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African Adventure

Amanda Richards’ Rollaboard suitcase trailed along behind her tall slender figure as she strode toward the hotel desk. Exhausted from her long flight, she was grateful for the hotel clerk’s helpful suggestions as he handed her the key to her room. In his heavily accented English, he explained where she could exchange currency and gave an overview of the surrounding area.


She superficially glanced around her room, threw her things down and collapsed onto the bed. She did not unpack and she did not make the call to notify her parents that she had finally arrived and was safe in Cape Town, South Africa. She kicked off her shoes and was immediately asleep.


Amanda woke the next morning confused and bewildered. It took a minute to realize where she was. She fell back against the pillows letting the excitement of actually being in Cape Town surge through her. “I’m actually here. I made it!” she exclaimed to the room. She had felt so brave while planning the trip with her parents in their beautiful Upper New York home where she had grown up, graduated from high school and attended two years of college. But actually, leaving her family and friends and traveling eight thousand miles alone had been unnerving. She was feeling very proud of herself for getting it done. “I can hardly believe I am actually here,” she thought as she jumped out of bed.


 Amanda had dropped out of Cornell University after her sophomore year for lack of funds. Her father had become ill and money was a little tight. Her dream of graduating spring of 1993 gone, she got a job and continued to live with her parents to help with her father’s care. Later that summer, her mentor from Cornell, Professor Darwin, called to tell her The African Studies Department was offering a scholarship she might qualify for.


“If you qualify, one year at Cape Town University will account for two year’s credits because of the additional experience of living in the country. You could have your BA in one year. There is also a grant for living expenses available so ask about that Amanda.”


Her no nonsense mother said, “Make that call Amanda. Your father is getting stronger every day. Your friends have moved on, you are not seeing anyone, it is time for you to move out of this house.”

With her heart pounding, she contacted the department head and confirmed that she could graduate with her BA after one year of study in South Africa’s Cape Town University. She applied for the scholarship and the grant, and with her excellent grade average and two years of African Studies behind her she won both.  


Now, as she came out of the tiny bathroom and looked at the clock on her bedside table, she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, eleven o’clock. The day is half gone. I must let Mom know I’m here and OK. Let me think, still early at home. I’ll call later.”


Amanda had found an apartment within walking distance of the University through recommendations from the University before she left the states. She called the number she had for the landlord and made an appointment to meet. She showered, shook out her long, thick, chestnut curls, threw on yesterday’s jeans and sweater, gathered her things and checked out of the hotel. She managed to get her money changed, stop at a café to grab something to eat and hail a taxi to take her to the tiny apartment. Even though the furnishings were a little worn, the apartment was clean and freshly painted. There was a small patio off the kitchen with a low unfamiliar shrub between it and the yard behind. She would learn later the shrub was a Bushwillow as she eagerly sought out names and locations of streets, plants and customs. So much to learn about the many places and things of this new world she found herself in.

Mr. Smith, professionally dressed in his grey suit with button down and tie, was very helpful as he led her through the apartment. He gave directions to the university and to a near-by grocery. Utility charges were included with her rent and he had thoughtfully left the phone connected asking her to get the charges changed into her name as soon as possible. Mr. Smith left and she called her parents.

After reassuring her parents, Amanda unpacked. She walked to the grocery to shop not only for food, but for a few things to fill out her kitchen. Back at the apartment she pulled a kitchen chair onto the patio and ate a sandwich underneath the tree at the corner of the house. More unfamiliar florae. Dusk leading into night did bring on a sense of loneliness. It was tempting to call home again, but instead, she listened to the new sounds of neighbors and traffic, watched the stars come out and went to bed early.


After a restless night in the tiny, unfamiliar apartment, she dressed for orientation at the university. “What should I wear?” she wondered as she rummaged through her clothes. She decided on skirt and  white blouse. After orientation she skipped lunch and walked to the university book store to get required texts. The store was small and packed with newspapers, magazines and books. Tiny isles took her back and forth between the shelves and shelves of books. She found her required text books as well as a couple of others that looked interesting and joined the line waiting to pay for their purchases. The very black, tall, handsome man checking everyone out had smiles for everyone. Amanda was struck by his Denzel Washington good looks. He easily directed other shoppers where to find what they were looking for as he continued to quickly give change and thank each customer as they left. His broad, white smile was genuine. His hair was clipped close and he wore an African traditional shirt in beautiful colors draped over wide muscular shoulders.


When it was her turn to pay for her purchases and she stepped up to the counter, he raised his head and looked directly into her eyes. Those big brown eyes drilled into her head. She froze.

“May I help you?” he spoke in a low voice. His eyes never left hers. She blinked, looked down and slapped her money down on the counter and waited.


“You have given me too much,” he said. “This will do,” as he slipped two bills out of her stack of cash. She looked up at him and he smiled.


Out front of the bookstore Amanda just stood for a minute wondering about the moving encounter with the Black man. “What on earth was that?” she thought.  


                                                                                                ****

Amanda had three classes two days a week and a four-hour lab each Thursday. Her first class was crowded and as she looked around the room, to her astonishment, there was the book seller. He sat across the room with elbows on his desk, fingers entwined looking at her. He smiled and nodded recognition. She smiled back. “Well, a student working his way through school?” she thought. Her attention was diverted to the instructor as he began to speak. She had to pay close attention because of his accent. After class he let her know she had the wrong textbook, showed her what she should have and insisted she have it as soon as possible. Her second class that day held another surprise. Book seller entered the room and sat directly behind her. Once again, he smiled and nodded and she did the same.


Friday morning, Amanda went early to the bookstore to exchange her textbook. The tall Black man was not at the counter. She left her book with the very young, friendly, white man at the counter with the explanation that she needed to exchange it and went directly to the shelves to find the correct book. As she searched, intently reading titles, a shadow fell over her. She looked up to see him. Him, with the big brown eyes. She startled at the sight of him and jumped and turned at the same time knocking his coffee out of his hand. He gasped, she gasped and they both were wet with coffee. “Oh my god,” she thought. “What is wrong with me.”


“My fault,” he said.


“No, my fault, so sorry.”


“Come, let me dry your blouse.” He took her hand and led her to a back room. The room had a desk and neat stacks of books everywhere. He grabbed a towel that hung near a sink in the corner and dabbed at her wet sleeve. Then he removed his very wet shirt and reached for a light weight white shirt draped over the back of the desk chair. Amanda stood transfixed as he slipped the shirt on over his head. His smooth skin glistened like polished onyx.


“I am Maanda Khumalo,” he said. So sorry to have startled you.


“Amanda,” she said as she stuck out her hand.


He took her hand and held it rather than an American style hand shake, and his big brown eyes looked right into the depths of her.


Amanda pulled herself together and said, “Manda, nice to meet you. The whole thing was my fault. I was trying to find the correct textbook. You see I bought the wrong one last weekend. I hope I can exchange it. My professor insists –


He interrupted her babbling on and on with, “Of course you may exchange your book. Let me help you find it. My name is Ma anda.”


She blushed and repeated it, “Ma anda.”


He led her to the appropriate shelf, and they found the textbook. As they walked to the counter Maanda dismissed the young clerk and began to make the exchange for her. “He must be the store manager,” she thought.


“Perhaps you will buy me a coffee to replace my spilled cup,” the lilt in his voice matching his smile. “Just around the corner, good coffee.”


Surprised but pleased she said, “I would be delighted to do that.”


They stood at the window of the little rickety coffee stand to order, then took their coffee to a bench close by in an open space under tall trees. A lot of trash and clutter among the trees, but if one looked up it was a lovely spot.


To her questions about family, Maanda shared that his mother was a teacher at Fort Hare University in Eastern Cape. “That is where my parents earned their MBAs and both taught there until my father died. My mother still teaches there. I visit her often,” he said.  


Then he asked about her family. He was easy company. She was relaxed and comfortable as they talked and drank the delicious, strong coffee.


                                                                                                ****

Amanda made friends with Lesedi, a young woman in her Tuesday class. Lesedi was from the village of Venda near the border with Zimbabwe. The two women were eager to share their different backgrounds and spent hours questioning one another over tea and coffee. Eventually, Yolanda, from Guadalajara, Mexico, began to join them. The three became fast friends. They began to have dinner at Amanda’s apartment or at Lesedi’s or Yolanda’s once a week and study together. The three of them looked like the United Nations when strolling down the street. Lesedi was very black and as tall as very pale white Amanda. Yolanda was brown and short and wide. Lesedi wore bright shirts and woven, wrap around skirts while Amanda and Yolanda usually wore jeans and sweaters.


Saturdays were laundry days. Amanda hand washed and draped her things on the Bushwillow shrub by the patio to dry and she wrote to her parents each Sunday.


