When I called to tell Amanda the news, she took it way better than I expected. She screamed at the top of her voice and promised she was driving straight down to my apartment. I smiled and called my parents’ house. They were both excited about the news and asked if I wanted Phil to pay lobola. Personally, I didn’t believe in the lobola tradition but I knew my uncles would give my father hell so I reluctantly approved that they set up a lobola ceremony. Phil was rich anyway so a few tens of thousands couldn’t dent his account in anyway. Thato was the next person on my mind; there was no way I could plan a wedding without her. She was still my best friend in spite of her silence since she married Wandile.
The phone rang thrice and there was no answer. I hung up and tried again; there was still no answer so I left a message on her voicemail and hoped she’d get back to me. Amanda arrived a few minutes later and a couple of hours after, I was knee deep in bridal magazines and wedding plans. I was exhausted but happy. I really couldn’t complain.
The following week, congratulations on my engagement started to pour in from every corner. All the men at work that admired me but never worked on it expressed how envious they were and the gay men suggested themes for the wedding. I was the centre of attraction and I was loving it. I tried to call Thato again from work but she didn’t answer her mobile phone. A couple of days went by and it hit me that I could try her office number. A colleague of hers who I had seen a couple of times answered.
“Thato hasn’t been to work this week” she said. “We have all been worried and trying to reach any of her friends. We don’t want to raise any alarm with the family.”
“This week?It’s wednesday”
“Yes. We are guessing it’s the pregnancy; perhaps she has some complications? She was always sick whenever she came to the office.”
I was confused. I thanked the lady and immediately called Amanda.
“Something is wrong with Thato”. I said immediately she answered the phone.
“That’s not news Dineo. Something has been wrong with Thato since she discovered she was pregnant and got married.”
I sighed. “This is not the time Amanda. I really think Thato is ill. I’ve been trying to reach her for three or four days now; her phone has been ringing but she’s not answering.”
“Well, call her office.”
I did. The last time they saw her was last week friday. It’s wednesday today and she hasn’t been to work since Monday, hasn’t called, nothing.”
“Do you think it’s the pregnancy? Perhaps she has complications?” Amanda was now concerned. I sighed. “I think I’ll go to her apartment tonight. If she’s not there, Wandile can shed some light on whatever is going on.”
“I’ll come with you.” Amanda said.
After work that evening, Amanda and I met at a mall and drove in my car to Thato’s apartment. She lived in an estate of some sort with bungalow buildings. Her house was rather quiet and her car was in the garage. We pressed the door bell but no one answered. Getting impatient, Amanda banged the door a couple of times and I even screamed. Still there was no response.
An old man walked out of the next building and looked at us.
“Dumelang” he said.
“Hi.. Erm we are sorry if we are bothering you but we are trying to check if our friend is here.”
“The lady or the man?”
Amanda and I looked at each other. Something felt weird about that place. “The lady but if the guy is around, we would like to speak to him too.”
The man shook his head and spoke
“Eish that couple! Always fighting ne! And the lady, she’s pregnant but the husband he beat her up every single day.” He looked at us. “When you come knock at the door and ask if she’s alright, she always say yes and then in the morning, she go to work with blue face and blood on her eye.”
I was covered in goosebumps as my imagination started to run wild.
“I see them together Sunday. They go to church together. At night, they fight and fight again but I tell them Voetsek! They must stop fighting. Monday morning, I see her crying in front of the house here but I go to buy bread for my grandchildren you see so I just greet her and go there to Pick n Pay. When I return it’s like 45 minutes later and I see the husband leaving with a small bag like he’s travelling so I think thank God; poor lady she will get some rest from the beating.” He paused and looked at us to see if his story had any effect.
“Since then I have not see her come out so I think they travel together but I don’t check the car when the husband leave so maybe she’s inside the car.”
I frowned and shook my head. Where did they leave to? Why did Wandile pack a bag? It all just didn’t add up. I tried Thato’s number again and there was still no answer. Fear suddenly gripped me. Why wasn’t she answering her phone? What if he was holding her hostage?
“We have to break into the apartment Amanda”. I said. “Something doesn’t feel right.”
“But breaking in can’t help! They left. You heard the man!” Amanda replied shouting and more confused than ever. She was just as scared as I was.
“We might find some clues as to where they went.”
She sighed. “How are we going to get in?” She asked.
I thought of getting some of the tools from my car booth and breaking the door down when I remembered; When Thato just moved in, she had given me one set of keys to her apartment in case she lost her keys and I remembered I kept them in the glove compartment of my car in case she needed the extra keys while I was at work.
I rushed to the car and found the keys. By this time, I had butterflies in my tummy from the possible dread of him holding her hostage. I opened the front door; the stench that filled the living room was unbelievable.
“Gosh!” Amanda exclaimed placing her hand over her nose. “Did they leave the dishes….”
I screamed before she could complete her question.
Lying in the middle of the living room was our friend, heavily pregnant and still.