks down at it and she laughs, “look at this,” she says as she turns the screen in my direction. Melusi blinks across the screen. “Hayi shem you are going through it today!”
“Hey Anathi, unjani?”
“I am well, you?”
“I am good,” he says. “I have just been thinking about you, you know.”
“What about me?” I say. Thobi pulls faces and she covers her mouth with her hand to stifle laughter. I roll my eyes at her and she gets up and heads back inside.
“No …just…how have you been?” he asks.
“Melusi, what do you want?” I snap. And fall back into the couch.
“Hau Anathi, it’s just a friendly check in.” He sighs. “I thought maybe …we could, you know have lunch or someth—
“Is Zenzile pregnant?”
“Nevermind.” I sigh. “What’s up?”
“Uh I was just wondering if we could so lunch sometime?” he says. We both remain quiet. I can’t focus on what he just said, I don’t even know if I can jump into another lunch with a blast from the past. “Look,” he interrupts the silence, “it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, I just miss you girl, that’s all.”
“Yeah, okay…we can do lunch sometime.”
“Great! I will text you the details?”
“Sure Melusi, bye.”
I gulp the rest of my wine, stand up and go back inside. Amahle is on the bar stool eating grapes, swivels the chair when I walk in, “are you ready to go nana?” I ask. She shrugs, it is never easy to leave Thobi’s house, I suffer from this too. Her house always feels like a home that wraps its arms around you, it feels like Thobi. The love is palpable as if it is the only place in the world that exists.
“I am sorry you think you are going to leave without telling me what that was about?” says Thobi while walking towards me, “I just went to the toilet and you two are planning an escape, forget it!” She smiles at Amahle who is giggling over Thobi’s dramatic reaction. “Amahle sweetie get yourself whatever you want from the fridge and go watch some tv in my room, me and this one (she points at me) need to chat quickly.” Amahle does as she is told. Thobi canters to the fridge and takes out an unopened bottle of Chardonnay.
“Oh, so you are bringing out the big guns now?” I laugh, “your ass knows I can’t say no to Chardonnay.”
“Sit down and tell me what he wanted.”
“He wants to do lunch,” I say and we both look at each other burst out laughing.
“Yhuuu chomi just wow hey, just wow. So what did you say?”
“I said okay.”
Thobi bursts out laughing, the kind of laugh birthed in her gut and tears wet her face.
“I can hardly see what’s funny.”
She gasps for air and flailing her arms in the air, she attempt to talk but her mouth prefers the laughter every time she talks. She inhales deeply and centres herself when she sees that, I am indeed not finding any of it funny. “Okay chomi askiesi ne, it’s just these men though!”
“I know, I even asked him if Zenzile is pregnant.” We both laugh.
“So do you miss him?”
“Arg, I don’t think so…between settling in with Amahle these past few months and trying to find a job, I can’t really say I’ve missed him…but I guess it would be nice to see him, I don’t know.”
“Does he know about Amahle?”
“I don’t know.”
We sit back and the L-shaped couch swallows us, the TV is on but on mute and for a brief second I try to read Meredith Grey’s lips in what seems like an argument with Karev or a spirited conversation. Maybe Melusi can be my Karev I think and a warmth spreads across my face.
My phone rings it on the coffee table and Sifiso’s name flashes on the screen, I press the hang up button.
“Brutal,” Thobi says.
“What is there to talk about?”
“Umm, why he sent you a text after you guys had a nice meal together?”
“I don’t care though.”
“Babe, we both know that’s a lie, so you can either drag this out or just talk to the man.”
My phone rings again and I think about answering it but the fact that he texted me such big news instead of having the courage to tell me to my face stops me. Thobi is about to say something when I shoot her a death stare. A message comes in: