The alarm goes off dutifully and Lucille picks up her bible and reads a passage that teaches her that the path of the righteous grows brighter and brighter unto the noonday sun. It’s a confirmation for her that things get better, and that the guilt she currently feels will in-fact one day disappear. Out on the beach, she prepares for her run and prays intently as the wind whips over her face, ready for instruction from above. This early morning, her run is mostly predictable but as she heads back home she feels a pang of disappointment when she doesn’t see Nandi or Mangaliso at their usual contention spot. She cools down and walks rather dampened into the house to resume her school run duties.
The school run plays out rather predictably and Lucille finds herself back in her home office by 9:30am. She makes the calls she needs to and replies to emails. Then she checks in with both her Johannesburg and Cape Town Offices on the decisions that need to be made and receives the updates she requires from her personal assistant who has recently assumed the role of Administrator. By the time she is done, it’s 1245 pm and she knows she needs to get ready to pick up Makhosi who will be done with school within the hour. It’s the children’s first day at their new school and she is anxious to know if they faired well or not. Moving here is still something she is not fully certain was a good idea, and ultimately happy children make the mom, so she needs to ensure that they are in a good space.
It’s only been a week since their arrival and everyone is finding their footing. She wonders if the kids are having their own personal inner battles that she may be unaware of. She tries by all means to catch every moment of their lives. She fears being a bad parent, seeing as she is the only parent her children have left. As she muses on, her thoughts are rudely interrupted by a knock she knows for certain, cannot possibly belong to MaDu as her helper is aware not to come to her anytime before 130pm. She lets out an impatient, ‘Come in’, and is surprised to see Mangaliso at the door.
He is apologetic as he cautiously enters.
‘Hie. I-I, um, I’m sorry to just appear unannounced, but I really needed to speak with you. UMaDu did tell me that you wouldn’t appreciate the disturbance. Please forgive my intrusion.’
Slightly annoyed but curious, Lucille gestures him in and offers him a seat which he takes as he looks around her office.
‘Nice office, its decorated in good taste,’ he states matter-of-factly.
Her countenance mellows down and she focuses on the handsome contours of his face as he licks his lips for moisture. She smiles, as she catches herself losing focus and quickly says,
“Hie Mangaliso, sorry I was deep in thought so I was trying to refocus. Thank you and don’t worry, I was ready for a break anyway; how can I help?’
He squares his shoulders as though preparing himself for an interview and slowly begins.
‘Yeah, um, this may be too soon and I hope I am not out of bounds here. It’s just that I have seen how quickly Nandi has taken to you and I always try to keep her as happy as possible.’
He clears his throat, whilst Lucille nods in sincere attentiveness.
‘Well I travel every so often to Cape Town and Jo’burg for bookings and normally just leave the girls at home alone. This week I am booked from Wednesday to Friday and so will be leaving tomorrow morning. I do have friends from church who check in a couple of times whilst I am away, but I have always felt bad that they need to drive across town just to do so. So I was hoping that if you are around, and if you don’t mind, you could pop in here and there just to make sure they are alright. I don’t want to intrude or anything, it’s just nice to have semi-permanent neighbours for once. Prim is capable of handling stuff but call me old fashioned, I always like an adults’ eye.’
Lucille’s response is sudden and surprises both of them.
‘Yes! Of course! I love that little girl,’ she responds enthusiastically.
Mangaliso smiles and his eyes linger on her whilst he outlines his daughters’ routine for the week and her daycare schedule. Lucille asks motherly questions, on allergies, fetishes, and bedtime routine which Mangaliso expertly details.
‘If you like, you could come by later and I could walk you through the house for your convenience, especially Nandi’s stuff,’ he requests.
‘Yeah, sure. Is 8pm good? That’s when I will be certain the kids are done with supper and are settled for the night.’
‘Yes, 8pm is perfect. See you then.’
After all the children have come home and detailed their days at school, Lucille is completing her supper preparations, when her cellphone rings and she sees an unfamiliar number.
‘Lucille Mathe? Hie. Its Vusa…Diale. We met in Britannia Bay on Friday night?’
‘Hie Vusa, I remember you, how are you?’
‘I am great. Got back to the North West last night and back to work today, so yah, just tending the order of the mining business that’s all. And you? How are you? I just really wanted to check on you.’
