The stars and moon rose up higher in the sky. Sipho walked out of the second-floor lounge onto the balcony that stood overlooking the distant city. He took a long gulp of the cold night air. He walked over to the railing and was about to light his cigarette when he noticed a familiar figure sitting at the far end, in the corner.

He turned casually and she got up abruptly, heading for the door back into the lounge, and her room on the opposite side of the passage.

“No,” Sipho pleaded with her.

“I want nothing to do with you,” the girl said.

“Please stay,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep … so I came out here to get some fresh air. But I can leave if you want.”

“Don’t leave on my account,” the girl said.

“I just want to talk, Amanda!”

“You had more than several months to pick up your phone and talk,” Amanda said to him. She walked past him, heading for the door. The young man could not hide the embarrassment on his face. He began to do that thing he always did when he was nervous. He played with his hair, twirling it around his index finger.

“I meant every word I said that evening!” he called out, just as she reached the door. The girl slowed down and paused. Her grip on the door handle tightened. Sudden raging fury unleashed itself within her.

She turned back and spat out: “Did you?” she cried. “Did you really? Or was I just another one of your conquests?”

Sipho’s jaw hung in the air as she unleashed insult upon insult on him. This went on for five minutes as Amanda’s rage and hurt descended on Sipho.

By the time she was done she had forgotten what she had said when she started her tantrum! Sipho had also forgotten. He only remembered that some of Amanda’s milder insults had been ‘casanova’ and ‘boy whore’.

“Are you done?” he asked her, when she had stopped hurling sharp words like daggers at him.

“No, I’m not,” Amanda muttered. “You are a selfish, self-serving pri–”

She didn’t finish her sentence because Sipho edged closer to her and entwined her in a gentle hug. They stood there, in each other’s arms for a while, just basking in each other’s existence, neither saying anything. A cold late-night breeze blew gently past the balcony, swooshing trees on the ground below.

They spoke to each other in the oldest of languages; the language that did not need words.

Sipho and Amanda stood silently, each waiting for the other to start the conversation.

They watched the empty garden in silence. The trees towered over the balcony against the backdrop of the infinite night, like an old canvas, their leaves gently swaying in the breeze. The grounds stretched on for metres and the crickets were just starting to disturb the peace when Sipho reached out for Amanda’s hand, trying to softly caress her fingers.

Amanda cringed and pulled away.

A look of dismay crossed Sipho’s face suddenly, striking out his alluring smile.

“I thought you would be happy to see me,” Sipho said in a low tone. His voice broke a little, even though he attempted to hide that his heart was hurt by Amanda’s reaction.

“You never called,” Amanda said, as she turned her face towards Sipho, her sharp gaze piercing into his eyes. Sipho averted his gaze. He did not like people looking into his eyes. It felt as if they could see him for who he truly was.

“There was never a day that went by when I did not think about you Amanda. I … I,” Sipho stammered.

“Then why did you not call?” Amanda lashed out at him. “I gave you my number and you never called!”

“I saw it, and I was going to call,” Sipho began. “But when I got to res, I was so tired, I climbed straight into bed. And while I was sleeping my super helpful roommate washed the pants I was wearing that day. By the time I realised, the washing machine had already turned that piece of paper into paper mâché.”

“But you could have tried something else,” Amanda retorted with frustration. “Another way!”

“Believe me, Amanda, I tried!” Sipho whimpered. Amanda felt the hurt in his voice. But she was still angry. She would not let him get away with it just like that.

“Oh, is it a thing you do to all the girls you get together with on buses?”

“I called your university every day for six weeks,” Sipho breathed. He edged closer to her, closing the gap between them on the bench. He reached for her hand. “And they said the same thing every time.”

Amanda took his hand and blurted out harshly, “Well, what did they say? That you are a self-serving liar?”

“They said that they are not allowed to give it to me!” Sipho roared, breaking the silence in the dark night. “How could I not try to find you?” he continued, “when you are the answer to every prayer I have ever uttered.”

“Okay, okay,” she said, now massaging his hand. “Relax tiger, I get it.”

Amanda looked at him questioningly, and finally hugged him back. She laughed with joy as she felt the warmth of his arms engulf her.

***

Tell us: Do you think Sipho did enough to try to find Amanda? Should she have tried to find him?