“So, we will have to go shopping. You can’t really walk around in those”
He pointed at the clothes I was wearing. I looked at what I was wearing too, and smiled.
“Apparently, I arrived wearing these, when I got to the hospital”
“Yeah. Well, now you need a fresh start”
“Okay, I agree. But can I get some rest before that?”
“Of course. I’m sorry if I sounded like I was putting pressure on you”
The way he acted around me, made me conclude that Alex and I might still stand a chance. He was the Alex I knew and loved, before everything else. I won’t lie, he was the only guy I ever regreted parting ways with. He was good for me, in all aspects. He didn’t just care about my wellbeing, but he cared about my future as well. He always ensured that I did something constructive with my life. But, I told myself that I would wait for him to approach me, so I can explain to him that I was not ready to be with anyone. I was prepared to tell him that I only wanted to focus on my life, to make sure that I get everything running smoothly before associating myself with anyone. I didn’t to be an emotonal burden to the poor guy. He was too much of a “good guy” and didn’t deserve that emotional torture.
“So, Mandy. Would you like us to go and grab a bite, before going home? We need to talk”
My heart skipped. COuldn’t he wait until I was well rested? I couldn’t say “no” though, so I agreed. In my head, I was rehearsing my speech. I wanted to be as polite, and sincere as possible. I was hoping he would understand me, I was really not ready for a relationship. I smiled to myself when images of him, looking at me earlier, hugging me, cupping my face in both his hands, popped up in my mind- my heart melted.
“Are you okay? You’ve been awfully quiet”
“I’m fine. I’m just.. Uhm, I’m happy to be out of that place”
I replied, looking at him. He smiled.
“You are still in disbelief, huh?”
“Yeah. It still feels like a dream”
“I really wish I could remember how I got there though. I mean, this haunts me day and night. What happened to me? How did I get there? Why was I diagnosed as mentally unastable? I need to know”
“Don’t do that to yourself. It will come to you, trust me. As part of your healing, you will get flashbacks of what happened to you and it will somehow feel like you are reliving scenes from a dream. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Your mind will retrieve that information when you are ready”
That sounded a little scary, but he was right.
“You’re right. The thing is, I just want to remember now. I should stop putting pressure on myself though”
“You really need to stop. Mandy, your mental health should be your first priority. Avoid anything that disturbs your mental peace. Anyone can land in a mental institution if they don’t take care of their mental health. Take it easy, and take it one day at a time”
“You’re right. You know, a friend of mine from the hospital used to annoy me so much. She would come to my bed and practically force me to talk and I’d get so annoyed. Today, she told me that she did that because she was scared I was going to think myself right into the claws of depression. All this time, she was saving me from myself”
“Wow. That’s so thoughful of her. See, sometimes we get annoyed by people’s actions without knowing their true intentions”
“I felt so bad when she said that. I didn’t know that she was annoying me because of those genuine reasons”
We got to the restaurant and he parked his car.
“We’re here. Your very first restaurant experience on your return”
“I feel like I was dead, and now I’m back”
We both laughed as we stepped out of the car and he locked up.
“Maybe you were dead, we’ll never know”
He held my hand as we walked in. We got inside and he pulled a chair for me to sit. Wow.
He took the menu and went through it.
“What are we having?”
He asked. I picked my menu up and went through it too. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to have. In fact, the main purpose of that restaurant stay was the “talking” more than the eating, for me. I asked him to decide what we would have.
“So, I want us to talk. Look at it as a catch up session, since we haven’t been in contact for a while”
I said. He shook his head.
“No, you go first”
I laughed. I knew he was going to say that.
“Okay, uhm.. So I moved out of your house, and went to stay with Sibusiso’s family.. It..”
“Sibusiso is the guy that got you pregnant?”
He interrupted me. I nodded.
“Yes, that’s him. I don’t remember whether I told you that my father turned out to be his uncle or not”
“No, you didn’t, but my mother did. Apparently, the guy once came over our house to talk to you or something”
“Yes.So one of their family members offered to take me in, because I’m family and she felt the need to take me in. Her husband had no problem with that, so I stayed with them”
“Problems begin when I found out that my boyfriend at the time, was a serial killer”
His eyes popped out.
“Him and his friends sold body parts to this big, scary man. When I found out, they forced me to join as well, so I wouldn’t be able to snitch. They made me clean up after their bloody business. They made me do deliveries with them to that scary man, and they made me help them bury the remains in a forsaken space out of town”
I looked down. Talking about it brought back dark emotions that I wanted to forget, but I had to talk about it so Alex would understand the hell I’ve been through.
“Mandy, I am really sorry you went through that”
He gently held my hand and rubbed it.
