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Authors: Mokopi Shale

Love's Courage

BOOK: Love's Courage
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For my parents, from whom I inherited the gift of words,

for my sunshine Atlegang and my angel Tshenolo,

for Sam – the man whose love gives me courage.

Thank God and my ancestors for these people and my gifts.

Chapter 1


In a house in the middle of Melville in Johannesburg, 29-year-old Lesego Khumoetsile wakes up to the sound of birds singing in the tree-lined streets of the bohemian-chic neighbourhood. She turns her head towards the curtains in her bedroom and releases a deep breath, instantly besieged by thoughts about the upcoming funding presentation for the Batshweneng cultural village, wondering if she has gone to enough trouble with her proposal.

Lesego gazes into the distance, thinking of her target market: young, trendy black people who love going to resorts but also would like to know more about their culture. Would the Batshweneng cultural village meet all these requirements? She sits up, props herself against the bright yellow-and-white pillows, grabs the laptop off her bedside table and opens the PowerPoint presentation while wishing she had someone to talk it through with. Even though she roped in her father when she started this new business venture, he can't really help her, and her sister, Tshepiso, is in the middle of year-end exams, so she too is unavailable.

Lesego reads through her presentation and makes the odd change, saving the document compulsively. She feels the loneliness build up within her and sighs, wishing Tshepiso had already completed her degree in accounting so that she could help her look through the financials, which she is sure are not as solid as they should be. She has used her common sense, but who knows if her projections will be acceptable?

When the alarm goes off, Lesego realises she has been staring into space for the last fifteen minutes. She packs up her computer, makes her bed and heads into the en suite bathroom for her morning shower. She tucks her luxurious braids under a shower cap and jumps in for her daily pamper ritual – soap, then body scrub, then relaxing and rejuvenating shower gel.

After the shower, she goes to the mirror, applies the usual creams and does her face. Then she steps back into the bedroom, switches on the radio and listens to some old-school soul as she puts on a pair of stretch jeans and a conservative shirt and flats.

In her modern kitchen with its yellowwood floor, Lesego makes herself a breakfast of muesli and yoghurt in a bowl. As she starts to munch, her phone rings – the screen reads
. Her eyebrows furrow a bit; a call at six-thirty in the morning can only mean trouble. She takes a nervous breath, hopes that she's wrong, and answers.

“Hello, Papa.”

“Hello, Ngwana'ka. Are you well?”

“Very well, thanks; just preparing for the presentation. I wish you were here to help me look through it.”

“Ao, Ngwana'ka, what can an old man like me contribute? The things they want these days are so complicated, I don't think I would be of much use.”

“How can you say that? Your wisdom in such matters is still highly appreciated, Papa. You were and still are a great brain, and you're an integral part of the success of this project.”

“When is the presentation again?”

“Next week Tuesday, and I am getting more and more nervous every day.”

“Ah, I know you'll do well. I will send up a prayer for guidance for you.” Her father takes what to Lesego sounds like a nervous breath and continues, “Hhayi, Ngwana'ka. I just got off the phone with Tshepiso . . . She was crying bitterly. Says she needs money for food and hasn't eaten in three days. My money will still take seven days to clear. Please say there is something you can do to help out? If you can't, then I don't know. She says none of her friends can help; she has already asked.”

“Eish, my car's on less than a quarter tank now, and I was going to use my money for petrol to get to work. Can you see if there's another plan, Papa? I can't afford to miss work, not in the current climate. How much does Tshepiso need?”

“Hhayi! She says about R250. Can you make that much?”

“I'll check when I get to the office, then I'll call you. I think I can give her about R100 without too much pressure, but R250 is what's left of my petrol allowance.”

“All right, I just thought to phone you and see. I'll also try something else and let you know if I succeeded.”

“Okay, Papa, bye.”

“Bye, Ngwana'ka.”

Lesego looks into her bowl of muesli guiltily, and even though she has lost her appetite, the thought of her sister starving and alone in another province forces her to knuckle down and eat. She wishes that Tshepiso had at least listened to her and gone to university in Johannesburg; they could be living together and half of these problems would never crop up.

