Zulu Brothers story: Xolile

Xolile, at first she didn't know what it was exactly that drew her to this man, but she knew there was something about him besides the fact that he is attractive, he dresses well and smells nice.
But that's not enough reason to commit to a man is it?
The first time he appeared, again, she didn't think it was really him.
She had only seen his eyes once, briefly when he opened them for hardly a minute and slipped back into stillness.
Besides, he looked really bad at that time. She didn't think he was going to live.
The only reason she remembered the face was because she had seen his brothers many times.
When she left that hospital she forgot about him and everything that had to do with Ridge Way Life Hospital.
Because really, she needed to let go, to start over, to walk the corridors without people whispering behind her.
She can't really say things were perfect until that one Friday.
Because they never were perfect. Her getting involved with a married man was not perfect, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
But, that man was like a tattoo. She just couldn't erase him.
Her excuse was always that she didn't know he was married at first, she only found out after she had fallen deeply in love with him.
He made her happy, made her feel special and they had chemistry.
When they were together she believed he loved her, but when he was not in front of her she questioned everything.
Maybe, just maybe, things were almost perfect until that one Friday night.
She knew the wife, not in flesh but she knew what she looked like, where she worked, who she hung out with, which school her children went to, how much she flaunted her 'perfect marriage', what present she got on her birthday and....
She knew it all. She spent her days finding all of that out. Going through all her social network pages, Googling her, watching her, hoping that soon she would slip and say something that would make her happy.
Something like 'my husband is divorcing me' or 'I'm not happy' or 'my husband is cheating'...anything along those lines.
Because it’s important for the other woman to be acknowledged, even if it doesn't change anything but she wants to exist. She wants her competition to know that 'he loves me too', 'You are not better than me', 'you are not that special'.
But that Friday night, everything she had been hoping for happened, and it destroyed everything.
It was a normal afternoon. Her on night-shift and him stealing an hour with her before going home.
Her night shifts started at 7pm, he knocked off at 6pm and so she would arrive at work at 6pm, and so they would stay in his consulting rooms until 7pm, almost every day.
They would talk and cuddle and laugh together, but they never had sex in his consulting rooms, no matter how much they longed for each other.
He said to her: “No, I'm not going to bend you over and fuck you from behind with your hands balancing on my desk. No, that's not who you are to me. I'm not with you for some quickies”.
And yes, he stuck to his word.
He took her to top hotels and sometimes came to her flat although he never spent the night.
And on that Friday night, as usual, they were sitting on the floor, with her in between his legs and her head on his chest, his arms hugging her from behind.
He was telling her about his uncle who sacrificed everything to pay for his medical school fees and how he planned to buy him a house soon.
He was telling her about how much he wanted to be happy.
He was about to tell her why he was unhappy when someone knocked and pushed the door open.
They always locked the door, except on that Friday night.
She still doesn't understand how they forgot to lock the door that Friday.
She recognised the face immediately and froze.
She meant to jump out of his arms but he beat her to it when he pushed her so hard she hit her forehead on the corner of the desk.
When she turned around, still on the floor with a burning pain on her forehead, he was already on his feet rushing to the woman who was still standing at the door, startled.
When the first thing he said to the wife was "my love", she knew she had to get out of there.
"Baby it's not what you think. This is a patient..."
But she was in her nurse's uniform.
"What is it?" the wife asked.
"It's nothing ," he said.
There was silence for a second, and then screaming and cursing and slaps on the chest.
She sat still, on the floor with a burning pain.
The wife kept slapping as he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight, until she could not move her arms anymore.
He then pulled the door open and they walked out, the wife still crying and him apologising and denying and trying to calm her.
It took her a little while to realise where she was at. That the moment that woman stepped in she stopped existing. She stopped existing even to the man who a few minutes earlier was pouring his heart out to her.
But what was worse, was that the wife herself did not acknowledge her. She didn't even look at her.
The least she could have done was scream at her and curse and punch her, as acknowledgement of her role in this, at least.
When she finally gathered strength to stand up and walk out, the left side of her forehead was swollen.
She went to her locker, grabbed her handbag and left.
