“I am stationed at Headquarters under Builders Brigade,” Achi replied politely. I stopped going down the stairs and eavesdropped. My mom was surprisingly chatty for someone who barely says more than five words to me.
“Your mother must be so relieved to have you home,” mom said.
“She is, but lately she happens to have new affections,” he said easily. I imagined a playful smile pasted on his face.
Mom laughed. “Thulani is very adorable.”
I walked in to the kitchen. My shower rekindled my appetite but my mood was still sour.
The news that Achi had a girlfriend had hit me differently. I don’t know what I expected. Definitely not for old wounds to open this wide. We had not been together for years so why I was I upset that he had moved on?
I sat at the counter and my mom and Achi continued chatting like I wasn’t even there. Which was okay with me. I was not totally surprised that my mother was sitting and having tea and biscuits with my ex.
But when Mom left us alone and went to check on Thulani I panicked. I didn’t know what to do or say.
“You’re very quiet,” Achi said finishing up his biscuits.
“I have nothing to say,” I mumbled.
“I will pick Thulani up in the morning on Monday and drop him off at school. I asked your mom.”
“I overheard, won’t it be too much out of your way?” I asked.
“I want to,” he replied.
“Don’t you have to talk about it first with your girlfriend before committing?” I asked.
“Thulani is not a negotiation, if she doesn’t accept the fact that I have a son that I am trying to bond with, then we shouldn’t be together.”
“That and discussing things was never your cup of tea,” I lashed out.
I could feel his gaze, “What was that you said about bygones?” he asked his voice surprisingly calm.
“Aren’t you late for something?” I asked standing up.
“If I didn’t know better I was going to think you were still hurting and your pride won’t let you admit it,” he said standing up.
“I don’t have pride,” I said. I have common sense, I said to myself.
Achi looked at me for a long time and i swallowed hard refusing to meet his gaze. I was anticipating he would touch me, our arguments usually ended with his hand on my face. I stepped out of his reach.
“You can’t leave without saying bye to my mom.”
“You chased me.”
“I wasn’t chasing you.”
An amused playful smile graced his lips. I had a flashback of what kissing those lips felt like. He must have known what I was thinking because he stepped towards me just as mom entered the kitchen.
“Sorry I was giving Thulani his bath, he must be so tired he fell back asleep,” she said opening the refrigerator.
“He had a long day,” Achi replied. “ I will get going now Mrs Lunga thank you so much for your hospitality.”
Mom smiled and gave me a look, “ I will walk you out.” I offered.
“Thank you for everything,” I said as he got into his car.
“I am the grateful one,” he smiled.He drove off and I closed the gate. Taking my time to go back into the house.
Mom and dad were both in the kitchen.
“Well?” Mom probed.
“Well what?” I asked not knowing what was expected of me.
“You guys talked so?”
“Mom, he only wants to know his son,” I said making sure to dispel her ideas.
“Or is that the only option you’re giving him?” she argued.
“He has a girlfriend in camp. She is a soldier as well,” I said.”I can’t believe I am even having this conversation with you. After all you’re going to decide everything for me as usual.”
“Lindi,” Dad began.
“How I feel doesn’t matter, how you guys feel is all the reasoning you need to make decisions for me. Even now I guess you have decided that I should make things work with Achi, that’s what you want. Right? Not one of you has asked me how I feel!”
“That’s enough. This is why we feel you’re young and immature! clearly you need our help making decisions. You’re just ungrateful,” mom replied harshly.
It felt like my chest weighed a thousand kilograms. Hot tears stung my eyes. I was anything but ungrateful. I was tired of fighting with my mom. I needed my peace.
“I will be moving out at the end of the month,” I said to both of them.
“Lindi, don’t make permanent decisions when you’re emotional. We can all talk when you’ve had a chance to calm down.”
“Let her go, in fact, she can go now and take her son! Let’s see how responsible she can be!” Mom spoke as if I was not even there.
“Darling,” dad was trying to stop mom. I realised then how my whole life it seemed as if he was trying to stop her. Stopping her from speaking her mind, stopping her from beating the life out of me. I had come to accept that mom and I rarely saw eye to eye, she preferred imposing her will on me and maybe I had been fine with that when I was young. Not anymore.
I went upstairs and packed my things. Then I went into Thulani`s room and packed his things. I could hear my parents whose voices had never been raised my whole life arguing downstairs.
“She makes me so mad,” mom said. It makes two of us. I blocked them out.
I called my brother's wife Zolani, she picked up on the first ring. I was crying before I could even get the words out, she passed the phone to Bhekani I was sure he put me on loudspeaker so I didn’t have to explain twice what had happened. I had no money but my pride was not going to let me stay in this house. Every emotion that I had tried to keep at bay just seemed to be drowning me. My mom's resentment, such unforgiveness made me feel low and lost.
Bhek said he was sending a taxi.
When the taxi driver called to say he was outside, I hurried outside with my suitcase and Thulani’s.
Dad intercepted me at the bottom of the stairs when I was returning to get Thulani. I knew he could not comprehend that today I decided I had enough. Temba had been calling me non stop too, but I was not ready to be talked down.
“This is not a good time to make such decisions the boy will be shocked having to wake up in a strange bed all alone. Let him stay here,” dad said.
“I am taking him,” I said to him. Please understand I whispered as I walked passed him. I took the stairs two at a time. I pushed Thulani's bedroom door open and lifted my still-sleeping son out of bed. Dad was watching as I walked passed him at the door.
“This is what I mean by being immature,” mom said standing with arms akimbo. How could she be so indifferent? Where was her Christianity now? Forgiveness? How could she be so harsh dealing with me? her child? How could she not see my pain?
I refused to respond and kept my silence and went to the car. When the taxi drove off I didn’t look back, I was afraid I would go back. How would I get to work? How would I get Thulani to school? Bhek lived on the other side of town? The thoughts assaulted me. I needed to tell Achi that our living plans had changed.
Three weeks later dad came to see me at work, I had not been in touch with him since I left and I had been ignoring my mom's calls altogether. We sat down in the cafeteria and he got drinks. He pushed a set of keys towards me.
“Temba moved out of the flat, the cleaners will be there tomorrow and you and Thulani can move in. It’s close to the school and near Levy,” he said.
“Dad,” I began.
“Your mother was the one who asked me to come, she said you are not taking her calls. Lindi,” he said.
“She always gets to be the bigger person."
“You know your mom, I don't even know why you let her rattle you so much."
Tears threatened to fall when I closed my fist around the keys.