Robert hurried round to her side of the car, pushed her back in and quickly slammed the door.
“What is it? What’s going on?” Khaya was confused but stayed in the car.
Robert said nothing and strode toward a man trying to hide around a corner of the guesthouse. Khaya watched as Robert pulled the man out into the parking lot. They were arguing. The man had a camera that Robert was trying to grab but he was failing. The man broke free from Robert’s grip and ran to a car, its engine still running, parked near the exit of the parking lot. As soon as he was inside the car, the driver, who Khaya couldn’t see, took off. Robert shouted after them, shaking his fist in useless anger.
He came back to the car and opened her door. His fury had not dissipated. “We’ve got to go. We need to pack and get out of here.”
Khaya sat where she was without moving. “What is going on?”
Robert grabbed her by the arm and roughly pulled her out of the car. “I’m not playing. We need to leave – now!”
She was scared by his anger and roughness, so she followed him to the room. She packed her suitcase and then stood by the door looking at him. “Robert, I want to know what is going on.”
“What is going on is my wife hired a private detective to follow me here. That is what is going on! He took photos of us together. And now I am seriously screwed, OK. Now get in the car. I need to get back to Joburg.”
Khaya stood where she was, trying to process what she had heard. “Your wife? You have a wife?”
“Of course I have a wife! Two kids too. What did you think? I’m thirty-two years old.”
“I guess I thought if you were dating me it meant that you were free, that you were not in a relationship. I assumed it I guess.”
Robert laughed. “What world do you live in? Honestly, you girls coming in from the village, all naïve to the big city ways, make me laugh. Always the same.”
“Always the same? What does that mean? Do you do this all of the time?” Khaya didn’t understand what Robert was saying. Everything had changed so quickly.
“We need to go.” He pushed around her and opened the door. Picking up both suitcases he said in a kinder voice, “Khaya, it’s nothing personal OK, just some fun. I’m sorry if you saw it some other way. I like you, you’re sweet. But I need to get home and sort out this shit with my wife. So can we go?”
Khaya followed him to the car. She wondered how she had been so stupid. He was right she was naïve. She didn’t understand people like Robert who took trampling over others, disrespecting others, as a simple thing, an easy thing that could be “sorted out”. She didn’t understand any of that and she hoped she never would.
Back in Joburg, Khaya sank into a deep depression. Monday passed and she didn’t go for her presentation. Her phone rang off and on throughout the days she stayed locked up in her room. People knocked on her door, but when she didn’t answer they went away.
She didn’t care about any of it. She didn’t know who she was angrier at: Robert or herself. She’d seen how women from home came to Joburg for university and threw it all away chasing after the rich men that filled the city. But she always knew she was not one of those kinds of girls. Now she knew the truth. She was no better than them. She hadn’t gone out looking for Robert but when he came her way, his money, his looks, his nice car – it all blinded her. Why had she never asked him if he was single? Why didn’t she ask about the calls he could only make from the other room where she couldn’t hear him? Why hadn’t she asked him why he had a teddy bear in his car?
She knew why. She hadn’t wanted to hear the truth. She wanted to accept everything at face value.
And the worst part about it all was how easily she had mistreated Thuto, just to go on fancy dates with Robert, a stranger she didn’t even know. Thuto was such an honest, caring man, with integrity, and a real interest in her. And she’d thrown that all away as if it didn’t matter.
The person she had become, or maybe always had been, disgusted her. She couldn’t forget Thuto’s face that day when she said she was going to Cape Town. He knew she was going with Robert. She’d been cruel to have mentioned it so carelessly.
On Thursday someone came to the door and knocked. After some time they pounded. “Khaya? Khaya? If you’re in there open up or I’m breaking the door!”
It was Mponi and she sounded serious. Khaya stood up from her bed and opened the door.
“Geez! It stinks in here! And it’s so dark,” Mponi said. She opened the curtains and the windows. “What the hell, Khaya? Everyone has been looking for you. What’s going on? Cleo said you didn’t even show up for your architecture presentation.”
“Yeah … well…”
“Yeah well? That’s all you’ve got? What happened to you? Did something happen in Cape Town?”
Khaya looked out at the blue Joburg sky. “Yeah, something happened in Cape Town. I found out I’m a fool, a stupid common fool. Like all of the stupid foolish women before me. Women who mess up their lives for jerks. Throw good things away and grab up rubbish like it’s diamonds.”
“Oh honey!” Mponi took Khaya in her arms and let her cry. “We all make mistakes. It doesn’t mean you start throwing your whole life away.”
Khaya knew Mponi was right. She needed to get herself sorted out. She wouldn’t let one mistake ruin everything. She wouldn’t let Robert ruin everything.
Tell us what you think: Is Khaya right that men like Robert are disrespectful to their wives by having affairs.