Three minutes later and Thato was still kneeling on his left knee. He had now lowered the arm holding out the ring and was evidently disappointed. He wondered if she had changed her mind about him, after all, it doesn’t take more than a minute to say yes.

“Linda please say something!” Thato begged, his deep masculine voice now trembling.

Linda didn’t hear a thing, her mind had left the room the moment Thato took out the ring and proposed. The proposal wasn’t much of a surprise as Thato always spoke about marriage and them spending a future together. But it seemed rather too soon to her. It was barely half a year since they had started seeing each other. Their relationship hadn’t even been really intimate yet. Except for that one evening, two weeks ago, when Thato was dropping her off at her place and they had a brief kiss which was interrupted by rain.

An awkward silence occupied the room. Linda just sat there with a straight face, staring at the most beautiful ring she had ever seen. She wondered if this was the love she’d been yearning for, if she was even worthy of that love. She had no doubt in her mind that Thato loved her, she could see it in his eyes every time he looked at her, she could hear it in his voice when he called her name. And when he sat next to her, she always felt like heaven was right on earth. She loved him too, more than she had ever loved anyone. She just couldn’t shake off the feeling that she wouldn’t be good enough for him, the feeling that she lacked something and was too broken to be loved.

Her mind raced to the day she buried her late husband Qhawe, exactly twenty months ago. She wondered if she was a bad person for moving on so soon after the death of her husband, but then again she remembered that she owed him nothing. She had taken enough slaps and punches from him while he was alive and was convinced that if he hadn’t taken his own life, he would’ve killed her instead.

She remembered the last of her two miscarriages and instantly felt sick. She resented her mind for always digging up horrific memories of her past at the worst times. It was almost like she was reliving every moment. She could even smell the smoke of his cheap cigarette. It was the 10th of September, a rainy Thursday afternoon just after 1pm when Linda decided to take a nap. She would be up by 3pm to prepare food for her husband, who usually came home from work just after 4pm.

On this particular day however, Qhawe was home earlier than usual. He got to the back door of their four room house and it was locked, Linda always locked the door when she took a bath or a nap. Everyone knows South Africa is not the safest place to live in, and a township like Thembisa, where they were located, was especially notorious for crime. He tried calling his wife’s phone but it rang until he was greeted by a voicemail recording. Already wet and agitated, Qhawe ran back to his car for shelter.