Zakhele stood and watched as his girlfriend played tongue-twister with the man. They were still laughing in the car as he walked away. And then she got out of the car and the man drove off.

Distraught, he found himself at Lutho’s door, not even sure how he got there. He still had the gift in his pocket, the box cutting into his flesh, reminding him of what a loser he was.

“You changed your mind,” Lutho said, welcoming his friend. “You have balls after all.”

Hiding his misery, he made his way with Lutho to their usual spot. It was not worth ruining his Friday night, he persuaded himself. Zakhele was going to go out and party with his friend.

That night he drank himself silly, trying to forget his heartache. Lutho knew why his friend was doing that; everybody knew. They had seen the car that Lucia was sitting in with the man. Later, people had seen her and her friends get into that same car and go out.

Zakhele felt so stupid. How could he not have seen this all along? Was he really that desperate that he ignored all the signs, the warnings, and his best friend, each time he tried to warn him?

And why didn’t he walk up to them in the car and confront Lucia?

But maybe he heard wrong? Maybe the man was talking to someone else … on the phone maybe. His Lucia would never do that to him. But then there was the unmistakable kiss. Zakhele was sure he saw them kissing and there was no explaining that away.

But he decided he was willing to forgive her, if only she would explain herself. Surely there was a reasonable explanation. The next day when he woke up he called Lucia, but there was no answer. During the morning he called her a few times, and texted. Both texts and calls went unanswered.

He decided to go see her and show her the present he had. Zakhele got to Lucia’s house and knocked. Her younger brother opened for him and they exchanged greetings.

Zakhele got along with most of Lucia’s family. They were always so nice to him … but he sometimes felt there was something else there. The way her sister always talked to him as though he was simple and slow, saying, “Ag tog, arme ding,” every time. Or how Lucia’s nieces always giggled when they saw him, as if they knew something he didn’t.

Lucia’s brother said she was ill and that she was in bed. He went to her room and found her in bed, under the covers. She must’ve caught something from the Nigerian guy, Zakhele thought bitterly.

He sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her forehead. He couldn’t feel any temperature, but then again he was no doctor. He leaned down to give her a kiss but she stopped him, covering her mouth with the blanket that was already up to her neck.

“I’m sorry baby, I don’t want you to catch it,” she said coughing.

“Don’t worry about me, I’m as strong as an ox,” he said flexing his muscles, trying to make light of what he was actually feeling. He knew how much stronger and more buff he had become since he started working at the furniture store. All that fetching and carrying heavy furniture really had its perks.

“You know, when I was younger I never got sick. My mom always …”

Lucia cut him off with more coughing.

“Oh baby, how are you feeling?”

“Like I’m dying.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, the pain and disappointment of yesterday clearly visible on his face. “You shouldn’t spend too much time in the water,” he said.

Lucia looked lost, like she wasn’t sure what he was asking.

“Your uncle, and the kids? Did you guys have fun at the beach?”

“Yeah, we did. Baby, I’m tired. What do you want?” Lucia coughed again.

Zakhele felt bad and wanted to let this go and let her rest. But he just couldn’t; he needed answers. Then her phone beeped and she took it out from under the covers. She read the text and smiled, for the first time since he got there.

She typed something back, and the colour seemed to be returning to her cheeks. Was it him texting her, Zakhele wondered? Were they making another date? Was she going to lie to him again?

“So how come I’ve never met your uncle?” he found himself asking.

Lucia stopped typing and looked up at him.

“What do you mean? Why do you want to meet him?”

“No, I mean, we’ve been together for a while now … and there are some things I would like to discuss with him, man to man.”

“You’ll meet him soon,” she said, and put the phone away. “Baby, I need to rest.”

“I know what will make you feel better,” Zakhele said and produced the wrapped gift from his pocket.

Suddenly Lucia sat up, and grabbed the packet from Zakhele’s hands.

“What is it? What is it?” she asked while tearing at the covering. She gasped when she produced the earrings from the box.

“Oh baby, they’re beautiful,” she cried, her voice suddenly sounding much better and less hoarse.

Zakhele was happy that she was happy; anything to put a little smile on his baby’s face.

 ***

Tell us: Have you ever been cheated on? How did you find out?