He called me an orphan. Sibusiso, called me an orphan. Him, of all people. I mean, I knew we would never be anything close to friends, ever again, but for him to call me an orphan? “What did you just say?” I asked, pointing at him. “I just said, that my father will not be disrespected by an orphan in his house?” he repeated. Deep down, I was hoping that it was a slip of a tongue, that he didn’t mean what he said, but he repeated his statement like he meant every word. “Who are you calling an orphan? You little piece of trash!!” I yelled, nearing closer to him, in an attempt to beat the living daylight out of him. I was so angry. My anger cut a lot deeper than Sibusiso and what he said to me. I was angry at life and everything in it. Mr Nkomo jumped off his seat and rushed to hold me, keeping me from getting to his son. I assumed he was protecting his son, more than anything. I was an orphan anyway, nobody would find interest in protecting me. “No, don’t stop her, dad. Let her do what she thinks she can do to me” Sibusiso said. “Sibusiso, shut up!” Mr Nkomo said. “No, dad. I will not shut up! This little brat needs to know her place!” Sibusiso said. “Sibusiso!! I said shut up!!” Mr Nkomo roared and Sibusiso remained silent. “I’m sick of this. I just…. I’m sick of this!” Mr Nkomo yelled. Sick of me, I suppose. I struggled out of his arms and ran to the room I was using as mine.

“Run along, like the little puppy that you are. You don’t belong here, go find your family!” Sibusiso shouted after me. Moments after he said that, I heard Enkosi crying. I got to my room and slammed the door closed behind me. How did my life get so messy within a blink of an eye? One minute, I was studying for my matric examination, and the next, I was homeless and hopeless. How did I get there? I asked myself numerous questions as I sat on the floor, with my legs curled up and my head resting on my knees. If there is a God out there, where is He when I need Him the most? Where is He when I need His protection more than anything? Or maybe He had no business protecting orphans? Questions were flooding through my system, but they had no answers.

My phone rang, saving me from the pity party that I was hosting for myself. I knew it was Alex, because he was the only person who had my number. My phone switched off, before I could pick up. I got up and connected it to its charger, and switched it back on. I sat on the bed, clearing my throat and trying to fix my voice because I knew Alex was going to call again, and he did. “Hello?” I picked up. “Hey.. So didn’t the grumpy old man give you a hard time?” he asked. Normally, I would laugh when he calls Mr Nkomo a grumpy old man, because I knew he was just fooling around- but that evening, I struggled to locate my energy to laugh. “Are you okay?” he asked. “I’m fine. I just had a little argument with Mr Nkomo and his son” I said. “About what?” he asked. “I freaked out after they told me that uncle Thabo has been granted bail. Mr Nkomo’s advice to involve the cops didn’t work out, and now that man may hunt me down and have me killed as well” I said, breaking into tears. “My love, Mr Nkomo did what any sane person would have done. That man cannot get away with taking your mother’s life” he said. “He just did. He’s now a free man, and might kill me for this” I said. “He is not a free man yet, my love. The case is still in progress” he said. “Alex, you were not there. You have no idea what I’m talking about. Those people are on his side. To them, I’m a messed up drug addict” I said. “My love, will you try and relax?” he calmly suggested. “This man will never hurt you” he added. How could he be so sure? How could everyone be so sure about it? That man killed my mother. He’s capable of murder. I was there. I was the one who washed my mother’s blood off the ceramic tiles. I was there, and I know what I’m talking about. “Listen, get ready tomorrow morning, I want to spend the whole day with you and Enkosi. I want you guys to forget about everything and just be happy for a day” he said. Maybe I really needed to escape from my reality for a day, so I accepted his offer. We talked about what we would do, and I insisted on spending most of the day indoors. I was not in a state to face people, so the indoor setting worked well for me. “Baby, I have to go” he said. “But before I go, I want you to do me a little favor” he added. “Yes, what?” I asked. “Please apologize to Mr Nkomo for freaking out earlier” he said. What? Were my ears deceiving me? Alex? Taking Mr Nkomo’s side? I laughed in disbelief. “Really?” I asked. “Mandy don’t be like that, please. That man doesn’t deserve to be blamed for this. He was only trying to help” he explained. “You know he’s my least favorite person, but I will not lie to you, he doesn’t deserve the treatment you gave him. Please show some respect and apologize. “I was angry” I said, trying to make him understand that I wasn’t at all as disrespectful as he thought I was. “I understand, but you still need to apologize. Mandy, I love you and I have your best interest at heart. I would never watch you when you’re getting off trail” he said. I sighed. “Okay fine, I will apologize.” I said. “Don’t do it because I say so, do it because it is the right thing to do. Breaking an adult’s heart is bad luck, baby” he said. After a few minutes of trying to convince me to apologize to Mr Nkomo, I finally agreed. We hung up.

