Sometimes Themba saw the shadow in her eyes. He asked, “What is it? I can see you are sad.”
Then she would shake her head and find some work on the other side of the store.
She could not tell him about her promise to Mama, “I will never leave you, Mama, like Papa and the others did.”
Mama asked her often, “Zinzi, do you remember your promise to me? You will always stay with me and look after me?”
Zinzi would just smile and pat Mama’s shoulder.
One Wednesday afternoon Themba drew her close to him. He looked into her dark eyes. Then he kissed her gently.
“I’m going out for a while,” he told her. “When I get back …” His eyes danced and he laughed happily, “Be ready for a big surprise!”
All afternoon as she served the customers and packed away the stock, Zinzi wondered about the surprise.
“When will Themba be back?” she thought. She looked at her watch yet again.
Deep in her heart she had a secret wish. Her heart beat faster. She held out her left hand and imagined a sparkling ring on her fourth finger.
But what about Mama? Themba was a good man. He was kind to the customers, letting them off when they were maybe a few cents short.
When she told him about Mama he would understand. He would say, “There will always be a home for Mama with us.”
Five o’clock came, but there was no Themba. Zinzi locked up the shop on her own. She looked nervously up and down the street. With a heavy heart she went home to Mama.