Ntombi felt herself smiling. How could she not? He looked so cute, with his naughty smile. “Aren’t I going to get a hug?” He stepped forward and she dissolved into the warmth of his arms. “It’s so good to see you,” he said squeezing her gently and kissing her hair. “It’s been the longest twenty-four hours.”

“For me too,” said Ntombi.

“I never want to let you go again,” said Mzi.

“I was worried,” Ntombi confessed.

“I know, I’m sorry,” he whispered, taking her head between his hands and looking searchingly into her eyes. “Things just got a little crazy. I’ll be able to explain soon. I really want to. It’s just I can’t, not yet…”

“You’re not in some kind of trouble?” asked Ntombi. For a moment something swept across Mzi’s face. It was his mask, the face that she couldn’t see behind, but it passed in a second.

“Come. I’ve got someone who really wants to meet you.” Ntombi frowned. She hoped it wasn’t another of his girl friends; she didn’t know if she could fake enthusiasm. “My sister,” he said. “She’s invited you to tea. She wouldn’t take no for an answer.” They got into the car and soon were speeding through the township. So he did have a sister. He had been telling the truth, and now she was about to meet her.

“Is she OK, your sister?” she asked.

“Yes… but we had a big scare. That’s why I acted the way I did the other night. I’m sorry. You see the doctors thought she had cancer, and we were waiting for the results. I’m really close to her… and I guess I just freaked out under the pressure. But now it’s all okay.”

“The hospital?”

“Yes,” said Mzi. “We found out this morning. Her tests were clear.” He smiled at Ntombi.

“I’m glad,” Ntombi said. As they pulled into a side street Mzi turned to her.

“There’s just one thing,” he said. “Don’t ask her any questions about it. She’s still quite upset and she told me she just doesn’t want to talk about it.”

“Of course I won’t,” said Ntombi.

Mzi stopped the car outside a white painted fence and came round to open her door. Before she knew it a young woman was coming down the path to greet them. “I’m so pleased to meet you,” she said, smiling at Ntombi and then looking quickly at Mzi. He nodded.

“Come inside.” It felt really good, and normal; the most normal thing that had happened in days. Just sitting and chatting to Mzi’s sister, and laughing. Ntombi was just a normal girl with her cute boyfriend, who had a family, and an address and an explanation for everything.

They had chatted for about ten minutes when Mzi excused himself to go to the toilet. Ntombi was left alone on the couch, as his sister went to make some more tea.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” she assured Ntombi. Ntombi sat and looked around the room. She wondered where their parents were. Hadn’t Lettie said something about them living with their aunt now? Just then she heard a beep. It was coming from under the cushion on the couch. She fished in and took out Mzi’s phone – it must have fallen out of his pocket as they sat. As she fumbled with the phone she must have pressed the green button because suddenly words appeared on the screen. She couldn’t help reading them – and what she read made her heart beat faster.

We on 4 2morow? Mit @ usual place 6pm –Mama’s – bring intshiza – Z

Ntombi quickly stuffed the phone back under the cushion as Mzi shut the toilet door behind him. “Hey, you look like you seen a ghost. What does my sister think she’s doing leaving you alone like this? That’s no way to treat a VIP guest.” Just then his sister came back in. Mzi flashed her what looked like a warning glance – it wasn’t friendly. Oh no, thought Ntombi. She didn’t want to see him angry.

“I was absolutely fine,” laughed Ntombi weakly. “I’m a big girl now.”

“Of course she is,” the sister said. “I’m sorry. My brother is just a little bit overprotective. In fact he worries about everything – he just doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.” She smiled sweetly up at Mzi, who smiled back. But she could see the tension in his body.

“We’d better get you home, before your mother wonders where you are,” he said, reaching out a hand for Ntombi.

“There’s no hurry,” said Ntombi, not wanting to be alone with him. “They take ages in church.” Just then another beep came from under the cushions. Ntombi pretended to look surprised.

“Oh,” said Mzi as he quickly retrieved his phone. “It must have fallen out my pocket.” He quickly scanned the message. Ntombi watched his face, but it was a mask again, revealing nothing. “Let’s go – maybe we can swing by a take-out on the way home. I could kill for some fried chicken right now.” He laughed and Ntombi laughed too. She couldn’t let him suspect that she knew about him and Zakes. They got into the car and Mzi turned on the stereo.

“I love this song,” said Ntombi.

“Me too,” said Mzi. As they pulled into the Chicken and Fries take away he asked her what she felt like. “You can have anything,” he smiled.

“I’ll have a wrap,” she said.

“You also like wraps?” he smiled. “You have good taste – wraps are my favourite. You see, you and I are going to get along just great.” He kissed her cheek. “We have the same tastes, I can tell.”