Unscripted love Chapter 82 - Mzansi Stories

Monday, August 8


Unscripted love Chapter 82


An Uncertain Hope
“Why are you driving on the opposite side of the road?” I asked Zain as he drove me home. It was just before sunrise, maybe four in the morning, and after the whole thing with Palesa I made sure I stayed on the straight and narrow. I thought over what Our Love would think about me dancing with Pearl, so I closed the loophole by dancing with other girls instead. I also didn’t touch weed or any other illegal substance for the rest of the night.
“I’m not,” Zain said with a laugh.
“Why are you laughing at me?” I asked.
“Because you are so silly,” Pearl answered for me. She turned around in the passenger’s seat and held up her hand to give me a high five. When I tried to hit her hand, I missed and we both laughed.
“Since when did my Saturday mornings consist of picking you two up?” Zain grumbled as he pulled into my driveway.
“Why did you bring me here?” I yelled at Zain like an insane person.
“Levi, this is your house.” Zain told me. “You know, home?” He looked at me for a moment like he was trying to figure something out.
“Your face is so scrunchy and serious.” I pointed at the lines of his face, surprised to see so many creases on it. “I know what you need. You need a drink.”
Zain unbuckled and got out of the car. He then walked to the other side of the car and opened the door for me. “I think you’ve had enough to drink for both of us. Come on.” He grabbed my arm and placed it around his neck, then secured his arm around my waist as he led me out of the car and into a standing position.
I laughed at how I was barely able to stand on my own. Our Love was going to be so mad at me. “Do not move until I get back, all right?” Zain told Pearl as he half carried me to the front door.
“Do you have your key?” Zain asked once we got there, but before I could answer the door opened. Oratile, my sister, looked over my state and automatically knew what was going on. I was so excited when she surprised me by showing up for my last game, though it was kind of weird introducing my sister to the family that raised me. They were apprehensive as if Oratile were some con artist when she was there to watch her little brother. Unlike my family, my wife made her feel comfortable and wouldn’t hear a thing about her sleeping at a hotel when we had empty rooms.
“I can take it from here, Zain. My husband has come home drunk on so many occasions, you could call me an expert.” Oratile groaned.
“Levi will wake up with one hell of a headache but he will be fine. I have to go drop Pearl off.” Zain informed her.
My weight was now leaning on Oratile instead of my brother. Even when I was so unaware of my surroundings, I still didn’t want to face Our Love. I didn’t know if that pig sent her the video before I destroyed her phone but I would soon find out.
“Where is Thandolwethu? I thought she was with you guys.” Oratile asked with a hint of uncertainty.
“She took an Uber.” I slurred. “Isn’t she sleeping? Shit, maybe she saw it and left.” My brain wasn’t able to process things very well at that moment.
“What did she see?” Oratile asked.
My mouth apparently didn’t feel like moving, so I just fished for my phone in my pocket. It felt like there was an invincible weight weighing down my muscles as I started to drift. My sister came to this realisation and pulled me into the house. She then adjusted me as she walked to the kitchen.
She didn’t say anything as she sat me down on one of the chairs and went to the sink and turned on the faucet. Zain glared at me while I tried to stay alert long enough punch in my pin code. It was apparent that he was mad at me but I didn’t know why. I’d fetched him from all sorts of places and drove him to his place without complaint.
“Zain, are you sure you didn’t leave Thando at the party?” Oratile’s voice was shaky. “I wasn’t feeling well so I left during halftime. I can assure you that she never came here.”
“Maybe she went out with her friends?” Zain grumbled. Clearly he wasn’t in a good mood, and I was making it worse by being completely wasted.
“Zain, what’s my password?” My words slurred as he folded his arms in front of his chest. He didn’t reply, just scowled at me and bolted down the hallway.
Oratile noticed that the tap was still running and turned it off. When she marched up to me, I tensed up. She grabbed me tightly by my arm and lifted me to my feet. Walking me over to the sink, she didn’t hesitate to secure the back of my neck in a tight grip and force my head under water.
I struggled against her as she continued to keep my head under water. Just when I thought I was going to pass out from lack of air, Zain pushed her off and brought me to the surface. “What the fuck do you think you are doing? He is going to drown!” Zain scolded.
My lungs gasped for air. Water tried to escape down the wrong pipe, causing me to choke.
“Dammit Oratile,” I cursed as I ran my hand through my wet hair. “What the hell?”
Oratile smirked and crossed her arms. “Good, you’re sober. What did Thando see? Where did she go?”
