The light of dawn seeps into the bedroom in Clermont Township. Zinhle rubs her bleary eyes and walks to the window. She looks at the pearly glow in the sky. From her window she can also see Mr Khuzwayo’s red Hyundai i20 driving into the yard.
Zinhle hurries to the bathroom and washes her face in the sink. She looks into the mirror in front of her as she wipes her face with her pink facecloth. Zinhle looks at her face for a few seconds before lowering her gaze to her tummy, which has protruded through her silky pink pyjamas. There is a faint knock at the door.
Zinhle stomps her purple furry slippers across the carpet. She opens the door and Mr Khuzwayo walks in, labouring with three yellow plastic bags full of groceries.
“Still in your pyjamas?” says Mr Khuzwayo.
Zinhle grunts and takes the lightest of the plastic bags. She rolls her eyes and says, “I’m not going to school today.”
Mr Khuzwayo pushes the door wider with his right foot and follows Zinhle. “Why aren’t you going to school?” He frowns as he lifts the two plastic bags to the table.
“I just can’t do school at the moment, Sbongiseni. I’m sick on most mornings. This baby I’m carrying is heavy. I don’t want to faint in front of everyone at school,” Zinhle snorts.
“When were you going to tell me that, Zinhle?”
“I’m telling you now, Sbongiseni. And how exactly was I supposed to tell you? You don’t respond to my calls. You don’t call me like you used to,” she says while unpacking groceries.
“I’m busy, Zinhle. Learners are writing their final exams and you know I have to invigilate,” says Mr. Khuzwayo.
“But I’m sure you call your wife all the time. Don’t you?”
“What does she have to do with any of this?”
“I’m just saying that you leave me here all alone but you have enough time for your family. You don’t call me. I have no one to talk to. Sometimes I get …” Zinhle pauses for a moment as she regains her composure. “I get depressed. I need someone to talk to!”
“Zinhle, you have friends. Talk to them.”
“All of my friends are back in Amaoti, not here in Clermont. And you told me not to make contact with anyone in Amaoti, remember?”
Zinhle finishes unpacking the groceries from one plastic bag and continues to unpack from another.
“I remember what I said, Zinhle. I also remember telling you to make new friends here,” says Mr Khuzwayo.
“Oh, because it’s easy to just talk to anyone I’ve never met before?”
“I thought my life was going to be different, you know? That it would be better. But nothing feels right here,” says Zinhle. Beads of tears roll down her eyes.
“Calm down, Zinhle. It’s not that bad.”
“You say that because you’re not the one who’s pregnant!”
Mr Khuzwayo comes closer to Zinhle and hugs her from behind. “Shh, don’t cry,” he says.
Zinhle jabs him hard on the ribs with her elbow. He squirms and lets her go.
“Don’t touch me! I hate what you did to me and I hate myself for allowing you! You took my life away from me and promised me something different. I hate you!”
Zinhle sits on the edge of her bed and starts to weep. Her light-skinned face has become pale.
“I think you’re getting too comfortable with me, Zinhle! I can see you’ve forgotten who I am!”
There is a frown on Zinhle’s face as she looks straight into his eyes. “And I think you’ve forgotten what I can do! I can destroy your life just like that, Sbongiseni!”
Mr Khuzwayo puts his hands on his waist and sighs. He says calmly, “Are you threatening me, little girl?”
Zinhle lies on her back on the bed. “I was just reminding you, that’s all,” she says.
“You … You listen here, you little …” Mr Khuzwayo struggles for words. “Damn you, Zinhle!”
He paces around the room at first but eventually kneels next to Zinhle. “I’m sorry, Zinhle. I just got upset.”
He cautiously stretches his hands and caresses Zinhle’s belly. A torrent of tears flow from the corners of her eyes. Mr Khuzwayo moves his hand to caress Zinhle’s face and wipe her tears.
Tell us: What is going on here? What seems to be the back story to this relationship?