She picks up her phone, opens her contacts and goes to her sister's name, but then chickens out of calling. She'd better get her facts straight first.

* * *

Lesego is one of the first to arrive at work. She heads straight for her computer and immediately logs on to internet banking. The screen on her banking page reads: Balance R400,00 and Available R350,00. She sighs and puts her head in her hands, wondering what to do. She worriedly picks at her lips. Her mind races and she starts juggling figures to see whether she can do all the things she needs to do with what she's got. After a few minutes she calls her father.

“Hello, Papa. Did you manage?”

“Eish, Ngwana'ka, I tried, but the bank won't give me a loan against the money. And there's no one else to ask. What about you?”

“Well, I had a look at my budget. I can give Tshepiso R150 to tide her over until your money clears, and still put petrol in my car and get to work for the rest of this week. At least Friday is a public holiday, so I can stay home.”

“Ijoo, Ngwana'ka, that would be wonderful! I promise I will give it back to you by Tuesday next week.”

“Okay, that's fine then. I'll deposit it right now.”

“Thank you, Lesego. Bye.”

“Bye, Papa.”

Lesego logs on again and makes the transfer. Then she heads into a story meeting, knowing that as head writer she has to keep track of all of the storylines to ensure that the different writers are on the same page, so to speak.

* * *

The Tumaoles have a sprawling brick farmhouse in the mountains of the Bojanala district, in the small village of Borakalalo. Here 38-year-old Kenneth Tumaole, a man in blue overalls, is being teased endlessly by a group of men. Kenneth is tall, chocolate brown, gorgeous, and he strikes an imposing figure – to whom no one is paying much respect right now.

“Ao, monna . . . Have you not been watching when we slaughter? You have to make sure the goat is tied down before you even attempt to slit its throat. Man, living with white people has spoiled you. How will you run a household? That niece of yours is in trouble. And what about your poor wife, if you ever get one? Maybe you should marry a white woman, or one of your exile buddies!”

The men laugh and pass around the calabash of sorghum beer, making comments about Kenneth chasing the goat around the yard and kissing the dust. These are met with raucous guffaws from the gathering of young and old men.

“Is it my fault that I grew up in London and don't know these things? Malome Tshepo, don't you think you should try and teach me these things, rather than laugh at me?” a fuming Kenneth asks in a decidedly British accent. His uncle looks him in the eyes and realises how deeply offended Kenneth is.

“When can I teach you? You don't come to family gatherings unless you absolutely have to. These things can't be done via email, you know. And they can't be found in books. So you have to come to these functions; that is how we learned and that is how you will learn,” Malome Tshepo says sympathetically.

“I don't want to be the butt of every joke among the men at these gatherings. You all seem to derive great pleasure out of making me the village idiot, and I don't see any reason why I should put myself in that position.” Kenneth stalks off to talk to his brother in-law, who is standing with his father.

Tebogo, his brother-in-law, pats him on the shoulder supportively and says, “Thanks for all you did, Kenneth. And don't take it personally; we all go through it.”

“Well, it just seems a bit sharper when it's directed at me. If I had chosen to not know my own culture I could take it, but it's not my fault,” Kenneth says, frustrated.

“Ao, Ngwana'ka. They're just boys being boys; you have to stop being so sensitive about this,” his father says, putting his hand on Kenneth's other shoulder. “Going into exile was the only option we had, and after all those scares in Botswana and Onkgopotse Tiro's death, we simply had to go overseas. You know that. We tried to keep you in touch with home as much as we could, son.”

“I know that, Dad,” Kenneth says. “I just wish there was a way I could learn these things in a less humiliating way.”

“You'd better stop frowning, otherwise your mother will come stomping over here to find out what's wrong with her Kenny, and you know she'll blow things out of proportion, making them even worse.”

Kenneth puts a fake smile on his face and nods at his mother, who is watching the group of men from a distance. He is relieved to see the concerned look on her face dissolve.

* * *

It is the end of the day, and Lesego jumps into her car to head to the petrol station for some much-needed fuel. She receives an SMS from Tshepiso:

Been robbed. Have no way of getting home.

