A very short story…
“You never asked me.” Moroesi brushed her worn-out wig as she looked at Khutso lying on their bed.
“What do you mean I never asked, weren’t we always doing this?”
She set the brush down and tossed the wig, given up on her ability to bring it back to life.
“Yes, we spoke about it but you never asked.”
Khutso sits up on his elbows and smiles at her, she shakes her head turns back to look into the mirror and applies her night cream. Her mother’s voice forever trailing her thoughts,“beauty is not skin deep, only ugly people say such. You must look after your skin…” she would say.
“Mara baby this is how things are done mos, I have to speak to your father and hear what he has to say.” He waits for her to turn around and share the smile that blinded him the first time he met her, two years ago. It was at a conference, one he dreaded going to but his boss would not allow him to delegate it to someone else, “it’s just girl trouble man, it will pass.” He patted Khutso on the shoulder and handed him the pass to the
Valencia had walked out on him the night before, she met another man, one who could provide all the finer things she needed in life. His whole world slipped and lay on its back and he couldn’t make sense of much for the next 24 hours. Until he laid eyes on Moroesi.
The room moved to her sway, she looked one way and every eye turned in the same direction when she spoke ears piqued and everyone held their breath in fear of missing a single word. Khutso didn’t think he stood a chance, she was up there on stage, giving a talk like one of the big boys. What’s the use in dreaming he thought.
So he stammered and felt his light blue collar turn dark from absorbing sweat when Moroesi said “Hi” during the conference break. She extended her hand and when he touched her, her skin felt like satin.
“My name is Moroesi, you are?” “Kh…Khu…excuse me…my name is Khutso…ya Khutso.” “Nice to meet you.” She smiled. The smile that helped him abandon all negative self-talk and dive right in. “You were…umm…so good up there I really enjoyed your outlook on how companies can work for mothers and not against them…really powerful stuff.” He smiled and willed his pores to stop spitting sweat.
She stopped pouring the orange juice and put down the blueberry muffin she was about to bite into, she looked around the room filled with hummed chatter and then back at Khutso. She knew he was nervous and she found it endearing and for once a man didn’t comment on her beauty but rather her work. “Well, my session is done and the rest of the line up is a snooze fest, wanna go grab brunch?”
Khutso looked behind him and then back at her, “oh you’re talking to me?” He chuckled. “Let’s go!”
And that was it. Khutso forgot about Valencia and the money he had been saving to ask for her hand in marriage, and the blueprints for their brand new house he was going to surprise her with on their wedding day. Valencia’s memory fell out of his heart like a house through an earthquake crack. All he knew now was Moroesi. And all he did was count down to a time when it would be appropriate to ask for her hand in marriage.
“What have we ever done without talking it through first?” Moroesi turns away from the mirror and faces Khutso, “when have I ever been okay being taken by surprise heh?” “Hao babe userious, you are upset?”
“Of course I am upset!” Moroesi walks over to her side of the bed and sits on the edge, “this is a huge step I can’t believe you went to my parents without telling me!”
He slowly gets up from the bed and kneels in front of Moroesi, “Baby, I thought you would be happy, I thought this is what you wanted, what we wanted…I mean we’ve spoken about this and yo—
“Did I ever say I want to get married now?” She folds her arms and turns her body away, Khutso crawls to face her once again. “I didn’t say I wanted it to be a surprise we didn’t even talk about when and now you have sent people to my home, are you okay in the head?”
“Okay…okay baby mamela…” he dashes to his side of the dressing room and comes back with a navy blue velvet box. He opens it and the rock is so big it looks like it has baby diamonds on its back, “will you marry me ge?” He smiles up at her but his eyes sting from threatening tears.
“Khutso stop it maan.”
“Baby, Papa has agreed! He said he could not be happier for us.”
“I don’t know why Papa said that when he knows…” she let her words trail.
“Moroesi weh, when Papa knows what?” He gets up from the floor and plonks himself on the wingback next to their bed and stares at Moroesi who is fiddling with her nude manicured nails. “Is this about Bhekifa?”
The silence sucks the air out of the room and Khutso’s ears pierce with ringing his mother once told him signals spirits trying to talk to you.
“Moroesi, is this about that man!” Khutso’s eyes pulse and the tears turn into a liquid rage! “I am not going to ask again, is this about BHEKIFA, answer me dammit!”
She nods without looking at him.
Bhekifa, the love of Moroesi’s life. The man whose every fall fromgraceonlyfiresMoroesiuptobuildyetanotherpedestalto
put him on. Bhekifa didn’t even know he needed to be grateful, he sat on each pedestal like it was his God-given right. It didn’t matter how hard Khutso worked, how high he built his own pedestal and perched Moroesi on. It didn’t matter that he knew her favourite scent, Ocean Breeze, and made sure the house carried the smell up to Moroesi each time she walked in, or that when she had a tough day at work she walked in to find a home-cooked meal, her favourite- dumpling and mogodu- and bathtub filled with bubbles with a fishbowl sized glass loaded with Merlot placed on the tiny table where the candles and incense welcomed her into a sanctuary.
Whenever Bhekifa reemerged from whichever abyss swallowed him, Khutso disappeared to Moroesi. She would try to hide it but he could tell when Bhekifa was back on her radar. She would stop talking or making plans, “let me see how the week goes” would be her response to plans as small at dinner at the end of the week. What she loved a month ago suddenly isn’t so amazing anymore, ” it’s infantile that at our age you want us to go to Gold Reef City,” when a few weeks ago it was a brilliant idea and she had thrown her arms around him and whispered, “you are the most romantic person I know.”
Their lovemaking was the biggest sign of all, she would insist on using protection even though they were both clear they were trying for a baby. Her abrupt change would be peppered by her need to still advance at work, “what kind of life will we offer a child if we don’t make enough?”
He hated how Bhekifa rode in an swept her away by merely existing. How his word was the law in Moroesi’s world and how being with Khutso flipped into a criminal act.
Khutso slides to the floor and gets in between her thighs so he can see her face. Her perfect satin skin is drenched in tears and her nose is bright red like the reindeer in the Christmas carol Khutso can’t remember.
“My baby, I told you I will do anything for you, please you know how much I love you. Don’t let this man ruin us, kea kopa hle Moroesi.”
“Khutso…I…I am carrying his child.”
Her face blurred and the red nose looked like the red of the traffic light. He doesn’t know when he clawed his hands around her neck and began to squeeze and when the screaming stopped.
It was 11 pm when the firefighters arrived. Khutso and Papa watched the house engulfed in flames. Papa paced the length on their front yard, his finger glued to the redial button, “it is off, she must be busy.”
Khutso watched Moroesi’s father dial a phone he knew would never, ever be answered. “Eya Papa, she did say she has a huge deadline.”