I had no energy to face anyone, so I decided to postpone the apology session for the following day. I changed into my pyjamas and got into bed. I struggled to fall asleep, because my thoughts were too loud. As I was tossing and turning, I heard my door swinging open and I lied still. “Mandiphumle?” Mr Nkomo softly called out. I pretended to be fast asleep. “Oh well, looks like you’re both out of it. Get into bed, little man” he said, as he put Enkosi to bed. “Poor kids. God will make a way for you. No child deserves to go through hell like this” he said. After a few minutes, he walked out, switching the light off on his way out. The minute I heard the door closing up, I opened my eyes. What did I do to deserve such pain? I covered Enkosi up and tried falling asleep too, with no luck.

The following morning, I woke up before Enkosi. He must have been really tired, to sleep like that. I got out of bed and opened my curtains. It was a very beautiful day, the sun came out to play. I went to the bathroom, to take a bath. When I was done, I went to get dressed. Alex called. “Alex?” I picked up. “Are you guys up already?” he asked. “I’m up, but Enkosi is still asleep” I replied. “Have you spoken to Mr Nkomo?” he asked again. “No, not yet” I replied, again. “Okay, please let me know when you guys are ready” he said. We said our goodbyes and hung up. It was 9am and Enkosi was still fast asleep. I woke him up and went to bath him. He was irritable, because I woke him up, but I didn’t entertain his irritability. I bathed him and dressed him up, then I made our bed. We then went to the kitchen. I wasn’t hungry, but I had to make him something to eat. Sibusiso was there, doing the dishes. I walked in, carrying Enkosi and put him on the high chair. I then took out the box of cereal and placed it on the table. I carried on like there was nobody else in the kitchen but Enkosi and I. I made him a bowl of cereal and fed him. Sibusiso silently walked out of the kitchen, also like he was all alone. When I was done, I washed the bowl and spoon that we used, and went to Mr Nkomo’s shop. He stared at me as Enkosi and I walked in. I greeted, and he greeted back.

