Love Interrupted

Love Interrupted

by Reneilwe Malatji


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781946395030
Publisher: Catalyst Press
Publication date: 08/07/2018
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Reneilwe Malatji was born in South Africa in 1968. She grew up in Turfloop township,

in the northern part of South Africa, during the era of apartheid. Her father was an

academic and her mother was a school teacher. Malatji trained as a teacher and worked

as a subject specialist and advisor to provincial education departments. She recently

completed a post-graduate diploma in Journalism and an MA in Creative Writing at

Rhodes University. She works as a lecturer at the University of Limpopo in South Africa

and has an adult son. Love interrupted is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

Love Interrupted

Life was different in Modjadji village. In Nobody village, where I came from, the role of a wife and makoti , a daughter-in-law, was basically traditional. In this village, being a makoti was as good as being a domestic worker. There was even a song that they sang when they welcomed you as makoti: " mmatswale tlogela dipitsa, mong wa tsona o fihlile." Mother-in-law, stop doing household chores, the person responsible for them has arrived.

As makoti , I was instructed by my mother-in-law to address everyone in the family and all relatives in the plural. The same way Julius Caesar addressed himself as we, us, our and so on. If someone asked me where my mother-in-law was, I had to say, "They went to the shop."

The same went for everyone related to my husband, Leshata, including children. When I shared this with a colleague at work, she said, "My dear, it is not only the family and relatives but also their dogs, cats, goats and cows."

Nobody really cared about the fact that I was pregnant. I had to do the cleaning, cooking and washing for all of them. It was back-breaking work. I was willing to go with the flow and be a good makoti. Well, khethile! Khethile! If you have made a choice, you have to stick to it. If this was the price I had to pay for being with the husband I loved so much, so be it. I was fortunate to have a husband. Most women were struggling to find a man to marry them. Their children were being raised fatherless. I should be counting my blessings, I thought.

Little did I know that addressing my mother-in-law in the plural and doing household chores were to be the least of my troubles. I was always tired from having to go to work and then come back home to chores. My swollen feet and stomach cramps did not help.

It is often said that most women marry men that resemble their fathers in character and physical attributes. The only thing my dad and husband had in common was their height. My father was a dignified, humble gentleman. He was the kind of man who always made sure that his family had everything they needed.

"I don't want my children to suffer the way I did," he would say with a sombre face. I never heard him raise his voice at my mom, or saw him lay a hand on her. If they ever fought, it must have been behind the closed door of their bedroom.

When I met my husband, I expected him to be of my father's calibre. I was doing my final year at the University of Limpopo, and Leshata was working as a teacher. We met in a queue at Standard Bank, and he charmed the wits out of me.

Three months later I was pregnant. Although I had misgivings about the unplanned pregnancy, he was happy about it. When I told him the news, he wasted no time in making the necessary arrangements. It all started with a letter from his family to mine, informing us of the lobola delegation that would be visiting us on the second Saturday of October. Normally it would have been enough just to inform them that I was pregnant and to pay what was called a damage fee. But he insisted on paying both the fee and the lobola.

My parents were a bit skeptical about the whole thing. My father reminded me that marriage was a big step and urged me to wait and get to know Leshata better.

"It all happened too quickly. It's just too soon. You have only known him for three months, my girl," said my father.

"It won't help her to wait, the calabash is broken already. She must hurry up and marry, otherwise she will be a lefetwa. Who is going to marry her with another man's child? She will grow within the marriage. We will support her," said my mother.

By the end of the year he had already organized me a teaching post at the primary school in his home village. It was a feeder school for the secondary school where he taught.

I went straight from university to bogadi , my mother-in-law's home. We shared a four-roomed house with Leshata's mother, who had never married, and his three younger brothers. His four older sisters were all married and living with their husbands. It was a very uncomfortable situation, as we had only two bedrooms, one for his mother and the other for us, the newlyweds. Leshata's brothers slept in the kitchen on foam mattresses. One of the boys was still at school while the other two stayed at home.

