Bhekani is thinking of Delani. In his thoughts they are speaking the language of love. He recalls how Delani wanted them to run away together. He regrets that he didn’t run away with the love of his life when he had the chance. They’d be happy together if he had taken the chance. But no one can turn back the hands of time.
“Why are you so quiet, Bhekani?” inquires Princess Thobile.
“I’m sorry. Were you saying something?”
“Yes, I was saying I want us to have twins. Will you be able to give me twins?” she says jokingly.
It’s like Bhekani’s heart is being stabbed over and over again as he watches the sincerity in Princess Thobile’s smile. He feels sorry for her because she loves him but he loves Delani. They chat until the sun begins to set.
“I must go,” says Bhekani.
“You are going to leave me just like that? Without seeing that I get home safely?” says Princess Thobile.
She turns slowly to show Bhekani her near perfect figure. Bhekani is oblivious to her flirtatious sway. He just follows her and walks her home.
“Thank you for spending time with me today, Bhekani. Have a good night, Baba. Always know that I love you,” says Princess Thobile.
“Sleep well, Thobile,” says Bhekani.
Bhekani takes off at speed. He doesn’t wait to see if Princess Thobile turns to wave a final goodbye before she enters her room in the royal household. He goes to Delani’s home. He is dying to see him one more time.
Delani appears out of nowhere.
“Delani, why are you hiding in bushes? What is wrong?”
“Didn’t you want me to see you with your wife to be?” says Delani loudly.
“Delani, lower your voice. Do you want the whole world to hear you?”
“I don’t care who hears me! I want to know if you still love me, yes or no?”
“Delani, please calm down.”
“I’m calm! I’m not fighting! I just want an answer!”
Bhekani realizes that Delani is making a great effort at standing upright. He is drunk! There’s a rustle in the trees in the distance.
Bhekani turns to look but he can’t make out what it is. It’s probably a bird, he thinks. Delani is looking straight into his eyes.
“Delani, I love you. Please don’t let this get in the way of our love,” Bhekani whispers.
“Don’t lie to me! Don’t play with my feelings, Bhekani!”
“Please trust me and believe me when I say that I don’t love Thobile.”
“Then why are you marrying her if you don’t love her?”
“My parents came up with this idea, not me.”
“Please leave me alone Bhekani because–”
The attraction between them proves too much resist. They hug and kiss.
A small group of the king’s soldiers catches them right in the act. Bhekani is lucky because he has his back to the soldiers and it is dark. He hears them shouting and makes a run for it. Delani is not so lucky. He staggers and falls because he is drunk. The soldiers take him to the king.
The king is so mad he seems to be frothing at the mouth as he speaks. “There is nothing I despise more in this world than homosexuals. They are a bad influence in my kingdom! Who is the other man who was caught kissing with this one?”
The king is shaking with rage. Delani doesn’t say a word. Even when they whip him to within an inch of his life he doesn’t give them Bhekani’s name.
The king looks at him with pure disgust. “You need to die so that everyone in my land knows that my rules should never be disobeyed!”
The king’s soldiers take Delani to a tree where the sentence of ‘death by stabbing’ is to be carried out.
“Please don’t kill me! Please! I’ll follow all your rules, Your Majesty!” Delani pleads as they take him away.
“What is done is done. You have shamed me and my whole kingdom,” says the king. He turns to his messengers and says, “Get me the parents of this bad influence right now!”
Delani’s mother wails when she sees her son’s bound hands and feet. His father faints. A soldier pushes Delani down on the ground. He has his bound hands together in front of him. He is silently praying for forgiveness and a safe journey into the unknown. Then the soldiers surround him and stabs him to death with their spears. His parents’ hearts are filled with unimaginable pain as they watch the blood of life seep out of their beloved son’s body.
Bhekani feels like he is inside a nightmare. His mind relentlessly recalls everything bad that has happened. He keeps pinching himself to feel alive because he feels dead inside. He has heard that Delani has been hung to death and his whole family has been exiled.
What crushes his soul is that Delani died alone for a ‘crime’ they both committed. Delani stood up for their love until the bitter end. Delani decided that he’d rather die than betray Bhekani. Bhekani sobs so much he doesn’t even hear when his mother enters his bedroom.
“You have to try to eat something, Bhekani. I know that you and Delani were best friends,” says MaKhuzwayo.
She sits next to her son and puts arm over his shoulder.
“It’s tough, Mama. How can there be so much hatred in this world? Why did they kill him in such a cruel way?”
“I’m sorry, my son. But what I can tell you is this too shall pass.”
“It won’t pass and I’ll never forget it.”
“It will pass. It may take longer but in the end it shall pass.”
“Delani’s death has hurt me deeply, Mama.”
“Bhekani, please try to calm down. It helps to look at the bright side in times like these. You have your wedding to look forward to. It’s only a matter of days now.”
“Mama, I just lost the best . . .” Bhekani stops himself before he says ‘lover and friend in the world’.
“I wonder who is the other boy who got away? This boy who was Delani’s lover. It never even occurred to me to think that Delani could be gay. I never suspected.”
“But that is not important,” Bhekani whispers.
“I wonder what had gotten into Delani?”
“Mama, just leave it.”
“Do you mean to tell me you don’t know who was your friend’s boyfriend?”
“No, Mama, I don’t know,” says Bhekani.
“Let me leave you, my child. Try to think positive thoughts. That helps in times like these.”
Bhekani sobs until his throat hurts. He loses all hope. Grief covers him completely.
Tell us: What advice would you give to Bhekani now?