The glasses clink and Thobi collapses into the chair at the dinner table, it has been ages since we all got together, a gathering I desperately need after the week I have had and the showdown with MaBhengu. She still insists I have to go twasa, I don’t think this is a need and if it was I would feel it in my bones. Tsholo emerges from the kitchen carrying baby Arabile, the baby is dressed in pink from head to toe. “This is so typical,” I say as she hands the baby to me.
I look at the baby and she laughs. “Who knows how long she will let me do this to her.”
Amahle edges closer trying to get a glimpse of the baby, I ask if she wants to hold the baby and her face beams. I lead her to the couch in the living room and instruct her to sit back into the couch, “your back must touch the back of the couch, okay?” She nods and scoots back, “now put your arms out straight,” I say. She does as she is told and I place the baby in arms and she curls her closer. “Don’t even think about getting up, if she cries just yell for us, okay?” She nods.
“So when is madam arriving?” I ask Tsholo as I stroll back into the dining area.
“Mxm, with that one it is only ever confirmed when she actually arrives, but she said seven,” she says and shrugs.
“In the meantime missy,” Thobi begins. We both turn to look at her lopsided body on the chair, “what is the story with you and Sifiso? You never did get back to me.”
“Ahhhhh you are back there?” Tsholo exclaims.
I take my seat and hope my eyes communicate that I don’t want to talk about the drama of Sifiso.
“Tsholo, it smells like your food is burning.”
“Nice try, but I bought everything we are having for dinner tonight.” She laughs. “Now spill!” She takes the seat next to Thobi and both their eyes turn on me like globes.
“There’s nothing to say, I mean his ex-wife is pregnant, what more can I say?”
“I am sorry what?”
“Oh my gosh, so she didn’t fill you in?” I ask Tsholo. She shakes her head.
“I seriously can’t go through that story again shem.”
“No need just tell us, what now?”
I laugh and they laugh along with me. I look over at Amahle who is far off in the living room, she is making funny faces at the baby and rocking her gently when she sounds like she is about to wail. I am surprised at her natural maternal instinct at such a young age, I smile. I turn back to the two vultures waiting to hear my life.
“He wants us to talk.” I shrug.
“And, will you?” Tsholo asks.
“Well duh!” Thobi says.
“Arg I am sick of it and I am sick of you for rooting for this guy!”
“Chomz I am not rooting for him, I just know how happy you are when you guys are fine,” Thobi says.
“Ja mara sometimes even if a guy makes you happy, you have to let me go when his nonsense outweighs the sense,” Tsholo says.
“Exactly!” I chant.
The baby wails and Tsholo jumps up to go and get her, “sorry nana, aunty is not used to small babies in the house.” I hear her whisper to her baby and my heart tightens against the walls of my chest.
“Tsholo, when are you going to take your things to storage?” Thobi asks while staring at Tsholo as she shoos Arabile.
“Hmmm, what are you talking about?”
“Oh so wena you think you can keep cream couches and dining chairs with a toddler around?”
“Never mind the couches, what about that glass sculpture at the entrance?” I ask.
Thobi and I both laugh and then in unison yell, “it’s a statement piece!” mocking Tsholo.
Just then the doorbell rings and Tsholo’s helper comes rushing to the door, “don’t worry sisi please just take Arabile upstairs, she looks like she is ready for her nap.” The helper takes the baby and asks Amahle if she would like to join them upstairs, Amahle nods and she is off.
“The party can officially begin!” Lesego yells before she is fully inside the house.
“Oh, you brought a guest?” Tsholo notes.
“This is Refilwe,” she points to a body Thobi and I can’t see, yet, “and this is Tsholo.”
“Nice to meet you,” Tsholo says and moves away from the door, “please come in.”
I look at the clock on the wall behind Thobi, it says it is 7:30, not bad I think. It is a miracle that Lesego has shown up at all. Ever since her divorce, it has been very hard to pin her down.
“Hi ladies, oh wow long time.” She chimes as she walks into the dining room. “This is my friend Refilwe and Refiliwe these are the girls.” She splays her arms outward as if presenting us as a high tea spread.
“It is so nice to finally meet you ladies, I’ve heard so much about you.” Refiliwe smiles and her beautiful teeth are almost blinding they are so white, I wonder if I have ever noticed beautiful teeth. I think there are like things you don’t pay any mind too until you come across an undeniably beautiful set. I wonder how old she is and she has managed to keep her body so absolutely sturdy, I don’t need to touch her to know that she doesn’t giggle. Thobi extends her arm to greet her but, Refiliwe just jumps straight in to embrace a startled Thobi.
“Have you?” I ask.
“What?” Refiliwe asks, her perfect eyes cloud with confusion.
“Heard so much about us?” I cross my arms over my chest, “you see people like saying things like that, so I am curious, have you really?”
Refiliwe looks at Lesego then Thobi and then back at me, her happy stance seems to be hanging on by a frayed thread. She clears her throat and takes a step back from me, I hold my painted smile.
“Well, Lesego has told me…what…good…umm…friends…you all…are to her,” she stammers.
