Elvis sat slowly on the couch, keeping his gaze set on Sabina’s face, willing her to look at him. She didn’t. Her eyes were completely focused on Sly, on what he had to say, on the abuse, and disrespect and anger in his voice, his face, and his gesticulations.
It was a beautiful spring morning. The air was cool, and refreshing. Elvis had joined his friend, Sly, and her girlfriend, Sabina, for breakfast in Sly’s two-bedroom apartment, in middle-class Johannesburg… though much of the mealtime had been a disaster for the trio.
“And I keep telling you this, I keep telling you.” Sly stood away from her and glared back at her pale face. “I keep telling you,” he repeated, “warning you. Warning you!”
She looked at her hands for a brief moment and returned her gaze to his face. “I’m sorry.”
Elvis felt like jumping up, just to catch her attention.
“That is exactly what I hate about you!” Sly’s voice rang out abnormally, startling the other two. Elvis got to his feet. “I hate it when you apologise!” Sly closed in on her but Elvis had seen it coming. He threw himself between the two and withstood his friend.
“Not again!” Elvis whispered.
Sly glared at his best friend for only a second and sighed heavily. “Tell her to get out of my house,” he growled.
Elvis turned to Sabina and held out his hand to her. She reluctantly took it, avoiding his gaze, and stood up.
From behind, Sly stole a punch that caught her between her neck and shoulder. Her long hair flung across her face as her neck snapped forward and she gave a yelp of pain.
Elvis flung her behind him. “What was that for, Sly?”
“Just get her out of my sight!”
Without a word, Elvis pulled Sabina after him and strode out angrily. His car key was in his pocket and he brought it out.
Sabina stopped short, snatching her hand out of his. “Where are we going?”
Elvis looked puzzled. “A ride or something. Just to allow him to cool off.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you...”
“You want him to beat you up?”
“Going out will not cool him off. In fact, it will heat him up!”
Elvis looked around. He would really want to have a talk with the girl, and there was no place private enough.
“Let’s sit in my car then... I want us to talk.”
She hesitated and then shrugged. Without a word, she followed him to sit in the car.
“Look, I know what you’re thinking,” she said before he could speak. “I love him and he loves me and we come a long way...”
Elvis decided not to perambulate either. “I love him too but the cruelty I see here beats me!”
She chuckled. “It’s not cruelty. That’s just him. He has a temper problem and I’m praying for him about it.”
“Can I be sincere with you?” He stared at her. She was a very beautiful woman. One of the prettiest he’d seen. The first time he met her, shortly after his wife, Angie, died a year earlier, he’d been attracted to her, despite his grief.
She shrugged nonchalantly.
“My friend does not have a temper problem...”
She opened her mouth to protest but he held up his hand to stop her.
“Sly will never and I repeat never, allow a man to hit his sister...”
“Let me speak, please.” His voice sounded strange. He didn’t want to sound emotional but he was hurting. She slouched in the seat and rolled her eyes. He wanted, needed her to be interested in what he had to say.
“I got to town two days ago and watched him flog you like a kid...”
She sat up angrily. “I was wrong. I upset him!”
He knew she didn’t upset him that day. She misunderstood him, and he flogged her instead of offering a simple explanation.
Elvis shook his head expressly. “And that gives him a right to whip with his belt?” He got very upset. “What are you telling me, Sabina? Why would you let him treat you that way? He’s taking you for granted. He’s cruel to you. He hates you!”
“He doesn’t!” she shouted back. “You call yourself his friend, yet you say bad things about him. What kind of friend are you?”
Her words took him aback. He kept quiet for a long moment and then took her face in his hands. There were faint marks; marks his friend had inflicted.
“One day, I’ll tell you about my wife, Angie. She died of AIDS because she refused to get help. She wouldn’t because she was stubborn, proud and plain unreasonable!” He heaved a heavy sigh. “I loved her very much...” He dropped his hands and rubbed them over his face. “I’m just a friend and a visitor in Sly’s house, and he treats you like this around me... I wonder how he treats you when you two are alone!”
“He’s nice and kind to me,” she found her voice. “I’m sorry about your wife, I never met her but Sly spoke highly of her...”
“Probably because they had a lot in common. While he abused you, she abused me!”
Sabina got out of the car angrily. “I think Sly should be better now. Thank you for saving me!”
She walked briskly toward the entrance of the house and only stopped when he called out to her.
She turned to look at him.
“Promise me you’ll leave him the next time he hits you!”
She stood rooted, her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened, then she swung round hastily and disappeared into the house.
He knew his request had shocked her. Knew she wouldn’t. Sly had been dating her for almost three years and had hit her from the very beginning. Her brief gaze had told him her answer. They were clear in her eyes.
Sadly, Elvis slumped back in his seat. He took a deep breath, and sped away. He was leaving town. He’d gotten a new job in Pretoria and had hoped to visit with his long-time friend before leaving. Well, it had ended on a sour note. There was nothing more he could do. The choice was Sabina’s!