“Are you out of your skull, Zami?” Andisa shrieks when I tell her and the others about what happened with Sandile. “You hook yourself a rich, older guy, and then you go and insult him.”
Something in her words gets to me. “He’s not that old, only in his twenties, and he’s not even that rich yet–”
“Just richer than any of us get to meet,” Deirdre cuts in.
“That’s not why I’m with him.”
“If you’re still with him.” Goniwe shakes her head. “What if he breaks off your engagement?”
We’re walking to Ma Sunny’s tavern. They were going anyway, and when Sandile cancelled our planned evening together, I called Andisa and said I’d join them. It’s not my thing really. Spending time with Sandile or sparring at the gym would both come above drinking in a badly lit and crowded place, everyone, including me, getting hotter and louder as the evening goes on.
The question Goniwe asked is the same one Mama and Papa, and even my brothers, kept throwing at me after Sandile left.
“You think he might do that?” I’m starting to worry.
“You’ll have to find some way to make it up to him,” Andisa says.
“Yebo, and then score us that invite to his fancy-ass house,” Deirdre comes in.
Goniwe giggles. “Tell him you want a making-up party.”
They’re obsessed with Sandile’s house, one of the biggest and newest in Numbi. It makes no difference if I tell them he hasn’t got round to getting much furniture yet, and that the place still reeks of paint.
“Damn.” The roadsides around here are uneven, and I notice I’ve scuffed the pointy toe of one of the stiletto shoes Sandile bought me. “I should have changed my shoes before coming out. And my skirt.”
Because this tight skirt – pencil skirt, I think it’s called – is difficult to walk in, and I’m used to striding, skipping, even dancing along.
“But you look amazing, girl,” Deirdre says. “Like someone who works in an office.”
“Sandile’s taste, and I’m only dressed like this because I kept hoping he’d get over himself and come back to the house for me,” I admit.
“Give him time,” Andisa advises. “Wait, what did you just say? Get over himself? Like he’s the one who was unreasonable?”
“Over-reacting anyway. He could have just said he didn’t agree with me. No need to act all hurt, and in front of my family.”
“You hurt his pride,” Goniwe says.
So now they’re all on my case, the same as my family was.
My irritation is rising. It has a lot to do with how uncomfortable these shoes and skirt are, like they’re somehow imprisoning me, stopping my freedom of movement.
I remember how I was dressed when I met Sandile: in takkies, with a frothy little net skirt flaring out over leggings. I guess Papa is right, and it’s a miracle Sandile even looked at me.
But he liked that me, at least to start with. Now he and my family seem to want me to be someone else.
Even these girls do, and they’re supposed to be my friends. It hits me that I have more in common with the girls – and the guys – I work and train with at the gym.
Tell us: Should Zami try and turn herself into the sort of person Sandile and others want her to be? Or should she behave and dress in her own way?