I convinced my husband to build us our own house. With the twins coming, we needed more space. Leshata bought the idea and told me that building a house in the village was not as complicated as it was in urban areas. There was enough space in his mother's yard. He told me that we wouldn't even need an architectural plan. He used a stick to draw lines on the ground and showed the builder how big the rooms should be. The only important thing was that it should be a structure that looked exactly like his principal Moloto's house.

In the ninth month of my pregnancy, I requested that my husband take me to my parents' home, as it was becoming more and more difficult for me to cope with the household chores. I had already started my maternity leave.

“My dear, when you come back with the twins, the house will be finished,” said Leshata.

“I will be happy,” I said. He had already supervised the laying of the foundation and we had bought all the materials necessary.

It was tradition that when you had your first born, you went to stay with your parents so that your mother could help you with the baby. My mother-in-law agreed.

“Yes, it’s Anna’s mother who must teach her how to handle her first baby. She can go, it’s tradition,” she said, planting deposits of snuff into her nostrils, with her head bent backwards. I sat opposite her on a rickety old chair in front of the kitchen table. I stared at her as she wiped the black fluid running from her nose with a grey handkerchief. She spoke as if without her permission I could never go.

Already my mother-in-law and I had had several embarrassing episodes. On Saturdays Leshata would stop me from waking up early, saying I needed some rest. We would lie in bed until nine or even ten in the morning. I would hear my mother-in-law waking up the boys in the kitchen at seven, shouting so that I would know she was addressing me.

“Wake up, wake up, what type of people sleep until this time? You enjoy the sunrays caressing your buttocks, heh? This is not a hotel … even at a hotel people are up, going for breakfast.” Thereafter I would smell cooked porridge, moroho being cooked. Then there would be a knock on our bedroom door.

“Leshata! I have something for you, my son,” she said.

My husband would jump up, put on his gown and open the door. “What is wrong, mother? We are still resting!”

Nxa! I thought you might be hungry, my son. I brought you some porridge and moroho. Here! Take! That school that she is putting you through does not have a break. Take, my son. I don’t want you to die of hunger.”

My husband came back in with a calabash filled with porridge, dished up in neat, artistic layers, and a yellow enamel plate almost overflowing with moroho.

“Leshata, did you hear that? Your mom is insulting me,” I said, tears running down my swollen cheeks. I looked at myself in the mirror of the dressing table. I could hardly recognize my ballooned face. The pregnancy had transformed me. My light complexion was gone. I was charcoal dark and my neck and breasts were scaly. I had to sleep with my upper body raised by continental pillows. I knew that the weight I was carrying was abnormal.

“Don’t worry about my mom. She is like that. I think it’s old age. Let’s eat. Mhhh! This looks delicious. You will get used to her. After all, I married you, not her. You don’t need to feel guilty. It’s me who said you should rest. Don’t worry, my dear, just relax,” he said.

At home, my mother’s tears could have filled a plastic bag when I told her about the situation at my mother in-laws’. “My girl, with the twins, that system of making you their domestic worker just won’t work. It’s just not on. They think you are a slave. I will find you a domestic worker.”

That was to be the cause of my first real fight with my husband. He said he did not believe in domestic workers. When I hired someone, he commanded me to dismiss her immediately. “My mother is good with children. You won’t have a problem with the twins.”

I refused. He then volunteered to buy a washing machine to assist me. I still refused. The twins were a 24/7 job. When the one was awake, the other was asleep. All tasks were doubled. My mother-in-law loved children.

She was good with them. But still I needed help. The domestic worker issue came between us, and for weeks my husband hardly spoke to me, responding only with “yes” or “no” when I tried to engage him. Interestingly, whenever I seemed at odds with Leshata, my mother-in-law was friendlier to me.

I hired another domestic worker, and this one stayed. After a while he accepted her presence, and things went back to normal. I could see my mother-in-law was not pleased. If she found us laughing together she would give us an irritated look.

