Growing up

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ORIGINAL POST

Copyright © 2015 Bandezi Nangamso
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the author
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

In loving memory of

My friend, Ntando Muma. I miss you every day, I know you are proud

Prologue

Growing up, l always had a keen, deep seated and persistent wish to look like my adorable sister. I wished I could get the same heart-warming compliments and consistent attention as she did. Her beauty got her privileges, which were denied to me - in more instances than l could exhaustively count. Even our parents would bluntly affirm that she is prettier than I and even taunt me that I should get my skin bleached as soon as I get my first paycheque! My skin is really dark and one would have a hard time spotting me in the dark! They even said I should become more conscious of my eating habits and stop eating like a pig because I was gaining weight in a despicable and disgusting way.

I vividly remember one day when I was in town with my mother. Her colleague came to greet us and she was conspicuously amazed at my unique beauty. She just stood there, mouth agape and eyes wide open as if she was seeing a black Angel. For the first time my heart did a victory dance, albeit, a short lived one, for I could not believe what my mother audaciously said to the lady!! She said “Hay ma’am what is beautiful to this thing? You should see her younger sister - she is the definition of beauty.” A chocking lump grew in my throat, I could not even pretend to smile. I needed to talk to myself; I needed to get lost in my head; I needed to tell myself it was ok... so I told mom I wanted to go home, giving the excuse that I had a homework to do.

People say home is where you find warmth and unconditional love. I wish I can concur, but the saying doesn’t apply to me. For me, home is hell, it’s like I didn’t belong here because both my parents are light skinned and so is my sister. Sometimes I even doubt if I am their biological child, but there are pictures of me when I was a toddler and when my mother was pregnant with me which are indisputable proof that l am indeed their child.

I am very reticent, but my reticence emanates from low self-esteem and lack of confidence, I know I’m not pleasant so I don’t want to attract any attention to myself. There is only one thing that keeps me sane: writing. I love to put my thoughts and emotions on paper so that they can save my soul one day.

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.

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.

Chapter four

After they left we went back to the house and I am told to take a shower. My sister witnesses all of this and is disgusted that I could do such thing with someone we were supposed to treat like a brother and accuse an honourable man! Fret showering I go to my bedroom and take off the sheets, puts it in the washing machine and lock myself in my bedroom. Azola is the most ruthless man I have ever seen. He is still here, talking to my mom about how much trouble kids can be and that they should not punish me as I was probably under the influence of Babalo. I can’t listen to this madness! I get inside the blankets and cover my face and ears. I press my hands so hard on my ears to block them. I don’t want to hear even a sound.

There is one thing I know: there is nothing as powerful as the mind! I tell my mind that I don’t want to listen to anything and, without noticing, I get lost in my head! I find myself thinking about everything that happened today. I think about the fact that everything has changed. My ‘relationship’ (if we ever had one) with my parents is broken forever. How can they betray me like that? What have I done to them? You know, I used to think that they favour my sister over me but this is more than that; this is deeper than I thought!

I can’t think of anything I have done that would make my parents be so angry at me. The most confusing thing is that I don’t remember a time when they were ever nice to me! I don’t want to think about this anymore. It has always been like this and it will always be like this. There is nothing I can do to make them love me. I always get good grades - when I talk about good grades I mean a 91% average - and if that does not impress your parents then nothing will ever do!

Buhle attends the most expensive school here in East London and she gets an average of 57%. Whenever she gets 60% in a test then it’s a celebration, but even if I get 99% my parents never say ‘well done’. They simply say public school is easy and that maybe I am coping or favoured by teachers!

While I am having a conversation with myself I realize that I am crying. Did I talk about school just now? The thought of school brings Babalo in my mind! I get terrified, my heart beats faster and it feels like it wants to come out of my mouth; I can feel it making its way to my throat! I kick the blankets off me, sit up on the bed and look at the time. It is 00:07 already and my father is not back yet. I think of where he could possibly have taken Babalo; I think of the fact that my father is a beast. What if he kills Babalo? The thought of Babalo not breathing kills me. I have to find him and I will do whatever it takes.

At last, my father comes home around 7:03am just as, I am ready to go to school. I ask him where he took Babalo and he looks at me with pity, saying: “You really are a curse!” The insult does not offend me. All I want to know is where he took Babalo! He says Babalo is on his way to his extended family in Zimbabwe, but I definitely do not buy the story. Babalo told me he does not have relatives he knows off. My father tells me I am not allowed to talk about Babalo anymore; that it’s time to close the chapter and move on like Babalo never existed!

“You are a disgrace to this family. I can’t even look at you. I can’t believe you grew up to be this lying witch. How dare you accuse my brother of rape? I will kill you. Are we clear, Aviwe?” says my father as he slowly comes closer to me. His facial expression is murderous. I keep quiet. “ARE WE CLEAR?” he shouts in my face. I nod, tears trickling down my face. When I try to go to the door, he grabs my arm and pulls me closer. “Where do you think you are going?”

“I am going to school, papa and I’m late already,” I say with a shaky voice.

“Do you think we are going to pretend like yesterday didn’t happen? Every deed has an outcome, my child, don’t you know that by now?” I try to apologise, but how do you apologise for being sexually abused? For telling the truth? Within a blink of an eye my father grabs me and takes me to the basement and we get there he pushes me to the floor. “Forget about school. Today you and I are going to have a party,” he says as he opens an old freezer and orders me to get inside..

I stay in the floor hoping that it is a joke or that my mother will show up but my yearning wish doesn’t materialise. He takes my backpack and throws it on the other side of the basement, grabs me and shoves me into the non-functioning freezer; locking me in. There is no use of crying and shouting for help so I calmly try to get comfortable in the freezer. I guess this is how it’s like in the coffin; it’s so dark and lonely I can literally hear my own breath and I realize I will run out of oxygen in not time. I crouch in there shivering with anger, unable to cry. I felt like forever when finally my mom opens the freezer. l anticipate an empathetic face, but she yells: “Oh, gosh you stink! Come and eat and take a shower,” she says walking up the stairs. I get out of the freezer and take my backpack. It is already dark with means I have been in the freezer the whole day. My mother brings me food in my room; giving me the most devilish look in history.

The following morning, I prepare for school as usual, I wait in the lounge for my father to give me lunch- and transport money, but instead I am told that I will never get any money again - not even for transport, launch and toiletries. I figure that, as long as they let me go to school its ok. School is a 45 minutes’ walk from home.

I walk to school in the morning and when I come back, the news is all over school that I slept with Babalo and accused my noble uncle of raping me. I become the laughing stock again and I get dirty looks from all over. As a result I stop going outside the classroom during lunch. I don’t have money anyway, instead I stay in the class room and read. There is only one thing that keeps me going - the hope of finding Babalo one day. He becomes my motivation to do better in everything. My marks average increases to 98%. Everyone asks me about the rumours but I don’t dignify their queries with a response and they presume my silence to be acquiescence.

After an awful three days I get a call from the principal’s office. When I get there he tells me to close the door behind me. He tells me to sit on the chair opposite to his. He looks me in the eyes with a straight face and says: “I believe you.” What did he just say? This causes a choking lump in my throat so I cry like a new born baby. He gets up to give me a hug but I tell him not to get closer! I know men like him. Men are heartless - my perpetrator came as an angel to check if I was ‘ok’, I don’t want any man next to me. My principal understands and goes back to his chair, saying that he wants to help me but he doesn’t know how. He says the least he can do is to give me transport fare and lunch money. I thank him for his kindness but I reject the offer. I don’t want to owe any man money. He concludes by saying that his door is open if I ever need anything. I thank him once more and leave the office.

At the end of August I get a cash prize for being a top student to the school. The prize giving is taking place for the first time. The money is enough for lunch, taxi fare and for a nice hair cut for at least one month. After August the prize giving takes place each and every end of the month ’till the end of the year and only the top student gets the prize - there are no second or third prize. I keep taking the prize each time! When I begin to feel that this is fishy, I go to my principal and ask him if he has anything to do with all this. To my surprise he does not deny it; he says the idea of cash prize to the top student was his idea, but it is not his fault that I get 98%. He goes on saying that I deserve the prize because I worked hard for it and he tells me I have a bright future ahead of me. If I keep my current passing average I won’t have any problems about University. Each and every university in South Africa will want me. The sparkle in my principal’s eyes shows how much he cares. He is so happy about my performance as if I am his own child, but the trust I had for men is broken forever.

Home gets worse. We live together but our hearts are miles apart. I get excluded from ‘family’ functions that take place and I don’t get invites when the rest of the family goes to the beach, church conferences or camps. The only time I get noticed is when there are visitors coming over so I have to clean the house. At least I don’t get beaten anymore - all I get is silence treatment. This is great because the feeling now is mutual. I hate all of them with every fibre in my body and the only reason I still stay with them is because I have to finish school. If what my principal told me about universities fighting over me if I get good marks is true I will go to university and never come back.

I sometimes l think of murdering them but, then again, that it would be too easy. They won’t feel a thing when they are dead. The best revenge would be to become successful, find Babalo, get Azola arrested. The raping does not stop. Azola comes to my house every weekend when he knows I am alone. He has the spare key for the front door so he doesn’t need me to open the door anymore. I do not tell anyone anymore because they are not going to believe me anyway. I think it’s better to bottle things up than to talk about it and end up being treated like a freak by everyone.

After three years, when I turn 17 years old and in Grade 12, nothing changes. I am still a loner and an emotional damaged being. The only thing that has changed are my marks at school. During June exams I literally got half of my normal passing average.

You know when you grow up your past and bottled stock starts to eat you alive, like demons ascending from the abyss, refusing to be shut any longer. It starts to demand your attention and the only way to restore mental sanity is to respond to it. I am so disappointed in myself and so is my principal. He calls me to his office and begs me to tell him what is going on. I tell him that grade 12 is not like other grades; that it has more work and I am struggling. He gives me his wife’s business card and says I should call her anytime when I need something. He says maybe it can help to talk to a female because it seems like I don’t want to talk to him since he is a male and he totally understands.

I thank him for the business card and assure him that I am fine and that I will try my best next time. I leave the office thinking that the year is running to an end and I will not get a bursary if my marks keep going down like this. If I don’t get a bursary there is no way my parents will send me to university and if that happens I will not have a decent job and earn money to look for Babalo. I’ve heard that private investigators are expensive. It’s time I keep my eyes on the prize. So I go home with one thing on my mind: to study hard. I know that when I put my mind on something, I usually get it done. I tell myself that I will pass trial exams with at least 90% average and I know it’s possible.

It’s Friday afternoon when I get home. I take a shower and put on my pyjamas and prepare myself to study all night. I don’t know where my parents and sister are but I am used to this - they usually go without telling me. Suddenly, the front door opens. I think maybe it’s them but I am too lazy to go check. Within a minute, my bedroom door opens. I look up and see it’s Azola.

I know exactly what brings him here, so I put my books on the dresser, take off my pyjamas and lay on the bed. Azola unzip his pants, takes out his penis and starts to jackoff. After his penis is aroused he gets in between my legs. No words are exchanged. I gave up a long time ago, and today I’ve decided to participate. I mean it is not fair that he gets all the pleasure. He has been sleeping with me for about 3 years now, so I might as well enjoy the ride. I am 17 years old now and I have a plan. When we are done he kisses my forehead and we sleep side by side. I heard that men’s happiest point is also their weakest point! I feel like testing that theory!

I turn around toface him I put my head in his chest. He holds me and kisses my head and falls asleep after about 5 minutes. I lifted my head up and call his name just to make sure that he is really sleeping. When he doesn’t respond I sit up and look at him. Suddenly the day he attacked me, manipulated my parents and got my best friend kicked out starts to play in my head. I can still remember each and every part of it: how he tied me up and rode me like a slut; I remember how he convinced my parents and the entire community that he was innocent; I remember how I begged him to tell the truth but he stood tall and said he was not going to take a fall for a crime he didn’t commit.. While I reminisce tears roll down my cheeks but I smile. I am broken but this moment fascinates me. I look for my takkies under the bed; take off their laces and walk over to the dresser quietly. I open my pencil case and to take out big scissors. I go to the bed while holding it in my right hand, get on top of him and ties his hands together. He doesn’t even feel that someone is on top of him. I look at him and feel a joyful voice in my head saying: “It’s payback time, bitch”. My heart dances along.

With shivering hands, I hold up the scissors and stub him on the neck with such venom it startles me. He suddenly wakes up with bewildered eyes - still trying to figure out what just happened. I stab him on the other side of his neck and he tries to get me off him. But I am 17 now and much stronger than that little girl who couldn’t fight for herself back then. I stab him in the chest and stomach countless times. As he screams for help I get off, take his underwear and my panties and shove them in his mouth! Lord, the last time I was this happy was when Babalo was in my life. He bleeds so much and since the blood is all over the bed, it starts dripping down on the floor. I stand next to the bed and watch his face as his tears roll down his face. Revenge is sweet and is definitely a bitch.

I am tempted to burn him alive and say the fire was an accident but the thought comes to my mind that dying is the easy way out. Killing someone is doing them a huge favour because you take them out of their misery. No, I want him to face his demons each and every day and I want him to think of me every time he sees the scars in his body. I want his demons to choke him in his sleep and I want him to suffer just like I did and still do.

So I decide to call the ambulance and my principal’s wife. On the phone I cry so much and yell that they must hurry and get him before he dies. I then take a fleece blanket and press it to the largest wounds I tell him its ok, help is on the way and that his nightmare has just began. This has got nothing on how he is going to feel when the wounds are healed, on how I felt all these years - a physical pain is nothing compared to an emotional pain, because at least with physical pain you can get medication, but there is no medication for a hurting soul. I stop talking and start crying for help when I hear two cars park outside. The front door is opened and I can hear my principal calling my name. I don’t respond; I cry louder instead. They all come to my bedroom where the screaming comes from and find me holding my uncle, both of us naked.

Chapter four

My uncle is rushed to hospital and as I stand there naked and crying, Mrs Mali, my high school principal’s wife, takes off her coat and puts it on my shoulders. She hugs me for a very long time. My principal gets me a glass of water and his wife lets go of me so I can drink. They ask where my parents are. I tell them I don’t know and then they tell me to get dressed and come with them! I can feel their eagerness to ask what happened, but they are afraid they might hurt my feelings. I say “I stabbed him; I didn’t want to kill him, I just wanted him to stop.” Mrs Mali squeezes my hand and asks what happened. I tell her everything. I tell her when and how it all started and why I have kept quiet all along. But I just don’t tell her that this time I participated. This time I took off my panties I rode him like it was the end of the world. I don’t tell her that it was my mission to make him suffer. Mrs Mali hugs me and says she is sorry I went through all that. “I am going to make sure that bustard gets locked up and the keys are thrown far, far away,” she promises! All this time my principal is listening to every word, the anger is written all over his face as he steals glances at us. He drives to the hospital.

When we arrive at the hospital I get admitted, the doctor attends me and all the necessary tests are done. Mrs Mali holds my hand throughout the process while her husband is in the waiting room. We are told that we will get the results in the morning at 09:00am. At 04:13am I hear noises from the waiting room. I hear my father’s voice demanding to see me, but my mother doesn’t want him to.

Mrs Mali and I get out of the exam room to see what is going on. When we get to the waiting room my father is furious and my mother is begging him to stop, saying they should focus on Azola’s recovery. The moment my father sees me he grabs me but Mr Mali catches him before he can reach me.

He asks him what the hell is wrong with him and my father replies: “Everything is wrong with her; not me. She is a curse to my family. Every time I see her I want to puke; everyday this witch makes pretty sure to prove that she doesn’t have my blood in her veins.” My mother shouts at him to stop talking. “Pull yourself together, Fezile! Right now the ad one is your brother. It’s time to go home,” my mother yells and pulls him out of the room.

What just happened? What did my father mean when he said I don’t have his blood? They leave me, Mrs Mali and her husband standing there like idiots.. When I asked my principal to take me home Mrs Mali tells me that I can’t leave. I still have to get the results of the tests and that we need to open a case against Azola. I tell her I will be back before 9am, for now I need to be taken home. Besides, the test results can wait and the police station is not going anywhere.

When Mr Mali came to our house, I ask him to drop me at the gate. “Are you sure you don’t want us to come with?” Mrs Mali asks. I tell her that I am pretty sure and that I will give them a call when I need them. I thank them for their kindness. As I get to the garage I can hear my parents shouting at each other, but I cannot hear what exactly they are arguing about. I need answers and I want nothing but the truth. I realize I would have to pull some real stunt to get their undivided attention. How the hell can I do that? I look around not really sure what I am looking for but I know I will know when I see it. I come across an old 5litres bottle. I open it, and much to my surprise it’s petrol. Just what I needed! I take the petrol and pour it in a line from under the car all the way to the lounge. Then I walk to the lounge and pour it all over the couch. I am not surprised that my parents’ didn’t even hear the door open. They are shouting at the top of their lungs. I go to their bedroom where the noise is coming from and bang on the door. He violently swings the door open, my father shouts “Who the hell is banging the door!” He snorts: “The nerve you have! You coming here after what you have done.” sighs Aviwe. “What do you want?” my father says.

“I want us to talk.”

He shakes his head in disbelief and says: “After attempting to kill my only sibling what do you think we can possibly talk about?”

“Oh father, you are not even interested in what happened. That’s heart breaking,” I respond calmly, with my penetrating gaze intently fixed upon him.

“I don’t care what happened. No matter what Azola did, it doesn’t give you the right to try and take his life. Now I want you out of my house,” he says showing me the door.

I look him in the yes and walk away without saying a word. I go to the lounge. He shouts that I must leave and that I have no place in his house. “I am not going anywhere! If you really want me out of your house you’ll have to come and throw me out yourself.”

He falls for the trap and angrily comes to the lounge; my mother right behind him. I take a lighter on the table and fire extinguisher behind the room divider I then stand behind the door. When they get to the lounge, I lock the door behind them, throw the keys through the window and command them to sit down. My father is furious. He asks what I am trying to do and why I poured petrol on the couch. “Sit”, I say with a commanding and aggressive voice. “This time you all do as l say or I will burn us alive. You don’t know what I’m capable of or should I remind you of how I stubbed honourable uncle Azola?”

My mother sees what beast I’ve become and she slowly sits on the couch, but my father doesn’t buy it. “Oh, father, you dare come closer - trust me - I am going to burn this house into ashes with us inside”. My father thinks I am bluffing and makes a terrible mistake. He takes a step towards me; I take the lighter and set the nearest couch alight. The fire does goes wild in a very short time, spreading to the next couch in the blink of an eye.

He frantically springs up, like one possessed by a score of demons, rushing towards me as he shouts, almost his lungs out, that l must put out the fire with immediate effect. I am startled at first, but once he gets closer I spray it in his eyes; the force of the pressure almost knocking him down. He screams and bends down covering his eyes with his hands. My mother screams, conspicuously getting more and more agitated, but clearly realising that I am not in a trifling mood. She keeps her distance, and keeps asking me what the hell l want.

“l want answers!” l scream back. She says: “Put out the fire I will tell you everything you want to know I promise, okay?” I put out the fire and the room is filled with smoke. Everyone is coughing, but I don’t care. This is the only way to get what I want, I have been through far worse than a smoky house. The couches are pretty messed up and the ceiling board was starting to burn. I tell my father that I don’t want to hurt them but I won’t think twice when he does not cooperate. My mother asks me what I want to know I tell her: “I want to know everything; I want to know what your husband meant when he said I don’t have his blood in me.”

She says: “If I tell you then everything will change forever and there will be no turning back.”

“We have already crossed the no going back line. There is nothing that can be worse that you turning your backs on me when I needed you the most. I have been brutally sexually abused and you decided to close your eyes and look the other way. You have unrelentingly abused me - not only physically but also emotional. All I ever wanted was to be treated like my younger sister. Was that too much to ask? I just wanted parental love but to my constant bewilderment I never had that, so now it’s your time to make the past right; it’s your time to set me free and set your hearts free. I can never fix my mistakes if I don’t know what they are, so I am giving you this last opportunity to tell me what I have done so I can rectify it in my next life. This is not the time to act like you care about my feelings. This is the time to let me know why you don’t care about them.” It’s the silence moment, almost everything stood still and you can cut the tension in the room with a knife. My father looks calm and deep in thought, as if he has lost his voice.

“I asked a question! I don’t have the whole day to sit here. You speak up or we all die here. You only have 60 seconds to start talking!” I scream.

My mother looks me in the eyes, takes a deep breath and smiles, telling me that she doesn’t know where to begin because it brings back many memories. She took a long time to get over what happened 17 years ago and she is not willing to torture herself and talk about it. “You have no choice mother! This is not about what you want and your feelings – it is about me and my feelings”. My father, who has not been looking at me the entire time, looks straight into my eyes and starts talking, with a breaking voice, filled with both rage and embarrassment.

“Azola is the only sibling I have. We grew up together, tighter than fish and water, our parents enforced the fact that one day they will die and leave us alone and when they do, we will only have each other. We should never turn our backs on each other! Azola has been nothing but good to me. No matter what happened we always backed each other up. Azola and I had unbreakable bond - especially after our parents passed away. We were brothers for life until 18 years ago on the 25th of June when I got married and went to Durban on honeymoon.

“While your mother and I were on honeymoon my brother had a car accident and we had to come back immediately. Right after the call your mother and I packed our bags and hit the read. We took the R61 route. We drove passed Margate at around 10:00pm and when we passed through the Transkei small towns, we reached Port st Johns there were traffic cops. They signalled us to pull over and as a traffic cop approached us, he had a pen and paper, greeted us and asked for our driving licence. He asked to search the car and instructed us to get out of the car.

“I tried to tell him my brother who was in hospital but he insisted that we get out of the car. The other traffic cop asked if we had a problem and as your mother and I got out of the car, the policeman searched for weapons (so he said). They told us to turn around and face the car and put our hands on our heads. Suddenly, both of us were cuffed and the next thing I know, we were injected.

“I woke up in a very neat, well-designed and well-furnished lounge. Everything in the room was white and everything looked expensive. I heard someone coughing and saw it’s your mother. I asked if she is okay she said she was feeling dizzy. I asked if she knows where we were and how we got there but she also had no idea. While sitting there the door opened. ‘Great, my people are awake,’ said the tall buffy black guy. His face looked familiar and then I remembered that this is the policeman that stopped us last night.

“I asked him what they did to us and what they wanted and how we got here. He smiled and said that it’s simple: all they want is the pin of my platinum bank card and that I have to write them a cheque so they can clean my account. I couldn’t do that because my account was pretty packed and we claimed all our savings for the honeymoon. I wanted to buy my wife a house too, so I refused to give in to them.

“His other crew came back and heated me up for my account pin, but I didn’t give up and kept my mouth sealed. They saw that I was not going to give them what they wanted so the other guy said they have to teach me a lesson. They ripped my wife’s clothes off, parted her legs and raped her! They made me watch everything. I shouted out the pin number and wrote the cheque to clean my account; thinking they’d stop but they did not. I watched them taking terms in banging my helpless wife but I couldn’t do anything. I lost my mind, her blood was all over the white sofa. She cried out my name; she begged me to help her but I couldn’t. I was just there crying like a baby, with guns against my head. I was scared for my life; I chose to save my life over hers. That’s the day I lost my humanity; the whole world changed. I lost everything,” he sobs. I have never seen my father cry but today I see his other side. He is hurt beyond measure, beyond what words can explain. My mother is crying too - almost hysterical. She begs my father to stop but he doesn’t, he does the opposite. “They cleaned all our accounts, they kept us prisoned for a full week and my wife became their meal; breakfast, lunch, supper and snack in-between. On the 7th night we woke up naked in the bushes of Port St Johns. We went to the nearest house and told the owner of the household we were hijacked. We were given old smelling clothes and food. It was all they had; they didn’t even have a cell phone or know of a public phone nearby so we had to stay. I had no way out of Port St John’s deep rural area and we had no money to get to East London. We had no money to go to the police station and we did not want to, because our perpetrators pretended to be police offices so there was no way I want to go to the police.

We stayed in Port St Jonhs with two parents and their 5 children. We went to bed on empty stomach sometimes, the only meal we ate was papa and sweet water. We stayed for almost 3 months and in August we were told that we can make money by selling maize next to the road. And that is what we did: we woke up at 4am in the morning, went to the garden to get maize then we all made our way to the street. We sold the maize and saved the money. Even the family we stayed with saved their money for us instead of buying food. They insisted they were fine and used to poverty but they can see that we are not coping and we have to go. At the end of the August we had enough money for new one out fit and taxi fare from Port St Jonhs to Umtata, East London.

When we got home Azola was already out from the hospital. He was mad that I chose to stay in Durban with my wife when he needed me the most; he reminded me of how he has been there for me and how I betrayed him and turned my back on our parents’ teaching. From there and then I felt like I owed him, I told him I was going to make it up for him but I never did, he forgave me and we got back together but it was not the same. Your mother and I never told anyone about what went down on our way back to our honeymoon, we were so ashamed. I couldn’t even look at my wife the same way again. I felt weak that I couldn’t protect us! What kind of a man I am that cannot protect his own wife? That can stay there watch his wife being raped and cry like a new born baby instead of doing something! A male that does that is not a man but a quarter of a man, not even a half!

About 5 months after the nightmare your mother told me she missed her periods. We did a home pregnancy test and it was positive. We went to the doctor just to be sure and she was indeed pregnant - 5moths pregnant. Everyone congratulated us. Even Azola was beyond happy and he said at least he can see why I couldn’t come back and he is proud of the man I am. I was also proud that after all this madness we are blessed with a child. Months went by, my wife’s tummy grew, and you would swear that she was pregnant of twins or even triplets.

On the following year in March you were born in Sait Hospital but no, I couldn’t see myself in you. I had to do a paternity test. It came back negative and my first thought was that my wife cheated on me. I went phyco on her, but she told me to think back: nine months ago she was with me all the time. We went on honeymoon, on our way back we were hijacked and she was raped so if the child is not mine, it came out of the rape. It all made perfect sense but we kept it to ourselves because we never told anyone about the rape. I was tempted to give you up for adoption but I couldn’t. My brother and his friends came to fetch us from the hospital, so we had to keep you and raise you like ours but I couldn’t; you are not mine and you will never be

Every time I look at you I think of what we went through. You are the walking and talking reminder of what happened 18 years ago; you are the proof that I am weak and helpless. I couldn’t protect my wife and every time I see you I want to punch you between the eyes.. When you told me about the rape I didn’t want to believe it. I refused. I didn’t want to trade my brother’s reputation for a child of rape. See? I somehow felt like I owed my brother for not making it to the hospital when he needed me, so by ignoring what he did made me feel better.

I kicked out Babalo not because I believed what Azola told me, but because he made you happy. When I see you I see the men who hijacked us. When you hurt I somehow feel like I am hurting your real father! When you stubbed Azola you took a part of me, it felt like your father did it; like he is still in control. I don’t ever want to see you again, you are a living torture and it’s like l am fighting a losing battle. Your father wins...” My father wipes off the tears.

Chapter five

Am I allowed to call him a father? No I am not. I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t know how to respond and if I have to respond? Can’t I just walk away without saying a word? No, then I will be one of them. There won’t be any difference between me, my biological father and the people who raised me.

I can’t stand straight but l regain my composure. “I am sorry you all went through that but it’s no justification to treat me like crap. You should have given me up for adoption, there are many couples out there who want children. I am not my father, I don’t even know who that is and I will never be like him, but I will also never be like you two. I don’t understand why you did everything. What makes you better than the people who hijacked you? Nothing? You are all the same: you are beasts! I am going to go and never come back like you requested! Give my greetings to Buhle when she comes back,” I say and walk towards the window. My mother tells me to wait, that she is sorry. I look at her and tell her it’s too late now and that they should get professional help. I jump out the window and take the key outside where I threw it and open for them. Then I walk away.

When I exit the gate I see Mr Mali’s car coming towards me; his wife tells me to get in the car. “It is 09:30. Remember you had to get your test results at 09:00. What happened? Why didn’t you call?” she asks. I look at her and I can’t help but sob, uncontrollably.

I don’t know where I am going but I know I need to be alone. One thing I have learnt out of all this madness is the fact that people don’t just ‘help’. They always have hidden agendas which feeds their own egos and pride. I leave the car without looking back....

Suddenly someone grabs my arm violently. “What the fuck! Don’t fucken touch me or I will kill you!” l snap. I turn around and look at the person who is holding my hand. Mrs Mali. She hugs my trembling body tight for a very long time. I am defeated so I give in and I lie on her chest and cry. After a long time she breaks the hug, holds both my shoulders and look me in the eyes and say: “Aviwe I don’t know what you have been through but I can see you are scared. I feel your pain, all I ask is you to let me in, let me in your life, let me help you. Viwe, you don’t have to go through this alone. I want to help you! You are young and have a great future ahead of you. All you have to do is to let people help! I am not asking you to trust me & uncover your soul to me; I am just asking you to let me help you! Let me take you to the hospital, let me give you a bathroom so you can get cleaned up, let me give you cookies and coffee, let me give you life, let me give you all of me. Let me do what God tells me to do. Let me do the right thing and help you,” says Mrs Mali with tears running down her cheeks.

I don’t say a word as I hug her as a response. When we get to the car, we find her husband patiently waiting for us. When we get in, he smiles and drives to the hospital. We ride in silence, only hearing the purring of the sound engine. After sometime Mr Mali complains about hunger he asks if I have eaten anything. I tell him I haven’t but l am ok. He just looks at me and keeps quiet, then he stops next to Eyesizwe butchery and enters.

I am left with Mrs Mali in the car, it’s so awkward. She then tries to break the awkwardness by saying: “You look tired and your eyes are swollen, you need a very hot bubble bath and a long, long sleep.” Then she smiles and brushes my shoulder. I smile too. Her husband comes back with a lot of fried chicken breasts, bread and orange juice. “I know you don’t eat red meat, Viwe,” he says as he sits behind the driving wheel. The meat looks divine.. I smile and ask who told him! He does not reply, instead he winks at me, his wife laughs and takes a piece of meat and eats. I take a piece too. “I thought you are not hungry,″ says Mr Mali. “I’m not hungry, I just want a taste,” I reply with a light smile, we all laugh. “Hold your horses my child,” says Mr Mali, we laugh again. Mrs Mali tells her husband to leave me alone and let me eat in peace. “Ok so y’all are ganging up on me? Alright, I give up let me drive you to hospital. We are already late.” He then starts the car and drives to the hospital.

We arrive to the hospital exactly 10:00. There is a long a queue. Mrs Mali is well known and loved all over. She is the hardest core Magistrate who is famous of throwing the bad boys behind Bars! After seeing how long the queue is she tells us to wait there while she is going to ‘talk’ to the doctor. Within a few minutes she comes back with a smile all over her face and takes my hand telling me that the doctor is waiting for me. Mr Mali shakes his head and says “I wonder what you’ve said to the doctor! I don’t have a wife here.” They both smile at each other.

When we get to the doctor’s room, he is reading some papers. He tells me to have a seat and that he already has the results from the tests. He continuous saying: “Good news is: you are HIV negative, you are free to all the STDs, you are healthy and kicking and you are two months pregnant.” Then he looks at me calmly. “I want you to take it out. I don’t want a child of rape. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I am going through,” I said with anger!

“Doctor, please give us some time.” says Mrs Mali who had been quiet all along. The doctor tells us to leave and come back when we have discussed whatever we want to discuss. He tells us that he still has to attend other patients.

Mrs Mali’s face changed, it’s so strange. The loving, sweet and sparkling Mrs Mali I know is gone. Her eyes show that she is deeply hurt but I can’t comprehend what exactly is hurting her. She tells her husband that everything went well and that we should leave. Then she fakes a smile. “Alright I know that smile, what’s wrong?” her husband asks. “It’s nothing l am just tired I need to go home.” She then holds me by the hand and leads me to the car. Mr Mali drives. No one says a word along the way.

When we get to their home, it’s a beautiful double story house, its quiet I wonder if there is anyone staying here except Mr and Mrs Mali. She goes upstairs and runs me a hot bubble bath, calls me and gives me new towels. She shows me a spare room and tells me that it’s my room from now on. She gives me a big red toiletry bag, inside the bag there are body lotion, body perfume, roll-on, soap, pads, and a hair removal kit. This lady is awesome, but I am troubled by her look. I wonder what she wanted to ask when she asked the doctor to give us space, I am praying that she is not planning to change my mind about the abortion because she will be hurt and she will hate me. I won’t change my mind and nobody will make me to change my mind. I don’t want a reminder of the past. I am planning a new life, I want to forget about the past and have a great new life and that I can’t do with a child.

No I better get rid of this before it’s too late. This runs through my mind while I am sitting in the bath tab. Mrs Mali was right: I needed it.

Well Mrs Mali’s face-expression-change is not worth to think about anymore because I can’t get to the bottom of it at all. I will deal with it when she says something. Thinking about something you don’t know is a waste of time. The water goes cold and I get out of the bath tab. I go to my bedroom, lock the door and then I take off the towel. My eyes run all over the room. It’s simple and beautiful. There is a double bed, a head board, a huge mirror on the wall and a mini closet. After assessing the room I put a lotion on my dark skin, when I am done I take a warm cotton gown that I found on the bed and I put it on. I lay on the bed on my back, close my eyes and think of each and everything that happened last night and early this morning.

I think about how I stabbed my uncle and enjoyed each and every moment of it. Surprisingly the thought of it still warms my heart. I think how people who brought me up turned against me, I think of the reason why they turned against me. Well, they never actually turned against me because they have never been on my side. I think of the news that I am a child of rape and that I just produced my own kind; another child of rape.

I feel tears making their way down to my cheeks! I don’t know what to think but I honestly don’t want a child of rape! Just the thought of having a child at this age breaks my heart. I have never had a boyfriend but I am going through what girls with more than one boyfriend go through. My life is hard, it gets harder every day! Even if I want to keep the baby, I can’t. I can’t give the Mali’s such responsibility! Yes they have been nice but I don’t want to take advantage of their kindness! I wish Babalo was here because he’d know what to do. I just miss Balo and the thought of him makes me cry even more! I am young. Why do I have to go through all this? Is it because of who I am? A child of rape? But Lord it’s not my fault, why am I being punished for something I had no control over? Something I was not even a part of! Jesus, please do something; this is not fair, do something please! I cry myself to sleep.

Chapter six

I am woken up by a gentle knock accompanied by a calling of my name. As I open the door. I find Mrs Mali standing there; panicking. “I have been knocking since forever, I have been worried sick about you.... are you ok?” says Mrs Mali and hugs me. “I fell asleep ma’am,” I said... I look at the window I realise that it is dark. “Come, I need a word with you but get something to eat first,” she says and goes downstairs. I follow. She gives me a plate and tells me to come to the lounge when I am done! Then I think back to where I come from, I remember what was always happening in our lounge: I was always attacked and I never had the power to fight back. This thought kills my appetite. I take the food back to the fridge and go to the lounge. I find my principal and his gorgeous wife waiting for me. Mrs Mali tells me that she bought me some clothes and that I have to try them on. I thank her and she smiles.

Mr Mali says: “This is awkward but it has to be done. My wife and I have been married for 22 years and we have been trying to conceive a baby since then, but we couldn’t. We went to many doctors but they all said the same thing: we are both infertile. You see Aviwe you are like my child. Three years back when I heard about your problem my heart bled. I imagined, felt and took your pain like you really are my own daughter. Since then all I ever wanted to do was to help. Even today I still want to help you. When my wife told me the good news I felt blessed to have known you. The God we pray to do wonders all the time. God always has a plan for everything, it was not a mistake that, when your news came to my ears, I believed you and I didn’t leave it just there. All this time I thought my wife and I are your guardian angels but no; it’s the other way around. You are our angel and you were sent in our lives to help us. In all, I want to let you know how honoured we will be to adopt you as our own child. Your child is like our own grandchild she or he will never need anything,” he concludes.

I am very calm. This sounds like emotional blackmailing to me. I will not be manipulated, not now, not ever. Just because they helped me doesn’t mean I have to go against my gut feeling. I look at them and then I look down. “I know you are scared Aviwe, but let’s work together to correct the mistakes done by your parents, keep the child and let us show the world that a child is a gift from God. It doesn’t matter how you conceived the child but they are innocent and you just have to do right by them. Every child deserves chance to live. Keep your child. We will love her/him with everything in us. I will love her the way you should have been loved. Give us a chance to show you that being a child of rape is not a choice and all kids have to be treated with love. Aborting would be wrong. I know you are young and confused, but I won’t let you to make a mistake,” says Mrs Mali with a pleading face.

Well she is good and she has her way with words. She was once a lawyer so she is a professional manipulator. I won’t be intimidated. I know what I want and I already have made up my mind. Keeping this would be a mistake of a lifetime. “Do I have a choice?” I ask. “Yes baby you do, this is a dearly request, not a command, but I trust you will make a smart choice,” says Mrs Mali.

“Smart move according to who? I am sorry but I have already made up my mind and nothing you can say or do will change my mind. I feel your pain but if you want a kid you can always go to orphanage homes and adopt as many children as you want. Thank you for your kindness and being there for me when no one was there but I won’t let you manipulate me. By nature I don’t respond very well to emotional blackmailing,” I say. I then stand up and go upstairs, take off the night gown and put on a blue skinny jean, white plain t-shirt, white takkies and a black sweater that Mrs Mali bought me and they suit me just fine.

