​I gently rubbed my cheek. It felt like I had been hit by lightning, my cheek felt numb. 

“Mandy. Baby?”

He tried rubbing my cheek too, but I removed his hand from my face. 

“I don’t know what came over me. I really didn’t mean to hurt you”

I opened the car and stepped out. He stepped out too and walked up to me.

“I really, really don’t know what came over me. I am such a jerk, baby please forgive me”

He tried holding my hand but I snatched my hand away from his. 

“Let go of me!”

“Baby, I am really sorry. I admit that I am losing it. I am losing myself in trying to keep it together”

“I am sick of listening to your excuses. Why must I always understand you and your hurtful ways? I am human too, there is only so much I can take”

“I know baby, I am really sorry. I don’t know what came over me”

I rolled my eyes. 

“I would be rich if I got money every time you told me that you don’t know what came over you”

I could hear how unstable his breathing pattern was. 

“Look, I made a mistake. I really shouldn’t have done that, no matter what you have done. I had no right to hurt you like that”  

“Bazukile, please leave me alone. I will never forgive you for a lot of things, but this takes the cup”

I got into the car, trying to avoid saying things I would regret later. He got into the car too.

“I can’t leave you alone, Mandiphumle. We have to talk about it”

He insisted.

“You just slapped me. What’s there to talk about? Just take me home”

My phone rang, it was Mommy, calling. I stared at the screen.

“Answer it”

He suggested. 

“What if she’s at the hospital?”

“Answer the phone!”

He repeated. 

“Hello”

I coldly picked up.

“Honey, one of the nurses told me that you have been discharged. I just wanted to let you know that I will arrive at 7 to fetch you”

I giggled.

“No need, Mommy. Phila’s brother is already bringing me home”

I replied.

“Phila’s brother? Phila has a brother?”

I cleared my throat.

“Cousin. He was out of town for a while and is now back”

I explained.

“Is he bringing you home now?”

“Yes Mommy, he’s bringing me home now”

“Okay, see you when you get here”

She hung up. Phew!

“What is she saying?”

“She was asking about you, just as I told you she would”

“Oh, okay”

“I really don’t feel like talking to you right now, but I have to ask this: what are you going to say to Mommy and Daddy?”

“I will tell them who I am, where I am from and what I will be doing in their house”

“And what would you be doing in their house?”

“I would be bringing their princess home. I just want to use this as an opportunity to finally meet them”

He replied. He went on and on about how sorry he was for what he did earlier. Again, he admitted that he was also not coping.

“Maybe we both need counseling”

I suggested. He looked at me.

“You know we can’t go for counseling”

He replied.

“Why not? This will destroy us. I can’t be with a man who physically abuses me”

“But you can be with a man who kills people for a living”

I felt a sharp pain piercing my heart. 

“All I’m saying is that we cannot judge each other now. All we need to do is to support each other through these trying times.”

“How can we support each other while we are both broken? How do broken glasses mend each other up?”

“We need time. You know what they say about time being the best healer, right?”

Time? How could time ever heal me? With each second that passed, I patiently waited for the healing.  We got home and he parked outside. It was still very early in the morning, around six. I called Thoko and asked her to let us in. She opened for us and we drove in. She walked out, wearing her pajamas. She smiled and folded her arms, looking at the car as it drove in.

“Please don’t tell anyone about what happened earlier. I promise it would never happen again”

He whispered. I ignored him and stepped out of the car. 

“Hey”

I greeted, walking up to her for a hug.

“Mandy, what’s going on?”

She asked as she hung on to me. I broke the hug and smiled at her.

“I will tell you all about it later, when we have time”

Bazukile hugged Thoko too. 

“I don’t mean to be rude, but Mom and Dad will freak out if they see you here”

Thoko announced. Bazukile smiled.  

“I am actually here to see them”

He replied. Thoko and I looked at each other. 

“What’s going on?”

Thoko asked again. 

“Ask him”

I shrugged my shoulders, walking into the house and they followed me in. 

“Guys, let me go to my room. I don’t want to be  here when the folks see this”

She rushed up the stairs. 

“Sit down, I’ll go and tell Mommy we’re here”

I instructed him as I walked away. I knocked on their door, and Mommy came to open. 

“Hi Honey”

She hugged me.

“Hi”

She broke the hug and cupped my face in both her hands.

“How are you feeling? I still don’t understand why they discharged you so soon”

I smiled, removing her hands from my face. 

“The doctor says I am doing very well. Uhm, is Daddy around?”

She nodded.

“Yes, he’s bathing”

She explained.

“Oh.”

I swallowed.

“Phila’s brother is here. I just wanted to let you guys know”

Her smile faded away.

“He’s here?”

I nodded.

“Uh, okay. I will be there in a sec, let me get dressed”

“Okay”

I walked away. When I got to the living room, Bazukile was on the phone. 

“Yes, I am sure, Ma. I have given it so much thought, I promise”

He laughed.

“Okay, cool. I will see you later”

He hung up as I sat down, on a couch opposite his. 

“That was my mother”

He excitedly announced. 

“She is so shocked to hear that I am getting married”

He added. My heart skipped. 

“She wants to meet you”

“Me? Why?”

“She wants to see the woman who stole her son’s heart”

He replied with a voice that carried so much pride. 

“I am not ready to meet your mother”

“Why? I am here to meet your family, how can you say that?”

“I didn’t ask you to come here, you insisted. I am not ready to meet your mother because I am not even sure if I want to spend the rest of my life with you”

He gave me a “how could you say that?” look.

“I am being honest. We still have a lot to sort out. I don’t see why we’re rushing things”

I folded my arms and looked away. He came to sit next to me.

“Baby, we’ve been through this. You can’t stay here anymore or you will get us into trouble with your slipups. We’re doing this because we want to make sure that the secret is protected”

“See? We are getting married for the wrong reasons. I may be eighteen, but I know it takes a lot more than what you’re giving me in order for people to agree to get married”

“Mandy, don’t be like that. Not now, please. Everytime I try to do something that would work in our favor, you stand in my way. Please don’t make it difficult for me to do my job as your man to protect you and make you happy”

He gently turned my face to look at him. 

“I love you, never doubt that”

Arg, he was starting to sound like a broken record. I hated hearing him say those words. It was because of those words that I was in that situation in the first place. We heard foot steps, Mommy and Daddy walking down the stairs. So Mommy decided to wait for her husband because she didn’t have a voice. All she was good at was agreeing with whatever her husband said. I took a deep sigh when I thought I was also going to give my voice away if I agree to marry that man. To me, marriage was just an institution that was designed to cage women and hold them hostages in their own bodies with no ability to “think” their way out of any situation. To me, it was just an institution that was made to silence women in the society. My mother was treated like a prisoner in her marriage with Uncle Thabo, Mommy never really had a firm voice around the house- Daddy was the glue that kept the family rules and regulations together. Why would I want to do that to myself too? Why would I walk into such torture with my eyes wide open?