Here lies the story about a girl. Courtesy says I should introduce her, but am sure she will introduce herself. Although she doesn’t really have a lot to say until. . .
* * *
“Mona! Moooonaaaa!” a voice rang out.
“Mumuuu!” a second voice, a male bellowed.
Mumu. How she despised it. Mu–tsa–wa-she. My name is Mutsawashe. The thought roared angrily. The young girl emerged from the spare room into the lounge where she had been summoned.
“Mumu!” the man beckoned. She scowled at him loathingly. How
he made her blood boil.
“Iwe, I told you she doesn’t like being called that!” Mufaro snapped in her defence.
“Why? Isn’t she? Isn’t she?” he challenged.
Mutsa kicked the foot of the coffee table (the last of her parent’s furniture), knocking over the cup of hot tea she had prepared a few minutes before for Tariona. The tea had spilled and rudely painted itself over the front of his grey trousers, leaving it several shades darker as it seeped
through, scalding him unashamedly.
“Arrrgggh!” Tariona yelped as he jumped out of his seat on the couch. “You dog! You animal! Today I’ll beat you till you can scream your name!” he made a grab for the young girl.
“Tari, don’t you dare touch her. Siya mwana, it was a mistake Tari. Tarieee!” Mufaro stood in
between the bulky man and his target, making herself a human shield for the minor.
“A mistake? Aiita achida uyu, today I will teach her a lesson! Achataura chete!” he raised his hand high to strike Mutsa, but Mufaro stood guard to block his blow.
“Ndatii, SIYA Mwana uyu,” she said more forcefully now. “Let her be, it was an accident.”
“So is she…” embittered, Tarie lowered his hand, his eyes (and the tea stain) still burned.
“Mona,” Mufaro turned towards her younger sister, “Here, go kwaChoto and buy loaf rechingwa and kaSmall crate kemazai. Mari yacho iyi, the money should be enough.”
Mutsa nodded her head submissively as she took the wad of money and headed towards the front door.
It wasn’t a long walk to get kwaChoto, but Mutsa always took the longest route there and back.
For her it was the only route. Anything to be away from her sister’s wretched boyfriend Tariona. She would give him a piece of her mind someday. Maybe.
The dusty streets bustled with life. Children weaved barefooted between potholes, screaming, chanting, laughing. Singing songs Mutsa would have longed to have joined in with, not now, not at her age, but sometime before; but even before wouldn’t have made a difference.
Women sat sprawled on maZambia in the street corners, roughly displaying their merchandise on the makeshift shelves of their ‘corner shops’. Baskets of overripe tomatoes, sun smitten
onions smouldering in the midday heat, babies suckling on dirt rocks, as their mothers offered their ‘fresh miscellaneous’ to whoever passed by.
“Nhai sister, madomasi ka aya. Cheap ones, nice ones, lovely big ripe ones,” one of them beckoned.
“Ah ah Mai Tata, ndiye wacho ka. Wekufirwa, anogara naSis wake muzasi umo,” the lady beside the tomato merchant explained.
Mutsa didn’t stay to hear the rest of the narration.
She reached the small pathway that led to the cottage-turned grocer, by a stubborn tenant named Peter Choto. Everyone wondered what he would do when the house owners returned from the Diaspora, Peter couldn’t care less, it paid his rent and the spiralling water bill.
The Ngwarirais had left the country almost fifteen years before. Most of the more recent locals had never actually met them. Few were acquainted with one shady mukuwasha, who managed the family’s affairs. And he hardly ever came to the house. Rumour had it, that the Silver Streamline Ranger he drove was bought with money for building material. But no one was about to confront him about it. Life went on muLocation.
“Ah, Mona. Hesi!” Choto called out cheerily from behind the shop counter (some old boards of hardwood, raised against two cement pillars, meant for the main house).
Mona smiled back at him. He was a strange man, but at least he didn’t make her feel awkward. She handed him the money wad and a scrap piece of paper she had scribbled Mufaro’s order on.
“Nhai, Mona. Ah still? No,” he handed her back the scrap of paper. “By now, ndaakuziva, I know ah, you’re my number one customer ka. And the Customer is king,” he chortled to himself as he reached over for the kanda six crate of half a dozen eggs. He made his way over to the bread crates, an assortment of sweaty packages, but at this hour of the day no one was expecting anything fresh. Choto only released the good stuff in the morning for the picky customers, the Ba Tino’s who were late for work, the school children’s packed lunches, the pregnant women craving warm milky tea and thick golden crust.
He spun back around to the counter. Perhaps a little too overzealously. He knocked over the crate of eggs and they crashed dismally to the ground, like Humpty Dumpty’s grandchildren.
“Ooh!” Mona let out a small yelp and put her hand over her mouth as if to try swallow her surprise.
“Oh, bvepfe riya!” He scolded himself scratching his head, “Very sorry madam, haa, zvinhu zvacho so,” He handed her another kanda crate and added two extra in a tied clear plastic bag.
Mutsa shook her head and declined. She hadn’t carried any extra money to pay for those and charity from strange men like Choto would only raise more talk.
“Ah, ah madam. Musarambe ka, iyi inonzi customer loyalty. Iiii and with the little drama
here, atomavharanyadzi.” He gave her an embarrassed smile.
She sighed and accepted the gesture, nodding her head and clasping her hands in gratitude.
“No need, anything for my Mumu,” he said innocently.
But the words cut deep. Crestfallen, she turned on her heels and left the shop.
Mumu? Mumu? Monalise. Mutsawashe. Mutsa. Mona she didn’t mind, but not Mumu. Certainly not Mumu.
Had she chosen to be like this? Why must they all remind her? Taunt her continuously. She hadn’t chosen to be like that. She hadn’t.
Nhai Mwari. Really? Not today, really not today.
“Hey, Momo…Wait for me! Wait up! Mira kanii…Momoooo!”
She sighed heavily. There was always one. The voice had caught up with her before she even had a chance to flee.
“Haaa, unofambisa!” Paidamoyo panted. “Ndamhanya ah!”
Too late, Mona said within herself.
Paidamoyo was her best friend. Correction, Paida was her only friend. And given the circumstances, she didn’t have much choice.
“Iii, ndanga ndichikufunga sei?” Paida began.
Mutsa smiled at her wearily. Paida took no notice of her lack of enthusiasm.
“You won’t believe who I just saw. Ah, you were the first person I thought of pazvaiitika,”“Oh!”
Mutsa exclaimed in mock surprise.
“Shuwa ka, nhai asahwira,” Paida gave her besty’s arm an affectionate squeeze.
Mona couldn’t help but roll her eyes. Paida was frivolous, excitable, chatty. She wasn’t just a
chatterbox, she was a whole vacuum. It was probably why she liked Mona so much, one of them had to be didn’t they? She could talk and talk for hours, with little interruption from the devoted
hearer, except the odd head nod, “Oh”, “Uhuh” and sudden gasp. Paida was, as many disapproving mothers (including Mona’s sister Mufaro) had censored, a typical nzenza. A bad influence to their daughters. A contradiction to the virtues they had spent years
instilling, no good companion for their offspring. Yet she was Mona’s closest, Mona’s only friend. But that day, Mona’s tolerance levels were in red.
“So, you know Ziggy right?” Paida continued oblivious to Mona’s mood.
“Uhum,” Mona responded nonchalantly. Another reason why the locals wearied and flagged. Paida had recently become overly friendly with the boys in the area. Their fear was her free spirit would possess the cultured few in the community.
“Well Ziggy and his squad, used to hang out with Twista. Twista the one aidanana naStacey, the one who ended up eloping with that conductor, last year…”
Who could forget Stacey? She and Mufaro’s scrounge for fees had been the reason Mutsa had decided to quit school. Dumbbell. The words still stung, like aggravated wasps in the summer.
“So I when I saw Twista, achizviida, as always hah! I told him that nooo, Mona anogona. Then I showed him obviously, ka,” Paida blathered on.
No, no you didn’t…no!
Mona screamed inside. You’ve got to be kidding, damn, NO!
But Paida was already in the zone, “Huh??” translating to: What on Earth would you do that for?
“One, Two, Thre—”
“Beeeeep!” a car horn bleated angrily, as the driver of a small green Honda swerved and narrowly missed the dancing teen.
“Iweee! …” a barrage of insults were spat out of the partially opened tinted window.
Mona, quickly dragged her shameful pal out of the street, before she could be hit by more than just a hoodlum’s road rage.
“Haaa!” Mona screeched at her friend in exasperation.
“Sorry kani, iii. Ko chii nhai? I was just trying to show you…”
Mona didn’t want to hear another word. She had already turned away from Paida and continued on her infuriated walk. A squashed loaf in her hand, the mini crate tucked under her arm and the plastic bag mabhasera, now oozing with naked yolk.
She looked at the contents with disgust, then flung the bag into the dust.
“Monaaa kaniii. Miraaa,”
Paida attempted to chase up. “Monaaa..!”
Mona had had enough.
“Here then, take this.” Paida panting, squeezed a folded
note between Mona’s arm and her crate of eggs.
“I will come get you tomorrow at 10. Don’t be late!” Paida called out, but both Mona and her mind were already fleeting distances away
The walk back home seemed longer than it should have been.
Mutsa felt the energy drain out of her like a solar powered battery on a rainy day, just at the very thought of walking through the cottage door.
“Ameni, ameni!” she heard chorusing in the
peripheries. A White cluster across the red earth. The pinnacle clothed in similar raiment, the hem licking at the speaker’s ankles, dust clouds dancing around his toes, as he struck the ground with his carved staff. Madzibaba. Mutsa shuddered as the memories flooded back. They had tried everything to fix her. From n’angas, to prophets, deliverance sessions, miteuro, raw eggs, boiled offal and all manner of inexplicable concoctions to be drank, gargled, bathed
in, sniffed, rubbed into her skin. Nothing had worked. Nothing had changed.
Perhaps she was as they said. A jinx.
She took the egg crate and Paida’s paper from the crook of
her arm and slid open the folded pamphlet.
She crumpled up the paper in her fist and tossed it. Paida, you’re crazy. Foolish. Ah une dzungu! She shook her head and sucked her teeth in irritation and continued the rest of the way home. Such a waste of time.
“Urgh!” she kicked hard at an innocent rock on the ground, causing the dust around it to shriek in panic.
It settled in a thin layer around her ankles, painting them a pair of pale socks. A group of young
children she passed, pointed and jeered at her,
“Hoona shena iyo!” The mini fashion police cried out.
Mona shook her head and carried on her way. She wasn’t about to be ridiculed by a troop of imps who looked like they had been fighting in the trenches. She imagined the beating they would get from the mother who would have to scrub those faces clean again. She shook the dust from her feet and trudged on. Mufaro wasn’t one to tolerate majecha either, she would have Mona polish the floor till she could see her reflection in it.
Tariona had left the house in a fury, after the tea fiasco.
He didn’t return that night, she probably would have poisoned him anyway, “that mistake of a sister,” he had told Mufaro. His words always dug deep beneath her skin, but her petty submission, unholy reverence or genuine fear of him always prevented her from throwing him out. After all, he was the reason they’d managed to get the house back, after…The accident.
Their parents had been respectable people, simple yet pleasant, teaching at the local school, till that dreaded day. Mufaro couldn’t sustain her sister’s speech therapy sessions after that and their passive guardians hadn’t wanted the additional burden brought by two castaways. The
dropout and the mute. Except for Gogo. Gogo had been good, even with her strange beliefs and chewing tobacco. It was such a shame they had had to leave her behind. Mufaro had said it was for the best.
Mufaro, she, she had been good too. Young, foolish, misinformed about the world and its operations, but as a protector, as a sister, as the closest thing Mona had to a parent; she had been good. Well, had. Up until Tariona had showed up in their lives, then everything had turned sour.
