“Bestie! How are you?” said an exquisite lady that I loved from the very first sight, Luthando. But I was still afraid to tell her how she made my heart hop in my chest, making it to literally skip a beat. She hastened towards me, rushing to lend me her arms; a big heartfelt hug. As usual she was content to see me. Her hugs lasted longer every time.

She softly brushed my shoulder with her smooth hands. It felt weird but not to her. I too, however reluctantly ran my hand delicately across her back. An affable hug that declared the hugger’s thoughts and feelings: My arms are widely open to you, and so is my heart; you don’t have to worry about a thing – I’m here for you.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Three full months?” She said, lobbing her left hand behind her beautiful curvy body. She was average, neither too lean nor fat; with wide curvaceous hips, well-rounded bums and pointed breasts, that of a virgin. Her black and nicely-combed afro made her dark brown face glow, heavenly. Everything of hers, from toe to head, was impeccable. And she looked great in whatever dress and jewellery she wore, an African lady; natural beauty.

She was wearing her red leafy dress, which I recalled from my photos; my Matric farewell collage. I darted a glimpse at her dress once again just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. Indeed, it was the one she wore on the farewell day. How could I forget, I was her partner.

“Yea, it’s been too long,” I agreed, wishing to say much but had no more words. My lips and mouth had ran dry. Words had withered from my brain, from my tongue, like the brown leaves of a tree in winter. It was time for me to lead the conversation, to say something. To ask something… Anything. It had been three months, surely there should have been something to talk about.

Nothing came to mind except for what I had promised myself to finally tell Luthando. I had once thought of picking up a telephone and telling her right away while my blood was still boiling of her love. I would do it in person, I told myself, it would be appropriate that way. Now she was right in front of my face – where were the words?

She lazily moved her lips, perhaps meaning to say something. I regarded her lips blood red of lipstick curl up into a smile, that old grin she used to make when we played our childhood games, savouring the moment. She was glowing and looked more beautiful than ever, today.

The first time I saw her I was five years old. She was playing umacashelana with her little brothers. I asked to join the game, standing outside the gate at her parent’s house afraid to invite myself in. My family had only a week since we moved into this area, Kilbarchan, Newcastle. When I asked to play she was reluctant at first. She told me that her parents did not allow them to play with anyone outside the family. It was all lies, they were not forbidden to play with other children.

After a long time, bored to death watching them, sitting on the pavement; now and then laughing at her little brothers who concealed their bodies with legs or sometimes their arms out in the open, and effortlessly she found them from where they hid. She was bored, eventually, the game was dull for it was no challenge at all to her. That’s when I got the chance to play. She asked me to come in. That was the take-off of our great friendship. Later on as my eyes opened and my feelings evoked, when her breasts grew bigger and her rumps grew broader and rotund, I fell in love with her.

Now that I was in front of her, all these and other vivid memories of us together visited my mind. My main objective was to tell her how I felt about her: I love you with my whole heart. Why wouldn’t those words just escape my mouth without qualms – without any difficulty?

As they always said there is The One – the destined one; The Destined One for me, I was convinced, must have been Luthando. My fate I believed, was to be with her forever. To share our memories of good times past and those to come, together.

I wished to hear her one day say: I do. And I would exuberantly chorus after her: I do, till death do us apart.

Her smile did not fade. Her laughter brightened up her heart-shaped, gorgeous face, and her eyes sparkled with delight like no other day. I had never seen her so content, perky and beaming incessantly. Something must have been happening inside her heart, I thought.

“When did you come back?” I asked.

“Yesterday, at midnight,” she said.

“Well, when are we eating sweets, all the way from Jo’burg?”

Yebo. Mara this thing of sweets from Jo’burg is ancient! Today’s children don’t mind whether you have sweets, Danone, or anything. As long as you have something for them, they’re happy.”

“I’m not today’s children,” I said chuckling, trying to make myself feel better. The sight of her made me feel jubilant and jumpy at the same time. I was happy to have a chance to speak to her again. But also nervous that she might not have been feeling the same way I felt about her.

“I have something to tell you,” she said.

“I have something to tell, too.”

