Naledi was sitting next to Pele, who held her hand and stroked her back. “Don’t worry, my child. This is not the end of the world. One day things will be fine. You shall see. I’m telling you.” Pele’s words opened a flood of tears from Naledi’s eyes. “Please, my child. Keep quiet. Things will be fine.”
“No,” Ace muttered from his hospital bed. The oxygen mask over his mouth and nose muffled his voice.
“Ace!” Pele called, jumping to his feet. “You’re awake?”
Ace opened his eyes slowly, and called weakly for help. “No … help! Help! He is going to kill me.”
Pele held Ace’s hand tightly, and comforted him. “No, nobody is going to kill you. You’re safe. You’re at the hospital.”
“Ace, can you hear me? Ace?” Naledi said. She couldn’t believe he was conscious.
Ace nodded. “How did I get here? Bra Themba and Zorro – they will kill me!” he cried out.
“Don’t worry about those two devils. They are in prison as we speak,” Pele told him.
“What?!” Ace was shocked.
“Yes, thanks to this beauty here. She heard you screaming when they were busy beating you up and called the police. They arrived in time, before Bra Themba could finish you off, shoot you. But you were unconscious – those bastards really gave you a beating,” Pele explained.
“That’s true, Ace. I just couldn’t let that man do what he did to my brother and his friend to you, too. I knew I had to stop him. No matter what the consequences,” Naledi said, wiping the tears on her face.
“What do you mean? What did he do to Scara and Stix?” Ace asked, wincing as he turned to her.
Pele shook his head. “Nxa! That man is a devil. He found out that Scara and Stix are the ones who stole the drugs and …”
“What! It was Scara and Stix?” Ace interrupted him.
“Yes. And they paid heavily. Stix is in the mortuary as we speak. Shot dead. Scara – well, I can say he is lucky because he too is admitted in this hospital. But unlike you, the doctor says he won’t walk again.”
“Oh my God! So it was them who stole the drugs? How could Scara be that stupid? He did that after Bra Themba beat him up at the tavern?” Ace paused, wincing again as the sharp pain shot through his ribs. The doctor entered.
“I heard that you regained consciousness, monna. How are you feeling?” he asked, examining Ace’s swollen face.
“Terrible. My whole body is painful, doctor.”
“I’m sure. You have heavy bruising, but there is no serious damage. Just some cracked ribs,” the doctor said, smiling.
“So, will I be able to play soccer again soon?” Ace asked, desperate. The doctor nodded. “Yes!” Ace punched the air. “Oh shit,” he gasped and pressed his hand on his painful chest.
“Sorry,” Naledi said, holding his other hand.
“I think you’ll be out of here in a few days. Just be patient. The nurses will give you painkillers. I’ll see you again tomorrow.” Ace nodded and the doctor turned and left.
Ace was relieved to hear that his dream of playing in the Nedbank Ke Yona Team was still possible.
“Dumelang,” said a man who entered the ward wearing a blue uniform. He took out a small book and pen. “Welcome back, monna. I didn’t know you’re awake. Thanks God!” he said, writing something down in his book.
Ace realised the man was a police officer, as his partner entered, also greeting. He felt like his world was crashing again. What if they were here to arrest him for selling drugs?
Three weeks later, Ace found himself living in a fairy tale. He was sitting in a luxurious room, waiting for the selectors to announce the final eighteen-man Ke Yona Team. His heart was racing. In the hall, he could hear people cheering and clapping as the Nedbank representative spoke. Then the moment everyone was waiting for arrived. One of the selectors started announcing the team. One by one, the lucky players went to the stage.
“Now, this is the player who is going to captain the team. I’ve never seen such a talented, well-disciplined young player in my life. This boy is amazing. He is exactly what our national team needs. His name is …,” and the selector paused, smiling. The crowd laughed. “Ace Ramello!” he shouted and Ace knelt down, thanking God. He then ran to the stage, waving his hands to the roaring crowd.
Ace swept his eyes around the hall, searching for Pele and Naledi. Then he thought he was dreaming. At their table, Pele and Naledi were sitting with four other people whom Ace knew very well. They were his father, his aunt, Lefa and Thabo.
“Captain my captain!” Thabo yelled, standing and punching the air.
Tears rolled down Ace’s face. He felt like running towards their table but stopped when the selector thanked everyone. The remaining players were announced. Finally, the ceremony was over and Ace sped over to meet his family.
“Papa!” he cried, hugging his father tightly. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“Me too, ngwanaka (my child). Me too,” Ramello said, tears also streaming down on his cheeks. “I’m proud of you, ngwanaka. Your coach told us what you went through since you left home. You fought for your dream and won. Congratulations.”
“Thanks Papa. I’m just happy that you’re all here. Thank you Coach. This is the best present ever,” Pele nodded and hugged him.
“Boy, boy, boy. You made it!” Thabo said, his arm around Ace’s shoulders. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw you on TV, bro. Hai! You have proven that dreams can be achieved if one really believes. Serious.” Ace smiled.
“It wasn’t easy, bro. It wasn’t. Believe me.”
“Congratulations Ace,” his aunt said with shame. She was standing next to her son, Lefa. “I just hope you can forgive us for everything. We treated you badly. I’m really sorry,” Mampe continued, her eyes thrown down on her nails.
“My mother is right, warra (bro). Please, forgive us,” Lefa added.
Ace observed Lefa and his mother, silently. He then stepped forward towards them and hugged them.
“Sorry to spoil what seems to be a happy reunion. But I need to speak to this star here,” a man said, behind Ace. Ace swivelled around.
“Oh my God! You? I know you, mos. You’re the manager of Polokwane City.”
“Yes, your manager now. Well, that’s if you want to sign our contract,” the man said with a smile.
“Really?” When the man nodded Ace exclaimed, “Of course. Thank you, thank you! Oh my goodness. Me – a player for Polokwane City. Thank you God!”
Everyone congratulated Ace and all agreed that they must celebrate the good news. Especially now that there was no threat of Ace being charged for drugs. He had made a deal with the prosecutor that he would be a state witness and testify against Bra Themba, together with Scara.
Finally, his life was back on track and he was determined to make the best of it. Always.
Tell us: Do you think Ace was right to forgive Lefa and Mampe?