Dreading the holidays without him:

After struggling for two weeks to sleep because I was so worried about him and his safety, I finally managed to fall into a deep sleep.

I think this was from pure exhaustion.

Something is disturbing me in my sleep. I was dreaming and this incessant noise infiltrated my dream. It sounds like a phone ringing. I am definitely not a morning person and most people know that about me.

“Answer it, please” I scream in my dream but it continues.

“Argh I will get it, everyone just ignore it, that’s fine!”

I abruptly sit up and realize the phone is still ringing.

“Yes, who is calling me at 2 in the morning” I bark into the receiver.

“Hello is this Thesna?” A generic voice on the other end asks.

“Yessss” I whisper tentatively.

By now I am who died and how I am going to live without that person. I have the most vivid imagination. My mind plays out scenarios that can compete with a Hollywood blockbuster movie. 

“This is Telkom exchange will you accept a collect call?” Generic voice asks me.

“Yes, yes, put it through!” My eagerness is clearly evident in my tone.

“Hey, my darling” a deep rumbling voice greets me. 

It’s my love and I’m immediately filled with so much love.

“Hi, sweetie” I answer in my sweetest most loving voice. 

“Why didn’t you call or write?” He asks in an accusing tone.

“Call to where?” “Write to which address?” I’m confused.

“I gave my family the details ages ago and asked them to pass it on to you” he answers slightly impatiently.

Oh! I see so that’s what happened? I didn’t tell him about the fact that I never heard from them. I felt it wasn’t the right time but I filed it into my mind for when he gets back.

He is stationed at a place called Umbogintwini. It’s a public phone he is using because they’re not allowed to have money on them. 

We chat until it’s time for him to go and my heart is happy. I heard from him. I feel like dancing and singing. 

For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, I speak to him every night. We arrange a time every night and like young love, we find it difficult to say goodbye. It’s a case of “you hang up” “no you hang up” and every night ends like that. 

He hates being there. He can’t understand why he is there. He proceeds to tell me about black people he encountered while on patrol. Immediately my hackles are up because I have lived through the army patrolling our streets and the violence they meted out. He is a sergeant and so is in charge of a few men and he says the people from the township called him and as he went the other men were shouting at him to be careful but all the people wanted was for him to shoot a cow and they were friendly and hospitable and even offered him some meat but he couldn’t take it back to the camp because he would be in trouble. He was angry and didn’t understand what “die swart gevaar” was all about because the people he met were always friendly and nice to him. I explained it because he isn’t horrible to the people. If he respects them then they will respect him. He got what I was trying to say and that made him even more impatient to come home.

We had arranged to speak again after Christmas as he told me he wouldn’t be near the phone again.

I was sad but I accepted it.

Christmas day arrived. I went to church by myself, phoned my family in Cape Town to wish them and settled down to a quiet take away lunch I had bought.

As I was about to settle down to eat, I heard a loud banging on the door. 

Who could be banging unless it was the caretaker because he does that when he has been drinking. 

I cautiously opened the door and before I knew it, I was held tightly and swept into big, strong arms while being kissed all over my face.

“Hello my darling!” He said.

Wait! I’m confused. My brain hasn’t registered that it’s my love that’s with me and holding me.

“Wait! What are you doing here?” I asked confused.

The army uniform was triggering for me but he took off his beret and asked: “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“Of course I am” hugging him “But what are you doing here?”

“I ran away” he calmly states.

“You what?” “Won’t you get into trouble?”

“No, I won’t!” He smiles confidently. “Don’t worry I will go back after New Year”

“I missed you and didn’t want you to spend Christmas alone!”

My heart! I don’t think I could have loved him anymore than I did at that moment. 

We spent the next few days wrapped up in our own world. Not visiting anyone. Not taking calls. Just spending as much time together as what we could. There was no other couple (according to us) who was as happy as we were.

He decided to travel back to Durban on the 5th January. On the 3rd of January we went to the ticket office and bought him a ticket to go back. He knew he had to even if he didn’t want to. 

As we happily came back to our little love nest, the phone rang and it kept on ringing. He didn’t want to answer so I went to answer it.

“Where is my son?” His mom demanded. “He is here!” I answered.

“I need to speak to him now!” 

“How could you do this?” She is angry as she demands an answer.

“Do what?” I ask.

“Don’t act like you don’t know!” She shouts.

“I have the military police here looking for him. He could go to jail. He has been listed as AWOL!” She replies.

Military Police? Oh no! AWOL?

I give the phone to him and I can hear her crying and berating him. 

He answers “Yes, I booked for the 5th!”

Once done with the call, it’s my turn to interrogate him

“Firstly, why are the Military Police after you?” Secondly why is your mom upset with me?” Thirdly, what is AWOL?”

“AWOL is absent without leave, my mom is upset because she thinks you asked me to come back and it’s a big offense because I could be jailed.” He replies in his calmest voice.

“Jailed” I panic. “What the heck!”

“We have to change the ticket for tomorrow! They’ve given me 24 hours to get back or else!”

Or else always sounds ominous. Our honeymoon period is officially over and I’m in panic mode about the possibility of him being thrown in jail.

The next day its goodbye tinged with worry and sadness and I return to the flat alone again but now I am worrying about him.

48 hours later, I receive another collect call and he tells me he got back in time (before the deadline the military police issued) but he was stripped of his rank and has to stand guard duty until month end when his camp is completed. 

There is uproar among his family members who wants to meet the person who “made” him run away from the army.

I have been “summoned” to Durban when he is back.

Month-end arrives and he is safely home and we are packing for the weekend at his family’s home.

I am nervous and to pretend otherwise would be lying and when I am nervous, I become quiet. 

He is in a great mood (Insert eye roll here), because we get to spend the weekend in Durban.

We finally arrive at his mom’s place and I’m tired, irritable and sweaty besides nervous.

“Honey I’m home!” He jokes as he opens the front door and lets me in first.

All I see are eyes trained on me. The lounge is packed with people and there’s hardly place to sit.

“So let’s see this woman who got you into trouble!” I hear a voice say.

The room is silent as I move forward to meet everyone. I’m looking for a friendly face, a smile from someone but everyone looks so serious.

“Go and sit down,” he says from behind me, “I’m just going to put our bags down” and in a flash he is gone.

I take a deep breath……

To be continued

Accused of witchcraft: 

Part V