Sbonelo and I were both in high school, and Gemini was still in grade one. The nanny took really good care of us, her name was Mary. We could hardly feel the absence of our grandmother as Mary would cook for us when our dad was not around. We got used to having her until my father couldn’t afford her anymore.

We went back to square one except this time there was Sbonelo. We shared chores around the house. Every week my father would introduce a new woman to us. It was very confusing for us at that time as we were very young. As confusing as it was, we did not care as we were still enjoying our youthful days. Women came and women left. Then came the day that changed my whole entire life. We came back from school with Sbonelo, and Gemini was already in the house. There was a beautiful lady sitting next to my dad. My father ordered us to sit down and immediately introduced the beautiful lady. Her name was Phindile. My father had told us that Phindile would be living with us.

It was nice to have some kind of feminine feel in the house. The food was nice and Phindile was also very friendly to us. We were a nice happy family and it was bliss!

When she finally got comfortable at our house she started making rules. She told us that we have to come straight home from school and not visit our mother anymore. My father also agreed to this and made an excuse that they had no one to run errands for them during the day. It made sense to us, we saw nothing but we would quickly go to our mother after school and rush back home.

This wasn’t the end of it, Phindile started turning our father against us. Sbonelo and I were always late for school and we would forget to turn off the lights when we left. Phindile would make it a point that she told my father all about it. This woman was finally revealing her true colours. My father did not notice any of this, he was crazy in love.

My father’s job required him to travel. He had to leave and go to Cape Town for a job. He left us with this stranger. Phindile would come home late and drunk. She stopped cooking for us and called us spoiled brats. I once heard her on the phone talking to her friend and her exact words were, “Ucabanga ukuthi kumnandi ukuhlala nabantwana bomunye umfazi?” (You think it’s nice to take care of another woman’s children?)

I thought I was the only one who heard this, Sbonelo heard it too. We comforted each other, Gemini was too young to understand anything. I knew I had to tell my father but I couldn’t.

Phindile started ill-treating Gemini. She gave her toys and took them back whenever she wanted. I could not fight this woman, I had to comply as my dad was still not back from Cape Town. Finally, my father came back, I still could not tell him what this woman had been doing to us.

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Tell us: Would you tell someone if anyone was treating you harshly?