Growing up

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Chapter One

It is Sunday; the weather is very beautiful, although dark. I love sunny weather, because I cannot get any darker anyway. Today is my 14th birthday, but nobody seems to remember, so it is like any other day. I didn’t get even a single “happy birthday”. It is noon and my sister and mom are still in church. I am in my bedroom lying on my tummy and reading the novel Kusalawula yena. When I am reading this book I get so absorbed in the narration that it literally feels like I am in it; like I am witnessing every single thing that is happening there. Then suddenly, as if l’m waking up from a pleasant dream, I get knocked out of my trance by the loud sound of someone violently banging at the door. Almost akin to how policemen are notorious of knocking and accompanied by frantic calling of my name -Aviwe!

Without a doubt I instantly know that it is my father and I run to unlock the door. It is my dad and his younger brother, Azola and some other man about 17-20 years old. Upon opening the door I get slapped across my eyes, followed by a closed fist to my left cheek, which instantly knocks me down, bleeding profusely through my nose. As if it is not enough, he proceeds to kick me in the ribs. As he subjects me to such unmitigated sadism, he is yelling like one possessed by a dark spirit: ‘’Why did it take you a lifetime to open the damn door, l was calling you for more than 3 minutes? Are you freaking deaf?’’ He shouts. ‘Why do you even lock the door during the day? All you do is eat like a pig!’’ he continues. He calls me all sort of insulting names that would make the most vulgar of drunk unruly teenagers blush and all this while I am crying my lungs out; desperately trying to apologise. But it seems like the more I cry and apologise the more maliciously excited he gets, as if deriving pleasure from my excruciating anguish.

I beg my uncle to tell his brother to stop hurting me. Azola shouts at my dad saying that he is going to kill me. Why on earth is he getting so worked up over a 3 minutes delay to open a freaking door!! When Azola speaks, everyone listens. At last my father stops and goes straight to his bedroom. The other guy asks my uncle where the bathroom is and my uncle shows him. Then he takes me to the bathroom to get me cleaned up. Afterwards I go to my bedroom to change. While I am there I hear my mother’s voice, asking Azola what happened and why there are blood stains on the floor. She asks what I have done now to deserve the beating. Azola tells her what happened and then my sister comes to my room to check if I am okay. I tell her I am alright and that only my cheek is swollen and my ribs where he kicked me. She apologises and asks if I have already eaten. When I tell her I am I not hungry she leaves. Just as she is about to close the door, she looks at me and says happy birthday. I smile in return.

After Buhle leaves I take out my notebook in which I write my short stories and poems. Just as I start writing my mother enters my bedroom with such much force that, as I look up, I half expect to see the door swinging off its hinges. “What are you doing?” she asks. “Umm, I am writing mama,” I timidly respond, not knowing what to expect. Suddenly she snatches away my book. She reads a few lines from the first page before shouting, almost frantically. “Is this the trash you were doing when your father was at the door and you took ages to respond to his knock? Huh?” She then proceeds to tear my book into pieces and with it, my heart. She finishes with a remark that pierces through my already rent heart by saying that I deserved the beating after all. She then storms out of the room, banging the poor door behind her, yelling at me to hurry over to the lounge. ‘Gosh, couldn’t she have told me this when she was in my room?’ I think to myself as I comply, not wanting to risk another beating. Thinking of beating, it just strikes me that I get beaten up all the time but I have no recollection of Buhler, who is one year younger than me, ever getting beaten up. I guess it is because she is the perfect child who is always right.

When I get to the lounge, I find mom, dad, Buhler, Azola and the other guy. Everyone is quiet; it’s like they have seen a ghost. I sit on the couch next to Buhler and keep a straight face just like everybody in the room. My father then breaks silence, speaking almost nonchalantly. “I have something to tell you all, someone to introduce to you actually. This is your brother. His name is Babalo and he is going to be staying with us from now on.” He pauses briefly, then adds, as if on second thought: “I expect you girls to respect him. Then, addressing Babalo, he continues. “Report to me if they ever disrespect you in any way, especially this one,” he adds, pointing at me with a mean finger and a menacing look.

Before we could take this all in, my father orders Buhler to show Babalo the spare room and tells me to fetch his bags from the car and pack out his clothes. As Babalo goes with Buhler, I go to the car to take his bags as instructed. When I open the boot of the car I see a big suitcase. I stop to take a deep breath; thinking of how I will carry Zahara’s burden. A deep sigh behind me suddenly interrupts my thoughts, startling me. “Pretty huge suite case, right? My father used to call it a devil” I turn around and see it’s Babalo. We both laugh and talk about his big suitcase. I ask him where his father is because for a second I thought he is my father’s son. The thought of having a big brother excited me, I hoped he wouldn’t be like everyone else and that he would protect me. Babalo tells me that both his parents passed away in a car accident two weeks ago and that he doesn’t have any other relatives he knows of, and that my father is his godather. He says all this with a great sadness on his face. I can see the sorrow in his eyes and heartfelt of sadness suddenly envelops my sadness too, which I quickly shake off at the thought of having a big brother. I reassure him that everything is going to be fine now, accompanying it with a ‘big brother’ sentiment. He laughs and asks: “Big brother?” I nod in affirmation.

“How old are you?” he asks.

“Fourteen,” I reply with a smile. “Actually turned 14 today,” I add. He laughs out loud and says “Oh my goodness you are so young. With such a big body I wouldn’t have guessed that you were 14. Anyway, happy birthday little sister.” For the first time I don’t take offence at having someone mocking my body, but instead I laugh hard and say: “I guess you are going to help me work out.” We both laugh a little. The time is 19:30, it’s starting to get dark, and my mother tells us to get inside with the bags. We go to Babalo’s bedroom where he helps me to pack his clothes in the closet. While packing the clothes we talk about everything under the sun - from how he was bullied in primary school and how he stood up to the bullies. We talk about music, games, games but mostly we spend our time arguing about who is the better female rapper between Iggie and Nicki Minaj. I realise have never laughed so much in my entire life; instead I have always been laughed at.

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