I was living in a two-roomed house with both my parents and my older brother Tshepo. It was the best life I have ever had, but that all changed when I lost both my father and my brother in a tragic car accident. My mother, Mrs Booth – that is how I was supposed to address her each and every day of my life –
she changed, she became someone I never knew. At first I thought she was trying to heal from the loss of a husband and son and she would change and become the mother I had always known, but that never happened.

She stopped me from visiting the other part of my family. I was only eight years old, I didn’t understand why was she treating me this way. I was never allowed to leave the house or play with other children from the neighbourhood. I was 18 years old when I knew that there was something named school where each and every human being, young or old, has a right to go. She would always tell me to lock myself in a toy box when she was not around and whenever I heard a knock on the door I should run as fast as I could and lock myself inside the same box.

That became my life. The only things she taught me were house chores (she would wash the windows and clean outside). I still remember one day, I finished washing the laundry and Mrs Booth was in the garden. I went outside to tell her that I had finished washing the clothes. She shouted at me and grabbed me by the arm. That day I received the hardest hiding I have ever had. She was so angry. All I could say was, “I am sorry, Mrs Booth.” I was never allowed to scream or cry. I don’t even remember crying while getting a beating or when she swore at me.

On this one day, Mrs Booth came inside my room. I was shocked, why would she enter a bastard-child’s bedroom? That was how she would address me. She entered the room and I started shaking in fear. She sat next to me, she had a cake in her hand.

Happy birthday, baby. Today you are 13. Soon you will be turning 14 and you are no longer a child, now you are an adult and there will be a lot of changes in your body. You are a grown up woman. She smiled and stood up, leaving the cake on the bed. When she was about to close the door behind her, she looked at me and said, “It’s all yours, eat.”

I was shocked, I had never seen her this happy. This was the mother I knew, she was exactly the same woman that always smiled and laughed. I was shocked, at the same time, I was happy. I thought she had accepted that her husband and son were gone and she needed to live and cherish life the way it was. But that was all in my mind, not hers.

A year later. That day, she came in my room wearing the same clothes she was wearing a year ago when she came to tell me it was my birthday. She looked so beautiful, she was smiling and laughing. She played music, which I last listened to when my father was still alive.

“You are 14 years old. Woman! You’ve grown up too fast. Today is your lucky day because I am happy, I need to tell you something. Mhmmm your name is Ndaloentle Princess Booth, and you are beautiful.” Then she smiled and left the room.

Yet again another shock of my life. Why would she tell me my name, what does it mean? She even said that “I am beautiful.” She last said that to me six years ago. What was she up to? Thinking kept me up all night.

The following day I heard a loud bang on the door.

“Bastard-child, wake up go and take a bath, hurry up!”

I could hear while in my room that she was Mrs Booth again, then I shouted, “YES MRS BOOTH!”

I went straight to the bathroom and took a bath. As soon as I was done she came into my room and looked at me.

“Don’t cover up, take that towel off.”

I removed the towel and she looked at my naked body.

She took a picture of my body and said, “You will have to wear this, we have a client coming this afternoon, prepare yourself.”

I was confused, what was she talking about? What client?

I dressed up and she came in to put some make up on my face. She was happy again. Then she went out.

Hours later I was feeling sleepy when I heard a male’s voice whispering, “Which door?”

Mrs Booth replied, “On your left side.”

I heard the door opening and the man came in. A big, tall man came in and he locked the door.

“Hey young lady.”

I looked at him not knowing what to say.

He continued, “Don’t be shy, I paid thousands to be in this room with you, your mama told me it’s your first time.”

All I can remember was feeling pain in between my legs with blood coming out of my vagina. I didn’t scream or cry with the pain I felt. It was way more than the beatings, the slaps, the kicks and swearing I had been receiving from Mrs Booth. It felt like a part of my soul had been taken away. That night I was unable to talk, sleep, or move a finger. The pain I felt that night was more than the pain I have ever felt, it was more than the pain I have ever felt in my entire life.

Days went by and this other day I noticed that I had blood coming out of me. I thought there was something wrong with me because a lot of men had been coming in and out of my house as my clients. They would do the same thing that man did to me. But Mrs Booth explained to me that it’s part of life, it’s a process that a woman goes through when she reaches puberty and it’s called menstruation.

More and more men came in, they all came in for me and they would all tell me the same thing: that they pay a lot of money to have sex with me, so I should behave.

This one unusual day a young man came in, he looked like he was in his early 30s. This was unusual because I had only had clients older than Mrs Booth. I was getting used to being a prostitute. I knew how to approach men, how to touch and seduce them. It felt like I had been doing this for the longest time. This young man came in and sat next to me. I tried to seduce him but he choked me and closed my mouth.

“Hey, hey, stop fighting, I am here to help you, My name is Christopher Nolan, I have been sent by the South African Child Services. We received a tip-off that there has been child prostitution going on here and I am here to help you. Please do not scream, I am here to help you. The police are on their way to assist us, we will take you to a place, we will help you and also we will provide a shelter for you. Let me help you.”

This was the first time I had ever shed a tear in my teen years. It felt like I was dreaming. Mrs Booth was then sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. I have forgiven her, for all the things she has done to me. One day I will visit her in prison.

Ever since that day I have been free. Free from being kept inside a toy box, free from beatings, free from being a prostitute. Today I am one of those young therapists that assist damaged young and old souls, helping them repair their damaged lives. My name is Ndaloentle (meaning the beauty of the nature) Princess Booth. This is the story of my life.