Growing up

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Chapter Two

Babalo gets a place in my high school and much to my surprise I find out that he is only 16. He had all this time given me the impression that he was 30 years old. He is my 1st friend and my best friend. The only time we spend apart is when we attend classes. We do everything together - we spend every lunch hour together, we buy clothes together, we go home together and he gets really sad when my parents shout at me and when I am mocked about my skin colour and weight. He becomes my pillar of strength, the air I breathe, the legs to my table and the ink to my pen. When I tell him I am tired of being laughed at because of my weight, we decided to start jogging every morning before we go to school as well as every afternoon before we watch television. I start to enjoy home thanks to the joy he gives me, which outweighs the sorrow of being ‘hated’ by my own parents.

Everything changes and at school I even start to get acknowledgements from girls in high campus social echelons. I must have forgotten to tell you that Babalo has the most beautiful smile on the planet. When he smiles, his deep dimples show and his teeth are amazingly immaculate, white and short. He has brown chocolate skin, tall and has that Trey Songs body that has every girl’s pants drop. The most fascinating thing about him, however, is his personality. As handsome as he is he is still humble and he loves people and his sense of humour is on point. Girls use me to get to him. Even the meanest girls who never noticed me before, are nice to me just to impress him.

Four months later I have lost substantial weight. I am now a size 30. Now I love what I see when I am looking in the mirror. A week before winter holiday’s end, I go to relax my hair at a salon. My hair is very thick and grows incredibly fast so I have to do my hair almost every week and a half weeks to keep up with its exacerbated grown rate. The worse thing is that my scalp is very sensitive. I burn within a few minutes, but I can’t relax with the ‘Just for kids’ option because it makes no difference. So I try Soft’en Free and I tell the hair dresser to be extra fast because of my sensitive scalp. She tells me to relax. But as is typical with most ‘expects’, she decides to do things her own way and true to my word, within a few seconds I feel like I am in hell and Devil himself is frying my head. I tell her I am burning and she gives me an attitude. I run to the basin and open the taps to wet my hair. I see her coming my way; fuming with irritation. After washing my hair she puts a towel on my head and sits me on the chair in front of the mirror so that she can blow-dry my hair. The moment I look onto the mirror, I grasp in stupendous horror for I cannot, for the life of me, believe what I see. All the hair on the back of my head is gone! I cannot go to school like this, let alone home. I would be the laughing stock... I call Babalo to tell him to rush to the solon. Sensing the worry in my voice, he arrives in no time. However in my great dismay, the moment he sets his eye on me, he erupts into a fit of rapturous laughter. I keep a straight face, getting more and more frustrated by the moment. He eventually gets it that I am not in a humorous mode and his facial expression quickly changes; taking a more concerned form. He proceeds to touch the back of my head and rhetorically, almost sarcastically enquires: “Dude, what happened here?” Failing to control himself again, he burst into laughter. I hit his hand and with my eyes becoming watery, I yell at him that I didn’t call him so he can have fun at my expense. I called him for his help. He gets serious and tells me to simply cut my hair like his so that we can be chocolate twins. He then sticks his tongue out and winks at me. I realise that he is right and resolve to go by his suggestion. I tell my hairdresser I want a Mandela haircut. Within 10 minutes the haircut is done and when I pay only for the haircut she gives me the dirtiest look. I smile in return then Babalo and I leave. With this haircut I look different. Kind of boyish but at the same time I am too pretty to be a guy. Babalo is impressed with my new look. He calls me “Brother Aviwe”, on our way home he goes on about how he has to teach me ‘swag walk’. He says I can’t have his haircut and ruin it with my lazy walk. I nonchalantly give up and let him teach me the so called swag walk.

It’s opening day at school and I am so excited. I have no idea why but I feel great. It is finally summer in my life when I remember that I have lost weight and I have a new look that suits me. I go to school with pride. Buhler and I do not attend the same school. She goes to a private school in town and Babalo and I go to a public school in the location. So I always go to school with Babalo.

My first class is Natural Science. The period lasts forever. Maybe it’s because I am just bubbly excited for break time and to be seen by the whole school. The bell finally rings and I am the 1st one to be out of the class. I run to Babalo’s class and on the way I get so many compliments. Chubby girls stop me and ask how I lost weight. The attention is all new to me and it scares me. I smile and thank everyone for the compliments and to those who want to lose weight I tell to jog and drink at least 15 litres of water a day. I end up not reaching Babalo’s class as the short break ends while I am still blushing my way to his class with everyone suddenly noticing my black unique beauty.

