Growing up

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Chapter Twenty Seven

I get out of the room and do as Nandi instructed me. After the wall opens there are stairs behind it. I kind of recall this place a little. I go down the stairs and come across a big door; it’s unlocked. I open it wide. I swear my heart stopped beating for a few seconds when I see Mongi and Babalo naked; tied up like I was. Now I remember this place, this is the same place I was beaten in. Don did not see or hear the door open., He has a chain in his hand and he lifts it to beat Balo. I shout: “Stop!” I don’t even hear myself. He turns around and fumes with anger when he sees me, but he tries to contain himself. “I told you to go to you room Aviwe.” He says it calmly but commanding. “I don’t have a room here,” I approach him.”Stay back Aviwe. Damn it, go to your room. NOW!””Or what? You going to beat me up like you did a month ago? Go ahead father! I guess that’s a ‘welcome home’ type of thing.” He takes a very deep breath. “Please go upstairs. Pumpkin.””Look behind you Don. See this girl. She is my girlfriend and I love her with every fibre of my body and for all I know she has loved since the day we met. Oh and this one (pointing at Babalo), that’s the guy I loved as long as I can remember! The guy that saved me from myself and from the world. A guy that gave up his childhood protecting me. It’s time to prove yourself.” I smile with a corner of my mouth. He giggles and shakes his head.”You really are my daughter, aren’t you? Like father, like daughter. So manipulative.” “No I am nothing like you. Just a dark chocolate skin, sharp nose and a commanding voice.”

“Don’t forget being stubborn and charming.”

“That too. Don, you said things will be different; torturing us will not bring your brother back. I know that’s not an ideal thing to say but it is the truth.” He looks down at his hand that’s holding a chain and looks at poor Babalo and Mongi.”I know I said things will be different and I promise after this, things will be different. Things will be normal. I cannot let this go; I would be disrespecting my brother. I know avenging him will not bring him back but it will heal me. It will make me feel better.””I know, I totally understand how you feel. But here is the chance to get to know your daughter. I need you to prove that you meant every word you said back there. If Yung was not killed I would be dead, it was either me or him. It just happened to be him, make peace with it. Look at this the positive way: if this silver briefcase saga did not happen we would not have met. You said you need me to listen to your side of the story and I said I want to make a deal. Here is the deal: you let go of all your slaves and victims and then I will listen to you. I will go upstairs and check out the room you prepared for me. You said you would do anything to have a chance with me and this is the only term I have. Let go of all your prisoners, not only my friends but everyone you have captured. Let everyone free. Everyone should stay here out of they will and not because you held a gun to their heads or people they love. I know we cannot change the past but we definitely can change the future. In order to change the future we have to change the present. Free everyone and then we can talk.” I try to convince him. I hope he sees my reasoning.

“Aviwe,” he pauses for a few minutes. “Don’t do this. Okay?””What Don? These are my friends. Look around - these people have sisters, brothers, cousins, daughters, sons, mothers and fathers. How do you sleep at night knowing you have poisoned innocent souls? This is the only chance to get to know me. You let these people go then we can have a fresh start. It’s either your dirty life or me. You cannot have us both.””You don’t understand Aviwe.” he shouts, throws down the chain and puts his hands on his head. “You are just a kid,” he continues. ”You are right, I don’t understand. But I know what’s right and wrong and I also know that what you are doing is wrong.””Let’s go upstairs.” I look at him as he goes to the base and wash his hands. Then he instructs his lap dogs to take Babalo and Mongikazi to their cells. They do as instructed and then he takes me by my hand and leads me upstairs. When we get to the second floor we take an elevator to the next floor where we enter the library.”What is this place? How is it that nobody knows about it?” I ask as I walk behind him.”Ummm...”

