It was Monday morning and Zandile couldn’t believe that Pamela was standing in front of her, asking about the menu for dinner, after what had happened on Friday night. How Zandile burned with questions that she never dare ask. What was Pam thinking? How was she feeling? Why was she still in that house acting like nothing had happened? Zandile was battling to put that Friday night behind her. She kept having flashbacks.
On Friday night Zandile had stood trembling, tears running down her face. She didn’t know what to do. She had yelled with all her might and nothing had happened. She lacked the courage to just throw herself into the midst of the fighting. She knew it would be futile if she tried anything, fatal even.
“Bhuti, stop it! Stop it! Myeke torho, leave her please!” Zandile screamed at the top of her lungs again from across the dining room. She watched as Ndumiso, who she had fondly called Bhuti, for the past two months that she’d been living in that household, kicked and punched Pamela to a pulp.
The boys were huddled with her in the corner and all they could do was cry and watch. Khwezi had tried to stop his father, but had been pushed aside so harshly that he had fallen and hit his head on the stairs. It was more than any 14-year-old could do. Zandile had tried to cover the gash with a facecloth but her focus was split between Khwezi and Ndumiso. Pamela was screaming.
“Uz’ombulala Bhuti, myeke torho, you’ll kill her, please stop it!” Zandile slid down to the floor and sobbed helplessly as she watched Pamela being yanked upstairs.
As soon as Ndumiso and Pamela were out of sight, Zandile pulled out her cellphone, ready to call for help.
“No cops, don’t call the police,” Khwezi said, still holding the facecloth to his forehead.
“We have to call them. He’s going to kill her!” Zandile said punching in the number.
“He’ll kill us all. If you call the police he will kill us all,” Khwezi said as he turned and made his way to the kitchen.
Zandile stood rigid. She was frightened and confused. She wondered if she’d be able to live with herself if Pamela died upstairs and she was down here doing nothing to help. She wondered if trying to save another person, another woman, was worth dying for, especially if you failed.
That night, after Pamela was dragged upstairs, Zandile lay in bed trying to fall asleep, listening for screams or shouts. But everything was silent. She kept trying to remember the moment things had changed that evening.
One minute they were having a braai, like they did most Friday evenings since she had got there. And the next minute Ndumiso was punching his wife in the stomach. There was no break or pause in between. It was like Zandile had blinked for a second and had a blackout. She was playing ball with the boys on the lawn; Bhuti and Sisi were standing by the braai, chatting.
She ran after the ball that was rolling towards the braai stand, and when she was five steps away she saw Ndumiso punch Pamela in the stomach. As Pamela doubled over from the punch, Ndumiso shouted at her to answer him. Then it was one punch after another, until Pamela ran to the house.
Ndumiso had followed and then the boys. Zandile couldn’t move.
The shouting was louder in the house. Then she ran inside. Ndumiso was pulling Pamela’s hair. Then he threw her against the wall.
And now, on Monday morning, Pamela was smiling at her as if nothing had happened. Zandile was standing at the sink doing the breakfast dishes. Pam asked after the boys; she hadn’t seen them since Friday night. Ndumi forbade them from going up to see her after the fight, saying she wasn’t feeling well.
Zandile was beginning to realise why Nikiwe had fled this house. She was thinking of reasons why she should stay. Lord knows it would save her a lot of money, but what amount could actually be equivalent to living with a woman-beater?
Any man who made excuses for beating up a woman was trash in her eyes. And an even bigger psycho if he did it in front of the nanny and the kids. What kind of man keeps his wife locked up in her room, brings her food in bed, buys the children toys and gadgets as a way of clearing his guilt!
She had told herself that she would make it work with her employers. She had promised not to quit, even if they were hard people to work for. Even if the kids were brats from hell, I’ll stick it out, she had told herself. Whatever it takes …
“Whatever it takes,” she mumbled as she watched Pam smoking a cigarette on the back porch.
* * *
Tell us what you think: Do you think Zandile should continue living in the house? What would you do if you were Zandile?