Sadness and worry are back on Zine’s mind as soon as she wakes up. That her children may sleep with empty stomachs worries her to the core and makes her feel like a failure. 

When she looks back at her life she still can’t believe how things have turned out so badly for her in just eight years. 

Zine was deeply in love with her boyfriend, Jabu. After a year of courtship, Jabu proposed and they soon got married. A few months after they got married, Zine conceived her first child. Two more children followed. It was bliss in their home until Jabu started having an affair at work. Zine confronted him but he denied it. Zine persevered through it all.

One day, Zine was not feeling well. She went to see the doctor. When she came back home she found Jabu kissing another woman on the couch. Instead of apologising, Jabu chased Zine out of the house. It was the end of their marriage.

Zine took her children back to her mother’s house on the rural side of Umbumbulu. The lack of jobs in KZN meant she had to go to look for work in Jozi.

Zine shakes her head as she remembers the emotional damage she suffered when her marriage fell apart. She scrolls through her cell phone until she gets to Jabu’s name on the contact list. She dials his number.

“What do you want?” answers a female voice.

Zine instantly recognises the voice by the hatred that punctuates every word — it is Xolile, Jabu’s wife.

“Xolile, I phone in peace. I need to speak to the father of my children about a matter concerning our children,” says Zine, calmly.

“If there is something you need to say to my husband you can say it to me. He and I are one, by the way. If you fail to do that then I can’t let you speak to him,” says Xolile.

“Xolile, I need money to buy the children some food,” says Zine.

“Jabu is not a money machine, he is not an ATM. Where is he supposed to get money in the middle of the month?”

“But with all due respect, you don’t have to speak for him. He should speak for himself as the father of our children.”

“I’m his wife so I can speak for him. Do you think Jabu doesn’t have other children that he has to provide for? If you had any sense you’d know that and stop asking him for money.” 

“When do I ask him for money? I never ask him for money because he doesn’t provide for his children anyway. But just this once I need him to play his role because the children have nothing to eat.”

“Just stop! Stop being a nuisance. Go find a job so you can provide for your children!” says Xolile. She drops the call.

It is clear to Zine that she has no other choice but to borrow money from the family she works for, the Buthelezis. 

Zine arrives at work by 8 am. Mrs Buthelezi has already left for work. Mr Buthelezi is in his office, which is connected to the house. She knocks on the office door and enters. They exchange a few pleasantries.

“Mr Buthelezi, I have a problem,” says Zine.

“Go on, Zine. What is the matter?”

“My family back home are suffering. They need money to buy food because they have run out. Please lend me R800 so I can send it to them. Please, Mr Buthelezi, I have nothing at all,” Zine pleads.

“Zine, I never lend money to people when I have no idea how or if they will be able to pay me back,” says Buthelezi, calmly.

“Please, Mr Buthelezi, I’m begging you. I can pay you back bit by bit. You can take half from my salary next month and the other half the following month. Please, I’m begging you,” says Zine.

“There is no need to beg. I’ll give you the money you need, but first you have to do something for me.”

“What do you want me to do for you, Mr Buthelezi?”

“I don’t want a lot. I’ll give you this money but you don’t have to pay it back.”

“Thank you very much, Mr Buthelezi! Thank you!” Joy fills Zine’s face. “So what is it you need me to do?” 

“I want you to sleep with me,” says Mr Buthelezi.

“What!? But how, because you have a wife? You are married!”

“Don’t put my wife into this conversation. What we will be doing will be our little secret,” says Buthelezi.

“No!”

“Come on, Zine. Do you want the money or not?” 

“I need this money, but I’m afraid. What will I do if she finds out and fires me?”

“Don’t worry about that, Zine.” Mr Buthelezi brushes her shoulder. “My wife is at work. She won’t be back for many hours. Come on, it will be our little secret. She’ll never find out.”

Desperation turns Zine into something she doesn’t understand. She is not herself as she lets Mr Buthelezi caress her body and have sex with her. She takes the money Mr Buthelezi gives her and rushes to the shopping mall down the road. She deposits the money into her mom’s bank account. 

Her conscience eats at her as she does all of this. She is thinking about Mr Buthelezi’s wife, Luyanda. “How will I even look Luyanda in the eye after I have slept with her husband?” she whispers, as she walks back to the Buthelezi home.

She lets out a deep breath and calls her mom.

“Mama, I have deposited the money. I hope it will be enough to buy food that will last until the end of the month,” says Zine on the phone.

“Thank you, my child. God bless you, my child. The children will have nutritious food now,” says her mom.

“I’m happy to hear that I have been helpful,” says Zine.

“Where did you get the money?”

“Don’t worry about that, Mama,” says Zine.

Tell us: What would you do in Zine’s position?