A nineteen year old Mufaro had been working at a certain local shop. Cleaning shelves, mopping and sweeping floors, serving customers at the counter here and there. It wasn’t much at the time, but it was enough to sustain her and a fourteen year old Mona. Tariona had been a regular at the store. A twenty eight year old truck driver, well versed with the locals, he had gathered enough of their story from Mufaro’s lamenting and the bhawa rangers from the area. He took a liking to the young lady, because although hot-headed and obstinate, she was light-skinned, witty and lovely to look at. Even the boys from the shabeen agreed on that, even after many drinks and a rocky match from the Dynamos.
Tariona dark in complexion and character, far from being Mutsa’s favourite person, even with his hard looks managed to win Mufaro’s heart.
“He’s decent enough, mature. But…hmmm, chiso chake chakashinga,” one of girls from the shop had told Mufaro.
“She’s just jealous,” Mufaro had whispered to Mona.
Mona had highly doubted it. But she had nodded in support.
Three and a half years later, they were back at their parents’ house. Tariona, knew a solicitor and they had salvaged as much as they could from what had been taken by the debt collectors and Ba Mufaro’s unpaid zvikwereti. Bitter relatives had disapproved of the girls’ actions, going ahead of their elders, making rash decisions. Mufaro told Mona they never needed them in the first place.
“We are complete, as we are. Takatokwana so,” she had said to the younger girl, giving her hand
a reassuring squeeze.
At ten twenty the next morning a shrill voice hollered,
“Mutsa, your friend is here!” Mufaro called successively.
Mona dragged herself out of the spare room into the lounge.
Mufaro sat – a displeased look set on her face, which read, “What did I tell you about her?” They understood each other enough.
Paida coaxed and cajoled till she got her way. Mona had no energy to fight back, she barely had the words. They had a date and Mona was far from looking forward to it.
The grounds were a little further out of their neighbourhood than Mona would have liked. Not too far, a few hundred metres from kwaChoto, but for someone practically being taken hostage, it was more than far enough.
It was the Old Boys rugby field. But the Old Boys had since gone and no one used the dilapidated grounds, except the ‘other’ old boys after a few rounds at the local pub. Them and the young lads that sat by the terraces, staring down at the two girls, like vultures ready to devour prey.
The green Honda that had almost annihilated Paida the day before was parked haphazard at the end of the field.
“Twistaaa!” Paida called out to one of the boys, clearly the squad king, seated at the topmost bench.
Mutsa felt her stomach turn, her insides wanted to flee, but her feet stayed glued to the ground.
Charlie, Tino, Twista, Zaks and Penguin mounted down from the heights to study the new creatures more closely. Paida basked in the attention, greeting each squad member enthusiastically.
“Oh, she doesn’t talk. I told you, right Twista?” she babbled on at the pack leader.
Do you really have to humiliate me like this? But Mona could only let out an agitated “Huh??”
One of the young men extended a hand towards Mona. Hi, How are you? My name is…
“Charlie? Mfanha, you can sign?” Twista looked quizzically at Charles who scratched his head in embarrassment.
“Erm, yeah mwana waTete wangu, she taught me. She also…” his voice trailed off.
“Oh, she’s not deaf!” Paida interjected. “She can hear just fine, just not, you know… But I understand her. I am her translator,” she beamed.
Mona shot her a look that could’ve been released from a pistol.
Twista was an intimidating personality. Mona felt like a lab specimen, a new specie discovered by a team of mad scientists, a star in a freak show under his imperial glare.
“So she really can’t talk? Can she dance though? You said munhu wako anogona kutamba.” Twista addressed Paida, but his gaze remained fixed on Mona, who was regretting her very existence, let alone her presence there.
“Show them Momo, that routine we rehearsed,” Paida egged on eagerly, giving her a nudge. Mona wouldn’t budge.
“Can’t talk, can’t dance. She’s just a waste of time,” Twista spat at the ground and motioned for his boys to follow him back to their alcove.
“Give her a chance maybe she’s just shy, mamujuma ka,” one of the youths chirped.
“PK, dzikama. We’ve better things to do than to be entertaining girls, or you want to preach to them too?”
Mona, had heard enough. Her ears burned with rage, her fists tightened, humiliation unglued her feet, as she turned on her heels and left for home. Why had she listened to Paida anyway?
Paida had tried to chase after her yet again. This time, she didn’t catch up and Mona, was definitely not one to turn back.
Tariona wasn’t back for the second night in a row. It gave Mona something to be happy about after the day’s drama. Mufaro had taken one look at her forlorn face as she had walked through the door.
“What’s up mainini? It’s that Paida isn’t it? I told you she’s bad news,”
Mutsa gave her no further validation and walked straight to her small, cluttered room, leaving Mufaro alone in the lounge, to stew in her anxiety over her fickle lover’s absence.
A week had gone past. Mutsa had ignored Paida’s messages, barred her calls. Twelve missed calls in a space of two hours.
WHAT the hell does she expect me to do? TALK to her? She groaned in frustration.
She felt like flinging the little button brick at the wall. But common sense got the better of her. After all it wasn’t like she was going to get a proper phone anytime soon. The kambudzi
she was using had caused enough bother, when Mufaro had raised the issue. “A phone? For what?” Tariona had demanded, “Anotaura here?”
Mona had punched at her pillow till the foam padding became separated and floppy. Who needs a dumb phone anyway? Dumb Tariona. “Arrrgh!” she had screamed into the lifeless
Mufaro had sneaked into her room several days later with the pocket mobile. Mona had taken it reluctantly. It was good enough to text and note down what she would have wanted to say, and play Snake Xenzia to pass the time.
It was on her way kwaChoto that she saw it. The small green Honda from a few days before. She ducked and turned to change direction. Too late. The engine hummed, as the car pulled up
beside the pavement. A hit song from a local artist spilled out of the tinted window as it was rolled down.
“Hey, Mona, right?” Charles was in the passenger’s seat. The driver she tried to recall, must have been Zaks.
“Jump in,” Charles reached for the back-seat door. Penguin sat in the backseat, smiling sheepishly. Death trap. This is a death trap. Mona thought as she shook her head vigorously.
“Ah ah,” she waved both hands to decline.
“Don’t worry, we don’t bite. Well maybe, Penguin, he hasn’t eaten all day,” Charlie laughed heartily. “Sha, let’s not waste time. Just show her the build,” Zaks called over from the driver’s seat.
The two passengers stepped out of the car. Penguin leaning arms folded, against the door, whilst Charles showed Mona ‘the build’. Paida had rudely shared a dance clip of Mona’s freestyle sessions. She felt betrayed, she felt like escaping. But Charles was a master of persuasion, even if he was terrible at sign language and eventually Mona was sold out, with nothing to say. As always.
The team met, for several weeks. Those weeks for Mona were riddled with unexplained absences, sneaking out at odd hours, hurried excuses, random apology notes on the dining table and the odd comment from Tariona,
“I bet she’s marketing herself out there, that sister of yours. Soon we’ll have two of them moping about in here.”
As usual, Mona ignored his accusations. When this was all over, when they won, (if they won) she wouldn’t have to hear his voice again. She and Mufaro would be free, their own people, the money would be enough for Mufaro to register a business, get back on their feet. Start afresh. Without him.
The Pastor’s kid can really move. Mona thought as she fixed her gaze on Penguin, and kept in
sync with his flow. He was no bird, but he could definitely fly.
“One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seve-“
“Oooph,” Paida had tripped over again.
“Iwe! Be serious mhani! Ah, Charlie, why is she even here? She has two left feet! Akaooma mutezo mwana uyu!” Twista yelled from his throne on the top Terrace of the Old Rugby Field benches.
Zaks their choreographer was exhausted and losing his patience.
“Give them a break man,” He yelled back from the concrete, their rehearsal floor. “Alright, let’s call it a day,” as he dismissed team Speechless for the day.
“Mona, hey. Wait Up!” Penguin raced up to meet her.
Mona blushed. How could she forget? She and Penguin had been walking home together for three days in a row. Well not the entire way, but close enough.
Charles had been teaching him how to sign, he was getting better, for a rookie. If only she could tell him that that gesture didn’t mean, what he thought it meant. But his smile was contagious and she was beginning to
ike him even if she couldn’t really talk back.
He was a goofy character the Pastor’s Kid. I wonder what his real name is though?
She thought to herself. It was clear enough why they had named him Penguin though. He was probably one of the best dancers amongst them, but of course no one would say that in front of Twista. He was the Alpha male after all.
“Where’s our starboy? Eh, huku yeChirungu,” he would mock.
But everyone knew the truth. Penguin had the finest footwork of the entire crew, but jealousy was a cruel creature, Twista would never admit PK ruled the roost.
Mona was practically floating. Penguin was a really cool guy. She didn’t feel awkward or out of place around him, well maybe just a little. He was a boy after all. A fairly good looking one at that. And her speech impediment wasn’t doing her many favours. But his smile, his smile. She felt her mouth turn upwards involuntarily; her whole face beamed as she redrew PK’s face in her mind.
The moment was over all too soon. Before she had even approached the fenced gate to their home, Mona heard yelling, streaming live from the front window.
“Get out of here! I don’t want to see her here again!” Mufaro screamed.
Oh no. Mona held her breath.
Danai, or Dani as she called herself. She was at the house to cause drama. Again. It was most
probably maintenance issues, Mona assumed. It had been less than a year since Mufaro found out. Danai was the mother to Tariona’s two-year-old son. The son he hadn’t told her about. The mistake, as he called him. And the mistake had caused more trouble than Mufaro’s jinx of a sister and their rocky finances combined. The mistake should have been enough reason for Mufaro to have let Tariona go, but she was either too afraid of them fending for themselves again, or too naïve. And down-right foolish. Mona was convinced that her sister akadyiswa. It made her despise her babamukuru all the more.
“Get her Out!” Mufaro screamed.
Nope, not today, please not today. Mona rolled her eyes as she walked through the door.
“Ndati, ngaabude muno! I don’t want to see her here again Tarie!” it was really heated.
Mona didn’t stay to watch, she’d rather not get caught in the crossfire. Arms flailed about, fists were thrown, as Tariona stood between the two ladies like a human road block, narrowly missing blows.
Mona continued to her room and shut the door. She heard theyelling die down, and the front door slam. The drama queen had been scared off by a threat to call the police and escorted out by the negligent baby daddy. Mufaro was left alone to vent in agitation and deep heavy sobs. Mona would let her be for a while. Just a while.
Mona’s phone vibrated violently in her jean pocket.
1 New Message
The notification danced on her screen. A message, from who? Paida must be upset about what happened earlier.
C U 2ma by the grounds at 12.
It was PK. Mona felt butterflies collide in her gut. She gave a small shriek. Mufaro could wait.
Dinner, like Mufaro’s mood, was sloppy and bitter. Burnt onions sunk in shame beneath tomatoes that floated freely in the oily waters that swam in Mona’s plate. The sadza, lumpy and undercooked sulked beside blackened chunks of what should have been chicken. Mona hardly noticed. She ate her mbodza in content. Her thoughts had already wandered to the day ahead and what awaited her at the Old Rugby field.
Mona was up early the next morning. In fact she had barely slept. Her mind was filled with questions that would only be answered when she got to the grounds. Mufaro was still in a foul mood, Mona would deal with that later, and Tariona was nowhere to be found. Thankfully. Mona was nervous enough without having to tolerate his nonsense.
By eleven thirty, she had completed the house chores, made breakfast, bathed, changed several times and managed to steal Mufaro’s favourite nude lip balm. She won’t even notice it’s gone, Mona thought.
