The eye contact felt heavy on my shoulders. I could not look at him any minute longer.

“Please. Please don’t do this”

“Bazukile, this is for the best. Please don’t try and convince me otherwise”

I took a few steps backwards..

“This is for the best?How can this be for the best? You are breaking up with me, Mandiphumle”

I sighed..

“Look, this is not easy for me too. Okay? I can’t deny the fact that I also have feelings for you too. But you really need to understand where I’m coming from. This is my only chance at true happiness. I can’t mess this up”

“First chance at true happiness? What are you talking about?”

“Bazukile, can we please meet some other time? I really have to go now. I’m running out of time”

“But we need to talk about this, now. You can’t keep brushing me off like this”

“Time, dude! I don’t have time!”

I left him standing there and went to call Phila in the car.

“Are you guys done?”

“Yes, let’s go”

She stepped out of the car..

“Mandy, can I at least drive you to wherever you’re going?”

Phila looked at me.

“Seriously? I thought you said you were done”

To avoid any more unnecessary delays, agreed that he could drive us to Thando’s place. We jumped into the car and drove off.

“So, Mandy, what’s up with you?”

Esona randomly asked, breaking the multiple layers of silence.

“What do you mean?”

I asked too, turning to look at her.

“I mean, you’re a bit cold from the last time I saw you. It’s almost as if you’ve caught us plotting against you and now you know better”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about”

I turned to face the road ahead.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices it though. Right guys?”

She insisted and tried getting backup.

“Esona, knock it off”

Bazukile dismissed her.

“But chap, we need to talk about it. We need to know what we’ve done to deserve such a cold shoulder”

Esona still insisted on getting us to talk about it..

“Knock if off! Can’t you see that Mandy doesn’t want to talk about it?”

Bazukile dismissed her again..

“It? What is it?”

She asked..

“My life, Esona! My life. I don’t want to talk about my life”

“Why not? You can’t keep bottling things up”

“Why? Why must I talk about it? Do you want to hear how my mother was brutally killed in cold blood by a man she loved? Huh? You want to hear about how I had to take care of a two year old with nothing but truck loads of pain? Or what? You want me to tell you about how I watched a man being stoned to death? You want me to talk about how he looked at me with eyes that carried so much fear? Huh?”

I exploded..

“Mandy, I think that’s enough”

Bazukile calmly said.

“No, its not enough. What does she want me to talk about? Does she want me to talk about how the man who tricked me into sleeping with him and got me pregnant turned out to be my cousin brother? Or she wants me to talk about how I’m forced to forgive a man that abandoned me even before I was born?”

“My friend, please calm down”

Phila begged. It was only then I had noticed that my tongue was running loose. I sniffed and wiped the tears that were rolling down my cheeks.

“Yho! I’m really sorry. I really didn’t mean to get you to say all that”

“Esona, my mood changes have nothing to do with you. My life is too messy to be wasting time by being cold towards you or anyone else for that matter”

“I’m really sorry. I thought maybe you were mad at us because we left the party together the other day”

I seriously didn’t know why Esona was still talking to me. I ignored her. We drove the rest of the way in silence. The only thing that got me talking was the directions to Thando’s.

We got there and parked outside.

“Should we wait for you guys?”

“No, thanks”

I stepped out of the car.. Bazukile stepped out too, followed by the others.. He grabbed my arm and gently pushed me to the side for some privacy.

“Mandiphumle, what just happened earlier?”

I looked down..

“I’m sorry for exploding. I am just struggling to deal with everything that’s happening to me. I’m tired”

He held my hands..

“I will never understand how you could keep all these things away from me”

“I didn’t want to bother you”

He held me close and rested my head on his chest..

“We seriously need some time to talk”

I nodded, sniffing..

“Call me when you’re done here”

I removed my head from his chest..

“I’ll call you”

“Thank you”

We said our goodbyes and I walked away, with Phila following me. Phila quickly called Thando and informed him about our arrival ..

“Mandiphumle, are you okay?”

I looked at her.

“Not now, please”

“Then when? Mandy why are you shutting me out?”

She opened the gate and we walked in..

“Can we talk when we’re leaving?”

I shut her up. We knocked on the door. A lady, about 30 years of age came to open up. She looked like a mess. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been touched in days. We greeted, and she greeted back, letting us in..

I was about to meet parents who had lost a child. I was about to see the pain I’ve endured for weeks, in other people’s eyes. I was expected to be strong for them and offer them a shoulder to lean on. While the lady was showing us where to sit, Thando walked in.. He stood there, like a zombie and looked at us. Without a word, Phila and I walked up to him and hugged him, both at the same time. He broke the hug and asked us to follow him to his study.

