“Is that how you greet a friend?” Thobani smiles. “I came to see you, Zelwande. How are you, today?”
“I’m much better than yesterday. To what do I owe the pleasure of being visited by you?”
“Let me help you with that bucket. It’s full now.”
Thobani picks it up with ease and follows Zelwande. She doesn’t want to let Thobani into her shack, afraid he will be repulsed by the poverty in which she lives. She stands by the door and tries to take the bucket from his hand. Thobani gently moves her to the side and enters the shack.
“Such beautiful hands were not made for heavy lifting. Where do you want the bucket?”
“Over there by the stove,” Zelwande says as she enters behind him.
She follows Thobani’s eyes. Zelwande and her siblings don’t even have beds – there is no room. At night they sleep on sponges unrolled on the concrete floor. But Thobani doesn’t look at all of that. His eyes are on Zelwande. His stare makes her knees weak. She wipes down an old dining chair, one of the few pieces of her parent’s furniture not sold to put food in their stomachs
“Here’s a seat,” says Zelwande.
They look at each other and smile shyly.
“Zelwande, I’d like to know more about you. Will you go out on a date with me?”
“Why do you want to know more about me?”
“When I see you, my heart is just at peace. I’ve never felt like this with anyone before.”
Zelwande is taken by Thobani’s words and smiles. But soon her face turns serious.
“Are you sure? You do realise you are in Tin City, asking out a girl who looks after two siblings, and is unemployed?”
“I don’t care about all of that, Zelwande. I just want to get to know you.”
“Yes, I’ll go out on a date with you,” says Zelwande, with sincerity sparkling in her eyes.
* * * * *
It is a whirlwind romance for the next two months. Thobani visits Zelwande every day. He brings much needed groceries for her small family, and gifts, and she accepts them. She doesn’t have to trudge the streets looking for work and her siblings are happy. He takes her out to eat at restaurants, and it is at his favourite seafood restaurant one evening that his face grows serious.
“I love you, Zelwande. I love you!” he tells her. “I’ve never felt like this in my life. I loved you from a distance the first time I saw you. I love you more now. I’m serious about you. You are the only one …”
Zelwande looks at the floor shyly. She lifts her eyes back to Thobani. “I love you too, Thobani. But if you are so serious about us, how come you haven’t introduced me to your family?”
“I’ll fix that soon enough. I’ll introduce you to my family soon. I just want you to know that your heart will be safe in my hands. You are the one. You are my one.”
Thobani’s SUV is in Tin City every afternoon, picking up Zelwande. He buys her gifts, and food, and new clothes for her siblings.
Then he takes them away to a resort in the Drakensberg Mountains during the Easter holidays. When they return, they find that Thobani has demolished their shack and replaced it with a house made of bricks and roof tiles! There is abundant electricity all the time, and new beds for all of them.
Zelwande and her siblings spend a lot of time at Thobani’s house in Hilary these days. He drops off Senzo and Aphile at school before going to work at SARS, where he is a manager, and sends an Uber to pick them up in the afternoon.
“You know what, guys,” says Thobani, while they are eating supper.
“What, my love?” says Zelwande.
“How about all of you move in with me, full time?”
Zelwande’s face glistens with joy. She looks enquiringly at her siblings. They all nod their heads.
Tell us what you think: Why hasn’t Thobani introduced Zelwande and her siblings to his family?