How sweet that she estimates my size and get it right just like that. I look at my reflection in the mirror. The door opens. “Can I come in?” I look at the door and see MiLady smiling. “Yhea sure, I am leaving anyway,” I reply.

“Where are you going? It is 21:05pm?” she asks.

“I don’t know, but I know I can’t be here, you obviously want something from me and you won’t have it, therefore there is no need for me to stay here,” I say looking straight into her eyes. “What are you talking about? Viwe, you misunderstood, we are not forcing you to keep the baby. We are asking you to give us what we spent the last 22 years hoping for. Oh, my God you don’t get it do you? But it’s fine. Just know that I helped you not because I wanted something from you, but because it was the right thing to do. I don’t want you to leave. It’s ok if you want to abort the child, I will support you all the way. It’s your life after all,” she says. “Good,” I reply and give her a cold hug.

Yes, I might appear as selfish and inconsiderate but that suits me just fine, I don’t care! I am grateful for what they did for me but I am 17 and its time I think about my own future. Imagine if I carry this THING, let Milady adopt IT and then, when it grows up, it demands to know its real parents. Then it is told that her mother gave it up because she didn’t want it. Its mother was raped and she stabbed its father. How would that child feel? How would you feel when you are told such news? Wouldn’t you hate your mother for giving you up and for stabbing the man who created you? Wouldn’t you hate yourself for causing your mother so much pain and sorrow? Wouldn’t you wish your mother would have aborted you? I would! See? I am doing this to protect not only me but also my unborn baby.

Milady locks me inside the bedroom! “I am not going to leave!” I say. “Like I trust you!” She shouts. Then she leaves with the key. This woman is something else. I take off my clothes and get under the blankets! I think of how I met Mrs and Mr Mali. When I met them they did not know that I am pregnant; all they wanted was to help me. They are selfless and harmless people. I over-reacted. Where would I go from here? Nowhere! My parents know that I am with them but they did not make any contact; they did not try to find me! I guess this is my home now!

I am so confused about keeping the baby or not. It is not only Azola’s baby, but mine too. It has my blood. I won’t be killing only his baby - I will be killing our baby. Well, I still have to sleep on it. I am woken up by the light from a window. I open my left eye and find MiLady smiling next to my bed. “Wake up, its 10:00 and there is a lot to discuss about the case you have to open against Azola,” she replies. “I thought you sorted everything out?” I say.

“Please call me mommy,” she says.

I laugh and say: “How about I call you grandmother?”

“Is your grandmother my age? You are crazy! Ok by the way I wrote everything down all you have to do is to read and sign and then I will give it to the head of police. I have already talked to him. Azola is under police watch now. Once he recovers I will be the one taking your case! I will make sure that he rots in jail one way or the other. But without being personal about it the state is very harsh on rape cases. He will get what he deserves”, she says, holding my hand. “That sounds promising, thank you. Finally I will have peaceful dreams.”

She then gives me a warmest hug and tells me that I will be alone because they are going to church. I ask her to please get police to get my books from where I used to stay as I am starting with my trail exams in 4 days.

“Your wish is my command, madam,” she says and we both laugh! This lady is amazing. She has a good heart. It’s like yesterday never happened.

“I have decided to keep the baby,” I say. The shock in her face. “What? Are you sure? What changed your mind?” she asks, coming back to my bed.

“This is not only Azola’s baby, this is also my baby! You said everyone deserves a chance to live! Giving a life to somebody is supposed to be the most beautiful thing.” I say. “Oh, my God. King of kings, you are Holly, You supposed to be prayed,” she falls down on her knees and prays! I am so happy that I have made someone else happy. I feel warm tears dropping from my eyes.

Mr Mali must have heard the noise from my room so he comes up stairs with a confused face. He finds me crying and his wife praying and crying. Then she gets up and hugs him tightly! She whispers in his ear! I then see tears dropping from his eyes. They cry together. My child will have the most amazing parents in the entire world. The way they love each other! They were supposed to be gifted with as many kids as they want but then one can never have everything in life. They thank me, saying that I have no idea of what this means to them. They are so jubilant I don’t even get the chance to tell them that I won’t give up my baby for adoption. They will be godparents. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

I get my academic life back on track and with renewed vigour; I pour my heart out into my studies. Time goes by so fast, it’s crazy. Before l even realise it, l am writing my final exams. I enjoy every moment of staying with Mr and Mrs Mali. They are so protective of my unborn baby. They watch every little thing I eat. We all wake up and jog before going to school. I see the most expensive doctor in East London. My new parents want what’s best for me and the baby. I have never been so taken care of.

Later, Mrs Mali tells me Azola recovered and she took care of everything: he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison.

When I tell the Mali’s I am not going to give up my baby for adoption and that they will be godparents, they are still happy. They say as long as they are present during the birth of the child, they will give him a name and they will raise him. All they want is to be there when the child crawls, when he starts talking etc. They want to be there all the way and they want someone to call them mommy and daddy from an early stage.

I would never be able to repay what they did for me. They have taken me in when I had nothing and they had absolutely nothing to gain. I get almost everything I want when I want it. I have seen my ’parents” and Buhle once or twice but we are like strangers.

By January my tummy is showing and MiLady buys me the most expensive maternity dresses. She says a mother must always look good. We have been told that the baby is a boy! By this time he already has his own room, suitcase full of baby clothes and lots of toys. I am so happy that my child will have what I didn’t have. He will get unconditional love and support system. He will never need anything. I will never let anything happen to him.

I have been accepted at so many universities but my final results are not yet out.

One evening, I go to Mrs Mali’s study to look for a book to read. I find a thick law text book. I take it to my bed room. I read 100 pages and fall in love with law. I decide that I want to be a Lawyer. I want to stand for the truth. I want justice to be served. I want to stand for people who can’t stand for themselves.

The time is 21:00 and I know for a fact that Mr Mali had the school matric results! But his phone is off, So my baby boy is kicking and I then remember that I have not eaten anything in about 5 hours. As I go downstairs to get something to eat, I feel something weird and painful on my bladder. I don’t understand; I am only 8 months I am only due on the following month. I start to have contractions and it feels as if all the cells in my body are screaming in pain. The pain comes in bounds and then it gets more and more excruciating. Instinctively my breathing rate increases, as if to catch the air and by this time l am panting like an armature marathon runner close to the finishing line. At the same time I have got a pressing urge to go to the toilet but I can’t walk or move! I left my phone in my room and the landline phone is in the kitchen. Feeling, l lower myself on the stairs. After a few minutes I feel stronger and I slowly make my way downstairs, using the wall to balance. After what felt like forever I get to the telephone and call an ambulance and MiLady! My water breaks while I am on the phone with her. My body just can’t take this anymore, I scream aloud and faint.

When I wake up in hospital, I hear voices coming from far away. I try to open my eyes but they are heavy! Someone tells me to relax. I fall asleep again!

Chapter seven

I wake up feeling lighter, I look around. I am still in hospital and there are flowers and teddy bears all over the room. When I look on the side of my bed I see Mrs Mali and her husband holding a baby, Mrs Mali comes to me “hold her”. I take the tiny, wrapped up bundle. Oh my God, it’s so tiny! “It’s a baby girl, I don’t know how, but they made a mistake about the gender just like they didn’t see that you will go to labour before time,” says Milady. She tells me that I gave birth two days ago and she was worried sick about me. I looked so weak. I just smile as I honestly don’t have energy to speak and I can’t hold the baby. I give her back to her godmother.

I tell them that I am hungry. Mr Mali says: “I have that covered” and hands me my favoured home cooked meal. Mrs Mali is a great cook! I eat like I have not seen food in 30 days. A doctor comes in, does some check-ups and after 15 minutes he tells me that I am ready to go home I just have to sign some papers and then I’ll be discharged. I read before I sign. I am told to breastfeed my baby, I agree but deep down my heart I know I won’t do that. I change from hospital uniform to my clothes. We go to the car and Mr Mali drives while Mrs Mali holds the baby. I sit there irritated and frightened. I have never seen a baby this small.

“What’s her name?” I ask

“Vuyo, Vuyolwethu in full. Did you have any name in mind?” Milady asks.

“Nope.”

Mr Mali interrupts us. “I almost forgot I have something for you love.”I am not sure who he is talking to, he calls me and his wife ‘love’.

“Aviwe.” he says.

“Oh are you talking to me? What is it sir?”

He gives me an envelope. My results! I totally forgot about them! I open the envelope and unfold the paper inside. As expected and hoped, l am thrilled to see that I got 8 A*s, and a 78% in Xhosa. This subject was never my favourite. Nevertheless, my average is 94%. I got 100% in maths, L.O, Life Sciences and Physics!

“You are a champion we should go down to Cape Town to celebrate! Well done baby,” says Mrs Mali. Mr Mali says he has been getting calls from possible sponsors asking about me, but it’s my choice to where I want to go, what I want to study and who I want to work for when I finish my studies. He advises me to take medicine as there is a need of doctors in S.A. He tells me this will be my opportunity to go overseas and explore the world. I tell him I don’t want to be far from East London and I want to study Law. MiLady smiles and says that I have chosen well. “Lord have mercy! Two professional liars in the house, I will die!” says Mr Mali. We all laugh.

I tell the Mali’s I want to go to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University because it’s close to East London. I don’t want to go to UCT or overseas. I don’t want to be far from my family. I have finally found the meaning of family!

Well, I am not going to lie: I am kind of relieved to leave Vuyo, because, since the day she was born, I never had a good night’s sleep. She cries day and night, I thought motherhood was the happiest phase in a woman’s life but in my experience it’s the worst! But Mrs Mali stays up with me at night.. Vuyo’s nanny knocks off at 18:00 so after that, we look after the baby ourselves!

A day before rez opens Mr and Mrs Mali drives me to Port Elizabeth. We leave Vuyo with her nanny.

“You are fortunate Aviwe you know? God does work even though He works in the dark. If you look at where you were 3 years ago, would you have known that you’d be going to study law in one of the best universities in S.A? Would you have known that your life was going to turn out like this? You should be proud of yourself, you are a survivor! You have conquered every obstacle in your way. You are a proof that where we come from does not determine our destiny. I trust you will be the better person that you always have been. Don’t let the city change you. Take care of yourself and make us proud more that we already are,” says MiLady in tears.

“Thank you MiLady. I....I don’t know what to say but I promise I will do my best. I won’t disappoint you. I am who I am today because of you; you saved me. For that I will always be grateful, I don’t know how I would ever repay you for taking me in like your own child, for being such amazing parents to me, for advising me to keep the baby! For punishing Azola and for everything in between. What you did for me is beyond what words can explain. I have stayed with you for less than six months but I have learnt a lot from you. You taught me how to love, you filled the voice inside me, you made me believe in myself and dreams. You have no idea of what you mean to me and how grateful I am to have met you. If it wasn’t for you I would probably be dead by now. You are a blessing to me..“ I reply, also joining MiLady in crying.

“Ok Love ......the heart to heart session is over, get yourselves together, please,” says Mr Mali. He always has a way to spoil the fun. We all hug as they drop me off at Melodi Residence parking lot.

They help me take my suitcase to my room. We first go to the residence manager to pay for the room key and she tells us that everything has been paid off by my bursary. She is a very nice Indian lady. She smiles all the time which makes me wonder if her smile is genuine. We are given the key and shown where my room is. I stay in room E5 on the 1st floor. I am told I will have a roommate but since I have arrived first, I may pick my side. Well, that’s easy, I pick the right hand side because it’s behind the door. I don’t want people to see me when they open the door. Mrs Mali helps me to unpack. When we are finished, I walk them to the car. We say our goodbyes and then they drive away. I watch their car taking off. My heart bleeds and tears escape my eyes! I am all alone. I will build a new life. I am not sure if I am ready for this.

Chapter eight

I go back to my room. It looks so small and empty. Everything is built-in - a 3/4 bed, wardrobe and a table. It’s so dull it makes me Miss Mrs Mali’s warm house even more. While sitting there, the door opens and a tall, light-skinned girl throws herself in without even knocking. “Hi, I’m Mongikazi but you can call me Mongi. I guess you are Aviwe. I was told I’m going to find you here, I will be your roommate!” Alright, who is this chick? She has unbelievable energy! She does not give me a chance to reply as she takes off her shoes and jeans, throws the jeans on the bed and kicks the shoes under her table! Unbelievable.

“I hope you don’t mind me taking my jeans off in front of you. Don’t worry, tomboys don’t make me uncomfortable,” she says while putting on her mini flowered skirt. “Tomboy? I am a tomboy?” I reply with a confused face “Yeah it’s chilled, I can tell. Look at your haircut, sneakers, plain t-shirt and skinny jeans! Don’t worry; it’s no big deal,” she says. Whatever she is talking about, I don’t care to know. I have been wearing my hair this short since I was 14 and that’s when I started dressing kinda like a boy. Babalo and I were playing twins.

Mongikazi talks a lot; she does not get tired of the sound of her own voice. I am sure she would have made a good radio talk show personality. Later she asks me to accompany her to the cafeteria to get something to eat, like she read my mind. I am starving. We go to the cafe and make our order. She stands in front of me quietly which gives me time to look at her without being distracted. She is tall and a little overweight. Every part of her is big. She has thick lips, chubby cheeks, thick eye brows and lashes and eyes. Her skin is flawless and a little light and yes, she is pretty.

After getting our order we go back to our room. It’s a 5 minute walk from the cafeteria to rez. We get to our room and everything goes back to where it was. She talks non-stop and I listen. I swear I will need pain killers or something. She is not only talking a lot she is also LOUD. Imagine. She talks about herself most of the time and asks me questions just to ensure that I am listening. I learn that she is from the Western Cape, and she is the only child of Mr and Miss Nkosana. She grew up in a God fearing home and went to a Christian school. She is a Jesus freak. She will be studying Bachelor of Education. That’s exciting, we will be attending church together. From our conversation I observe that Mongi is a very nice person and down to earth. I fall asleep when she starts talking about her boyfriend. She has dated so many boys in high school, she has lost count. That’s all I grasp.

Orientation ends two weeks later and I don’t know any of my flat mates. I only know my roommate and she also doesn’t know anyone except me. It’s Saturday afternoon. Mongs is good company and I get used to her talkative personality - she always does the talking and I do the laughing! I can’t wait for Monday, I want to be in class already. I hate waking up with nothing to do.

“Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!” I hear someone screaming.

“What, what was that?” Mongikazi asks.

Before I even get a chance to respond to Mongikazi, someone bangs on our door, with an urgency that was startling. I look at Mongikazi. She buries her face under a pillow. I go and open the door more out of curiosity rather than bravado and I find a girl, covering her face with her right hand.

“What is it?” I ask, worried.

She doesn’t reply. Instead, she takes my hand and leads me to her room, where I find two other girls. They look amused. I look at the girl holding my hand. “What’s wrong? Why were you screaming?” I ask. She looks at me and smiles then they all laugh. “Chill, its nothing. We are sorry if we scared you, we just wanted to see you, it’s been two weeks and we don’t know each other. I mean, we are neighbours and will be stuck with each other for the entire year,” she replies.

I look away. I can feel my bottle of anger filling up but I try to keep my cool. “What? Are you guys kidding me? Are you for real? Why didn’t you come to our room and ask whatever you wanted to know instead of screaming for attention?” I say, dying of irritation. “Hey, we are sorry we didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. It was the only way we knew it was going to grab your attention,” another girl replies.

“Well, my roommate is scared to death now because she thought something wrong happened to y’all,” I say before leaving them there and go to my room. I find Mongi crying and shaking. I sit on her bed and tell her that everything is fine and about the prank. Just after that someone knocks again. “Not a good time,” I reply to the knock. “Please let us in,” says a female soft voice behind the door!

“Oh, My God what do y’all want?” I ask, but I don’t get a reply. Instead the door is opened. It’s the 3 girls from next door. “We are really sorry, we didn’t mean to scare you, there is no excuse for what we did, and it was stupid. We just wanted to make friends,” says one of the girls. Mongi wakes up and smiles like she was not crying only 3 minutes ago and says: “Oh its ok angels. L’m Mongikazi Nkosana this is my roommate Aviwe. I don’t know her surname (she looks at me) How come I don’t know your surname but you are my roommate”

“Cause you never asked you idiot. Aviwe Minnie.”

We all laugh, Mongi tells the girls to make themselves comfortable. “Y’all can sit on Aviwe’s bed, there are not enough chairs,” she says to the girls who were standing next to the door.

“Oh, thank you Mongikazi. I kinda feel shy and dumb after that lame prank we pulled. Anyway, I am Nandipha, this is Amanda (points to the girl next to her) and this is Chumani (point to the girl sitting next to Amanda.”

“Nice to meet you guys, I was already tired of talking alone in this room so I hope you are not as quiet as my dear roommate. So are you all 3 roommates or? And what are you studying?

Nandipha replies before the others get time to process the questions. “Chumani is my roommate and Amanda is Chumani’s high school class mate. We are all going to be Education students! And you?

“How nice, I am also going to be studying BEd but Vee wants to be a professional liar. There is a lot behind that pretty innocent face.”

Everyone giggles and after that an eerie silence envelops the room. I know I suck in making new friends, that’s why I only had one friend in my entire life. Nandi, who looks like a talkative person, is smiling at her phone screen. I catch Chuma looking at me and then she looks away and smiles. Ok! The awkwardness increases like crazy! Luckily Mongikazi’s phone rings. We all breathe out, like we have been suffocated. Her phone keeps ringing and she ignores it. Nandi, who has been glued to her phone, seems interested by the unanswered phone call.

“Aren’t you going to answer that? Boyfriend problem?” Nandipha asks with a spark of intrigue in her eyes.

“No it’s nothing, just one of those boring lovers who doesn’t want to be dumped,” Mongi replies.

Boys seem to be Nandi’s favourite topic, so she puts her iPhone between her thighs and tells us to bring it on. She asks us about our love lives one by one and then she looks at each and every one of us while we are feeding her soul. We stay up all night talking about almost everything. I tell them that I don’t know my biological parents. My father died when my mother was pregnant and my mother died when she was giving birth to me, so I stayed at an orphanage home and got adopted when I was 6 months old. I know it’s a lie but I don’t feel bad about it. I decide that no one is going to know about my past. What Surprises me is that they all thought I was a lesbian. I tell them how a person dresses does not define their sexual orientation.

Nandipha tells us that she has two younger brothers and that she does not have time for a relationship. Her mother is a single mother and she is an alcoholic. Nandi had to look after her siblings when she was only 11. She had to hustle for food and clothes while her mother slept in every tavern. She woke up in the morning and prepared her siblings for school. When her mother came back from where ever she was she beat her up and demanded food even when they were out of groceries. She would tell them that they were bastards and they will never be anything in life.

Nandi’s story is pretty sad but something does not add up. She owns an iPhone 6, she is wearing Gucci and had Brazilian hair.

“You’re probably wondering who takes care of me. Well, I do what I have to do to survive. I am a survivor. Yes, that’s what I am,” says Nandi. We were dying to know who takes care of her, but after what she just said nobody has the guts to ask any further questions. The circle moves to Chumani.

“There is nothing interesting or deep about me really. I am virgin who saves herself for my husband and I stay with my parents,” says Chuma while sucking her thumb. We all die of laughter about the fact that, at the age of 18, she already thinks about marriage!

She then explains that her parents got married when her mother was 19 and her father was 24. Her mother was a virgin when she married her first boyfriend. She believes that true love still exists; we just have to be patient. All in all she gets the pressure of getting married at this age from her parents. She is such a young glowing girl full of life. She is lighter skinned than all of us. She smiles a lot. I guess it’s because she has dimples and beautiful smile; when she smiles her eyes close.

As for Amanda, she speaks soft and slowly and I hardly grasp her story. She tells us that her dad left her mother when she was 7 years old and he never came back for her - Amanda. She stays with her mother and stepfather. Her mother is a nurse and her stepfather is a police officer. From the tone in her voice I observe that she does not think kindly of her mother. She somehow thinks that her mother is the one that drove her father away.

Nandipha, Chumani, Amanda, Mongikazi and I just formed a very strong bond, we became family. I fall in love with all of them. I find my other family in P.E. I want to get to know them even more. I hope to.

They leave our room at 01:07am. Mongi is already asleep. I lock the door and get under my warm blankets. I smile and close my eyes. You know why? It’s because I know I have sisters in PE. Just when I am about to fall asleep I hear sobs from the other side if the room, softly at first and growing louder and more audible, I switch on the light and I slowly walk to her bed. I am shocked to see that her blankets and PJs are dripping wet; she is shaking and her eyes are closed. Not because she’s asleep but because she does not want to see something. She looks so scared. I put my hand on her shoulder.

“Mongi, what’s wrong?” I ask.

She doesn’t answer, but slowly opens her eyes and looks me. Tears trickle down her cheeks. “Can you please sleep in my bed tonight?” she says with a pleading voice. Terror and pain is all I see in her eyes. I don’t know what to think, I don’t know how to make her feel better. She moves up to make more space for me. I get under her blanket to lie next to her like she asked. She then puts her head on my chest and I put my arms around her shoulders. She falls asleep. I can’t sleep I am worried about Mongi. I want to believe that she was having a nightmare, but l recall that in the afternoon when the girl next door screamed, Mongi was terrified. Something is wrong with her. My mission is to find out what is eating her.

Chapter nine

When I wake up the next morning, Mongikazi is nowhere to be found. I panic. I call her phone but it rings from under the pillow. I go to the bathroom and she is not there. I go next door to Nandi’s room and they say they haven’t seen her. While we are still wondering she enters in her short summer dress, eating chips.

“Where have you been, Mongikazi? I was worried sick about you,” I ask.

“How cute,” she replies carelessly. Then she blows me a kiss. Something is wrong with this girl.

“I am going back to sleep. Mongi, don’t ever just take off without reporting to your roomy otherwise you’ll cause her a heart attack,” says Nandipha.

I leave them there standing on the corridor. I get to my room and go to my bed. I check my phone and see I have a text message from Mrs Mali, asking how I am settling in. I reply saying everything is well and that I miss them too. The door flips opened, Mongi enters and locks the door.

“That wasn’t cool,” she says, rudely.

“What wasn’t?” I ask, calmly.

“Since when do I have to report to you when I am going out to buy food? You going around asking people if they have seen me is not cool Aviwe. You can’t do that, I mean its 10am in the morning, where do you think I’d go?”

Shaking my head I reply: “I can’t believe you. Do you remember last night? Do you remember when you were so scared? You can’t just take off. Maybe from now on you have to report to me when you are going. Kill me for caring.”

“I don’t know what you talking about, I was probably having a bad dream. We don’t control what we dream of, do we?” Mongi becomes defensive and insists that she was having a bad dream.

“Ok Mongikazi” I say.

I don’t want to push her. Whatever is eating her is going to come out only when she is ready. The only thing that scares me is that I used to have nightmares; I used to see Azola in my dreams. I once couldn’t sleep either. I am wondering if she is going through the same thing too I go sit next to her.

“You don’t have to pretend like everything is all right, Mongi. It won’t be right just because you are faking it. Instead of faking it you have to face it,” I say, softly.

“What are you talking about?” she giggles and fakes a smile but her eyes says it all, she is not happy. Something is eating her.

“I know we just met but I trust you. So I am going to tell you a little secret about myself. I was once scared too. In my life there was a time where I couldn’t close my eyes because I was scared he was going to come back.” I say, with a straight face. Now she gives me her undivided attention, she puts her phone on the table and looks me in the eyes.

“What happened? Who was going to come back? How did you stop being scared?

“When I was 14 I was rapped over and over again. I couldn’t sleep; I lived my life in fear. I spent every second of my life scared that he will come and rip my clothes off and rape me. I lived in hell. The people close to me didn’t believe me and that gave my rapist more power. He came back for more almost every day. I was so scared, I’d dream of him every night. But one day I felt so strong that I took control of my life. My body belongs to me. I repossessed my body. I took care of him. I learnt that we as victims have all the power to change our situation. All we need to do is to look down in our hearts and find that spark that makes us who we are, that makes us believe in ourselves. Enough is enough.”

When I am about to say the last words I look up at Mongi, who was listening carefully. Her eyes are filled with tears but she holds them back.

“lt’s ok, you can cry. I used to cry too. Nobody expects you to be strong all the time. It’s ok to cry.”

Like she has been waiting for me to say she can cry, she started crying hard. I go get her water and when I give her a glass, she can’t hold it, her hands are shaking. Trying to wipe off her tears, she says: “oh my God how did you survive that? I am sorry you went through that!” Then she cries again. I don’t get a chance to respond. I hold her till she gets better. After a few minutes she tells me to get her another glass of water and I do as asked.

“My story is totally different from yours, I can’t fight back, and I can’t do anything about it. I was defeated long time ago,” she says looking down.

“Don’t say that. Words are powerful because they control your mind. There is always a way out of any situation, l’m telling you.”

Taking the glass of water she says: “Not in this one. Remember, I said I am the only child of my parents/ Well, I lied. I had a little sister. She was four years younger than me. When I was 8 she was 4 we were sent to the shop one day. We were walking, playing like we used to do. It was not our first time to go to the shop alone. Our parents always sent us to buy small things like bread. I guess on that day we were at the wrong place at the wrong time. On our way to the shop I lost the money. I begged my little sister to help me find the money but she refused. So I went back and traced my steps, I left her standing next to the road. When I was like 10 feet away I heard someone scream. I knew for sure that it was my little sister.

I turned around I saw her being taken way. I watched her screaming and fighting a white lady that was dragging her to a car. I didn’t do anything - I watched my innocent little sister being abducted. She screamed my name. Do you understand? She called my name; she knew I was supposed to protect her. I was supposed to do something, but I let her down.

I saved my ass. I ran away like my life depended on it instead of getting help. I ran to a hiding space. After hours I went back home and told my parents about what happened. They went to the police station but my sister was never found. I will never forgive myself for that. Every time I hear a scream I think of how my sister was taken away in front of my eyes, I think of how I didn’t even try to save her. I put a smile on my face every day trying to cover the pain and the void inside me. \

My parents never stopped praying; they always tell me that it was not my fault. I know Viwe, I know it was my fault. I shouldn’t have left my sister next to the road, I shouldn’t have hid, I should have called for help as quick as I could but all I thought about was to save myself. I wish I could go back and make everything right. I see my sister in my dreams screaming for help. Instead of giving her a hand I get so scared and I close my eyes.”

Oh my God how can people be so heartless? How does one steal someone else’s child? I become numb, I honestly don’t know what to say to Mongi. I am lost for words. For a moment I feel that what I went through is far better than what she is going through. At least I knew my perpetrator and I made him pay for what he did. Mongi keeps hoping her sister comes back, wondering if her little sister is still alive, wondering what they have done to her, wondering if they haven’t turned her into a serial killer or a sex slave. The whole thing is so sad I feel like I am being stabbed in my heart. A tear escapes my eyes and she catches it before it falls. She uses her thumb to wipe it off my cheek, then softly touches my cheek and looks deep into my eyes. I don’t know why but I can’t really read her eyes... If she was a guy I’d say they are sending a sexual message. An ”I want to eat you" kind of message. We stare at each other for a seconds and the next thing I feel is her lips touching mine. I get lost! What’s going on here? We are both hurt but sex won’t take the pain away and we are both girls. She cups my face and kisses me passionately, l am hesitant, but l feel like I need this. My eyes slowly close. And l respond. We kiss for a very long time until I then break the kiss.

I give her a questioning look but she ignores that and come closer to kiss me again, roughly this time. My body gets defeated. I give in and kiss back with as much hunger. She then gets up and lays me down on the bed. She gets on top of me and kisses the living hell out of me. She uses her knee to apart my legs, I follow her lead. I open my legs and she gets in between my legs. She comes back to kiss me in the mouth, touching my breasts while kissing my lips. She then uses her thumb to rub my nipple. I can’t hold back, a moan escapes my mouth I move my waist back and forth, I put my hands under her summer dress and touch her smooth thick bum, pressing it forward. She then stops kissing me. She takes my hand off her butt. “Take off your pyjamas slowly,” she says. I do as instructed. I get completely naked and she studies my body before she takes off her dress. I am not sure of what’s going to happen but this moment feels perfect.

After she takes off her dress she gets on top of me where she thinks she belongs. Her breasts touch mine and so does her private part. I feel warm, she is hot, she kisses me softly and I put my hands on her hips while I kiss back. The kiss takes me away from the world of living. I don’t want it to end. She slowly moves her hand down there, she feel my wetness and giggles a little. She is making my clitoris shy, I break the kiss and look at her and then she looks at me and smiles. I smile back. All of a sudden I feel two fingers being shoved in my honey spot. “Ahh!” I scream. She uses her left hand to hold me down, eyes still locked, she makes love to me in a way I have never imagined. After a long passionate and rough love making we kiss till our lips are swollen. I put my head on her chest. I listen to her heartbeat. I fall asleep in her arms; little did I know that while I am falling asleep she is falling in love.

I wonder how we ended up here.

When I wake up, I find her memorising my face.

“Have you seen the time?” she asks with a smile drawn all over her face.

“No, what is it?” I reply yawning.

“It’s 14:47; you have sleeping for almost two hours.”

“Oh shit, I was supposed to be in church.” I say.

“I’m sorry love, it’s all my fault,” she says, still looking at me.

Did she just call me her love? I hope she doesn’t think this means something because it doesn’t. It was nice but it was a mistake and it won’t happen again. Her mood has changed she looks relaxed. I am scared she might have fallen for me but I once told her that I am not gay and I don’t want to talk about it. I love her better when she is like this, she looks genuinely happy and I am happy about that but I have my soul mate is out there and all I have to do is to find him. I decide to play along just this one day. I honestly don’t want her to scream and think of her sister or anything along those lines. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.

She comes close and plants kisses all over my face. I don’t participate, l look at her and smile. I tell her I have to go and take a shower.

With a goofy smile she says: “Can I join you?”

“No ma’am thank you.”

“Why not? I promise I will keep my hands to myself.” Then she winks and sticks her tongue out.

“No, I it’s not going to happen, especially because of the ideas I know you have.”

She laughs a little and pulls the blankets over on her face. I go to take a shower and when I come back she is sitting on her bed - naked - looking at her phone. I lotion without taking off my towel, all of a sudden more self-conscious about being naked in her presence.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks, nonchalantly, without taking her eyes off her phone.

“About what? I reply, my tone betraying my conspicuous disinterest in the subject.”

“About what happened between us today.”

With a faked smile I say: “There is nothing to talk about. Besides, you have a boyfriend.”

“No I don’t,” she says, almost too emphatically.

“Yes you do, the one you said doesn’t want to be dumped. The one that calls you every hour.”

“He is not my boyfriend. I dumped him the day I came here. He keeps calling me to ask what went wrong. I have not told him that I am in love with my roommate yet. I fell for you the first day I saw you. Remember when I talked about lesbians? I hoped you’d say you are one.

Her phone rings. She takes it out, puts it on speaker and says: “What?”

“I want us to talk Mongikazi, please,” a deep voice pleads. That voice sounds strangely familiar, l think to myself; quickly brushing off the absurd idea.

“Talk. I am listening.”

“Hun, what’s wrong? Please make me understand.”

“I am in love with someone else. There you have it. Are you happy now?”

“You are kidding right? Look, why don’t you come and look me in the eyes and tell me that you have fallen for someone else?”

“Lord have mercy, I am in Port Elizabeth and you are in Cape Town. How the hell do I just ‘come and look you in the eyes?’ ”

“I’m came to PE just to see you, I’m worried about you; about us. You have been in PE for only two weeks but everything has changed. Just come and make me understand what exactly is going on. You owe me at least that much.”

“I don’t owe you a thing.”

“You don’t want to see me and that means you are not over me. Bye Nunuberry. I love you more,” then he cuts the call.

Mongikazi looks at her phone with her eyes open in disbelief. “Did he just hang up on me? Who the hell does he think he is?”

She then looks at me and asks if it’s okay if she goes and tell the guy in his face that they are over.

“Why are you breaking up with him? He came all the way from Cape Town to PE just to see you. He loves you.” I say not paying much attention.

“And I love you,” she says looking into my eyes like she is searching for something. I chuckle and say, “What? Good sex makes people say things they don’t really mean. Just go sort things out with your boyfriend.

“That was not just sex, we made love. If it didn’t mean anything to you, kill me because it meant something to me. Given a chance I would do it over and over again. Aviwe, you took away my pain. I feel alive again....”

“I am glad I took the pain away but I still advise you to go and see your boyfriend. He is right. You owe it to him to make him understand. Now take your phone, text him and set up a date to meet him.” I wink at her and go to Nandipha’s room. I am not up for this “thing” with Mongikazi.

Chapter nine

I knock once and when I enter, the girls all seem busy. “Am I interrupting something? Y’all look busy,” I say.

“Oh, is she is still alive? I have been knocking on your door but no one answered,” says Chumani as she applies her lipstick.

“Oh, sorry man, we were sleeping. We went to bed late last night so we were trying to make up for the hours we lost. What’s up with the make-up and the stilettos?”

“Put on your sexy outfit, Nandi is taking us out. Where is Mongi? Tell her she is invited too,” says Amanda.

“Who goes out on a Sunday? Mongs has a date and she can’t come with us.”

Right after that Nandipha jumps in excitement and says: “Oooooh that’s what I am talking about baby. Mongi is the only person here..... Hahaha we aren’t really going out doll, we are just going to the Boardwalk for ice cream and whatever yummy stuff they have there.”

Amanda says: “Mongs already has a boyfriend here?”

“Oh, friend you should ask when you don’t know,” I reply.

“Whatever, go get dressed up and please go easy on guy’s clothes please. We have planned to wear short black dresses and stilettos. If you don’t have one, look in Nandi’s closet. She has more than enough. I am pretty sure she won’t mind to lend you one.” Amanda continues. I honestly don’t like this Amanda person. “I don’t do dresses and I won’t start now,” I reply trying hard so sound chilled. Amanda gives me an evil look when she is about to say something Chumani interrupts her and says: “Wear whatever you want, boo.”

“Time is ticking doll, go, go get dressed,” says the star of the movie.

I wink at Chuma and give Amanda a “voetsek look” as I go to my room to get dressed. I find a note on my bed: “Gone to dump my boyfriend for the 10th time, I’ll be back before you know it xo xo” I read the note and shake my head. I go to my closet I take out my red Adidas sneakers, black skinny jean, black blazer and a black snap back. This is one of my favourite outfits. It reminds me of Babalo - he loved dressing all black and just one bright colour. I get dressed and look myself in the mirror. “Damn I am one hella hot chick.” I keep my head up and put my smile on like nothing happened between me and Mongikazi.

“Aviweeeeee!” Someone calls my name. “What’s eating you?” I reply. “Come, we are getting late.” “Coming!” I take my phone and call my MiLady to tell her I am going out with the girls from next door, but I will leave my phone in my room. I don’t trust Port Elizabeth. She is so glad that I finally have friends. She says she was worried about me. “Kiss Vuyo for me, tell her I love her very much.” I say.

“Ok, now go have fun love,” she says and cuts the call. I go to the girls who have been waiting for me downstairs.

“Oh, wow that is nice. No, nice is an understatement. You are blazing hot, friend,” Chumani says. They all go crazy on how good I look. The compliments make me blush and shy. “Thank you guys. Y’all look gorgeous by the way,” I reply. “Thank you, Vee but come on guys, we not going to sleep on this,” says Amanda. I roll my eyes and lead the way to the parking lot where a cab is waiting. Amanda talks a lot and her dress doesn’t even look good on her. She has no hips, no butt, it’s like she traded her bum for her stomach. While walking to the cab I look at Chumani. She is quiet. Her black dress covers up just to her butt, her back is all bare it sits perfectly on her cupcake breasts. She is light skinned so a black dress goes well with her skin tone. She is wearing it with red pencil heels. So we are both wearing black and red.

As for Nandipha - she is the Royal queen. She is wearing a designer back lace dress and gold stilettos. Her dress is see- through, it shows her black under wear and black bra. It’s perfect. It’s the one that Kim K wore in one of the BET awards. I wonder who her sugar daddy is.

When we get to Boardwalk, Nandi pays the cab fee. We decide to go to the Spur and we will see what we going to do after. On our way we pass the News Cafe. We take pictures with Nandi’s iPad. While taking a picture of the other girls, I see a guy behind them, but he is looking down to the screen of his phone. He photo bombs their photo so I decide to go to him and ask him to please move to the other side.

When I am about three feet away, he looks up. I can’t believe what I see! I stare at him, he stares back. “Aviwe?” he reaches to touch my face.

“Oh Lord it’s her, its princess, it’s Aviwe!” he says, still in shock. I see Mongikazi coming out of News Cafe, approaching us. “Ok, what’s going on? Do you guys know each other?” Mongikazi asks with a confused face. Us looking at each other is the last thing I remember.

I wake up on a bed that is not mine. I slowly open my eyes. And the details of my surroundings begin to sink in slowly. I am in a small room full of machines. What the hell is this place? While I am trying to figure it out, a nurse enters. She looks at the papers next to my bed. “Aviwe Minnie, right?” she asks. I nod.

