Mbali realised that Buyiswa was in his class, though she was not doing all the modules that he was doing. She was a big, bubbly, beautiful girl and finally Mbali plucked up courage to approach and talk to her, and then even ask her to join him for coffee in the canteen. But things never blossomed further than that, until one day …

“Do you want to come with me to my friend’s party?” Buyiswa asked him after class.

“Your friend’s party? Who else will be there?” Mbali asked, hesitantly.

When Senzo’s name was mentioned his blood froze. If Senzo was at the party that meant all of his cronies would be there too, Mbali thought. It had been years since he had seen Senzo or Senzo’s crew. Some of them had gone on to continue their studies in other parts of the country.

Mbali decided that he wasn’t up to going to the party. He couldn’t face more humiliation by Senzo and his friends.

But later, a persuasive message from Buyiswa convinced him. She said her friend was turning 21 and Buyiswa’s mother was the caterer. It would be lots of fun.

The party was at Elwandle Lodge and it was dazzling. The weather was great and the party started at sunset. The music was booming out so loud that people had to speak at the top of their voices to be heard – not that they minded, because who cares about loud music when booze is flowing freely and meat is roasting on the coals?!

“This is a party I will never forget! Listen up people! This party will be in my mind for years to come,” shouted Senzo, lifting up his glass of beer while everyone gathered around the fire place, which was on the patio above a crystal blue pool.

“What’s up my man? What’s up?” shouted Sizwe from the other side of the fire. He too was one of the boys who used to tease Mbali.

Mbali was sitting with Buyiswa and another guy down by the pool chatting, when the laughter roared above them.

“I see someone here that I have not seen in ages,” Senzo shouted down at Mbali. He re-filled his glass and then swaggered down the stairs with his friends to join Mbali.

“Aah, I see you finally got some decent glasses,” said Senzo, playfully punching Mbali on his chest. Mbali winced in pain but said nothing.

Senzo reached out his hand to Buyiswa and pulled her up into a tight embrace. He held her around the waist as he started to sway to the music. Buyiswa tried to push Senzo away, but he just pulled her closer.

“Stop, Senzo. Buyiswa doesn’t want to dance. Can’t you see–” Mbali told him.

“What are you going to do? Huh? What are you doing with this chick anyway?” asked Senzo, suddenly pushing Buyiswa away from him. Mbali got up and stood between Buyiswa and Senzo, blocking her from him.

“You heard him. Stop it Senzo. Do you know what? Mbali and I are together so you will not treat him like that!” It was Buyiswa’s firm voice. She had risen to stand next to Mbali, and was glaring at Senzo now.

Senzo and his friend looked at each other and started laughing. Then he lunged forward and grabbed Buyiswa’s arm, yanking her towards him.

“Stop it, Senzo! You are hurting me.”

“No Buyiswa. Come on, you know I have loved you since way back when we still teenagers. You can’t be serious about dating this …”

Mbali couldn’t stand it anymore. All the memories of their taunts welled up inside him and before he knew it, he had struck Senzo, hard, right between the eyes.

Senzo staggered back, blood spurting from his nose. Then he staggered forward towards Mbali. As he brought his fist up for a punch, Mbali swerved to one side and Senzo tumbled into the swimming pool.


Tell us: Is fighting back ever right, or does it make things worse? That is, do you think Mbali should have hit Senzo?