She had now moved permanently with us into our new house. It was a beautiful house, with modern finishings. We had erected a borehole and attached pipes that led into the house, making ours one of the few houses in Modjadji village that had a functional bathroom and a sink in the kitchen. But we still used the outside toilet, as the one inside was not yet properly connected. We had three bedrooms, a study, and a living room, a kitchen with a big pantry, a dining room and two garages with green doors that matched the green roof tiles.

My mother-in-law helped with the babies. She changed nappies and even washed them (disposable nappies were not popular then). Her helping us meant being with her twenty-four hours a day. She insisted on sleeping with me to help with the babies at night.

She was the kind of person who bathed properly only once a week. The rest of the time she used about two liters of water in a small bowl to rinse her face daily. Whenever she entered a room, her perfume arrived first. It was a mixture of rotten fish, snuff and other smells I could not define. I was happy when she got herself a foam mattress. At least I no longer had to share the bed with her. Leshata had to sleep in the other bedroom. That too, I was told, was tradition.

We were always so busy that I hardly had time for my husband. That is when the coming home late started. On some occasions I did not even hear him return. Most of the time, he came home drunk. Every time my husband came into our bedroom to see the babies, my mother-in- law would rush back in, if she was not already in the room. I did not understand this. She would sit there until he left.

When the girls were three months old I asked her to go back to her bedroom in the old four-roomed house, declaring that I was now strong enough to cope with the twins.

“Mama, it is now better because they sleep through the night, only waking up for milk,” I said to her in a respectful tone.

“No, my girl. For as long as you are breastfeeding, I sleep in here,” she said adamantly.

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s our tradition. You can’t sleep with your husband until you stop breastfeeding. Otherwise you will kill the babies,” she said.

“What!” I knew they were expecting me to breastfeed until the twins were at least two. I didn’t mind this, as I knew the breastmilk was good for them. Most women in the village breastfed until their children were four or five years old. The child would go and play, then come back and call out loudly, “Mama! Where are you? Come, I want the breasts.” Still, I was taken aback about not being able to sleep with my husband for so long.

That evening I waited for Leshata. He stumbled in at three in the morning. It was pointless talking to him when he was so drunk. The next day I told him to tell his mother that I no longer needed her services. She could go back to her own room. After a long struggle, my mother-in-law eventually left. She decided to permanently withdraw all the services she had rendered.

From that day on, my mother-in-law and I became the mouse and the cat. When the twins turned one, I fell pregnant again. I gave birth to a son and my husband named him Moraba. Even then my mother-in-law refused to be involved. When I returned from hospital, Leshata was thrilled that it was a boy. Excited, he called his mother to come and welcome the new member of the family.

“This one, Mma, is going to keep our surname alive,” he said, handing the baby to her.

She looked at the boy quietly for a few seconds, with her forehead wrinkled and her torso pulling away from him. “Mh! He does not look like you. Mh! This one is ugly—like a lekwerekwere with a big nose,” she said, laughing diabolically. The child began to cry. I grabbed him from her arms, registering my disapproval of her comment.

“What did I do now? I pity you, my son, you have married a mad woman. I hope this madness does not pass on to the children. She can go to hell! I have a right to make whatever comments I like. This child is my grandson, isn’t he? She must tell me if it is not yours. I told you I don’t like coming into your house. She chased me out when the twins were young.”

Leshata did not respond. He picked up the Sowetan from the coffee table and sat down to read it as if nothing was going on.

“I see the madness has passed on to you too. I am talking to you and you just read that useless paper. Let me go to my house. I don’t even understand why I was called here. I have more important things to do in my house. Who knows? If I staylonger this madness might catch me too. Mxe!”

My mother-in-law’s histrionics no longer touched me. I was used to her now.

After my son turned two, I gave birth to another daughter. My mother-in-law often gossiped with the woman next door, saying, “What can you tell her? My makoti, haa! Haa! She knows everything. She is educated. She went to university, ketsebinki. She knows it all, yet she makes babies like someone who has never been in a classroom. Ha! Ha! Ha! Like a rat.”

