“What is it? What’s wrong?” Zinzi was shaking her. Ntombi sat up in bed.
“Where am I?” she shouted.
“Ssh, you’ll wake Mama,” said Zinzi. “God girl, you must have been having a really bad nightmare. You nearly knocked me out, you were thrashing around so much.” Ntombi’s heart was still racing. She told herself to breathe deeply. “And anyway, what’s that stink? Have you been drinking?” Zinzi asked, disgusted, then pulled the blanket over her head. “Actually, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”
The evening came flooding back to Ntombi. Her head suddenly hurt really badly and she felt nauseous. She walked through into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water, then sat curled up under a blanket on the couch. There was no way she could get back to sleep now. She was too scared she’d go back onto that stage and have to face the audience again.
She had heard somewhere that dreams never lied. Was this a warning? Was Mzi with Thumi right now? Was she going to mess up her audition? She promised herself that from that minute on she would start rehearsing every day until the audition. But what about Mzi? Hadn’t he told her that Thumi was a friend who was just going through a rough time? Why am I so insecure? Ntombi asked herself. Insecure girls lose their boyfriends because they become too clingy and jealous. Wasn’t that what had happened to her friend Prudence, last year?
Prudence had started going out with this guy and it was all a dream come true. They were never apart. But then, after two weeks she started getting suspicious. She got hold of his cellphone and started to check through his messages, accusing him of SMSing other girls. He had shouted at her for invading his privacy. She had pleaded with him, and said she wouldn’t do it again, if he would only promise her that he wasn’t seeing anyone else. He had promised but it wasn’t enough. She had started stalking him everywhere he went until he couldn’t take it anymore and broke up with her – it was a mess.
No, Ntombi refused to be like that. She would trust Mzi. She would not be the clingy girlfriend. She’d give him the space he needed to sort things out. Then things would be different. But by nine o’clock, when everyone was up and having breakfast, Ntombi’s resolve had started to weaken. She had already checked her cellphone a few times to see if there were any new messages. Her mom must have seen her checking her cellphone because she came and wrapped her arms around Ntombi and kissed the top of her head. “You know that watching your phone isn’t going to make him call,” she said and laughed.
“I wasn’t,” Ntombi protested, but then she laughed. It felt so good to have her mother’s arms around her, and the old teasing, fun mother back again. She knew that this was her mother’s way of saying sorry for her angry slap the night before.
“Yes, I’m not too old to remember what it was like. The first love,” said her mother. “You know, when I met your dad I couldn’t eat or sleep for a week. I was a real mess. Of course in those days we didn’t have cellphones. We didn’t have any phones. No, I had to wait to see him in church on Sundays. It was torture.”
“So Dad was your first love?” asked Zinzi.
“Is that so surprising? He was very romantic your dad, when he…”
“Ugh…” said Zinzi. “Too much information.”
“I was going to say that he used to sing for me as he came down the street. He didn’t care if people laughed. He had a very good voice, your father.”
“Like Romeo and Juliet, serenading,” said Ntombi. “Don’t you miss him?” It was out before Ntombi could stop herself. She could see the expression change on her mother’s face as she stood up and went to the kitchen.
“Much good missing him will do me,” she muttered. Ntombi felt a glimmer of hope, somewhere deep inside. That part of her mother was still reachable, the part that loved her dad. She could hear it in her mother’s voice. There was hope.
Just then there was a familiar sound outside the door. A giggle of girls.
“The giraffes have arrived,” announced Zinzi.
Lettie, Asanda and Busi came barging through the door, singing one of the audition songs. They looked tired, and still had make-up on, smudged from the party. But they looked happy. “Hey chommie. How’s the head this morning? Where did you disappear to last night? We were looking for you. Lettie said Mzi was taking you home?” They all spoke at once as they grouped around Ntombi in the kitchen.
“Ssh!” Ntombi tried to get them to shut up.
“Come on then,” they said, as they dragged her outside. “We want to hear all about it.” Outside, the light hurt Ntombi’s eyes and she was still feeling fragile. What was in that drink Mzi had given her?
“So…?” Lettie handed Ntombi a cooldrink she had bought at the spaza shop. “Did he kiss you?”
“And was it the stars and more…” they all sang together. Ntombi had never been good at lying, and now her confusion must have showed all over her face because Lettie and Asanda were suddenly frowning.
“What? Did he do something to you? You have to tell us, Ntombi.” They moved closer around her, protectively.