“Bloody nonsense. Anginaso isikhathi salokhu! (I don’t have time for this),” Baba cursed, and spilled his coffee on the floor. He was in a rush to get to work and he was clearly stressed.
Themba helped him clean up the mess. Everything about Baba shouted out that he was in a bad mood. When Themba had wiped the last coffee up, he took a plastic bottle from the cupboard and sniffed it. He rinsed it and filled it with water to take on his run with Lerato.
He was on his way to the bathroom when he heard a loud bang, followed by Baba’s yell.
“Dammit maan, Themba! Why didn’t you close the door?” Baba had walked into the cupboard door that Themba had left open.
“Ngiyaxolisa, Baba. I’m sorry.”
“Buka manje, buka!” Baba said, rubbing his shin.
Themba didn’t say anything. On the way to the bathroom he bumped into Samke and Busi in the passage.
“Careful, uBaba ucasuke sengathi uyibhubesi (Baba is angry as a lion),” he warned his sisters.
Busi could hear Baba cursing, as she sat on the couch with Baby Khwezi on her lap. It was school holidays, but she was attending some holiday classes. She was on her phone checking her emails when Baba stormed in.
“Where did you put my keys?” Baba demanded.
“They are on top there, next to Mama’s picture,” Busi said, pointing to the wall unit. “But we’ll be home Baba. You don’t need your keys.”
“So I don’t need keys to my own house?” He grabbed the keys and stormed out.
“He’s in a mood today,” Samke said, as she sat down next to Busi and shook Khwezi’s bottle.
“I warned you to stay clear of him,” said Themba as he came in with Lerato. They were in matching tracksuits.
“Is he okay? He looks so tired and drained,” Lerato said, stretching her arms and legs as a warm-up for their jogging.
“He’s stressed about money,” Busi said.
“Lerato, let’s go before you two start talking about savings,” said Themba. “She’s forcing me to go for a run,” he moaned and Lerato smiled.
“Why do you need to jog when you’ve got a gym membership?” asked Samke.
“She made me cancel it,” Themba frowned and pouted. The girls all laughed at him as they watched him do some stretches before they set off on their jog.
“Come to Mama, sweetheart. Come have your bottle.” Samke took Khwezi from Busi, who was distracted, texting on her phone.
“Who are you texting so early in the morning?”
“I’m checking my email for responses to my applications.”
“Haibo, you only sent them last week. Chill. You’re not the only one who applied. Give them time to get through the applications,” Samke advised.
“You’re right. I should be patient,” Busi said. She was a little shocked at Samke’s good advice.
“Wow, this post is getting good comments.” Samke passed her phone over to Busi. “It’s the girl’s hair that I did the other day. Do you like this weave? I want to get it for my hair business.”
“It’s nice,” Busi said with indifference.
“Yeah, and you can wear it for your Matric Dance.”
“And why should I waste money on weaves? Natural is cost effective and it’s beautiful.”
“You are beautiful. You took Ma’s looks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try new things.”
“I like my afro, thank you very much,” Busi said, grabbing Khwezi to go play outside. She knew better than to try to dissuade her sister when she was inspired.
It was later that afternoon when the call came. The girls were outside with Ma Ruby. Samke was picking her brain about the best places to buy good, but cheap, weaves. Baby Khwezi was playing in the yard.
Baba had been in a taxi accident and they had to go to the hospital.
“Oh Nkosi, is he alright?” Ma Ruby asked as Busi put down the phone.
“They say he’s injured, but it’s not serious.”
“What do they mean by that?” Samke picked Khwezi up. “Themba!” she yelled, heading for her house. “Themba! Lerato!”
Themba emerged from the house, followed by Lerato.
“Wabanga umsindo kanje, yini? (Why are you making so much noise?)”
“uBaba. He’s been in an accident.”
“Ini? When? Oh, Nkosi yami.” Themba was in shock.
“We have to go, now.” Samke started shoving Baby Khwezi’s things in his bag. She walked around looking for his blanket. “Themba, get out of the way! Why are you standing? Move! We have to go.”