In four years, I had given birth to four children. It was hectic raising three toddlers and a newborn. Even with the domestic worker, there was still chaos. When my mother heard that my mother-in-law was not supporting me with the babies, she sent over her sister. My aunt arrived soon after my son’s birth to assist me. She was a cripple, her left leg shorter than the right one. When she walked it looked like she was always about to fall. She was remarkable with all the children.

Aunt Maria had never married and did not have children of her own. She was a humble person, respectful and cheerful. She tried very hard to get along with my mother-in-law, but her efforts were in vain. My mother-in-law remained cold to her. But it was difficult for her to ignore my aunt, because everyone loved her. So infectious was her happiness that people responded with spontaneous smiles when she greeted them. Even the lady next door, who was my mother-in-law’s gossiping comrade and drinking mate, adored her.

The tension between me and my mother-in-law intensified. Every time I walked out through the kitchen door, I would find her seated under the marula tree weaving her mats. When she heard my footsteps approaching she would pause and gather as much saliva as possible in her mouth, then when I come into sight she would spit. The spit would land at my feet and was followed by a sucking sound from her mouth. In African culture, people spit if they see something filthy or smell something unpleasant. That morning I crept towards the kitchen door so that she would not immediately hear my footsteps. I gathered as much spit as I could while still inside the house, and this time I spat first, as she was still marshaling her own saliva. It was a long time before she spat at me like that again.

After the birth of my children I gained weight, especially around my stomach. I was careful not to wear clothes that were too tight because they revealed my pot belly and love handles. One Saturday, we were going to attend a wedding at Ga-kgapane township, next to the town of Duiwelskloof. I was all dressed up, and even Leshata, who normally didn’t compliment me, observed that I looked my best.

When we walked out of the house our neighbor was hanging her laundry on the washing line, which was close to our yard. My mother-in-law sat under the avocado tree, where Leshata’s car was parked. She was eating avocadoes, sprinkling them with salt from a steel side-plate, when she saw us coming. She then called out to her friend, as if she had not seen her for months, “Hey MmaTlou, how are you?” My stomach cramped. I knew her well enough to know a scene was coming.

“I am okay,” said the neighbor, her hands moving up and down the line. “Just busy! Lots of washing. These children, they act like they have a servant who will wash their clothes every day. You know we used to wear a dress for a week or two before—”

“You know what, MmaTlou?” my mother-in-law interrupted. “Me? When I was a young woman and I dressed up to go somewhere, you could never tell that I had given birth to eight children. My waist and curves remained where God intended them to be. My tummy was as flat as a fresh virgin’s. You would not struggle to tell the difference between my back and my front,” she said, raising her voice with every sentence, laughing like someone who had lost her mind. The next-door woman did not laugh or respond.

“Your mom is provoking me. Did you hear that? She is referring to my mokhaba. One day I will forget who she is,” I said to my husband as we drove away.

“Don’t worry about my mother. It’s old age. You know how she is,” said Leshata. If I were given a rand for every time Leshata gave this excuse, I would have been rich.

Raising my four children became my second job. If I was not at the school, I was breastfeeding or washing nappies or making bottles. I had little time for myself, let alone for my husband. He was also not very good with children. He could not stand the crying and would shout at them to keep quiet, as if he could reason with them like adults. He spent most of his free time away from home, only to return drunk, late at night, when we were all asleep. He would take his dinner plate out of the microwave, eat and doze off on the couch.

The following morning he would scream at the twins as they chased each other around the couch: “Hey! Shut up, man! Can’t you see I am sleeping?” The twins would be quiet for a while before resuming their play. One sunny Sunday morning, while I was readying the baby and my son for church, I heard my one of the twins screaming. The domestic worker had finished dressing them and was making breakfast for all of us. I jumped up and ran into the living room, with only my petticoat on, to find my husband towing the twins with his right hand. He had unfastened his belt with his left hand and was dragging them into the guest bedroom.

