“So, all having fun?”
The mockery in Sandile’s voice, and the way he looks at us, somehow shrivels me, so that I feel very small.
“Sandile,” I whisper, wondering if I should pretend everything is normal and introduce him, or if that will make things worse. “We were just …”
“I’m surprised you can find anything to laugh at in this grim place.” He throws a contemptuous look around the gym with its small raised boxing ring and all its other equipment. “Come, Zami. I don’t want you coming here anymore. These losers will drag you down to their level–”
“Hey!” Kayise cuts in, and I see Jacky’s hands curling into fists.
“These are my friends, Sandile.” I’m surprised to find such fierceness in myself.
“The dregs of Numbi?” he sneers. “You can do better, Zami – because I can do better for you. You don’t belong here. Come, baby.”
He’s holding out a hand. I realise he’s expecting me to place my own hand in it, to show the others we’re together, the two of us on the same side.
I can’t do it.
“Sandile–” I start, but then I turn to the others and say what’s important: “I’m sorry. He has no right to talk about you like that.”
“And you have no need to apologise, Zami.” Kayise speaks quietly. “You’re not responsible for him.”
But I feel responsible. It’s because of me that Sandile is here, insulting them.
“Who the hell are you?” Then Sandile makes a movement with his hand, waving the question away. “No matter. I don’t need to know. Zami won’t be coming here anymore–”
“I have a job here, Sandile,” I cut in.
“I’ll organise work for you with my company. Now let’s go.”
“I don’t want another job. This one suits me.” My temper is rising.
“We can talk about it later. Come, baby.” He waits a beat, and when I don’t move, he raises his voice, “I said come, Zami.”
“I don’t think she wants to.” Kayise is standing very still.
“What’s it to do with you?” Sandile grabs me by the arm and jerks me towards him. “I said we’re leaving.”
“What does Zami say?” Kayise is so cool and controlled, but he has moved now, lightning-fast.
So have the others, all of them. They’re a lot closer to Sandile than they were, surrounding him.
“You should go, Sandile. These are all skilled boxers. Any one of them could … hurt you.”
“Even me,” Nicoleen pipes up.
It’s all a bit dramatic, and of course Hands Ngobese has drilled it into us how wrong and unfair, even criminal, it would be for us to use our skills against a person without our training, unless they’ve somehow managed to attack us, and it’s in self-defence.
Sandile hasn’t laid a hand on anyone – except me.
I think my threat has shocked him because I’m able to pull myself free. I step back.
“Zami has spoken.” Kayise looks my way and gives me an encouraging nod.
“You’ll regret this, Zami.” Sandile sounds like he’s choking on something, rage I think, but thank God, he’s leaving.
His words echo in my head. Yes, I’m afraid I will regret this. Sandile and my family will make me regret it.
Tell us: Have Zami and the others handled the situation correctly? Is Zami right about Sandile making her regret what happened?