The next morning, Ledimo started regretting everything. He begged her for forgiveness, but she never uttered a word. She was silent in her trauma.
They both heard Mr Lamola calling his dog. Tebatšo stood up shakily, ready to leave. Ledimo grabbed her hand and pulled her down on the bed.
“Leave me alone! You’ll pay for all this, you witch!” she yelled. “You’ll rot in jail!”
“You’re not going anywhere. Not until you promise me that you’ll keep this a secret.”
“You’re mad! I’m going to tell Papa everything,” she said tearfully, trying to escape.
Ledimo pressed her down on the bed and rolled on top of her. She screamed. Ledimo grabbed her throat with both hands, ordering her to shut up, but she didn’t. Instead, she bit his arms. She was struggling to breathe.
“I’ll kill you then. There is no way I would let you send me to prison. No way!”
Ledimo strangled her with his bare hands, mercilessly, until her body went limp. Panting, he then stepped backwards, not believing what he had done. He peeped outside through the curtain and saw Mr Lamola speaking to a group of taxi drivers under the corrugated zinc shade. Fear struck his chest.
Tebatšo coughed, gasping. Ledimo dashed into the other room and came back with a rope. He tied her legs and arms and put a cloth in her mouth, using a bandage to hold it in place. Then he took a bath and went to work.
When Tebatšo’s parents asked him whether he had seen her, he said no. He even accompanied Mr Lamola to all Tebatšo’s friends, asking them if they knew where she was. They all told them that they left her at her house the night before. Hearing that his daughter had been drunk, Mr Lamola became furious. He concluded that she was probably scared to face him and was staying with one of their relatives. Tebatšo would be back, he told himself. He didn’t report the matter to the police, even though his wife insisted that they should.
That gave Ledimo a good chance to cover his tracks. At about twelve o’clock that night, he untied Tebatšo and ordered her to take a walk with him. He threatened her with an Okapi that was pressed against her belly. The dark streets of the village covered his evil deeds well.
They went further and further into the bushes until they reached the mountains. There he raped her again in the cave. She tried fighting back, scratching his neck and pulling at his bead necklace. The beads broke and scattered over her body.
Ledimo got furious and stabbed her with his Okapi in the chest and she stopped struggling. He made sure that she was dead by stabbing her straight in her heart.
When Tebatšo was lying on the ground in a pool of blood, he smashed her cellphone with a rock and threw the pieces over her. Satisfied, he then stood up and went back home as the rain started pouring.
The next day Mr Lamola went to the police to open a missing person’s case. All his relatives confirmed that they hadn’t seen his daughter since that night. It was his sister’s daughter, Hlompho, who really convinced him that her cousin was in danger. The two girls were very close and the fact that Tebatšo had never called her, scared them.
That unsettled Ledimo. He waited until one o’clock the next morning and went back to the cave with a spade. He buried Tebatšo in a shallow grave, digging exactly where she had died.
When Ledimo finished his story he sank back on the ground. I heard Tebatšo crying on the bed. I felt my head where Ledimo had hit me with a rock. I sank to the ground, losing consciousness. I had to get help.
Then I saw the old lady, Tebatšo’s grandmother, entering the hut walking backwards. She turned around. I immediately recognised her frowning face. It was the old woman I always saw in my dreams, staring at me in the dark.
“Now you know what happened,” she whispered. I opened my eyes to slits and saw the branches of the marula tree above me – but everything was blurred and there was a searing pain in my head. I reached up to feel blood congealed in my hair before I passed out again.
Tell us: What do you think should Gift do? Do you think people will believe him if he tells them his story?