“Hey wena! Are you mad? These are children for God’s sake!” I screamed at him, trying to pull him away from the children. But his grip was too strong.

“Get out! I am disciplining these rats of yours. I want to teach them how to be respectful. Get out of my way or else I will teach you too,” he said. There was such fury and hatred in his eyes, I felt like I was looking at the devil himself. He pushed me with his left hand and laid my babies on the bed as if they were carcasses in a butchery waiting to be sliced. He began to lash them with his belt.

“When I tell you to be quiet, you must keep quiet!” he shouted. Their pink church dresses were flung up, half covering their small faces. The matching panties with frills made their little stick legs appear even thinner.

“Please! Papa! Stop! I will never talk again. I will never in my life talk, Papa. I won’t do it again!”

I tried to pull him off. He turned and hit me in the face with the buckled side of his belt and pushed me outside.

I went back into the lounge and Moraba, my two-year-old son, rushed to my side, clinging to my dress. Leshata was now holding the belt in such a way that the buckle was hitting my twins. Their screams killed something in me.

“Mma, stop him! Please stop him!”

“Are you mad? Do you want to kill them?” I screamed.

“Yaa! You are the one who spoilt them. I want to teach them good manners while they are still little. I thought I told you to get out,” he said, turning the belt on me again.

It felt like I was in a bad movie, or a nightmare, and this wasn’t really happening. We all cried: my son, the domestic worker, who was visibly shocked, standing by the door holding the baby, and I. Moraba loosened his grip on my dress. He started hitting his father’s legs with his small fists and biting him with his milk teeth. It was only then that Leshata stopped and shouted.

“Take this thing of yours away before I donner it too,” he said. Moraba continued attacking him. The twins escaped from the bed and ran out to their grandmother’s house. It was to be the first such episode of violence in our home. I felt like I was a swimmer in a turbulent sea.

I cried the whole day. We did not attend church. My twins remained in their room all day, traumatized. The older one could not walk properly because of the bruises. I could not believe that any sane human being would do such a thing to a child. Eish! I married a madman, I thought.

When I called his mother to come and see what her son has done to my children, she said, “Yes, he has to teach them manners while they are still young.”

Something in me changed that day. I shut off from Leshata completely. I did not know what else to do. For me a divorce or a separation was not an option, though it was clear that I was married to a borderline case.

That morning, after beating the twins, Leshata drove off and was swallowed up by the village, not bothering to return that night. When I went to work the next day he had still not returned.

The little connection there had been between us was lost. We rarely fought openly or talked to each other. He came and went as he pleased. At times he would stay away for a whole week. The children were happier when he was gone. I felt at peace.

For years, we fought only silent wars, until one night when he had forgotten to take his set of the house keys. I realized this when at two in the morning he hooted from the gate. I had told myself that I was not going to open it for him when I heard a clicking sound. I peeped through the bathroom window and saw his mother with a blanket wrapped around her waist, unlocking the gate. A few minutes later there was a knock on the front door, and then on the kitchen door, followed by the bedroom window.

“Anna! Anna! Open the door. Where do you think I am going to sleep? Open up! This is my house, you have no right to lock me outside,” he said.

I sat on the bed, not responding. If he thought I was going to feed his late-night habits …. I knew that if I opened the door I would be setting a precedent. One of the twins had woken up and come into my room.

“Mama, someone is knocking,” she said.

“Shhh, go and sleep,” I said. I walked her back to her bedroom. Leshata must have knocked for over an hour. His mother also joined him, and they cursed me together. She called me all kinds of things—a mad person, daughter of a wicked witch, a bitch—but I remained silent and kept the lights off. I discovered the following day that he had slept in his car. In the morning, the twins, who were now nine years old, unlocked the front door. To my amazement he did not say anything or shout as usual. He came inside and prepared himself for work as if nothing had happened.

