Themba got up early, even though he had an off day. He wanted to get away from Lerato’s wrath. She was still upset with him for being such an “irresponsible person” when it came to his money. This was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He didn’t want to lose her. He had to make things right but he also needed to clear his head.

He went out and started tending to the neglected veggie garden. When Ma was alive the garden was her pride and joy. He had vowed he would keep it alive and cared for. He needed to keep Ma’s memory alive.

As he was pulling up weeds he heard Lerato laughing with Busi in the kitchen. He was relieved she was in a better mood. Hearing their laughter made him smile. He loved that Lerato was loved by his family. It wasn’t common for in-laws to get along with ‘the girlfriend’. He was lucky. The anger and fights from last night were a thing of the past.

But his relief was short-lived. The next minute Lerato was standing in the doorway looking angry. She was waving some papers at him.

“Themba, what are these?”

“Hawu MaNgcobo,” he said, using her clan name. “How am I supposed to know all the way over here?”

“Well, I’ll read them to you. This is your payslip,” she said and waved it at him. “And these are contracts: for gym membership, for a clothing account, for a cellphone …”

“Oh baby, not this again. You know about the phone. So what’s the problem?”

“The problem, Themba, is that you went and got all this stuff on credit and you failed to mention any of it to me.”

“What was there to mention, Lerato? I already got the stuff.”

“Tell me, how do you plan on paying for all of this?”

“Can we talk about this later?” Themba pleaded.

“No! We will talk about this now. Explain to me what you need a gym membership for?”

Themba dropped his spade and walked back inside his room, past Lerato. She turned and closed the door behind her.

“Bua! Speak!” she ordered.

Themba loved it when Lerato spoke Sesotho, but now she was clearly angry.

“I joined the gym … a lot of guys join the gym. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that you’re never gonna use this membership. You’ll just be paying and paying, until when?”

“Who says I won’t use it, huh?”

“When will you use it, Themba? We live in Soweto and this gym is in Sandton. Sometimes you work 12-hour shifts.”

“Bona, when I get the car I won’t have to spend all that time travelling. I’ll have time to go to the gym.”

“Where are you going to get the money to buy that car if you’re already busy spending every cent you have? Do you even know how much interest you’re paying on these accounts?”

“Don’t worry so much. Soon money won’t be a problem. I’ll get a raise with that permanent contract, you’ll see.”

“A promotion won’t change anything. You’ll just think you have more money and spend that too.”

“Why, kanti, are you always talking about money? Is that all you’re interested in?”

“Is that what you think – that I’m after the little money you have? I want us to build a future together – a financially stable future. But clearly you want something different.”

Lerato dropped the papers on the bed. She took her overnight bag and started packing her things.

“Baby, no. Don’t go. What about our weekend together?”

Lerato didn’t answer.

“Look, if it’s that important to you, I’ll cancel the accounts.”

“What good will that do? You’ll just go and buy something else.”

Themba didn’t know what else to say. He was tired of fighting with her about money. He sat on the bed and watched her hoist her bag over her shoulder.

“When you’re ready to grow up, call me.”

She opened the door and walked out.

Themba was sitting on the bed feeling dazed when Samke walked in.

“She’ll come back. She’s just angry right now. Nawe, you need to stop spending money so much,” she told him.

“You have a nerve, yazi! You didn’t say this yesterday when I was buying you airtime.”

“Haibo, you were offering everyone airtime. So why are you blaming me?”

“Kanti, who should I blame? You don’t buy food, or electricity. You don’t even buy Khwezi anything, Samke. You’re just stress. That’s all you are!”

“That’s not fair, Themba. You know things haven’t been great for me, I’m trying–”

“No, you’re not, Samke! All you do is go out with your friends, partying. Lalela la dadewethu, you better wake up. This is the real world. Your looks won’t last forever. Then what will you do? You have a child Samke. Grow up maan!”

Samke was hurt by his words, however true they were. She walked out of the room just as Khwezi started to cry outside. She had left him with Busi, playing in the garden. She picked up her baby and went into the house.

Busi watched her go. Her siblings were fighting worse than usual. Her dad was stressed about how he would pay Bra Terror back. Gogo was all alone far away – sick. But thanks to Themba she had airtime to call her. She needed to hear her grandmother’s voice right now.

Busi hadn’t seen Gogo since her mother’s funeral. Before that, everyone was busy caring for her sick mom. The family had been on edge with worry.

“We’ll soon visit you when we come for the unveiling Gogo,” Busi promised.

When they said goodbye, Busi’s spirits were lifted. She went back inside and found Samke watching TV with baby Khwezi. She was surprised that her sister wasn’t getting ready to go on some jol. She picked Khwezi up from the couch and put him on the floor where some of his toys were. She sat next to Samke.

“Gogo says hi,” Busi reported, but Samke didn’t respond. “She misses you and Khwezi and can’t wait to see you.”

Still no response.

“So, I was thinking,” she started again, “that since my Matric Dance is coming up, you could help me get ready for it.”

Samke still wasn’t biting. That fight with Themba really knocked her hard. Busi hadn’t seen Samke like this since the funeral.

“If Mama was here she would do it, but she’s not. I need my big sister.” Suddenly Busi was crying. The burden she had felt these past weeks, of having to carry everything on her shoulders, was too much.

Samke held her and let her cry. She needed this too – she needed to feel needed.

“Yeah, you know I’ll do it. I’ve got the perfect dress for you.”

“Actually, I want to wear a suit,” Busi said looking at the TV and suddenly feeling shy.

“What? Why?”

“Why not? It’s our big day; we should be able to wear what we want.”

Samke laughed at the thought of her sister in a suit. “I think a suit would actually look great on you. But will your teachers allow that?”

“It’s 2019! But I’ll raise it in our next fundraising meeting.”

“And, as your stylist, a suit would give me an edge. It would be something different; something everyone would talk about.”

“Really, you don’t think it’s weird?”

“Oh Busi, you’re my baby sister. You’ll always be weird.” They both laughed and Baby Khwezi started laughing too.

“And listen, maybe you could do hair and makeup for all the girls too. I can already book you Sive and Nolwazi as your first clients.”

“Now you’re talking. How many girls do you think I could fit in? Oh, and I’ll have to get some stock ready – extra accessories.” Samke was already on her feet, getting a notebook. “Maybe Ma Ruby could loan me some stock and I could pay her after.”

Busi was happy to see Samke’s fire burning again. She hoped that when Samke had made some money, she would remember Themba’s journey with reckless spending and learn from his lesson. It would be lovely to see Samke starting to help out financially. It would take the stress off Baba.

Just then, Baba walked in and saw the girls laughing and planning things together. This made him happy. He sat down with them and they filled him in on the plans.

His phone was buzzing on the table where he’d put it. He didn’t see the missed calls from Bra Terror. With all the excitement he forgot that he was due to make a payment the next day. It was only later in the evening, when he checked his phone, that he saw the message from Bra Terror.

If you value your life and your family
you will pay me my money!