This morning I was nursing the mother of all hangovers but not even seven hours later I had a drink in my hand. Zinhle had forced me to come to the first-year braai with her. She didn’t care that my head felt like it was going to split open. Once we were there, I had no regrets. My hangover was long forgotten and I was having a good time.

The music was amazing and the people interesting. Zinhle and I moved through the crowd, meeting new people. She made charming conversation and smiled confidently, as only a social butterfly could. Every second person knew her name, and I’d have to be awkwardly introduced.

As we made our way to the braai area I heard someone calling my name. I turned around, and froze. It was the gorgeous guy from last night. I stood there wracking my brain, trying to remember his name, as he made his way over.

“Is that the guy from last night?” Zinhle asked.

“Looks like it. Do you remember his name?”

“Not a clue … and you’re on your own, girl. Oh look – I think I see someone I know.” Zinhle walked away, leaving me panicking. How stupid was I going to look asking him to tell me his name again?

“Hey, Luyanda, how are you doing?” he said.

“I’m good. How are you?” I said smiling brightly. I was still sifting through last night’s activities. He danced with me and bought a round of drinks; he mentioned being on the rugby team; we had a good time from what I remember. But for the life of me I couldn’t recall his name.

“I am well … uhm are you okay? You seem distracted.”

“Well I … uuhh … Look, I can’t remember your name and I feel terrible cos you know mine. It’s just that last night is a total blur.”

I had decided coming clean was the best option. This way I could avoid having to endure a conversation I wouldn’t even hear over the wheels turning in my head. He chuckled, which annoyed me slightly. He could’ve at least pretended he didn’t think I was a total fool.

“I didn’t expect you to say that,” he said, struggling to keep a straight face.

“Well, I’m glad you find me amusing,” I said, annoyed.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to laugh at you. Let’s try again. I’m Ayden.”

And then I was grinning like a lovesick school girl. I couldn’t help it – the way he was looking at me made me feel like I could evaporate at any moment.

“It’s good to meet you, Ayden.”

“I am glad you think so. Look, I only came to say hi. I need to get back to work.”

“Work?”

“Yeah, I am part of the O-week crew. We covered this last night. I told you I had seen you at one of the Orientation week events, and you called me a stalker, so I explained I was part of the crew. Any of this ringing a bell?”

“Oh wow … we had a full on conversation! I told you: last night was a blur. I was trying to avoid some real problems.”

“What? Boyfriend trouble?”

“Not anymore. We broke up.”

“In that case I don’t feel bad asking for your number before I get back to work.”

It must have been the way he was looking at me, maybe his crooked smile or simply the fact that I was practically drooling over him. I don’t know. I just had to give him my number, and then I watched him walk away.

I already saw our wedding day play out in my mind. Was it too soon after my break-up to be interested in a new guy?

* * * * *

I saw Ayden every day after that. I discovered that he was extremely smart and funny, and the most charming man I’d ever met. He made an effort to get to know me and was interested in what I had to say. We would spend hours talking about any and everything, or lie listening to music. We got along, and I was quickly convinced that he was the man for me.

As close as we quickly became, there was a line drawn in the sand. He made it clear that he wasn’t interested in being in a relationship. That didn’t seem to stop him from slipping his hand between my legs every night he stayed over at my place, or if I stayed over at his.

So I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in having sex with a guy I wasn’t dating.

As good as things seemed, if I was being honest with myself there were some things that were a little off. About a month into our ‘friendship’ I noticed how he would say things I wasn’t comfortable with. He always pointed out my faults, and how they made me the worst choice for a girlfriend. He would put me down … but at the same time make me feel like there was still hope for me.

Two days before one of his rugby matches I got stranded by Hiddingh Hall. I was heading back to Tugwell, my res, from Upper Campus and I may have taken the wrong Jammie bus, but this sort of thing happened to everyone.

I decided to explore a bit. I hadn’t been to Hidding hall and I’d heard so much about it from students who got to tour it during O-week. I lost track of time and my battery was dying by the time I needed to find my way home. To my horror there were no more Jammies and I didn’t have an Uber app, even though Zinhle had been telling me to get it.

So I called Ayden to come get me as it was getting dark, and he was the only person I knew with a car. The ride home with him was hell, as he decided my poor time management needed reprimanding.

“See Lu, this is why I say you are not mature enough to be in a relationship. You can’t end an argument with ‘whatever’. You need to own up to your shit. It was reckless of you to go exploring so late and just expect me to come get you. What if I wasn’t around? You need to plan ahead and make sure you are sorted.”

“If I’m horrible girlfriend material why do you even bother with me? What are we even doing?”

“I see potential in you. I know with time I can make you the woman I need.”

And that was the thing about Ayden. He made me feel like I was lacking … needed to change parts of myself to fit into some mould. I hated how he would talk down to me sometimes and even how he would totally ignore my feelings because I was ‘immature’. He made me hate myself because no matter what I did, I wasn’t good enough. No matter how hard I tried to get him to want me I would fall short in some way.

It was frustrating – but I never wanted anything as much as I wanted him.

There was a finality in the way Mpendulo had hurt me. He didn’t want me anymore. Simple; I knew where I stood. Ayden was different in that I didn’t have him, and I didn’t know if I would ever have him. However, there was the possibility of having him, which in a way was worse than not having him.

I felt closer to getting him every day we spent together. It was like having a carrot dangled in front of me just close enough to see … but too far away to reach.

***

Tell us: What would you advise Luyanda to do at this stage?