One Tuesday, Lesedi and Amanda met for coffee at the “rickety” coffee stand then went to the bookstore to shop for a book Lesedi wanted. The store was crowded. Maanda was working the counter and looked up as they walked in. He smiled and nodded at Amanda then looked over at Lesedi and did a double take. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and gave her a big smile.


“Maanda?” Lesedi surprised.


“You know Maanda?” Amanda asked.


“Yes, we are from the same village,” Lesedi said as she waved at him.


The two young women perused the shelves and found several books they wanted and as they shopped, Maanda appeared around a corner and called out, “Lesedi,” and gave her a big hug.


The two of them both spoke TshiVenda at once, glad to see one another. Lesedi finally turned to Amanda and said, “We are from the same village. I have not seen Maanda in, Oh, how long Maanda?”

“Months, how is your mother and father?” he asked. They immediately fell into TshiVenda again.


Amanda continued to stroll among the shelves looking at books until Lesedi retrieved her. Maanda was nowhere in sight. The young clerk she had met before checked them out.


Maanda did not appear in either Monday class the following week. In fact, he did not appear for three weeks, but three weeks after the encounter at the bookstore with Lesedi, Amanda walked out of her Thursday lab into the bright sunlight to see Maanda leaning against a tree. “How is he going to get an education when he attends classes only once a month?” she wondered. He had always left quickly after each Monday class. “Is he here to see me or Lesedi?” she wondered. He walked toward her, that familiar, handsome smile lit up his face. He wore a western style shirt and jeans and reached out his hand to help her down the stairs.


“Hello Maanda, how nice to see you. A day off from the store?”


“Yes, a day off. I wondered if you would spend the afternoon with me. I have a car and thought we might drive to the beach.”


“A beach? Great! I would love that.” As a matter of fact, she was very glad, glad that he was there to see her.


They spent the afternoon walking the sandy shore among sunbathers and families with children building sand castles. She was very aware there were few Black people on the beach. She really needed to know more about the after effects of apartheid. Did she dare ask Maanda? Instead, she asked him about his home city of Venda.


“It’s not a city really Amanda. It’s a village. It was a Bantustan during apartheid and became independent in 1979.


“Oh,” Amanda slowly said as if she understood but certainly didn’t.


“It’s complicated. I am of the Venda Tribe. I was raised by my grandparents there until I was five. My parents left me with them when I was a little over a year old and moved to Eastern Cape to attend Fort Hare University. They visited often and once they graduated, they came for me and I grew up in Eastern Cape.”


“Lesedi says you met when her parents also moved from Venda to Eastern Cape to get their education, right?”


“Yes, we became childhood friends in Eastern Cape. I am older but our families spent time together.”

“If he is older, he has delayed getting his education. I wonder why? Why did he not stay in Eastern Cape and attend Fort Hare?” she wondered. They spoke of many things that afternoon, her reason for coming to South Africa, her desire to teach after graduation. She asked him how long he had worked at the book store.


“I have been at the bookstore for a few years.”


                                                                                                ****

Alan, an American from Amanda’s history class was handsome, friendly and enthusiastic. He had chatted with her several times in his South Carolina drawl as they passed from class and one day asked, “Would you like to go for a drink this afternoon Amanda?”


“Would it be safe? I hear of violence in some places.”


“Some friends and I found a little place around the corner, run by a Black. A lot of students go there. I think it’s safe.”


“OK, that would be nice.”


That “little place” was a hot bed of political rhetoric. Arguments raged. The mostly students crowd were Afrikaners, Blacks, Americans and other enthusiastic, opinionated individuals. She and Alan joined a table of his friends. She was learning a lot about South Africa in her classes and she had done her homework before leaving the states to prepare herself for a year there, but she learned so much more at that little table that afternoon. She learned about the daily struggles going on in the city and the poverty she had not seen in text books or in person.


Again, three weeks later, she walked out into the sunshine after lab to see Maanda leaning against the same tree waiting for her. As he walked toward her, she could see his swollen, half closed, bloodshot eye.


“What happened to your eye?”


“It is nothing. I am glad to see you. I hope you are glad to see me.”


“I am, but your eye is not “nothing.” What happened to you?”


“Come, we will talk.”


Maanda spoke of his work during apartheid, fighting for freedom, for the rights of Black people of South Africa. He spoke in generalities, no details. He did not mention that he had led clandestine groups, militant groups, that he had traveled the length and breadth of the country fighting for removal of the unjust laws that held him and his people down like the weight of an anvil.


Maanda had graduated from high school in Eastern Cape. He had worked part time at the local bookstore while maintaining a high-grade average. After graduation, he worked tirelessly for two years alongside his friends from school to overcome apartheid. He eventually moved to Cape Town to begin work on his dream of becoming a translator for the UN and enrolled at the university. The owner of the book store, Mr. Worthington, had hired Maanda because of his experience in the Eastern Cape bookstore.  


“But isn’t apartheid ending now?” Amanda asked.


“There is progress, yes. Negotiations are under way, yes, formal armed struggle is supposed to be ending, yes Amanda, I am hopeful, but the end of apartheid is not yet and the anger may never end.” He looked down and shook his head, “It will be a long time coming, a long time. We will not see the end of prejudice and poverty overnight. Unless we continue to fight, we will never see it.”


She had many questions but he brushed them aside. “Let us speak of other things.”


They walked to her apartment as he asked about her classes. She poured cool drinks and they took them to her small patio. He folded his long frame into one of the lawn chairs she had bought and said, “I would like you to meet my mother. Would you be open to Driving to Eastern Cape to meet my mother?”


Shocked she stared at him, “I - - - I don’t know Maanda. How far is that? When would we go and how?”

He laughed, a deep, rolling laugh. She suddenly had visions of spending the night with him along the way. “Is that what he is suggesting?” she wondered.


“My friend has a car; Harold will cover for me at the store. “Harold must be the young white clerk,” she thought. “It is about an eight-hour drive to my mother’s house. She still lives in our family home, the home where I grew into adulthood. My mother would welcome us. You would have your own room.”

“So we could do this over a weekend?”


“I thought we could drive up on Friday, spend Saturday there and drive home Sunday.” He sat on the edge of his chair looking at her, waiting.


She mused. “He did not say on a Friday, he said Friday. He did not say I can think it over. He seems to want an answer right now about this coming Friday, like day after tomorrow.”


“I will be very pleased if you will go.”


“This coming Friday?”


“Yes. I try to see her every four or five weeks and it is time. It would be nice to have your company on the drive.”


“Oh –  Uh - OK. What time shall we leave. What should I take to wear?” “Do I know this man well enough to take out across country in a car with him?” she worried.


“School clothes are fine. We will just hang out with my mother Saturday. She will cook for us.”


Maanda was right on time Friday morning. He loaded her suitcase and put her into the front seat of the 1988 Chevrolet Caprice. It was in good shape and they headed east.


“Maanda, I am very naive about conditions here. I have lived a privileged life, white privileged life. I have ignored the lives of negroes at home. I have ignored the prejudices I know exist, my own included. I am not completely oblivious. I did research on Cape Town before I came and knew the neighborhoods I should stay in and where not to go. My confusion starts with the fact that I had Black acquaintances back home from school and work, lovely people, people I enjoyed being with. One of my best friends here is Lesedi, and I have enjoyed our friendship, yours and mine, but I am realizing how much I don’t know about the lives of Black people in South Africa.


He simply drove, looking straight ahead.


Have I offended him?” she wondered.


Finally, he spoke. “I can only speak for myself.  My grandfather was twenty years old when apartheid was put into place. His freedom of movement was taken away. They had no freedoms and at times not enough food. He followed in the line of his grandfather and great grandfather and became king of his village when his father died.  I was born in 1961 when South Africa became a republic, but we still lived off the land and discrimination was rampant. We want to be free to live our lives as we choose, where we choose. We want to be free to earn a living if we choose.”


They drove in silence for a while, lost in their own thought. They stopped for lunch and chatted about their shared classes and instructors. Arriving in Eastern Cape mid-afternoon, Amanda’s mother rushed out of her modest house to greet them. “Welcome, welcome!” she cried. Petite and vivacious, she was a charming woman. She and her son were obviously glad to see one another. Flashing his big smile, he bent to scoop her up in his arms. They spoke TshiVenda.


Quickly, Maanda turned to Amanda with his arm still around his mother and introduced them.


“It is such a pleasure to have you visit Amanda,” mother said.


“Thank you Mrs. Khumalo.”


“Please, I am Blessing. Come in.”


Blessing was stylishly dressed with heels and hose. Her flashing black eyes peered out of creamy skin framed by her very black curls. Maanda obviously looked like his father.


“Sit, sit here. Let me get a cool drink for you.”


Blessing and Maanda went into the kitchen speaking rapidly. They clearly had a lot to talk about.