A scowl made an appearance on my face as I glared at her angrily. “Some girl took a video of me smoking weed and dancing with some girls. She threatened to show it to Thando, Arsenal and the whole lot. Maybe Thando saw it and left.” I said.
“What is wrong with YOU?” Zain forced the last word out like it was vile on his taste buds. “Do you know what could happen if that video gets in the wrong hands? It would bring attention that you do not need! You could be banned from playing soccer! You could kiss the Arsenal gig goodbye! All eyes are on you at the moment, you do not need the papers talking about the delinquent soccer player running around smoking weed with his bountiful women.” He said with an exasperated breath as he pointed at me like I was a kid.
“I am not a delinquent.” I growled.
“Is that all you got from that?” Zain spoke to me in the derogatory tone he always used with me.
“You think you are better than me. Always screaming and shouting your unsolicited advice like you are some superior being.” I lamented.
“WHERE IS THANDOLWETHU?” Oratile boomed and slammed her hand on the kitchen counter.
“I told you she took an uber! She should have been home hours ago.” I screamed.
“She isn’t here, dude.” Zain shrieked louder. “I checked the rooms. Didn’t you say that ex of hers is on the run?” Zain’s tone made me shiver.
“Which ex? The rape one?” Oratile asked, her tone indicating that she knew the answer to her own question.
The sound of the front door slamming and heels echoing through the house signalled someone’s entry. We all brought our attention to the way Pearl half stumbled into the living room. “What?” she asked, when she saw us glaring at her, hoping that she was the woman we were looking for.
My fingers frantically danced over my touch screen and I got Sbahle on the phone. When Sbahle told me that my wife ended their call abruptly I froze. The panic started like a tightening of my chest, as if the muscles are trying not to let another breath in, but instead to die. Then the breath came, shallow, lungs unable to move much against the suddenly heavy ribs. My mind became as static, thoughts made no sense, replays of horrors once forgotten.
Before I knew it, I was in our bedroom, Futhi on the other side confirming that her sister wasn’t home and she hadn’t said anything about driving down there. In the dark stillness, I couldn't see much, but the dim glow of the bedside clock and the vague shadow of the lamp next to it. A dozen needles danced their way across my forehead. After my eyes adjusted to the murkiness caused by tears threating to fall on my cheeks, I glanced toward the bed. Even before my mind registered the flatness, I knew she wasn't there.
Flipping on the overhead, I scanned the room. Wallet and keys peeked out from the jumbled pile that overflowed from an over-sized purse turned on its side. I glanced at the open closet near the door. Everything hung straight and level, except for a gap where her dark coat should have been.
I fumbled with the covers to make double sure she wasn’t on the flat bed and stumbled to the bathroom and every other room in the house. I checked my watch. Almost five. Where could Our Love have gone at this late hour?

Quickly, I put on my jacket, grabbed Thando’s bag, and rushed to the living room where the others were. “She’s not here. She never goes anywhere without her bag.” I bawled. “She only leaves it when she goes to the stadium.” I cried out the last statement as it was confirmation that she never made it home.
“I tried calling her but her phone is off!” Zain exclaimed.
“Call Uber, they should be able to track down the driver!” Pearl commanded.
“Wait, don’t call the guy. Let’s go to the police station and call him from there. Maybe the police have those devices they use in the movies to track someone down if they stay on the phone for 20 seconds.” Oratile suggested and bolted to her assigned room to change.
While they debated that idea I checked my phone, a message indicated that I had a voice message. I half wished it would be Our Love telling me that she was pulling one of her crazy stunts. I could only hope she was doing something stupid like randomly going to Lerumo’s place to give him back his teddy bear. All I heard was what sounded like a person running and her gut wrenching cry for help.
I chocked out the words, “He’s got her! Sandiso took her!” in-between gags. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. The pain was almost physical, somewhere in the middle of my torso. The initial shock was disorienting. I felt dizzy. My sight went blurry. My knees grew weak and I sank to the floor, the phone glued to my ear, listening to Our Love’s blood curdling scream. I was at a loss of words. I felt empty inside, unable to accept or even process the situation let alone the questions fired by the individuals in the room. I didn’t know where Sandiso stayed, I didn’t know the uber driver’s name, I didn’t even know what time my baby got in the cab. I didn’t know anything because I was too damn focused on giving interviews and the stupid farewell. I felt my mind snap.
A misty haze settled upon the horizons of my mind as we rushed to the police station to file a missing person report. When the Constable told us we had to wait for 48 hours before we filed a report, I replayed the voice message for him. Thando wasn’t out having a jol, she was missing! We didn’t need 48 hours to establish that fact.
