Themba    

Themba. Themba    

Themba. Themba. Themba.

He loves me? He loves me not?

He loves me? He loves Thandoza?

Does he even like me still after how I’ve treated him? I
know I’ve made some BAD calls these last few days.

I’ve liked him for so long. How could I have messed up my
one chance of getting to know him?

I’m in agony. These are the thoughts that have been stuck in
my head, like a soundtrack on repeat. 

My heart flips when I finally see him. 

It’s early Sunday morning and I’m at the spaza shop before
it even opens. And it’s not because I’m here to buy anything. 

Themba gives me a slow, searching look when he
arrives. He looks really serious.

“Shall I put the kettle on,” Themba asks?

I nod. I don’t trust my own voice yet.

“Let me open up the spaza and put out some crates for us to
sit on.” 

He puts our seats just outside the open door of the
container shop, and I watch him as he makes our coffee. 

I’m trying to gauge the vibe. 

“I heard about last night,” says Themba as he sits down. Anger
flashes over his features for an instant and then his expression changes to a
wince. 

Oh. I hadn’t expected him to know about that, but I guess
news travels fast in Khayelitsha. 

Hadedas fly over, shouting good morning. An early taxi
blares it’s hooter as it passes the spaza. I
try to gather my thoughts and my courage and decide to just say what I really came to say.

“I’m sorry Themba.”

A look of pain mixed with relief crosses his face and my
heart twists in my chest with regret.

He nods slowly, like he’s heard me, but he needs a while to
let that all sink in.

And then he changes tack, which takes me by surprise.

“I’m also sorry Buhle,” he rubs his head in a gesture of
worry. “I heard you were really brave, and that you came out on top last
night, but you could have got hurt. One of the reasons I wanted to speak to you
by yourself the other day is because I wanted to warn you that my boss might
try to cause trouble in your life. And that that’s partly my fault.”

I frown. “What do you mean?”

Themba looks pained. He hesitates for a moment
and then he dives in.

“Well, I worked here on the morning after you and I kissed
at the 16 December party. He was here and we were speaking about the night
before. I told him I’d met somebody special…afterwards I realized that was a
really dumb thing to do.”

Somebody special? As in me? Not Thandoza? My mind is racing
ahead, trying to make sense of some of the thoughts that kept me awake last
night, tossing and turning in my bed. I try and bring my focus back to the
story Themba’s telling me.

“But why was it a dumb thing to do?” I ask.

 “Well, he’s always
going on about how women are only interested in men for their money – not for
love. It’s such a big issue for him. He told me long ago that the love of his
life was a woman who broke up with him to marry a man who happened to be richer
than him.” 

Themba looks away and I can see he’s thinking carefully
about what he’s saying.  

“I don’t know if she left him for love or money,” Themba
continues. “It’s hard to know the truth when you only get one side of the
story. I think he did really loved her though,” he continues, “but losing her
hurt him so badly that he just can’t allow himself to believe in love again.
He’s convinced himself that women are only interested in men if they have
money. In fact, he’s way too obsessed with that idea. He refuses to see things
any other way. I think that it’s made him crazy.”

“Ok,” I say slowly, thinking, “That’s quite a story. But
what does it have to do with you telling him about you kissing me. Er…I mean me
kissing you?”

I blush from head to foot.

Themba smiles ruefully. “I think he’s quite protective of me
– I’ve worked here for years you know, so he’s known me since I was a lightie. He told me to wise up, because
he ‘knows all about women’. He said he’d prove to me that given the chance you
would definitely choose a man with money rather than someone who is still at
school. He said he’d do what he can to save me from being unnecessarily hurt by
you.”

I stare at Themba as I take this all in, horrified
that The Minister of Finance had had a really dark agenda when he invited
me for a drink.

“He doesn’t even know who I am, and yet he set out to
interfere in my life for all the wrong reasons. He could have really messed
with me Themba. There could have been serious consequences!” 

Themba looks really upset.

“I know Buhle, I’m really sorry. I didn’t know things would
turn out like this. I didn’t know that he would take matters into his own
hands. I’m going to seriously take him on about this. He needs to take
responsibility and apologise, or I’m going to quit my job.“ says Themba
earnestly.

We sit there not looking at each other and I wish he’d say
something more. I can’t say anything more yet. I’m still trying to work out
where I’m at. And to read between the lines and work out where we’re at too…

I sneak a peek at him, and he’s looking at me closely.

I smile. He smiles back.

I try not to look at his lips.

If anybody’s going to initiate any kissing here, it needs to
be him. 

Damn, I can’t believe I thought about kissing when we’re in
the middle of a heavy conversation.

He doesn’t make a move. My mind leaves the situation with
the Minister behind and starts to join up the dots that kept me awake last
night.

“Ummm…I didn’t know that you and Thandoza know each other?”
I venture.

His turn to blink with surprise.

“I’ve known her for years,” he answers carefully, “from
here.” He points at the spaza. “She hangs out here a lot.”

I get a lump of dread in my throat and I have to swallow.

“Is…um…is there…something going on between you?” I ask. 

For a moment Themba looks like he’s going to tell me something.
But then he sits back and crosses his arms across his chest.

“I’d like to tell you, but I’m not the person that should be
answering that question. I think the best thing would be for you to ask
Thandoza about that yourself,” he tells me in a quiet voice.

My head is spinning with confusion.

“Ask me what?” barks Thandoza’s tight, angry voice behind
me. 

***We’re publishing a new chapter daily. See you tomorrow for Chapter 12.***