“Anathi just stop it! Can we drink?” Lesego says.
“Yes please!” Thobi and Tsholo bellow.
“Are we going to dim the light?” I ask
Tsholo give me a dead stare, “what are you on about now girl?”
“Hayibo I don’t get why we have candles and lights on, or is it just ambience?”
Thobi gets up from her chair and blows out the candles one by one, “we are not on a romantic dinner and I want to see Lesego explain herself.”
Lesego rolls her eyes at Thobi’s comment and gently strokes Refiliwe’s hand. Tsholo and I glance at each other at this gesture.
“So I did have a baby, you know,” Tsholo says while looking at Lesego.
“And she is gorgeous from the pictures I have seen,” Lesego retorts.
“And you see nothing wrong with that,” I ask and circle the rim of my glass, “I mean, that you haven’t seen your good friend’s baby?”
“I am here now am I not?” Lesego purses her lips and scratches the side of her head. “You guys know I have been dealing with a lo—
“No actually we don’t, we haven’t heard from you since your divorce!” I interrupt her.
“What’s harder than a divorce Anathi, you of all people should know!”
“Umm, not being able to have kids!”
“Okay guys stop this, let us just have a civilised dinner please,” Tsholo says. “Besides Lesego is here now and there’s no need for all this drama, we have a…” her words trail off and she jerks her head in Refiliwe’s direction.
“Well if she is going to be part of the friendship circle she might as well know that we don’t tolerate flakiness!”
“Oh for crying out loud Anathi, who said anything when you disappeared without saying a word?! So flakiness is fine when it comes from you? Flip I have been going through some things and I am here now, God the world doesn’t revolve around you!”
“No, it revolves around you, Lesego.”
Silence fills the room and Tsholo gets up from her chair and heads to the kitchen. Thobi looks at me but, it feels like her eyes are burning a hole into my face. Refiliwe is rubbing Lesego’s back and whispering into her ear, Lesego keeps nodding and an almost indistinguishable smile crawls across her lips. My stomach wrings itself, knots so tight I find it hard to breathe. Of course, I feel terrible but, Lesego needs to get herself together and not just be a friend of convenience.
Tsholo comes back into the dining room holding a tray with two salad bowls on it, she places it in the middle of the table, then she smooths out the white table cloth, “listen, we have all had a rough patch, I have a gorgeous child with a father who isn’t interested.” She puts her hands on her waist, her belly still protruding even though it has been about four months since Arabile was born. “Now can we all just get along?” She turns away to go get more food from the kitchen.
“And I am STILL pushing my wedding back,” Thobi says.
“Phomolo refuses to pay what we agreed upon,” Lesego blurts.
“There’s a court for that,” I say.
“He’s the father of my child, Anathi.”
My eyes drop from Lesego and focus on her hand over Refiliwe’s, they have had their hands clasped since they sat down.
“How did you and Refiliwe meet?” I ask.
They stare at one another a prickly intensity, engulfs the room, they brim and their smiles illuminate their side of the room. Thobi and I look at one another and I sense she is just as confused as I am by how long it is taking them to answer a simple question.
“Eyy hello!” Thobi chimes.
“This one…she saved me,” Lesego exhales.
Thobi and I look at each other again and back at them, they have not turned from one another, still lost in one another’s eyes.
“What do you mean, girl?” Thobi asks.
Lesego takes in a deep breath and then turns to us, she smiles, “We met at Mugg & Bean, the one at Peter Place,” she says with a smile plastered throughout. “Refiliwe was getting an order to go and while she sat waiting, I guess she couldn’t ignore this woman sniffling behind her.”
“Shame, I was so worried and everyone else was acting like she wasn’t crying, it was so bizarre.” She giggles. “Anyway she assured me she was fine and we exchanged numbers, and we have been hanging out ever since.”
Tsholo returns she whispers in my ear that Amahle has been fed and is watching TV upstairs, I thank her and silently scold myself for temporarily forgetting that I am not here on my own. We settle in for dinner, my irritation with Lesego has finally fizzled out.
“You guys, Refiliwe…has a…cute nyana plot out in Haarties she got from …her divorce settlement,” Lesego says in between her bites of food. We all look at her and my expression screams and so what? “Well, we now have land, what’s the excuse?”
We all burst out laughing, the idea that having space is the only thing holding us back reminds us all of how simple Lesego thinks life is. My phone rings and I get up from the table without looking who is calling. I walk towards the entrance and can hear the girls going back and forth about how Haarites is hardly a place to go set up a business, “People who live in Haarties travel to Joburg for work every morning,” Tsholo chimes.
“Come on dude, I am with my friends this is hardly the time,” I say.
“Anathi, when will it be the right time?”
“I don’t know Sifiso, honestly I don’t.”
“It’s as if you don’t want us to be together,” he scoffs.
“Well I am not the one who is about to have a baby, pretty big sign of not wanting to be together, don’t you think?”
“I told you the baby might not be mine.”
“And what am I supposed to do with that information? Wait around until its born to find out where I stand?”
He huffs, “you don’t get it, it changes nothing between us.”
“I am so sad that you think that, it changes everything!”