Olwethu was walking home in the dusk. The woman selling mielies shouted her normal greeting. She liked him – he was always so friendly. But not tonight. He didn’t even hear her. His mind was whirling. What to do about Ntombi?
He had saved money, got time off work, got permission from college – all to go the finals of Teen Voice. He had planned to surprise her. But now she hadn’t even responded to his SMS telling her of his doubts, his fears … but, above all, of his undying love. Had she thought he was a fool, exposing his feelings to her like that? Did she want him to be tough, and to cheat on her like so many other guys? And what exactly was she doing in Jozi? Why had Zinzi told him about the guy who answered Ntombi’s phone? They had been at a club, she had said. Zinzi was warning him. Did she know more than she let on? Was Ntombi with that guy right now?
The sound of his cellphone brought him back to his senses. He took it out of his pocket. It was Ntombi! His heart jumped. Even if she had moved on, he needed to know. He could not bear living in doubt.
But as he pressed the green button to receive the call, the phone was wrenched out of his grip, and he sprawled onto the pavement. His knee hit a stone, his elbow collapsed under him. He jumped up to chase the two shadowy figures disappearing into the darkness, but it was too late. They had vanished. Tears of frustration burnt his eyes, though they had nothing to do with fear, or anger, or the loss of his cellphone. They were there because he had heard Ntombi’s voice saying, “Hello,” and now he couldn’t answer her.
His friend Xolani lived nearby. He went and banged on the door. Xolani’s mother opened it. “What happened, Olwethu? You are bleeding, bhuti, come in,” she said.
“Mama, I need to make an urgent call – can I use your phone?” he begged. But she wouldn’t listen to him as she bustled around finding Dettol, cotton wool, a bandage. Only once she had cleaned his injuries would she listen to his request.
“Sorry, sorry, no airtime. Wait for Xolani. I know he got some today.”
The minutes dragged as he waited, trying to be polite to Xolani’s mother. He thought of Mzi. Were those his thugs robbing him? He was stupid not to be more careful in the dark. The idea of Ntombi with some stranger had hijacked his thoughts. He had trusted her. Surely she wouldn’t have been unfaithful … Zinzi had had a wicked look on her face when she told him. Was she making trouble? Ntombi had told him how jealous she was of her going to Jozi. But to go that far! He just needed to know the truth, and his bus ticket was burning a hole in his pocket. Would it be wasted money? He could have bought a new pair of shoes.
“Hey, mfethu, what’s up?” said Xolani, shaking his hand warmly. Olwethu told him everything.
“Sounds like you need to go up there and see for yourself,” said Xolani. “Things get so mixed up long distance … Hey, and you don’t want to miss a great show. I would kill to have a ticket right now. They say Loyiso is performing too.”
“Maybe you’re right,” said Olwethu. “Enough misunderstandings and unanswered calls.” As he walked back home, he let his mind wander again. Imagine getting to Joburg and folding Ntombi in a loving embrace, he thought to himself.
When he got home he sat on his bed with his head in his hands. Imagine getting to Joburg and finding out that Ntombi was with another guy. Should he go or not? If only he knew the right thing to do …