Around 12 am I start to feel bad - I think I am starting with my periods. This is when I hate being a girl with everything I have. I go to the principal and ask a permission slip to leave school. He does not hesitate to sign it and also compliments my hair cut. He says I look like my father even though they have never met. I smile; even though it is not true. I take a taxi home. I am home alone as my siblings are at school and my parents are at work and will only be back around 5. The house is so empty it’s eerie. But I love this moment because it is when I get to talk to myself. I go to the kitchen and make eggs and fish cakes. I eat them with bread and after washing the dishes I listen to Angel Haze-Battle cry. I go to my bedroom to change and as I was unbuttoning my shirt I hear a knock on the door. I ask who it is. “It’s me, niece,” he says. It’s my uncle Azola. I go to open the door and he comes in and asks why I came home early. “I came to check if everything is alright,” he continues.

“Everything is okay, I just had a little headache,” I say. I tell him it’s nothing to worry about and ask him to close the door on his way out. When I turn around to my bedroom, I felt weird - like a snake is slithering down my spine! You know that feeling when someone is looking at you from behind? That’s how I feel! I instinctively turn around just in time to catch my uncle staring at my butt with eyes that portrayed so much lust it made my heart skip a beat. In that instant l couldn’t help but notice the conspicuous bulge in his crouch. My heart beats faster, I scream and run to my room as fast as my legs can carry me. My uncle follows in hot pursuit; his thudding footsteps all I can hear. Oh my God! What the hell?

My bedroom door’s lock does not work and I try to block the door so he doesn’t come in. However, he is too strong and his determination overpowering. He pushes the door open, knocking me down. I frantically scream for help as l fall on my back, throwing in threats about telling my parents, but they fall on deaf ears. He grabs me from the floor and forcibly thrusts me onto the bed. He proceeds to shove a cloth into my mouth to prevent me from screaming. Using a long sleeved t-shirt that was on my bed, he ties my hands together behind my back and gets between my legs. He leans over to menacingly kiss my quivering forehead and then he whispers into my ear in a voice that assured me that he meant every word. “You are not going to tell anyone because if you do, I will pin all this to you. I will tell everyone that you begged me for sex. I refused and that is why you make up such a horrible story about your honourable uncle! Remember how your father beats you for small things, so how is it going to be for this one? So, little sweet thing. This is going to be our tiny secret, ok?’ I cry uncontrollably, wriggling in vain to free myself. No matter how hard l try to cry out, no appreciable sound comes out due to the gaging cloth. I am so angry and disgusted but I can’t do anything as I watch my innocence being mercilessly taken away from me. l feel so helpless. He bites my neck, takes off my shirt and then runs his tongue from my neck to my stomach, licking my growing breasts so roughly that it hurts and as he does this, he puts his hands up my pants. All this time I am crying, trying hard to push him off me but he is too strong. I try to close my thighs but I fail. I become numb and just tune out and pretend this is not happening as l try to imagine other things. In order to distract myself from this torture, I ask God for help. The pain is excruciating .He rides so hard I can swear he has forgotten that I did not give him permission to do all this; he forgets that this is against my will; he forgets that I am only 14; he forgets I am his niece. He rides me like I am his whore. He is in his own planet! All his senses are focused on his filthy deeds.

This went on for approximately 15 minutes when I hear my bedroom door burst open. It’s Babalo! I feel God has just answered my prayers.

The moment Babalo sees Azola on top of me, his eyes pop out, and filled with rage he pushes Azola off me. Azola is shocked to see Babalo. Babalo takes a stick from under my bed and beats the living hell out of Azola. He beats him so hard, especial in the head, to a point that Azola’s head gets swollen! Azola is not given any chance to fight back but he finally manages to break free and escape! There is blood all over my bed. I sit on the floor naked, and I tightly hug a pillow; crying my eyes out while burying my face into it. Babalo sits next to me with no idea of what to do. He holds me and I lean on his shoulder and sob uncontrollably. He assures me that I am safe and that everything is going to be fine. He says he is going to call our parents and tell them what happened. I beg him not to leave me as I am scared. I just can’t stop crying. How can this happen to me? Why me? What have I done to deserve this? Why do all bad things happen to me? Is it me playing a victim or am I really? Life is unfair! My life is a living hell.

Babalo lets me cry while holding me. Suddenly my bedroom door is kicked down!!! I immediately think it is Azola, so I hide my face behind Babalo’s back. But it is my father. His face looks different. It is that of a monster; his eyes are red and full of anger! I am confused. Why is he angry at us? Suddenly he grabs Babalo and throws him against the wall. Then he jumps for his throat, choking his life out. Still naked, I jump up and yell at him to stop. “Father what you are doing? What are you doing?” “You are killing him!” What the hell is wrong with my father? I don’t know what to do as I start to lose my sanity. I call him a coward and bullying beast. Eventually he lets go of Babalo’s neck, who falls down immediately. “What did you just say?” My father approaches me. “I said you are a coward and a bullying beast,” I repeat without even thinking about it. He then punches me hard on my nose, knocking me senseless. He takes the same stick Babalo used to beat Azola with and starts beating me, but before he can give me a second lash, my mother enters and yells: “Fezile! Stop! I want to know what exactly is going on in my home. They are no use when they are dead,” she said before leaving the room with my father. They leave Babalo and me lying on the floor. I then slowly move my hand to Babalo’s. We hold each other’s hands because it’s all that we have - each other.

