It was a rainy Wednesday morning when my grandmother told me to start packing because we were going home. I was so excited, but at the same time worried about how the weather conditions would affect our plans. “Ungakhathazeki Naty, izulu lizo phela sisendleleni,” said my grandmother.
When I was done packing, I helped my little sister gather her things up. When the rain finally stopped, my grandmother then said we needed to walk fast in order to reach home before it started raining again.
We walked for miles, when suddenly we heard a harsh sound. It was the sound of the river flowing back and forth and we realised that the rain had caused it to fill.
“Gogo, I’m scared, can we go back and travel tomorrow?” I asked in a tone so low, that it sounded as if I was gingerly pouring water on top of a stone.
My grandmother refused to listen.
“I miss mom,” said my sister in a way to start a conversation, but Gogo simply smiled and carried on walking without paying her any mind.
The further we walked along, the closer we headed towards the harsh sounds of the river. I became more and more fearful with every tread.
When we finally reached the river, my sister began to tremble as she laid her innocent, gleaming eyes on the danger that lay before us.
“Hold my hand,” said my grandmother, but I ignored her. She repeated her words again, but this time her tone was sharp and filled with anger. “Natasha, hold my hand!” she screamed and I immediately did as I was told. I knew that if I didn’t, a slap would soon follow.
We went in the water. Suddenly, my grandmother fell in a ditch and my sister started floating away on the hazardous waters.
After struggling for a few minutes, I finally managed to escape from the ditch and swam as fast as I could to catch up with my grandmother, stretching out my arm as I tried to grab hold of her hand.
“Stay where you are, I’m coming,” said my grandmother. The closer she came, the stronger the force of the water pushed her backwards. I watched her as she passed carefully and without stopping. “I will be fine.” she said and I had no choice but to trust her.
My sister started kicking and screaming, furiously trying to get close to my grandmother.
I started screaming for help when I saw that there were people nearby. When they heard me, they ran closer to help. The two men who came to our rescue told me to stay exactly where I was, but I was so relieved that help was on the way that I tried to swim closer to where they were.
Were the two men helping me out because they were good Samaritans or did they have a hidden agenda? At the time I was too far gone to care.
They ran and brought a rope to pull me out of the water with. They then pulled me out and walked a short distance with me, saying to bring me to safety.
“What about Gogo and my little sister?” I asked, too exhausted to quite understand what was happening around me. One of the men, tall, with a large scar that spread across his left cheek, told me ‘not to worry’ and they would soon be brought to safety too. We reached where they stayed and indeed it was safe and warm. I knew the people who stayed in the house, which settled me a little. At the house, they brought me food, but I refused to take anything from them and spent the evening crying myself to sleep, worried sick about my grandmother and sister.
At midnight one of the men who rescued me came to where I was sleeping and started touching me all over my body claiming to check if I was hurt. I knew something was wrong by the manner in which he touched me, his eyes widening as he told me how ‘beautiful’ I was. In the back of my mind, I knew he was planning to rape me. But as soon as I started screaming for help, he ran away, realising that the other people that lived in the house would hear me.
The following day I ran home because at that point, I knew exactly where home was. After arriving, my face became very blank and my heart began thumping in my chest. People in my community were singing and crying, behaviour normally associated with funerals in my culture.
I did not understand anything and ran to my aunt to ask what was going on. Instead of answering me, she kept quiet and carried on crying hysterically.
After a while, a police van, accompanying a bakkie, rode up to my home. Two wrapped bodies were taken down from the bakkie. A police officer called me away because I was too young to witness the scenes that were unfolding. The laws of the village that I lived in stated that children were not allowed to be present at funerals. Tears flowed down my face as I told the police officer that I stayed in the house and was waiting for my grandmother and sister to come home.
“They are not coming back my child,” he said.
The words hit me like a whirlwind and I fell down to my knees and cried my eyes out.
Years passed after that incident but I still feel now how I felt that day. I remain inconsolable and my pain knows no bounds. Some days I feel like I’m trapped in a deep, bottomless pit of misery and neglect. Life goes on and I try to remain strong, but my grandmother and sister were all I had in this world. And now they’re gone, never to return again.
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