“Do you know how you got here?” she asks. I shake my head. “You fainted, but the tests confirm that you will be fine. We just have to keep you here for a few more days,” she says.

“No ma’am, you can’t keep me here. I have to be in school tomorrow,” I reply. “You fainted two days ago. It is Tuesday today. What is the last thing you remember?” she asks.

“I was out with my friends....“Good........”

She keeps asking annoying questions. I don’t really know how this is helping but I play along.

“Alright, you seem to be fine but we will need to run some more tests. If everything is fine you will be discharged tomorrow, ok?” She says. I smile and my heart does a victory dance. Before she exists she looks at her wrist watch and says: “Oh the time is 12:55, its only 5 minutes before visiting hours. Your friends have been here since Sunday. I will tell them you are awake. You are blessed to have such friends.”

My friends? Ohhhh! I remember, my mind flashes back all the events on Sunday. I start to remember everything. Part of me wishes I could forget. I know I have waited very long for the day I would meet Babalo; he has been my drive in everything I do. He is the only thing that kept me going. I was eager to see him again but not under these conditions. This cannot be happening. So the boyfriend Mongikazi has been talking about is Babalo. The world is just too small. I know they are going to be in my room within five minutes, so what am I going to say to Balo? I am happy to see Babalo again, regardless. But still something doesn’t feel right.

I hear the door open, but I close my eyes.. Tears roll down the side of my face. I then feel someone whipping my tears off. I open my eyes slowly and find Babalo on the left side of my bed, Mongikazi on the right side and Chumani, Amanda and Nandipha sitting on the edge of the bed next to my feet.

They all have gifts, Babalo is carrying a HUGE brown teddy bear, and Mongikazi has a gift bag and flowers. Nandipha always goes an extra mile. She has 5 gift bags. I can’t wait to open them. She also brought balloons and a lot of glittering stuff. She redecorates my hospital room: above the door she puts a “GET WELL SOON” sign. I never had people who genuinely cared about me except Balo and the Mali family of course. I smile and cry at the same time.

“How are you feeling Ninja?” Babalo asks. The smile, his voice, smile and dimples are exactly like four years ago. He has not changed a bit. He still looks perfect. Funniest thing is that he is wearing the exact attire I was wearing on Sunday, just that his sneakers are purple. I stare in his eyes, his eyes leads me to his soul. I can see how happy he is and the joy he has for seeing me is unexplained but I am more than sure that he is not happier than me. He puts down the teddy bear and cups my face. He looks at me like he does not believe it’ really me. He slowly brushes my cheek with his thumb.

“I feel fine. Thank you,” I reply. He smiles and giggles, tears follow. Then he hugs me tight. “Awkward,” says Amanda and when she sees that nobody gives a damn about her she takes her bag and exits the room. “I can’t believe this, deep down my heart I knew we were going to meet again but now that you are here, it feels so unreal, like I am in dream. Words can’t explain how happy I am Vee. The most amazing thing is the fact that you have not changed a bit because you are amazing just the way you are. You always have been and you will always be,” he says breaking the hug when he kisses my forehead. I close my eyes and feel his soft lips touching my flesh. The kiss heals my soul; it erases everything I went through; it heals all the wounds; it’s a promise he’ll stay and hope for a brighter future.

I fall in love. I fall deeply in love with the boy I knew for a few months four years ago. I fall in love with the person who stood by me when nobody else did, the first person I called a friend, the first person that made me laugh ’till my stomach hurts. The 1st person who looked through my dark skin. The person kept me alive all these years.

I, Aviwe am in love with Babalo. I choose to ignore the fact that there is Mongikazi in the equation and she is the reason that Babalo and I met at the boardwalk.

“Welcome back to the world of the living,” says Mongikazi, then she holds my hand and kisses it. Babalo lets go of my face as I turn to the other side of the bed and look at Mongikazi. He holds my other hand. “I was so worried about you,” she adds. “I am fine, thank you roomy,” I reply. The emphasis on the roommate part is a message that we are just roommate and nothing more.

I am hoping it’s heard loud and clear to the recipient. “I am glad,” she says, her face is unclear. She looks like she has a lot to say but it seems like she feels it’s not the right time or place. “By the way, that is my ex-boyfriend, the one I told you about. I am so confused though, how do you two know each other?” Nandi cuts Mongikazi’s speech. “Guys I don’t think this needs me so I am just going to run and grab something to eat, when I come back I will take your bags to res okay?” She comes and kisses my left cheek. “Be strong,” she says and leaves. I look at Mongi and then at Babalo. Mongi looks pissed. She tries to cover it up but eyes never lie. Babalo looks scared.

“Come now I am waiting for an answer,” Mongikazi says firmly. “It’s not the right time or place, my love. I will tell you everything you need to know when Aviwe gets better,” Babalo replies politely.

I am in no position to say a word. My life is full of lies, I don’t know what Mongi told Balo, and I don’t know what Balo told Mongi. If I want to keep all my secrets safe I have to be very smart about this, I have to calculate each and every risk I take. I have to watch and count my words. I don’t know how but I will figure something out, I always do. “It’s a long story, Mongikazi, you’ll be told everything you want to know once I am back in res. Now if you will please excuse us, there are things I need to discuss with Balo privately,” I say politely but my tone is rather aggressive.

“Balo? He isn’t Babalo now? I see, I wonder what is it that makes you faint for two days when you see my ex-boyfriend. Whatever it is, it’s huge,” Mongikazi says and violently takes her bag and flowers and leaves. I am now left with Balo. I remember I have not called my parents so I ask to use Balo’s phone. He tells me that Mongikazi called them and that they know everything but they have been told not to worry, I will be just fine. “So why did you faint, bro?” he asks with a naughty smile.

“Dude I thought you were a ghost.” We both laugh so hard

“I didn’t know you missed me that much,” he then winks. Oh, he is still has charms.

“Tell me, what did you tell my friends about us? And what did they tell you about me?

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. ‘US’”

“Well, they told me nothing interesting about you and I noticed they have no clue of Babalo in your life so I figured you buried the past, so I let it be. I told them we were close friends in primary school but I went to Cape Town for my high school studies. Then we never saw each other and that you got so excited to see me, that your excitement led you to hospital, but I don’t think Mongikazi bought it,” he says softly. Lord I love how my Balo thinks and his cockiness.

“Even if you didn’t say the last part I see no trouble. Thank you love, I can’t wait to get out of this place. We have so much to talk about. First, how the hell did you get to the Western Cape Province?”

“Let’s leave that for tomorrow, when you are not in bed. It’s frustrating to see you laying here. I need you to get better. I didn’t imagine the day we meet again would be like this, I need my chocolate twin back.”

Balo says all the right things. It’s really hard not to fall for him. He is a hunk. I just wonder how he feels about me. But from his face when he saw me I saw it, it was written all over his face: he is totally into me. We were meant to be together. I was made out of Balo’s rib. It’s so sad how people go on about un-existing true love. Just because you don’t have something it does not mean it doesn’t exist. What I feel for Balo is love, that’s a fact. When I think about it, I have loved Balo as long as I can remember. I know he always felt the same, remember how he always protected me. How he lost everything because of protecting me. I know I don’t owe him my life, it’s just my honour to live my life for him.

What happened between me and his ex is history and it will stay like that. It’s Balo and I against the world once again.

Nandipha comes back with pizza and apple juice. She just drops the food on the table and tells us that she has to go somewhere. “It’s ok, I will see you tomorrow and thank you for everything,” I say and blow her a kiss.

Chapter ten

Babalo spends the night in hospital with me, and just like old days we talk about everything and anything - just nothing serious. It’s so funny how comfortable I am around him. The following day I get discharged at 10am. I have not heard from any of my res friends, their phones are on voice mail and I don’t have my room key with me so Balo suggests that we go to his hotel. He calls a cab and I almost faint AGAIN when I see the hotel he checks in to Radisson Blue. One of the most expensive hotels in South Africa. How the hell did he get so rich in 4 years? I am so excited about this night. I want to know everything from the day he was kicked out in East London to the day I met him at the boardwalk...

Radisson Blue is beautiful. We chit-chat on our way to his room. When we get to his room I tell him I need to take a shower. “I also need to take a shower but its ok. I will shower after you,” he replied. “Ok cool,” I say. He smiles back and tells me to be quick. How disappointing? If only I was not scared of disappointment I was just going to spit it out and ask him to take a shower with me. But I am way too shy for it. If the dear friend doesn’t feel the same about you then it’s the end of every little thing you had. I decide to take everything super slowly. I know sooner or later he will make a move or I will just keep giving him hints.

I leave him in the lounge, take a shower and about 20 minutes then I am done. I wrap my body with towel, go to the bedroom, put on lotion and then I open a small sports bag that Nandipha brought me.

Unbelievable! She brought me a dress while she knows damn well that I don’t wear dresses. I put the dress on, not that I have a choice. I haven’t worn a dress in 4 full years’ time and she knows that pretty well. I go to the mirror and to my surprise I love my reflection, it’s not bad at all. The dress is red and tiny, it tights me just fine. It shows my C shaped bum perfectly. Balo enters the room when I am trying to zip the dress. He has just showered, so he wrapped his lower body with a towel. The minute he lays his eyes on me he starts to laugh. How dare he kill my confidence? He is the first person that made me believe I am beautiful, how dare he take that away from me?

I give him a look, my eyes filled with tears. I can feel a lump building up in my throat. “Come now, don’t tell me you are offended,” he says, slowly making his way towards me. I don’t reply, I just stare at him. “I am not,” I reply. Then I turn around, giving him my back. I look on the mirror and see his reflection behind mine, I see him coming closer. “May I?” he asks while zipping my dress. I don’t reply, there is no need to answer, because he already did what he wanted. I don’t know why he asked, he didn’t have to. He turns me around to look at him but I look down. I am scared of eye contact. Especial when fire is right on my face.

He lifts my face, I look into his eyes. I see the future. “Hey, you are beautiful, you look gorgeous in this dress, and I was just surprised to see you in a dress, that’s all. You know the last time I checked you were a tomboy. But believe me, princess, this dress suits you even more than those chino pants you love,” he says. My lips curve and form a smile, and without even noticing tears escape my eyes while I am lost in his gaze.

He puts his left hand around my waist and his right hand around my neck. He comes closer, slowly. Our eyes lock and I can feel my heart beat. It makes noise like music drum. I stop hesitating and come closer. He greets my lips with his, my lips welcome his with warm hands and heart. I kiss back. The kiss is long and passionate. He is in control of every move, he controls the pace and rhythm of the kiss. Yes, he is in control. He is not my Prince but my King and I am his queen, I don’t follow him, I am right beside him.

After a very long time kissing he gently pushes me against the wall, puts his hands around my waist and slowly move down to my butt. He grabs the cheeks of my bum and pulls me closer to him. I put my hands around his neck and kiss him with everything in me. I can feel him against me. My nipples harden. My eyes are closed and all my senses are awake. I kiss him with passion. No rush or whatsoever. I feel him putting his hands under my mini dress. He lifts my dress and then he lifts me up and I wrap my legs around his waist. He kisses me while he slowly moves to the bed. He puts me to bed and get on top of me. He unzips my dress and slowly takes it off.. He looks at me before kissing my lips and then makes his way to my neck, nipples, belly button and to my Golden spot. He then kisses my pubic bone while I am still wearing a panty, then he slowly takes my panties off. I am left barely naked when he then looks at each and every inch of my body.

Still on his knees between my legs he unwraps the towel and throws it on the floor. Well, his mission is accomplished because I get dripping wet just by looking at his 6 pack down and down to his chocolate stick. Damn my king is gifted. It makes me really horny. He can see that I am long gone, I want to be eaten right now and I want him to be my eater. But, oh boy, he takes his time. He bites his lower lip and leans over to kiss me. I love how passionate he is, he takes his precious time with me. That alone does something to my clitoris.

After ten minutes of passionate love making he changes the gear; we change from making love to fucking. He rides the devil inside me till I call on God. I speak in languages I don’t even understand.

After a long time I lay on my tummy; he lays besides me, facing up to the ceiling board, satisfaction is written all over his face. The he looks at me and smiles, his white set of teeth and dimples show and I fall in love for the thousand’s time. He comes closer and kisses my cheek, he then puts his head on my shoulder. I feel his hand tracing my body from my neck to my butt. When he starts kissing me. My phone rings. “I think you have to get that,” he says then he gets up, takes a towel and goes to the bathroom. I look at my phone screen - it was Mongikazi. I have 23 missed calls from her, 13 WhatsApp texts and 79 BBM pings. This woman is crazy! It better be damn important. I call her and she picks up on the first ring

“Where the hell are you? We are worried sick about you, Aviwe! I have been trying your phone, why weren’t you picking up? Where are you?” she yells, sounding pissed.

I am not sure if I like her tone. She is my roommate and not my mother, my whereabouts are none of her business but I am too happy to react so I decide to keep my cool

“I’m sorry. I was sleeping. I just woke up now, what’s up?” I reply.

“What’s up? Really? This is not cool, you were in hospital, when I and Nandi got to the hospital at 12:30 they said you were discharged in the morning. When we get to res and you are nowhere to be found. You finally decide to pick up your phone at 19:45 and all you have to say is for your self is “what’s up” come on now. Where are you?

“Hey, calm down now, I am somewhere safe, so don’t worry. Your phones were in voice mail, and I don’t have my key with me so I couldn’t come back, so I went somewhere else.”

“Doesn’t this somewhere have a name? You are being a bitch now Aviwe, we need to talk. Like really talk.”

The bathroom door opens Babalo calls my name; he didn’t notice that I am still on the phone. I quickly cover the speaker of the phone so Mongi won’t hear, I then whisper to Balo that I am on the phone then he apologises and puts his thumb up. But I was too late, because I hear Mongi saying:

“And who was that Aviwe? Was that Babalo? Bloody hell! So unbelievable! How do you even know the dude? You know what? Don’t answer that. Just bring your behind to res, there is a lot to talk about. Don’t worry - I won’t tell Nandipha that you ran off with my ex after you made love with me,” then she cuts the call. I can’t believe that she really said that! Balo and I have a history and nothing will ever come between us. Just because she doesn’t know our history doesn’t mean that we don’t have one.

Babalo comes back; he glances at me and says: “You don’t look happy, what’s up?

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“So I shouldn’t worry?”

I nod.

He comes closer to kiss me and I kiss him back. I break the kiss, get up and go to the bathroom. Went I go into the bedroom again, I find Balo under the blanket, so I join him. I put my head on his chest, listen to his heartbeat and then I relate to the famous quote that says ’I love listening to his heartbeat because it plays my favourite song.′ This is the moment I waited for and I wish it could last forever. We talk about everything under the sun and just after seven we order room service! We eat the food and then we eat each other ’till our bodies can’t take it anymore. He totally avoids the topic of his whereabouts after being kicked out by my parents. He does not seem very comfortable to talk about it so I don’t push. I let him be. We have a whole lifetime to talk about it, so there is no rush. I have found Babalo and I will never ever lose him again. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep him in my life.

Babalo does not say a word about Mongikazi, I also don’t ask. He doesn’t say he loves me or anything along those lines. But actions speak louder than words. I can see how much he cares - I just wish I could hear it with my own ears. Balo and I spend the whole night exploring each other’s body. We fall asleep in each other’s arms. I feel secure in his arms. He is all I need. Falling asleep on his chest is what I want to do for the next 60 years.

I am woken from a beautiful dream by a phone reminder to take my tablets. I look at where Babalo was sleeping and I see it’s empty, he is not here. Then I see some money and a piece of paper written: “Sorry princess, I had to go but I didn’t want to wake you up. I hope to see you soon.... here is my contact details 0711234567. My email is... Babalo4@gmail.com”.

Chapter eleven

That’s all it says... he doesn’t say where he had to go. After reading this lousy note my only wish is to go back to sleep and finish my dream. I lie on my back and put my hand under my head, thinking what I will do next after taking my pills and shower. Ok, I don’t have anything to do. I take a shower, and as I wanted to drink my pills, one of them falls next to the bed. I bend over to pick it up. When I look under the bed I see a silver briefcase. It must be Babalo’s. I take it out and put it on the bed. I call Babalo and tell him that he left his briefcase behind but he tells me to keep it safe; to hide it somewhere safe. He sounds so worried and calls himself stupid for forgetting such an important thing. As I am curious, I ask him what’s inside, but he says if he tells me he would have to kill me, and then he laughs. I can see he is telling the truth; he is faking the laughter. He says I should let nobody touch it, his life depends on it. All his crazy vague answers make me very curious. What the hell is in there? He makes me to promise and swear that I will keep his briefcase safe. Weird.

I take my small sports bag and the silver briefcase and check out from the hotel. I take a taxi to res. I call Mongikazi, but she doesn’t take my calls. I don’t have my room key. When I get to rez I ask the manager for a key and she sends a guy to come with me just to make sure that I will use the key to open my own room. When we get to my room, I find Mongi sleeping. I return the master key and I try to walk quietly. I don’t want to wake her up! I put the briefcase under my bed and put some blankets on top of it.

I make myself a fruit salad and while eating it, I keep playing last night in my head. I take my phone and login on WhatsApp, and check Balo’s number on WhatsApp. My heart jumps when I see that he is online. I check his profile. His status is “my soul loves only you” with arrows pointing to the profile picture, but I can’t see what it is. It must be because we are not friends here, due to the fact that we have never texted. I need to see his profile picture. Truth is I am hoping it’s me but my heart is so scared. I don’t know why. I decide to send him a smiley emoticon. It works - he replies immediately: “Princess.” My heart jumps, but before replying I view his profile picture

While Balo’s profile picture is still loading, he calls. He asks if his briefcase is safe and he promises to come back for it before I know it. “What’s in the briefcase Babalo?” I ask, “It’s my underwear’s love,” he says and he cracks himself up. I keep quiet as I don’t think it’s funny. “What’s funny? Did I crack a joke or you are now that type who laughs at their own cold jokes? I never thought you’d ever lose your sense of humour. I give up,” I say with that evil tone of mine. “Oooops, what have I done princess?” He gives me a very cold response making sure I don’t build an argument. I want him to fight back. I want him to be mad at me. I want us to fight. That’s what people who are madly in love do right? They fight over nothing, that’s why there is something called make-up sex. But Balo is off, he is like a chicken. “I don’t know what you got yourself into, you won’t talk to me. You have forgotten that I have a leverage here - a silver briefcase. You said your life depends on it, so now you want to tell me that your life depends on your underwear?, Don’t make a fool out of me.,” I say aggressively, not begging him.

“I give you only 48 hours to come to PE and explain what’s inside the briefcase and what have you been up to for the past 4 years. What made you so rich or I am taking the briefcase to the police. The fact that you don’t want me to open it and you want me to hide it says a lot. It’s either drugs, dagga, illegally earned money, illegal guns or someone’s body parts,” I add.

“You are kidding, right? You wouldn’t do that, would you? For your sake let’s say it’s one of the things you mentioned. Would you turn me to the police? Aviwe? You, Aviwe turn me to the police?”

He is now cocky. No, I wouldn’t turn him to the police, but I want him to let me in. I want to be a part of him, the fact that he is shutting me out of his life is saddening and it makes me furious. He says he will come back for the briefcase but not for me - it’s like last night never happened. He still talks to me like I am his little sister. I can never be his little sister. We made love so there is no way on earth that he is going to shut me out like this. I will do whatever it takes to make him let me in and this important briefcase is going to work on my advantage. It has to. I am going to blackmail him if I have to. At the end of the day he has to bring his behind in P.E.

While on the phone I hear Mongikazi coughing. I suspect she is awake and I wouldn’t want her to hear this conversation. So I tell Balo to hold on for a minute while I go to the lounge. The lounge is always empty so I will be able to say whatever I want to say. “Would you turn me in Vee?” he asks, sounding serious.

“Ok, since we didn’t talk about what happened during the past 4 year of our lives, you slept with me and then you went away. Let me give you a piece of my soul. Something that I should have given you last night instead of giving you a piece of my body, do you remember Azola? I am sure as hell you do. About a year ago I stabbed him countless times and then I made sure he spends the rest of his life in jail. He is in jail as we speaking. I am not as weak as you think Babalo, so don’t take me for a ride. You definitely don’t know what I am capable of! Don’t test me. To answer your question... no Balo I wouldn’t turn you in but if you keep me in the dark I would and I will. I am not bluffing.”

“Oh wow! I am so impressed with what you have done to free yourself. I really am. You deserve a round of applause but this is a very different situation. Whatever I am today is because of what happened 4 years ago. Don’t you dare threaten me. I am not going to tell you anything. I don’t want you to get involved in this, can’t you see that I am protecting you Aviwe? You must be blind. I want you to be safe and if that means to keep you in the dark I will do it with pleasure. I will be there in about 18 hours, I need you to keep the briefcase safe and by doing that you’ll be keeping the both of us safe. See you princess.”

He hangs up. Who the hell is this guy? I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that he wants to protect me. What does he want to protect me from? Does he really want to protect me or does he just not want to tell me his deep dark secret, even after I told him what I have done to Azola? He kept calm and didn’t tell me anything about himself. Something is so wrong here. My new mission is to crack the code of the briefcase.

I go back to my room, find Mongikazi siting on the bed, watching a movie on her laptop. She pauses the movie and takes off her ear phones.

“The long lost girl is back,” she says with a blank face.

“Hello roomy.”

“You are unbelievable I can’t believe that you got in my ex’s pants right after you slept with me. I actually believed that what we meant something. What am I to you Aviwe? How could you do this to me….?”

“Hold it right there Mongi, what happened between us was a mistake. Something that will never happen again, we were both vulnerable. We were not thinking straight. I am sorry you thought it meant something because it doesn’t. You are my roommate and my friend. That’s it. I don’t want awkward moments.”

“To me, it was not a mistake; given a chance I would do it again. Just like I told you before I fell for you the first day I saw you. But it’s fine.”

“Does that mean we are cool?”

“Totally. I’d rather have you as my friend than not to have you at all.”

We both smile. She comes to my bed with her laptop, sits next to me and we both watch a series - The Originals. One of the things I love about my roommate is that our movie taste is the same. In general our taste is the same. She once loved Balo and I love Balo now!

“Can I ask you something?” I say, breaking the silence.

“Shoot.”

“Aren’t you straight?”

“In terms of?”

“Sexuality. Aren’t you into guys? Or are you bisexual?”

“I am definitely not straight; I have been into girls since forever.”

“You told me you’ve been with more than 20 guys and you were with Babalo. Do clarify!”

“Sure, this is where the story starts. When I was 13 I had a huge crush on this other girl from next door. She was 2 years older than me. To cut the long story short, my mother found us eating the forbidden fruit. My mother looked so disgusted and disappointed in me. They made is her fault since she was older than me. The next morning my mother told her parents what she has seen us doing, so her parents sent her away, I have never seen or heard from her again. She left a void in my heart. I was beaten up to death. My father said he was not beating me but the devil inside me. I was told I was going to be chased away if I ever commit such sin again. My parents told the entire church about my gayness. Pastors came to pray for me every now and then. They told me that a same sex relationship is a sin. That’s when I learned that sins are not the same; there is a scale for sins. How funny! Two years after that saga I dated a preacher’s son. Our relationship was open; it was to impress my parents. I was tired of being treated like a psychopath. The relationship lasted for only 3 months. And that was the longest relationship I had with a guy. He was loving, caring and very handsome but he was just not what I wanted. All I wanted was the girl next door. I spend all these years changing guys like changing panties looking for what I had with the girl next door.

“I never had a connection with any of the guys I have been with. I’ve never had sexual intercourse with any male in my life. Like Balo - he is everything a girl would want from a guy but I just don’t have it for him, he doesn’t make my blood boil. I’ve tried so hard to love him back but I just couldn’t.

“You were the 2nd person I had sex with. The minute I saw you I felt the connection between us, you filled the void in my heart. What I feel for you is something I have never felt for any guy. It’s so strong that it makes me strong and it takes away the fear. I am tired of hiding; I am tired of living a lie. I am sick and tired of living my life for my parents. You give me courage, Vee. If only you could give me a chance to love you. I would be everything you want and even more. Sorry, I didn’t mean to say the last part.”

“It’s okay, I already know how you feel about me. You don’t have to hide anymore. Trust me, you will find a girl that will love you even more. I am sorry you had to live a lie for this long. People shouldn’t be denied a right to love whomever they want.”

I get a text from Babalo: “I hope you have come to your senses, don’t make a stupid move.” I then remember I didn’t see his profile picture as he called just as I was downloading it. I see it’s Mongikazi and the status is changed to: ‘Without you I am incomplete; I miss you my Queen.’ Then he wrote arrows pointing to his profile picture! I become numb; I can see Mongi’s lips move but I don’t hear a word she says.

All I feel is the pain in my chest. It feels like my heart is ripped apart. I take a very deep breath. As hard as it is I try to face and analyse this love triangle, I am in love with Babalo, he ‘seems’ to be in love with Mongikazi and his precious queen is so gay, she is crazy about me. I have never heard such thing in my entire life! I am kind of interested to see how this is going to play out. What do I do in such messed-up situation? Do I fight for someone who is in love with someone else? Do I stick with the person who loves me the most and learn to love her in time?

“I am talking to you! Did you even hear a word I said the past two minutes? What’s wrong?” Mongi says, tapping my shoulder. I feel like I am awaken from an unpleasant dream.

“Sorry. You were saying?”

“I was asking where you know Babalo from. I feel there is a lot between the two of you guys! I am so surprised that he jumped to bed with you just like that. You must have big effect on him. He has been trying to get into my pants over the last 4 years. From what I know I am all he ever desired, I am so surprised about his feelings for you. I would say that I am relieved that there is someone else to keep him busy. The only problem now is that he is messing around with the soul I adore... I don’t want you to get hurt, Vee. I don’t mean to be cocky but I know for a fact that Babalo is crazy about me. I want you to be careful, there is a lot going on in that man’s life.”

“You talk too much. I don’t even know how to respond or what to respond to. What do you mean that there is a lot going on in his life? Balo and I have history, he gave up his life for me. He told me he would do it over and over again. You seem to know less than you think you do.” I say with much confidence.

“He gave up his life for you? This can’t be! Are you... Are you... No, this can’t be! No, it can’t be you!” She the opens her mouth widely, puts her hands on her forehead and shakes her head! Like she is chasing away a bad spirit. “Well, I am listening!” I grow curious every second - what is she talking about? She looks terrified and confused. She closes her eyes, shakes her head and keeps saying: “No, no, no, it can’t; it just can’t be.”

“You are starting to freak me out. What’s the matter?” I ask a little bit freaked out.

“No, it can’t be you. It just can’t!”

“Calm down! Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad?”

Still shaking her head, she says: “Umm, I don’t know how to say this. When you said that Babalo gave up his life for you, you remind me something he once told me about his little sister. But it can’t be you. You said you were adopted?”

This isn’t good. “What exactly did he tell you?”

“No, it’s definitely nothing to do with you. Never mind me. I’m sorry.”

“I do mind and please don’t make me beg.” The worry is written all over my face. Her facial expression changes; she looks deeply in thoughts and shows sympathy.

“He said four years ago his parents died in a car accident and then he went to stay with his godparents. His godparents had two daughters and they favoured the younger one over their first born. He felt so sorry for the ‘hated’ daughter and somehow became closer and closer to her every day. They were like siblings. He stood by her through thick and thin and she was the only person he’d call family. He called her princess. He said his sister was a princess and she deserved far better than what she was getting; she was a good person. Princess was physically abused by her parents and the abuse was damaging her emotionally. Babalo did everything he could to protect Princess but it all blew right in his face. Things went wrong when he came back from school and found Princess being sexual abused by her uncle. The uncle pinned everything to Babalo and the parents chose to believe the uncle over Babalo and Princess. That’s when his future was crashed into ashes. He was taken to Cape Town, left to die in the middle of nowhere but he survived. He is still kicking and he is doing well; he is a definition of a hustler. When you said he gave up his own life for you, you reminded me of Princess. I somehow thought you are his little sister - his Princess. Princess is all he ever talked about from his old life; she is the only person he prayed to see again. This whole thing takes me back to the day you two met again at the boardwalk. The only person he’d cry when meeting, is his Princess. He loves Princess like his own flesh and blood sister but obviously it can’t be you, because you had sex, Babalo would never have sex with Princess because she is his sister.”

“Oh,” is all I manage to say. I have never felt angry in my life. I can’t believe that Babalo told Mongikazi about what happened 4 years ago, but he couldn’t tell me about what happened after that. I feel sick like I am about to throw up. How could he do this to me? It’s common sense that such things are kept a secret; you don’t need to tell someone not to tell people that you have been raped! I know I shouldn’t be ashamed of my past because it was not my fault. But I am ashamed. And it is not his place to go around blabbing about my life. For a moment I feel hate towards Balo. How could he betray me this much? This is changing everything, how the fuck could he? He expects me to keep his secret briefcase when he didn’t keep my secret? How does he expect me to be loyal to him when he betrayed me so much? Does Mongikazi mean that much to him that he would bare his soul to her this much? I am willing to bare my soul to him but he can’t do the same to me. He trusts Mongikazi over me. This is sick..

Ok. Mongikazi doesn’t know that the so-called Princess is me, so I will let it be. I won’t destroy my cover just because of their fairy-tale. As much as I love Babalo, from now on he has to watch his back because I am definitely going to strike back and hit hard.

Finally I find my tongue and say: “Oh God, that’s a very sad touching true story. But I am not Princess, I am Aviwe. Maybe you don’t know Babalo as well as you think you do. He is not into you as much as you think he is. After all - he does keep secrets from you.”

I aim to hurt her feelings. This is strike one. I will do whatever it takes to turn Mongi against Babalo. He is surely into Mongi and he sees me as his little sister. Well, that has to change and it will change. He slept with me once which means he can do it again. And again. Mongi has to believe that Babalo is not into her. He has history with me. On the other side, Babalo has to stop seeing me as his little sister and he has to know that Mongi is not into him; she in love with me. I won’ stop ’till he realises that he has only me by his side.

I convince Mongi that I am not Balo’s sister and I am his first girlfriend. I understand why he never told her about me: he never got over me. I am always going to be his Queen. He was happy to see me because we haven’t seen each other in four years. We lost communication after he went away and that’s why he cried when we met and I fainted. That’s how much we mean to each other, she must stop flattering herself, Balo and I have history.

“Whatever, I don’t even like the dude. Just be careful, I really do care about you.” That’s all she says and then she goes to her side of the room, takes off her clothes, wrap herself with a towel and goes to take a shower.

Chapter twelve

I get a chance to reply to Babalo’s lousy text. “You can go put two fingers in your behind and slowly move them back and forth, call me when you are done” Then I press send. Babalo is getting ideas and I don’t want him to take advantage of the fact that I love him. He betrayed me, he had no right to talk about my abuse. It’s not his place. He is going to pay. I am going to hold on to his briefcase and I am going to indulge his queen. At the end I am going to win his heart.

While Mongi is still in the shower I get a chance to try to open the briefcase, I take it out and put it on the bed. The combination to open the brief case must be numbers so I try his cell number. Nope, it doesn’t open. I follow with his birthday, Mongi’s birthday, her parents’ birthdays and date of death. Still no luck. This is causing me a headache. Maybe the combination might be the day he lost everything! The combination might be the day he was chased away, which will be the constant reminder of who and what he became. Everything he is, is because of that day! It is because he was left to die for fighting for me! I slowly press in the combination. The first number makes a sound that shows that the number is correct! I breath out, feeling relieved! Then the second number and the third number do the same. The combination is complete! All that is left is to open the damn briefcase. I sit on the bed and put it on my lap. Just as I was I am about to open it, my door handle turns and I then remember that the door is not even locked.

“I’ll come to your room just now, love” the person at the door says... talking to another girl in the corridor. It’s Mongikazi! She is talking to Nandi or Chuma. I get a chance to hide the briefcase while Mongi is still talking to someone in the corridor. Now that I have opened it I am scared to see what’s inside! The thing about seeing something you shouldn’t see is that once you see it there is no going back. There is no such thing as ‘un-see’. I take a pillow and put it between the wall and my back, take Mongi’s lap top and continue with the series. I try to keep my mind busy.

Then I get a text from Babalo: “Hahaha funny! I am glad you still have your sense of humour, Princess.” I read the text and throw my phone on the bed. I can’t even concentrate on what I am watching. When Mongikazi enters, she says: “You haven’t seen Nandipha and the others since you came back.”

“I have only been back for a few hours. I am still going to see them.”

“Don’t worry, Nandi is not here. She is only coming back at 8pm.”

“Where is she? Who where you talking to?”

“She is out with her mystery man. I was talking to Amanda. Which episode are you watching?”

Then she takes off the towel and puts on a body lotion - she puts her right leg on the bed and her left leg on the floor to balance. Then she bends over to put lotion on her right leg up to her thick firm thigh. She takes a long time doing so, and when she changes her right leg I swear she does a mini-twerking. I can’t help but stare. I can’t blink. I’m not sure if I want to! She has a nice behind: it’s thick, well-shaped, tight and milky. Her skin is clear and she has no silver strips or cellulite. I forget I was asked a question, I forget I was watching a movie! My eyes are glued on Mongi, on her ass to be precisely. You know there is something about something you have tasted before. When it’s right in your face you just want to taste it over and over again! Just taste! Suddenly I am brought back to reality when she snaps her fingers right between my eyes and says: “Hello, what’s wrong? Are you checking me out? I asked you are question.”

I clear my throat and try to swallow. “What? What? What did you ask?”

“Ha-ha, never mind; your mind seems to be somewhere else. I wonder where it is!”

“Whatever, what are you doing in my face naked?”

“I was going to ask you to help put lotion on my back but you seem uncomfortable, so forget it.”

“You used to do it by yourself, you never asked me to. And why would I be uncomfortable?”

“I am getting fatter these days so it’s hard to do my own back. You saying you are comfortable? Look at your eyes, love! I wasn’t born yesterday, you have been staring at my ass and your eyes are shouting ’nice ass Mongi’ You don’t have to hide it, it’s written all over your face. Admit it - what happened was not a mistake. I didn’t take advantage of you, we both wanted it and we still do. I wonder if you’d say the same about Babalo.”

Walking to her closet, she puts on her panties and a matching bra. Her talking about my Balo turns off every fibre of my being. She doesn’t get to bad mouth my king, whatever is going on is none of her business.

“You know nothing about Balo and he didn’t use me, so just save it!”

“Why do you get emotional and defensive if you don’t feel used? He sleeps with you but still wants me back. He puts me as his profile picture. All I want is to open your eyes.”

“Fuck you, Mongikazi.”

“Any time, my love.”

I stand up, get out of the room and slam the door on my way out. I need to take a walk just to clear my head. This is the longest day of my life. I wish I had just stayed in hospital for a few more days. Dying is really an easy way out because you feel absolutely nothing. When I go down the stairs I remember that I forgot my student card and my phone. I go back to my room, put on a top, and take my student card, phone and ear phones. When Mongikazi asks where I am going, I give her a dirty look. She apologises for being an idiot, but I don’t respond. I go straight to the door, but she runs to block the door.

“Get out of my fucken way, Mongikazi!” I say.

“Are you mad? That’s good. Maybe you will open your thick head!” she replies calmly.

“I don’t have time for your bullshit. Get out of my way NOW.”

“Or what?”

“Or so help me God. I will rip you apart.”

“Somebody has been watching The Originals. I am impressed!”

“Fuck you.” I push her out of my way, but she is heavy and tough like those rugby guys. She holds my hands together with her right hand. Then she uses her other hand to lock the door! I try to free myself, but I can’t. She is hurting my wrists.

“Let me go, you fucken bitch. I swear to God I will beat the living hell out of you! What the fuck do you think you are doing?”

“You are hurting and angry, Aviwe, I need you to breath and stop being so childish. You are 18. It’s time to learn that you can’t get everything you want. We all learn the hard way but it doesn’t have to be that hard. I need you to breathe Vee, just breathe.”

I stand and listen; all I can do is cry. I am so hurt and angry that Babalo is in love with someone else. I’ve waited for him all these years only to find out that there is no hope for us as a couple. I cry so hard, Mongi lets go of my hands and hugs me tight. She’d be a good friend, but now she is gay and into me. I love her as a friend, a friend I wouldn’t mind to sleep with. We go to her bed. I spend the night in her arms.

I wake up in the morning still dressed. I check the time on Mongi’s phone. It’s 10:13. Shit! I get off the bed and go to my side of the room. I check my phone. I have 7 missed calls from Balo, 5 missed calls from Mrs Mali and 2 missed calls from Nandi. Who must I call back first? I check my WhatsApp: I have lots of texts from Balo. At first he asks me to please pick up the phone. Then he goes from being gentle to being aggressive. He commands me to pick up the damn phone or he will crush my head. He says he is in P.E and he is catching a flight at 11:30. “God, you better be at the airport before 11:15 otherwise things will get ugly, my love, that I promise you. Be here with the briefcase.” That’s the last text he sent me.

