Unscripted love Chapter 58 - Mzansi Stories

Monday, June 6


Unscripted love Chapter 58


What Fairy Tales Don’t Tell You


As I drove back home from a photo shoot for a local magazine I kept thinking about what I was going to tell my mother and Joel later. I knew how they’d react to the news that I’d gotten Our Love pregnant. Joel would shake his head, sign then comment that it was another ‘Levi fuck up,’ just like the times I’d failed countless drug tests, been suspended for trashing a teacher’s car and broken my collarbone by crashing my uncle’s motorbike.

My mother would probably get all teary eyed and then start planning Thando and I’s wedding – regardless of the fact that we weren’t even together.

I hoped they’d give me their support and grow to love the child eventually. For once I was trying to be an adult about a situation I’d gotten myself into, and taking responsibility for my actions. I was finally going to think about what was best under the circumstances instead of being engrossed in what was best for me.

The first thing I did when I got home was jump in the shower. My head was a jumble of confused thoughts…. about Our Love and the baby…. about the hundreds of e-mails from my agent concerning England…. about telling my family. I couldn’t focus on one thing in the mess I’d created. I knew I needed some peace and quiet, away from the world.

I stripped and stepped under the stream of hot water, and as steam filled the bathroom, I let all my thoughts wash away for a few minutes. I focused on my breathing, counting to ten, then holding my breath for five, before letting the air out of my lungs.

Feeling fully refreshed I headed to the kitchen to make some lunch. Being there made me miss the times when Our Love would make food for me. Going from meals made with love to microwave meals wasn’t easy. I called Our Love to check up on her but her phone was still on voicemail. I figured she was still with her grandparents. I dropped her a text reminding her that I loved and missed her. I really did love her. The love I had for her was all consuming. I wanted us to get married and have kids…. now was just not the time I wanted it to happen.

I tossed my cell phone and hit play on the answering machine on my landline.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Cohan. I’m just calling to inform you that if you’re still interested in buying bikes from our dealership, we’ve had the new Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider delivered to our show room.”

I wanted to get Thando and I bikes but the idea seemed terrible now that we were going to be parents. Motorbikes weren’t the safest mode of transport and money would be better spent buying an old man’s car that was deemed safe for a baby. Which reminded me that I needed to trade in by Golf for a car that screamed I am a father.

“Hey, it’s Palesa. Went through the files in the office and found your home telephone number since you aren’t answering your cell. I’m just bored at home thinking about the night I can’t seem to get off my mind. I need to understand why you haven’t spoken to me since. Why aren’t you taking my calls? Why won’t you talk to me in the corridors like you used to?

Luvuyo you made me believe that we had a connection and now I am failing to understand how I can belong to you whole heartedly while I have nothing of you. I treasure the memories you seem to have forgotten. Just call me… please. I need you to talk to me.”

I pressed delete. Couldn’t risk having Our Love listening to my messages and bumping into messages from clingy women that fail to grasp the concept of a once of fling. Thando and I were already hanging on by a thread, we couldn’t survive another blow out about women. I went back to excavating the fridge, looking for a microwave meal that hadn’t expired while listening to my messages in the background.

“Hi hun, its mum. You haven’t called to cancel so I am assuming you are still coming over tonight. I got the chef to cook your favourite cheat meal. We’ll see you at about seven. Love you.”

I closed the refrigerator and grabbed three bananas that I hoped would be enough to hold me over until I got a proper meal in a few hours. I threw myself on the couch and watched Arsenal playing against Tottenham Hotspur. I could picture myself on the field alongside the greatest soccer players of all time. I couldn’t help but wonder if Our Love would be willing to drop everything and come along with me to pursue my dreams the same way I was willing to abandon my dreams to be with her and our unborn child.

To keep my mind occupied I called my new sponsor to confirm a media appearance I had the following week. While talking to the marketing manager my phone beeped, indicating that I had incoming call from Thando. I hurried the manager off the phone so that I could answer her call.