After she responds that she is well, they discuss the weather, current affairs and prospects of meeting during one of Lucille’s bi-monthly meetings in Cape Town. She is evasive responding,
‘I am not sure if I will be good company. I am always quite busy and distracted when I am at the office, I don’t know if …’
‘Listen, everyone needs time to unwind, and I am not asking for your work hours – I am asking for your off-duty time. You do get those, don’t you?’
She giggles, “yes ofcourse I do.’ She sighs and holds her breath momentarily. ‘Okay, we can do drinks. I will let you know when my next trip is.’
‘Great, settled then.’
She laughs. ‘Goodnight Mr Diale.’
‘Goodnight Lucille Mathe,’ he responds charmingly.
Lucille smiles as she lays her cellphone on the kitchen counter. She enjoys Vusa’s maturity, but she feels like he is slightly pushy, or is it how pursuit is done now? She decides that it is probably as a result of being an accomplished business man who is used to getting his way. She feels it was sweet of him to remember to call her, appreciating the way it made her feel attractive. However, she senses that she will need to ensure that he puts some brakes on, as she is no-longer the kind of woman who is used to, nor is looking for the attention of a man.
As she makes her way round to Mangaliso’s house, Lucille is filled with a juvenile excitement which she cannot shake off. She can’t tell if it’s because of the prospects of seeing his home or just the odd excitement of having a chance to spend time with Nandi. It’s been a long time since they had a little girl prancing around their home, and the thought of watching Nandi brings a warm feeling all over her. If it wasn’t for this opportunity, she wouldn’t have ever known she felt this way at all.
After two knocks on the beautifully carved door, Mangaliso lets her in and she is impressed at the cleanliness of his home. The aroma of a cheese dish lingers on and a couple of plates sit on the counter top waiting to be attended to. His smile is breath-taking and he shows excitement at her presence. ‘This boy is too cute,’ she thinks, as she tries to listen to his hurried explanation on the way his home functions. Prim walks in from another room, greets Lucille formally, and quickly stations herself at the sink to do the dishes. She completely disregards the dishwasher right next to her, showing her natural inclination to physical work. Prim is young, mid 20’s Lucille presumes, and very pretty. But she hides her prettiness under some baggy clothes, as though she is afraid to reveal too much. Lucille is drawn to this young lady and she wants to get to know her more, but her task is whatever Mangaliso wants for now, and on that she must focus.
Whilst still trying to listen to Mangaliso speak, Lucille’s eyes roam the open plan home which is designer decorated. It easily sells the professionals that were brought in for the job. A single wall in the dining area is reserved for pictures of Mangaliso and Nandi. They look good together in what must be 50 portraits in different sized picture frames, all black. The ash Grey walls speak of sophistication and the white cornices and high ceiling depict the crisp nature with which the finishes were deliberately made to accentuate the rooms. His home is tasteful and she finds herself unintentionally uttering, ‘I’m impressed.’
It’s an embarrassing moment as he was busy detailing where car keys and house keys are kept and it is now apparent she wasn’t paying attention. ‘I am so sorry,’ she blushes and he laughs out loud. ‘I guess I didn’t give you any time to breathe, did I,’ he minds his manners and offers her a seat. He is nervous, she can tell. But she wonders why.
After some niceties are exchanged and offers of drinks are made they return to the order of business and Mangaliso leads her down a long corridor to Nandi’s room. She’s not in it and he informs her that Nandi has taken up 2 thirds of his own bed in the next room. Lucille chuckles knowingly and exclaims how normal that is, to which Mangaliso flips back his head in mock fatigue causing his dreads to hang loosely on his back showing off his masculine body which casually rips of muscle under his t-shirt. They both laugh and it feels good to laugh together like that. After showing her Nandi’s wardrobe, toys and bathroom, he leads Lucille back to the living room and she can’t help but peer through the crack of his slightly open bedroom door. All she can see is grey linen on what appears to be his bed and she is disheartened at not seeing more. The rest of the tour is short and matter of fact and the evening is cut short once Mangaliso is done with his list of ‘need to knows’.
As he walks Lucille back to her door, the sound of the waves makes the atmosphere quite romantic and they both give each other secret stolen glances with a myriad of thoughts rushing through their heads. They choose to behave diplomatically and say goodnight at Lucille’s kitchen door, casually smiling as each turns in their own direction. In her room later on, Lucille passionately repeats her previous night’s prayer as she turns into her bed. ‘I refuse to fall into temptation. In Jesus’ name.’