Babalo is a waste of time! I ignore him, call Milady then I call Nandi. I tell her I am busy and that I will talk to her later. I then take the briefcase, put it on the bed, sigh and try to collect enough strength to be strong even after seeing whatever is in side. I then take a deep breath. I open the silver briefcase and as I look down I realize that I was right. A stack of cash fills half of the briefcase. There is also a gun and cocaine inside. Still looking at this cash and wishing it’s all just a dream, I hear: “What have you done? Aviwe, what have you done?” I quickly close the briefcase, turn around and look at Mongikazi who is standing behind me.

“Pretend you didn’t see anything,” I say, embarrassed.

“What have you done? Babalo doesn’t want anyone to open that briefcase. How did you even open it because I’m sure as hell he didn’t give you the combination.”

“He didn’t have to give me the combination. I told you, you don’t know Babalo like I do.”

“You idiot, this is not a competition, this is not about who knows Babalo better. This is about you invading his privacy and putting yourself in danger. Don’t you think Babalo had a pretty good reason for not giving any of us the combination?”

“So you want to tell me you knew about this briefcase and you never attempted to open it?”

“I am not an idiot, if I am told not to open something because it dangerous, I don’t.”

“Look, I just opened the briefcase and I am still alive! So what danger are you talking about?”

My phone rings. It’s Balo.

“What?” I say.

“Where are you? It is 10:30. I have to be gone by 11:30. I need the briefcase Aviwe, this is no game!”

“Come and get it. Oh, and just out of curiosity, who are you going to kill and where are you going to deliver the drugs?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Stop playing dumb. I cracked the code and opened the briefcase”.

“What? What the fuck did you do Aviwe? Damn you Aviwe, damn you!” he screams.

“Did you really think I was going to give up? You clearly don’t know me!”

“Oh shit oh shit....”

Then I hear a sound like a phone is being thrown down or something but the call is still on.

“Babalo, are you there? BALO? Balo?” I yell, but he doesn’t respond. I look at Mongikazi.

“What wrong?” she asks with a concerned face.

“I am not sure, he is still on the line, but he is not responding. Now I hear police sirens.” I say and put the phone on speaker so that Mongikazi can hear.

“It sounds like traffic cops or something,” she says.

“Oh, my God!”

From Balo’s side I hear someone who I suppose is a cop, asking for Balo’s drivers licence and the papers of where the car was hired from. Then they command him to step out of the car. They search Balo and find a gun as they search the car. There is a dog that keeps barking. “Sir, we have searched everywhere, the car is clean,” says one of the cops.

“No, the is something here, I am pretty sure of that. As long as the dog is still barking we are not going anywhere ’till we find what this dog smells,” replies the other cop. “See, I told you there is something here. Whatever it is, it’s here under the driver’s seat,” he adds. “Sir, there’s nothing under this seat,” says the first cop. “Maybe it’s not under the seat but inside the seat.” After a few minutes the second cop exclaims: “See? I told you, look at this? Cuff him and take everything that could be evidence. Here is his phone, someone is on line and probably heard everything. For sure it’s one of his gang.” Then the line is dead.

Chapter thirteen

“Oh shit. Babalo is in trouble,” she says with big eyes and worry all over her face.

“I thought you didn’t care about him.”

“I’ve never said that. Just because I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with him doesn’t mean I don’t care about him. And this is not the time to be talking about that. We have more important issues right now! Balo was busted and here we have a stuck of cash, drugs and a gun. These belong to him, now it’s time to make a plan! Either we give these to the cops and testify against him or we hide the briefcase and pretend to know nothing about it.”

“Turning against him is not an option. He would never turn his back against any of us. He would do whatever it takes to help us out!”

“That goes without a doubt, what do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know, but we have to hide the briefcase.” I reply, not sure if I understand what I am getting myself into.

“I have an idea... we should go to Zwide and burry the briefcase somewhere there. That’s the last place they’d look at.”

“No! Cops are probably everywhere, how do you think we’ll be able to carry a briefcase full of drugs from Summerstrand to Zwide?”

“What do you suggest? We can’t just sit here and do nothing. The cops are going to be here in no time. They will trace the call and WhatsApp messages. We’ll become suspects Aviwe, when they get here they have to find nothing!”

“I understand that, how about we hide the briefcase around the rag farm, nobody goes there. Then we will take it to Zwide after a week or so!”

“Now you’re talking,” she says and goes to her side of the room. I take the briefcase and put it in my black sports bag with books on top. Mongikazi puts her PC and books in her sports bag and then we go to the rag farm. On our way I hear Mongi saying:

“Things happen, hey?”

“Like?” I ask.

“Who would have known that now we’d be working together trying to save Babalo’s ass?”

“Tell me about it. We are supposed to hate each other. You are supposed to hate me for not loving you back the way you want me to; Balo is supposed to hate you and I am supposed to hate Balo.”

“Or I am supposed to hate Balo ’cause he is loved by someone I love, Balo is supposed to hate you ’cause I love you instead of him and you suppose to hate me ’cause your Prince charming loves me!”

“Keep on flattering yourself. And he is not my prince, he is my King”. We both laugh out loud.

“Maybe, instead of hating each other, we can love and care about each other because we are all connected. Deep down we care for each other! Look at me, I am busy risking my life for Balo and you spent a night in my arms. That says a lot right? What a polygamy!! Just imagine if Zuma’s wives were to fall in love with each other but still indulge Zuma. How cool can that be? So when Zuma is not around they simply eat each other! That wouldn’t be cheating.”

“You can think and talk rubbish when you want, you know?”

“Just think about it love!”

“I don’t have time to waste. Ok, we are here now, so what are we going to do now?”

“I am no thief, my love, which means I don’t know. Maybe we should start digging.”

We put down our bags and start digging with our bare hands. Digging a hole that can fit a briefcase takes us a long almost six hours. After burying the briefcase we cover it with grass and leaves. This is the stupidest and most dangerous thing I have ever done; I am not even sure of what exactly I am doing and what I am getting myself into, but at least I am not alone. I am with Mongikazi and I trust her.

Then we go to the computer labs for googling random stuff and Facebook. I personally find social media a waste of time. I only go to Facebook and Twitter when I am really bored. After 7:00pm we walk back to res and get there just in time for the news.

“Eziphambil kwezanamhlanje umfana oqikelelwa kumashumi amabini eminyaka ubudala ifunyanwe neziyobisi nezixhobo ezingekhomthethweni kwimoto ebiyiqeshe e airport" (headlines - a guy estimated to be 20 years old was caught with drugs and illegal weapons in the car he hired at the airport.)

That immediately catches our attention. We run and sit in front of the television without noticing each other! We both listen attentively.

They show Babalo’s face. He looks so calm and in control of the situation. I feel a side of my mouth curving, forming a smile. I giggle a little. The police say that the drugs were hidden inside the driver’s seat; Babalo took out the sponge and filled it with cocaine. The police go on saying that they couldn’t trace the call, his WhatsApp messages were all cleared and they couldn’t retrieve them. He concludes that the cocaine is worth R4 020 000.

After the news we go upstairs to our room.

“Don’t you think we should go to Nandipha first?” Mongi asks.

“You read my mind,” I say. I wink at her and as we are about to knock, Amanda opens the door.

“Oh look who is here! How are you Aviwe? You broke Nandi’s iPad then you went missing in action!” Amanda says.

“Is Nandi here?” I ask politely.

“So you not going to answer my question?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Oh wow! You have nothing to say to us after everything we have done for you?”

“I am not in the mood for this and I don’t remember owing you shit!”

“Whatever guys, Amanda can we come in now?” says Mongi. When Amanda is about to respond Nandipa shows up. “Why are y’all standing at the door? I am so happy to see you, come here.” she gives me a hug “how are you? What have you been up to? Why haven’t you come on in? I want to hear about everything.” Nandipha says and then she leads the way to her side of the room. I go and sit on the chair next to the bed.

“So it’s like I don’t even exist.” Mongikazi complains.

Nandipha laughs and says: “There is nothing exciting about you doll, if you’d faint out of the blue when you see some handsome random guy I swear I’d be all over you.”

“That’s not funny at all,” says Mongi, sulking.

“Come and sit next to me. I’m sure you already know why our dear friend fainted last week and where the hell was she when we went to get her from the hospital? Viwe my friend please do tell,” says Nandipha folding her legs and looking at me with glowing eyes.

Nandi loves gossip and I think I need time to laugh so just I can take my mind off on what happened to Babalo I can do with some gossip, so I will have talk about the same Babalo who I am trying to keep out of my mind. Since Babalo came back in my life I haven’t seen happiness. Happiness is only an idea but in reality it’s a mess.

Since he was back I don’t remember a single day where I was genuinely happy, because the day we made love wasn’t what it was supposed to be. It wasn’t what I thought it was. I was making love and making a memory and he was passing time and making a mistake of his life.

This is not what I had in mind about the return of Babalo. I thought we would meet again and live happily ever after, it was just an idea after all. I have never told Babalo how I feel about him so I think it’s time to stop jumping to conclusions and face my demons. I am going to see him wherever he is and I am going to let him know how I feel.

I know he loves Mongi but he doesn’t know how I feel about him. He has no clue that I am in love with him. Instead of answering Nandi’s 20 questions I get lost in my mind; I go through each and every single event that took place since Babalo came back! Babalo brought nothing but trouble in my life. It hurts so bad to know that he is in love with someone else. Because of him I broke the law, I have cash, drugs and a gun hidden somewhere in the middle of nowhere. This criminal part makes me panic and I don’t think it’s a good idea to put my ass on the line like this. I have a child to think about. Vuyolwethu needs me, just because I don’t talk about her doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a special place in my heart. My Vuyo is my priority, I think it would be good for me to focus on that thought and stop being obsessed with Babalo! I came here to study so I can take care of myself, my baby and my guardian angels - the Mali family.

I am brought back to earth by Nandipha snapping her fingers in front of me, saying: “Hello welcome back on earth!”

I smile and brush her shoulder. “Geez, you love gossip.”

“Like hell I do. Tell us what happened - we have been patiently waiting for you, doll.”

“Well, it’s a long story. I will tell you everything when I am ready. Not today,” I try to explain.

“Come now,” she says with puppy eyes.

“I’m honestly not ready to talk about any of it, there is so much that has happened.”

“Whatever, I’ll be here whenever you are ready friend,” says Nandi trying to hide the disappointment in her eyes.

“Cool. Thank you guys, thank you for everything, I really appreciate it. And thank you for taking care of an iPad.”

“It’s no big deal, doll.... I mean you have the cheapest blackberry, so where on earth were you going to get this,” she says showing off her new iPad.

We all laugh. I tell her to worry. In a few years’ time I will have the most expensive phone. The conversation goes on and later she tells us to go change our clothes as we are going to have my welcome back party.

After an hour Mongi and I go to our room to change as instructed. When we get there, I throw myself on the bed. Mongi can see that I am troubled; she keeps asking what’s bothering me. I hear myself saying:

“I don’t feel right about not giving the briefcase to the police.”

“You don’t feel right about protecting Babalo?” Mongi says, sitting next to me.

“It’s not that, it’s just that if something was to go wrong I have so much to lose.”

“We all have something to lose, Aviwe.”

“You don’t understand, it’s different for me.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“How do I know I can trust you?”

“Are you for real? You don’t trust me after everything we have been through? You don’t trust me after not saying a word to Nandipha about Babalo? Come on now.”

“I am Babalo’s Princess and I have a child.”

Chapter fourteen

After saying those words, the shock on her face is indescribable. I decide to give her space; I take off my clothes, take my toiletry bag and go to the shower.

I open the water and let it pour over me. I wonder if it was a mistake to tell her. I wonder if things will ever be the same between us again. I wonder what she is thinking, but I don’t feel bad at all because I did what my guts told me to do. I hear a bathroom door opening.

“I figured we can shower together to save some time,” someone says. It is Mongikazi, she instructs me to move aside. She puts soap on her towel, washes her body and I stand aside and watch her. After she rinses the soap she does the same to me: she washes me like a new born baby. She starts from my neck down to my back then she holds up my arms and washes my armpits, down to my stomach and my inner thighs.

All I do is to follow her lead. After she is done she dries me and hands me my towel. I get out of the shower - still speechless. She follows. In the room I put on some lotion, go to my closet and take out the clothes I am going to wear to iron them. She asks me to iron her dress, so I agree. I iron it and give it back to her. She gets dressed before me and she looks blazing hot in her white mini dress and white stilettos. I put on my black chino, black sweater and my red and black vans. I am not dressed up but I look like a very hot 18 year old boy. My short hair suits me just fine.

“Vee!” Mongikazi calls out my name.

“Hello?”

“Do you want to go out?”

“Hell yhea!”

“Oh.”

“Why, don’t you?”

“No I don’t, I just want to stay here with you and talk ’till the sun comes out.”

I giggle a little and say: “Ncooo, what do you want talk about?”

“Everything.”

I smile back at her. “We will talk about everything tomorrow, tonight I want to get wasted..”

“Alright then, so you know I am glad you trusted me, I promise your bared soul is safe with me.”

“It’s nice to have someone to trust and someone who deeply cares about me, the last time I had that someone was Babalo.”

“So I have heard. What is the name of your kid?”

“Vuyolwethu. It means happiness.”

“Mmmm, nice.”

Nandi throws bursts into our room without knocking. I think I am getting used to this.

“Dolls it’s 22:05 already and the cab is waiting downstairs,” she says, still standing at the door.

“We were waiting for you, let’s go!” Mongi leaves the room, Nandipha follows, and I lock the door before exiting.

We go to the cab and Chumani catches on later. She is wearing a stunning blue dress: it’s not too short it goes just above her knees. With it, she wears a white blazer and white heels which compliments the entire attire. She doesn’t need make-up, her beauty is natural. As for Queen Nandipha she does what she does best. She is wearing a tore bum short, white crop top and the timberland ankle boot. She looks stunning! She has her way with clothes and has a unique style. Today she is dressed exactly like Beyoncé. We drive off to Cubana, I ask Nandi how am I going to get in Cubana because I am not wearing stilettos or formal shoes. She tells me to worry not, and let her worry about that.

The cab drops us at McDonalds across the road from Cubana. Nandi goes to the tall fat bouncer at the door. I am curious to hear what Nandi is going to say so I pretend to be taking a call and move closer to them. I hear her saying: “Hello my love, you see right there are my friends. One of them is wearing tekkies so I need you to let us in. After this I will make you speak Greek.” then she touches his manhood and comes really close. “Do we have a deal?” she says.

”Of course we do, can you give me your number so I can call you after 3am when we close,” replies the bouncer. “Don’t worry; I’ll come to you, I can’t wait.” Then she bites her lower lip and walks away, the bouncer stares at Nandi’s fine ass as she walks towards Chumani. I catch up with them and she tells us that everything is sorted and that we can go in. When we pass the bouncer she winks at him and the bouncer spanks her ass.

Inside, a waitress takes us to a table for four and Nandi orders shot for all of us. We sit there, talk about what Nandi did to that poor bouncer and she tells us that you have to use men’s weakness to your advantage. She doesn’t get played - she is a player. Her phone rings and then she excuses herself and goes to the bathroom. After about 30 minutes she comes back. When she sits down she utters: “Guys, do you mind if my friends from Cape Town join us?”

“Not at all - especially if they are hot ladies,” Mongi replies with rejoice in her voice.

“What? What are you going to do with hot ladies?” asks Nandi.

Mongi is now tipsy and she loudly replies: “I love ladies, in fact I love one specific lady but she just doesn’t love me back.”

I jump in trying to save the day and say: “Ok bro zip it, we don’t’ want to hear your secrets when you are drunk!” she smiles at me, her eyes says it all. Vuyo would tell that she is in love with me.

“Are you guys an item? Answer! Y’all going to burn in hell!” Chumani, who has been quiet all along, bursts out saying.

“I vacate there my love so just relax your mind otherwise it’s going to be hurtful,” Mongi responds. We all die of laughter and I keep them shots coming so I can save myself from Mongi’s embarrassment.

“There they are!” Nandi murmurs when two men walk towards our table. They take two chairs from a table next to us and sit next to Nandi. They both look like lawyers or CEO’s. Now it explains why Nandi is so well-off, she hangs out with top dogs. They order two cans of brutal fruit claiming that they still have to drive to East London, so they don’t want to get drunk.

Chapter fifteen

By this time Mongi and Chumani have passed out, one of the guys suggests that Nandi must call a cab for them. She takes the suggestion and calls a cab. They wake up before the cab arrives so there is no need for someone to accompany them to res. We all go outside to wait for the cab. When the cab arrives, Nandi pays the driver and asks him to take the girls to Melodi residence. Right after they leave I feel dizzy. I tell Nandi that I need to sit down and that I don’t feel too well. I remember that I didn’t get time to eat all day and drinking booze in an empty stomach is never a clever idea.

I can feel that I am going to throw up so I run inside and go to the lady’s bathroom. I throw up in the sink; it looks so disgusting that it makes me throw up even more. After about 5 minutes I clean myself up and slowly walk to where I left Nandi and her friends standing. She runs to me and asks if I am okay. When I am about to respond hunger kicks in and I fall to the ground. I here Nandi saying: “Oh, not again!‘’ The guys carry me to the back of their car where one of the guys says that I must be hungry. Nandi went to get me something to eat. She returns with milkshake, McDonalds burger and chips. I eat like I have never seen food in my life and after that I feel better and sleepy. Just as I fall asleep I hear one of the guys asking if I am asleep. The other one says yes I am long gone; I must be dreaming now.

One guy is on the back seat with me and the other one is at the front with Nandi. Just like you know I love news, them asking if I am asleep makes me curious and washes the drowsiness away, but I lay still pretending to be asleep. The guy in front speaks really soft and says: “Miss N, one of our guys was arrested, he was here to deliver. I don’t know what went wrong. I think he was set up but his silver briefcase was not found. I know for a fact he had it with him when he came here. I need you to find the briefcase. Here is a picture of our guy that was arrested. I need you to find everything you can on him. I want to know where he went and who he met when he was here. We have to find the silver briefcase before it lands in wrong hands or to the cops.”

“Why are you staring at that picture? Do you recognise him?” he continuous. “I am not sure but he looks familiar,” Nandi replies. “No, take your time and look very close, I want you to do a clean job here, I know Mr B will not talk and I am just worried about the briefcase. If it lands in the wrong place we are all screwed. That briefcase also has the list of every member and every target. Find the briefcase ASAP and take out any witness. We don’t want any trouble Miss N,” says the guy. “I’ll do my best, Sir.” I don’t hear much after that, I pass out.

The following day I wake up with a massive headache. If this is how a hang-over feels like then I curse alcohol. I will never drink again. There is no joy in being drunk, throwing up and waking up feeling like crap. I heard that milk cures hang-over, so I go to my fridge and take out a litre full cream milk. I drink the entire litre without taking a break and then I take pain killers and go back to bed. In my sleep I dream about last night’s events and suddenly the two guys, Nandi and their conversation kicks in my mind. It kicks every little hang over and sleepy fibre of my body, I wake up and feel fresh - like I was not tired and drowsy just 5 minutes ago! I guess that’s what fear does to its victim!

They talked about the silver briefcase - the one we buried. Ever heard of deepest shit? This is it! I wish we had taken the damn briefcase to the police. I think of taking it to Nandi but I remember just before I passed out the other guy said Nandi must ‘take out’ all the witnesses.

From the movies I watch and books I read, taking out a person has only one meaning - killing! This whole situation is messed up and complicated. Wait, before I go any further, how does Nandipha fit into this mess? Does this mean she is also smuggling drugs and does whatever dirty work they do? But how come she didn’t know Babalo? So Nandipha is a cleaner; she gets involved when one of the members has messed up. So she is like a fixer! This explains why she is so rich but is not working, has no parents and how she is able to take care of her brothers and of herself. So this is what she meant when she said she is a hustler.

I wake Mongikazi. I have to tell her everything! She is so sleepy and the time is ticking. While still shaking Mongikazi, my phone rings and I look at the screen. It’s Nandi! What the fuck does she want at this time? I am tempted not to pick up but I then remember that I have to stay calm and collected, I don’t want her to find out that I heard more than enough from her conversation and her so-called friends. I answer and pretend to be totally sleepy.

“Mmmmm?”

“It’s 12:10. Wake up doll,” she says.

“Mmmmm.”

“Jesus, Are you okay?”

“I am sl sl sleepiiiiiiing.”

“I have to talk to you, tell me when you are awake okay? Okay? I need you to call me back, ok? It’s a matter of life or death.”

“What is it?”

“It can’t be discussed over the phone.”

She concludes and hangs up the phone. It’s life or death? This must be about Babalo! I wonder if she is going to start asking me about the briefcase.

Plan B: I take an ice cube and put it on Mongi’s cheek. She yells: “What the fuck?”

“Keep it down!” I say with my hand on my lips.

“Don’t you dare tell me to keep it down. What’s wrong with you?” she asks, angrily.

“You need to keep it down, Mongi. Look, drink this. (I give her a glass of milk) It will make you feel better and then we can talk.”

After drinking the whole glass of milk, she says: “I feel alive, but I need to wash my face and brush my teeth. I feel dirty.”

“Mongi, you need to wake up. We are under attack; you can’t go out of this room or she will know that we are awake.” I exaggerate.

“Hold on? You said what? We are under attack?”

“This is serious, so pull yourself together.”

“You are serious, aren’t you?

“Like hell I am!”

She moves and makes room for me on her bed. “Ok, I am all yours. Sit. Tell me everything. What’s up?”

“Do you remember anything about last night?”

“Yes, why?”

“Do you remember Nandi’s friends?”

“Of course I do, how can I forget?

“Perfect. After you left, I threw up and passed out. They took me to the back of their car and they thought I was sleeping, but I wasn’t. I heard every word they said.

Mongi sits up and looks me in the eyes. “Alright, I’m listening.”

“I need you to listen very carefully. I heard the guys telling Nandipha that one of their guys has been arrested but the police didn’t find the silver briefcase. So they instructed Nandi to find the briefcase and take out all the witnesses. I don’t know if it’s me going crazy but connect the dots Mongikazi.”

“Shit I pray this isn’t what I think it is.”

“I pray you are not thinking what I am thinking.”

“Ok, let’s connect the dots. Do you think by ‘one of their guys’ they were referring to Babalo? And how does Nandi fit in all this equation? Does that mean she is also involved in drugs smuggling? Oh no! This can’t be true, Vee!” she says with her mouth wide open, clutching her head.

“I wish it wasn’t but I am afraid it is! I heard them with my own ears.”

“It all makes sense! If she doesn’t have a sugar daddy, she is definitely a criminal mind master. It explains the Gucci, Timberland, House of Darion clothes and the damn expensive hair.”

“You are right, but what’s important right now is that she has a gun on our heads. The question is what are we to do?

“We give her the bloody briefcase and move on with our lives!”

“This means you were not listening to me. We can’t give her the briefcase. We can’t let her know that we know about her drug smuggling job; we can’t tell her about the briefcase because her boss told her to wipe all witnesses. In case you haven’t noticed we are the damn witnesses.”

“Ok this is more complicated than I thought! So what do you have in mind?”

“I say we act dumb. We act like we know nothing about the briefcase and when she asks about Babalo we tell her that I was his girlfriend in primary school and you are his ex-girlfriend. Catch my drift?”

“All clear. Nandi is obviously no fool, so we have to be careful.”

“Very true. Most importantly, we don’t ever talk about the briefcase again. Nandi is going to be watching us and she will have eyes and ears all over.”

“Got it.”

After planning everything that we are going to say to Nandipha, I give her a call telling her that she can come over as we are awake now. She shouts that she is at the door! I panic but I have to keep my cool otherwise I will kiss this life good bye and leave my little Vuyo.

I get up and open the door for her. She comes in and greets us. Afterwards we talk about this and that; nothing serious. After about 5 minutes, she looks at me and says: “Have you seen today’s newspaper?”

“Nope, we just woke up,” I respond, already guessing what’s in the newspaper. She takes out the newspaper from her bag and flashes it in my face. “I couldn’t believe this! In fact, I still can’t believe it,” she says, still holding the paper. Mongi walks to my bed to see the paper. “What is it?” Mongi asks.

Its Babalo. His arrest made the headlines. I don’t know how to react to the paper because this is already old news and from my facial expression I am sure Nandipha has picked up that I am familiar with the news. “Oh, he made the headlines? Poor Balo! I saw him in on television news yesterday.” I say, carelessly.

“Oh my God, it’s terrible! I couldn’t help but notice that this is the same guy that we met last week! The one that was by your side when you fainted and had to go to hospital. How do you know him? Oh, the poor man going to jail as young and handsome as he is!”

Nandipha’s acting is pathetic. How I wish she could just drop it. Well, I know exactly what this chick is trying to do: it’s clear to me that she is going on with her dirty plans: she is not on our side. It is good that I am step or two ahead of her. She doesn’t know that I know so I play along. “He was my first boyfriend in primary school. It’s bad, but that’s what you get for getting involved with the wrong people,” I say, going to the fridge to some water. Mongi just looks at me and walks back to her side of the room.

“So you knew that he smuggles drugs?”

“No, why?” I reply, putting the water on the table and going back to my bed.

Nandi sits next to me and looks at me from the corner of her eye. “No, you just sounded like you knew he was involved with the wrong people.”

“No man, I didn’t. My mother is a lawyer I would have thrown him behind bars a long time ago if I knew. For your information, Balo went to the Western Cape in high school and that was before he started with drugs. I didn’t see him for years.”

“Poor thing. This explains why you fainted when you saw his face!”

“Something like that!” All this time Mongi is on her phone; she is bored to death. She hates pretending but she has no choice.

“When was the last time you saw him? I heard that his briefcase is lost. Don’t you know where it is? I mean, you went to his hotelroom after you were discharged from the hospital. Do you know how dangerous it is to hide evidence?”

Mongi jumps in and says: “Oh hold it right there! Why are you so interested in Babalo all of a sudden? The worst part is that you are interested in his arrest more than you are interested in how Aviwe knows the dude! And where do you find out that his briefcase is missing? I just read the entire article. Never in the news article do they mention a lost briefcase and, yes, I also watched the news. They didn’t say a single word about the briefcase. Where did you get that from?”

With a little shock in her face Nandipha says: “Oh! Are you being defensive or offended? Or both?

“Why would I be? Just answer the damn question, Nandipha! Stop trying to be clever!”

“I was just trying to give my friend moral support; shoot me for caring.”

“Oh, right, so asking 21 question is moral support? I get it now!”

“What is your problem? What have I done?” Nandipha tries to manipulate the situation.

“Nothing. Forgive me for being rude; I just see nothing interesting about talking and asking a lot of questions about a drug smuggler! He is not worth our time. When did you come back last night?”

Chapter sixteen

Mongi puts Nandipha in the spotlight. She changes the topic from Babalo to booze just like that. I can see the irritation and disappointment in Nandi’s eyes and my only prayer is for her not to suspect that we know something. I pray she backs off and tries somewhere else. After a few minutes, Nandipha leaves saying that she has somewhere to go. After she is gone I suggest that we go to Babalo and ask him what we should do. He must know better. This is his life so he most definitely has ideas.

“Do you think that is a good idea? They are probably watching everyone who visits Balo. I don’t want to be called for questioning and I definitely don’t want to see myself behind bars.”

“What do you suggest we do Mongi? Do you want us to sit on our bums and do nothing while we have a gun pointing at us?”

“Listen, I am not saying that we should not visit Balo. I am just saying that I, Mongikazi am not going anywhere near jail cells. I have already done a lot for Babalo and it’s enough. I am not putting my life in danger for Babalo anymore. He knew exactly what he was getting himself into.

“It’s okay, Mongi. I would be unreasonable if I say I don’t understand. It’s ok, I’ll go alone. Babalo is in this because of me; because of what happened four years ago. He had a future that was crashed into pieces because of helping my poor soul. For that, I will forever be in debt by him.”

“That’s stupid, Aviwe. I am sure Babalo doesn’t want anything in return. He did what was right, he was not investing. Look, when Babalo was kicked out of your house and dropped off in the Western Cape he had a choice. Smuggling drugs was not the only choice he had; it was just an easy way out, so you can’t beat yourself up for the wrong choices he made! He could have had a decent job, but he chose to smuggle drugs. He was not the only street kid but he tried to be clever and took an easy way out. So you absolutely can’t beat yourself up for his stupidity.”

“Only if you were in my shoes would you understand.”

“Well, we see things only the way we want to see them.”

“You are totally right. Wait, I remember something: one of Nandi’s friends said the briefcase contains everything involving their business. It has the members, the place to deliver and the targets. If the list was to go out then that would be the end of it. That would be the end of their dirty little company, so I was thinking after everything calmed down we can take the briefcase to my MiLady. She is well-connected; she will definitely know what to do.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea to involve your family in this mess? What if they go after her or, even worse, go after little Vuyo to get back to the both of you guys?”

“We can’t keep the briefcase forever; at the end we have to do something about it.”

“We can always throw away the gun and drugs, split the money in half and move on with our lives like nothing ever happened!”

We both laugh.

After taking a shower l put my maroon Uzzi sweat pant, black sneakers and my black hoody. Then I take my wallet and phone and just as I am about to leave, Mongi asks where am I heading. I tell her I am going to a shop. She asks me to bring her something nice.

When I pass Nandi’s room, she also asks where I am going. I tell her I am just taking a walk and she asks to join me. I tell her I prefer to be alone to clear my head. She does her fake pity face and asks if it’s because of what happened to my friend Babalo.

“I don’t know, maybe,” I reply and tell her I will see her later. I leave her standing at her door. Her interest in this whole Babalo saga is funny; it’s so obvious that it’s not just an interest but it has a dirty agenda behind. I put on my earphones and listen to Angel Haze. I reach the shop within a blink of an eye. I decide to buy Babalo something nice. I buy him a burger, chips and ribs and a juice. I then take a taxi to the prison. I tell the security guards that I came to see my friend; that he was arrested yesterday. They tell me to go to reception. I go there and the lady in charge tells me there is no one goes by that name.

“Ma’am, let me make this simpler: I am here to see the tall, dark guy that was arrested yesterday morning; the drug smuggler; the one whose arrest made headlines. I am sure he is only one person like that here,” I say with passion mixed with sarcasm.

The lady shows me to the visiting room and tells me that I will be with Mr Suits in 10 minutes. Mr Suits? I roll my eyes and enter the visiting room. There are two security guards who scan me and the food. They tell me to leave my phone and wrist watch with them and then they say I cannot get in with metal, so I must take off my earrings! The fuck! But when you think about it, it does make sense. Then they let me in. The room is filled with security guards; there is no privacy but there are many visitors. One security guard approaches me and asks who I came to visit. I tell her I came to see Mr Suits. They all look at each other and from what I see they all love Mr Suit’s smart behind. I am showed a table for two to wait for Babalo.

I patiently wait for him, feeling a bit scared because I don’t even know what I am going to say to him. I invaded his privacy and look at where that put me, him and Mongikazi. If only I can turn back time. I see him coming towards my table, escorted by a guard. I can’t read his facial expression - all I can tell is that he is not pleased at all.

“What are you doing here? How did you even know I was here?” he says with a blank stare.

“Hello to you too. I’m well and you? I brought you something to eat.”

“I need you to leave.”

“Don’t be a douchebag Babalo, I came here to see how you’re holding up, and, yes, I know why you are here because your face is all over the media; it’s kinda hard to ignore it. A thank you would be much appreciated.”

“If you know what’s good for you, leave now and never come back. I need you to forget there was a person like me in your life. Trust me; this is for your own good Aviwe. You have no idea of what’s going on. All I need is for you to be safe. I would be damned if someone touches you and I would be screwed if they found out that I have a weakness. So, Princess, I need you to walk out that door and never look back. Now! I don’t ever want to see you again. It’s all for the best.” He emphasizes each word.

“What’s going on Babalo? Tell me; just tell me what’s going on. I am not going anywhere, I want to help but I can’t do that if you don’t let me in. Just tell me what’s going on; we’re going to go through this together.”

No offence, Princess, but you are just a teenager who thinks she can save the world. We all have been there but it’s impossible. You have no idea that there are eyes and ears everywhere. Leave! Now! Don’t ever come here again; this is no place for you Princess”.

He has never raised his voice for me; he is hurting now so maybe I should just stay away from him; maybe it’s all for the best.

He calls a guard to take him back to his cell. He makes it clear that I must leave. I know he is sending me a message. I should just back off. I know he is protecting me, but how do you turn your back on someone who would never do that to you? I feel like I have just got dumped by my first boyfriend. I go outside and take a taxi to Greenacres. I want to do window shopping; it always does the trick. It keeps my mind busy for a while and makes me forget about reality! I have read every book and magazine I have, if I go back to res I will be more miserable and in this condition I don’t want to see Nandipha. But, at the end of the day I have to go back to res.

Before sunset, I decide to go for a new haircut and I take a taxi back to my place. When I get to my room, I find Nandipha. She looks hotter than ever. She does what she does best: acting. I am not in the mood for entertaining her. She drools over my new cut and says: “You are so much of a guy, it surprised me that you are straight; I feel sorry for your roommate. Anyways, we going out tonight to Gondwana because DJ Sbu is going to be there. We cannot miss it!”

“Count me out, I still suffer from yesterday’s shots.” I decline.

“Come now, don’t be a party pooper,” she says, shaking my shoulder.

“I honestly need to sleep, excuse me,” I ask her to move from my bed and sit on the chair. I take off my clothes, put on my PJ’s and get under my blankets.

“Idiots,” she says and slams the door on her way out. Once she is out I see Mongi waking up, going to the door and locking it.

“This bitch is getting on my nerves. I am so not good at pretending. All I want is to punch her between her eyes. I have a plan, though.”

“I hope it’s not a dirty one?”

“I don’t know if it is dirty or clean - all I know is that it will get her off our backs.”

“I am listening!”

“I know she has a sleeping disorder. She takes a sleeping pill every night. So this is what I was thinking: we hustle for some cash and then we buy cocaine - the kind that comes in tablet form. Then we switch her sleeping pills with cocaine! She will stay high and not have time to be a pain in our backs. Once she gets worse, we pretend to be her best friends and give her support. We take her to rehab. There, problem solved!”

“Are you crazy?”

“It’s far better than the plan you had. We won’t involve any other people; we won’t put anyone in danger. Except Nandipha, of course.”

“How long is that going to last? She is going to go to rehab for about 6 months and then she will get out and come after us. What is going to happen if she finds out that her pills have been switched? She is not a fool. Things will turn ugly and where do you think we are going to get money to buy drugs?

“You are over-analysing this. Money won’t be a problem. We have a briefcase filled with cash! Hello?”

“That’s what you should be doing. You should analyse this dangerous plan and we both agreed not to go near the briefcase, remember?”

“Aviwe, I am trying to keep us alive; work with me, please!”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I am doing the same here!”

She pouts and goes back to her bed, “Can’t we pretend like everything is ok and watch a movie?” she says with a long face.”

“Tomorrow, dear. I am tired and I need to sleep.”

Chapter seventeen

Monday morning, I remember that I haven’t gone to class for a week and I forgot to print the timetable. I don’t even know where and when my classes are! I get up at 07:03 and take a quick shower before running to the Aberdare computer lab to print my timetable.

After printing it, I see that have a 07:45 class in building 123 LH 7, and it is 07:40 already. I run to building 123

I open the door, when I enter I feel I have been struck lightning. I have never seen so many people in one room. The worse and scariest part is that everyone is looking at me as I slowly close the door. Even the lecturer stops talking and looks at me! My eyes scan the hall; I see different people in different colours and shapes! I am 30 minutes late, am I supposed to feel embarrassed?

“Sit down or get out! You are disturbing my lecture, mister,” says an old chubby white man. I bite my lower lip trying to be cool, pretending to have the situation under control. I go up the stairs and take a place at the back of the lecture hall. Everyone looks at me as I make my way up the stairs. Once I sit down the lecturer breaths out a sigh of relief and continuous with the introduction to law. He tells us which text books we will need for his module and he concludes by saying that students have a tendency of taking Introduction to Law lightly and end up repeating it. He says that it’s not difficult, it just needs time and then he drones on about how we should do our work My Mondays are hectic; I have classes all day. After an exhausting day I finally I go back to res. When I get there I get a call from Mongi. She says we should meet in town. She says it’s important and it cannot wait! This girl has no idea of how tired I am but I know she wouldn’t lie - it must be really important. I take a taxi to town and I find her waiting for me in front Zebro’s. I tell her to make it quick, I really am tired. “Sit down, catch your breath and be calm,” she says softly. “Ok, remember the plan I told you about?” she adds.

“You mean the one I didn’t approve of?” I say grabbing a chair.

“That is because you haven’t heard the best part: if she is caught with drugs or using drugs in NMMU premises she will be suspended for at least a year, excluding the rehab time. This means this Nandipha bitch will be out of our lives for at least 2 years. When she comes back, if she does, we’ll simply distance ourselves. We will have a good reason: no one wants to be friends with a drug addict. Here is the best part: I have found a place where we can buy the pills for much cheaper,” she says with a voice filled with joy and excitement.

“And where is that?”

“In Parliament street. They are Nigerian guys who are selling drugs at a much lower price than you can imagine.”

I look at her and frown: “Are you sure about this?”

