As she sat alone behind the counter, sipping her cider, Mathabo’s mind flew back to the day she first met her knight, Peter. She was sitting under her favourite tree next to the river – a place she found solace every time her parents started fighting.
It seemed there was no love between them anymore, for they argued about everything: small, big or just silly things like if the food was cooked on time or just a mere tone of address. Then there would be a huge fight and they didn’t speak for days. They would use Mathabo as a messenger.
Well, things had not been like that before. It all began a year ago when her father started sleeping in the taverns every weekend, or so he claimed. Slowly, slowly, the respect that her mother had for him became thinner. They no longer shared jokes, and seldom spoke. Her mother began spending nights in the guest room, especially Sundays and Mondays, when her father came back home.
“Mathabo, tell your father there is no food in the fridge,” her mother would say, speaking loudly to ensure that her husband heard her.
Mathabo would steal a look at her father while they sat eating their porridge. They usually ate that from the 15th til the 27th of every month, when her father got paid. Well, these days they were even eating porridge until month end, because her mother had to fight for any money.
“Mathabo, tell your lazy mother that other women are working. They don’t just sit at home waiting for their husbands to give them money. This is the 20th century. Women help their men to provide for their family,” her father would reply, also loudly.
Before Mathabo could say anything, her mother would throw back her response: “If only I had known then! And didn’t let a stingy man promise me heaven and earth and impregnate me when I was at high school. Maybe then I would have gone to university and could work like other women. So, it is the responsibility of that so-called husband to take care of me. I want money for groceries. Stop telling me rubbish because we all know where your money goes.”
“What do you mean, stupid woman?!” her father would reply directly, fuming.
“Truth hurts, right?”
“Which truth? Ke nnete ya eng?” her father would ask, now on his feet, arms flying in the air. “Don’t tell me about things you can’t prove, woman.”
“Mpsst! You think I’m a fool? I know everything. One day is one day. Ke tla go hwetša. I’ll expose you with that tramp of yours. Jezebel!”
“Shut up, woman! Don’t push me!”
“Push you to do what? People are talking, Papa. I know everything. And you call yourself a husband? Husband my foot.”
That would be the beginning of swear words Mathabo didn’t want to listen to. Words she never thought she would hear from her parents – for they used to pinch her mouth if she uttered them to another child when she was little.
It was those words that pushed her to the river bank, a place where there was nothing but peace, with sweet songs of birds, her only friends.
Well that ended when Peter came by, whistling to the kwaito music on his cellphone, walking alone.
“Ao! Dumela ntwana. You do have legs? It means you’re real, mos?” Peter smiled, dimples appearing on his cheeks. “Eish! You nearly gave me a heart attack, you know.”
Mathabo wiped at her tears, turning away, wishing Peter would leave her alone.
“For a moment, I thought I see a mermaid, you know. The water princess. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in this world, girl. What’s your name?”
Mathabo stole a look at him from the corner of her eye. He was tall and strong, with smooth brown skin and a bold head. She had never seen him before. Surely, they were not attending the same school.
“Come on sweetheart. Just take my hand. I won’t bite you. How can I even think of hurting such a beautiful angel? Come on. Just make my day and touch my hand. Make me a happy man,” Peter said smiling, looking down at her with narrowed eyes. Mathabo smiled a little, shyly. “Wow,” he continued, throwing his eyes up at the heavens. “Did you see that? The sun even danced when it saw that smile.” Mathabo burst into laughter, staring at him. “I’m Peter. I stay in Block A. What’s your name, beautiful one?”
Mathabo shook his hand gently, with a smile. “Mathabo. From Block F.”
“Oh! Block F. I see. You’re coming from a rich family, mos,” Peter said, and sat down on the grass next to her.
Mathabo looked at him with a wrinkled forehead. “Why?”
“Come on. We all know that only the rich can afford those big houses,” Peter explained, throwing stones in the river. “Wow! This place is cool, mos. Just listen to the birds. Do you come here often?”
“Yes. Well, this is the place where I always come when …” she said then paused, not believing she had nearly told a stranger her family matters.
“I like this place, man. I really do.” He paused, his eyes staring at the reeds by the river side. Mathabo watched as he ambled towards the water. A hunk indeed, she felt, wondering what he was looking for, as she saw him kneeling.
Then he stood up, his hands hiding something behind as he stepped towards her with a smile. Without a word, he knelt with one knee on the ground, his right hand on the other, offering a yellow flower.
Then he said: “For my queen. My yellow bone. Will you be my girlfriend? I promise I’ll take care of you forever, my sweetheart. I’ll make you the queen of my heart, babes. Mmm?”
Tell us: Do you like deeply romantic, spontaneous actions like this? And what do you feel about the term ‘yellow bone’?