After a while we are called to the lounge, which now looks like a law court. The only differences being that l don’t have a lawyer to represent me. I take a fleece blanket to wrap around my shivering body and then Babalo and I go to the lounge and sit in the same couch. My father is pacing the room, his eyes red, fuming like one roused mother buffalo protecting its calf from a charging lion. He comes closer to Babalo and points his finger at Babalo, then he proceeds and says: “Is this how you thank me? After everything I have done for you, is this how you thank me? You sleep with my daughter under my roof? Then wake up every morning, look me in the eyes knowing what you do with Aviwe?” I am so confused! What is my father talking about? Babalo looks shocked. When he tries to respond my father interrupts him. “Shut up! When I speak, you listen. You seem you have forgotten who you are. You are an orphan who has no-one. Without me you are literally nothing. I treated you like my son and you threw it in my face! You have shitted on every single thing I have done for you. You are 16 and you know better! Go pack your bags, but leave the clothes I bought you. I want you as far from my family as possible. If you can take off your pants and be sexually active, it means that you are old enough to stand up for yourself. You don’t need a godfather to hold your hand

When my father finishes, Babalo leaves the room without saying a word. Suddenly I realize what my father is saying: I am sleeping with Babalo! What the hell? Where does that even come from?! I ask my mom what is going on. Hours ago I was raped and now my parents are beating and throwing out my saver? My mother tells me that they got a call from Azola who told them that he caught me and Babalo having sexual intercourse in my bedroom. He tried to talk some sense into our heads and then Babalo lost it and started hitting him. My mother goes on saying that Azola told them that he did not fight back because he understood Babalo’s source of anger and that he will never hurt a 16 year-old kid. All he wanted was to make us aware that what we were doing was wrong.

So Azola, my uncle, my rapist, is turning all this around? l kind of expected him to do that and l can almost feel his grim of satisfaction from wherever he is right now.

“That’s not true, mother!’ l protest. ‘Azola is lying. How could he?’ I burst out amid sobs. I tell my parents everything that happened. I tell them I want to be taken to the hospital so they can prove that Azola raped me! So they can take a DNA test to prove who the rapist is! I have a smoking gun as evidence and he has nothing to back up his lies! When l stop talking, my father looks at me and shakes his head. “You little witch! How can you make up such lie about my brother? I saw you and Babalo holding each other. Do you think I am stupid? Huh?” He shouts with passion. He continues shouting that I am taking them for fools. That this explains how Babalo and I have been close; how Babalo always gave me attention and gave Buhler a cold shoulder! He cooks up a lot of signs that supports his belief! My mother suggests that they call Azola.

Azola is not only the family lord but he is an untouchable revered legend of the entire community. Azola arrives to this whole chaotic scene, with a feigned look of surprise on his face. Again he narrates his version of the story with exaggerated expressions of an expect comic. This guy is good! He deserves an Oscar for Best Actor! “Uncle, please tell the truth!’ I plead with him. ‘I will not let my parents open a rape case. Just admit what you did and not let Babalo get punished for something he didn’t do. Babalo is the only thing that makes sense in my life, so please do not take him away from me, you have already taken too much.’ He looks at me with eyes full of pity, saying: “I feel sorry for you kids. I can see how much you love each other but I cannot take a fall for a crime I didn’t commit.”

I beg my mother to take me to the hospital. Azola screams at the idea of me being taken to hospital, asking my parents if they don’t trust him. He says if they take me to hospital it will show that they do not trust him. He talks about how he has been good and how dare they even think of him as a rapist! He asks if they are that blind. He says I am blaming all this on him because he caught Babalo and me in action! Azola manipulates my parents to an extent that they apologize! I don’t know how he does it; he just has his way with words! When Babalo finished packing he comes back to the lounge and tells my father that he is ready to go. My father briskly takes the cell phone he bought Babalo and breaks the sim card. Babalo is half frog-marched to the car and my father takes him away to who knows where.

I beg Azola to be the better man and not to ruin an innocent Babalo’s life. He responds with: “You should have thought about the consequences before taking your panties off.” Azola is so convincing that for a moment I thought I was dreaming. Maybe it was all a dream. I look at Babalo while he is being taken away with tears pouring down my cheeks. What I feel now hurts more than broken ribs; it hurts more than broken nose from a fiery fist! This is more painful than losing my virginity by force.

Before Babalo gets in the car he turns back and looks at all of us who are standing at the garage. He looks at each and every one of us, smiles and says: “You will be ok buddy.....” but he does not finish talking as my father shoves him inside the car and closes the car door. He gets inside and drives away with my sanity keeper. One half of my heart goes with him and the other half dies.

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