“Like hell I am!”

“Well, then maybe it’s worth a shot, as long as the drugs won’t kill her.”

“Awesome! I will call the guys or should we just go there now?”

“Rather call them to come down here. We are not going there - that’s the most dangerous place in PE.”

Mongikazi takes out her phone and makes a call. Within a few minutes the guy’s car is parked not far from where we are sitting. On the phone they tell Mongi to come to the car. “No Mongi, you cannot trust these guys. I’ve heard a lot of scary things about Nigerian guys. There is no way you are going to their car. Call him back and tell him to come here or we will find a safer spot for the trade.”

“It’s so cute that you care about me, but I am a big girl and I can take care of myself.”

“Look, we are in this together so we make every decision together! There is no way you getting in that car. I don’t approve of that. If something happens to you, I will be responsible and I wouldn’t be able to live with the guilt. It will destroy me.”

“Calm down, I will take the front seat. I won’t let them drive away with me, I do watch action movies. At least I have a clue of how these things work.”

With that said she gets up and goes to the black BMW. She is stubborn like hell, the more you advise her otherwise, the more she wants to go on with her own way.! It’s ok to be stubborn but there is a limit; nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and that is why we sometimes need other people’s perspectives in matters.

She gets in the car and stays for more than 15 minutes. What is taking so long? I start to panic. I take out my phone and then I decide to call her. My call is rejected then I see the car moving! This can’t be her will! Something is wrong here. She said they were not going to drive away with her. I lose my mind and run after the car! I don’t even think of calling the police. I run behind the car shouting at the driver to stop the car. I don’t even see how stupid I look and sound. Then they make the mistake of taking Military Road - the road passing the Opera house. They must have forgotten that there is always traffic there due to the road reconstruction. They have no choice but to stop.

I run and when I reach the traffic I shout that the Nigerian guys in that black BMW have taken my friend. When I finish the speech people are already all over the black BMW with sticks, knives and stones. You know how South African people feel about the Nigerians. Within a few minutes the road is filled with people.

This goes on for about 5 minutes but there is no response from the car! Guy from the crowd throws a huge stone at the window. But the guys refuse to let Mongikazi go; they say they will surrender only to the cops and the girl is not as clean. Are they mad? My best friend is in there.

These people care less about the issue on the table, all they want is to kill the Nigerians out of hate and anger. Mongikazi is last of their worries; they get out of control, throwing stones at the car! At last the front door opens and Mongikazi gets out with her t-shirt tore apart. She scans the crowd and spots me and then she comes running to me, giving me the warmest hug ever. Luckily for the Nigerians someone called the cops before their car could be set on fire by the angry South Africans.

On our way back to res I keep quiet. The silence is so real, I can feel it. I can’t even look at Mongi, for once, I hate being right. I don’t know what went down in that car but I told her not to get in that car. If only she would listen. All I want right now is to get out of this mess; no more scheming; no more plotting plans and definitely no more breaking the law! It’s time to do the right thing. I have a baby to look out for. I love Vuyolwethu. Mongikazi returns after her shower and throws a towel on her bed and goes all nude. I don’t even know where to look.

“So, are we not talking to each other now? Say it, you were right and I was wrong,” she says. She doesn’t even care to explain what happened in that car! I feel mad, hate, anger, frustrated, taken for granted and crossed. I don’t reply, I hear her saying:

“For how long are we going to go on like this? I messed up, I’m sorry. There you have it. Happy now?

She raises her voice. Still, I keep my mouth shut. They say if you want to kill them slowly then do it with silence. I wonder for how long she can take it. I know how much she loves talking but to wake her sleepy mind, I will give her a silent treatment. The room gets filled with silence. She starts working on her laptop but glances at me every now and then. Much later, I take off my clothes. Put on my pyjamas and go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. When I come back the door is locked. After knocking, Mongikazi asks who it is. She is doing this only to annoy me even further. I don’t reply; instead I bang the door harder. “Ok, ok, I’m coming” she shouts and opens the door. I enter without looking at her. She pulls on my arm, I turn around and give her blank stare.

“I am sorry, okay?” she says with a sad face.

“Are you?” I ask, slowly freeing my arm. She nods “Yes, yes I am. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen and then I became a bitch about it! I wouldn’t have been here if you weren’t there; if you didn’t run after me. I am sorry for not apologising sooner! I am sorry for everything. I just want to help get Nandipha off our backs for good! I want to be strong and fearless like you. Sometimes my feelings for you cloud my judgement.”

“Hey you don’t have to prove yourself to me. I love you just the way you are and nothing will ever change that. Not wanting a romantic relationship with you doesn’t mean I love you less! I would risk my life over and over again to save your stubborn behind. Get that?”

“I know and thank you for having my back, back there. Can I get dressed now? I want you to tell me how your first day on campus was and I want to hear every little detail.”

“Nothing serious, just got lost and shit, but most importantly, I want to know what you were talking about with those drug dealers for 30 minutes. What went wrong to the point that they decide to tear your t-shirt and drive away with you, and why didn’t you scream for help?”

“Let me have something to eat and then I will tell you everything about it.”

“Sure.”

“So, did you make any friends?”

“Kind of, I heard this other girl talking to her friend saying that she had been eyeing me thinking I am a dude!”

“Really?”

“Yes, and that’s not even the worse part; she went on saying my gender doesn’t matter; she would still ride me but she is not gay,” I say shaking my head.

Mongi laughs hard. “Get out of here, are you serious? And what did you say?”

“What was there to say? I just laughed.”

“I swear if I was a hot tomboy like you I was going to tap more ass than the mighty Lil Wayne. I don’t even get why you don’t like girls.”

“Maybe I have not met the right one.”

“Ouch, that hurts.”

“It’s life honey, any way you are done eating now so tell me what went wrong. I thought you watch action movies and that you know how ‘these things work’.”

“Are you still there?”

“You didn’t think I was going to forget about it, did you?”

“Not even a bit. Ok, remember I told you they wanted R1000 for 20 pills?”

“Yhea, I do.”

“Well, I showed them the cash. I told them to show me the pills. They told me to give them the cash before they show me the cocaine. They must have thought I am the dumbest chick who doesn’t know what to do with the money. I told them that’s not going to happen. I am not giving them shit until I see what I want. They started to be all nice telling me to trust them and then they showed me the so-called cocaine. I took the pills and gave them the money. Before getting out of the car something just told me to open the bag and smell the pills; just to make sure that they are the real deal….”

“And how do you know what cocaine smells like?”

“Quiet please, you are disturbing me. I haven’t even got to the interesting part. I smelled the pills and what I smelled was definitely gran-pa pills. They played me. So I tried to keep calm; not giving them the impression that I can smell they are trying to con me, so I played along and smiled. Then, out of the blue, I jumped for my cash, took the money and put it in my bra. That’s why my t-shirt was torn. They were trying to get the money back. After taking the money I threw the gran-pa pills in their faces. I told them to let me go, they gave me the wrong pills and our deal was off. Instead of letting me go they locked the car doors, told me I was not going anywhere with their money and that it was not their fault that I didn’t want the pills, they still wanted the money. I refused. There were 3 of them. When you called they panicked that you might have heard the noise and called the cops or something, so that’s why they drove off with me. It was awful but seeing you running after the car, trying to save my life was the best part of the day! Nothing feels greater than knowing that you have someone to count on.”

“What you did back there was stupid.”

“It will never happen again! What now?”

“I am going home on Friday and I want to tell MiLady everything! Trust me, she will know what to do.”

“I trust you. From now on I will try to listen to you.”

“Good. Have you seen Nandi?”

“Yes.” Her phone vibrates. “Speaking of the devil, here she is texting me: ‘In your room?’”

“Invite her in; we have been ignoring her and she will get suspicious.”

“You’re right! I just can’t deal with that fake.”

Chapter eighteen

She texts Nandipha to come over. As usual, she wastes no time. She is in our room in no time. Like always, she is bubbly and vibrant like a child who just ate a lollipop. She tells us about how long her day was; how hectic it is being a university student. It looks like she has forgotten that we are also university students. After whining asks how Mongikazi is. “I’m perfect thanks, yourself?” Mongi replies.

“I am asking about what happened earlier,” Nandi says.

“And what is that?”

“Nigerians, black car, duh?”

“I am not sure I am following.”

“Are you always this slow? Is Aviwe sleeping? She has to bail me out here,” then she comes close to me and taps on my shoulder. “Aviwe, Aviwe wake up doll.”

Pretending to be super drowsy, I reply: “What is it?”

“Come now, “she pinches my ear.

“No, Nandipha man!”

“I’m sorry but at least you are awake now.”

“What do you want?”

“Rude.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“She is sleepy and when she is sleepy she becomes grumpy,” poor Mongi replies.

“I see, ok as I was asking; how did you get in that Nigers’ car? What were you doing with them and why did you run away and not give your statement to the police?”

“How do you know that?”

“I don’t remember it happening in another planet, did it?”

“Seems like you know it all.”

“It looks like you two forgot to give me the memo, why are you all so mean to me all of a sudden? I don’t remember having beef with you but everything is different now, so what’s wrong? And I am not stupid. You all are hiding something and have been avoiding me.”

“Pardon me?”

“You heard me.”

“Well, you see what you want to see. On my side, I have nothing against you! No beef, no bad blood, no nothing, love.”

“Really?”

“Do you have to ask? I swear to God! Mwaaaa”

“Oh I am so relieved, I was worried! Aviwe, Aviwe wake up!” Nandipha shouts.

“Oh Lord have mercy! Let me go wash my face,” I say, yawning.

“Before you go to the bathroom, tell me: are we good?”

“I’d be an ungrateful child if I wouldn’t be good with my mom after the Friday night treat,” then I smile and wink at her. I get off my bed and as soon as I get out of the room I roll my eyes like ‘bitch please’. After washing my face, I go back to my room.

“So Nandi what have you been up to?” I ask Nandipha as I sit on my bed.

“Nothing interesting, but I doubt if I can say the same about you two. You guys seem to be having all the fun without the crew! How can I forget Mongi confessed to be in love with you, Aviwe? I honestly didn’t see that coming. I thought maybe it was going to be the other way round. This is not even the best part of the story. Tom Vee on the other side is in love with Mr rot in jail Bee.” She pauses and rolls her eyes. “Forgive me, guys. I just find this really interesting. Ok then Mr Babalo on the other side is in love with my lesbian friend here Mongi! Wow!”

Mongi looks offended but tries to keep her cool when she says: “Where did you get that? And why are you telling us?”

Nandipha takes the chair and puts it in the middle of the room so that she can see both Mongi and I. “No doll, this is just the beginning of our reconciliation. You said we are good, right? So I want to tell you every dot I connected and I need you to tell me if I am correct or not.”

“What are you doing, Nandipha?” I ask, a little irritated.

“Nothing, yet. What I am going to do in the next hour is totally up to you. Ok, let me go on with my love triangle story. Let me connect the dots. So the three of you love each other. Ok, let me try again. There are three of you and each of you loves a wrong person within the triangle. No, I give up. This is complicated, but hey that’s why we are stuck here. Mr Bee came here to see Mongikazi, Aviwe saw him and faints. I still wonder though. I wonder how you all ended up in a triangle while Aviwe is from East London. But no, that’s the least of my worries. After our friend fainted we took her to the hospital, but on the same day she was discharged and went missing in action! My guts tell me that Vee went with Babalo.”

“Get to your point Nandipha. Where are you heading? What are you implying?” Mongi says, impatiently.”

“Calm down now, this is truth reconciliation. Listen without interrupting! Thing is, you don’t have timing but thanks for leaving me the dots to connect. If you were not as reckless, impulsive and careless as you are, it would have been really hard to do my job!”

Mongi wants to respond but Nandipha cuts her short. “Not now doll! I said listen and you going to do just that. If you can’t close your mouth, don’t worry, I will close it for you! Where were we? Oh, I was saying Aviwe went missing in action with Babalo. Mind you, Balo met only the two of you here. After a few days he was arrested before doing his job. The problem in hand now is his missing silver briefcase. And one of you has it, who is it? Oh, before you respond just remember that this is nothing but the truth. Then we can all sleep and go to school tomorrow like all the other students.”

“What’s with you and this brief case?” Mongi asks.

“It’s no time to play dumb now doll, see? Saturday when you blew me off when asking about Babalo you made me think and then I came to a conclusion that Vee was wide awake when I was talking with my boss in the car Friday night. I mean, that’s the only thing that explains your rudeness towards me. I mean who becomes so mean to a person who just spent money on you? You are not as clever as you thought! And I saw your (pointing at me) call logs. You are the one who was on the phone with Babalo when he got arrested! Which explains why you visited him in prison on Saturday. Hey, stop me when I start talking trash Mongi and I didn’t see this coming; at least not this soon. We both look so stupid, I don’t know what to say. We look at each other.

“Fun time is over ladies, I have said everything I know and now it’s time you tell me what is true and what is not.”

Mongi looks at me. I can see the fear in her eyes! “Start talking ......nothing but the truth.” Nandi continues.

“I have the briefcase.” I say, softly, not sure if it’s the right thing to say.

“Good, hand it over.” “It’s not with me.” “Go and get it. It’s not yours! Now move it! Time is ticking.” “I can only have it on Wednesday.” “Where is it?” “Why would I tell you?” “Because I am asking you nicely.” I tell her it’s in a safe place, even if I tell her, they can’t allow her to take it.

“I won’t ask where you keep the briefcase. You’ll go get it and I will patiently wait with Mongi and pray you don’t do something stupid. You wouldn’t want someone who loves you with every fibre of her body to get hurt right? Oh and Bee loves Mongi, so he would never forgive you if you’d let something bad happen to her. You don’t want to be hated by Babalo, do you? I advise you to be smart.”

“That’s every dirty secret in my closet, any questions?”“Have you ever killed someone?” Mongi asks“No, I have never took someone’s life but I have tortured them ’till they were close to death. Nobody had ever given me a hard time.” “Let’s be clear: just because I have never killed anyone it doesn’t mean I can’t. I can and I will if I have to.” Nandipha adds.“Can we sleep now? Like I need my beauty sleep for the last time before this girl next to me puts a bullet in my head.”I turn around and face the wall, she comes really close; I can feel her honey spot against my bum, we sleep on a spoon position. I need to think but her breathing on my neck is irritating and distracting. I need to think about my next move, I have to get lost in my mind but she keeps pressing her cookie on my butt. Then she puts her hand on my stomach making her way to my boobs. I take her hand off my breasts and shove it to her thighs but she does it again. She puts her hand on my hip this time, brushing it slowly. What is she thinking? What’s wrong with her? I turn around and face her.“What are you doing? Just because you have a gun now you want to rape me too? You are disgusting.”“I thought the feeling is mutual.”“I’m afraid it’s not, now leave me alone.”“Babalo won’t know this; I know you want this too.”“I’d rather die than fucking a monster. I am not gay and even if I was you are definitely not my type.”“Oh, please I am everybody’s type.”“Nandipha, I want to sleep. You are irritating the crap out of me. Look, I know you thought stealing was the way to get a better life, but I tell you now it’s not and it’s not too late to change.”“Do you think it’s that easy? I mean, if it was that easy I would have cut the ties with Ta Yunga a long time ago. Look, Aviwe I see what you are trying to do. You trying to be smart and talk me out but that’s not going to happen. I have two brothers and a mother. My brothers are still in school and my mother is in rehab. Ta Yung have me hooked around his thumb and if I double cross him, he will make me pay the price. It’s you or my family and I can’t take that chance. Besides, I love what I am doing, Ta Yung is always been good to me: he rescued me, took me and my family in and that came with a price. Never have I ever thought it was free. And even if I were to decide to let you free I’m not so sure if I can trust you. Now are you going to fuck me or not?”She gets on top of me, sits on my cookie then she leans over like she is going to kiss me. I give her the taste of her own medicine - the evil smile, she smiles back. I am not sure what she is trying to do, I am not sure if she really wants to sleep with me or if she just wants to piss Mongikazi off or maybe this is just what she does to her victims. I don’t know if Mongi is asleep or not but she doesn’t say a word. I let Nandi come really close and when she is about to kiss me I grab her wrist and roll her over. I pin her underneath me. I pin her hands on top of her head.

“That’s more like it. I knew you wanted me too,” she whispers. I look her in the eyes, she stares back, and I slowly move my waist up and down rubbing my cookie against hers. She smiles, her eyes close and when she starts to moan, I stop moving. She opens her eyes and gives a questioning look. I smile in return and come closer, saying:“Look, sweetheart I may be only 18 and have a swag to die for but I am definitely not immature. I am tired of you talking to us like you are the boss. I am not a drug dealer, I have never held a gun but I have done much worse: I have stabbed a guy countless times and trust me, I enjoyed every moment. I will not hesitate to do the same to you. I will give you the damn briefcase then I want to. You to stay the hell out of our lives; it is not a request but a command Nandipha.”“Wow, I’m impressed. Now get off me.” I get off her and sit beside her. “I have never thought you are immature but I am not sure if I can say the same about your friend. Look, Aviwe don’t be dumb. If you do anything to me Ta Yung will know. Trust me it will be ugly. He will kill everyone you know, everyone close to you. Be smart: give me the briefcase. Maybe we can figure out a way to fake your death and that’s a big maybe.”“Fake my death?” I ask with a confused face.“Yes, but if we do that you’ll have to leave the country, change your identity and never come back.”“And Mongi?“Same for her.”“And then what would be the price?”“No price no nothing”“Why would I believe that you would risk your life for us? You just said you can’t stab Yung’s back, what changed now?”“I am not as bad as I sound, I don’t know. Maybe I still have a little humanity after all.”“Don’t you want to stop the life you are living? Don’t you want to be free and be like any other university student, enjoy life with no gun to your head? I mean don’t you want to leave without thinking about the next mission?”“I told you it’s not that easy; I am not doing this with you anymore. Come to sleep now I promise I will keep my hands to myself.”“Maybe there is a way. Come on think about it Nandi.”“What are you talking about?”“You said it yourself that you are brilliant, you are a fixer. Now fix your life. Use your brain to fix your life not Ta Yung’s dirty schemes. He is using you so use that to your advantage.”She gets up to sit on the bed next to me. I can see that I am starting to get under her skin. She is not horny anymore, she gives me her undivided attention.“Well this is getting more interesting. You keep on impressing me. Talk, I’m all ears. What exactly are you saying Aviwe?”“You said his guys don’t know about you; you are his secret weapon. He is the only person that has you prisoned. He is the only one that knows you and your family. If you take him out then you can have a normal life.” “How do you suggest I do that? I can’t shoot him. He is always with his guards and they think I’m his daughter. They might not know me but they know my face, they know where I live. I can’t put my life in danger for some pretty tomboy I met a few weeks back. You don’t know what these people are capable of. I gave you a deal: give me the briefcase and disappear.”“You don’t want to get out of this life, do you?”“Maybe I don’t. I have so much to lose if anything goes wrong. Goodnight Viwe. Go get the briefcase and take the deal.”She gets under the blankets and sleeps. I look at her while she is asleep. She looks peaceful you’d swear she is an angel. I can’t understand how a girl as beautiful as she is can get involved with such people and not want to get out.

I don’t have time for games; I have to play my cards right and fast. Nandipha doesn’t want to be saved and you cannot help a person when she doesn’t want to be helped. Killing Ta Yung would have saved all of us but she made her choice and now I am making mine. We all will have to live with our choices. I know killing Nandipha would be an easy way out for me and Mongi, but I wouldn’t live with that. I wouldn’t leave with the guilt of killing my friend, the few weeks we knew each other might not mean anything to her but they mean something to me. I want to play this right, I have to.I wake up before they do, I go take a shower. When I return Mongi asks: “Up already?”“What choice do I have?” I lotion and put clothes on.“Where is Miss Devil?”“She is here,” Nandipha mumbles under my blankets.“Oh, where are you going?” Mongikazi asks.“The less you know, the better.”“We are in this together...”

I cut her short. “Shhhhh I need you to trust me, I will come back tomorrow with the briefcase, Ok?” She looks at me with eyes, filled with so many questions.“Nandi will not hurt you, I will be back with the briefcase and then we will all take it from there, right Nandi?” “Yes ma’am.”Looking at Mongi I say: “Stay calm yhea? We’re all going to be fine.”“Be careful Aviwe, Babalo will kill me if something happens to you.”“And he would kill me if something happens to you too so stay calm ’till I come back.” I wink at her then I take my wallet and put in the back pocket of my chino. I take my phone and go to the door. Before I go out, Mongi shouts I must stop. I stop and look back at her. She gets up and comes to me. She cups my face and whispers: “I need you to come back in one piece, I don’t want to take a breath without you.” “How sentimental. I thought you didn’t love Mongi. Anyway, it’s none of my business. Go get my briefcase and don’t do anything stupid.” I look at Nandi and frown. I let go of Mongi then I open the door so I can leave. Mongi breaks down and keeps saying she loves me. “Go, I will deal with her,” says Nandipha. She then looks at Mongi, “Hey, be quiet you don’t want the entire res to come here and ask questions. Just stay calm ok? I’m not going to hurt you I promise. As long as your girlfriend doesn’t try to be smart.”

Chapter nineteen

I look at them and close the door behind me. I take a taxi to town and when I am in the taxi, I get a text from Nandi: ‘What are you doing in Enjoli? I told you not to be stupid.’ How does the she know I am here?Does she have someone following me? But I would have noticed. Oh wait, she is tracking me. Where the hell is the tracker? Is it in my phone? Wallet or clothes? This woman thinks she is clever; it’s time to prove her otherwise.

“Calm down Nandi I am going to get the briefcase in East London. I am not going to ask how you know my whereabouts.′ I reply and after a few minutes she replies with: “I have eyes everywhere, my love, you didn’t think I was going to let you go unmonitored, did you?”“I didn’t think you trusted me this little. Take care of my roommate, I will be back with your stuff tomorrow, ok?”“Perfect, Mongi is panicking so set her free. Be back tomorrow.”“Stop worrying. I will give the briefcase and you will keep the end of the deal.”“So you are taking the deal? You want me to fake your death? Brilliant.”“What choice do I have?”“You are smart.”

Mongi must be worried sick about me; I have to make things right. It’s my time to play, she has been one step ahead and now it is time to switch the game and be ten steps ahead. I cannot simply hand over the briefcase and wait for a bullet in my head. Her deal doesn’t sound legit. And even if I choose to believe that her deal is legit, I can’t leave my baby and my family. I am choosing myself, Mongi, my daughter and Mr+Mrs Mali over this Nandipha, I am pretty sure she would do the same if she was in my shoes.First I have to get rid of the tracker. I have to get new clothes just in case the tracker is in my clothes. After buying the clothes I go to a Nigerian container where they fix, buy and sell phones. I used to be friends with them when I was still in high school. The name of the owner is God’sWill.“My friend!”“My friend, are you still alive? Where have you been?”“School in Port Elizabeth, how is your baby mama?”“She is moody, you know her. We just fought and now she is not talking to me.” “I need you to check a tracker in my phone.”“Who is tracking you”“My parents, they are over-protective!”“You want me to take it off?”“No, I just want to see if it’s there. I’m not sure where the tracker is, but they keep calling, telling me where I am and asking what I am doing there!”“I see.” He takes my phone and opens it. It turns out that a tracker is in my phone but I cannot take the risk. What if she put in more than one tracker? And when did she put in this tracker? “What do you want me to do?” my friend asks after finding the small device.“Can I have another phone and leave this one here so that they will think I am here?”“What are you going to do when they call?”“I am going to take out the sim card and put it in my new phone.”“They will know when you remove the sim card.”

“Buy a new sim card, use a new number and divert your calls from your old phone to your new phone! Done!”“See this is why I love you. You are Michael Scofield of some sort!” I say in excitement. “I hope you don’t want to go clubbing.”“Worry not, my friend! Do your thing I am going to the bathroom.”I run to the toilets to change everything I am wearing and put on the clothes I just bought. When I am done I go back to my friend.“What’s with the new clothes?” he asks confused.“I just want to smell brand new,” then I wink at him. “Done!”“Really?”I take his phone and call my old number. The call goes straight to my new phone. I take my new phone and tell him I will give it back tomorrow, then I tell him he can keep my phone whilst I still have his.“So you want your parents to think you are here?” he looks at me with disapproving eyes.“Kind of. Can I leave this bag with you? Just in case they have put a tracker in my clothes too.”“Whatever you want to do today is huge.”“You are a darling.”I take my new phone, and delete WhatsApp on my old phone. I promise to buy his baby mama something nice and leave everything that can possibly have a tracker with God’swill. I then take a taxi to Ntsane. I get home after 5.I ring the bell. “Knock, knock, anybody home?” I shout.“Is that who I think it is? Mrs Mali shouts coming to open the door. She opens the door and she screams, gives me a warm hug and plants kisses all over my face. “Oh my God what are you doing here? Oh, look at you, you’re so small. Don’t tell me you are eating noodles every day?”“Hello Mam.” I say, shyly.“What’s wrong? You don’t look so happy, or did you miss us that much?”“Yes, I guess, where is the old man and Vuyo?”“He has evening class and Vuyo is asleep. Come on in. What’s eating you, my child? And don’t say it’s nothing because it’s written all over your face.”I enter and go to the lounge, she follows. Somehow I feel like I am a burden to Mrs Mail, I feel they have given me a hand and now I want an arm. Without noticing, my eyes get watery.“Have a seat love, tell me everything. You came to the right place. I have these ears to listen. What is it kid?” she comes and sits next to me and holds my hand. I manage to say: “I am in big trouble mam. I thought I was going to sort it out myself but the more I try to solve it the deeper I sink. I don’t know what to do anymore. You are the only person I trust that can help me but I feel I am taking advantage of your kindness.”She puts my head in her shoulder. “Nonsense, there is no such thing, you gave me something I always wanted - family. My family is complete today because of you. You are my child. Calm down and tell me everything. I promise I will do everything to help.”

She goes out to get me a glass of water and sits next to me. I take the water and drink. “You know Babalo? The one who was my godbrother?”“You mean the one Azola accused of sleeping with you and got kicked out?”“Yes, him. I met him in P.E a few weeks ago. ” I tell MiLady everything from the day I met Babalo ‘till today. When I am done I hear her saying:“Ok just to make sure that I understand: you are telling me that Babalo is a drug dealer; you found his briefcase in his hotel room. On his way to get the briefcase he got arrested. You knew the briefcase has illegal stuff but you wanted to be a friend. You didn’t give the briefcase to the police; you hid it. Now his gang is looking for it, the person they put on the job is your friend and somehow your friend got under your skin so you confessed that you do have the briefcase. You heard her boss telling her to take out any witnesses who are you and your roommate. Now the killer has your roommate and she put tracker on your phone. This girl is good. You told her you are going to get the briefcase but instead you came here, so you are double crossing her. Smart move,” she gives me a goofy smile.“Yes, and she offered me a deal, she said she can fake my death, I will have to disappear.”“What did you say?”“I pretended to like the deal but obviously I don’t want it. Tthat’s why I am here. She can’t be trusted. Besides, I can’t just fake my death and leave my family just because she said so.”“Yes, this is huge; she cannot be trusted! She is smart and we just have to be smarter,” she agrees. My phone rings, its Nandipha. “What now?” I say as I pick up.“You have been in that container in E.L for over five hours now; should I be worried? And what happened to your WhatsApp profile?”“Don’t worry. Everything is under control. My WhatsApp needs to be upgraded.”“Don’t forget I have Mongikazi here, you don’t want anything to happen to her, hey?”“I know. Chill. I won’t screw this up okay?”“Good.” “Was that her?” MiLady asks.“Yes, she thinks I am in town.”“So we have less than enough hours to think and to think fast. What did you say is in the briefcase again?”“Money, drugs, and a gun and I heard them saying there is an important list.”“Important list?”“A list that has their names, missions and names of their targets.”“This really is huge. So you obviously came here with a plan, what do you have in mind?”“I don’t know. How about we just arrest Nandipha?”“Your friend?”“Yes.”“But that will not take the gun away from your head. Her boss will still be out there and when he sees Nandi is not pulling it off, he will send someone else. We are not even sure if this Nandi thug hasn’t told him about you.”“If she had told him, we wouldn’t be alive.”“They wouldn’t kill you because you have something they want. But, trust me, they are going to pull the trigger after you give them the briefcase.”“You’re right,” I say resting my head on my hands.“I have something in my mind but I have to make a call first.”“We can’t involve people in this; we don’t even know who to trust.”With a smile in her face, she says: “My love, we cannot do this alone, we need help and there are people I trust. People I have been working with for decades. Trust me.”I shrug my shoulders. Mrs Mali tells the person on the phone to come to our house ASAP. She says it’s important and that it cannot be discussed over the phone. It cannot wait. After the call she tells me she was talking to the police detective and that he will be here in 30 minutes time.While waiting for the detective I go to the kitchen and make myself something to eat. After I am done eating I go back to the lounge. I ask if I can wake Vuyo up and when the old man is coming back.“Please don’t wake her up otherwise we will stay up all night. Umtata will be back after 9. He is worried -he says there is no potential A-learner this year. He is worried that you were the last one to put his school on the map.”“Come on it’s still early’”“I have been telling him.”“I think I heard someone knocking.”“Oh, that must be detective Malinga,” she says going to the front door.“No, you can’t be too sure; I don’t trust Nandipha and her gang.”She takes out her phone and makes a call. A phone rings outside the door.

“See? It’s him, I called him and his phone rings outside.” Then a man’s voice shouts: ’I’m here!’Mrs Mali opens the door. I hear them exchanging greetings and making their way to the lounge. Mrs Mali enters first and then a tall black man follows. He is in a black suit, his eyes are big and bright and kinda scary. His eyes demands respect, he is the kind of man that scares the shit out of kids. He must be worse when he is in his police uniform. “Hello,” he greets me and then looks at MiLady. “I thought you had a daughter not such a fine young man.” “Where do you see a fine young man?”“Are you female?”“Yes sir, it’s a pity I cannot show you the evidence.”He bursts into laughter. “I am sorry, I honestly thought you are a guy, how are you? I’m detective Malinga” “No problem, you’re not the only one. I’m fine, thank you, Sir.”“Don’t be silly; this is my daughter I told you about.”“Aviwe dearest,” he says in a mockery tone. Mrs Mali smiles a little and rolls her eyes.“Can we get to business now?” she says.

Mr Malinga looks at me. “Don’t worry. She is the reason we are here.” MiLady explains the situation...

“I see.” He nods. “I thought these things happen only in movies, how old are you my child?”

“I will be 18 in March.”“And you already involved with drugs?” he shakes his head.“I’m not involved with drugs, were you listening to Milady?”“Hey, no hard feelings. I am just thinking how we are going to play this out.” He says raising his hands.“This is what I have in mind: we put a tracker on Aviwe that can be tracked only by us. From what I heard Nandipha is smart, but we are old dogs, we have been in this industry before she was even born. After putting the track on Vee, she goes back to the Nigerian shop to take her things and go back to P.E to get the briefcase. She gives the briefcase to Nandipha. Obviously she won’t leave them alone. If she does, Aviwe you will have to be smart. You’ll have to provoke her, push her to the edge. Press where it hurts ’till she calls her boss. This girl wants to prove herself to her boss, so killing you would be an achievement and she will want her boss to see that. My plan is that you take the briefcase to Nandi and then she leads us to her boss. We will stay close,” says MiLady.“That’s too dangerous. What if Nandi doesn’t fall for the trap of taking Aviwe to her boss? What if she kills them right on the spot after taking the briefcase? And leave them there and disappear?” Mr Malinga disapproves.“Nandipha wants the briefcase. How about we also put a tracker in the briefcase in case she doesn’t fall for the trap. I’ll pretend to be going with the ‘fake death’ plan of hers and after that she will take the briefcase to her boss. The thing is we don’t know what Nandipha will do after giving her the briefcase. We don’t know if she is going to honour the deal or kill us or take us to her boss,” I suggest. “Hey, don’t worry we will be there, we will be close. She won’t kill you! Time is ticking, we have to move but I first have to go fetch Vuyo’s nanny.” Milady goes to get Vuyo’s nanny. While she is gone her husband comes back. He finds Mr Malinga and me in the lounge. He is unbelievable happy to see me. He asks what brings me here and Mr Malinga tells him what he has been told by Milady. When Milady comes back, she finds her husband ready to hit the road.“My women cannot go to war alone. If my daughter is in trouble I want to be part of the solution,” says Mr Mali looking at his wife.

“Sweet, but we are not going alone. We are going with the detective and we will have a backup. Besides you don’t even own a gun and I wouldn’t want anything bad happen to you,” MiLady says and then she smiles. “You are not going anywhere honey, look after Vuyo and her nanny okay?” she adds.“Women go to war and men stay home looking after babies!” he complains but complies.“Thank you, honey.”“Be careful.” “Always”. Mr Mali goes upstairs. Milady goes to her study and returns with a beautiful small golden gun. Then we go to the detective’s car. He gives me a beautiful silver pen saying that it has a tracker and they can hear everything. He calls for back up.

I call Godswill to I tell him I need my stuff, but he says I can only get them in the morning because he is not around. I tell him it’s a matter life or death. He tells me to make a plan and make sure everything is locked afterwards. I tell the elders. When we get to Godswill container, Malinga takes out his small toolbox, some small silver tools and within 5 minutes the padlock is open. I go inside, take my stuff; we lock the container and leave. On our way to Port Elizabeth I get a call from Nandipha.“And now? Where are you going?” “I’m coming to you doll.”“Do you have the brief case? Take a picture of it.” “The briefcase is under the seat and its safe. Even if I take its picture, how do you suggest I send it? I told you my WhatsApp is not working.”“I hope you are telling the truth.” I cannot wait for this to be over.“Don’t worry, today is the end of everything. Then you’ll go to class like every other first year student.” MiLady reassures. After some time I break the silence and ask MiLady what she thinks will happen to Babalo. She says it will depend on what he already has told the police.“There is no evidence that he owns the drugs. He might have hired the car with drugs in already. Unless if he confessed. This will depend on how strong his lawyer is,” she adds. I nod. I think of asking her to get Babalo the best lawyer she knows but I protest against the thought. Balo is a drug dealer; he should deal with the consequences. I should not rescue him. I know maybe if I was in his shoes he was going to rescue me but I am not him. He must learn. I make a promise in my heart to always be there for him when he is serving his time.Mr Malinga drives like an 18 year old boy who just got his driver’s licence; it takes us only 4 hours to get in Port Elizabeth. I am nervous. My life and Mongi’s life are in danger. I am playing with fire; I double crossed the smartest girl I know. What will happen to Mongi if Nandipha finds out I have played her? But this is no time to be a coward and back down! I have to be strong not only for me but for Mongikazi as well, I cannot fail her! I can’t afford to fail her. Balo would never forgive me for putting Mongikazi in danger and play hero.When are close to Blue waterbay Nandipha calls again and instructs me not to go to res, and that they are waiting for me in Central. So far I don’t have the briefcase. Central is halfway between where I am {Blue water bay} and where the briefcase is buried {South Camp Rag farm}. I have to get to rag farm without her noticing that I have passed Central.“What now? I have to get the briefcase. If I pass Central, she will see the tracker and will definitely know that something is up.” I ask with a shaky voice. “My partner is right behind us, this is what is going to happen: You’ll leave the stuff that has her tracker. Then you’ll go with my partner to get the briefcase and we will meet in town.” Malinga says.“Which means I’ll pass through town without them noticing?”

They both say yes. He pulls over and I get into the partner’s car. To my surprise it’s a woman, she says she is detective Bandzi. We drive off to the rag farm and go straight to the place we buried the briefcase.

She has the flash light but it’s not that dark because of the moon and stars. Miss Bandzi helps me dig up the briefcase and it takes us 15 minutes. I wonder what took us so long to bury it. After taking the briefcase we head back to the car. She drives off to town. I am tempted to open the case and steal the cash, but I chase the thought away. I tell Mrs Mali to wait for us at the Summerstrand taxi rank We arrive at the same time as Milady and Malinga.