When she approached reception she saw almost half the female night-shift staff gathered there.
They'd been whispering something but when she was about to walk past them, they kept quiet.
She knew they'd been talking about her. It's what they did every day, judge her for dating a married man.
The wife had surely gone through reception on her way to the consulting rooms but not even the receptionist bothered to make a quick call to the doctor's rooms to warn them.
She sent her resignation letter the next morning.
For the three weeks that followed, she was an emotional wreck. She barely left the flat and barely spoke to her roommate.
The first three days were dedicated to anger and tears.
From then on it was worry over why he wasn't calling or at least sending an SMS to say 'sorry about the other day'.
On the fifth day, she called, but he rejected the call.
Still, she kept hoping that he was as hurt as she was, that maybe he needed to wait until things were calm before he showed up at her door to say he was sorry and ask her to be patient with the situation.
But deep down, her biggest wish was that his wife would leave him because of this, because of her, because then he'd have no choice but to come to her, because he knew she loved him wholeheartedly.
She was making green tea when on one evening there was a knock.
Her heart skipped, she was sure it was him.
Her roommate was closest to the door so she opened it halfway.
There was a voice of a man.
She stopped stirring the tea and waited for him to come in.
"It's some guy, he's looking for 508, I don't know how he can confuse that with 805," the roommate said rolling her eyes.
She went back to stirring the tea which suddenly smelled horrible.
She expected the roommate to leave her and go to her room as usual, but no, she stood in front of her with her arms folded.
"When are you going back to work?" the roommate.
She frowned.
"I'm not going back,"
This she was sure of.
"So how are you going to pay rent?" the roommate.
Now that was a good question.
She had money saved but it wasn't enough, she'd only been working for about a year.
All she could do was shrug.
"My former matron says her hospital needs moonlighters, you can call her," the roomate said and left her standing there.
She hadn't thought about all that stuff yet.
All she had done was to go from one emotion to another.
And when the third week ended, she left the flat with her handbag and a large envelope.
It took her about two hours and three taxis to travel from Ridge Way to Katlehong.
The name Natalspruit Hospital gave her stomach pains. She had never worked at a public hospital before, she never wished for it.
There were too many people, too much work and blood and wards and death and staff...
She was in and out of there in an hour, and she was sure she got the job.
The following month she moved to Alberton to be closer to work, at least that would mean taking one taxi to get there.
Some days were better than others. Meeting new people and dealing with drama was what she needed.
She stayed at Natalspruit Hospital longer than she had planned.
Eight months went as quickly as it diminished the longing for the man she had not heard from since the night he banged her forehead on a desk.
She bought herself a car, gained and lost weight, cut her hair and let it grow again.
That Wednesday night, the plan was to go out with colleagues for a few drinks.
It was the birthday of the most bubbly girl at work and she wasn't taking no for an answer, everyone had to go.
A lot of things were non-negotiable at Natalspruit. Like, the staff stokvel and the donation whenever someone lost a family member even if it was an uncle's sister-in-law's mother-in-law.
She was about to go to the locker room and change to “going partying” clothes when she heard noise at casualty.
There was a taxi parked right in front of the entrance and the driver screaming "mkhipheni bo angazaleli la".
People jumped out of the taxi and pulled out a woman who was screaming and struggling to walk.
She was in labour and at that time, she was the only nurse closest to the situation.
The people came straight to her, with the woman in labour.
She signalled the porters to put the woman on a wheelchair and take her to the right place.
She thought that was it, until she turned around to see a tall man standing in front of her.
"I'm alive," he said.
He looked startled as he said the words.
She knew she had seen the face before but she couldn't remember where.
"They said you left. The receptionist gave me your address but I was told you didn't live there anymore. I've been looking for you for a while," he said.
She was lost, totally lost.
And why was he talking so slow, she wondered.
"Driver, let's go," someone shouted from the taxi.
But he ignored them.
"Do you work here now?" he asked.
She didn't answer.
All she did was stare at his face and try really hard to remember where she knew him from.
"You work here?" he asked again.
He asked like he was entitled to an answer. Like he expected her to be okay with the questions.
