YOU short story: Lobolo intentions

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Illustration: Michael De Lucchi
Illustration: Michael De Lucchi

There’s something about a dial tone that induces a fear of the unknown in the person calling.

“Why aren’t they picking up?”

“What’s going to happen if they don’t?”

“They were just online so I might’ve done something to make them ignore me.”

So, waiting for someone to answer your call can cause a great deal of anxiety, especially when you’re phoning to let them know you’re finally getting married.

“Mom! Finally!” Linda screamed excitedly as soon as she was able to get hold of her mother.

“Pumpkin! Is everything okay?”

Her mom coolly responded, trying not to sound too alarmed at the number of missed calls her daughter had bombarded her with.

“Everything is perfect, Ma,” a gleeful Linda said, flinging herself onto her unmade bed.

“Thabiso proposed.”

Her mom, who was driving back from her church’s weekly women’s prayer meeting, slammed on the brakes, bringing her car to a halt in the middle of the street.

“Jesus is Lord!” she proclaimed as a chorus of hoots erupted. A taxi driver hurled insults at her while she lifted her arms in praise.

“I didn’t think we’d get here but won’t God do it!” she continued before starting her car again.“You didn’t?” Linda asked with less of a smile on her face.


“He just never acted like someone who was interested in taking the relationship there,” her mom replied.

“When your father asked him what his intentions were, he said he just wanted to see where things go.”

“And what’s wrong with that?”Sensing the panic in her daughter’s voice, Linda’s mom paused.

“Well, that doesn’t really promote confidence in a parent,” she said.

“Men always know what they want, Pumpkin. We just would’ve liked to hear him reassuring us of the fact that he wants you.”

“I guess this ring has done that for him now then,” Linda said, lovingly looking at the rock on her finger.

She’d wanted this for a long time – to finally have someone who was willing to make “forever” work with her and even though she knew she could probably do better than Thabiso, she wanted him.‘Hey, baby,” Thabiso greeted Linda before planting a kiss on her cheek.

He’d just walked in from work, briefcase in hand, looking drained, dishevelled and happy to be home.

“Hey,” she responded absent-mindedly, her attention focused on the vegetables she was chopping.“So what are we having tonight?” he asked, rubbing his hands.“Your favourite.”

He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her from behind. “That’s impossible,” he said in a seductive whisper that sent chills down her spine.

She put the knife down and turned to put her arms around his neck.

“How so?” she asked, looking deep into his eyes.

“Well, my favourite meal happens to be you,” he replied, planting a soft, loving kiss on her lips that made her want to linger in the moment for a little while longer.

“Isn’t it crazy that in a few months we’ll be doing this as husband and wife?” she remarked.

“Are you sure it’s only going to be a few months? Weddings take a lot of planning,” Thabiso responded before pulling away to grab a glass.

“It won’t take that long for me. I’ve already got an idea of what needs to be done so as soon as you pay the lobolo, I’ll start making concrete plans,” she said and went back to her chopping.

Thabiso poured a glass of whisky and finished it in one swig before slamming the glass down on the counter.“About that . . .” he trailed off, clenching his jaw.

Linda looked up at him, alarmed. “What’s wrong?

”Instead of responding, he looked away and poured himself another drink.

“Thabiso . . .”

“Hold on,” he said, downing the drink.“You’re scaring me,” Linda said.

He turned away from her, “I’m not going to be able to pay the lobolo.”Taken aback, Linda accidentally cut herself.

She didn’t scream or wince, she just dropped the knife and let the blood flow onto the vegetables.

“Did you hear me?” Thabiso asked, still without turning around.

“I’m not sure I did,” she said, rage clearly bubbling beneath the surface.

Thabiso finally turned around. His attention was quickly captured by the gory sight of the bloody vegetables and Linda’s wounded finger still bleeding onto them. He rushed to her aid.

“Didn’t you realise you’re bleeding?” he asked, ushering her towards the sink to rinse the wound.

He pulled a chair out from under the counter. “Why don’t you sit while I try to find a plaster?

I should also go buy takeaways, I don’t want you slaving away –”

“How do you expect me to hear anything you’re saying right now?” Linda interrupted. “You just told me you aren’t going to honour one of the oldest traditions in our culture!”

“Can’t,” Thabiso corrected.“Excuse me?”

