“I was hoping you wanted this meeting because you’d seen sense, but then you’d be dressed to please me, not yourself.” Sandile gives my clothes a disgusted look as we meet at Ma Sunny’s. “What do you want to drink?”

“Anything, a soft drink. I’m in training for a tournament.” I hear how fluttery I sound.

He looks even more disgusted. “Wait here.”

I look around while I wait. I see Goniwe and Deirdre, and a neighbour from my street.

After a minute they notice me too, and Deirdre gives me a thumbs-up when she spies Sandile coming back to me with our drinks.

Nervousness is making my mouth dry, so I take a big swig of my drink.

“I’m sorry, Sandile.” I’m digging in my bag for his ring, back in the little box it came in, and the box itself wrapped in a packet I found at home; that’s how scared I am of losing the ring. “You have every right to be angry with me. I should never have said yes to an engagement. I was immature; I wanted to please you and my parents, but how can I make anyone happy if I’m not happy? Please take your ring back.”

He doesn’t even look at the packet as I thrust it at him. He just takes it and rams it into his pocket as I swallow some more of my drink.

“You’re being very foolish, Zami. And ungrateful, after all I’ve done for you and your family.”

“If you’re talking about all the groceries and other goods, I’ll pay you back every cent, but I’ll have to ask you for time …”

Then I lose track of what I’m saying. My head feels light, full of white mist, and suddenly I just want to lie down and sleep – so much so that I’m swaying, sagging to one side. I let my drink fall.

“Oh baby, drunk again.” Sandile’s voice.

Drunk? How can I be? I asked for a soft drink, didn’t I? Maybe I’m sick.

“Hey Zami, what’s happening?” Whose voice is that? Goniwe’s?

“She’s all right.” Definitely Sandile speaking now. “She’s just had too much to drink.”

No, not true. I force myself to think, and my brain works slightly better than my body, or my mouth, which can’t shape the words I want to say.

Something in my drink … I want to tell someone, but the words still stay in my head, not reaching my lips and tongue.

“Should we–”

“It’s okay, I’m taking her home. Excuse us.”

An arm around me, a hand pushing me through the crowd. Their faces are a blur.

“Sorry, sorry. Please let us through.”

Then we’re outside, and I have the hope that the fresh air might clear my head. It doesn’t happen.

“Can we help?” A stranger’s voice.

“No, we’re good, thanks,” Sandile says. “Women, hey? Can’t hold their drink.”

“Not drunk,” I try to say, but it sounds like a moan, not words.

“Hey Zami, what’s wrong?”

Another voice I know, urgent with worry. Kayise.

“Drunk,” someone explains, another stranger, while I try to focus, looking for Kayise.

“Let us past. She’s fine, but I need to get her home.”

Then I’m being pushed into a car, Sandile’s car. The door slams.

“Wait, I want to hear from Zami that she’s fine–”

I see Kayise at last, with Jacky beside him. Kayise raps on the car window, but then Sandile is in the driver’s seat, and the car is moving, taking me away from anyone who might help me.


Tell us: What is Sandile planning?