I stand on campus looking around, taking it all in. My first day of lectures is finally here and I still can’t believe this is really my life I’m living. I’m glad I met two girls, Katleho and Boipelo, both from North West too, during orientation. Knowing they would be in most of my classes made the drive to campus a little bit more bearable. Despite telling myself this, my heart is pounding.
“Nervous?” Bantu asks.
“Yeah,” I say clutching the lunch that Bantu made me. “What if I don’t understand everything? What if I embarrass myself in front of everyone? What if I don’t make any friends?” The questions pour out of me.
“Don’t worry, Siz. I’m sure you’ll get everything. Just take things slowly. I believe in you, and you must believe in yourself,” he says, his tone genuine.
“Eish, thanks,” I say and take another deep breath.
“Enjoy. And call me during lunch if you need to off-load, OK?”
“Cool. Don’t be late to fetch me.”
“I won’t. Bye!” Bantu drives off and I walk towards my lecture hall.
“Siziwe! Sizie!” I hear, and turn around to see Katleho.
“Hey, girl,” I greet, giving her a hug, happy and thankful I won’t have to enter the lecture hall alone.
“How are you?” she asks.
“Nervous, and yourself?”
“Too nervous for words!” she says, a huge smile across her face. She sure doesn’t look nervous to me. “Let’s find us some seats. Boipelo is running a bit late. ” She grabs my arm and we walk to our lecture hall.
Jozi is such a different place to my village. My friends here wouldn’t understand that my parents have already promised me to a man – not just a man – but also a king, nearly three times my age. They are convinced that Bantu is more than a friend. I let them think that. We study hard together and became top students. I continue to keep my secret. All they know is that I live with Bantu at some lavish house, and don’t go out at night.
June comes around quickly and before I know it I’m passing all of my exams and my friends start to get excited about heading home. I dread it. Bantu has begun to suspect I don’t want to go home, and worries constantly. My parents have been asking me to come visit, but I can’t bring myself to go, and neither can I pour out the reasons for my hesitation. All I can really do is make up excuses. I have no desire to see them again.
“Siz, what’s going on with you?” Bantu asks from behind me, as I end yet another phone call with my disappointed mother.
“I’m busy. I have a lot to do here,” I say brushing off the fact that he was listening to my conversation.
“Bantu, I don’t have time for this. There’s no point going home.”
“It’s still your home, Siziwe! You have to face it at some point.”
“Let me worry about that; it’s not any of your business anyway.”
The vacation drags on. I have nothing to do but sleep, eat, watch television and read. I read anything I can get my hands and then sleep again.
I stop taking Katlie and Pelo’s phone calls. I can’t bear to listen to them go on about their happy lives. Katlie is busy with her DJ boyfriend and Pelo is always with a different family member. I no longer want to hear about any of it. I’ll see them when they get back and we’re all miserable together studying again.
“Let’s go out and have some fun,” Bantu suggests, as we sit watching yet another lame TV programme.
“What about the king’s orders?”
“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
“You said it not me, and in that case, let’s go!”
“Siz,” he says with a warning tone.
“Bantu,” I say mocking him
“Please, don’t get drunk and leave with some dude. Let’s go and have fun together.”
“You should know me better than that,” I say, and turn to go change.
The club is filled with fun and fabulous characters. I dance like nobody’s business and drink my sorrows away. Even Bantu is enjoying himself for a change, putting aside his normal ‘bodyguard’ role. Eventually we crawl into the car and sleep there until morning.
When I wake up my head is pounding.
“Remind me to never drown my sorrows with tequila again,” I moan, grabbing my head.
“My head,” is all Bantu says, as he yawns and gets out of the car to stretch his legs.
“Shhhhhh!” I hush him for raising his voice above a whisper. “Damn alcohol.”
“I’m never touching alcohol again.”
We drive home slowly and silently, and as soon as we get there I go to sleep. I sleep the whole day, waking only to pray the pain will stop before lectures on Monday. Katlie and Pelo are arriving on Sunday and I know they will want to meet, but at this point I am in no shape to do anything.
Tell us: Has Siziwe just taken the first step to a new lifestyle? Will this rebellion continue?