“He’s fine, Samke. They say he fractured his arm and hit his head. But he’s not critical. They are only keeping him in for observation,” Busi said, trying to calm her sister down with what she thought was good news.
“You can’t trust anyone is ‘fine’ in hospital. People don’t come back from the hospital.”
Everyone was scurrying around, getting ready to go.
A car started hooting outside and Busi went to investigate.
“Sheshani bo, hurry up!” Ma Ruby shouted out of the passenger window of a white Avanza.
Busi felt tears pricking her eyes. It was amazing how kindness could make you crumble when you were trying to be strong. The Majolas came out of the house in a single file and loaded themselves in the car. Ma Ruby had hired it from Tomas down the street.
At the hospital they found Baba in a ward with other patients. When he saw them, he wiped away tears. He didn’t want the children to see that he was afraid. He smiled and waved them over with his left hand. The other one was already in a cast.
“Makhi, unjani?” Ma Ruby asked, leading the pack towards the bed.
Baba only grunted, trying to shift himself and sit up right.
“Careful Baba,” Busi said and rushed to his side.
“Kwenzenjani, Baba?” Themba asked, taking Baba’s hand.
“These taxis and their stupid races. Our driver tried to overtake a bus and moved back into the lane too soon.”
“Was anybody …?”
“No, no. We’re all okay,” Baba said.
“Wena, Makhi. Uphilile? Are you okay?”
“I’m okay, Makhi. Just my arm is sprained, and I knocked my head,” he said smiling. “They want to keep me here to make sure I’m fine.”
A nurse came in and told everyone that visiting time would be over in five minutes.
“Hawu, kanti kwenzenjani? What’s wrong with these people?” Themba complained.
“It’s okay, I’m fine. I’ll be home soon – in a few days,” Baba assured them. “Ngicela ukukhuluma noMakhi. I need to speak to her alone.”
Only Busi kissed him goodbye. Samke was in shock still. She turned and walked out of the ward first and her siblings followed, leaving Baba and Ma Ruby to talk.
“Ngizokwenzenjani Makhi?” Baba asked, looking away from Ma Ruby. “I owe Bra Terror a lot of money. How am I going to work like this?”
“Oh Makhi, kuzolunga. Everything is going to work out.”
“Nini? When? The truth is, there was no accident. I crossed the street without looking. I didn’t see the car because I was so stressed. Tell me, how is it going to be okay?”
“Firstly, you mustn’t think of getting another loan to pay off Terror. That won’t solve anything.”
“I won’t work for weeks now. How am I supposed to pay him? He will come for my kids.”
“I’ll take care of Terror. Wena, rest and get better.”
“But how? You don’t even know how much it is I owe.”
“You will tell me, and then I’ll sort it out.”
“Kodwa, where are you going to get the money from? Your business will suffer.”
“Kanti, how do you know me? I’ve got savings from the stokvel tucked away for a rainy day.”
Baba was silent. He couldn’t believe his ears.
“You should join our stokvel. We contribute R1000 a month and split it at the end of the year.”
“Stokvels are for women.”
“We have men too,” Ma Ruby laughed, peeling a banana for Baba. She had expected this. “Six of our members are men. Just give it a try.”
“Okay … I guess I could. I don’t like borrowing money from you, Ma Ruby.”
“You can pay me back with interest,” Ma Ruby laughed. “But the interest won’t be money, don’t worry. You can help me get my garden back in shape. I know that Grace shared her skills with you.”
“Good, that’s settled then.”
Baba was silent, relieved. He didn’t know what to say. What was there to say, because a simple ‘thank you’ just wouldn’t be enough?
Ma Ruby said her goodbyes, promising to come see him again soon.
After their visit to the hospital, Themba and Lerato started with supper. Samke had gone to her room and Busi was in the lounge playing with baby Khwezi. This accident had shaken everyone, especially Samke.
Themba watched Lerato stirring the stew on the stove. She was so strong and calm in the midst of this chaos. He fell in love with her all over again. When they went to bed later, he would show her his new documents and his new card for his savings account. He hoped Lerato would be proud of him when she saw that he was trying to be the man she deserved.
Themba pulled Lerato to him and kissed her, thankful that they had each other.