When we got there, he closed the door behind us and offered us seats. Phila and I sat down. Thando went over his desk and sat down too.

“How are you feeling?”

Phila asked. He sighed..

“I can’t believe he’s gone. The doctors told us that he was recovering. They said he was out of danger”

Tears streamed down his cheeks. He quickly wiped them off..

“We’re so sorry for your loss. You need to be strong for your wife”

Phila said. I looked at her. I will never understand how people expect men to be “strong” even in situations that tear them apart. Because they are men, they don’t feel pain? I totally disagreed with Phila, but I didn’t want to argue.

“This feels like a dream. I feel like he will walk through that door and demand ice cream as a reward for feeding his dog”

He stared at the open space..

“The trick is to let him go, so he could rest in peace and you could find a peace of mind”

I mastered the courage and voiced my suggestion out ..

“How do I let him go? How do I let the only important thing to me go? I feel so empty inside”

Trust me, I understood him perfectly. We spent about 30 minutes there, and felt we had to leave. He walked us out.. He briefly introduced us to the lady who opened for us, who turned out to be his wife’s sister.

“Guys, I’m sorry I can’t drive you home. I need to be here, with my family. Thank you so much for coming”

He said, hugging us.

“Mandy, its so good to see that you are doing well”

I smiled.

“I’m trying”

He nodded..

“Are You guys going to visit again?”

Phila and I looked at each other.

“I think its best if we come to the funeral. You need to spend as much time with your family as possible”

I replied…

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. We will keep in touch hey. Thank you so much for coming”

We walked down the street, killing time while there was no taxi yet. He had to go back into his house and we totally understood..

“My friend, please talk to me. What is going on?”

I sighed..

“On Sunday, when Bazukile took me home, we found Sibusiso’s car parked outside. I didn’t think anything would happen, so I asked Bazukile to leave because he had a guest waiting for him. Mr Nkomo attacked me and carried me to Sibusiso’s car, and they left with me. After the meeting they had about me, a lady came to me and offered to help me through this whole thing. She invited me to her house for a couple of days. When I got there, I felt like I belonged. For the first time in my life, I felt at home. Just as I was ready to let this new life unfold before my eyes, Thando loses his son and that takes me back to my own misery. I can’t think of a better way to deal with this child’s death”

Phila wiped my tears.

“Sssh, don’t cry. My friend, I can see that this death is really taking its toll on you. Please don’t take it to the heart. You are pregnant, you need to take it easy”

I nodded..

“I know, but I can’t. I feel bad that Esona thinks that I have something against her”

“Leave Esona to me, I will deal with her. Focus on dealing with everything that’s happening in your life at the moment”

“I wish it was that easy”

I sighed again..

“Remember, I’m here for you and I love you more than you can ever imagine. You are like a little sister to me”

She held my hand

“Thank you. I’m sorry for being all over the place. I just wanted to deal with this on my own”

“And clearly you’re failing”

I laughed.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to”

We got a taxi and rode to town..

“So tell me, do you like Esona?”

I looked at her as she asked.

“Yeah. I have no issues with her. Why?”

“I don’t know. You just seem cold towards her, that’s all”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“No, I wasn’t cold. Okay, maybe I was a little cold. I was cold towards Bazukile too. Its really nothing personal, I am just going through a lot”

“Oh okay. That’s nice”

“So what’s going on between the two of you?”

She blushed..

“I don’t know hey. All I know is that I really love her. I’ve never felt like this about anyone before”

“So you guys are dating now?”

“Not really, we’re still trying to figure this whole thing out”

“And Vuyani?”

Her smile faded away..

“I’m going back to him today. He called and begged me to come back home”

“So you’re leaving Esona?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“As much as I love her, I can’t really leave my man for her”

“Exactly. And besides, Bazukile is sh*t scared of commitment. I’m sure Esona shares the same sentiments. Don’t leave your man for a party animal who was just having fun with you”

She nodded.

“And you? Are you guys officially dating now?”

“I don’t know man. He says he loves me and he wants to try out this commitment thing”

“I think he means it though”

“What do you mean?”

I looked at her ..

“Bazukile is what you said he was, a player. Esona tells me how they sleep with different girls everyday, how they even bet on which girl to sleep with. To him, sleeping with someone never meant anything”

I had no bit of shock in me, because I kind of knew it. I felt it..

