Princess Thobile is sitting with Queen MaNgema in the shade of a thorn tree. It is blazing hot.

“My girl, I hope you have heard that your father has announced the date for your wedding. You saw for yourself how much the Dladla clan wants you to be theirs,” says Queen MaNgema proudly.

“Yes, Mama. I realised how much Bhekani wants me when he brought twenty-five cattle to Baba’s kraal. Twenty-five, Mama!”

“I thought your father was unreasonable to ask for that many cattle as lobola but the Dladla family rose to the occasion. They didn’t even try to negotiate for less lobola! It means Bhekani really loves you, my girl.”

“But Baba was being unreasonable. Twenty-five is too much!”

“What’s important is that everything happened smoothly. Our families can look forward to a long prosperous future.”

“I’ll miss you, Mama.”

“I’ll also miss you, my girl. Represent your family well in the Dladla household.”

“I’ll do my best, Mama.”

“That’s my girl.”

Although there’s a tinge of fear for the unknown in Princess Thobile’s heart, she also sees a spark of joy whenever she closes her eyes. The only thing she is sad about is that she won’t be close to her mother once she is married. But that’s life. She feels butterflies in her stomach whenever she thinks of Bhekani. She is smitten. And she doesn’t foresee any problems in their marriage because Bhekani is not known as a ladies’ man. My dear Bhekani has been saving himself for marriage just like me, she thinks.

What’s left now is for the bride and groom to get to know each other a bit better before the wedding. They arrange to meet by the river.

Thobile is surrounded by a group of ten maidens as she heads to the Ngwempisi River. They don’t have to wait long. Bhekani appears behind trees from the opposite bank. Tall, dark and devilishly handsome, Bhekani smiles as he crosses the river.

The maidens give Princess Thobile some space as Bhekani approaches. They dip their legs in the river and gossip. Princess Thobile has a beautiful figure. Her skin is so fine, so flawless you’d swear she bathes in milk then dries it with cheese. Her legs are just thick enough and toned. Her waist is small.

Bhekani greets her shyly. Princess Thobile can see that there are also butterflies in Bhekani’s belly. They both smile coyly. Bhekani is mesmerised by Princess Thembelihle’s beauty. He stares at her for a while without saying a word. In his mind he is thinking: How can I let this beautiful woman carry the burdens of my life?

“Thobile,” says Bhekani.

“Yes, Bhekani.”

“Are you sure about this or are you just following your parents’ wishes?”

“Bhekani, I want to marry you. I have always loved you. That is above and beyond the agreement between our parent years ago. You are the only man who has my heart. So yes, Mgabadeli. I am ready to be your wife.”

Bhekani is left speechless. His mind is elsewhere. He is thinking about Delani, the real love of his life, who no longer wants anything to do with him. He has tried numerous times to speak to Delani but to no avail. The joy of their love has evaporated like a drop of water on hot sand.

Bhekani has to pretend that all is well when his relatives visit to congratulate him. In reality he is a good actor, because no one can see that behind his smile his heart is bleeding. No one can see the scars in his heart. His soul grows heavier by the second as he thinks of Delani.

 ***

Tell us: What do you think about arranged marriages? Do you think it can work?