After a few weeks of Justin hanging around me I begin to feel uncomfortable. I get the feeling that he thinks we are more than friends, and he starts calling me sweet names. I’m suddenly looking forward to the end of exams and going back to my village, even if I do have to stay at the king’s.
“You suddenly seem eager to leave. What’s going on?” Bantu asks one evening, as we are eating dinner.
“Justin is acting weird. He keeps calling me endearments like ‘sweetie’, ‘baby’, ‘my love’ … and its uncomfortable. ”
“Don’t worry yourself with crazy people.”
“Eish … I don’t know, man …”
“Did anything happen between the two of you?”
“No! Of course not. Although … he did try to kiss me today. But I made light of it and pushed him away.”
“He did what?” Bantu says instantly, dropping his fork and knife and staring at me.
“Bantu, relax. I have it under control,” I say as I get up to go study some more
“Siz, I’ll be back soon, OK?” Bantu says on his way out the door.
The weekend flies by and Monday morning’s exam is upon me. I’m anxiously waiting outside the venue. I want this exam to be over so I can be done with Justin’s unwanted attention. I see him in the distance but this time he walks right by me as if we’ve never met. Before I can dwell on this Katlie and Pelo are approaching, looking confused.
“What was that about?” Katlie asks.
“I have no idea,” I answer honestly.
“Ladies, let’s go in.”
I focus on my exam and after two hours and twenty minutes I finish. I hand my paper in and wait for Katlie and Pelo outside. As I’m waiting, Justin passes by, and this time, rather than let him ignore me, I run after him.
When I catch up to him I see the entire left side of his face is swollen.
“What happened to you, man?” I ask, shocked, as my friends catch up with me.
“Ouch! Hunk, what have you been getting up to?” Katlie asks.
“Damn! They sure beat you up, hey? No wonder you’re wearing a scarf in this heat,” Pelo follows jokingly.
“What do you want from me?” Justin says, angrily. “Please leave me alone.” He turns and walks away as fast as possible, and doesn’t look back once.
Realisation dawns: Bantu must have either done or organised this. A warning to Justin from my minder, my bodyguard. I feel a chill of fear. So this is what it really means to be engaged to a king.
A few days later I have packed up and Bantu and I take off. He is jovial, but as we get closer to home I start to dread the thought of being at the royal house.
“Are you nervous?”
“Should I be?”
“I know you are. You’ll be OK.”
“And the first wife?”
“She’s not that bad. She can be a slave driver sometimes, but the king will come to your rescue. He likes you, a lot.”
Still, I keep on thinking about Lizo. I miss him so much. I can’t believe we’ve spent a whole year apart, the pain is still so fresh. I sit in the car, staring outside, watching the darkness and then eventually the signboards that are welcoming me to my home area.
As we get closer to the village everything reminds me of Lizo, and I hate it. We pass our secret place and I think about how I broke his heart.
The big gate of the king’s house opens wide, like the lion’s mouth, ready to swallow its prey and I instantly feel a lump in my throat. The king stands waiting at the door.
“Sizzly! Bantu! Nice to see you again,” he greets as he walks quickly towards me and embraces me.
“Sir, Siz is very nervous. But above all, she needs a few hours of sleep.”
“Don’t be nervous. This is your home too.”
I can’t stop thinking about Lizo. Studying had kept thoughts of him at bay, but now that I’m back home he is all I can think about. The king’s wife doesn’t make things easier, either. The king tries to make my life bearable, but nothing helps. I find myself constantly looking at my phone hoping that Lizo has magically gotten my new number.
“Sizzly, you don’t have to wear your head-covering like that. Just wear it stylishly. You have beautiful long hair, so show it a little outside your head-covering,” the king says one day, after secretly watching me play with my freshly relaxed, long hair.
“Thank you for the lesson, but ma’Mthembu warned me against that, and many other things…” I say cheekily, implying that I am not having a nice time.
“I’ll talk to her about that. Just do as I say, OK? And don’t you want to go see your parents for a few days? They would be so happy to see you.”
“I don’t think so”
“Because I don’t want to go there, Sir. Thanks but no thanks.”
“Hmmm… we’re going to talk about this after dinner, OK? I’m going to a meeting now.”
I hate how everyone is pushing me to go home and see my parents. But back there, are too many painful memories. Of the lovely healthy fruit trees that remind me of my childhood, playing in them, and in the green fields near the village. Of Bantu, Lizo, myself and other kids. I miss that peaceful, innocent time.
More memories flood in. My mother would buy me new clothes and I would pretend I was a model.
“Oh, this is my daughter-in-law. She looks beautiful,” Lizo’s mother would claim, as I strutted around in my new dress.
Tell us: Will Siziwe relent and visit her family home, despite the painful memories?