“That explains why he always breaks up with women for cheating”

She nodded..

“But, on Sunday he turned a chick down. When we got to his place on Sunday, there was a chick there. Esona tells me that she is Bazukile’s ex and she is engaged to someone else, but she just can’t let go of him. Bazukile didn’t give her what she wanted, and she didn’t take it well”

I nodded.

“Oh? And then what happened? Did she leave?”

“She left, and she was very unhappy. Esona was giving him a lecture on how boring he was becoming, apparently he turned down his other chick at the party that night”

“Oh”

I looked at the road ahead.

“So yes, maybe he really does want to try out this commitment thing”

I sighed.

“I get that, but I don’t think I’m ready for that. It will take a while for him to get it right. In the meantime, I’ll have to handle all his slipups”

We got to town..

“Nobody is perfect. Just give him a chance man. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out”

We paid the fare and got off the taxi. Phila’s phone rang, she picked up and talked on the phone. She was talking to Esona and she was telling her where we were. She hung up and informed me that they asked us to wait ..

“Did you really have to tell them where we are?”

I mumbled.

“Yes. I need to see Esona before I go home”

“Good for you, but I don’t want to see Bazukile. I don’t feel like talking”

“Look, if you don’t like the guy, just tell him to get lost. Stop treating him like this. Nobody deserves this kind of treatment. You love him, but you just don’t know how to show him”

“Because I know he’s going to hurt me. Okay? I know he’s going to break my heart”

“But be hasn’t, has he? Give him the opportunity to show you what he really means when he says he loves you”

Their car pulled up and we went to jump in..

“Bazu, drop us off first, then take Mandy home”

Esona suggested. Whatever! We dropped them off at Esona’s place and Bazu drove me home.. On the way, he pulled over on the side of the road and switched his car off. I looked at him..

“We need to talk”

I looked at the time on my phone and it was still so early for my new parents to panic about me being away from home- so we could talk.

“Mandy, I won’t blame you for not opening up to me earlier. You had every right to keep to yourself, but now I’m asking you to talk. Please tell me everything that I need to know. I will also do the same. Who is Mandiphumle?”

I told him all about myself. The struggles I’ve gone through and everything else.

“The reason why I don’t really like opening up about my problems is because I’ve done it twice already and it always ends badly. Guys change at some point and I’m left to pick up the pieces of my heart that are always left scattered all over the place”

He nodded.

“I understand. I also don’t blame you for that. I was also a victim of abuse when I was growing up”

He revealed. I gave him a stare..

“It was my father, my biological father”

“What did he do?”

He cleared his throat..

“Mandy, what I’m about to tell you is very dark. Please don’t react”

I nodded.

“He used to drink every night and beat us up for no reason. It was me, my two sisters, and my mother. He then started being sexually abusive towards my older sister. They hid it from me for a while, but I could tell that there was something going on that was killing the three most important women in my life. They were all so depressed about it, but couldn’t do anything about it”

I nodded..

“One night, I woke up from my room and went to the bathroom. When I passed my sister’s room, I heard that something was going on, so I opened the door to check”

He paused to regain his strength to go on..

“He was on top of her and she was trying to scream but he had his hand covering her mouth”

Tears rolled down his cheeks..I held his hand..

“Out of anger, I went to the kitchen and took a knife. When I got back to her room, he was jerking off in so much pleasure. I stabbed him on his neck from behind. My sister screamed as he fell on the floor, trying to fight for his life. My mother and other sister came to check and they found him on the floor, taking his last breath while my sister was getting dressed”

I swallowed..

“They agreed that they would not call the cops on me, and that would remain a family secret. We never told anybody about it, till this day”

“What did you do with the body?”

“We burnt it backyard the following morning and took the remains and went to dump them in an old farm. He was never found”

I nodded..

“I’m not proud of what I did. It still haunts me every night. I relieve myself from it by drinking a lot and using drugs. I struggle to commit to one woman because I am scared I’d turn out like my father, so I just sleep around”

I rubbed his hand as he went on to tell me more about who he really was. By the time he drove me home, my head was spinning. I gave him directions and tried to limit chatting.. We said our goodbyes and he drove off. The other gate wasn’t locked, so I used it to get in. I knocked on the front door, and Mommy came to open..

“Hey Honey, I wasn’t expecting you back so soon”

She said. He voice was echoing from afar. Her image was slightly blur. The next thing I knew, Mommy was screaming and shaking me and I was on the floor, trying to regain my consciousness…..