Today started so well. Ayden took me to Kirstenbosch Gardens for a picnic and an epic live concert. It all felt so magical and romantic and for just a few hours I let myself fantasize about being his girlfriend. We were relaxed and enjoying our time together. It was the perfect date (even though technically it wasn’t a date).

The ride home was a different story. He seemed on edge and angry. “Ayden, what’s wrong? Did I do something?”

He snorted and kept his gaze focused on the traffic ahead. I hated how he made me feel like I was required to apologize, even though I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I decided to sit there quietly until he decided to talk to me. After a good two minutes of grunting and groaning he finally spoke.

“You could at least pretend to show me respect, especially in public!”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t act all innocent. You were flirting with those guys when we were leaving Kirstenbosch.”

“What? No I wasn’t. We were just making conversation. I told you – I know them from class.”

“You were practically throwing yourself at them.”

What right did he have to question how I acted around other men? He wasn’t my boyfriend so he had no right to tell me anything. How dare he act out when he wouldn’t even claim me as his?

“Why do you even care? It’s not like we’re officially dating, or that you even want to date me, for that matter.”

And then he slapped me. I felt, rather than saw, him hit the right side of my face, even though I was looking right at him.

I was in total shock. I had no clue what to do, so I just stared at him. I had always thought that I would cause a scene if a man hit me. I thought I would scream and shout, or at least try to hit him back.

But in that moment all I felt was crippling fear. I was too afraid to say or do anything. He was more than twice my size and the look on his face sent an icy chill down my spine.

He reached over and pulled my hands away from my face. He examined the damage in silence then turned back to the traffic saying,

“You’re fine. I barely hit you. You just made me angry. I lost my temper. I’m sorry. But you’re fine.”

* * * * *

Five hours later Ayden was texting non-stop asking to come over. But I wanted to forget about him just for one night, deal with him later. I had the perfect distraction: the girls and I had decided to stay in for a movie night. Watching rom-coms was just what I needed. Focusing on some random girl getting her happy ending would help me forget the disaster that was my romantic life.

Only I couldn’t focus on the movie, with Ayden threatening to come and cause a scene. His last text literally said he would come and bang on my door until I let him in.

And I knew he would do it, cos a few weeks ago after a fight he had stood at the gate screaming my name until one of the guards came to get me. I was so embarrassed!

Just after midnight Zinhle and I were getting ready to call it quits, leaving Taryn and Amanda snoozing on the couch, when we heard a knock. I knew it was Ayden, and I wasn’t ready to see him. Zinhle went to answer while I tried to pull myself together.

“Ayden? What are you doing here? And how did you get through the security gate without an access card?”

“Hey, Zee. Obviously I’m here to see Lu. And a friend of mine who lives in the building let me in.”

“Oh okay. I am off to bed. See you in the morning. Don’t you kids do anything I wouldn’t do.”

She winked at us and then went to her room. I switched off the TV, adjusted the blanket on Taryn and Amanda, and then headed to my room. He followed me in silence then shut my door behind him.

“I am sorry about what happened in the car. I promise that it won’t happen again. I think my temper just got the better of me.”

Maybe I was foolish, or overly naïve, but I believed him. He sounded so sincere. I opened the covers and got in then patted the space next to me. “I take it you’re staying over.”

We talking about his upcoming match and suddenly it felt like we were back to normal. I didn’t feel that fear from earlier; we were back to the comfort of our weird little friendship. He was talking my ear off about how hard his law degree was, and how much he was looking forward to finally getting his honours, when I felt myself drift off.

“Hey, I am still talking here. You can’t sleep.”

“Can we talk when the sun is out? I want to sleep.”

Then he tickled me and I broke into a fit of giggles and began pleading and begging him to stop. He went from tickling me to kissing me in one single move and I was caught off-guard. It was surprising but good. I was lost in his kiss when suddenly his hands moved to my pyjama shorts and started to pull them off.

“Ayden no, stop. I don’t want to have sex with you.”

When I broke away from his kiss to speak he moved to my neck and spoke between his relentless kissing and sucking.

“I can tell you want me. I know how to read a woman’s body. So don’t fight me to prove a point. You know you want this; I can tell you want this.”

I tried with everything in me to push and shove him off of me but he was too strong. I kept asking him to stop; I said ‘no’ repeatedly but that didn’t stop him yanking my shorts and underwear off in one swift move. He pulled my hands and held them over my head when I wouldn’t stop putting them between my legs as he tried to pry my legs open. When I wouldn’t stop writhing beneath him as he tried to push my legs open with his knee, he practically roared the word “Stop!” as I felt blows to my head.

His voice bounced off the walls, filling the room and it felt like it echoed throughout the apartment.

“Luyanda, what’s going on?”

It was Taryn. She was knocking softly on the door as she spoke. Ayden jumped off the bed and opened the door slightly.

“Nothing. We’re fine. Just a debate that got heated – you know how we get.”

“Where is Lu? I want to speak to her. I need to hear from her that there is nothing to worry about.”

I was frozen, lying on my back, staring at the ceiling. It was like I was still stuck in the moment when Ayden had bellowed at me and crashed his fists with a startling thud into either side of my head. All the fear from earlier came flooding back. I couldn’t move.

Taryn’s insistent voice pulled me out of my state and I managed to turn my head to speak.

“I’m fine babe. I’m in bed and super comfy. Ayden just won’t admit that I’m right and he’s wrong. The usual.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I promise I’m fine.”

Why did I lie? Was I insane? That was literally my way out of this.

Taryn left and I was alone with Ayden again and my heart rate accelerated. I watched as he took out a condom from his pocket then he pulled his pants off and put on the condom. Then he was hovering over me again and my breath caught in my throat.

This was happening … it couldn’t be avoided. When I wouldn’t open my legs willingly he used his hand to pry them open and shoved himself between them.

“This whole hard-to-get game you’re playing isn’t cute anymore. Relax, you know you want this.”

I stopped fighting him. He seemed determined to get his way and I had messed up my chance to escape. Because I was too afraid to cause a scene. For someone who could ‘read a woman’s body’, he sure had missed all the signs that I did not want this. Or maybe he just ignored them.

I mean, if my saying ‘no’, pushing him off me, and trying with all my might to keep my legs shut, weren’t clear enough, then surely my physiological signs should have been an indicator? I was bone dry when he tried to enter me and instead of stopping he spit in his hand then rubbed it on me.

I looked away from him and endured the pain that followed. My constant wincing and gasping only made him keep going. So I focused my gaze at the window and took deep breaths. Painful sex wasn’t anything new to me but Mpendulo at least made an effort to pleasure me during foreplay. This was all about Ayden, not me. It was horrible. It didn’t take long for him to finish and when he got off me I was relieved.

“You should clean yourself off.”

“What?”

“No, I mean you should pee, then clean yourself. Trust me, it will help with the pain.”

With that, he threw away the condom, put on his underwear, and climbed back into my bed then passed out within seconds … leaving me to deal with my horror, confusion and shame.

***

Tell us what you think: Was this event a rape? Why or why not? Why did Luyanda lie to Taryn?