It’s late in the evening when Sqiniseko returns from work. He is so drunk he does not even bother to knock today.
“Sengikhona, onyanyayo akaphalaze (I have arrived; if I make you sick go ahead and vomit)!”
Nobuhle keeps quiet. She tries to force a smile. Today she desires peace in this household. Her bruises still ache.
“What’s for supper?” asks Sqiniseko, opening the pot. “Nx! You boiled potatoes again? I’m having none of that rubbish. For me you will fry this meat,” he says and gives her a plastic bag. “Sthembiso’s baby food is also in there. I don’t want my son eating the rubbish you cook for him. Those potatoes are for you.”
The smell of grilled meat fills the house as Nobuhle prepares the meal for Sqiniseko. She salivates – it’s been a while since she ate meat. She plates and places the meal in front of Sqiniseko on the dining room table. She warms Purity for Sthembiso and feeds him in the bedroom.
She is washing dishes in the kitchen when Sqiniseko pounces on her. He grabs her by the arm. “Nobuhle, what did you put in my food?”
“Hawu! Sqiniseko, I didn’t put anything in your food. I grilled the meat like you asked me to. Grilled it the way you like it.” Her words are heavy with fear.
“If that is so, why are you not eating it?” Sqiniseko frowns. “Are you trying to poison me, Nobuhle?” He is so close to her they are nose to nose.
“I swear on my mother’s grave, Sqiniseko. I did not put poison in your food. You said the meat was only for you. So I was scared to eat it. I would never–”
A fist knocks Nobuhle to the ground. She stands up, her bearings lost. In her confusion she opens both pots – the one with meat as well as the one with potatoes. She is undecided what to dish, not knowing what will please Sqiniseko. She sees his arm reaching behind the stove, taking hold of a thick wooden stick.
Nobuhle runs out of the house and Sqiniseko hurls the stick, hitting her on the back of the neck. As Nobuhle falls to the ground in the dark she can hear Sqiniseko locking the door. She crawls into the old outside toilet and collapses, pushing the door shut.
Tell us: Can you see any way for Nobuhle to repair this relationship?