Dinner was a light meal before early to bed. Saturday was a pleasant day and the three went for a walk through the tree lined neighborhood after a breakfast of tea and crumpets. Blessing was full of questions about Amanda’s life in the states, but she and her son took every chance they had to speak rapidly to one another in their native tongue, so after a light lunch of beef broth and crackers, Amanda suggested she take a nap so that they might have time together.


Her room was small but lovely and comfortable. She read for a while but soon fell asleep. She was embarrassed when she awoke and it was getting dark. They teased her about being such a sleepy head and offered her a cocktail. After finishing their drinks, Blessing stood to go to the kitchen to finish dinner preparations.


“We are having Tshidzimba tonight,” she said, “Traditional tribal food. I hope you like it. I made it especially for you to see what you think of it.”


Maanda cut his eyes over at Amanda and raised an eyebrow. When his mother left the room he said, “Sorry, don’t know what you are to say if you don’t like it.”


Dinner was delicious. They had pancakes made from maize porridge along with the Tshidzimba which, according to Blessing, was maize with groundnuts and beans.


“The next time you come I will make Tshidzimba with meat and spinach, very good.”


“Blessing, I have loved your wonderful food. It has been such a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for having me.”


During the drive home Sunday morning, Amanda’s mind raced here and there. “Such a lovely woman. So formal. Americans are so laid back, joking around. Maybe Maanda and his mother, Lesedi, are aware of too much suffering? They are so, so, - - - what? Driven? Afraid? So much I don’t understand.” 

Amanda, deep in thought, startled when Maanda said, “Are you hungry? I thought we could stop up ahead.”


“Oh my word, we have been driving for four hours already?” she thought. “I’m not hungry but a stop and something to drink would be nice,” she said.”


No reply, no light chatter. “He seems content to drive for miles without speaking,” she thought.


                                                                                                ****

Tuesday afternoon Lesedi, Yolanda and Amanda met up. Alan joined them and they went to the “little place around the corner.” Soon the conversation at their table turned to apartheid and the negotiations. Lesedi jumped up and said, “I have to go.” Yolanda and Amanda said their goodbyes and followed her out the door.


“I don’t want to hear that stuff. Nothing will ever get better. It will never get better!” Lesedi said through tears streaming down her face.


The two girls grabbed her hands as they walked down the street.


“Maybe this time will be different Lesedi,” Amanda said.


“Hatred does not go away because papers are signed. Until Black people have control of our country and run the whites out - - - !” She stopped, knowing what she was saying about her friends. “Oh, I don’t know what the answer is. I am just tired of being hated, looked down on, treated as a less than,” and sobs escaped from her chest.


The three stopped mid sidewalk and held one another until Lesedi could stop crying.


                                                                                                ****

The third time Maanda appeared under the tree on campus waiting for Amanda as she came out of class it had been exactly three weeks since their trip to Eastern Cape. She had thought of him daily since that trip. She was very attracted to him and yet concerned that she really did not know him at all. What were his motives, his reasons for seeing her? Why three weeks between dates. Was their time together dates?


“I am very glad to see you,” he said as he walked to the bottom of the stairs.


Standing at the top of the four steps in a soft skirt, arms folded over her books held tightly to her chest she asked, “Maanda, what do you do during the three weeks you don’t see me?”


His smile disappeared, he looked hurt. “Should I go? Are you angry with me?”


“No, no I am very glad to see you. I enjoy our friendship; I enjoy your company. I just wonder why there are three-week intervals. You rush off after Monday classes like a shot and often miss Monday class altogether.”


He stood looking at her, arms by his side. She walked down the steps and holding her books in one arm, took his hand in hers. He took her books, they began to walk and he said, “coffee stand or your apartment?”


After putting her things away at the apartment, she poured cool drinks and took them to the patio where Maanda sat. Before she could sit, he began.


“My life is too complicated for you to understand. Parts of my life are filled with danger. I travel some during my three-week absences for the ANC. I have a responsible position in the ANC, an organization –“


She stopped him. “I know what the ANC is Maanda. I did not come to South Africa as a blank slate.”


“In addition to my ANC duties I make a point to see my mother every four to five weeks and I travel two or three times a year to Venda to see my grandfather. I would like to see you every day, but I have my job at the store and I have responsibilities and.” - - - -  he trailed off.


She stood, walked to him and reached out her hand. He took it and pulled her down into his lap. He held her in his arms and kissed her tenderly. She responded and he kissed her long and hard. She remained, cradled in his arms, her head on his chest, as daylight dissolved into soft evening twilight. He finally said, “I should go.”


She stood to walk him to the door and held out her hand to help him up. As he came up out of the chair he took her in his arms again.


He did not stay the night. He did not stay that night or any other night. He was affectionate, even passionate to a point, but always left before midnight.


Amanda took a part time job assisting the African Language Professor after her Tuesday morning class. She continued to join her friends at the political hot bed coffee house near the university occasionally and of course she made time to study. Maanda continued to spend time with her only every three weeks. They would spend a great deal of time together and he would be gone again for another three weeks.


They drove to Eastern Cape again and spent time with Maanda’s mother one weekend early November.

“Mother, I have reserved seats for you and Amanda for The Hooding Ceremony the end of this month.”

Hooding Ceremony!” Amanda startled. Her mind raced. “When did he have time to complete a thesis! He didn’t even mention working on that when ticking off the time-consuming things that kept him from seeing me daily! And with everything else he does he is getting his masters?!!!!” She could barely comprehend what she was beginning to know about this man.”


Thank you Doctor Khumalo,” his mother smiled across the room.


“Doctorate! My god!” Amanda sat, stunned. She tried to appear calm, as if she knew. “Why didn’t I know? Am I that dense? No!! He is that closed. Closed off from me.” Her irritation grew and she felt left out, a stranger in this home.


                                                                                                ****

It was wonderful to have her parents in her tiny apartment in Cape Town for her graduation. They took the bedroom and she slept on the couch. Amanda’s parents planned to stay for a week and she was eager to show Cape Town to them. After the ceremony, Lesedi and Yolanda spent separate time with their families, but the following night, Amanda invited them all to her apartment for dinner to meet her parents. Lesedi and her mother came in bright Venda colors, bringing gifts and food and Yolanda came with a date. The tiny apartment rocked with happy, celebrating family and friends.


Once Lesedi’s mother, Imani, discovered sight-seeing was on the agenda for Amanda’s parents, she volunteered to show them places Amanda would not know about. Maanda would leave the following day for another three weeks away and Amanda’s parents were pressing for her plans.


Her mother asked, “Will you fly home with us? We can help you pack during this week we are here.”

“I have an offer to teach here.”


“You plan to stay here?” her father exclaimed.


Amanda was torn. She was struggling to decide what she wanted to do. Was It Maanda holding her there? She used the excuse that her lease did not run out for another month and told her parents that she would use that time to make her decision.


Three weeks passed, six weeks, no Maanda. Then one night, out of the dark, he stood at her door.

She did not melt under the spell of his beautiful smile, his handsome physique. She stood very still and did not invite him in.


His smile disappeared. He said, “Hello.”


“I have plans this evening.”


“Oh, I had hoped to spend time with you. May I see you tomorrow?”


She exploded. “You come and go. I never know if or when you will appear or if I will ever see you again. We seem more than just friends then you’re gone. Am I just an occasional distraction when you have nothing else to do?” By now she was sputtering and red in the face.


He forcefully opened the screen door, pinned her upper arms to her side and held her at arm’s length looking surprised. “You will be my wife. You will bear my children,” he said as if confused that she did not know that.


“What?” she exclaimed.


“We will be married. We will have a long life with many children,” he said as a matter of fact.

Amanda felt her knees go weak. She was upset because he was not a more attentive boy-friend and he was talking marriage. Something that had never entered her mind.


They talked late into the night, her exclaiming their differences, he simply, unemotionally repeating that he had chosen her to be the mother of his children.


“Why? Why me?”


“I have known women, but I knew immediately the first time I saw you that you were the one. You were the woman to bear my children.  I knew it would be, we would only be intimate to conceive our child.”


“Maanda, our backgrounds are so different. You have no concept of the world I have come from.”


“Then let us go there so that I can see it, so that I can experience and learn.”


“Are you serious?” she smiled.


“Let us fly to America.”


                                                                                                ****

Maanda took great pleasure in America. He did not like the cold and marveled at the depth of the snow, but he wanted to see everything. He greeted Amanda’s family for breakfast each morning with questions, questions about the government, questions about the elections, their political opinions.

“Amanda, where are we going today? When do we go to New York City? We must ride a subway,” he would gasp through mouthfuls of Cheerios and milk.


Over dinner the fourth night, Amanda’s father asked Maanda what his plans for the future were.


Amanda had introduced Maanda to her family as her friend. They had no idea that he had proposed marriage to her.


“Amanda and I will be married right away before I begin a four-week tour of my country. I will continue my work with the ANC as well as working for the university.


Stunned silence.


“Maanda, I have not accepted your proposal of marriage. I have not mentioned marriage to my parents.”