My mother-in-law had more to say: “Who do you think you are? You lock my son outside of his own yard and house. You should be ashamed of yourself. Sis! I am sure this behavior comes from your bewitching mother. I am sure she also locked your father outside. This is my own child that I carried for nine months. If he ever has to sleep outside again, you will know me. I don’t think you do,” said my mother-in-law, pausing only to spit. I did not respond. She called me every despicable thing she could think of. I waited for her to finish, and when she didn’t, I interrupted her, telling her I was late for work. She spat again. That morning her spit could have filled a beer glass.

From then on, my husband spent hardly any time at home. The few times the children encountered him in the mornings they would tiptoe through the house, careful not to make a sound. Even our dogs were afraid of him. They too were happier when he was not there. When Leshata left through the front door, the dogs would cower in the back yard, and when he came in through the back door they would hide at the neighbors’.

When he was out they would play with my son in the living room, or hang around in the kitchen. We always knew when his car was arriving because the dogs would rush outside, as if something were chasing them. My son would pick up his toys and go to his room. Leshata once found the dogs in the living area and kicked them so hard I swear I heard bones cracking. Even his brothers refrained from playing music at full blast when he was at home.

Everyone was wary of him, except his mother. When she was drunk she liked to remind people that her son was highly educated. “A teacher, yes a teacher, came out of me. If there had been school in my time, I would have been a teacher too. This boy has my brains,” she would say with pride.

Most Sunday afternoons he brought her a crate of Black Label magolistos and drank with her and the woman from next door. You would hear them laughing and talking at the same time.

That Easter Sunday he stayed with them for only an hour before leaving in his car. I greeted my mother-in-law and her friend on my way to hanging the kitchen cloth on the washing line. I was surprised when she returned my greeting without saying anything offensive. It must be the alcohol, I thought. I was still smiling when I passed the women on my way back into the house.

“MmaMoraba, there is something I have been meaning to ask you for a long time,” she said drunkenly. I knew there and then that a bomb was coming. I was not in the mood, I was exhausted. I wanted to run into the kitchen, but I could not.

“Tell me,” she said enthusiastically, “what happened to that cripple relative of yours. I miss seeing her limping around with the children on her back. Anyway, I am glad she went away because I was afraid for my grandchildren. I had to watch her all the time to make sure she did not fall with them on her back. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

The neighbor didn’t laugh. She just gulped her beer from the mayonnaise bottle she was using as a glass.

My mother in-law knew very well that my crippled aunt had died of an asthma attack a year before. She hadn’t even attended the funeral. I couldn’t understand how she found this a subject for amusement, even in her drunken state. I felt an unusual sensation around my neck, in my chest, then in my eyes, which were now watering. When the feeling got to my hands I reached for the mop which was hanging on the wall next to the kitchen door. When the mop landed on her head, the first thing to reach the floor was the beer bottle, then her. The crate she was seated on followed. I held the mop in both hands and hit her with all my strength, over and over. Her dress now covered her face, exposing her underwear: a pair of graying cycling shorts. She was as helpless as my twins on the day that Leshata had lashed them. My head was spinning, and I felt my anger rising. I knew then what temporary insanity meant.

“Yoo! Yoo! Someone help. This daughter of a wicked witch is killing me. Yoo! Yoo!” she screamed. I did not let up until her youngest son came out and pulled me away. The woman from next door did not attempt to stop me.

“If you joke about my late aunt again, I will kill you, and I am not joking,” I said, walking into the kitchen.

“Aunty leave her. She is drunk,” said my brother-in-law. In the house I felt my heart in my mouth. I could hardly breathe or talk, but couldn’t stop crying—not because she had offended me, but because I could not recognize myself. I had just behaved like my husband.