I could feel the hard painful lump in the back of my throat as the tears began to form when the police insisted on waiting for at least 48 hours before embarking on a man hunt. “Sorry sir, its standard procedure. Our cells are overflowing and all the vehicles have been dispatched. We do not have the time or resources to look for an adult who could be having breakfast with a friend that she doesn’t want you to know about.” The Constable said and I wanted to gorge his eye out.
Slowly my breathing hallowed itself and a small but intense pain struck the top nerve in my head. Tears streaked my face. Every second felt like eternity. She could have been dying. I called Sbahle again for clues….. any clues about where Thando had been when they had their last conversation. All Sbahle could offer was that Thando was in a shop of sorts because she asked someone if they had something in lemon flavour. We drove to all the petrol stations en route to the stadium, looking for answers to questions Zain, Oratile and I didn’t even know while Pearl was passed out in the car. How could she even sleep at a time like this? How could Oratile be asking me if I wanted something to eat when my world was imploding?
All I saw was my own trembling hand as I thumbed through the pictures on my phone, looking for a picture of Sandiso and the last thing Thando was wearing before she went missing, posting those pictures up on all my social media pages, asking for anyone to help me find my wife as we drove to yet another petrol station. I hardly even recognized my own voice repeating, "This is my fault. She called and I didn’t answer."
When a petrol attendant told us about a girl in a Sundowns shirt that left with two men, my world caved. The attendant called the cops when he saw her running into the bathroom but the girl and the two men were long gone by the time the police arrived. When we looked at the footage and I saw Our Love dropping her drink before trying to make her escape my remaining thread of strength frayed before breaking completely, sending me plummeting over the edge and into the darkness. Hysterical sobs shook my frame, threatening to tear me apart from the inside. I fought to reclaim control over my body, shocked by the rattling sounds escaping from deep within my chest.
I fell on my knees and cried out from the depth of my being, “God…. Thando’s Jesus….. please bring her back to me. Please.”
I didn’t even know what to tell Thando’s frantic mother on the phone. I lost her child. I knew that Sandiso was on the loose and I let Our Love take a cab late at night, alone. I was supposed to love and protect her but I lost her. Our Love’s abduction tore a black, ugly hole in my soul that only her safe return was capable of filling. I was at a loss of purpose; living—surviving—without my baby destroyed me.
What was the point of time moving forward? Not a second went by where I didn’t feel sick inside. Thinking about it strangled my heart a little more every hour. I could feel the life being wrung out of me like a worn out rag. Thando and I had something more than chemistry, more than passion and friendship. But how could I explain it, without diminishing the true mystery of our love? We understood each other and accepted the good along with the bad. We loved each other despite our faults, and saw mostly our perfections.
I didn’t even know what to say to her parents when they came to our house later than evening. Like a coward, I hid behind my mother when they fired questions. We all had questions but all we could do was sit and wait for 48 hours to pass. After reviewing the footage from the petrol station the Constable was convinced that Thando left of her own volition as the people in the video ‘looked cosy, hands on bums and all,’ neglecting the fear written all over her face. That bastard sickened me. Luckily my uncle knew people in the police service who were willing to do their jobs.
I found Lerumo on Facebook, got his contact details and begged him to enlist help from his friends in the secret service. If the secret service could find masterminds planning terror attacks, they could find my wife and her rapist. Within the hour there was confirmation that Sandiso hadn’t used any of his bank accounts or a cell phone registered in his name. It was as if they’d vanished and there was no trace of them. However, there was a bulk withdrawal from his mother’s credit card in Globersdal. I thanked Lerumo for the first solid lead which gave the police something to work with.
My soul was crushed. Each day that passed without her evaporated my spirit. The police kept finding things that didn’t amount to anything. I could have saved her. But no, I was dancing to songs I couldn’t even remember. I blamed myself for letting her get in that car alone knowing that Sandiso was on the loose. I should have known it was a cause for disaster.
The guilt would never go away. Without her, I was nothing. She completed me in so many ways, and now I just felt out of place. Without my baby there with me, the whole world seemed darker. What’s the meaning of living if I can’t have her?
“Please, God, I want her back!” I echoed her father’s prayer as he wept for his child.
I kneeled beside the collection of all the dead roses that she’d kept in her office. I didn’t even know that she didn’t throw away the bouquet of flowers I had delivered every Monday to brighten up her week. Some pink like her tender lips, some white like her soul, others yellow like her golden eyes that so captivated me, but most were red like her heart that once belonged to me.