“No need to lie. I already know you are filthy. Port Elizabeth locations ain’t got anything on you. So just tell the truth.” he looks at me and shakes his head. “Oh, the things you say remind me of when I was your age. Every time I look at you I feel like I am looking at myself in the mirror.” I roll my eyes, “Ok, back to my question please.””What do you want to know?””Everything.””Where do I start?””Are you asking?” he looks at me, raises his eyebrows and puts his left hand in his pocket and with his right hand he opens the door from the library to a big beautiful lounge. I go to the window; the view is unbelievable. “Juice, water, coffee or tea?” he asks.”Don’t you have wine?””I do but it’s not for you.””Can I have it please? You know I am 18.””To me you are a kid. You want orange juice?””No thank you.” I move from the window and go sit on the couch. Don comes back with two glasses and a bottle of an expensive white wine. He gives me a glass. “I was asking how come people don’t know about this place.””Go outside and tell me if you see it or a little sign of it.” I go outside. I need fresh air and the sun in my skin that I haven’t had it in a while. I have been locked down here only God and his people know for how long. When I get outside, I walk to the gate. All I see is a beautiful double-story house with neighbours around. This place is full of life like any other place. I can see Table Mountain from where I am standing so I conclude we are in Cape Town. The houses here are all the same and they are next to each other. There is no sign of a prison or anything like what I have seen in the past days.Where is the prison, where is the doctor’s room, where is the warehouse or slaughter house? I go back to the house where I left Don.”Saw it?” he asks sipping his wine.”Nope!””I told you, it’s invisible.”

”The place is underground. Remember the lift we took? It’s from underground to the study. It has been there since forever; my father inherited it from his father.”

“So your grand grandparents were criminals too?””It’s a curse!”You can only be cursed if you accept it. And a curse can be broken.””So you do believe in witches?””I don’t believe in witches!””I mean you believe they exist.””You just said you are cursed.””Ok moving right along. The place is invisible; there is everything down there you need to build an army and to be rich.””I heard that. So why is it that people who you take down there have not said a word about it?” He shrugs his shoulders, “I told you I have the best doctors here, when someone who have been down there leaves this place, the doctor’s wipes that person’s memories.” By this time I am sitting at the edge of the couch I am listening with attention. “Wow! But Nandipha did find her way back here.”

“Nandipha wasn’t going to make a mistake; she cares too much about her brothers. She had to do what’s right for them.””Easy then. If you have such equipment, why not let everyone go and take their memories?” “Aviwe you don’t understand.””I said school me, make me understand,” he gets up and slowly walks to the window. “I can’t. If I do that I’d be dishonouring my family’s legacy. That I cannot do.””You can’t or you won’t? How can you call slaughtering people a legacy?”

“I grew up in this life Aviwe; I am too old to change now.””That’s ok. I am leaving and it’s forever. What you are saying is like saying I grew up without a father and I am too old to accept you now.”I get up and walk out the door heading for the gate. “I don’t want you to leave, please stay,” he says as he cups my face. I feel tears escaping my eyes and a sharp pain in my heart. As much as I hate him I want to give him a chance; I want to know him better. He is my old man! The way he talks, walks and even the things he says - he is so ME. How do you leave your reflection? But I want him to free everyone. I cannot invite such a mess in my life; I want the last years of my teen life to be perfect. This year has been hectic enough to last me a lifetime. I want to be happy but having a thug family will not make me happy. I don’t like to see people suffering, how much more when they are abused by my family? I want to help people. But this family is doing the opposite: it destroys people. It’s me or them. Don has to make a choice.

“You have to make a choice father, it’s me or them. You can’t have it all. Please wipe my memory. I don’t want to remember a single thing about this place or about you.””I will let them free.”Then tears fall down his cheeks and he hugs me. I smile to myself. Babalo and Mongi are going to be free. I don’t care even if they cannot remember what happened. It’s not important anyway. Don and I go back to the house and take a lift to the ground floor. He instructs the doctors to inject everyone and then he opens the cells and releases all the prisoners. Injecting more than fifty people takes the whole day.At 22:08 he takes all his prisoners and loads them on the back of the truck. We drive to Khayelitsha where he drops ten of the prisoners; he drops other prisoners to other locations and after dropping the last people we drive back to his place.”So what’s going to happen to them?””When they wake up they won’t remember a thing about this place. They will wake up with heavy heads, feeling like a hangover. Then they will move on with their lives. The memories will take them back to the day before we captured them.” ”So Miss P will feel and act like a 3 year old?”