“Hey, how is it going with your grandparents?” I grinned.
“It was better than expected.” She sounded chirpy which was a good sign. “I’m actually back and I was hoping you would come over to hang out.”
Me: I have to go and see my mom at seven, I’ll come over after dinner.
Thando: So you haven’t told them yet?
Me: Not yet. Do your parents know?
Thando: I asked my gran to tell them tomorrow morning. Where are you?
Me: At my house.
Thando: Alone?
I sighed because I knew what she meant by that. “Alone and missing you terribly.”
Thando: I miss you too but wearing your shirt always makes me feel like you are near.
Me: Which one?
Thando: The high school soccer jersey.
I smiled. “Nice. I wouldn’t give that shirt to anyone by the way. It was my lucky shirt. Wore if for thirty-two games straight without washing it.”
Thando giggled. “You are so disgusting. I’m sure your mom washed it without your knowledge.”
Me: What were you like in high school?
Thando: I was a total nerd. Thick glasses, teacher’s pet. The type of girl you would have bullied.
I laughed out loud, the sound filling the silence of my empty living room. “I wasn’t a bully, I would actually charm girls into telling me what was going on in those novels we were expected to read.”
Thando: Can’t picture you reading A Tale of Two Cities.
Me: Hated A Tale of Two Tits with a passion.
Thando: Trust you to rename the book into something so perverted.
 Me: Would love to take the credit but that was Kagiso’s brainchild. I hope the kid is more like you though. I was a rebel without a cause and I wouldn’t want a son like me.
Thando: Ah come on, you weren’t that bad. She must be a combination of both, life on the straight and narrow is quite boring.
“It’s safe and you live with less regrets.” I said in a low tone. “So what happens now? Do you want us to give us another shot or are you still taking time out to unravel and find your purpose?”
There was a beat of silence before she asked, “Do you want to be my boyfriend?”
I giggled at her direct question. “Are you asking me out?”
Thando: Maybe.
“I’ll think about it.” I teased which made us both laugh. She laughed even louder when I told her I was done thinking and her application was approved.
Thando: You are so silly.
I let out a deep sign when I recovered from my laugh. “I don’t want us to be one of those couples that break up and make up all the time. This breakup shit is too painful and I never want to lose you again so I promise that I will work on my weaknesses.”
Thando: I will work on mine too.
Me: Hate to bring this up when we’ve only been dating for five minutes but…. we need to talk about the sex issue. I am pretty sure my dick will shrivel up and fall off after one week.
We tittered. “You haven’t even tried.” She said before changing the subject, “Before I forget…. Do you know anything about inhlawulo?”
Me: Inh what?
Thando: Inhlawulo refers to a fine which must be paid to a Zulu family if their daughter is impregnated out of wedlock. If you want the child to have your surname then you have to pay damages.
Me: Okay, so I have to pay for the child to have my surname?
Thando: Yes, it’s basically seen as compensation for ‘damaging’ their daughter. Some families make the guy choose between paying lobola or damages, some want both. My gran wanted us to come to your family to inform them of the pregnancy but I told her that you were raised by white parents. She is willing to waive that but you have to send your delegation to my family to pay damages.
“Oh? I’ve only ever heard of lobola. So how much do I have to pay?”
“That will be decided when your delegation gets here. However, granddad says you will be charged an arm and a leg because I am pretty.” Thando laughed.
Me: Cant argue with the old man you are very pretty…. and smart….. and dro-”
“Stop making me blush. I have to go. Love you.”
Me: Love you more.

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before Our Love came over, I peeled myself off the couch to tidy up the house. While I shoved dirty clothes in the machine, a call from a designer to set up a date when Thando and I would come in for our final fittings for our outfits for the Durban July, and I just got the feeling that the universe was taunting me with messages about how much my life would change once Our Love had the baby.

The mention of cultural things we had to follow set in motion thoughts about how different things would be when I became a father. I’d probably have to move all my stuff out of the apartment I shared with Kagiso and Nthato and live in my house full time. I needed to clear out one of the rooms and turn it into a nursery.

I’d have to get used to my money going to someone else, and not being spent on myself. I’d have to start thinking about someone else. I wouldn’t be able to go out until the early hours of the morning and crash at one of the guys’ places or use my house as the resident party house. I’d have to be there to help with night feeds, nappy changes and eventually help with history homework. I hated history.

