My mother’s garden had always been my special haven. It was a place most of my childhood memories were well captured and stored. A place where I first fell in love; fell in love with lilies, sunflowers and roses.
Standing in the same garden a year ago, the fragrance of the fresh lilies and spring blooms brushed my nose. But unlike any other day, the familiar heavenly and floral scent brought me no joy.
The garden was packed with grinning faces of loved ones. Waiting impatiently with anticipation, each one of them was giving out a common energy, an energy which sent out one particular message: say yes!
Before me stood a man I had once believed to be that of my dreams on one knee and he presented to me an engagement ring.
All that I could hear was Luthando’s voice, in an angry vociferation, saying “Throw that miserable ring down his disgusting throat, mntase!”
Rising laughter refused to escape my lips. Raising my teary eyes, the same Luthando was nowhere to be seen. It had been months since I beheld her oval-shaped pretty face, months since I lost both a cousin and best friend. My mind wandered off to the day it all happened, the day she abruptly walked away.
“He did this to you, didn’t he?”
My heartfelt laughter hung in the air, her question sending paralysing strokes down my spine.
My eyes met Luthando’s sad face, and her comedian energy was instantly gone.
“What are you talking about, Lu?” I asked innocently, while I knew, unmistakably, who she was referring to.
Her intense gaze bore into my soul, her eyes sparkling with caged tears and conflicted emotions. It was a painful sight to behold, so painful I looked away.
“It was a mistake,” I suddenly blurted out in tears.
Luthando stood from her seat to settle beside me on the sofa and encircled me with her loving arms.
“What really happened?” she asked as our bodies separated.
“Everything happened too fast Lu. We were arguing and things got intense. I lost my balance and everything just went blank.”
“Yes,” I lied.
The memories of that night haunted me. I kept reliving every physical and emotional pain they engraved. The last thing I remember was him strangling me, a moment only unconsciousness gracefully saved me from. But I couldn’t tell Luthando that. I never told anyone. Themba had everyone believe that he found me lying down unconsciously with some of his high-priced possessions gone and, out of fear, I had backed up his lies.
“It’s so sad how you have forgotten what happened to my mother, your aunt.”
Luthando stood furiously from the sofa, the tone of her voice accusing.
“Leave her out of this Lu, it will only unwrap old wounds.”
“I won’t! I can see that you’re hell-bent in following her footsteps.”
“Themba is nothing like your father. He is a good man!” I snapped, rising to my feet to face her.
“Clap for yourself, Ntombi. Congratulations for getting yourself an abusive, maniacal good man.”
“I’ve just been discharged Lu and the last thing I need is you stressing me out. I think you should leave.”
Disbelief and sadness clouded Luthando’s face.
“You know better, Ntombi. You saw first-hand what settling in an abusive relationship did to my mother. Themba is not a good man. I saw your wounds. The guy even went as far as faking a robbery. You may deny it, try to protect him, but I know the truth. I’m tired of selfish people like you, my mother’s life was choked ou…”
“Luthando…” I attempted to touch her but she raised her hand and shook her head.
“Let me finish. I suffered because of her, Ntombi. I was traumatised. I was never the same. I’m done. If you want to waste away your life like she did by refusing to listen to reason, then fine! But I will not stay here to watch you.”
Since that day, I never saw her again. Gazing at Themba once more, no fear overwhelmed my heart neither did any infatuation blind my eyes. I was done being his puppet. It was a liberating moment. It came to me, like a revelation: I could say no!
“What?” Themba seemed to freeze, perplexed. So was everyone present. The world suddenly silent.
I cleared my throat and braced myself, “I will not marry you Themba Nkosi.”