A New Arrival…

“Chomz you need to hurry!” screams Thobi through the phone.

“What? Why? What is happening?”

“Tsholo chomi, the baby is coming!!!”

“Omg, what!!! Oh okay, okay I am getting ready right now!”

It feels like I just got back to Johannesburg with Amahle and a new drill is upon me, this is a great drill. I am surprised at how excited I am to meet a brand new baby, I never have and a part of me is now okay with that. I have Amahle. My shrills on the phone bring Amahle running into my bedroom.

Yini mama?” What mom? 

I look up and her big eyes take my breath away, they always do. The white of her eyes is crisp white, which makes the brown striking, when she looks at me it feels like she can see my soul. She is standing up straight at the edge of my bed, she has been straightening in bits and pieces since she arrived. She is no longer furled into herself, not much anyway. 

“Nothing nana, aunty Tsholo is having her baby so we need to go to the hospital.” I smile. She rushes off to her room to pick out the outfit she has laid out for weeks for this specific trip, the white and pink maxi dress, the pink ribbons of the straps are her favourite part of the dress, the thing that sealed the deal. I hear her running her bathwater, I have to wait for her to finish before I turn the shower on, no matter how much I have complained to the body corporate about the water pressure in our house, they have not sent anyone to look at the problem. I end forgetting to follow up because Amahle and I rarely get ready together, and today is not the day to taint it with a call to Debra.

On our way to Baby City to buy yet another gift for the baby, I can’t help myself, Thobi calls.

“Yes friend, has the baby arrived already?”

“No chomi but, I just got here and I saw them turning a child away,” she says and takes a breath. I can hear the silent hum of the hospital, voices that sound like ripples of an echo dying out, the beep of machines and the qwayi qwayi of nurses in heels making their rounds, or housewives in their LVs to visit their childbearing friends. “So I don’t think you can bring Amahle, especially because she is not a sibling.”

“Hayi bo Thobi, we are already on our way, what must I turn back?” I snap. Silence follows and I am taunted by the thoughts that have been spiralling ever since she arrived, how am I going to do life with a child? I can’t even go on date and now I can’t go see one of my friends give birth! I look over at Amahle, she is staring out the window watching other cars as they whizz passed and straining her neck to take in the billboards scattered all over the roadside. She is still blown away but the sheer size of Joburg, she makes me think of her brothers and how big their eyes grew when we drove into my former home with Melusi.

“Chomi, you don’t need to yell at me, I was just letting you know.”

“I know, I’m sorry. But what am I supposed to do now, the child is dressed and excited.”

“Look let me try and ask this security lady, you know I can charm.” She laughs. I wish I could join her but, even with her charm, this is a damn hospital not a bouncer at a club or fully reserved restaurant. We turn into Baby City and I am glad it is Thursday morning because Woodmead on a weekend is like going to the voting polls. Amahle runs to the dolls and picks one up cuddle it and put it back down and picks up the next one, “just pick one nana.” I try to stifle my irritation but, I am not sure I succeed. “I want the best one, it will be her first one,” she says. I just nod and head over to the clothes. I can’t settle on a cute outfit, we have all bought the baby so many clothes I start thinking clothes are not a good idea, I move on to the baby gadgets, she has a monitor the complete video and audio one. I am about to reach for the food warmer when I feel a tap on my shoulder, “excuse me, does she belong to you?” says a shop assistant, she has added an eye roll to her question. “Oh, gosh, I am sorry we are in such I rush to—”

“Kids get stolen every day,” she says.

“Yes, I know I ju—”

“Just keep an eye on her please.” She smiles but it doesn’t reach her eyes, if she was White, I would call it the white people smile, the smile that leaves you unsure whether to smile back or check that you don’t have silly written on your forehead. She gently pushes Amahle in my direction. “Where did you go?” I ask her. She stares up at me with those beautiful piercing eyes, they have traces of red, she has been crying. I pull her in and silently curse myself for being the worst stand-in mother in the world, of course, you don’t leave a seven years old child alone in a shop!

The hospital is buzzing, I think about the last time I was here, this very same hospital. I negotiate a lump in my throat, you have Amahle now  I think. We drive around looking for parking, with every tick of the clock it feels like I am rapidly approaching missing the birth entirely. Thobi still hasn’t come back to me, it is obvious her charm didn’t work. We eventually find parking, the worst parking spot, no shade and we have to face the harsh sun streaming into the car, the car’s temperature boils as soon as I switch the car off. Amahle jumps out of the car and straightens her dress, she cuddles the doll she eventually settled on, a bald peach/pink baby doll in pink polka dot dress and eyes that close when you lay her down on her back. We start walking towards the entrance, the sun feels like a laser beam on my forehead and I feel like my foundation is melting off with every step. The hospital cart drives up behind us, “do you need a ride ma’am?” asks the security guard. I do need a ride but, I also need to buy time for Thobi, what is the plan with Amahle? “No thank you,” I reply. Amahle looks up at me her eyes squinting from the sun. I ignore her silent protest. We are almost by the entrance when my phone rings, it is Thobi, Amahle cannot come in, it is a policy and a safety measure for all the babies. I stand by the entrance defeated, I don’t know how to form the words to disappoint her.

“Oh well, well…” A voice behind me booms. I know this voice, my stomach knots and heart thuds in my fingertips, I feel sweat beads form on my forehead and the bridge of my nose. It cannot possibly be I tell myself. “I hope my eyes aren’t deceiving me,” the voice continues. I am glued, I want to turn my head but, I know this will be the end of life as I know it. I follow Amahle’s eyes, using them as my window, giving myself something to focus on and not the voice. “Are you going to say hello, pretty lady?” he asks. The sound in my voice is stuck in my throat, I try to breathe but the knots in my stomach keep snatching the air back. He comes around from behind me, crouches and greets Amahle, “well you are a princess,” he says. Amahle smiles and leaps behind me and his head lifts, it feels like in slow motion and my breath is panicked inside my body, not know whether to flow left or right, up or down. His hair is freshly shaved, the ocean breeze of his cologne wafts and settles in my nose, I travel back in time. I am surprised my mind can recall so much detail in the split second it takes for his eyes to meet mine. “You’re still so gorgeous,” he says. His voice booms and vibrates from my toes and surges throughout my body, I did not know how much I missed him until this very moment, “Unjani Sifiso?”…

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