The Broken Promise

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Richard akan
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The Broken Promise

Post by Richard akan » 11 Jul 2018, 04:14

Chapter 1
“Ntombi, I’m going out.”
“Mama, you can’t. It’s the third time this
week and I’ve got …” But before Ntombi
could finish her sentence her mother was
already giving her a list of things to do
while she was at Thabiso’s Tavern.
“There’s some money left for you and
Zinzi. Make sure Zinzi does her homework
– and don’t let her stay up too late! How
do I look?” She did a twirl in the middle of
the living room. Ntombi looked at the silver
top and new jeans her mother was
wearing and her heart sank. They were yet
another gift from her mother’s new
boyfriend, Zakes. Every time he went out
with her mother he gave her something –
but there was never enough money left
over to buy something for her or her
sister. He never had anything for them
except for his unwanted ‘words of advice’.
Words that made Ntombi want to throw
something at him. Cruel, mean, words.
“You girls will never get boyfriends
looking like that. Why don’t you do
something to your hair? You look like
village moegoes. No, what you need is to
go to the hairdresser, get some braids.”With what money? thought Ntombi, but
she knew if she questioned him out loud,
he would get angry and her mother would
only take his side. She was forever saying,
“Now don’t upset Zakes,” or “He’s only
teasing; don’t be so sensitive,” or, even
worse: “Maybe you should take his advice.
You know he’s a very successful
businessman.” And once when she was
really mad, she shouted at Ntombi: “He is
my boyfriend and you must respect him.
His word is law!” Their mother had
become a stranger. Ntombi wanted her
old mother back.
Even when it was just the three of them it
wasn’t the same. Zakes still messed things
up between them. “What does he do?”
Ntombi asked her mother on one of the
few nights that her mother was home
these days.
But her mother had looked unsure and
started picking at her nail polish. “He’s in
business…” she said uncertainly.
“What kind of business?” Ntombi wasn’t
going to let her mother off the hook so
easily.
“I don’t know. He’s a car dealer, a sales
rep.” Her mother sat up on the bed, where
they had been lying. “Anyway why all the
questions? Are you the police?” Her mood
had changed and she was glaring at
Ntombi. “All I care about is that he treats
me good, and that he’s got a good job.
You’ve seen the way he dresses, and the
car he drives.”
“Mama, you used to tell me those things
didn’t matter. You used to tell me it was
what was inside that mattered. You told
me you married Dad for love…”
“And look where that got me!” her mother
interrupted. “I don’t see him in this room.
Do you?” That was the end of the
conversation. Her mother had got up and
gone through to watch a soapie on TV.
* * *
Ntombi didn’t trust Zakes one bit. He was a
fake through and through. And what was
worse, she didn’t like the way her mother
acted when he was around. Like she was
their older sister, competing over guys,
rather than their mother who should be
looking after them, giving them good
advice, and protecting them from men like
Zakes.
When her dad left a year ago, just after her
fourteenth birthday, her mother was very
sad, but at least they still felt like a family.
They cuddled up on the couch together
and watched Bold, and laughed and cried
together. And then, one day, Mama came
home from the rich private school where
she worked cooking lunches, and told
them she was going out that evening. The
kitchen staff at the school had persuaded
her to join them at Thabiso’s Tavern and
she thought it might be good for her.
Ntombi had helped her choose an outfit: a
nice denim skirt, just below the knee, a
tight black wraparound top with a white
denim jacket. And to top it off, some gold
earrings. Mama looked great. She had
kissed her mother goodbye and wished
her luck. Little did she guess that that
night her mother would meet Zakes and
their lives would be turned upside down
again.
Ntombi knew the first time she saw Zakes,
with his gold chains and flash smile that
didn’t reach his eyes, that he would bring
nothing but trouble. Even his car looked
like a fake. It had been resprayed and that
could mean one of two things: he had
been in an accident, or the car was stolen.
Things felt wrong when Zakes was in the
house. He seemed too big for their small
couch, sitting there with his beer,
interrupting their conversations with his
loud voice. He loved to say things like,
“Girls, you are my daughters now. Go fetch
another beer for your father.”