But she walked away instead.
He followed and grabbed her arm.
She flinched and almost screamed.
That was when Sambulo came back to reality and let go of her arm.
He hadn't thought about the fact that this woman didn't know him.
He had thought about her every single day, so much that in his mind she was already part of his life. So much that he knew her, by heart.
But she didn't know him.
"You don't remember me? I was at Ridge Way Hospital," he said, more politely now.
"You must have been one of my patients there. But that doesn't mean you can touch me, or talk to me, or ask questions that have nothing to do with you," she said.
He was hurt. This was not how he had imagined the moment.
But that was him being unrealistic again.
"Driver!" one of the passengers shouted again.
He was walking towards them.
"Driver, you were screaming at us all the way here because you didn't want that woman to give birth in your taxi, but now usushela ama nurse. We want to go home, it's late," the passenger said.
She was watching Sambulo's face as the man spoke.
There were no lines on his forehead, no tightened jaw, but the look in his eyes sent cold shivers down her spine.
There was just something.
When he turned his eyes to her again, the look was gone.
"I'll come back," he said.
He did come back.
And when he did she remembered him.
She remembered the story of why he was in hospital.
She remembered the woman with braids and her boyfriend. She remembered the woman who came with them on many occasions but always looked like she wanted to run. She remembered the three little boys who looked like all the men and how they came to the hospital a few times but never entered the ward.
And so on the fourth time he came, she asked: "So you're still driving taxis? After everything that happened?"
"It's what I do for a living," he said.
Of course he knew that the taxis were his. Everyone at Ridge Way knew he was a taxi owner.
They didn't become an item immediately.
He would ask questions, sometimes tell her that he didn't understand how he didn't die on that bed.
She would answer him, sometimes give him what seemed to be counselling.
He told her about that time he spent on a wheelchair and how although the doctors said chances of him walking again were slim, he stood up and walked in the end.
He was good therapy for her and she was the same to him.
It didn't take long before she realised that her ex wasn't exactly a tattoo, just old skin she needed to scrub off. And if it meant this man, whom by the way she still considered a patient, was going to help her do that, that's what she was going to do.
As time went on, her heart started having a life of its own, and it knew what it wanted.
His had been there from the beginning, so things happened automatically.
They had been officially an item for less than a month when he took her to his brother's house in Naturena.
That was when she really discovered who he is, and she wanted to be part of that.
It seemed so warm and safe and comfortable.
She wanted it, and him, now as much as he wanted her.
She was happy again.
He wasn't a doctor or anything like that but he loved her.
And she was sure she loved him too because even when he came to the hospital in a Quantum, she didn't mind.
The comments from the other nurses about her dating a taxi driver didn't bother her either.
She knew he wasn't a taxi driver, but even if he was, she loved him.
She was pregnant within months.
When he found out he was happy, but he didn't say anything about marriage.
It bothered her, but she didn't raise the issue.
He even wanted to pay inhlawulo very early, but not lobola, he didn't mention it.
She was five months far and already showing when the call from her ex came.
He wanted to meet up and talk. She wasn't interested but he begged and begged until she said yes.
She didn't tell him where she worked or lived but he showed up at work, with flowers.
He said he missed her, that he tried to stay away from her but it was impossible.
That he wasn't happy, that she was the only one who made him happy, the one he could really talk to.
She sat and listened, her belly popped and her body plump.
She had assumed that the moment he saw the belly he would walk away, but no, he seemed to want her with everything she came with.
Perhaps because she was bothered by the fact that the man who said he loved her and got her pregnant wasn't really trying to commit to her, she was vulnerable.
Maybe that was why she agreed to see her ex again, but she was clear that nothing was ever going to happen between them, not again.
She offered him friendship, said he could call her any time he needed to talk.
What she didn't realise was that she was opening a door she should have left shut. Because truth be told, deep down she had always wished he'd come back, that he'd choose her.
She remained faithful, physically, but emotionally she was slipping away from Sambulo and going back to where she came from.
Sambulo thought it was hormones. It's what men he knew always said about their pregnant wives and girlfriends.
