Fikile walked into the room. Gugu did not stand up. He paused at the cot and stood for a moment to watch his baby as she slept. He smiled to himself, and then walked over to Nomalunga, bent down and gave her a hug. Nomalunga smiled and went off to make him coffee.
“Howzit Gugu,” Fikile than said cheerily. “Nice to see you again. How were things in the frozen north?”
Gugu answered stiffly, “Fine.” Then she added, “Pretty good actually. I’ve been offered a second year.” Her cup clattered against her saucer. She realised that she was shaking. “You’ll no doubt be glad to hear that,” she said, her anger towards him beginning to break through. “I won’t be around for one more whole year.”
Nomalunga came back into the room. “I don’t want any fighting,” said Nomalunga softly. “You’ll wake the baby.”
Gugu stood up. She was very distracted. She walked over to the crib and stared down at the sleeping baby girl. She clenched her fists, then folded her arms across her chest.
“You shouldn’t be surprised that I am upset,” she said, softly, her jaw clenched. “Neither of you should be upset about that.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Fikile, crossing his legs and sitting back in his seat, sipping his coffee.
Gugu crossed the floor in two easy strides. She stopped just in front of Fikile’s seat and leaned over him. “Of course you do!” she hissed into his face.
Turning on her heel Gugu strode over to where Nomalunga was sitting. Nomalunga was staring into her tea cup. She didn’t look up at Gugu.
“He was our friend Nomi. Always just our friend. Our friend,” she said again, laying emphasis on the word ‘friend’. “How come he suddenly became so much more?”
Gugu turned back towards Fikile, “And you always knew the truth Fikile. Yes you do.”
Suddenly Gugu stopped speaking. She felt her throat constricting. Tears were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. She sat down heavily in a chair, her head in her hands.
After a moment Fikile spoke. “I know it’s hard for you Gugu,” he said gently, “but everything changed after you left.”
Fikile turned to look at Nomalunga, who was still staring into her tea cup, still not looking up.
“I have always been in love with Nomi. Maybe you just didn’t realise that. I never expressed it before, that’s all. I just didn’t think I had a chance.” He leant forward in his seat, putting his teacup down on the table. “After a time Nomi realised that she loved me too,” Fikile smiled faintly.
“That’s just not true!” Gugu stood up again. The tears now overflowed and were running down her cheeks. Her nose had also begun to run. “Tell him,” continued Gugu, pointing to Nomalunga. “Tell him Nomi. Tell him that that could never be true!”
Gugu wiped her nose and her wet face on the back of her hand. Fikile produced a tissue from his pocket and offered it to her. He was frowning. He stood up and moved towards Nomalunga.
Just then the baby stirred in her cot and began whimpering.
“Now look what you’ve done,” said Nomalunga, standing and going to pick up the baby. She held the child against her shoulder and began to soothe her. “It’s best if you go Gugu,” said Nomalunga softly, burying her face against the soft pink blanket her daughter was wrapped in.
“You can’t tell me to go Nomi,” said Gugu with a sob. As she moved towards Nomalunga Fikile came between them, separating them. He placed his arm around Nomalunga and the baby.
“You must go Gugu,” he said firmly. “You must.”
“Nomi?” said Gugu, as Fikile gently took her arm and began pulling her towards the door.
“Go,” said Nomalunga, but so softly that Gugu could hardly hear her.
“Nomi?” she said again. This time Nomalunga lifted her face up and Gugu could see that she too was crying. Nomalunga’s eyes were appealing to her, Gugu could see that.
“Please just go,” said Nomalunga hoarsely.
“Okay I’m going,” said Gugu then, shrugging off Fikile’s arm. “Let me go.”
Gugu fumbled towards the front door, found the handle and almost tripped on the front step as she stumbled out. She paused in the front garden to look back towards the house. Nothing moved. The door stayed firmly shut. She realised she still had Fikile’s tissue clutched in her hand. She used it to firmly wipe her face. She had to find a taxi.
On the way back home Gugu managed to remain in control of herself enough so that she did not shed a tear. But once at home she ran in through her front door and to her bedroom without even greeting her mother. She shut her bedroom door firmly.
Gugu’s mother came to it and tapped softly on it. “Gugu, are you all right?”
“Yes,” came Gugu’s muffled reply. “Please just leave me alone.”
Gugu’s mother moved away. She shook her head. She had known this would happen.
Gugu lay on her bed for hours. This was not at all how she had imagined her homecoming would be.
“This cannot be happening,” was all she said, over and over to herself, before she fell into an exhausted asleep.
Tell us what you think: Why can Gugu not believe that Fikile and Nomalunga can be together?