She looked at her reflection and grimaced. Even the broken glass piece screamed at the sight of
her hair. A hand brush wasn’t enough to tame the fading lines of the freehand which was beginning to look like muti wakarara shiri. And there was no time for an extreme makeover. Paida. Paida, who dreamed of becoming a model, even though she had terrible posture, was always trying to teach Mona the latest styles, tips and tricks to ‘looking the part’. Whatever that meant.
Here goes. Mona dipped her finger into a tub of hair gel, she had ‘borrowed’ from Mufaro some
weeks before and lathered her hairline with black goo. She took a matchstick, bit off the end and chewed it to make a pseudo-brush. Tracing along the hair tar with the end of the brush, by the end of her DIY session, Mona had a decent enough set of baby hairs. She smiled slightly at her mini-achievement.
U Still coming?
PK. Yes! Yes! Am coming. Mona felt like screaming in Response. I wonder what he wants though? Will the
others be there? Is this is a stunt? No, he’s not like that is he?
There was only one way to be sure. She took a deep breath.
Am on my way.
She punched in a response. She definitely needed a new phone.
She waited for Mufaro to leave the lounge and slipped out of the house. I’ll just tell her I’ve gone
to see Paida.
The walk to the Old Rugby Field seemed longer than usual. Even though her heart was racing. Why was it racing?
PK was already by the grounds. Mona held her breath as she watched him through the fence. He’s amazing.
He moved and glided with such ease. So fluid. Such flawlessness. He wasn’t rehearsing a routine, he was breathing into it. Mona was mesmerized. This was no freestyle dougie session, from a street battle, a clout fest for the girls, like it was for Twista and the gang. PK was putting his soul into those steps. And Mona couldn’t even hear any music. He swooped and spun hitting the ground with his fist violently. The dust applauded in awe and kissed his knuckles in admiration, leaving them coated in white shena paint.
As he looked up he locked eyes with his silent cheerleader.
Mona blinked hard and was about to look away, ashamed of being caught.
“Hey!” PK called, as he removed something from his ear.
Earphones, of course. Mona shook her head at her blondeness.
“Come here, I wanna show you something. Wasvika nguvai?” he motioned to her with hand.
As if on an invisible leash, Mona was drawn over to where she’d been summoned.
“So, that’s pretty much it,” Penguin explained as the video concluded. “What do you think? Unozvikwanisa? I had suggested it to the others but they weren’t all for it, Twista says zvinozowandisa magetsi. But iwewe…” he looked over at Mona. “I’ve seen you uchitamba,
I honestly think you’ve got what it takes. You in?”
She looked down at her feet. Why had she worn those shoes? They’d been a Christmas gift from Mufaro. She only wore them when visiting Mufaro’s friends or the odd occasion, and in town once or twice.
“I’ll let you think about it. But we don’t have a lot of time ka. No pressure,” he said with a smile.
The choreography was a bit complex, she didn’t know if she was up for it. That doubt and the mild pang of disappointment that the meeting had been nothing more.
“Ko the gear though,” PK began eyeing the sparkly pumps and short navy summer dress, “Kasi, uri kuenda kuParty?” double whammy. Mona really just wanted to disappear, or at the
least go home, no matter how upset Mufaro probably was.
“Perkins! Hey, Perkiiiiinsss!” a group of young people walked past the field.
Mona spotted one very beautiful girl, short, fair, voluptuous. She definitely isn’t waving at me, she thought.
“Hey, PK! You coming?” the girl called over.
“Sha, I gotta go. We’ll talk yeah?” he smiled as he turned to Mona, then jumped down from the
terraces and ran in the direction of the cool kids. MaSalad Paida would have called them.
Deflated, Mona made her way home. Perkins, well, at least I know his real name now.
Her phone buzzed violently as she
got through the door.
2 New Messages
The small screen squealed.
U wud be great tho.
Think about it.
She reread the last message. Think about it. Hah! She had. Her mind was well made up. She wasn’t going to. No way. She wasn’t a pawn in a chess game. That Perkins, did he think she
was his puppet, just because she didn’t have a voice of her own? And who was that girl anyway, the pretty one, the one who had called him over so boldly as if he had better things to do than sit with “the dummy”?
Mona felt tears well up in her eyes. What had she been thinking? That he actually liked her? That he wanted to be her friend? He probably just felt sorry for her, and she despised pity.
Neither Mufaro nor her wayward beau were home. Thank God! Mona didn’t think she could stomach them at that moment. She hid her head in her pillow, till it was soaked in her frustration. Violent, hot, bitter brine water. Tears were stubborn like that at times. Several days had passed.
“Nhai PK, mwana wacho aripi? Weren’t you hanging out with her? Wakamuiita sei?” Charlie interrogated.
“PK, don’t be acting malove stories pabasa, wanzwa? Where’s the girl? We have work to do, hapana time for games” Twista fumed as he grilled the dancer. There were only a few weeks left. Where was Mona?
“Ah, ah, ah, amana. How am I supposed to know? I didn’t do nothing to her, I just…” PK broke off in the middle of his defence.
“Just, just chii? Aripi? Where is she man?” Twista’s chest heaved at that point.
“Charlie, kaRoutine kaya, that’s all I showed her, that’s it. You don’t think, ndakamubvundutsa
right? I thought she was up for it. I…”
“PK!” Charlie clasped his forehead in exasperation. PK and his great ideas.
Mona wheezed heavily. Her heart raced faster than her size four feet as they padded the
ground. She ran. She hadn’t been much of an athlete at school, but she was quite accustomed to running. Running from classes, from assembly, from her form teacher, from Stacey and her crew of tyrants. Just running. Always running.
The only exception that day was that she was running from… herself.
Exasperated, panting, she sagged into a heap as she reached the summit of the hill the
locals had christened Gomo rePwere. The hill was the pinnacle of Mona’s identity. It was where she had fled when Mufaro and the world overwhelmed her, where she had disappeared to when her peers had gone for maSports, where she had many a time grieved for her late parents, it was where she had cried out words she ached that she could scream. It was where she had learned to dance.
Huddled on top of the hill, her arms wrapped tightly around her legs, she looked out over the
horizon and exhaled. In her mind’s eye, she saw the ghosts of her memories dancing around the hilltop, a tableau of times past playing out the scenes of her life painted upon the landscape. She saw her twelve-year-old self, a happier Mona, a lively, full Mona, years before the accident, hiding from her sister behind the hill’s granite boulders. She could hear the wailing of a heartbroken teen, coming to terms with being orphaned. The agonized wordless cries of a young girl. She saw Paida spinning wildly in an attempt to keep up with her friend’s
amateur choreography. She smiled, as she remembered how Paida had toppled over whilst trying to Voshso. What a gormless creature. A tear trickled down Mona’s cheek. Why was she so afraid? What would become of her? Would she always be…?
As she brushed away the stray tear, she heard a still small voice,
Mona, Trust me…
Whether from the wind, from inside her, or from her imagination Mona wasn’t sure. But she felt
an inexplicable, overwhelming peace. Strangely enough, whoever they were, whatever the voice meant, in the very pit of her being, Mona just knew, she trusted that all would make sense.
She knew what she had to do.
She lingered a little while longer on the hill, hugging close to her the new embrace of hope
she had received. The moment had passed, but the peace and newly gained strength went with her, as she got up from her resting spot and headed down the hill. There was no need to overstay the welcome and hang around like an off smell, or kunge mweya wetsvina, Gogo had used to say whenever the girls had sat around idly in the kitchen.
“Changamu, changamu. Mashaya zvekuita here vazukuru vangu? No, no, it’s not good, basa haripere rekuita,” Gogo had cautioned.
Then on the days they were overworked and worn, paradoxically,
“Iii, nhai vana vemwanawangu, hamugare pasi? Hmm, no girls, zvinzwireiwo tsitsi, kufirwa hayisi mhosva,” before taking her mid-day dose of fodya.
Mona continued her way down the steep hill, carefully avoiding a defiled clay pot that had been smashed unscrupulously along mharadzano. Mona teasingly shook her head at the dismal pieces. Whatever the voice had meant had given her a new found confidence, a feeling of invincibility. She wasn’t about to be frightened of some folklore about travellers wandering along cursed crossroads.
Ziggy staggered across the Old Rugby field towards where the group of young men were. His
beltless pants hung shyly, half way down his waist, unsure whether to remain there or just fall to his ankles in shame. In his right hand he held a metal flask. The stainless-steel container gave a hearty laugh as its contents sloshed about hitting the inner walls of the flask.
“Haaa!” he removed the cap irritably and took a swig from the container, smacking his lips in satisfaction.
“What does he want?” Charlie grunted as he looked in the direction of the intoxicated youth.
“Chii, urikuvhundukei? Hehe, aren’t you happy to see me? Eh? Charlie, close your mouth, uchamedza nhunzi.” Ziggy took another gulp of his concoction.
“Izvozvo, That’s exactly it. Kuparara ikoko. Uri kutsvageii kuno? What do you want, mfanha iwewe?” Zaks yelled at the trespasser.
Twista, jumped down from his throne on the topmost bench of the Rugby field terraces, ready to pounce like a lion whose pride land had been invaded.
“Haha, maChef Twista heheeee, blaz, you’re still here? Ko dzidzisa vanhu vako unhu ka. They got no manners your boys, don’t they know how to greet vaenzi?” he placed his flask in the dusk, as he cupped his hands, mockingly and gave a lousy attempt at greeting the boys,
“He-e. Hamuone? You see? Our grandfathers taught us respect boys. Makadii maChef?’ Ziggy continued his artless applause achirova gusvu, as if he was swatting flies.
“AH, get away mhani! You’re not wanted here, chidhakwa!” Zaks had zero tolerance for Ziggy’s nonsense.
“Iwe Zakias,” Ziggy pointed a wobbly finger at his accuser, “Usade kuzvichenesa, just because you’re hanging with mwana waBishop. Taisarova tese here?”
“That’s enough, man. It’s time for you to leave,” Pk stepped up to intervene.
“Hehe, Peekaaay. Hah, you’re doing things my guy. Hanzi you’ve got something neChimumumu chiiye? Ah you’ve got guts my guy, you-“
Before he could finish his sentence, PK had charged right at the drunk and hit him hard in the
stomach, knocking him straight to the ground.
Ziggy groaned in pain and squirmed like a drugged Mopani worm in the dust.
“Ah, bruv! You showed him the anointing…!” Tino called out excitedly from behind Zaks and Charlie.
Tino had won a scholarship to study overseas later that year and had since developed an LAFA
(Locally Acquired Foreign Accent). It drove Twista mad.
“Iwe Tino, hakusi kuLondon kunoku. Bruv, bruv chii? Get that loser off our field mhani!” Twista barked angrily, kicking hard at the dust where the drunk still tumbled and tossed.
Mona ran. Her feet had a mind of their own, and she was compelled to follow. She ran down the
remaining steep of the hill, till she reached the bottom, where the turf kissed the tar. The rush of the wind in her face as she made her descent was like water from Gogo’s tsime, on a long hot day when her throat had been parched. Refreshing. She gave a deep sigh and gulped in the air, like that glass of clean water, before turning into the main road and heading home.
Well, almost heading home…
Her phone jumped violently in her trouser pocket, before chiming its familiar tune. She reached
for it, as it rang. There was only one person crazy enough to actually call her.
“Momo! Come kumba quick. It’s an emergency, havasikumuka, I don’t know what to do. I need you here, NOW!”
The call ended before Mona even had a chance to ask anything.
Mona, you can’t ask anything anyway, silly girl, she scolded herself, then she spun around and raced in the direction of the distress signal. She would get the answers she was looking for when she got there. The voice had given her new strength. Paida needed her help. And Mona was ready to be the hero.
It was when she was almost halfway towards Paida’s place that the Adrenaline suddenly died down and common sense sunk in.