Chapter twenty

We don’t have much time to waste and they give me my stuff and the spying pen. I open the briefcase and put the tracker between the money. Then they leave, I take a cab to Central where Nandi is. She calls me asking why I stopped at the taxi rank and I tell her that’s where the taxi dropped me and she should have came with me if she wanted to know every single damn move I make. When the cab drops me off, I see Nandipha standing across the street. I put the pan on my pocket and I make sure it’s hidden. I cross the road and go to Nandi. “You’ve made it.”“Now it’s time to keep your part of the deal.”“I’m impressed I thought you’d do something stupid. Is this the one and only silver briefcase?”“I guess so, where is Mongi?””She is inside, come on in. I’m sure she will be happy to see you, she was worried sick about you.”Inside, she leads me to the basement where I find Mongikazi tied up in a chair. I see the same two guys I saw in Cubana the night I found out that Nandipha is a fixer. I run to Mongi still holding the briefcase. “Hey are you ok?” I ask looking at her.“So far, do you have the briefcase? I thought you had a plan Aviwe, I thought you had a plan,” she raises her voice and tears roll down her face. I can smell fear on her skin. I cup her face with my left hand. “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault.”“It’s ok, it’s not your fault. I just thought you had a way out.”“Shhhhhh.” I look at Nandipha. “What is this?” /she smiles and walks towards me. “What? How did you think this was going to end?” She takes the briefcase. I stand there feeling like I am being struck by lightning. “Let’s see what’s in here. What is the code?” she asks. Nobody answers. “I’m talking to you Aviwe.”“Remind me how am I supposed to know?”“So you don’t know what is inside? You have never opened it?”“You said it all.”“Like I believe you.”“I did not ask to be believed. I was told not to open it and I followed the order, is that a crime?”“Not at all, doll.” She opens the briefcase, her eyes glow and her smile grows bigger and bigger. She turns around and looks at the two guys behind her.“Sir, it looks like everything is in place. Here is the list, gun, drugs and money. So now what do we do with these?”Yung smiles, his gold teeth show. “You know what to do, I came down here to watch your first killing mission. Oh, I am so impressed. I knew with you on the job it was not going to take long to find this briefcase. You know if that had landed in the wrong hands we would have gone down the drain. Well done, my daughter, you keep on making me proud.” Nandi smiles and bows to the guy. “I learned from the best,” she says.“And you are the best student,” Yung says and smiles again, takes a gun from inside of his blazer and hands it to Nandi. “Now finish it my love, we can go celebrate. Ok?” he adds.

Nandipha hesitates to take the gun. “They are just kids, we don’t have to take them out. I know they will not talk,” she protests. “Exactly, they are kids, kids cannot shut up. Besides they don’t have value in our country; they don’t even pay income tax.” Nandi bites her lower lip, her eyes shows that she has doubts and is scared, she slowly reaches for the gun. I look at Mongi. Her eyes are closed, tears are rolling down her cheeks and her body is shaking. I am calm. I know Milady and her team are right outside and the fact that Nandi is changing her mind means I somehow got under her skin. Deep down she has a heart and it’s still beating and it can bleed. She is not that damaged after all.“Did you change your mind? Let me shoot one of them so I can show you how it’s done,” says Ta Yung taking the gun.“No, no I will do it myself, I have not changed my mind,” Nandipha refuses.“I thought as much, you have two brothers to look out for.”“I know, trust me I know.”“That’s my girl.” Nandipha points the gun at me; I shake my head a little. Suddenly, a door is kicked down and a firm female voice shouts at her to drop the gun. In a blink of an eye Ta Yung takes out a gun and shoots Mongikazi. Nandipha turns around and shoots Ta Yung in the chest three times. He dies on the spot. Ms Bandzi and the other cops take the guns. Another cop cuffs Ta yung’s guy. Mongikazi is shot on the shoulder and they call in an ambulance and she is taken to Greenacres hospital.

Nandipha is taken into custody. Port Elizabeth police are called; they crowed the place in less than 20 minutes and before they take Nandi, I go to her and thank her for not shooting me. “I am so many things, a thief, a manipulator, a bully, and liar but I am not a killer. Nobody deserves to die. I did the right thing. I think you would have done the same thing if you were in my position so no need to thank me. I did what a friend would do.”“So you do have a heart after all,” we both giggle.“And I have you to thank, you showed me I don’t have to live this life. I just wish I had listened last night; things would not have gotten so ugly. The time you were standing there so calm waiting for a bullet in your head, everything you told me started to play in my head. Thank you for double crossing me. I still wonder how you did it. Visit me in prison and tell me about it, ok?”“I will visit you my friend.”“Now go to Mongi, but she is going to be fine, trust me.” I go to Milady and then she tells Malinga that I have to go to hospital. They drive me to hospital. I dodge the police. I know I have to give a statement but I don’t want to put Babalo in more trouble. I have to calculate everything; I have to talk with Milady about the statement. If I tell the truth to the police then Balo will face a long sentence.Mr Malinga drives me to hospital along with MiLady. We park in Greenacres hospital’s parking lot. I say my goodbyes and then I ask to talk to Milady for a few minutes. She gets out of the car and walks me to the hospital.“Are you ok? You don’t look pleased, I thought you were going to lighten up a bit after taking down Nandipha and her crew. Your roommate is going to be fine my love.” She holds my hand.“It’s not that, I am worried about Babalo.” Looking a bit confused, trying to read my mind, she says: “Ok?” I don’t reply; I look down instead. “I can see you have a soft spot for the boy, tell me what is on your mind.”“I have to give a statement right? If I tell the cops that I found the briefcase in Babel’s hotel room then they will have a portable case against him. I cannot do that. I cannot throw him under the bus. I know it’s against the law but I understand why he did what he did. Trust me, Balo is a good person, if he had a choice or another way to survive he would not have taken the drug dealing path.”She smiles a little. “What are you saying Aviwe?”My lips forms a smile but my eyes remain dead serious. “I need you to make a plan, I need him to walk free.” She puts her right arm around my shoulders. “No, sweetheart it does not work like that. He has to learn that in every choice you make there are consequences and he has to face them. If you come in and clean up his mess for him then he will never learn his lesson. Jail is going to be his lesson but I will make sure he gets lenient sentence.” I smile and put my arm around my old lady’s waist. “You the best. About the statement: I honestly don’t want any cops around Mongi and me.”“Don’t worry Malinga and I will handle it.”“As long as it won’t blow up in your faces.”“We are old dogs, don’t you worry about us. Go check on your friend, I wish her a speedy recovery and hey I want you to promise me you’ll stay out of trouble.”“I promise.” she smiles and then she cups my face. I’m sure as hell about to get a lecture. “You know, you can’t seize to amaze me. You are a good person Aviwe, Vuyo is blessed to have a mother like you. This Nandipha person had a gun to your head, she made you sweat and not sleep but you still call her a friend. You see the good in people and that my child will take you far.” “Thank you. You made me who I am.”“You were born like this. It’s in here,” then she touches my left breast where the heart is. “I love you ... take care.” She adds.“Right back at you.”“Who do you think you are talking to,” she says pinching my cheek and gives me a hug. Then she walks back to Malinga’s car and I go to the hospital. I go to the reception, I am told where to find Mongi and then a nurse takes me to her. I am so surprised by how warm and welcoming the nurses are here, they all wear big fat smiles, the atmosphere in this hospital is different, and patients are being taken care of. I find Mongi sitting on the bed getting ready to leave; the nurse gives her pain killers. The nurse says she is fine and they took out the two bullets in her shoulder and there is no further damage.“You are being discharged already?” I ask.“Yup, I’m fine.”“Oh thank the Lord.” I hug her.“Yhea I just hope this nightmare is over.”“So I pray, but I think it’s over. Ok why aren’t we leaving now?”“I’m still waiting for Chumani to bring my medical aid card. This isn’t free.”“It explains why every worker is so nice in here.”“They can’t let me leave without paying.” “We can always sneak out, kill a nurse and take her uniform....that kind of escape.”“You are crazy! I don’t want to do anything against the law anymore. I almost died!”I wink at her and smile; she looks back at me and our eyes lock. Then I hear someone clearing a throat, I look at the door and find Chumani standing there looking at us. Then she comes in.“Hello strangers, I am sorry for intruding. I came to give you this as you asked; it was damn hard to get a master key from the Res manager. You can thank me later,” Chumani gives Mongi her wallet. Then Mongi goes to her nurse. Chumani and I go outside and wait for Mongi.“So, Vee where have you been?” asks Chumani trying to make a conversation. “I went home, I only came back this morning.” “Thanks for waiting. I am honestly not in the mood for taxi drivers nor waiting for a bus. Can’t we just take a cab?” says Mongi as she stands next to Chumani.“Says the rich girl. If you have cash, then why not?” I say in a mocking way, Mongi looks at me and frowns then we walk to 777 cab that was parked at the hospital among other cabs. On our way back it is so quiet in the car, we get to res without saying a word to each other. When we walk up the stairs, going to our room, Chumani breaks the silence and says:“Are you going to talk about it?”“About what?” Mongi replies as she opens our room, she enters and I follow. Chuma enters after me and closes the door. Mongi puts her bag on the table and throws herself on the bed. I go sit on my bed. Chuma takes a chair and sits in the centre so she can see Mongi and I. “I am listening.” Chumani says.“To?” Mongi asks.“Both of you telling me what happened, tell me what is going on, guys; come on now.”“I got shot. That’s what happened and the rest is in the past. I need to sleep.”“I thought we were friends. When you called, Mongikazi, I was in class; I left everything behind and ran to get your stuff and made my way to the hospital. The least you can do is to tell me what put you there in the first place. ‘I got shot.’ Really? Is that all you have to say?”“Calm down, little miss, things are pretty bad and you don’t want to be a part of this, the less you know the better. But we are fine, we are here. We are friends Chuma which is why we kept this from you. It was for your own safety, and please stop shouting. Mongi is in pain; she got shot!” I say a bit irritated.

Chumani looks shocked and shakes her head in disbelief. “Oh wow. So unbelievable,” she stares at me for a long time then she stares at Mongi. After a few minutes of silence she gets up and leaves without saying a word. Mongi, who was pretending to be sleepy, gets up and locks the door. Then she comes to my bed and sits next to me. She holds my hand and smiles. “Thank you,” she says.

“For?”“You saved my life back there.”“What? No, I did not! I got you shot, and I put you in that situation. It was my fault; I had to make it right.”“No, you did not and none of that was your fault. You were the starring out there!”“I am just glad that Nandi changed her mind, it means somewhere she still has a little bit of humanity left.”“But she would have made the situation better, made a deal with us and get her boss arrested. That was the right thing to do. I wonder what changed her mind last minute.”“So do I,” she gives me a side eye. “What?” I ask. “Nothing, maybe the night she spent with you had a little effect on the rise of her humanity. Don’t you think?”“What are you on about?”“I see you. Look at her: she is blushing,” she says brushing my cheek.“Stop it!”Later we go to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Mongi takes her pills and dozes off. I call Mrs Mali and thank her one more time for her help. She tells me not to mention it.

Chapter twenty one

My life goes back to what it should be: classes every day. I join the Black Lawyers Association Society. One of the skills I want to gain is public speaking.

My friendship with Mongikazi grows even stronger. She grows in me every day, when I am away from her I feel like part of me is missing. Friday evening I go back to res feeling really tired. I had classes from 07:50 ’till 17:50 with no break in between. When I get there the room is empty. I miss Mongi. I call her; she laughs when she hears that I miss her and promises to be back in 30 minutes.

Is she serious? I will be dead by then. Then I remember I have not talked to MiLady today. I give her a call and ask about Nandipha and Babalo cases. She says that Nandipha said the briefcase was hers she was hired by Ta Yung. We were at the scene because she thought we saw the briefcase when she found us going through her closet, but she didn’t shoot us because she saw that we didn’t know anything about the briefcase. We are just innocent students who were trying to make friends with her without knowing who she really is. Nandi concluded by saying she doesn’t know Babalo, she has never seen him.MiLady says that Nandi saved us. The most interesting thing is that Balo will be out because nothing connects him to the drugs; they might have been planted it in the seat where he hired the car. The government has no evidence that Balo owns the drugs they found in the car. The car was not his. She says Balo’s lawyer is good. As for Nandipha she is not going to get more than 15 years because South African justice has a soft spot for children.

Nandipha was manipulated by her boss to join his forces. She was just a kid, she needed the money for herself and her brothers so Ta Yung used that to his advantage. Nandi didn’t know any better and she couldn’t get out because she was protecting those she loves.This is great news. I play a song and sing along with it. I have no idea when Mongi and Chuma got in, I hear them laughing aloud, standing by the door. I scream, jump up and down and hug Mongi.“Ok what’s up?” she asks also smiling from ear to ear.“Somebody won the lotto,” Chumani says smiling and rolling eyes.“You have to sit down for this.”“She sits down on the bed, Chumani sits on the chair.”Oh my God I cannot believe it!”“What is it?” they ask with curiosity about to kill them. “Babalo is getting out!” Mongi screams so loud and comes to hug me. Chumani looks like a puppy. “Calm down ladies, who is Babalo and where is he?”“Viwe are you kidding me?” “This is my cue to leave,” Chumani opens the door and leaves. We pay no attention to her but only to each other. She closes the door behind her. We go sit on my bed holding hands.“How did you know?” She asks still wearing a huge smile in her face.“Milady told me.”“Poor thing, I am so happy, I know how much you two mean to each other. He loves his princess.”“I know and I also know how much you mean to him. He loves his Queen even more and I know deep down you care for him. How is your shoulder?”“I do care for him especially now that I know he saved you. My shoulder is ok.”“We should go see him tomorrow.”“Great idea. Now tell me what exactly did MiLady say?”I tell her everything Milady told me and we spend the night eating, drinking and talking about everything under the sun. She tells me about the gay society she joined in school; the name of the society is Eloquor Knight. She wants to go with me. I tell her I don’t want girls throwing themselves at me. The society has a movie night so we plan that we will visit Balo and Nandipha then we will go to the movie night. We fall asleep on my bed watching White Collar.In the morning I wake up first and take a long warm shower. I have never been in such a good mood. Babalo being free is the best thing in the world. I wish I was the one who saved him but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is going to be out soon. Now, I honestly don’t care who dates who between the three of us, the most important thing is to have each other. I love Mongi with everything I have but not in that way. Even if I wanted to date her I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t date someone Babalo loves so dearly. How on earn can I live with that? Balo is my brother; maybe it’s time to get that in my thick skull and Mongi is my best friend. That is not going to change.When I come back from the shower I find Mongi still asleep. I wake her up, telling her I need her help. After a struggle to get her up, she goes out to take a shower.

After she closes the door behind her I login on Facebook and try to read some stories I come across a diary of a Xhosa girl. I read the first few chapters but it is boring.

I throw my phone on the bed and go looking for Mongi in the bathroom. When I get in the bathroom, she says: “Are you wearing a dress? Aviwe is wearing a dress”. She says with her loud voice. I totally forgot that I decided to wear a dress today. I hear the doors opening, Amanda comes out of her room; she also screams and calls Chumani. And the flat mates come out of their rooms to the corridor where I and Mongi we standing. Everyone is so surprised and exciting about me in a dress.

“What’s so exciting about a girl wearing a dress?” I ask pretending to be surprised. “You not just a girl; you are the girl who never wears girls’ clothes,” says this other chick who I don’t even know “Oh, my friend you are stunning. Wow who knew that a guy can also rock a dress? But where are the shoes? Oh wait I have the perfect shoes for you,” Chumani says as she grabs my arm and pulls me in her room. Chumani is a sweetheart, she never stays mad. “Can you walk in these?” she shows me red stilettos that matches perfectly with my white mini dress.”“No, I am going to visit someone in prison.” I shake my head.“You’re not a prisoner. You are going to visit someone and it’s not a crime to look good. Who are you visiting if I may ask?” “This other friend of mine and Nandipha.”“Nandipha?”“Your roommate, our friend.”“Oh my God, what did she do?”“To make the story short; Nandipha was a drug dealer and a fixer she wanted to kill me and Mongi but changed her mind on the last minute and shot her boss. Then she got arrested and confessed to her crimes.”“Back up a bit. Why would she want to kill you? How are you guys involved in all this? And how come I didn’t see any of it?”“Well, we saw what we shouldn’t have. Anyway, it’s all history now; the police have it covered. Don’t you have nice white sandals?”“Unbelievable.”“I know. Now do you have the shoes or not?”“Yes, and they will look good with the dress. Can I come to see Nandi?”“Ummmm” I hesiste to answer.“It’s ok, I don’t want to be involved anyway! Let me fix your face.”“What! I am offended.” I made a long face.“I mean you are too plain.” I frown and shake my head.“I will apply just an eye liner, mascara and some foundation that will match your skin tone.”“No thanks. I don’t do that. It’s too much.?”

When I get in my room Mongi is ready to hit the road. She is looking nice in white shorts and a yellow vest. Then we leave. Wearing a dress is so not comfortable. I feel like I am naked because I can feel the air blowing my inner thighs. Mongi laughs when I tell her this; she is not doing any justice in my situation. Walking with Mongi is so intimidating - especially now that I am not swagged up at all. She is tall, big and loud. She attracts so much attention from the guys. She tells me about a lesbian secret group called Friends of open Closet. “What lesbian secret group?” I whisper. “That’s not the point here, there is this other chick there who writes beautiful love stories. And why are you whispering?”“Everyone is looking at us.”

On our way to the reception I tickle her and she cannot help to laugh. After signing in, we are escorted to the visitor’s room. The room is full of people who came to visit their loved ones. We are given a table to wait for Balo. They say we cannot see two people at the same time so we require to see Babalo first. When Babalo sees us he asks the security guard to take him back to his cell. I run after him.“Balo, Balo. Ta Yung is dead, I know everything! I am going to get you out of here soon, you are going to be free, Balo!” Ta Yung’s name catches his attention immediately; he turns around and looks at me. Then asks the guard to let him stay. He uncuffs Balo and then we go sit with Mongi.“What did you just say?” Babalo asks; not believing a word I said.“It’s over Balo, it’s time for a fresh start. Do something better with your life.”“Wait with the lecture, Princess. Tell me what you said.”“I said Ta Yung is dead, you are going to be free soon.”He shakes his head in disbelief. “No, no no that, that can’t be.”Mongi jumps in and says: “Yes, he is dead; he was shot by his own daughter. Nice seeing you by the way. ”“Ta Yung has a daughter?” he asks with a very sad face.“No, I mean his own crew member who just happened to be our friend,” Mongikazi explains.“Tell me what happened?”“Long story short; I opened the briefcase, they were looking for it after you were arrested and the person they put on the job happened to be our friend. She saw you that Sunday we met at the boardwalk, she connected the dots and figured we have the briefcase and manipulated us. We ended up confessing; then I set them up. When I was going to give them the briefcase Nandi was supposed to shoot us, but decided to shoot Ta Yung instead. He died right on the scene and then Nandi confessed her sins and said the briefcase was hers. There is nothing connecting you with the briefcase, so they have nothing to charge you with. In a few days you will be drinking champagne celebrating to be a free man. It’s over Balo.”

He puts his hands on her head and looks down, “This is just the beginning.”“The boss is dead! What do you mean it’s only the beginning?” Mongi asks.“Babalo,” I call his name feeling a little disturbed. “This is bigger than any of you. Ta Yung is not the boss,” he says sounding defeated.“What? Nandi said Yang is in charge of everything,” I get even more confused.“She was wrong, obviously she did not know much about them.”“If he is not the boss, then who is? And what do you mean that this is only the beginning?” Mongi asks leaning forward.“Yung is not the boss; he is the twin brother of the boss. And his brother is dangerous as hell. He will not stop until he brutally slaughters each and every one who he blames for his twin’s death. I advise you all to start preparing for your own funerals.”“Are you serious? Just when I thought it was over and we will have a normal life.” I feel a tear escaping my eye, I cannot believe this. I cannot believe that we have been fooled. I believed that we have our normal lives back. This is bigger than us. “Don’t cry, we will figure a way out. I know you come with a plan Vee, you outsmart them once; you can do it again. Babalo, what can you tell us about Ta Yung’s twin brother?” Mongikazi comforts me.

“What do you want to know?”“Everything.”“He is dangerous and without his brother he is the beast. Yung was ruthless but he was nothing compared to his brother, Don.”“Does he have any weaknesses?”“He had one and your friend killed it. The only person he cares about is himself and his twin brother. His father is also involved but Don can give you a gun to shoot his father. He does not care. I don’t know if he has other family except his father. So as far as I know he has no weakness.”“What is it that they do?” I ask quietly.“I might as well tell you because they are going to kill me for losing the briefcase and getting his brother killed in the process of finding it.”“Wait, in that briefcase there was a list of all the members, which means he is also going to be arrested.” my hopes get up a little.“He is not on the list. He created it. That man is a ghost.”“I give up. I might just go home to see my parents once more before I die,” says Mongi raising her hands.“That’s not a good idea; he has a tendency of killing all the people around his victim and leave the victim alive to suffer the pain of not having anyone.”“What is his business about?”“It’s about business.” He shrugs his shoulders.“Speak English or Xhosa please.” I roll my eyes.“Ok, they take street kids and kidnap young kids and then they divide them into four groups so it will be easy to train them. The assassin/fixer group it’s usually the kids they kidnap at a very young age. They train them to be whoever they want them to be - in this case they want them to be killing machines. They also take kids who are in need to make a living, who would do anything to survive and to save the people they love.” “Like Nandipha. I see,” Mongi comments.“I wonder why I have never seen this Nandipha.”“She was Yang’s personal weapon,” I respond.“The other group is thief masters; they are trained to steal everything before their eyes and not get caught. The third group is smugglers. They are trained to move weapons and drugs without getting caught. Then the last group is prostitutes.”“Is this for real?” Mongi asks.“Does it sound like a joke to you?” “It sounds like a movie or a game.”“That’s what life is to them. It’s a movie and a game; it’s all about power, winning, drama and entertainment.”“What now?” I ask letting out a big sigh.“I have no idea, apparently you are the fixer. But Princess I don’t want you to be involved in this; these people are dangerous. Besides you are just a kid. Including you Queen. I don’t want you to get hurt. Maybe there is something I can do when I am out of here but now my hands are tied.”“You will be out before you know it,” I say.“That’s if they don’t break me out first.”“What?” I say.“You don’t know what Don and his army are capable of. Anything and everything.”“Scary shit. I think it’s time to get out of this country. I am so not willing to die with only two certificates. A birth and matric certificate.” Mongi jokes.“You’ll be out of here before you know it,” I reassure Babalo.Mongi looks at me, “We are left with only 15 minutes before visiting hours end. We should see Nandi.”“Oh yes. Take care Balo. We will see you soon, just keep breathing ok?”“Stay alive too.”Balo is taken back to his cell and we go to the reception to ask to see Nandi. Then we go back to the visitor’s room. We wait for more than ten minutes and after that we see five cops in navy uniforms getting in with the receptionist then she points at us and saying: “There they are.”

They violently take us to some small room. What the fuck? We just came here to see our friends, how is that a crime?Then three police men get in and lock the door. I look around the room: there are cameras everywhere and there is a big glass on the wall, but I cannot see the person behind it. From what I have seen in movies, people outside the room can see inside, but those inside cannot see outside. This is what they call an interrogation room.“State your name for the record,” police one says.“What? What did we do?” I ask puzzled.“Your name for the record NOW!” he shouts.“Aviwe.”“Mongikazi.”“What is your relationship with the girl you came to visit?”“She is our friend in university.” “Woman, say everything you know about this Nandipha person or I will make you talk. We do not have time for your bullshit. All we want is what brought you here and your connection with her escaping plan,” he says pacing up and down.“What? She escaped?” I ask shocked.“You heard me. You obviously came here to help her escape. You are the first people who came to see her. Now tell me you didn’t come here to rescue her?”“You are stupid!” I say without thinking. He comes furious to punch me but other police hold him before he can reach me. “You will fucken rot in jail, you little witch. I will make sure of that!” he shouts.

I calmly say, “Let him beat me so he can find himself behind bars, unemployed. I said exactly what he asked me to say and we are not saying a word without a lawyer. I don’t understand what we have done; why are you holding us up here? Because our friend escaped now you all think we have something to do with that? Check your CCTV in the visitor’s room. We have been with my brother. How can we be in two places at once? If I had a way to break someone out would I break out my friend or my brother?”“Watch your tone little girl,” the other cop warns me.

Chapter twenty two

The door opens. “Show is over boys,” says the man in a black suit, entering the room. The cops exit quietly.

“I am sorry about my colleagues’ behaviour. They are just confused how all this happened right under their noses. Can I get you something to drink? Tea, coffee or water?” he asks with his hands in his pockets.”“Water please” Mongi asks. He looks at the glass window and snaps his fingers. “Water please,” he says. In a minute a lady comes with a glass of water. “This is detective Dindo. We will be working together to find your friend. I need you to tell me everything you know about her. Oh, and before we start, please state your names and your relationships with the escaped prisoner.”“I am Aviwe, Nandi is my flatmate and my friend.”“Mongikazi Nkosana, Nandi is my friend, class mate and flatmate.”“I believe you have nothing to do with her escape and I also believe you can help us find her. I need you to tell me everything you know about her.”“Like?” I ask.“I said everything and anything.”“Nandi is a nice person; we met at the beginning of the year and started to be friends since we were neighbours. There is nothing much I know about her. I just know she has a family she loves dearly.” Mongi says softly.“Oh wait, this is the same girl of a silver briefcase who got arrested about a week ago?”

Mongi and I nod.“Damn it,” he says; looking panicking and then he points at the glass. “I want to see every security camera of the last two hours; nobody comes in or out. Let’s shut this station down. Damn it, we should have known, she is part of the most powerful drug dealing group in Khayelitsha and she killed the boss. They surely want her. That list did not help much,” he says slamming the door behind him.

I can see Mongikazi on that silence prayer tip. For the first time in a long time I feel like I am ten steps behind; I did not see this coming. I honestly thought it was over. Balo was right; it is only the beginning. Now I wish I had taken Nandi’s offer. I cannot even tell Milady because I would be putting her in danger. After a long time Mr Dindo comes back and takes us to a security room. Apparently the cameras caught a lady cop and male cop talking to the security guard. Then went into Nandipha’s cell and took Nandipha to the cop’s van outside. It all happened 56 minutes ago, which means they are still around Port Elizabeth. They can’t be that far.

The cameras did not catch their faces because they were wearing police caps. The security guard they talked to says that they said they were sent to transfer Nandi to another prison because she is pregnant. They had all the necessary signed documents, doctor’s papers and detective in chief’s written and signed permission to transfer the prisoner. They drove off with Nandipha. When they drove out of the gate they smiled at the securities at the gate and signed out. Then the lady cop looked at the camera. “Oh, go back!” says Mongikazi. “Pause, yes pause right there,” she adds instructing the computer guy. “HOLY CRAP!” She says with her eyes and mouth wide open.

“You know her?” detective Dindo asks. Mongi blinks continuously. “Um, no detective,” the detective looks at her displeased. “Mongikazi.”“Sir.” “Start talking.” “Huh?” “Who is she.” He raises his voice. “I don’t know sir.”“I was not born yesterday, why would you tell us to pause if you don’t know her?”“I am sorry. I thought it was Maggie Q,” I look at Mongi, it’s so obvious that she is lying. What on earth would Maggie Q do here? Maggie is an actress!“And who is that.” The detective asks.“An actress.” “I’m sorry Sir, I was just shocked to see an actress here in action, but it’s not her.”The detective looks at her and shakes his head again and then he leaves and comes back with a white guy. He tells Mongikazi to go to the interrogation room. I am told I can wait for my friend outside the interrogation room. She goes inside with the white guy. I go stand at the glass so I can see and hear everything inside.

I think this white guy is a professional manipulator. He asks Mongikazi about the girl in the car; he twists the questions and tries so hard to manipulate Mongikazi and to change her answer, but Mongi sticks to the same answer. She keeps says she thought it was Maggie Q, I can see she is lying but she fools everyone and is now starting to believe her own lies.

Chapter twenty two

After a long time, the guy gives up and lets Mongi go. We take a taxi to town and then to Summerstrand. We sit in silence. In the corridor of our flat we meet Chuma. She asks how it went. She reads the answer in Mongi’s eyes, “You don’t want to know,” I say and then she goes to her room. We get to our room and Mongikazi goes to the shower. I go to the cafeteria and get something to eat for Mongi and me. When I get back, I find her sleeping. “Mongi.”“Hey.”“Burger?”“No thanks.”“Something is wrong; what is it?”“It’s nothing, it was just a long day.”“Ok, you will tell me when you are ready. But you have to eat or drink something.”“No, Viwe. I am okay.” I drink water and put food in the fridge and then I take off my dress and put on my boxer and sports bra. I check my phone and find a missed call from Milady. I then send her a call back and she calls me immediately. She tells me that she got a call about Nandipha. I pretend to be shocked and all. She cannot know what’s really going on. She tells me to take care, call the cops if I see Nandi and that she is dangerous. She says the police will find her then she drops the call. I go to Mongi’s bed.“Move over,” I command her.“What?”“Please.” She moves closer to the wall I get under the blanket and hold her. “You don’t have to lie to me Mongi. That was your sister, wasn’t it?” she sniffs and holds me tight. “Fuck no. I am so sorry Mongi,” she gasps and tells me it’s okay even though we both know it’s not.“But at least we know she is still alive.”“Do you think she will recognise me?”“Of course she will.”“She was only 4, Viwe.”“You are her blood. You were 8 but you still know her after a long 12 years.”“We have to find her. She is only 16. To be a killer or worse; a prostitute. I have to find my sister Aviwe.” She cries painfully. I feel a sharp pain piercing through my chest.“We will do everything we can to bring her home.”“Promise?”“I promise.” She kisses my cheek. “Still going to the movie night?”“What movie night?”“Come now, the movie night.”“Oh that. No, I am not in the mood to be in a crowd.”“I think we should go.”“What?” she lifts up her head and looks at me. “We had a long day. We need something to keep us busy.” “Aaaaa,” she sulks.“Come on boo. This was your thing; now that I am up for it and you are letting me down. It is so not fair.”“Beg me.”“Ok, I beg you. Come now, Mongi.” “I prefer staying here with you like this,” she says tracing my stomach with his fingers. “But if you insist in going to the movie night I am in one condition, though.” “What is the condition?”“I choose your outfit.”“Cool with me.”“So you’d rather go to the movie than staying with me?”“I am always with you. I am going to be with you tomorrow and the days after.”“Whatever. Anyway, let me go choose your outfit. Go take a shower and don’t be too long.?“Yes, ma’am.” She gets up and walks over to my closet. I take off my clothes and wrap my body with a towel, take my toiletry beg and head to the shower. When I come back I find Mongi ironing my dark blue blazer. “I am almost done,” she says. I just look at her. “What?” she asks looking at me. “Are we going to a fashion show or a movie night?”“Why?”“White pants, white sneakers, white shirt and a dark blue blazer, come on!”“I choose an outfit. You wear whatever I choose for you.”I raise my hands as a sign of surrender, well I am going to over dress only to make her happy. It’s been a very long day for her. She saw someone she had not seen in 12 years. Her sister is part of the dangerous gang and I know Mongi blames herself. We have to find her sister. That’s the only thing that will make her sleep at night. I just wonder what her sister is going to say to Mongi, if she still remembers her. I mean the girl was only 4 years old when she was abducted. I cannot remember anything that happened when I was 4 or 5. The question is how and where are we going to start looking for her. We are just kids with no resources. We are nothing against these people. Truth is we need Milady and she is already in, besides she can take care of herself. We also need Babalo. He knows these people more than any of us do. If we want to take them down we need all the help we can get. They will not just let us take Mongi’s little sister home and arrest them. They will fight back. We have to be strategic. “What’s your sister’s name?” I ask.“Patheka... liked being called Miss P. Why?”“Nothing. I am just asking. It’s 19:30, we are going to be late.”

We leave for the Auditorium where the movie night will be taking place. We get to the hall which is already crowded. You will be so surprised to see how many gay people there are in this universe. They play a very explicit clip of the series “L word”. All the girls scream when this other girl called Shane shows. After the L word they play a short clip from Orange is the new black. We take a break and go to the bathroom while others go to the bar. After 30 minutes we go back to the Hall. I cannot see Mongi. I try her phone but it goes straight to voicemail. I go back and watch the movie. At 02:20 I try her again, but her phone is still off. I am too tired to look for her; she probably went back to res when she couldn’t find me. Besides, the South campus auditorium is only a few minutes away from Res.I put my earphones on and hit the road to res. When I get there and unlock my room, I can’t believe my eyes.

“What the fuck?” I say out loud without hearing myself.I quickly turn off the light and close the door. I feel my knees shaking, my heart pounding faster than ever; I sweat. I don’t know why but I feel betrayed, broken and used. How could she? Mongikazi has no shame, how can she bring another girl to our room? I thought she had it for me. Was it ever true? If she really loved me she wouldn’t have jumped in bed with someone else. It feels like I’m watching a movie; it’s going to end and I will come back to reality. The reality is that ‘my Mongikazi’ is locked in my room with some stranger. I saw her with my own eyes kissing the other girl in the neck. They were making out.I go to the bathroom to freshen up; I wash my face and take a very deep breath. I then go to Chumani’s room. Her room is locked too and I can’t knock because I’d wake the entire flat. I then decide to go to the lounge. I cannot to go my room and watch them make out. In the lounge I take out my phone and see that I have a WhatsApp text from Mongi.

“Where are you?” That’s all she asks. I ignore the text, put my earphones on, play music and fall sleep on the couch. Seeing Mongikazi with someone else hurts. I know she is not my girlfriend. I shouldn’t feel this way but I cannot control my feelings. My heart is bruised. I have no idea when I fell asleep, but I am woken the next morning by a cleaning lady. She says she needs to clean the lounge and is pretty concerned why I slept on the couch. I tell her I forgot my key at my friend’s place and my roommate is not around. Then I go to my room.The chick is still in Mongikazi’s bed. I greet and she greets back. I then go to my bed and stare at my phone; trying to look all busy. I cannot help but look up when Mongi wakes up nude. She slowly goes to her closet and takes her night gown and a towel. She throws a towel at the girl on her bed.“Roomy, did you get the message I sent you last night?” she asks.“Nope!”“Oh?”“I did not get any message; you just disappeared. Phew, just like that.” I try to keep my cool.“Oh, I sent you a message telling you I’m coming home with Lorato.”“Oh, I did not get it.”“Sorry then,” she points at the chick. “By the way this is Lorato, my..., my...” she smiles and looks at Lorato. Their eyes lock. They both giggle and shrug. “Anyway, Rato, this is my roommate and my partner in crime, Aviwe.”“Oh, this is the girl you were with last night at the movie night? Nice to meet you Aviwe.”Mongi nods, I keep quiet and look back at my phone. I put my earphones on. I see Lorato getting up. She wraps a towel around her body, Mongi takes her toiletry bag and they both go out the door. After a minute I hear them laughing in the shower. There is only one shower in the bathroom so they are obviously taking a shower together. I feel a chocking lump growing in my throat; tears burning my eyes I want to ignore the feeling and pretend everything is alright. I think that Mongi is trying to make me jealous. Well, I am not going to give her the satisfaction; it’s time to pull myself together and keep my cool. This Lorato chick will not intimidate me.

When they enter, they lotion each other and make small talk.“Vee, I hear you are studying law?” Rato says.“Yhea I do.”“I studied law too. I graduated last year so if you never need help....”“Oh thanks, now what are you doing here?”“Here as in, in your room or on campus?” Is this chick dumb or she is trying to be funny.“On campus. It’s pretty obvious what you are doing in my room.”“I am doing my masters.”“Nice”“Viwe, I will be back later. I am just taking Rato downstairs to her car.” Mongi says. I look at them, Mongi blows me a kiss, Lorato smiles and I see she has a dimple in her right cheek. Oh my, I feel damn intimidated; anger and jealousy rise again. Lorato is blazing hot. She is tall, skinny and light skinned. The most fascinating thing about her looks is that, even though dressed like a guy, she is still in touch with her feminine side. She still has long hair and girly smile and soft voice. She is not like tomboys I have seen here in Port Elizabeth.They both leave. I am left feeling like punching the wall or hitting my head on the wall. You know that feeling when you always thought you are the one, or thought someone has it for you, only to find out that there is a better person, a person that beats you ten zero. Yes, Lorato beats me. She has all the looks and is totally swagged up, she has a car and is doing Masters in LLB.

Mongi comes back, her face glowing.“That was kak, Mongikazi!” I shout.“Excuse me?”“Where did you think I was going to sleep? Huh? Look, this isn’t your room; it’s ours. If you want to bring a chick, the least you can do is tell me.”“You are right. I am sorry,” then she sits on her bed and looks at her phone screen, smiling. “Is that all you are going to say for yourself? ‘Sorry.’ Do you even know the meaning of the word?”“I sent you a text telling you everything. I don’t know how you didn’t see it. I don’t know what more to say except apologising.”“Are you even listening to yourself? Because you seem glued to your phone, you know I don’t appreciate you paying attention to your phone when I’m talking to you.” She does not reply. I go to her and snatch the phone from her hand and throw it on my bed. “What the fuck do you think you are doing?” she shouts, irritated. “I want to talk to you.”“What’s wrong with you?”“What’s wrong with me? Do you want to know what’s wrong with me?”“I would not have asked if I did not want to know.”“Nothing is wrong with me; everything is wrong with you Mongikazi Nkosana.” She literally rolls her eyes. “What? You joking right?” she throws her head back and laughs hard. I get pissed even more. “Did I crack a joke?”“I am just trying to figure this out.”“I don’t appreciate you bringing strangers in our room Mongikazi! How can you be so careless? We don’t even know if we are tale or not; do I need to remind you that your sister is out there? Nandipha is out there and Don is out there? You cannot go around sleeping with strangers. These people are dangerous.” She frowns and shakes her head. “Oh no, just stop Aviwe, you look pathetic. This just doesn’t look good on you.” I feel the palms of my hands sweating. “Look me in the eye and tell me you are not trying to cover your jealousy,” she says, calmly.

I look away. “I thought as much, I know you like a back of my hand, Viwe. No need to act all dumb. I hate it when you act like a toddler. You don’t get to be all worked up when I am with someone else. You don’t want me, remember? I expect you to be happy when you see me happy, because that’s what friends do. They get happy for each other. Don’t be an ass.”