Maanda, embarrassed, stood. “I do apologize sincerely for causing anxiety for your family,” he said to Amanda as he turned to her father and said, “I will leave immediately. I have offended and am unworthy of your good hospitality.”


Amanda’s father stood also and spoke up loud and clear. “Nonsense Maanda, this is simply a misunderstanding. Of course you will not leave. Come mother, we will leave these two to talk,” and he and Amanda’s mother left the room.


Maanda continued to stand and looked at Amanda. Amanda returned the look. Neither spoke. Finally, Maanda sat and said, “I thought - - - I thought we - - -   


“You thought we? I thought we were thinking about possibilities. We have experienced such different lives growing up Maanda. Where would we live? What would you expect of me when you are away? I don’t know how I feel about your work with the ANC. How dangerous is that?”


Maanda was quiet for a while. Finally, he said, “When we return, if you will visit and spend some time with my family in Venda, I will give my answers to your questions.”


She quickly agreed.


                                                                                                ****

Early one morning a week later, as the dark of night slowly faded away, Amanda lay in her bed clinging to the night. Another day to face trying to imagine what visiting Maanda’s village would be like. She and her mother had shed tears at the airport the day they flew back to Cape Town. The week with her parents had been wonderful even though they had anxiously pressed her for her plans. Would she return home to teach? Was she staying in Cape Town to teach? They had no idea she was planning a trip to Maanda’s village.


“What do I want?” Amanda asked herself.


“Don’t ask that until you visit Venda,” she cautioned herself.


 “What do I want? I want Maanda!”


“But at what cost? We are so different. Our lives have been so totally different; could we bend to one another’s needs?”


Lesedi came and they packed. “How did I accumulate so much stuff in one year?” she mused. Amanda was preparing to ship her things to the states when Lesedi said, “You will need these things if you marry Maanda and stay here.”


Amanda clutched at her stomach as a huge wave of awareness almost bent her double. She gulped imagining actually marrying Maanda, lying in a bed with him, living - - - where? How would they support themselves?


“I can’t possibly visit Maanda’s village! I know nothing about him! We have not discussed anything about a future! What am I thinking!” she spouted as she paced the room.


Lesedi only smiled.


Lesedi had a storage area and offered to share it with Amanda to temporarily store her things and over the next few days Amanda gave notice to her landlord that she would be vacating at the end of the month when she returned. She finished packing and cleaned the apartment while trying to visualize her future; that is until Maanda appeared after his three weeks away. He walked into the door of her tiny living room, crossed through to the little patio where Amanda sat. She heard him, stood and turned just as he reached her, pulled her close and bent to kiss her lips. She was no longer undecided about visiting his village.


                                                                                                ****

As their car steadily climbed through the beautiful, verdant landscape, Amanda’s anxiety grew. “How should I behave? How should I dress?” she had asked Maanda.


“Just be yourself. Everyone will love you. They will be glad to see you.”


The flight into Zimbabwe, the drive back to Venda, had been a blur of anxiety, and now they were pulling into a village of round dwellings with plastered walls and thatch roofs. Some were the color of the earth, but most were painted bright colors. Scattered about were low walls surrounding two or more of the huts but most stood alone. Tall trees, interspersed throughout, shaded many of the buildings and walkways that stretched beyond.


Maanda’s mother came out of one of the buildings, rushing to greet them. She had evidently been watching for them. Amanda did not know Blessing would be there, but was very glad to see her.

Dark, voluptuous, women in bright, colorful clothing and very black men, some in skirts, some in pants and t- shirt, milled about but held back within the circle of huts.


One handsome, tall man in long wraparound skirt, colorful, woven shawl draped over one bare shoulder walked toward them. His head was wrapped in a bright red scarf and his smile was identical to Maanda’s.

“Grandfather!” Maanda loudly greeted the man as they embraced. They spoke in TshiVenda quickly before Maanda turned to Amanda and said, “Grandfather, this is Amanda.”


Amanda stepped forward and took Grandfather’s hand that he held out to her. Smiling, he softly said, “Welcome Amanda. You are welcome here.”


“Thank you,” she found herself softly replying. The man had a presence, a quiet, calm presence.


“Come Maanda, we will sit. The women wish to greet Amanda.”


The laughing, chattering women rushed Amanda, hugging her, moving her along towards the nearest hut. These curvaceous, handsomely dressed women in woven, multi colored skirts held her arms, her back and as they reached the low, small door someone held her head, bent it down and the crowd pushed through. The women released her and slowly shuffled back to leave her in the middle of the circular room. Blessing stepped forward explaining that the women wanted to give her gifts of clothing. The women all nodded. Expectantly watching her, they evidently understood English. She smiled at them and said she would love to see their gifts.


The women burst into action. Milling about directing one another in TshiVenda. Some brought clothing from the outside of the room while others, to Amanda’s surprise, advanced on her and began to remove her clothes. Amanda searched quickly around the women to find Blessing with an evil smile on her face. She nodded and shrugged as if to say, “You’re on your own.”


 Amanda decided to join the fun. She helped the ladies remove her clothing down to bra and panties. The “ladies” marveled at her slender, white body as they moved about her. They stroked her long brown hair and draped a loose woven shirt of many colors over her head onto her shoulders. Two women wrapped a beautiful striped skirt around her. She had no idea how they secured it but it stayed put. They removed her shoes and placed sandals on her feet.


As quickly as they started, they backed away and silently appraised their work. Their eyes questioned her. “What do you think?”


“Am I beautiful?” she asked.


“Bu-ta-ful,” they chorused.


Blessing took her arm and led her outside. The village men, Grandfather and Maanda sat facing the house waiting. Maanda burst out laughing and moved toward her. The men smiled, talking among themselves as the women came out of the hut.


“You are beautiful,” Maanda whispered in Amanda’s ear.


                                                                                                ****

Breakfast of bread and fruit was left on Blessing’s and Amanda’s doorstep the following morning. Amanda longed for a cup of coffee. She was tired, as much from the let-down of anticipating this adventure as from the long delicious dinner served course after course late into the night last night.

Her clothes were carefully laid out on shelves in their room. She and Blessing had shared a big round bed. There was a curtained area with a chamber pot and a table with a bowl of water and towels.

“Should I wear my clothes or their gifts today?” she asked Blessing.


“Wear your clothes. They will expect that. You were wonderful accepting their gifts so graciously.”


Blessing led Amanda to one of the Rondavels where they joined Maanda and Grandfather. Grandfather was having coffee. “COFFEE?” Amanda exclaimed.


“You like coffee?” Grandfather asked. “We have something in common. All of these unaware, tea loving individuals just do not know what is good.” He poured Amanda a cup while Maanda poured a cup of tea

For three days Maanda gave Amanda tours. Amanda learned the round huts, all about twenty or thirty feet in diameter, were called Rondavels. The Rondavels around the clearing were government, medical and guest houses. Beyond that, were compounds of two or three stucco Rondavels within a fenced or walled area. Some were painted turquoise or some bright color with the bare ground within the wall swept clean. The village was large with many homes and verdant gardens in between. Beyond that were miles of green fields that stretched into the distance with blocks of trees here and there. Amanda could see additional compounds tucked in among some of the groves.


Ada explained Grandfather’s role as king, a role he inherited from his father and one of seven in the Limpopo Province. Amanda’s head was swimming with the tribal history, the role of headmen and the roll of chiefs among the thousands of citizens of this community alone. Rule was democratic and spare.

Life seemed slow and leisurely. Children played, women sat in the shade and chatted. Men worked in the fields and women prepared food. The outside world seemed to have little if any influence on village life.


Amanda had long sessions with Grandfather. He had many questions about America and she felt comfortable asking him about his life and the history of politics in South Africa.


The final night at dinner, Amanda made an effort to express her appreciation for the wonderful hospitality and how welcome she had felt. The next morning, she, Maanda and Blessing drove to the airport together where they parted to fly to Eastern Cape and Cape Town. Maanda slept on the plane.


                                                                                                                ****

Maanda came to Amanda’s apartment early the following morning. “Amanda, we will keep this apartment. You will be safe here while I am away. We shall be married in one week at city offices. I must leave soon.”


Stunned, Amanda stared at Maanda. “I beg your pardon. Who do you think you are, ordering me around, dictating my life.”


“What?!” Maanda surprised.


“You don’t give me orders. You don’t decide my future.”


“Who does?”


“Who does???? Who does? I do.”


“Oh. I don’t understand. I will take care of you. I am telling you how I will take care of you.”


“Maanda, if we are to share a life, I will expect to be a partner. We, I emphasize, we will decide when to get married, where to get married, where we will live.”


“Oh.”


They stared at one another for a while, he befuddled, her intense.


“Should we sit down and discuss this?” Amanda asked.


Hours passed. Amanda expressed what she expected from marriage and Maanda listened intently.


