Even now Mrs Phiri shudders when she thinks of that name. In fact Angelique’s real name is Neo. Plain, ordinary, everyday Neo. But Angelique is the name the girl chose for her modelling career.

“Oh Mama, isn’t she the most beautiful girl in the whole world?” Tshepo said that first time he brought her home. “And she’s a model, Mama! Imagine! Me, dating a model!”

And yes, Mrs Phiri had to admit: the girl was beautiful. A bit too tall, perhaps. But of course models needed to be tall.

“I’m glad that she makes you happy, my boy,” said Mrs Phiri. And it was true. In those early days, when he and Angelique first got together, Tshepo smiled his golden smile all the time. And of course, whenever he smiled, the whole world brightened for Mrs Phiri.

Still, she worried sometimes. She said to her son, “Are you sure this is the girl for you? She doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself. She always needs to be the centre of attention. She doesn’t seem to care much about your needs, my darling. And also, she is rude. She shows me very little respect.”

But Tshepo didn’t want to hear anything bad about his new girlfriend. “What’s the matter, Mama? You aren’t jealous, are you? Please don’t spoil things for me.”

So Mrs Phiri tried to keep quiet. She did her best not to interfere.

When Tshepo brought Angelique home, they went straight into his bedroom and locked the door behind them. Mrs Phiri had to stand all alone in the passage outside. And Tshepo would put loud music on his CD player so Mrs Phiri couldn’t even hear what they were saying to each other. Sometimes Mrs Phiri heard Angelique giggling. It was a piercing, high-pitched giggle that sounded so false. As if Angelique was just pretending.

“That girl thinks she is on stage all the time. Or on a catwalk,” Mrs Phiri muttered to herself. “She acts as if there are cameras trained on her everywhere she turns.” But Mrs Phiri said nothing to Tshepo.

Mrs Phiri didn’t say anything even when Tshepo started spending all his money on Angelique. All of a sudden he had no money to help his mother with the rent or with the groceries. All of a sudden he was asking her for loans from her factory wages – loans that he never paid back.

Once he bought Angelique a fancy bottle of very expensive perfume. The perfume was called ‘Angel Child’. Tshepo let his mother smell it.

“Do you think she will like it, Mama?” he asked. He sounded like a little boy again. “See Mama, it is called Angel Child – since her name is Angelique and since she is the angel of my heart! Do you think this will make her happy?”

It smelled nice, quite nice. But when Mrs Phiri saw the price on the till slip, she was shocked. It was enough for three weeks of groceries plus the month’s electricity! How could Tshepo spend so much on a silly bottle of fragrance for that silly girl?

Mrs Phiri looked into her son’s eyes. She saw such hope there. So she didn’t talk about the cost. She just said, “I’m sure it will make her happy.”

Evidently it did make Angelique happy. She wore the fragrance often. Until Tshepo’s whole bedroom stank of Angel Child. Soon Tshepo had to beg for more money to buy her a second bottle – even larger and more expensive than the first.

Often Mrs Phiri muttered to herself, “I just hope this girl cares as much about Tshepo as he cares about her. I just hope she isn’t hanging around until all his money is spent. But I must admit: I fear the worst.”

And then the bad day came, the day Mrs Phiri had been fearing.

It was a Sunday afternoon. Tshepo and Angelique were locked in his bedroom with some loud CD playing. Then came an even louder sound from outside, of a car hooting. Mrs Phiri looked out of the window. It was a luxury car, a large silver SUV. The driver stepped out for a moment: a good-looking, middle-aged man in a designer suit.

And next thing, Tshepo’s bedroom door was flung open and Angelique rushed out of the house. Tshepo was screaming after her, “Don’t leave me, Angelique. I love you much more than he does! What do you want with a married man, my love? Come back. I can’t live without you!”

But Angelique threw her arms around the middle-aged man, kissed him passionately, then jumped into the silver SUV. Off it sped down the street, leaving only a cloud of dust behind it. And that was the end of Angelique.

Tshepo phoned her a hundred, a thousand times a day. She did not answer. He left desperate messages for her to call him back. But she never did.

Tshepo went out into the night, wandering the streets, looking for her in all the places they’d been together: the clubs, the shebeens around Extension 6. He didn’t find her. He stopped going to work, stopped his night school classes. Instead he curled up under his duvet and wept. Endlessly. Mrs Phiri thought her heart would break apart for her poor son.

“What will I do now, Mama?” he said, there in his room that still smelled of her perfume. “How can I go on?”

Mrs Phiri tried to comfort him. “There are plenty more girls out there, Tshepo. You go out and find yourself someone new, someone who will appreciate you properly. Not some self-obsessed gold digger. Come on, my boy. You are young and good looking. You have a smile that can brighten up the whole world.”

But Tshepo would not be comforted. “There is no-one like Angelique, Mama. No-one can ever replace her. I gave her my soul and she threw it back in my face. Sometimes I have dreams where I strangle her, the ungrateful bitch! That’s the only time I feel a little bit better. She didn’t even take her Angel Child perfume, after all the money I spent on it. She didn’t even take those black lace pantyhose she made me buy for her.”

Mrs Phiri tried a few times to phone Angelique herself. But the girl never answered.


Tell us what you think: Do you feel sorry for Tshepo? Do you know what it feels like to have your heart broken?