“Where did you sleep?” she asked
him, feeling bad. He shook his
“I didn’t. I curled up in the
armchair and watched you till you
were fast asleep.”
“You must be tired?”
“Tired, but happy,” he said. He put
a steaming cup of coffee down
beside her on the table, reached
over and kissed her on the cheek.
When her mother came in, Ntombi
could see that she had been up
crying most of the night. She
looked worn out, but calm and
relieved. She walked over and gave
them both a big hug. “Thank you,”
she said, to Olwethu, “for looking
out for my precious daughter,
when I was too wrapped up in
myself to do the one thing a
mother should always do: be there
for her children. And to you,” she
said, hugging Ntombi close, “I
want to say sorry. Can you forgive
Ntombi hugged her closer. “It’s so
good to have you back,” she said
to her mother. “Everything is going
to be back to normal now. You’ll
“It’s been hard on all of us,” said
her mother. “But you know what
they say. The truth sets you free –
and we can all start over again
Five days later…
Ntombi stepped out onto the hall
stage and walked over to the
microphone. She looked beautiful
in the simple clothes she felt
comfortable in. No high heels,
wigs, or over-tight dresses she
couldn’t breathe in. The judges sat
in a row in the front. Ntombi took
a deep breath as she looked out
into the crowd. There was her
mother, waving at her and
blowing kisses, and there by her
side wasn’t Zakes, but Olwethu’s
granny and his brother and sister.
Zinzi on the other side was
bouncing up and down in her seat
Where was Olwethu himself? How
could he miss her performance?
Was he tired of her and her
dramas? But she couldn’t think
about that now.
“My first song will be Respect by
Aretha Franklin,” she said clearly
into the mike. The piano started
and she closed her eyes and took a
deep breath. Then she was lost in
the words and the music. When
she became aware again, it was of
the crazy clapping from the
audience, who were all on their
feet cheering and whistling. When
the cheering died down one
person remained standing, and
clapping. Ntombi looked up. He
must have come in while she was
singing. There in the aisle stood
Olwethu, with the biggest smile on
his face. He blew her a kiss.
looked at him, looked at her
mother and sister, and felt the
tears in her eyes. From now on she
knew there would be no more
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