“How will we pay our bills Maanda? I understand you will continue your work with the ANC. Will the hours at the bookstore cover our rent? I will expect to work and help.


“You will not work! Uh, let me rephrase that. I would prefer that you not work. You will be busy raising our children.”


“Eventually, yes,” she said dismissively, but not for a while and I want a wedding in a church with my family here.”


“That would take months. I want you now,” he murmured and he pulled her close as they sat on her couch.”


One week later they were married at city offices with Lesedi, Imani, Yolanda, Mr. Worthington, the bookstore owner, and two of Maanda’s friends in attendance.


                                                                                                .****

Mr. Smith hesitated to re-rent Amanda’s apartment to a black man so they told him Amanda would be paying the rent. He put the apartment in her name. The following week flew by unnoticed by the two as love and passion filled their days and nights. The nights pressed them together as they explored kisses and the touch of skin. They experienced the scent of one another and the rhythm of their bodies. They managed a meal occasionally, teased and laughed and watched the stars at night from the patio wrapped in one another’s arms.


Parting for three weeks was painful, but Amanda had found part-time work at the university and filled her time as she counted the days until Maanda would return. Yolanda had gone home, left Africa, after graduation as had Alan. Lesedi and her mother were opening a shop in Cape Town and Amanda helped often to get it ready.


After three long weeks Maanda burst through the door, grabbed her up and whirled her around. She wanted to know all about his weeks away and he only wanted to take her to bed. He smothered her with kisses, smothering her questions.


They finally realized they were hungry and arose in the dark and made sandwiches. They talked ‘til early morning and fell back into bed to sleep half the day away. The two shopped for groceries and clothing for Maanda. His small bag had been left behind during a narrow escape, though he told Amanda it had been stolen.


Getting ready for bed one night, Maanda asked Amanda what she was doing as he brushed his teeth and she took her birth control pill.


“Taking my birth control.”


Maanda slapped the sheet of pills from Amanda’s hand, staring at her, shocked. He repeated loudly, “What are you doing? Birth Control? Birth Control?”


Doubly shocked, Amanda reeled, wide eyed she staggered back from Maanda.


“You humiliate me? If you are not pregnant right away I will be seen as less than a man.”


“What” she cried, unable to even imagine such a comment.


“Having children is the purpose of marriage. My children will be my heritage. I cannot be seen as a sterile man.”


“Who gives a damn about what others think about when we have children. Your friends determine when we have children? Are you nuts?”


Amanda was furious. Maanda was in shock. He staggered out of the bathroom.


Amanda followed and found him sitting on the patio in the dark.


“I can see how important this is to you Maanda. I am stunned that we both assumed and never discussed when we would start a family. I thought we would have a year or two together then think about having a child. I -----


Maanda interrupted, broke into her rambling. “There is nothing to discuss. I, as a member of my tribe, will have many children, not only to prove my manhood, but to fulfill my duty to my tribe.”


“Tribe? You are a modern man. Your tribe?”


“My tribe Amanda. The tribe I will sometime in the future lead.”


A cold shiver ran up Amanda’s spine. Cold awareness that she had married into something bigger than herself.


The next morning Amanda woke to an empty bed. Maanda was gone. Her birth control pills were in the commode.


                                                                                                ****

Amanda sat with Imani and Lesedi, her head in her hands, “What have I done? I have walked into the unknown. I thought I knew this man.”


Imani said, “You have walked into Africa. Maanda is not only an African tribesman, he is a King’s son and must live as one. I do not think he can walk away from that or his fight for the freedom of Black men in Africa.


My life is about me,” Amanda thought. “Maanda’s life is about others.”


Imani shyly said, “You would be embarrassed to go back to America announcing you made a mistake, but you would recover and move on. More than humiliation, Maanda’s future will be threatened by failure. Failure to make his woman happy and bring forth children.”


Amanda embraced her loving friends and sulked home. She spent the next two weeks hidden away in her little home envisioning her life if she went home to New York. She tried to imagine her future with Maanda and came up blank. She had no idea how to be his wife, but as the time came for Maanda to come home, she knew who she would try to be going forward.


                                                                                                ****

Maanda came home cool and distant. Over dinner of roast lamb, his favorite, Amanda announced her intention to plant a vegetable garden in pots on their patio.


“I will have ample time to plant and care for them since I am no longer working at the university.”


Maanda did not look up but paused shoveling huge mounds of food quickly into his mouth, a habit formed on the road when rushed to grab something to eat and move on.


“That will be nice,” he mumbled.


It was time for Maanda to leave on his usual three weeks away. They had not spoken of children, life style or their future since he had thrown her birth control pills away. As he grabbed his bag and walked to the door, Amanda said, “I will eagerly wait for your return as I keep our little home ready for you and prepare for our child.”


Emotion moved Maanda’s shoulders. Dropping his bag, he turned and held her close for a long time and without a word, picked up his bag and walked away.


                                                                                                ****

Amanda awoke to a banging at the front door. Groggy, half asleep, she was frightened. “It’s the middle of the night! Am I being attacked?” she alarmed as she sat straight up in bed. Frozen, she could not move until she heard muffled “Amanda! Amanda!”


She raced to the front of the house, her thin night gown flowing out behind her and wrenched open the door. Four men fell into the living room depositing their burden onto the floor, depositing Maanda onto the floor. Amanda stared, but quickly reached for the lamp and turned on light. Maanda was covered in blood. She looked quickly at the men, at each face searching for some kind of explanation. They hardly noticed her. One was cutting Maanda’s pants away. Another raced to the kitchen to return with wet dishtowels. The other two just stood there, staring wide eyed. Maanda’s thigh was an open slit from groin to knee. The thigh bone was visible and blood flowed. There was a tourniquet.


“We must get him to the hospital!” Amanda cried, her hands flying to her face pale with horror.


“Can’t,” one of the men said as he washed Maanda’s leg.


“What do you mean can’t,” she screamed as she rushed to the phone.


Someone grabbed her. “Amanda, he would not be safe at the hospital. We can guard him here. We can’t at the hospital.”


She struggled to free herself to get to the phone and call an ambulance. “He is going to bleed to death!” she shouted. “What do you mean guard him?” she exclaimed as she beat upon the man holding her.


He wrapped his arms around her, holding her arms to her side. “Listen to me Amanda. Maanda is in danger. They tried to kill him.”


“Who is they?” she shouted.


The man on the floor holding pressure to Maanda’s leg raised his head to Amanda. “Amanda, a doctor is on the way.”


Her head swimming, Amanda stood still, powerless. She tried to make sense of all that was happening. “These fools are going to let him die,” she thought.


A man with a bag rushed in the front door and fell to his knees examining Maanda. All four of the other men stood back and watched.


“He also has a stab wound in his back. Is there a table big enough to hold him?” the doctor asked.

“No, floor or bed,” one of the men said.


“Bed then. Clean sheets, as many as you can find. And clean towels,” he pointed at Amanda.


Amanda felt her knees go week as her captor let go but she did not fall to the floor, she raced to get the one other set of sheets in the closet and the two clean towels. She raced to the kitchen to get dish towels but they had all been used.


                                                                                                ****

Someone was shaking her, calling her name. As she swam out of deep sleep she waited to hear, “He’s dead.”


“Amanda, Mrs. Khumalo,” the voice repeated.


“Yes, yes, how is he?” she cried as she sat up.


“He needs much rest,” the doctor said. “I am Nkosi, Dr. Nkosi. I will come each day. He is sedated, but, get as much food and drink into him as you can. Rest, he needs rest to heal.


“Yes, yes, I understand. Thank you, thank you doctor,” and he was gone.


Amanda rose to go into the bedroom. Her feet were still bare but she had a robe on. She had no idea when that had happened. The man that had knelt to wash Maanda’s leg stood by the bed but stepped back to allow room for Amanda to approach. She knelt down and took Maanda’s hand, bloody still. His breathing was smooth and regular. As she stood, the man behind her said, “I am Lethabo Amanda. We have not met but I know of you through Maanda. There is great danger. We, many of us will patrol outside day and night. Four at a time we will patrol. You must not go out alone. One of us will go with you should you need to shop or if you have an appointment. Do you understand?”


“I’m not sure. What danger? Who?”


“They will not stay in the city long. It will be too dangerous for them, but until we know they have gone or we find them and they are no more, we will be here. I will sit with Maanda while you dress. Do you need to go out? Do you have food to make rich soups, broths for him?”


She nodded and tried to make sense of how her world had turned upside down as she dressed.


The next two weeks were the same, day after day. The doctor came each day the first week then less and less as Maanda continued to improve. She bathed Maanda daily and did laundry with one of the men at the rustic laundromat across town. She made broths and stews and spooned them into Maanda when he woke enough to swallow. She sent one of the men to the grocer with a list each week. She sat with Maanda and massaged him and bathed him and talked to him. The doctor began to give Maanda less pain medication and on the sixth day he woke enough to focus on her face and smile. By day ten he asked how she was. Within two weeks Maanda was awake more than sleeping. Lethabo came every day. Their talks were quiet and long.


