THE ONE

INSERT 51

LUFUNO

This is the first time I have a small child freak me out. I am sweating up here, waiting for her to come back from wherever she disappeared to with the phone. Even though I am keen to do this, I also wish Khathu could tell her she cannot stay here with me. I don’t know what to do with babies and kids…I don’t know what to do with them. What do they eat and drink?
Michelle is adorable though. She has this warm smile and she melts my heart whenever she chuckles.
Mandiwana is sitting on the couch with her arms folded to her chest like she awaits to witness some serious event.
Michelle comes back happily jumping and from that, I know Khathu gave her a go-ahead to stay here, for… I don’t know how long.
“Daddy says I can stay until tomorrow…” she says while giving her nanny the phone.
Phew!! Just one night.
“Are you sure you don’t want us to go to do your hair today?” Mandiwana asks.
“Aunty Lufuno can take me, right?” she asks me with a cutest smile.
“Yeah…infact we can all go to the salon.”
“No…I am fine,” Mandiwana says. She is the one who needs the salon more than us but I won’t insist, maybe she doesn’t want to bother me.
“Okay,” I say and shrug. It would have been nice to go with both of them to the salon.
Michelle comes to the kitchen to help me finish grilling the beef burgers. We have lunch while Michelle tells me all about school and everything that goes down there. She literally does almost all after-school activities. She is smart for her age, if I am not mistaken. She talks a lot and all I do is admire her free spirit. I want to be like her you know? Care less about what everyone thinks and be me.
“Then I think I should get going.”
“Now? Are you not staying for lunch?” She didnt eat with us because she said she was not hungry.
“No…I am not hungry…so I have to leave now. I want to go to Marabastad now that Michelle is staying.”
“Oh…” I wish I could take her there but I can never drive in a place like that unless I want to scratch my car and I don’t want to sound rude by not helping her. “Do you want me to drive you there?”
“No…I will use a taxi,” she says. Will she ever say ‘Yes’ to anything I suggest? Do we have a problem maybe?
“Michelle, baby…don’t you want to water my flowers in the garden outside?” I ask and she jumps off from the couch happily. “Fold your jersey and let me show you how to do this.”
I lead the way to my flower garden and get her just little water to keep her busy for just ten minutes when I have a chat with her nanny. I show her what to do and then walk back to the house. Mandiwana is in the kitchen with a glass, getting water from the tap.
“I have bottles of water in fridge…wont…”
“I prefer tap water,” she says and then gulp the whole glass at once.
“You can have juice aswell in the fridge.”
“No, thank you.”
I pull a kitchen chair and climb on it to settle.
“How is Khathu doing?” I ask and turn towards the sliding door to the garden to make sure that Michelle is not anywhere close.
“He is okay…just not himself. He hardly sleeps but he says he will be fine,” she says and my throat dries up.
“Does he eat…does he talk?” I am worried now and he doesn’t want me to call so that I don’t complicate the case. But honestly, I want to talk to him and cuddle with him and make sure that he is fine.
“He does sometimes…but his mother is something else. That woman has to leave instantly.”
“What about his mother?” I ask. The time I was there, she didn’t look like she likes me.
“Well…I can’t talk much…I don’t want to end up sounding like I am gossiping; you know?” she says. Just by that, she ruined my day. There is more she knows and doesn’t want to tell.
“But do you think she has a problem with me?”
“Heeee…vho Nengwenda has a problem with everyone.”
“I see,” I say and fold my arms. The thought that she is going back to Khathu while I am here is kinda twisted but it has to be that way.
“Where can I get the taxi’s to Marabastaad?” she asks.
“I can drop you at Menlyn. I am sure you can get them there…but you can still join us at the salon,” I say. She does need it and I don’t want to be rude mentioning it.
“No, I will go next weekend,” she says while going to get her handbag from the couch.
Next weeken? Okkaayyy.
I get Michelle from the garden and we drop Mandiwana at Menlyn taxi rank before heading to the salon. She picks the corns rows with beads at the ends. I like it for her too and she has good taste. I also pick the corn rows to match hers. I get her PJs and tomorrow’s clothes aswell.