By the time I was ready to go to my parents. My head was crammed full of thoughts again, and I realised if I was going to support Our Love through the pregnancy, I needed the support of my family and friends. The more I thought about it the more I realised there were so many people I needed to tell. Guys on the team that had wives and those with kids who could tell me a thing or two about balancing our demanding schedule and being a dad. Sponsors and people handling the modelling contracts needed to know so that shoots and appearances weren’t booked around the times when we had scans and I probably needed to organise some time off for the first few weeks of the baby’s life. The hard part was going to be facing Our Love’s family. Knowing her parents, I’d be lucky to come away without a flogging at the very least.

When I stepped into the house I saw Joel in the foyer, drinking a bottle of beer.
“Levi,” he said tipping the bottle in my direction.
“Joel,” I replied, mimicking his happy tone, though inside my muscles twitched. “Is mom in the kitchen?”
“Yeah, you know your mom. Whenever she knows visitors are coming over she gives the kitchen staff hell.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at his statement. “You know she gives them hell every day.”
“True enough, that’s why are all carrying around extra weight,” he said, patting his rounded stomach. He went off to wherever he was going as I headed to the kitchen.

The second I stepped into the room, the smell of beef and vegetable stew simmering on the stove, and apple cobbler cooking in the oven hit me. Then came the sound of my mother chatting to my brother, Zain.
“I should have known that you’d be here, squirt,” I said playfully ruffling Zain’s hair and greeted my mother with a hug.
“When I heard you were visiting, I figured I’d come too. I’m really curious to find out how things are going with your other family and I didn’t want to bring it up over the phone.” Zain said.
“Nothing much is happening, really. I’ve been travelling so much I’ve hardly had time to talk to them.” I couldn’t tell them that my father asked for money every time we spoke, I didn’t want them to butt in and give their opinion.

Zain sighed, stood up, stretched his arms and headed for the refrigerator. Pulling out two beers, he said, “I heard you and Thando broke up. What did you do?”
I rolled my eyes and took a bottle of beer from him. “That’s old news, we are back together.”
“That’s wonderful, why didn’t you come with her?” Mom asked.
“I have something to tell you. Something I want us to discuss as a family.” I told them in a drippy tone.
“Sounds serious.” Mom said, kissing my cheek and then holding me at arm’s length to look at me and I waited for the usual, ‘are you eating properly’ speech she always gave when I visited.
“It is serious. I am starving. Let’s eat dinner then we’ll get into it,” I suggested, buying some time to think.

Dinner was superb, like always when I went home. After Zain and I had stacked the dishwasher, we all settled in the sitting room, where Zain filled us in on how he was handling hospital rounds. It sounded like public hospitals were in dire need of some sort of intervention, sick people taking shifts to sleep on beds did not sound humane.

Then mom gave us the latest gossip from around town. “Brenda has recently gotten divorced from her third husband, and the last time I saw her, she was fraternising with a boy that looked like he was her son’s age.”

When they eventually turned to me, Joel asked how I was getting on as team captain and a rookie on the Bafana Bafana squad. I knew it was time to tell them Our Love was pregnant and braced myself for their reactions.
“Things are fine,” I said casually, then took a deep breath.
I hadn’t gotten more than a few words out when my mother squealed with delight. “He is so modest, he has done so well. I know I am not supposed to say anything yet but Levi’s agent is in advanced talks with one of his contacts in a soccer team based in London, if they agree on the numbers he might just be relocating.” Joel and Zain were beside themselves with excitement and I had to nip it in the butt.
“There is something I need to talk to you all about.” I said with an audible sign while Zain sniggered and my mother and Joel exchanged worried glances. “It’s something that changes everything.”
They all fell silent, waiting for me to go on. “Thando and I are having a baby.”

As the words came out, Zain actually jumped out off the couch and began laughing. Mom clenched her heart, and Joel looked like he was about to pass out.
“We are keeping the baby and it only follows that I will not be relocating. I’ve said that I want to be an integral part of the baby’s life, I want to stand by her and support her through the pregnancy. I cannot do that if we are living in two different countries.”