Amanda often fell asleep in the chair by their bed, holding Maanda’s hand. She woke one morning to see Maanda watching her. His color was good and he leaned up on one elbow.


“I am so hungry. What’s to eat?”


She made him a big breakfast of his favorites and when she took it into him he tried to sit up, but pain shot through his leg, up into his body and he cried out. He docilely lay back down and allowed Amanda to help him. He scarfed down his breakfast and three cups of tea.


“I want to know!” she said.


“Know? Know what?”


“I want to know what this is,” and she ripped the covers off him and pointed to the leg. “I am not a child. I am involved whether you like it or not and I want to know what this is and what to expect going forward.”


Amanda’s baby bump was beginning to show and he reached up and ran his hand over his child.


“Lethabo will be here this evening. We will talk.”


                                                                                                ****

Amanda stretched under the sheet, eyes still closed. She could feel the sunshine warm on her body as it poured into the bedroom. She lay still and relaxed. Maanda, away three weeks, would be home today. He was traveling much less since his injury. His stilted gait was still purposeful and he stood tall, but he simply was not as agile.


The ANC organization, no longer illegal, would be changing its focus. Maanda felt the clandestine work he and his fellow devotees had participated in for so many years, the planning, the work, the danger, just might have been worthwhile.  Mandala had won the election. The hopes for the future seemed limitless. For him to take a more administrative position with the ANC because of his leg rather than field work was inevitable, but he had not reconciled himself to that yet.


A small rustle from the nearby crib alerted her. Her son was awake. She rose, bent over the crib and smiled into dark eyes. Holding both his feet in his hands, Andani’s little round face erupted into laughter at the sight of her.  Amanda changed him and sat up in her bed to nurse him. Comfortably surrounded by pillows, stroking his smooth skin, she mused, as she did every day, that even though they had known one another only six months she could not remember being without him.


Her day passed quickly getting everything ready for Maanda’s return. Clean house, clean clothes, clean baby and a sumptuous meal, all of Maanda’s favorites, ready and waiting.


What a little hausfrau I am,” she pondered. “A far cry from the future I saw for myself when I moved to South Africa.”


Maanda burst into the front door looking for his son. Smiling, laughing, he grabbed Amanda up as she walked into the room and swung her around.


“Where is my boy?” he called out.


Amanda grabbed his hand and led him to the bedroom where they both peered into the crib at the sleeping Andani.


As dark closed in, Amanda and Maanda untangled themselves from one another in their disheveled bed when Andani called out. He had had a long nap.


“He will never go to sleep tonight after such a long nap,” fretted Amanda.


“We will just stay up all night and play then,” Maanda said as he rolled out of bed to pick his son up and smother him with kisses.

 

****

Maanda came home with a new home.


“A new what?” exclaimed Amanda.


“We have a new house. We can move in tomorrow.”


Once again, the two stood, staring at one another, both confused.


“I expected you would be pleased,” Maanda wondered.


“You would rent a house and plan to move without consulting me?”


“Buy. I bought a house.”


“That’s even worse,” Amanda whispered, never taking her eyes from Maanda’s.


“Why?”


Exasperated, Amanda turned and walked into the bedroom. Maanda followed totally befuddled.


Amanda turned and quietly said, “I know what you are going to say, you are supposed to take care of your family. You make the decisions and I am to follow.”


“Amanda, it is a great buy and as our family grows we will need more room and it was a great buy and with more money coming in and it was a great buy,” and he trailed off looking pleadingly at her.


“Where is it?”


“Come, we will go there. I will show you. I will show you that it is a great buy,” and he ducked as he said those last repeated words.


The house was roomy and in good shape. It had belonged to Mr. Worthington and when his renters left he had called Maanda to ask if he would be interested in buying it. He knew Maanda well and knew he could trust him to make the monthly payments. The neighborhood was very different from where they had been living, but Mr. Worthington assured them it was safe.


Maanda’s work with the ANC no longer had him touring the country, but he was still fighting for a better life for the Black people of South Africa. The battles were not physical and dangerous as in the past, but just as intense. Blacks were given the vote and he and his colleagues had spent time and money to get people to the polls.


                                                                                                ****

Time flew by, years flew by and soon the new house was filled with Amanda’s and Maanda’s growing family. Roll call was being called by Maanda one morning. The children knew what that meant. Someone had fouled up and Father meant to find out who.


Two year old Ethan felt pretty confident as he lined up because in addition to being innocent he was still the adorable baby of the family.


Four year old Imka was not feeling so cheery. She knew she was guilty.


Six year old Elna was indignant that she, she saw herself as mother of the tribe, could possibly be accused of any wrong doing and eight year old Andani lined them all up and encouraged them to stand straight and tall and pay attention.


They were beautiful children with creamy skin, their father’s dark eyes fringed with thick, long black lashes. Their shining black curls hung long on the girls and were cut short for the boys. They were all slender and tall for their age.


Amanda held Haroon, the new baby, while Maanda, arms akimbo, stood frowning trying to look stern and not smile at the sight of his obedient, beautiful children.


“OK. Who left that food out on the porch last night that drew the raccoons in to destroy the porch furniture?”


“I did father,” Imka said loudly as she stepped forward looking down at the floor.


Well of course Father collapsed with remorse that he had spoken harshly to this chubby little angel.


Trying to save face he held firm and said, “Thank you Imka for being truthful, but you must be more careful in the future.”


“Yes Father.”


And the inquisition was over.


Amanda taught Andani and Elna at home, the public schools did not measure up to her expectations. They all looked forward to the yearly trip to Venda, but the upcoming visit was to be special. Haroon, Amanda’s fifth child and grandfather’s namesake had been born. There would be a celebration. Blessing would be there and Amanda had sewn bright traditional clothing for herself and the children.


Grandfather greeted them first when they arrived. He stepped forward to take little Haroon from Maanda’s arms. He held him high for the crowd to see then kissed his face and handed him back. The crowd cheered and clapped and rushed the little family.


Grandfather presided over the main table at the feast in the village open space. He was still straight, tall and regal. He looked the part of authority, but was still the gentle, wise leader. Blessing and Amanda had much to talk about. It had been over a month since Amanda and Maanda had visited her and Amanda was apologizing.


“Amanda, it is too much for all of you to come to me and especially now with a new baby. I must find a way to get down to see you.”


“Retire and come live with us.”


“Oh my, I do not have your nerves Amanda. I would be a jumpy grandmother and besides, I am not ready to retire yet.”


“Then we must get you a car and teach you to drive.”


“That might be even scarier!”


Drink and dancing continued into the night, but Amanda and the children bedded down early. A sumptuous breakfast the next morning was not served until late and Amanda was starved waiting for the late revelers to arouse themselves. Maanda was up early and had taken the children out to play. Grandfather found Amanda, bringing a hot cup of coffee and delicious sweet roll. She loved Grandfather and enjoyed his company anytime, but was especially glad to see him with that coffee. Baby Haroon slept and Grandfather and Amanda talked of life and love and ships at sea.


                                                                                                ****

Amanda called her mother to have their weekly chat, but did not mention baby number six on the way. She relished the time teaching her children. She kept their house clean and provided good meals. Twice a month she and the children did the grocery shopping and she had more than enough help from the children doing the laundry over the bathtub. The laundromat was two old washers a mile from the house in a rickety shed. Not really worth the hike with five children.


Evenings were sometimes taken up with homework and dinner, but the family spent as much time outdoors as possible. They split into teams and played games. The competition was hard-core, amazing friends and neighbors who might join in.


Kaya was nine months old when Maanda announced over dinner, “We are going to America.”


“Oh, and when will that be Maanda?” Amanda quipped as she spooned out rice onto plates.


“Would you like to go to America?” he calmly asked her.


“Of course, but we ------,” Maanda interrupted her.


“We can go.”


“How, when?” with spoon in the air.


It came about that Maanda had been invited to speak at a conference in New York, all expenses paid and he was willing to take out a loan to take family with.


Amanda could hardly believe it. Her father’s health had kept her parents from flying to Cape Town since Imka, her third child’s birth.


“How long can we stay? When do we go?”


                                                                                                ****

The airport was a nightmare. The children were in awe and wandered here and there curious about everything. Maanda was buried under luggage and Amanda had to find a quiet place to nurse Kaya. The plane was worse. The long flight exhausted the children who wanted to be up and about. Finally, they landed, got through customs and staggered out into Amanda’s parent’s arms.


Grandma Martha had been in constant touch with Amanda and the children through the years with phone calls, pictures and gifts and the children knew her and grandpa Randall well from when they had visited Cape Town once a year early on. The two of them showered the children with attention, love and of course more gifts. Amanda and her mother spent a lot of time together and her father insisted he was doing fine at her inquiries about his health. Maanda spent most of his time at the conference. The visit was far too short and tears and sobs from all accompanied the troop to the airport when it came time to go home.


