My cracked phone beeps.
R u okay? Don’t worry abt yr studies.
The king had created trust funds
for both Lizo and yourself.
Mine too, for next year, to study Graphic design.
Mam’ Mthembu has been arrested.
I smile as I read Bantu’s message. I reply:
Take good care of yrslf, ok? You must be devastated.
The king meant more to you, he was lyk a father to you.
I’m thinking of you. Always.
I walk back to my father’s room with mam’ Zitho.
“Have you heard?” mam’ Zitho says as we walk into the room where my parents are hugging and wiping away each other’s tears.
“What?” Mom asks curiously, holding my father’s hand.
“The king has … passed on.”
My parents take a second to register this then the shock shows on their faces. They look at me and I nod to confirm it.
“When? How?” my mother asks quickly.
“All I know is that mam’ Mthembu has been arrested.”
“Good! Serves her right,” my mother says, nodding her head firmly once, then looking back at my father.
I smile as I watch them embrace once more, but then it registers that I have a funeral to prepare for.
At any moment my family could storm in here demanding their makoti. I let out a sad sigh, one that spoke the unspoken words, and suddenly my family remembered. Remembered that I had been living with the man ever since my arrival back from Jo’burg. I had known him and I had many interactions with him. At times they were heated because of my bitterness and anger towards everyone, but at rare times as calm and jovial as a holiday in the Seychelles. Of late, they were much calmer. They were more about respect and surrender, as expected from a wife of a man with his status.
“Come give me a hug,” my father says, beckoning me towards him.
“I am so sorry,” my mother says, brushing my back softly as dad holds me.
As I leave my phone rings.
“Hey, how are you holding up?” I ask Bantu.
“I’m fine,” he says sounding glum. But then his voice lightens as he says, “I have something to tell you.”
“Oh?” I ask, wondering what other news he could have for me.
“I traced him for you. Lizo. He’s back.” I don’t know what to say as his words fill my head. “I wanted to make things right.”
I run out and pace up and down the corridor, biting my nails, holding on to the phone like my life depends on it as Bantu continues. “In fact, he’s been with me for two days now. He wanted to see you at once, but I told him he had to wait until your father recovered. But I can’t hide him here forever. No-one can know he’s here because they might blame him for the king’s death. But he wants to talk to you,” he says, pausing for my response. “Siz, are you still there?”
“Yes,” I finally manage to blurt out.
“Hey, my queen,” Lizo says over the phone. My knees go soft and I rush to find the closest chair to avoid making another scene. I haven’t heard his voice in so long. It sends a thrilling sensation down my spine. I can’t say anything because I am sobbing, again.
“Don’t cry. You’re going to make me cry too. I’ve been missing you so much, Ziwe.”
“I’ve missed you too. I’m so sorry!” I rush to say. I have a thousand things I want to tell him.
“I’m not angry with you. I wouldn’t be able to be, even if I tried. I love you more than anything, Siziwe Mbeki.”
“I love you too, Lizo Nombona,” I say, smiling into the phone. “Where have you been?” I ask, sitting up straight, realising how much we have to catch up on.
“Durban. We definitely have a good story to tell to our children, and their children, hey?” he says smiling into the phone. “Ziwe, I don’t want to ever be apart from you again. Marry me.”
“What?” I say confused.
“Please, be Mrs Nombona. You are the only one for me,” he says romantically. “After all, I hear you were quite miserable without me. Shame,” he chuckles. Lizo has always been sure of himself and always knows how to make me laugh. I find myself laughing and blushing at the same time.
“Say yes. You two are obviously made for each other,” the woman next to me says. I turn and jump. My mother sits next to me, smiling from ear to ear.
“I give you my blessing and your dad does too,” she says.
“But … aren’t I married?” I ask still holding the phone.
“To whom?” she asks, confused.
“The king; didn’t he pay lobola for me?”
“Your dad refused to take it right away,” she says, and I begin to cry again. My mother wipes away my tears and kisses my cheeks. All the hate I had felt towards her just a few hours earlier has dissipated.
“So, I’m a free woman?” I ask, wanting confirmation of what she is saying. She smiles and nods.
I stand up. Today, my killer figure, ever-glowing chocolate skin, full pink lips, my white perfect teeth, neatly-shaped, thick black eyebrows, long black eyelashes and dark eyes are mine to enjoy. I am going to be Lizo’s wife, not a trophy wife. My God given beauty is all mine. Beauty with brains, as Katlie and Pelo would chant every time we topped the class, I am indeed a beauty with brains.
Tell us: Have you ever felt imprisoned because of family or traditional expectations of you? How did you resolve that?