“Sir, I came to talk to you about what happened last night” I said. “You don’t have to say anything” he stopped me. “Please, let me say something” I pleaded. He silently signaled that I should talk. “Uhm, Sir..” I fiddled with my fingers. “I want to apologize for the way I addressed you yesterday. I know its not supposed to be my excuse, but I was just mad at how things turned out for him” I said. He stopped what he was doing and paid attention. “I had no right to address you like that. Please, find it in your heart to forgive me” I added. “Mandiphumle, I understand what you’re going through. I will not lie though and say that your words didn’t hurt me yesterday. I’m happy to hear you apologizing” he said. I could hear it in his voice that he was happy that I apologized. I made small talk, trying to break the walls of tension.. “Its a very beautiful day out there” I mumbled. “Yeah, I should be doing my laundry but I’m lazy” he said. “Let me do it for you” I offered, secretly hoping he would not accept my offer. “No thank you . I can’t expect you to wrestle with my big jeans and shirts” he jokingly said. Phew! Thank God! We laughed about it..
“Uhm, Sir. I want to go to town with Enkosi” I randomly said. He stopped laughing and looked at me. “It’ll only be for a few hours” I added. “Why do you want to go to town?” he asked. “I just want to take my mind off things. You know, and be around people who don’t know me” I explained. “You don’t need to go to town for that, you can take a walk around the neighbourhood” he said. “It’s the neighbourhood that I want to get away from” I said. “Okay fine, you can go to town, but please leave the child” he said. “I just wanted to take him out too” I said. “No, you are not taking him out. Its you who needs to clear a head here, leave the baby behind so you can have a peace of mind” he suggested. I sighed. “Okay, fine. I will leave him” I said. He smiled. “I have to go then. Let me go and get my handbag” I announced. “Where did you get the money?” he asked as I was turning to walk away. “Fuck!” I mouthed, slowly turn back to look at him. “Uuh, excuse me?” I asked. “The money to go to town, where did you get it?” he asked. I giggled nervously. “I was just about to ask you to please give me a few Rands” I said. He laughed. “Okay. Go and get your bag then” he said and I ran off. I took my bag and rushed back to the shop. Mr Nkomo gave me a hundred rand note and left. I could not thank him enough, for everything. I sent Alex a “please call me” and he called almost immediately. I told him l was waiting for him and he promised to arrive in a few minutes. I walked down the street, minding my own business.. “Mandy! Mandy wait up!” someone shouted. I turned to look around, and it was Wonga, a drug addict from down the street. “Wonga, hey” I said as he rushed up to me. “Mandy.. How are you? Where have you been? I heard you’re now a member of the Nkomo family” he mumbled. I laughed. “Wonga, I’m happy to see you” I politely said. “I’m happy to see you too. Hey, something weird just happened” he said.. I was even scared to ask. “What?” I involuntarily asked. “I had this very weird dream. I was in Mr Nkomo’s bakkie and we were going to New Zealand” he excitedly said. Confused, I looked at him. “Thing is, I’m very good in cricket. Is it New Zealand or Australia? The place that is exceptionally good in cricket?” he asked. I laughed. “I don’t know, I think its Australia” I replied. “Yes!” he clicked his fingers. “We were going to Australia. I got a call from one of the captains there, telling me to play for his team” he said. I was laughing at how passionate he was about his dream, like it was true. “Wonga, are you high?” I asked. “That’s not the point man. The point is, my future is bright” he replied. While I was still entertained by Wonga’s madness, Alex stopped next to us. “Wonga, I have to go hey” I said. “Aah, already? You haven’t even heard the best part of my dream” he complained. “I’m sure it all went well though. You will tell me all about it some other time” I said. “Mandy, chap. Listening to my dream and not hear the best part is almost like having sex and not reach the climax” he said. Alex laughed from inside the car as I got in.

We said goodbye to Wonga and drove away. We were both still laughing our eyes off. “Who is that guy?” he asked. “Its Wonga, a guy from the hood” I said. “He sounds so happy. Is he okay?” he asked again. “He’s probably sky high on some cheap drugs” I replied. We laughed our way to town as I was telling him about Wonga’s dream. “They were driving there?” he asked,.. “I’m telling you. Mr Nkomo’s bakkie, of all the cars in our neighbourhood” I said.. I was glad I bumped into Wonga, my mood was elevated for the day ahead.

We got to town. “Hey, where is the baby?” he asked. “Mr Nkomo refused to let him come with me” I replied. He rolled his eyes. I laughed. “Don’t be like that” I said. “Well, I hope you’re hungry because our day will start with breakfast” he said. I nodded. We parked and stepped out of the car.. He held my hand as we walked into the mall. “Where do you want to eat?” he asked. I shrugged my shoulders. “Anywhere” i said. He smiled and tightly hung on to my hand. Our day turned out so well, I had the time of my life.

“Let’s go home, baby” he suggested. “You know seeing you is sealed by us standing by our window” he added. I smiled. “Okay fine, but let’s make it snappy” I said. We got to the car and drove off.

Upon arrival at the house, we went to my old room, running and laughing as he was chasing me. We got to my old room and closed he door behind us. He held me by my waist and looked at me straight in the eye like he was searching for my soul. Our eyes connected, and for the first time ever, I felt like I had found a home in his eyes. I felt like my heart was sheltered in warmth and protection. He leaned closer to me for a kiss. I closed my eyes, anticipating an out of this world lip game. Our lips met and nothing else mattered. I was in love, and my heart was already creating a couple of forevers and designing a future with a pattern of risks and fabric if what if’s…