A TEST OF LOVE

Zinhle is heart­bro­ken by Sipho’s change of be­hav­iour, but there’s a catch

DRUM - - Fiction - BY YVETTE LANGA IL­LUS­TRA­TION: MICHAEL DE LUCCHI

IREFUSE to be Sipho’s door­mat,” Zinhle mut­tered to her­self as she stared at her re­flec­tion in the bed­room mir­ror. She was fum­ing – her boyfriend was at it again. Re­cently he’d started do­ing th­ese dis­ap­pear­ing acts that were be­com­ing more and more reg­u­lar, al­most ev­ery week now. He’d come over to see her the night be­fore with a sweet gift in hand – their usual Fri­day date – and they’d spent what she thought was a lovely night to­gether. He’d left late, promis­ing to pick her up the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon so they could go out again then stay over at his place.

But it was be­com­ing clear he wasn’t com­ing back. His phone just rang un­til it went to voice­mail, and she’d left sev­eral of those al­ready.

Sipho was Zinhle’s first boyfriend. He was a cousin of her best friend, Tandiwe, and they’d met three years ago when he’d come to visit his rel­a­tives.

Their love had seemed per­fect so she couldn’t un­der­stand his change of be­hav­iour. There was al­ways a dif­fer­ent ex­cuse, but none of them seemed to make any sense.

“This is the last time,” she told her­self firmly. “I won’t let him hurt me like this any­more. He must just go and be with who­ever is tak­ing up his Satur­days now.”

ZINHLE and Tandiwe had been friends since pri­mary school. They were chalk and cheese but their bond grew stronger as they pro­gressed through school. Tandiwe was the tough, no-non­sense side to the in­sep­a­ra­ble duo, and Zinhle was the soft, for­giv­ing one.

Even their ap­pear­ances set them apart. Zinhle’s frame was tall and slen­der, her skin dark and smooth, and her beau­ti­ful bright eyes sparkled as she spoke. Tandiwe was also pretty, but in a sexy, curvy way. Her flaw­less skin was many shades paler and her dim­ples gave her an ir­re­sistible charm.

When Sipho walked through the door, it was love at first sight. Zinhle was mes­merised by the tall, ath­letic body wrapped in Tandiwe’s beige-tinted skin, and fin­ished off with dreamy, deep brown eyes.

Zinhle found her­self spend­ing more and more time at her friend’s house dur­ing the winter hol­i­days. And it turned out Sipho was equally smit­ten.

He se­cretly started to ap­ply to lo­cal law firms to do his ar­ti­cles af­ter his fi­nal year of study. He was a bright stu­dent, and in no time many offers came his way.

It had been the best three years of her life, and now he’d just been of­fered a full­time po­si­tion at Hans & Dube At­tor­neys, and his ca­reer was set.

What should’ve been such a happy time for them had sud­denly changed into a life of mis­ery and mis­trust.

SHE was wo­ken up by the neigh­bour’s dogs bark­ing – it was Sun­day morn­ing and she was still dressed for her night out with Sipho. She show­ered and changed and got ready for her usual Sun­day morn­ing church ser­vice. Per­haps God could help her feel bet­ter.

A glance at her phone told her Sipho hadn’t both­ered to re­ply. There was only one mes­sage from her mother ask­ing her to come and see her af­ter church. She said she was go­ing to pre­pare a nice lunch for the fam­ily.

Zinhle’s mood lifted slightly. A fam­ily meal would be nice then she’d re­turn home to study. She was in her fifth year of medicine so bury­ing her­self in her books was es­sen­tial and might even help her for­get her pain.

She looked in the mir­ror on her way out and was sat­is­fied – the mess go­ing on in­side her head and heart didn’t show. A bit of singing and wor­ship was a good de­ci­sion – she felt lighter as she left the church.

“Zinhle, ima lapho mn­tanami (Zinhle, wait for me, my child),” Tandiwe’s mom called af­ter her.

“Hi, Mama, how are you?” Zinhle man­aged a smile.

“I’m fine, my child, but why are you alone? Where is Sip­ho?”

“I de­cided to come alone. Sipho and I aren’t twins,

phela.” She tried to laugh and make a joke of things rather than face an in­qui­si­tion.

“Oh. I’m just so used to see­ing you to­gether I thought some­thing must be wrong.”

“Hayi, ev­ery­thing is fine,” Zinhle as­sured her. “Look, Ma, I have to rush. Please give my re­gards to Bab’Themba.”

IN­SIDE her car Zinhle re­laxed a lit­tle. She was glad to be go­ing home. She needed some qual­ity time with her par­ents. But as she ap­proached the house she was sur­prised to see a lot of cars out­side the gate. One of them was Sipho’s, and she could feel her stress re­turn­ing. What was he do­ing here?

She looked at the other ve­hi­cles and recog­nised Tandiwe’s car, Bab’Themba’s and Sipho’s fa­ther’s car. Al­most ev­ery­one close to her was parked out­side her par­ents’ home, and she feared some­thing was hor­ri­bly wrong.

She rushed through the gate and saw the dou­ble garage doors were open. She cau­tiously put her head around the door to see what was go­ing on.

The nor­mally dull, grey space had been beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated and trans­formed so the own­ers of the cars were all com­fort­ably seated around el­e­gant ta­bles.

Sipho came for­ward to greet her with a huge smile on his face.

He took her hand and led her to the front. She was so con­fused she felt like she was go­ing to faint.

“My love, I’m so sorry for the stress I’ve caused you in the past weeks,” Sipho soothed her.

“When I met you I was sure I’d found my soul­mate – it was like I’d only just started liv­ing. You be­came my some­thing to live for, my joy, my ev­ery­thing.

“You’ve given me the best three years of my life and I’ve known from the be­gin­ning that you were the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

“But I had one prob­lem – our re­la­tion­ship has al­ways been so per­fect. So the past few weeks have been a test I needed to put you through to see how you’d re­act when in fu­ture we do have dif­fi­cul­ties in our re­la­tion­ship – be­cause, un­for­tu­nately, that’s how life is.

“For­give me, my love, for the heartache I’ve caused you but you’ve passed with fly­ing colours. When the go­ing got tough, you turned to God and your fam­ily and that’s the kind of woman any man would want by his side.”

Zinhle didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She felt a lit­tle an­noyed he’d sub­jected her to this, but also hugely re­lieved and proud she’d be­haved so well in the midst of her anger and mis­ery. Sipho squeezed her hands a lit­tle tighter as he con­tin­ued his speech.

“I con­tacted our friends and fam­ily to help me or­gan­ise this lunch be­cause I have some­thing I want to ask you. Zinhle, love of my life, will you do me the great honour of be­com­ing my wife?”

She gazed at her man, who was now down on one knee and hold­ing a lit­tle box out to­wards her. She couldn’t bring her­self to speak, but firmly nod­ded her re­ply as he slipped the ring onto her fin­ger.

This was one test she was de­lighted to have passed – and it was one she never wanted to sit again.

‘I de­cided to come alone. Sipho and I aren’t twins’

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