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.