“Sthe!” says Ayanda.
Sthembiso can’t hear her because his mind is too deep inside joyful thoughts of his childhood days.
“Sthembiso, this is only the fifth time I’ve seen you this happy!” Ayanda grabs hold of his shoulder and shakes him.
“What? What did you say, Aya?” says Sthembiso, a beautiful smile plastered on his face.
“The only times I’ve seen you glow like this is each time our children were born and the day we got married.”
“I’m just happy,” says Sthembiso. “I’m just happy Thobekile is here with us. I’m so proud of her.”
His sister, Thobekile, and her husband, Mandla, are on the couch across from Sthembiso and Ayanda. They have come to visit for Easter weekend. The twins are all over Thobekile; the three have been inseparable since Friday when she arrived. There is a glow on Sthembiso’s face as he watches his sister laugh with his children.
A warm draft inside Sthembiso’s heart touches his well of tears. He stands up and opens the door, allowing the air coming in to dry droplets of tears stuck to his eyelashes.
“The rain has stopped,” says Thobekile. She is smiling yet there is a tint of sadness when she says, “I’m afraid we have to leave.” She squeezes the twins closer to her, plants kisses on their small faces. “In June these two must visit me. Make sure you pack warm clothes for them because Qwaqwa is cold.”
Sthembiso continues holding back tears as he looks at the clearing sky. “You could stay a bit longer; leave early in the morning, Thobe.”
Thobekile turns to her husband, then back to Sthembiso. “We were also thinking the same but we both have to work tomorrow and Qwaqwa is far. The morning traffic after Easter is always terrible.”
Their car is parked at a neighbour’s house higher up because the small road leading down to Sthembiso’s house was damaged by the flood and has not been repaired. Sthembiso climbs up the rocky path first with the luggage, then down to help Thobekile and Mandla climb up.
“When will they fix the road?” says Thobekile when they reach the top. “It’s dangerous for children and old people to walk this rough path every day.”
“I don’t know, my sister. Things were fixed quickly across the river because the counsellor has support there. We are not equal, even in this South Africa we call ‘new’, where we are supposed to be equal.”
All three take a moment to catch their breath.
“It has been so lovely to see you, my sister,” says Sthembiso. He turns to Mandla, shakes his hand and says, “Thank you for bringing my best friend for a visit.”
“Goodbye, my brother. My best friend,” says Thobekile.
Thobekile suddenly grows emotional. Tears stream down her cheeks. Sthembiso hugs her.
“It’s just that I remember those days when it was the two of us against the world,” Thobekile sniffles. “You were so good to me, Sthe. A brother and a father to me. I’d be nothing without you. No-one has a heart as beautiful as yours.”
They hug until Thobekile calms down.
“If you were in my shoes you’d have done the same for me, Thobe,” says Sthembiso.
Sthembiso looks down at his neighbourhood for a long time after his sister and her husband have left. Childhood memories swim around inside his head. They grew up orphaned and poor but they were happy together.
The sky has cleared after a weekend of rain. People are out in their small yards. The sight of children playing reminds him of his childhood again. He beams a smile. A gust of warm wind snaps him out of the recollection and back to reality.
Then clouds darker than night appear on the horizon. The heat is quickly displaced by chilly winds that smell like the sea. Sthembiso hurries down to his house.
Tell us: Do you think the family’s home is safe from the storm? Should they evacuate now?