“Do as he says,” their mother would add if
they hesitated, as she cuddled closer to
her new boyfriend. There was no time for
Ntombi or Zinzi when Zakes was around.
* * *
“Here.” Her mother handed Ntombi a five
rand coin from her new gold bag. She
smelled of some strong perfume Zakes
had bought her. “Buy yourself some
sweets at the shop,” she said as she
rushed out, putting on lipstick as she
went.
“Mama, I’m meant to be at singing
practice. The competition is next week
and…” But her mother was already out of
the door and in the seat of Zakes’
resprayed BMW with its fluffy dice
bouncing from the rearview mirror and
couldn’t hear her. All she could do was
watch as Zakes reversed with a squeal of
tyres, and then they were gone.
Chapter 2
Ntombi looked at the five rand coin in her
hand. “What does she think I can buy with
five rand?” she thought. One small bag of
chips at the spaza, and a small packet of
sweets, which she’d have to share with
Zinzi. It wouldn’t buy her what she really
needed – just ten minutes of time with her
mother, when they could sit down and
watch TV together, or talk, like they used
to.
Just then Zinzi came in. She had been
playing soccer in the street and her knee
was grazed and bleeding. “Where’s
Mama?” she asked Ntombi.
“Guess,” said Ntombi. “It’s not that hard.”
“Zakes?”
“Where else?”
“I thought you had singing practice this
evening?’ said Zinzi as she slumped on the
couch and dabbed at her cut with a tissue.
“Not any more. Mama said I’ve got to stay
home and look after you.”
“I can look after myself.”
“You’re twelve,” said Ntombi, fetching the
Dettol from the bathroom and dabbing it
on Zinzi’s cut.
“Ouch!” Zinzi complained. “Stop it. You’re
hurting me.”“Don’t act like a baby. You don’t want it to
get worse, do you? Do you want to go to
hospital with an infected cut?”
“Why are you in such a bad mood?”
“Wouldn’t you be if you were missing a
chance to go to the national finals of South
Africa’s Teen Voice Competition?”
“I thought the judges were only coming
next week?”
“They are. But every practice is really
important. Mr Masondo says that we have
to work hard and make Harmony High
proud. Otherwise he won’t let us
compete.”
Ntombi had been chosen, along with ten
others at Harmony High, to perform for a
panel of talent scouts that was travelling
around the country auditioning high
school students for the Teen Voice singing
competition. If she was chosen out of the
ten students from her school then she
would go on to the national finals in Jozi.
The prize was R10 000 and a recording
contract. Ntombi had promised herself
that she would work as hard as she could,
attend every practice, and go to the
nationals. Sometimes she even let herself
dream of winning the competition. It
would change her life – she would work
really hard and produce an album. She’d
buy a proper house for her family, and
make sure her sister finished school. With
the money she could go to university and
study to become…
* * *
Just then there was the sound of girls
laughing outside in the street.
“It’s the giraffes,” Zinzi said from the
couch where she was watching Days on
TV. She called Ntombi’s three girlfriends
the giraffes because they were taller than
other girls. In turn, they called Ntombi
“shortie”, although she was average
height. Ntombi opened the door and
hugged her friends Busi, Asanda and
Lettie. At least she could rely on them for
support. Asanda and Lettie had also been
chosen to compete in the singing
competition and Ntombi could see that
they were on their way to the practice.
Busi was going along to watch in the
hope of attracting the attention of Unathi,
who was also competing. At the last
practice she sat in the front row seats in
the hall, blowing kisses to Unathi and
holding up a big piece of paper with “I
love Unathi” painted in lipstick. Unathi had
just smiled and waved. Ntombi had told
Busi that Unathi had a girlfriend back in
Jozi, where he was from, but Busi
wouldn’t listen. She didn’t want to hear.
“Come on, lazy girl,” Asanda laughed. “We’ll
be late.” The practice was in the school
hall, a taxi-ride away.
“I can’t go,” Ntombi told them.
