It was 04:00 in the dark when I had to walk home with my other female colleagues, dodging rubber bullets fired by police to the fuming community that was striking for service delivery. God knows that I hated that job, but I had no choice because I had a fatherless daughter. Sibongiseni, my boyfriend, was imprisoned for 20 years for bank robbery. By 05:00, I approached Sis Getty’s shack. She was helping me with babysitting.

“Knock knock,” I said, putting my head on the door.

“Aw Amanda! I thought that you didn’t want to see me again,” said Sis Getty, holding onto her hips.

“Haibo sisi! Why would you say that?” I asked with confusion.

“Yesterday night, I went to check on Lilitha because she was not coming and it was late. She told me where to get off and also told me that you are busy spreading lies about my name,” she sounded calm and confident.

“Hayi sisi. When do I get a chance to talk about you in the neighbourhood when I’m always at work? Why didn’t you call me last night?” I asked, covering my mouth with my hands.

“I was upset, my dear, I think you should go home and sleep. I will come see you later, your daughter has a lot of explaining to do,” she said, in her soothing voice.

“Lo mntana uzondibulala ngentliziyo!” I said, filled with anger and frustration, throwing my hands in the air.

“You need to calm down, Amanda, or you will collapse right here. Let me walk you home,” she held my hand and walked.

“Oh thank you sisi, what would I do without you kodwa?” I sighed.

“It’s our duty as black sisters to work together and help each other,” she said, in a calm tone.

On our way to my two-roomed shack, we were both quiet. I was starting to believe all the things I had heard about my 14-year-old. Some were saying that she has started sleeping around with boys and she sometimes bunked school. I was very irresponsible for not making her talk or to even go to her school. I was always at the garage, making money. When we reached home, Lilitha was not around.

We sat for hours waiting for her to show up. She did eventually, but she was not the sweet obedient girl who was full of life, always helping elders, always at home before 15:00 and doing her church roles. She was wearing a black leather skirt with a white crop top and brand new white All Stars. She was carrying a bottle of Savannah and she could barely walk.

“Oh Jesu wam! Lilitha! Is this you?” asked Sis Getty in disbelief.

“Oh yes, mama! It’s me, the one and only,” she burst out in laughter.

“Lilitha uvelaphi? Are you sleeping with boys? What if you fall pregnant? Do you want to end up like me?” I tried to maintain my anger, but I failed. I gave her a hot slap between her eyes. She fell.

“Hayi! Hayi! Violence won’t solve anything, mntasekhaya, let’s wait for her to sober up,” said Getty, pulling me away.

“Let her finish me, Sis Getty, she doesn’t love me anyway. She sent the only person who loved me to prison and neglected me. I’m always at your place, she’s never around,” she said crawling to the bedroom.

“I am working for you, bloody moer! You want food and expensive clothes,” I stepped on her tiny legs.

“Let her speak mahn, Amanda! She is crying for attention,” said Getty.

“I won’t tolerate this nonsense, she must go back to her friends or party. Get out! Get out! Just because you have felt the warmth of a man, you think you are a big woman! Get out!” I dragged her out of the shack.

Three days later, I received a call from Sis Getty telling me to quickly get to her house. Things were still sour between my daughter and me, she was refusing to open up to me. I allowed her to stay at Getty’s until we both cooled off. Little did I know that she had other plans in her mind. I found a bunch of women comforting Sis. I looked around and I saw my daughter’s body covered with a blanket, pills all over the floor.

“Sisi, what happened to my child?” I asked, tears followed.

“I was at the clinic to fetch my treatment, when I came back I found her dead,” she wept uncontrollably.

“Didn’t she at least leave a letter?” I wiped tears from my face.

She gave it to me and this is what was written.

Dear Mom

By the time you’re reading this letter, I will be sitting next to my creator. Believe me when I say I didn’t want to do this, but there was no other choice.

Few weeks ago, I was raped by one of those boys who are always chilling at the shop. I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t because you were already convinced that I am sexually active. You never took the time to listen to me or even ask how I feel or how things are at school. What hurts me the most is that you’re always insulting me about my unknown father even though I tried to be a good daughter to you.

I know that you are angry and broken about how your life turned out, but none of that is my fault. You should have aborted me and fixed things with your parents. Mama, I cannot even begin to write down how I feel, even this letter is messed up and all over the place. Goodbye Mama, I know that one day you will join me.

I couldn’t believe it, everything she penned about me was correct. Yes, I neglected her and when she tried to reach out, I shut her out. My life was never the same again, I cried myself to sleep every day and I’m still crying today because of my ignorance.

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