Please call me!

Lesego quickly dials her sister's number.

“Tshepiso, what's going on? Where are you?”

“I'm on campus, and I've been robbed. Some homeless people charged out of nowhere and grabbed my grocery bags. Luckily I still have my handbag, but I only have R20 of the money you sent me,” the girl wails into the phone.

Lesego sighs and turns the key to check the petrol gauge of her car, which reads halfway through a quarter of a tank. She releases a tense breath. “Okay,” she says, considering her options. “Uhm . . .”

“Please, Lesego, help me if you can. I don't know what to do. I'll be able to buy some bread and maybe eggs with this, but that's only for today. Tomorrow I'll be stranded. I know it's asking a lot, but please help me.” Tshepiso's voice wobbles and she starts to cry again.

“Okay, don't worry about it. Stop stressing. I'll make a plan. I'll go up to the office now and make another deposit, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, sis, I don't know where I'd be without you.”

They ring off. Lesego feels light-headed. She tells herself it's because she hasn't really eaten much today.

She gets to her desk, logs on and transfers another R150. As she walks out, she hears someone call. “Lesego! Come in here, please.”

She sighs and heads towards the voice. “Hi, Lesley.”

“Hello, dear. I just got off the phone with the supervising producer. The crew are misbehaving again and we're falling behind on the shooting schedule. I'll have to go in there tomorrow. Can you believe it?”

“That's why I don't want your job . . .”

Lesley gives a wry smile and then continues, “That means I won't be able to attend that story meeting with the broadcaster.”

“Oh . . .”

“Yes, Lesego. You and I are the only ones in a senior position who know what's happening storywise. And if I can't go, then you'll have to.”

Lesego blinks slowly, trying not to panic. She knows if she makes that unscheduled trip, her petrol will be finished. How can she get out of this one with her pride intact?

“I have so much on my plate right now, and it all needs to be done by Friday. Can't we postpone?” she asks pleadingly.

Lesley shakes her head. “Sorry, my dear, we try never to say no to the client. You'll have to go. Is there a problem?”

Lesego releases a pent-up breath, takes a deep one to calm herself and then says, “Uhm . . . no. I don't have much of a choice, do I?”

Lesley smiles. “With more money comes greater responsibility. This is what it means to be head writer, my girl. Sometimes you're called on to act in the best interests of the project. And this is one of those times.”

Lesego swallows the thick and sticky spit in her mouth and feels the back of her throat is dry. She takes a swig from her water bottle and says, “Okay, I'll be there. Excuse me, I have to go now.”

She walks down the passage to her car, drives to her house in a daze and parks in the garage. Finding it hard to breathe and with her heart pounding, she reaches for the window to wind it down. Suddenly there are spots in front of her eyes; she leans over to get the water bottle, struggles to open it and passes out.

* * *

Kenneth is sitting in an office with his mother, who is looking over the books.

“So, my boy . . . When can I expect you to bring a woman home? It's time you started procreating, but I never see you with a woman or hear of you with one. Are you gay?”

“No, Ma! Ao . . . And what if I was?”

“Then I would know to look to your brother to continue the line.”

“Ma, they broke the mould after they'd made you. These days all the women have cracks – half of them are crazy, and the other half are gold-diggers who only want me for my status and money . . . I'd love to settle down, but there isn't one single decent woman left. All the good ones are taken – and I'm not a cradle snatcher. Once you get to my age, you only meet stubborn or nagging has-beens who'd make your life a living hell.”

“You are so picky.”

“Ma, can we get back to the books, please?”

* * *

An incessant singing wakes Lesego up. She opens her eyes and is shocked to find herself in her car, in the garage. Then she realises the singing is her phone, and answers.

“Lesego, where are you? I've been calling you for the last thirty minutes!”

“Joy? Is that you?”

“Yes,” the voice answers indignantly, “it's me, your best friend whom you ditched at the movies. Do you know how embarrassing it is? People think I've been stood up by some guy. Where are you?”

BOOK: Love's Courage
3.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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