It was over. Mzi and Zakes were in jail for the night, and Ntombi and her mother were safe – for now. Olwethu insisted on staying with them. Both were shaken, and it was good to have a guy around, someone they could trust.
After her mother and Zinzi had gone to sleep, Ntombi sat up late and talked to Olwethu. She told him about the river, how scared she had been when she realised that Mzi was making the connection between her and the girl at Mama’s. How waiting in the car for him had seemed like an eternity.
“It’s all over,” he had said, hugging her. His body felt so warm and comforting. She snuggled closer to him, feeling safe in his arms. How could she have been so wrong about Mzi? She had refused to see the truth until it was too late. She had made promises she had broken, to herself and her friends. She shuddered when she thought of what could have happened if Olwethu hadn’t been on the other end of the phone, or if he hadn’t bought the pepper spray, if she hadn’t taken it with her, or if… or if…
There were so many ifs, but the truth was she was safe now and tomorrow was another day. She would start a new, clean chapter. She also owed her friends an apology – she hadn’t listened to them, when they had tried to warn her. They had been truly worried about her. She had been blind to sense, her thoughts only fixed on getting what she thought she wanted: a cool boyfriend to give her status.
She would start the day by going over to Asanda’s and telling her and Lettie everything. Then she would spend the rest of the day practising, catching up on the rehearsals she had missed. The singing auditions were five days away. She would practise with her friends like there was no tomorrow – with no distractions! Well, maybe one, the distraction who was sitting right next to her on the couch. But she knew that he would be behind her every bit of the way as she rehearsed for the big day. And she knew that having him in the audience as she sang would make all the difference.
Suddenly she felt really tired. It had been the longest day of her life. She yawned and tried to keep her eyes open, but she must have fallen asleep in Olwethu’s arms. When she woke up it was daylight. Olwethu was making coffee in the kitchen for them all, and she was wrapped up in a blanket.
“Where did you sleep?” she asked him, feeling bad. He shook his head.
“I didn’t. I curled up in the armchair and watched you till you were fast asleep.”
“You must be tired?”
“Tired, but happy,” he said. He put a steaming cup of coffee down beside her on the table, reached over and kissed her on the cheek.
When her mother came in, Ntombi could see that she had been up crying most of the night. She looked worn out, but calm and relieved. She walked over and gave them both a big hug. “Thank you,” she said, to Olwethu, “for looking out for my precious daughter, when I was too wrapped up in myself to do the one thing a mother should always do: be there for her children. And to you,” she said, hugging Ntombi close, “I want to say sorry. Can you forgive me?”
Ntombi hugged her closer. “It’s so good to have you back,” she said to her mother. “Everything is going to be back to normal now. You’ll see…”
“It’s been hard on all of us,” said her mother. “But you know what they say. The truth sets you free – and we can all start over again now.”