Leshata came home earlier that day. When his mother heard his car she ran to meet him at the gate. He parked the car next to the gate and followed her into her house. I knew that I was the subject of their discussion. He only came into our house at about ten that evening. He was surprised to find me drinking tea in the kitchen. Normally by this time I would be asleep. He took out his dinner from the microwave and sat down opposite me at the kitchen table. I tried to read his face for signs of anger, but there was nothing. He appeared emotionless, although I thought I could sense a gentle sorrow in the lines across his forehead.

The toilet in our house was still not connected, and we all used the pit latrine outside. At night we kept buckets in our bedrooms, which were emptied in the mornings, washed and then left in the sun until evening. The only time that anyone used the pit latrine at night was for doing a number two. Then you would take the torch we kept in the kitchen and walk outside to where the toilet was situated, about thirty meters from the house.

Following the violent scene with Leshata’s mother, I experienced stomach cramps which later complicated into painful diarrhea. I felt I was being punished for hitting the old lady with a mop. I woke up several times from about eleven o’clock, running outside with a toilet roll in one hand and a torch in the other. My long blue night gown swept the leaves and dry grass along the thin path to the toilet. Snakes were not strangers to this path, so I kept my torch close to the ground, to make sure I didn’t step on one. In the toilet I checked every corner, even underneath the seat.

At about one in the morning I awoke once more. It seemed the hide-and-seek game with the snakes was going to go on all whole night. My stomach felt like lightning was striking it from the inside.

I was worried about the interrupted sleep because the next day was a working day. After the last painful visit to the pit latrine I walked back to the kitchen door. It was locked.

I sat on the front door step for about fifteen minutes, not bothering to knock. It was obvious what was going on. After another fifteen minutes I went to the twins’ bedroom window. I knew they didn’t wake easily. I knocked softly. Luckily the older one’s bed was next to the window. She opened the curtain.

“It’s Mma, don’t be afraid,” I said softly. She opened the window and I told her to walk quietly to the living room and to open the front door. I then hurried back to the front of the house. My daughter had managed to open the main door but was battling to unlock the security gate. I heard Leshata’s voice.

“What are you doing? If you open that door I will kill you. I want her to know how it feels to sleep outside.” He took the keys from my daughter. He looked at me through the bars of the security gate for a few seconds, then laughed, closed the door in my face and locked it. I sat on the rusting iron-mesh chair on the veranda. It was cold. Small drops of rain began to wet the dry soil. Could this rain not have waited until tomorrow or any other day? I am definitely being punished, I thought.

After a while I found myself worrying about the fact that I had run out of toilet paper. And where was I going to sleep? Option A was to wake up my mother-in-law. Given yesterday’s drama, that was out of the question. Option B was to go and sleep at a neighbor’s house. But I knew they wouldn’t open even if...

Table of Contents

Angela 1

Drama Queens and Kings 13

Love Interrupted 26

Lebo’s Story 1: A Young Girl’s Dream Interrupted 57

Lebo’s Story 2: It’s My Turn to Eat 76

Vicious Cycle 91

The Things We Do For Love 108

Take Back the Lobola 123

Bridal Shower 137

My Perfect Husband 152

The Threat 163

A Million Dollars in Grahamstown 175

Toy Boy 200

Glossary 220

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A baby born the wrong color; a college graduate whose African family cannot be seated at a restaurant full of Whites; a man who smashes his Audi through his garage door, killing all his valuable assets in the process. The stories in Reneilwe Malatji’s Love Interrupted peel back the gloss from atop South Africa’s 'Black Diamonds' to reveal the sedimentary layers of truth in the lives of these model middle-class families: each story inventively unfurls a different desire, longing, or frustration. In the paired stories “A Young Girl’s Dream” and “It’s My Turn to Eat,” we find Lebo, a former domestic whose aspirations have led her to own a construction company with a contract from the Department of Transport. We find, when Lebo is caught in the cross-hairs at her own elaborate party, that “the scars of her difficult childhood remain, denying her complete happiness and peace.” The stories of Love Interrupted are just like this, haunting you with their statements about the world of South Africa’s middle class long after you’ve finished reading. —Jacinda Townsend, author Saint Monkey

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