“So, he just spoke out of the blue about his dad?”
“Ja, uit die bloute.”
“But what did you say to the child then?”
“Nothing. What could I say? My heart is broken, Jonathan. How do I say to my child his father was a skollie?”
“Tell him the truth, Petronella. We both know he was going to change his life around.”
“Angelo was only five. Just ’n kyndjie, a little kid. I knew one of these days he’d want to know about his dad. Do you know how difficult it was to avoid his questions when he was little? ‘Where’s Pappa, Mammie?’ Every day. Until he stopped asking …” I start to cry.
Jonathan hugs me. “I know. I know the heartache to lose a parent to the gangs. I was six when my dad was shot, every day I asked … wondered … why him? Found no answers. He wasn’t a gang member, he was just in the way.”
“Jonathan, I had no idea, I’m so sorry.”
He looks down. “Life goes on, you must be grateful for every day, because life innie Kaap isn’t a safe life.”
“True,” I say.
He stares at me, then reaches out for my hand. I feel a sense of warmth. A sense that everything is going to be okay, despite the chaos around us. He makes everything all right. I feel at home. I feel safe. But what if it’s just sympathy he’s giving me, no catching feelings, as the youngsters say?
I mean look at me, a single mother, no stable income, not really something for the eye either. Why would he want me? Ek’s niks. I’m seeing things that are not there. No, Petronella, he doesn’t love you like that, he is your friend. I tell myself that. It has to be true, surely he can’t be falling for me as I’ve been falling for him?
“Petronella,” he suddenly says.
He comes in closer and there it begins. He kisses me. I’m dreaming! No, it’s a dream, for sure! But it isn’t. Because you cannot have butterflies in your dream, and feel the warmth of another.
“Petronella, I want to be there for you. And your children.”
I cry. “Jonathan, but how?”
He kisses me again. He pulls me closer towards him and I am in the clouds. His strong arms, my shelter.
“Don’t ask me how, I don’t know myself. But all I know is that I am crazy about you Petronella, and your children are so precious. I know you’ve been through the worst, I want to be the man you can rely on,” he says.
“Sommer out of the blue? I ask.
“No, I’ve always loved you. I love your hair, your eyes, your soft hands, the way you pull your nose when one of the kids upsets you, the way you keep your house in order despite the trouble in your own heart. You are just amazing.”
I am speechless.
“When that man broke your heart, I just wanted to take you in my arms and kiss you and say I would never be like your ex …”
“But then why didn’t you?”
“Because you needed a friend, more than you needed a rebound.”
I give him a hug and smile through my tears. “You are that man.”
“What man!” a voice barks.
My clouds vanish. I’m back on earth. “Angelo! What are you doing here?”
“Nei, Ma, what is he doing here! What are you doing together? He’s not my pa!”
“Ag, my God, Angelo, your father is dead! No man could ever be your father,” I say.
Hate and bitterness show in my child’s eyes, covered by tears. He throws his school bag down, pushes me out of the way, swears at us and runs away.
Tell us: Do you think Angelo will ever accept Jonathan?