What on Earth am I panicking for? Mona asked herself. Paida is a drama queen, everyone knows kuti anopenga. Crazy. The girl is just crazy. It’s just an attention seeking stunt, again. She’s probably just having a wardrobe dilemma, or arambwa netukomana twake. She’s terrible with
heartbreaks. Yeah, that’s it. It’s definitely a boy.
Mona tried to reassure herself and settle her racing heart. What was with her that day? What
was she fretting about? She’d been feeling anxious and uneasy all morning, up until the encounter on the hill. She just needed to get a grip of herself. Seriously.
Her heart still pounded fast, as she reached the small gate by Paida’s house. It had to be unhooked from the inside, the latch had since been dismantled by Paida’s notorious cousins. Mona was no visitor to the house. She knew all the tricks as if she stayed there herself. She was practically part of the family, although Paida’s cousins had never been too friendly towards her, “quiet” friend. Composing herself, she steadied her shaky hands, Don’t be so silly Mona…and unpinned the pseudo-latch. As soon as she stepped into the little paved yard, Mona heard a cry from the kitchen door,
“Mona! Ndiwe? Huya sha, come, come. Ah Mwari imi!”
The fear in Paida’s voice startled Mona. It was definitely NOT about a BOY.
Charlie hadn’t told a soul. Especially not the boys. It wasn’t anything serious and it wasn’t
really a big deal, but they’d never understand that. They’d never let him live it down if it got out. Plus, they were just hanging, he didn’t need that kind of attention. Even she understood that and she wasn’t bad really. Not like how’d they’d said she was. She was actually kind of cool to be around, maybe he would think about making it official. Maybe. Nah. Too much pressure. No, he
wasn’t ready for that. Witchcraft.
She was calling him. Why on earth was she calling him? Musikana uyu.
He muted the volume and placed the phone back in his trouser pocket. He would just tell her
he was busy.
“Sha, your phone hayisi kurira here?”
“Ah, nah, iAlarm.”
“Haha, ok bro. But you should probably answer your ‘alarm’ maBhebhi aya, hmm…vanokuoonesa
“Shut up. Bhebhi ripi? I told you, iAlarm,” Charlie snapped.
The phone vibrated angrily in his pocket. The caller wasn’t about to be ignored just like that. Charlie sighed. He reached for the phone and was just about to decline the call.
Just Answer it. His conscience overruled his intentions, as he slid his thumb across the green icon on the screen,
“Charlie, come quick, it’s an emergency, Mai Kiri…takutovaendesa ku24 hour…Charlie, am scared. Kasika!”
It wasn’t the first time it had happened. The last time it was that bad, was that one weekend after the family’s trip to the Lake. Only that time Kiri and Tapi had been there. They were the adults. They knew what to do. It had scared them all, but it was just a brief incident. This time, this time it felt real. This time Paida was alone, she had to be the adult and for a moment, she didn’t know what to do.
Mai Kiri, was Paida’s maiguru, her mother’s older sister. The only mother she really knew, she’d stayed with her even before she was tall enough to stretch her right hand over her head and touch her left ear. Ever since her mother had gone to South Africa all those many years ago, she’d begun a new family since then, one which Paida had never met. Her only comfort were
the odd picture taken along the Durban sands, the perpetual promise to come home and visit and the odd phone call to ask for her shoe size. Mai Kiri, Mai Kiri never asked, she knew everything about Paida, from her shoe size, to her list of allergies, her dream to become a model and the hike in school fees. Mai Kiri was enough.
As she walked out of the kitchen and saw the seemingly lifeless body laying akimbo on the lounge floor, Paida’s jaw and the ceramic bowl she was holding, dropped. The bowl clattered to the polished floor, spewing its contents everywhere. Flakes of rice span across the floor as they
were spat out of the smashed dinner bowl, accompanied by soupy potatoes which fell in a frightened pile at her feet. Paida didn’t even notice the mess.
“Mhamha!” she rushed over to where Mai Kiri lay.
“Mhamha!” she repeated, attempting to shake her aunt into consciousness.
“Hmmm,” Mai Kiri gave a low groan. “Paida, Paida mwanangu,”
“Mirai, wait mhamha. Let me get help,” Paida responded.
Kiri was at the family prazi in Banket. He was way too far. This was an emergency. Paida tried her other cousin’s phone, but Tapi was unreachable.
Mona. I have to call Mona.
* * *
“Munhu angona kufa akangomirira kubatsirwa,” Tapi had complained once, after a trip to
the local hospital, when one of Mai Kiri’s younger boys had fractured his leg at a football match.
Since that incident Kiri had insisted that they were all treated at the local 24hour Clinic. Although a pricier option, patients were prioritized and received immediate attention unlike at the bigger local hospitals. Fortunately, Mai Kiri had Healthcare aid which covered those expenses.
The drive to the hospital had been awkward to say the least. The makeshift ambulance was the infamous green Honda. Mona was unsure of who actually owned it, it had so many different
drivers, it was hard to tell whose it was.
“It’s a squad car,” Paida had explained. The Know-it-All For Nothing.
The patient lay stretched out across the backseat, her head and feet propped up on the laps of her stand-in nurses, Paida and Mona. PK was sat in the front passenger seat, warning the driver of the roughness of the road.
“Mind!” PK exclaimed as Charlie narrowly missed a pothole.
Charlie shot PK a stern look. “Ndariona iwe,” and drove on in silence, eyes fixated on the road, swerving, dodging, and sometimes ramming right into ditches in the knotted tar road.
Paida whimpered in the back seat as she stroked her aunt’s head.
“You’ll be ok mhamha, takutosvika,”
Mona gave her a slight, yet reassuring smile from the other seat, wishing she could have said
something to calm her friend. But for Paida, her presence was more than enough support. Charlie brought the car to a halt, as he eased the vehicle into the designated parallel parking slot. He took a glance back at the passengers.
“Pee, Is she…ok?”
Paida wailed in response.
Charlie looked at PK as he opened his door.
“Bro, come on,”
The clinic nurses had wheeled Mai Kiri into the ward. It had been over two hours of
Paida paced the floor of the small outlet the clinic used as a Waiting Room. Mona followed
closely behind. Charlie and PK were sat by the benches.
“So, you and…?” PK began as he watched.
Charlie gave him a steely look, “Don’t.” Before PK could
probe any further, a dark, chubby young man burst into the Waiting Room.
“Paida! Paida! Uripi? Why didn’t you call me sooner?”
Kiri. Kiri had rushed from the farm as soon as he had received the call from Tapi. Tapiwa, Mai
Kiri’s second born had reached the hospital just an hour before, after she was called
away from work.
“Mira kani Kiri, mwana uyu. Plus, she’s still in shock. Neniwo,” Tapi followed in behind her brother.
She was dressed in a navy-blue ladies’ suit and brown suede pumps; foundation had smudged the collar of her white shirt and worry caked over her Black Opal’ed face.
“Ndanga nditori muMeeting, but I got here as soon as I could. Oh Paida,” she called over
to the anxious teen.
Tapi had never really been the sensitive touchy-feely type, but there was something calming,
in the warm embrace she gave Paida. Although odd and heavily perfumed, the hug felt like a safe place and Paida felt at peace.
“It’s ok Pee. She’ll be fine, iStress chete. It can’t be anything serious, ok?”
Paida nodded, and sniffed a little, as she wiped away a tear from her cheek.
A few moments later, a petite student nurse, with short hair and a neatly pressed uniform
walked into the alcove.
“Crispen Makosheswa,” she looked around the room for a response. “Is there a Crispen
Makosheswa in here?”
Kiri stepped up.
“Hmm, ndimi, next of kin vaMrs Portia Makosheswa? Chiremba varikuda kukuoonai.”
She stepped into the open doorway sheepishly leading the way.
Kiri followed her with a purposeful step, wearing a stern look to hide the fear welling up
The room was heavy with tension. Not much was said amongst the occupants. Charlie stared
sternly at his feet, his hands clenched together, as if in silent prayer. PK
hummed quietly to himself, stealing a glance or two at Mona, hoping to catch
her eye, wondering whether or not he should talk to her, clear the air. But Mona
had her eyes shut, meditatively. She thought about Paida and Mai Kiri and
Paida’s younger cousins probably wondering where their mother was and why she
wasn’t home. She was worried for Paida, but she didn’t want to think about all
that. So she changed the channel. In her mind she traced over a routine. The
Routine. Dance, dance helped her keep sober, stay calm. Everything would be
ok. The voice had told her so.
Paida whimpered and sniffled from the comfort of Tapi’s shoulder. A damp patch appeared on
Tapi’s foundation smeared shirt, from Paida’s tears.
“Paida, that’s enough now, she’s fine it’s probably nothing serious. Hapana zvekuchemera, ok? Stop crying, she’ll be fine,” just as Tapi said it, Kiri and the nurse walked back through into the Waiting Room.
“Kiri? Hanzi chii?” Tapi’s eyes darted from her brother to the tiny nurse.
“Relax Tapi. They’re still running some tests, but they will have the results in the
morning. They just need to monitor mhamha, semunhu aAdmitwa. Zvanzi it’s likely to be BP. Unongozivawo kana munhu akura, these things happen. Muviri unoneta, pamwe iSugar or something like that,” Kiri explained giving a diagnosis like an amateur doctor.
As if he was seeing them for the first time, his gaze turned towards the two boys
sat on the bench.
“And who are they? Ndimi anani vapfanha imimi? Paida wauuya navo vakomana ava? Who are these boys?” Kiri demanded.
The small nurse suddenly turned and headed for the door. She didn’t want to be a
witness to the drama that might follow
The boys simultaneously got up from their seats.
“They…they’re my friends. They’re the ones that helped Mona and me…” Paida began.
“Ah Mumu aripano nhai?” Kiri suddenly turned his attention to the young girl sat in the corner of the room.
Mona abruptly opened her eyes as if she’d just been rudely woken up. Her eyes burned
in Kiri’s direction. Mumu, he should have known better.
“Tisu tauuya naMoms, blaz. Ndinoiitwawo Charlie. And uyu anonzi PK,” Charles spoke from where he stood.
“Pee-kayii? Zvichirevei manje?” Kiri scrutinized.
“Kiri mhani, if it weren’t for these boys ka. Ndivo vabatsira Paida,” Tapi spoke up in their defense.
Kiri narrowed his eyes at them, a sceptical look knit on his face.
“Magona vakomana. Thanks, eh? You did well,” he cleared his throat before adding, “Chiitai muende kumba, zvanhasi zvapfura.”
He looked hard at Charlie, from head to toe, “Charlie, Charlie ani? Kumusha kwenyu ndekupi?”
“Iwe Kiri,” Tapiwa hissed at her brother.
“Charlie Makata. Uhm, hatina kumusha blaz, maChristmas ese taiidyira muLocation,” Charles responded.
“Chiendaizvenyu Charlie, thank you. Thank you so much,” Tapiwa said to save the young man from her over protective brother’s wrath.
“Mona, tichanokusiya kumba ok?” Tapi was being overly sweet. Mona almost wasn’t convinced.
Still she nodded her head compliantly.
“No, it’s ok,” PK interrupted. “Tinoenda naye, right Charlie?”
Charles shrugged in response. Mona’s face looked startled.
“You’re going with them?” Tapi turned to Mona.
“Imi vapfanha imimi ka, makuda kungwarisa manje,” Kiri was at boiling point.
“It’s ok, PK knows where you stay right? They’ll drop her paghedhi chaipo Kiri, musatye,” Paida gave her friend an encouraging smile. “Chienda sha, thank you so much, what would I do usipo?” with that she gave Mona a huge hug.