I was startled by a person who came barging into Thando’s office and quickly rose to my feet.
“Oh, hi? I didn’t know there was someone in here.” A lady said. “I’m Sarah.”
“Levi.” I said simply and held out my hand for a handshake but she looked at my hand and gave me a nod.
“Are you related to Thando?” She asked.
“Yeah, I am her husband.” I didn’t see the need to hide that fact anymore.
“Good. We need an address where we can send Thando’s belongings, we need the office for her replacement.” She said coldly, like Our Love was a commodity that could simply be replaced.
“W-what if she comes back?” I hesitated.
“I highly doubt it. Statistics show that anyone missing for over three days is usually found dead or never found. We have a business to run, jobs to do so we cannot live on hope and a prayer. I might as well give you the death benefit forms to sign for fast track the process when she is presumed dead. I suppose she was pregnant with your first child so we need your bank account details for her pension and life cover, seeing as she didn’t have descendants.
You should know that we have funeral cover for all our staff members to the value of fifty thousand rand. Life cover for junior staff is 2.2 million if I am not mistaken. Wait here, I’ll toddle down the hall and get the forms for you.” She said and walked out. She spoke of my wife’s presumed death like she was talking about what she ate for dinner, not an ounce of emotion or even the standard condolences. I now knew why Thando called that heartless woman Satan. Thando wasn’t dead. She was missing and we were going to find her. I couldn’t live with the alternative.
The experience was the most devastating kind of loss, in some ways even worse than a death. That's because I had no idea what really happened to my wife, whether she was living or dead, suffering or at peace, homeless and wandering in the streets, or living in her own personal hell with her rapist. I was stuck between grieving loss and keeping uncertain hope alive.
It had been five days. Five days since my daughter disappeared. I’d watched countless stories similar to this one on the news, but this one was different. Three days ago the 48 hour waiting period had passed and I was handing over pictures of my own child to the police and newspapers that wanted to publish a picture of the soccer star’s missing wife. I didn’t even know my own child was a married woman. I only believed it when I held her marriage certificate in my hands and I couldn’t dispute that which was written in black and white. Thando elected to walk into a marriage without a blueprint or the counsel of older women that had travelled down this road before her.
I wanted to be shocked, outraged maybe but that is the Thando I knew. She was as stubborn as a mule from the day she was born. As a toddler, she only ate what she wanted when she wanted to eat. Shouting, singing, dancing, threats and beatings didn’t change that. She’d open her mouth, stuff the food in her cheeks and she refused to swallow no matter what Mayihlome and I did. She would spit the mush out as soon as we looked away or got distracted by our constant fighting about my inability to force feed our child when he was also bad at it. My mother suggested starving her into obedience but Thando could do this for days. When I couldn’t stomach the thought of my baby going to sleep hungry I would cave and give her what she wanted for breakfast, lunch and supper – banana purity. To think she wasn’t even a fan of bananas now that she was grown.
I chuckled at the thought as I turned on the television set, not to watch someone else’s tragedy unfold, but my own nightmare. They say that it is hard to wake up from a nightmare if you are not even asleep. Dozens of reporters stood in front of Levi’s house, looking for their next scoop, the latest update to sprawl across their publications and make money out of my nightmare. It felt like my whole world was encased in a glass the world suddenly looked through with lurid eyes. I didn’t know what to think. All I knew was that my daughter was gone and hope to find her alive faded as each day passed.
I remembered the last morning I saw her. It was early, before the sun had risen high enough to dance along the walls of her apartment and shine brightly through the windows. Thando was livid and she was packing her belongings in black plastic bags. I broke her trust by telling her father about the abortion and he broke ours by telling his whore. We’d since spoken about it but my last memory of her was her back turned to me and a door slamming in my face.
The realism of it all hadn’t even began to sink in yet. My child was abducted by a man I loved like my own son. People tried to help and I tried to appreciate their sympathy, but flowers, stuffed animals and false calls from those that thought they’d seen her weren’t going to bring my child back.
Each morning I sat in silence. In the house that she now called home. A house where she was the mother of the house. I’d look at my phone and wait for the call, the call I got every day since the day Thando moved out of home and went to university. The sun would rise and set but the call never came.
All I’d be left with was the sound of the clock ticking steadily and cars passing by. Mayihlome would pester me about praying and fasting but God himself needed to pray to me for forgiveness for putting me through such unspeakable pain. I’d cry until my eyes became so puffy and bloodshot that they were almost too painful to open. I trembled at the single thought of never being able to see Thando’s face again, and I ended up crumpled in a disorientated mess on the floor in her kitchen, wearing her jacket. Hoping it would make me feel like she was still with me.