“Well, it’s great that you’re taking responsibility for your actions, bro. But didn’t you think before you slept with her without a condom? I mean, you could have all sorts of diseases.” Zain had always been the responsible one and he loved rubbing it in. He worked hard at school. He followed my parent’s footsteps by studying medicine and never caused any trouble.

“Didn’t you say that she is on the pill?” Mom was quick to ask.
“She was….she is but she took it with antibiotics so it didn’t work.” I said.
From the corner of my eye I could see Joel hyperventilating, but I tried to ignore him and focus on my mother who shook her head and heaved out a great sign. “I am not going to pretend I’m not disappointed, Levi. I commend you for trying to do the right thing but I will not allow you to throw your future down the drain. You will live to regret it… you have to go. Take Thando with you if you have to.”

I sunk into the sofa, avoiding eye contact with any of them.
“Who doesn’t know that you are not supposed to mix birth control pills with antibiotics? Everyone knows that. Didn’t her doctor tell her that when he gave her the prescription? Sounds to me like she planned this.” Zain stated, not disguising the venom in his voice.
“Zain, that’s enough. You know better than to throw around unfounded accusations. And please, do not berate your brother.” Mom bit back with equal ferocity. “Perhaps it’s best you go and make us all some coffee.”
“Levi can do no wrong in your eyes,” Zain huffed, flounced out of the room and stalked down the hallway to the kitchen.

“This wasn’t how I expected to find out about my first grandchild, but I am glad you are trying to do the right thing and support Thando through the pregnancy. However, do you really think that turning down an opportunity to make the most out of the few years left of your career is the best idea?” Mum asked.

I was about to say it was the best decision under the circumstances, when I thought better of it, and looked to Joel for his opinion.
Mom: Why can’t she move with you?
Me: Her life is based in South African…. her family is here, her job.
“Carrying a register and ticking which employee is present and which one is absent is hardly a job that one should consider when making such decisions.” Joel muttered under his breath.
“Her job is far more than that.” I snapped.
“For all you know Zain is right. Maybe she got herself pregnant to trap you into a relationship.” Joel continued.
“You are being ridiculous. What kind of woman would do something like that?” I challenged his logic.
“Someone who sees a guy with a reputation and a bit of money, and thinks she’s spotted an easy meal ticket. You are the one who went and bought her a car. She must have thought she hit jackpot and did all she could to keep you around. I have seen enough gold diggers to know how they operate.”
“Thando is not a gold digger! I cannot believe you, I thought you liked her.” I bellowed.
“Will you calm down and think about this more logically?” Mom fired back. “I gave her the prescription for those pills. I told her about the effects antibiotics have on the pills and I told her about the side effects. Maybe…. just maybe Joel and Zain are on to something.”

I bowed my head and took in everything she was saying. “Thando was disorientated at the time. Even if you told her, she was not in the right frame of mind to take in new information. Who has time to memorise side effects right after an abortion?” I finally shot back. “I can’t believe you, mom.”
Mom held my hands in her palms. “I am sorry. I am just thinking of all possibilities. What’s your plan? Stay in South Africa and then what happens?”
Me: I do not know. For now, we have to send a delegation to her family. Something about paying damages for damaging their daughter.
Joel: Sounds like extortion to me.
Me: It’s her culture!
Joel: A cultural practice that sounds like extortion! Why do you have to pay like she wasn’t a willing participant? You’ve also been damaged. Your future is damaged. This is all simply barbaric.
“That’s how it works with us black people! If you think its barbaric then you also think that I am barbaric.” I scoffed.
“Let’s all just calm down. Levi, if that’s part of black culture then we can see what we can do to work around it. We will respect Thando’s culture because we don’t want to end up in a situation whereby we never get to see our grandchild.” Mom said.
“What constitutes a delegation? Is there a set amount or will it be thumb sucked based on how much they can get out of you?” Joel persisted and it reminded me how much I hated it whenever he actually spoke up over the years.
“Joel!” Mom warned.