It wasn't long before messages between her and the ex included smiley faces and blowing kisses.
It wasn't long before the ex suggested they go away for a weekend. He even suggested what she should say to Sambulo.
She knew it was wrong and dangerous, but she felt like she needed closure. Just one last thing before she walked away.
She wanted to be the one to walk away, if she could, not him.
What was more difficult was that the relationship with the ex was even better than the first time. He was everything!
She was on the phone, chatting to the ex and smiling to herself again when Mam'Thuli asked.
"Where is mkhaya?"
That's what they called Sambulo at Natalspruit.
"He's at work," she said dismissively and went back to her phone.
"Are you treating him well? The other day he waited for you for an hour during lunch, and you didn't go out to him. He had to leave your lunch at reception," she said.
"I told him I was busy. I told him I had food but he came anyway,"
The woman shook her head.
"And the man with the Mercedes?"
That grabbed her attention. She didn't know someone had seen them. He always parked far when he stopped by and she believed they were discreet.
"What man?" she asked.
"The man with a glittering ring on his finger,"
Now she was sure what MamThuli was talking about, he never took off his ring, never.
She put her phone in her pocket and frowned.
"We are just friends," she said.
MamThuli raised her eyebrows.
"Yes we used to be an item but now we are just friends,"
"You used to be an item? With a married man?"
She really didn't need to be answering to the cleaning lady. It didn't matter that they were buddies but she didn't need to be explaining herself.
"So this married man has come back into your life. When you arrived here you were a walking zombie. You had depression written all over your face but after Zulu...do you know how many women envy you here? Do you know how many women wish they had a man who brings them lunch to work every day?"
She figured it was time to end the conversation, not because she was angry, but because she felt guilty. What the woman was saying hit a nerve.
"Listen, that man, that married man, he's not back in your life because he loves you. He could have come back anytime, but have you ever asked yourself why now?"
She kept quiet.
"Because you are in a relationship and you are pregnant. Has he asked you to leave your man? Has he?"
She shook her head.
"Yes he hasn't, and he never will. Do you know why?"
She kept quiet.
"Because it is convenient for him that you have a man, and worse you are pregnant. It is convenient for him because now you are both in the same position. You are both unfaithful. You have as much to lose as he does. Because you will not be nagging him to leave his wife. You won't have expectations that he can't meet,"
She wished she could say something but words just did not come.
"A man who loves you Xolile would never accept that you are sleeping with another man. He would never!" she said and wheeled her mop and bucket away.
It's not that she had never asked herself those questions before.
It's that she knew she wouldn't like the answers to them, so she pushed them to the back of her head, treated them as distractions she didn't need.
During their first relationship, her ex always accused her of over-thinking everything, more so when she asked questions about what his intentions were about her.
She stood there, still and not knowing what to do next, long after Mam'Thuli had left.
It was on the day she planned to tell Sambulo about her plans to go home to eMpangeni to spend the weekend with her family.
It was the safest lie because she knew he would never pick up a phone and call her mother. He didn't even have her phone numbers.
Besides, no man can ever suspect their pregnant girlfriend of cheating on them.
That evening, in his bedroom, she sat on the bed and watched him empty his pockets and put everything, keys, wallet, gun on the dressing table. She watched him put his phone on the charger and take off his clothes.
She sat still and listened to the sound of the running water as he showered.
When he came out of the bathroom she was still sitting where he left her.
She watched him put on boxer shorts and walk until he was sitting on the bed right next to her.
"I'm not sure what I want my son to inherit, my eyes or your blinking," he said.
This was something she would normally laugh at, but she didn't.
He didn't look surprised, probably because of the hormones theory.
But her foul mood didn't stop him from wanting to pull her to his chest.
She moved away and turned her back on him, picked up her phone from the pedestal and typed.
"Contact me again, your wife will be the first to know. Fuck you."
She pressed on that send button like it was the last thing she'd ever do in her life.
When she turned to him and put her head on his chest his eyes were open.
“Had to set the alarm clock,” she lied while slipping her fingers in between his.
His hands were warm.
She touched his hands every day but that night, it was the first time after a while that she felt their warmth.