Rilah listened to the sound of Tyron's footsteps going up the stairs and being muffled by the door. She listened to sounds of pots being banged and the fridge being opened and closed. The smell of burning food made its way up to her room, and she smiled, smug that Florence was too angry to cook a proper meal. She heard Mr Daniels enter the house, and immediately the whispering started. Gradually, it increased to shouting.
Florence was complaining about her pregnancy and the 'nerve' that Rilah had to sleep around. Then she heard Florence talk about how her plans had been ruined and Rilah was frustrated that her voice dropped just when she was saying something intriguing.
Rilah jumped from the bed and searched for a hairpin on her drawer. She bent it and crouched before the door. She inserted it into the lock and spun it around, feeling for the locking mechanism until it clicked. She opened the door slowly, to avoid making it creak and tiptoed to the staircase. She walked slowly down the stairs until she could see the tops of Mr Daniels' and Florence's heads. She tried to catch on to their conversation but found it a little difficult to understand what they were saying.
"It's only a matter of days and it'll all be gone. We need to make sure that they agree to take her even if she's ruined now." Rilah could hear that they were talking about her but what exactly were they talking about? What would be gone? Who are they?
"So they are going to give us the last grant money?" Mr Daniels asked, leaning on the table and looking intensely at Florence.
"They should. I think so", Florence scooped out the burnt contents of the pot and dumped them in the bin. "She's turning eighteen in two weeks; last payment must be close to then." Rilah held her hand to her mouth as she realised what they were talking about. The Daniels had only kept her for her grant money; they were using up her grant money!
"So we have to rectify the situation. It's already bad enough that we won't be delivering what we promised to the Fanders. Giving them more than what they paid for is an insult."
"Oh, I'll make sure that she removes that thing inside her. She won't ruin our plans like that", Florence said bitterly and with determination.
Rilah could not stay to listen anymore. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she ran back up the stairs and back into her room. Finding out that not only had the Daniels been treating her like scum and chowing her money, but that they were also planning to give her away - to sell her - was too much for Rilah. She sat on her bed and cried until her tears ran dry. Then she stood up, grabbed her bag and shoved it under the bed, just in case Florence came into the room. However she didn't come at all that night; apparently she planned to starve Rilah until who knew when.
The night came and went slowly. Rilah slept fitfully, awakening every few hours only to find that it was still dark outside. After what felt like a lifetime, the clock struck five in the morning and Rilah pulled out her bag from beneath the bed. She took out the sweater that she had gotten from Brandon and pulled it on. She then put on her tattered sneakers and checked that she had enough cash for food and any emergencies. She deduced that two hundred rands would be enough to carry her through two days at least. She took her textbooks from the floor, put them in a plastic and lowered them to the ground through the window using a long rope. It wasn't difficult to find a rope or wire in her room, seeing as it had been used as a storage facility before she'd arrived and now it's original function had been restored.
After setting out the textbooks, she grabbed the few novels that she owned and stuffed them into her bag, then she plucked a paper out of a book and sat on the bed, beginning to compose a letter to the Cunnings. She didn't want to make it long and sappy, she wanted to stick to the facts - besides, it wasn't like she wasn't going to see them again.
She put the letter in an envelope, slipped it into her jean pocket, shouldered her bag and walked over to the window. This time she climbed out slowly and carefully, taking care not to hurt her protruding bump. Just as she thought that, she felt the baby moving, as if protesting the descent. She lowered her foot onto the stack of books before jumping to the ground. Squatting, she scooped up the books and walked away from the Daniels house for the last time, not looking back for a second.
She stood in front of the Cunning home, looked up at it and sighed. She felt extremely guilty leaving them so abruptly, but she had no choice. She set down the textbooks and put the letter inside the plastic bag. She turned and walked away towards the city grudgingly, thinking about the vague contents of the letter.
I've left the Daniels and I'm going to find some place to rent. I'm afraid I can't explain the reason as of yet, but I'll contact you in time to tell you why. Mrs Cunning, forgive me for my abrupt resignation. Sylvie, please find a buyer for these textbooks and keep the money as a show of my gratitude.
Once again, thank you Mr and Mrs Cunning.
* * *
Rilah went from flat to flat, looking for accommodation. Many rooms were too small or expensive for her, ranging from two thousand to three thousand and five hundred rand. In her bank account she only had about twenty three thousand, which, in conjunction with rent, baby preparation and food and furniture, would not last her too long.
She needed to ensure that her rent was secured for at least four months, which would coincide with her maternity leave and reception of her matric certificate. There was just so much to do and Rilah could feel her stress levels going up. She went into a fast food place at midday, ordered the cheapest but satisfying food she could get and set about munching on it. She was glad that her morning sickness had passed - she literally couldn't afford being a picky eater anymore. However, she did buy two small tubs of Greek yogurt, she just couldn't help herself.
Then she set off again to find a place to rent. After touring many places - some so small that only a bed could fit and definitely not worthy of their prices, and some looked so dilapidated that she was sure that she would be kidnapped -she finally found a decent looking place. It was a shared bedroom, with an occupant already in half the space.
Luckily, the occupant was female and Rilah felt that she could manage to share the space with her. There was the barest minimum of security but on the plus side the rooms all had carpets. She could fit in a bed, a wardrobe or chest of drawers and small things like a laundry basket, a baby bathtub and bucket. That would be enough for her for a while.
She signed the paperwork, paid the deposit and rent of two thousand and two hundred rand and set down her bag. She then set out to purchase curtains, a bed and bedsheets. She had the bed delivered to the flat and set up, paying the delivery guys before fixing it up and putting up the curtains. She then set out at six o'clock to buy food and went back to her new place. She was exhausted but beyond that, she was lonely. No matter how emotionally strained she'd always been, she had never been physically alone. This was so new to her, not to mention sudden but she'd pull through. She always had.
She heard her neighbour come in and she introduced herself. She saw the woman - her name was Lihle - glance down at her tummy subtly before smiling at her. She gave Rilah a tour of the house, letting her know that the stove could be used by everyone.
"Thank you, but I don't think I'll be cooking much", she smiled awkwardly. "I don't have a fridge, so I won't be keeping fresh food here."
Lihle smiled and said, "Oh no, you can't eat junk food in your condition. You can put your food in my fridge."
"No, no, no. I can't do that. I don't want to inconvenience you . . ."
Lihle cut her off. "You can put your food in my fridge for as long as you like, no arguments. Now come, let me show you the bathroom."
And just like that, Rilah started settling in at her new place. Lihle informed her that she'd need to buy a water warming bucket, since the geyser was always shut off but for that night, she lent Rilah her own bucket. After a good bath, Rilah settled down to bed, succumbing to the events of the day.