from pages 28-31
When Andile talked of Johannesburg, he always spoke of it with such intensity, such passion, that Nobantu knew if Joburg had been a woman, she would never have stood a chance.
As it was, the city was just that – a city. Spending so much time together, it wasn’t long before Andile became her mentor, her confidant and eventually, inevitably, her lover.
She had known then that they made a striking couple. With his tall frame and the type of physique that was carefully maintained three times a week in their basement gym, Andile made an impression on everyone he met. And she, she knew without conceit, was the type of woman that, with her classic dark look, made her one of the beauties of her time. Together they made the type of good-looking couple that every photographer wanted in their portfolio.
Yet now, as she sat on her bed in what her mother termed a mansion, she wondered if she had ever really truly loved Andile, or if it was the fear of the unknown and her unplanned pregnancy at the age of nineteen that had resulted in their marriage? As she put on her dressing gown and made her way to their en suite bathroom, her eye caught her framed MBA on the dressing table. Was this all there was to her life? she wondered silently to herself. Prepping her husband and children to go to work and school respectively. A workout in her gym. A shower and an hour indulging in her passion (Andile childishly called it a hobby), sketching designs for the children’s clothes she one day hoped to bring to life. Manicures, pedicures and lunches with Oupa’s vacuous second wife – whom her irreverent eleven-year-old daughter had nicknamed Plastic Penny because of all the surgery she had undergone. Then home to make dinner and, if she was unlucky, her husband would be there, never asking how her day had been, but whining tediously about his work, his partners or the white folks in business who thought he was just another well-connected black person while showing little respect for his business acumen. God! She didn’t care any more. She had started shutting him out mentally even before he opened his mouth. Fifteen years of marriage will do that to you, she thought, and laughed cynically.
She recalled that the morning after her party she just couldn’t get the phrase Andile had used to describe her out of her head. She is just a housewife. Was that all he really thought of her? She had decided that she and Andile needed to talk. She needed to show him, remind him, that there was more to her, that she was a woman of substance.
She had walked to the bed and roused him from sleep. “Hmm?” he had mumbled, partially opening his eyes.
“Andy, wake up,” she had said, continuing to shake him awake. She had stopped with the babes, darlings and sweethearts long ago. Sleepy-eyed, he turned and yawned without covering his mouth. His breath smelt foul. Had there been a time when she used to kiss him with morning breath?
“What’s up?” he asked, sounding a little more alert.
“We need to talk.”
He glared at her. “For Chrissakes, I have just got into bed. What exactly do you want to talk about that cannot wait till later?” he asked, glancing at the bedside clock.
“If you weren’t so busy all the time, I wouldn’t have to wake you up to speak to you,” she mumbled.
“What?” he asked, obviously unable to believe her tone after the grand old party he had thrown her the night before.
She raised her voice, just so that there would be no mistake this time around. “I said, if you weren’t so busy all the time, I wouldn’t have to wake you up to talk to you now.”
“So talk then,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“I have been thinking,” she started. “I have been thinking of getting premises and starting my business like I’ve always wanted to do.”
Andile looked at her as though she had lost her marbles. Then, slowly, he started laughing.
When he finally got hold of himself, he looked at her with tears streaming down his face and said, shaking his head like he couldn’t believe he had just been woken up for this, “Nobantu, we have talked about this. I know you are a trained auditor and have those little sketches of yours you call designs, but do not deceive yourself that you can crack it in the business world. It’s not that easy, and it would be twice as hard for you. You have barely practised your profession,” he said patronisingly, like a parent talking to an impetuous three-year-old. “Hhayi, man, why don’t you just concentrate on what you do best . . .” He paused and chuckled. “Being a housewife and a mother. Besides, no one cares about putting their children in designer gear.”
“That’s where you are wrong, Andile,” she said, refuting his assertion. “If that were true, babyGap would not exist, let alone exist and be doing so well.”
“Yes, but how many South African babyGaps are there?” he asked. “Nobantu, people in this country are too practical to waste money on designer clothes for children they know will outgrow them before the year is out.”
“I don’t agree, Andile. I think most mothers want their children to be dressed in the very best. Besides, I plan to corner the teen market too.”
“Well, whatever,” he said, waving his hand towards her, “you can just forget about it. No wife of mine is going to work. What would people say when they hear that my wife is working? That I am incapable of taking care of you and the children? No, Nobantu, forget it!”
from pages 38-40
It was almost five-thirty. In another thirty minutes, Andile would meet his partners so that he could break down to each of them just what was due, using the figures he had received from Anant. Sure, he could have asked his secretary to draw up a memo, but he thought it better that they sat down and toasted their good fortune which was, with the listing on the JSE, just about to get better. It was at that moment that his cellphone, the one with a private number, rang.
“Makana speaking,” he answered curtly. He had perfected the art of sounding like a very busy man when answering his phone. It made people get to the point and it scared off telemarketers.
“Yes, sir, this is the principal at —— Convent. Are you the father of Nqobisa Makana?”
The principal was white and had pronounced his daughter’s name as Nikobisa. Andile was impatient with white people who mispronounced black names. They always made such a to-do about black people who were unable to speak good English and yet, four hundred years after they had arrived, they still couldn’t pronounce their fellow countrymen’s names. This is why he had deliberately insisted on his children having names with clicks in them and no middle names. Reconciliation? Then reconcile with my official language as I have reconciled with yours, he thought.
“Nqobisa,” he corrected the principal. “Yes, I am her father. Has something happened to my daughter?” He would sue the Catholic Church if anything had happened to his daughter. Thixo! Please say she is okay, he prayed silently.
“No, sir,” the principal answered.
Andile sighed in relief, but his relief was short-lived.
“But she is the only child left at school and my attempts at getting hold of her mother have proved futile. Could you come and pick her up?” the principal requested, with what sounded like Christ-like patience.
“Sure. I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” Andile answered, hanging up.
Why had his daughter not called him herself? Had she lost yet another cellphone? More importantly, he wondered, what had happened to Nobantu? She did absolutely nothing all day, how come she couldn’t even manage to pick up their daughter? He had a few choice words to say to her.
He dialled her number, but the phone just rang. And rang. And rang. Until: “This is Nobantu Makana, I am currently unavailable, but if you leave a message I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.”
And then the beep.
* * *
Source: BooksLive SA
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