Even if she had wanted to, Mona was unable to object the offer. She followed the boys sheepishly as a bullyish Kiri, escorted them out into the corridor.
“Perkins!” a cheery voice called out. “Perrieee! Ndiwe nhai? Ah ko uri kuiitei kuno?”
The nurse at the reception shot the woman a fierce look, which said, “Keep it down, you’re in a hospital ward, not a youth rally.”
The woman took no notice and continued in her shrill tone, “Ko kusauuya kuChurch mazuva ano, nhai nhai akomana imi. The son of the Head pastor, eh? A member of the Worship team, unoti maDrums anoridzwa nani nhai Perry?”
PK scratched the back of his head and looked at the ground as he mumbled a response.
As if she had understood what he said, the lady answered, “No, no, no. That will not do, no excuses. Basa raMwari harimire, we are expecting you to play at the Conference musiwe 24, nhai ka?”
Perry, deflated and far from eager to continue the conversation, nodded his head submissively.
The lady smiled.
“Regai ndimhanye, pane tete vaElder Maleka vakaAdmitwa marimwe zuro. We had come to see her paVisiting hour ino. Iwe wati uri kuiiteii kuno zviiya? And who are your friends? Handisati ndambovaoona kuChurch wani? Hello vanangu, ndoiitwa Mai Mundarefu,” she introduced
herself to Mona and Charlie.
she can taaalk. Mona thought, her mouth slightly ajar, as she stared at the woman, who was wearing a colourful java print dress and a wig that was beginning to look more like a bird’s nest than a fashion statement. A breeding ground for lice, her grandmother would have said.
Before any of the teens had a chance to respond to their hasty greeting, Mai Mundarefu, spun round in the opposite direction and called,
“Heyii, I have to go children. Ndakanonoka zvisingaiite. Ndosvika vaMundarefu vatotanga kuShumira Ward yese! Perry, tokuoona,” and off she went.
“Man, what was that?” Charlie asked PK as the trio left the ward and headed for the
car park. “The 24th? Twenty-fourth? You know that’s the date-“
“Yes, I know,” PK cut him off before he could finish the sentence.
“Saka momz ava? And what’s the deal with people from your church anyway? Kasi ndiko kwega kunonamatwa?”
“Don’t start man. Don’t. Handei,” PK led the way towards the car.
“Nah bro, this is not on. There’s no way you’re bailing on us. Obvious hausi kuenda
ka. There will be other zvimusangano zvekuChurch, haaperi maRevival aya. Kana kwedu anotoitwawo. We’ve come too far for you to bail now,” Charlie lamented.
“Ichooo, chiCharlie Charlie. Haha PK, nhasi une bhebhi rako? So sweet,” a familiar voice snorted from behind them.
Charlie sucked at his teeth hard, “Nxaaaa!” it was vexation after vexation.
“Uri kudei amana? I thought you would know better than to be following us around,” PK turned to face the unwelcome face.
Ziggy smiled back at him, “Follow you around? Kasi chipatara ndechenyuwo futi Pastor’s Kid? Don’t you have choir practice or something?” he looked at his naked wrist as if to check the time.
“Get away mhani! Haukure seiko?” Charlie burning with anger.
“Get out of here!”
“Iiii, sha haundidzinge pano. Ndine kanzvadzi kangu, hehe she’s a nurse. Twuya tumaStudent nurse twunyowani twuya twuri smart. Tiny thing though, katema tema but ibhebhi manje. But you like the quiet ones don’t you PK?” he smiled patronizingly at Mona.
“Right, watanga futi ka? Nhasi ndokukwadza chete!” PK spun round ready to launch his fist like a loaded cannon.
This time Ziggy was ready and slightly more sober. He dodged, swooped and stood up;
arms flared. He then beat his chest like a gorilla, a sign of pride and mockery.
“Boys!” he called out across the car park, “Huyai muoone. These babies want to play.”
Three young men emerged from a number plate-less blue Volkswagen Golf, several parking spaces away from Charlie and the gang.
“Hanzi huya titambe Charlie,” Ziggy sneered. “Hanti you like to dance? Haha, come on vakomana, ngativaratidze,” he gave a signal to one of the boys and loud music began to blare out of the small car.
Ziggy’s crew thumped the ground with their feet, their routine was something close to the Haka, stomping and a combination of modern street choreography. It was almost perfect. It was almost flawless. Almost. Charlie and PK would have been impressed. But instead they were disgusted and Mona, Mona was startled. Because the routine was almost faultless, except that…it was Stolen.
They had mirrored Zak and Twista’s entire routine. Almost. A large part of it at least. Sure, they were rusty. They were drunk. But with the remaining weeks and a lot less bottles, Ziggy’s crew would be perfect and give Charlie and the other members of Speechless a run for their money. Unless…
“Imiii! Imi vapfanha imi!” the hospital guard called out as he rushed over to where the noise was.
Ziggy gave one last stomp for good measure, hitting his chest one last time, like a self-acclaimed hood king, as the music faded and the rest of his crew piled into the car.
“Mutsa mota! Mutsa mota!”
The guard was practically flying across the car park towards them. But he wasn’t fast enough, the Golf revved and shrieked and flew straight out of the car park, narrowly missing the candy cane barrier, which the guard had foolishly forgotten to let down, to prevent unauthorized access to the Clinic premises.
He was panting heavily as he reached Charlie, PK and Mona.
“Huh, huh, huh,” he tried to catch his breath as he doubled over, “Imi vapfanha imimi, ndivanani ivava? Pano pachipatara. Hapaiitirwe noise pano, manzwa? Nxaaaa vapfanha vemazuva ano hamuna kana respect. Pabhahwa here pano pamunoswera kutiridzira zvimaHouse Party? He-e? Mashaya kwekufarisira nhai?”
He took a long breath as he straightened himself up, “Ndevekupi vana ivava? And you, what are your names? Toone zvitupa zvenyu toone. Mumborine maLicense here? I can call the police right now ini! Munomboziva kuti ndine masimba api pano pachipatara pano? Do you know?”
“Ah, sorry kani mukuru. Sorry, hatina mhosva. Inga vatanga noise yacho mavaoona wani, nhai
“Nxaaa, nonsense!” the uniformed guard spat. “Huyai neni toone vapfanha imimi.”
“Saka ndimi makaronga zvese izvi here vapfanha imi? Kana kuti zvimwe makatora paindaneti? Hmmm, but mfanha agumisira uyu akaooma. Ndiwe ka apa changamire?” the guard looked up from the cracked phone screen and straight at PK.
PK flashed a shy smile, then scratched the back of his head before answering, “Er
“Wow! Ah saka munogona mhani! Tarendi chaiiyo chaiiyo eish…! And you too Mimi,” the overzealous guard turned and smiled in Mona’s direction.
“Mona,” PK quickly saved, “Anonzi Mona.”
“Ah, ndakavaMarker vapfanha vaya. Vanongouya vachiita ruzha pano, pese pese, ever since vakatanga kuuya kuzosiya kaNurse kanyowani kaya. Mugoone mwana musvinu svinu musikana uya. Makes you wonder kuti vanhu varikubva kumwe chete here? Aaah…you young guys, you must win. Ndakatokutembaii so! Ndinosiya basa mukarega ini! Kusiya chaiiko chaiiko!” he threw his hands in the air dramatically, the bunch of keys around his index finger clanked together in support.
Charlie rolled his eyes, “Saka maona ka mudhara? Can we go now? You see why there’s no need to call the police right? Hatina mhosva isu, toenda hedu ka?” he looked at the guard agitatedly.
“Ah, yah, yah. Ndakunzwisisa mfanha wangu. Endai henyu, asi… Security footage manje. Mutemo yepachipatara pano, doesn’t accept hooliganism of any sort and imimi, mamiriro amaiinge makaiita, it was your faces anga achibudapo. Inini kumurungu wangu manje, ndozvitaura ndichitii? I can be in your defence, asi I would be in breach of contract ka,” he sang
the last statement as if he the contract in question was right in front of him.
Charlie restrained himself, he really felt like hitting the man.
“Mitemo yacho inototi, anyone seen achiita zvisingatenderwe pamaPremises pano will be banned. Kusada kutoonekwa pano futi-i.” the guard continued. He straightened up in his chair as he added, “Bhati-i, for you vapfanha imimi ka. Ndogona kukuwanirai plan. But, hehe ingosiyaiwo yeDrink,” he gave a crooked smile.
“Ah, mudhara imimi ka-!” Charlie began in protest.
“Charlie, dzikama,” PK placed a firm hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Iwe sha, ndoCorruption yacho ka, ah! What does he want money from us for iye achishanda paPrivate clinic,” Charlie could not hold back his annoyance.
“Mfanha wangu, ini handishandire clinic. Madam wangu kumba uko vanenge vachitodawo tumaSomething,”
“Saka isusu tapindira papi-i panyaya dzekuden kwenyu?” Charles demanded.
“Charles, wait. Mudhara muri kutii? Ah right now mari hatina, but we need to clear our names. Tine shamwari yedu, she needs our support right now, tinenge tichizodiwawo pamaVisiting hour and all, vakasaDismisswa nhasi. Hatisati tane maDetails right now, but she might be here for a bit, so. Kuti tiBanwe…” PK tried to appeal to the guard’s better nature.
“Ok, ok chikomana. Uri wangu iwewe. Haaa, mfanha unotamba iwe, shame. But uyu, shamwari yako ngaadzikame. Wanzwa mfanha? Unopindura vanhu vakuru, don’t you have respect for your elders?” the guard pointed an angry finger at Charlie.
All the while Mona had been quiet. Like she had a choice. She sat in a corner of the small room, the guard’s operation centre, the small desk was littered with used teacups and old tea stains, watching the drama unfold before her. Drama, why was there always so much drama? Perhaps she really was a jinx.
The young trio soon left the makeshift HQ. They had negotiated with the headstrong guard;
they would have to win the Competition. He had guaranteed that he would catch Ziggy and his crew and deal with them accordingly. A mere parking restriction and trespassing caution wasn’t enough, “…hooligans never learn if you deal with them lightly,” the Know-It-All guard had explained. PK had had to leave kaSomething, though ‘for the trouble’, not yeDrink, but it was enough to buy a pack of the nice biscuits that had been trending.
“Twunonzi twumayi twuya? Itwotwo, twakapenga manje,” he had explained in an aim to smooth things over with their newly found ‘fan’.
Just as the young people were heading for the car a voice called out,
“Charlie! Mona! Peekayii…Muchiri pano?” Paida’s voice was distinct.
In all the fuss, how had they forgotten about Paida?
The girl rushed over to her friends, Tapi and Kiri hung back a little, but followed not too close behind her. She ran and gave Charles a hug, which he almost shrugged off.
This girl, pane vanhu. Does she want to get me killed? Charles thought as
he stared over in alarm, over in Kiri and Tapiwa’s direction.
“Charlie,” Paida began sobbing lightly, “It’s her heart. Mhamha, hanzi vaiita
heart condition, hanzi Rheumatic disease, they said she has to stay,”
Charles had never heard of Rheumatic disease, but if it involved the heart, like any
heart condition, it must have been something serious.
“It’s ok Paida, don’t worry. She’ll be alright,” PK said reassuringly.
Mona came up from behind the awkward embrace and touched Paida’s shoulder, then
pulled her away from the all too unsentimental boyfriend and hugged her to
It will be ok Paida. Mona hoped the words would transmit to her.
“Thank you, Mona. Thank you for being there,” Paida muffled, as if in response.
Perhaps telepathy was real.
“Mona? You kids were all still here? Were you waiting for Paida? Hoona vana ava
nhai Kiri, what good friends they are,” Tapi smiled over at them.
“Hmm,” Kiri grunted in an all not too amused response.
Feeling slightly embarrassed by the actual truth, the boys averted her eyes, shyly.