Maanda was quiet, almost sullen on the flight home. Once the children were fed and in bed that first night Maanda began to express his sadness.


“The speakers at the seminar spoke to things I thought were petty. I have always felt Black people have it so much better in America than we in Cape Town. “Why are they complaining?” I wondered and yet, as I listened to more speakers, spoke to individuals, leaders and business men, there is prejudice even hatred still. They, as we, fight for nothing. Whites will never accept us as equals. We fight for recognition, for equal pay, but the hatred never goes away.”


 

***

Maanda continued to be sad and edgy. He spent a weekend with Grandfather but seemed even more withdrawn when he returned. He did respond when the children tried to draw him out, to cheer him up, and he continued to laugh at their jokes and smother them with hugs and kisses. As he aged, the injured leg slowly withered, causing even more change in his gate as he walked. He never complained and continued to work long hours teaching and training new members joining the ANC, but he had lost his way, doubting what his life had been about.


Amanda was pregnant again.


Wyatt was born in January. Amanda nursed him for nine months and obtained a prescription for birth control. When Wyatt was a year old, she registered for night classes at the university to begin work towards a master’s degree.


Thirteen-year-old Andy came home from school to find his mother waiting for him. She began to give him instructions on how to look after his siblings until their father got home from work in half an hour. She was going to school. Harry and Kaya stopped chasing one another around the room and stared at their mother trying to comprehend what she had just said. Wyatt, trying to follow them around the room, bumped into Harry when Harry stopped short and sat down hard on the floor. Imka and Ethan ran in from outside and realized something was up.


“Andy will be in charge until your father gets home in half an hour. I am going to school.”


Elna came in the door with a friend.


“Elna, your friend must go home and visit another day. She can’t stay today because I am going to school.


All the children stood around unsure, watching their mother. She had been away from them for a day when Hayroon was born, there had been problems, but everyone else had been born at home with a midwife. They were having a hard time picturing what the next few hours would look like without her.


“What will our father say Mother when we tell him you have gone to school,” Elna asked.


“He is aware that I start classes tonight. I love you. I know I can depend on you to be the best you can be until, and they all joined in and repeated with her, “until our father gets home.”


Amanda placed a new game on the floor admonishing them to stay together.


Kaya began to cry. Amanda hugged and kissed each child and left.


Andy picked Kaya up, Elna and Imka took Wyatt by the hand and Harry and Ethan began to chase one another around the room.


Father came home and everyone sort of froze wondering what his reaction was going to be to find Amanda gone. He surprised them as he greeted them with his regular hugs and kisses and roughhousing the boys. They all began to talk at once explaining why their mother was gone. He assured them that it was a good thing.


“We can make it just fine until she is home again, right?”


When Maanda realized Amanda was taking birth control he had said nothing. He knew it was time. He said nothing when she announced that she was going back to school. He knew when it was time to bend. Amanda had given him more than he had ever hoped for in their fourteen years together.


                                                                                                ****

Within three years, Amanda was preparing for her hooding ceremony. She was busy helping the children dress for the event when Maanda surprised her and walked in the front door with Blessing. Amanda rushed to embrace her.


Maanda had arranged for a friend to bring Blessing down from Eastern Cape and would take her back in a couple of days. He had also invited their friends to a party after the ceremony. His beautiful Andy, Elna and Kaya were working feverishly on refreshments up to the last minute before they all filed out to walk to the university.


Maanda could not be more-proud as he and Blessing walked down the aisle shepherding his handsome children to their seats. Sixteen-year-old Andy was almost as tall as his father. At the top of his class, he was already thinking of college. Elna and Imka turned heads with their beauty and self-assurance. Ethan and Harry herded Kaya and Wyatt and they settled in, anticipating and proud of their mother.


                                                                                                ****

Maanda became a little more discouraged every year. Was his dream of equality for all that had lifted him through his youth just that, a dream?


Amanda had devoted her life in support of Maanda’s dream. That resolution had brought her a life of more joy than she could ever have imagined. As she began to think of getting her masters, anxiety about being away from the children caused indecision. She had nursed them, taught them, laughed with them and learned so much about herself from them. The decision to end pregnancy with no rebuke from Maanda had empowered her to pursue her dream.  

                                                                                               

She stood in her kitchen washing dishes, watching her children playing kick ball in the bright sunlight. “Oh boy, those sweaty bodies will be stinky at the dinner table.” How she loved those stinky bodies. They were growing up too fast for her liking. She had been teaching a couple of classes at the university three days a week for almost a year while continuing to educate her children. She had obtained advanced study curriculum material from the states once Andy reached high school age. “Andy will be college age before we know it,” she thought. “I cannot wait to tell Maanda tonight of my parent’s suggestion.” 


Maanda had begun steadily putting money aside from his salary with college in mind when Andani was born. A small amount, but that had grown over the years. Amanda’s additional salary now that she was teaching was important, and the news from America would make sending Andy to college in America possible.


“Your parents are willing to house and care for our boy so that he can continue his education in the states?” Maanda exclaimed, wide eyed, incredulous.


“Yes, not just Andy but all of them, each of them as long as they are able. They are excited at the prospect.”


“That excitement may wain after having a couple of teen agers there for a while.”


“Our children are respectful and well behaved, but you are right. We will see how things go once Andy is there. And that hinges on whether or not he can get into a good school.”


“Our Andani away?” a saddened Maanda muttered.

   

“We must do it,” Amanda whispered.


                                                                                                ****

Andani applied to Syracuse because it was near his grandparents. Syracuse not only accepted him, but offered a partial scholarship.


The excited family jumped for joy and hugged and danced around the room when the acceptance letter arrived. He would live with his grandparents. He lay in bed that night trying to remember his grandparent’s house from previous visits. To imagine what life would be like at school was impossible. He had no idea what to expect.


Andy received a letter from his grandparents soon after college acceptance letting him know what they would expect and asking what he needed from them. They would provide him with a car. Wow! He could not wait to start his new, luxurious life and he began to strut around and lord It over his siblings. But as the time for him to leave for America drew near, he lost a little of that bravery, fearful of leaving all that he had ever known.


The parting was even more difficult. His strong parents fell apart and cried. He cried, his siblings cried and Wyatt clung to his leg at the airport.


                                                                                                ****

Once within the comfort of his grandparents love and guidance, once classes had started and fears had proved fruitless, Andy began to enjoy himself.  Grandpa Randall helped him get a part time job at his country club waiting tables. Grandma’s brother had a farm an hour away and they visited there in good weather. Andy met great aunts and cousins and there were goats and chickens and horses to ride. His mother’s phone calls allowed him to speak to the entire family back home periodically.


Maanda wrote weekly keeping Andy abreast of the political climate and details of his work within the ANC. Maanda was distressed that as the ANC grew in power and size there were more inner conflicts. He wrote to Andani of Mandala’s passing and complained about life being so much more complicated than when he was young. “I am eagerly anticipating your return, when you will study law and be of help to the ANC and me my beloved son.”


Elna graduated and left for college in America. She too had won a partial scholarship to Syracuse and was soon working at the country club waiting tables. Andy’s charming personality and his work ethic had them eager to have Elna join their team assuming she would bring the same characteristics. Andy and Elna seemed oblivious of their very good looks, tall and handsome, they elegantly excelled their way through school and work. Their grandparents welcomed their many friends into their home.


Imka was sad with Andy and Elna gone. She missed her buddies. Her mother began to notice the change in her. Her lovely upbeat free spirit had dimmed a little. At the age of seventeen she announced to her parents that she was going to America.


“I will work and attend a community college for a nursing certificate.”


Very surprised, her father said, “We have sent your brother and sister to the states to obtain a good education Imka, a better education than one they can obtain here. They will be better qualified to fight discrimination when they return home. Andani will graduate and come home to study law. You can study nursing here without the expense of going to America.”


“I have worked at odd jobs for two years Father. I have money for my air fare. I am going to America.”

Maanda was stunned. Stunned that his teenage daughter would defy him, stunned that all family matters were not under his control.


Amanda insisted that she knew nothing of Imka’s plans and tried to comfort Maanda.


Maanda realized Imka was going to America with or without his approval, but he did persuade her to finish her last year of high school and graduate before flying away.


Once settled in her grandparent’s home, winter snows delighted Imka, as it had her siblings when they had arrived. Holiday season introduced them to Thanksgiving and then grandfather, grandmother and her large family gathered at the country club with Imka for Christmas dinner. Andy and Elna served the food and was allowed to join the family for the rest of the evening. The club was beautifully decorated, the guests were gay and the food and wine were excellent, but at one point the three Khumalos shared glances of longing and the three raised their glasses to their mother, father and siblings so very far away.