That’s how it had been since Levi told me that she’d vanished. I hadn’t eaten. I rarely drank, until my lips became too chapped for comfort. I felt like if I ate and drank like I always did then I would be acting like everything was okay. I wanted God to look down and see that I was not ok, that I would not move on. Every worship song a mother sang to me over the phone before she prayed for Thando’s safe return was like a dagger. I called Sandiso’s mother and begged her to try and find her son during the rare moments when I wasn’t sobbing.
Every day was different but it was the same. I didn’t expect day five to be any different.
Someone knocked twice on the door and it echoed through the house. Mayihlome got up and wiped his cheeks, rubbed his eyes and headed for the door. Levi came walking down the passage, his sweatpants were still wrinkled, hoodie stretched and socks dishevelled on his feet but the door was already open.
“Did you find her?” Mayihlome demanded.
He slammed the door in their faces. “I am sick and tired of dead end updates. They must come back when they have answers. What is this Uber thing? Why can’t they find that stupid taxi!? They are busy building houses for two hundred million instead of investing in technology that can help us trace missing people. Yeses man!” He bellowed.
They knocked again and this time I went to the door. I curled my fingers around the knob and slowly opened the door, just wide enough to see who it was.
“Hi, are you Thandolwethu’s mother?” A police man with soft blue eyes and a gentle voice stood on the porch, his hat on his chest as a sign of respect.
I only nodded, bit my bottom lip and furrowed my eyebrows. He studied me, eyes narrowing slightly. I didn’t hear the long speech he gave all I heard was, “We found the car abandoned in a bush in Groblersdal. It was burnt. She was burnt beyond recognition. And something about DNA and her cell phone” As he handed me her device that was found thirteen feet away from the torched car. Everything that was holding me together scattered like glass broken on the floor as I screamed, “No”.
I’d failed Thando as a mother. I was so obsessed with the idea of seeing my child walk down the aisle I didn’t even pay enough attention to the monster I wanted her to walk up to. As her parents we watched as her relationship with Sandiso ravaged her. I encouraged her to hold on even when I felt her slipping away into an abyss.
We didn’t create a platform where she could confide in us about the physical and emotional abuse. Even when she did, long after she’d left the relationship, I still told her to forgive him. There isn't a moment in the day when I wouldn’t be completely haunted by this. I could have done something before Sandiso got to this point.
In deep shock, I had to wonder if this was reality or a nightmare. This dramatic turn of events forced me into a deep sea of every single memory I had shared with my child from the moment I felt her kick for the very first time.
Mayihlome and Levi rushed to the door “What happened?” One of them asked. All our voices were groggy and couldn’t be distinguished. You could no longer tell if the voice belonged to a male or female, young or old, all you could hear was pain. The police officer and the reporters stationed outside the house watched me intently, almost protectively. My puffy eyes filled with tears as I let out everything I’d been trying to drown inside my head.
“She’s dead.” There was a raw numbness to my voice. I leaned against the doorframe sluggishly, clutching the cell phone with the shattered screen against my stomach before slipping down and sitting on the floor.
I placed my head on Mayihlome’s chest as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders, carefully using one hand to wipe away my tears whilst neglecting his own. After an eternity passed, Mayihlome reached down and took the cell phone and led me to my room. A room my child once slept in, I could still smell her on the 400 thread count Egyptian Cotton flat sheet. I kept the strand of hair I found on the pillow case.
“Lie down my wife. Get some rest.” Mayihlome coaxed. I closed my eyes hoping that I would fall asleep even though no amount of sleep could cure the tiredness I felt.
My eyes shot open the following morning. My breathing suddenly became laboured. My chest rose up and down as my heart started racing. It was like everything around me froze and the only thing that mattered was the agony I felt in my heart. As my eyes fluttered after a whirlwind of nightmares and a new found reality. I tried to forget the dreams of my daughter’s corpse waking up and saying that this was all an April fool’s joke. It was some sort of mistake. It was a constant battle. A war between accepting what was and wishing it away.
I’d come to think of myself as lost. No feelings, just an undefined, tentative mess. I couldn’t ease the pain, because the only thing I needed was Thando. Eventually I would have to face the truth, Thando was gone and I couldn’t do a thing to bring her back. I only hope that she enjoyed her short life. I swung off the bed and padded to the storage room where the evidence of her existence was still in boxes and plastic bags. I closed my eyes and drifted. There was no point in staying awake. No point of living when I too, was dead.

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