“Mona, come tinokusiya kumba. Am sure Mufaro will be waiting for you. Tamufonera
a while ago, so that she didn’t get too worried,” Tapi explained.
Mona was too tired. She followed Tapi obediently to her car. Kiri made his way to his own ride, a faded cream Toyota Sunny, probably older than both Mona and Paida’s ages combined.
Mona dozed off, just as the car reared out of the hospital car park. She slept up until Tapi arrived at the small, fenced gate of Mona and Mufaro’s inherited cottage. She’d never been so relieved to be home.
The weeks that followed were filled with activity. Vigorous rehearsals, hospital
visits, kitchen duty on nights when Mufaro was away. Mufaro had gotten a new
job, part time assisting one of the families’ in the community, cooking,
cleaning, choring. ‘Musikana webasa’ Tariona called her. Mufaro
hated it. And he knew it, so he would taunt her frequently.
Mona found him so mean, so twisted. What does she even see in him anyway? But
at least it meant she saw them both less and less and could attend to more
pressing matters, like mastering The Move.
Ziggy and his gang wouldn’t know what hit them. Team Speechless had reworked and
vamped up their choreography raising the bar to skyline levels. Their mixture
of Street, Contemporary, Latino and elements of Traditional African dance were
sure to catch the judges’ attention. But of course, the goal was to win. And The
Move was their most lethal ammunition to blowing them all away. Except… PK.
“Sha ka, chii? Chii chirikumbonyasokunetsa? Did you come here to play drums or
to win a competition. He-e kuPractice. He-e maDrums maDrums, zvazveDriving
Test here? You need to make up your mind, man. Are you part of the team or not?
Wakutikompromiza, wakuda kuzotirasisa manje mfanha. Ah,” Zaks was getting sick and tired of PK’s excuses.
“Sha, I know but…” PK broke off without finishing his sentence.
“We’re counting on you, man. You know Twista has been on your case from the start and
now you want to stunt on us like this tatomumaLast minutes so. Usadaro,” the choreographer pleaded, “One more chance man. Ndatokukumbirira, butTwist, he ain’t happy man. One last chance, or we got to drop you for real. UnotiKostera tese.”
PK hung his head at the reprimand. He really was trying to balance it all. Of
course, he couldn’t let the team down. The stage they were at was critical, but
he also couldn’t compromise his commitment to the church. Not again. He
couldn’t let his family down, not again.
Mona watched from over by the terraces at the pitiful sight. She hadn’t interacted
much with PK. Via text or in person, at least what limited conversation they
could actually have in person. Things were still a little awkward between them,
although PK had tried to reach out to her a few times after their trip to the
hospital, Mona had avoided him as much as possible. It was a shame, she kind of
missed his terrible attempts at sign language and the odd Hi, that would pop up on her phone.
Watching him being cautioned like that in front of the others, she kind of felt sorry for him. But who was she kidding? A guy like PK and a girl like her, it was a wonder how they were even friends at all, let alone even imagine the idea of them ever possibly being more. It was a dumb idea from the start. She had shaken it off. Gotten rid of it. Permanently deleted. What mattered was winning the Dance Battle and she had the key.
Acting as if she hadn’t seen what had happened, she jumped down from the benches and
headed to a grassy portion a little further across the field, kumaBaby Steps, as the others called it. It was the perfect spot for birthing and perfecting new moves. Mona and her feet had been spending a lot of time there as she nurtured ‘her baby’ and what a proud mother she had become.
Mona reached into her faded blue hood pocket and pulled out a small square gadget.
It was an MP3 player Paida had lent her a few days before. Paida was still a
bit worked up from her aunt’s diagnosis, but she was ok, even if she wasn’t participating in the Dance Battle. The Music Player was to help Mona rehearse her moves without distraction, to help her focus.
She plugged in the pair of earphones that were also a loan from Paida and pressed Play. Her favourite track. Well, she wasn’t sure if it was her favourite or if it had become so much a part of her and the making of her ‘baby’. It was the music that gave the entire routine life. What if the dance was actually the ‘music’ and the music was just ‘dancing’ along to her?
boom, boom, boom. Boom, boom, boom, boom.
The interlude began. Five, Six, Seven and… Mona did the headcount as she jumped into the song. She pumped her arms in the air, to the beat of the music. She threw her fists in sync with the tempo, the bass drum, thudded in her ears in tune with her raging pulse. It was in her blood like platelets, a part of herb being. She kicked, she spun and flowed with the sea of soundwaves as the track came to a climax and switched to a popular dance party tune. Zaks, the music demo was Zaks’ doing. He had produced all the beats and tracks for the routine,
he had it all figured out and it all synchronized together beautifully. It was time. She had gone over it and over it, till she could have gone over the
steps in her sleep. She closed her eyes and put all her concentration on what
was to come next. It had to be flawless.
She moved in sequence. Her feet accustomed to the tune, her hands flaring in coordinated response. She bopped and swayed, spun and jumped into the air, ready to somersault. As her feet left the ground, legs became arms and arms became legs, the music throbbed loudly between her ears, as she did her elaborate backflip. Landing back on her feet, heart racing with the tempo, she was just about to finish off the routine, when… Their eyes locked.
PK was stood watching her attentively, a slight smile smudged on his face. He had
a dimple, had she noticed that before? And his eyes. Did everyone’s eyes sparkle like that? Big Brilliant brown orbs of energy, like balls of light. Mona felt her face flush. Had he noticed her staring at him, staring at her? Had she been staring at him long? She quickly pulled her eyes away from his gaze and cast them to the ground, as if she was searching for an imaginary object she had pretended to have dropped.
“You’re amazing,” PK marvelled, “That was amazing. The whole routine, the definition in
the movements, the swoop at the end there…And, am disturbing you. Sorry, pedzisa hako, act as if I was never even here,” he gave a broad smile this time.
I wish. Mona thought. I mean, how do you ignore a smile like that? She was almost swooning. No, no Mona. Focus. She shook her head vigorously.
“Erm, are you alright? That’s part of the routine I showed you a few weeks ago right?
I thought you weren’t up for it though,” PK winced his face slightly the smile
Mona, didn’t know what to say, even if she did…
Oh, I changed my mind when I heard a mysterious voice when I was sat up on a hill? Her
inaudible inner voice responded. Yeah, right. Even if I could, who would believe that?
PK, who obviously wasn’t expecting a response, then asked,
“Would you like to come with me kuRehearsal? After, after tapedza panapa
I mean. I can help you perfect that last part, it flows better paine vanhu
two. Can we try something?”
Mona couldn’t say no. There was something about PK that swallowed up her ego and all
her hot-headed stubbornness. And he was right, alone the piece was excellent, fluid,
but together it gained meaning, zest. It breathed. And what a
beautiful baby it was.
The church was some way, away from the Old Rugby field in the opposite direction
from where Mona was used to traveling. It was a fairly short distance around a
fifteen-minute walk. It was fifteen minutes of ‘slightly less’ awkwardness,
covered mostly by the odd conversation gap filler from PK and an unexpected burst of laughter from Mona, at PK’s terrible punch lines. He had wanted to ask her what had happened, why she had disappeared, had she felt put on the spot? He wanted to but decided against it.
“Here you are, that’s our church building right there,” PK pointed towards a red brick building, which looked like a community hall. A banner hung over the entrance Welcoming visitors and indicating service times. The two made their way towards the tall, fenced gate, as they arrived at the church.
“Haha, I remember running around kumagrounds uko tichiri vapfanha, tichitiza Sunday school. Muchembere would boil…eish, pairohwa munhu ipapo. She was always strict about church attendance…”
Mona had never heard him mention his mother. His dad, definitely; the guys brought
him up almost every dance rehearsal, but he rarely spoke about his mum.
A team of youth were gathered by a set of cushioned benches inside the church hall.
“Perriiiiiie!” several voices called out.
“Perry auuya! Chauuya chikomana, chauuya! Chauuya neiko chikomana? Chauuya!” the other youth chanted.
Was it some type of greeting? Mona wondered.
PK gave a hearty laugh in response and waved them down.
“Haha, chill guys. Chill. Hamusikuoona kuti pane vaenzi here?” PK said teasingly, “Everyone, meet Mona,” he smiled over at his shy guest.
“Oh Monaa-aa! Finally! Haha,” one of the girls called from the benches, then went
to give Mona a huge hug.
“Ooph,” Mona gave a little start. Have we, met before? It was almost too friendly, she thought. Weird.
that’s Tindo for you, take it easy. Unotyora mwana wevanhu,” PK laughed.
“Haha, nice to meet you Mona, ndinozi Tich. Unfortunately, mfesi uyu aswera akatimisa
pano. Soo…we better start as soon as yesterday!” a young man signalled to
PK to come over to the choir stand.
Mona settled down by the cushioned pews, allocated for the rest of the congregation.
The sound really was beautiful. So uplifting and melodious. The harmony of the
voices, the synchrony of the parts. Singing was a lot like dancing, she
supposed. Only that she couldn’t. But listening to those voices, she felt an
overwhelming flood of peace. She’d never heard most of the song before, except
perhaps for one which Mufaro would play on days when she was feeling
‘spiritual’. Tari hated it. But listening to the youthful choir chorusing in
the big church hall, Mona couldn’t explain the current she felt, from the very
crown of her head, rushing down her spine. Perhaps this was what they call
Her heart swelled with inexplicable joy and uninvited tears welled up in her eyes.
“Hesi kani mwanangu!” a cheery voice cut through the pleasant ambience.
Mona slightly embarrassed quickly got rid of the sneaky tears, with the back of her sleeve. It was the lady from the hospital.
Oh great, the talker.
“Pane munhu here apa?” she took a seat before Mona even had a chance to respond.
Garai henyu Mai. She smiled over at the lady, really wishing that she would leave.
“Ah, face yako ndaiziva. It’s not my first time seeing you, no. Let me think.
But pano paChurch no. Definitely not from church, vasikana vepano…”
She looked Mona over, under an invisible lens, her eyes narrowed slightly. Then smiled at her.
Plastic. I could melt that grin with a candle. Mona stared back at the older woman, then switched her gaze to the rehearsing choir.
“Haa, vana vanoimba ivava. The one that’s leading, uyu akapfeka red.
That’s my second born Shero. Mumwe wake should be there too, but akabuda.
She studies Law in Canada now. Oh and ever since Perkins, uyu ari kuridza
maDrums, ever since adzoka mudanga, the place has really
transformed, you know. He’s been straight recently. Was always such a good boy,
eish, but pakangofa amai vake, things just went downhill. Bishop,
everyone, munhu wese was distraught. Worse pakazouuya
Mai Mufundisi vanyowani. You can imagine, he was only in form 3 the poor
child and so soon after his mother’s death. Pane vaitoti vakagara varipo Amai
Bishop vasati vashaya. But that’s just speculation, makuhwa chaiwo.
Petty gossip. Heyi, dai pasina Mwari vakapindira, especially neBoys
dzembanje that he was hanging around with. He didn’t take the remarriage
well, akatomboramba kuuya kuChurch. Boozing, partying and God knows what
else, zvamunenge muchiita vechidiki.” She put her hand to her face,
before she continued, “Hanzi akotombobvisisa mwana wevanhu nhumbu. For
me, that was it. He used to play with Natsai, dangwe rangu rakaenda kuCanada,
potse potse vaitodanana, but I wouldn’t allow it. Especially not with
someone so reckless. Thank God he’s back now, our sweet Perry wataiziva.
Adzoka mugwaro mwana wedu. Maybe dai akatowanawo scholarship like wangu Natsi. Anga akapasa hake, but not to the standard we expected. Bishop…Hmm…”
This woman is poison! And why is she telling me all this? She doesn’t even know me! And PK…Oh PK. Did he really? It’s none of my business.