“When I couldn’t take it anymore, they threatened to kill me and my family. I told my family about it, and they freaked out as expected. Your mother warned me about something really bad that was going to happen, but Daddy refused to drive us to your place so we could get help to prevent everything from happening. When I pushed hard, and he kicked me out of his car, in the middle of nowwhere, and they drove off to their hiding place”
“And then what happened atfer that?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“That’s what I want to know. I want to know how I got to that hospital. I want to know what happened to me”
“You can’t remember anything?”
“I was scared, Alex. I was scared. I was in the middle of nowhere, alone. I knew I was never going to make it out of that place, safe. I think I gave up on living when I realized that they really left me. I didn’t know which turn to take, or even what to do”
I broke into tears.
“Mandy, please don’t cry. You are safe now. I am here, and I promise that nothing will happen to you. I promise you”
He got up from his seat, and came to stand next to me as I wept hopelessly. He gently rubbed my shoulders, telling me that I was safe and that I had nothing to worry about anymore. What happened to me? Why couldn’t I remember? My emotions took me back to the time I was panicking and crying for my safety, just after they drove off- and I started crying so hard, like it was happening all over again.
“Mandy, please calm down”
He helped me to get up, and held my hand as we walked out of the restaurant. We weren’t even done eating, but he saw the need for us to leave. We got to the parking area, and he hugged me tight.
“I am here now, and I promise you, nothing is going to harm you”
“You don’t understand.. Bazukile is still out there and he still wants me dead. What if it was him? What if he found me there and hurt me? What if…”
“Mandy, don’t do this to yourself. Don’t force yourself to remember anything. I told you, everything will come back to you when the time is right”
“It must have been him. Maybe he beat me up and left me to die out there. What if he bumps into me again and see that I never died that day? He will want to finish me off”
He held me tighter.
“Come. Get in the car. We are going home”
He opened the door for me and we drove off.
“Bazukile will never find you, okay? Besides, that man has bigger things to worry about than to look for a vulnerable child like yourself. Relax and focus on your wellbeing”
“I’m sorry I did that to you back at the restaurant. I didn’t mean to embarrass you like that”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s your first day out, so I understand that you will have a number of breakdowns before finding your feet. Don’t apologize”
“I will be here for you, to make sure that you recover from this and that you find your feet again. I still care for you, a lot and I still want what’s best for you”
I looked at him.
“Thank you Alex, you don’t know how happy that makes me feel”
We got to his place. He still lived in the old family house.The gate slid open and we drove in. There was another car parked in the garage, and he parked his car next to it. The guy was doing well, for him to own two cars, I thought to myself as we stepped out of the garage. We walked into the house. In the living room, there were toys pooled all over the floor, and baby shoes. I looked at him. He smiled.
“Excuse the mess. My son can be a messy chap sometimes”
He giggled proudly.
“Oh, I thought I heard voices”
A woman said, walking into the living room from down the passage. She was so beautiful. Dark skinned, with a very expensive weave, nails and makeup. She was dressed in a little Red short dress and slippers. She looked at me and smiled.
“Honey, we’re home”
“I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours now”
She walked up to me.
“We got delayed on the way”
Alex explained as the woman came to stand before me. I stood there, looking like I had just seen a ghost.
“Hi. I’m Ntsiki, you must be Mandy?”
She stretched her arms out for a hug. She had a beautiful ring occupying her ring finger. Why didn’t Alex mention this very important detail?
She called out again, as I stood there like a statue.I snapped out of my thoughts..
“Excuse her, she is very tired”
“I’m sorry. Yes, I’m Mandy”
I hugged her.
“Don’t worry, I understand. My husband explained everything. We broke the hug and I looked at Alex. He looked away.
“Welcome to our home. My husband and I are going to make sure that you get the best treatment and that you recocer well from this”
“Thank you, Ntsiki”
“Don’t mention it. Come, let’s sit down”
She grabbed my hand and led me to the couches.We sat down, and she faced me.
“I’m so happy to finally get to meet you. My husband was so worried about you, after that call from the hospital. He couldn’t even eat”
“Your husband is a very nice guy hey”
I faked a smile. Wow! I needed a moment to digest the news.
“I know hey”
“Whoa! Guys, I’m still in the room, you know”
Alex complained and we laughed.
“Let me go and take a quick shower. Mandy, Ntsiki will show you where you will sleep”
I nodded, and he walked away.
“I will show you later. For now, let’s chat. I want to know everything about my son’s aunt. You know, you are one of the very few Nigerians who are light skinned”
She said. My smile faded away. She laughed.
“Don’t worry, Alex told me that you are keeping it a secret. He told me everything about your mother moving to South Africa with you when you were still a baby, and how much you hate being addressed as Nigerian. I promise I won’t ever bring it up again. Your secret is safe with me. I just felt the need to say it though, because I was expecting an extremely dark skinned lady”
She laughed. Lies, my goodness.