The week progresses with not much activity and everyone’s highlight is having Nandi around. It’s Thursday now and this is the second night she has fallen asleep in Lucille’s bed. Prim looks grateful to have help, but also looks lonely each time she has to return home without her responsibility. Mangaliso calls every evening to speak to Nandi and her face just lights ups when she hears her father’s voice. Every evening he ends his call by saying, ‘Thank you,’ to Lucille and she always responds with the words, ‘My pleasure.’ She finds she looks forward to hearing his voice too, but she doesn’t fully explore why.
Vusa has called a couple of more times, and their conversations are getting longer. They are delving deeper into life debates and he really challenges her knowledge of the world. He is smart and he is a thinker, always coming up with new ways to win in life, and apparently, beyond. Lucille cannot help but ask herself why he is unattached. His public profile and image is very clean, no scandals in business nor in his love life. She just finds it oddly weird that a man his age has no children, no wife and no significant other. Hmmm.
On Saturday afternoon a shreek of excitement is heard from the garden as Nandi sees her dad approach from the Mathe’s back garden gate. Lucille smiles and is inwardly happy to have him return. Nkosana and Makhosi do the manly thing and invite him in while Ntokozo quickly collects a packet of chips and a drink, greets him with a genuine smile and moves into the kids lounge. The boys follow and Lucille debates on how to greet Mangaliso appropriately. She decides to remain seated and waits for him to shake her hand. They both want more, but they must maintain their dignity. Nandi clings on to her dad for the next half hour and questions him on what he brought her and if he is going to be home for a long time or for a long long long time. He answers all her questions giving her his full attention and when she is satisfied she joins the other kids in their lounge. Lucille is impressed by his nurturing skills. He is a genuinely good man….., no boy….., no young man. She deliberately has to define him lest she fail to control herself because whatever is happening in her, towards him, is growing and she must nip it in the bud.
Mangaliso shifts his focus and turns to Lucille, thanking her once again and exclaiming how happy his daughter looks. After she states how she would do it again anyway, he jokingly announces how she can keep the girl as he is going to be away for a month. She shouts, ‘bring it on!’ as she lifts her arms and hands triumphantly clicking them as though applauding a poetry reading. They both laugh heartedly savoring the moment and hoping they could fall into each other’s arms, but alas. The two actively engage in conversation about the gigs in Cape Town and the joys of having a toddler in the home. They discuss various topics as they flip through television channels and critic some scenes they see. They have been sitting and chatting for 4 hours, occasionally grabbing drinks from the fridge and checking on the kids. They enjoy each other’s company, each other’s jokes and the friendship that is growing. One can hardly tell that there is a 9 year gap between them and this unspokenly cements the fact that they individually desire to pursue a relationship of sorts, although they both worry that the other party is not as interested.
At 6pm Lucille stands to warm up supper and invites Mangaliso to stay. She informs him that she had counted him in anyway, in lue of his trip. He gladly accepts and does the polite thing of running to his place and bringing back some drinks. As all 6 sit at the dinner table, there is laughter as Managaliso shares his concert stories and adventures in his life as a musician. His face glows as he elaborates his passion and Lucille watches him intently for any hidden reactions. She finds him genuine, but she naturally must ‘check out’ anyone who hangs around her family.
As the evening ends they make plans for church the next day and stick to the previous weeks order. As he walks out, Mangaliso gestures for a hug and Lucille steps into him resting her head on his shoulders. His arms close in and pull her close, and they both savour each other’s embrace. He smells her perfume closely and he doesn’t want to let go. It’s sweet smelling and could cause any man to stumble. It brings out her femininity, making her desirable. He cannot let go – he breathes in the fruity aroma from her hair and wishes that he could take her home with him but knowing that it may never be. In the same instance Lucille enjoys the comfort of his shoulder and wishes she could move her hand from his back to his chest, whilst she is arrested by the ocean fresh deodorant he has on. It is mixed with a twinge of sweat from his trip and that manly auro almost causes her knees to buckle. She hasn’t enjoyed the embrace of a man in just under 2 years and this is a new, but welcome experience for her. His arms are strong and she feels protected. And his chest provides her bossom with a comfortable leaning place she can hardly tear herself from.
What seems like forever is no more than 4 seconds, but it will linger on for the next few days allowing them to each spend separate sleepless nights questioning their individual intentions for each other.
©2017|Sithembile Lornah Ndlovu|All Rights Reserved.