Before the polluted grapevine could finish her narration, Mona beat her hands together in a pamusoroi gesture to pardon herself. A polite way to leave the nosey woman and her tales. She had heard enough.
“Oh,wakutoenda mwanangu? Hmm if you’re looking for the ladies its uchingobuda
paEntrance, the door to your left. Or zvine tukomana mukati? Hmm vana vemazuva ano, you can never be too sure. Terrible, I taught my daughters better though…”
Mona was already several pews away. She suddenly felt very sick.
There was so much Mona wanted to ask PK, after her encounter with that nutty woman
Mai Mundarefu. But it didn’t seem like it was her place to. What was she going to ask?
PK, is it true you made a girl abort her baby?
Not that she could actually say it aloud, even if she wanted to. There was no way it could be true, it was PK. The sweetest guy in the dance squad. But then again, the boys in the squad did have their share of horror stories, especially when it came to the other gender.
What= mattered was focusing. Focusing on winning. She couldn’t let too many thoughts
swarm in her head, it would mess up the routine. The sequencing, her newly
gained agility, her collaboration with her new dance partner…PK. No, Perry. She liked Perry much better. And even if it was true, it was in the past wasn’t it? He was a changed person and spending time with him during dance rehearsals, tagging along with him to choir practice here and there, was she?…
It was time to focus. She dodged that swarm of thoughts like wasps around a fallen mango in mid-December. She wasn’t about to allow herself to get stung.
PK is late again. I told him, I told this guy, he’s been slacking waaay too
much. Ada kuenderera mfanha uya,” Twista paced the cracked cement paving
of the squad’s ‘dance floor’.
“Chill bro, am sure he’s on his way,” Charlie tried to be reassuring.
“No, stop. Stop having his back. Not this time, we’re six days away. Six. Akuzviwanza. Akuonererwa manje. We can’t afford no shows right now. We can’t afford slops. Ndatoshatirwa so,” Twista was at boiling point.
PK, almost as if aware he was the topic of discussion, arrived just on cue.
“Now you decide to show up? Good. Wakunyanya kuzvinzwa mfanha iwewe. Wakuzviiti
wakanyanya ka? Bho. This team doesn’t need maSalad. It needs committed people and you watoratidza kuti hausi serious. Hanti ghedhi iro remunaFreeton Way unoriziva? Dzokera in that direction. We don’t need time wasters here,” Twista spat, his face was up close to PK’s, the veins in his temples throbbed angrily.
“Whoa changamire, cool down. We can fix this,” Charlie piped up.
“Yeah, I already have. Get off my field, mhani!” Twista gave PK a hard shove. “Mari yako yaperera pano, you can walk the distance alone now, because clearly, you don’t need us. And we don’t need you,” Twista turned his back on PK in puffed up rage and walked, without looking back, towards the Rugby ground benches.
Charlie chased after PK.
“Sha, man. Wait iwe…!” he panted. “Ko urikumhanyirepi? Are you just going to back out just like that? Aren’t you going to prove yourself?”
“Sha, am too old for this. I told you, you know. Mdhara wangu kumba uko, I’ve let him down before, I can’t do it again,”
“Sha you can’t keep beating yourself about that. Zvakatopfuura wani, why you still bringing it up?”
“Hazvina sha. I saw Mai Shantie the other day muClose. The hatred in her eyes. Vatondivenga sha, and it’s been a whole three years. And it wasn’t even me! Ziggy… The way I had that kid’s back. Now am paying for the consequences,” PK put his hand to his face in despair and gave a deep sigh.
“You have to stop doing this man. Hazvibatsire kufunga zvinhu zvakapfuura. Past is past. All the more reason to let it out and go win this thing. Put that dog Ziggy in his rightful place,”
“Am done, bro. Rega ndimboiita basa raMwari, but even kuChurch kwacho haaa!”
“Perkins,” Charlie hadn’t called him by his full name in, ever. “We need you for this. Mona, Mona needs you. You gonna let her down too?”
PK’s face softened for a minute, before becoming stern and edgy again. Charlie noticed it. Maybe he had found a way in.
“You and Mona, erm…Are you…?” Charlie asked cautiously.
“Like you and Paida? No.” and before waiting for a response or follow-up question, PK turned on his heels and headed towards the tall, rugged gates of the Old Rugby field.
The following three days were tasking and intense. Twista and his pride had refused to listen to reason. He wasn’t about to nyengerera anyone, especially not PK. He had gotten too big for his boots. Didn’t he know there was only one squad leader?
“Mwana wemufundisi kuChurch. Not on my field. You play by my rules here,” he had told the boys when they had suggested getting PK back on the team.
It was to no avail.
Team Speechless continued to rehearse without their star mover. Did it still flow? Of course it did, but the routine had lost it’s life and the members had lost their energy.
“Does it really mah-uh if we win anyways?” a tired Tino asked after one particularly stressful session.
“Mah–uh, mah–uh, kudii?” Twista gave Tino a steely look, “if you keep on with your nonsense, I will boot you straight kuLondon kwacho myself. If you don’t want to win, why are you even here? NO Time wasters. Usandibvunze nonsense mhani, nxaa,”
He spat at the ground and rubbed the wet dirt into the ground with his shoe. Then added, “And if waona zvakuremera, you can leave just like mumwe wako did. This is an open floor, the gate is always open. Unongobuda,”
Tino had remained quiet. But he cursed at Twista underneath his breath. PK had taught him to hold his anger in. Composure. He’d need it when he went to the whites, otherwise a different Tino would have given Twista a piece of his mind. Instead, he gave him a crude yet, diplomatic One-finger salute, before going back over the Slide-Step, Kick-Fist Flip move he was still perfecting.
Mona had felt it was better to give PK his space. Of course he’d come back. They were days away from the Competition and she couldn’t do The Move alone, could she? Well she could, but together, together it was perfect. Together they would win.
At the end of day three, a long fruitless, tiresome practice, filled with Twista’s rage and curses and almost a fist fight between the pack leader and Zaks the dance coordinator, Mona decided to make a plan. She decided to go to church. They needed PK, whether or not Twista would admit it.
* * *
Mona reached the church, almost out of breath. She had half-sprinted most of the way there. She had barely stepped through the gates when she saw them. A group of four or five youth from the church stood by the Main Entrance. She recognized a few of their faces. Amongst them, was PK. None of them seemed to notice her.
“Oh Perry, we’re so glad you’re a part of us. Taiita sei usipo?” she heard Shero, Mai Mundarefu’s daughter say.
Shero then threw her arms around his neck, in what Mona felt was an overfriendly embrace. She felt knots tie up in her gut. And what made it worse was that PK didn’t resist her, he hugged her right back heartly.
So much for that. Mona thought disappointedly. I guess he really doesn’t need any of us.
Downcast she stepped out of the gate opening and headed back in the direction she came. Deeply saddened.
It was the day of the competition. Mona felt as nauseous as that Last Christmas when Mufaro had let Tariona prepare dinner. They were all sick for days.
Mufaro knew. There was only so much one could hide from their sister. Worse still, especially after she had brought home a pregnancy test kit one night, after rumours reached her that Mona had been seen around quite frequently with a group of rowdy boys.
“No, this is not for me. I know you’d never tell me if…but that baby would be ours, ok? I’d be disappointed, but we are in this together, ok Mona?”
Mona had been mortified at the suggestion, but she took the test, not out of her own will, anything to get Mufaro off her back.
Mufaro had been disappointed that Mona had been sneaking around with boys, behind her back. But at least she wasn’t pregnant. Her small salary was only just enough for groceries and basics, without having to cater for another little person or a bigger person’s cravings.
Tarie hadn’t been around that entire week. He’d travelled to the border to deliver some freight. Mufaro had a shift that day, but she promised Mona she would be there. She wasn’t going to miss her little sister’s debut, after all,
“I was the one who taught you how to dance you know. Way back when we were young, uchiri kufamba kunge kadhadha kane mateya. Dad would laugh and laugh, of course I was the star of the show. Ndakangokasira kuzvinetera, otherwise…” realizing she was drifting off, she looked back at Mona and smiled warmly at her, “I’m proud of you, mainini.”
Mona grabbed the last of her gear. They were to be dressed in all black and white sneakers. Zaks had had a set of t-shirts organized for the whole team, each with their individual names at the top left corner and Speechless sprawled in white diagonally across the back in a graffiti style. She double checked she had everything she needed, then headed out the door. It was time to go and shine.
Late, she was running late. Registration for all groups started at 430pm and it was already 16:08. The venue was all the way at the other side of Freeton Way, the road adjacent to the Rugby field and another fifteen to twenty minutes from there. Would she make it?
Mona dashed across several streets, dodging cars, children playing in the street and nosey women, who just wanted to see ‘musikana asingataure akasiwa nevabereki vake, anogara muzasi umo’.
“Ko ari kumhanyirepi?” as if it was any of their concern.
As she turned into Freeton and checked her time it was already 421pm, when a small cream kombi beeped its horn. A voice called out from the hwindi seat window.
“Mona! Mona hande, pinda,” the voice said as the front passenger’s seat door flew open.
PK. But I thought?…
Mona suddenly drew her attention to what was written on the side of the omnibus. It wasn’t a public transport vehicle; it was the church minibus.
“Sha, pinda. Get in lets go, hapana time,” PK jumped out and ushered her into the front seat.
Mona flustered and confused, began to protest.
“Uh? Ah, ah,” she waved her hands in objection.
“Sha, we have a competition to win,” PK said.
At that she loaded herself into the car like a bag of potatoes ekuMbare. She knew it. She knew PK would be back, but how? Why? Would they be able to? Did Twista know?
All the way the kombi, which was filled with youth from PK’s church, a mix of new and familiar faces, buzzed. Mona was slightly alarmed, she’d never heard such in her life. It was almost like a chant, but each one chanted differently, some rhythmically, some in progression, some in hushed tones, some loudly. None of the words were familiar, they didn’t even sound human. Paida had told her about such a thing once.
They must be speaking in tongues. Mona stared back at them over her shoulder. She felt a little uneasy, but again, that overwhelming peacespread across her. The electric current feeling she had felt in the church.
Tears once again welled up in her eyes. Maybe she just felt overwhelmed.
“We commit Br Perkins and his group into your hands. And we know that victory is assured in Jesus’ name!” Tich the church choir coordinator concluded in prayer.
At least I can understand that. Mona thought.
The kombi came to an abrupt halt at the venue entrance. It was an old run down shopping mall, those in the community hired it out for events, gigs and…The Move dance battle.
“Hurry, guys, it’s already 4:32pm!”
“Don’t worry Perry. You can only win,” Tich gave PK a pat on the back as he stepped out of the minibus.
Mona and PK ran ahead. They had a battle to win. Mona could feel her heart racing. PK grabbed her hand and pulled her through the throng of people, over to the makeshift registration desk, where a girl with short spiky bush locks, a gold ear cuff and a white ‘SUPPORT LOCAL Tees’ T-shirt sat.
“Hi, erm tauuya kuzoRegister for the battle,”
“Wanonoka sha. Registration closed at four thirty. Izvezvi dza 4:34pm,”
“Sha, traffic. It’s mad out there, we’re here with Team Speechless. Have they registered yet?” PK asked frantically.
“All, our participating teams registered, ON TIME. Anyone else can wait for next year,” the girl curled her lip unamused, as she responded.
“PEEEKAYYY! MONAAA!” Charlie’s voice cried out from within the arena entrance. “Mhanya, ah, we thought…” he rushed over to the desk where his friends stood.
He smiled at the girl by the desk. “Hesi sha, don’t worry, they’re with us,”
“Saka? The book says registration closes at half 4. Vanhuvako are late,”
But Charlie was already mischievously penning down their names in her book.
