I run to pick up the big container of water I’d hidden behind the shop near my parents’ house, so I have an excuse when I walk through our door. The king and his servants are already at my house when I get there. I slowly enter the gate and walk up to the main house. When I walk inside everyone stares at me.
“Bantu, stand up and help my future wife with that,” the king orders his assistant, smiling from ear-to-ear. Bantu jumps up and comes to take the heavy container from my head. The dark, bearded old pig with a stomach popping out of his squeaky tight white shirt seems to be chuffed with himself as he sits in the chair with legs wide open.
“Thank you,” I say, “but I’m used to carrying it myself.” I walk past him to put it in the kitchen.
“No, no! Leave that to Bantu. Come and join us,” the king commands.
I grudgingly let Bantu take the water. I look at my parents for some sort of understanding of my reluctance, but they are all smiles. My frustration towards them begins to simmer.
“Smile, Sizie, smile!” my mother whispers in my ear, as she pretends to hug me. Then she turns to the guests. “As you all see, this is our only daughter. She is not only beautiful on the outside but on the inside too. She is her father’s princess. You realise that you are taking our only princess from us. Our pride and joy. You should be offering more because of that, honourable one,” my mother says.
“Oh, my friend, how could I not? You raised a beautiful queen right here. How can I not present you with a bigger gift?”
“Sizie, the king and his family have come to take you with them,” my mother turns to me and says sweetly, like she’s telling me something pleasant. “Please, my child, go and prepare to leave.”
“I’m leaving … today?” I say, looking up into her face.
“Yes. Is there something wrong with that, my future wife?” the king bristles in his corner.
“Yes!” I say, wondering how this is not the obvious answer. “My friends! I have to say goodbye.”
“Oh! You almost had me worried there. Friends come last. They don’t matter. You will see them some day,” the king answers, dismissing my request.
“Mama, please,” I beg. “There is no way I’m leaving without letting them know,” I say, horrified. “Unless this is an arranged, um … kidnapping?” I ask, trying to make light and yet show my strength.
“Oh, Sizie, your future husband has spoken. You are to respect his orders at all times, remember? This is not the way we’ve raised you,” my mother says lightly. “My daughter, go and pack up. You have a long way to go.”
“Which city am I being taken to?” I ask, standing now and looking around the room for answers, or a way out.
“Joburg,” the king says with a smile. Then, “Don’t worry, your young friend is going to another city to study,” he says, catching my eye.
I stare at him, shocked that he would bring up Lizo. I know there is no way out now, so I straighten up, prepared to accept my fate. “I would love to quickly see my friends before I go,” I say, looking directly at the king.
“Alright then. They will be here by the time you are done packing,” he says, alerting his assistant and moving to make a phone call.
I walk off to my hut, wondering how I will ever be able to do what I’m told for the rest of my life. I’m not just going to be his wife; I am going to be his prisoner. As I look at my things it hits me forcefully that Lizo and I will be far, far away from each other.
As I’m packing I hear a sound at my door. I look up to see Lizo’s younger brother come in, panting. He holds out a letter.
“It’s from bhut’ Lizo,” he tells me between deep breaths. “I had to sneak in to give it to you. He’s already left,” he says as I grasp the letter. He turns in an instant, runs through the door, and is gone.
I open the neatly sealed letter, instantly recognising his handwriting.
When I got back home from our meeting place, I found the king’s men at home. My clothes were packed and I was told to do the right thing. Don’t worry, I didn’t fight or cause a scene. They refused to tell me where they are taking me, but they guaranteed me that we would be in different cities. I wanted to bid you farewell in person, but that wasn’t possible. I just had time to scribble this note. Good thing we met earlier. Take good care of yourself. Get a good education. I will come back for you. I promise.
I read the message again before quickly hiding it in my toiletry bag. I finish packing and walk toward the door of my hut. I take a deep breath and exit, knowing that I can do nothing but follow the king to wherever he wants to take me.
Tell us: What would you have done if you were in Siziwe’s shoes?