Khaya took a minute before speaking. “Hey Thuto, I didn’t see you there.”
Thuto was looking at her leather jacket. He knew she only wore it on very special occasions. “So how was work?” he asked.
“Actually, when I got there MmaBeula realised she didn’t need me. My friend Robert was around and gave me a lift home.” She knew her lies were not helping anything but she didn’t know what else to do.
“Robert? You’ve never spoken about your friend Robert,” Thuto said.
“Yes … well, I’ve not told you a lot of things.”
Thuto took a deep breath. “OK Khaya, I don’t play games, you know this. I don’t lie to you and I would expect you to respect me enough and not lie to me. You didn’t work today. Robert is not your friend. I saw you kiss him. So just tell me what is going on.”
Khaya was surprised to feel a spike of anger run through her. “What? Were you standing here all day waiting for me? Waiting to spy on me? You don’t own me! We’ve gone on a few dates – that’s it. Nothing more. If you thought there was something else there, then it was all in your head.”
She could see how her words hit at Thuto but she continued. When she was finished he didn’t attempt to hide his sadness. He was not like that. He was right when he said he didn’t play games. She felt sick by what she had said but it was too late – the words had been spoken and could not be taken back.
“OK, Khaya. You’re right. I guess I thought things were different between us. And you’re right that I don’t own you. I’d never want to. But I can’t lie. I care about you a lot, maybe I even love you, and I’m sad you don’t feel the same way. But your life is yours to do with as you like.”
He turned and walked away from her. She stood watching him. She wanted to run to him and say she was sorry, but she didn’t. She wasn’t sure if that would make things any better. She couldn’t tell him she had no feelings for Robert, because she knew already that she did. Thuto said he loved her, and she wouldn’t abuse that love by lying to him, by giving him only part of what he deserved.
She was wrong to have spoken to him like that, she knew that. She knew a lot of what she said was not even true. She did care about Thuto, a lot. But why did everything have to be so serious all of the time?
Her mind was so confused. Everything was lovely and relaxed with Robert. He expected nothing from her. Thuto wanted them to be partners, to work together in building a relationship, a life. To challenge each other to be better. Robert didn’t care about any of that. Everything was easy with him, maybe too easy, but for now that seemed exactly what Khaya needed.
Robert picked her up after work and they drove across town to a Greek restaurant for a delicious dinner. Afterwards, as he opened the door for her and she got into the car, something rolled out from under the seat. Khaya reached down to get it but Robert got there first. He tucked it away in the backseat pocket but Khaya glimpsed it in his hand. It was a pink teddy bear. Why would Robert have a pink teddy bear under his seat? She dismissed it as unimportant.
When he got into the car, he pulled her to him. He kissed her passionately. “God, you’re so sexy.” Khaya smiled. She liked being wanted. He kissed her again. “Let’s go somewhere. I know a nice hotel nearby.”
Khaya sat back; she wasn’t sure she was ready for this yet. “I don’t know about a hotel. Why don’t you show me your place? Then we can just take it from there, a bit slower maybe.”
“My place is so far, and to be honest, it’s always a mess. You know bachelors and all.”
“Anyway I have an exam tomorrow. Maybe next time.”
Robert looked disappointed but agreed. He drove her home. Before she got out, he reached into his inside jacket pocket. “I nearly forgot.”
He handed her the DJ Rolo tickets plus the two backstage VIP passes he had promised Mponi.
“Wow, thanks! Mponi’s going to be so happy with these.”
“I know you’re not so big on concerts so I got you this.” He handed her a small velvet box.
She opened it and inside was a necklace, a thin strand of gold with a teardrop diamond hanging from it. “God, Robert, it’s so beautiful but I can’t accept this! It’s too expensive. We hardly know each other.”
She tried to hand it back but he refused. “Please. I want you to have it. Just a gift for a beautiful woman. Nothing else.”
She held it in her hand and watched the light from outside the car bounce around on the surface of the diamond. “Thank you. Really, I’ve never been given such a beautiful present before.”
She leaned forward and kissed him, this time returning the passion he had for her. “I promise, next time we’ll do what you want,” she said, feeling bad that she kept putting him off when it was clear from the gift that he really cared about her.
Robert smiled. “I don’t want you to feel any pressure.”
“I don’t. I like you.”
“Good. I like you too. So, do you have any time for me tomorrow?”
“OK, how about we meet for lunch?” Khaya said.
He kissed her goodbye and drove off.
Inside, Mponi was waiting for her and she looked nervous. “Thuto is really upset about everything, Khaya.”
“I know. I handled everything wrong. I didn’t want to hurt him.”
“Thuto is a great guy, but I know him. He doesn’t heal easily when it comes to heartbreak. That’s why he is so careful with relationships. You don’t even know if this Robert thing is going to be anything. You’ve only known him a few days.”
Khaya didn’t like how Mponi seemed to be judging her. “Listen, I know what I feel. Was it better to lie to Thuto?”
“But do you really know how you feel? Robert is slick. What do you really know about him? Do you think he’s someone who could be serious with you? He seems like a player to me.”
“But weren’t you the one nearly pushing me into his arms? How can you say that now?”
“I didn’t think it was anything. A bit of flirting, a ride home. Nothing more. I didn’t know you were going to hurt my friend. Thuto and I have been through a lot. I hurt when he’s hurting. It all just makes me feel bad.”
“Yeah, well, I thought I was your friend too.” She took the tickets from her bag. “I got these. I think it’s better you take both. You can go with Thuto. I don’t like all of that anyway.”
Mponi looked at the tickets in her hand. “I’m sorry if I was the one who pushed you into this. Really sorry actually, for both you and Thuto. But honestly Khaya, take it slow with Robert. Take some time to think about what you’re losing with Thuto. He might still have space to forgive you.”
“Yeah, I’ll think about it. But now I need to sleep.”
She left Mponi in the passage and went into her room, locking the door behind her.
Tell us what you think: Is Mponi partly to blame for what has happened?