Episode 1

“Ntombi, I’m going out.”
“Mama, you can’t. It’s the third
time this week and I’ve got …” But
before Ntombi could finish her
sentence her mother was already
giving her a list of things to do
while she was at Thabiso’s Tavern.

“There’s some money left for you
and Zinzi. Make sure Zinzi does her
homework – and don’t let her stay
up too late! How do I look?” She
did a twirl in the middle of the
living room. Ntombi looked at the
silver top and new jeans her
mother was wearing and her heart
sank. They were yet another gift
from her mother’s new boyfriend,
Zakes. Every time he went out with
her mother he gave her
something – but there was never
enough money left over to buy
something for her or her sister. He
never had anything for them
except for his unwanted ‘words of
advice’. Words that made Ntombi
want to throw something at him.

Cruel, mean, words.

“You girls will never get boyfriends
looking like that. Why don’t you do
something to your hair? You look
like village moegoes. No, what you
need is to go to the hairdresser,
get some braids.”

With what money? thought
Ntombi, but she knew if she
questioned him out loud, he would
get angry and her mother would
only take his side. She was forever
saying, “Now don’t upset Zakes,” or
“He’s only teasing; don’t be so
sensitive,” or, even worse: “Maybe
you should take his advice. You
know he’s a very successful
businessman.” And once when she
was really mad, she shouted at
Ntombi: “He is my boyfriend and
you must respect him. His word is
law!” Their mother had become a
stranger. Ntombi wanted her old
mother back.

Even when it was just the three of
them it wasn’t the same. Zakes still
messed things up between them.

“What does he do?” Ntombi asked
her mother on one of the few
nights that her mother was home
these days.

But her mother had looked unsure
and started picking at her nail
polish. “He’s in business…” she said

“What kind of business?” Ntombi
wasn’t going to let her mother off
the hook so easily.

“I don’t know. He’s a car dealer, a
sales rep.” Her mother sat up on
the bed, where they had been
lying. “Anyway why all the
questions? Are you the police?” Her
mood had changed and she was
glaring at Ntombi. “All I care about
is that he treats me good, and that
he’s got a good job. You’ve seen
the way he dresses, and the car he

“Mama, you used to tell me those
things didn’t matter. You used to
tell me it was what was inside that
mattered. You told me you
married Dad for love…”

“And look where that got me!” her
mother interrupted. “I don’t see
him in this room. Do you?” That
was the end of the conversation.

Her mother had got up and gone
through to watch a soapie on TV.

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