“It’s not that I won’t, it’s that I can’t. I’m broke, babe. My company is broke and I had to fork out a lot to prevent us from filing for bankruptcy.”There was a long silence as Linda’s rage turned to concern. “I had no idea.”

“I did a pretty good job at hiding it.”

“Well, that’s not how things are meant to be. You’re not supposed to hide anything from me.”

“I was hoping to hide it under the guise of a long engagement, just until I got back on my feet.”

“I don’t want a long engagement. My mom already thinks you’re not that serious about me.”


There was another long silence as they disappeared into their thoughts.

‘Do you trust me?” Thabiso asked out of the blue.

The question made Linda feel defensive. “How is that even a question?” she shot back, tears threat-ening to fill her eyes.

She was now holding on to the bandaged wound as if it were her lifeline. As if holding on to it would keep everything from falling apart.

“Come here,” Thabiso said, walking towards her with his arms wide open. She let the tears fall onto his chest.

“I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to say to my parents.”

“Well, you won’t have to say anything if you trust me,” he said, stroking her back.

She looked up at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“You could loan me the money . . .”She immediately pulled away but Thabiso held on.

“I know that’s not how things are meant to be but the thought of your mother using our situation as some ‘I told you so’ doesn’t sit right with me.”

Linda was fully against the idea of funding her own lobolo but she knew he was right about her mom. She’d definitely have to sit through a dozen “I told you so’s” if Thabiso didn’t immediately make plans to pay lobolo.

She also knew her parents would berate him for not “doing things the right way”. What if that drove him away?

She wasn’t willing to lose him.

She also wondered if he’d think she didn’t trust him if she refused to help. What if saying no made him think she wasn’t willing to invest as much as he was in their relationship?

“I want, more than anything, to do right by you and if it weren’t for the company’s issues I’d literally be on my way home to fetch the uncles,” he said, lifting her chin with his finger and looking deep into her eyes.

“You’re it – the woman I want to live for and die trying to please. You anchor me and propel me towards reaching my dreams at the same time.

You hold me down, yet you’re still the reason I fly.

I’m never going to love anyone as much, not even myself. So understand that even if you say no, I’m in this with you.”She agreed to give him the money.

That Friday, Thabiso finally went home to talk to his uncles. He and Linda agreed on an amount they believed would be enough for covering the first part of the proceedings and she sent it to him before he left.

While she was alone, she kept thinking about how these were her last few months of being alone. The thought of finally being married to the man she loved excited her.

The ringing of her phone interrupted her thoughts. It was Entle, one of her bridesmaids.

“Linda, I need you!” her panicked friend whispered from the other side of the line.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

“Remember Mbali?

The one who’s been engaged forever?”

“That’s unkind,” Linda snapped, thinking about her own unusual engagement.

“Her bridesmaids cancelled on her. Well, not really. They just didn’t think the wedding would actually happen, given the couple’s past . . .”

Linda was immediately filled with sympathy for Mbali. She thought of all the times her friends had gossiped about the poor woman because of her long engagement, and she realised how much worse the ridicule would be if the wedding didn’t go well.

“What do you need me to wear?” she asked supportively.

“I knew I could count on you,” Entle responded, pride in her voice.

After an hour of getting ready together, Linda felt she’d formed a friendship with the bride and the other women who came through for her. She felt good about helping a fellow bride.

“This almost didn’t happen. Those of you who know us know we simply didn’t have the funds,” Mbali said tearfully as the bridesmaids were about to head to the altar.

“But then baby got that big contract, and now here we are. I’m finally marrying the man of my dreams!”One by one the bridesmaids walked out to make their way down the aisle.

When Linda walked into the church, she was in awe and overwhelmed by the beauty of the building.

Then she stopped dead in her tracks, unsure of what to make of what she was seeing. The groom tensed the moment he made eye contact with her too. She took a deep breath and forced herself down the rest of the aisle.

Entle, who was the last to walk in before the bride, had a more dramatic reaction. She dropped her bouquet, tripped multiple times and couldn’t take her eyes off the groom. She squeezed Linda’s hand the moment they were reunited near the altar.

When the bride walked in, everyone stood but even though the organist was blaring Here Comes the Bride with the accompaniment of a string quartet, all Linda could hear was a deafening silence.

“Dearly beloved,” the priest began.

“We are gathered here today, in the presence of God, to witness the joining ­together of Thabiso and Mbali in holy matrimony . . .”

‘It’s not that I won’t pay, It’s that I can’t. I’m broke, babe’


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