The Past – 2011

“Promise me you will always look after my little girl,” Gloria said as she suddenly stretched out and grabbed her sister’s hand tightly in hers.

“Of course I will, but you’re not going anywhere, Gloria. You’ll be there for all the milestones in your daughter’s life,” Ayanda responded, wondering why Gloria was acting so strangely.

Gloria smiled that beautiful smile of hers.

“Yes, of course I will but I just need to know that you’ll be there for her as well. You’re the only person I can entrust my precious daughter to.” Gloria looked serious.

“Well you can rest easy. I’ll be the best auntie Olerato will ever have.”

“Thank you.” Gloria jumped up from the chair she had been sitting on. She threw her arms around her sister’s neck. She hugged her for several moments. Ayanda returned her embrace.

“Why are you getting so worked up about Olerato?” Ayanda had a bad feeling in her stomach. “Is Moses giving you trouble again?”

“Moses is trouble with a capital T,” Gloria said as she began to make a pot of tea. She opened the fridge and took out a carton of milk.

“What has he been up to now?” Ayanda asked. She looked across the kitchen counter at her sister.

“Same old, same old,” Gloria said with a heavy sigh.

“You’ve got a restraining order against him! He’s only allowed to see his daughter under supervision. Has he tried to come anywhere near Olerato?”

Gloria passed the mug of tea to Ayanda. She didn’t say anything for several moments. She had a faraway look in her eyes.

“He’s been messaging me. Several times a day in fact,” she said shaking her head.

“What has he been saying?” Ayanda set her mug on the counter. She gripped her sister’s hand tightly. “Has he been threatening you in any way?”

Gloria lifted a shoulder wearily. “No. He says he’s changed. He’d like to see me and be a better father to Olerato.”

Slowly Ayanda shook her head. “Do you think he’s started drinking again?”

“I don’t think he ever stopped, though he swears otherwise.”

“Don’t they all.” Ayanda lifted her mug.

“I swear I haven’t touched a drop in months,” Gloria imitated Moses’ voice to perfection.

Ayanda smiled at her. “What are you going to do about him?”

Instead of answering her question Gloria said: “You never really liked him, did you, sis?”

“No, not really.” She sighed deeply. “I just thought he was never good enough for you. He had what Mum would call ‘a roving eye’. He never seemed to want to settle down in one place for long enough,” Ayanda answered truthfully.

“Well I won’t hold that against you,” Gloria said and filled their mugs again. “You were right about him all along. All I saw were his good looks and charming ways. Well, he was charming when he wanted his own way.”

“I wish he had been different, Gloria. He lied to you and cheated on you and then had the nerve to try and control you in every possible way.”

“Yeah. He’s a parasite really,” Gloria said, resting her chin on her hands. Her mind seemed far away. “I loved him but I never really liked him. Does that make sense?”

Ayanda nodded. “Yes, it makes perfect sense.”

“I’m not sorry I had Olerato though. I just love her so much, Ayanda. She means the world to me.”

“We all adore her,” Ayanda smiled. “It’s amazing really. She’s only been in our lives such a short while but it’s hard to imagine a time she wasn’t there.”

Gloria laughed. “I’m just happy she’s taking after our side of the family. She looks nothing like her father. She reminds me of you when you were younger, little sister.” Gloria was five years older than Ayanda.

“I doubt I was ever that cute. Olerato is a beautiful looking child.”

“Are you fishing for compliments now?” Gloria teased.

Ayanda looked at her over the rim of her mug. “I must be desperate if I need my sister to tell me how beautiful I am.”

“You’re not the desperate kind,” Gloria assured her and touched her hand gently. “I have the feeling you’ll get everything you want in this life.”

“Whatever,” Ayanda smiled. “You know I’ll help you financially as much as I can. You must not worry about that, Gloria. Olerato will go to a good school and get a proper education.”

“I know you will sis,” Gloria said. “We’ve been lucky. You and I have always got on well together. I’m lucky to have Mum and Dad, you and Marcus.”

Marcus was their brother. He was the middle child.

“There was only that one time when you totally freaked me out, Gloria. Remember? You stole my favourite doll and buried her in the sand! I looked everywhere for her until Marcus came home from soccer practice and helped me find her.”

“You were giving too much attention to that doll. In fact you were besotted with her. I wanted you to come to the shop with me. I knew Mr Morgan would give us some free sweets if you were with me.”

Ayanda grinned and shook her head at the memory. “I can still taste the sweetness of those suckers in my mouth. The strawberry one was my favourite.”

“I don’t know what’s come over me,” Gloria said, serious now. “I must be due my period. I always get edgy when it’s due.”

“PMS always sucks,” Ayanda laughed, although her heart felt uneasy.

“Enough about me,” Gloria said. “How’s it going at the paper?”

“Great. I love being a journalist. I made a good decision to study journalism.”

“Are there any nice men working there?”

“There are a few,” Ayanda grinned. “We go out quite a bit together. Actually we’ve got a great team and we all seem to get on pretty well together. But I don’t want to get seriously involved with a man right now. I want to first concentrate on my career.”