I think I am doing great at this nanny thing. I know I am a bit of clumsy around her but she does listen to what I say and she is not nagging.
For the first time in ages, I get to stop worrying about work. I would have been calling Gean and the rest of the team to find out how everything is at Charlotte’s wedding. I sent her flowers this morning but I am sure she was worried that I was not there. I bet everything went well. They should be concluding the wedding by now. I should be glad I got an excuse not to go to that wedding. I don’t think I am ready to face Tshepo again. She is one mountain I don’t know how to climb.
“Aunty Lufuno, am I sleeping with you?” Michelle asks while changing into her new PJs.
“Yes baby…you can sleep here with me.”
“Who is Mukhethwa?” she asks and I quickly turn to her.
“Where did you get that?” I ask and she points at a small picture frame next to a vase of flowers. I framed a name and placed it there. It has been there always, it is part of the room.
“Mukhethwa is my angel.”
“Did she also die?” she asks and I get a lump on my throat. What does this kid know about death? “My papa told me that Mommy has an angel. She was in mommy’s tummy and I was happy that i was going to meet her…but papa said she went to heaven because God needed her.”
I don’t say anything.
“Mommy was sad for long and she didn’t want to talk to me but I told her I love her and I am sorry about her baby,” she says and shrugs. Oh my God this child. “Mommy was always angry and sad but daddy said I should give her time to heal. I miss her when she is fun like when I was younger.”
I want to cry so bad but I cant. I cannot believe she went through that. I know how terrible her mom could have treated her from the anger of losing a child.
“Baby…” I don’t know what to say to this child.
“So is Mukhethwa your angel because she died?” she asks and I find myself nodding.
“Yes…” Should I be talking about death and all these with a seven year old? Are kids like her supposed to know about heaven and babies in tummies?
“I know she is a beautiful angel like you,” she says with a smile and I felt it. It feels like she is mending my heart this instant.
“Thank you.”
“You know what daddy says about angels?” she says. By now I know daddy is Khathu and papa is her mother’s husband.
“What?”
“He says they never leave you because they stay in your heart and make you happy all the time,” she says while jumping into bed.
“Do you believe that?” I ask.
“Yes…I used to cry when Mommy didn’t want to sit with me that time and daddy told me that mommy’s angel is in my heart and her job is to make me happy everytime…I stopped crying.”
This is all I needed. To know that my baby is in my heart and that is just enough.
“Thank you baby.”
“Now I can pray for us.”
“What?”
“Don’t you pray when you sleep? So that you don’t get bad dreams?” she asks while positioning her hands for prayer.
I need this child in my life. I close my eyes and she mumbles a prayer. She touched me when she asks God to make her father happy again. I turn off the side lamb after taking my evening medication.

I am woken by the TV light. The sound is minimal but the light is blazing in my eyes. I should get my eyes checked out for real this time. I turn to Michelle and she is seated watching cartoons with her cute arms folded to her chest.
“Michelle, please switch on the light for me?” I ask. Atleast if the main light is on, I will be fine. She goes and switches the lights on and comes back to sit beside me. The clock on the wall says seven but I am still so sleepy.
I should say, this is the longest I have slept recently. I am always up thinking about Khathu and how he is doing. I want to call him but I am told to not complicate the case. I want to go down the police station to find out the progress but I cannot do that with Michelle behind me. It will have to wait until tomorrow.
“Can I stay today too?” Michelle asks.
“What about school?”
“Aunty Mandy can bring my clothes for school,” she says. Oh, flip! I don’t have Mandy’s phone and Khathu blocked me so that we do not end up calling each other. I don’t have a choice but to just drive there and drop her or ask Mandy to convey the message for me to Khathu. Life can be so complicated, hey? But I understand, he has to play by the rules and he is scared to lose his career over this. The scary part is having him fall out of love with me due to this conditions. We don’t talk or text and this can just damage our bond. All I do is hope for the best. I want to be with him. That little voice that everyone talks about tells me it is him I should give my heart to. For once, I am doing just that. I am doing what I feel is right.
