“Hey Mathabo. Wake up! It’s time to go to school. I want to see your principal before I go to work. I don’t want them to think that I’m not supporting you as a parent. Tsoga!” her mother shouted, early next morning.

Mathabo’s head was thumping. She felt nauseous and wanted nothing but to sleep, but her mother pulled off her blankets.

“Mama! No!” she complained, trying to grab the bedding, without success.

“Don’t ‘Mama’ me. Wake up! Or else I’ll go to the kitchen and when I come back, you’ll regret it girl. I’ll pour cold water over you.”

Mathabo sat up and yawned.

“Sis! You smell of alcohol. What kind of a child are you, wena ngwana towe mara?” her mother continued, covering her nose. She hadn’t heard her daughter coming back last night, because of her deep, exhausted sleep.

Mathabo sauntered out of the room to the bathroom, oblivious to her mother’s insults. For some reason, she felt like her mother was responsible for this, her drinking. If she had not let another woman steal her father, they would still be living together as a family, she justified to herself, busy running the water.

She thought she’d feel better after taking a bath, but no, she felt worse. It was as if there was a big, hot stone blocking her throat. She tried to drink water but it came back up.

“Stop wasting my time! Let’s go! Stupid girl! How can you drink alcohol when you know what it did to your father? It turned him into a useless man. You saw him, mos. You were old enough to understand everything,” her mother shouted, banging at the bathroom door. “Etšwa! Get out! Let’s go!”

They arrived at school and Mathabo’s heart pounded as the Principal called them in, greeted and went straight to the matter: “I’ve called you here because of your daughter’s behaviour, Mrs Melato.”

“This child. What has she done now?” Her mother’s face was painted with disappointment.

“On Friday she was cheeky and nearly fought with her teacher, then sneaked out of the school. Let me call Mr Lebone so that he can explain,” she said, busy dialling the number.

Mrs Melato started sobbing, pulling Mathabo’s ear. “Why do you disrespect teachers, wena? Do you want to fail again? Stupid fool! I can’t believe you lied to me. Do you call this ‘nothing serious’? Don’t you know that you can get expelled?” Her mother did not stop while the Principal spoke on the phone. “How could you do this when you see my suffering? I thought you will finish school and help me get out of this life that your father created for me. But here you are, wasting your future. Why Mathabo? Tell me why!” she cried, wiping her the tears away.

Soon there was a knock at the door and Mr Lebone entered. He confirmed what the Principal said, and both Mrs Melato and the principal forced Mathabo to apologise. Seeing the pain and shame in her mother’s eyes, Mathabo felt remorse – despite Mr Lebone insulting her in class about her private family matter.

She promised that she would once again take her school work seriously. She could see the love in her mother’s eyes, realised that she wanted nothing but good things for her. She couldn’t continue hurting her like that.

From now on, I’ll focus on school work. I know I can do better even, while Peter is still in my life, she vowed silently.

Peter. That name reminded her of something. Fear struck her heart immediately. What if she was pregnant? Would her mother ever forgive her a big mistake again, she wondered, trembling.

***

Tell us what you think: Is Mathabo being fair blaming her mother for ‘letting her father go’, and now for her own drinking? Why did he go?