“That was … interesting,” Kayise says, holding out a sparring glove, more padded than the gloves we use for actual bouts. “Here you go, Jacky.”

“I should probably have gone with him. Sorry for all the insults, y’all.” I’m speaking to all of them, but looking at Kayise.

“Not your fault,” Kayise says as Jacky gloves up.

“I’ll be going now,” I add.

“You sure? What if he’s waiting outside?”

I shrug. “I don’t think he will be, but … he’s still my fiancé.” For now, I think.

“We’ll walk with you, Zami,” Rhandzeka says. “Won’t we, Xikosi?”

They had all changed when I did, so we’re ready for the street.

“See you tomorrow,” I say to Kayise. It’s my small promise, to myself and to him, that Sandile isn’t going to stop me coming here.

“I hope so.” Kayise’s light eyes are serious.

“Trust me,” I say, and leave the gym with Rhandzeka, Xikosi, and Nicoleen.

There is no sign of Sandile’s BMW. Relief is a warm, weak feeling, and I’m happy to forget him and join in with the others, talking about the Emalahleni tournament.

We go our separate ways when we reach the residential part of Numbi. I’ve lived here all my life, and seen it grow, sprawling outward into the bush, but some things don’t change. There are still chickens roaming free, and even a few cows; the new things are the speedbumps and all the building going on, big houses like Sandile’s, and more humble ones.

Tension grips me as I turn into my street and see Sandile’s car outside our house – not one of the new ones, but definitely humble, small and in serious need of repairs. Sandile has promised Mama and Papa help with that.

I pull in a big breath, wishing I could run away.

Inside, Sandile is talking, but he stops when he sees me. Papa is frowning, and Mama looks about to cry.

“Zami.” My name sounds like a threat, coming from Sandile. “I didn’t wait for you at that … place. I decided you needed time to think things through.”

“So patient and kind of Sandile, child,” Mama says.

“Let’s hope you’ve seen sense.” I can tell Papa wants to shout at me, but he’s keeping it back in front of Sandile.

“I’ve been telling your parents about those boxing thugs, how they’re influencing you, and how they threatened me–”

“They showed a lot more self-control than you did,” I interrupt, suddenly furious. “Coming in there, insulting my friends, acting like you own me.”

Sandile looks at my parents and shakes his head sadly. “Clearly your daughter needs more time. She doesn’t understand that I can introduce her to more suitable friends, and get her a job in more dignified surroundings …You need to do some serious thinking, Zami, so I’ll leave you to it.”

Then he leaves, and all I feel is relief, even though Mama is wailing in dismay, and Papa is about to start shouting.


Tell us: What do you think about Sandile involving Zami’s parents in their quarrel?