I am lost for words. I feel like my left rib is broken. I go to my bed, take off my sneakers and sweater and then I get under my blankets. A lump in my throat grows bigger and bigger. Tears roll down the side of my face. I try to keep calm and quiet but the harder I try the more sound escapes my mouth. After ten minutes I cry aloud like a baby. You know crying heals the soul; it lets go of the pain. I hold my pillow and cry harder and harder. I feel Mongikazi crawling on my bed and holds me. She whispers: “you’ve gotta make up your mind, hun.““I know.” I say between sobs. Mongikazi cuts me short. “No buts Aviwe, this is life; it’s not your playground and it doesn’t go by your rules.”“I know. No need for a lecture.”“Good. Then what’s wrong?” I close my eyes and shake my head. “Nothing, I was just sad and I felt betrayed.”“I am sorry.”“It’s ok...I will get over it,” she brushes my shoulder and kisses it. I look at her. She looks back at me and whispers that she is sorry. “Stop apologising,” I say, softly. The corner of her lip curves into a smile. I see my lips forming a smile. I feel her soft lips mashing on mine.

My eyes close slowly as I rest my hand around her butt and slowly kiss her back. This time, the kiss is different; it’s more passionate and gentle. I can feel our heartbeats beating in the same rhythm. She breaks the kiss so we can catch our breath. I open my eyes and find her looking at me with eyes that speaks only their language. Even though I don’t fully understand the language it’s beautiful. She smiles a little and kisses my nose. I chuckle. She takes my head and rests it on her chest. I listen to her heartbeat. All I think about is how much I truly love Mongikazi; how much I wish she can say she still loves me.

Chapter twenty three

The thought of her falling for someone else scares the living hell out of me. After a long time of cuddling, I get up, take off my clothes and go to take a shower. I take a long hot shower and when I go back to my room, I find Mongi still on my bed.I tell her I am going to Steers and asks if she wants to come with me but she refuses; saying that she is tired. She did not get enough sleep in days. “I will be back before you know it,” I say walking to the door. She doesn’t reply. I turn around and look at her and then she asks me not to leave. “You need to sleep and I need to clear my head,” I say and go back to her. We look at each other and smile awkwardly. My plan was to kiss her but I get scared and shake the thought away. I head back to the door. I glance at her one more time. I find her looking at me with a goofy smile, I giggle like a high school teenager and leave.

I put my earphones on and walk to Steers next to the Total garage. I need fresh air. I get to Steers and buy ice cream. I get a table and get seated. I think of what just happened between me and Mongikazi right after she was in bed with someone else. I wonder if it is love or jealousy but why would I be jealous of someone I don’t love. If I claim to love Mongikazi then what about Babalo? What does that make me? A lesbian or straight? Or maybe I just love my bread buttered both sides. I think of all the moments I have spent with Mongikazi and how I have been so protective of her. I realised I have loved her for a very long time but I thought loving Babalo was something I had to do. It was something that was meant to be. Every girl grows up dreaming of a prince charming, could it be possible for a prince charming to be a princess? Still digesting everything though, I get a WhatsApp text from Mongikazi, it reads: “I miss you already.” “Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?” I reply and find myself smiling at my phone. “How am I supposed to sleep wen my mind is filled with someone else?”“You smile and hope to dream about them. Only if that someone is me though.” I press send.While I am still smiling on my phone, I get a call from an unregistered number. “Hello?” I say after picking up. “Aviwe, Aviwe, can you hear me?” a familiar female voice shouts on the other line. She sounds panicking and sniffing. That immediately catches my attention. “Hey calm down, who are you? You are scaring me?” my heart beats a little faster, I feel shivers on my back. I am scared; we have been through so much drama, getting a weird call is not doing any justice. “Good you should be scared, now listen very carefully,” she says very fast. “Who are you?” I ask.“I managed to escape them, they want me killed. I need you to come get me, Aviwe,” she says and then she breaks in tears. “Who are you?” I shout.“I don’t have much time left. I am in Mission vale, please come get me.”Then she hangs up. Who is she? Who could it be? It must be Nandipha, she is the only person that can call me and speak this language. I quickly go to the garage to buy airtime. I call Mongikazi and tell her about the weird call. She begs me not to go there. It could be a set up. I try to reason with her that Nandipha is the only person that can lead us to her sister. “I want to find my sister but not if it means I have to put the person I love in danger. Promise me you are not going there Aviwe,” she says.“Ok ma’am.”“No I want you to promise Aviwe. It’s not worth it.”“I hear you Mongi and I promise. I will be home before you know it,” then she hangs up. After hanging up, I look at the phone screen and say: “So you know, I love you.”I hope Mongikazi knows at the back of her head that I will not honour the promise. Nandi is my friend, she shot her boss when she was supposed to shoot us. She got herself in trouble to save us and I cannot let her die in the street. She needs me, she saved me and I am going to return the favour!I take a taxi to Mission Vale. Still in the taxi I get a call from the same number. The girl on the other line tells me to hurry, it’s hot and she is hungry. I ask what her name is, she tells me she is Nandipha and she is hurt. She asks why I don’t recognise her voice. “I knew it, hang in there buddy I am coming,” I say, smiling.

“I knew I can count on you, thank you my friend. Is Mongi with you?” She asks. “No she is not, don’t ask” I reply and hang up!I smile to myself. I knew it’s Nandi. My guts are never wrong. I get off at NMMU Mission vale campus. I walk down the street where public phones are situated. When I get to the phones, I cannot see anyone around. I look across the road where I see a black Fortuner slowly coming my way. I ignore it; take my phone out and call the public phone Nandi called me from. One of the phone rings. I look around but this Nandipha person is not around. Maybe I should not have come here. Where is she? My mind thinks of every possible thing that might have happened. What if they found her and took her away? I should have come sooner.Oh wait, What if it’s all trap? Once this thought enters my mind, my heart pounds. I can feel it beating so fast trying to tear my chest apart. I feel my hands shaking, I don’t know why but something just tells me to run as fast as I can. Without wasting time, I run. The car also speeds up; I cannot run faster than a car. They speed up and hit me on the left side of my lower body. I fall down immediately and scream.A lady dressed in black leather pants, a leather blazer and black stilettos, comes out of the car running. She puts on a very good act like she hit me by accident; I then close my eyes because of pain. I hear her talking to other people who saw this accident. “Oh my god, I am so sorry, she came out of nowhere. No, don’t call an ambulance. I will take her to the hospital. She says. I feel how I am lifted up. I try to scream but I cannot find my voice. They put me in the car and drive off.I finally find the strength to open my eyes. I am so surprised to see Nandipha sitting next to me on the back seat, all cleaned up. A man I estimate to be around his 40′s is behind the driving wheel. ‘This must be Don’ I think to myself. There are 3 other guys in the car. My lower body is burning but the anger takes over when my eyes meet Nandipha’s. “You bitch,” I say, angrily.“I am sorry; I did not have a choice.”“You can go burn in hell for all I care; I was worried sick about you only to find out it’s all a setup,” I yell. When I try to lift my hand to slap her, I realise my hands are cuffed. “I wonder how you sleep at night,” I say looking disgusted.“I didn’t have a choice, ok?” she screams.“We always have a choice. I had a choice not to come to you but because I am a human, I risked my life and came to rescue you. Little did I know that I am walking in trap.” I shake my head in disbelief, “I should have known better; once a bitch, always a bitch. Here I was a fool thinking you still can be saved. There’s nothing to be saved in you…” she cuts me short.“…………stop it ok, do you think I like this? Do you think I liked picking up the phone and set you up? Huh? Do you think I liked putting the only true friend I have in danger?” she bursts out in tears. “Then why did you do it? From what I see, you enjoy every moment of it.” I say, calmly.“They have my brothers, damn it,” she shouts. “The only way to free my brothers is to bring you and Mongikazi. Tell me what else could I have done to save my family? What would you have done if you were in my shoes Aviwe? Huh? Tell me what would you have done?”“I don’t know but I know for sure I would not have sold my best friend. Never! I am better than that. You just called me your best friend but you don’t even know the meaning of the word.” I say softly and then I lean back on the seat and look up at the roof of the car. I feel hopeless. I know this is my last time breathing so freely, breathing in fresh air. Maybe this is my last time breathing at all. I am not even interested in looking at the road to see where we are heading. What’s the use of thinking about an escape plan when you know for sure that there is none?So he broke Nandipha out just to get to us. I think what I would have done if I was in her shoes. I don’t know but I know I wouldn’t have sold my friend; I would have made a plan. One thing I have learned is that the choice you are given is not always the only choice. There are always other choices, all you need is to think. Nothing is ever black and white. Life isn’t black and white. There are unwritten rules you cannot break unless of course you are Nandipha. You cannot sell out your friend or anyone you claim to love no matter what the circumstances are; that’s one of the unwritten rules. “So sentimental but I’ve had enough of your noise now. Shut the hell up, both of you,” says the driver without looking at us. His voice is not deep; it’s calm but commanding. You just cannot go against it. We stop talking immediately.“I thought there are two of our new friends, Nandipha. Do you care to explain?” he continues.“Yes sir, there are two of them but I don’t know where the other one is.”“I don’t work with buts. Find her.” There is something charismatic about this driver. He is so calm.

“I said find her, what are you waiting for?” he glances at us and look back on the road.“I will need Aviwe’s phone.” says Nandi, sounding scared.“What for?”“Mongi and I were not best of friends but I know she would die for her roommate, best friend and lover. We are lucky because we have that person right here with us.”“Simplify, I don’t have time for your scenarios.”Nandipha rolls her eyes and slowly says: “Aviwe is going to call Mongi, tell her she was hit by a car and she is now in hospital. Mongi will leave everything and go to the hospital and then we will follow her.”“Sounds better,” the other guy hands Nandipha my phone.She gives me my phone and say: “You know what to do.” I chuckle and reply: “I am not like you Nandipha.”“Aviwe, don’t make this harder than it already is, Just call Mongikazi. So this can be over.”“So that your brothers can be free; why don’t you say it out loud? It will be over to you but for Mongi and me it’s only the beginning. So that’s what you did? You took the phone and just called me?” after I say that she looks really pissed because the drivers keeps on giving her a side eye as a sign of dissatisfaction. “I am done being nice,” she says and slaps me across my face. “Make the bloody call before I do something I’ll regret,” she shouts. I spit on her face in return. She hits me again. “Why don’t you shoot me right here in the car? You blood thirsty cow! I am not calling my best friend. I know the meaning of friend, I am nothing like you,” I say at the top of my voice.“I like this girl. Who ever said girls are not loyal. He definitely has not met this one,” says the driver being sarcastic. He pulls the car over next to some bushes and orders us to get out of the car. We do as instructed. The time must be around 8pm because it’s dark. I cannot tell where we are.

Chapter twenty four

“I figured formal introduction is needed here. My name is Don. Nandipha shot my twin brother. I am going to kill everyone that was involved in my twin’s death. That is you, your best friend, Nandipha and Babalo. Those cops are lucky because Nandipha did not catch their faces. Here is one thing you have to know about me, little sweet thing, I don’t play hide and seek. I kill when needed, like now I am going to shoot your little brains out if you don’t call your friend. I am too old for teenager’s games. Too bad your game costed my brother’s life. Now you all going to pay for that,” he says calmly with his hands behind his back. He comes closer, takes out his gun and puts it on my forehead. “I am going to count from 5 to 1, I need you to take that phone from Nandipha’s hand and call your friend, or I decorate this place with your brains .... 5,4,3,2”“One, shoot,” I look him in the eyes thinking he is going to pull the trigger but he doesn’t. He puts his gun away, shakes his head and laughs a little. All his puppets around him look shocked but are too scared to say a word. This man is the boss. I am not sure what I am doing but I know I will not give Mongikazi to him. I’d rather die. All of a sudden I hear a hard closed fist hitting my stomach, I bend over and get on my knees and I cry from the pain.“I like you kid, your loyalty is rare to find these days. If only we have met under different circumstances,” he turns around and face his puppets. “Inject her, Nandipha knows where this Mongikazi stays. Let’s go grab her like a cup of coffee,” he says. When the guy comes to me with an injection I try to get up, still in pain. I shout: “I have changed my mind!” He turns around and looks at me. I look at Nandipha, she sighs. “Huh?” says Don coming closer.“I will call Mongi,” I lean on the car.“I knew you would come around, I think I have a business for you.”“What’s in it for me if I call Mongi?””You will get to live under my watch.”“Fair, now give me the damn phone.”Nandipha gives me my phone, I dial Mongi’s number and it rings and rings without being picked up. I tell Don and his crew to move back I need some space and that they are making me nervous.

“Mongi knows me like the back of her hand, she will pick it up in my voice that something is wrong; I need to relax a bit, but I cannot do that with you crowding me,” I reason.“Make it quick. No mistakes.” They all move away from me and I try Mongi again. This time she picks up on the first ring. “Hey, sorry I was in the shower. What’s up? Where are you?”“Are you alone?”“Yes.”“Listen to me carefully, ok?”“Ok.”“RUN! Now, don’t look back. It was a trap, I need you to run, run Mongi.....”Don hears that I am screwing him over; he quickly takes my phone and throws it on the floor. It breaks into pieces. I stand still. He kicks me and I fall down immediately. Then he kicks me while I am down; calling me names. When he sees that I am not crying he grabs me by my neck and hits my head against the car. I close my eyes and think about all the events of the past. If this Don guy thinks he is going to punish me by hitting me, he must think again. Growing up I was my father’s punching bag. Kicks, punches and everything in between were my daily meal. I am a master of escaping physical pain. It’s simple; I just close my eyes and focus on something less sad in my mind. Right now I focus on the fact that I have bought Mongikazi time to run away from this life. If I die today it will be a peaceful death; I have saved a person I love. I will never break my unwritten rules.“What are you?” I hear Don asking. He must be surprised that a girl of my age is beaten to death but is not making a sound. They take me to the car and injects me with something and that’s the last thing I remember.I wake up in a strange place. It has tall walls, it’s small, it stinks and looks like a prison cell. I look around, there is only one window and it’s up there close to the roof. I get up and go to the door. I look around and realise there are other cells around and they are all full of young dirty kids. I think this is an old prison. A main door is opened. Don gets in with two of his guys. He is dressed all in white. He is calm and collected. I feel I have just signed my death certificate but I’d rather die than giving him the satisfaction. They come to my cell and Don opens it. “Take her to room 7,” he says and walks away. The guys hold me by my arms. I tell them I will walk by myself. Don turns around, looks at me and keeps a straight face. I look at him and my blood boils. I am not a coward, I never was but there is something charming yet scary about this Don. I wonder why he did not pull the trigger the other day. Oh wait, what day is it? How many days have I been drugged? We go downstairs in a much creepier place! It’s a basement, it’s empty and huge. When we get there, Don looks at me and put his hands behind his back. He looks around the basement and slowly walks towards me. The guys let go of my arms and step back.He moves away from me. “Fun time is over little girl. I don’t have time for teenage game so we will make this short. I did not kill you 3 days back not because I could not, I did not kill you because I need to see you begging for your life. You took away the only sibling I had and now I am going to take away one thing that you can never have again, your life. But that’s negotiable. You tell me everyone that was involved in the scene, police, your friends and everyone and, like I said, you will live under my watch. You look smart, I hope you are,” he says softly, walking around the room with his hands in his pocket this time.”“What does living under your watch mean?”“You’ll live by my rules, under my protection.”“How can I trust you that you’ll not kill me after I give you the names?”“You don’t. “I roll my eyes. “So do we have a deal? Can I bring you a pen and paper so that you will start writing the names of everyone involved?” he adds.“No, thank you. But you can take a gun and shoot me. Just one favour: please cremate my body.”He smiles, “Is it loyalty or stupidity? Or both?” I keep quiet. “I will say this again, I like you. Loyal people like you are rare to find. Too bad you got my brother killed so now it’s your turn. Now, strip.” he commands looking deep in my eyes. I swear his eyes just turned red. If this guy is not a werewolf only he knows. I suddenly feel a need to pee.“See I was raped repeatedly when I was 14. There is no way I’ll go on that road again; at least not when I am still breathing.”“I said strip.”“Not happening.”“I am so many things but I am not a rapist. I cannot touch a kid that way. Now take off your clothes I will not say it again,” he says and storms out of the basement. As much as I feel like I am going to die I cannot stand the torture of being killed with my eyes open. The door opens and a tall, skinny girl enters and walks towards me. She is in red stilettos, white bum short and red crop top. Her long hair is tied into a messy bun. She looks really young but matured. She has “killing machine” written all over her face. Her eyes are dark and deep. “Hello you must be the dumb and stubborn one.” I look at her and bite my lower lip.“Why do you still have your clothes on? No. Shut up, don’t answer that.” She then takes a knife from her pocket and tears my vest into two halves.“Now take your shorts off before I do the same to it. Look, I might be 16 but I don’t play games. I finish my task with no hesitation. I never fail. Now take off your shorts.” I look at her again and see a killer, I realise there is no way out of this. I look around and see the two guys watching and Don standing at the door smoking his cigar. I slowly take off my chino shorts. The girl looks at me and frowns. “Do I have to tell you to take off your bra and panties? Dr Don told you to trip you idiot.”She shouts and I do as instructed. I then stand there naked. She looks me and smiles a little. I realize I have seen this smile before. I can be horrible with names but I am damn good with faces. This is the same girl I saw in that footage; the same one that broke Nandipha out. Yes, this is Miss P. I can be wrong but I have to take my chances.“Stop starring; it’s creepy,” she says.“Miss P?”She looks surprised and says: “Who told you my name?”“Mongikazi, your big sister.” She almost faints when hearing her sister’s name and I smile to myself. I might live after all or at least Mongi is going to live. They might have turned Patheka into a killing machine but he cannot allow her to kill her only sister. Blood is thicker than water. She bites her lower lip. “Where is she?”“Let me go and I will take you to her. They are also going to kill her! She never stopped looking and praying for you. You have to help her.”“Do we have a problem there Miss P?” Don shouts.“Just a minute Sir,” Miss P shouts back and lower her voice to talk to me. “I asked a question, where is she?” Before I can respond Don comes to us and asks Miss P what seems to be the problem. “I said give me a minute, Don, is that too much to ask?” Don open his eyes wide. He must be shocked at the tone she just used. He touches her cheek and says: “What’s wrong sweetheart?”“She knows my sister; we have to find my sister! You promised you’d take me to my sister.”“Your sister doesn’t want to find you; why would you want to find her?”Miss P looks at me “Tell him what you told me, tell him,” she shouts, I keep quiet. She slaps me on my left cheek and punches me on the nose. I bleed, uncontrollably. Then she walks away and bangs the door behind her. “Now you are ruining my family?”“You took her away from her family. How is she your family?”“You’re trying to be clever, playing with her emotions. Smart move; wrong time and wrong place. Guys, you know what to do,” he says to his two dogs. They tie my hands up to the roof. My little hope is all gone again. They put a carpet underneath my feet. Don comes back with a chain. I feel my heart beating a little faster than before. Being beaten by chain is on another level. He gives me lashes on my back, bum, thighs and legs. My skin tears apart. I cannot help but scream on the top of my voice. There is blood everywhere but mostly on the carpet. “Time for deals is over, beg for your life before I end it,” he says as he hits me harder and harder. I cry out loud but I don’t beg for my life. I watch my flesh falling off from my bones. A door opens, I can hardly see, my eyes are teary. Judging from this person’s voice. He is very old and a male. I remember Balo talking about Don’s father. This must be him, I hear him saying:“Son you are doing a good job here but where is the second girl?”“She is on the run but I will find her!” I blink repeatedly to get the tears out of my eyes so I can see. I open my eyes and see this dark tall old man coming close to me. He touches my swollen and tore skin and stops when he notices my greenish birthmark on the cheek of my bum. He then looks at my sweaty face and looks at Don. “Who is she?” the old man asks.“She is the girl who got your son killed. Let me finish this. I have so many things to do father.” When he is about to hit me on my face with the chain, the old man holds his hand. “What do you think you are doing?” Don asks confused and angry.“Have you seen this?” the old man points at my birthmark.Don’s eyes are big when he notices my birthmark and slowly touches it with his left hand. “What the..? Father?”“Son.”“Is this what I think it is?”“Like hell it is.”“What’s going on? Who are you?” Don lifts my chin and commands me to open my eyes. I do as I am told and slowly open my eyes. I feel weak because I am losing so much blood. “Don, look at her and look at you. No one needs a rocket scientist to...” his gather shouts, but Don stops him. “Stop father, just stop. I am trying to think here. Okay?” Don lets go of my chin. He throws down the chain and pulls down his pants a little. This is odd! He has the exact same greenish birthmark on the exact same place as mine. He calls his guys, telling them to take me to the doctors room. The old man screams that if I dare bleed and die he is going to cut their balls and send it to their loved ones.That’s the last thing I remember. I wake up in white warm small room. I try to get up and then I notice that my body is heavy. I push the light blanket to the side and lift my head up. I look at my body; my memory comes back when I notice that my whole body is bandaged. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the power of the mind! My skin under this bandage is tore and the thought of that alone makes me feel all the pain I felt when I was tied to the roof and beaten up. I am still alive. Why did not they finish me? Where am I? This is no hospital. This place is empty and strange. I wonder how long I have been here. I wonder where Mongi is. I wonder if I will ever get out of this place alive. Maybe torturing their victims to a point where they give up is the way of punishing them. Tearing my skin off my bones was just for their amusement. I wonder how they live with themselves. I wonder how they sleep at night. I wonder how I got in this mess.I wonder why I did not listen to Mongi. Milady once said I see the good in people and that will take me far in life. I guess by far she meant this place. The only reason I went to “rescue” Nandi is because I saw good in her, I hoped she still had a bit of humanity in her. Seeing the good in people got me here.I close my eyes trying to calm myself down and ignore the heartache. I try so hard to focus on the good things that have happened in my life but I fail. All I can think of is the emotional, sexual and physical abuse I have encountered. I feel I was never meant to be happy. Maybe it’s time to accept that.Still wondering around my mind a door opens. Don enters looking all sad.“Your name is Aviwe right?” he asks. I keep quiet.“I know I deserve that.” I give him a blank stare. “I see you are awake, you’ll be fine in no time. I have the best doctors taking care of you. We have to talk. I need you to talk to me. I cannot do this alone.”“What can we possible talk about?”“May I sit?” he sits on my bed. “Where did you get the green spot on your bum.”“It’s a birth mark; where do people get birthmarks from?”“I have it too.”“I saw it.”“Only members of my family have that green birthmark.”“Oh,” I say not paying much attention.“It is from my greatest grandfather. It has been passed on from him to my generation. That green spot is one thing that makes my family different. It is a family mark. Only my family has it and I mean only my family,” he pauses and smiles a bit.

“My grandfather was a player; he had children all over South Africa. Because of his reputation women tricked him but they all failed. All my grandfather’s children have the exact green mark you have, that’s including my father. My father passed the mark to me and my late brother.” “Why are you telling me this?”“Aren’t you listening to me?”“Listening doesn’t mean I understand”“We are related kid. I don’t know how but that mark is my family’s mark.” I laugh so hard I forget I am hurt. My body burns like it’s going to tear apart. I cry painfully, the pain is unbearable. “Viwe, Viwe what’s wrong?” he calls my name panicking. “Doctor, somebody get a doctor!” he shouts as he runs out of my room. He comes back with 2 girls wearing lab coats. One girl is an Indian pushing a stretcher. The other girl is white; carrying a stack of papers. Don and the Indian girl put me on a stretcher and take me to a room full of machines. They lift me to another bed. I am starting to have hard time to breathe; I lift my head and see the bandage turning red. I am bleeding. Everyone in this room looks panicking. I bleed even more. They can’t stop the bleeding.Don leaves and comes back with some papers in his hands. He fumes with anger as he shouts at everyone asking what the hell they did wrong. The doctors take off the bandage, only to find out the stitches are torn. Especially those on my thighs and legs; I can see my own bone. There is no way out of this; with so much blood loss I am sure going to die. They have to stitch me again and that will take time. Time is one thing I don’t have. Don asks why they are keeping me awake. Why they haven’t drugged me? When he speaks everyone gets busy.“Start praying she doesn’t die in your hands, because if that happens I am going to kill each and every one of you,” he says with his calm but scary and commanding voice. The white doctor asks: “Who is she?““She is my daughter, damn it!”

Chapter twenty five

“Life is crazy, you know. It’s insane how unpredictable the future is. Who would have known that today I would be sitting next to someone called my daughter and praying for her dear life? I don’t believe what is written on that paper but hey, DNA test never lie: you really are my daughter. Look at you; look at your skin tone, your sharp nose and your personality. I guess something told me you are special and that’s why I did not pull the trigger. When I looked at you, you reminded me of when I was your age. You so confident, so stubborn, you would do anything to protect the people you love. That’s exactly your father. Now that I have found you I will protect you with my life. I know I don’t deserve anything from you; I put you in this bed, but I need you, I beg you to do one thing for me. Just breathe ok? I need you to keep that heart beating Aviwe. I need you to live; I need you to open your eyes. Even if it’s just one minute so I can tell you how sorry I am; how I wish I could turn back the days and undo everything. Oh God I cannot believe that I almost killed my own daughter.I wonder if you will ever forgive me for this.I wonder who your mother is.I wonder where she is,I wonder how come she never told me about you.I wonder how your life has been without a father.I wish I had known you sooner. Maybe I would have changed my ways. So many things would have been different. So I lost my only sibling and found you; if it’s not fate then what is it?“I hear this person saying these words from a distance. My eyes are closed and my heart is beating slowly. Then someone holds my hand and say: “You are going to be fine kid.” I notice that this someone is the same person who was saying this long speech; the voice sounds familiar but I am too tired to open my eyes.“How is she?” he asks.“She is recovering, she will wake up soon,” a female voice responds.”Good job everyone!”

“Thank you Sir, but you are the one who saved her life.”

“It was the least I could do; this is all my fault.”You should be proud Sir, you saved your daughter’s life and it’s never too late to change your ways.”

“Is God that forgiving?””Most definitely. God is always the answer. You have a daughter now. Things are supposed to be different.”

“I know.”

I wonder who this person that saved my life is and how did he save my life. I wonder how long I have been here; the last thing I remember I was bleeding to death; my skin was torn and I could see my own bones. I lost so much blood. I should not be alive. I try to open my eyes trying to see my life saver.”Doctor, doctor she is awake!” the same male voice shouts.

“Really?” the doctor replies and I hear footsteps coming my way.

“She is trying to open her eyes.” When I finally open my eyes I see Don sitting beside me and the white doctor.

“Hey,” Don says holding m y hand.”How are you feeling?” the doctor asks.

“Thirsty,” I swallow.

“I will get you something to drink.”Don comes back with a glass of water; he helps me to sit up and drink. The doctor does some check-ups and she says I am recovering. Then she winks at me and leave the room.”How are you feeling now?” Don asks putting the glass on the small table beside my bed. “Tired.” ”You are going to be alright,” he assures me. I keep quiet.”I will check on you later. What do you want for lunch?””Nothing. Thank you”.”Ok then. Before I forget, your grandfather sent you these.” He points at the beautiful flowers on the table. Then he takes the card and gives it to me. He leaves and closes the door.I open the card and read: “I wish you a speedy recovery my granddaughter. I am sorry we started on the wrong foot but you are family now; we will do everything in our power to protect you.Grandpa couldn’t be there as I have family business to attend. I wish I was there when you wake up but I know the best doctors are taking care of you.LoveGrandpa”I roll my eyes and put the card under my pillow. Where on earth do they get that I am their family?

After A couple of days I feel much better. My “babysitter” Anna, is really taking care of me day and night. She talks all the time. She would do anything for money. She comes in with breakfast. “Wake up girl; it’s a beautiful day,” she says with her fake English accent.

“Morning Anna.””How are you my, dear baby?””I am not your baby!””I was told to babysit you love!””Where is Don?””You mean your father?” I swear these people are hallucinating. I roll my eyes and take my food. “He had business to attend to but I think he is coming back today. Why?” she sits on the edge of my bed.”I am just asking. What are you doing here?””I am taking care of you!””No, I mean this place.” She raises her eyebrows and the glitter on her face fade. “Long story.””I have all day and night, and I need some fresh air.” She looks at me and laughs. That’s the Anna I know. “Do you know where you are! Where on earth can you get fresh air in this place?””Outside!” She laughs even louder, tears roll down her cheeks. “Oh God sorry. I just cannot help it. You are so funny or you really don’t know where you are.” A door opens and Don enters. Anna jumps from my bed and stand up straight. She looks down like a soldier.”Morning, did you girls have a good time?””Yes sir,” Anna replies.”Did you take good care of her?””Yes Sir.””Thank you Ann, but I am back now; she won’t need a babysitter anymore.””Yes sir!”

Chapter twenty six

When I am done eating, Anna takes the tray and marches out of the door. I guess she is trained to be a soldier. “How was Anna treating you?” he asks and pulls a chair next to my bed.”Good. How long have I been here? I am a student in case you didn’t know. A person of my age is studying or is supposed to be studying,” I say, aggressively. He smiles and says. “You have been here for a month and few days and you won’t leave until you have fully recovered.””If you not going to kill me then why are you keeping me here? Why can’t you just let me go?””I could not just let you go Viwe, you were dying.”

“And whose fault was that?””I know I am to blame. Please give me a chance to makes things right; a chance to be a father you deserve.””Excuse me sir, what on earth are you taking about?” I ask, rudely. “Well, Don. You will never make up for what you did to me. And where on earth do you get that I am your daughter?””After I saw the birthmark, my father told me to do a DNA test and it came back positive. Where is your mother?””I don’t believe you.””I did not ask you to, I was just telling the truth.””Even if you are my father that means nothing to me.” I turn around and look to the other side. I hear a door closing and I guess he left. After a few minutes the door opens and closes again.“Hello, how are you doing today?“I turn around and see it’s the doctor. “I am fine thank you.””I am just going to do a final check-up and then you can go home.”

“Are you serious?” I ask in excitement.”Yes,” she checks my ears, eyes, scars and everything in between. “He is trying you know?” she says.

“Pardon?””Don. This is hard for him too; do you think finding that a person is your daughter after beating the living hell out of them is fun? Do you think not knowing your child for 18 years is fun? Come on Aviwe!””He is a monster.””He might be a monster but he is your father; for the record you wouldn’t been alive if it wasn’t for him.””Oh please. He tried to kill me.””You lost a lot of blood and then you needed a donor. He did not hesitate to give his blood. Luckily he was your match. He saved your life.””If it wasn’t for him I would be perfectly fine; I wouldn’t be here; I wouldn’t need life savers. Are you done here?””Yes I am done. I still think you have to give him a chance. Everyone deserves a second chance.””Please call Don for me on your way out.” She looks at me a little pissed and leaves.

Don comes in. “I hear you are ready to go,” he says leaning on the door frame.”Yes I am.””How are you feeling?””Perfect. Can I go now?””Of course, I have prepared your room upstairs.””What? I want to go to my own home!””This is your home now.””What? No! You and I are not family and we will never be! Even if you really are my father, you were absent in my life and I would love to keep it that way.””How could I be present in your life when I did not know you existed? Your mother never told me about you Aviwe, I did not know I had a daughter. I swear I would do everything for you, I will be the father you deserve. Just tell me what you want me to do.””You did not know you have a daughter because you don’t have one. I am not your daughter and I will never be. Don’t you dare mention my mother in this? You hijacked her and raped her in front of her husband. I am the child of rape. Now you call yourself a father? You have no shame. I don’t see myself calling you my father. What human being does the things you do? Do you think I will ever forgive you for hitting me? For tearing my flesh off my bones? For making my life a living hell? You know what they say: a child of rape produces another child of rape! Guess what? That’s true; I have my own child of rape, she is a beautiful baby girl. I was sexually molested and it’s all your fault. I was ill-treated by my family because when they looked at me they saw you: a monster that hi-jacked, beat and raped the woman. I wonder how you sleep at night; I wonder how you live with yourself. Do you think donating me blood takes away all the bad things you have done? All the pain you have caused me? Turning Babalo into a drug mule? Kidnapping and turning my best friend’s little sister into a serial killer? Do you thinking giving me your blood takes away all that? What kind of a monster are you? What happened to humanity? Where is your conscious? Do me a favour Don, if you really are my father. End my life because I cannot live with that. I never wanted to find you. Even if you let me live, you will never be a part of my life.” I shout the last words as I get out of the bed and making my way to the door.

He looks hurt, surprised, ashamed, sorry and confused. I can see that he is holding back tears. If he had no pride he would break down and cry, but he has been told that he is the great almighty Don; he cannot cry. “Aviwe, Aviwe!” he calls my name as I shut the door behind me.

I don’t know where to go. I go down the corridor hoping to meet someone I can ask. “Aviwe, Aviwe!” Don is coming after me. He then grabs me by my arm. “You are hurting me, let go of my arm!” I say pretending to be really hurting. He lets go of my arm.”I am sorry, I didn’t mean to.” I look at him and walk away.”Where are you going?”Home.” I turn around and look into his eyes. “I have a home; some random family came to my rescue. And that’s my family. My only family.” I turn around again and walk away, but he follows me. “Hear me out please? After that I will let you leave.””What?””Just listen for a few minutes, after that you’ll be free to do whatever you want, I will not stand in your way.””And if I don’t want to?””That’s also fine. I will let you go but I definitely cannot let you go in those clothes. I know I am a horrible person but I cannot let my daughter travel thousand miles in hospital clothes,” he smiles. I look at myself and giggle. He then bites his lower lip exactly the way I always bite mine. For the first time I notice how we actually look alike. This is like the older male version of me. I tell him I want to make a deal.Still standing on the corridor I hear someone calling him. It is some kids. After a few seconds Nandipha shows up running to Don.”They are here!” she says breathing heavy from the running.”What?”Both of them are here.””Good job. Viwe go back to your room; I will come back to you in a few minutes. Ok?””Ok,” I say softly and a little confused.”Can you let go of my brothers now?” Don looks at Nandipha and tightens his jaws. His eyes turn red. He does not respond, but leaves us standing there. He disappears down the corridor. Nandipha breaks down and cries.”What’s going on Nandipha? What is this place?” I ask and she wipes her tears with the back of her hand and puts on a fake smile. Nothing you will understand. Wait, how are you still alive?”

“Nothing I will understand? Try me!””Tell me how you are still alive?” she shouts.”Are you not happy that they did not kill me? Me breathing worries you? How can I be so wrong? Once a monster, always a monster! I cannot believe I fooled myself thinking you can be saved.””Do you think I like this? Do you think I liked setting you up?””Stop shouting and prove me otherwise; tell me what’s going on.””I told you! He has my brothers, damn it.” Then she walks away. I grab her by her arm. She violently turns around and shouts: “What? What, Aviwe?”I did not set you up, Nandipha. You don’t get to be bitchy about this. All I ever wanted is to help you.””I don’t need your help, now let go of my arm. Before I kick you!” I let go of her arm and lift my hands up in the air. “Ok, you win. Just tell me what is this place, that’s if you want your brothers out of here. Maybe I can help.””Really?” She tries to think of what I just put on the table.”You don’t know why and how I am still alive. Tell me what’s going on; there might be a way out for all of you.””Are you serious?””Do I look like I’m joking? Let’s go to my room.” We go back to the room and sit on the bed. “I am all ears,” I say folding my arms. She looks down at her hands.

”Ok, this is a Phakade family farm. This place has everything you can think of. It’s huge. There are prison cells, a sports centre, surgeries, conference room, class rooms, computer science labs and every important asset you need to build an army. There are kids who are locked up in those cells and taken to the sport centre to train. You don’t get out of here until they know you can be trusted; until they know they own you and you will come back to them. You cannot escape out of this place.”How do you know that? Because you said you were Yung’s personal weapon and you did not even know he had a twin?” I interrupt her.”I heard from him, yes but he never mentioned that he had a twin brother.””So how do you trust everything he says.””Because now I have seen everything with my own eyes.””What exactly did you see?””You need to see for yourself.””Now you are talking; where do I go from here?””What is in for me?””Your freedom””Go down the corridor, turn to your right. You’ll see a bathroom. Go inside look for a little button under the base. Press it and a wall behind the toilet will open. So you know, this is a suicide mission and I cannot come with you. I still want to see my baby brothers.””It’s ok.”

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.”

