It was just after eleven o’clock when Ayanda left the office. She was on her way to Lorraine to cover a story when her cellphone rang. She glanced down at her caller ID and saw that it was her mum.

She had a sudden premonition that something was wrong. Ayanda signalled a right hand turn and pulled into parking bay at the supermarket.

“Hi Mum. What’s up?” she said, as a cold feeling ran right through her body.

“I just got a call from the school. Olerato is fine. But it is Moses.”

“What … what did he do?” Ayanda could barely get the words out.

“He was spotted loitering around the school. He was acting very suspiciously. One of the teachers saw him and told the Principal. They had no idea who he was. Anyway they called the police and they phoned me a few minutes ago. He had announced to the officer he was the father of Olerato and was there to see her. Fortunately they have kept him into custody so far.”

“I’m on my way,” Ayanda said as a fit of trembling shook her body.

“Olerato is alright,” she kept repeating to herself like a mantra. “He didn’t get in to see her. She has no idea who he is.”

“We are taking this matter very seriously,” the police captain said to Ayanda. She sat facing him in his office.

“I’m only too happy to hear that,” she said. She knew Detective Dan Brown.

Ayanda told him everything, including the restraining order from when Gloria was alive. He made careful notes of everything she said.

“He’s as high as a kite. The police doctor has been to see him. On top of the booze he’s been taking some drugs.”

Slowly Ayanda shook her head. What was he capable off? She felt she could easily strangle him for what he was putting her family through.

The door opened and a young policewoman walked into the office. She smiled at Ayanda and motioned that she wanted to speak to Dan in private.

It was some minutes before Dan returned, a solemn look on his face.

“Is everything alright, Dan?”

“We’ve been in contact with the police in Boksburg. Moses has been living there with a woman and her three young daughters. There is a warrant out for his arrest.”

“Yes, and…” Ayanda knew she was about to hear something she wouldn’t like to know. She put her hand to her chest and forced herself to breathe normally and calmly.

“Moses staged a house break in and hired two men to take her youngest daughter. He sold her for muti.”

Ayanda tried to speak, but nothing came out. Instead her whole body started to shake uncontrollably.

Ayanda left the station and drove home. As soon as she got into the house she phoned Juliet and told her what had happened.

“The murderous bastard!” Juliet yelled down the phone. “Don’t worry about coming back into work. Call me if you need anything. I’m here for you, Ayanda. Please don’t forget that.”

Next Ayanda phoned her mum. She told her what had happened at the police station.

“I’ll collect Olerato from pre-school. I’m going to take a half-day. Frankly I’m exhausted,” her mother responded.

Ayanda disconnected the call and sat looking at her Blackberry for a few minutes. Should she call Thabo?

She desperately wanted to hear his voice but at the same time she dreaded phoning him. She sat dithering for a long time.

With a heavy heart she realised that it was going to be impossible to have a long-term relationship with him. It simply wasn’t going to work out. Her life was too complicated as it was. She had been seduced by his good looks and charm. She had fallen for him, had been wildly attracted to him.

She took the cowards way out and sent him a text.

Then she sat, seething at the idea of Moses turning up at the pre-school stoned out of his mind. Had he wanted to kidnap Olerato and sell her for muti too? When the story broke imagine if the other kids and their parents found out he had loitered outside their school. They lived in a small community. Word would soon spread. Her family would be notorious.

She was still sitting on the couch when Neo arrived with Olerato. The little girl ran over to the settee when she spotted her Mum sitting there. She threw her arms around her. Ayanda hugged her fiercely back.

“Hello Mama,” she said. “Why are you not at work?”

“I got a half day,” Ayanda smiled at her.

“Look what I did at school.” Olerato proudly held up a picture she had painted.

“It’s lovely,” Ayanda smiled. “Why don’t we go stick it up?”

“Gran said there’s no more space for any more pictures on the fridge,” Olerato said. “I’ll put it in my room.”

Ayanda grinned. The kitchen was decorated with Olerato’s drawings.

Neo was in the kitchen making lunch. She looked up when Ayanda entered the room.

“I’m making a chicken salad and I picked up some fresh bread up from the bakery,” her mother said.

“Sounds great, Mum. Do you want any help?”

“You could set the table darling, and get out some water glasses. Mind you I’m going to have tea laced with brandy!”

“I’ll have one too,” Ayanda said.

Her Blackberry started to ring as the family sat down to eat. She picked it up from the coffee table where she had dropped it.

She glanced down at the caller ID and saw that it was Thabo. She allowed the call to go to voice mail.

Later that evening after Olerato was asleep, Ayanda went out for a walk. She just needed to get out of the house and sort her thoughts out.

She was walking around the block when a car pulled up next to her. Her heart began to pound – it was too late to run. For a wild moment she thought it might be Moses. But he was in custody, she calmed herself. The person was getting out, calling out, “Ayanda don’t be afraid – it’s me, Thabo!” When figure came under the street light she could confirm that it was indeed Thabo. Her heart lurched.

“When you didn’t take my call or arrive I came to find you. But you weren’t at home. Your mother said you were out walking. What is wrong? Ayanda, whatever it is, however serious, I think you should talk to me in person,” said Thabo softly, kindly. “There must be a lot you want to say. Don’t be afraid.”

“I was out walking to clear my head,” she said. “A lot has happened…”

“Why don’t we go and walk on the beach and you can tell me there. It’s better than walking here in the street and it’s such a beautiful night.”

She didn’t say a word as he drove her down to the beachfront. They walked in silence for a while. He didn’t push her to talk, to explain why she had ignored his call.

She took a deep breath. She knew he was right. He deserved an explanation.

“I didn’t want to see you again, Thabo. How can we know it will work between us? Can I risk it?”

He stiffened. “Please Ayanda. We owe it to ourselves to at least try.”

“How do I know you won’t leave me in a few months or maybe a year or so?” She kept her head turned away from him, unable to face him. “I don’t want men walking in and out of Olerato’s life.”

“Oh, my darling I’m here whether you like it or not. You’ve got to live your own life too, Ayanda. I have only known you a few days but I feel like I’ve known you forever. I truly believe that we’re meant to be together. I fell hopelessly in love with you the very first time I saw you on this beach.”

“But you could have anybody,” she protested. “And things are complicated right now.”

“I can do complicated. I don’t want ‘anybody’. I want you,” he said. He moved closer to her and gently folded her in his arms. “You can tell me.”

Somehow she believed him. And so she started to tell him about Moses, about everything. How it had brought to the surface her deepest fear – of losing Olerato. She had already lost so much. That Olerato was her first priority. That she feared she wouldn’t have time to give to their relationship to make it work.

He just listened, giving her all his attention.

“I respect your love and commitment to Olerato Ayanda. Let’s just take what’s between you and me one day at a time for now? I believe we can do this.” He took her hand.

She looked up at him and smiled.

“One day at a time,” she said and it felt like a weight had lifted off her heart as he took her in his arms and kissed her.

***

Tell us what you think: Can people fall in love in just a few days? Will this relationship survive?