“You’re going to make Mum really mad,” Gloria giggled. “She’s not going to let up until she sees all three of us settled down and having babies.”

“Well – won’t be happening to me for a while yet,” Ayanda said. “I’m barely nine months out of university. I have no intention of settling down yet. Besides I want to have some fun, experience life and come and go as I please. Marriage and babies are the last things I want to think of right now.”

“I can’t say I blame you,” Gloria said with a heavy sigh. After a long pause she continued: “Have you noticed anything strange about Dad lately?”

“Strange in what way, Gloria?”

“If he wasn’t so straight-laced I’d swear he was having an affair.”

“Dad! Having an affair?” Ayanda burst out laughing. “Which side of the bed did you get out of this morning? First you’re asking me to look after Olerato for you – as if you’d ever leave your baby. And now you’re saying Dad has another woman. I’d say it’s you who is acting strange.”

Gloria looked directly at her sister. “Hey I’m being serious here. He’s been spending a lot of time in the bathroom lately.”

“Maybe he’s got a bladder problem. Don’t men his age get these prostrate problems? After all he’s not getting any younger.”

“Believe me, there’s nothing wrong with his bladder. It’s more of an ego complex.”

“I suppose you’d know if he had a bladder problem. After all, you’re a nurse.”

“He’s started using cologne. And he’s taking up walking nearly every evening.”

“Where does he walk to?” Ayanda asked, with a feeling of dread in her stomach.

“Just around the block a few times. I followed him one evening.”

“Did he meet up with anybody?” Ayanda’s blood ran cold at the thought of what this would do to her Mum. She had enough on her plate worrying about Gloria.

“No,” Gloria shook her head. “He’s stopped eating red meat. He reckons it’s bad for his cholesterol.”

“Now I’m worried. Dad loves his red meat. He always swore he couldn’t live a day without eating a cow or two. Have you said anything to him about his odd behaviour?”

“Yes, I did. He just shrugged it off. Said he was putting on too much weight.”

“Has Mum said anything?”

“No. Not a word. But she’s been pretty busy lately. They are short-staffed enough at the clinic plus two of the nurses are off sick with the summer flu.”

“I hope Dad is not having some mid-life crisis,” Ayanda said, shaking her head. She couldn’t bear the thought of anything going wrong with her family. She knew she was lucky to have been brought up with both parents.

“Dad is way past mid-life now,” Gloria chuckled.

“He could still be seeing another woman. Some older women behave like vultures out there. They don’t give a toss about breaking up families. I don’t want to see Mum get hurt.”

“Me either,” Gloria added. “That is why I’m going to find out what is going on.”

“Don’t say anything to him when you do, Gloria. Talk to me first and then we’ll work out what to do.”

Gloria and Olerato lived with their parents in Sea View on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. Gloria had trained as a nurse at Saint George’s hospital and met Moses there. He was a clerk in the accounts department. They had had a whirlwind affair and when they broke up Gloria had moved back home. Now Olerato was two.

“Mama. Mama!” Olerato’s voice reached the kitchen. The little girl had been having her afternoon nap.

Gloria went to fetch her. It was a Saturday and Ayanda was off for the weekend, which was why she was visiting.

“Aya! Aya!” Olerato yelled and nearly jumped out of her mother’s arms when she saw Ayanda.

Ayanda took her niece into her arms. She kissed her on both cheeks. Then she breathed in the baby smell of her.

“Pressie,” Olerato demanded, when she was tired of all the kissing and cuddling. Every time Ayanda came to visit she brought something. Ayanda dug in her bag; she had bought Olerato a play tea set. Olerato’s eyes lit up when she saw the brightly coloured package.

“Now you can give Millie her tea.” Millie was the doll Ayanda had bought Olerato last week.

“You spoil her,” Gloria said. But she was smiling.

Olerato tore off the wrapping. With a solemn expression she sat down on the floor and set everything out.

“I know you’ll always be there for her, Ayanda,” Gloria said in a side whisper. “If anything happens to me I want you to adopt her. I’ve even made a will.”

“Now you’re really scaring me,” Ayanda said. “Is it Moses? Has he been threatening you? You can be honest with me, sis. You’ll know I’ll do everything in my power to help you.”

“No, he hasn’t been harassing me. Except for those SMSs I haven’t heard anything else from him. He’s no longer working at St. Georges.”

“Well that’s good news,” Ayanda said. “At least now you don’t have to worry about running into him.”

“I hear Mum’s car pulling up,” Gloria said. “Don’t say anything to her.”

“I won’t,” Ayanda promised. “Where’s Dad by the way?”

“He went grocery shopping early this morning and he hasn’t come back yet.”

Ayanda plastered a smile on her face and opened the door to greet her Mum. Neo’s whole face lit up with a smile when she saw her youngest daughter standing in the doorway.

“Hello darling,” she said and opened her arms wide to embrace her child. She hugged her close.


Tell us what you think: Could Ayanda’s father be having an affair?