Chapter twenty eight

Don exits the room, I go take a bath and then return to my room. I go to the closet. I almost faint when I notice that the closet is full of girly clothes. I see a folded paper which reads: “Welcome home Viwe, Love grandpa,” I roll my eyes and put it back where I found it.Luckily I come across a grey Nike sweat pant and black vest. All the clothes here are brand new. I guess they were bought just for me. I smile a little to myself and think back when I was hated and abused while there are people who truly care about me. You really cannot predict the future. I make my bed and go to the kitchen. When I get to the kitchen, I make myself a sandwich and an orange juice. I eat while looking outside the window. After I finish eating I put my plate and glass in the sink then I go to the lounge. I find a note on the couch. “Gone downstairs.” I remember that I don’t even know what date it is. I remember I used to be a law student and I had a very sensitive bursary. One mistake and they kick you out. I guess I have been kicked out long time ago. I go to the library to take a lift but all I see are books. There is no sign of a lift. I try looking for a button or something but I get nothing. I give up and just scan my eyes through the books. A book titled “Akwaba” catches my attention. The cover is catchy and the book is thick. I love thick books because at least they keep you company for a very long time. I take the book, sit down and read the summary on the back of the book. I am disappointed to find that the book is about HIV/AIDS. I have read enough books and watched enough plays about HIV and AIDS. I look for another book. While going around, I am shocked to see one of the shelves moving and Don comes out of the lift.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.”I wanted to go downstairs but I couldn’t find the way.” He laughs. I can see he is hurting but he is covering it up. He moves two books and shows me a button to press when you want a lift. Then we both take a lift together. When I get there I go to the doctors’ room and find Mongikazi and Babalo sitting in one bed; chatting.”Hey guys how are you feeling?””Alright, thanks to you,” Babalo says.”Thank you babe,” Mongi adds, holding my hand.

“Don’t mention it.” We all laugh.”What now?” Babalo asks.”We are all going home,” I reply.”Where is my sister?” Mongikazi asks.

”I have no idea. I will ask Don.”“Vee, what’s the relationship between you and Don?” Balo asks.”He is my father.”They both act with shock and say “What!” at the same time. I look down and shrug.”You are kidding right?” Babalo asks, still shocked.”Nope.” I respond calmly.”Wait. Who is the man that we were staying with? ’I’m lost now,” he asks looking even more confused.I start from the beginning, I tell them everything I know so far. When I finish talking, Mongi claps once and looks away.”I give up baby, your life is complicated.”

“I know; all I want is the truth now.””So now it’s your parents’ word against a person you just met.” Babalo says.”Nolwazi was never a parent to me. And this person I just met let you live because I said so. This person I just met is so excited to know me better and to be my father. Oh this person I just met tucks me in bed and wants to read me a bedtime story because I am his little princess. He would do anything to keep me in his life. I don’t know if I can say the same about Nolwazi who gave birth to me.””It’s your call. Seems like you have made up your mind, you have already chosen sides.” He adds, not looking pleased. A door opens and Don comes in.”It’s time,” Don says calmly.”For?” I ask. “The injection.””Is there a need since you are going to burn this place? And these are the closet people I have. I know they will never say a word; even if they do there won’t be any proof,” I say. “Where is my sister?” Mongi asks impatiently. ”Home.” Don replies.”You took her home?””Yes.” Tears run down her cheeks. “Oh my God thank you, thank you Aviwe.”She hugs me and kiss me. ”Thank you Vee, we would be dead if you were not here,” she says holding my hand.”True story,” Don says casually. We look at him and laugh. Every slave including the doctors left.

Only I, Don, Babalo and Mongi are left so we pour petrol and place bombs all over the place by midnight. Don takes his land rover and parks it outside the gate. We all stand by the gate as Don burns the house and everything inside and underneath it. We watch the fire. Don’s old life burns down with the house. We go to the car I take the front passenger seat while Mongi and Balo sit at the back. Don drives.”Put on your safety belt Aviwe.””Ok Daddy Don,” I put on my safety belt, he looks at me, smiles and shakes his head. “Are Ta Yung and Don your real names?” I ask and everyone in the car laughs.”Really Aviwe? I give up on you, shame!” Mongi marks.”I really have been wondering.” I say.”My name is Bulelani and my late twin’s name was Siyabulela.” my father replies.”Where does Don and Ta Yung come from?”“I have no idea dear””Where are we going? We have been driving for about 30 minutes now,” I ask.”I am taking Mongikazi back to school where I took her from, Babalo back to the streets and you and I are going to see Nolwazi.” I can hear rage in his voice when he mentions my mother’s name.”Do you know where she lives?””No but you are going to show me. I saw her about 19 years ago.”

Babalo asks how is Don can be my father if he saw my mother about 19 years ago and I am 18 years old. “I was born at the beginning of the year. Which means my mother was pregnant 19 years go and gave birth the following year.” I explain. All this time Don is dead quiet, he is focused on the road and seems deep in thought. Mongikazi is sleeping; she placed her head on Babalo’s lap. Well, maybe Balo put it there when he saw that she is sleeping. We drive in silence. By the morning we arrive in Port Elizabeth.”Wake your friends up,” Don says. I realise that we are in Melodi residence parking lot. A sharp pain stabs my heart. I realise how much I missed this place. I know I only stayed here for two months but I loved it! As much as it brought so much drama in my life but I loved it. Here I met a love of my life - Mongikazi. I miss my normal life. I am so fed up of this life full of death, drugs, guns, drama, bombs and everything in between; I hope today is the end of everything.”Mongi, Mongi.” I say as I shake her shoulder.”What is it now?” she says aggressively. “Where are we?” she asks as she tries to open her eyes and her loud voice wakes Babalo. He opens his eyes, looks around and yawns. He then asks to go to the bathroom. Don gives him a dirty look; Balo rolls his eyes and sits back.”Time is a luxury we cannot afford! Mongikazi, your trip is over! Remember to keep your mouth shut or I’ll cut your throat,” Don says then I give him a side eye.”I thought you are over making threats. No need to scary her. She knows what to do and what not do.” I say. “I just have to make sure.” He then unlocks the doors and we all get out to get fresh air.”What now?” Mongi asks looking at me.”You go back to your life; no need to look over your shoulder anymore,” Don replies. ”Thank you for being human at last.” She says mocking my father.”No, thank you for getting me in touch with my long lost human side.”Don gives Mongi a nice warm hug. The surprise in Mongi’s eyes is hilarious, she opens her eyes wide and stands still. She doesn’t hug him back. Balo and I cannot help but laugh. Finally she hugs back. Don laughs and softly says: “Don’t worry, I won’t bite.” After a few seconds they break the hug. Mongi comes to hug me and whispers to my ear: “I love you.” We both blush. “I love you more” I whisper back. She looks at Balo. Mongi says her goodbyes. As she heads to Melodi residence main entrance, I sigh in relief. My boo is safe. She found her sister and she is going back to her books. I smile to myself go back to the car, I take a back seat with Babalo and Don drives away.”Where should I drop you Babalo?” Don asks.”He is coming with us.” I say.”Pardon?””I said Balo is coming with us.””Why is that and why are you speaking for him.””If you don’t understand now then you’ll never understand but Babalo is going wherever I am going.””No need to fight me kid, I did not say I am against that.””I am not fighting you.””Do you kids want anything to eat?””Yes please.”“And you, Babalo?””Yes, Sir.””Call me Don.” I look at Babalo, he looks down. I don’t know if he is shy or just silly. Don stops at McDonald and buys us something to eat and then we drive off to East London. We eat in the car. Don keeps his serious face all the way; his charm is gone. He looks hurt, angry but calm. We get to East London after a long 3 hours.I am home. I have not seen this place in ages. This is where I grew up; this is where I got hurt; I bled; I cried; I smiled; I fell pregnant; I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Yes, this where I met my guardian angel - MiLady. This is where I belong; I did not think I would ever see this place again.”Are you okay?” Don asks.”Yes, why?””You are crying.””What?” When I touch my eyes they are wet. I didn’t even feel a tear when it escaped my eyes. “Oh... but I am not crying,” I say awkwardly.I direct Don from town to a place I used to call home. When we get there, Don parks outside the gate. We get out of the car and usher ourselves in and knock at the front door. Buhle opens. I swear she stopped breathing for a few seconds when she realised who it was.”Aviwe?” she says in disbelief.”Hello little sis” I smile a little.”Oh my God is this Babalo?” she ignores me and pays all her attention to Babalo. “Where have you been? What are you doing here?””Can we come in?” Don says annoyed. Buhle looks at him like he is a ghost.”All off a sudden she is deaf,” he says and pushes Buhle and the door aside to go in. Babalo and I follow. We leave Buhle standing at the door. She looks so grown up now. She is tall and a yellow bone. She has thick lips just like her father who I grew up thinking he was my father too. I think Buhle traded her butt for her tummy because her butt is flat and her belly is huge. Only when I pay close attention I realise that she is pregnant. But you cannot tell that she is pregnant when you don’t have a shape eye and good instincts like me.”How can I help you?” she asks. Don puts her hands in his pockets as he looks at the paintings around the lounge. Babalo and I sit on the couch, not knowing what to do. We look at each other, shrug and look away.”Where is your mother?” Don asks looking at Buhle.”She is at works; it’s Thursday.””At what time is she coming back?””Five.””What time is it now?””The time is 4:45, sir.””Thank you dear.””Can I call my parents?””No need thank you. They are probably on their way. Is your father also coming at five?””Yes Sir.””You can now switch on your T.V.” he then turns around and looks at the paintings again. He looks at the painting of an England queen for a long time. Buhle slowly puts the remote back on the coffee table. She takes out her phone from her pocket and gets glued to its screen.Still feeling awkward, thirsty and bored, just as I was about to ask for water, the front door opens. It’s Nolwazi. She pushes the door open, enters but has all her attention on her handbag. “Hey, where did I put my medical aid card?” she says irritated. She has not noticed that there is a crew in her house.

“Dear Nolwazi. Beautiful as ever,” Don says. Only then Nolwazi lifts her head. When her eyes meet Don’s, she drops her handbag and slowly moves backwards to the door. She shakes her head and whispers: “No, No!” She is so scared, her whole body shakes. Babalo, Buhle and I stand up when Don gets closer to Nolwazi. The anger in Don’s face is indescribable. I swear if he gets to Nolwazi he is going to rip her apart and redecorate the house with her organs. I run and stand next to Nolwazi.”Calm down, dad.” He breathes very deep and press the sides of his head. He tries to control his anger. “That’s it dad, just breath it out, ok?” I say as I watch him breathing his anger out. His anger tries to take over but he tries so hard to fight it. “I am trying,” he screams as he kneels down, veins popping in his head. His hands shake. Babalo runs to the kitchen and gets 5 litres of water. He comes back and pours the whole 5 litres over Don. Only then he calms down. Nolwazi sighs. After a few seconds Don picks himself up and looks all collected. His charm is back even though his black suit and navy blue shirt are wet. He gets up and sits next to Buhle. He then commands Nolwazi to sit opposite him. I sit on the same couch as Babalo. Nolwazi sits down, trying to hide her shock and fear. How do you hide something when it’s written all over your face?

“Just start talking Nolwazi, just talk.” He continues.Nolwazi’s lips tremble. “What is there to talk about?””You don’t want to piss me off,” Don says softly.”You are right, I don’t.” She looks down at her hands.”Why didn’t you tell me about our baby?” Don says with his eyes pleading and hurting”You told me to get the hell out of your life, Bulelani. What did you want me to do? Huh?”

“It was all for your safety, you know that Nolwazi.””In that case, keeping Aviwe away from you was for safety.””Oh so I do have a father; I am not a product of rape?” I burst out and ask.”Yes, Aviwe. Yes, you have a gangster father.” My mother replies annoyed.

“I cannot even look at you right now Nolwazi. The only thing I want is to reach to your chest and rip your heart out. You are disgusting.” My father says looking disgusted.

”Why did you lie? Why did you lie like that? I mean you could have said my father died or something. Why did you lie about being raped?” I ask not believing my ears. She shows no remorse for what she did. She shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t know; it just seemed like a perfect lie that can make you hate yourself for the rest of your life.”The hurt! How can a mother hate her own child this much? “Did you just say that? Why do you hate me so much?””I don’t hate you, I hate your father. You just happened to have his blood in your system,” she says calmly.”What did I do for you to hate me this much Nolwazi? What did I do? I kept you safe! Didn’t I?””No! Now all of a sudden you don’t know? Stop acting dumb Don. It does not suit you. I prefer the confident, commanding and always in control Mr Phakade.””Tell me what did I do?””Remember that?” She points at the Queen Elizabeth painting, Don nods. “You used me to steal it from the Cape Town museum. You used me. You never loved me Don. You used me to get the security combinations for my father’s safe box. I was your ladder to your success. That’s all I ever was to you. A sex object and a puppet. You told me to keep a low profile; you told me it was not safe to be around you! You were just getting me out of your sight, and the worst part is that you killed my father. You killed my only family. When I found out I was pregnant with your child, I was tempted to get rid of ‘it’ but I figured it would be a great revenge to watch a little you suffer just the way you made me suffer.”

She pauses and giggles a little. “I knew about you and Afika, how could you sleep with my best friend? Oh Don, so sad that your child had to pay for all your sins. You never know, my grandchildren might suffer for how I treated Aviwe. It’s sad isn’t it? It’s sad how we mess things up and not pay the price only to find out that our loved ones pay for our sins. So to answer your question of why I hate you. 1. You kept me on the dark side; you used me to steal from my family and work. 2. You told me to get lost. I got lost like you instructed and then you came back and killed my father. For what? Oh wait, this gets better. The 3rd part: You ’’fell in love with my best friend and you didn’t have the decency to be upfront about it. Now tell me one reason, just one reason why I should have told you about the baby? How did you meet anyway? And isn’t this Babalo?”She pauses and all the fear of Don’s sight disappears. Now all I can see in her eyes is satisfaction. I guess her plans went accordingly. Don and I are exactly where she wants us. I can see Don is finished; he covers his eyes with his hands. According to my mother, Don was never in love with my mother. He used her to steal from the museum and her family. He was in love with her best friend and she believed that my father killed her father. Wow, then I paid for my father’s sins. Where does my “step dad” fits in this mess? When I am about to do the maths, Buhle’s father enters. Nolwazi runs to him, kisses him then she says: “Surprise!” and points at Don. Don lifts up his head; he opens his eyes widely and stands up slowly.”Fez,” my father says and throws back his head. “Oh wow, now it all makes sense.” He continues.

“My love, look who decided to show up after 19 long years,” my father says.”Is this? Oh my!” my stepfather says being sarcastic. I sit tight waiting for a bomb to drop. All enemies under one roof and then there is me who just happened to be a victim to their war. I cannot help but feel like something huge is about to happen.

Chapter twenty nine

Fez reaches for my father and demands a hand shake. “How is my old Almighty friend doing?” he says with a huge fake smile on his face.Don stands up and smiles from ear to ear. I cannot believe he buys Fezile’s smile. Don looks at Fez and, instead of a handshake; he gives him a nice punch right on the nose. This causes Fez to fall down immediately. Wow, that was unexpected. Really, with Don you’ll never know. “I am doing just fine thanks, how are you my partner in crime, my 2nd twin, my brother and best friend?” My father says.Fez picks himself up and tries to stop is bleeding nose. His wife runs to him and gives him some toilet paper. “You son of a bitch.” he says as he goes to his bathroom. Nolwazi and Buhle follow.”Was that true? Is everything my mother said true? Did you kill her father? Is that why she was so bitter towards me? Did you fall in love with her friend? Did you steal the painting and steal from her family? Oh dad all I want is answers. I want this to be over and move on with my life,” I say. Don paces up and down the room. Babalo gets up and goes to the car. “You want the truth Aviwe?” he asks.”You heard me the first time.””Yes I stole the Queen Elizabeth painting and yes I fell in love with her friend. Afika and I were in love, we were not playing hide and seek. You don’t choose who you fall in love with. When you are much older you will understand what I mean. But I have never stolen from her father; I did not kill her father. Even if I wasn’t in love with your mother I cared about her. She was Afika’s best friend and hurting her that way was going to hurt Afika. I never hurt people I love. What I tell you right now is nothing but the truth. This is me nude, baring it all. This is me telling it as it is. Thi…” I interrupt him and say: “I believe you father, I believe you. Now I have everything I want. Let’s go and build our new lives. We have each other. All I wanted to know is how I was conceived. Now I know the truth and I have made my decision. Take your car keys.” I take his car keys from the coffee table and give it to him. “Thank you baby. Nolwazi, Nolwazi,” he shouts. I hear footsteps making their way from the bathroom to the lounge. It’s Nolwazi and Fezile. “What do you want Don?” my mother asks.”Nothing but to apologise: I’m sorry I brought out the worst in you.I’m so sorry I made you the monster that you have become.I’m sorry I made you this bitter and shallow.I’m sorry I ripped out your humanity; that you couldn’t even be a mother to an innocent child.I’m sorry you went through all the heartache because of meI’m sorry that you lost your selfI’m sorry I fell in love with your friendI’m so sorry your father diedI’m so sorry I made you blind to an extent that you cannot solve a simple equation, you cannot connect the dots, you cannot complete the puzzle while everything is right in front you.I’m sorry for your stupidity. I really am. Look around Nolwazi, close your eyes and think of all the events of the past. I have never had a close relationship or problem with your father, but your husband Fezile, who happened to be my best friend, was very close to your father. If anyone would steal from your father it’s him - Fez. Besides, that’s his style. He keeps his enemies closer. Tell me one reason why I would kill your father; just one reason. You know I don’t hurt people I care about. Fez, correct me if I am wrong.” My father then sits down.

Fezile snaps and says, “Baby you know how Don plays; don’t listen to him. He is trying to get in your mind. He is playing us. You know how much I loved your father, why would I want to kill him?” my father cuts Fez short: “Every murderer has a motive. Maybe he was getting too close to the fact that you were stealing from him and he was going to blow your cover of being all sweet and innocent to his only daughter and you figured the only way to shut him up is to ‘shut’ him up; literally.”Nolwazi looks confused and tries to think. “Shut up, both of you!” she screams at her men. They both shut up, looking at each other like angry lions.”Let me ask you one question Nolwazi?” my father says, quietly.”What?” she yells. “Why did you never sell that Queen Elizabeth painting? I mean it costs a minimum of R400 000. Why did you keep it?””Because it’s a mark of our success; it represents our break out from your control freak spell.” She stutters.”Is that what Fezile told you?” Nolwazi looks at her husband and looks down, Don giggles a little and goes to the painting.”Let me tell you why he never allowed you to sell the painting. You stole this painting from my family’s collection, but it doesn’t matter because it was stolen anyway. After that you both disappeared. But sweetheart, this is not an original painting, which leaves me thinking that Fezile sold an original painting and made you this fake. This explains why he never wanted you to sell it. Because when you were to sell it, the buyer would scan it and they would know that it’s fake. Well done Fez, you really are my father’s creation. You are not much of a disappointment after all.” Nolwazi stares at Fez. Judging from what I see, she believes what Don just said. Fez’s tongue is tied, he doesn’t say a word.”Is it true? Fezile?” Nolwazi screams. “Is this painting a fake? Oh, God how did I not see this coming?” she puts her hands on her head.”You cannot tell me you don’t believe me! Come now! The man killed your father for goodness sake.” Fezile defends himself. Nolwazi paces up and down. Fezile tries to hold her. “Don’t touch me. Don’t you dare touch me, Fezile,” she screams. “I don’t know who killed my father; you fed me all the anger against Don. You told me Don killed my father but we never had any evidence. My father was found shot in his car. For all I know it can be you; it can be anyone.””What? I cannot believe you just said that! See? This is what Don wants to do to our family. He is playing with your mind Lwazi, don’t let him,” he tries to hold her again.”Get away from me! Please,” she takes a deep breath. “I need you to answer me honestly, is this painting a fake? Did you fake an original painting? Truth please.” She says pointing at the painting in the wall.”It doesn’t matter Lwazi. Look at us; look at where we are. Do you want to end all this because of a stupid painting? Look at our daughter. She’s growing so big she’s beautiful. Can’t we not talk about the past and let it rest?””Answer the damn question Fezile!” she shouts. “If you can’t manipulate just don’t try because you look ridiculous when trying to manipulate me.” My mother adds.”So you choose Don over me?””I asked you a question.””Yes Nolwazi, I sold the original piece! There you have your damn confession. What does it change? Nothing,” he shouts letting emotions take control of his existence. I see the words piercing through her bitter heart. “Did you kill my father?” she asks, teary.”Stop it Nolwazi. Just stop!””Get out of my house. She points at the door. “Lwazi, don’t give Don the satisfaction. Please.” `Nolwazi screams at the top of her voice. “I want you out of my house now.” Buhle comes to the lounge, tears rolling down her cheeks.”What’s going on, you are scaring me, mom you are scaring me?” she cries even harder, there must be nothing more hurtful than seeing your parents fighting.”Take my car and drive to your friend; you can sleep over.” Nolwazi says.”No mother, I am not a kid any more. Tell me what is going on.””Your father is a crook that’s what is going on. Now go to the damn car and go away,” Nolwazi shouts with her hands in the air.”Are you divorcing?” Buhle asks, painfully.”Like hell we are.””I am pregnant; you are going to be grandparents. Our family is growing; nothing cannot be fixed. My elder sister and my godbrother are back. I need you to give this broken family a second chance. We all deserve a second chance. I want us to be a family; a real family this time with no one being treated better than the other. Aviwe I am so sorry about the past. I was a child; I did not know any better. I would love us to start over. My friend died last week; she died of a blood infection. It made me realise how short life is, we should treasure one another. We shouldn’t let stupid fights break us apart. I miss you even though I never really had a sister relationship with you. I’d love to know you better. I don’t know what’s going on. Nobody cares enough to enlighten me, but I figured we have different fathers. The man you came with is definitely your father, no questions there. But we are still sisters. I want to have a family, a real family. I don’t want my child to grow up in this mess. I don’t want mom and dad to divorce - no matter what your problem is; you can sort it out.” Buhle says, passionately.

Right now I am speechless. That’s so grown up of her. She comes and stands in front of me. I get up and we hug while she cries on my shoulder. I let her cry. She whispers in my ear that she is sorry. I whisper back that it’s okay. Then she looks at her parents and Don. Her being pregnant changes the whole atmosphere in this house. I can see the joy and fear of losing everything in Fezile’s eyes. He is terrified he is going to lose his wife, his daughter and his unborn grandchild. I would be scared too. I hold Buhle’s hand and speak softly. “It’s going to be fine little sis, today is the end of all this madness.” She looks at me and gives me a warm hug again. Nolwazi assures Buhle that everything is going to be fine. When Buhle asks if her daddy is going to stay. Nolwazi looks down and shakes her head; trying to think. Fezile moves closer to Nolwazi, holds her hand and goes down on his knees.”Nolwazi I have made mistakes. I have betrayed you. I have lied to you. I know I don’t deserve you but I am begging you Bhelekazi, don’t shut me out. I am a changed man, the man you are looking at right now is not the same man he was 19 years ago. You changed me; you made me a better person. You showed me life when I had nothing but my little brother. That life I was living with Don’s family was not a life. Stealing and hurting innocent people. They made me a monster but you, my darling, you made me a person. I can go on all day giving reasons why I hated Don’s family; why I wanted to be out of their lives, why I chose you over them and why I married you. I am sorry. I know I should have told you the truth about the painting a long time ago. I know I should have told you about your father.” After a few seconds of silence, Nolwazi breaks it.

“Tell me why you did all the things you did. I want to know it all; bare it all Fezile.” he puts her hands onto her head. “Oh my God what have I done? And it’s your entire fault; you made me hate my child. You made up all those lies to hurt my girl! Why Fezile? Tell me damn it, why did you put us through all that? All this time I blamed Don for everything, meanwhile the dog is the man I am currently sharing a bed with!”

This time she screams like a mad black woman. Fez gets up and slowly goes to sit on a couch. Nolwazi doesn’t move a muscle. She looks at her husband. “Don’s father is the only parent I know. Don, Yung, Azola and I grew up like brothers. I grew up thinking they were my blood brothers. There was a time in my life where I would have given anything and everything for Don and Yung. Things went wrong when I was 19. I was sent in London to deliver drugs and I got caught at the airport. But you know Don’s father gets away with everything. He gets everything he desires. Whoever said nobody is above the law definitely haven’t met David Phakade’s kind. His men broke me out of prison. Daddy came to my rescue. That’s the day I will never forget in my entire life. I was so happy when I saw the crew taking me out of that horrible smelling place, but it was my turn. I happened to be not as special as I thought I was. They took me to the warehouse and stripped me. Then he hit me with a chain. I watched my flesh falling off my bones. They made my little brother watch. And the twins - who I thought I meant everything to them just stood there and watched. They just watched. That’s when I made a promise to myself to hate them with everything I have as long as I live. After beating me, I was taken to their doctors. After a few months I was okay. That’s when John told me that Azola’s life depended on me. He said I will continue being a drug mule and if I dare mess up again I will pay with my little brother’s life. That was a shock because I thought Azola is also his son. That’s when he told us that he bought us for R200 from a cheap whore who couldn’t take care of us. Then everything changed. My brother and I became their slaves. Then Don took my girl Afika. I told myself one day I was going to get them. Then I started stealing from them so I can get the hell out of their lives and build my own empire. When I met you and found out we had the same enemy I was over the moon. You were my getaway plan. Dating you was just a way to get back at Don’s family, but I fell in love with you. It’s hard to resist such charm. I faked the panting and sold the original before I fell for you. After we moved from CP you told me you were pregnant and my heart danced. I figured keeping their family member away from them would be a perfect revenge. I know for a fact there’s nothing they value more than blood family. That’s when I convinced you to keep Aviwe away from her father. When I looked at Aviwe all I could see was her father, her grandfather, her uncle and the whole gangster crew. It wasn’t easy. Seeing her happy hurt me. I know she was just an innocent child but I couldn’t help how and what I felt. I am so sorry I turned you against your daughter. I know she deserved better. I know all you want to hear is about your father. He was an intelligent man; he was excellent in art - paintings to be exact. He caught my forged painting and he figured out I had hidden agendas. He told me to leave you alone or he was going to tell you everything he knew. He knew enough to break us up. I couldn’t let him do that. Then I shut him up forever. I had to; I couldn’t let him separate us. I most definitely sound crazy and I’d understand if you don’t want to see me again. I turned your life around and made it all a lie. I made you hate your daughter, a very bright and humble kid.I am so sorry Nolwazi. If you want me out I will walk away. I promise I will not cause you any more trouble but before you make your decision just know I have changed. I am wiser now and I love you. I adore our Buhle.”

When he finally finishes speaking, Nolwazi says: “Thank you for the long speech Fezile. It was touching. I forgive you.” He jumps up; excited. “What? Oh my!”

“Wait, let me finish before you get all excited. I forgive you but I can’t go on with this fake marriage. We are done.” She takes off her wedding ring and puts it on the coffee table. “This cannot be fixed. There’s no new chapter in this book. It’s time to turn the last page and start a new book. You can see Buhle, she is your daughter too but you and I are history. This is the last time we talk or lay eyes on each other. Even if you are a changed man that doesn’t change the fact that you killed my father. For goodness’s sake you killed my only family and made me believe that he was killed by my baby’s daddy. Not for a second do I buy the ‘changed man’ speech. If you really had changed you would have told me everything a long time ago. You would have wanted me to have a relationship with my daughter who your bloody brother raped!” Now she yells. “You disgust me if you care to know. Now please take all you belongings and go where the road ends.” She adds.”No need, you can give them to charity.” Fezile says politely and grabs his car keys. “See you soon Buhle. I will be a grandfather your child deserves; that is a promise. I am sorry, Aviwe. I put you in hell for some stupid revenge. I promise I will be a better stepfather in our next life. Don, it was nice seeing you again after a long time. I am sorry I kept your daughter away from you for this long. I know there is nothing you value more than family. Nolwazi, I understand, I really do. If I was in your shoes I would have done the very same thing. I wish things were different. Pity we cannot change the past.”

He kisses Nolwazi on the forehead and Buhle on the lips and then he leaves. When he is about to exit the door he looks back at Buhle and smiles. Tears roll down his cheeks. Buhle runs to him and hugs him. They share a very long hug and cry on each other’s shoulders. Fezile can be a monster but he is a good father to Buhle. The good thing about this moment is the fact that I have my good father in the house too.

Chapter thirty

Don might be a gangster but I know he would do anything for me. I catch Don looking at them, smiling. When he notices me looking at him I look away. He comes closer and hugs me. Then he kisses my forehead and says: “Where do you want to go pumpkin? We are done here.” I hug him back and tell him I don’t know, but I would love to have a warm bath and supper with him.

A lump grows in my throat; I close my eyes and rest my head on my father’s chest. This is everybody’s dream: to find their long lost parents. To make peace with the past and move on. I am going to give this father-daughter thing a try. I hope for the best. I know I don’t know much about Don but I know damn well that he loves me; he will never hurt me and that’s enough for me.Fez breaks the hug and kisses Buhle on the forehead before going to his car. Buhle looks at her father as he drives out of the gate and out of her life. She cries so hard. Nolwazi gets up and goes to hug Buhle but she gives Nolwazi an evil look and pushes her away. She goes to the kitchen and leaves her mother standing there looking like she was struck by lightning. She looks down and brushes her hands together, slowly approach Don and me. “Ummm, I heard you want to take a bath Aviwe. I can run you a bubble bath if you want?” Nolwaz says.With my head still on Don’s chest, his arms wrapped around my shoulders, I smile and calmly say, “No thank you. I am going to bath at the hotel. We are leaving now.””Leaving? This is your home Aviwe.” ”You kicked me out, remember?””It wasn’t me. It was Fezile. Come now, Aviwe you heard everything. It was all Fezile’s fault.””You did not stop him, did you? Mothers should protect their children but you; you threw me to the dogs and watched me begging for my life.” I say still holding my father.Nolwazi shouts: “Were you not listening, Aviwe? Are you dumb or deaf or both? Fezile was controlling me; he fed me with all the nonsense and turned me against you. It’s over now. Fezile is gone for good. You can come home now, baby girl! Come to mommy.””I don’t think so.” I look up at Don. “Let me go say goodbye to Buhle and then we can leave, ok?””Ok pumpkin, you’ll find me at the car. Babalo must be sleeping now,” my father replies.I go to the kitchen where I find Buhle drinking warm milk and looking at her phone.She is surprised that I am leaving, “I have a child to go back to,” I tell her.”You mean you have another family,” she replies coldly. ”Pretty much.””I understand. Four years is a long time. I am really sorry for everything, Vee. I wish I have done something to help you”.”It’s okay nana. It wasn’t your fault.””How will I contact you? I want to see your baby.””I don’t have a phone right now; give me your number so I can call you.””Alright. I wonder who doesn’t have a phone these days.””Well, you are looking at her right now.” I say laughing. She giggles and shakes her head and then she goes out to take pen and paper. Her mother enters the kitchen.”I want you to stay; this is your family. Your father is bad news, Aviwe. Trust me,” she says.”I know but he is good to me. I don’t know if I can say the same about you.””I gave birth to you; you are still my child and you are going to stay here. You’ll do as I say.”I look at her and just shake my head; thinking that this woman needs professional help. Buhle comes back and gives me a paper. I hug her and leave.

At the car I find my men both sleeping. Don wakes up when I open the door and when I am about to get in, somebody holds the door and pulls me out. I turn around. It’s my mother. She looks at Don angrily. “You dare drive away with my child and I will call the police and tell them you kidnapped my daughter. I will take you down, Bulelani.” I snatch my arm away from her, “For your information, I am 18 years old and I can legally do what I want and live with who I want. So shut up, Nolwazi,” I say as I close the door. Her eyes pops open when I call her by her name instead of calling her mother. I then roll down the window.”So you know, I would have stayed if you had apologised. But no, you couldn’t say one, simple word: ‘SORRY’. You kept shifting the blame to your husband. You could have said no to whatever your husband was feeding you; you were not a child then. It’s funny how you say my father kidnapped me while you and I did not talk for four years. While you watched me being rapped; being physically and emotional abused by your husband. But it’s ok Nolwazi, I forgive you.”

I look at Don and softly say: “Please drive, father”. He doesn’t hesitate. He starts the car and as we drive away, we leave Nolwazi standing there. I can hear her crying out like a mad woman.”I am so sorry pumpkin,” my father says.”It’s ok, it’s not your fault! And please stop calling me pumpkin!””Ha ha ha no, I won’t! You are my pumpkin.”I frown and he looks at me and laughs.”You look so cute when you do that. The madness is over now. Where to from here?” he asks concentrating on the road.”To my other parents and my child, please.” ”Nice, God I am a grandfather!”

“Apparently,” I smile a little to myself.

When we approach a bridge we see ambulance, police, many cars and people on the road and under the bridge! When we stop, a policeman approaches us and tells us that the road is closed due to an accident. It will be opened in 30 minutes or so.”What happened?” my father asks.”Some guy drove over the bridge,” the policeman replies.”What? He committed suicide?””That’s what the eye witnesses say! They say it was not an accident.”

The policeman leaves and I get out of the car to get fresh air. I am not familiar with this side of E.L. I take a little walk, singing my favourite song. I am happy. When I look at the car under the bridge I see that it is a black Toyota Yaris. Oh my God! This is impossible! I notice the number plate. It is Fezile’s car! I can see the paramedics pushing a stretcher to the back of the ambulance. I find myself running to the ambulance. Don runs after me, calling my name. He tells me to stop. ”Stay back, stay back!” People hold me, shouting.”He is my stepfather damn it!” I scream and they let go of me! I go to the stretcher and uncover is face. It’s indeed Fezile. I feel a sharp pain from the bottom of my stomach makings its way to my heart. I bend over and cry out in pain. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike a person; seeing them not breathing washes away all the hatred. There is nothing as painful as seeing someone you know lifeless. Don arrives and hugs me. ‘Shhhhhh. I am so sorry sweety,’ he whispers in my ear as he holds me tighter. “I want to go home; please take me to my daughter,” I murmur between sobs. Fezile was not my favourite person but he was a good father to my sister. Don and I go to the car and when we get there, Babalo is awake.” Am I in hell?” Babalo asks but no body responds.”Ok, what did I miss? What’s up with the long faces?” he continues.”Fezile committed suicide.” I say.”What? Who? You mean your stepfather killed... oh, my God I am so sorry!””Thanks.”

We get to Milady’s house after what felt like a lifetime. I pull myself together as we park outside the gate. We enter the yard and I knock at the front door.”I’m coming,” Milady replies.She comes to open the door after a few seconds and I swear her heart stopped beating for a few seconds when she sees me.”Oh, oh my God.” Tears escape her eyes and she gives me a very warm hug. I hug her back; she breaks the hug and looks at me trying to see if I am hurt or something. “Oh my child, come on in.” I go in with Don and Babalo. Milady doesn’t pay much attention to them. She just greets them and asks me questions as we make our way to the lounge. When I get to the lounge I find Mr Mali playing with my Vuyolwethu. I run to Vuyo and pick her up. I cannot help but cry when I see my baby girl happy and healthy.

After shedding some tears and settling down I hear Milady saying: “I am so sorry to be rude to your guests. I am just so very happy to see you again; I thought I have lost you forever. We hired five different high profile private investigators but they all came back with blank papers and dull stares in their eyes. It’s been a long tough four months for us.”Mr Mali adds: “What happened Aviwe? Where were you for four months?”When I open my mouth to respond Milady cuts me short and says, “You look exhausted. Let me run you a bubble bath and make you all something to eat and then you can tell me everything. I want to hear every single little detail.”Milady runs me a bath. I go to my room and take my towels and then I go take a bath. As I soak in the water my mind is at ease. There is a happy ending after all. I have everyone I need and love under one roof. A lot has happened and I have learned a lot.

After bathing, I go to the lounge and have something to eat with everyone. Then Milady tells me to prepare a spare room for my father and Babalo because I am not going anywhere until I tell her everything. I laugh and go upstairs. I do as I am told. Around 23:45 Milady, Vuyo and I go to sleep in my room and leave Don, Babalo and Mr Mali chatting in the lounge. I share my bed with Vuyo. Milady pulls a chair next to my bed and tells me to tell her everything from the beginning; from the day I was kidnapped. She listens to me attentively as I bare it all.

Cover letter

My name is Nangamso Bandezi. I am 21 years old, born and bred in the Eastern Cape province. I am currently studying my final year in Bachelor of Education in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. I have loved art for as long as I can remember, I started writing when I was 10 and finished my first novel when I was 14. For me writing has always been for fun, last year I started a blog where I posted my stuff and the response from the crown was incredible and I got encouraged to publish my book titled Nude- baring it all. The title of the book simple means “uncovering the brutal truth,” I believe truth can’t be long hidden. The story is told through the eyes of the girl who was made to believe she was inadequate, who undergo all the kinds of abuse until she leashed out and turned the tables around, and it turned out her upbringing is not what’s on the surface, it has to do with her birth. But there’s a twist, she sees what she was not supposed to see she which leads her to do the unexpected. She steps on the tail of big drug dealers in Cape Town, only to find out that the leader of the drug dealers is her biological father, truth comes out and they all bare it all.

That’s basically what the story is about. Its “all in one,” drama, romance and action is all in there.

Since I have already have a large audience, I was tempted to self-publish the book but because of the limited time I have as a student I couln’t. I have hired a professional editor for editorial and a graphic designer to design the cover. So the manuscript has already been edited and the cover has been designed all that is left is final stages of publishing. The target market is teenagers, young elders and everyone who loves reading. Nude baring it all is a definition of art, you’ll never know what’s going to happen next, that is how unpredictable the book is. Good news is, there is a continuation of the story. Everyone loves it.

I have submitted the book to other publishers.

Kind regards

Nangamso Bandezi

0783290815

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