Elna was thriving with many friends and Andy was studying for graduation. He had already applied to Syracuse Law School.


The younger four at home seemed more quarrelsome. Was that just Amanda’s imagination or were they fearful they would be sent away?


With her thick brown curls drawn up into a pony tail Amanda watered and trimmed her vegetables behind the house. She grew them in pots rather than cultivate a section of the yard, the pots from the patio of the old apartment. She still had four at home to home-school and loved the classes she taught at the University.


Maanda wrote anxiously to his son. The ANC had recently won the first vote since Mandala’s death to remain in power, but with a reduced majority. There was inner strife within the ANC and there had been claims of corruption.


I eagerly await your return. I wish I could attend your graduation ceremony, but events here prevent my being away. Once you study law here you will be able to do great work for our people. I will send an airline ticket once you give me appropriate dates.”


Weeks passed.


One morning at breakfast Maanda stared into his cup of tea, “He is not coming home is he?” Maanda asked no one in particular. “None of them are coming home are they?”


No one had had the courage to tell Maanda that his son was not coming home to Africa to study law. Andani finally called his father to break the news that he had been accepted at Syracuse. He apologized that he had not called sooner and sobbed that he had hurt is beloved father. Maanda cried his disappointment and longing for his son.


****

Maanda came home early. His days were usually long and before Amanda could express her surprise he said, “I must fly to Grandfather. He is ill.”


“Oh, no. Seriously ill?”


“I do not know, but I must go to him.”


“Of course, I will help you pack.”


Two days crept by before she heard from Maanda.


“How is Grandfather? How are you? I have missed you.”


“Grandfather is better. He is able to take nourishment, but remains bedridden. I am unable to help with packing and moving, my presence is required here. Lethabo will help you arrange for the move and get the house sold.”


Amanda felt the earth shift out from under her feet. She was suspended in space. The bedroom had disappeared and Maanda’s voice was small and distant.


“What on earth are you saying Maanda?”


“What?”


“Move? Are you suggesting we move to Venda?”


Long pause. “Amanda, you have always known I am my Grandfather’s successor since my father’s death.”


“Yes, but you are a modern man Maanda. You can’t mean to spend the rest of your life in a Venda village.”


“Amanda, you are confusing me. We have always known I would take on Grandfather’s role as leader when he dies. I will have a compound built for us, we will have a full and beautiful life caring for others.”


“What about your work with the ANC?”


“Andani will take up that torch once he completes his law studies.”


Another long period of silence stretching from Cape Town to Venda.


“There is no way I will be moving to Venda Maanda. I have a successful position at the University and you are needed at the ANC.”


“Change is hard, but this is my future. You can begin a school here, continue to instruct our children and add others. The house will be sold and Lethabo will help you and the children with the move. I am eager for you to be here.”


And then he was gone. The line was dead and so was Amanda’s consciousness. More than confusion, her being was shaken and she stood for a long time holding the receiver of the phone. She tried to reach Blessing and received no answer. Once she regained her senses, she struggled to the kitchen and sat at the table. Her children began to come in from school and found her there preoccupied.


“Mother, are you all right?” asked seventeen-year-old Ethan.


                                                                                                ****

The following morning Amanda was at the university bookstore when it opened. Mr. Worthington was surprised to see her. He was very uncomfortable when she explained that Maanda was planning to sell her home and she and the children would have nowhere to go. She asked if he could prevent that since he held the note. Mr. Worthington, with head ducked, scrabbling with something on the desk, told her he could not do that.


“Why?”


“The house belongs to your husband Mrs. Khumalo. He can do whatever he pleases with it.”


She immediately understood her position in Cape Town, South Africa as a woman within the black community. Mr. Worthington would not go against that. What had she been thinking.


Her next stop was the bank. She asked to speak to the manager and a cordial white man came forth and extended his hand. She explained her situation and asked for funds from their college savings account.


“You see, my husband left the city quickly and left me with no money.”


“Mrs. Khumalo, Maanda Khumalo? That account has been closed out.”


When he saw the color drain from her face and her body begin to shake he quickly rushed a chair behind her and helped her sit down. She said nothing for such a long time he finally asked a man at the next desk to get her some water.


Once back at the house she tried to pull herself together. When Maanda called she would simply and clearly explain that she and the children definitely would not be moving to Venda. She would let him know that although she had income from her classes at the university she would still need money for the children and he was to tell Lethabo the house was not to be sold.


When that phone call came it was cold and unbending. The graduation fund had been exhausted with funds sent to America for Andani and Elna. How did she not know that?


“I am sorry you have chosen not to come, but this is where my children belong,” he had replied.


“We have sent children to the states to get a better education. Now you want these younger four to grow up in a life of isolation in a small village? What about your struggle for advancement for Blacks?"


"I will bring that about by leading my village into the modern world."


Amanda called her parents. “May I send the children? I fear Maanda will come and take them. I know it’s a lot to ask, but Andani, Elna and Imka will help with them until I get there.“


Her father took the phone and asked “Amanda, what do you mean until you get here? You come now with the children. The funds will be on the way immediately.”


“I will receive a paycheck in two weeks. I must stay until I can draw that and I will feel better giving the university two weeks’ notice. They will be hard pressed to cover my classes on short notice and to leave that abruptly would be bad for future references.”


That night as they ate dinner, Amanda wondered where to start. How would she tell her children they were flying to the states tomorrow?  How to be fair? They loved their father, the devoted father that loved them dearly. She explained that their father wanted the family to move to Venda and live in Rondavels as he takes over Grandfather’s duties as king. The children were aware of Grandfather’s illness and had asked about him daily.


“I do not want to live in Venda and I feel it would limit you to live there. Your father and I have disagreed. He is selling the house and I cannot support us elsewhere here in Cape Town."


Excitement at first from Harry and Wyatt at the thought of living in the village. Surprised silence from Ethan and Kaya.


“What does that mean Mother?” asked seventeen Ethan.


I have made arrangements for you to fly to America tomorrow to stay with grandmother Martha and grandfather Randall and your brother and sisters.”


“For how long?” worried Kaya.


“I don’t know.”


Questions poured out onto the table faster than she could answer them.


“Send? Are you coming?”


“What about Father?”


“Will we go to school there?”


Haroon said, “I will go to Father, Mother. I am Grandfather’s namesake. I should help father govern.”


“You will do no such thing. You are a child.


Thirteen-year-old Kaya said, “Mother, won’t you miss father?”


Their mother’s eyes filled with tears that spilled down her cheeks and dripped off her chin. She could not speak. Her children stood to hold her in their arms and they all cried.   


                                                                                                ****

Lethabo brought people to look at Amanda’s house. He introduced her to them and gave them a tour of the house. It was late afternoon, they took about half an hour and left. The following afternoon Maanda stood in the doorway of their home. Her heart skipped a beat. The sight of him still did that to her after all the years. He walked in and began searching the rooms without greeting her.


“Where are the children?”


“America.” Obviously Lethabo had let him know the children were not home the day before.


He sat down hard.


Amanda sat beside him on the couch. “I love you Maanda. I am brokenhearted that I have hurt you so, that I have disappointed you. I have done what I think is the right thing for our children.”


Tears spilled down his cheeks. “I thought you knew what to expect. How could you not know that I would follow Grandfather?”


“It never occurred to me that you would move there. You are a modern man with important work to do here.”


They sat quietly for a while.


“How is he Maanda?


“He is dying.”


A sob escaped her. “I am so sorry.” She put her hand on his arm.


He grabbed her hand and held it to his lips.


She moved close, he put his arm around her and she leaned her head against his. As night closed in they went to their bed.


Amanda made coffee and breakfast while Maanda made tea late the following morning.


“Come to America with me.”


“You know I cannot.”


They ate in silence.


As Maanda prepared to leave, he asked, “When do you leave?”


She gave him the date of her flight.


“When you arrive, send me information so that I can wire funds to you. I have left money in the bedroom. I will keep the money from the sale of the house after Mr. Worthington is paid off. I will send money when I can.”


“Keep any money and visit us as often as you can. Your children miss you.”


“And you? Will you miss me?”


His dark eyes bore into her, searching the depths of her, memorizing her. He drew her close. She clung to him. He softly kissed her lips, turned and left.


                                                                                                ****

Amanda met with Lesedi and Imani for goodbyes. She said her goodbyes to her friends at the university. She packed the things she could not part with from the past twenty-four years and shipped them to her parents.


Early morning she left the house and did not look back. She checked her luggage at the airport and waited, trying to keep her mind blank, swallowing the sobs trying to escape her body, trying to stay upright rather than collapse. Finally, called to board, she walked toward the door to exit to the tarmac. She turned, did she leave anything on her seat? And she saw him. He stood leaning against the far corner of the big room. Their eyes held onto one another until the attendant touched her arm. She turned and walked away.

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