“Date of Birth sha?” Charlie called over his shoulder.
PK jumped to action, quickly inking in the remainder of his details, before handing the pen over to Mona.
“Iwe!” the desk registrar screamed, “Zvandataura kasi, hauna kuzvinzwa?”
“Don’t worry hun, oh…buy yourself something nice kumaRefreshments,” Charlie slid a five dollar note below the book, before making a dash for it.
“Do you think am that cheap?” the girl got up from her seat.
She was a lot bigger than Mona had expected her to be. Her shiny black leggings revealed that she could sit on Charlie and squash him like a bug.
Charlie looked over his shoulder at the lady Goliath and smiled his cheeky smile, “Relax babe, tokupa tahwina,” then he dashed on ahead of the other two.
We better win for your sake. Mona mused as they followed on closely behind the mischievous youth.
Pk was still holding on to her hand tightly. Even if they didn’t win, the moment was definitely one to cherish.
“No.” Twista was firm and abrupt. He had his arm crossed and his face knit in a no-nonsense gaze.
“Sha, chimbomira,” Charlie began.
“I said. NO,” Twista was adamant. “We don’t need either of them. Ngavadzokera havo,”
Well, manje zvavatoRegister, my guy. Be sober for a minute, yeah?” Charlie really was pushing the limits.
There were several acts ahead of them and a throng of people within the audience. Members of Team Speechless spotted familiar faces, friends, family, former classmates and even the odd school teacher.
“Sir, ava vagara vaiida zvinhu. He’s only here for a fresh catch, vaiitorera mabhebhi edu paFazh,” Charlie whispered to Tino.
“Sha, have you seen those guys? Ah team repaGhetto rakaoma boys!”
“Charlie, will you shut up? Chimbonyarararwo please. Please. Dai uri mumwe munhu you should have been going over zvatichazoiita up there,”
“Don’t worry, man.” Charlie beamed, “Look who’s here? Ndakuigirai Christmas box.”
“Charlie,” Zaks felt like hitting the jittery youth, but simmered down and lowered his partially raised hand when he saw Mona and PK emerging from the crowd. A displeased Twista followed closely behind.
“Haha! Yesss! Haha, chinhu one chawagona mfanha wangu. Come over here imi. Muri kuda kunyengererwa here?” Zaks called over to his star duo.
“I said no. We don’t need them, they’re deserters, they’re-” Twista hardened his heart Pharaoh.
“Twista ibva ah. The prodigal sons are back. And yes, we DO need them sha. Have you seen the crews out there?” Zaks interrupted.
Twista looked over at the stage. A central elevated platform, with flashing neon lights dancing from the base of the stage and reflecting off several ceiling hung disco balls. The team that was performing had the entire audience in awe. There were girls in hot pants, the kind of fashion Mona never understood, “Itwotuma Bum-short nemaGuvhu out twakazouuya utwo,”Mufaro had complained one day.
They twisted and turned and kicked and jumped,
whilst the boys in the performing crew, Vosho’ed, Dougie’d and Dodged. Catching a few of the girls as they spun in the air and landed in their arms.
“Ah, izvezvo ndezvekubhawa izvo,” Twista said bitterly.
“Face it man. These guys need new things. Put Mona and PK back in,” Zaks coaxed.
Ziggy and his crew stepped on stage, placing themselves in a Cowhorn formation and beginning a modern twist on the Haka.
“Nxaaa, vapfanha ava. Dai vakadona paStage. God knows he can hardly see it anyway,” Charlie voiced, but no one was really listening.
Stoned or not, the judges were impressed by the Zig Zags, and a few of the audience stood up in applause.
“Haaaa! We can do better than that. Come On guys!” Charlie never ran out of energy.
Ziggy and a few of his members spotted team Speechless and staggered over in their direction.
“Haha, so you decided to show up ka? Aww, inga zviri sweet. Hah! PK I hear you and bhebhi rako rinonyara iro have some ballet steps for us?” Ziggy mocked.
“Tinokumedza!” Charlie threatened.
“Get out of here you wannabe!” Tino followed suit.
“Hah, Tino ndiwe unoziva ka chirungu, zvinonzi chii zviya? Break a leg! All of them,” with that Ziggy gave a nasty jeer and summoned for the rest of his boys.
Twista was proud, but he also despised Ziggy. He turned in the direction of PK and Mona
“You, better not let us down. Ok?”
“You want us in?” PK acted confused.
“Mfanha handikunyengerere inini. I said. Do not let us downnnn…” he hissed the last sentence for extra emphasis.
Several dance crews and an injury later, it was time for team Speechless to prove themselves.
“Waona zvaita kabhebhi kaye? That’s what happens from not stretching and following a proper regime, her footwork was good but…I know you’ll be better. Takakutemba Mona. You got this,” Zaks told Mona reassuringly, in a quick pep talk from Speechless’ ‘dance coach.’
It was time to shine. The lights in the arena dazzled her more than enough.
How could people even see what they were doing up there?
Mona thought from the base of the stage.
She was crouched down at the foot of the stage and would appear later on in the routine, as they had rehearsed. Only this stage was so much different from the Rugby field grounds. So much more elevated, so much more, REAL. And there were so many eyes on them this time.
She looked up and caught PK’s eye.
“You got this,” he mouthed silently to her.
I hope so. I really hope so. She bowed her head as the music began.
It seemed spontaneous, yet so well pieced together. The way each member flowed, Mona’s sudden appearance on stage. Every movement definite, yet fluid. Then came the moment. Just as she had rehearsed for so many weeks before. Only this time, with her dance partner, the Flying Penguin.
She gulped and took a deep breath. The music blared, alittle more loudly than she would have liked. Kick, Step, Sway, Spin, Jump…The sequence rang in her ears almost as loud as the bass of the song.
As she jumped up and did her backflip, she spun in the air.
One, Two, just as practiced. Then she Star jumped right into PK’s open arms.
This is some serious trust,
she thought. Her chest heaved as she let go of a deep breath. Not done yet.
PK’s hands were scarily sturdy. She jumped up, did another backflip and then landed firmly on the stage.
I think I feel tipsy.
The pair shimmied and shook their shoulders, chopping the air with both hands, as the others who were crouched on stage, stood up and joined them in a synchronized Slide-Step, Kick-Fist Flip that Zaks had taught them.
Twista gave one final elaborate, unrehearsed spin, jumped and punched the stage hard, for good measure.
The crowd went wild.
But had it been enough? The crew rallied off stage, high fiving each other. Congratulating each other for the job well done.
“Twist man, ko what was that? Ndozvatakawirirana here nhai?” Zaks questioned the leader.
“Hah, sha, you’ll thank me later,” Twista had a smirk spread across his face.
“Any chance to shine hey maBoss?” Charlie sang cheekily.
Paida came backstage forcing her way through the contestants.
“Mona, Mona!” she screamed excitedly.
“Mona?? Kasi hauna kundionawo?” Charlie asked her, as he wrapped his arms around the slight creature in a warm hug.
Everyone, except Mona and PK seemed surprised. Well, they were a little alarmed. They looked at each other and grinned. Then just as suddenly looked away and back at Paida.
“You were amazing,” Paida flung her arms around Mona, once she had gotten untangled from her dramatic bae. “So were you PK! You guys. Ah makugona manje, you’re amazing together!”
PK and Mona took one last glance at each other at Paida’s last statement. PK grinned at Mona, they both shook their heads as they turned their attention to the girl up on stage announcing the winners.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, vakomana nevasikana, maGentleladies and men. Thank you so much for your patience, your energy and being an amazing audience. Zvirovirerei maoko!” she cried as she demonstrated the applause she expected.
The crowd responded obediently.
“Unfortunately, the competition must draw to a close and we
must announce our winners for tonight, who will receive a $1000 cash prize. Yes,
maYuwesi akomana nevabereki! As well as a chance to feature in the latest dance video of the trending new Zim artist on the streets, KingMangoma!”
The audience roared.
“So before we announce the runners up, here’s a few words from the man himself and one of our most elite judges on the panel tonight.”
“Izvozvo zvemaSpeech zvine basa reyi? Ngavatipe mari yedu tiende” Charlie complained, as he hugged Paida close to his side.
Many elaborate words and a brief history of the judge’s achievements and dance experience later, the vibrant MC pounced back on stage.
“The judges were taking note of the use of skill, new and old styles, teamwork and overall talent displayed by the different sets of dancers. It was a close call, but after much consideration, here are the results. Unfortunately,” the MC explained, “Two of the teams were disqualified, after one group was found taking illegal substances backstage. The judges don’t take lightly to such behaviour, intoxication or the use of any other substance which might give teams an uncompetitive advantage, is NOT tolerated. The other team was caught bribing one of the officials,”
Mona and PK shot Charlie a startled look. Charlie, alarmed, shrugged his shoulder and shook his head vigorously.
“Ko, hanzii?” Twista demanded.
“Nothing bro, don’t worry about it,” Charlie, ever the smooth talker.
“Without much further ado, here are the results.”
Twista, Tino and Zaks looked on desperately. Charlie, Mona and PK held their breaths, hoping. Trying not to imagine the worst, surely, they weren’t the ones who had been disqualified? Were they?
“…and our Runners up, with such flawless and admirable footwork, The Ghetto Stompers!!!!” she announced, the crowd applauded loudly, a few wolf whistles were heard in the thick of the people.
“But without a shadow of a doubt, although it was by but a margin…” she demonstrated the gap between her forefinger and thumb. “Our winners are… Hmm, DJ chimboiisai kaSomething audience yedu imbotamba toone,” the audience responded with a large
“Taura kani, takuda kuenda!” different voices chorused.
“Eish, y’all are a tough crowd,” she called into her mic, “Musadaro, so….haha. Ok, Our Winners for tonight are…Wait for it…
Paida almost screamed down Charlie’s ear in excitement. The boys backstage and the audience in the arena roared.
PK turned over to Charles, “Charlie!”
“We did it bro! I told you…We did it!” Charlie screamed in response.
PK in his excitement hoisted Mona into the air in celebration.
“Mona, we did it! We won!”
Mufaro suddenly burst through, screaming, “Aripi? Where is she? Mwana waAmai wangu iyeye! I raised that baby! I did!”
She rushed over to where the other members of the team were. PK suddenly gained his composure and set back Mona down on the ground.
Mufaro flung her arms around her little sister, almost strangling the life out of her.
“Am so happy! Oh Mona, am so happy baby girl! Wandidadisa. Mum and dad would have been so proud, if only they could see you now…!”
“Erm, Mona, takudiwa paStage,” PK muttered, feeling a little embarrassed at breaking up such an emotional scene. “Go, don’t worry, ndinenge ndakakumirira kuno uko. Go Mona,” her older sister urged her. nThe team stepped back onto the stage for one last time that evening. The lights still dazzled Mona and she suddenly felt more nervous then than she had during the performance. The MC hugged each one of the team members in turn. She was accompanied by the very elaborately attired KingMambo, Mona thought the collection of neck-chains he wore must have weighed a ton. They were also greeted by another lady, a tall blonde white lady, with a sparkly green satin type dress. “This is our other guest, Elizabeth Schmidt, Director of one of the top International dance schools in the region. Anything to say Lady Liz?” the MC gave the floor over to the tall lady.
“Haha,” the tall woman gave a short, yet crystal laugh, “I think we’ve all had enough speeches for tonight. But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances from all of the teams. Beautiful, creative, lively. Especially you, young lady,” Elizabeth turned over to Monalise. “I was typically impressed by your performance. What’s your name, miss?”
She put the mic up to the teen’s face, for everyone to hear.
“Mona,” she said. My name is Monalise Mutsawashe Tambo.