She had been glowing since we bumped into one another. She must have been tired of keeping to herself the feelings of love for me. I assured myself. She wanted to tell me that she had been waiting for me for too long. Should she suffer in silence just because she is a woman? It’s the twenty-first century, ladies can and they do, tell a man they love him, I thought. I wanted to be the one to tell her first. I had to induce the audacity within me, the same boldness I had used on other girls I dated. I had to bail her out, I thought, I should not let her utter the words that belonged to me. Or at least the words that I, as a man bursting with pride, had to say first before a woman said them in return.

“Can I go first?” she asked.

“Can I?”

“Ladies first, don’t you know that rule? Aren’t you a gentleman?” she said in a jokingly, chortling.

“Please let me start,” I said.

“Ok then. Go ahead. I am listening,” she placed her right hand on her ear and leaned her ear towards me, in a frivolous way. “I am listening,” she said again, after a diminutive moment of silence, just the whooshing wind which was made by the trees inside her Mama’s yard.

We were standing outside the gate at the same spot where I stood when I spoke to her for the very first time.

“See, there is something I need to let you know,” I went about, clearing my throat. “I have been meaning to let you know about it, since I cannot even remember – a long time ago. Every time when I was convinced it was time to tell you…something would hold me back. I could not say it for years. So, you might be wondering why now. I think now it’s time you knew,” I paused for a moment.

Her smile was now dead, earnestly heeding to what I was saying. She seemed uneasy. I browsed her in the eyes. “Don’t be anxious, it’s not bad news. I also can’t tell if it’s gonna be good news to you. I am just happy that I have to tell you at last,” I paused again, taking a moment to gasp for air which was bountifully supplied by the trees nearby.

“If it’s good news to you, then to me too,” she said.

“I love you, Luthando…”

I love you, the words that I had kept in my heart, in my mind, in my tongue for many years were finally out to her ears.

“I’m in love with you,” I said. “I’ve been in love with you ever since. As I said earlier on, it wasn’t easy for me, especially because we had been friends for a long time. It never was easy, even now it wasn’t – but I had to let you know. I hope you had seen the signs over the years… Perhaps?”

I was then free of guilt. I had broken the chains that had been holding me. The three powerful words were out: I love you. She stared at me, with no smile this time. And when our eyes met she looked down, skirting my eyes. An awkward silence tumbled upon us. The trees also seemed to be eavesdropping, their whooshing sound died, as if they were waiting for Luthando to speak; to utter back the mystic three words.

She did not say a thing, just kept on looking at her left hand as if the answer was there. Something was shining on one of her fingers but, neither did not notice what it was nor did I care to know.

“So… You said there is something you want to tell,” I said in a low-pitched voice of disappointment. The response I had expected took another turn, an awkward one. “So you can tell me… I am done. That’s all I wanted – I had to tell.”

“Later on, Ayabonga…” she sighed mediocrely. “Later… I will tell you later.”

I wondered what was holding her back now. She withdrew her Samsung Galaxy S4 from her dress pocket, ran her finger across the screen making a pattern, and it unlocked.

“I have to go; mama needs me in the house. We will talk later. Bye!”

“Bye…” I said coldly.

I wondered if I had just shamed myself before my best friend, astounded by her aloof response to love. Who does not want to be loved – or was it wrong timing?

Two weeks after we spoke, without ever seeing even her shadow again, I got a letter from her. It was immaculately inscribed on a yellow card:

Dear Friend, Ayabonga

I am sorry for the other day… If my distant reaction hurt you. It was not my intention to hurt you.

What I wanted to tell you is that I am now engaged. I thought you’d be happy for me, and that you were going to be at my wedding. But after what you said, I don’t think it will be easy for you to come. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I loved you Aya, and I love you as my friend. I am sorry, I did not know you had feelings for me and I could not read the signs. If you told me earlier, I wouldn’t have done this to you. Perhaps, I would have developed the feelings for you too. I don’t know… Once again I am so sorry.

All the best in your quest for finding your love. You might have loved me, but I believe there The One is waiting for you somewhere in the world, way better than me… Enjoy your Christmas holidays!

Your bestie,
Luthando Yende.

She had moved in with her fiancé in Vryheid in efforts to let this sink in, let it pass; giving me some time to digest it. It was time to find someone else. She was now taken, a wife-to-be – a fiancé to somebody else other than me as I had always fantasised.

The One. The question was, who that could be – The Destined One.

Bestie, I had thought the world will one day be supplanted by some reminiscent word. Perhaps wife, or fiancé. The letter should have ended with: Your Wife or Your Fiancé…

Any other word better than Bestie!

The End