“You okay?” The same question Banzi asked, but now it comes from Chuma as she cuts her eye at Mongezi.
“I’m fine, girl.”
“Come Khaliso, we’re leaving.” Mongezi has hold of my elbow again.
“You may be leaving, Mongezi, but K-girl is coming with us,” Wandisa tells him.
“We’re hitting Giraffe’s Neck to celebrate her success, right ladies?”
“And to plan her big number for next week,” Francine butts in. “Hey K, we’ve just been sort of listening in on Die-Mond and some friend of his, and it’s like he hopes everyone comes up with new songs for round two. He doesn’t want the winner to be a one-hit wonder.”
“Hope you’re not expecting our girl to write you a new song, Mongezi.” Chuma is openly mocking. “She’ll be too busy working on her own winning words.”
“I said we’re leaving, Khaliso.” Mongezi doesn’t directly respond to the things my friends are saying, but I can tell they’ve made him angry.
I hesitate. I should go with him, try to calm him down, but – he’s wearing that look that makes me afraid of him.
An answer to my problem comes from some weird part of my brain, as I remember this bit of Bible Ma likes to quote, about how, ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath.’
I give Mongezi a shaky smile and say, “I’m still hurting from what you did, Mongezi. Please give me time to get over it? We can talk tomorrow.”
I don’t think this is exactly what Ma and the Bible mean by a soft answer, but he lets go of my arm – or maybe he does it because of the filthy looks he’s getting from Chuma and the others.
“Asshole,” Chuma says as he stalks away.
“You have to dump him, sis,” Francine adds.
“I … How can I?” I can’t meet their eyes. “I mean, I love him. He said he did it, took my song, to protect me. Because the music biz is so tough.”
“That’s sort of sweet,” Wandisa says, but the other two make disgusted sounds.
“Please! He’s playing on your feelings, K.” Francine gives me a little shake.
“Manipulating you,” Chuma agrees. “So he can keep on using you and your talent.”
“I don’t know.”
I feel they’re right, but I don’t want to believe it. What has happened to all the strength and anger that got me up there on stage?
“See how you feel when you talk tomorrow.” Wandisa hugs me gently, and I give her a grateful smile.
“So, Giraffe’s Neck?” I feel better already, and I’ve got new words buzzing in my head, an idea for using that ‘soft answer’ story in my next song.
Khali-L, L for Lyrical. I’m the true me tonight, I’ve rapped and people liked it, and it made me feel better and more real than my poppy Lyin’ Eyes song ever did. I hate that Mongezi took it from me without even discussing it first, but – he’s welcome to it.
Tell us: It sounds like Khaliso is starting to find herself, but will she be able to stay true to herself? Or will she have to give in to Mongezi to keep the relationship?