Neli walked barefoot under the moonlight, the road was warm and the air chilli. She was coming from a graduation of sangomas and was heading for Kay’s house. Her feet were sore and hot, her stomach growled furiously and she burped the sorghum beer she had generously drank. The streets were unusually empty, even with the lockdown, weekends were notorious for being packed with cars and teens showing off their latest apparel. The houses were dark, she had lost the hour and time, the year spent in the caves in Mpumalanga had resulted in a habit where she disregarded the notion of time, she together with her fellow sangomas arrived to meetings when the spirit led them.
A small police car slowly pulled up besides her, the blue lights swirled like orbs in clear water. The window slid down and a young man popped his square face out. Neli was annoyed.
“Hey sister can you please tell me where you’re going?” the man sternly asked.
“Home” Neli answered without looking at the officer.
“The blue house on the corner”
“Oh, you’re the chairman’s daughter, the man who owns one hundred and fifty taxis!” he exclaimed.
Neli reluctantly nodded in affirmation.
“Hop in. I can give you a lift”
“I prefer to walk”
“I insist. You know you’re breaking the curfew” his tone got low and he switched off the car.
Neli realised the insidious look on his face and read his name stitched into his badge.
“My father is on his way. Should I call him officer Mazibuko” she said looking seriously at into his eyes. The officer kept quiet.
“You know his taxi association right and the relationship he has with the constable” she continued.
“I see. Have a good night and keep safe” he started the car and went off.
Neli watched him drive up to the bend where her father’s house towered over the other houses around it; once he turned into the bend and was out sight, she began walking again.
When she arrived at Kay’s house, she pulled her small phone out and realised that it was almost midnight. She sent a call-back because it was not a smartphone and she had no airtime. Neli’s father bought her everything she wanted and for a while she indulged in everything, new shoes, new cellphones, new hairstyle every week and new clothes almost every day. She had her own car and a choice of his cars whenever she wished. The possessions whispered to her: the clothes, the make-up, the cellphones, the car, whispers of a language she could not understand, a hundred voices that spoke simultaneously and only at her father’s farm would her mind quieten. The small round house on the farm where the only furniture was her father’s stool, the small round house where she slept on the floor comfortably, the small round house with no electricity, the small round house where her mother had given birth to her. The small round house where in the middle of the night, in the silence, a small voice called to Noma in the middle of her sleep and when she woke up, she found a black goat staring at her. She decided to follow it and it led her to the mountains to the caves where an elderly woman sat around a fire.
Kay felt their phone vibrate under her pillowcase and clumsily searched for it. They pried their heavy sleepy eyes open and read the text which read Please call THE LOVER and they immediately called Neli.
“I’m outside” Neli whispered into the phone receiver.
Kay jumped out of bed, looked out the window and saw Neli under the moonlight, her red and white beads were shining and she wore the skirt made out of the black goat’s hide. The gate was not locked but Kay went to meet her there out of chivalry and when they got there, they found Neli kneeling at the opened gate, she bowed over exaggeratedly and clapped her cupped hands twice without looking up at Kay.
“You can come in” Kay said bending down to kiss her.
“How was it?” Kay asked while she locked the gate.
“I think mine was better” Neli snickered.
“Of course, no one can out do you” Kay murmured.
“I was joking” Neli whispered as they got to the front of the house.
“No, you weren’t and that’s why I love you” Kay whispered back.
Kay opened the door to the dark house and moonlight splashed in like a torch in a cave. Neli walked in first and they closed the door behind her. They had the experience of walking into the house in the darkness and both knew the corners and turns like the back of their hands, this time it was different because usually these occurrences happened after both had been attending parties but now they had both changed their desires in their adulthood; the only desire unchanged was for each other.
Police officer Mazibuko parked the car outside Neli’s house, it had been an hour since their meeting on the road and Neli had yet to appear. He wondered where she had gone and if she had used some spell on him so that he could not see her enter the house. The district was filled with witches; it was difficult to differentiate between the good ones and the bad ones. He normally did not bother himself with her kind but he was furious because she had not recognised him. They went to high school together, he was three grades above, a prefect who looked after her class but it seemed that she had no recollection of him. He hated that she rejected his offer for a lift, his uniform was clean and his haircut new, he had smiled when he offered and was only looking out for her; did she think that he was dangerous? He thought of telling the chairman of his daughter’s midnight travels at the annual taxi association’s general meeting. The chairman was rarely seen in public; his wife made more public appearances than him and even took over some of the businesses; he was said to spend much of his time with the spirits in nature and that’s what made him dangerous and powerful.
Police Officer imagined telling the chairman the story of how he looked after Neli by escorting her home and surely, he would deem him worthy to be Neli’s husband. The rumours about her and Kay had reached his ears but he dismissed them as mere township gossip, also he knew most girls went through the phase and he did not mind waiting for her to finish with girlish fun.
Image source: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/full-moon