“I don’t want to marry Sandile.”
I come straight out with it, not caring that my young brothers are present, come to find out what’s making Papa shout.
“Don’t be stupid, girl!” More thundering words from Papa.
“I’m not – not now. I was stupid before, letting him and you all talk me into getting engaged.”
“You can’t do this to us, Zami.” Mama’s hands are twisting around each other. “Think what it will mean for us. Sandile is a generous man. We eat well since you met him, and he’s promised us materials and labour to fix up the house. We’ll lose all that if you break up with him.”
“You talk like I’m your bank card and Sandile is the ATM.” I shake my head hard. “I’m sorry, Mama, but I can’t have Sandile trying to run my life. It’s not just my job at the gym and the friends I have there. He’ll try to make me quit boxing as well, I know it.”
“You could pretend to quit and carry on doing it behind his back,” Funo suggests.
“Forget it.” I face my parents. “I’m sorry, I know you’ve been counting on Sandile to change your lives. The trouble is, he’s started trying to change my life, and that’s not going to stop. Don’t you want me to be happy?”
“Happy! Romantic nonsense,” Papa roars.
“Marriage isn’t about being happy, Zami,” Mama is pleading. “Or it is, it can be, if you’re very lucky. But it’s about a whole lot more.”
“Right, like respect, and consideration, and stuff like that – stuff I’m not getting from Sandile ever since I brought up the subject of a pre-marriage agreement.”
“Are you respecting him? Considering him?” Papa demands.
“I’ve been ready to, willing to, the whole time. Only, it has to work both ways.” But I can tell I’m not getting through to them.
“No, the way it works is you should look up to a man of standing who honours you by wanting to marry you, and who takes the trouble to be good to your family.” Papa’s face is set in grim lines.
“Except that I’ve started to realise he wants to own me,” I argue, knowing it’s no good. “That’s what marriage means to Sandile: ownership.”
“Quiet! You will marry that man, and that’s the end of it.”
That scares me a bit. They can’t force me to marry … can they? Of course, they could throw me out of the house for not doing what they want, but I would find some way to deal with that.
“I know you’ve been looking forward to your lives being easier,” I appeal to Mama. “I also know the little help I’m giving you from my pay isn’t worth much now, but I’m going to rise in the boxing world. If you can just hold on, give me time, I’ll be able to do so much for you.”
But she’s crying too hard to answer me. I’m not sure she’s even heard. Am I being totally selfish, breaking my family’s hearts like this?
And what about my heart?
I look at Papa. “I’ll be giving Sandile his ring back,” I say.
Tell us: What is the answer to the question Zami asks herself? Is she being selfish?