“Yes Pumpkin.””Wow!””It’s all I can do.””If you say so. Are you also going to do the same to my friends?””Yes then I will burn this place down and kiss this life goodbye.”He then touches my hand. I smile and look outside the window. We get back to his house exactly at 00:45. He takes me to ’my bedroom’ and tucks me in bed and gives me 3 books to relax. “Choose. Which one do you want me to read for you?” he says.”What?””It’s called bed time story, sweety, which one do you prefer? Superman? Love David or Bhut’Lizo ndixolele??” I laugh ’till my stomach hurts. “I am 18 Don!””You are my baby girl.” I bite my lower lip and close my eyes trying to control my feeling.”Aviwe.”

“Don.””I heard you saying something about me raping your mother. Please tell me the story again.” I sit up and look at him. I shrug my shoulders. “What do you want me to say?””Everything. Look I know I am many things but in my 43 years of life I have never raped. Not even once. Not even when I was a teenager.””Are you calling my mother a liar?””Absolutely. If she says I raped her then she is a liar. A big fat liar. And who is your mother? What’s her name?””Nolwazi, Nolwazi Nkunka.” He looks surprised, he stands up, claps once and laughs.”What’s so funny?” I ask, confused.”Damn you, Nolwazi,” he smiles and then he screams and takes the books from the shelves and throws them to the wall. He takes the frames and painting from the wall and smashes them on the floor. All this time he is screaming: “Damn you, Nolwazi! How could you?” He breaks everything in my room and goes to the lounge. I follow him. I tell him to stop he is scaring me but he seems to be deaf. He takes a baseball belt and breaks the coffee table. When he is about to smash the T.V I scream: “STOP! You are scaring me.” He stops and looks at me. Breathing heavily, he goes down on his knees. He fumes with anger. I wish I could make him feel better. He looks miserable and emotionally damaged.I go to the kitchen and get him a glass of water. When I get back to the lounge I find him sitting on the couch. “Here,” I say as I give him the glass of water. He takes it and drinks half of it. I sit next to him. “What happened, dad” I ask softly. Instead of answering he squeezes the glass until it breaks in his hands. But he stays calm. He closes his eyes trying to control the anger. I move and sit on the couch opposite him! “Don, you are scaring me.“”Go to sleep Aviwe, you should not be here,” he says with a shaky voice and then he looks at his bleeding hand. He stares at it for a couple of seconds. Then he lifts his head and looks at me. “I said go to sleep.” His calm, commanding and scary voice is back and there is no way you can disobey it. I jump and quickly go to my bedroom. I lock myself in. I go sit on the bed trying to figure this out.Don lets go of his life because he wanted to have a relationship with me. Why?Don knows my mom, from what I have heard he is not supposed to have an idea of who Nolwazi is.Yes, he is gangster but he does have a heart.I wonder what his side of the story is. But what I was told is definitely a lie and truth is about to be revealed.I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I am waken up by Don.

“I was worried and I just wanted to see if you are still alive,” he says. “Huh? Morning.” I say trying to wake up.”its 14:21 sweetheart.””What? No wonder I am this hungry.” I jump off the bed and when I look around I notice that my bedroom is spotless. When I went to bed it was a mess, Don threw everything down. Was I dreaming?”Who cleaned my room?””Why are you asking with doubts in your face?””Because I am not sure if I was dreaming.” I then remember that he hurt his hand. I look at his right hand I am relieved to see that it is bandaged. It was not a dream. He smiles and looks at his hand. “I cleaned it.”

“Nice.”

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