“We will definitely go after lunch.”
She chooses to wear the new leggings I got her, a white long shirt and a denim jacket.
“Michelle, don’t you want to wear the jeans instead? It will get cold soon.”
“I love the leggings Aunty Lufuno,” she says. The details on the side are pretty, I understand. After lunch I drive to Khathu’s house with the plan that Michelle will get to the house and speak to Mandiwana. If she is not there, we agreed that she will come tomorrow after school.
I park behind a Red porche and Michelle looks excited. As I park beside it, I can see a woman shouting and screaming with her finger pointed at Khathu. They notice my car and they both turn towards me. The woman rushes to where I am parked almost breaking her legs from the way she is running in stilletos.
“Mommy…” Michelle says while opening the car door.
“Michelle, why are you wearing a legging when it is cold?” she says while helping her out of the car. She hugs her for a little while before asking her to go inside her house to pack her clothes. I want to come out of the car but this woman looks pissed. I want to reverse, but that would be rude of me.
“Khathu, what did I say about beads on Michelle’s hair?” she asks with her hands on her waist. Khathu doesn’t have a choice but to walk closer to the car.
“Julia, please I don’t have time for you…you cannot just leave my child and up to wherever you were and still want to control what we do with Michelle, no…”
“We? We? Who is we here? Didn’t we agree that Michelle will be introduced to your wife if you ever marry? Are you not confusing my child?”
“Please man…Lufuno will be my wife…why not now?” Khathu says and I smile with my hands on the steering wheel. He still wants me. That’s a good feeling.
“And that coloured girl you brought to the school play? Huh?” That should be Tshepo.
“Julia…please go inside and pack your baby’s clothes and leave my house.”
“What?”
“You heard me…I am not going to allow you to come here and demands things at your terms. I know what I am doing and I have Michelle’s best interests at heart.”
“Shipping your baby to stay with a girlfriend I don’t even know?”
“You don’t even know what my reasons are…and you are not even asking…so just take your child and leave if you think that is best. I need to deal with you through the court Julia. I am tired of your crap…honestly.”
“Says a man who is wanted for murder and all.”
Oh No! Mara why? I am fuming by now but I cannot get out of this car. I dont want Michelle to find me arguing with her mother.
“Please leave my house Julia…please leave my house…” he says while walking to her car. He opens the driver’s door and wait for her to jump.
“I am not leaving here without my child. I can’t trust any of you.”
Now I wish to take Michelle away from this bitter woman. I am still seated in the car. I don’t want fists to fly on me or her. And I am trying not to over work my heart but what she are doing to Khathu is killing me.
Michelle comes back from the house following Mandiwana who has her bags parked.
“Go change her leggings into something warm,” she directs Mandiwana who is looking at her funny. She shouldnt have.
“Change her into jeans yourself… All her things are here in all this bags,” Mandiwana says while putting all the bags on the ground, not in the car boot. She turns away and leave Julia standing with her arms crossed. Michelle jumps at the back seat after waving at me. I honestly saw sadness in her eyes.
What is wrong with this woman? Shouting infront of the child?
Khathu walks to my side of the car.
“Sorry, you had to see that…”
“Its fine…how are you?”
“I’ll be fine,” he says.
“You don’t look fine.”
“There is a lead and the police told me they will give me more info tomorrow…now go…you shouldn’t be here and we shouldn’t complicate the case, you know?” he says.
“Yes,” I say while staring in his eyes.
“I love you,” he says and kisses me through the window. It felt like a stolen moment and I enjoyed that two second kiss. I wished for more. “Now, go.”
He walks to the back seat of the porche while I reverse. The mother is still shouting while throwing the bags in the boot of the car.
I let out a sigh as I watch them through the rear view mirror.
Is this what they call baby mama drama?
“Brace yourself Lufuno,” I whisper to myself as I accelerate away from Monavoni into the freeway to Pretoria East.