Out of the blue, some years later, Nhlanhla phoned me. His wife had died. Yes, the other woman from Mandeni, the ‘new love’ was no more. She died of Aids-related illnesses at childbirth.

Later I heard that it would have been her second child in the past 16 months. The other one died through miscarriage.

When I think of his wife, even today, I see a faint, grey image of a thin and sickly woman determined to please her husband and bear him child number four. In my mind, she dies an agonisingly painful death. I imagine her huddled on the floor with a new blanket over her skeletal body.

In her eyes, I see a loving yet lonely and frightened woman. She is afraid of dying. Yet, she wants to please her husband one more time, give him a child, a male heir.

When it rains, it pours. It was pelting down when my phone rang. S’ma here,” I answered immediately.

“S’ma, it’s me, Nhlanhla. I think you should go and test for HIV. I tested positive last week. I am sorry about everything,” he said, without any pleasantries nor any hint of irony in his voice.

I felt a lump in my throat. Now I must face this! After everything else!? I was angry, and close to tears.

I dropped the call.

* * * * *

“When last did you have unprotected sex, Mam?” the nurse asked me two weeks later, during the post HIV test counselling.

I explained my story in full, including the cheating boyfriend – fiancé actually – who slept with an HIV positive woman, now dead as a result of AIDS.

As I finished my sob story, she smiled, while my face was a sea of worry and confusion.

“Your results show that you’re HIV negative,” she said, letting the word negative hang in the air for longer.

I smiled, and said, “Ithemba alibulali. Yes, hope doesn’t kill. I hoped and hoped for this result, because I deserve it.”

I have tested the bitter fruit, false hopes and ultimate brutal betrayal by a man I loved so much. Yet, I made it through it all. I am not bitter. I am an epitome of iMbokodo; so say my name loud, S’mangele!

I have upgraded my teaching qualifications by adding a university degree. I have also since moved from Ezintombini to a middle-class suburb of Stanger. My son is at varsity doing medicine, perhaps he hopes to find a cure for the broken hearts. He is my antidote to the brutal fruit of life. Perhaps I will get married only when I retire. Perhaps.


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