“You must be joking!” Lettie said. “What’s
wrong with you? I thought this was your
dream?”
“Mama went out and I have to look after
Zinzi.”
“You know what this means. Mr Masondo
is not going to be pleased.”
“I know.” Ntombi was close to tears and
her friends could see it. Mr Masondo was
their singing coach and he was strict. Two
missed rehearsals and you were out of the
competition.
Asanda gave her a big hug. “Listen, we’ll
bring you the lyrics back and help you
practise. Cheer up. I’ll tell Mr Masondo that
you got food poisoning.” Asanda was the
queen of excuses, and with her charm the
teachers always believed her.
“Thanks chommies. You’re the best.”
Ntombi tried to smile bravely, but she felt
terrible.
“By the way, there’s a party on Saturday at
Thabiso’s Tavern. We’re going,” Busi said.
“Why don’t you come? It should be fun.
Unathi’s going to be there with his cousin
from Jozi.”
“How many times do I have to tell you
Unathi has a girlfriend?” Ntombi despaired
of Busi. She really lost her head over boys
and forgot who she was – the intelligent
and charismatic girl who had a great
future if she could just stay focused.
“He’s never mentioned her,” said Busi.
“And anyway evidently his cousin is even
better looking, and I’ve always wanted to
go to Jozi. They say the men are hot up
there.”
“You’re going to burn yourself one day,”
joked Ntombi. “Just be careful.”
“Yes, Mama,” the girls laughed.
* * *
Ntombi watched as her friends ran down
the road to catch the taxi. They were
laughing and chatting. She went back
inside and shut the door. The girls were
right to call her ‘Mama’ – that’s what she
was at the moment, and she was only
fifteen. It was like her mother and her had
swopped roles. The other girls used to
complain about their strict mothers and
tell Ntombi she was lucky. But Ntombi had
noticed they didn’t say that anymore, not
since Zakes had arrived on the scene. And
Ntombi did not want to be a mother. Not
for a long time. Not until she had finished
studying and definitely not with someone
she didn’t love and respect!
“I’m hungry,” complained Zinzi, who was
watching The Bold and the Beautiful.
Ntombi wanted to just walk away from the
house. But she knew she couldn’t.
She put the last bit of mielie meal into the
pot. Sometimes she loved porridge for
supper. But she was getting tired of it
now. Before Zakes, her mother had always
made sure that there was enough food in
the house for them. It was a struggle on
her salary, but she would always cook
them a good meal in the evening and they
would sit together and chat about the day.
She had been sad a lot, but then they also
had good times together. They went
shopping in town on Saturday at the end
of the month when her mother would give
them each pocket money to spend. Now
she didn’t have time for them any more.
Ntombi had been telling her how the
fridge needed to be fixed (it kept going on
and off) and that the drain at the back of
the house was blocked again. That’s when
she really missed her dad. He would have
fixed it by now. And where was Zakes
when something went wrong in their
house – out selling cars?
She served the pap onto plates. “Careful,
it’s hot,” she warned.
“Not this again,” complained Zinzi.
“Don’t tell me, tell Mama,” said Ntombi.“If
she’s ever here to tell.” As they ate, on
Bold, a soapie star reclined on a lounging
chair beside a pool somewhere in America
– somewhere hot and lush with lots of
money. A butler handed her an ice cold
cocktail… she didn’t have a care in the
world. Her nanny was looking after her
kids, and Ntombi knew that her fridge
would be brimming with food. Just then
there was a sizzling sound and a bang
from the back of the TV. The smell of
burned plastic filled the room.
“No!” screamed Zinzi. “Not the TV! My life
has ended.” And she buried her face
under a cushion.
“Don’t be such a drama queen!” yelled
Ntombi. She went into the bedroom to get
away from her sister, before she exploded
like the TV. She lay on the bed she shared
with Zinzi and started paging through a
magazine. But she wasn’t reading the
words. She kept thinking of Asanda and
Lettie standing on the stage of the school
hall, learning the words of that new song,
and them all laughing and having fun as
they got one step closer to the finals, while
she was stuck in this dump with a
younger sister who was driving her crazy
and not helping one bit around the house.