“I think Joel’s concerns are valid.” Zain said, as he walked back into the sitting room and placed a tray of coffee on the table. “And if I am honest, I also don’t get why you have to pay for a child that you are going to support financially.”
Mom picked up a cup of coffee and looked at Zain in disbelief. “We need to respect black culture, not rip it to shreds.”
Zain: Mom, we cannot tip toe around black culture and not question it. I have lots of black friends that question their own culture. Just now Thando wants to take the child to the mountain to get circumcised, will we be expected to keep quiet? When we read about tons of black boys that die?

“Zain this is not the time to debate culture. Obviously we will not allow Thando to take the child to the mountain.” She told him and turned to me in a low tone. “Levi, I know I usually tell you to stop being so selfish and think of others before you act, but this time, there is no other choice. Your livelihood is a stake here, and you’ve got to protect that. Don’t let the sense of obligation clowd your judgment.”
“What about marriage? People usually make the mistake of thinking that they have to get married when they have a child together.” Zain said.
Mom: Don’t be silly. Levi wouldn’t marry a person he’s only been dating for four months. You wouldn’t, right, Levi?

My gaze bounced from my mother, Joel to Zain as I took in the meaning of the words they’d spoken, and I felt my blood boil.
“Enough already.” I yelled. “I came here to tell you that I am going to be a father, and all you did was throw around unfounded accusations, ridiculed cultural practices, went on as if I am some sixteen year old child who got a ten year old pregnant. I thought the whole lot of you liked Thando but you have so quickly labelled her a gold digging crook that planned all of this.

I did not get any congratulations, or reassurance that I will make a good father, or any indication that you will be there if I need anything. No, it’s the same old shit as every time when I make a mistake. Only for once I am actually trying to take responsibility for my actions. I’ve had enough. I am going home. I will give you time to dream of all the shit you can dream of and discuss it amongst yourselves. When you are done then maybe we can have a proper conversation.”

I stormed out of their house and got into my car. I was still fuming by the time I reached Our Love’s apartment. Sbahle let me in and I sank down onto the leather sofa, my head instinctively dropped into my hands as I waited for Our Love to get out of the shower.

I’d had my own doubts about the decision not to relocate and I was wondering if I was making the right decision. My jaw clenched as I realised that my family was right in that regard. I couldn’t make an emotional decision. Thando knew from the beginning that playing overseas was the ultimate goal. We discussed it the day we started dating and the topic came up a couple of times after that so it’s not like I was being dubious. I had to move. I felt bad for Thando because parenting over the phone and being in a long distance relationship wouldn’t be ideal. I just hoped Our Love would understand that it was something that needed to be done and allow me to leave if she wasn’t willing to relocate.

When Thando walked out to the TV room I knew there was no point in putting it off.
“Hey,” she said, her voice tense as she could sense my tense mood. “How did it go with your parents?” She sat next to me and snaked her arm around my waist.
I fell silent, trying to think of the best way to tell her that I was going to pack my bags and move overseas. Finally I let out a breath and said, “Listen, Thando, a lot happened while we were apart and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I got my big break and at first I was going to turn it down to be here with you and the baby but I now realise that I would me doing myself and my child a disservice in the long run if I did that. I’m moving to London…. I want us to move to London together.” It was an impossible ask.
A deafening silence fell on the room. She looked at me with a look of despair that let me know that sometimes there is so much more to the story than a prince and a princess fell in love, they had children ‘and then they lived happily ever after.’ Sometimes, we meet the loves of our lives, but we do not get to keep them. We do not get to marry them, to pass our years alongside them, to hold their hands on their deathbeds after a life lived well and together.

We don’t always get to hold onto the loves of our lives because sometimes love is not all that there is, it isn’t the beginning and the end of the story. Sometimes you want a bustling career in a big city far away from home and they want a medium sized country home with two kids, a drive away from home. Sometimes you have a whole, wide world to go explore and they are scared to venture out of their backyard. Sometimes you have bigger dreams than one another.

Sometimes the biggest, most loving move you can possibly make is to let each other go. Other times you don’t get a choice.

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