Noni and Jabu were found out by Mrs Bwala, in the same week that Noni finally acknowledged to herself that she was pregnant.
Mrs Bwala had come pounding on Noni’s hostel room door one night when Jabu was there. Mrs Bwala began hammering and hollering on the door. Gigi, Zinzi and Nomsa could be heard shrieking in the background.
Noni never said a word.
Jabu managed to pull his clothes on just before the door burst open. The door finally gave way to a hard, and well-aimed kick by Mrs Bwala’s powerful thigh-driven boot.
Noni remained, cowering beneath the blankets, while Mrs Bwala hurled pillows, bits of bedding that came to hand, and every swear word that she could muster, at her and a half-dressed Jabu.
Noni and Jabu were called before the Headmaster and their parents were contacted.
Jabu was expelled.
Jabu had, apparently, done something similar before. Jabu’s parents were angry and disappointed. Thozi had dreamed of Jabu going on to do something more after school. Now there would be no more captain of the first football team. No more high jump, or javelins thrown through the air. No more running races like the wind.
Jabu’s father shook his head, but said very little. No doubt he remembered his own wild self when he was young. Jabus’ father took him home, driving slowly through the mountain road in silence.
Once home Jabu’s father handed Jabu the keys to one of his taxis. From then on, Jabu would work for his father, driving a taxi from six in the morning, until late at night. Jabu thought it best not to complain.
Noni had been given a stern warning, and been told off by the principal. Mrs Bwala sat in the principal’s office while Noni hung her head and shifted awkwardly in her chair. Noni’s main concern, under the glare of Mrs Bwala’s stern frown, was that her pregnancy was, as yet, not visible.
Noni’s mother shouted a lot. And when she came home she beat Noni with a belt.
Noni told no one, but she could already feel the soft butterfly movements of her baby, whom, Noni knew, was now as big as her thumb.
Noni returned to school alone. Gigi, Zinzi and Nomsa asked her a lot of questions at first, but Noni refused to tell them one word of what had happened. After a few days they left Noni alone.
All Noni felt was the pain of being separated from Jabu. Her school marks dropped, her belly swelled, every day a little more, against the waistband of her skirt.
Jabu found a new girlfriend while Noni was away at school.
Months passed and Noni lived through them all in a state of numbness. Until the weekend the Harvest Fair came around, like it did every year. Only that year it was to be different from every year before it. And every year since.
Stall holders came to the little town Noni and Jabu lived in from all over the country.
It was on that one weekend of the Fair that Noni saw Jabu with his new girlfriend, passing by her house in his father’s taxi.
It was on the same weekend of the Fair, that Noni knew that she could not keep her pregnancy a secret any longer. Most of Noni’s friends at school already knew, certainly her roommates Gigi, Zinzi and Nomsa had known for a while.
No one said a word to anyone. They were all terrified.
It was on the Saturday night of that same weekend of the Fair, that Noni decided to go alone to Jabu’s mother. Noni told Thozi about the baby. Thozi took Noni in her arms and they cried and cried together when Thozi heard the news.Then Jabu walked in. He was surprised to see Noni. Jabu was alone, and he was also a little drunk.
Thozi sat Jabu down on a chair and told him the truth about Noni being pregnant. Noni sat on a chair in the corner and clutched her arms tightly around her stomach. When Jabu heard the news about his baby, he said nothing at all. Jabu just stood up and walked away out the front door.
Noni went home, crying all the way. The next day was the Sunday of the Fair.
Thozi told Noni later that Jabu had appeared in church that Sunday morning, and silently slid into the chair next to her and his father. Jabu had said nothing to her, said Thozi, but he had reached over to her, and he had squeezed her hand.
From church Jabu had taken one of his father’s cars and driven to Noni’s house.
Noni opened her front door for Jabu when she heard him pull up outside. She walked past her mother and all her mother’s friends, crowding the sitting room of their small house with their loud laughter and music. She walked out onto the patch of sand in front of her house and waited there for Jabu.
Jabu came to Noni there and took her gently in his arms.“I am so sorry Noni,” he said, “So sorry for the way I have treated you. Please forgive me. I’m really going to change. You will see. I really mean it.”
Noni stood quite still and clung to him. She didn’t care about anything at all, except the fact that Jabu was there with her, holding her tight. Nothing else mattered.
Jabu invited Noni to come out with him to the Fair. Noni went with him, without even a backward glance, to where her mother was standing at the door, waving a glass of something and cackling. Noni’s mother shouted after them,
“You are a fool to take him back, Noni! You are a fool!”
At the Fair Noni saw Jabu’s old friends walking around. They invited Jabu to join them for drinks. Jabu just shook his head and said to them, “Guys, I don’t drink any more.”
Jabu’s friends laughed at him but Jabu only tightened his arm around Noni more, and told her, “I’m going to be a really good daddy for this kid.”
Jabu and Noni stayed together for the rest of the day. Jabu even drove round to his favourite shebeen to fetch a jacket he had left there, and Noni waited for him in the car.
Later his friends, that had been in the Shebeen, told Noni how Jabu had told them, cheerfully, that they wouldn’t ever see him around that shebeen, ever again .
Tell us what you think: Is Noni making a mistake by taking Jabu back? Has he really changed?