“But you said the whole weekend,” Lelethu said, turning to look at Pholisa in the dark.

“I know, but I must do my chores in the morning before I study,” Pholisa explained. The girls had spent Friday night doing hair and nails. And the whole of Saturday was spent at the mall after they were done with their housework. Now, Saturday evening, Pholisa told Lelethu she was leaving the next morning.

“But bhut’Masi said it’s okay, you can stay the whole weekend, and that means go home Monday after school.”

“Lelethu, I know Masi. What he said and what he does are never the same,” she said, still lying on her back staring at the ceiling. She couldn’t turn and look at her friend; she couldn’t let Lelethu see the tear falling from her eye.

Hayi, I don’t get it,” Lelethu said, turning on her back, giving up.

“Look, when I’m done with everything I’ll come by,” she said. I just have to go home and see if he’s all right, Pholisa thought to herself. The dream of her gogo was still bothering her. Even though Masi was difficult to live with, he was still family, and family stuck together.

The next morning, after the breakfast that Lelethu insisted she eat, Pholisa made her way home. It was a beautiful Sunday morning; a good day to do laundry and properly clean the house. She wondered what state she would find her bhuti in, if he’d be in a good mood or one of his sour ones. She was relieved when he wasn’t home.

She started with the laundry, washing her school uniform and her other clothes. When she went in to fetch the linen from the bed, she noticed Masixole’s bag, where he kept his clothes. She wanted to do his laundry for him, but going through his things would just be asking for it.

Where was he? Where was he sleeping? she asked herself as she carried out the sheets.

She could hear loud music from afar. It must be one of the taxis, she thought. It was unusual, though, for them to come this way – it wasn’t their route. But the music grew louder. And soon she saw why.

A beautiful black car was driving down in her street. She watched it cruise along, but she couldn’t see who was inside; the windows were tinted black. And then, as if the car had felt her wonder about it, it stopped right in front of her house. A red dragon was painted on the right side, the driver’s side. The dragon was large and breathing fire.

The back door opened, cutting the dragon in half, and Masixole staggered out. He was clearly drunk. The driver’s window was slowly rolled down and Masi leaned in. Then he took something with his right hand from the window and shoved it in his pocket. The window closed and the car cruised on.

Pholisa couldn’t see the driver, Masi had blocked her view.

After struggling with the gate, he walked in and went straight into the house, without a word of acknowledgement to Pholisa. When she followed him inside, Masi was sprawled on the bed, passed out.

It was late in the afternoon when Masixole finally woke up. He found Pholisa sitting outside doing her school work.

Khaw’vase ezimpahla – wash these clothes,” he said, dropping a pile of laundry on the ground where Pholisa was sitting.

“There’s not enough soap for all these,” Pholisa answered.

Hambo’ythenga, go buy it,” he said as he walked back inside the house.

Pholisa mumbled to herself. It wasn’t fair. She had finished with washing and was doing her school work. The other laundry was already half dry, baked in the sun with the soft breeze blowing it on the fence where it hung.

Umbombozela uthini – what are you mumbling, Pholisa?” Masi turned and came straight at her. He loomed over her, his tall frame completely blocking the sun. She didn’t dare speak or look up at him. She was trembling with anger and fear. “I let you go out for one night and you come back cheeky? Unamakhwenkwe ngoku – are you seeing boys?” he barked as he stood there. Then he threw a crumpled-up R100 note at her.

Rha, awunambulelo, you’re ungrateful,” he spat as he marched back inside, slamming the door behind him.

If I had somewhere to go I would run there, Pholisa thought as she walked to the nearby Somalian shop to get soap. If it was possible to just take the money and go start over somewhere, she would. But what could you do with just R100?

She washed the clothes in silence. She needed Gogo. If Gogo were alive, then Masi wouldn’t get away with treating her like this. She allowed the tears that had been stinging her eyes to fall – a sense of hopelessness mixed with rage. She hated not being able to have a say in anything; she hated being Masixole’s maid. She hated Cape Town.

Sinjan’iskolo, how’s school?” Masi asked. He was standing behind her. She hadn’t heard him come out of the house; she didn’t know that he was standing there watching her cry.

Si-right, it’s fine,” Pholisa answered, sniffing away the tears.

She knew Masi was not a bad person; he was just difficult sometimes – when he chose to be. She knew this was his way of trying to apologise, something he was never any good at because of his pride. But she was too upset to just pretend everything was fine.

So when she didn’t speak again, he bent down, took a pair of his trousers, wrung the water out, and hung them on the fence. He then started giving advice about staying in school and focusing on her work.

“Your life will be better when you’re educated,” he said, a distant look in his eyes. “And you will attract the right people to be your friends, good people,” he added, his voice almost trailing off.

Pholisa could tell he was speaking from experience. It must have something to do with that car that brought him back. She wondered where he and his new friends had gone and what they had done last night. She had noticed, too, the bloodstains on his T-shirt.

“Who was that man who dropped you off?” she asked.

“Some guy, I helped fix his car,” the answer rolled off his tongue.

“How much did you charge him?” she asked trying to sound interested.

“Nothing. It was something small,” he said. “I asked for a lift home.” He threw the water out of the tub. “I’m going to bath,” he said and went back inside.

Pholisa knew it was a lie. She had seen him leaning on the driver’s window. The driver had given Masi something.

As she went inside to start cooking, she heard a phone ring. She didn’t recognise the ringtone – but it was coming from Masi’s pocket. He ducked behind the curtain to take the call. And then in a matter of minutes, the car was outside again.

Masi walked out without a word or instruction. He jumped in the car and it pulled off, leaving a trail of dust behind.


Tell us: Pholisa is very upset with her brother’s treatment of her. How would you feel if your brother treated you like that?