She looked down at the glamorous pop
stars in the mag. Who did she think she
was, trying to compete with girls like this?
Maybe she was dreaming after all. Maybe
Zakes was right. Maybe she didn’t have
what it took to be a Teen Voice star. “Why
bother entering the competition,” he had
said. “These days you have to have the
whole package: the looks, the sex appeal
and the voice. You’ll only be setting
yourself up to be taken down.”
Her dad would never have said those
hurtful words. He had told her that he was
so proud of her when she had got into the
choir at Harmony High. And when he had
his employer’s car for a few days he had
taken her to practices himself. Once when
she wanted to go and get her ears pierced
he had said, “Why spoil something so
beautiful already?”
Now she didn’t even know where he was,
or who he was with. Maybe he had a
whole other family somewhere, another
daughter, whom he loved now, more than
her?
* * *
As she lay there she thought of the three
promises she had made to herself on New
Year’s eve three months ago. First: to enter
the singing competition and go all the way
to the final. Second: not to go out with a
guy unless he was kind and respected her
– not like the guy Busi had dated in the
holiday, who had seemed the real deal –
too good to be true – because he was too
good to be true. He was good looking and
clever, but he had left her with a broken
heart and a broken arm after he had
pushed her and she had tripped and fallen
hard. If Ntombi and Asanda hadn’t run
when they heard her cries from behind
the sports shed at school, things might
have been a lot worse. But when they
appeared Ebenezer had left her and run –
a coward at heart.
The third promise was to find her dad and
bring him home. There was no way that
she was going to let Zakes move in with
them and pretend to be their father.
Chapter 3
Ntombi woke up from a nightmare in the
middle of the night. In the dream she was
wearing a long pink dress with lots of frills
and her friend Asanda was putting a tiara
with plastic flowers in her hair. They were
in the changing rooms at the church hall
where the auditions were going to be for
the Teen Voice competition. First Ntombi
thought she had won the competition and
she was really excited. She was ready to
walk out on the stage in front of hundreds
of people and be given flowers and a
recording contract. Pink wasn’t really her
colour, but who cared, when she was
about to become a pop star? But when
she walked out into the hall there were no
screaming teenage fans and no sign of a
microphone. In fact the hall was full of
men and women dressed in suits and
formal dresses. And there at the back, next
to the door was her mother. She was also
dressed in a huge pink dress, with more
frills and lace than Ntombi’s. For a second
Ntombi thought that this might be her
own wedding, and that at any minute the
handsomest, coolest guy was going to
appear, walk towards her and announce
that he was her fiancé. But then Zakes
walked in, and Ntombi realised that this
was no fairytale wedding and she
definitely wasn’t the princess. She was a
bridesmaid at her mother’s wedding to
Zakes. The dream had just turned into a
terrible nightmare.
Her mother was smiling and kissing Zakes.
He was smiling that fake smile. Before she
knew it her mother was calling her to the
bridal procession. Her sister appeared in
an identical pink dress. The whole thing
made Ntombi feel sick.
“What’s wrong, Ntombi?” Suddenly her
mother had the face of a witch. “Can’t you
be happy for us?”
“Just wait.” Zakes gripped her arm and led
her away so her mother couldn’t hear
what he was about to say. His breath was
warm and stank of beer as he lowered his
voice.“There’s no escaping from me now,”
he said. “You will do exactly as I say or
there will be trouble. I am the boss in your
house.” He let her go and she rubbed her
arm; his fat fingers had left marks on her
skin. She watched as her mother took
Zakes’ arm and walked up the aisle and up
the stairs to the stage where a priest was
waiting to marry them.
Ntombi had to do something to stop them
– nobody else was. She tried to run but
her feet were glued to the ground. She
opened her mouth to scream but no
words came out. Zakes took the ring and
was about to slip it on her mother’s finger.

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palilogy
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Post by palilogy » Yesterday, 10:16

I do like the name Ntombi - very intriguing.

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